Kits influences are here and I make no apologies for that. In fact as always I thank her for being there for me.
Ref’s to Kits, ‘But I’ll Call the Tune’ and her ‘Busted’ in this piece.
No Beta:- I did this quickly today so mistakes are all mine. I’m taking the risk and just posting, so sorry if there are any mistakes I missed. Hope you all enjoy it.
As always, Johnny is nineteen and acting funny around Marcie, Murdoch’s guest.
Another lesson to learn.
Well he’d done it again! He was in his father study after having been sent there for a drilling down, or maybe more. He wasn’t sure but he was worried because he’d learned in the last few months since coming home his father was a hard task master and he didn’t tolerate rudeness or insolence, not anymore!
Murdoch had shot him ‘the look’ with a silently mouthed, “Johnny,” shaking his head and then with a jerk of his thumb, whispered, as he passed, “My study now!”
He’d damn near fallen off of the couch when the woman had strolled back into the Great room from the kitchen, just in time to hear him say, “When a woman starts worryin’ ‘bout my shirts, I start wonderin’ what it is she wants.” Then he’d wanted a hole to develop and swallow him up, when the room had fallen silent. He’d known without turning around that she was behind him.
‘Shit!’ Why did he always put his foot in it!
Scott his older, supposedly wiser pain in the ass brother had no words of wisdom to impart, as Murdoch stormed past them both. Nope ‘ol Boston, for all his education and fancy words, had been no help at all; he’d just up and punched him lightly on the arm with a teasing eye and a shake of his head!
‘What the hell good is it havin’ an older brother if he don’t stop ya from makin’ a darn fool of yourself,’ he thought as he stood waiting for his old man.
Man he hated the study, he’d been in there more times than he cared to remember and each time it hadn’t been a pleasant experience. Nope, more often than not it was just a painful one! And here he was again.
It wasn’t a small room no, it was medium sized. Bright to, when the light cascaded through the French doors that lead to the rear courtyard. The wall to ceiling bookshelves that surrounded the room, were impressive, but they only served to make the room more oppressive as far as he was concerned. The smell of leather was apparent, books lining nearly every wall and the damned ledgers? He hated them almost as much as he hated the room. ‘No,’ he thought, ‘more actually.’
They were same ledger’s his old man stuck him with when the man was making him pay penance for some wrongdoing or other. Johnny hated that aspect of ranching; hated the tediousness of it. Furthermore, he really didn’t see why he had to do it. After all, he and his brother had equal shares in the ranch and Scott was the one good with numbers, so using that logic he figured he could do the more practical stuff and Scott could take on the books. It was a win, win situation for both of them, as far as he was concerned, but his father insisted he understand that side of the ranch anyway.
He sighed and thought about what he’d said. He didn’t know why he said the things he did. He just knew how he was feeling. Or did he? ‘What are you feeling Johnny boy?’ he asked himself. Well if he was honest, first and foremost he was feeling scared and that puzzled him more than anything. ‘I mean, why am I scared of a little bitty old woman?’ he snickered. ‘Johnny Madrid scared?’
It was funny, but he was never the less. He shivered, suddenly feeling cold. ‘Hell I don’t need another Mama Murdoch. Had a gut full of Mama’s.’ he thought thinking of the black hearted woman who’d raised him. That was a laugh in itself. ‘Hell I’d raised myself. I don’t need or want a step Mama, no matter how nice she is.’ And he had to admit Marcie was nice. She’d done nothing to deserve his mistrust; nothing to deserve his dislike or distaste, yet he didn’t trust or even like her. He stamped his booted foot frustrated, at himself, at his father, at life itself!
‘We’re ok, just as we are, the three of us.’ He thought a sudden frown appearing on his forehead. ‘Well the four us, if I count Teresa.’ He thought smirking, knowing full well, in his heart he didn’t, not really. After all she wasn’t a Lancer as she took great pains to tell him at times; something that truly pissed him off… What did she want? Did she want to be a Lancer or an O Brian? He really didn’t care as long as the silly girl made up her mind, and soon, because he needed to know how to treat her.
He shook his head, ‘Hell boy you already know how to treat her,’ he thought closing his eyes remembering their first dinner together. “You two will treat her like a sister and only as a sister, do I make myself clear?” Their father had bellowed during their first dinner together.
‘Sister?’ he giggled. ‘Jeez it was bad enough meeting Scott and finding out I’d been sitting right next to him on that God-damned stage.’ He thought laughing. The derogatory thoughts he’d had for that same fancy-dan, would remain his secret, especially if he wanted to stay in one piece!
In time he’d learned to care for the girl. Well, when she wasn’t annoying him, he did anyway. It was something she seemed capable of doing, nearly every damned day. ‘ Me and T’resa fight like,’ he laughed, ‘Well like brother and sister,’ he realized. ‘When did that happen?’ he thought shaking his head.
She was the reason he was on probation. He’d positively knocked the stuffing out of Lee Maxwell for sniffing around her, something that had led to his arrest and subsequent probation. ‘Thanks T’resa,’ he thought; laughing at the memory of Lee Maxwell, for all his size, landing hard on his ass, after the hard handed punch, he’d landed to the back of his neck.
Johnny wasn’t big by any measure but he was a tough little street fighter, not averse to using his booted foot for a swift kick in the rear or elsewhere when it mattered! He’d felt protective of her, like any big brother but despite that, he knew his love for her had its limitations. Unlike the love he now felt for his father and older brother.
Anyway it didn’t matter because here he was, in trouble once again. It seemed to be a daily occurrence, of late and he knew why. His father was no longer tolerating his insolence; his bad behaviour or his rudeness. The old man was coming down hard, said so himself. He was trying to teach him another way to be; how to behave.
He let out a sigh, ‘Sure could do without the lessons!’
His feet were getting sore with all the standing in one spot and he debated sitting down, changing his mind when he spied the now familiar, chairs in front of his old man’s desk. He knew without a shadow of doubt, if his father came in to find him sitting, his ass would be toast before they’d even gotten around to their ‘little chat’! So he remained on his feet, knowing full well his father would first go to the woman to offer her words of apology and then march straight back to deal with him.
Nothing good ever came from his visits here, well at least as far as he was concerned anyway. No, nine times out of ten he left the room smarting because his father had come down hard on him. Still here he was, as ordered. He laughed. ‘Ordered… ‘
‘Never been much good at taken orders.’
He remembered saying, as he’d stormed out of the hacienda in a temper, on that fateful day. The day had ended with him on the ground, with a bullet in his back; a bullet his father had pulled from his body, whilst he’d been flat out cold.
He tried rubbing at the old wound, now healed, thinking of how it seemed like a lifetime ago but how it really was only a few months. So much had changed.
He’d gone from being a renowned gunfighter, feared by many, and in control of his own destiny, or so he believed, to a boy; Murdoch’s boy and Scott’s little brother or baby brother as he liked to tease. Hell he hardly recognized himself anymore.
Johnny Lancer sure was different from Johnny Madrid. Madrid wouldn’t stand for it; Madrid would put a bullet in any man treating him this way, yet here he was, needing them, needing to feel a part of something more than who and what he used to be.
The fact was, he wasn’t alone anymore, and if that meant putting up with his family, then he’d stand anything they’d throw at him, Hell he’d had worse. He’d stand anything for just one touch, one moment of affection, all the teasing and all the laughter that came with being a part of something so tangible, he knew he’d never give it up.
He closed his eyes and admitted to himself, he loved his father, and more importantly, he knew his father loved him. That one fact would make him stay; make him take whatever his old man dished out because he knew Murdoch loved him more than life itself. He’d proved that much, even in the short time he’d been home. Murdoch loved him, enough to correct him when he stepped out of line or when he disappointed him, ‘Like now.’ He thought nervously.
There had been one other man in his life who’d done the same and that person had been Val, the one constant in his life, and the first person he’d trusted with his life.
‘Well I guess you done what you set out to do, you old son of a bitch,’ he thought. ‘Cause now, I’m more Lancer, than I’m Madrid, that’s for darned sure.’ he thought with a shy grin.
Not a bad thing, he heard a loud booming voice in his head say, knowing that the voice was right.
He was so deep in thought he positively jumped when his old man entered the room.
“Sit!” he ordered and Johnny sat.
He watched as Murdoch stormed around the desk, stopping to look out of the French doors that led to the back court yard; the one they commonly used in the warm evenings before bed; his hands clasped at his back, as he stood contemplating his next move.
He loved the quiet courtyard, so private away from the hustle and bustle of the barn yard and corral. It was a place he often sat in the evening watching the sun set, smoking his pipe. Often joined by his second son, who seemed to relish just being near him; a dream come true for a man who’d searched for him for so long.
Turning around, he tried hard to hide the turn of his lip, when he saw Johnny squirming in his seat, fidgeting and flicking at his pants, studiously avoiding all eye contact with his father. ‘Just a boy,’ he thought, ‘Still, just a boy.’
“Son,” he began.
Johnny’s head snapped up and his back went ramrod straight, as he sat at attention. “Yeah?”
Murdoch closed his eyes at the familiar insolence and took a deep breath. “I know you’ve been uncomfortable since Marcie’s visit, and I can guess why. I can also guess why you said what you did, but couldn’t you have chosen a more private moment to voice your fears Johnny?” he asked his tone neutral.
All Johnny heard was the one word fear! ‘Fears?’ “I ain’t afraid of nuthin’ old man,” he erupted defensively. “I don’t know what yer talkin’ ‘bout.” His pride smarting, he’d quite forgotten momentarily, whom he was addressing and why. However upon seeing his father’s scowl, he tried again, sighing, “Look I’m sorry Murdoch.”
“For what John.” Murdoch asked, his voice now whisper soft.
Johnny’s shoulders lifted as he took in a deep breath and dropped when he let it out. “For callin’ you old man,” he said resigned, chancing a glance at his father and quickly averting his eyes, yielding once more to Murdoch’s authority. “And for bein’, well for bein’ disrespectful, you know, to you and your guest, Papi.” He added with a shy smile. He knew if he used that particular term of endearment, it could often mean the difference between a damned good tanning or a good talking to. “Look I didn’t mean ta…well I didn’t mean…
Murdoch shook his head and stilled his son with the palm of his hand, his patience, as always when dealing with Johnny, wearing thin. “Yes son I know you didn’t mean anything and so does Marcie, but I mean’t what I said earlier. I know you’re scared.” He held up his hand once again, to stop his son’s tirade, impending or otherwise, sighing. “But you’ve no reason to be.”
He smiled when he saw his boy frown. “Believe me when I say this, you’ll be one of the first to know if the situation between us becomes more serious.”
“But Pa that’s just it, I don’t know if I want another Mama…I..”
“Son you’ll always have a place in my heart and at Lancer. No one, not even a future wife, will take yours or Scott’s place in my heart. Loving a wife is a totally different kind of love son. You’re my blood; it’s my blood pumping through your veins. You wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for me. My friendships, relationships,” he heard Johnny take in a sharp breath, “Are completely separate from the way I feel about you and Scott. You both mean the world to me and that will never change, never! You do know that, don’t you Johnny?”
“I guess…I…Yes…” Johnny said finally. He did know. His father had shared with him some of the Pinkerton Agents reports and he knew they went back almost fifteen years, and before that Murdoch had looked for him himself, but still it didn’t mean he was ready to share him with anyone, at least anyone outside the family.
“Johnny,” Murdoch became a little sterner, “I’ll not have any of my guests insulted, unwittingly or not. You were out of line son. You spoke out of turn. I’ve feelings to and this is ‘our’ home, not just yours, or Scott’s, or Teresa’s or Maria’s for that matter, ours and as such you’ll respect every member in it and give their guests the same respect. I don’t want to have to worry every time I take a friend, female or not, home because you decide you can’t or won’t share me. You’ve been acting like a child John.”
That hit home and it showed.
“Do you want me to treat you like one?” Murdoch asked a glint in his eyes. He was more concerned than angry. He so wanted Johnny to feel secure and he knew without a shadow of doubt that Marcie’s presence had made him feel insecure.
“You do anyway, so why change now,” Johnny sulked.
Murdoch smiled.“Well that’s as maybe but with the way you’ve been behaving Johnny I’d be hard pushed to see you as anything else right now.You’ve a hell of a lot of growing up, still to do John. “
Johnny’s eyes narrowed at that.
“Now, I know why, you’ve been acting up, but…”
Johnny’s pride was smarting and his anger was growing by the second. He hadn’t much cared for the child remark. On his feet now he pointed a finger at his father. “You don’t know shit ‘ol ma.., Murdoch! You think I care what you do? Well I don’t! I don’t care if you wanna bring home a thousand women,” he spat knowing full well what he was saying was nonsense.
“John.” The warning was very clear as he watched Johnny’s mood swing from defiance and anger, to resignation and hurt.
Johnny rubbed at his eyes with his sleeve, afraid that his father might see them filling; his body visibly relaxing as he tried hard to real in his temper. “What do you want with her Murdoch? She’s nuthin’, nuthin’ but a lonely old woman, lookin’ for a nest egg.”
“Johnny.” Again the warning in Murdoch’s tone was clear.
But he pressed on stubbornly. “You might think you need her, but it’s just a woman you need. Hell we all do from time to time,” he tried, knowing full well his father knew what he was implying, “but it don’t mean, we go lookin’ for a wife; it don’t mean we try puttin’ a ring on the finger of the first woman that gives us the eye.”
He felt desperate, desperate to get his father to understand that in his opinion, he was making a mistake. He didn’t trust her, Hell the fact was he trusted very few. He trusted the man in the room with him, his brother and one other, those were the few he’d let get under his skin and he couldn’t afford to let any one of them let him down, not now.
There was no way in Hell he was admitting anything and as for being scared? Well he’d prove right now he wasn’t, by dangerously adding, “Most of us..men.. don’t take ‘em home and offer ‘em marriage and all this.” He gestured towards the map on the wall. “Most of us …just pay for a fu..”
“That’s enough John, enough!” Murdoch interrupted.
Johnny swallowed hard. He knew in an instant he’d gone too far.
“You’re treading on very dangerous ground boy and I suggest you stop right now.” He warned. “This particular ‘lady’ is just that and you’ll not speak of her in that manner, am I clear boy?”
“She sure is…,” Johnny sneered, shaking his head, “Murdoch she’s got you jumpin’ through hoops, all ready for the alter; she’s got you fallin’ over yourself… What’s the matter with you? Can’t you see, she’s just usin’ you….What are you gettin’ out of it, nuthin’ that’s all. Hell she ain’t even puttin’ out, she ain’t even……”
“You don’t stop now boy, you’ll be one very sorry young man.” Murdoch growled. “You’ll show me and her respect. She’s a guest of mine Johnny and as such you will behave when you’re in her company and if not…” he left the rest unsaid, knowing full well Johnny knew what he meant.
“You’ll beat my sorry ass. Yeah, yeah, I know!” Johnny finished for him, pouting.
“Not this time boy. You and me are gonna talk. We’re gonna sort this out once and for all.
Shocked Johnny looked up. “What do you mean, ‘sort this out once and for all’ …he mimicked and Murdoch nearly laughed, would’ve to if the situation hadn’t been so serious.
“What I mean Johnny is, I want you to know that you’re safe here; that nothing will come between us all and if this lady doesn’t understand that, then that’ll be an end to it. I come with a package and that package is my sons.” He smiled adding, “But the decision has to be either hers or mine Johnny, can’t you see that? I don’t need a jealous boy, making things so difficult her mind is made up before we even get a chance. I want a stab at happiness too Johnny. I may be old in your eyes boy, but I’m most certainly not dead.” He laughed. “There’s life in the ‘old man’ yet, huh?”
Johnny grinned. ”I don’t wanna hear this,” he snickered, stuffing his fingers into his ears.
Murdoch leaned forwards and slapped his hands away. “Johnny seriously, I need you to be more accepting of the fact that I might remarry; that I might one day find a measure of happiness with another woman. I’m not saying it will happen, I’m just asking you to except the fact that it might happen, and be reassured that whatever, you’re my son and you’ll always be my son…, whether you like it or not.” He added with a smirk.
Johnny looked into his father’s eyes and truly felt loved. “I don’t mind bein’ your son Pa, fact is I kinda like it.” He smiled his eyes warming.
“Just kinda?” Murdoch teased.
Johnny laughed. “I’ll try better Murdoch. I know you care about me,” he peeked up at his old man, “no more than that, that you love me, but sometimes it seems as if it’s all too good to be true and that it might all disappear. What I got here at Lancer, well Pa it means somethin’ to me, and I don’t ever wanna lose it.”
“And you won’t Johnny, ever.”
“I know, but sometimes, well sometimes I get…”
“Scared?” Murdoch interrupted, his right eyebrow lifting.
He looked up and felt all at once overwhelmed by the love his father was showing him, enough to admit finally, that he was indeed scared. “Well yeah, I guess.” He took in a deep breath. “I’m sorry Papi, I’ll apologize to Marcie and I’ll try harder to accept that she might be my Mama, I promise.”
Right there and then Johnny looked so vulnerable Murdoch felt a real need to wrap him in his arms, but he didn’t for fear of rejection. They’d come a long way, he and Johnny, but Murdoch knew they still had some ways to go. Johnny didn’t trust easily and their relationship was still tenuous when it came to physical contact, so he left well alone.
A light fired Johnny’s eyes as his sense of mischief returned. “Now I ain’t goin’ as far as sayin’ I’ll like her, but I’ll be charming. That I can promise. I can be you know, charming when I wanna be.” He added.
“Oh believe me I know Johnny.” Murdoch teased, shaking his head. He truly adored these moments when he had something to teach his boy. It had been a long time coming and he was thankful, in a way that Johnny still had things to learn.
Johnny rubbed his hands together in glee. ‘To easy, old man’s gettin’ soft.’ He thought grinning. “So, we done here?”
Murdoch became stern, or he pretended to be. “Well my son what do you think?”
Johnny didn’t like trick questions, never had. So he said nothing and briefly, although he was unaware of it, looked like a rabbit caught in a snare.
“Do you think I should punish you for the way you’ve behaved towards my guest Johnny?” Murdoch’s looked stern but his eyes told a very different story.
And it was the eyes Johnny was looking at right at that moment, trying to gauge his father; to find out if he was serious of just funnin’ something the old man was doing more and more of lately. “I..eh…I ain’t sure.”
“Well, for instance, have you learned anything from this discussion or do I need to emphasize the point?” Murdoch glared deeply into his sons eyes and noticed something there, fear maybe, respect definitely.
“Oh, no...,” he giggled nervously, “no ..er….points necessary, I learned my lesson Papi.” He smiled shyly.
Murdoch got up and Johnny looked up at the giant that was his father warily, watching as the tall Scot walked around his desk to stand before him.
“Good,” he grinned, “then shall we?” Murdoch gestured towards the entrance of the room; and watched as Johnny leapt into action, bolting for the door.
The boy was like greased lightning when it suited him and right there and then it suited him just fine. But just as his hand tugged at the door opening it Murdoch landed a hard, heavy swat to the seat of his pants, just to assist him across the threshold, he said.
Seems Johnny wasn’t the only one who was fast!