Ok so I’ve been a tad fed up lately, and this came from nowhere! …I got to thinking, I am so, ‘Sick, of being Sick’ and this was the result.
Thank you Karen Fedderly for the support and for the wise and educated suggestions.
Hope you all enjoy.
As always, in my Lancer world, as in others, Johnny is 19 and Scott 25…
“And just where do you think you’re going, young man?” Murdoch asked his hands on his hips; his mouth set in a thin line. He was clearly angry, but he was willing to keep his temper in check. At least until he heard whatever excuses his younger son came up with, anyway!
Johnny cringed, freezing on the spot; his shoulders bunching as he heard the voice of God resonate behind him.
He was in the barn, fresh out of his sick bed and he was fully dressed!! He looked down at his hands guiltily. He was holding Barranca’s saddle, ready to plonk it onto his horse’s back and so there was no way he could simply lie his way out of this one.
He glanced up at his old man, his tongue ghosting at the side of his mouth as he desperately tried to come up with a plausible reason why he was in the barn at all. Closing his eyes, he was quickly realizing there was none!!
‘Caught red handed, Johnny! Think…god-damn-it, think!’
His shoulders sagged, resigned to what he knew was coming. Then, in typical Madrid fashion he braced his shoulders and lifted his head stubbornly to face his old man, gasping in shock when he spied Cipriano at his old man’s back, looking smug!
‘Sometimes, this family shit was a total pain in the ass!’ he reflected frowning, taking his eyes off of both of them at the same time. ‘Jesus but they’re big men.’
“Eh…” he lifted his head again, slowly, and decided to put on ‘the smile’. Hoping to God it would appease them, but in all honesty he knew it wouldn’t. This was his third attempt at escape and he knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. ‘Shit!!! Not good,’ he thought swallowing when he saw their collective frowns deepen!
He could lie and pretend there was some kind of emergency, that he alone had heard about and was in fact reacting to, but when he looked into his father's eyes, he thought better of it. He knew he was in trouble and so he dipped his head guiltily and did the only thing he could think of. Unbelievably, he apologized! “Sorry.” ‘Jesus I have changed!’ he thought, his frown deepening some more.
“I ..eh..” his brow furrowed in desperation, his eyes widening as he came up with a plan…albeit a suspect one. ‘Pleadin’,’ he thought, his eyes lighting up at the idea... ‘I gotta do a whole lot of pleadin’!! Puppy eyes, Johnny, puppy eyes!’ He chanced a glance at Cip and smirked, dipping his head once more upon seeing real affection in his eyes. ‘Cip’s got a soft spot for me; old man too if I catch him right! ‘Yep, I gotta do a lot of pleadin’.’
He attempted to take advantage of Cip’s softer mood, but by the single look his father shot his way he knew Murdoch had reached the end of his tether. If Cip wasn’t planning on punishing him, Johnny sure in hell knew, Murdoch was!
‘Shit, he sure looks pissed.’
He immediately put on his ‘whipped puppy dog look’ in a brazen attempt at sympathy. It was a long shot, considering their mood but at this point he was willing to try anything to save his ass from a warming. Besides, he had nothing to lose and it had worked before. Especially on his father, when he was ill!
And he was ill!!
He figured, now was as good a time as any, so he took in a deep breath and was just about to say something when Murdoch all but growled. It was at this point he knew in all probability that Murdoch, was probably going to kill him.
“...Awww Murdoch…” he tried smiling warmly, his eyes taking on a softer edge and his face a pleading look. “Lo Siento, Papi.” he said again sheepishly. ‘Always good to toss the single word Papi in,’ he thought, all but smirking to himself at bein’ so damned smart. He dipped his head and wiped at his mouth in order to try to hide his cocky smirk, and then up his head bobbed again. “I..I… just felt, the need to get out. You know, ride? Let the …warm…breeze blow through my hair and onto my face; ride free for a while and let the sweet sun do its best.” He smiled, real warmth in his eyes as he looked at both men.
Murdoch hid the smile threatening. He knew what his younger son was attempting. “Oh you did, did you?” Murdoch intoned. Cip for his part, tired of the game his nephew was playing changed tack and simply growled.
Johnny’s eyes drifted to Cip and he gulped. “Yeah, well I… eh, I just wanted to get out of my room, ya know…eh, get me some fresh air?” he tried again.
He was met with a wall of silence, so he ploughed on. “You both know how I hate bein’ cooped up and how I love to ride, especially Barranca,” he grinned lopsidedly. “It ..is.. a glorious sunshiny day,” he tried. “ …And I.. eh…” He raised his arm to point at a sun in all reality he couldn’t yet see, but soon realized his attempts at convincing his Uncle and father that what he was doing was right were to no avail. Murdoch was a stubborn old bastard, who didn’t stand for disobedience and his Uncle was just the same. It fast became clear that neither he, nor Cipriano were going to back down on this one. Nope, he knew they would wait to see what excuses he came up with, and then his ass would be toast anyway!
‘Shit this is goin’ south fast, and I ain’t goin’ to like where it all ends up,’ he realized, all but gulping; his mouth going decidedly dry.
With nothing to lose and all to gain, he ploughed on. “Just to be able to feel that… warm… breeze on my face.” He emphasized the word ‘warm’, hoping it would appease these two burly men, considering why he had been housebound in the first place, and for so long.
“Maybe then just sit a while, ya know? Up by Cripple Creek…” he added grinning sheepishly again, “…enjoy the … ‘heat’…(again he emphasized the word ‘heat’ ) …of the sun on my face. It is a beautiful day after all and….”
His voice trailed off, as he heard growls emanate from both men; their patience wearing thin. His father’s slate grey eyes bore into him, making him feel every bit the two year old Murdoch often regaled about on a cold dark winter evening, after a day of pushing beeves.
Johnny sighed, getting a tad fed up now. He dipped his head. ‘This ain’t workin’ worth a damn!’ he thought, resigned now to his fate.
He sighed, losing his patience. “Look Murdoch..,” he said, a little more tersely than he’d intended, his temper finally getting the better of him as he resorted to type. “…I’ve been cooped up in that fuckin’ room of mine, for so fuckin’ long now, it feels like I’ve damned well taken root…”
Murdoch held up one hand, effectively silencing his son. ‘Ah, at last, the real Johnny.’
Cip, for his part, glared at him, hard!
“I wondered just how long it would take for that temper of yours to get the better of you and surface. Enough of your nonsense, John! Kill the attitude and the profanity! You know exactly where you should be right at this moment and it’s not standing here fully clothed, in this barn!”
Murdoch took a couple of steps towards him and Johnny backed up, meeting his pace, but with his back soon pressed to the wall he found he had nowhere else to go!
‘Shit!! NOT good.’
He glanced around looking for an escape route and found none. He was trapped in one of the spare stalls and he knew it; the wall that was Murdoch now standing mere inches from his chest, and Cip guarding the entrance to the stall!! With no idea what he should do, other than to cold cock his father (which he knew would NOT be a good idea) and run past Cip, (which he realized was NOT an option), he relied on his old friend, the mask of Madrid and sheer bravado!
Standing as tall as he could he actually snarled, “Back off.” More out of fear than anger but he hoped they couldn’t see that. As he had done countless times in his young life, in his past as a gunfighter, he tried for all he was worth to bluff his way out of the situation he now found himself in. ‘Hell, it usually worked!’ he thought.
It was, Murdoch reflected, to the untrained eye, a pretty amazing thing to see and impressive, even to Murdoch and Cip’s eyes. However his performance didn’t impress them enough for either of them to be remotely intimidated, which had kind of been the point.
‘Shit!!! Shit!! Shit!’ He rubbed at his now running nose, finally accepting a hanky from his father’s outstretched hand; amazed that he had!
“Pardon me?” Murdoch asked, a slight smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, at his son’s obvious discomfort and his blatant use of Madrid; something he always did when he was backed to a wall.
‘Like now,’ Murdoch mused.
In his most recent past the mask he had honed so well always worked. He had it down but it never seemed to work on his family. It seemed they were all impervious to it and despite the Hell that was about to rain down on him he kind of smiled at that, since it meant something. But Hell, his mask had got him out of more scrapes than he cared to remember and he still found it purely frustrating!
He’d always been good at hiding how he really felt, which was sick to his stomach most times when he had to kill to survive. He hadn’t been able to show any weakness in his past life and so his very life had depended on the success of his mask.
But he and his family had come a long way and he’d learned he could rely on them all, in ways that had been alien to him in his past life. They, all of them, had his back, and he found he liked the way that made him feel.
‘Well most times I do,’ he thought a tad fearfully now.
Over the last few months, Johnny had begun to learn the value of family and he had also learned to have a healthy respect for his father. He knew he wasn’t the easiest to deal with, but Murdoch and his family had been fair and kind to him and they had slowly won him around. He didn’t know when he had first begun to trust them, he only knew he had.
He glanced over to the corner of the barn; at the two strategically placed bales Scott said were placed just for him, and knew without a shadow of doubt that pushing his old man now would result in him being bent over them, despite how ill he was!
Still the side of him that was still Madrid, had to try. No way in hell was Murdoch going to tell him what to do and when to do it. He’d been cooped up long enough and it was time to get out…
‘Hell, it was past fuckin’ time!’
“Get outta my way. I’m goin out!!” He tried to push past his old man and using both hands, he shoved.
The man didn’t move an inch.
Johnny’s eyes widened, since he’d given it all he had! ‘Shit!’
Murdoch wasn’t remotely intimidated by the sudden appearance of his son’s alter ego, Madrid. This was his boy; his baby; and he had been close to death, and he was still very ill. That thought alone made him stand his ground flaring his anger in ways he had never imagined. It also gave him the strength to do what needed to be done.
“Drop the Madrid act, son. You know it doesn’t work on me, or your Uncle for that matter. So change the attitude boy or you’ll live to regret it.” He too glanced at the bales then and Johnny visibly swallowed. “Is that what you really want?” he asked the boy, the warning in his tone obvious.
Johnny knew exactly what his father was threatening and he swallowed again, his face showing at first the fear of a boy about to be taken to task and then the frustration, he was feeling.
“…but nothing. I mean it, John. You’re going nowhere. So I reiterate, is that what you want?”
Johnny tensed, his anger and frustration making him breathless. Then in the face of his father’s towering strength, his whole body appeared to slump as he finally gave in!
It was then he spied a hint of warmth in his father’s eyes and he decided to milk it, for all it was worth!
“Papi, I..I’m real sorry, honest!…I know I shouldn’ta disobeyed you…” he tried. “But sometimes I..I just need to get out…you know? I shouldn’t a done this…I should’a just done what you told me; what Sam told me,” he added with a sheepish grin, “…and just stayed put and all, but …well…what can I say, but sorry. I know it seems lame and I know I defied you…” he tried another grin at this point, his eyes pleading now. “But well, you know I had to at least try. It’s me…” he told him, as if that should make a difference, dipping his head then and hitching his breath. “But I am sorry …sir,” he tried, hoping to God the addition of the much lectured about word ‘sir’ would be enough.
Secretly, he wished he could play his old man. The same way he had managed to play many of his adversaries before coming home but his father never seemed to fall for it. Nope, his old man seemed to see right through him. More worrying, though was his entire family could see through him now as well.
‘Time was, I coulda fooled ‘em but not now…shit gotta work on that some!’
Grown men, much bigger, older and stronger would’ve literally reeled in horror, if he’d shot them his ‘Madrid’ glare, even from across the street, but now with his father’s influence being everywhere, he couldn’t even get a drink in the local town without his father’s say so, or the bartender raising merry hell about it and it purely pissed him off. Madrid having to ask permission to fucking well have a drink wasn’t acceptable but it was something he was having to now endure!
‘An all ‘cause they know I won’t shoot ‘em… Then again….’ he pondered, caressing his colt, as a sly grin appeared at the corner of his mouth.
His father didn’t miss the move and his eyes narrowed. “You planning on shooting me, Johnny?” he asked, his arms folded now; his eyes smiling.
Johnny snorted hoping to hell he couldn’t read his mind! “No, of course not...” he instantly snapped, ‘But then again…’ he thought, his eyes narrowing. He had removed his rig from his father’s locked desk drawer; had indeed picked the lock, and he knew that action alone was enough to light a fire on his ass!
It was his modified pistol and holster; his gunfighter’s pistol; the one his father hated more than he had hated the lifestyle, because of what it represented. He closed his eyes, knowing full well he was in deep shit for taking it. Stealing it had been crime enough for his father to take him to task, never mind trying to sneak out to escape his sick bed.
He coughed and instantly his father’s arms surrounded him patting his back and for a brief moment he folded into his warm touch; his eyes locked on his father’s boots. Making him at once giggle and wheeze, as a memory flashed before his eyes.
…He’d once made an old gunfighter dance to his own tune and the mere thought of his old man doing the same, hopping from one foot to the other, dodging his bullets, nearly did him in.
Murdoch held him closer as his coughing, or so it seemed, seemed to worsen. “Johnny?!!”
“Fi…fine…I’m (cough) fine!” he rasped.
….The gunfighter had been old, well into his thirties and he’d figured bagging a kill like Madrid might just rekindle his fame and get him the kind of recognition he was still seeking.
Johnny’s mind had been on other things, namely the girls in the shiny low cut dresses, draping over the balcony above him so enticingly! So he’d ignored him, at first anyway, using the deflection tactics, he often used when he didn’t want to fight.
But the old bastard had been set on his task!
“Johnny?” Murdoch’s concern took precedence over his anger.
….annoyingly he’d just been eyeing up a nice piece of flesh that he’d figured on burying himself into later, but this man had other ideas. He remembered thinking, ‘So you wanna dance do ya?’ And dance was exactly what he’d made him do. Although his kind of dancin’ wasn’t what the other had planned at all!!
He snickered when he thought about what had happened next and then coughed again, real raspy this time.
“Johnny!!” Again he heard his old man, seemingly in the distance, lost in his own thoughts.
…He’d got up, when the man had got real close. Close enough in fact for him to reach out, and grab his pistol right out of its holster.
“Idiot!” ‘Jesus did I just say that aloud?’
“What?!” Murdoch growled.
“No, not you…Aww, never mind.” Cough!!
… It had happened so fast, the man had little time to react, finding himself pushed into a seat, now without his pistol. He’d been sorely tempted to simply put a bullet into the man’s brain. It’s not like he couldn’t have done it. Instead, he’d laughed casually at how terrified the man looked.
“Johnny?!! Come on now…Back to the house with you…and to bed…” He felt himself being pulled forward then, his eyes still locked on his father’s boots.
…He’d humiliated the gunfighter in front of the entire saloon then; pulling him onto his feet and firing bullets to make him ‘dance’ to his own tune!
“You wanted to dance…so fuckin’ well dance, you prick!” he’d sassed, firing off his pistol at the man’s feet; missing him by mere inches!
Folks hooted with laughter as five shots rang through the night air! But still it hadn’t been enough to appease his rage. So adding insult to injury, leaving one bullet in the chamber, just in case, he’d quickly reloaded his pistol as the man was gasping and had then made the man strip. Then he had kicked his naked ass out into the street and onto the back of his horse, tossing him his clothes as he sat astride the animal. “Now get your ass outta here mister. And if you know what’s good for you...you’ll keep on goin’ and you won’t look back”
Johnny had then smacked the ass of his horse and sent him on his way…
‘Course he hadn’t reckoned for one moment that the man would lay in wait for him, to ambush him later!
He felt his father lift him then and tried to protest.
“Ssshhh.” He heard the deep voice say.
…Johnny cringed when he remembered the blistering lecture he’d received from Val after he’d torn the bullet from his back and had tended to his injuries. Luckily Val had been in the area and had heard the gunfire. He recognized Johnny’s pistol now hanging over the old gunfighter’s saddle horn, like a damned trophy, and panicked, had tracked all the way back to where Johnny lay bleeding. Apparently Val had been relentlessly hunting the old gunfighter for the suspected murder of a bank teller and an innocent passerby; a heavily pregnant woman. Val had been tireless in his pursuit but upon seeing his boy bleeding by the roadside he cursed that he hadn’t found him sooner.
Consequences, Val told him, more than once in fact…as he’d been laid up and tended to. Val always took advantage when he knew Johnny could do nothing to avoid listening to him.
He shivered and Murdoch’s grip tightened.
…Johnny actually smiled, when he remembered how grouchy Val had been, but he sure had a lot to thank him for, Murdoch too, when he thought about it. ‘Course Val had also blistered his ears about getting out of the business, for nigh on a month whilst he recovered. Not allowing him to step so much as a toe out of bed, ‘til he was well on the mend. Much like his own father was doing now!
“Come back with me kid,” Val had said. “I’ll deputize ya.”
But he’d been too downright ornery to agree to it. Not that Val had given him much of a choice, since he’d demanded he ride with him when he got well enough to move and Johnny knew better than to cross Val.
Fact was, Val was about the only man, that he could remember anyway, that he had ever truly respected.
Like before though, it hadn’t worked out. Not because of Val. No, because of him, he knew. Val had added insult to injury and suggested that maybe he might wanna consider going back to school.
Well that had been enough for him to slip away in the dead of night, like a snake in the grass; knowing full well if he’d tried to leave during the day, Val would stop him and blister him good.
‘Sixteen, I was near sixteen at the time and too dumb to know better,’ he thought bitterly. How wrong had he been, but Val treated him like a snot nosed kid! He laughed then, and figured, not a lot had changed!
As he held onto his son, Murdoch watched him carefully. The boy was obviously remembering something. “What is it, son? What are you remembering?” he pressed as he all but carried him in his arms.
It warmed his heart to see Johnny smile slightly. Murdoch knew someone had looked out for his son. The old wound on his back had been testament to that. If he only knew who had done the tending. Whoever it was had surely saved his son’s life and he wanted to take them by the hand and thank them personally. ‘One day perhaps. One day, he’ll open up and tell me.’
Johnny decided to take full advantage of his father’s apparent good mood. “Mur…Pa…eh..” he grinned. “… could you put me down?”
“Well, we’re nearly at the house, son.”
Murdoch did as he was asked, albeit reluctantly but he still held onto him.
Johnny glanced furtively at the entrance of the hacienda which was looming alarmingly close and frowned. “Pa please, let me stay outside, at least. I could sit on the porch,” he offered. “I promise, I won’t move a muscle from where Maria puts me…I’ll even let her pin me with a blanket,” he grinned, adding another ‘Pa’ and a ‘please’ again just for effect.
Murdoch closed his eyes wanting to shut his son’s appealing face out of his head. “Oh you’re good, my son. I’ll say that much for you,” Murdoch told him smiling down at his younger boy, who was pretending he didn’t have a clue what his father was on about.
‘It won’t work. You nearly died, John and this time you’ll do as you’re told and stay in bed till Sam tells you otherwise. Even if I have to hogtie you to get you to obey. You are staying in your bed!” he intoned.
Just very recently Murdoch had watched a deeply unconscious Johnny, reeling from a fever. One that Sam warned could end in disaster. Johnny had been terribly ill and close to death and the memory of that event was still very fresh in his father’s mind. It was this recent memory that was making him stay firm in the face of his son’s beguiling entreaties.
“What did Sam tell you, only this morning, John?” he asked as sternly as he could muster. Right then Johnny looked all of twelve and Murdoch’s heart melted. He had always known he loved his sons, but in that moment his feelings were reaffirmed as he took in his younger boy.
Johnny sighed. He was so tired of being bossed around by people who felt they had the God given right to tell him what he could, and couldn’t, do.
“I know what he said, old man.” He suddenly seethed, all evidence of his good mood gone. “But I also know what I can and can’t do. I’ve been here before, Murdoch. I know my own body and I’m tellin’ you,” he poked, “I don’t need, no aging man with white hair and glasses, tellin’ me I need to stay in my fuckin’ bed!”
Murdoch groaned out loud then, because he knew what was coming, ‘I’ve been taking….’
As if he had read his mind Johnny said, “I’ve been takin’ care of myself for as long as I can remember, old man. I’ve had worse…I can…”
Murdoch held up his hand, “…I know son, I’ve heard it all before. Many times in fact.” Murdoch sighed reaching out to take control of the situation once more.
The look of frustration flashing in his father’s eyes meant he instantly knew he’d said the wrong thing. No amount of apologizing, or placating for that matter, was going to make a hoot of different to the eventual outcome. Which was him back in bed, all wrapped up like a Christmas present under the tree!
That thought alone got his temper up. It purely sucked that he was no longer in control of his own life; his own destiny!
‘When the hell had that happened?!’ He honestly couldn’t remember.
Murdoch was like a Papa bear, and right now his cub was injured and needed protection. He was the cub who had wandered from the safety of the den!
Resigned to his fate, he relaxed again and felt himself once more being lifted in the direction of the hacienda!
Now Johnny was intelligent enough to appreciate the affection his father was showing him, but still, it also left him feeling overwhelmed too. Totally unused as he was to the kind of attention he was now receiving. His response was always to be insolent and on the defensive, when there was, in fact, no need to be like that at all. At least not with his family.
“Aww hell, Murdoch!” he snapped, jerking unexpectedly out of his father’s tight grip, kicking up a fuss. He stamped his foot like a toddler about to have a major tantrum! “Look, old man,” he poked again. Not a good idea. “I’m old enough to make my own decisions,” he told the giant of a man standing before him. “I don’t need you or…” he glanced at Cip who had followed after them. “… him for that matter, interferin’ in my life. So back off!!” Again he poked his old man, making his upper body jerk slightly. “…And leave me the fuck alone!” he heard himself say, watching as steam seemed to protrude from his old man’s ears!
‘Shit Johnny, you got a death wish or somethin?’ his jaw dropped open as his father’s face began to glow a bright red. He dropped almost to his knees, trying to duck as his father reached out to grab his ear and proceeded to march him into the house!
Johnny’s hands grappled with his fathers’, trying for all he was worth, to pull his hand off of his ear!
“Damn-it old man!! Ow!!! That hurts!”
Johnny had never found capitulation easy and so he fought his father all the way into the house and up the stairs, realizing when he was half way up the stairs, that he was going nowhere, but up to his room and that was the end of it.
Finally his father turned him loose and he stood in the middle of his room, rubbing at his hot ear. “Damn-it, Murdoch my ears hurtin’ me somethin’ fierce!”
Cip was in the doorway all but laughing as Murdoch rooted in Johnny’s drawers. “If you don’t get out of those pants pronto, my boy, that won’t the only part of your anatomy that’ll be hurtin’,” Murdoch warned making Cip actually snort.
He chanced a glance at his door and caught sight of Cip…and then Murdoch caught his eye.
“Don’t you dare even think about it…!! You so much as put a toe over that threshold and I swear you won’t be able to sleep on your back tonight! Now strip!” he ordered relaxing somewhat as he spied his old friend Cip at Johnny’s door.
“Oh!” he smiled and Cip nodded.
Johnny reluctantly did as he was told!
“You need any help?!!” Murdoch asked, taking a swipe at his son’s rear end!
“No…! Sir!” Johnny said, dodging the blow and, shucking his clothes quicker than he would have for a whore! He literally ran for his bed to avoid yet another swipe, still in his underwear!
Murdoch turned his head to stifle a snicker and held out his hand. “Nightshirt,” he intoned.
“No, thank you,” Johnny said shaking his head as he effectively tucked himself in.
“Nightshirt John.” Murdoch pressed.
“Murdoch, you know I hate ‘em. Thought I’d just leave on my drawers.”
In no mood for another debate Murdoch strode to his bedside. “You will put this nightshirt on, or I will.”
He watched incredulously as his son actually pouted.
‘He looks even younger with that bottom lip sticking out,’ Murdoch thought, almost laughing, now that his son was in bed at least. “You’re pouting you know,” he told him, unable to resist.
‘Great,’ Johnny thought, pulling in his bottom lip and rolling his eyes. ‘Now I’m actin’ like a fuckin’ two year old!’ Johnny sighed, “Murdoch…I … ”
In no time at all the issue of the nightshirt was over and Johnny found himself wearing the damned thing! His underwear now in a pile along with his other clothes for washing, and his ass end now hot and smarting!
“You do know that this little trip will set you back. Look at you, you’re sweating like a stuffed pig, John.”
“I’m sweatin’ cause you just smacked my backside old man!” he moaned, accusingly. “Your fault.”
“My fault? How do you make that out?”
“Well, I was quite comfortable before you made me wear this thing! I’m sweatin’ now but it ain’t got nuthin’ to do with any god-damned fever,” he accused.
“Is that so?” Murdoch chuckled. He couldn’t help himself. Still a lecture was in order, so he delivered one. “In order for you to get well, it’s essential you do what Sam tells you. Sometimes your elders do know better, Johnny.”
Johnny huffed. “I’m fine!” Cough! ‘Shit!’
Murdoch sighed. “Sure you are! Look son, it’s not just about you anymore. It’s about you looking after yourself, so your family doesn’t have to worry about you unnecessarily.”
“You don’t gotta worry about me,” he snorted stubbornly. “I’ve always looked after myself,” Johnny said arrogantly.
“John, listen to me!! Open up those ears of yours and take what I’m saying in. When you do things like this; when you put yourself in harm’s way, well it’s inconsiderate; it’s selfish and, my son, it shows me just how much growing up you still have to do because it’s also immature.”
“It does nothing to show me you’re the man you’re constantly telling me you are. In fact it leads me to believe the complete opposite, son,” he told him candidly, not mincing his words.
Johnny did listen and he began to feel a tad guilty. He knew Murdoch was telling it like it was. He had behaved like a child, trying to sneak out of his sick bed the way he had. He did need to think about the way he sometimes behaved, but sometimes he couldn’t help it. He just felt the need to sometimes buck the traces but he’d never before had he put that down to immaturity.
‘Hell, maybe it is,’ he thought, finally reasoning things out in his head.
Scott didn’t defy their old man the way he did after all.
‘Well mostly, he didn’t anyway,’ he thought remembering the times Scott had come along for the ride and played along with him.
‘Maybe ol Boston has some growin’ still to do as well.’
He wanted to snicker at that but when he thought about it, it kind of worried him too, because if Scott still had some growing to do, then logically, so did he, since he was six years younger!! That realization hit him like a wall…‘Shit!’
Still, he wasn’t about to admit to his father that he agreed with what he was saying. He guessed, maybe that had something to do with maturity as well?
It’d been a long time since he’d thought of himself as a kid. Hell, he’d been too busy just trying to stay alive! However since coming home, his life had changed beyond measure. He’d felt safe enough to live a little and he had to admit, if only to himself that he’d done some pretty hair brained things; childish pranks his father had called them and when he really thought about it, maybe Murdoch had a point. Maybe Murdoch was right. He was after all still shot full of mischief. ‘Maybe I am still a kid…and if I am is that so bad?’ he contemplated, smiling to himself now.
‘It’s fun, watchin’ the old man’s jaw workin’ ‘Course it ain’t such fun when he’s leatherin’ me with that old belt of his,’ he thought suddenly frowning. ‘But sometimes, it sure ‘n Hell’s worth it.’ He snorted, grinning.
Murdoch smiled, relaxing now that his sick son was safely in bed once more. “What’s that mind of yours concocting now?” Murdoch asked, a tad perplexed at what he was seeing on his son's face.
“Huh? Oh nuthin’.” He grinned. “Look, you shouldn’t worry about me so much…honest.”
“It’s my job,” Murdoch told him, smiling.
“Yeah, you’ve told me, but I can take care of myself. I do know my limitations.”
“Do you? I don’t see any evidence of that.”
Johnny looked up at his father and realized the burden he represented. “You know I don’t need to stick around. If havin’ me here is too much for you, I could just leave,” he told his old man; his old insecurities getting in the way of logic, once more.
“Johnny!!!” The exasperation was in his voice as he addressed his son!
“Murdoch, I..I don’t mean to be a burden,” he told him, a sadness in his voice as he said the words. “It ain’t like I ever had me this kind of situation before; someone to look out for me; to watch my back. I’ve been used to takin’ care of myself Murdoch and that’s a pure fact,” he told his father, the old familiar petulance returning just a little.
Murdoch sighed. “Being a father is burdensome I’ll admit, at times anyway, but it’s a burden I’m more than willing to carry. To have you and Scott home with me, John is the biggest blessing I could ever wish for. It’s the answer to every prayer I have ever asked over the years.” He touched Johnny’s shoulder lightly, “No son you’re not a burden, you’re a joy to me. Every night when I go to bed, I sleep easier knowing my sons are just down the hall, safely tucked up in their beds…” he shook his head and fingers at Johnny then, “…well sometimes, hmm son?” He glared and Johnny dipped his head. “No John, it’s as it should be…It’s as it should’ve been all along. Is leaving Lancer what you really want, John? Or are you just saying that to test me; to see what I’ll say? Because if you’re asking me do I want you to leave, then my answer to you is this. If you leave, I’ll hunt you down and bring you right back where you belong…Is that what you want to hear; what you need to hear?”
Johnny got mad; his pride smarting at what was clearly his own need and he became defensive. “I don’t need to hear nuthin’ old man,” he spat, but he knew in his heart, he was lying.
Murdoch chose to ignore his sudden anger knowing where it was coming from. “Well, I think I have put that nonsense to bed then, yes? I want you here with me and I want Scott here also. You and Scott are the reason I’ve worked so tirelessly to build Lancer. Who do you think I did this all for, if not for you and Scott?”
“You tryin’ to tell me Lancer is for us?”
Johnny shrugged. “I guess, I hadn’t thought about it that way.”
Murdoch explained. “Well think on it as you rest. You done arguing now, son?”
“Guess so, but I do like to argue,” he pressed, smirking a tad.
“Yes, I know, oh how I know! Arguing with your elders, for you, is like honey to a bee! But when you eventually do grow up, you’ll realize, as an adult, you should know better. Hmm?” Murdoch reiterated.
“Murdoch…” Johnny looked perturbed.
“Look son, I know this isn’t easy for you, but you really do need to settle down. You need to learn to do as you’re told; to respect the fact that your elders actually do know better; that a Doctor might just know what’s good for you and what’s not.”
He was angry at himself as much as he was angry with the world. “Yeah I guess I do got to give Sam some credit, huh? Some!...” he chortled, relenting just a little.
It was something. Murdoch cuffed him lightly on the ear. “You young devil, you!!”
The older man was still a tad upset at what his son had done to himself because there was no doubting, in his mind, Johnny, and therefore ultimately his family, would pay for his little outside adventure. “Yes you do,” he told him. “You know, I’ve never met anyone as stubborn as you.”
“Yeah? Well maybe the apple don’t fall far from the tree,” Johnny shot right back.
“Fair enough.” Murdoch had to concede. “Now what you need to do, is remember that fact and stay in this bed, as ordered, and get well.” He began to tuck him in, again.
Johnny folded his arms, bristling a little at the order. “And if I don’t?” he challenged.
‘Back to square one,’ Murdoch thought rolling his eyes. “Well let’s just say, if you defy me on this again my boy, I promise you will not like the consequences.”
Johnny visibly shrank in his bed, “You can’t make me stay in this bed forever. What, are you gonna post guards or somethin’?” he asked insolently, snickering.
Murdoch grabbed him suddenly by his nightshirt front and yanked him forwards pulling his buttocks off of his bed. He seemed to float mid-air as he addressed him; his legs still under the comforter. “If that’s what it takes to keep you here, then yes.” He shook him a little then, winding him a tad. “Now I’m done arguing with you about this son. You listen and you listen hard. If you try to get out of this bed again, I will intimately reacquaint you with my belt and you will not like the outcome. Bear in mind son you are as naked as the day you were born under this nightshirt! Am I making myself, clear?”
Johnny gasped, “Oh yeah, crystal…sir!” he added, unable to move in his father's tight grip. He felt himself being pushed back onto his pillow and watched warily as his father once again began to tuck him in.
Johnny swallowed, his eyes now locked on his father.
“Now you rest and concentrate on getting better. I have work to do. Don’t test me on this son!” he warned as he turned to leave.
Cip was still in the doorway, smiling, his arms folded across his chest. Murdoch ushered him into the hallway as he closed his son’s bedroom door.
Alone now, Johnny had time to think and the more he thought the angrier he got but at mostly himself. It was hard for him to break free from his past. To go back to being a boy. He’d taken care of his-self for so long it was hard to let go but he realized things were different.
Now, for the first time in his life, he could confidently rely on those surrounding him and for the most part that felt pretty good. However he was beginning to realize that with that security, came restrictions, which he didn’t like!
‘Consequences,’ he mused grimacing slightly. It seemed there were consequences for every walk in life.
He yawned, his eyes watering, ‘Seems I still ain’t all that well, after all. Maybe I’ll just take a little nap,’ Was his last thought before he closed his eyes and fell into a deep healing sleep.
The End for now …