Murdoch’s thoughts as he waits for his boys to come home from “The First Ride”. . . . . . . .
He stood on the porch of his sprawling ranch house and watched. And waited. Waited for his two sons to come home.
They had been gone for almost three hours now; they only should have been gone an hour, if that. They had gone for a short ride, per the doctor’s orders, in order to help his younger son get out of his depressed state as he recovered from a gunshot wound. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but he was beginning to have second thoughts.
As he waited, Murdoch Lancer realized he was worried about them. And he smiled at the thought.
He had always worried about them, the two sons he never knew.
Scott, his oldest, was an image; like a child would invent as a playmate. He had seen him only once, on his fifth birthday, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, cute little boy who tugged at his grandfather’s pant leg in anticipation of cutting his birthday cake. And for the next 20 years, Murdoch envisioned that little boy growing up. Tall. Blonde. Like his mother.
And he worried about, and loved, the image that was his oldest son.
Johnny, his youngest, was a memory; someone who had been such an integral part of his life for two years, then was gone. But the memory was strong, that of the black-haired, sapphire-eyed bundle of energy who had Murdoch wrapped around his little fingers. Then one day his precious boy was taken, and for the next 20 years, Murdoch envisioned that little boy growing up. Dark. Fiery. Like his mother.
And he worried about, and loved, the memory that was his youngest son.
But they were here now. In the flesh. No longer an image or a memory to grasp onto, but two real-life human beings that Murdoch was able to hear. To see. To touch. And damn it, the old man liked having them within his reach.
The visions of his sons that he held so close to him throughout the years were pretty much on their mark. He never thought Scott would have eyes so much like his mother, though. And he thought Johnny would be a bit taller. But at that very first meeting, the blonde young man from Boston and the cocky gunfighter from Mexico found a spot in Murdoch’s heart that hadn’t been touched in 20 years.
He continued to watch and wait when he finally saw them. He felt his heart open wide and a feeling of warmth engulf him as he realized his two boys were within his sight.
They rode slowly through the Lancer arch, dismounted their horses, and made their way to the house, Scott’s left arm around Johnny’s waist and Johnny’s right arm around Scott’s shoulders. It was obvious Johnny was hurting; the ride was probably too much for him.
The fact that his proud younger son would allow his older son to help him in such an obvious manner made Murdoch wonder what had happened the last few hours. He knew that Scott wasn’t exactly thrilled about accompanying Johnny on his “therapeutic ride,” and it was only because Murdoch and Dr. Jenkins basically told him it was his job to help his younger brother that he did.
But then, Murdoch wondered why Scott had risked his life that spring morning and rescued his brother, when he, his own father, gave his youngest up for dead. When asked, Scott told Murdoch he didn’t know why he did what he did. But that a feeling washed over him at that instant that made him realize that was his kid brother out there. Regardless of their differences, their upbringings, or their heritage, Scott just couldn’t let anything happen to Johnny.
And from the look of them now, Murdoch figured that was still true. And he remembered how Scott had helped Johnny to the house right after he was shot, carrying him to safety. To him. To be taken care of.
Murdoch made his way back into the house, slipping away from view of his sons, but at the same time, secretly watching them through the window of the great room, where he seemed to spend half his life. Thinking. And dreaming. About them. . . . .
And he wondered again what had happened to these two young men the last few hours. They had left strangers; one not wanting to go at all, the other secretly wishing he was going alone. But he could see a difference in their body language: The caring given by Scott. And the acceptance received from Johnny.
But most of all the Trust. Between both of them.
Could they have formed that bond? True, they were both young, and Murdoch knew the Bond of Youth was there. But he could only hope . .and pray. . .that these two special boys, .no, young men .would find it in their hearts to care for one another. To trust one another. And in time, to love one another.
They were entering the house now, and Murdoch sat at his desk, pretending to work. He could hear their voices; not what they were saying, but he could hear the voice of confidence that was Scott. The soft drawl that was Johnny.
He looked up as the two young man sat on the couch; Johnny removing his right boot, and Scott helping Johnny remove his left boot. Scott said something that brought a quip from Johnny, and they both laughed.
They seemed to sense the presence of their father as they looked up at him. And smiled. Two mischievous smiles that reminded Murdoch of two little boys that had been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. And he chuckled to himself. . . . . .
There was a silence as the three of them, a father and his two sons, wondered who should speak. And what should be said.
It was the eldest Lancer who simply asked, “Did you boys have a pleasant ride?” And looking at his youngest, “You all right?”
A smile and a small nod of the head came from Johnny. It was Scott who replied, “We had a pleasant afternoon, Sir. We didn’t do a lot of riding, however.”
Murdoch nodded his head in acknowledgement, then looked down at the non-existent work on his desk, and wondered what he should say, or do, next.
‘Sir,’ he thought, regret filling his soul. ‘Like an acquaintance he met at a party he’ll never see again.’ But then, ‘It’s better than being called Old Man,’ he frowned, just a little.
He looked up and saw two sets of blue eyes staring at him. One pair of pale blue eyes masking his sadness. And one pair of sapphire eyes masking his pain.
And both pairs of eyes asking, ‘Why?’
His ice blue eyes met theirs, and he simply said, “I’m glad you had a nice afternoon. Dinner will be ready soon. Johnny, I hope you feel like eating tonight,” more of a statement than a question.
“Yeah,” came the soft reply. Then with a grin that would light up half of California, “Still waitin’ for that steak you promised me, Old M. . . .Murdoch,” and he bowed his head, embarrassed.
A chuckle came from deep within Murdoch’s soul, and with a gleam in his eye, responded to his youngest, “So, you remember that conversation, do you?”
Johnny smiled shyly, recalling the odd conversation he had with his father when he was silly out of his head with fever, and he wondered briefly what else the two had talked about that he didn’t remember. “Sure do. When it’s about one of my favorite past times . .eatin.”
“And all this time I thought you were a light eater,” his older brother quipped.
“Only when I’m half dead,” Johnny mumbled, and sighed.
Odd as it was, Murdoch couldn’t help but smile. “Well, if it’s all right with the two of you, tomorrow evening sounds like a good night for a steak dinner,” he announced.
“Great. Make mine well-done. I hate it when my steak is ready to ‘moo’ at me,” Johnny stated, matter of fact.
“Scott?” Murdoch asked. “How about you?”
“Medium rare, Sir,” he answered.
Figures, Johnny thought.
“Well, I’m with Johnny. I like mine well-done,” Murdoch reported, and he and his youngest shared glances as they learned they had at least one thing in common.
His oldest rose, saying he was going to clean up for dinner, and his youngest followed suit. And with his youngest following his oldest up the stairs, they were gone. Gone from his sight, but not from his thoughts. Or his heart.
He spied the couch where they had been sitting. There sat Scott’s jacket, neatly draped over the arm of the couch; his riding gloves and hat neatly arranged on the jacket. Neat. Orderly. Just like Scott.
Then he spied Johnny’s boots, lying haphazardly on the floor where they had been dropped. And his jacket, the one Murdoch bought for him to replace his torn and bloodied one, on the couch just as he left it; his riding gloves, one on the table, the other lying on his jacket. And his hat tossed onto the easy chair across from the couch. Careless. Carefree. Just like Johnny.
Scott and Johnny. Johnny and Scott. His two boys. A part of him; a part of them. The two women he loved so much, and lost. One to death. And one to selfishness. But he loved them then, and he loved them now. Loved their memories, anyway.
But his two boys weren’t memories. Or images. They were here, and here is where he wanted them to stay. And for as much joy as was his in his heart right now, there was a fear as well. A fear he would lose one or both of them again. And that was a loss he knew he couldn’t face.
For his life had been one of loss. Of an older brother; a loving grandmother; and his beloved mother. And the loss of a father he never understood.
Then the loss of his family. His wives and sons. And his best friend, Paul O’Brien. The only constant had been Teresa, Paul’s daughter. Murdoch loved her with his heart and soul. Like his daughter. But that was the difference; for as much as he loved the pretty, brown-eyed girl, she wasn’t his.
But they were. Good or bad, right or wrong, they were his. He had asked them to come. To fight for their birthright. They didn’t have to, but for whatever reasons they did.
One had fought with intelligence and leadership.
The other had fought with nerve and grit.
And both fought with bravery, giving him what he asked them for: their arms, their legs, and their guts.
And his youngest almost gave him his life. . . . .
He knew he had a challenge ahead of him; the biggest challenge of his life. Bigger than the challenge of building his empire. Bigger than the challenge he faced all these years, knowing that his children were out there. Somewhere. Bigger than the challenge of living with the hurt that never went away.
And bigger than the challenge of holding back the tears. . . .
For this challenge was the most important. He would have to fight his own soul, his own self, his whole being, to keep his sons with him. To put aside his pride, his fears, his anger, his sadness. To let them now he is their father; they are his sons.
And to let them know that he loves them. No matter what happened in the past. No matter what forces kept them apart, that drove them to live lives that could have been so different.
So very different. . . . .
For to form the Bond of Trust, his sons had to trust him. And he them. He had doubted one already. Wrongly. And while he had a fairly good idea about his oldest, he still couldn’t figure out the riddle of his youngest. And maybe he never would. . . .
But the door had been opened for them. All they had to do was enter it. And have the desire to stay inside it. For the open door had so much to offer to all of them; it was theirs for the taking.
He was willing. But were they?
Was one son willing to give up a life of comfort, wealth, and prestige, for a life of uncertainty, simplicity, and back-breaking work?
And was the other son willing to give up a life of pain, loneliness, and freedom, for a life of orders, deadlines, and unwanted rules?
He thought they were; that they were willing to give him a chance. And give each other a chance. For he realized that Scott was not complete without Johnny. And Johnny was not complete without Scott.
And he was not complete with just one of them.
For they were his sons. He needed both of them. He wanted both of them. He loved both of them.
And he would do whatever was in his power to let them know that.
For he was ready to fight for them. He was ready to form The Bond of Trust.
For he knew that is what would keep his sons by his side. Where they belonged. To be protected. And cared for.
And loved. By him.
Like he had loved the image. And the memory.
All their lives. . . . . . . . .