The Brother Thing
WHN for The Black McGloins
NOTES: Just a short little piece about what might have happened after Johnny and Scott's 'fight' in The Black McGloins. Thanks to my beta and best friend, May for her advice on making it better; and special thanks to Jennie, who finds all the technical stuff I do wrong and for constantly being a source of encouragement. Feedback welcome and appreciated. Hope you enjoy.
Johnny slapped at the trail dust clinging to his pants as he pulled the saddle from his weary mount. It was late and he'd told Jelly to go on to bed while he unpacked the mules and fed the horses. He'd been willing to endure his friend's numerous complaints about riding in the dark because that seemed preferable to spending another night on the cold ground. Besides, he needed to be home.
Faint lamplight pooled in the dirt from inside the house and Johnny smiled as he glimpsed his brother's shadow in the great room. Johnny had been contemplating Scott's behavior before he left, the closest thing they'd had to a fight since their first days at Lancer. Nothing about it set right with him and he hoped Scott felt the same way.
Of course Jelly couldn't shut up about what had happened with Moira and her family and Johnny hated that his brother blamed himself for getting fooled. It was the price to pay for trust and though Johnny usually thought of himself as less gullible for the most part, he'd certainly been duped by a pretty smile and a revealing bosom more than once.
Truth was Scott was one of the good guys. Probably always had been despite the few encounters Johnny'd had with Harlan Garrett might have indicated. He figured his big brother for the kid who stood up for his weaker classmates no matter what the personal cost. Scott had a big heart and a sensitive soul and Johnny hated that the likes of the McGloins and their ilk might wear that part away.
Johnny pushed open the door, letting his spurs clank as he hung up his gun belt. Scott turned slightly, his hand wrapped around a snifter. "How was your trip?"
"Oh, it was all right." Johnny took the invitation and plopped down on the sofa across from Scott. "I sure missed that feather bed and some silence to sleep by."
"Why, brother, are you getting soft?" Scott smiled and Johnny matched it.
"Maybe. Just a little." He stretched and leaned over to slap Scott's leg. "I think I hear my pillow calling me now."
Johnny didn't move, giving his brother time to either send him on his way or go ahead and clear the air before another night passed. He could tell from the look on Scott's face and the twitch of his lips that he had something to say. Johnny paused, letting the silence hang until Scott was ready.
Scott took a sip of his drink then swirled the glass nervously, the amber liquid making waves around the rim. "I wanted to apologize for the other night. I had no right to..."
"It's okay, Scott." Johnny interrupted, trying to ease his brother's awkwardness. "I was just funnin' with you about the girl."
"I know. It just happened to be a sensitive subject at the time."
"What about now?"
"Not as much." Scott smiled, but Johnny saw the hurt still etched in his sibling's eyes. "Although I must admit it wasn't my relationship with her that troubled me." Scott paused again, taking another drink before he continued. "I suppose my anger stemmed from showing myself a gullible fool...especially to you."
Guilt stabbed at Johnny as he realized his brother's unfounded fear, knowing his affectionate teasing had instead rubbed salt in an open wound. "Aw, hell, Scott. You ain't the first Lancer to lose his head to a sweet voice and sob story. Pretty damn sure you won't be the last. And it sure as hell don't make anybody think less of you."
Scott dipped his head, long fingers absently drawing circles on the chair arm. "That's good to know, thanks."
Johnny grinned and leaned back against the sofa. "Sometimes being a trusting sort has its sore points."
"Hear, hear, brother." Scott raised his glass to the statement.
"Then again, it sometimes has benefits too."
"I believe Murdoch's words were 'a trusting fool sleeps better'."
"Heís right. Guess there's no shame in wanting to see the best in people." I wouldn't want you any other way, brother.
He hoped Scott realized that it was this gentle, caring side of him that Johnny loved most. That without his receptive heart and accepting attitude Johnny most likely would have never given settling down a chance.
"Well, whether you call me a blind fool or a trusting one, I had no right to jump down your throat because of my own shortcomings. And for that I do apologize."
"Sure, Scott." Johnny stood and gently kicked his brotherís boot. "'Course I canít promise I wonít poke at you some next time you get all fired up by some wayward filly."
"I'd expect nothing less." Scott said, a hint of humor back in his eyes as he pulled himself to his feet. "Then again you're one to talk, I recall at least a couple of wayward fillies in your past."
"Well, brother, ainít we just the pair?"
"A pair of suckers."
"Yeah, and I plan on sleeping pretty good too." Johnny smiled broadly, gently smacking him in the ribs. "Reckon we're both cursed with that irresistible Lancer charm."
"So itís pure fate."
"Inevitable. 'Course you still might need a little advice on the fairer sex from someone more experienced." Johnny feigned seriousness as he slung an arm around Scott's shoulders as they made their way toward the stairs.
"I'm quite sure you have that backwards, it should be the older brother handing down his vast knowledge to the naive, impetuous younger sibling."
"Well, you know, I'm still getting the hang of how this brother thing works." Johnny teased back, sensing the mutual understanding between them.
Scott laughed softly and backhanded him in the stomach. "No, I dare say youíve just about mastered this 'brother thing'."