There's A First Time for Everything
By Mary M.
Disclaimer: Nope, don’t own the boys, just inviting them in for dinner and a slice of cake.
Author’s note: When someone requested a story about Johnny’s first time into the devilish pleasure of chocolate cake, this begged to be written. Enjoy!
The foreign, sweet sensation wrapped around his tongue like a satin glove, taste buds tingling with delight. Johnny could not help but shudder and fought to keep the reaction hidden. Feeling his father’s eyes on his face, he blushed, a red heat creeping up his neck. Head lowered, he toyed with the confection on his plate, taking small bites so as not to draw attention to himself. Never before had he derived such culinary pleasure. His mouth exploded in ecstacy, a rich, chocolaty sweetness sliding over his tongue.
Johnny wanted to laugh like the child he had never been, but Madrid did not laugh. Besides, he did not know these people sitting at the table, surrounding him like vultures at a corpse picking, and he felt like the downed prey. Dinner had been good, but his mouth was dry and throat constricted with every swallow as he struggled to get through the uncomfortable fiasco. He would have much rather gone into town and had a steak at the saloon, but without a horse, that was not an option.
He longed to eat with the few remaining vaqueros, which was definitely more appealing than sitting at his father’s formal table, but as a son of the patron, that would not be proper. Damn, he hated proper. Johnny would rather sit around a campfire eating a skinned, roasted rabbit, than be at the table of this strange, mountain of a man claiming to be his father. He should have taken the money and run, but the fire bell had gone off and by the time he bathed, shedding his skin of the stench of smoke and debris, dinner was ready and there was no easy way to refuse.
The meal was an agonizing affair; his father glared and Boston scowled when Johnny walked into the room, dressed in a clean, embroidered white shirt and faded brown pants. And there was Boston, did the man have an endless supply of suits and ruffles? No wonder he arrived with so many trunks. Must have owned a different suit for every occasion. Johnny could hardly wait until breakfast, to see what finery his brother decided to grace them with.
Considering all he owned was an extra pair of pants, shirt, socks and cut off longjohns jammed into his saddlebags, Johnny thought he cleaned up pretty well. If that wasn’t good enough, then so be it. He was leaving come morning anyway, use some of the old man’s listening money to buy a horse. If he could only get through this meal.
Theresa was polite, always smiling and chattering, but even that failed to put him at ease. Johnny stared at the table setting, swallowing against the nervous lump threatening to jump out of his throat. Boston made small talk, his manners impeccable throughout the lengthy, nerve wracking meal. Every once in a while, Johnny caught the overdressed man sneaking a glance in his direction. Was that a scowl across his face?
Tough. They could take him or leave him. Johnny had no intention of staying anyway. Been footloose and free for too many years to settle down anytime soon. And with a gruff old man and proper dandy? No, Johnny could not envision it.
He tried, and to his credit, did manage a smile and complimented Theresa on the attractive table she had set. When Maria arrived carrying a platter of food, Johnny vaulted to his feet and took the tray from the stunned woman’s hands before she could react.
“John.” That one stern word from his father was enough to bring another flush to his cheeks and Johnny took his seat, head hung in embarrassment.
The entire meal was an episode in torment, Johnny felt as if every eye in the room was on him and sank lower in the chair, all the while wishing for the evening to end. Then Theresa arrived with the cake and Johnny’s eyes almost popped out of his head. A smirk crossed Scott’s face and Murdoch’s eyes narrowed slightly as he studied his younger son. Dios, could it get any worse? Did every move he made, every reaction exhibited, have to come under such close, critical scrutiny? He felt like a rat on display in a maze, a snarling, towering gray haired cat waiting at the end of the escape route. Johnny took tight rein on his emotions, all the while chastising himself for showing anything other than total control, but it could not be helped.
This was the first time he had ever eaten anything as grand as the chocolate cake Theresa had baked for their homecoming dinner. A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as he once again looked at the table. “Thanks Theresa.”
Maybe things were looking up after all.