It had been a nerve-wracking moment-very brief-but
nerve-wracking, nonetheless, then the Colt had slid 'home', back down into the
holster again, in almost the same movement as it was pulled and, subconsciously
at least, Murdoch Lancer had heaved a sigh of relief. His younger son may have
been rather too quick to draw-but at least he was not just trigger
happy--and a man had the right to protect himself after all.
However he was not accustomed to being 'warned off' like this-and that on his
own land- and he did not like it. The frown creased between between his
eyes--and he was aware too, that this over-wary, ultra-cautious and supremely
observant young son of his had seen it. Damn --he had not ridden out here for a
He didn't want or mean it to happen but the frown deepened of its own volition.
He sent his horse forward again--and opened his mouth to say something--but to
his astonishment, this time the boy raised his left forefinger to his lips--ssshhh--
and gave a little jerk of his head towards the wagon. He then raised those
startlingly alive blue eyes of his, to the man on the horse, and the smallest of
grins just lifted one corner of his mouth.
Murdoch followed his glance--and a grin tipped his own stern mouth as well,
dispelling the frown, at the sight that met his gaze.
Scott--with his once-white shirted shoulders propped against the wheel of the
wagon, his arms loose at his sides, his brown-clad legs stretched out straight
before him, neatly crossed at the ankle and with his hat tipped over his
up-turned face--and very sound asleep. Murdoch could see the even rise and fall
of his chest as he lay there, apparently dead to the world--with his brother
zealously 'standing guard' over him. The thought warmed his rather cold heart
and for a rare moment Murdoch and Johnny Lancer exchanged a glance that, for
once, was NOT full of suspicion or anger or hostility as they surveyed their
slumbering relative, then, with a stiff, formal little movement that was almost
a bow, Johnny invited the older man to step down from his horse. The rancher
raised his eyebrows at the 'permission' but his eyes went back to his sleeping
first-born as he dismounted. Was he pushing this willing and obliging elder boy
of his too hard whilst he grappled rather helplessly, with the vagaries of the
To his surprise Johnny came forward, and, politely taking the reins from him,
led the horse to where the wagon horses were hitched. He tied the big gelding
alongside them and loosened the cinch.
'You checking up on us ole man?' Johnnys voice was low--not menacingly low--just
low--as if just not to awaken his sleeping brother.
'I'm entitled' Murdoch gave him a sharp glance-but kept his voice down too,
nonetheless. Somehow it seemed important not to disturb Scotts rest. Even
asleep, the thought came to him unbidden--even asleep Scott was acting as
peacemaker between them.
Johnnys shoulders rose and fell with that seemingly studied insolence that made
his father want to shake him. If he thought he could get near enough-----------.
To his own surprise however, instead of retaliating to the unspoken challenge,
he found himself saying.
'He doesn't look very comfortable'
'Ah-leave him be' it was --almost-- a command and Murdoch felt himself bristle
again at the tone of address.
He glanced again at Johnny-and surprised an expression of --what--almost
affection? on the hansome young face as the youngster looked down at his
There was something good happening between these two sons of his, he thought.
Perhaps Scott could get to this hostile boy for him, before it was too late.
//Too late--now what the hell did he mean by THAT?//
He was aware that those keen, all seeing blue eyes were watching him warily
again and made a very real effort to wipe out the scowl that he knew was
re-forming on his face. That wary look that came his way so often was beginning
to bother him.
Johnny meantime, had moved across to the back of the wagon and pulled a white
wrapped, string tied package from a burlap bag. Deftly, the strong, supple brown
fingers unwrapped what looked to be a clean white napkin and then, with one of
his rare and oh-so unexpected and dazzling smiles -the one that made the rancher
think that the sun had come out , the boy proffered the contents of the bundle
to him and somehow--and somewhat to his own astonishment, Murdoch Lancer found
himself seated on the running board of the buckboard, with his younger son
seated next to him, munching sandwiches. Very good sandwiches they were too.
Now this was more like it, he thought, with another of those heart warming
jolts. A moment to treasure--he and his boy, picnicing peacably together.
A sound from below and behind them attracted his attention--and Scott was
pushing back his hat and opening bleary eyes. He looked a bit bewildered as he
pushed himself into a more upright position and pulled his knees up for balance
before lurching somewhat stiffly to his feet and greeting his father with an
uneasy and questioning. 'Sir?' //Was Scott 'wary' of him as well?//
Scott looked unusually ruffled and rumpled after his snooze and had momentarily
at any rate, lost his customary poise. He looked, Murdoch thought, much younger
and more approachable when caught unawares.
Johnny looked amused, his eyes alive with good humour as he watched his brother
'He came to make sure you was getting yer nap' he drawled laughingly.
Scott gave the pair of them an appraising stare then slowly, as if reassured by
what he saw, the bewilderment faded from his face to be replaced by a slightly
mischievous look that neither his father nor his brother had seen there before.
'and to eat my lunch??' Scott reached out a long arm to claim a sandwich. 'did I
'Did you fall--------???' Johnny gave him an amazed look 'nah--some one snuck up
behind yer and hit you over the head big brother'.
Scott laughed, with his mouth full.
'Not with you to watch my back they didn't' he protested, as soon as he could
speak and reached out a hand to ruffle the younger mans untidy dark hair
playfully. Johnny swiftly evaded the contact--but Murdoch, observing this rather
astonishing by-play, thought that he did not look displeased with it.
For a few moments he was aware of unfamiliar feelings --feelings of blissful
contentment at sitting here, sandwich in hand, with his two 'boys' inter-acting
playfully alongside him.
He felt like--he felt like-- a father!.