To Feel Like a Father

By Rosalind 


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 confrontation.

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 younger?

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 unconscious brother.

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 come awake.

'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 fall asleep?'

'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!.




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