Summary: Title sort of says it all except that Chad is more of metaphor, and not truly in the story at all. A What Happened Next after Dream of Falcons.
Disclaimer: Not ours, no profit being made, etc. This is just for fun.
Thanks to Con for betaing, and thanks to Ronnie for the sounding board.
Johnny watched Scott watch Chad and wondered what exactly was going on in his brother’s head. It was a familiar expression, one of deep thought and thoughts that were rarely shared. If they were shared, they came over a long period of time: A little here and a little there. As Johnny learned more about his brother, he learned how to put those bits and pieces together. Took a while to learn the entire picture, but learn it Johnny did.
Only this time, Johnny didn’t feel like taking the time or the effort. He just wanted to know. Besides, he had a feeling it all had to do with the flying stuff; and Chad was still getting over Otto Mueller’s death. Not a shining moment for the town that was for certain.
There was a distance in the way Scott related to Chad. His brother was friendly enough, but he didn’t treat Chad like close family. They got along all right, but it wasn’t the easy relationship that Chad and Johnny shared, and he wondered if their cousin noticed. Chad might appear as a happy-go-lucky-bumble-through-life kind of guy, but he wasn’t stupid.
Even if there were times Johnny just wanted to give their cousin a good shake.
It was past twilight and moving well into the night, the best time of the day as far as Johnny was concerned. He liked the way the ranch quieted down: the murmur of the hands’ voices from the bunkhouse a comforting background noise, and Maria humming some tune in the kitchen.
Scott was on the veranda seated in one of the wicker chairs, a drink in one hand. His attention was clearly on Chad who was playing with one of the new born foals in the corral. The odd pair looked to be playing a game of tag, while the mother munched contently on hay.
Should have at least brought a smile to Scott’s face, but whatever was going on in that blond head, it wasn’t happy.
Johnny dropped unceremoniously into the matching chair and propped his feet up on the table.
“You’re thinkin’ too hard, Brother, what is it?” Scott’s eyes flicked over to him, and Johnny rolled his eyes. “No, just tell me. It’ll save time.”
“You won’t like it.”
“I already know you don’t like being around Chad. That’s your business.” In the lantern’s light, Johnny clearly caught Scott’s startled expression.
“What? Johnny, no that’s not –” Scott broke off shaking his head. Johnny dropped his legs, rested his elbows on them, one hand playing with the beads on his wrist.
“Then what is it?”
Scott laughed softly, and gave a half smile. “It is more that our cousin doesn’t like being around me.”
Johnny rocked back frowning. “How do you figure that?”
“Chad is uncomfortable with me.” Scott shrugged. “Possibly my Eastern upbringing or something about me makes him uneasy. It isn’t an issue, Johnny. Not on my part, and I don’t want to force it.”
Johnny nimbly rearranged the picture his thoughts had formed regarding the relationship between Scott and Chad, and realized he’d had the picture wrong. Still…
“Scott, I’ve seen you charm Widow Hargis. Why can’t you do that with family?”
“Because I very much doubt that our cousin will stay long enough for me to get to that point.”
Johnny blinked. Chad leave? He eased back into the chair and tossed the idea around in his head for a bit thinking back on those times he’d catch their cousin staring off in the distance. Chad sure wasn’t a ranch hand. Been at Lancer a few months, but their cousin really was a wandering sort. Fascinated by the little and big things in life. Put something shiny in front of him, and Chad was easily distracted.
“He cares about family.”
“He does, but is this the right life for him?” Scott was looking at him now, and Johnny took a deep breath shaking his head.
“Why do you suppose he stays?” Johnny looked over to the corral. The game had ended, and Chad was stroking the foal across the forelock. “Family obligation?
“Well, given enough time I suppose we could make a ranch hand out of ‘im.” Johnny sighed, and slouched back into the chair. “It’ll probably kill us before it happens though.”
Johnny grinned at his brother’s soft laughter and nudged Scott’s knee with his toe. “What should we do?”
“My vote is we approach Murdoch on this particular issue. He might have some ideas.”
“I’m gonna miss him. Ol’ Chad does have an interesting approach to life.” Johnny let the idea settle in him, and felt a little melancholy.
“Chad might want to stay.” Scott looked down into his drink. Johnny huffed a laugh, and met his brother’s gaze when he looked up.
“We give him a nudge to go, and we won’t see him for dust.” Johnny accepted what was there all along and turned to watch Chad stroke the foal’s back. “Guess he’s got to find his own way.”
“I guess so.”
A couple days later they had an opportunity to bring it up to Murdoch during dinner when Chad wasn’t around.
“Sir, do you see Chad as content here on Lancer?” Johnny appreciated that Scott went straight to the point.
Murdoch paused with his fork midway to his mouth. “I believe so. Scott, you have to give your cousin a chance. You know how difficult it is to acclimate to ranching.”
Johnny could see only the slightest stiffening in Scott’s demeanor.
“Yes, I dare say I do,” Scott said in bland tone. “However, my point is that Chad may be content, but it isn’t due to learning to ranch. I feel he is staying out of a sense of obligation rather than desire.”
“Murdoch, we’ve been noticin’ that Chad’s head just isn’t in Lancer. Think he may have some dreams of his own that he’s ignorin’.”
“You think he wants to leave?” Murdoch settled his fork back on his plate, and leaned back in the chair with a thoughtful expression on his face.
Johnny twirled his fork and looked sideways at his father. “Think he’d like the option of knowin’ he can.”
“And that he is welcome to return should he choose to do so,” Scott added quietly.
Murdoch nodded, and picked up his fork again. “I’ll talk to him. I understand going after your dreams.”
Johnny knew then that Chad would leave.
Two weeks later Johnny stood beside Scott and watched the departing Chad, who left with a wave and a big smile. He puzzled over the expression on his brother’s face, and then promptly shoved any conclusions away.
Because if he had to put a name to it, he’d say it was yearning.
Notes: These little fics are leading somewhere, and we want to follow canon
– our interpretation of canon. However, we also needed to move Chad along –
not a character we feel compelled to write or keep.(g)