Disclaimer: Clearly Twentieth Century Fox is laboring under the misperception that they have more rights to the Lancers than I do, yet it is me and other writers that keep their characters alive and in the hearts of others making the world a better place…which trumps their greed and stupidity.
Author’s note: This is written in celebration of the forty-third anniversary of the first airing of Lancer.
Thanks to Kit for the beta and tweaks.
~*~ L ~*~ A ~*~ N ~*~ C ~*~ E ~*~ R ~*~
Finished with the chore of bedding their horses down for the night, the Lancer boys wearily made their way down the well worn path lit by the purple haze of moonlight to the hacienda,. Johnny’s heavy sigh caused his older brother to turn and watch him. The younger man was barely lifting his feet as he shuffled tiredly along, his boots dragging trails in the dirt instead of leaving footprints. The youth’s hat dangled down his back, the leather storm string caught securely between the white teeth chewing on it. He was coated in red dust from head to toe; giving his tan skin an even darker appearance and his eyes a sparkling blue gleam.
Scott smiled, a satisfied sigh issuing from his lips. It had been a wonderful day and they had accomplished every chore on their list and then some; due entirely to Johnny’s energetic and ambitious nature. The youth’s propensity for continually being in motion was the very reason why he currently looked so disheveled, while with the exception of a few sweat stains, Scott appeared to be as neat as when they left the house that morning.
Johnny stumbled, and Scott deftly wrapped a long arm around his brother’s slim waist, guiding and supporting him at the same time. “Come along, little brother. I’ll just bet even though we sent word we’d eat supper from the chuck wagon, Maria left us an evening snack.”
Leaning briefly against his big brother’s strong shoulder, Johnny commented, “I think I might be too tired to chew.” His empty belly chose that moment to grumble and growl in protest.
Laughing, Scott poked his kid brother in the belly with a slender finger, “Sounds to me like your stomach is about to fight that notion.”
Arriving at the entrance, Scott pushed the heavy oak door open, standing aside to let Johnny by, and then closing the door with a soft click. The boys sighed at the same time as they stopped at the coat rack to hang up their guns and hats. They snickered as they removed their gun belts; finding the twin sighs funny.
“Boys,” called Murdoch, “I need to see you in here.”
Johnny’s eyes widened, “Uh oh, you think Pedro forgot to deliver your message that we were gonna eat supper with the crew?” Johnny fidgeted with his hat; an apprehensive frown marring his youthful face.
Removing his hat and placing it on the rack, Scott reached out and rescued Johnny’s Stetson before his anxious fingers ruined it, and placed it on a hook next to his own. “Relax, he doesn’t sound upset.”
Stepping down into the Great room, the boys were greeted by their smiling father rising from his favorite leather chair. He motioned them forward; the movement of his hand seeming to bring with it a very enticing aroma.
Rounding the oversized sofa, the brothers were surprised by the bounty residing on the coffee table. A large seven layer caramel cake sat in the middle of the table, surrounded by a milk pitcher, glasses, cups, saucers and a large pot of coffee, the wisps of white steam still rising from the spout.
All traces of exhaustion fled the youngest Lancer’s face and body. The tip of his tongue darted out to wet his lips. His mouth was watering, and his nose twitching as he inhaled the sweet scent of caramel. Just as quickly the rapturous look was replaced with trepidation, “Did I forget someone’s birthday?”
Rushing to allay Johnny’s concern, Murdoch replied, “No, no,” he smiled. “Have a seat; and let’s have some cake. We’re celebrating!” he announced; his tone and body displaying his excitement.
Exchanging confused glances with his brother, Scott inquired, “Celebrating what?” his eye brows arching as he spoke.
As his sons moved to sit down, Murdoch cut the cake. Once seated, Scott poured coffee for himself and his father. Then, smiling, he poured his younger brother a tall glass of cold milk. It was a private joke between the brothers; a harkening back to their first days at Lancer when Murdoch absolutely refused to let Johnny have any liquor with his meals. It had made for some very interesting family gatherings; especially since Murdoch had always prevailed.
Taking a sip of his milk, Johnny sat the glass back down and took the cake his father offered. Cutting a bite with his fork, he placed the moist cake coated with creamy caramel into his mouth and moaned in delight. Chewing the goodie, he swallowed and asked, “So, are you gonna tell us what we’re celebratin’, or are you gonna make us guess?”
Murdoch’s face softened, his eyes misting; and he cleared his throat. “We’re celebrating forty-three days of being together, of being a family.”
“That’s a rather odd number,” Scott remarked, smiling as Johnny nodded his head in agreement, his mouth too full of cake to speak. “Why forty-three?”
“Because I didn’t want to wait any longer to tell you boys how much it means to me that you came, you stayed, and that you make me so proud I am your father.”
“Okay,” the brothers agreed in unison, unconsciously drawing the word out; neither one of them quite able to hide their surprise. Their father was not the kind of man who went all warm and fuzzy; at least not when his sons were conscious. The two young men shared a look; each of them knowing what the other was thinking, both smiling.
The serious expression Murdoch wore during his announcement was replaced by a teasing grin very reminiscent of the youngest Lancer. He chuckled. “But the number forty-three can be tied into this celebration; in a round-about kind of way.” He smiled. “Well, make a guess.”
The brothers looked to each other for inspiration, shrugging when they realized that neither one had an answer.
Seeing their confusion, Murdoch clapped his hands, tickled by the situation. “Here’s a clue, it has to do with something unique to each of you at the time you came home.” To Murdoch’s astonishment the light of awareness flared first in Johnny’s eyes.
Choking on his last bite of cake, Johnny snorted crumbs down his shirt front. Swiping the food bits off, he grabbed his milk and swallowed washing down the rest of the cake residue in his mouth. “I know! Nineteen and twenty-four is forty-three!” Johnny shouted, pleased to see his father shaking his head in affirmation.
“At the risk of sounding thick, what does that have to do with anything? Twenty-one and twenty-two equals forty-three, as does thirty-three and ten or forty and three,” Scott retorted, lifting his coffee cup for another sip.
Johnny laughed, smacking his brother in the gut with the back of his hand, making Scott’s coffee splash from the cup into the saucer; a bit of the brown liquid staining his sibling’s shirt. “But nineteen and twenty-four is how old we were when we came home,” Johnny crowed.
“Exactly!” Murdoch exclaimed. “From forty-three days to forty-three years, may Lancer always take care of its’ own.”
2011-43 years of Lancer