In a Father's Arms
Disclaimer: The Lancer characters do not belong to me, I just play with them for my amusement. If it amuses you too, fine, if not…well I certainly didn’t make you read it…it’s not like I hypnotized you…keep your eye on the swinging watch….you are sleepy….
Author’s note: I was bitten by a plot bunny during a sermon, and just could not concentrate on anything until I wrote it down.
The voice of the Reverend droned in Murdoch’s ears, though he was aware the man was speaking, he had not truly comprehended the words, as his attention was focused on his youngest sitting beside him on the pew. Actually truth be told, sitting is not what you would call what Johnny was doing. His son, not more than two minutes after taking his spot, had begun his restless fidgeting.
Johnny had scooted about on his allocated bit of space until Murdoch was sure the varnish would be worn off when he got up. After receiving scowls from his older brother and father, the youngest Lancer had attempted to sit still, thirty seconds later he was alternating drumming his agile fingers on his thigh with rubbing his hand over the area where his gun and holster should be. Murdoch smirked as he recalled Johnny’s anger during the ride to town, when he had been informed the gun and holster would have to be left under the seat in the surrey.
The petulant pout that had decorated the ex-gunfighter’s face had been so reminiscent of the aftermath of tantrums, he had thrown as a toddler, it had practically taken Murdoch’s breath. The memory of the defiant little face scowling in displeasure, over the failure to get his way, gripped at his heart and twisted his stomach with a sharp stab of pain.
The loud thud of Johnny’s boot kicking the pew in front of them, as he crossed his legs, drew Murdoch from his ruminations. The big man grimaced as Johnny uncrossed his leg letting his foot drop, striking the wooden seat as it went downward, and thumping the polished floorboards with a sound carrying vibration. Extending his long arm, Murdoch lightly tapped Johnny’s right knee as it jumped up and down, as Johnny was now balancing the toe of his boot on the floor, bouncing his leg with excess energy.
Johnny jerked in surprise, his foot once more connecting noisily with the bottom of the bench, when his father patted his knee, leaned towards him and hissed, “Sit still!”
Pinning his father with a surly look, Johnny refrained from mouthing off at the old man. He wasn’t sure but what his father wouldn’t let loose with one of his ear piercing bellows. Glancing away, in the opposite direction, he caught his blond brother glaring at him from his place. Scott had what Johnny referred to as his prim and proper face on. When his older brother shook his head slightly, and mouthed, “Be quiet,” as he raised a long slender finger, and lightly tapped his own lips, Johnny had to fight the childish urge to stick his tongue out at him.
Crossing his arms over his midsection, and hugging himself, like he was trying to restrain and hold in his twitchy movements, Johnny thought back on their arrival at the church. He was sure the color was rising in his face; he could feel the heat of embarrassment again, as he recalled what had transpired.
The surrey had slid to a smooth stop under the shade of an oak tree. Teresa had stood abruptly, waving to her friends, and announcing her intentions to sit with them. Scott had departed the surrey, and turned to give Teresa a hand down. Murdoch had climbed from the wagon, and then shifted around, inclining his head towards Johnny’s gun belt, raising a disapproving brow into an arch over his authoritative blue eyes. He had reluctantly removed his gun and holster, and then stuffed them under the seat. That in its self wasn’t embarrassing, more like discomforting to not have the safety of that weight on his thigh.
No, the thing that had caused his distress was his father’s unthinking action of reaching up, grasping him under the arms and lifting him to the ground…like he was some kind of child or a damn invalid. If it wasn’t for the fact his back was already knotted in pain from the ride into town, he would have grabbed a branch of the tree they were under, and scaled the heights of the oak to get away from all the eyes he felt staring at the little scene. If he hadn’t been thrown from a bronco yesterday, right into the corral fence, he would have ridden Barranca to town and been saved this mortification. Johnny snorted loudly at that thought, realizing he had been thinking using some of Scott’s ten dollar words, mortification…hell; it was just red faced embarrassing.
Johnny cringed, realizing he had snorted out loud; and once again had his father and brother’s unwanted disapproving looks. Then to add insult to injury, he tried to relax and sit back, gasping breathlessly when his bruised back contacted the hard wooden pew.
Johnny’s gasp echoed in the church, right during a silent pause by the Reverend for the congregation to consider his words. Realizing part of the reason his youngest was having trouble sitting still was because of the injuries he had sustained, Murdoch shifted, placing his own back into the corner of the pew. Reaching forward he grasped Johnny’s shoulder’s, frowning at the brief stiffening of his son’s body, Murdoch gently pulled him back until he was leaning against his torso.
His father’s broad chest was a darn sight softer than the pew back, and Johnny relaxed into the slight cuddle as the big man’s arm dropped down over his shoulder, snuggling him up against him. The heat of his father’s body seeped into his sore back, bringing a measure of relief that finally brought him some comfort.
Johnny sighed contentedly, and tried to focus on the words of the sermon. However, now that he was comfortable and still, he found himself fighting the allure of sleep. His eyes fluttered, the absurdly long lashes distorting his sight, though not enough that he couldn’t see his older brother’s amused look as he watched him fight sleep. He felt his head bobbing from the effort to hold it upright, finally giving up he let his dark head fall back to rest against his father’s shoulder. No longer fighting to hold his head up some of the Reverend’s words filtered through in a muffled manner.
The clergyman was talking about faith and trust, and how there was no safer place to be than sheltered in the Father’s arms. Johnny smiled; he was engulfed by a tingling fuzzy sensation, as his father’s embrace drew him in tighter into the security of his arms. His last conscious thought, before he gave in to the siren call of sleep, was at this moment there was no place he would rather be than here, no place as safe and warm, than the shelter of a father’s loving arms.