A/N: This is a little ficlet that grew out of an idea that hit me after seeing the episode “Blind Man’s Bluff”. And a very excellent episode it was, except for that last scene, which rather bothered me. Would Johnny Madrid really run down the road from Lancer wearing nothing but a nightshirt? I think not.
(Not only undressed, but unbeta’d. Working without a net here!)
Through the wide-open French doors of the great room, Murdoch Lancer could hear the sounds of the ranch hands cheering on his youngest son at work in the corral. Hard at work himself at his desk balancing the books, the noise from outside faded into the background as his thoughts and concentration were taken up with neatly written numbers that marched across the ledger and small jotted notations that he was quite sure had been much easier to read not all that long ago….
Then a different sound shattered the morning air to jolt him out of his fixation on the cost of driving five hundred head of cattle to market, the wages of said hands to drive said cattle, and everything else involved in such an undertaking down to the price of bacon and coffee for already aforementioned hands.
Loud shouts of “Johnny!” in a variety of voices got him out of his chair and through the doors faster than he would have thought possible at his age. He headed to the corral at a dead run, fear lending his imagination several horrifying visions.
All the men who had been watching Johnny
work with the new horses were gathered around a still figure lying on the
ground. Scott was on his knees next
to the man’s head. Murdoch could
only see one outstretched leg from behind the close circle of anxious hands, but
that was enough.
The ranch hands eased away from the
fallen man as Murdoch approached. He
dropped a hand on Scott’s shoulder as he looked down at his youngest son.
Johnny lay sprawled in the dust of the corral, arms and legs awkwardly
askew. Further details slowly
etched their way into Murdoch’s mind as he struggled to remain calm.
Eyes closed, still, pale, a thin trickle of blood trailing down one side
of his face….
“Scott, what happened?
Did he get thrown?”
Scott did not look up from wiping the
blood off Johnny’s face with his bandanna as he replied.
The tense set of his shoulders was the only sign of his own worry.
“Yes, he did. Everything appeared just fine, Johnny was working his usual
magic, and then the horse seemed to go crazy.
Crashed into the rails, spun around, bucked, and before any of us could
even do anything, Johnny was flying through the air and hit the ground.”
His fingers were gentle as they finished cleaning the blood from his
brother’s face. The slow trickle
had stopped, but it looked like a good-sized bruise and a knot would be showing
up soon on Johnny’s temple. He slid one hand beneath Johnny’s head, searching for other
possible bumps or bleeding. Finding
nothing else, he nevertheless continued to cradle the dark head in his palm.
By now Murdoch was on his knees beside
Scott, and he was carefully running his hands down Johnny’s chest and limbs,
checking for breaks. After
straightening Johnny’s arms and legs, he sat back on his heels and allowed
himself to feel a bit of relief. “Nothing
broken. Probably some more bruises,
though.” Then the relief quickly
vanished. “Why isn’t he waking
up yet?” He brushed back the long
sweep of bangs that had fallen over Johnny’s forehead.
“Should we risk moving him?”
Scott looked over at his father. “I think we can. I’ll
keep his head steady, and if a couple more men get their arms under his
So with willing and careful help, they
got Johnny into the house and upstairs to his room, with Frank already on the
way to get Doc Jenkins.
Lowering Johnny to the bed, Scott eased
his head down to the pillow, and nodded in thanks to the men who had helped to
carry Johnny. They nodded back, and
quietly left the Lancer men alone. Scott
took a seat on the edge of the bed and wiped another thread of blood from his
brother’s face. Wake up, he
silently commanded, watching for the slightest flicker of movement.
Open those eyes for me, boy. Open
those eyes, smile that smile, and tell me you’re all right.
Stubborn, as usual.
Johnny’s eyes stayed shut, unmindful of his older brother’s orders.
Murdoch started tugging off Johnny’s
boots. “Let’s try to get him a
little more comfortable, Scott.”
The two of them eventually got him
stripped down to his drawers, revealing a rather spectacular array of bruises
already beginning to show across his chest and ribs.
Scott reflected that he’d had a bit too much practice at putting his
brother to bed lately. Of course,
he did have twenty years to make up for, so maybe it really wasn’t that often,
if you averaged it out over all that time…. Scott smiled to himself, a fond,
sad smile, and wished he could’ve been a big brother when Johnny was fifteen,
and ten, and all the other years that they should have had together.
He almost missed it.
Johnny’s fingers twitched. “Murdoch!
He moved!” Scott sat back
down on the bed and peered closer at Johnny’s face, again willing him to open
Murdoch came closer and stood behind
Scott, watching anxiously.
Johnny’s head tipped to one side, and
his eyes slowly fluttered open, squinting once or twice, and then clearing
somewhat to focus on Scott. The
weight that had settled in Scott’s gut without him realizing it suddenly
lifted, and he let out a sigh at the sight of those blue eyes.
“Hey, Scott,” Johnny rasped. He licked his lips. “What
“You got thrown by a horse, little
A long, owlish stare greeted that
statement. “Nah…. I didn’t
get thrown by no horse. I got fell
on by a horse. I got fell on by a
whole herd of horses….”
“No, just one horse.
Sorry. I guess you’re
losing your touch.”
Johnny grimaced and shook his head at
such a ridiculous notion, and then made a low, incoherent moan of pain at the
movement. “Don’t make me get up
and hit you.” He lifted one hand
and gingerly probed the growing lump on his head.
“Oh, boy, I can feel that one.”
He lowered his hand and added, “Horse all right?
Everybody else all right?”
“Everybody’s fine, including the
horse. You’re the only one who
got knocked around,” Scott informed him.
“Quit scaring me like that.”
Johnny’s blurring eyes closed again.
That, and the fine lines of pain around his tightened mouth were the only
indications of how much he hurt. “Are
you sure a whole herd didn’t fall on me?”
“You’ve got a bad bump on your head, but no broken bones.
Doc’s on his way now, just in case.
Let’s get you into a nightshirt and under the blankets—”
Johnny suddenly bolted upright in the bed.
“I ain’t wearin’ no nightshirt!
Since I got to Lancer, every time I get sick or hurt, you put one of them
things on me when I’m asleep. I
hate ‘em! Git me my pants! I’m gittin’ dressed….”
Scott got his hands on his struggling
brother’s shoulders. “Take it
easy! Will you lie down, please?”
Panting, shaking, and covered in a fine
sheen of sweat, Johnny did. But he
did it with ill grace and a glare. “I
ain’t wearin’ no nightshirt,” he said again, mouth set in a stubborn line.
“You can’t make me do it when I’m awake.”
“What is this all about?” Scott
practically yelled, going from worried to exasperated in mere seconds.
“You sound ten years old! What
else are you supposed to wear to bed?”
“Depends on where I’m sleepin’ and
who I’m with,” he said, going another shade paler, struggling to stay
conscious. “Never had no
complaints about it, either,” he added, sounding just a trifle smug.
Murdoch hadn’t stopped laughing, and
Scott turned to him. “You
aren’t helping matters any,” he hissed.
“I’m sorry, Scott,” he said,
trying to control himself, and failing miserably.
Scott turned back to his brother. “Johnny,” he said firmly, “what about Teresa?”
Another owlish blink before the eyes
fell shut again, and he said generously, with utter sincerity,
“Teresa can wear a nightshirt if she wants, Scott.
I don’t care.”
“No, that’s not what I meant!” Scott groaned and dropped his head into his hands.
If Johnny didn’t look so pathetic, he’d smack him for being so
unreasonable. “What if,” he
began again, mustering all his patience, “Teresa just happened to walk in and
see you not wearing a nightshirt? You
know she has that habit of barging right in without knocking….”
The blue eyes opened wide and outraged
at that. “Are you sayin’ I got
somethin’ ta be ashamed of? What exactly
the hell is wrong with me?”
At this point, Murdoch had given up
completely and was sitting in a chair, as his legs were far too weak to hold him
any longer. He just leaned back and
Scott raised his head and considered.
Well, Johnny was shorter than Scott, but he had broader shoulders, and he
wasn’t exactly what you would call fat. No;
lean, lithe, slim, slender, those adjectives would fit Johnny quite
nicely. And he was lean and lithe,
from his finely muscled chest and flat stomach (and, um, further), all the way
down his strong horseman’s legs to his currently bare toes.
All right, he conceded; Teresa would no doubt be shocked if she walked in
on Johnny not wearing a nightshirt. But
once she got over the shock, she would probably be very appreciative.
But she was also like a sister to them both, he reminded himself firmly,
and therefore she would not, anytime soon, be seeing Johnny not wearing a
nightshirt. Or at least a sheet.
Johnny was still waiting for an answer,
Scott noticed. His glare at Scott
had not wavered in the slightest, even though he looked about as white as that
sheet he should be wrapped in.
“No, there is nothing in the least
wrong with you. Well, I take that
back,” he added, thoughtful. “You
could be an inch or two taller.”
“Oh, very funny,” Johnny grumbled.
“But all right, you win.
This time.” Scott pointed
a stern finger at his brother. “But
only because Teresa is staying with friends for another day or two.
Next time, though….”
Johnny Madrid don’t wear a nightshirt for nobody.”
The voice was fading rapidly even as the eyes drifted shut.
“Gonna have ta call ya out, Boston….”
His head lolled to one side, but there was a slight smile on his face as
he fell asleep.
Scott just shook his head and pulled the
blanket up over his brother. He
shot a look at Murdoch.
“You were a lot of help.”
“I thought you did just fine. Of
course, you did lose. But do you
suppose he’ll remember any of this the next time he wakes up?”
“Oh, God, I hope not.
I really don’t want to go through this again. But just to be on the safe side, Murdoch, maybe you should
tell Teresa she needs to start knocking on Johnny’s door and give him a minute
or two before walking in. Just in
“I might mention it.
But if she did walk in, and caught a glimpse of too much Johnny,
wouldn’t that be the best way you could think of to get Johnny into a
Scott just stared at his father, his
mouth hanging slightly open. “Why,
you old…. I think you’re right. Do
we let Teresa in on this or just allow it to happen?”
“I think we let things fall out on
their own. Only a matter of time, I
“It would teach both of them a lesson, wouldn’t it? Oh, Murdoch, you are far more devious than I suspected.”
I think.” Then he stood
and motioned to Scott. “How about
we let your brother sleep? We can
wait for Doc Jenkins downstairs.”
Scott got to his feet after a last
glance at Johnny. “Yes, all
right. I could use a cup of coffee, but I think I’ll come back and
sit with him until the doc gets here.”
They turned and left the room together,
softly closing the door behind them, and so missed the sight of the wide grin
growing on Johnny’s face as he opened his eyes again.