It was a Saturday night just like any other. Green River was thrumming with activity and the crowd in the saloon was definitely feeling boisterous. The Lancer boys were there, along with most the ranch’s hands, playing poker, having a few beers and enjoying the charms of ‘ladies’ who frequented the establishment. Yes, just a Saturday night like any other…. Until he’d seen the stranger pull out the gun, heard the loud crack as it fired, and knew even as he pushed his brother out of the way that he himself would not be so lucky. Braced as he was for the impact of the bullet, it still sent him staggering back, both from force and from shock. The pain hit a second later, as if his brain had simply not been able to acknowledge it at first, and a strangled cry tore from his lips as his back connected solidly with the bar behind him. His eyes shut tight against the agony in his chest as he tried to keep himself upright, but ended up sliding slowly to the ground, his breathing coming out in short painful gasps, one hand already pressed against the wound.
He tried to focus on the fight that had erupted in the saloon, but he could barely open his eyes or even lift his head at the moment. He tried to ignore the pain and go on, but it was overwhelming.
“Johnny,” he thought desperately as the sound of screams, gunfire and pounding footsteps echoed all around him. “Johnny’s all alone. I..I need to…”
He tried to move, commanding his body to get up and join his brother but it was a futile endeavor. He only succeeded in causing himself further discomfort and slumped against the bar again; frustrated and hurt.
“Please be alright,” he thought, using one hand to prop himself up, and the other pressing against the wound on his chest. “I’m not going to be much help right now.”
He didn’t dare look at the damage himself, but could feel the warmth of blood as it escaped past his hand and down his chest. It hurt to move; it hurt to even breathe, but he knew he needed something to help stop the blood flow and fast.
With great effort he lifted his arms- the action causing a spasm of pain to lance through his chest- and with slightly shaky hands he quickly untied his bandana, pulling the material off, bunching it up, and pressing it against the wound.
He groaned at the pain this caused, head dipping forward, eyes still closed.
‘Just breathe.’ he told himself. ‘Don’t think about the pain. Distance yourself from it. Just keep breathing.’
Despite the chaos all around him, he felt himself drift off. He wasn’t sure how long he stayed this way, but he could feel the greater promise of sleep calling to him. For a moment he almost let it take him, but with a sudden fierce jolt he realized how dangerous that would be, and his fear forced himself to come back.
“..ott!…ap out of it! Scott!”
With great effort he forced his eyes open, blinking at the blurry sight before him. His brother, Johnny, was kneeling in front of him, his bandana removed and pressed against the wound in his chest along with his own. Never had he seen his brother look so conflicted- so torn between emotions like fear and despair. It caused a completely different ache in his chest, and he was determined to set his brother at ease.
“J..Johnny.” His voice sounded hoarse and distant in his own ears, but Johnny’s head snapped up to meet his slightly foggy gaze.
“Scott!” There was surprise and relief in his voice, but instantly he was frowning again, looking somewhat angry. “Damn it, Boston - I’ve been callin’ your name for the last five minutes. If this is payback for all the times I teased you, then you got some pretty shitty timing.”
Scott felt his mouth twitch into a slight smile at his brother’s words.
“Sorry, Johnny.” His whispered reply seemed to catch in his throat and he coughed, sending more pain through his already abused chest. “Jus’ g-glad you’re safe.”
“Easy there, Boston.” Johnny steadied him quickly with one hand, while the other maintained pressure on his wound. “Doc’s on his way. Just stay put and keep breathin’.”
He barely managed a nod, his breathing becoming more labored. God, it hurt so bad.
“You’re gonna be okay, Scott,” he heard his brother tell him, his voice thick with emotion. “Sam’s on his way and Val sent someone out to fetch Murdoch. He’ll be here soon, too.”
Scott felt some relief upon hearing this but the reality of the situation still weighed on him. Swallowing painfully, he brought his attention to the wound on his chest for the first time.
So much Blood.
He closed his eyes tightly for a moment, swallowing against the metallic taste in the back of his throat. His chest felt like it was on fire, but the rest of him felt cold and numb- his body was seized with a tremor that didn’t want to let go.
He forced his eyes open, but didn’t lift his head. He was exhausted.
“I..I’m..s-sorry.” he choked out- and he knew his brother understood exactly what he meant to convey with those two words.
“Don’t.” Johnny ground out, his tone low and angry. “Don’t you dare even think about givin’ up.”
With great effort Scott managed to lift his head to meet his brother’s intense, blue-eyed stare.
“I mean it, Scott,” the brunet insisted, determined. “I ain’t about to watch you die. It’s not gonna happen like that, understand??”
Scott tried to answer but choked, lurching forward slightly. Johnny quickly used one hand to steady him back against the bar front, where he laid propped up like a doll, before bringing it back to his chest. Johnny’s expression looked more anguished than angry now, noticing how much his brother was trembling.
“You’re gonna be okay,” he insisted, but his voice was thick and sounded distant even to his own ears. “You just gotta hold on a little longer, okay?” Turning, he shouted over his shoulder, “Val, where the hell is the Doc?”
Scott lifted his hand, which felt unnaturally heavy, and placed it over his brother’s- which was still applying pressure to the wound on his chest. He could have sworn that his brother was trembling just as badly as he was, although for an entirely different reason.
Both his and his brother’s hands were covered in blood, and he could see that his once beige shirt was so soaked with it that it looked like one of Johnny’s red ones.
He wasn’t sure why, but he found this amusing. He felt a little lighter, weaker but better at the same time, and although some part of him knew that was probably a bad thing, the rest of him didn’t seem to mind at all.
He could barely lift his head, but somehow managed to at least meet his brother’s gaze. Even with his slightly hazy vision, he could make out the almost pleading look on Johnny’s face- the concern and the panic behind his blue eyes. Scott knew he should have been fearful about what was to come- afraid for the family he would be leaving behind and how they would cope with the loss. But now, looking into his brother’s face, it was like he’d been granted some kind of peace. He knew without a doubt that his family would be okay. They still had each other.
A sensation of warmth surrounded him, and he offered up a fond, although weak smile.
He hoped his words were as comforting to Johnny as they were to him, but his brother was slowly shaking his head, tears gathering in his eyes.
“Scott, you gotta hang on. Sam and Murdoch…they’ll be here any minute. Sam, he...he’ll know what to do.” His words were meant to sound reassuring, but he could hear the panic in his voice. “If anyone can survive this…it‘s you, Boston.”
Scott felt the sting of tears behind his eyes at hearing the desperation in his brother’s voice, and yet the complete belief in his last statement. He swallowed and spoke softly to his younger brother.
Cerulean eyes met his own slate blue, and the tears that his brother had so desperately tried to fight off began to slip down his face, he shook his head more forcefully- in denial of what was happening in front of him.
“You‘re wrong. I can‘t do this without you. I..I ain‘t strong enough.” He clenched his eyes tight, bringing one hand over top of Scott’s and squeezing. “Boston…Please.” he begged softly. “Just stay with me, please.”
Even as tears slid down his own face, Scott still regarded his brother with a sad smile.
“A-always…be with y-you,” he whispered as firmly as he could, managing to squeeze his brothers hand weakly in return, closing his eyes as darkness crept into his vision. “Always….l-love you..J-Johnny.”
He heard a strangled sob from his brother and then, “Y-yeah…I know. L-love you t-too, even if I never said it before.”
Scott felt himself smile, he knew that...but it was nice to hear. Of all his family members, he felt truly blessed that it was Johnny who was here with him now. That if he had to die, it was while protecting the man who had come to mean so much to him. There was no greater gift…
He coughed, feeling something wet trickle out of his mouth and down his chin.
“T-tell.. t-them?” he asked, his voice almost gone completely.
“Yeah,” Johnny croaked, squeezing his hand again, understanding what his brother meant. “I’ll tell ‘em.”
“T-thanks...“ Scott let out a long sigh, feeling himself slump even further. “…so...tired..”
“I know,” his brother replied, his voice softer than he had ever heard it before. “S'okay, Boston. You can…you can rest now." His voice hitched and then he continued in a much more certain tone. "Don't worry. I‘ll take care of them. I promise.”
Scott managed a weak nod before surrendering himself to the darkness, hearing the distant sounds of Johnny speaking with Sam as he drifted away.
~ end ~