A Silent World
by 
Winnie

Rating-----PG13

Disclaimer-------The Lancer show and Characters do not belong to me, but I hope my story helps keep them alive and in our memories and hearts.

Comments-----Thanks to Lisa for the information she supplied on Morphine addiction and the treatments available during the 1800s. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, Lisa. Thanks to Antoinette for being the wonderful beta she is and for all her comments and especially for picking up on my mistakes and typos. Thanks to Janet for the information on Boston and Beacon Hill and to Janet’s Mom for reading along and keeping me on my toes. Last, but in no way the least, thanks to everyone who read and commented on this one.

 

A SILENT WORLD!!!!!

 

Scott and Johnny Lancer rode in companionable silence; trail dust covered them from the top of their heads to the tips of their boots, but neither man seemed to mind. Both were tired and anxious to be home after three long hot days on the trail. Scott was riding a new horse as his usual mount had thrown a shoe just before they’d left Lancer two weeks ago.

“Did you ever wonder what it would’ve been like if we’d grown up together at Lancer, Boston?” Johnny asked suddenly.

Scott glanced sideways at his brother, his blue eyes shining in the afternoon sunlight. “It’s entered my mind on one or two occasions,” he answered.

“I’ve been thinking on it lately. We missed a lot of years,” Johnny said softly.

“Yes, we did but we’ve got lots of time to make up for it. Think you can put up with this ‘stuffed shirt’ Boston Dandy?”

Johnny grinned at his brother; grateful for his attempt to lighten the dreary mood he’d been sinking into since they lapsed into silence nearly an hour before. He’d been thinking about their childhoods and what they’d both missed as a result of being separated at such a young age.

“What’s got you thinking so hard, Brother?” Scott asked.

“Remember those two boys we saw playing in that puddle of dirty water?”

Scott laughed as he remembered watching the boys as they splashed each other and threw handfuls of mud around. The image of his brother, standing there, laughing at the antics of the two young boys made Scott smile. The smile grew broader as he remembered the splat sound the mud made when it landed against Johnny’s face. The two boys looked terrified as the dark haired Lancer reached up and swiped at the dripping mess on his cheek. Suddenly he’d burst out laughing and picked up a clump of mud and threw it at the two boys. An all out fight occurred and by the time it was finished both Scott, Johnny, and the two boys were covered from head to toe with what the boys laughingly called mud pies.

“How could I forget? You managed to get us in the middle of a mud war,” Scott laughed.

Johnny chuckled softly when he saw his brother’s twinkling eyes. “You did look funny with the pies running down your face but I don’t think I could get used to having a dark haired brother,” he said

“I wonder what Grandfather would have thought if he’d seen me?” Scott said softly.

“Didn’t you ever have mud fights when you were a boy?” Johnny asked when they entered a narrow canyon, the walls rising high above them, making it impossible for the two men to ride side by side. Johnny moved Barranca into the lead while his brother hung back to give him room.

“Grandfather didn’t believe in boys indulging in mud fights or any other childish games for that matter,” Scott said softly, his words barely reaching his brother’s ears.

“We missed a lot, Boston,” Johnny said as a loud rumbling sound started overhead. He looked skyward when a small amount of dirt and rock landed on the ground beside him. “Landslide, Scott, we’ve gotta get outta here!” he yelled over his shoulder and urgently pressed Barranca into a full out run.

“Right behind you, Johnny!” Scott answered as he raced for the narrow opening ahead of them. Rocks, dirt, bush, and debris continued to fall around them while the sound intensified in the narrow canyon.

Johnny and Barranca rode as one as they neared the opening to the canyon. The rumbling above warned him that things were growing worse. He chanced a glance over his right shoulder, glad to see his brother closing in on him.

Scott watched his brother as he made it to the opening of the canyon. ‘Thank God,’ he thought as he saw his brother make it to safety. He heard a sound like the screeching of a train’s wheels as it slid along wet tracks with its brakes on. He couldn’t chance looking above him as his horse suddenly became nervous and broke stride and stumbled as it was struck from above. Horse and rider went down in a jumble of debris.

Johnny watched Scott’s horse stumble when struck by a fair sized rock. He yelled when horse and rider fell to the ground while more debris fell from above, “Scott!” he screamed, dismounting and racing toward the entrance, a ride-less horse galloping past him.

Scott lay dazed while his horse scrambled to its feet and raced out of the canyon. He couldn’t see the exit, as a cloud of dust seemed to obliterate everything around him. He screamed as something fell on his right leg, cutting deeply into his upper thigh. He twisted and tried to get up, but fell back to the ground when something struck him from behind and he fell heavily as a wall of black descended over him.

Johnny heard his brother’s cry and mindless of his own safety rushed into the thick dust. He’d only gone a few feet when his foot struck something soft, but unyielding. “Scott,” he said and knelt beside his injured brother. An ominous silence fell over the area when the landslide came to an abrupt halt, leaving a damaged landscape in its wake. Johnny slowly ran his hands over his brother’s body, gently probing for broken bones. His hands slid along the back of Scott’s head, coming away sticky with blood. He knew there was nothing he could do for the wound until he got the blond out of the canyon. Once more he probed down the body, checking for broken ribs, relieved when he found none. His hands slid down the left leg and then started on the right one. He felt something sharp protruding from the thigh, his heart pounding when he thought it was a broken bone, relieved somewhat when he realized it was a shard of rock. ‘Damn, Boston, you’re a mess,’ he thought and looked up when the rumbling began again.

“This is gonna hurt, Brother,” he said, but picked up the injured blond anyway and raced out of the canyon just as the walls seemed to fold in on itself. He fell forward as a blast of pressure pushed against his back, his brother flying over his head as he landed on his stomach, knocking the wind from his lungs.

“Scott,” he cried, pushing his aching body from the ground and stumbling the few feet to his brother. He grimaced when he finally saw the full extent of the damage done by the falling wall of rock and debris. He’d known what the injuries were, but had been unable to see them in the dust-enshrouded canyon. “Got to get you home, Boston,” he said, reaching for Barranca and removing his saddlebags. He pulled out his spare shirt and tore it in strips. Next, Johnny used the water from his canteen to wash the wound on the back of his brother’s head and then used a clean strip to wrap around Scott’s head in an effort keep the wound clean. That done, he turned his attention to the wounded leg. The shard of rock had been driven through the blond’s tan colored pants and he knew he’d have to remove it before he could see the extent of the damage. “This is gonna hurt, Boston,” he said and used a strip of his shirt to grip the splinter. Breathing deeply he pulled the blood covered shard from his brother’s thigh, eliciting a cry of pain from the blond when it came free.

“Easy, Boston,” Johnny ordered when his brother’s eyelids fluttered open, smiling at the contrast of the blue eyes in the dirt covered face. “Hey brother,” he said and ripped the pants down the side and began cleaning the deep wound. His eyes met his brother’s and he wondered why they’d suddenly filled with fear. “What’s wrong, Boston?” he asked worriedly.

“J...Johnny,” Scott said, coughing as the dryness and dust made his throat feel raw.

“Drink some of this, Boston,” the dark haired Lancer said, lifting his brother’s head and helping him drink from the canteen. “Better?” he asked and pulled the canteen away.

Scott Lancer saw his brother’s lips move but was unable to hear what he was saying. Lifting his hand he grabbed his brother’s arm, terror filling his mind.

“What is it, Scott?” Johnny asked when he saw the terror in the expressive blue eyes.

“I c...can’t hear you,” the blond stammered, not realizing he was shouting.

Johnny stared into his brother’s eyes, hiding the fear he felt grip his heart when he heard his brother’s words. “It’s ok, Scott,” he said slowly, mouthing the words carefully.

“I c...can’t hear you, Johnny! I can’t hear anything!” he grimaced when the pain in his head grew with each movement he made.

Johnny reached out and gently took his brother’s face in his hands, forcing his eyes to meet his own. “It will be alright, Scott,” he mouthed.

“What?” the blond asked, his voice sounding scared to his brother’s ears.

Johnny wished he had something he could use to write down what he was trying to say. His eyes were drawn to the shard of rock he’d pulled from his brother’s leg and an idea formed.

Scott watched his brother reach out and pick something up off the ground. He wondered what his brother was doing but closed his eyes when his head began to pound. His eyes opened when he felt a hand on his arm and met his brother’s worried ones. Scott felt Johnny’s strong arms lift him up and point his head toward the ground. His vision blurred and he closed his eyes, trying to get them to focus. Finally he was able to make out what his brother had done and he couldn’t help the smile that came to his lips. Written in the dry dirt was, “It’ll be alright, Boston. I’m here and I’ll take care of everything.”

Scott looked into the soft blue eyes. “Thanks, Brother,” he said and relaxed into the reassuring arms of the younger Lancer.

Johnny watched while his brother lost the fight to stay conscious before he gently placed him back on the ground. He cleaned the deep wound in the right thigh and then slowly looked around the clearing. Scott’s horse had disappeared, but Barranca was still where he’d left him. He knew it was important to get his brother back to Lancer and into Doc Jenkins care, but worried about the two hour ride still ahead of them. He gently tapped his brother’s cheek hoping for some response and was relieved when he got a response.

“W...what?” the blond asked weakly, his voice tinged with pain.

Johnny waited for his brother’s eyes to focus on him and then began pointing to Scott and then at Barranca. After several attempts to get his meaning across he picked up the rock again but was stopped by his brother’s hand.

“Y...you want me t...to r...ride Barranca?”

Johnny nodded.

“N...need your h...help.”

Johnny nodded again, “Ready?” he mouthed slowly.

“I think so,” Scott answered.

Johnny helped his brother to his feet, taking most of his weight so that Scott’s leg didn’t have to. Slowly he worked until his brother was in the saddle, ignoring the cries of pain the movement caused him. Finally he jumped up behind his brother to begin the slow ride to Lancer.

~~~~~~~~

Teresa watched the approaching horse worriedly. She’d recognized Johnny’s horse and knew it was carrying two men. She called out for Murdoch as soon as she realized something was wrong.

“What is it, Teresa?” Murdoch called from inside the house.

“Barranca’s coming, but I don’t see Scott’s horse,” she called and heard Murdoch coming out of the house.

Murdoch looked in the direction of the approaching horse. He could make out two forms sitting astride the large mount, and knew the one in front was injured by the way he was leaning forward in the saddle. He hurried down the steps to meet the two men.

“Hey, Boston, we’re home,” Johnny said forgetting that his brother was unable to hear him. He pulled Barranca to a halt as Murdoch and Teresa reached them.

“What happened?” Murdoch asked, reaching up and taking the injured blond into his arms.

“Rock slide,” Johnny answered tiredly.

“Are you hurt, Son?” Murdoch asked when Johnny dismounted, nearly collapsing as his numbed legs threatened to give out.

“No, I’m fine. Scott was caught in it,” Johnny explained tiredly. “Be careful of his right leg,” he said.

“Teresa, send one of the hands to get Sam. Johnny, you come into the house and rest,” Murdoch ordered and carried his oldest son toward the house.

Johnny followed his father into the house and up the stairs to his brother’s room. He watched while the father he’d known such a short time gently placed his brother on the bed and began removing his dust covered clothes.

“Murdoch,” Johnny said.

“Thought I told you to rest,” Murdoch berated, firmly, but gently.

“He can’t hear anything,” Johnny said softly.

“What?” the older man asked, looking into his youngest son’s worried blue eyes.

“He can’t hear anything,” Johnny repeated worriedly.

“Are you sure?”

“He was awake for awhile and he couldn’t hear anything I said to him.”

“It’s probably because of the blow to his head, Son. I’m sure he’ll be alright once it heals.”

“I hope so, Murdoch,” Johnny said as Teresa hurried into the room.

“Billy’s gone for the doc,” she told them. “How is he?”

“I don’t know, Teresa.” Murdoch answered, and continued to remove his son’s clothing.

“I’ve got some water boiling and there’s some stew left from supper, Johnny. Why don’t you come down and have something to eat?”

“I’m staying with Scott,” Johnny answered.

“Go with Teresa, Son, I’ll look after Scott,” Murdoch promised.

“But...”

“No buts, Johnny, go eat and get cleaned up. Scott will need you rested when he comes to,” Murdoch said removing the boots from his oldest son’s feet.

“Alright, but call me if he needs me,” Johnny said and reluctantly followed Teresa out of the room.

“What’s the boy got hisself into this time?” Jelly Hoskins asked when he walked into the room.

“Johnny said there was a rockslide,” Murdoch answered. “Scott got caught in it.”

“Least it wasn’t any outlaws or old enemies this time,” Jelly said and helped Murdoch remove the ripped pants from the injured man.

Murdoch gasped when he caught sight of the blood soaked bandage just above the right knee, “Jelly, get me something I can use to stop the bleeding,” he ordered and gently unwrapped the wound.

“Be right back,” Jelly said and hurried from the room.

Murdoch looked back at the wound and shook his head when he gently removed the last of the bandage.

“M...Murdoch.”

Murdoch’s head snapped up at the softly spoken word, his eyes meeting his son’s pain filled ones. “How are you feeling, Son?” he asked.

Scott’s forehead creased when he realized his nightmare of not being able to hear was in fact reality. “C...can’t hear you,” Scott answered, pain written on his face.

Murdoch bit his lip when he remembered what Johnny told him earlier. “It’s ok,” he mouthed, making sure his son could see his lips move.

“Not ok,” Scott said, closing his eyes and surrendering to darkness.

Jelly hurried into the room with strips of white cloth Murdoch recognized as Teresa’s clean sheets. At his frown Hoskins smiled, “She told me to take em. Even cut them up for me.”

Murdoch shook his head, smiling when the young woman came into the room with a basin of water in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other. Her face was pale when she looked at the seeping wound in Scott Lancer’s leg. “Thanks, Teresa,” he said as he took the basin and dipped a cloth into it. He slowly cleaned the wound, putting pressure on it in an effort to stop the bleeding. He lost track of time while he fought what seemed to be a losing battle, until finally, the bleeding stopped. “Jelly, hold his leg until I wrap it.”

Hoskins reached rough, callused hands out and gently lifted the injured leg. His touch soft while he tried his best not to cause the younger man any unnecessary discomfort. He watched as Murdoch used one hand to hold the bandage in place and the other to wrap a strip of cloth tightly around it.

Scott felt the hands on his leg and panicked, kicking out with his left leg while pain radiated through the right one. “No, don’t!” he cried and struggled to get away from whoever was causing the pain.

“Easy, Scott,” Murdoch soothed, forgetting what Johnny had told them.

Teresa moved to the bed and placed her hands on Scott’s shoulder. “Scott, it’s ok. Open your eyes and look at me,” her soft voice ordered.

“Stop!” he gasped, and felt strong hands on his leg. He struggled through the fog and opened pain filled blue eyes. Sighing in relief when he recognized the three people with him. He watched Teresa’s lips move, but he still remained in a world where silence was his only companion.

Murdoch saw the panic in the blue eyes and Johnny’s words came back to him. He finished bandaging the thigh and then let his gaze find the blue eyes of his son. “Scott, I know you can’t hear me...”

“What? Oh God,” Teresa whispered.

“Can’t hear,” Hoskins’ gruff voice joined with Teresa’s shocked one.

“…but it’s going to be alright,” Murdoch ignored the other two people in the room as he mouthed the words in hopes the blond could read his lips.

Scott shook his head, regretting the slight movement when his head exploded once more. Gasping for breath he turned his head to the side and was violently sick.

Teresa’s quick reactions prevented Scott’s bed from becoming the victim of his stomach’s upheaval as she placed the basin in front of him.

Shaking from the exertion and the pain Scott Lancer allowed them to place him back on the bed. He closed his eyes in an effort to stop the room from spinning, but the nauseous refused to leave him. A small moan escaped his lips and he felt something cool placed against his brow. He tried to keep his head turned to the side in order to keep the pressure off the wound there.

“How’s he doing, Murdoch?”

“Not good, Johnny. He’s awake and he’s been sick. I’m pretty sure he’s got a bad concussion. He’s lost a lot of blood, but hopefully we got it stopped.”

“I brought him some water,” Johnny said and moved to the bed where he reached out and touched his brother’s shoulder.

Scott felt the feather-light touch and knew instinctively the hand belonged to his brother. He opened his eyes and looked at the worried face. “J...Johnny, you ok?”

“I’m fine,” the younger man answered. “Water?” he asked pointing to the glass in his hand.

The blond nodded slowly, gasping at the pain in his head. Murdoch lifted his son forward and watched Johnny help Scott drink the water.

“Thanks.”

“Anytime, Brother,” Johnny assured him.

“Head hurts. Still can’t hear anything,” the blond gasped.

“Just lie still and try to sleep. Doc Jenkins will be here soon,” Johnny told him.

Scott had little trouble understanding his brother’s slowly moving mouth. His lips formed each word in such a way that he could read them easily. “K,” he answered as he slowly let his eyes close.

“He’s going to be fine, Son,” Murdoch tried to reassure the younger man when he noticed the worried frown on his face.

“I hope so, Murdoch,” Johnny said, watching the pale form slowly slip toward sleep. The lines around his eyes and the heavy creases on his brow told Johnny that his brother was far from fine. The dark haired Lancer sat heavily into his chair, all set to keep a constant vigil over his injured brother.

The long afternoon shadows disappeared into the dull light of dusk and still Johnny Lancer sat next to his brother’s bed, bathing his brow as a slight fever began to build. Murdoch, Jelly and Teresa continued to try to get him to rest but he stoically refused. He ate the dinner meal Teresa made for him and tried to get his brother to drink the water and broth. Scott would sip at the water but it was obvious it wasn’t setting well with his stomach. He’d been sick twice since the first time, just not as violent as there was very little left inside him. Johnny stood up and stretched his lean body, his back cracking as the kinks from hours of sitting worked themselves out. He walked to the window and looked out over the darkening yard hoping to catch site of the doctor’s wagon. A pounding headache was building behind his eyes and he felt the exhaustion of hours in the saddle and worry about his brother take their toll on his body. Unable to stand any longer he slid back into his chair and once more watched his brother’s sleeping form.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Jenkins handed the reins of his buggy to one of the hands who had come out of the bunkhouse and hurried toward the house. He carried the battered black bag with his supplies in his right hand and didn’t bother to knock on the heavy door.

Murdoch came down the stairs and sighed tiredly when he saw the doctor step inside.

“How is he?” Jenkins asked climbing the stairs and heading for the all too familiar room.

“He took a bad blow to the back of his head and his right leg is going to need some stitches.”

“That all?”

“He can’t hear anything, Sam.”

Jenkins looked at his long time friend and finally nodded. They entered the darkened room, the only light coming from the lamp that they’d turned down low. The seasoned doctor wasn’t surprised to see the dark haired Lancer sitting next to his blond brother. What did surprise him was that the dark haired man was leaning over the bed, his head resting on the pillow next to his brother. Scott’s eyes were open and staring at the younger man. Jenkins didn’t want to startle the man but there was no way he could warn him of their presence. He walked slowly toward the bed and smiled when the blond turned toward him.

“Murdoch tells me you can’t hear anything,” he said slowly.

“Nothing,” the blond answered as Murdoch turned up the lamp and Johnny lifted his head from the pillow.

“Hey, Doc, glad you made it,” Johnny yawned as he moved out of the way and let the doctor take his spot.

“Now then, young man, let’s take a look at you. Murdoch, you and Johnny turn him on his side and hold him there till I check his head,” Scott groaned loudly as his body was turned. “Sorry, Son, but I have to take a look.” He shook his head realizing the younger man couldn’t hear his explanation. He slowly prodded the two inch gash slightly back of the right ear. “Murdoch, see if you can get him to take a little of this,” he ordered and passed him the bottle of laudanum.

Murdoch took the bottle while Johnny held his brother steady. “Here, Scott, drink this,” the Lancer patriarch ordered when Jenkins lifted the blond head slightly. Scott swallowed the noxious liquid, grimacing as the taste filled his senses and he gagged.

Jenkins placed him head back on the pillow and slowly cleaned the wound with whiskey, ignoring the moans still emanating from his patient. “Johnny, tell him I have to put some stitches in this.”

Johnny nodded and placed his face in front of his brother’s, patting his shoulder until the blond looked at him. “Doc’s gotta put some stitches in your head, Boston. Think you can stay still for him.”

“T...try,” the blond gasped and fought the building nauseous. Johnny took his brother’s right hand and placed his own in it. Scott smiled and waited for the biting pain he knew was about to be inflicted by the caring hands of the doctor.

Jenkins carefully put in a neat row of stitches and then placed a bandage over it wrapping a thin piece of material around the blond head in order to keep it in place. “Ok, put him on his back again.”

“Boston, we’re gonna turn you again,” Johnny mouthed and watched the eyes clench shut as they slowly placed him on his back, Jenkins kept his hands on Scott’s head and kept it turned slightly to the left avoiding the head injury. “Now you try to rest, Scott. I’ll be done as soon as I can,” he mouthed.

Scott’s eyes spoke volumes as he watched his brother kneel in front of him.

Johnny knew how scared his brother was and stared into the blue eyes. He tried to send a message that things would work out, but knew it didn’t reach the injured man.

Scott Lancer had been through the hell of war and come out of it scarred, but not bitter. He’d been wounded and spent time in a prison, but the prison he resided in now was worse than any he had ever known. The silent world he lived in now was one he might never escape from. It was a place where he was alone, no soft words, no whistle of birds, no sound of crickets, none of the normal things he’d taken for granted penetrated the prison he was trapped in. Silent tears fell from his eyes as he closed them. He felt the doctor’s hands on his thigh and tensed his body for this new torment. Once more his brother’s touch soothed him and he let the tremors leave his body as he sank into a sleep where everything was as it should be and he could hear his brother’s voice once more.

“Murdoch, hold his leg for me. Johnny, stay where he can see you if he wakes up,” Jenkins ordered and removed the bandage from Scott’s right thigh. He probed the swollen wound, bathed it, and finally stitched it together before cleaning it once more with disinfectant. He placed a clean bandage over the wound and secured it with a strip from Teresa’s torn sheets. “Make sure he stays off this for at least a week,” he ordered when Murdoch released the injured leg.

“Anything else, Doc?” Murdoch asked.

Jenkins looked at his long time friend and then to the younger Lancer. “Yeah, put him to bed before he falls asleep in that chair.”

“I’m not tired,” Johnny assured them, but the yawn belied his words.

“Johnny, get some rest. I’ll stay with Scott and wake you when he wakes up,” Murdoch ordered.

“You’ll come get me?” Johnny asked as a bone weary exhaustion made him realize he’d be no good to his brother if he didn’t get some sleep.

“I will,” Murdoch assured him. “Doc, are you staying the night?”

“It’s late, Murdoch, and I’d like to keep an eye on Scott’s head wound. You said he’s been sick to his stomach and that’s a sign of a concussion.”

“The guest room’s already fixed up for you, Doctor,” Teresa informed him.

“Thank you, My Dear. Murdoch, call me if he needs anything. If he wakes up make sure you get him to drink plenty of water and give him some Laudanum if he needs it,” Jenkins told him.

“I will. Go Johnny,” Murdoch slid into the chair next to the bed as the others left the room. He extinguished the light and drew the drapes across the window, hoping the lack of light would help his son sleep. “You’re going to be just fine, Son,” he whispered, glad to see the lines of pain were extinguished and his eldest son seemed to be in an easy sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott opened his eyes and wondered where he was. The absolute darkness combined with the silence caused him to panic and he sat upright in the bed, crying out when his head seemed to explode.

Murdoch was startled from his light doze by the cry of pain from his injured son. “Easy, Scott,” he said, forgetting in that instant between sleep and complete wakefulness that his son couldn’t hear him. “Dammit,” he swore as he lit the lamp on the bedside table. The terror on his son’s face dissipated as his eyes were drawn to the light.

“What’s wrong?” Johnny rushed into the room, and stood in front of his brother.

“J...Johnny.”

“I’m here, Scott.”

“Not a dream?”

“What’s not a dream?” the dark haired Lancer asked slowly.

“Can’t hear.”

“I know you can’t, Scott,” Johnny told him, easing the trembling body back to the pillows while his father poured water into a glass.

“Head hurts.”

“I bet,” Johnny sympathized with his brother; he’d suffered more than one concussion over the years and knew how bad the headaches and sick stomach could be.

“Johnny, we need to get him to drink some water. Can you hold him up for a minute?”

Johnny nodded at his father and slowly explained what they wanted him to do. He lifted Scott forward and let him lean against his chest as Murdoch helped him drink.

“Enough,” Scott hissed turning his head away from the glass.

“Just a little more,” Murdoch mouthed to his son.

“Sick…” Beads of sweat formed on the blonde’s forehead as he fought to quell the rising tide of nauseous.

Murdock grabbed the basin and placed it in front of his son just as his stomach gave up its contents.

“S...sorry,” the blond apologized softly. “Head hurts.”

“Hold him steady, Johnny while I give him some Laudanum.”

Johnny Lancer did as his father asked him and watched while he fed Scott a liberal dose of laudanum. “That should help, Boston,” Johnny eased his brother back on the bed and watched the pain filled eyes slowly slide shut.

“T...thanks,” Scott whispered, pain evident in the softly spoken word.

“Anytime, Brother,” Johnny vowed. “I’ll stay with him for a while, Murdoch.”

“All right, Son,” Murdoch told him. “He should sleep now. Call me if either of you need anything.”

“I will,” Johnny smiled as the older man left him alone with his brother. “Everything’s gonna be all right, Boston, you just wait and see,” he vowed, settling into the chair to watch over the brother he’d so recently come to know.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott opened his eyes to bright sunlight streaming in through the opened drapes. He turned his head slightly, remembering the way his head exploded at any swift movement. His eyes fell on his younger brother, a man he hardly knew, yet felt he could trust implicitly, a man he would do anything for. He moved slightly on the bed and bit his lip when pain lanced through his thigh. His throat was dry and he reached for the glass on the bedside table. He lifted the glass in his shaking hand and tried to lift his head enough to take a small sip. A strong hand soon helped guide the glass to his mouth and he drank greedily.

“Thanks, Brother,” he muttered gratefully.

“You’re welcome, Boston. Do you want to sit up a little more?”

“Yes,” Scott murmured, amazed at how easy it was to read his brother’s slowly moving mouth.

Johnny eased him up and slid an extra pillow behind him. He felt his Scott tremble when he placed him back on the soft pillows. He waited for the eyes to reopen and bathed the sweat soaked brow. “Feel better?”

“Yes.”

“Hungry?”

“A little.”

“What would you like?”

“Maybe a sandwich.”

“All right, Brother, you just stay put and I’ll see what I can come up with.”

“Thanks, Johnny.”

“Anytime,” Johnny Lancer smiled at the blond before leaving the room.

Scott closed his eyes and listened. He hated not hearing the birds outside his windows, the soft chirp of the crickets, the sounds of men working; everything he’d taken for granted was gone. In its place was a lingering sense of helplessness as he tried to hear what happened around him. He opened his eyes as a hand touched his shoulder. He smiled at the young woman standing beside the bed. “Hi.”

“How are you feeling, Scott?” Teresa asked slowly. Johnny explained that she needed to speak slowly and make sure he was looking at her.

“I’m okay, Teresa,” he answered.

“I brought you some lunch.”

“Where’s Johnny?” he asked when the tray was placed on the table beside the bed.

“I told him he needed to eat. He’s been up here with you all day.”

Scott smiled thinly as he accepted the sandwich she offered him. He didn’t understand everything she said, but he’d picked up enough to get the gist of it. “He looks tired.”

“He is.”

“Make him go to his room,” Scott couldn’t hear her laughter, but the smile swept away the lines of worry he’d seen on her face.

“Not even Murdoch could make him do that,” she told him. “Now eat that sandwich.”

Scott smiled and bit into the fresh baked bread. The roast beef was tender as he chewed and he smiled gratefully at the young woman. By the time he was finished the first half of the sandwich his eyes were heavy and his stomach once more rebelled against the food he’d eaten. He fought to keep the meal down, knowing it was a lost cause when the nauseous grew worse.

Teresa watched the pale face and reached for the basin on the table. She barely made it when Scott Lancer’s stomach once more gave up its contents.

The blond breathed deeply in an effort to quell his rebellious stomach. “S...sorry,” he apologized and lay back against the pillows.

“It’s okay, Scott,” she assured him.

“Should’ve stuck with water I guess,” he offered, a chagrined look on his pale face.

Teresa turned toward the tray and asked, “Want to try some juice?”

“Pardon?” Scott asked, angered at his own inadequacies.

She looked back at the bed and realized her mistake. “Oh, Scott, I’m sorry,” she said, her face full of concern.

“It’s okay, Teresa,” he muttered tiredly.

“Juice?” she asked and held the glass before him.

“Not right now,” he told her and drifted off to sleep once more.

Teresa studied the slack features, knowing how hard this was for any man, let alone a man used to using his senses. She knew Scott’s hearing had saved him from being killed during the war, and remembered sitting with Scott, Johnny and Murdoch when they discussed life before they were reunited as a family. She knew how close the two brothers grew with each passing day, learning about each other, finding out what they’d been missing, and sharing stories of their pasts. She hoped the future would bring them closer and that Scott’s hearing would return. She placed the glass back on the tray and bent over the bed. She gently kissed the pale forehead, knowing in her heart this man was a part of her life she didn’t want to do without. Scott and Johnny Lancer were the brothers she’d wished for all her life and now that she had them she’d fight tooth and nail to make sure no one hurt them.

“It will work out, Scott,” she vowed.

“Is everything al right, Teresa?” Murdoch asked upon entering the room.

“His stomach is not up to solid food yet, Murdoch,” she explained, taking the basin with her as she exited the room.

Murdoch watched as his young charge left the room. It still amazed him how quickly the three young people accepted each other. That acceptance had slowly grown to a point where his family felt right. Teresa may not have been born to him, but she was as much a part of him as his two sons. He stepped to the bed, sat in the chair, and ran his fingers through his greying hair as he gazed at the pale face. “You’re so much like your Mother, Scott. She had the same sense of right and wrong. The same independence and stubbornness I’ve seen in you. Johnny’s got it too, so I guess some of it comes from me,” he laughed as he remembered his first wife and her use of stubborn, bull headed and a few other choice words. “She’d be proud of you, son. Proud of the man you’ve become in spite of what life forced on y...you,” he stammered. “I’m proud of the man you’ve become. You and your brother grew up strong in spite or maybe because of my not being around. Someday I’ll be able to make up for some of the time we lost,” he said and lapsed into silence. He sat watching the slow rise and fall of his son’s chest, knowing they’d been given a gift when they’d been reunited. He sighed heavily and leaned back in the chair, a stark sentry whose duty was to watch over his son and keep him safe in his silent world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A week passed, with little change in Scott’s hearing. He sat in a chair watching as the hired hands worked all around him, oblivious to the normal sounds of a summer day. He’d grown used to not being able to hear things, but he prayed the sounds would someday penetrate the silence that surrounded him.

He watched as Dr. Jenkins buggy came closer. The man visited every second day, on the last visit he agreed that Scott could move around on his leg with the help of a pair of crutches. He felt strange as the buggy came closer and no sound reached him. He wondered if he’d ever get used to the silence, and hoped he wouldn’t have to find out.

Jenkins stopped the buggy and reached for his bag. He made his way over to the blond and smiled. He looked directly at the still pale figure and asked. “How are you feeling today, Scott?”

“I’m okay, Doc,” the blond answered truthfully.

“Any more headaches?”

“Once in a while, but nothing serious.”

“How often?” Jenkins asked worriedly.

“Not very.”

“Scott, I need to know. Any ringing in the ears?”

“No, I wish there was. At least that would be something.”

“I know, Son. I wish I had better answers for you, but I don’t. It could clear itself up or it could be...”

“Permanent?” Scott interrupted quietly.

Jenkins nodded slowly, knowing his patient wanted the truth no matter how bad. “I need to check your leg. Let’s go inside.”

Scott lifted his crutches and leaned heavily on them. He headed toward the door and smiled when Teresa appeared with a pitcher of lemonade and cookies. “We’ll be back,” he assured her. “Make sure Johnny doesn’t get his hands on them before we return.”

“I will, Scott,” she promised and placed the tray on the table.

Jenkins followed the younger man into the house, amazed at how easily he maneuvered up the stairs. He knew Scott Lancer was still in pain, yet as expected he refused to admit it.

Scott eased his pants down over the wound and sat on the edge of the bed. He clenched his teeth as the doctor removed the bandage and gently prodded the wound.

Jenkins looked up from the wound and directly into the younger man’s eyes. “You’re doing too much, Scott. This won’t heal unless you take it easy.”

Scott had trouble understanding the doctor’s words and spoke softly. “Say that again, Doc.”

“You need to stay off this as much as possible.”

“You told me I could use the crutches.”

“I also told you to stay off it as much as possible,” Jenkins admonished. “I’m gonna clean this and then I want you resting with your leg up. Understood?”

“I guess so.”

“Scott, it needs time,” Jenkins cleaned the wound with whiskey and bandaged it tightly before examining his patient’s eyes and ears. “Well, everything else looks good. Have you had any dizzy spells?”

Scott turned toward the window and answered softly. “A couple.”

Jenkins reached across and forced the blond to look at him. “Scott, I need you to be truthful with me. How often?” 

“Five times in the last three days. It happens when I stand up too quickly.” 

Jenkins chuckled as he watched the frown creasing the handsome face. “Then it’s probably nothing serious. You lost a lot of blood from that leg wound and that’s probably the reason for the dizzy spells. Don’t rush things. All right?” 

“I won’t.” Scott missed the laughter as he reached to pull his pants up around his hips once more. “I think we better help ourselves to some of Teresa’s cookies before Johnny gets at them.” 

Jenkins made sure Scott was looking at him as he answered. “I think you’re right. Your brother does have a tendency to eat first and complain about his stomach later. I’d rather not have to treat him because he overindulged again.” He handed the younger man his crutches and they headed back outside, wondering if Scott had understood what he’d said.

Once back in the bright sunlight Scott relaxed and sat in his chair. The lemonade and cookies were untouched and Scott handed the plate to the doctor.

“Thank you,” Jenkins smiled as he took two of the simple sugar cookies. He watched as the younger man lifted the juice pitcher and turned away as the sound of Johnny’s voice reached his ears. “Hi, Johnny,” he greeted.

“Hey, Doc. How’s Boston doing?” the dark haired Lancer asked.

Scott lifted the pitcher of lemonade just as sharp pain lanced through his skull. He clenched his eyes tightly as a familiar sound penetrated his silent world. He tried to open his eyes and tell them he’d heard Johnny’s voice, but the pain intensified and the pitcher dropped from his hand. He cried out and placed his palms over his ears, as a sharp ringing seemed to surround him, pounding incessantly from the inside out. He was sure his skull would split wide open if the ringing continued to increase. The shrill sound was loud and painful as he slumped to his knees. The pain in his thigh didn’t register, nor did the hands that grasped him and held him tight.

“Doc?” Johnny cried when the pitcher of lemonade slipped from his brother’s shaking hands and shattered to the ground. The sound of broken glass barely registered as he reached his brother’s side. He caught him as Scott’s knees came in contact with the ground. He heard his brother’s cry of pain and held him tightly. “Doc, what the hell’s going on?”

“I’m not sure, Johnny. Can you carry him into the house?”

“What’s wrong?” Teresa’s words caught in her throat at the look of pain on both brothers’ faces. “I’ll turn down his bed,” she told Johnny when their eyes met.

“Thanks, Teresa,” the former gunslinger said as he lifted Scott into his arms.

Scott felt his brother lift him and tried to speak, but the pain was too much. He shuddered as Johnny easily lifted his lean form and hurried into the house. He wanted to tell his brother he’d heard him, wanted to see the smile on the handsome face, but the effort was too much. He kept his eyes closed, knowing to open them would only cause more of the intense fireworks he was already experiencing. He knew in his heart he’d heard his brother’s voice if only for a few seconds. Somehow he knew things would work out, but for now his world was a silent place once more.

“Put him on the bed, Johnny,” Jenkins ordered. “Teresa, get me some hot water and clean bandages!” he heard Teresa hurry from the room and placed a gentle hand on his patient’s shoulder. “Scott,” he said and remembered the young man couldn’t hear him. “I’m going to need to check his leg, Johnny. Do you think you can hold him still for me?”

“Course I can, Doc,” Johnny smiled as a pair of grey-blue eyes opened and tried to focus on him. He could see the pain in those expressive orbs and knew Scott was using the last of his strength to get them open. “Easy, Brother,” he soothed when the blond lifted a hand to touch his face.

“H...he...ard y...you,” Scott smiled weakly at the younger man.

“What?” Johnny asked simply, praying he’d heard his brother correctly.

“H...heard you c...coming...gone...now...but I h...heard y...your voice,” Scott managed before he lost the fight to stay awake.

“Did you hear that, Doc?” Johnny looked up as his father came into the room and could easily see his own worries and hopes mirrored on the older man’s face. “Murdoch, he heard me. His hearing’s come back!”

“Johnny.” The dark haired Lancer turned toward the doctor once more. “He said he heard you, but...”

“But what?” Johnny interrupted.

“But he also said it was gone now...”

“Gone now?” Johnny asked. “You mean he can’t hear me anymore?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“But this is good news isn’t it, Sam?” Murdoch asked hopefully.

“Yes it is good news. I figured the blow to his head probably caused Scott’s hearing loss, but I couldn’t be sure there was no permanent damage. Right now I’d say he’s got a good chance of getting his hearing back, but how quickly that happens is anyone’s guess. There’s no way I can give you a definite time on this. I think Scott’s still suffering from the effects of the concussion. He’ll probably have dizzy spells, blackouts, and nauseous for a while yet. If his hearing comes and goes it’ll probably be accompanied by sharp headaches. That’s probably why he lost his grip on the pitcher,” Jenkins explained while he removed the bloodied bandage from Scott Lancer’s thigh. “Damn!”

“What’s wrong, Sam?” Murdoch asked worriedly as Teresa entered the room.

“He’s broken some of his stitches and I’m going to need to put them back in. Teresa, can you bring me some whiskey to clean this with?”

“Sure, Doctor,” Teresa said and hurried from the room, glad to be able to help. She came back with the whiskey and handed it to the doctor.

Jenkins cleaned the wound eliciting a weak moan from the blond Lancer. He smiled when Johnny’s touch seemed to penetrate the pain he was causing and soothe the injured man. In spite of the hearing loss and the unconscious state Jenkins knew without a doubt that Scott Lancer knew that touch and was grateful to have it. He continued to replace the stitches, and once finished, placed a fresh bandage over the wound.

“That’s about all I can do for now. I expect he’ll want to be up and around when he comes to, but I’d advise keeping him in bed for a couple of days. The headache and dizziness alone should keep him down, but...”

“But this is Scott we’re talking about,” Teresa finished for him.

“That’s true,” Johnny agreed.

“You’re one to talk, Johnny,” Teresa said with a grin. “It seems to be a trait in this family. Father and sons don’t seem to know what’s good for them.”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself, Teresa,” Jenkins laughed at the chagrined look on the two men’s faces. Neither spoke as Teresa left the room with a smile plastered on her face. He turned to the two men and spoke softly. “Make sure he stays in bed and someone’s with him at all times for the next week or so. He’ll probably have other blackouts like he did today and I don’t want him being alone when it happens.”

“What do we do if it does?” Murdoch asked.

“Make sure he lies down and keep checking him for fever. Make sure he knows he’s not alone. If his hearing comes back again it’ll probably be signaled by the same thing he had today. I’m thinking he suffered a shrill whistling or ringing sound in his ears. From what I’ve heard it can be quite painful and a little confusing. Let him know he’s all right and that you’re here for him. I’ve got a couple of people to check on, but I’ll be back this way tomorrow. There’s laudanum there, but use it sparingly. I don’t like the idea of him being in pain, but we need to know just how much this is affecting him.”

“Thanks, Doc,” Johnny told him as Murdoch escorted the doctor from the room.

~~~~~~~~

Murdoch followed the doctor out the door and thanked him for his help. He sighed heavily as he walked toward his desk and picked up the quill pen and several sheets of paper. He knew Scott was having a hard time keeping up with the conversation around him and wondered if this would make things simpler for him. He reached for the whiskey bottle on his desk and poured himself a shot. He downed the fiery liquid and was grateful for the soothing effect it had. He sat in the chair behind his desk and lifted the picture of Catherine Lancer. He ran his fingers over the surface of the picture and felt moisture gathering in his eyes. ‘Don’t worry, Catherine. I won’t let anything happen to our son,’ he thought sadly. He wondered what would have happened if things had turned out differently for them, but he quickly pushed those thoughts aside as he thought of Maria and the dark haired man tending his older brother upstairs. He knew if Catherine had lived Johnny Madrid Lancer would never have been born and that was something he didn’t want to lose.

Scott Lancer and Johnny Madrid Lancer were both his sons, as different as night and day, but he wouldn’t trade either of them. They were as much a part of him as they were their mothers and he prayed he’d be given the chance to spend many more years with them. Placing the picture back on the table he headed to the kitchen to make sure Teresa was okay.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott kept his eyes closed, not wanting to relive the blinding pain he’d felt earlier. He tried to remember what happened after Jenkins cleaned his leg, but everything was in vague shadows. He knew they’d gone back outside and he’d offered the doctor some of Teresa’s cookies, but everything after that seemed blurry. He tried to focus on where he was and why he was flat on his back again. Images began to fly before his closed lids. An image of a lemonade picture crashing to the ground, and a small amount of liquid splashing on his pants. A gasp escaped his throat as a sudden memory invaded his senses. His eyes opened wide and he cried out as the light assaulted his senses.

“Johnny!” he gasped. 

“I’m here, Boston,” the dark haired Lancer assured him and gently turned the blond head toward him. He hated the pale skin and dark circles surrounding his brother’s eyes, knowing they represented just how lousy he was feeling.

Scott swallowed and smiled gratefully. “Johnny, you okay?” his eyebrows furrowed as he tried to remember more of what happened.

“I’m fine, Scott. It’s you we’re worried about.”

Scott shook his head, unable to follow Johnny’s words. He regretted the move instantly as the dull throb in his head intensified.

“Easy,” Johnny rubbed the bare shoulder as he tried to instilll a sense of calm in his brother.

“Head hurts,” Scott said and turned a pain filled gaze on his brother. In spite of the pain a new realization dawned on him. A small smile adorned his face when he looked into the bright eyes of the man seated beside him. “I heard you, Johnny. It didn’t last long, but for a few seconds I heard your voice.”

“That’s great, Scott,” Johnny laughed as he saw the ray of hope in his brother’s eyes. “Doc Jenkins says it’s a real good sign. Says you gotta take it easy for a while longer though. Want something to drink?”

“I thought I heard voices in here.”

Johnny turned to the door as Teresa came into the room carrying a tray. “What’ve you got there, Teresa?”

“I thought you could use some lunch.”

“I am kinda hungry,” Johnny said. He turned back toward his brother and asked. “Hungry, Scott?”

“Not really,” the injured man answered.

“Scott,” Teresa reached out and touched his shoulder, waiting for him to face her. “You need to eat...”

“I will, Teresa,” the blond interrupted. “Just not right now. There wouldn’t be any point in it.”

“Still feeling sick?” Johnny asked, the concern evident in his voice and eyes.

“A little,” Scott answered and let his head sink back into the pillow. He lifted his left hand and slowly rubbed at his temple. The pain wasn’t as bad as it was earlier, and the thought of getting his hearing back helped soothe the slight pain he still suffered. He opened his eyes just in time to see Murdoch Lancer come into the room. The older man didn’t speak, but stepped up to the bed and handed his son a piece of paper. Scott smiled and read his father’s words aloud.

“I thought it would be easier if we wrote down what we wanted to say. I know you can read Johnny’s lip easily, but have a hard time with anyone else. This way you won’t have to try so hard and we won’t forget how hard this is for you.” Scott finished reading and looked at his father. This man was still an enigma to him. He couldn’t understand why his father hadn’t come for him during the early years of his life, but at least now he had a little understanding of how much his father really cared. “Thanks, Murdoch,” he said simply and passed the paper back.

“You’re welcome, Son,” Murdoch wrote and turned the paper back toward the blond.

“Going to need a lot of paper,” Scott said.

“It’ll be worth it if it makes things easier for you,” his father wrote.

“It does,” the injured man informed him, yawning tiredly.

“You need to get some rest, Son. Someone will stay with you until you wake up and then we’ll see about getting you something to eat that won’t upset your stomach.” Again he turned the paper to Scott and waited for him to read it.

“I can come down to the table and eat with the rest of you,” Scott assured them

Johnny reached out and turned his brother’s face toward him. “Doc says you gotta stay off that leg for a few days, Boston.”

“But...”

“No buts! You tore open them stitches and it’s gonna take a few days to repair the damage.” A wicked grin plastered his face with his next words. “Don’t worry, Brother, I’ll eat your share of Teresa’s chocolate cake.”

Teresa took the pad from Murdoch and hastily scribbled a message before showing it to Scott. He couldn’t help but smile as he read the words aloud. “Don’t worry, Scott. The chocolate cake is safe from Johnny. I’m going to make sure no one touches your piece and if he does I’ll bake two of them and make him sit here while you eat every last crumb.”

“Ah, come on, Teresa, you wouldn’t do that?” Johnny pleaded.

“Try me!” she laughed.

“I think you’ve met your match, Johnny and since my cake,” he emphasized the last two words with a knowing smile. “Is safe I think I’ll get some sleep.”

“Goodnight, Scott,” Johnny smiled as his brother slipped smoothly toward sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A week later a very frustrated Scott Lancer sat and watched as a few of the hands readied the buggy and wagon for the trip into Green River. He desperately wanted to go with them, but he wasn’t sure they’d let him. He had no further episodes that signaled his hearing was returning and was worried that it was just a fluke or worse his imagination that brought on the first experience. He still had headaches, but nowhere near as bad as that one episode the week before. He sighed as Teresa came out of the house, followed closely by Johnny and Murdoch. He wondered who they asked to stay with him while they were gone. A sheet of paper was placed before his eyes and he frowned when he read the three simple words.

“You ready, Boston?”

“Ready for what?” the blond asked.

Johnny knew what Scott’s reaction would be and placed a second, already prepared sheet of paper in front of his eyes.

“Ready to go into town with us?”

“You mean it?” Scott’s eyes danced like a child on Christmas morning. “I can go?”

Johnny knelt before his brother and smiled, grateful that Murdoch had broached the subject of getting Scott away from the confines of the ranch. The look of relief and gratitude in Scott Lancer’s eyes made him swallow with some difficulty. The fact that so simple an act of taking him with them could cause his brother such happiness made his heart leap in his throat.

“That’s right, Boston. Are you up for the trip?”

Scott easily read his brother’s slowly moving lips as he took his crutches and stood up.

“Y...yes,” the blond stammered. He made his way toward the saddled horses, but was stopped by a hand on his arm.

“Uhuh, Scott,” Johnny said. “Doc says no horse riding for at least two more weeks. You get to drive the buggy for Teresa.”

“I can ride,” Scott told him.

“I don’t doubt it, but not today! If you’re coming with us it’s in the buggy, otherwise you and I get to stay here while Murdoch and Teresa and a couple of the hands go to Green River for supplies. Now I was planning on buying you a nice cold beer, but if you’d rather we stay here then that’s what we’ll do,” the dark haired Lancer handed Scott another sheet of paper and watched as the blond read the words he’d quickly wrote.

“Rather go into town,” Scott mumbled in defeat as he read the hastily written words.

“That’s what I thought,” Johnny laughed. “Now let’s get going so you can buy me that beer.”

Johnny turned as he said the last words, but Scott knew his brother and reached for his shoulder. “You’re the one who owes me a beer, Brother!” he supplied.

Johnny laughed and nodded his head. “Even deaf I can’t put one over on you!”

“That’s right, Johnny, and for that you owe me two,” Scott said as he climbed into the buggy. He waited for Teresa to climb in beside him and urged the horses forward. He could feel his father and brother as they moved up beside them, and was grateful for their supporting presence once more.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott drove the buggy at an easy clip. They were a little over halfway to Green River and he’d grown more somber with each passing mile. The absolute silence of his world was even more unsettling as he watched the two men ride slightly ahead of him. His world lacked the sounds he yearned to hear, the soft sound of the horses hooves as they hit the ground, the twittering sounds of the birds in the trees, and most of all the sounds of a human voice. Things he’d always taken for granted were missing and he began to feel the loneliness of the silent world he resided in. A hand touched his arm and he turned sad eyes on the young woman riding with him. He noticed the paper she held and hastily read the question there.

“I’m fine, Teresa,” he tried to reassure her, but knew by her steady gaze that she didn’t believe him. He turned his gaze to the trail ahead in order to rid himself of the image of pity he saw in her eyes.

Teresa watched the blond out of the corners of her eyes. She knew her ‘brother’ was thinking about his deafness and what it meant if he stayed that way. She’d grown to love the two younger Lancers as brothers, and hated to see either of them hurting. Somehow she knew in her heart that if Scott’s hearing loss continued he would feel like he was a burden and head back to Boston. She disliked Harlan Garrett and knew he would welcome Scott’s deafness because it would mean he would get his grandson back. She prayed this would not be the case.

Johnny and Murdoch continued to ride just slightly ahead of Scott and Teresa. Every once in a while the two men would turn and look at the man driving the buggy. Scott’s excitement over the trip seemed to have waned and the two men were worried if this trip was a mistake. Jenkins assured them it was a good idea to get Scott involved in normal day-to-day life again. There didn’t seem to be any sign of pain on the still pale face, but they knew from experience that could change in and instant.

Scott felt their gazes on him, but refused to acknowledge them. He knew their eyes were filled with the same pity he’d glimpsed in Teresa’s eyes and he began to doubt himself. He kept his eyes on the steady trek ahead of them, watching as the horse’s hooves clipped silently across the ground.

~~~~~~~~~~

Green River loomed before them and three people breathed a sigh of relief, while the forth man just continued to stare straight ahead. The buildings lining both sides of the street were bathed in bright sunlight, the shadows slowly lengthening as afternoon gave way to evening. Horses whinnied in welcome, while two dogs barked noisily at the people who passed by them. 

Scott drove the buggy straight down the main street and stopped in front of the mercantile. He stayed in the seat as Johnny and Murdoch quickly dismounted and looped their reins over the hitching rail.

Johnny hurried over to the buggy and helped Teresa down before turning to the blond. “Scott, you okay?” he mouthed slowly.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” the blond answered automatically. He climbed out of the buggy and looped the reins over the rail. He turned to his three companions and waited to see where they were going. He watched as Johnny wrote something on the paper Teresa handed him.

“Scott, I owe you a couple of beers, but first we need to make sure the supplies are in. Teresa says she needs a few things to make someone a chocolate cake. It must be for me don’t ya think?”

Scott read the words and forced a tired smile to his face. “I believe Teresa is making the cake for me, Brother,” he said, trying, but failing to join his brother’s effort to banter with him. His head was beginning to throb again and he knew it wouldn’t be long before he suffered from a skull-blinding headache. His stomach churned and he glanced around the street. He didn’t want to be sick in front of anyone and knew his best option was the bath house across the street. He sucked in a deep breath of air as he tried to get his rebellious stomach under control, but there was no keeping the bitter bile from rising in his throat.

Johnny watched his brother’s face go from one shade of pale to another and knew something was wrong. He reached for Scott’s arm, but missed as the blond raced into the street. Time seemed to stand still as Johnny Lancer saw the horse drawn stage racing toward the blond. “SCOTT!” he cried as he raced past the shocked figures standing beside the buggy.

Scott knew he needed to hurry as he lost the fight for control. He made it to the center of the street when a large shadow loomed over him. He turned in the street and was shocked to see the stage careening toward him. He stood frozen in place when he realized he couldn’t hear the wildly driven horse or the sound of the wheels turning as they carried their burden toward him. He felt strong arms wrap around his waist and he hit the ground on his left side with a bone jarring impact. Scott felt something snap and screamed as the mind numbing pain raced up his arm and into his shoulder. He sucked in air as fetid vomit erupted from his throat. He felt the still form beside him and turned to check on whoever had saved his life.

“Johnny!” He gasped as he saw blood on the younger man’s head. “NO!” He screamed as he climbed to his knees, ignoring the stabbing pain from the broken shoulder.

“I didn’t see ‘im. He came out of nowhere. T’weren’t my fault!” the driver of the stage cried as he explained what happened to anyone in earshot.

“Scott, let me look at him!” Murdoch Lancer ordered as he knelt beside his two sons. Johnny was bleeding from a gash over his right eye and Murdoch heard the soft hiss of pain as the younger man began to come to.

“Murdoch, is he okay?” Teresa asked. She watched Scott stand up, but didn’t see the pain cross the pale face when he turned away.

“I think he’ll be okay,” Murdoch said.

“Doc Jenkins is in town. I’ll go get him!” someone shouted.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

All of this was lost on Scott Lancer. He couldn’t hear what was being said, couldn’t hear the soft moan of pain that issued from his brother’s mouth. He didn’t hear Murdoch’s reassurance that Johnny would be okay. All he knew was what he saw. The bloody gash over his brother’s right eye and the unmoving young man imprinted on his mind, chasing away the pain that ran up and down his left arm. He turned away from the scene and stumbled unsteadily toward the street. He had no idea where he was going, but knew he couldn’t live with killing his own brother. Pain lanced through his skull as the sun beat into his eyes. Scott watched from the corner of the building as Jenkins hurried toward the scene in the middle of the street. He couldn’t hear what was being said, but he did see Johnny trying to sit up. His relief was short lived as he realized he’d nearly cost his brother his life. Scott Lancer suddenly wondered if maybe the only option left to him was to go back east and live with his grandfather. He knew if he stayed here he would quickly become a liability his family could not afford. He turned away from the gathering of people and hurried into the alley where he quickly lost what was left in his stomach. The blond sank to the ground unable to hear the commotion taking place on the street as Johnny Lancer struggled against the hands holding him down. He closed his eyes in an effort to ward off the blinding pain erupting in his skull, unaware of the awkward way his shoulder and arm lay beside him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Where’s Scott?” Johnny asked wincing as he squinted to clear his vision.

“He’s right...” Teresa didn’t finish as she turned to the spot where Scott Lancer stood moments before. “Scott!” she called worriedly.

Murdoch heard the panic in Teresa’s voice and stood up. He searched the street for his eldest son, but Scott Lancer was no where to be seen. “Has anyone seen Scott?” Murdoch asked worriedly.

“Not me!” one voice answered.

“I think I saw him go that way!” another said as he pointed toward the hotel.

“Murdoch, we gotta find ‘im!”

“You’re not goin’ anywhere but my office, Johnny,” Jenkins warned.

“Let me up, Doc!’ the gunslinger snapped, holding his head as pain knifed through his skull.

“Teresa, you and Johnny go with Sam. I’ll round up a few men and we’ll find your brother.”

“Murdoch!”

The elder Lancer glanced down at his youngest son and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “We’ll find him, Son. Now go with the doctor and don’t give him any problems!”

Johnny tried to argue, but his head was pounding and his vision blurred when blood trickled into his right eye. He felt Teresa slip an arm around his right side and the doctor did the same to the opposite one. He stumbled between them, knowing there was little he could do to help in the search for his missing brother.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott rested his head against the side of the building and suffered in silence. His head pounded and he kept his eyes clenched tightly to keep the light from stabbing into his skull. Soft moans escaped his throat, but he didn’t hear them as he struggled against the rising tide of nauseous and pain. The fact that he couldn’t move his arm finally registered as hot shards of agony raced up and down its length. He turned to the side as his stomach churned once more.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch stood in front of the people of Green River. Most of them knew who he and his family were and they’d gathered to help in the search for the missing son. He watched as Teresa and Jenkins led Johnny into the doctor’s office, before returning his attention to the crowd. “Scott couldn’t have gone far,” he explained. “I want everyone to spread out and check the houses, hotel, and livery. Check behind everything! Just try not to startle him, because he can’t hear anything right now! If you find him come get me right away!” He watched as men, women, and the older children turned away and began searching for the blond Lancer.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Johnny, stay where you are!” Jenkins ordered.

The dark haired Lancer rubbed at his throbbing head as he slid from the table. “Can’t stay here, Doc. Not with Scott out there somewhere.”

“You can’t do anything, least not ‘til I stitch up that thick head of yours. Now sit down before I have Teresa sit on you!”

“Sit down, Johnny!” Teresa ordered and lifted a cloth from the basin the doctor placed beside him. 

“Teresa!”

“Johnny, the faster we get this done the faster you can help look for Scott.”

“Later...”

“What if Scott’s hurt, Johnny? What if Doctor Jenkins is in the middle of stitching you up when they bring him here and he can’t help Scott because he’s in the middle of taking care of you?”

Johnny sank back on the bed and lifted pain filled blue eyes to meet those of the young woman. “You don’t fight fair, Teresa,” he mumbled, but closed his eyes against the encroaching darkness. He felt a cloth touch the wound on the right side of his head and winced as she cleaned away the blood.

“Teresa, I’m going to be calling on you every time I get stubborn patients,” Jenkins said as he took her place in front of the stubborn gunslinger. “Let’s see how many ya take this time!” he stated and slowly stitched the laceration.

~~~~~~~~~~~

“Scott!” Murdoch yelled and suddenly remembered his son couldn’t hear his call. He heard others calling his son’s name and realized it was instinct to do so when searching for someone. The search had been going on for forty minutes, but yielded nothing to show them where Scott could be. He turned down an alley and searched behind the debris stored there, but found nothing that indicated his son had been there. He raced back into the street when he heard Johnny and Teresa calling him. “Over here!”

Johnny and Teresa hurried toward him and the three stood for a few seconds before searching the street for Scott. They stayed together and moved toward the next alley. Johnny was the first to enter and he searched the area beside the building, when a sound further down caught his attention. He couldn’t quite make out what he was seeing as the shadows covered the narrow opening. The sound came again and he shook off a wave of dizziness and hurried to the source.

“God, I’m so sorry, Johnny!” Scott muttered as his heaving stomach calmed. “Didn’t mean to...” He lifted his head when a hand touched his left shoulder. The shadows prevented him from seeing clearly, but there was little doubt as to who stood before him. “John...ny, sor...ry! Didn’t...”

“Murdoch, I found him!” Johnny knelt before his brother and smiled at the sadness there. Scott Lancer was a man who held tightly to guilt, whether he deserved the blame or not. He could see the evidence that his brother was ill and felt his own stomach churn at the sour smell. He concentrated on his brother and smiled at him. “Scott, it’s okay!”

“Still can’t hear you, Johnny!”

Johnny nodded and looked to his left as Murdoch knelt beside him. “Are you hurt?” the gunman asked worriedly. The handsome face had paled considerably and he wondered if there was something wrong, even as the eyes fluttered closed.

“Johnny, I think he’s broken his arm,” Murdoch explained as he saw the awkward way the arm lay against his son’s body.

“Scott!” Johnny touched his brother’s cheek and waited for the tired eyes to open and focus on him. “We need to get you to Doctor Jenkins!”

“Arm hu...rts.”

“I know it does, Boston!”

Scott smiled weakly as Teresa and Doctor Jenkins joined them. “Hi, Teresa,” he said, his voice laced with misery.

“Hi, Scott,” Teresa said and gently ran her hand through his sweat soaked hair.

“Doc, it looks like he broke his arm,” Johnny explained.

“Let me take a look,” Jenkins eased into the spot where Murdoch had been and gently probed the misshapen limb. He ignored the gasp of pain as he touched the swollen area around the deaf man’s elbow. He knew by the tightly clenched eyes and teeth that Scott Lancer was in pain, yet there was nothing he could do for him here. Finally finished, he looked at the worried faces around him. “Yeah, it looks like he broke the elbow right here.” He pointed to the bruising and swelling as he checked Scott for other injuries. “We need to get him over to my office so I can fix it.”

“Scott!” Johnny called and shook his head when he realized his brother couldn’t hear him. He winced when the movement caused his own injury to exert its painful influence on him.

“Johnny?”

“I’m okay, Murdoch...”

“No, you’re not,” Jenkins snapped sharply. “I want you and Scott in my office and lying down. Teresa, see that he goes there and stays put!”

“You heard him, Johnny, let’s go!” Teresa ordered.

“Murdoch help me get him on his feet,” Jenkins snapped, and saw the fear in Scott Lancer’s eyes as he watched Teresa and another man baring Johnny’s weight between them.

“Johnny!”

The younger Lancer turned but was held steady by the firm grip on his elbows. “He needs me!”

“He’ll be with you in the office in a few minutes,” Teresa said as they hurried toward the doctor’s office.

Murdoch placed a hand on Scott’s uninjured shoulder and waited for the blue eyes to turn toward him. “Johnny’s okay!” he mouthed.

“Johnny’s o...kay!” Scott watched as his father’s head dipped up and down before he finally gave into the beckoning darkness.

“He’s out. Murdoch, can you carry him?”

“Yes!” Murdoch said confidently. He knew at Scott’s normal weight he would be hard pressed to do so, but his son had steadily lost weight since his hearing loss and the task of carrying him was an easy one.

“All right,” Jenkins said as he pulled a strip of bandages from his bag. “Just hold him up for a minute and I’ll strap his arm to his body!” Jenkins ordered.

Murdoch held his son steady while the elderly doctor wrapped the soft material around Scott’s arm and pinned it to his body. “Ready?”

“Yeah, be careful.”

“I will,” Murdoch vowed and lifted his son in his arms. In spite of his knowledge of Scott’s weight loss, he was still shocked at how frail and thin he was. He followed Jenkins toward his office, his eyes filled with worry for his two sons.

By the time Murdoch reached the office, Teresa had Johnny lying down on the couch in the outer office. When he entered with Scott in his arms the dark haired Lancer climbed wearily to his feet and swayed before Teresa pressed on his shoulders and made him sit back down.

“Murdoch, how is he?”

“I don’t know, Johnny. Just stay where you are and I’ll let you know as soon as Doc is finished checking your brother out,” Murdoch said and followed Jenkins into the room he used for patients. He gently placed his son on the bed and stood back to give Jenkins room to work.

“All right, Murdoch, give me a hand to get his shirt off. I need to take a look at that arm.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Ease him up a little and let him lean against you.”

The eldest Lancer lifted his son and held his upper body against his own. He heard a commotion from the outer room and the door was opened. He smiled as he listened to Teresa give it to his youngest son.

“Johnny Lancer, you’re one of the most stubborn fools I’ve ever met! Get back here and sit down before you fall down!”

“Doc, how is he?” Johnny asked, ignoring the irate young woman behind him.

“I won’t be able to tell you anything if I don’t get to look at him. Now do as Teresa says and go sit down!”

“I can help,” Johnny said as he stumbled into the room.

“Yes, you can, Son, by doing what Sam says.”

Johnny rubbed his hand against the encroaching headache and shook his head. “Wanna stay with him”

“Here, Johnny, sit down,” Teresa said and pulled a chair closer to the injured young man.

“Can’t, not...”

“Sit down or so help me I’ll get some of those men to tie you down!” Murdoch Lancer warned. He knew his son was worried about his brother, but he had two sons to worry about, and Johnny Lancer had gone from pale to white in a matter of seconds. He felt the body in his arms tremble and turned back to the sweat soaked blond as a small groan escaped his lips. “Easy, Son, I got you.” Again, he realized his son couldn’t hear his words and he rubbed his hand against the younger man’s arm as the lids slowly opened. He saw the raw pain in the glazed blue eyes and knew it was more to do with what happened and not from the pain of his own injuries.

“Mur...doch?”

“Yes, Son, Doc’s going to fix your arm,” he said slowly, but knew he wasn’t understood until Jenkins moved closer and Scott Lancer knew where he was.

“Doc? Johnny, o...okay?”

Jenkins pointed to the dark haired young man seated in a chair a few feet from the bed. Scott turned his head, wincing as pain lanced through his skull. “Johnny?”

Johnny Lancer forced a smile to his face as he looked at his brother. “Yeah, I’m fine, Boston. Just hit my head.”

“Sor...ry my f...fault...”

“No it wasn’t!” the dark haired Lancer winced with the effort it took to talk.

“There’ll be time enough for that later!” Jenkins snapped. “Teresa, get that paper over there and tell Scott I want him to drink some Laudanum before we finish getting his jacket and shirt off.”

The young woman hurriedly picked up the paper and wrote the message. She held it in front of the blond and waited until she was sure he understood.

Scott nodded as the paper was taken away and a spoon filled with liquid appeared before him. He lifted his head and turned to his brother, his eyes filled with unshed moisture as he realized he was the cause of the pain the younger man suffered.

“Take it!” Johnny ordered and was glad when his brother opened his mouth and accepted the pain killing medication. ‘Wish I could give you something to wipe the guilt from your eyes, Boston,’ he thought as he watched Murdoch tend the blond.

“We’ll give that a couple of minutes to take effect. Johnny, how bad is the head?”

“It’s not bad, Doc,” Johnny answered automatically.

“Good, in that case I‘ll only give you a little of this. Now open up!”

“I don’t need it!”

“Look, I got work to do with Scott and I don’t want to be worrying about you. Now take this and just maybe you’ll be able to keep your brother’s mind off what I’m about to do to him.”

Johnny Madrid Lancer glared at the doctor, but realized the man was right. He needed his head clear of pain if he was going to help with Scott. He opened his mouth and grimaced as the obnoxious tasting liquid flowed down his throat. “Hate that shi...Stuff,” he corrected and felt Teresa’s eyes on him.

“Yeah, well, put up with it,” Jenkins snapped.

“Kind of cranky there ain’t ya, Doc?” Johnny asked.

“It comes from dealing with you two stubborn mules. Now just sit there and I’ll let you know if we need you. Understand?”

“Yeah, I got it!” 

“Well that’s a first!” Jenkins said and hurried back to his second patient. He looked into Scott’s eyes and knew his patient would soon be unconscious. “All right, Murdoch, let’s get this finished and get him settled into bed. Lean him forward a little so I can get that bandage off!” Murdoch did as he was told, ignoring the small sounds coming from his semi conscious son. He knew there was no point in talking, as Scott Lancer could not hear the words of comfort. Murdoch Lancer felt the guilt of all the lost years as he realized he could now console his son, but had no means to do so. Scott Lancer was lost and alone in a silent world where no sound could reach him, and no words could give comfort. Murdoch kept his touch light in hopes that by his own silent touch he could provide some comfort to his son. He watched Jenkins remove the last of the wrap he’d used to bind Scott’s arm to his body and knew the next part would be the hardest. They had to get Scott’s jacket and shirt off him before the doctor could set the broken limb.

Scott felt his father’s arms holding him and sometimes a hand would offer comfort with the slightest of touches. He wanted to thank the older man for being there for him, but there was too much pain running through him. The laudanum did little to help once Jenkins started manipulating him in order to remove the clothing form his upper body. Scott bit his bottom lip in an effort to hide the pain, but Murdoch’s hand on his arm told him he wasn’t hiding anything from his father. Again Scott was catapulted back to his childhood and the coldness of his grandfather. Harlan Garrett loved him, but didn’t believe in coddling his grandson. The blond remembered breaking his leg when he was ten and his grandfather telling him he had to take it like a man and not make a sound. Scott swallowed past the painful lump as he remembered his grandfather’s anger and disappointment when he’d screamed as the doctor grabbed his leg and swiftly set the bone.

Scott felt the jacket slip off his arm and held his breath as the sleeve of his shirt was gripped tightly and eased off his shoulder. The arm was swollen now, and the shirt was harder to pull off than the jacket. Again Murdoch’s touch eased some of the pain, but Scott gritted his teeth while Jenkins pulled the garment from his body. He sucked in air as his stomach churned and his body shivered uncontrollably.

“Easy, Son,” Jenkins said and shook his head when he realized the words would not reach his patient. He saw the uncertainty in the blue eyes and grabbed a basin as Scott Lancer’s stomach gave up the small contents it contained. The elderly doctor looked at the blond in sympathy and knew he had to set the arm as quickly as possible. As soon as the dry heaves subsided, Jenkins gently probed the arm, finding the break at the elbow. “All right, Murdoch, this is where your strength comes in. I need you to hold him tight while I set this!”

Scott felt Jenkins grip his arm above and below the elbow and knew what was about to happen. He felt Murdoch’s arms enfold him tighter and he used his right hand to get his own death grip on his father’s arm. Scott lifted his head until his eyes met those of his brother and tensed up as he felt Jenkins expertly snap the bone back in place. A scream erupted from his throat as the nauseous pain erupted in fire, spreading up through his arm and into his shoulder and upper body. His body arched against his father until he gave into the call of darkness and lay limply in Murdoch’s arms. He didn’t see the silent tears that slipped from the older Lancer’s tightly clenched eyes, or the pain that set itself on his brother’s face, or the trembling sobs that tore through Teresa’s body.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Johnny sat in the chair, hypnotized by the steady rise and fall of his brother’s chest. Two days had come and gone since Scott had the run in with the wagon, but the blond still showed no sign of waking up. Johnny Lancer had known fear before, but the thought of losing the brother he only just began to know was more terrifying than facing down a rattle snake poised to strike.

“Don’t you go thinkin’ about leaving us Scott. We still need to have one of them mud fights, maybe me and you can go up against Murdoch and Teresa, although I’d rather have Teresa throwing one of her real cakes at me than a mud cake.” Johnny kept talking with his brother, ignoring the building headache from the concussion he’d suffered. He leaned back against the chair and closed his eyes, hoping to alleviate the hammer bashing against his skull. He drifted toward sleep with his legs stretched out in front of him and his arms folded across his chest.

Scott opened his eyes and frowned as he waited for the three figures to come into focus. He wasn’t all that surprised when the three became two and then finally settled into a solitary figure sitting beside him. It didn’t surprise him that Johnny would be there, but his sleep befuddled mind could not grasp what had happened to land him in bed again. He tried to move on the bed and cried out as pain erupted through his left arm. He felt a hand touch his right shoulder, but he couldn’t speak. Nauseous rolled through his stomach, rising and falling like the tide in a turbulent sea. He felt his body lifted upwards, but could not hear anything, yet the touch was enough for now.

“Hang on, Scott!” Johnny hissed, forgetting his brother’s lack of hearing as he tried to ease his discomfort. He gently lifted his brother upwards and felt the trembling of the lean body. “Murdoch!” he called as Scott tried to curl into a ball on the bed.

Murdoch Lancer hurried into the room at Johnny’s urgent call for help. He forced his own fears aside as he grabbed the basin and placed it under his heaving son’s mouth. He looked up to see a worried Teresa standing in the doorway.

“Teresa, go find Jenkins and tell him Scott’s awake,” the eldest Lancer ordered and was glad to see the young woman hurry out of the room. He felt Johnny staring at him and knew they were both feeling the same sense of helplessness.

“He’s going to be alright, Son,” Murdoch said.

“Is he, Murdoch? Seems like he’s getting worse...”

“Don’t you dare give up on your brother, Johnny. He needs to feel your confidence and he needs to know you’ll be there for him.”

“Of course I’ll be there for him. Hell, Murdoch, I’m not planning on giving up on him and I won’t let him give up on himself.” He felt the trembling subside, but continued to hold his brother.

Murdoch took a clean cloth and poured water from the picture over it. He walked back to the bed and slowly wiped the cloth over his pale son’s face.

“Lie him back down, Johnny,” the older man ordered.

“I can hold him.”

“I know you can, but we need to make sure he’s okay.”

Johnny placed his brother back on the pillows and watched as pain glazed blue eyes opened and looked at him. “Hey, Brother,” he mouthed.

“Johnny, you okay?” the blond asked, his voice haggard as it turned into a harsh cough.

The gunslinger smiled when he heard his brother’s concerned voice, but the smile quickly disappeared as the dry cough erupted from the injured man. He watched Murdoch fill a glass with water and he eased the blond head up so he could drink the much-needed liquid. 

Scott opened his mouth and sipped at the water, but grimaced when it mixed with the sour taste in his mouth. He turned his head away and spit the moisture into the basin, before drinking a few more sips.

“Thanks,” he said weakly when he was settled back on the bed.

“Anytime, Boston,” Johnny was relieved to see that his brother understood what he’d said. He looked toward the door as Teresa returned with Jenkins.

Jenkins hurried into the room and sat in the chair Johnny vacated. He picked up the paper on the table and printed a few words before turning it toward his patient.

“How are you feeling, Scott, and I don’t want to hear ‘I’m fine’.” Jenkins said so the others would know what he was asking.

“Arm hurts...”

“Anything else?” the doctor wrote.

“Stomach and head...”

“I can give you some Laudanum for the pain and hopefully your stomach should settle soon,” he wrote and turned it toward the blond. He turned to Murdoch and asked. “Did he drink anything?”

“A little water.”

“It’s important that we get him drinking as much as possible. He’s a little dehydrated right now and that can get dangerous fast. He’s been unconscious for two days and this is the first time he’s had anything. When you’re with him make sure it’s only small sips...” He stopped talking as he heard his patient’s distress once more and knew whatever he’d drank was about to make a return trip.

Scott knew they were talking about him, but he couldn’t hear what was being said. His stomach churned and he knew he was going to lose the small amount of water he’d drank. Again, he was lifted forward and held in his brother’s arms while he vomited into the basin. He swallowed painfully and kept his eyes closed when the room spun around him, knowing his brother would keep him safe.

“Johnny?” Jenkins called, but the younger Lancer didn’t seem to hear him and he tried again.  “Johnny?” 

The dark haired Lancer looked up as the doctor’s words penetrated his stupor. “Yeah?” 

“Let him lie down before you both collapse,” Jenkins warned, seeing the pain on the gunslinger’s face. He knew it had a lot to do with how anxious he was about Scott, but there was also the lingering concussion to worry about. 

“I can...” 

“No!” Jenkins interrupted. “You can’t. What I want you to do is go back to bed...”

“Doc!”

“Don’t doc me! Just do it...I’m still angry at you spending last night sleeping in that damn chair and you’re not doing Scott any good either. Murdoch, get your son and make him go...”

“I’m not a kid!” the former gunman snapped.

“Then stop acting like one. You’re not gonna get better by ignoring your own injury and let me tell you a head injury is nothing to fool around with,” Jenkins told him.

Scott felt his upper body placed back against the pillow and opened tired eyes. He knew the men were arguing and didn’t need to hear their heated exchange to know what was going on. Johnny’s face was easy for him to read, and right now the pain was clearly evident. He reached out with his right hand, grabbed his brother’s bare arm and waited for him to turn toward him.

“Go...sleep...”

“Scott...”

“I’m okay, Johnny...need to know...you are...too.”

“I’m fine,” the young man assured his brother.

“Told you be...fore you don’t lie ve...ry well, Bro...ther,” Scott winced as he shifted on the bed. “Go get some sleep...be here when you get b...back.”

“Promise?” Johnny asked worriedly.

“Promise.”

“Alright, Son, you heard your brother. Let’s get you in your bed,” Murdoch said and helped his youngest son stand up, grabbing his arm when the injured man swayed.

Scott watched his father lead his brother from the room and remembered what had happened to them both. Once more he wondered if there was anything for him at Lancer, or would his family be better off if he returned to Boston. He sighed and turned his head when a hand came to rest on his right shoulder.

Jenkins held the dose of Laudanum before his patient’s mouth and waited for him to take it. He thought he would have to force the issue, but the pale lips parted and the young man swallowed the pain medication. He placed the spoon on the table and picked up the paper again.

“Teresa made some broth for you. Do you think you can drink a little?” Scott read and turned a sad gaze on the pretty young woman standing beside the bed. He shook his head and closed his eyes, hiding from the sadness he saw in his ‘sister’s’ eyes, and returning to his silent world.

Murdoch Lancer sat beside his eldest son’s bed, the soft glow from the lamp illuminated Scott’s sleeping form. Johnny was sleeping in the other room, after succumbing to the head injury and weakness he felt. They would be spending at least the night in Green River, giving the injured brothers a chance to rest and hopefully gain some strength. The Lancer patriarch shifted uncomfortably in the chair, once more glancing down at the warring emotions on his son’s face. Scott seemed to be on the verge of waking up, and there was evidence of pain on his face when he moved. 

Murdoch watched as the panic filled blue eyes opened and looked around the room. He reached out and touched the young man’s shoulder and waited for his son to focus on him.

Scott opened his eyes and tried to remember where he was. The unfamiliar surroundings added to his confusion and he sat bolt upright on the small bed. A hand on his shoulder made him turn his head too quickly and he hissed when it pulled no his immobilized arm. He gasped as his eyes met his fathers, and he fought to hold onto his rebelling stomach.

“Easy, Son, I got you,” Murdoch said softly, and knew his son didn’t understand him when panic flared in the soft blue eyes. “Just lie back and take it slow!

“M...Murdoch...can’t...hear...you!” he said, as if realizing for the first time he was deaf. He felt his father gently ease him back on the pillows and winced when the pain was reawakened in his arm.

The older man reached for the sheets of paper and hurriedly began writing. Once finished he turned it toward his son.

“I know, Scott, but everything will be okay. We’ll get you back home and you’ll be able to rest and get well!”

Scott read the words and couldn’t meet his father’s eyes. Again he was overwhelmed with a sense of guilt and loss, and closed his eyes. He missed the worried look on his father’s face as he thought about his plans for the future. He knew now where he belonged, and only one person would be happy with that decision. He could not face the consequences if he stayed at lancer and became a liability to his father and brother. Again he felt his stomach churn and this time was unable to hold back the rising tide of bile that came up in his throat. He opened his eyes when strong arms lifted him forward and he lost whatever was left in his stomach. He saw the older man’s lips moving, but no sound reached his ears as Murdoch placed him back on the pillow. Silent tears filled his eyes as his father picked up a cloth and washed the sweat and moisture from his face. He closed his eyes, not wanting to see the pain written on Murdoch Lancer’s face. He was tired beyond the point of exhaustion, and knew it had nothing to do with the pain coursing through his arm.

Murdoch saw the eyes slide closed and frowned at the look he’d seen on his son’s face. Something told him Scott had come to a decision, and that neither him nor Johnny would like the results. He continued to watch over the younger man, his mind turning to a time so long ago when a small boy looked at him with something akin to sorrow in his eyes. Harlan Garrett would love to get his hands on Scott Lancer and bring him back to Boston, but Murdoch would not give up his son so easily. Somehow he knew that was what the blond had decided.

“I got you, Son, and from now on I always will. There’s no way I’ll let you go off to Boston and I don’t think Johnny will hear of it either...”

“Hear of what?” the dark haired young man asked from the open doorway.

Murdoch stood up and hurried to the swaying young man. Knowing it would be fruitless to order him back to his own bed, he led him into the room and over to the chair beside Scott.

“Hear of what?” Johnny repeated softly.

“Just something I was thinking about, Johnny.”

“What?” Deep blue eye glared up at his father in spite of the drums beating against his skull.

“It’s nothing,” Murdoch said. ‘At least not yet,’ he thought as he looked from one son to the other. Two men, so different in looks, who led lives without knowing the other existed. Two brothers, both taken from him at an early age, yet it was his fault they’d stayed away so long. If only he’d gone after them when he should have, but if only was a game he could not afford to play. His sons were home now and it was up to him to see that they stayed there. 

“Murdoch!”

He shook away the thoughts as he realized Johnny was speaking to him.

“Sorry, Son, what did you say?”

“Was Scott awake?”

“For a few minutes.”

“What was he saying?”

“Not much. He was sick,” the older man looked at the mess on the floor and moved to clean it up.

“He’s not leaving, Murdoch!” Madrid said firmly.

Murdoch turned toward his youngest son and frowned as he realized Johnny was thinking the same thing he was. Somehow they both knew Scott Lancer was thinking of leaving, and a signal passed between them. A silent vow that a brother, a son, would stay at Lancer where he belonged.

“No, Johnny, he’s not!” the patriarch declared and pulled a second chair up by the bed. Together they would watch over the sleeping man and make sure no more harm befell him. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott opened his eyes as the sun’s rays peeked through the curtains covering the window beside his bed. A soft breeze lifted the lace and Scott could see through the partially open pane of glass. Two birds sat on a small tree beside the window and he strained to hear the sound of their twittering. He turned away as nothing reached him, and smiled at the young woman sitting beside his bed. She seemed intent on whatever it was she held in her hands and Scott watched her for a few minutes.

Teresa continued to work the needle through the material she held in her hands. Scott’s shirt was torn when Johnny saved his life, and she was repairing it for him. She felt someone staring at her and lifted her eyes to meet those of the injured man. She placed the sewing on the floor beside her and reached for the paper and pen.

“How are you feeling, Scott?”

He read the words and returned the smile she gave him.

“Thirsty,” he answered softly. He watched as she reached for the pitcher of water and poured a small amount into a glass.

“Here you go,” the young woman said and helped him sit forward. She saw the grimace of pain on his face as he sat up and she eased more pillows behind him.

“Thanks.” Scott took the glass in his right hand and gratefully sipped the cool liquid. He felt her watching him and wanted to let her know he was all right. He handed the glass back after only a few sips as his stomach churned once more. He watched her write on the paper and again read what she wrote.

“Do you feel like eating something?”

“Not right now, Teresa,” he answered and saw the look of sadness in her eyes. “Where’s Johnny? Is he okay?” The pen rushed across the paper and he read the message.

“Johnny’s fine. He’s sleeping right now. Dr. Jenkins says that’s what he needs.”

“Because of me,” he stated sadly and closed his eyes.

Teresa quickly wrote another message and touched the blond’s right shoulder, she waited for him to look at her and pointed to the words she’d written.

“No, Scott, it was not your fault! It was an accident and no one blames you! No one!”

“Thanks, Teresa,” he said, again thinking of the decision he’d made. As soon as he could get to the telegraph office he would send a message to his grandfather. He knew he was being a coward, but he couldn’t face the pitying look he’d seen in Teresa’s eyes. Scott knew he couldn’t make the trip to Boston alone. He would wait for his grandfather and leave as soon as the elderly man sent someone for him. He felt the pain in his chest intensify as he tried to harden his heart to the protests he knew he’d get from his family. Too exhausted to think clearly he drifted into a sleep where Johnny’s eyes implored him to stay.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott wanted to remain where he was, but the throbbing pain in his head intensified until he felt as if his head would explode. His stomach churned and a soft moan left his lips, as he struggled to get both it and the pain under control.

Jenkins heard the soft moan from his patient and gently placed a hand on the bare right shoulder. The thick bandages wrapped around Scott Lancer’s chest and left arm ensured the young man could not move the injured limb. He’d seen the pain on the young man’s face and knew he was on the verge of waking up.

“Easy, Son,” he said. In spite of his patient’s lack of hearing, Jenkins felt as if he needed to say the words. To continue to give hope to Scott Lancer’s family that his hearing would return with time.

Scott felt the touch on his shoulder and cried out as a sharp ringing pounded in his ears. He lifted his right arm and tried to block the noise, but realized the noise was not from the outside world as his eyes opened in fear and shock. His stomach continued its rebellious course as he struggled to sit up.

“No!” he cried as strong arms reached out to enfold him in an open embrace. He used his right arm to cling to the strong form seated on his bed. His breath came in hitching gasps as the ringing continued, and dry heaves caused pain to radiate up and down his left arm.

Murdoch Lancer had been in the outer office when he heard his son’s cry of distress. He’d come into the room to see Scott’s eyes wide with pain, and his struggles against the doctor. Without realizing what he was doing, he lifted the doctor out of the way and sat on the edge of the bed. Using the strength born of a father’s love, something he’d only recently had the chance to show, he pulled his eldest son into a comforting embrace. One that was meant to give comfort, yet it also gave him a sense of relief.

“Easy, Scott, I got you, and I’m not letting you go,” the Lancer patriarch soothed, holding his son close as tremor racked his body. “I’m here, Son...so is Johnny...and Teresa. We’re going to make sure you’re safe.”

Jenkins watched as his long time friend held the son he’d so recently discovered. Scott and Johnny Lancer were both taken from their father at an early age. It tore him apart to think of how many times he watched Murdoch drown his sorrows in a bottle when he thought no one was watching. He remembered a time when the man had journeyed to Boston to take what was rightfully his. The devastation on the handsome face when he returned empty handed was nearly his undoing. He knew Johnny’s mother had taken him away at an early age and despite Murdoch’s search for them, no trace was found. The fact that Murdoch knew where Scott was haunted the Lancer patriarch for many years, and Jenkins knew it always would. The two boys were home now, working for the rightful heritage they both deserved, and he preyed the family would stay together.

The doctor left the two men and moved to get the broth Teresa prepared for the injured man. He knew the young woman was out front with Johnny, making sure he stayed put while he ate a light lunch. He checked the two people and moved into the kitchen.

Murdoch felt the trembling ease, and was pleased when his son didn’t pull away. He wondered how many times Harlan held Scott like this when he was hurt or sick, frowning as he recalled the cold hearted man who tried to take Scott back to Boston. A sense of profound sadness caused his heart to skip a beat when he realized Scott may have grown up in a rich environment, but he was just as deprived of his family as Johnny was. At least Johnny’s mother had been around to care for him; Scott was left at the mercy of his grandfather. A man Murdoch now despised yet would put up with because he was Catherine’s father and Scott’s grandfather.

“Murdoch...”

The older man eased his son back on the pillows and met the pain filled blue eyes. “I’m here,” he mouthed as Jenkins came back into the room with a tray.

“How is he?” Jenkins asked and set the tray down on the small table.

“He’s okay.”

Jenkins nodded and picked up the paper beside the tray. He wrote quickly and turned it toward Scott.

“Feel up to a little broth?”

“Not really,” the young man said softly and turned away.

Murdoch met the doctor’s worried gaze and knew they needed to get his son eating. He looked toward the door as Johnny and Teresa entered.

Johnny knew something was wrong the instant he entered the room. He looked from his father to the doctor and finally rested his gaze on his brother. He knew his brother could be stubborn, and yet he realized this had nothing to do with stubbornness. Somehow he needed to prove to Scott that he was not only needed at Lancer, but more importantly, he was wanted there. He moved to the opposite side of the bed and pulled up a second chair. He saw the closed eyes and the pale face and the single trail of moisture leading from the closed blue grey beacons.

“What’s going on?” he asked softly.

“We need to get him eating, Johnny,” Murdoch answered.

“He’s not going to get well until he does,” Jenkins informed them.

“All right, leave it to me,” the gunman said and reached out to touch his brother. “Hey, Scott,” he said slowly when his brother’s eyes opened and focused on him.

“Johnny, are you okay?”

Johnny took the paper from Jenkins and wrote his answer swiftly.

“I’m fine, Boston. It’s you we’re worried about.”

“No need to worry. I’m fine,” Scott assured him and watched as his brother answered via the paper.

“Sure you are! Look, brother, see Teresa over there by the door?”

“Yes.” Again the message was hastily written and turned toward him.

“She made this broth especially for you. Now we both know how much work she puts into her meals. Are you gonna let her down by not even trying to eat it.”

Scott read the note and turned to the young woman standing in the doorway. He knew what his brother was doing and sensed the worry that made him use blackmail.

“...okay...” he whispered softly. He saw the soft smile on his brother’s face and knew he’d made the right decision. For now he would let them care for him and enjoy it while it lasted. He knew there’d be none of the warmth he felt from this group once he left for Boston. Once there his life would return to the ‘Yes, Sir, No, Sir’ he’d grown up with. He turned and read the new message his brother placed in front of him.

“We’re gonna need to sit you up more.”

“Okay,” the blond muttered and braced himself for the pain he knew was to come. He closed his eyes as his weak body was lifted and pillows placed behind him.

“I can do it,” he said when Johnny reached for the tray.

“All right, Boston,” the younger Lancer said and placed the tray on his brother’s lap.

Scott slowly reached for the spoon, feeling several pairs of eyes watching him as he took the first taste of the flavorful broth. He smiled weakly at the young woman and took a second taste.

“This is really good, Teresa,” he said, in an effort to ease the worry in the soft face. His words resulted in the smile he hoped to see and he slowly finished the broth. He watched as the doctor poured water into a glass and handed it to him. He took a couple of sips, before turning his head and closing his eyes against the encroaching headache. The ringing in his ears was back and he wondered if that was the only sound he would ever hear again. Again he felt someone touch his shoulder and met his father’s eyes, seeing for the first time just how much the man cared.

He looked at the others in the room and wondered how he could live without them. Boston was a long way from Lancer, and the move there would put distance between him and the family he’d only just begun to know. It would end any chance of knowing just what lay behind the deep blue eyes of his brother. Yet to stay at Lancer could only end in tragedy. His heart wanted him to stay, to live at Lancer in spite of the silent world surrounding him, yet his mind was made up. As soon as he was able he’d be moving back to the city he grew up in, back to a life where he existed, instead of lived. A shudder ran through his slight frame as he pictured his grandfather’s stern face. There was no doubt that he loved Scott, but that love was more out of possession, than out of warmth. 

“T...tired,” he said as he closed his eyes, fighting back the tears that again threatened to fall. He knew the queasiness in his stomach had nothing to do with Teresa’s broth; instead it was a sense of loss that caused the churning. A loss he didn’t know if he could live with. He felt himself drifting toward sleep, knowing, at least for now, his father and brother would be there when he woke up.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two days later Scott was awake enough that Jenkins allowed him out of bed. He still felt dizzy and nauseous, but was finally able to keep liquids where he put them. His left arm was tightly immobilized against his body, throbbing painfully and reminding him it was time to rest. He knew he couldn’t go in yet; there was something he needed to take care of. He sat in the swing on the doctor’s porch; sipping at the cool cider Teresa made him, alone for the first time since the incident in the street.

The sun shone brightly overhead, spreading her warm rays like a blanket over the town. Scott shivered as he watched the people in the street. Some walked, others rode on horses, while children played happily in the alley across the street. A dog raced by, barking and yapping, while two small boys chased it.

The whole scene should have brought a smile to the blond’s face, but today it brought nothing but a feeling of loss and a deep sadness. He took another sip of the cider, and looked out at the silent world he found himself trapped in. It reminded him of a trip to the park with a couple of other boys from the private school he attended in Boston. He stood for hours watching this man performing for the people walking by. The man didn’t say a word, but mimed things with his hands, eyes, and body. He remembered laughing at some of the gestures and how the mime had come over to him and made a few gestures toward him. To this day Scott could not understand what was said, but he enjoyed every minute of the attention, something he rarely got, unless his grandfather thought he’d done something wrong.

He watched as George Wilkins walked toward the general store across the street and called out to him. He knew the telegraph operator was aware of his deafness, but the man’s lips moved in silent greeting as he hurried toward the doctor’s office.

George Wilkins was unsure of how to speak with this particular Lancer. He’d always enjoyed talking to the young man, but now that ability was no longer there. Communication was a two way street and Scott was now missing a major portion of that.

“Howdy, Scott,” he finally said as he stood in front of the blond.

“Hello, Mr. Wilkins. I need you to send a telegram for me.” Scott reached into his pocket and pulled out the small slip of paper with his neat handwriting on it. He re-read the words once more before handing it to Wilkins. “Send it right away,” the blond ordered.

Wilkins looked at the young man and back to the paper, reading the finely lettered note once more. He recognized the name at the top, Harlan Garrett, Boston.

Grandfather, wish to come home. Have lost hearing in accident and cannot function at Lancer. Cannot make trip on my own, will await your answer...affectionately, Scotty.

 “Are you sure, Scott? Does Murdoch know about this?”

 “I’m sorry, Mr. Wilkins, I can’t understand you. Please, just send the telegram as soon as possible and let me know when you receive an answer.”

 "I...I ...”

Scott reached into his pocket and pulled out the money he had there. He passed the older man enough to cover the telegram. Scott remembered how hard it was to write the note to his grandfather, how many times he tore it up and re-wrote it. Somehow he just couldn’t think of Boston as home anymore. Home was a place where your heart lived and Boston was not in his heart. He survived at his grandfather’s house, but he lived at Lancer. He loved the freedom of the open range, the splendor of the trees, brush, and grass. Compared to the cold, hard properties that lined the streets of Boston, Lancer really was a little piece of Heaven. He knew the city was not as bad as he thought, but the reality was his heart belonged at Lancer, with the people he cared for. Again a sense of loss washed over him. At Lancer his family wanted him for who he was, in Boston he was wanted because of who he was related to. Harlan Garrett was well known and on top of the elite list of Boston. Over the years Scott lost track of how many parties he attended because his grandfather thought it would help him go places. He shook his head as Wilkins’ words broke through his thoughts.

“Scott...”

“Thank you, Mr. Wilkins.” Scott abruptly turned away and walked back into the doctor’s office. He knew Teresa, Murdoch, and Johnny were in the kitchen, and he bypassed it to the room he was staying in. He didn’t know how he was going to tell them he was leaving Lancer, and prayed they would understand his reason. ‘I’m sorry, Johnny,’ he thought as he stumbled through the door.

Scott grabbed at the chair inside the door as loud ringing began in his ears, pounding through his skull and making the room spin. He cried out as he dropped to his knees, his right hand clutching at his ears as he tried to remain upright. He fought against the rising bile in his throat, breathing through his nose in an effort to bring enough air into his panicked lungs.

Johnny watched as his brother came into the house and knew something was wrong. Without a word to his father or Teresa he stood and walked into the other room, just in time to hear his brother’s cry of pain. He ran into the room and knelt beside the older Lancer, his hand reaching for the blond’s left arm.

“Easy, Scott, I gotcha,” he soothed, knowing his brother couldn’t hear him, but needing to voice the words anyway.

Scott felt someone kneeling beside him and forced his eyes open. He turned his head slightly and again felt nauseous as the movement sent explosive pain through his skull. The contents of his stomach emptied once more and he lifted pain filled eyes to meet his brother’s.

“J...Johnny, He...help...me...H...head hurts...bad...” he stammered.

“I am, Boston,” the dark haired Lancer said as he stood up. He turned his worried gaze on Murdoch as the older man came into the room.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know!”

“Help me get him into bed!” Murdoch ordered. The two men helped the blond stand and Johnny took his weight on his shoulder as his father turned down the covers on the bed. They eased him onto the bed and watched as the lids closed over the blue eyes. He reached down and flicked the hair off Scott’s forehead and smiled as the eyes opened once more.

“S...sorry, Johnny, didn’t m...mean for y...you to get h...hurt.”

“It’s okay, Scott, go to sleep!” Johnny mouthed and knew his brother understood his simple words.

“H...head hurts...”

Johnny looked toward the door just as Jenkins entered the room. “Doc, can we give him some laudanum?”

Jenkins moved toward the bed as Johnny moved out of the way. “Let me have a look at him and we’ll see what we can do.”

Scott closed his eyes while the doctor examined him. The ringing was beginning to subside, but the pain wasn’t. He lost track of time as Jenkins checked him over. A hand touching his forehead had him opening his eyes once more. He saw the pain in his father’s eyes and wished he could do something to ease it, yet the news he was going to tell them would cause more pain. He turned his head as Murdoch pointed to the opposite side.

“Scott, how bad is the head ache and how did it start?”

“Feels like h...head’s...ready to ex...plode. Ringing... and then pain,” the young man explained and waited to read what the doctor was writing. Through blurred vision he read the hastily scrawled letter.

“Scott, I’m going to give you some laudanum and then I want you to go to sleep.”

“Need t...talk...Murdoch and J...Johnny...Need them t...to under...stand...”

“Understand what, Son?” Murdoch asked as Jenkins turned the paper toward his patient.

“Later! Right now it’s important that you rest. Any arguments and I’m not gonna let you go home tomorrow morning!”

“Im...portant.”

Johnny could tell his brother was in a lot of pain as the doctor forced him to take the laudanum. He reached out and placed his hand on the blond’s shoulder and spoke softly, making sure the words were perfectly clear.

“We’ll talk later, Scott. Sleep for now and we’ll be here when you wake up!”

Scott had no problem understanding his brother’s words and he nodded slightly. He closed his eyes and thought about the decision he’d made and the message he sent. A frown formed on his face as he thought about his grandfather’s reaction to the telegram. Would the elderly man still want him, or would he disown him as damaged goods? What would he do if Harlan Garrett refused to send someone for him? Could he live at Lancer knowing he would be a burden to his father and brother? He slipped toward sleep; not realizing his brother was watching the emotions flitting across his pale face.

Johnny looked at his father and knew the older man was worried about what he saw as well. “I’ll stay with him, Murdoch.”

“Alright, Son, come get me when he wakes up.”

“I will,” Johnny turned back to his brother, not sure he wanted to hear what Scott would tell him once he woke up. ‘I won’t give up my brother, Scott!’ he vowed as he rubbed his fingers against his own head wound.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch stepped out the front door and sat heavily on the porch swing. His family was finally whole, and he wanted it to stay that way. Somehow he knew whatever Scott was going to tell him could see that family torn apart once more. ‘I won’t give up my sons,’ he vowed, unaware of how closely his thoughts mirrored his youngest son’s.

“Murdoch?”

The Lancer patriarch turned to see George Wilkins coming toward him.

“Hello, George. Something I can do for you?”

“Y...yeah,” the man stammered. “Tell Scott I sent his telegram.”

Murdoch came to his feet and stepped off the porch. His eyes grew icy as he looked at the man cowering before him.

“What telegram? When was this?”

“Just a little while ago Scott called me over and asked me to send a telegram for him.”

“To who?” Murdoch asked, dreading the answer he knew was coming.

“To his grandfather in Boston!”

“Dammit, why would he send Harlan Garrett a telegram? What did it say?”

“I...I can’t...I’m not supposed to...”

“George, if it involves my son then I have a right to know!” Murdoch hissed, not caring that this man was just doing his job.

“I know, Murdoch, and I’m sorry, but Scott’s a grown man and I have to keep his confidence! I’m sorry.”

“Just tell me one thing. Is Scott planning on going back to Boston?”

Wilkins nodded almost imperceptibly, knowing how hard this was on the elder Lancer. “I’m sorry, Murdoch.”

“Me too,” the older man said dejectedly. He walked back into the house and stood in the doorway of the room housing his two sons. He watched the dark haired man caring for the blond haired man, and knew he would do everything in his power to keep both sons at Lancer. No matter what it took, he would make Scott realize his life was here... his family was here... his heart was here...he belonged here.

“Murdoch, is everything okay?”

He turned and smiled at Teresa O’Brien as she came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands in her apron. “Everything’s fine, Teresa, or it will be once we get home.”

“Are we still leaving in the morning?”

“Guess it depends on how Scott is feeling,” Murdoch said, his right shoulder leaning heavily against the doorframe.

“You look tired, Murdoch. Why don’t you lie down for a while?”

He couldn’t help but smile at the concern on the young woman’s face and knew she was as much a part of Lancer as his son’s were. “I’m fine, Teresa, just worried about Scott.”

“We all are,” she said and felt tears form in her eyes. She met his steady gaze and knew there was something bothering him, but let it go as she looked into the room. The two men were like brothers to her and she would fight to keep her family together. She grabbed Murdoch’s arm and walked into the room.

Johnny looked up as Murdoch and Teresa approached and smiled weakly at them. The headache that had been bearable earlier was now a painful reminder of the accident that could cost him his brother. He knew Scott blamed himself for what happened and it would take all of them to make sure the blond remained a part of their lives. He watched as his father and the woman he thought of as a sister pulled up chairs and joined him in his vigil over his brother.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott opened his eyes to the sun streaming through the window next to his bed. Frowning he looked around and wondered at the unnatural silence, but all too soon his memory cleared and he knew why everything was deadly quiet. He shifted on the bed and caught sight of a familiar form seated in the chair next to him. His father must have dozed off during his vigil, because the older man’s eyes were closed and his head was tilted to the right.

Scott studied the handsome face and wondered what it would have been like to have this man with him during his childhood. What would it have been like to have Murdoch Lancer beside him during the nightmares he’d suffered after the worst experience a child could have? Scott frowned as he remembered the dark cellar and The Dark Man’s voice. A shiver ran down his spine at the thought of the long dormant memories. He looked again at his father and knew the older man would’ve been there if he’d known. He closed his eyes and a vivid image of the very real monster from his childhood flashed across his mind. Not for the first time he wondered where that man was today and how many other’s suffered as his early victims had.

Murdoch knew his son was awake and watched him through slitted eyes. Scott slept through the night and for that he was grateful. Jenkins would be in later this morning to examine him and make up his mind whether they could go back to Lancer. He knew the doctor was worried about Scott’s head injury and would not release him until he was sure the young man would not suffer any ill effects from the journey. He watched as something akin to fear crossed the pale face and gently reached out to touch his son’s shoulders. 

Scott flinched at the touch until he realized who it was and gazed into the warmth of his father’s eyes. Instantly he saw the love he’d missed behind the worried expression and knew in his heart he didn’t want to leave. Lancer was his home, Murdoch, Johnny, and Teresa were his family, and for that reason he wondered if he could really leave if and when the time came.

“Good morning, Son,” Murdoch mouthed softly.

Scott shifted on the bed, wincing at the pain in his arm. “Good morning, Murdoch,” he said and watched as his father picked up the ever present paper and pen.

“How do you feel?” the blond read.

“Fine,” the young man answered and awkwardly sat up in the bed, easing his legs over the side. He smiled as he felt strong hands on his arm and the incredible feeling of warmth they provided. The nightmares images of The Dark Man quickly dissipated as his father helped him sit on the edge of the bed.

“Easy, Son,” Murdoch said instinctively as his son closed his eyes in an effort to ward off a wave of dizziness.

“Thanks, Murdoch,” the young man said and looked up to see his brother standing framed in the doorway. There was something about Johnny Lancer that oozed confidence and at times like this Scott found himself envious of his younger brother. He knew in his heart the dark haired man felt the same way about him, yet sometimes Scott wondered if he really did have that same power inside him. He looked at the paper as Murdoch held it in front of him once more.

“Do you want something to eat?”

“Coffee,” the blond answered and saw his brother smile.

“Coffee and breakfast coming up. I’ll be right back,” Murdoch wrote.

Johnny moved out of the way and let his father exit the room before he made his way toward the bed. He ignored the chair and sat next to his brother. He picked up the paper and looked at his father’s strong handwriting and added his own underneath.

“Are you ready to go home?”

Scott swallowed the lump in his throat as he read the simple words. He tried to meet his brother’s gaze, but something about the words on the page made him realize it would not be his home much longer.

“W...when can we leave?” he asked.

“Soon’s the doc says you’re okay,” Johnny wrote.

Scott looked toward the window and didn’t realize he was speaking aloud as he voiced his thoughts.

“G...good, I want as much time there as I can get,” he muttered, his right hand rubbing at his throbbing left shoulder.

Johnny heard the raw pain in the softly spoken words. His resolve to keep his brother where he belonged was strengthened by the emotions those words evoked in him. He looked at the paper and realized the words he needed to say could not be done with paper and pencil. He needed his brother to understand just how much they’d be losing if he decided to leave their home. He turned to Scott and as the older man stared out the window. The sound of the world outside met his ears and he knew he had no idea what his brother was feeling. He looked up when Murdoch and Jenkins came into the room.

Jenkins moved to the bed and looked at his patients. “Johnny, how are you feeling?”

“Better, Doc,” the dark haired Lancer answered.

“How’s the headache?”

“Not too bad.”

“Have you eaten anything?”

“Yeah, Teresa wouldn’t let me out of the kitchen until I ate a dozen or so flapjacks,” he answered with a grin.

“All right, as long as you’ve got a little of your appetite back, I’d say you’re gonna be just fine. Now if you’ll excuse me I’d like to examine Scott and see if I can kick you both out of here today. Maybe I’ll be able to get a real night’s sleep for a change,” the older man snapped, but the smile on his face belied the harsh tones.

“Sure, Doc,” Johnny gave him a grin of his own and moved away from the bed.

Scott took a deep breath as his brother stood up. He’d watched the conversation between the two men, but the hastily spoken words were impossible to read. The smile on his brother’s face was easy to read, as was the twinkle of mischief in the younger man’s blue eyes. ‘Can I really give that up now?’ he thought as the doctor sat in the chair.

“How do you feel this morning, Scott?” the older man wrote and placed it before his patient.

“I’m okay, Doc, just want to go h...home,” he knew the others didn’t miss his stumbling over the last word, and he kept his eyes from meeting theirs as the doctor wrote the next words.

“Well, let me take a look at you and we’ll see about springing you today,” the injured man nodded and watched as the other men left the room.

“Lie back,” the doctor ordered.

Scott lay still on the bed as Jenkins checked him over. He lost track of time as he lay with his eyes closed, and was surprised as the doctor patted his shoulder. He looked at the paper the man held before his eyes and quickly read the message.

“Everything looks pretty good right now. Teresa is making you a light breakfast and yes she’s making coffee too. If you hold it down I’ll agree to let you leave. Until then I want you resting.”

“Okay,” the blond answered and struggled to sit up once more.

Jenkins helped the young man sit on the side of the bed and patted his shoulder.

“Everything will work out,” he said softly, knowing Scott understood the short message. He walked to the door and was not surprised to see the two Lancer men standing on opposite side of the door.

“How is he, Doc?” Johnny asked.

“He seems much better.”

“Then we can go home?” Murdoch asked.

“If he can keep his breakfast down and feels up to it you can leave around noon, but he’s going to need plenty of rest once you get back to the ranch,” the doctor explained.

“We’ll make sure he rests,” Teresa said as she joined the three men. She held a tray in her hands and moved past them into the room. They heard her talk to Scott as she settled the tray on the small table.

“If I do let him go home today there’s no way he’s gonna be able to ride, and I’d rather Johnny didn’t either...”

“I’m fine, Doc...”

“Sure you are and I want to make sure you stay that way.”

“Doc...”

“Johnny,” Murdoch said softly. “Scott’s not going to be able to handle the rig and I’d feel better if you were the one at the reins.”

Jenkins watched the small smile form on the younger man’s face and knew his father had used the right words on his son. ‘You may not have known each other very long, but I think you’ve both learned to read each other,’ he thought as Johnny nodded his head. He turned his attention back to the blond patient and watched as he began to eat his breakfast.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Several hours later with the sun high in the sky as the Lancer family was ready to head back to their home, a telegram was delivered into the hands of Harlan Garrett. The elderly man closed the door and hurried to his desk to read the missive. The words were edged in pain, yet the conniving man was pleased to get his grandson back no matter what the cause. He hated the idea that Scott Lancer could no longer hear, but he dearly loved his grandson, and would gladly have him back in Boston where he could keep him safe.

‘Like you did when he tried to tell you about the dark man,’ a soft voice inside his head reminded him.

‘I did what I had to do to keep him safe,’ he thought, but knew in his heart that was only part of the reason. He didn’t want to face the fact that his grandson might not have fallen into the madman’s hands if he hadn’t blackmailed Murdoch Lancer into leaving the boy where he was. Garrett knew he had many things to answer for, but for now he was content in the knowledge that he would soon leave for Lancer and collect his grandson. He stood up and walked to the window, his eyes raking over the busy Boston street he lived on. Could he keep Scott safe here? Would the young man be happy? It didn’t really matter at that moment, for Harlan Garrett was a man who was about to get what he wanted.

“I always do!” he said aloud and went back to his desk to ready an answer to grandson’s call for help.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny knew Jenkins was right to suggest he drive the buggy. The trip was nearly over, but his head was ready to explode. His body was now beyond exhaustion as he kept his eyes straight ahead. He looked up as Murdoch rode up beside him.

“Johnny, we can take a break if you need to,” the older man said worriedly. He’d seen his son’s shoulders begin to slump and hadn’t missed the movement of the young man’s head as if he was warding off pain.

“No, it’ll be better once we get home, besides I don’t want to wake Scott,” Johnny winced.

“Your brother’s been awake for some time now, and I think he needs the break even more than you do. Come on, pull the wagon off to the side and we’ll see about eating the chicken Teresa brought with her.”

Johnny looked at his brother and was surprised to see the blue-gray eyes looking at him curiously. He smiled weakly and did as his father suggested. He climbed out of the buggy and grabbed the side as a wave of dizziness washed over him.

“Maybe we should’ve had the doctor check you out before we left,” Teresa said as she led the younger man to a shady tree.

“I’m okay, Teresa. Let me help you get things ready.”

“I don’t think so, Johnny. You stay where you are and watch Scott while Murdoch and I fix lunch,” the young woman said, planting her hands on her hips to make it clear there was no other choice for him.

Johnny smiled and shook his head, wincing when the movement seemed to rattle his skull. He closed his eyes and waited for the pain to ease.

Scott looked worriedly at his brother as he eased down beside him. The pale complexion and the beads of perspiration on the younger man’s forehead told him Johnny was not as well as he wanted him to believe. He turned his attention to his father and Teresa as they hurriedly started a fire and set about making an early dinner and brewing coffee. His eyes drifted closed as he felt his brother ease him down to the ground. His head lay on Johnny’s leg and he soon eased into a light sleep, silence the only world he now knew. Somehow the caring concern of his brother and the ease with which he treated him was a soothing balm to his own rattled nerves.

“Johnny, dinner’s ready,” Murdoch said as he joined his two sons.

“Smells good,” the young man said. He looked down at the sleeping man and smiled. “Scott’s asleep.”

“Yeah, I think he is, but we need to get him to eat and drink so we can get you both home and into bed,” the older man explained.

“Yeah, guess you’re right,” the gunslinger said and tapped Scott’s pale cheek lightly. He waited as Scott fought to open his eyes and then smiled in spite of his own throbbing skull.

“W...what’s wrong?” the blond asked, lifting his head from the pillow he’d made of Johnny’s leg.

“Time to eat,” his brother said and pointed to the blanket spread on the ground under another tree.

Scott turned and nodded his head. He looked up to see his father offering his hand and reached for it. He soon stood on shaky legs and winced as the movement jarred his injured arm.

It wasn’t long before lunch was finished and the tiny entourage was back on the road for home, the two younger Lancers seated in the buggy. Neither man felt very well as the sun continued to beat down on them from overhead.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jelly looked toward the gate as the dying sun dipped below the horizon, sending its signal that night would soon be on hand. He stood up to head inside when movement caught his attention. He smiled as the group got closer and he recognized them silhouetted against the darkening sky. The smile quickly changed to a frown when he saw the two figures in the buggy. Both men looked like they needed to spend a week in bed and he hurried to meet them. He knew about the injuries because Murdoch sent word soon after the accident and explained they’d be staying in town until Scott and Johnny were better able to travel. 

“Jelly, get a couple of hands to take care of the horses and supplies,” Murdoch ordered, dismounting gracefully and moving to the buggy. He saw the older man hurry toward the bunkhouse as Teresa joined him.

“I’ll help Johnny,” she offered.

“D...don’t need a...any help. Get S...Scott!” the young man snapped, his hand going to his head as a moan escaped his mouth.

“Johnny, enough!” Murdoch scolded tiredly. He knew his dark haired son was in pain, but was too stubborn to ask for help. “Let Teresa get you into the house. I can handle Scott on my own.”

“Carl and Jake are on their way, Murdoch. Come on, Johnny, let’s get you inside,” Hoskins ordered and lent his support to Teresa’s.”

“Thanks, Jelly,” Teresa said simply.

“Okay, Scott, your turn,” Murdoch said, worried about his son’s tight expression.

Scott looked at him and shook his head that he didn’t understand. He watched as Murdoch explained where they’d be going through a series of simple hand gestures.

“...okay...” the blond said and accepted the offered shoulder to lean on. His arm was a throbbing mass of agony and nauseous once again threatened to empty his stomach. He looked toward the house and once more wondered how he was going to leave all of this behind. In the short time he’d lived here, Lancer had become his home, and no matter where he lived, this was where he belonged. He struggled to keep moving as the agony in his shoulder intensified and a sharp ringing sounded once more in his skull. He groaned and pulled away from Murdoch as his stomach heaved its contents onto the ground. His legs trembled and he would’ve fallen if strong hands hadn’t latched onto his waist. He moved as if his body belonged to someone else and soon felt himself lowered onto his bed. Scott knew his father was still with him as his boots were removed and the rest of his clothing soon followed. His head was lifted and something was placed before his mouth and he automatically took the offering. He recognized the taste of laudanum and looked gratefully at the older man.

“H...home,” he murmured as he felt the call of sleep. “D...don’t wa...want to l...leave,” he said without realizing he spoke aloud.

“You won’t, Scott. Johnny, Teresa and I will make sure of that!” he vowed and pulled the blankets up over the sleeping blond. He turned out the lamp and walked to the door. Looking back at the young man once more, he left the door open and went to check on his other son.

He smiled as he looked in on the younger man. Johnny, lay on his side, his face turned toward him, eyes closed in sleep. The soft sound of his breathing reassured the Lancer patriarch that his son would be fine if he’d rest and let the head injury heal properly. Yet he knew where he’d find him as soon as he woke up. At times Johnny seemed overprotective of his brother, and Murdoch realized Scott did the same thing with Johnny, only he didn’t show it as easily. Scott’s strict upbringing had succeeded in curtailing his emotions and he simply kept them hidden from those he cared about. Somehow, they needed to make him realize he was wanted and needed at Lancer.

Murdoch moved to the bed and placed his hand on Johnny’s forehead. Smiling as he thought how innocent the young man looked in sleep. A soft sigh escaped is son’s slack lips and he reluctantly removed his hand so as not to awaken him. He turned away from the bed and walked out of the room. As he’d done with his eldest son he left the door open in case the young man needed anything. 

His mind wondered over the last few weeks and the injury that cost Scott his hearing. He still held out hope that it would reverse itself, but he knew the longer the silence remained for his son, the less likelihood of its return on its own. He walked into the kitchen and found Teresa busy at the table, mixing batter in a large bowl. He knew she was worried and this was her way of keeping busy and making sure his sons ate properly. He sat at the table and smiled as she placed a cup of coffee in front of him.

“Thank you,” he said and sipped the strong brew.

“You’re welcome, Murdoch. How are they?”

“Sleeping. The trip back wore them both out. You look tired yourself, Teresa. Why don’t you leave that and get some rest?”

“I’m just gonna get a few things ready in case they wake up hungry. You know Johnny’s appetite.”

“Yes, he does like to eat,” the elder Lancer smiled as he thought of the meals his son put away.

“Murdoch?”

He turned to see Jelly Hoskins standing framed in the doorway. “What’s wrong?” he asked worriedly.

“Ain’t nothin’ wrong. Jest wanted ta let ya know the horses and supplies are put away.”

“Thanks, Jelly.”

“Weren’t no problem. Why don’tcha go get some rest? I’ll keep watch over them two!”

Murdoch nodded gratefully and stood up. The last few days were catching up with him and his body now craved the relief that only a good night’s sleep could bring. He looked at his young charge and smiled softly at her.

“Leave that, Teresa and get some sleep.”

“I need to finish...”

“I’ll finish it for you,” Hoskins said and reached for the spoon and bowl.

“Alright,” she said, seeing the look on the older man’s face. She handed the items over and moved out of the kitchen.

“Jelly, call me if either of them wakes up!” Murdoch ordered.

“I will, now git!” Hoskins said, trying to ease the tension he saw in his friend’s face.

Murdoch nodded and moved back up the stairs. He checked his sons once more, finding Johnny in the same position, he moved to the second room. Scott now lay on his right side, his left knee drawn up and crossed over his right leg. The blankets had slipped off the young man’s waist and he moved to cover him, wincing when he noted the way the blond’s ribs seemed more prominent because of the weight loss. Scott looked more vulnerable than he’d ever seen him and again he thought of the wasted years. Years he could’ve shared with this fine young man if he’d just fought Harlan Garrett. At the time the decision to leave was made because he didn’t want to uproot the young man from the only home he’d ever known. He’d come to regret that decision, especially after hearing how Scott’s life had lacked the nurturing touch of a loving parent. He knew Garrett loved his grandson, but the elderly man had never been open about it. He remembered how Catherine felt when they’d married, and wished she’d told him more about her father.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, Son, but I promise to do everything in my power to see that you stay where you belong!” Murdoch vowed, before turning toward the door and making his way toward his own room. He dropped wearily onto the bed and lay back on the pillows. Sleep was as elusive now as it was in Jenkins’ clinic and he found himself staring at the ceiling, worrying about both young men and the family he’d only just begun to know. His eyes finally closed as he drifted toward a familiar dream. Catherine appeared before him, smiling contentedly as she held her arms out to him. A soft sigh left his lips as he sank deeper into the dream that was still so vivid in spite of the passing years.

“I will keep him safe, Catherine,” his sleepy voice whispered in the dark room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott opened his eyes and moved on the bed. In spite of the darkness he knew he was home, and he closed his eyes, sighing at the familiarity he felt with this room. He knew where everything was, and slowly slid his legs over the side of the bed as he sat up. He winced when the movement jolted his injured arm, but continued upward until he sat on the edge of his bed. Sweat beaded on his bare chest and forehead while he waited for the pain to ease.

Scott stood up and made his way to the chair beside the window and reached for his clothes. He picked up his pants and shirt and moved back to his bed. He sat down and placed the clothes beside him. The short trip had depleted his meager energy, but he wasn’t going to let it defeat him. He reached for the pants and struggled to get them on, again wincing when the pain intensified.

Fifteen minutes later, Scott Lancer stood up and drew himself to his full height. He’d long since given up on buttoning the shirt and held the two ends together with his right hand and made his way to the door. He’d grown used to the silence of his world and hoped the others were still sleeping as he walked barefooted down the stairs and toward the main door. Scott slowly reached for the ornate handle and eased the door open. He walked out onto the porch and looked toward the swing at the end. He needed to be here, needed to make sure this part of Lancer was imprinted on his mind.

Solitude, that’s what he’d grown up with and knew his childhood memories were filled with the need for his grandfather’s approval. To know the elderly man loved him for who he was. How often had he longed to hear Harlan Garrett speak the simple words that every child needed to hear? Now he would never hear them from his grandfather, never hear them from anybody. The silence, the solitude, the loneliness was his alone and he wondered if he could face living in Boston again. He’d loved the city as a child, loved the people in spite of the fast pace they kept. Yet, Lancer was where he belonged, where he was loved and needed, but the thought of burdening his family overshadowed his own need and again he resolved to move back to Boston if his grandfather still wanted him.

He walked the short distance to the swing and sank into the soft cushions Teresa had made for it. He looked up at the thick blanket of stars overhead. This was something he loved to do, just sit and stare at the billions of twinkling lights, surrounding the bright white moon. He set the swing in motion, enjoying the beauty of nature, the only regret was that he could not hear the familiar sounds, and would have to rely on his memory to keep those with him. The crickets, the night birds, even the sound of the wind whispering through the brush were lost to him. He closed his eyes and fought the depression gripping his mind. Silent tears flowed from his eyes and he let them fall, unaware of the man standing at the open door of the house.

Johnny knew his brother was in pain, but it had nothing to do with the broken arm. Scott’s pain stemmed from his decision to leave Lancer, to leave the family he’d grown to love and who’d grown to love him in return. He leaned against the doorframe, letting the blond have his privacy for now. He watched as Scott used his right arm to rub at the left shoulder, knowing from experience it would be a long time healing. He moved toward the swing and sank down beside his brother. He turned until their eyes met and was shocked by what he saw written so plainly on the handsome face.

“I won’t let you go, Scott,” he said, and knew the blond was able to read the promise in his own eyes.

“I have to, Johnny. It’s the only way to make sure I don’t hurt you again!” Scott whispered.

The younger man reached for his brother and waited for the blue-gray eyes to meet his once more. “You didn’t hurt me, Scott!” he mouthed, grateful for the bright moon directly overhead. He knew Scott could see his face and saw the relief in the moisture-laden eyes.

“You were hurt because of me. If I’d been able to hear that damn stage you wouldn’t have needed to run out into the street.”

“Scott...”

“Johnny, I can’t stay here. I can’t keep putting you in danger. We were lucky this time, but may not be the next time. I don’t want you to be hurt because of me!” Scott Lancer stood up and walked toward the door.

“It’ll hurt worse if you leave, Boston,” he whispered when the blond disappeared into the house. He sat where he was, staring out over the darkened landscape, knowing Scott Lancer belonged here as much as he did. This was their home; their family and he would fight to keep them together.

“I’m gonna knock some sense into that stubborn, blond head of yours!” he vowed and relaxed in the swing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Harlan Garrett boarded the train for the journey ahead of him. He knew the trip would be a long arduous one, but the reward waiting for him at the end of the line would be worth the discomfort of traveling the latter stages by coach. He watched as a man stepped into his private car and placed two pieces of luggage on the floor. A second man entered and began to store the luggage and make sure there was clean linen on the soft bed placed against the wall.

Joshua Phillips had worked for Harlan Garrett for nearly twelve years and he knew what was expected of him. He knew from experience the man wanted things done a certain way and it was up to him to see that Garrett’s wishes were carried out completely. 

“Phillips, see that Scott’s clothes are properly stored. I won’t have him wearing those deplorable items he bought at that general store in Green River!”

“Yes, Sir,” Phillips said and opened the smaller suitcase. Fine shirts and jackets were pulled from their resting place and hung in the closet. Phillips knew the closet was probably bigger than most people’s sleeping cars and again wondered at the injustice of it all. He knew he was well paid for the job he did, but often wondered what it would be like to have the money Harlan Garrett had. He remembered the day Scott Lancer confronted his grandfather with the decision he’d made to go to his father. The elderly man had screamed and shouted that he would disinherit the younger man if he left Boston. He admired Scott’s resolve to leave, yet wondered how anyone in their right mind could give up such wealth.

Harlan looked out the window and watched impatiently as the people boarded the train. He wanted to get underway, wanted to get to Lancer before his grandson changed his mind. He knew the longer Scott was at the ranch the possibility remained that his father and brother would convince him to stay. He would not lose to them again.

“All aboard!”

The elderly man smiled as the whistle sounded and people moved away from the train. He felt the train begin to move and sat on the edge of his bed.

“I’m coming, Scotty, and you’ll soon be home where you belong,” he whispered softly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Teresa looked up from the stove as footsteps sounded. She forced a smile to her face as a disheveled Scott came into the kitchen. His blond hair was uncombed and he looked like he’d slept in the clothes he wore. She hated seeing one of her family hurting and the sadness on Scott’s face only added to the torment. She wanted so much to go to him and hug him. Too force him to stay where he belonged, but the look on his face told him the time was not yet right.

“Want some breakfast?” she asked as she turned back to the pan of bacon. She bit her lip when she remembered his hearing loss. Turning back she saw the dark lines under his eyes and knew he hadn’t slept well. She reached for a potholder and lifted the hot coffee pot from the back of the stove.

Scott watched the young woman pour the dark liquid into a cup and place it before him.

“Thanks, Teresa,” he said gratefully, and smiled when she pointed to the cast iron pan on the stove.

“I’m not really hungry,” he said, smiling as she turned a stern gaze his way. “Okay, maybe a biscuit and some bacon.”

Teresa returned the smile and reached for a plate. She placed two of the freshly baked biscuits on the plate, added four strips of bacon and put it in front of the blond. She heard more footsteps and knew Johnny and Murdoch would soon be joining them. 
“Good morning, Teresa, Scott!” Murdoch said as he slipped into the chair at the head of the table.

“Good morning, Murdoch, Johnny,” Teresa greeted as she placed the coffee pot on the table between the two men.

Johnny settled into the chair across from his brother and studied the pale face as he picked at the food in front of him. If anything Scott looked worse than he had the day before and he knew his sleep had been as restless as his own. He looked up and thanked Teresa as she placed a cup on the table in front of him.

“You’re welcome, Johnny. Would you like some breakfast?”

“Not right now,” the dark haired Lancer answered, feeling his stomach rebelling at the thought of putting anything but coffee in it.

“Johnny, you need to eat,” the young woman said worriedly.

“I will, Teresa, just not right now.”

“Son, why don’t you go on back to bed. I’ll send a couple of hands out to the north pasture to check the repairs on the fence?” Murdoch suggested.

“I’m fine, Murdoch. Doc said I’d be having headaches for a while, but it’s not as bad as it was,” the young man assured them.

“That headache will only get worse if you’re out in the sun too long. Give it a few days. You’re always telling me I need to let the hands know I trust them. Well, here’s the chance to do just that. You and your brother both need to rest and take things easy for a couple of days. Just think about it, Johnny, at least if you’re here you can keep an eye on him and make sure nothing happens to him.” the Lancer patriarch suggested.

Johnny knew the older man was right and nodded his head once while he sipped the coffee. His stubborn pride would’ve normally made him fight the other man’s orders, but the need to watch out for his brother was stronger than his pride.

“Alright, Murdoch, I’ll stick around here.”

“Good, I’ll see to the hands. You watch out for your brother and get some rest yourself!”

“I’ll watch Scott...”

Scott watched the two men, carefully keeping his eyes on their mouths. He found it fairly easy to read their lips when they spoke only a word or two, but impossible when they strung more than three or four words together. He was able to pick out his brother’s last sentence and wondered if he was all right. He sighed when he realized the younger man was probably sticking around because of him, because Johnny saw the need for someone to watch out for him. He shoved the uneaten food away and stood up, facing his family as he struggled with the emotional turmoil racing through him. The pain in his shoulder reminded him of his second injury and he fought against the deep throbbing ache building in his head.

“Scott, what’s wrong?” Murdoch and Johnny asked as one. Teresa had just placed a plate of food before the older man and stood beside the irate looking blond.

“Plenty!” the blond snapped as he looked from one face to the other. “I may not be able to hear anything right now, but I know when I’m being talked about and I don’t need anyone watching me.”

Teresa placed her hand on the blond’s arm and waited for him to look her way.

“Scott...”

The blond turned his head and faced the young woman he cared for as a sister and saw the tears in her eyes as she spoke his name. He noted the worry and fear on her face and knew what he was about to say would hurt her, but he needed to tell them what his plans were. He placed his hands on the table as a wave of dizziness threatened to empty his stomach.

“Look, I need you all to listen to me. I’ve got something to say that affects all of you.” He held up his hands as Johnny’s lips moved, but the words were lost to him.  “Just listen to me! I need to tell you all something! I’ve made a decision and I’ll be leaving Lancer.”

“Scott...”

Again the blond held up his hands as Johnny’s lips formed his name. Ignoring their continued silent protests he closed his eyes and let the words come out. They were filled with the pain and knowledge that he was hurting the ones he held closest to his heart, yet knowing it was what he needed to do.

“I’ve already sent a telegram to grandfather. As soon as he sends someone for me I’ll be leaving. I can’t do anything here. I can’t put any of you in danger any longer. In Boston...” he opened his eyes and met the stony resolve of his younger brother. A piece of paper was placed in front of his eyes and he felt a lump form in his throat at his brother’s hastily scrawled words.

“I didn’t think you were a coward Scott!”

The blue eyes filled with unshed moisture as he looked into the deeper blues of his brother. He knew Johnny didn’t mean the words and was lashing out because he didn’t want him to leave, but it cut him to the bone as he read the words aloud.

“I’m not being a coward, Johnny,” he said as the paper was snatched back and his brother began writing again. It didn’t take long for the dark haired Lancer to turn the paper toward him once more.

“What do you call running out on us?”

“It’s not running out...”

“Damn right it is! You’re running out! Taking the coward’s way, Boston!” Johnny lashed out with words and realized his brother may not hear the words, but he understood their intention.

“I...I’m sorry...” he said softly, unable to meet his brother or father’s eyes. He knew they would only try to change his mind, but he wouldn’t let that happen. If his family hated him for trying to keep them safe then there was nothing he could do. He turned away from the three people he cared about and walked solemnly out of the kitchen. He looked toward the stairs, but couldn’t face his room. Taking a deep breath he headed toward the front door, oblivious of Johnny calling his name. The heat of the sun dried the thin streaks caused by the tears flowing from his eyes. He walked out through the gates and slowly made his way toward the small clearing he found that gave him solace from his troubled thoughts.

Scott had no idea how long he walked, his right arm holding tightly to his left, helping support the injured limb. His stride was purposeful as he felt the need to be alone, to let the tears fall without the fear of someone seeing it happen. He winced as he miss-stepped and nearly fell, but was able to stay on his feet. He lost track of time while he walked the little used trail toward his destination. He had no idea how much time passed until he dropped wearily in the middle of the small haven between a cluster of brush and trees. He closed his eyes and let the sun warm his trembling body.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Scott left the house his brother knew instinctively where he was going and grabbed his gun from its hanger. “Murdoch, I’m going after Scott,” he told the older man.

“You sure that’s a good idea? He’s already angry because he thinks we’re coddling him.”

“Yeah, well, he’s gonna get more of that coddling, whatever that means,” the younger man winced as he plopped his hat on his head.

“You be careful, Son,” Murdoch said.

“I will,” Johnny assured him before he opened the door and made his way out into the yard. He looked around and caught sight of his brother walking quickly past the bunkhouse toward the old trail at the back of the property. He knew where Scott was headed, a place he’d seen him go many times since their arrival at the ranch. His head was beginning to pound as he followed his brother and he realized he’d forgotten to grab a canteen. Shrugging off the annoying throb he stayed far enough back to keep out of sight of his query. By the time he watched his brother sink heavily to the ground his own energy was almost non-existent. He stumbled through the brush and nearly fell as his foot caught in an exposed root.

Scott sensed that he wasn’t alone any longer and turned his head just in time to see his brother stumble into the clearing. He knew instinctively something was wrong and hurried to catch the younger man as he swayed dangerously.

“Dammit, Johnny, what are you doing out here?”

“....fol...low...ing you, Boston...”

Scott couldn’t understand the unintelligible movement of his brother’s slack lips as he eased him to the ground and he continued to berate Johnny for coming after him.

“You shouldn’t have followed me!” Scott snapped when his brother vomited onto the ground. He held the strong shoulders as the body trembled beneath his touch. He shook his head as when he realized why his brother had followed him out here. His resolve to leave before he hurt anyone else he cared about intensified when he noted the pain in the soft blue eyes set in the pale face. Scott watched the eyes close and thought his brother was sleeping. He closed his eyes and held tightly to the man he’d grown to love more than anything in the world.

“I’m sorry, Johnny, you wouldn’t be in pain if I hadn’t taken off. My fault...always seem to hurt you. I’m sorry, Brother, I’ll make sure you don’t get hurt because of me anymore.” He lifted tear stained eyes and wondered how he was going to get Johnny home.

Johnny heard the words and knew he had to get through to the blond before the guilt tore him apart. He remembered the Gatling gun and tried to remind Scott of how it was Johnny’s fault that he’d nearly been killed. All in all he thought they were pretty even on who was a danger to whom. He felt himself drifting toward sleep and gave into its promise of a respite from the constant throbbing in his head.

Scott took a deep breath and sat beside his brother. He knew he didn’t have the energy to make it back to the house for help and hoped that with some rest his brother would be able to make it under his own steam. He looked around the clearing and wished he could hear the world around him. The dangers to both him and Johnny were very real, yet there was little he could do about them if they were there.

~~~~~~~~~~~`

Murdoch returned from the north pasture in time for lunch and frowned when his sons didn’t join him. He looked at Teresa and saw the worry in her eyes. “Where are Scott and Johnny?” he asked.

“They haven’t come back yet, Murdoch and I’m beginning to worry about them,” she answered as she placed a bowl of savory beef stew in front of him.

Murdoch had an idea of where he’d find them and quickly pushed back the hot stew.

“I’m going to take a ride out and see if I can find them.”

“Okay, I’ll keep the stew hot,” she said and watched the older man leave the house in search of his missing sons. ‘God, please let them be okay,’ she thought before turning back to the stove.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was several hours later when Johnny Lancer opened his eyes. He groaned as the sunlight reminded him of the headache that was still pounding against his skull. He turned to the side to see his brother sleeping next to him and couldn’t help but smile at the relaxed features. Except for the broken arm, there was nothing physically wrong, at least not to the naked eye, yet Johnny knew his brother’s hearing loss was the real problem. Sighing heavily he looked up at the sun once more and realized it was past noon. His mouth felt dry, and the taste of vomit still soured its interior and throat. Again he realized they were without water, and wished he had enough to rinse the taste from his mouth. Reaching out he gently touched his brother’s right shoulder and spoke softly, before realizing Scott wouldn’t hear his soothing words.

“Hey, Brother, think it’s time we got back, don’t you?” he asked, and shook his head as Scott’s eyes narrowed in confusion.

“Sorry, Brother, I forgot.” He pointed toward the trail back to the house and saw the blond nod slowly. He smiled weakly when his brother stood up and offered his hand. He accepted the help, and was more than grateful for it when the world around him blurred for several seconds and threatened to pitch him back to the ground.

Scott held tightly to his brother with his right arm, his left arm screaming at the pull on his shoulder. He held his breath until Johnny was able to take some of the weight off and the two began the long walk back to the place they called home. 

“Ya know brother, you’re not nearly as helpless as you think,” Johnny said when his brother took more and more of his weight. He knew Scott was hurting, yet he could do nothing to help as his own head seemed to be growing worse.

Scott knew the younger man was quickly losing whatever strength he had left and fought to remain on his own feet. He kept his right arm wrapped tightly around the lean waist as he forced one foot in front of the other. He caught his brother as he stumbled, seeing the pain on the handsome face when the movement jarred his head. Scott chose to ignore the bile rising in his own throat as his left arm erupted in fiery agony.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch rode steadily away from the house until he spotted two figures weaving their way along the trail. Johnny seemed to be leaning heavily on his brother and Murdoch cursed himself for letting his youngest son go after Scott alone. He spurred the horse forward in an attempt to overtake the two injured men.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny lifted his head as he heard the sound of an approaching horse. His hand went instinctively toward his gun and he smiled when he realized Scott had already taken it from the holster.

“Oh, ya, you’re helpless, Brother,” he thought with a grin. He frowned as a soft sound came from their right, but the buzzing in his ears continued to grow as the sound of the horse and rider grew closer. He squinted against the bright light and halted his brother’s progress.

“Easy, Scott, it’s Murdoch,” he said before realizing the blond had already replaced the gun.

Scott didn’t hear what his brother was saying but he held his ground and kept the dark haired man on his feet. Johnny’s weight continued to bear down on him and he struggled to keep them both upright while he moved closer to the edge of the trail.

Johnny tried to ease his weight off Scott’s shoulder, but succeeded in nearly pushing him off the trail. “Sorry, Brother,” he said when Murdoch pulled to a stop in front of them.

“You two okay?” the older man asked just as the horse he was riding lifted it’s front hooves in the air and snorted loudly.

“Easy, Boy,” Murdoch soothed while he tried to bring the animal under control. 

Johnny lost his balance as he tried to move out from under the animal’s raised hooves, his movement again forcing his brother off the trail. A noise from beside the blond took his breath away and he screamed as the rattling sound met his ears.

“Scott! Look out!” he cried when the small snake reared its head and readied itself for a strike.

Scott saw the panic on his brother’s face as he stumbled backwards. He had no idea what was wrong until he too, spotted the rattlesnake that had been hidden in the brush.

Murdoch watched in helpless agony as the snake coiled back and readied itself to strike. The cry of pain told him that one of his sons had been hit and he dismounted quickly and ran to the downed man.

“Where are you hit?” he asked as the young man writhed on the ground.

“It got him on the right leg, Murdoch!” Johnny answered as the older man produced a thin bladed knife.

“Easy, Son, we’ll get this fixed up,” the Lancer patriarch assured the blond, forgetting his soothing tone was lost to Scott’s deaf ears.

“Johnny, grab my saddle bags!”

The dark haired Lancer rushed to Murdoch’s horse and grabbed the bags. He covered the short distance quickly and soon dropped down beside his brother.

“Did you see it, Johnny?” his father asked worriedly

“Yeah...Rattler...young one...”

“Caught a break there,” Murdoch said and sliced through the material of Scott’s pants. He winced when he saw the two marks and knew they had to do what they could until they got him to Jenkins.

Johnny moved in behind the blond and lifted his head so it was lying in his lap. He knew his words wouldn’t reach the injured man, but he hoped his brother felt soothed by his touch. He watched while Murdoch prepared the blade to cut into the wound.

“Hold him, Johnny!” the older man ordered as he heated the blade with the matches he kept in the bags. He knew what he was about to do would cause his son more pain, but they needed to drain as much of the poison as possible. 

“I got him,” the dark haired man said as he grabbed Scott’s right hand and felt the fingers clutch his tightly. The hand was stronger than he’d give credit, yet he knew a lot of it came from the pain. Blue eyes met blue eyes as the hands gripped tighter in preparation of what was to come. Scott moaned as his eyelids slid shut and the pain in his calf intensified.

“I won’t let you go, Scott,” Johnny vowed as he watched the heated blade being lowered toward the wound. Everything seemed to slow down to a crawl when the knife touched Scott’s skin and cut into the tender flesh of his right calf. He’d seen snakebite victims before and knew the next few days would be hell for the blond. Murdoch’s words about catching a break because the snake was young played on his mind. He hoped there would be a second break and that the reptile had recently fed, meaning its poisonous gland would not have had a chance to completely produce it’s venom.

Scott’s scream of pain brought him out of his thoughts and he held the lean body tight to his own. He watched as blood welled up around the tiny incision his father was making and didn’t notice the tears that slipped from his own eyes.

“I got you, Scott. Murdoch’s just fixing up your leg,” he soothed. His hand was growing numb as his brother’s long fingers tightened around his own.

“Keep him still, Son!” the older man warned while he made the second incision across the first. He knew the next part was going to be hard as well as he pressed against the wounds, drawing out as much of the venom as possible before reaching into his bag and pulling out the flask he kept there. He could hear his youngest son speaking to his brother and felt their soothing influence on his own taut nerves. Somehow, Johnny’s actions were getting through to Scott and the blond seemed to be holding himself rigid in the former gunslinger’s grip.

Scott knew his brother and father were trying to help him, but the pain was a constant for him now. He’d felt the heat when the knife cut into his flesh and in spite of the silence that met his ears he knew he’d screamed. His throat was raw as he tried to remain quiet once the initial incision was made. He felt his brother’s trembling form holding him and leaned against the well-muscled chest. It felt right, it felt good, and he briefly wondered if he could give up what he’d found. He swallowed again and again as nauseous rolled through his stomach, the tide rising and falling with each breath he took. He forced his eyes open and lifted his gaze to his brother.

Johnny continued to hold his brother tight, unwilling to let him face the pain alone. He watched as Murdoch dropped the knife and drained the wound as much as he could before pouring whiskey onto the wound. His grip tightened as the lean body he held bucked against this new torture, the tears falling freely now, tracking their way down his pale face.

“Almost done, Son. Almost done.” Murdoch kept talking as he tried to calm his own fears. “Small rattler...small one...caught a break...” he muttered as he wrapped a bandage around the wound, making sure he didn’t cut off the circulation.

“How is he, Johnny?” Murdoch asked worriedly when the trembling in the injured leg subsided. 

“He’s still with us...passed out when you poured the whiskey on there.” 

“Thank God,” the older man said. 

“Murdoch, we need to get him back to the house.”

“I know,” the older man agreed as he lifted his gaze to finally look at his youngest son. Johnny’s face mirrored his own worry, but the young man was paler than he’d been when he’d been in Jenkins’ office.

“Johnny...”

“I’m okay, Murdoch...”

“Sure you are. It’s not far back to the house. Think you could ride?”

“N...no...you need to take Scott. I’ll stay here until you...”

“Son, I’m not leaving...”

“There’s no other way. The horse can’t hold all three of us...”

“You could hold Scott...”

“Can’t...my head’s pounding...”

“Dammit! What the hell were the two of you doing out here anyway?” He frowned sympathetically when Johnny held his fingers to his throbbing skull. He reached out and touched the younger man’s shoulder, concern and worry for both sons written on his face.

“C...came out t...to t...talk to Scott. H...he’s stubborn...”

“Not the only one,” Murdoch whispered. “Alright, I’m gonna ride to the house and get a wagon...”

“Take Scott with you!”

“Johnny...”

“He needs to get out of the sun, Murdoch. He’s gonna get a fever as it is...”

“Dammit!” the older man hissed, conceding the truth in the younger man’s words. “Alright, Johnny, but you stay put...in the shade until I come back for you.”

“Stay with Scott. Send one of the hands...”

“We’ll see. Okay, Son. Let’s see if we can get you two home where you belong,” the older man said and reached for the blond. He lifted the young man into his arms and carried him to the waiting horse. He hefted him into the saddle and smiled as Johnny joined him and held his brother in place until Murdoch jumped up behind him.

“Johnny, stay out of the sun. I won’t be long.”

“...okay...” the former gunslinger mumbled tiredly.

Murdoch reluctantly turned the horse away from his youngest son. He knew this was the only way to get both sons home, but it didn’t set well with him. He made sure Scott was held snugly in his arms, and without realizing what he was doing, tenderly kissed the top of the sun drenched blond head.

“You’re going to be just fine, Scott,” he said as he raced the horse toward home.

Johnny stood in the center of the trail, watching until Horse and riders disappeared from sight. He winced as he shaded his eyes from the sun and made his way to a small shade provided by a couple of trees. He sank to the ground, leaning heavily against the tree as he waited for someone to come back for him. His worry for his brother overshadowed any other thoughts as he closed his eyes and slept fitfully.

“Won’t let you leave, Scott...can’t let you go and be a...alone again,” he mumbled as visions of Harlan Garrett returned, changing his dreams into nightmares as Scott Lancer was taken from him again. The loneliness returned with his brother’s disappearance, and his heart ached for the brother he hadn’t known existed, and now didn’t want to lose.

~~~~~~~~~~

Teresa heard the rider coming in fast and hurried out into the yard, wiping her hands in her apron as she went. She gasped when she recognized Murdoch and the blond listing in the saddle in front of him. She watched as the older man pulled the horse to a stop and glanced around.

“Teresa, where’s Jelly?”

“He’s in the bunkhouse with Carl and Peter. What happened to Scott? Where’s Johnny?”

“Scott was bitten by a rattler. Johnny’s out near the clearing and I need one of the hands to go get him,” the older Lancer said as he dismounted, easing his son from the saddle.

“A rattler... Oh my G...”

“Teresa, go get Jelly! Tell him to take the wagon and go for Johnny! Have one of the hands ride into Green River for Dr. Jenkins!”

“Okay,” the young woman said and raced toward the bunkhouse just as Jelly and the two hands exited the building.

“What’s wrong with Scott?” Hoskins asked when the young woman hurried toward him.

“Oh, Jelly, he was bitten by a rattlesnake...”

“Rattlesnake? When?” Carl asked as he joined them

“I don’t know,” she answered. “Carl, can you ride into town and bring Dr. Jenkins back.”

"Sure, Miss Teresa,” the man answered and hurriedly saddled his horse.

“Jelly, Johnny is out by the clearing. The one Scott likes so much...”

“I know it.”

“Can you take the wagon and go get him?”

“Sure. Is Johnny alright?”

“I...I don’t know...” she answered, worried about why Murdoch wanted the wagon and not a horse.

“Don’t worry, Teresa. I’ll bring him home,” the older man said. “Come on Peter, help me get the wagon hooked up.”

Teresa turned back to the house, hurried inside and up the stairs to Scott’s room.

“How is he?”

“I don’t know, Teresa!” Murdoch snapped impatiently. His worry for his eldest son continued to grow as the young man seemed to be developing a fever rather quickly. With the injuries he’d already received, the Lancer patriarch feared that his son did not have enough strength left to fight with. He belatedly realized he’d snapped at the young woman and turned a worried gaze no her. “I’m sorry, Teresa, it’s just...”

“I understand, Murdoch. Carl has gone for the doctor and Jelly is hitching the wagon to go for Johnny. Is there anything I can do?”

“Bring some cold water and towels. Scott’s fever is going up faster than I thought possible and we need to keep it down.”

“Right away,” the young woman answered, glad to have something to keep her occupied.

Murdoch lifted his son and eased the jacket from his body. He tried not to jar the injured arm, but the soft moans coming from the blond told him it wasn’t working.

“I’m sorry, Son, I need to get this off you,” he said, forgetting the younger man couldn’t hear him. He continued talking even after he remembered the fact; his words letting him know his son was still there with him.

“Mur...doch...h...help...”

“I’m trying, Scott,” he whispered as he undid the buttons and eased the shirt off. Scott’s clothes were soaked with perspiration and again he knew the fever was something they had to bring down before it got too high. He placed the glistening body against the pillows and began removing the tan pants. He eased them down over the young man’s hips and slid them down the long legs.

Scott cried out as the material rubbed up against his leg. His eyes opened wide with fright as he felt heat all around him. He clenched his teeth and held his breath while the clothes were stripped from his body. He writhed in pain, soft moans leaving his throat as his father removed the bandage from the site of the snakebite.

“P...please...stop...”

“I can’t, Son,” Murdoch whispered, keeping his own tears at bay as Teresa came into the room carrying water and towels.

“Put them on the table,” Murdoch ordered.

Teresa did as he told her and moved to the injured blond. She shook her head at the pain written on the almost translucent skin of his face. She touched his forehead, wincing at the heat radiating from his body.

“He’s burning up, Murdoch.”

“I know. Grab those towels and start wiping him down while I clean this up a bit,” he told her.

“J...Johnny...help ...me...fire...burning.... Help...”

“Sh, Son, Johnny’ll be here soon,” Murdoch tried to soothe his son. He watched as the fever bright eyes opened and stared up at him, but remained unfocused.

Scott’s vision was blurred and unfocused as he tried to shift upwards in the bed. He needed to see his brother, to hear his voice, but neither was possible. Nothing penetrated his silent prison and Murdoch’s soothing tone was lost to him. He fought the hands that reached for him, fought them as they wrapped around his upper body and held him close. Something cool touched against his heated skin, but the touch he craved, the face he sought was not there and Scott gave in to the call of darkness, his sweat soaked body going limp in his father’s shaking arms.

“Scott! No!” Murdoch cried out as his son’s body wilted against him.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny heard the sound of horses approaching at a gallop and peeled his eyelids open. The bright sun high overhead forced him to slam them shut once more when it sent daggers of pain dancing through his skull. He moaned weakly and used the tree he leaned against to push himself to his feet.

“Johnny!” Hoskins yelled as he pulled the wagon to a stop not far from where the youngest Lancer stood on shaky legs.

“J...Jelly?” the young man asked, using his left hand to shield his eyes from the sun.

“Yeah, it’s me and Peter. Murdoch sent us out to get ya. Come on and we’ll get you in the wagon!”

“S...Scott?”

“Murdoch’s looking after him and Carl’s gone to get Doc Jenkins,” the older man explained as he took one arm and the ranch hand took the other. Between the two men they got the dark haired Lancer into the back of the wagon and made him lie down on the blankets they’d placed there. Hoskins grabbed his canteen and held Johnny’s head up to help him drink some of the tepid liquid. He was glad when the young man took several small sips before turning away.

Johnny closed his eyes and curled on his side when a wave of nauseous swept over him. He fought to keep the water down as Hoskins patted his shoulder.

“You just hang on now, Johnny, and we’ll have ya home in no time!”

“...okay...t...thanks, Jelly.”

“You’re welcome,” Hoskins said, climbing out of the wagon and moving toward the seat.

Peter mounted his own horse and waited for the wagon to move forward. He kept his eyes on the unmoving body in the back of the wagon in case the young man needed them to stop. Having suffered a concussion himself a year ago he knew the trip home would be hard on Johnny Lancer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

The fear that swept through Murdoch Lancer when he felt his son’s body go deadly still in his arms was slowly easing as he took the wet towel and ran it over the blond’s chest. He knew Scott’s fever was too high, but there wasn’t much more he could do until the doctor arrived. As his hand gently slid the cloth across the lean chest, his mind turned to his youngest son. He hated leaving him on the trail, yet he really didn’t have a choice. Both young men needed help, and Johnny seemed to be the stronger of the two at the time. He knew in his heart he’d done the right thing, yet guilt gnawed at him until he felt nauseous. He forced his warring emotions aside and thought about the young man waiting for someone to bring him home. Johnny’s headaches bothered him, yet he knew it was normal after the blow to the head he’d received, but he wondered if Scott’s leaving also had something to do with it. He continued to wash his son’s fevered body, silently praying that they’d both be all right.

Murdoch checked the wound and noted the increased swelling below the material that was putting pressure on the injury. He’d made sure not to cut off the circulation when he’d applied the material, knowing it would lead to more problems if he did. The thought of his son losing his leg because of something he’d done troubled him, yet he needed to slow down the poison if possible.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Teresa stood in the doorway watching as her guardian looked after his son. She knew what Murdoch was like, and how he sometimes hid the tender side she knew he had. She watched as he cared for his injured son, unaware he was being watched. She hadn’t been shocked when he’d placed a tender, fatherly kiss to his son’s forehead when he realized Scott was still alive. She remembered how many times he’d done the same thing to her when she was sick, and smiled as she turned to leave him to his privacy. She heard a sound outside the main door and ran to see who was there. She opened the door just as Jelly and Peter eased the second injured man from the wagon.

“Johnny,” she called and hurried down to meet them.

“H...hi...Teresa...h...how’s...Scott?”

“Murdoch’s looking after him. Now let’s get you up to your room...”

“S...see Scott...”

“Later...”

“N...no...n....need to s...see him,” the dark haired young man snapped painfully.

“Ain’t no point arguin’ with ‘im, Teresa. He ain’t gonna rest lessen he sees Scott,” Hoskins said as they made their way into the house.

“Alright, but then you’re going to get into your own bed!”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Johnny said, smiling thinly as they made it to the bottom of the stairs. He removed his arms from the two men who’d helped him inside and held the wall as a guide up the stairs. He stopped in the door holding onto the frame as his father looked up from his work of cooling down the blond.

“Johnny,” Murdoch said, standing and hurrying to his son’s side. The pain he saw on the handsome features overshadowed the relief of having his younger son home. He took the young man by the arm and led him to the chair. The lean body sank onto the hard seat and swayed there, listing slightly to the right.

“H...he...okay...”

“He’s got a hell of a fever right now, Johnny,” Murdoch answered softly, aware of how loud sounds or voices could affect a concussed head. 

“Some...one go for Jen...kins?”

“Carl left as soon as I got back with Scott. Now let’s get you into bed before you fall over...”

“I...I’m okay...”

“No, you’re not! Teresa, stay with Scott while I get Johnny to his room,” the Lancer patriarch ordered, glad to see the young woman hurry into the room. He reached for Johnny’s arm and felt a slight resistance to his offered help, and cold blue eyes lifted to meet his gaze.

“Mur...doch...”

“Johnny, I know you want to stay with him, but right now he won’t even know you’re here. You’re not going to be able to do anything for him until he’s awake. If you insist on staying here now, then you won’t be able to stay awake when he really needs you. Look, Son, I need you to do this for me...Scott needs you to do this.” Murdoch knew he’d finally found the right words to make his stubborn son understand. He saw the shoulders slump in defeat and easily helped the young man out of the chair.

“Y...you’ll come g...get me?”

“I will, Johnny...”

“Murdoch, use plantain...”

“Plantain?”

“Make poul...tice...chew l...leaves a...and p...put it o...on the b...bite..Doc in Mexico...used it...he...helped,” the young man explained.

“Okay, Johnny, we’ll get some...”

“Wo...works...Mur...doch...saw it. P...please it...it’ll h...help...S...Scott...”

“I believe you son. I’ll have Jelly get some of the boys to round some up as soon as we get you settled in the bed.”

“...okay...” the gunman said, his strength gone by the time they made it to his room. Murdoch quickly had him lying on the bed and as with his other son, he gently removed the clothes and eased a blanket up over the exhausted body. He moved to the window and closed the heavy curtain in order to block out the bright sun.

“Rest easy, Son.” He couldn’t help smiling at the barely audible response from his son.

“...thanks...”

“You’re welcome,” the older man said. He watched the young man to make sure he was asleep and hurried out of the room.

“Jelly!”

“Right here, Murdoch!” the older man called from the lower floor.

“Get some of the boys and have them gather some plantain...”

“Plantain? Why?”

“Johnny seems to think a poultice made from that plant might help Scott!”

“He might be right. I’ll get a couple of men and find some.”

“Thanks, Jelly,” Murdoch said and hurried back to his older son’s room. He smiled as his charge turned toward him.

“How is he?” Teresa asked, concern evident in her voice.

“He’s tired, sick, and needs to rest. I told him we’d wake him if Scott needs him. How’s Scott?”

“He’s not doing very well, Murdoch,” she said, tears in her eyes when the older man reached out and held her in his arms.

“Scott’s strong, Teresa. He’s proven that over and over since he lost his hearing. He’s going to beat this,” Murdoch tried to assure her, yet wondered if he truly believed that after everything that happened. He vaguely remembered hearing about the plantain poultice and knew it wouldn’t hurt to try it.

“J...Johnny...h...help...burns...”

Murdoch released the young woman and hurried to his son’s side. He reached for the cloth on the blond’s forehead and wet it again, speaking softly in spite of his son’s inability to hear his words. He ran the cloth over the pale face and watched as lines of pain became more prominent.

“Easy, Son, you’re safe.” Murdoch soothed, placing a hand on his son’s shoulder.

“J...Johnny...” the blond head tossed on the pillow, calling for his brother in a weak voice that barely reached his ears. Murdoch’s touch didn’t reach through the pain and fever raging through his body.

“Where the hell is the doctor?” Murdoch snapped worriedly.

“Hopefully he’ll be here soon,” Teresa said, kneeling on the opposite side of the bed and brushing back the sweat soaked blond hair.

“S...sick,” Scott managed as unfocused, fever bright eyes opened and looked around the room. He felt someone lifting him forward and his stomach heaved as a basin was placed under him. It lasted several minutes and left him heaving for breath.

“Teresa, get me some more pillows. I don’t think it’s a good idea to have him lying flat!” he didn’t hear her acknowledge his request, but he felt her move away as he held his son’s trembling body against his own. Scott’s head was against his shoulder, the heat scorching his own skin through the clothes he wore. He knew the young man was caught in fevered dreams as he cried out for people only he could see.

“G...Grandfather...c...come...take m...me h...home...”

“Sh, Son, I got you. This is home...Lancer is where you belong,” the older man said, holding his son tighter, as tears welled up in his eyes.

“Grand...father...dark man...he’s there...need...need to hide...Sh...d...don’t w...want him...him to find me...”

The tears slipped from his eyes as his son talked about the nightmare he’d lived through as a boy. He looked up to see Teresa with several pillows in her arms and knew she’d heard the tortured cries from his son. He watched her place the pillows on the bed, but refused to relinquish his hold on his son’s heaving body.

“T...take me...home...Murdoch...home...Johnny...Lancer...not B...Boston...need...need Johnny...please. Need Johnny...JOHNNY!”

“Easy, Son...”

“H...hey, Brother, what’s wr...wrong?”

Murdoch knew his younger son shouldn’t be out of bed, but as soon as Johnny’s hand touched his brother’s shoulder, the blond’s cries of pain and horror stopped. Something about the younger man’s touch got through the fevered dreams and brought the blond home. He eased the lean body back on the pillows and stood up for Johnny to take his place.

Scott looked at the man as he sat down; his eyes burning with unshed tears as the pain again intensified. He closed his eyes until a hand was placed on his right shoulder and opened them once more to meet the steady gaze of his brother.

“J...Johnny...m...miss you...Grandfather’s c...coming to t...take me home...no...not home...take me Boston...”

“I won’t let him, Scott,” Johnny vowed, hoping his brother would hear him.

“Murdoch, I...we got it...the plantain!” Jelly’s breathless call came from downstairs and got stronger as he raced up the stairs and into the room, the precious leaves held in his hands.

“Bring ‘em here, J...Jelly,” Johnny called.

Hoskins hurried over and placed the plantain in the young man’s trembling hands. His gaze fell on the blond sitting up against the pillows, and he saw the effects of the venom racing through his body.

“M...Murdoch, gotta chew ‘em up,” the gunman explained, turning a hopeful glance toward his father.

“Give them to me,” the older man said and quickly took the leaves and without hesitating placed them in his mouth.

Through heavy lidded eyes, Scott watched what was happening, wondering what the people in the room were saying. His sluggish mind coupled with the throbbing pain in his leg, made it impossible for him to think clearly. He frowned as the older man took some leaves and placed them in his mouth, wondering what he was doing. The younger man looked at him and Scott felt at ease in spite of the fever sapping his strength. He watched the lips move, and despite being unable to hear what he was saying, Scott felt better. A name jumped out at him and he knew instinctively this was someone he could trust.

“J...Johnny....”

“I’m here, Br...brother,” the dark haired Lancer soothed. “That’s good, Murdoch, now place it on the bite. I...it should help with the swelling and pain. Doc in M...Mexico s...swore by it.”

Murdoch didn’t hesitate, knowing his son had seen many things in the years he spent as a gunslinger in Mexico, and trusting him explicitly. He took the paste from his mouth and placed it on the wound, speaking in low tones as Scott tried to pull away from his touch.

“Easy, Brother, Murdoch’s just trying to help,” Johnny soothed, his hand still on Scott’s shoulder.

“S...sleep...Johnny...sleep...” the blond whispered as he let his own eyes close.

“He’s right, Son, let’s get you back to bed,” Murdoch said after replacing the bandage over the wound.

“I’m okay...”

"No, you’re not!” the older man said impatiently.

“I’m not leaving,” Johnny snapped, two sets of eyes clashing across Scott’s bed.

“Murdoch, you know Johnny’s not gonna leave. I’ll get a couple of the hands to help bring a cot in here,” Teresa said in an effort to dampen the angry fire she saw in both men.

“I’ll get them, Teresa, stay here and watch them two!” Jelly said as he hurried form the room.

Half an hour later Johnny Lancer eased down on the bed across from his brother. He tried to keep his eyes open, tried to watch as Murdoch again bathed the sweat soaked body, but his pounding skull had already sapped his strength and he joined his brother in sleep.

‘~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jenkins flicked the reins in an effort to make the sturdy horse move a little faster. When Murdoch’s employee had come to him with the news that Scott was bitten by a snake, he’d gathered the things he would need while Carl hitched up the buckboard. It didn’t take long for him to be ready to leave, but he sent Carl back to Lancer to let them know he was on the way and with instructions to keep the injured man calm. He knew Johnny was still suffering from concussion induced headaches and wondered what had possessed the two men to go off on their own. He knew they were both stubborn and prayed that stubbornness would help the eldest son get through this new trial. As a doctor he’d treated many snakebites and understood the seriousness and need for treatment. Some victims lived, but more often than not they succumbed to the poison that drove their breaths from their lungs as the fever sapped the moisture from their body. Before Carl left he instructed the man to tell Murdoch to use plantain and try to get Willow Bark tea into the injured man in an effort to ease the pain and fever. Again he flicked the reins, hoping he wouldn’t be too late to save Scott Lancer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch heard the sound of an approaching horse and hurried to the top of the stairs. In the hours that passed since Scott was bitten by the snake, his body seemed to have been sapped of moisture. His fever climbed to the point where Murdoch was sure he’d soon watch his son’s body be enveloped in flames. Over and over he changed the water in an effort to cool down the still body. He watched as Teresa hurried to the door and opened it, and knew by the set of her shoulders it wasn’t Jenkins. Taking a defeated breath he turned back to the room, his eyes traveling from one son to the other.

Johnny was on the verge of waking up, but Scott was as still and pale as he’d been when he’d screamed out for his brother. He shuddered as he looked at his eldest son, and a spark of guilt began to grow. He swallowed the painful lump that climbed into his throat, threatening to choke off his air and send him into the darkness of his own troubled dreams. He’d often wondered whether he’d made the right choice in seeking out his sons. Would Scott have been better off in Boston? Would Johnny have been better off with the life he’d been leading in Mexico? Those questions often haunted him when one, or both his sons were hurting.

“Murdoch.”

He turned to see Teresa standing behind him, and saw the telltale signs of sadness and pain on her face. He reached for her and held her close, trying to soothe her fears, while hoping the simple touch could do the same for his own.

“Carl’s back and Dr. Jenkins is on his way,” Teresa told him between soft sobs.

“Thank God,” Murdoch whispered. He pulled away from his young ward and turned back to the job of cooling his son’s rising temperature.

“He said we need to make sure Scott is drinking and to give him willow bark tea to help with the fever. I’m going to steep some right away.”

“Thanks, Teresa...”

“Murdoch, he also said to use a plantain poultice on the wound.”

“Johnny was right about that then,” he said, turning a slight smile toward his youngest son.

“Can I get you anything?”

“Nothing right now,” the older man said and continued to do what he could to keep his son with them.

Teresa turned away from the scene, her heart breaking for the family she’d so recently acquired, and prayed she wouldn’t lose either of them.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny opened his eyes; ignoring the pain the movement caused him as he slid his legs over the side of the cot. The room he was in was familiar, but it took a few seconds to grasp where he was and his gaze quickly moved to the second bed and the man sitting beside it.

Taking a deep breath he stood on shaky legs and moved across the small area to where his brother lay in a jumble of sweat soaked clothes. He watched the older man tending him, seeing something Murdoch Lancer seldom showed. The mask of strength was gone and in its place Johnny saw the pain that came with the loss of someone you cared for. He knew from his own losses over the year, that his father was scared of losing his son again; only this time there would be no bringing him back.

Johnny turned his gaze on his brother, watching as the chest rose and fell. The rhythm was too fast for his liking and he knew the venom was seeping through Scott’s blood stream, attacking his body and weakening him as it advanced. The beads of sweat reformed on his head as quickly as Murdoch wiped them off. Forcing his eyes away from his brother’s still form he looked at his father.

“M...Murdoch?”

The older man had been unaware of his son studying him, and fought to put up the mask once more. The look on Johnny’s face told him he’d failed and he gave up trying to hide how he felt. “How are you feeling, Son?”

If Johnny was shocked by the term, he didn’t show it. He simply ran his fingers through his dark hair and looked at his brother.

“I’m fine, Murdoch. How’s Scott doing?”

“He’s not good, Johnny, I can’t seem to get his fever to go down,” the Lancer patriarch told him, his voice filled with the fear he tried so hard to mask.

“Has the doc been here yet?”

“No, he should be here soon...Carl came back a couple of hours ago to let us know he was on the way.  He agreed with you about the Plantain.”

“...J...Johnny...”

“Easy, Brother, I’m right here,” the dark haired young man said and sat on the edge of the bed. He watched the fever bright eyes open and try to focus on him.

“...thought...I lo...lost you,” the blond whispered, his raspy voice evidence of how much the fever was draining out of him.

“Not that easy to lose. How are you feeling?” Johnny mouthed, hoping the blond could read his lips.

“...hot...sick...t...thirsty...head h...hurts...”

“I bet it does,” Johnny said, reaching out and taking his brother’s hand as the handsome face twisted in a grimace of pain and nauseous. “I got you, Scott, and I’m not ready to lose you. Murdoch, give me that glass of water!” He felt the glass pressed into his hand and watched as his father eased Scott’s body upwards.

“Come on, Scott, drink this,” he ordered, hoping the blond would understand what was required of him.

Scott saw the lips moving and something was placed against his mouth. His stomach churned, but his body craved the liquid and he drank in spite of the queasiness. The cool moisture entered his mouth, moistening his too thick tongue before sliding down the arid wasteland of his throat. He turned his head away after drinking a small amount and closed his eyes. His voice was filled with childhood fears as he began to slip toward sleep.

“...don’t w...want to g...go...G...Grandfather...Dark man...”

Johnny looked at his brother as he realized the demon was still tormenting him and he wanted to ease his mind.

“The dark man is dead, Scott...we killed him...you and me...we sent him to hell where he belongs...” he knew his brother couldn’t hear him as Scott slowly slipped back into the nightmare world he’d lived as a child.

“S...spiders...dark...dark m...man’s coming...hide...gotta hide...no...no...not there...” His chest heaved as his eyes darted back and forth seeing things that were not there, but would always be a part of him.

“It’s okay, Son, you’re safe,” Murdoch whispered, unaware of his younger son watching his every move. He cradled Scott’s body to his own; careful not to jar the injured arm as he stroked the sweat soaked blond hair.

“...help...can’t ru...run anymore...shh...don’t talk...don’t breathe...he’s com...ing... G...Grandfather. no...no...won’t go...Dark man...k...killed them...gotta g...get a...away...Oh GOD! A...all dead...Johnny dead...My fault.”

“No, Scott, I’m here...I’m not dead,” the dark haired Lancer said, fighting to keep the tears from making an appearance as his brother fought the demons from his past. He knew the blond was mixing past with present, his fears of the dark man mixing with his fears of leaving the home he now loved.

“J...Johnny...sorry, Murdoch...killed...Joh...Johnny...My....” his voice trailed off as his ailing mind and body sent him into a deeper darkness, one where nothing could touch him, where fear and pain dissolved along with the comforting touch he needed so much.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jenkins pulled into the yard and jumped out of the buckboard as one of the hands ran up to take the reins. The entire ranch knew how ill Scott Lancer was, and the air was filled with the feeling of impending doom. He grabbed his bag from the seat and hurried into the house. He spotted Teresa at the top of the stairs and took them as quickly as his aging body would allow. He entered the room, shaking his head at the two men sitting on either side of the sick man’s bed. One look at Johnny told him the young man should be in his own bed and he pointed to the cot.

“You lie down now, or so help me I’ll give you something to knock you out for a week. Murdoch, get him into bed while I see what I can do for Scott,” Jenkins snapped.

“I’m...fine...”

“No, you’re not, Johnny, and if you stay where you are we’ll be picking you up off the floor and then I’ll have to examine you which means I have to leave Scott. Right now...”

“I get the point, Doc,” Johnny groused, reluctantly standing and moving toward the cot. No one missed the way he glanced at his brother, a look of sheer determination that the blond was not allowed to leave.

“Good!” Jenkins said, as he lifted Scott’s eyelid and began his examination. He felt the heat from the young man and turned toward Murdoch.

“We need to get the fever down! You still got that old bathtub?”

“It’s in the barn.”

“Good, have a couple of hands bring it in here! Teresa, I’m going to need water, lots of water.”

“I’ll have Carl and the others bring it from the well!” she said, hurrying from the room as Jenkins lifted the small bandage from Scott’s leg. The wound was slightly swollen and Jenkins could tell someone had cut into it with a hot blade.

“Good, heat kills some of the venom...” he mumbled as Teresa and Murdoch returned.

“The boys are bringing the tub and water,” the older man said.

“Good, set it up at the end of the bed!”

“How’s his leg?” Johnny asked softly. He’d made it to the cot, but refused to lie down until he knew what was happening with his brother.

“It’s bad, but not as bad as it could’ve been. Whichever one of you used the hot blade may have helped more than you know. It’s only recently become known that heat seems to kill some of the venom, but only when it’s applied immediately.

“Murdoch did it right away,” Johnny told him.

“Have you been able to get him to drink anything?”

“Not much. He took a little water and the willow bark tea,” Murdoch said, sitting on the opposite side of the bed as Scott moaned softly.

“We’re going to need to force him to drink. The fever is sapping his strength and will continue to do so until we bring it down. Teresa, can you make some more tea?”

“Right away,” she said and hurried out of the room.

Johnny watched the activity in the room, his head reeling as he concentrated on staying upright. He watched as Jenkins cleaned the bite wound with water laced with carbolic, wincing as Scott’s body shook with pain and fever. The old galvanized tub was brought in and placed at the end of the bed and several hands were busy bringing water to fill it up.

“Murdoch, make sure it’s not too cold...”

“But...” Jelly began.

“I know, Jelly, normally we’d want it cold, but we don’t want to make him any sicker than he is. The venom from the snake can and most likely will affect his lungs and we can’t chance him developing pneumonia. Just take the chill out of it...hopefully that’ll be all we need,” Jenkins explained as the activity in the room continued.

Johnny swallowed back the bile rising in his throat and watched as the people in the room cared for his brother. He knew they were doing everything they could, but he needed to help, needed to be there to soothe the cries of pain and fear that issued from the weakened body as Jenkins stripped the blankets off him.

“It’s ready,” Peter said as he dumped the last of the hot water into it.

Jenkins stood up, moved to the tub, and dipped his hand into the water. The temperature seemed right and he turned to the people in the room.

“Okay, this is what we’re going to do. We need to get Scott into the water and keep him there as long as he can stand it. Johnny, you stay where you are!” the doctor ordered as the young man went to stand.

“Scott needs...”

“Scott won’t even know it’s you right now,” Jenkins explained.

“Johnny, he’ll need you more when the fever goes down,” Murdoch told his youngest son, watching as the shoulders slumped in a show of helplessness.

“Okay, now, we need to do this quickly,” Jenkins explained.

“What about his arm?” Murdoch asked worriedly.

“There’s nothing we can do about that right now. I can replace the splints once we’re done. Murdoch, Jelly, you two get his shoulders. Carl, Peter, you boys get his legs. Just go slow, and watch his leg,” the doctor snapped as the four men moved toward the bed.

Again Johnny watched helplessly as the men moved in to lift his injured brother off the bed. He cringed as Scott’s cry of pain erupted and the blue eyes opened in fear. “It’s okay, Scott, you’re gonna be okay,” he whispered and realized the words were meant to soothe his own fears as much as his brother’s.

Scott had no idea what was happening to him. The heat surrounded his body, burning his lungs, searing his skin as he struggled with the relentless silence of his private hell. There was only one touch he wanted, one man he needed to see, but the brother he searched for was not there. Blurred images attacked his fevered mind and he cried out as his body was suddenly plunged into cold water. His cries were weak, and barely audible, as his heated skin seemed to absorb the moisture surrounding it. No one realized the immersion had sent Scott deeper into the past, mixing images that sent fear racing through him.

“Easy, Scott, it’s okay, we just need to get your fever down,” Murdoch soothed as he held onto his son’s upper body.

“...cccc...cccold...Grandfather...dark man...ssssooo...cccold...”

“Scott, there’s no dark man here,” Murdoch soothed, but could see he wasn’t getting through the blond’s torment. He looked toward his other son and nodded slightly.

Johnny didn’t need the older man’s approval, but he was glad he realized how close he was to his brother. He watched as Jenkins used a cloth to wash the blond’s upper body, as Hoskins placed a chair beside the tub.

Murdoch moved out of the way, watched as Johnny sat down, and placed a hand on Scott’s bare right arm.

“Hey, Scott, I’m here, nothing’s gonna hurt you,” the young man soothed, praying Scott would understand, that some part of him would know he really wasn’t alone.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He ran...his small legs carrying him along the narrow path, putting distance between him and the gruesome images he’d been surrounded by. Whether this was real or not, Scott Lancer didn’t know, all he knew was the desperate need to get away, to escape the cold, dead eyes in the bloated bodies. He glanced over his shoulder, but saw no evidence of his worst nightmare, yet he understood the dark man was getting closer. He shivered as rain pelted his fevered skin, crying out as a hand landed on his right arm.

“NO!” he raged as water surrounded him and laughter floated on the night air. He tried to shrug off the touch, kicking and screaming as the hand gripped him tighter.

Johnny felt Scott’s struggle increase and held on tighter, hoping to get through the fever and bring his brother back to reality. He shook his head as he realized the real world was as much a nightmare as the one Scott was struggling to get out of. He stood up and leaned over the tub, placing his hands on either side of his brother’s cheeks, forcing the blond head to turn in his direction.

“We need to get him calmed down,” Jenkins said as he watched the blond fight his brother’s touch.

“I know, but what else can we do? He can’t hear anyone and he’s stuck in that damned nightmare!” Murdoch snapped, his voice edged with fear and worry. He watched as his younger son placed his hands on Scott’s face and tried to get the blond to look at him.

Johnny continued to speak in low tones, knowing his brother couldn’t hear him, yet needing to hear his own words of comfort.

“Come on, Brother, you don’t gotta fight me,” he said as Scott’s eye finally opened, yet the gunman knew the blond was still locked in his own nightmares.

“...h...hide...gotta...hide...dark man...Johnny...help...Johnny....”

Johnny watched as Scott’s fever bright eyes darted back and forth as if searching for something only he could see. He remembered his own experience with Scott’s dark man and shuddered at the thought of his brother being lost in that world once more. Again he forced the pale face toward him and prayed he’d be able to get through the nightmares before Scott was lost in them forever.

“Come on, Brother...me and you sent the dark man to hell and he can’t hurt you anymore,” he knew the words fell on deaf ears, but he continued talking to his brother, his hands gently holding the gaunt face in his effort to get the blond to focus on him.

Scott could feel hands on his face, but the images he saw were blurry and unfocused. Shadows moved around him and his body continued to shiver uncontrollably as a cloth was eased over his heated skin. He blinked rapidly, bringing more and more shapes into focus as he realized the hands were not those of the dark man. They belonged to someone he cared about, someone who’d vowed to always be there. The shadows began to take on substance and he looked into the familiar blue eyes that were filled with worry.

“JJJohn...ny...” He didn’t hear the cries of relief, but he did see a smile light up the pale face hovering over him.

“I’m here, Scott,” the dark haired man said as tears threatened to fall.

“...ssoo...cccold...”

“I know you are, Scott, but it won’t be for much longer,” Johnny said, and realized from the look on his brother’s face he didn’t understand him.

“How much longer, Doc?” Johnny asked, his eyes remained locked with those of his brother.

“He’s still too hot for my liking. We need to keep him there until the fever goes down some,” Jenkins answered as Murdoch took the cloth from him and began caring for his oldest son.

“Not much longer, Scott,” the youngest Lancer assured him.

“...tttoo...cold...J...Johnny...” he shivered as Murdoch continued to pour the water on his oversensitive skin.

Murdoch glided the cloth across Scott’s chest, hoping and praying they were doing the right thing as he felt the violent tremors racing through the lean body. He glanced over his shoulder and saw Jenkins talking to Teresa before she hurried from the room. She returned a few minutes later with clean towels and placed them on the chair next to the bed.

Jenkins felt Scott’s forehead and knew the fever was down some, not as much as he would’ve liked, but he understood the young man could not handle much more. He knew Teresa had changed the sheets on Scott’s bed and smiled when she turned down the thin blanket.

“Okay, Johnny, you go on back to bed...”

“Ain’t goin’ nowhere,” the dark haired son snapped as Scott’s eyes remained locked on his own.

“We’re going to need to get him out of the water, Johnny, and right now you can’t help us with that,” Jenkins explained.

“...Johnny...Mur...doch...help...”

Johnny’s heart lurched at the weak cry for help from his brother and he spoke softly in spite of his fears.

“Scott, we’re getting you out...”

“O...out...cold...John...ny...”

“I know and we will. I’ll be right there,” he said, pointing to his own cot.

“...okay...tired...look li...like hell...” the blond whispered.

Johnny couldn’t help smiling at his brother’s words and he shook his head slowly. “You or me, Brother?”

“Y...you...”

“Thanks...”

“No...thank y...you,” Scott said, unable to hear the words, yet seeing some of the fear leave his brother. He watched as the younger man made his way to his bed and sat down.

“Scott,” Murdoch said, tapping his son on the shoulder and waiting for him to turn in his direction.

“...out...” Scott asked tiredly.

“That’s right,” Murdoch mouthed. 

“...okay...g...get w...warm...”

The Lancer patriarch smiled as he looked at his injured heir. “That’s right, Son, warm.”

“Okay, Murdoch, let’s get him out of there,” Jenkins ordered. He watched as the four men eased the blond from the water, knowing there was nothing he could do about the pain they were causing him.

Scott held his breath, as his body was lifted from the water. The pain nearly sent him back into his nightmares, but he fought to remain awake. He felt the strong arms gently carry him back to the bed and towels applied to his heated skin before he was lowered onto the mattress and a blanket eased up over him. His upper body was lifted and a couple of pillows were placed behind his head. He continued to shiver even as his body began to warm and he looked at his father when the man’s hand touched his shoulder.

“I...I’m okay,” the blond told him.

“You will be,” the older man promised as Jenkins examined the snakebite. He held Scott’s right hand while the doctor continued to work on the injury, applying more of the plantain poultice. He knew his son had a long battle ahead of him, but vowed that he wouldn’t be alone. He looked to the second bed and saw the same promise on the pale face.

Scott swallowed and tried to hide just how much pain he was in, but was unable to keep the fact from his father or brother.

“Murdoch, see if you can get him to drink some of that tea and water,” Jenkins ordered as he continued to examine Scott’s leg.

The older man reached for the cup and placed it in front of his son’s mouth, and watched as his mouth curved into a thin line.

“Come on, Son, just a little,” Murdoch mouthed, and was pleased when his stubborn son accepted the liquid.

Scott recognized the taste of the Willow bark tea and forced himself to drink in spite of his churning stomach. He turned away after only a couple of sips and let his eyes close. Exhaustion and pain warred for dominance as he drifted toward sleep. He felt Jenkins at his arm and winced while the older man examined it, before sliding from a silent world into a darker one.

“Doc, how is he?” the dark haired son asked tiredly.

“His fever is still higher than I’d like and we need to get him drinking more. I’m not going to lie to either of you, but Scott might not make it through this. He’s been fighting the injury to his arm and he’s been weak and losing weight for some time. That combined with the snakebite is going to be hell for him. He’s going to have to want to fight...”

“Scott’ll fight, I’ll make sure of that!” Johnny whispered, yet the words were filled with undeniable strength.

“We both will, Son,” Murdoch agreed when Jenkins finished with Scott’s arm. He looked from one son to the other, vowing to keep his family at Lancer, now that he finally had them together.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Harlan Garrett quickly boarded the stage, knowing he’d have to put up with the discomfort in order to collect his grandson. He watched as Phillips made sure their luggage was stowed properly and settled onto the seat. He’d paid to have the coach to himself and didn’t care about the people who’d have to delay their travel plans until the next stage was ready. He watched as Phillips stepped into the coach and sat on the seat opposite him, placing a large basket on the floor beside him. The basket was filled with food for the journey, yet right now his appetite was nil. He loved his grandson, and wanted him back where he belonged, away from the dangers of life in the west. His thoughts went to the last time he’d been at Lancer, when a man from his past decided to take revenge by kidnapping Scott. He blamed it on the lawlessness of the west, and ignored the fact that the danger to his grandson had been his doing. He felt the stage begin to move and tried to settle back against the uncomfortable seats.

‘We’ll soon have you back where you belong, Scotty,’ he thought, smiling at the thought of seeing Murdoch’s face when he took Scott Lancer away from the ranch.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch sat between the two beds, his eyes straying from one man to the other while his thoughts drifted over the time they’d been with him. No matter which one was hurt, or how badly, his heart beat faster in his chest, and his body refused the sleep it craved until he knew the injured man would be okay. Since they’d immersed his oldest son in the water his fever had abated somewhat, but he had been sleeping ever since. Johnny seemed to be the only one to wake Scott enough to get him to drink water, tea, or broth, but even then the blond fought them. Murdoch leaned forward and touched the pale forehead again, sighing worriedly as he felt the heat was still there.

“Murdoch?”

The Lancer patriarch turned at the soft gravely voice from the other bed. Johnny was still weak, but the headache finally eased enough to allow him to sleep, and for that the older man was grateful. He stood up and crossed the small space between the beds as Johnny sat up and slid his legs over the side.

“How are you feeling?”

“Better...how’s Scott?”

“About the same. His fever’s not as high as it was, but he’s having trouble breathing right now. Jenkins says that’s to be expected with the snake’s venom. He said we just have to keep doing what we’re doing and he’ll be back to check on Scott tomorrow.” Murdoch saw the fear in the blue eyes and knew how worried the young man was about his brother. The relationship he shared with his sons could be turbulent, but there was none of that between Johnny and Scott. Although raised in two different environments, the brothers were more alike than they realized. Both had an engrained sense of loyalty to each other and he hoped some day they would also show that loyalty for him. He knew he didn’t deserve it right now, but someday he hoped he could earn that right.

Johnny ran his fingers through his disheveled hair and pressed the palms of his hands against his eyes before standing up and moving to the other bed.

“Has he woke up at all?”

“Not since you got him to drink the tea. I tried, but I’m not getting through to him,” Murdoch said, a deep sadness in his voice.

“It’s hard seeing him like this,” the gunman said, reaching out to touch his brother’s arm. He shook his head at the heat that registered against his palm. “He still feels so damn hot.”

“That’s the...”

“Fever...I know, but his skin feels dry too.”

“I know, Teresa’s been using some of that aloe she seems to like to see if it’ll help.”

“Scott,” Johnny spoke the word softly, feeling his brother move under his touch. A soft moan escaped the dry, cracked lips as the head moved on the bed. He watched as the eyelids fought to open and lines of pain became evident on the handsome face.

“Is he waking up?”

“I think so...That’s it, come on Scott look at me,” he knew the words would not penetrate, but he massaged the bare right shoulder as he spoke.

“I’ll go get the tea and see if Teresa’s got any juice or broth we can give him,” Murdoch said, hurrying from the room.

Scott fought to stay in the soft void he’d been languishing in. A place where nothing hurt and not even a hint of darkness showed through the light. A place where he was no one...needed no one...but there was someone who wanted him to come away from that void. To come back and face the pain that intruded on his mind and body. He couldn’t hear the voice, not in the sense that he normally did, but he sensed the sorrow, the pain, the want, and the need. He opened his eyes and focused on the pale-faced man sitting beside his bed and understood just how much power this man held over him. The name would not come to him at first and he frowned, searching desperately for the link to this man. Again he had the sense that this man would not let him go...not now...not ever.

“J...Johnny?” He watched the smile light up the blue eyes and wondered why he couldn’t hear the musical laughter that went with it.

“That’s right, Boston,” the dark haired man laughed, relief evident in the sound.

“H...hot...” Scott saw the dark head nod once as the lips continued to move, but nothing reached his ears. He knew he was deaf...knew what silence really meant, the loneliness, the solitude, yet something about his brother spoke louder than if he’d shouted the words. Johnny’s presence was a soothing balm on his heated flesh, a dip in a cold pond on his scorched skin. He shivered at the force he felt from his brother, one that would always be a part of his strength.

“I know,” Johnny assured him, reaching for the cloth in the basin of water. He saw the glass of water beside the bowl and offered it to his brother.

“Y...yes...thir...sty...”

“Just go slow,” Madrid told him, holding the glass against his brother’s lips. He watched as Scott labored to drink and finally turned his head away from it. He heard the soft wheeze and knew the effort to drink had sapped the air from his brother’s lungs. They’d have to take things slow and make sure he took the sips slowly. He picked up the cloth and placed it across the older man’s forehead.

“What hap...happened?” The blond watched his brother reach for something beside his bed and recognized the slate board and chalk. The board was soon turned in his direction and he read the simple message.

“What do you remember?”

“I...I...we were riding through the canyon...no...no, that’s not it...” Scott frowned as he realized he was thinking of the wrong accident. “Stage...hit me...No...you hit me...saved my life...got hurt...Johnny, I’m sorry...keep causing you pain...hurt...ing y...you...go h...home...no...go to Boston...Lancer h...home...” the blond moaned when his head began to pound with the confusing memories being displayed for his eyes only

“You did not hurt me, Scott!” Johnny said, frustrated at the way his brother’s thoughts were going. He turned the slate back to himself and quickly wrote the words he hoped would get through to his brother. He saw the closed eyes and the lines of pain and touched the other man’s shoulder, shaking it slightly in an effort to make him look at the slate.

“Come on, Scott, read it!” he snapped impatiently.

“What’s wrong, Johnny?” Murdoch asked when he came back into the room, Teresa following closely behind him.

“He’s talking about going back to Boston,” the younger man snapped, shaking the lean form a little harder. He heard his brother cry out in pain and knew he’d gone too far when the blond grabbed for his left arm.

“Dammit!” Madrid hissed, exhaustion making him stagger as he stood up. 

“J...Johnny...hurt...” the blond said, not realizing he’d sent the wrong message to the his dark haired brother.

“Ah, hell, Scott, I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Madrid said, fighting back the moisture threatening to fall from his eyes.

“H...hurt...h...hot...” Scott said, his eyes closing.

“Johnny, see if you can get him to drink this,” Murdoch said, handing the tea to his youngest son, glad to see the gunman take the tea.

“Scott,” the dark haired Lancer said, again punctuating his words by touching his brother’s forehead. “Need you to drink this,” he explained when the glazed eyes opened once more.

“T...tired...”

“I know...just a little,” the younger man mouthed.

“...okay...”

Murdoch stepped forward and slowly lifted his injured son. He held Scott as Johnny painstakingly fed him the tea and a small amount of broth, before the blond’s eyes closed and the only sound in the room was his tortured breathing. He eased him back to the pillows and watched as the chest rose and fell, praying for his son to recover.

“Murdoch?”

“Yes, Johnny.”

“I need some time alone. Will you stay with Scott?”

“Of course, but Johnny, where are you going? Will you be gone long?”

“I’m just going for a ride. I need to think about some things,” the younger man said, standing and walking to the door. He stopped and turned to face his father and the young woman he cared for. “I’ll be back by nightfall,” he assured them before leaving.

“Johnny!”

“Let him go, Teresa. He’s been through a lot,” Murdoch said, moving the slate out of the way as he sat in the chair beside his injured son.

Teresa watched as he began caring for the blond, washing his heated body in an effort to bring down the fever. Nothing seemed to be working and she was afraid they were losing the ‘brother’ she’d so recently acquired. She picked up the slate and read the hastily scrawled words written by Johnny’s strong hands.

‘I won’t lose you, Scott. Not now, I want that mud fight with you. I love you, Brother!’

‘Oh, Johnny,’ she thought as she held the slate close to her breast, and tears came unbidden to her eyes. ‘I don’t want to lose either of you.’

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny rode back into the yard as the sun dipped below the horizon. He eased off Barranca and was pleased when one of the hands appeared and offered to take care of him. Normally that was something he’d do himself, but his body ached and he didn’t think he had the energy to do the job properly. He patted the horse on the neck and spoke softly into his ear.

“Sorry, Pal, but I don’t think I’ve got the energy to take care of myself either.”

He spotted Jenkins’ buggy parked near the front door and hurried to see if everything was okay. He opened the door, just as a harsh scream ripped through the house. His own fatigue forgotten, Johnny took the stairs two at a time, and raced into his brother’s room, intent on stopping whatever torture was being done to him. He stood framed in the doorway, his legs frozen as his mind registered the scene in the room. He tried to speak, but nothing came out until he heard the soft moans coming from his brother.

“What’s going on?”

“JJJ...Johnny...h...help...” the words were forced through clenched teeth.

“Johnny, thank God,” Murdoch said as they immersed the blond in the water once more.

“Why are you doing that again? I though his fever was coming down?”

“...ppl...please...no...no mmore...”

“His fever spiked about half an hour ago. We need to get it down now!” Jenkins snapped. “Get over here and see if you can calm him down!”

Johnny’s legs felt weighted down as he made his way toward the tub holding his brother. Scott’s cries continued to wreak havoc with his own raw emotions as he knelt beside him. He watched Murdoch holding the blond steady while Jenkins used water to cool him down. He reached out to touch his brother and hoped the older man would look at him. The blond didn’t move, the words mumbled through fever-baked lips as he called for the one man he needed to hear, to see.

“Come on, B...Bos...Brother,” Johnny corrected, not wanting to use the name of the other home Scott had known. He used his hands to touch the blond’s cheeks and slowly turned the pale man’s face toward him. He waited for the eyes to focus, but there was no lucidity in the blue-grey orbs. Scott’s cries continued while fever raged through his body, sapping his strength, and blinding him to the worried people caring for him.

“...John...ny...he...help...mmmeeee!”

“I’m right here, Scott, ain’t no one gonna hurt you...not as long as I’m around. Come on now, look at me, Brother. I’m right here...so are Murdoch and Teresa...and Doc Jenkins. They’re all trying to help you, Scott.” He watched as the blond tried to focus on him, yet the eyes were glazed with fever and pain.

Scott trembled as the cool water continued to wrap him in what felt like an icy blanket, yet there was warmth where someone touched his face. He tried to focus on whoever it was, but his mind would not cooperate and sent him back into fever-baked hell. He began to tremble violently as Johnny’s handsome face blended with those from his long ago nightmares...to a time when no one came when he called for help.

“Please, Grand...father...help me!”

Johnny closed his eyes as Scott’s screams cut him to the core. His headache, which had been easier during the day, felt like it was ready to explode. Pulling his hand away from his brother’s face he struck out at the nearest thing to him. The table that had been set up next to the galvanized tub went flying as Johnny hit it, sending, soap, towels, and ice across the room.

“Johnny!” Murdoch shouted, reaching for his younger son as he raced past him. His gaze went from the retreating man to the one shivering in pain and fear and he wasn’t sure who needed him most. Torn between the two, he could only stand there until Teresa placed a hand on his arm.

“Go after him, Murdoch. We’ll make sure Scott is okay,” his charge assured him.

Murdoch Lancer looked at the trembling blond once more and realized Scott would not even know he was there right now, but Johnny would, and he needed him now. Turning away from the scene he raced down the stairs, stopping when he spotted the dark haired young man pouring a stiff shot of whiskey before downing the fiery amber liquid.

“Do you really think that’ll help, Son?”

“I don’t know!” the dark haired man shouted, slamming the glass down on the table.

“It doesn’t,” the Lancer patriarch stated. “Believe me I’ve tried to drown my troubles in it more than once,” Murdoch told him as Johnny poured another glass.

“Ain’t trying to drown my troubles!” the younger man snapped.

“Aren’t you, Johnny? You’ve been drawn tighter than a bow since Scott was hurt the first time. It wasn’t your fault then and it’s not your fault now!”

“Isn’t it? I’m the one who took us through the pass...”

“Johnny, how else did you expect to get back here? You know the pass is the only way and there was nothing you could’ve done about the rockslide. It was just bad luck that it happened as you and your brother were coming through there.”

“Bad luck...is that what it was? I just don’t understand it, Murdoch. How come Scott was hurt so badly and it never touched me. We were both right there!”

“I don’t know, Johnny. All I can say is it was meant to be. There’s no telling how long you’d have been out there if you’d been hurt too. There was a reason for this to happen like it did. You were needed to make sure Scott was not alone out there. It seems like lately you’ve been Scott’s guardian angel in more ways than one.”

“Guardian angel...more like a...”

“More like nothing, Johnny. If you hadn’t been with Scott in the pass he’d probably have bled to death. If it wasn’t for you he’d have been struck by that stage and probably a lot worse off. If you hadn’t followed him out to that small clearing he’d be dead from a snakebite. Believe me, Johnny, you’ve been there for Scott again and again and he’s going to realize that when he’s feeling better.”

“Will he, Murdoch?” Johnny asked softly, the shot of whiskey forgotten on the desk.

“Yes, Son, he will.”

“Then why does he want to go back to Boston? It’s not his home...probably never was. I mean he lived in that big fancy house with all them servants, but I think he was worse off than me. Least I had folks who were there for me...may not have been the best place to grow up, but kids were treated as kids. You know Scott never ever had a mud fight...was never allowed to get dirty...had to be on his best behavior at all times. That ain’t right, Murdoch...he deserved better than that!”

“I know he did, Son, and so did you. I know you grew up with Maria’s family and they did a great job with you. I missed those years with you...missed seeing you grow into the man I see before me today. A man I’m proud to call Son, even if I don’t deserve that honor. I searched for you, but there were no real clues about where you were, and that’s not an excuse...it’s not meant to be. I knew where Scott was and even went there a few times...last time was when he was five...should’ve taken him home with me then. Maybe none of this would’ve happened. I can’t change the past, Johnny, but I can promise to be there for both of you...as long as you want me to be.”

“I hated you all those years, Murdoch. Hated you for not coming for me, especially after Ma died. I had plans to find you and tell you just how much I hated you, but the day I got here all the anger and hurt didn’t mean a damn thing. Oh, I was still angry with you, but I learned I had a brother and that made a big difference. Made me realize I’d never really been alone...that there was someone else out there who was a part of me.”

“John, I’ll never be able to make up for that missing time, but I promise to do the best I can with the gifts I was given when you and Scott came home for good...”

“But Scott may not be home for good, Murdoch. He wants to go back to Boston...”

“I don’t think that’s really what he wants, Johnny, and I’m not going to let him go without a fight.”

“Neither am I.”

“Guess that means we have a fight on our hands.”

“Yeah, seems ol’ Harlan is in for a war if he thinks we’re gonna let him take Scott away without a fight!”

“One he’s bound to lose!” the older man said, smiling at the confidence he now saw on Johnny’s face. “Now, are you ready to go help your brother?”

“Yeah,” the gunslinger nodded, looked at the full glass and turned away. He passed his father, missing the pride in the older man’s face as he watched his strong young son walk up the stairs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jenkins continued to do what he could for Scott Lancer. He knew in his heart they were in danger of losing the young man, but he wasn’t ready to give up this easily. Teresa continued to use a cloth to wash the fevered brow and chest, but Scott seemed unaware of her touch. He fought his own nightmares, crying out as he struggled to get away from the images only he saw. The weary doctor looked up, relieved to see the youngest son enter the room. He could tell Johnny was not resting well, evidenced by the dark smudges under the blue eyes.

“How is he, Doc?”

“The same, Son, we need to get the fever down and get him back to bed.”

“How can I help?”

“By doing what you always do. Talk to him, Johnny...tell him he’s not alone.  Let him know you’re here for him.”

Johnny nodded and sat down on the stool Teresa vacated. He smiled at the strands of wet dark hair that fell in front of her face, and knew she was exhausted. He took the cloth from her hand and nodded, seeing the worry in the soft eyes.

“We’ll get him through this, Teresa,” he said simply, then turned his full attention to his brother. Scott was quiet now, and somehow that affected him worse than the cries he heard earlier. At least then he’d shown some strength, now his head leaned to one side, eyes closed, and his breathing shallow and rapid, as if he fought to draw air into his lungs. He dropped the cloth into the water and used his hands to cup the cool liquid. Slowly he bathed the too hot body, using his hands to run water over the injured man, and his touch to get through to him.

“Hey, Boston, it’s ‘bout time you stopped all this. Ain’t gonna let you go and neither is anyone else. We’re all fighting for you and it’s time you helped us out here. We’re all gettin’ mighty tired of havin’ to give you a bath, ‘specially when you just sit here and don’t even talk to us...”

Murdoch stood in the doorway, listening as Johnny talked to Scott. Something about the tone he used seemed to be breaking through the fever and pain. He listened to the words, understanding that Johnny no longer hid his own pain, but used it as a way to get through to the shivering blond. He smiled as Scott’s head lifted slightly and the almost smoky blue eyes opened.

“That’s it, Brother. The quicker you get better the faster we get you out of this tub and back in your bed. You’d like that wouldn’t you? It’s a lot more comfortable than sitting in here,” Johnny said, continuing to speak in soothing tones.

Scott could not hear the words, but there was something in the air surrounding him, something in the soothing touch he felt on his body. He struggled past the pain and forced his eyes to open as he lifted his head. His eyes met the worried ones set in the familiar face and his hoarse voice was barely audible as he spoke.

“...John...ny...”

“Hey, Brother, ‘bout time you woke up.”

“....ccc...cold...”

“I know,” the gunslinger said, turning his head toward the doctor. “Can we get him outta here now?”

“Let me check,” Jenkins said, reaching out and touching the blond’s forehead. “He does feel a little cooler...”

“So we can get him out?”

“I think so, but we need to take it slow. Johnny, I want you to stay where he can see you at all times,” Jenkins explained. 

“...nnneedd to g...get o...out...Johnny...he...help...me!” Scott cried as his body trembled violently, sending water over the sides of the tub.

“I’m here, Scott...always will be...” the gunslinger said, taking his brother’s hand as the others began to ease him from the water. He held tight, even as towels were quickly used to dry the shivering man. He knew Murdoch had sent Teresa out of the room, and was grateful they’d saved Scott and her the embarrassment of his being naked as the day he was born.

Scott felt himself lifted from the cold water and sighed as towels dried the lingering moisture from his hair and chest. He felt the strong hand in his own and smiled weakly as his brother showed the depth of feeling he had for him. He didn’t know who else was in the room, but he knew there were more than he’d originally thought as he was lowered onto the bed and a thin blanket placed over him. He winced when someone touched his arm and strapped it to his chest once more.

“Easy, Boston, Doc’s just making you more comfortable,” Johnny explained, wishing his words would get through to the injured man.

“...thirsty...”

“Here, give him this, Johnny,” Jenkins ordered, handing the young man a cup of dark liquid.

“What is it?”

“A herb tea, similar to willow bark tea, but a little stronger...hopefully it’ll help with the fever and pain. I’m going to check his leg and I wish I could give him more Laudanum, but his breathing is still not as good as I’d like it to be. Get him to drink as much as possible and hopefully it’ll take some of the edge off the pain,” the doctor explained.

Johnny nodded and helped his brother drink the herbal remedy. He winced in sympathy when the blond tried to pull away, but would not give up until his brother drank most of the tea.

“That’s fine, Johnny, now I just need you and Murdoch to keep him quiet while I check his leg,” Jenkins ordered and lifted the blanket from Scott’s injured leg. He silently cursed when he saw the red tinged wound and knew he would have to drain the infection once more.

“What’s wrong?” Murdoch asked, seeing the concern on the doctor’s face.

“I’m going to need to drain this...I’ll need water and carbolic!” the doctor explained as he opened his bag and placed it beside Scott’s injured leg.

Scott watched the doctor open his bag and look from one face to the other. His mind was still full of jumbled thoughts and images, but something about the way the three men looked at him told him things were not good. His gaze came to rest on his brother and he let the fear show on his face.

“John...ny...wa’s wr...wrong?”

“It’s okay, Scott. Doc’s gonna fix ya right up. He’s gonna clean that leg and then let you sleep.”

“W...what? I d...don’t under...understand...c...can’t h...hear you...”

“Dammit! Murdoch, hand me the slate and chalk!”

Scott watched through half-mast eyes as his brother quickly wrote something on the slate. He licked at dry lips, wondering why he couldn’t seem to get enough air into his lungs. The slate was turned toward him and he read the hastily scrawled words.

“Doc’s gotta clean your leg...You just hang onto me...okay?”

“...okay...” the blond whispered fearfully as his brother reached for his right hand. He felt the strength from the younger man and closed his eyes as Jenkins reached for his leg. His cries fell on his deaf ears, but they were loud to the people in the room with him. Johnny’s touch anchored him to the pain filled world he resided in, even when Jenkins’ touch threatened to send him back into the nightmarish past.

“Easy, Boston, he’s nearly done,” Madrid explained, feeling the hot tears in his eyes and not bothering to hide them as they slid down his cheeks. He felt Scott’s grip tighten on his hand and understood just how much pain his brother was in.

“God!!!!!!!” Scott cried out when something pressed against his leg and he slipped into unconsciousness.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two days later Scott opened his eyes and frowned at the dark head lying next to his on the pillow. Unaware of how much time had passed, or how his illness had affected those he loved, Scott reached out to touch his brother. His hand felt leaden as he tried to lift it off the mattress and his tongue darted out searching for moisture even as he tried to speak.

“Jo...Johnny...”

The younger Lancer hadn’t left Scott’s side during the fight to keep him alive. Several times over the last two days they thought they had lost him, but Jenkins’ medical experience coupled with his family’s love kept the blond alive. Teresa and Murdoch were sleeping in their rooms, Jenkins had left earlier to check on his other patients, with a promise that he would return later. The cot that was usually reserved for Johnny, but had not felt his weight since Scott became deathly ill two days before. The sound of his brother’s dry raspy voice beckoned to him and his eyes slowly opened.

“J...John...ny...”

“Hey, Boston...”

“...why...sleep...ing here?”

“You needed me, Scott, and I promised I’d be here,” Johnny explained, patiently drawing out each word.

“T...thanks...feel lousy...h...happened?”

“Hang on,” Madrid explained and reached for the slate. It didn’t take long to write the words, but he knew his brother would find it easier to understand.

“Doc had to drain the snake bite. Your fever was worse and you’ve been out for nearly two days. How do you feel?”

“...thir...sty...”

“Here, got some water for ya.” He lifted the sweat soaked blond head, smiling as he realized the fever didn’t seem anywhere near what it had been. He felt the head turn away and placed the glass back on the table.

“...tired...” Scott said, closing his eyes, and missing the worry on his brother’s face.

“You rest, Scott, I won’t let anyone hurt you,” he vowed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Harlan Garret smiled as the gates came into view. He knew Phillips was a good driver and had opted not to hire another man to bring him to Lancer. The buggy he rode in was covered and kept the sun from beating down on him, and there was space at the back for the luggage he’d brought with him. He looked ahead as the sun seemed to dip lower in the sky, bathing the hacienda in soft rays of light. If the elderly man were honest with himself he would admit the ranch was a beautiful place. That the rolling green landscape and the tall deciduous trees made it a perfect setting for a family to live and grow in.

He shook his head and brought his thoughts back to why he was here. He’d come to collect his grandson, to bring him home to the life he deserved. A life of high society parties, where he could meet the perfect woman for him. One like Julie, only this time she would not want for anything. She would know what it meant to come from money and understand Scott’s standing in the community. They drove through the gates, and his stomach clenched in anticipation.

“We will be leaving as soon as Scotty is ready. I don’t think we will be staying here overnight!”

“Yes, Sir,” Phillips said, knowing this man had already made up his mind about where they’d be spending the night. Their reservations were set at the hotel and they’d assured the owner they would be back that night. He flicked at the horses, making them move a little faster as he realized it would be dark before long and this trail was unfamiliar to him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny stood and stretched, feeling better than he had in a long time. Jenkins had finally finished his examination of Scott and told them things were looking good. What made Johnny feel even better was the fact that Scott had managed to drink a small amount of broth and water, before succumbing to sleep once more. He looked at his brother, smiling at how much easier he seemed to be breathing. The fever spots were still in evidence, but were not as bright as they’d been during the worst of Scott’s illness.

Johnny turned toward the window as the sound of an approaching buggy caught his attention. ‘What did Jenkins forget?’ he thought as he pulled open the lace curtains. He caught sight of the unfamiliar buggy just before it turned the corner, yet he’d seen the figure sitting in the back and cursed sharply before striding across the room and racing down the stairs. He hurried across the room and opened the main door as Harlan Garret raised his hand to knock.

“I’ve come to take my grandson home!” the old man stated, smiling triumphantly at the dark haired man before him.

“You’re not welcome here, Garrett!” Johnny said, his voice hard edged as he stepped outside and closed the door.

“Do you really think I care whether I’m welcome in this godforsaken place? I am here at the request of my grandson and you would do well to get out of my way!”

“Scott’s not up to visitors,” Madrid hissed.

“I’m not a visitor, I’m his grandfather!”

“Only by blood, and sometimes that don’t mean anything!” his eyes twinkled when he saw the expression on Garrett’s face.

“Blood is the only thing that matters. How dare Murdoch allow a gunslinger to live under the same roof as Scotty! You’re not worthy of breathing the same air he does.”

Johnny didn’t get a chance to answer as the door opened behind him and Murdoch Lancer stepped outside. Johnny recognized the look on his father’s face, in spite of having only seen it a few times. Anger shone in the man’s eyes, and the gunman could’ve sworn his nostrils flared like a bull ready to charge.

“You owe my son an apology, Harlan, and until he gets it you won’t step anywhere inside my home!”

“I owe him nothing! I owe you nothing...”

“You owe me 24 years of my son’s life! You stole those years from me and if there was a way to get them back I’d make damn sure I took Scott home with me. At least here he would’ve known he was loved, not because of who he was, but because he deserved it! I’ll never forgive myself for not bringing Scott home to the place Catherine loved so much.”

“Catherine hated it here!”

“No, you hated her being here. Hated seeing her happy and free to do as she pleased! We knew you would never approve of her living out here.”

“You’re right about that, Murdoch! Now get out of my way and let me see Scotty!”

“Not until you apologize!”

“I won’t!” Garrett blustered.

“Then get off our property. You insult my son, you insult me!”

“Not until...”

“Well, I never...”

“Now, Harlan, or I’ll have some of the men escort you from Lancer!”

If there was one thing Harlan Garrett knew about Murdoch Lancer it was that the man didn’t make idle threats. That left him one option if he wanted to collect his grandson and leave immediately. He turned to the gunslinger, hating the look of amusement on the gunman’s face. Forcing his pride to the back of his mind he spoke softly.

“I apologize, Madrid!”

“His name is Lancer, Garrett. Johnny Lancer!”

He looked at Murdoch with hatred in his eyes. This man may have been his son in law and given him a grandson, but he was not family, and as such Garrett had little or no respect for the rancher. Taking a deep breath, his voice barely civil, he spoke once more.

“I apologize, Johnny Lan...cer!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott opened his eyes, not sure what had awakened him from his dreams. His mouth was dry and he tried to moisten his lips, but found them cracked and sore. He turned to his right, frowning at the empty chair beside his bed. The one thing he’d been sure of when he opened his eyes was that his brother or father would be sitting there, making sure he had something to drink.

“John...ny...” his voice was nothing more that a tortured whisper, but he knew nothing would reach his ears. The silence still surrounded him, and the loneliness was made even worse with no one around him. He struggled weakly to throw back the covers, shivering when he looked down at his own body. His right leg, just below the knee, was covered in a white bandage. Forcing his body to obey his commands he sat further up in the bed, moaning as he slid his legs over the side. He couldn’t believe how the small move sapped his strength, but he had to find out where the others were. Scott had no idea how long it took him to sit upright, but the room around him had taken on a decidedly twisted look. He lifted his right hand and rubbed his throbbing temples in an effort to ease the mounting pain there. 

“John...ny...Mur...doch...” he called, reaching for the nightstand beside his bed and pulling himself to his feet. His body felt as if it belonged to someone else, and he couldn’t get it to move the way he wanted to. He stood on shaky legs, wincing at the pain in his lower leg. He blinked his eyes several times, hoping the room would stop spinning as nauseous raced through his stomach. He released his right hand and forced himself to stand straighter, hating the weakness in his limbs. He forced his legs to move one inch at a time, slowly, painstakingly making his way toward the door. He made it to the end of the bed, and reached for the bed when his vision blurred.

“Te...Teresa...” he called, but couldn’t be sure as no sound met his ears. Again he waited for his mind to clear of the fog enshrouding it before pushing away from the bed once more. ‘Not smart, Scott,’ he thought when he moved away from the bed and found himself with nothing to hold on to. Taking a couple of shuffling steps, he tried to keep his balance, but knew he was going to fall. He lifted his right arm, but misjudged the distance and fell heavily to the floor. His left arm struck he door casing and he cried out as the healing bone shifted, sending jarring pain ripping through jagged nerves. The world around him began to fade as his stomach lost its contents.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny and Murdoch turned away from the elderly man and raced into the house. Both men heard the cry of pain and knew Scott must’ve woken to find himself alone. They raced inside and up the stairs, as Teresa came out of the kitchen. She darted a glance toward the door, as Harlan Garrett stood framed in the dying light of the day. Ignoring the older man, she turned to follow Murdoch and Johnny upstairs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny raced up the stairs, unaware of anything, but the need to reach his brother. He spotted his brother lying half in, half out of the bedroom door and knelt beside him. He watched as the blond lashes slowly flickered open and pain shone in the blue-gray orbs.

“What the hell’d ya think you were doing?” Madrid asked, anger and worry making his words sound harsh.

“Easy, Johnny, let’s see if we can get him back into bed,” Murdoch said, kneeling on the opposite side of the prone blond.

“You will do no such thing! Scotty is leaving with me now!” Garrett warned.

“Get out of here, Garrett!” the Lancer patriarch snarled when the elderly man tried to push him away from the injured blond.

“I will not! I’ll have you know...” Garrett grew quiet, at a loss for words once he saw the pale form on the floor. Taking a deep, shuddering breath he grabbed onto, Johnny Lancer’s shoulder and pushed him.

The younger man had been balanced precariously on his feet and did not have a chance to correct his position as Garrett’s deceptive strength pushed against him. He landed heavily on his backside, but was on his feet, his hand reaching for the nonexistent gun at his side, even as Murdoch placed a steadying hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t ever put your hands on my son again!” the older Lancer warned, turning a burning glare in the unwelcome guest’s direction.

“I...he...look what he’s done t...to my Scotty!” the elderly man stammered, fear evident on his face as Murdoch held his gaze.

“Scott belongs to no one,” Johnny snarled.

“Johnny didn’t do this. If you must know Johnny’s about the only one Scott responds to right now.”

“He’ll respond to me...”

“Look, I know you men are angry, but Scott needs us right now!” Teresa reasoned, placing herself between the three men. “We need to get him back in his bed and make sure he’s not bleeding again!”

“Teresa’s right,” Johnny agreed, turning his back to Harlan Garrett. His dislike of the man intensified each time he looked at him.

“Mr. Garrett, would you please move out of the way?” Teresa asked.

“I am not leaving without my grandson!”

“I did not tell you to leave, I told you to move out of the way. You’ll be of no help getting Scott off the floor.”

“How dare you?”

“Harlan, just shut up and move or I’ll...”

“Murdoch!”

“Just shut up and get out of the way or so help me God I’ll move you!” the patriarch snapped, his patience for this man long since abandoning him. He stood his ground, daring his father in law to deny him, relieved he didn’t have to bodily move the curmudgeon when Garrett finally backed toward the stairs. He turned his attention back to his two sons, his gaze steady on the younger one.

“You ready?” he asked, reaching for the blond’s legs.

“Yeah,” Madrid told him. Between the two men they lifted the blond as Teresa hurried to pull back the blankets.

Scott felt someone touching him and cried out as he was lifted off the floor. He struggled to open his eyes and focus on anything but the pain stemming from every part of his body, until he was lowered onto the familiar comfort of his bed. He moaned, glancing from his brother to his father; knowing he caused the worry he saw on their faces.

“I’m...s...sorry...so...sorry,” he whimpered, pain and weakness making him sound as bad as he looked.

“Easy, Son, let me take a look at you,” Murdoch said, hoping his son didn’t sense his forced calm in his words. ‘Damn,’ he thought, realizing Scott couldn’t even hear his voice, making it impossible for him to know what he’d said.

“...water...” the blond rasped, his tongue darting out to once more lick at arid lips.

“Johnny...”

“Got it, Murdoch,” the gunman said, sitting on the edge of the bed as his father raised Scott enough to drink from the glass. He glared at the man who forced his way past Teresa and came into the room.

“Grand...father...” Scott’s voice was filled with a mixture of hope and fear as he looked at the man who’d raised him. He knew the man was there for a reason, but his fevered mind could not grasp that reason any more than he could remember what had happened to him.

“That’s right, Scotty, I’ve come to take you home,” Garrett said, standing at the foot of the bed. He’d tried to force Murdoch out of the way, but finally admitted defeat. One look at Johnny Madrid told him there’d be no leeway there either.

“C...can’t hear you, Grandfather,” Scott said, his voice weak and filled with despair. 

“That’s okay, Scotty. We’ll get you help when we get home.”

“When will you admit Scott is home?” Murdoch asked, his voice deceptively calm.

“Scotty belongs in Boston! At least there he’ll be safe and have the best medical care money can buy.”

“Scott belongs with people who care about him!” Johnny said, his words frigid as he glared at the older man.

“Dr. Jenkins is taking care of him,” Murdoch snapped as he examined the wound to his son’s calf.

“That quack...”

“What’s wrong?” Scott’s voice interrupted the tirade. He could not hear the words, but the anger written on the faces told him something was amiss. He forced his body upwards, until a hand halted his slow progress.

“Lay still, Scott,” Johnny told him, making sure his brother was looking at him when he spoke.

“Something’s wrong, Johnny. Why are you angry? I didn’t mean to f...fall...”

“Not angry with you, Scott,” Madrid assured his brother as Teresa returned with a cup in her hands.

“He needs to drink this,” she told them, handing the cup to her guardian.

“What kind of backwoods concoction are you feeding him now?” Garrett asked, scowling as the woman turned on him.

“I do not make backwoods concoctions, Mr. Garrett. That is willow bark tea and it helps with the fever and pain he has.”

“Haven’t you people heard of Laudanum?” the elderly man asked, watching as Murdoch fed the younger man the tea.

“Laudanum effects the breathing. Scott’s having enough troubles without adding to them!” Murdoch snarled, hating the condescending tone in the older man’s voice.

“Why is he having trouble breathing? I thought it was just his hearing and his arm that were injured.”

“Scott and me had a run in with a snake...”

“A snake? What kind of snake?”

“Rattlesnake,” Madrid answered with forced calmness.

“Rattlesnake. My grandson should have been resting! How did he end up being bitten by a snake?”

“Scott took off the other morning and Johnny went after him. There was a snake there and Johnny and Scott...”

“So it’s your fault!” Garrett snapped at the younger son.

“Stop!” Scott pleaded, seeing the anger in the faces of those he cared for. He couldn’t hear the words, but there was no mistaking what he saw. Again he tried to sit up, his breathing becoming worse with each upward movement, until, defeated, he dropped back against the pillows. His eyes grew wide as he fought his constricting lungs, fear and helplessness warring for domination on his face as he tried to breathe. He felt Johnny pulling him into his arms, his head dropping forward on the gunman’s chest as he ignored everything, but his body’s need for oxygen.

Johnny held the lean blond against his chest, rubbing his brother’s arms in an effort to ease the tension and pain. He didn’t realize he was speaking when he felt his brother’s body go slack in his arms.

“NO! Scott! Godammit! Don’t you do this to me, Brother!” he wailed as his father moved to join his efforts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Teresa stood back, unable to move while she watched the scene taking place in front of her. The shock of seeing Scott go limp in his brother’s arms, coupled with Johnny’s scream brought home her worst fears. The family she’d just been getting to know was about to be taken apart by the death of one of her ‘brothers’, and this she would not let happen. Anger and fear caught her off guard and she turned on the aged man standing so haughtily at the foot of his grandson’s bed.

“This is all your fault, Harlan Garrett! You should not have come here!”

“How dare you speak to me in such a manner!” Garrett snapped, unaware of the dark glare turned in his direction.

Tears slipped from Teresa’s eyes and she shook off the feeling of helpless despair, knowing she could not give in to her anger until she did all she could for Scott, Johnny, and Murdoch. She watched as the two men cared for the injured blond, wishing she could take the pain and anger from them all. She turned toward Harlan Garrett once more; realizing things would only get worse with this man’s arrogant presence. The soft voice of the gunman made her smile inwardly, as did the look of indignation on the elderly man’s face. Johnny Lancer was a man who knew how to put people in their place, and he was not afraid to do just that.

“Shut up, old man!” Johnny spat venomously. He’d seen the effects the elderly man had on the young woman and couldn’t bear the pain he saw in Teresa’s soft features. The realization that his brother was still breathing gave him some relief, but the fact that Harlan Garrett was really there grated on his already frazzled nerves.

“Murdoch!”

Murdoch Lancer took a deep breath and turned toward the man he blamed for many of his own difficulties. Harlan Garrett could not be blamed for it all, but he did bear the brunt of the guilt for what the years had brought all of them. What would have happened if the old curmudgeon had simply given his blessing to his marriage to Catherine Garrett? Scott would have known what family life would have been and perhaps Catherine would still be alive. His eyes flitted from his blond son to his dark haired son and he realized if that had happened he wouldn’t have been blessed with the second miracle in his life. The fact that both sons grew up away from him, cut him deeply, but both were willing to come home and help save the heritage neither man knew they had. Finally, unable to stop himself he whirled on the elderly Bostonian, his eyes sparkling with anger.

“If it hadn’t been for you none of this would have happened! You’ve been a malicious, conniving hypocrite all your life! You stole something that didn’t belong to you and tried to turn him against us! Scott has a brother...”

“Halfbr...”

“You say it and I swear you won’t be able to make it out of this house under your own power!”

“Now see here...”

“You should know by now I don’t make idle threats, Harlan! You watch that mouth of yours or I swear I’ll shut it for you! This is my home...my son’s home and because of Scott you’ve been welcomed into it, but know this! I will not tolerate you insulting any member of my family! Do I make myself clear?”

“Murdoch...”

“Do I?” the older Lancer asked, his voice deceptively calm.

“P...perfectly!”

“Good, now make yourself useful and leave us to look after, Scott!” Murdoch warned and turned back to his sons. “How is he?”

“He’s okay, Murdoch...but for a minute I thought...”

“I know, Son, I thought the same thing. He’s still feeling a little warm, but at least he’s breathing easier again. Why don’t you ease him back on the pillows and we can check him over properly?”

“All right,” Johnny answered, a look of pride evident on his face at his father’s standing up for him against Harlan Garrett. With Murdoch’s help he eased the unconscious blond onto the pillows and watched as even the small movement caused lines of pain in the handsome face. He reached for the cloth in the basin and carefully washed it across his brother’s forehead and cheeks. 

“Are you okay with Scott, Johnny?” Murdoch asked, watching as one son cared for the other.

“I’ll be fine...just get him the hell outta here,” Madrid spat angrily.

“All right, just call if you need anything. Teresa, would you...”

“I’ll stay with them, Murdoch.”

“Thank you,” the patriarch smiled at his ward before turning a heated gaze on his nemesis. “You and I need to talk!”

“We have nothing to talk about, Murdoch. I’m here to take Scotty home and that is just what I’m going to do...”

“No, you’re not!” Johnny’s voice was edged with danger when he looked toward the unwelcome guest.

“I’ll handle him, Johnny, you just make sure your brother’s comfortable,” Murdoch ordered, wanting to stop any more arguments from taking place in front of the blond. “Harlan, if you care about your grandson...”

“What do you mean if? Of course I care about Scotty. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t! Of all the preposterous things to say!”

“Then follow me. My office is the best place to hold this discussion. Johnny...”

“I’ll send for you if he needs you, Murdoch,” the younger man assured his father and watched as the two men stormed from the room. He turned his attention to the young woman and nodded when she took the seat across from him.

“John...ny...I was so afraid he’d left us.”

“I know, Teresa, so was I,” Madrid admitted openly. There’d been a time when these sort of feelings were kept hidden, never spoken of, and seldom even admitted to himself let alone anywhere else. Johnny Madrid was indeed a person he’d been in the past. For all intents and purposes most of the man he’d been was still inside him, but since finding out he had a brother, and a father, Madrid had become Lancer and Johnny had found a home. A real home where people cared about him and he cared about them. He looked at the pale blond sleeping in the bed and silently swore he would never be alone again. He would do anything to keep Scott Lancer, not only alive, but where he belonged. Lancer and Murdoch needed them both, and so help him the ranch would not suffer any more losses.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“In here, Harlan!”

“This is your office, Murdoch. I see you still think small!” Garrett spat indignantly.

“We did not come here to discuss my office, Harlan. This is my home and what happens under my roof is my responsibility! I will not have you belittle either of my sons again. Do I make myself clear?”

“I did not belittle Scotty!”

“Yes you did! By insulting the brother Scott loves...and yes he does love Johnny...you belittled his choices and feelings. Scott loves it here at Lancer and it’s time you realized what you’re doing is hurting him, not helping him!”

“Now just a minute, Murdoch! Scotty wrote me and asked me to come get him. My grandson wants to come home and...”

“Lancer is his home! He’s got family here...”

“He has family in Boston and he’ll get a lot better care when I get him back there...I’ll...”

“You’ll do what you’ve always done, Harlan! You’ll hire the best doctors money can buy, and probably a private nurse or two, but that’s not what Scott needs! Dammit, Scott needs to have people he loves caring for him, not people you pay to do it.”

“I’ll be there!”

“To do what? Sign the checks and say job well done to the people you hired. That’s not what Scott needs. He needs to know he’s not useless, that who he is and what his position in Boston means nothing compared to the love of his brother and his fa...father!”

“If that’s what you truly believe you should’ve done something about that when you came to Boston the first time!”

“What you don’t know, Harlan...” Murdoch smiled maliciously at the older man, not hiding his contempt for his father in law anymore. “...is that I did try to do something. I went to a lawyer in Boston only to find that you’d retained not only the best firm in the country, but that you’d also had a plan you’d implement as soon as I took you to court.”

“What do you mean?”

“I know all about your ploy to have Scott kidnapped if I even attempted to see him again. You’d have had him taken out of the country and God only knows where. Oh, yes, I have my own ways of getting information and unlike you I didn’t have to pay anyone to get it. How do you think Scott would feel if he knew what you had planned?”

“You have no proof!”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Harlan. I have all the proof I need to show Scott his precious grandfather’s duplicity. How would he feel if he knew his grandfather was keeping him from Lancer! That he’d go to any lengths to keep him from the ranch and his father including making his life even more lonely and miserable.”

“Scotty won’t believe it!” the older man blustered, his face glowing red as he saw the determination on Murdoch Lancer’s face.

“Oh, do you really believe that. After all, Scott has seen what you’re like now. He knows you’ve got as many, if not more faults than the rest of us. You were willing to let him grow up away from his country and his family in order to keep him under your rule of thumb. You could not stand the idea of Scott growing up out here where...”

“He would be subjected to life in the west! How could you even think about doing to Scotty what you did to my lovely Catherine? She loved her life in Boston and could have married any suitable man I saw fit to introduce her too and she would still be alive! It’s because of you and the hardship of living as a mere farmer’s wife that she’s dead! She could have been living in luxury...instead she died in squalor!”

“She did not die in squalor, Harlan!” Lancer hissed, his fists clenched tightly in anger as he listened to the man’s damning words.

“She could have had everything she wanted...”

“She did have everything she wanted. I loved her...does that really surprise you, Harlan? That a man like me could admit to loving your daughter so much. A part of me died with her out there and we both know what it would’ve done to her to know Scott was not even in this country. I could’ve fought for Scott the first time I came to Boston, but it would have cost more than I could allow. It would have cost Scott his freedom, and that’s something I would never allow.”

“Scotty wrote me to come for him!”

“Scott may have written to you and asked you to come for him, but until he’s more lucid and able to think clearly I will not allow him to leave. If that means I’m holding my son prisoner then so be it, Harlan! Maybe now you will understand how I felt the day you kept my son from me!”

“I won’t allow it!”

“You don’t have a choice anymore than I was given one. If, and that’s a big if, I allow you to stay under my roof you will abide by my rules. That means there is to be no talk of Scott leaving unless he brings it up and then only if one of us is present. I will not allow you to come between me and my son ever again, Harlan Garrett. So take heed and hear what I’m saying, because I can and will have you forcefully removed from my property. Do I make myself clear?”

“P...perfectly,” the older man stammered, turning to leave the room.

“There’s one other thing I want you to know and understand!”

“What is that?”

“I mean it when I say you are not to insult Johnny or Teresa...or any other member of my family. If I hear of it the same thing will occur and you’ll be escorted off my ranch.”

“I will abide by your rules for now, Murdoch. Where can I stay?”

“I should make you stay in the bunkhouse...”

“What? You can’t be serious? How can...”

“I said I should, Harlan, not that I would. As much as it hurts to admit it, you’re Scott’s grandfather and as such I will give you a room here in the house...”

“Thank you,” the older man said indignantly.

“But if you do or try anything I don’t like than you can go find a line shack or a cave for all I care. This is my house...and my family...show them respect or I’ll show you the door!”

“I won’t do anything to hurt my grandson, Murdoch, but when we leave here be warned. Neither you, nor any member of your backwoods family, will be welcome in Boston.”

“We won’t need to be. Scott will eventually realize he is already home!”

“We’ll see, Murdoch,” Garrett spat, before turning and leaving the room.

Murdoch reached for the decanter of whiskey and a shot glass. Pouring himself a stiff belt he downed it and shook his head as it burned a trail of fire down his throat. He knew life would be hell at Lancer until Harlan Garrett returned to Boston. Taking a deep breath he sat down in his chair and fingered the lock on the top drawer. The papers the lawyer had given him when Scott was five were safely tucked inside, and he hoped never to have to show his son just what his own grandfather had planned for him. He eyed the bottle once more, but refused its call, knowing he would need his wits about him over the coming days. Harlan Garrett would try to find a way to make Scott leave with him and Murdoch was not ready to let that happen. He’d already lost too much precious time, a commodity he could not get back, but he could make sure he had the rest of their lives to make up for his own shortcomings as a father.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott knew he was not alone, yet he didn’t feel like opening his eyes and revealing just how badly he felt. That his body was drenched in perspiration was a given, that someone was continually wiping something soft and wet over his heated flesh told him whoever was in the room cared about him. He knew the touch, and his instincts told him this man would keep him safe, but could he let himself continue to burden his brother with his new limitations. No, he couldn’t, that’s why he’d sent the wire to his grandfather. He moved his head slightly, relishing the touch of his brother’s hand on his forehead and finally opened his eyes and imagined he could hear the soft voice speaking to him. He remembered the last time he’d been awake, and the warring emotions of the people in the room, including the elderly man who’d raised him.

“Scott, come on, Boston, you’ve been sleeping long enough,” the young man said, before realizing his brother could not hear him.

“J...Johnny...grandfather is here?”

“Yeah...yeah, he’s here,” the dark haired Lancer nodded and tried to hide the distaste he knew showed on his face.

“He’s come to...to take me back to Boston...safer there...”

“What the hell do you mean, Scott? How can you even think you’ll be safer in Boston? That old man will probably keep you locked up somewhere! Probably in one of them damned asylums Boston has! No, I won’t let you go back to that! I won’t lose you to a bunch of stiff necked, stuffed shirted people who don’t give a damn about who you really are.” the younger man snapped, forgetting his brother’s inability to hear in his own anger.  He paced the room, his hands clenching and unclenching as he covered the short distance between the bed and the window and back again.

In spite of his inability to hear what Johnny was saying, Scott knew his brother was angry. There was something of a caged tiger in Johnny’s pacing and the blond regretted the fact that he was causing his brother more pain. As Johnny neared the edge of the bed he reached out and grabbed the gunslinger’s wayward arm in his own right hand.

“Johnny, I’m sorry...never meant to hurt you...”

“You didn’t, Scott,” Madrid said, sighing as he slid into the chair he’d only just vacated. He reached for the slate and quickly scribbled a message across it and turned it toward the injured man.

“How are you feeling?”

“Fine...” he smiled at the look of disbelief on his brother’s face and knew he couldn’t lie to him. “Sore...feels like Barranca is sitting on my chest.”

“That good?” Johnny mouthed slowly.

“Yeah...leg and shoulder hurt too...and head...that better?” he asked and watched as his brother wrote something new and turned it toward him.

“At least you’re being honest this time, Scott. Can I get you anything?”

“Water...” again his brother wrote something on the slate and turned it for his perusal.

“How about a little willow bark tea and broth first...then the water?”

“...okay...” the blond said, his head turning to the left as footsteps sounded outside the door. He swallowed, smiling thinly at the man standing there. “Grandfather.”

“Hello, Scotty,” the older man greeted and looked at the gunslinger seated beside the bed. “I would like to speak with my grandson alone!”

“Murdoch said not to leave you alone...”

“Johnny,” Scott interrupted, waiting for the dark haired man to turn toward him. “Could you leave us alone for a little while?”

“Scott...”

“Please...”

“All right, but I’ll be just outside the door. Don’t do anything to upset him, Harlan, or I’ll...”

“Don’t make threats against me...”

“It wasn’t a threat...it’s a promise,” Johnny warned as he left the two men alone. He leaned heavily against the wall beside the door, making sure he could hear what was happening inside the room. He didn’t want to eavesdrop, but he didn’t trust the elderly Bostonian and felt the need to protect his brother’s interest.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hello, Scotty, how are you feeling? Are you ready to come home now?”

“Grandfather, I can’t hear you,” the blond said, frowning as the man continued to speak to him.

“We can leave as soon as you’re dressed if you like. That is what you want isn’t it?”

“Grandfather...I can’t...”

Harlan Garrett saw the pain on the younger man’s face and realized he truly couldn’t hear anything. He reached for the slate board and wrote in his precise handwriting, before turning it toward his grandson.

“If you’re ready we can leave right now. We could spend the night in Green River and I’ve hired a private coach to take us to the train depot.”

“Grandfather I...”

“This is what you wanted isn’t it, Scotty, to come home where you belong. I need to know right away if you still plan on coming home. I’m an old man and can’t make trips like this very often, but I did it for you, Scotty, and now it’s up to you to do it for me. I need you to come with me. Will you do that for me?”

“Grandfather...I don’t know...”

“I need an answer. Is your home out here in this deplorable place or back home where you can get a decent cup of coffee without having to drink it with heathens like Johnny Madrid!”

The door opened and a furious Johnny Lancer stood in the doorway, his steady gaze on his brother. His words, when he spoke them were articulated perfectly and he knew beyond a doubt his brother understood his question. “Scott, your home is here! Your family is here! You’re needed and wanted here! Don’t let him force you into a decision before you’re ready. There’s plenty of time for that when you’re feeling better.”

“It’s okay, Johnny, I know what I’m going to do,” Scott said, placing his head against the pillow as the last of his strength left him and he fell into a deep sleep.

Johnny watched his brother, wondering what decision Scott had made, and was it one he could accept? He turned to face Harlan Garrett and slowly crossed the space between them. His right hand came up and his finger jabbed the elderly man in the chest. His blue eyes filled with rage when he saw the fear in the man standing before him.

“You have no right...”

“I...I have e...every...”

“...to talk to Scott like that...”

“...right to talk to my...”

“...I may be a heathen as you say...”

“...grandson...”

“But at least I don’t try to force an injured man to make a decision he would later regret and I can tell you from experience that living with a miserable excuse for a parent or grandparent is something that he will regret. He belongs here with people who really do care for him. Not in Boston where his only relative thinks it’s okay to buy or blackmail him into something he doesn’t want!”

“I would never...”

“You already did! Seems to me you brought along a woman named Julie to try and get Scott back...”

“Scotty loves her...”

“Scott loved her, but you were wrong about his still loving her!”

“I was simply looking out for his best interests...”

“Your best interests you mean. You proved to Scott that you’d do anything, even blackmail to get him back to Boston! Well, he ain’t going this time anymore than he did the last time you tried to force him to go back with you!”

“You forget, Scotty sent for me. He knows where he belongs and I have no doubt that he’ll come home with me and take his rightful place at my side!”

“Scott doesn’t want to live in Boston!”

“If that were true then why did he send for me?”

“What’s going on in here?” Murdoch asked, hurrying into the room. His gaze swept the room and finally came to rest on the two men facing each other, anger evident on both faces.

“Your son is showing just how uncivilized he is!” the elderly man blustered as Johnny’s hand dropped to his side.

“Harlan, I warned you about insulting my son and if you continue to do so I’ll have you thrown off our property. Johnny, what happened?”

“He was trying to force Scott into a decision! Trying to make him feel guilty about being here!”

“Damn you, Harlan. I warned you not to interfere with my family...”

“Scotty is my family too!”

“Yes, he is, but you certainly don’t show it!”

“Now see here, Murdoch!”

“No you see here! You stop talking down to Johnny and you leave Scott alone or so help me I’ll see to it you don’t get back in here! I’ll send you packing back to Boston so fast it’ll make your head spin!” The Lancer patriarch punctuated his words by jabbing Garrett’s chest with his finger until he marched the elderly man out the door.

“I have a right to visit my grandson!”

“Yes, you do, but not when you behave like a...”

Johnny missed the last of the conversation as the door closed behind the two men. He smiled and sat down, knowing his father could easily handle Harlan Garrett. He looked down at his brother’s pale face and sighed heavily.

‘What have you decided, Scott?’ he silently wondered as he watched over his sleeping brother.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott tried to ignore the mounting pain in his skull, but the incessant throbbing continued unabated until he was forced to admit defeat. His ears were ringing, and he tried to concentrate on opening his eyes and quelling his rebellious stomach. He could feel the room spinning as he finally won the battle and heavy lids rose to uncover tired blue gray eyes. There seemed to be three blurry images sitting beside the bed and he blinked furiously in an attempt to bring them into focus until only one man sat beside him. He couldn’t help smiling at the sleeping young man. Johnny’s head was back, his mouth slightly open emitting soft snores as he slept in the awkward position in the chair. The younger man’s arms were wrapped around his chest while his legs were stretched out and his feet rested on the edge of the bed. Scott smiled as he realized Teresa would have a little repair work to do as his brother’s toe stuck out of a hole in the sock covering his right foot.

The ringing in his ears seemed to grow and he tried to ignore the uncomfortable nauseous in his stomach, but was unable to do so. He reached for the basin on the table and barely made it as his stomach gave up its contents. He felt a hand on his shoulder and knew without looking that his brother was awake and trying to help. The ringing became lancing pain and he cried out as he tried to concentrate on breathing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny had fallen asleep soon after Murdoch had forced Garret from the room, placing his legs on the edge of the bed and leaning back until he was comfortable. He remembered nights of sleeping out under the stars, with nothing but a ratty blanket to ward off the chill. The sound of retching had woken him and he’d reached out to support his brother, as the blond was sick. When the dry heaves stopped he removed the basin and held the trembling form close to his own body, praying things would get better.

“Johnny, Dr. Jenkins is here,” Teresa said as she entered the room. She saw the dark haired man holding his brother and felt tears in her eyes at the pain both men harbored. She hurried out of the room, returning with Jenkins, Murdoch, and Garrett.

“Okay, Johnny, ease him back on the bed for me,” Jenkins ordered.

Scott felt his brother lowering him to the bed, but didn’t open his eyes. The pain was almost unbearable and he knew to open his eyes would only make things worse. The ringing had finally subsided, but the nauseous and pain wrought by the headache seemed to have grown worse. He felt someone touch him and knew it wasn’t the same soothing touch he’d felt earlier. Forcing himself to open his eyes, Scott noticed the haggard faces and knew he was the cause of it.

“Sorry,” he mumbled tiredly.

“You’ve got nothing to be sorry for, Scott,” Murdoch assured his son as he made his way to the opposite side of the bed.

“Scott, I need to take a look at you,” Jenkins wrote on the slate board and turned it toward his patient.

“Okay.”

“How do you feel?” Jenkins mouthed slowly.

“Tired...sick,” the blond answered, watching as Jenkins took the stethoscope from his bag.

“Any pain?”

“Head hurts...arm and leg not too bad,” Scott answered.

Jenkins reached for the slate and quickly wrote his question before turning it back to the injured man. “Any ringing in the ears?”

“Y...yeah...loud.”

“Okay, just breathe deeply for me,” the older man ordered and placed the stethoscope to Scott’s chest. He listened for several minutes, frowning as he moved the instrument around and finally dropped the item into his bag.

“How is he, Doc?” Johnny asked.

“He’s still got some heavy congestion in his lungs. He needs to cough more to make sure he gets it off his lungs.”

“We’ll make sure he does,” Teresa said.

“Good,” Jenkins said, turning his attention back to his patient. He pointed to Scott’s shoulder and checked to make sure the broken bones were still aligned properly. Satisfied with the immobilized arm he turned his attention to the snakebite and eased the blanket off Scott’s lower limbs.

“Murdoch, could you and Johnny ease him onto his side just a little?”

“Sure, Doc,” the Lancer patriarch answered, nodding to Johnny as he knelt beside the bed.

Scott knew what they were going to do and set his teeth against the pain he knew the move would cause. He felt Jenkins hand on his leg and knew he cried out, but still no sound reached his ears. He placed his head against Murdoch’s chest as the doctor removed the bandage and pressed against both sides of the wound. His eyes clenched tightly as he tried to ride out the waves of nauseous washing over him and threatening to send him into a well of darkness.

Harlan Garrett stood watching the proceedings and listened as his grandson cried out in pain. He moved to the bed and placed his hand on Jenkins’ shoulder, intent on pulling the backwoods sawbones away from Scott.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“Harlan, leave him alone!” Murdoch hissed.

“How can you let this uneducated, uncouth...”

“Harlan, for the last time shut up before I forget you’re Scott’s grandfather!” the Lancer patriarch warned.

“How can you even let him touch Scott? At least in Boston they’d be able to properly care for him!”

Jenkins knew from the last time Garrett visited Lancer that the man had little or no respect for him. He didn’t care about the old coot’s opinion, but he didn’t want to listen to him while he examined his patient. He smiled as Teresa warned the Bostonian to be quiet or she’d have several men escort him from the room. He looked up and met the blue gray eyes of his patient and smiled as he finished examining the snakebite. He reached for the slate and wrote a new message, before turning it to Scott and reading it aloud for the others to hear.

“You’re doing well, Scott, but I want you to stop fighting! If you get the urge to cough it’s because your body is trying to get rid of the mucus in your lungs. The more you cough the more that happens. Understand?”

“Yes...” Scott said, wincing as the pain in his skull continued to grow. He closed his eyes, opening them again when someone tapped his arm. Again the slate was before his eyes and he read the words carefully.

“I’m going to give you a little laudanum. Hopefully it’ll help you sleep.” Again Jenkins read the note aloud while Scott’s eyes ran over the message.

“...okay...” the blond whispered, accepting the spoonful of medication in hopes of easing the pain. He looked at his brother as he eased down in the bed, hoping the younger man would understand the decision he’d made. Sighing heavily he closed his eyes, knowing he would be hurting someone he loved as soon as he told them his plans.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny watched over his sleeping brother, some of the fears leaving him as he watched the steady rhythm of the lean chest as he breathed. He wondered what life would be like without his brother at Lancer. The fact that Murdoch was his father was not the reason he stayed on. Some of it had to do with his own love of Lancer, a place he could finally call home, but would he still feel that way if Scott left. Could he stick around knowing Scott would not be there to help in the daily chores that went with a ranch of this size? He knew he would probably stay, hoping that Scott would return, but life would not be the same.

“Can’t let you leave, Scott...it wouldn’t be the same without you,” Johnny whispered before standing and making his way to the window. He knew the others were seated around the dining table enjoying Teresa’s chicken and dumplings, a meal he loved, but his appetite was almost nonexistent right now. He knew the nagging headache was not due to the concussion he’d suffered from, but more from the uncertainty he’d seen in his brother’s eyes. Scott had come to a decision, he was sure of that, but what that decision was he couldn’t be sure. Sighing heavily, Johnny Lancer watched as the twilight of dusk gave way to the darkness of night. Whatever decision Scott made he would live with it, but he prayed the blond would come to the same decision he had. They’d already lost too many years and could never make up for them, but they could have a future as brothers working the land here at Lancer. It could be their home, but if Scott left it would just become another place where Johnny Madrid placed his hat for a few months.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott opened his eyes to find the room bathed in soft moonlight. He smiled as he looked toward the window and saw the silhouette of his brother against the backdrop of the darker shadows around him. The younger man was leaning against the wall and seemed lost in thought as he gazed out over Lancer. When he saw Johnny relaxed as he was, there was nothing of the dangerous gunslinger whose accuracy with a gun was almost legendary. How he wished he’d been able to see what Johnny was like as a boy. Was he carefree, happy, mischievous, or was he as darkly dangerous as his bearing sometimes exuded. He loved these glimpses of his brother, and knew where he belonged. The decision he’d made earlier had been a hard one, but looking at the quiet man, he knew it was the right one. Taking a deep breath he called to the younger man, surprised at how weak his voice sounded.

“J...Johnny...”

The younger man turned away from the window and moved to the bed. His eyes met the soft blue ones set in the too pale face and he smiled and lit the small lamp. He looked down as the fingers of Scott’s right hand curled around his wrist.

“Are you okay?”

Johnny knew his brother could read his lips if he kept the message short and mouthed the words slowly. “I’m fine, Scott...”

“Look tired...”

“I am.”

“Get some rest.”

“Can’t.”

“Why?”

“I need to know what your plans are.”

“Sorry, Johnny, I don’t know what you just said.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

Harlan Garrett stood outside the door, listening as the two men talked. He’d excused himself from the table, citing his own physical exhaustion as the reason, but he’d really wanted to speak with his grandson. Something about the young man’s voice when he was last awake warned him that he would not like the decision he’d made. He kept to the right of the door, listening as Johnny continued.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Are you staying?”

“Johnny, I told you I’ve made my decision...”

“What is it?”

“I thought about it a lot, Johnny, but I need to speak with grandfather first. I owe him that...”

“So you’re staying?” Johnny asked, the tension leaving his body as he looked into his brother’s eyes.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Harlan felt his hold on his grandson slipping away and couldn’t stand the idea of losing to Murdoch Lancer once more. Forcing down the anger he stepped through the door just as his grandson was about to speak.

“Johnny, I nee...” Scott caught sight of movement on his left and looked up at the man who’d raised him. “Hello, Grandfather.”

“Hello, Scotty, how are you?”

Scott tried to catch the older man’s hastily spoken words, but he missed the last three words. He turned to Johnny as his brother seemed to be answering for him. He couldn’t hear the words the two men were saying, but he knew by their stance and the looks on their faces that the exchange could quickly become heated.

“Stop!” He shouted, grabbing at his skull when his head pounded with renewed vigor. He closed his eyes, clenching the fingers of his right hand in the blankets and struggled to control the pain and mounting nauseous. His lungs constricted as he tried to take a deep breath, lapsing into a fit of coughing instead. He felt someone sit him forward and knew his brother was there for him. He had no idea how long it lasted, but by the time he was again lying on the pillows he felt drained and weak.

“Sorry...look...I k...know w...what I’m g...going to do and I k...know I’ll be h...hurting s...someone. A...always d...do...”

“No, Scott, none of this is your fault,” Johnny quickly wrote and turned the slate toward his trembling brother.

“T...thanks, Johnny, could you leave me alone with grandfather for a few minutes?”

“Will you be alright?”

“Of course he will! I would not hurt my Grandson!” Garrett blustered, moving toward the chair beside Scott’s bed.

“I’ll be fine, Johnny. Ju...just need to talk to him ab...about my de...cision.”

Scott watched as his brother erased the last message and wrote something else, before turning it toward him. “Just as long as it’s the right decision.” The blond read, nodding as his brother erased the message before handing the blank slate and chalk to the elderly man.

“I’ll be back, Scott.”

“Would you close the door, Johnny?” the blond asked as the dark haired Lancer moved to the door. Their eyes met once more and Scott realized he really had made the right decision. He turned back to his grandfather as the wrinkled hand wrote something across the slate board.

“Grandfather, we need to talk,” he said softly. He wasn’t sure the older man heard him as the hand quickly raced across the slate. “Grandfather?”

“Almost done, Scotty.” The older man said, ignoring the fact that the blond could not hear him as he finished his own message. He knew his grandson had made a decision, and had seen the look that passed between him and his brother. He would have to do something to change that decision and knowing his grandson only one thing could do that. He lifted his gaze from the neatly written message and turned it toward the injured man.

“Scotty, I’m so pleased you’re coming back to Boston. My health has been growing steadily worse and I no longer function as I once did. When I received your missive I was in my sick bed, but I knew I could not leave you here in this savage land.”

Scott swallowed against the bile that rose in his throat as he realized what he’d put this man through. He watched as the aged hands took the slate, erased it and began a new message. Scott closed his eyes, not sure he could ignore his grandfather’s words as a hand tapped his right shoulder once more. He opened his eyes and looked at the new message.

“This trip has left me weak and ailing, but it was worth it knowing the outcome would be to have you back where you belong. I know you’re worried about your friends here, but they’ll be fine.”

“Grandfather...I...” again his words were ignored as the hands once more erased the last message and quickly started a new one.

“I know you’re worried about Murdoch and Johnny, but they’ll be fine...they’ll have each other and Teresa, but I’ll only have you. You’re the only family I have left. The only link to my darling Catherine. Thank you, Scotty, for giving your grandfather something to hold on to.”

Scott felt the tears in his eyes as he read his grandfather’s final message. The words were not as clearly written as the first one and he knew it was because of the older man’s age. No matter what he did he would be hurting the people he loved most. He heard the familiar sound of the chalk on the slate and soon felt a hand on his shoulder once more. Looking at the words he felt a new sense of loss, one that ate at his heart and left him feeling more alone than he ever had in the big house in Boston.

“Was there something you wanted to tell me, Scotty?”

“I...I just wanted to find out ho...how soon we can leave...”

Harlan knew the longer they stayed at Lancer the more time Murdoch and his son would have to convince his grandson to stay. He would not allow them to do that. Taking the slate from the younger man he quickly wrote a new message before turning it toward the blond.

“I know you would probably like to have extra time to say goodbye, but I believe we should leave immediately. We need to get you home and have Dr. Boudreau take a look at you.”

Scott remembered the Frenchman who’d care for him as a child and well into his teens. The silver haired physician was stern when it came to his patients, but Scott knew he was also the best money could by. He remembered visiting Boudreau as a boy when he’d broken his leg. The man admitted him to the hospital and he’d been confined to bed for nearly a month. His grandfather visited often, but only long enough to say how pleased he was that he could afford the best money could buy for his grandson. He turned his head away from the older man and felt the wall of despair surround him. He was leaving Lancer, but that he could handle, what he didn’t want to face was that he was leaving his family.

“Alright, Gr...grandfather,” the injured man said, closing his eyes as a wave of nauseous assaulted his senses and blurred his vision. He turned his head when the older man’s hand touched his shoulder and showed him another message.

“Scotty, I will send Phillips into Green River to make arrangements for our traveling necessities. If all goes well we should be able to leave two days from now.”

“Okay, Grandfather,” the blond said, his voice laced with defeat as he laid back against the pillows. “I’m tired, Grandfather, could you please leave me alone for a while.” Scott didn’t hear the chair being pushed back or the shuffling footsteps as the older man left the room. He opened his eyes and turned his head toward the window as he felt an overwhelming sense of loss come over him. He drifted toward sleep thinking about his decision and the people it would hurt the most. Could he really give up the people he’d grown to love?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny stood outside the door, hating the fact that Harlan Garrett was alone with his brother. He wanted to bust down the door and stop the older man from influencing his brother’s decisions, but he could not do that. Scott was a grown man, and he had no right to interfere in his life without being asked. His head snapped toward the door as the older man stepped through. Something about the smug look on Garrett’s face sent fear into the dark haired Lancer’s heart. He reached for the handle, but a gnarled hand on his arm stopped him.

“Scotty needs his rest...”

“Get your hand off me, Garrett!” Johnny warned, his ice blue eyes filled with anger. He smiled inwardly as the hated touch was removed.

“Scotty said he wanted to be alone...your bro...brother needs his rest.”

“My brother needs his family,” Lancer told him, pushing the door open and stepping inside. He closed it behind him and looked at the pale man lying in the bed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In spite of his hearing loss, Scott knew the moment Johnny entered the room. Unable to face his brother with his decision, he kept his eyes closed. He knew the younger man had a volatile temper that matched his own, and he did not want to argue right now. He shifted on the bed, unaware that Johnny studied his face and knew just how much he was hurting. A hand on his shoulder made him open his eyes and he saw the devastation on his brother’s face. Something about his face told Scott that Johnny already knew his decision. He looked at the slate held in the strong hand and read the hastily scrawled message.

“What’s going on, Scott?”

“J...Johnny, I...” He turned his face away, unable to face the pain hidden in the soft blue orbs. “I’m going back to Boston. I’m sorry, Johnny…I just don’t have a choice. Grandfather came all the way out here because I asked him to and it wouldn’t be proper for me not to go with him.”

Johnny listened to the words and heard the pain in his brother’s voice. Scott Lancer did not call Boston home, and that was something that stuck out for him. Lancer was their home now, and he wondered if either of them could willingly give that up. He erased the slate and again wrote a new message, turning it so his brother could read the harsh words.

“Do you really think he came here just for you, Scott?”

“What do you mean, Johnny?” He watched the hand writing furiously, breathing deeply as he tried to calm his nerves.

“Harlan doesn’t strike me as the kind of man who’d do anything that didn’t work into his plans. Remember the last time he came here?”

“Yes, but that was different...”

“No, it wasn’t!” Johnny spat, dropping the slate on the table and standing up. He paced to the window and back to the bed. Standing over his brother he saw the blue eyes were clouded with pain. He sat in the chair and reached for the slate once more, pressing the chalk heavily against it as he wrote.

“He’s here to take you back to Boston because it means he’s won! He may have told us all he was wrong, but that doesn’t mean he meant it!” The words were erased and others added. “He came here to get you back to Boston no matter what and it seems he’s getting what he wants!”

“Johnny, I sent for him. He came because I asked him to, not because of some trickery to make me go back to Boston with him.” Again the slate was placed before him.

“Are you sure? I saw your face when he came in earlier. You were planning on staying here...at home, but he did or said something to convince you to go with him. What was it?”

“Johnny...” Scott knew his voice sounded pleading, but he didn’t know how to tell this man why he chose to leave the ranch. Blue eyes met blue, and the silence was palpable as one brother waited for the other to speak. Sighing heavily, feeling tired beyond his years, Scott Lancer closed his eyes. He knew Johnny would be there when he woke up as he gave in to his body’s need for sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Harlan sighed as he heard the silence from the room that housed his grandson. Things were going his was and as long as he used his ill health, Scott would return to the east where he belonged. Murdoch Lancer may have won most of the battles, but the he was the victor in the war and the prize was to see his grandson take a position in Garrett Enterprises. Turning away from the door he hurried down the stairs and across the living room. He knew Phillips was staying in the bunkhouse with the Lancer ranch hands and he needed to tell him they would be leaving. Hurrying across the yard and through the gate he was soon standing outside the bunkhouse door. He shoved open the door and spotted Phillips immediately and motioned for him to come outside.

“I want you to ride to Green River first thing in the morning.”

“Yes, Mr. Garrett, what am I to do when I get there?”

“Arrange for the wagon to be ready for us to leave on Wednesday. I’m not sure of the exact time, but I want the wagon ready as soon as we get there.”

“Us as in you and me?”

“No,” Garrett smiled cunningly. “Scotty will be joining us.”

“How did you get him to make a decision that quickly?”

“I have my ways, Phillips. You just make the arrangements and be back here to take us to Green River Wednesday morning.”

“I thought the doctor didn’t want your grandson moved until he came back.”

“That fool doesn’t know a damn thing and the longer Scotty is under that country sawbones the more likely he is to remain in that bed. No, Scotty must come home and see Dr. Boudreau, he’ll know exactly what needs to be done.”

“Harlan, what are you talking about?” Murdoch’s voice caused the two men to jump as the Lancer patriarch stepped away from the side of the bunkhouse.

“Have you stooped to eavesdropping, Murdoch?” Garrett snapped, angry at being overheard.

“When it comes to my son’s health...Yes! Now what’s this about Scott going to Boston with you?”

“Scotty is coming home, Murdoch. We’re leaving in two days!”

“Like hell you are. Scott’s health comes first...”

“Yes...it does and he’s certainly not getting any better in this place! In Boston he’ll have the best money can buy...”

“Do you think that’s what he really needs right now, Harlan? Scott doesn’t need what money can buy, he needs his family! He needs to know he’s still a vital part of this family!”

“Scotty needs someone to take care of him. To make sure he doesn’t get hurt unnecessarily…”

“Harlan, I warn you if you try to take Scott away from this ranch before Dr. Jenkins says he’s fit for travel...”

“That old quack doesn’t know what he’s doing...”

“Harlan...”

“...why I bet he still uses leeches...”

“Harlan, get off my ranch!”

“Not without my grandson!”

“You forget that he’s my son!”

“No!” Garrett spat. “I can never forget that fact, Murdoch, but I will do everything in my power to see that Scotty doesn’t regret coming home...”

“This is his home! He has family here! He has a brother who cares about him!”

“Are you talking about...”

“Don’t you say his name, Harlan. You’re not fit to walk on the same ground he does!”

“Scotty and I will be leaving in two days, Murdoch. Say your goodbyes and be done with it!” Garrett said, turning away from the younger man. He felt a hand on his arm and turned a hated look in his son in law’s direction.

“Don’t be too sure of that, Harlan!” Murdoch warned as he released his grip and strode toward the house.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The pain went beyond anything he’d ever known and yet he welcomed it, hoping it would keep him from dealing with what was to come. His ears were ringing again, yet nothing else seemed to reach him, no sound except the incessant harsh shrill he was growing to hate. He opened his eyes and gazed around the room, his room, a place he called home. A deep seeded sadness threatened to overwhelm him as he looked at the two men standing by the window. His father and his brother, the family he’d only just begun to know and now he was leaving them. Sighing heavily he shifted on the bed and was again reminded of how much he’d gone through since the day he and Johnny had talked about mud fights. So many lost years, so little time to get to know the dark haired man, yet he felt as if he could read his brother’s thoughts. Johnny suddenly looked toward him and he knew the time had come for them to discuss his departure.

“We need to talk,” Scott rasped out and watched the two men come toward him.

“Yeah...we do,” the younger Lancer answered, moving to the bed and sitting on the edge. He watched Murdoch take the chair across from him and knew in spite of the calm facade, the older man was hurting. He picked up the slate and quickly wrote a message before turning it to his brother.

“Why are you leaving, Scott?”

“I told you, Johnny. I asked Grandfather to come for me and he made the trip in spite of his a...age. He came here because he cares about me...”

“He cares about controlling you, Scott! About making sure you’re...”

“Johnny, I can’t hear you...I know you’re angry with me and I wish there was some way I could make you understand.” The blond turned toward his father as Johnny began writing on the slate once more. “Murdoch, I’m sorry, I know you’re disappointed, but I have too. I made him come out here and he did that for me!”

“Scott...”

“No, listen. Grandfather is not well.” Scott winced as his head pounded, hating how weak his voice sounded when he tried to make the others understand what he needed to do. He struggled with the pain until he felt a hand on his arm and the slate was placed before his blurring eyes. He read the words, knowing his brother needed to get some things off his chest.

“Scott, Harlan Garrett don’t do nothing unless it has something in it for him. He’s been trying to get you back to Boston and now he has a way to do it! Don’t listen to him, Scott. You need to do what’s best for you!”

“Johnny, please, I can’t...I’m sorry. I don’t have a choice anymore.” He watched Murdoch take the slate, erase it and write a new message.

“Yes, you do. Tell Harlan you’re staying here...at Lancer...home...where you belong!” 

“T...this is h...home, but I have to go...Grandfather needs me...”

“What about what you need, Scott, or what we need?” Murdoch wrote.

The blond head dropped and the blue eyes closed as the injured man fought to keep from showing just how hard this decision had been. In the short time he’d been at Lancer it had replaced Boston as his home. A place filled with the warmth and love he’d found lacking in the huge mansion in the city. He loved the ranch, the sprawling lawns, the horses, the hills, but most of all the three people he’d only just begun to know. How could he leave them? How could he give up his home? He sighed heavily as a vision of his grandfather’s face swam before his eyes. His decision was made; there could be no other. The older man’s failing health decreed that his loyalty and sense of honor would have to do what was right. Opening his eyes once more he turned to the two men and let the raw emotions show on his face. He knew what he was about to say would hurt them, but it had to be done. His stomach churned as he shifted upward on the bed, praying he could make them understand his motives.

“Murdoch, Johnny, I’m sorry. This is something I have to do. I can’t do anything to help you out here. I nearly cost Johnny his life...”

“No...”

“Hear me out, Johnny! In town when you ran into the street and pushed me out of the way...you were hurt because I didn’t hear it coming. In the meadow...the snake. If I hadn’t gone out there you wouldn’t have needed to follow me...that set you back with those headaches. The snake...it could’ve...”

“Scott, those things could’ve happened to anyone. Just because you lost your hearing doesn’t mean you’re helpless.” Murdoch wrote and quickly turned it to the blond once more.

“I know, Murdoch, but I can’t take the chance of putting you and Johnny or anyone else in danger. I need to go back to Boston. Maybe I can come visit or you can come to Boston.”

“Scott, at least wait a while,” Murdoch suggested.

“Grandfather wants to leave in two days. He needs to get home and see his doctor, before things get worse.”

“What about you, Scott?” Johnny had taken the slate and wrote a new message.

“What about me?” the blond asked.

“Well, you’re in no shape to travel, especially not for that long. Why not let Harlan go home and when Dr. Jenkins gives you a clean bill of health I’ll take you to Boston myself?”

Scott read the new missive and wished he could stay at Lancer, but he needed to accompany his grandfather. “I’ll be fine, Johnny. I have to do this.”

“Hello, Scotty!” Garrett said, smiling at the blond. He’d been standing outside the door, listening in on the conversation and knew it was time to make his presence known. Murdoch and Johnny were stubborn men and he knew they would be able to convince the blond to stay if given the chance.

“Grandfather,” Scott said tiredly.

“How long have you been standing there, Harlan?” Murdoch asked angrily.

“I just arrived, Murdoch and I have some news. I have arranged for a doctor to meet us in Green River and he’s willing to make the journey to Boston with us. Joshua has just returned from the town and informed me of his success. A Dr. Mortimer Carter was there and Joshua told him of Scotty’s injuries and he said he would help care for him. He’s been to the finest hospitals in the country and several overseas as well. Isn’t that wonderful news? Scotty will be well taken care of during the long trip. He will have his own personal physician to tend to his every need. That should satisfy your backwoods...”

“Dr. Jenkins is an excellent physician. How do you know you can trust Carter?” Johnny asked as the trio squared off.

“He’s got papers that prove he spent several years at Johns Hopkins. That should be enough for an uncouth...”

“Harlan, I’m sure I told you to leave...”

Scott knew the three men were arguing over him, and he needed to stop it. Pain slashed through his skull as he tried to get out of bed and stop the three men from coming to blows over whatever they were discussing. He cried out as he put weight on his leg, but did not let it stop him as Johnny latched on to his arm and steadied him.

“You need to stay in bed!” Johnny warned as Scott’s face blanched even more.

“Stop it!” the blond hissed painfully aware of the wounds to his body and the weakness caused by his lack of appetite. “I don’t want you fighting over me! I can make my own decisions and my minds made up. I told grandfather I would go back to Boston with him and I want...no, I need you two to understand and respect my decision.”

Johnny eased him back on the bed as the blond’s meager strength gave out and his eyes rolled back in his head. He knew Scott had been through a lot and prayed they hadn’t pushed him too far. He lifted the blankets up over the trembling form and watched while his brother gave in to the call of sleep before turning to the other men.

“Harlan, it looks like you’ve got your way here, but it won’t end like this. Scott belongs here at Lancer and not just because he’s my son. He loves it here and chose to stay...without me blackmailing him into it.”

“I did nothing of the sort!” Garrett spat.

“You don’t look like you’re dying!” Johnny said softly, his eyes filled with an icy calm he didn’t really feel.

“You told Scott you were ill when you came out here for him!”

“This is preposterous...I did no such thing!”

“Scott told us that’s why he’s going back with you!” Johnny reminded the older man.

“I...I told him the truth. I am elderly and chanced my own health to come out to this dreadful place. Scotty knows I would do nothing to hurt him!”

“Then why are you so insistent on leaving day after tomorrow?” Murdoch asked.

“I have a business to run and it would be best for Scotty to get him back to Boston and into Dr. Boudreau’s capable hands. Dr. Carter will make sure he arrives there comfortably.”

“Harlan, why don’t you admit you’re afraid of staying here because Johnny and I would be able to convince Scott to stay if we had the time?”

“That’s wrong, Murdoch...there is no point in this. Scotty and I leave as scheduled and you might as well resign yourself to it. If you wish I will take Scotty and leave here tomorrow and we...”

“Like hell!” Johnny snarled.

“...can stay at the hotel for one night. Perhaps that is a wise idea as it would give Dr. Carter a chance to look Scott over and decide on the best course of treatment for him during our trip home...”

“This is Scott’s home!” the dark haired Lancer warned, advancing slowly on the older man.

“Scotty belongs in Boston! He will take his rightful place as my heir. His legacy waits for him to claim it! I will not let you spoil that again!”

“Harlan...”

“Murdoch, if I leave here tonight, Scotty comes with me! Think on that before you tell me to leave again!”

The Lancer patriarch tried to drown out the older man’s voice as he realized one of his son’s would soon be lost to him again. He felt the heat of anger rising to his cheeks as Johnny’s hand landed on his arm. He turned toward his youngest son and saw the same anger mirrored in the bright blue orbs. The two men watched the look of triumph come over Garrett’s face and knew he’d won for the moment, yet both silently vowed Scott Lancer would return home where he belonged. As the older man left the room Murdoch and Johnny watched over the sleeping blond.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next day passed too quickly for the members of the Lancer family. Harlan Garrett gloated over his seeming victory and readied for the trip to Boston. Scott seemed to whither as the second night passed and he awoke with the dawning realization that this was the day he would be leaving Lancer for good. His head pounded as he sat up and slid his legs over the side of the bed. It struck him as strange that he was alone in his room for the first time since the snake had bitten him. So far his lungs seemed to be healing, but he still grew short of breath with the slightest movement. To add to his troubles his legs trembled and refused to hold his weight. He didn’t hear Johnny come into the room, but he felt the younger man’s gaze on him.

“Johnny,” he whispered as the young man came to sit beside him on the bed.

“You shouldn’t be getting up on your own!” the younger man warned, mouthing each word so the blond would understand him.

“I need to get dressed. Grandfather said we’d be leaving within the hour.”

“You don’t need to do this Scott...”

“Yes...I do, Johnny. If something happens to grandfather because of this trip then it’s my fault. I have to go...have to make sure he doesn’t overdo things. I’ll miss Lancer...I’ll miss you, Murdoch, Teresa and Jelly, but I owe him.” Scott watched as Johnny hastily scrawled a new message and turned the slate toward him.

“What about the things we were going to do, Scott? The plans we had for Lancer and the horses? We still need time to get to know each other, Scott. You being in Boston makes that hard!”

“I know, Johnny, and I honestly wish things were different. Who knows maybe someday I’ll come back home.”

“I have something for you,” Johnny said softly, gazing deeply into his brother’s pained eyes. “It ain’t much, but it’s all I got that means something to me.”

Scott looked down at the coin in Johnny’s hand and smiled as he accepted the offering. He knew the story behind the coin and the man who’d given it to Johnny for luck and safekeeping. Johnny had given an elderly traveler his last silver dollar when the man had said he needed to get home to his wife and new daughter on Christmas Eve. He cried as he told Johnny he did not have the money to buy the final ticket that would see him home. Johnny slipped the coin into the man’s pocket before leaving the train depot. That would have been the end of it, except the following Christmas day Johnny found the coin nestled in his pocket wrapped in a wonderfully scripted note.

It is wonderful to find that there are still people in this world who care for there fellow man. This coin has seen me safely home and someday I hope it will do the same for you. Merry Christmas, Johnny Madrid. From a weary traveler who is now safely wrapped in caring arms.

Johnny searched for the elderly traveler and found that he had indeed boarded the train, but not before making sure that his saviour was well taken care of. The fact that his brother would give it to him was a sign of just how much he cared for and trusted in Scott.

“You hold on to that, Scott, I expect it to come back to me,” the dark haired Lancer ordered.

“Thanks, Johnny, I’ll keep this with me always.”

“Anytime, Boston. You need help getting dressed?”

“C...could use a hand,” the blond said as Murdoch entered the room.

“Everything okay?”

“Yeah, I was just gonna give Scott a hand to get dressed,” Johnny explained, reaching for the blue jeans on the chair.

Between Murdoch and Johnny they managed to get Scott dressed and his boots on his feet. They made sure his left arm was safely immobilized and the wound around his right calf was wrapped tightly. The two men could see that Scott was in pain, and wished they could convince him to stay, but they’d already exhausted every avenue open to them.

“Scott,” Murdoch said, kneeling in front of his son and searching the soulful blue eyes that reminded him so much of Catherine. “I want you to have this. It belonged to your mother and I know she’d want you to have it.”

Scott looked at the small music box with the gold roses emblazoned on the antique glass cover and felt tears come to his eyes. He remembered seeing pictures of his mother holding the box and his grandfather telling him how it disappeared at the same time Catherine ran off with Murdoch Lancer. The lump in his throat threatened to cut off his air, but he managed to whisper ‘Thank you’ as his grandfather entered the room.

“Are you ready, Scotty?” the old man asked.

“Sorry, Grandfather, I didn’t hear you.” He watched as the older man grabbed the slate and began to write before turning it toward him.

“I asked if you were ready?”

“I think so. I just need to say goodbye to Teresa and Jelly,” the blond answered, easing himself to a standing position and wincing as pain shot through his leg and his vision blurred. He felt strong arms reach for him and instinctively knew his brother was supporting him. Without a word he moved toward the door, knowing Teresa and Jelly would be waiting for him downstairs. Laboring for every step, Scott leaned more and more on Johnny as they came to the top of the stairs and descended toward the bottom floor. His eyes closed as he tried to concentrate on keeping his churning stomach under control. Swaying, almost drunkenly Scott felt his brother’s support as they moved across the room to the main doors. Teresa was there and he could see the tears streaming down her face as Johnny half carried him through the door and into the bright sunshine. He sucked in a deep breath as he looked out over the front yard, amazed to see so many hands there to bid him farewell. Again the lump formed in his throat and his own eyes misted as Teresa wrapped her arms around his neck.

“Oh Scott,” she cried as she lifted her head and looked into his eyes, mouthing two words in an effort to change his mind. “Don’t go!”

“I’m sorry, Teresa, I don’t have a choice,” he told her as she handed him several bags. He knew they were his favorite, chocolate nut cookies, as he’d smelled her baking since dawn. “Thank you, Teresa, Take care of Johnny and Murdoch for me.”

“I will,” she said, kissing him quickly before moving away.

Scott watched as the older man walked stiffly toward him and grasped his hand before pulling him into a hug. He smiled as Jelly Hoskins showed how much he cared before moving away with a hastily mouthed goodbye. Scott turned to the rest of the men and nodded his goodbye as Johnny once more supported him toward the waiting wagon. Scott sat on the edge, his strength ebbing as he tried to scoot to the padded area. Johnny was in quickly and helped him to lean back on the pillows.

“Thanks, Johnny,” Scott said softly.

“You’re welcome, Brother.” Johnny knew Scott understood how hard this was on him and wished the blond would change his mind. He’d wanted to travel to Green River, but had bowed to his brother’s wishes and would say his goodbyes for now. That didn’t mean he wouldn’t soon follow Scott to Boston. He jumped down from the wagon as Murdoch reached over and touched Scott’s right shoulder.

“Send for me when you’re ready to come home!” Murdoch ordered and knew his son understood what he’d said.

“Thank you, Father,” Scott whispered, but the light in the older man’s eyes told him Murdoch had heard him. He felt someone climb into the front seat even as his grandfather climbed in beside him. He felt the wagon lurch forward and sighed heavily as they moved away from the home he’d come to know and love. The crowd stood their ground, with Murdoch, with his arm around an openly weeping Teresa, Johnny, and Jelly standing at the very front. Scott continued to watch them even as the wagon left the yard, continuing its journey away from the green sprawling landscape that would forever be ingrained on his mind. He knew his grandfather was watching him, but he closed his eyes when the wagon crested the hill and even the magnificent gate disappeared from view.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The wagon pulled up in front of the hotel and Scott felt the jolt as it came to a halting stop. Opening his eyes he moaned softly and tried to move his stiff body. He looked around, waiting for his mind to grasp where he was and why he was here. A picture of four people came to mind and the reality of his leaving Lancer slammed home once more as a hand touched his right arm.

“Wait here and I will have someone help you to your room,” Harlan ordered.

“Sorry, Grandfather, I don’t understand.”

“Wait here!” the elderly man mouthed in frustration.

Scott nodded and placed his head back against the pillows as Garrett exited the wagon. He had no idea how long he lay there, but opened his eyes when his grandfather returned with another man. He frowned as icy green eyes met his and felt an instant disliking for the newcomer.

“Grandfather?”

“It’s okay, Scotty, this is Dr. Carter. He’s going to take care of you during our trip...”

“I can’t understand you,” Scott gasped when the man probed the thick bandaging around his arm.

“Mr. Garrett, we need to get him to my room so I can look after him properly. You said he lost his hearing due to a blow to the head and that he was bitten by a snake recently.”

“That’s correct, Dr. Carter,” Garrett answered, watching as the younger man took charge of his grandson’s care.

“Well, I need to make sure he’s ready to travel tomorrow. I asked the hotel manager to have a couple of his employers bring me something to use as a stretcher.”

Scott pushed the man’s hands away, wincing as the rough finger returned to probe the wound on his calf. “Leave it alone!”

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Garrett asked, frowning at the pain on the blond’s face.

“You hired me to care for your grandson and I need to make sure everything is as it should be. Ah, here they come,” Carter said and signalled the two men to come closer with the makeshift stretcher.

“I can walk!”

“Not now!” the physician ordered. “Mr. Garrett, would you mind moving out of the way?”

“It’s okay, Scotty, he knows what he’s doing.”

Scott had no idea what his grandfather said, but he felt himself moved forward and eased onto the stretcher. A part of him knew he wouldn’t have made it up the stairs, but he protested anyway.

“Let me off this thing!”

“Lie still!” the doctor ordered.

Scott grabbed the side of the flat board as the two men lifted it and moved into the hotel and up the stairs. He protested weakly when the newcomers placed him on the bed and moved out of the way. He knew the doctor and his grandfather were talking about him, but didn’t understand what was being said. He frowned as the two men gestured toward him and the physician reached for his bag and opened it. The blond sat up, resisting the sharp pain when he saw the items in the man’s hands.

“What the hell is that?” he asked, although he recognized the liquid and the glass syringe.

“Easy, Scotty, he’s just going to give you something to help with the pain,” Harlan explained slowly.

“I don’t want it!”

“Mr. Garrett, it’s time your grandson realized that he does not know what is best for him. I assume he does not have a medical degree on his wall.”

“No, he doesn’t,” Garrett answered.

“That’s what I thought. Now this trip will be hard enough on those of us who are healthy. We will all need rest and sleep and in order to do so we cannot be worrying about whether your grandson is comfortable or not. I am going to give him a shot of morphine, not a big one, but enough to keep him from hurting so bad while I tend his injuries. Whoever the animal was who looked after his arm should be shot. I may have to re-break it and reset it in order for it to heal properly.”

“I knew Jenkins was a backwoods hick...”

“There’ll be time enough for that after I have taken care of your grandson. Would you wrap this around his right arm and hold it for me?”

Scott watched as his grandfather was given a strip of material and tried to sit up once more. Unfortunately the trip from Lancer had indeed sapped his strength. All he could manage was a weak protest as the elderly man managed to grab his arm. He looked up as Carter signalled for another man to enter and soon found himself pinned to the mattress while his grandfather finished wrapping the material around his bicep.

“...no...grandfather...please...don’t...” his eyes grew wide and he continued to fight when the tip of the needle touched against the skin at his elbow. His fury intensified while he fought the two men holding him, but to no avail as the needle slid painfully into his vein and the drug entered his bloodstream. His protests grew weak and his mind became fuzzy, but a softly whispered word escaped his lips.

“Johnny...”

Harlan watched Scott’s eyes close and he gave into the weariness, pain and morphine. In an unfamiliar gesture of caring the elderly man flicked back the blond hair from the younger man’s forehead. Scott looked so young and innocent with his eyes closed and the lines of pain absent from his face. A face so much like his mothers, so fair in coloring that he now looked pale and gaunt.

“Mr. Garrett...Mr. Garrett!”

Harlan looked up at the second call and knew the man before him was a man who got what he wanted no matter what the cost. He smiled as he realized how much alike they were. He had his grandson with him and would use any means at his disposal to ensure he stayed in Boston where he belonged.

“Please, call me Harlan...”

“Harlan it is...and call me Mortimer.”

“Mortimer, what do you think?”

“I think you were right in wanting to take the boy away from this godforsaken place,” Carter assured him.

“I’m so pleased to know we’re in full agreement on Scotty’s health. Do you really think you need to re-break his arm?”

“I’m afraid so, but I’d rather wait until we get to Boston to do that. There are no real pain medications available here and I’m running low on morphine. Hopefully I’ll have enough to see him through to our destination. When did you plan on leaving?”

“We were planning on tomorrow afternoon, but we could leave before that.”

“I suggest we make preparations to leave at first light, that way we travel through the cooler morning hours. I’m sure your driver knows the watering holes between here and the train depot. That way we can wait out the hotter hours there and finish the journey during the twilight hours. Have you hired a wagon or something more comfortable to travel the first part of the trip?”

“I hired the stagecoach and we’ll be the only ones traveling on it. I’ll talk to the driver and tell him we’re leaving at first light. I’ll also have the hotel’s chef...if I may be so bold as to call him that...fix us something to eat during the trip.”

“Very well and I will make sure your grandson is prepared for the journey. I must ask you to let me handle matters involving his well being...at least until we reach Boston. After that I will leave it to your own doctor...”

“If you prove yourself worthy then I am not adverse to having you take over as my grandson’s personal physician.”

“Won’t he have something to say about that?” Carter asked.

“My grandson is a very sick man right now, Mortimer, he doesn’t know what’s good for him.”

“I take it you wish to keep young Scott in Boston no matter what he wishes?”

“Precisely, at least until I have an opportunity to make him see I know what’s best for him! Are you willing to help me in this endeavor?”

“I would be willing to help ensure Scott stays where he belongs, but you do realize we may have to resort to expensive drugs for the most part?”

“Yes, I am aware of that and money is not an object where the welfare of my grandson is concerned.”

“Very well, I will be sure to keep my patient comfortable during the trip. Tell the driver to arrange for blankets to line the seats.”

“I will...thank you, Mortimer!”

“No...thank you, Harlan. I have a feeling we’re going to get along very well.” Carter watched as the elderly man placed his hand on the blond’s forehead.

“You’re going to be just fine, Scotty. Once we get you home and get that arm and leg fixed up we’ll see what can be done about your hearing. Perhaps Mortimer knows something about that as well.”

“We’ll do what we can, Harlan, after all money is no object and I can set up a clinic in Boston or simply take a job at one of the finer hospitals.”

“I believe a man such as yourself needs his own clinic, perhaps you will find other clients who want what is best for their wayward children. I will be back shortly,” Garrett said, turning away and hurrying out the door.

~~~~~~~~~~~

In the hours since his brother left Johnny Lancer had paced every corner of the house, split chunks of wood until there was a supply that would see Teresa through the next three months.  Now he was on his way to repair a fence at the north end of the Lancer property. His anger at Scott’s leaving had not dispelled with the hard work, and he wanted to put some distance between himself and the reminder that his brother was no longer at Lancer. The bright rays of the sun beat down on horse and rider as Johnny let Barranca have his lead. They moved as one, a dark shadow against the backdrop of green countryside and azure blue skies. A wonderful image any painter would pay to indulge in, yet, there was no softness in the duo’s lines. Johnny Lancer’s face had hardened and until he rid himself of the anger he knew he would be no good to anyone. On and on they raced until the line shack came into site and the dark haired man pulled his horse to a stop, his steady gaze raking over the hills, reminding him of what he’d lost.

Hot and sweating Johnny dismounted and led Barranca to the small stream at the edge of the property line. He watched the animal drank his fill of water before tethering him in new grass. Pulling off the saddle and blanket he reached for the brush and spent nearly thirty minutes before finally taking care of his own body’s needs. He reached for the edge of the dark blue shirt and eased it up over rippling muscles and glistening biceps. Panting in the heat he smiled when he looked at the stream and knew it was just what he needed as he threw the sweat soaked shirt to the ground. Next he pulled off his well worn boots and socks before he slid his denim pants down over muscular thighs and soon dropped them next to his shirt. Looking around he made sure he was alone and slipped out of the final article of clothing. Naked and free, Johnny left his anger and worry for his brother behind and ran into the pool provided by the natural dam at the northern juncture of the creek. His body sliced through the water, leaving a small cascade in his wake as he swam from one side to the other. Over and over he made the crossing until, finally spent he exited the water and stood on the shore, hands on his knees as he sucked much needed oxygen into his overtaxed lungs. Finally satisfied that his anger was no longer a problem he walked to his discarded clothing and thought of his brother.

“I won’t let you leave like this, Scott!” he vowed as he hastily dressed, ignoring the droplets of water running down his back. With his mind finally made up Johnny looked toward the horizon. The dark clouds rolling in heralded a storm coming and he realized there was no way he could out run it. He’d have to wait until the storm passed before heading to Green River and bringing his brother back home where he belonged. He knew Garrett didn’t plan on leaving until the following afternoon and he could be there long before that.

‘I’ll kidnap him if I have to,’ he thought and turned back toward the line shack to wait out the violent thunderstorm that ripped across the sky. Shards of white jagged light lit up the countryside as the dark clouds opened up and rain pelted down on him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott moaned as someone touched his leg, pressing against the puncture wound and placing something wet against it. He’d tried to push the cold hands away, but soon found his hands secured to the bed while his tormentor continued with his ministrations. Several times he opened his eyes only to look into the coldly calculating ones set in a determined face. He’d tried to make himself understood, but his tongue was thick and his mouth dry. The only sound to escape his throat was a soft moan and he knew it was real when the newcomer released his hold on the leg and reached for the syringe and vial on the table.

“...don...don’t....wa...want...it...w...where’s g...grand...father...”

“I have no idea whether you can hear me or not, but I don’t have time to argue with you Scott Lancer!” Carter said as he readied the syringe. He grabbed a strip of material and wrapped it around the blond’s right bicep, smiling inwardly at the young man’s continued struggles in spite of the restraints. His hand moved once more to the injured leg and he pressed against the wound.

Scott cried out, grimacing when the doctor put too much force on the area surrounding the snakebite and knew this man was not what he appeared to be. He couldn’t hear the man’s voice, but he could see his face and Scott Lancer understood the hell he’d just landed in. This man would stop at nothing to control his patients and the blond knew things would only get worse as he watched the needle aimed at his vein. He cried out when Carter jabbed it into the sensitive area and injected the drug. He glared angrily at the newcomer until his eyes refused to stay open any longer.

“How is he?” Harlan Garrett asked as he entered the room a few moments later to find Carter replacing the bandage on his grandson’s leg.

“He was awake for a few minutes, but I needed to give him more morphine because he complained of being in a lot of pain. He should sleep through the rest of the night and I’ll give him another shot before we carry him down to the wagon. Has everything been arranged?”

“Yes, the driver will be downstairs an hour before dawn. I’m going to get some sleep myself, Mortimer, perhaps you should do the same,” the older man suggested.

“I will...once I make sure your grandson is resting comfortably.”

“Very well, the hotel clerk will wake us at three.”

“Perfect, we can be on the road before the sun makes the temperature unbearable.”

Harlan nodded as he looked down at the sleeping form of his grandson. He knew the younger man would recover and when he did he would be home, in Boston, being cared for by the proper medical personnel. When the time was right Scott Lancer would take his place as co-chairman of Garrett enterprises and would answer only to him. If Mortimer Carter was what he seemed to be there would be no problem controlling the injured man and retaining the legacy a Garrett heir so richly deserved.

~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny stared out at the raging storm battering against the line shack. Lightening ripped across the sky, threatening to tear apart the land where it struck the earth. Thunder echoed around his refuge, the reverberations rattling the pane of glass in the window. The tempest seemed to mirror his own dark mood as he watched with a heavy heart. He knew his brother was in trouble, felt it deep down inside, yet he could not get to him until the torrential downpour held up. The weather made it impossible for him to leave and he slammed his fist on the table in frustration.

“I’m coming, Scott, just hang on,” he whispered, placing his head against the cool glass and cursing natures fury. Exhausted after the events of the day he strode toward the cot and plopped face down onto it. He fought to stay awake, but sleep won out as his eyes closed to the sound of the rain striking against the roof.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch paced the length of the living room, stopping once or twice to look at the world outside. The storm seemed to be there to stay and he prayed his sons were safe. He knew where Scott was, but Johnny took off without a word and he knew the young man was hurting. He looked at the papers strewn across his desk and sighed in frustration as he realized he would not be getting any work done, tonight...or tomorrow if his mood were any indication. He looked up as Teresa entered with a tray of coffee and cookies and smiled in spite of how he felt. Whenever his charge was upset she baked and although he normally enjoyed the results of her foray in the kitchen, today he had only a bitter taste in his mouth.

“Murdoch, I brought you some cof...coffee,” Teresa said, her voice hitching on the last word.

“Thank you, Teresa.”

“You’re welcome. Is there anything else I can get you?”

“No thank you. Why don’t you just leave the tray and get some sleep?”

“I’m not really tired. Do you think Scott’s okay? Has Johnny come back yet?”

He looked into her moisture laden eyes and knew he was not the only one who would be unable to sleep tonight. Shaking his head he moved toward her and wrapped his arms around her when her grief manifested in tears that rolled down her cheeks. He knew his next words were a lie, yet he had to say them in order to ease her fears.

“Scott’s gonna be fine, Honey, and Johnny’s probably taken refuge at one of the line shacks. He’s going to be upset about missing out on your cookies when he gets back.” He lifted her head from his shoulder and wiped at the tears.

“I...I’ll make sure I save him some.”

“Good idea...I’m sure he’ll be starving when he returns.”

“Johnny always is hungry.”

“He does seem to have a hearty appetite.”

“Yes, he does. Sometimes I wish Scott would eat more,” she whispered as tears formed in her eyes once more. “Oh, Murdoch, will he come back?”

“I don’t know, Teresa, but I’ve decided I‘m not going to let him go this easy. First thing in the morning we’re heading in to Green River and putting a stop to this. I’m going to get Jenkins to take a look at Scott and I’m sure he’ll tell Garrett my son is in no shape for a long trip! If that doesn’t work we’ll just have to kidnap him for his own good!”

“We shouldn’t have let the old coot,” she turned at the soft laughter from the older man. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean...

“Don’t be sorry, Teresa, old coot suits Harlan just fine. Now if we’re going into Green River first thing in the morning you’d better get some sleep.”

“I don’t think I could sleep right now, Murdoch.”

“Try, Teresa, because we’re both going to need to be there for Scott. Okay?”

“Okay, but you need to sleep as well.”

"I will, as soon as I have a cup of coffee and a couple of cookies. Go on now.”

“Okay, goodnight, Murdoch,” she said, placing a soft kiss on his cheek before hurrying toward her room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

Harlan Garrett watched as Mortimer Carter readied Scott for the trip ahead. The young man hadn’t made a sound as he was loaded onto a makeshift stretcher and covered in blankets. The rain seemed to have held up, but lightening still flashed and thunder rolled across the sky. Dawn was cloaking the world in a terrible darkness, but they were determined to be on their way before anyone could stop them. He’d found out from the hotel clerk that Jenkins was at a ranch to the north and would not return until sometime later in the day. 

“I’ve given him some morphine and that should keep him comfortable for a while. Alright, you two, carry him down to the coach and make sure you don’t jostle him to much.”

“Yes sir,” the older of the duo answered. He knew who the young man on the stretcher was and wondered why his father and brother weren’t there to make sure he was properly taken care of. Somehow he knew Scott Lancer should not be making this trip, but there was nothing he could do to stop it. He’d also seen the vial of morphine and the syringe when Carter had injected the patient, and cringed at the thought of Murdoch’s son being hooked on it. He’d have to make sure he spoke with the Lancer patriarch and let him know what Carter was doing.

“I said get moving!” Carter ordered and watched as the stretcher was finally lifted and carried from the room.

“It’s hard to get good help in this godforsaken place!” Garrett said as he watched the physician close his bag and pick up his coat.

“It certainly is, Harlan. I can’t wait until we reach civilization once more.” The two men walked out the door and down the stairs just as Scott was lifted into the coach. Carter supervised the duo, making sure his patient was as comfortable as possible on the seat and propped up with several soft pillows. He’d arranged to have several straps put in place and reached to secure those around Scott’s chest and legs.

“Are those really necessary?” Harlan asked as he watched the physician.

“We can’t chance him falling off the seat. It’s bad enough that arm is going to have to be reset once we reach Boston. I don’t really want to have to deal with other broken bones and Scott certainly doesn’t need any new injuries!”

“No...no he doesn’t. I just don’t like seeing him restrained and I know he is going to fight you. Scotty has had a lot of experience with restraints and he doesn’t do very well with them. He was a prisoner of war you know?”

“Ah, yes, I see, but these really are necessary, Harlan, at least for this part of the trip. Perhaps once we are on the train we can dispense them, but for now they stay. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” the older man said, cursing the rain as it continued to fall. “I hate this dreadful weather.”

“Mr. Garrett?”

“Yes, Phillips, what is it?”

“Your luggage has been secured up top. The driver says he’s ready to leave, but he says we may not get far if the roads are washed out.”

“Tell him to do his best and if he gets us through I’ll double the price we agreed upon,” the older man said as the driver hurried toward them, his head tucked down to protect himself from the rain.

“Yes, Sir,” Phillips agreed and spoke to the newcomer. The man simply nodded as he climbed into the driver’s seat.

“What did he say?”

“He said in that case nothing will stop us from getting through,” Phillips answered and held the door for his employer to enter. He closed the door and moved toward the front of the coach and climbed into the seat next to the driver.

“This is a fool’s journey,” the man said.

“Yes, and we are in the company of fools. However he’s paying you an excellent wage to get us through. See that you don’t disappoint him,” Phillips warned as the man slapped the reins and started them forward just as the clouds overhead relinquished the last of its moisture.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny was not sure what woke him, and instincts born of years of being a gunslinger kicked in. He listened for anything out of the ordinary and finally realized what it was that interrupted his sleep. The noise...or lack of it. The storm had ceased to ravage the countryside, leaving in its wake a silence that was almost deafening in its own right. Johnny sat up, rubbing at sleep drenched eyes, searching for the reason he was in the line shack.

“Scott! Dammit!” He cursed himself for being a fool and letting himself sleep while his brother was in the hands of a madman, for that’s what Harlan Garrett was. The man professed to loving his grandson and yet he would put his health in danger by making him take this trip. Standing up the dark haired Lancer hurried outside. He knew the storm would have delayed Harlan Garrett’s plans to leave, and he planned to ride full out to make it to Green River before they left.

Barranca was tethered in a circle of rocks and had been protected from most of the storm’s fury. Hurrying toward the animal he undid the rope and led the horse back to the shack. The sun was peeking out from behind the remained dark clouds as he finished saddling Barranca. He took one last look around the ravaged landscape before mounting up. Patting the animal’s neck, Johnny Lancer did the only thing he could think of and spurred the horse forward.

“Come on, Boy, we need to get to Scott before his grandfather takes him away!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch smiled as Teresa mounted the mare she often rode and nodded that she was ready to go. He’d woken her as soon as the storm broke and had several of the hands saddle the horses. Jelly would follow behind with the wagon to bring Scott back home where he belonged.

“Jelly, tell Carl if Johnny returns he can meet us in Green River.”

“Sure, Murdoch. Now git goin’ and make sure ya stop the durn fool from leavin’!” the heavily whiskered man frowned as he thought of the trip into town.

“We will, Jelly,” Teresa said when he handed her the bag of cookies she’d packed for the injured blond. She turned to Murdoch and knew they were ready. It would take time, and they’d have to be careful, but she knew they were both anxious to get to town.

Jelly watched the two figures until they disappeared through the gate. Taking a deep breath he turned back to the chore of getting the wagon ready. Several hands were placing a small mattress in the back and he smiled as Carl came toward him.

“If Johnny comes back tell him where we’ve gone,” Jelly told the man.

“Sure, Boss, do you think they’ll get there in time?”

“Yeah, they will and from the look on Murdoch’s face we won’t be coming back without Scott. Make sure everything’s ready.”

“Good, he belongs here,” Carl said of the blond.

“Yeah, he does. All right ‘nough jawin. Get those durn things into the wagon so’s I can get on the road!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Scott became aware of movement and frowned as he tried to force his eyes open. He shifted his body, but found there was something stopping him. He finally managed to get his eyes partially open and looked at the seat across from him. He recognized his grandfather, but could not put a name to the sleeping man next to him. The fog partially lifted from his sleep fogged mind and he understood where he was. His movement was limited and he looked down at his body. Straps crossed over his chest and legs, pinning him to the seat. He fought the rising panic as he realized he was a virtual prisoner in the coach. He shifted on the bed, wincing as he struggled against the restraints. He didn’t notice his grandfather’s eyes open, but felt a hand on his chest. Turning his head he tried to understand the words that came from the elderly man’s moving lips.

“Grandfather, what’s going on? Get these th...things off me!” Again he frowned as he watched the mouth form words, but could not understand what he was saying. He renewed his efforts to rid his body of the straps, crying out as the movement caused pain to erupt throughout his body.

“Scotty, lie still...it’s for your own good!” Garrett explained as the coach continued along the trail.

“Grandfather...please...I c...can’t...hate this...”

“What’s wrong?” Mortimer asked, awakened by the harsh cries from his patient.

“I told you he hates being restrained,” Garrett explained.

“Grandfather...please...I w...won’t fight y...you. Just take these off.”

“Settle down, Scott!” Mortimer ordered as he reached for his bag, opened it and pulled out the syringe and vial.

Scott saw what the man was doing and renewed his efforts to get free. He glared angrily from one man to the other as the syringe was loaded.

“Don’t you touch me with that thing!” Scott screamed, coughing as his weakened lungs fought for air.

“Just relax, Scotty, he’s doing what he can to make you more comfortable!”

Scott shook his head as the man knelt on the floor of the coach and removed the blanket from his upper body. He struggled, as Carter searched for a vein, finally turning a pleading gaze toward the man he thought would surely help him.

“P...please, Grandfather...ma...make him s...stop...”

“Sh, Scotty, it’s okay. This will make you more comfortable during the trip.”

“No...take me ho...home,” the blond said as his eyes began to close.

“I am taking you home. We’ll be in Boston before long.”

Scott felt the drug enter his system, but he’d managed to pick out a single word. Shaking his head as the last of the morphine was injected his mouth worked to form his thoughts into a coherent sentence.

“...take home...not Boston...Lan...cer!” he managed as his eyes closed.

“I want you to keep him asleep until we’re home,” Garrett said once he realized his grandson had changed his mind.

“I can do that, but it will cost you and we’ll need more morphine...and he could easily become addicted!”

“Can you cure him of the addiction if that happens?” Garrett asked.

“Oh, yes, but it will not be easy!”

“Just so long as we get him to Boston. Once he’s in your clinic we can convince him he is home where he belongs!” Garrett spat.

“Whatever you wish, Harlan,” Carter said, hiding the smile that formed on his face.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny raced toward Green River; stopping only long enough to make sure Barranca was okay. He realized the horse could not keep up the challenging pace he’d been giving him and reined him to a halt. Patting the animal’s neck he looked along the road, knowing that Garrett was probably making the final preparations to leave. He spotted a familiar figure in the distance and recognized the horse and buckboard immediately.

“Come on, Boy,” he said, starting the horse forward once more. It didn’t take long before he stopped in front of the buggy.

“Good afternoon, Johnny. I was just on my way to check on Scott, but I guess he must be doing better if you’re going into town,” the older man observed.

“Don’t know how Scott’s doing, Doc...”

“What do you mean you don’t know? Didn’t you just come from the ranch?”

“No...was at the line shack, but Scott’s not at Lancer...”

“Where the heck is he?”

“Garrett took him out of here yesterday...plans to take him back to Boston...”

“He can’t do that! Scott’s in no shape for a trip like that!” Jenkins snapped his voice filled with anger.

“I know that...”

“Couldn’t you stop him? Dammit, he was just starting to heal!”

“We tried, doc, but Harlan convinced Scott it was time to leave. He hired a doctor to go along with them and take care of Scott!”

“What doctor?”

“Can’t remember, but I think it was Carter or something!”

“Mortimer Carter?”

“That’s it...you know him? Is he any good?” Johnny asked hopefully.

“I saw an article on him recently. The man is known to overuse many drugs with his patients. I believe he lost the right to practice medicine.”

“Dammit! I knew something didn’t sound right.”

“When were they planning on leaving?”

“Sometime this afternoon,” Johnny answered.

“All right, you keep going. I’ll come as fast as I can. If they’re still in Green River, make sure they stay there!”

“They ain’t goin’ anywhere!” Johnny vowed, turning and spurring his horse forward once more, unaware that he was already too late to stop his brother from leaving Green River.

Jenkins watched as horse and rider took off at full speed toward Green River. He knew if anyone could keep Harlan Garrett from moving Scott Lancer it was this young man riding hell bent for leather. He turned the buggy around and started after him, cursing the so-called doctor for taking Scott away from his home. He knew he’d have to explain to the others about Mortimer Carter, and prayed they would not be too late.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Garrett continued to gaze out the window while rain pelted down muddying the earth and leaving dirty pools on the trail. The skies had opened up and delayed their travel slightly, but they’d continued on the journey to Cross Creek. He breathed a sigh of relief as the bustling town loomed in the distance. Being a railroad community the place was booming in spite of the weather and the hour. He knew a train was leaving in two hours and he wanted them on it. The faster they left the area the better for him. He looked at the pale form of his grandson being administered to by Carter and briefly wondered if he was as good as he looked. The man was keeping Scott pain free and for that Garrett was glad, but sometimes he would see some strange emotion cross the man’s face.

‘Oh, well, perhaps he’s just tired,’ he thought as the physician readied another dose of medication. He watched as the drug was injected into his grandson and refused to feel any guilt over what he was doing. Scott deserved to live the good life. He belonged in Boston where he could meet the proper women and one day marry and give his grandfather another heir to his legacy.

“How is he, Mortimer?” he finally asked.

“He’s sleeping,” the doctor explained as he listened to the young man’s breathing. He knew his patient’s lungs were still weak and his body was not strong enough to fight the effects of his illnesses, but he needed to keep him under until he had what he wanted.

“Sleep is good for him.”

“Yes it is. Are we taking the train out tonight or waiting until morning?” Carter asked.

“I was going to arrange for a coach tonight. There is a train leaving for Boston at nine, but if you think we...”

“No...tonight is fine. The faster we get him to Boston the faster we get him properly cared for. I will stop at the doctor’s office and see if he has a few things I may need to keep Scott comfortable, but I will be at the depot in time for us to leave.”

“Very well, I will arrange for Scott to be transferred onto the coach and into bed.”

“Good,” the physician said when they stopped in front of the railroad station. “I will be back as soon as I have my supplies. Don’t let them leave without me!”

“They won’t!” Garrett vowed as the door was opened and Phillips held it for the doctor to exit. “Phillips, hire several men to help carry Scott inside. Tell the driver to wait here until the luggage has been unloaded and he’ll be paid. Tell him to watch over Scotty until I return!”

“Yes, Mr. Garrett,” Phillips said, watching while the doctor hurried away. That something was wrong with the man was a certainty, but Garrett was his employer and who was he to question whether Scott Lancer was being cared for properly.

“Phillips!”

“Sorry, Mr. Garrett, was there something else?”

“Yes! I need you to go hire those men right away! I’ll be inside arranging for a private car!”

“Yes, Sir,” Phillips said before hurrying away. 

Harlan hurried inside and up to the ticket counter. He pushed his way past several people who were in line and ignored the muttered protests from behind him.

“Sorry, Mister, but you need to go to the end of the line!” the ticket agent said sternly.

“Perhaps this will appease you,” Garrett said, sliding a bill across the counter, smiling as the man’s greed shone in his eyes as he took the money.

“Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but this man has an emergency. What can I do for you?” he asked, drowning out the irate customers behind the elderly gentleman.

“I need a first class car.”

“First class cars are expensive...”

“Cost is of little concern. There will be four passengers and we will need meals provided as well as clean linens and fresh water!”

“Clean linens and fresh water’ll cost extra!”

“That’s fine. My grandson is ill and I want the best for him...”

“Pipe down back there! I’ll get to you when I’m done with this man! Now, what else can I do for you, Mr...”

“Garrett...Harlan Garrett. I want the cars around us to remain empty since my grandson requires rest. I will pay for those as well!”

“Alright,” the man said, looking at the cars he had available. He’d have to move a few people around and put them in other seats. It would make several of the regular cars a little cramped, but at least he’d be able to close up early and the rest of the people could always catch the next train. 

“Will that be a problem?”

“No...”

“What’s going on up there?” a customer asked from the back of the line.

“Yeah, come on! I got a train ta catch!” another called.

“Sorry, folks, this train’s full up. You’ll have to come back tomorrow!”

“What! No way...you said there were plenty of seats!”

“Not anymore. Jake, show them out the door! Come back tomorrow! Now, Mr. Garrett, what about a doctor for your grandson?”

“I already have one. He’ll be accompanying us on the trip,” Garrett answered, ignoring the angered patrons leaving the station.

“Oh...okay,” he tallied up the cost of the three railroad cars and the extra features the man wanted. He smiled as the man opened his wallet and paid the full fair in cash.

“What cars are you assigning us?” Garrett asked.

“The three toward the back...I’ll see that all is in readiness for you,” the agent assured him and closed the ticket window as Garrett turned to walk away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny rode hard, patting Barranca’s neck, as the horse seemed to understand the need for speed. Horse and rider continued onwards, a feeling of impending doom washing over the dark haired man. His face was set with anger; eye’s dark and deadly as he thought of the elderly man’s influence over his brother’s life. Garrett hadn’t questioned the doctor’s credentials, simply hiring him so he could go ahead with his plans and take Scott away once more. His anger continued to eat at him as he realized how much they all stood to lose. He had a brother, something he always wanted, and now he was in danger of losing him again.

Johnny looked up at the sky as the first drop of rain struck his bare arm. He cursed as a second, followed by a third hit him and the skies overhead opened once more. By the time he’d gone two hundred feet his clothes and hair were plastered to his body, and he shivered to the core. He wasn’t cold, but a chill had taken up form around his heart and somehow he knew he was too late, that Scott was gone and he would have to go after him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thomas Lewiston, Tommy to most people who knew him was not proud of the way his life turned out, but sometimes things just kept getting worse and a man struck bottom. The bottom of the ladder, the bottom of the pit, and sometimes the bottom of the bottle. Right now he was nearing the bottom of the bottle once more, bought with the small amount of money Harlan Garrett paid him. He cursed his weakness, knowing there was no way he could stop himself from drinking his way to oblivion. He sat at the edge of the alley, rain dripping off his body and watching the man riding into town. His eyes narrowed momentarily as he tried to focus on who it was. Finally recognition dawned and he grabbed for his nearly empty bottle and ran out into the muddy street.

“JJJOHNNYYY!!!” he screamed as the horse galloped toward him through the heavy rain.

Johnny spotted the man and barely had time to veer off when the man barrelled into the street and stopped in fell in front of him. He cursed the town drunk before dismounting and running to check on him.

“Tommy, are you alright?” he asked, glad to see the older man was sitting up.

“I...I’m okay...but my bot...tle...dammit...it’s broke!” Lewiston spat drunkenly as he looked at the bottle neck in his hand.

“That’s okay, Tommy. I’ll see that you get a new one...”

“Ya will? Tha’s mighty kind of you...J...Johnny...waish a minish. I’s comin’ ta see ya. Go’s somethin’ ta tell ya!”

“Well, I have to check on something first, Tommy. Why don’t you go on over to the saloon and tell the barkeep Johnny Lancer said to give you a bottle and put it on his tab!”

“But Johnny...”

“Come on and I’ll help you up!”

“Gotta tell ya ‘bout scotch...no not scotch,” the man’s brows knit together as he tried to think.

“You can have whatever you want, Tommy, but I need to get on over to the hotel and check on Scott...”

“Scott! Tha’s it!” the man’s face suddenly sobered. “Gotta tell ya ‘bout Scott!”

“What about him?”

“They left...”

“When?” Johnny asked angrily.

“It was early this morning...he came to me and asked if I could help carry Scott down to the wagon. He was hurt and I don’t think that so called doctor is a good man, Johnny! What he did was wrong!”

“What did he do?” Lancer asked, his voice deadly cold.

“I seen him with a bottle of morphine. I think he was giving it to Scott.”

“Morphine, dammit!” Johnny released his hold on the man and moved back to Barranca. His heart told him to leave then and there, but he knew Barranca could not make the ride. He looked at the darkening sky, cursing the weather...after several weeks of nothing but hot and dry they seemed to be making up for it in the last two days. Taking a deep breath he pulled his coat collar up and moved toward the livery.

“Jo...Johnny?”

He turned back toward the man standing in the street and wished he could do more for him. Drinking was not the answer, but for now it would have to do. ‘When we bring Scott home, Tommy, I’m gonna see that you sober up and stay that way!’

“I’m sor...ry bout your brother!”

“Thanks, Tommy, you head on over to the saloon and have that drink on me.”

“You let me know if I can help...okay?”

“I will, Tommy...thank you,” Johnny said and turned away once more. He led Barranca toward the stable, his heart heavy as he realized Harlan Garrett had a big head start and was probably already at the Cross Creek Station. He hurried along the street, one thought echoing through his mind. ‘Guess I’ll just have to head for Boston!’

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Murdoch silently cursed as he looked at the storm clouds, rain dripping from his hat and sodden clothing. They were nearly to Green River, but he knew they would probably miss Garrett and Scott. They were both covered in mud and soaked to the skin, but they continued along the trail. Several times he glanced at the young woman riding next to him, amazed at how close she was to his sons. He often wondered what it would’ve been like to have the three of them grow up together, and regretted not being there for his sons, but at least now he could be. No matter what Harlan Garrett thought, Scott was a Lancer and deserved a chance to live his life where he was a ma…not an object.

“Murdoch, are you okay?”

“Yes, Honey, I’m fine...or I will be once we bring Scott home,” the Lancer patriarch stated.

“What if they’ve already left?”

“We’ll go after him. There’s no way Scott’s leaving without being told we want him at Lancer!”

“We already told him that!”

“I know...this time we’ll show him and make sure he understands we want him there because we care about him, not because we want something from him. It’s time Scott realized his grandfather has been manipulating his life for too long. I’m going to tell him everything that happened that first time I went to Boston!”

“It’s about time, Murdoch. Harlan Garrett has gotten away with too much for too long!” Teresa said as they entered the town of Green River.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny cursed his luck as he stepped out of the livery. Any other day there were plenty of horses on hand and he could borrow one from the owner, but today, with storms threatening once more and the possibility of torrential rains there were none for hire. Val Crawford had been by early that morning in search of men who would be part of a posse to help catch a gang of rustlers who’d burnt out a small ranch south of Moro Coyo. Most of the men in town rode with him, each man taking an extra horse once Crawford said they’d be on the trail for as long as three days, maybe more. He looked up at the heavy clouds, knowing in his heart Barranca could not go any further without rest. He looked at the saloon, crossing the mud covered street as his shoulders slumped in defeat, yet he was not giving up, not by a long shot. Harlan Garret may have won this battle, but the war was far from over.

Johnny heard approaching horses and turned to see two riders coming into town. In spite of the heavy rains he recognized the duo immediately and waited until they reached him.

“Where’s Scott?” Teresa asked, dismounting as Johnny held the skittish animal still.

“Gone...”

“What do you mean gone? They couldn’t have left in this weather!” Murdoch said, anger and frustration evident in his tone.

“Tommy says they left around dawn this morning.”

“Damn fool...Scott shouldn’t be moved let alone traveling in this weather!” the Lancer patriarch cursed.

“Tell me ‘bout it! We need to go after them Murdoch.”

“I know...does Jake have any horses?”

“No, Val Crawford came in looking for men for his posse and took them all,” Johnny explained as they headed for the livery.

“Teresa, go on over to the hotel and book us rooms for the night!” Murdoch ordered and saw the young woman nod as he followed his son. “Johnny?”

“Yeah?”

“What’s wrong...I mean besides your missing brother?”

“Murdoch, Tommy said this doctor Garrett hired had a bottle of morphine...”

“Morphine? Why would he have that? Jenkins said morphine would affect his breathing and Scott’s lungs are already weak from the venom.”

“I know...but Tommy swore he saw the bottle,” the young man explained as they ducked into the livery and handed the horses over to Jake Wilson. 

“Dammit...what the hell is wrong with that doctor...”

“That’s another problem, Murdoch?”

“What?” the older man asked impatiently.

“I ran into Dr. Jenkins...he was headed for the ranch to see Scott. He heard of Mortimer Carter...”

“What did he have to say about him?”

“Carter’s license is no good. He’s not a doctor anymore.”

“Sonofa..” the older man cursed as he listened to his son reveal more problems for his older son. “Harlan Garrett was so damned fired up to take Scott away he didn’t bother to check this guy out!”

“Or else he doesn’t give a damn. We both know what he’s like Murdoch...the man thinks money can buy him anything or anyone.”

“Catherine once told me money and position meant everything to her father. I didn’t know how right she was until I went to Boston that time. I can’t believe that man fathered such a beautiful woman...the difference between them was like night and day. Catherine was warm and caring and she knew her father would not go along with us getting married. He said I wasn’t good enough for her...that I’d ruin her life! Catherine turned on him...told him he’d already ruined her life in more ways than one. I wish you could have met her...Scott takes after her. Same hair and eye color,” Murdoch said wistfully. ‘Guess both my son’s got lucky and got their mother’s coloring,’ he thought as they silently walked toward the hotel

~~~~~~~~~~~

Harlan Garrett smiled as he watched four men lift the borrowed stretcher and carry it toward the second last car. He knew a bed was already prepared for his grandson and Mortimer Carter was waiting inside. A pang of guilt assaulted him at the thought of Scott possibly becoming addicted to morphine, but he shook it off. His grandson would get the best possible care in Boston, and ensure that he kept the young man close at all times. He knew his main problem would be Murdoch Lancer and his gunslinger son, Johnny Madrid. The elderly man could not understand how his former son in law could allow the man to live under the same roof as his grandson.

“Which one, Mr. Garrett?” a red haired, freckle faced young man asked as they waited for new orders.

“The last one and be careful. My grandson is hurt and does not need some clumsy oaf dropping him!”

Jarrod Clarke cursed under his breath. The arrogant SOB had money and knew he could throw it around and get what he wanted. If he didn’t need the extra five dollars the man offered he’d tell Harlan Garrett just what he could do with his money. Instead he bit back a snide remark and carried the stretcher toward the car. They had a little trouble getting it inside, but managed to do so without dropping the heavy burden. Once inside another man directed them to a bed set up at the back of the car.

“Take it easy with his arm and leg!” Carter ordered as the four men deposited the stretcher on the floor. He directed two of the four men on how to lift the injured man and place him on the bed.

Scott moaned as he was lifted off the floor, his eyelids fluttering open to reveal drug-glazed eyes. He didn’t recognize his surroundings, but he understood something was definitely wrong with him. His eyes refused to focus and he tried to speak, but his mouth felt like the desert he’d ridden through with Johnny.

‘Johnny...God...Johnny help me!’ he thought, hating the way his thoughts seemed to jump from one minute to the next. He turned his head as something cold touched up against his arm and a new source of pain was revealed. He shivered, feeling a chill deep in his bones as he finally saw the man standing beside him.

“N...no...no...grandfather...where are you...h...help...me...” he moaned, the words an unintelligible mixture of pain, fear, and exhaustion. Why wasn’t his grandfather listening to him? Why was he letting this man hurt him? Confused he tried to find the elderly man who’d reared him, but he couldn’t see him, just shapes that didn’t make sense. He needed help, but there was no one there to help him. No one there to care that he was hurting, not physical hurting, but hurting just the same. A new warmth spread throughout his body, and his eyelids grew heavy once more, but his grandfather’s voice was there and he heard it and knew only one man could help him.

“Johnny...” he whispered as his body relaxed but his mind began to see horrid images that would not let him sleep.

Bodies lay everywhere...their spilled blood staining the ground around them in a crimson color, some grotesquely bloated and some decaying in the relentless sun. The smell was the worst...sickeningly strong, overpowering the scent of wildflowers that normally permeated the air. He recognized several faces from his days in the prison camps, and swatted at the flies that pitched on them. Scott knew it couldn’t be real...not now, not after so many years, but they were here once more and he could not rid his mind of the images. Forcing one foot in front of the other he trudged on, his body growing heavy as he lifted his gaze toward the bright orb high overhead. He dropped his head, mumbling incoherently and continued to force his legs to move. He stopped as his foot hit something and lifted his head slightly...his mind registered what his eyes saw, and his stomach churned with nauseous. He turned to his right, but a second body lay there. Clenching his eyes tightly he turned and tried to go back, but the mound of swelling corpses were now a single image with a deadly evil man watching over them. That man was Mortimer Carter...the dark hair and blue eyed corpses could only belong to one man...Johnny Lancer...

“No...no...please...God...no...” he cried, pleading for the nightmare world to leave him alone, but it was not to be. His eyes opened and the man from his nightmare smiled down at him with glowing eyes. He couldn’t shut out the final image of horror...his brother was dead...there was no one who could rescue him from the hell he now resided in.

Harlan Garrett stood watching his grandson’s face, wondering what the young man was dreaming about that could make him tremble with fear. He moved closer to the bed as Carter touched Scott’s forehead.

“What’s wrong with him?” the elderly man asked.

“He’s running a fever, Harlan. It’s probably from the remaining venom in his system or...”

“What? What aren’t you telling me?”

“I told you his arm was not set properly, Harlan, and I’m afraid there could be infection building inside as the bones start to knit together wrong!”

“Can’t you do something about it?”

“Not right now. I’m going to need to reset the bone and possibly do surgery to drain any poison from the arm itself. I can’t do that unless we’re in the proper setting and that won’t be until you set up my clinic.”

“What if we took him to the doctor’s office here?” Garrett asked, showing genuine concern for the first time since he arrived at Lancer.

Carter kept his face diverted as he realized he was in danger of losing his new found cash flow. Harlan Garrett was showing signs of wavering and he could not let that happen. Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to be calm as he turned toward the older man.

“We could...but...”

“What?”

“It would mean a delay of at least a week...”

“A week? But they would get here by then. I can’t let Murdoch and his whelp take Scotty away from me again. He’s all I have...all I have of my daughter.”

“Then tell them we’re ready to go, because frankly the faster we get out of this godforsaken west the better for your grandson.”

“I’ll tell them right away!” Garrett said, patting his grandson’s arm. “We’ll get you home and you’ll be better in no time, Scotty.”

‘Not if I can help it,’ Carter thought and watched the old man leave. He looked at the trembling blond and smiled maliciously. This man meant wealth for him and if it took a few complications to get it then he was more than willing to cause them. He reached out and roughly shifted the sleeping man’s arm, yanking until a harsh moan escaped the pale lips.

Scott was pulled toward consciousness by the sharp pain building in his arm, he moaned and tried to move, but was held fast as a strong arm clamped down on his left arm.

“Be still, Scott, or things will go a lot harder on you!” Carter warned, covering the young man to the waist as his grandfather returned.

“Is he alright?” Garrett asked, noting the perspiration covering the younger man’s exposed skin.

“Not yet, but he will be, Harlan. As soon as we get the clinic set up I’ll fix his arm and we’ll get him on his feet once more.”

“Excellent, Mortimer,” Garrett said as the physician stood and let him have the chair.

“How long before we leave?”

“Ten minutes at the most,” the older man said, lifting the blanket over the injured man and tucking the corners around him. “You just rest, Scotty, grandfather will take care of everything.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sam Jenkins was soaked to the skin by the time he pulled the buggy to a stop in front of the livery. He smiled when the owner stepped out and took the reins from him.

“The works, Doc?”

“Yeah, make sure he gets some extra feed tonight,” the older man said before grabbing his bag and hurrying toward the hotel. He knew that’s where he’d find Johnny Lancer and he hoped Scott as well. Pulling his collar closer around his neck he raced across the muddied street, splashing water over his shoes and cursing the storm as he reached the haven of the hotel. He pushed open the door, removing his hat and shaking off the excess water before entering.

“Forget it, Doc, ain’t a fit night out there for man or horse. Might as well give up trying to keep this place dry.”

“Thanks, Bill, Johnny or Scott Lancer here?”

“Johnny, Murdoch, and Teresa are in the restaurant having dinner. Scott’s grandfather took him outta here early this morning. Boy didn’t look too good either,” William Parsons explained.

“He’s not doing very well and that man’s crazy for taking him on such a long trip when he’s so ill.”

“Wondered why no one was here to stop them from taking him away. Why don’tcha go home and change and I’ll tell the Lancers you’ll be back in a few minutes?” the owner asked.

“Not much point. I’d just end up soaked to the bone by the time I got back here.”

“True...ya know I haven’t seen a storm like this in ages. Bet the rivers flooded out....”

“Probably and I doubt if the bridge is passable. What are your old bones telling you this time?”

“That we’re gonna have a few more days of this before it gets any better,” the man told him, shrugging his shoulders as the doctor shook his head.

“Damn, I was hopin’ you’d tell me it wouldn’t last. If Garrett took his grandson away this morning he’s probably already made it to Cross Creek and that means they’ve probably taken the train and headed back to Boston.”

“He did seem to be in an all fired hurry to get back there,” Parsons agreed, looking toward the restaurant as Johnny looked out.

“Johnny, I’ll be right in,” Jenkins said before the younger man could speak.

“Alright,” the dark haired man said and hurried back to join Murdoch and Teresa. “Doc’s here.”

Jenkins hurried over, apologizing for his rumpled appearance as he sat in the empty chair across from Murdoch.

“Murdoch, how could you let that old coot take Scott away?”

“We tried to stop him, Dr. Jenkins,” Teresa said, noting the hurt in the Lancer patriarch’s eyes.

“It wasn’t Murdoch’s fault, Doc. Scott agreed to go with his grandfather.”

“Scott wasn’t thinking straight, but the rest of you were. I told you he was doing better, but he’s still not himself...won’t be for a long time. He needed rest, not a trip like this!”

“We know, Doc,” Murdoch said. “That’s why Johnny and I are leaving at first light to go after him!”

“Not likely. It looks like this rain’s not about to let up and that means the bridge’ll probably be washed out.”

“We’ll just have to take the long way around!” Johnny said.

“Johnny, that’ll take you three extra days of riding and with this weather it’s not gonna be an easy trip. Wait the storm out and you’ll probably get there before you would by taking the long way around,” Jenkins explained as Betty Parsons brought him a cup of coffee and a bowl of hot stew. “Thanks, Betty.”

“You’re welcome. Anything else I can bring you folks?”

“No thank you. I think we’re done,” Murdoch assured her.

“Well, just holler if there’s anything else,” the woman said as she hurried to serve the people who came through the main door.

“He’s right, Johnny...we have to wait.”

“I know, Murdoch, but I hope we’re not too late,” Johnny said, looking out at the stormy night as a flash of lightning lit up the streets and thunder seemed to shake the hotel to its very foundations. ‘Just hold on, Scott, I’m coming.’

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Trapped in a world he didn’t recognize, Scott Lancer mumbled something unintelligible to those watching over him. His lips moved, his eyes opened, and a horrified shriek left his throat as the train began its journey. Pain lanced through his skull, his heart trip-hammering in his chest as he sought out his brother’s image, only to see the vision of Johnny’s desiccated body stretched out under the desert sun.

“Johnny!” he whispered as tears formed and slid down his cheeks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny stood in front of the hotel window, watching as people ran from building to building in the torrential rains. Storms like this rarely happened, especially ones that were continuous and heavy, to the former gunslinger it felt like the outside world was mirroring his own inner turmoil. A full twenty four hours had passed since he rode into town and still the sky above let out it’s moisture, washing out trails and roads alike. His heart was heavy in his chest as he remembered Jenkins telling them of Carter’s treatment of patients, during and after the war. The man now caring for his brother was in no way a compassionate doctor, he was a man who did what he needed to ensure he got the most money from the rich clientele he had in cities like San Francisco and others along the east coast. From what Jenkins told them the so-called doctor couldn’t care less whether a patient lived or died, just so long as his bill was paid.

“Johnny, are you okay?” The younger Lancer looked away from the window as lightning lit up the town and thunder echoed through the area like a symphony of deafening reverberations. He looked into the concerned face of the young woman he’d come to think of as a sister and saw the worry he felt mirrored in her eyes.

“Ain’t me you gotta worry about, Teresa,” Johnny assured her.

“Isn’t it?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve been standing at that window for hours. It’s not doing you any good and it’s certainly not helping Scott any. Why don’t you come down to lunch and then try to get some sleep?”

“Not hungry...”

“Johnny, now I know something is wrong!” the young woman said with mock severity.

“Why?”

“Johnny Lancer not hungry...that only happens when you’re sick and even then you still have an appetite, it’s just normal like other men. Come on, I know the restaurant is serving beef stew and fresh bread and I also have it on good authority that there is German chocolate cake for dessert.”

“Where’s Murdoch and Jelly?”

“They’re waiting for us downstairs. Will you come?”

“Guess...not much I can do about Scott right now.”

“I know, Johnny, but try not to worry, his grandfather won’t let anything bad happen to him!”

“Wouldn’t he? If Harlan Garrett cared anything about Scott he never would’ve made him leave Lancer! Not now anyway! Not in the shape Scott’s in!”

“We’ll get Scott back won’t we, Johnny?”

“Yes, Teresa, we will...If I gotta go into that hospital in Boston and drag him outta there I will. Mark my words, my brother will be home as soon as I can get there to pick him up!”

“I hope so, Johnny, because I miss him already.”

“Me too...now come on...wouldn’t want to miss out on that German chocolate cake!”

“No...that we wouldn’t,” she said, taking his arm and leading him toward the door.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Harlan opened his eyes and waited for the last dregs of sleep to leave him. He wasn’t sure what had woken him and it took a few minutes to confirm his whereabouts. The hauntingly familiar sound of the train moving through the night made him remember why he was on board and he sat up in the bed. He spotted his grandson across the narrow space and saw the doctor sitting in the chair beside him. Harlan slid his legs over the edge and grabbed for his robe before moving to the second bed.

“How is he, Mortimer?” 

“He’s resting right now, although he does seem to be having some nightmares.”

“Nightmares...of life in that godforsaken wilderness no doubt,” Garrett said as the physician stood up and allowed him to sit next to his grandson.

“Probably. I am going to get some rest now. Call me if he needs anything at all.”

“How long since you last gave him a shot?”

“It’s been several hours, but I don’t want to give him anymore unless he starts to come round.” Mortimer knew he had to keep Harlan thinking he was doing what was best for the young man, at least until his own clinic was set up. From there on Scott would run into complications from his injuries, whether from real things or if needed, some that he could easily see to himself. The snakebite was showing slight signs of infection, but there was no poison left in the blond’s system. Again this could work to his advantage, the elderly man just wanted his grandson living in Boston, and it didn’t seem to matter whether the young man chose that for himself or not.

“I will...thank you, Mortimer.”

“You’re welcome, Harlan, it’s good to see a grandfather who cares so much for his grandson.”

“Scotty is all I have left of Catherine, and he will not die out there like his mother did,” Garrett assured the physician and gazed at the sleeping man. He heard the physician climb into bed and soon soft snoring sounded through the train car. Garret reached out his right hand and touched the pale man’s forehead. It felt a little warm to him and he picked up the cloth from the basin on the table at the edge of the bed. Gently he washed the cool material over Scott’s face, easing it down to his chest and watching for any sign that Scott was in pain. Placing the cloth across the forehead he leaned back in the chair and watched the young man sleep.

“Well, Scotty, it won’t be long before you’re home where you belong. Once we’re in Boston you’ll have the best care possible. Mortimer is going to have everything he needs to care for you and see that you can take your rightful place. Your legacy is still there...a part of your ancestry...a part of me...of Catherine and of all the Garretts before us. Catherine would have been so proud of you, Scotty, she would’ve made sure you had the proper upbringing in Boston. She would’ve been a loving, doting mother, but she would not have spoiled you...I would have seen to that. I know Murdoch and that half breed son of his are going to come to Boston and try to convince you to go back to Lancer, but I won’t allow that. Mortimer’s clinic will have orders not to let them in. You need your rest, you know? He’s going to re-break your arm and make sure it’s healing properly especially after that horse doctor messed it up on you.”

Scott frowned as several words seemed to penetrate his fog drenched mind. He knew the words could not be real, because he could not hear anything. His was still trapped in a silent world of misery and pain. His arm hurt, but so did his head and leg and suddenly he felt as if his whole body was on fire. He shifted restlessly, his eyes snapping open as his mind began to show him things that weren’t there. His nightmares were real; so vivid the images tore through his defenses and drew a terrified scream from his lungs as his brother’s body was swept away in a violent maelstrom of wind and rain.

“Johnny!”

Harlan reached for his grandson as Scott sat straight up in bed. “Scotty, lie still! Mortimer, I need help!”

“Hold on, Harlan,” Carter said and quickly readied an injection of the morphine.

“Johnny...please...Johnny, c...come ba...back!”

“Scotty, stop this!” the elderly man ordered as his grandson continued to rage at something only he could see.

“Hold him down, Harlan!” the physician ordered.

“He’s too strong!”

“That’s the nightmares! Lie across him if you have to. I just have to give him the medication and he’ll relax and sleep once more!”

Harlan lay across the younger man’s body, amazed at the strength shown by his grandson. He watched as the doctor prepared the young man’s right arm for the injection, turning to look at Scott’s face, as his eyes grew wide and terrified.

Scott was wide-awake now, but there was no sound to be heard. He watched, enthralled as the older man he didn’t recognize wrapped something around his arm and then tapped at his forearm. He saw the syringe and bucked against whatever obstruction was lying across him, but felt the sharp instrument pierce his skin and knew the man was giving him something he didn’t want.

“No! Stop! Grandfather...ma...ma...make h...him st...stop...” his eyelids grew heavy as the drug once more took over. He felt the heavy weight lifted from his chest, but began to cough as he fought to breathe.

“Mortimer, what’s wrong with him?” Harlan asked worriedly.

“He’s got a little congestion on his lungs. That’s to be expected from being flat on his back for so long. We need to sit him forward a bit and stack some pillows behind him to make him comfortable. The morphine does not help his breathing any and once we’re in Boston I’ll take him off the Morphine and hopefully Laudanum will keep the pain at bay.”

“Are you sure he’s going to be okay until we reach Boston?”

“Yes, Harlan, he just needs to rest.”

Scott’s right hand fisted in the blankets as terrified images held him entranced. His feet also moved under the blanket and his eyes flicked back and forth as if seeking out something that wasn’t there.

“Jo...Johnny...help...dark man...he’s here...”

“What is he saying?” Mortimer asked.

“He is talking about a childhood nightmare. Scotty has always had nightmares about some fictional boogeyman from his dreams. Living at Lancer didn’t help any since they indulged his childishness and pretended that the dark man came back and kidnapped Scotty.”

“It wasn’t the dark man?” Mortimer asked, looking for any ammunition he could use to keep Scott Lancer at his clinic. Childhood nightmares always had a modicum of truth about them.

“The dark man was something Scotty made up to get out of punishment for running away. Scotty was hurt, but there was no proof that he’d been kidnapped and there has never been any proof of a dark man, except in Scotty’s mind and again when Murdoch and the others indulged his childhood nightmares.”

“What was the dark man supposed to have done?”

“Supposedly he was a murderer of small children, but again that was never proved, although there were several stories about a killer around Boston at the time.”

“But he wasn’t the dark man?”

“No...there was no such thing and I don’t wish to dwell on it any longer. We need to concentrate on getting Scotty better,” Garrett explained and looked at his grandson. The young man continued to fidget in the small bed, but his eyes were glazed over and he seemed to be fighting the sleep he so needed.

“Harlan?”

“Yes, Mortimer.”

“I’m going to sit him forward and I want you to slip a couple of more pillows behind him.” The two men worked steadily until they had Scott in a semi sitting position. His breathing eased and the coughing stopped as they watched him settle against the pillows. Mortimer reached for the restraints and began to attach them to Scott’s ankles.

“Are those necessary?” Harlan asked.

“You saw how violent he was when he woke up. It’s for his own protection.”

Garrett nodded and watched the physician use the special strips of treated cotton to restrain Scott’s legs and right arm. Next he used thicker strips across his chest to keep him from moving his upper body before turning to the worried looking man seated beside the bed.

“He should sleep for several hours now, Harlan. Why don’t you go on back to bed? I’ll call you if he needs you.”

“Yes...I will...thank you, Mortimer. Goodnight, Scotty,” he said, brushing his hand across the pale sweaty forehead before heading back to his own bed.

‘The Dark Man just might revisit you, Scott Lancer, if only to make sure you stay where you’re supposed to,’ Mortimer thought, smiling as he sat beside his charge.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny couldn’t believe he’d eaten the full plate of dinner placed before him. He’d been truthful with Teresa when he told her he wasn’t hungry, however the smell of the savory stew had tantalized his senses and reawakened his taste buds. A thick brown gravy clung to chunks of carrots, potatoes, and beef. Thick slabs of warm bread with freshly churned butter accompanied the meal and he smiled as the owner came toward their table.

“Mrs. Wilson, that was the tastiest stew I’ve had in...”

“Johnny...”

“...well...”

“I’d watch what I said, Son,” Murdoch advised and smiled as Johnny turned to Teresa seated beside him.

“...since Teresa made it the last time.”

“Nice recovery, Johnny,” Mrs. Wilson said with a grin.

“Sure was!” Jelly laughed and clapped the younger man on the back.

“So...anything else?”

“Seems someone mentioned Chocolate cake,” Johnny said.

“They did? Oh my, I don’t think there’s any left,” the older woman said, smiling at the look of disappointment on Johnny’s face. She knew his penchant for chocolate and hoped the teasing would take his mind off his missing brother.

“Shoot, ma’am...”

“I’m joshing ya, Johnny, there’s plenty...what about the rest of you?”

“Guess we’d all like to sample the cake, and a fresh pot of coffee to go with it,” Murdoch answered.

“Coming right up,” Mrs. Wilson said.

The cake and coffee were nearly finished when the door of the restaurant flew open and rain gusted inside. Three men in slickers entered, covered in mud and dirt as they looked around the warm interior. Johnny was the first to move as he recognized the man who took off his hat and glanced toward him.

“Val, what’s going on?”

“Oh my, Lord! You look like a drowned rat!” Mrs. Wilson said as she grabbed some towels and tossed them toward the newcomers.

“Thank ya, ma’am. Johnny, we’re gonna need your help and any other able bodied men to come with us.”

“What’s going on, Val?”

“The river’s crested and threatening to flood the Flack place and a couple of the other low lying farms. We’ve got men out there trying to keep it from flooding them out, but if the rains keep going they’ll need reinforcements!”

“Damn...Murdoch...”

“You go get the horses ready, Johnny. I’ll see if there are any men over at the hotel!”

“No need, Murdoch. I sent one of my men there already. Get your gear together and meet me at the livery in fifteen minutes. This storm’s gotta be the worst we’ve had in over a decade and it’s still not showing any signs of drying up!”

“Sheriff, you and your boys sit down and eat while the others get ready. I’ve got fresh stew and coffee ready.”

“Thank you, Ma’am, we sure appreciate it.”

“How many others are with you?”

“Three, besides these two. They’ll be here in a couple of minutes.”

“Good...”

“Mrs. Wilson, is there anything I can do to help?” Teresa asked, worried about her neighbors and especially about her friend June Flack and her family.

“I could use a hand serving the tables, my dear,” the woman said as Teresa followed her into the kitchen. The sound of dishes clattering and pots banging reached the ears of the people in the restaurant and everyone understood the need for haste.

Within half an hour twenty men including Murdoch, Johnny, and Jelly, were mounted and ready to ride. Teresa stood with several other women watching as they readied to move out.

“Don’t worry, Teresa, we’ll be back as soon as we can,” Murdoch assured her and smiled as she nodded once.

Johnny dipped his head and pulled the rain slicker around him as he gave Barranca his lead and followed the others out of town. He knew there was nothing he could do for his brother right now, but he could do something to help is friends and neighbors.

‘Sorry, Scott, I’ll be there as soon’s I can,’ he thought as the mud and water splashed up behind him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott felt as if he was moving, and forced his eyelids open. His mouth was dry and his tongue stuck to his lips as it sought non-existent moisture. He tried to lift his arms, but the resulting pain made him cry out as his vision finally cleared and he realized where he was. The prison camp had always been hell, and he watched as emaciated bodies lined up for the thin gruel and dirty water served them. He stood in line, chains wrapped around his ankles as he shuffled toward the front. All around him men moaned and pleaded for more, but he knew they wouldn’t receive it. Scott watched as two of his fellow prisoners stumbled into each other and the swill they were being fed spilled onto the ground. The resulting fight made Scott laugh hysterically as the combatants didn’t have the strength to hit each other with any degree of power.

Mortimer Carter stared down at the injured man as the train rumbled on toward its final destination. He loved watching his patients in the throes of imaginary horrors conjured up by the use of morphine. Right now Scott Lancer was at a point where he would not know reality from fantasy, dreams from real life dangers. He loaded the syringe from the vial and searched for a vein to inject the drug as the blond cried out.

Scott felt someone hit him from behind and tried to move, but something held him immobile. His arms and legs seemed to be tied down, and something heavy lay across his chest. His head tossed back and forth as he tried to see what was happening. His horrified gaze came to rest on the man standing over him and he cried out as he tried to get away from him.

“No...not real...can’t be...killed y...you!” he screamed and watched as the so called prison doctor came toward him. He heard the man’s voice, but tried to ignore it. ‘The wound is infected...must be lanced!’

Carter smiled as whatever imaginary things his patient was seeing provided him with more evidence that the blond needed help. He heard movement behind him and knew Harlan Garrett was awake and in his own way concerned about his grandson. Carter knew the man had ulterior motives for taking the younger man away from his home, but as long as those motives kept him in money he had no qualms about going along with it. He’d done it many times before, sometimes the patient died, but often they lived and more often than not they didn’t recover.

“What’s wrong with Scotty?” Garrett asked as he crossed the small space to the bed.

“He’s just having a nightmare, Harlan. That’s to be expected after everything he’s gone through and the horrid treatment of that backwoods charlatan. Once we get to Boston I’ll be better able to care for him and make him comfortable.”

“...no...no...” Scott continued to be lost in the images brought on by the drug wreaking havoc on his system. The dirty knife descended toward his shoulder, blood of other victims dripping from the tip as Scott tried to escape the nightmare reality. He screamed, his body arching against the restraints as the tip of the blade was forced into the festering wound.

Harlan was horrified as his grandson screamed out, whether in pain or a nightmare didn’t matter. Scott’s body arched upward, his cries for help tearing at the older man’s heart.

“Can’t you do something for him?” Garrett asked worriedly.

“I was just about to give him a shot...it should put him to sleep,” Carter explained as he tapped the inside of his patients right arm.

As quickly as the horrifying images formed they were replaced and Scott lay panting against the pillows, beads of sweat evident on his forehead as his body trembled in shock. He felt something sharp poking at his arm and looked up to see that his nightmare was more real than he ever imagined. The face was different, but there was something about the man’s eyes that chilled him to the bone. He’d seen those eyes before, had been a victim of this man’s hands on another occasion, another time and place, long ago. He shifted on the bed, turning his gaze to the second image, one that had often meant safety, but sometimes brought sadness.

“Grand...father...help...”

“I am, Scotty, Dr. Carter is giving you something to make you feel better,” he said, forgetting that his grandson could not hear his soothing words. 

Scott shook his head, his body trembling as more of the addictive drug entered his veins. His heart beat faster and his fears escalated as he searched the room for someone to help him. He felt his mind drifting toward the nightmare realm once more, but a voice penetrated his subconscious, one he’d known only a short time, but trusted beyond anyone else he’d ever known. ‘You’re my brother, Scott, and I won’t ever let go!’

“Jo...Johnny...help...Johnny...please...” he mumbled, just before he dropped over the deep chasm into hell.

“He’s sleeping now, Harlan and that’s what he needs. Once we get to Boston and open the clinic we’ll need to make sure no one gets in to see him without one of us being there. It’ll be detrimental to his treatment if we allow unwelcome visitors who will just try to undermine the good we are doing,” Mortimer explained.

“There will be no visitors except me, Mortimer. I do not want Murdoch Lancer or his half breed son interfering with Scotty’s treatment. I’ll hire guards to make sure they are kept out if I have to,” Garrett said and gently touched his grandson’s forehead.

“Very well. I am going to get something to eat, Harlan. Would you like something brought back?”

“No, thank you, Phillips will bring my lunch shortly.”

“Very well. If there are any problems I’ll be in the dining car.” Carter smiled, as he looked down at the perspiration soaked blond before finally turning away and opening the doors between the cars. Moving quickly into the next one he took a deep breath and smiled inwardly at the thought of his patient.

‘So, Lancer, you do have some memories of the prison camp. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure those nightmares pale in comparison to the ones I have planned for you.’ The smile on his face belied the scorn and anger he felt toward his newest patient. He hadn’t recognized the young man at first, and didn’t know his name during the time in the prison camp, but his own memories were clear now and Scott Lancer would pay for the day he’d made it necessary to change his own name.

“Oh, yes, I remember you, Scott Lancer, and you and I have some things to talk about,” he mumbled and nodded a greeting to Phillips who hurried past him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch and Johnny worked side by side along with dozens of other able bodied men. Exhaustion was no longer a word that could be used to describe how he felt; yet he lifted more bags of sand and placed them along the river’s edge. So far the water had crested the banks and high overhead the clouds continued to sweep the land with the torrential rains. The ground around them had quickly become a thick sludge of mud, grass, and small saplings as the earth gave up the life growing from within. Murdoch swiped at the water running into his eyes, before bending to the backbreaking work once more. The Flack family and all the smaller farms were now in danger of losing the crops they’d worked so hard for, but the men would not give in to natures deluge. Again he looked to the side and saw the rain slicked face of his son. He knew Johnny was thinking about his brother and wished there was some way he could ease the younger man’s worries. His own fears for Scott’s life were still at the forefront of his mind, but until the storm passed and the waters receded there was nothing either of them could do.

Johnny could feel his father watching him, but continued to lift the heavy sacks. He spotted Flack and his son as they reached for another bag and prayed they would not lose any more ground to the raging torrent before them. He lost track of time, his back aching, and his legs and arms throbbing as he fought the mire his boots were trapped in. Adding to everyone’s discomfort was the rain weighing heavily on their clothes, dragging on their slickers and, at times, making it impossible to work. He looked up as a loud clap of thunder reverberated across the valley at the same time as a streak of lightning seemed to split the sky in half. The wind worsened, picking up whatever wasn’t nailed down, and flinging it hundreds of feet into the air before sending it crashing back to the earth. He heard a muffled cry to his left and reacted instinctively as Murdoch Lancer lost his footing and slipped into the water. He grabbed at his father’s arms, latching onto the wet clothing in an effort to keep the water from swallowing him up. He felt others join him, heard some of them giving orders, but he did not have the strength to acknowledge them.

Murdoch felt the water and mud as they combined to pull him under. Something struck against his leg, but he didn’t feel any pain as his gaze locked with his son. He saw the determination in Johnny’s blue eyes and fought for purchase with his legs, but the soft ground continued to give way to nature’s fury. He heard the other men come to their aid and felt his body being pulled from what might have been a watery grave for both him and his youngest son. For several long minutes he wasn’t sure if they’d be able to pull him to safety, but with a wet, sucking sound, barely heard above the shouts of fear, the sludge gave up its hold on him and he rolled onto his back beside his son.

Johnny breathed deeply, trying to quell the panic he’d felt at losing the older man. Murdoch Lancer had not been a father to him for many years, but now they were a family and he would not give that up for the loneliness he’d lived with for years. It took a few seconds to realize the world had changed, not only for him, but also for those around him. As if the last clap of thunder and devastating streak of lightning had heralded the end of the storm, the torrential rains were beginning to let up. His breath still coming in hitching gasps Johnny sat up and looked around.

The land around them showed the devastation heaped on it by nature and he wondered how anything or anyone could have survived it. His gaze swept over the downed trees, the sacks of earth used to dam the river banks, and the ragged group of men who fought so valiantly to save what they could. He knew it would take some time for the water level to go down, but something told him the storm had finally passed.

“Johnny?”

He heard his father’s questioning voice and looked down at him. “I think it’s finally over.”

“I hope so...don’t know if I could’ve lifted another bag.”

“Me either,” he younger man said, standing and offering his hand to his father.

Murdoch accepted the offer of help and groaned as he stood up. Remembering the sharp pain, he rubbed at his leg and sank back down.

“Murdoch, what’s wrong?” Johnny asked worriedly.

“Not sure...something struck my leg.”

“All right, let’s get you over to the line shack and see what’s wrong?” the dark haired Lancer ordered. They’d set up a base in the line shack at the edge of their property and used it for meals and a chance for rest when someone was overwhelmingly exhausted. Several of the women were there, fixing meals and coffee and Johnny knew he had to get his father taken care of. With the help of a couple of other able bodied men they supported Murdoch to the shack and stepped inside.

“Put him on the bed!” June Flack ordered when she saw them.

“No...chair!” Murdoch said. “Just need to take a look at my leg.”

“All right, but if it’s as bad as you look it’ll be bed until Dr. Jenkins gets here,” the woman ordered. She watched the others lower him onto the chair and winced sympathetically as he lifted his pants. The leg was covered in mud, but there was no denying the bruising and blood that ran from a deep groove in the calf.

“Can you get me some water and bandages?” Johnny asked and heard the woman move off. He looked up as another figure took her place.

“Here, drink this,” the woman said, pressing a mug of coffee into his hands and doing the same to Murdoch.

“Thank you, Ma’am,” Johnny said, warming his hands on the cup itself.

“Let me take care of him, Johnny,” June ordered and waited for the younger Lancer to move out of the way.

Johnny stood watching her clean the wound and was relieved to see it wasn’t nearly as bad as he first thought. Taking another sip of the coffee he looked into his father’s eyes and knew this would not deter him from going after Scott.

“We leave as soon as we get back to town and get the supplies we need,” the older man said, determination evident in his voice as he waited for the Flack woman to finish with the wound to his right leg.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Harlan Garrett smiled as the train entered the station and looked down at his grandson. The younger man had been lost in dreams and nightmares only he could see, and Harlan hoped those would stop once he was safely ensconced in the new clinic. Before leaving the last station he’d telegraphed his lawyer and gave him free reign to find and, buy, cajole or steal a suitable building from the owner. He trusted Jacob Pearson to do what he asked without questioning his reasons. All the man needed to know was there was a need of a small clinic, preferably one already furnished and in working order. He knew Pearson would find what he needed and make the owner an offer he couldn’t refuse. Money was something he had in abundance and his lawyer had carte blanche to see things were in readiness when they arrived. 

“We’re home, Scotty, and it won’t be long before you take your rightful place beside me,” Garrett said once the train came to a complete stop and he heard Carter behind him.

“Harlan, have you thought about a place to stay while we try to find a suitable clinic?” the physician asked.

“No, but I sent word to Jacob to find a place. I’m going to check and see if he’s here and if he’s found one that meets my criteria.”

“All right, I’ll make sure Scott is ready for the trip,” Carter said, watching as the other man left. He touched the sweat soaked forehead and grabbed a fistful of the short blond hair, smiling when Scott blinked rapidly and cried out in pain.

Scott knew what pain was as tears slipped from his eyes. The morphine was no longer working to keep it at bay and he knew he was fast becoming addicted to it. He’d seen it before in the army hospital after being rescued from the prison camp, men who’d been wounded in action and never been properly cared for. Now the pain of those injuries was almost too much and the morphine was the only way they could get through the day. His vision focused somewhat and he again looked onto the familiar cold blue eyes.

“I know you can’t hear me, Lancer, but I promise you’ll remember me...”

“...k...know...you...” Scott said, crying out as the man tightened his grip on his hair.

“So you can hear me now, Lancer...I wondered if your hearing was coming back. I saw the way you reacted when I was talking with your grandfather. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure we keep you out of it,” Carter said as he released the blond hair and loaded the syringe. “I told Harlan I’d make sure you were comfortable for the trip, well, this should see to that.”

“No...no...”

“Relax, soldier, you’re about to be sent back into the hell of war, and I’m your commanding officer,” the older man said as he easily slipped the sharp needle into his patient’s arm.

Scott could feel the drug advancing through his veins and knew he was at the mercy of a man he only vaguely remembered, and knew things were only going to get worse as the man’s insane laughter met his ears. The train car dissolved around him, replaced once more by a nightmare world Scott didn’t want to face. Images flashed before his open eyes, giving pleasure to the man seated beside him. The blond haired Lancer cried out as hands, only he could see reached for him, holding him down, cutting into his body, and sending rivulets of agony surging through his traumatized body and mind.

Carter smiled when Scott’s hands clenched into fists as he tried to escape whatever nightmare held him in its grip. There was no doubt in his mind this young man would die, but not until he had his revenge and as much money as Harlan Garrett would give him. He knew the morphine was addictive, and Scott was already showing signs of dependence on the drug, the more often it was used, the more often he would need the injection. The longer he was injected, the more his body would crave it. Carter heard a sound behind him and knew the elderly man had returned.

“That’s it, Scott, just relax and let the morphine help you,” he soothed.

“How is he, Mortimer?”

“He’s resting, Harlan, but I’ll be happier when we get him in a real bed and can make him comfortable. He’s not resting properly and we really need to make sure his arm is properly set and that there’s no infection left in his leg.  Will we be taking him directly to your home?”

“That was the original plan, but it seems Jacob has found a place for us. There’s a small place on Charles Street and Jacob has already had it fixed up...”

“Already?” Carter asked in disbelief.

Garrett smiled and took the chair vacated by the physician. “The place was already completely outfitted, but it seems the owner found it too expensive to upkeep and was more than willing to sell for a generous bonus. He was very close to losing it to his guarantor...who just happens to be me. The place was originally built as an asylum, but as you can probably guess we did not want such a place anywhere near Beacon Hill. The new buyer agreed to use it only as a private clinic, but he was too soft and too charitable to the poor. He sold it back to me and left everything as it was.”

“We’re very lucky...what about equipment?”

“I believe you’ll find it very well equipped and there’s even a well stocked supply of the drugs you might need. I sent Jacob to hire several security people to keep the riffraff out once we have Scotty there. Jacob arranged for a hospital wagon to meet us and it should be here any minute. They will even have a proper stretcher to carry Scotty on.”

“That’s wonderful news, Harlan. He should sleep for some time and hopefully when he does wake up he’ll be safely tucked into a comfortable bed.”

“When will you reset his arm?”

“I think we’d be wise to give Scott a chance to recuperate from this trip before we do anything about his arm. I’ll take care of his leg and make sure there’s no longer any danger from the wound.”

“Harlan?”

Garrett turned to see his lawyer standing in the doorway. “What’s wrong, Jacob?”

“Nothing...I just wanted to let you know the hospital wagon is here and the attendants are bringing the stretcher.”

“Very well, thanks you, Jacob.”

“You’re welcome. How is Scott doing? He doesn’t look very well right now.”

“It’s been a long trip and Scotty is quite ill I’m afraid, but Dr. Carter has been taking wonderful care of him and will continue to do so. He will be exclusively caring for Scotty, although I’m sure he will be hiring a nurse to help him.”

“Of course, Harlan, as soon as we’re ready I’d like to set up a few interviews for a private nurse...but you realize it will cost extra?”

“Mortimer, I’ve already told you cost is no object when it comes to my grandson.”

“The stretcher is here,” Pearson advised and moved further into the car to make room for the stretcher-bearers.

“Harlan, would you move out of the way please?” Carter asked, as two burly men entered the train car. He watched while they set the stretcher on the floor and stood beside the bed.

“How do you want to do this, Doctor?” the bigger attendant asked

“All right, Gentlemen, I want you to be careful of his arm and right leg. We also need to keep him in a semi-sitting position because of his breathing,” Carter explained and moved back to the bed. He removed the restraints and nodded that he was ready to move the injured man. “Harlan, take the pillows and put them at the head of the stretcher.”

Garrett removed the pillows and did as Carter ordered, watching as the three men lifted the unconscious man from the bed and shifted him onto the stretcher. He knew the physician was making sure his grandson was as comfortable as possible given his injuries and weakness.

“All right, we just need to make sure he’s not going to move around too much,” Carter warned as he used several strips of material to secure the blond to the stretcher. “All right, Harlan, I’m going to go with Scott in the wagon. Do they know where we’ll be going?”

“Jacob?” Garrett asked.

“They have the directions, Harlan, and my carriage is waiting if you’d like to follow along with them.”

“Yes, I wish to see that everything Mortimer needs to care for Scott is in readiness, and it will also give Mortimer a chance to tell me what else he requires,” Garrett explained as his grandson was carried out to the waiting wagon. He watched as Mortimer climbed into the wagon before moving to the waiting coach. He entered the comfortable carriage and was quickly joined by Pearson before the driver closed the door.

“God, it’s good to be home in civilized company again,” Garrett said when they moved out into the street.

“I bet it is. How is Scott really doing, Harlan?”

“To be honest, Jacob, he’s not doing very well, but at least now he’ll get the proper care and hopefully he’ll be on his feet very soon. The backwoods charlatan did a poor job with Scotty’s arm and Mortimer thinks he’s going to have to re-break it and set it properly. Did I tell you Scotty lost his hearing as well, and was bitten by a rattle snake?”

“My God, shouldn’t you take him to see Claude Boudreau at the hospital? He’s always treated Scott.”

“Yes, he has, but right now I think it’s prudent that we keep Scotty’s whereabouts to ourselves. I do not want anyone besides you, myself, and Mortimer knowing where he is. I know it’ll get out sooner or later, but I’d rather keep it quiet.”

“Are you expecting trouble?”

“Yes, I am. I think Murdoch and that gunslinger son of his are going to come looking for Scotty and try to take him back to Lancer. I can’t allow them to interfere now that he’s home where he belongs.”

“Do you think Scott would go back? I mean I thought he sent for you?”

“He did, but I don’t think they’ll take no for an answer.”

“You think they’ll do...”

“I don’t think, Jacob. I know they will. I think that Madrid fellow will stoop to anything including kidnapping and I cannot allow that to happen.”

“How can you stop it?”

“By keeping Scotty’s whereabouts quiet and making sure no one gets in to see him without my permission. That’s where you come in Jacob.”

“Me? How?” the lawyer asked, genuinely confused.

“Yes, you. I want you to find a way to keep them from having any contact with Scotty. I don’t care how you do it, but they are not to be allowed within ten feet of my grandson unless I know about it.”

“But aren’t they Scott’s family?”

“Murdoch may be his father, but he didn’t raise him and Scotty deserves more than that man can ever give him. Do whatever it takes to keep them out of my grandson’s life.”

“Harlan, Scott’s a grown man...won’t he want to see his father and br....”

“Don’t you call him Scotty’s brother. They are not alike at all and I won’t have him influencing Scotty. Do what you have to...I don’t care if you have to draw up papers that say Scotty is a danger to his own health and has been committed to a doctor’s care...”

“That seems rather harsh,” Pearson said.

“That may be, but I don’t care. Scotty is home where he belongs and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure he stays here.”

“I’ll see what I can do, Harlan,” the lawyer said, turning to look out the window as they both grew silent.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The streets were dark, except for light peeking through the windows, where partially opened draperies did little to hide what went on in some of the upscale homes. Carter looked at his patient in the darkness and could just make out the pale features. The younger man was still sleeping and would remain so until they reached the clinic. He lost track of the twists and turns and the time as they continued to travel the streets, looking out the window as they finally pulled to a stop in front of a secluded building nestled amongst 100 foot trees and a rolling expanse of lawn. The front of the building was well lit by lanterns as he stepped out of the wagon.

‘A man could get used to this,’ he thought when the door opened and a man exited the house. He heard the carriage pull in behind the hospital wagon and waited for his employer to join him.

“What do you think, Mortimer?” Garrett asked.

“It’s a beautiful place...big...”

“Yes, but remember it was originally supposed to be an asylum, that’s another reason I find it’s a perfect place for your clinic. Jacob was telling me there’s even a finished section for you if you want to reside here, and the equipment you need is also in place.”

“Be careful with him,” Carter warned when the two men moved to take the stretcher out of the wagon.

“Mr. Garrett?”

“Yes, who are you?”

“Harlan, this is Peter Greyson, he’s worked here since the place was first built. He asked if you needed a groundskeeper and a general handyman. I told him to stay on until you arrived and ask you himself. He’s trustworthy, Harlan and knows when to keep his mouth shut,” Pearson explained.

"If I agree to let you stay on you will take your orders directly from Dr. Carter. You are to do anything and everything he asks of you without question. You are not to speak of anything that happens outside this clinic unless you have permission from either Dr. Carter or myself. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mr. Garrett, I’ll do anything you want me too. Can I still stay in my room and take my meals here?”

“Yes...and you are to be available at all hours of the day or night if you’re needed.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Are the rooms ready?” Pearson asked.

“Yes, Sir. I made sure one of the patient’s rooms was clean and put new sheets on the bed. I also made up one of the rooms closest to the patient’s room for the doctor in case he wanted to be close.”

“That’s fine, Peter. Now could you show these gentlemen to the room you’ve readied for my patient,” Carter asked.

“Certainly, please follow me,” Greyson told them.

Harlan moved toward the stretcher and walked beside it as the men carried it up the stairs and through the heavy double doors. Once inside the custodian led them toward a wide set of stairs leading to the second floor.

Carter was impressed at the immaculate interior and the Victorian furniture throughout the foyer and the inner hallway. A Rosewood Victorian sofa and matching chairs sat on one side of the staircase and a Victorian Rosewood marble topped Étagère was set against the opposite wall. Several wall sconces inlaid with gold and silver were set at three foot intervals up the staircase, and along the darkened hallway.

“This is the room I set up for your patient, Dr. Carter,” Greyson said as he pushed open the door and held it for the stretcher to be brought inside.

Again Carter was pleasantly surprised at the furnishings. A single bed was set against one wall, a walnut table on either side was filled with implements the physician would need in order to care for his patient. A fireplace was ready if needed, a large oak chest of drawers sat next to it and several kerosene lamps lit up the room. The blankets had been turned down in preparation for the patient’s arrival and the stretcher was placed next to the bed.

“Alright, let’s make him comfortable,” Carter said and moved to help the two men put Scott Lancer in the bed. He removed the restraints and between them they lifted the blond and placed him on the feather mattress. “Thank you, gentlemen, you can leave now.”

“How is he doing, Mortimer?”

“He slept all the way here, but seems to be waking up now,” Carter answered and heard a soft moan from Scott.

“Scotty, I know you can’t hear me, but you’re safe and Mortimer is going to take care of you.”

 

Scott couldn’t tell whether he was hearing things or if it was all in his mind. His grandfather’s voice penetrated his drug clouded mind, but it wasn’t the wonderfully reassuring one he remembered from his childhood. The few times his grandfather had soothed his nightmares stood out in Scott’s mind, and he wanted to reach out for him. Now he was locked in a silent world where he couldn’t tell what was real and what wasn’t. His body ached and his stomach churned as he tried to force his eyes open, blinking rapidly in an effort to focus on the figures around him. Someone lifted him forward and several pillows were placed behind his back.

“Jo...Johnny?” he called hopefully, but as the three men solidified Scott realized he’d made his own hell and one of his personal demons was present.

“Scotty, just relax now. You’re in a real bed and won’t have to be moved for a while. Mortimer is going to make sure everything is healing properly.”

“Peter, would you bring up my bag,” Carter said as he watched Scott Lancer’s face. He knew the younger man was trying to remember things, and he could not allow that to happen, at least not yet.

“No...d...don’t...g...get a....away...” Scott tried as the physician began placing restraints on him once more. 

“I wish there was some way we could get him to understand everything’s going to be all right!” Garrett said.

“I know, Harlan, but for now we need to get him to rest. I’ll have Peter make sure there are plenty of writing materials around when he’s more himself. Probably won’t be for several days...depending on how things go with the surgery to fix his arm,” Carter explained.

“Surgery?” Garrett asked when Greyson returned.

“It’s just a figure of speech, Harlan. I’ll re-break the arm and make sure it’s set properly so the healing can begin. Thank you, Peter,” he said. Taking the bag he readied a syringe of the narcotic and watched the look of fear on the pale face.

“Does he really need that now? He’s only just woke up?”

“Harlan, did you sleep during the trip?”

“Of course,” the older man blustered.

“Are you tired?”

“Yes, it’s been a long trip.”

“Then you must understand that your grandson has to be exhausted. Considering how weak he is and the nature of his injuries he’ll probably sleep most of the time for the next week or two.” Carter turned his attention back to his patient and readied a site for the injection once more.

“No...don’t w...want it! NO!” Scott screamed as the tip of the needle entered his arm and the drug was released into his veins. He fought to hold on to reality, but his diminished health was no match for the advancing narcotic. His eyes glazed over and his breathing grew harsh as he turned toward his grandfather, pleading for him to understand what was really happening. As the last vestiges of consciousness left him his whispered words reached the trio’s ears.

“N...need J...Johnny...help m...me...”

“Johnny won’t be coming to visit you anytime soon, Scotty. I’ll make sure neither him nor Murdoch Lancer get anywhere near you until I’m ready for them,” Garrett vowed as he looked down at the pale face of his grandson.

“Will you be staying here tonight, Harlan?”

“No, Mortimer, I need to go home and stop at my office tomorrow. I will be back around noon,” Garrett explained.

“Very well, by that time I will have fixed Scott’s arm and done a complete examination to make sure everything is set up properly.”

“All right, Mortimer, just remember anything he needs you’ll get. My grandson comes first and I want him kept comfortable until his injuries are healed.”

“Harlan, there are not many men who care so much about their grandchildren and I am honored to have met one. Scott is a lucky man.”

“I am the lucky one. I lost my daughter because Murdoch Lancer chose to take her away from the life she was used to and brought her to that Godforsaken land. If she had only listened to me she would have married into one of the richest families in Boston and I’d have a room full of grandchildren to spoil. My daughter was blinded by something foolishly referred to as love, yet she was much too young to understand the meaning of the word. Scotty is home now and he’s the only link I have to Catherine. Please make sure that I don’t lose him, Mortimer.”

“I’ll do everything in my power to see that he pulls through all this, Harlan, but right now he’s a pretty sick young man,” Carter explained.

“I have every confidence in you, Mortimer. I do believe it’s time for me to be going,” Garrett looked down at his pale grandson and smiled when he touched the blond hair. “You’re home, Scotty, and you’re going to stay here where you belong.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Harlan.”

“Take care of him and remember, anything at all he’s got it.”

“I will,” Carter smiled and watched the older man leave before turning his full attention on the young man in the bed. He heard Greyson in the background, but didn’t look at him as he spoke. “Peter, you will bring me plenty of fresh bandages and make sure this room is kept well stocked.”

“Yes, Dr. Carter!” Greyson exclaimed and hurried out of the room.

“Well now, Scotty,” the physician sneered as he grabbed the broken arm and shook the sleeping man. “You may have thought prison was hell, but you will find it was a picnic compared to the plans I have for you.”

Scott could no longer tell the difference between reality and nightmare as his mind once more went back to his days in the prison. Days that were filled with pain and fever, hatred and prejudice and none of the warmth he now craved. He mumbled incoherently as a hand clamped down on his arm, sending tremors and shockwaves through his body. He fought the urge to cry out, knowing his pleas would fall on deaf ears. He was in hell and he was alone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Murdoch, sit down!”

“Look, Sam, I don’t have time for this right now!”

“Then you’ll make time! How many times do I have to tell you this needs stitches? Now, you either sit down and let me take care of it or you end up bleeding to death and what good will that do Scott!”

Murdoch’s eyes grew dark with anger when the truth of the doctor’s words hit home. He sank back on the edge of the bed and ran his hands through his hair.

“Murdoch, we can’t do anything until it’s light out anyway,” Johnny assured his father as he watched Jenkins tend the older man’s injury.

“Murdoch, by rights I should order you not to use this damn leg...”

“I’m going after Scott, Sam...”

“I know, but you could rest up for a day or two.”

“No, I don’t trust that so called doctor Harlan hired and we need to get Scott out of there as fast as we can.” He groaned and cursed silently when Jenkins pressed something against the wound.

Johnny turned away, moved to the window and stared out into the darkness beyond the dim light cast by the lanterns. He could hear the two men talking and even smiled when Jenkins said he knew where Scott and Johnny got their stubborn streak. His thoughts drifted to his missing brother and he wondered what he was doing right at that moment. Was he sleeping in a bed, snuggled under soft quilts to ward off the chill? Did he know how much his leaving had affected his family? Would he come home with them of his own free will?

‘God, Scott, I hope so,’ he thought when he heard Murdoch curse once more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Greyson carried the bundle of blankets into the room and winced as he caught sight of the wound in the patient’s right calf. The wound looked nearly healed yet Carter held a knife and looked as if he was about to open it again.

“Was he snake bit?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact he was and now I have to tend it properly.”

“It looks like it’s healed...”

“Is that so, Dr. Greyson? Would you kindly tell me where you got your license to practice medicine?” Carter asked sarcastically.

“Ah, Sir, I’m sorry. I was just...”

“Never mind what you were just anything! You’re here to do my bidding and right now I want you to make a pot of coffee and get me something to eat. This man is my patient and unlike you I do have a license to practice medicine. What happens in this room is between my patient and me and I damn well better not hear that you’ve been running your mouth around town and talking my business. Was that clear enough for you to understand?”

“Yes, sir, Dr. Carter. I’m sorry. I’ll stay out of your way.”

“Good. Now get me that pot of coffee. I have work to do!”

Scott drifted, sometimes he dreamed of green fields, horses, a dark haired man and an older one. He dreamed of a young woman and chocolate cake, of dances and music and laughter, but those didn’t last long. More often than not he was swept up by the tidal wave of memories from the prison he’d been held in during the war. Dead men walked and screamed in his dreams, making it impossible for him to rest and heal. Now those dreams were reality as once more something bit into his leg. He tried to shift his body away from the cause of the burning agony, but could move nothing but his head. He cried out as the nightmare voice from his past penetrated the silent world he resided in and didn’t make the connection that he really was hearing a voice from the past.

“I know you can hear me, Lancer, and you better listen and get real quiet. This is my way of showing you what’ll happen if you tell anyone who I am! What I do tonight is just the first lesson and if you ruin things for me I’ll cut your heart out and feed it to The Dark Man!”

Glazed blue eyes opened wide in terror as the point of he knife bit deeper into his calf. He heard an angry curse as a scream left his throat and something was shoved into his mouth cutting off the scream in mid formation. Scott heard the man talking and wondered if he would wake up. Was this a nightmare or reality? Could he finally hear again, only to be thrown into another nightmare from which he would never awake? The cut was deep and he felt blood well up from the wound as his torment continued.

‘God, Johnny, I’m so sorry,’ he thought as he endured Carter’s touch.

Carter saw the face go an even whiter shade and smiled as he cut into the wound. He knew there was only a small amount of infection and it could’ve been easily drained with a simple puncture, but he made the incision larger and pressed against the sides as if to release more blood and watch his patient squirm.

“Now, Scotty, I’m going to put in a few stitches to make sure this heals properly this time. When I finish with this I will be taking a look at the best way of fixing your arm.”

‘No! God, NO!’ Scott silently screamed as he realized this wasn’t a nightmare and that hell had come to earth in the form of Mortimer Carter. He felt something wrapped around his arm and his eyes flew open once more and looked directly into the cold orbs set in the face from the past.

“Ah, I see you’re awake and understand what I’m saying to you. That’s good, because we need to come to an understanding. I’m going to give you a little morphine right now and will continue to inject you with the drug until you are well and truly hooked. I’m sure you remember what happened to your fellow prisoners in Libby and how easy it was to become hooked on this stuff. Nod your head if you understand me.”

Scott tried to swallow, but the cloth in his mouth had already sapped the moisture from his mouth. He let his eyes close once more hoping to rid himself of the nightmare, but it was not to be as the tip of the needle was forced into his vein.

“No, I see you don’t understand or don’t want to, so I’ll explain. I’m going to become your worst enemy for a while once you’re hooked, but then I’ll be your best friend.” He smiled as Scott Lancer shook his head vehemently. “Oh, yes, Scotty, I will. The real Scott Lancer, the one your father and brother are so proud of will cease to exist. In his place will be an addict who will say or do anything to get the next dosage. I’ll need to increase it as time goes on because you’ll crave the release you get without even realizing you want it. I’ve had patients who were willing to cut off their own hand for the next dosage, but don’t worry, I won’t make you do that.”

Scott felt him moving the point of the needle around in his arm and knew the man was prolonging the injection in an effort to cause him more terror. ‘I think it’s working,’ he thought as again he looked into the face above him.

“Once you’re hooked, Scotty, the fun will begin, because I can make you do anything I want. Oh, you don’t believe me do you? Well, let me tell you a thing or two about withdrawal. If you don’t do as I tell you I’ll withhold the drug and that’s when the true fun begins. Your joints will swell and you’ll find it hard if not impossible to move. You’ll feel like thousands of ants are crawling over your body and you’ll scream for help. You won’t want to look at food and will probably get sick if you eat and that means I’ll have to resort to tube feeding,” he shuddered and laughed as he looked at the helpless man. “Not a fun experience. You’ll have the shakes and you’ll sweat and be thirsty and if you don’t behave it’ll get worse. Then there are the hallucinations...but you know, I think I’ll leave those to your imagination. Of course you’ll also be violent so the restraints will need to be in place at all times.”

‘I’ll kill you!’ was Scott’s last thought as the drug was injected into his body and he was given little chance to sleep as Carter set about putting the stitches into his leg. He could hear the other man whistling and wished he was back in his own silent world once more.

Carter placed the thick bandage over the newly stitched wound and wrapped several strips around it to keep it in place. Finally finished he turned his attention to Scott’s left arm. He knew the break was at the elbow and slowly unbound the injured limb, grateful that the arm was not encased in anything more than splints and bandages. Once the final item dropped to the floor he bent down and whispered in his patient’s ear.

“This is gonna hurt you more than it does me.”

Scott moaned against the gag, but the drug kept him pain free until Carter grasped the healing arm and the scream died in his throat as the arm was broken once more. He pressed his head back against the pillows, fighting the nauseous that welled up in his stomach as tears of pain and defeat left his eyes. By the time Greyson came back into the room, Scott Lancer was no longer aware of anything around him.

“Doc, I brought you some sandwiches and coffee.”

“That’s fine. Put them on the table over there and make sure my room is ready.”

“I already did that, Sir, and I lit the fire to warm it up. Should I do that for Mr. Lancer too.”

“Yes, start the fire, but keep it small. He’s already got a fever and I’d rather it didn’t go any higher,” Carter said and splinted the arm with the professional implements he found in the cabinet.

“How is he?”

“Doing better. I drained the infection from the wound in his leg and re-set his arm. If things improve in the next day or so we may even get him eating.”

“That’s good news, Dr. Carter.”

“Yes, it is,” Carter said and tucked the blankets around his patient.

“Doc, I can stay with him if you want to get some rest,” Greyson offered.

“Thank you, Peter, I am kind of tired. You wake me if he needs anything at all.”

“Yes, Sir, would you like me to take your tray to your room?”

“No, just point me in the right direction.”

“It’s the room next door. I figured you’d want to be close to Mr. Lancer.”

“Yes, that’s fine. He should sleep for several hours, but if he wakes, just come get me. He’s probably going to hallucinate and may even relieve some old nightmares so beware of those and don’t give in to him if he asks you to release him.”

“I won’t, Doc,” Greyson agreed and watched the man leave. Once Carter was out of the room he sat in the chair the man recently vacated and looked at the man in the bed. The innocence he often associated with someone who was sleeping was not evident on Scott Lancer’s face and he wondered what hell his troubled mind was conjuring up. He looked at the dirty basin of water and shook his head.

“What’s he got in mind for you, Scott Lancer and how do I help you?” he whispered into the silent room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Johnny basked in the warmth of the sun beating down from high overhead, yet the heat did nothing to take the chill from his body. He knew Murdoch was in pain and kept glancing sideways at him. The trip back to Green River had been delayed because Jenkins had shown up and would hear nothing of their leaving until they ate and he’d seen to Murdoch’s leg. Now, as the noonday sun began it’s downward slope the two men were determined that nothing else would stop them from going after Scott Lancer.

“I’m all right, Johnny,” Murdoch answered the unspoken question.

“We could take a break if you need to,” the younger man suggested.

“No, the faster we get back to Green River the faster we can leave for Cross Creek. I don’t want to leave Scott alone in Boston any longer than necessary,” Murdoch vowed.

Johnny knew the older man felt guilty for not pursuing all his options to get Scott Lancer back from Harlan Garrett years ago. He understood Murdoch’s guilt and the drive behind his need for speed right now, because he felt the same way. They were a family now, and would not allow anyone to come between them. Too many years had already been lost.

“We’ll find him, Murdoch and we’ll bring him home if we have to rope and tie him to do it!”

“I know, Son, and believe me I’ll help tie the ropes if I have to,” Murdoch agreed, wincing as his injured leg jarred against the horse.

Once more Johnny studied the man’s face and saw the truth and determination written there. Murdoch Lancer was not going to make the same mistakes again and this time he had Johnny Lancer to make sure he didn’t. Taking a look around he saw the damage wrought by the storm, yet he knew it didn’t compare with the storm that raged in his own heart right now.

‘I’m coming, Brother, you just hang on.’ he thought as they spurred the horse along once more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Harlan Garrett smiled as he entered his bedroom and made his way to the massive four-poster bed. The blankets were turned down and the pillows plumped and ready for him. Sighing contentedly he laid back and pulled the blankets over him before reaching for the ledger, but he couldn’t concentrate on the words. His mind wandered back to the last few weeks and the happiness he’d felt at his grandson’s telegram. Now, Scott was back where he belonged and there was no way Harlan was going to allow him to leave again. He knew the men he would hire to protect his interest would have to be trustworthy and money would be no object. He would buy their loyalty and make sure Murdoch and his half-breed son would not interfere with his plans.

Placing the ledger on the bed beside him, Harlan looked at the portrait hanging on the opposite side of the room. The frame reminded him of a gilded cage and he climbed out of bed and walked over to it. His fingers brushed across the two images and he smiled contentedly. He’d had it done by a professional painter and was more than pleased with the results. Catherine sat in a rocking chair cradling her infant son to her breast. The artist had done a wonderful job of capturing the image and Harlan wished the picture was real and not something he’d fabricated. Catherine had never held her son, never looked at him with the love a mother has for a child, but at least with this portrait he could make believe that she had and that he was doing the right thing in protecting her son from a life of hardship. He turned away from the lie of the portrait and once more settled into the bed.

“Your mother was such a beautiful woman, Scotty. She would have been so proud of you,” he whispered before blowing out the lamp and closing his eyes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Peter Greyson continued to watch over the injured man through the darkest hours of the night and was caught up in the misery that often flooded Scott Lancer’s face. The young man suffered in the throes of nightmare images only he could see. Every few minutes the eyes would open and grow round with fear as they darted left and right as if searching for something that wasn’t there. Now, as dawn was spreading a soft blanket of light over the city, the blond seemed to have settled down. Greyson wished he could remove the restraints, but something about Carter chilled him to the bone and he knew there’d be retaliation if he attempted to do so. He looked up from placing another cool cloth on the fevered forehead just as the physician entered the room.

“Good morning, Doc,” Greyson said, forcing his voice to sound calm.

“Good morning. How is he?”

“He had a bit of a rough night, but he seems to be sleeping right now.”

“Good, why don’t you go make coffee and see about breakfast while I examine my patient? Oh, and see if you have something light you could fix for Scott.”

“Yes, Doctor,” Greyson agreed, reluctantly turning away from the injured man.

“Close the door behind you!” Carter ordered and waited for his command to be obeyed before turning his attention to his patient. He moved to the bed and sat in the chair vacated by the caretaker. His hand reached for the blanket and pulled them down to the blond’s waist revealing a chest that still held reminders of the time he spent as a prisoner in Libby. He touched the ragged scar left by a bullet that came from a guard’s rifle.

“Looks like this healed nicely,” he said and smiled as the patient showed signs of waking up. He sat back and waited for the blue eyes to open and focus on him.

Scott knew he was waking up, but he fought tooth and nail not to open his eyes. His mouth was dry, reminding him of the days when he’d been so drugged up he didn’t know where he was. His mind refused to focus until a voice intruded on his thoughts and he knew this hell was very real.

“I know you can hear me, Lieutenant, and it will go easier if you cooperate with me. Now open your eyes and let’s see how much pain you’re in,” Carter said, shaking his head as the stubborn man refused to obey him. He waited for his command to be obeyed, but Scott Lancer was proving to be as stubborn as he’d been during his incarceration. Folding his arms across his chest he spoke softly, but the deadly threat was in his words.

“Lieutenant, it is time that you and I came to an understanding. I know you can hear me and I will not repeat myself again. Right now I expect you’re beginning to feel some minor symptoms of withdrawal.” He lifted the lid from Scott’s right eye and smiled at the dilated pupils and the somewhat glazed look of the orb.

“Hmm, okay, maybe there’s still a little of the drug in your system. You know I hooked quite a few prisoners on this drug during their time in Libby, but for some reason I didn’t use it on you. Remember the day I took the bullet out? You were trying to be so strong by not crying out, but I’ll never forget the scream I got from you when the bullet finally came free. I bet you wished I’d used the morphine at that time. Now are you going to look at me or do I get another injection ready...Ah, that’s better,” he smiled as the eyes opened and confusion seemed to dominate the pale visage.

“L...leave me...”

"Sorry, Lieutenant, but you and I have some unfinished business from Libby and it seems my prayers have been answered. Imagine my surprise when I was asked to look after a patient who was being transferred to Boston by train. It came at such an opportune time for me when you consider the fact that the authorities were after me. Your grandfather is very generous and only wants the best for you...”

“H...home,” Scott managed as he struggled weakly against the restraints.

“Oh, you are home, Dear Boy, the only home you’ll know for some time to come. I’m used to living the good life and as such I think you’re my ticket to having everything I’ve always wanted. All I have to do is make sure you don’t heal as quickly as you normally would. Perhaps there could be some complications that require surgery.” Carter smiled at the look of fear that washed over the younger man’s face.

“J...Johnny f...find me,” Scott tried, but knew it was only wishful thinking on his part.

“I’m afraid Harlan will not allow that to happen. Did you know he was very upset that you left Boston to live at that ranch? I’ve never understood how anyone could do such things, but no matter, because it seems you and I are going to be here for some time. Peter is getting breakfast for me and he’ll find something we can feed you, but it won’t be too heavy since we don’t want you getting sick.”

“S...sick...”

“Now, Scotty, you don’t want to be sick right now...”

“N...not me...y...you’re sick,” Scott spat, cursing his own weakness as the man smiled down at him.

“I see you still need a lesson in manners, Lieutenant. Well, I believe it’s time to help you manage your pain...”

“N...no! I don’t w...want it!” Scott tried as he watched his tormentor reach for the syringe and the familiar vial of liquid.

“Do you really think that matters? You seem to have forgotten the rules you were taught at Libby. You need a refresher course on who is in charge and who is the prisoner.”

“W...war is over. I’m not a prisoner...”

“Aren’t you?” Carter asked as he finished loading the syringe and reached for the material to wrap around the injured man’s arm.

Scott could do nothing while he watched Carter tap the veins in his arm. He swallowed the bile that rose in his throat as the man slipped the needle into his arm and realized with sudden clarity that his statement was wrong. Yes, the war was over, but he was still a prisoner of that time in his life. His tongue felt thick and his eyelids grew heavy even as a hysterical laugh escaped his lips. His mind began to drift as the drug warped his senses, filling him with warmth one minute and slamming him into hellish nightmares the next. He cried out and struggled against the restraints holding him to the bed, but there was no give to them. One face was always clear in his mind and he reached for it in hopes of ending his torment, but nothing worked to calm his raw nerves as the morphine held him at the edge of an abyss where he tottered and tried not to fall. Again he reached for the face that seemed to be there when he most needed it since the day they’d met.

“Johnny,” he said as tears slipped unbidden from his eyes. He sank deeper into the misery of his nightmares and cried out as the face shimmered and disappeared, only to be replaced with that of his grandfather, a man he respected and loved, yet now all he felt was a bitter anger and resentment as he realized Harlan Garrett was the reason for his predicament.

Carter watched as the drug quickly took effect and Scott Lancer was caught in the throes of nightmares only he could see. He knew from experience the torment his patient would go through and knew it wouldn’t be long before the man was totally addicted to morphine. Once that happened he could control Scott Lancer’s life and would hold his future in his hands. He replaced the instruments on the table and sat watching while Scott continued to babble, sometimes gibberish, but sometimes they were experiences he knew Lancer had lived through. He smiled as one name escaped the injured man and wondered what Johnny Madrid Lancer would think if he saw his brother now.

“What would he say about having an addict for a brother, Lieutenant? Oh well, I guess we’ll never know,” the physician said as a knock sounded on the door. “Come in, Peter.”

Greyson opened the door and hurried into the room. He placed a fully loaded tray on the table and looked at the doctor and patient, noting the glazed eyes that darted left and right.

“Is he all right?”

“No, I’m afraid he’s in a lot of pain right now.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“No, it’s going to take some time for him to heal. That charlatan who treated him managed to make things worse than they actually were and I needed to lance the wound in his leg and keep a close eye on his arm. Would you see if you can get him to eat?”

“Certainly, Dr. Carter,” Greyson said. He picked up the bowl of thin mush and exchanged places with the physician. He heard the other man move to the table even as he tried to make the patient more comfortable.

“Mr. Lancer, I’ve got something for you to eat.”

“N...not h...hungry...”

“Hey, he heard me.”

“No, Peter, he just sees the bowl in your hand. Now please refrain from talking to him and just feed him so he can get the rest he needs.”

“But...”

“Look, Peter, if you wish to remain in Mr. Garrett’s employ you will do as I tell you without question. Otherwise you can leave right now. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, Doctor.” Greyson looked into the glazed blue eyes and wished there was something he could do to help the man, but at that moment he knew the only thing he could do was care for him as best he could. He held the spoon in front of the slack lips and forced it into the man’s mouth. He repeated the process several times, but was stopped short when panic flared in the blue orbs and vomit spilled from the man’s mouth. Greyson moved quickly and lifted the man’s head in an effort to stop him from choking and held him until the sickness passed before easing him back on the bed.

“T...thank y...you,” Scott managed before losing consciousness.

“I was afraid of that,” Carter said as Greyson cleaned up the noxious mess.

“What?”

“He’s unable to keep anything down and if it continues I may have to resort to tube feeding.”

“Ah, hell, doc, that’s not really necessary, is it?”

“Peter, if he isn’t eating then he’ll just continue to get weaker and then we’ll run into all kinds of problems. No, if this persists I’ll have no choice and neither will Scott.”

“I remember having one of those things and the doc said I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t get pneumonia or die.”

“Yes, well, we’ll just have to be careful and watch him closely. For now we’ll continue this way, but if it persists over the next day or two we’ll have little choice in the matter. Now, let’s get him changed while he’s unconscious and won’t feel so much pain,” Carter said and moved to undo the restraints.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny watched as his father dismounted in front of the hotel before taking the reins from him. He knew the older man was in pain, but understood he wouldn’t let it stop him. He nodded to Teresa and Jelly as they hurried toward them.

“Did you stop the flooding?” Teresa asked, worried about her friends.

“Yeah, stopped it, but it did do some damage to the fields. The others are helping with clean up,” Johnny explained as Jelly reached for the reins.

“I’ll take the horses ta the liv’ry and make sure they’re fed,” he said and saw the grateful look on the two faces.

“Jelly, tell Clem to take good care of them and to make sure he’s got a couple of extra mounts ready for us at first light,” Murdoch ordered before hugging the young woman.

“You’re going after Scott?” Teresa asked.

“Yes, we’ll be heading for Cross Creek first thing in the morning.” Murdoch explained and limped toward the hotel.

“What happened?” Teresa asked, her voice laced with concern.

“Long story, but it’s okay. Sam took care of it.”

“Are you sure you’ll be able to travel so soon?”

“Teresa, nothing is going to stop me from doing what I should’ve done a long time ago,” Murdoch explained as he looked over her head at his youngest son.

“What are you talking about?” the young woman asked.

“I’m going to Boston and I’m bringing my son back home, to Lancer, where he belongs. That’s something I should have done a long time ago and it’s one of the two regrets I have. The second was not coming after you, Johnny. I know it doesn’t mean much, but I want you to know I’m sorry for the years I let go by. I should have brought you both home long before the trouble with Pardee,” Murdoch explained, regret and loss evident on his face and in his eyes.

“Nothing we can do about the past, Murdoch, so let’s just make sure we don’t lose any more time,” Johnny explained as they made their way up the hotel stairs. He knew Murdoch was sincere in the words he’d spoken and it felt good to actually hear the declaration from the older man. It didn’t mean he had no more regrets, but at least he knew he was well and truly home with his family. Now he needed to make that family whole once more and he would make sure that happened. No matter how much time it took, Scott Lancer would be home where he belonged and his family would be complete. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Harlan Garrett smiled and stretched out in the luxury of his own bed. In the weeks since he left Boston he’d had little sleep because of the lumpy mattresses and linen used by other people. He looked at the familiar items surrounding him and sat up slowly. Things were going so well for him with his grandson being back home where he belonged.

“Don’t you worry, Scotty, Dr. Carter will take good care of you or I’ll hire someone else,” Garrett whispered into the darkness. He stood up and walked to the window where sunlight peeked out behind closed drapes. Pulling them aside he sighed contentedly at the sights that met his eyes. Several carriages moved slowly along the street, while people walked along the well-manicured lawns. A knock at the door made him turn away from the window and move back to the bed. “Come in.”

“Mr. Garrett, would you like breakfast in here or in the dining room?”

“I think I’ll have it in here this morning, Phillips. I want you to have the carriage readied for me in half an hour.”

“Yes, Sir,” the man said and closed the door once more.

Harlan knew he had to stop by the offices before going to visit his grandson. He quickly dressed in the clean suit and shirt laid out on the cedar trunk at the end of the bed. By the time he buttoned the coat his breakfast was served and he sat at the table in front of the window.

“Will that be all?”

“Yes, Phillips. Is the carriage ready?” Garrett asked as he buttered the warm scones.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Very well. I’ll be there shortly,” Garrett said by way of dismissal.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott opened his eyes and looked around the unfamiliar room. His mouth was dry and he tried to find some moisture, but there didn’t seem to be any to be had. Scott knew he was alone and that it wouldn’t last long as the familiar pain began to grow once more. He had no idea how long he’d been here, but something about this place terrified him. He heard the door open and turned his head, fear evident in his face as he waited to see who it was.

“Hello, Scott,” Greyson said as he placed a tray on the table beside Scott’s bed. “You probably don’t remember me but we were kinda introduced last night. My name is Peter Greyson and I’m going to help take care of you until you’re better. Ah, damn, forgot you can’t hear me can you?”

“W...water?”

“Sure, I have some right here,” Greyson explained and helped the man sit up further. He tucked a couple of extra pillows behind the injured man, wincing sympathetically when Scott Lancer cried out. “Sorry.”

“T...that’s okay...is g...grandfather here?”

“Hey, you can hear me?”

“Y...yes, but not very well. Is Grandfather here?” Scott repeated.

“No, it’s just me and you and Dr. Carter. Do you want me to get him?”

“No...no, I don’t need him!”

“Okay, now how about that water, but only small amounts. I’d rather not have you throwing up,” Greyson explained as he helped the younger man drink.

Scott sighed in contentment as he took small sips of the liquid and was relieved when it seemed like it was going to stay put. He shifted on the bed and looked down at the restraints holding him prisoner.

“Can you take these off?”

“I wish I could, Son, but Dr. Carter said they were to stay in place. Now, how do you feel about eating a little?”

“Not hungry,” the blond answered and closed his eyes.

“Son, I’m afraid you won’t like what Dr. Carter has planned if you don’t start eating...”

“Peter, could you leave us alone?” Carter asked having overheard the man’s words from the doorway. He was angered that the man now knew that Scott Lancer could hear again, and he was determined to make sure no one else knew. He would deal with Greyson after he dealt with Scott Lancer.

“Oh, yeah, sorry, Doc. I was just trying to explain to Scott why he needs to eat.”

“I’ll handle that. See that you have things ready for Mr. Garrett’s visit...”

“G...grandfather’s coming?”

“Of course he is,” Carter said as Greyson left. “Now it’s my job to see that you’re comfortable during his visit. I wouldn’t want your grandfather to see you in pain.”

“I...it’s not b...bad right now,” Lancer explained.

“It’s not?” Carter asked and pressed against Scott’s injured shoulder causing the younger man to cry out.

“D...don’t...”

“I have to make sure it’s still in place. Now just lie there and I’ll get you some morphine...”

“Don’t w...want it.”

“Doesn’t matter what you want, Scott, you should know that from your time in prison. Remember those days, Lieutenant?”

“Prison?” Scott said as his mind cleared once more and his eyes opened wide. “Carter! You sick, twisted...”

“Mind what you say, Lieutenant, because I can do a hell of a lot more to you than just morphine! I’m also going to make you a promise. One you’d better take to heart!” To emphasize his point he pressed sharply against Scott’s broken ribs and smiled as the touch elicited another gasp from his patient.

“D...don’t,” Scott pleaded and knew he would get no sympathy from this man.

“Hmm, it seems to me you need something to help with the pain. By the way if you don’t start eating and drinking I’m afraid I’ll have to resort to some drastic measures to ensure your health,” Carter explained as he drew liquid from a vial into a syringe.

Scott swallowed past the nauseating lump that formed in his throat as he watched the syringe closely. He knew there was nothing he could do to stop what was happening and began to wonder if this was his punishment for leaving his home.

“Now, Scott, you and I are going to become very dependent on each other. You see I look upon you as a means to a very healthy bank account, while you’re going to look at me as the only man who can help you feel better....”

“No...no,” Scott whispered as Carter flicked at the tip of the syringe before wrapping something tightly around his arm between shoulder and elbow.

“You may not want it right now, Scott, but there will come a time when you’d kill your own brother to get relief...”

“Never,” Scott vowed as Carter swabbed an area on his arm and placed the tip of the needle against his skin.

“Never is a long time, Scott, and I seem to have unlimited resources where your  ‘welfare’ is concerned. Your grandfather is paying me handsomely to see that you’re comfortable.”

“Grandfather wouldn’t a...allow this.”

“Sure he would. He doesn’t want you in pain,” Carter said as the needle slipped into the vein.

“N...no,” Scott cried and felt the familiar warmth spread through his body. His heartbeat increased and nauseous welled like an ocean in the middle of a cyclone. He kept his eyes closed as Carter removed the needle and pressed against the small puncture wound.

“There, now that should keep you comfortable.”

“B...bastard,” Scott cursed through clenched teeth.

"Tut, tut, Lieutenant, is that any way to speak to your benefactor?”

“G...go t...to hell!”

“Sorry, Dear Boy, but you’re already there and if you look real carefully you might even meet up with the dark man. Can you see him, Lieutenant?”

“N...no!” Scott cried as the drug opened his mind to the hallucinations Carter relished and coveted.

“I can help you, Scott, but you have to be willing to let me. Are you willing?”

“No s...someone w...will help.”

“Who? Your grandfather? I don’t think so because I’m doing what he wants in order to keep you in Boston. Maybe you think your brother and father will come, but is that really a possibility? I mean you did tell them you wanted to come back here. You even wrote your grandfather asking him to come get you.”

“J...Johnny w...will come,” Scott said as his head rocked from side to side. The room suddenly seemed too warm and he felt sweat bead on his forehead as he fought to bring enough air into his lungs.

“Maybe,” Carter said leaning over the bed until he was nose to nose with his patient. “But will he be able to find you, Scott? Are you sure he wants to? I mean without you in the picture he stands to gain all of Lancer. So perhaps your brother wants more than you can give.”

“No,” the blond said as things around him shifted and shimmered with the heat emanating from his body. The small amount of water he’d managed to force down made a re-appearance and he heard Carter curse as the drug in his system dragged him into hell.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny watched as his father limped toward him, Teresa O’Brien walking silently beside him. He knew the older man’s pain went beyond the wound to his leg and hoped the ride to Cross Creek would not be too hard on the Lancer patriarch. Jenkins had come to their hotel room at dawn to check the wound and although swollen it showed very little sign of infection. Johnny could still hear the doctor telling Murdoch he really should wait a few days, but there was no changing the older man’s mind once it was made up. It was nearing noon and they were getting the last of their supplies before they rode out.

“Johnny, make sure he doesn’t overdo things,” Teresa scolded softly.

“I will,” the dark haired Lancer answered as he handed Murdoch the reins.

“Teresa, I’ll send a telegram as soon as we find out what’s going on with Scott,” the Lancer patriarch assured her as he hugged her against him.

“Thank you, Murdoch, we’ll be waiting to hear from you. Tell Scott he needs to come home,” the young woman sobbed.

“We will” Johnny vowed as she hurriedly hugged him before he mounted Barranca. Johnny watched as his father managed to do the same and noticed the way he favored his leg, but he also understood there was no way he would be able to convince his father to stay behind. Truth was Johnny knew it would take both of them to make sure Scott came to his senses and Johnny smiled at the thought of going head to head with his brother.

“Ready, Johnny?”

“Yeah, let’s go bring Scott home,” Johnny said and turned away from Teresa just as Jelly Hoskins joined her. He nodded to the older man as they rode past and breathed deeply as he rode beside his father. They had a mission and it would not conclude until the family was back at Lancer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Peter Greyson couldn’t believe the difference in Scott Lancer in the short time he’d been away. Whatever Carter was giving the young man had devastating effects on him and Greyson wished he could do something to help him. There was no one in town he could go to, no one would believe him since Harlan Garrett would stand by this man’s word. He knew if he was going to help Scott Lancer he’d have to find outside sources and right now there didn’t seem to be any around.

“Peter...Peter!”

“Oh, sorry, Doctor, I was just thinking about something.”

“Well you’d best keep your mind on your job or I’ll see to it that Harlan hires someone who can do it.”

“I will, Doc, sorry. What did you want me to do?”

“Clean him up and make him presentable for his grandfather.”

“What time are you expecting him?”

“He should be here in a little over an hour. That gives you plenty of time to do what needs to be done.”

“What about the restraints?”

“What about them?”

“Can I leave them off?”

“No, he is to remain in restraints at all times unless I tell you to remove them.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Good! I’ll be in my office if you need anything.”

Greyson watched the man leave and shuddered at the thought of the cold-hearted physician having control of anyone’s life. Moving to the bed he quickly made note of the glassy eyes looking at him and knew Carter had given him morphine again. He knew how easily a man could become addicted to the drug and once more wished he could do something to help Scott Lancer.

“Come on, Son, let’s get you cleaned up.”

“Clean...never be clean...blood...blood everywhere. M...my fault...so much blood.”

“There’s no blood, Son, it’s just the drug,” Greyson said as he took a cloth and wiped spittle from the patient’s mouth.

“C...can’t make i...it stop. So scared...dark man is here.”

“I’ve been called many things, Scott, but dark man isn’t one of them.”

“Dark m...man...coming f...for me. K...killed him, b...but h...he never stops c...coming. H...hide, gotta hide...spiders...rats...b...bodies...dead...all dead...Johnny, Teresa, Murdoch! God NO!” he cried as his head snapped back and forth and his mind conjured up images only he could see. One minute he was talking with his brother, the next he was washing his hands in blood spilled on the battlefield. One soldier became his father, another became Johnny and sometimes a young woman’s face was imposed on a soldier’s body. His lip trembled as he fought back the sobs that threatened to spill forth, while his teeth worried at his bottom lip.

“I have no idea what you’re seeing, Scott Lancer, but I promise whatever hell you’re in I’ll find a way to get you out,” Greyson cursed as he released the younger man’s hand and Scott struck out. The blow landed on his cheek, but there was no force behind it and he heard a raspy giggle escape from Scott’s throat. Where the nightmarish images brought sobs of fear, the laughter was worse as the young man seemed to go from one extreme to the next. He fought, but again there was nothing threatening in the lack of strength he exuded in his bid to escape and Greyson was saddened that this young man had been brought to such a state.

‘G...grandfather...p...please...be...lieve me. He’s here...dark man...spiders...black spiders. Bite...bite me.”

Greyson looked into the wild eyes and realized his charge really was beyond help until the drug wore off. Once that happened the symptoms of withdrawal would be worse than the images the blond was now seeing. Again he tried to think of a way out, but for now they were both stuck with their lot in life. He ignored the younger man as he finished cleaning him and refastened the restraints.

“I’ll do what I can for you, Son,” Greyson promised as the glazed blue eyes locked onto his.

“F...find J...Johnny...help?”

“Johnny?”

“B...brother...dead...he’ll h...help.”

“Your brother is dead?”

Scott heard the damning words and didn’t see them as the question they were. All he heard was the words that told him his brother was dead and a grief-stricken cry escaped his throat.

“NO! God no!”

“What’s going on?” Carter asked having heard the shriek from his patient.

“I don’t know. He just started screaming!”

“Damn it! Get out of the way!” Carter said and reached for his instruments.

“What are you doing?” Greyson asked as he watched the other man load the syringe.

“Can’t you see he’s in pain?”

“But didn’t you just...”

“Are you questioning me?”

“N...no, Sir it’s just...”

“Look, I didn’t give him very much last time because I was afraid it would hurt him, but right now he needs this! Wrap that around his arm so I can make him comfortable!”

“NO! Johnny! Please d...don’t!” Scott pleaded frantically searching for an avenue of escape before he landed in a deeper hell than he was already in.

“This will help you, Scott. It’ll make you comfortable for when your grandfather comes.”

Scott tried to twist away, but soon felt the needle inserted once more and this time there was no fighting the effects. His eyes began to close and the last image he had was of his brother’s body splayed out on the ground with a vulture perched atop his chest.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch glanced at his son from time to time, knowing the younger man was hiding behind a steady facade in order to keep his emotions in check. Johnny was deadly as a gunslinger and often used that to hide how he really felt. He knew the younger man wanted to race toward Cross Creek, but was holding back because of Murdoch’s injury. The horses were keeping up a good pace and they would be at the train depot in a couple of hours, but he understood Johnny’s need for speed. His leg was throbbing, yet he would not call a halt because to do so could mean a delay in reaching the train and it would mean they would have an even longer wait in Cross Creek.

“Murdoch?”

“Yes, Johnny?”

“What makes someone like Harlan Garrett so bitter?”

“I’m not sure I’d call him bitter, Son. I think it’s more in the lines of a man who’s used to getting what he wants no matter what the consequences. I have no doubt that he loves Scott, but he just goes about it the wrong way. He never should have kept my letters from Scott and when we get to Boston I’m going to make sure Scott knows what Harlan did.”

“Do you think Scott will come back willingly?”

“I hope so, Johnny, because otherwise I might just have to resort to some of Harlan’s tricks. I’m not going to let any more time go by than already has.”

“Good, because I was serious about kidnapping him if I have to!” Johnny declared.

“I was hoping you’d say that, Son, because you and Scott have a home at Lancer and always will.” Murdoch vowed as silence took over once more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Harlan Garrett walked beside Mortimer Carter as they made their way up the stairs. He was later coming to the clinic having run into several acquaintances who were anxious to know if he’d been successful in bringing his grandson home. He’d smiled and told them Scott Lancer was indeed back where he belonged, but because of an illness he would be unable to have visitors until his physician deemed it safe. Several people had shown their worry and offered to help in any way, but he assured them his grandson was getting the one on one care he needed.

“How is my grandson doing, Mortimer?”

“He is in a great deal of pain, but the morphine he receives helps. That charlatan in Green River should be drawn and quartered for the damage he caused and for not seeing the infection in Scott’s leg. I fear there is still some of the venom there, but I believe I can rid his body of it in due time.”

“How is Greyson working out?”

“I don’t know if I trust him completely, but at least for now he is doing as ordered.”

“Good. Has Scott been able to eat anything?”

“Not very much, but that’s to be expected considering what he’s been through. How long was he at Lancer?”

“Too long I’m afraid. The barbaric practices have certainly had an influence on him, but now that he’s home it will be easy to readjust him to his upbringing and perhaps I will be a great grandfather before long,” Garrett explained as Carter opened the door and held it for him to enter. Scott lay back against several pillows, his eyes closed and a slight flush to his cheeks that made the rest of his skin seem paler by comparison.

“I don’t understand how people can choose to live in such poor conditions. I much prefer life in the city with all the conveniences.”

“He looks pale,” Garrett said as he neared the bed and pulled a chair closer.

“He’s running a fever and the morphine will keep him dazed. Touch his shoulder and let him know you’re here.”

Harlan reached forward and touched Scott’s right arm and gently shook him until the blue eyes opened and stared at him. “Scotty, how are you feeling?”

“G...Grandfather...dark...dark man...h...hide, G...Grandfather...b...believe. N...no,” Scott’s head rocked back and forth on the bed before coming to rest on something only he could see. “No, Grandfather. D...don’t believe. D...don’t believe...Why?”

Garrett frowned as he heard the fear in his grandson’s voice and turned to look at Carter. “Why is he talking about the dark man?”

“I’m not sure. It could be that he’s having dreams. Do you have any idea who this dark man is?”

“He was a figment of a small boy’s imagination and I have never given in to Scotty’s childhood nightmares. Last year Scotty and that half breed whelp of Murdoch’s supposedly killed a man who claimed to be the dark man, but I don’t believe it for a minute.”

“D...dark man!” Blue eyes, filled with fear, darted around the room before stopping on Mortimer Carter’s shadowy figure. “W...won’t let y...you. J...Johnny come...stop you!”

“Scotty, you need to let Mortimer help you. Forget that wretched father of yours and think about your life here in Boston,” Harlan tried, but Scott’s eyes remained locked on the man behind his grandfather.

“S...stay a...away f...from me!” Scott warned as the room suddenly changed and he was transported back to his days in the prison camp. He tried to move on the bed as the doctor came closer, but there was nowhere for him to go as the restraints held him in check. The walls ran red with blood as several prisoners succumbed to their wounds and were discarded like yesterday’s garbage. Scott felt the fire of a hot blade sink into his body as Carter searched for the bullet that was buried deep in his body. So lost in his fevered dreams was he, that reality and hallucinations became one and Scott struggled to breath past the stench of the sick house.

“Mortimer, what’s wrong with him?”

“He’s hallucinating and I’m afraid he’s going to hurt himself. I didn’t want to give him any more morphine until after your visit, but I’m afraid he really needs some relief.”

“By all means give it to him! I will not allow my grandson to suffer like this,” Harlan Garrett said as he reached for Scott’s hand. “Easy, Scotty, I’m right here.”

“B...blood...so m...much blood. T...the butcher’s c...coming. H...have t...to be q...quiet. NO! NO MORE!” Scott screamed as Carter held up the needle and flicked at the tip before searching for a vein in his patient’s arm. The blond struggled, fighting with everything he had, but all too soon he felt the sharp point enter his arm. He fought harder and cursed as spittle flew from his mouth and yet he knew it was a lost cause as the familiar warmth suddenly spread through his body and tears formed in his eyes. He knew he was lost, knew there was no one here to help him, and felt utterly defeated when his grandfather reached for the blanket and pulled it up over his chest.

“Everything’s going to be fine, Scotty, you’ll see. In a couple of weeks you’ll be good as new and will be helping me run Garrett Enterprises. You’ll be my right hand man and between us we’ll be unstoppable. You’re home now and you don’t ever have to leave,” the elderly man explained and he watched his grandson relax into the pillows.

“Home?” Scott’s voice was edged with hope and yet there was no strength behind it as he looked at Carter and wondered why his grandfather couldn’t see him for the evil man he was. “L...Lancer...Johnny...”

“No, Scotty, home. You’re home in Boston,” Harlan tried and turned to Carter for an explanation.

“He doesn’t hear you, Harlan, and the morphine is making him see things that aren’t there. Hopefully we won’t have to use it much longer, but until then you’ll have to ignore this kind of talk. Your grandson sent for you and he will come to realize that home is with you.”

“I hope you’re right, Mortimer, because I can’t lose him to Lancer again!” Garrett stated as he watched the blue eyes close.

“I am right, Harlan, you just need to give him time to adjust and heal,” Carter assured him as Peter Greyson entered the room.

“I made lunch and was wondering if Mr. Garrett was staying.”

“Harlan, would you like to stay?” Carter asked.

“I wish I could, but I have several meetings to attend this afternoon. Send for me if he wakes and asks for me. I’ll be back to see him tomorrow and perhaps he will feel like having lunch with me,” Garrett said hopefully.

“I’m not sure if Scott will be up to eating. So far he hasn’t been able to hold much down and I’m afraid I may have to resort to tube feeding if he continues like this or we will have more problems and I don’t think Scott can afford any other problems,” Carter explained.

“Is that absolutely necessary?”

“I’m afraid we may not have a choice. Scott needs nourishment and it seems the likely method. I’ll send Peter to get the things I need in case we have to proceed with this. Unless you’d rather keep going like this, but I’m afraid I don’t advise it.”

“Do what you think is best for my grandson, Mortimer. I want Scotty back on his feet and at my right side where he belongs!” Garrett said, flicking at the unruly blond hair before leaving the room with Greyson.

Carter smiled and looked down at the semi-conscious blond. He knew he would have to work to keep Scott Lancer under his care, but there were things he could do that would ensure he got what he wanted. The use of a feeding tube gave him the means for all kinds of complications and he would see that his patient had several. Sighing he turned just as Greyson entered the room with a tray of food.

“I brought your lunch,” Greyson said.

“Thank you, Peter,” Carter said, motioning for the man to place the tray on the table. “I need you to run an errand for me. Do you know where the nearest chemist is?”

“Sure, that’s where I picked up most of this stuff,” Greyson said.

“Good, I have a list for you and I want you to have it filled immediately. One of the main items we’ll need is Bismuth...”

“Bismuth?”

“Yes, it is used to help settle the stomach, unfortunately with Scott we will need to resort to a feeding tube. Make sure you ask for the proper tube for this procedure!”

“Damn, poor fella’s been through so much,” Greyson said as he took the list.

“Yes, he has, but hopefully this will help,” Carter said and waved the other man off. He waited for Greyson to leave before sitting beside his patient. The blond seemed to be sleeping peacefully for the first time since Garrett hired him and for now he would let Scott Lancer rest easy. There would come a time when he would see pain once more on the handsome face, but for now he would leave him to his dreams.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

By the time they drew their horses to a stop in front of the railroad station the sun had dipped below the horizon and a strong wind gusted across the streets. Dust billowed around them as the weary men dismounted and entered the station. Several people were seated inside and each wore the same bored expression when they looked up at the newcomers.

“Murdoch, sit down while I check the time of the next train!” Johnny ordered and watched the older man sink tiredly onto a wooden bench. He knew his father’s leg was bothering him, but there was nothing he could do to help him until they were settled on the train or in the hotel. He moved to the counter and waited for the man behind it to look at him.

“Can I help you?” the clerk asked.

“Need two tickets to Boston on the next train,” Johnny explained.

“No train for Boston until Thursday,” the man said and saw the disappointment on Johnny’s face. “Sorry, Mister, but the regular train is delayed because the track is out and there ain’t nothing they can do until they get the new materials tomorrow. It’ll take a couple of hours to get it up and running again and that means it’ll get here sometime Thursday. There’s a hotel up the street or Mrs. Tucker runs a boarding house at the end of town. It’s not big but it’s clean and she’s a real good cook.”

“Good cook?” Johnny asked.

“Yeah, real good. I should know since I married the woman nearly twenty years ago.”

“All right, but I’ll take those two tickets,” Johnny said and paid the man for their fares. He turned to see Murdoch wince as he shifted his leg and looked back at the clerk once more. “Is there a doctor in town?”

“Yes, but I believe he’s over in Moro Coyo visiting his sister and her family.”

“Damn...”

“If it’s not too bad perhaps my misses could take a look at it for him,” Granville Tucker offered.

“Thanks. End of town you said?”

“That’s right. The little house with a bunch of rose bushes around it, Jeannie loves them,” Tucker explained and smiled as the young man walked toward the exit.

“Murdoch, next train is day after tomorrow...”

“What?” the older man asked irritably.

“Problem with the tracks. We can get a room at the boarding house at the end of town,” Johnny said and helped his father stand. The man looked worn out and Johnny knew he probably looked the same as they exited the station.

“Tell Jeannie I sent ya,” the clerk called after the two men.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott’s world had changed so much he wasn’t sure what was real any more. How much time had passed since he’d been brought to this place and shown the gates of hell, Scott didn’t know, but to his mind it seemed like forever. He knew he was hurting, but nearly every time he opened his eyes he looked into the face of his nightmares. More often than not the man held something in his hands and soon afterwards he’d feel the sharp tip of a needle slide into his arm and his world would become a blur of images once more.

Scott felt as if his limbs were made of lead, weighing his body down in a murky well of quicksand where even drawing a breath was a lesson in futility. He swallowed and tried to moisten his lips, but they were cracked and raw and he wondered how long it had been since he’d been given something to drink. Not wanting anyone to know he was awake, Scott kept his eyes closed and listened. He could hear things now, but most of the time it was just muffled sounds and incoherent words. Gibberish that often came from his own throat and alerted the doctor from hell of his returning to full awareness. He jumped as a hand touched his right shoulder and startled him.

“Easy, Son, it’s just you and me right now.” Peter Greyson stared into eyes drowning in confusion and tried to instill a sense of calm on the younger man. Mortimer Carter had gone to find the feeding tube he wanted and left him alone with the patient.

“H...help, w...water.”

“Got some right here, Son, but I can’t give ya too much or Carter will know.”

“Carter, d...don’t l...let him h...hurt,” Scott tried as his vision cleared momentarily.

“Not much I can do about that right now, but I’m tryin’ ta help ya, Boy. Carter’s dangerous and I think he’d kill us both if he knew I was talking to ya. Now, here’s that water, just a little,” Greyson said and held the cup to the injured man’s mouth.

“Thanks,” Scott said and tried to move, but the restraints were in place and there was very little leeway on either side. “C...can you t...take these things o...off?”

“Wish I could, but Carter’ll be back soon. Ya’d best just try and rest until he gets here.”

“Tell grandfather...tell him about C...Carter.”

“I doubt it would do any good. From what I’ve seen of Harlan Garrett he just wants to make sure you stay here. Sh, Carter’s back,” Greyson said and moved away from the patient. He picked up the broom and began sweeping the floor as if he’d been working all day. He glanced at Scott Lancer and knew the younger man didn’t deserve what was happening to him, but was there anything he could do on his own against Carter and Garrett? Would anyone believe an old man if he tried to stand up to Scott’s grandfather? No, not in Boston, not when Garrett seemed to have every confidence in Mortimer Carter. He’d have to wait until the time was right and only then would he be able to help the injured Lancer.

“Peter?”

“Yes, Doctor?” Greyson said as Carter entered the room carrying a bag of supplies.

“We’re going to see about getting Scott to eat. Has he been awake?”

“Not really. Been in and out of it,” Carter lied.

“All right. I want you to hold his head for me while I insert the tubing. Make damn sure he doesn’t move his head too much or we could be in real danger.”

“Isn’t it dangerous putting a tube down his throat?”

“Yes, it is, but it’s also necessary. According to his grandfather he’s lost a lot of weight. Now quit questioning everything I do or I’ll have you fired and get someone else to do the job!” Carter warned and opened the packages, placing each item on the table beside the bed.

“Yes, Sir, I’ll do what needs ta be done.”

“Good,” Carter said and looked at his patient. He knew the younger man was awake by the way he tried to control his breathing and smiled inwardly that he would be able to make Scott Lancer aware of everything he was doing to him. “Scott, I know you can’t understand what’s happening to you, but I’m going to do something that’ll help you feel better. Peter, hold his head for me!”

Scott swallowed with some difficulty before opening his eyes fearfully and struggling against the hands that held his head in place. “N...no, God, n...no!”

“Easy, Son, Doc’s just tryin’ ta make ya feel better,” Greyson soothed, hating his own role in this evil game the doctor was playing with Scott Lancer’s life. His own mind was filled with self-loathing for the part he was being forced to play and he knew he would have to find someone who’d believe his story.

“Okay, Peter, I’m ready to begin. Make sure you hold him still!” Carter ordered as he reached for the length of tubing on the table.

Scott’s eyes widened with fear and anger and he tried to twist his head away from the hands as he spotted a length of red tubing in his enemy’s hands. He knew there was no way to stop Carter, but he would not give in. The blond Lancer twisted and turned, his stomach churning as bile rose up in his throat.  Scott fought with what little strength he had, but he was no match for the man seated next to the bed. He felt the tube being forced into his left nostril and gagged as it hit the back of his throat. His body contorted in the limited confines of the bed as the restraints held him in place. Tears came to his eyes and slid down his cheeks as the tube was forced down the back of his throat. He could hear Carter’s hated voice, but could no longer understand what the man was saying. Life was filled with misery and Scott Lancer was poised on the edge of an abyss where his only relief was to give in to the darkness that sought to claim him.

“Almost done,” Carter said as he slipped the tube the rest of the way in.

“I think he’s out, Doc,” Greyson said.

“Good, I need you to hold this in place while I test to make sure it’s properly inserted before I give him some medicine that’ll help with the nauseous and hopefully get him eating again,” Carter explained as he handed the cotton tapes to the other man. He reached for the new syringe he’d just bought and inserted the end into the tubing.

“What’s that gonna do?” Greyson asked.

“If you must know I’m drawing fluid and I’ll test to see if I get the right reaction that’ll tell me whether the tube is in his lungs or stomach where it belongs.”

“What happens if it’s in his lungs?”

“I’ll take it out and start again otherwise he could end up with pneumonia and he doesn’t need that right now,” Carter explained as he drew back on the syringe and released the tubing. He held the syringe over a piece of litmus paper and put several drops onto it. His shoulders sagged as he saw the reaction and he took a deep breath before turning to the other man.

“Somethin’ wrong, Doc?” Greyson asked fearfully.

“No, it’s in the right place, thank God,” he said as he looked at the red coloring and knew the tube was indeed down his patient’s stomach. He took the cotton strips from Greyson and secured them around his patient’s head before sitting back on the chair.

“What’s next?”

“I need to give him some medication and then we’ll start with some sugar water.” He reached for a bottle and measured the required dosage into the syringe. “He’ll get this every four hours until I’m sure he’s able to do without it. Watch how it’s done because there may be times when you’ll have to give it to him.”

“Sure, Doc,” Greyson said and watched the other man place the syringe in the tube and deliver the dose of medicine. Inwardly he shuddered at the thought of what Scott Lancer was being forced to endure and again he wished there was someone he could talk to. He knew Harlan Garrett was to blinded by his own wishes and needs to believe the real cruelty being inflicted on his grandson. ‘Someone’s gotta believe me,’ he thought.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny awoke with a start and sat upright in his bed as he searched the shadows of the unfamiliar room. In spite of the warmth in the air he shivered as if chilled to the bone. He turned to see his father turned away from him and knew the older man was still sleeping. Swinging his legs over the edge of the bed he made his way to the window and looked out at the lightening sky.  Something had awakened him and his hand went to his throat as if something were choking off his air, but the sensation was unlike anything he’d ever felt before and he suddenly understood what he was feeling.

“Scott, just hang on,” he whispered as if his brother could hear his thoughts.

Sighing wearily he moved back to the bed and ran his fingers through his disheveled hair and finally lay back on the bed. Thoughts of his brother kept him from sleep and he let his mind wander back over the time they’d first met. His first thoughts upon seeing the dandy seated across from him was that he’d be dead inside of a week, but Scott, himself, quickly squashed that certainty. The man knew how to use a gun and his fists and Johnny was proud to call him brother.

“Johnny, you awake?”

"Yeah. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Leg’s a little sore, but nothing’s going to stop me from bringing your brother home!”

“Murdoch, I need to ask you something and I want you to tell me the truth. Will you do that?”

“I’ll do my best.”

“Would you have sent for me and Scott if it hadn’t been for Pardee?” The silence stretched between the two men and Johnny thought the older man had fallen asleep, but he heard Murdoch shift around in the bed and sit up.

“Would you believe me if I said yes?”

“I might, but for some reason I don’t think you will!” Johnny heard a soft sound and sat up to look across the small space at his father.

“I won’t lie to you, Johnny. I’ve always had papers drawn up giving you and Scott title to Lancer, but whether I’d have sent for you at that time is a question I can’t really answer. I know sooner or later I’d have had no choice, but to contact you and Scott...just not sure when that would have been if Pardee hadn’t made his play.”

“Thanks for being honest, Murdoch. Guess we all owe Pardee.”

“How so?”

“If he hadn’t made his play I might not have known I had a brother.”

“I’m sorry, Johnny, I should’ve been more of a father to both of you, but I promise you this. I won’t give up until my sons are both back where they belong. You and Scott are Lancer now. You’re the future and maybe someday I’ll see grandchildren running around the house.”

“Maybe,” Johnny said softly and heard a knock on the door.

“Breakfast and coffee’s ready,” Granville Tucker called.

“We’ll be right out,” Murdoch answered and stood up. He saw Johnny turn his head and look out the window. “We’ll bring him home, Son.”

“I know, Murdoch,” Johnny said and stood up to join his father.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

Jacob Pearson looked around the office and knew these men would do anything Harlan Garrett asked of them. William Peterson ran the Boston newspaper and Garrett was one of his biggest advertisers and therefore the businessman’s word was often gospel. Robert Barker ran one of the biggest haberdasheries in the state and was also indebted to Garrett because the man came to him for many of his suits. James Reynolds ran a chain of hotels and was only too glad to do anything Garrett wanted. Frank Dennison was one of his partners and also the father of Julie Dennison his grandson’s former fiancé. They were all seated around a highly polished table as a manservant placed a tray of sandwiches and small cakes on the table. Coffee and liquor had already been served and most of the business had been dealt with.

“Harlan, how was your trip?”

“Exhausting, Frank. You know how I loathe trips to that godforsaken place,” Garrett said as he reached for a sandwich.

“I can imagine,” Barker said. “How is Scotty?”

“Not good, but he’s under the care of a wonderful physician and the man has agreed to a one on one doctor patient relationship until Scotty is back on his feet.”

“Is he up to visitors?” Reynolds asked.

“No, I’m afraid he probably won’t be up to visitors for some time. The backwoods charlatan who calls himself a doctor didn’t set Scotty’s arm properly and then there is the problem of the snakebite. Right now Dr. Carter feels Scotty needs rest more than he does visitors. He had to re-break Scotty’s arm in order to make sure it heals properly.”

“Sounds like something should be done about the man who first treated Scotty,” Peterson chimed in.

“Yes, I agree,” Garrett stated. “Jacob, what can be done about that man?”

“I’m not sure anything can be done, Harlan. It would all depend on how much evidence there is and right now there’s simply not enough.”

“My testimony should be enough. I saw what he did to my grandson,” Garrett exploded.

“Would Scott agree with you? Because it would be his testimony that would be needed and somehow I don’t think Scott will agree to making a complaint against him,” Pearson explained.

“I’m sure I can make Scotty see it my way when Dr. Carter says I can talk to him about it...”

“Why didn’t you bring him to the hospital and let Claude look after him?” Peterson asked curiously.

“The hospital is too open. There are too many people coming and going and God knows Claude has enough to do with the daily influx of patients I did not think he could give Scotty the attention and care he needs right now. You all know I trust Claude and have always gone to him when I need medical advice, but Scotty needs someone with him all the time.”

“So where is Dr. Carter setting up office?” Reynolds asked curiously.

“I’ve set him up with everything he needs and I’d rather not give away his whereabouts for now. I want to make sure Scotty gets the rest he needs,” Garrett said and picked up his coffee.

“Are you expecting trouble, Harlan? I hope not because Julie is back home and I’m sure she’d love to see Scotty again,” Dennison explained.

“Trouble?” Garrett asked, the cup halfway to his lips. Scott was finished with Julie, but her grandfather was still hoping for a union between the two. “No, I’m not expecting trouble. I’m simply making sure my grandson gets the care and attention he needs without interference. Now gentlemen, I believe we have more pressing business to discuss. How are the contracts for the new shipping line coming along?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

Harlan Garrett opened his eyes as Phillips drew the carriage to a stop in front of the building where his grandson was being cared for. He waited for the door to open and stepped down looking up at the structure that loomed lifeless and dark except for a single window on the second floor.

“I won’t be long, Phillips.” Garrett headed for the door and rapped loudly until Peter Greyson appeared and held it open for him.

“Good evening, Mr. Garrett, can I take your coat?”

“No, I won’t be staying long. How is my grandson tonight?”

“He’s resting, Sir. Dr. Carter is in there with him now.”

“Is Scotty awake?” Garrett asked and hurried toward the stairs.

“Yes, Sir, Dr. Carter wants ta talk ta ya before ya go in...”

“Why? What’s wrong with Scotty?”

“Harlan, so good to see you. Peter, could you go sit with Scott while I explain things to Harlan?” Carter said having heard Garret’s arrival and quickly giving the blond a shot of morphine to keep him dazed and unable to make sense of his surroundings.

“What’s wrong with Scotty, Mortimer?”

“You know he’s been unable to eat and that he’s losing weight?”

“Of course. You’ve been worried about that. Did you find something that would help?”

“I did, but the only way to give it was orally and Scott’s been unable to keep anything down so I had no choice but to resort to a feeding tube.”

“I...I...”

“It was the only way, Harlan. Scott’s weight loss is getting dangerous. This way we can keep his stomach settled and give him liquids as well.”

“How long will he need it?”

“Hopefully only a couple of days, Harlan.”

“Will it hurt him?”

“It’s uncomfortable and makes it hard to speak, but I’ve given him morphine and he’s resting comfortably. Would you like to see him?”

“Yes, that’s why I came here tonight,” Garrett said and followed the man into the room. The sight of his grandson caught him unawares and his breath came out as a strangled cry as he hurried across the room and took the chair offered by Greyson. “Scotty, can you hear me?”

“Harlan, he still isn’t able to hear much, but the good news is that he seems to be able to hear loud sounds. Why don’t you try speaking louder?” Carter explained.

“Scotty, can you hear me?”

Scott frowned as he heard the familiar sound of his beloved grandfather, but something prevented him from forming words. He fought to open heavy eyelids and succeeded in squinting at the man seated next to the bed. The tube down the back of his throat made him nauseous and he wished someone would listen to his silent pleas to remove it. A hand touched his own and he finally focused on the man seated beside the bed. He squeezed the elderly man’s hand, but felt the exhaustion pulling him under.

‘Grandfather,’ he thought, smiling as he took a deep breath and fell asleep.

“He may not have heard you, Harlan, but he saw you and knew who you were,” Carter said.

“How do you know?” Garrett asked.

“Didn’t you see his smile? I think that’s the first time I’ve seen him really smile since I first took over caring for him. He knows he’s home and that you’re here for him. I have the utmost confidence in Scotty making a complete recovery now that he knows he’s home.”

“Yes, I believe you’re right, Mortimer. Scotty is home. If there’s anything you need please just send Peter for it and charge it to my account. I’ve already notified Jacob that he is to make sure everything is cleared for you.”

“Thank you, Harlan. I’m sure Scotty will be happy and relieved to know you’ve spared no expense when it comes to his care.”

“I’ll be back tomorrow morning. Good night, Mortimer.”

“Good night, Harlan, sleep well. Peter, would you show our guest out and then you can retire for the night?”

“Yes, Doctor,” Greyson said, leaving the room with the older man.

Carter smiled as he looked at his patient. Scott Lancer slept under the influence of the opiate, unaware of the plans Carter had for him. The physician closed the door and moved to sit beside the blond and knew this could not go on forever, yet there were things he could do to ensure Scott Lancer remained his patient for as long as needed. The time would come when Harlan Garrett would give him anything he wanted so long as there was a cure for his precious grandson. Turning down the lamp until the room was bathed in shadows he took a deep breath. Clamping his hand over Scott’s mouth and nose he waited until the young man was fighting for air. He held it there, smiling as the eyes shot open and fear shone in the blue eyes.

“The dark man is back, Scott Lancer!” Carter said, knowing his face was bathed in the glow from the lamp and would make it seem even more real for his patient. “He’s come to take you back to the darkness unless you cooperate. He’ll kill your father and brother if you speak of this to anyone. The dark man will kill you and leave you where no one can find you!”

Terror gripped Scott’s heart, as the hand was held tight against his mouth and nose. He could feel the tube leading down into his stomach as the deadly cold voice taunted him and knew there was no escape for him. He was lost in the dark man’s hell, without his brother this time, and there was no doubt that he would die alone. The silence was his only escape and Scott grabbed onto it, locking out the hated voice of his enemy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch limped toward the saloon, hoping he’d find his son there. Johnny was like a leashed tiger; ready to pounce at any offering, yet knowing the wait was something they could do nothing about. He pushed the door open and entered the dusty room. Glancing from left to right, Murdoch spotted his son at the far end of the bar and made his way toward him. He leaned heavily against the bar and looked at his son.

“Johnny, are you okay?”

“It’s not me you gotta worry about, Murdoch.”

‘Oh, I don’t know about that,’ the older man thought as he looked deep into his son’s eyes. “Do you mind if I join you?”

“Whiskey or beer?” Johnny asked.

“Beer,” the elder Lancer answered and watched his son signal the barkeep. He stood watching his son and knew Johnny’s razor sharp senses were on edge and the only thing that would defuse the coming explosion was to find Scott Lancer and reunite the brothers. “Have you eaten anything?”

“Not hungry.”

“Johnny…”

“Look, Murdoch, I’ll eat when I’m ready! Right now I ain’t hungry and I don’t need you telling me to do something I’ve been doing on my own all my life!”

“Johnny, not eating is not going to help Scott. All it’ll do is make you sick and then we’ll have to stay here until you get your strength back!”

“Nothing’s gonna stop me from going after Scott, Murdoch! I’m gonna be on that train tomorrow morning and God help anyone who tries to stop me!” Johnny vowed and he slammed the bottle of whiskey down on the table.

“I’m not going to stop you, Johnny. I want to go after Scott and bring him back and that’s something I’m going to do even if it means I have to walk to Boston. I’m just saying we’ll both need to be ready for anything when we reach the city. Harlan is not going to let us anywhere near Scott if he thinks we’re going to convince him to come home.”

“When we convince him to come home I’m gonna enjoy seeing that smug look of his disappear!”

“You and me both,” Murdoch said and reached for the bottle. “So, anything good on the menu?”

“Yeah, crow,” Johnny said with a slight smile as he signalled the saloon girl and ordered two specials.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scott had no concept of the passing of time, at least not in the normal context of seconds, minutes, hours, or days. For Scott time became people and the people were separated into two categories. There was the person who cared for him, fed him, took care of his needs and treated him like a human being. Scott no longer heard the man’s words, but he knew his touch and sometimes he remembered his name. Then there was the category that scared Scott because his beloved grandfather was part of that list. There were only two names on it, but the second was decidedly worse when it came to physical pain, Mortimer Carter. That name sent tremors through Scott’s body and he tried not to show any signs that the man could read. Although Scott kept his eyes closed, he knew who was in the room with him now and he knew it was that time! The time when he wanted so badly to fight, but the restraints kept him immobilized while the madman slowly methodically prepared his arm for another injection.

“Open your eyes, Scotty- -”

“Don’t…”

“Don’t what? Look at me, Scotty, or I swear I’ll increase the dosage and let your grandfather see you frothing at the mouth and screaming for more. Right now you’re becoming addicted and need this--”

“No,” Scott pleaded, but the trembling told him this madman was speaking the truth. The last few times he’d awakened it was to the need for relief and he’d begged Carter to ease the pain, but the man had let him suffer until Scott was willing to give up anything for the relief his mind craved.

“Are you saying you don’t want this?” Carter asked as he held the tip of the needle to the vein in his patient’s forearm. “The choice is yours, Scotty, but if you’re refusing it I am not going to give it to you when you’re screaming for it. So, tell me what you want!”

Scott stared at the needle and tried to swallow, but there was not enough moisture in his mouth. He licked at dry lips, unaware of the tiny beads of sweat forming on his brow. His hair was plastered to his forehead as he stared at the hated figure in the chair.

“I need an answer, Scotty.”

“I don’t w…want it!”

“Fine! I am going to get Peter to bring your dinner and I will feed you myself. We’ll start with bismuth and then a mixture of milk and sugar water. Not the fancy meals you normally delight in is it, Scotty?”

“Go t…to hell!” Scott forced out through ground teeth and felt the tubing scratch at the back of his throat.

“I told you before, Scotty, you’re already there and I am the demon that holds your life in my hands. Peter!”

“I’ll be right there, Doc,” Greyson called from the landing. He’d overheard some of what Carter said and knew he could not stand by and see the younger man put through hell, and yet there was no one he could go to. Scott Lancer needed a guardian angel to protect him from his own personal demons, and although he didn’t consider himself an angel, he could be Scott’s guardian until a real angel showed up.

“Bring me Scotty’s medicine and dinner! Then cook me a thick juicy steak!”

“Right away, Doc,” Greyson answered.

“I do so enjoy a thick steak, don’t you, Scotty?” Carter asked and watched as the blue eyes closed. He saw a shudder run through his patient’s body and knew the lack of a shot would soon have Scott Lancer begging for help. Withdrawal would quickly become something the younger man would suffer from and he would hold the next shot until Scott was at a point where he’d be willing to kill his own brother to have the relief that came from the morphine injection.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

The darkness outside the window matched the darkness inside Johnny Lancer’s heart. He knew his brother was somewhere beyond the darkness and wished he could protect the blond from his grandfather’s clutches. He’d always thought Harlan Garrett was cold, but he was sure the elderly man loved his grandson, but his actions after his arrival at Lancer had definitely shown his true colors. Johnny knew that the older man was capable of anything and he was sure the fight ahead would start at Harlan Garrett’s doorstep. Sighing heavily and feeling as if the weight of the world rested on his shoulders, Johnny moved back to the bed and lay on top of the covers.

‘We’re coming, Boston, just hang on,’ the former gunslinger thought as he closed his eyes and tried to sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Carter closed the door as Greyson left the room and smiled when he turned back to his patient once more. The younger man was definitely showing signs of withdrawal. The blue eyes would dart around the room as if seeing things that frightened him. Carter knew these were only the early signs of withdrawal and that things would just get worse until Scott Lancer pleaded for relief. Moving toward the chair he sat next to the bed and waited for his patient to look his way.

“Now, Scotty, I believe it’s time for dinner,” Carter said and looked into the glassy eyes once more. “First, the bismuth.”

Scott watched with frightened eyes as the liquid was added to the tubing that ran down the back of his throat. He tried to fight, but there was no way he could move and he cried out as the doctor continued to add things to the tubing. Sometime during the last hour Carter had used a strip of material to hold Scott’s head in position and Scott felt truly helpless.

“I bet this is uncomfortable, Scotty. Would you like me to give you some morphine now?”

Scott tried to shake his head, but was reminded of the restraints. He didn’t want the morphine, but the images and pain were quickly taking control. He knew in his heart that he would soon do anything for the relief offered by the madman seated next to his bed.

“This is your last chance, Scotty! I’m going to have my dinner shortly and if you don’t ask for it by then, I’ll make you wait until morning and believe me what you’re experiencing now will rapidly grow worse. Do you want the morphine?”

‘No…God no!’ Scott thought, but the pain was rapidly exceeding anything he’d ever experienced before. His body trembled with a need that could only be stymied by the needle sliding into his vein and the liquid flowing through his blood stream. He didn’t want this, but his mind and body were fighting something that seemed beyond his ability to defeat and he heard a raspy, weak, pleading voice answer the hated man’s question.

“I’m sorry, Scotty, I didn’t quite hear you. Was that a yes or a no?”

Scott felt bitter tears in his eyes as he tried to form the answer to Carter’s question. “N…no…Yes,” as he said the last word a picture of his brother formed in his mind and he reached out for him, but reality slammed home at the same time as the drug was injected into his arm.

‘I’m sorry, Johnny, I tried…I tried…I tried…’ A silent mantra that only he could hear and the bitter tears flowed freely down his cheeks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny and Murdoch Lancer stood, and moved toward the train as it pulled to a stop in front of the depot. Granville Tucker and his wife had been good to them and Johnny held the packed hamper full of food in his hand. The woman insisted that they take it with them and that she trusted them to return the hamper when they came back through Cross Creek.

As soon as the train stopped the two men climbed aboard the last car and picked two seats side by side facing the direction they were headed in. Neither man spoke as they watched other passengers enter the car and take up seats along both sides. The journey ahead was going to be a long one, but both were sure they would be coming home with the missing Lancer.

Murdoch closed his eyes as the train began to leave the station. This was the beginning of a journey that should have been completed years ago. His memory conjured up pictures of his last trip to Boston. Of his defeat at the hands of Harlan Garrett and the loss of a little boy who’d grown into a fine young man. One Murdoch was proud of and knew in his heart Catherine would have doted on. He remembered the innocence of the small face and the questioning look the boy had sent in his direction. So many memories, so much grief, so much pain, and yet he wouldn’t change anything about his eldest son. Harlan Garrett deserved the credit for raising Scott, making him the man he was today, but he also deserved a lot of the blame for the boy growing up not knowing his father or his brother.

“Murdoch?”

“Hmm,” the older man said as he shifted his injured leg uncomfortably.

“Did you want one of these sandwiches?”

“We just finished breakfast,” the Lancer patriarch said as he looked at his youngest son.

“That was five hours ago,” Johnny said with a grin.

“Five hours?” Murdoch asked incredulously and he pulled his timepiece from his pocket.

“Guess you needed sleep more than you thought,” Johnny said and passed his father the sandwich.

“I guess I did. What about you? Did you sleep?”

“Slept some, but my stomach sort of woke me.”

“Well then you better eat and soothe the savage beast,” Murdoch grinned and bit into the sandwich. He felt better than he had in a long time and vowed this trip to Boston would not end the same way his last one had. This time he’d kidnap his son if he had to. Turning his gaze toward the window he watched the scrub brush give way to more rugged terrain and the train took them toward their destination.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

Peter sat next to the trembling blond and knew things were getting worse as dawn began to raise her glorious cloak with the promise of another wondrous day. He’d managed to bathe the younger man, but had been unprepared for the violence of the tremors and knew Scott Lancer was being driven down a dark trail that would eventually lead to his death. He knew enough about morphine addiction to know that the tremors were only part of it. The blond head was held still by the restraints, but he could see the corded muscles in the neck and the tightly clenched fists.

“Easy, Son, wish there was something I could do to help--”

“There is…get J…Johnny…help he’ll h…help!”

“Johnny’s not here, Scott, there’s no one here but you and me and that madman. I wish there was something I could do to stop him, but right now he’s got everyone on his side. Your grandfather has given him everything he needs to take care of you and I ain’t sure if he realizes it or not, but he’s given Carter the tools to make sure you’re his patient for a long time.”

“P…please, Peter! F…find Johnny! T...telegram…God, so cold…hurt.”

“What hurts, Son?” Greyson asked.

“Everything…aches…head, back l…legs…cramps.”

“How is he, Peter?” Carter asked from the doorway.

“He’s in a lot of pain,” Greyson answered before realizing what he was doing.

“Yes, well, some of that he’s brought on himself by fighting me every step of the way. Why don’t you go on down and get breakfast started while I make my patient more comfortable?” Carter sat in the chair Greyson vacated and looked at the pale-faced younger man.

“S…sick,” Scott mumbled as hot bile rose in his throat and dribbled from his mouth.

“Yes, I can see that. I believe we’re reaching the stage in your treatment where you’ll be begging me for the morphine.”

Scott wanted so badly to deny the older man’s words, but the events of last night were a lasting reminder that he was becoming dependent on the drug, and therefore on the man seated beside his bed.

“How do your joints feel, Scott? Any pain there yet?” Carter asked and pressed against Scott’s legs at the hips, knee, and ankles. He smile inwardly when he saw the reaction he was hoping for and knew with each gradual increase, Lancer would become more and more dependent upon him.

“S…stop,” Scott cried out when the man touched the back of his neck.

“I guess it’s that time again,” Carter said and reached for his instruments.

Scott watched the madman as he lifted the syringe and the vial of amber liquid. He licked his lips expectantly and realized he would do anything to get the relief the drug promised.

“Tell me, Scotty, do you want this?”

“Y…yes!” the damning word sealed Scott Lancer’s fate and he let the despondent tears flow as he fought to bring the image of his brother into focus, but there was nothing…just a hopeless silence in an otherwise bleak world where only the sight of a needle gave a promise of relief. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Peter Greyson frowned as he watched Mortimer Carter. During the last few days he’d seen things that did not set right with him, but there seemed to be no one he could turn to. Scott Lancer was in serious trouble and his grandfather didn’t seem to give a damn. The older man seemed only to want his grandson as an heir and nothing else mattered to him. Peter knew that he needed to help this young man, but who would he turn to in Boston that wouldn’t go straight to Harlan Garrett? He needed to be discreet and find a way to get help.

The injured man had spoken two names and Greyson wondered if it was possible for him to get a message to the two men before things got worse for Scott Lancer. He stood in the doorway, filled with a helplessness that ate at him and vowed he’d find someone who cared about this patient.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch watched his sleeping son and wished he could ease the torment that often manifested itself in a frown or a grimace of pain. How many years he’d lost because he’d been too busy working the ranch? At least that’s what he told anyone who asked him about his sons. He’d searched for Maria and Johnny, but not as fiercely once he made the trip to Boston. It hurt him when he’d turned away from his older son and left him in Harlan Garrett’s care, but at the time he’d told himself it was for the best. Those years were lost to him now, but the years ahead were brighter once his sons had come to the ranch. Now the land did not hold the same wealth it once had for him, instead his wealth was measured in the two men who shared title to Lancer with him.

‘My sons,’ he thought as a wistful smile touched his eyes and he closed his eyes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny had no idea how long he slept, but the dreams that invaded his sleep filled him with rage and renewed his vow that Scott would be returning with them. He sat up straighter and found his father staring at him and sensed the same determination in the older man.

“Are you okay, Murdoch?”

“I’m fine, Son.”

“Your leg?”

“A little sore, but it’s not too bad,” Murdoch assured him and reached for the sandwiches they’d picked up at the last station. “Hungry?”

“A little,” the younger man answered.

“Meaning you’ll take a couple,” the Lancer patriarch said with a grin as he passed his son two sandwiches piled high with roast beef.

“Thanks.” Johnny unwrapped the sandwich and looked out the window. The darkness reflected not only his image, but also mirrored the darkness that surrounded his heart. How many times had people sat at windows like this, hoping and praying their journey would not end in darkness?

“Johnny, is something wrong with the sandwich?”

“Huh?” the former gunman said and blinked his eyes rapidly.

“I asked if there was something wrong with the sandwich,” Murdoch motioned to the untouched item in Johnny’s hand.

“No, sorry, guess I’m just not as hungry as I thought.”

“Not eating isn’t going to help Scott, Son. We’re going to need to be on our feet when we reach Boston and keep our wits about us once we get there. Harlan’s not going to let us see your brother without a fight and we both know he’ll use any dirty trick he can think of to keep us away from Scott.”

“He tries that he’s gonna find just how many dirty tricks I learned in Mexico,” Johnny vowed.

“I have a few of my own that he hasn’t seen,” Murdoch stated and the two men lapsed into silence as they looked into the darkness just outside the window. Boston felt as if it was just out of their reach, but they would get there no matter what happened.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Time had no real meaning any more for Scott Lancer, instead of minutes or hours he judged it by what he felt and how he felt. If he felt the pain of withdrawal he knew Mortimer Carter would soon be there. Not to give him relief, but to watch him hurt and sweat through the cramps and nightmare images that came with them. Carter seemed to delight in making him suffer and Scott knew he now had the means to do so at his disposal. He’d seen men in the war who were hooked on morphine and knew the hell they’d gone through. If Carter continued with the shots, Scott knew he would not survive for long. His only hope rested on a man he didn’t really know, but something about Peter Greyson seemed trustworthy. He no longer heard the sounds when someone entered the room, nor did he hear the voices that spoke to him, instead he kept his self-imposed solitude in hopes of drowning out the fear Carter tried to instilll in him.

Scott knew his grandfather would be coming for lunch, but his appetite was nonexistent. The tube feeding was something he hated anyone seeing, but there was no stopping Mortimer Carter. The man was his own personal devil, and Scott Lancer knew he would have to hold on if he had any hopes of being rescued. A hand touched against his arm and Scott jumped as he turned to see the man seated in the chair next to the bed.

“Scotty, my boy,” Harlan Garrett spoke slowly as he watched his grandson’s face.

Scott swallowed and gagged on the tube as he tried to reach for his grandfather. He didn’t understand why this man, who professed to love him, allowed Mortimer Carter to do the things he was doing.

“Mortimer, Scotty needs you!” Garrett called.

“What happened?” Carter asked upon entering the room and seeing the distress on his patient’s face. He knew some of the misery, probably most of it, was because he was in the room, but he moved as if to help the young man.

“I don’t know,” Garrett answered and watched as Carter used his stethoscope to check his grandson’s chest. He seemed to take a long time and Garrett was growing concerned while he studied Scott’s face.

“I need to get him to relax and stop fighting the tube in his throat,” Carter explained, reaching for the syringe and loading a dose of morphine.

“Does he really need that?” Garrett asked.

“He can’t hear us and this is about the only way to calm him down and control the pain he’s in. I won’t give it to him if you don’t want me to,” Cater explained and watched the older man for several long seconds.

Garrett studied his grandson’s face and thought he saw something flicker within the familiar blue eyes, but there was so much pain on the pale face that he knew he would do anything to stop it.

“Well, Harlan?”

“Give it to him!” Garrett said and turned away from the bed.

Scott felt Carter readying his arm for an injection and saw the familiar grin on the physician’s face. He wished his grandfather would turn around and witness the look on the man’s face, but it was quickly replaced with one of fake concern as Scott felt the needle enter his arm. It wasn’t long before the familiar feeling of being too warm swept over him and his eyelids grew heavy. The figures in the room faded to shadowy images that seemed to be reaching out for him, and Scott cried out as he tried to move away from the skeletal like fingers that touched his cheek.

“I’m here, Scotty,” Garrett said and wondered at the fear in the blue eyes. He sat in the chair vacated by Carter and gently touched his grandson’s cheek. “Oh, Scotty, if only you could hear me. Mortimer is doing everything he can to help you and I’ve speared no expense in your care. The money is well spent as long as you’re kept comfortable. He is isn’t he, Mortimer?”

“With the morphine injection he’s relatively pain free.”

“Thank God,” Garrett said and turned his attention back to the sick man. The tube leading into Scott’s stomach sickened him and he was glad he did not have to be there to witness Carter feeding him. “As soon as you’re strong enough you’ll be able to take your rightful place at my side and I’ll teach you everything you need to know about my business.”

“Harlan, I’m going to ask Peter to get Scotty’s meal ready for him. He will probably sleep shortly and that’s the best thing for him,” Carter said.

“Thank you, Mortimer,” Garrett said and reached for Scott’s hand.

“J…Johnny, help m…me…p…please…”

“Oh, Scotty, I wish you could hear me. Johnny and Murdoch have shown their true colors. They haven’t even telegrammed to see if we arrived safely and to find out how you are doing. I’m afraid I was right all along in saying they never cared about you. They used you to help them beat Pardee and now they are happy that you’ve left and the ranch now belongs to Murdoch and that half-breed son of his!”

“Johnny…come…Johnny knows…knows how t…to help me.”

“Johnny is not here, Scotty,” Garrett soothed and ran his fingers through the blond hair. He watched the trembling spasms that ran through the lean form and placed his other hand on his grandson’s chest.

The horrifying images of dead soldiers swam before Scott’s eyes. Sometimes the soldiers reached out to him, pleading with long dead eyes as if he were the cause of their pain. No longer was his grandfather sitting beside him, instead he saw the faces of men he’d killed during the war. Men who had families left to wonder at their fate. Men who were fighting for something they believed in, and yet, he thought their beliefs were wrong and fought for what he believed was right.

“Go…go away,” His voice was scratchy as if he spoke through a mouthful of small stones grating against each other.

“Who are you seeing, Scotty?” Garrett whispered when the glazed blue eyes closed and was relieved when the jerking motions stopped and the tension seemed to drain from Scott Lancer. He leaned back in the chair, folded his hands and said a silent prayer before standing and leaving the room.

“Harlan, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Mortimer, I just wish we were seeing some kind of improvements. Scotty seems to be worse than he was when we left that Godforsaken place!”

“Harlan, I warned you that this trip would be hard on your grandson and it will take time to get him back on his feet. I’m doing everything possible to see that Scotty makes a complete recovery,” Carter explained.

“I know that, Mortimer, and I am forever in your debt. It’s just that I hate to see him like that.”

“As do I, Harlan, but you can be sure he will get the treatment necessary to get well.”

“Thank you, Mortimer. I have several meetings scheduled for the rest of the day and will be unable to come see Scotty until tomorrow. If he needs me, just send Peter for me.”

“I will, Harlan. Try not to worry about him too much. Scotty is strong and he doesn’t seem like a quitter.”

“He’s not, good day, Mortimer,” Garrett said and hurried down the stairs and out into the street. Several carriages passed him as he stood in front of the building and he wondered if any of them knew who the patient was in the structure behind him. He felt someone watching him and turned back to see Peter Greyson staring at him through the lower window. The man gave him the creeps, but he knew Carter needed an aid and this man fit the bill, for now.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

The train pulled into the Boston Station several hours late and two men anxiously stepped out of the car. Anyone who knew Johnny and Murdoch Lancer would have known to get out of their way. The two men were primed and ready for an explosive meeting with Harlan Garrett, and neither one cared that it was after two in the morning. Neither man spoke as they pushed through the crowd who had also disembarked from the train. Side by side, they presented a strong front and were going to complete their mission and bring Scott Lancer home where he belonged.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Peter Greyson was again at Scott Lancer’s side and was trying hard to bring down the raging fever that now held the younger man in its grip. Again and again he washed the cloth over the lean chest and dipped it into the water and ice on the table. Nothing seemed to help, but he would not give in to the exhaustion that swept through the lean body. Carter was sleeping in his room and didn’t seem to give a damn about his patient’s welfare. He knew for a while that Scott Lancer could hear, but that ability seemed to have left him once more, and he wondered if it was a reaction to the trauma this young man had undergone.

“You just hang on, Son, I’ll find someone who’ll listen to an old man!”

“Jo…Johnny. H…hot. Too hot! F…fire. The buildings on f…fire! Get them out! Oh God get them out!”

“Who, Scott?”

“They’re burning to death! Stop it, Carter! St…stop it before it’s t…too late!”

“What are you seeing, Scott?” Greyson asked and placed the cloth across the perspiring forehead.

“Carter, y…you b…bas…God! Can’t you help them?”

“I’m helping them, Scott. I got them all out and they’re safe. You can relax and get better.”

“…better. No, not better…burning up. Hot!”

“I know you are son and I’m doing everything I can to make you feel better.”

“S…stomach hurts…God!” Lancer cried out and tried to curl into a ball, but was stopped by the restraints holding him to the bed.

“Easy, Son, it’ll pass.”

“N…no! P…please, need help.” Blue eyes grew bright as Scott stared at the man beside the bed. “Need help! N…need a shot. Please. Get him…get him! Need help.”

“Peter, what’s going on?” Carter asked from the doorway.

“He’s burning up and I think he’s imagining things,” Greyson answered.

Scott saw the newcomer and in spite of being unable to hear, he knew this face was the one that could help him. “N…need it…need help.”

“Peter, please leave us and make me some coffee!” Carter said and moved toward the bed.

Scott could not understand why the man who now stood over him caused his heart to skip a beat at the same time as sending a thrill through his body. This man could help him with the pain and he needed the pain to stop…needed the flame to die out.

“Tell me what you want, Scotty.”

Scott frowned and turned his head slightly as he tried to understand the silent words the man spoke. The pain was increasing and with it the heat of the imaginary fire that burned through his body and mind. He knew what he wanted and this man could give it to him.

“Help…I need it…need the p…pain to stop! Please make it stop!”

“You can’t hear me anymore can you, Lieutenant?”

“I need…I c…can’t! H…hurts…burning u…up. Make it stop!”

“Oh, if your precious brother could see you like this. I bet he would turn away from you for the pathetic addict you are. I’ll give you the shot, Scotty, just so I don’t have to listen to that wretched noise you’re making. I’ll give you enough to put you to sleep so I can get the rest I need.”

Scott watched as the needle entered his arm and tried to swallow. He knew it wouldn’t take long for the drug to take away the pain and he gave himself over to the encroaching darkness and the promised void it could provide.

“Pathetic!” Carter said, standing and striding out of the room once more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The carriage pulled up in front of the stately house on Beacon Hill and Murdoch opened the door and held it for his son to step out. He paid the driver and turned to look up at the imposing structure before them.

“Big place!”

“Yes, it is, but that was one of the things Catherine disliked about living here. She hated the coldness of the house and told me ours would be more than that. Ours would be a home.”

“But you left her son here,” Johnny said and saw the hurt flicker in the older man’s eyes. “I’m sorry, Murdoch, I had no right to say that!”

“Yes, you did, and you’re right and I’m not going to make any excuses because none of them would make sense to me, let alone to you.”

“Just so long as you know we’re not making that same mistake this time.”

“I know. Come on, Son, let’s go get your brother!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Harlan Garrett heard the commotion at his front door and cursed when he looked at the clock beside his bed. Whoever it was would rue the day he’d ever heard of Beacon Hill. Three fifteen in the morning was not the proper time to come calling and it suddenly dawned on the elderly man that Scott might be in trouble. Grabbing his robe he pulled it on as he raced to the door and finally pulled it open. He hurried down the stairs, but stopped short when he recognized the voices that spoke in anger.

“You tell Harlan that Murdoch and Johnny Lancer are here to see him or so help me I’ll break down every door until I find my son!”

“You will leave now or I will send for the authorities!”

“It’s all right, Phillips. Show them to the drawing room!” Garrett ordered.

“Yes, Sir. Should I bring coffee?”

“No, they won’t be here that long!” the elderly man vowed.

“Just long enough to get Scott out of here!” Johnny warned in a voice dripping venom.

“Scotty does not want to see either of you,” Garrett said as he entered the room and waited for the others to follow him inside.

“Shall I stay, Mr. Garrett?”

“Yes, Phillips, I believe that would be wise.”

“Where is my son?” Murdoch asked angrily.

"I believe your half…!”

“Harlan, so help me God if you call Johnny anything but the name he was born with I will make damn sure you’re never able to speak again! Now where the hell is Scott.”

“He’s sleeping like most respectable people in the civilized world.” Garrett knew his former son-in-law was a very real threat, but it was the dark haired Johnny Madrid that scared him. The man had a reputation as a fast draw, and from the heated glare he was sending, Garrett knew it would not take much for the man to reach for his weapon.

“Never said I was respectable,” Johnny told him, leaning against the wall with his hand resting on his gun.

“Yes, well, come back tomorrow and we’ll talk about Scotty…”

“We’re not leaving until we see Scott!” Murdoch vowed and leaned on the older man’s desk. “Where is he?”

“I told you he’s sleeping!”

“What room?” the frustrated Lancer patriarch asked.

“He ain’t gonna tell us, Murdoch,” Johnny said and turned to leave the room.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Garrett asked and watched the younger man place his hand on the door.

“To find my brother!” Johnny snapped.

“Phillips! Stop him!”

Joshua Phillips was a big man and rarely did he back down, but one look from the dangerous dark haired man made him think twice about obeying his employer’s orders.

“Touch me and you’ll be needin’ more than a doctor to put the pieces back together!” Johnny warned and opened the door.

“You have no right!” Garrett spat.

“We have every right to see Scott!” Murdoch voiced in contemptuous anger.

“You can’t see him tonight! Scotty needs his rest! Phillips, send for the constable!” Garrett ordered and knew Phillips would obey this order.

“Yes, Sir,” Phillips said and hurried out of the room in time to see the dark haired Lancer walking purposefully up the stairs.

“Murdoch, tell your son he has no right to…”

“Sorry, Harlan, but I need to help Johnny find his brother…my son!”

“Damn you, Murdoch Lancer! You took my Catherine and you killed her by your own actions and so help me God I will not allow you to do the same thing to my grandson!”

“Harlan, I loved Catherine and wanted to make a life for both of us. She gave me a wonderful son and I was stupid and naïve enough to leave him with you once, but I won’t make the same mistake again. Scott is leaving with us as soon as he’s ready.”

“What good would it do to take him back to Lancer? He can’t do anything for himself out there and has already been hurt because of his hearing loss. Think about the life you want him to have and compare it to the life I can give him here!”

“The same kind of life you gave Catherine?” Murdoch’s eyebrows rose as he looked at the older man. “I don’t think Scott could survive that kind of life! He needs to feel needed and we need him at Lancer!”

“He’ll never go back with you!”

“Why don’t we ask him?” Murdoch said; the grin on his face held no humor when he turned away from the older man and followed his son up the stairs.

“Damn you, Murdoch Lancer!” Garrett raged; his fists clenched at his sides. “He’s not here!”

Murdoch was nearly at the top of the stairs when Garrett’s words stopped him in his tracks. He slowly turned to look down at the elderly man, fear and anger warring for dominance on his face. If Scott was not here where was he and why wasn’t Harlan Garrett with him.

“What did you say?” Murdoch asked as Johnny returned from tearing apart one of the bedrooms.

“I said Scotty is not here!”

“Where is he?” the dark haired Lancer asked, his voice low and calm in spite of the bitter anger searing his soul.

“He is being cared for and that’s all I will tell you. Get out of my home before Phillips returns with the constable or I will have you both thrown in jail!”

“Harlan, tell me you didn’t leave Scott in that madman’s care!” Murdoch asked, but knew from the look on his former father-in-law’s face that Scott was indeed in more trouble than he’d first thought.

“Dr. Carter is taking good care of Scotty…”

“He’s not a doctor, Harlan!” Murdoch spat and strode purposefully down the stairs.

“He most certainly is! Much better than that backwoods charlatan…”

“Carter ain’t a doctor,” Johnny told the elderly man.

“He most certainly is so and he’s…”

“Probably filling Scott full of drugs!” Murdoch finished.

“He’s keeping Scotty comfortable during his recovery.”

“He’s getting him hooked on them,” Johnny supplied. “Where are you holding my brother?”

“I am not holding him anywhere. Scotty is being cared for at a private hospital and you will not see him until he asks to see you. I assure you he is doing fine!”

“Then let us see for ourselves and if Scott wants to stay we’ll leave…”

“Mr. Garrett, is there a problem here?” William Craddock asked when Phillips opened the door and ushered him into the main hall.

“Ah, Constable Craddock, so good of you to come. Would you kindly escort these gentlemen off my property?”

“Certainly, Sir. Gentlemen, follow me.”

“Where is he, Harlan?” Murdoch asked.

“As I told you he is sleeping and unable to have visitors until Dr. Carter says he’s strong enough for them!”

“This ain’t over, Harlan, not by a long shot!” Johnny warned while striding toward the open door.

“Carter is not what he seems, Harlan, and if you love Scott then you’ll check into his background!” Murdoch warned and followed his son out into the cool night air.

“Please make sure they don’t come back, Constable!” Garrett ordered.

“I’ll make sure they understand the laws here, Mr. Garrett. Good night, Sir.”

“Goodnight,” Garrett said as Phillips closed the door and turned toward him. “Is something wrong, Phillips?”

“I was thinking perhaps you should heed their warnings!”

“I will not let them interfere, Phillips. Mortimer has done nothing but take care of Scotty since I hired him and I trust him implicitly. I am going back to bed…bring me a glass of Brandy!”

“Yes, Sir,” Phillips said, his heart aching for Scott Lancer and his family.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“J…Johnny…w…where are you?” Scott’s head moved back and forth on the pillow, his eyes opened wide and staring straight ahead as if seeking solace that was unobtainable. Tears escaped his eyes and slid down his cheek to join those he’d already shed during the nightmares that kept him from the sleep he needed. The morphine was no longer keeping him comfortable and seemed to wear off too soon, leaving him restless and covered in perspiration. Alone in the room he sought out the shadows that played just at the edge of the light cast by the single lamp on the table.

“P…please. Need…need someone…M…Murdoch…Pa…no, not Pa. Murdoch…  Murdoch, Pa! God!” he cried as new images formed and took shape on the blankets that covered him. He tried to move away from the scurrying spiders, but was held in place by the restraints.  

“N…no, please,” his voice was a raspy whisper as it escaped around the tube in his throat and his arms grew taut while he struggled to pull his hands from the restraints, unaware of the blood from his wrists staining the blankets. 

“Get away…please…no…no,” but his pleas went unheard in the silent room. Fear escalated as spiders crawled up his chest and he felt their furry legs on his neck. He closed his eyes, but images of a dark room and an unknown evil made it hard to breathe. He opened his eyes to the horrifying shapes that encompassed his upper body and Scott Lancer did something he hadn’t done since the war.

Scott screamed loud and long and finally reached for the blessed relief darkness promised, but not before he called the name of someone he’d recently found, and now seemed to have lost forever. 

“JOHNNY!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch followed his son out into the street and ignored the constable who was reading them the riot act about trespassing on Garrett property. He noticed Johnny’s stance, knew something was wrong and reached out to place a hand on his son’s shoulder.

“Johnny, what’s wrong?”

“I don’t know, Murdoch…just a feeling,” the former gunman whispered.

“Damn! You think Scott’s in real trouble?”

“I know he is and time is running out…”

“You two best run along or you’ll be spending the night in jail!” Craddock warned.

“Is there a hotel near here?” Murdoch asked.

“There’s one down near the train station and if you’re smart you’ll stay there until the next train leaves!” Craddock warned.

“Never was real smart,” Johnny said softly and started walking away from Garrett’s mansion. He felt Murdoch fall into step beside him, noticed the limp had grown more pronounced and wished they’d had the foresight to tell the driver to wait for them.

“It’s not bad right now, Son,” Murdoch assured him and knew Johnny could see right through him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

Peter Greyson watched over the young man as he cried out and shivered uncontrollably. Perspiration shone on the pale forehead and spittle dribbled from the quivering lips as if Scott Lancer no loner had the ability to swallow. He dabbed at the chin and heard a sound behind him and wished there was something more he could do.

“Hello, Greyson, where is Mortimer?” Garrett asked, surprised that the physician was nowhere around.

“He went to get supplies,” Greyson answered, his voice filled with the anger that gripped his heart.

“I thought you were here to run those kind of errands. My grandson needs proper care,” the elderly man spat.

“In that case you should take him to the hospital and let Dr…”

“That is not possible! If you are not happy with your place here than leave now!”

“No…I apologize if I spoke out of turn. I just thought…”

“You are not paid to think, Greyson! When Mortimer returns tell him he may have visitors, but under no circumstances is he to allow them to see Scotty!”

“Visitors?” Greyson asked, hope flaring in his heart.

“Yes, but they would only do him harm,” Garrett said and sat on the edge of the bed.

‘What do you call what you’re doing?’ Greyson thought. How could this man profess to love his grandson and yet leave him in the hands of a sadistic man like Carter? He stood up, walked to the window, and looked out over the street. Who were these visitors and could he get to them without Carter or Garrett finding out?

“Did you hear me, Greyson?”

“I’m sorry, Sir, I was thinking.”

“I am not paying you to think! I am paying you to take care of Scotty!”

“Yes, Sir. Again I apologize.”

“Good. Has Scotty been eating?”

“Just what Dr. Carter puts into the tube.”

“He seems feverish again,” Garrett said of the flushed features on the sleeping man.

“Yes, he is. I’ve been trying to get him cooled down, Harlan,” Carter said upon entering the room.

“Where have you been?” Garrett asked irritated that the man had not been there when he arrived.

“I needed to procure a supply of Morphine. I’m afraid Scott is in such pain that it takes more and more to keep him comfortable.”

“Is he addicted?” the elderly man asked.

“Yes, but I told you that could happen. We need to keep him comfortable until he has had time to heal. Once that happens we will wean him off the morphine.”

“You’re sure it’s necessary to give him so much of the drug?” Garrett asked, looking from the physician to his grandson and back again.

“I could wean him off it now, Harlan, but I’m afraid the combination of pain and withdrawal could prove too much for him. Look at him! Even in sleep he is in pain!”

“Yes, I see,” Garrett said and flicked at a stray lock of sweat soaked, blond hair.

“Is there something you wanted to speak with me about, Harlan? I was not expecting you until later this evening.”

“Yes, it is important that you keep watch and do not allow anyone access to Scotty. I have hired several men who will stand guard, but you need to be aware of the possibility in case they find out about this place.”

“Who are they?” Greyson asked.

“You don’t need to know,” Carter answered before Garrett had a chance to. “You work for Harlan Garrett and if he says these people are not allowed to see his grandson then who are we to argue?”

“Yes, Sir,” Greyson said and knew he had to find out more about the visitors. He listened to the two men talk, but his mind was on something else as he looked at the pale young man. Could this be the answer to Scott Lancer’s suffering? Could these newcomers be his salvation?

“Peter, escort Harlan out and make sure the guards know they are not to come inside unless it’s absolutely necessary!”

“Yes, Dr. Greyson!”

Carter waited until the others left and then closed the door, locking it before he moved to the bed once more. He knew it was only a matter of time before Murdoch and Johnny Lancer found him and that would mean the end of his plans. Carter reached for the vial and syringe and quickly readied a dose of the addictive drug. He sat down and reached out to cup the patient’s chin in his hand and pressed hard enough to make Scott cry out.

“That’s it! Look at me! I know you can hear me, Lieutenant! Now open your eyes or so help me I’ll make your brother suffer even worse than you are!”

“D…don’t t…touch h…him!” Scott ground out as his eyes opened and he focused on the hated face before him. His gaze came to rest on the syringe held in Carter’s right hand and he knew he would do anything for the relief the drug promised.

“Do you think you can stop me, Lieutenant?” Carter asked, releasing his captive’s chin.

“Bas…bas…”

“Don’t say it or so help me I’ll make you wait until the pain makes you drool and you’re unable to control your own body. I’ll make you suffer through withdrawal and then I’ll hook you all over again! I did it so many times during the war. To men who thought they were strong, but when it came right down to it they sold their souls for just a small amount of this drug! Do you think you’re strong, Lieutenant? Do your dreams send you back into the Dark man’s hands? Is he really dead? Is he waiting for you? Waiting to kill the small boy who escaped him?”

“H…how?”

“How what? How do I know about the Dark Man? You talk when you’re delirious, Lieutenant. I know so much about you. I know your weakness. I know the ones you love! I know how to hurt you and I am not afraid to use them all!”

“Sick. K…kill you!”

“I’m sure you’d like to try, Lieutenant, but I’m afraid I don’t have time to give you that chance. Now, are you going to beg me for this?”

“N…no!” Scott said, licking his lips desperately.

“Fine, lie there and when you’re ready for it, just call…beg me for it, Lieutenant. Yes, that’s what I want from you. I want you to beg me for this!”

Scott closed his eyes in an effort to forget about the syringe and the relief it promised. He resolved to fight…to forget what it was his body needed…wanted…craved.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Johnny knew his father needed to rest his leg before he did more damage than good. He stared at the older man as they ate the breakfast sent up from the hotel kitchen and took a deep breath before speaking.

“Murdoch, you need to rest.”

“I’ll get all the rest I need after we get your brother back!” the elder Lancer stated.

“You won’t do him any good if you can’t walk!”

“It’s not that bad!”

“Then why were you up half the night!”

“I wasn’t!”

“I saw you, Murdoch. You were out on the terrace and you were in pain. You should get it checked out at the hospital,” Johnny said, an idea suddenly taking shape.

“What are you thinking, Son?”

“I’m thinking you really should get your leg checked by a real doctor. Maybe someone at the hospital could tell us whether Scott is a patient there or not. If we don’t find anyone willing to answer our questions I could take a look around and if someone asks I can tell them I got lost while looking for you!”

“Johnny, my leg…”

“Is really starting to hurt,” the younger man said with a smile as he finished the last of the pancakes.

“Now that you mention it,” Murdoch agreed and sipped at his coffee. It wasn’t much of a plan, but if Scott Lancer was at the hospital, at least they had a reason to be there.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

Carter watched his patient and knew the younger man was in a great deal of pain. He knew the symptoms of withdrawal, knew a man would do anything to get the relief the drug gave. It had been over an hour since he’d sent Greyson out of the room and Scott was showing signs that he was in trouble. His body trembled and his eyes would open and search for something. The restraints kept him in place, but they also abraded the skin underneath and he saw the evidence that Scott was struggling with his body’s craving.

“How are you feeling, Lieutenant? Is your mouth dry? Is your heart beating so damn fast that it feels like it’s going to burst from your chest? Do you feel as if ants are crawling around inside your gut? Are there spiders crawling all over your skin?”

“G…go to h…hell!” Scott forced out and twisted in agony as Carter slammed his fist into his side. Scott tried to breath past the nauseating pain, but the fire in his gut would not be quenched.

“You still think you can beat me, Lieutenant, well I haven’t even started. Do you know how much your brother and father hate you?”

“N…no they do…don’t!”

“Then why haven’t they come to see you? I had dinner with them last night and they are leaving to go back to Lancer today! Johnny was always Murdoch’s favorite and now he’s the only heir to Lancer. Even your own grandfather has disowned you! Oh he keeps you here and pretends he cares what happens to you, but he doesn’t! He gives me the money I need to take care of you, but that’s all he does! You’re a disgrace to him now! Did you know that?”

“N…no. Grandfather…”

“He’s gone and probably won’t be back anymore, but I have this and I can use it to make you feel so much better, Lieutenant. Do you want it?”

Scott licked his lips as pain twisted in his gut and nauseous churned through his stomach! His eyes were glazed as he tried to focus on what he needed. Without realizing he’d done so his head bobbed once and his mouth opened and formed one word and he knew he was lost. “Y…yes.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t quite hear that! What did you say, Lieutenant?”

“Y…yes,” Scott sobbed as the physician searched for a vein in his arm.

“Are you willing to beg for it?” Carter asked, pressing the tip of the needle against the arm.

Scott licked his lips and watched as his skin puckered around the needle, but stopped at the point of breaking the skin. His insides were a quivering mass of molten lava and he needed this to put out the fire burning within. Needed it to make him forget! Needed it to sleep and dream of a time when he was without the pain of betrayal. He wanted that silent world where no one could damn him for being a man. He fought to breathe and form the word that would bring him relief.

“P…please…” he sobbed as the needle entered his arm and the plunger was pushed into the channel. Before long a smile formed on his face and he laughed as Carter’s face took on a comic aspect.

“Bet that makes you feel better, Lieutenant, but it won’t last long,” Carter said, smiling maliciously as he listened to the drug induced laughter.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

“Can I help you gentlemen?”

“I hope so, Ma’am,” Johnny said as Murdoch leaned on his shoulder. “My father hurt his leg a few days ago and it’s still giving him some trouble.”

“I see. Come this way!” the nurse said and led them to a curtained off area. “Have a seat!”

“Yes, Ma’am, ah where are you going?”

“I will tell the doctor he has a patient. Meanwhile, please stay here!”

“Well, that was easier than I thought,” Murdoch said softly as he eased down on the bed.

“Yeah, either you’re a real good actor or your leg’s hurtin’ more than you let on,” Johnny told him.

“It’s sore. Truth is I think I tore a couple of the stitches Sam put in,” Murdoch announced and rubbed at his injured leg.

“I knew I should have made you wait at the hotel last night!”

“Nothing you said or done could have kept me from going to Harlan’s home last night, Johnny. Nothing!” Murdoch explained as the door opened and the nurse stuck her head in once more.

“Dr. Riley will be here as soon as he can.”

“Thank you,” Johnny said, smiling in spite of her abrupt attitude.

“You’re welcome,” the woman said and let the curtain close once more.

“I think she needs some sleep,” Johnny said as he stood and looked out through the slightly parted curtain.

“The hospital is probably understaffed,” Murdoch explained.

“Okay, there’s no one out there. I’m going to take a look around. You sure you’re okay here?”

“I’m fine, just be careful!” the older man warned.

“I will.” With a flick of his wrist Johnny moved past the curtain and into the hallway. Two other areas were curtained off and he wondered if one of them held his brother. He quickly parted the curtain and peered in at the sleeping form of a young boy. His arm was in a cast and a bandage covered one side of his head. ‘Poor Kid,’ he thought and moved to the second curtain. The bed inside was unmade and empty and he quickly moved away as he heard several people talking. He opened a door and slipped inside an empty room and waited for them to pass by.

This room was a supply closet and he quickly exited the room and walked along the empty corridor until he came to another door. He pushed it open and looked into a room with several beds lining opposite walls. Several held male patients, but none of them was the one he sought. Closing the door he continued to search the hospital, hoping and praying Scott Lancer would be revealed behind one of the doors.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch had no idea how much time passed when the curtain was once more pulled across and a young man entered the room. He couldn’t have been much older than Scott, but he looked as if he’d seen more sorrow in his lifetime than any man deserved.

“I’m Dr. Riley. Nurse Chambers told me you hurt your leg. What’s your name?”

“Murdoch Lancer.”

“All right, Mr. Lancer, let’s take a look at it!” Riley said and watched as the older man tried to pull up his pant leg. “That won’t work. Here, take your pants off and cover yourself with this blanket. I’ll wait outside.”

Murdoch quickly did as he was told and sat on the bed once more, covering himself with the blanket as the doctor’s voice reached him.

“Are you ready?”

“Yes,” Murdoch answered sheepishly.

“How long ago did this happen?”

“Four maybe five days,” Murdoch answered as the man peeled back the bandage.

“You saw a doctor?”

“Yes, he put stitches in and told me to take it easy for a few days.”

“And of course like most men you didn’t listen!” Riley said.

“Had some things I had to do!” Murdoch said, wincing as the man pressed against the wound.

“Those things you had to do better have been important because if you’re not careful you could end up with gangrene. Right now it’s a little infected and I’m going to open those stitches and drain the wound. Then we’ll clean it up and put new stitches in. I’d like you to stay overnight…”

“No, I cant!” Murdoch stated.

“Why? What’s so important that you’re willing to take a chance of losing your leg?”

“My son,” Murdoch answered, swallowing past the painful lump in his throat.

“Your son?”

“Yes, Scott Lancer. His grandfather brought him here and we want to bring him home where he belongs.” Murdoch said and watched the man expertly drain the wound as a nurse entered with a basin of water.

“Did he come to Boston because he wanted to?”

“No, not really…damn!” Murdoch winced and held tight to the side of the bed.

“Sorry, just want to make sure I get it all.”

“O…okay.”

“So you were telling me about your son.”

“Scott was hurt and lost his hearing,” Murdoch explained.

“Sorry to hear that,” the doctor said as the nurse handed him a clean cloth.

That’s not the half of it. Not long after the hearing loss he was bitten by a snake…”

“Ouch, bad luck.”

“I know. He wrote his grandfather and asked him to come for him because he didn’t think he had a place at Lancer anymore.”

“I take it he’s wrong?”

“Yes, he is. Lancer is his home. It’s where he belongs. Not in some office building wearing a suit and trying to please everyone around him. Is Scott here, Dr. Riley?”

“Not that I know of, but I can check for you.”

“Would you?”

“Certainly. I’ll speak with Dr. Boudreau and the nurses and if he’s a patient here I’ll let you know.”

“Thank you, Dr. Riley,” Murdoch said as the doctor looked into his eyes.

“You’re welcome. Now I’m going to put stitches in here and I’m going to give you a little laudanum. It’ll help with the pain,” Riley said and ordered the nurse to bring the medication.

Murdoch nodded and closed his eyes and prayed that Johnny would find the missing Lancer. He drank the laudanum and waited for it to take effect as the doctor prepared to put in the stitches once more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Greyson silently cursed the condition of Scott Lancer. Carter had finally allowed him inside the room and it hadn’t taken him long to see that Scott had been injected with the drug once more. The signs of addiction were clear and he knew that if and when help arrived, Scott’s suffering would begin anew.

“I swear I’ll find someone to help you, Scott!” Greyson vowed, shuddering with anger and rage. Carter had to be stopped before Scott Lancer paid the ultimate price…his life.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny silently cursed in frustration as he made his way back to the room where he’d left his father. He’d searched every room and came up empty. He’d spoken to several nurses and patients and received the same answer each time. Scott Lancer was not a patient in the hospital and as far as anyone knew he hadn’t been there in the last week. He reached the area where his father was being treated and overheard voices from inside. He pulled back the curtain in time to see a doctor placing bandages over the wound to his father’s leg.

“Johnny, any luck?” Murdoch asked hopefully.

“Nothing,” the younger Lancer answered.

“Johnny, this is Dr. Riley and he’s going to ask around to see if any of the other doctors have treated Scott.”

“Thanks, Doc. How’s his leg?” Johnny asked indicating the bandages.

“It’s better now that I’ve cleaned it out and put in some stitches.”

“Then he’s going to be all right?”

“If he stays off his leg and takes it easy it should heal just fine. I’d like him to stay overnight to make sure, but he’s…”

“He sure is stubborn…

“He’s right here, Johnny,” Murdoch said, irritated that the two people seemed to be talking as if he wasn’t there.

“Mr. Lancer, you really should think about staying at least for overnight.”

“Let me talk to him, Doc,” Johnny said and waited for the weary physician to leave the room.

“Hand me my pants, Johnny.”

“Murdoch, I was thinkin’ maybe it’d be a good idea that you stay here…”

“Johnny, my leg’s fine.”

“Maybe it is, but think about it, Murdoch. You stay here and it gives you a chance to talk to other patients. Maybe you’ll get some answers about Scott from the other docs.”

“Damn it,” Murdoch whispered and lay back on the bed.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, I just hate it when you’re right,” Murdoch said half serious as Johnny smiled.

“So, do I tell the doc?”

“Yes,” Murdoch said and watched his son closely. Johnny was hiding behind his sense of humor, yet he could tell how much he was hurting. The younger man returned quickly with the news that a room would be ready for him shortly. “What are you going to do while I’m stuck in here?”

“I was thinking I could ask around…maybe see if anyone’s seen Scott or Harlan Garrett. Maybe I can find out where he’s keeping Scott and…”

“And come get me!” Murdoch finished. “Johnny, don’t try to do this on your own. Harlan Garrett is a mean man when it comes to losing something he wants. He’s on his own grounds here and these people don’t know us. If you find Scott don’t try to get him out on your own!”

“I’ll be careful, Murdoch,” Johnny said and looked up when a nurse entered the tiny room.

“We have a room for you, Mr. Lancer.”

“Murdoch, I’ll be back later,” Johnny said.

“Just be careful, Son,” Murdoch advised and watched the younger man stride purposely from the room. He knew Johnny could move around easier without him, but what they were doing was dangerous and Harlan Garrett had already proven how ruthless and uncaring he was when it came to Johnny. Garrett would not give a damn if Johnny Lancer ceased to exist. The laudanum was making him sleepy, but he fought the effects until he was settled into his own room. The bed was comfortable, the nurse friendly and easy going, the room itself spotless, and he wondered if his son was sleeping in luxury. He closed his eyes and let the medication ease him into a troubled sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

Peter Greyson knew he had to do something fast. The young man was slipping deeper and deeper into Carter’s grip and there was no doubt that Scott was already addicted to morphine. Without the required dose he became weak and cried out piteously. There were times during the long night that his breathing was so shallow that Peter was sure he no longer took in enough oxygen to keep him alive. Then came the times when the patient pleaded and begged for the narcotic and Carter would hold the syringe before him and make him beg for it. That was too much for him and he’d made the excuse that he needed to go for supplies in order to get away from the evil he sensed around Carter.

Now he wondered if there was anyone who would listen to him or was Scott Lancer doomed to spend the rest of his life a slave to the drug Carter insisted he use. He headed toward the hospital intent on finding someone who would listen to him.

‘Just hang on, Scott, there has to be someone who’ll listen to me,’ he thought and continued toward the main part of the city.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You want this don’t you, Lieutenant?” Carter taunted his patient and tapped the vial of liquid. Scott Lancer was bathed in perspiration and seemed to fight for every breath of air, and Carter smiled as the younger man struggled with the restraints holding him in place. “Well, Lieutenant, do you want this?”

Scott licked his lips and strained against the bonds that kept him tied to the bed and blinked his eyes to clear his vision. He wanted the shot more than anything he’d ever wanted in his life, but to beg for it was beyond his ability. His mouth was dry and his tongue seemed to have swollen, and he tried to turn away, but the siren call of the morphine was his undoing as Carter began to laugh once more. How many times had he heard that malicious sound? How many times had he fought the need racing through his veins? How many times had he given in?

“Lieutenant, I have news for you. Do you want to hear it?”

“L…leave me!”

“That’s funny, because that’s exactly what I’m going to do, but I wanted to give you some relief before I do. Peter’s gone you know? He left you here…”

“No…no,” Scott’s body trembled as he spoke.

“I’m afraid he gave up on you. I know he was planning on helping you, but once he spoke to your father he knew you were a lost cause…”

“S…spoke t…to Murdoch. Here…Johnny here?”

“That’s right, they are, but they’ll be going home today. It seems they’ve decided you’re not worth the trouble. I’ll be leaving shortly and I was going to give you this last shot to help you through the day.” Carter wrapped the rubber tubing around Scott’s arm and began looking for a vein. The bruises from previous injections had spread to encompass nearly every inch of flesh, but he found a suitable vein and held the syringe in front of his victim’s face. “Well, Lieutenant, do you want this?”

Murdoch and Johnny didn’t care about him. His grandfather had told him so and now this man had confirmed it. He’d never felt so alone in his life and couldn’t help nodding his head as he watched the sharp tip of the needle press against his arm. Scott saw the skin pucker until it gave way and the needle entered his body. It wasn’t long before he felt the welcome relief that came with the injection and he closed his eyes and enjoyed the euphoria that came with it.

“Harlan Garrett doesn’t want to be bothered with you anymore, Lieutenant. Guess that means you’re all mine,” Carter laughed as he tugged on the restraints and released the younger man. “I’m setting you free, Lieutenant, it’s the least I can do.”

Scott smiled at the man as he felt the restraints removed and tried to make sense of what the man was saying, but the words did not make sense.

“I’m going to help you get away from here!” Carter said.

“H…help m…me?” Scott said, surprised when he found himself on his own two feet. He laughed as his legs threatened to give way, but was held upright by Carter. “W…where are w…we g…going?”

“We’re going to fly, Lieutenant,” Carter said, forcing the younger man to take several steps toward the door. “Or should I say you’re going to fly.”

“C…can’t fly…n…no w…wings,” Scott giggled and tried to keep his eyes open.

“That’s okay. You don’t need any since you’ll be flying straight down.”

“F…fly down?” Scott frowned as he tried to focus.

“That’s right, Lieutenant. You’re going to fly,” Carter laughed. He’d stopped them at the top of the stairs and looked at the man standing beside him. He remembered how strong this man had been during the war and how many times he’d vowed to enact his own brand of vengeance. That time had finally come and he would not waste any more time with Scott Lancer. “Spread your wings, Lieutenant!”

Scott frowned as he heard the familiar voice and felt a hand placed at the center of his back. Before he could ask what Carter was doing he felt himself propelled forward and his body hit the first step, then careened off the wall and bounced into the railing. His body slammed into each step until it finally came to rest against the hardwood floor below. His eyes remained open as blood tricked into them and the last vision he had before consciousness left him was of a devil staring down at him from above.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Peter Greyson frowned as he looked at the building not far from his location. The hospital had not been his destination, but somehow he ended up walking in that direction. He knew the people there would probably ignore him, but somehow he had to make them understand that a man’s life was at stake. Harlan Garrett and his money be damned, someone would listen to him. Shoving his hands in his pocket he kept his head down and walked briskly toward the hospital.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

Johnny left the hospital and walked north along the first street he came to. He knew going to see Harlan Garrett was senseless. The elderly man was too stubborn to see what was right before his eyes. Scott’s life was in danger, of that he was sure, but where was he and what could one man do to find him in a city of strangers. He knew Garrett had the money to buy whoever and whatever he wanted, but the man was blind when it came to his own grandson. Johnny couldn’t understand how Garrett kept insisting that Scott belonged in Boston. The man obviously was blinded to the happiness his grandson had found at Lancer. Scott had changed since he’d left the city and he’d proven that he was as good a rancher as any of them. Boston may have been his home, but Lancer was where his heart belonged. He turned to look back at the hospital and grunted as someone banged into him and nearly knocked him over.

“Sorry, should have been watching where I was going.”

“I know what you mean,” Johnny said, offering a hand to the man and helping him to his feet.

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” Johnny said and walked past the man, but stopped as a strange feeling came over him. He turned to see the older man hurrying on down the street and called after him. “Hey, Mister.”

The man stopped and turned, frowning in Johnny’s direction. “Can I help you?”

“I don’t know, maybe,” Johnny said, rejoining the man. “I’m looking for someone and was wondering if maybe you’d seen him.”

“I haven’t seen too many people today, but I’ll help if I can. What does this person look like?”

“He’s blond…’bout my height. He’s got a broken arm…what’s wrong?” Johnny asked when the man seemed to pale substantially.

“W…what’s your name, Mister?”

“Johnny Lancer…”

“Oh, God!”

“Maybe you’d best sit down!” Johnny offered when the man’s legs threatened to give way.

“No…no time. We have to save him!”

“Save who?” Johnny asked bewildered by the man’s sudden change.

“Scott…”

“Scott! You know where Scott is?”

“Yes, and he’s hurt. That Bastard’s going to kill him!” Greyson spat and pulled on Johnny’s arm.

“Where is he?” Johnny asked, his tone icy and his heart heavy with fear.

“He’s at a private clinic on Charles Street. I can take you there but God help me we have to hurry before Carter…”

“Carter’s a dead man!”

“Yes, I believe he is, but Scott was alive when I left and if you want him to stay that way I suggest we get moving!”

“How far?”

“It’ll take us an hour or more to get back there!”

“Come on! I’ll hire a wagon!” Johnny said of the horse drawn carriages he saw further down the street. It didn’t take long to find someone willing to take them to Charles Street and Johnny’s heart was in his throat as they made their way along the tree lined street.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Carter leaned back in the carriage and smiled triumphantly as he pulled out his flask. He took a long drink of the expensive whiskey and looked at the small suitcase beside him. It was filled with a few minor belongings, but it also contained over a dozen vials of morphine and the syringe needed to inject it. There was also close to five hundred dollars in cash, a token of appreciation from Harlan Garrett. Little did his benefactor know the real horror of the man he’d hired. He now had the money, the narcotic, and the means to go after several others who had wronged him and maybe, someday he would get to visit Scott Lancer once more if the younger man made it through the hell he would be facing if he survived the injuries from the fall.

“To freedom, Lieutenant, mine, and yours should you survive,” he whispered and drank from the flask. Finally satisfied that no one would find him, Carter sighed contentedly and relaxed against the seat. The driver was an elderly man and would be taken care of as soon as they were far enough away from the city.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch heard someone moving around and opened his eyes as a nurse pulled the drapes across and allowed the bright sunlight to enter his room. He had no idea how long he’d slept, but he felt more rested than he had in a long time. Taking a deep breath he sat forward on the bed and smiled at the dark haired nurse.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Lancer. How are we feeling today?”

“Better. What time is it?”

“A little before four, Sir. You’ve been asleep for nearly two hours.”

“Has Johnny been back?”

“Johnny?”

“My son. He was supposed to come back…”

“Mr. Lancer, good afternoon,” Riley said upon entering the room with another man.

“Afternoon, Dr. Riley, were you able to find out anything about my son?”

“Johnny,” the nurse supplied.

“No, Scott. My son Scott.”

“But you just said your son’s name was Johnny,” the nurse frowned as she looked at the patient.

“I have two sons. I know where Johnny is, but we’re looking for Scott.”

“Scott Lancer?” the newcomer asked.

“That’s right. Do you know where he is?” Murdoch asked hopefully.

“No, I’m sorry I don’t, but I have treated Scott before…many times.”

“Who are you?” the Lancer patriarch asked.

“My name is Claude Boudreau and I’m a doctor. I’ve looked after the Garrett family for more years than I care to remember. Would you mind telling me why you think Scott would be here?”

“My name is Murdoch Lancer and Scott is my son.”

“I’ve heard of you from Harlan and what I’ve heard doesn’t impress me,” Boudreau explained.

“No, I wouldn’t expect anything Harlan Garrett said about me would impress anyone, but I can tell you that Scott loves his life at Lancer and if it hadn’t been for the accident he would still be there.”

“What accident?” Riley asked.

“Scott and his brother Johnny were involved in a landslide that cost Scott his hearing. We thought we had convinced him that he was still wanted and needed at Lancer, but another incident involving a snake made him send a letter to his grandfather and Harlan jumped at the chance to get Scott back here.”

“Harlan would do anything to bring Scott back to Boston,” Boudreau agreed.

“Including hiring a man he doesn’t know to take care of Scott during the trip back here.”

“You’re telling me that Scott Lancer really is here in Boston and I never heard a damn thing about it!”

“That’s exactly what I’m telling you, Doctor. Garrett hired a man who was at one time a doctor, but his license was taken from him because of his unethical practices. There’s no telling what he’s done to Scott. Johnny and I went to see Harlan last night, but he refused to tell us where Scott is.”

“I could ask around. Maybe someone has heard something,” Boudreau offered.

“Would you?”

“I’ll see what I can find out, but you should know that if Harlan had wanted me to know he would have told me, and Scott would be here.”

“Harlan’s blind to anything but keeping Scott away from his family and making sure he stays in Boston.”

“Harlan always was blind when it came to Catherine’s happiness and I think you’re right about him being that way with Scott. He seems to think Scott is his only means of keeping Catherine’s memories alive. I’ll check into it, Mr. Lancer.”

“Thank you, Dr. Boudreau,” Murdoch said and shook the man’s hand.

“I have a few patients to check on before I meet with several colleagues. You try to rest and from what Steven tells me you need to go easy on that leg.”

“I will,” Murdoch assured him, but knew the physician didn’t believe him for a minute. When the two men left he moved to a chair by the window and sat down. The sun was peeking out from behind the clouds once more and he hoped and prayed it was a harbinger of good news.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Harlan Garrett hated when things didn’t go as planned. The meeting with the board members was running later than expected and he knew he would not have time to visit his grandson until well after the evening meal. He reached for the glass of brandy and sat back dejectedly as Charles Brooklyn began to speak.

“I see no benefit in keeping the ship running. It serves no purpose and is an eyesore for the people of Beacon Hill!”

“That ship has been part of my family for nearly a century,” William Martin snapped slamming his hands down on the long table.

“It looks like something that should have been buried with the rest of your family!” Brooklyn stated.

“Damn you, Charles! You only see what you want to see and only when it benefits you! Harlan, tell me you’re not goin along with this…this…”

“Gentlemen, calm down before you start a brawl. Lord knows I have seen enough of those down at the harbor. I would think you were above such atrocious behavior,” Garrett said and heard the others in the room sigh in relief when the two would be combatants dropped heavily into their seats once more. “Now, if you are ready to talk this through like gentlemen then we shall continue. Otherwise we’ll let you two deal with it yourselves!”

“Harlan, please, that ship…”

“Is an eyesore, William, but if it means so much to you then perhaps you could have it declared a museum or something and we could make money from daily tours.”

“The ship is still seaworthy, Harlan, and I won’t have people walking all over something that…”

“Fine, then turn it into a garbage ship and let her haul refuse out into the ocean!” Brooklyn spat.

“Why you…”

“Enough! William, this is one time I have to agree with Charles. You find somewhere to put that eyesore or it will be towed out and sank!”

“Who do you think you are?” Martin asked.

“We are who we are, William, and you know damn well we have the power to do what is necessary. You have one week from today!” Garrett warned and the debate grew hot once more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Driver, stop here!” Greyson shouted when they drew up outside the old asylum.

“Scott’s here?” Johnny asked, exiting the carriage before it had come to a complete stop.

“Wait here!” Greyson told the driver before answering Johnny’s question. “Yes, he’s on the second floor, but if Carter’s in there with him…”

“I’ll take care of Carter!” Johnny’s voice was soft and cold while his eyes were filled with an icy calmness that didn’t bode well for Mortimer Carter. He raced through the gate and up to the door of the house. Grabbing the handle he shoved it open and moved into the murky interior. He felt Greyson behind him and waited for his eyes to adjust to the darker interior.

“Oh, God!” Greyson exclaimed and pushed past the younger man.

“Scott?” Johnny whispered, unaware that he’d been holding his breath.

“Johnny, help me!” the older man ordered and was relieved when Johnny hurried toward him.

“Is he?”

“He’s alive, but God help me I don’t know how!”

“Where’s Carter?” Johnny asked angrily.

“I don’t know. You stay here with Scott and I’ll take a look around!” Greyson ordered and moved away to give the younger man time with his brother.

Johnny looked toward the man as he raced up the stairs, but he didn’t follow. He looked down at the figure lying so still on the floor and knew what he had to do. Fighting the urge to pull his brother into his arms, Johnny ran his hands down the length of the bruised and broken body. He felt a chill run down his spine as he felt broken ribs shift under the darkening bruises.

“God, Scott, I’m so sorry!”

“What the hell have you done to him you half breed?”

Johnny turned on the newcomer and there was no mistaking the deadly intent that flashed across the blue eyes. “I should kill you for what you’ve done to my brother!”

“You are trespassing on private property!” Harlan Garrett seethed. He’d finally been able to clear up the problems in the board meetings and hired a carriage to take him to Charles Street.

“Carter’s gone!” Greyson said stopping at the top of the stairs once he caught sight of the newcomer.

“Greyson! You’re fired! Get out!” Garrett spat.

“Greyson, help me get Scott out to the carriage!” Johnny ordered.

“Just where do you think you’re taking my grandson?”

“To the hospital!” Johnny snarled and stood face to face with the elderly man.

“You have no right…”

“I have every right, Garrett, and if you weren’t so blind you’d see what you’ve done to Scott!”

“I did as he asked and brought him home!”

“No, you used his own weakness to take him away from his home! Now get out of my way!”

“Now see here!”

“No! You listen and you damn well better get out of my way or so help me God you’ll wish you’d never heard the name Johnny Madrid Lancer!”

“I’ll have the constable here in fifteen…”

“Shut up! Just shut up and get out of my way. I’ve never hit a man who didn’t deserve it and right now you deserve everything…”

“Johnny, we need to get Scott to the hospital. He’s breathing strange and his color’s not too good!” Greyson declared.

Johnny bent down and lifted his brother into his arms. The last few weeks had been hard on the blond and he’d lost more weight than he could afford. Johnny stood and turned toward the door and again came face to face with the elderly man. His blue eyes were glacial; his heart pounded in his chest, and there was no denying that this man could kill at the drop of a hat. His mouth turned up in a half smile that held no humor as he voiced the words that would leave no doubt as to his intentions.

“Get out of my way, Old Man!”

“You have no right!”

“Do as he says, Mr. Garrett, ‘cause after what I’ve seen you’re as blind as Scott is deaf…no that’s wrong because Scott can hear, but you can’t see what’s right in front of you,” Greyson said and pushed Harlan Garrett aside.

“I’ll have you both arrested for kidnapping!”

“Go ahead,” Johnny said, walking past the elderly man. “At least Scott will be in good hands and getting the care he needs!”

“He was getting the care he needed!” Garrett stated when Greyson walked past him. “Wasn’t he?”

“You’ll have to search in yourself for the answer to that!” Greyson spat and hurried to open the carriage for Johnny to enter. “Johnny, let me take him while you get in.

Johnny nodded to the man and carefully maneuvered around until Greyson had his brother. He climbed into the carriage and reached out to take the precious cargo from the older man. He moved around until Scott’s body was leaning against him and nodded that they were ready to go. He saw Harlan Garrett standing in the doorway of the asylum, but did nothing to acknowledge that the man existed. He heard Greyson order the driver to get the carriage moving and held tight to his brother as he grabbed the blanket and covered Scott’s naked body with it. A soft moan caught his attention and he wished he could see his brother’s face.

“Just hold on, Boston, just hold on,” Johnny whispered, frowning as something Greyson had said finally dawned on him. “Scott, can you hear me?”

‘Pain! God! Make it stop! Please no more!’ Scott whimpered as someone touched him and he fought to get away from the hands that touched him. How many times had he pleaded for the drug that would end his suffering? No matter how many times he tried to fight it the need was there and he caved in.

“Scott, can you hear me? I’m going to get you to the hospital and you’ll be fine.”

“God…hurts…please…please I need. I need it! Please, Carter! Please I need it. M…make the p…pain stop! God m…make it s…stop! H…help me p…please…h…help me!”

“I’m going to, Scott, you just gotta hold on a little longer,” Johnny explained. He felt the body leaning against him tense up and a strangled moan escaped the trembling form.

“Sick…sick!” Scott said and turned his head and vomited onto the floor of the carriage. “S…sorry. Please…I n…need it.”

“Need what, Scott?” Johnny asked, fighting to stay calm as his brother’s breathing grew ragged and harsh.

“N…need it…please C…Carter!”

“Carter’s gone, Scott, but when I find him I’ll make him sorry he was ever born!”

“God! Help me!” Scott cried and tried to break free of the arms that held him tight. His body grew tense and his ribs became prominent as he went rigid in his brother’s arms.

“Scott! God help me don’t you die on me! Greyson! Greyson!” he waited for the man to look back through the open divider.

“What’s wrong?”

“Can’t the driver go any faster? Scott…he’s getting worse.”

“I’ll make sure he does, Johnny. You just make sure Scott don’t give up!”

“He ain’t goin’ nowhere! You hear me, Scott?” he asked and pulled the blond closer to him. His own body trembled as tears formed in his eyes and traced a path down his cheek. Scott was still now, the trembling gone, and the only sound the shallow, uneven breaths that escaped the dry throat.

Johnny rocked his brother’s too still body and spoke to him softly as the wheels of the carriage made a crunching sound on the darkened street.

“I know you’re hurting right now, Boston, but you’re gonna be all right. You hear me? I’m not ready ta lose you and neither are Murdoch and Jelly and Teresa and I ain’t goin’ back there and tellin’ ‘em we found you, but it was too late! I swear I’ll move heaven and earth if I have too! I wasn’t here when you needed me, Scott, but God help me I won’t desert you now!”

The trip to the hospital was one of the longest Johnny Lancer could remember having taken. During the final part of the journey he held tight to the limp form in his arms and prayed that Scott could feel him, hear him, and know he was not alone. The carriage pulled to a stop in front of the main doors of the hospital and he heard Greyson jump down.

“Johnny, I’m going to get the doctor and something to carry him on,” Greyson said, but was stopped by the moisture he saw in the blue eyes. “Oh, God, we’re too late.”

“No…no, he’s still with us, but I’ll carry him in, Greyson. Make sure the doctors are ready for him!” Johnny eased his own body out of the carriage and reached for his frail brother. He lifted Scott into his arms and walked toward the hospital doors where a doctor he didn’t know stood waiting.

“Bring him in here!”

“He’s hurt bad, Doc!” Johnny said, following the older man toward one of the rooms.

“I know he is, Son, but we’re going to take good care of Scott.”

“You know him?” Johnny asked.

“All his life. You must be Johnny. My name is Claude Boudreau and I’ve been taking care of Scott since Harlan brought him home!” Greyson explained and helped the nurse remove the blanket from the battered body.

“We need you to wait outside,” the nurse said and took Johnny’s arm.

“I need to…”

“Johnny, listen to me,” Boudreau ordered and stood in front of the younger man in order to get his attention away from his brother. “I’m going to take care of Scott, but there’s someone else who’s been very worried about him.”

“Murdoch?”

“That’s right. He’s in the room at the end of the corridor and I’d appreciate it if you make sure he stays put.”

“He’ll want to come check on Scott.”

“I know, but right now Scott needs us to take care of him…”

“Doc, there’s something you need to know,” Greyson said from behind Johnny.

“Who are you?”

“Peter Greyson I work…worked for Harlan Garrett.”

“All right, what can you tell me about Scott?” Boudreau asked.

“Carter was feeding him morphine…lots of it! Made damn sure he got him hooked on the stuff!”

“Damn it!” Boudreau cursed and turned his attention back to his patient. “Go tell your father you found him and keep him away from here until I finish with Scott. I’ll come see you in your father’s room.”

“Doc, we found him at the bottom of the stairs,” Johnny said. “It looked like he fell down them.”

“We’ll take good care of him, Johnny, I promise you that!”

“Thanks, Doc,” the dark haired Lancer said and forced himself to turn away from his brother. Scott was in good hands, but there was someone else who needed to know he’d been found.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch hadn’t rested much since falling asleep in the afternoon. Time and again his mind wandered over the time he’d let slide by. Years he would never be able to get back and memories he would never have. He would never know the joy of watching Scott take his first step, or of seeing Johnny ride his first pony. He would never know the joys of watching a boy grow into a man, but at least he had his sons with him now…or son, Scott was still missing. A sound at the door made him turn away from the window and his heart skipped a beat when he saw an imposing figure framed in the doorway.

“Johnny?”

“Yeah, it’s me, Murdoch,” Johnny answered tiredly.

“Did you find out anything?’

“I found Scott.”

“Thank God, where is he?” Murdoch said, wincing as he tried to put weight on his leg. 

“Dr. Boudreau’s with him,” the younger man said and sat on the edge of the bed. He rubbed at tired eyes and finally looked at his father.

“Johnny, you’re scaring me here. Is Scott all right?”

“No, he’s not, Murdoch. I don’t know all of it, but he’s lost too much weight and Carter’s got him hooked on morphine.”

“I’ll kill him!” the Lancer patriarch spat and sat next to his son.

“You’ll have to stand in line!” Johnny whispered. “Scott’s in bad shape.”

“Scott’s a fighter, Johnny, he’s strong!”

“I know…I ran into Harlan.”

“What did he have to say?” Murdoch asked, angry that Harlan Garrett was once more at the center of his problems.

“Not much. Told me I was trespassing and to get out! I didn’t listen, but he says he’s going to have the constable arrest me.”

“Harlan Garrett’s interfered with my family for the last time. Come on, Son, let’s go see how your brother’s doing?”

“Doc said we should wait here and he’ll come see us when he’s done checking Scott over. I told him you wouldn’t listen.”

“You told him right. Come on,” Murdoch ordered and grabbed the cane that leaned against the wall.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Joan, make sure you clean the wound on his leg. Whoever was looking after him did a lousy job…”

“Get out of my way! I demand to see my grandson!”

Boudreau heard the familiar voice raised in anger and knew he had to set the man straight. No one would be seeing Scott Lancer until he finished his examination and started him on the right treatment. “Clean him up, Joan, I’ll be right back.”

“Yes, Dr. Boudreau!”

“Now see here! Get your hands off me Greyson! Constable, arrest this man!”

“Mr. Garrett, you need to calm down!” William Craddock ordered and was glad to see Boudreau exit one of the rooms.

“Claude, where is Scotty?” Garrett asked and spotted Murdoch and Johnny walking toward him. “I want those two men arrested!”

“If I arrested everyone you want me to my jail would be full. Now why don’t we calm down and get this straightened out?” Craddock suggested.

“I don’t care what you do, but you’d best find somewhere else to do it! There are sick people here and I have a seriously injured young man who needs my undivided attention! Take it outside or be quiet!”

“I’ll take care of this, Doc,” Craddock assured the physician when Johnny and Murdoch joined them.

“See that you do, Constable! Mr. Lancer, sit down!” Boudreau ordered and pointed to a chair near the desk before walking back toward the room that housed his patient.

“Now, let’s discuss this like gentlemen, shall we?” Craddock asked.

“I want these men arrested for trespassing!” Garrett ordered.

“Harlan, do you hate me that much?” Murdoch asked softly.

“I have no feelings toward you whatsoever, Murdoch. You should take your ha…”

“I warned you never to call him that!” Murdoch said and reacted instinctively. He struck out at the man who’d caused so much misery in his family and only Johnny’s quick reflexes stopped Murdoch’s fist from connecting with Garrett’s jaw.

“See what I mean, Constable. He hit me! I demand you arrest him!”

“No, that’s what I’d call a near miss, Mr. Garrett. Can’t arrest a man for that, but, Mr. Lancer, you’d best be more careful. Next time your son might not be around to stop you,” Craddock observed. “Now would someone like to tell me what’s going on here?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Claude Boudreau ran his hands gently along his patient’s ribcage. There were several broken ribs and the nurse had cleaned him up as best she could. His body was one large bruise and it was hard to tell where one started and another began. Several lacerations on the blond’s head would need to be stitched, but first he needed to know exactly where they stood. Both arms were covered in smaller bruises that signalled the use of a needle and he knew from Greyson’s words that morphine had been used freely.

“Doctor, his fever’s getting worse,” Joan Miller explained.

“I know, but that’s the least of our worries right now. I’m afraid we’re dealing with some serious internal injuries here and he’s going to need surgery if he’s going to survive.”

“Is he strong enough, Doctor?”

“I don’t know, Joan, but I hope and pray he is. We’re dealing with an addiction to morphine that’s going to cause problems as well.”

“Who did this to him?” Joan asked and flicked back a stray lock of blond hair.

“That I don’t know, but we’re going to do our best to make sure he has the best possible chance of survival.”

“Does his family know how bad things are?”

“His brother does, but only part of it.” Boudreau told her and continued examining the patient.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stan Riley heard the commotion in the hallway and walked briskly toward the group of men, frowning when he saw his patient standing in the midst of what seemed to be a hostile confrontation.

“Mr. Lancer, I could have sworn I told you bed rest was what that leg needed!”

“You did, Doc, but…”

“If you insist on being so…”

“Doc, they found my son!” Murdoch interrupted.

“Your son? The one I spoke to Claude about?” Riley asked, pulling over a chair and making the older man sit down.

“Yes, he’s in there with Dr. Boudreau,” the Lancer patriarch explained, reluctantly sitting on the chair the man provided.

“What does Claude have to say?”

“He said Scott’s in bad shape,” Johnny told him and turned a deadly glare at the elderly man leaving no doubt he blamed Harlan Garrett.

“I’ll see if I can help him, but make sure your father stays off his leg,” Riley warned.

“I will, Doc,” Johnny assured the physician and tried to calm his own rattled nerves. Scott would not be fighting for his life if not for the jealousy Garrett felt toward Murdoch Lancer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stan Riley knocked once before entering the room where Claude Boudreau worked on a silent patient. One look at the young man told him he was in bad shape and he moved to the opposite side of the bed. “I thought you might need some help.”

“Glad to have it, Stan.”

“What are we looking at?”

“Broken ribs, breathing problems.”

“Pneumonia?”

“Possibly, partially healed wound on the right leg. Shoulder injury. There was a tube down his throat, but I removed it because God knows what was in it or on it. Whoever was treating Scott didn’t give a damn about him.”

“I can see that. Was he always so skinny?”

“No, he’s lost a lot of weight and that’s probably because of the tube feeding and the morphine addiction.”

“Morphine? Are you sure?” Riley asked, helping clean the dirt and blood from the patient’s body. “Feels like he has one hell of a fever too!”

“He does.”

“What about internal injuries?”

“He’s got more than his share of those,” the physician explained and was glad Riley was there to help him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Johnny, he’s not worth it,” Murdoch said reading the younger man’s face easily. There was more of the Madrid persona in Johnny right now and Murdoch knew his son could easily shoot the elderly man where he stood. He saw the spark of fear in his father in law’s eyes and inwardly smiled at the show of weakness, the first crack in Harlan Garrett’s armor.

“Do I need to stay here any longer?” Craddock asked. 

“You need to find the man who did this to my grandson!” Garrett said having heard the full story on Mortimer Carter from the two men. He still did not believe everything he’d heard, but there was enough for him to give the two men the benefit of the doubt.

“You just need to look in the mirror, Harlan!” Murdoch whispered tiredly.

“What does that mean?” Garrett asked angrily.

“Carter did this to Scott and you turned a blind eye to everything as long as it got you what you wanted! Well I hope you’re proud of yourself and I hope you can still look at yourself in the mirror because my son is in there fighting for his life because you could not stand the fact that he chose to live his own life!” Murdoch spat.

“Now see here…”

“No, you see here! I don’t give a damn how much money you have or how many people are willing to stoop to your levels, but I will not allow you to hurt Scott or Johnny ever again. I will do everything in my power to keep you away from Scott!”

“You can’t keep me away from him! He’s my grandson!”

“And he’s my son!” Murdoch said, standing and facing the older man once more. His fists clenched and unclenched and a flash of something akin to murder was visible on his face. “I know I can’t have you arrested for being stupid, Harlan, but for God’s sake think about what you did to Scott and maybe, just maybe you’ll see how wrong you were!”

“I did what Scotty asked me to do!”

“No, you did what you had to do to get Scott away from the home he loved!”

“His home is and always will be in Boston! Not living in an uncivilized…”

“There’s no point in arguin’ with him, Murdoch! He ain’t gonna see the truth no matter what you say!” Johnny said.

“Look, you’re all going to need to calm down. This is a hospital not some back alley! I won’t be able to look for Carter if I’m stuck here making sure a boxing match doesn’t break out! Do I make myself clear?” Craddock asked.

“Yes,” Murdoch answered softly.

“Good, Mr. Garrett, my advice to you is to go home and wait for word on your grandson!” the constable advised.

“I refuse to be run out of a hospital that I helped pay for!” Garrett spat.

“Always throwing your money around aren’t you?” Murdoch told him.

“I do what I have to in order to make sure my family…”

“Okay, enough! Look, I’m sure you both feel you’re right, but right now Scott is in there fighting for his life. Give him a chance to make his own decisions when he’s up to it,” Greyson suggested.

“Harlan, I’m warning you right now that if you try anything while Scott is in this hospital I’ll find a lawyer and find something to charge you with! There’s got to be something against turning your back on someone when you know damn well they are being hurt and abused!” Murdoch spat.

“I didn’t know Carter…”

“Ignorance doesn’t mean you’re innocent, Harlan, it just means you didn’t give a damn as long as you got what you wanted.”

“Mr. Garrett, I would advise you to listen to Mr. Lancer. He is Scott’s father and has the right to keep you away from him if he really wants to,” Craddock advised.

“Sit down and shut up, Harlan!” Murdoch warned and was relieved when the elderly man did as he ordered. “Thank you, Constable.”

“You’re welcome, Mr. Lancer. Just make sure you keep it down out here and let those doctors do what they need to.”

“We will,” Murdoch said tiredly, outwardly calm while inside his stomach churned with the raw need to defend his son from his own grandfather. He looked at Johnny and saw the same emotions there and nodded that he was okay.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Shit!” Boudreau reacted instinctively as his patient bolted upright. “Stan, hold him down!”

“I got him!”

“NO! Grandfather! God help me. I n…need…I need it! I c…can’t…”

“Easy, Scott, it’s Claude Boudreau! Look at me!” the physician ordered, but the glazed eyes did not seem to focus.

“Damn y…you, C…Carter! God, Johnny…Johnny! Help Me!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Go, Son!” Murdoch ordered when the cry reached their ears. “You stay put, Harlan! Sit on him if you have to, Mr. Greyson!”

“My pleasure,” Greyson answered with a smile and intercepted the older man.

“Scotty needs me!”

No, Scott needs his brother!” Murdoch warned.

“Scotty doesn’t…” the words died in the elderly man’s mouth as Murdoch’s fist connected with his jaw and sent Garrett reeling.

“If you say one more degrading thing about my son…Scott’s brother I’ll ram my fist down your throat!”

“I’ll have you charged for that, Murdoch,” the old man spat blood onto the floor.

“You deserve it, Mr. Garrett and I’ll testify to that,” Greyson said.

“Harlan, just sit there and shut up for once in your life and think about someone other than yourself. Scott’s in there fighting for his life and no matter what you think of Johnny, Scott responds to him!” Murdoch said, standing and pacing the floor worriedly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny looked at his brother with fear gripping at his heart. All though he’d been the one to find Scott he hadn’t really seen the damage done to him until now, in this room lit by lamps that shone on the pale features. Scott twisted his body into what should have been impossible positions, crying out in pain and anger. Johnny moved closer to the bed as Riley moved out of the way. He placed a calming hand on Scott’s left arm and pressed gently until the blond turned toward him.

“Hey, Scott, you need to calm down and let these people help you,” Johnny said in a voice filled with soft authority. Something Greyson had told him was finally sinking in and he prayed the older man was right as he continued to talk to his brother.

Scott could hear a new voice, one he associated with warmth and yet now he knew the younger man didn’t want him around. Why was he here? Why was he helping Carter? Was his grandfather right when he said Johnny and Murdoch didn’t want him around anymore? Cramps struck his gut while pain lanced through his body and he began to gag on the hot bile that rose in his throat. He twisted on the bed as several pairs of hands reached for him.

“NO! God no!” Scott shrieked as he felt himself losing control over his own body. He needed the peace that came with the morphine. Craved the release from torment and suffering! Wanted to forget the betrayal by his grandfather, father and brother, but most of all he wanted warmth!

“Scott, listen to me! It’s Johnny…”

“Johnny hates me…hates h…having m…me around!”

“No, I don’t Scott. I want you to come home! We need you…I need you, Brother,” Johnny pleaded and saw the blue eyes soften slightly, before Scott once more twisted in pain.

“J…Johnny…help me!”

“I will, Scott, just tell me what you need.”

“T…too much pain…need…need morphine, J…Johnny. O…only t…thing that helps!”

“Scott, you’ve had too much morphine,” Boudreau explained and wished there was something he could give the injured man to calm him down.

“No! Need it! Need it now! Johnny, you…you’ll get it for m…me! Wo…won’t you?”

“Sorry, Scott…”

“Damn you!” Scott cried and shook as aches and cramps raced through his body, daggers of pain splitting his scull as he tried to get away from his tormentors. His chest heaved and his lungs fought for air, but there didn’t seem to be enough to fill his lungs before his body arched on the bed and he collapsed in a sheen of sweat and tears.

“Scott!”

“Johnny!”

“Don’t do this to me, Boston! Don’t you dare die on me!”

“Johnny, I need you to leave now!” Boudreau ordered as he felt for a pulse on the too still form.

“Doc?”

“I don’t know, Johnny,” Riley said and saw the very real fear on his colleague’s face. “Claude?”

“I need your help, Stan! God help me I don’t want to lose him!” Boudreau said and looked at the younger man who still had his hand on his brother’s shoulder. “I’m going to do everything I can to bring him back, Johnny, but I need you out of here now!”

Johnny backed out the door, his heart in his throat, tears evident in his eyes, and filled with the lingering touch of death. His brother was dead and there was nothing he could do about it. He heard voices as if from a distance and turned to see Harlan Garrett standing next to Murdoch Lancer. The breath caught in his throat when he looked at the elderly man and forced the words past his constricting throat.

“S…Scott’s dead!” He pronounced and shoved Harlan Garrett out of his way. His brother was dead and no matter how badly he wanted to kill Scott’s grandfather he had another man he needed to find first. Blind to everything but the empty darkness, Johnny hurried into the street.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch stood where he was, staring, ashen faced at the empty space where his youngest son had stood. “Dead,” he whispered, unaware of the haunting figure that strode across the street.

“No, it can’t be!” Harlan Garrett said and tried to get past the imposing figure of his son in law.

“Don’t you dare pretend you give a damn about…”

“You can’t believe I wanted this!”

“You knew what Carter was doing to Scott and you didn’t stop him!” Murdoch spat and turned when he heard a voice from behind him.

“Would you two please take it outside!” the nurse ordered angrily.

“I’m sorry,” Murdoch said.

“I want to see my grandson!”

“Dr. Boudreau and Dr. Riley asked me to tell you that Scott is not dead as your son believes, Mr. Lancer…”

“Scott’s not…”

“No, Sir, he’s not,” the woman assured him and saw the relief in the man’s eyes.

“Thank God,” Garrett said and sat heavily in the chair Murdoch had used earlier.

“I need to find Johnny!” Murdoch said and turned to Greyson. “Make sure he doesn’t try to take my son out of here!”

“I will, Mr. Lancer,” Greyson answered.

“You can’t believe I would deliberately place Scotty in danger!”

“You keep saying that, Harlan, and just maybe you might convince yourself that it’s true,” Murdoch spat and limped past the elderly man. He scanned the street for any sign of his son, silently berating himself for not acting faster. He knew how close Johnny and Scott had become since they arrived at Lancer and how hard the last few months had been on Johnny.

Murdoch moved out into the street and knew instinctively where his son would go. Johnny wanted to go after Mortimer Carter, but to do that he would need a horse and that mean going to the nearest livery. He winced when he put too much pressure on his leg, but didn’t let it stop him from crossing the street and stopping the first person he saw.

“Excuse me, but where’s the nearest Livery?”

“Down at the end of the street,” the young man answered and hurried past.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny had only one thing on his mind when he left the hospital. Scott was dead and his murderer was out there. His eyes were deadly cold and he didn’t notice the people stare after him as he shoved his way through the crowded street. He’d seen the sign for the livery the day before and headed toward it intent on getting a horse and riding out after Carter. Once he found and dealt with the man he would return and take his anger out on Harlan Garrett. The old man needed to be told just what he’d done and Johnny would pound it into him if that was what it took.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

Murdoch moved in and out as people hurried by him and finally made it to the building in question. He pushed open the door and gazed around the dim interior until he spotted his son saddling a big Bay. He could see by the stance that Johnny had reverted to his Madrid persona and knew he was like a caged tiger waiting to attack.

“Johnny?” Murdoch called but there was no outward sign that the younger man heard him. “Son.”

“Don’t try to stop me, Murdoch. I’m gonna get that sonofabitch and…”

“I wouldn’t dream of trying to stop you, Son, but I really don’t know what to tell Scott when I see him…”

“Scott’s dead,” Johnny said coldly.

“No, he’s not. The doctors are working on him now, Johnny and as much as I’d like to see that sonofabitch caught I don’t want to be the one to tell your brother you went after him instead of staying here…”

“Scott’s not dead?” Johnny asked, relief washing over him when he said the words and saw the certainty in his father’s eyes.

“We need to stay by him, Johnny, because I don’t want to take the chance that Harlan will take him out of the hospital and hide him with some other monster. Scott needs to know he’s not alone.”

“There’s something else you need to know, Murdoch,” Johnny said, releasing the saddle and turning away from the animal.

“What?”

“Scott can hear.”

“Are you sure, Johnny?”

“I’m pretty sure he heard me,” Johnny answered and walked hurriedly back toward the hospital.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Boudreau and Riley worked together to keep Scott Lancer alive.  The young man was in bad shape and the addiction to morphine would not make their job any easier. The fact that he was unconscious was a godsend at that moment because they could work quickly and efficiently without worrying about how much pain they were causing. Neither man knew how much time they’d been working on this patient, but there came a time when there was nothing more they could do except prep him for surgery and pray he was strong enough to survive.

“Stan, I’m going to speak with his family.”

“Do you think he’s strong enough to survive surgery on his abdomen?”

“He’d better be because he won’t survive without it. He’s bleeding internally and we need to stop it before it’s too late. Joan, make sure the OR suite is ready.”

“Yes, Doctor,” the nurse said and hurried from the room.

“Stay with him, Stan,” Boudreau said and walked out to speak with his patient’s family. As he stepped through the door three men stood to meet him.

“How is he?” Murdoch asked.

“Claude, Scotty, is he…”

“Harlan, why the hell wasn’t he brought to me before this?”

“I hired a private doctor…”

“You hired a monster, Harlan. Mortimer Carter lost his license to practice medicine a long time ago!” Murdoch spat.

“I didn’t know! You can’t think I would hurt Scotty on purpose?”

“I don’t know what to believe, Harlan. I’ve seen you do some despicable things, but if you let Carter do this to Scott and didn’t lift a hand to stop him then you have no right to be here!” Boudreau snapped. 

“Now see here…” 

“No, you see here, Harlan! I won’t force you to leave this hospital because my son loves you. God help me I don’t know why, but he does and until he’s strong enough to make his own decisions then I won’t have the constable keep you away from here, but if you try anything or say anything I’ll have you arrested,” Murdoch warned.

“You can’t do that!”

“Try me!”

“There’s nothing to have me arrested for!”

“Isn’t there? I’ve been having a friendly chat with Mr. Greyson. It seems you visited Scott quite often and didn’t do anything about Scott being tied to the bed,” the Lancer patriarch said.

“He was restrained for his own good! Dr. Carter…”

“Don’t call him that…”

“Look, I don’t have time to stand here and listen to this. Argue about who should stay after I’m done,” Boudreau told them.

“What’s goin’ on, Doc?” Johnny asked.

“Scott needs surgery…”

“Is he strong enough?” Murdoch asked.

“I don’t know, but without it he won’t survive. He’s bleeding inside and we need to stop it.”

“Can I see him?” Murdoch pleaded softly.

“Yes, but only for a minute. We’re getting the OR ready for him now.”

“I want to see him!” Garrett stated and tried to brush past the physician.

“Not right now, Harlan,” Boudreau said, angered by the condition the young man was in.

“But…”

“Ya heard him, Harlan, stay where you are!” Johnny warned and was relieved when the elderly man sat down once more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch took a deep breath before entering the room. He thought he’d prepared himself for what he would see. Johnny had told him how bad Scott had looked when he brought him in, but Murdoch had tried to make himself believe it couldn’t have been as bad as he was told. He was wrong.

“Mr. Lancer, are you okay?” Riley asked when the older man seemed to freeze upon entering the room.

“Sorry, did you say something?”

“I asked if you were all right?”

“I…” he stopped as he stepped up to the bed and reached out to touch his son’s hand, but hesitated when he saw the bruises and cuts. “Will he be okay?”

“Claude has known your son a long time, Mr. Lancer, and if anyone can pull him through it’s Claude.”

“He looks so…lost,” Murdoch whispered. “Scott, you just hold on, Son. Johnny and I are here and there’s nothing going to happen to you! When you’re strong enough we’ll take you back to Lancer where you belong. It’s your home, Scott, our home.”

“Mr. Lancer, I’m afraid you’ll have to leave,” Boudreau said upon returning.

“Take good care of him, Dr. Boudreau. He’s my son and I can’t lose him…not again,” Murdoch said. He looked down at the face and touched his fingers against Scott’s cheek before limping dejectedly out of the room. He moved to stand with Johnny and watched as his older son was moved out of the room and taken into the OR where the physicians would do everything in their power to save his life. He hoped and prayed they were as good as their reputation.

“He’ll make it, Murdoch, or I’ll follow him and bring him back myself,” Johnny vowed and knew this was going to be the longest wait of his life.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch leaned heavily against the wall as his leg throbbed incessantly. He silently cursed the slow passage of time as they waited for word on his eldest son. He looked around the room and saw the relaxed form of his youngest child. Johnny sat in a chair with his legs on top of the bed and his hat low over his eyes. Anyone who saw him would think he was sleeping, but Murdoch knew that was not the case. He walked to the window, looked at his watch and made the return trip across the room.

“Murdoch, Doc Riley’s gonna be a mite upset if he catches you wearing a hole in his floor,” Johnny said without opening his eyes.

“You’d think they’d be done by now,” Murdoch said and glared at the elderly man who opened his mouth as if to speak.

“How long has it been?” Johnny asked, he knew nearly to the second, but was trying to keep his father from charging into the operating room, which was something he also wanted to do.

“Nearly an hour,” Murdoch answered and realized it only felt like they’d been waiting forever.

“Why don’t you lie down and get some rest. Dr. Boudreau said he’d come here as soon as they were done,” the former gunslinger suggested and removed his feet from his father’s bed.

“I can’t sleep until I know your brother is going to be all right,” the Lancer patriarch explained.

“Don’t expect you to sleep, Murdoch, but if you keep walking on that leg the doc is going to order you on bed rest. Seems to me you’d rather be able to see Scott when the time comes.”

Murdoch knew his son was right and the hours spent on his leg were only making it worse. He needed to rest and be ready when Boudreau came to see them and if that meant trying to be patient, he would do his best. One glance at Harlan Garrett told him the elderly man was thinking about something, but Murdoch knew he had little remorse for what he had done and what it had cost Scott Lancer.

Harlan Garrett heard the two men talking and had attempted to speak, but the look on his son in law’s face was enough to let him know his opinion was not wanted or needed. He knew now that he was wrong about Mortimer Carter, but he had his grandson’s best interests at heart. He’d made an error in judgement and would have to make Murdoch and Johnny see that. Scott would forgive him and that was the most important thing in the world. He knew the two men would try to convince Scott to return to Lancer, but he would not allow that. Somehow he would stop them from taking away the only reminder he had of Catherine Garrett. He turned his gaze back to the window and listened to the rain as it struck against the windowpane.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Claude Boudreau was beyond tired, his mind and body worn out with the effort it took to keep Scott Lancer alive. He looked at his hands as he scrubbed the blood from beneath his nails and reached for the clean towel hanging beside the sink. Stan Riley was in with the nurses, helping them settle their patient into a new bed and making sure there were no more surprises. It was a miracle the young man was still alive, and Boudreau prayed the strength he’d seen during Scott’s young life was still present. Rubbing the towel over his face and placing it back on the rack, the weary physician made his way toward the room where Murdoch Lancer was a patient.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Johnny heard footsteps coming toward the room and stood up as Boudreau entered. He glanced at the bed and wasn’t surprised when his father’s eyes opened and he sat up quickly.

“Doc, how is Scott?” Johnny asked.

“Well, he’s alive and right now I’d say we’re damn lucky he is. Mr. Lancer stay where you are!”

“I need to see my son!”

“And you will, but not today…or should I say tonight. Right now Scott is sleeping and with everything we had to do to him, I’d say that’s the best thing for him. I’m hoping he’ll sleep through the night and most of tomorrow because to be honest, Gentlemen, the next few days…actually the next week or more is going to be very hard on Scott. As you know he’s addicted to morphine and I’m afraid of the rattles I hear in his chest. If he doesn’t have pneumonia he’s damn close to it and that with the morphine and weakness could easily kill him. We’re going to need to stay on top of everything and make sure Scott doesn’t get worse, because he can’t afford anything more.”

“Claude, please make sure my grandson has the best care possible. Money is not an object,” Garrett said and stood his grounds when Murdoch Lancer stood and glared at him angrily.

“Harlan, it’s time you realized that Scott is my son and he doesn’t need your money,” Murdoch seethed.

“Now see here…”

“Enough! Look, I don’t know the whole story about what brought Scott here, but he is now my patient and I will not let him be upset by having you two come to blows over his well being. Scott has a long hard road ahead of him and he’s going to need all of you to help him through it so I suggest you put your differences aside and think about what’s important. Is that clear?” Boudreau warned and looked at the dark haired man standing beside the window. Of Scott’s relatives, this man seemed the calmest and yet, the physician sensed that he was the one with the most to lose. Taking a deep breath he looked at Murdoch Lancer and then Harlan Garrett and waited for both men to answer.

“Very clear, Dr. Boudreau,” Murdoch answered.

“Harlan?”

“I have always wanted what’s best for Scotty…”

“Funny way of showing it,” Johnny said softly, yet there was no mistaking the quiet anger he fought to hold in check.

“You better, Harlan, because if there comes a time when decisions have to be made then I will need Scott’s father’s permission to treat him. Is that understood?”

“Yes,” a partially subdued Garrett answered.

“Good,” Boudreau said and turned toward the door.

“Did you find anything else wrong with Scott?” Murdoch asked and watched the physician’s shoulders slump in defeat.

“There was a lot of internal bleeding, but I believe Stan and I were able to stop it. We’re going to need to make sure Scott does not move around too much and I’m afraid that is going to mean restraining him.”

“He’s not gonna like that,” Johnny observed, a slight grin on his face.

“Right now that doesn’t matter. Scott’s been put through so much that he’s not strong enough to deal with anything more and that includes opening his wounds which would also mean more blood loss,” Boudreau explained and sat heavily on the chair.

“What else?” Murdoch asked.

“I’ve put a tube into his stomach…”

“Again?” Johnny asked, anger evident in his emotive blue eyes.

“Yes. There’s no choice right now because we’re going to need to get food and medicines into him and with him unconscious it’s not likely that he’ll take it willingly. One of the things we will be giving him is called cone flower and it should help his system.”

“What about the morphine addiction?” Murdoch asked.

“We’re going to start weaning him off of it. I know I said I’d rather not use it anymore, but right now it’s the lesser of two evils. If we stop it altogether I’m afraid Scott would become extremely violent and would only do himself more harm. If we need to we will use chloral hydrate to subdue him until the worst of it is over with. He also has a serious fever and we’re going to need to keep bathing him with cool water. As I said earlier his breathing may be compromised and so he’s lying on a stack of pillows.”

“Is there any good news?” Johnny asked.

“I’m sorry, but I thought you’d rather hear the truth. Scott is in bad shape and he’s going to need you…all of you around him. He’s going to need to know that his family is here for him and that he’s not alone. Johnny, he’s asked for you several times since you brought him in and I think you’re going to be a strong point in Scott’s recovery.”

“I’ll do anything he needs, Doc,” Johnny said.

“I thought you’d say that,” Boudreau said and stood up once more. “Mr. Lancer, I believe you’re a patient here and I suggest you get some rest. Harlan, go home and get some sleep because Scott won’t be ready for visitors for a day or two at least.”

“I will get a room at the hotel across the street,” Garrett said.

“That’s fine,” Boudreau said and turned to the dark haired Lancer. “Johnny, you need to rest as well.”

“I will, Doc, but I’m going to take a walk and clear my head first,” Johnny told him.

“All right. Good night, Gentlemen. I’m spending the night here and the nurse will come get me if there’s any change in Scott.”

“Thank you, Dr. Boudreau,” Murdoch said. The physician nodded and left the room, leaving three worried men behind.

“Murdoch, I’ll be back in the morning,” Johnny said as his father eased back on the bed.

“All right, Son, bring breakfast?”

“I will,” Johnny said and motioned to Harlan Garrett to follow him from the room. Neither man spoke when they reached the main doors, and parted ways when they exited the hospital.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Boudreau looked at his patient and prayed they’d found everything that could cause them problems at a later time. Scott Lancer looked pale, whiter than the pillow his blond head rested against, but at least he was alive. He looked at the nurse and smiled when he recognized the woman. He’d hired her personally and knew she had the ability to go further than any female and hoped one day she would be allowed to get her license to practice medicine. He knew the time was coming when women would be given more rights, but he wondered if it would happen in his lifetime.

“Sammi, I’m going to get some sleep. I’ll be in the doctor’s quarters if you need me for anything.”

“Yes, Dr. Boudreau,” Sammi Newman agreed as she gently washed a cloth over her patient’s face.

“His father is a patient here and I want you to let him see Scott should he want to. His brother is also in the city and again he’s to be allowed access to Scott should he request it,” Boudreau explained.

“Yes, Doctor,” Sammi told him and continued to care for her patient. She heard the older man leave and sighed as she began to hum a soft lullaby that she’d learned as a child. She knew her patient was in for a long hard road, but he would not have to travel it alone. She heard a sound behind her and turned to see a young man staring into the room. There was a deep sadness in the blue eyes, and Sammi knew this man did not mean her patient any harm.

“How is he?” Johnny asked. He’d walked the streets outside the hospital for over an hour and felt the urge to check on his brother. He’d stood in the doorway, staring at the sight before him. Scott was bathed in the light cast by several lamps and there was no mistaking the damage inflicted on him. Bruises marred every inch of exposed flesh, but there wasn’t all that much exposed because of Boudreau’s orders to keep him restrained. The blankets that covered his body were also being used as a method of restraint and pulled tight around the edges. Johnny could see the red tube running into Scott’s nostril and understood it was being used to give him medications and nutrition. He heard the nurse speaking to him, but did not understand what she’d said.

“Are you all right?” Sammi asked softly.

“No, Ma’am, I’m not. I should have been able to stop this from happening to him.”

“What’s your name?” the nurse asked, leading the dark haired man to a chair on the right side of her patient’s bed.

“Johnny Lancer. Scott’s my brother…he’s hurt bad.”

“Yes, he is, Mr. Lancer…”

“Johnny.”

“Johnny, my name is Sammi,” Newman said with a warm smile as she reached for the cloth once more. “Scott is going to need a lot of emotional and physical help when he wakes up and I believe you’re going to play a big part in his recovery.”

“I’ll do anything to help him,” Johnny said.

“I’m sure you will, Johnny, but right now what he needs is for you to get some rest so that you can help him when he wakes up and asks for you.”

“I will…just needed to see him and make sure he was still with me.”

“Is Scott usually a strong man?”

“The strongest,” Johnny told her.

“Well now Scott is going to need you to be the strong one. I’ve been a nurse for several years and I’ve seen a lot of people come through the doors of this hospital. More often than not the ones who survived were the ones who had the support of their family. Scott is a lucky man,” Sammi said and moved back to give the dark haired man some time with his brother.

“Hey, Boston, looks like we’re gonna have a lot of work to do. Murdoch’s in a room just down the hall, but he’s not hurt bad, just needs to rest his leg. He’s bein’ stubborn too, and doin’ more than he should be, but he was worried about you, Scott. We all are. I gotta send a telegram tomorrow and let Teresa and the others know that we found you. She’s been worried sick, we all have and I wish Doc Jenkins was here. I trust Dr. Riley and Dr. Boudreau, but they don’t know you like Sam Jenkins does. He’d be a mite upset about the shape your in and would probably keep you tied down like this, but at least at Lancer you’d be in your own bed with Teresa worrying over you. You got your own private nurse here and I tell you she’s real pretty and if you stay asleep too long then I just might ask her to one of them cotillions you’re always tellin’ me about.” Johnny ran his fingers through his hair before gently placing his hand on his brother’s chest. He felt the slow rise and fall of the battered chest and whispered a silent prayer that Scott would recover and return to the land he loved and the family who cared about him.

“Johnny, you really should get some sleep,” Sammi tried.

“I just need to make sure he’s okay, Sammi,” Johnny explained and kept his hand in contact with his brother. He was beyond exhaustion, but could not leave his brother alone in a strange place. He heard the nurse working around him and fought to keep his eyes open, but the call of sleep was too strong. His head came to rest on the pillow next to Scott’s head, but his hand remained steadfast, keeping the feather light touch alive as he surrendered to sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Harlan Garrett stood before the large window overlooking the street and the hospital. Johnny Madrid, he refused to call him by any other name, had returned to the hospital and Harlan hated the thought of his proximity to his beloved grandson. Silently cursing Murdoch Lancer he looked at the empty glass and moved back to the table to refill the amber liquid. The whiskey was the finest money could buy, but he didn’t taste it, didn’t feel the fiery trail it made down the back of his throat when he swallowed, didn’t feel the relief from guilt he craved.

Harlan returned to the window and sought out the hospital doors once more. He fought the urge to return to the building because right now Murdoch seemed to hold all the chips, but the game was far from over. Somehow he would find a way to get through to Scotty and make sure he remained in Boston where he belonged. He remembered his previous visits to Lancer and seeming defeat at the hands of his son-in-law. Somehow Murdoch always came out on top, always beat him and kept Scotty from seeing the real truth of his upbringing.

Harlan nursed the drink in his hand as his hatred continued to leave a bitter taste in his mouth. He’d done everything for his grandson and all he wanted in return was loyalty. How could Scotty not see that? Hadn’t he brought Julie Dennison with him? Hadn’t he resorted to blackmail to bring him home? Couldn’t Scotty see how much he loved him?

“Damn you, Murdoch Lancer! You will not take him away from me again!” Garrett cursed and through the now empty glass across the room. It shattered against the wall, reminding Harlan how Murdoch had shattered his life by taking Catherine away from him so many years ago and once more vowed to keep Scott Lancer in Boston no matter what it took.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sammi Newman knew the two men were brothers, yet there were so many differences in their features. She could tell the two must have been close, but the closeness seemed to be a new thing. There was something about the way Johnny wanted to be near his brother, as if to distance himself would mean the loss of something recently discovered and coveted. During the night, Johnny’s hand had somehow captured his brother’s and it looked as if the dark haired Lancer was holding on for dear life.  She moved to the opposite side of the bed and gently touched Scott Lancer’s cheek. The bruises stood out dark and livid against the white pillow he lay upon and she knew head injuries were dangerous, especially when someone was already fighting for his life.

“You just keep holding onto him, Johnny,” Sammi whispered. She walked to the closet and pulled out an extra blanket and gently wrapped it around Johnny Lancer’s shoulders.

“…thanks…”

“You’re welcome,” Sammi said, a small laugh escaping when she realized this man was only half sleeping and really was protecting his brother. With a sigh she moved away from the bed and stood beside the window overlooking the street. Nothing moved beyond the small circle of light cast by the lamp on the table and yet, Sammi Newman knew that somewhere out there a monster moved in the shadows waiting for the time to strike. She knew about Mortimer Carter and had heard the stories about Scott Lancer’s injuries and also understood that Johnny Lancer would not let the man anywhere near his brother.

‘You’re a lucky man, Scott Lancer,’ she thought as she studied the two men. How many times had she longed for a sibling to confide in? Scott Lancer would not have to face the loneliness she had during her recovery and for that she knew just how blessed he was.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Harlan reached for the cup of coffee and sipped the strong black liquid before motioning to the owner of the restaurant for more. The breakfast lay untouched before him as he waited for the city around him to come to life. He hadn’t slept very well and knew he probably looked like hell, but he was determined to see his grandson today no matter what anyone said. Boudreau may be the head physician at the hospital, but it was his money that helped pay the man’s wages and he would gladly remind him of that if he needed to.

“Mr. Garrett?”

Harlan looked up and smiled at the pretty woman in spite of his anger. “Good morning, Julie.”

“Father told me Scott is home, but that he is hurt.”

“Yes, my dear, why don’t you have a seat and perhaps you and I could go see Scotty together. Would you like something to drink?”

“No, thank you, I’ve just been so worried about Scott.”

“Well, perhaps we should see if Scotty is ready for visitors,” Garrett suggested and stood up. He quickly paid for his breakfast and linked his arm with the pretty young woman who had once captured his grandson’s heart.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch woke to the sound of muttered voices and forced his eyes open. His leg throbbed with an intensity that set his teeth on edge and he forced his body upwards in the bed. It took a few minutes to remember where he was and he swung his legs over the edge of the bed just as Stan Riley and a nurse entered his room.

“Good morning, Mr. Lancer,” Riley said.

“Doc, how’s Scott?”

“There’s been no change…”

“I want to see him.”

“I know you do and as soon as I take a look at your leg and see about getting you some breakfast…”

“My leg’s fine and I’m not hungry.”

“Mr. Lancer, if you truly care about your son then you’ll let Dr. Riley tend to your wounds. There’s not much point in you collapsing in your son’s room now is there?” the nurse spoke sternly, but professionally.

“I’m not going to collapse.”

“Well, why don’t we let Dr. Riley be the judge of that and if he says everything’s okay then I’ll make sure you not only see your son, but have breakfast with him as well?”

“Better listen to her, Mr. Lancer. She tends to know what she’s doing and most of the time she’s right,” Riley said.

“Most of the time, Stan?”

“Yes,” Riley said with a grin. “Most of the time, Mother.”

“Mother?”

“Yes, Mr. Lancer. Stanley is my son and sometimes he needs to be given a piece of my mind. You have two sons and I’m sure you know how stubborn young men can be.”

“Yes, I do, and I’m proud of them.”

“As I am of my son, Mr. Lancer,” Mrs. Riley said as she eased the Lancer patriarch back on the bed. “Now, you just lie there and let him do what he’s good at. Lord knows his bedside manners can use some work, but his skills as a doctor were never in question.”

Stan Riley smiled inwardly at his mother’s praise and was glad he’d talked her into helping him with this man. Something told him Murdoch Lancer would be a lot easier to handle than if he’d been alone. With practiced ease, the physician removed the bandage from the wound and was pleased to see some of the redness had dulled to pink and the swelling was going down as well.

“This looks better than it did yesterday, Mr. Lancer. I think I’ll just have mother put a clean bandage on it and then…”

“I can go see my son.”

“Yes,” Riley said. “I’m going to get you a cane to keep some of the pressure off your leg.”

“All right,” Murdoch agreed. “Have you seen Johnny this morning?”

“He’s with Scott,” Riley answered softly.

“That young man will have a stiff neck when he wakes up,” Martha Riley told them. “Your son spent the night with his brother. Oh, don’t worry, Sammi took good care of them both.”

“Sammi?”

“Samantha Newman, Sammi to those who know her. She grew up in a home for orphaned children and I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone with her outlook on life,” Riley explained.

“Mr. Lancer, I don’t think there’s anyone who could take care of your son any better than that young woman,” the older nurse offered when she’d finished bandaging the leg wound.

“Thank you, Mrs. Riley,” Murdoch said accepting the cane offered by the physician.

“Just take it easy,” the doctor ordered.

“I will,” Murdoch said, frowning when he looked around for his clothing.

“They are in the dresser,” Martha explained and hurried to get his clothing.

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” the woman said and hurried from the room.

“You can sleep at your hotel tonight, Mr. Lancer, but I’ll want to check that wound again.”

“Sure, Dr. Riley, and thanks for everything you’ve done,” Murdoch said and waited for the physician to leave before grabbing his clothes and putting them on.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Johnny,” Boudreau said softly and watched the young man’s eyes finally focus on him.

“Hey, Doc,” the dark haired Lancer whispered and lifted his head from the pillow.

“Did you sleep well?”

“Sure,” Johnny answered sheepishly as he flicked off the blanket and knew he’d been caught.

“When I said I wanted you to get some rest I didn’t mean sitting in that chair all night,” Boudreau lightly scolded.

“Sorry, Doc, just needed to make sure Scott knew he wasn’t alone,” the former gunslinger said.

“Well, tonight you are to sleep in your own bed at the hotel otherwise I’ll think about banning you from the hospital. Right now I need to take a look at your brother and see how he’s doing so if you’d please wait outside.”

“I won’t get in the way.”

“I know you won’t because you won’t be here,” the physician said, his tone brooking no argument as his hand pointed to the open door. “You can come back when I’m done.”

“All right, Doc,” Johnny reluctantly agreed as Stan Riley entered the room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Murdoch leaned heavily on the cane as Johnny came out of Scott’s room. He smiled at the way his youngest son’s hair stuck up and knew Johnny had spent the night with his brother.

“You look tired, Son,” Murdoch said.

“I’m okay,” Johnny assured him. “How’s the leg?”

“It’s better than it was.”

“Damn it!”

“What’s wrong?” Murdoch asked of the anger that shone in the emotive blue eyes.</