Summary: Can Johnny forgive himself for his past? Does he want to?
Word Count: 1332
The hour is late; the hacienda at rest, the surrounding night reassuringly still. Moonlight peeks in through the open window, banishing midnight’s shadow with its silvery glow.
I’m tired; my body aches but sleep won’t come. Amidst the calm, I toss and turn and silently curse the wakefulness that grips me. Strange, isn’t it? How you can climb into bed unspeakably weary, fit only for sleep, only to find your mind at its most rebellious, the thoughts it contains intent on being aired. One will take prominence and instantly all hope of slumber is gone.
Tonight I find myself brooding over something that confuses and scares me. Right now it’s got me all tied up in knots. I see and sense it all around me, but I worry that it’s not really there or that it will be cruelly snatched away.
I gaze through the window and up at the distant milky orb. It hovers expectantly, waiting patiently to hear my woes. Me and the moon are old friends. He’s a good listener, the silent sage I turn to when my heart is burdened. No one knows me better than he. He knows how my past haunts my soul, how it will surely trespass on my future. He alone knows how very much this second chance means to me, what Lancer means to me. But I’m struggling, sinking, drowning in doubt and shying away from the lifelines being thrown to me.
Why can’t I just accept what is and believe in those that believe in me?
The answer hangs at the side of my bed, never far from my side, always within reach. For so many years, it was the only thing I dared put my trust in, the only thing I could be sure wouldn’t let me down. It replaced some of the things missing in my life, but as much as it has afforded me, it has equally stolen from me, and that Colt is all some people see when they look at me, something soulless and deadly, a killing machine. That’s why it’s so very hard to believe that the decent and the good could ever want to lay claim to me. I’m the black sheep, the bad apple, the bad seed.
It hurts knowing it didn’t have to be this way. Fate damned me and every road I took led me further astray.
It seems the man in the moon has no time for self-pity; he’s taken refuge behind an obliging cloud and is lingering there. I stare at the muted glow; its eerie beauty has a strangely calming effect. I heave a sigh and feel the tension ebb away.
I’ve never been able to look back on those lost years without anger and bitterness burning me up inside. But it seems I can’t move on until I’ve laid the past to rest; I have to forgive me my mistakes, learn to like who and what I am. Not an easy thing to do considering the path I chose to take.
I was alone and living on the streets by the time I was ten years old. Mama had died and my stepfather had quickly found someone else to share his bed. He didn’t want me around and I sure as hell didn’t want to be around him. I ran into the empty night, hungry, scared and so very alone. That needy kid told himself he didn’t need anyone, that he could make it on his own, and after a while, he actually believed it.
I lived off my wits, found work where I could and stole when I had to. I did what I had to do to survive. Then I picked up a gun and I taught myself how to use it. I was good, real good, and suddenly I was no longer an unwanted, worthless half-breed; I was Johnny Madrid, Gunhawk. Good at my trade.
My reputation grew, infamy distancing me still further from what I unknowingly craved. I made friends along the way but not one of them knew the real me. I found solace in the arms of whores and fell for those who could never have feelings for me. I expected nothing more from life, believing love wasn’t for the likes of me.
Not that I knew much about love. It was something I’d had little experience of; by the time I came to Lancer, I’d all but forgotten what it was.
That first day here, anger and hatred seethed inside of me. There was little room for much else, just enough space for curiosity to embed itself and how quickly that curiosity grew! I looked at Murdoch Lancer and somehow I knew he wasn’t the callous bastard I’d grown up believing him to be. I’d seen something in his eyes, something that inexplicably reassured me. Now there were two men I wanted to get to know; we shared the same blood. Despite what I said to Scott the next day, that fact did mean something to me.
It was hard at first, strangers trying to become family. Three stubborn men under one roof was a sure-fire recipe for disaster, and with so much hurt and mistrust to add to the mix, well, it was inevitable there would be fierce arguments and stony silences.
I came real close to leaving so many times. My old life beckoned; it was, after all, restriction and responsibility free. I wasn’t used to living by the clock or to taking orders, and when the old man came down on me, my tongue would bitterly fire back. I saw hurt flash in his eyes but even then there was that something I couldn’t identify; it remained constant, always burning bright.
At times I wished I was more like Scott, able to keep a lid on my temper. He’s never argued with Murdoch; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard him raise his voice to the old man. Me and him have had words, though; I’ve ranted and he’s reasoned, and somehow he’s always managed to talk me down off whatever mule or high horse I happen to have been riding at the time.
I didn’t know what to make of him at first, first impressions and all. That Dandy sure was a sight for sore eyes! I scornfully called him a tin soldier, not realizing at the time that he truly was made of metal. But Scott possesses more than strength and courage; he’s compassionate and caring, honest and true. I got me a fine brother, got me a best friend too. And I who once trusted no one now trust him with my life.
I wonder at times how he sees me; I’ve tried to be a brother to him, to be what he is to me. But he drew the short straw; I’m nowhere near as worthy. Yet, when I look in his eyes, I find the same reassuring light that I see in my father’s. It wasn’t there that first day but it’s there now; nothing seems to diminish it. No matter what I say and no matter how badly I mess up, it continues to shine in both men’s eyes.
That’s what’s keeping me awake; I just don’t understand it and I can’t reason it out. My head aches trying to make sense of it all. How can they accept me, accept what I’ve done? How can they . . . how can they love me?
The fact is they do and I should just accept that without question.
He up there obviously agrees; he’s taken center stage again, once more illuminating the sleeping earth below, reaching into my room to reassure me.
I bask in the pale light and soon my eyelids grow heavy. Sleep opens her arms but before I fall into them, I whisper to the heavens, “Until next time, old friend. Goodnight.”