Turning Point (by Molly and Con)

Summary:   A turning point for the family.
Category:  Lancer
Genre:  Western
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  5800

 


 

The hacienda nestles in a pool of moonlight, outwardly tranquil, deceptively serene. But peace is not to be found within the estancia walls. No one sleeps; hearts are heavy, burdened with unspeakable dread.

The previous day’s events had rocked the very foundations of Lancer. It had been a terrible day, a long day, and the ensuing night is proving longer still.

The waiting is unbearable and still it goes on. The bricks and ancient timbers that surrounded the grief-ridden seem too to be holding their breath, waiting like the flesh and blood mortals for a decision to be made. Would the head of our household choose to live or die?

His face is ashen, his pulse weak, every breath labored and possibly his last. It’s hard to look upon him but still harder to look away. And so we wait silently, quietly hurting, aching deep inside, longing for the nightmare to be over, to know either way.

I’ve prayed and I’ve pleaded, begged and bargained with God, all the things one does at times like these. It’s all I can do and I fear it’s not nearly enough.

Teresa sits opposite me at the other side of our father’s bed; she is pale but composed, tears held in check, but sooner or later I know they will fall. Emotion, like truth, will out.

My brother stares out through the window, out into the night, into the nothingness. He’s trying to lose himself out there, distance himself from the heartache that languishes here. It won’t work; I know, I’ve tried.

Like Teresa, he is holding everything inside. I can tell by his stance he is about ready to explode. I want to help him, but he won’t drop his guard and let me in.

Downstairs the old time piece strikes three: its chimes echoing through the silence. I can’t believe it is only twelve hours since…

*****

Murdoch had been due back before noon, but when that hour came and went, Scott had grown worried. By three, he was so concerned about his father’s uncharacteristic tardiness that he had ridden out to look for him. Unease had quickly turned to horror when he found the older man face down in the dirt, back shot and barely conscious.

Johnny had been in Green River, picking up supplies, enjoying the change of pace and making the most of a relatively rare opportunity to mingle with the townsfolk. Some were still wary of him, but most had warmed to him, and if he was honest, he to them.

He had been lured into the saloon, willingly enticed by the thought of a cold beer, and over that beer he had got chatting to a neighbor, Mr. Moses Riley.

Riley, sandy-haired and famously good humored, had reveled in the chance to share a few of the countless anecdotes he possessed of Murdoch Lancer with his son. The encounter had left a smile on Johnny’s face and given him yet another disarming insight into the man he was scared of getting too close to, the young man certain of rejection.

As he’d stepped out through the batwing doors, he’d spotted the ranch hand’s mount charging along the main street, alarm bells ringing when Walt had pulled his horse up outside the doctor’s office.

Johnny had run across the street, almost colliding with the older man as he’d hurriedly exited through Sam Jenkins’ doorway.

“Johnny! I was just coming to look for you. Your pa’s been shot; you’d best get home…” Walt had tried to instill some urgency into his voice. He had broken off in mid-sentence as the young man spun around and lithely leapt up onto the horse Walt had just ridden into town on.

The journey home had been the longest Johnny had ever made. His heart had hammered painfully in his chest, keeping time with the thunder of hooves beneath him. Lancer had finally appeared in the distance, looking strangely like it always did. So perhaps, Johnny had thought, things weren’t as bad as he so feared…his father wasn’t so badly hurt after all.

But Jelly had been waiting for him by the front door, the gravity of the situation etched on his whiskered face. Still he’d reached out to the younger man, offering him some hope. “The Boss ain’t a quitter; he’s got plenty of fight left in him yet.”

Johnny hadn’t answered; he’d just hurried inside taking the stairs two at a time.

Doctor Sam Jenkins had spent nearly two hours removing the bullet. It was buried so close to the heart that he had almost decided to leave it there.

“You’ve got to try, Sam, please,” Scott had pleaded, desperate to give his father a chance, no matter how slim that chance might be or how great the risk. Sam had to try.

Murdoch had survived the surgery but it had left him so very weak. His sons had wanted reassurance from the doctor, but Sam’s honest appraisal had shaken them badly. “I fear he has only a very slim chance of recovery. He’s lost so much blood, and that bullet caused a great deal of damage on its way in. I’m sorry, there’s nothing more I can do.”

Horrified, Scott had instantly turned to his sibling; the younger man had looked stricken, the doctor’s words obviously having the same impact on him. Teresa had gasped and swayed alarmingly; instinctively Scott had wrapped a comforting and supportive arm around her, telling himself he had to be strong — for Johnny, for Teresa and for his father…

*****

 ‘Father’ — the word reverberated in Scott’s head as he tried to connect the giant of a man he’d known to the frail and ever-weakening figure now lying before him.

The word still sounded a little strange to Scott, or rather his use of it did. Barely five months ago, after twenty-five years without a father, he had suddenly acquired one. Now it seemed he was about to lose him just as suddenly.

Five months! That was no time at all, and it had passed so quickly. So very much had happened since arriving at Lancer. He had found a deep affinity with the place, and more importantly, a kinship with the two strangers that were tied to him by blood.

It had not been that way at first, of course. No, at first, he had felt little more than a guest, and although he would never admit to anyone now, he had not planned on staying.

Curiosity and need had driven him here. He supposed that was what had kept him here too, in the beginning at least. The more he saw, the more he liked, and ultimately, as time passed, the more he cared about the place and, of course, the family the two strangers had quickly become.

Oh, they both infuriated him at times, and their wrongheadedness would frequently leave Scott shaking his head in disbelief. Yet at the same time, it seemed they all had become even more determined to unite what fate had so wickedly torn apart.

Their first encounter had been so awkward, so very strained. His impeccable manners had helped keep any bitterness in check, and the events of the following days had eased his seething emotions to tolerable levels. However, the following months had opened his eyes to so much about his father.

Murdoch was a good man. Fair and honest, he had built up his empire with hard work, fuelled by the hope of being able one day to pass on the fruits of his labor to his sons.

So in the scant few months he had been at Lancer, he had grown to love his father, yet it had not been easy. Murdoch had expected and prepared himself for his sons’ hatred, and he had erected a defensive barrier between him and them. He had appeared aloof and cold at first, but Scott had watched the way his father behaved towards Teresa and had seen the real man in those unguarded moments.

They had spent evenings talking about everything under the sun, their strained conversations turning slowly into easy, open and revealing moments shared and treasured by both men. Respect and trust had been built quickly, and the foundations of a love between a father and son had been laid. Scott realized now just how very much he did love the man he had once felt absolutely nothing for.

The relationship between Johnny and his father had not been so easy to build. Murdoch carried so much guilt about his youngest son. Scott knew his father loved Johnny, and also that he never expected that love to ever be reciprocated.

Johnny’s defensive instincts always seemed to be on high alert whenever he was around Murdoch. The boy had learned not to trust, not to believe in, nor to expect much of anything from anyone.

He seemed to feel unworthy of love, even his father’s, and refused to acknowledge what was so evident to Scott. Johnny masked his own blossoming feelings for his father with insolence or brooding silences. There had been times when Scott had wanted to shake his brother — knock some sense into his stubborn head, make him see that no matter what Johnny did or had done in his past, Murdoch would always, no matter what, love him. Sadly, unconditional love was not a concept Johnny understood.

Lately, however, their relationship had started to improve; Johnny had started to relax in his father’s presence. They had begun to talk, and had started to share something of themselves. It was still early days but both men were trying so hard. If Murdoch was to die now before they had had the chance to become close, to share the relationship both had been so cruelly deprived of, then Scott knew Johnny would carry yet another impossible burden.

His brother was beginning to grow restless; he had moved from the window and had begun to pace the floor. Scott knew it was a bad sign, but could only look on silently.

The younger man refused to meet his sibling’s gaze, but the fact it was upon him seemed to force his feet towards his father’s bed. There he stood alongside Teresa and placed his hand on her shoulder. Scott watched as Teresa reached up and covered Johnny’s hand with her own, wanting to give some comfort in return.

Teresa loved Murdoch; she fussed over him like a mother hen. She fussed over them all, but Murdoch was the center of her world — the bond between them strong and held dear by them both.

The girl had welcomed his sons with an open heart, prepared to love them for his sake, determined to make them stay for his sake, and for all their sakes.

Scott didn’t know how Teresa would react if Murdoch lost his fight for life. Grief affected people differently. Teresa was still so young and had already lost both her parents. Would he be able to help her through her grief, he wondered, was he strong enough? Teresa’s pain worried Scott, but Johnny’s worried him more.

Scott shuddered violently. His father was still alive, and here he was contemplating life without him! How could he be so callous? The realization of what he had been doing shocked him. But he had to acknowledge the only certainty in life was one’s own death, and that he would lose his father one day. ‘But please God don’t let it be now!’

The great house had already seen so much tragedy, so much sorrow, and now…and now it seemed fate was getting ready to deal yet another crushing blow to its inhabitants. For before their eyes, Murdoch’s condition was deteriorating, his breathing suddenly even more labored.

Teresa’s face was now wet with tears. She held onto Murdoch’s hand tightly, as if by doing so she could stop him slipping away from them all. Suddenly she let out a mournful sob, her shoulders heaved, as her body was wracked with uncontrollable spasms of grief.

Scott hurried to her side, hugging her, holding her until the she once again found her composure.

Glancing at Johnny, Scott was devastated by what he saw. His brother’s eyes were moist with tears, his head moved from side to side, his mouth forming a silent no. The younger man suddenly turned away, quickly leaving the room.

 “I’ll be back soon, I’ll bring him back.” Scott soothed, kissing Teresa on her cheek.

Scott followed Johnny to his room; there he found him checking his gun.

“What are you doing?” Scott demanded although dreading the answer.

“I’m going to find the bastard who shot him.” Johnny’s eyes held no tears now, and Scott was struck by his cold, emotionless countenance.

Scott placed himself between Johnny and the door; he was not going to let his brother leave them, not like this. “No you’re not; you’re needed here. Teresa needs you. I need you, and most of all, our father needs you.”

“My father needs me!” Johnny spat derisively, “Well, where was I when he needed me the most, when some gutless snake shot him in the back!”

“This wasn’t your fault! Johnny, please come back with me; he needs us, and we can be with him now!” Scott pleaded.

“Get out of my way, Scott!”

Grasping the smaller man roughly by the shoulders, Scott ground out, “You will have to go through me first, brother.”

“Scott, please! I can’t watch him die,” Johnny begged.

Scott tightened his grip on the younger man. “We will face this together; what ever happens, we will face it together.”

Johnny pulled away, shaking his head. “No, not again. I watched my mother die; I don’t want to remember Murdoch the same way.”

Once again Scott barred his brother’s exit, desperately searching for the right words to keep his brother where he belonged. “Johnny, if you go now, you will regret it for the rest of your life.”

“No!”

“He is strong; he is a fighter like you! We can not give up on him.” There was a long pause; Scott took a deep breath and added, “He never gave up on you.”

Johnny glared at his brother, and spat back in his anger and pain, “No, but he gave up on you.”

Scott had not expected that, and he bowed his head; Johnny’s words had cut through him like a knife. When he did find his voice, it trembled with emotion, “That is not fair.”

“He knew where you were all those years, Scott. Why didn’t he claim you?”

“Why are you doing this, Johnny?” Scott asked quietly, pain evident on his face.

Blind to the hurt he had caused, Johnny continued in a bitter tone, “Seems to me he could have tried harder to bring you home, like he could be trying harder to live right now! You stay if you want, but I’m not hanging around waiting for him to…”

Johnny couldn’t finish, the words stuck in his throat and Scott suddenly realized what was behind the emotional outburst. “You’re angry with him!”

“He’s turning his back on us again, Scott…giving up on us like he did before!” The smaller man snarled back.

“That’s not true, Johnny!” Scott replied desperately trying to instill some calm into his voice as his own emotions began to churn inside, “Not then and not now!” Not knowing what else to say or do, Scott turned and walked away; his world was falling apart and he seemed helpless to stop it.

As the blond stepped into the hallway Teresa’s cries met him.

“Scott, Johnny please…”

Scott ran towards his father’s room fearing the worst, entering it he rushed to the bed “What is it, is…”

“I don’t know. He grew so restless, as if he knew you weren’t here.”

Scott sat on his father’s bed and gently took hold of his hand. “I’m here, father.” Scott looked over at the door, relieved to see his brother standing there. “Johnny’s here too.”

Jumping to her feet, Teresa took hold of Johnny‘s hand and led him to his fathers side, quietly prompting, “Sit with him, let him know you’re here.”

Dropping heavily into the chair, Johnny began rubbing his hands up and down his thighs, rocking back and forth, trying desperately to hold himself together.

In between ragged breaths, the faintest whisper was heard, “Johnny!”

Wrapping his arms around himself, Johnny turned to his brother, his eyes pleading for help.

“Talk to him Johnny; he needs to know you’re here.” Scott reached over and placed a comforting hand on Johnny’s arm.

 “I’m here, Old Man,” Johnny breathed, hoping for some kind of response, but when his father quieted, seemingly weakening still further, he jumped to his feet and pointed at the older man shouting. “Don’t you do this, don’t you leave Scott. Not again. Teresa, she…she needs you. Come on, Old Man, fight for them!”

Wild eyed, Johnny stared over at Scott.

“Johnny, it’s alright,” Scott breathed, wanting desperately to comfort his distraught brother.

“No, it ain’t! How long we been home, Scott? He ain’t got no right! No right leaving us, not when we just found him!” The brunet approached the bed, angrily slamming his fists down onto the mattress. “You listen up, Murdoch Lancer. You’re real good at given orders; well, you’re gonna have to listen to mine now.”

“Please Johnny, don’t.” Teresa pleaded, her heart breaking for the young man.

“Teresa, she’s already lost one father! You can’t desert her now; she needs you, Old Man.” Johnny breathed in deeply then carried on his tirade.

“And Scott, he’s been without a father for all this time, and he… he loves you! If you loved him, you’d stay. You fight for him now, you here me!”

Murdoch began to stir, the renewed restlessness offering new hope.

“Go on, Johnny…” Scott now urged his brother, “You haven’t finished yet. Tell him how much YOU need him.”

Johnny stepped back from the bed and shrugged, wrapping his arms around himself again he bowed his head. “I can’t, Scott,” he whispered as his anger faded rapidly into despair.

“You tell him, boy; he needs to hear it!” Scott grabbed his brother roughly, and pushed him towards the bed, forcing him to sit beside his father. There he moved to stand behind him, his hands settling on his shoulders, squeezing them gently as he felt the younger man tremble in anguish. “Johnny, it’s alright to care about someone, to love them. There’s nothing to fear. Don’t hide your feelings from him any more; he’s not going to turn you away. He loves you, Johnny, you have to believe that.

Slowly the words began to register, and as they did, Johnny reached out to take his father’s hand in his; it felt so cold, deathly cold and Johnny shivered.

“Sorry Old Man, guess my temper got the better of me again. I’m a lot like my mother, but you know that, don’t you? Remember what you said, that first day — that I had her temper. Well you know, I’m like you too, I’m stubborn as a mule and… and I ain’t about to let you die.” Johnny wiped at his eyes at the tears forming there. “We’ve missed out on a lot, there’s been so much wasted time, and I’ve wasted even more since I came home, but it’s not too late… you just need to get well. And when you do…well…I told you, didn’t I, Teresa needs you and Scott, and well, I…I need you too.

Scott sat beside his brother. Wrapping a supportive arm around his shoulders, he prayed Johnny would continue his plea. There were things Johnny had to say. Whether their father lived or died, Johnny had to open up his heart.

“Look, I know I ain’t been easy on you, mouthing off at you; I didn’t mean to hurt you, but I know some of the things I said did. I just don’t know how to be around you; you scare me, I guess.”

Johnny smiled a little at that, Johnny Madrid was admitting to being scared, but then it dawned on Johnny, he wasn’t Madrid now. He was his father’s son and it was alright to be scared, to feel pain and to show his pain.

“Don’t you leave me, Murdoch, please, I need you, I…I love you, Old Man, please don’t leave us…” As the tears flowed, Johnny leaned over onto his father, holding him tightly. “Please.”

Scott’s tears began to fall then, no longer able to control his own pain.

Teresa’s heart was breaking for the three men she loved so dearly, and through her tears, she watched Murdoch intently, desperately seeking some sign that he had heard his son’s plea.

His breathing had evened out, becoming shallower but steadier, and he seemed at peace, as if ready to let go. Fear gripped her; perhaps Johnny’s words had helped release him from unseen emotional shackles, rather than help hold him in their world.

Stifling a sob, she dabbed at her eyes, and like her ‘brothers’, missed the fluttering of heavy eyelids as they battled to open.

But one by one they were all soon aware of Murdoch’s hand as it slowly and determinedly moved to rest upon his younger son’s back, patting it weakly in an attempt to reassure them all, before he slipped into a deep and healing sleep.

 

Three Weeks Later: 

Their father’s health had ebbed and flowed over the course of the first week after he was shot – but after that first night, Johnny had seemed to know that his old man would be all right.

He had shared much of himself in the fight for his father, and perhaps that was what was needed: a cleansing of his soul to save that of his old man’s.

After Murdoch had recovered enough for Sam Jenkins to declare, “He’ll probably live longer than any of you; the old bugger is just too damn stubborn to die,” Johnny had begun to worry about his brother. He could see in Scott’s demeanor, even in his eyes, that there was something that was bothering him.

Not that Scott was anything other than helpful and concerned, where his father was concerned. Big Brother was making sure, along with Teresa, that Murdoch followed the good doctor’s orders explicitly. And perhaps for the first time ever that Teresa could remember, she had informed the brothers, Murdoch Lancer didn’t seem to mind being, if not a model, a good patient.

The old man seemed to have confidence in his sons taking care of the planned and unplanned work that a ranch the size of Lancer incurred on a daily basis. Scott had met daily with Cipriano that first week, letting the Segundo oversee the ranch, but talking with him to keep informed, so that when Murdoch awoke fully, a complete, updated report could be given to him, without even being asked to do so.

Johnny too, had listened to Cipriano report on the ranch, but more often than not, he was found by his father’s bed, day and night, the need to be near him so strong.

Scott had let him, taking his lead from him, knowing when Johnny needed rest, ushering him to his bed, and then sitting himself with their father. Big brother had also made sure that Teresa rested properly, telling both of them that it would not do Murdoch any good if either one of them became ill because they had ignored their own needs.

Now that Murdoch was out of danger, the youngest Lancer, and the Miss of the manor were getting back to their normal routines. But was Scott resting? Well, Johnny wasn’t so sure about that. And it worried him. It also worried him, that he may be the reason something was deeply troubling his brother.

It had now been three weeks since the shooting, and while he had been itching to join Val in the hunt for the low-life that had back-shot his old man, he had told Scott he would wait until Murdoch was stronger. The time was near, and as Val now had a good idea of who it was, he wanted to join up with him in a day or so, if Val and the posse weren’t back by then. But now, now he had to right his wrong – and he needed his old man’s help.

Opening his father’s bedroom door, he peered in, hoping that he was asleep – ‘ain’t all that sure the time is right’ he had said to himself. But Murdoch was propped up in bed, reading a book — always reading something, just like Scott.

“John, you can come in. It is not necessary to creep around as if I’m on my death bed, you know.” Murdoch gave a smile to his son, encouraging him to come fully into the room.

As the young man came over and sat in the chair placed on the side of the bed, the Lancer patriarch noticed that his son seemed to have something on his mind. “What’s wrong, son?”

“Nothin’,” the young man responded almost defiantly. Then thinking better of it, he decided to ‘git it said’, as it wouldn’t do him or his brother any good to let it fester between them.

“Well, that ain’t exactly true; there is something I want to say.” Taking a deep breath, he started to get up, but his father placed his hand on his arm, holding him in place, as their eyes locked.

“Johnny, please, what is it you need to say to me? Is there something wrong?”

“Not sure, well maybe. Thing is… well, the thing is when you were, were…,”  Johnny couldn’t say the words ‘near dying’ as the memory of that night still clutched at his heart, almost taking his breath away, even though he knew his father was going to be okay. He tried again.

“That night, I couldn’t stand here and watch, waiting for…so I left the room, went to mine, was going to leave and hunt down the bastardo who had shot you.” His eyes turned dark with anger just thinking about what had been done to his old man. He turned his head a minute, would have starting pacing, if Murdoch didn’t still have such a firm grip on his wrist, holding him in place.

“Anyway, Scott came after me; he tried to reason with me, knowing I was not just angry, but afraid…afraid you were going to die on us. I didn’t want to listen, and well, he used all the right words, just … well. the thing was, I wasn’t in the mood to listen.

“He told me you were strong, a fighter, like me and that we couldn’t give up on you, I couldn’t give up on you. He said you never gave up on me. I was so angry at you for getting shot, at Scott for telling me what I didn’t want to hear, I said something to him out of anger.” Johnny lowered his head; he hadn’t meant to say it, it just….

“What did you say to him, son?” Murdoch spoke softly, not wanting to startle the boy, as he was coiled tightly, like a cat ready to pounce.

“I told him, no, but you gave up on him. Dios, I’m sorry, I didn’t…”

“Johnny!”

Scott stood in the doorway, hearing what his brother was telling Murdoch. He hadn’t wanted him to know. Couldn’t Johnny understand that? He didn’t want to bring up the past – a past that could cause him hurt, the hurt he had been feeling for the past few days, that he was working so hard to push back. He had found love for his father — he liked the feeling of that, wanted it badly — but Johnny’s words were hard to just ignore.

“Dios, Scott, please I’m sorry. I didn’t mean what I said. I was angry, afraid and just, hell, I don’t know… Brother, please forgive me.” Johnny had stood up, taken a few steps towards Scott.

“Scott, son, come here beside me.” Murdoch reached out his hand for his son, beckoning him to him, hoping his words would bring his son to him. “Perhaps this is not the time that either of us would have chosen to talk about it – but just maybe your impetuous little brother has given us an opportunity neither one of us would have taken. Johnny may have inherited a good deal of stubbornness from me, but you inherited quite a bit more, along with the awful trait of burying your emotions deep inside. Your mother helped me a great deal in understanding that no one was a mind reader. If you loved someone or had something to say, you had to tell them. I lost all that she had helped me with when she died.”

Scott had walked over to stand near his father’s bed, not sure he wanted this, but knowing he could not just turn and walk away – not with Murdoch still so weak and in pain from the bullet wound. He could not, would not be the cause of any setback to his health. He could, however, just throttle his brother! “Sir, now…”

“No, Scott, now is the time, and please don’t revert to calling me sir. You told me that night you loved me, both of you did. Johnny a little more forcefully than you, but I heard you asking him to tell me, to let it go. You knew the importance of it then, and I know the importance of it now.”

Murdoch shifted a little to look directly at both sons, now standing side by side. He motioned them to sit down; Johnny sat first on the edge of the bed, then Scott in the chair.

“I should have said this months ago — don’t know why it is so hard to share what I feel, what is in my heart. But let me say it now. I love you both more than I can ever say. You are my sons, a part of me. Johnny may have been born here, but it didn’t and still doesn’t mean that I love him any more than you, Scott. I loved you, my son, before you were even born. I mourned your loss to me, almost as much as I mourned the loss of your mother. She was lost to me forever; I would never have her back with me. You were taken from me, and I hoped and prayed that I would be able to one day bring you back to Lancer, to hold you in my arms.”

Murdoch took a moment to reach for a glass of water. As he did, his hand was brushed aside, and Scott took the pitcher and poured a fresh glass full, handing it to his father. After the Lancer patriarch refreshed his parched throat and dry mouth, he handed it back to his elder boy and turned his attention to his younger son.

“Johnny I want to ask that you leave your brother and I alone for a while, but before you go, I want to tell you both that I have owed you each the past that belongs to you – the past with your mothers, the lost years to us. I am a private man, and it is a hard thing for me to share feelings or memories of painful times, the love I felt for each woman I married. But since that night, I have realized that only I hold those memories to give to each of you. It is not right that I should take them with me. As your mother said, Scott, no one will ever know unless I say.

“Since I can’t go anywhere, it is a good time to talk to each of you. It’s time, my sons, it is time. So Johnny, if you will excuse us, your brother and I have some important things to talk about. When your brother and I are finished, today, tomorrow, whenever, I would like to do the same with you, son. And, so both of you understand, perhaps not right away, but sometime soon, I want you both to do the same with me.”

Seeing the confusion on their faces, he clarified what he meant. “You each have a past that needs to be shared with me. ‘Good or bad, right or wrong,’ as I so rudely said that first day you both came, it is part of each of you that contributed to who you are today, and I want to know, as your father, what happened to my sons while they were gone.”

Scott looked at Johnny, then turned back to his father and nodded. Johnny wasn’t sure that he would like bringing up those memories, and was about to say so, when his father interrupted his thoughts.

“Just say you will try, John; no promises, just that you will try. Okay?”

Johnny rose from the bed, and brushed his hand over his brother’s shoulders. “Gonna be okay between us, Boston?”

“Yes, Johnny, it is going to be okay; actually, already is.” Scott turned and smiled back at his brother.

“Well then, I guess I’ll be checking on what Cip and Jelly are up to. Can’t make no promises, Old Man, but I’m going to hold you to the part where you tell me about my mamma and you. The rest, well, we’ll just take it one step at a time.”

Johnny smiled at them both, the special smile that lit up his entire face. He walked out and gently closed the door. He walked quietly into his brother’s room, and took one of the two comfortable chairs Scott had placed by the French doors to the balcony shortly after he arrived. He carried it back and placed it outside the heavy wooden door to his old man’s bedroom, and sat down. The hacienda had thick walls and heavy doors, and unless you were bellowing, like his old man was apt to do from time to time, you just couldn’t hear sound from one room to the next. A visitor might not know just what was going on inside that room – but he did.

And today, no one, not even Miss Teresa, was going to see Murdoch Lancer until his father and brother had time to visit that past that had proved so allusive until a bullet almost took it away from them.

Yes sir, his father and brother, his family. He would watch out for them today – tomorrow, well, tomorrow would be time enough for the man that had almost taken it away.

***End***

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