Flesh and Fire by Robyn B

Word Count 29,274

I don’t own Lancer, not the characters or the stories of the show.  I do however, take them out for a run across the meadow.  The characters of my making can not be used without permission.  This story will have an R rating, due to language, scenes of torture and some adult situations.  There will be warnings posted beforehand.

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Chapter 1


Johnny tried once again to get comfortable on the bouncing seat of the stage.  He looked at his brother on the other seat, and he looked equally as miserable.

” This is the one reason I hate riding in these things.”

Scott sort of chuckled and totally agreed with his brother.  Then tried to get a more comfortable position.  They had a long ways to go yet.

Johnny slouched on the bench and pulled his hat down over his face.  He put his feet on the seat across from him and tried to get comfortable.

” Wake me when we stop Scott.  If it’s in a town, I’m all for buying a couple horses and heading home that way.  I’ve had enough of this trip Brother.”

The brothers had finally gotten a rhythm with the coach, and soon it didn’t seem so bad.  The brothers settled into their long ride.

It wasn’t a half an hour later, that there was the sound of gunfire, and the stage was slowing down.  Both brothers sat up in the coach and Scott ventured a look out the window.

” I see about five of them Johnny and a spare horse.  I’m guessing, but I think they are here for one of us.”

Suddenly, a !oud voice said, ” I know you are there’s Mestizo! “

The brothers locked eyes and Johnny slowly changed into his Johnny Madrid persona, and he said, very slowly and dangerously, ” I guess that solves the question.”

Scott slowly opened the door and was violently pulled from the inside.  He was thrown to the ground, a rifle cocked and aimed at his head.

Johnny came out and was instantly cold cocked with a handgun.  He hit the ground in a heap.

” Tie him to that horse and be quick!”

” Where are you taking him?!”

The leader squatted down and lifted Scott’s head by a handful of hair.

” It would be advisable to you Gringo, if you didn’t ask any questions.  My boss has been looking for this half breed for years.”

Scott looked at the guy’s brown eyes and saw the look of a very fanatical soldier.  His brother was in trouble and it was going to be up to him to get him away from these men.

He was released by that guy and his silver blue eyes swiveled to where his brother was thrown across the horse’s back.  His hands and feet were tied under the horse’s belly.  There was a rope around his mid section.  That rope was then tied around the saddle horn.  He was still out cold and Scott saw blood on the side of his head.

He swallowed hard and hoped his little brother was okay.  There was no way they would let him check, and they sure as hell weren’t going to volunteer any information to Scott.

The leader mounted up and took the lead rope to Johnny’s horse.  He looked down at Scott and he said, ” Don’t try to follow, or I’ll kill him.”

Scott slowly got up and watched as his brother was taken away from him.  His silver blue eyes kept watching as his brother got smaller and smaller.  Finally, the dust even vanished.

” Brother, I’ll find you and bring you home, I swear.”

The stage driver and his shotgun rider told Scott to get in and they’d take off.  There was a Sheriff that Scott could get help from to get his brother back before something happened to him.

As they took off, Scott’s mind could only fixate on Johnny.  He had to get help to get him back before they got to wherever they were going, and before they caused him pain or even death.

An hour later, the stage pulled into a town, and Scott got off to look for the Sheriff.  He found him and told him what had happened to his brother.

When Scott described the man, the Sheriff said, ” Sounds like Ortega, Manuel Ortega.  He’s been a thorn in my side for years.”

” Can you help me get my brother back, before he ends up hurt?”

” Sure, let me go rustle up my Deputy.”

He left Scott in his office and about twenty minutes later, the Sheriff and a kid about nineteen years old came in.  The kid wore a badge and the Sheriff seemed to put a lot of faith in him.

” Keep an eye on the town.  Be back when I can Jimmy.”

” Yes Sir Sheriff.  You can count on me.”

Scott and the Sheriff started towards the livery and the Sheriff held out his hand.

” Name’s Matt Mitchell and you are………….?”

” Scott Lancer from Motto Coya in the Joaquin Valley in California.  My brother Johnny was taken by this Manuel Ortega.  Have no idea why or where they are going.  That was about an hour and a half ago.”

Before they got to the livery Matt put his hand on Scott’s arm and stopped him.  He looked long and hard at Scott, and his silver blue eyes narrowed dangerously.

” Was only one person Ortega was ever looking for, and that was Johnny Madrid.”

He saw the hard swallow Scott did and then said, ” Your brother Johnny Madrid?”

Scott had to pull his anger in as he answered the Sheriff.

” He used to be.  He came home ten years ago and hung up his  gun.  He’s been Johnny Lancer for ten years.”

They moved again to the livery and Matt yelled for the owner.

“Harley!  I’m taking two horses and tack.  I’ll bring them back when I’m done!”

This little old man with a riotous head of grey hair came out of the back, muttering out loud.

” Ain’t no need to be yelling Matt.  I may be old and slow, but I sure the hell ain’t deaf!”

Scott held his snickers in as he watched these two men go back and forth about yelling and not yelling.  Finally, the two horses were saddled and Matt said, ”  We gonna need some trail mix and a couple canteens.  I do know where they are heading.”

They walked the horses to the General Store, and Scott pulled out his wallet.

” I’ll buy the supplies Matt.”

Soon, the horses were loaded with supplies and they started out.

Scott’s mind was spinning and his heart kept sending messages to Johnny.  ‘Hang on little Brother, I’ll find you.  Don’t give up on me Johnny!’

They soon picked up the tracks and Scott wondered how Matt had done it so fast.  He smiled and stopped.  He dismounted and called Scott over.

” You see this here print?  This is a special shoe on this animal.  His hoof was split by some Commancheros.  Ortega asked Harley to make a special shoe for the horse.  You see that mark and that’s his horse”

Matt started to look for a place to make camp, and he found a little stream with lots of green grass for the horses and they set up camp.  Scott couldn’t eat, he just nibbled on some jerky and drank coffee..

” We’ll find your brother Scott.  I know where he’s heading now.  When we come to the next little town, and I mean little town, we’ll find a few more people to come with us.  We’ll be able to rest on a real bed too.”

During the night, neither man could sleep, so they talked.  Matt found out about Johnny Madrid becoming Johnny Lancer and giving up his gun.  Out of the saddle Scott was leaning on, he pulled Johnny’s Colt from it’s hiding place.

” We had to take our guns out of the holster when we got on the stage.  After they left, I told the driver I wanted our guns back.  When we find Johnny, he’s gonna want his gun.”

Matt looked closely at it.  The gun was cut down a bit, no sight and Scott said it was modified by his brother to have a hair trigger.  When Scott said that, Matt forgot about asking to see it closer.  With his luck, he’d shoot himself in the foot!

Meanwhile, about fifteen miles away, Johnny had regained consciousness, just as they released the ropes and he crumpled to the ground.  That sure as hell didn’t help the major headache he was dealing with either.

The one called Ortega, tied Johnny’s hands in front of him with knots so tight, Johnny felt his hands falling asleep.  His legs were tied together and then he was tied to a good size tree.  At least he had the trunk to lean up against.

One of the men, a rather young looking boy, came over and gave Johnny some water.  Then this person wiped the blood from the wound on his head.

The soft brown eyes looked at Johnny and his sapphire eyes squinted in contemplation.  Slowly, a sly smile came to his lips.

Softly, and very quietly, Johnny said, ” What’s your name?”

The eyes darted to where the other’s were and then a soft and very feminine voice said, ” Angela.”

Johnny’s eyes sparkled and his mind began to work out a plan.  Things weren’t bad yet, and he thought he had a chance now to escape…………if he could convince Angela.

She quickly scooted away and Johnny’s blue gaze followed her every move.  The water she gave him helped to clear some of the cobwebs out of his brain.

Johnny knew he had to let his brother know he was alright, so far.  His mind and heart began to call to his brother.  The Lancer boys had a special bond, similar to the bonds that twins have.  They could feel each other’s pain and sense when they were in trouble.

Johnny’s mind was working at warp speed.  ‘Scott, I’m in trouble Boston.  I need you big Brother.  Don’t stop looking!!’

Soon, a fire was going and Johnny could smell coffee and beans cooking.  As he slowly began to drool, Angela once more came to his side with a cup of strong hot coffee and a plate of beans.  She began to feed him and Johnny’s eyes locked in her face.

At first, she wouldn’t look at him, but then slowly she raised her eyes.  As Johnny’s sapphire gaze locked on her liquid brown eyes, he slowly smiled………his little boy smile.  That smile never fails Johnny, and it worked this time too.

Soon, in between spoons of beans, Johnny softly started to talk to her.  She was obviously scared of Ortega finding her talking to Johnny, but her soft voice soon caressed over Johnny.

Johnny asked her where Ortega was taking him and why.  Her soft voice, in telling him, ripped into his heart.  Mexico!  And back into the clutches of Armond Castillo.

Oh Madre Dios!  That maniac was behind this? Johnny had a sudden shiver of panic go up his back and he had to swallow hard to keep it from taking over.

His mind began to spin wildly and he soon realized the plate of beans were done and the last sips of coffee were gone.

Angela softly said goodnight and went over to where her sleeping bag was.  She laid down and her eyes looked across the fire to where Johnny was.  She saw he was watching her as well, and she felt a small pluck to her heart.  She fell asleep with a soft smile on her lips.

Johnny got as comfortable as he could, and he chuckled to himself.

‘ Man, I’d give anything for the stage coach seat right now!’

Before Johnny managed to fall asleep, he sent feelers out to his brother.  He felt sure they were reaching him and he seemed to rest easier.

Scott and the Sheriff and the other men they had collected in the small town, were settling in for the night.

Scott shook his head and chuckled softly.  Matt sure didn’t lie when he said it was a small town.  Three buildings, livery and a saloon.

He had just put his head down and he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his chest.  He sat up quickly and Matt, in the other bed, sat up as well.

Matt saw Scott rubbing his chest and he became a little alarmed.

” You okay Scott?  You need me to see if I can rustle up a Doctor?”

Scott stood up and rubbed his chest again.

” No, I think I know what it was.  My Brother.  I told you we have a bond like what’s between twins.”

He sat on the bed again and looked across the room and Matt had a perplexed look on his face.  Scott smiled and continued.

” We developed this bond between us almost immediately after meeting.  Johnny began to teach me things and watch out for me.  One day, I was out checking the streams for blockages.  I found a huge dam built on one of the main streams, and pulled a couple of the heavier branches out.  Well, the whole thing came down and I got hit on the back of the head with a couple large branches.  Knocked me out.  I fell into the branches and it held me up from the water.  About that time, Johnny came galloping up.  He got me out of the water and waited until I retained consciousness.”

Matt sort of squinted his eyes and said, ” Well, he just rode up as the dam was falling.”

Scott laid back down and said, ” No, he was heading to Black Mesa, that’s about a twenty minute ride from where I was.  Johnny had said, after he’d gotten me out of the stream, ” I’d felt a pain in my head and like I was in water in a position of drowning.  I just knew it was you Boston.”

” Boston?”

Scott chuckled in the dark.  ” That’s his nickname for me, because when we met for the first time, I had on a frilly shirt, suit and top hat.  I told him that was high fashion in Boston, where’d I’d been raised by my mother’s family.  I’d even had a pair of plaid pants that he insisted I give to Maria, our cook, to make as a scarecrow for the gardens.  Johnny would cringe every time he thought of those pants.”

It got quiet, so Scott thought Matt had fallen asleep, but no, he was still awake.

” You and your brother developed this sixth sense about each other.  Think that’s cool, wish I’d had that with my little brother.  Maybe he’d still be alive if I did.”

Scott got a sad soft look on his face, and his mind and his heart went out to his brother, to give him courage and to know he was on his way.

In the morning, Scott and Matt woke at the same time, dressed and went out to the main room.  Coffee and eggs were cooked and on the table.  They sat down and joined the other four men.

Two were brothers, Larry and Kevin Jones and the other two were Jason Marks and his cousin Percy Watkins.  They all were very good at tracking.  Matt had used the before.

Scott ate some eggs and a biscuit and drank two cups of coffee.

” This is good.  Who’s the cook?”

Percy looked up and smiled.  ” I guess that would be me.  It will fill you up and you won’t starve.”

Everyone laughed.  After they were done, they all went to the livery and saddled their horses.  Scott noticed they had two pack horses, and they loaded them up with all they needed.

They began the journey once more.  Matt telling everyone who they were tracking and why.  Jason swore under his breath and he said, ” So Ortega finally found Johnny Madrid.”

Scott turned in his saddle and his silver blue eyes locked on Jason, and they weren’t friendly.

” His name is Johnny Lancer and he’s my Brother.”

Jason looked at the others and said, very softly and with genuine feeling, ” I didn’t mean anything Scott.  It’s just we’ve been dealing with this maniac for five years.  He cones to town, throws his weight around, torments the older folks, always asking them if Madrid was nearby.  It just gets old.  But I apologize.”

Scott’s silver blue eyes defrosted and he sensed Jason was being truthful in his apology.

” Thank.  I’m just protective of my little Brother is all.”

They all continued to ride and soon there was another sighting of Ortega’s horse’s shoe.  South, yep they were heading south with his brother.  He had to get Johnny away from them, before they got to Mexico.  He could disappear so easily down there.

Johnny was back on the horse, once again on his belly.  He almost asked to ride up in the saddle, but Ortega had an ugly look on his face right now.  So Johnny rode belly down once more.

Around lunch time, they stopped and he was once again released from the saddle, only to be tied to a tree once more.

When Angela came with the plate of beans and cup of hot coffee, Johnny once more tried to talk to her.  Angela kept darting glances to Ortega and but her lower lip.

Finally, she began to answer Johnny’s quiet questions.  Her soft lilting voice soothed Johnny’s jangled nerves.

Softly, in between spoons of beans, Johnny’s quiet voice began to weave his spell over her.  Soon, he saw the look in her liquid brown eyes that said she’s do anything to help him.

” All you have to do is loosen these ropes, and I can escape when everyone is sleeping.”

” You won’t get far without a horse and they have someone guarding the animals.”

Johnny leaned forward so when he talked softly, his warm breath caressed across her cheeks.  Johnny watched her  eyes close and he could tell a gentle shiver went thru her body.

” Honey, I’m good at blending into the scenery.  All I need is a chance.  They get me to Mexico and in Castillo’s clutches, I’m a dead man!”

Johnny’s sapphire eyes sparkled a bit as he watched Angela loosen the knots around his wrists.  He slowed his breathing down and his mind began to plan his escape.  He thought about Angela being left to Ortega’s temper, and he shook his head.  He couldn’t go there.

When the plate of food and coffee was done, Angela got up and went to her blanket.  As she got ready to go to sleep, she saw Ortega and one of his men talking very loud and very animated.

Angela snuck a look at Johnny, and she saw he was concentrating on the conversation, even tho it was in Spanish.

Soon, she saw Ortega striding to where Johnny was tied up.  Ortega leaned over and tested the ropes.  When he found they were loose, he backhanded Johnny.

As Johnny’s tongue came out to lick the blood from the corner of his mouth, he saw Ortega point to Angela.  The man with him walked to where she was.  He pulled her to her feet and pulled her to where Johnny was still tied and on the ground.

Ortega grabbed her chin roughly and said, in her face, “Did you loosen those ropes bitch!? “

Angela was suddenly scared.  Her eyes grew as large as a dinner plate and she began to shake.  Ortega put both hands on her shoulders and shook her till Johnny though her teeth would start to rattle.

” Did you?!  Did you loosen those ropes!?”

His voice was beginning to sound very threatening and Angela looked at Johnny.  Tears suddenly filled her eyes and she softly said, ” I’m sorry Johnny.”  She looked down and quietly said she had loosened them.  There was the sharp sound as Ortega’s hand connected with her cheek.

” Put her in my tent and watch her!”

Someone dragged her away, kicking and screaming.  He then turned to look at Johnny.  His eyes took on an evil look and he said, ” I want him spread eagle between two trees, NOW!”

                             **** ALERT ****

Johnny was roughly manhandled and soon found himself at a disadvantage, tied to the trees.  His arms were stretched way up above his head.  His legs were also tied to the buttons of the treesmind ne of Ortega’s men walked to his saddle on the ground by the fire and retrieved a long bull whip.  After the man handed Ortega the whip, he walked to Johnny.  His hand snaked out and he ripped Johnny shirt down his back.  He left the pieces on his arms and tucked into Johnny’s pants.

The man suddenly punched Johnny in his side.  Johnny flinched in pain.  He couldn’t curl up as he was tied, and he began to breathe thru the pain.  He knew what was going to happen, and he tried to brace himself as best as he could.

This huge man came to Johnny and without a word, he punched him in the gut.  It took Johnny’s breath away and he  sagged in his bindings.  He tried to breathe thru this new pain and was just getting to the point of it being pushed to the back of his mind.  He was trying with all he had to not crying, but this guy began to rain punches everywhere..

There wasn’t a part of Johnny’s torso that wasn’t battered and bruised.  He was sweating and bleeding from some cuts, his breathing was hard.  He did not cry out or beg the guy to stop.

In Johnny’s muddled mind, he could hear Ortega tell the guy to stop.  Johnny kind of took a deep breath, or as deep a breath as he could.  He could tell his ribs were bruised.  He couldn’t tell if there were any cracks in them.  All his mind was telling him was he hurt and he had to get under this pain.  Especially before Ortega began with that whip.

Ortega walked to Johnny and grabbed a handful of his sweaty black hair and yanked his head up.  Johnny’s vivid sapphire eyes were filled with hate and Ortega took a step back.

He bent down and snarled in Johnny’s face.

” You think that was your punishment for trying to escape Mestizo?  Oh your pain is just beginning and you will think twice before trying to sweet talk that bitch in my tent.  Who will have her punishment after I’m done with you.”

Johnny’s eyes slanted a bit, because of the sweat s!using down his face.  He ran his tongue slowly over his bleeding lips.  Then Johnny Madrid raised his head and began to get mouthy.

” You think that Castillo would want his prize to be damaged?  He just might take his anger out on you Ortega.”

Suddenly, there was a slap and his head went to the side from the impact.  Once again, his tongue slid over his lips and he tasted new blood, the coppery taste mingled with the seat that was running down his face.

” Manuel! “

Thru his new pain, for one his head felt heavy once more, as it did after he was cold cocked at the stage with his brother.  Scott!  He felt his hair being released and he sensed Ortega leaving.

Johnny began to think of Scott once more, and there was a whistle that penetrated his thoughts.  Then the connection of the whip against his skin.

Johnny sucked in a breath and kind of tried to arch his back away from this new assault.  He was tied to tightly and his body was stretched firmly.  The reason for Johnny’s body to be stretched tightly, was to ensure that the whip made the smoothest and deepest marks into the part of the body being targeted.  In other words, to inflict the greatest pain.

Over and over, the whip bit into his flesh.  Johnny tried so hard not to show weakness, by crying out.  Johnny even bit the inside of his cheek to keep from crying out.

After Manuel was told to stop, Johnny had no idea how many times the whip had landed on his back.  He felt the white hot pain in his back and he lowered his head to his chest.  He was breathing hard, trying to ease the pain screaming in his back.

As Ortega and his men began to walk away, Johnny felt hot tears slipping from his eyes.  He could feel the tremors as they raced up and down his body.  His mind had too many pains to deal with, and Johnny felt himself shutting down.  He could smell the copper smell of his blood, and he knew his back was torn up.

Before Johnny succumbed to the darkness, he heard Angela’s screams as Ortega’s beat her with his belt for helping the half breed.  His eyes slowly closed and he tried to think if they were going to leave him hung up like this all night.

Before Johnny could form another thought, he was suddenly doused with a bucket of brine water.  His head flew up and a cry of pain slid from his lips.

The tears came faster as they slid down his already wet cheeks and the tremors were stronger than before.  Johnny could feel the cramping in his thighs, his belly and his arms as he tried to control one of the pains colliding everywhere on his body.

” Can’t have them become infected, now can I half breed.  Sleep well.”

With those spoken words, Johnny finally succumbed to all the pain his body was battling, and his eyes closed and he slid into the darkness.  The place where pains didn’t exist and Johnny felt safe.

                           ****  END ALERT  ****

Scott and the men with him were sitting down to a meal of beans and coffee, when Scott’s hands suddenly dropped the cup and plate.  His arms were trembling and he felt a white hot pain in his back.

Matt and the Jones brothers were instantly on alert.  Matt walked to Scott and saw he was in extreme pain.

Matt squatted down next to Scott, put his hand on his back and softly talked him thru this attack.

” Breathe Scott.  Slowly.  Work thru the pain.  Slowly Scott, relax a little.  The pain is leaving.  It’s okay Scott.  Breathe man.”

With Matt’s soft words, Scott soon was released from the pain that raced thru his body.

The other four men stood nearby and just stared at Scott.  He didn’t have any wounds on his body, but to them, he was in extreme pain.  Percy was the only one who was a little spooked watching this all unfold before him.

” Scott, you okay Son?  Was it your brother?”

” Yeah, he’s been attacked, severely, and if I’m not mistaken, he’s been whipped.  My back feels like it’s on fire!”

” Damn!  He might not make it to Mexico if that maniac doesn’t curb his animals.  I’m sure he’ll be okay Scott.”

Scott’s silver blue eyes were filled with pain and sorrow as he looked at Matt.

” We have to find him Matt.  He can only take so much pain, before he becomes unconscious.  If they are whipping him, he’s going to develop a fever.  My Brother can turn a fever into a life or death situation.  I’d very much like to avoid that, this far from home and our Doctor. “

Matt rubbed his chin and he suddenly said, ” Mount up men!”

Scott slowly mounted and settled into the saddle.  His heart ached for his brother’s safe return.  He turned the horse south and they all began their journey, one again, to find Johnny once more.

As they rode, Scott began to think of his little brother.  How could a stage coach ride home end in such a disaster.

Scott raised his eyes to look up into the sky and he silently prayed to the Gods watching over them all, to please, please keep his little brother as safe as can be.  That he wasn’t ready to lose him yet.

Unconsciously, he kicked the horse’s sides and he increased his speed.  Matt and the others followed.  Matt came up along side of Scott and their eyes met for for a moment.  Scott saw the slight nod of Matt’s head and the small smile come to his lips.  Scott breathed out a small soft sigh of relief.

Johnny had been taken down from the ropes sometime during the night.  He was placed in a tent, on a sleeping bag.  There was an armed guard outside the open flap.

He woke very very slowly, feeling every pull of the wounds on his back.  Johnny noticed he was on his belly and his hand had a metal cuff on it, and that was attached to the pole in the middle of the tent.

Johnny’s groggy head did nothing to help his pain.  His whole body hurt and he didn’t think there was one inch of his body that didn’t throb with pain.

He could feel a bit of a breeze across his back, so he figured out he was shirtless as well.  He wanted to look around, but every time he tried to move, the pain that shot thru his body caused Johnny to gasp out loud.

‘ Dios!  That bastard really tore up my back.  I can’t tell if any of my ribs are broken lying like this either.’

It was so much easier to just close his eyes and sink back into that darkness that was calling to him away.  Johnny didn’t think anyone was going to come into the tent and tend to his wounds.

As Johnny’s pain filled sapphire orbs began to close, the breeze from the tent opening was slowly disturbed.

Despite the fact that Johnny was in the grips of the darkness that called for him, he heard, in his sub-conscious, the soft gasp of the person who came in.

” Oh Johnny, I’m so sorry he hurt you like this.”

The soft words washed over Johnny, and he seemed to relax a bit more.  The soft cloth that she slid over his bloody welts, was cool and refreshing.  Well, as much as it could be.  

As Angela began to care for Johnny, the tears silently ran down her warm cheeks.  A few fell onto Johnny’s back and she gently wiped them away with the cloth she was using.

She worked for hours, tending to the raw and bloody wounds on Johnny’s back.  She’d shake her head every now and then.  Some of these needed to be cleaned out with antiseptic and she didn’t have any.  There also were a few that she knew had to be stitched, but she had no needle or thread to do it with.

The only thing Angela could do after getting them as clean as she could, was to wrap bandages around them.  But even that wouldn’t help.  They’d have to cleaned and re bandaged at least twice a day, and she wasn’t sure there was enough supplies to do it with.

She resolved to find a way to help Johnny.  Even if she had to wash the bandages she had in streams.  They wouldn’t be sterile, hell, they wouldn’t be very clean either.  She had to try.  He didn’t deserve to be whipped or beaten like he’d been.

She gently caressed his sweaty black hair from his face.  She marveled that it was silky, even wet from sweating so much.  He bad a pail of clean water and a soft cloth that she was willing his sweaty face and what part of his chest that wasn’t covered by bandages.

Angela had made a sort of cushion to put his back against after she wrapped his back up.  She dipped his bare arms with the cool cloth as well.

She had no idea what time it was, but she could feel her eyes getting heavy with sleep  ‘ Just for one minute I’ll close my eyes and rest.’  She lowered her head to Johnny’s bicep and before she knew it, she was asleep from her exhaustion.  Before she got too deeply asleep, she thought his warm and muscular his bicep felt under her cheek.

She was still asleep on Johnny’s arm, and she felt a soft caress to her cheek.  The fingers traveled slowly into her brown hair and she sort of softly sighed.

As her eyes opened and she sat up while still sitting on the ground, she turned to look at Johnny.  His blue gaze was filled with his pain, and she also noticed how he was so pale.  Angela also noticed how Johnny was trying to mask the extent of his pain.

She put the cloth into the pail of warm water, and gently wiped Johnny’s face.  His deep sapphire eyes slowly closed and his soft quiet voice gently said, ” That feels nice Querida.  Do you think I could have some water?”

Johnny’s attempt at a soft smile ended in a grimace, as pain snaked across his body.  Angela slid her hand to his cheek and she felt him leaning into her gentle touch.

She got up and left the tent.  She came back with a canteen.  Even tho the water was beyond tepid, it soothed Johnny’s very dry throat.

Johnny could feel he had a fever, his whole body felt like it was on fire.  His back, well that was where the majority of his pain was.  He seemed to remember being whipped and beaten on, but anything too specific left his mind a bit foggy.

” You need to eat Johnny, but I have nothing to make a broth out of.  And I doubt Ortega would kill a rabbit so I could.”

” Ahh, it’s okay Angela.  I don’t know if I’d be able to keep anything down much, beyond water.”

Thru the morning hours, Johnny drank water, slept a lot and had his bandages cleaned, along with his wounds.  Angela knew they were infected and if she didn’t find a way to clean them out better, Johnny was going to die right in front of her.

At one point, Ortega came into the tent and glared at Johnny lying on the pallet.  He saw the sweat, pale complexion and heard the labored breathing.

He walked over and lifted the bandages Angela was just wrapping around Johnny’s torso.  He basically cringed at the sight and smell of the infected welts.

” Why didn’t you tell me it was so bad woman!”

She lowered her eyes and said quietly, ” Because I didn’t think you cared. “

” Dammit!  Now I have to find a Doctor and get him at least a little bit mended.  If he dies before Castillo can deal with him, I don’t even want to know.”

He left the tent all in a fury, and Angela cringed at the thought of what he was going to do to Johnny now.

” Get ready to leave in thirty minutes!”

‘ Oh God!  Johnny won’t be in any condition to ride a horse!’

Angela looked down at Johnny and she felt warm tears filling her eyes.  She gently shook his shoulder until his pain filled blue eyes opened.  She gently smiled at Johnny and she saw his eyes soften a little but.  Always, he tried to hide his pain from her.

” Manuel said we are leaving in half an hour Johnny.  I’m afraid you won’t be able to ride.  Your back is infected and you have a fever.  I don’t know how bad it is, but I don’t want you passing out and falling off the horse.  I was thinking, maybe you could ride on my horse, with me.”

Johnny tried to focus his fever bright eyes on Angela, and he softly said, “Honey, I can ride a horse by myself.  I won’t fall off.”

Johnny tried to smile and it suddenly turned into a grimace, as the pain laced thru his back.  Johnny’s hand snaked out and he grabbed Angela’s hand.  She held on tightly, trying to give him her energy.  He was going to need it.

As she watched Johnny’s eyes close, her heart broke once more for the condition he had been put in.  Damn!  Manuel could be so stupid at times!

Angela helped Johnny to sit up and she checked his back.  She was disgusted as she saw the green infection all along the welts on his back.  The wounds looked so red and angry to her and she again feared he would die if she couldn’t help him.

She changed the bandages and cleaned some of them with warm water.  She heard Johnny’s soft hiss of pain a few times, and knew she was hurting him, but kept going.  Winding the rest of the clean dry bandages around his torso.

She turned to look at the rag that had been his shirt and picked up his short black hole to jacket.  She knew it would be heavy against his wounds, but would add some protection from the sun and dust.  She rolled his shirt up and put it in her dress pocket.

She and Johnny slowly stood up and he swayed back and firth, finally leaning heavily against her body.  As they walked very slowly out of the tent, Angela was sure she saw silver tears leaking from Johnny’s pain filled eyes.

She saw his horse saddled and waiting and she tried to help him up into the saddle.  As he swayed and feel forward onto the neck of the horse, she knew there was no way he’d be able to stay in that saddle.

She got up behind Johnny in the saddle, and gently pulled him back to rest against her chest.

Angela almost laughed out loud as she thought, ‘Dios!  You are so heavy Johnny.’

Everyone was dismantling the tents and packing up their stuff.  Someone handed her filled canteen and she could tel! It was cool water.

As they slowly started out, she kept up a silent prayer to keep Johnny alive until she could get him help.  At one point, as he sagged heavily against her, she knew he’d become unconscious.  That was probably the best thing for him at this point.

Three hours later, Scott, Matt and his men came upon what was left of their camp.  Scott saw the bloody and pus filled bandages that was strewn on the ground.

Scott’s heart began to break all over as he realized those had been on Johnny’s body.  Which also meant, not only did he have bleeding and infected wounds, he possibly had a fever too.

As Scott slowly dismounted, Matt saw the look on Scott’s face.  He’d never seen such a look of distraught anguish on anyone’s face, as he saw on Scott’s face.  His heart went out to his young friend and he could relate to how Scott had felt.  He felt that same way when his brother, Paul, was taken from him.  He would do anything to shield Scott from that pain.

Jason was squatting near the fire ring.  As he pulled his hands away, he said, “Matt, they look left, maybe three four hours ago.  We’re gaining on them”

Scott turned to look at Matt and he quietly said, ” If it’s Johnny who is hurt, they may be having to travel slowly.”

He looked around and then added, in a very soft voice, “Don’t know where we are, but I don’t think we are in Mexico.”

Scott’s heart fell further when Larry came up to Scott and put his hand on Scott’s shoulder.

” We’ve been in Mexico for about thirty minutes Scott.”

” Oh God!  Rurales!  They want Johnny dead!  We have to find him and get him out of Mexico again.”

Scott mounted up and Matt saw, not a distraught young man, but a brother who was determined to find his brother, at any cost.

They turned their horses and began once more to track Johnny and his captours.  Scott’s jaw suddenly locked and he was again fixated on finding his little brother, come hell or high water.

Silently, Scott kept up a prayer vigil.  ‘ Hang on little Brother.  I’ll find you.  Don’t give up Johnny, I’ll find you.’

Scott and the men with him moved carefully, but at a rapid pace.  Ever watchful for Ruarles.  Scott hoped none would find Johnny.

All he knew was who had Johnny now, nothing about who was the one who put this monster on Johnny’s trail.  He holed he could talk the person out of harming his brother, he had to.  He just couldn’t return to Lancer without his little brother.

As Scott and the men with him continued on their way, the men who held Johnny captive were entering what appeared to be a ghost town.

Suddenly, men appeared along the rooftops of the buildings, rifles cocked and aimed towards the small group of people who were entering the town limits.

Ortega looked up and shouted, ” Tell the Boss I’m here with his prize!”

A man left the rooftop and then there appeared a large Mexican at the doorway of one of the buildings.  Ortega looked and smiled, an almost feral smile.

” Ah Manuel, you found him.”

He walked towards the horse Angela was trying to control.  He was getting a little antsy standing still.

Armond Castillo looked up and smiled, a perfectly evil smile, “Little sister.  So nice to see you my dear.”

Angela looked down at her brother and said quietly, ” I had no choice Armond.”

Castillo waved to a couple men who were waiting nearby.

” Help my little sister down and take her to a room to clean up.  Take my prize to the barn and watch him.”

Two men took a hold of Johnny, and about yanked him off the horse and out of Angela’s hands.  She suddenly became angry and she shouted, ” Be careful of his back.  He’s been whipped and it’s infected!”

Armond Castillo stopped walking and suddenly turned to look closer at Johnny.  He saw he was unconscious and rather pale.

He then slowly, very slowly turned to Manuel Ortega and in a quiet deadly voice he said, ” What did you do to him?!”

Ortega became very fidgety and he stammered and stuttered

as he said, ” Well, he tried to escape and I had to teach him a lesson.”

Suddenly Angela spoke up as she stood in a doorway nearby.

” No, that’s not true!  He whipped him as he was stretched between two trees, and then he threw a bucket of brine water on his back.  He was left hanging up all night.  I had no medicine to help him!  And now they are infected and he’s got a raging fever.”

She looked at Manuel Ortega and her brown eyes were filled with her hatred of that man and what he did to Johnny.

” Is this true Ortega?!”

When Ortega didn’t answer, Castillo backhanded him.  He turned to the two men holding Johnny up and lifted his short jacket up.  He saw the blood and green pus covering the dirty bandages that were around his body.

” Take him to a room in the hotel and find that Doctor.  I want him healthy and healed!”

Castillo then stalked off followed by two men who never left his side.  Now he had to think over his plans, which he had to stop until Madrid was healthy enough.  All his work and plans were now ruined because of Ortega and his stupidity.  He had to do something and he had to do it now.  This was the last time Manuel Ortega would screw up his plans for revenge.  He quietly talked to the two men with him and one left his side to take care of what his Boss wanted him to do.

When that same man rejoined his Boss, he nodded to Castillo and the smile that came to his lips was chillingly evil.

Johnny had been taken to one of the rooms and layed on a bed.  A rotund man with wire glasses was looking at his back when Armond Castillo joined him two hours later.

” How is he Doc?  Can you clean up that mess on his back?!”

The Doctor, who had a kind face said quietly, ” I don’t know Armond.  His back, while being treated by your sister, wasn’t really done with the best of care.  I know she tried her best with what little she had.  I don’t think this would have been better, even if she had medicine.  I’ll do what I can.”

Castillo put his hand on the Doctor’s shoulder, and said, with more confidence than he felt, ” I know you will.  Diaz, give the Doctor whatever help he needs.”

He left the room and went down the hall and softly knocked on another door.  A soft ‘ Come in ‘ and he opened the door and walked inside.  He saw his little sister washed and in a clean dress.

” Armond, what was so urgent that you had that monster Ortega basically kidnap me from school?”

He laughed softly.  ” Always so direct little Sister.  Ah well, I have found someone for you to marry.”

She whirled around to face her brother.  There was instant rage in her eyes and her voice was strong and very very loud.

” No, I’ve told you I want to go to school and learn things.  I do not care to be barefoot, pregnant and living in a dirt shack with six children and a slob of a husband.  I want to make something of my life Armond.”

Angela started to pace and as she paced, her anger grew inside her.  She was just going to say another bit of choice words and the Doctor came in.

Angela saw the worried look on his face and she flew out of the room and down the hall to the room Johnny was in.

The man Diaz was holding Johnny down and the man, tho ravaged with fever, was still as strong as hell.  His voice, while hoarse from the fever draining the fluids from his body, was still strong as he yelled to be let loose.

Angela ran to the bedside and knelt on the floor.  She reached for the young man’s hand and began to talk to him softly.

Armond watched as just her soft touch and her gentle words, calmed his raging furies.  This man, sick as he was, trusted his little sister.  He turned and left his sister to help the Doctor as well.  The more people getting him well, the faster his plan for revenge could happen.

A hour outside of the little town, Scott and the others lost the tracks of Ortega’s horse.  This new development not only stopped their movement, but caused Scott’s heart to feel squeezed in that vice again.

Two of the men even dismounted and walked slowly on the ground, trying to find even a part of a hoofprint.  Scott’s mind began to race in all directions.  They couldn’t have lost the trail, they had to find it.  His brother’s life was in jeopardy.

Matt saw the distress on Scott’s face and rode over by his horse.

” Scott, you have to hold it together, for your brother.  You lose your edge and he’ll be lost to you.  The men will find the trail again.  Just give them time to put their skills to work.

Scott’s silver blue eyes scanned the horizon, searching and hoping to see his little brother before him.  He knew that was just his frantic mind spinning in his head.

” Please Johnny.  Give me a sign of where you are?!  Just a sign Brother! “

Matt heard the desperation in Scott’s voice and his heart went out for him.  He knew the pain Scott was beginning to feel, and he hoped it would end on a happy note.  He didn’t think Scott would be able to handle it if he lost his brother.  They seemed to have a special bond.

All Scott could do was wait for one of the men to pick up the trail again.  He dismounted and found a large boulder to sit on.  The reins in his hands, he twisted around his fingers nervously.  

His dull eyes watched every movement the men searching made.  Every second they searched, was another pain in Scott’s heart.

In that room in the hotel in that lonely ghost town, Angela tried to calm Johnny’s wild ravings.  He thrashed around and shouted confusing Spanish words that no one could understand.

She reached for his hands and held tight, all the while her soft voice was soothing and talking to calm him.

” Shh Johnny.  It’s me Angela.  You have to calm yourself, you are going to hurt yourself Johnny.  Please, calm down Johnny.  Let the Doctor help you.  Please!”

Her tears slid silently down her cheeks as she fought to calm the young man on the bed.  She could feel the heat from his fever coming off him in waves, like the ocean she once saw in California.  At one point, Angela wished she was at the ocean again, maybe even with Johnny.

After a long battle, Johnny finally calmed and seemed to pass out from sheer exhaustion.  Angela reached for the cool cloths and began to try and cool him down.  It was a losing battle, but she had to try.

The Doctor and Angela seemed to have unlimited energy, as they battled to keep Johnny on this side of the plane between life and death.  A few times, Johnny mumbled about fire, his body was on fire.  They both knew it was the fever sucking the fluids from his body.

At every chance, they tried to get water into Johnny, to at least give him a fighting chance to rehydrate a little bit.  The fever from the infections on his back, was the worse the Doctor had ever seen.  He was running out of solutions.

Every day, two or three times a day, Armond went to the room Johnny was in.  He watched the Doctor and his sister working like machines to keep his prize alive.  The Doctor, would tell him he seemed to rally a few times, but then the fever would take hold again.

Four days later, Scott and the men with him rode into the ghost town.  They were greeted by at least a dozen rifles on the rooftops.

Armond Castillo came onto the porch of the hotel and he said, in a loud booming voice, ” What do you want here?  You are trespassing on private land here.”

Matt began to talk and he said, that they’d been following a man who had kidnapped Scott’s brother and they were here just to get him back so they could take him home.

Armond looked at Scott very closely.  He saw a tall blonde blue eyed man, someone who would not have a man such as Johnny Madrid as a brother.

” You don’t look like you would have a Mexican brother Senor.  How do I know you speak the truth?”

Scott stared at Castillo for a few long hard moments, and then he said in a clear strong voice, ” He wears a blue and red beaded bracelet on his right wrist and has a silver ring on his middle finger of his left hand.”

Armond Castillo was not impressed, so Scott continued, picturing Johnny’s body in his mind.

” He has a scar on his right side where his appendix was removed, it’s oddly shaped because Sam had to get a bullet out of his side at the same time.  He also has a small dog bite scar on his left thigh, just above his knee.  He was attacked by a rabid dog.  We almost lost him then.  All I want is to take my Brother home.  I have money, I’ll be happy to give you in exchange for my little Brother.”

Castillo began to pace along the length of the porch.  He was just turning to walk back to where Scott and the others waited, when there was an earth shattering scream from somewhere in the hotel.

Scott knew instantly that was his brother.  He bolted onto the porch and ran to the stairs.  He heard another voice with his brother, and he found the room quickly.

He saw his brother thrashing on the bed, two people trying to hold him down, a soft voice caressing over his brother, trying to calm him.

Scott pushed his way to his brother’s side and he saw wild sapphire eyes looking up from the bed.  He pushed both sets of hands from his brother and gently cupped Johnny’s cheeks.

” Shh, Brother.  It’s me, Scott.  You need to relax.  I’m here and I’m taking you home Johnny.  Shh, you’re okay.”

” Fire!  My back is on fire Scott.  Help me!”

As three people watched, Scott got Johnny to calm down.  He laid on the bed, panting and grimacing with the pain that was traveling all thru his body.

Johnny’s hands grabbed Scott’s biceps, and for such an ill man, he had a grip like a steel trap.

He kept saying one word, over and over… ” Fire! “

Scott turned to the Doctor and said, ” Have you got laudanum or morphine?”

” Why yes, I do.”

“Get some, now!”

After the Doctor injected Johnny’s arm, he settled down almost instantly, releasing Scott’s arms and falling deeply unconscious.

Scott looked down at his brother, while he rubbed his arms, sure he was going to have hand print bruises on his arms later.

Castillo was leaning against the door frame watching everything that had been happening.  He turned to look at Scott and rubbed his chin, in thought.

As Scott stood by Johnny’s side, he reached down and pushed his wet shaggy hair back from his eyes.

” Murdoch is gonna have a fit when he sees this long hair Brother.  Maybe I’ll get it cut before we get home.”

Slowly, Armond walked over to where Scott stood, and as he locked eyes with the older brother, he said, ” Well, it would seem that you do know this half breed.  He’s no use to me in this state, so I tell you what I’m gonna do.  The Doctor will get him well enough that he could ride in a wagon and you can take him home.  But for this generous action on my part Gringo, you will pay me ten thousand.”

Scott looked at his brother and he said, ” You have a deal.  I’ll have to go to a town with a bank to get that much money.”

Castillo grinned at Scott and said, with a bit of anger laced thru it, ” No, I think I can trust you, seeing as how your brother needs medical help.  When you are leaving my hospitality, I will ride with you to town and get my money.  Then you and your brother will be free to leave.”

He spoke briefly to the Doctor, then stormed out of the room.  Scott watched him go and shook his head.

” That man is like a stick of dynamite just waiting to explode.”

The Doctor laughed and said, under his breath, ” You have no idea Sir.”

Scott turned to the Doctor, put out his hand and said, ” Scott Lancer.  Thank you for all you are doing for my Brother.”

The Doctor smiled and said, ” I try not to pick sides, when someone is hurt I do what I can.  While your brother is under the effects of the morphine, I can clean his back better.  I suggest you leave, it won’t be pretty Son.”

” I’ve seen my Brother whipped before.  I know it’s not pretty.  I just want to see how bad it is.”

Together, Scott and the Doctor gently turned Johnny to his belly.  The Doctor cut the bandages from his body and gently pulled the ends apart.  What Scott saw, made him instantly nauseous.

He saw the angry red and swollen welts criss crossing his brother’s skin.  Most were infected worse than what Scott first thought.

Chapter 2


” My God!  What kind of an animal would treat another human like this?!”

As the Doctor watched Scott’s reaction, his own eyes filled with tears.  He saw the pain this tall blonde man was experiencing, and he racked his brain to figure out what to tell him.  

” I have an idea Senor, if you agree that is.  I know your brother is not in a good way.  What I’m about to suggest, may seem to you to be harsh, but if I can get a handle on this infection, he may stand a chance.”

Scott turned from his brother’s side and said quietly, ” What is your suggestion Doctor? “

Taking a deep breath, the kindly Doctor began to outline his plan.

” I could keep him medicated on morphine, putting a tube down his throat for fluids to combat dehydration.  With him unconscious, I can clean those wounds more thoroughly than if he was awake.  He wouldn’t feel any sort of pressure, and I could be assured of getting all of the infections out of his body.”

Scott moved his eyes to his brother, seeing how peaceful he looked after the injection.  His mind was telling him that the Doctor came up with a solution.  His heart, well that was a different story.  He didn’t want to see Johnny become a morphine addict, in order for the Doctor to be able to clean the wounds thoroughly.

Matt was in the room, sitting on the window sill with the breeze from the open window caressing his back.

Softly, in a quiet calm voice, Matt looked at Scott and said, “Scott, if being injected with morphine will allow the Doctor to clean out that infection and give your brother a fighting  chance.  I think you should take it Scott.  There are ways to break the hold that the morphine will have on Johnny.”

Scott slowly sat in the chair by the bed and reached for Johnny’s hand.  In his heart, he knew Johnny would want to take the chance.  Scott lowered his head and breathed a soft sigh out.

Without looking up, Scott softly said, ” Okay Doc, do it.  I want to be here at every step.”

” Okay.  I’ll go to my office and get the supplies to do this.  I’ll return in about thirty minutes.  Keep bathing him with those cool cloths until I come back.”

He left with Diaz to get his supplies and Scott again pushed Johnny’s wet black hair from his face.  While he bathed him with the cool water, Angela slowly came into the room.

As she walked into the room slowly, Matt discreetly left the room.  She got to the side of the bed, and she quietly said,  “Is the Doctor going to help Johnny?”

Scott looked over his shoulder and looked her over really well.

” You are who?  And how do you know about how hurt my Brother is?”

She swallowed hard and softly said, ” I’ve been taking care of Johnny since Ortega kidnapped him.”

” You saw what that bastard did to my little Brother?”

Angela slowly nodded and her eyes began to fill with hot silver tears once more.

” I’m Angela Castillo.  Armond is my brother.  He’s the one who sent Ortega to get me and your brother.”

Scott felt his jaw get tight and he glared at Angela.  He saw her get a little edgy and he remembered she was the one who helped Johnny.

” I’m sorry, I forgot you tried to help my Brother, after that bastard whipped him.  I also know it was your brother who sent him.”

Angela walked closer to the bed and gently caressed his shaggy black hair and moved it from his face.  Scott noticed it was almost a loving gesture.

” I need to find where Ortega is hiding.  I want to give him a taste of what he gave to my Brother.  Where is your brother, Angela?”

From behind Scott and Angela, a voice said, ” Right here Senor.  What is this I hear you want to talk to Ortega?  Well, I am happy to say he won’t be of any help to you.”

Scott’s silver blue eyes suddenly frosted up and his voice now became hard edged and very dangerous sounding.

” And why is that Castillo?”

Armond Castillo was not an idiot or a foolish man, unlike many of his followers.  He knew a powder keg was about to erupt, and he wanted to avoid any fallout.

His sudden smile unnerved Scott just a bit and he stepped back a few steps.  Almost automatically, he reached his hand out to lay it on his brother’s shaggy head of black hair.

Armond chose his words carefully and even tho he smiled, Scott saw he was now very tense.  He cleared his throat and leaned against the dresser.

” It seemed, I was extremely angry at what he did to Madrid.  I will be honest with you………….I sent Ortega to find your brother and bring him here.  I had revenge on my mind, but now that’s been put on the shelf, so to speak.”

” Interesting way of putting it.  Do you mean to tell me that once Johnny is well again, you will carry out your revenge?”

Scott could feel the anger boiling in his blood, the longer he talked to Armond Castillo.  He wanted to scream, ‘ Just get it said for Christ’s sake!’

” No, I made a promise that you could take your brother home.  I tell you now, I will try again one day.”

As Scott was going to say something, Armond raised his hand.  

” Don’t worry about that now.  Get your brother well, that should be your main concern.  I am a man of my word, ask anyone.”

Thru slightly gritted teeth, Scott said, ” What happened to Ortega?”

He turned to face the door, as if going out and he said, very casually, ” I had him killed for what he did to your brother.  It was uncalled for, my sister told me what he did and why.  With my having him killed, you have your revenge Senor.”

As Armond left, the Doctor came back with all types of items.  Diaz was equally loaded down.  Scott watched as everything was put on the table, that the Doctor moved a little closer to Johnny.

Scott recognized many of the items, from when Sam had to do this very procedure to his brother once before when he’d been whipped.  He saw the bottle of morphine and the blue case where a glass needle laid on a piece of black cloth.

The Doctor then began to explain to Scott what he was planning on doing, as he filled the needle with morphine.  Scott nodded and said he knew what he was going to do, as their family Doctor had done this very procedure on Johnny about three years before.

” Good, I will need your help to get the infections taken care of.  You will help me to turn him and calm him down when he gets riled.”

The Doctor unfurled Johnny’s arm and gave him just a little bit of the morphine.  It was to keep him under a bit longer, so the Doctor could start on the open wounds on his back.

After he put the needle back on the piece of cloth, and went to the other side of the bed.  They both gently rolled Johnny to his belly, turning his head sideways so he could breathe.

Next, the Doctor picked up a pair of scissors and cut the bandages criss crossing his brother’s back.  As the Doctor pulled the edges apart, Scott saw how really bad some of them were.  The smell of infection wafted thru the room, and Scott turned and opened both windows.  The warm breeze seemed to help a little.

” What we need to do is clean them out completely.  It looks to me, like that animal lashed him six times.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the brine that Angela said they threw on him is what’s made the infection start and catch so rapidly.”

Scott nodded he understood.  He took the cotton pad the Doctor handed him and the bottle of antiseptic was used between them.  Scott scrubbed the infections out of the wounds further down his back, the Doctor worked on the ones on his upper back.

All morning and most of the afternoon they worked.  As dusk was beginning to cover the little ghost town, the Doctor finally straightened up.

” I think we should just pack it lightly, and tomorrow I can cut away some of that dead skin around the edges and sew it up.  Then I’ll see how much in pain your brother is when he wakes up.”

Scott looked at the, once again, angry red wounds on his brother’s back.  Most of the infections were cleaned up and he prayed they would stay that way.

He helped the Doctor with putting pads of clean cloth on his brother’s back, and tying it just tight enough not to move.  Then he alone, gently lifted his brother up and placed him on the bed once again.  Angela had placed a mound of pillows by the dresser, and the Doctor put three behind Johnny’s back.

He pulled the light cover up on his body and just stood and watched his little brother softly breathing.

Once more, the silent plea was in his head and his heart.  ‘Don’t leave me Brother, we have so much more to do together.  Please Johnny, fight to live.’

As night began to come over the ghost town, Matt came into the room and saw Scott gently caressing his brother’s cheek.  He stood by the door and watched for a few minutes, a small smile on his lips.

” How’s your brother doing?  Has he woke up yet?”

” No, but I noticed some head rolling, so he is fighting his way to wake up.”

” Well, I’ll tell the men no change yet.  They are over in the cantina eating and drinking.  You should go for a night Scott, give yourself a break.”

Scott smiled from the chair he was sitting on.

” No, I’m okay Matt.  I’m gonna stay by my brother until he wakes up.”

Matt clapped Scott on the shoulder and said, ” Yea, kinda figured you would want to stay here Scott.  Call if you need help.”

Scott’s eyes slowly closed and then they snapped open when Angela came in with a tray.  It held a cup of coffee and a huge sandwich with meat and spicy cheese.

His stomach began to growl, and they both laughed.  Angela put the tray on the table and Scott got up and went to the table.  As Scott began to eat, Angela began to wipe Johnny’s face with the cool cloth.

While Scott ate his sandwich, he began to reflect on his brother’s past.  What was it that made people always challenge him to gun fights.  Didn’t they know about his reputation, how fast and deadly he really was.  Scott had seen Johnny in action in Green River once.  Some punk trail rider knew who Johnny was and decided to take his reputation.

His brother tried everything to not have to kill that man.  But when the guy drew early, Johnny cleared leather one second before him and put a hole in his chest.

As he was dying, the guy said to his brother, ” You aren’t human!  No one can draw that fast!”

Scott stood off to the side and he watched his little brother.  He stood, shoulders sort of slumped, his head lowered almost to his chest and his eyes were closed.

He also noticed Johnny was breathing hard.  He wasn’t panting, but you could tell he was trying to work thru the pain of having to kill another man.

Actually, an idiot with a death wish.  Everyone knew how fast Johnny was, but yet they all thought they were faster.

Scott always thought Johnny’s speed and accuracy was almost magical.  He’d never seen anyone, ever, match his brother’s speed or accuracy.

As he ate his sandwich, he looked at his brother, lying there so still, so quiet.  He saw his brother in a new light now.

Johnny, in Scott’s mind, was a caring and loving man, who only wants to live his life free from the reputation so many want.  His little brother yearns so badly to live as a man who doesn’t have to live his life by his gun.

To be free of the Madrid side of his being, to not always look over his shoulder, waiting for the bullet with his name on it.

Scott also knew Johnny wanted to find someone to love, without the pain of losing them to another’s bullet.  He even told Scott he wanted kids of his own.  But first he said, he had to be free of Madrid.  And for Madrid to leave, in Scott’s mind, meant his little brother had to die.  Johnny Madrid would always be a part of his brother.  Madrid kept Johnny alive all those years, so he could return home again.  He had to learn to combine the two halves into one man.

A soft sigh left Scott’s lips as he realized the daunting task his brother would have to fulfill to be free.

Angela’s voice brought Scott back to the present, as she said, ” Scott, he’s waking up.”

Scott walked to the side of the bed, sat in the chair and reached for Johnny’s left hand.  It was suddenly squeezed by Johnny.

” It’s okay Brother.  I’m here.  You’re safe Johnny.  Wake up little Brother.”

Johnny began to thrash around, his breathing was becoming little pants and Scott was sure he saw a tear slip from his right eye to mingle with the sweat on his face.

Even with closed eyes, Scott knew when Johnny was awake.  Thru the pain, Scott talked to his brother.  He knew Johnny could hear him.

” Breathe slow Johnny.  That’s right Brother.  Open your eyes so I can see them.  Come on Johnny, let me see your eyes.”

Eyelids began to flutter, and a soft moan of pain slid from his lips.  Soon, Johnny’s eyes slowly began to open.  They were filled with pain and Scott saw the flutter of tears making the blue even brighter.

Thru dry and cracked lips, Johnny said, ” Pain Boston.  Help me!”

Scott felt Johnny’s hand move to grip his hand.  The grip was intense and Scott told Angela to put laudanum in the needle.  She did as she saw the intense pain on Johnny’s face.  She stood by the side of the bed with the needle.

” Please Boston!  It feels like fire, everywhere Scott!  Help me Brother!”

Scott let go of his brother’s hand and laid his arm out on the side of the bed.  Scott saw a big vein and slid the needle in slowly.  He watched the pain lines on Johnny’s face slowly even out and then disappear.

Johnny slowly opened his eyes and he wiped the tears from his eyes and slowly looked around.  He looked a bit unfocused and Scott slid his hand to his forehead.  His little brother still had a fever, but it felt lower.  A sigh slid from his lips and he again sat in the chair and picked up a soft cloth and dipped it into the cool water and wiped his face and upper chest.  He heard the very soft sigh come from Johnny’s soft lips.

” How long Scott?”

Scott gently smiled at his little brother, and quietly said,  

“You’ve been here in this town for ten days Johnny, unconscious for seven days.  How is the pain Brother, and be truthful.”

Johnny’s sapphire eyes held a sparkle, but to Scott the sparkle was fever induced.

A deep sigh escaped and Johnny instantly regretted that move.  The laudanum gave him some relief, but it didn’t vanish all the way.

Scott saw the move and then the flash of not doing that again, and he gently smiled at his brother.

” Well, I guess from what I just did, my back is still messed up.  Scott, how bad are they?”

Scott pushed his brother’s hair back and said, ” Well Johnny, those wounds were pretty far advanced with infection.  The Doctor here didn’t even know to use morphine to put you under and to clean them out then.”

At the mention of morphine, Johnny got very tense.  Until Scott quietly said ” It’s okay Johnny, I watched the amount in the needle every time.  It was all within good levels.  Don’t worry little Brother, the Doctor didn’t use it long enough to get you addicted.”

Johnny relaxed and sighed in relief.  He didn’t want to go thru a withdrawal again.

” The Doctor will be back this afternoon and he’ll check those wounds.  If they look good and he says you can handle a wagon ride home, we will head home Brother.”

A small smile came to Johnny’s lips and he softly said, “Really, home?  I thought when Ortega got me, that would be it.  That I’d never see Lancer again.”

Smiling, Scott said, ” Well, you will hopefully be seeing home very soon little Brother.”

Angela sat on the other side of Johnny’s bed, listening to the brothers talking about home and their father.  She felt happy for them, but sad that she never had that.

She sat quietly, wiping Johnny’s face of the sweat and noticing the pain lines were again coming back slowly.

” Johnny, do you need some more morphine, for the pain?”

Johnny swivelled his sapphire gaze to Angela and he softly, but with the sound of pain lacing thru it, ” No, I don’t want anymore morphine!  Boston, tell the Doc no more morphine!”

Scott put his hand on Johnny’s left arm and squeezed gently.  

” It’s okay Brother, I’ll tell him.  Now calm down and relax a little.  The Doctor should be here soon.  Wanna eat something?  Feel up to it?”

” Yea, I think I could eat something.”

Angela stood up and said, ” I’ll go and make some broth Johnny.  When it’s done, I’ll bring it up.”  She left the room quietly.

Scott noticed the look on Angela’s face and he very gently said to Johnny,  ” I’ve been watching Angela a few times Brother. I’m beginning to think she has feelings for you.”

Johnny slowly turned his head to look at his big brother.  The movement caused a twinge in his back with one of the healing wounds up high on his back.

Johnny then lowered his eyes and his head soon followed.  Scott heard the soft exhale and the quiet sigh that slipped from his lips.

” I thought it was my fever playing tricks on me Boston.  What the hell do I do?”

” Don’t know Brother.  Her brother said he has someone to marry her.  But she also told him she wants to go back to school.  It would be nice to tell you that you do need someone, but I know why you don’t pursue anyone in the towns around us.  I do know you want someone to love and I know you also want children.  You have to decide something like this on your own little Brother.”

Johnny again sighed and leaned his head back on the mound of pillows behind him.  His eyes were closed and he heard the Doctor coming into the room.

” And how are you this afternoon Johnny?  You seem to have no pain.  Let us see how they are healing, shall we?”

Johnny slowly sat up with Scott’s help, and waited for the bandages to be unwound.  The Doctor moved to look at Johnny’s back.  He poked and prodded, and although Johnny hissed at one point, he was very happy with his recovery, so far.

” Well, I’m seeing these wounds that are now free of infections.  I have some cream to put on them to soften up the ragged edges a little bit.  Then I’ll wrap clean bandages once again.”

Johnny endured all of this silently.  When the Doctor was done, he lifted up amazingly clear sapphire eyes to look at him.  To say the least, he was a bit shocked at the brightness of those eyes.

Johnny stared directly at the Doctor, not quite a Madrid stare, he was afraid that would scare the bejeezus out of the Doctor.  A normal stare and a softly voiced question.

” When can I go home Doc?”

The Doctor sat on a chair by the bed, put the rest of his supplies back into his ratty black medical bag.  He rubbed his chin and took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes.

Johnny, who had not an extra ounce of patience in his body, got a little louder and said, ” Doc!”

There was a delightful little chuckle from Scott, who said to the Doctor, ” My little Brother is not known for his patience Doc.”

The Doctor smiled and said, ” I didn’t mean to take so long.  Was looking for the right words.”

Johnny closed his eyes and silently counted to five and opened his deep sapphire eyes.  The Doctor cleared his throat and said, ” I think you are fine to travel Johnny.  I will give you a supply of bandages and that cream to put on the deeper wounds and ragged edges of the other ones.”

Johnny smiled a small smile and Scott thought he saw the weight on his shoulders lessen with that wonderful news.

” There are a few more rules Johnny.  You will not ride a horse.  I will see if Armond will loan you boys a wagon and a couple horses.  I’ll send along my file on you, so you can show your own Doctor what I did for you.  I’m sure he will have other rules for you to follow.”

Scott laughed as Johnny sulked.

” Oh, I’m sure Sam will be only too happy to put restrictions on my little Brother.”

” Good.  Well, I will tell Armond you can leave whenever you wish.  I hope your recovery is all consuming Johnny.”  He held out his hand and Johnny firmly clasped it.  ” Thanks Doc.”

After the Doctor left, Scott said he wanted to tell Matt and the others that they all were heading home.  After he left the room, Johnny got to thinking about what Scott said about Angela.  He had to think of something to tell her about why having feelings for him wasn’t such a good idea.

Scott came back a couple minutes later, to find his brother attempting to get dressed.  Taking pity on his brother, Scott held him steady as he stood up to fasten his pants.  Scott gently helped him to sit on the bed and he worked his socks and boots onto his feet.

Scott stood up and said, “Gonna have to find you a shirt.”

Johnny was going to say something, and Angela came in with a tray of food for the brothers.  She smiled softly at Johnny at seeing him up and around, even if he didn’t have a shirt on.  That caused her to giggle.

Scott said he would eat later and he was going to ask Matt and the guys with him if they had a spare shirt.

Johnny sat at the table and Angela put the bowl of stew in front of him.  He picked up a piece of cornbread and ate slowly.  Was the first real food he’s had in a while.

As he ate, his mind came up with what he would tell Angela.  He slowly started to talk.

” Angela, I have the feeling you like me a lot.  I like you too, but not like you want.  Don’t you know that gun fighters and pretty girls don’t mix.  I’m not ready to find someone yet Sweetie.  But if I was ready, you’d be the one I’d find.”

You could see she was very disappointed and looked to be on the verge of crying.  Johnny pulled her gently down onto the other chair and pulled the chair close to him.  He slid his fingers under her chin and lifted her face up to his.  Johnny’s lips caressed her’s very softly.  In Johnny’s mind, it felt right, in fact his heart felt the same way.

” I’ll tell you what.  If you give me your address at school, maybe I’ll write to you.  Tell you how my back is.  You know, you kinda saved my life when you started to take care of me.  I’ll never be able to thank you properly, Angela.”

” You just did Johnny, and very nicely too. I never helped anyone like I did with you.  I’m just glad everything turned out okay Johnny.”

Johnny smiled his most beautiful smile at her and lifted the back of his fingers to caress her cheek.

Angela smiled softly and picked up the tray with Scott’s bowl of stew and quietly left the room.  After the door closed, Johnny felt his chest tighten around his heart a little bit.  He gently rubbed his chest and wondered what was going on now.  Surely he couldn’t really have feelings for her, could he?

.

Chapter 3

Johnny put his left elbow on the table and laid his cheek in his palm.  Suddenly, his sapphire eyes became dull and a heavy sigh slipped from his lips.  Now what was he going to do?

Johnny closed his eyes for a minute, and he sighed, a little deeper this time.  Maybe he’d talk to Scott about everything on the trip home.  Yeah, that’s what he’d do, talk to his big brother.  Johnny’s heart felt a little lighter.

He finished his stew and coffee and as soon as he put his spoon down, Scott came in.  In his hand was a shirt.  It was blue, no fancy stitches, just a very boring shirt.  But it would cover Johnny’s back and protect the wounds on his back a little bit.

” Got a wagon and two horses.  Castillo is putting straw in the bed of the wagon for you to lie on.  Also have your gun and hat.”

Johnny looked up and said, ” My gun?”

Scott smiled and handed it to Johnny.

Johnny’s eyes brightened and he fingered his gun lovingly.  He wouldn’t be able to strap the gun belt around his body yet, but he figured he’d have it by his body in the back of the wagon.

Softly, Johnny said, ” How soon till we leave Boston?”

” Whenever you are ready little Brother.”

Slowly, a smile came to Johnny’s lips.  He laughed softly and said,

” As soon as I get my jacket and pick up my hat and gun belt and walk downstairs!”

Scott had what looked like a big medical bag, filled with clean bandages, the cream to rub on the edges of the wounds, and a small bottle of laudanum, just in case.  But as Scott knew, his little brother was famous for pushing his pain away.

When they got downstairs, Matt and his men were mounted up.  The horse Scott had ridden was tied to a metal ring on the back of the wagon.

Scott and Johnny stood on the walkway and Angela came up to Johnny.  She stood on her tip toes and gently kissed his cheek.  She had a small piece of paper with her school address on it.   She slipped it into his hand.  As she turned to walk away, Johnny’s hand snaked out and he gently grabbed her arm to stop her.

She lifted her liquid brown eyes to look at Johnny’s deep sapphire eyes.  She saw the sparkles in those eyes, as if the sun had decided to rest in his eyes.

” Just wanted to say goodbye Angela, and thank you for taking care of me.  I don’t think I would have made it without your help.  Thank you so very much Angela.”

Johnny then lifted his hands to gently caress her warm cheeks.  He gently lifted her face up to his and his warm lips covered her’s.  When her lips opened slightly, Johnny carefully slid his tongue into her mouth, and deepened the kiss.  He heard a soft sigh come from Angela and his heart jumped in his chest.

Johnny slowly moved back, still had his hands on her cheeks, his thumbs caressing her skin slowly.  Angela’s eyes slowly opened and she locked her eyes on his.  Johnny softly smiled, a soft caring smile that caused Angela’s heart to beat faster.  That beautiful smile on Johnny’s lips was what Angela locked in her mind.

” Goodbye Chica.”

Johnny’s fingers slid down her cheeks, and as Johnny turned to the wagon, he saw the sun reflect off her crystal tears.

Scott helped him to sit on the huge mound of straw.  Johnny put his gun belt on his right side, sort of hidden in the straw.  He settled his hat on his head better and relaxed into the straw.

Scott settled next to Johnny and put the canteens in a corner to stay out of the sun.  Scott noticed Larry Jones was gonna handle the horses and the wagon, his brother Kevin on the wooden seat beside him.  He leaned his rifle against the foot rest.  Both their horses were also tied to the back along with Scott’s horse.

Matt and the cousins were on horseback.  Johnny wondered why they weren’t moving and then he saw Castillo and three of his men on horseback.  He suddenly got a nervous feeling and the wounds on his back felt like they were tightening.

” Ah, I see we are ready to leave Senor.  The town with the bank is about fifty miles further.  Once I have the money, you and your hermano are free to leave.”

As they started out, the jolting wasn’t too bad, and Johnny knew they’d have to stop a bunch of times to give him a break.

As they began to move away from the hotel, Johnny saw Angela there, a sad look on her face, her hand raised in a final goodbye.

Angela wasn’t crying, not yet.  But as soon as the wagon left the town limits of the ghost town, her huge crystal tears spilled down her cheeks.

Softly, her small voice said, ” Goodbye Johnny.  I will never forget you.  Be safe.”

After a couple more minutes, she turned and went back into the hotel and up to the room Johnny had been in.  She began to clean the room.  As she cleaned, she saw a small folded piece of paper on the night stand.  She saw her name in a very fancy scroll and she opened the folded paper.

She saw a couple lines of lovely scrolled script and she smiled softly when she read the beautiful words Johnny wrote to her.

Angela

I wanted to put something special in this letter for you to keep with you.  I again thank you so very much for all you did for me, not only on the trail but in the ghost town.  I hope you will be well and that your brother will let you return to school.

Forever in your debt.

With many warm and loving regards

Johnny Madrid Lancer

Angela wiped the tears that suddenly fell down her cheeks.  She gently folded the letter back up and put it in her dress pocket.  She’d put it in her small carpet bag for school to keep it with her.

Her brother told her he would be back in about a week to ten days.  She had thought of her plan for three days now and she was ready to put it into action tonight, when everyone was asleep.

She packed what clothes she wanted to take with her, made sure her money and her letter from Johnny was safe.  She took off her dress and folded it into the carpet bag, and put her tiny black shoes in there.  She put her pants, warm shirt and her boots on.  She also made sure she had her warm jacket, it might be warm during the day, but it got really cold at night.  She’d have to make sure she had oats in her saddle bags and two canteens.

She made three sandwiches and wrapped two of them to take with her.  She also had a cup of coffee too.  She hoped it would keep her awake so she could get far enough away from this town, so the men still here won’t try to find her.

She sat in her room and read a book she loved.  When the clock on the wall chimed midnight, she put her coat and hat on and grabbed her carpet bag.  She slid the book inside and closed the buttons.  Then she silently left the room.  She quietly went down the stairs and almost ran to the livery.

She slid the door closed and lit the lantern hanging on a hook by the door.  She took it and her carpet bag to the stall that held her horse.  She calmed his neighs, afraid that someone would hear.

She quietly saddled him, hitting him in the side to make him blow out the breath he was holding, and she pulled the cinch tighter.  She didn’t need to be having the saddle sliding off his back while she was trying to get away.

She reached for a burlap bag and walked to the barrel in the corner that held oats, and shoveled until it was almost full.  She tied a small thin piece of rope to keep it closed.  Then she tied it securely to a loop on her saddle bag, which she also tied securely.  Then she reached for the two canteens that were there and walked to the trough and filled them with the cold water.  She looped them over the saddle horn and tied her carpet bag, flap side on the outside, on the other side of the saddle.

She then walked the horse to the doorway.  She blew out the lantern and then opened the door.  She led the horse out and mounted up.  She walked him very slowly out of town.  When she was far enough that no one could hear, she turned the horse northwest and rode away from the ghost town.

The wagon carrying the Lancer brothers home, was stopping for the night.  It was getting too dark, and Scott didn’t want to cause his brother any more unease or risk the horses to an accident.

Castillo said another mile and they would come to a small pond and some green grasses for the horses to eat.  Scott stood up and stretched his back out, then turned around and helped his brother up.  Scott moved to the edge of the wagon and jumped down.  Then he helped Johnny to get out of the wagon.  When his feet hit the ground, it jarred his back and a soft hiss could be heard.

” You okay Johnny?  Take a few minutes, lean against the end of the wagon and get your bearings.”

Johnny leaned his butt against the back of the wagon, and almost instantly his eyes lowered to the ground.  Scott saw the sad look wash over his little brothers face.

” Johnny, talk to me.  Something is bothering you, I can see it in your eyes.  Tell me.  Are you in pain from that long ride?”

He lifted his head, and Scott saw the sadness swirling in those deep sapphire eyes.  He took a long breath and then slowly blew it out.  He locked onto his brother’s silver blue eyes and very softly started to talk.

” Scott, I think I could have made a mistake.”

 ” Mistake?  About what Johnny?”

” Angela.  I think I might have feelings for her, just like she has for me.  I’ve been thinking on it since we took off.  I didn’t want to say anything with her brother close by.”

Scott’s silver blue eyes locked on Johnny’s face.  He saw the sparkles in those expressive blue eyes, even in the dark, and Scott knew his brother was talking the truth.  But why now, when her brother was so close.  He could order him to take Johnny back to that tiny town and he would make him watch as he killed his brother.

” Johnny, we need to save this chat until we are away from Castillo.  So far he’s doing what he said he would.  I don’t want to chance him changing his mind and taking you back to carry out his revenge on you.  All I’m saying, is wait until I give him the money and he leaves.”

Johnny was less than happy with that thought, but he agreed.  

All during the night, Johnny was awake, thinking of Angela.  Did he make the right decision?  Did he really want to see her again?  Did he have feelings for her?  All night long, the questions raced thru Johnny’s mind.

When dawn was coming over the land, Scott looked at his brother closely.  He saw the tired look on his brother’s face, the dark circles already forming under his eyes.

” Didn’t you sleep at all Johnny?  You look so tired.”

Johnny lowered his head and sighed softly.  His voice, normally soft was even more so now as he said, ” No, kept thinking of her Scott.  I think I made a mistake telling her I wasn’t ready for a relationship with anyone yet.”

Scott’s silver blue eyes quickly scanned the area, and saw Castillo and his men weren’t in the clearing, but their horses were still tied to the picket line.  Quietly, he began to talk to his brother.

” Well, once we get home and Sam looks you over, you can start figuring out what you want to do.  For now tho Brother, we need to not say anything around Castillo.  We aren’t out of this yet Johnny.”

Johnny felt the twinges in his back, as tho his wounds were tightening.  He arched his back and thought that was a really stupid thing to do.  His brother saw him and walked over to where Johnny leaned against the wagon, head down and breathing kinda hard.

Scott went to Johnny’s back and lifted up the shirt, and saw a couple of the wounds were again bleeding and one of the deeper ones smelled and looked as tho it was infected once more.

” Johnny, why didn’t you tell me that they were bleeding and the infections were back?  Come on, let’s see what I can do here.”

Scott helped Johnny into the wagon and put a blanket down for him to rest against.  Scott removed the shirt and reached for the medical bag he had with him.  He pulled the liquid to clean out the wounds and grabbed a piece of the bandages.

” I don’t have anything to numb this for you Johnny.  I’m sorry.  I have a piece of wood wrapped with rawhide Brother.”

Johnny reached for the wood that Scott held out and put it into his mouth.  Scott saw Johnny’s jaw clamp down on it and he closed his eyes.

As Scott started to clean the wounds out, he could feel Johnny tensing as he began.  His heart felt so tight that he was causing his little brother pain, when he thought Johnny would be free of it.

By the time Scott was done, and the wounds had all been cleaned out again, he reached for the cream and out it on the edges.  He started to wrap the clean bandages around Johnny’s torso.  He saw Johnny relax into the blanket on top of the straw, and he slowly spit the piece of wood from his tightly clenched lips.

Before Johnny could move fast enough, Scott saw the tears on his cheeks.  He ran his hand up into Johnny’s soft raven black hair.

” It’s over Johnny.  When we get to the town with the bank, I’ll send Matt and the others to find a Doctor.  Maybe see what else we can do to keep them clean.  I didn’t want to hurt you Johnny.”

Softly, as Scott helped Johnny to roll to his back, he said, ” I know Boston.  I should have told you sooner.  Just wanted to get to that town and find a Doctor.”

Scott patted Johnny’s shoulder and said, ” You rest.  I’ll see if I can get you something to eat little Brother.”

Angela was settling in for the night as well.  She poured some oats onto the ground for her horse and then poured some water into her hat for him to drink.  She made a fire and set up her sleeping bag and pulled one of her sandwiches out of her bag.  She broke off some and wrapped the rest in her bag for later.

She leaned against her saddle and drank a little water.  She looked up at the stars, and saw she was still going northwest.  So she relaxed a little bit.

She reached into her bag and took Johnny’s letter to her out of it’s hiding place.

As she gently unfolded the letter, she reread the words over and over.  She could picture Johnny’s face in her mind.  His beautiful sapphire eyes and soft beautiful smile.  God, that smile could melt her bones if she let it.

She folded the letter up and just before she slid it back into her bag, she gently placed a soft kiss on the edge.  She slid it back and then laid down, using her saddle as a pillow and fell asleep thinking of Johnny, and if she’d ever hear from or see him again.

As she was falling asleep, Angela heard a lone wolf crying into the night.  She imagined Johnny as the lone wolf, crying for her.  She smiled and thought she’s really lost her mind.  She finally fell asleep listening to the wolf cries in the night.

Scott and Johnny ate a meal of beans and coffee, and Johnny didn’t even finish his plate of beans.  Matt noticed and asked Scott if Johnny was getting sick again.

” No, I got the infections cleaned out in time.  I think he’s just worked up still about them having to be taken care of again.  And, I think he’s got something weighing on his mind.”

” Care to tell me what’s on his mind, that he wouldn’t want to eat?”

Without missing a beat, Scott said, ” He thinks he’s in love.”

Matt choked on his coffee, but managed to not spit it out everywhere.  He looked at Johnny sleeping restlessly on the straw bed and he said,

” Are you kidding me?  Has to be that little gal who took care of him. The same one who’s brother wanted your brother dead.  Is everyone going crazy Scott?!”

.

Chapter 4

A quiet chuckle came from Scott and he said, ” He’s been wrestling with this problem for a day already.  I told him once we are away from Castillo and his men, we can sit down and talk about it.  I’ve never seen my little Brother this wrapped up in a girl before.  It is kind of bothering me Matt.”

” It’s okay Son.  I’m sure when you have a chance to talk with your brother, you’ll find out what’s going on.”

Scott silently agreed, and gently caressed his brother’s flushed cheek.  Oh Brother, you can cause a life and death situation out of a day at church.  He looked down at his brother and hoped he wouldn’t get sick, like he usually does.

Matt watched the loving caring way that Scott caressed his brother, and again wished he’d had that kind of relationship with his little brother.  Matt shook his head. No sense in reliving the past, a past he’d never be able to change.

They finished their meals and then bid Castillo and his men a good night.  Castillo said they’d get to the town about mid afternoon, and then they would be free to continue on their way.

As everyone in their rough shod camp began to drift to sleep, Scott remained awake.  He thought of Angela and Johnny and if they really can have any kind of relationship.  Well, only if she got away from her brother, perhaps.

Johnny was a very caring and loving man, and he would give her everything he was inside.

He wrung out another cool rag and gently wiped the sweat from his brother’s face.

” Scott?”

The voice sounded so soft and tired sounding.  Scott sat up a little more and saw sapphire eyes looking at him, a bit unfocused at the moment, but they were open.

” I’m here Johnny.  You’re okay.  You only have a slight fever.  You should be okay by morning little Brother.”

A small smile came to Johnny’s lips and he seemed to relax a bit more into the straw in the wagon.

Without even saying a word, Scott reached for one of the canteens, and gave Johnny a few cool sips.  He closed his eyes in sheer delight

” How soon till we’re away from Castillo, Boston?”

Scott smiled at his brother and said, ” I can see you are anxious Brother.  Wouldn’t be anything special you want to talk about, is there?”

Johnny’s eyes lowered, and he had a sly grin on his face.    

“Nothing too important Scott, but I have been needing to talk to you for the past few days.”

He had a whole litany of teasing he could use on his brother, but he also knew it was important to him.  So he held those jokes inside and turned serious silver blue eyes onto his brother’s smiling face.

” I know you need to talk Johnny, and we will soon.  I promise.  Castillo said we should reach the town by mid morning.  I’ll give him the money and then we can leave on our own.”

Johnny signed in relief and settled back against the straw.  

Accepting the canteen once more,  before both brothers decided to turn in.  Scott’s eyes focused on Matt, as he, Kevin and Percy rode around the camp to keep things quiet.

” Anything up Scott?  How’s Johnny doing?”

The older brother smiled at Percy and he quietly said, ” I think he’ll be fine when he wakes up.  The fever is already leaving his body.  Let’s try to be back on the trail home early morning, okay Matt? “

” Sure thing Scott.  Sleep well. See ya in the morning.”

Percy kind of laughed and softly said, ” Only have coffee tho, until we get to that town and I can get supplies.”

Scott chuckled and said quietly, ” Johnny will be upset.  I been telling him about your pancakes for two days Percy.”

A pretty pink blush slid up Percy’s cheeks and he smiled like a little boy.

” Maybe after we get supplies, we can stop and I’ll make him some Scott.”

” Oh, I’m sure you won’t get any disagreements from the walking garbage disposal.  I swear, sometimes I don’t know where he puts it!”

The chuckles made the rounds among the men, and the others moved off to patrol.   Scott scooted down in the straw and looked at his brother.  Finally, sleeping peacefully.  He closed his eyes and was asleep within minutes.

The next morning, both Lancers opened their eyes at the same time.  Johnny looked refreshed, and as he softly smiled to his brother, he said, ” I smell coffee, and where I smell coffee I could soon be smelling pancakes.”

” Umm Johnny, Percy said he had no more supplies to make pancakes.”  As he saw Johnny’s face starting to crumble, he quickly added, ” But as soon as we get to this town, he’ll get supplies and make up a few batches.”

Johnny smiled that shit ass eating grin he always wore, when he won the argument and relaxed a bit.  He soon saw Percy coming to the wagon with two cups of steaming coffee.  

Johnny took a cup and as he took a sip, he quietly said, ” Now, you promise, right Percy?”

Percy patted Johnny’s shoulder and said, ” As soon as we hit town, Johnny, I promise.”

Johnny smiled a huge smile at Percy, who walked away chuckling softly under his breath.

Johnny and Scott had another cup of coffee, and then everyone loaded up and began to move out for one more leg of their journey.

Johnny sat up a bit more and looked around as they traveled to the town that held the bank.

Scott jumped out of the bed of the wagon, told his brother and the others he’d be back shortly, and walked to the bank.  When he came back to the little caravan, he handed Castillo the money he’d been promised.

When Castillo saw fifteen hundred extra dollars, he lifted his hard brown eyes to Scott, in question.  Scott smiled briefly and quietly said, ” The extra money is for the wagon and the horses.  I don’t think we will make it back here to return them.”

Castillo tilted his head back and let out a very loud laugh, that to Scott’s ears sounded like joy.  ” Ah, that would be very true.  Have a nice journey home. “

Scott watched as Castillo walked to where his men were waiting.  Everyone mounted up, and without a word, they all rode out of town, heading back to the tiny ghost town.

Matt, sitting on the railing by the wagon, saw Johnny visibly relax, as they watched Castillo ride away.

Johnny moved over to the edge of the wagon and leaned over to his brother.  Softly, he whispered to his brother.

” That was quite a wad of money Boston, how are you going to explain to the old man why that much was taken from the ranch account?”

Scott smiled, a sort of evil smile, and he said, just as quietly,  “He won’t know anything about it Johnny.”

” He’s gonna see it when he tries to balance the books!”

All of the men hanging around the wagon, could hear the excitement in Johnny’s voice and thought they’d hear an answering excitement in Scott’s voice.  But he seemed calm.  

Matt rubbed his chin and knew something was going on.  Scott leaned one arm on the edge of the wagon and softly said, ” He won’t say a word Johnny, I promise you.”

Johnny looked closely at his big brother, and saw the twin sparkles in Scott’s silver blue eyes and the ear to ear grin.  He could feel a small amount of anger coming to the forefront of his mind.

” Scott, what have you done”

He brushed some imaginary dust off his shirt and said, with the voice of an innocent child, ” Whatever do you mean Brother?”

Johnny’s eyes began to grow dark and he could feel the tense feeling in his back as he tried to control himself from exploding.

Scott could tell his brother was beginning to get angry, so he decided to end the joke.

” He won’t know Johnny, because I took it out of my personal account.

” Your account?  Why did you do that Scott?”

Scott started to walk around to the back of the wagon and helped Johnny to the ground.

” Let’s go get supplies.  I can’t wait for Party’s pancakes.”

As he turned to walk, Johnny’s hand snaked out and he said,  “Why Scott?”

” Because you are my Brother, and I didn’t want to lose you again.”

Their eyes met, blue on blue, and Johnny could feel the lump starting to build in his throat.

Softly, he said, ” Was a lot of money Scott.”

” No, I’d give it all away, if it meant you stay with me.  Don’t you know, yet, Johnny?  I love your Brother, and I would do anything for you.”

Johnny’s head lowered and he swore he could feel tears filling his eyes.  He felt his head being lifted by Scott’s fingers under his chin.  Those same fingers gently brushed the tears away as they slid down his cheeks.

Scott pulled Johnny to his chest and softly said, against Johnny’s raven black hair, ” I love you Johnny.  Would give my life for you.  Don’t you ever forget that.”

Against Scott’s shoulder, Johnny quietly said almost the same thing to his brother.   And he lifted his arms to hold Scott closer to him.

Matt watched the brothers and saw how much they really did love each other.  And he wished, for the millionth time, how he wanted to have that with his brother.  He impatiently wiped a sudden tear away.

The brothers moved apart and Johnny suddenly said, “I’m hungry.  Let’s go get something to eat!”

Everyone laughed and they all moved towards the cantina and sat at a large table.  Soon, a pretty waitress came for their orders and then left.

If any of the men at that table had looked up to look out the windows, they would have seen a lonely girl on a very tired chestnut horse slowly trudging into town.

Angela headed to the livery down towards the other end of town.  As she got slowly down, she sighed and bent backwards to stretch her back out.

The livery man came out of the barn and Angela softly asked if she could stable her horse for a few days.  As the little man was gonna take her horse, Angela took her small carpet bag and her rifle from the saddle.  As she turned, she asked where a hotel was.  Getting directions, she slowly walked to the hotel.

If Angela had looked into the window of the cantina as she passed it, she’d have seen the dark haired man she had thought about every day they were gone.

Angela went to the hotel and asked for a room for a couple days.  As she went up to the room, Johnny and the others with him were getting ready to leave town.

As Angela’s tired head and body hit the bed, the wagon, Johnny and all her dreams were now going out of town.  She never stirred from her exhaustion.

Johnny was no longer in extreme pain, but his brother told him he would ride in the wagon until they got home.  Sighing, Johnny resigned himself to being in the wagon for a while yet.

Scott saw how Matt and the others were almost on high alert and he asked why.

” Still in Mexico Scott.  Watching for Rurales.  They could be anywhere, if they know Johnny Madrid is in their country.”

Matt saw the flinch that passed thru Johnny’s body, and he said, “We’re almost to the border, so we should be okay then.”

For the next month plus three days, the small band moved towards California.  When they crossed the border, Johnny smiled brightly and said, ” Okay, we made it.  Now I can relax and pray to see Lancer soon.”

Everyone laughed and Scott said, ” Another week or so Johnny, then you will have Maria hovering like a mother hen!”

Johnny’s face kind of fell, but then his smile was back.

” And I’ll see Barranca again.  I’m sure he’s giving everyone grief.”

Scott clasped Johnny’s shoulder and said, ” Yes.  That spoiled horse probably has the whole ranch in an uproar Brother!”

” He’s not spoiled Boston!”

Scott chuckled and said, ” Oh yes he is.  Just like his owner!”

He was going to come back with a good one, but instead closed his lips and basically pouted.  Scott laughed and the little caravan left the town limits.

Nothing exciting happened on the way to Lancer.  Johnny finally had some of Perry’s pancakes, and he was almost floating on air.

” Damn! I don’t know what you do, but these are even better than Maria’s.”

” Better not let Maria hear that, or you will be starving Brother!”

Johnny’s eyes sparkled and he said, with a sly grin, ” Oh, I have Maria wrapped around my finger Boston.”

” Yea, I bet you do Johnny.”

Johnny chuckled and said, ” Oh, you have no idea Brother.”

Scott, of course, had no idea and he really didn’t want none either.  He was well aware of Johnny’s, shall we say, powers over women, of all ages.

They reached the overlook to Lancer about fifteen days later.  

Johnny and Scott took in their home and Scott said,  ” Never thought I’d be so happy to see home again. “

Matt pushed the hat on his head back a little, and he whistled low and long.

” Wow!  This I all your’s?”

” As far as the eye can see, all the way to the mountain range.  One hundred thousand acres. Fifty thousand head of the best cattle in the west and the finest herd of horses this side of the Mississippi River.”

” Jesus!  When you guys said you were ranchers, I never imagined anything this grand.”

” Let’s go home.  I can smell Maria has been baking, and I’ll bet you, it’s a double layer chocolate cake Boston!”

Everyone laughed and Scott threw a handful of straw at his brother.  They started the long ride down the hill and if Johnny could have, he would have kissed the white Lancer archway as they passed under it.

As the wagon was stopping at the door, a mountain of a man came out of the house, saw the wagon, two guys in the seat and three guys on horseback.

” Can I help you gentlemen?”

” Murdoch, it’s us.  We had a bit of trouble coming home on that stage.”

Scott jumped down from the wagon and introduced everyone.  Murdoch watched as Johnny slowly got out of the wagon bed.  When his feet made it to the ground, he sort of swayed into his brother.

Murdoch was instantly there and reached for his youngest son.

” Whoa Johnny!  You okay?  Scott, what’s wrong with your brother?!”

” Murdoch, let’s go inside and I’ll tell you everything.”

Cipriano was coming towards them and Scott told him to take the two horses from the wagon and put them in the meadow to rest.  The wagon he said to put into the big barn.

As he started to do as Scott asked, Scott added, ” Take care of the horses Matt and the others rode.  I think they will be staying a couple days to rest up.”

As everyone went into the house , Murdoch propelled Johnny to the sofa, where he lowered his youngest to the soft cushions.

Scott poured drinks for everyone and made better introductions of everyone.  Murdoch shook everyone’s hands and said, ” Thank you Sheriff and you men for finding and helping Scott with his brother.  I’m sure we can get a couple rooms for you all to rest up in before you head back home.”

” Murdoch, there’s a lot more.  Johnny was beaten and umm, whipped before I could find him.  He was almost dead by that time, it all got infected and no medical help or anything.”

Murdoch walked over to where Johnny sat and said, as he tried to lift Johnny’s shirt, ” I’ll have Sam here this evening to check him out.”

Scott moved to the door, and yelled at a passing hand to send someone to get Sam.  The hand ran to an already saddled horse and took off.

He came back into the Great Room, to see his brother sort of fighting his father.  He sure as hell didn’t want his father to see the wounds for some reason.

” Murdoch, maybe Johnny needs a bit of time to decompress in his own bed for a bit.”

He helped his brother up and Johnny gave his brother a grateful, but silent thanks.  He told everyone he’d see them in a little while, and practically flew up the stairs to his room.

” Okay, would you like to explain to me Scott, what Johnny was so afraid I’d see?  I’ve seen his back when he’s been whipped before.”

” No, you haven’t Sir.  These are so much worse, and he’s a little self conscious about it still.  Give him time Sir, he’ll come around.”

Murdoch turned his head to the stairs and softly said, ” Is he really okay Son?”

Scott stood by his father and said, ” Yes, he’s fine Sir.  The whole time was a little traumatic for him and he’s still wrestling with a personal problem, that I don’t think is going to fix itself anytime soon.”

.

Chapter 5

Johnny shut the door of his room quietly, not like his usual shut the door hard and fast, and hope the framework stays together.  Before he went to his bed, he turned the lock on his door, and put the key on the dresser in the little glass saucer that Maria gave him.

He sat on the bed, his forearms resting on the tops of his thighs and his head bent forward.  A sigh so deep and long slid from his lips and his sapphire eyes slowly closed.

He couldn’t let Murdoch see his back yet.  He wasn’t even sure he wanted Sam to see it.  But Scott was right.  If anyone had to see the wounds, it was going to have to be Sam.  At least Sam could tell him what to do to deal with them.  The old man, well he’d rant and rave and want to find the guy who did it.

Actually, Johnny only wanted them to vanish.  He knew from the looks he saw on Scott’s face every time he cleaned them, that they were bad.  Hell, he could feel they were bad, and not fully healed yet.  He could feel that one of them had opened the scar and was bleeding a bit.

He slowly stood up and slowly unbuttoned the shirt he had on.  He looked at the back of the shirt.  Well, not too much blood, so maybe it already stopped.

Johnny knew they were healing, because they itched something terrible.  And it took Johnny a lot of restraint, not to scratch them.  Not yet anyway.  When they were healed better and not apt to bleed, then he would be scratching to beat the band!

Johnny went to his closet and pulled out his blue flowered shirt, and carefully slid it on.  He was just getting it buttoned up and there was a knock on the door.

He froze until he heard Scott’s voice, soft and filled with concern.

” Johnny, it’s me Brother.  Open the door please.”

He sighed softly and walked to the door and unlocked the lock for his brother.  When Scott slid inside, Johnny locked the door.

He turned and walked to his bed and slowly sat down on the edge of the mattress.  Scott came and sat next to him.

” You okay Johnny. Do you need anything before Sam comes?”

Johnny’s head slowly lifted and he looked out the window. He could see his beloved Barranca running as free as the wind, in the meadow outside of the corrals.

” No, I’m fine Scott.  I, umm, just don’t want the old man to see my back yet.  I know he’s already asked you.  I just can’t Scott.”

Scott put his hand on Johnny’s thigh and patted him gently.  He looked at his brother and saw that he was almost trembling, he was so worried about this.

” It’s okay Brother.  I told him you just needed to decompress a bit and wait to see if they start to heal better.  I’m sure Sam will tell him that also, if you want.”

Johnny’s dark head slowly nodded and he said, ” Did Matt and the other guys get settled, well before dinner?”

Scott laughed softly and Johnny smiled a little bit.  

” They are fine Johnny.  I thought tomorrow I’d take them on a tour of the ranch.  Was also kind of thinking, maybe you could talk Maria into letting Percy have access to her kitchen and he can make those great pancakes for breakfast tomorrow.”

Johnny looked up at his big brother and Scott saw twin sparkling sapphires staring at him, and a slow mischievous smile sliding into place on Johnny’s lips.

” Do you think you can do it Brother?”

” Yea, Maria loves doing me favors and maybe Percy will let her have the recipe when she sees how much I love them.”

Scott chuckled and watched Johnny’s face light up when he thought of Maria.  Ten years they’ve been at Lancer, and Maria was the nearest thing to a mother that either of the brothers had.  More so with Johnny.  She was at Lancer when he was born, and she took care of Johnny when his mother was too busy to bother with the tiny baby.

When Johnny was just learning to walk, he was into everything.  If no one could find him in the house, his father would always find him by the horses.

One day, Murdoch found him in the small corral with an unbroken stallion.  Johnny wasn’t quite two yet.  His father was just one breath away from shooting that stallion, before he could run over the toddler.  But then he stopped and watched Johnny.  He sat on his chubby little butt in the dirt, held out one hand to the stallion and made clicking sounds with his tongue in his mouth.

Murdoch, even Cipriano and a few other ranch hands all watched, quietly.  They all soon saw that wild untamed horse slowly walking to the tiny outstretched hand that Johnny held out.

The horse got to within inches of Johnny, and slowly lowered his massive head and gently blew warm air against the tiny hand.  Johnny’s bright sapphire eyes sparkled and he gently touched the soft warm muzzle.  The horse was just as enthralled with this tiny dark haired little creature as Johnny was with the massive black stallion.

Cipriano turned to Murdoch and said quietly, ” Patron, your son is what is called a horse whisperer.  Look how just his clicks and tiny hand holds that horse in his spell. He will be a great horse wrangler when older, you will see Patron.”

Murdoch had such a look of pride on his face, it took Cipriano’s breath away.

Scott remembered his father telling them years after they had come home about that story.  And Johnny had indeed become a wonderful horse whisperer.  He got a contract with the Army for horses every year.  Murdoch beamed at his son every time he and a few ranch hands took the horses to whatever fort needed them.  It was something no one else could do, and Johnny did it with less stress on the horses.

As Scott remembered about Johnny and the horses he tamed for the Army, there was also the women that Johnny seemed to charm and tame with his eyes, his smile and just the magical powers he would slide over every female he came in contact with.

Johnny was watching Barranca again and Scott softly said,

“Have you thought anymore of Angela Johnny?”

Johnny’s head whipped around to land blue eyes on his brother’s blue eyes.  The smile came slowly to Johnny’s lips and he slowly stood up.  He slid his hand into his pants pocket and pulled out the small piece of paper Angela had slipped into his hands when they left.

As he sat back down, Scott slowly opened the piece of paper and read the address on the paper.

” I want to be well enough to find her Brother.  I know, somehow, she has gotten away from her brother.”

Scott put the small piece of paper on his nightstand and slid the end of the rearing Palomino statue over it, to keep it from blowing away.

Scott watched Johnny’s eyes sort of darken to a deeper sapphire color.  As he lifted his eyes to his brother’s face, Scott could tell something was bothering his little brother.

” You know you can tell me anything little Brother.  It won’t go any further than your room.”

” It’s gonna take a long time to heal to where I can travel again Scott.  I’m afraid I will lose her somehow.  And it’s scaring me.”

Scott stood up and walked to the big window.  He leaned his right shoulder on the window pane and was very quiet.  Johnny began to get a bit antsy, waiting for Scott to say something.  When he did finally say what was on his mind, Johnny was kind of blown away.  Never had such words ever had an effect on Johnny as those words did.

” Write her a letter when you get healed enough to where not only you but Sam also thinks you could make the trip.  Johnny, you have to also know that these scars on your back won’t disappear anytime soon.  As time goes by, they will lighten up, but they won’t vanish totally.”

Johnny’s head lowered as he took in Scott’s soft, but full of how it really was, words.  His deep blue eyes closed and he raised his shoulders as he took a deep breath.

Johnny knew, in his heart and his mind that was what would happen.  He’d seen other men whipped as bad as he was, then the brine water thrown on them.  Years later, he’d see their bared back at a water hole, and he would gently cringe.  

Somehow, Johnny knew his back could and would end up like that.  He was under no illusions it wouldn’t be so.

” I know my back will carry these scars Scott.  I know they will never totally vanish.  But if I can get them to where I am comfortable with them, then I can be comfortable with having others see them”

Scott gently smiled at his little brother, genuinely grateful Johnny was thinking not only with his heart, but with his mind.

He walked to his brother and knelt in front of him, put his hands on both of Johnny’s knees and very quietly, but with a sense of pride in his voice, said, ” I think, little Brother, you are beginning to grow up.”

Johnny saw the look of pride in his eyes and smiled at his brother.  He’d seen that same look in his father’s eyes, when he sold the strings of broken horses to the Army.

” So how about we unlock the door, and go downstairs and have dinner.  Maybe by then, Sam will be here and can tell you exactly what they look like.  Okay?”

Even tho Johnny said ‘okay Scott’, his brother saw the hesitant look in his blue eyes.  They were still the defense mechanisms Johnny had to develop from years of being Johnny Madrid.  He also saw the look of complete release, into his brother’s silver blue eyes.  His brother would never lie or trick him, and Johnny gave his complete list of emotions to his big brother.  Scott understood and silently smiled at his brother.  

‘ Yes, you are finally growing up little Brother.’

Johnny stood up and finished buttoning his shirt, and walked to the door.  He unlocked it and together they went down the stairs to the Great Room.

Matt and the other four were lounging in various seats around the room.  Matt was enthralled with the model of the ship Murdoch sailed on coming to America.  They all turned and saw that Johnny was up and looking okay.

When Johnny looked at his father, he saw the look of pride sliding into the pale blue eyes.  He smiled softly at his father.  Scott handed him a glass of tequila and watched as Larry stood and offered the soft chair by the fireplace to Johnny.

Everyone could hear the soft sigh that softly came out of Johnny’s mouth.  Everyone there laughed at his sigh, and a cute pink blush crawled up Johnny’s cheeks.

As everyone talked and waited for dinner to be called, Angela was entering a town with a train service.  She dismounted and walked into the depot.  She purchased a ticket for herself and space in a cattle car for her horse.  He deserved to ride the rest of the way to California.  Also, riding in the train, her tracks would be gone in case anyone decided to trail her.  She could board her horse at the stables listed who deal with the colleges.  He’d be safe there and get a lot of pampering.

As Angela walked her horse into the car, she took his saddle off.  And she swore she heard him sigh in relief.  She took her carpet bag and her rifle with her.  The little boy who was to take care of him, she told him what she wanted and he said she could count on him.

She patted his strong neck, picked up her possessions, and left to find her car and her seat.  She all but fell into the seat.  Thank God!  It was cushioned seats!

It would take about a week to ten days to reach San Francisco.  So she began to relax and unfold from her long cross country journey from her brother.  She hoped he would get the message she wasn’t going to be forced into anything, especially a marriage.

She could feel her eyes getting a bit heavy, and she slowly closed them.  Her last thought was of Johnny and if he got home yet.  She hoped she’d find out soon.  Her eyes slid shut, and she snuggled into the comfortable seat and fell into a welcome but exhausted sleep.

Meanwhile, at Lancer, they were just sitting down to dinner and there was a knock.  Scott almost ran to the door and opened it to see Sam there, complete with his glasses on the edge of his nose, and his battered medical bag in his hand.

” Sam!  So nice to see you again.  Come on in, we’re just sitting down to dinner.”

Sam took his black overcoat off and placed his medical bag on the coffee table.

Murdoch bellowed for Maria, and when she came out of her kitchen, he told her to set a place for Sam.

” Si Patron.”

As Sam sat at an empty chair, he looked around and said, with laughter in his light brown eyes, ” You certainly have a full house of company Murdoch.”

Introductions were quickly done and Sam smiled at all of them.

” Well, thank you for bringing these two home.  I’m sure your adventure would be wonderful to hear about.”

Matt smiled at the little old Doctor and said,  ” Maybe after dinner, we all can have a chat.  Well, after you look at Johnny.”

Sam nodded and Maria began to bring the platters and bowls of food out.  Her kitchen helpers were equally as efficient and soon the big table was groaning with all the food.

It took about twenty minute for all the platters and bowls of delicious smelling food to make the rounds of the huge table.

As everyone ate, there was general chatting among the men.  Scott asked Matt and the others if they’d like a tour of the ranch, and all five of them jumped at the chance.  So it was set for just after breakfast.  Scott looked at his brother, and raised one of his eyebrows.  Johnny smiled and nodded once to his brother.  He’d ask Maria about Percy and his wonderful  pancakes after dinner.

After dinner was thru, they all, except Johnny, went to the Great Room.  He helped Maria with clearing the table.

After the table was cleared, Johnny sat at the small kitchen table and cleared his throat.  Maria turned deep loving brown eyes his way.

” Did you need something Juanito? “

Johnny looked at Maria with this soft pleading look in those sapphire orbs of his.  He knew Maria couldn’t resist that look. His soft smile came soon to his lips and she smiled back and ran her soft but work worn hand under his chin.

Softly his voice flitted over Maria and she smiled deeper.

” I need to ask a favor Maria.  It could be a bit of a hard favor, but I hope you do, for me.”

” I will try Juanito.”

Johnny softly outlined his favor, and he quietly said, ” I would like you to give Percy leave to come into your kitchen in the morning, to cook me some of his wonderful pancakes.”

Johnny saw the look suddenly get dark on Maria’s face and he quickly said, ” I love your pancakes completely Mamacita, but Percy puts something in his that is different.  Maybe he’d even give you his recipe. “

.

Chapter 6

As Johnny had said, Maria would do anything for him.  She agreed to have Percy in her kitchen in the morning, and as she turned  to wash the dishes, she softly said under her breath, ” These probably aren’t as good as mine.  But my Juanito asked me, so I do it.”

Johnny started out of the kitchen and then turned around and softly walked to Maria.  From behind her, his soft lips found their way to her warm leathery cheek.  Johnny gently kissed her and very softly said, ” Thanks Mamacita.  You’ll see, they are really good.”

Maria blushed as Johnny kissed her cheek and then as a pretty pink blush crawled up her cheeks, she swatted at him with her huge wooden spoon.  Laughing, Johnny left the kitchen, feeling a twinge in his back when he moved to get away from her spoon.

Johnny was grimacing a bit when he got to the Great Room.  Sam stood up, reached for his medical bag and then reached for Johnny’s arm.

” Come on John.  Let’s see what we have going on here.”

Murdoch watched Sam and his youngest son go up the stairs, and for a moment, Murdoch felt a momentary twinge of jealousy.  Scott watched his father, as his pale blue eyes lifted  to watch them going up the stairs.

Scott came over and said, ” Don’t worry, he will tell you Murdoch.  He just has to come to grips with this on his own.  You’ll see Sir, in Johnny’s mind, he now thinks he is scarred sort of deformed for good.  He already has a heavy stigma with being, excuse me for saying this Sir, a half breed.  A part of Johnny’s appeal to women is how he looks.  He now sees himself as damaged.  This all will pass Sir, I’m sure of it”

While Murdoch listened to his far too wise son, he felt his eyes looking up the stairs.  It was almost like he could see Johnny and Sam in the bedroom, talking.  He knew it was silly, but he was jealous.  He was jealous, because as a father, he just wants to know everything about his child.

Ten years, ten very short years, in their lives, they have been here at Lancer.  What was so different about this time, that Johnny would share not only with Sam, but with his brother.

As Murdoch slowly walked back to his desk and sat down in his big leather chair, he lifted his eyes, pale blue and shadowed with sadness.  Everyone in the room, quietly watched and Matt slid his eyes to Scott.  There was a bit of a head movement from Scott and Matt nodded he understood.

He stood up and quietly said, ” Come on guys.  Let’s go get them nags we rode in on settled for the night.  See you in the morning Scott……… Sir.  Good night.”

After they left, Murdoch and Scott stayed in the Great Room.  Murdoch was behind his desk and Scott was leaning on the fireplace mantle.

Softly, as Murdoch opened one of his ledgers, he said, ” He will show me, right Scott?”

He looked hopefully at his oldest son, that it nearly broke his heart.  He hated that he knew something about Johnny, that his father was not included in.

” Sir, this whole ordeal with Johnny, the whipping, Angela, Ortega everything Sir.  It’s what Johnny has had to deal with all of his life.  Yes, he knows he has a family now, and he knows he needs to learn on his family.  But for right now, at this moment, Johnny has had to relinquish some of the pain to someone who can help.  Like Sam.  Johnny is at the stage of needing medical help, but not personal help.  When his back is healed to where he’s comfortable, he will come to you Sir.  And then, Murdoch, he will turn to you.  Be patient, it’s almost like Johnny is a skittish colt.  He needs time Sir.  Please let him.  Please.”

Sighing softly, Murdoch leaned back into his chair.

” I’ll do whatever I can for my son, including letting him come to me with his problems and concerns.  I will wait for him Son.”

Scott smiled at his father.  That was a huge step for Murdoch to do.  Giving up the control of his youngest son.  To let him work thru everything with the medical part of it first.  Then the family help and love and then hopefully, just the fatherly concern, love and words of encouragement.  Murdoch knew he would help Johnny anywhere along the way to recovery.  And he knew, in his heart, Johnny would ask for his help.  The sigh he had, made Scott’s heart feel a little lighter, knowing his father has accepted what Johnny needed most.

He stood and walked to Scott, ” How about a cup of coffee and a slice of that cake Maria made?”

Scott laughed and they walked into the kitchen, with Murdoch’s large arm across his oldest son’s shoulders.

Maria looked up from the sink and saw the smiles on both of the Lancer men.  She smiled also and got them coffee and brought the cake from the pantry.  Scott and Murdoch ate and drank until Sam came down to talk to them.

As the Lancer men drank coffee and waited, Scott began to talk about what had happened to his brother, the fever, the crying out he was on fire, everything.  Scott watched his father’s face and eyes.  He didn’t become angry, didn’t fly off the handle either.  Nothing.  Maybe Johnny would be able to deal with this…………..if he stays calm like this.

Angela, meanwhile, was on what seemed to her to be a non stop clicking machine to San Francisco.  It was better than riding in that blasted saddle, but the noise was not to be believed!

Whenever they stopped for other passengers or whatever, Angela would make sure she got out and got food and water.  She was getting good at getting food and a jug of water in the five minutes the conductor told her she’d have.

Four or five times a day, she’d go to the car that held her horse.  He was, as she thought, being pampered.  The little boy told her all he was doing for her horse and she smiled at the child.  She’d have to remember to give him some money  for taking such good care of him.

She’d visit with him for a bit, scratch his ears and rub under his chin, he loved that.  When she was ready to leave, she patted his strong neck and went back to her seat in the other car.

Angela would think about Johnny on the lonely days of looking out the window,  watching the land move away, seeing some wild burros running.  She’d smile when she would see the wild animals running free without a care in the world.

How was his back?  If they even got home.  Sometimes, she’d even think of her brother.  He was all the family she had left. He must know she is gone, unless he didn’t go back to that ghost town.  She’d be on the watch for any of his men once she got back to college.

One day, while looking out the window, watching the scenery pass by, she began to think of Johnny in a very different way.  Seeing him smiling at her as he walked slowly towards her.  He had a blue shirt on, that covered his back.  Every time she asked if it was okay, he’d change the subject.   Maybe it would never heal again.  She hoped it would and she hoped she’d see him again.  Signing, she thought to herself, ‘ maybe someday.’

Nights on the train were hardest for Angela.  Sometimes, she felt the tears filling her eyes.  Her mind would play tricks on her and she’d tell herself she was all alone now.  Well, maybe so.  But she was still her own person, and wouldn’t be pushed to do anything she didn’t want to.

She’d push herself into her studies and become the best her there was.  And if she saw Johnny again, well so be it.

Her revelation came two days before the train would stop in San Francisco.  Finally, this noisy machine would be out of her head and she’d be back with her friends at school.  But especially, being away from this monster she was on.  She even considered kissing the ground when she got off the train.  She laughed and thought to herself, ‘ Okay, that’s a bit much Angela!  They might lock you up for being silly!’  Yeah, but she’d be off this noisy damn train!

She relaxed and thought of all the work she’d have to make up.  Well, it would keep her busy, so she wouldn’t have time to think of things she shouldn’t.

Johnny sat on his bed while Sam took a few things out of his medical bag.

He turned to face Johnny and quietly said, ” Okay, let’s get that shirt off John.”

Sam was baffled when Johnny sat there, his head lowered to his chest.  Sam sat on the bed next to Johnny and softly said, ” I know this is hard John.  But I do have to see how they are healing, and make sure they are healing correctly.”

Johnny sighed and lifted his eyes to look at Sam.  He knew Sam had to look at them, he and Scott had talked about this.

Softly, even quieter than Johnny usually spoke, he said, ” I know you do Sam.  I’m just scared of what you will see.”

Sam put his arm hand gently on Johnny’s thigh and patted him a couple times.

” John, I’m a Doctor.  I have seen medical situations that would make your teeth hurt from gritting them so hard.  Remember John, I’ve seen your back once before after you’d been whipped.  I’m not in the habit of passing judgements John.  I treat the hurts as best as I can.  Sometimes, I even offer my comfort to certain people, like you.  I’m here to heal your back John, not to judge if you are disfigured or not.  I’ll do what I can to fix what I can.  Okay John?”

Johnny lifted his head, and his deep blue eyes locked on Sam’s face.  Honesty and sinerity was what he saw in those old brown eyes.  Smiling slowly, he took a deep breath and licked his suddenly dry lips.

As Johnny stood up, he unbuttoned his shirt and slid it from his arms.  Lifting his head a bit higher, he turned his back to Sam’s eyes.

Sam’s first thought when he saw Johnny’s back, was that he wanted to kill the man who did that.  How could anyone do this to another human?  He kept his emotions inside and gently lifted his hands to touch the wounds that looked more healed than the others.

Sam was very good at being a professional.  Even when the person was a young man who he had brought into the world.  He was not judgemental and he examined Johnny’s back pretty much with a fine tooth comb.

Finally, after an extensive thirty minute exam, Sam put his hand on Johnny’s warm shoulder.

” I’m done John.  But before you put your shirt back on, I want to put some cream on and around the edges, to get away with the ragged edges.”

Sam reached into his medical bag and pulled out a jar and began to slide the cream over the wounds.  It was cool and soothing and Sam felt Johnny relax a bit more.

When he was done, Johnny put his shirt on and as he sat on the bed, Sam pulled the chair from Johnny’s desk around and sat on it.  Sam wiped his hands on a towel and then wiped his glasses.  It wasn’t as long as sometimes, and soon Sam began to speak.

” What I see John, is some very horrible scars.  I won’t lie to you.  They are deeply embedded in your skin.  Some are definitely lighter than others.  Those will eventually vanish.  Unfortunately, John, the deeper ones, across the middle of your back may not vanish.  Of course, like any scar, they will lighten.  But the roughness of the skin will remain.  Being without your shirt on when working will help.  The sun will blend these scars into your natural color on your back.”

Sam watched as Johnny tried to remain strong, and quite frankly, he was very proud of the young man for these signs of courage.  He knew it would take a lot out of Johnny to deal with and accept what had been done to him.  His family could help immensely, when he was ready.

He put the jar of cream on Johnny’s night stand.  ” Twice a day Johnny.  Scott I’m sure will help you with it.”

Before Sam left, he turned to Johnny and said, ” It will be okay John.  You’ll accept this and you’ll have the help and support of your family, and me, when you need it.  Just remember, we are always here for you John.”

Johnny slowly nodded his head, but it was lowered a bit again.  After Sam left, Johnny buttoned his shirt up and tucked it in his pants.  He walked slowly to the window and watched the activity below him.

Scott and the others were going for a tour of the ranch.  His hand dropped to the desk beside him.  Johnny knew what he had to do.  He sat down, took out some pieces of paper and picked up a pencil, and started to write.

As Johnny began to write to Angela, the train she was in, finally pulled into the San Francisco depot.  A loud sigh was heard, and two little girls behind her laughed softly.  She smiled at the girls, picked up her bag and rifle and went to the car to get her horse.

As she started to saddle him, she could sense he was as anxious to get off this moving monster too.  When she was done, she looked around for the little boy who took such good care of her horse.

She found him, cleaning out another stall.  She walked up to him and gave him a few dollars.  His eyes lit up and he thanked her and stufffed the money into a pocket of his overalls.  As she moved away, he said goodbye and patted her horse on the neck.

She tied her horse to the rail outside the depot, and went in to ask where a stable was nearby to the colleges, for her to board her horse.  She found a nice one and paid for the semester.  Patting him on the neck, she said she’d come ride him after classes were done.  She left her saddle on the railing of his stall and walked to the campus.

She found her friends had missed her terribly, and Angela settled back into her classes, as if she never had been gone.  She soon was relaxed and carefree as she was, well before everything had happened.

One day, as Angela was returning to her room in the huge house she lived in, the house mother came to her room door, all smiles on her face.

” Why Mrs Pattingford, you have this delightful smile on your face.  Is your son coming home?”

She laughed softly behind her hand and said, ” Oh no Miss Angela.  But I do have a letter that was left on the front hall table when I went out to the market.  No return address, just your name on it.”

She took the letter from her hand and looked at it.  She turned it over in her hand and only saw her name written on the outside of the envelope, and she didn’t even recognize the way it was written.

She smiled and said, ” Well, one way to find out who it’s from I guess.”  And she opened the letter.  It was just one page and as she read the words, she began to smile.

Finally, Mrs Pattingford could stand it no longer.  ” Who is it from my dear?!”

As Angela lifted her eyes, there was a sudden sparkle shining in her brown eyes.  Softly, she said, ” It’s from someone I never thought to hear from again.”

Angela laid her books on the small table by the front door, and as she turned to leave she said, ” I’ll be back later, Mrs Pattingford. ” And she all but flew down the stairs.

Her small feet flew over the walkways and cobblestones, as she raced to the park by the ocean she was told to go to.  When she got there, her eyes scanned everywhere and as her heart began to fall, she thought it was someone’s cruel joke.

Angela was so close to letting her tears fall, and as she turned to head back to her lonely little room, she heard the voice she’d dreamed of.

” I’m here Angela.  Turn around.”

Slowly Angela turned and as she saw him standing there, her smile erupted on her face and she held her breath.  Afraid that if she breathed, he would vanish.

” Johnny.  Are you really here Johnny?”

His soft laugh sounded like music to Angela’s ears.  ” Yes, I’m really here Querida. “

She moved towards Johnny, wondering if his back had healed enough for a hug from her.  Johnny answered her silent question as he gently pulled her to his body and his arms slid around her.

Carefully, so carefully, Angela was so afraid he would break, she lifted her arms to go around Johnny’s body.  She felt the soft tickling caress of his dark hair against her bare arms.  

Her eyes closed and she would swear, she heard the soft sigh slip from his lips, almost as if Johnny was purring.

They stayed in each others arms for a longer time than was really decent, and the murmuring of the passing people filtered thru to Angela.  At the same time, they both slowly moved apart.  Johnny gently reached for one of her hands and held it gently.

As Johnny and Angela began to walk thru the park, Johnny softly began to talk to her.

” I had started writing you a letter, telling you things I couldn’t really tell anyone else, except my Brother Scott.  I let him read it and when he was thru, he said, ” You need to see Angela and talk to her about everything.  So I guess, that’s one of the reasons I’m here.”

Angela lifted her eyes to look at him, and she saw such heightened emotions in his deep blue eyes.  All she remembered, was how they looked before, full of pain and sadness.

They started walking in the park and soon Johnny heard the roar of ocean waves, as they broke on the shore.  Soon, they both were standing on the sand, watching the waves and the beautiful sunset, that seemed to last forever.

There they stood, holding hands and being so still and quiet.  Angela very slowly turned to Johnny and said, ” Have you ever seen the ocean before?”

He smiled and said he had, but he never saw it with a pretty girl before.  Angela turned her face away when she felt the warm blush caressing her cheeks.

” Angela, I would like to take you out to someplace nice for dinner, and I want to talk to you about my back and my heart.”

She smiled and said she knew of a wonderful restaurant that served a mix of American and Mexican style food.  Johnny thought that was a great idea.

They walked about more and found a huge jumble of rocks to sit on. They soon got comfortable.  Johnny sat behind Angela and she was sort of between his long muscular legs.  The wind was blowing and Angela lifted her head to it and closed her eyes.

” Hmm, I love the smell of the ocean.  I would love to live right here, on the beach, in a shack made of big boulder type rocks.  Just sit and watch the waves and the birds and the sunsets and sunrises.  It’s almost magical Johnny.”

Just listening to her soft musical voice was having a strange effect on Johnny’s mind and heart.  He moved his shoulder against her arm a little harder and was amazed when she didn’t move away.

Johnny’s breathing began to deepen, and his sapphire eyes began to sparkle with the last of the sun’s rays.

” I’ve thought of you all this time, while recovering.  Wondering how you were, if you had gotten back to classes.  I’ve never felt like this with a woman before.”

Johnny lowered his head and his eyes closed.  ” Actually, I’ve  never been with a real lady before, mainly saloon girls.  I don’t have to give them anything, but a good time.”

Johnny stopped and jumped down from the rocks.  He looked upwards at Angela and even tho his head was once again bowed, he very softly said, ” I think without even knowing why, I find myself thinking of you more and more.”

Angela looked at Johnny, hoping beyond hope, that he would say the words she had prayed for.  But the conversation stopped and Johnny reached up and helped her down.  They began to walk back to her home, in absolute silence to where she lived.

Before Johnny left, he told Angela he would be back in about an hour, and then they could go to dinner.  He leaned over and gently kissed her cheek and with a soft smile, he turned.

As Angela went up to her room to get ready, she wondered what had happened.  She thought that he would tell her he loved her.  Maybe he was shy and it would take a little longer.

She decided on a green dress to wear and she took her hair down and brushed it till it shined.  Then she just pinned up a little bit to give it a sort of exotic look.

While she was finishing up, Johnny and Scott were engaged in a very serious talk.

.

Chapter 7

Scott sat on his bed, back against a pillow up against the railings of the headboard.  He had a small smile on his face, as he watched his little brother almost in a frenzy getting ready for his dinner date with Angela.

” Okay, tell me again Johnny, what happened at the ocean.  What did you tell her and how did she react?”

In the middle of lathering his face in readiness of shaving, Johnny turned around.  His sapphire eyes pierced his brother’s silver blue eyes.

” Scott, I told her about this letter I still have and told her how I’ve been thinking of her during my recovery.  I saw that she was waiting for me to say those words.  I choked Scott, I just couldn’t tell her.”

Scott swung his long legs over the side of the bed and leaned forward, his forearms resting on his lean thighs.

His eyes lifted to his brother’s and they locked on each other.  Despite the Johnny Madrid stare, it was Johnny who looked away first.  The smile began slow and then it erupted across Scott’s face.

” You love her, don’t you little Brother?  Johnny, look at me.”

Slowly, sapphire eyes lifted to look at Scott, accompanied by a small sly smile on his lips.

” Yea, I think I do Scott.  All the time we were at the ocean, I had a knot in my belly and I was tongue tied.  Since when do I not know what to say to a lady? “

Johnny quickly turned to the mirror and picked up his razor.   From where Scott sat, he saw the movement in his hand and he stood up.  He put his hand on Johnny’s hand and said, with a little lightness in his voice, ” Maybe you should calm down a bit, before you cut your throat little Brother. “

The razor was put on the dresser and Johnny turned to his brother and burst out laughing.  ” Wouldn’t be a good idea, would it Scott.  Would be a real damper on my date! “

The brothers had a short chuckle at the thought, and then Scott got serious again.  He walked to the window in between the beds and said, ” Are you going to tell her at dinner, how you feel?  You can’t keep her on a string, guessing and wondering at each word you say.  She needs to know and you, my little Brother, need to make a decision. “

Johnny lowered his head and he looked a little silly with the shaving cream still on his face.  Scott got a look on his face and shook his head.

” I’m serious Johnny.  You have to decide! “

” I know Scott.  I do love her.  But how is this going to even get started.  She is here in San Francisco, I’m at Lancer.  It’s not like I’d be able to walk next door to ask her out.  I think it’s a lost cause Scott.  Maybe I shouldn’t have come here.  Should just have stayed at Lancer. “

Scott was flabbergasted.  All the way home from Mexico, Angela was all Johnny talked about.  At Lancer, during his recovery, again Johnny talked about her.  Now, being here, to be able to touch her and talk to her, he is suddenly changing his mind.  To Scott’s analytical way of thinking, it didn’t make any sense.

 ” What are you saying Johnny? “

He picked up a towel and wiped the cream off his face and slowly turned around to face his brother.  His eyes were like hard diamonds and he softly said, ” Maybe I, we should just leave.  Now, before anymore or anything is said.”

” Johnny, that isn’t what you want to do, I can tell.  Have the dinner with Angela, talk to her about all we have said.  Your doubts about a long distant relationship.  She may just surprise you Johnny.  But I do think you do owe her at least a chance to voice her concerns, just as you do yours.”

Johnny could hear the words from his sibling, and he knew he was right.  He had to at least explain to her what he thought.

He took off his blue flowered shirt and before he could put on a clean shirt, Scott pulled the jar of crew from his saddle bag and put some on the larger of the scars.  Some of them had already lightened, but these bigger deeper ones would always be there, reminding his brother what had happened.

When Johnny was ready, he left the hotel room, and walked to the house that Angela lived in.  When he knocked on the door, it was answered by a very large and jolly woman.

Smiling widely, she said, ” You must be Johnny. I’ll go and get Angela.  Please wait here.”

She went up the stairs and knocked on a door.  Angela got up from her bed and went to the door.  She grabbed a thin shawl from the dresser.

As she walked down the stairs, she smiled shyly as she saw Johnny.  He had such a nice smile and he was so handsome in that shirt.

He held out his hand and as she hit the last stair, he brought his lips to the back of her hand, and gently kissed it.  She felt a shiver run up her spine and she smiled at Johnny.

” Ready Querida? “

She couldn’t talk after he kissed her hand, but she nodded her head.  As they were leaving, Mrs Pattingford said, ” Have a good time my dear.”

They didn’t have far to go, so they decided to walk.  When they got to the restaurant, Johnny pulled her chair out for her.  They sat down and soon a pretty waitress came for their orders and Angela noticed Johnny didn’t even give her a second glance.  For some reason, that gave Angela infinite joy inside.

As they ate, they softly talked.  Johnny told her all about his recovery, but that some of them would take a long while yet to fade.  But that he was okay with them.

Angela hung on his every word, listening to his soft sing song voice.  She answered his questions about her studies and he was glad she was able to make up for the time away.

” Had no choice, it was catch up and make it up or have the same classes next semester.”

They softly laughed and then dessert came.  Johnny’s demeanor changed and Angela got a little nervous.  Nervous that he would take her back to Mrs Pattingford’s home and then leave forever.

Johnny reached for her hand and she turned her eyes to his. She saw uncertainty in the deep blue depths.

” Angela, I’m gonna say something and I don’t want you to say anything until I’m done.  Okay Chica?”

” Yes Johnny.”

” I love you.  I guess I have for a long time.  I want to have a relationship with you, but we are separated by space.  You here in San Francisco, me at Lancer.  That isn’t a way to have a relationship or even to start one.  I do want to be with you Angela and I want to take care of you forever. Come with me to Lancer.  Let’s try to build a relationship between us Querida.”

He abruptly stopped talking and she just looked at Johnny.  The sparkles in those deep sapphire eyes that she loved so much.  The way his shaggy black hair fell over his eyes.  Everything about him, she loved.

Angela reached her hand to caress his warm cheek and she felt him lean into the caress.

She looked out the window and was quiet for a long time.  Johnny began to get nervous and antsy. ‘ She’s going to say no.’

” Johnny, I do want a life with you.  I have loved you since I took care of you on the trail.  Yes, take me to Lancer with you.”

Johnny stood up and pulled her from her chair and wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tightly to his chest.  Her arms slid around his neck and the soft caress of his silky black hair against her hands made everything okay.

They all but ran back to the house and told Mrs Pattingford that she was going to go to Lancer and begin a new life with Johnny.  Johnny told Angela to pack what she wanted and he’d be back for her tomorrow.

Angela couldn’t sleep, she packed what she wanted and waited for Johnny.  He came mid morning with his brother Scott.  As Scott picked up her carpet bag, he noticed her rifle in the corner of the sitting room, and as he walked passed the room he picked that up as well.

” We need to go to Johnson’s Stable, I need to get my horse.  I can’t leave him here.”

Johnny and Angela went to the stable and she retrieved her horse and saddle.  They met Scott in the front of their hotel.  She saw their horses were saddled and waiting.  Angela fell in love with Johnny’s flashy golden Palomino.

Softly, Johnny said, ” His name is Barranca.”

“He’s so beautiful Johnny, like the sun is inside of him.”

She saw the look of pride that came over Johnny’s face, and she smiled at him.  She could see he acted differently around the stallion, and it seemed like the horse understood the words that Johnny was saying.

They mounted up and headed to Lancer.  It was about ten days of good riding and there were no major problems along the way.  They stopped at the door of the hacienda, and was met by a mountain of a man.  As she was helped down from her horse, quick introductions were done.  As she walked slowly to the door to go inside, she was absolutely floored.  Never had she imagined Johnny lived in such a magnificent home.

Murdoch thanked her warmly for what she’d done for Johnny, after he’d been hurt.  She smiled shyly and felt a warm blush crawling up her cheeks.  No one noticed.

She was given a lovely room over the flower gardens, and their fragrances already were filling the room.

Johnny left her to put what she had with her, telling her to change into some pants and her boots, and they’d go for a ride around Lancer.

When Johnny went to the Great Room, he saw Matt and the others were still there.  He looked at Murdoch with a question in his eyes, and Murdoch said, ” I decided to ask them to stay and they all agreed. “

Johnny saw his brother already in quiet talks with Matt and Larry, and he felt a ping of jealousy.  It was gone almost as fast as it came.

Soon, Angela came down the stairs and Johnny positively beamed at her.

” You ready Chica?”

” Yes.  Where are we going Johnny?” She was all excited about the mysteries that Lancer would show her.

As they walked out the door, Johnny said, ” To my favorite place on the whole ranch.  I love to go there and just think.  Especially in the beginning of being here at Lancer.  Me and the old man would lock horns……a lot.”

As they mounted up, Angela softly chuckled as she thought of Johnny and his father ‘locking horns’.  His father was kind of mellow and to Angela, Johnny didn’t seem the type to get angry.”

They rode up a hill behind the barns and kept going for about half an hour more.  What Angela saw, when they stopped, was a crystal clear pond that shimmered under the sun, and a meadow of blue and yellow flowers.

Johnny took the saddles off their horses, and watched as they wandered to the pond, kicking up more butterflies as they went.  Johnny directed Angela to some shade trees.  He put the saddles down on the ground.  Then he spread a small blanket on the ground and they sat on it.

” This place is great Johnny.  I can see why it’s your favorite place.”

Johnny smiled at her and lifted his hand to gently caress her cheek.  He watched her eyes close and he felt her leaning into his touch.

” Angela, look at me Honey.  I want you to see me, all of me.”

Johnny knelt on the blanket and faced her, and began to open the buttons on his shirt.  He pulled it slowly out of his pants and then moved so his back was to her eyes.  Johnny slowly pulled his shirt from his arms and his back. Then he closed his eyes and held his breath, waiting.

Angela knelt behind him and slowly lifted her hand.  Gently, afraid she’d hurt him, she touched the scars criss crossing his back.  She felt the gentle tremors running thru his body and she softly said, in so soft a voice it was like the beating of butterfly wings.

” Oh Johnny, how he hurt you. “

She gently touched Johnny’s back and the tremors became harder.  She did a good job of keeping her tears at bay.  As she lightly ran her fingertips over his scars, Johnny’s eyes slowly opened.  There were tears stuck on his long black lashes and his voice shook when he softly said, ” You don’t think I’m ugly Angela?”

It took her awhile to find her voice.  When she did she asked him to turn around and look at her.  As Johnny turned he looked at her.

Angela locked her eyes with Johnny’s eyes and slowly began to unbutton her own shirt.  Before she opened her shirt, she softly and very quietly said,  ” You weren’t the only one Ortega hurt Johnny.”

Angela opened the edges of her shirt and waited.  Johnny’s blue eyes slid down her body and he saw a knife wound that ran across her torso, just under her chest.  It was as ugly as his scars on his back.  The stitches had been put in crudely and it hadn’t healed well.

As Johnny swallowed hard, she told him that Ortega had done this to her because he wanted her, but she didn’t want him.  She had smacked him hard and he said that if she didn’t want him then he’d make it so no one else would want her.

Angela told Johnny the Doctor wasn’t any good and didn’t sew it up correctly, and it just healed wrong.

” So you see, I’m like you are Johnny.  No one would want to be with me.”

                           ****** ALERT ******

Johnny caressed her all over and softly said, ” Wrong Chica.  I want to be with you.  I think you are beautiful Angela, and I want to make you mine.”

Angela couldn’t believe her ears. Johnny was saying he wanted to make her his.  He didn’t see her as ugly.

Johnny gently pushed her back onto the blanket and gently slid her clothes off her, then took his clothes off his body.

They both soon were naked, and Angela heard Johnny’s breathing change, and then she noticed she was panting herself.

Johnny slowly began to touch her body.  Everywhere Johnny was touching Angela, felt like fire on her skin.

” Touch me as I touch you Honey.  I want to feel your touch on my skin.”

She lifted her hands and slowly and gently ran her fingertips over his chest.  Feeling the soft black hair covering his chest.  As her fingers slid gently over Johnny’s nipples, the reaction was like an eruption.  Johnny sucked in air and Angela heard a sigh slip from his open lips.

” Oh God Honey, you are making me crazy!”

As Angela was driving Johnny absolutely insane, Johnny was driving Angela crazy.  He slid his fingers down her body and across her belly.  Then down each thigh, feeling the twitches in her body coming more frequently, and more consuming.

Johnny smiled down at her, but her eyes were closed and she was softly sighing.  Johnny lowered his head and his soft warm lips found her lips.

Johnny moved one of his legs in between her legs, and slowly moved her legs apart.  It was then, that Johnny slid his finger inside of her body.  She arched against his finger said, ” Oh God Johnny!”

” Feel good Honey?  I want to make you feel so good Angela.  I want to teach you everything Baby.”

She was beyond words now, and her body felt like it was on fire.  Johnny slid one more finger inside of her and she softly cried out.

” Angela?  You want me to stop?”

” No, no, no!  You are making me feel like I’m on fire Johnny!”

That sentence caught Johnny quickly off guard.  Fire!  He was once on fire, but it wasn’t because of joy, it was because of pain.

Johnny slowly took his fingers from Angela’s body and picked her up and held her to his warm chest.

As Johnny held her tightly, he softly cooed to her.  She laid her head on his chest, hearing his heart beating hard against her cheek.

They both were breathing hard and fast and Johnny suddenly didn’t feel like making her his, well not at that moment.

                       ****** END ALERT ******

They sat on the blanket, wrapped in each others arms, still naked.  But the passions of just a few minutes ago, had slowly died down.  At least for the time being.

Against his chest, her fingers slowly twisting in the dark hair on this chest, feeling the dampness of his past passions.

” Why did you stop Johnny?”

Laying his cheek against her soft hair, he closed his eyes and very quietly said, ” It was what you said, about fire.  It kind of startle me Honey.  I remember saying that word, ‘Fire’ to my Brother when he found me.  It just shocked me that we could have said the same word, but mean two different things.”

Johnny gently caressed up and down her back and she relaxed into his arms.

” Johnny, will you do this again to me?”

Smiling, he lifted up his head and put his hand under her chin.  As he kissed her lips gently and then with more pressure, he said against her ear, ” We have the rest of our lives to learn about each other Angela.  And I do one day soon, want to marry you.”

” Mmm, sounds like a nice plan Johnny.”

As they sat on the blanket, watching the sunset, Johnny softly said, just low enough that Angela couldn’t really hear him and she wasn’t sure he said anything actually.

” Flesh and Fire, the same but different.”

End
May 2021

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PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT
Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment.  Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here.  You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or Email Robyn B. directly.

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5 thoughts on “Flesh and Fire by Robyn B

  1. I enjoyed your story, especially the special connection the brothers shared even when they were miles apart. Thank you for posting.

    Like

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed it Chris. I have more stories in this site…I’m sure you’ll like them too

    Like

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