Mattie by Robyn B.

Word count 4,909

I don’t own any part of Lancer or it’s characters.  I do, however, take the boys out for a trot around the ranch.  Any and all characters of mine, can’t be used without permission. No warning is needed.

Episode Tag for Blind Man’s Bluff

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Mattie!  His Mattie was gone.  Johnny stayed on his knees on the hard dirt road, her message on the small piece of paper gripped tightly in his hand.

His tears were falling hard and fast down his cheeks, and he lifted the small piece of paper up to his tear filled eyes.

He tried to will his tears to cease, even for one minute, and he read her last message to him.

Because she loved him, she was going away from him and Lancer.  He loved her and he thought she loved him.  Johnny’s head lowered once again.  He never even saw what she looked like.

Johnny heard someone approaching him, and he knew it was his brother.  When the strong hands helped him to stand, Johnny then knew it was his father.  Johnny was surprised, but also glad, it was his father.

” It’s okay John.  She’ll be back one day.  She’s going to a special school back east.  She needs to learn how to communicate.  She’ll be back Johnny, I promise.”

Without even thinking about it, he wrapped his arms around Murdoch’s body, and the tears, once again, came warm and wet.  Murdoch Lancer didn’t seem to mind.  It was the first time, in a long time, that Johnny sought his comfort for anything.

Murdoch held Johnny against his massive chest for a few minutes longer, relishing the contact with his youngest son.

Murdoch let Johnny’s tears fall freely and when he sensed a quietness come to his son, he leaned Johnny back and softly lifted his chin.  He gently caressed Johnny’s shaggy hair away from his eyes.

He slowly walked Johnny to where his horse, Hannibal, stood patiently.  Murdoch gently helped Johnny to slowly mount the animal.  Murdoch got up behind Johnny, and pulled him back against his chest.  They rode quietly back to the hacienda, where Scott helped Johnny off the horse and upstairs and back to his bed.

Murdoch and Scott got Johnny comfortable in his bed.  Scott handed him a glass of water.

After Johnny wiped the evidence of his tears away, he took the glass and quietly thanked his brother.

” Why don’t you rest a little bit Son.  You’ve had a shock to the system.  I’ll check on you in a bit.”

Before Murdoch stood up, he once again slid his hand under Johnny’s chin and lifted his face up to his.

” It will work out Son.  It’s just going to take some time.”

Johnny’s sapphire eyes locked on Murdoch’s pale blue eyes, and he tried to smile.  It was a sad smile, but Murdoch gently smiled back.

As he stood to leave, Scott slid his tall lanky body into the chair.  He saw the new pain flare up into Johnny’s eyes and he didn’t know what comfort he could give to his little brother.

Softly, Johnny spoke to his brother.

” I love her Scott.  How could she just leave.  I told her I loved her, I thought she loved me too Scott.  I don’t understand how she could leave.”

Scott thought over his words very carefully.  He knew Johnny was truly hurting, and he didn’t want to say anything that caused him additional pain.

” Her friend, Doc Poovy, said that she was going to a special school Johnny.  To learn how to communicate image better.”

” She couldn’t even stay until I saw her.  I wanted to see her Scott.  I wanted to look into her eyes and see her love for me.  I don’t even know what she looks like Scott, and that hurts even more than her leaving.”

Scott knew Johnny’s tears were hovering so close to the surface, he decided to kind of nip it in the bud, so to speak.

” Why not rest Johnny.  Maybe after a good rest things will look different.”

Johnny smiled at his brother, and softly sighed.

” I don’t think it will Boston.  It will never be different.  Mattie is gone and I’ll never see her again.  I have to find a way to go on.”

” You will Brother.  All your friends and family will help you.  I’m here for you Brother.  Anytime.”

” Thanks Scott.  Means a lot.  But I think I will rest for awhile.”

” Best thing for you right now Johnny.  I’ll check on you in awhile.”

After Scott left, Johnny slowly slid down into the bed, and laid on his left side.  He looked out the window and the tears came back.  Johnny didn’t try to hold them back either.

” Mattie, oh Mattie!  Why did you leave me?  I loved you, and I thought you loved me.  I was happy, for once.  You’re gone and I have nothing again.  Mattie, I miss you already, and you just left.  Come back Maggie, please come back.”

With Johnny’s tears and his soft entreaty to Mattie to come back, he fell into a restless sleep.  When Murdoch checked on his youngest son a few hours later, he saw the dried tracks of his tears against his tanned cheeks.  Murdoch’s heart broke, because his son was hurting.  He sighed and closed the door.

Johnny woke up about an hour before dinner.  He slowly walked to the stand by the window and looked in the mirror.

” Man, I look like hell!”

He washed his face in the cool water, to erase the tracks his tears made.  Then he pulled clean clothes out of his dresser and closet, and got dressed.  He sat on the bed to put his boots on.

That was when he saw the crumpled piece of paper on his nightstand.  His hand reached for it, and Johnny noticed his hand shook.  He slowly opened it and smoothed it out.  He traced the words with his fingertips and then slid the piece of paper into the top drawer.  Johnny laid his hand on the top of the stand, and took a deep quivering breath.  At that moment, Scott knocked and came in.

” You’re awake. Good, dinner is ready Brother.  You want to come down and eat with us?”

” Yes Scott.  Was just on my way downstairs.”

Johnny got up from the bed and walked to the door, his spurs jingling softly.  He got to the door frame and turned to look at the nightstand and then went out the door.

Scott didn’t miss where Johnny looked and as his brother breezed out the door, Scott sighed, then followed his little brother.

Murdoch heard the jingling spurs and sort of smiled that his son was coming downstairs to eat with the family.  He looked up and said, ” It’s good that you’re up and joining us Son.”

Johnny walked to the bar cart in the corner and poured a hefty glass of tequila for himself and a whiskey for his father and brother.

Johnny took a huge sip and the fiery drink hit his empty stomach like a boulder.  He almost grabbed the edge of the cart, but caught himself.

He closed his eyes and felt the sudden warmth run thru his body.  Up until that sip, he felt cold inside.  Now, Johnny felt as tho he could move on.  At least, that’s what his brain told his heart.

Maria announced dinner was ready, and the three Lancers went to the big dining room.  Johnny wondered why they were eating on the big table, it was just the three of them.

 Teresa was helping Sam Jenkins with a neighbor’s pregnancy and labor, so she would be gone for a few days.

As Johnny sat, he saw all of his favorite foods on the table.  He knew it was Maria’s way of offering her support to her Juanito.

He took a little of them all, but to him, it was as tho he was eating sawdust.  It didn’t hold any joy for Johnny.  He ate the food and smiled throughout the meal, hopefully showing his family he was moving on from Mattie.

Johnny hated deceiving his family, but he hated deceiving his heart even more.  He loved Mattie, and probably would for a long time.

After dinner, Maria brought in a tray with slices of chocolate cake and a cool glass of milk for Johnny.  He smiled his thanks to Maria, and she cupped his chin and softly smiled at him.

When the cake was gone, Johnny asked to be excused.  He slowly walked to the door and went out the front porch.  He sat on a low stone wall and looked out across the land.

He was so into his thoughts, he didn’t hear Scott coming out.  He lifted his head as Scott came to where he was sitting on the wall.

” You okay Johnny?”

” Yea, just looking at the stars and thinking, Scott.”

” Thinking, about what Brother?”

” I have to start moving forward I guess Scott.  I can’t think of Mattie, or I’ll go insane.  She’s gone, I have to accept that and move on.  Right?”

” Yes you do Johnny.  But don’t hurry thru this process.  You do need time for yourself.”

Johnny began to agree and he saw a shooting star.  

” Well, will you look at that Boston?”

Scott saw the star and the smile on his little brother’s face.

” Make a wish Johnny.”

Scott saw a sudden flare of sparkles in Johnny’s eyes, and he said, ” Yea, I did Scott.”

” Hope it comes true Brother. “

Scott got up and went back into the hacienda, and Johnny’s smile quickly vanished and he said softly, to himself, ” Me too Scott, me too.”

Days soon turned into weeks and then into months.  Johnny threw himself into work and would be too exhausted by the time dinner rolled around, to even think.

He soon could think of Mattie without the pain in his heart now.  He even went a few times with Scott and some of the ranch hands into town for a night of drinks, cards and on a few occasions, female companionship.

After he would leave the girls, he never felt contented.

Johnny would always compare them to the one and only time he was with Mattie.

One night, about eight months after Mattie left, Johnny had a very vivid dream.  In it, Mattie came to him and showed him all her skills to communicate.  It was so real a dream, Johnny woke up with a cry of surprise.

Scott came rushing into Johnny’s room, and found his brother sitting up, wild eyed and shaking.

” Johnny, wake up Brother!  Johnny!”

He shook his brother’s shoulder until his eyes focused again.

Johnny’s eyes looked into the dark corners of his room and then he quietly said,  “Scott, it was so real!  Mattie, she was here.  She was trying to show me what she learned!  It was so real Scott.”

Scott rubbed Johnny’s back and soothed his still wildly beating heart.

” Was just a dream Johnny.  Breathe.  You’re alright.”

He calmed and looked at his brother with an apology on his lips, and Scott stopped him.

” I told you I’d be there for you and I am Brother.  You okay now, you think you can get back to sleep now?”

” Yea, I’m okay now Scott.  Thanks Boston.”

Scott patted Johnny’s bare shoulder and again told him goodnight and went to the door and quietly left.

Johnny slid his head to the pillow and closed his eyes, and tried to fall back asleep.  It was next to impossible, so he just rested his body.

The cattle drive for the fall came and went with few problems.  A couple of the cattle had been picked off by Indians, but all in all, the majority made it to the stock pens in San Francisco.

Murdoch gave everyone two days holiday, and the boys gave the ranch hands their pay.  They told the hands that everyone was going to head home on Sunday, so don’t end up in jail.

Most of the hands, and Scott and Johnny, laughed at that simple statement.

Everyone scattered to the four winds, and Scott and Johnny went to the first saloon they came to.

Johnny, as usual, checked the inside out before he entered.

 Scott sighed softly, wishing for the hundreth time, how he wished his brother didn’t have to still live like that……always checking over his shoulder.  Always looking for when that bullet with his name on it will come around the corner.

The boys got their drinks and started to a back table.  Scott stopped and said, ” Do you have food here?”

The bartender never broke his glass washing pace, but he said they did.  The boys ordered steaks and potatoes.  As they continued to the table, they heard the bartender yell out to an invisible cook, ” Two steaks and spuds needed Marvin!”

Scott and Johnny smiled at each other and sat down.  There weren’t many in the saloon.  Johnny watched a poker game and considered joining after he ate.  Scott was smiling at a pretty dark haired saloon girl.

Their food was brought by a different saloon girl, and she also topped off both of their drinks.

” Anything else Cowboys?”

Scott looked at her and said, ” Yes, you could tell me the name of that pretty girl in blue.”

She smiled and said, ” You have a good eye Sweetie.  Her name is Dee.  I’ll tell her you are interested.”

She looked at Johnny and asked if any girls grabbed his attention.  He said no there wasn’t.

After she left, Scott looked at his brother and said, ” Really Brother?  You gonna pass up an evening with a pretty girl!?”

Johnny slowly chewed a piece of steak and then said, ” I’ll be fine Scott.  I’m gonna join the game over there.  Don’t worry, I’ll be just fine.”

After Scott vanished with Dee, Johnny walked to the poker game.  He joined the game, and won a couple hands.  After midnight, Johnny decided to call it a night.  He left the game with three hundred dollars in his winnings.

He went up to his room, and kicked off his boots.  He unwrapped the gunbelt and hung it on the headboard.  After he slid his clothes off and slid into the bed, Johnny was more than ready for sleep.

The next morning, Scott came into his room, and woke him up.

Johnny got dressed, and as he sat on the bed to put his boots on, he quietly said to his brother.

” Last night was the first time since she left that I didn’t dream about Maggie.”

Scott sat in a wooden chair and looked at his brother.  His silver blue eyes held Johnny’s sapphire eyes.  He leaned a little forward and laid his arms on his thighs.

” Maybe you’ve rounded the corner Brother?  Maybe you finally are free.”

Johnny looked up and quietly said, ” I do feel a little free Scott.  It’s not that intense pain I felt in the beginning.”

Scott stood up and as he walked to the door, he said, ” Well, it has been a year Johnny.  Maybe this is a good sign.”

Johnny strapped his gunbelt to his thigh and grabbed his saddlebags and rifle, same as Scott, and together the brothers went downstairs.

They walked to a cafe for breakfast, and met up with Murdoch and a few of the hands.

” You guys are up early.  Have a good night boys?”

Scott blushed guiltily and Johnny just smiled and said, ” Won three hundred playing  poker.”

Murdoch smiled and said, ” Well, I can see you had a good night John.”

Johnny lowered his head a little and a soft pink blush could be seen slowly crawling up his cheeks.

Scott and Johnny sat down, joining Murdoch and the ranch hand Frank at the table.  They ordered breakfast and coffee.

They talked of the journey back to Lancer.

” You boys packed and ready to go?”

Scott looked up and said, ” Yes, we are Murdock.  I for one can’t wait to get home.”

Everyone at the table laughed.  Soon after, Frank excused himself, saying he was going to make sure all the hands were accounted for.

” John, you don’t seem to be excited about going home.  Everything okay?”

Johnny took a last piece of bacon between his teeth and said, ” I’m fine Murdoch.”

Murdoch watched his younger son and he decided he wouldn’t get any more from Johnny.  No sense pushing him, when he was ready to talk, he would.

The Lancers got up and picked up their rifles and saddlebags, and left the cafe.  Heading to the livery to saddle their horses.

When everyone was ready, they began the journey back home.   Johnny and Scott kept up a light hearted banter between them. Murdoch smiled at how close his sons had gotten.

They travelled for twenty-five days and finally saw the white hacienda.  Scott breathed a sigh of relief that the journey was finally over.  Johnny smiled at his brother’s sigh.

They rode right to the stables and they took the saddles off their very tired horses.  Johnny tiredly brushed Barranca and Scott watched him from the next stall.

” What’s bothering you Johnny?  The closer we got to home, the quieter you got.”

Johnny stopped brushing Barranca and laid his hands on the horse’s back.  He looked at Scott, who saw the same sad blue eyes he’d seen a year ago on his brother’s face.

Johnny’s head bowed and he softly said, ” It’s been a year as of today Scott.  A year since she left me and Lancer.  I thought I was over her, but I guess not.  I been thinking other on the trip hone.  I can’t seem to stop thinking of her.”

Scott got very thoughtful and quietly said, ” I guess it will take longer Brother.  You’ll find yourself, one day, not thinking of her so much.  It will come to pass Johnny, I promise.  One day, you’ll be free of her memories.”

Johnny was going to say something and he turned his eyes to the door.

” Sounds like we have company already.  Man, I’m bushed.  Don’t think I can deal with company right now.”

Scott got off the hay bale, and walked to the door and looked out.

” Only looks like two people Johnny.  Let me go into the house to see who it is.”

He swiftly walked to the house and Johnny went back to brushing his beloved horse.

Scott came back into the barn, not any longer than five minutes later.  Johnny  looked up and he saw his brother was a bit pale.

Johnny put the brush in a bucket and walked out of the stall.

” Boston, you look like you’ve seen a ghost!  You okay?”

Scott slowly shook his head and walked slowly to Johnny’s side.

” I want you to remain as calm as you can Brother.  The visitor’s who are here are  Doctor Poovy and Mattie. “

Scott watched the color leave his brother’s tanned face, and he caught his brother as he was going to his knees.

” Mattie?  Mattie is here Scott!?”

Scott pulled Johnny to the same haybale he sat on a few minutes earlier.  Johnny put his arms on his thighs and lowered his head.  He was breathing hard and Scott sat next to him and rubbed his back in small comforting circles.

” It’s okay Johnny.  Take your time.  I’m sure this is a shock, it was for me.”

Softly, Johnny started to speak.

” Did you see her Boston?”

” Yes, I did.  I saw her when she was here before.  But I’m sure you have a different picture of her in your mind.  Right Johnny!”

” I knew she had long blonde hair and was twenty years old.”

Johnny chuckled and added, ” She had a cute little nose too.”

Scott laughed with his brother.

” Do you want to see her Johnny?  You don’t have to if you don’t.  I’m sure Murdoch could explain if you don’t want to Johnny.”

Johnny sat quietly for awhile, on the hay bale, his dark haired head bowed.

” I’m torn between wanting to see her and telling her I love her still, and wanting to get on Barranca and ride away from her.  Help me Scott, what do I do?”

” I can’t tell you what to do or feel Brother.  I wish I could make this decision for you.  But I can’t.  It’s up to you.”

Without looking at Scott, but focusing his sapphire eyes on the barn door, he softly said, ” Will you go in with me Scott?  In case I panic.”

Scott smiled at his brother and said, ” I’m sure Johnny Madrid is not going to panic, but I’ll be right beside you Brother.”

The brothers walked to the hacienda and Scott opened the door and waited for Johnny to go in.

” Oh boys, good, glad you are here.  We have company.”

To Johnny, Murdoch sounded way to happy, and he felt the tremor run up his spine.

They walked into the Great Room and Johnny saw an older man, standing by one of the chairs by the fireplace.  At that moment, the person sitting in the chair stood up and faced Johnny.

Johnny’s eyes widened and he looked ready to bolt.  He felt Scott’s presence beside him and he took a deep breath.

” John, this is Mattie.”

Johnny’s sapphire gaze turned to her and she had a soft smile on her lips.  She gently picked up his right hand and made gentle motions into his palm.

The older gentleman said, ” She’s saying hello Johnny.”

Johnny looked at her and again saw the smile.  He smiled, a little shyly, and said, ” You learned how to talk Mattie?”

She looked at him and lifted her hand and tapped his lips twice.  Johnny’s eyes lost that terrified look and he reached his hands to her cheeks.

” Oh Mattie, you are even more beautiful than I even pictured you as.  I felt so lost when you left.  I never even saw you. “

Mattie smiled and again her fingers flew with motions.  Johnny looked to Doctor Poovy and the kind old Doctor said, ” She says what do you think Johnny?”

Johnny’s thumbs caressed her cheeks gently and he softly said, ” I think you are worth waiting for, if you’ve come back to me Mattie.  Have you?”

Her blue eyes sparkled and her fingers lifted to his lips again, and tapped two times.  Johnny’s head lowered and his lips gently caressed her’s.

When Johnny leaned back, he said, ” How do I learn what she is saying?”

Doctor Poovy said ” I can teach you the letters John, then Mattie will be able to show you words.  Just go slow and you’ll get it.”

Johnny took her hand, and together they went to the back door and out into the garden.  Mattie went to a few of the bright blooms and smelled the sweet scents.

” I thought of you for months Mattie, before I got to a point where I had to move on.  I felt as though my world had collapsed when you rode away.  I wanted to know why, why you didn’t wait for me to see you?  I loved you Mattie, and you left.  Guess I’ll never understand why.”

Mattie turned and walked to where Johnny stood.  She wrapped her arms around his waist and laid her head to his chest.

Johnny’s arms slid around her and he held her tight.

” Oh Mattie, I could fall in love with you again so easily.  I don’t even know if you want that or not.  Tell me Mattie.  Tell me you still love me.  Please!”

Again, Johnny’s lips caressed her’s.  She began to respond and Johnny’s hands slid up into her long hair.

Suddenly, she pulled away from his body.  Johnny looked at her and he felt a rising panic in his body.  He lifted his arms to reach for her and her fingers began to dance.  She was telling him something, but Johnny couldn’t figure it out.

Just then Doctor Poovy and Murdoch came to the back door to tell Mattie it was time to leave.  She ran to Doctor Poovy and began to move her fingers with her words.

” Mattie girl, calm down.  Go slowly now. “

She did it slower and Johnny asked him what she was trying to tell him.

” Johnny, Mattie does love you, but she can’t stay with you yet.  She has so much more to learn.  She doesn’t want you to be angry, but she is going back to the school. “

Johnny felt like his world had just collapsed around him, just when he thought it was beginning to right itself.

” Can’t she learn here?”

Doctor Poovy slowly shook his head.

” No, it needs to be at the school, they have special ways of helping mute people.”

Johnny could feel the tears filling his eyes and he didn’t know what to do.  His Mattie was leaving again, and there was nothing he could do, yet again.

Mattie went to Johnny, calmer since Doctor Poovy told Johnny why.  She lifted his hand and moved her fingers slowly in his palm.

Doctor Poovy smiled and said, ” She’ll leave her address at the school with you Johnny.  She wants you to write her.  She’s not leaving forever, she just has so much more to learn.”

Johnny lifted his eyes, that were beginning to shine with his unshed tears, and softly said, ” You will be back, won’t you Mattie?”

She tapped her fingers two times on his lips and smiled up at him.  Johnny softly laughed and pulled her to his chest.

” Oh Mattie, my Mattie.  Don’t stay away too long Querida.  As long as I know you’ll come back, I can go on.”

Johnny wrapped his arms around her and walked around the house to their carriage.  Doctor Poovy and Murdoch following behind. When he helped her into the carriage,  she handed Johnny a piece of paper.  He thought it was the address of her school, so he didn’t read it.

Just before they moved out of the courtyard,  Johnny’s lips caressed her’s with an urgency that clenched his gut.

Softly, Johnny said, ” I love you Mattie.  Come back to me soon.”

Mattie smiled and shook her head that she would.  Then Doctor Poovy touched the reins to the horse, and they were riding out and away from Johnny once again.

Johnny stood in the yard and watched them until they vanished into the dust.  His head dropped a little and Murdoch came up behind him.

” Mattie left her school address on my desk John, when you are ready for it. “

He lifted his eyes and said to his father, ” Then what is this?”

He opened the tiny note and smiled as he read it.

The note said:

Becuz I want to learn all I can so you will be proud of me.

Luv Mattie

Johnny showed Murdoch and he gently smiled at his son.

They turned and went back to the house, Johnny gently tucking her note into his pocket.  As he went thru the Great Room, he picked up her school address and put that into his pocket as well.

For the next several years, Johnny  was happy and at peace.

Especially when he got a letter from Mattie.  He would put it into his pocket, to read in his room when he went up for bed.

His little nightstand drawer was filled with her letters.  Sometimes, Johnny would read them all over again.  They were filled with Mattie”s love for Johnny and how well she was doing in school.  Mattie told him she was counting the days until she came back to him.

One day, after Mattie had been gone almost three years, Johnny and Scott rode in from fixing the fence lines that fell during the last hard storms.

Johnny slid off Barranca and said, ” Wonder who is here Boston?”

The boys  started to head towards the front door and it suddenly opened.

Johnny watched as a blonde tornado ran towards him and practically launched herself into his arms.

He caught her in mid flight and spun her around, laughing.

” Oh Mattie!  Mattie!  Are you back now?!  Why didn’t you write me and tell me!? “

She put her feet on the ground and Johnny’s lips locked on her’s.  Johnny’s arms slid around her small body and her’s lifted to go around his neck, his soft inky black hair caressing her hands.

Softly, Johnny repeated the one question burning in his heart.

” Are you here to stay Mattie?”

Her fingers softly tapped on his lips…. once, twice.  Johnny’s eyes closed and he breathed out the breath he’d been holding.

She gently took his hand and made her fingers dance once more in his palm, and Johnny’s eyes lit up.

Softly, he said against her cheek, ” I love you too Mattie.”

Johnny took her hand in his and together they went around the house to the garden of flowers she loved.

No one followed, as they knew that Johnny and Mattie were together and they were moving on ….together at last.

End

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