Word Count 8467
I don’t own any part of Lancer, or the characters from the show. I take everyone out for a gallop around the ranch. The characters I create can not be used without permission. The story, because it has the death of a main character, will have an NC-17 rating and is a death fic of major characters. You have been warned.
I was in the middle of Murdoch’s Great Room at Lancer, hands on my hips and my eyes flashing fire as I went toe to toe with my husband, Johnny Madrid Lancer.
He was just as angry, as his hands laid on his hips. His voice calm and soft, while mine raised in anger. Scott was in the kitchen, trying not to listen or even interfere. He actually could see both sides of the argument, and sure didn’t want to get into the middle of this one.
” You give me one good reason why Johnny, and maybe I’ll calm down!” My eyes has lost some of the fire and now had an almost pleading look.
Johnny’s stance changed. His hands came off his hips and he reached to pull me closer. My eyes closed as I felt his arms close around my body.
Dammit! Whenever Johnny touched me, my mind shuts down and I forget what we were arguing about. I’m sure he does it deliberately, just to win the argument.
As Johnny’s arms folded me against his body, his soft voice caressed over me, his warm breath causing the hair against my neck to move.
” I made a promise to Val, if he ever needed me, I was there.”
My eyes closed and I very softly said, ” But why now Johnny? You’ve been out of the game for so long, how can Val be sure your gun is still fast. This man is dangerous Johnny, he wants Val dead and I’m sure anyone that helps him.”
Softly, a sigh slid from Johnny’s lips and I saw his lashes close over his eyes. I could feel the conflict getting ready to erupt inside of his body, and I wished we had never started this damn argument.
” Mags, I promised Val. He’s always been there for me. I have to do this Honey.”
I felt my heart beating fast again and I said, softly, in almost a whisper, “What about the promise you made to me ten years ago?”
Johnny’s head lowered and I saw the light caressing the few grey strands in his dark black hair. I knew his eyes were closed and he sighed.
” I’m not forgetting my promise to you Maggie. My promise to Val is just as important. He’s not as young as he used to be, he needs my help Honey.”
I moved out of his arms and I said, ” That’s my reason why you shouldn’t do this Johnny. Tell Val to let the authorities go after him! I don’t want to lose you Johnny. I have nothing else Johnny.”
I turned away from Johnny’s sapphire eyes and I felt the tears slide down my cheeks. I tried to hold the tears inside, but they slid out.
Johnny was instantly at my side and his arms wrapped tightly around me.
” Shh, it’s okay Querida. I know this is too soon since Murdoch and Beau died, but you won’t lose me!”
Johnny put his arms on my arms and said ” Listen to me Maggie. You wont lose me. I’m still fast Honey. Maybe not as fast as I was, but I can still take care of business. Trust me Honey, please. I know what I’m doing.”
He gently rocked me against his hard body, and my head fell to his chest. My arms wrapped around his body. We stayed that way for a while longer.
I was calming down and Scott came into the Great Room.
Johnny looked at his brother and said, ” She’s okay Scott. I think this has all been too much since…..well since Murdoch and Beau. I guess she’s gotten spooked.”
Scott walked to the bar cart in the corner and pours three drinks, two whiskey and one filled with tequila. He handed each of us a drink.
” I been listening to both sides of this problem, and I can see both sides. Maggie, I know my Brother is hot headed at times, but I think you need to know something. If Johnny says he is still fast and accurate, then that’s what you hang on to. Maggie, let Johnny help Val. He’s right, Val has been there often, he needs to do this. He can take care of himself and business, and come back to you. You won’t lose him. I swear to you.”
I looked between the brothers and I saw, maybe a spark of what they were like before……well before.
Since that time, only a few short months ago, the brothers have grown so far away from each other.
Scott, well he’s become almost a mirror image of Murdoch. Strict, unbending in some matters. Always the ranch came first.
Even when Johnny needed him the most after Beau died, Scott was too busy with the ranch, and bulls and balancing the accounts. His baby brother was literally drowning in his sorrow and for a full month he was in hiding up at Black Mesa.
Johnny wasn’t even there for me. I needed johnny so very much and he was grieving in his own hell. I began to harden my heart, and the pain left me.
When he returned to Lancer, he was thin and drawn. The brothers barely said two words to each other.
Sam was there and he tried to put us together and he
did, sort of. My temper was short with Johnny, more than ever before. Which was why I was going at him, toe to toe, with this crazy ass plan to help Val.
I suddenly breathed deeply and my fists unclenched. Johnny saw the change and he breathed gently, knowing the argument, for the moment, was over.
” Alright Johnny. Go and help Val. You know, as do I, he doesn’t plan on bringing him back in. Please, please stay on the right side Johnny. If you were in jail, it would’ve been the last of what I could endure. I simply would die.”
Johnny’s arms slid around me and he held me tightly.
” Nothing will happen to me Querida. I will be safe and keep Val from getting killed. He’s not as young as he was ten years ago.”
I smiled sadly, and said, ” You are older as well Johnny. How can you be so sure you are still fast, as fast as Johnny Madrid?”
Suddenly, Johnny spun away from me and drew his colt. He fired at one of the candles on the table, snuffing out the flame.
” You see Mags, as fast as Madrid ever was my love.”
He leaned over and softly kissed my lips. Johnny’s warm cheek caressed mine and he quietly said, ” I’ll return Querida, and I’ll be safe and unharmed. When this is over, we shall talk Maggie. If we need to leave Lancer, then we will. But now is not the time for this discussion. When I come back. Understand Baby, I need to do this.”
I lowered my eyes and I said, softly, ” I know Johnny. Please stay safe and come home to me soon.”
Johnny’s lips caressed mine once again, full of love and promises of further love.
” I will Querida. It will not be long and I’ll be home again. You and Scott take care of Lancer while I’m away.”
Johnny slowly walked to where Barranca stood waiting. Just before he lifted his foot into the stirrup, he turned and once again gazed at me. I saw the love in those sapphire eyes begin to grow and the smile that slowly graced those lips, that so recently took my breath away. With a quick wink of his eye, Johnny leaped into the saddle and he turned the horse and galloped under the arch.
I stood in the yard, and watched as he got smaller and smaller, and was eventually swallowed up in the dust that was behind him.
I stayed in the yard and just stared into the distance, trying to hear Barranca’s hoofbeats. Nothing. It was as if Johnny had never been here.
I felt one lone silver tear leak out of my eyes, and as I turned back to the house, I wiped it away. Just as I got to the porch, Scott started to reach out to touch my cheek, and he stopped and pulled away. As Scott turned and walked away, I just stood with a surprised look on my face. Sighing, I went into the house and up the stairs to our room.
I sat in the big fluffy chair by the window and listened to the hands coming in from the day’s work. I sat long into the night. I was sure Maria would feed Scott, and I wasn’t really concerned.
The way Scott had been with his brother, still angered me.
Johnny was to blame as well, and I would tell him how I felt about the way we’ve been snapping at each other.
I wondered if it was really just because Murdoch was gone. I knew Johnny took a double hit with his little son dying with his Grandpa.
I was suddenly angry all over again. Anger at the driver of the stagecoach, and how he deliberately raced the coach around a rock formation. My eyes closed as I remembered that horrible day. Johnny and Scott had both ridden out when they heard.
I remember Johnny coming back to the ranch and folding me into his arms.
” It’s bad Maggie. Murdoch, Murdoch is gone.”
I got a wild eyed look and I all but screamed, ” Beau! Where’s Beau!? Johnny, where’s the baby!?”
Johnny pulled me close to his chest and his eyes, normally bright and filled with light, were looking at me with pain and sorrow the likes I’d never seen before.
” They died instantly from what Sam said. I sent Frank with a wagon to bring them home. I thought we could bury them up on the knoll behind the house.”
As I sat in the chair and remembered the service we had. I stood by Sam and Val. Johnny had left the ranch by this time and Scott stayed in the house, working on the books. He was already acting like Murdoch.
Sam stood by me, waiting for me to collapse, and he silently cursed Scott and Johnny out for not being there for me. It was as though they were locked in their own worlds, and I wasn’t in either world.
I carried on as best as I could for the first month. Johnny had gone to Black Mesa and stayed away to grieve by himself.
Scott, well, he barely came out of the Great Room.
He would work on the books and on a few occasions, he told Cipriano what work needed to be done. He was becoming Murdoch, the only thing of importance was the ranch.
I don’t even remember if Scott cried, not for his father or his little nephew. He locked himself behind a wall and stayed there for almost six months.
As I sat and continued to look out the window, I felt warm tears slipping down my cheeks. I wiped them away and sighed deeply.
Even after Johnny came home, he tried to make it up to me.
He’d hold me as I cried at night, we’d go for rides to the meadow. Hell, we even talked about them when we were holding each other in bed.
Slowly, Johnny and I became close as we were. There was a strength there now, that had been missing.
However, Johnny and Scott were as far apart as ever. It broke my heart to see the brothers so distant. Sam even sat them both down in the Great Room to talk to them. It seemed to work, for a little while anyway.
Scott eventually walled himself up in the office and Johnny did the manual labor with the ranch hands.
I blinked my eyes when I heard a soft knocking on the door.
Wiping my eyes quickly, I said, ” Come in.”
I turned and saw Scott with a tray in his hands.
” You didn’t come down for dinner. Maria made up a tray for you before she left for her home. Thought you’d want to eat Maggie.”
He laid the tray on the table by the other window and turned to leave.
” Thank you Scott. That was very nice of you.”
I lifted my eyes and I saw a sadness in his normally bright silver blue eyes. They looked tired.
Scott smiled a soft smile and he said, ” I’d like to talk, if you want Maggie.”
I smiled and said, ” Sure Scott. Have a seat and let’s talk.”
Scott sat bent over in the chair, arms resting on his thighs.
Softly, he started to talk.
” Maggie, I’m sorry for how I’ve been these last few months. It hit me really hard that Murdoch was gone. I thought he’d be around a bit longer. I had to jump into the Boss role and I felt if I wasn’t strong, the ranch would fail.”
My eyes flicked a few times with a sort of anger. Then I softly said to Scott.
” Your Brother needed you so much Scott. He lost Murdoch also, but he was hit with a double blow because we lost Beau too. I lost.” I took a deep shuddering breath and continued. ” I lost not only Beau and Murdoch, but you and Johnny. I had no one Scott, no one to hear my cries, or wipe my tears. Or even just to hear what my thoughts were.”
Scott stood up and walked over to me and he reached for my hands. He lifted me to my feet and then wrapped his arms around me. My eyes closed and my head laid on his shoulder. At last, Scott realized what this has been like for me.
” When Johnny comes home, I’ll sit down with him and talk to him too. I miss not being with my Brother.”
” I’m sure Johnny will like that. He misses his Brother also Scott. I feel that if we just get back like we were, we’ll be able to make it.”
After Scott left, I sat at the table and ate some of the stew and the corn bread. After I was done, I noticed that darkness had claimed Lancer. Sighing, I went to the window that looked out towards the archway.
” Come home soon and safe Johnny.”
I closed the window a bit and pulled the drapes closed. I got my nightgown on and got in the bed. I felt the soft breeze sliding over me, and I leaned over and turned the lamp down.
Laying my head down, I thought of Johnny and where he was. Soon, I drifted into a restless sleep.
Out on the trail, Val and Johnny were settling down for the night. Johnny had gotten a pot of coffee going and he pulled out the package of biscuits Maria had made for him and Val.
” You gonna tell me who this guy is Val?”
Val took a bite of a biscuit and Johnny heard a soft sigh sliding out of his mouth.
” Juan Ramirez. He was caught and tried for robbing a Wells Fargo stage. He killed the driver and shotgun rider. I testified against him at the trial. As they were taking him away, he looked at me and swore he’d find a way to escape and come back and kill me. And now he’s escaped and I’m almost positive he’s coming here.”
” I don’t see this Ramirez guy heading south Val. His tracks are all over, like he’s trying to confuse us. I’ve got a feeling he’s heading back to Morro Coyo. I could be wrong tho Val.”
Val poured coffee in his cup. ” Well, let’s see how the tracks go in the morning. I have a feeling in my gut that something is wrong with this whole thing. Like how does he know where I am? The day he left for prison, I resigned as Sheriff.”
Johnny got very quiet and thoughtful. He locked his sapphire eyes on his friend and just studied him. His hair was a little longer, he had a good start on a dark beard. His clothes, well, his clothes were always kinda rugged looking.
Val might be close to sixty years old, but he still was able to take care of the business at hand. Besides being his friend, Johnny had his back. And he was forty years old, so he wasn’t any young buck either. But like Val, Johnny could take care of business as well.
” I’ll take first watch Val.”
Val chuckled and rolled out his sleeping bag.
” I sure as hell ain’t arguing with you Amigo.”
As Val laid on the ground, he softly said, ” What if he does head for Morro Coyo? A lot of people could get hurt.”
” Guess we’ll just have to find him before that happens Val.”
Val quietly agreed and Johnny leaned up against his saddle with a cup of coffee in his hands.
Just before dawn, Johnny was checking on the horses, they suddenly seemed restless. He put his rifle against a small rock formation and went to Barranca’s head.
” What’s wrong Boy?”
He scratched the spot on his ear that he loved, but it didn’t calm the horse at all.
Suddenly, Johnny was slammed up against Barranca, as a bullet hit his right shoulder. He was starting to go to his knees, and Val came racing up. He had his rifle ready to go, standing over Johnny.
” You hit anywhere else Johnny?”
” No, but I can’t use my arm now. Do you see where he is?”
” Yeah, he’s in the trees over by the rocks. Can you use your left hand Johnny?”
The grimace on Johnny’s face, told Val he was really hurting.
” Yea, put my gun in my hand.”
Val squatted by Johnny, never taking his eyes from that patch of trees.
The gunfire seemed to have stopped and Val moved Johnny to some better cover. He pulled off his short black bolero jacket and saw the blood oozing into the shirt.
He went to take Johnny’s favorite pink shirt off and as it was pulled gently from his right arm, Johnny hissed in pain.
” Sorry Johnny. I got to see how bad this is.”
By this time, Johnny was pale and sweating, and he panted out a response to Val.
” Just wrap it Val, it will keep.”
” Like hell just wrap it! Johnny that bullet is still in there. I have to get it out and then I’ll wrap it, and hope like hell you dont get an infection. Now you sit still and let me do this.”
Johnny leaned back against the rocks and closed his eyes. He heard Val put his knife into the fire to sterilize it. He heard Val digging thru their saddlebags. Johnny knew Val was looking for some cloth for pads and bandages. He also knew, in his saddlebags, there was a full bottle of tequila.
Val came back to where Johnny leaned against the rocks. As Johnny’s eyes slowly opened, Val saw the amount of pain he was in reflected in his deep blue eyes.
He handed Johnny the bottle and said ” Drink.”
Johnny chugged four big gulps of the fiery liquid and closed his eyes.
” Ready Val. Let ‘er buck.”
Val made Johnny take a few more deep swallows and reached for his knife, that was glowing bright red.
” Hold as still as you can John. I don’t want to hurt you any more than I have to.”
As Val began, Johnny’s eyes closed and he gritted his teeth against the pain this was creating.
Val was sweating by this time and he wished Johnny would pass out. But he knew his friend wouldn’t do that.
After about fifteen minutes, Val heard the clink of the knife tip against the bullet. He carefully worked the knife under the bullet, and soon he could grab it. He dropped it on the ground and reached for the bottle, and poured some on Johnny’s shoulder.
Val heard the hiss as it slid from Johnny’s lips. When he was sure it was clean, he slapped a thick pad against it. Then wrapped the white gauze bandages around it. It was wrapped a little tight to keep it from bleeding.
Val looked at Johnny. His eyes were closed and he was panting around the pain. He put the bottle against his fingers, and Johnny slowly lifted it to his lips. After he had a few more sips, the bottle kinda slid to the ground by Johnny’s left thigh. Val took it from his lax fingers, before it spilled, and took a few sips himself.
Val didn’t try to move Johnny and he leaned against the rocks and quietly passed out. Val pulled his blanket from the sleeping bag and wrapped it around Johnny’s shoulders.
Several hours later, Johnny began to stir. His eyes slowly opened and he took a few minutes longer to focus. He tried to move his body, and the pain in his shoulder went all up and down his right arm.
” How you feel?”
Johnny’s pain filled eyes locked on Val and he quietly said, ” How you think! Feel like I been in a stampede.”
Val softly chuckled.
” Yea, I can see you would feel like that.”
” We need to get back to town, so Sam can check that wound and see if it’s gotten infected at all.”
Val looked at Johnny as tho he had two heads.
” No way John! You need to rest a little bit, drink water to build up your volume. You get on that horse now, and you’re not gonna make it five miles, before you fall off into a heap on the road. We’ll stay here another day and you can rest a bit more.”
” Oh come on Val! I been hurt worse than this, and ridden.”
” You were twenty years younger Johnny. Face it, we have to take a but longer to heal now that we’re older. We know where he’s going. Barranca and Midnight can eat that distance up in an hour. We are staying right here. If I have to tie you to that there rock formation, I’ll do it Johnny!”
Johnny’s sapphire eyes slanted and he fixed a cold blue stare on Val, who only laughed.
” You can’t intimidate me with that Madrid stare my friend. It don’t work on me. Now are you gonna behave or not?”
He was silent and then relented and told Val he’d behave.
They stayed up against the rocks as a precaution against getting shot. Val started the fire again and made a pot of coffee.
Johnny leaned his head against the rocks and quietly said, ” Mags is just gonna kill me when she sees this hole in my shoulder.
Val smirked and said, ” Well, knowing how Maggie gets when you are hurt, yea, I believe she’s gonna be real unhappy with you!”
Johnny smiled one of his evil Madrid smiles and said ” Thanks a lot Val!”
In the morning, Val helped Johnny to saddle Barranca and then gave him a hand up into the saddle. When Johnny’s eyes closed and a hiss slid from his lips, Val didn’t think this was such a good idea.
Johnny settled and opened his eyes. The pain that had been swirling in those deep blue eyes was gone. Val mounted up and they started off for Morro Coyo. Val’s eyes kept a constant search for Ramirez, so he didn’t take one of them out permanently.
Val kept them to a slow pace. He kept his eyes on Johnny also.
When it looked like he was going to fall out of the saddle, Val would say they were resting the horses for a few minutes. Then they would start out again, once Johnny’s color was back in his cheeks.
The journey back to Morro Coyo took three days longer than the journey out. Val didn’t mind. He’d do anything for Johnny to keep him alive. And if travelling at a sedate walk was it, then that’s what they’d do.
When they got back, finally, to Morro Coyo, both Val and Johnny knew something was wrong. No people were about, and it looked like the businesses were closed.
They headed the horses to the Sheriff’s office, and walked inside. The Sheriff from Spanish Wells, Gabe, was behind the desk now.
He looked up and smiled and got up. He clapped Val on the shoulder and as he went towards Johnny, he noticed the sling around his right arm.
“What happened Johnny?”
” Was bushwhacked by the guy who’s gunning for Val.”
” He come back in town Gabe? We finally figured his tracks were just to confuse us and we headed back.”
” Yea, he was here. Shot up a few places and scared some of the town folks. He kept shouting for someone to tell him where Johnny Madrid and Val Crawford were. I guess someone did and he hightailed it out of town.”
Johnny stopped his pacing and locked eyes on Val.
” He’s gone to Lancer. Mags is there, all the workers, Boston. He’ll use them to get to you Val! He knows we are together.”
Johnny started for the door, and Val grabbed his left arm and spun him to a stop.
” No, you are having Sam look at that shoulder first. THEN we’ll go to Lancer. Scott and the ranch hands will keep Maggie safe. He’s not that stupid Johnny!”
Johnny’s anger was simmering just below the surface, but he walked with Val to the little office.
Sam pulled Johnny into the back room and told him to take the jacket and shirt off and then get on the table. Val stood in the doorway, and after Johnny was stripped of his jacket and shirt, Sam unwound the bandages.
Johnny sat quietly while Sam poked and prodded his shoulder.
Only once did he grimace, but Sam didn’t notice.
” Okay John, what happened?”
Johnny’s eyes closed and he lowered his head. He told Sam about the guy they were hunting, who escaped from prison and wanted revenge on Val.
” Well, how’d you get shot?”
Val walked in a few steps and said, ” The only thing we can figure is he knew who Johnny was and tried to take his gun arm out. Now, from what Gabe is saying, this guy is heading to Lancer.”
Sam looked up and looked directly at Johnny. He saw the anger building inside of him and knew telling him he had to go slow, was not going to go over well with Johnny Madrid.
” Val, you did a good job here. I don’t think it needs stitches. I’ll just put a new pad and rewrap it John.”
Johnny was already antsy by the time Sam was thru wrapping his shoulder. As he got down from the table, and began to put his shirt and jacket on again, Sam softly spoke.
” How are you going to shoot your gun John? You can barely lift that arm much less hold your Colt.”
Johnny turned his head just a little towards San, and he smiled at him, one of his most evil smiles.
” Got it covered Sam.”
Johnny had one thought in his mind…..’ He better still be as fast with his left hand as he was with the right hand.’
They both exited Sam’s office and walked back to where the horses were. They mounted up and Val saw the change in Johnny. He became Johnny Madrid right before his eyes. He knew his pal had to become Madrid for this to work. Now, he was sure Johnny knew just how dangerous Ramirez was.
They travelled to Lancer at a good gait, Johnny’s deep blue eyes scanning every inch of the surrounding landscape, searching for another ambush.
As they approached the arch, a small Mexican boy emerged from the tree line.
Johnny and Val pulled their horses to a stop and Johnny recognized him as one of Cipriano’s six children.
” Carlos, what are you doing out here?”
” Senor Johnny. Papa sent me to warn you and Senor Val. There is a bad man in the barn who wants to kill you and Senor Val. He’s already shot Frank.”
Johnny’s head lifted a bit.
” Is he okay Carlos?”
” Yes, Papa got him into the bunkhouse and took care of him. It wasn’t very serious.”
Johnny’s eyes searched the yard and saw no one working, so he assumed everyone was in the bunkhouse.
” Carlos, sneak into the yard and go behind the barn he’s in, and sneak to the bunkhouse. Tell your Papa to get ready and arm every man. Me and Val are heading to the house. Tell him to wait for a signal from me.”
Carlos took off. Val noticed the boy didn’t have his boots on, so he didnt make a lot of noise when he ran.
Was just turning dusky and Johnny wanted to wait until it was a touch darker, before they’d head to the back kitchen door.
Johnny also didn’t want to scare Maria either. She wasn’t as young as she used to be either.
Val and Johnny left the horses tied in a dark stand of trees and they ran to the back door and burst into the kitchen. Of course, Maria screamed and Val looked at Johnny and he said,
” Wasn’t as bad as I thought Pal.”
” Oh Senor Val, Juanito. I am so glad to see you here. A very bad man is in the main barn. He wants to kill Senor Val.”
Johnny wrapped his left arm around her shoulder and softly said, ” Where’s Scott and my wife Maria?”
” They are in one of the spare bedrooms. Miz Maggie, she …..umm. Senior Scott is sitting with her. “
As Val sat at the table, Maria put a cup of coffee in front of him. Johnny practically ran down the hallway, his spurs protesting loudly.
He pushed the door open and Scott was in a chair by the bed. Maggie was lying in the bed, and Johnny slowly went to the bed.
” What happened Scott?”
As Scott got ready to talk, I very slowly turned my head to look at Johnny. The anger hit Johnny full force as he saw the dark bruises and the long cut on my cheek.
” She was at the coop getting some eggs and she was jumped Johnny. He beat her severely and then he cut her cheek. ‘ A present ‘ for Madrid he said. Maria did what she could. Don’t think it will need stitches. “
Johnny leaned over the bed and gently picked me up with his left arm.
” Oh Baby. I’m so sorry you got in the middle of this. I’ll make him pay. I swear to you Querida. “
Johnny’s cheek laid against my head and his eyes closed. When they opened, Scott saw anger and hatred in those ice hard blue eyes.
” Johnny. He said he wants to kill both you and Val.”
” He won’t get the chance Baby. We are going to take him out.”
Johnny gently held me and I curled tighter against his chest. It was then I noticed his right arm was in a sling.
” Oh my God! What happened Johnny?!”
Softly, Johnny said, ” It’s nothing Honey. I’m fine.”
Johnny kissed my cheek and said, ” You want in on this Boston?”
Scott looked up at the familiar nickname and smiled.
” You bet I do Brother.”
Both brothers went into the kitchen, where Val was. Johnny sent Maria to sit with me.
The three men walked to the gun case, and took out three rifles and boxes of ammo.
As they loaded the rifles, Johnny outlined a plan.
” He thinks he took me out, when he shot my right shoulder. Well, I’ll call him out and I want you two to have my back.”
Val’s eyes lit up, but Scott nervously said, ” You can’t draw your Colt Johnny! You can barely lift your arm up. How the hell are you going to out gun him!?”
Johnny fixed a cold blue gaze to his brother and said, ” I been keeping something from you Scott. For almost two years now, I’ve been going to the box canyon and well, I been developing my left hand to be a backup in case my right arm or hand was damaged.”
” Your left hand? Johnny, are you telling me you are as strong as your right hand with drawing that Colt?!”
” Stronger Scott. Because I’m still using my right handed holster, so I’m drawing cross body with my left hand.”
Scott’s mouth kinda fell open and he just stared at his younger brother.
” Stronger? Man, I can’t wait to see this!”
Johnny’s sapphire eyes suddenly sparkled with his inner delight. He was so sure his brother would just be blown away when he sees it.
When the rifles were loaded, they put the rest of the bullets in their pockets, except Johnny. He loaded his Colt and put it back in his holster.
He walked to the front door, taking the sling from his arm, and he signalled Cipriano, who acknowledged it.
He turned back to look at Val and his brother.
” You two ready?”
Val smiled an evil smile at Johnny and Scott’s silver blue eyes flickered with a growing strength. He thought to himself, ‘ I have to keep Johnny safe, no after what.’
Johnny opened the door wide and scooted out to stand behind one of those pillars on the porch.
” Ramirez! I’m calling you out!”
A loud raucous laugh was heard and then a gravelly voice said,
” You calling me out Madrid!? You can’t do anything, you have a bullet in your shoulder.”
” Wanna chance it Ramirez?!”
Johnny moved out from the safety of the pillar and moved into the yard. His spurs set up their soft song as he walked.
As Johnny watched Ramirez come out of the barn, he hoped Scott and Val had their rifles locked on his ugly face.
As Ramirez came out, he saw Johnny take up a stance in the yard, legs slightly apart, his back to the sun and his head slightly lowered. Ramirez was becoming annoyed with seeing that slight smile on Johnny’s face.
Even tho Johnny had taken the sling off his right arm, just the act of letting his arm hang down his side was pulling on his wound. He felt a thin trickle of sweat run down his back.
As Johnny stared at this piece of shit in front of him, he waited, ever so patiently, for the tell tale sign in his eyes.
When it came, Johnny’s left hand flew across his belly, pulled his gun and fired. Dead center of his chest. As Ramirez sank to his knees, you could see the shock on his face.
To beat him to the draw, using his left hand, pulling the Colt from a right-hand holster. No one ever does that! Madrid has to have the luck of the Devil!
Johnny stood still in the yard, gun still in his left hand, smoking after belching it’s deadly fire.
Johnny heard the door open and Val and Scott came out. Val had the sling in his hand and slid it back over Johnny’s head. He almost sighed out loud at the instant relief he felt with the pressure off his shoulder. He slowly slid the gun back in the holster.
Cipriano and a few of the ranch hands were dealing with Ramirez. Val and Johnny walked towards the house. Scott was still standing there, sort of in shock, at seeing his brother draw left handed like he just did.
As Johnny went up on the porch, Scott looked at him with awe at what his little brother did, on his own, to be more prepared.
They all walked to the Great Room, and as Scott poured drinks, Johnny slowly turned and walked down the hall to where his wife laid.
Johnny opened the door quietly, but I was sitting up in the bed, trying to do my needlework. I turned and my eyes locked on Johnny. He leaned back against the door, one boot cocked against the door. As he looked at me, Johnny slowly pushed off from the door. He slowly walked towards me, unhooking his gunbelt with his left hand. He laid it in a chair and continued to the bed.
He slid onto the mattress and his hand slid to gently caress my uninjured cheek. My eyes closed and two silver tears slid down my cheeks.
” Don’t Mags. Let’s see if Sam can do anything. It doesn’t make me love you any less Honey. “
Johnny pulled my body to his and I was careful of his arm in the sling. I laid my head on Johnny’s hard chest and I could hear his heart beating in his chest. Strong and steady. It soothed both of us.
Val knocked and Johnny told him to come in. ” Heading into town Amigo, to fill Gabe in on what went on here. Taking Ramirez to the undertaker. I’ll send Sam back here.”
” Thanks Val. Come back here after you talk to Gabe.”
He promised he would and as he turned to leave, he looked at me and Johnny saw a sudden quick look of sadness flash over his face.
After Val left, Johnny caressed my shoulder with his left hand and closed his eyes in a quiet relief to be home at last.
He heard the soft even breathing I was doing and he was glad I was getting some rest now. His mind began to work and he quietly said a silent prayer that Sam could fix my face.
He knew it wouldn’t matter to him one way or the other to him, but he knew I would be upset if I was scared. His left hand gently caressed my face, and as he felt the gauze bandage on my face, his sapphire eyes slowly closed.
Johnny only cried twice in his life since coming to Lancer all those years ago. When his Pa died and his little son Beau. But he felt warm tears sliding down his cheeks now. Johnny leaned his head back against the headboard and silently gave into his sorrow.
It was only six months since his Father and Son had died in that stupid stagecoach accident. It still hurt, more than Johnny showed anyone.
Now with Maggie being so hurt, possibly forever, it was once again too much to bear. He slowly wiped his eyes as he heard another knock. He moved his head from the headboard, and very softly said to come in.
It was Scott, with two cups of coffee. He handed one to Johnny and settled in the chair by the side of the bed.
” Maria is going to stay for the night, in case she’s needed for anything. She’s putting some sandwiches together and lots of coffee.”
” I don’t think I can eat, but I’ll be drinking my share of the coffee.”
Scott kinda smiled and leaned his arms onto his thighs. He looked like a man who had something on his mind, and was having a hard time starting. Johnny took pity on his brother.
” Just get it said Brother.”
Scott looked up and said, ” Maggie and I had a talk before you and Val came back. We got a lot of things hashed out and I think we are okay now. I’d like to do that with you. I miss my Brother. I should never have done that to you Johnny. I should have been there for the both of you, not only for the fact our Father was gone, but because you lost Beau. I was in my own hell Johnny, and I just couldn’t cope with anything more. I had to take over running Lancer and I felt that if I didn’t get strong, I’d fail.”
Johnny looked at his Brother, quietly, and just let him have his say.
” I’m truly sorry Johnny. I wish, and pray, that we can get back to the way we were before all of this nightmare came and tore our lives apart. If you can’t Johnny, I’ll understand.”
Scott got quiet and Johnny’s eyes took a softer look and he very quietly said, ” It’s okay Scott. We’ll get there again.”
Scott smiled at his Brother and raised his coffee cup in a silent toast to his brother, Johnny raised his for the same reason.
The brothers quietly talked and there was a soft knock.
Maria came in and said, ” Doctor Sam is here. “
Sam came in and immediately looked at Johnny, pleased he had the sling on his arm. Well, actually, more like he was surprised. Johnny was famous for not following Doctor’s orders.
Johnny’s arm gently shook my shoulder and his soft voice said,
” Maggie, Honey. Sam is here. Wake up Mags.”
My eyes opened and I saw I was still in Johnny’s arm. I automatically pulled my long hair over my cheek and Johnny gently said, as he moved my hair back, ” It’s Sam Chica. Let him look at it and see if he can fix it. Okay Baby?”
Scott got up without Sam saying and he told Johnny he’d be in the kitchen if he needed him.
Johnny sat me up in the bed and started to move away, and I reached for his right arm and heard his hiss with the sudden pain.
” Stay Johnny. I don’t think I can do this without you staying with me. “
” It’s alright John. Sit on her other side so I can have the light from the lamp on her face.”
As Sam touched and looked, I could see it in his eyes…he isn’t going to be able to fix it.
I could feel the tears welling up inside of me, and I felt Johnny’s left hand tightening around my right hand.
Finally, Sam leaned back and took his glasses off his nose and rubbed his eyes.
” Maggie, I don’t think there is anything I can do to make this disappear. I’m afraid there will be a scar, but it will disappear with time.”
My head fell to Johnny’s left shoulder and I felt his cheek resting on the top of my head. The tears I tried so hard to keep at bay, finally slid out of my eyes.
” I’m sorry Maggie. I do need to stitch it up and I’ll make small stitches to make it not as noticeable.”
Sam turned to Johnny and he said, very softly, ” I’m going to have to put her to sleep John, so she doesn’t feel the needle.”
Johnny laid me back onto the bed and he held my hand and softly said, “I’ll stay right here Querida, until you wake up.”
I tried to smile, but the tears made it next to impossible.
Then I felt my arm being unfurled onto the bed and a sting to my arm. I felt the warm feeling spreading thru my body.
As my eyes were sliding shut, I felt the soft kiss to my forehead and Johnny’s left hand tightened around my hand.
Johnny watched the whole operation with a hard look on his face. Being Madrid was the only way he could deal with what Sam was fixing. He saw the tiny even stitches that Sam was putting into his wife’s cheek.
The whole time, Sam was telling Johnny that the scar wouldn’t be as noticeable with the tiny stitches. It will just take a bit of time to vanish enough not to be noticeable.
After Sam bandaged my cheek, he told Johnny I would wake up in a few hours, and I’ll be alright. But if I needed him, to send someone to town.
Johnny sat by my side on the edge of the bed, his left hand holding my hand. Johnny looked so sad, that if I’d been awake, it would have broken my heart.
A few hours later, I started to wake up. Johnny instantly worked his face into something positive and as my eyes fluttered open, I saw his love shining in his deep sapphire eyes.
” How you feeling Baby?”
I started to lift my hand to my face, and Johnny’s hand stopped me.
” No, Sam said you shouldn’t touch it until the skin settles. I know it itches. We’ll just have to see what we can do to keep you occupied. Right Baby. “
” You saw Johnny. Is it going to be okay? Or am I ugly now?”
Johnny looked deeply into my huge hazel eyes and he saw a frightened little girl looking at him.
He swallowed hard and said, in a soft loving voice, ” No, you are still beautiful to me Querida. It will be okay Mags, Sam said it will fade with time. He was very careful with the stitches.”
My eyes closed and I breathed a huge sigh out. ” I’m not ugly Johnny?”
” No Maggie. You are as beautiful as you were when I first saw you. You could never be ugly to me, I love you with my whole being. You are my life Maggie. “
As my eyes opened at Johnny’s soft words, I saw the truth swirling in the deep blue depths. I knew Johnny was telling me the truth, and my heart stopped pounding in my ears.
As the days moved forward into weeks, Sam came back and removed the bandages. He looked closely at the scar and said that the swelling had finally gone down and it looked good.
I wore my hair different now, it would fall against my cheek to hide the scar. Johnny told me on several occasions, that he liked the way it fell on my face, giving me a softer more beautiful look.
I rarely looked in the big mirror in the bedroom anymore. I could see how I looked mirrored in Johnny’s sapphire eyes.
Eyes that would sparkle with his love and desire for me, even after it all was said and done. We settled back into our life at Lancer.
Scott and Johnny had gone to one of the line shacks, to supposedly fix it up for the winter. But I knew they went there to talk over what had happened almost a year before.
When they returned to Lancer, I saw a closeness with the brothers that had been missing for such a long time. I smiled at one point, when I saw bruises forming on both their jaws.
Val came to stay at Lancer for a little while. It amused Johnny to see his friend, the rough and gruff ex-Sheriff, mending fences and herding the cattle from one meadow to the next.
Val seemed to settle in around Lancer and it made Johnny happy to have his oldest friend back in his life.
Johnny and I became closer than we were, even before this nightmare began. We’d lie in each other’s arms, touching each other and exploring one another again. We found a new awareness and a new love with each other along the way.
A number of years later, we were in the kitchen, starting breakfast. I saw Johnny look towards the hall and he quietly said, ” Val, is he up already?”
Scott, who was closest to the hall got up and said, ” I’ll go wake him Brother. He worked really hard yesterday.”
Scott came back a few minutes later and he was pale and his silver blue eyes held a pain inside.
Johnny lifted his eyes and saw the pain filling Scott’s eyes. He got up and started towards the room Val used. Scott stopped him and said, ” He’s gone Johnny. He died in his sleep Brother. I’m sorry.”
Johnny slowly broke free from Scott’s grasp, and walked down the hall. I wanted to go to him, because I knew he was hurting. But Scott and I both stayed in the kitchen and we waited for Johnny.
He came out about an hour later. And he sat at the table, in a sort of daze.
” I’m sorry Johnny. He was happy being here, close to you again.”
” I know Maggie. I need to send someone to town for Sam or the undertaker or something.”
Scott put his hand on Johnny’s forearm and quietly said, ” I sent Carlos to town.”
Johnny’s eyes were sad, and looked like he had cried, but now they were dry and red rimmed.
When the time came, Val was buried up on the hill, next to Murdoch and Beau.
After the service, Johnny stayed up on the hill for a while longer after we all went back to the house.
I looked at Johnny from the big window in the Great Room. He turned after a while and started to walk back towards the house.
Johnny came in and walked to the bar cart in the corner and poured drinks…tequila for him, scotch for Scott and a glass of brandy for me.
After everyone had their drinks Johnny lifted his glass and softly said, ” To Val, my best friend, may you keep a watch over Lancer for many years to come. Vaya con Dios Mi Amigo.”
As I watched Johnny, brave and sad at the same time, I knew he had made the right decision all those years ago. The promise he’d made to his Pal, meant the world to him. It also gave them a number of years to be together in their later years.
Promises made and kept, the way it should be, between friends.
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