Word count 7,276
I do not own any of the characters of Lancer, nor do I lay claim to their stories. I do, however, take them out for a run around the ranch. Any and all characters of my creation can not be used without permission.
The young man laid in the bed, his mind spinning a mile a minute. The question he kept hearing, ‘ Who are you more? ‘
Johnny’s mind ran the positives and negatives of each. What the good of being Johnny Madrid was or being Johnny Lancer. It was coming out that being Johnny Lancer was the better of the two. But would others let him be Johnny Lancer, or would Johnny Madrid always be in the wings, waiting for his time to show up?
A knock on his bedroom door stopped his thinking marathon. He turned his head, and as the door opened, the door opened and his blonde haired brother came in with a cup of coffee in each hand.
A smile came to Johnny’s lips and he slowly sat up in the bed. Scott put a couple pillows behind his back, and then after making sure he was settled, gave him the cup of coffee.
” You look like you were thinking on something Brother. Care to share? “
Johnny took a sip of coffee and fixed his brother with a sapphire stare. A slow smile coming to his lips.
” It’s nothing important Boston. Just going over a question the old man asked me the other day. Figured being laid up for a couple days, I could figure it out.”
His older brother sat on the window ledge, cup of coffee in his hand, and looked at his younger brother.
Johnny’s chest and left shoulder were covered with white gauze bandages. He checked for hints of red, but the bandages were clean. He moved his silver blue eyes to his
brother’s face and quietly said.
” What question was that Brother? “
Johnny took a deep breath and lowered his eyes. He slowly blew the air out and then in a soft quiet voice, told his brother.
” Which are you more? “
” That is a tough question Johnny. They are two parts of the same man. I’m sure there were good parts about being Johnny Madrid, just as I know there are bad parts to being Johnny Lancer.”
He looked out the window and tried to move to get more comfortable. He put his right hand against his shoulder and gently rubbed.
” Yeah, good parts about being both Scott. But I think Murdoch wanted to know who am I most.”
” What have you come up with Brother? “
Sighing softly, Johnny raised his coffee cup and took a long slow sip.
” I don’t know Scott. For every good thing in the column for Johnny Lancer, there’s also a good thing for Johnny Madrid. It’s starting to get to me. Maybe there is no right choice.”
” There has to be one thing more in one side or the other Johnny. “
He fixed a hard glare on his older brother, and for one hot second, Scott thought he’d be looking at Johnny Madrid.
Johnny unfroze his blue eyes and he very softly said, while turning to look out the window again.
” That’s just it Scott, I can’t find one thing for one side of myself, that I can’t find something similar on the other side. “
He was getting frustrated, and wondered why he’d started this for. Then his blue eyes would close and he’d sigh to himself. ‘ Oh yeah, the old man asked me the question.’
He didn’t want to see disappointment in Murdoch’s eyes when he had to tell him he couldn’t come up with an answer.
Scott stood up and patted Johnny’s leg under the cover and softly said, ” You’ll figure it out Brother. I’m sure the right answer will come to you. And I think Murdoch already knows what your answer will be.”
Johnny’s sapphire eyes sparkled, for one brief second and said, ” If he knows the answer, why’d he ask me the question?”
” Probably to see what your answer would be little Brother. I’ll be real surprised to hear your answer. I have a guess, but I’ll hold my tongue, until you tell our father your answer.”
Johnny’s deep blue eyes tracked his brother to the door and as he heard the soft click, he rubbed a hand over his face and up into his silky black waves.
Murdoch was sitting at his desk when his oldest boy came downstairs. The fact that Scott poured a glass of Scotch concerned his father, it wasn’t even noon yet.
” Problem Son?”
As Scott slowly picked up the glass, he took a long deep sip and then turned to plant frosted silver eyes on his father. That had the effect of making Scott’s eyes almost white, which kind of startled the older man.
” Scott? “
” You, at the moment, are the problem Murdoch. Why would you ask Johnny that question? He’s up in his room, making himself crazy with trying to come to the correct answer for you.”
Murdoch leaned back in his chair and he locked his pale blue eyes on his son’s white silver blue eyes and said, ” First off, I didn’t mean for John to delve into that question with such vigor. I just asked because I figured he’d tell me then and there.”
Scott walked to the fireplace and leaned his hands in the mantle.
Without turning to his father, the oldest son said, ” Well, he’s upstairs beating himself up to come up with the right answer.”
Murdoch got up and walked to his son.
” Should I go and talk to him? Or do you think it would give him something to do while being on bed rest?”
Scott turned to look at his father, and saw the smile beginning to lift his lips up.
He slowly smiled at his father and he said, ” Well, as much as I’ve seen it eating away at my little brother, I think we should let him go until Sam says he can go back to work. It will give him something to do. Maybe he won’t get so antsy so fast.”
Murdoch chuckled softly and patted Scott on his shoulder.
” How about for a surprise, we have dinner up in Johnny’s room? Even Teresa and Jelly, make it a rather festive meal.”
The dark haired Lancer son was just waking up from a nap, when he heard what he could only describe as a small herd of horses in the hallway. The door suddenly opened and Johnny’s eyes popped open.
” What’s all this?”
Everyone came into the room, carrying plates, silverware and coffee and cups. Jelly had a couple chairs and everyone put the dishes and stuff on Johnny’s writing table.
As Teresa lifted the lid off the pot, Johnny inhaled deeply.
A huge smile lit up his face as he said, ” Stew!” Around the room, small chuckles could be heard.
Teresa dished Johnny a huge bowl and put two big hunks of cornbread on the side. As he dug into dinner, he looked around at all of his family.
Instead of having dinner at the big table downstairs and being comfortable, they all sat around Johnny’s room, eating dinner.
Even tho they didn’t look relaxed, they were.
The talking back and forth was about the work that was to be done in the next couple days. Johnny lowered his eyes and Scott was the first one to notice the silent change in his dark haired brother.
” What’s wrong Johnny? You got very quiet when we started talking about all the work needing to be done.”
Murdoch chuckled and said, ” Oh don’t worry Johnny, there will be plenty of chores still available when you finally are cut loose.”
A small smile came to his lips and he softly said, without lifting his head, ” Oh, I know. There’s always something to do on a ranch. I was just thinking of some stuff that could be, well, considered good that’s happened to me.”
The two older Lancers looked quickly at each other, and Scott softly said, ” What do you consider good that’s happened to you Brother? What to share?”
The dark haired head slowly lifted and he leveled a cool sapphire gaze onto his older brother. Scott again got that feeling in his gut, that Johnny Madrid was about to make an appearance.
But no, Johnny smiled, one of his almost evil smiles. He knew what that look does to his brother, and he loved teasing him with that look.
” Look a little nervous Boston. Anything I can do for you?”
As Scott slowly licked his dry lips, Murdoch’s deep rumbly voice said, ” John, stop teasing your brother. “
Under his breath, a soft whispery voice said, ” I didn’t do anything to him!”
When Scott looked at Johnny, he saw the smile on his lips and the mischievous glint in those sapphire eyes. Soon, a smile came to Scott’s lips and he said, ” I can handle anything you got little Brother.”
Teresa broke the spell between the brothers as she said, ” So what is it that’s good that happened to you Johnny?”
The glitter was gone from Johnny’s eyes and he began to pick at the fringe on his top blanket. He wasn’t nervous, he just was looking for the right words.
” Well, the best thing that’s ever happened to me, is I have a family. That brings me the best feelings inside. I think that’s the biggest and best part of being Johnny Lancer.”
Without moving his head, his eyes tracked to his father, and he saw the smile on Murdoch’s lips. He slowly let his breath out, and he seemed to relax against the pillows behind him.
Johnny looked closer at Murdoch, and he thought he saw tears filling his eyes. That kinda shocked Johnny. How that simple sentence could give his father that kind of reaction.
” I’m not done thinking about this Murdoch. There were good parts in being Johnny Madrid as well. I have to find those too.”
” John, you don’t have to think so hard on this. Whatever you decide, whether you want to be Johnny Lancer or Johnny Madrid, I’ll accept what you come up with.”
” I just want to give the best answer I can Murdoch, so there will never be another occasion when you ask that question again.”
Scott got a worried look on his face and he softly said, ” Does that mean, if you decide you would be better off as Johnny Madrid, you would leave Lancer?”
There was a soft sigh from the man on the bed, and he again lowered his head.
” No, not necessarily Scott. I’m safe here. I know that. I’m just saying I may not be able to only be Johnny Lancer. I was, no I am, still Johnny Madrid. That was a big part of who I am. Madrid let me survive. I don’t think I can just stop being Johnny Madrid, in order to please you.”
Murdoch’s head snapped up and he gave his youngest a cold stare. Nothing like a Madrid stare, but Johnny closed his mouth just the same.
” I never said you had to choose between the two John. I just meant, who are you more comfortable being. Not that you had to become one or the other.”
Teresa, who had been sitting quietly the whole time the three Lancers were talking, finally spoke up.
” Why does he have to decide? He’s both men. There are parts of each that are appealing, to me.”
” No Murdoch, let her continue. Go ahead Honey.”
” Well, I mean, you are kind and helpful and wouldn’t hurt any of us, you’d protect Lancer with your soul Johnny. Now, whether that is Johnny Madrid or Johnny Lancer, I can’t say. To me, it makes no difference. I still love you, for you.”
Johnny could feel his eyes getting moist, and he kept them down to look at his fingers still worrying the fringe on his blanket.
Softly, in a voice so unlike Johnny, he said, ” Thanks Teresa. That’s all I want, to be wanted by my family.”
Murdoch got up from the chair he was in and he sat on the edge of the bed. He put his rough hand up to his cheek and cupped his son’s face.
” Johnny, you are wanted and loved, by everyone here. I waited for twenty-two years to have you come home. I admit, in the beginning, I was afraid of Johnny Madrid. But you have also proved that you are Johnny Lancer.”
His sapphire eyes lifted to lock on his father’s light blue eyes. In those eyes, Johnny saw a love that was deep and true. He felt the tickle of tears, as his eyes filled with warm tears. They slipped from his eyes and fell to caress his father’s fingers.
Murdoch gently wiped the tears from his youngest son’s cheeks and very softly said, ” Now you understand John? My asking that question was not meant to create doubts inside you. I just asked it to see how you saw yourself. I know, you will always be Johnny Madrid, and I’m okay with that. Really, I am John. I see how you try to talk them out of the gunplay. Some listen, some don’t. You do what you have to John, to survive. And I don’t condemn you for that, not anymore. I’ve learned who Johnny Madrid is, and at times I’m glad he’s around. He’s kept you alive Son.”
He pushed the thick black bangs that always seemed to fall over his son’s blue eyes.
Those same blue eyes locked on his father’s face and he very softly said, ” So, it wouldn’t make a difference to you who I said I was more?”
Murdoch smiled gently at his son and his voice, deep and rumbly, said, ” No, it won’t John. You are both men. Two halves that make the whole man. Someone I am proud to call my Son.”
Scott had been listening to the exchange between his brother and his father, and he decided to add his opinion.
” You see Brother, it doesn’t matter to those who truly love you. They love all parts of you. You and Madrid, you are two halves that combine to make one person. You may have to become Johnny Madrid for the rest of your life. Maybe not. You know Johnny, you are always going to be Johnny Lancer. You are my Brother, no matter what you do. And I love you very much Johnny.”
All of those words were causing Johnny’s gut to spin, right along with his head. He turned eyes to Teresa and Jelly sitting by the tiny table with all the bowls of food.
Johnny lifted one dark eyebrow and Jelly gruffily said, ” Well, you know I gots a soft spot in my heart for you Boy. It don’t matter one way or the other who you are, to me.”
Johnny smiled at the little man, seeing how hard those words were for him to say. His blue eyes tracked towards Teresa and he saw tears filling her brown eyes.
As he watched her gathering her thoughts, johnny thought to himself, ‘ I hate when she cries.’
” I love having you for a brother Johnny. And believe it or not, I even love Johnny Madrid. He was the one who rescued me when Ramon Diaz kidnapped me to get to you. I didn’t know what he was going to do to me. Even tho I had a broken arm and bruises everywhere. I trusted you to get me out of there, without any more pain. You are both men to me, Johnny, and I couldn’t love you more than I do. You are the best brother a girl could ever want.”
Oh that did it! Johnny took a deep shuddering breath, and he felt the hitch of his breath in his throat. He tried so hard to j
keep his tears at bay. But they came anyway, a warm waterfall down his cheeks.
Teresa leaned over and wrapped her arms around her brother’s neck and leaned into his neck. The long black hair tickled her cheek, but she didn’t seem to mind.
Johnny put his right arm around her back and slid it up into her long brown hair and closed his eyes.
” I didn’t mean to make you cry Johnny. Really I didn’t.”
She leaned back and as Johnny’s eyes opened, he lifted his right arm from around her and wiped his eyes and cheeks.
” It’s okay Querida. You’re special to me too. I’d have done it, even if you weren’t my little sister. I don’t like woman being hurt, especially like you were.”
She smiled and rubbed a hankie against her eyes. She sat there, on the edge of the bed, her left hip touching Johnny’s leg. She realized where she was and where her body was, and she slowly stood up.
Murdoch spoke up from the comfy chair by the window.
” I think John is a little overwhelmed by what we’ve all said. I think maybe we need to go and let him rest. Sam will be here tomorrow, so if everything is okay, he may just let you out for light ranch work.”
Sapphire eyes lifted and actually sparked with the joy of getting out of this room. Even if it’s just to the shed with Jelly to repair leather harnesses and repair saddles that have broken. Anything, to get out of this room for even a few hours.
” I hope so! I hate being in this room and being still for such a small wound.”
Murdoch chuckled and picked up the two chairs, and followed Teresa and Jelly out of the room. They each carried an arm load of dishes and bowls. Soon the brothers were alone in Johnny’s room.
Scott moved the chair from the writing table over to the side of the bed. He sat in the chair, leaning forward, his forearms across his thighs.
Johnny rubbed his left shoulder and looked at his brother. He knew Scott wanted to talk to him, and he was gathering his thoughts.
Finally, after about five minutes of silence from his big brother, Johnny softly said, ” What’s on your mind Brother?”
That broke into Scott’s brain and he lifted his head up and locked his silver blue eyes onto Johnny’s sapphire eyes. Both brothers held the intense stare.
Finally, it was Scott who broke the lock, and he sighed softly. He started talking softly and Johnny held onto every word his brother uttered.
” Do you know why I wanted to stay here, after everyone else left? I want to talk to you about something I’ve never told anyone before. Not my Grandfather, or the friends I had in Boston. No one Johnny.”
Johnny’s intense blue eyes softened and he said, very softly, ” And you want to tell me?”
Scott smiled, a sort of sad smile, that caused his usually bright eyes to turn almost grey.
” It’s sort of about you, but it’s not. I didn’t know you even existed until I came here. Johnny, it’s the first time in a long time I’ve felt complete and it’s because of you.”
Scott took a deep breath and leaned back in the chair, and continued talking. Johnny didn’t interrupt, but he hung on every word his brother said, feeling this talk was going to be the most important one they’d ever shared, since they met ten years ago.
” When I was growing up in Boston, I was a lonely boy Johnny. Oh sure, there were kids to play with, all hand picked by Grandfather, from well to do families. I never chose any friends on my own. I’d go to some of their homes on occasion, and saw them with their little brothers, and I wished I had a little brother. I used to pretend, when I was alone in my room or riding by myself, that I had a little brother. I’d talk to him about my day or what I wanted to do. Sometimes, I sat on the floor and I would read my books to my ‘brother’. I’d be happy and sad at the same time. Do you know I mean Johnny?”
He slowly nodded his dark haired head, afraid if he opened his mouth, it would come out wrong somehow.
” I took my ‘ brother’ everywhere, to the University, to war. He’s what kept me sane while I was in Libby Prison. I’m sure I’d have gone crazy, if I didn’t have my ‘brother’ to talk to.”
Johnny couldn’t stop himself from saying, very quietly, ” What was his name, what did he look like Boston?”
Scott smiled at the question.
” His name was Michael and he had dark hair and green eyes. I once knew a girl who had dark hair and green eyes, and I liked it. So that’s what I gave my ‘brother’. He was shorter than me, very athletic and loved to go riding in the park.”
Johnny smiled at his big brother and continued to listen to Scott’s words. He was beginning to see a side to his brother he’d never seen before.
” I sometimes would look at the people I walked by, looking for someone who kind of resembled my image of what my brother would be. I’d sometimes cry at night, because I wanted a brother.”
Sapphire eyes lifted and there was a shimmer of tears making them brighter and sort of sparkly. Johnny wanted so much to move towards his brother and wrap his arms around him and never let him go.
” Johnny, in some ways, I knew you were waiting for me to find you. I felt in my heart that the other half of my heart was out there somewhere. When we met in Morro Coyo, after that stage coach ride, and we both answered to Teresa’s inquiry for Mr Lancer, I felt my heart beginning to beat again. I’d found the other half of my heart. He wasn’t what I had always pictured, but I didn’t care.”
” But what did you think when you found out I was Johnny Madrid? And all those men I killed because they were stupid enough to call me out?”
Scott leaned forward again, and he quietly said, ” The truth? I was scared Johnny. Afraid to say the wrong word and find myself staring down the barrel of that Colt of your’s. But after I got to know you, and saw Johnny Madrid in action, I began to understand you Brother. I saw a truly wonderful man. You tried to talk them out of the gunfight. You never called anyone out, but you didn’t back down either. You’re a strong man Johnny, and whether you are Johnny Madrid or Johnny Lancer, I will always love and cherish you as my baby brother.”
Sapphire eyes suddenly were sparkling brighter, because of warm tears filling them. He tried to keep then from falling, but soon felt the warm wet tracks, as they slid down his cheeks.
” You know Scott, when I was growing up, alone, along the border towns. I wished I had a big brother to protect me. I used to get beaten by everyone I came in contact with. I could only run away so many times, before someone would find me and smack me around, or not feed me. Having a Mexican mother and a gringo father made my life harder than you could imagine. Especially with these blue eyes. I wasn’t accepted anywhere. I’d cry sometimes, just wanting someone to keep me from getting beaten. Like you Scott, I would imagine what I wanted my big brother to be. He would be taller than me, maybe a little bit muscular, dark hair and light colored eyes.”
Scott smiled at his brother’s words and he quietly said, ” What else Johnny?”
Johnny smiled back and said, ” When I first saw you on that stage, all fancied up, I thought to myself you wouldn’t fit into the towns out west. Those ruffles on your shirt made me want to laugh. You, Brother, looked so funny and so stiff.”
” I was in high fashion in Boston wearing those clothes. Never having been out west, I didn’t know I wouldn’t fit in.”
Johnny continued and started talking again.
” When Teresa said that Murdoch had two wives and two sons, I started to feel like my big brother wasn’t really what I’d always imagined. You were a Boston fop, and your accent just told me you would never fit in. That first morning when I came into your room, I saw all those fancy clothes and I thought to myself that you needed real cowboy clothes. And those plaid pants, Brother, I couldn’t believe you had something so bad in your wardrobe. I hated those plaid pants.”
Scott smiled and said, ” I went into Morro Coyo and got some real cowboy clothes Johnny. I even gave my plaid pants to Teresa for dusting rags. I even believe she and Maria cut some of them into stripes for bandages.”
” Yea, I had some of those plaid bandages when I got shot in the thigh when Ramon Diaz kidnapped Teresa. I think she used them as a joke to make me laugh. More for her to laugh. It was a long time before she felt like herself.”
” Because of you Johnny. She was right when she said you were a good person. I’d see how hard it hit you when anyone called you out. You tried so hard to keep your two lives separate. But Johnny, you are both men. They make up the whole man you are.”
” Other than those plaid pants, you were what I’d pictured my big brother to be like. I needed someone to keep me safe Scott.”
” And over these last ten years, we found out my Grandfather and your mother knew we were brothers and never told us. I wished everyday since we’ve been here Johnny, that I’d have known about you. Maybe you wouldn’t have to become Johnny Madrid and I maybe wouldn’t have been in that war or prison for a year.”
” That maybe if we’d grown up here, we’d have lived differently Boston? Even tho I wanted a brother, being Johnny Madrid had some good points too. I helped a lot of people, met some good people I’d be proud to have you meet.”
” Thanks Brother.”
Johnny looked at the clock on his night stand and said, ” Dios, it’s almost midnight. We’d better call it a night Boston, or we won’t be able to get up in the morning.”
Scott stood up and moved the chair back to the table, and walked to the door. His hand poised above the door knob, he turned to his brother.
” Thanks for listening Brother. I’ve held that inside for ten years, maybe even longer. Never told anyone else any of that.”
” Anytime Boston. Ever you want to talk again, you know where I am.”
After Scott left, Johnny laid in the bed and went over everything they’d talked about. He smiled and felt sort of special his brother trusted him enough to tell him those things.
It didn’t take Johnny long to fall asleep, even tho he had lots of things and information floating in his head. As he slept deeper, images of his life as Johnny Madrid flew thru his dreams.
Some of the images were pleasant to Johnny’s sleeping mind. Gina. His Gina was calling to him. Johnny actually lifted his arms to reach for her as he slept.
He could feel her soft brown hair as it ran thru his fingers, and her laughing brown eyes sparkled just for him. Just as Johnny was going to pull her to his body, she collapsed against him. A huge bleeding wound in her chest, covering Johnny’s chest with her blood.
Johnny cried out and suddenly sat up in his bed. His heart pounding and his shoulder throbbing from the sudden movement. He was sweating and shaking, as his brother burst into his room.
He went to his brother’s side and put his arms on Johnny’s arms and gently shook him.
He saw that his brother’s sapphire eyes were huge and not focused at all.
” Johnny! Wake up Brother! It’s me, Scott. Wake up Brother!”
Finally, after about five minutes of that, Johnny’s eyes focused on his brother’s face. He rubbed his right hand across his face and up into his sweaty black hair.
” Dios Scott! It was horrible! I saw her killed all over again!”
Scott sat on the edge of the bed and poured Johnny a glass of water and softly asked his brother,
” Who Johnny! Who was killed?! Your mother?”
He slowly shook his head and leaned back against the pillows. His eyes closed and he fought to get his breathing and his heartbeat under control.
” Gina. We were gonna be married and we were up in a field of flowers just being together. Her father found us and as she was running towards me, he shot her. She died in my arms Brother.”
” Oh Johnny, I’m sorry. How long ago was this Johnny?”
” I was seventeen Scott and it was then I decided being Madrid was what I wanted to be. Never feeling again for anyone.”
His eyes opened and he said softly, ” I said not all of being Johnny Madrid was good. There were lots of bad that came with being Johnny Madrid.”
Scott sat for a few minutes longer, until his little brother regained some semblance of calm again.
” You okay now Brother? Or do you want to talk about her some. I don’t mind you know.”
He smiled at his brother and said, ” No, I’m fine now Scott. It just seemed so real.”
” Dreams can do that Johnny. If you need to talk, you know where I am. Okay?”
He patted Johnny’s arm and saw that his brother was okay now. He stood up and went to the door and looked back at his brother before going back to his room.
Johnny knew he wasn’t gonna be able to go back to sleep. He laid in the bed, and looked out the window as the dawn was coming up over the mountains.
He felt tears on his cheeks and he wiped them away and thought. ‘ I thought I was over her, but I guess all it takes is one spark to think again.’
When he heard Scott and Murdoch in the hall outside his room, Johnny felt like a wet dishrag. He was so tired, but he swore he’d not show it to his family.
Murdoch came into his room with a cup of coffee. He handed it to his youngest son and looked closely.
” You don’t look at all rested John. You and Scott talked too long, didn’t you?”
Johnny lowered his eyes and very softly said, ” Yea, I guess we did Murdoch. I’ll be fine with coffee and breakfast.”
As Johnny said that, Teresa and Scott came in. Teresa carrying a tray of breakfast. Johnny heard his belly growl with hunger, and everyone laughed.
” You finish up your breakfast Son, and I’ll bet you Sam will be here before you are done.”
” Hope so Murdoch. I need to get out in the fresh air. I hate being in this room and bed.”
Murdoch, Scott and Teresa all chuckled and left Johnny to his breakfast. Scott looked at his brother after they both left and he softly said, ” You sure you’re okay Johnny? You really had me worried.”
The fork hovered over his plate of eggs and he quietly said, while lifting his sapphire eyes, ” I’m sorry about last night, Boston. It was just so real.”
” Well, at 3am in the morning, it has a way of being real Brother. If you want to talk about it at anytime, I’m a great listener.”
The man on the bed flashed one of his brightest smiles and his older brother smiled just as deep and bright as his brother.
Just as Johnny was finishing the last piece of bacon and swallowing his last sip of coffee, there was a soft knock.
As he said to come in, he grinned when he saw Sam coming in with his battered black medical bag.
Seeing the smile, Sam smiled back and said, ” I see my patient is feeling a bit better this morning.”
” Yes I am Sam. I’m all ready to have you cut me loose!”
Sam put his Doctor face on and said, ” Well, can I check your shoulder, before you go racing out the door John!?”
As expected, Johnny lowered his head and eyes and his fingers started to pick at the fringe on his blanket.
Sam cleared his throat and Johnny lifted his head. Sam saw the instant little boy smile on his lips and he knew he couldn’t be mad at Johnny.
” You can be such a devil John, do you know that? You try the patience of a saint at times. Now let me look at that shoulder.”
He leaned forward a little and Sam unwound the white gauze bandages. He put his fingers on the wound and pushed against the shoulder.
Johnny winced, but it wasn’t bad.
” Well Sam? Can I get out of this room?”
Sam leaned back and took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes, tiredly. A soft sigh slid from his lips, as he put his glasses back on his nose. He placed both hands on his thighs and looked at Johnny intently.
” Well, it’s healed nicely John. But I don’t want you breaking horses for a few more days. You can do light ranching and I guess you can ride that spoiled horse of your’s. But I don’t want you riding like the wind. If you fall, you could still open that wound up. Do I make my orders clear John?”
” Yes Sam, crystal clear. Light ranching, no breaking horses and no riding Barranca full out. Got it Sam!”
Sam sat a few more minutes and watched him for a bit longer.
He saw that he was sincere in his reply and said, ” Alright John. But I want you to be careful.”
Johnny’s smile lit up his face and Sam patted his leg and got up and chuckled as he left the room.
The man on the bed almost whooped with joy as he threw his blankets off and began his routine and got dressed.
He was just stomping his feet into his boots, when Scott strolled into his room, after a brief knock.
He smiled as he watched his brother sliding his gunbelt around his waist and checking his gun. Sighing, he knew Johnny would always be Madrid.
” I see Sam cut you loose. You gonna come fix fences with me?”
” Unless the old man wants me to work on broken harnesses with Jelly.”
The sparkles in those sapphire eyes told Scott his baby brother would do just about anything to ride in the sunshine.
The brothers ran to the back stairs, and almost ran Maria over in their joy at Johnny being let loose. She swatted both men with her big wooden spoon and they laughed as they headed to the Great Room.
Murdoch and Sam were still talking when his sons made their very noisy entrance to the room.
He smiled as he saw his youngest was almost vibrating with the joy of being out.
” John, you and Scott need to go up to Black Mesa. Some fences have been blown down and I plan on moving cattle to that meadow in a week. Don’t want them wandering thru any breaks.”
The brothers were out the door and heading to the barn to saddle their horses, before Murdoch could say another word.
They saddled their mounts and as they raced up the hill towards their assignment, Sam softly laughed.
The brothers fixed all the fencing that needed it and Johnny got very quiet on the ride back to the ranch.
Scott noticed his sibling was unusually quiet and reined Remmie to a halt. Johnny followed suit and was asked by his brother, ” You okay Johnny. You are quiet. Now, ordinarily, I’d love that, but you also can be plotting some mischief. What’s up?”
He turned sapphire orbs on his brother and softly said, ” Can I talk to you Scott?”
” Sure Brother. What’s up?”
He slowly got off Barranca’s back and ground tied him. Scott followed his brother and they both walked to a downed tree and sat on it.
” What’s on your mind Brother? I’ve never seen you this quiet.”
Johnny looked out over the meadow and a deep sigh could be heard. Scott saw his brother’s eyes close, and he knew he was gathering his thoughts. Finally, as he turned to look at his brother, his voice was whispery soft.
” I didn’t tell you all about Gina and me Scott. She was carrying my baby. She’d just told me before her father killed her. I was so happy Scott, thinking I would have sonething I could call my own. Plus she said yes she would marry me. Scott, I was on top of the world. I thought maybe of hanging my gun up and being a father and husband.”
Scott listened and felt deep sorrow that his brother only wanted to be happy, and it was stolen from him.
Johnny got a far away look in his eyes and softly continued.
” She was so beautiful Scott. Skin so soft and the color of warm caramel, dark brown hair that swung to her waist and her eyes….. Oh Scott……her eyes were brown and gold flecked that would shine like the sun was inside of her. At night, after we made love, it was like stars glittered in them. She was my life for four months Scott. Then she and the baby were taken from me in a second.”
” What happened to her father Johnny? You didn’t kill him, did you?”
Sapphire eyes hiding so much pain, looked at his older brother and he said, ” No, I didn’t Scott. I took her body to the Doctor in town, and told him what happened. He did what he needed to do and he found a lovely place to bury her. Just him and me were there. Doctor was pretty pissed at her father and after Gina was buried, he went to the Sheriff.”
” Did the Sheriff arrest her father Johnny?”
The slow nod of his head told Scott that he had been.
Johnny’s eyes closed and his dark head lowered to his chest. Scott knew his brother’s emotions were high and gave him time to get them under control. As he watched his brother, he saw him lift his hand and wipe tears from his eyes.
” After he was arrested, I packed what I could fit in my saddlebags and left. Never looked back Scott. I became Johnny Madrid, gun fighter, good at my trade. I became the deadliest gunhawk around. For so long Scott, I never let anyone get close to me. I used whores, because I didn’t have to give them my heart. Never felt anything for anyone, until I came here.”
” And what happened for you when you came here Johnny?”
Smiling at his brother for the first time since they left the fence line, he said, ” I started to care. About all of you. I wanted so much to hang up my gun Brother. But you saw last week what happened. I can’t ever stop being Johnny Madrid.”
” No, you’ll always be Johnny Madrid Brother. But you can also be Johnny Lancer. Madrid doesn’t need to take over your soul Johnny.”
Johnny suddenly stood up and he said, ” I need to talk to the old man. I have to tell him something.”
Johnny walked quickly and leaped into the saddle and was already heading to Lancer, before Scott could move.
” Damn! Sam is gonna have his head if he falls off that horse and hurts himself after just being let loose!”
He spurred Remmie to faster speed and soon caught up with Johnny’s racing Palomino. Together they rode into the courtyard and handed their mounts to a ranch hand and went into the hacienda.
They found Murdoch, as usual, behind his desk, doing the books for the ranch. He looked up when his sons came into the room.
” Fences fixed boys?”
” Yes Sir. We came back early tho, I think Johnny has something to tell you, Sir.”
Murdoch took his glasses off and got up and walked to the couch and sat next to Johnny. Scott was against the mantle, close by but still far enough to give his brother his space.
” What’s on your mind John?”
He lowered his head and his eyes and then felt his father’s hand under his chin, lifting his face up.
Softly, he said, ” John, talk to me. Please!”
He took a deep breath and lifted eyes to search his father’s face. He saw only love and compassion in his father’s light blue eyes.
” I have an answer to your question Murdoch. I figured you would want to hear it.”
Murdoch looked at his youngest son and saw almost a look of acceptance in those sapphire eyes he loved.
” If you are ready to give me an answer John, I’ll fully listen to it.”
Johnny suddenly stood up and walked a few steps away and then slowly turned to face his father. He saw his brother smiling, encouraging him to continue.
” I’ve thought of all the good and the bad of being Johnny Lancer and Johnny Madrid. There is good and bad on each side of the coin. But I think I am Johnny Lancer more.”
Murdoch smiled as he thought, ‘ Now I know who you are more Johnny.’ He was never so proud of his youngest son, as he was at that moment. His son knew who he was at last, who he wanted to be. It warmed the old man’s heart, as he stood and walked to his son’s side. Wrapping his arms around Johnny, he pulled him close to his chest. He didn’t see it, but Scott did. Johnny’s sapphire eyes closed and he had a soft smile on his lips.
‘ Who am I most?’ Johnny’s heart said, ‘ You’re Johnny Lancer.’
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