Word count 2,345
This is part two that some of you asked for after I wrote “NO I WON’T, YES YOU WILL”
The laughter had gradually died down, and the four of them were still sitting together at the table. Johnny and Scott had elbows on the table, each leaning a cheek on one hand and picking at leftovers with their forks.
Murdoch thought it rather charming the way Scott had become so relaxed around his younger brother. He doubted very much that Harlan would ever have allowed him the latitude of an elbow or two on the table.
However, tonight’s issue was not table manners but rather his own manners or manner that he intended to address, and with a sigh of resignation, he knew that the time had come.
He looked at Teresa sitting to Johnny’s right. He noticed with amusement that her elbows were also on the table as she quietly watched the boys as they picked absently at the food. Clearing his throat, he spoke to her.
“That was a wonderful meal, young lady. I couldn’t eat another mouthful if I tried, thank you.” Both boys smiled and nodded their agreement.
Teresa stood up then, as he’d hoped she would.
“Well, I’d best clean this up,” she began picking up dishes. “I sent Maria and Rosa home before dinner. I thought…” she trailed off, blushed bright red, and the four of them chuckled softly, knowing what she had been thinking.
Scott rose next and began helping clear the table. “I would be most pleased if you would allow me to lend a hand then, Miss O’Brien. To show my appreciation, of course, for such a splendid meal.”
“Oh, no, Scott you’ve been working all day, and it’s late and been rather…” She blushed again. Scott caught her eye. Johnny was still playing with the potatoes and did not notice. He picked up several dishes and pointedly nodded toward the door. Her eyebrows rose as she looked from Scott to Murdoch and realized he wanted them to go.
Johnny suddenly realized he had been left alone with his father. He placed his fork down on the table and sat up slowly from the splayed-out position he’d been assuming. He was still tangled up in rope and chair, rising he realized was not an option. His father dropped his napkin on the tabletop and stood.
“Let me get this for you.” He knelt next to Johnny’s chair and began to untie the knotted rope beneath the rungs. Once undone, he swept the rope away and off of his son with one motion of his hand.
“Pretty good there. Didn’t know you had such a talent.”
“Neither did I.”
There was an odd silence. Murdoch was still kneeling next to the chair. He placed his hand on Johnny’s arm, resting mid-way between the chair arm and the table. He looked directly at his son.
“I want to talk to you, Johnny, tonight.” He felt no small fear as he waited there, eye level with his son. Johnny didn’t immediately respond. Their eyes were locked though. Murdoch rose and, placing his hand under his son’s arm, indicated he should rise and follow. “Outside, on the patio, I think.”
As they walked toward the doors, Murdoch almost felt faint. He was about to say things he had kept hidden in his heart for years. Things he was sometimes sure would kill him to speak out loud. What if he was rejected? What if this son, he loved so much it hurt, turned away? Thought him absurd or maybe even crazy? His mind was racing now as they approached the door. What if he couldn’t speak his thoughts correctly, if it came out all wrong as so often was the case? Damn it, what if he made things worse?
Johnny crossed the patio first and stood with his arms, characteristically hugging himself. Murdoch saw him, in silhouette, lick his lips and hang his head. Suddenly he seemed to make up his mind, and turning to his father, spoke first.
“We don’t need to do this. We’re ok now. Look, I was tired and frustrated with that horse of Jorge’s, and I just reacted like some kind of kid or something. I don’t know. It was my fault and I shouldn’t have been so hard on you.” He paused for a minute, closed his eyes, and said, “I’m sorry. So can we just forget this?”
Murdoch felt his heart lurch. //My God, he thinks he’s the one who was wrong!//
“No, Johnny, we can’t. I told myself you were busy and working and I shouldn’t interrupt you, and that isn’t how I should be treating my son. Do you want to know what I really wanted to do when I got home this afternoon?”
Johnny shrugged, noncommittally turning and raising his eyes to take in his father’s boots, but no higher.
Murdoch paused, steeling himself for this long-held confession. He began slowly, thinking it through, careful with each word spoken. One thing he did not do was take his eyes from his son.
“When you were here, as a child, and I would come home, the first thing I wanted was to see you. You’d come crawling and later toddling toward me, and I delighted in wrapping my arms around that squirming little body and hugging you. Huggy burr you called it. I think you meant huggy bear. I never did find out.” He paused again, and a faraway smile graced his lips. “Later on, when you learned to run and talked quite a bit, after our hug. You’d tell me all about your day. I couldn’t understand most of it, but that didn’t matter. I understood how happy you were to have your Da home, and I would listen to you as though I did understand every word you spoke. The only thing that could have topped those days would be to have had your brother home too. You were my world back then, Johnny, and losing you was unthinkable.”
Johnny finally shifted and lifting his eyes to his father, said, “I called you Da?”
A small soft smile crept onto Murdoch’s face, “Yes, you did. You rode my horse with me, sat on my lap at meals, much I’m afraid to your mother’s chagrin, and every night I was home, I put you to bed.”
There was silence between them, and yes, it was uncomfortable for them both. Murdoch pressed on, his heart fairly into his throat now.
“When I lost you and your mother and couldn’t bring your brother home, I was lost. Nothing could break my heart anymore, or so I thought. For years now, I’ve convinced myself over and over that you couldn’t have survived and that your brother must hate me. Then that fateful day just what now, five months? I acted like an idiot. Firstly I didn’t expect you both at the same time! Or you at all, for that matter. Then there you were, both of you.”
Murdoch’s voice softened and lowered, “I really wanted to grab you both and never let go. Scott didn’t shock me as much as you did. I never saw him until he was five, and then just a brief few minutes. But you, suddenly not my lost child, but a man. A man I didn’t know but felt I should.” He fell silent. At a loss once again to explain himself. He had to do better than this.
“Johnny, it’s foolish pride and fear, fear of rejection or loss again maybe. I’ve had some time to think things through now, and I feel that stops me from doing what my heart wants. This afternoon when I got back, I wanted so much to just sit down and talk to you about everything that had happened while I was away. I wanted to hear your voice, see your face, and be proud of everything you had accomplished while I was away. Instead, I took a quick look around and left you there. I wanted so much more.”
He shook his lowered head and sat down heavily on the arm of the bench. “I’m a stupid, foolish, prideful old man.” He looked up at Johnny, not knowing what to expect. Johnny was still standing with his arms wrapped around himself, but he was staring at Murdoch like it was the first time he’d ever really seen him.
He saw his son swallow hard, lick his lips and look away for a moment. When he again looked back at his father, Murdoch could tell Johnny was going to say something…from his heart. He waited patiently and kept still, hoping nothing and no one interrupted this moment they were having. If they could get this out, be honest with each other, just trust each other enough, there would be no more doubt in his mind that they could make this a family once again.
Oh, he knew Johnny would always be hot-tempered, argumentative, and his feelings easily hurt. But he was also a very lonely, tender-hearted man who wanted his family’s love and understanding. He just didn’t know how to ask for it, or even accept it, for that matter, and he just had no idea how this “family” thing worked.
Frankly, Murdoch wasn’t so sure either, but by God, he did not intend to give up or back off this now. Nope, it was now or possibly never. He wouldn’t accept never.
Johnny lowered his eyes and tossed his head as he said, “I don’t remember being here.” He shook his head slowly back and forth. “I don’t remember you,” he paused, a pained look on his face. “No matter how much I try,” he lowered his voice. “or want to remember,” he swung his arm, indicating the ranch beyond the courtyard, “all this.” He paused again and, clearing his throat, gave a loud sigh. “Sometimes, I wonder…well, if I am who you…think I am…or what you want…or.” His head dropped again, and his arms fell limply to his sides. He just stood there
Murdoch’s reaction was stunned, //my God!// The one thing that had never occurred to him was that Johnny could ever possibly think he wasn’t his son! It felt like his body suddenly weighed a ton. He didn’t think he could move. It took a few moments for the shock of this revelation to wear off. Once it did, the response was a swift one.
Murdoch rose and moved quickly to his son. He grabbed him by his arms, gave him a hard shake, and made him look up.
“From the first second, I laid eyes on you and your brother too. I knew you were both mine Johnny! I’ve never had any doubts, ever!”
“How could you know, be so sure?” Johnny was clearly miserable.
Murdoch had to laugh. He turned around, placing his arm around his son’s shoulders and walking him back toward the bench.
They sat down. Murdoch eyed his boy, then began.
“First, you look too much like your mother, Johnny. Second, I have never seen anyone else with those eyes except my grandmother. Third, you have a scar on your right shin, no?” Johnny glanced down at his right leg, then nodded yes. “You got that here. See the gate to the courtyard?” Johnny nodded. “Your mother said it was too damp out for you to ride with me that morning, so yyyoouuu escaped out the back kitchen door when she wasn’t looking and climbed up on the wall, then you ran around it to that gate and as I came alongside it, you jumped!” He laughed. “I didn’t think you were going to jump, I thought I’d just give you a kiss and a hug goodbye, so when you launched yourself, I missed you!” He laughed heartily now. “You hit the other side of that gate, in fact,” Murdoch raised his hand and brushed the hair that had fallen across Johnny’s forehead aside. “I believe you may have a small scar up here too. You hit the wall with your knees, then fell between it and my horse, hitting your head on the way down. Scared me half to death.”
He sat watching his son, waiting him out, it was his turn to speak, and Murdoch intended to give him all the time and room he needed to get things said… tonight.
Johnny shifted around on the bench, biting his bottom lip and studying nothing much in the south pasture. Suddenly he shrugged and turned his head toward his father, though he was still not looking directly at him.
“You’re not going to start hugging me in public or anything like that, are you?”
Johnny stiffened. Murdoch had to laugh. “Oh, alright…I’ll try not to be too demonstrative in public.” There was silence between them. Murdoch spoke again.
“But Johnny, I intend to treat you like a father should treat his son, a son I’m proud of and love.”
Johnny slumped backward and blew out a long breath. “So, we done?”
Murdoch groaned. He stood and reached down, pulling his son to his feet. “No, because I’d really like to know what you’ve been up to with this shoeing you’ve been doing.”
Murdoch steered his son toward the doors to the den.
“Like…which horses, besides mine. Your thoughts on why you do what you do. Whose improved, who hasn’t? Your plan for the ones who haven’t, et cetera et cetera…”
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8 thoughts on “After The Fight by Seminole”
These two stories are new to me and I have enjoyed them both. It was Brave of Murdoch to rope and tie Johnny, but it worked.
Loved the heart to heart talk between father and son.
Finally the long waited conversation between Murdoch and Johnny ! Well done.
Can’t believe that Murdoch actually tied Johnny up. Nice to see Murdoch come around to appreciating Johnny. Thanks for sharing.
Great stories, what a hoot Murdoch roping Johnny to a chair and giving him an unloaded got. Still smiling.
I enjoyed those stories. Thank you for writing and posting them.
I enjoyed reading these two stories, and I’m glad that Johnny and Murdoch had that talk. Thanks for sharing and keeping Lancer land alive. JML always ♥
I love when Murdoch ties Johnny to the chair. This is such a great series, especially when Johnny asks if Murdoch is going to hug him in public. Thank you for sharing your talent with us and helping to make Lancer live on.
Someone needs to tie Murdoch’s butt to a chair for a while and see if he can learn better manners. Manners in how to talk, respond and treat his younger son. His excuses don’t hold water. But I still love reading this story, thanks for sharing. JML always ♥️