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Look Before You Eat by Southernfrau

Sadly, Southernfrau is no longer with us. Her stories are archived here for her friends to remember her by. Enjoy her legacy to Lancer.

Word count 2,300

Disclaimer: If it looks like a Lancer, talks like a Lancer and smells like a Lancer, then Twentieth Century Fox owns them and I just play with them.
Author’s Note: Char reminded me it had been quite a while since I had written a Brat Pack story and she requested one for her birthday.   I know her birthday isn’t until the end of July but I decided to get the party started early.
Author’s note 2: Thanks to my writing partner, Kit, for kindly allowing me to borrow ‘ideas’ from her LHOG universe Lancers, most especially the notion that Scott came up with the concept of a big brother book of rules. Thanks Kit for the beta
Kit:  Note to self.  Amend Big Sister’s Book of Rules.  DO NOT EAT WHILE READING SF’S STORIES!!

~*~ L ~*~ A ~*~ N ~*~ C ~*~ E ~*~ R ~*~

Watching the gentle rain that had been falling for past the twenty four hours, ending the threat of drought conditions, Murdoch Lancer sighed in contentment.  Swiveling his desk chair around on its casters, his happy eyes drank in the sight of his family.  It was relaxing to be all together in the same room…with no whining, crying or fighting.

His father-in-law Harlan, or Grandfather Ha, had arrived home from a San Francisco business trip, right before the start of the rain. As was his usual habit after being separated from his beloved grandsons for any length of time, the benevolent grandfather had arrived bearing gifts. 

Scott had received a blank book because lately he had expressed a real interest not only in reading but also in writing his own stories. The little blond had set up the coffee table as his desk.  He had his pencil, colored pencils and pen and ink well. With Ha sitting right across from him on the couch, he had also been allowed to outfit his desk with a small oil lamp.  His chair was a miniature replica of a ladder back chair, complete with cane seating.  Cipriano had hand carved one for each of the boys for Christmas.

Scritch…scratch. Tap tap…scritch scratch.

Scott’s head was bent over his book, his honey colored hair glowing in the lamp light.  His brow furrowed in concentration as he carefully scribed something in his book.

“Scott, what are you writing?” Papa questioned, curious as to the serious countenance he was witnessing.  He bit back a chuckle as his older son looked up and the lamplight showed the ink smudges on his aristocratic features.

Cautiously laying his ink pen over the top of the inkwell, and then picking up a tissue to blot his work, Scott replied, “I’m writing a book of rules.”

Papa and Ha looked at each other, both shrugging their shoulders to the unspoken question of do you know what he’s talking about.

Scooting forward on the couch and leaning forward, Ha asked, “Rules about what?”

Intrigued by Scott’s reply, Murdoch rose and moved to the seating area, dropping down into his favorite leather chair.  “Would you care to share with us?”

Returning his blotting tissue to its proper spot on his desk, Scott crossed his arms against his thin chest, and then raised his right hand and index finger to tap it thoughtfully against his lips.  “It’s a big brother book of rules. Important things that I already know so I’m writing them down for Johnny so he won’t have to figure them out on his own.”

Ha beamed in pride and pleasure, “And just what pearls of wisdoms are you imparting?”

Twisting his head around to look at his grandfather, Scott grunted, “Huh?”  What does jewelry have to do with rules?

Masking his chuckle with a cough into his handkerchief, Ha explained, “What are some of the things you feel your brother should know?” 

“Oh, well the first rule I wrote down,” Scott’s ink stained fingers flipped back to the beginning of his book, “No matter how old you are you always think there may be something hiding under the bed.”

Biting his lips to contain his mirth, Papa agreed with the assessment, remembering back to Halloween when Scott had sawed the legs off of his bed to keep the monsters out.  “Do you have any more bedtime advice?”

Pausing to finger the hair on the right side of his head, the little blond replied as his eyes scanned the pages, “Here it is, never go to sleep with gum in your mouth.”

Ha and Papa nodded sagely, both men recalling the fiasco of trying to remove gum from baby fine hair before resorting to cutting it out, and then the trip to the barber for a more professional cut.

Interested to know if his oldest had acquired any important information from dealing with Johnny, Murdoch inquired, “Do you have any you learned from Johnny?”

Scott’s face lost its seriousness, becoming animated as his little finger quickly found the passage he was looking for, “Oh, boy, do I!  Never, ever give your three year old brother a ripe tomato to hold.”  His nose crinkled in disgust as he recalled the mess from Johnny squeezing the vegetable too hard.

“You are an excellent big brother to take the time to do this for your little brother. I dare say it will save him some very nasty experiences,” Ha praised.

Snatching up his ink pen, the little blond announced, “Nasty…that reminds me of a real important rule, never lick a slug because your tongue will go numb.”

Grimacing in disgust, neither man had the stomach to ask for the details of slug licking so they let Scott get back to work on his book of rules.

Turning his attention to his youngest, Murdoch couldn’t help but smile.  When he had first seen what Ha brought for Johnny, he feared the older man had made a mistake.  Johnny’s reaction, however, had proved that once again Harlan Garrett absolutely knew his grandsons.  Johnny had been delighted with the set of diminutive dishes made of bone china and called a child’s tea set.

Of late, Johnny had taken a keen interest in assisting Maria to cook and at times he was more help than she needed.  Maria had received a reprieve when Harlan arrived home yesterday.  Johnny had immediately latched on to the dishes and every waking hour had been spent pretending to cook and feed people and toys.  It didn’t matter at all that he didn’t have real food on the dishes, the little boy’s imagination had conjured up all kinds of make believe feasts, which he had fed to anyone willing to pretend they were eating.

At the moment the youngest Lancer had his dishes set up on the leather ottoman, his slate board used as a tray.  The toddler had his beloved apron cape tied about his waist, in imitation of Maria. 

Speaking to his stuffed bear, Johnny gestured to his tea set plates, “Oso, would you like some polvorones or elote with your tea?” Johnny licked his lips as though he could actually taste the sugar dusted almond cookies and cinnamon logs.

Oso stared at Johnny with his shoe buttons eyes and stitched on smile, his tea cup hanging off the end of his grubby paw. It was plain as the bear’s shiny nose on his face that he wanted an elote.

Johnny cocked his head as he studied the bear; a bright smile appeared on his lips as he deciphered the bear’s answer. One dimpled little hand picked up a saucer while the other one pantomimed picking something up from the plate, a generous three times, and placing it on the saucer in the other.  “Here’s your ‘inanim’ logs,” Johnny stated, “Hold your food over your plate,” he scolded when the bear tipped back as he placed the dish between his fuzzy legs.

“Harlan, that tea set was a splendid idea!  Have you noticed how Johnny has been practicing his table manners?”  Murdoch whispered, just turning his head enough to see Harlan out of his peripheral vision, without taking his eyes completely off of Johnny.

Smiling smugly as he clasped his lapels with his hands, Harlan agreed, “Indeed, who would have thought playtime with miniature dishes could provide the opportunity to enrich one’s social graces.”


“Oso,” Johnny admonished as he walked around the ottoman and picked up the tea cup that had just dropped from the bear’s paw to the Persian rug when the stuffed animal flipped backwards, “If you would sit up like a big bear you wouldn’t drop things!”  Johnny stomped his foot, as he glared at the bear.

Reaching out, Johnny sat Oso back up. “Huh, what’s that?” Johnny asked as he bent over and placed his ear right at the bear’s mouth. “No, you don’t need any more tea.  Johnny don’t want you peeing in the bed tonight…’sides, we need to share the tea with the others.”

Picking up the teapot, and then a cup, Johnny poured a serving, biting the tip of his tongue as he concentrated on keeping the spout over the cup opening.  Satisfied he had a full cup, the tyke made his way to his brother.  “Here, Squat, here’s your tea.”

Continuing to write, the little blond picked up the cup and pretended to drink.  Slurp slurp slurp.

Placing his hands on his hips, his eyes fired with indignation, Johnny scolded, “Squat, that bad manners to ‘swurp’.”

Ha and Papa snickered as the peeved toddler snatched the cup back from his brother, who merely shrugged and kept right on writing, and marched back to the ottoman.

Harlan’s snicker morphed into a guffaw which he swiftly changed into a cough before Johnny could accuse him of laughing at him.  Instead the tot became concerned, this was the second time tonight he had heard Ha coughing. 

“Ha, Johnny thinks you’re getting a cold, Johnny gonna make you some ‘real low bark tea’, just like Mamacita makes.” 

Suiting actions to his declaration, the little boy sat his teapot down on the slate board tray and removed the lid.  Scooping up imaginary ingredients from the various cups and plates, he tossed them in the vessel, peering into the container, Johnny shook his head as though pleased, and then spit in the teapot, put the lid back on and begin to shake it with such force he kept bumping the ottoman.

Satisfied his healing concoction was ready Johnny grabbed a cup and made his way over to his grandfather.  “Johnny brought the whole pot, Ha, ‘cause Johnny thinks you need to drink the whole thing so you can be all better.”    

His back straightening with pride, Ha sat up, a paternal glow softening his face. He held out his hand to accept the tiny cup from his grandson’s diminutive one. Johnny proceeded to pour.  Ha waited until Johnny indicated the cup was full, and then raised it to his mouth, remembering his manners he extended his pinky finger out at an angle and did not slurp.

“Very good, Ha,” Johnny praised when his grandfather finished the whole serving, dancing excitedly in place, the little one added, “Ha need to drink some more.”

Seven cups later, Ha’s cheek were sore from smiling and drinking but it was a small price to pay to see the joy on his youngest grandson’s face. 

Shaking the teapot Johnny announced, “All gone gone.”  Sitting the pot on the corner of the coffee table, he retrieved a pillow and advised, “Time for you to rest, Ha.” 

After helping his grandfather to settle, Johnny informed his father, “Now Johnny gonna make Papa some tea.  Johnny know just how Papa likes it.”

Skipping to the ottoman, the toddler pantomimed the motions of filling the teapot with ingredients.  Just like before he put the lid on and danced about shaking the vessel.  When he was done with the mixing he picked up a cup and poured. Sitting the container down, Johnny whirled around and requested, “Just a minute Papa, Johnny knows the only way Papa will drink tea.”

Making his way to the drink cart in a movement that could only be described as a running hop, the toddler preceded to pretend to pour a healthy dose of whiskey in the tea.

Ha snorted, “Johnny sure knows his father,” and then covered his mouth with the pillow.

Murdoch grunted as he turned his attention to his father-in-law.  Pressing his lips in a flat tight line, the big Scot protested, “I don’t always doctor my tea with whiskey.”

“You’ve done it enough a baby noticed,” Ha retorted.

Grinning like a cat with a canary, Murdoch responded, “Yes, noticed by an exceptionally smart baby.”

Bowing his white haired head in concession, Ha conceded the point happily.  “Yes indeed, exceptionally so, both of our boys.”

With his eyes on Harlan and his back to Johnny, Murdoch missed it when the little boy stopped to stifle a sneeze by placing the index and middle fingers of his right hand under his nose.

Completing his journey, Johnny stopped in front of his father’s chair, he handed him the cup.  “Here, Papa.” 

Johnny studied his fingers while Papa drank his tea.  Holding his hand up, he rotated it one direction and then the other.  He frowned; bringing the little digits closer to his face a pleased grin appeared and grew into a full blown smile. He was so engrossed in his observation he didn’t hear his father’s question.

“If Oso didn’t eat them all, I wouldn’t mind having some of those cinnamon logs,” Papa remarked, getting into Johnny’s game of pretend.

“Here,” Johnny said, shoving his fingers into Papa’s face.

Wishing to play along, Murdoch grasped Johnny’s wrist and stuck the two tiny fingers in his mouth.  “Papa’s going to eat them up.” He accentuated the action with munching and crunching sounds causing Johnny to giggle in delight.  “YUMMY!”  Papa proclaimed as he released the little hand.

As soon as he saw his fingers, Johnny’s giggles ceased.  He scowled as he inspected the wet fingers, and then howled loudly, “Hey!  What happened to Johnny’s big booger?  It the biggest booger Johnny ever sneezed.”

His face screwing up in revulsion, Scott declared, “Papa, I’m putting a rule in here for you too, look before you eat!”  Scott gagged as he put pen to paper.

Ha held his hand over his mouth and his face looked as white as his hair.  Papa looked as green as well…a booger.  He didn’t think Scott needed to write the rule down for him to remember it, but he didn’t dare open his mouth at the moment to say it for fear of losing the contents of his stomach.

July 2011

The Brat Pack Series AU
Author’s note on the Brat Pack here

My Brother, The Brat
Another Day in the Life
Breakfast: A Proper Way to Start the Day
Taking the Town by Storm
Home Again Home Again
Itching to Break Out
Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!
Gifts of Love
Helping Hand
The Easter Bunny Cometh
Just a Victim of Circus’Stance!
Ask and You Shall Receive
The Gospel According to Johnny
Serving Up Trouble
No More Monsters Under the Bed
Wrinkled Potatoes and Old Tomatoes
O Come Let Us Adore Him
Spring Fever
Carving Out Fun
Look Before You Eat
Cover Up (written with Kit)
Go Figure


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