Word count: 1,434
Scott didn’t know how long he had been there. He held his head in his hands and listened to the sound of Theresa moving around the room.
Finally the swishing of her skirt stopped and she spoke to him. ” Do you think he’ll be back?”
Scott couldn’t respond. He didn’t even know whether she expected him to respond. All he knew for certain at that moment was that his father was dead and his brother had ridden away.
His father lay at the undertakers in town, awaiting his instructions. He was the elder son, the only one who could make the decision of what to do next.
Without lifting his head from his hands he shook it. Theresa moved away, closing the door behind her. He knew then that he should have gone after her, that she needed to be held, that he needed to hold her. At the moment it was as much as he could do to stop himself being violently sick again.
He replayed the last day in his mind over again. Trying to tell himself there was no point. It didn’t resolve anything, nothing changed. Murdoch was still dead, and he was still there, feeling more alone than ever.
He fought the nausea awhile longer, pressing his hand against his throat to try and keep the retching at bay. He passed his hands across his face, placed them firmly onto his knees and finally found the strength to move. He stood and walked across to his father’s old desk. Sitting down he surveyed the piles of paper, the notes, bills, all those items he would have to familiarise himself with in the next few days. It didn’t seem possible that he had been placed in such a position. He sat and strained to hear what Murdoch might say to him, what would he want him to do now? Sometimes thinking you can hear someone is as good as them being there, but just now there were too many interferences and he didn’t think what he could hear now was what Murdoch truly wanted.
He picked up a book, it was one Murdoch had been reading, and finding comfort in. Maybe, just maybe if he read it now he could find that same warmth.
It was late when Johnny finally came in through the door. Scott could tell immediately that his younger brother was the worse for drink. The clumsy way his hand wrestled with the door handle, the way he reached down to try and remove his boots.
“I’m glad you made it back. We were getting worried.” Scott put the book down. He rose and moved toward the smaller man.
“I just needed some time.” Johnny eyed his elder brother. So composed, so relaxed. He envied him his ease and his lack of emotion. His own emotions were on the surface and there was little he could do, or was trying to do, to contain them. He had been unable to stop bloodshed today, the infamous gunslinger had not saved his father and now he wished he was dead, he wanted it to be him lying in that undertakers on the table. It should have been him, at least then he wouldn’t have to fight this pain. This feeling of senseless loss.
He sank down into the soft leather sofa. His legs giving way and his head spinning from the alcohol. He tried to fight the dizziness and focus on his brother. When he finally spoke his voice little more than a whisper.” Scott I don’t know what to do.”
Scott moved across to the sofa and sat down on the arm. He lay his hand on Johnny’s shoulder and patted it gently. ” It will be alright. Given time we’ll all be alright. It isn’t your fault Johnny, there was nothing you could have done to prevent it.”
He kept his hand there. Johnny stiffened momentarily and then his whole body sagged. He felt Scott’s arms embrace him and though he wanted to break free there was no fight left. Scott breathed in and caught the smell of smoke, alcohol and sweat. He increased the hold he had on his brother, listening to the hard rasping breaths. Would Johnny ever forgive himself for not being there?
“There’s nothing we can do tonight. In the morning we’ll go into town, sort things out for.. for Murdoch, then we’ll ride after them.”
Johnny broke free from Scott and raised himself up from the sofa. They were barely inches apart and the whisky on Johnny’s breath caught Scott off guard. “We’re wasting valuable time Boston.“ Johnny sank down onto his knees. His voice barely audible, “If I hadn’t gone back to pick up candy, can you believe that’s what I was doing, whilst my old man was being gunned down, I was buying candy. I should have been there, I could’a stopped it. But I will get them. I will have my revenge.”
Scott looked down at the man he knew as a fighter, a gunhawk who never took life seriously for long, no matter what it had thrown at him. The toughness had gone to be replaced by a little boy who had lost everything. His hope, his future and his guidance – all blown away in less than a minute. A life time of wanting and needing to be loved had dissipated with the smoking of a gun. He knelt down next to Johnny and embraced him.
Theresa opened the bedroom door. Scott was lying outstretched on the bed. He was still fully clothed, apart from his boots. His head rested on his arms and his face was tuned up towards the light. Curled up next to him was Johnny. He was also fully dressed, right down to his spurs. Unlike Scott he was breathing heavily, his knees curled up in front of him, his fists clenched and his breathing hard and fast. He’d had just enough to drink, just enough to deaden his senses. Theresa approached the bed. Scott turned slightly as she approached.
“ I don’t want to be alone.” She faltered for a moment. Scott understood straight away. He patted the space on the bed next to him and Theresa eased herself alongside of him. She lay on her side. Aware of Scott’s stillness and Johnny’s breathing. “ Do you think he’ll stay.”
“ I think he’ll think he owes Murdoch that much. He also loves this place far more than he’ll ever admit.”
“You won’t ever leave will you Scott.” He shook his head, and then spoke for her benefit. “ No, I won’t leave you.” He wrapped a free arm around her body, feeling the strain in her body and holding her slender waist. The other arm he placed around Johnny’s shoulder. He needed to feel them there. To know that they were all safe.
Scott wrestled to sleep but when he finally opened his eyes daylight was filtering into the room. His body felt numb and he tried to free himself but to no avail. To one side he felt the light pressure of Theresa, pressing on him like a fragile doll. The rest of his body was stiff and heavy and he realised it was due to the dead weight of his brother, whose body now lay entwined with his own. Johnny’s head was on his chest, his arm on his stomach and a leg was entwined with his own. Scott reached out and touched his brother’s lank dark hair that fell over his collar. He caught the ends of the hair and twisted and curled them between his fingers, something he would never dared do if his brother had been awake. The thought of Johnny Madrid Lancer letting a grown man stroke his hair in such a way amused Scott. Johnny sighed in his sleep and shifted his body weight further onto Scott. Scott continued to play with the dark silky hair.
He thought about what the day was going to bring them. The arrangements he was going to have to make and how they were going to live their lives, The three of them, four if you counted Jelly. How were they going to live their lives without Murdoch to guide them and keep them all in check. How could they live without knowing they had done what was right. Because until they had satisfied that need there was no way of moving on. He whispered the words he knew he’d heard Johnny utter the night before and knew he was right. “Vengeance.”
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