I owe many thanks to my Co-Queen Sharon, My Lancer Cousins: Chris, Vicki (VLN), Winj (Winnie), and Lisa; without their support I would never have had the courage to write this or post it.
Word count: 4,411
As Johnny got up for the day he thought about how things had changed at Lancer since he and Murdoch had settled their differences. Oh, they still argued, that would never change but now when they had an argument they worked it out. Finally, for the first time since Johnny had come to Lancer, he felt like it was home and that they could be one big happy family.
Frowning, Johnny pulled a shirt and a pair of pants out of his drawer and started to get dressed. Another change had also occurred at Lancer and he didn’t know quite what to do about it. Scott had changed. If it was possible, his older brother had become more reserved, more solitary. Didn’t spend a lot of time with the family. As he buttoned his shirt, Johnny puzzled over what could be bothering Scott. Shaking his head he knew there was only one way to find out and that was to talk to his brother. He tucked his shirt in, buckled his belt and then sat on the bed to put on his socks and boots. Scott seemed okay when they were away from Lancer but when they arrived at the Hacienda he would withdraw into himself.
At first Johnny had thought it was because Teresa and Jelly had been so angry with Scott over not defending Johnny to Murdoch. It had been a stupid argument over a forgotten hinge on a corral that Johnny had missed because he’d had to break up a fight between two of the hands. Murdoch had blown up at Johnny and Scott had just stood there and said nothing. Later Scott had told Johnny he was tired of being in the middle. Johnny had gone to Jelly and Teresa and told them they were wrong to blame Scott. It had never been about Scott, though at the time he had been hurt that Scott hadn’t said anything. But later, Johnny had realized that it was about him and Murdoch. So he’d gone to Murdoch and told him about his past and his mother, andhe hadanswered Murdoch’s questions as best he could. Then, Johnny asked the questions and Murdoch answered them. It wasn’t easy but they’d gotten through the past and were both determined to build a stronger, more solid relationship.
Getting up, Johnny grabbed his hat and gun belt and headed for the door. One way or another he was going to get Scott to talk to him today. And that was going to be about as easy as breaking a wild horse. Scott didn’t like talking about himself, his problems or anything personal. Even when Johnny had told his brother he loved him Scott hadn’t said the words back. He’d just said yeah, you know I feel that way too.
Leaving his room, Johnny stopped by Scott’s room but his brother was already gone and his bed was made. Shaking his head, Johnny smiled; he really needed to explain to Scott that it wasn’t necessary for him to make his bed— big brother was making Johnny look bad.
When he walked into the dining room, Murdoch was just getting up from the table.
“Where’s Scott?” Johnny asked looking around.
“He already headed out” Murdoch said sitting back down. “I want to talk to you, Johnny.”
Johnny sighed, put his gun belt and hat on the chair next to his, sat down and started to put food on his plate.
“If it’s about what’s wrong with Scott, your guess is as good as mine. I’m gonna try ta get him to talk ta me today.” Taking a bite of a biscuit, he looked at Murdoch. “All I do know is whenever we’re away from here Scott’s fine but the minute we get home he gets all quiet. Kinda like he’s uncomfortable bein here.”
Frowning, Murdoch poured himself some more coffee. “You don’t think Scott’s thinking of going back to Boston do you?”
Almost choking on his food, Johnny took a drink of coffee and paused.
“No, Murdoch I don’t think so. But whatever’s wrong I’m gonna find out…… today.” Finishing the food on his plate, Johnny stood up, grabbing his hat and gun belt off the chair.. “Where is he workin at today?”
“Scott said he’d be working on the fence that runs between us and the Chandler Ranch. Said there were a couple places that needed mending.”
Johnny put his hat on his head and then put his gun belt on as he walked over to the door. As he opened the door, he turned back to Murdoch.
“Don’t worry Murdoch. I’ll find out what’s wrong with him.” Johnny said smiling. “Scott may be stubborn but so am I. Now, I wonder where we get that from.” he said laughing at he walked out and shut the door.
As he pulled the old fence post out and put it aside, Scott knew his time was almost running out. Johnny had been giving him puzzled looks for days, silently asking what was wrong. Scott leaned over, picked up a new fence post and put it in the hole, pushing dirt into the hole with his boot to hold it in place while he got the shovel to fill in around it. Scott had pointedly ignored his brother’s questioning looks, not willing or wanting to answer. Talking about himself or his problems made him uncomfortable. He couldn’t explain it, it was just the way he was.
As he thought about the last few weeks, he sighed with relief. He was glad to see that Murdoch and Johnny had worked out their problems. No longer did he have to worry about whether or not the next fight would be the one which would make Johnny leave Lancer forever. It seemed that Murdoch had finally begun to realize how important Johnny was to him. As Scott reflected on these events, he picked up the shovel and leaned on it. He was really happy that it had turned out that way. Because as much as he loved Lancer, it wouldn’t have been the same without Johnny. The Bostonian was so deep in thought that he almost missed the sounds of a rider approached. Scott looked up and saw Johnny riding towards him. Waving at him, Scott picked up the shovel and headed over to fill in dirt around the post.
Johnny rode up, dismounted and tethered Barranca. He walked over and grabbed the post while Scott filled in around it with dirt. Johnny could sense that Scott wasn’t ready for that talk yet, but that was okay with him. He wanted some time to feel Scott out. He wondered how best to approach him.
As the day wore on it began to get hotter and hotter. Finally, Johnny threw down the wiring and sighed.
“Time for a lunch break, Boston.” He headed for his horse and grabbed his canteen and the lunch Teresa had packed for him.
Scott followed, grabbing his own lunch and canteen and they sat down under a tree and ate in silence. Scott laid his canteen down, leaned back and closed his eyes. Johnny stared at him a moment.
“Scott, can I ask you something?” he asked quietly.
Keeping his eyes closed Scott sighed. “Go ahead, you been itching to say something all day.”
“What’s wrong? Before you say nothin’, even Murdoch’s noticed somethin’s wrong. He thinks you’re tired of Lancer and thinkin of goin back to Boston.”
“Johnny, I told you before, I’m fine.” Scott pulled his hat down over his eyes. “I’m gonna rest a few minutes before we get back to work.”
Johnny sat there for a minute trying to figure out what he could do to get Scott to talk to him.
“Scott, I’m not going to give up. You been actin funny since me and Murdoch had that talk. I know it ain’t me cause you an’ me been gettin along fine. It’s Murdoch. What’d he say?”
Knowing that Johnny wasn’t going to give up, Scott sat up sighing.
“Don’t you ever let anything rest, Johnny!” he asked, irritated.
“Nope. Take after you, Boston.” Pausing Johnny sat turning his hat in his hand. “I just want to know what’s wrong, that’s all.”
Picking at blades of grass, Scott looked up at Johnny. “It’s hard to explain. I’m not jealous or anything like that….it’s just. I guess I just wish Murdoch could tell me how he feels about me, like he did you.” Feeling uncomfortable, Scott got up, grabbed his hat and walked over towards the fence line. “We need to get this done.”
Knowing that if they went back to work on the fence line he would never get Scott to open up to him like this again, Johnny walked over to Scott and grabbed his arm, forcing him to turn around.
“The fence can wait. This can’t.” Pausing, taking a deep breath. “I told you how he felt, he told me that he….”
He told you, Johnny! What if he’d told me…What he wanted to say to you? Would that have been as good as hearing it from him?”
Johnny thought about that before he answered quietly. “No, it wouldn’t have been.”
Putting his hat back onto the crown of his head, Scott looked at Johnny. “Then you should understand how I feel. ” He picked up the wire once more. “Come on, Johnny. Let’s get back to work, I don’t want to be at this all night. We’ll really get it from Murdoch and Teresa, if we’re late for dinner.”
Knowing that Scott was done talking and he wouldn’t be able to get anything more out of him, Johnny walked over and grabbed the post.
The next evening Johnny sat at the checker board waiting for Murdoch to make his move. He had been waiting for the perfect opportunity to talk to Murdoch about Scott. With Scott gone into Green River this seemed like the time.
“Scott will be home tomorrow.” Johnny commented watching Murdoch move his checker.
“You miss him, don’t you?” Murdoch smiled understanding how Johnny felt. Whenever either of his sons wereaway he always missed them.
“Yeah, like a bad toothache, just tired of doing all his work for him.” Johnny said smiling back.
It seemed strange to Johnny that just a few short days ago he would never have sat at this checker board with Murdoch and felt this much at ease with him. But he’d finally gotten fed up with Murdoch’s constantly criticizing him and they’d had some long talks. Now they had come to terms with the past and had begun to move forward. There was one thing that needed to be taken care of yet. Murdoch needed to talk to Scott. He needed to share with Scott those things he’d shared with Johnny. Tell Scott about Inverness and his life there. Tell him why it was so hard to express his feelings. Johnny smiled, Murdoch shouldn’t have to explain that one, Scott and Murdoch were a lot alike in that respect.
“Murdoch, when Scott gets back you need to talk to him. Tell him what you told me.” Johnny said quietly.
Sitting back in his chair Murdoch looked at Johnny. “It’s not that easy, Johnny. In some ways Scott’s harder to talk to than you. When it comes to ranch business your brother will talk up a storm. But when it’s something personal Scott shuts up and just won’t talk to me. Oh, Scott will listen to me. I don’t expect him to say much though. He’s definitely a man of few words”
Johnny sat back in his chair, crossing his arms and stretching his legs, out crossing one over the other.
“Scott’s a hard man to get to know, you know that Murdoch. He doesn’t give an inch, just like you. It’s taken me all this time just to get him to tell me he loves me.”
“Scott told you he loved you!” Murdoch said shocked.
Johnny smiled. “Scott didn’t SAY he loved me but he let me know he did. I told him I loved him and he said he felt the same way about me. Those words don’t come easy to a man like Scott. He was raised differently than I was. Mama told me she loved me every day and I did the same. I guess when you don’t hear the words every day itjustgets harder to say ’em.”
Sitting forward, Murdoch pushed the checker board away angrily. “Damn that Harlan Garrett! He’ll never be out of our lives.”
“Murdoch, I know you hate Harlan and in some ways so do I, but he can’t be all that bad.” He could see that that comment was making Murdoch even more angry. “Now, before you start yellin listen to me. What I’m tryin to say is that there must be somethin good about him cause otherwise Scott wouldn’t have turned out the way he did. Scott always tries ta do the right thing. If Harlan was such an evil person then seems ta me Scott would have turned out to be the same. But the Scott we know ain’t nothing like that. Think of all the people he’s helped.” A silence fell over the room as both of them thought about the past and some of those that Scott had helped.
Murdoch sat there thinking about the Foley woman. He couldn’t remember her name anymore. He just remembered that she was pregnant and that Scott never gave up on her even when the odds were stacked way against them. Murdoch thought of all the times Scott had tried to smooth things over between him and Johnny, of the many times Scott had felt compelled to defend his brother.
Johnny smiled as he thought about…..that boy, Willie Sharpe. Scott had taken him to find his grandfather. When Scott had realized that Kansas Bill was a drunk he’d been sure tasober him up before Willie saw him. In the end, Willie ended up with a family because Scott had cared enough to help out. But as Johnny thought about thethings Scott had done for other people he realized that Scott had given him the biggest gift. Johnny knew that with Scott by his side he’d never have to stand alone again. Scott was always there for him.
“Scott has feelins’ just like us, Murdoch. He just don’t know how ta show them. Wasn’t raised that way. You gotta find a way to get past that.”
“How, Johnny? How do I get past it?” Murdoch asked, clearly at a loss as to how.
“Tell him how you feel first. Tell him what you told me.” Johnny said quietly. “It’s a risk, I know, but it’ll be worth it in the end. Just think about it, Murdoch. Scott asked me what was said between us ‘n I told him.” Johnny stood up and stretched. “I’m tired. Guess I’ll head for bed. I can’t tell you what to do, you know that. But just think about it.”
As Murdoch watched Johnny walk out of the room he thought about what his younger son had said. He knew Johnny was right. It was past time he talked to Scott. He was right about a lot of other things too. As much as he hated Harlan Garrett,he had to give the man his due, a least a small measure of credit. Garrett hadraised Scott and Scott had grown up into a fine young man. Someone to be proud of. And yet, Murdoch still couldn’t change his feelings for Scott’s grandfather. Harlan had taken his son from him. For that he could never forgive him.
Murdoch smiled when he thought of all those people Scott had tried to help. He sometimes felt that Scott was trying to make up for the life he had lived. Giving back to those who were less fortunate because he himself had had so much growing up. Scott had a heart of gold, always wanting to help people. And never looking down at anyone.
As they sat around the supper table the next night Scott noticed tension in the air. Johnny kept looking at Murdoch as if expecting him to say something. Murdoch looked uncomfortable as if he had something on his mind. The only person at the table who was acting the least bit normally was Teresa. Scott wished they would just say whatever it was they had to say. But he knew Murdoch and Johnny too well. One thing those two had in common: when they had something to say,they’d say it when they were ready and not a moment sooner.
Finally, Johnny stood and turned to Teresa.
“I’ll help you with the dishes Teresa.” Johnny said quietly, looking pointedly at Murdoch.
Standing up, Murdoch motioned to Scott. “Come on, son. Let’s get out of here before they rope us into helping out.”
Scott followed Murdoch into the Great Room puzzled by Johnny’s offer. Johnny never volunteered to do dishes. Something was certainly going on around here. Scott only hoped he didn’t have to wait too long to find out what it was. He walked over, poured himself a drink and then went over to lean against the desk. Murdoch was standing at the big window looking out at Lancer.
“I remember when you boys first came here. I told you that I loved this land more than anything God had ever created.” Pausing Murdoch swallowed knowing that getting through to Scott was going to be hard. “I was wrong.” Turning around, looking at Scott. “It’s you and Johnny. I love you both more than anything God ever created. I hope you know that, son.”
Feeling uncomfortable, Scott’s first impulse was to try to escape. He wanted to avoid this conversation but he knew he needed to stay and listen to what Murdoch had to say.
Scott looked down, collecting his thoughts, and then back up at Murdoch. “I feel the same way Murdoch.” He said, looking a bit embarrassed. “About you and Johnny.”
Taking a deep breath, Murdoch knew that there was much more that needed to be said, to clear the air. “Scott, it’s more than just my love for you. I admire you and respect you. You are a born leader, someone the men trust easily. You aren’t afraid of hard work and never look down on anyone.” Murdoch paused swallowing. “And….and I’m proud of you, yet I know I have no right to be.”
When Scott finally spoke, Murdoch had to strain to hear his words. “Thank you, sir. I try very hard.” He paused, absently staring into his glass. “You’ve been so busy fighting with Johnny that I was beginning to wonder if you’d even noticed.”
Shocked, Murdoch stood there thinking about Scott’s words. “Son, I had no idea. I guess I’ve been so involved with my fear of losing Johnny that I just took you for granted. You are every bit as important to me as Johnny. Please believe that.”
Scott took a drink and stood there thinking about what Murdoch had said. He knew that clearing the air was important and that any questions they had should be asked and then they should move on. Taking a deep breath he decided he might as well take the bull by the horns.
“Then let me ask you…why…why did you leave me in Boston? I know that you spent a great deal of time looking for Johnny. But you always knew where I was.” When his father didn’t immediately respond, Scott added: “I know that you say this in the past, but it isn’t for me, sir. It will always stand between us, until I have an answer.”
Murdoch walked over and poured himself a drink. He knew he needed to think carefully, that he needed to be as honest as he could. Scott wouldn’t settle for anything less and somehow he knew Scott would be able to tell if he was anything less than truthful. Taking a drink, he turned to Scott.
“Are you sure you want to hear this, son? There are things I’ll tell you that you may not like or believe.” Murdoch said both to stall and to search for a way out of this conversation.
“I need to know, sir.” Scott said firmly. He walked over to the window and watched as some of the hands rode in.
Murdoch sighed, downing the rest of his drink and set the glass down. “I did come to Boston, Scott. You were five years old. Harlan was having a birthday party for you. I wanted to bring you home, to Lancer.” Scott turned as if to speak but Murdoch just continued on. “It was a wonderful party, Scott. Something I could never have given you. Balloons, lots of children and presents. I knew I was at a disadvantage from the moment I walked in. There was no way I would be in a position to give you anything near what he was giving you for a very long time.”
“All I wanted was a father. Grandfather couldn’t give me that.” Scott said quietly.
Murdoch walked over to stand by Scott, looking out the window. “He practically laughed in my face. Told me he had planned for this. He would sue me for custody. We would be tied up in court for years. He made it perfectly clear that it would be you that suffered. I believed him.” Murdoch said angrily.
“Grandfather would never have done that to me!.” Scott protested defending his grandfather.
Murdoch ran his hand through his hair and sighed. “Maybe he wouldn’t have, Scott. But he threatened to and I believed him.” He paused a moment to collect his thoughts.
“Go on.” Scott said keeping his face a mask.
“He compared life out here to Boston. He made me realize that next to what he had to offer, I had nothing. Except a ranch that required me to devote every waking moment to running it.He could give you everything. The best schools, secure home and his time. Those were all things I couldn’t give you.” Shaking his head Murdoch smiled bitterly. “I played right into his hands.” He put his hands up in a gesture. ” I came back to Lancer.”
“But that was when I was five. What about when I was fifteen, or 20? He couldn’t have stopped you then. You could have written me a letter, something. In all those years I never received anything from you. I want to know why!”
Murdoch turned and looked at Scott. “I gave up. I let him win…..It’s not an easy thing for me to say but I did. I came back here and buried myself in this ranch. I made it mean more to me than anything or anyone. I had lost two wives and two sons and I wasn’t going to leave myself or my heart open to be hurt again.”
Scott stood there and thought about what Murdoch had said. He felt that in some small way he too shared the blame. “I could have contacted you. I thought about it many times over the years. Wrote letters in my head, especially after the war. But I was….” He paused, turned and looked out the window. He knew there were some things the mask wouldn’t keep Murdoch from seeing. In a very low voice, almost a whisper he said, “I was afraid you wouldn’t answer.”
Murdoch strained to hear his son’s words. He wanted to say something, anything but he didn’t want to break this rare moment in time where Scott was actually expressing how he felt about something.
Scott continued almost as if he was oblivious to Murdoch being there. “Grandfather was good to me growing up. He saw that I got an excellent education, we traveled abroad and he taught me the value of self respect and family. He also took me sledding, horseback riding and taught me to play chess.” Scott paused as the years passed before his eyes. “I’m not blind, Murdoch. I know Grandfather manipulated both of us so that he could raise me. He thought Boston was the best place for me and did whatever necessary to keep me.”
Murdoch wanted to scream and shout that what his father-in-law had done was wrong. He’d stolen his son from him. But as Murdoch stood there looking at his son, his grown son, he realized that Harlan hadn’t stolen Scott as much as Murdoch had let him take him. When Catherine had died he knew he wouldn’t be able to raise Scott alone. He wouldn’t have time for a baby. Not alone. So he hadn’t put up a fight, not then. Even after he’d married Maria and Johnny was born, he didn’t go after Scott. He’d let things lie until 5 years later and then he’d gone after him. He was as much to blame for this as Harlan. Not that he’d ever admit it to Scott’s grandfather.
They both stood there each lost in their own thoughts. Finally, Murdoch walked over to Scott and gave him a hug. “I love you son.”
Scott gave him a quick hug back, not comfortable with these displays of affection. As Murdoch stepped away he said so low Murdoch almost missed it. “I…love you too, Murdoch.”
Murdoch was about to say more when he caught a flash of red in the corner of his eye, coming from the doorway. Smiling he knew Johnny was out there waiting. He knew his younger son was worried about how his talk with Scott was going.
“Scott, there are things I’d like to tell you about Inverness.” He motioned to the door saying loudly. “Johnny, you want to come in here!” Johnny entered cautiously looking from his father to his brother trying to figure out how things had gone. “I was just going to tell your brother some of the things I’d told you about growing up in Inverness, and I thought you might like to join us. There are some more things I’d like to share with you both.”
Scott noticed the worried look on Johnny’s face and smiled reassuringly. “It’s okay, little brother. We just decided it was time for a little talk.”
Murdoch walked over and put an arm on each of the boys shoulders. .”Now, when I was a young boy growing up in Scotland…”
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