Realizations by Shelley H.

Word Count 2,048

I own nothing

Due to the plot, I’m having a little change in where the Lancer family will be located in this story, but don’t worry. They will be back in the San Joaquin before you know it. Also, I’m kinda messing with the time frame as well, just for fun.

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Teresa O’Brien ran through the front door, as her brothers walked in, “Murdoch says we’re going to the Montana Territory for Christmas! Can you imagine? We will have a white Christmas with snow and us, him and Maria!”

The hurricane that was Teresa, ran up the stairs as Murdoch Lancer walked into the great room, “Scott,” he started, addressing his oldest son, “the hands will take care of the ranch for us and I think it’s a good idea to get Teresa away for a while. Besides, I think it was very nice of the Locke’s to offer their cabin while they visited family.”

Johnny removed his hat and grinned at Scott, “Even when you’re gone, the ranch continues to work, brother.”

Scott poured himself a cup of coffee, “Teresa has always been their pick, Father. Just admit that their trip to St. Louis is their way of giving Little Miss her wish.”

Murdoch smiled and tipped his scotch glass at his oldest, his silent way of admitting Scott was possibly correct.

The cabin in Helena was fairly good sized, but would require shared rooms, which the family didn’t mind, if anything would be a good thing.

Teresa ran to the kitchen as soon as possible, pulling out the items needed to make ornaments for the tree her brothers would be cutting the next morning.

Maria went about making dinner, while the boys set up the main room to be a bit more homey and more comfortable.

Teresa was excited about spending three weeks in the mountains and looking forward to the snow that would give them a white Christmas.

She was disappointed with her brothers when her hands were swatted while helping put away supplies, however. But what good would spending Christmas time together and spoiling surprises?

Johnny was happy as could be with these arrangements, since him and his mama never got to celebrate Christmas. Sure he got a new shirt, or a new pair of pants that she had sewn for him. But this was new to him, and he had plans to enjoy it.

The family sat around a small table and ate peacefully, “While they cut down a tree tomorrow,” Murdoch began, “I’ll go hunting and see if I can’t get us a nice sized buck to last a bit and then for Christmas eve, us boys will go bag us a turkey. Will that do, Teresa?”

Teresa looked at her boys and smiled, all looking like little boys begging to get dirty after Sunday services, “That sound wonderful, Murdoch. I think that will be just fine.”

Johnny stood at the window looking out at the snow that was beginning to fall, and took a sip of his apple cider. Lost in his thoughts. He jumped when Murdoch spoke next to him, “Penny for your thoughts, son?”

He gave her a small smile, “Sorry, Pa, just thinking about how much I’m going to enjoy this. Mama and I never really got to celebrate holidays or birthdays, so I guess I’m a bit excited.”

The elder Lancer looked into the blue eyes of his youngest son and saw excitement in them, “Well I can see that, Johnny. You look like you’re going to enjoy it.”

A massive grin spread across his face, “Yes sir! I’ll go find the Teresa and we will discuss our options on making this the best Christmas ever.”

The next week was full of pulling pranks on Scott, and not just by the two younger ones were involved. From building a snow fort and ambushing him on his way back from hunting, to a bucket of snow falling on him when he opened the shed door, there was no day that went by that a trick wasn’t played on the more serious of the brothers.

Johnny helped Teresa with the decorations for the staircase and hanging wreaths, while the other two made sure everything was in its place. Mariaa went around and double checked everything, smiling at the fact it was all just about perfect. Even though it would just be the five of them, Maria had gone all out to make sure Johnny got to enjoy a real Christmas with them, and Murdoch was once again glad of his housekeeper’s big heart.

Maria looked at the clock and sighed. The boys had left at sunup to go hunting for a turkey, And it was nearing noon. She knew hunting took time, but five hours was a lot. She and Teresa continued to cook, both trying to keep the worry at bay, but also excited about the time they were going to have as a family.

After walking for three hours to get to the area Mr. Locke said was prime for hunting, the three men were lined up side by side, guns at the ready, waiting on their prey. Having heard gobbles nearby, they hoped one would come in soon.

After all, they had already tossed a coin to see who would carry the bird back to the cabin, Murdoch being the one to lose to both brothers, but he didn’t mind.

They all enjoyed their time together and getting to know the younger brother, quietly laughing and joking, but wondering if they would chase the turkeys away.

And there were the turkeys, strutting along in the snow, not a care in the world.

And that is when a moment of happiness went to hell in a hand basket.

Johnny had aimed at the bird, steadied his breathing. Breathed in. Held it. Slowly exhaled.

A shot rang out.

A bird flopped briefly, then stopped.

Johnny had fallen back, but he had not been the one to fire the shot.

They say as you die, your life flashes before your eyes. And Johnny Madrid Lancer could confirm that, as he lay in the snow, his brother trying to get him to breathe, his father looking for where the shot came from, it was correct.

He remembered everything. The fight between him and Scott as he tried to become part of the family.

Standing with his brother to go against the land pirates.

The rocky start of learning to become a family.

He could hear his name being called, he thought, but was unable to answer. What did they want and why was Scott in his face?

Scott could not get Johnny to draw in a breath, and was dreading what he was going to have to do. Slapping Johnny seemed to work as the younger man drew in a deep breath.

Murdoch came back over, “Whoever it was is gone. How is he?”

“Fine…. Pa….I’m fine.” Came the struggled words of the one in question.

Scott pulled Johnny closer to him, “Hush. You will be fine, just not right now, boy. Murdoch, you’ll need to go back and get the horses. Have Maria and Teresa get everything together.”

Murdoch nodded, as he put his hand on Johnny’s shoulder, “I’ll be back, son,” and with that, he left to get the horses.

Scot held his brother, pulling the blankets they brought around them to keep in the warmth, after he had bandaged Johnny’s shoulder.

The younger man had finally passed out, and Scott put his chin on his brother’s head, silently praying.

Murdoch quickly entered the house, cold and a little damp and let Maria and Teresa know what was happening before getting two horses together.

The wagon would only hinder them and get stuck in the snow, and he knew Johnny would not be able to ride on his own.

As he left the cabin, he took one last look at the living room, made onto a picturesque room fit to grace the covers of Harper’s Bazar.

The one thing taking away from the view and the gave a stark reminder of what had just occurred hours before, were the surgical instruments, bandages and sewing supplies that sat on the table by the backless sofa he would be laying his youngest son on.

Teresa sat on the ottoman at her brother’s side. Murdoch and Maria had removed the bullet, but due to how long it had been in Johnny’s shoulder, he had already started a fever, that had started to spike.

She quietly changed warm cloths for cool, never once saying a word, as tears silently made their way down her face, feeling the fever going higher.

Maria stood with the two older men in the kitchen, “He’s young and strong, but the bullet was low in his shoulder, practically in his chest, and with his fever rising, I just don’t know. I believe that we are going to need a Christmas miracle to get through this.”

“We may never find who fired that shot,” Scott said, “but you better believe if he dies, I will never stop hunting for the person that did it.”

Murdoch just nodded, and Scott put his hands on his hips before hanging his head, as Tetesa came into the room, “He’s awake. Wants all of us to be in the room with him.” Her voice cracked at the last part, and Maria quickly pulled the girl into a hug, and wiped her tears.

The family sat around Johnny, Maria and Teresa on either side, holding his hands, and his brother and father sitting on the floor, leaning against the sofa, the only sounds were Johnny’s harsh breathing and the fire crackling.

Johnny stared at the tree in the corner, showing off each of the ornaments his little sister had made, and the candles she had taken the time to light at his request.

The scents of cinnamon, cedar and cranberries surrounded him, as did the most important part of his life; his family.

He knew he was dying, there was now way he wasn’t when he felt like he was burning up. Obviously he knew he wasn’t going to heaven, he didn’t think it would be this hot otherwise.

He hadn’t been able to speak, but that seemed okay to his family, they knew what he wanted to say, but couldn’t.

Family. A strange word, really. When had he truly thought of them as family? He knew he couldn’t let them down, but he was so tired, and weak. He didn’t think he could last much longer.

Just as the sun started to rise, Johnny’s harsh breathing stopped, his body still, and tears flowed silently, Scott pulling his little sister into his arms, as Murdoch held his son’s hand.

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Cipriano stood outside the carriage that was parked in front of the house and helped out his employer and his ward, before assisting the next person out.

Two over protective men quickly took over, and helped the younger one inside and into bed after assisting him with getting changed.

The women meeting them in the room afterwards, Teresa spoke first, “When his fever broke, I was so scared, honestly.” She said, running her fingers through Johnny’s hair as he slept.

Maria felt for a fever, “He did scare us all. But it was a wonderful gift to us all that he is still with us.”

“I must be in hell still.”

Scott turned to the bed they were around, “And why is that?”

“Because Pa is smiling. And next year, we stay home.”

Laughter rang within the room, and down stairs, in the kitchen, Maria smiled, tears of her own falling, as that was the most beautiful sound she had heard in a long time.

End

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