This story is an orphan – that is, the writer has not been active in the fandom for a long time, and the story has been rescued from the old, defunct Yahoo groups. So that we don’t lose the story entirely, we’re storing it here.
However the original author still owns this story. Should they reconnect with the fandom at some point, we will naturally respect whatever they want to do with their story.
TITLE——————-A Private Talk
DISCLAIMER———The characters are not mine, but they have been invited into my story.
RATING—————I am going with PG. There’s some innuendoes.
SUMMARY———–A son wants to have a private talk with his father. The father ends up having an individual private talk with both his sons.
THANKS TO———-Lots of thanks goes to Lacy, my beta. Thanks for all your help.
FEEDBACK———- I welcome all feedback. For now please send them all to firstname.lastname@example.org
COMMENT———-This is my very first story.
Johnny had just left the barn searching for Scott when he noticed Murdoch in the courtyard. He turned and walked towards his father. He could smell his pipe tobacco before he got to him and the smell of the fresh lemon-lime cologne. The smell of the fresh lemon-lime cologne with a mixture of something that he hadn’t quite figured out yet. Johnny could most certainly recognize the aromas of Murdoch Lancer. He didn’t smell it on anyone else. Johnny figured Murdoch must have ordered it from one of those soft books that reminded him of a newspaper. Teresa and Scott called it a catalog and told him that it had pictures of things that they sold in them big city stores. Then there was the pipe tobacco. His father’s pipe tobacco had a smell of black cherry with a hint of bergamot mint to it.
Murdoch Lancer was a sporadic pipe smoker. One of his comforts of having had a good day was to smoke his pipe. Sometimes he smelled like a combination of cologne and tabacco. Johnny knew usually, when he smelled one or both of those scents, that meant that Murdoch was either somewhere around or he hadn’t too long left the area. The scents were lingering but not loud like his father. To feel connected when his father went away on business trips, he would sit in his Murdoch’s favorite oversized leather chair. A calming effect eased over him when he inhaled the aromas. The cologne and pipe tobacco seemed to have saturated the chair’s leather. This was a security comfort that Johnny would never admit to. Approaching, he could see the red glow inside the pipe turning the tabacco into ashes, with each puff his father took. From the light of the full moon, he could take note of the expression on Murdoch’s face. “Looks like you’re in a mighty good mood tonight.”
Murdoch was sitting in the courtyard admiring a bench he had had crafted. The bench was extra wide, extra long, curved in a slight c-shape and could easily seat up to ten adults. It was crafted from the hardest of wood and cut very thick. It was cut on an angle that made the grain look curly instead of straight. It had been treated with a number of treatments to hold up against the weather and would take his family’s roughness. He himself was sitting in an oversized wooden chair. His chair was backed close to the courtyard wall, but facing the slight c-shape of the bench. The chair had a tilted back, made for comfort. The chair and the bench were crafted in the same manner. He was very pleased with them. “Ah, yes. Yes I am. Everything went well here and in town today. I had a fine supper and so far tonight there’s been no problems with anything or anybody. Hopefully I’ll sleep well tonight. So yes, I’m in a very good mood. How about you?”
“Oh I’m fine, just fine.” He had seated himself, facing his father. Thumping the bench top with his fingers, Johnny gave his father a couple of rather anxious glances. “Well, I guess I’ll go find Scott and see what he wants to do tonight, being Saturday and all.” He got up from the bench and headed toward the greatroom. Halfway there Johnny stopped, gave another glance towards his father. He stood there a few seconds. Then from one end to the other, he graced the courtyard with a few slow paces. Murdoch sensed the glances and knew his son wanted something, but didn’t have a clue to what it was. Johnny suddenly stopped his pacing, walked over and stood in front of his father. “I…I ah…I need to talk to you about something.” Looking unsure at his father, wondering if he should go on. “If you…don’t mind?”
“Sure son.” Looking rather curiously and wondering why Johnny was acting so awkward. “What’s on your mind?”
“Too much, I think.”
“You said you needed to talk, well I’m listening.”
Looking around Johnny noticed a few of the hands were within hearing distance. “Yeah…well, not here. Can we go somewhere? Looking stressfully at his father, Johnny slowly shifted from one foot then the other. “It’s kinda personal, you know, private like.”
Murdoch looked at his son, shocked that he wanted to have a private talk with him. Scott was always the first person he would talk to about private matters. But lately he had noticed that Johnny had been feeling him out, as his father and not just the tune caller. He thought about his mentality, the things about him that his wives said they fell in love with. He tried to coerce his son into behaving the way he wanted him to behave. Johnny would buck him almost every time. His whole world opened up when he realized that an understanding and more tolerant Murdoch produced a calm and stable Johnny. Yes, he had learned to gentle his son without breaking his spirit. Murdoch Lancer had started showing the true colors of his thawing heart. “I tell you what, it’s about eight o’clock. Since it’s getting late, meet me in my room in about, say an hour.”
“I reckon that’s good enough.”
About twenty minutes after nine o’clock p.m., there was a knock on the bedroom door. Entrance was allowed. “Come in.” The bedroom door slowly opened. “I was about to turn in, I was starting to think you had changed your mind about that private talk.” Murdoch had pulled his forest green shirt out of his dark brown pants and had already unbuttoned it half way down exposing his massive chest.
Seeing that his father had already started to undress, Johnny suggested, “We can talk tomorrow. It’ll keep.”
“No, no it will not keep, sit.” Murdoch patted the chair near his bed for his son to seat himself, while he sat comfortably on the side of the bed. He looked at his son’s posture and the expression on his face then asked, “Is it that bad?”
“No, I…well, it’s just not easy for me to say.” Johnny had a difficult time talking about some things. Even with his family. There were some things he felt he should have known about but didn’t. To come out with it would make him feel embarrassed or stupid.
“Okay, I am listening.” Murdoch noticed that Johnny had changed clothes. He was wearing a medium blue shirt and black pants. He was wondering what his son’s plans were. He had not mentioned going out anywhere. Was Scott planning on going with him? Well the blue shirt was different for a change.
“Ah, this is kinda embarrassing.” Johnny seemed apprehensive toward his father.
Murdoch got up to go look out his bedroom window. “Well, at the rate you’re going, I will never know what you think is embarrassing.”
Johnny ‘s head was down, staring at a spot on the rug. “Might as well get on with it.”
“Now, that just might be a very good idea.” Murdoch closed the curtains, walked back to his bed and sat on the side.
“Okay, remember how you been going on about us being family and well you know, having feelings for each other?”
“Yes I do. I told you and your brother that it did not matter that you did not have the same mother. You both are and always will be a part of me. And with that fact in mind, that makes you and him a part of each other. That makes us family. And if family means anything at all, it means that we have to try very hard to find a way to love each other.”
“Yeah, well, the thing is, I don’t know what I am suppose to feel. I mean, I’ve had friends before. I know what it feels like to care…you know…to like somebody. This feeling, well it feels different. I never had a brother before so I don’t know how I should feel.
“What do you think you are feeling?”
“That’s the thing, I don’t know. I knew some brothers that hung around each other and did almost everything together. Sometimes they got along and sometimes they didn’t. Some of them treated each other like friends, like Scott and me. I just don’t know how they felt inside, about each other. Sometimes I feel so stirred up inside. Specially when he makes me feel all riled-up and different at the same time.”
Murdoch gave a half smile. “Well now, what is it that he does to make you feel all riled-up and different at the same time?”
Johnny thought he was being laughed at. “I knew it, I shoulda kept quiet and figured it out myself. I thought at least, I could go to you.”
“Hold on son, I was not laughing at you. What you said reminded me of the time your brother said he had a notion about something.” Murdoch gave Johnny a look of honesty. “Johnny look at me. I’m your father, you can confide in me. Talk to me, son. Tell me what’s wrong.” Then Murdoch asked in a stronger, no nonsense tone. “ Have you and Scott been fighting?”
“No Murdoch, we haven’t. It’s…well he ain’t that much older than me. Why does he act like he’s gotta look out for me?”
“Well son, in most families, that’s pretty much the way it is. The rule is if you are older, you are the big brother. The big brother helps lookout for and calls the tune to the younger ones. I think Scott accepts that as his role now, to be your big brother. And you, my son, have become the little brother.”
“You funning me? Don’t I have a say in all this?”
“Nope, No say at all. At the homeland, my sister told us what to do when our parents weren’t home. She was oldest by a year and a half. She had a way of fixing you when you didn’t do what she said.” Murdoch gave Johnny a big wide grin. “When she was off somewhere, I got to be the one to call the tune.”
“I can always refuse to do what he says.” Johnny’s eyes twinkled with mischief.
“ I’m afraid not. The rules are already etched. So what else does your big brother do?”
“Well, sometimes he will come into my room, even when I’m not sick, and sit beside my bed and watch me sleep. A couple of times I’d asked him why. One time he said he couldn’t sleep. Then the other time he said someone had to watch over me. Most of the time he just tells me to go back to sleep.”
“I think that’s a habit we all kind of picked up each time you were sick or injured.”
“Another thing is the nightmares. You know the ones I’m talking about?”
“Yes son, I sure do.”
“That’s okay, no need to be sorry, a person don’t have them because they want to.”
“Well, sometimes when I wake from a nightmare he’s there holding me in his arms and talking to me. The thing is I’d be holding onto him, almost on top of him. When I wake up good he’d ask me if I were okay, before he’d get up and leave my room. Sometimes he’d be asleep.” Johnny didn’t tell Murdoch that Scott was having nightmares too. He would go to him and try to calm him down if he heard him in a nightmare. Once or twice Scott had a nightmare in Johnny’s bed after he had fallen asleep. Murdoch knew about Scott’s nightmares. If he didn’t hear Johnny’s door open, then he himself would go to calm Scott. Scott never told Johnny that his father knew. It was not a secret. Johnny never questioned him about if Murdoch knew about the nightmares. Scott did not have them too often, but when he did it was rough. Murdoch was proud that his sons tried to help each other through their nightmare world of hurt. “ There’d be times when I’d fall asleep on my bed or the couch and wake up in bed with a nightshirt on.
Murdoch knew that Johnny didn’t sleep well for the first six months he was at home. After that he became more comfortable knowing that his family would watch his back while he slept. Home was a safe haven. They were very careful not to startle him when his gun was near. When Madrid wasn’t edgy about something, Lancer would sleep like a log. Keeping late hours did not make it any easier to get up early. “Well … well, if you’d go to bed at decent time, maybe you wouldn’t be so tired that you can’t get up in the mornings. Then maybe, when you come in the evenings, you would not be so tired that you couldn’t change your clothes. It wouldn’t hurt to take a bath first.”
“So now, I smell?”
“No more than anybody else who’s been working out there all day. Including myself. And son, you really need to take your spurs off before coming inside the house. You are marking up the floors. I do not want to keep repeating myself?”
“Okay. Okay. I hear you… Sir. I will try to remember.”
“Well, see that you do. So, is that all your brother does?”
“No, that’s not all. Don’t let me take a fall or have a accident, he’ll be there checking me out from head to toe. Then he’ll ask me where do I hurt? If I tell him I’m okay, he’ll tell me to shut up and be still”
“It’s a lot of little things. He treats me like a little kid. It’s embarrassing when he does it in front of people. It’s bad enough when you do it. Me, Johnny Madrid…Johnny Lancer being treated like a kid…little kid at that. Sometimes he looks like he’s gonna hug me or something. I have a reputation to keep up, you know.”
“Son, your brother is just trying show you he cares. Maybe he is trying to make up for the times he’s felt someone should’ve been there for you, before you came home.”
“I know…I know, but I’m a grown man. I haven’t been treated like a kid since I was ten years old. Mamá, she sorta forgot that I was a kid, her kid. That sorta made it easy for everybody else not to treat me like a kid. After mamá died, I had nobody and nobody cared. I had to grow up fast and I mean real fast.”
“Oh, Johnny, I wish I had known what to do to have kept your mother from leading you down the path you took. She may not have told you to be a gunfighter, but her actions helped make that choice for you. There was no reason you should have lived the way you did. If I only knew where to look, I would have come for you.”
“Murdoch, the reason that I had to live that way is because you didn’t know. You see, that’s the whole point. You didn’t know. And I can’t hold that against you. I still have some ‘what ifs and some maybes’, most people would. I can’t forget about my past because I lived it. When you sent for me to come home, we started butting heads from day one. The things my mamá told me and the way you felt about me being a gunfighter had a lot to do with how we got along. I know I can’t just blame you for everything that happened cause…I pushed some too. I was on my own for so long that I just couldn’t stand being told what to do. I used to call you ‘old man’ sometimes, just to make you mad. It sure got your goat. And I don’t want to think on that cause we’re good now, right?” Murdoch nodded but before he could speak, Johnny quickly added, “And I do know you would’ve come for me.”
Murdoch thought about the many times Johnny had knocked at his heart for his trust and affection. Even though he and Scott were more at ease with each other there was always a fear that he would go back to Boston…to Harlan Garrett and Scott knew this. To save his family Murdoch knew he had to open his heart to them, his sons, the two people he helped created. “Yeah, we’re good and getting even better. You boys have been here a year and a half. This old Scottish fool had to learn some new tricks. I think we both have learned to give some. We might still butt heads, but not so hard and not so often.”
Johnny looked at his father with a slight frown. “Hey, what happened to what we was talking about at first.”
“Ah, yes, well, your brother means well.”
“I know that Scott means well, but he acts like he’s…he’s…”
Johnny really hadn’t wanted to admit that bit of truth to his father. “What! Ugh…well…yeah, he kinda does at that…don’t he?” He squinted at his father with one eye open wider than the other, to see how his father reacted to what he had just admitted to.
“You can say it. Sometimes I think he would have been a better father to you. I sure was not a good example of a father for two grown men. I made so many mistakes. I had no idea what I was doing.”
Johnny thought about what his father had said then replied. “Murdoch, with the things Scott and me do and talk about…no…no, can’t do it. Can’t think of him as my father. Not a too educated, I know what’s best, bossy big brother, who acts like he’s my father, no.” Johnny could not accept Scott as a father because he knew about the late night hour things he did. He smirked when he thought about his brother and some of the more hot natured women. Another place and time and not knowing what he knew, Scott would’ve been a perfect father to him. Lately he’d been satisfied with Murdoch being the father that he needed and wanted. Johnny’s soul was healing more than he would say. He’d come to understand that over time and distance that no matter what, Murdoch Lancer had always held and forever would hold him in his heart along with his brother, Scott. Johnny had also learned that sometimes Murdoch’s bark was worst than his bite. At times Murdoch would treat them the way they behaved. Murdoch told them that they acted like children half the time. Johnny smiled at his thoughts.
“Well, just what do you two do and talk about?” Murdoch asked curiously and with a ‘I already know’ look.
“Just…stuff…things.” With the words he had just used, he felt like a seven-year-old. That made Johnny think twice about saying he was grown.
“Oh, ah ha. Well let’s see. Midnight rides into town to ‘that’ saloon wouldn’t be one of those stuff or things, now would it?”
Johnny said, and looked, as innocent as he could, “What midnight rides? What saloon?” His conscious whipped him for lying to his father. Too many lies had already been between them. He just couldn’t face telling his father what he and his brother did in those late night hours. Feeling that his father already knew what they did, and this small lie was being allowed, Johnny felt a little relief.
“Hum.” Murdoch figured he would not hold that lie against Johnny, he didn’t think he would have told his father either. But he knew he had to find some kind of middle ground to talk to his sons about ‘stuff’ and ‘things’ as Johnny had said. He knew that both of his sons had somewhat of a hot nature when came to the females. He wanted them to understand that having too much fun, with a female you didn’t have any interest in, could lead to a lifetime of heartache. He thought about his wives. Murdoch had married Catherine, Scott’s mother, before she was with child. He married Maria, Johnny’s mother, when he found out she was with child. He had every intention of marrying her anyway. His dream was to have all his family under one roof. He wanted this dream for his sons too. He did not want the dreadful things that happened to him to happen to them. They simply needed to slow down. Some of the women around the area had no idea who their children’s fathers were. He didn’t want to be one of those fathers who would see children and wonder if he was their grandfather. Murdoch thought it might help if Scott and Johnny knew that he got wind of most things they did whether he wanted to hear about it or not.
“Hey, Murdoch, I’m trying to talk to you about my problem.” Johnny’s voice brought Murdoch back to the discussion at hand.
“Okay. Well if it will help, I’ll have a talk with your brother.”
“Okay…no, no don’t do that!”
“Now Johnny, son, do you want me to talk to your brother or not?”
“It’s not that I don’t you to talk to him. It’s…well, the truth is, I do kinda like how he is with me but not so much in front of people, you know.”
“Oh…I see. The attention is fine as long as he don’t over do it, in public.”
“Murdoch, I can’t have people thinking I’ve gone soft and all. Lady gunfighters will start coming after me, taking me for a easy mark.” His father looked at him questioningly then Johnny said, “Yes, they’re out there.” He told his father only that they were out there and not that he had been called out by a few of them in his young and not so distant past.
“Johnny, I don’t know what I can do, except talk to him.”
“Murdoch, after mamá, I ain’t never had nobody that cared a lick about me. I know that my mamá loved me, in her own way. I guess being on her own, away from you, she didn’t know how to take care of me. She didn’t take care of me and none of her men cared. All they wanted was to get with mamá and she obliged them.” Johnny looked at his father then looked away and continued, “Least ways, I know what I’m supposed to feel for you, you know, like how I felt about mamá.” Johnny then looked at his father again and then looked down at the arm of the chair that he was rubbing and said, “And I do.”
Murdoch smiled then looked at Johnny and said in a joking tone to break the tense moment, “Son, if we ever talk like this again, please remind me to have you sit on the floor. That way you won’t rub all the fabric off the arm of that chair.”
Johnny gave his father a sheepish smile, stilled his hand, than turned serious. “Why, why does he work so hard at watching my back, like my life depends on him? Why does he risk his life and get into trouble on account of me?”
“Johnny there is a simple answer to all of the questions you have asked. But first I have a question.” Johnny braced himself for his father’s question. “Didn’t you and your friends watch each other’s back.”
“Yeah, but to a point. We had our own way of doing things. We really didn’t get in each other’s business. If we disagreed about something, we’d leave it alone or go our separate ways before things got out of hand. That all depended on if you could trust the ones you’d call friends. Well, there was a few I trusted. But, there was nothing other than a job to hold us together. When we had a calling to part company, we’d bid each other a ‘hope to see you later’ and that was that. And sometimes we did. With Scott, he don’t quit. He fusses until I end up doing what he says. Even when we argue or yell at each other, I never want him to get mad enough to leave me…I mean here. So, Murdoch, you have brothers. Please, tell me how it is?” Johnny looked up at his father and said rather desperately, “I think I might need one of those brain Doctors.”
“Johnny, your brother loves you and you love him.”
“What !!!” Johnny lowered his tone of voice. “ No! No! No! No! That’s just sick. Murdoch, we’re talking about Scott, my brother. Not some woman I’ve taken a fancy to.” He remembered what he had told his father just moments ago. “Ah, no way, Murdoch, I must really need one of those Doctors.”
“Whoa!, son, calm down. I did not mean it that way. What I meant to say was that, you have come to love your brother and just hadn’t realized it. This is the way you should feel about your brother.” Johnny looked at his father, then Murdoch said, “And I am pretty sure that he feels the same way. You do not need a doctor. Johnny your feelings towards your brother are normal.”
“You sure about that?”
“Yes, I have brothers, remember? You have nothing to be embarrassed about.”
“Then why do I feel so weird, wanting to be hang out with him most of the time?”
“Johnny, there are different kinds of love, just like there are different kinds of people. The feelings you had for your mother, is the love a son has for his mother. You grow up knowing that kind of love. And you have felt a mother’s love for her son. Are you with me so far?
“Now we come to the loves that you have just begun to feel. And sometimes people don’t always understand what they feel.”
“Well, yeah, I knew about them, but I don’t know how it feels.” Johnny nervously fiddled with the arm of the chair and kept his head down looking at a scar on the wood floor that the rug beside Murdoch’s bed wasn’t big enough to cover. “I was alone so much I didn’t hold much feelings for anybody.” Johnny looked so lost and lonesome. “ It never lasted anyway.”
Murdoch watched his son’s expression and focused on how Johnny always tried to hide his feelings when things in his young life went wrong. “Son, it will last. At least with Scott and I, we’ll see to it.
“There were a few families that wanted me to live with them but I couldn’t and they knew it. If my own mamá didn’t take care of me and my papá didn’t want me, why would I believe strangers would care enough to really want me to be part of their family? She always told me to stay away from those Pinkertons. She said if they caught me, they would take me back to you. Mamá said you would punish me because she left. She said you treated us so bad that she feared for our lives. So she left.” When he looked at his father, all he saw was a man whose life had been ripped apart by lies, by someone he thought loved him.
Murdoch waited awhile to gather himself before he spoke to change the subject. “You know, your brother wants the same things you want and so do I.”
“To love and be loved. Your own family to belong to. Not someone else’s, but yours here at Lancer.”
“That’s why Scott stayed?”
“It had to be. With the two us going at it, and not giving an inch, it had to be.”
“Guess you think I’m stupid for not knowing and all?”
“Well, no not stupid. Some people need a little help to understand sometimes. Johnny you probably had never an attachment to anyone that was strong enough to make you want to stay put, until you met Scott.” “Hopefully I made it a little clearer for you?”
“Well, I’m thinking that you’re trying to tell me that there’s different kinds of loves that we all feel sometime or another. We have to learn and know the differences. And what I feel now is a brotherly kinda love for Scott.”
“Okay, how about Teresa?”
He gave his son a very stern look. “She is to be thought of as a sister.”
“Murdoch!, I have more than enough sense to know that. I know, you helped raise her like she was your daughter and all. I mean she’s pretty and all.” Murdoch raised an eyebrow at Johnny. “But, Scott and me take her as part of the family…our family. Even I know it’s wrong to want to get with the women folk in your own family. I feel for her, almost what I feel for Scott. But Scott and me, he, well he’s my best friend. I’ve had friends but not a best friend. He watches my back even when I don’t ask or want him to. He’ll do it even if we’re mad at each other. My trail friends never went that far for me. ”
“Johnny I am sorry if I sounded like I was accusing you. Well, your question caught me off guard.”
“Hey, I wouldn’t want my sons, if I had any, to come home and get with someone I’ve help raise as a daughter either. Scott and me did some thinking on it. We think of her only as a sister. Besides she knows too much about the family. And she knows how you yell at poor obedient sons.”
“Just so she keeps quiet about it. Wouldn’t want the town ladies to get wind of it. I can just hear that bit of gossip now.”
Johnny serious now, searched his father’s eyes to convey his feelings. “At first, Scott was the only reason that I stayed. But, he is not the only reason that I am still here now.” Murdoch smiled with a nod of understanding.
“Johnny!!” Scott yelled from the bottom of the stairs.
“Come on, it’s getting late and I don’t want to stay out so late tonight.”
“Give me a few minutes. Taking to Murdoch.”
“Where are you two off to?” Murdoch questioned pointing to the clock on his dresser.
“We know Murdoch. We ain’t staying out too late tonight. Just going into town for a couple of beers.” Johnny tried desperately to hide that big smile of his that said ‘beer, stuff and things’. “Gotta go, thanks for the talk.”
“Johnny, wait.” Murdoch got up off the bed and walk towards Johnny.
Johnny stopped at the door and turned toward his father. “Yeah Murdoch?” Murdoch took another step forward and threw one arm around Johnny’s neck and the other arm around his waist. “Hey, Murdoch, what’s wrong with you? What are you doing?
“Nothing John, nothing.” His body started to tense up and his heart started to beat a fast pace. Wrapped in his father’s strong arms, Johnny could not back away. His father pulled him close to him in a hug and whispered in his ear. “I love you John. I am not ashamed of you or your accented speech, when you choose to use it. I know you think I am, but I am not. Your mother’s language is part of your birthright. I don’t even mind some of your moody ways.”
Murdoch knew Johnny might not want to hear what he was going to say next. It was something intimate between his parents. Murdoch thought it would help his son to understand his feelings toward him. “When I first met your mother, I was so completely taken by her. Things with us started to happen. Perhaps too fast but, I never lost respect for her. I wanted to marry Maria before you were ever conceived. Son, on that night that you were conceived, I didn’t just lustfully bed your mother. I made love to her from my heart, the same as all the other times we were together. I would have loved each and every kid we had together. Maria was my wife. I desired and gave my passion only to her. But, you are my only child from Maria. I love you so much John, more than I can say.”
Murdoch felt Johnny’s body relaxing against him and the beating of his heart was easing. “You will always be my baby boy, no matter how grown you get or how old think you are. And please, don’t you ever doubt my love for you.” Murdoch took a deep breath and let it out. He held tight to his son in case he tried to pull away at what he was about to say now. And he did, but Murdoch held tight. “I was astounded to find out that my baby boy grew to be a gunfighter. At first it hurt like hell. But if I wanted you back, I had to accept that fact and desperately get past it and think about our future. Then he added, “You can tell Madrid, I love him too. But he needs to behave and he had better keep my son safe or he will hear from me. That is a fact that he can count on.”
In Murdoch’s arms Johnny didn’t mind feeling like a two-year-old. He felt like his heart would burst with joy. His father told him the things his heart hungered to hear. Johnny reached his arms around Murdoch and squeezed tight. Tight enough to let his father know that he was returning his hug back with love from his heart. He appreciated the message to Madrid, at least he had been acknowledged. Suddenly, something shook him, a memory. Johnny remembered the feeling of his father’s bare chest. It had to be before his mother left with him. This was a good feeling, the connection of his father’s bare chest, back to when he was two years old. He looked up at his father then leaned on his chest and said in a whisper, “I love you too papá, always. Please remember that, no matter how riled I get.”
Murdoch burst out laughing at the last thing Johnny said. He knew how riled his son could get with that fiery temper of his. They all knew. “ I’ll hold you to that.” The constant grasping and releasing the back of Murdoch’s shirt told Murdoch that Madrid was fighting to keep Johnny’s emotions at bay. Murdoch gave him some time. He knew they would talk again but he didn’t know about the close contact.
Johnny was hanging on the edge. Madrid was losing Johnny’s emotional battle for control. He buried his face in his father’s chest, wrapped his arms around him and held on. He found his voice. A pleading whisper. “Please Murdoch stop. What are you doing to me? It’s too much. Stop, please papá.” Johnny felt like his knees were about to buckle.
“Johnny, son, what’s wrong?
“Memories.” He whispered
“When? How? Johnny?”
“When you hugged me the first time, against your chest. I felt, and could hear, your heart beating. Then I could see this huge bare chest. It was like I was laying on it, but my body felt really small, like a baby. My whole body was on this chest.” There were hands that lifted me high in the air from the floor. Then there were lips kissing me on each cheek. I remember laughing, then I was hugged and rocked to sleep. I remember a feeling, a happy feeling. This time there was a face. God, Murdoch, it was you. It was you.”
Minutes passed then Murdoch explained. “Back then. Son, you were happy. Every evening when I’d come home, I would clean myself up, then I’d relieve your mother of you. You were quite a handful. We’d take our usual nap before supper. There I’d be with no shirt and you, wearing just your diaper. You seamed to enjoy sleeping on my bare chest. Then at night before bed I’d pick you up and kiss your cheeks. You’d start laughing like I was tickling you. Since your mother was trying to break you to the table, she would put you to her breast only at night. When she was done with that, I’d hold you for awhile then hug on you some. Then I would rock you to sleep. Well, tried, if you didn’t get the giggles.”
“Get the giggles?” Looking up at his father, he felt he to ask.
Murdoch on went to explain to Johnny, hoping it would ease the tension. He stood there trying not to show any affection in his movements, trying not to force any more memories on his son at this point. So, he just stood there letting Johnny hold on to him until he was settled down enough. “Yes Johnny. You giggled so much, I thought about calling you Mr. Giggles. But, Mr. Giggles Lancer didn’t quite fit the bill. When we were alone, Mr. Giggles was my personal nickname for you. That was our secret because I couldn’t think of anyone coming to ask is Giggles home? I think now if that happened, you would shoot them.” Murdoch took in Johnny’s look and lightened the mood more. “ If I remembered correctly, you would giggle even when you soiled you diapers. In fact, that is when you giggled the most.”
“Ah! Murdoch! I didn’t need to know or hear that.” Feeling comfortable enough, Johnny slowly released his father. Murdoch figured it was best to let Johnny break the embrace first. That way he knew Johnny’s emotions were settled and he wouldn’t feel dismissed. He moved three steps away from his father with his head down. He looked up with a slight frown on his face, a raised eyebrow and a tilt of his head. “Tonight, the talk and all. Is that going to stay between us?”
“Johnny, what was said and what happened in this room tonight, will stay private between us, unless you want to share it.”
Johnny nodded. “Thanks.”
Murdoch looked at Johnny and smiled. “It’s our secret.”
Johnny nodded with a grin. He started walking toward the door but he made sudden stop. Johnny turned around to face his father with a big mischievous look. A look his father knew well. “Hey, Murdoch…ah, we didn’t do the lip kissing thing, did we?”
Murdoch looked at Johnny, a bit embarrassed and shrugged his shoulders. “Now and then. Some.”
“Oh, well, just so you know, lip kissing is out.” Johnny got hopelessly caught up in laughter.
Murdoch broke out in heavy laughter too. “Don’t want to send you into shock. No more questions tonight.” He started ushering Johnny toward the door.
Johnny stopped again. He turned toward Murdoch and said, “Some of my moody ways? I’m not moody.”
Murdoch looked him dead in the eyes and spoke in a very fatherly but firm tone. “Son, you are moody. And some of them, meaning some of your many moods, are not very desirable. Now and then you throw tantrums and you pout. Not to mention your smart mouthing. We can talk about this another time. Now go, go and don’t stay out too late. And Johnny, you behave yourself.” Murdoch over looked that innocent look Johnny was giving him. “Oh tell Scott to come up before he leaves.”
“Okay, okay, night.” Johnny said on his way out the door this time.
“Good night. Mr. Giggles.” Murdoch couldn’t resist the opportunity for that tease.
“Ah, come on, not that, please no.” Murdoch laughed as Johnny went down the stairs, going on about being called Mr. Giggles.
Murdoch had sat down on his bed after Johnny went down the stairs. He sat there thinking about what he had said to his son and was glad for it. Upon reassessment of Johnny’s manner, he soon recognized that Johnny was different and had to be regarded much differently than Scott. Johnny was tough as nails and just as stubborn as those nails were at bending. He was loyal and could be so deeply hurt by the ones he loved. Murdoch was amazed at how his son had an almost mysteriously profound outlook on life. With barely any schooling, his son was very astute. Life unfortunately had not treated the young Lancer well. So while still young in age he fought loneliness, betrayal and abuse by latching onto Madrid, his protector. He was mentally born to protect Johnny against the evils of life. He was lethal and he was not to be dismissed. He gave Johnny a guarded but lethal past. Madrid had learned not to be too harsh with the family. In most cases he was relatively protective of Johnny’s family. There were times when he would act edgy with them, but his alter ego would rein him back in. Hearing Scott coming up the stairs, Murdoch chased away his thoughts on Madrid.
Scott walked up the hall to his father’s bedroom. The door was open. “Sir? Johnny said you wanted to see me.”
He saw Scott had changed into a dark, brownish orange colored shirt and a pair of dark, slate gray pants. “Yes, yes I do. Come in and shut the door behind you.” Murdoch got up off his bed, walked close to Scott and stared. Before he realized anything was happening, his father had wrapped his arms around him, in the same fashion as he did Johnny. Scott stood still totally shocked at his father’s actions. He made a gentle motion to pull away, but Murdoch had a firm hold on him.
“Murdoch is something wrong?” A thought almost rocked Scott. “Sir… is it grandfather?”
At the last question, Murdoch could feel Scott starting to panic. He could feel the rapid beating of Scott’s heart. “No son, there is nothing wrong with your grandfather.” Scott had a dreadful look on his face. Then Murdoch added, “Or me.” Murdoch began to feel the lessening of Scott’s rapid heartbeat. He felt a sense of pride that Scott was concerned about him, as well as his grandfather.
“But sir, why? How come?” This was all Scott could think to say.
“Scott, do you realize that I have never ever held you in my arms? Not even on your fifth birthday. Oh I have held you since you have been home while you were sick or injured. This time it is different, so indulge me. Let me hold you…hug you, just for the sake of loving you.”
Scott began to feel something stir inside of him. Was it confusion or just shock? His grandfather never hugged him in this way. Barely an arm on the shoulder. The servants always gave him that physical love, the touches he needed. Not growing up with parents, he really did not know how to take Murdoch Lancer showing open emotion like this. So, he just stood there, letting his father have his way with him.
Murdoch pulled Scott closer against his chest and whispered in his ear. “Scott you are my first born, my first beginning and my first son. Your mother and I loved each other deeply. You were purposely born out of that love. I loved and wanted you for five years before I ever saw your face or touched you. I saw you for the very time on your fifth birthday. I was not allowed to even hug you, my own son. I was introduced by name and as a friend, Harlan said that was his moment of weakness. I was only allowed to shake your hand. He wouldn’t even let me tell you who I was. He said he was the only father you knew. God, you were so small. I never should have listened to him. I had to agree to let you stay with Harlan. He gave me some choices and at that time I didn’t have the money to fight him. His compromise to me was that you would not want for anything. I was forced to accept Harlan calling the tune, as far as you were concerned. I didn’t make the right dicision, but I really figured that I was making the best decision.
Scott raised his head a little without looking at his father but rather toward the window. “Sir what I do not understand is, why you didn’t come for me after you found out about my mother? And why grandfather did not try to return me to my rightful home?”
“Scott, I was full of grief for your mother. I needed time to think and to grieve. Everything happened so quickly. Nothing was supposed to have gone wrong. Your grandfather took you to Boston before I could get to you. I wrote him a few times to let him know that I was coming for you as soon as I could. I was trying to make enough money to make the trip to Boston and to secure the ranch while I was gone. Finally two letters from Boston came. They gave me more news to block me from getting you home. One letter was from Harlan and the other was from his lawyer. Both of them were letting me know that Harlan had filed and got custody of you, that I didn’t have a son anymore. Harlan was ready to battle me in court over you. I guess he figured I owed him you, for taking Catherine away from him. It was the best way he knew to get back at me. I took some time to get my affairs in order. That way, I could fight Harlan and the courts to get you back.”
“But sir, what took you so long?”
“Well there was Johnny. During the time I was trying to get my affairs in order, I met and married Maria. Then Johnny was born. When he was about two and a-half, I woke up and found them both gone. I don’t know why she left. If she was unhappy she didn’t tell me, I had to try to find them or at least him. When she disappeared with your brother that killed my chances with courts. I didn’t have a stable home to bring you back to. Harlan was ready and waiting to use all against me. He claimed I was too busy with the ranch to even care about you. He tried to say I was unfit to be a father and was prepared to back it up, unlawfully of coarse. That just wasn’t true. I had to find Johnny and that took a lot of money. I didn’t know if he was dead or alive. At least I knew you were safe. There was a part of me out somewhere, my little son. At this point I felt so very lost, all because of Maria. I thought she loved me enough. Each time life dealt me a blow, I felt like my soul was being chipped away. I had lost everything except the ranch. That’s the only thing that I had control over and barely at that.” Murdoch paused awhile then inhaled deeply, shifted some of his weight to his other leg then continued. “Harlan knew what I was dealing with on my end. Your grandfather never even wrote to me let me know how you were. I wrote to you now then, but I saw no results from it so I finally stopped writing.
Scott let out a sigh. “ I never knew about you writing grandfather nor did I receive any of your letters.”
“Scott I had a feeling, no, I knew none of my letters were reaching you and Harlan had made sure of that. As the years went by, I figured he had filled you with so many things against me, that you didn’t care to see or hear from me.” Murdoch glanced across the room to his dresser and settled his sights on the picture of Scott’s mother. Looking up behind the picture a reflection looked back at him. He was stunned to see himself standing there, so naturally holding his son in his arms. He blinked his eyes to see if he was really seeing the image. “In my will, this land was willed to you and your brother in the event of my passing. My lawyer had it all set up. But, the raiders were trying to take over all that I had to leave you both. My will would not have meant anything to them. As you know there wasn’t much law around. I looked for Johnny off and on when I had the money. When I sent for you I didn’t know they had found Johnny this time. I knew you were old enough to make up your own mind, to make the choice to come and help fight for Lancer. If you feel I have made wrong decisions, concerning your life, please forgive me? My best intentions were intended.”
Scott had learned a lot about his grandfather and father since coming to Lancer. He knew Murdoch spoke the truth in everything he had whispered to him. He was leaning against his father. Scott was used to the feel of Johnny’s bare chest. At work or play they both were shirtless at times. With the size and the warmth of his father’s bare chest, Scott had never felt more secure than this moment, as his father kept him wrapped in the warmth of his embrace. Resting his head against Murdoch, Scott realized how it could have been growing up at Lancer. His emotional impulse got the better of him. He raised his arms and wrapped them around his father and held on tight. He spoke in a low tone in Murdoch’s ear. “Father, I ah, I love you too. After I met you, I learned to love you in spite of what grandfather told me. Thank you for letting me know how you feel about me. I needed to know that you wanted me back then and even now. It was not enough to hear it from someone else. I needed you to tell me what I needed to hear.” Scott gazed at his father and took a deep breath. “I remember a very tall man talking to grandfather on my birthday.” Scott sighed loudly. “The one thing that I truly knew I wanted was a father, my father. You See Murdoch, the evil hand of fate has touched us all, some way or another. Funny isn’t it? I got what I truly wanted on my fifth birthday, without ever realizing it. He, he never told me.”
Murdoch heard the emotional cracking of Scott’s voice and felt the trembling of his body. He knew his son was trying to keep himself together. Murdoch removed his arm from around Scott’s waist and placed his hand on his back. He began to gently massage his son’s back to help ease some of his emotional tension. Three minutes later he eased his hold on his son. “Are you all right?”
Scott nodded and said, “I am fine. I am fine, now.” He took one step back and looked up at his father. “Sir, please don’t scare me like that again.”
“I’m sorry. I did not assume that you would think something dreadful had happened.”
“God forbid anything should happen to grandfather and I would like for you to be with us as long as God is willing. But Murdoch it scares me to death to think about something happening to you. I mean I can handle Teresa, but I would have to assume the responsibility of making sure Johnny behaves himself.”
“Well sir, that’s a feat in itself.”
Clearing his throat and trying to appear serious while gazing at his Harvard educated son. “Well son, I will endeavor to encourage Johnny to systemize his behavior, before any adverse fate decides to befall me.”
Scott showed a proud expression at his father’s choice of words in his reply. “Sir, I didn’t know you had it in you. You make a son feel proud.”
“Yes, well don’t get me started.”
Scott sighed and gave a slight smile. “Johnny won’t admit to it but, as our father I think he most definitely stands in fear of you. Really sir, you seem to be the only person that’s able to make Johnny behave himself. You seem to make him behave just by a stare.” Scott stopped talking, thinking stare might be the wrong word to use. He had been on the receiving end of some of Murdoch’s stares. A stare from his father meant business. Murdoch had many stares. This was one of those menacing ‘I mean it’ or ‘I saw that’ looks. It made you feel like you had been caught misbehaving and punishment was on the way or like you’ve been slapped up side the face. Scott even remembered feeling like he had been sent to hell and forced to walk a chalk line. His father could look just as threatening as his brother, if not more so. “I think I’ll stop talking before I stick my foot in my mouth. And we all know my mouth can not accommodate my foot.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that.” Scott looked at his father with his mouth open, about to say something but Murdoch winked at him and said, “I think you’re doing a fine job with your brother. I’ve seen you two together, I think he behaves because of you.”
“I don’t think so, sir. My incorrigible brother, Johnny, would laugh at that statement. In fact, he would probably pass out from laughing so hard.”
“Somehow I don’t think your brother would laugh at all.” Scott nodded and his father forged on. “You are a good son and brother. I want to thank you Scott for helping me to see Johnny in a different light. You have made me proud.” He released Scott and gave him a light slap on both arms. “Now go and join your brother before he starts yelling up the stairs, like someone else did.”
Scott gave his father a big understanding smile. “All right sir. I think I had better go, before I start to feel as Jelly would say ‘full of myself’. Oh sir, good night father.”
“Have a good night son.”
“Oh, Murdoch. I was wondering if you and Johnny had…” Murdoch cut him off with a gaze and a smile that said ‘don’t ask’.
“Good night son. Oh, Scott, you and Johnny have keys to the main doors that we use around here.” Being to the point with Scott. “Please use them. I do not have a desire for some stranger to walk in here and catch me in my drawers.” Murdoch tried to think quickly about what else he wanted to say, but then thought to leave it for another time when they would talk. It would be private talk for the three of them. It would be based on the consequences of too much late night fun with anybody that’s willing. He gave his son a nod of dismissal. Scott returned the nod and proceeded through the door. Murdoch heard the sound of his bedroom door as Scott closed it on his way out and listened as Scott’s footsteps faded down the steps. He heard them on their mounts galloping off. He looked out of the bedroom window and watched them gallop out of sight. Murdoch whispered to himself. “I love you both, be safe and come back home, to me.”
His grown men-boys were going out to play in the dark. He knew they’d do their best to watch each other’s back. When his boys were together he would catch many glimpses of little Johnny daring little Scott to come out to play.
Murdoch smiled at thought of him having to chastise his grown men-boys. He would chastise them when he wasn’t in the mood for their childish games and arguments or for endangering themselves during their play. Johnny told his father he was a grown man. Murdoch knew Johnny was still so young, and young at heart, and never got to grow-up. He was so busy being a man to survive. Then finding Madrid to stay alive, he simply didn’t have time to grow-up.
So, when Madrid was relaxed, Johnny Lancer came out to play. Who better to play with than big brother Scott? They had missed so much by not growing up together. Now Murdoch also realized that as macho as his sons were, they were at times just two little boys. Two little boys who wanted nothing more than to be with and be loved by their father. Thinking on how he had whispered his confessions in his son’s ears, holding them close to him, made it so much more personal and honest or as Johnny had said, ‘kinda personal, private like’. All three of them craved the connection of touch. Murdoch admitted to the craving. Scott wouldn’t initiate it, but he manipulated his way to get it and then soak it up. Johnny would deny it to the end, and he’s the one that got almost all the attention. He would accept it when it was forced on him. That way he could save face, being a gunfighter and all.
The last thing that anybody needed to know was that he was as soft as pudding and just as sweet, when he wanted to be. Murdoch looked around his great big bedroom and thought, how fitting. How fitting for him to declare his fatherly love to his sons in this very room. The very same room he had so passionately declared his love so many times to both of his son’s mothers. Again he thought, how fitting. Murdoch went to bed, a happy man and he did sleep well.
Story By Kee (starkode)
November 24 2004
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