The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Barb

 

 

FRowen Mixed With Weeds

Tamping down the familiar skittering in his stomach, Scott watched the yellow butterfly flutter its wings, edging ever closer to his cooling mug of coffee. He had tracked its progress from the back vegetable garden to the roses by the railing. A bright burst of sun against the deep red of the flowers.

He remembered then, the voices in the woods, a noise like peals of thunder coming sharply and in quick succession. There were cries of pain, too, and a man who called out to him to make it stop. The whole world smelled like burnt powder, an odor that sent him reeling. And he thought that the scent had somehow struck him blind, were it not for the music of Mortimer's hooves that led him into thin summer light and gave him back his vision, where he saw that he was among hundreds of blue and yellow-black butterflies feeding off the dead.

His hand shot out at the most opportune moment and slapped down on the table, nearly knocking the mug to the hard tile of the portico.

Just a small heap of color and velvet under his palm. With a sense of satisfaction, he brushed off the crumpled wings and bent body.

"Scott!"

He twisted around at the indignation in the voice, saw the rounded "o" of her mouth.

Teresa stood in the doorway, holding a plate that was overfilled with eggs and two of Maria's biscuits. "I thought you'd be hungry," she said handing him the plate as he rose from chair, eyeing him like one would a tiger sitting at the dinner table.

It was her curious streak that kept her eyes on him. He wondered if she would pity him for the memories the butterfly brought back, if she would feel sad. He wondered if anyone would, which was a new thought to him, and he took a moment to examine its hard edges. He decided he didn't like the thought and dismissed it in turn.

"It came too close to my coffee," he said as he took the plate from her. "I was afraid it was going to take a drink and selfishly wanted it all for myself." He grinned to bolster the remarks.

Her huge blue eyes never left his. "You're tired, not eating. You've been doing a lot of walking lately," she said. "Late at night, in the early morning. Why?"

She shrugged. "It's not hard, you know. To hear things. See things. If you want to see them."

"You have my thanks for the delicious breakfast," he said, in the most polite voice he could muster.

Her shoulders slumped before she slid into the second chair, carefully toeing the dead butterfly aside.

He caught a look of sadness on her face, like his reply had triggered a sense of loss. She seemed smaller, frailer, sitting there as he towered over her.

Scott rustled up a dry cough en route to his own chair, swallowing it down with a grimace. He was sick. Or had been sick. The ague-related illness that almost but never quite left him alone, had started up a few hours into the night after the end of the Pardee fiasco. And so had his walking in a vain attempt to ease the racking shivers, the pain in his joints.

Nighttime was different. Things were otherwise when the sky turned from the bloom of bright day to black. Anxieties, hurts, and fears grew teeth at night. Particularly when one was sleeping in a strange land, a strange house. Even more particularly when one spent the last few days engaged in a battle of sorts. Albeit the uniforms were different, the deadly intent remained the same.

Perhaps it was his own insecurities about the past that made him hesitant to reveal the slightest weakness. Besides, didn't Murdoch have enough to do with Johnny's injury?

He found it difficult to align the eagerness he felt while engaged with the land pirates to everything he endeavored to tamp down after returning home in '65. Indeed, that eagerness had crept upon him most unawares. Maybe the return of his illness was, in part, retribution for his lopsided thinking.

Teresa watched him in silence, fingers churched on her lap, tips tapping out a Morse code of sorts known only to her.

He pushed the plate aside, took a loud tentative sip of coffee and blinked through the bitterness of it on his tongue. Gently, he danced the mug in a tight circle on the table, watching the blackness rise and fall against its stained walls.

"The doctor said Johnny will get better," he began, and Teresa shifted uncomfortably in the wooden chair. "With time, anyway."

Teresa kept her eyes on the dead butterfly. "I don't know, if I can keep on doing it."

"Well, the coffee isn't that bad," he said, because the dodge and bluff was easier.

Instead of the laugh he was going for, it was as if he set fire to the fields. Teresa slid roughly from her chair.

"Teresa."

She didn't stop, heading for the back door like a woman on a mission.

"Teresa!" He shot out of his own chair to follow the precise thumps of her heels.

"Go away." She said it with her back turned, making a desperate beeline toward the kitchen.

He reached out and touched her shoulder. She spun like a dervish.

"Just—let me go, Scott!"

He's wasn't prepared for what he saw; her face was red and wet with tears, a hard grimace etched in her brow and in the clench of her jaw.

"Teresa…"

She shrugged off his hand and stumbled back, her boots kicking up a tiny cloud of dust. "Don't. Please, don't…"

Scott's hands rose, palms up and he backed away one step. "Listen…"

"No, you listen!" Teresa shouted. "Dad is dead. Johnny's hurt and now you're sick, Scott." She shook her head violently, hands fisted at her side. "When does…when does it ever end? If only I could've…"

Scott glanced around, thankful suddenly for the desolation of the portico. He took a cautious step forward. "What, Teresa? What could you have done?" Scott knew the answer to his question because he'd asked himself a million times. Every sleepless night, years of the same query. Different circumstances, but he knew that sense of responsibility so well. It crushed him to think of it on Teresa's shoulders. "This-it happened. It's on Pardee's shoulders. And you can't…"

"No!" Teresa growled and pushed Scott back the step he'd gained. "It wasn't supposed to be like this!" She cried, tears spilling down both cheeks. "Safe. It was supposed to be safe here…it wasn't supposed to be like this!"

"Teresa, I know…"

"No, you don't!" The fury hit Scott like a punch. "I loved my Dad."

Scott stiffened. She was right. He'd never known the presence of a father in his life until now. He wasn't quite sure what Murdoch offered other than a financial interest, or what he could offer Murdoch in return. He rubbed a hand across his chin. "Yes. It seems I don't know anything." His tongue flicked over his lower lip and his jaw tightened.

"I could have saved him," Teresa said, hands plunging into her mass of hair. "He would have stayed home that night if I asked. I could have saved him," she said again and slumped into the chair, knees drawn in close by the circle of her arms.

It was only a foot—the distance between Scott and a breaking Teresa—but it might as well have been a thousand miles. He watched her rock in the chair, scuffing a boot over the dead butterfly like drawing a line she couldn't cross.

"Oh, Dad…," Teresa whispered. "Oh, Dad, I'm so sorry…"

"Listen to me," Scott said and shoved his fists in the pockets of his trousers. "I know your father is…gone. But you still have Murdoch and Johnny. And me. I'm not going anywhere, despite what you see. It will be alright."

Teresa wiped her nose against her shoulder. "Nothing's all right."

And Scott knew Teresa was quite correct; they were all in a different world now because of Pardee. Everything was off-kilter and confused, and Scott was less sure of how to take each step forward without tripping over his past. Nothing was all right.

The past week had given Scott an odd view of change and sameness.

"I don't—what are we going to do?" Sunshine glinted off the fresh tears that rose in Teresa's eyes. "I don't know what to do…"

Neither did Scott. He had no clue what to do with the choppy waves of emotion crashing down over all of them: Murdoch, Johnny, their reunion of desperation. He'd never been comfortable with that, made worse after his year in a Confederate prison.

"Dad didn't deserve this."

"No one does, Teresa. You don't deserve this."

She choked out a bitter laugh and stared up at him. "What do I deserve?"

Scott shook his head. "An end. An end to all of this." He moved forward and held out his hand.

"How does it end, Scott? You can't fix this. You can't change things."

It wasn't going to go away—not today at least. Scott knew Teresa's grief, even if she didn't think he was capable of it. He had suffered more loss in his twenty-four years than most people do their whole lives. It lingered. Festered. He found he couldn't erase it completely, only find people who could share the burden.

"What am I supposed to do?" Teresa asked, and the heartbreak in the question was almost too much for Scott to bear.

"You…you go on. You move forward because there's no going back. Your father isn't here and I wish I could make that different for you, but I can't. You can't. So you pick up—we pick up—and go on." It was bitter medicine, but the truth always was.

Teresa took several deep breaths and studied her hands as they trembled in her lap. She looked up at him and seemed so small, so young, so scared. But not lost.

Murdoch was suddenly at the back door. He slapped it open, took in Scott's uneaten plate and Teresa's red-rimmed eyes with a squint. "Is everything all right here?"

Scott cleared his throat, keeping his eyes on Teresa. "Yes. I think so."

She swiped a hand down her face and stared out at the corral, the morning sun slashing lines across her cheeks. Nodded in agreement.

 

 

~end~
9/27/18

Aftermath

When the summer fields are mown,
When the birds are fledged and flown,
And the dry leaves strew the path;
With the falling of the snow,
With the cawing of the crow,
Once again the fields we mow
And gather in the aftermath.

Not the sweet, new grass with flowers
Is this harvesting of ours;
Not the upland clover bloom;
But the rowen mixed with weeds,
Tangled tufts from marsh and meads,
Where the poppy drops its seeds
In the silence and the gloom.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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