The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Barb A

 

 

FTimestamp - Blood on the Range
This scene follows the events described in Blood on the Range. If you haven't read that first, this might seem a bit strange.

Melville's Moby Dick was sprawled across Scott's lap, opened to an as yet unread page, one corner turned back and crumpled under itself. Concrete evidence that his son was still recovering.

"You can leave, you know."

Scott's words were swathed in a fog of lethargy. A plea or a demand, Murdoch didn't know which. The only thing Scott conceded was that he was too stiff to go downstairs. Which hadn't stopped him earlier in the week when he'd dragged himself up and out of bed to open the window, but the days that came between then and now had been different. Scott wasn't about to say, 'I'm sore because I was shot by a boy who I befriended,' but that's exactly what Murdoch understood and he tried very hard to walk on eggshells around his son.

With mixed success, of course.

The weather had cooled, thank God, and come Sunday, the sun was clear and high, breeze-buffeted. Although Johnny had stated, repeatedly and with true feeling, that he'd rather clean out the privy than escort the prisoners into town with Val, Murdoch had insisted. If any residual trouble was going to surface, better to know sooner than later.

The soup and bread weren't anything fancy, but the smell had been magic and Scott collapsed back against the headboard after finishing, shoving a hand through his hair, not wanting to show Murdoch how tired he got by just sitting up and eating.

Murdoch used another expression when he sat down across from him, and it was one that historically—and it was an entirely too short a history—put Scott's dander up. It was his honed tellmesomething expression.

"Son—" he started, and Scott stonewalled him. He did it badly though, scratching his left elbow intently, as if discovering a new wrinkle in the bed sheet. Not fully expressing how badly he wanted Murdoch to leave it alone, but effective nonetheless. Murdoch gathered up the bowl and spoon, the plate with its bits of leftover brown crust, and stood.

A horse neighed from the corral and as Murdoch stretched to look out the window, he saw Frank hitching the wagon, no doubt going to the eastern pasture for there was hay in the fields, unseen to since the incident. Cipriano caught up to him at the post and they both laughed at some unknown joke. All around, signs of life proceeding obliviously. If it wasn't so wonderful, it would be depressing.

It was familiar, the understanding that death existed in the midst of life. Here, though, in his son's bedroom, memories haunted.

Scott squirmed, trying to find a comfortable position without bending at the hips. He leaned plank-like against his pillows and Murdoch bit back a smile.

After a minute, Scott shrugged, shifted himself onto his side to accommodate his discomfort. "Is a few head of cattle worth almost dying?"

Murdoch's brows crooked together. "Not in my estimation."

The quiet stretched a little and Scott's hand crept across his chest, across the white bandages. "But then you're the owner of said cattle. I wonder if the risk was worth it to Tommy Harwood?"

"I can imagine—." He might have continued, but both were distracted by a squeak of wooden flooring in the hallway.

Murdoch took a deep breath as though that might help, and moved to the bureau with dishes in hand when Johnny came into the room.

Johnny took his concentration from the bed for a minute, ignored Murdoch, and hooked the chair rung with one leg, swinging into it with more gusto than was strictly necessary. Masking. Murdoch knew he'd just come from town.

"The trial is set for next week and Val said the circuit judge reads the Old Testament every night." At Scott's look he continued, "An eye for an eye."

"Bet they weren't counting on that," Scott concluded.

"Still holding out, brother? You can forgive an awful lot."

"I'm in favor of jail over execution."

"You're something." Johnny said it seriously, meant for it to be taken seriously. Murdoch glanced over, watched as Scott kept very still.

"I didn't do a damn thing except get your attention." Scott gestured with one hand and Johnny looked away.

"I figured that out, thanks." He said it too fast, perhaps thinking of that night.

Scott shook his head, but Johnny stepped into the breach with both feet.

"You get to do that once," he warned, and held up a finger.

Scott's lips pressed together, a deep mark between his eyebrows. "I'd do it again, given the same circumstances." He retreated, fingered the worn edge of the blue-checked blanket. Then snuck a glance at Johnny, but wasn't quick enough. Johnny was staring. And now Scott stared back.

There was silence, anger maybe. They were too full. It was still too much, for the both of them. Then Scott looked down at his hands, as he often did, with a dangerous half-smile that said he was thinking far too much. He tried to ease himself off the bed, frowned when Johnny caught the book in one hand before it tumbled to the floor.

Murdoch stepped out of the shadows from the bureau, cleared his throat.

Hackles lowered, Scott pressed back into his pillow while Johnny settled into his chair. A détente of sorts.

"I wonder what it was like, planning it," Scott mused. "Why Lancer? Did we say something to Tommy that made him think it was a good idea?"

Johnny made a noise, not quite a question. But interested.

Scott continued, sufficiently encouraged. "Did they think about the consequences?"

The downstairs clock groaned out seven bells while Scott waited, but Johnny was thinking about it.

Finally, he said, "Maybe they did, most likely not. In too much of a hurry to get the job done. Shit like that – you can figure on what might happen, do it anyway. Probably thought they were safe. Maybe they even had fun, taking a few cattle for fresh meat, and then all back to normal. Home again."

Home. Murdoch considered the ranch, because it was easy: you stayed and you worked the land, the animals, the men and got someplace. That ceased to exist when Scott was wounded. Had set brother against brother, in a way.

"You know," and Murdoch heard the weary in Scott's voice again, almost leaden this time, sleep perhaps not far away. "I'd be happy not to find any more trouble for a long while."

And although Johnny seconded the feeling, those words struck Murdoch as odd, because all they seemed to do was find trouble: Pardee, the Strykers, Foley. One day, it would come again. He'd always kept his eye on the future before and now the future worried him. He wondered if it worried his sons, if they even planned beyond their next day, and Murdoch thought maybe after what they'd all been through he'd earned the right to ask.

But Scott's head was tipped to the side in sleep, so he gathered up the dishes, tapped Johnny on the shoulder and slipped out the door.

 





~end~
10/2013

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