The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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FBustin' Broncs And Other Critters

The little girl stomped angrily across the floor of the front porch and hopped down to the dusty ground two steps below. With determined strides, the girl angled across the hard, dirt packed yard to the corral beside the huge horse barn. She climbed up to the top of the six-foot high wooden fence to perch on the very top rail. Placing one booted foot on the inside of the fence and the other on the outside, she straddled the thick board without too much trouble balancing that high above the ground. Propping her trembling chin in her hand, she gazed out across the backs of the newly rounded up wild horses that milled uncertainly within the corral. One particular tobiano paint caught her eye and she slowly raised her head as her deep blue eyes followed the filly around the corral.

“He’s mean,” Angelina muttered beneath her breath as she continued to watch the small horse moving on the periphery of the herd of fifteen horses. “I know I could train ‘em, just like he can.” Her lower lip protruded in a full-out pout and Angelina finally dropped her eyes from the paint filly to look down at the dusty ground beneath her. “It ain’t fair.”

“What ain’t fair?”

Jelly Hoskins gravely voice startled Angelina. She jerked her head up as soon as he spoke and would have tumbled headfirst into the corral of restless horses, if not for Jelly’s quick thinking and swift hands grabbing her around the waist.

“Hey, there, Pipsqueak! Whaddya think yer a’doin’?” He groused as he pulled the resisting child from the fence rail and set her on her feet in front of him, both hands on her small shoulders as he knew from past experience how fast the little girl could run. “Now, what’s this about fair?”

“Nothin’, Jelly. It ain’t nothin’,” Angelina muttered in frustration at having been caught, again, near the horses that her father had implicitly told her to keep away from. She dropped her eyes and her head followed suit, until all Jelly saw was the dark brunet head, the curls waving softly in the hot, sultry breeze.

“It have somethin’ to do with yer pa not wantin’ ya to get near them horses, girl?” Jelly demanded with a gentle shake of his hands on her shoulders. His old, weary eyes darted away from the top of Angelina’s head to see the wild-eyed look in most of the horse’s eyes. “Honey, them horses would just as soon stomp ya in the ground as look at ya.” Slipping his right hand away from Angelina’s shoulder, Jelly placed two gnarled fingers beneath her trembling chin and lifted her head until she could look at him. “Yer daddy’s right, sweetheart. Until he can get some of the wild worked outta ‘em, you ain’t got no right even sittin’ up there on that fence.”

“Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me?” The girl spat as she wrenched herself out of Jelly’s grasp and took off across the yard to disappear into the dark coolness of the barn.

“Does seem that way, don’t it, darlin’?” Jelly murmured as he swept his cap from atop his nearly bald head and scratched at the fringe of white hair remaining over his left ear.

“What seems that way, Jelly?” Johnny Lancer asked quietly, a broad smile covering his face as his blue eyes sparkled with laughter at catching the old handyman talking to himself again.

Jumping in fright at being caught unaware, Jelly took his cap and slapped Johnny on the shoulder a couple of times, suppressing the grin when Johnny cringed fearfully and threw his hands up as if to ward off the harsh blows. They both knew that the old man wouldn’t hurt a flea, but appearances were everything.

“DADBURN IT, JOHNNY LANCER!” Jelly yelped as he dropped the hand wielding his cap to his side and glared at his friend. “You ain’t got no right sneakin’ up on a body like that. Ya hear me? Give a whistle next time, boy!”

Johnny’s smile, if possible, grew broader as he moved forward and dropped a companionable arm over Jelly’s thin shoulders and gave the old man a gentle, loving squeeze. “Ah, come on, Jelly. You know your hearin’ is goin’. Why I’d have to shoot my pistol as a warnin’ in order for you to hear, which would bring half the ranch hands and Murdoch runnin’ to see what all the fracas was about.” Shaking his head sadly, Johnny reached up with his hand and gently ruffled the fringe of white hair running around the back of Jelly’s head. “You’d better put that cap back on, old man, or else you’ll be askin’ Maria for some of her aloe lotion!”

As nimbly as a gazelle, Johnny quickly danced out of Jelly’s reach, his laughter ringing out when the hat-weapon came up and swatted at him again.

“Ah, get on outta here, ya danged laughin’ hyena,” Jelly grumbled, completely forgetting about Angelina and her near tumble into the corral of wild horses. “Ain’t ya got nothin’ better to do than harass me?”

“Now, since you put it that way,” Johnny drawled out slowly, the sparkles in his eyes glittering more with good humor. “I’m gonna start workin’ on those ponies there.” He threw a thumb over his shoulder to indicate the horses shifting nervously in the corral, every eye on the two men on the other side of the fence.

“Well, then what’re ya doin’ pesterin’ me?” Jelly snapped as he stomped off toward the barn trying to remember why he was headed that way in the first place.

Johnny’s smile quickly faded as he watched his friend disappear into the darkness of the barn. Jelly was getting on in years and Johnny had discovered that the old man was getting very forgetful in his old age. It wasn’t that big of an issue, but Johnny was concerned nonetheless.

Dropping his chin to his chest, Johnny hooked his thumbs in the waistband of his pants and stared down at the dust beneath his boots and noted the small boot prints leading toward the barn, Jelly’s boots overlaying them. Suspicion sent Johnny forward as he tracked the smaller set of prints.

Upon entering the barn, the tracks became harder to follow due to the darkness within and the churned up ground inside.

“Angelina?” Johnny called out, his voice reaching into the dark recesses of the barn with no problem. “I’m giving you to the count of three to get out here.” His eyes adjusted quickly to the darkness, Johnny searched the interior, though he didn’t move closer. It was a power play, one that he wasn’t going to lose.


There was no movement, not even a swish of a horse’s tail to indicate that another soul was in the barn, but Johnny knew better.


A tiny sound, that of a wisp of straw against denim, caught his straining ear and Johnny suppressed the smile that tugged at a corner of his lip.


“All right! All right! I’m comin’! I’m comin’!”

Looking like a prisoner being led to the gallows, Angelina’s little face appeared at the top of the ladder leading into the loft, her expression dour and hangdog as she carefully climbed down each rung. When her booted feet touched the floor of the barn, she turned to confront Johnny.

“I didn’t do nothin’!” She exclaimed vehemently, though her eyes wouldn’t connect with the man standing with his arms crossed over his chest and barring the entrance. “Don’t care what Jelly told ya. I didn’t do it.”

“Over here, Lina,” Johnny demanded, his eyes narrowed now at finding out that Jelly had omitted telling him something that had obviously occurred, something possibly dangerous enough that Angelina felt she had to lie. Pointing a finger to the space directly in front of him, Johnny waited a bit impatiently for the girl to comply. “And Jelly didn’t say anything to me.”

Walking slowly down the aisle to come to a stop where indicated, Angelina kept her head down and her eyes averted, knowing that she was in big trouble now that she realized she had stuck her foot in her mouth. When Johnny didn’t say anything after several moments, Angelina slowly raised her head to look up at him and unbidden tears filled her eyes as soon as she saw the disappointment on his face.

“You care to tell me what’s goin’ on, Lina?” He asked quietly, his blue eyes studying the girl closely, as if to assure himself that she had come to no harm.

“No, Papa,” Angelina muttered with a shake of her head of curls, her blue eyes, identical to her father’s, solemn and tear filled. “I really wouldn’t care to tell ya.”

He had to bite the inside of his cheek to hold the laughter at bay, but knew that his eyes had to be reflecting it. Where’s that Johnny Madrid mask when I need it, he thought to himself as he raised his eyes to look up at the tall ceiling above them in order to keep his little daughter from seeing that he was about to lose it.

“Well, whether you care to or not, young lady, you will tell me what happened,” Johnny told her grimly, having found the Madrid mask buried somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind and quickly cloaking himself with its protection from this little girl’s wiles.

“I-I didn’t mean t-to, Papa,” Angelina stammered out, never before having to face her father when he was so mad. Her body began to tremble and one lone tear trailed over the bounds of her lashes and streaked down her dusty cheek. “I-I’m sorry, Papa. I-I won’t do it again.”

It was more than Johnny Lancer could stand, much less Johnny Madrid. Dropping to one knee, Johnny held open his arms and grunted slightly when his daughter launched her little body against his chest, her small arms practically strangling him in the process of holding on tight around his neck. Hugging her close, Johnny gained his feet and moved to a stack of hay bales against the wall and sat down with Angelina clinging to him like a monkey.

Smoothing his hand down the back of her head and fingering the end of the long braided ponytail hanging down her back, Johnny breathed in the sweet scent of innocent youth that clung to her. Cuddling her close, he nuzzled the riot of curls that had escaped the bonds of her braid and kissed the top of her head as she wrapped her legs around his waist as if she would never let go.

“Lina,” he murmured softly in her ear when it appeared that the little girl was drifting off to sleep in his arms. “Honey, look at me.” He waited for a few seconds and then was rewarded with a glimpse of the same color blue eyes that stared back at him every morning in his mirror. “You know that you should never tell a lie. That one lie just leads to another and another, and then you have a hard time figuring out which lie you told to whom.”

“Yes, Papa,” Angelina agreed, her voice shaky with the knowledge that she had disappointed her father, the man that she loved above all others. “I’m sorry.”

“Tell me what you’re sorry about, Lina,” he coaxed, and though he was fairly certain what her confession would be, he was still shocked by her admission.

“I-I climbed up on the corral fence and nearly fell in,” she said miserably ashamed, though she bravely maintained eye contact with her father.

“Oh, honey,” Johnny cried out, his mind envisioning his little girl’s body being trampled beneath the hooves of the wild horses and tears filled his eyes at the thought. Dragging her close in a tight embrace at what could have been, his breath accelerated until he sounded as if he had raced from Morro Coyo to Lancer. Dropping his forehead down onto Angelina’s small shoulder, he couldn’t seem to shake that image of her falling beneath the hooves of those horses from his mind. It was several minutes later that he realized his daughter was struggling in his arms and calling desperately out to him.

“PAPA! You’re squashin’ me! I can’t breathe!” She pushed against his chest with her small hands and he finally realized how close he was holding her, trying to protect her from those images in his mind.

“Lo siento, querida mia,” Johnny whispered as he relaxed his hold and held her loosely on his lap.

Squirming around a bit, Angelina finally settled back against Johnny’s chest, her small head fitting neatly beneath his chin as she hugged his arms around her small waist, her legs hanging down on either side of her father’s.

“Papa?” Her voice was soft, curious.

“Yes?” Johnny answered just as softly, his chin propped gently atop her head as he reveled in the closeness.

“I love you, Papa,” Angelina told him as she tugged his arms closer around her little body, her own arms wrapping over them as far as she could reach.

A sudden lump in Johnny’s throat prevented him from answering right away, and he had to swallow convulsively in order to rid his throat of the lump that seemed lodged there indefinitely. Finally he was able to draw in a breath and answer her.

“I love you more, Lina, ‘cause I’m bigger.”

She sighed contentedly as she turned her head slightly in order to lay her ear over her father’s chest and listen to his heart and its reassuring thumping. Soon Angelina was sound asleep, her arms sliding off Johnny’s to dangle loosely by her side.

Shifting his precious bundle in his arms, Johnny lifted her up against his chest and walked slowly from the barn toward the house. Maybe tomorrow I’ll show her how the gentling process begins, Johnny thought to himself as he walked inside the hacienda to carry his daughter up to her bed for her mid-afternoon nap.


August 22, 2007

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