The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Buckskin

 

 

Grace's Legacy

Sequel to Forever and Always (read that first!). No beta, all mistakes are mine.

Dedicated to Dot

The days were getting warmer. And he was glad. Having grown up in Mexico, the hot temperatures never bothered him, but the problem was, he wasn’t in Mexico anymore. The California spring weather had a bite and often left Johnny Madrid Lancer chilled and miserable. But even as he shivered in his coat, Johnny was learning to find a bright side, the positive that lived in almost every circumstance, if you took the time to find it. It was becoming a natural thing to do. He didn’t have to think about it anymore. And he knew why. She was still with him, and he set great pleasure and happiness in the fact she always would be.

Grace Cooper had been a neighbor, a neighbor who was not only a kind and thoughtful woman, she was the first to accept Johnny’s return to the valley as a positive thing and welcomed the Madrid part of him with open arms. Acceptance was something not usually offered to Madrid. But Grace welcomed him as if he had been a cherished loved one, a gift, treasured, lost and now found. He was a boy neglected and abused by another’s short-sighted and selfish ways but now returned. And he grew to love Grace as a dear friend and confidant.

Johnny had no idea how many hours the two of them sat in that porch swing, discussing and solving problems. Be it local issues or problems affecting California or the country, and they had figured out many solutions over the last year. But to get anyone to listen, well, that was another problem. One they never got to talk over. Grace had passed away, leaving Johnny heartbroken and grieving. Her death settled heavily around his heart, and he had doubts he would ever get over it.

She would visit him in his dreams, and when he woke to a new day, it was as if she was there with him to share in whatever came his way. The bright, warm sunlight wrapped him in Grace’s ethereal embrace, and he could physically feel her touch as she hugged him, filling him with happiness he’d never experienced before.

And he fought against the days where he felt the grief begin to build. The smothering clouds that would sneak in to push away the sun and pull him down. But after the second ‘attack’, Grace had had enough. Suddenly she was there with her challenge, saying, Are you going to waste this perfectly good day? Are you going to give up the fight and let it knock you down and walk all over you? Well, you’d better think twice about that, Johnny Madrid Lancer, because I’m right here beside you and you’re going to fight it! You’re going to fight, and I’ll be with you all the way! I’ll be here forever and always! Johnny felt a jolt through his body. He heard a voice when no one was there. And, indeed, there had been a voice. It was Grace.

It had only happened once and was as if she stood toe to toe, and dared him to allow himself to be paralyzed, swept away to flounder when there was so much wonder and beauty around him. Johnny remembered standing alone, and he smiled, smiled through tears of gratitude, and once more, thanked God for blessing him with Grace’s friendship.

<><><><> 

The day had grown warmer as it stretched into afternoon. And as he sat on Barranca’s strong back, he leaned forward, resting his arms on the saddlehorn. Johnny watched the new calves as they ran and played under their mother’s watchful eyes. Gazing skyward, he saw a hawk as it spiraled higher and higher on the thermals, heralding to the sun, welcoming its life-giving glory; it was a thing of beauty, and Johnny found himself reveling in the afternoon.

Since Grace entered his life, Johnny found himself more aware of the… what would Father Montero call ‘em? Oh, yeah, blessings, that was it, blessings. Soothing sounds, crickets, the crackle of a campfire, water tumbling over rocks in a stream, and of course, Barranca’s soft whinny. And where Johnny possessed an inherent affinity for all things in nature, it was changed. It was enhanced. The mountains held a majesty he had not remembered; the fields of poppies seemed brighter than they did last year. All because of Grace. Whistling contentedly, he started for home.

As the days grew longer, the sweet breezes caressed his face, and Johnny couldn’t help but think of Grace. She seemed to be everywhere; he saw her in the new grass that covered the meadows and pastures. She was in the clouds that brought the rains to make things grow and most definitely saw her in the rainbows that kissed the land and everything on it after the storms passed. He welcomed her spirit and felt the comfort that was distinctly her, and it was like nothing he’d ever felt before. There was no name for it, no description to define it. It was just grace. Grace’s grace.

But it was there for him whenever he should need it. Her loss was, and forever would be, more than he could navigate alone. However, with her ethereal presence, her guidance would eventually see him through and left him sufficiently chastised with a ‘Stop with this nonsense, this rubbish!’ and sometimes he would laugh, knowing that she was, again, watching over him.

Grace had profoundly touched his life. He smiled as he vividly remembered the first time, after her passing, that she came to see him in a dream. She appeared as clearly as if she was sitting with him on the swing, and she turned her bright gray eyes to his. She fixed him with the knowing smile she always wore and began to speak.

“There is nothing different, son. The sun will rise every day. The birds sing, and the rain will still make rainbows. The cows will break through the fence, and you will have to round them up. And I will be there, only this time, it will be better. I will be here!” Grace reached over to place a gentle hand on his heart. “You won’t have to wait to come to my house to see me. I’ll already be with you, Johnny.”

<><><><> 

Making good on his promise, he went to the cemetery, where he cared for the graves of Duncan and Grace Cooper. Clearing away the dead leaves, branches, and other debris from the long winter months, Johnny trimmed any overgrown grass and washed the headstones. Teresa sent flowers from the Lancer garden for Johnny to plant, creating a welcoming space, a place for comfort.

Grace had loved flowers, and Johnny could feel her happiness when he finished, patting the earth around the stems, then watered the plants, assuring their growth. Stepping away and looking at the graves, now neat and cared for, he was suddenly aware of a warm breeze on his face as if a caress to his cheek. She was there again, and the thought made a smile grow across his lips.

Everywhere he looked, wherever he went, Grace Cooper was there. She helped him through the difficult times he faced and enjoyed the peaceful times with him, too. A sunset, a close inspection of the frost as the pristine crystals sparkled in the morning sun or gazing at the nighttime stars; she was there. Even though she was no longer of this earth, Johnny could feel her with him, she was there, forever and always.

<><><><> 

The night was peaceful, and he stretched his back, producing a loud, satisfying crack. The walk from the barn to the hacienda seemed long, but Johnny took a minute to look up. The velvet sky was alight with the dancing, cheerful stars. He couldn’t go in, not yet. Wandering onto the patio, he stopped under the orange tree. The tree where Grace’s swing swayed in the breeze. He’d taken from her porch after she passed, he couldn’t bear for it to be sold with the house. He’d replaced it with another but brought Grace’s swing to Lancer. And when he had the chance, such as this beautiful night, Johnny would sit for a moment and just ‘be’.

He knew she was watching him, and he would smile as he remembered their times together on her porch. The talks they had, the time spent just swinging gently with no conversation and the laughter they would eventually share. He would never forget it. But most of all, Johnny thought about the things she’d done for him, even without her knowing. Grace Cooper had been instrumental in Johnny’s acceptance of himself, of Madrid. She enabled him to see another side of Madrid. Helped him to love Madrid. And that it was alright to do it. Nothing he could have done for her could ever repay her. Oh, rubbish, Johnny!  He laughed out loud and watched the stars bless the night.

“Te amo, Grace! Forever an’ always!”

 

 

~ end ~
March 2020

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