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Son, Have You Been Drinking?

Special thanks to Bobby for a few suggestions
Thanks to Cat for the beta. Great job, as usual!
Usual disclaimers

He'd been waiting for hours now, wanting to catch them in the act; he knew what they were up to. It was nothing really bad; he just was curious as what their reply would be. He was reasonably certain, but he just wanted to make sure. And then he heard what could only be his youngest son coming in the back door. It slammed shut sounding as if the hacienda was being torn apart or under attack by unknown assailants in the still of the late night hours.

“SSSssshhhhhhh! Ya wanna w-wake up E-E-Everyone?” The whisper intending to hush the noise was louder than the actual noise. An extra “ssshhhhhhh” was issued when a chair scraped across the tile kitchen floor with a “son-of-a-bitch” as he bumped into it. Rowels jingled with each unsteady step as Johnny lurched to the foot of the stairs as Murdoch called out to him.

“Son, have you been drinking?”

Johnny stopped dead in his tracks, swaying precariously, but thinking if he stood very still he would blend in with the furniture and not be seen.

Hiding his laugh, Murdoch tried again. “Johnny?”

Nu uh, wasn’t hearin’ stuff….He’s here! Johnny thought as he turned, in his mind, smoothly around, but Murdoch held his breath when Johnny started to lean to the right, teetered but gathered his balance and straightened up. “Huh?”

Murdoch was desperately holding back the smile that threatened to give him away. So, he asked again. “I asked if you’d been drinking….” He stared straight into Johnny’s eyes that suddenly opened wide, trying their best to look innocent.

“M-Me?... N-Nope,” belch, “…’course not… But S-Scott was, an’ we… We gotta be care-careful…” Johnny stuttered.

Now, Murdoch gave a hint of a smile. “Oh? Why do you have to be careful, Johnny?” Murdoch wondered if this was the sort of thing that he’d missed out on all the years his sons were growing up away from his guidance and influence.

“Cuz… we d-don’t want ya ta find out… S-Scott said so. B’sides, don’t w-want cha ta be p-pissed… oops! S-Sorry Murd-doch didn’t mean ta- ta s-swear… Know howww ya don like it m-much…”

Murdoch couldn't help himself -- after all this was definitely humorous… As long as it didn’t happen very often. Listening to Johnny stretch the truth, no, listening to the complete untruths was ammunition for Murdoch. He would be able to use this later. This was just so amusing. It’s hard to believe that this is the feared Johnny Madrid that I am talking to.
“Johnny, where’s your brother?” Murdoch kept up the questioning as he watched a side of Johnny that he’d not seen before. Again, Johnny’s eyes went wide, almost in a state of confusion.

“S-Scott? Where is he?” Johnny repeated the question. “Ahhhhhhhh, for-forgot…” The vacant deep blue eyes looked up at the ceiling then he snapped his fingers, or tried to. He couldn’t get them to work in sync, over and over he rubbed them against each other without success before he muttered: "S-Shit, broke ‘em…”

"Johnny?" Murdoch harrumphed, and Johnny looked up from his bumbling fingers

“Huh?” belch, “Oops, s-sor-ry, what?”

Murdoch could only shrug; this could be a very long night… he thought as he watched his youngest son still trying to work the snap out of his uncooperative digits. Alright, let’s try this one more time…

“Johnny, where is your brother?” Murdoch asked and was met with a blank stare.

“Scott? Ya mean that brother?" Johnny asked as if the question needed to be clearer. "Oh, he's in the ba-barn." And he awarded Murdoch with an attempt at his most charming smile.

“The barn? Scott’s in the barn?”

“Uh huh, barnnn,” Getting’ through ta the Ol’ Man now, he finally understands where Scott’s at…

Warming to the game and keeping it going as long as Johnny could stand it, Murdoch continued with his questions. “What is he doing in the barn?”

“Wellll -hic-, he’s ah, he’s sittin’ on his hor-se, kinda, ‘e’s t-tellin’ ‘is h-hor-se a story like h-his G-granfffffather tol’ ‘im w-when ‘e w-was a k-kidddd, yammmmmerin’ alla w-way home ‘bout a f-fuckin’ s-stor-ry,” then rushed to say, “Murdoch, I think I need ta goooo ta b-bed…” he sagged against the wall as his knees gave way and he slid to the floor, hat tumbled from his head to land in his lap.

 Murdoch rose from his comfortable chair and went to his son. Thinking Johnny was safe enough where he had crumpled in a heap, so Murdoch turned and made his way to the barn to rescue his oldest son.

Striking a match and lighting the lantern cast a warm yellow glow as the interior of the barn became visible. Murdoch went to Scott’s horse standing in his stall patiently waiting for the human on his back to finally dismount. Murdoch touched Scott’s shoulder. “Scott, Scott!”

“Huh?” came the muffled reply, since his face was buried in the mane.

“Son, have you been drinking?” Murdoch asked in the same patient tones as when he talked to Johnny.

Scott opened blurry eyes, and with a lopsided grin, he answered his father. “Nope… but John-Johnny has…”

Yes, this would definitely be a very long night… Murdoch sighed deeply; he reached up to take his oldest son in his arms and gently ease him from the saddle. A slight giggle burbled from slack lips as Murdoch made contact with Scott’s waist; apparently and unbeknownst to Murdoch, Scott was ticklish. The fumbling hands attempted to push away at the strong, firm grip supporting him and not realizing that if that support pulled away, he would end up lying in six inches of straw. Murdoch did not relinquish the hold he had on his son. Another giggle, slightly louder than the last, echoed in the silence of the night followed by a groan.

“J-John-ny? Better nnnot w-wake up M-Murd-doch! Hafta be quiet, ya knowww, can’t let ‘im seeee us…”

“It’s too late for that, son, I’ve seen you both!” Murdoch couldn’t help but smile at the antics of his boys. They all had a lot of time to make up for, and this sort of thing was part of the package, as long as it didn’t happen too often.

The task of retrieving Scott out of the saddle was easier said than done. As Murdoch attempted to help Scott, he battled not only his son’s hands swatting away the grip on his waist, but Scott’s foot tangled in the stirrup leaving Scott balancing on one leg. The resistance on his trapped boot set Scott into a panic as he hopped desperately trying to maintain balance but failing miserably as he elbowed Murdoch in the face with flailing arms.

“It’s got m-me! -JJohnny! S-shoot it! It’s got m-my f-foot! Whe-re’s John –nnny when I n-need ‘im? H-help! I…. it’s ….my f-foot! S-s-shoot…. it!” Barely able to stand Scott danced in a precarious jig around the stall while Murdoch struggled with the stirrup that securely held his elder son's foot in its ‘deadly jaws'. Without Scott's cooperation, Murdoch knew they could be here all night, and he'd had enough.

“SCOTT! Now stand still!" he issued in the most authoritative tone he could muster. "Scott! Do you hear me?"

The struggles ceased for a minute as Scott grabbed for the stability of the saddle to steady himself and shook his head… that was a mistake. A long groan escaped from deep in Scott's throat, and then nothing as the captured foot fell into the straw.

“Scott?” Murdoch waited for an answer but heard only deep breathing. “Scott? Can you help me or am I going to have to carry you?” The statement was said in jest and not expecting an answer now as Murdoch grappled with his lanky son only stopping as Scott’s eyes opened to a small slit.

"Carry me," was issued in a soft n his most childlike voice, and Murdoch struggled for control, wanting nothing more than to howl with laughter. With Scott's arms wrapped around his neck, Murdoch scooped up his son, all six feet one inch of him, and carried him into the house.

Although Scott was slender, he was heavier than he looked and Murdoch had been thankful to get across the yard and into the house without dropping him. The trip through the kitchen did not go without incident as Scott’s foot caught on a chair and dragged it over the tiles, creating the same loud interruption that Johnny caused.

“Sshhhhhh!” Meant as a commanded but failing miserably, Scott mumbled through slack lips. “Ya w-wanna w-wake up Mmmur-doch? Nowwww q-quiet!”

“Yes, son, I know, we need to be quiet and not wake anyone. Everyone is sleeping.” Murdoch, now panting as he made his way to the stairs, sincerely hoped that Johnny was still there in a heap slumped up against the wall. Rounding the corner and seeing his youngest still where he’d slid to the floor, Murdoch sighed in relief, relief until, as he walked past Johnny, Scott’s limp hand knocked Johnny in the middle of his forehead interrupting his slumber. Murdoch held his breath as he saw Johnny’s eyes slit open and hoped that Madrid would not put in an appearance and pull out his pistol. But luck was on Murdoch’s side as Johnny recognized Scott in their father’s arms and he grinned.

“T-toldja Scott was d-drinkin’….. Hey, S-Scott, ya b-better nnnot w-wake up Mur-d-doch, kay? SSHHHHH!” Johnny said as he tried to pull his feet under him. Murdoch, alarmed that Johnny would try to follow, sternly issued an order for Johnny to stay where he was. “I’ll be right back as soon as I get Scott to bed! Stay there, Johnny!” But Johnny was not about to let his brother disappear up the stairs without him.

“Hey! W-wherrre ya t-takin’ S-scotttt? Scott! C’monnn b-back h-h-here!” Reaching out, Johnny looped an arm around Murdoch’s leg and held on as the old man, with one son in his arms and the other holding his leg in a death grip as Murdoch stumbled and almost went to the floor.

“W-waitttt! Gotta s-see Scott-tt! Sccott, don’t t-tellll!” Johnny mumbled, slurring his words.

“Johnny! Let go! You’re going to make me fall with your brother…!” He dragged Johnny for a short distance and stopped. Trying to shake his leg free of one son’s tenacious hold as he desperately kept the other son’s long legs and torso from slipping out of his arms, he finally broke Johnny’s bear-trap grasp. As quickly as he could, Murdoch navigated the stairs and deposited Scott on his bed. Scott groaned as Murdoch tried to stand, but his older son did not release his hold from around Murdoch’s neck, successfully trapping him in a bent position. His back screamed in protest.

“Son, let go, I have to go get your brother before he hurts himself on the stairs!” Murdoch pleaded, but Scott would have no part in the deception.

“J-john-nnnny’s drunk. Let ‘im sleep it offffff.” Then suddenly, “Murdoch?”

“Yes, Scott, what is it?” Murdoch sincerely hoped Scott was not about to be sick. Scott turned half opened eyes to him.

“R-read me a s-stor-ry?” Alright, this is getting ridiculous… Apparently, Scott thinks he's still with his grandfather… And it was then he heard a noise coming from the stairs. Oh, no! Johnny’s trying to make it up here, that boy will break his neck!  

Murdoch swiftly disengaged Scott’s arms around his neck as he made his way out into the hall and to the top of the stairs, to see Johnny crawling on hands and knees up the steps.

“Johnny! No! Go back down!” A noise behind him came from Scott’s room.

“Murd-doch? W-where are y-you?” Scott called out.

Murdoch looked from Scott's room to the stairs where Johnny struggled to follow, back to Scott's room then back down the stairs. He raised his eyes heavenward, and he sighed deeply. Scott was in bed; Johnny needed him now.

Being the obedient son he was, Johnny started to turn on the stairs, lost his balance and tumbled to the bottom. Murdoch held his breath, but the fall had only been down four steps. Johnny rolled as if boneless to the bottom and a groan issued from him as Murdoch made his way to his youngest son’s side.

Johnny smiled, and a small laugh glided into Murdoch's ears. He looked up the long stairway and thought ‘no’ as he grabbed Johnny under his arms and dragged him to the couch where Johnny had spent many an hour lounging in complete comfort. It would be safe enough for him to spend the night there.

He managed to settle his son on the cushions, slipped the boots off his feet and pulled a blanket over the limp body. Then Murdoch turned into the kitchen to retrieve a slop bucket and set it on the floor next to the sleeping son. Looking down at Johnny, Murdoch thought about how young and innocent he appeared as he slept but then thought about the hangover that would follow him through his day tomorrow. He shook his head. Another chuckle erupted from Johnny as Murdoch heard a slight murmur.

"Ohhhh, b-boy is S-scott gonnnnna b-be in trouble with the ol’ m-man……”

"Murdoch! Story!" The call was weak, but Murdoch knew Scott was awake, and he headed back up the stairs. He suddenly stopped on the risers and listened.

“…..Uh ohhhh. Donnnn’t feel so g-good…..” as an awful retch was issued from the couch and the sounds of a stomach being turned inside out reached his ears. Then, from the room above, the identical sounds of distress, gagging and coughing and, of, course, more retching. Yes, this is going to be a long, long night…



~ end ~

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