The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Buckskin

 

 

The Night
Observing Things Challenge response

Ain’t goin’ home, uh-uh, not tanight. Ain’t puttin’ up with the ol’ man’s yellin’ at me. He got a burr under his saddle lately an’ I ain’t gonna let ‘im take everything that’s botherin’ ‘im out on me. Nope, not tanight. So, Johnny Madrid Lancer would spend the night on the hard, cold ground in the chill… and welcome it.

The fire crackled and popped as the sparks raced into the dark velvet sky only to fade to nothingness and lose their challenge with the superior stars. Heat from the flames began to chase away some of the chill and ease the aches that resulted from a long and difficult day. With hot coffee in hand, soothing and satisfying, Johnny leaned against his saddle and listened to the night.

The soft whisper of the breeze through the pines in a duet with the chirping crickets calmed the troubled and unsettled thoughts that had plagued him for days now. Johnny smiled a bit as he felt the comfort of his surroundings seep into his mind and body, the comfort that only the night could provide. A light rustle off to his right indicated a small rodent rooting around for a snack. Johnny grinned. Bet he ain’t got any troubles with his ol’ man! He sighed and looked to the stars as they teased and winked with sassy spunk and as he gazed upward, a star broke loose of the tether that had held it and streaked across the heavens with a long and fiery tail.

Johnny smirked. “Hey, Barranca? Don’t that just remind ya a Murdoch this mornin’? Could a swore that same fire was shootin’ outta his eyes!” Barranca ignored the remark and continued to crop the grass.

A full moon crept up behind the pines casting flickers of silver light through the swaying branches. The trees silhouetted against the sky reminded Johnny of silent guardians standing watch, keeping him safe from the night.

Coyotes howled in the distant valley singing their lonely song and were soon joined with the mellow hoot of an owl. Johnny poured another cup of coffee and began to settle into his bedroll as he absorbed the purity of the music. He watched the steam from his cup as it swirled around and up into the cold air to fade away.  Johnny sagged against his saddle then gave in to the fatigue that tugged at his weary body, and he slept.

The low, rolling thunder roused him from sleep. Still far enough away and muffled between the mountains, it quickly reverberated through the granite rocks and cliffs becoming increasingly louder. Johnny pushed his hat from his face and saw heavy clouds that glowed and dimmed with muted lightning flashes within the thick billows. Then, finally, a bright, wicked flash scratched across the shy. The lethal skeletal fingers clawed to pierce the clouds and release the rain held in their depths.

“That a sign, Barranca? Think the ol’ man’s gonna be shootin’ lightnin’ like that at me when I get home? Sometimes that’s what he acts like… a big ol’ storm.” Barranca snorted, and Johnny huffed. “Yeah, I know.”

Leaning to his side, Johnny picked up a piece of firewood intending on throwing it onto the smoldering fire but held it in his hands. He stared at the coals as they changed their color, glowing bright red then changed to darker shades as the air currents cooled them, then once again, the heat grew, and the bright red appeared. It put him in mind of the tiny lizards he chased as a boy to watch them change color as they tried to blend in with their surroundings, tried to hide.

Shaking free of thoughts that had the tendency to lead him into places he would rather avoid, he looked up at the approaching storm. Absently he rubbed his thumb over the heavy stick in his hand. It was worn smooth after years lying on the ground, weathered from season after season of heat and cold, wet and drought. Johnny tossed it onto the coals and flames sparked to life lapping at the dry wood,  devouring it hungrily, charring it black as the end glowed red with flickering embers.

Sighing, Johnny retrieved the old pocket watch that Murdoch had given him when he ‘d first arrived at Lancer. The timepiece, worn smooth with age, felt comforting in his hand. It felt like a connection to something far away, a tether to… what exactly? He gently opened the watch and saw it was just after four. No sense in goin’ back ta sleep now… he thoughtas he hauled himself upright and stretched. The movement eased the tightness across his shoulders that had settled in during the chill of the night. He sighed again and got to his feet.

The storm was getting closer. The rolling thunder had given way to loud crashes that pounded against the granite range of rock. With renewed vigor, lightning exploded not only in the volatile sky but down to the boulders of the earth and tree covered valleys. Not taking time for coffee, Johnny broke his camp, saddled Barranca and headed for home.

Barranca sensed their destination and picked up his pace knowing that a safe, warm barn awaited him, but Johnny was in no hurry to get to the estancia and possibly pick up where he and Murdoch left off. Goin’ from one storm to another. Maybe I shoulda kept on movin’ after Pardee… But then Johnny had to smile. Had he left the ranch as he originally intended, he would have never had known Scott.

With only two miles to go before he would ride under the adobe Lancer arch, he watched the moon lose its brightness in the rapidly approaching rolling clouds. A light rain began to fall and dampen not only his clothes but his spirit. Murdoch. How would he handle this storm?

Tendrils of fog drifted up from the ground looking much like ghostly fingers in search of an unwary victim. But as the rain fell, it washed away those beastly traps and put Johnny in mind of a life-giving need, a source of a new beginning and the image of his Boston-bred brother filled his heart. Scott, the brother that was like a quenching, sustaining rain after a drought. The chill of the wet and damp eased, and a warmth grew where, as of just minutes ago, was turmoil, dissension.  Murdoch, turmoil and Scott, consolation and comfort.

Lights were on in the hacienda as Johnny came from the barn. He stopped briefly before entering the house and renewed the boiling of the tempest within. He saw that weather still raged over the mountains, cold and violent. Outside an’ inside…

He heard the massive wooden door behind him open and a minute later, a warm and solid hand reached out to settle on his shoulder. Johnny turned, half expecting to resume their differences out in the rain, but as his sight fell on his father, Johnny watched the pale blue eyes as the fire died and warmth and relief grew instead. A strong arm encircled his shoulders.

“Come inside; we need to be out of the rain. I was worried, son.”

 

 

~ end ~

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