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EJ

 

 

Brothers Day

 

 

For the May Holidays and Observances challenge. Brothers Day is May 24

Scott’s POV story. The boys are still new at Lancer, it’s after Pardee.  Johnny’s stitches are removed but he’s not cleared by Sam for anything but light duties.



Scott stood at the large window and watched his younger brother work his beloved horse, Barranca. It never failed to amaze him the skill and grace the young man and his horse exhibited.

“Son?” Scott jumped at the sound of his father’s voice, he hadn’t heard the man come up behind him.

“Just watching Johnny and Barranca,” Scott nodded toward the pair. “They are amazing, its like a dance.”

Murdoch peered over Scott’s shoulder, enjoying the show. “I never expected to Johnny to be…” He cleared his throat, “After what the Pinkerton reports… Well he is not what I expected.”

“My little brother is an enigma.” Scott turned to face his father, “May 24th is Brother’s Day and I have an idea I’d like to suggest.”

“Go on son.” Murdoch wanted to encourage his sons in their new roles as brothers.

*****

“Hey sleepy h…” Scott stopped and raised his hands as he faced his brother’s gun. “Sorry Johnny…”

“Boston…” Johnny growled and lowered his gun to wipe his wrist over his eyes. “Don’t ya know better than to bust into my room.”

Still shaken Scott cautiously moved into the room and dropped into the chair by the bed. This was not the way he had hoped to start the day. Now he wondered would his brother go along with his plan?

“I’m sorry Johnny, I should have knocked first.”

Johnny replaced his gun in the holster and slid to a sitting position facing Scott. “What do ya want?”

“Well, I was hoping we could spend our day off together.” Scott waited, relieved the gun was put away.

“What did ya have in mind?”

“I still don’t know my way around all of Lancer so maybe we can go exploring?” Scott hoped that didn’t sound as lame to Johnny and it did to himself.

Shaking his head, Johnny grinned, “Well, I do know a spot that ya might like...” He started to straighten his back but stopped.

“Oh…” Scott noticed Johnny try to hide the grimace when he stretched. Guess the back wound is still tender.

“Yeah, it’s a warm spring, not as hot as the ones in Mexico, but it sure eases the aches and pains. Ya ever been to one?”

Scott smiled, Johnny obviously had hatched a plan to escape Teresa and Murdoch’s hovering, so this just might work in his favor. “I have and they worked wonders.”

Johnny flashed a Cheshire cat grin.

Scott could almost hear the plotting going on in brother’s head. But while the plan was going his way he wasn’t going to complain. He headed for the door, “I’ll meet you in the kitchen, breakfast is ready.”

Success, part one of his plan was compete.

Once out in the hall he gave a thumbs up to his co-conspirator, a smiling Murdoch.

*****

Scott was surveying the area, he had not explored this part of Lancer and wanted to be sure he could find the spring again. “How much further?”

“See those trees?” Johnny waited for Scott’s nod. “Just beyond them.”

Scott shaded his eyes, “I don’t see a spring.”

Johnny raised in the saddle and pointed, “See the shiny spot.”

Scott squinted then nodded, “Barely.”

“Come on Boston, trust me.”

Little brother is daring me, okay, I’ll show him. “I do trust you, lead on.”

When they entered the shade of the trees Scott sighed in relief not only for the coolness but at the sound of moving water. He stopped next to Johnny, “Never doubted you.” 

“Yeah.” Johnny slid from the saddle, another grimace which Scott chose to ignore.

“Lots of grass for Barranca and Ulysses,” Johnny began removing the saddle and reins. “They won’t wander off.”

Scott dismounted and removed Ulysses tack, patted his faithful mount, and moved to the pond. Bending down he ran his hand through the water. “Not too hot, feels good.”

When he looked up Johnny had stripped down and was headed for the pond. It amazed him that his new brother lacked all modesty. He, himself, was still trying to get used to the informal Western way.

“Are ya just going to stand there or are ya going to get in?” Johnny was waist deep in the warm water and moving toward a large flat rock.

Well, how am I supposed to react to that, cut off long johns or bare? Scott shook his head at the thought of how shocked grandfather would be of nude bathing. Oh well, do as the natives do. Scott shed everything and joined his brother in the warm water.

*****

The spring water had succeeded in relaxing both men and Johnny seemed on the verge of falling asleep.

“Johnny, may I ask you a question?”

Johnny was stretched out on the rock ledge and leaning against a small boulder. The warm water was up to his neck, his eyes closed, and a contented look on his face. “You can ask don’t mean I’ll answer.” There was a coolness to his voice.

Scott wondered if it was Lancer or Madrid answering, he didn’t know his brother well enough to tell? It amazed Scott how Johnny could look like a young kid soaking in the water, then at other times be so dangerous?

Scott cleared his throat, “Did you ever wondered what Murdoch was like, and why he didn’t want us?”

Johnny didn’t even open his eyes, he just shrugged, the water rippling against his shoulders. “Yeah, I guess so.”

Grateful for at least a partial answer, and taking a deep breath he forged ahead.

Scott slid over to share Johnny’s boulder. “Grandfather told me that Murdoch was a big, uneducated, immigrant  who mislead my mother into believing that California was their future utopia.”

“A what?” Johnny turned to look at Scott, the question showing clearly in his expression.

“It’s an imagined place that is perfect, it doesn’t exist.” Well, at least he’s listening.

“Okay.” He turned back and closed his eyes.

Scott continued, “When she realized it wasn’t as expected it was too late. She was pregnant with me and Grandfather was forced to come west to save her. She died when I was born and he took me to Boston to be safe.”

“Where was Murdoch while this was going on?” He didn’t open his eyes or turn toward Scott.

Hmm, where did that question come from. Scott cupped some water and poured it over his face.

“Murdoch was busy at the ranch and mother was going to San Francisco for a doctor.” Now that Scott thought about it, this didn’t sound right. Maybe that was what Johnny was thinking too. A soft voice interrupted his thoughts.

“Don’t make much sense to me. If he was building this place up for you and your mother, why wouldn’t he want ya born on Lancer? Sounds like your abuelo was maybe spreadin’ some lies.”

“Abuelo?”

“Grandfather.”

Scott sighed and rose to a sitting position. “Grandfather said they were living in a ramshackled ranch house and that mother was sick for lack decent food and living conditions.”   

Johnny stayed in his position but opened his eyes and turned his face toward Scott, “Boston, that hacienda is old and not something a gr… anglo would build. Think about what your abuelo was telling ya.”

Scott thought about it for a minute then continued. “So, I grew up knowing my father didn’t care, didn’t want me, and was perfectly happy leaving me in Boston. That is until he needed me.” Scott had realized his grandfather lied about some things after seeing what Lancer really was, but still why leave his son in Boston? He would have to get those answers from Murdoch. So much to think about but now was not the time.

Scott leaned back against the rock, and once settled, “Okay, your turn.” He waited, silence. “So I told you my story, now it your turn to tell me your story.”

Johnny remained submerged and had closed his eyes. “Mama said he was big and had a big ranch in California. He got her pregnant, married her, and took her to live at Lancer.”

Scott pushed to an upright sitting position, hands on hips. He was irate, “THAT”S IT?” You’ve got to be kidding. That’s the whole story?” Scott was frustrated, well, Johnny’s not getting away with he’s big and she’s pregnant.

Surprised at the attack, Johnny splashed out of the pond grabbed his pants, slid them on, and plopped down under a tree.

Scott hadn’t anticipated that response, but was relieved that Johnny left his gun on Barranca’s saddle. He waded from the pond and pulled on his pants and slowly approached Johnny.

Little brother guarded his Madrid past; so no wonder Johnny would bolt at a perceived attack. Thankfully he didn’t ride off.

*****

 “I’m sorry, I just wanted to know-” but he was cut off.

“KNOW WHAT?” Johnny lowered his voice to a menacing,"You don’t want to know about Murdoch, you’re just being nosy about Madrid.” Then a laugh that held no mirth, “Guess the ranch hands have been filling ya in all about HIM.” Johnny bowed his head and hugged his chest.

Scott, like Murdoch, was beginning to hate that pose, but unfortunately it was his fault for pushing Johnny. Also he knew all to well that, ‘him’ was Madrid.

For now he needed to back off and let his brother calm down. Sure more than ever, Scott knew he was going to fight for relationship with Johnny.

*****

The brothers sat side by side for what seemed to Scott an eternity, finally he heard a soft sigh.

“Sorry Boston, shouldn’t yelled at you, not your fault.” Johnny held the pose.

“Its fine, I over-reacted, you have a right to your privacy.” Now Scott sighed, “I just want to get to know my brother; I’m sorry it came across as prying.”

Johnny unwrapped his arms, pulled a blade grass, and stuck it in his mouth.

This was a good sign, Scott knew he was thinking,

Still they just sat together. The only sounds being of birds, the spring, and  horses munching on grass...

Scott almost jumped out of his skin when Johnny finally spoke.

“Teresa was right, mama ran off with the gambler.”

Scott nodded encouragement for more of the story.

“This doesn’t go from here, the ol’ man doesn’t need to know about his wife.”

Madrid raised his head and stared at Scott waiting for agreement.

“I promise.” It came out in a whisper.

“He finally got tired of hauling around a mestizo brat, he just wanted her…”

“I’m sorry Johnny, I don’t understand, mestizo?” Scott could have kicked himself for interrupting the story.

Johnny didn’t seem to mind and explained, “It means half-breed, Boston. I’m not good enough for the Mexicans and not good enough for the gringos. Just some worthless thing.”

Scott shook his head, he couldn’t believe it, a child blamed for the parent’s actions.

“Anyway we were on our own and moving village to village. She’d find a man and… No other way to say it, Boston, she was a puta a whore. Still want to hear the story?”

Scott nodded, he wasn’t going to interrupt again.

“They wanted her not me so they would kick me outta the shack, if I was lucky a beating didn’t go with it.” The smile held no warmth. “I’d find a place to sleep and go back after the man left.”

Silence again, they just sat together. Scott didn’t know what to say so silence was the best option. It was up to Johnny now, if he would continue.

Finally, again in what Scott now knew for sure was Madrid’s voice.

“I was about ten or eleven, hell I don’t even know exactly how old I am now. Never celebrated any birthdays. Anyway the man she was with was a mean borrachín. A drunk but then so was she.” He paused and closed his eyes.

Scott waited, he knew Johnny was struggling.

“One night they had a hell of a fight. I heard mama scream and ran in to help her, but he knocked me across the room. Then he hit her hard enough that when her head hit the table I heard her neck break. He started for me but I got to his gun first and shot him in the heart.” He bowed his head and tossed the blade of grass.

Scott watched the emotions play across Johnny’s face, he was only a child… He wanted to say something, but what? He wished he could put his arm around Johnny’s shoulders but knew that would only make Johnny pull away and probably ride off.

Finally Johnny looked up, “I grabbed the holster and what food there was and headed for the desert. After that I started building my life as Madrid. Nice little story don’t ya think?” Johnny rubbed this thigh where his gun usually rested.

Scott cleared his throat, “No, it is not a nice little story.”

“Well, you’re the one who wanted to share.” Johnny jumped up and went to Barranca.

That was another thing Scott noticed, Barranca was a comfort for Johnny.

Scott waited and watched his brother receive the comfort and reassurance he needed from the golden horse. It was like Barranca understood what Johnny was saying and what he most needed. Scott couldn’t understand the mix of Spanish and some other language, he would ask Johnny about it later. For now it was enough that they started the path to brotherhood. He would keep the secret, it was Johnny’s to tell Murdoch.

The ranch hands had told Scott all about Madrid and Murdoch had shared the Pinkerton reports, it was indeed a dismal tale. At last now Johnny was at Lancer where he belonged. Big brother was going to make sure little brother stayed there.

Scott rose and finished dressing, then grabbed his tack and began saddling Ulysses. Covertly he watch his brother do the same. No words were exchanged, Johnny seemed to need the silence.

During the ride home Scott contemplated all that has been shared, spoken and unspoken. However, there was one thing Murdoch would be told. The sad fact that Johnny didn’t know his birthdate or his true age. Later they could decide how to address that issue. Hopefully Murdoch could use it as a starting place for his new beginning with Johnny.

Silence reigned on the ride home, but Scott felt something different in his brother. Although he couldn’t put his finger on it, something was there. Maybe, he hoped, it was the beginning of trust, bonding as brothers, maybe even friendship.

Maybe even someday fraternal love.

Not the end, the beginning…

 

 

~ end ~

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