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EM

 

 

Out The Window

July 2004
I want to thank winj for the challenge, sorry it took me so long. 
A special thank you to Vicki who posted a story for this challenge with the same story line. She graciously encouraged me to finish this story and post it. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Scott Lancer stood and stretched his lean form. He glanced down at his brother who was deeply involved in reading the Sacramento newspaper. Scott smiled fondly at the younger man and headed toward the French doors.

Peering out into the dusk, he commented, "lovely night."

"Yes, nice and cool. Why don't you open the doors, son?"

Scott nodded and brought the doors open wide, letting in a wonderful breeze that wisped through the room. Johnny straightened the paper where the wind had folded it over, obscuring his view.

"What has captured your interest so, brother?" Scott smiled at Johnny's concentration.

Johnny looked up and grinned. "New saloon just opened in Sacramento. Only they call it a cabaret."

"A cabaret? That should be interesting," Scott nodded.

"Sounds pretty fancy for a place to eat and drink," Johnny shrugged.

"Will they have music?"

"Says "live music". Guess that's opposed to 'dead' music?" Johnny chortled.

Scott opened his mouth for a retort then stopped and turned toward the open doors. A frown crossed his face as he sauntered over.

"Who could that be this time of night?" Murdoch wondered.

"I don't know. I hope nothing's wrong," Scott answered wanly as he peered into the darkening night.

Johnny got to his feet, laying the paper down and crossed to stand behind his brother. He peered out over Scott's shoulder but couldn't penetrate the night either.

The surrey pulled up and a silhouette climbed down with a soft grunt. The shadow stepped nearer to the French doors and Scott actually gasped.

"You!" he whispered.

********************

“Hello Scott.” The blond woman said coolly as she reached out with one hand covered in a gray fawn skin glove in subtle greeting. 

Scott recovered quickly just as Johnny nudged him. “Barbara...it’s Barbara.” 

“Aren’t you going to ask me in?” The woman asked. 

“Ah...yes...of course.” Scott stammered as he took a step back into Johnny. 

The woman walked through the door into the living room to the curious stares from Murdoch and Teresa.  She surveyed her surroundings and turned back to Scott, “What a lovely home you have here Scott.” 

Scott barely recovered his composure enough to introduce her.  “Murdoch, Johnny, Teresa, This is Barbara Evans...from Boston. Barbara, this is my father, Murdoch Lancer.” 

Barbara stepped forward and offered her hand. “Mr. Lancer.  I apologize for the unannounced visit.  I do hope I am not intruding.  It is very important that I see Scott, and well...time is of the essence.” 

“Any friend of Scott’s is welcome in our home Miss Evans.” 

“Please call me Barbara.” Barbara looked at Johnny with curiosity and stated, “You must be Scott’s brother Johnny.” 

“Yes ma’am.” He took her hand, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” 

Scott turned to Teresa and was amused to catch her staring at Barbara. “Teresa, this is Barbara Evans...an old friend of mine. Barbara, this is Teresa O’Brien.” 

Teresa cheeks flushed pink as she realized she’d been caught out practically gawking at the woman.  Recovering swiftly, she stepped forward and was aware of her tanned hand as it was grasped by Barbara’s pale, soft fingers.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Evans.”

“Call me Barbara, may I call you Teresa?” The older woman smiled at Teresa’s nod of acknowledgement.

Murdoch’s voice interrupted the introductions, “I’m sure Miss Evans, I mean Barbara, and Scott have a lot to talk about. Teresa will you go make sure the guest room is ready?  Johnny go help her.”

Teresa went immediately to comply with Murdoch’s request, but when Johnny opened his mouth to argue, Murdoch’s hand signal silenced him and he turned on his heel and left the room.

“Barbara, as it’s getting late, please be our guest for the night. I’ll have someone attend to your buggy.  Scott, perhaps you’d like to take the lady’s coat and offer her a seat.” Murdoch’s mouth twitched at his normally polished son’s stunned expression at the appearance of this young woman. He was looking forward to Scott’s explanation of his old friend’s unannounced visit.

*********

After Murdoch left, Scott regained some of his composure. He cleared his throat, “May I take your coat?”

“Thank you.” Barbara began unbuttoning the long row of buttons from her stylish overcoat. “I’m sorry to barge in on you and your family Scott, but I just didn’t know what else to do.”

Scott took the coat and walked to the entranceway to hang it on the rack while saying, “I don’t think I follow you, Barbara. What’s the problem. Is it your father?”

He started back into the living room and Barbara had seated herself on one of the blue wing backed chairs.  He trailed a hand on her shoulder as he settled on the couch.

“Yes...No...Oh Scott!  I’m so sorry! I’m making such a scene of this.” Barbara burst into tears and was fumbling through her handbag for a handkerchief. Scott pulled out his and knelt on the floor next to her.

“Barbara, whatever it is. It’s going to be all right.” He assured the distraught woman.

She wiped her face and looked up at him hopefully. “Scott, I’m pregnant.”

“What?” Scott was immediately on his feet looking at her as if she’d grown two heads.

Barbara stood up and Scott could immediately see it was true even though her stylish clothes had been carefully tailored to hide such things as was proper. It was obvious she was quite a ways along, now that he knew what to look for.

Scott felt totally at a loss when a sudden realization came over him.  “Are you saying it’s mine? How?” Words failed him once again.

“Scott...” she drew his name out as she let the news sink in. She sat down once again as she watched Scott pace around the room.  She knew how it felt to have to deal with this news, and that Scott needed time to absorb the shock.

Scott stopped in front of her and looked at her with a frown and started pacing once again, before coming to a halt in front of her.  He placed his hands on his hips and his mouth was a grim line. “We’ll get married. Right away.  Don’t worry, I’ll take care of everything.”

“Oh Scott. I knew I could count on you. Father said you were a gigolo and you’d run out on your responsibility, but I knew he was wrong.”

Scott suddenly felt the familiar anger with her father, “Did he send you out here alone?”

“No.  I left.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  When my father found out, he went to your grandfather and they had a row. Your grandfather said no Garrett would ever leave a woman with child outside of marriage and he accused me of making it up.” Tears started to leak down her face once again, and she dabbed at her eyes.

Scott took her in his arms and hugged her. He was at a loss, but at least he could offer her some comfort.  Finally she pulled herself together. “Is there anything I can get you?”

“No, I’m fine, but I wouldn’t mind retiring to that guest room, if I could.”

Scott took her by the arm and escorted her to the waiting guest room and bade her good night.  Alone, he returned to the living room and poured himself a double shot of whisky.

“Don’t think that’ll help brother.”

Scott almost dropped the glass in surprise at his brother’s comment. “You were eavesdropping?” 

“No, not exactly.  Just happened to pass through when she told you.” Johnny was silent a minute before adding, “You believe her?”

Scott took a big gulp of the whisky and shook his head as it burned its way down. “The timing’s right, so I do believe her.”

“You gonna marry her?”

“You heard me, so why ask?”

Johnny scuffed his boot on the fringe of the throw rug and confessed, “I didn’t actually hear much, so…are ya gonna do it?”

Scott stared for a moment into his brother’s penetrating blue eyes. “Yes, I’m going to marry her.”

“I hope you know what you’re doing brother.  I mean it didn’t work out all that well for Murdoch, if you get my drift.”

“What didn’t work out all that well for Murdoch?” Their father’s voice caused both sons to jump in surprise. Getting no answer, Murdoch planted himself in front of Johnny, “Johnny? What exactly did you mean?”

Scott decided he may as well break the news to his father now and get Johnny off the hook at the same time.  “Murdoch, I have something to tell you.  Something good I hope.”  He waited until he had his father’s complete attention.  “Barbara and I are getting married, and we’re expecting a baby.” There it was out and Scott felt relief as he watched the emotions play across his father’s face.

“Ah well son, this is quite a surprise.  I suppose congratulations are in order.” He reached his hand out to shake Scott’s hand. “I ah ... we ... didn’t realize ...” He trailed off at a loss.

“Thank you sir.” Scott said awkwardly.  “I’ve known Barbara my whole life. If you don’t mind, I’m going to bed.  It’s been…well…a busy evening.”

“Of course. Goodnight Scott.”

“Night brother.”

*********

Murdoch went over to pour himself a drink. He offered the decanter to Johnny who shook his head no.

Johnny paced slowly while he chewed his lip before finally settling in front of his father.  “So what do you think of that.  Scott gettin’ married all of a sudden like that?”

Murdoch looked at Johnny and recognized the worried look on his younger son’s face.  “I suppose it’s the right thing. The only thing to do actually.”

“But he doesn’t love her.” Johnny reasoned.

“We don’t know that.” Murdoch pointed out.

“Oh come on Murdoch!  You can’t think this is a good idea.  He’s making a big mistake.”

“Johnny, this is none of our business.  Scott is old enough to make his own decisions and he’s making the responsible choice.  Now that’s the end of it.”

“But Murdoch...”

“Enough! I said I don’t want to discuss it!” Murdoch slammed his glass down and with long strides, left the room.

Johnny flopped down on the couch and chewed his lip in frustration at the situation that was being forced on his brother.

***********

Two days later, the family was dressed in their Sunday best in preparation for the Scott and Barbara’s wedding.  Judge Roth had agreed to marry them in a private ceremony in the Lancer living room.

Johnny walked through and looked with a baleful eye at the arranged chairs and garlands strung throughout the room. ‘You’d think this was a real weddin’ he thought as he ran his finger over the soft satin covering Murdoch’s desk.

“Johnny! Don’t touch that!  I’ve just gotten it all arranged.”

Johnny turned to see Teresa standing there with her hands on her hips in obvious annoyance. “Sorry Teresa.  Boy, you sure look purdy.  That new dress makes you look like one of them high society women.” He teased, and gave her long hair a little pull as he went by.

“Johnny behave yourself.  This is an important day and a solemn occasion so don’t start joking around!”

“Yeah, Scott’s as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rockin’ chairs.” He grinned.

Teresa relented, and giggled. “He had on two different shoes this morning. Did you notice?”

It was Johnny’s turn to chuckle.  “Yeah, I wasn’t going to tell him, but figured I’d catch he...heck, so I told him.”

Teresa smoothed the satin one last time and checked the room over as she watched Johnny pace once again.  “Do you have the rings?” She asked more to distract him than anything else.

“Yeah, yeah.” Johnny replied as he checked his pocket once more, just to be sure.

They both looked up as Murdoch walked in followed by Judge Roth. “This will do nicely, Murdoch.” The judge took his place behind the desk as Teresa lit the long tapers and once again arranged the garland of roses just so.

Johnny took up his place at the right side of the desk and tried not to shuffle his feet as he waited for Scott.

“I guess its time.” Teresa said as she took her place on the other side of the desk.

Johnny turned to watch Scott walk stiffly across the room in his back east suit as Johnny thought of it. “Ready brother?” he asked.

Scott took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  He squared his shoulders and said evenly, “I’m ready.”

They turned when they heard Teresa sigh to see Barbara in a flowing gown being escorted by their solemn father.

Johnny stood stiffly throughout the brief ceremony and later couldn’t recall hearing any of it until his brother nudged him, “Johnny, the rings!”

Johnny hurriedly took them out of his pocket and gave them to the Judge. “Here ya go.” He grinned at Scott’s raised eyebrow, but was soon lost again as the ceremony continued without interruption until the Judge pronounced the couple man and wife. 

As Scott and Barbara turned around, the judge announced, “It gives me great pleasure to introduce, Mr. and Mrs. Scott Lancer.”

Teresa smiled and hugged first Scott then Barbara.  Scott turned expectantly to Johnny who after a long moment offered his hand, “Congratulations, Brother.  Never thought you’d get hitched before me, just goes to show you I can be wrong once in a while.”

Scott laughed and gave Johnny a playful slap on the cheek before turning to grasp Murdoch’s hand in congratulations.

The newlyweds made their way to the feast prepared to celebrate the event.

******************

The toasts were long over and well wishes three months behind them as the reality of trying to build a life with someone you are not in love with set in.  Scott found himself working longer hours and spending time in the farthest reaches of the ranch.

He knew he needed to start staying closer to home as Barbara’s time was growing near.  A part of him was detached from the reality that he would soon be a father.  He attempted to speak to Murdoch about it, but found the whole conversation too awkward for both of them and gave up without finding out if what he was feeling was normal.

He’d thought about talking to Johnny, but this was something he didn’t think he could explain even to his brother, whom he could talk through most things.

Barbara herself had been having mood swings that only made him want to distance himself even more and he hoped that once the baby was born, she’d settle down and take an interest in something more than herself.  He’d tried to get her interested in the ranch and he’d taken her on a picnic and a drive to show her some of the more breathtaking views, but nothing seemed to interest her of late.  Teresa had tried to get her involved in the household, or gardening, but Barbara always claimed to be too tired to help out.  He fervently hoped she’d settle in once the baby came.

Scott’s head jerked up and he dropped the limb he was clearing out of the stream when he heard Johnny’s shout. “Scott!”

Johnny rode up hard on Barranca and pulled the horse into a sliding stop. Johnny jumped off his horse and ran the last few feet to his brother.  He put one hand on each of Scott’s shoulders as much to steady himself as to get his attention.  “Scott. It’s time. Barbara’s havin’ the baby.” Johnny gasped as he tried to catch his breath.

Scott moved back toward his horse. “Thanks Johnny.”  He mounted and glanced at Johnny who was still catching his breath. “Are you coming?”

“You go ahead Scott.  I need to walk Barranca some to cool him off.”

With a nod, Scott turned his horses and galloped off.

*****************

Johnny arrived back at the ranch and slowly took care of Barranca.  His feelings were still mixed at Scott’s decision, even though he knew deep down that Scott had done the honorable thing. Everyone knew they didn’t love each other and Johnny wondered how this was all going to work out.

He well knew the outcome of two parents who couldn’t get along and he worried for the child his brother and his wife were bringing into the world.  With a shrug, he headed slowly for the house.

As he came into the living room, he saw Scott pacing uncharacteristically in front of the couch as Murdoch sat at his desk trying to work on the ranch ledgers.

“How’s she doin?” Johnny said quietly to no one in particular.

Scott didn’t answer, so Murdoch spoke up, “She’s fine son. These things take a while sometimes.” He stood up and stopped in Scott’s path, effectively blocking him. “It’s supper time and Maria left a stew on. I believe she baked some fresh bread also.  Let’s go eat as I think it may be a long night.”

**************

Murdoch’s words proved fortuitous as Scott all but wore himself out alternately pacing the living room and climbing the stairs to check on her progress.  Johnny was dozing on the couch and Murdoch was slumped into the blue armchair when Teresa called, “Scott.  You can come up now.”

Scott took the stairs two at a time, almost falling in his haste to get to Barbara.  His heart was singing in anticipation of meeting his new son or daughter. As he reached the landing, he realized he had his answer, he was ready to be a father and he could hardly wait to assume his role.

He slowed to a walk as he took in the scene in the room.  Teresa was sponging Barbara’s face as she lay against a mound of pillows and Maria turned toward him with a tiny bundle tightly wrapped. Scott heard the tiny mewling coming from Maria’s arms as she walked the few steps toward him.  “It’s a girl.” She announced.

Scott’s hands shook as he took the baby, his daughter in his arms for the first time.  He couldn’t believe something so small was really a person.  ‘His daughter.’ He thought as he looked into her dark brown eyes. She was red faced and looked like a prune but to him, she was beautiful.  From her cap of dark hair to her tiny hands, Scott felt himself truly fall in love for the very first time.

****************

Johnny and Murdoch sat at the table in the kitchen alone nursing strong cups of coffee. Both felt dog tired, but neither was ready to go to bed. 

Finally, Johnny said what they’d both been thinking since seeing the baby, “Murdoch, that ain’t Scott’s kid.”

Murdoch’s tired eyes rested on Johnny and he spoke quietly, “I’m afraid you’re right son.” He took a sip of the cooling coffee, “We have to support your brother in whatever he decides to do. Now, I’m going to bed, and I suggest you do the same.”

Johnny sat there lost in thought as he heard Murdoch’s heavy footsteps on the stairs.  ‘Sleep.’ He craved sleep, but his mind was still too full of unanswered questions and until he had them, he knew he wouldn’t get much rest.  He took another sip of coffee and grimaced as he realized it had gone stone cold.  He pushed back his chair and retrieved the coffee pot and poured himself a fresh cup as Scott walked into the kitchen looking haggard.

“Coffee brother?”

At Scott’s nod, Johnny poured Scott a cup and he kicked out a chair indicating his brother should sit.

“You okay?”

Scott took a small sip of the hot coffee and then blew on it to cool it some more before taking another sip.  “I’m okay Johnny.  Just tired.”

Johnny sat back down across from Scott and looked at him with concern. “I mean with the baby and all. You know…”

Scott looked up at him and raised an eyebrow. “My daughter you mean?”

Johnny felt awkward, but it needed to be said, “Are you okay with her not bein’ yours? What did Barbara have to say?”

“She’s resting.  And to answer your question, it was a bit of a surprise but it doesn’t change the fact that she’s my daughter. Now if you don’t mind, I’m going back upstairs.”

Scott started out of the kitchen when Johnny’s voice stopped him. “Scott, she not your daughter. Some other man is her father.”

Johnny watched at his brother turned to him in what could only be described as cold rage.  His fists were clenched and for a moment Johnny thought Scott was going to hit him.  Instead, he swept the coffee cups off the table and shouted, “Never, ever say that again! This is none of your concern!  Stay out of my life brother or you’ll be very sorry.” With that he turned leaving his brother staring opened mouthed in shock.

***********************

Johnny spent the next week riding the ridges and camping out at the farthest line shacks.  His thoughts were still unsettled as he tried to cope with the rift he had with Scott.  They’d had arguments before, but this was different.  He had crossed a line and he didn’t know how to take back the truth and make it right with his brother once again.

Scott for his part had been holed in the room with the baby and Barbara and not speaking much to his family.  Johnny heard from Teresa that they had named the baby Alexandra after Barbara’s grandmother. ‘A big name for a little baby’ Johnny thought but figured she’d grow into her name as she got older.

He planned to go back to the ranch that night and hoped he could make things right with his brother.  If Scott was going to make a go at his marriage, especially now, he needed the support of his whole family.  Even though Johnny felt it was wrong of Barbara not to tell Scott another man could have been the baby’s father, Scott had made it clear to Johnny, he wasn’t to second guess their decisions.

Johnny just wanted his brother to be happy and if raising this little girl as his own would do that, then Johnny was all set to play uncle.  He just hoped for that little girl’s sake it all worked out.

***********************

The fire in the fireplace crackled and popped as one by one the Lancer’s left the room heading for bed until just Johnny and Scott remained.  Johnny got up and poured his brother a glass of whisky and handed it to him as a token peace offering.

“Thanks.” Scott gave him a half smile before returning to stare into the fire.

“Scott?” Johnny’s soft voice was almost covered by another pop from the fireplace.

Johnny sat on the ottoman in front of his brother and looked into the face he knew so well.  He couldn’t help but notice his brother looked older in the flickering fire light.  “I’m sorry Scott. It wasn’t my place to say anything.  I just want you to be happy.”

“Barbara wants an annulment.”

“What?” Johnny asked in surprise. “She wants to cancel the marriage?”

Scott drained the glass of whisky in one long swallow and set the glass on the end table. “That’s what she says.”

“What do you want?” Johnny asked a little afraid he was again stepping over some boundary he didn’t know existed in light of his brother’s earlier reaction.

Scott sighed, rubbed his face and ran his fingers through his hair before answering.  “It’s a funny thing.  Right up until Alexandria was born, I had doubts. Doubts about our marriage, about being a father, everything.” He looked to see if Johnny understood what he was trying to say and he could clearly see that his brother knew what he was talking about. “Once the baby was born, nothing mattered. It’s still amazing to me how much that little girl changed how I think and feel. All I know is I want a chance to make this work.”

Johnny chewed his lip for a moment before answering, “Well brother, I guess you have to use that Lancer stubbornness and tell Barbara what all this means to you. Tell her what you just told me now. Let her know you care and maybe she’ll care too.” Johnny spoke from his heart, “Just know one thing brother, blood counts, but it’s what a father does and how he shows it that’s important.  Alexandria is a very lucky girl to have you for her papa.”

Scott smiled fully for the first time all day. “Thanks Johnny.  You’re not half bad for an uncle, or a brother either.”

 

Epilogue 

Johnny stood by Scott as they watched Alexandria walk slowly toward them. He felt Scott’s pride radiating for his beautiful little girl as she bravely made the walk to meet them.

Today, she was wearing an ornate off white dress and was carrying a basket.  Her long dark curly hair was pulled back and tied with a dark navy blue bow. She was wearing a little half smile for her father and uncle as she caught their eye. Johnny could tell she was trying to remember everything she’d been told, but he knew she really wanted to run the rest of the way to meet her father.

He glanced over at Murdoch and watched with amusement as the older man smiled in pleasure at seeing the little girl.  His father reached out his hand and squeezed Barbara’s as it rested on her stomach swollen with child.

Alexandria made her way the final steps to Scott and she gave him a smile that was only for him. She turns and waits for Teresa to join her.

Teresa seems to float as she walks toward them and Johnny is struck once more by what a beautiful young woman she turned out to be. She takes her place next to Alexandria.

Johnny felt his pulse quicken as he saw her walking toward him; white gown flowing as she walked on her father’s arm. He only had eyes for her from that moment on, and she for him as it had been since the first day they met.

Her father gave her to him in trust to keep for a lifetime, to be happy and raise a family together.

Johnny glanced at his brother and returned his smile before he stepped forward and started down the path to his future.

 

~end~

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