The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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MaryB

 

 

Feeling Safe

Scott found him in the barn, bushing his palomino. He leaned on the stall partition, wondering how to begin. “Would you like some breakfast?”

Johnny continued brushing. “Had some.”

“Oh?  Was it as good as Teresa’s ham and eggs?”

At the mention of her name, the brush paused for a second, then continued.

Scott gave a small sigh. “You should talk to her.”

“And say what? Sorry for who I am?”

“Drawing your gun when you were startled is what you did. Not who you are.”

Johnny snorted.

“Something funny?”

“Just shows how much you don’t know.” He put the brush away and moved on to cleaning the horse’s feet.

Scott watched him in silence for a few minutes. “So, you’re not coming in.”

“Nope.”

“Alright.” He pushed off of the wall. “Don’t overdo it today.”

“I’m fine.”

“Glad to hear it.” Shaking his head a little in frustration, Scott went back into the house and joined the others in the kitchen. “He’s in the barn. He says he already ate, and he’s fine.”

Teresa frowned as she set Scott’s plate down in front of him. “Ate what? Nothing seems missing.”

“He didn’t say. He was much too engrossed in grooming his horse to converse. It takes a lot of concentration to move a brush up and down.”

“Scott…” Murdoch dragged the name out in apparent disapproval of the flippancy.

The young man paused in picking up his coffee to say. “Sorry.” Then he set the cup down abruptly. “No, actually I’m not. My little brother is out there beating himself up and we’re in here letting him do it.”

“What do you suggest we do?” his father asked.

He didn’t even have to think about it. “Accept him as he is.”

“And how is that different than sitting in here letting him work it out on his own?”

Scott sighed. “I don’t know. But I have to do something.”

“You did. You let him know you cared. If he doesn’t come in soon, I’ll go talk to him.”

 Teresa looked up from her plate. “Should I?”

Murdoch studied her face. “How do you feel about the incident?”

She thought for a moment. “Of course I was scared at the time. But as soon as he recognized me, he looked so…lost. I think he was a lot more frightened than I was.” She nodded at her blond ‘brother’. “I agree with Scott. I wish he wouldn’t shut us out.”

“It’s all he knows.” The sadness was evident in Scott’s voice.

They all pondered the truth of that as they finished the rest of their meal.

 

As happens on a large working ranch, Murdoch’s morning filled up quickly with small emergencies. It was mid afternoon when he realized he had still not seen his youngest son. Guessing it was as good a place to start as any, he headed for the barn.

Johnny sat on a bale of hay. A mound of miscellaneous tack needing repair were in a pile at his feet. Lying neatly at his side were several cleaned, conditioned and repaired pieces.

Murdoch  sat down on a bale next to him. “Did you get some lunch?”

“Not hungry.”

Murdoch paused. This was not going to be simple. “Not much breakfast and no lunch. You’ll be ready for dinner, I bet.”

Johnny looked at him quizzically.

“What’s wrong?”

The young man shrugged. “Don’t know much about bein a papa, but I reckon if some asshole pulled a gun on my daughter I wouldn’t be inviting him to dinner.”

“Number one, you’re not just some asshole. You’re my son. And two, I don’t think it was Teresa you were pulling a gun on.”

“Coulda fooled me. Sure looked like her.”

“No matter who had made the sudden noise would have caused you to be startled. It wasn’t her in particular.”

“And that’s supposed to help? It’s better to shoot you or Scott?”

“Johnny, no one is pressing charges.”

He blew out his breath and went back to the tack.

 His father watched quietly for a moment before trying again. “I’m not blaming you. Teresa’s not blaming you. Why are you?”

“Reckon I know me better than you do.”

“That may be so, but…”

Johnny threw down the bridle in exasperation. “I could’ve killed her, Murdoch! What’s wrong with you people?”

“But you didn’t. You’re obviously good at shooting quickly. It seems you’re good enough not to as well. You instantly recognized the situation for what it was.”

Shaking his head, Johnny picked the bridle back up.

“I assume we do agree that we don’t want it to happen again. So how do we ensure that?”

Johnny pulled a rusty buckle open and pried the leather strips apart. “I suppose I can sleep in the bunkhouse.”

Murdoch blinked. “What would that solve?”

Johnny shrugged. “Noisier in there. I’d sleep lighter. Besides, there’d be nobody comin in fussin over me.”

“I’m not having my son sleep in the bunkhouse.”

“Truth be told I’d rather do that than leave.”

Sudden anger pushed Murdoch to his feet. “You’re not leaving either. There are other ways to fix this. For one Teresa will not enter a room without knocking. None of us will.”

“Okay.”

Murdoch stood with his hands on his hips, waiting. But Johnny didn’t offer any more suggestions. He noticeably did not offer the obvious one. “Apparently you don’t want to give up sleeping with a gun.”

Johnny’s busy hands stilled. “No. And what does that say about me?”

Murdoch reined in his frustration and refused to be baited. “There are still several hours to figure out your sleeping arrangement. Dinner is at six as always. I expect you there.”

The only acknowledgement, such as it was, was a sigh as he returned to his busy work.

Murdoch left him to it.

 

A couple of hours later, Johnny came to the kitchen door. He watched Teresa roll out some sort of dough. “Hey.”

She turned at the soft voice. “Hello.” She wiped her hands on her apron. “Want some coffee?”

“Sure.” He sat down as she poured a cupful from the large pot on the stove.

“You missed lunch.”

“I know.”

“Do you want something until dinner…?”

“I didn’t come to eat.”

She sat down. “I’m just glad you came. I was afraid…”

His eyes jerked up from his coffee to her face. “Afraid?”

“That you would leave.”

Back to the coffee. “Maybe it’d be best.”

“No!” Her hand grabbed his. “No, Johnny! It was my fault. I banged the table and woke you.”

“It’s not your fault I hand a gun in my hand.”

She pursed her lips as if trying to decide something. “Do you have to? Sleep with it?”

“I did for a long time. Only reason I’m alive. More than once the person I heard wasn’t bringing me soup.”

“But you’re safe here.”

He closed his eyes and took a long slow breath. “I don’t know what safe feels like.”

“When,” she paused. “When you saw it was me and you dropped your gun, I felt more upset for you than me.”

He looked back at her, puzzled. “Why?”

“You looked sad, and scared. And kind of lost. I was so sorry I caused that.”

“You didn’t cause anything. I tell you, Teresa, what I can’t figure is why nobody is mad.”

“Do you want us to be?”

He gave a little laugh. “Be a hell of a lot easier to understand.”

“Okay.” She stood up. “I’m furious.” She grabbed a large bowl and banged it down in front of him. “You owe me. Snap these.”

He looked at the contents of the bowl. “I don’t even like green beans.”

“If you did, it wouldn’t be punishment, would it?” Without another word she went back to the dough.

He broke beans in half for a while. “Querida?”

“Yes?”

“I’m sorry.”

She smiled as she rolled. “I know.”

“I can try.”

She turned back to face him. “Try what?”

“Sleeping without it under my pillow. Maybe just hanging close.”

She stared. “You would? For me?”

He shrugged. “I’d kinda like to know what safe feels like.”

She blinked back tears. “I love you, Johnny.”

“Not sure you should.”

She flicked flour from her hands at him. “Snap!”

Smiling, he continued snapping beans.

 

 

~ end ~

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