The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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PatriciaG

 

Scott Lancer

 

Tough Choices To Make

Scott sat stoically on his bay as it plodded along.  He looked like he was deep in thought, but actually he was sleeping with his eyes open.  This long cattle drive was nothing like his previous one.  He was glad that it was over and they were almost home.  Three and a half weeks on horseback was grueling. They all were thankful that the drive was uneventful, but sitting on a horse all day and eating dust was getting real old, real fast.

Johnny quietly rode up next to his brother.  Well, as quiet as you can be on a horse.  No reaction.  He waved his hands at Scott.  Nothing. He thought he would just give Scott’s horse a little nudge.  So … swat!  The horse took off like a bullet, but was quickly under control by the former cavalry man.

Scott calmly waited for his little brother to catch up to him.

“And the reason for that was …?”

“I wanted to see if you were awake, Scott.” Johnny added sheepishly, “Well, I guess I got my answer.”

“Actually, I was asleep,” chuckled Scott, “but around you, little brother, I have learned to sleep with both eyes opened.”

Johnny laughed loudly and spurred his horse into a full gallop.  Scott, caught unaware, took off after his brother.

Murdoch watched his sons’ activities from a short distance.  He was glad that they’re almost home.  It was a long cattle drive and all he wanted was to relax and be out of the saddle.  He pictured sitting on the couch with his feet up in front of a roaring fire with a drink in his hand.

*****

Scott caught up to his brother fairly quickly.  Their horses fell into a nice walking rhythm side-by-side.    

“Johnny, will my backside ever stop hurting?” Johnny smiled and shook his head.  “When I get off my horse, I can still feel the motion. You would think being in the cavalry I would’ve been used to this.  All I want is a break from riding, a hot bath, and nothing to do with cows!   Just time to do what I want to do,” Scott lamented.

“Amen, Boston.  I agree with no ridin’, just sittin’.  Oh, and no cows.  And maybe even a hot bath.”

Scott also looked forward to trying out his new Winchester repeating rifle that he had ordered from the Green River Mercantile.  He had stopped to pick it up as they came through at the end of the drive.  This gun was a beauty.  It could shoot straighter and farther than previous models.  It had cost a pretty penny, but he knew that it would be worth it.  “I do love shooting a rifle,” Scott mumbled to himself.

*****

A full week at home, after the drive, everything was back to the normal routines of running a cattle ranch. 

In the great room after dinner, Murdoch sat behind his massive desk looking over paper work.  He closed his ledgers and looked around the room.  Johnny and Jelly were playing chess - well, actually, Johnny had fallen asleep waiting for Jelly to make his move.  Scott was engrossed in reading a book.  Teresa was mending torn clothing from the drive, sitting by the fire.

“You know, boys,” Murdoch cleared his throat, “I think we’ve about caught up with all the pressing work around here that needs to be done.”  Johnny stirred and Scott looked up from his book.  “I think it’s time for an overdue vacation.”  The boys nodded, looked at each other, and smiled in agreement.

“And don’t ya worry about things around here none, Boss.  Me and Teresa will take care of the ranch while’s you’re gone.”  Jelly puffed up trying to make himself look important.

Cipriano interrupted the vacation conversation.  He stopped by the hacienda each afternoon for his end of day check-in. 

“Excuse me, El Patron, some of the hands have found a few cows dead.  They have also found some animal tracks nearby.  Maybe a mountain lion.”

“Thank you for letting me know.  Have a good evening, my friend.” Murdoch dismissed the Segundo for the evening.

“Murdoch, I gave a great idea.  We could kill two birds with one stone.  We could go camping and look for the Mountain Lion at the same time. ” Johnny explained, proud of his brilliant idea. 

“And I could bring along my new Winchester rifle for us to try out,” interjected Scott. 

Murdoch smile and agreed with his sons. He was even surprised that Johnny had thought of it, but had a sinking feeling that the boys had probably already discussed a camping trip before Johnny brought it up.  All thoughts of complaining about being on their horses again were out of their heads.  They all just wanted to get away from the routines of running a ranch.

*****

“It looks like Teresa is expecting us to be gone for quite some time, Murdoch,” Scott commented after looking at the bulging saddle bags.

“Scott, did she pack some chocolate cake?” Johnny asked eagerly.

“I’m not going to unpack it to find out.  You’ll just have to wait to be surprised, little brother.”

Murdoch shook his head and wondered what he had gotten himself into, agreeing to this trip with his sons.  He smiled, because down time from his ranching duties with his sons was precious and rare.

Just a few hours after sun up, and after a hardy breakfast, they were all packed up and on the road.  The Lancer men were excited about their adventure.

*****

The three men followed the directions given by the hired hands to the sight where the steers had been found dead.  The cows had been picked over and not much was left of the animals.  They decided to make camp near a rocky cliffside so they would have protection from the elements.  It tended to get chilly out in the open, but with the rocks as a wind block they would stay warmer.  Luckily there was also a small creek nearby to get water for the horses. Their camp was about an hour and a half from Lancer, but only about an hour from Green River. 

“Maybe we could sneak off to town before we return to the ranch,”  Johnny thought aloud with a smile.  Scott just shook his head.  Johnny was always thinking.

That first evening they enjoyed the food that Teresa sent with them rather than cook anything except for coffee.  To Johnny’s delight, there was some cake.  As they were sitting around the fire, they talked strategies on how to catch the elusive mountain lion.  Scott used this time, with a captive audience, to expand on why his new Winchester was the “finest rifle ever made.” 

“Why don’t we do some target shooting after we catch that mountain lion?  I brought some tin cans along, just in case we had some time,” Scott suggested.

“You just happened to bring along some cans.  Huh, isn’t that interesting.” Johnny smirked at his big brother.

*****

The next morning they ventured out looking for the mountain lion.  They saw tracks, and heard its cry echoing up in the canyon, but had no luck finding the elusive big cat.  Later in the afternoon, the Lancer men finally returned to the camp, tired and empty handed.

Since the sun was still up, Scott decided to use this time to instruct his father and brother on how to shoot the Winchester.  He was excited and anxious to try out the gun.  He hoped that they would be impressed with his purchase.  They set up the empty cans that Scott had brought along. The men all took turns shooting.  Johnny did surprisingly well.  Murdoch was the last to shoot the new gun.  The three men smiled, laughed, and some good natured kidding was had by all.  Each claimed they were the best shot, but for different reasons. They trudged back to the camp to start a fire for supper.  Murdoch leaned the rifle against a tree before going to sit by the fire circle.

 “I thought this was the best rifle ever made.  I think I’d shoot just as well with my old rifle,” Johnny teased Scott about his precious Winchester.

“I think Murdoch got the hang of it the fastest,” Scott needled his brother.

“What?  You know I hit more cans dead center than either of you!” Johnny corrected his big brother.

Scott laughed at his brother’s expression and waited for his brother’s reply.  Instead the playful banter turned into rough housing.  Johnny pushed his brother to the ground.  Scott wound up seated, leaning again his upturned saddle behind his brother.  He tried to grab Johnny’s leg as he walked by, but tripped his brother instead.  Johnny stumbled forward and collided against the side of the tree dislodging the gun.  The rifle fell to the ground hitting a stone around the fire pit.  The rifle discharged.

Johnny screamed out in shock and pain.  A bullet had ripped through the calf of his leg.  The high velocity rifle bullet created a sizeable hole as it exited his leg.  Murdoch jumped up and ran to his side. 

“How many times have I warned you two about playing around?  I told you someone was bound to get hurt.  Just once, I wish you two would listen to your father.”  Johnny looked sheepish.  Scott didn’t look up at his father, nor did he even get up to help them. 

“Scott, get up and help your brother!  Make yourself useful.  Go get the bandages from the saddle bags for Johnny,” Murdoch admonished his oldest.

He finally tore his attention from his youngest son when he realized that Scott wasn’t moving.  Johnny also turned to look at his brother.  Scott was still leaning back against his saddle, holding his hand over his left side.  The bullet that went through Johnny’s leg ricocheted into Scott’s side.  As he pulled back his hand, blood began to flow out of the hole.  “I’ve … been … shot, too,” Scott gasped out.

Murdoch rushed and Johnny hobbled to Scott’s side.  Murdoch told them both, “Keep pressure on your wounds while I get the bandages and medicine from the saddle bags.”  Johnny sat down next to his brother.

Murdoch rushed over to remove the saddle bag from the pack horse.  His fingers were shaking so much that it took him extra precious time to untie them from the back of the saddle.  He dropped the bags next to his sons before he went to get water heated for doctoring them.

Murdoch poured water from a canteen into a pot and added more wood to the fire to heat it.  Johnny was the first patient for him to work on because his injury didn’t look as severe and he could quickly move on to Scott.  He cut Johnny’s pants from around the wound.  When the water was heated he used it to clean the wound and then packed it with some medicinal powder.  Finally Murdoch wrapped his leg with bandages.  After Johnny was taken care of, Murdoch could turn his attention to his eldest son, who was more gravely wounded. 

Murdoch saw that Scott had bitten his bottom lip so hard from the pain that it had started to bleed. 

“I’m sorry son, but I need to roll you over to check to see if the bullet has gone all the way through.”  Murdoch turned Scott over and pulled up his shirt. He hoped to see a hole, but saw nothing.   He realized that the bullet was still in his son’s body.  That was not what he wanted to see.  Scott turned his head to watch his father. He silently questioned him with his eyes, but Murdoch sadly shook his head, no.  Murdoch turned Scott back to a sitting position.  He used the hot water to clean out the wound as best he could. Then he repeated the same procedure of packing the wound that he had done with Johnny, and applied bandages.

“Murdoch, I could make it to town.  Doc Jenkins and I could be back here in a few hours with a buckboard.” Johnny suggested, thinking that he was well enough to ride into town on his own. 

Murdoch shook his head, “No, son. You’ve lost too much blood yourself.  If you pass out on the way to town, no one will come to help your brother.  I’ll just have to ride with you.”

“No!  You can’t leave Scott here alone with a mountain lion on the loose!” Johnny adamantly argued.

“Brother, … I’m fine.  I can hold out … until you two … get back.  You … should be back … by sun-up.  Just … leave me … a canteen … and my rifle.” Scott managed to gasp out. 

“No way, Boston.  You’re not fine.  Murdoch, tell him that this isn’t a good idea.”

This was the toughest decision that Murdoch would ever have to make.  Which son to rescue first.  Whatever his choice, it would risk the life of his other son.  How could he choose between his two sons?  Should he choose the most seriously injured son, or the one who could definitely be saved?

Murdoch knew what the best plan would be, but he still hated to leave his oldest son, who was in worse condition, behind … alone and venerable.

“Johnny, we’re wasting precious time arguing.  The quicker we get to town, the faster we can get help for Scott.”

Johnny was fighting his own demons.  He felt guilty for the being the cause of the accident and for not being hurt as seriously as Scott.  He also, felt for Murdoch that he was forced to make the decision to leave Scott behind.  Johnny was scared that he might never see his brother alive again. 

“Scott, I promise you we’ll be back with the doc as soon as we can.  I need you to promise to stay alive until we get back. ”

“I’ll try.”  Scott smiled weakly.  He hoped that he could hold out until they returned and keep his promise.

Murdoch rushed around gathering supplies for Scott.  Water, extra blankets, jerky, and the dreaded rifle. 

As they rode away from the camp site, both Murdoch and Johnny worried that this might be the last time they saw Scott alive.  They silently prayed that all would turn out well.  Johnny kicked Barranca into a full gallop with Murdoch right on his heels.  The faster they got to town, the sooner they could help Scott.

*****

It turned out that Murdoch’s decision to not let Johnny ride alone was the correct one.  Just outside of Green River, Johnny finally lost his grip on Barranca as he was fighting to stay conscious.  As he slid off, his spurs dug into the side of his horse.  The Palomino bucked wildly as Johnny fell into a heap on the ground.  Barranca bolted home for the ranch.

Murdoch, unable to catch the rider or horse, climbed down to pick Johnny up from the dirt.  He struggled to get his barely conscious son into the saddle on his horse.  The pair rode double as he held Johnny in his arms in front of him.  They slowed down from a gallop to a trot because Murdoch couldn’t hold his son at that fast pace.  It took the men longer at the slower speed to reach their destination. 

Arriving in town, they went directly to Dr. Jenkins office.  Getting the still half-conscious man off the horse was almost a difficult as getting him on. 

“Doc!  Sam, open the door!”  Murdoch bellowed as he carried Johnny to the door.

His last bit of arm strength was drained from him as he stood leaning against the door still holding Johnny in his arms.  Finally, Dr. Jenkins’ nurse came to the door to let Murdoch into the house.  He carried Johnny into the doctor’s office and carefully laid him on the table.

“I’m terribly sorry, Mr. Lancer, but the doctor is out on a call at the Johnson’s farm.  Mrs. Johnson is having her third child,” the nurse said. “He should be back as soon as the baby is born.” 

Murdoch’s face fell in disappointment.  He couldn’t wait.  He wished he could’ve brought the doctor back with him to help Scott, but it couldn’t be helped.

“Take care of Johnny,” he said rather briskly.  “He’s been shot in the leg, but the bullet went all the way through.  I cleaned and bandaged him at the camp site.  He has lost a lot of blood.  I can’t stay.”  Murdoch looked longingly at his youngest lying on the table. 

“Scott was also injured in the same accident.  I have to get back to him.  Please let Sam know that I will bring Scott back in a few hours.  Scott has a bullet wound in his side and the bullet is still in him.”  Murdoch barked out this information like a drill sergeant.  The nurse nodded, knowing she would need to prepare for surgery after she finished taking care of the younger Lancer.  Murdoch left Johnny in the nurse’s capable hands, and rushed to the livery to rent a wagon. 

The nurse carefully cut the dirty bandages off of her patient.  Some of the crusted cloths were stuck to his skin and needed to be soaked off.  Johnny groaned and tried to move away from her prying hands. 

“Mr. Lancer, this won’t hurt as bad if you will just hold still.” 

Johnny wanted to argue, but it hurt too badly.  His leg felt like it was on fire.  The wound in the front of his leg required minimal aid.  She cleaned it out with carbolic acid and applied 3 stitches.  She helped him to roll onto his stomach on the table.  The back of his leg, where the bullet exited, required more extensive doctoring as the hole was much bigger.  When she started to pour the carbolic acid into the open wound he bucked up off the table, knocking the bottle out of the nurse’s hand.

“Mr. Lancer … Johnny,” the nurse said in a soothing voice, “Do you want me to give you some morphine?”  The stubborn man shook his head, “No … I’ll try to stay still.”

“I can bind your arms to the table,” she offered.  Johnny again shook his head, reached down to grab the table legs and took a deep breath.

The nurse carefully soaked up the fluids and then packed the wound with medicinal power and gauze.  She didn’t want to stitch it closed until the doctor had a chance to look over her work.

*****

While the wagon was being hitched up to two horses, Murdoch hit the Mercantile to get a mattress, blankets, pillows, medicine, and more bandages.   The shopkeeper helped Murdoch move his purchases out in front of the shop, so it could be loaded into the wagon quickly.   The anxious father then returned to the livery to get the buckboard, and drove it down to the store to load all his supplies.

He refused to wait any longer for Dr. Jenkins to arrive.  He would have to bring Scott to the doctor instead of his original plans of bringing Sam to his son. Murdoch’s thought were on his oldest son.  Scott’s life could hinge on these precious wasted minutes, so Murdoch quickly checked on Johnny one last time before he headed out. 

“Bring Scott back safe, Murdoch,” Johnny breathlessly whispered.  Murdoch squeezed Johnny’s shoulder, nodded his head and looked lovingly at his youngest son.  Seeing that Johnny was resting comfortable with his wounds rebandaged, he headed out to rescue Scott.  Again, he silently prayed that he would not be too late.

*****

Scott was having trouble staying conscious.  He talked out loud to himself to stay awake.

“I wonder … if they have … made it … to town … yet?  When … this is … all over, I’m … going … to sleep … for a … week.  It’s getting … so cold.  Must … stay … awake.”

He was shivering and looked toward the fire.  It was dying. 

“Is this a metaphor for my life?” Scott thought.  He shook his head to get rid of those negative thoughts.  “I need to stay focused on staying alive.”

He tried to get up to fetch some wood for the fire, but his legs were stiff and didn’t cooperate very well.  He dragged himself over to the wood pile that they had created yesterday.  He threw some more wood on the fire.  The fire flared up putting off much needed heat.  All of his efforts with the fire had left him exhausted.  Sweat formed on his brow, and he noticed that some of his bandages, spotted red with blood, had become loose and torn because of his physical exertion.  He was beginning to bleed freely again. He limped over to lay down on the blanket by the fire.

Scott cringed when he heard the unmistakable cry of the mountain lion.  It sounded close, but if he kept the fire going the wild animal wouldn’t come any closer.  He looked at his rifle and smiled because he knew he had protection.  Scott opened the rifle’s chamber only to realize, with dread, that is was empty.  “We didn’t reload after the accident.  Where is the ammunition?” he wondered. He glanced around the campsite and remembered that the extra bullets were in the saddle bags on Charlie, his beloved bay.  Scott struggled to his knees, using the rifle as a crutch.  Limping over to where his horse was tied, he fell against its side hanging onto the side of the saddle.  Charlie shifted away from the unwanted weight against his side and pranced skittishly from the smell of Scott’s blood.  Before Scott could get the ties off the saddle bags, the big cat cried out again.  Charlie was beyond skittish and became terrified.  The frightened horse reared up shoving Scott to the ground.  Charlie managed to break free and raced away toward the ranch. 

Scott picked himself up off the ground and stumbled awkwardly back to the campsite.  In his frustration, he lost his balance, falling against the pot of water sitting by the fire.  The water Murdoch had used to help his boys now hindered his son by dousing the flames.   Now Scott started to worry.  No fire, no bullets, no horse.  He prayed that his luck wouldn’t get any worse.

*****

“What in the Sam Hill is goin’ on?” Jelly exclaimed in confusion.  First Barranca arrived at the ranch all lathered up with bloody slashes on his sides.  Then, Charlie showed up with blood on the side of the horse and saddle bags. 

“I thought those boys and Murdoch were just out relaxin’.  Well, I’m just gonna have to take care of this, seeing as I’m in charge around here.” He decided to send some hands out to find the trio.  Jelly sent Frank to Doc Jenkins place, too.  “With all the blood on those horses, somebody’s gonna need doctorin’.”

*****

Scott was so very tired, but he knew he couldn’t stay out in the open in the camp site.  He needed protection from the cool weather and from the dangerous mountain lion.  He decided his best choice would be to find a rocky shelter to hide in from the big cat.  The rocks weren’t that far away, he thought.  He shook his head trying to clear his thoughts.  The blood loss was making it harder to concentrate.  “What supplies should I take?” he wondered. He grabbed a blanket roll, canteen, and his rifle, and limped off to find shelter.  The more steps he made, the more blood seeped through the torn bandages. 

His vision was beginning to blur.  He made it as far as the rocks using the rifle as a crutch.  Scott stepped onto some loose rocks and they gave way. He was unable to stop his fall and careened down into a rocky ravine.  He tried to hold onto his rifle and canteen, but lost them somewhere down the hill. He could feel the rocks cutting his cheek and tearing at his clothes as he slid down the hill. Nothing stopped his fall until he hit the rocks at the bottom with a sickening thud. The sweet bliss of unconsciousness passed over him. “Is this how my life will end,” Scott wondered as he passed out.

*****

A ranch hand stumbled upon the now empty camp site, but he didn’t see anyone.   Ironic, that if Scott had just stayed in camp like Murdoch had told him to, he would have been found and saved.  The hired hand left the camp to continue looking for the three Lancer men. He didn’t even realize how close he was to Scott’s crumpled body.   

*****

Dr. Sam Jenkins returned to his office tired and hungry, only an hour after Murdoch had left to go help Scott.  He was shocked to see the youngest Lancer lying on the table in his office.  The doctor looked over the nurse’s handiwork and saw that Johnny was in good hands.  He was glad that he had decided to hire the nurse to help out with his practice.  The Lancers alone kept him very busy.

Johnny turned his head to face the doctor. “Hey, Doc,” Johnny mumbled.  “Your nurse did a good job fixin’ me up, but Doc, Scott is hurt real bad.” 

Sam frowned and patted Johnny on the shoulder. “Your father will get Scott back here soon, and we’ll get him patched up.  Don’t worry.  You Lancers are a strong stock.”  Johnny nodded and lay back down on his stomach on the table. 

Dr. Jenkins went to the kitchen to wash up before he stitched up Johnny’s leg.  He removed the bloody gauze and swabbed the wound one more time, before he stitched up the injury.  The nurse assisted him by holding the young man down on the table.  Several mumbled curse words were expelled by Johnny, but it was nothing the doctor or nurse hadn’t heard before.  After the wound was cleaned and bandages reapplied, the patient was turned over onto his back on the table.  A warm blanket was laid upon the sleeping young man who had passed out while the doctor was patching him up.

Sam went to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee.  Then he instructed his nurse, “We need to prepare for surgery when Murdoch returns with Scott.   If Johnny’s description of the accident is accurate, Scott is going to need immediate surgery if he is to survive.”  The nurse showed him to the room where she had already gotten his medical equipment laid out.  Again, Sam was grateful that he had hired the competent nurse.

*****

Scott regained consciousness in severe pain and short of breath. With possible cracked ribs, he couldn’t see how he would be able to climb out of the ravine.  He shook his head to try to clear the ache behind his eyes and the cobwebs in his head.  He knew he needed to think, but his thoughts were a jumble of despair.

“Brother, I’m sorry that I couldn’t keep my promise to you.  I tried my best to survive until you returned.  Please don’t blame yourselves for my death.” Scott’s thoughts came out as an anguished cry of pain.

His cry was followed by the cry of the mountain lion not far away.

*****

Murdoch, exhausted from pushing the horses and buckboard so hard, arrived at the campsite as dawn was breaking.  He was horrified to see that Scott was not there.  He then turned and noticed that Charlie, Scott’s horse, was missing. 

“Did Scott ride home to the ranch?” He wondered for a fleeting second then dismissed the idea.

He looked carefully around the camp site.  The fire was out.  Upon further inspection he saw drag marks with blood droplets in the dirt.  He also noticed big cat paw prints.  

“No! The mountain lion has been here.  Scott must have gone to seek shelter somewhere in the rocks.  Please let him be alive.  I can’t lose him.  I just got him back,“  Murdoch’s thoughts were a jumble of emotions.  The paw prints spurred him to action.  He grabbed his rifle from the wagon and rapidly trekked off to find his son. 

“Scott!  Call out, son.  Scott, where are you?”   Eerily quiet.  No reply.

*****

Scott regained consciousness.  He heard the large cat then looked up to see it standing on the rocks near the top of the ravine.  Scott was frozen in fear, but only for a moment.  He knew that it was not close enough to him to be able to shoot it with his pistol.  He was thankful that his gun had stayed in his holster even after his hard fall.  He would have to wait patiently until the mountain lion got closer for his shot to count.  But, could he remain conscious?  His hand shook so badly that he didn’t think he could shoot straight anyway.  Try as he might, staying awake was too much for him to handle.  He again passed out from blood loss and pain.

*****

Murdoch saw the mountain lion crouched at the top of the ravine.  He feared that the cat was on the prowl for his son, but didn’t see Scott anywhere.  Murdoch needed to eliminate the animal, so it wouldn’t be a threat.  He shot his carbine at it but,due to his frazzled nerves, only hit the rocks near the cat.  The miss had the same effect as hitting the Mountain Lion, though, and the angry cat took off into the hills.  Murdoch only hoped that it had not already attacked his son.

“Scott!  Call out, son, if you can hear me.  Scott!”

Jelly was searching the in the area and heard the gun shot and Murdoch’s bellows.  He ran to his boss as fast as his old legs would travel.

“Jelly, what are you doing out here?”

“Boss, the boys’ horses came back to the ranch, so I knew there was trouble.  I got some of the hands to come out and start looking for ya.  I heard your yelling and the rifle shot and well, here we are.”

“Thanks, Jelly.  I’m glad you’re here.  Johnny and Scott were both shot. I took Johnny to Doc Jenkins place.  I had to leave Scott behind, but now he’s missing from the camp site.” Murdoch’s frantic feelings showed in his shaky voice.

“Well, we’ll probably find him holed up somewhere nice and warm. Let’s just keep lookin’ for the boy.”

Murdoch felt despair begin to overtake him.

“Jelly, we’re not going to find Scott in time.  How could I have left him here so badly injured.” His remorse was almost more than he could bear.

“We’ll find Scott and everything will turn out alright.  Just you wait and see.”  Jelly’s optimism helped brighten Murdoch’s spirits.

*****

The sun became higher in the sky.  Jelly saw a reflection down in the ravine.  The sun was reflected off Scott’s pistol grasped in his hand.  Jelly pointed down into the ravine.

“Boss, what’s that?”

Murdoch looked down and overjoyed called out, “We’re coming down to get you, Scott.  Hang on, son.”  No response from his son.

Jelly fired off three shots to alert the hands that Scott had been found.  As Murdoch and Jelly discussed how to get him out of the ravine, two more ranch hands rode up.  The crew decided to use ropes to lower Jelly, carrying blankets, down into the ravine. 

“Boss, Scott’s alive!”

Jelly wrapped Scott in the blankets he had brought with him. He tied the rope around the blanket covered injured man.  The ranch hands and Murdoch used the rope to carefully haul him up followed by Jelly.  

Murdoch looked over Scott’s condition and realized he was in worse shape than when he had left him.  He saw that the bandages were torn and bloody.  Scott had multiple scratches and bruising on his face and arms.  He could not see his son’s other injuries without taking off what was left of his jacket.  Now was not the time to check.  He needed to get Scott to town as soon as possible.

He said another prayer for Scott.  “Thank you, God, for keeping him alive. Please help him survive the trip back to town.” 

The hands loaded Scott onto the mattress in the back of the wagon.  Jelly drove the wagon as Murdoch sat in the back. Because they didn’t want to waste any time, he packed his son’s wound with bandages as they were on the road.  When his task was done, he cradled his son in his arms as they travelled toward town.

Scott moaned and cried out whenever Jelly hit a rut or rock in the road.

“Sorry, Boss. Watch where you’re goin’ you mangy nags!” Jelly corrected the horses, silently hoping they would move faster, but not wanting to risk further injury to Scott.

“It’s okay, Jelly, just keep going,” Murdoch urged his friend.

A fever started to take hold after spending the night out in the cold.  Scott shivered, even though he was under several blankets, but he didn’t regain consciousness.  The long ride back to town took several hours.  The caravan arrived at Dr. Jenkins place late in the morning.  Murdoch, Jelly, and Frank, who had been waiting for the Lancers to arrive,  carefully unloaded Scott’s limp body from the wagon. 

“Murdoch, I’ll do the best I can with the boy, but it doesn’t look good.  He has lost so much blood and I still have to get the bullet out. And with his fever, it looks like an infection has already started to set in.” 

“Do you best, Sam. I trust you with my sons,” murmured Murdoch. 

While the doctor and his nurse performed surgery removing the bullet from Scott’s side, Murdoch went to sit with Johnny.

“Murdoch, what do we do without Scott around?  I was just getting to know him.  I need more time.” The pain in Johnny’s voice was apparent and his father felt the same feelings.

“Johnny, we can’t think that way.  Sam is doing everything possible.  We just have to stay positive that it will turn out right.”  Murdoch wished that his thoughts could be more hopeful, but he remembered the way his son looked and the expression on the doctor’s face. Murdoch began to pace back and forth at the end of Johnny’s bed.  He wanted his father to stop, because it was making him dizzy and uneasy.  Before he could say something to Murdoch, Jelly poked his head into Johnny’s room.

“Boss, any news yet?”

“No, nothing yet Jelly.  We’ll let you know as soon as we know something.”  Jelly nodded and left the two Lancer men alone.

Murdoch looked over at his son who was smiling.

“Son, what are you smiling about?”

“Scott.  I just have a good feeling that he is going to pull through.  I don’t know why.  I just do.”

“I sure hope you’re right.”  Feeling more confident after Johnny’s positive words, Murdoch sat down next to the bed.

The operation took much longer than Murdoch thought it would.  He jumped up when he saw the doctor standing in the doorway with a haggard expression on his face. 

 “Sam, how’s Scott?”  Murdoch asked anxiously as the doctor came forward to see them.

“We got the bullet out and thankfully, it didn’t hit his spine or any major organs.   Now it is just a matter of waiting.  I’ve done all I can, now we need to see what Scott can do to heal himself.” 

*****

Johnny leaned over to talk to his unconscious brother. “Remember the promise you made?  You are a Lancer.  You can survive this.  Come back to me, brother. Please.”

Two days passed and Scott had not regained consciousness.  Jelly had already returned to the ranch, but Murdoch and Johnny refused to return to the ranch or leave Scott’s side.  Johnny was recovering nicely, but would need a crutch to get around.  He was still weak from blood loss, but didn’t worry about his own health, just his brother’s.

“I remember dead men that looked more alive than Scott,” thought Johnny.

Even though the surgical team tried to be as clean as possible, Scott began to run a high fever from an infection caused by the open wound and being out in the elements for so long. 

The nurse bathed Scott in cool water to try to lower his temperature.   The clothes she used became warm from his skin.  Scott began to thrash about and screamed out in pain.  Then silence.  The quiet was what worried his family the most.

“Murdoch, why did you leave me?” Scott mumbled in a delirious state.  “Why didn’t you come for me? Father …”

“Shhh, Scott, you’re safe.  You’re alright.”

Murdoch was shocked by Scott’s words.  He didn’t know if he was asking about his recent choice of saving Johnny first or if he was reliving his past when he didn’t go get him from Boston.  Johnny listened to his brother’s ramblings and silently blamed himself. 

“Scott, don’t you die on me, brother.  You hear me!  I need you.”

Murdoch had forgotten about his youngest son, until he heard his tortured request of Scott.  The patriarch looked at Johnny’s face.  He saw raw emotion and unshed tears.

“Son, we just need to be strong for your brother.  Scott is going to pull through this.”

*****

The morning of the fourth day, Scott’s fever broke and he began to sweat profusely.  Scott was wrapped in a blanket and laid across his father and brother’s laps in the waiting room, while the nurse changed the sheets.  Then, Scott was clothed in a clean, dry night shirt and put back into bed. 

The family continued to wait for Scott to regain consciousness.  Johnny finally got up the nerve to talk to his father about his thoughts.

“Murdoch, I was just thinkin’.  If we’d handled this differently would Scott have fared better?”

“What do you mean, son?” Murdoch puzzled, looked at his youngest.

“What if you had left me to stay with Scott while you got the doc?  Maybe we both wouldn’t have made it or maybe I could have kept him safe.”

“How do I tell my son that I didn’t want to lose both my sons, so I decided to send the one most likely to survive?” Murdoch debated about how to handle it, and decided to keep his thoughts to himself.

“Johnny, I wanted to ‘kill two birds with one stone’ as you said earlier.  You could be treated while I brought Sam back to Scott.  If Sam had been there, Scott could’ve gotten help sooner.  It’s in the past, we just have to live with our decisions.  Besides, Scott’s in good hands and I believe he will be fine.”

“I hope you’re right, old man.  It was a tough choice to make and we’ll all have to live with whatever happens.”

*****

Murdoch left to bring back dinner for them to eat, since they had eaten up all of Dr. Jenkins food. As he entered the house, Murdoch heard Johnny talking to his brother.

“Come on, Boston, open your eyes.  We’re getting tired of hanging out here.  I know you like to take your time to think things through before you act, but you’ve had enough thinkin’ time.  Now is the time to act.  Open your eyes.” 

Johnny turned to see his father standing in the doorway, smiling at him. 

“Well, it was worth a try,” Johnny admitted.

Both men turn to look at Scott, who was slowing trying to open his eyes to look at them.  After several blinks, he finally managed to open them.

“Hello, Scott.  How are you feeling? Would you like some water?” Murdoch calmly questioned his son, even though he was bursting with happiness.

Scott grimaced, nodded, and tried to smile.  He saw blurry figures near his bed, but knew the voice of his father.

Murdoch brought him some water, while Johnny hobbled to alert the doctor that the patient was awake.

“Doc, come quick.  Scott’s awake.”

*****

It was three more days, a week since Scott had been shot, until Dr. Jenkins felt that he was recovered enough to go home to recuperate. 

“Total bed rest for a month!” Dr. Jenkins commanded, knowing that he would be lucky if he stayed in bed for a week.  He would go out to check on his patient in a few days.  Doc gave Scott a large dose of Laudanum before sending him home, because he knew that the wagon trip was going to be hard on the boy. 

“Johnny, you need to stay off that leg, as well.  It wouldn’t do you any harm to stay in bed for a week, either.” The doctor said as a parting shot.  Johnny didn’t even look at the Doc.  He was too busy watching his big brother being unloaded off a stretcher onto the mattress in the back of the buckboard.  The same buckboard and same mattress that had brought him to Dr. Jenkins a week ago.

Johnny rode in the back of the wagon with Scott while Murdoch carefully drove them all to the ranch.  Scott slept the whole way without making a sound.  Johnny was anxious to get his brother home, so Scott could get the healing rest he needed.

When the trio finally drove under the Lancer arch, they knew that their “vacation” was behind them.  Johnny and Murdoch looked and felt physically and emotionally exhausted.

Teresa and Maria were ready for the men when they arrived, because Jelly had warned them about what to expect. 

Scott was carried into his room by some of the hands, while Murdoch helped Johnny to his room.  Johnny was helped into a night shirt, but fought his father about going to bed.

“Johnny, you heard Sam say you need bed rest, too.  You won’t be any good to your brother if you reinjure your leg.  Now, go to bed.”  Murdoch was calling the tune and his son needed to obey.

Johnny was tired, but he wanted to see his brother before he slept, so he compromised with his father.

“Murdoch, could you wake me in a few hours, so I can check on Scott?”  Murdoch knew the bond between his sons was strong, so he agreed.  He went back to his oldest son’s room, pulled up a chair, and propped his feet up on the end of the bed.  It was going to be a long recovery.

*****

Doc Jenkins stopped by the next day to see how his patients were doing.  Thankfully, Johnny was resting in bed when the doctor arrived.  Doc didn’t need to know that he had been sneaking into his big brother’s room as often as he could get away with it.  Sam checked Johnny’s stitches and saw no infection.  The doctor cleaned the wounds and rebandaged his leg.  Now, he could check on his other Lancer patient.

Scott had a slight fever, but Sam wasn’t worried.  The family was very experienced in taking care of infections and injured men.  Teresa, Murdoch, Jelly and Maria had taken turns taking care of the boys.  Scott was given water or broth every time he woke up.  The also laced his water with Laudanum whenever he became restless or cried out in pain.

*****

After a week of forced bed rest, Johnny couldn’t be kept down anymore.  He started to take his turn staying with his brother.  Scott stayed awake for longer periods of time, much to his brother’s relief. During one of Scott’s more lucid moment, Johnny wanted to talk seriously to his brother.

“Scott, I’m so sorry that this happened to you.  If I hadn’t been messin’ around, this wouldn’t have happened.

“What?  You think this is just your fault!  Brother, we were both at fault and neither to blame.  It was an accident.  I don’t blame you.”  Scott’s quiet voice changed from anger to calm.  “Choices had to be made and we both survived.”

Johnny heard what his brother said and tried to accept his words, but knew he would make it up to his brother someday.

By week three, Scott was trying to get out of bed.  “I just want to go to the outhouse!  I am tired of … using a bedpan.” 

“Scott, you heard what the doctor ordered.  Total bed rest for one month,” Murdoch adamantly argued with his son.

“Murdoch, I will help him get there safely, then right back to bed.  Promise!” Johnny chimed in.  Murdoch looked at his youngest, who was only slightly limping these days, and at his oldest, who looked very hopeful at his father.

“Alright, but right back to bed.”   Murdoch knew when his sons worked together, he couldn’t fight them.  He also knew that when the doctor said bed rest for a month, he knew he couldn’t keep his son down that long.

Both sons smiled, as Johnny helped his big brother to sit up on the side of the bed.  After the dizziness had subsided, Scott leaned on his younger brother to help him get to the outhouse for some relief.  Of course they didn’t go directly back to Scott’s room. 

“Boston, do you want to sit outside for a few minutes before we go back in?”

“You are reading my mind.  Thank you.”

After about half an hour, Johnny noticed that Scott was having a hard time keeping his eyes open. 

“Brother, I think it’s time for you to help me back to bed.  I’m getting tired.”

*****

Within a couple of weeks, Johnny was doing limited, non-strenuous work around the ranch and Scott was allowed to go to the great room to help with the books, when he wasn’t napping on the couch.    

Scott woke to the sound of Johnny’s spurs on the hard wood floors in the great room.

“I see my brother is working hard at restin’ on the couch.  How are you feeling?”

“Fine.”  Johnny smirked at Scott’s patent answer.  

“I’m getting pretty tired of resting though.  I think I am going to need to start working again soon.”

“Scott, you know Sam hasn’t released you yet,” Murdoch feeling the need to call the tune stated rather firmly.   “He’s only allowing Johnny to do light duty.  You two need to take your time recovering from our vacation.”

“Ah Murdoch, don’t mention that word vacation again.  If I ever suggest us goin’ camping or hunting for vacation, just shoot me.”

“I agree,” chuckled Scott.  “And I’ll use my Winchester to do it.”

 

 

~ end ~

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