The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Raian

 

 

From Lancer With Love

In memory of Wayne Maunder and for his fans

Johnny marked time with his boot heels up and down the boardwalk, waiting for the stage. It was late, as usual. As usual, he'd hoped it would be on time.

Coming out of the stage office, Roy squinted, shaded his eyes and peered down the road. He pulled out his watch and popped open the lid. “Waiting for your brother, huh?”

“Yeah. How late will it be today?”

Roy shrugged and stuffed the timepiece back in his vest. “I would've said a half-hour, but that was over two hours ago. Come on over to the saloon. We can wait in style.”

Guaranteed, as soon as he'd taken that first sip of beer, the stage would appear. “No, you go on. I'll hold down the fort.” Roy took off at his fastest waddle. Johnny eyed the stage office's bench. No doubt as soon as he got comfortable...

The stage came 'round the bend right as he found a decent spot to rest his back against the uneven wall. Roy turned about, and made it back to the boardwalk before the driver pulled the horses to a halt.

Johnny craned his neck, trying to see a familiar face in the dark inside of the stage. It must have been a dusty ride – only one window was uncovered. A lady looked down at him from it, hatless, dark hair mussed by wind and wild eyes shining. She smiled, emphasizing an elfin chin. “You must be Johnny.”

He swept off his hat, his Yes, Ma'am drowned out by Teresa's “Johnny!”

Roy opened the stage door and helped Mr. and Mrs. McCalister out first. Scott was next, dapper as always despite the dust on his jacket. The McCalisters blocked the way, saying effusive good-byes to Scott and those remaining in the coach. Johnny tapped fingers against his thigh, resisting the urge to push the old couple along, wanting to tell them to go on home, now.

Scott slipped around the obstacle and shook Johnny's hand hard enough to make his teeth clatter. “Brother! It's good to see you.”

Johnny slapped Scott on the arm with his hat. “It's been too long, brother. Is everybody here, or do I need to send out a rescue party?” He put the hat back on, in case he needed both hands for something.

Scott brushed dust off his sleeves. “We all made it. It'll take a moment to pry everyone out of this rattle trap.”

The McCalisters finally moved along. Teresa's husband Erik, holding a wriggling armful of their son, Sam, helped her through the stage door. Teresa almost tripped getting out. Bet she missed wearing pants at times like this. She rushed to him and flung her arms 'round his shoulders, planting a kiss on his cheek. “Johnny! It's so good to be home.”

“It's only been a week, Teresa. Long enough for me to start missing the tadpole, though.”

Teresa laughed and took Sam from Erik. “Say hello to Uncle Johnny.” The toddler looked at him with wide eyes, and screwed up his mouth, burying his face in Teresa's neck. “Now, now, Sammy. You know Uncle Johnny's your favorite person in the whole wide world!”

Sam peeked sideways, blinking. He smiled and held out his arms toward Johnny. Johnny scooped him up and they danced a short fandango. He handed the now giggling kid back to Erik. “He almost forgot who I am.”

Teresa tsked. “You know he hasn't, Johnny. He's just fractious from the trip.” She ticked her son's chin, and Sam giggled again.

Scott had helped a woman down from the stage. “Johnny, may I present my wife, Andrea. Andrea, my brother, Johnny.”

Johnny pulled off his hat again and bowed to the woman from the window. It had been a long road for Scott and Andrea to reach this place. Johnny was proud to finally meet the woman who'd tamed his brother. “Pleased to meet you, ma'am.”

She'd neatened her hair some and pinned on a hat, but her eyes still danced. Her voice betrayed her origins south of the border. “I'm pleased to finally meet you, Johnny. Scott talks my... ear off about you.”

Johnny grinned wide. He'd gathered from Scott's letters that Scott had more than met his match in Andrea, and her in person didn't give lie to the idea. “He's about written my eyes blind about you.”

She laughed, and the sound of it made Johnny want to kick up his heels again.

“Eduardo, this is your Uncle John.” Scott herded a youngster around Andrea's skirts.

Johnny looked down into dark, solemn eyes. The lad kept a tight hold on a bundle, with a care that said what he held was priceless.

“I'll take the baby, Eduardo, while you say hello to your uncle.” Eduardo looked reluctant, but handed his load over to Andrea.

Johnny crouched down in front of Eduardo and found he had to look up. Even though he wasn't Scott's kid, Eduardo had what could've been Scott's height at that age. Johnny greeted the boy in Spanish.

“Senor... sir. I speak Spanish very well. If you please, I must practice my American.”

“Sure, kid.” He held out his hand. “Eduardo, I've been looking forward to meeting you.” Memories of his long-ago friend with the same name crowded close. As they shook hands, Johnny vowed not to make the same mistakes with this Eduardo.

Eduardo had serious eyes. “I am pleased to meet you, Tio... I mean, Uncle John... Johnny.”

“That's right. Call me Uncle Johnny.” Johnny levered himself to his feet. Seemed like every year it got harder to get up. “Murdoch took Flora's kids off on a visit, otherwise they'd've been here to meet you too.” He gestured to what Eduardo had been holding. “This must be little Katherine Adelita.”

“She is indeed.” Scott, having taken the newest member of the Lancer clan from his wife, pulled back the blanket so Johnny could see the baby's face. She regarded him with that look babies had: like they could read your soul.

Eduardo tugged at his jacket. “Uncle Johnny. Can I help with the luggage?”

“I'm betting you're strong enough. I need some help, since your pa's busy with the baby.” The joyful face Eduardo turned to Scott on hearing the word Pa made Johnny wish Flora's kids were on the stage too.

“Did your wife stay at the ranch?” Andrea wanted to know.

“Couldn't talk Flora into coming. She's making sure everything's ready for you, all unpacked and set up. What you shipped has been ready for a week, but I'm sure she found more to straighten out.”

Flora and Maria's daughter, Calida, had been preparing for the arrivals since they'd got Scott's first telegram about coming home. When Teresa's visit to her husband's family ended at a time they could all catch the same stage home, his Florrie had to stay at Lancer. She claimed there wasn't enough room in the wagon for all of them.

There was room, but Flora hadn't wanted them to be crowded: the stagecoach trip would have been bad enough. Despite Johnny's protests that Scott traveled light, and he was sure Scott's family followed suit, Flora reminded him how much baggage babies needed. Johnny accepted that truth – though his step-kids had been older when he and Florrie married, he'd seen how much Teresa hauled around for Sam – and his wife stayed home.

It was all right. Johnny loved homecomings. They'd have another big round of welcomes at the hacienda.

******

Their arrival at Lancer didn't disappoint. The house rang with laughter as folks settled in, and newcomers explored the many rooms.

Supper brought back memories of times before the family had split up. Now there were even more at the table. It made Johnny proud to see everybody where they belonged once again.

After a superb desert, Calida came in to clear the table. The ladies jumped up to help. Maria, overseeing the work, scolded, “No, no. You are guests for tonight.”

“Oh, no, Maria. It's good to be home and I want to get back to normal.” Teresa disappeared into the kitchen with a heap of dishes. For a little gal, she could sure carry a load.

“Thank you, Maria, but we want to help.” Andrea chipped in. “I, for one, cannot cook, but I can help with dishes.” She held Eduardo's chair steady as he slid down off the book they'd used so he could reach the table. “What do they say about many hands in the kitchen, son?”

Eduardo answered in a low voice, “Do not break the dishes.”

They all laughed. “Yes, dearest, these are real china, not metal. And many hands make light work. Come, let's see how they do things at Lancer.”

“After, can we look for snails in the garden?”

Andrea smiled and ran a hand over Eduardo's dark head. “I'm sure we can find some. Lizards and perhaps a snake as well.” The look she shared with Scott while handing Katherine over to him could've fried eggs. Scott was a lucky man. Andrea stacked plates for Eduardo to carry, helping him balance them on the way to the kitchen.

Erik stood. “I need to see if Sam's still sleeping. The trip wore him out. I'll leave you two to catch up with each other.”

“Do you need anything else, Johnny?” Flora leaned over his chair.

“More coffee would be good.”

She went to the kitchen, returning with a fresh pot. “It'll take some time for us to get everything cleaned up. Let me know if you need something else.”

She trailed a hand along his back. He caught it as it left his shoulder, pulling her to a halt while he kissed her palm. He watched her leave the room – his wife sure cut a fine figure. He turned back to Scott and poured coffee. “Andrea's as lively a gal as you said.”

“She keeps me on my toes.”

“You sure she'll settle for ranch life?”

“She loves barns. We'll build on that.” Scott bounced Katherine and settled her in the crook of an arm. “You saw her on the way here from town. She'll run out of the desire to create long before she's painted or etched every subject she wants to capture here on Lancer.” Scott sipped his coffee. “Flora's looking well and happy.”

“She is. I got a good one.”

“You did, indeed. Eduardo can't wait to meet his cousins.”

“He might change his mind once those two bobcats get back. They'll be stir-crazy after behaving themselves at Flora's parents.”

“Eduardo can do crazy just fine.”

“He settling in OK?”

“Better than we expected. We've had rough times, but I think we're over the worst. Now we've both officially adopted him, he's daring to believe we told him the truth about including him in our lives forever.” Scott topped up his coffee and reached for the creamer. Whatever else happened, Scott never lost his need for cream.

His brother still wore a polish, despite years of traveling often dangerous back country. Scott had made it through the events brought on by Harlan's death, managing to figure out and settle that legacy, emerging with a bride who shared his desire to return to Lancer – a bride who matched him in education, drive and skill of negotiation.

Scott had done more than his fair share of compromising. It was about time he found somebody who agreed with him. Scott looked more content than he'd been in a good long while.

Johnny was going to enjoy these next few weeks – he'd seen Scott in many moods, but never head-over-heels in love. Some teasing would be in order over the next few days – or months. “You home to roost for good this time?”

“That's the plan. I can't think of a better place to raise my family.”

“Andrea agrees?”

“She's ready for the change. If her commission work dries up – which I don't see happening for the foreseeable future – I'm sure she can find plenty of work nearer to home.”

“Good.” Johnny fiddled with his coffee cup. “Everybody misses you when you aren't around.”

“And I've missed everyone. I'm sorry I couldn't stay longer on that last visit.”

“You were here when we needed you. That's what counts. We understood why you had to get back.” He gestured at Katherine. “I'd've wanted to get back in time for that. What about the businesses?”

“Grandfather's estate is fully settled. I'm confident the men I've placed in charge of what's left will do their jobs, without my having to look over their shoulders. For the rest, I'll have to make the usual number of trips north, but only occasionally farther afield.”

“That was some web Harlan left you caught in.”

“We got it done. Is Murdoch still due back at the end of the week?”

“He might be home sooner, now he knows you're here. This is the longest he's had the kids on his own. We've been surprised he hasn't cut the visit short already.”

“Your children are a delight, when they need to be. I'm sure they're happy to have the grandparents all to themselves.” Katherine stared at Scott, waving her arms. Scott cooed at her, and her eyes closed. The look on Scott's face made Johnny want a baby of his own.

“You'll get one some day, Johnny.”

He'd missed his brother. Florrie and he had a tie, but it was different than what he had with Scott. “We're hoping.” He lowered his voice. “In fact, Florrie's thinking...” He rubbed at the table cloth, and couldn't stop a grin. “We might be able to make an announcement soon. She wants to be sure.”

Scott's smile was like sun breaking through clouds. “Congratulations. You're already wonderful parents.”

Scott's support and understanding erased worries and self-doubt. “We sure try our best.”

“Murdoch must laugh at us trying to be family men.” He pulled the blanket across Katherine, but she wiggled and it fell loose again. “It looks like marriage agrees with you.”

“It sure does. It was worth waiting for a gal who was ready to settle, who wanted Lancer like I do. Looks like you're getting the run around, though.”

Scott looked confused. “How so?”

Johnny ran a hand over his stomach, no longer as flat as it once had been. He was proud of that. It meant he was a happily married man. “You're still as skinny as ever.”

“Now I'm roosting, as you said, that might change.”

“Yeah.” Johnny patted his stomach again. “This is the price of a happy life.”

Scott smirked at him. “You can still get your calzoneras on.”

“Had to let the belt out some, though. Seems like a man's happiness goes to his gut.”

“Andrea feeds my soul.” Scott rewrapped Katherine and this time the blanket stayed where he put it. “You heard what she said about her cooking.”

“I bet Eduardo reminds you both to eat.”

“He won't let us forget what's important.” Scott shifted Katherine to his other arm. “I have things to tell you and Murdoch. Things I didn't want to put in a letter.”

“Don't worry. Ol' Grandpa will be so happy you're all here, he'll make time for whatever you need.”

Scott leaned back in his chair and looked around the room. Laughter from the kitchen echoed in the hall. “It's good to be home.”

Scott probably thought nothing had changed since his last visit. Not much had. Now, though, the hole he'd left at Lancer was filled.

 

 

~ end ~
Written Nov 2018

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