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The Butterfly

I do not own nor do I gain financially from the following story.  Thanks much to Con for her beta, it is appreciated and all mistakes are mine.

Warning – this is an embarrassing situation for one of the family members, so proceed with that in mind.  Thanks much.


Scott flinched, catching his breath as Sam peeled away the crusty bandages from his wound.  He had been sleeping quite nicely, until he felt the dressings being fussed with.  Plans were that tomorrow morning he would be going home and Scott grudgingly submitted to the prodding when the promised prize in sight was Lancer.  However, not only was he uncomfortable from the injury, he was also short on dignity as his backside was ‘airing out’ for all to see.         

“Oooh, that looks nasty.”

Johnny’s remark caught Scott’s attention.

“It’s not as bad as it looks.”  Sam’s comment seemed to fall short considering the pain, but Scott didn’t complain.  The doctor had wanted to dose him with laudanum, but relented when Scott insisted the discomfort was minimal.

“Scott, please lie still.”

Scott almost snorted from that remark.  From his hips down to his knees his body pulsated painfully and he was having a hell of a time not moving.  He twisted his neck to see where Johnny and Murdoch were.  He assumed Sam was sitting beside him on the bed, but recognized his father’s large hand resting on the bed linen.  Scott’s arms were stretched above his head, and he started to pull them down to lift himself up on his elbows.

“Scott, you need to lie still so I can dress this wound!”

Sam’s words stopped his movement.  “Where are you, Sam?”

“I’m on your left, down by your hip.”

Scott craned his head around, trying to see Sam.

“Scott,” Sam said with a bit of irritation in his voice, “Will you please lie still?”

“Where was I shot?”

“In the back, Son.”  He twisted to look at his father, but stopped when Sam let out a frustrated sigh.

“Sam, why does it hurt so low?”

“The bullet didn’t go deep.  But it grazed across your hip and bottom.  I also had to extend the incision a bit beyond where the bullet settled, as it angled after entry.  You’ve got a long incision.”

Scott brought his arm down and around trying to feel the damage, but Sam caught his hand.  “Scott, don’t touch it.”

“You’re touching it,” Scott protested.

“I’m the doctor.  And you might pull out a stitch the way you’re twisting.”

“I want to see it.”  He knew he sounded like a demanding child, but he thought he had the right to look at his own back.

“Well, you can’t.  You’ll have to wait until you heal some.”  Sam’s hand nudged the skin.  “The sutures are holding and I want them to stay that way.”

“You got a mirror around, Sam?  He can look at it that way.”

“Johnny, I need to show you and Murdoch how to dress this wound properly,” Sam explained with edgy impatience.

“I know that, but what’s it gonna hurt for him to look at it?  It’ll only take a minute.”

“Well, okay,” Sam conceded.  “But, Scott, will you lay still then so we can get this done?  I do have other patients waiting.  And I think you need something for the pain.”

“No!  I’ll be still.”  Scott’s need to fidget quickly disappeared, replaced by his desire to see the wound and the undesired ministrations of choking down laudanum or getting stabbed by a needle.

“Johnny, there’s a mirror on the wall in the next room.”

“I’ll be right back, and Scott, don’t go anywhere.”  Johnny slapped him lightly on the shoulder, chuckling as he left the room.

“You’re not close to funny, Johnny,” Scott called after him.  “But thanks,” he added as an afterthought, grateful that Johnny was getting a mirror.

“Listen, Son.  Just to prepare you, it is an ugly wound.”

Bending around to look at his father, the stitches stretched and it felt like his back was splitting in two.  He twisted his face into the pillow and held his breath against the pain.  Instantly he felt his father’s hand on his shoulder.

“Take it easy, Scott.  Don’t move so fast.”  Murdoch’s voice was tense, soft.

Through the throbbing, Scott heard the hard clip of footsteps hurrying across the floor.

“What happened, Murdoch?”

“He moved too fast, Johnny.  Did he pull any stitches, Sam?”  Scott felt his father shift, his hand tightening on his arm.
“No.  They held.”  Fingers skimmed lightly over the swollen tissue.  “Scott, I’ll give you an injection…”

“No,” Scott hissed through the discomfort.  “I didn’t realize….”

“All right,” Sam soothed mildly.  “Just take a deep breath.”

Gradually the pain receded, the initial sharpness of the movement dulling.  At length he was able to open his eyes, but not before he recalled the stupid accident that caused the problem.

“I need to fire that idiot!” Murdoch grumbled, seeming to read Scott’s mind.

“It could have happened to anyone Murdoch.”  Knowing that was not the case, Scott still didn’t want to see the man fired.  Caldwell was a good natured man, but careless; a dangerous trait on a working ranch.

“Son, you don’t lean a loaded rifle against a wagon with a hitched team and forget to put the safety on.  You could have been killed.”  Murdoch’s tone sharpened with each word.

No one knew that better than Scott.  Nor could anyone have been more surprised than Scott when his knees buckled and what felt like a hot branding iron seared down his back.  “But it was a butterfly that spooked the horses.  No one could have foreseen that.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Murdoch stressed.  “A hand knows you can never be too careful.”

“Can we talk about Caldwell later,” Scott asked, not wanting to debate with his father at the moment. 

Murdoch cleared his throat and agreed with a short, “later then; when you’re up to it.”

“Hey, Boston,  want to look at that boney ass of yours?”  Johnny’s voice was teasing, and succeeded in instilling a sense of lightness to a tense and painful situation.

Scott lifted his head to the clear-eyed gaze of his brother.  Johnny was holding a large mirror almost half as tall as he was.  Scott managed a small smile, nodded his head, and Johnny set the mirror at the head of the bed, leaning it against the wall, tilting it so Scott could see his back.  The long mirror reflected most of the room behind him including his father, brother and doctor.  He shifted his eyes to a ragged length of stitching that started below his right hip, angled diagonally a few inches, and then rose with the swell of his bottom.  Dried blood crusted around the stitches, the tissue swollen and raw looking.  As his father said, it was ugly.  Laying his head back on the pillow, Scott closed his eyes, wondering when or if his sitter would ever be the same.

“Hey, Scott,   ya got a beauty mark.”

Scott popped his head back up and stared at his brother’s reflection.  “I do not have a beauty mark!”

“Sure you do.  Ya got a beauty mark on your ass.  See?”

Johnny’s finger was pointing to a small, reddish spot on Scott’s right rump.  “Don’t touch it,” he blurted as Johnny’s finger descended ever closer.

“Hey, Murdoch, doesn’t that look like a beauty mark?” Johnny asked, and lowered his finger until it hovered just above the mole.

The reflection in the mirror showed three men intently studying the strawberry colored splotch on Scott’s butt.  “Would you stop it?  It’s just a mole.  Lots of people have them.”

Two heads came up to look back at him in the mirror; the third bent his head closer to the mark.

“Johnny, you get any closer and I can assure you, you’ll be sorry.”  Not only did Scott have a literal pain, he also had a figurative one in the form of his brother making a big deal out of the fact that a blemish was on his bottom.

“Well, I know lots of women that would call that a beauty mark.   I never noticed it before.”

“I should hope you don’t make a point of studying my ass,” Scott remarked wryly.

Johnny stood up and glanced at Scott’s reflection in the mirror.  His smile was crooked; his voice low; his eyes glittering with enjoyment.  “Sure is pretty, Boston.  Looks kinda like a butterfly.” 

Frustrated by the attention to his ass, and embarrassed, Scott decided to try to gain some amount of control.  “Doc, I can take care of this myself?”

“Take care of what?”

“Changing the bandage.”

“And how do you think you’re going to do that?”

“I can do it.  I’ve got long arms.”

“Scott, you cannot clean and dress this wound properly.  Now please, I need to get on with showing Murdoch and Johnny how to do it.  I didn’t realize you were so modest.”

Scott could hear Johnny chuckling. “Sam, I don’t care who sees it, I just don’t like the idea of anyone touching it.”

“Son, you don’t care who sees it?”

Scott heard the amusement in his father’s voice and groaned inwardly.  His back and ass hurt like hell – and he wanted to go home.  He conceded he was being unreasonable, but he would have liked to have maintained some of his dignity.  Lord knows three men staring intently at his bare butt left him with very little.

“Yeah, Scott, maybe you’d rather have Teresa in here changing the bandage.  She could tell her friends about that pretty button.”  Johnny grinned, obviously taking great pleasure in teasing his brother.

Deciding to ignore Johnny, at least until he was able to properly throttle him, Scott addressed his father.  “You know that’s not what I meant, Murdoch.  And Sam, you’re just used to Johnny.  He’s the one who doesn’t have any modesty.”

“I have modesty, Scott!”

“Modesty does not include walking around without a stitch on and giving an eyeful to the staff.”

“I was in my own room.  How was I supposed to know Maria would come in!”

“You were way out of your room, and Maria was bringing up a dinner tray.”

“Okay, I might have been a couple of steps out in the hallway, but I heard a noise and needed to know what was going on,” Johnny pronounced defensively.

Scott twisted to look directly at Johnny and the stitches exploded in protest.

“Scott Lancer, you pull those stitches out and I will be very unhappy!  You realize how much work I put into them to minimize scaring?”

“I’m sorry Sam,” Scott grunted through clenched teeth, wondering why Sam would care about a scar that no one would see.  When the pain edged away, he looked back in the mirror at Johnny.  “You were on the landing and the noise was Maria singing.  Of course, that was followed by the much bigger noise of Maria dropping the tray when she saw you in all your glory.”

Johnny bowed his head and a deep red flushed his cheeks. 

“Well…I was sick.  Out of my head,” Johnny stammered.

“And everything else was out as well…and you were not delirious,” Scott emphasized.  He could still see the image of a naked Johnny at the head of the stairs, bleary eyed, hair askew, and an open mouthed Maria staring up at him.

“Scott, please, if you want to go home, someone needs to be able to change the bandages.  Or, would you rather stay here?”  This time Sam’s tone sounded like a lecture was just around the corner.

Scott groaned, and, defeated, pushed his head against the pillow.  “All right, but I don’t want to hear any snide remarks from Johnny.”  He pulled his gaze to the mirror and spied laughing blue eyes flashing with enjoyment.  Johnny’s lips were quivering, as if he were trying to hold back a chuckle.  “You hear me Johnny!”

“Yeah, Boston.  I hear ya.  You think I’d say anything mean, with you laying there hurt and all?” Johnny was all innocence.

Scott knew that’s exactly what Johnny would do, especially if it meant that he could get a laugh on his brother.  “Murdoch, you do it. I don’t see any reason why Johnny has to.”

“What if I’m gone, Son?  We really need to have Johnny able to do this as well.”

“He can watch,” Scott affirmed, thinking he was making a huge concession to allow Johnny to even stay in the room.  Scott loved his brother and trusted him with his life, but he didn’t trust him not to carry to the bunkhouse how he bandaged ‘big brother’s butt’. 

“Murdoch, I’ve got a new salve to put on those stitches.  From what I’ve read in the medical books, it really promotes healing and minimizes scarring.”  Sam clinically eyed the incision and deftly ran his hand along its length.  “It’s been used quite extensively on horses for proud flesh, with very good results.”

“Horses!”  Scott didn’t think he heard right.

“Come on, Boston.  That way you won’t have a scar on your ass.  Wouldn’t want to ugly up that beauty mark.”

“It is not a beauty mark!”  Scott repeated with exasperation.  “It is a blemish from birth; nothing more.”

“It’s about as close as you can get to a beauty mark.”

“Johnny.  You’re upsetting your brother,” Murdoch remonstrated, even though there was humor in his voice.

“Sam, please, can we just get this done?” Scott exhorted, gripping the pillows with his fingers.

“I am trying to get it done.  Now, I want the two of you to keep quiet so I can show your father how to dress this wound. Please.”

“Sam, I have changed dressings before, you know.”

“I realize that Murdoch, but if you don’t mind, I am still the doctor.  At least let me go through the motions of showing you, okay?” Sam huffed.

“Sorry.”  Murdoch’s apology didn’t sound like one.

Scott didn’t think anything of it when Sam took a couple long strides to the door and opened it.  It wasn’t until he heard him say, “Mother, bring in that special salve, will you?” that his agitation spiked.

“Young man, why won’t you lie still?”  That Doc Jenkins was beyond annoyance was pretty evident.

“Your wife…there are enough people in here!” Scott balked, trying to pull at the blankets to cover up.  His efforts were awkward and clumsy…and painful.

“She’s a trained nurse.” Sam dismissed the objection as if it shouldn’t be a factor.

“But she’s a female,” Scott gnashed, sweating with exertion to reach the blankets, realizing that the good doctor didn’t care about his perceived problem.

“You sayin’ a female never saw that part of you before, Brother?”

“Johnny!”  This time there was no humor in Murdoch’s voice.

Johnny’s ass was his, as far as Scott was concerned and the irony of the situation wasn’t lost on him.  This was Johnny’s fault in the first place for drawing attention to that stupid birth mark.

“Scott, in two minutes I am going to tie you down!” 

Sam sounded serious, but Scott was more vexed about Mrs. Jenkins coming in than concerned with Dr. Jenkins carrying out his threat.

“Dear, who are you going to tie down?”  A confident Mrs. Jenkins strolled into the room and stood by her husband’s side.

“The patient!  He refuses to lie still after I’ve asked him several times, and he will ruin my handiwork,” the doctor grumbled.

Self-conscious, Scott scrunched his face into the bedding, still picking at the sheet without success.  He could have smacked Johnny, stitches or not, to shut up his damnable snickering.  Where the hell was his father, he fumed.  Why wasn’t he coming to his aid?  Isn’t that what fathers were supposed to do?

The soft, competent voice of Milly Jenkins drifted towards him.  “Why, Father, I’m sure Scott is just uncomfortable.”

That was an understatement and Scott felt his entire body burn with frustration.  No one seemed to care how he felt.

“Now, don’t you think anything of it, Scott.  I’ve seen all sorts of bottoms, both male and female.  They are all the same to me.  Why, I’ll be so quiet; you won’t even know I’m here.”

Not likely, Scott mulled, through the sweet clearness of Mrs. Jenkins’ statement.

“Your mother had a mark like that.”  The tone from his father was low and wistful; something totally not Murdoch.

Scott snapped his head to Murdoch’s reflection, and noted his father’s normally hard features had softened.  As he stared at Scott’s bottom, Murdoch appeared to be lost in his own remembrances.  Scott dearly wanted to know about his mother, but not where on her body she had carried an identical birthmark; and certainly not while he was lying bare-assed up for all to see!

On top of everything else, the other three were now solemn faced, studying the birthmark sympathetically, as if somehow that mole was a symbol of his father’s loss.   In dismay, Scott watched a consoling Sam touch Murdoch lightly on the arm.  Murdoch squeezed his lips together at the contact, and nodded his bowed head as his fingers reached down and tenderly touched the spot.

This had to stop!

Scott’s eyes tracked to Johnny’s face; his brother’s gaze was blank and transfixed on the birthmark.  Scott looked at Mrs. Jenkins.  Shaken, he peered harder into the mirror, hoping her small smile was his imagination. 

“What a cute little smudge on your bottom.”  Mrs. Jenkins bent for a closer look.  “Why, it looks just like a sweet butterfly.”  She turned to the good doctor.  “Father, doesn’t the Anderson’s new little baby girl have a mark like that?” 

“Please.”  He heard the distress in his voice and realized he had said the word out loud.  All the threats of getting even with Johnny were tossed aside when his brother seemed to shake himself, cleared his throat and reached for a dressing. 

“Sam, we should be gettin’ this done.”  Scott could have hugged him in appreciation.

“Certainly, Johnny,” Sam coughed.  “We should be.”

Sam turned and reached for something on the side table.  Grateful that progress was being made, Scott reflected the best way to proceed was to bury his face in the pillow and try to blot out as much as possible.  He heard Sam mumble something and was aware of movement, but didn’t pay it much mind.  His thoughts were on just getting through this ‘exposure’ when he was taken unaware by a sudden, sharp jab to his bottom.  He jumped, yelped in pain and felt hands snag onto his arms and legs preventing movement.  Damn, Sam had stuck him.

“Sam!”  Scott bellowed, lifting his face to the doctor’s image.  He felt betrayed and powerless to do anything about it.

Sam swapped the spot with a wet piece of cotton and looked everywhere but at Scott.  “I should have done that to begin with,” he groused, picking at dressings before reaching for the container of salve and setting it back down again.   “I’m the doctor here and know what’s best,” he blustered, as if he was the one who’d been insulted.

His manner was brusque, but Scott could feel the guilt; something to be tucked away for future use and resurrected when needed.

Scott jerked when Sam fingered the incision and hands tightened on his limbs.  It wasn’t long before their touch seemed insubstantial.  Sam was talking, but his voice waivered like the up and down of a rolling ocean.  Scott felt the pull of the drug, his mind wobbled and he tried to focus.  He moved his head, but it was heavy and slow.  Managing to drag it across the pillow, he tilted his gaze to the mirror and centered on the fuzzy images.

There were still four of them – like an encampment circling the wagons, in this case around two pink swells.  Mrs. Jenkins was holding something in her hand and the doctor kept reaching for it.  “Just give it to him,” Scott mumbled, his tongue weighty, too big for his mouth.

“I think he’s trying to say something, Sam.”

“It’s just the drugs, Murdoch.  He’ll be out soon.”

Why couldn’t they understand him?  Perhaps it was best that he go to sleep and not think about Mrs. Jenkins and the butterfly on his butt or the butterfly flickering between the ears of a young horse.  Or was the birthmark fluttering?  It was all very confusing.  Why were there so many butterflies?

Sam’s fingers were light and gentle upon his skin.  The conversation around him was a most pleasant distraction, like a hum just there.  Something brushed through his hair, and a whispered, “Go to sleep, Son.” was the last thing he heard.



“Well, I guess we should be gettin’ to the hotel.  He’s not gonna wake up till morning.”

Murdoch turned his gaze from Scott, and nodded agreement.  Johnny was scrunched into the old wooden chair and Murdoch wondered if his son could possibly be comfortable.

“You think he’ll be all right?”  Concern tracked across Johnny’s face; and maybe some guilt.

“Oh, I think so, Son.  He’ll probably be sore for a while and obviously not able to sit a saddle longer than that.”  Murdoch stopped rocking and cracked his neck, stiff from sitting too long.  Something was bothering Johnny but time would bring it out.  Murdoch felt it wouldn’t be long, and he was right.

“Ya think he’s mad at me?”  Johnny swept his gaze to Scott.  He rested his elbows on his knees and fisted his hands together.

“Oh, he might be a bit irritated, but I think he’ll understand why.”

Johnny’s glance was sharp as he turned to Murdoch.  “Understand why?  Not sure what you mean.”

A small smile played across Murdoch’s mouth.  “Oh, I think you do.  You were relieved that the wound wasn’t worse than it was.  It was evident.”

Sitting back, Johnny studied his father, his nonchalant manner trying to hide something, but failing.  “How?”

“Johnny.”  The word was exhaled, soft, and tired.  Murdoch looked to Scott, grateful for the smooth in and out of his breathing.  His color was still pale, but there wasn’t fever; maybe tomorrow, hopefully not bad.  But Johnny was waiting for an answer.  “I was scared.”  His eyes rested back on Johnny.  “You were too.”

“Yeah,” Johnny murmured and bowed his head.

The bright red splotch polluting Scott’s shirt and pants popped into his mind, and Murdoch shuddered.  It had spread too fast, and death could snatch suddenly.

“I guess I shouldn’t have gone on about the butterfly, huh?” The question was quietly tendered.

Murdoch shrugged.  “It helped.”  He looked into the serious blue of his son’s eyes, and a chuckle came, slowly at first, but it kept building until it bubbled into deep laughter.  Tears came to his eyes and he couldn’t stop himself. 

Johnny eyed him worriedly, but there was a smile on his lips.  Then Johnny started laughing as well; a broad swell of throaty relief erupted and billowed throughout the room. 

For Murdoch, the laughter was a release; a liberation of sorts from that great fear of loss.  He watched Johnny wipe tears from his face, and his own stomach began to hurt from the experience of letting it go.

A low moan from the bed stopped them both, and Johnny was off his chair instantly.

“I think we should hold it down,” Murdoch commented, when Scott made no further sound.

“Yeah, I guess we should.”  Johnny had been half way across the room to Scott when his father’s voice stopped him.  He quietly returned to the chair.  “I’m supposin’ Mrs. Jenkins’ remark about the butterfly was about the last straw,” Johnny said, snorting with a subdued half laugh.

“Ah, Son, I think it would be best if we keep that birthmark just between us.  I’m sure Scott would appreciate that.”  Murdoch smiled in spite of himself as he recalled the mortified look on Scott’s face at Millie Jenkins’ delightful discovery of the ‘cute little smudge’.  Poor Scott.  He’d felt quite sorry for his son, especially after Millie’s statement brought Murdoch from his own reverie of Catherine.  He hadn’t realized how embarrassing the whole incident had been for Scott.  Still, it was amazing that both mother and son had an identical birthmark in the same place.

“Well, I suppose that means I shouldn’t hold it over his head.”  Johnny leaned back in his chair and sighed.

“It would be the kind thing to do, Son.”

“Humph,” Johnny exhaled.  He ran a finger over his lip and seemed to be contemplating.  “Too bad.  I could sure use that…”  He stopped and glanced guiltily at Murdoch.  “I mean, okay.”

“I’m sure you and your brother will work it out.”  Murdoch leaned his head against the back of the chair and started to rock.  He noted Johnny cross his legs and settle.  They’d stay until Scott woke up, regardless that there was a nice, clean bed in the hotel more accommodating to their tired bodies.

Murdoch well knew that the ‘butterfly’ would come up again between his sons.  It was the type of information that was ripe for teasing and Johnny, being Johnny, wouldn’t be able to contain it.  But then, that’s what brothers did; and sisters as well.  Murdoch’s oldest sister had teased him unmercifully when he reached his teen years and thought he had become man enough to tell her what to do.  That hadn’t lasted long and she’d humbled him speedily.  Whenever he got cocky, she’d remind him of her discovery when changing his dirty diapers.  Yes, siblings had a way of threatening you with the most intimate things.

Murdoch smiled inwardly, happy that these siblings could share in the same experiences of life, even if they were a little late in coming.

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