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SandySha

 

The Bond

**The story has been inspired by the picture below as well as the works of a talented Lancer Fan Fiction writer, Southern Frau. Her stories can be found here on Lancerlovers.com.
** A/R Johnny is 3 and Scott is 8. 
**Thanks goes to Alice Marie and Terri (Doc) for help with the beta. 

Scott and Johnny as children

Wood crackled and flames danced, giving the Great Room a warm glow. 

In his chair in front of the fireplace, Murdoch relaxed for the first time that day.  With a book in one hand and his pipe in the other, he sighed contently, knowing his small family was together and, more importantly, safe.  

Glancing up, Murdoch watched his oldest son in the chair to his left.  Scott, his stocking feet tucked under him, was curled up with a book.  The expressions on the blond boy’s face changed with each sentence he read. The father in him was delighted Scott loved reading as much as he did. 

Peering over the top of his book, Murdoch smiled at the sight of the dark-haired baby sleeping on a blanket in front of the hearth.   Johnny’s rear end was in the air and his cherub face had a fleeting smile as he worked the thumb in his mouth. 

Going back to his book, he took a deep breath.  He’d read the same paragraph three times and still didn’t know what it said.  His thoughts kept going back to the events of the day, events that sent chills up his spine and caused his breath to hitch.  Closing his eyes, the vivid memories replayed themselves.

*****

Standing just inside the barn door, Murdoch watched his two young sons leave the house and walk across the yard, Scott in the lead and Johnny, as usual, trailing a few feet behind. 

Scott kicked a small rock with his boot and looked over his shoulder to see what his brother would do.  Johnny stopped when he got to the rock, pulled back his right foot and tried to imitate his big brother’s actions.  Missing the stone twice, Johnny bent over, picked it up and threw it a few feet ahead, then gave a curt nod of satisfaction.

Murdoch waited to see where they were headed.  When the boys stopped at the corral, he almost moved forward.   They knew not to go near the corral when the vaqueros were working horses, yet today the corral was empty and the vaqueros were on the range.  

Watching Scott step up on the first rail of the fence, Murdoch pushed his hat back, crossed his arms, and leaned against the door frame.  He couldn’t help but marvel at the developing connection between his sons.

The boys were as different as night and day; two sides to the same coin, yet the bond between them was strong.  So strong that no matter where Scott went, his shadow followed close behind.

*****

"Help me up, Brutter!”

Johnny looked up at 8-year-old Scott, standing on the second rail of the corral fence. 

Scott had no trouble climbing fences, but for Johnny, with his short legs, it was hard to even get to the first rail.

“Brutter!”

Scott looked down at his brother and shook his head.

Murdoch strained to hear what the boys were saying and covered his mouth to stifle a chuckle when he heard Johnny’s demanding voice.  At three and a half, the youngster tried to call the tune when it came to his big brother.

‘Brutter.’ Well, it was some better than when Johnny was two and learning to talk.   At two, Johnny had trouble with Scott’s name.  He’d run through the house screaming ‘Sott.’  Now, for the most part, he’d moved on to calling him Scott or brutter.

Murdoch knew there were times Scott grew tired of Johnny trailing behind him, always underfoot, but he also knew Scott loved his baby brother and he took great comfort in the knowledge Scott would always be there to protect him.

“Help me up!”

Scott reached down and grabbed the dark-haired boy by the back of his collar and pulled.   Johnny’s favorite red shirt was pulled up and out of his pants.

“Ouch, that hurt!”

“I’m trying to help you up, but you’re going to have to help too.”

Johnny struggled to lift his left leg onto the bottom rail.  Finally, he reached up, grabbed the middle rail and pulled with all his might.  When he did, his pants slipped down.  Finally, his left foot found purchase on the bottom board and he lifted his right foot.

By the time Johnny was standing on the bottom rail, his shirt was bunched around his neck, and his pants were to his knees.  The cowboy hat he wore had tipped forward, covering his eyes.

Johnny reached down with his right hand, yanking his pants up, then pushed his hat back on his head.

Murdoch could tell the youngster was becoming frustrated.  He only hoped that a temper tantrum wasn’t coming on.    He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the little boy smiling.

“Thanks, brutter.”

Scott smiled back.

“You’re welcome.”

Johnny ducked down so that he could see through the corral boards and then looked at his brother.  There was a look of both confusion and questioning in the small face.   He’d expected to see horses in the corral.  

“Brutter, why’d we climb up here?”

Scott’s laugh and his reply had Murdoch covering his mouth so as not to be heard.

“I just wanted to see if you’d follow me.”

Murdoch stifled a chuckle when he saw Johnny’s eyes narrow and a frown formed on the cherub face.    He thought his heart would burst with love for both of the boys when he saw Johnny smile and heard the reply, “I’d follow you anywhere, Brutter.”

Scott reached over and helped Johnny up to the second rail of the fence, put an arm around him and gave him a hug.     

******

Murdoch stepped out of the barn and into the corral. 

“Boys,” Murdoch called out softly so as not to frighten them.

Scott let Johnny go and looked at their father walking towards them.

“Hello, Father.”

Johnny’s face lit up as he peered over the top rail.  

Murdoch stepped up to the opposite side of the fence and stopped.  

“What are you two up to?  You know you shouldn’t be near the corral.”

“But Father, there aren’t any men working the horses,” Scott stated.

“No, you’re right, but should you have your brother up on the fence?”

Scott lowered his head and shook it.

 “Like I could have stopped him.  He wants to go everywhere I go and do everything I do.”

Murdoch looked at Johnny.

“Is that right?”

Johnny nodded his head, his hat slipping down over his eyes.  He pushed the offending hat back on his head.

 “Yep.” 

Murdoch laughed and held out his arms.  Johnny reached out and let his father lift him over the top rail.   The moment Murdoch tried to cuddle the boy to his chest, Johnny started squirming.

Murdoch put him down, before reaching up and lifting Scott over the fence, standing him beside his brother.

“So, what are you two going to do now?”

Scott gazed up with a thoughtful look on his face.

“I thought about going to the barn to see how the new kittens are doing.”

Johnny glanced at Scott, gazed up just as his brother had done and then nodded. 

“Well, you two be careful and stay out of trouble.”

“I never get into trouble,” Scott retorted and then looked to his right and down at his little brother.  Sighing, he responded, “Johnny, however, is another matter.  I’ll do my best to keep him out of trouble, but ….”

Murdoch didn’t even try to hide the smile on his face.

“I know, Son, just do your best.”

Scott straightened his hat and then lowered it over his eyes.  Putting his hands behind his back, he started to amble toward the barn.

Johnny looked at his father and then at his brother’s retreating back.  Pulling his hat over his eyes, lowering his head, placing his hands behind his back, just like his brother, Johnny started following.

“John,” Murdoch called out.

Johnny stopped and tipped his head back.  Big blue eyes looked out from under the brim of his hat.  

“Do what your brother says and… be good.”

Johnny put his hands on his hips and huffed.  “Papa, why everyone always say for me to be good?  I’m always…”   

When Johnny stopped mid-sentence, Murdoch could see the boy was thinking.  Murdoch waited a moment before asking, “Yes, Son?”

Johnny took a deep breath and let it out.

“I try.”

“Thank you, Son.”

Johnny turned and sauntered towards the barn, hands behind his back, head down.

Murdoch's eyes trailed ahead of his little one to the barn.  Scott had stopped just inside the door and looked over his shoulder to make sure his brother was following.

*****

Turning, Murdoch was half way back to the house when he heard a scream coming from the barn.  He stopped, hesitating, unsure of what he’d heard.  It was either the boys playing or something was wrong.

When he didn’t hear anything, Murdoch shrugged and once more began to move away. 

Another terrifying scream, he recognized as Johnny’s small voice, and then Scott yelled, “Pa!  Help!”

Two of the vaqueros heard the screams and were running toward the barn.  Murdoch beat them by seconds. 

Inside the door, the three men stopped, frozen in place seeing Johnny sitting in a stall near the back, holding a kitten to his chest, eyes wide with terror.  

Scott, also wide-eyed, stood in front of his brother holding a pitchfork.   Directly in front Scott, a rattlesnake lay curled and ready to strike.

“Scott, don’t move.”  Murdoch stepped slowly forward.

Drawing back its head, tail rattling, the snake hissed.

Scott stepped back, moving closer to his brother.   

To Murdoch’s horror, the kitten in Johnny’s arms, afraid and in pain from being held too tight, clawed at the boy’s arms before jumping to the ground and scurrying between Scott’s legs.

Johnny's cries of pain didn’t stop him from going after the kitten.  He was between his brother’s legs when he heard his Papa’s frantic voice.

“JOHN, STOP!”

Johnny froze with his face only three feet from the hissing tongue.

“Brutter,” Johnny’s voice trembled.

“Don’t move, Johnny.”

“Scott,” Murdoch tried to control his voice so as not to scare the boys any more than they already were, “stand very still.”

“Pa, do something.”

Everyone jumped when a single shot rang out and the coiled snake flew across the barn in two pieces.

Murdoch looked to his right to see Cipriano with a smoking gun in his hand.

Scott’s eyes went from the dead snake to his brother, still laying between his legs.  Throwing the pitchfork aside, he reached down, lifted Johnny up and clasped him to his chest, just as Johnny had clutched the kitten.

Johnny threw his arms around Scott’s neck and burst into tears.

Murdoch closed the distance to the boys in three strides.  Gathering both boys in his arms, he lifted them off the ground and kissed each of them on their heads before carrying them outside.  Sitting them down, he turned Scott to face him, realizing he was still holding his brother.
Murdoch took Johnny and hugged him with one arm while looking Scott over from head to toe.

“Are you hurt, Scott?”

“No, sir.  Is Johnny alright?”

Murdoch held Johnny out in front of him.  Tears were still falling from the boy’s blue eyes. 

“It’s alright, Son.  It can’t hurt you now.”

Johnny sobbed and his tears fell faster.

Murdoch pulled the baby to his chest and patted his back.   “Sssh Johnny.  It’s alright.”

Johnny raised his head, looked around, and cried harder. 

Concerned with the increased distress in his little one. “Johnny, are you hurt?”

Johnny shook his head.  “Noooo.”

“You don’t have to be afraid.”

“Not ‘fraid,” he sobbed.

“Then what’s wrong?”

“Kitty runned away.”

Murdoch started to sigh in relief and then saw blood on Johnny’s arm.

“What about your arm?  Let me see it.”

 Johnny then held out his arm, showing his Papa four thin scratch marks.  

“We’ll make it better.”

Johnny still cried. 

“Don’t cry, Johnny.”  Scott wiped a tear from his brother’s cheek.

Murdoch closed his eyes, fighting his own threatening tears.   When Johnny put a wet, tear laced kiss on Scott’s cheek, Murdoch couldn’t stand it any longer. Wiping the tears from his eyes, he found his voice.
 
“Let’s go inside and let Maria tend your arm.  I bet she’s got cookies. Would you like that?”

Nodding, Johnny sniffled.  

“Can brutter have cookies, too? He keep snake away.”

Murdoch smiled.  “He was very brave, wasn’t he?”

Johnny lifted his head, looked at his brother and nodded. 

Murdoch saw a blush on Scott’s fair skin.

“Alright, let’s go inside, get you tended to, and see about those cookies.”

*****

The day was finally over.  Johnny’s scratches were treated and the cookies eaten.

When Johnny started to fret over the frightened kitten, worrying about it being alright, Scott had gone back to the barn, found the kitten and brought it to the house.  After Johnny was satisfied the tabby was alright, Scott returned the kitten to his mother.

Johnny was back to normal within the hour, the snake forgotten.  Scott hovered near his brother until the little one wore himself out and collapsed in front of the fireplace.

Scott looked up from his book and watched the baby squirm and wiggle in his sleep. 

“Father, why is it Johnny’s never still, even when he’s sleeping?”

Murdoch smiled.   They were back to ‘Father’ now that Scott was no long frightened for himself or his brother.

 “I don’t know.  He does seem to have a lot of pent up energy.”

“He sure knows how to get into trouble, doesn’t he?”

“Yes, he surely does.”  Murdoch cleared his throat.  “Scott, I meant what I said earlier.  What you did was brave, protecting Johnny the way you did.”

Scott cocked his head. “He’s my brother.”

Murdoch smiled.  “Yes, he is, and you’d do anything for him, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes, I would.  I’ll always be there for him.”

“Even facing a rattler with a pitchfork?”

Scott became very serious.  “Especially facing a rattlesnake with a pitchfork.  I love my little brother and there was no way I was going to let that snake get to him.”

“I’d expect nothing less.  I’m proud of you, Son.”

A smile spread across Scott’s face as he went back to his book.

From the floor, Johnny let out a heavy sigh.  Raising his head, the baby pulled his thumb out of his mouth and blinked his eyes.  Johnny looked from his Papa to his brother.

Murdoch could see the boy was trying to make up his mind which of them he wanted.  Before Murdoch could move, Scott was out of his chair and reaching for his brother’s hand.  

 “Come on, Johnny, I’ll take you.”

Johnny started to take his brother’s hand, then stopped and looked up at Murdoch’s face.  

Murdoch wasn’t sure what Johnny saw, but the little one walked over to him and with a sympathetic expression on his face, patted his father’s knee.

“It alright, Papa, you take me next time.”

Murdoch chuckled. “Thank you, son. I’m looking forward to it.”

Johnny smiled at him before turning to Scott.

Watching the boys walk away, hand in hand, he marveled at the blessings in his life.  Brought together by fate, tied by blood, and bound by love; they were brothers; forever as one.  

 

 

~end~
January 2020

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