The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Winj

 

Goodbye, Doc

 

 

 

Second part of the Desperado series, following Desperado

 

Scott Lancer strode out of the hacienda and headed to the barn at a leisurely gait. He stopped in his tracks as he saw a stranger riding toward him. The man sat tall in the saddle. He was wearing a black suit and string tie and a black stetson. He had a definite air of confidence that was easy to see even from a distance. Scott thought him to even be a handsome man as he came nearer. He stopped the horse a few feet from him and smiled. "Good morning. May I help you," Scott asked amiably.

"Good morning. I hope you can. I'm looking for a man," the stranger replied just as amiably as he dismounted.

"What's his name?" Scott smiled.

"Johnny Madrid."

The smile left Scott's face immediately, replaced by instant suspicion and a strong instinct to protect his brother. "Why?" he asked simply.

The stranger laughed a little at the change in expression. "Well, I believe that's my business and it is of a personal nature."

"Well, what" Scott didn't get a chance to finish as Johnny came out of the house whistling. He stopped cold as he saw the stranger talking to his brother. Scott turned to him and saw something unexpected in Johnny's eyes. Was it fear or ... dread maybe? Scott couldn't believe it was fear. Johnny wasn't afraid of any man. He wasn't quite sure what it was but it made him uncomfortable. Then he saw something else and knew what it was...pain.

******

Johnny walked slowly over to the stranger. "Marshall," he said nodding his head once.

"Johnny," he answered.

"You know this man, Johnny?" Scott asked.

"Not exactly. We have a, uh, mutual friend," he replied. There was a sadness in his voice as he looked into the Marshall's eyes and found the answer to his unspoken question. He hung his head and sighed heavily. "Would you like to come in?"

"Sure," the Marshall answered as he retrieved a package from his saddle bags.

Murdoch was at his desk collecting some papers to take into town with him when they walked into the room. He looked up and his eyes widened in surprise. Then worry filled them as he looked to Johnny.

"It's alright, Murdoch," Johnny said softly.

"What's this about, Marshall?" Murdoch asked.

"As I told the other young man, it's personal," he answered.

"Well, it seems I'm the only one who doesn't know who our guest is. Someone mind introducing us?" Scott asked a bit sarcastically.

"Sure, Boston. Scott Lancer, Wyatt Earp. Marshall, this is my brother."

It was Scott's turn to look in wide-eyed surprise at the legend standing before him, arm extended in greeting. He accepted the handshake automatically as he stared unabashed.

"I've heard all about you, Scott. It's nice to finally meet you," Earp said.

"You've heard about me? How?" Scott asked. He was looking at this man as a small boy would look adoringly at his hero. Johnny found it a bit amusing.

"I've heard all about you as well, Mr. Lancer," Earp added, deciding not to answer the question just yet.

Murdoch stiffened under the scrutinizing stare he was receiving.

"Yeah, well," Johnny mumbled, embarrassed now.

"If I'm not needed, I have business in town," Murdoch said rather harshly.

"I don't need you, sir. It's Johnny I came to see," Earp answered, stonily.

Murdoch grabbed up his papers and left in a huff.

*****

"Have a seat, Marshall. Want some coffee?" Johnny offered.

"I do. I've been on the trail for a couple of weeks."

"I'll get it, Johnny. Visit with your friend," Scott said and headed to the kitchen.

Johnny sat down on the sofa next to Earp and stared at his boots. "When?" he asked.

"Three weeks ago," Earp answered.

Johnny nodded and sighed. "You were with him?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Good, I'd hate to think he was alone."

"He wasn't, Johnny."

"Did he .... suffer?"

Earp sighed. "No, it was really quite peaceful. He just went to sleep."

Johnny nodded again. "Where is he now?" he asked.

"I made the arrangements, in Georgia," Earp replied.

Johnny sighed with relief, he knew that was the right thing to do.

"He talked about you a lot, you know. You were very special to him," Earp said.

Johnny could feel the tears coming and he fought for control. "He was the special one," he said, his voice husky with emotion.

"He was that," Earp said with a smile. They sat in silence for a while until Scott rejoined them with the coffee.

"If you're hungry, Marshall, I can have Maria get you some breakfast," he offered as he poured the coffee.

"Thank you, no. I ate earlier." He laughed a little then. "Doc said you were a real gentleman, even if you were a yankee," he grinned.

Scott stared at him. 'Doc?' Now he understood everything and he looked at Johnny but couldn't see his face as he kept his head low. "I'm sorry for your loss," Scott said quietly.

"Thank you," Earp replied.

Scott walked by his brother and gave his shoulder a squeeze. "I'll leave you two alone," he said as he left the room.

"Smart boy," Earp commented.

"He has his moments," Johnny said with a grin of affection.

******

They fell silent again for a while. "Doc made me promise to give this to you in person, Johnny. I think he wanted us to meet," Earp said with a small smile.

"That'd be just like him. He told me once he only had two true friends in this world and that I was one of them. I knew you were the other," Johnny relayed.

"He was very happy for you, finding your family. I have to admit when he told me about you I was skeptical. But Doc had a way of making you see things his way," Earp said.

Johnny laughed at this. "That's an understatement!" he said. "Marshall, I was sorry to hear what happened to your brothers in Tombstone," Johnny added.

"Thank you. And please call me Wyatt."

"Can you stay awhile, Wyatt?" Johnny asked.

Earp thought it sounded more like a plea. "Do you need me to?" he asked.

"No, I have my family. I just wanted to talk is all. I guess you don't have time."

"I'm afraid not, but I may have some time soon. I was thinking about going to Alaska."

"Alaska?! What for?" Johnny asked.

"Well, I hear the mines are booming up there and to tell the truth, I'm sick of being a lawman."

"I can understand that. I guess it's no crazier than me becoming a rancher," Johnny grinned.

Earp smiled back at him. He liked this young man and he could see what Doc saw in him. It was in his eyes. If a man would only look he could see it all in those eyes. They held the stare for what seemed like eternity until Earp finally broke it. "I should get going. I'd like to get back by tomorrow night."

Johnny walked him out, still carrying the package he'd been given. "If you do come back this way, I hope you'll stop for a visit. It was nice to meet you, Mar, uh, Wyatt."

"It was a pleasure to meet you, Johnny. And I'll do that. Oh, you might want to have that brother of yours close by when you open that. I don't know what's in it, but I can imagine it's some momentos. Might be hard to take."

"I can handle it," Johnny said.

"Sure, Doc said you were hard headed," Earp grinned.

Johnny laughed softly. "Goodbye, Wyatt."

"Goodbye. Johnny, it really was a pleasure to meet you."

"You too." He watched the legend ride off until he was out of sight then he went up to his room.

*****

Johnny sat in the middle of the bed crosslegged for a long time. He was deep in thought and mourning his friend. Doc's words came back to him time and again and he remembered how true they had rung for him then just as they did now. The tears fell but he didn't seem to notice. He sat there silently, staring at the package before him. He wanted to open it yet he didn't. He wasn't sure what it contained but he thought Wyatt was right and he wasn't sure he could handle it just then.

Scott paced the living room undecided. He wanted to go to his brother, comfort him, but he knew Johnny probably wanted to be alone for awhile. He always wanted to be alone when he was hurting. Scott never understood that. He wanted to be there for his kid brother; needed to be there for him. He knew if it were him that lost a friend, he would want Johnny with him. The door opened and closed hard, breaking him from his thoughts. Murdoch walked into the living room looking just as unhappy as when he'd left and Scott sighed silently.

"Is he gone or did your brother invite him to move in?" he clipped sarcastically.

"He's gone. Doc Holliday died," he said simply.

"Should I cry?" Murdoch kept up the sarcasm.

"Murdoch! No matter what you thought of the man, he was Johnny's friend. Your son is upstairs in his room, grieving over that friend. If you say one word against Doc, I swear, I'll...I don't know what I'll do but you won't like it!" Scott yelled.

Murdoch's face turned a shade of red as he glared at his son. "Who do you think you're talking to, boy? This is my house and I'll say whatever I damned well please!" he shouted back.

Johnny walked into the living room to two glowering figures. "What's all the shouting about?" he asked.

"Nothing!" Scott said, not quite yelling anymore but definitely in a loud voice.

Johnny looked at his brother then at his father. He knew what it was but he couldn't deal with it right then. "I'm goin for a ride. I'll be back by supper," he said softly and headed to the door.

"Do you want some company?" Scott asked, calmly.

"No, Boston. I need some time alone," he answered and walked out.

"See?" Scott glowered at his father.

*****

Johnny rode off on his palomino up into the hills above the hacienda. He went to one of his favorite places on the ranch. The wind caressed the high lake and sweet grass gently as he sat under the shade of a tree, lost in his memories. Johnny went through the short week he had spent with Doc Holliday, minute by minute, trying to recapture the special bond they had forged so easily. He still didn't know why he had been so drawn to this man. It seemed an unlikely pairing to him but Doc hadn't thought so. He had seen something in Johnny that he was unable to see in himself. The words he spoke came back once again and he found them very comforting.

He looked up at the clear pale blue sky and sighed. "Oh, Doc. I sure wish I could've talked to you just one more time. I miss you, amigo," he whispered to the wind and he allowed the tears to fall again. He sat there for hours thinking about his friend and the impact knowing him had made on his life.

He only wished Murdoch could understand. If he would just stop seeing the man as 'Doc Holliday', Johnny was sure they would have liked each other. Doc's gentle way was lost on his father though. Anything from his past seemed to be tainted as far as his father was concerned. Johnny laughed sardonically. Murdoch was always harping on Johnny to tell him about his past, yet he refused to talk about his own. And when his past did reach out to him, Murdoch wanted nothing to do with it if it came in human form.

"Will I ever be able to bear my soul to him like you said, Doc? Will he ever really want me to? I think you might have called this one wrong, my friend. But then, maybe it wasn't Murdoch you were talking about at all. Maybe it was Scott." He knew he could tell Scott anything and his brother would not judge him. But he had refrained from doing that as well. Unable to trust fully in his brother's love, he had been afraid Scott would be repulsed by the details of his past. After all, his life had been so different, so sheltered for the most part. Still, he thought Scott was one of the bravest, toughest men he had ever met. He was also compassionate and understanding and patient. Well, when he wanted to be at least. He sure could lose his temper!

Johnny laughed again at this thought. But his heart was full when he thought of his brother. Scott would fight for him no matter what. He would defend him to his dying breath. Johnny had never been more sure of anything than this fact. The unspoken yet unbreakable bond he had with his brother was the center of his life. The glue that held him together and ... held him at Lancer many times.

Johnny wondered how things would have been different if he didn't have Scott or if Scott had refused Murdoch's offer. He wondered if Murdoch would have told him about his brother if Scott hadn't shown up. Would he have stayed without Scott? He was pretty sure the answer was no. This made him sadder than anything. He knew he would not have been able to deal with his father without his brother's support.

He looked up again and the sun was starting it's slow descent behind the mountains. He got up and walked to his horse. "Well boy, guess I didn't get anything settled but it was nice just bein out here together huh?" he whispered as he stroked the palomino's silky coat. He mounted the steed in one quick and easy move and headed home.

*****

Murdoch and Scott were just sitting down to supper when he walked in. He removed his gunbelt and took his place at the table. Scott smiled at him and he returned in kind. 'Testing me', Johnny thought. He glanced at his father but Murdoch didn't look at him and he dropped his eyes.

This did not escape Scott's attention. Teresa brought in the last platter and took her seat next to Johnny. She put her hand on his arm and squeezed gently, giving him a sympathetic smile. He thought he just might start bawling again and he focused his attention elsewhere. It was easier to look at the food than his sister's loving face.

Scott thought some conversation might help but the topic he wanted to discuss was closed as far as his father was concerned. He tried to think of something else to talk about but his brother's grief was upmost on his mind and he was stumped for any other subject.

Johnny played with his food, pushing it around on the plate. He made a mound of the mashed potatoes and started drawing pictures in them with his fork. Scott watched this intently and when he saw what Johnny was drawing he couldn't hold the laughter back. He started chuckling then burst out laughing. Johnny grinned at him and started laughing too. Teresa seemed embarrassed that she couldn't control her own mirth and Murdoch looked at all three of them as if they had lost their minds.

"What is so funny!?" he demanded.

Johnny quickly squashed his masterpiece with his fork but he couldn't stop laughing.

"Nothing, Murdoch," Scott said through the tears running down his face. This only made Johnny laugh harder and Murdoch frown in displeasure.

"I don't think this is appropriate behavior for the supper table, children !" he hissed.

That did it and both brothers rolled away from the table and headed to the living room. Arms around each other, holding each other up so they wouldn't roll out on the floor. Teresa fled to the safety of the kitchen but she could be heard until she closed the door.

They decided they had better go outside before they both got belted and they landed on the veranda, falling into the chairs as they tried to stop laughing. Finally, they got themselves under control.

"I think I should buy you an easel and some paints, Johnny. You're quite an artist," Scott said and they started all over again.

'Foolish, crazy kids!' Murdoch thought as he ate his dinner alone. He didn't know what in the world had started this ridiculous display but he was going to talk to all three of them about it when they started acting their ages again, that was for sure! He would not have that kind of silliness at his table!

Teresa reappeared with a slice of apple pie and placed it in front of him then quickly ran back to the kitchen. He could hear her trying to muffle the sound of her giggling as she went. He shook his head in disgust. First Marshall Earp and now this!

He got up and went into the living room, poured a brandy and sat down in a chair. He could hear the boys outside, still laughing and talking. He was in a foul mood and this wasn't helping. He decided he'd had enough foolishness for one evening.

"Would one of you mind telling me what that was all about?" he asked as he came out the French doors.

Scott had his hand on Johnny's arm and they had both grown quiet when his booming voice made them both jump a little. They looked at each and started chuckling again as the vision reappeared in their heads.

"Oh, no. Not that again. What's going on here? If it's such a good joke, I'd like to hear it!" Murdoch huffed.

They both lost it again, for a minute, until their father positioned himself in front of them and glared down at them. They both stopped laughing immediately.

*****

Johnny cleared his throat. "I think this one's mine, Boston," he said quietly.

"You sure?" Scott asked.

"Yeah, go on," he answered with a toss of his head.

Scott went inside but he stayed close just in case.

Murdoch sat on the edge of the wall and waited.

"That wasn't anything," Johnny started. "Just breaking the tension, I guess. Do you want to talk about it?" he asked, braced for either answer.

"Talk about what?" Murdoch asked.

Johnny sighed and shook his head. "Wyatt Earp? Doc Holliday? You choose," he said a bit grumpily.

"There's nothing to say is there? The Marshall came to deliver some news and left. What else is there?"

Johnny looked into his father's eyes and saw no hint of sympathy for his loss. This hurt him as much as losing Doc. "I know what you thought of him, Murdoch, but he was my best friend," he said softly.

"And I'll never understand why," Murdoch said flatly.

"I know you won't, because you don't want to. All you can see is a reputation, some dime novel gunfighter. Is that how you see me?" Johnny glared.

"Johnny, I've never pretended to be happy about your past. But I sure don't like having it thrown in my face!"

"Nobody's throwing anything in your face! Look, you don't have to worry about him anymore. He's dead! Are you happy now?" he shouted.

"Well, I'm sure not sad about it!"

"Well, I am! So deal with it, old man!" he shot and headed inside.

Murdoch grabbed him by the arm and jerked him around. "Don't you talk to me like that, boy! I'm your father, not Doc Holliday!" he yelled.

"Then act like it!" Johnny shouted and jerked free, stomping into the house and straight upstairs.

*****

Johnny lay on his bed, hands behind his head, fuming. Why his father couldn't just accept that he had lost a good friend and leave it at that, he couldn't understand. He was beginning to think he would never understand the old man. After all these months they were no closer than that first day. The light tapping at his door made him cringe for a second but he knew it wasn't Murdoch. "Come on in, Boston," he called.

"How did you know it was me?" Scott asked as he entered the room.

"Because you didn't knock the door down," Johnny replied sarcastically.

"That was fun," Scott said lightly.

"Yeah, a real hoot. I don't know why I bother," Johnny said tersely.

"Because he's your father and you want him to accept you," Scott explained.

"Why? Why should I have to be 'accepted'? He's the one always saying this is 'our' ranch, 'our' home. But when it comes right down to it, he ain't givin up nothing!"

Scott sat down at the foot of the bed and thought about his brother's words. He was right. Murdoch wanted them both to give up their lives as they had known them to come here, but what had he given up really? "Maybe, he's trying to be a father to a couple of kids instead of men," Scott offered.

"Then he should go out and find a couple of kids!" Johnny spat.

"Don't be mad at me, I'm just trying to understand him," Scott said a bit defensively.

"Good luck! Though I don't know why you bother!"

"Johnny, nobody said it was going to be easy," Scott said gently.

"No, Scott, they didn't. But nobody said it was going to be impossible either," Johnny said with a sigh.

He sprang up off the bed and walked to his window, staring out at the mountains. "I'm not mad at you, by the way. I'm sorry I'm takin this out on you," he whispered.

Scott joined him and put his hand on Johnny's shoulder. "It's okay. I know you're hurting," Scott said softly.

Johnny leaned his head on his brother's shoulder and closed his eyes briefly. "I'm alright, Scott. I knew it was coming, just didn't know when. Still, it's hard. That man was more like a father to me than anyone ever had been," he confessed.

Murdoch was standing outside Johnny's room about to knock when he heard his son's last sentence. He stiffened as the words cut through him like a hot knife. "And now? Now that you have your father?" Scott was asking. Murdoch leaned closer to hear the answer.

"I just wish ... I wish he'd listen to me, Scott. That's all, listen and at least try to understand how I feel," Johnny said softly.

Murdoch felt that blamed knife cutting into him again and he turned away, hesitant. The pain in Johnny's voice was unmistakable. He should know, he had heard it so often. Arrogantly, he had always thought it was pain from Johnny's past but he was beginning to realize that wasn't all of it.

"Maybe that's the problem, Johnny. Maybe Murdoch knows how close you were to Doc," Scott said.

Johnny turned to his brother and frowned at the thought. "You think he's ... jealous? That's crazy!" Johnny said.

"Why? He hasn't known you for twenty years. Then when you come back, you have this man who helped you, befriended you, that you stood up against Murdoch to defend. How do you think that made him feel?" Scott asked without a hint of judgment for his brother.

"But Doc was just trying to help me. To get me to open up to you and Murdoch. I thought he understood that."

"Maybe he did Johnny but maybe he felt threatened that you would choose Doc over him," Scott said.

"Well, that's just nuts. He's my father!"

Murdoch decided he needed to be a part of this conversation now. He felt a certain amount of pride hearing Johnny say these things and he wanted to take advantage of this rare opportunity. He knocked softly on the door and walked in.

"Well, I think I'll go to the kitchen. I seem to have missed my supper," Scott grinned and left quickly.

*****

They stood there, eyes locked. Each trying desperately to read the other but, sadly, unable to. "Johnny, I'm sorry. I wasn't very sympathetic. I am sorry you're hurting, son."

Johnny lowered his eyes and turned back to the window. "Thanks," he whispered.

Murdoch stood there unsure of what to do next. He spied the package on the dresser, still unopened. He cleared his throat. "Aren't you going to open that?" he asked.

Johnny turned and followed his pointing finger to the dresser top. He grimaced a little. "I....I don't know," he said, uncertain.

"Why don't we open it together," Murdoch suggested.

The look of relief on Johnny's face might have been comical under different circumstances. As it was, he simply nodded his head and picked the package up, taking it back to the bed. He played with the string that bound it for a minute. Then he looked up at his father and saw the support there. He opened the package carefully, as if it were some precious porcelain that would break at the slightest breath.

He peeled back the paper and the first thing he saw was a silk cloth. He picked it up and realized there was something wrapped in it. As he opened the cloth he gasped aloud. The shining black metal and grained oak seemed to stare back at him. He picked up the gun and marveled at it.

"He gave me his gun," he whispered in astonishment. Murdoch was giving him a look of incomprehension. "For a gunhawk to give away his gun, even in death...." he trailed off as he saw the understanding come into Murdoch's face.

Johnny shook his head to force away the tears and continued. The next item brought a chuckle from him. A deck of poker cards. Not just any deck, Doc's personal deck. "I wonder if they're marked," he said with a grin.

Murdoch laughed softly at this too.

The last item was an envelope. Johnny picked it up and saw his name written in a beautiful cursive. 'Johnny Madrid Lancer' he spoke the words aloud.

"Maybe you'd rather be alone when you read that," Murdoch suggested. Johnny looked at him with such need in his eyes, Murdoch had to fight against himself not to look away.

"No, I...stay."

Murdoch nodded.

Johnny's hands were trembling as he opened the envelope, he had to laugh at himself.

'Dearest Johnny, my friend. Since you are reading this I can only assume my time has come and I have retired, permanently. Now, now don't scold me for such vulgar humor. I am glad you had the opportunity to meet Wyatt. I sincerely hope you liked him. I am sure he liked you, knowing him as I do. Well, my boy, I wanted to leave you with some deep spirited words of wisdom. Some God fearing tome to ease your pain. Unfortunately, I have never been a religious man, but then neither are you, so I suppose it does not matter. I am at rest now, finally. Of that I am fervently sure. Whatever awaits me cannot be as unpleasant as this disease which has consumed me. Enough about me, you are the focus of this letter. I worry about you, my boy. I worry you have yet to find it in yourself to do the things we discussed. You are a man of your word, this I know. You made me a promise one night under a brilliantly starry sky. I know you will honor that promise. I only hope you do not delay any longer. Johnny, you must do this thing. As difficult as it is, as painful as it will be, you must do it and now! You are no doubt wondering how I know you have yet to complete this journey. Let us just say, I know things. If you are anywhere near your father at this moment, take hold of him. Do not let him turn away from you. Make him listen, Johnny. Make him see how much he loves you. Because, he does love you. I saw that myself when I visited. The bond you have with your brother is sealed. Nothing can ever change that. But your father is an entirely different matter. His feelings of failure, of inadequacy rival your own. I only hope and, yes, even pray you can see that. Now is the time. There is none better. This opportunity may not come again, Johnny. Grab it, hold onto it as if your very life depended on it, because it does. Johnny, I am a proud man, I have never begged for anything in my life. I am begging you now to release your demons, bear your very soul to that man. Make him understand at any cost. At any cost, Johnny. That is how important your happiness and peace are to me, my boy.' Your devoted friend, Doc.

****

Johnny stared at the letter, tears streaming down his face. He couldn't speak, the pain was too deep inside him. The only thing he knew to do, the only way he knew to keep his promise now, was to give the letter to his father. He handed it to Murdoch and just nodded his head at the questioning look. Murdoch took the letter and, with great trepidation, began to read. When he finished, he shook his head in amazement. His throat was tight and the lump there wouldn't go away. "I was so wrong about him," he said huskily.

Murdoch leaned over and hugged Johnny. "Whenever you're ready son," he whispered.

Johnny wrapped his arms around his father and rested his head against the massive chest. He was trying to pull himself together, to be able to speak again. Slowly, he brought himself under control. He pulled away gently and looked into his father's eyes. What he saw was what he had wished for earlier. Sympathy for his loss, his pain at losing such a good friend.

They sat on the bed and talked until dawn. Both of them telling the other of their pasts, answering each other's questions until they were exhausted. Still, neither was willing to stop. What Johnny told him turned Murdoch's blood cold at times, broke his heart at others and enraged him at the injustice altogether.

What Murdoch told Johnny hurt, he was angry, disgusted at times and left wondering what the hell was wrong with his mother. For the first time he understood what had happened. Maybe it wasn't all Murdoch's fault, maybe some of it was. Maybe they should have never married. In the end it didn't matter. What had happened had happened and nothing could change it. But at least now he finally knew the truth and he was going to have to deal with some strong feelings developing inside him about his mother. By daybreak they were propped on pillows lying side by side. Comfortable with each other for the first time.

Scott eased his brother's door open shortly after dawn and peeked inside. He was astonished and mesmerized by the sight before him. His father and brother, asleep. Johnny resting his head on Murdoch's chest, Murdoch with his arm around Johnny. Scott grinned and snuck up beside the bed, easing himself down on the other side of his father, using the other side of his chest for a pillow.

Murdoch stirred slightly and opened his eyes. He smiled and moved his other arm to wrap around Scott, who cuddled right in. Murdoch Lancer was grinning ear to ear. This is how it should have been all these years. How it will be from now on, he thought as he closed his eyes and drifted back into peaceful sleep.

 

 

~end~
2003

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