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Winj

 

More Discovery

 

 

Second in the Discovery series, following "Discovery"
WARNING: This story addresses child molestation. If you are sensitive to this subject, do not read this.



"I don't want you to do this, Johnny," Murdoch said, worry lining his face.

"I'll be fine. I'm just gonna take a little ride. I'll go slow, I promise," he said, a bit exasperated at still being treated like an invalid.

"But Doc hasn't said it was ok yet and it's only been two months. Why don't you just wait until tomorrow?" Murdoch asked.

"Because, if I wait until tomorrow I'll be loco!" Johnny grinned and mounted Barranca, slowly.

Murdoch winced as he watched the effort it was taking for Johnny to do something that was as natural to him as breathing.

"Please, be careful," Murdoch said.

Johnny looked down into the eyes of his father and smiled. "You worried about me, old man?" he asked softly.

Murdoch straightened himself and smiled sarcastically. "I just don't want you to hurt the horse," he said.

Johnny laughed and kneed Barranca gently into a slow gait. He manuevered the horse around the yard and out onto the path leading to the gates of Lancer.

"Don't go too far," Murdoch yelled after him.

Johnny smiled and waved his hand. He was amazed by all this attention. He'd been up and about for a couple of weeks now and he was surprised it had taken him this long to get back in the saddle. But it felt good, really good to be out of the house. He trotted along slowly, remembering his promise to take it easy and headed up the slope to the road.

**************

"Barranca, did you miss me?" he asked. The palomino whinnied and snorted, bringing a laugh from his master. "I missed you too, amigo. I surely did," he said softly as he patted the golden neck. He crossed the road, wanting to feel the smoother, soft grass under Barranca's hooves and headed through the valley. He wasn't going anywhere in particular which made it even better. He tilted his head back and felt the sun on his face. A gentle breeze was blowing and he thought it was a truly perfect day.

After ten minutes of this he was beginning to feel it. "I guess we better stop, boy. I'm not quite ready to ride all the way to San Francisco," he smiled. He dismounted stiffly and sat down under a tree, feeling the pull of the fresh scars on his torso. "Damn, is it ever gonna go away?" he said aloud. He let out a sigh and relaxed. Feeling the breeze on his face, he nodded off.

Johnny jerked awake and looked around himself, startled. He was disoriented for a second but he pulled himself together quickly. He couldn't stop the shudder though, and he wondered what the hell had made him dream about that! After all these years and all the work he had done to forget about it, it had made itself known out of the blue. He swallowed hard and looked up at the sky. He figured he'd only been asleep a few minutes. "Better get home boy before Murdoch sends out the calvary," he said to a waiting Barranca.

He hadn't gotten very far when he saw a familiar figure riding towards him. He leaned down and patted Barranca's neck. "Too late, here comes the calvary," he smiled. "Hey, Scott," he called.

"Johnny, Murdoch sent me after you. He said you'd been gone entirely too long," Scott informed him.

"Yeah, I think I was gone all of five minutes," he said with a smile.

Scott returned the smile mixed with sympathy for his brother's forced incarceration.

*****************

They rode in together to see Murdoch pacing the yard. Johnny could see the relief flood his father's face and it tickled him. He dismounted only to have the reins taken by a hand and he stared after him.

"I told him to," Murdoch explained before the question was asked.

"You gonna keep this up much longer?" Johnny asked.

"Until Sam gives you a clean bill of health, yes," Murdoch said and put his arm around his youngest. Johnny flinched under the touch and was immediately surprised at his own reaction. Murdoch was looking at him a little hurt and he felt bad.

"I'm sorry, I don't know why I did that," Johnny mumbled. He put his arm around his father and walked inside with him.

"Sit," Murdoch directed.

"Yes sir!" Johnny said with a salute and a grin.

Murdoch sat down opposite him and stared intently at his son. "Are you alright, John?" he asked.

"Yeah, I'm just so stiff. The ride helped a lot though," he said with a smile.

"That's not exactly what I meant," Murdoch said softly. Johnny gave him a perplexed look. "I'm talking about the shooting," Murdoch explained.

Johnny nodded his head. "Well, I'm not thrilled that it happened. And I can't say I understand it, but there ain't much I can do about it. I mean, you took care of it," he said.

"I don't understand it either, son. Especially after Val found out his name and you didn't know him. It still doesn't make any sense," Murdoch sighed.

"I know. But, Val did say the sheriff in El Paso described him as 'disturbed'. Whatever that's supposed to mean. I guess he was just plain crazy. You never know what's going through another man's mind," Johnny said quietly, a haunted look brushing across his face.

'No you sure don't,' Murdoch thought but didn't voice.

"Think I'll lay down for awhile before supper," Johnny said, easing himself to a standing position.

"Need some help?"

"No, I'm ok," he smiled and headed for the stairs.

**************

He stopped on the second step and gripped the railing. Murdoch was beside him in a second. "Johnny?"

"I'm ok, just a little dizzy," he said.

"I've got you," Murdoch whispered as he took hold of Johnny around the waist.

He tensed again when he felt the touch. "I don't know what's the matter with me? Can't seem to relax," Johnny said with a nervous laugh.

Murdoch eased him into bed and pulled off his boots. Pulling the covers over him, he sat on the edge of the bed.

"Better?" he asked.

"Yeah, it's gone now," Johnny said with a frown. "Guess I'm just tired," he offered.

"It's alright, son. You have every reason to be. Now, get some sleep and I'll come wake you for supper. And Johnny, no more horse riding until Sam says it's ok," Murdoch said, wagging a finger at his son.

He smiled as his father closed the door behind him but it was replaced quickly by a frown.

'Why am I doing this? I like it when he touches me,' he thought just before he drifted off. He awoke and bolted straight up. Drenched in sweat, he looked around himself. He sighed with relief as he realized where he was and he gingerly sat on the side of the bed. There was a light knock on the door and Scott popped his head in.

"Oh good, you're awake. Supper's ready. Murdoch said you weren't feeling good so I've come to escort you," he smiled as he neared the bed. The smile was gone once he got a look at Johnny's face. "Hey, what is it? You're soaking wet," he said concerned.

"I know, I had a dream but I don't remember it now," he answered, blowing a sigh. "Just let me get washed up and I'll be down," he said.

"I'll help you. Murdoch will have my head if I come back down without you. I'll get you a dry shirt," Scott said, still watching his brother with an eagle eye. He handed Johnny the shirt, grimacing at the still fresh scars on his brother's body as the memory of that awful day hit him again.

Scott walked beside his brother down the stairs and to the table, waiting for any sign that Johnny might need help. Murdoch took one look at his pallid face and gasped. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"Nothin, I just had a dream," Johnny replied softly.

"What about?" his father asked.

"I don't remember but it must have been a bad one," Johnny said with a weak smile.

"Why don't you go back to bed. I'll bring your supper to you," Murdoch suggested.

"No, I'm fine really," Johnny assured him. Murdoch wasn't convinced but he let it go and watched Johnny closely through supper. Johnny seemed to have recovered, the pallor gone from his face as supper ended.

"Feel up to a game of chess, brother?" Scott asked.

"How about checkers? I don't have to think as much," Johnny counteroffered.

Scott nodded his agreement but shot his father a worried look which was reciprocated.

"I thought Doc was coming out today," Scott said as they sat down in the living room.

"Guess he got busy," Johnny shrugged, unconcerned.

As if on cue, there was a knock at the door. Murdoch answered to find Dr. Alexander. "Well, we thought you may have forgotten about us," Murdoch said, trying to sound friendlier than he felt toward the man.

"I'm not likely to forget about my most astounding case, Mr. Lancer," the young doctor said with a smile. Murdoch showed him in and Johnny groaned dramatically. "Is that how you greet a man who helped save your life?" the doctor teased.

"Usually," Johnny smiled back.

"Upstairs, please," he retorted. Johnny sighed and got up. Murdoch was at his side with a helping hand extended. "What's this?" Dr. Alexander asked.

"He was feeling dizzy earlier. Right after he went for a ride that I told him was a bad idea," Murdoch reported.

"Snitch," Johnny mumbled.

"Come on. I suppose I'm going to have to go over the rules with you, again," Doc sighed. Johnny removed his shirt without being asked, he was getting used to the ritual, and laid on the bed. "Well, at least you're compliant with something," the doctor said with a grin.

"Huh?" Johnny asked.

"Nothing, just lie still," the young man answered. He examined his patient and gave a nod of approval. "You're healing nicely, Johnny. But that won't last if you don't follow my advice. No horses," he said adamantly.

"For how long?" Johnny asked.

"Every person is different, Johnny. You heal quickly but you still had some very serious injuries. I don't want you to push yourself," he said.

"You call that an answer? Doc, please understand. I'm not a patient man," Johnny said sincerely.

Dr. Alexander laughed aloud at this. "That is an understatement. I'm not trying to be evasive, I just don't know yet. It may be another week or two." Johnny sighed heavily and looked away. "Pouting?" Doc asked.

Johnny jerked his head around and glared at him. "I don't pout!" he said angrily, then his face fell and that haunted look was back.

"What is it, Johnny?" Doc asked.

"Well, Doc I just need something to do. I'm going crazy and I need to get my mind off ... I mean, on something," he said hesitantly.

Dr. Alexander sat on the side of the bed and studied his patient's face. "Do you need to talk?" he asked. Johnny wouldn't look at him. "Do you want to talk to your father?" he tried.

"Yes, but I can't," Johnny mumbled.

"Why?"

"I just can't," he repeated.

"You certainly have a complex life, don't you?" Doc commented.

Johnny snorted at this. "You can say that again."

"It's obvious something is bothering you. You need to talk to someone. What about your brother?" Doc asked.

Johnny thought about this, he knew he could tell Scott anything, anything except this. He simply shook his head.

The doctor sighed in exasperation. "Well, how about your horse, or a tree stump," he said sardonically. He didn't get the reaction he expected, Johnny rolled on his side away from him. "I'm sorry, Johnny. I didn't mean that. You are stubborn, though," Doc said.

"Yeah, well I told you that before," Johnny said barely above a whisper.

"Yes, yes you did. Johnny, you told me something in confidence once and I didn't break your trust then. I won't break it now. If you change your mind, I'm always available," he said.

"Thanks, Doc. Would you tell Scott I'm not up to playing checkers. I think I'll just get some rest."

"Sure, that's probably the best thing right now. I just want to say one more thing. Sometimes, when a person has gone through a terrible ordeal like you have, it isn't uncommon for them to feel depressed afterward. What you're going through doesn't mean something's wrong with you. I would only worry if the depression continued. Do you understand?" he said gently.

Johnny nodded his head but remained silent.

***************

"How is he?" Murdoch asked as the doctor descended the stairs.

"Physically, he's healing well but I don't want him riding anymore until Dr. Jenkins or I say it's alright," he replied.

"What do you mean, physically?" Scott asked.

"Well, I think Johnny is depressed. Something is troubling him but he won't talk to me about it. He said he wanted to tell you, Mr. Lancer, but that he couldn't."

"Why not?" Murdoch asked, his worry heightening.

"He wouldn't say," Doc answered.

"I knew something was wrong," Murdoch mumbled.

"Well, I wouldn't push it tonight. He's tired and he needs rest. I'll be back in a couple of days to check on him," Dr. Alexander said as he started for the door.

"Just a minute, doctor. About this depression, should we be concerned?" Scott asked.

"Only if it persists past a couple of weeks. I explained to him that it isn't an uncommon reaction after what he's been through," Doc explained.

Scott and Murdoch thanked the doctor and sent him on his way. "I don't like this, Murdoch. Johnny is worried about something and I think that dream he had is a part of it. Did you see how pale he was?" Scott asked.

"Yes, I did. I'll try to talk to him tomorrow but you know how he is, Scott."

Scott nodded his head knowing all too well if Johnny didn't want to talk about something, he wasn't going to talk about it, period.

***************

Big, strong hands grasped the thin shoulders of the small boy and pushed him back. He fell onto the bed and scrambled to get away but he felt the hands again, grabbing hold and pulling him back. Then the rope was there and his hands were tied to the bed post. He flipped and contorted himself but he couldn't get free. He felt the hands grab his feet and tie them to the bed as well. He was panic-stricken, wild-eyed and bucking for all he was worth. Not again, he thought, not again. He felt the hands again, touching him. Tugging at his shirt buttons, then ripping them away in frustration. Then his pants being pulled roughly down to his ankles. He wanted to scream, to cry out for help, but his voice had left him in his stark fear.

Johnny bolted up in bed, once more drenched in sweat and stared wild-eyed around the room, looking hard at the dark corners as he pulled himself up against the headboard and tucked the covers up to his chin. His heart was pounding and his chest heaved with uncontrollably ragged breaths as he watched the dark corners and waited. He was in a state of pure fear and he was unable to think or comprehend where he was. To him, he was in a small backroom of a small little house in a small little town where no one knew or cared what was happening to him. Light spilled in and he scrunched under the covers, waiting for the hands. He felt them on his hair, then his shoulder and he threw the cover back and started swinging at the hands. They grabbed hold of his wrists tightly and he fought to get away. He felt a sudden sting on his cheek from the hand and he stared into the face. He frowned, confused as to what was happening. Why was his father here? Was he going to save him?

"Johnny, wake up!" Murdoch shouted.

"Murdoch?" he asked, his face beginning to relax with the recognition.

"Yes, son, it's me. Try to calm down," Murdoch said in a much softer voice.

Johnny did relax and fell into his father's arms.

He was trembling and Murdoch held onto him for dear life, cooing reassuring words and sounds in his son's ear. Johnny looked up into his father's face and started crying. No longer able to hold the demons at bay, he felt like that seven year old boy again.

"It's alright, son. It was just a dream," he said softly. Johnny shook his head vigorously, but he couldn't speak just yet. Murdoch repositioned himself so he was lying next to his son, holding him in his arms. But Johnny moved away with the speed of a cougar and curled up away from his father. "Johnny, what's wrong? Please tell me," he begged.

"Get away from me. Leave me alone," Johnny hissed.

"Johnny, it's me, Murdoch. I won't hurt you. I won't hurt you, son. I swear it," Murdoch said.

He was beginning to feel a cold knot of horror in his stomach as he began to understand what was wrong. He got up and lit the lamp, turning the wick up to make the room as bright as possible.

Johnny blinked from the brightness then looked around the room, especially in the corners.

Murdoch could see him visibly relax. He poured a glass of water and held it out. Johnny downed it in one gulp. Murdoch wet a cloth and handed it to him and he wiped the sweat from his face.

"Now, tell me about this bastard that hurt you," Murdoch said as he sat back down on the edge of the bed.

Johnny stared at his father in horror, then dropped his gaze, simply shaking his head.

"Johnny, you need to talk about it. You need to talk to me about it. It's alright, son. I won't be ashamed of you," he said softly. "Could you at least tell me how old you were?" Murdoch asked gently.

"Seven," Johnny managed to squeak out after a minute.

Murdoch felt the rage welling up inside him but he fought for control for Johnny's sake. A terrible thought occured to him and he was almost afraid to ask, but he needed to know. "Did your mother know?"

The tears fell again and Johnny could do nothing but nod his head. Murdoch closed his eyes against his outrage and pain. Pulling himself together, he knew the only way to get it out of his son was to ask questions.

"How long did it go on?" he asked. Johnny swallowed hard but he still couldn't speak. Murdoch handed him more water.

"Six or seven months," he whispered.

"Johnny, look at me," he said.

Johnny grimaced and shook his head, he couldn't face his father's disappointment.

Murdoch reached over and gently raised Johnny's chin. He saw the tears in his father's eyes, but he saw no disappointment, no shame, only pain and guilt.

"Can you tell me about it?" Murdoch asked, trying to fight away the moisture in his own eyes.

Johnny looked at him with such anguish he thought he might just disappear into his son's pained eyes.

"I have to," Johnny whispered. "I don't know what made me start remembering, it's been so long," he said.

"Just take your time and tell me in your own way," Murdoch said gently.

Johnny was sure he wouldn't be able to look into his father's face and tell the story. In the brightness of the well lit room, he felt safer, but was unsure if he could handle his father's touch. He drew his knees up to his chest and hugged them against himself.

"We moved in with him when I was seven. He was real nice for awhile, but then he lost his job and couldn't find another one so mama had to start working at the cantina at night. He swore it would only be for a little while. I liked him, he used to play with me, spend time with me. It was like a real family. Then, one night he was drinking a lot and he had a strange look on his face. It scared me so I stayed away from him. I went to bed and fell asleep. He woke me up, stinking of whiskey. I didn't understand what was happening at first. He was mumbling something I couldn't hear. Then he ..." Johnny stopped and his entire body shuddered.

Murdoch clenched his jaw and waited.

"The next day, while he was gone, I told her about it. She called me a liar and told me not to say such filthy things about him. She said I was just jealous and spoiled. I begged her to listen but she wouldn't. He left me alone for a couple of nights, then he ... did it again. He was mad, I guess she told him. He hit me and told me to keep my mouth shut or he'd kill her. I never said anything to her again, but she saw the bruises on my face. She told me to stop getting into fights. All I said was that I wasn't, but she got mad at me again. It went on for about six months. Sometimes, it got so bad, I ...I couldn't get out of bed the next day.

"Then, one day I was taking a bath and she came in to bring me my clothes. She saw the bruises all over me. She acted like it just dawned on her, like it had never been mentioned before. She actually asked me why I didn't tell her," he stopped again, shaking his head at the memory.

"Two days later, we packed up and left without a word. I came home and she had our stuff packed and said we were leaving. It was the first time I was glad to leave a place. But I never saw him again until... until I was about seventeen. I saw him in a saloon in Abilene and I killed him," he finished, his voice turning cold and hard at the end.

"Did he know who you were?" Murdoch asked.

"Not at first, but when I walked over to him lying in the street with my bullet in his gut, I explained it to him. I stood there and watched him die. It was the first time I was ever really glad to kill someone."

"How can I help you, son?" Murdoch asked after a long silence.

"Just stay with me for awhile," he whispered.

Murdoch pulled a chair next to the bed and sat down, leaning forward so Johnny wouldn't think he was trying to get away from him.

"I guess I make you pretty sick," Johnny said.

"No, son. Not you. You have nothing to be ashamed of, Johnny. You were a little boy, there was nothing you could do," he said gently.

"I just wish I knew why it was all coming back now. I made myself forget it for so long."

"Maybe when you told me about the problem you had with laudanum, it started awakening some other bad memories. I'm so sorry, Johnny. I wish I could have..."

"No, Murdoch. Don't do that. It's not your fault. None of it is your fault," Johnny said.

******************

Johnny stayed in bed the next two days. Scott was worried and voiced his concern to his father but Murdoch insisted Scott let it be. He decided his father knew something he didn't and went along. Still, he couldn't help but worry about his kid brother. He decided to test the waters and went to Johnny's room that afternoon. "Hey, how are you?" Scott asked as he popped his head in the door.

"I'm ok," Johnny mumbled.

'Yeah sure', Scott thought and forged ahead. He sat on the edge of the bed and watched his brother's face.

"What?" Johnny asked.

"You tell me, brother. Are you really alright?" Scott asked.

"I will be, Boston," he replied.

"Then something is wrong," Scott surmised.

"Nothin that time won't fix, I reckon," Johnny said with an attempt at a smile.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Scott asked.

"No, but thanks anyway."

"I'm worried about you, Johnny. Dr. Alexander told us about the depression that can come with being hurt so badly," he pressed on.

Johnny laughed a little at this. "It ain't got nothin to do with that, Scott. Trust me," he said.

"Then what does it have to do with?" he asked.

Johnny sighed and looked into his brother's compassionate eyes. "Something that happened to me when I was a kid. Something I made myself forget for years," he said softly.

Scott reached out and touched Johnny's shoulder and felt him tense again. He let his hand fall naturally away but a frown adorned his face as a horrible thought streaked through his mind. "Talk to me, brother," he said softly.

Johnny closed his eyes for a minute and took a deep breath. He told his brother the same thing he had told Murdoch, but he didn't stop there. Things he wouldn't tell his father for fear of hurting him too much, he shared with Scott. He told him more about his mother's denials of what was happening. It wasn't just his word she had to go by, she had caught the man once, two months before they left. He had begged her to forgive him and promised it wouldn't happen again. Johnny watched as his mother gave in to this man, this stranger, and believed him. Of course, it didn't stop but he never tried to tell her about it again. He told Scott he stopped loving his mother unconditionally that night but once they were away from the man, he had put up a wall in his mind to forget the nightmare. That meant forgetting what she had done as well. So far had he pushed it away, so convinced had he made himself that it hadn't happened, he was able to love her again for that was all he had to hold onto; his love for her. It had stayed hidden away there for almost fifteen years until yesterday when the nightmares had started again.

Scott listened to his brother, his expression never changing even though Johnny wouldn't look at him. When Johnny had finished, Scott could think of nothing to say that wouldn't betray his anger and disgust for this man and Johnny's mother. He wondered how this bright, loving, caring man could have arose from such black depths of misery and pain. How could he have managed, somehow, to remain a human being. It would have been easy, so easy, to give in to the darkness of his life. The evil he had endured and become the same as those who had tortured him. Johnny had told him once that he thought his life before was a test, something to measure Lancer against, so he would know he should stay here. But Scott couldn't believe that, he could only believe that God had given his brother an extraordinary gift of humility and kindness. Along with a deep sense of right and wrong, and a desire to help anyone less fortunate than the rest of the world, especially children. "That which does not kill us, only makes us stronger", the quote lept into his mind and he thought the author must have been talking about Johnny.

Scott finally realized he should say something. Even though these thoughts had whipped through his mind like a whirlwind, he felt like he had been sitting there dumbstruck forever. "I love you, brother," he said softly.

Johnny smiled just as softly. "I love you too, but that's not what you were thinking about," he said.

"No, I was thinking how amazing you are," Scott said.

"Me? Amazing? I don't think so," Johnny said, a bit embarrassed, a bit sad.

"But you are, Johnny. To have gone through everything you've had to suffer and come out the other side so ... intact, is a miracle," Scott explained.

"So, this is the other side? If I have to go through much more of this ... soul-bearing, I don't think I'm gonna be 'intact' very long," he said seriously.

"How do you feel, now that you've told us?" Scott asked.

Johnny thought about the question. "I feel ... relieved," he said.

"I think you're going to be 'intact' and just fine, brother. Keeping things locked up inside only makes it worse. You start feeling as if it's all coming down on you at once, like you're being buried alive by memories. You have to get it out, talk about it. It won't make it go away, but it does help you deal with it better," Scott explained.

"I'm worried though," Johnny said with a frown.

"Why?"

"Because, everytime you or Murdoch touch me, I stiffen up. It's like I can't control it. I hate that! I don't want to feel that way, Scott," Johnny said, the earnest look on his face making his brother almost wince.

"I'm sure that will pass, Johnny. It's still so fresh in your mind that you can't help but react to it. I know it's hard, but we understand and we're here for you, always brother," Scott reassured. Then he did something a bit daring, especially after these last comments. He reached out and patted his brother's arm, quickly but affectionately. "Whatever you need us to do, that's what we'll do," he said with a small smile.

**************

Johnny sat up in the bed after Scott left him and thought about all his brother had said to him. He believed anything Scott told him but he knew it would not be easy if he didn't do something about this. He considered his options and decided he would revert to his old habits. He had talked about it, told them everything, one or the other, and he was ready to bury it again. Put it back where it belonged. In the furthest, darkest recesses of his mind where it could no longer hurt him or his family. He reasoned that he was no longer hiding from it since it was out there now, so it wasn't like before. He needed to forget before to be able to live. He had considered at that time, ending his life. The pain was nearly unbearable. The shame too immense and the anger at his mother too severe to continue on with her. He shook his head in disbelief that any seven year old child would have to consider such a thing and why he had chosen to block it out instead was still a mystery to him. Nonetheless, that's exactly what he had done, which led to a lifetime of blocking out unpleasant, painful memories just so he could function. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the headboard and began his work.

Slowly, painstakingly, he pushed it away further and further until it was just a dim memory, a bad dream. Then finally it was all but gone, only a whisper was left and he knew that was as good as it was going to get for him this time. He would never be able to completely close that door again now that all had been revealed, but it was enough. It was enough to allow him to go on with his life and to really live, not just function.

Johnny felt up to sitting out on the veranda the next morning and watched his brother work. That was the best part, teasing Scott about doing all the work. He actually felt up to that today, too. Maybe after all these years, I can finally find some peace, he thought. Talking to Murdoch and Scott was more help than he could have ever imagined and he was beginning to realize that he was doing himself more harm than good keeping everything locked up inside him. Maybe he could share some other things now. Now that the worst secret was out. He knew nothing else that had happened to him in his life could be as horrific as that event. Still, there were things that he had endured that weren't much easier to deal with. Well, that's for another day. He was sure his father couldn't handle anymore anytime soon, his brother either. The hardest part was having his father feel so miserable.

After so many years of hating and blaming Murdoch for everything bad that had happened to him, it had taken a concerted effort to come to terms with the truth that Murdoch was not to blame for any of it. Now, with these dark shadows in the light of day, he understood what his mother had done though he would never understand why. But he could accept the secret now that it wasn't one anymore. And, even though he had pushed it away, he knew it would always be a part of him. He just didn't have to hide it anymore.

**************

Murdoch came out and sat next to him and smiled. Johnny returned the smile and for the first time, Murdoch could see the same look of love there for him as he'd seen there so many times for Scott. His heart was warm and bursting with joy, but the pain and sadness of what his boy had gone through would haunt him for a long time to come.

"Ya know, I was thinking. Life sure is good," Johnny said with a contented smile.

"It sure is ... now," Murdoch agreed.

Scott came over, having witnessed the two of them. He was amazed and overjoyed at the easiness between them. It had been a long time coming and he fervently prayed it would stand solid.

"Anybody care to help me do some work around here?" he teased.

"I wouldn't care to. Would you care to, Murdoch?" Johnny asked quite seriously.

"No, no I don't believe I'd care to but thank you for asking, son," Murdoch replied.

The Lancers shared a laugh and a moment that all three hoped would never end.

 

~end~
2003

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