The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Winj

 

El Perdido

 

 

 

"No Murdoch!"

"Johnny, listen to me."

"I won't!"

"Stop this right now! We need to talk about it."

"I'm not doing it and you can't make me!"

"Now you sound like a child."

"I don't care! I ain't takin her to the dance and that's final!"

"You haven't even met her."

"Yeah well, if she can't get a date there must be something wrong with her."

"Johnny, she just arrived here, she doesn't know anyone. Please, do this for me."

"Murdoch..."

"Please."

{ sigh } "Alright but I ain't gonna enjoy it!"

"You might be surprised, as I recall she was a beautiful child."

"Uh huh, you know what they say about that!" Johnny stormed out of the house and headed for the corral where his brother was watching a vaquero breaking a horse. He stomped up and leaned against the rail with a loud sigh.

*

"He talked you into it, didn't he?" Scott asked, quite amused.

"It ain't funny, Boston . She probably looks like a bird or somethin ," Johnny groused.

"Oh, come on. You know she's Mrs. Peterson's niece and she's a fine looking woman," Scott said, trying only half-heartedly to cheer up his brother.

Johnny hmmphed and turned his back, leaning it against the corral fence. He glared back at the house as if he could pierce the stone walls with his eyes, straight into his father's heart. He couldn't believe he agreed to this and he was working on how to get out of it. Scott was watching the wheels turn in his brother's head and loving every minute of it.

Johnny was so absorbed in his dilemma, he didn't hear the shouts of warning. Scott turned just in time to move out of the way as the wild stallion bucked against the fence and reared up on its hind legs, the left front hoof catching the side of Johnny's head as it came down.   He never knew what hit him as he was thrown forward, face first in the dirt.

Scott stood frozen in place for a split second before he reacted to the horror he had just witnessed. He was at Johnny's side as Murdoch came out to see what the shouting was about. He stopped cold seeing his son lying in the dirt, blood pouring from his head. The blood ran down from the right side of his head across his cheek and mouth, ending in a steady drip into the dirt beside him.

Scott felt like he couldn't move as he watched his brother bleed. He shook himself into action and grabbed his kerchief, holding it firmly against the wound. Murdoch walked over and sank to his knees, unable to find his voice at the moment. A semicircle of ranch hands formed around the three of them until they found themselves being pushed apart by Jelly. He stared at the scene for a second then turned to the nearest hand.

"What're ya gawkin at? Go get the Doc, now!" he ordered and the hand took off running. "Scott, Murdoch we gotta get ' im in the house. Come on now," he said more gently, bringing them both temporarily out of the nightmare they found themselves in.

Johnny was carried to his room by three hands who were summarily dismissed by Jelly. Scott and Murdoch began removing his clothes and got him under the covers as Jelly went to fetch water and bandages, cursing the whole way that Teresa was in San Francisco .

When he returned they had Johnny situated but he nearly gasped out loud when he saw the blood was still coming at a steady rate. He handed off the water and towels to Murdoch who began cleaning the blood from his son's face and then cleaned the wound.

Johnny lay as still as death throughout the procedure. Once the wound was cleansed, Murdoch and Scott applied a pressure bandage to try and stop the bleeding. Once that was done, all they could do was wait for the doctor to arrive.

*

Doc Jenkins trotted up the stairs and went directly to his patient's room. "What happened?"

"A horse kicked him in the head," Scott said barely above a whisper.

Doc grimaced though no one caught it, and began assessing his charge. He checked Johnny's vital signs and sighed softly. Then he removed the bandage and the bleeding started again. "I'll have to get this stitched up quickly to stop the bleeding," he said to anyone. "Scott, hold his head over so I can see what I'm doing."

Scott did as he was told and held his brother's head gently in his strong hands, rubbing Johnny's cheek absently with his thumb as he watched Sam repair the damage. It took nearly an hour to stitch the gaping wound but once it was done, there was no more bleeding . He wrapped a bandage around Johnny's head and washed his hands. Then he returned to the bedside and reassessed him. He still didn't like the rapid pounding of Johnny's heart. He checked his pupils and felt relief. He stood up and looked at Johnny for a long moment.

“We need to prop him up, I need lots of pillows."

"Prop him up? But his head," Murdoch said, mystified.

"You heard me, I'll explain later. Right now I need him propped up," Sam said firmly.

Jelly disappeared and returned in seconds with three pillows. "This enough, Doc?"

"Probably not, Jelly. Better get some more," Sam replied and he was off again.

Murdoch reached under Johnny's shoulders with one hand supporting his neck and lifted him up while Scott lifted his lower body and Sam supported his middle and they pulled him up in the bed. Then Murdoch pulled Johnny to his chest, holding him until the pillows could be placed. The fashion in which he held his son reminded him of when Johnny was a baby and Maria would always remind him to support the neck. He winced at the stab of pain in his heart at the memory.

They placed the six pillows Jelly had obtained and Murdoch eased him back. In the end, he was nearly sitting straight up in the bed. "Now will you tell me why?" Murdoch asked.

"To prevent swelling of the brain," Sam said simply.

Murdoch felt a knife cut through him at this information.

"Sam?" Scott asked with the single word.

"I don't know, Scott. This is a very serious injury. His heart rate is too fast and his breathing is shallow but his pupils look normal so that's a good sign. We'll have to watch him closely for the next twenty-four hours. If his brain starts to swell, there won't be anything I can do," he finished, his voice betraying the sadness he felt.

"There was so much blood," Scott said distantly.

"I know it seemed that way, but head injuries always bleed profusely. The veins are so close to the surface. He could bleed into his brain and that would be just as bad as swelling," Sam explained.

"What are his odds?" Murdoch asked point blank.

"I wouldn't even hazard a guess, Murdoch. It's way too soon to know anything. The best thing would be for him to wake up soon. The longer he remains unconscious, the greater the risk for brain damage."

"Well, you're just full of good news, ain't ya! " Jelly huffed.

*

Murdoch felt like he was in a daze. It was the longest night of his life. Even longer than the night Johnny was born. That took twelve hours. Maria had gone into labor that afternoon and, as was so like him, Johnny took his sweet time making an appearance. Three o’clock in the morning. He would never forget looking up at the clock as his son made his grand entrance into the world. It was exactly 3 a.m.

He remembered the feeling so clearly. His heart was bursting with pride and joy and he actually wept when Maria put Johnny in his arms. It was a new experience for him, holding a brand new life. Johnny was so small, he was afraid to touch him. Yet once the child was in his arms, he never wanted to let go. 'I won't let go now either,' he thought as he stroked his son's cheek.

Scott sat on the other side of the bed in an equal daze. He relived the entire event. Had it only taken that split second? He remembered seeing the horse come toward him and dodging out of the way. He hadn't even had time to see if Johnny was reacting. It happened so fast, so fast! Before he could even turn back around, Johnny was on the ground and ... all that blood! He shivered as he thought about it again and again. He couldn't get the image out of his mind and he began to think it would never go away.

Why had he moved to the right instead of the left? If he had moved to the left, he could have knocked Johnny out of the way. But it was so fast. As fast as ... well as fast as Johnny's draw. Dear God has it only been six months? Six months since my life was changed forever by one dark haired gunfighter with an easy grin and a sharp mouth.

He stared at the figure lying so still in the bed. My brother. 'Please, God, don't take him away from me now. I've only just started to know him. I've only just started to understand how much I love him. Please, God', he prayed as he held the limp hand.

Sam eased quietly through the door and walked to the bedside. He put his hand on Scott's shoulder and Scott moved out of the way. When he finished his examination, he smiled slightly. "His heart rate is back to normal and he's breathing better. His pupils are still normal as well."

"Does that mean he'll be alright?" Murdoch asked hopefully.

"It's still too soon to say, I'm afraid. Sometimes the symptoms don't manifest for hours, even days. It would really help if he would wake up, but ... you have to brace yourselves for the possibility that Johnny may never wake up," he said haltingly.

Scott took a step forward. "Are you saying he could stay this way?"

"Yes, Scott. That is exactly what I'm saying," Sam answered.

"No! Johnny will wake up when he's ready. He just needs time, that's all. He just needs time. You know him, Doc. He lives by his own clock. Just let him rest and when he's ready, he'll wake up," Scott said with fierce determination.

"I know how strong he is, Scott. And I know if anyone can do it, Johnny can. But I want you to know what the possible outcomes could be. I don't want there to be any surprises or anything you don't understand. If you have any questions, ask me at any time."

*

They sat beside him, holding vigil the rest of the night. Johnny did not move and he made no sound. All that could be heard was the reassuring soft breaths coming from him.   Murdoch began focusing all his attention on the steady rise and fall of Johnny's chest. He was so mesmerized by it he didn't hear Jelly come into the room.

"Boss?"

Murdoch jumped three feet in his chair.

"Sorry, didn't mean ta startle ya," Jelly said a bit embarrassed.

"It's alright, Jelly. And no, there's been no change," he answered the yet to be asked question.

"Why don't you two go down and get some breakfast. I'll sit with ' im . Maria's got it all ready fer ya," Jelly suggested.

Murdoch got up and stretched his stiff muscles. "I'm not hungry but I could use some coffee. Come on, son. You could use a break."

Scott looked up at him and Murdoch nearly gasped at the pain on his son's face. He was so alarmed that he quickly looked at Johnny's chest, making sure he was still breathing and sighed with relief. He walked around the bed and put his hand on Scott's shoulder.

"Come on, son," he said gently and walked the man out of the room.

Jelly sat down in the vacated chair and sighed heavily. "Well, ya sure got yerself in a pickle this time, didn't ya? They're all jest waitin for you, ya know. Waitin fer ya ta wake up and tell ' em it's alright. But you jest take your time, Johnny. I know ya gotta rest up some before you're ready to open them eyes up. Don't you worry none , I'll take care of ' em til you get back on yer feet."

He stared intently at the young man and tears brimmed in his eyes. "I love ya, boy," he whispered. Shaking off the emotions and berating himself for the silly display, Jelly decided what Johnny needed was to feel better. He set about bathing and shaving him then he combed his hair as best he could around the bandage.

"There! Now you'll feel better. Ya look right spiffy, if I do say so myself. What ya really need is a haircut. Soon as yer heads all healed up, I'll give ya one of my specialties. By the time I'm done with ya, them girls won't have a prayer," he proclaimed.

*

Three days later, Johnny still had not awakened. Sam came every day and examined him, reporting that there were no signs of swelling or bleeding in the brain. All good signs except he was still unconscious. Scott and Murdoch walked around in a sleep- deprived haze. Going through the motions of daily necessities, which was the only time either of them left his side. Jelly decided something had to be done or they were going to fall flat on their faces. He sent a hand to town with a telegram message to San Francisco .

Before Sam left on the third day, he put a tube down Johnny's nose into his stomach, tying it to the bandage on his head to secure it in place. He explained that Johnny could live a lot longer without food, but he had to have water. He gave him an ample dose of sugar water before he left. On this day, Murdoch took over his daily care from Jelly. He insisted on bathing Johnny and Jelly wasn't about to argue. The old man needed to DO something and Jelly understood. He spent his time running the ranch, keeping any problems from Murdoch and taking care of it himself.

Scott spent a great deal of his time talking to Johnny. Sometimes he would almost lose his voice and Murdoch would take over for him. As Murdoch finished his bath and Johnny had not so much as twittered, Scott's frustration got the better of him and his anger rose. He paced the room for an hour until he could no longer hold it in. He stormed out of the room and headed for the corral.

"Jorge, where's the stallion that kicked my brother!?" he shouted.

The frightened vaquero could do nothing but point at the brown stallion standing in the corner of the corral. Scott walked over and stared into the animal's eyes. He saw no friendliness, no gentleness there. He pulled his revolver and aimed it at the horse's head, pulling back the hammer.

"Senor Scott!" Cipriano yelled as he walked onto the scene. He approached Scott carefully and gently put his hand on the hand holding the gun. "It is an animal being an animal. Your brother understands that. He would not want you to do this," he explained in a soft and gentle voice.

Scott's hand started to shake then his entire body trembled. He dropped the gun to his side and hung his head. Cipriano put a supporting hand on his arm and Scott turned to walk away, patting the man's arm as he left. He stopped briefly and turned his head to the side.

"Put him in the paddock. I don't want to look at him," he said with a trembling voice.

*

'One week to the day,' Murdoch thought as he stared at his son's motionless form. He grabbed Johnny's hand and squeezed tight, turning the fingers white in his iron grip.

"Johnny, this has to stop! Wake up, now. You have to wake up. I order you to wake up!" he shouted.

"Murdoch."

He turned to find the soft feminine voice calling him. He thought it was a dream as his eyes found the girl. "Teresa? What are you doing here?"

"Jelly wired me. He said Johnny was hurt badly and that you and Scott needed me."

"He won't wake up, Teresa. It's been a week and he won't wake up," Murdoch said miserably.

"Come on. You have to lie down and rest. I'll be here with him. I won't leave him and if he wakes up I'll run to get you," she said as she gently placed her hand under his arm and tugged.

He went with her, too exhausted to argue. Once she got him settled, she found the other one. Scott was now sitting next to his brother, holding his hand. She walked up behind him and wrapped her arms around him. Scott turned and buried his head in her bosom.

"Come on. I'm here now. I'll take care of him. You need to go to bed, right now," she cooed as she led him to his room and laid him down.

She returned to Johnny's side and took in the form before her. Her heart felt as if it were breaking as she soothed his cheek. She bent down and kissed him lightly on that cheek, then sat and held his hand. She started talking to him about anything and everything. She kept telling him how much they all loved and needed him and how Scott and Murdoch were in so much pain.  

She and Jelly took turns sitting with him for the next two days. Scott and Murdoch slept through those two days and Jelly was very glad he had sent for her.

When Murdoch awoke, he was disoriented. Slowly the memory of the horror that was his life came back to him. He got up and, after taking care of the essentials, he went to Johnny's room.

Teresa sat with him and it was as if he had never left his son's side. Nothing had changed. She felt his presence and went to him, hugging him tightly.

"You need to eat and I don't want any arguments. Jelly will sit with him while I feed you."

He felt ashamed but he didn't want to be in that room anymore. He never wanted to go back in there again. It was like a wake, as if Johnny were already dead.   He went with her without a word. Scott stumbled down the stairs not long after and she fed him, too, reassuring him that Jelly was with Johnny.

*

"Your dad and your brother are dead on their feet. I'm jest gonna take back over with the daily chores here," Jelly said as he bathed the young man. "Now, I'm gonna move yer arms and legs around some, get them muscles movin before they lock right up on ya. Wouldn't do fer ya to wake up and not be able to even walk. Might hurt a bit seein as how ya been layin here so long but it's gotta be done so jest bear with me."

He continued talking as he exercised Johnny's extremities. He finished the workout and changed the bed linen, smoothing out the covers just as Scott and Murdoch walked in carrying a desk.

"Well, what's all this?" Jelly asked.

"We decided we'd do some paper work up here," Scott explained.

Jelly thought he looked a ton better, Murdoch too. He mentally patted himself on the back once more for sending that telegram.

"Yes, it's about time we started making ourselves useful again," Murdoch added.

"It shore is! I was gettin ready to have the ranch signed over ta me!" Jelly proclaimed.

For the first time in nine days, he saw Scott smile a little.

The elder two Lancers dove into the work with a fervor. Occasionally one or both of them would glance over at Johnny, just to check. Teresa came and went, bringing them meals and coffee and snacks on occasion. She teased Johnny with the promise of a chocolate cake from time to time. They settled into a routine quickly and Jelly came every day to bathe Johnny and exercise his muscles. Scott even remarked at one point that his brother had never been so clean. Murdoch was uneasy about the entire situation. He did not want to spend the rest of his son's life so ambiguously. Sam continued to come every day as promised and give Johnny the sugar water through the tube, remarking every time that his injury was healing and shaking his head as he walked out the front door.

On the night of the tenth day, Murdoch could not shake a strange feeling that he couldn't identify. He was uneasy, like he knew something was about to happen and he sat beside Johnny, watching him intently.

"Murdoch, I need your help with these receipts," Scott said.

He sighed and returned to the desk. They worked another half hour when Murdoch suddenly felt someone watching him. He gasped aloud as he turned to look into the sapphire eyes of his son.

*

He heard voices, soft and distant in the darkness. He didn't know why it was so dark or who the voices belonged to. He struggled to understand what was happening but to no avail. He worked hard and it took a lot of effort, but slowly he opened his eyes. Everything was a blur for a few minutes. He kept blinking to clear his vision.

He tried to move, but he was so sore and stiff, his body did not want to obey. He managed to turn his head, agonizingly slowly toward the soft voices and stared at the two men sitting at the desk. He watched them for what seemed an eternity until one of them looked at him and made a funny sound in his throat. The man jumped out of his chair and ran to him. He stared wild-eyed at the man and wondered what he was going to do to him. He was weak and helpless and he didn't think he could even speak.

His throat was so dry and sore and something was stuck in it. The man was talking to him but he couldn't understand the words. They sounded far away and all garbled. He frowned and stared at the man. Then he saw the other one beside the first. He was smiling too and saying something but he couldn't understand him either. He looked back and forth between the two of them and tried to make sense of it but he was so tired and he just had to close his eyes.

"Johnny!" Murdoch exclaimed as he bolted from the chair to his son's side. "How do you feel, son? Johnny?"

"Hey, brother, we were beginning to think you'd given up on us," Scott said, a smile plastered across his face.

"What's the matter with him?" Murdoch frowned as he saw Johnny look at them both then close his eyes.

"He's probably exhausted, Murdoch. I'll send for Sam," Scott said, but he hadn't convinced himself. There was something different in Johnny's eyes. Something distant and confused. It was as if he didn't recognize them.

He shook it off though. Of course he's confused. He's been unconscious for ten days! Scott bolted down the stairs into the kitchen, unable to wipe the smile from his face and Teresa and Jelly knew instantly that Johnny had awakened.

"Jelly, send for Doc," Scott grinned.

"Yes sir!" Jelly said as he ran out the door to find the first vaquero he could get his hands on. He then spread the word to the rest of the hands who had all been almost as worried as the family. He could hear the whoops and hollers as they celebrated the return of their friend.  

Teresa and Scott hugged and he danced her around the kitchen.

"Oh, Scott! I'm so happy and relieved!" she exclaimed.

They went back to the room and sat with him while he slept. Slept! Not unconscious but sleeping! Scott had never felt such pure joy in his life.   

*

Sam Jenkins arrived an hour later and vaulted up the stairs, praying as he went. He entered the room to find the family surrounding the bed with silly grins on their faces and he couldn't help but smile too. "What's this I hear about someone waking up?"

"It was only maybe a minute, but he woke up, Sam. He looked at us," Murdoch exclaimed proudly.

"I see, so he's just sleeping now," Sam said, nodding his head and smiling.

He shooed them away from the bedside and listened to Johnny's heartbeat. Then he put his hand on Johnny's shoulder and shook it gently. Deep blue eyes opened slowly and took in another face smiling at him.

"How do you feel, Johnny?"

He stared at the face and saw the lips moving. He could even hear the sounds but the words were unclear and still jumbled in his mind. He looked up, pleading with his eyes for understanding. The hand reached out and he flinched, shrinking away from it.

"Easy boy, I won't hurt you. Johnny, what's wrong?"

The face was frowning now, he didn't understand. He looked at the foot of the bed and saw the other man, the first one he'd seen when he opened his eyes before. 'Maybe he'll understand', he thought. He looked at the man, trying desperately to tell him that he didn't understand their words. He was getting really scared and his throat hurt so bad . He tried to swallow but only coughed a little. He felt a hand under his head and he jerked. The man was saying something and held up a glass.

He drank the water that cooled and burned his throat at the same time. The man was watching him closely and he didn't like it so he turned away. But he tapped him on the shoulder and was talking again. He sighed in frustration and looked blankly at the man.

Sam poured a glass of water and reached to support his head so he could drink. Johnny pulled away and he reassured him. He drank the water then turned his head.

"Johnny, I'm going to take the tube out now. Do you understand?"

"What's wrong with him, Sam?" Murdoch asked.

"I'm not sure, Murdoch. He seems confused and frightened. I'm not sure he understands us. He may be afraid to talk with that tube in. You may have to hold him down while I take it out. I'm going to give him some laudanum first though, this is going to hurt."

"You know he won't take it," Scott said.

"We'll see," Sam said and poured a spoonful of the bitter liquid.

He held it to Johnny's mouth and got a suspicious look but Johnny took the medicine much to everyone's surprise. Sam waited a few minutes to let the medicine take effect then he motioned for Scott to get in position just in case. He untied the tube from its secure spot and showed it to Johnny. Then he made a motion to show Johnny what he was going to do.

Wide eyes stared at him, then closed. Sam could tell he was bracing himself and he pulled the tube out as quickly as he safely could. Johnny didn't fight it, though every inch of him screamed to do just that. He coughed harshly for several minutes and finally was able to take some more water.

When he looked at the man again, he could see the apology in his eyes and he tried to smile. His eyelids were getting very heavy now and he wanted desperately to sleep but he was unsure of what was happening around him and he was still scared. Laudanum won however, and he drifted off to sleep.

"It's the laudanum, he'll sleep for several hours. He needs to keep taking in fluids and broth at first until his stomach can handle more solid foods," Sam directed.

"He seemed so confused, Sam. Like he didn't even recognize us," Scott finally voiced his concern.

"I know. It's possible that he doesn't, Scott."

"Amnesia?" Murdoch asked.

"Yes. If it is, it could resolve itself quickly but you shouldn't try to force him to remember. Just take it slowly. I'll stay the night. I want to see him when he wakes up again."

*

When he next awoke, sunlight was spilling through the open window and a light breeze played with the curtains. He felt more clearheaded and he could hear the birds singing outside the window. The sound seemed close, not far away like before. He looked around and saw the older man sitting beside him. The man smiled at him then got up and left. He came back with the other one, the one that had pulled that thing out of his nose. He was smiling and again and he wondered what he would do to him now.

"Can you understand me?" the man asked.

He nodded his head.

"You couldn't last night."

He shook his head.

"Do you think you could try to speak? I know your throat is sore from that tube but try."

"H... hhh ........ hhuuurtts ," he whispered.

"What hurts?"

He pointed to his throat and the man nodded.

"It won't hurt much longer. You need to drink as much as you can and we need to get some food in you. Now, do you know who I am?"

He stared at the man intently. "No," he whispered.

"Do you know who you are?" Sam asked.

Confusion darkened his face as he tried to think. Who was he? That's a silly question, except that he didn't know. He looked up, terror in his eyes and shook his head violently.

" Shhh . It's alright. Don't get yourself upset. You need to listen to me. You had a bad accident and hurt your head. A horse kicked you. You were unconscious for ten days. It's understandable that you can't remember right now. But I don't want you to get all upset over it, I know that's hard but your memory will probably come back." Sam spoke quietly, in a calm and steady voice.

" P ..prrobly ?"

"I'm sorry I can't give you a better answer than that. You need to be patient."

"Who .... are ....{sigh} you?" he asked.

"I'm Dr. Jenkins. These people are here to help you get better. You can trust them, they won't hurt you and neither will I."

Johnny looked at him, unsure. "Already.... d ..did ."

Sam laughed at this. "Yes, I guess I did, but I won't to it anymore, how's that?"

"K...tired," he sighed.

"Alright, get some sleep. We'll be back later." Sam smiled and patted him on the arm. He motioned to Murdoch to go with him and they left Johnny to rest.

*

He gathered the family in the kitchen and gratefully accepted the coffee Teresa offered. "This is going to be hard for you all but you need to listen carefully. Johnny does have amnesia. Unfortunately, there isn't much we can do but give him time. Don't try and force him to remember. When he asks questions, and he will, answer as simply as you can, don't try to explain a lot of things to him all at once. It will only upset him and make things worse.

“Don't call him by name until he asks and Scott, I know how you and Johnny call each other 'brother', but make sure you don't until he knows who you are. Any information you give him before he's ready to hear it might scare him and cause him to withdraw. You too, Murdoch. Don't call him 'son'." Sam finished his instructions and took a drink of coffee while they all stared at him.

"This is going to be hard. I don't even think about what I call him," Murdoch said.

"I know, me either. Not to call him brother, I probably should just stay away from him," Scott said morosely.

"No, don't to that. He's already seen you and if you disappear it will only confuse him more. Oh, and don't leave him alone too much. His instincts will kick in and he'll try to get out of bed. He's too weak to do that on his own and I want him to stay put for at least a couple of more days."

"Yep, you know Johnny. He'll be tryin to get up and act like nothin's wrong with ' im ," Jelly said.

"Yes, well," Sam mumbled.

"What? There's more?" Scott asked and wished he hadn't.

"Well, it's possible that he may not be the same person. His personality could change. It's been known to happen in head injuries."

Murdoch just stared at him. He might not be the same? He realized that even with all the arguments and hard headedness, he didn't want Johnny to change. He wanted his son, his baby boy, just the way he was. He groaned as another thought hit him and they all looked at him. "What about ... the past, Doc?" he asked hesitantly.

Sam's eyes opened wide then quickly he closed them feeling a bit defeated at the moment. "I didn't even think about that. Well, don't tell him. Look, hopefully, his memory will come back on its own and we won't have to deal with that."

"What'd be so bad about ' im not rememberin bein Johnny Madrid?" Jelly asked, confused.

"Oh nothing much, Jelly. Until the first time someone recognizes him and calls him out. Can you imagine if he didn't remember? I mean he might not remember how to use a gun!" Scott grew more anxious as the words were coming out of his mouth.

"Alright, everyone we will cross that bridge if we come to it. Right now, we have to get him stronger. That's the first priority," Murdoch announced and they all nodded their agreement.

*

Murdoch and Scott returned to Johnny's room after seeing Sam off and sat beside the sleeping man. They were worried and scared. Murdoch thought how ironic it was that he should NOT want Johnny to wake up now so he wouldn't have to watch every word he said. But he began to stir and they both held their breath.

His eyes opened slowly and took in his surroundings quickly. 'No, nothing changed about his personality,' Scott thought with a bit of relief.

"Hi," Murdoch said. He figured simple was better.

"Hi. What's my name?" Johnny started right in with the questions.

"Johnny," Murdoch said and watched closely for any hint of recognition. There was none.

"Johnny what?"

"Lancer. Johnny Lancer," Murdoch replied.

He rolled the name around in his mind several times but it meant nothing to him. He sighed heavily and rubbed his forehead. "Who are you?"

" I ..uh ...I'm Murdoch and this is Scott."

"Hi, br ...Johnny," Scott stammered and cursed himself for almost blurting it out.

"Where am I?"

"You're at our ranch," Murdoch said.

"How long have I been here?"

"You were unconscious for a long time," Scott said.

"No, I mean do I work here or somethin ?"

They looked at each other, not sure how to answer. "You shouldn't try to take in too much all at once, Johnny," Murdoch finally came up with.

"It's a simple question, isn't it?"

"I guess it is. You've been here six months," Murdoch answered.

Johnny nodded his head and rubbed his forehead again.

"Does your head hurt, son?" Murdoch asked and bit his lip.

He didn't seem to notice, but simply answered, "a little."

"Teresa, she's my ward, she'll bring you some broth."

"She already has," Teresa said lightly as she entered the room.

He stared at her, taking in the petite form but it was the same, nothing. 'She's pretty though,' he thought.

"Now, you two just skeedaddle and let me take care of my patient," she said with a sunny smile.

"Alright, dear. I've already told Johnny your name, so I don't suppose introductions are called for," Murdoch said, letting her know that he at least had been told that much.

She nodded her understanding and they left.

"Are you hungry?" she asked.

"Guess so," he said softly.

"Your head hurts," Teresa observed.

"Yeah, how'd you know?"

She shrugged her small shoulders. "I could just tell. Now sit up, slowly now, and take this broth. You'll feel much better once you have something besides water in your stomach," she said as she helped him slide up in the bed.

"How long have you lived here?" he asked between spoonfuls.

"All my life. I was born here. My father worked for Murdoch until he was killed and I stayed on here."

"I'm sorry."

"Thank you. I'm glad to see your manners are still intact," she smiled and he smiled back at her. She could feel his eyes on her and for some reason it made her uncomfortable. She kept thinking about what Sam had said about his personality changing and she felt ill at ease. As soon as he finished the broth she started to leave.

"Are you afraid of me?"

"Certainly not! Why would you ask me that?"

"You seem kinda skittish," he observed.

"I'm sorry, I guess I'm a little tired. I'll bring you some more broth later," she said and tried not to run from the room.

*

The next two days, they all tried not to spend too much time with him. Afraid they would slip and say something wrong, they kept their visits short. It didn't bother him. He figured he worked there so why should they hover? He tried hard, so very hard to remember but it was all for naught. His mind was like a blank piece of paper, waiting for someone to write something there that would explain it all. He woke up in the early afternoon starving. The old man came to the door and peeked in, stepping through the opening when he saw him awake.

"How are you feeling?" he asked.

"I'm hungry."

Murdoch smiled. "Well, I think we can take care of that. I'll have Teresa bring you a tray."

"Um, could you bring it? I don't think she likes me very much," Johnny said gingerly.

"Why would you say that?" Murdoch frowned.

"She just seems nervous when she's in here, like she's scared of me," Johnny shrugged.

"Well, that's ridiculous. Teresa isn't afraid of much of anything, least of all you, Johnny," Murdoch said, stunned that Johnny would think such a thing.

"If you say so, but I bet if you offered to bring me some food, she wouldn't turn ya down."

"Well, one of us will feed you, how's that?" he said and patted Johnny's arm before he left. He wanted to do much more than that but he held tight rein on himself these days.

"Teresa, our patient is hungry. Think you could find something to feed him?" he asked cheerfully as he walked into the kitchen.

"Oh, of course, only would you mind taking it to him, Murdoch. I'm very busy right now," she said a bit flushed.

"Teresa, Johnny said you were afraid of him," he ventured.

"What? Oh that's silly. I'm just very busy right now, that's all," she said as she fluttered about fixing his meal. She made it quickly and handed the tray to Murdoch then smiled.

"Told ya," Johnny said as Murdoch brought the tray in.

"She's busy is all. She's flying around that kitchen like a bumble bee," Murdoch said with a small chuckle.

Johnny wasn't fooled though. He may not remember a damn thing but he could tell when somebody didn't want to be around him. He wasn't daft!

*

"Would you mind sitting with me for a while, unless you're busy?" Johnny asked.

"Sure, s .. Johnny ," Murdoch stammered.

He started eating and thinking. "I get the feeling there's something more I should know. I mean, I know there's a lot more I should know but ... you all seem so tense around me. Didn't ya like me?" He smiled a little.

"Of course we like you. Doc said we shouldn't try to push you to remember, to let it just happen," Murdoch explained.

"But it's not happening. I try so hard, but nothing will come. It's frustrating!" He finished the meal and felt much better. "Do you know me well?"

Murdoch nodded.

"But you don't wanna tell me cause of the doctor," Johnny surmised.

Murdoch nodded.

"If I promise to stop you if it gets too much, would you tell me something, anything?" he asked and the pleading in his eyes was too much for Murdoch.

"Yes, if you promise, I'll tell you some important things."

"I promise."

Murdoch smiled. In the days since he'd awakened it had become obvious to him that Johnny's personality had not changed. He was a bit timid but that was because he was so frightened and unsure. But Murdoch still believed Johnny's promise was gold.

"I told you your name. I told you my name but only my first name."

"Yeah, that's right you never told me your last name," Johnny said, searching his face.

"It's Lancer. I'm your father, Johnny."

The sapphire eyes locked on him and he searched the face before him. "Do I ...do I look like you?" he asked in a whisper.

Murdoch looked surprised until he realized if Johnny didn't remember who he was, he certainly didn't remember what he looked like. "God, I'm sorry, Johnny. No, you look a lot like your mother except your eyes," he said as he retrieved a mirror.

"Before you look, I want you to know that you've lost some weight while you've been sick and well, you don't look your best right now. You're a handsome young man," he smiled as he handed Johnny the mirror.

He stared at his reflection for a long time, looking into his own eyes for some recognition, some flutter of a memory, but it was like looking at a stranger. "I'm mixed," he said.

"Your mother was Mexican."

"Was?"

"She died a long time ago," Murdoch said and he couldn't keep the sadness from his voice, even now.

He saw the pain cross his son's face and wanted so badly to reach out to him.

Johnny's eyes flashed suddenly. "The ... Scott? He's my brother?" he asked with realization.

"That's right. He's your half-brother. I was married to his mother, but she died in childbirth," Murdoch explained quickly. More pain.

"Does he ... um ... does he like me?"

"He loves you, Johnny. Very much," Murdoch said softly. "So do I ," he added as he squeezed Johnny's arm.

Johnny smiled, it was more like his old smile or one of them. "You've had a tough time, losing two wives," he said with sympathy that surprised Murdoch for some reason.

"I'm blessed with two fine sons," he countered.

"Yeah, well. At least one of ' em remembers you," Johnny said with a small sad smile.

"You'll remember, son. It'll just take some time." Murdoch tried to reassure him although he wasn't sure himself. "Are you alright? I mean, this is a lot to take in."

"Yeah, I'm ok. You haven't told me anything too bad yet. It's just ... something's there, some ... I don't know what it is but it makes me feel ... kinda worried or like I don't want to know about something. It doesn't make any sense." He stammered to find the right words to convey the feeling of dread that consumed him sometimes.

Murdoch knew exactly what he was talking about but he pretended he didn't. "Don't try to force it, son. It will come back, you just have to believe that. Why don't you get some rest and we'll talk again later."

"Okay, I am kinda tired. Seems all I do is sleep."

"Doc's coming tomorrow. Maybe he'll let you get up."

**

He went downstairs to find Scott reading the paper. "Well, I told him."

"Told who what?" Scott asked, distractedly.

"I told Johnny who we are."

Scott dropped the paper and looked at his father. "How did he take it?"

"Pretty well, actually. He accepted it and I told him about his mother and yours. He asked me if he looked like me." Murdoch seemed far away for a minute.

"I didn't even think about him not knowing what he looks like! I suppose it's too much to ask if he preened," Scott said, attempting to add some humor to the humorless house.

"No, I wish he had. He stared at himself and all he said was "I'm mixed," Murdoch sighed.

"So he knows I'm his brother?"

"Yes, he does. He wanted to know if you liked him," Murdoch chuckled a little at the thought.

"I hope you told him the truth," Scott gave his father a wry look.

"Of course! I told him you two couldn't stand each other," he grinned.

"Guess I should go see him."

"He's tired, son. Let him sleep, you can see him later. Maybe we should eat supper with him," Murdoch suggested.

"That's a good idea. Maybe now that he knows he has a family, some kind of normal routine will help jog his memory," Scott hoped.

"I hope so, but he's getting itchy. He didn't say anything but I could tell he's getting tired of being in that bed."

"Now that sounds like Johnny!" Scott grinned.

*

At six o'clock the bedroom door swung open and a table was brought in, followed by chairs and an extra lamp. Johnny watched the goings on with great interest, but he said nothing. He watched as they arranged the chairs around the table, making sure it was as close to the bed as they could get it, then the food arrived. They set the table and brought him a tray. Murdoch tucked a napkin under his chin and he continued to watch with some humor dancing in his eyes.

Murdoch's heart leapt as he saw the familiar teasing look in his son's eyes and he thought he had come up with a brilliant idea. Scott brought in the last plate, which was covered and he sat it on the dresser.

"Well, hello, brother! Time to eat," he said simply.

"Evidently," Johnny replied.

Scott smiled at him and he returned it, though he still felt some trepidation. Teresa sat at the far end of the table and avoided looking at him. He wondered again why she was so afraid of him. Had he done something to her and couldn't remember?

He listened as Scott and Murdoch talked about ranch business. It was interesting but he didn't want to hear about it, he wanted to see it. He wanted to see something besides these four walls! He sighed heavily without realizing it.

"Are you alright, Johnny?" Murdoch asked.

"Huh? Oh yeah, sorry I was just thinking I'd like to get a look at the place," he said a bit sheepishly.

Scott smiled. "I'm sure you'd like to get a look at anything that didn't have a bed in it."

"You got that right," Johnny said returning his smile.

"Well, if it's any comfort, brother, you sound like your old self."

"Thanks, I guess. I'm not so sure that's a good thing," Johnny said with a frown.

"Why would you say that, son?"

"Seems like there's somethin you're not telling me."

"I told you Doc doesn't want to push it, Johnny," Murdoch reiterated.

"Yeah, I know. Guess I'm just ...."

"Frustrated?" Scott offered.

"Yeah, frustrated and mad." He looked at their worried faces and felt he shouldn't have said it aloud. "At myself , for not being able to remember anything," he explained.

"It'll come, brother," Scott said gently.

Johnny looked intensely at Scott for a long time, until Scott began to feel a little uneasy in fact. "You always call me that?" he finally asked.

"Usually."

Johnny nodded his head slowly. "I like it," he affirmed.

Scott silently sighed his relief. "Well, it's time for the true test."

"What test?" Johnny asked feeling that dread again.

Scott got up and walked over to the dresser. He picked up the plate and walked to the bed, pulling the towel off the top and displaying the chocolate cake. "Want some?" he asked with a grin.

Johnny felt his stomach roll and he looked away. "No, thanks," he said as he held his hand up.

Teresa gasped and fled the room. They watched her go, astounded at her reaction.

"What did I do now?" Johnny asked.

"Nothing, son. It's just that you always loved Teresa's chocolate cake."

"Well, I didn't say I didn't like it, my stomach's just about to burst from all this food is all," Johnny explained.

Scott's shoulders dropped with relief. If Johnny didn't like chocolate cake anymore, they were in real trouble! "I'll explain it to her, Johnny," he said and went to find her.

"I told you, she doesn't like me," Johnny said to Murdoch.

"I know something is bothering her, Johnny, but I promise you son, it isn't you. You're like a brother to her, you always have been. I'll talk to her," Murdoch said, but he wasn't convinced that Teresa wasn't reacting to Johnny for some reason.

*

He thought about her. He wondered what he had done to make her dislike him. Like a brother? Maybe he'd done something less than brotherly. He hoped not, he hated to think he was that kind of man. He pondered these thoughts until the doctor walked in.

"Hello, Johnny. Do you remember me?"

"Dr. Jenkins."

"Very good, now have you remembered anything from before the accident?"

"Nothing. It's still a blank. All I know is what I've been told."

"What have you been told exactly?" Doc asked, suspicion in his words.

"Well, I know my name is Johnny Lancer and that this is my home and family. That's about it."

"Who told you?"

"My pa," Johnny said nonchalantly.

"Who?" Doc exclaimed.

"My pa. He only told me a little cause I asked him to. He told me what you said about it but I was goin crazy. I needed to know something," Johnny said, not wanting the doctor to take his father to task.

"What's wrong?" he asked as he noticed the look of astonishment on the doctor's face.

"Uh, nothing. No nothing is wrong. I'm sorry, Johnny. How did you feel after he told you these things?" Sam asked, still trying to overcome the shock of one of Murdoch Lancer's sons calling him 'pa'.

"I felt fine. I mean I didn't lose it or nothin . It seemed ... right I guess is the word. Still, I keep feeling like there's something there that I don't really want to remember," Johnny said with a frown.

"We all have things we would just as soon forget. I'm afraid that's going to come back with everything else," Sam said, praying Johnny's memory would not come crashing down on him in one flash.

"If it comes back you mean."

"Yes, I'm afraid I can't tell you anything for certain about your memory. What I can tell you is that you can get out of that bed now."

Johnny's eyes lit up and a smile spread across his face that reminded Sam of happier times.

"Really? You mean it? Boy, I've been goin crazy sittin up in this room!" Johnny exclaimed.

"Well, just hold on there now. You have to go slow. Rest when you feel tired and do not overdo it! And I want someone with you at all times the first day or so until you get your legs back under you."

"Sure, Doc. I'll do whatever you say," Johnny promised.

"That'll be a switch," he mumbled.

"Sam, I didn't know you were here," Murdoch said as he came in the room.

"I didn't see you around so I came on up."

"He said I could get up!" Johnny reported excitedly.

"I did but first I'm going to talk to your father about the rules. As soon as he offers me a cup of coffee, that is," Sam hinted.

Johnny's face fell.

"I won't be long, son. When I come back, we'll get you dressed and out of that bed," Murdoch said, trying to placate the disappointment.

*

Sam explained the rules to Murdoch, Scott and Teresa during his coffee and they all agreed they understood. Murdoch nearly sprinted back upstairs to keep his promise. He helped his son get dressed and noticed happily the weight Johnny had put back on.  

He stood up slowly, teetering a bit but Murdoch steadied him with an arm around the waist and he smiled appreciatively.

"Where to you want to go?"

"First, I want to get a good look at myself," he said as they wobbled to the dresser. He looked at himself in the mirror and thought he wasn't so bad. "Sure look a sight better than the first time I looked."

Murdoch laughed. "You sure do. That's due to good cooking."

"I want to go ... anywhere!"

They made it down the stairs; it only took about ten minutes. Johnny had to stop a few times as he felt his legs shaking. Murdoch considered just picking him up but he was sure Johnny wouldn't like that. They stopped at the doorway to the living room and Johnny took in the huge room. Nothing seemed familiar to him and he felt his heart drop. He had hoped his home would spark some memory.

They made it to the sofa and Murdoch decided it was far enough as he helped Johnny ease down on the soft cushions. He sighed heavily as he relaxed his aching muscles.

"That was hard," he smiled.

Murdoch laughed and sat beside him. "Does anything look familiar?"

The smile disappeared. "No," he answered sadly.

"It's alright, son."

"I know it'll take time, right?" Johnny said and forced a smile.

"Well, will you look at this! He lives!" Scott dramatized as he walked in the door.

"Barely," Johnny retorted.

"How do you feel?"

"Shaky."

Scott looked at his father and Murdoch shook his head, no he doesn't remember anything.

Johnny sighed again and laid his head on his father's shoulder. Murdoch looked down at him with shock and pleasure mixed on his face.

Scott smiled at his reaction. "I know what will make you feel better. How about some lemonade?" he suggested.

Johnny shrugged. "Ok. I'm sorry," he said suddenly.

"Why?" Murdoch asked.

"I'm a lot of trouble."

Murdoch Lancer started chuckling, then his laughter boomed as Johnny raised his head and looked at him.

"What?"

"Murdoch? What's so funny?" Scott asked as he came back from the kitchen.

" Your .... br brother just said ....he was ... a lot of .... tr tr trouble," he gasped through the laughter.

Johnny pulled away, not sure he wanted to be this close to a crazy man. Scott started laughing too and he was sure he was related to the nut family.

"What is so funny?" he asked.

"Sorry, brother. It's nothing really," Scott said and started howling again.

Johnny started to get up and get away from the lunatics but Murdoch grabbed his arm. "No, it's alright, son. Just remind me to tell you about this when you get your memory back," he said still chuckling.

*

In the next few days, his strength returned and he was able to walk around unassisted. He roamed the house and grounds, trying desperately to see something familiar. If his family couldn't spark his memory, he thought he might never get it back. Jelly came around the house and nearly ran him down.

"Oh, sorry. Didn't see ya there," he said.

"It's okay. Who are you?" Johnny asked.

"Jelly. Jellifer Hoskins is the name," Jelly replied, sticking his thumbs into his suspenders. "Sound familiar?" he asked hopefully.

"I'm sorry, no."

"Well, don't let it bother ya none. Are ya ok? Ya want me ta walk with ya?"

"No thanks. I can make it," Johnny said softly.

He walked on around the house and came across the garden. He walked through, smelling the lavender and rose scents. It was quiet here, peaceful and he liked it. He heard a noise and turned to come face to face with Teresa.

"Hello," he smiled.

"Hello. Excuse me," she said and started around him.

"Teresa? What did I do?"

"What?"

"What did I do to make you not like me?"

Her eyes filled with unshed tears and she bowed her head. "I'm so ashamed, Johnny. I'm so sorry. I've treated you just awful," she cried.

"Hey, it's ok. Really, I just didn't know why," he said softly. He put his hand on her shoulder and she flinched so he quickly removed it. "Was I ... forward with you?" he asked the question he really didn't want the answer to but she shook her head no. "Then what?" he persisted.

"I'm afraid you won't be the same."

"The same as what?" he asked not understanding.

"The same Johnny."

He nodded his head in understanding. "Well, I don't know what that is but I can promise I won't do anything to hurt you," he said gently.

"I know that," she said and hugged him tightly.

He returned the hug a bit hesitantly and when she released him, he released her quickly. "Friends?" he asked.

"Always," she smiled.

*

He walked back around the house and toward the corral. He leaned against the fence and noticed the stain there. He fingered it and wondered what it was.

"Johnny?"

He jumped and turned to see the old fella he had just met.

"Sorry, seems I'm always startlin ya," Jelly apologized.

"It's okay, I was just wondering what this was," he said and pointed to the reddish brown stain.

Jelly grimaced. " Tain't nothin . Come to the barn with me, I wanna show ya somethin ," he said and escorted Johnny away from his own blood stain.

" What’ya think of this feller?" Jelly asked as he walked Johnny up to Barranca's stall.

"He's beautiful," Johnny said in a hushed tone. Barranca nudged him with his nose and Johnny laughed. "Guess he likes me."

"I reckon he does. But you don't recognize ' im ?"

"Should I?"

"His name's Barranca."

Nothing.

"He's your horse, Johnny. Ya love ' im like crazy," Jelly explained, hoping to get some sign of recognition from the young man.

Johnny stroked the golden mane and looked appreciatively at the animal. Barranca nudged him again and snorted a little. "I'm sorry, boy. I don't remember but I bet you're a real good horse, aren't ya."

"Well, at least ya ain't lost yer touch. You shore are good with horses."

"Oh? Then how come one about kicked my brains out?" Johnny said with a playful smile.

Jelly laughed at this.

*

Johnny walked back into the house and found his father sitting at a huge desk. He walked over and stood beside it, playing with a paperweight.

Murdoch watched him for a minute with some amusement at the all too familiar gestures. "Something on your mind, son?" he finally asked.

Johnny smiled. "No, that's the problem." He sighed and looked at the man. "I was just in the barn with Jelly. I met my horse. I don't remember him either. Could you tell me some more?"

"Let's sit on the sofa," Murdoch said and stood up from the desk. Once seated, he was unsure of what he should tell Johnny and he voiced this concern.

"Well, something's been bothering me. When I asked you how long I'd been here, you said six months. How can that be?"

Murdoch closed his eyes briefly, realizing the mistake. "Oh, Johnny, that is something that may be too hard for you to hear right now."

"Please, I can't remember. It's been weeks and nothing is happening. I can't keep rambling around here. I feel like a stranger!" Johnny vented his frustration. "Please, pa. "

Murdoch stared at him, stunned. He seemed to have lost the ability to speak for a moment as he relished the word his son had uttered so easily.

"Okay, take it easy," he finally whispered. "I'll try to explain. When you were two years old, your mother ... left. She took you with her. I didn't know why or where she had gone. I searched for you, son, but she went to Mexico and as hard as I tried, I couldn't find you. Then, six months ago, I finally located you and asked you to come home."

"I was in Mexico , still?" Johnny asked.

Murdoch nodded.

"When did she die?"

"You told me you were twelve," Murdoch answered huskily.

Johnny stared at him. "What was I doin all that time?"

"I think that's enough for now, son," Murdoch said, nearly faltering once more.

"That's the part I don't want to remember, isn't it?"

"Yes, I think so."

*

He rummaged around his dresser drawers and found a small box. He opened it and found a few items which he sat on the bed to examine. There was a silver medallion and a woman's hair ribbon, but they meant nothing to him. He picked up the small picture of a beautiful dark haired woman. He figured it was his mother. He looked hard at it but he couldn't remember her so he put the items back in the box and placed them back in the drawer.

He continued his search for clues to his life until he reached the last drawer. He dragged his hand quickly through the clothes until he felt something hard. He picked up the piece of cloth and unrolled it. There in his hand lay a gun. He felt a knot form in his stomach though he didn't know why. He looked at the gun then at his reflection in the mirror. He repeated this action several times until his breath caught in his throat.

He felt dizzy and he swayed a little. He dropped the gun to the floor and backed away from it until his back hit the wall. He slid down to the floor and covered his head with his arms. His mind felt like it had just exploded and flashes of hatred, rage and pain flooded his senses. He held his head in his hands, pressing it between them, trying to make it stop. But it wouldn't stop.

Flashes of a man dying and standing over him, then another and another. A woman, the woman in the picture, lying lifeless on a dirty floor, her dead eyes staring at him. A man beating a little boy, him.

NO! STOP! He screamed the words in his mind. More flashes. Scott, his brother, with blood on his shoulder. His father looking at him with such anger, yelling at him about something. Telling him to leave? Another woman, younger, saying goodbye to him. A blonde girl, he could only see the back of her head as she rode away from him. Gunshots, fire, more gunshots. The acrid smell of gunsmoke assaulted him.

Oh God, make it stop! He thought his heart would stop from all the pain inside him, too much pain. What's happening to me? Red, everything was red...blood...all around him. He was drowning in it. He fought to get out but it dragged him down. He felt stabbing, burning pain in his back, then his leg and his arm, finally in his head along with the relentless pounding in his brain.

Mama? Help me, please! Words now, a woman's voice saying something, saying ... he doesn't want you, miel . Your father doesn't want you. Oh God!

"NO! STOP IT!" he screamed aloud. She lied to me. Teresa said so. No, no more, please. He felt strong hands on his arms, shaking him. Someone was calling his name. He looked up, tears streaming down his face, and saw his father. He collapsed in his arms and passed out.

"Johnny? Scott, send for Sam," Murdoch said as his son passed out in his arms.

He picked Johnny up and laid him on the bed. Wetting a cloth he soothed his forehead with the cool water. He was pale and cold. 'Dear God, what happened to him?' Murdoch asked silently.

When Scott came back, he saw the gun lying on the floor and his heart dropped. He picked it up and walked to the bed.

"Murdoch, look at this," he said quietly.

Murdoch turned and looked at the gun in his son's hand and he groaned. "Oh, my God. He remembered. My God, Scott, he remembered it all," he moaned.  

"Can you imagine having all that come back at once?"

"No, I can't. What is this going to do to him?" Murdoch asked, knowing Scott didn't have an answer.

*

When Sam arrived, Murdoch explained what they had witnessed to the horrified man. The one thing he prayed would not happen had. He had no idea how this would affect Johnny and he was more worried than he had been when the boy was first injured.

He decided it was best to let him wake on his own, but none of them was about to leave his side. They sat all night and into the next morning.

He opened his eyes but he saw nothing. Everything around him, he pushed away. He didn't want to think, didn't want to move. He couldn't, he just couldn't. He stared into space, barely blinking.

Murdoch was the first to notice and he alerted Sam, not wanting to startle Johnny. He approached cautiously and laid a hand on Johnny's shoulder but he didn't react. He listened to the heartbeat, it was normal. He tried to look in Johnny's eyes but he wouldn't turn his head.

"Johnny, look at me," Sam said softly. He looked up at Scott and motioned him forward.

"Hey, brother, can you hear me? Johnny, I know this has been horrible. I guess you would just as soon not talk about it, huh? That's okay, brother. You don't have to. Johnny, we're here. Try to remember the good in your life. Try to remember your family. We love you, brother." Scott's voice was soft and smooth as he tried to reach the dark young man.

Johnny continued to stare into a space just above the doorframe across the room. He made no movement, no attempt to speak or look at anyone.

"Johnny? I'm sorry, son. I didn't want to tell you too much. I never thought it would all come back like that. I'm sorry I didn't prepare you for that," Murdoch said as he stroked Johnny's cheek.

He got no reaction. He stood up and turned to the doctor. "Sam?" he asked, his eyes pleading for some reassurance.

The doctor motioned them out the door and they closed it behind them.

"I just don't know, Murdoch. I don't even know what or how much he remembered. He's been traumatized, that much is certain. This isn't my area, I...I just don't know." Sam sounded as miserable as they both felt.

"Look, it's obvious that what he remembered was his past, probably even his childhood. What CAN we do?" Scott asked impatiently.

"We need to get someone who has more expertise in this. I'll make some inquiries."

"Well, make it quick, Sam. I don't know how much of this he can stand," Murdoch urged.

*

Johnny lay staring at the same spot for hours. His mind would start to drift at times and he fought to keep the blank page there. No more memories, no more pain, please. He kept repeating this like a mantra as he fought to keep the demons at bay. He finally drifted off to sleep and the nightmares began. He groaned and tossed in the bed, mumbling at times in Spanish.

Murdoch watched his tortured son and prayed for some relief. Is this how it's always been? He only learned how to control it somehow? What was I thinking, yelling at him all the time to talk about it, to face the past. My God, he was trying so hard not to face it anymore and all I could do was harp at him! His heart felt like a knot which lay heavy in his chest and he felt like he couldn't get a good breath to save his life. He had tried before to imagine what Johnny's life had been like but he hadn't even been close.

Johnny's mumbling got louder as he seemed to be fighting something or someone, trying to get away. Murdoch took hold of his shoulder and shook him, hoping to wake him from the terror.

He jerked and his eyes flew open as he blinked several times. He looked around the room and regained his senses. He saw his father sitting beside him and looked away.

Murdoch wasn't sure if he should say anything so he stayed quiet. His hand was still on Johnny's shoulder and he rolled to his side, moving his shoulder deliberately to get away from the touch. Murdoch felt another stab of pain as his son turned away from him like he had so many times before.   He didn't know what to do so he left Johnny alone. He knew he shouldn't but he was at a loss. He met Scott in the hallway and just shook his head.

Scott went in and sat vigil. He didn't know Johnny was awake and he started talking softly.

"I can't imagine the pain you're feeling right now. I wish to God I did so I could tell you I know how you feel, but I don't. Johnny, I don't know what to tell you. I can't come up with any words of wisdom for you. There's nothing I can say to make it stop hurting. I guess it's almost like it all just happened. Or maybe like it's happening all over again.

“Somehow, you managed to bury most of that pain deep inside yourself. I know that's not good, that we're supposed to face the hard things, but I wish you could find a way to bury it again and come back to me. I miss you so much, it's like your gone and maybe you're not coming back this time. Please, brother. I know it's selfish and I have no right to ask, but please come back to me, Johnny. I need you so much, I love you so much."

He stopped talking to hold back the tears that were threatening and to swallow the lump in his throat that wouldn't go away.

He saw Johnny raise his hand and reach back toward him and he grabbed on for dear life. Johnny squeezed his hand and held tight.

"Give me some time," he whispered.

"Okay. Do you want to be alone?" Scott asked, feeling a glimmer of hope for the first time in weeks.

"Yeah," he mumbled.

Scott gave his hand one more squeeze and quietly left to find his father. He walked into the kitchen to find all three of them sitting at the table.

"He talked to me," he said simply.

Murdoch's head jerked up and he stared at Scott. "What did he say?"

"He said to give him some time and he wanted to be alone now."

"Well, that's somethin , ain't it?" Jelly asked.

"It's more than I could have hoped for, Jelly," Murdoch said, though he wasn't overjoyed. But then Johnny had always gone off on his own when he was hurting. Maybe this time was no different, just more, so much more.

*

They let him be, going into his room only to bring him food and drink. He would not look at them or talk to them during these brief encounters and everyone remained silent as they went about the duty they were there to perform, slipping out quietly when they finished. Murdoch was just glad he was eating, even if it was very little.

Three days had passed in this manner. Murdoch brought his lunch to him on the third day to find Johnny up and dressed. He was pacing the room.

"I brought your lunch, son," he tried. No response. "I'll just leave it here," he said and sat the tray down, leaving quickly.

Johnny slipped out of the house and made it to the barn unnoticed. He started saddling Barranca when he heard a noise behind him. Turning swiftly, he saw Jelly watching him. He quickly looked away and went about his business.

Jelly stood there, unsure of what to do. He cleared his throat, but thought better of saying anything so he left. Johnny mounted the palomino a bit slowly. His muscles were stiff and sore from inactivity. He kneed Barranca into a trot and rode away.

"Johnny jest left," Jelly announced as he walked into the house.

"Left? What do you mean he left?" Murdoch asked, rising from his desk.

"He jest rode off on Barranca," Jelly shrugged.

"Should we go after him?" Scott asked anxiously.

Murdoch thought about this then shook his head. "No, son. He needs to be alone. He always does this when he's hurting. He'll be back," he said, more assuredly than he felt.

"What if he doesn't come back?" Scott voiced his father's fear.

"He responded to you, Scott. He'll come home," Murdoch stated.

*

He sat on the still horse and looked down at the valley stretching out in front of him. Lancer; his home. He sighed deeply and whipped the reins and the palomino set off in a full gallop down the small hill and across the meadow at breakneck speed. Johnny tossed his head back and let the sun drench his face, the wind whipping his hair. When they reached the stream on the other side, he stopped and dismounted, letting Barranca roam free. He sat by the edge of the water and stared at it.

He thought about Murdoch and all the troubles they had with each other. He thought about the decision he had made to stay here because he wanted to love the old man, needed to love him. He thought about Scott, the brother he had always wished for, but who was better than any wish he could come up with. He thought about how much he loved him and how much Scott loved him back. He thought about Teresa, his sister. He had vowed silently to take care of her, to make sure no harm ever came to her. He thought about Jelly, the grouchy old man who had slipped into his heart and he knew Jelly loved him, too. He wondered why briefly but shook his head. It didn't matter why, they loved him and that was all that mattered.

He looked back into the past and made himself remember things slowly, one at a time, not in a storm of flashing images and smells. He remembered his childhood, the abuse, his mother, her death, being alone, becoming Madrid , gaining a reputation and coming home. The last thought was the only one that wasn't painful, but he knew it would be that way. He wouldn't give it up, but he had to go through this catharsis before he could go back to them.  

*

He rode up to the hacienda slowly and dismounted, handing off the reins gratefully to a hand. He had done too much and he was feeling it. He stood there, looking at the house, trying to decide if he could stand facing them right then. He sighed and dropped his head, then headed in through the French doors.

They were there, waiting for him as he knew they would be. Murdoch walked over to him and put his hand on Johnny's shoulder, relieved that he didn't pull away.

"Are you hungry?" he asked.

"Yeah," he said softly.

They headed into the kitchen and sat around the table together. It felt so familiar and he was grateful to have his memory back. He just wished it had happened a little differently, well a lot differently. They waited patiently as he ate and he could feel their eyes on him.

"It would have been a lot nicer if I could have remembered something like this first," he said suddenly.

No one spoke.

"It was bad enough the first time. Must be some kind of sick joke God's playin ."

Silence.

He raised his head for the first time and looked at each one of them. "It's good to be home," he said and a soft smile lit his eyes.

"It's good to have you back, brother," Scott said and returned the smile. He reached around Johnny's shoulder and pulled him into a hug.

Murdoch reached over and squeezed his arm, smiling. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah, it's okay. I just had to ... chase away a few ... demons," Johnny said softly.

 

 

~end~

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