The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Winj

 

For The Love Of A Brother

 

 

 

Johnny Lancer rode toward home at an easy gait. He had finished his business in Morro Coyo and was in no real hurry to get back to work. He rounded a turn in the road and saw a surrey stopped along the side. Reining his palomono to a halt, he smiled at the stranger.

"Need some help, mister?" he offered.

"Why yes I do and you are just the person to give it to me," the man replied with a smile.

Johnny laughed a little at this. "Oh I am. Why is that?" he asked.

"Well, Mr. Lancer, I must confess I've been waiting for you. I wouldn't do that if I were you," he said as Johnny's hand went instinctively to his holster.

Johnny heard the familiar sound of a rifle being cocked, then another as he turned his head to see two men with him in their sights. "What's this about?" he asked, no longer in the helpful mood.

"Oh, don't worry. I don't want to harm you, I only want to talk," the man replied with a smile. "Dismount, please," he added.

Johnny quickly thought things through and knew he didn't have any other option at the moment, so he slid off Barranca and landed lightly on his feet. "Now what?"

"If you'll follow me just over here off the road. There's a nice clump of trees where we can talk out of the hot sun," the man said as he started walking, still with a friendly tone.

Johnny leaned against a tree and glared at the man, waiting. One of his henchmen walked over and removed his pistol from the holster.

"Just a precaution, Mr. Lancer. I have heard of your temper, it's legendary," the man laughed.

"Yeah, my patience ain't much better," Johnny drawled.

"I'll get to the point, then. My name is Jeremy Fitch and I want to talk to you about your brother."

Johnny's eyes narrowed at the mention of Scott, he tensed inwardly. "What about him?"

"Tell me, how well do you two get along? I realize you didn't know each other until recently," Fitch asked.

"That's none of your business, mister," Johnny hissed.

"I'm afraid you're wrong about that, Mr...may I call you Johnny?"

"I don't care what you call me," Johnny responded flatly.

"Good. Now, as I was saying, I'm afraid you are wrong about that. It is my business if you'll allow me to explain," Fitch stated.

"Do I have a choice?"

"No, not at the moment. But you will have one, very soon. Your brother has a debt to pay, Johnny. It may very well be up to you how he pays that debt. Scott Lancer was a lieutenent in the army, I'm sure you know that. What you don't know is, he killed my brother. Not in battle, oh no! I could understand that. He did it an entirely different way." Fitch stopped here, he seemed to be trying to get control of himself.

Johnny watched the man carefully, sizing him up. He seemed to be rational, but that could be an illusion. He was about Scott's height, brown hair and eyes with a moustache but no beard. He could be called handsome, Johnny supposed. His eyes were lifeless, though. As if there was no happiness in his life, he was .... haunted. Johnny knew that look all too well.

Finally, he turned back to Johnny and continued. "My brother was barely eighteen when he decided to join the union army. My father was against it as was I. He was too young, too sheltered. We lived outside Philadelphia, Harry was supposed to start school in the fall at Penn State. He was very intelligent, hard-working. He had a smile that would brighten up any room. But, being of age, father couldn't stop him and so off he went. He was assigned to your brother's calvary unit. He wrote many letters home and always, he praised his lieutenent. What a wonderful man he was, how brave and solid and smart. He had gone to Harvard and on and on. The last letter we received was just a week before his death. He said they were to begin a campaign and he was worried. They would be outnumbered, outgunned and he said his lieutenent seemed worried, too. He said Lancer had taken him under his wing, helped him adjust to life as a soldier. When we got the report of his death and the letter from your brother, my father was heart sick. He died two months later."

"Look, I'm sorry about your brother and your father. A lot of men died in that war, but how is Scott at fault?" Johnny asked.

"He was supposed to look after Harry! He was supposed to be in the rear of the line with your brother. I found out from someone in his unit that Harry was sent to the front lines under your brother's orders. Why would he do that to a kid?"

"I don't know, maybe you should ask him," Johnny said flatly.

"I intend to, Johnny. Right before I kill him," Fitch glowered.

Johnny stood up straight and locked eyes with the man. "If you try that, Mr. Fitch, you're gonna buy yourself more trouble than you could ever imagine," he said coldly.

"That is where your choice comes in, Johnny. Scott Lancer killed my brother. Let me ask you a question. Would you die for your brother? To be fair, I'm letting you decide. Either Scott dies or you die in his place. Think about it. You have twenty-four hours."

***

Johnny stayed where he was for a long time after they left him. Finally, he picked up his gun where they had tossed it and saddled up. He needed to talk to his brother and this was going to be tough. The question went round in his mind over and over as he rode home. 'Would you die for you brother?' The answer was yes, without a second thought. Of course, he wasn't going to just lay down, Lancer's did not lay down.

He rode into the yard and dismounted only to hear his name being bellowed by Murdoch as he walked out to meet him.

"Where the devil have you been? Do you know what time it is?"

"Where's Scott?' Johnny asked, ignoring the old man's wailing.

"He's in the house. Are you going to answer me?" Murdoch demanded.

"Yes, in a minute, if you'll calm down and come with me," Johnny snapped.

Johnny walked in to find Scott in the living room working on the books.

"We gotta talk, Boston," he said simply.

Scott glanced up and saw the look in his brother's eyes and he didn't like it one bit. "What's wrong?"

"Plenty. Come over here and sit down, both of you," Johnny said and proceeded to tell them about his meeting.

Scott's face was growing paler by the minute and he felt dizzy by the time Johnny was through, or at least, he thought Johnny was through.

"There's one more thing. He said it was my choice if I wanted to take your place."

"What?!" Murdoch yelled. "What do you mean, take his place?"

"You know exactly what I mean. He said he would accept a brother for a brother and I had twenty-four hours to decide," Johnny replied calmly.

"Well, at least we know when he's coming," Scott said in a whisper.

The sound of silence in the room was deafening and Johnny got up and started pacing just so he could hear the noise from his spurs jingling.

"The man is obviously deranged," Murdoch said.

"Maybe, but he's also dead serious," Johnny replied.

"This is so ridiculous. I remember that boy, Harry Fitch. He wasn't much of a soldier but he tried. Maybe too hard," Scott said softly.

"What do you mean by that, son?"

"Well, he was cavalier. He never thought of keeping himself safe. He was always taking chances. As a matter of fact, I had planned on reassigning him to the rear echelon after that battle. I told him to stay back but he forged ahead in the middle of the fight to the front lines. He was always talking about being a hero," Scott explained and there was a sadness, a regret in his voice.

Murdoch shook his head in disgust. "So I suppose this man thinks he is just going to ride up and knock on the front door and I'm going to hand one of my sons over to him. Is that the plan?"

Johnny smiled. "He didn't lay it out for me, Murdoch. I don't know what his plan is."

"Well, whatever his plan, it isn't going to involve you, Johnny," Scott said.

"Now wait a minute. I don't intend to hand myself over for execution, brother, but I sure as hell ain't gonna let him kill you!"

"We will all face this, together," Murdoch said determinedly.

"I appreciate your intentions, both of you. But this is my problem and I need to solve it myself," Scott replied.

"Lancer takes care of its own, Boston," Johnny said softly.

***

The next morning, Johnny prepared himself for battle. He didn't know what Scott intended to do but whatever it was, he wasn't going to let him do it alone. He came downstairs to find Scott and Murdoch at the breakfast table.

"Mornin," he mumbled.

"Good morning. Are you going to check out that fence line today?" Scott asked cheerfully.

Johnny gave him a look of pure suspicion. "No, I'm going to be on your tail all day, brother. So don't even try that," he replied.

"Do you really think he would give us his timeline?" Scott asked.

"I don't care if he did or he didn't. Johnny is going to be with you all day, period," Murdoch ordered.

"This is ridiculous, I can take care of myself!" Scott said indignantly.

"Sure you can. But today and every other day until this is over, you're getting a little extra help. No arguments, Scott. I saw the look in that man's eyes, he ain't playin," Johnny warned.

Scott looked between his father and brother and rolled his eyes in disgust. They treated him like a child sometimes and he hated it. "Well, if you're going to dog me all day, we may as well get to it," he said as he stood up.

"I'm ready," Johnny said and stood as well, following his brother out to the living room.

Johnny heard it before he felt it, as he dove on top his brother, knocking him to the floor. Glass sprayed on top of them as another blast came through the french doors.

Johnny scrambled to the front door and grabbed their guns, throwing Scott's to him as he moved toward the window.

Murdoch came in low and rushed to Scott's side, making sure he wasn't injured, then glanced to Johnny to reassure himself the other son was unharmed. With a nod between them and no words, Johnny started firing out the door, providing cover for his father to reach the rifles in the gun rack.

Then there was silence except for the labored breaths of all three men.

"Scott Lancer! I know you're in there, come out now and nobody else will get hurt!" Fitch shouted.

Johnny peeked through the window and saw Fitch and his two henchmen. He could see no one else but he wasn't convinced there were only three.

"Lancer! Unless your brother is taking your place, come out now!"

Scott scrambled to Johnny's side and took a look outside as well. "Neither of us is coming out, Fitch! We need to talk!" Scott shouted back.

"Time for talking is well past. It's time to pay your debt, Lancer! You or your brother, I don't care which, but if one of you doesn't come out now, you'll all die!"

The Lancers looked at each other, then Johnny grinned. Murdoch shook his head when he saw that. Johnny started to move but Scott grabbed his arm.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm gonna go out the back and work my way around. You keep him busy," Johnny explained.

"We don't know how many are out there, Johnny. You can't do that," Scott reasoned.

"Can't sit here all day, Boston. We have a ranch to run," Johnny said flippantly, then grinned and moved away.

***

Johnny slipped out the back door and headed for the corner of the house, staying close to the wall. He turned the corner and stopped cold as he was met by a rifle barrel in his face. 'Dammit!' he admonished himself.

"Nice and slow, mister. Hand over the iron."

Johnny looked at the man, then passed him to two more standing behind the first. He allowed a smile to curl gently at the corner of his mouth and handed his gun over.

They took him around to the front of the house, keeping him out of sight of those inside.

"Well, Johnny, glad you could join us," Fitch smiled.

"Sounded like a good party, thought I'd check it out," Johnny drawled.

He felt a burst of pain as his cheek met the back of Fitch's hand, but he stood his ground. He turned back and smiled. "That the best you can do," he said softly.

This time, he wasn't so lucky as Fitch took his rifle butt and slammed it against the side of his head. Johnny saw stars as he felt the ground come up to meet him. He was dragged back on his feet and tried to focus his eyes. He felt the warm blood run down the side of his face and he smiled again. "Better," he whispered.

"Well? You know the question. Will you die for him?" Fitch asked.

Johnny focused on the fuzzy image before him and blinked several times as he heard the words from far off.

"Will you die for him?!" Fitch demanded.

"Yes," was the simple answer.

"Lancer! Looks like your brother has made his choice," Fitch called out.

Johnny was dragged into the middle of the yard by one of Fitch's henchmen, blood still running in a fine stream from the side of his head.

Scott started out the door but Murdoch grabbed his arm.

"I have to go out there!" Scott hissed.

"Wait! Just wait a minute, give me time to think," Murdoch whispered.

"Are you watching Lancer?" Fitch called out.

"Fitch, wait. I'm coming out!" Scott called back and shot his father a determined look.

"Oh sure, come on out and watch the show. Don't think I'm going to give you the chance to say goodbye, though. You didn't give me a chance with Harry," Fitch sneered.

Scott walked out in the yard unarmed with his hands out to his sides. "I'm the one you want, Fitch. Let my brother go," Scott said steadily.

"Johnny had the choice and he made it. You should thank him, Lancer," Fitch grinned as he pointed his pistol at Johnny.

"Wait! Your wrong about Harry. He disobeyed orders, he was supposed to stay in the rear but he charged through the lines before I knew he was gone. I couldn't stop him in time," Scott explained hastily.

"Well that would be your problem, Lancer. You were supposed to look out for him. You should have been as worried for him as you are for your brother right now. All those letters he wrote about how good you were to him, all lies! Now you're going to know how it feels to lose your only brother."

"Johnny, tell him to stop. Tell him you changed your mind," Scott pleaded.

Johnny turned and looked at his brother with so much love, Scott's breath caught in his throat.

"Sorry, Boston, I can't do that. It's better this way," Johnny said barely above a whisper.

"Better? Better for whom?" Scott asked.

"Better for you, Murdoch, everybody," Johnny smiled.

"No, Johnny, you're wrong, you're so wrong," Scott whispered, his voice catching.

"Enough with the warm fuzzy feelings! It's time to end this," Fitch said and pulled back the hammer.

"And then what? You'll hang for this, Fitch. Or didn't you think about that? All of you will hang if you pull that trigger," Murdoch's voice boomed from behind Scott as he stood, rifle at the ready. "That is, if I don't kill you first," he added vehemently.

Murdoch saw the doubt that lit up the faces of Fitch's gang and he grabbed hold of the opportunity.

"What did you promise them, Fitch? Do you really think you're all going to walk away free as birds? You don't know who you're messing with, gentlemen. This isn't the east coast. Out here the big dog gets the meat and I'm the biggest dog in this state." He spoke with such authority, such conviction, the gang of men started exchanging glances between themselves, fidgeting, uncertain.

"He's right, Mr. Fitch. I ain't swingin from no rope for you or your money. Don't reckon none of us are," the man holding Johnny said.

He released his grip and Johnny managed to stay on his feet though the ground sounded pretty good to him by now. His head was throbbing and everything was spinning before his eyes.

Fitch watched them ride away, leaving him abandoned in his vengeance. "It doesn't matter, I don't need them," he mumbled. He looked up at Scott with pure hate in his eyes, then turned his head and looked at Johnny.

Johnny felt the explosion in his chest as he was propelled back onto the ground. He heard Scott scream and another gun firing, then he heard nothing, saw nothing.

"Nooo!!" Scott shouted as Murdoch fired on Fitch, sending him straight to hell.

They both ran to Johnny's side and hit the ground on their knees. Murdoch lifted his head and rested it in his lap.

"Johnny, hold on, hold on now. It's going to be alright," he cooed softly.

Tears streamed down Scott's face as he looked at his brother's still form. He stroked the bruised cheek and petted the blood soaked hair. "I'm so sorry, brother," he cried gently.

***

Doc Jenkins came downstairs looking more grim than Murdoch could ever remember.

"How is he, Doc?" he asked hopefully.

Doc looked at them both and took a deep breath. "Sit down for a minute," he said as he mustered his courage for what he knew he was facing. "Murdoch, Scott I think you both need to prepare yourselves. You need to make your peace with Johnny."

Scott stared disbelievingly at the doctor. "What are you saying? He's not going to die!"

"Scott, listen to me. Listen! He is going to die and there's nothing I can do about it. The bullet is in his heart. IN his heart and I can't get it out. The bullet itself has caused the bleeding to be slow but ... he is bleeding to death. I'm sorry," Doc said and hung his head, trying to deal with his own rather surprising grief.

Murdoch stood up and walked to the stairs like a zombie. He slowly ascended to the second floor and walked to his son's room. He sat beside the bed and looked at Johnny's pale face, watched his labored breaths, struggling for each and every one. He took his hand and held it tightly, stroking his cheek as unashamed tears fell.

"I love you, Johnny. I always have, nino," he whispered and kissed his son's cheek.

Scott stood in the doorway and witnessed, for the first time, his father throw all emotional barriers to the wind and reveal his true heart to his youngest.

"I love you ... pa," Johnny whispered between breaths.

Scott felt his heart and soul being ripped from him, his knees buckled and he leaned heavily against the door jamb.

"Can you open your eyes, son?" Murdoch asked.

Johnny struggled to look at his father for what he knew would be the last time. He was sad but not scared. He had never been afraid of death. Finally, he managed to open the brilliantly blue eyes and smiled at Murdoch. He saw the tears and was surprised by them. He desperately wanted to reassure the man.

"It'sss k ... 'm not ssssscaredd," he struggled.

Murdoch had no response for this and simply nodded his head and smiled at his child.

Scott warbled to the side of the bed and knelt beside his father. "I'm so sorry, Johnny," he cried and hung his head.

"My choiccce, b..rotherrrrrr. Do any ... thing for you." He struggled for every breath, every word was an enormous task, but he had to tell them both before it was too late. "Hold me, pa," he asked.

Murdoch sat on the bed and lifted Johnny gently so he was resting on the massive chest. He wound his arms tightly around Johnny, trying to will his own life force into the boy.

"Ssscott, I love you," he whispered.

Scott sobbed loudly and grabbed the hand he felt on his own. He looked up into his brother's eyes. "I can't live without you," he strained.

"Ssure ya can. Have to. Lancer ... keep a...live. Have to. Promise," Johnny hoped his brother understood. He focused all his strength into his hand and squeezed hard. "Promise," he said as forcefully as he could.

Scott nodded and sniffled. "I promise, Johnny. For you, only for you."

Johnny sighed heavily and relaxed into his father's hold. He reached up with his other hand and rested it atop his father's arm. He leaned his head back and rested it on Murdoch's chest and smiled.

"Best ... time ... of my ... life," he said.

"Mine too, son," Murdoch said throatily.

"Me too," Scott made it unanimous.

Johnny looked up toward the ceiling and seemed to be watching something in fascination. He nodded his head and smiled then closed his eyes and stopped breathing.

******

The funeral was held two days later. Johnny was laid to rest atop the south mesa so he could look down on all of Lancer for eternity. Scott had not slept or eaten in those two days and he stood at the graveside, not hearing the priest he knew Johnny would hate, saying the words he knew Johnny would not approve of.

He jumped when the first fistful of dirt was thrown on his brother and he sank to his knees, no longer able to put up the brave front they all expected. Murdoch was beside him, holding him, trying to comfort him. But Scott knew there would be no comfort, ever. His brother was dead because of him and the only thing that kept him here was his promise to Johnny.

He and Murdoch stayed long after everyone else had left the burial. They held each other in silent grief, both unable to speak. Finally, Scott moved. He reached out and trailed his hand along the epitaph on the granite headstone. It was beautifully done, with etchings of an eagle and a falcon with the Lancer 'L' at the top. The artist had gone beyond what Murdoch had asked and simply said it was for his amigo. Scott stared at the inscription, tracing his fingers over the letters again and again.

John Madrid Lancer
1849-1871
Beloved son and brother
Ningún amor mayor un hombre tiene que dar su vida para su hermano

****

Scott spent the night getting drunk. His father joined him for awhile and they told stories about Johnny, or tried to. It seemed whenever they would get to the inevitable part when Johnny did something completely unselfish, they would both grow quiet. Murdoch went to bed after a time and left Scott alone with his memories.

Too few memories of a brother he should have always known but never got to really know. Too much pain and loss, suffering and injustice in such a young life. Too willing to give his life up for anyone who needed his help. Too willing to die for a brother he barely knew.

Is it peaceful where you are now, brother? Are you finally happy, truly happy? Dear God, let him be at peace. No more pain, no more sorrow, no more. He stared up at the stars and prayed for some kind of peace for his father, for all of them. It was already too evident that there was a massive hole in their lives that would never be filled. The silence was deafening and he longed to hear the familiar laughter, see the bright shining eyes full of mischief. Those little boy eyes when he was hurt or happy. That smile that lit up the room, the sheer force of his presence. The uncanny way he looked at life, appreciated the beauty surrounding him and never, not ever felt sorry for himself. He who had every right to be bitter, full of hate and suspicion. He who had put it all aside for the chance to be loved and to love in return.

Scott didn't think he would ever stop crying. He didn't think his heart would ever stop aching. He would never be happy again, never laugh as he had with Johnny. Never know the pure innocent joy of sitting under a tree and watching the world around him, fascinated by every nuance. Johnny had taught him these things and so much more. Taught him how to be loyal, true, honorable, brave, trusting. He thought he was all these things until he met his brother. Then he knew he had no idea what it was like to just appreciate being alive. Johnny loved life, embraced it, grabbed hold of it.

He shook his head and went to his room. Flopping down on the bed, he wept quietly until he fell asleep.

***

Scott bolted straight up in the bed, sweat running in rivulets down his face, tears mixing with the perspiration. His sheets were soaked beneath him and he felt dizzy and sick. Sunlight streamed through the open window in his room, hurting his eyes and he put his hand up to shield them.

He looked around slowly, disoriented for a moment. Something wasn't right but he couldn't understand what it was.

Murdoch walked in and stared at him. "Are you alright, son? You look like you've seen a ghost."

"I'm not sure. I feel ... strange," he stammered.

"I'd feel strange too if I'd tied one on like you did last night. You shouldn't drink tequila, Scott. It just ain't your kind of liquor."

"Johnny!" Scott shouted and stared in shock at the apparition before him.

"What?"

"You're alive!"

"And kickin," Johnny grinned.

"But, he killed you. I saw it, he killed you right in front of me. We buried you, had the funeral...."

Johnny frowned at his brother for a minute, then smiled once more. "Was it pretty?"

"What?" Scott asked, shaking his head too hard.

"The funeral. I hope it was pretty," Johnny teased.

Scott was whiter than his sheets and Johnny sat on the bed beside him.

"Hey, take it easy, big brother. Sounds like you had one hell of a nightmare."

"Nightmare? Yes, it must have been a nightmare. Oh God, Johnny, it was so real! I thought I'd lost you," Scott cried out.

Johnny put his arm around his brother's shoulders and pulled him close. "It's okay, Scott. I'm right here," he said gently.

"Do me a favor. If anyone ever asks you to die in my place, say no!"

"What?" Johnny asked with a laugh.

"Just promise me, okay?" Scott asked.

"Okay, I promise. Boy, no more tequila for you," Johnny grinned and pulled his brother up in a sitting position.

He stared into Scott's eyes cynically but the mischief was there. Scott could see it. He saw something else too, something he would never forget. Love.

"Yep, it's definitely the tequila. I can see the worm swimming around behind you eyes," Johnny said seriously.

Scott smiled and grabbed Johnny around the neck and the wrestling match was on.

 

 

~end~
2003

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