The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Winj

 

The Second Lancer Christmas

 

 

 

"Johnny! Welcome home, son," Murdoch exclaimed as he saw his youngest watching them from the door.

"Well, we were wondering if you were going to make it back in time," Scott added as he stood and walked over to greet his brother.

"Course he was gonna make it! What'cha think? He was gonna miss Christmas?" Jelly chimed in, with a big whiskered grin.

"Johnny!" Teresa cried as she flung herself into his arms. "I'm so glad you're home!" she laughed.

"Uh, thanks," Johnny said, a bit overwhelmed by the greeting. "I told ya I'd be back in time," he added.

"Well, I wasn't so sure. I hated sending you on a trip this time of year," Murdoch said.

"Couldn't be helped. Besides, Scott should thank you, otherwise he wouldn't have a present from me," Johnny grinned.

"Oh, really? You told me you had taken care of all that," Scott said suspiciously.

"So, I lied. Boy, it's good to home. It's colder than a .." he stopped and grinned at Teresa. "Well, it's cold," he said instead.

"I'll go take care a Barranca fer ya. You just warm yourself up by the fire," Jelly said and started for the door.

"I already took care of him, Jelly."

"But, we didn't even hear ya ride up," he said, confused.

"That's because I didn't want you to," Johnny explained with a glint of mischief.

Scott didn't need an explanation, he had seen the look of contentment on his brother's face earlier. He wrapped an arm around Johnny and headed him to the fireplace.

"You must be hungry. Supper is in five minutes," Teresa announced as she scurried off to tell Maria he was home.

"Nice to know my timing's still good," Johnny grinned as he sat in front of the fire.

"So, what did you find for me in Stockton that you couldn't find here?" Scott asked.

Johnny thought he looked like a kid just then and he smiled at his brother. "You mean besides Audra Barkley?" he teased.

"Johnny, you didn't," Murdoch started.

"No, her brothers ain't after my hide. She wasn't even there. She and Mrs. Barkley were in San Francisco shopping," Johnny explained.

"Well, if I had known Victoria wasn't going to be there, we could have waited," Murdoch said.

"Nah, Jarrod and I took care of everything. The papers are in my saddle bag," Johnny said.

"How's Nick?" Scott asked.

"Grumpy as ever," Johnny stated with a roll of his eyes.

*

After supper, Johnny retrieved Murdoch's papers for him. Then he slipped to his room and hid his special decoration. Grinning ear to ear, he could hardly wait to test his surprise. Scott popped his head in just as Johnny closed the dresser drawer.

"Ah hah! So that's where my present is," he exclaimed.

"Sorry to disappoint you brother, but that ain't your present. You'll just have to wait til tomorrow like everybody else. Were you like this as a kid? I'll bet your grandfather had a run for his money," Johnny grinned.

Scott's smile was small and Johnny thought a little sad. He kicked himself mentally for saying such a stupid thing. Knowing Harlan Garrett, he wondered just what kind of holidays Scott really had.

"I'm sorry, Scott," he said softly.

"For what? Listen, brother. I had every inch of that house scoped out for weeks before Christmas. I knew every conceivable hiding place and I always knew what my presents were before Christmas day," he stated proudly.

"Is that so? Well not this year, brother. And you want to know why? Cause a hundred thousand acres has a lot of good hiding places and I just happened to have found one on my way home," he replied with just as much pride as his brother.

Scott's face dropped at this news. "That's not fair. I don't have time to cover one tenth of that before tomorrow," he said in defeat.

"Nope. You don't. So just forget about it. Tomorrow will be here soon enough. Besides, if you’re not good, I'll tell Santa to take that present right back to the North Pole with him," Johnny said, quite seriously.

Scott feigned mock horror at this statement, then he burst out laughing. Johnny joined him and they dropped to the floor beside the bed.

"What's so funny?" Murdoch asked as he saw the two of them.

"Oh, nothin. Your son is just a big kid, is all," Johnny said, still laughing.

"Which one?" Murdoch asked with a grin.

"Alright, that's cute but I'm worn out so both of you get out of here and let a man rest," Johnny instructed and shooed them both away.

Johnny went to bed feeling happier than he had in years. Tomorrow is going to be perfect, he thought as he closed his eyes in anticipation of pleasant dreams.

*

The Lancers all slept in the next day as they had no work to do and it was cold. Johnny snuggled under the covers but he knew he wouldn't go back to sleep. That was fine, he was just enjoying the warmth and softness of the bed. He heard Scott come in but pretended to be asleep to see what his brother was up to.

Scott was tiptoeing to the dresser and eased the drawer open quietly. Johnny could hardly contain his laughter as he watched the drama unfold. Scott rummaged through the drawer and came out empty handed. His displeasure was evident on his face and Johnny could take no more. He stared chuckling then laughed aloud, rolling in the bed at his brother's antics.

"How long have you been watching?" Scott asked, embarrassed at being caught.

"Since you came in," Johnny replied between the guffaws.

"Alright, where is it?" Scott demanded.

"Forget it, Boston. I ain't gonna tell you," Johnny laughed.

"Oh, you'll tell me, brother," Scott said and he pounced on the bed.

They rolled around like a couple of kids until they ended up on the floor. Johnny was trying to keep his dignity by holding onto the covers, but Scott was trying as hard to get them away from him.

"Cut it out," Johnny yelled, trying to sound serious.

"Where is it?" Scott demanded.

"Boys!" Murdoch thundered.

They stopped cold and looked sheepishly at their father as he shook his head in disgust at them both. They were about to apologize when they saw the grin start to spread across Murdoch's face and the three of them ended up laughing at the ridiculous sight.

Murdoch made himself get serious and announced breakfast and that he expected them to behave themselves in an adult manner. Johnny wondered why they should start today. He threw his brother out of his room and proceeded to get dressed, chuckling to himself. If Scott only knew his present had been right under his nose the whole time, he thought.  

*

Teresa and Maria outdid themselves and breakfast was a feast in it's own right. They settled in the living room afterwards but Scott wasn't done with his brother yet and the satisfied look on Johnny's face wasn't helping. It wasn't exactly satisfaction though. It was a mixture of contentment and mischief.

"Hey, Murdoch, tell us one of them stories about Scotland," Johnny said out of the blue.

"Now?" Murdoch asked.

"No, next year," Johnny grinned sarcastically.

"I'd like to hear about that part of our heritage myself," Scott interjected.

"Well, alright. I'll have to think about it for a minute," Murdoch said as he drew his eyebrows together. "You have to understand, we didn't celebrate Christmas as a country. The church didn't believe in it. Still, we had our own private celebration as many families did. The big celebration was New Year's Day.

“Now, ah, yes. This is a good one. Well, it was the Christmas I was ten I think. Yes, ten. My father was out at sea and we were worried he wouldn't make it back in time. My brother and I went down to the pier every day and watched the ships come in, hoping to see his. My mother tried to keep us busy with making decorations, plus we were still busy making our presents. In those days, we hand made our gifts. My father smoked a pipe, so I was making him an ashtray. It was quite a sight when I finished it," he stopped here and laughed at the memory.

"Well, Christmas Eve came and he still wasn't home. That night, my brother and I said a prayer for him and pretty much resigned ourselves to spending the next day without him. Ma started working on dinner as soon as the breakfast dishes were finished. Iain and I helped her as much as we could. I remember her telling me to make sure I set a place for Da. She hadn't given up on him but Iain and I just gave each other a look, knowing it would be near impossible for him to make it back in time.

“We sat down to supper and Ma said the prayer, making sure to include safe passage for our father. She was just about to serve us when the door flew open and the snow came blowing in, along with my father. He had set ashore in another port and made his way home, fifty miles, to be with us. I think that was my best Christmas as a boy." Murdoch finished his story and smiled to himself.

"What did he get you for Christmas?" Scott asked.

"Is that all you can think about? You're worse than a five year old," Johnny said with an exasperated grin. "That was a nice story, Murdoch. Kind of a miracle," he added.

"I like to think it was a miracle, son. I can't imagine what he went through to get home to us," Murdoch mused.

"What was your brother's name?" Johnny asked.

Murdoch smiled at him. "Iain, it means 'God's gracious gift'. Same as yours. It's the Celtic form of John."

Johnny blushed a little, he never knew he was named after his uncle. "What does Murdoch mean?" he asked.

"Sea protector, I guess my father thought I would follow in his footsteps," Murdoch explained. "And before you ask, Scott means just that, a Scotsman."

"Oh, great! You two get good names that mean something, all I get is Scott," the man griped.

"I'm sorry, son, but actually your mother named you," Murdoch laughed.

*

"You want ta hear about miracles? Hmmph, I can tell ya about miracles!" Jellifer proclaimed.

"Well, go on then, Jelly. Tell us about a miracle," Johnny said.

"Well, this happened many years ago. I was livin in Colorada at the time. Workin in the mines. We all lived in the mine camp and course we didn't have much, so we all got together and decided we'd make sure the kids had a good Christmas. Ya know, kinda pool our resources. Anyhow, that's what we did and me and another feller went to town and bought all kinds of toys for the younguns. Had 'em all wrapped up real pretty and all.

“But, on the way back we was robbed. Yep, them devils come a swoopin down out a the rocks an took everthin we had. We tried ta tell 'em about the kids but they didn't care. Well, it was a sad affair, I can tell you, when we got back ta camp that evenin. Course, nobody blamed us, but we jest didn't know what we was gonna do. Those poor children.

“Well, come next mornin we was all feelin purty miserable. We went up to the big tent to have the church service and what do you think we found? All them presents sittin in a pile in front a the alter! Yessir, it was a miracle if'n I ever did see one," Jelly ended his story with a triumphant nod of the head.

Johnny was grinning ear to ear when he finished. Scott and Murdoch were smiling as well, but more at the outrageousness of Jelly's claim.

"It sounds to me like those thieves had a change of heart, Jelly," Scott said.

"Or, they realized they had no use for toys," Murdoch suggested.

"Well, I never! You think fer one minute them heathens cared one way or tother bout them younguns? Course not! I'm tellin ya it was a miracle!" Jelly balked.

"It sure was, Jelly," Johnny said quietly.

They all looked at him, Jelly with appreciation, the other two with dismay.

"What? Don't you two believe in miracles?" Johnny asked.

"I'm astounded that you do, Johnny," Scott said.

"Why?"

"Well, I don't know. You just don't seem to be very ... religious," Scott said a bit hesitantly.

"Religion ain't got nothin to do with it, Boston. Religion is somethin people think up. It rarely has to do with God," Johnny explained.

"That's pretty cynical, isn't it, son?" Murdoch asked.

"No, I don't think so. All I know is what I see. And what I see is usually some guy in a dress with his hand out. I really don't think the Lord needs our money," Johnny replied.

"Well, son, I think that money is used to keep the churches open and to help the communities," Murdoch said.

"Like I said, all I know is what I see, and what I see ain't very charitable."

"Okay. Maybe we should change the subject," Scott said.

"Look, I'm not saying I don't believe in God. Anyway, I liked your story, Jelly, and I believe it," Johnny said with finality.

"Thank you. Glad somebody round here's got some sense," Jelly grumbled.

*

"What about you, Scott. Do you have a story?" Murdoch asked.

"Yeah, he's got a million of 'em. All about how he managed to find out what his presents were before Christmas day," Johnny laughed.

Scott reached over and gave his brother a shot in the gut. "As a matter of fact, I do have a story. When I was fourteen, the church was having a bazaar to help raise money for the poor and I helped out. We raised a pretty sizable sum and we used some of it to have Christmas supper at the church for those who couldn't afford their own. I helped cook and serve."

"Whoa, you cooked! How many of those poor people ended up poisoned?" Johnny interrupted.

Another shot to the gut, a little harder this time.

"As I was saying, I spent Christmas Eve with them and, though no miracles happened, it was probably the best Christmas I ever had as a child. The look on their faces was astounding. They were so grateful. I remember this one older man who I had just served. I watched him take his plate outside so I followed him. He went around to the alley and sat down. I started to ask him to come back inside and get warm, when I realized he wasn't alone. He was feeding his dog. He explained to me that the dogs never got to come in for dinner and he didn't think it was fair just because they weren't human. I went back in and fixed a plate of bones and scraps and brought it out to him. He actually cried. It was ..." Scott stopped, feeling the catch in his throat.

"That was nice, Boston. Really," Johnny said sincerely.

"It was, son. That was a wonderful story," Murdoch agreed.

"Real purty, Scott," Jelly said and sniffled.

*

"Well, brother, your turn," Scott said.

Murdoch cleared his throat and shot Scott a look that Johnny did not miss. He didn't get angry though, he knew his father didn't mean anything by it, still he never could hold his tongue.

"Gee, Scott, I thought last year was great," he said and laughed.

"What happened last year?" Jelly asked.

"Never mind, Jelly. It was ugly," Johnny said.

"It wasn't that bad," Murdoch said in defense.

"Oh, okay Murdoch. Whatever you say," Johnny said, still laughing. "Well, My Christmas story hasn't ended yet so I guess I'll have to save it for next year," he added.

"Your, uh, mother loved Christmas," Murdoch ventured.

Johnny looked at his father, trying to gauge what it was he wanted to know.

"Yeah, Mass was a lot of fun. I get all tingly just thinkin about it," he smiled.

Scott had to laugh at this. The image of his brother sitting through Mass was too comical. "Sorry, I just can't imagine you in church, Johnny," he said.

"Me neither. But there I was, sleeping peacefully," he said with a grin.

They all laughed then and Johnny sighed inwardly with relief. He had dodged another bullet.

"Gentlemen, supper is almost ready. I suggest you all get dressed," Teresa announced.

"Something wrong with your eyes, Teresa? We ain't naked," Johnny teased.

"You know perfectly well what I'm talking about, Johnny Lancer. We went through this at Thanksgiving, remember?"

Johnny gave a melodramatic shudder. "Don't remind me," he said and took off running for the stairs as she came at him with a towel in hand.

"I think she means it, gentlemen," Scott said and headed for the stairs with Murdoch and Jelly in tow.

*

"Where is he?" Teresa asked as they all waited for the youngest Lancer to make an appearance at the table.

"Maybe he hung himself with a tie," Scott teased.

Teresa was not amused and she rolled her eyes at him. She was about to ask Murdoch to haul him to dinner, when Johnny came bouncing down the stairs. Her mouth dropped open as did everyone else's as they followed her stare.

Johnny entered the room wearing a new crisp white shirt with a waist length bolero jacket that had colorful buttons and embroidered designs along the lapels, a string tie, black pants and his boots shone from a high polish. Murdoch thought he looked like the finest caballero. He smiled with pride as he stood to take in the full affect of his handsome son.

"What are you all gawkin at?" he asked as he took his seat.

"Johnny, you look so handsome," Teresa flushed.

"Well, thank you, Teresa. Are we gonna eat or not?" he said.

Maria brought out the turkey and stopped in her tracks, her face lighting with a smile.

"¡Ahora esto es a qué el hijo de un caballero debe vestir! Usted es muy hermoso, Johnny," she said. (Now this is how the son of a gentleman should dress! You are very handsome, Johnny)

"Gracias, María. Usted parece hermoso. ¿Esto es un vestido nuevo?" Johnny replied. (Thank you, Maria. You look beautiful. Is that a new dress?)

"Sí es. Gracias por notar," she said and blushed a little. (Yes it is. Thank you for noticing.)

"De nada," he smiled lovingly at her.

"If you’re through flirting with Maria, son," Murdoch grinned.

"Well, you all look so handsome," Teresa gushed.

"And you are beautiful, my dear," Murdoch reciprocated.

"Yes, you are, Teresa. That sure is a pretty dress," Johnny agreed.

"Well, I'd say we have the two most beautiful woman in the valley right here," Scott concurred.

"Oh, you three," Teresa said and wiped her eyes.

"Not that anybody asked me or nothin, but I KNOW we got the purtiest ladies, but Johnny, I think you're the purtiest one here," Jelly said.

Johnny gave him a shot on the arm and grinned, thinking about how he would have his vengeance later on the old fella. He leaned over and whispered something in his father's ear and Murdoch smiled and nodded his head.

Johnny got up and slipped into the kitchen while Maria was setting the food on the table. He was back in a flash with a plate and silverware and Murdoch got up and walked around behind Maria. When she turned to look at him, he held out his arm for her to take. She did so, suspiciously, and he escorted her to the place Johnny had set for her beside Scott. Seeing what was happening, Scott stood up and pulled out the chair for her.

They all thought the ladies would spend the night bawling their eyes out but they recovered enough to enjoy the meal.

"Before we begin, there's a poem I'm very fond of that I'd like to tell you all. It's by Robert Burns, a countryman of mine. I've always read it at Christmas and I'd like to recite it for all of you, if there are no objections," Murdoch announced.

Everyone looked at each other a bit surprised, but all nodded their agreement.

"I think you'll understand why I like it so much when you hear it," Murdoch prefaced, then cleared his throat and stood up to begin.

Farewell Song To The Banks Of Ayr

The gloomy night is gath'ring fast,

Loud roars the wild, inconstant blast,

Yon murky cloud is foul with rain,

I see it driving o'er the plain;

The hunter now has left the moor.

The scatt'red coveys meet secure;

While here I wander, prest with care,

Along the lonely banks of Ayr.

The Autumn mourns her rip'ning corn

By early Winter's ravage torn;

Across her placid, azure sky,

She sees the scowling tempest fly:

Chill runs my blood to hear it rave;

I think upon the stormy wave,

Where many a danger I must dare,

Far from the bonie banks of Ayr.

'Tis not the surging billow's roar,

'Tis not that fatal, deadly shore;

Tho' death in ev'ry shape appear,

The wretched have no more to fear:

But round my heart the ties are bound,

That heart transpierc'd with many a wound;

These bleed afresh, those ties I tear,

To leave the bonie banks of Ayr.

Farewell, old Coila's hills and dales,

Her healthy moors and winding vales;

The scenes where wretched Fancy roves,

Pursuing past, unhappy loves!

Farewell, my friends! farewell, my foes!

My peace with these, my love with those:

The bursting tears my heart declare-

Farewell, the bonie banks of Ayr!

Silence permeated the room when he finished. Scott was the first to speak.

"I've always liked that poem, but I never really knew why until now," he said quietly.

"It was beautiful," Teresa agreed.

"Sounded real nice, Murdoch. Can't say I understood it too much," Jelly said a bit bashfully.

"I understood it. It was perfect," Johnny said softly, giving his father a smile.

*

After supper and a lost battle to convince the ladies the dishes could wait, the men gathered once more in the living room. Murdoch served the brandy and he and Jelly had a cigar. Scott was getting antsy and this kept his brother amused until Teresa joined them.

"Now can we open presents?" Scott asked.

"Yes, Scott," Teresa smiled.

"Wait, isn't there some kind of tradition we're forgetting?" Johnny asked sincerely.

They all tried to think but no one could come up with anything.

"No, I'm sure we're forgetting something," Johnny said as he stood and pretended to pace the room.

"You're just trying to delay opening the presents," Scott said.

Johnny had worked his way behind Jelly and was smiling. "Oh, I remember now!" he said and pulled the mistletoe out of his pocket.

He hung it over Jelly's head and gave him a big kiss on the cheek. Jelly spurted and spewed and jumped out of the chair, rubbing his cheek. Johnny was on the floor, laughing and the rest of them had to hold on to their seats to keep from joining him.

"Awwww, that weren't funny, Johnny!" Jelly huffed and puffed.

"W..well now, Jelly. You s..said I was purty. W..what's the matter?" Johnny was having a hard time getting his breath and his sides were aching by now.

"Well, I lied. Ya ain't purty and ya shore ain't funny!" he groused. Jelly started for the door mumbling about unappreciative children and Johnny got up and went after him.

"Jelly, wait. I was just funnin ya. Come on, you know I love you," he said sincerely.

Jelly turned red and mumbled something under his breath that Johnny couldn't understand, but he came back in anyway. Johnny whispered something to him and he grinned.

"Okay, NOW can we open presents," Scott asked.

"Yes, son. Go ahead," Murdoch said, grinning at his boy.

*

With paper strewn all around, Scott was most pleased with his holiday. Only one thing was missing, Johnny's present to him. He leered at his brother and spoke with his eyes. Johnny pretended not to understand and just looked at him innocently. Scott was ready to belt him.

"Well?" he asked.

"Hmmm? Are you talking to me, brother?" Johnny asked, looking like the cat that ate the canary.

"Well, I'm not going to beg," Scott said indignantly.

"Why not?" Johnny asked.

Scott came at him and he moved deftly out of the way.

"Okay, okay. I'll get it. Geez, you'd think it was a diamond or somethin. Really, Scott it's not that much," he said.

"Johnny!" Scott yelled in exasperation.

Johnny smiled his most charming and headed up the stairs.

"You know, Scott. You would think you had been underprivileged, the way you act about presents," Murdoch teased.

"In case you didn't notice, Murdoch, I love Christmas," Scott retorted.

Murdoch laughed, "Yes, I think I noticed that."

**

Johnny came downstairs, slowly, holding a rather large parcel. He stopped in front of the hallway mirror and smoothed his hair. He stopped again and picked at some imaginary lint on his pants. He went over and kissed Teresa's cheek and thanked her for her gift. He started toward Murdoch and Scott stuck out his leg and stopped him as he tried to pass. Johnny grinned at him.

"Oh, right. I forgot. Here ya go. Feliz Navidad, mi hermano," he said.

Scott had to stand up as he ripped the paper away and opened the package. He stared awestruck at the contents, a lump forming in his throat. He swallowed hard and looked at his brother.

"How did you?" he started.

Johnny simply shrugged.

"Well, what is it?" Teresa asked.

Scott looked at her, then at his father, the emotions glowing on his cheeks.

  "Scott, what is it? You look like you’re ready to pass out," Murdoch said.

Scott turned the picture around and Murdoch found himself staring at a portrait of his first wife. Not just a portrait, but the most life-like portrait he had ever seen. It captured her perfectly. Her eyes, her smile, her expression were, well perfect. He stared in utter amazement at his youngest son.

"You didn't get this in Stockton," he whispered.

"Oh no, I got the frame in Stockton. I couldn't find one around here for nothin," Johnny explained.

"But how, where? Johnny, where did you get this made?" Scott asked, still dumbfounded.

Johnny felt a little embarrassed at the attention. He wasn't expecting all these questions. He only wanted to do something for his brother.

"Well, I, uh, found some photographs of her. They all seemed so different, I mean each one showed something different about her. So I just kinda put them all together and came up with this. I hope it looks like her," he explained.

"Looks like her?! Johnny, it's perfect. It's so ... life-like. Whoever painted this did an incredible job!" Murdoch exclaimed.

"Thanks," Johnny mumbled.

Murdoch looked closely at his son. "Are you saying you did this? You painted this?" he asked incredulously.

"Yeah."

"Johnny? When? I mean, how?" Scott tried to ask the questions he wanted to know the answers to.

"I’ve been working on it for months, Boston. Do you like it?"

"Like it? I love it. Thank you. Thank you so much, brother," Scott said huskily and hugged him.

"I didn't know you could paint, Johnny. You've got a real talent," Murdoch said, still totally awestruck.

"I don't do it much, I like to draw more than paint," Johnny shrugged it off as if it were nothing.

"Johnny, how long have you been drawing, painting, whatever?" Murdoch asked.

"Long as I can remember. Look it's not a big deal. I didn't mean for everybody to get all wrapped up," he said, embarrassed.

"You're very talented, Johnny. You should do this more often. I can't believe you did this for me. It means so much. I'm so grateful that you're my brother," Scott said, still trying to hold back the emotions.

"Geez, don't get all blubbery on me, Scott. I do have one more thing for you," Johnny said, turning serious.

"What could top this?" Scott asked, incredulously.

"Well, ya gotta close your eyes so I can take it out. I want you to get the full effect," Johnny said straight-faced.

Scott set the portrait aside and closed his eyes. Jelly covered his mouth to hold in his laughter. Johnny pulled out his mistletoe and hung it over his brother's head.

"Okay, open your eyes," he said.

Just as Scott opened his eyes, Johnny planted a kiss on his cheek and swung the mistletoe in front of him. He didn't get the reaction he had planned though, as Scott took hold of his hand, placing it over Johnny's own head and kissed his brother back.

Johnny turned red and pulled away, right into his father who was waiting his turn. They all ganged up on him and threw him on the couch. He was inundated with mistletoe mirth, but he wasn't fighting it. He was happier than he had ever been. This was his perfect Christmas story and it was definitely a miracle.

 

 

~end~
NOTE: Poem by Robert Burns of Scotland. I liked it so I thought I'd throw it in somewhere. :)

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