The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Winj

 

Perspectives Of Time

 

 

 

Johnny Lancer walked out of the hacienda fuming. He'd had another bout with the old man and as usual, Murdoch's answer to a losing battle was to close the subject. He knew he was right and he was going to prove it to the old man if it killed him. He jumped on Barranca and rode off at a gallop.

Scott Lancer stared at his father for long moments, keeping silent until Murdoch gave in and spoke to him. Scott was angry, in fact, his face was a nice shade of magenta at this point. All Johnny tried to do was talk about an idea and Murdoch had taken his head off. 'Well, I can be just as stubborn as the both of them,' he thought.

Murdoch Lancer stood at the French doors watching his youngest son ride off in a fit of temper. Johnny never listened. Why couldn't his son understand he had his reasons for not wanting to buy into this idea? He wondered how long this stretch of silence between them would last. Finally he turned and saw Scott staring at him, face red with ire.

"I suppose you have an opinion about this?" he asked sarcastically.

"I don't know, I didn't get a chance to hear about it!" Scott shot back in a similarly sarcastic tone. "The minute he started to explain you cut him off. Why?"

"I don't want to discuss it!" Murdoch stated firmly.

"Of course you don't! The question is why? If there is a reason for your attitude, you could explain yourself," Scott pressed.

"I don't have to explain myself to you or anyone else!" Murdoch yelled.

"When it comes to the future of this ranch, I think you do!" Scott yelled back.

"Scott, I will not discuss this with you, period!" Murdoch said with finality.

"Fine! You call the tune, right? We're just here to do the heavy lifting!" the blond shouted and stalked out the door.

Murdoch sat down heavily in his leather desk chair and rested his chin in his hand. 'Dammit! Why did he have to bring that idea up?' he thought.

****

Johnny rode south to the boundary of Lancer. He sat in the saddle for a while, looking out at the vista before him. 'Such a waste!' he thought. He spurred Barranca on and headed for the Gladstone home.

Scott mounted Charlemagne and headed south. He had at least got to hear where Johnny wanted to talk about if not what he wanted to say. He figured he'd catch up with his brother and find out what Johnny had in mind.

Johnny rode up to the house. It was moderate, one story, with a wraparound porch and flower pots hanging everywhere. A garden grew at each end of the house. It was a peaceful appearance and he smiled, feeling less angry now.

A handsome woman in her fifties came out of the house and watched him dismount. With a smile, she greeted him. "What can I do for you, young man?"

Johnny returned the smile and tipped his hat. "Ma'am, is Mr. Gladstone home?"

"He's around back. I'll get him for you," she replied.

A minute later a tall graying man walked around the house from behind Johnny. He heard him and turned with a smile on his face.

The man stopped cold in his tracks and stared at the young man before him. He seemed to be dazed, but he shook it off enough to approach Johnny. "Can I help you?"

"Mr. Gladstone, my name is Johnny Lancer. I..."

"I know who you are. What do you want?" Gladstone said icily.

"I wanted to talk to you about that piece of land that borders Lancer. I've noticed you aren't using it and I was wondering if you'd be interested in selling it," Johnny explained, but his hackles were up at the odd stare this man was giving him.

"Don't think so. Murdoch put you up to this?" Gladstone asked.

"No, he didn't. It was my idea," Johnny answered warily.

"Your brother come back, too?"

"Excuse me?" Johnny was totally perplexed at this point.

"You have an older brother. Did he come back too?" Gladstone reiterated.

"Yes, he came back. Look, if you're not interested in selling the land, maybe you'd sell the water rights. That's what I'm interested in anyway," Johnny said, trying to get back to the subject.

"You're interested in? You mean your old man ain't," Gladstone stated.

"I take it you and Murdoch don't get along," Johnny said.

"You take it right. Now, you should go home, boy. You shouldn't come around here no more," Gladstone said and Johnny noticed his voice and expression had softened.

"Do you mind telling me what this is all about? Why you don't like my father?" Johnny asked.

"Ask him," Gladstone said flatly.

Johnny sighed and turned to leave.

"Wait. How's your .... mother?" Gladstone asked.

Johnny whirled around and stared at the man. "She's dead," he answered in a monotone. The look of pain on the man's face startled Johnny. "You knew her?"

"Yes, I knew her," Gladstone whispered.

"Is she why you don't get along with Murdoch?" Johnny asked.

"Look, you should go. I ... I'm sorry to hear about your ma," he said.

"It was a long time ago, ten years," Johnny said softly.

Gladstone looked surprised, then he frowned as if trying to understand something that didn't add up. "How long you been back?" he asked.

"About eight months. Why?" Johnny asked.

Another quick change of expression from the man. This time it was anger Johnny saw. "How come you didn't come home when she died?"

It was Johnny's turn to get angry now. "That's none of your business," he nearly hissed.

"No, I don't suppose it is. Sorry. Goodbye," Gladstone said in short spurts. He turned and started into the house.

"Wait a minute. How well did you know her?" Johnny asked, the anger gone as suddenly as it had risen.

"I don't think I should be talking to you about this. I don't think I should be talking to you at all. You should go, boy. Don't come back here. There's nothing for you here," Gladstone said, his voice filled with sadness as he continued into the house.

Johnny stood there stunned by the strange conversation. He shook his head and mounted his horse, heading back home.

***

Scott saw him come up the rise at the boundary of the ranch and stopped to wait for him. "I thought you might be around here," he smiled.

"Hey, brother," Johnny said distractedly.

"Johnny, I don't know what got into Murdoch but he was wrong to shut you down like that," Scott said.

"Yeah well, I think I know why he did," Johnny said.

"Are you going to tell me?"

"Not right now, Scott. I need to figure something out first," Johnny replied and spurred Barranca on.

They made the rest of the trip home in silence. Scott kept looking over at his brother, seeing he was deep in thought and knew something serious was bothering him. 'Well, he'll tell me when he's ready,' Scott thought.

Johnny walked into the house and headed straight for his room. Scott stood at the landing of the stairs and watched him, a frown adorning his face.

"What's wrong?" Murdoch asked.

"I don't know. I caught up with him at the south boundary. He's been very quiet but he did say he thought he knew why you got so angry," Scott said, watching his father's face light with understanding then dread.

Murdoch's face hardened then and he looked up the stairs, uncertain how to proceed. Suddenly he set his mind and headed up the stairs. Scott drew in a deep breath and held it, waiting for the sounds of something breaking.

***

He didn't bother to knock but barged in the room. Johnny looked up from the side of the bed where he was sitting, surprised by the intrusion. "What did he tell you?" Murdoch asked grimly.

"Nothing. He asked about my mother, though. What's going on, Murdoch?" Johnny asked.

"What else did he say to you?" Murdoch asked, ignoring the question.

"Just that I shouldn't come back there anymore. He asked if Scott had come home, too."

Murdoch paced the bedroom floor for a good five minutes before he stopped. Johnny waited patiently for his father to make up his mind. "He's right. You have no business there or with him!" he stated and walked out of the room.

Johnny sat there for a few seconds, stunned by the quick exit, then went after his father. "Wait a minute. You can't just leave it at that. What happened, Murdoch?"

"It doesn't concern you, Johnny. It was a long time ago," Murdoch said.

"It has to do with my mother. Why won't you tell me?"

Murdoch turned to face his son. "Because it's none of your business!" he glowered and walked into his room, slamming the door.

Johnny stood there, surprised by his own reaction to his father's words. He wasn't angry, he was hurt. He didn't really understand why, but something in the back of his mind that he couldn't quite reach, had him scared. Some inkling of what was really going on here.

***

Bill Gladstone sat down heavily at the kitchen table and buried his face in his hands.

"Was that him? " his wife asked. He simply nodded. "What did he want?"

"He wanted to buy a piece of land," Gladstone mumbled through his hands.

"Then he doesn't know," she said.

"No, he doesn't know anything and he never will," Gladstone said morosely.

"You don't think Murdoch will tell him?"

"Hell no! He wouldn't dare say anything. He'd lose that boy sure as the world if he ever found out the truth," Gladstone huffed.

"Then why don't you tell him?" she asked.

"It's not my place, Gwen. You know that," he answered.

"Isn't it, Bill? Don't you think he deserves to know the truth?" she asked placing a hand on her husband's shoulder.

He sighed heavily. "If it was just Murdoch that got hurt, I'd say yes. But it would kill that boy, I'm sure of it. He's so much like her. I could see that the second I looked at him.   No, it's best to leave it lay."

***

Two days of silence and frowns later, Scott and Johnny headed to town for supplies. Scott wanted to ask so badly he could hardly stand it, but he knew the look on his brother's face and he wasn't going to get any answers even if he tried. He sighed and tried a different approach. "Johnny, if you need to talk, I'm right here."

"I'm okay, Boston," Johnny replied quietly.

That was the end of that and they drove the wagon up to the general store without another word.

Gwen Gladstone walked out of the dress shop with her fabric and stopped to straighten her skirts. She glanced across the street and saw the Lancers loading their wagon. She bit her lower lip and contemplated what she should do. Setting her jaw, she headed straight across the street.

Johnny was tying down the wagon and he was alone. It was her opportunity but she'd have to make it fast. She certainly didn't want his brother or anyone else to see her talking to him.

"Johnny, I need to talk to you," she said quietly as she walked up beside him.

He turned and looked at her questioningly. "Bout what?"

"Not here. I can't get into it now but if you want to know the truth, meet me at the boundary to our ranches tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock," she said quickly, then walked away at an accelerated pace.

He watched her hurry off and wondered what the hell was going on. He wasn't so sure he wanted to know. That feeling was back. Something buzzing around the back of his mind and it was driving him crazy. This had something to do with his mother and her husband and he started feeling sick inside.

***

Johnny said nothing about the encounter to his family and the next morning he set out for the south boundary line. He topped the rise and saw her sitting in her buggy, waiting for him. 'Guess there's no turning back now,' he thought and he spurred Barranca down the gentle slope.

He didn't get a chance to say anything when he dismounted. "If my husband knew I was doing this, he'd kill me," she said.

"Then why are you here?" Johnny asked.

"Because you deserve to know the truth," she said simply.

"The truth? What truth?"

She stepped down from the buggy and walked over to stand beside a huge tree. Johnny joined her, leaning against the bark, and waited.

"My husband knew your mother. He was courting her when she met Murdoch Lancer. He left town on business and it took much longer than he expected. When he returned, she told him she was marrying Murdoch. He was devastated of course. He told me he begged her to reconsider, but she was adamant. I'm sorry to tell you this but your mother was pregnant with you before they married."

"I know that," Johnny said gently.

"Oh. Well, this is where it got ugly. When Bill found out she was with child he went a little crazy. He went after Murdoch and they fought. They were friends before all this," she said, staring off into the distance.

"Why did he go crazy?" Johnny asked, feeling his stomach churn again.

"Bill believed, and still does, that there is a possibility ... that you might be ..." she found this much more difficult than she imagined and she wasn't sure she could continue.

"That I might be what?" Johnny pressed.

"That you might be his son," she said and blew out the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding.

Johnny felt his knees go weak. He might have fallen to them if he hadn't been leaning against the tree for support. His vision clouded and everything suddenly seemed very dark. He thought he might pass out but he fought for control and won, enough to stay conscious at least. He closed his eyes and tried to understand what he had just heard. She was saying something to him but there was a loud ringing in his ears and he couldn't hear her. He felt her hand on his arm and opened his eyes.

"I'm so sorry. I can't imagine what youâ€ôre feeling right now," she said with true sympathy.

He decided he needed to sit down just then and she joined him. "Tell me everything you know," he whispered.

"I'm afraid I have, Johnny. That is all I know. It was hard for my husband to tell me this much. We've been married ten years and he didn't tell me anything for the first five. It wasn't until we discovered that I couldn't have children that he told me about this. He ... he always wanted a son you see," she finished sadly.

Johnny could only nod his head at first. "Ma'am, could you leave me alone now?"

"Yes, of course. Again, I am so sorry," she said then left him.

Johnny sat in the same spot for hours trying to figure what to do or if he should do anything. How could he not though? How could he pretend nothing was different? Could he just go home and accept Murdoch as his father unquestioningly? What if it were true? The only truth he'd ever known was who his father was. But was it the truth? Did he have this family he had fought so hard to be a part of? Did he really have a brother? Scott. Dear God, was Scott his brother? The questions whirled around his mind until he felt dizzy and sick. He thought he might just lose his breakfast for a while. He leaned his head back against the tree, eyes closed and fought the tears threatening to fall. 'I can't lose my brother. I can't lose my father,' he thought.

Four hours after hearing Mrs. Gladstone out, he stood up and walked to Barranca. Petting the golden coat, he almost dreaded facing his father. He knew he had to though. He had to know one way or the other. He only prayed it was all a mistake. They had come too far to lose it all now. He mounted the steed and set off for home slowly.

***

"Scott, have you seen Johnny?" Murdoch asked as he came in the house.

"Not since breakfast, why?"

"He was supposed to meet me at Dell Canyon an hour ago," Murdoch frowned.

The door opened just then and Murdoch called out to Johnny. He heard his son reply softly and his frown deepened.

Johnny walked into the living room and once more felt his stomach churn. "Scott, I need to talk to Murdoch alone," he said quietly.

"Are you alright? You look sick?" Scott voiced his concern.

"Please, Boston," Johnny pleaded.

Scott looked back and forth between them and left the room.

"Johnny, what's wrong? You really do look terrible," Murdoch said.

Johnny walked over to the fireplace and paced in front of it for a few minutes. Finally he stopped and faced Murdoch, squaring his shoulders and setting his stance. "I spoke to Mrs. Gladstone this morning. I need to hear your side. Please don't try to brush me off," he said firmly.

Murdoch sat down on the arm of the chair. He felt like he'd been punched in the gut. He dropped his head and sighed heavily. "It's not true, Johnny. You are my son," he said.

"How do you know?" Johnny asked bluntly.

"I know," Murdoch said.

"I need more than that," Johnny said, his voice was much steadier than his legs at the moment but he stood his ground.

"Bill Gladstone was seeing your mother when I first met her. He left on business and was gone over two months. It was during that time that we fell in love and got married. Yes, there was a question about your paternity but when you were born and the doctor announced you were full term, I counted back. There is no way I'm not your father, Johnny. I swear it!"

Johnny listened intently to his father's explanation. He wanted desperately to believe it, but it wasn't that easy. "Then why is he so sure there's a possibility that he's my father?"

"He loved her and he always wanted a son. We used to talk about it. You see, we were friends back then. He never got over your mother marrying me. When he found out she was pregnant, he came here and attacked me. Saying you were his son and he wasn't giving you up. He was crazy, enraged. We fought and I threw him out. He never accepted us though and took every opportunity to approach your mother. When she left, I never heard from him again."

"Murdoch, are you sure. I mean absolutely sure?" Johnny asked, it was almost a plea.

"Come over here, I want to show you something," Murdoch said as he headed for his desk. "I've kept this all these years," he explained. He pulled out a calendar from the year of Johnny's birth and the prior year.

"You were born in June, that means you were conceived in September. Bill left in August. He didn't return until late November. There is just no way he could be your father."

Johnny studied the calendar, did his own counting and realized Murdoch was right. It just wasn't possible. He sighed deeply with relief and his shoulders relaxed visibly.

"There are other things, too," Murdoch said.

"What other things?" Johnny asked, expecting more documentation.

"Well, Bill was always a patient, compromising man. He rarely got angry before this whole thing happened. You ... well, youâ€ôre just too stubborn NOT to be mine," Murdoch smiled.

Johnny smiled softly at his father. He still felt uneasy, though he didn't know why, but he believed Murdoch. He needed to believe.

***

That uneasiness would not leave him and for the next two days he felt like he was waiting for something to happen. What, he didn't know and that only lent to his growing trepidation. It reminded him of the way he felt just before a gunfight. Tense, stomach tight, always a little unsure of the outcome, after all anything can happen. He didn't think he could take anymore and, though he hated to cause Mrs. Gladstone any problems, he needed to talk to this man face to face.

Johnny rode to the Gladstone ranch not knowing what he would say. He dismounted and tied off Barranca. Stepping onto the porch, the door opened before he had a chance to knock. He was met by Bill Gladstone who was not the least bit happy to see him there.

"I told you not to come back here," he said.

"We need to talk," Johnny said firmly.

"We don't have anything to talk about," Gladstone said just as firmly.

"Don't we? I know everything," Johnny stated.

Gladstone stared at him, appalled. "What do you know?" he whispered.

"I know you think you might be my father and why," Johnny said bluntly.

Gladstone was reeling. He never thought Murdoch Lancer would ever tell Johnny the truth. "Johnny, I never wanted you to be hurt by all this. I thought it best to leave it alone," he tried to explain.

"I understand that. What you don't understand is, I'm not your son. It's not possible," Johnny said sympathetically.

"I suppose HE convinced you of that!" Gladstone spat.

"Yes, he did. But not by just saying the words. It was the timing. You were gone during the time I was ... conceived," Johnny said, a bit embarrassed.

"You think a few weeks this way or that makes a difference?"

"Look, I was born in June. You were gone for almost three months. There's just no way..."

"Johnny, come inside with me. Let's talk this through," Gladstone interrupted.

Johnny sat down at the table and accepted the offered coffee. Gladstone joined him with a pensive look on his face.

"It's true you were born in June, early June. I left the last week of August. I returned at Thanksgiving. It is possible that you were conceived before I left. Doctors can't say for certain when a woman will give birth. I spoke with two different doctors after you were born. They both told me it was possible that Maria went a little less or more than nine months and they would consider that a full term pregnancy. I can't believe Murdoch actually told you about all this," he said.

Johnny dropped his eyes, not wanting to betray the woman who had found the courage to tell him the truth. At least the truth as she saw it. 

This did not escape Gladstone's notice. "He didn't tell you, did he?"

"No," Johnny whispered.

"I see. Well, it's done now. Johnny, I can't tell you for certain one way or the other. I admit it has always bothered me, the not knowing."

"Is that what bothered you or was it that Murdoch took her away from you?" Johnny asked point blank.

He stared at the young man, dumbfounded. "I...I suppose that was part of it. I loved her. Coming home to find her with another man was hard. Especially one who was supposed to be my friend. I could have accepted that though, but the thought that another man was raising my son, I couldn't stand that."

"I guess it would help if I didn't look so much like her," Johnny said a bit sardonically.

Gladstone smiled at this. "When I saw you the other day, I was shocked. It was like looking at the past," he admitted. "Johnny, why didn't you come home?"

Johnny stiffened at the question. "That's a long story. I really don't want to get into it right now," he said softly.

"Alright, I understand I suppose. What do you think now?" he asked hopefully.

"I think I'm more confused than ever. I have a family now. That's something I haven't had in a long time. My brother ... means the world to me. I can't tell you what it was like to find out about him, to find him. I just don't know what to think," Johnny said, feeling more disheartened than ever.

"Will you at least consider the possibility? I know I don't have as much to offer as Murdoch. This is a small place but..."

"That ain't important," Johnny interrupted harshly.

"I'm glad to hear you say that," Gladstone smiled.

"Look, I need to do some thinking. I'd better be going now," Johnny said.

Murdoch watched his son walk out of the house followed by Bill Gladstone. Johnny rode away as the other man watched. From his vantage point, Murdoch could see his former friend's face well. He didn't seem very upset and Murdoch wondered what he had said to Johnny. Had he caused more doubts for his son?

He had decided to face the past and lay it to rest once and for all, but when he saw Barranca tied out front, he decided to wait. Crouching in the bushes beside the barn, he felt like a thief awaiting his prey. He was ashamed of hiding out but he wanted to see what Johnny was doing. Now he weighed his options and decided he would not face the man until he had a chance to talk with Johnny again. He slipped away and rode toward home.

****

Johnny headed home, his mind whirling with questions and doubts. Suddenly he reared Barranca around and headed to Green River instead. Someone had to be able to find out the truth once and for all and he knew of only one person who might be able to help him. He also knew that person would not betray his confidence.

He walked in the front door and heard the jingle of the bell hanging there. Doc Jenkins walked out of his examination room and frowned. "Who's hurt now?" he asked.

Johnny had to smile. "Nobody, Doc. I need to talk to you. Are you alone?"

"For the moment. I'm not expecting any patients the rest of the afternoon but you never know," Doc replied, still frowning. Johnny Lancer did not just drop by to say hello, ever.

Johnny took off his hat and hung it on the hook by the door. He was fidgety and anxious and he had no idea where to start. "Can we go in the back?" he asked.

"Of course," Doc replied, leading the way. He took Johnny to his kitchen in the living quarters of the building and poured them both a cup of coffee. "Well, what is it I can do for you, Johnny?"

He took a long drink of the hot bitter liquid, relishing in it's warm. He felt very cold inside, almost dead. "I'm not sure where to start. I guess I'll just ask the question and see where that takes us," he said with a small smile.

"Sounds like a plan," Doc smiled back.

"Is there any way of finding out for sure who your father is? I mean is there a test or something?"

Sam stared at him in utter disbelief. "Why in the world would you ask me that?"

"There's someone who thinks he might be my father. He ... knew my mother about the same time as Murdoch. Look, I've talked to Murdoch about this and he's convinced the man is wrong. He even had me convinced until I talked to him myself. Now, I'm more confused than ever," Johnny said morosely.

"Who is this man, if you don't mind my asking?"

"His name is Bill Gladstone," Johnny said nonchalantly.

"Yes, I know him and his wife. They're very nice people," Sam said.

"Yeah, they are. So, is there a way to know for sure?" Johnny asked, trying to get back on track.

"Not definitively, but there is a way that might determine that one of them is definitely NOT your father," Doc said.

"How?"

"A blood test. I'd need a sample from all three of you. Everyone has a blood type. Children get theirs from one or both of their parents. If, for instance, you and Murdoch had the same or part of the same blood type, it could indicate he might be your father. However, if you had totally different blood types that were not compatible, it would prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is not your father," Doc explained as simply as he could. "Are you sure you want to do this, Johnny?"

"I'm not sure of anything anymore. But I have to know the truth. I can't live a lie, I've done that most of my life and I'm sick of it!" Johnny said, suddenly feeling angry with the entire situation.

"Who are you mad at?" Sam asked, unable to miss the vehemence in the young man's voice.

"Gee, Doc, take a wild guess! How about my mother!?" Johnny spat. He took a deep breath and brought himself under control. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't take this out on you," he said quietly.

"It's alright, Johnny. I understand. Just let me know when you want to do this. Like I said, I need the cooperation of all three of you," Doc reminded him.

"Yeah, now all I have to do is convince my fath...Murdoch and Gladstone," he said solemnly.

***

Johnny stopped by a stream that was a favorite spot of his on the way home and sat at the water's edge. He felt so miserable he thought fleetingly of just riding the hell out of there for good. How could his world have fallen apart so quickly? It felt as if his very foundation was crumbling beneath him and he couldn't get a foothold. He tossed small rocks into the water while he thought of how to approach Murdoch with this request. He didn't have a clue how the old man would react. He heard a horse approaching and tensed, standing to face the rider.

Murdoch rode up and dismounted, striding to his son's side. "I was getting worried," he said gently.

Johnny hung his head and turned back to face the water. "Had some thinking to do," he said softly.

"You went to see Bill Gladstone," Murdoch stated.

"Yeah. Evidently he put some time and effort into this. He said he talked to a couple of doctors after I was born and they said it was still possible he was my father. Murdoch, there's only one way to put this whole thing to rest," Johnny said, turning to face the man.

"How, son?"

"I talked to Sam Jenkins. He said he could test our blood, all three of us. He said it wouldn't prove who was my father but it might prove who wasn't," Johnny explained.

"And you want to do this?" Murdoch asked, feeling some hurt at this.

Johnny didn't miss the expression that flew across Murdoch's face. "It's the only way to ... ease my mind, I think," Johnny said. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry any of this ever happened. I wish I'd never heard of Bill Gladstone," he turned away again, trying to hide the pain.

"I wish that, too. Johnny, I can't blame you for having doubts. You've had a lot thrown at you in the past week. I wish I could convince you without having to go to these extremes, but I'll do it to help you," Murdoch said as he placed his hands on his son's shoulders.

Johnny leaned back against Murdoch, laying his head on his father's chest. "Thank you. I just want you to know that I want it to be you," Johnny whispered.

Murdoch wrapped his arms around his boy and hugged him tight. "It is, son."

From the tree line above, Bill Gladstone watched the drama unfold. His anger and pain were reaching an all time high as he watched his once friend stealing the moments he should be having.

***

That evening, Johnny decided it was time to let his brother in on what was happening. He dreaded this, it would be harder than anything he had gone through so far. He went to the bedroom door and tapped lightly then opened it and walked in.

"Some things never change," Scott smiled.

"We need to talk, Scott," Johnny said flatly.

"It's about time," Scott said seriously.

"I'm sorry, I've been having a rough week," Johnny said.

"I'm listening, brother," Scott said and patted the bed beside him.

Johnny winced at the endearment but took the offered seat. He explained the whole sordid mess to Scott who sat in stunned silence throughout the telling. When he had finished, Johnny was exhausted. The tension and emotional upheaval of the past week had caught up with him and his nerves were a tangled heap.

Scott was speechless. For the first time in a long time, he didn't know what to say to Johnny. His mind was reeling at the possible outcomes. He had only just found his brother and now he might lose him, not to a bullet, but to another family. They might not even be brothers!

"Cat got your tongue?" Johnny asked with a weak smile.

"Yes, I think so," Scott whispered, returning the same weak smile. He shook himself and stopped the foolish thoughts whirling in his mind. "I don't care what Sam Jenkins or this Gladstone man say. It's ridiculous. You are a Lancer, there is no doubt in my mind of that!" he declared.

Johnny's smile was broader now. "Thanks, Scott. I just hope youâ€ôre right about that."

"Of course I am. My God, Johnny. Nobody is more like Murdoch than you.   And no one can say it's because you've been around him too much," Scott said sardonically.

Johnny laughed at this. "Well, that's true. Somehow, I knew you'd make me feel better. Thanks," he said and stood up to leave.

"When are you going to do this blood test?" Scott asked.

"As soon as I can convince Gladstone to go along with it," Johnny shrugged.

"That shouldn't be too difficult, if he's as sure as you say he seems to be," Scott deduced. "I want to be there," he added.

"Really? Why am I not surprised?" Johnny grinned and gave him a wink.

"Johnny? We are brothers. I've never been more sure of anything in my life," Scott said as he stood and placed a reassuring hand on Johnny's shoulder.

***

Johnny walked into the yard the next morning, heading for the barn. He didn't want to waste anymore time and was on his way to talk with Gladstone about the blood test. Murdoch and Scott caught up with him.

"Are you going to see him?" Murdoch asked.

"Yeah, I want this done as soon as possible," Johnny replied, feeling very guilty for some reason.

He was saved a trip as they all three looked up to see a rider coming in. Johnny recognized the man immediately and he took in a deep breath. Murdoch recognized him as well and blew out a heavy sigh. Scott looked between the two of them and it wasn't hard to figure out who the man was.

Gladstone dismounted and walked over to them. "Murdoch, I think it's time we had a talk," he said gruffly.

"I agree," Murdoch replied.

"Murdoch, wait," Johnny started but his father put up a hand to stop him.

"This is long overdue, son. Just give us a few minutes," he said as he waved Gladstone toward the house.

"I take it that's Mr. Gladstone," Scott remarked as they watched the two one-time friends walk away.

"Yeah, and if Murdoch thinks I'm not hanging around, he's crazy," Johnny said determinedly.

"Well, I guess we'll just both hang around then. We might be needed to break them up if they get too...overzealous," Scott said a bit flippantly.

Johnny turned on his brother then. "Do you think this is funny?"

"No, Johnny. I didn't mean anything. I'm sorry, I know this is hard for you," Scott said, embarrassed at his bad timing. It wasn't the time to tease his brother.

Johnny said nothing in return and started pacing in front of the house.

***

"Well, you sure have made my son miserable, Bill. I hope you're satisfied," Murdoch said as they reached the living room.

"First of all, I didn't tell him. Secondly, what do you mean, 'your son'?" Gladstone said acidly.

Murdoch's brows furrowed deeply as he regarded the other man. "When are you going to stop this and accept that she chose me?"

"This isn't about Maria anymore, Murdoch. It's about Johnny. He has the right to know who his father is, his real father!"

"He already knows that! You used to be a reasonable man, Bill. But this, this is just plain spiteful!" Murdoch spat.

"I want the truth to come out, that's all. I want my son!" Gladstone shot back.

"He's not your son!" Murdoch bellowed.

"Stop it! Both of you!" Johnny shouted from the French doors.

They both turned in surprise and stared at him. "Johnny, let me handle this," Murdoch said quietly.

"No, I won't. Mr. Gladstone, I was coming to see you this morning anyway, but I won't have you coming here and starting trouble!" Johnny spat at the man.

"That wasn't my intention, Johnny. I only wanted to talk, to settle this somehow," Gladstone said calmly.

"Oh, we're gonna settle it alright. Today!" Johnny yelled.

Gladstone walked over to him and laid his hand on Johnny's arm. "I don't want you upset by all of this. Don't you understand that we all need to know the truth?"

"You wouldn't know the truth if it bit you in the behind! Look at him, Bill. Really look at him! Can't you see he's my son?" Murdoch said vehemently.

"All I see is Maria! So he has blue eyes, we both have blue eyes. That doesn't prove anything! What I see is how you've lied to him and everybody else all these years. You had to have your own way. That's what this is all about isn't it? Murdoch Lancer can't be wrong, ever!"" Gladstone lashed out.

"Is that all you think this is about? You don't care about Johnny, all you care about is getting back at me!" Murdoch shouted.

"Oh, you're right about that! But, I do care about Johnny. I always have! But you would never allow me anywhere near him. Then you let him go, just like that! How much could you care if you just let him leave like that!?"

"Let him leave!? I didn't let him leave, she took him! I looked for him for twenty years!" Murdoch defended.

"Sure you did! When you weren't too busy building your empire!"

"Stop this immediately!" Scott shouted. "Can't you see what youâ€ôre doing to Johnny?"

Both men looked at the object of their argument, who had by now, backed into a corner with his arms crossed protectively in front of him. Silence permeated the room for a full fifteen seconds. Johnny had his head down, hiding himself from their anger and hatred for each other.

Murdoch walked over to him and put his hand on Johnny's shoulder. "I'm sorry, son. We shouldn't be arguing like this," he said softly.

Johnny looked up into Murdoch's eyes. There was so much pain and doubt there, Murdoch felt a knife cut through his soul.

"Just tell him what Doc said," Johnny whispered.

"Doc? Doc Jenkins? What does he have to do with this?" Gladstone asked, puzzled.

Murdoch turned to face him. "He said he can test our blood and maybe tell who is Johnny's father," he explained.

Gladstone looked at him suspiciously. "Johnny, is that true?"

"Of course it's true! Do you think I would lie about it?" Murdoch grumped.

"I wasn't talking to you!" Gladstone yelled. "How do I know you didn't just make this up and get the doc to go along with you?"

"I talked to Sam, it was my idea," Johnny said calmly.

"This is how you want things to be?" Gladstone asked.

"No, it isn't. Itâ€ôs how things have to be. I have to prove this to you, both of you, once and for all," Johnny said.

" You have to prove it? I don't understand," Gladstone replied.

"Look, I know you have your beliefs and I understand why, but I know what I know, Mr. Gladstone. And what I know is that I'm a Lancer," Johnny explained quietly.

"If you're so sure then why do you want the blood test?" Gladstone asked, not quite believing him.

"So you will know. So my brother and father will know. So there is never any doubt about who I am. I want this put to rest. No more fighting, no more arguing about it. No more wondering what might have been. I've spent too much time on that subject my entire life and I'm sick of it!" Johnny was out of his corner now and ready to put an end to this whole nightmare. He needed to explain things to Gladstone that he knew the man didn't understand.

"My mother lied to me for twelve years. She told me Murdoch threw us both out. That he didn't want a half-breed kid and a Mexican wife. That the only reason he married her was because she was pregnant. I know now that was a lie but I believed her then, I had no reason not to. I spent my life hating a man I never even knew. So what makes me think she didn't lie about him being my father? Nothing. I'm the one who's sure about it. I'm the one who knows the truth and it doesn't matter how. I don't have any .... evidence one way or the other. All I know is how I feel about this man. How I feel about that one over there, too. It isn't about what I've been told, it's about what I know inside, what my instincts tell me." Johnny finished his diatribe and turned away from them all in disgust, sick of the whole mess.

Scott smiled lovingly at his brother, though Johnny didn't see it and Murdoch was smiling with pride and love as well.

Gladstone stared at Johnny's back in disbelief. He knew it would be difficult to convince the boy, but he had no idea how close he had become to Murdoch in such a short time. "Johnny, I appreciate what youâ€ôre saying but instincts can be wrong."

"My instincts are never wrong, Mr. Gladstone. You see, I've had to rely on them to keep me alive my whole life and they've never failed me. Without instincts, a gunfighter doesn't live very long," Johnny said resolutely as he turned to face the man.

"A gunfighter?" he exclaimed.

"That's right, a gunfighter. I spent those ten years as Johnny Madrid. Still want to insist I'm your kid?" he retorted.

Gladstone was dumbstruck by this revelation. He had wondered what Johnny had been doing all those years but he had no idea he was Johnny Madrid. It took him a while to recover from the information. "Yes, I still insist it's a possibility," he said quietly.

"Then let's get it over with. Doc said anytime, so now is as good a time as any," Johnny said and walked out of the house.

***

The four men arrived at the doctor's office and walked in. Sam Jenkins was a bit surprised at the invasion. "Johnny, Murdoch, Scott, Bill come in," he said. "I didn't think I'd be hearing back from you so soon."

"I want to get this over with, Doc," Johnny said grimly.

"I can understand that. Alright, gentlemen if you'll roll up a sleeve, doesn't matter which."

Doc took a sample from each of the three of them as Scott stood back and watched, his stomach churning.

"How long before you know, Sam?" Murdoch asked.

"Lucky for you, I don't have any critically ill patients right now since my best customers are already in the room," Doc answered sarcastically. "Shouldn't take more than a couple of hours. I expect you all won't be hanging over my shoulder that entire time," he warned.

"We'll be back in two hours," Murdoch answered gruffly. He was not in a joking mood.

The four of them stood on the front porch of the doctor's office and stared at their boots. "I need a drink," Johnny mumbled and headed for the saloon.

Scott shrugged his shoulders. "Can't argue with that," he said and followed his brother.

The two older men looked at each other with contempt but both followed the youngster's lead.

They sat at a table in silence. Ben, the bartender, was in awe at seeing the Lancers in town and in his establishment so early in the day. The looks on their faces told him not to ask any questions though. He brought them all a beer and started to leave.

"Bring me a bottle, Ben," Johnny said.

"Of what?"

"Do I look like I care?"

"Nope," Ben said and took off. He returned quickly with a bottle of tequila and a glass then made a hasty exit.

"Try to take it easy, son," Murdoch said softly.

"Sorry," Johnny mumbled as he took a long drink from the tequila bottle.

"If youâ€ôre not going to use that, fill it up for me," Scott said, indicating the shot glass.

"You want tequila?" Johnny asked, surprised.

"Youâ€ôre not the only one tense, brother," Scott smiled.

"Great. I'll have to explain it to you both three more times by the time Sam gets done," Murdoch grumbled.

Johnny smiled a little and glanced over at Bill Gladstone who had remained silent the entire time. He suddenly felt sorry for the man. It had to be hard listening to them call him son and brother. He felt his stomach tighten as he thought of the possible outcome of the test. He didn't hate the man, he didn't even know him, but he wanted desperately to remain a Lancer.

"You okay?" he asked.

Gladstone looked at him and smiled. "Not really, I guess my nerves are a little on edge."

"I'll bet," Johnny said sarcastically.

"This is a lot to take in, Mr. Gladstone. How do you feel about what you've learned today?" Scott asked.

"Well, I certainly didn't know about Johnny's past, but it doesn't matter," he answered.

"Doesn't it? You might want to think about that. It wasn't so long ago. Murdoch, go ahead and explain to Mr. Gladstone what it's like to have a gunfighter for a son," Johnny said sarcastically.

"This isn't helping anything, Johnny," Murdoch said.

"Sure it is. I mean, if somehow it turns out he is my old man, he might want to think long and hard about inviting me home. Of course, it does come in handy sometimes, like when your ranch is being threatened by a gang of outlaws, but most of the time it's just a big pain in the neck. Always worrying if somebody's gonna call your kid out, trying to be the one who outdrew Johnny Madrid or somebody from my past looking for revenge. Go ahead, tell him how great it is to be my father." Johnny took another long drink from the tequila bottle and looked down at the table.

"What's the matter with you?" Murdoch asked.

Johnny started laughing at the question. "What's the matter with me? Nothin's the matter with me. I'm just sitting here waiting to see if my whole life is gonna be turned upside down. Just waiting to see if I still have a brother. Just wondering what's going to happen next," he said sardonically.

Murdoch reached out but Johnny jerked away from him. "This is your big chance you know. You shouldn't be fighting it so hard. You might actually get rid of me. Then, you won't have anybody to be disappointed in."

"I'm not disappointed in you! I certainly don't want to get rid of you! Johnny, if I had any doubts about this, would I have sent for you in the first place?" Murdoch reasoned.

"Sure, you needed a gun."

"Johnny, stop this. You're not helping, in fact, you're making it worse. This is not Murdoch's fault. Why are you taking it out on him?" Scott said steadily.

"Because he's here and she's not!" Johnny shot. He stood and walked out of the saloon, Murdoch hot on his heels.

He found Johnny in the alley beside the saloon sitting on a barrel of something. "Are you alright?" Murdoch asked.

"I'm sorry. I really am, I didn't mean any of that. I'm just so...." Johnny shook his head, he couldn't find the words to express what he was feeling.

"I know, son. Youâ€ôre angry, you have every right," Murdoch said gently.

"I don't have a right to take it out on you. You've been really understanding of this whole mess. I am sorry, Murdoch. I just can't take much more of this," Johnny whispered.

Murdoch placed a hand on each of his son's shoulders and squeezed. "Johnny, you are my son. I'm more sure of that than anything in this world. I am so proud of the way you've handled this whole thing. It's time, son."

Johnny swallowed hard and got up, looking one more time into his father's eyes. He saw the love for him there and he thought he might not make it through the day.

They walked back to the doctor's office slowly, standing at the door, each unsure if he wanted to go in there.

"This is ridiculous," Murdoch groused as he opened the door and walked in.

Gladstone followed him. Scott put his arm around Johnny and gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. Johnny smiled gratefully and followed his brother inside, dying a little with each step he took.

Sam came out of the examination room when he heard the doorbell jingle. He took in the glum faces and almost smiled.

"Well?" Murdoch asked gruffly.

"I have some answers for you. Come inside," Sam said as he pulled back the curtain for them. He revealed nothing on his face as Johnny passed by him, searching for the answer.

"This is a complicated process so I've broken it down as simply as possible so there will be no misunderstandings. There are four basic blood types, some have other variables which are helpful in cases such as this." He picked up the small pieces of paper from his desk.

"Murdoch, hold this in front of you," he said as he handed a piece of paper to his friend. "That's your blood type," he explained. "Bill, hold this in front of you," he said, repeating the process.

"Now, Murdoch you are type A positive, as indicated by the plus sign there. Bill, you are type O negative, as indicated by the minus sign. Gentlemen, this makes my job a lot easier. With one of you being a negative and one being a positive, I can determine with absolute certainty the paternity in this case."

"Doc, please," Johnny nearly begged the man to get to the point.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Johnny. Here, this is your blood type," Doc said and handed the piece of paper to him.

Johnny stared at the piece of paper. Emotions flooded his entire body and he began to tremble, unable to cope with the tension, pain and confusion he had been suffering any longer.

Murdoch watched his reaction and his heart froze. Scott felt a deep-seeded dread clutch at his heart as he watched his brother. Bill Gladstone wasn't sure what to make of it.

Johnny swayed a little and Murdoch immediately came to his side, holding onto him as he regained his composure.

"Sorry, I'm just so tired all the sudden," Johnny said softly.

"Sit down over here, son," Murdoch said as he led Johnny to a chair.

Johnny sat down heavily and hung his head, trying to get control of himself before he faced them. He clutched the piece of paper in his hand.

"Doc, please. What does it mean?" Scott asked, unable to take any more suspense.

"Johnny, do you want me to tell them?" Sam asked.

Johnny didn't move for a few seconds. It was almost as if he hadn't heard the question. He swallowed at the lump in his throat and simply nodded.

"It means, Scott, that your brother IS your brother," Doc smiled.

Scott would have gone instantly to his brother's side if his legs would just work. As it was, he fell back against the wall and looked to the heavens with a silent prayer of thanks.

Johnny looked up at his father with a smile on his face and saw the moisture building in Murdoch's eyes. "You see? It ain't so easy to get rid of me," he whispered.

Murdoch grabbed him and hugged him with such ferocity, Johnny found it hard to breathe, but he didn't care. He hugged his father back and felt the tears well. He didn't care about that either. All he cared about was that he was a Lancer, through and through.

Murdoch finally released him and they both laughed softly. "You want to frame this?" Johnny asked, handing his father the piece of paper with two simple signs written on it. A+

Murdoch stared at it and smiled. "Yes, I believe I will."

Scott finally found his legs would work and he walked gingerly over to his family. He knelt beside the chair and wrapped his arms around his brother, hugging him almost as tightly as Murdoch had. "I told you," he whispered.

"You always have to be right, don't you, Boston?" Johnny grinned.

When Scott released him, he looked over at Bill Gladstone. The man looked miserably defeated. Johnny got up and walked over to him. "Are you alright?"

Gladstone looked at him the same as he had every time Johnny had seen him. His feelings had not changed. "I was so sure. I don't understand how I could have been so wrong. Doc, are you sure, absolutely sure?" Gladstone spoke just above a whisper.

"Bill, I couldn't be more sure. There is no way Johnny can be your son," Sam said.

"But you said he got his blood type from one or both of his parents. What if Maria had the same blood type as Murdoch," he tried.

Doc stared at him. "Well, I suppose that could be possible, Bill. But it is highly unlikely. Murdoch and Johnny's blood type is one of the rarer ones. The odds of Maria having the same type are astronomical."

"But, it could happen?"

"Yes, anything is possible," Doc agreed.

"You are unbelievable! You'll try anything, won't you? Johnny is my son, period! Give it up, Bill," Murdoch fumed.

"Why don't you shut up for once, Murdoch?! What you're saying is, without knowing Maria's blood type, there really is no way of being absolutely sure," Gladstone clarified.

"No, there's no way to be positive," Doc conceded.

Johnny just shook his head in disbelief. He stared at the man, thinking he had really lost his mind. "Why can't you let this go?" he asked softly.

"Johnny, I know you won't understand this. Maybe you can't understand it, not being a father, but I have always loved you. I have always wanted you in my life. It's not easy giving up something you've wanted, needed, even prayed for. For the last twenty years I've 'known' you belong to me. I can't give you up without one hell of a fight."

"I don't 'belong' to anyone. Look, let me make this clear for you. I don't want to hurt your feelings but I do not want to be your son," Johnny said strongly.

"That's because you've only known this lie all your life. You're used to thinking of him as your father. Good, bad or indifferent, it's all you've known. If you would only give me a chance, I know we could have a wonderful relationship, son," Gladstone said evenly, placing a hand on Johnny's shoulder.

"I don't believe this! What did we go through all this for if you're just going to ignore what's in front of your face!" Scott spoke out angrily.

"This doesn't concern you, Scott. This is between Johnny and me," Gladstone said.

"Doesn't concern me? Johnny is my brother! How dare you say it doesn't concern me?"

"Maybe he is and maybe he isn't. We still don't know anything," Gladstone said, keeping his voice even and calm.

"I know. I know what I've always known. Johnny is my son and you will not continue to torment him like this! Boys, let's go home," Murdoch groused.

"No, Murdoch. You only know what you want to believe. You can't say for certain anymore than Doc can."

"So what's your answer, Mr. Gladstone. How do you think we should resolve this?" Johnny asked.

"I don't have any way to resolve it, Johnny. My answer would be for you to come home with me but I know you won't do that. I would like to spend some time with you. Let you get to know me," Gladstone suggested.

"Where would that get us? Do you think by getting to know you, I'll want you to be my father? That I'll love you?" Johnny asked.

"That would be my hope but all I can really hope for right now is a chance to be close to you like I should have been all these years."

Johnny felt Murdoch come up behind him, then he saw the big arm come from behind his left side and wrap itself protectively around his chest, settling the large hand on his right arm, effectively holding onto him.

"My son doesn't need you weaseling your way into his life. We're going home now," Murdoch said flatly and started to pull Johnny away.

He felt resistance and turned to see Gladstone grabbing Johnny's left arm, pulling him back. Johnny felt like he was the rope in a tug-of-war just then and he really only wanted to get away from all of them.

"I think that is up to Johnny. He's not a child. Do you want to leave, Johnny?" Gladstone asked.

"Get your hand off me," Johnny hissed and Gladstone released his grip. Johnny took Murdoch's arm and pulled it away from him. "I don't want to go anywhere with anybody. What I want, if anyone cares, is to be left alone right now!"

They both stared as he stalked out of the office. Scott glared at Gladstone then went after his brother. By the time he got outside, Johnny was galloping off.

***

Johnny rode Barranca nearly into the ground before he stopped. He dismounted and took his canteen and bandana and began to cool the horse down a bit. "I'm sorry, boy. You didn't deserve that," he said sympathetically. Barranca nickered and nudged him, receiving a smile and a pet for his efforts.

He had ridden up into the foothills of Lancer. This was not one of his 'spots' but that was the point. He knew Scott would try to find him and he didn't want to be found. He found an invitingly shady tree and sat down under it, grabbing a blade of grass to chew on. He stared out at the land, captivated as always by the pure beauty before him. He thought about the view from his bedroom and how much he enjoyed standing there just watching the world. His world. The same world that seemed to be crumbling beneath his very feet at the moment.

He threw the blade of grass aside and leaned his head back against the rough bark of the tree, closing his eyes. He thought about his mother and how she had betrayed him time and again. He wondered how he could still love her so, but he did and he knew he always would. It didn't surprise him that she'd had another man besides Murdoch. She always had at least one man, always. He shook his head sadly, wondering why she needed that so much. What she was trying to find with each of them and wondering if she couldn't have found it right here if she'd only tried a little harder.   She was, as usual, the only one who had the answer but that was of no use to him now anymore than it had been when she was alive.

He knew Murdoch was his father. He knew because, like he had tried to explain, that knowledge was deep inside himself. As much as he knew this, he knew even more deeply that Scott was his brother. The connection between them was almost immediate. The bond forged so quickly and strongly, it could never be broken or even weakened. How to convince Gladstone, he didn't have a clue. It shouldn't matter to him what the man believed, but he knew it would never be put to rest unless he could convince him. Gladstone would never give up, especially now that everything was out in the open.

He smiled to himself at an odd thought. Maybe neither one of them was his father. He had been conceived a bastard and maybe that was all he would ever be. It certainly wouldn't surprise him to find out there were more men in his mother's life back then. Maybe he should put an ad in the paper. Anyone who ever slept with his mother in 1848 please come forward. Johnny started laughing at this thought until he was almost hysterical. He slowly got control of himself but he still found the whole thing absurdly funny although he was sure no one else did. He could just imagine a whole herd of men showing up at his doorstep answering the call to be his daddy. This brought on another fit of laughter.

Why would anyone want to be his father? That question was more poignant and disturbing than any other. Murdoch sure wanted to be, why was the question. He knew the things he had said to him at the saloon were out of frustration and anger but maybe he should have insisted on the answers. Why would anyone want Johnny Madrid for a son? He sure as hell wouldn't. But then, none of them had any idea what it was like to be Johnny Madrid, so it wouldn't be such a stretch for them to remain blissfully ignorant.

Okay, this is crazy. Stop thinking about all this stuff and come up with a solution to the problem. He thought about it long and hard, but could only come up with one answer and that was not an option. Although, it would serve Gladstone right if he were to just shoot him down. Then he would know, for a few seconds anyway, what it was like to be a gunfighter's old man. He chuckled a little at the idea.

Maybe, though, maybe if he did show the man what he was in for, he'd change his mind. Yeah, that just might do it. No, Murdoch would never go for it, neither would Scott for that matter. And he would do nothing to hurt them any more than they already had been. He knew he hurt them when he left Sam's office like that but he had to get out of there. He only hoped they would understand.

He stood up and stretched, deciding it was time he showed his face before they sent a posse after him. Mounting Barranca, he knew he had made no progress but it helped to be by himself. If for no other reason than to get some perspective. He had felt the walls closing in on him at Doc's and Gladstone was making him nervous. He wasn't sure but he thought the man was at the breaking point and things could only get ugly if he had left with anybody.

Johnny headed home feeling a little better. He had no answers, but he had a home and a family to go to and he knew they were waiting for him. This made him happier than anything else could have, that he knew they were waiting for him.

***

Murdoch stood at the picture window staring out at the yard, waiting.

"He'll be home soon, Sir," Scott said.

"Will he?"

"Johnny knows this is his home and his family. He just needed to get out of there. You know how he gets when he feels caged in," Scott explained.

"I know. I just hope he remembers that we ..." Murdoch stopped as he saw the golden palomino loping into the yard. He sighed with relief.

"I told you," Scott smiled.

"Johnny said it, you always have to be right," Murdoch smiled back.

Johnny walked in the room quietly and smiled. "Hi."

"Hello, son. How are you?" Murdoch asked pensively.

"Well, I think I'll go to the kitchen and get some coffee," Scott said.

"You don't have to leave, Boston," Johnny said.

"No, but I'm going to anyway."

"Feeling any better?” Murdoch tried again.

"Yeah, I do. I didn't come up with any answers though. What happened after I left?"

"Nothing. Scott and I left. Bill was still there," Murdoch replied.

"Good. I mean that nothing happened," Johnny smiled. "I'm sorry I ran out on you, I just had to get out of there."

"I understand. Johnny, you know you don't have to do anything. It isn't your problem if Bill can't accept the truth."

"Yes, it is. He won't give up, Murdoch. I saw it in his eyes."

"What can you do, son?"

"I don't know. The only thing I came up with was ... well, you wouldn't approve," Johnny grinned.

Murdoch knew that grin by now. It was a mischievous one. "What?"

"I thought if he knew exactly what he was in for, he might back down. If he saw Johnny Madrid," he shrugged.

"Youâ€ôre right, I don't approve," Murdoch said glumly.

"Then we're back to square one," Johnny said despondently.

"No, we're right where we should be. Like I said, Bill is the one who can't accept the truth. He never has been able to. I think we should just go on with our lives and try to put this behind us. Do you think you can do that?" Murdoch asked, hopeful for a positive reply.

"As long as he stays away from me I can," Johnny said flatly.

***

For the next four days all was quiet at the Lancer ranch. The topic of Johnny's paternity was not discussed, nor did anyone want to discuss it. Murdoch noticed his youngest seemed to be more relaxed. He prayed Johnny had put it out of his mind. Scott went back to treating his brother as he always had and that was a great help in healing the pain for all of them. Johnny responded to his brother's quips and sarcasm in like. Everyone seemed to be doing just fine.

Bill Gladstone had not slept well these past four days and his wife was worried. She knew in her heart now that Johnny was not his son but he would not accept it. Would not even discuss the possibility. He still insisted the blood test proved nothing. She thought he would just fall over from exhaustion at any moment.

"Bill, you have to get some rest. You're so tired, honey."

"I can't! He's over there right now thinking he's won. Stealing my son and enjoying every minute of it! I won't let him get away with it, Gwen. There has to be a way to prove it once and for all!" Gladstone paced the front room, agitated beyond reason.

"Bill, Johnny is not your son! I know you wanted this desperately but blood doesn't lie. Doc proved it," she tried.

"Doc! Murdoch's friend! Don't you see, Gwen? It's a conspiracy. Oh sure, Johnny was the one who talked to Doc but you can bet your bottom dollar Murdoch headed straight for him as soon as he found out about it. They cooked up this scheme to make sure they could 'prove' who the father is. No, I won't accept Doc Jenkin's word!"

"Whose word would you accept?"

"Well, I've been thinking about that. Maybe a doctor in the city, say San Francisco or Sacramento. If Johnny would agree, I could pick the doctor myself, not tell Murdoch who it was until we were there. That way he wouldn't get a chance to bribe the doctor.”

She stared at him with sorrow and fear. Sorrow for how his heart was breaking, fear that he was losing his mind. She walked up to him and placed a soft hand on his tense shoulder. "Bill, please don't do this. I have a bad feeling that things will go terribly wrong if you pursue Johnny," she said, trying to keep her voice level.

"Nothing will go wrong, dear. Don't worry, I know we can work it out. I only need to convince Johnny this is the right thing to do. Murdoch doesn't matter. If he refuses to take another test, it will only prove I'm right and he was in cahoots with Doc!" Gladstone nodded his head once in determination.

***

Johnny and Murdoch stood in the yard discussing the upcoming cattle drive when they saw a rider approaching. Murdoch held his hand to his forehead to shield the sun from his eyes as he tried to recognize the figure coming toward them. Johnny's shoulders slumped as he saw who it was before his father did. He hung his head, shaking it sadly. Murdoch recognized Bill Gladstone and instinctively put a protective arm around his son's shoulder.

He wasted no time as he dismounted and trotted up to them. "Johnny, I need to talk to you, in private," he said flashing Murdoch a hateful look.

"There's nothin to talk about, Mr. Gladstone," Johnny said softly, putting his hands on his hips.  

"I think you'll be interested in what I have to say," Gladstone pressed.

Johnny sighed heavily and looked at his father. Murdoch's face was murderous in it's anger. "Okay, for a minute."

Murdoch stared unbelievingly at his son but Johnny only shrugged and walked away a little distance with Gladstone.

"I hope you'll hear me out on this," Gladstone said.

"I said I would, go on," Johnny replied impatiently.

"You won't want to hear this, but I don't trust those blood tests Doc Jenkins did. Look, he and Murdoch are old friends. Maybe he saw what he wanted to see or maybe he saw what he was told to see. In any case, it can't have been an impartial test. You can see that, can't you?" Gladstone pleaded.

Johnny looked in his eyes and saw what was happening to the man. He felt sorry for him, losing his grip on reality because of him. He didn't say anything for a minute, trying to find the kindest way to put it.

"I've never had any reason to doubt Doc's judgment. He wouldn't lie to me. He has no reason," he finally said.

"Maybe Murdoch gave him a reason," Gladstone said.

"Mr. Gladstone, I've tried to be nice to you. I've tried to understand your feelings but this is getting ridiculous. You have to let go of this. Listen, I'm no prize. There are a lot of kids out there who need good homes, someone to love them."

"I don't want some kid! I want you! You're my son, my flesh and blood. Why can't you see that?" Gladstone raised his voice and grabbed Johnny's arm, shaking it hard.

Murdoch had had enough. When he saw Gladstone becoming so agitated, he walked over to them and grabbed his hand, throwing it aside. "Don't touch him! Can't you see the only person you're hurting here is Johnny?"

"I am tired of you interfering, Murdoch. You made sure that test was fixed, didn't you?"

"What the devil are you going on about?" Murdoch yelled.

"He doesn't trust Doc now. He thinks you paid him off or something," Johnny explained.

"This is getting absurd, Bill. Get hold of yourself, man!"

"I know what I know, Murdoch Lancer. I know YOU. You'll stop at nothing to get what you want. You let both of them be raised by someone else. It was just too much trouble, you couldn't let them get in the way of building your ranch!"

Before Johnny knew what happened, Bill Gladstone was flying through the air. He landed with a thump in the dirt flat of his back.

"I have put up with enough of your garbage, Bill Gladstone. You will NOT come to my home and spout your lies. Get off this land!" Murdoch bellowed.

Johnny looked at his father with a mixture of surprise and humor. The old man still has what it takes. His smile faded quickly however as he turned his back to them both. He was so sick of all of this, he didn't even want to look at Gladstone anymore.

Johnny dropped his head and closed his eyes, trying to regain his composure before facing either of them again, for he knew he had to. He heard the unmistakable click of a hammer being pulled back and instinctively whirled around, drawing his gun.

What he saw might have frozen another man in his tracks, but Johnny's reflexes where in high gear. Gladstone was aiming his gun at Murdoch. In a split second, Johnny remembered his father was not wearing his own gun. He stepped between the two men and fired twice.

Murdoch felt the impact as Johnny slammed into him. He heard the gunshots, too fast and furious to count. Two or three? Maybe four? These thoughts twisted through his mind like a tornado while he grabbed hold of Johnny and fought to keep from hitting the ground himself. Above his son's head he could see Bill Gladstone falling backwards and splaying onto the ground. He didn't move again.

Scott came running out of the house and saw Gladstone on the ground, Johnny leaning against his father and deciphered what must have happened. He went over to Gladstone and knelt beside him, moving his gun out of the man's reach.

"Johnny, isss ... he ... o...kay?" Gladstone struggled to ask the question.

"Do you care?" Scott retorted and shook his head at the man. He looked up toward his father and brother and stopped cold.

Murdoch was about to push Johnny away so he could face him, until he realized Johnny was leaning against him way too much. He took his son in one arm and turned him to the side. He saw the blood spreading across Johnny's chest and gasped. Gently, he laid the man down on the ground to get a closer look. By this time, Scott was at his side.

"Johnny? Johnny!" Murdoch cried.

The fluttering of long black lashes allowed Murdoch to breathe as he waited to see the sapphire eyes.

Johnny opened his eyes and sucked in a breath. The pain was exquisite in his chest and he couldn't figure out what was causing it. "Mmmuurdoch?"

"Easy son. Don't talk. We need to get you to bed," Murdoch said in hushed tones.

"No, Gladstone?"

Murdoch looked at Scott who shook his head. "He's dead, son."

Johnny sighed heavily then grimaced with the pain the simple act of breathing was inflicting. "Sssoorry," he whispered, then succumbed to the darkness.

***

Sam came out of Johnny's bedroom after three hours of surgery looking like he had aged ten years. Murdoch and Scott waited anxiously for the news, their hearts in their throats.

"This was a bad injury. The bullet came very close to his heart. I had to be extremely careful removing it. There was a nick in his aorta, his artery, but I got that repaired. Still, he lost a lot of blood. If it were anyone else, I would say prepare yourselves for the worst. But, I've learned to be a bit more optimistic where Lancers are concerned. The next twenty-four hours will tell us a great deal. If he can hang on that long, he has a chance." Doc finished his report and slumped down in the nearest chair.

"When do you think he'll wake up?' Murdoch asked.

"Not for several hours. He's under anesthesia so not even Johnny will wake up from that anytime soon. What a mess!" Doc's frustration over the whole ordeal echoed the sentiments of the two men in the room, somewhat.

"I'll get you some coffee, Sam and something to eat," Scott said and walked to the kitchen with his shoulders uncharacteristically slumped.

"You look like hell, Murdoch," Doc observed.

"I feel like it, too. Such a waste, Sam. And for what? Nothing, absolutely nothing," Murdoch replied, tiredly. "Scott will make sure your room is ready. I'm going to sit with Johnny," he added after a few seconds.

"You need to get some rest. You should take advantage of that anesthesia while you can. His recovery will be long," Doc advised.

"I can't sleep with my son lying up there half dead!" Murdoch lashed out and stalked up the stairs.

"Did I hear the lilting tones of my father?" Scott remarked sarcastically as he served Sam his food.

"I made the mistake of suggesting he try to rest," Doc grumbled.

***

Murdoch entered the darkened room quietly and pulled a chair next to the bed. Before sitting down, he opened the curtains and the moonlight spilled in across Johnny's face. It gave him a haunted look and Murdoch shuddered a bit. He sat down and took Johnny's hand in his own, rubbing the back of it gently as he started to talk.

"I can't believe you did that. Jumping in front of me the way you did. You shouldn't have you know. I guess it was just a natural reaction though. You've always been protective of others. I guess you realized I wasn't armed. Oh, Johnny, please son, don't leave me now. We've been through so much in such a short time. I want to know you, the real you, deep down inside. I want to know your heart, your soul. What you think and why you think it. I want to know your beliefs, your fears. I don't even know if you've ever been in love. I don't know anything except that you are an honorable man, courageous and strong. That isn't enough for me. I'm too selfish for that to be enough. I want more; more than your arms and legs, your guts. What a stupid thing to say to your sons!

I've made myself believe I'm too old to change my ways, but that isn't true. I'm too scared, too scared of losing you and too scared to show you how much you mean to me. There are no words to express my feelings for you and your brother. Pride, love, somehow they just don't seem to be enough. I can't even say those words to you. I think you know that I love you. I pray you know that. I never stopped loving you, Johnny. Never. Just hang on, son. Hang on for me and for Scott. We need you more than you could ever know or maybe even believe. You are everything to me. This ranch, this land, I'd give it all up for you and Scott. I..."

Murdoch Lancer hung his head and wept silently for the lost years and the possibility of a lost future for his baby boy. He sat with Johnny throughout the night. Sometimes he'd talk and sometimes he would simply hold his hand or stroke his cheek. Through it all he kept praying for his son's life. He would gladly give his own, as it should have been if Johnny had not intervened.

***

Johnny groaned softly as the early morning sun streamed softly through the window. Murdoch jerked his head off his chest and watched closely. Johnny was waking up but it was a long process. He watched as the young man winced after trying to take a deep breath, then tried to move.

"Easy son, stay still," he whispered as he laid a hand gently on Johnny's shoulder.

Johnny opened his eyes to a world of hurt. He couldn't take a deep breath without sending off the fireworks in his chest. All he could manage was to turn his head and look at his father. He smiled weakly.

"Hey," he whispered.

"Hey, yourself. I was beginning to think you were going to sleep forever," Murdoch smiled but it was a sorrowful smile.

"How bad?" Johnny asked.

"Too close for comfort, son. You lost a lot of blood and the bullet ... came pretty close to your heart," Murdoch explained, knowing Johnny would not want him to pull any punches.

Johnny smiled. "Well, you can give me some of yours. We know it's the same."

"You can have it all," Murdoch said quite seriously. "Don't ever do that again, ok?" he choked out.

"Do what?

"Put your life on the line to save mine. It's not right, Johnny," Murdoch nearly pleaded.

"You're my father, what should I have done? Let him kill you in cold blood? Besides, I didn't have a lot of time to think it over," Johnny grinned. He sighed then and his eyelids started closing of their own accord.

"Sleep, son. Don't worry about a thing. I'll take care of you," Murdoch whispered.

***

For the next week they took turns sitting with him, caring for him. Johnny was starting to get that feeling though and he wanted out of bed. Doc was having none of it and demanded he not move too much. He didn't want any of the stitches popping open. If Johnny's luck held, there would be no infection. It was getting more difficult to convince Johnny of that however.

"Why can't I just sit up in the bed?"

"If you don't stop whining, I'm going to tie you to that bed," Doc admonished.

"I'm not whining! I'm bored," Johnny said, sticking his lower lip out slightly.

"Read a book!" Doc shot and stormed out.

"Read a book, hmmph!"

Scott smiled at his brother's display. "Do you want to get out of that bed and stay out?"

"Yeah."

"Then do as Doc asks," Scott scolded.

"He ain't ASKED nothin. He just orders," Johnny retorted, still in a bad mood. His face changed then and a sadness crossed his features. Scott didn't miss it either.

"What's wrong, Johnny?" he asked.

"I was just thinking about Gladstone. I felt sorry for him."

Scott shook his head in amazement. "You would. Johnny, that man nearly killed you and tried to kill Murdoch. He was deranged," Scott stated the obvious.

"Because of me. Because of her."

"He was not your father, Johnny," Scott insisted.

"He had a point. How do we know my mother didn't have the same blood type?" Johnny voiced his fear for the first time and Scott was taken aback by his doubt.

"You really are worried about this?"

"I can't help it, Scott. I was so sure, but now I swear I feel so ... I don't know what," Johnny sighed dishearteningly.

Scott watched his brother's conflict play itself out on his face. It amazed him that Johnny was such a good poker player, he sure couldn't hide his feelings very well. At least, not from his family. 'I only hope I have an answer for you soon, brother,' he thought.

***

Another week passed and Doc allowed Johnny to sit up for a few hours each day. He was thrilled and had to be held back from literally jumping out of the bed. Scott was jumpy too, but for a different reason. He was expecting something and it was taking it's time getting there.

Murdoch sat with Johnny on the veranda as they watched the ranch live and breathe. Both were content for the moment, just watching the goings on. Occasionally, something would happen that they found amusing but mostly, their smiles were from simple happiness.

They watched a rider approach and Scott greeted him. The boy handed Scott a piece of paper and rode off again. Johnny was intrigued by what Scott might have. This is how bored he really was. Watching the smile spread across Scott's face until he beamed, tickled Johnny.

"Must be good news," he commented.

"We could use some," Murdoch said.

Scott bounded over to them, still beaming.

"What has you in such a good mood, Boston?"

"You brother. I have a confession to make," Scott replied.

"They say it's good for the soul. Never much believed it myself," Johnny teased.

"Let me explain everything before either one of you jump down my throat," Scott started then eyed them warily.

Both men simply shrugged and nodded.

"I had this idea but I didn't want to say anything, get anyone's hopes up until I knew for certain. I sent a telegram to my grandfather and asked him to find out what his blood type is. I had Sam test my blood as well."

"And?" Murdoch asked.

"And, grandfather's blood type is B negative. My blood type is A positive, the same as both of you. I spoke with Doc and he explained to me that unless my mother also had A positive blood, my blood type had to come from you, Murdoch. Now, the odds of both our mother's having A positive, which is one of the rarer types, is simply too outrageous to even believe." Scott finished his explanation with a triumphant nod.  

"I'm sorry, Scott, I'm just too tired to figure this out," Johnny sighed.

"Johnny, the fact that the three of us have the same blood type and my grandfather's is different, which means my mother's was most likely NOT A positive. Don't you see? It's nearly impossible for us not to be brothers."

Comprehension dawned on the pale face as a smile erupted. "I get it."

"What made you think to do this, son?" Murdoch asked, his own smile bright as the sun.

"Well, I thought about what Sam said about your blood type and how Maria's would have to be the same for you not to be Johnny's father. How likely is it that both of our mother's had A positive blood as well as you? Especially when I found out grandfather's blood type is different. My mother probably got at least part of his blood type," Scott explained.

"Look, I don't care who's negative, who's positive or who's plain crazy. All I care about is that I'm with my family and no one will ever convince me of anything different. If they try, they'll end up like the last one," Johnny announced a bit harshly.

"Take it easy, son," Murdoch said.

"I'm sorry, but I've had enough of this. Thank you, Scott, for doing this. I appreciate it, but I finally figured out that you have to be my family. Nobody in their right mind would put up with all this otherwise." Johnny said straight-faced. A grin played at his lips for a second, just long enough for Scott to see it.

"You're right about that, brother. Nobody would put up with you if they didn't have to," he grinned.

Johnny reached out and tousled his brother's hair. "So, Lancer's are a pure breed, huh?"

The sound of laughter filled the air and their hearts. Yes indeed, Lancer's were made of tough stock, going back as far as Murdoch could remember knowing about. Back to the days of his ancestors, the Highlanders.

 

 

~end~
2003

NOTE: Yes, I know blood typing is a bit premature in the 1870's, but how the heck else was I gonna prove who Johnny's father is?!

Totally confused by Scott;s explanation? I'll try to explain. It's a crap shoot. How's that? A father with Type A and a mother with Type B can have a baby with type O blood, which means the baby's blood has neither A nor B type proteins. It really depends on the parent's genes what genotype you are. This is a very detailed process which I will not attempt to put you to sleep explaining. Discerning paternity is not as simple as we would like to believe without the help of DNA. Prior to this, blood testing for parentage was limited to exclusion of possible 'suspects'. The long and short of it is this, for our purposes here in fanfic, we will simply accept that Scott is right and Johnny is a Lancer. As you all well knew from the get go. You did know that, didn't you? :)

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