The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Winj

 

Story Starter One

 

 

 

The challenge was to take a 'plot bunny' someone had started, and finish the story for yourself. Here's the start:

Murdoch Lancer leaned back in his desk chair with a sigh of contentment.
The ranch was doing well as was his other investments. Smiling he corrected his
thoughts ... not my investments, ours. For that was truly the reason for his
inner peace; his two sons and the girl he thought of as a daughter. Their
presence at Lancer meant everything to him. For the first time in a long time,
he was completely happy. He glanced over at Scott in the armchair near the
fireplace reading the weekly Sacramento newspaper. From the kitchen, he could
hear Teresa's laughter as Johnny tried to talk her into cutting the pie she had
baked for supper. So absorbed was he in these pleasant thoughts, he didn't
hear the carriage approaching until it was almost at the veranda. Rising from
his chair, he walked through the open French doors. Scott was right behind.
The closed carriage was the kind that you might well expect to see in the city
but was definitely out of place here. The carriage rolled to a stop a few feet
from where the Lancers were standing. The driver got down and opened the door.
A tall well-dressed man of Spanish heritage stepped out. "Mr. Lancer, I
presume?" the tall man inquired with a bit of arrogance in his voice. "I'm
Murdoch Lancer and this is my son, Scott. May we help you?" Instead of
answering, the man turned his back on Murdoch. A veiled woman appeared at the
carriage door. The man assisted the woman from the carriage and then stepped
aside. As her feet touched the ground, the woman pushed back her veil.
"Hello, Murdoch." Scott, who had moved to his father's side, looked at his
father inquiringly. For a moment it looked as if Murdoch had turned to stone.
Then finally he was able to choke out "Maria?!" Then more forcefully, "What are
you doing here?" Maria calmly replied "I have come for my son of course."
At that moment a voice from the great room called out "Hey Murdoch! Explain to
Teresa why a hard woking man deserves ..." . The voice faltered as Johnny came
face to face with the woman who abandoned him when he was eleven years old.

Johnny stared at the woman for a long moment and he felt sure he would pass out. Scott saw the blood drain from his brother's face and went to his side to support him. "Easy Johnny. Come over here and sit down," he said softly. He sat next to his brother who was staring into space in near catatonia. Maria walked into the room as if she had never left. She came to her son and sat beside him.

"Juanito, it's mama," she cooed as if talking to a child.

"Maria!" Murdoch bellowed. "Get away from him!" he demanded.

"He's my son!" she shot back at him.

"Stop it!" Johnny yelled, finally finding his voice and his senses. "What are you doing here?" he asked her, the venom in his voice spewed out at her.

She was stung by his harshness toward her. Still she could not take her eyes off him. 'He's so beautiful,' she thought. "Johnny, I've come for you, chico."

"Come for me? What does that mean?"

"I've come to take you home with me, son," she explained.

He gawked at her, astonished at her insolence. "I'm sorry, but while you were out sleeping with the entire country of Mexico, I grew up! I don't need you NOW!" he sneered at her.

"Wait, just wait everybody," Murdoch said, trying to make some sense out of what was happening. "I want to talk to Johnny, alone. Scott, take ... them outside for a minute," he directed. Scott stood and ushered the two of them out into the courtyard. He wanted to talk to this woman anyway.

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

"Johnny?" he asked the question with one word.

"I'm sorry Murdoch. It was just easier to believe she was dead. I told myself that so often I guess I just started to believe it was true," he explained miserably.

"What happened son?" Murdoch asked. The pain on his son's face took any anger he might have felt for the lie away instantly.

"She left me when I was eleven. She took off one day with her man and said they'd be back later. I waited for a week. Even after I saw her clothes were gone, I still wouldn't believe she wasn't coming back, but she never did," he explained and buried his face in his hand.

Murdoch Lancer had felt anger toward his second wife in the past, for leaving him and especially for taking Johnny away. But this, this was inconceivable! He pulled his son close to him and tried to comfort him.

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

Scott stood out in the courtyard with Maria and stared at her. "You're Scott I assume," she said arrogantly.

"Yes," he clipped.

"Well, it seems Murdoch finally got you back."

"It would appear so," he said none too politely. "Look, lady. I don't know what's going on here but I have a pretty good idea. How old was my brother when you abandoned him?"

She looked away from him, suddenly ashamed, but she recovered quickly. "That is none of your business," she said.

"None of my business? I know you've been away so let me clue you in on a few things. My brother means the world to me and nothing and no one is going to take him away from me again! And another thing, I don't think you are in any position to hold such a high opinion of yourself. I would advise you to drop the attitude!" he spat.

"You will not talk to my wife in that manner, senor."

"Your wife? I guess the laws are different in Mexico, senor. As far as I know, Murdoch never divorced this woman," Scott pointed out.

"That is unimportant now. Johnny is the reason I am here and no other. Why was Murdoch so upset? I realize it has been many years, but."

"Because he thought you were dead! That's what Johnny told him!" Scott yelled, barely able to control his rage at this woman.

"Johnny said I was dead?" she gasped the words.

"What did you expect? Open arms?"

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

"What do you want to do about this son?" Murdoch asked.

"Make her go away Murdoch. I'm not interested in anything she has to say to me now."

"She won't go easily, you know that. Unless she's changed."

Johnny laughed at that thought. "Changed? I doubt it. Looks like she found herself a real sugar daddy this time. She should be satisfied with that," he said, still with the same venom. He hated her now and had for ten years. He couldn't imagine anything she had to say to him would change that. "Let me talk to her alone. I'll get rid of her myself," Johnny said.

"Are you sure, son?"

"As sure as I can be I guess," he mumbled.

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

Murdoch walked outside to find his oldest son absolutely fuming. He didn't have to wonder why. Scott was an intelligent man and Murdoch could guess he'd figured this one out pretty quickly. "Alright, Maria. Johnny has agreed to talk to you, alone," he emphasized 'alone' as he glared at her whatever-he-was. She walked back into the house anxiously.

"I don't suppose you would care to introduce yourself, senor," Murdoch said.

"Oh, didn't you know? This is Maria's husband!" Scott sneered. Murdoch shook his head, he didn't give a damn anymore. She had done everything in her power to destroy his son and he'd had it. He would not tolerate her one second longer than necessary and he sure as hell didn't have to tolerate this Spaniard at all! He took Scott's arm and walked away with him leaving their 'guest' alone.

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

Johnny was standing next to the fireplace when she came in, staring at the Lancer 'L'. She watched him for a moment then approached him, placing her hand gently on his back. He flinched and turned to face her, anger, pain, confusion all evident in his eyes. She tried to hug him put he stepped away from her. "Johnny please," she begged.

"Please what mother?" he spat. He had never called her mother before.

"How can I make you understand chico?"

"You mean you didn't come up with a good story in all these years or maybe you didn't think you had to, figured I'd be dead by now I guess. What is it mother? Is that man out there not worth enough money? Did you come here to see how much you could squeeze out of Murdoch?"

His words hurt her but she understood his anger. "I came here for you, chico. Not your father. Johnny I want you to come with me."

He glared at her. "This is my home! It always has been. Not that you would ever allow that! Oh, no mother, you just had to steal me away didn't you ? And for what? To abandon me a few years later? I'm not going anywhere with you. I'm a grown man, no thanks to you. Just get out of here."

"You want to be here?" she asked surprised.

"Why wouldn't I? He's my father. This is my home. My brother ... yeah my brother that you never bothered to mention. God, woman! What the hell is wrong with you? Are you crazy or just plain evil?"

"Johnny, I love you," was her answer.

He shook his head sadly at her. "Go ahead, tell your sad story, mother."

"Can't you call me mama like you used to?" she pleaded.

"No!" he clipped.

"Very well, miel. I did not intend to leave you Johnny. Jose said we were going to a new house and he wanted me to see it first. He said I should go ahead and take my clothes and get that much settled, then we would come back for you. We were supposed to return that evening. But he kept driving further and further away and I began to worry. I asked him how much longer but he would not answer me. When we finally stopped for the night I demanded he tell me what was happening. He said we were going away and we were not coming back. I asked him about you but he said he didn't need a...," her voice trailed off.

"A half-breed kid on his hands?" Johnny finished for her.

"More or less. Oh Johnny I tried to get away from him but he wouldn't let me go. When I finally did manage to leave you were gone and I couldn't find you."

"How long did it take you to escape from him?" Johnny asked, not buying a word of this.

"A year," she answered.

He smiled at her but it was a cold smile. Then he clapped his hands. "Very good, mother. Oh that was a fine performance," he said sarcastically.

"Johnny, it's the truth, I swear it," she exclaimed.

"You swear it? You swear it?! Like you swore you would never let another one of them touch me again? Yeah, you swore that one over and over. Or like you swore you wouldn't sell yourself anymore. That was another good one. Lady, I wouldn't believe you if you told me hell was full of fire. Now you listen to me for a change. I made my peace with my father after I found out how you lied to me about that too. I have a family now, finally. And I don't intend to give them up for the likes of you. Now you get out of here and don't come back!"

She started crying then, it was the only weapon she had left and it had always worked on him before. She looked up at him only to find stone cold eyes staring at her. She sniffled and dried her tears. "May I ask just one thing before I go?"

"What?"

"Would you hug me miel?" Johnny looked at her suspiciously. He wondered briefly if she might have a knife hidden in her hand. Finally he consented and took her in his arms and she squeezed him tightly. She looked up into his eyes and kissed him lightly on the mouth.

"I love you, Johnny. I always will my son," she whispered.

He looked away from her and tried to step back but she held onto him. "What more?" he asked.

"Only this, Johnny. I can promise you this, my son. I will have you back with me before it is done. One way or another."

He pushed her away then. "What is that supposed to be, a threat? Don't bother. Lancer takes care of it's own," he said proudly. She huffed at this and turned on her heel walking away from him for what he hoped was forever.

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

She strode to the carriage and the man assisted her in and followed her. The driver whipped the horses into a canter and they drove away. Murdoch watched until the carriage was out of sight then he went to find his son. Scott was right behind him. "Are you alright, Johnny?" Murdoch asked. Johnny had resumed his position by the fireplace and didn't turn around when his father spoke to him, he simply nodded his head. Murdoch wasn't convinced, he thought he saw his son shaking a little.

Scott walked over a placed his hand on Johnny's shoulder and he nearly jumped through the ceiling. "Hey, it's just me," he said.

"Sorry, guess I'm a little edgy."

"I can't imagine why?" Scott said trying to tease his brother out of his mood.

"Scott, maybe you could give us a minute?" Murdoch suggested.

"Not here," Johnny said as he walked out of the room and upstairs. Murdoch and Scott looked at each other warily and Murdoch followed him to his room.

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

Johnny was standing at the window when he came in and Murdoch could definitely see his son's entire body quivering. He walked quickly up behind Johnny and wrapped his arms around him. Johnny took his father's hand and led him to the bed, sitting him down beside him."She's not giving up. She told me that," Johnny said.

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know exactly. She just said she'd have me back before it was over. Murdoch, I don't know what to do."

"You don't have to do anything, Johnny. She can't force you to go anwhere. You're a grown man."

"There was just something about the way she said it. It was like a threat."

"Johnny, she has no power here."

"Doesn't she? I wonder."

"Do you want to go with her?" Murdoch asked, dreading the answer.

Johnny looked at his father and knew why he'd asked. He smiled at him lovingly. "No," he answered simply.

"Then we won't worry about it," Murdoch said reassurringly.

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

Days passed quietly at the ranch but Johnny's mood hadn't improved. He was sullen and withdrawn. Scott tried to get through to him by teasing with him and just plain straight talk but Johnny didn't want to talk. "Murdoch, I'm worried about Johnny. He's so quiet. He won't talk to me," Scott complained to his father one evening.

"I know, son. I don't know what to do."

"Have you tried to talk to him?" Scott asked.

"Yes, I have. I didn't get anywhere. He says he's fine."

"You don't believe that?"

"No of course not but I swear Scott I'm at a loss."

"Me too," Scott said. "Damn that woman!" he burst out suddenly. "I'm sorry Murdoch. I know she was your wife, is your wife. Oh hell, whatever!"

Murdoch smiled at his son. "Scott, I have no warm feelings for Maria anymore. Especially now. You don't have to curb your tongue with me but, you might want to take it easy around Johnny," Murdoch advised.

"Why? He's so hurt and angry with her..."

"I know son but please remember, she is his mother." Scott realized what Murdoch was saying to him and he knew his father was right. No matter what she had done or how angry they may be, it was not their place to badmouth her, especially to her son.

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

A knock at the door discontinued their conversation and Scott went to answer. Maria's driver was standing there with a note in his hand. "Senor Johnny Lancer, por favor?" he said. Scott sighed and called for his brother. Johnny came down the stairs and stopped at the landing when he recognized the man.

"What do you want?" he said. The man looked at him puzzled. "¿qué usted desea?" Johnny asked.

The man smiled and reached out his hand containing the note. "Esto es de su madre," he replied.

"Great," Johnny mumbled as he took the note. "Gracias," he said and the man stood there. Johnny stared at him.

"Debo esperar su respuesta, senor," he explained.

"Uh, care to translate, brother?" Scott asked.

"The note is from my mother and he's supposed to wait for an answer." "Uno momento.", Johnny said to the man. He opened the envelope with some trepidation. 'Johnny, I must see you. It is urgent. Please, son. This is not a trick. Hurry. Your mother,' the note read. Johnny frowned and considered the letter. He looked at his brother. "¿Es mi madre enferma?" he asked the man.

"No sé. Su marido me dio la nota. No la vi," he answered. Johnny held up a finger indicating he should wait and took his brother's arm to lead him into the living room.

"What's going on out there?" Murdoch asked.

"My mother sent me this note," Johnny said and handed it to Murdoch. "I asked him if she was sick, he said he didn't know. What do you think, Murdoch?"

Murdoch knew what he thought, but he couldn't say it. "It's up to you son. I can't tell you not to go or to go."

"Thanks a lot," Johnny said.

"How about I go with you?" Scott suggested.

Johnny nodded his head and smiled his appreciation. He was not looking forward to facing her alone, especially after the veiled threat she had made. He walked back to the door to address the man. "¿Dónde está ella?" Johnny asked.

"Debo tomarle allí," he replied.

Johnny gave him a small smile. "No. Usted me dice donde ella está y conseguiré allí en mis el propio. Ése es el reparto. Tómelo o déjelo," he replied firmly. Scott gave him that look again and he laughed a little. "I asked where she was. He said he was supposed to take me to her. I told him I'd get there on my own. Ok?' he explained.

"Ok," Scott said.

He turned back to the man and waited for an answer. The man shrugged and said, "Se acampan cinco millas de aquí apenas del camino a Green River."

Johnny nodded. "Gracias. Estaré adelante."

"You're not planning on going tonight are you?" Scott asked.

"Why not? What's the matter, Scott? Afraid of the dark?" Scott was just glad to have his brother teasing him again. He would have gone anywhere with Johnny at anytime.

"Where is she son?" Murdoch asked.

"He said they're camped five miles from here off the road to Green River," Johnny answered.

"Well, shall we?" Scott asked.

"In a minute, Scott. I want to talk to Murdoch first. You mind?" Scott nodded his head and headed out to the kitchen to fill Teresa in on what was happening.

"You don't want me to go, do you?" Johnny asked.

"Johnny, it's not up to me."

"Ya know, just once I'd like you to say what's on your mind," Johnny grinned.

Murdoch chuckled at the ridiculous concept that he ever had a problem saying what he thought. "Alright, son. No I don't want you to go. After what you told me of your conversation with her the other day, it worries me. But since Scott is going with you... just be careful."

"I will."

"Johnny, not just your physical self."

Johnny grimaced. "She can't possibly hurt me any more than she already has," he said softly.

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

Scott and Johnny rode the short distance to the campsite. 'Just off Lancer land,' Johnny thought whimsically. The man who had delivered the note stepped out in front of them with a rifle. He quickly pointed it away when he recognized Johnny. The brothers looked at each other and sighed some relief. "Esta manera, senor," he said and motioned them toward the camp. Camp was putting it a bit loosely. Johnny reckoned she was doing everything in style these days. The tent was huge and she certainly wasn't lacking for immenities.

Her husband came through the tent flap and looked a little startled. "Your mother asked to see you, " he said staring at Scott with disgust.

"And see me she will. My brother will keep you company, senor," Johnny said briskly. He walked into the tent unceremoniously and found her sitting in a rocking chair. He just shook his head at the site. "Well, I'm here. What do you want?" he asked.

"Hello, Johnny. How are you?" she asked sweetly.

"What do you want mother?" he asked, frustrated.

She stood and walked over to him, not an inch away from his face. "I told you, chico. I want you," she whispered. It was not above her to try her womanly wiles even on her own son.

"I'm tired of this. Stop playing games with me! What was so urgent?" he glared at her with complete contempt.

"Oh, Johnny. How can you talk to me that way?" she cried and the tears fell from her eyes.

"It's easy, believe me," he said icily.

She looked into his eyes and stroked his cheek. "I love you so much, miel," she whispered and kissed him. He didn't move, it wasn't affecting him the way she had hoped. He just kept staring at her with the same emotionless look in his eyes. "Did you learn that look from your father?" she asked.

"No, mother. I learned that look from you," he sneered. "It's kept me alive many times. It gives you an edge when your facing down some gunfighter on the street who wants to kill you just because you have a reputation," he said sarcastically.

"Ah, yes. Johnny Madrid. Miel, how could you?" she pouted.

He smiled at her, but it didn't reach his eyes. "Pulling out all the stops tonight aren't you? It won't work anymore. I'm not a kid trying to get his mother's attention and love."

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

The tent flap opened and Johnny turned to see a familiar face step toward him. "Jack Slade," he said in a monotone.

"Hello, Johnny," Slade said with a grin.

"What's he doing here?"

"He works for me, miel."

"Works for you? Doing what?" Johnny asked, his senses heightened.

"Oh, it's just one job. It's very simple Johnny. Either you come home with me or Mr. Slade will kill Scott," she said.

Johnny felt his blood turn cold and he glared at the inhuman presence in front of him. "No, mother. I have a better idea," he said and turned to Slade. "Jack, how about you and me settle this our way," he said with a slight grin. Slade looked past him to Maria who was vigorously shaking her head no.

"I work for the lady, Madrid," he answered.

"She's no lady," Johnny replied. "Here's the deal Jack. You take me, I'll write out a note to the Green River bank right now telling them to give you a thousand dollars, no questions asked. If I take you, well I guess you won't have to worry about it, will you? I'm calling you out, Slade. Are you man enough to take me on?" Johnny drawled softly.

Slade considered the offer. All he had to do was kill his long time nemesis. Seemed easy enough and he had been itching to take on Madrid for years. His pride got the better of him. "Alright, Johnny. You got a deal." Johnny looked around the room and found some stationary. He wrote out the note addressing it to the president of the bank and handed it to Slade. He read it carefully. "Looks legit. Let's dance," Slade grinned. Johnny returned the grin and headed out of the tent behind Slade.

"Johnny, no!" Maria cried.

"What's the matter mother? Don't you want to see what you've created? Don't you want to see Johnny Madrid in action? Come on, admit it, gets you excited doesn't it?" he sneered at her. She slapped him across the face and he grinned at him. "That was your last one, mother," he said and turned his back to her.

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

Scott was standing next to a tree, his gun missing, Maria's driver had his rifle trained on him. "Johnny," he called.

"Don't worry, brother. This will be over in a minute."

"This is not what I wanted, Johnny. I don't want you to do this. Stop it now!" Maria demanded.

"Johnny, boy. Women will always be the death of a man," Slade said.

"Don't I know it," Johnny mumbled. He wasn't sure he was going to survive this, he knew Slade was good, very good and he hadn't drawn down on a man in quite a while. A sudden thought occurred to him. "Wait a minute Jack. Let me talk to you," he said and walked over to the gunfighter. "Listen, we're not friends, never have been but I want to ask you one favor."

Slade looked at him in surprise. "You want a favor from me? What is it?"

"Well, if you happen to be heading for Green River in a few minutes, I wonder if you wouldn't mind making sure my brother gets out of here in one piece. This really doesn't have anything to do with him, he just kind of got caught in the middle. As one professional to another, what do you say?" Johnny asked.

Slade looked at him then at Scott. "Sure Johnny. What the hell? I'll make sure he gets out of here. My word on it," Slade said and offered his hand. He never much liked Madrid, but he respected him. Johnny shook on it and went back to his spot, squaring off against the gunfighter. Scott couldn't hear the conversation between the two of them but he saw the handshake and he was amazed at how civilized the two were being. He reminded himself to ask Johnny about it afterward. He prayed he would get that chance. At the moment, he felt utterly helpless.

"Excuse me, Mr?" Scott said.

"Slade, boy. Jack Slade."

Scott nodded. "Excuse me Mr. Slade, but would you mind if I had a word with my brother first?" Scott asked. He figured if they were going to be civilized about trying to kill each other, he may as well take advantage of the situation.

"Johnny, what the hell have you got yourself mixed up in here? I'm beginning to think the best thing I can do for you is take your sorry hide back down to the border with me," Slade said, exasperated with all the interruptions.

Johnny had to laugh, it was pretty ridiculous. "Sorry Jack. Later Boston. I'm a little busy right now. If you don't mind, I could do without the distractions," Johnny said. Scott sighed and resigned himself to having to watch as his brother might possibly die in front of his eyes. He knew he could do nothing to stop Johnny.

"Johnny, please don't do this. I'm sorry, I won't let him kill Scott. I promise," Maria begged.

"Oh, it's too late for that ma'am," Slade interjected.

"You're right about that Jack," Johnny agreed. "One of us should explain it to her later," he grinned.

"Ok, Madrid. Let's dance," Slade said as he drew his gun in a flash.

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

Unfortunately, he was very fast. Just as fast as Johnny in fact, and they both went to the ground simultaneously. Johnny hit hard and felt the fire searing in his chest. The only thing he could think at the moment was 'damn'. Scott ran to his brother and picked his head up to rest in his lap. "Johnny?" he pleaded. Johnny looked up at him and Scott saw the crimson spot spreading quickly on his blue shirt. He immediately put his hand over the wound and pressed down to try and stop the flow.

"Jack?" Johnny asked in a whisper. Scott looked up, Maria's husband was standing over Slade. He looked at Scott and shook his head.

"He's dead, Johnny."

Johnny nodded. "So am I, I think," he whispered as he passed out.

Maria had fainted when she saw him go down, she recovered quickly however and ran to her son. "Johnny! Oh, miel, forgive me," she cried.

"Seems that's all you can ever say to him," Scott snapped. "Help me get him home," he said to her husband who seemed to be in some sort of trance.

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

Murdoch had been pacing for a while now, waiting for his boys to come home to him. Please God, let it be both of them, he prayed. He heard the carriage riding up fast, too fast and his heart sank. He ran outside as Scott was jumping out of the carriage. "Murdoch, help me. Johnny's been shot!" he yelled. They took him to his room and undressed him quickly. Teresa had already sent for the doctor and was boiling water. Murdoch examined the wound and was sickened by what he saw. He pushed a stray strand of hair from his son's eyes and looked down at him, despair bearing into every fiber of his being.

"He'll be alright, won't he?" Maria asked. Murdoch whipped around to find his wife standing behind him. He hadn't even realized she was there. He glared at her with such hatred she thought she might burst into flames. Teresa came in with the necessary medical supplies and Murdoch cleaned the wound. Once he got a better look at it, he knew they couldn't wait.

"Scott, this is bad. We have to get that bullet out and stop the bleeding now," he said. Scott understood exactly what his father was telling him and he started preparing what was needed, with Theresa's help.

Sapphire eyes bore into Murdoch Lancer's face, he could feel it but he couldn't look at his son just then. He was concentrating on what he was about to do to him. Johnny reached up and touched his father's arm and Murdoch met his gaze. "Scott?" he whispered.

"He's fine, son. He's right here," Murdoch said and Scott peered over his father's shoulder to give Johnny the proof he knew he needed.

"Right here, little brother," he smiled.

Johnny attempted to smile, but the pain tore through him just then and he bucked in the bed. Murdoch held him firmly until the fire eased in his chest and he settled back into the bed. Johnny turned his head and saw his mother standing beside him. She leaned down and touched his face.

"Forgive me, Johnny," she begged.

He grabbed her arm and pulled her even closer to him. Less than a breath separated their faces. "Get away from my family!" he hissed at her.

She shook her head. "No, miel. Please, not until I know you're alright."

"I'm not alright! I have a bullet in my chest and you put it there!" he shouted. Where he got the strength to do so, he didn't know, but the rage he felt at this woman for putting his brother's life in danger was stronger than the pain tearing him apart.

"Johnny, calm down. You can't do this, son," Murdoch pleaded. He walked over and grabbed her arm, pulling her to the door. "Get out of here. Johnny doesn't need this now. He's dying, can't you see that?!" he growled, but his voice caught in his throat as he spoke the fear in his heart. She stared at him and tears streamed down her face. Without another word, she left the room.

"Thank you," Johnny whispered, not knowing what his father had said to her. All he cared about was that she was gone from his sight.

"Son, we can't wait for Doc. Your bleeding too badly. I have to get that bullet out. Do you understand what I'm saying?" Murdoch said softly.

Johnny had his eyes closed but he heard every word. He heard the fear and doubt in his father's voice as well. He looked up into the face of the man who should have raised him, should have had the chance to give him the love he'd never had before and tears welled in his eyes. "I know, Murdoch. I know," he whispered. Murdoch knew he understood the seriousness of the wound and that he may not survive. It broke his heart that Johnny had suffered so much heartache in his short life, a life that may very well end that night.

Scott witnessed the exchange and knew what was happening as well. He wasn't giving up though and he wasn't about to let Johnny give up either. He knelt down beside his brother and Johnny turned to look at him. "Now you listen to me, Johnny. I didn't come three thousand miles to find out I had a brother only to lose him. You will not die on me, do you hear?" he said, his voice strong and firm almost to the end of his statement. However, his voice betrayed him at the end and Johnny could hear the tremble there. He smiled at Scott and the love in his eyes was evident to his brother.

"I'm not goin anywhere Boston," he said.

"Promise?" Scott asked.

"I promise," he replied, not feeling too optimistic. Scott felt better, he knew Johnny never broke a promise once he'd made it. He felt optimism for the first time since he'd watched his brother be gunned down.

"Ready?" Murdoch asked.

Johnny had to laugh at this. "Does it matter? Go ahead," he said and steeled himself for the pain about to come. Murdoch cut into the wound to make it larger and began digging around for the bullet. Johnny tried to stay still but it was impossible. He cried out and Scott held him down, fighting back the tears that threatened to come.

"Dammit, it's deep," Murdoch mumbled as he laid the knife aside and stuck his finger into his son's chest, rooting around for the bullet.

Johnny screamed out "¡Dios Del Oh! ¡Lastima!" then fell silent. Murdoch froze and stared at him until he saw Johnny's chest rise and fall.

"What did he say?" Scott asked.

"He said it hurt!" Murdoch clipped. Then he began his mission once more. Maria was outside the room sobbing as she heard her son cry out in pain. Pain she had caused. "Got it!" Murdoch exclaimed as he pulled the small piece of mangled metal from his son's body. "Teresa, heat that knife again, quick!" he instructed. The bullet was out but the bleeding had not stopped but at least he could see where it was coming from. Teresa handed him the glowing tool and he stuck it against the area that was bleeding, effectively cauterizing it and stopping the blood flow. Johnny didn't move, he was deep in unconsciousness. Murdoch dressed the wound, he wanted to wait until the doctor got there to make sure he had done no permanent damage before stitching the area.

Maria slipped quietly back into the room and looked at her son's pale face through her tears. "Murdoch?" she asked softly.

"I thought I told you to leave," he hissed.

"Is he going to be alright?" she asked ignoring his comment.

"He has a chance now," Murdoch answered. Doc Jenkins walked into the room and Murdoch filled him in. He shooed them all out except for Teresa so he could examine his patient in peace. His experience with the Lancer men told him he was better off without them hovering.

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

"Murdoch, we need to talk," Maria said. He took her into his bedroom as he didn't want to be far from his son. She walked around the room she had once shared with him, the memories flooding back to her and she cried again. "I have to tell you the truth and then I'll leave, I promise," she said.

"Alright, Maria. I'll listen."

She told him much of the same story she had told Johnny that first day, except she had not told her son everything as she was too ashamed. Now she knew he deserved the truth but wouldn't believe it from her. She had believed they were coming back for him, but evidently Jose had other plans. He took her to his employer who had seen her in the village and wanted her for his own. He was a ruthless and powerful landowner and no one questioned his actions. He had kept her there a prisoner for three years and had told her Johnny was dead by his own hand. She had lived those years in a pain-filled fog, not caring if she lived or died. Finally the man died and she was free. She went on with her life as best she could and had found her present husband. She said he was a good man and he loved her. She didn't say she loved him, but Murdoch didn't question that. She told him she had been in Sonora a year and a half earlier and saw a young gunfighter named Johnny Madrid kill a man in a gunfight. She knew it was her son but she couldn't bring herself to believe it entirely. It took her a year to come to terms with what had happened and that the man had lied to her before she could start looking for him. It hadn't occurred to her that he might be at Lancer, not after the lies she had told him about his father. Coming here had been her last resort.

Murdoch listened patiently to her story and he had to admit, he believed her but it didn't really matter anymore. She had caused Johnny too much pain in his young life and Murdoch could never forgive her for that but he had to know one thing. "Why did you lie to him about me, make him hate me?" he asked.

"Because I hated you. I hated that you chose this ranch over me. That you loved it more than you loved me. I did it out of pure malice, Murdoch," she admitted.

"I see. Well, Maria are you going to keep your word at least this one time? Are you going to leave now?" he asked.

"If I could see him one more time before he wakes up?" she implored. Murdoch nodded and they went to the room. Doc was just finishing up and waved them in. She went to him and stroked his hair, his face. "Oh, miel. You were always such a beautiful boy, now you are a beautiful man. Goodbye, nino. I love you more than life," she whispered and kissed him softly on the lips.

She left Lancer that day and never returned. Murdoch never told Johnny the truth of his mother's leaving. Not because he was afraid Johnny might forgive her but because he knew how much pain it would cause his son and he had been through enough. Johnny recovered from his gunshot wound pretty quickly. It took a lot longer to recover from his broken heart, in fact, he never did completely. Still he managed to push it to the back of his mind where he kept all the horrors from his life deeply hidden from himself and went on with the business of living and loving his family.

 

~end~

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