The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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A Time To Remember




Murdoch Lancer sat in a chair before the fireplace, staring distantly through the flames. Twenty-one years. It was hard to believe it had been that long ago. Time was a funny thing. It could fly by - and seemed to the older he got - or it could creep along slower than a turtle - as it seemed in the early days after his world was ripped apart - again. Sighing without realizing it, he lifted the brandy snifter to his lips and took a full measure. The smooth burn of the liquid fire warming him from the inside out.

Funny his hands were cold as ice, though. He frowned as he pondered this oddity then shook that thought away as his mind went back to the significance of this day; this time of day.

He knew he'd never sleep tonight. Though he would never say a word to his family. His family. A smile crossed his lips then faded away as his memories invaded.

But some of those memories were oh so grand! The sound of his son taking his first breath in this world. The slap on his behind and the ensuing wail. Murdoch chuckled. He could raise the rafters with that cry. And then, suddenly, he was holding the precious bundle in his arms.

He remembered having tears in his eyes at that moment. Tears of joy unlike any he'd ever experienced. He looked down at his wife, exhausted and pale. Tears running down her cheeks. Tears he had thought were of happiness. But when her eyes met his, fear gripped his heart. There was no joy there, no happiness. There was nothing but contempt.

He'd tried to shake it off. Owing it to her painful delivery and hours of labor, her weariness. But he'd seen it again in the months that followed. Too few months that he had with his son. His baby boy.

Murdoch closed his eyes tight against the pain that still carved a place in his heart, these many years later. The pain of loss and confusion; heartbreak and despair. Once again, those feelings had consumed him. Just as they had those few short years earlier.

All his dreams; all his plans died that day. He just hadn't accepted it. Would not accept it for a very long time. Years in fact. Years of searching and coming up empty. Years of paying other men to do what he had failed to do.

The fire crackled and spat as a log repositioned itself as it was consumed in the heat. His thoughts broken momentarily then back again to that night. Morning, he should say. Three o'clock in the morning to be precise. He'd thought then that this one would be a night owl. But he wasn't, much to Murdoch's surprise. He was sleeping through the night by three months.

A happier baby there had never been, he was sure. Always smiling, eyes always shining with love. Pure, innocent, complete love - for him. Yes, all that love had been for him. He shook his head. How could things be so different now?

But he knew why and the boy was certainly not to blame. He wasn't sure how much he himself was to blame and he knew he never would now. It was too late. As with so many things in his life, it was too late to find that truth.

Now, they had a second chance. He'd called it 'when he got lucky'. Murdoch frowned. No, son, I'm the lucky one. He had wanted to shout it to his son that day. Standing in front of that broken down cantina. His son, his boy had taken his hand and invited him to supper. And what had he done? Made some joke about indigestion and begged off. Why? When all he'd wanted was to eat with his 'old man'.

This wasn't the first time he'd thought of that moment in time. He'd shrugged it off before, excusing it as taking him by surprise. And it had. But it shouldn't have. And that knowledge is what made him regret so many times when his boy had reached out to him.

Still, they'd had special moments together. Moments in time. Was that all they had? Why couldn't it be every day? Why couldn't they share that bond all the time instead of brief snatches?

He sighed once more and his eyes roamed to the dark corner to his left. The shadows of light danced in and out, illuminating the spot for brief periods then leaving it dark once more. Like Johnny. Lighting his life for moments then darkening like a storm cloud.

But he had to smile at that corner. His son had made a stable there. Oh, it wasn't anything grand. In fact, it was only in the imaginative mind of a child that the stable existed. Save for a few times he'd found a bit of hay left behind. But Murdoch knew it was there. How many times he'd stared at that spot over the years. Remembering the little wooden horse he'd carved for his boy. The sheer delight that had lit his face when given the simple gift.

His eyes burned with the memories. He wished the happy times had outweighed the sad, but unfortunately, they hadn't. Thanks to a selfish woman with a heart of stone. He wished he didn't feel that way toward her. But how could he not? She had taken the most precious thing in the world from him. For the second time in his life, he'd been robbed of a son. And she'd known how it would hurt him, too. He'd talked about Scott often with her. Yes, she knew exactly what she was doing.

Johnny would never speak of her but Murdoch knew she'd not been a mother to their son. He had all the evidence he needed. All in black and white and in his son's eyes. He saw more in those eyes than any report could ever tell him. The pain was clear to all who would see; anyone he would give half a chance to see. And he had begun giving his father that chance in the past few months.

Murdoch knew Scott had more knowledge of his younger son's past than he probably ever would have. Part of him was grateful for that, part of him admittedly jealous. The bond between those two warmed his heart. The wall between he and they, broke it.

But it was all his fault, none of it theirs. He was the one who'd closed himself off. His sons were both full of love and the joy of simply being alive. He remembered when he felt that way, too. Many years ago. Maybe now he had a chance of regaining that happiness.

He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the chair. A prayer crossed his lips followed by a determination so strong, it startled him a bit. It was time to stop waiting for things to happen and *make* them happen.

He was the problem so he was the solution. What did he have to lose? He'd already lost them for most of their lives. Opening his heart completely to them could only make things better. His fear of losing them again had, at times, been overwhelming. But, did he even have them now? They lived in the same house. Worked side by side. But what else?

No, it was time to fell the walls around his heart. They'd been crumbling for some time but a sledgehammer was needed now. No more pussyfooting around. He wasn't a coward, afterall. They were only men, like he. Men. Yes, they were that.

Again, he felt the stab of pain in his chest at the lost years. It would always be there but now he must override it with ..... with love. Yes, love would ease the pain. Maybe even extinguish it altogether. And he had that love inside him for his sons. It had always been there, dimming over the years but brought alive again in one heart wrenching moment in this very room.

Laying eyes on them again had reignited the fire of love so strongly, it had scared him senseless. What other reason could there be for his abominable behavior that first day? That wall was firm and sound then but no more. Tonight, appropriately so, he was tearing down the last bricks around his heart.

He smiled as the grandfather clock struck the hour. He glanced at it, not really needing to, for he knew exactly what time it was. He stood up and headed to the stairs, climbing them slowly so as to be quiet.

Down the hall and to the third door on the right he went. Just as he had every year for the past twenty-one years. Only two of those years had been happy ones. Now, there was a third and many, many more to come.

He eased the knob round and pushed lightly on the door as it gave way easily. He stood just inside the frame for a moment, drinking in the sight. Then, with light steps, he made his way to the bedside and knelt down on one knee.

A soft touch pushed the black hair away so he could see the peaceful face in slumber. "Feliz Cumpleanos, mi hijo," he whispered.

"Thanks," came a mumbled reply.

"I'm sorry, son. I didn't want to wake you," Murdoch said regretfully.

" S'ok. You couldn't help it," he grinned as he pried his eyes open and found his father's face. "Is it time to get up?"

Murdoch chuckled a little. "No, it's three in the morning."

Johnny's eyes widened as he raised up on one elbow. His expression was all the question needed.

"You were born at three a.m. I know it sounds silly but all these years, I've done the same thing. I sit down by the fire, remembering the night you were born. Then, at the stroke of three, I come up here to your room."

"This was my room then, too?"

"Yes, son. Why wouldn't I give you the same room?"

Johnny shrugged a little. "Guess I never thought about it. And you do it every year?"

"Every year for the past twenty-one years," Murdoch nodded.

Johnny dropped his eyes and swallowed hard. "Why?" he barely whispered.

"Because I missed you so much. I wanted to feel close to you. I wanted to honor the day and time of your birth. I guess I thought maybe you could ..... feel me. I know it sounds crazy," Murdoch felt quite foolish at this point.

"No. No, it doesn't sound crazy at all." Johnny scooted up in the bed so he could sit straight. He pulled his knees up and wrapped his arms around them, cupping his chin on his arms.

Murdoch raised up a bit painfully and sat on the edge of the mattress, a much more comfortable position. "I am sorry I woke you."

Johnny smiled. "I'm not. I didn't know what time I was born but I'm not surprised it was the middle of the night." The humor in his tone was easy to hear and Murdoch laughed a little.

"I thought it was a sign but it didn't last long. You slept through the night very early on."

"Yeah, I catch on pretty quick," he smiled.

"Maybe you should catch some more sleep. Dawn isn't far off," Murdoch said.

"So, what did you do up here? I mean all those years," Johnny asked, ignoring the comment.

Murdoch dropped his eyes then found himself suddenly speechless. Taking in a breath, he remembered his earlier vow to himself and found his voice. "I'd sit on your bed, roam about the room and remember how you looked when you were sleeping. I'd think about the times I played with you; that wooden horse I made for you that you wouldn't let go of - even in the bathtub. How you crawled, then walked, then ran through the house." A short laugh erupted from his throat. "Paul called you a hellion."

"Paul knew me?"

Murdoch nodded. "He'd just started here right after you were born."

Johnny smiled. "I like the idea of Teresa's father knowing me then."

"He spoiled you rotten. He and most of the hands. You were always outside, always right in the thick of things," Murdoch laughed.

Johnny laid his head down on his arms and looked at his father. "Where's my present?" he grinned devilishly.

Murdoch chuckled. "Oh, it's around here somewhere. I'll have to dig it out." Patting Johnny's leg, he added, "go back to sleep, son. I'll see you at breakfast."

Murdoch stood and walked to the door then turned to look back. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight and thanks," Johnny smiled.

Frowning, Murdoch shook his head. "For what?"

"For remembering me all those years," Johnny replied softly.

"I never forgot, son. Not ever," Murdoch croaked out.




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