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Winj

 

Mending Fences

 

 

 

Follow up to Truths and Consequences




Johnny Madrid walked out of the saloon in Tuscon and strolled down the boardwalk leisurely. He heard his name called and stopped. He turned slowly to face the all too familiar voice. "What are you doing here?" he asked shortly.

"I came to get you and take you home," Murdoch Lancer replied.

"Wasted trip, old man. I ain't got no home. Excuse me I have to see a man about a job," he said as he turned to walk away.

Murdoch stood there a moment, unsure. "Scott's sick, Johnny," he called.

Johnny whipped around and walked back to him. "Sick , what do you mean sick?" he asked, concern flooding his face.

"We're not sure what it is. He's been running a pretty high fever. He just collapsed last week. He's been calling for you. That's all he'll say is your name over and over," Murdoch explained.

"What's Doc say?" Johnny asked.

Murdoch shook his head. "He's run some test but he doesn't know what it is. He's sent telegrams to Denver and Chicago describing Scott's symptoms but he hasn't heard back yet. Johnny, he needs you," Murdoch said, almost pleading.

Johnny looked at Murdoch and wondered if he was telling him the truth or just trying to trick him into coming back. He knew he couldn't take that chance but he asked anyway. "Are you lyin to me?"

"Johnny! No I would never use your brother like that!" Murdoch said in astonishment.

"Ok, I'll come. But, Murdoch, this is for Scott."

Murdoch nodded his head sadly. "I'll wait for you," he said.

"No, I have to take care of something. You go ahead, I'll be there. I promise."

"Alright, Johnny," Murdoch said and headed for the hotel to collect his gear. He wanted to waste no time getting back to Scott's side.

Johnny headed to the bank to tell the man who had asked to see him that he wouldn't be around to take the security job for the gold shipment. Then he headed back to the saloon and upstairs to collect his saddlebags. "Hey, where ya goin, Johnny? We're havin us a party tonight," Clay asked.

Johnny smiled at his old friend. "I got some business to take care of, Clay. I'll be gone for awhile," he explained.

"You're comin back ain't ya?" Clay asked.

"Yeah, I'm comin back," Johnny said with a sadness in his voice.

"Kinda sudden ain't it?" Clay persisted.

"Yeah, I got a friend who needs my help," Johnny lied and patted his friend's shoulder. "I'll see ya," he called as he walked out of the saloon and down to the livery to collect Barranca. "Well, boy. Looks like we're goin home for a while. Don't get too excited. We ain't stayin long. Scott's sick, Barranca. We gotta go take care of him," Johnny spoke softly to the palomino, his only true friend now.

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

He headed west and turned north toward home. Home, he thought. What a joke! The anger had not left him. Murdoch's words still stung into his memory like a snake bite. He knew he could never forgive his father for hurting him so deeply. After everything he had tried to do to turn his life around, Murdoch Lancer would not give him a chance to prove himself. And he had proven himself time and time again. From the first week he'd been there. Hadn't he taken a bullet in the back for the old man and his empire? Johnny tried to shake the thoughts away and focus on his brother. Scott needed him, he'd always known if that ever happened, he'd be back. Nothing Murdoch could say would keep him from his brother's side. But Murdoch had come himself. He hadn't sent the Pinkerton's or a hand, he found Johnny himself. He wondered why Murdoch would leave Scott to find him. He shuddered at the thought that Scott would be so sick that Murdoch would risk leaving his side.

He stopped on the ridge overlooking the hacienda and looked out at the land he had almost been a part of. The sadness was so deep in him he thought briefly of turning away again. But he shook it off and headed to the house. Jelly was waiting in the courtyard as he rode up, grinning ear to ear. "How is he?" Johnny asked immediately.

The smile left the gruff old man's face and he shook his head. "Not good, Johnny. Not atall."

Johnny bounded up the stairs to his brother's room and opened the door, slipping in quietly. What he saw shocked him to his core. Scott lie in the bed, restless and tossing about. His face was whiter than anything Johnny had ever seen and he could see even under the blankets that Scott had lost a lot of weight. For someone who couldn't afford to lose it anyway, he looked like a scarecrow.

His face was gaunt and his eyes were sunken with dark circles under them. Johnny gawked at the frame before him, frozen in place by what he saw.

Teresa was trying to cool his face with a wet cloth and when she saw Johnny she ran to him and held him. "Johnny, I don't know what to do. He's so sick. I can't get the fever down," she cried.

Johnny looked into the brown eyes of his 'sister' and almost lost it himself. He kissed her lightly on the forehead and went to sit at his brother's side. "Well Boston. You got me here, now what?" he said softly. "Scott?" he tried again. Nothing. He felt his brother's forehead and was shocked at the amount of heat he felt radiating from Scott. "Teresa, tell me exactly what happened, from the beginning," Johnny said.

"Well, it started about a week ago. He was fine, Johnny. Then one day he came home and said he didn't feel good. You know Scott. We didn't take it lightly that he complained. His face was flushed and when Murdoch felt his forehead, he was burning up. We put him to bed and he's been pretty much like this ever since, except it just keeps getting worse," she finished and stopped trying to hold back the tears.

"Just doesn't make any sense," Johnny said more to himself than her. "Ok, you said he came home like this one day. Where had he been that day?" he asked.

"I'm not sure."

"Where's Murdoch?" he asked.

"I'll go get him," she answered and left the room.

In his haste to get to his brother, Johnny hadn't even noticed the doctor's buggy outside. He and Murdoch came into Scott's room together. "Oh, hey Doc," Johnny said.

"Johnny, it's so good to see you," Doc said with a smile.

"Murdoch, Teresa said Scott came home sick. Where had he been that day?" Johnny said getting straight to the point.

"We've gone over all that, Johnny. Nothing makes any sense," Murdoch answered.

"Do you think just for once you could answer my question straight out!?" Johnny hissed at him.

Murdoch tensed and started to say something entirely inappropriate but he bit his lip instead.

"He was cleaning out that creek bed up by Black Mesa," he answered.

"All day? He didn't go anywhere else?" Johnny asked.

"No, son."

Johnny cringed a little at Murdoch referring to him as 'son' but he ignored it. "Ok," Johnny clipped and started out of the room.

"Where are you going?" Murdoch asked.

"Black Mesa. Something's not right here," he said and shook his head.

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

Johnny rode out to Black Mesa as fast as Barranca could get him there. The palomino sensed his master's urgency and worked hard to help however he could. He searched the creek bed. He could see evidence that Scott had been clearing it out but nothing seemed out of the ordinary. He walked over to a small stand of trees and looked closely at the ground, the roots, the grass surrounding it. He was stumped. What had made Scott so sick?

He sat down at the creek bed and pondered this, chewing his lower lip. He reached down to pick a blade of grass to chew on when he felt something crawling on his hand. He stared unbelieving at the brown spider that traced along his fingers. He shook it off gently and bounded onto Barranca, taking off in full gallop.

Johnny ran into the hacienda and headed straight for the bookshelves. Perusing the collection, he finally found what he was looking for. Johnny flipped through the pages until he got his answer. He didn't understand a lot of the medical jargon but he knew someone who did and he ran into the kitchen to find Doc Jenkins drinking a cup of coffee. "Doc, take a look at this," Johnny said excitedly.

Doc Jenkins jumped up and ran to Scott's room, Johnny hot on his heels. He examined his patient's body once again and found what he was looking for. It was a small scab, less than an inch, but it was definitely an exact match to the picture in the book. A spider bite, of all things! Not just any spider though, a recluse, and the doctor knew as well as Johnny how poisonous they could be. "Johnny, you're a genius," Doc said, impressed.

"But, can you help him now?" Johnny said anxiously.

"Yes, Johnny. I need to send for some medicine, but as soon as it arrives, I think Scott will be alright. Assuming he responds well to the medication," Doc added. He didn't want to get Johnny's hopes up only to have them dashed if, for some reason, Scott didn't get better.

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

The wait for the medicine to arrive seemed interminable. Johnny was not a patient man at the best of times and he paced and fidgeted for two days. All the while, he never left his brother's room. He talked to Scott for hours at a time, hoping his brother could hear him and hang on. His voice was hoarse but he wouldn't stop and Murdoch was starting to worry about him.

Johnny wouldn't sleep, he ate little and he wouldn't leave Scott's room. Murdoch knew why, he also knew that if Scott survived this, it was only because of Johnny's refusal to give up on his brother.

The medicine finally arrived and Doc Jenkins administered the doses in timed sequences for the next two days. Finally, Scott's fever broke and Johnny was right there to see it happen. He woke up the next day for the first time in two weeks. Scott opened his eyes to see his brother watching him like a hawk. He tried to smile but it was a feeble attempt.

"Bout time, Boston," Johnny grinned.

"Johnny," he whispered.

"None of that, don't try to talk Scott. You need to rest but you're gonna be fine," Johnny reassurred him.

Scott reached out to find his brother's hand and squeezed it as hard as he could manage. "You'll be here?" he asked hopefully.

"I'll be right here, Boston. I promise," Johnny said softly.

Scott looked at him suspiciously. He thought he heard something in his brother's voice but he was too tired to figure it out. He fell asleep holding Johnny's hand.

"Johnny, you're exhausted. Get some sleep, I'll sit with him," Murdoch said that evening.

"Maybe I will. You'll come and get me if he asks for me?" Johnny asked tiredly.

"I will, son," Murdoch promised.

Johnny was too tired to argue with Murdoch about anything at the moment, still that 'son' business was getting on his nerves. He collapsed in his bed and fell asleep instantly.

When he awoke it was late morning. For a minute he didn't know where he was, then he remembered and grimaced. He jumped up, washed his face and went to Scott's room. He slipped in as Murdoch sat by his son. Scott was asleep, that was evident, but Murdoch was talking to him and Johnny stood by the door listening.

"I'm afraid he won't stay, son. I don't know what to do. I've tried to apologize but he can't forgive me. I don't think he ever will. I'm so sorry, Scott. It's my fault your brother hasn't been here with you. I know how angry you've been at me, too. I don't blame you, Scott. I don't know what's wrong with me. Johnny just seems to make me mad faster than any man I've ever met. Well, except maybe for your grandfather. He was trying so hard and I knew it. Why couldn't I give him the chance he deserved? When I think of him out there wandering around the border towns again, I can't stand it. He belongs here with me, with us. I guess I just can't get the picture of that energetic two-year-old tearing through this house, begging me to take him riding, out of my mind. Oh, he loved horses even then. He was good with them too, they responded to him. I know he's grown now and his life has been so hard, so painful. That's what I want to make up to him more than anything, if that's even possible. Scott, you have no idea what your brother has been through. I don't know even the half of it myself, but what I do know just kills me. Oh, son, I love him so much, and I love you just as much."

Johnny stood there with tears streaming down his face and he didn't even notice. Listening to his father talk about him this way broke his heart. He didn't know what to do at that moment. He wanted to go to Murdoch but he thought he might be angry if he knew Johnny had been eavesdropping. It was definitely a private conversation. One of many he was sure Murdoch and Scott had had since he'd left. Probably not like this though, Murdoch would never open up like this if Scott were awake. Johnny was sure of that. He suddenly realized his father was looking at him and he turned to leave.

"Johnny, wait," Murdoch said softly. He felt his father's hands on his shoulders and he turned to face him.

"Can you? Can you ever forgive me for being such an idiot?" he whispered.

Johnny looked into his father's eyes and for the first time he saw that Murdoch loved him. He couldn't speak, his voice had left him. All he could do was nod his head and hug his father.

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

Two weeks later, Johnny sat out on the veranda with Scott. He was still weak but getting stronger every day and Teresa was about to kill him stuffing food in his mouth every other minute. He smiled at that thought.

"What?" Johnny asked with a grin.

"Oh, I was just thinking about how Teresa hovers."

Johnny nodded his head and laughed a little. "Yeah, she's quite the mother hen. Jelly too," he added, thinking of the grump that had been buzzing around Scott like a pesky fly. "They sure are determined to fatten you up," Johnny laughed.

"It's good to hear your laugh again. It's good to hear your voice. I've missed you, brother," Scott said gently.

"I missed you too, Boston." They sat there quietly for a while, content to be in each other's company. Dewdrop squawked and Scott jumped at the sudden sound. Johnny laughed at him, "Guess you're not fully recovered yet, huh."

"Guess not. But, I'm getting better every day," he smiled, then a frown crossed his face.

"What? Do you need something?" Johnny asked with concern.

"No, I was just thinking."

"You sure do a lot of that, Boston," Johnny teased. Scott smiled at him. "Care to share, brother?" Johnny asked.

"I thought once I'm a little stronger, I might go back to Boston," he said.

Johnny tensed at this. "Why, Scott?"

"Well, there's no point staying here any longer. You'll be leaving again soon and Murdoch... well, we haven't been getting along very well these past six months that you were gone," Scott explained.

Johnny nodded his head. "I see. Well, I'm gonna miss ya, Boston. Sure will be quieter around here without ya," Johnny said, hiding a grin.

Scott stared at his brother and leaned over to try and see Johnny's face. "You're staying?" he asked stunned.

Johnny looked at him with a smile that was infectious in it's very nature. "Yep. thought I'd better stick around and keep you out of trouble. But if your leavin then I guess I'll just head down south again," he said nonchalantly.

"Johnny, when I get better, I'm going to teach you a thing or two, boy," Scott grinned.

"Oh? Gonna send me to Harvard?" Johnny said.

Scott grabbed him by the back of the neck and roughed his hair. "You jerk! Why didn't you tell me?" he asked.

"You didn't ask."

"Johnny!"

"What?"

"You just wait, brother. You just wait."

Murdoch stood by the open French doors listening to his sons banter back and forth. He thought he had never heard a sweeter sound in his life. 'Things will be different now, Johnny. I promise', he vowed to himself.

 

 

~end~
2003

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