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Winj

 

What Happened In Between Sequel

 

 

 

Last in the What Happened series, following What Happened First and What Happened In Between

From What Happened In Between :

"Do you think it's possible for us to start over?" he asked.

Johnny shook his head. "No thanks. I can't deal with another bullet in the back. How about we just start from right here."

Scott laughed. "Good idea." Stepping closer, he extended his hand.

Johnny accepted it and placed his other hand on Scott's shoulder. "Welcome home, brother."

"Welcome home, little brother," Scott grinned mischievously.

 

ONE WEEK LATER

Johnny cursed the day, the sun, the ground and anything else he could think of as he sucked his throbbing thumb. He hated fences, he hated barbed wire and he really hated hammers.

He threw the offending tool on the ground and walked over to the wagon. He grabbed the canteen and took a long drink, pouring some over his head and shaking it like a dog. Taking a deep breath, he leaned against the tailgate and sighed heavily.

Peering out over the meadow, he felt a cooling breeze sweep over his face and smiled a little. He wished there was a stream closer by. It was too hot for this time of year. Not even really summer yet but he reckoned it may as well be.

He capped the canteen and started back to the fence when he heard horse hooves. Edging closer to his Colt, he laid his hand casually beside it.

The rider topped the small hill and Johnny relaxed, taking a few steps forward to meet the man.

"Hey."

"Hi. I finished early and Murdoch sent me to give you a hand," Scott explained as he dismounted.

"I'll take it," Johnny smiled. "Not much left, though."

"Then I'm early," Scott laughed.

Johnny tapped him playfully in the gut and they set off to finish the work.

******

"Looks good," Scott surveyed once they'd finished.

"Yeah, let's just hope the cows appreciate all that work."

Scott's expression became serious. "I've noticed they aren't the most intelligent animals."

This brought on a genuine laugh from Johnny. "Boston, they are the dumbest animals ever put on this earth. The only good thing about 'em is how they taste."

"Yes, I have to agree. Still, I wish Teresa knew how to make something besides beef."

"Oh? You got a taste for something different?" Johnny asked, pure mischief alight in his eyes.

Scott was sure he didn't like that look. "What did you have in mind?" he asked warily.

Johnny grinned. "Scott, have you ever had Mexican food?"

"No."

The grin widened. "Well, how about I talk Maria into fixin us somethin different. Something really special."

"I love trying different cuisine," Scott agreed, though he still didn't like that look. The look changed to a frown then and Scott wondered why.

"Different what?"

"Oh, cuisine. It's French. It means a style of cooking."

Johnny simply nodded. "Well, help me get this mess cleaned up and you'll be in for a real treat," he smiled.

******

Johnny walked into the kitchen and smiled in relief when he saw Maria alone. "Buenos dias, Senora."

"Buenos dias, Juanito."

He flinched a little but didn't rebuke her. Not a good way to get what he wanted. "Maria, I was just talking to Scott. You won't believe this but, he's never had Mexican food. I told him you were about the best cook I ever met and I'd just bet you'd be glad to help him out." He finished with his most charming smile.

"That smile works well on the young ladies, Juanito, but I am no longer young," she cracked.

"Aw, Maria, I ain't trying nothin. I just want my brother to experience the best things in life," he said, adding an ever so slight pout.

"He will experience chicken tonight. Tomorrow, I will make him something."

Johnny smiled. "Gracias, Maria." He turned to leave, then stopped and faced her. "But, not just him, right? I mean you ain't gonna cook something special just for Scott. I don't want to put you out."

She shook her head and waved him off. "No, nino, not just for Senor Scott."

Johnny smiled and bowed deeply before getting himself quickly out of the line of fire. He was sure she was like every other hot-blooded Mexican woman. Soon, something would be sailing through the air at him.

Scott was waiting for him in the living room. "Well?"

"Chicken tonight but tomorrow, she promised."

"What's all this?" Murdoch asked.

"Oh, Johnny wanted me to try Mexican food. He asked Maria to fix it," Scott explained.

"I see. Well, just realize, son, it's rather spicy," Murdoch warned.

"Oh, I think I can handle it, sir. I've had many spicy foods in my time," Scott said confidently.

"Yeah? What kinds, Boston?"

"Well, some French dishes are quite spicy, Johnny. Bouillabaisse, for one.

It's serve with a mix of red pepper and pimento called Rouille and is quite spicy."

******

That evening, Scott did what he usually did. He settled in a chair with a book. Murdoch was reading the Sacramento paper and Johnny looked from one to the other and sighed softly.

"Hey, Scott, you play chess?"

Scott looked up from his book. "Yes, I do."

"Wanna play?"

Scott seemed unsure for a second, then shrugged. "Alright."

Johnny jumped up and grabbed the chess board he'd been eyeing since he arrived at Lancer. The pieces were beautifully carved. He set it up quickly and let Scott pick his color.

Johnny smiled when his brother picked white. He always liked black, himself. Murdoch peaked over his newspaper and watched as they began the game, smiling to himself.

An hour later, they sat, both with heads bowed and serious expressions. Murdoch had long since finished the paper and had written a letter by now. He walked over and sat beside Scott, scrutinizing the board.

His eyebrows went up in surprise as he saw how even the game was. He looked closely and realized what was happening. Scott was using well-known techniques and moves, no doubt learned under Harlan's tuteledge. Johnny, well, he seemed to have his own techniques and they were a bit baffling. He wondered what Scott thought.

Two moves later, Johnny leaned back and quietly announced checkmate. He watched his brother's face as the frown lines deepened. Scott studied the board for a long time. Long enough that Murdoch had to say it.

"Looks like he has you beat."

"Just wait a minute. I'm not finished," Scott said, holding up a hand.

Johnny looked at Murdoch and smiled as if to say; he's done he just doesn't know it yet.

Scott sighed and laid his king over.

"Where did you learn to play chess?"

Johnny shrugged. "Picked it up here and there. You?"

"My grandfather taught me initially. I learned more from a friend in college later on. Your technique is ..... interesting."

Johnny laughed softly. "Old man I knew called it street chess. Said I made it up as I went along."

"Do you?" Murdoch asked.

"I guess so. I mean, it's all about strategy, right?"

"Well, yes, but there are masters who've spent a great deal of time developing a whole game worth of well-thought out moves," Scott said.

"Why? Don't make much sense to put all your cards on the table like that."

"Well, there are many variations, Johnny. It's not like you would know exactly what move your opponent will make."

"Is that right? Cause I knew exactly what you were gonna do," Johnny said, cocking a brow.

Scott raised a brow himself. "How?"

Johnny grinned. "If I told you that, you'd never play with me again. Well, goodnight."

"Wait a minute. That's it? You make a statement like that and say goodnight?" Scott asked, frustrated.

"It's just a game, Scott," Johnny shrugged.

"Well, yes, but ...."

"See ya in the morning," Johnny said and walked upstairs.

Scott stared after him for a long moment then shook his head. He started putting the game pieces away, still pondering Johnny's words.

"Are you always so competitive?" Murdoch asked.

"I don't think I'm all that competitive but there's nothing wrong with it, is there?"

"No, nothing at all. You seemed so suprised that you lost, is all."

"I've been playing a long time. I'm very good, if I do say so myself."

Murdoch nodded. "I see. You're just not used to losing."

"No, I'm not. It doesn't bother me though, if that's what you're getting at," Scott retorted.

Murdoch smiled but said nothing else. He was starting to gain some insight into his elder son. He had to keep reminding himself that, though Scott was fully grown, he wasn't as mature as he seemed. He had noticed some, well, not child-like qualities certainly, but something. Something he couldn't quite put his finger on.

Maybe it was having a new brother. One he'd never gotten the chance to grow up with. Maybe they were both acting a bit .... boyish at times. Yes, that was the word; boyish.

*******

The next evening as they sat down to dinner, Johnny's mouth was watering. He'd smelled the aromas as soon as he walked in the front door. It was like being home again. He had to laugh to himself with that thought. You are home.

Murdoch was questioning them both on the days activities. Johnny could hardly stand it much longer. He was already hungry. He wished Maria would hurry. Besides, he wanted to show Scott what spicy food really was.

Finally, she appeared carrying a large tray, Teresa right behind her. Scott looked at the food and frowned.

"What is it?"

"Tortillas, tamales, churros. Boy, Maria, you went all out. Muchos gracias," Johnny grinned.

"Try it, son," Murdoch urged as he filled his own plate.

Scott took a little of everything and Teresa placed the pitcher of water near him with an innocent smile.

"This is good," he proclaimed of the tamales. "What are these?" he asked as he popped one in his mouth.

"Scott, no!" Murdoch called, but it was too late.

Scott's face paled, then blushed as the jalepeno worked it's magic. He grabbed his water and downed it, then refilled his glass.

Johnny jumped up and ran to the kitchen, reappearing with several leaves of lettuce. "Eat this."

Scott looked strangely at him.

"Eat it, Scott. It'll help," he urged.

Scott started chewing the greenery and his mouth began to cool down but his eyes were still watering. He finally found his voice.

"What was that?"

"A jalepeno pepper," Johnny answered, then fell out laughing.

Scott wiped his eyes with his napkin and glared at Johnny. "I'm glad you find it so amusing, brother. Was that the point of all this? To have a good laugh?"

"Well, it was pretty funny," Johnny laughed.

"I'm glad my discomfort is a source of amusement for you. Perhaps I could shoot myself in the foot for dessert," Scott said snidely.

Johnny stopped laughing and stared at him. "What're you so mad about?"

"You did this on purpose! All that talk about how good Mexican food is. It was so you could embarrass me!"

"You liked the tamales," Johnny said.

Scott took in a breath and tightened his jaw. "You set me up."

"Now, Scott, no one expected you to pop a pepper in your mouth," Murdoch said sincerely, trying his hardest not to laugh.

"You said you were used to spicy foods, brother," Johnny added.

"And you couldn't wait to prove me wrong, is that it?"

Johnny's face turned to stone. "No, I just wanted to share some of my heritage with you. You seem so all-fired anxious to share yours with me."

"What does that mean?"

"Just what I said. You're always goin on about Boston. I thought you might be interested in something else," Johnny deadpanned.

"I was trying to tell you about my life," Scott shot.

"And I was trying to show you mine," Johnny retorted.

"I guess my life includes more than food," Scott sneered.

"Alright, I think that's enough," Murdoch said, seeing this getting very ugly.

"It sure is," Johnny whispered and left the table.

Scott stood and walked away as well, heading up the stairs.

"That went well," Teresa said quietly.

"Excuse me, dear. I think I have some fence mending to do," Murdoch said, patting her hand as he rose.

Murdoch paused as he was about to go by the bookcase. His eyes searched over the titles and he pulled out the volume he wanted. Tucking it under his arm, he headed upstairs.

Scott's rather formal "come in" bristled the older man. He took a breath and opened the door.

Scott stared at him from the window but said not a word.

"You like to read so I thought you might enjoy this book," Murdoch said, handing over the tome.

He said nothing else and walked out, closing the door behind him. Scott looked down at the title of The History and Culture of Mexico .

Murdoch found his other son on the front porch, sitting on the low adobe wall.

"I didn't mean it as a joke," Johnny said quietly.

"I know you didn't."

"He acts like I was trying to make him look bad or something."

"He was embarrassed."

Johnny looked up quizically. "Why?"

"Well, we did laugh, Johnny. And he was in quite a state. Scott's not used to ... well, he's used to more formal behavior."

Johnny sighed. "He needs to loosen up. He ain't in Boston. Nobody around here cares if he burns his insides up on a pepper."

Murdoch chuckled for a second. "Try to imagine yourself in Boston, Johnny. Sitting at an elegant table, shoulders back, hands in lap, making small talk and taking little bites. Seems impossible, doesn't it? But that is what Scott is used to just as you're used to things the way they are here. It would be just as difficult for you to get used to as it is for him."

"I guess. I just want him to relax. He never seems really relaxed," Johnny said in frustration.

"Well, it's not just his upbringing. It's everything. Learning a whole new way of life while living with total strangers. You grew up out here so you're used to the way things are done. It's all brand new to Scott."

Johnny nodded his understanding, then smiled. "Except for the horses and shootin. He's good at that."

"Maybe you should tell him that sometime. It might help him to 'relax'," Murdoch smiled.

Johnny stood up. "No time like the present."

******

Scott opened the bedroom door to find Johnny standing there, smiling.

"Can I come in?"

Scott didn't answer but stepped aside and opened the door wider.

Johnny walked over to the window, then turned to face his brother. "I just wanted to say I'm sorry for laughing at you."

"I suppose it was funny from where you were sitting," Scott said softly.

"Well, I guess you learned something. Don't eat somethin til you know what it is," Johnny grinned.

Scott smiled. "I'm learning something else, as well," he said, holding up the book in his hand. "What I said about my life including more than food. Murdoch gave me this book."

Johnny walked over and looked at the title. He laughed and shook his head. "Tells ya all about how improtant food is to Mexicans. Used as a way to celebrate? Is that so different than anyone else?"

"No, it isn't. Once I thought about it, I realized that. Still, it was thoughtless."

"Don't worry about it. I've been talkin to the old man and, well, I know it's hard bein here. I mean, it's hard for all of us but you especially."

Scott's shoulders tensed. "Why me, especially?"

"Well, it's so different. We live different, talk different, eat different, work different...."

"I get the message," Scott said, raising a hand to stop the onslaught.

"But it's not like you're not already good at things. Like horses. And you can handle a rifle real well."

"Thank you, Johnny. It hasn't been easy."

"Especially with a hot-head like me to deal with?" Johnny grinned and cocked a brow.

Scott laughed. "Yes, especially with a hot-head like you. Sometimes, I wonder if we'll ever get past being so suspicious of each other," he added seriously.

Johnny dropped his head. "Well, I'll tell ya, Boston, that's my fault."

"How so?"

"Because," he shrugged, "I'm not the most trusting person. Haven't had much luck with it. I guess that causes some tension."

"Johnny, I've already told you I'm hard to get to know. I'm not used to opening up. It wasn't done where I grew up. Everything was kept very private."

"Are we hopeless?" Johnny asked, a slight smile on his face.

"Well, I don't intend on giving up. So, no, we aren't hopeless."

"Good. Neither am I. I guess we're gonna disagree sometimes. Can't be helped."

"That's what brothers do, I'm told."

Johnny extended his hand. "I hope we can be friends."

Scott accepted the handshake. "I feel confident we can, Johnny."

Johnny sighed and shook his head slowly. "Mark my words, Boston. In six months, I'll have you drinkin' and carousin' with the best of them. Maybe then you'll relax a little."

"I see. It's your goal to corrupt me."

"That's it exactly, brother," Johnny smiled.

"I'm looking forward to it, brother."

 

 

~end~
2003

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