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fozrulz

 

 

Meeting Juliana

Lancer Fanfic:  All the normal disclaimers apply.

My Lancer stories assume that Scott has always been with Murdoch.  I also assume that Maria took off with Johnny when he was 41/2 and that she was pregnant at the time.  I also assume that Murdoch found Johnny when he was about 10 years old.
So, if you don’t like non-canon characters, Murdoch having other children, the young lives of Johnny and Scott, or the fact in my stories that Johnny will never become a pistelero, then move on.  There are lots of fabulous stories to read in this fanfic database.

 

Murdoch Lancer’s hands were shaking.  He was holding a wire from Pinkerton’s.  The wire says that they found Johnny in a Mexican orphanage.  It had been 5 long years since Maria had stolen away in the night with Johnny.  Johnny had been only 4 1/2 years old.  He poured himself a drink and sank slowly into his chair.  He was still sitting there when his 15 year old son came in from school.

Scott walked into his father’s study to tell him about school, when he noticed his father with a drink in his hand and his chin resting on his other hand.  Scott’s intuition was tingling.  What was wrong?  “Pa, everything alright?” he asked.

“No, son, no, everything may be very good.” Murdoch sighed.

“Sir, “maybe” be very good, I don’t understand?” Scott said questioningly.

“The Pinkerton’s think they found Johnny.” Murdoch barely whispered.

Scott’s eyebrows shot up, “That great Pa!  That’s great!  Umm, Pa, isn’t that great?”  Scott looked at his father.  He wasn’t sure Pa looked happy, he didn’t look unhappy.  He kind of looked confused if anything.

“I’m just a little worried son.” Murdoch admitted.

“Sir?” Scott asked confused.

“I’m worried that little boy they found is not really Johnny.  If that little boy is Johnny, how will he react to me?  He hasn’t seen me in almost five years.”  Murdoch said.  He leaned back in his chair.  He has missed so much of Johnny’s life.  Why had Maria left?   What had she told Johnny about his father?  To many questions with no answers.  Scott had missed his best friend over the last five years.  Murdoch knew that Scott’s heart had been ripped out the day Maria left with Johnny.  He had been so proud of his boys.  So proud of the way Scott had looked after his little brother.  It was quite obvious that Maria had no interest in Johnny.  Almost from the beginning, Scott had taken it upon himself to take care of his baby brother.

“Sir, I’d like to go with you.”  Scott said softly.

Murdoch hesitated.  “I don’t know son, I don’t know.  Maybe it would be better if I go and bring him home to you.

“No sir, it won’t.  It won’t be better.  Please Papa, please let me go.”  Scott pleaded.

Murdoch considered it.  Scott didn’t very often pull his “Papa” card.  He only used the moniker when he really wanted something or was in an amazing amount of trouble.  He had quit using “Papa” the day Johnny had been taken, Scott had only been 10 years old.  He grew up a lot that day and decided that “papa” was really for Johnny.  He looked into those beautiful blue eyes of his oldest.

“Ok, Scott, we leave first thing in the morning.” Murdoch said standing as he placed a strong hand on his young son’s shoulder.  They set out the next morning for Mexico City.  The trip would take at least a week.  It was going to be a very long week for Murdoch Lancer and his son.  The wire hadn’t said much, just that Johnny had been found in the Saint Mary’s Children’s orphanage in Mexico City and that Maria was dead.

The Lancers passed the time in the saddle talking about this and that, no topic really serious.  Both were lost in their own thoughts.  Scott thought about his black hair blue eyed brother.  Scott had loved that little boy so much.  He had spent a lot of his time watching and taking care of the little boy.  He taught him to ride, to swim, to fish, all the things big brothers are suppose to teach their little brothers.  He took his role as big brother very seriously.  Scott couldn’t help wondering if Johnny would remember him, if we would remember all the good times, all the things Scott had taught him.  Scott remembered all the times he got in trouble for what Johnny did or for not watching out enough for him.  Scott smiled, it would have all been worth it to get in trouble every day for Johnny, if Maria just had not taken him away.

The closer they got to Mexico City, the more worried Murdoch became.  How was Johnny going to react?  What had his mother told him?  Johnny had worshipped his Papa like none other before he left.  Murdoch’s brow creased with worry.  Scott stole a look at his father.  He sure looked tired and worried.  “Papa, you ok?” he asked.

Murdoch favored him with a warm smile.  “Just anxious, son.”

Scott just nodded his head.  He understood, he was kind of scared himself.  Tomorrow, they would be in Mexico City.  Tomorrow he would get to see the brother that was lost to him five years ago.  He wished for a happy reunion, but something told him that happy reunion may be elusive.

The next morning, the Lancers rode into Mexico City.  They drew curious stares.  Two gringos, one with silver hair, a man six feet five inches, a veritable giant, one a tall, gangly blond haired, blued eyed youth, quite an anomaly in Mexico City.  Murdoch rode to the first church and stopped to ask for directions.  He came out of the church and looked at his son.  “We are very close, Scott, just two blocks over.”

Scott nodded and swallowed.  His palms starting sweating.   His heart starting beating rapidly.  He was so excited.  They arrived at the orphanage.  Both Lancers swung down off their horses.  Murdoch did not want to take the time to wash the dust off.  He just wanted to see his son.  They walked into the orphanage and found a nun sitting in the office.  Her name plate said “Sister Mary.”

She looked up to see this giant of a man, a gringo and a tall lanky youth, another gringo standing in front of her.  “May I help you?” she asked in perfect English.

“I came to take my son home,” said Murdoch, “I understand he has been here for about six months.”

Sister Mary eyed this gringo, “Senor, we do not have any white children in this orphanage.”

Murdoch took a deep breath, “His mother was Mexican.  His name in Johnny Lancer.  He has black hair and blue eyes.  He would be about 9 ½.  His mother took him and left our home about 5 years ago.  I haven’t seen him since.”

She knew immediately that he was referring to Johnny.  But, Johnny had a little sister with the same black hair and blue eyes, Juliana.  Why did this man not ask for the little girl?  Could it be that he did not want the little girl, only the little boy?  “Senor, we only have one little boy matching that description, but I am not sure he is the little boy you seek.”

“Please Sister, please, let me see the boy.  I have been searching for five years.  Please let me see him, I will know right away.” Murdoch whispered.

Sister Mary pursed her lips.  She didn’t know.  She could at least bring the boy and see.  The little girl was only 4 1/2.  Maybe his wife left him when she was pregnant and he did not know.  She looked into the eyes of the tall gringo.  The sorrow and pain radiated that radiated from those eyes was immense.  She felt in her soul, that this was a good man.  She sighed, “Please wait here Senor Lancer, I will go get the boy.”

Scott paced back and forth in the room.  The range of emotions from happy to sad to worry and concern showing on the faces of both Lancers.  The excitement was almost too much from Scott.  “Scott Garrett Lancer, if you don’t sit down and stop pacing, I’m going to…..” Murdoch never got to finish his sentence.  The door opened and Sister Mary ushered in a very thin sullen boy with curly black hair and the deepest blue eyes, the eyes that matched his oldest son’s.

Johnny looked up into this man’s face.  Dios, it was his father.  He barely remembered, but he did remember.  Then he looked to the youth, it was Scott.  His much loved older brother.  He corrected himself mentally.  He used to love them, but they let him get taken and they never came to find him.  He hated them.  He had been snatched from all he loved to live the life of an impoverished bastard child.

Murdoch took a deep breath and dropped to his knees.  He took Johnny by the shoulders.  “Johnny, Johnny, look at me son, it’s papa, don’t you remember?”  Murdoch pleaded desperately.

Sister Mary stood silently watching.  She decided that she should go get Juliana.  She quietly slipped from the room.

“I remember you dirty gringo, that didn’t want a mestizo brat any longer.  You had your perfect Gringo son.  You let her take me and you didn’t come to find me, I hate you!!!”  Johnny shouted.

Stunned, Murdoch dropped his hands from the boy’s shoulders.  “Oh my God, is that what she told you?”

Johnny tried to bolt from the room, but Scott stood in front of the closed door.  He caught his little brother.  “Johnny, Johnny, it’s Scott.  We’ve been looking for you ever since Maria took you away.  You’ve got to believe us.”

“Johnny,” Murdoch said softly, “We’ve come to take you home.  We are taking you back to Lancer.”

“I ain’t going.” he declared.

“I’m sorry son, but you have no choice.” said Murdoch clearly agitated.  The happy reunion he had anticipated was not happening, he thought sadly.  Not only that, but now is black haired blue eyed cherub had turned into a sullen hateful little boy.

“I ain’t going.  I can’t go.”  Johnny declared.

“What do you mean, can’t?” asked Murdoch.

“Because I have to ….” Johnny started.

As the last word left his mouth, the door opened and Sister Mary ushered in a child, a little girl that looked just like Johnny, with black hair and the Lancer blue eyes.  Murdoch gasped.

“I believe that Johnny feels like he has to take care of his sister.”  said Sister Mary.  Right then at Murdoch’s gasp, Sister Mary knew that this gringo did not know about the little girl.  How could a woman leave her husband and not tell him that she was with child?  What kind of woman did this?

“What’s your name?” asked Murdoch recovering himself and bending down to the child’s level.  The girl didn’t answer, she just stood there.

“Juliana, come here.” said Johnny.

Juliana ran behind Johnny, clinging to his pants leg.  She looked out from behind Johnny with big fearful blue eyes.  She looked up at her brother, questioningly.

“Her name is Juliana, old man, like you care, since you threw us out when Mama found out she was pregnant with Juliana.  You didn’t want any more mestizo kids.” Johnny spat, the hatred spewing forth like a fountain.

Murdoch was dumbstruck.  Maria never told him that she was pregnant.  He would have been thrilled to have a whole house full of children.  Murdoch was devastated at the hate coming from Johnny.  How was he going to undo the last five years of lies that Maria had filled his boy with?  He just needed to get them home to Lancer.

He bent down to Johnny and Juliana’s level.  He almost whispered, “Juliana, I’m your papa, this is your brother Scott.  You and Johnny are coming home to California with me.  Do you understand?”

Juliana look petrified, but she nodded her head.  She still stood clutching Johnny’s pants leg.

Murdoch stood up, “Sister, let’s give the children time to pack.  Scott and I will head over to the hotel to clean up and I need to buy a pony for Johnny.”

Sister Mary looked up to the gringo, “Senor, there is nothing to pack, they came with nothing.”

Trying to hide his disgust and surprise, he said, “Well, if that’s the case, I’d like to take them with me now.”

She sighed and handed him some papers to sign.  Once signed, Murdoch walked over to the small children and held out his hand.  “Let’s go.”

Neither child moved.  They stood like stone statues.  Sensing a fight coming on between Johnny’s stubbornness and his father’s Scott walked quickly over and grabbed Johnny’s hand.  “Come on Johnny, don’t you remember me, your big brother.  I used to take you riding and swimming. I taught you how to skip stones at the watering hole.  Come on, we’re going to get to do all that and more.”   He rambled dragging Johnny out the door.

As Scott chattered away to Johnny, who allowed himself to be led away, Murdoch picked up Juliana and swung her on his hip.  She clung to him for all she was worth.  He was scary because he was so big, but he was gentle, not like Mama’s men.  She was so stiff when he picked her up, like a little wooden soldier.  He whispered in her ear and rubbed her back and told her what a big girl she was and how he was so happy he found her.  He sounded so nice.  Juliana wasn’t sure if she should be scared.  She started to relax.  When they got outside, Scott and Johnny were already on his horse.  Murdoch placed the little girl on the saddle and swung up behind her.

He looked at Scott.  “We probably should find a mercantile and buy them some clothes before we head to the hotel to bathe.  Once everyone is cleaned up, we can have dinner.  We will head for home in the morning.”  He laid out his plan very carefully, not just for Scott’s benefit, but for Johnny and Juliana’s benefit.  He didn’t want to spring any more surprises on them.

He looked at Johnny, “Do you know of a store that would be good to pick up some clothes and things for our trip?”

“Yeah!” Johnny spat.

Murdoch let it pass.  He was going to have plenty of time on the way home to reschool Johnny in his manners and respect.  “Which one?” asked Murdoch.

“It’s two blocks over and 1 block up, it’s called “Gonzalez’s.” he said.

Murdoch just nodded and led the way.  All the way, Scott chattered on and on to Johnny about life at Lancer.  Scott told him he was so happy to be a big brother again and that he couldn’t wait to get home and start being a big brother to him.

Although Johnny remembered Scott and his memories were good ones, he still was reluctant to talk.  “Don’t need no big brother, don’t need no one to look out for me, I’m good alone.”

Scott was surprised and hurt by that comment.  He muttered to himself, “Doubt it.”

Murdoch watched the exchange, but let it go.  The boys will have to feel it out around each other again. They will figure it out.  Murdoch understood how Scott felt, Johnny had worshipped his big brother and it was hard to hear the venom spew from his mouth.  He sighed as he looked down to see his daughter.  A daughter he thought, he had always wanted a little girl.  His anger rose as he considered what Maria had taken away from him.  He forced the anger back down as he looked at her.  She looked just like Johnny at that age.  She had even popped her thumb into her mouth just like he used to do.  They arrived in front of Gonzalez’s.  He dismounted and then pulled Juliana off and set her on the ground.  He held out his hand to her.  She hesitated at first, then put her hand in his.

Scott and Johnny dismounted.  Scott propelled Johnny into the store behind his father and Juliana.  Murdoch turned to Scott, “Keep an eye on them while I talk to the shop keeper.”  He handed Juliana’s hand to Scott.  She wouldn’t take it, she moved toward Johnny and grabbed his hand.  Johnny took her hand and knelt down.  ‘It’s ok quierda, I’ll be here to protect you.  No one will hit you ever again.  Right?  It’s ok.”

Juliana just nodded solemnly at her big brother.  She was scared and trembling.  While Murdoch was picking out clothes for Johnny and Juliana, Scott walked them around the store.  Juliana found a display of dolls that she stood in front of.  Johnny tried to drag her away, but she stood fast.  Just then, the children heard Murdoch call for them.

“Scott?” Murdoch called.

“Sir?” Scott answered dragging the children to the front of the store.

Juliana looked scared.  Murdoch bent down and she held her arms up.  He scooped her up in his big arms.  She was trembling.  Murdoch rubbed her back and whispered in her ear until she settled down.  With her on his hip, Murdoch turned to address Johnny.  “Pick out two pants, two shirts, a hat, a belt and boots.  Scott, you help him.”

Johnny was surprised.  He looked up at his father suspiciously.  He couldn’t ever remember having new clothes or picking them out for that matter.  “Don’t need no help.” he sneered.

Scott stepped out, “Maybe not little brother, but that’s what big brothers do, they help.” he said.  Scott steered Johnny to the back of the store so he could try on the clothes.  Before he left his father, Scott motioned to him.  “Papa, Juliana was looking at the dolls.” he whispered.

Murdoch smiled.  Maybe he should buy the children something special.  He turned back to trying to buy some clothes for Juliana.  He probably should just get her pants and shirts because they were going to be on the trail for the next week.  She really wouldn’t be needing a dress, she could get some when they returned to Lancer.  Well, he should just get her one dress.  He showed her the items he picked out and asked if she liked them.  She just nodded her head.  With her still on his hip, he walked around the store until he found the display of dolls.  He set her down next to the display and knelt down beside her.  “Juliana, would you like papa to buy you a doll?”

She looked at him inquisitively, she wasn’t sure what he meant.  She had never had a doll before.  He repeated his question in Spanish.  Her eyes got big.  She blinked.  She looked at him shyly.  He asked her again.  “Juliana, which doll do you like the best?”

She pointed to a rag doll with black hair, black eyes and dressed in a colorful Mexican dress.  Murdoch picked up the doll and strode toward the front of the store.  He met Scott and Johnny at the counter.  He laughed to himself.  Johnny had always been very picky about his clothes.  He always wanted to wear brown pants.  Johnny had picked out two pairs of brown pants. 

Murdoch looked down at the sour Johnny.  Johnny still had the defiant pose and scowl on his face.  “Johnny, I’m getting your sister a doll, a little present from me and Scott.  Would you like to choose something?”

Johnny turned his defiant little face toward his father, “I don’t need nothing from you.” he spit out.

Murdoch sighed.  This may prove to be very difficult.  He turned toward the store proprietor and paid for all the items.  He turned to hand the doll the Juliana.  Johnny nudged her.  She looked at him and then looked at Murdoch.

“Gracias.” she said shyly.

“Gracias, what?” asked Murdoch.

She looked at him confused.

“Gracias, Papa.” he said.

“Gracias, Papa.” she repeated.

Murdoch and the children left the store and headed for the hotel.  He got a room for the night and asked for baths to be sent up to the room.  He handed Scott the key to the room.  “Scott, take the children upstairs and get them settled.  I am going to stable the horses and see about getting a horse for Johnny.”

“Yes sir!” Scott said enthusiastically.  He looked at Johnny.  “Hold Juliana’s hand and come on.  I’ll get the packages.  Scott grabbed all the packages and headed up to the room.  Scott opened the door and found only two beds in the room.  He wasn’t sure what the sleeping arrangements would be.  Not much time passed before baths were delivered.  The baths were set up behind a screen.  Scott looked at the two children and said, “Who wants to be first?”

Both children just stood there, Johnny was scowling and Juliana was looking confused.  Scott wasn’t sure what to do.  When they were children, one of the only ways to get Johnny to take a bath was to let him take one with Scott or with Murdoch standing over him.  Very calmly, Scott looked at Johnny and said, “Ok, Johnny why don’t you go first?”

Johnny stood facing Scott and said, “No, don’t need one, ain’t doing it.”

Scott faced Johnny with a stern look and said, “Yes you do need one and you are going to get in that tub right now.”

Johnny crossed his arms over his chest.  “Nope!”

Scott eyed Johnny, “You’re going to take a bath and now.”

“Nope, I ain’t and you can’t make me!” Johnny said smugly.

Just then Murdoch walked in the room and surveyed what was going on.  “Problem, son?” he asked Scott.

‘No Sir, Johnny was just about to get behind that screen and take a bath, weren’t you Johnny?” he said as he grabbed his brother’s arm and dragged him toward the tub.

Johnny eyed Scott and then Murdoch.  Scott whispered, “You better do it, or he’ll swat your backside just like he did when you were little.”

Johnny hesitated for a moment, but thought better for it.  He stepped behind the screen and shucked his clothes and stepped into the steaming water.  He sighed, that water sure felt good.  Scott went over to the bed and retrieved a set of clean clothes and put them on the floor next to the tub.

Juliana had been watching this whole scene and didn’t know what to think.  She stood in the middle of the room clutching her doll.  Scott walked to the middle of the room.  He held his hand out to her and she shook her head no.  Scott just scooped her up in his arms and carried her to one of the beds.  He sat her in his lap.  She didn’t protest, but she didn’t know what to do.  He whispered, “Do you like stories.”

She looked up at him and nodded with a little smile.

He leaned back on the headboard of the bed with her in his lap and started telling her the story of the Arabian Knights.  She listened intently until her eye lids got heavy and she drifted off to sleep.  Murdoch watched Scott and Juliana.  Scott was going to be the best big brother.  He seemed to know just when to step in and just what to say.  His eyes misted.  Again, he was reminded of all that his wife had stolen away from him and Scott.

He turned toward the screen.  “Johnny, you fall asleep in there, time to get out of the bath.”

“Yeah, yeah old man, keep your shirt on.” groused Johnny.

There it was again, that flagrant disrespect.  Murdoch knew he needed to stamp it out right away.  He needed to show Johnny that he was in charge, that he called the tune and that he expected to be respected.  As Johnny finished dressing, he stepped out from behind the screen.  Murdoch looked at him.   Murdoch motioned for Johnny to come over to him.  Johnny hesitated.  “I am not accustomed to asking twice son.” Murdoch said gravely.

Johnny hesitated, then walked over to Murdoch.  He grabbed Johnny by the arm.  Johnny struggled.  Murdoch held him a few more minutes and then pulled him onto his lap.  He turned his defiant son’s chin toward his face so he could look into his eyes.  Johnny averted his eyes.  “John, look at me,” he commanded.

Johnny finally looked at him.  “I understand that you hate me right now.  I can’t say that I blame you.  But no matter how much you hate me or are mad at me, I will not tolerate disrespect.  You are not too old to be on my lap or over it.  The choice is yours.  I promise you that you will spend more time over it if you do not show me respect.  Do you understand?”

Scott had been watching this exchange while he held the sleeping Juliana in his arms.  He mouthed “Yes sir” to Johnny.

Johnny took a deep breath and muttered, “Yes sir”.

Murdoch slid Johnny off his lap and motioned for Scott to get in the second tub.  He walked over to Scott and took the sleeping Juliana from him.  “Go on son,” he said “get cleaned up.  I asked for more water when I came in, it should be here soon and then I’ll bathe Juliana.”

When the water arrived for Juliana, Murdoch tried to wake her up.  She was out like a light.  He smiled remembering his other son.  He remembered how Johnny would be on a terror running around full of energy and as soon as he stood in one place for too long he would get sleepy and fall asleep where ever he was.  He remembered the nights where Johnny would fall asleep in front of the fire place and Murdoch would undress him, bathe him and put him to bed, all while he was sound asleep.

Scott quickly stripped and bathed.  He felt much better after having had a bath and put on clean clothes.  The next two tubs arrived for Murdoch and Juliana.  “Papa, I can give Juliana a bath if you want to go ahead and get in while the water is still hot.”

Murdoch looked surprised.  When did Scott grow up?  Scott had really stepped in and was prepared to act the big brother to both Johnny and Juliana.  “Thanks, son.” he said gratefully as he stepped behind the screen to bathe.

Scott gave Juliana a little shake.  She stirred and opened her eyes.  ‘Bath time,” he said.

Juliana shook her head no.

“Come on,” Scott wheedled, “I tell you some more about the Arabian knights if you get in the tub now.”

She shook her head no.

Scott thought for a moment.  “You know what Papa used to do if me and Johnny didn’t get in the bath tub when he told us?”

She shook her head no.

“Three swats on a bare bottom.”  Scott said solemnly.  He held up three fingers to emphasize his point.

Her eyes got big and she looked toward Johnny.  “Really?” she asked Johnny in Spanish.

“Si,” answered Johnny simply.

Murdoch laughed to himself.  So, Johnny did remember a few things.  Johnny did not like taking a bath when he was younger.  He often had to be threatened with a few swats or diverted with toys or a story.

“Come on,” said Scott holding out his hand to the little girl, “you don’t want any swats do you?”

She shook her head no and slipped off the bed.  Scott grabbed her hand and pulled her behind the screens.  He stripped her down and plunked her in the tub.  He told her the story of the Arabian Knights and a beautiful princess as he scrubbed her down and washed her hair.  He lifted her out of the tub and rubbed her down with a big towel.  He carried her in the towel to the bed and sat her on the bed.  “Papa, what do you want me to dress her in?”

Juliana didn’t wait for Murdoch’s answer, she pointed to the dress.  Scott didn’t know what to do about the undergarments, but lucky for him Juliana did that part by herself.  He pulled the dress over her head and buttoned her up the back.  All she had left was her shoes and stockings.  He sat her on the bed.  He tickled her feet, just like he used to do to Johnny when he helped him get dressed.  In no time at all, she was dressed and ready to go.

Johnny had been watching the interaction between Scott and Juliana.  He vaguely remembered when Scott had helped give him a bath and how Murdoch told them stories in the bath tub.  He remembered that Scott had dressed him in very much the same way as he dressed Juliana.  He remembered laughter and fun and how his big brother was there with him.  It was confusing.

Murdoch interrupted his memories.  “Johnny, is there some place to eat that would be good around here.”

Johnny looked at Murdoch, he couldn’t believe someone actually was asking for his opinion.  “Umm, yeah,  um Christiana’s Place.”

Scott nudged him, “Yes sir.” he whispered.

“Uh, yes sir.” said Johnny.

Murdoch smiled, “Well, my children, let’s go.”

Johnny held out his hand for Juliana.  She came to grab his hand, but she turned around to grab Scott’s hand too.

“Lead the way,” said Murdoch. 

Johnny led them across the street to Christiana’s.  The restaurant was warm and cozy.  The family settled at a table.  Murdoch allowed Johnny to order for them.  Johnny ordered food, but started to order beer for himself, Scott and Murdoch and milk for Juliana.  Murdoch just about choked.  What had happened to his baby, he was ordering beer?

He looked at the serving girl and shook his head no.  He ordered milk for the children and beer for himself.  Johnny started to protest.  Murdoch turned to him, “You are far too young to be drinking alcohol, son.”

“I’ve been drinking beer forever.” sneered Johnny.

“Well, young man, not any more.” said Murdoch firmly.

Johnny started to protest, but Scott kicked him under the table.  Johnny started to yell at Scott when he saw the warning look in his eyes.  Scott shook his head no.  Johnny slumped in his chair.  The rest of dinner was fairly quiet.  Murdoch told Johnny and Juliana about the ranch while they ate.  Juliana had to sit on her knees to reach the table.  Murdoch thought she was a little old for a high chair, but she was certainly small enough.  He’d have to dig out Johnny’s old high chair for her.  As he surveyed his little family, he sighed contentedly.  He was so grateful to have his children all in one place and he was even more grateful that he had a little bonus in Juliana.  Scott poked him out of his reverie.  “Pa, look at Juliana.” he whispered.

Murdoch looked over at Juliana.  She had curled up on her chair and fallen asleep.  Much to his surprise, Johnny had fallen asleep in his chair, too.  He smiled to himself.  Johnny had fallen asleep so many times at meals at Lancer.  Murdoch would always carry Johnny to his room, change his clothes and tuck him in bed.  He thought, maybe not everything had changed.  Murdoch looked at Scott, “You think you can carry Juliana back to the hotel, so I can get Johnny?”

“You sure Pa, Johnny probably thinks he’s too big to be carried.  What if he wakes up?”  Scott looked doubtful.

“None of my babies is too old to be carried, son, including you.” Murdoch laughed poking Scott in the ribs.  “Besides, once Johnny is asleep, he doesn’t wake up for much, if you remember.”

Scott laughed, “Yeah, Pa, I remember.”  Scott moved to the side of the table and scooted Juliana’s chair out.  He picked her up into his arms.

“You got her, son?” asked Murdoch as he reached for Johnny.  Scott nodded his head.  Murdoch picked Johnny up in his strong arms.  Johnny didn’t look very big in Murdoch’s arms.  Johnny just sighed but did not wake up.  Murdoch patted the small boy’s back, like he had done so many times years ago.  When they got to the hotel room, Murdoch surveyed the two beds.  Scott looked at him.

“Put Juliana on that bed,” Murdoch said pointing to the larger of the two.  “She can sleep with me and you and Johnny will share this one.” Murdoch said as he deposited his precious bundle on the bed.  He grabbed a nightshirt that he had bought for Johnny and changed him.  True to form, Johnny didn’t even stir.  Murdoch tucked him in bed and looked at Scott. 

“Go on and change son and get in bed.  We have a long ride tomorrow.  I’ll take care of Juliana.”

Scott smiled at his father, “I already took care of her, Pa.”  He said stepping away from the sleeping form.  The little girl was in her nightdress, her thumb in her mouth and her rag doll in her arm.  He looked at his father and grinned.  “She looks just like Johnny, doesn’t she?”

Murdoch smiled, his eyes filled with tears, he nodded his head.  “She surely does, son, she surely does.  Ok, son, come on, bed time.”

Scott obediently changed into his night shirt and crawled in bed next to Johnny.  He didn’t mind sharing a bed.  Johnny had come to sleep with him many times when he had been at Lancer.  Before he knew it, Scott was fast asleep.  Johnny had curled up next to Scott just as had when he was very small.  Scott unknowingly put a protective arm over his brother.

Murdoch smiled again.  He just couldn’t quit smiling.  He surveyed his little family once more.  He felt like the luckiest man in the world.  He quickly changed and crawled into bed.  He shifted his daughter so that she was in the middle and wouldn’t likely roll off.  He smiled when she snuggled into his chest.  He drifted off to sleep, a very contented man.

The shout shattered the stillness.  Murdoch bolted out of the bed to find Johnny crying and shouting and incoherent.  He was having a dream.  All Murdoch could catch was “Mama”, “gun”, “don’t”.  He ran over to the bed.  He grabbed Johnny by the shoulders.  “Wake up son, wake up son, your dreaming.”

Johnny’s body started to shake, “No! No! No!” he was saying.

Murdoch pulled Johnny into his lap.  Hugging him with his big strong arms.  He stroked his back.  Murdoch whispered into Johnny’s ear.  “Johnny, Johnny, it’s papa, it’s ok, I’ve got you.”

Johnny briefly looked at his father, he wasn’t all together awake, “Papa?” he asked.

Murdoch rocked him, “Yes, Papa’s here Johnny, I’ve got you?”

Johnny came fully awake and looked at his father.  He was suddenly embarrassed.  He slipped off his father’s lap.  “Lo siento.” he said hiding his face.

Murdoch felt deflated, just for a moment he had his baby back.  But once Johnny was fully awake, that wall slammed down and he was back to the sullen little boy.  “Nothing to be sorry for son, you were having a bad dream.  Do you think you can go back to sleep?”

“Si.” whispered Johnny.

By this time everyone in the room was awake.  “It’s ok Scott, Johnny was just having a bad dream.  You can go back to sleep.”

Scott just nodded and snuggled under the covers.  Murdoch looked at his daughter.  She looked very uncomfortable.  He guessed the problem.  He pulled the chamber pot out and put it behind the screen.  She looked relieved while she scrambled off the bed and darted behind the screen.  When she was done, she looked around.  Murdoch guessed again that she was looking for the wash basin to wash her hands.  He lifted her up and took her to the wash basin.  He washed her hands. 

“Ready to go back to bed?” he asked.

She nodded sleepily and lifted her arms to be picked up.  He picked her up and she yawned as she put her head on his shoulder.  He sat on the bed and rocked her until she fell back asleep.  Then he put her in bed and climbed back in bed himself.  The family slept peacefully the rest of the night.

The next morning came as the sunlight streamed into the room.  Murdoch and Scott woke up with the sun.  The two little Lancers were still sound asleep. 

“Scott, why don’t you change and pack up the room.  I need to go buy a horse for Johnny to ride.  Juliana will ride with me.  I’ll come back once the horses are ready and then we can get the children up and go back to the cantina for breakfast.  Then we’ll head for home.”

“Yes sir.” Scott said as he was pulling the night shirt over his head.

As he finished changing, Johnny woke up.  “Morning brother.” Scott said cheerfully.

“Morning.” said a very bleary eyed Johnny.   He looked down at his night shirt and looked at Scott.  

“You fell asleep at dinner and Pa carried you back and changed you.” Scott offered.

Johnny flushed.

Scott laughed.  “What’s a matter brother, Pa’s used to carry you around and change you every day of your life.”

“Yeah, but I ain’t a little kid no more.” Johnny scowled.

“Well, you may not be, but Pa even told me I’m not too old for the same thing.  He’s seen it all before Johnny, he’s your father.  Don’t let that get you riled.”

Johnny just scowled.

Scott looked at him seriously, “Johnny, Pa’s been looking for you ever since you left that night.  He didn’t know about Juliana or that your mother was pregnant.  Please Johnny, you’ve got to believe me.” Scott whispered.

Johnny looked at Scott and looked away.

“Johnny, don’t you believe me?” asked Scott.

“No!” said Johnny.  But, Johnny’s eyes didn’t say no, his eyes showed uncertainty.

“Well, even if you don’t believe me.  Isn’t it better going to live at Lancer than growing up in an orphanage here?”

Johnny shrugged his shoulders.

“Please give it a chance, Johnny, please?”

Scott looked over at Juliana, she was still fast asleep.  He looked at Johnny, “Should we wake her or let her sleep until Pa gets back?”

Johnny shrugged his shoulders. ‘She wakes up real slow, I probably should wake her up.  She ain’t used to you.”

Johnny walked over to his baby sister.  He shook her, “Come on Juliana, wake up.”

Juliana was still asleep.

Johnny sighed frustrated.  ‘Come on Juliana, wake up!” Johnny said a little louder.

Juliana’s eyes flew open.  She looked at Johnny bleary eyed.  “Hi, my little baby sister.” he said in Spanish.

“Where is Papa?” she asked in Spanish.

Johnny scowled, he didn’t like her taking to the man so quickly.  Little kids were so trusting he thought.  ‘I don’t know.” he answered in Spanish.

Scott watched the two and how Johnny reacted to Juliana asking about her Papa.  He sure had a lot on anger toward his father.  This might be a very long week.  Scott interrupted the two, “Papa went to get the horses ready and to get a horse for Johnny, Juliana is going to ride with him.  We need to be dressed and ready to go when he gets back.”

Juliana jumped off the bed to go behind the screen once again.  When she returned, Scott said, “Come on little sister, time to get dressed.”

Juliana reached for the dress.  Scott shook his head no.  “No, no Juliana, you need to wear pants and a shirt, you are going to be riding a horse all day.  Pants are better for riding then dresses.”

Juliana screwed up her face.  She crossed her arms over her chest and stamped her foot.  “No!”

“Yes, Juliana.  You need to listen to me when I tell you to do something.”

“No!”

“Juliana…” Scott started.

As if by grace, Murdoch returned and opened the door.  He came in and saw Juliana in her night dress with arms folded and the exasperated look on Scott’s face.  ‘What’s going on, Scott?” he asked.

“Juliana refuses to wear pants, she wants to wear a dress.” said a very frustrated Scott.

Murdoch looked at Juliana.  “Did Scott tell you to wear pants instead of a dress?”

She just looked at Murdoch, her arms still crossed.

“Juliana, I asked a question, you must answer.” Murdoch warned.

She just glared at him.

Murdoch sighed, “Juliana, let Scott help you get dressed and you will be wearing pants today.”

“No!” said Juliana.

Murdoch very calmly walked over to her and turned her over his knee and gave her two swats.  She started to cry.  He pulled her into a sitting position in his lap and hugged her.  “Juliana, I don’t want to spank you.  You must obey Papa or you will get a spanking.  Do you understand?”

Juliana nodded.  Murdoch looked at Scott.  “Hand me her clothes son.”

Scott handed the clothes to Murdoch.  He stripped Juliana of her night dress and got her dressed. He handed her the doll.  “Come on my children, let’s get some breakfast before we head out.”

The Lancers crossed the street to the cantina and had a big breakfast.  Murdoch then led them to the stables and retrieved their horses.  With full bellies and full saddle bags, the Lancers took off for home.

They had been on the trail for three days, they still had a few more long days on the trail.  Murdoch had stopped for everyone to stretch their legs.  He knew that they would come upon Fletcher Wells, a small border town, tonight.  He was relieved.  He wasn’t sure that Juliana was going to survive another day in the saddle.  He hadn’t learned much about his children in the three days on the trail.  Juliana spoke very little and Johnny was just being too ornery to say much,  Johnny muttered his “Yes sir” and “No sir” responses.  Murdoch suspected that Johnny was doing the bare minimum to keep from getting himself in trouble.

They had stopped by a stream to rest.  “Pa, can I take Johnny and Juliana wading?” Scott asked.

“Sure son, just make sure no one falls in.”

Murdoch found himself a shade tree to rest under.  He felt like he could grab a couple of minutes rest, while Scott was watching the children.

Scott took the children down to the stream.  He helped Juliana with her stockings and shoes.  “Ok, we can go wading.  Please be careful not to fall in.  Stay close to the shore.” Scott warned.

Juliana quickly started to wade out to the middle.  Johnny called to her in Spanish, “Come here, Juliana, you’ve gone too far.”

Juliana turned around and stuck her tongue out at him.  “Juliana!” Johnny warned.

Scott had sat down to take off his boots and socks, when he heard the warning Johnny had given Juliana.  “Juliana, come here!” Scott shouted.

She stuck her tongue out at Scott.  “I’m big, I can do it.” she said.

Scott looked at his little sister, “Juliana, if you don’t come here right now, I’m going to come get you.”

“No!” she said sticking her tongue out again.

Scott sighed, being a big brother was harder than he remembered.  He waded in toward Juliana and grabbed her around the waist.  She fought him like a little wild cat.  He quickly carried her to the shore, turned her over his knee and gave her a spanking.

She looked at him shocked.  “Let me go! Let me go!  I hate you!” she screamed as she struggled to get away.

Minutes later, Murdoch came running to the stream.  “What is going on here,” he thundered.

“Oh Pa, somebody here needs an N-A-P.” Scott said spelling the word nap.

Juliana broke away from Scott and ran to Murdoch.  Murdoch picked up the crying tot and turned to Scott.  “What happened, son?”

Scott quickly explained that Juliana had gone too far into the water, even though she had been warned not to.  He told him that she had refused to come out despite several warnings from Johnny and himself and that he had gone into the stream to bring her out.  He then hesitated.

Murdoch sensed his son’s hesitation.  “Go on Scott, what happened next?”

Scott raised his hand and ran his hand down the back of his hair.  “I gave her a spanking Pa, for disobeying.”

Murdoch nodded.  “That’s fine son, you have my permission to discipline, but only if I’m not around.  I’d rather make that decision myself.”

“Yes sir, sorry.” said Scott

“You have nothing to be sorry for son.  Juliana is lucky it was you and not me, hmm?”

Scott smiled, “Yes sir.”  Scott knew from personal experience that Murdoch did indeed have a heavy hand.

Murdoch then turned to the weeping baby in his arms.  He lifted her chin.  “Juliana, you disobeyed Scott, didn’t you?”

She nodded her head.

“You must obey Scott.  If you disobey Scott, you’ll either get a spanking from him or me.  Do you understand?”

Sniffling, she nodded her head.

“Pa, I really think she is ornery because she is t-i-r-e-d.” Scott said.

Murdoch smiled.  Scott was good at figuring out the problem.  “Scott, why don’t you and Johnny play for a while?  I think I will take Juliana over to the shade trees for a N-A-P.” he said winking.

Murdoch carried the still crying tot over to the tree he had been laying under.  He lifted her so that her head was on his shoulder and he began humming a Scottish lullaby.  Soon he heard the hitching in her breath stop and be replaced by steady deep breathing.  He knew she had fallen asleep.  He placed her on his blanket next to him and watched her sleep.

The boys were wading in the stream.  “You know, you used to be the same way.” Scott offered as he steadied himself on a rock.

“What’d ya mean?” asked Johnny almost slipping.  Scott grabbed his arm to steady him.

“You used to be an ornery little cuss right before it was time for you to take a nap.” Scott said.  “I used to try and figure it out before it was too late.”

“How come?” asked Johnny.

“Because once you got going, you were hard to stop.  More often than not, you’d end up with a swat before Pa’d put you down for a nap.  I was just trying to save your ornery little hide.” said Scott smiling.

Johnny blushed, “Thanks, Scott.”

“It’s what big brother’s do.  Don’t you try and save Juliana from getting in trouble?”

“Yeah, but that little girl is like whirlwind.” Johnny said.

Scott just laughed, the very same terms everyone used to describe Johnny when he was a toddler.  “Well, little brother, we should go see if Pa’s ready to leave.”
 

As the boys walked toward Murdoch and Juliana, Juliana was just waking up from her nap.  Juliana yawned and stretched as she shimmied over to Murdoch’s lap.  She reached for his neck and pulled his ear close to her mouth.  She whispered.  Murdoch stood up immediately and carried her over to some bushes for some privacy.  He then took her down to the stream to wash her hands.  As they approached the boys, Murdoch looked at her.  “Don’t you have something to say to your big brother?”

“Sorry I was bad Scott.” she said hanging her head.

Scott’s heart melted.  “Juliana,” he called her with his arms out.

She ran into his arms, “Sorry.” she cried.

“It’s ok baby, I love you.” Scott said rubbing her back.

“Love you, Scott” said Juliana.

Scott picked her up and carried her to Murdoch.  Murdoch took her and rubbed her back.  “Time to go, let’s saddle up.”

As they took off again, Murdoch informed them that they would be stopping at a small town for the night.  He told them of his plan that everyone have a bath, a soft bed and a good meal.  That news put everyone in a cheerful mood.  The little family finally reached Fletcher Wells.  Murdoch got 2 hotel rooms.  He thought it would be nice if everyone had their own bed for the night.  He ordered up baths for everyone.  He turned to Scott, “I want you and Johnny to take one room, Juliana and I will take the other.”

The bath water arrived.  Even Johnny was happy to take a bath after 4 days on the road.  “You want help little brother?” asked Scott.

“Not since I was four,” said Johnny.

Scott blushed, “Sorry, I forgot, I used to hate giving you a bath Johnny, you used to squirm and scream and create a fuss and before you know it I was soaking wet.”

Johnny grinned, “It’s ok Scott, I wasn’t trying to be mean.  I just mean, I’m bigger now.”

Scott saw the grin on Johnny’s face and relaxed.  “Yeah, brother, you might just need to remind me now and again.”

Johnny tossed a little water Scott’s way.  “You’re reminded big brother.”  With that the water fight commenced.  There was a lot of water throwing, sloshing, giggling and noise.  The connecting door flew open, “What in thunder is going on here.” boomed Murdoch.  He looked around the room, water was everywhere, Scott was drenched and Johnny was in a half empty tub.

Both boys stopped in mid throw to stare at their father, whose 6’5” frame filled the door way.  “Umm, sir, we were just…” Scott wasn’t sure what to say.

“Oh I think I know young man.” said Murdoch.  “You!” he pointed to Johnny, “Get out of that tub and get dressed!  You!” he pointed to Scott, “Get in that tub and take a bath.  Then both of you get this room cleaned up.  You have 15 minutes, move!”

“Yes sir.” he heard.

He turned on his heels as he closed the door.  Good Lord it was wonderful to hear the boys acting like brothers and playing around like the children they were.  Only he didn’t want them to know he thought that.

As soon as he closed the door, the two boys burst into laughter.  “He, he isn’t going to spank us, is he Scott?” Johnny asked as he got out of the tub.

“No, no,” Scott chuckled.  “But we better be good tonight, I don’t want him getting any ideas…”

Murdoch returned to his room.  He had been about to strip Juliana down and give her a bath.  She was curled up on his bed, thumb firmly planted in her mouth, doll in the other hand.  Murdoch smiled, he hated to wake her, but she needed a bath and so did he.  He gently shook her, “Come on darling, time to wake up.”

She slowly opened her eyes and yawned.  Murdoch lifted her onto his lap and let her wake up.  “Bath time.” he said.

Juliana shook her head no, “Uh huh,” she said.

“Juliana, do remember what Scott told you the other day?”

She shook her head no.

“How many swats do you get if you don’t get in the bath tub when I tell you to?”

The little girl swallowed.  She eyed him with fear.  She held up three fingers.

“That’s right,” said Murdoch, “do you want three swats?”

She shook her head no once again.

“Then you better get in that bath tub.” he said pointing to the tub.

“Por favor Papi, no manotazo.” she whispered.

Murdoch smiled at the use of Papi instead of Papa, a more familiar form of Papa.  She was saying, ‘Please Daddy, no spanking.”

“Come here little one, let me help you with your clothes.”  Murdoch quickly undressed her and placed her in the bath tub.  He scrubbed her with soap and washed her hair as quickly as he could.  He finished giving her a bath and lifted her out of the tub with a big towel.  He dried her off and helped her dress.  Once he was done, he led her to the connecting door to the boy’s room.  He knocked on the door.  “Scott?”

“Yes sir?” asked Scott opening the door.

Murdoch surveyed the room.  Both boys were dressed and the room was clean.  “Good job boys.  I want you to watch your sister while I bathe.  See if you can get her hair brushed.”

“Yes sir.” said Scott reaching for Juliana’s hand.

Murdoch returned to his room to bathe.  New hot water had been delivered in a tub for his bath.  He quickly stripped and sunk down into the tub.  He relished the hot clean water.  He allowed himself the luxury of a short soak.  With Scott watching the younger children, he had a few minutes to himself.  He leaned his head back on the edge of the tub and contemplated his very good fortune again.  What a lucky man to have three children.  Two fine boys and a beautiful little girl.  Suddenly there was a knock on the connecting door.

“Pa, it’s Scott.  Can I come in?”

“Come in son,” said Murdoch.

“Pa, could you hurry it up a bit, the children are getting hungry and cranky.”

“I’ll be ready in ten minutes,” said Murdoch.

“Thanks Pa,” said Scott gratefully.

Murdoch quickly got out of the tub, donned clean clothes and headed for the boy’s room.  He opened the door to find Johnny and Juliana sitting on one of the beds and Scott sitting on the other bed weaving a story.  Both children seemed enraptured by Scott’s story.

Murdoch smiled.  “Come on children, let’s go get dinner.”

“Yipee!” shouted Johnny.  “I could eat a whole cow.”

Murdoch chuckled.  He held out his hand for Juliana.  She held her arms out to be picked up.  He scooped her up in his big arms and she settled her head in the crook of his neck.  They found a café near the hotel and sat down for their first balanced hot meal in days.  As the meal came to a close, a familiar sight greeted the Lancer patriarch.  Juliana had slid down in her chair asleep and Johnny was leaning back in his chair asleep.  Murdoch smiled and nudged Scott.  Scott looked at his siblings and smiled.  “I guess this is going to be a habit, huh Pa?” he said as he moved around the table to get Juliana.

“Guess so,” said Murdoch as he hoisted Johnny up.  The two carried their precious burdens over to the hotel.  Murdoch unlocked the doors and gently placed Johnny on his bed, he undressed him and tucked him in.  By the time he was done with Johnny, Scott had put Juliana to bed.  The two older Lancers got undressed and crawled into their respective beds.  The night passed peaceably.  Murdoch woke first and found he couldn’t move.  He had been sleeping on his side, he turned over to find Juliana curled up next to his back.  He rubbed her back until she woke up.  She blinked bleary eyed and reached for his neck.  He pulled her to him and she rested on his arm.  Once she became fully awake, she realized her need for a chamber pot.

“Uh, Papi….” she started.

Remembering what is like when Johnny woke up, Murdoch hastily got her out of bed and directed her to the chamber pot.  Giving her a few minutes, he went and knocked on the connecting door to the boy’s room.  He opened the door and found the boys fast asleep.  He went over to Scott and gave him a little shake.  “Come on Scott, come on, time to wake up.” he patted his son’s cheek. 

Scott finally started to stir.  “I’m up Pa, I’m up.” said Scott.

“Ok, get your brother up and ready, son.  I want to have breakfast and get moving.  I’m ready to get home.”

“Yes sir,” said Scott yawning as he sat up.  Murdoch chuckled as he mussed his son’s hair and headed back to his room.

When he entered, Juliana was trying to pour water into the basin.  She had pulled a chair over to the wash basin.  Her little arms were shaking as she tried to pour water from the pitcher.  Murdoch reached the little girl in two strides.  “No, no Juliana.  It’s too heavy for you.  Let Papa do it.” Murdoch said as he grabbed the pitcher out of her hand.

“Not too heavy! I’m a big girl!” she said stamping her foot causing the chair to teeter and her to fall.

Murdoch quickly put the pitcher down and caught his daughter before she fell.  He gently placed her on the floor.  “Papa said “No”, Juliana.” he said sternly.

She stuck her bottom lip out and pouted.

Murdoch took his daughter’s chin as he bent down to her level.  “Juliana, what did Papa say if you don’t obey?”

“Spanking.” she said.

“That’s right.  Do you want a spanking?” he asked her seriously.

“No, Papa.”

“Ok then, let’s wash your hands and go get your brothers.” he said standing up and leading her to the wash bowl.  He washed and dried her hands.  He then helped her get dressed and packed up the room.  He went to the connecting door and knocked.  “Boys, you ready?” he called.

He heard a muffled, “Yes sir” and “Yeah!”.  He was going to have to talk to Johnny about using “Yes sir” and “No sir” and setting a good example for Juliana.  He entered the room and was pleased to find out it was packed up and the boys were ready to go.  The family had a grand breakfast in the same café that they had dinner in.  Once breakfast was done, they all mounted their horses and headed out for Lancer, three more days.

As they rode along the trail, Johnny’s lack of respect was eating away at Murdoch.  He knew he should talk to Johnny before things got out of hand.  He rode up next to Scott, “Scott, can you take Juliana, I want to talk to Johnny.”

“Sure Pa.”

Murdoch started to hand Juliana to Scott.  Juliana protested.  “No! No! Want Papa!” she said shaking her head.

Scott gave Murdoch an exasperated look.  Murdoch looked at Juliana and started to say something.

Scott noticed the look in his father’s eyes and wanted to dispel any arguments.  “Juliana, don’t you want to hear more about Treasure Island?”

The little girl stopped struggling and looked at her big brother.  “Come on little sister, I’ll tell you more of the story if you come ride with me and give Papa a break.”

Juliana considered it.  She really liked Scott’s stories.  “OK,” she said as she held her arms out to Scott.  Scott breathed a sigh of relief.  Murdoch had his “I’m counting to ten” look on his face.  Scott knew that his father would count to ten in three different languages if he needed to regain his composure.

Murdoch dropped back to talk to Johnny.  “John, I need to discuss something with you.”

“Yeah,” Johnny said looking at the big man that was his father warily.

“John, we need to talk about how you address me.  You need to be using “Yes sir” and “No sir” or “Yes Papa” or “No Papa.”

“I ain’t using that.” said Johnny.

“Johnny, do you agree that I am your father?”

“Yeah.”

“Do you agree a father deserves the respect of his children?”

“Not all of them.” Johnny challenged.

“John…”

“Not those that throw out their mestizo brats.” spat Johnny.

Murdoch was getting angry.  How was he going to get through to his boy? Murdoch grabbed the reins of Johnny’s horse.  “Now you listen to me son and you listen real good.  I am your father.  You will respect me.  I did not throw you and your mother out because she was pregnant with your sister or any other reason.”

Johnny just glared at him.

Murdoch saw the defiant look in his eyes, “And if you don’t start treating me with respect, you will spend a lot of time over my knee.  Understand?”

Johnny just glared at his father.

Murdoch rode up to Scott, “Scott your brother and I need to stop and talk a little, just keep riding at a walk and we will catch up to you.”

Scott raised his eyebrows, that didn’t sound good.  He started to plead with his father, but he knew that look.  “Yes sir.” he said.

Murdoch turned his horse around.  He rode back to Johnny.  “I asked you a question, son.”

“Yeah, old man, I heard you.” Johnny sneered.

Murdoch grabbed Johnny’s reins and stopped his horse.  He jumped down and grabbed Johnny by the waist and set him on the ground.  “Do you want to rephrase that?”

“Nope!”

Murdoch sighed.  In a swift movement, he had Johnny over his knee.  When he was done, he stood Johnny up.  “Now son, that’s just a start, every time you disrespect me, there will be more of the same.  Is that understood?”

Johnny glared at his father, the unshed tears in his eyes.  He just nodded.

“I asked you a question son, I expect an answer.”

“Yes sir.” he said quietly.

“Good! Now let’s get going.” Murdoch said as he placed Johnny back up in the saddle.  He smiled to himself as Johnny fidgeted to find a comfortable spot.  There wouldn’t be one on that leather saddle.  Maybe a little discomfort will remind him to mind.

The next couple of days passed uneventfully.  Finally, the Lancer ranch was in sight.  As was his custom, Murdoch stopped at the crest of the hill above the arch and surveyed Lancer with his eyes.  He breathed in and sighed contentedly.  “We’re home,” he breathed, “we’re home.”

~ end ~

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