Disclaimer: Don’t own them, just borrow and abuse for a short while
Genre: OW, h/c
A missing scene from the Pilot episode ‘The High Riders’
“Wait! It’s Johnny!”
The sudden shout from Murdoch made Scott Lancer lower his rifle despite the gunfire from the group of men urging their horses towards the ranch. He had initially thought they were following the lone rider at the front, but then he realised that their gunfire was aimed at the man! Now he could see that it was his brother urging the horse onwards, and his heart was in his mouth as he watched the palomino stretch its legs and sail effortlessly over the second rail fence.
A number of hours had passed since he and the majority of the Lancer hands had doubled back to the estancia after following the trail up through the canyon. The plan had worked beautifully; Day Pardee and his gang had taken up their positions before daybreak, fooled into thinking that the ranch was unprotected and ripe for the taking. However, the Bostonian’s delight at the successful ruse had evaporated into disappointment when he had discovered that his brother, Johnny, was gone. Murdoch did not know where, but it was obvious from their father’s tone that he thought his wild and wayward youngest son had thrown his hand in with the land pirates! For some reason Scott had not wanted to believe that, but as the night was driven back by a new dawn he began to accept that his brother was probably lost to them. Now, as the galloping horse drew nearer, he started to think differently. Then his stomach gave a sickening lurch as a shot pitched the dark-haired man from the back of his racing mount to lie unmoving in the dirt.
“Johnny!” Teresa’s anguished scream from below galvanised him into action, but Murdoch’s words checked him as he started down the steps and drew level with his father.
“Scott – it’s no use.” The older man’s face was anguished as he continued. “I don’t understand what that boy was trying to do.” Murdoch’s voice was strained as he regarded the still form of his youngest son, and Teresa turned a tear-streaked face up to him.
“He was coming back to us!” she sobbed. Scott glanced at his father for a brief moment, unable to understand why he sounded so negative, but then he continued down the steps, Murdoch close on his heels. They darted behind the cover of the wall, the blond firing at the men on foot charging towards the house. A number of the attackers ran past where Johnny lay, one even leaping over the fallen man in his haste to reach the prize. Then Murdoch was clutching frantically at Scott’s arm.
“Look at that! Look at your brother!”
As the men ran beyond him Johnny Lancer stirred and forced himself up onto one elbow, firing the revolver that had remained clutched in his right hand even as he fell from his horse. At least four of Day Pardee’s men tumbled to the ground, but others poured across the open space, hoping to overwhelm the occupants of the house by sheer weight of numbers.
“Cover me! I’m going out after him!” Not giving his father a chance to stop him, Scott raced from the protection of the wall, rapidly firing his rifle. That was sufficient to deter some of the attackers, and the swirling cloud of gun-smoke gave him the slimmest chance of reaching his brother without offering too large a target.
Barely breaking his stride, Scott hooked his hand under Johnny’s right arm and dragged him back towards the relative safety of a tree. Several more of Pardee’s men charged towards them, but this time Murdoch and his vaquero’s managed to drive them back as the Bostonian eased his brother back against the tree trunk, his left arm hanging useless at his side.
The timely warning from Johnny probably saved both of their lives; as Scott whirled he could see Pardee mere yards away, gun in hand as he crept towards them. The fair-haired man fired instinctively from the hip, the rifle spitting bullets at the leader of the land pirates. Several found their mark, and Day Pardee was dead almost before his body hit the ground.
“They got Pardee! Let’s get outta here!”
The sudden shout was enough for the remainder of the depleted assailants. Those that could turned tail and ran, throwing themselves onto horses and gathering up wounded comrades as they made their escape. A few token shots hastened their departure, and then an unnatural silence fell, broken only by the soft moans of wounded men. Scott lowered his rifle and turned back to Johnny, his face concerned as he saw his brother trying to get his feet under him. For a long moment they looked at each other, the merest hint of a smile on both their lips. Then the dark-haired man gave a brief nod of acknowledgement.
“s’good shooting,” he said, and the blond’s smile grew a little wider.
“Thanks, brother.” Then he became serious. “We’d just about given up on you, boy.”
Johnny pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Well, you had your plan and I had mine,” he stated softly as he started to push himself to his feet. A hiss of pain escaped his lips as he sagged against the tree for a moment, trying to catch his breath as a sudden wave of dizziness made him feel sick.
“Take your time,” Scott cautioned, one hand under his elbow as he helped him to stand. “Take your time.” Another quick smile was exchanged as Johnny straightened and pulled away from his brother’s grasp.
“I can make it.” The comment was undeniably stubborn, almost as if the younger man did not want or need any help from the other. Scott took a step back, his face betraying none of his emotions as he hovered just within touching distance. Stubbornness he could understand, Lord knows he had it himself by the bucketful, but he could also see that Johnny was not going to make it back to the house without help.
Almost as though he had read that thought and wanted to disprove it the dark-haired man took a few tentative steps towards the approaching Murdoch and Teresa. Scott watched him anxiously all the time, counting another half dozen steps before the effort became too much for Johnny’s failing strength. The blond saw when his brother hesitated, swaying precariously as he tried to force his feet forward again, and he also saw the moment Johnny gave up the fight. The younger man gave a shuddering sigh as his eyes closed, and the Bostonian deftly caught him over his right shoulder as he finally passed out. Shaking his head ruefully, he eased the dead weight into a more comfortable position and carried him back to the estancia, refusing Murdoch’s offer of help as Teresa fluttered around them like an agitated mother hen!
Scott ran his fingers through his dusty hair as he stared out of his bedroom window. The frantic activity of the past few hours had quietened down now, and there was almost an air of normality settling over the ranch once more. He watched as a wagon was driven towards the main gate, a number of men and several blanket covered shapes in the back. Two more of the Lancer hands, rifles across their laps, rode behind it as the dead and wounded members of Day Pardee’s gang were taken to Morro Coyo to be handed over to the law.
Then the faint murmur of voices reached his ears and he leaned forward, looking down onto the porch as Murdoch and another man walked up to a buggy. Doctor Sam Jenkins had wasted no time in responding to the fast-riding messenger who had arrived at his surgery in town, and he had spent more than two hours treating the wounded hands and Pardee’s men.
The blond sighed as Jenkins drove away; they had been extremely lucky all things considered, with just one fatality amongst the ranch hands, and about eight wounded, two of them quite seriously. A rustle of movement from behind made him turn, and he solemnly regarded the restlessly sleeping man in his bed. Johnny was one of the two whose injuries were more serious and had needed to be treated first.
When Scott had reached the house he had managed to get as far as his own bedroom with his unconscious brother, and he had carefully laid him face down on his bed. Sending Teresa for hot water and bandages, he and Murdoch had stripped off Johnny’s jacket and shirt, exposing the badly bleeding wound. The bullet was lodged in his shoulder, just below his collarbone, and there was nothing they could do until the doctor arrived, except clean it and keep the dark-haired young man as comfortable as possible. Murdoch had left Scott to watch over his brother whilst he went to check on the rest of his people and send a rider into town for Sam Jenkins.
It had taken Jenkins a good thirty minutes to locate and remove the bullet and stitch the wound. Dosed with morphine, Johnny had remained blissfully unconscious throughout the whole procedure, not even stirring when the stitches had gone in. His ribs had also been tightly bandaged, several having been cracked in the crashing fall from the galloping palomino. Sam Jenkins had left pills to help with the pain, and some powders that could be made into a potion if, or more likely when, he became feverish. Other than that there was little else he could do except return the next day to check on his patient.
Scott walked over to the bed and stood there looking down at his brother for a long time as he settled back into fitful sleep once more. He was propped on his right side, the white bandages around his shoulder and chest a stark contrast to the lightly tanned skin, and his dark unruly hair was slightly spiky with sweat.
It was a bizarre concept to Scott, one that was going to take some getting used to. Not that long ago his life had been so very different, so very ordinary, so very boring! When he had enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War, it had given him a sense of freedom, a sense of adventure, which had rapidly disappeared afterwards. The life of a wealthy and privileged bachelor in Boston had been a ceaseless round of parties, theatre, and beautiful women, and he was growing restless. He had accepted Murdoch’s summons out of curiosity and because it was a chance to do something different. Little did he realise that that ‘something different’ would include a wild and reckless younger brother!
They had not had the most auspicious of meetings, two strangers linked only by blood, with little in common except their estranged father. It had not boded well for any future relationship. Scott had just about convinced himself that he would be better off back in Boston when Day Pardee’s bullet had tumbled Johnny Lancer from the saddle of his horse.
During ‘The War Between The States’ Scott had grown close to the men in his unit, sharing danger and hardship, and he had mourned many who had been lost in the fighting. However, when he had seen Johnny lying crumpled and still and possibly dead, it had been different. It felt as though a hole had been ripped in his soul, a brother taken from him even before he had the chance to know him. It was not a pleasant feeling. Now he had been given another opportunity, and he was ready to embrace it.
Suddenly Johnny stirred again, his brow furrowing as he murmured indistinctly in his sleep. Scott was about to place his hand on his forehead, to try and reassure him, when there was a quick knock on the door and Murdoch walked in.
“Scott,” he acknowledged. “How is he?”
“Restless.” The fair-haired man took a step back as the rancher came across to the bed and awkwardly felt Johnny’s brow.
“Hmmm. Feels like he might have a touch of fever.” There was no emotion in Murdoch’s voice; he might just as well have been talking about his horse. In the weeks and months that followed Scott would learn that their father did not show his feelings easily, but right now the Bostonian simply felt dismayed. “Well, Sam Jenkins’ll be back in the morning to check on him.” He paused and eyed the blond with a faint smile. “Teresa’s made lunch if you’d care to join me.”
“No, thank you, Sir.” Scott glanced at the sleeping Johnny. “I’ll sit with him for a while….. in case he wakes and needs something.”
“Alright.” In truth Murdoch was glad but he was not about to admit it to the stiffly formal young man standing before him; if Johnny was coming down with a fever he didn’t really want to leave him on his own. “I’ll get Maria to bring you up some coffee.”
Once Murdoch had left Scott dragged the easy chair up beside the bed and settled himself into it. Leaning forward he followed Murdoch’s example and carefully laid his hand on Johnny’s forehead. For him there was no awkwardness, and his fingers gently touched the warm skin, a frown of concern on his face. The fever was definitely coming, but Scott had no intention of leaving his brother.
He would sleep in the chair all night if he had to.
It was almost dark when Scott woke, and he sat up in confusion, stretching to ease the kinks from his back. He didn’t remember falling asleep in the chair but he must have done. Someone had obviously been into the room while he slept; the tray of coffee things had gone from the table and a blanket had been tucked around him. Johnny was still fast asleep, but he was a little more restless than before and he was no longer propped on his side, lying on his back now with his right arm flung over his head.
Scott threw aside his blanket and moved across to sit on the edge of the bed, studying his brother’s features carefully. Lines of pain crinkled the corners of his eyes and sweat beaded the younger man’s upper lip, as his mouth twitched with silent mumbled words. Scott didn’t need to feel his skin to know that he was burning with fever, and he went over to the wash-stand, grabbing a towel and filling the bowl with cold water. He carried the bowl back to the bedside table and dunked the towel in it, wringing it out and using it to wipe the sweat from his brother’s face and neck. Johnny drew a shuddering breath and turned his head away from the cold dampness, a faint groan slipping from his lips as Scott folded the towel and placed it on his forehead.
“Just rest,” he murmured even though the other could not hear him. He sat back in the chair and tried to gather his muddled thoughts. It had all been so simple when he had first arrived in Morro Coyo; an hour of his time for a thousand dollars had seemed like a fair trade, but he hadn’t counted on Pardee, and he certainly hadn’t counted on Johnny! Murdoch had been an unknown quantity, was still an unknown quantity; a tough, uncompromising, and proud man, who asked no favours and gave none. He still wasn’t sure what his father thought of him, or how he felt about Murdoch, but he was beginning to have a grudging respect for the man who had tamed and held this expanse of land in apparent readiness for his sons.
And then there was Johnny.
Never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined having a brother like him. His face softened as he regarded the dark-haired man, a stranger and yet not a stranger, who had crept so quickly and completely under his skin. This wild, reckless young man had awakened emotions he didn’t know he had, and quite frankly it scared him. ‘Family’ up until now had been him and his Grandfather back in Boston; now that word had a whole new meaning. He leaned back and closed his eyes, trying to work out how things had changed, and he realised that for him it was the heart-stopping moment when his brother had been shot from his horse.
For him his life would never quite be the same again.
He wasn’t sure what had woken him at first.
A sound? A movement?
It took him a while to get his eyes open; his lashes were so crusted with sleep that he felt as though he had been laying face down in a desert. He blinked several times, feeling the sweat run down the side of his nose, and when his vision started to clear he realised that it was late. The curtains were drawn shut and a lamp glowed brightly on the bedside table. Then he frowned. Where was he? Although he had only been at Lancer for a short while, this was not his familiar bedroom.
Pushing aside the blanket that covered him he started to swing his legs out of bed, and his senses suddenly reeled as pain tore at his shoulder and ribs. He gave an involuntary gasp as he slumped back against the pillow, closing his eyes as his breath caught in his throat.
“Take it easy, Johnny.” A hand dropped lightly on his uninjured shoulder, fingers gently kneading the bunched muscles. “Just take a deep breath.”
It was almost impossible to take any kind of breath with his ribs so tightly bound, but Johnny managed a few shallow, panting breaths until the pain receded to a more bearable level and he could open his eyes again.
“S….Scott?” He blinked up at the man leaning over him, hoping he wasn’t imagining the anxiety in the blue eyes.
“I’m here, brother.” The warm, reassuring touch on his shoulder disappeared as the Bostonian pulled the blanket back over him. “How do you feel?”
“Like my horse fell on me,” came the truthful reply, and Scott smiled.
“Well, you cracked a few ribs when you fell off him,” he told his brother. “And it took the doctor quite a while to dig that bullet out of your shoulder.”
“Feels like its still there,” Johnny said in a strained voice, and he gave a sharp hiss as he tried to raise his arm.
“He left some pills for the pain,” the fair-haired man pointed out. “Do you want one?” Johnny considered it for a moment, and then he nodded.
“An’ I’m hot and thirsty,” he stated with a soft groan.
“Let’s sit you up a bit.” Scott slipped his arm behind his brother’s shoulders and raised him up, plumping the pillows against the headboard so he was almost sitting up. “Better?”
“Yeah,” Johnny admitted. The pull on his ribs didn’t feel quite so bad now, but the pain in his shoulder was still fierce and raw, and he grimaced as he flexed his fingers.
“The doc left something for that too,” the fair-haired man pointed out as he reached for the sling on the bedside table. “Lean forward a bit.” Scott slipped it over his brother’s head and gently eased his left arm into it. Careful as he was, Johnny was white and sweating by the time Scott had it settled to his satisfaction. The younger man leaned back, his eyes closed and his teeth clenched as he tried to stop himself from trembling. “Here.” Scott’s fingers were around his right wrist, turning his hand palm upwards as he dropped a small white pill into it Johnny hesitated a moment before popping it into his mouth, then the fair-haired man was holding a tumbler of cool water to his lips, and he gulped at it greedily.
“Thanks,” Johnny said as he pushed the glass away, his thirst almost quenched. He thought he remembered a glass being pressed to his lips before, but it was just a vague memory and he couldn’t really be sure. He rubbed at his forehead as a frown creased his face and he glanced sideways at Scott. “What’s happening out there?”
“Out there?” Scott raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Nothing. Everything’s been quiet since yesterday.”
“Yesterday?” Johnny sounded perplexed. “But….. how…?” His voice trailed off in confusion as Scott sat on the edge of the bed, his face serious.
“You’ve been pretty much out of it for a day and a half,” he told him softly. “Doc Jenkins came by earlier this morning, and we managed to get another one of his fever potions down you.” Then he grinned. “You’ve slept the whole time away….. in my bed!”
Scott’s disarming smile was a mask that hid the real truth behind his words. He wasn’t about to tell Johnny how worried they had all been when the fever had taken hold of him the previous day. Nor would he admit that he had spent the entire night at his bedside, cooling and soothing him, finally snatching some much needed rest in Johnny’s bed after the doctor had gone and Teresa had taken his place for a few hours. His grin didn’t waver as the younger man glanced around, realisation gradually dawning in his eyes.
“Thought it wasn’t my room,” he admitted finally. “Sorry.”
“My room, your room. It doesn’t seem to matter very much here,” Scott replied, referring to the annoying tendency of both Johnny and Teresa to treat any room as their own, but the sting was taken out of his words by the amusement in his eyes.
“I guess.” Johnny wasn’t really listening. Sam Jenkins pill seemed to be working; the pain in his shoulder had dwindled to a dull ache and he closed his eyes as he felt a comfortable drowsiness slipping over him, even though he had already slept for nearly two days. Suddenly a hand touched his shoulder and he started, eyes snapping open in alarm. “Huh? What?”
“You okay?” Scott sounded concerned. He had been talking to Johnny but it had become apparent that his brother had not heard a word he had said. Sam Jenkins had told them that the pills would help with the pain but he didn’t say that they would make Johnny sleepy. His hand went up to briefly touch his brother’s forehead. “Well, it don’t feel like your fever’s coming back,” he said thankfully. He started to get up but Johnny’s hand shot out and grabbed his forearm in a fierce grip.
“What?” Scott sat back on the bed and waited for his brother to speak.
Johnny took a moment to gather his thoughts, and he used that time to study the man who had undoubtedly saved his life, the man who was his brother. Like Scott, he too found the idea strange; his first thought had been that this dandified Easterner would not last very long at Lancer. However, those thoughts had quickly disappeared when Scott had proven he wasn’t intimidated by Pardee’s men in Morro Coyo, nor in the fight to save the ranch. His own plan, getting close to Pardee and learning what he was going to do, was no plan at all. All his life he had lived on his wits, not thinking about the consequences or how he was going to get out of a difficult situation, and once again it had almost got him killed.
“Why’d you risk your life for me?” The emotion in those words and the frank blue gaze took the Bostonian by surprise.
“What do you mean?” Scott looked suitably embarrassed, but Johnny was not about to let it go.
“You could’ve been killed trying to save my sorry butt out there! Why?”
Scott looked at him steadily, his expression unreadable, and he considered his next words very carefully. “Well I thought you still had Murdoch’s money in your pocket,” he said at length, no inflection in his tone. “I figured it was a bit unfair for the man to lose a thousand dollars as well as a son in the same day.”
Johnny did not know what else to say, and he couldn’t hide the disappointment in his voice. In spite of, or maybe because of, their differences he had started to warm to the fair-haired man from Boston: Scott was not lacking in courage; he had stood up to him, knocked him down, and shown him exactly the kind of man he was, and yet he obviously considered him some kind of money-grabbing wastrel. That hurt more than he cared to admit, and he closed his eyes with a sigh and let his head slump back against the pillows. This time it appeared that his instincts had been wrong.
Scott regretted his words almost as soon as they had tumbled from his lips. It was a poor attempt at a joke on his part to lighten the mood because he didn’t want to let Johnny see how much his wounding had affected him. It simply wasn’t in his nature to let such things show. However, he had not been prepared for the disappointment and misery on his brother’s face.
“Johnny….” he began hesitantly, leaning forward and dropping a hand on his shoulder.
“The money’s in a drawer in my room.” The younger man did not open his eyes, but his words were bitter. “You can count it if you want.”
“I’m sorry.” Johnny felt the fingers tighten slightly, and he cracked his eyes open a fraction. Finally there it was, what he had unconsciously and unknowingly wanted to see, the concern and worry on his brother’s face. There was also the hint of contrition in the blue eyes as the fair-haired man smiled at him. “I never could tell a joke,” Scott admitted. “Guess that hasn’t changed.”
“But I still wanna know why ya did it!” The younger man now looked at him enquiringly; he hoped he knew the reason, but he wanted to hear it from Scott, he needed to hear it from his brother. The Bostonian met and held his gaze, blue eyes so like his own, where every other physical appearance was so different, and suddenly he knew. This was what ‘home’ felt like, the sense of belonging and caring. Naturally he cared a great deal about his Grandfather, but he never really felt as though he belonged in Boston. This was what he needed, this was where he belonged, and he realised that in Johnny he had found a kindred spirit that filled the void that he hadn’t known was in his life.
“Because you’re family,” he said quietly, and now he lowered his gaze. “God help me, because I care!” There, he had said it. He waited for a long moment, waiting for the mocking laughter or some other rebuff, but then warm fingers closed over his and squeezed gently.
“Gracias, hermano mio.”
Those three words sent a shiver down Scott’s spine; there was such strong emotion and wistful longing in Johnny’s voice that it made the blond glance up at him sharply.
“Her...mano mio?” His tongue stumbled over the unfamiliar phrase, and the way he said it made Johnny smile. “I don’t know…. what does it mean?”
“Hermano mio,” his younger brother repeated, and then it dawned on him that whilst Scott had never heard it before, he had never said it before. “It means ‘brother mine’.”
The sense of belonging was completed by those words. Scott was aware that his relationship with Murdoch would need to be worked on; there was simply too much friction there for it to be comfortable at the moment, but with Johnny it was different. Somehow he always knew that it was going to be different.
“Has a nice ring to it,” he said, and Johnny’s smile stretched a little wider. Suddenly, the smile became a barely stifled yawn and Scott frowned. “You need to rest!”
A second yawn from the dark-haired man emphasised his point, and Johnny made no protest as he leaned forward and allowed his brother to remove all but one pillow that was propping him up. As Scott carefully eased him flat, Johnny grasped the blond’s forearm.
“Are you staying?”
“Staying?” For a brief moment Scott was puzzled, then he realised what Johnny meant. “You mean here? At Lancer? Are you?” He flung the question back at his brother, and was rewarded with a sleepy half smile.
“I’ll let you know.” He gave another huge yawn and snuggled further down the bed, wincing as he jarred his ribs.
“Sleep!” Scott ordered, pulling the blanket up over him and turning the lamp down to a faint glow. “I’ll stop by again later.”
The blond watched for a few moments until Johnny’s eyes closed and his breathing deepened as he drifted off. It was going to be a few more days at least until his brother was back on his feet, so he reconciled himself to sleeping in Johnny’s room for the foreseeable future. With that in mind he gathered up a few personal items that he needed and moved quietly to the door. Just as he reached for the handle a sleepily whispered word stopped him in his tracks.
The Bostonian smiled in the darkness. “Goodnight, hermano mio,” he whispered. It was a phrase he was going to practice until he got it perfect.
Comments to: email@example.com