Word Count 5,876
Thanks to Chris for the beta
This is an old story that was tucked away
for a while and needed work- I hope y’all like it.
There are stories about Johnny’s aversion to
Laudanum because of a past addiction, and
nightmares but this
might be another reason.
He heard voices, whispers, annoying like buzzing insects, but couldn’t understand what the voices were saying. Conversations were spoken softly, and he’d picked up only fragments of sentences, but he did hear his name and other words like brother and son. He knew he was home but didn’t know what happened to cause this confusion, this lapse in time and memory.
But he was sure of one thing— pain and a lot of it. He felt like he would puke and knew he would explode if the rolling in his stomach was any indication. He tried to move, tried to sit up, but strong hands held him still until he gasped for air as the first gag tried to push his belly into his throat; then, he felt himself rolled on his side, a cool cloth held to his forehead and immediately was there to clean his mouth. He retched until nothing was left and felt like his guts had just turned inside out.
The pain in his head was excruciating, but nothing compared to the burning pain that ripped through his chest— it was lightning, hot and fiery that ripped him apart. He groaned as a spoon was forced between his lips, and the bitter, vile laudanum slid down his throat. He tried to push it away but could not do anything except swallow it down. Damn…
Murdoch and Scott watched Johnny struggle against the medicine and finally settle into a drug-induced slumber. It never ceased to amaze, and annoy them, how determined Johnny was to not take what would be sure to ease his discomfort. Why he fought the medication as he did was a mystery to father and brother. If he could get sufficient, restful sleep, he would heal faster.
However, Johnny always fought the laudanum and morphine. Without it, the healing process would take much longer, and when Johnny was in pain, everyone was in pain. No other person could cause this amount of chaos and disruption in a household than Johnny Madrid Lancer. If he was ill, so was everyone within earshot. Murdoch had never seen anything like it, and the frustration of keeping his son quiet, much less confined to bed, was a major chore and concern to all involved.
Johnny had returned to the ranch one day overdue from a trip to Merced, in the middle of a rainstorm complete with thunder and lightning, a bullet in his shoulder, and a compound fracture of the left collarbone. The slug was fired from a rifle at close range. With Johnny senseless and unaware, there was no way for Murdoch and Scott to know it knocked him backward off his horse. The impact with the cold, hard ground caused the collar bone to break with a sickening snap as it splintered, forcing the bones to protrude through the skin with shards that caught in the fabric of his shirt and the wool lining of his coat. How he had managed to get back in the saddle was anyone’s guess, but he mounted his horse and made it back to Lancer, arriving unconscious and drenched with the rain.
Sam removed the bullet, set the collarbone, pulled the loose bone shards free, and bound the arm to Johnny’s chest, effectively eliminating all movement. Sam Jenkins knew the battle had not yet begun; he’d had Johnny under his care many times before, and the young man was anything but a model patient. He proved to be anxious, and agitated, argumentive, and headstrong— too much for his own good, and the most effective course of action was to ‘cut him off at the pass’, so to speak, and try to make it easy on everyone. One had to be a step ahead of that boy at all times; he was sly and would try to charm his way out of the necessary medicines and treatments. We’ll see how long that will work, Sam mused. But, for now, all they could do was wait until Johnny was lucid enough to know what was going on around him.
Scott watched his brother sleep. It was not natural. Johnny was usually laughing and joking, making a pest of himself, not lying in bed, unconscious and feverish. Scott wished nothing more than to have Johnny open his eyes, sit up, and start with his teasing, even if it was usually damaging to Scott’s ego.
Now he watched Johnny’s struggle to breathe; he could almost feel the pain in his own body. Why the hell does he have all these accidents? No, this was definitely not an accident. Johnny was shot at close range, and whoever was responsible had stomped him hard with their boots. No accident, but again, why so often? Johnny is about the most cautious and guarded man I know! And he certainly didn’t deserve this! The more Scott thought on it, the angrier he became but, for the time being, had to be content with laying the cool cloth across Johnny’s forehead to calm his restlessness and the ramblings locked in the fevered throes of the nightmares.
Wild drug-induced dreams repeatedly played in his brain. He wished they would stop, leave his mind blank so he could rest… but they continued to torment him. Once they ended, they would begin again with a vengeance, all because of who he was and what he used to be. He’d left a trail of bloodshed and death wherever he went. The men he’d killed came back to haunt him in his nightmares, complete with the bullet holes he’d put in their hides, and he couldn’t get away, couldn’t turn his head, couldn’t say a word. All he could do was watch over and over as they haunted him in tormenting night terrors.
Again, there were voices, and he couldn’t make out what they were saying, no individual words this time. The pain was worse; he needed to move and get the pressure off his back. He didn’t know how long he’d been in this same position, but he knew it was too long. He tried to lift his head but decided against that idea as blinding white pain exploded in front of his eyes.
“Easy, Johnny, don’t move, brother. Are you going to be sick?” Scott asked quickly.
“Dunno… gotta… get offa… my back… h-hurts,” Johnny mumbled, feeling like he was talking around a mouthful of choking, dry sand.
“No, brother, don’t move. Let me do it; I’ll move you. Wait a minute,” Scott eased him up, then stuffed a pillow behind Johnny’s back, leaning him to the right, then gently added another pillow behind Johnny’s shoulders, building a supportive fluffy mountain that, Scott hoped, was a comfort to him, then asked, “Better?”
“Yeah, thanks, Scott.” His eyes never opened until a deep, rumbling, congested cough tore through his chest and throat, making him groan in sheer agony.
Scott quickly leaned him forward and eased him into a sitting position, hoping to clear his lungs of the phlegm that threatened to choke him. Scott held a towel to his mouth as Johnny coughed and held his chest with his right hand and arm. Muscles snagged across cracked ribs and over the broken collar bone, triggering enough pain to send him catapulting back into unconsciousness, but he endured the agony, gasped for air, and finally got himself under a degree of control. He leaned back, panting, willing his breath to a slower rhythm.
Scott gently wiped the sweaty features, pausing the cool cloth on his brother’s forehead.
“S-Scott?” Johnny asked quietly.
“Yes? What can I get for you, Johnny?”
“… gun… shoot me… will ya?” Johnny rasped.
Scott smiled, but he was not sure if Johnny had been joking or not. “No, brother, I won’t, but I can get you this; open your mouth, Johnny.”
“Uh uh… don’t want… it,” Johnny panted out.
It was the response Scott expected, waited for, but didn’t want to hear.
“Johnny, you need to take this, it will help you sleep, and if you get good rest, you’ll heal faster, OK? Now open up,” and he waited, and waited
“… uh uhhhh…” and then Johnny was out, not restful sleep, but sleep nonetheless.
Scott watched his brother, wondering why Johnny would not take the medicine that Sam left. He fought desperately against them. Why? If Johnny started moving around too soon, he could easily re-injure himself, and Scott became more than aggravated at the situation. He vowed that when Johnny was up to it, the two of them would have a little chat. No more childish behavior. It was going to come to an end soon.
The door opened, and Murdoch entered, then quietly closed it behind him. “How’s he doing, Scott?” worry etched his weathered face.
“He’d be better if he took the laudanum, but he won’t, as usual,” Scott voiced his disappointment.
“Yes, I know. I think there is something more to this than Johnny being stubborn. I wonder if something happened to him while he was… Madrid, with no one to look after him,” then Murdoch’s eyes widened. Turning to Scott, he voiced a question. “I wonder if he’d been given too much while injured? It could have had drastic effects. We’ll have to find out if anything happened before he came home to Lancer.” Murdoch stated resolutely.
Without warning, Johnny began to cough, clutching his chest as if it were tearing apart.
Sam chose that moment to enter the room and quickly took charge of the situation. “Has he had any laudanum recently?” he asked, needing an answer before administering another drug.
“No, not since I’ve been sitting with him,” Scott said quietly.
“Sit him up straighter; he needs to get those lungs clear,” he commanded as Murdoch and Scott carefully lifted Johnny to a sitting position. Sam reached into his bag and withdrew a syringe that he filled with a small dose of morphine and injected it into Johnny’s arm.
Johnny tried to push it away, but Sam deftly avoided the shove, and, within a matter of minutes, Johnny settled. Sam cleaned the needle and syringe and stored them in the case. As the morphine took away the pain, Johnny slid into the blissful haven of unconsciousness.
“Sam, he’s been fighting the laudanum all day,” Murdoch reported.
“Yes, I thought he would be. I am starting to lower the doses of morphine, but young Johnny and I are going to have a little talk when he wakes up. He has to realize that he needs this medication, like it or not, and it’s critical that he gets enough good sleep to get well.” Sam mirrored Scott’s frustrations.
Scott shrugged, thinking that Johnny had better hurry and wake up soon because he was in for a lot of talking.
A light tapping on the door announced Maria, and she slipped into the room. She handed Sam a bowl and a spoon, then left after taking a long gaze at her niño. She helped bring Johnny into this world, and when he was sick or hurt, she was there to see he got what he needed. Maria and Scott made a formidable pair.
“Thank you, Maria,” Sam said as he took the bowl and set it on the table, then he proceeded to roll up his sleeves. He washed his hands and began to check the wound and collarbone. Cutting the bandage off the shoulder was a painstaking ordeal; immobilizing Johnny’s arm to keep the break secure made accessing the bullet wound difficult.
When all the bandages were removed, he checked the wound. After much poking and prodding, satisfied there had been no more bleeding and no infection had set in, he applied the salve that Maria had brought in the bowl
and replaced the bandages.
When there was pain, the coughing started, prompting Johnny to take a deep breath or gasp. Then there was more pain and a sharp gasp that produced more coughing. It was a vicious, hellish circle that had no end.
“Maria is cooking a tonic for his throat. Hopefully, it will ease the cough and maybe even help with the nausea.” Sam looked at Murdoch and Scott, then continued: “And you two need to rest, or I’ll have three patients on my hands, and right now, I have enough dealing with this one! Now get some sleep!”
“I’ll stay, Sam. You may need some help with him,” Scott volunteered.
Sam stopped his work and looked at Scott. “You know you’re both alike; he won’t leave you either,” Sam turned his attention to Johnny.
It was late in the afternoon when Johnny started to rouse. He slowly opened his eyes; it was an effort and more than he wanted to deal with at the moment. He turned his head, only to have explosions detonate, lighting off bolts of white-hot pain. He grimaced and touched his forehead with his hand as the pounding hit with a vengeance.
“Johnny? Is there anything I can get for you?” Scott asked quietly.
“… water…” The voice came dry and gravelly.
Scott slid behind him and lifted him forward to help him swallow.
“Thanks, Boston,” Johnny sighed, leaning back against the pillows.
“Do you have any pain?”
With this question, Johnny couldn’t hold back the laugh. Do I have any pain? Funny. But the weak laugh turned immediately into a harsh cough and continued until there was no more breath; his bloodshot, scratchy eyes watered uncontrollably, and he held his chest with his hand as if to ease the pain.
Scott helped him sit up and gently stuffed another pillow behind Johnny’s shoulders. He then reached for the spoon and cup from the table by the bed. Dipping the spoon, he retrieved a dose of the syrupy, noxious-smelling concoction out of the cup and held it to Johnny’s mouth.
“Johnny, no more playing around. Maria made this. It will help with the cough…”
“Yeah? So will… a bullet…” and Johnny let his head fall back to rest on the pillows and closed his eyes.
Scott stood, ready to outsmart his brother, then realized Johnny was sleeping. He was not about to wake Johnny up to give him something to help him sleep. He returned the cup and spoon to the table and sat in the chair in total frustration. Their little chat was coming fast, and Scott wasn’t sure how much more of this he could take. And the evening wore on.
Sam quietly entered the room to check on his patient. Taking in Scott’s disappointed face and Johnny’s shallow breathing, he deduced that things had not gone well.
“How’s he doing, Scott?” Sam inquired quietly.
“Stubborn, mule-headed… The next time he wakes up and refuses the medication, I’m going to sit on him and force it down his throat!”
Sam thought that Scott must have put in a miserable couple of hours up here. “I don’t recommend that, Scott.”
“Why is he so difficult, Sam?” Scott was clearly agitated; he stood and ran a hand through his sun-bleached hair. “There are things here that will make him feel better, yet he refuses them!”
“Scott, I know this is difficult, but you’ll have to wait and ask him that because I sure don’t have an answer. And you’re going to have to wait until he can get more than one word out without that cough doing its best to tear him apart. As long as he’s sleeping, peacefully sleeping, he’s alright. And, speaking of sleeping, when are you going to rest? I mean it, Scott, you need to sleep…” Sam was adamant. “I’ll sit with him, and you go… NOW!”
Scott resigned himself to the fact that he really did need to get some rest; perhaps a little sleep would help relieve the feelings of helplessness that plagued him; then, with a clear and fresh mind, he would be there to convince his obstinate brother to stop acting like a two-year-old. He left the room with one last irritated glance at Johnny, then closed the door behind him.
Sam settled in the chair, paging through his latest edition of the medical journal he had just received from his colleague in Boston. Progress had come a long way since the last notification he’d received. He had just started reading about a new procedure in treatments for pneumonia and bronchial conditions. Very appropriate reading for this case, he thought.
“He gone?” came the raspy voice.
“Johnny! How long have you been awake?” Sam’s surprise showed on his face as he surreptitiously reached for a bottle from the table. His patient was going to take this dose.
“…just a… few minutes….” A cough started to rumble out of his throat, and Sam was there to lift his shoulders and quickly maneuvered the spoon in
Johnny’s mouth before he knew what was happening.
Johnny choked it down, grimacing as he did. “Dirty, Sam… plain dirty,” he rasped out and screwed his eyes shut.
“Well, with you, there’s no other way to play this game, Johnny. This will help with the cough and help you relax, not knock you out but just relax you. And you can thank Maria for it; she labored all afternoon to make it… just for you.”
Sam smiled as he saw the corners of Johnny’s mouth twitch in the early stages of a grin. Johnny’s and Maria’s bond went deep, and the cook, housekeeper, and aid to Sam paid extra attention to her self-appointed duty as Johnny’s caregiver. “You know, Scott’s ready to sit on you and forcefully give you the laudanum.”
“Yeah, I heard… him.” Johnny peeled open his blood-shot, glazed eyes.
He looked miserable, and Sam felt a momentary pang of sympathy for him. “Johnny, we are all worried about you; why don’t you take the medications?” Sam watched him closely, trying to pick up anything that would tell him the reason Johnny fought against it, but young Lancer gave nothing away.
“Can’t,” was all the response Sam got before Johnny’s eyes closed again.
Sam did not push the issue deciding to let him rest. And the coughing eased as Johnny slid into a restful, and not drugged, slumber.
The clock in the great room struck two in the morning; the soft, muted chimes brought Scott to consciousness. He’d slept a few hours, then relieved Sam to sit with his obstinate little brother. He glanced over at Johnny and saw a tiny reflection of the dimmed lamplight in Johnny’s eyes. Silently reaching the table, he got a spoonful of Maria’s cough remedy ready and slipped it in Johnny’s mouth to glide easily down his throat producing only a mild cough and a husky groan.
“You been talkin’… ta Sam? Same dirty tricks…” Johnny panted out.
“You set the rules for this, Johnny. You could make this a lot easier for all of us. Why don’t you take the medication?” Scott pressed for answers.
“Can’t, Scott. Too dange…” The coughing started to explode when Johnny talked, and he couldn’t finish as he clutched at his chest.
Scott was on the bed beside him in a heartbeat, raising him up to help clear the congestion. Finally, the cough subsided and allowed Johnny to settle down, then he closed his eyes. Once again, Scott was left with no answer, but there was a small clue. Was Johnny about to say ‘dangerous’? Johnny thought it was too dangerous to take any medication? It piqued Scott’s curiosity; he would soon find some answers.
There was something more to this, as Murdoch had implied. But Scott would have to wait through the night to find out what it was. The hours passed agonizingly slow. The tick-tock, tick-tock of the clock seemed to harass him, mock him, and finally, the dawn peeked over the valley as a new day began. A day that Scott would make his younger brother explain his actions. His… fears? Whatever it was, Scott would get to the bottom of it for all their sakes.
But, much to his dismay, he would have to wait for answers. Wait for Maria to try and coax Johnny to eat a little broth, which made an unexpected reappearance shortly after taking it. Wait for Sam to show up and check Johnny over for the daily examination, wait for Murdoch to see for himself how Johnny was feeling, which was always met with an “I’m fine,” but they all knew that was a stretch; anyone with half a brain could tell Johnny was miserable. Johnny would tell them he was fine, however badly hurt he was. Lastly, he had to wait for Maria and Teresa to clean the room and restock the medical supplies needed to aid in Johnny’s recovery.
Finally, late in the afternoon, Scott made his way to his brother’s room with no interruptions. He sat in the chair and waited for Johnny to open his glazed, blue eyes to have the long-overdue talk. Or try to talk, as the irritating cough continued making a pest of itself.
When the blue eyes did open, they seemed brighter as Johnny rewarded his brother with a smile, ‘the’ smile that Scott had been waiting for almost a week now. The Johnny Madrid Lancer smile that Scott had grown to know and love.
Johnny opened his eyes to see his brother watching him, and although he never liked it when anyone observed him, it was different with Scott. It was a comfort to know his brother was there. Scott had grown to be Johnny’s ‘rock’, the stabilizing factor in his life. The anchor that Johnny had begun to depend on… Wait! Johnny Madrid never depended on anyone. Until now. Scott would always have his back.
He sensed that Boston was going to ask, needed to ask him something, and he just hoped he could answer because his brother deserved it. An honest answer. So, he waited for Scott to start.
“How are you feeling, Johnny? Any better?” The concern was evident in Scott’s eyes.
“Yeah, some, I guess…,” Johnny yawned deeply, and no cough erupted, which was a good sign. Until now, any use of his throat has been irritating and produced a fit of coughing. When none threatened, they were both relieved. So Scott began to address the issue.
“Johnny, I want to ask you something, and I need you to be serious and level with me… alright?” he turned pleading blue-gray eyes on his younger brother.
Johnny started to tense… what was Scott going to ask? “Well, ya can ask all ya want, but I ain’t gonna tell ya my secret about Cindy at The Angels Nest…”
Scott looked at him for a minute in disbelief. Then rolled his eyes. “I already know about Cindy at The Angels Nest, but that’s not what I want to ask. And I don’t want any… bullshit. Understand?”
Uh oh, bullshit outta Scott meant a serious talk… Johnny’s defenses started to build. You’ll get what I’m willin’ ta share… an’ no more. But he waited for Scott to continue.
“Johnny, I need to understand this… predetermined idea of yours to not take any medication when you’re sick or injured. You will mend better and faster with it. Do you understand? All anyone here wants is for you to get better.”
Johnny’s obstinance faded, knowing his family needed to understand. “It’s just the way it is, Scott. I can’t do it…” Johnny’s voice was soft; he could only whisper the words. “Can you get me some water, Boston?”
Scott poured him a glass and helped him drink.
“Thanks, brother,” and he settled his head back on the pillows and closed his eyes for a minute. Scott was still waiting when he opened them, watching him with a patient but determined look on his face.
“Why is it ‘the way that it is’? Why ‘can’t’ you? You started to say something before that sounded an awful lot like ‘it was too dangerous,’ but you didn’t finish; you fell asleep. Were you going to say dangerous?” he persisted.
Johnny looked away and didn’t speak for a moment. He finally turned back to Scott and knew he would not get out of this without some kind of explanation. Scott deserved this. He deserved to understand why. They all did, and deep down, Johnny knew he had not really been fair to any of them. All they wanted was to help him, and he was making everything difficult for them.
“Siddown, Scott,” Johnny said with a sigh. Scott sat on the bed next to him as Johnny wondered how much he would tell his brother. Might as well tell him the whole damn thing. He ain’t gonna let it go if I don’t, he thought to himself. He tried to take a breath, and it produced a small cough. Scott quickly reached for the bowl and spoon of the remedy Maria had made. He gave Johnny the “big brother” look, and after a minute, Johnny took the dreaded medication without saying a word. After he choked it down and his belly stopped its threat to reject it, Johnny looked at Scott again and began.
“You want the whole thing or just the important parts?”
“If it’s pertinent, I want the whole thing,” Scott answered with a determined look in his eyes.
Johnny shot him an ‘oh shit’ look, ran a shaky hand through his hair, and sighed again. Taking a short breath, then asking for more water, he started.
“When I was about seven, Mama gave me somethin’ ta help me sleep. Can’t remember if I was sick or what, but she gave me this shit ta drink. An’ it did the job cause next thing I knew, I was bein’ hauled outta bed an’ had the crap beat outta me. She’d already been slapped around by the pendejo she’d hooked up with. He got drunk an’ beat the hell outta her an’ then came after me. If I hadn’t been drugged, maybe I coulda got her away. But I couldn’t.
“The next time anything happened, I was about fifteen. Got cut by a bastard with a knife. It was pretty deep an’ was bleedin’ a lot. I went to the old man that ran the livery stable figurin’ he knew about takin’ care of horses, an’ maybe he could help me. Well, he patched me up. Stitched me tagether and gave me something for the pain, but it knocked me out. I woke up to the guy with the knife holdin’ it against my throat an’ almost got sliced again. The old man got there an’ smacked him with an ax handle before he did much damage.”
The tickle grew into a cough that forced Johnny to hold his hand across his torso for support. Scott reached for the water and eased his brother forward for a cool drink.
“Your welcome, Johnny. Here, let me fix those pillows before you slide off them.” Scott reached around his brother’s shoulders and straightened the wayward pile.
As Johnny settled back onto the supporting pillows, he took a shallow breath, then continued his explanation.
“Then there was the time I took a bullet in the shoulder, and a priest took me in, got the bullet out, an’ was tryin’ ta get the fever down so the dreams’d stop. He dosed me up with laudanum so heavy that I didn’t know the pendejos that shot me found out where I was an’ dragged me outta the back room of the church. I didn’t know, Scott! They had me sittin’ on a horse with a rope around my neck, ready to hang me before I came to an’ realized what was goin’ on. I… can’t do it, just can’t do it…”
Johnny took a minute to settle his thoughts and let his brother think about what he heard. Then began again.
“You, ah, you gettin’ the picture, or ya wanna hear more? ‘Cuz there is more, a lot more,” Johnny stopped and reached for the glass of water to ease the dryness before it would prompt another wave of coughing.
Scott helped him sit up and ease forward as he emptied the glass, then leaned back on the pillows, trying for a more comfortable position.
Scott didn’t say anything for a while. He digested what Johnny had just told him, but something wasn’t right. He needed clarification to understand what Johnny implied. Johnny was at Lancer now. Did he think something would happen just because he’d had medicine?
Johnny’s eyes narrowed as he read Boston’s expression. “Ya still ain’t gettin’ what I’m sayin’.”
Scott met his gaze only to look away. “It sounds like you’re saying that you don’t trust us to help you. Am I right, brother?” Scott asked, hurt at this thought, and he couldn’t fight the splinters that began to tear away at his heart.
“No, that ain’t what I’m sayin’, Scott. Not at all. I’m sayin’ that it’s hard ta let it go, just like that. Cuz it started when I was so young an’ seein’ my mother layin’ on the floor, bruised an’ bleedin’ an’ bein’ scared cuz I couldn’t help her or myself. It stays with ya, an’ then she died, an’ I couldn’t help then, either. That right there scared the shit outta me for a long time. It still does, I guess. All the times somethin’ like that happened, I was in a place that shoulda been safe, but none of ‘em were.
“Hell, Scott, I was in jail once, hurt and the doc there poured laudanum down my throat; next thing I knew was getting’ dragged out the door an’ tossed in the street an’ almost shot. All the places you’da thought would be safe, with my mother, an old man’s livery, not a threatenin’ place, a church, a place of peace and worship… an’ like I said, there’s more. It’s there, Scott. It’s just there, an’ I can’t do a damn thing about it. I wish I could, believe me, but it’s happened all my life, an’ it ain’t easy ta change now.”
Johnny stopped talking, figuring if Scott couldn’t accept this, there was nothing else he could say to get across his apprehensions, his anxieties, and dread of not being in control of what was about to happen to him. Every time he’d been under some kind of medicinal influence, a life-threatening situation arose, and in his line of work, you had to be in control because if you weren’t, you were dead. Johnny studied Scott with a clear mind for the first time since he’d been awake.
Scott tried to understand, he tried to imagine what kind of life his brother had growing up, and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t put himself in that place, that unbelievably horrible existence. It was heartbreaking to think of a small seven-year-old boy seeing his mother beaten and beaten himself, even assuming it was his place to take care of her, but finally, seeing her bruised and bleeding on the floor had to have been gut-wrenching, and life changing.
Then a fifteen-year-old was stabbed and bleeding to death, having to rely on a stranger, a liveryman, for help and still found himself at the murderous hands of the man that had originally knifed him, well, there were no words to describe that. A church should have been a safe enough place, but Johnny found himself dragged out of the sanctuary of the House of the Lord, thrown on a horse with a rope around his neck, and nearly hung… It was unthinkable!
Only then did Scott become aware of the sense of survival that Johnny had developed, and rage grew in his own heart. When Scott was seven, his biggest concern was how he could escape his grandfather’s house of wealth and privilege to find a friend to play with and what kind of mischief they could get into without incurring his grandfather’s anger.
At fifteen, he was just becoming aware of the fairer sex, learning how to appreciate the gentleness and… treasures they had to offer. And until the war, he’d had never had to worry about a threat to his life, much less one as ugly as a rope around his neck.
These insanely dangerous and hostile situations would definitely change a person’s perspective, how he would react to things, and instill a completely different view of every aspect of his life, probably forever. And Scott finally came to realize that no matter how hard it was to deal with Johnny under certain circumstances, things were what they were, and Johnny would probably be affected by much of the horror of the past and couldn’t change what had shaded and shaped his life.
The tragedies were ingrained in him from a very young age, the knowledge that no one would take care of him; he could depend on no one… except himself. Yes, he knew that he now had a family, a family that loved him for the man he was, but it would be himself that he would rely on first. And that would never go away.
But, Scott also knew that he would be there for Johnny, no matter what.
“It stays with ya, Scott, an’ there ain’t a damn thing I can do about it. Can’t make a promise I won’t feel that way, Boston, just cuz you an’ Murdoch an’ Sam want me to, an’ I ain’t tryin’ ta hurt any of you by thinkin’ this way. But, you asked, you wanted the truth, ‘no bullshit’ if I remember right? An’ I gave it to ya.”
“Johnny, do you trust me?” Scott leveled a stare at his brother, and Johnny returned it. The deep blue began to come alive again, and the corners of his mouth turned up at the ends in the beginnings of a smile.
“Yeah, I do, Boston.”
“Because I want you to know I would never let anything happen to you… ever, brother,” and with his solemn oath given, Scott waited.
Johnny looked down at his hands like he always did when he was embarrassed or humbled, times like this when the thoughts of his fortune in gaining a family and that he had people who cared, really cared about him.
“It took so long to find out that I had a brother, and I’m not letting him go now or anytime soon; just remember that, alright?” Scott stood and stretched his legs and back. “Can I get you anything, Johnny?” he asked.
“Nope, got everything I need, but thanks, brother,” Johnny answered with a jaw-cracking yawn as he settled down in the bed.
Scott moved to the door before turning around to look at his little brother, then stepped out into the hall before poking his head back in to say:
“Hey, trust me…” Then Scott quietly closed the door leaving Johnny to his rest.
Edited and archived June 2022
PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT
Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment. Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here. You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or email Buckskin directly.