Word Count 1,715
Episode Tag to The High Riders
Disclaimer: The characters belong to someone else. I make no money, and mean no harm in using them.
Setting: A few weeks after the sons help Murdoch defeat Pardee, as Johnny recovers from his wounds.
Summary: Scott takes advantage of his brother’s bed-ridden state to get to know a little bit about how Johnny thinks.
Scott Lancer knocked on the door of his new brother’s bedroom. When Johnny called to come in, he opened the door, stuck his head in and asked, “Just wondered if you feel like some company.”
Johnny’s smile was genuine but a little uncertain so Scott opened the door wider and held out his “calling card” on this night. It was a bottle of tequila and two glasses.
The younger brother’s smile widened and Scott took that as a sign of welcome. He used one foot to close the bedroom door behind him and strode in. Johnny was still recovering from a bullet wound courtesy of Day Pardee but Dr. Jenkins had cleared him to begin light work the next day and he’d been able to join the rest of the family for dinner each evening for the last week. Scott reasoned that meant the good doctor wouldn’t disagree with his brother having a drink, or perhaps two, although he idly wondered whether their father would agree. That was one reason he’d waited for Murdoch to go to bed before making this visit.
He placed the bottle and glasses on the night table and pulled a chair up alongside his brother’s bed. Johnny wasn’t yet ready for sleep. He was still wearing pants, and his shirt was unbuttoned, but his boots had been removed and tossed aside. They lay, one on top of the other, in the middle of the floor.
“Tequila? Where’d ya get that, Boston?,” Johnny asked. “The old man sure don’t keep a stock.”
“I’ve been to Morro Coyo a few times while you were convalescing, little brother,” Scott replied as he settled himself in the armchair and reached for the bottle. He was annoyed by the younger man’s constant reference to him as “Boston,” a term he was reasoned was meant derogatorily. He didn’t plan to sink to the level of name-calling with this boy but his instincts told him the term “little brother” made Johnny’s teeth grind the same way “Boston” did to him. And that made the older brother smile.
“Convalescing. It means getting better.”
“It does, huh? Why didn’t ya just say that to begin with?”
Scott laughed good humoredly. “You’re right. I don’t know why I didn’t.” Once the bottle was open, Scott picked up the two glasses in one hand and poured a large splash of tequila in each of them. Then he held them out to Johnny, who helped himself to the glass closest to him.
“I asked the bartender at the saloon for the best bottle of tequila in the house.”
“And what’d he charge you for this ‘best bottle in the house?’”
Scott told him and Johnny burst out laughing. “That bartender musta seen ya comin’, Boston.”
Scott raised his glass in a silent toast, refusing to let the younger man goad him. If Johnny thought he’d be able to light the Easterner’s fuse with a few little gibes about being a greenhorn, or a stranger in these parts, he could think again. The older brother had learned to ignore taunts from a lot more frightening sources during a year in a Confederate prison. Nothing this boy could throw at him verbally would put him off getting to know his newly-discovered brother a little better.
He took a sip and nearly choked. “Is it supposed to taste like this?” Scott sputtered.
Johnny grinned and took a sip himself. He swallowed and a look of surprise passed briefly over his face. “Actually, this is pretty darn good,” he replied, looking a little nonplussed by the fact Scott had managed to obtain a good bottle of tequila from that bartender. He turned the bottle on the night table toward himself and took a closer look at the label.
Scott’s eyes lit with silent laughter, then he took another sip. “Must be an acquired taste.”
The two men lapsed into silence, neither of them sure what to say to each other next. Finally Scott took the bull by the horns.
“So, I just have to ask you something about that day you were wounded. How exactly did you come to be riding hell bent for leather toward the house with Day Pardee and his men on your heels? I just can’t figure where you were coming from.” Johnny had been shot returning to the hacienda during a battle with land pirates several weeks earlier. Scott had been analyzing the events of that day over and over but still couldn’t surmise what had been his brother’s plan for defeating Pardee.
Johnny seemed surprised that Scott had been pondering it, as though he couldn’t believe his new brother would care that much how he’d come to be shot. He dropped his eyes to stare at the glass in his hands.
“Whadda ya wanna know?” he said quietly. “I was with Pardee and his men, tryin’ to figure out what they were goin’ to do next.”
“Uh-huh. So they told you they planned to attack the ranch?”
“Yeah. Pardee said we’d all be havin’ breakfast at Lancer, then we rode out to the hills over yonder and waited to see how prepared the place was, how many men were here. Pardee thought you and most of the vaqueros had headed out on his trail the night before, remember? He didn’t know ‘bout you doublin’ back after they saw ya.”
Scott nodded. Johnny had not known about that either but he didn’t say it. The older brother assumed that omission bothered Johnny but his younger brother had been an unpredictable factor when he was developing his battle strategy. He’d planned to fill Johnny in on the ride into the hills but Johnny had chosen to go his own way, with his own “plan.” He hadn’t shared the details with Scott or Murdoch and now Scott was trying to understand what the plan had been. He thought it would be instructive to learn how his younger brother’s mind worked, how he developed a strategy.
“So you rode to those hills over there with Pardee and his men. And then what happened?”
Johnny furrowed his brow, clearly surprised that Scott kept pressing. He shrugged. “Well, we was waitin’ up there, and I wasn’t sure what Pardee was gonna do next. So I said to him, “this is my land and I’d like ya to get off.”
Scott nearly choked on the tequila he was sipping as this parcel of information came out. He coughed and shook his head in disbelief as Johnny continued.
“Pardee said ‘you one of them Lancers?’ and drew on me. I fired back, and then one of Pardee’s men started shootin’ so I jumped on my horse and high-tailed it outa there. And then I got shot, and the rest you already know….”
Johnny took another sip, but was startled when Scott stood up and slammed his glass on the night stand. “That was it? That was your plan?” he asked, his voice rising to shouting level.
“Whadda ya mean?”
“’You got your plan and I got mine,’” Scott fumed, repeating Johnny’s words from that fateful day. “That’s what you said. And THAT was your plan? Get yourself surrounded by Pardee’s men, then announce you’re Johnny Lancer and ask them to get off your land?” By the time he finished this sentence, the older brother was at full bellow. Neither man noticed the door behind them open, their father anxiously trying to determine what was going on between them.
Johnny blinked twice. “Well…. Well, when ya say it like that, it don’t sound as good as it was—“
“Listen to me, little brother, and listen good. That’s NOT a good plan, no matter how you say it. And the next time we have a family problem, you damn well better not go haring off thinking you can solve it alone, do you hear me? I don’t plan on losing the only brother I have on some stupid, half-baked plan that I didn’t have a chance to hear before you run off half-cocked and get in the middle of a—“
“Scott! What’s going on here? You’re waking up the whole damn house!” Murdoch called out, trying to hold back a grin that threatened to expose his delight at the protective stance his oldest son was taking with the younger one.
“Do you know what his ‘plan’ was?” Scott asked, still incredulous.
“Yes, I think I heard enough. And you’re right, son. It was a little… ill-advised. But it’s over and done with—“
“And it better never happen again!” Scott finished for him, turning to glare at Johnny.
Johnny’s eyes were wide with alarm and he looked quickly from father to brother. He hated being the center of everybody’s attention, especially this kind of attention. Then an idea hit him and he raised his glass.
“Scott brought me some tequila,” he said to their father, settling back against the pillows.
“You gave him liquor?” Murdoch said, turning to his oldest son. “He’s just recovering. I hardly think tequila was on Sam Jenkins’ prescription list.”
“Oh, for God’s sake—he’s just trying to divert our attention from the important point here.”
“Well, the important point to me is that both of you need to get some sleep. We have a long day tomorrow and you especially need your rest,” he said, wagging a finger at Johnny. Then he turned back to Scott. “And you made your point. Now settle down and turn in. I’ll see both of you in the morning.”
Murdoch left the room and silence reigned for about thirty seconds. Then Scott whirled around, his hands fisting on his hips as he addressed his brother with a knowing smile. “Well, you do have a tactical mind, when you bother to use it.”
Johnny grinned. “I have my moments, Boston” he said, reaching over to pick up the bottle of tequila.
Scott took a long step toward the night table and grabbed it out of his hand, along with the two glasses. “And if you pay attention, you’ll find out I have mine as well, little brother,” he said as he headed back out of the room. He closed the door quietly and smiled broadly, letting Johnny’s outraged protest about “Indian givers” fall on deaf ears.
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