Disclaimer: None. I was given the Lancers for Christmas 😉
Synopsis: Christmas Day with the Lancers
Thanks to Mary for the beta and helping break the block I was getting. I hope you all enjoy and have a very Merry Christmas! Char 🙂
Word Count: 1,980
Murdoch watched his three children sitting contentedly in the great room. Scott was reading one of the new books he had received for Christmas, Teresa was happily stitching with her new embroidery patterns, and Johnny was stretched out the length of the sofa, socked feet on the throw pillow, playing with the stereopticon Scott had given him. He smiled at them, they completed him. Finally. Yes, indeed, he was a contented man. Christmas had been a wonderful season this year … their third one as a family. They had always been a family, but this was their third year together, and that made the magic of the season tangible in his eyes.
“I almost hate to take the decorations down when New Year comes,” he said his thought out loud.
Scott smiled. “Well, Sir, I think keeping a dead tree in the house might cause Teresa and Maria some difficulty with their cleaning.”
Teresa grinned. “And, we have to put the decorations up so they’re special when we do put them out. If we kept the decorations up all year, you’d ignore them by Christmas. Just like your ship.”
Johnny’s lips twitched into a grin at Teresa’s innocent statement. Holding the stereopticon down, he looked around playfully, “There’s a ship in here? Where? Where?” He mocked looking around the room before a well thrown pillow hit him in the back of the head. “Oww.”
“Smart alec,” Scott said. “I’m sorry, Sir, I don’t know where he gets it from. Obviously not from the sane side of the family.”
Johnny grinned at his older brother. “Nope. Got it from the Lancer side of the family.”
Murdoch chuckled at their antics. Yes, he loved his life now that his children were part of it. His gut nagged at him, whispering to him … now … it was time. He had started to so many times in the past, most recently their birthdays, then Christmas Eve, and then Christmas morning. Each time, he had hesitated and then failed to follow through. This was Christmas night. Now or never. Now. It would be now.
He stood and pushed away from his desk. His actions drew the attention of three pairs of eyes. “I’ll be right back,” Murdoch assured them and headed for the stairs and his room. Opening the chest at the foot of his large bed, he pulled out the three packages. Nothing as ornate as the packages that he had shipped in for Christmas from San Francisco or Teresa’s pretty bows. No, just simple cloth and string covering three of the most important objects in his life. Items he now wished to gift to his children. A smile graced his face as he took his precious bundles and headed downstairs.
“Everything alright, Murdoch?” Johnny asked as his father entered the room.
“Yes, yes it is. I just had to get these,” he said holding up the presents.
“What are those?” Teresa asked setting aside her embroidery.
“You’re about to see.” He smiled at them as he handed them each a package.
Johnny had sat up on the sofa when he took his package. “But you already gave us our Christmas presents this morning.”
“I know … these aren’t … exactly … Christmas presents. These are … special. To me. And I hope they will be to you.” Each package had a different colored ribbon. He handed the red ribboned parcel to Teresa, the blue wrapped one to Scott and finally the green ribboned package to Johnny. He then moved to the large leather wingback chair that sat in the corner giving him a perfect vantage point to watch each of them. He smiled when he saw that they, in turn were watching him, confusion on their faces. “There’s nothing new in those little bundles, but what is in there has been some of my most prized possessions. I want you to have them.”
Scott looked at his siblings who were staring at him with that you’re-the-oldest look. And he was, and age had privilege. Smiling, Scott said, “Ladies first, Teresa.”
A smile beamed from the girl’s face as she tore the red ribbon from the package. Teresa giggled with glee as she turned the framed photograph around to show off. “I remember this! You were going to San Francisco for work but you took me along because I begged to go.” She looked at her brothers, “We were there the day the first Pony Express rider came in. It was a huge celebration and there were photographers and one asked to take our picture. He called me your little girl, Murdoch.”
Murdoch smiled. “You were. Are. You surely are.”
“How old were you?” Scott asked looking at Teresa’s prize.
“Seven, I think,” she replied looking over to Murdoch for reassurance. He smiled and nodded. “Yes. Seven. It was a wonderful trip.”
Johnny looked down at the present in his lap, a lump of unknown origin in his throat. His fingers were slowly tracing the edges of the bow. When Murdoch asked, “Who’s next?” Johnny’s head popped up and his bright blue eyes locked with Scott’s. “Age before beauty, big brother,” he grinned.
Scott snorted, “Teresa’s already had her turn little brother … oh! You mean you’re the beauty,” he wagged his finger at Johnny before turning to Murdoch. “We need to find him an eye doctor. Ooph,” he exclaimed as Johnny threw the pillow back at him, hitting Scott in the back of the head.
Murdoch chuckled at them. “Go on, Scott.”
Scott sat on the sofa and looked at the package in his hands. It was roughly the same size and shape as Teresa’s had been. He was so sure of what the package contained that his mouth fell open in shock when he saw the actual photograph. It wasn’t of his mother, like he had expected. Looking up at Murdoch, he sputtered, “How? … You … were there? In Boston!”
Johnny reached over and snatched the frame from Scott’s hands and looked at it for a moment before he started laughing. “Look at them ruffles. You sure were all smarted up, even as a kid.”
“Give me that,” Scott said as he snatched his photograph back. “I told you I photograph well.” He stared at the unbelievable scene in his hands, himself on his fifth birthday sitting in a much younger Murdoch Lancer’s lap in his Grandfather’s house in Boston. Turning back to his father, he said, “You were there. I remember that Grandfather had a photographer and that he had me take photographs with some of his business associates, but I never knew one was you. I never knew you were there.”
“Yes. I went to Boston with the intention of bringing you home. I arrived on your fifth birthday. Your grandfather, … well … we discussed what was best for you and …”
“And he threatened you someway! Using me! Just like he threatened me using you last summer.” Scott watched as Murdoch nodded and then he sighed. A slight smile grew on his lips. “You did want me.”
“I always wanted you, Son.”
Scott turned toward Johnny, watching as the dark head bowed over the package in his hands. “Your turn brother.”
Johnny nodded as his nimble fingers traced the delicate green bow. His heart thudded in his chest as he wondered at what the opening of this package would bring. Steeling himself, Johnny ripped the brown paper off and felt his breath catch in his throat. “That’s me,” he said softly as he stared at the photograph in his hands.
“Yes,” Murdoch said equally as soft. He moved over to sit beside his younger son. “This was your second birthday. Maria had thrown you such a party. Everyone came from Morro Coyo and Spanish Wells. Green River wasn’t really a town then.”
Johnny’s finger traced the portrait of the happy family he saw. He had no memories of this day but here was the proof. He had been happy, that was evident from his smile. His parents had loved him. Why … no … he wasn’t going to ask that question. Not today. It did not matter any more. He’d been loved and, looking up and around the room at the faces of his family, Johnny knew he still was.
“Thanks, Murdoch!” Johnny said, a smile slowly forming on his face. Their eyes met and so much passed between them in a single moment. Murdoch reached over and gave Johnny’s leg three hard, loud slaps leaving a sting that warmed his soul. Grinning, he turned to his brother. “Hey Boston! You see this? Looks like ol’ Murdoch smarted me up once upon a time.”
Scott smiled. “Yes. Well, he should do it more often.”
Johnny cocked his head to the side. “You got something against my clothes?”
“Oh no. Pink’s very becoming on you.”
“It ain’t pink. It’s red,” Johnny replied indignantly.
“If you say so.”
“Teresa, tell big brother my shirt’s red.” Johnny said thumbing his hand toward Scott.
Teresa giggled. “I can’t Johnny.”
“I can’t lie,” she laughed.
Murdoch laughed and slapped Johnny’s thigh again. “It’s a … faded … red. And you can wear it when we have our new photographs taken after the new year. I’ve ordered a photographer to come from San Francisco.”
“Really? Why?”Johnny inquired; puzzlement plain on his face.
“Well, Johnny my boy, it’s because memories matter. Memories of what happened in the past, of what ties us together and makes us who we are in the present. Time sometimes fades things away like the red from your favorite shirt or our memories.”
Johnny looked down at his photograph, “Sometimes it fades so much that you don’t have the memory at all.”
“Or not a clear one,” Scott added softly.
Murdoch smiled, “Exactly. Photographs are a tangible link to our past which allows us to relive moments … share them with others.” His boys smiled at him. The big man sat up straighter, and with a graceful sweeping motion of his hand, drew everyone’s attention to the holiday décor. “It’s like with Christmas and the special feeling the day brings, as the day passes away, and then the weeks, we forget how special the love is, until the day comes around again and we have all these decorations to bring it all back. Photographs are the visual memories of our heart … we gaze upon them and remember the strength of the feelings caught and it reminds us of just how special the time was.”
“So you’re gonna have our photograph taken so we can all remember how things are now,” Johnny said thoughtfully. He nodded his head. “Yeah, I like that. I like that idea a lot. Then one day, if we’re lucky, we can share our memories with our children.” Like you did with us tonight. Blue eyes met blue with Johnny’s unspoken thanks to his father for sharing these memories with him. This gift beyond any he had been given before.
Murdoch smiled back at his younger son before wrapping his arm around Johnny’s shoulders. “Christmas is a time for sharing … our past, like the photographs you hold; our present, like the one we’re going to take; and our future, … those grandchildren the three of you will give me one day.”
“Just … not too soon, right?” Johnny sputtered out as Scott and Teresa stifled a giggle.
“Anytime you want, John, anytime you want,” Murdoch answered tightening his grip on Johnny’s shoulders as a soft chuckle escaped his throat.
“Well, I think Scott and me need to make a few more of them memories you can share with those grandchildren when you get them, right Brother?” Scott nodded in agreement. Johnny sighed and leaned against his father, propping his feet on the table before him. “Merry Christmas, Pa.”
“Merry Christmas, my son.”
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