Word count 1,887
Author’s note: I see this taking place between The Pilot and Blood Rock. I made Johnny a little younger because it was fun. I hope y’all enjoyed this. Unbetaed.
Disclaimer: Lancer is owned by whoever owns it and that is sadly not me.
Johnny clapped his hand on his brother’s shoulder and pushed him toward the hacienda’s front door. “Boy, am I tired, Boston.”
“It was a long day,” Scott replied, slapping his hat against his leg and creating a mini swirling dust cloud.
“Yeah, but we got a lot done. Murdoch’ll be proud of us don’t ya think?” Johnny grinned at his brother. It was these moments of uncertainty where Johnny Lancer shown through the Madrid mask.
“I think,” Scott smiled back, reassuring his younger brother. “I’m hungry.”
“Yeah, I’m feeling a bit peckish.” Johnny stopped as they entered the empty great room. He looked at the unset table and then to the grandfather clock. It was ten to six … they’d made it home in time to clean up before supper but … where was supper … and Murdoch and …
“Hi,” Teresa said as she bounced in from Murdoch’s study. I was hoping you two would get home soon.”
Scott noticed that she was still in her dungarees. In the short time since they had been home, Murdoch made her wear a dress for dinner, sometimes firmly. Teresa did like to cowboy when allowed. “Where’s Murdoch?”
“It’s Thursday,” the girl answered as if that made all the sense in the world.
The Lancer brothers look at each other and shrugged their shoulders. “Yeah, so?” Johnny said as walked back to hang his hat on the peg by the door and started taking off his gunbelt.
“Wellllll,” Teresa started her reply, “Murdoch always eats with Aggie on Thursday nights.”
Johnny and Scott turned to stare at each other again, before turning to stare at the girl in front of them. Together they asked, “Who’s Aggie?”
A huge smile bloomed on Teresa’s face. “Murdoch’s … friend. Agatha Conway. She owns the neighboring ranch to our east.”
Johnny shook his head and he and his brother moved further into the great room. He poured a drink for Scott and himself, handed the whiskey to his brother and looked at Teresa, who was now draped over the back of one of the blue wingback chairs. “Teresa, we’ve been livin’ here nigh on two months now and Murdoch ain’t left here to go eating at some woman’s.”
“Well, yes I know. With all the trouble with Pardee, and you being shot, and then getting the two of you used to things here at Lancer, he’s not been able to. Plus, Aggie’s been in San Francisco for about six weeks. Anyway, Aggie sent him a note earlier and he said it was time we all got back to the business of living. And part of that business of living is Murdoch having dinner with Miss Aggie on Thursdays.”
“And do we … eat that is … on Thursdays?” Scott asked. He took a sip of the whiskey and savored the warmth of the liquid going down his throat. He pulled his yellow gloves off and dropped them on the table behind the sofa, added his hat on top and pulled off his gunbelt. Scott collected them all and held them out toward his little sister.
Teresa beamed and bounced forward happily taking them and heading for the entry to put them beside Johnny’s on the pegs near the door. “So, Thursday dinners will be just us. The three of us. They used to be just mine and Daddy’s when Uncle Murdoch would go to Aggie’s and now, they’ll be ours.” Her smile was beaming when she turned back to her new brothers.
Johnny could not help but smile back. Then with a wave of his hand and a laugh in his voice, he stated the obvious. “The table ain’t set.”
“Oh, we’ll eat in the kitchen. Soup and sandwiches and some apple pie for dessert.”
Scott sat his whiskey glass down, winked at his brother and asked. “So, we don’t rate the dining room table on Thursdays?”
She shook her head solemnly. “Nope, not without Uncle Murdoch.”
Scott nodded and mouthed “Oh”. Then he held his hand palm out toward the doorway leading toward the Lancer kitchen. “Brother, little sister, shall we?”
Johnny started for the door at a jog. “Yeah, I’m starving. And Teresa, I want to know more about Murdoch and this Miss Aggie. I mean … are they … you know … a he and she?”
Teresa put her hand on her hip. “What do you think they are, chickens?”
“You know what I mean?” Johnny said as he walked toward the ice box and pulled out the milk pitcher.
“She does not know what you mean, Johnny,” Scott admonished as he pulled plates from the shelf and started setting the wooden table.
Teresa rolled her eyes as she ladled up three bowls of thick beef stew. “I was born on this ranch; I know exactly what he means. Johnny, grab the sandwich platter and bring it over.”
Johnny did as he was bid and then went back for three glasses. He poured the milk and grinned at his siblings. “If this ranching thing don’t work out maybe I can work at the cantina in Morro Coyo.”
Scott shook his head as he helped himself to two of the sandwiches and sat in Murdoch’s usual spot at the head of the table. He pointed his finger at Teresa. “You’re a young lady, you’re not supposed to know about those things.”
Teresa shook her head, “No, I’m just not supposed to talk about those things.”
Johnny giggle-snorted and spewed milk.
Teresa grinned and handed him a napkin. “To answer your question, I dunno. Murdoch says no but half the people in three towns say yes and keep waiting for the wedding bells.”
Johnny’s face clouded. “You think he’s gonna marry her?” He was still finding his footing in his newfound family and wasn’t sure he wanted the added complication of a step-mother.
Teresa shrugged. “He’s had plenty of time. I think he’s quite happy with things as they are.”
“So am I,” Johnny mumbled as he dug into his stew.
Scott noticed how pensive his little brother had become. “Well, Murdoch should have a friend. I don’t think there’s anything to concern ourselves with. Besides, Thursdays will give us time to really get to know each other and for the two of you to get used to me being in charge.”
Johnny’s blue eyes narrowed. “In charge of … what?”
“Why the two of you, of course,” Scott teased, trying to keep his face from giving him away.
Johnny dropped his spoon on his plate. “You? In charge? Is that why you took Murdoch’s place?”
“You ain’t in charge of me.”
“I beg to differ, little brother. I am the only legal adult in the room as you are both under the age of majority.”
“The age of which?” Johnny asked. He sat his sandwich on the plate and glowered at his brother.
Teresa giggled. “Twenty-one, silly. You’re only nineteen, so you’re a minor like me.”
Johnny was spooning up the beef stew and heading it toward his mouth. The smell of the spices, vegetables and beef enticing his nose and making his already hungry stomach grumble in anticipation. “Minor?” he asked before he took in his spoonful of deliciousness. Closing his eyes, he sighed in delight.
“A kid. Legally,” Scott said with a smile.
Johnny dropped his spoon on his plate, his eyes narrowing as he glared at his sibling. “I ain’t been a kid since I was ten, Boston.”
Scott did his best not to snort. Putting his napkin to his mouth and clearing his throat, Scott continued. “That may be, little brother, but to the law, you are just as much a child as Teresa. As your esteemed elder, and legally adult, brother, when our father is not here, I am in charge of the two of you.”
“Bullshit!” Johnny dropped his eyes when Teresa erupted in laughter at his expletive and Scott yelled Johnny’s name! “Sorry, Teresa.”
“It’s okay, really, I have been brought up on a ranch. I’ve heard it before.” She replied with a grin and a giggle.
Scott shook his head at the two of them, affection swelling in his heart. Again, he cleared his throat. “I do like the idea of these …. sibling dinners. I think it will be a good way for us to learn about each other and our father. Brother Johnny, you do realize that Miss Teresa has all of the stories on Murdoch.”
Johnny looked between the two as a grin grew on his face. “Reckon you could tell us a thing of two, Teresa?”
She took a sip of her milk and grinned. “I reckon I could. But it’s going to cost you.”
“I ain’t got no money, look at Scott for that.”
“Not money, stories. I tell you things about Murdoch and the ranch and the neighbors and you two tell me stories about your lives. It’s how we will get to know each other.”
Johnny looked down at his food and shifted uncomfortably in his chair.
Scott uncharacteristically placed his elbows on the table, rubbed his hands together, and looked from sister to brother. “I think that is an excellent idea … with a ground rule. What we talk about on our Thursday nights stays between the three of us. No sharing with Murdoch or anyone else.”
Johnny spun the spoon in his fingers. “And we don’t always have to answer every question?”
Teresa nodded. “All good rules. I agree.”
Johnny shrugged and Scott nodded. Scott picked up his glass of milk and held it up for a toast. “To us and our secret sharing Thursday dinners.”
Johnny and Teresa clinked milk glasses with Scott. “When will Murdoch get back? Scott asked.
“Maybe late, maybe tomorrow?”
“He spends the night?” Johnny asked as a smile grew on his face. “All night?”
“Well, sometimes, if it gets late,” she replied before taking a bite out of her roast beef sandwich. She felt she had done a good job making dinner for her new brothers and was enjoying this sense of family that was blooming between them.
A wicked grin graced Johnny’s face. “Late huh? Okay. Got it. Scott, we’re gonna have to remember that excuse. Now Teresa, how many other lady friends does our Pa have.”
Scott’s eyebrow arched up at Johnny’s appellation for Murdoch. It was nice to know his brother was getting comfortable enough to think of their father in that familiar way, even though he knew the boy was not yet ready, if he’d ever be, to call the man ‘Pa’ to his face. But maybe, there was hope and time.
Teresa got up, moved to the counter, and brought the apple pie she’d baked earlier to the table. “Wellllll, talking about that might keep us up late tonight.”
The Lancer brothers looked at each other and grinned. Yes, these Thursday nights of theirs were going to be interesting indeed. Scott took the proffered piece of pie. “Do tell, little sister, do tell.”
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