The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Winj

 

Bad Company

 

Johnny and Murdoch walked out of the bank and met Scott on their way to the stagecoach office. "No mail today," Scott said.

"Well, boys. How about a beer before we head home?" Murdoch suggested.

"Well, if you're gonna twist my arm," Johnny grinned.

None of them noticed the three men standing in an alleyway, watching them and whispering amongst themselves. As the Lancers strolled down the boardwalk and stepped into the street, the three men snuck up behind them. Johnny felt himself being lifted off the ground by whooping and hollering men. They suspended him over a horse trough before letting him see their faces.

Murdoch and Scott stood awestruck at the performance unfolding in front of them, unsure whether to rescue Johnny or wait for the inevitable dunking.

"Silas, put me down!" Johnny yelled.

"Why sure, Johnny. Not a problem," the young man said with a huge grin.

"Not in there! So help me I'll.." Johnny started.

"Okay, okay. Sheesh, don't have a fit!" Silas laughed as they lowered him to solid ground.

Johnny immediately grabbed the man around the neck and summarily dunked his head in the trough.

"Hey! No fair," Silas sputtered as he came up.

Johnny just grinned and his two companions rolled onto the boardwalk laughing.

"Good one, Johnny," Frank said.

"What are you boys doin here?" Johnny asked, evidently happy to see his friends.

Scott and Murdoch had relaxed by now, realizing Johnny was in no danger.

"We was just passin through. We bout fell over when we saw ya. We heard you was dead, Johnny," Billy piped in.

"Well, I guess you heard wrong," Johnny stated the obvious.

"Hey, what're ya doin this far north? Ain't your usual stompin grounds," Frank asked.

"I live here." The three men exchanged confused looks and Johnny grinned at them. "It's a long story," he said.

"Johnny?" Murdoch called, reminding his son they were still on the planet.

Johnny turned and looked at them rather surprised. 'Oh yeah,' he thought. "Straighten up, boys. I want you to meet some people,”  Johnny said, serious now.

The three men stood up and became solemn. Scott was amazed at his brother's command over the rambunctious threesome.

"Ok, Billy, Frank, Silas I want you to meet my brother, Scott and my father, Murdoch Lancer," he stated simply.

Three mouths dropped open and stared.

"Your what?" Silas asked, astonished.

"You heard me. I told you it was a long story," Johnny grinned.

"One I sure wanna hear," Frank said.

"It's nice to meet you, I think," Scott smiled, a bit apprehensive of the unruly trio. If they were like this all the time, he wondered how Johnny could have stood being around them.

"Uh yeah, you too. I guess," Silas said, absolutely dumbfounded.

Scott didn't think it would take much, though.

"I suppose you want to spend some time with your friends, son. We'll just meet you back home," Murdoch said.

He was being awfully nice and Johnny wondered why. He usually got pretty grumpy when Johnny's old friends cropped up.

"We will?" Scott asked.

Johnny shot him a look that shut him up and he looked away.

"We will," Murdoch said firmly.

"Thanks. I'll see you later, then," Johnny said, still stunned.

*****

Johnny took his friends to the saloon and they spent the evening catching up. He told them the condensed version of how he came to have a family. They regaled him with stories of their most recent adventures and jobs. Johnny never really missed his old life but listening to them go on, he was sure glad he was here now. Still, they kept him laughing with their antics until the saloon closed and the bartender had to kick them all out.

"Come on, Johnny. Your old man won't mind if ya stay here a couple a days. He seemed real nice," Silas pleaded.

"Yeah well, I can't, Silas. But I'll come back and see you," Johnny said, biting his tongue at the compliment to his father's 'gentle' nature.

"We got a hotel room. You can even have one of the beds," Frank tried.

Johnny laughed. "I got to get home boys. I do live on a working ranch. That means I have to WORK," he teased.Â

"Sound just awful," Billy said.

Johnny laughed again. "You wouldn't know an honest days work if it came up and bit you on the ... rear!" he said.

The threesome laughed and agreed whole-heartedly. They said their goodnights after a few more attempts to get him to stay and Johnny headed home.

*****

He crept in the front door and up the stairs, having removed his boots so as not to wake anyone. He wasn't worried about Murdoch being angry, he just didn't want to get into a long talk. He was exhausted, but then he always was when he spent much time with these particular friends. They had more energy between them than a hurricane! He eased open his door and slipped inside only to have the lamp brighten the room. Scott was sitting in a chair waiting for him.

"Have fun?" he grinned.

"Waiting up for me, Boston? How sweet," Johnny teased.

"Just wanted to make sure you got home in one piece ... and dry," Scott bantered back.

Johnny laughed. "They're somethin, ain't they?" he said.

"Yes, they certainly are. Well, goodnight, brother. I hope you're not too cranky in the morning from lack of sleep," Scott said as he went out the door.

Johnny shook his head and smiled. It made him feel good to know Scott worried about him even if it wasn't necessary half the time.

*****

The next morning, Johnny felt awful. He had a hard time dragging himself out of bed but he managed. He would rather feel this bad and get up than to face Murdoch if he didn't. He headed down to the kitchen just as the family was finishing breakfast.

"Sorry, guess I overslept," he mumbled.

"I'm surprised you're up at all. I expected you'd sleep in after the night you had," Murdoch said matter-of-factly.

Johnny stared at his father wide-eyed. 'Hell, if I'd known he wasn't gonna be mad, I'd stayed in bed!' he thought.

"How are your friends?" Murdoch asked.

"Uh, they're fine. Crazy as ever," Johnny said with a slight grin overshadowed by the perplexed look on his face.

"Well, I'm sure you'll want to see them again tonight."

'Ok, this is too much.'

"You don't mind?" he asked suspiciously.

"Why should I mind, as long as you get your work done, of course," Murdoch answered.

Johnny shook his head.

"What?" Murdoch asked.

"Nothin. You just never been so .... what, Scott?" He looked to his brother for the right word.

"Affable," Scott said after a second of thought.

"Yeah," Johnny agreed.

"Well, son they are your friends and they seem pretty harmless," Murdoch explained.

Johnny frowned at this evaluation but said nothing. The trio may be fun loving and act crazy most of the time but harmless was definitely the wrong word. If anything, they were very dangerous and Johnny knew it. But he didn't see any point in letting his father in on that little tidbit. The frown escaped Murdoch's notice but not Scott's.

"Well, guess it's time to go to work," Johnny said, not wanting to give anybody a chance to question Murdoch's assessment of his friends.

*****

Scott and Johnny herded the cattle toward the north pasture for greener grasses and to give the east pasture a rest. This was something that was done on a scheduled basis to keep the pasturelands in good condition. Johnny headed off to round in some strays near the incline of a hill. As he topped the rise he spotted three riders coming down the road. He grimaced as he saw it was his friends. He glanced back at Scott but he was busy rounding up some strays on the other side of the herd. Johnny rode down to meet the three.

"Hey Johnny!" Silas called out.

Johnny waved and rode up to them.

"What are you doing out here?" he asked.

"We decided we'd like ta see where ya live. Is it ok?" Billy asked.

Johnny considered this for a minute. "Well, boys I'm kinda busy right now. We're moving the herd up to the north pasture just on the other side of that rise. I don't really have time right now to show you around."

They all looked disappointed, then Silas brightened. "We'll help ya. Sure, we drove plenty a herds," he said enthusiastically.

Johnny knew this to be true and that they were good drovers. "Ok, sure why not. Come on," he smiled.

*****

Scott looked around but could not see his brother. Then he spotted him coming up over the hill with three other men. He squinted against the sun to see who they were and groaned aloud. 'Great!' he thought. He headed toward them, ready to hear the excuse Johnny would give for getting out of working.

"Hey, Scott! The boys are gonna help us drive the herd," Johnny called.

"They are?" Scott asked, surprised.

"Yeah, they're good drovers. Believe it or not," Johnny grinned.

"Hey!" the three said in unison.

"Hey nothin. Just behave yourselves and get to work," Johnny said, trying to be patronly.

Silas, Frank and Billy headed down the hill and fell easily into place alongside the herd.

"I suppose we have to pay them now," Scott said.

"Well, they are working, Scott. Who knows, maybe they'll like it and sign on," Johnny smiled and headed back down to finish the job.

Scott stared after him. He didn't like these men. Why, he didn't know but they gave him a bad feeling.

*****

With the extra help, they got the herd moved by noon. Johnny approached his friends, resting on a log.

"Well what did ya think?" he asked.

"Bout what? Oh, that was easy Johnny," Silas answered and the other two nodded in agreement.

"So, why don't you sign on for a while?" he suggested.

"We ain't ranchhands, Johnny. Just somethin we do to pick up a few dollars here and there. You know that," Frank said.

"Yeah, I know. I just thought you might want to stay put for awhile."

"Why?" Billy asked. He was the youngest of the three, barely eighteen, and was a little slow on the uptake.

"Well, I think ole Johnny here wants to reform us. That right, Johnny?" Silas asked.

Johnny laughed at the thought of reforming these three. "No, Silas. I just offered, that's all," he answered.

"We'll think about it," Silas said.

"We will?" Frank asked.

"Come on, I'll show you around a little," Johnny said, grinning at the three.

*****

He took them to the top of the South Mesa and stood on the hill above Lancer. "This is it, boys. All the way to those mountains," he said with pride.

They stared in wonderment for a while then Silas turned to Johnny.

"Wait a minute. Are you tellin us all this is Lancer land? All of it?"

"That's right Silas. 100,000 acres."

Silas whistled, impressed.

"And you own a third of it?" Frank asked, also astonished.

"Yep," Johnny replied.

"Wow! You're rich!" Billy exclaimed.

Johnny shook his head and laughed.

Billy walked over to him, suddenly very serious. "Johnny? I just wanted ta say that I'm real happy for ya. After everythin ya been through, well you know," Billy said, a little embarrassed.

Johnny put his arm around the boy. "Thanks, Billy. It's been a long, hard road but it's getting better every day."

"You talkin about your old man?" Frank asked.

"Yeah, he's as stubborn as a mule!" Johnny said with a laugh.

"Oh, well it's too bad you two are sooooo different!" Silas said sarcastically.

Johnny pounced and the two of them started wrestling around on the ground.

*****

"Where's Johnny?" Murdoch asked as Scott came into the house.

"He's showing those friends of his around. They showed up during the drive and helped us move the herd," Scott explained.

"Really? Well, I guess I'd better pay them for their time," Murdoch said and pulled out his pay ledger.

"Sure," Scott mumbled.

"Something wrong, Scott?"

"I don't know. I just don't like them. They're .... I can't explain it but I just get a bad feeling about them," he answered.Â

"They seem like nice boys. A little rambunctious maybe," Murdoch said.

"I guess," Scott mumbled.

"You wouldn't be a little jealous, would you, son?" Murdoch asked with a hint of a grin.

"Jealous? That's ridiculous!" Scott said, indignant. "What I don't understand, sir, is your attitude. You don't usually welcome Johnny's old friends with open arms like this."

Murdoch considered this, knowing it to be true. "Well, I guess I've come to the conclusion that I can't erase your brother's past just because I want to. I know he's working hard to change and he has. But a man can't go through life without making some friends. It wouldn't be fair of me to dismiss that out of hand," Murdoch explained.

Scott nodded, understanding now. "Because of what happened when Doc Holliday died?" he asked, already knowing the answer.

Murdoch smiled and nodded. "Yes, I don't want to make that mistake again."

"This isn't the same thing, though. Those men are not as easy going as they make out," Scott said.

"What do you mean?" Murdoch asked.

"I mean Johnny rode with them. They're gunfighters, Murdoch. I know, I know, so was Doc. But Doc was more than that to Johnny. Those three are just trouble. That's all I'm saying."

*****

"What kind of trouble, brother?" Johnny said, having walked in during Scott's last sentence.

"Johnny, I just don't trust them, that's all," Scott said a little ashamed of talking behind Johnny's back.

"Nobody asked you to," Johnny said, fire starting to burn in his eyes.

Murdoch decided to stop this before it got out of hand. "Johnny, Scott tells me your friends helped with the drive. I'd like to pay them for their time. Are they still here?"

"Yeah, they're waiting for me outside. We were gonna go into town, unless you need me," Johnny said, cooling down.

"Bring them in and no, I don't think I need you for anything else today," Murdoch answered.

Johnny nodded and walked outside.

"Scott, just a word of warning," Murdoch started.

"I know, keep my mouth shut," Scott finished.

Johnny brought the trio in and they stared in awe at the hacienda.

"Gentlemen, ordinarily we don't pay wages by the day, but since you were nice enough to give us a hand and make the drive go easier, I'd like to pay you," Murdoch said.

"Oh, we didn't expect no pay, Mr. Lancer. We was just helpin Johnny out is all," Silas said.

"Well, a man deserves a wage for a day's work all the same. Here," Murdoch said as he handed each of them the money.

They all nodded and mumbled their thanks, feeling very out of place in the house.

"Well, I guess you three are buyin then," Johnny teased. They started out the door, then Johnny stopped. "You want to come, Boston?" he asked.

"Oh, no thanks, Johnny. You go ahead," Scott answered.

Johnny shrugged and walked out with his friends.

*****

"How come ya call your brother 'Boston'?" Billy asked as they sat in the saloon.

"That's where he grew up," Johnny stated simply.

"Yeah I thought he was a dandy," Frank said.

"He's no dandy, Frank. Scott's a good man," Johnny said.

"Seems a little uppity ta me," Silas said.

"I know, but he really isn't. You just have to get to know him. That's just the way he talks," Johnny explained.

Silas didn't think so. He didn't like Johnny's brother. He thought he was bein looked down on and it didn't sit well with him. "So, you're okay with him?" he asked.

"Ok with him?" Johnny asked, puzzled.

"Yeah, I mean he don't treat ya bad does he?"

Johnny laughed at the idea that Scott would ever treat him badly. "No, Silas. We get along real good," he assured him.

"Well, that's good, cause I wouldn't cotton ta nobody actin like they was better than you," Billy said.

Johnny smiled fondly at the boy. "Gonna take up for me, Billy?" he teased.

"I sure would, Johnny. In a flash!" he announced.

They all laughed at him a little. The thought of Johnny Madrid needing anybody to take up for him was ridiculous.

"Aw, come on fellas. Stop teasin me," Billy said, disgruntled.

Johnny slapped him on the back and they continued their poker game.

"Ya know, Johnny. I been thinkin," Silas said after a while.

"Uh oh," Johnny grinned.

Silas grinned back. "Maybe we oughta stay around awhile. We ain't got nothin else goin. Could use the cash too. Whatya say boys?" he asked his compadres. They all nodded in agreement.

"Good! You can come back with me tonight. I'll get you bunked down," Johnny said, pleased with his friends decision.

*****

The next morning, Scott was up early. He hadn't slept well and decided he may as well get some work done before breakfast. He was repairing a broken lock on the corral gate when he heard the men getting up for the day in the bunkhouse. He stopped what he was doing and stared when he saw Silas, Frank and Billy coming out of the bunkhouse. They strolled over to him.

"Mornin, boss," Frank grinned.

"Boss?" Scott asked.

"Yeah, Johnny took us on for a while. Figured we hang around, make a few bucks before movin on," Silas explained.

'Oh that's just great!' Scott thought. He smiled instead though. "Well, welcome," was all he could think to say, at least the only pleasant thing he could think to say.

"Excuse me," he added and walked back to the house. He didn't see the snide looks they all gave him.

"Johnny."

"Oh mornin, Boston. I was just tellin Murdoch about our new hands," Johnny said with a grin.

"Yes, I saw them," Scott said.

"Problem?" Johnny asked.

"No. Not at all. I was just a little surprised," Scott said, refraining from saying what he really thought of the idea.

"Well, I think we should put them to work on that fence line by Black Mesa. We really need to get that done," Murdoch said.

Johnny only nodded, having a mouthful of eggs. "I'll tell them," he said after swallowing his food.

*****

That afternoon, Scott rode out to Black Mesa to check on the progress with the fence mending. He found the trio sitting under a tree, napping. The fenceline didn't look like it had been touched much. A few post holes had been dug, but that was about it.

"Gentlemen, is this all you've managed to accomplish all morning?" he asked a bit aggravated.

They stood up and looked around quickly, seeing if Scott was alone.

"Well if it ain't the dandy," Silas sneered.

Scott narrowed his eyes. "Excuse me?" he said through tightly drawn lips.

"You heard me," Silas said, a very serious look on his face.

"If the three of you don't intend to do any work while you're here, perhaps we should rethink the arrangements," Scott said in his best military tone.

"Uh huh. Well, we're workin all right, Mr. Lancer. Just waitin on the supply wagon ta bring us some wire," Frank explained.

Scott looked over at the wagon, which was loaded with rolls of barbed wire. "What's wrong with that?" he asked, pointing to the wagon.

"Well will ya look at that? Why they musta brought it while we was asleepin. They shoulda woke us up. Let us know it was here," Silas said, sardonically.Â

Scott was fuming and he didn't think he was going to be able to hold his tongue much longer. They heard a rider coming and saw the golden palomino top the rise. Johnny rode down and reined in alongside his brother.

"What's the problem?" he asked.

"No problem, Johnny. You're friends were just taking a little nap until the barbed wire was sent down from heaven for them," Scott said.

Johnny looked over the fenceline and frowned. He dismounted and walked over to his friends.

"What are you doing?" he asked softly.

"We was just takin a break, Johnny. Your brother here came ridin in all hot under the collar," Frank explained.

Johnny nodded his head. "Taking a break? From what?" he asked.

They all three looked down.

"Are you telling me that all you've managed to do all day is dig, what, three post holes between you? Look, if you're gonna work here, then work. If not, go back to town. I don't have time to babysit and neither does my brother!" he said, his voice getting louder with each sentence.

"Sorry, Johnny. We'll get ta work," Silas mumbled.

Johnny shook his head in disgust and mounted Barranca. "Come on Scott. I need to show you something," he said, still fuming.

*****

They stood there watching the brothers ride off together.

"He didn't even think about takin our word for nothin," Frank said.

"I know. I think that brother of his has him all wrapped up. He ain't the same," Silas agreed.

"Well, what're we gonna do?" Billy asked.

"Right now, we're gonna fix this fence. Then we're gonna figure out how ta get Johnny away from here. They done somethin to 'im. He ain't thinkin right no more. We gotta help 'im," Silas said.

They went to work, all the while scheming on how to save Johnny from these people. By the end of the day, they had the fence line finished.

"Well, at least they can't yell at us fer this," Billy said. They sat down under the tree again. "Figured anythin out yet, Silas?" Billy asked.

"A little. Billy, Johnny's real fond a you. He'd tell you stuff he might not tell all three a us. I want you ta get 'im ta talk to ya. Open up and tell ya what he really thinks of that brother of his and his old man," Silas said.

Billy nodded then frowned. "But how's that gonna help?" he asked.

"Because, kid. The more we know the better chance we got a figurin out how to get him out a here," Frank explained.

Billy nodded again and mouthed a silent 'oh'.

*****

Scott was still angry but he said nothing to Johnny about the incident. He didn't mention the insults he had received. Remembering Murdoch's words, he felt it was better to stay quiet and not antagonize his brother. He came out of the barn in time to see the three men riding in with the wagon. He couldn't help but notice it was almost empty.

Johnny walked up to them with an expectant look on his face, hands on his hips. They jumped down from the wagon and faced their friend.

"It's finished. Johnny, we're real sorry about this. It won't happen again," Silas said, apparently apologetic.

"Yeah, we sure didn't mean ta try and take advantage, Johnny," Frank added.

"Ok, you better get cleaned up. It's almost chow time," Johnny said.

They walked to the bunkhouse, heads hanging low.

"Well?" Scott asked as he approached his brother.

"They said it's done," Johnny answered. Scott raised a questioning eyebrow but Johnny ignored it and walked away.

The next morning as the Lancer's were having breakfast, someone knocked on the back door. Scott opened it to find Silas standing there.

"Can I talk ta Johnny for a minute?" he asked respectfully.

Johnny walked to the door and Silas motioned him outside. "Johnny, I wanted ta talk to ya about Billy."

"What about him?"

"Well, you know me and Frank, we just ain't got nothin else but gunhawkin'. But Billy, he's still a pup. Me and Frank was talkin last night and we thought maybe if you'd spend some time with the kid, maybe talk up ranchin and such. Well, maybe give 'im a chance to make somethin of his life before it's too late for him too."

Johnny smiled. "You know something, Silas? It's not too late for all three of you."Â

"Aw hell, Johnny. Me and Frank, we ain't really interested in doin nothin else. It's just that Billy, he's been talkin about how nice it is here and ya know he's always looked up to ya. I think if'n ya'd just talk to 'im. Maybe let 'im work with you instead of with us, you could get 'im ta think serious about it."Â

"Alright, Silas. You're a good friend," Johnny said, laying his hand on Silas' shoulder.

He felt uneasy lying to Johnny, but he had a plan to save his friend and he figured Johnny would understand.

"What was that about?" Murdoch asked as Johnny came back into the kitchen.

"Billy. Silas thinks he should work with me. Maybe get him to change his life," Johnny answered.

Scott looked suspiciously at his brother but said nothing. He had a very bad feeling about those three and it was growing worse by the day. He decided he would keep a close eye on all of them.

*****

Johnny spent the next several days working with Billy. They talked a lot about the ranch. Billy asked a lot of questions. Johnny didn't think much of it until he started asking about Scott and Murdoch.

"Why are you so interested in my family, Billy?" he asked one day.

"I dunno. Guess I'm just tryin ta figure it out," Billy said.

"Figure what out?"

"Well, it's just weird, Johnny. I mean, how long have ya known 'em. A year? Just seems ta me like ya don't know 'em at all but you talk like ya been with 'em all your life," Billy explained.

"It is a strange situation. It hasn't been easy, especially with my father," Johnny admitted.

"What about Scott?" Billy asked.

Johnny smiled brightly. "That was a lot easier. I don't know how to explain it exactly. We just kind of connected. He likes to play big brother and to tell you the truth, I like it too. But don't tell him I said that," Johnny said with a twinkle in his eye.

Billy laughed a little but he saw the truth and he was beginning to think they had made a mistake thinking Johnny needed to be saved.

"If ya had a choice, would ya go back ta bein Johnny Madrid?" he asked point blank.

Johnny stared at him. "No, Billy. I wouldn't," he said softly. "What makes you think I don't have a choice?" he asked.

"Well we just thought that your brother was kinda makin it hard on ya. Kinda bossin ya and maybe you figured ya had ta put up with it or lose the ranch," Billy explained.

Johnny began to see what was really going on here. Silas wasn't interested in helping Billy. He thought Johnny wanted to go back to his old life.

"Billy, let me make this clear to you and then you can make it clear to Silas and Frank. I don't want to be Johnny Madrid anymore. Nobody is bossing me or making me feel bad here. I want to be here and I love my brother. There's nothing I wouldn't do for Scott or Murdoch. That includes giving my life for them. Do you understand? They're my family and I love them," Johnny said gently but firmly.

Billy watched him as he talked and knew Johnny meant what he said. He felt guilty for trying to deceive his friend. He had always thought Johnny was the very best of them and he knew he deserved to have a family and a home and a life.

"Come on, let's get back to work," Johnny said.

"Wait a minute. I gotta tell ya somethin," Billy said. He hung his head and thought better of it, maybe he should just keep his mouth shut.

"Well, what is it?" Johnny asked.

"Maybe I shouldn't. Silas and Frank'd be mad at me."

"Mad at you, why?" Johnny asked. A feeling of dread was beginning to consume him and he felt panic rising. "Billy, tell me!" he shouted as he grabbed the boy by the shoulders.

"They thought Scott was treatin ya bad, Johnny. They was just gonna teach 'im a lesson," Billy cried out.

"Where?" Johnny hissed.

"That cave up by Dell Canyon," Billy whimpered.

Johnny shook his head and pushed the boy aside. He jumped on Barranca and reared him toward Dell Canyon in a full gallop.

*****

Scott rode to Dell Canyon to check up on Silas and Frank. They were supposed to be clearing the creek bed of undergrowth but he was sure he'd find something entirely different. They seemed to be even more belligerent with Billy out of their presence. As he approached the area, he could find no sign of the men and his anger was beginning to swell. He dismounted and looked down into the creek bed. Nothing had been done, not one bush moved! He removed his hat and swatted his leg with it in disgust. This was the last straw. No matter how good friends they were, Johnny was going to have to face the fact that they were just plain lazy! He heard a noise behind him and turned to find himself looking down the barrel of a rifle.

"What's this?" he asked.

"This is us takin care a you, Mr. High and Mighty," Silas sneered.

Frank approached him and took his gun.

"Start walkin," Silas said.

"Where?"

"The cave. I'm sure you know where it is," he said.

They tied his hands behind him and sat him down on the floor of the cave near the entrance.

"What's this all about?" Scott demanded.

"I told ya," Silas retorted.

"Sorry, I don't speak ignorant," Scott said sarcastically.

He felt the sting of a fist across his face and shook his head against the numbing pain. A trickle of blood ran from the corner of his mouth and Silas grinned. He leaned down close to Scott's face.

"You think you can just push our friend around and we ain't gonna do nothin about it? You think we'd just stand by and let you treat Johnny like that?" he hissed.Â

Scott frowned in confusion. "What are you talking about? Treat Johnny like what?" he asked, totally frustrated.

"You think cause you're a fancy eastern dandy with a education you can just look down on folks like us. And Johnny is one a us!" Frank interjected.

"No, he isn't! He's nothing like you. Johnny is my brother. I'd never look down on him! You two are a different matter altogether, however."

Another fist in the face and Scott had to fight for consciousness.

"We're gonna teach you some manners, boy. By the time we're through, you ain't gonna be lookin down on nobody. Matter a fact, you'll be lookin up from six feet below!" Silas grunted through clenched teeth.

Scott spit the blood from his mouth and glared at them both. "Do you think Johnny is really going to thank you for this?!" he shot.

"He'll be mad at first, but he'll understand. He ain't got no business here. He belongs with us! He's our kind, not yours!" Silas shot back.

"And you think killing me will make him want to leave Lancer? He won't."

"That's enough talkin, Silas. Let's just get to it. I got me a hankerin to do some damage to this dandy," Frank said with a sickening grin.

They took turns beating him until Scott was almost unconscious. He felt water being poured in his face and sputtered and coughed as it went down his throat.

"We ain't done with you yet, wake up!" Silas yelled.

*****

"Silas," Johnny said softly from behind him.

He was standing at the mouth of the cave. Stance relaxed, right hand playing at his holster, he looked icily at them both. They knew this look, this stance. They had seen it many times before but never directed at them.

"Johnny, you gotta understand. You ain't got no business bein here with him! He ain't no good for you. He's just makin ya miserable. He thinks he's better'n you and us!" Silas said.

Johnny shook his head slowly. "Get away from him, now!" he commanded.

They stood their ground, unsure how to make him understand.

"You know you can't take me, neither one of you or both of you. Get away from my brother or I'll drop you where you stand," he said in a deadly calm voice.

They hesitated then moved aside. Johnny could see Scott now and his eyes widened in surprise. He glared at the two men.

"Drop your guns, now!" he hissed.

They did as they were told and stood aside.

Johnny wasn't convinced they wouldn't run or try something but he also felt an urgent need to go to his brother. He stared at them both for a moment longer.

"Silas, go out and get my rope from my horse." he ordered.

Silas ran out and returned a second later.

"Tie Frank up."

He stared at Johnny for a second, probably less, as he realized Johnny was in no mood to have to repeat himself. He tied his friend up. Johnny checked the ropes and nodded in satisfaction.

"Turn around," he ordered Silas. He tied Silas and pushed him to the ground. Only then was he free to see to his brother.

He knelt beside him and lifted his head gently into his lap. "Scott?" he whispered.

Scott opened his eyes and tried to smile but he failed miserably.

"I'm so sorry, Boston," Johnny said, his voice trembling.Â

Billy had decided in for a penny, in for a pound and he rode back to the ranch house. He tapped lightly on the French doors and opened them.

"Mr. Lancer?"

"Yes, Billy what is it?" Murdoch asked from his desk.

"Well, sir. I might as well just say it and ta hell with the consequences. You can yell at me later but right now Johnny and Scott need your help," he said.

"What are you talking about?"

Billy explained the situation and Murdoch sprung into action. He ordered a wagon to follow him to Dell Canyon and sent one of the hands for the doctor just in case. He rode ahead of the wagon, wanting to get to his boys as soon as possible.Â

*****

Johnny retrieved his canteen and removed Scott's kerchief from his neck. He cleansed the cuts on his brother's face as gently as possible. Scott groaned occasionally from the stinging and Johnny flinched at every one of them. He unbuttoned Scott's shirt and saw the bruises forming on his abdomen. Johnny's rage nearly overwhelmed him and he fought for control. He had to help Scott right now. He would deal with these two idiots later. He didn't know how he was going to get his brother home without leaving him to get help. He heard the horse approaching at a gallop and laid his brother's head down gently, expecting to see Billy riding up. He was surprised to see his father but relieved as well.

"Where's Scott?" Murdoch asked.

"In there. Murdoch, he's pretty badly beaten," Johnny said, wanting to prepare his father before seeing Scott.

Murdoch stomped into the cave and took in the scene before him. Scott lying on the cave floor, his face covered with cuts and bruises. Silas and Frank sitting against the opposite wall trussed up like thanksgiving turkeys.

"Don't worry, son. I have a wagon coming. It's right behind me. We'll get you home," Murdoch whispered as he knelt at his son's side, stroking his hair.

Johnny had never felt so miserable in his life. He stood behind Murdoch with his head down, unable to face his brother anymore. Scott looked up, searching for Johnny. He called to him and Johnny was at his side in an instant.

"It's not your fault," Scott whispered.

"Yes, it is," Johnny said. "Don't worry about that now. I just want to get you home," he added.

Scott sighed, he was too tired to argue and he figured he'd get through to Johnny later when he felt better.

The wagon arrived just then and two hands helped them carry Scott to the waiting hay bed lain down for him in the back. Murdoch instructed the hands to take Silas and Frank to the Green River sheriff and he and Johnny took Scott home.

Doc Jenkins tended his patient's wounds and made him comfortable then went out into the hall to his awaiting audience. "He's lucky. He has a couple of cracked ribs but that's the worst of it. With rest, he'll be fine. He's sleeping now," he reported.

Johnny sighed his relief and walked downstairs and out to Barranca. He mounted and rode off like his hair was on fire. Murdoch watched him go but said nothing to try and stop him. His feelings about this whole mess were mixed. Trying to understand Johnny's past and protecting his family at the same time was not always the same thing. He was angry with the men who did this, but he was angry with Johnny too. He hated to admit it, to feel this way, but Johnny had brought them here and right now that's all he could think about.

*****

Johnny rode up to the sheriff's office and stormed in.

"How's Scott?" Val asked.

"He'll be alright, eventually," Johnny clipped.

He headed to the back room and the cells, Val hot on his heels. Silas approached the bars and realized that was a mistake at once. Johnny grabbed his shirt and banged him against the iron with enough force to knock the wind out of him.

"What's the matter with you?! Why, Silas? Why?" he shouted.

"I told ya," Silas said breathless.

"He's my brother, you idiot!" Johnny yelled. He released his hold and looked astoundingly at them both. "Did it EVER occur to you not to do this? Did you think that I'd be happy about it? Did you think at all?! I don't understand you two. I told you both I was happy here. But you just had to play God with my life and more importantly, with my brother's life! How dare you put your hands on him?! I should kill you both right now. Right here and now!"

Johnny finished venting and took a deep breath, blowing it out slowly. Val had remained quiet during this entire episode.

"You ain't gonna kill us are ya Johnny? I mean, the sheriff's standin right there!" Frank said, fear evident in his voice.

"Oh, I'm not here. I'm havin an early supper over at the hotel," Val said.

They both looked at him, confused.

"THIS is a friend!" Johnny hissed, pointing at Val. "Someone who doesn't interfere in my life without asking me what I want! I can't look at you two anymore. You'll never be anything but bad news. I just have one more thing to say, then I'm done. You WILL plead guilty, you WILL NOT make my brother sit through a trial! If you don't, I'll be back and believe me, you ain't NEVER seen Johnny Madrid before, not like you will. So you just try me, just go ahead and crowd me again and see what happens!"

Johnny spun on his heel and marched out of the back room. Val followed him and closed the door.

Johnny plopped down in the chair in front of Val's desk and buried his face in his hands. Val poured him a shot from his stash and handed it to him.

"Feel better now?" he asked. Johnny glared at him. "Don't even think about it Johnny. I ain't the one you're mad at," Val said firmly.

Johnny's face softened. "Sorry, Val. I'm just so damned frustrated and mad!" he hissed.

"I know but why ain't you at home with Scott?" Val asked.

Johnny dropped his eyes. "Why would he want to see me? I brought them to the ranch. Took them in and tried to help them," he whispered.

"Scott blame you?"

"He said he didn't."

"But you're gonna blame yourself, that it?"

"Murdoch's probably ready to strangle me."

"He say anything?"

"Nothing. I mean not a word," Johnny said, feeling miserable and not wanting to go home.

"Well, Johnny. He might be mad for a while but you can't blame him. Scott's his kid and he was hurt," Val said gently.

"He has every right. I wouldn't blame him if he threw me out."

"Poor Johnny. Never gets a break," Val said sarcastically.

Johnny shot him a death stare then broke into a grin. "Val, with friends like you .... I'm pretty lucky," he said softly.

*****

Johnny slipped into his brother's room to find Murdoch sitting at his side. "How is he?" he whispered.

"He woke up for a minute. He asked for you."

Johnny dropped his head. "What did you tell him?"

"I told him you were riding off your mad," Murdoch replied, face set in stone.

"I went to Green River," Johnny explained.

"Are they still alive?"

"Unfortunately," Johnny clipped.

Murdoch turned his attention back to his eldest and Johnny shuffled his feet, unsure whether he should stay. Scott stirred and moaned aloud, then opened his eyes to his father's smiling face.

"Hey, how are you feeling?" Murdoch asked.

"Sore," Scott replied.

Johnny grimaced and turned to leave.

"Running out on me?" Scott asked.

He turned to face his brother.

"Didn't figure you'd want to see me," he said, trying to smile.

"You figured wrong. Come here," Scott replied. Johnny approached the bed opposite his father. "Johnny, it wasn't your fault," Scott said.

“Okay, Boston," Johnny replied not wanting to tire his brother any further.Â

“Uh uh. That was too easy. Where did you go? Murdoch said you were riding it off.” 

Johnny fidgeted. “I went to Green River to make sure Frank and Silas plead guilty. You won't have to look at them again, Scott,”  he explained.

Scott tried to smile but it hurt too much. “Thanks, brother,”  he said.

Johnny shook his head in amazement. “What will it take, Scott?” 

“What do you mean?” 

“I mean, what will it take to make you hate me?” 

“Hate you? Nothing could ever make me hate you, Johnny,”  Scott said and, grabbing his brother's hand, he pulled him down. “Nothing,” he reiterated.

Johnny's eyes welled and he tried to move away but Scott had a death grip on him and he didn't want to cause his brother more pain. He looked into Scott's eyes and saw nothing but love. He smiled and mussed Scott's hair with his free hand.

Scott released him then, satisfied he'd made his point and closed his eyes against the exhaustion and pain. Johnny's pain was deeper inside than that and he left the room hastily.

*****

He sat downstairs, staring at the fire and waited. He was waiting for Murdoch to come and tell him to hit the road. Murdoch was standing in the doorway watching him but Johnny didn't notice. He was so deep in thought he didn't hear his father descend the stairs.

“Johnny,”  Murdoch called softly.

He jumped up and turned to face the fury. “Is he ok?”  he asked.

“He's sleeping,”  Murdoch an swered.

Johnny nodded and waited. And waited. Murdoch watched him for a long moment. Johnny couldn't stand anymore.

“Well? Do you want me to leave?”  he asked.

“Why?”  Murdoch asked.

“Please don't play with me now,”  Johnny said.

“I'm not, son. I just want to know why you would think I'd want you to leave.” 

“Scott could have been killed, Murdoch, because of me,”  he decried.

“No, Johnny. Not because of you, because of your friends.” 

“They're not my friends,”  he stated.

“No, not now. But they were before they pulled this. Johnny, I can't fathom why they thought this was a good idea or even an idea at all. I do know you would never do anything to hurt Scott. I also know how bad you feel about this and I can only imagine what you said to them in town. I admit I was angry with you at first but I realized that wasn't fair. You were only trying to help them and they turned on you. Whatever their reasons, they betrayed your trust. You can't be held responsible for that, son.” 

“What about Billy, where is he?”  Johnny asked.

“I don't know. Honestly, I forgot about him,”  Murdoch answered.

“I guess it doesn't matter.”  Johnny walked over to his father and looked him in the eye . “I think you and me, we've come a long way,”  he said softy, smiling.

“Yes, we certainly have,”  Murdoch smiled back and they went upstairs to aggravate Scott.

 

 

~end~

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