The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Winj

 

Called Out

 

 

 

Scott Lancer walked down the boardwalk in Morro Coyo heading for the saloon to meet his brother. As he passed the general store, a man walked out and they ran into each other. The man stumbled back a bit, caught off balance, but recovered quickly. "Oh, excuse me. I didn't see you. Are you alright?" Scott asked.

"You should watch where your goin, mister," the stranger replied.

"Look, I said I was sorry," Scott said a bit firmly.

"Yeah? Ya don't look too sorry. Maybe you need a lesson in manners, boy," the man sneered.

"Mister, I apologized once. I don't intend to do so again. Now, if you'll excuse me," Scott said determinedly.

"Ain't no excuse for ya, blondie."

"What is your problem?" Scott asked.

"You, at the moment. You need to learn a few things, boy. Like, watchin where your goin and who your runnin over," the man said harshly.

Scott pulled his shoulders back and stood straight as an arrow. "And I suppose you think you can teach me these things," he said sarcastically.

"Yep, that's right. Meet me in front of the saloon in an hour," the stranger instructed.

"Why?"

"So's I can teach that lesson. Are ya too stupid to know when you been called out?"

"Called out? This is ridiculous! There's no need for violence. It was a simple accident. I certainly didn't intend..."

"Stop talking! Meet me or I'll come lookin for you," the man said as he pointed his finger in Scott's face then turned on his heel and strode away.

Scott stood there for a minute, stunned by what had just happened. He couldn't believe the man was serious. He headed for the saloon to talk to an expert.

Scott walked into the saloon and spied his brother immediately. He walked over and tried to get Johnny's attention from the poker game he was embroiled in. "Johnny, I need to talk to you."

"Later, brother, I'm busy," Johnny said distractedly.

"Not later, now. It's important," Scott insisted.

Johnny heard the urgency in his brother's voice and when he looked at Scott, he knew something was very wrong. He sighed and folded, then left the game. Scott took his arm and led him to a back table.

"What's goin on?" Johnny asked.

"You are not going to believe this. I was just called out," Scott said.

Johnny stared at him for a split second then started laughing. "You're right, Boston, I don't believe it."

"I'm serious, Johnny. What am I going to do?" Scott asked.

"Who called you out?" Johnny inquired, still grinning.

"I don't know who he is. I was walking past the general store and he came out and we ran into each other, literally. I apologized and started to walk on but he started arguing with me and before I knew it, he had called me out. I'm supposed to meet him outside in an hour." Scott finished his story and looked at his brother in anticipation.

"That's crazy!" Johnny exclaimed.

"I know that! But he was very persistent. He said if I didn't show, he'd come looking for me."

Johnny thought for a minute then looked deliberately at his brother. "Can you take him?"

"How should I know!? I've never laid eyes on the man before in my life. I don't even know his name," Scott said exasperated. His eyes caught a movement and he looked past Johnny. "That's him!" he whispered.

Johnny turned around and glance at the man then turned back quickly. "Uh oh," he whispered.

"What? Do you know him?" Scott asked.

"Yeah, I know him. It was nice knowing you, brother. But if you go against him, you're gonna die," Johnny said glumly.

"What should I do?" Scott asked.

"Go home. Come on, let's go," Johnny shrugged.

"Wait a minute, if I leave he'll just come looking for me," Scott reminded him.

"Did you introduce yourself?" Johnny asked a bit sarcastically.

"No."

"Then, how's he gonna find you. Come on," Johnny said and led the way.

They walked toward the front of the saloon and Johnny kept his eye on the man, though one couldn't tell it. They were almost out the door, almost, when..."Scott, hey Scott Lancer! Come on over here, you owe me a poker game."

Scott froze in his tracks, every pair of eyes in the place was on him now, including the pair he was trying to avoid. "Not today, Walt," he said with half a smile.

Johnny grabbed him by the arm and pulled him outside, keeping his own head low. He leaned up against the wall of the saloon and looked at his brother. Scott wasn't sure what to make of the look, he didn't recognize it. "Well, I guess there's no sense leaving now. When are you supposed to meet him?" he asked.

"In about half an hour now," Scott said miserably. "Johnny, who is he?"

Johnny sighed and considered whether he should tell Scott the truth. He decided he may as well let him know what he was up against. "His name is Ed Pierce. He's pretty good, he's a gunfighter."

"Great! This is just ridiculous, I'm going to talk to the man. I'm sure we can be reasonable," Scott said and started back inside.

Johnny stepped in his path and put his hand on Scott's chest. "That won't work, Scott. Let me handle this," he said.

"No, Johnny, I don't want you fighting my battles for me," Scott said.

"Just let me talk to him. I know what to say, you don't," Johnny urged.

Scott considered the offer. He knew Johnny was right, he had no idea how to handle this situation without making it worse. "Alright, go ahead," he acquiesced.

Johnny nodded and walked back inside. He headed straight for Pierce's table and stood in front of the man. "Johnny Madrid! Been a long time," Pierce said.

"Ed, how are ya?" Johnny smiled.

"Fine, Johnny. Have a seat," he smiled back.

Johnny took the proffered chair and got right to business. "I hear you got a fight today," he started.

Pierce grinned at him. "News travels fast. Yeah, got a dandy I gotta teach some manners."

"I don't think so, Ed," Johnny said softly.

"Why's that?" Pierce asked, eyeing Johnny.

"He's my brother."

"What? That blond dandy? No way!" he exclaimed.

"It's true. He's my brother and I can't let you fight him. He ain't no gunhawk. He wouldn't stand a chance and you know it. Now, if he had done something to cause this, I might stay out of it, but as it is, this ain't nothin to fight over," Johnny said with a cold steady voice.

"I say it is," Pierce glared.

"Then you're gonna have to fight me first," Johnny said flatly.

Pierce studied him carefully, then broke out in a grin. "You're serious! Well, seeing how he's your brother, I guess I can let it go this time, for old times sake."

Johnny smiled at him. "Thank you, Ed. I knew you were a fair man."

"Johnny, just one thing. If he ever crosses my path again..." Pierce let the threat lay unspoken.

Johnny nodded his understanding. "He won't."

Johnny walked out of the saloon and smiled at his brother. "Let's go home," he said simply.

"Wait a minute, what happened?" Scott asked as he grabbed Johnny by the arm.

"I talked to him and he's willing to let it go. This time," Johnny said.

"This time? What does that mean?"

"It means, brother, just steer clear of him. I'm sure he'll be gone soon anyway," Johnny explained and walked over to the horses.

Scott stared after him for a minute, not entirely understanding this code of ethics.

On the ride home, Scott just couldn't let it go. "Johnny, I want to know exactly what you said to Pierce."

"Let it go, Scott," Johnny said.

"I can't. Tell me," Scott insisted.

Johnny shrugged. "I told him you were my brother and I wasn't gonna stand by and watch him kill you over nothing."

"So you threatened him."

"Not exactly. I just told him if he was dead set on fighting you, he'd have to fight me first," Johnny answered.

Scott reined to a stop and stared at his brother. "You did what?"

"What's the problem?" Johnny asked.

"I don't need you fighting in my place, Johnny," Scott said indignantly.

"Scott, he would have killed you."

"You're so sure about that."

"Yes, I'm sure about that. Do you really think I would let that happen?" Johnny said.

Scott still didn't like the idea of his kid brother standing in for him but he decided to let it go for now and simply smiled at Johnny in response. "I suppose I should thank you, then."

"No need. Can we go home now?" Johnny teased.

*****

Two days later, Scott was still upset about the entire incident in town. He was the first to admit he was no gunfighter but he had learned a lot from Johnny. He decided what he needed was to practice. He rode out to a quite area and set up the targets he had brought with him. Thinking about the times he'd seen Johnny in a gunfight, he tried to emulate his brother's moves. He found it more difficult than he imagined. 'Maybe I should just concentrate on my draw and aim,' he thought. He practiced drawing and shooting for an hour. He was so intuned to what he was doing, he heard nothing else.

"That ain't the way to do it," Johnny said softly from behind him.

Scott whirled around, gun still in hand. Johnny didn't flinch, just stared at him with a small smile playing on his lips. "You could get yourself killed like that, brother," Scott said.

Johnny laughed softly. "You're doin it wrong," he reiterated.

"What am I doing wrong?" Scott asked.

"Well, your trying to draw and shoot. Do one thing at a time. Practice drawing without shooting the gun, then work on your aim. Your trying to think of too many things at once. Here, let me show you," Johnny said as he walked closer to his brother. "Now, holster your gun. Ok, when you draw, you want to cock the hammer back as your bringing the gun out, like this." Johnny demonstrated, moving slowly so Scott could see. "Ok, now you try it."

Scott practiced drawing several times. "It's harder than it looks," he commented.

"It takes a lot of practice to get really good. Months, brother," Johnny said seriously.

"Months?"

"Fraid so, but keep going, your doin good," Johnny encouraged. He sat in the grass and watched Scott practice and practice for hours. He was impressed with his progress.

Scott finally stopped, rubbing his right hand and thumb. "It certainly puts a working on the hand."

Johnny laughed. "I had blisters."

"It was that important to you," Scott said.

"It was then. It was all I had," Johnny said sadly. He recovered in a blink of an eye though and stood up. "Ready to call it a day?"

"Yes. Could you show me some more tomorrow?" Scott asked a bit bashfully.

"I can. If you're sure you want it, Scott. If you're serious about it," Johnny said frowning.

"I am," Scott replied determinedly.

"Ok, we can talk more about it tonight. It's not just the gun, ya know, it's a whole way of thinking, of reacting," Johnny explained. He wasn't so sure he wanted to teach his brother the finer points of gunfighting but Scott seemed sure.

*****

After supper that evening, Scott went to his brother's room for his lesson. "Well, I'm ready," he said as he opened the door.

Johnny was sitting cross-legged on his bed, cleaning his gun. "Come on in." He looked at his gun as if considering how to proceed. "It's just a hunk of metal and wood but it can keep you alive or get you killed. I have to ask you again if your sure about this, Scott."

"Johnny, I'm not asking you to teach me to be a gunslinger, I just want to be good enough to take care of myself," Scott explained.

"There will always be someone better, faster. Just remember that."

"I know, I'm not planning on making a living at it," Scott said.

Johnny shrugged. "Ok, well you already know how to take care of a weapon so I guess we can skip that part," he grinned, then turned very serious. "You can't think of the person your facing as a person. You can't wonder if he's got a wife and kids. You can't think about his life at all. If you do, you might hesitate and that'll get you killed. You have to teach yourself to clear your mind of everything but what's in front of you. I can't teach you how to do that, it's something you have to learn on your own. Everybody has their own way of doing it. You can't think about your life either, not past keeping it. You can't think about your family, your friends, your home, nothing. Think about the moves you're about to make, how the gun's gonna slide so easily out of the holster, how your thumb's gonna automatically go to the hammer and cock it, how you're going to fire as soon as the gun is level and how your gonna do all these things in one split second."

Scott nodded his head through it all until the last four words. His head came up and he looked at Johnny in surprise. "I am? In a split second?"

"If you want to live you will," Johnny said. "It takes practice, knowledge and above all else, guts. You have two of these things and your working on the third."

"How did you learn all this?" Scott asked.

"I had some help, but mostly from experience. Guess I was lucky enough to stay alive to learn it. But you don't have to do it that way, you've got me," Johnny said and smiled.

"What else should I know?" Scott asked.

Johnny laughed at the question. "Tons, but for what you want, not so much. Look, I've already told you about a hundred times to always pay attention to what's around you. You still don't do that, so I guess I'll just have to keep telling you."

"I do too!" Scott protested.

"Oh? Then how come you didn't know I was behind you today?" Johnny asked, eyebrow raised.

Scott blushed a little. "Ok, point taken. Even at home, right?"

"Even at home. You never know when a snake of one kind or another is gonna be around," Johnny grinned.

"It's a lot to remember," Scott frowned.

"At some point, it will become second nature, if you want it to," Johnny said with a tinge of caution in his voice.

"You really don't want to teach me this, do you?" Scott asked.

"No, I don't. Your not a gunfighter, Scott. You never will be. It's fine to want to be good with a gun, there are just a lot of things that go along with it, if you want to be good enough to go up against the likes of an Ed Pierce."

"Or a Johnny Madrid?"

"You'll never be that good, brother," Johnny laughed.

"Is that so? How do you know?" Scott teased.

"Because, I'm the one teaching you. You think I'd give away all my secrets?" Johnny grinned.

*****

Unfortunately, Scott had not closed the bedroom door tight. Murdoch Lancer pushed the door open and looked at the two of them sternly. "What is going on in here?" he asked firmly.

Scott turned quickly, surprised by his father's voice. "Nothing sir, we were just talking," he said.

"Really, about what?" he asked.

"About how to be a fast draw," Johnny answered honestly.

"And you think that's something you should be teaching your brother?" Murdoch asked, his anger growing.

"He asked," Johnny shrugged.

"Scott?" Murdoch turned to his eldest.

"I just want to be able to defend myself, Murdoch," he explained.

"It sounded like a lot more than that to me," Murdoch huffed.

"Then maybe you shouldn't be eavesdropping," Johnny said coldly.

Murdoch glared at him. "Scott doesn't need to know the finer points of being a killer for hire, Johnny!"

"Murdoch! I asked him to teach me, I wasn't doing very well on my own. This is my business and I would appreciate it if you would respect that!" Scott snapped.

"Fine, just don't come crying to me when you get yourself killed!" Murdoch said and stormed off.

"Don't come cryin to me either," Johnny said, trying to hide the smile.

"So, 'Mister always be aware of your surroundings', why is it that you didn't know Murdoch was listening?" Scott asked wryly.

"I did know, smart aleck. I just didn't care. Didn't think he'd get all mad about it," Johnny said.

"I'm sorry, Johnny. He had no right to get angry," Scott said.

"Maybe he did, Scott. I mean, hearing someone teach your son how to be a gunfighter has got to be a little upsetting," Johnny said.

"Does that mean you won't teach me anymore?"

"No, if you still want to," Johnny replied.

"I do, and I'll talk to Murdoch," Scott said and got up to leave. "Right now," he added.

Scott went downstairs to find Murdoch looking out the picture window at the darkness. "Well, that was nice, calling your son a killer," he said snidely.

"That's not what I meant and you know it," Murdoch said gruffly.

"I was trying to do it on my own and Johnny explained what I was doing wrong. I asked him to help me, Murdoch. It isn't his fault," Scott explained.

"Why couldn't you want to learn Spanish or teach your brother about the opera? Why does it have to be this?"

"Well, I do want to learn Spanish and I would love to talk to Johnny about opera, but I also need to know how to defend myself. I will not depend on my younger brother to do that for me," Scott declared.

"I see, so this is about your pride. Why, Scott?" Murdoch asked.

Scott explained what had happened in town two days earlier. "So, you see why I have to do this. Besides, what if Johnny hadn't been there? I had no idea who that man was. I can't depend on my brother being around anytime some idiot challenges me and I may not know who that idiot is until it's too late."

Murdoch listened to his son's explanation and could think of no argument against it. "I suppose I understand, son. I see your point as well. I still don't like it but I can't argue with being able to protect yourself in any circumstance. I guess you didn't count on this type of thing when you decided to come here."

"No, but I'm not running away from it either. I'm capable of taking care of myself in most situations, now I just need to learn a little more. Like I had to learn about ranching," Scott said.

"And you certainly didn't shy away from that. It takes a real man to know when he needs help with something, son. I'm proud of you," Murdoch smiled.

Scott smiled back and felt a bit embarrassed by the comment. "Thank you. So, can I tell Johnny your not angry with him?"

"Why don't I tell him myself," Murdoch suggested.

"You just did," Johnny said from the doorway.

"Spying, brother?" Scott said.

"At least I come by it honest," Johnny shrugged then grinned.

*****

The next day, Johnny took Scott out again, away from the house. Scott thought he would have made a good commanding officer as much as he barked orders. He was getting a little frustrated by his lack of progress, he still hadn't squeezed off a single shot. He voiced his displeasure to his brother rather sharply.

"I told you, one thing at a time, Scott. Look, do you want to do this the right way or not?"

"I just find it hard to believe you took all this time with simply drawing your gun," he complained.

"Come over here and sit down, I want to tell you something," Johnny said, feeling very put out at the moment. "Scott, this takes a lot of patience. I know you won't believe this, but I had a lot of patience when I was learning my craft. Now, we aren't going to go that far here, but you have to know right now, if you can't find that patience in yourself, you might as well stop now. When your facing down a man in the street, you have to wait. As hard as it is, you have to wait for the moment. That moment when you know it's time to make your move. Patience is the one thing you can't ignore."

"I've seen you stand there for what seemed like forever, waiting. Is that what you mean, the moment you were waiting for?" Scott asked.

"Exactly," Johnny nodded.

"I have to tell you, I'm impressed, brother. You're so impatient most of the time but I have seen you be as still as death when you have to be. How do you know that moment?"

"It's in the eyes. You have to watch his eyes, always. Every man always gives himself away a split second before he draws. That's why I don't draw first, or try not to," Johnny explained.

"And when you do have to draw first?" Scott asked.

Johnny smiled. "You seem to have studied me a lot. What do you think?"

Scott thought for a moment before answering, then it suddenly struck him. "You smile!You always smile through the whole thing. It throws them off!"

"Very good, brother. Did you think I was just always enjoying myself?" Johnny laughed.

"It's an edge," Scott continued, realizing for the first time just how much work Johnny had out into refining his 'craft'. "You're amazing," he whispered.

"Come on, get back to work," Johnny said, embarrassed by the compliment.

*****

Scott continued his exercise for the rest of that day and the rest of the week. Johnny thought he was ready for shooting practice now and Scott was both relieved and excited. He needn't have been, it would turn out to be just a grueling as the drawing exercise. "I don't understand why I can't draw and shoot," he said exasperated.

Johnny had the patience of Job with his brother. "Listen to me, what good is it going to do you to draw and shoot if you don't hit your target? You need to practice hitting the target, then you can put it all together. Your great with a rifle, Scott. Now, put that knowledge to use with a pistol."

Scott nodded and went back to work. He practice until he was hitting five out of six targets consistently. "Now can I draw and shoot?" he asked with pride.

"Nope. When you hit six out of six every time, then you can draw and shoot," Johnny replied.

Scott looked at him as if he could kill him right then. "You are a hard taskmaster, Johnny. I hope this isn't too much work for you," he said, noting Johnny relaxing in the grass.

"Shut up and shoot," Johnny grinned.

Two weeks after this whole thing started, Scott was hitting six of six targets every time. Johnny stopped him one day. "What? Am I doing something wrong?" Scott asked.

"Nope, it's time," Johnny said. Scott nodded and turned back to the targets. "Wait a minute, there are some things we need to go over first," Johnny said.

"Like what?"

"Like what you're about to do. Think your just gonna start out hitting those targets every time, don't ya?"

"Well, yes. I have been," Scott said, confused.

"There's a big difference between shooting a gun in your hand and drawing it from the holster with the same precision. It's been awhile since you did any dry drawing. I want you to practice it again a few times," Johnny instructed.

Scott sighed and did as he was told until Johnny stopped him and gave him the okay to start what he had been wanting to do from the beginning. He missed every single target on the first try. He turned around and looked at his brother, stunned.

"I told ya," Johnny laughed. "Keep goin," he added.

*****

Scott practiced again and again. For a week he practiced until finally he was hitting four of six targets. He began to feel more confidence now and Johnny could see it happening, just as it had with him. He kept Scott at it until he was hitting all the targets most of the time.

As they sat in the grass taking a break one day, Johnny decided it was time to tell his brother the hardest part. "Your really doing good, Scott," he started.

"Thanks, I feel better about it now, but why aren't you teaching me to shoot the way you do? With your other hand?"

"It's called fanning the hammer and that's my preference. It takes more time and I ain't inclined to show it to you. Now I need to tell you something. Something you may think you already know. There's a big difference between shooting at targets and shooting at a moving object, like a man. You won't ever know how he's gonna move or even if he's gonna move. Another thing, I know you've killed men before, in the war and here. But you've never faced down a man one on one before. It's .... not the same. Your looking right in his eyes, knowing that in a minute, he's going to be dead or you are. It ain't so easy to do. All I'm saying is your going to feel things you didn't expect to feel. Even if he's the meanest, lowest snake alive, your gonna feel it. There's nothing I can say or do to prepare you for that. All I can do is warn you that it'll happen." Johnny finished and watched his brother's face to see if his words had made an impact.

Scott listened intently to Johnny's words but he wasn't thinking of himself, he was thinking about his brother's life. He wondered how Johnny lived that life. Everytime he instructed Scott in something, he had this faraway look in his eyes, as if he was remembering a specific event with every lesson. He wondered if he should have asked Johnny for his help, it seemed to be very painful for his brother to teach him.

"I understand," he finally said. Smiling he asked, "so, what's next?"

"Next, you learn to shoot at a moving object," Johnny said simply.

"Excuse me? Exactly who am I supposed to practice that on?" Scott asked.

Johnny laughed at him. He thought about teasing his brother but now was not the time. "Not who, what. Time to go huntin, brother."

*****

Johnny took Scott to a heavily wooded area. "This is perfect. Not only can you shoot at a moving target, but the shadows and light will help you learn how to listen as well as look," he explained.

This Scott understood. During his service in the army, he had traveled with his men through a lot of wooded areas where the enemy would often hide for an ambush. He had learned how to listen very well then. "What am I shooting at?" he asked.

"Anything that moves, except for me that is," Johnny grinned. "I want you to find a snake, any old snake."

"Alright, well that stream over there would be a likely place," Scott observed.

Johnny smiled with pride, his brother had learned a great deal during his time in California. He watched Scott move gracefully and stealthily through the woods to the small stream. He stayed back so as not to interrupt the hunt. He was pleasantly surprised by his brother's ability to move so quietly. He also kept an eye out for anything Scott might miss.

Scott moved to the edge of the water and stood perfectly still, listening. He heard the birds above, the insects buzzing around his head, a frog in the water. He didn't hear any snakes though, but he stayed still and waited for half an hour. Finally he heard a slithering sound to his right and turned his head very slowly in that direction. He saw the snake moving toward the water and smiled. He wanted to look at Johnny but he didn't dare make that much motion. When the snake was in his line of vision, he drew and shot at it. He watched as the snake continued it's journey into the water, moving more quickly now. He dropped his shoulders in disappointment.

"Ain't so easy, is it?" Johnny said from behind him.

Scott whirled around, his heart nearly stopping. "Don't do that!"

Johnny laughed and moved to his side. "Do you still see him?"

Scott peered at the water. "No," he shook his head.

Johnny pointed at the snake and Scott saw it then but before he could do more than nod his head, Johnny had drawn and killed the reptile. "Just a thought, that was a water mocassin, very poisonous. You might have wanted to be a little further away when you fired at it. It could've turned on you." Johnny smiled and patted his brother's arm, then walked away.

*****

As they strolled on through the woods, Johnny could sense his brother's disappointment in his performance. "You did real good, Boston."

"But I missed him," Scott said glumly.

"Yeah but the way you moved, how quiet and still you stayed, I was impressed," Johnny said.

"You were?"

"Sure, didn't know you could be so quiet. You've had some experience moving through the woods I take it," Johnny observed.

Scott nodded. "In the army."

"I figured. Well, how do you think Teresa would feel about a rabbit stew?" Johnny grinned.

"I think she'd feel fine about it, but if you waiting for me to shoot it, she might be disappointed," Scott replied.

"No, you can't think like that. Confidence is the key to all of this, Scott. I don't always hit what I aim at, but that doesn't keep me from trying," Johnny said, then stopped and held his hand out for Scott to do the same. "There, see it?" he whispered.

Scott saw the rabbit near it's hole and nodded. Johnny motioned for him to take the shot. Scott remembered everything his brother had just said to him, including the compliments and went for it. He drew and fired and the rabbit went down. Scott actually hooted his pleasure.

Johnny laughed at his brother's exuberance as he went to retrieve the kill. "Nice shootin, Boston," he called.

Scott literally beamed with pride. "It's not a very poisonous rabbit is it?" he asked with a grin.

"No, not this kind, but you just never know when one of those poison rabbits is gonna show up," Johnny teased back. "Look at that, perfectly clean shot!", Johnny said with pride as he handed his brother his trophy. "Now, tell me what you saw."

Scott thought about it. "I saw his eyes kind of twitter and his fur stood up just before he looked at me. That's when I drew, just as he was turning to look at me."

Johnny smiled. "That's exactly what I saw. Congratulations, brother, you did it."

*****

They headed home with Scott grinning ear to ear. Johnny was quite amused but felt some concern. "One more thing, Scott. Don't ever get cocky. It's the surest way of getting yourself killed. Overconfidence is worse than no confidence," he warned.

"I understand that, I'm not given to thinking too much of myself," Scott replied.

"I know, but sometimes when you get really good at something it can make you think your invinsible," Johnny said.

"You think I'm really good?" Scott asked, looking over at his brother.

"I do, not as good as me, but really good," Johnny grinned.

"Oh I don't know Johnny, with a little more practice," Scott shrugged.

"Forget it, brother. The lessons are over. Your good enough now and I could never teach you everything I know unless you still want to be at this when your grandkids are grown."

"I don't need any more lessons?" Scott asked, pleased.

"Nope, just remember, even though you don't need to practice every day, a wheel gets rusty if you don't grease it now and then," Johnny said.

They were home now and as they dismounted, Scott stopped Johnny. "I just want to thank you for everything, brother. I really appreciate you taking the time to teach me, I know I didn't make it all that easy."

"You weren't so bad, most of the time," Johnny grinned. "Just don't be in any hurry to try out this new skill," he added.

"Well, how is the student doing?" Murdoch asked as he walked out to the yard.

"He just graduated," Johnny said and Scott held up his rabbit.

"Well, you taught him to hunt rabbit. That was the purpose of this whole thing?" Murdoch asked wryly.

"Hey, I drew down on this rabbit just before he tried to run off," Scott said a bit disgruntled.

"Why don't you give that to Teresa before it ain't any good anymore," Johnny laughed.

Scott walked to the house and Johnny started to the barn. Murdoch took hold of his arm and stopped him. "Is he any good?" he asked concerned.

"He's good, Murdoch. Good enough to hold his own. I just hope he never has to," Johnny said dropping his voice with the last sentence.

"So do I. I am sorry I came down so hard on you, son," Murdoch apologized.

"It's okay, I understand, believe me. But you know I'd never do anything to get Scott hurt, don't you?" Johnny asked.

"I know that, Johnny. I overreacted. I..."

"You didn't want another son turned into a gunfighter. I can't blame you for that," Johnny finished for him. "Look, it's alright really. I'm gonna take care of the horses," he added and walked to the barn.

Murdoch hoped it really was alright, he never intended to slight Johnny. He only wanted his boys safe and happy and healthy.

*****

It had been a month since Scott's run in with Pierce and the Lancer boys were heading to town for supplies once more. Scott seemed apprehensive to Johnny and he hid the smile threatening to emerge. "Something bothering you, brother?" he asked.

"Not at all. What could be bothering me?" Scott asked, lips drawn in a tight line.

"I don't know. Could be your thinking about the last time you were in town," Johnny fished.

"I'm sure Pierce is long gone by now," Scott said grimly.

"I'm sure he is but part of you hopes he isn't," Johnny stated.

"Don't be ridiculous. I'm not looking for a fight, Johnny," Scott reprimanded.

"Maybe not, but you sure ain't gonna run away from one. That's not what happened, Scott. You didn't run," Johnny said.

"Didn't I? No, I just let my little brother take care of it for me," Scott said tersely.

"Is that what this whole thing has been about? You're mad because I took care of a little problem?" Johnny asked, turning sideways so he could see his brother's profile.

"I should have been able to take care of it myself," Scott said.

"But you couldn't, then. Now you can," Johnny said simply.

Nothing more was said on the subject and the boys arrived in Morro Coyo. They both entered the general store and half an hour later, the supplies were loaded and ready to go. "Let's get a beer," Johnny suggested.

"Sounds good to me," Scott agreed and they headed to the saloon.

As always, Johnny walked in first, scanning the room. Scott shook his head at his brother's propensity to keep old habits. Satisfied, they proceeded to the bar. Shortly afterward, Ed Pierce walked into the saloon. Johnny saw him first and made an effort to divert his brother's attention with small talk. But Scott saw him through the mirror over the bar, though he said nothing about it.

Pierce strolled up to the bar a short distance from them and ordered. He turned then and eyed the two men. "Hello, Johnny," he said.

"Ed," Johnny nodded.

"I see ya brought your dandy brother with ya again."

"Don't start, Ed," Johnny said softly but coldly.

"I ain't startin nothin. Just makin an observation," Pierce grinned.

Johnny didn't answer him and nudged his brother, giving him a confident grin.

"Tell me somethin, Johnny. Does he ever go anywhere without you? I mean, do ya have ta babysit him all the time?" Pierce asked.

"Ed.."

"Mr. Pierce, if you have something to say to me, say it. I don't appreciate being ignored," Scott said, interrupting his brother.

"Alright, blondie. I don't like you and I especially don't like the way you weaseled out of that fight by siccing your brother on me," Pierce said coldly.

"Weaseled? I did no such thing. It was a ridiculous situation. If you have nothing better to do than pick fights for no reason, perhaps you should investigate another line of work. It seems this one doesn't keep you very busy," Scott glared. Johnny nearly spat his beer out at this.

"You talk real fancy, don't ya, blondie. Maybe you'd like to pick up where we left off?" Pierce said.

"After you," Scott said flatly.

"Hey, don't do this, Scott. He ain't worth it," Johnny tried.

"No he isn't, but I've had all I can take of this blowhard," Scott replied determinedly.

*****

Pierce stormed out of the saloon and Scott started to follow with Johnny hot on his heels. "He'll take the end of the street where the sun's at his back but don't let that bother you. Don't look at the sun, ignore it. It's not even there. Remember what I told you about making it all one smooth movement..."

"Johnny, I remember. Now your making me nervous so would you stop?" Scott said.

"You can walk away, Scott. It ain't bein a coward, it's bein smart," Johnny said seriously.

"Would you walk away?" Scott asked him.

"You ain't me," Johnny nearly hissed.

"I'm not walking away either," Scott said and set his jaw.

"Okay, but I'm not here, just forget about me," Johnny gave his last piece of advice as Scott stepped into the street.

He thought about everything his brother had taught him in the past month, every piece of insight Johnny had offered and he was as ready as he was ever going to be.

Johnny leaned against a column and put his right hand around it up high so Pierce would understand that he was not going to interfere, then he said a silent prayer that his brother would still be alive in two minutes.

"You ready, blondie?" Pierce called.

"I'm ready," Scott affirmed, watching the man's eyes intently. He saw it then and he drew and fired just as Pierce did the same.

When the dust settled, Scott was still standing and Johnny sighed with relief. Pierce lay on the ground, not moving. A few men went over to check him and confirmed he was dead as Johnny walked up to his brother.

"You alright? He didn't hit you did he?" Johnny asked.

Scott was standing dead still in the street, staring at the body. "I'm okay," he whispered.

"Come on, brother, you need a drink," Johnny said as he wrapped an arm around Scott and ushered him back into the saloon. Johnny sat Scott down and got a bottle of whiskey and two glasses, then joined him.

Neither of them spoke for a long time. Johnny knew his brother needed this time to come to terms with what had happened, so he said nothing and kept filling Scott's glass.

"It wasn't like I expected," Scott finally said.

"It never is," Johnny agreed.

"How did you do it?"

"There's a difference between shooting a man down once and doing it for a living. I can't explain it, but it never gets any easier, at least it didn't for me," Johnny replied.

"I was so angry," Scott said.

"Couldn't tell."

"Then, after it was over, I felt .... like I wished I could take it all back. That it had never happened. I killed a man because he insulted me," Scott said, stunned.

"You killed a man because he was going to kill you. He was lookin for a fight with you, Scott. You did what you had to do," Johnny explained.

"But you said I could walk away."

"Yeah, what I didn't say is I would've had to kill him if you did. He would've shot you in the back, Scott. I guarantee it," Johnny said.

"I think I'd like to go home now," Scott said, still in a daze.

"Sure, Boston," Johnny patted his shoulder.

*****

Nothing was said on the ride home but Johnny was worried about his brother's state of mind. He knew exactly how Scott felt but there were no words that could comfort his brother. Nothing he could say would make Scott feel better. Only time could heal him, Johnny hoped.

Scott climbed down from the wagon and headed for his room, ignoring his father's question as he passed. "What's wrong with him?" Murdoch asked.

"He got in a gunfight," Johnny said simply.

"He what? Is he alright?"

"He ain't hurt, but he ain't alright either. He just found out what it's like to kill a man," Johnny said.

"But he's killed before, in the war, here," Murdoch said.

"It ain't the same, Murdoch. He faced down a man and looked him right in the eyes, then took his life. It's just not the same as a war. I tried to tell him what it was like, but ... it's not something you can explain so easily. Right now he feels numb all over, like it's all a dream, it's not real. Once that wears off..." Johnny didn't finish but simply shook his head.

"Once that wears off, what?" Murdoch pressed.

"I don't know. It's different for everyone. A man like Scott, it's not easy to deal with. I just don't know how he'll react," Johnny said, his brows drawing together in concern.

"I should talk to him," Murdoch said.

"And say what?" Johnny asked.

Murdoch looked at his youngest and had no answer. He didn't know what to say, how to deal with this. With Johnny, it was a foregone deal. It was done, he couldn't stop it and he couldn't change it. But Scott was different, he'd never dealt with anything like this before. His life had been one of wealth and comfort and Johnny was right, it wasn't the same as war.

"Leave him alone for a while, Murdoch. Give him time to sort it out on his own. Nothing we say to him now is going to make a bit of difference because he can't hear it right now," Johnny advised.

"Was that the way it was with you?" Murdoch asked.

Johnny dropped his head and simply nodded. "It don't matter if he was right. It don't matter if he had the right to defend himself. None of that matters now. It's how he gets it straight in his head that matters. We can't do anything until he's ready to put it right with himself," he said softly.

"Alright, son. I guess you know more about this than I do," Murdoch said gently.

Scott didn't come down for supper so Johnny took him a tray. Tapping gently on the door, he actually waited for a response. Getting none, he opened the door slowly. "Scott?"

"What?"

"I brought you something to eat," Johnny said, ignoring his brother's harsh tone.

"I'm not hungry," Scott clipped.

"I figured you wouldn't be, but I'll leave it here in case you change you mind," Johnny said, sitting the tray on the dresser. Johnny hesitated, chewing his lower lip. "Do you want to talk?"

"No." Came the reply.

"Ok, well you know where to find me," Johnny said gently as he left the room.

*****

When Johnny got dressed the next morning, he peeked in his brother's room to find it empty. He shrugged and figured Scott decided to rejoin the world. He headed to the kitchen to find Murdoch, Jelly and Teresa, but no Scott. "Where is he?"

"Who?" Jelly asked.

"Who do you think? Scott," Johnny snipped.

"He isn't in his room?" Murdoch asked.

"No, he isn't. I'm gonna check the barn," Johnny mumbled and headed out the door. He found Scott's mount missing and frowned. He saddled Barranca and set out to find his brother.

It took most of the morning, but he finally found his brother in the same place they had spent the previous month. Scott was practicing his draw again. Johnny sat on the hill and watched for a few minutes before heading down. He dismounted and turned to find a gun pointed at him.

"You shouldn't sneak up on a man like that," Scott said tersely.

"Wasn't sneakin. Didn't think you'd be so skiddish," Johnny shrugged.

Scott turned his back and continued his exercise. Johnny sat down and figured he could wait it out. An hour later, Scott ran out of ammunition.

"Want to borrow some of mine?" Johnny asked.

"No, I'm done," Scott replied in the same terse tone he had been using for two days.

"You ready to talk about it?" Johnny persisted.

"There's nothing to talk about," Scott clipped.

"Sure, brother. It's just an everyday thing, killing a man," Johnny said in a soft drawl.

"You should know," Scott shot.

"Oh come on, Boston. You can do better than that. Go ahead, really give it to me," Johnny said seriously.

"What are you talking about?"

"Your mad at me so go ahead, take your best shot," Johnny shrugged.

"Why would I be mad at you?" Scott asked. He had yet to look at his brother.

"Because it's my fault you killed that man. I taught you how to do it," Johnny replied.

"I asked you to," Scott retorted.

"Yeah, you did. But you still want to blame me cause it's easier. I'm the gunfighter, it doesn't bother me to kill a man, I'm used to it. But it bothers you, doesn't it? It bothers you a lot," Johnny said, standing to face his brother.

"Stop it, Johnny," Scott said firmly.

"Stop what? Stop telling the truth? Your mad at me, Scott, so go on. Take your best shot," Johnny challenged.

Scott didn't move and still would not look his brother in the eyes.

"Come on, Scott! You know you want to," Johnny pressed. He shoved his finger in Scott's chest and kept baiting him until Scott could take no more.

*****

Scott hit Johnny in the gut, then finished with an upper cut to the jaw. Johnny landed on the grass hard and sucked in a breath. He put his hand to his lip and came back with blood.

"Feel better?" he asked, breathlessly.

"No, I don't feel better! I killed a man for nothing! Nothing!" Scott cried out, then sank to his knees.

Johnny got up and sat next to him, putting his arm around Scott's shoulders for support. "It's never easy, Scott. You did have a reason. Sometimes a man makes his own fate. Pierce did just that. Sometimes it's as simple as kill or be killed. There are no easy answers, brother. It feels like there's a knot in your stomach. You can't breathe, you can't think, you can't stand to be around anybody. You don't know what to do with yourself so you don't do anything. Men like Pierce are full of hate, it's all they've ever known and all they ever will know until somebody comes along and stops the hate, stops the pain for them." Johnny spoke in soothing whispers to his brother as Scott wept. "I know it hurts, Scott. Not much of anything else hurts as much as this does. The only thing that could hurt more is not standing up, letting yourself be killed. That would hurt everybody that loves you. That's what you have to think about."

"How did you live with it?" Scott asked.

"As best I can, brother. You have to go on with your life and be grateful you still have one. I know I'm very grateful you're still here," Johnny said, his voice trembling as he thought of his brother lying dead in a street.

Scott sniffled and dried his eyes, looking off at the horizon, he was silent for awhile.

"I hope I never have to do that again," he finally whispered.

"So do I, brother. It may never happen again. But you know what? You just said you hoped you never HAD to do that again. So I guess you understand know that you didn't have a choice," Johnny said with a soft smile.

Scott looked at him for the first time, understanding adorned his face. "Yes, I suppose I do know that. It really doesn't make it any easier, though."

"You don't really know that, Scott. You've never killed a man for no reason. Believe me, it does make a difference," Johnny said sadly.

Scott almost asked but decided his brother had been through enough. Afterall, he was right, Scott had blamed him for what happened. "If you don't mind, I'd like to be alone for awhile," he said instead.

"Sure, brother, I understand," Johnny said and stood up. He started for his horse, then stopped. He took six bullets out of his gunbelt and handed them to Scott. "Never be left unprepared," he smiled.

Scott came home a few hours later. He didn't go to his room and he didn't talk about the gunfight. It took him a while but he was finally able to put things in perspective and go on with his life without thinking about it every minute. Sometimes it would sneak up on him but for the most part, he was able to get past it.

They never spoke of it again and Johnny only prayed his brother would never find himself in that situation for the rest of his life.

 

 

~end~

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