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Winj

 

Breaking The Circles

 

 


A follow up to Viscious Circles

Murdoch rode up to the hacienda feeling tired but happy. It had been a hard fight and a long day but he felt it had been a victory for both of them. As he dismounted, Jelly approached him with a wary expression.

"Could you take care of him for me, Jelly? I'm exhausted," Murdoch smiled.

Without changing the look on his own face, Jelly nodded. "You're alone."

"Yes, I am. Oh, I want you to load up a wagon with plenty of supplies and take it to Johnny in the morning. He doesn't even have fresh coffee."

"Plenty of supplies, ya say?"

Murdoch smiled again. "Yes, Jelly. Enough for a month. Maybe by then he'll make it to town to get some."

"Ya wanna just tell me so's I don't have ta pull it outta ya?" Jelly groused.

"He's staying. He just thinks it's best if he lives in the cabin for a while. We had a good talk. A really good talk," Murdoch assured him.

"Bout time! So, the ranch is still in one piece?"

"It is. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to go to bed."

Jelly harrumphed. "Good luck! Scott's in there wearin a rut in the floor waitin."

Murdoch sighed and nodded. He was hoping to put this off until morning. Straightening his shoulders, he headed inside.

*******

Scott stopped pacing in front of the fireplace and stared at him. "Well? Where is he?"

"Still at the cabin."

"Why?" he demanded.

"If you'll calm down, I'll tell you," Murdoch said.

"How about you just tell me. Then I'll decide if I calm down," he shot.

"Johnny thinks he should live at the cabin for the time being. He wants to give us both some space and time. He wants to make sure I don't mess up again," he explained, a flicker of a smile crossing his features.

Scott's shoulders relaxed and he nodded. "That makes sense. I hope you don't intend on messing up," he cocked a brow.

"I don't. I am well aware of what I have to lose. Now, I hope you don't think we were coming down too hard on you, son. Some of that was just teasing."

"Was it? I got the impression you were both quite serious," Scott huffed.

"I was afraid you might. Well, it was the truth. Scott, I've allowed it to happen. It's my fault, not yours. You have every right to defend your brother. You made it easy for us, though. I'm not saying you were wrong. But, it's time to let us work on our relationship without you running interference."

Scott watched him for a while. "It would be nice not to have to referee the two of you anymore."

"What will you do with yourself?" Murdoch chuckled.

Scott smiled. "I guess I'll have to live my own life. What a challenge!" he snorted.

******

"Would you like a drink?" Scott asked.

"No! I, um, I think I'll lay off for a while," Murdoch said, his cheeks flaming up.

"There's nothing wrong with it as long as you don't let it take over. You know that."

"I do, son. But, after everything that's happened, I really don't want it."

"Can you tell me what did happen?"

Murdoch dropped his eyes and walked over to the sofa. He eased his tall frame into the cushions. "Without going into detail, your brother taught me some hard lessons tonight. He made me see things more clearly than I ever have. I, uh, I told him I'd give him his third if he wanted."

Scott stopped pouring the brandy and turned to stare at his father. "I'm sorry. What did you say?"

Murdoch laughed. "That was pretty much Johnny's reaction. But, I meant it and I still do. If he decides that's what he wants, that's how it will be. You, too."

Scott nodded absently and turned back to the sideboard. Snifter in hand, he walked over and joined his father.

"How will this work? With Johnny living there, I mean."

"I haven't really thought about it. Right now, I'm so tired I can't see straight. I'm sure Johnny is as well. I think we both ..... all three deserve a day off."

"Thank you, sir. I believe I'll take you up on that."

"You just want to see Johnny first thing in the morning," Murdoch smiled.

"That's true. Well, goodnight, Murdoch."

"Goodnight, son. And Scott, thank you for trying so hard to keep the family together."

Scott smiled warmly. He liked this new version of his father. He hoped it would last. "You're very welcome."

******

Johnny was up at dawn. He walked outside in his bare feet and inhaled deeply of the rich fragrances around him. Smiling appreciatively at the scenery, he sipped at his coffee.

He spit the foul brew out and looked at the cup in disgust. 'First thing: supplies,' he thought ruefully as he emptied the cup into the yard.

He could smell the dew in the air and feel the light moisture on his skin. It was going to be a beautiful day. He looked forward to working. Stretching his muscles out, he decided to finish dressing. As he turned to go inside, he heard a rider.

Johnny turned in surprise that anyone would be out so early. His surprise disappeared and a grin replaced it as he shook his head. Like a dog with a bone, he thought.

"Mornin, brother. What brings you out so early?"

"You, brother," Scott replied in clipped tones as he dismounted.

Johnny frowned at the voice and waited for Scott to approach.

"Any coffee?"

"You don't want it, believe me. It's older than Teresa," Johnny laughed.

"I don't smell anything. I suppose you don't have any food yet?"

"Did you come out here to get on me about my housekeeping habits?"

Scott sighed and shook his head as he headed inside.

"Well, come right on in, brother. Make yourself at home," Johnny mocked.

"Thank you, I will."

"So, why are you so mad at me?" he asked bluntly.

"Oh, I don't know, Johnny. There are just so many reasons," Scott replied as he tossed his hat on the table and sat down.

Johnny chewed his lip and gave his brother a cagey look. But he joined him nonetheless.

*****

"Well, spit it out."

"First I want to hear your version of last night's events."

"Why? What did Murdoch tell you?" Johnny asked suspiciously.

"He said you decided to live here for a while to make sure he doesn't mess up again."

Johnny laughed softly and sat back in his chair. "Well, I didn't say that exactly, but yeah. I figured if I came home, it would be too easy to slip into old habits."

"I agree."

"So, why are you mad?"

"I'm angry because of the way you treated me last night, Johnny. It was rude and uncalled for," Scott said firmly.

Johnny dropped his eyes. "I know. I'm sorry. Part of it was kiddin around, you know? But, well, part of it wasn't. As much as I've always appreciated your help, I realized it wasn't helping. No, that ain't true. It helped a lot of times. But, Scott, in the long run, it doesn't. Do you understand?"

"I think so. I also think you could have found a better way to tell me."

"You're right. No doubt about that. I'm sorry, brother. It was pretty intense last night. We were being so ..... honest, I guess I got carried away."

"Sounds like a lot was resolved."

Johnny nodded and sighed. Tired, just thinking about it. "You ain't kiddin. I really got an earful. It was good though. I mean, we both told the truth and, instead of it hurting, it was ....."

"Liberating?" Scott offered.

Johnny snapped his fingers. "That's it! Liberating. I felt so free. Like I could tell him anything."

Scott smiled fully at this. "You know something? I think there may be hope for us after all."

******

"Me too. So, did Murdoch tell you what he wants me to do today?"

"He did. He said we all three deserve the day off."

Johnny raised both brows at this. "He did, huh? I'm not so sure I can handle that much improvement."

Scott laughed. "Me either. But, it will give you a chance to lay in some supplies. Aren't you hungry?"

"I'm starving, Boston. Can't remember the last time I ate."

Scott frowned. "I wish you'd take better care of yourself, Johnny. Come to the house. Maria will feed you until you burst."

"Sounds good. Decent coffee sounds good, too. Say, did you know Teresa's daddy used to live here?"

"No, I didn't."

"Murdoch told me last night. He lived her with his wife. I was just wonderin if Teresa was born here."

"Ask him. I'm sure he'd tell you."

"Why? You think I got him over a barrel now?" he laughed.

"I do, brother. Especially since he told me he offered you your third of Lancer," Scott said wryly.

"I'm surprised he told you about that."

"He also offered me my third should I want it. So, tell me, what have you done with our father?"

Johnny laughed out loud and punched his brother's arm playfully. "I'll never tell."

********

As they walked out of the cabin, they spied a wagon approaching. Jelly pulled up in front of them and nodded. "Figured you'd be here bright and early," he said to Scott as he climbed down.

"What's all this, Jelly?" Johnny asked.

"Well, your dad told me to load up a month's worth of supplies and bring it to ya. Said maybe by the time they run out, you'd make it to town."

Johnny frowned and walked to the back of the wagon.

"That was a nice gesture," Scott commented.

"Yeah, it was. I hope he doesn't try too hard though."

"You think it won't be sincere?"

"Well, brother, I just don't know. That's the most aggravating part of all this."

Scott wrapped an arm around Johnny's shoulders. "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth."

"You two gonna stand there and jaw all day or are ya gonna help me unload. I'll cook up some breakfast whilst your seein to the rest," Jelly huffed and grabbed a crate.

Johnny grabbed a box and walked into the house. Scott took the opportunity to inform Jelly that his brother hadn't eaten in probably two days. Jelly nodded and winked.

*******

By the time breakfast was over, Johnny was ready to go back to bed.

"I never ate so much in my life," he proclaimed.

"Hog wash! I can't believe ya didn't wither away goin this long without," Jelly admonished.

Johnny laughed softly. "Thanks, Jelly. That was good, especially the coffee."

Jelly brought the pot over from the stove and refilled all their cups. He then sat down with a serious expression on his face.

"I know ya been on your own most of your life, Johnny. But ya ain't never had to keep a house. You got to make sure ya got things in order around here. No runnin out of supplies and such. And keepin it clean, too. Don't want a bunch of varmits runnin all over. Ya need a decent bed to sleep on. A man can't do a honest day's work without a good night's sleep. I know your used ta havin somebody else tend to the cookin and cleanin. But, if your gonna live alone, ain't nobody ta do it for ya. That includes the laundry and such."

Johnny nodded his head thoughtfully. "Are you tryin to scare me back home?" His face bore a serious expression as he looked at the older man.

Scott ducked his head to hide the smile he couldn't control.

"I'm a tryin ta tell ya what's what. Don't get smart with me, boy. Ya ain't too old that I can't still turn ya over my knee!"

"Don't get your back up, Jelly. I was just jokin with ya. Seems a man can't make a joke around here anymore."

Scott looked up then. "That depends on the joke and the timing. Sometimes, it's just not appropriate, brother."

******

A smile graced Johnny's face followed by a soft laugh. "Yeah, you're right about that. Sorry, Jelly. I know you worry."

"Darn right, I do! Now, ya'll might be men of luxury today but I ain't. I got to get to work," he stood as he spoke.

Johnny walked him out and put a hand on his shoulder. "Thank you, Jelly."

"It was Murdoch's idea."

"I'm not talkin about the supplies. I'm talkin about how you always stand up for me. Watch out for me."

"Well, somebody has ta. Scott can't do it all the time," he groused.

"You know, old man, you've been more than a friend to me," Johnny spoke softly.

"Ain't no call ta get all weepy. Just take care of yourself and come home when it feels right. We miss ya around the place."

Johnny smiled. "I miss you, too."

Jelly nodded and climbed into the wagon, anxious to get away before making a fool of himself. He looked down at Johnny once more. "He loves ya."

"I know, Jelly. I really do."

Sniffing, the old man flicked the reins and was on his way. Johnny watched him with awe. No one could grump like Jelly but it was all an act. Johnny knew the old fella loved him as much as he loved Jelly.

"Smart man," Scott commented.

Johnny turned to see his brother leaning on the support post, arms crossed, watching.

"Seems there's a lot of those around here." Ducking his head, he stared at the ground. "Look, I really am sorry I came down on you so hard. If it weren't for you, I'd have never made it here."

******

Scott watched him stare at the ground. It had always aggravated him. "I forgive you."

Johnny looked up and smiled brilliantly. "Yeah? So, brother, what are we gonna do today? Now that my supply problems are settled, that is."

Leave it to Johnny to jump from one extreme to the next, Scott thought. "Well, it's a beautiful day. That stream out by Dell Canyon sounds mighty inviting."

"It sure does. I'll saddle Barranca."

"Just a minute, brother. What about the breakfast dishes?" Scott asked with a wicked little grin.

Johnny stared at him then grinned. "Well, I meant I'll saddle Barranca *after* I clean up," he countered.

"Of course, that's what I thought you meant," Scott chided.

As he dried the last of the dishes, a bit peeved at his brother for sitting there and not lifting a finger to help, Johnny pondered.

"I was thinking, Boston. Wonder what Murdoch has planned for today?"

"Probably working on the books. That's his idea of a day off."

"Yeah. Would you mind if we invited him along?" Johnny asked as nonchalantly as he could.

Scott watched his back, seeing the ever so slight tension in the shoulders. "I think that's a great idea."

******

The brothers loped up to the hacienda, spying Murdoch talking to a hand. His body language left no question, he was handing out orders.

"So much for takin the day off," Johnny gibed.

Scott only shrugged. He knew as well as he knew his name, this was what they'd find.

Murdoch looked up and a smile spread across his face. "Boys, what are you up to today?"

"Well, sir, we thought we'd ride up to Dell Canyon. There's a sweet little stream up there. We wondered if you'd join us."

Murdoch's eyes went to Johnny who was smiling at him. "Fishing?"

"Swimmin."

"Swimming? I haven't been swimming in years," Murdoch said with a bit of exuberance. Seeming to consider the idea for about a second, he smiled. "Give me a minute."

Scott laughed as he dashed into the house. "He acts like a schoolboy."

"Yeah, I was thinkin. He really does need to relax more. I mean, he doesn't have to take every problem on himself."

"Maybe we can convince him."

"Sure, Boston. And I'll go convince the Pope there ain't no God," Johnny smirked.

They waited ten minutes for the rancher to reappear. When he did, he looked more excited than either could remember. They had to rein in their amusement at seeing Murdoch step so lightly.

******

It wasn't overly hot and sitting in the shade made it a perfect summer day. The Lancers laid in the soft grass quietly. Swimming was fun but it could wear you out easily. Johnny felt himself nodding off and a smile came to his lips. He figured this was as close to heaven as he was likely to get.

A soft breeze blew steadily across the land. Murdoch stared out over the stream and the trees beyond. Could it get any better? He thought not. With a son on either side of him, he felt contended. A peace he had not felt in so many years. How could he have come so close to throwing it all away?

Shaking bitter thoughts from his mind, he settled back against a tree and closed his eyes. Lulled by the soft noises of the grasshoppers and bees, he felt himself nodding.

Scott was still a little damp but the soft breeze was drying him nicely. He laid flat of his back and stared at the white, billowy clouds crossing the sky. He played a game he had played in his youth. Making shapes from the clouds. Some were downright funny. He had a smile plastered on his face and he felt a deep sense of tranquility.

This is how it should always have been, he thought. No, I'm not going there. This is too perfect a day. He closed his eyes and felt the few rays of sun filtering through the limbs and falling across his legs send a warmth throughout his body.

Johnny opened his eyes suddenly. His senses screaming at him. He looked slowly to his left and saw Murdoch asleep. Raising his head slightly, he could see Scott was sleeping also. So what was it that had awakened him?

He leaned forward, away from the tree that was his backrest, and looked all around him. He could see nothing but his instincts still talked to him. And they were insistent. Get up. That's what they said so he did. Slowly he rose to his feet, grabbing his gun belt up as he went.

The breeze was rustling the leaves above him and the grass at his feet. He shut out these sounds and concentrated on listening for what shouldn't be there. But there were no out of place noises. Maybe I'm losing it? he thought with some chagrin. He strapped on his gun belt anyway and walked around the area.

*******

He made a wide path around the stream's edge and over to the horses who were quietly nibbling the grass. He patted Barranca's neck. The palomino was quite content. Maybe it was a dream, he thought. Maybe I'm just plain loco.

Looking at the sun he could see it was getting late. He thought to awaken his family and head back. He turned to look at them and a smile sprung forth. As he started toward them, he saw it.

Freezing in his tracks, Johnny stared at Scott's leg. His eyes flitted quickly to his brother's face but there was no sign of awakening. He thought that a good thing just then. Taking a deep breath, he drew his gun and cocked it slowly, as quietly as possible.

But there was a slight problem. He couldn't get a clean shot. He watched as the rattler slithered along Scott's leg then settled on top of it. He was sunning. Dammit! He could be there til the sun goes down.

Going over his options, he remembered Murdoch had brought a couple of cigars with him. He could see them sticking out of his shirt pocket as his father slumbered. Stealthily, he approached and bent over. Snatching one quickly from the man, he stepped back soundlessly.

He reached into his own pocket and retrieved a match. Striking it on his boot heel, Johnny puffed the cigar to life. He winced. How could Murdoch smoke these rancid things? He worked the foul weed into a good burn. Now, the hard part.

******

Johnny walked around behind the stand of trees and approached from the opposite side of Scott. The breeze was now in his favor. He bent down near his brother's side and drew a long puff. Blowing the smoke softly toward the snake, he waited.

The snake didn't move so Johnny tried again, taking an even deeper puff. Gun in right hand, cigar in left, he wondered at what a sight he made. Scott was right, you sure can joke at the worst times, he thought.

The snake moved a little, trying to get away from the offending smoke and still maintain his comfortable perch. Johnny continued puffing the smoke at him until he felt sick to his stomach.

Finally, the snake had had enough and he started to slither off Scott's leg. Johnny brought his gun to bear as the rattler seemed to notice him. The snake reared up to strike when the explosion shocked the peaceful afternoon.

Scott jerked awake and sat straight up, looking about in a slight daze. Johnny was still kneeling next to him staring at the remains. His mouth hanging open.

He shook his head and looked over past Scott to his father. Murdoch was sitting there staring at his youngest. The pistol still smoking in his hand.

"Thanks," he managed to whisper.

"Anytime," Murdoch choked out.

"What the hell happened?" Scott demanded.

Johnny pointed and Scott saw the blasted rattler. He swallowed hard and looked at his brother.

"He was on your leg. I was trying to get him to move and he did," Johnny started.

"Yes, he did. Right at you," Murdoch interrupted.

"Guess I should have explained the plan to him. He was supposed to go the other way," Johnny cracked.

"He was on my leg?" Scott asked, feeling a bit slimy.

*****

Johnny suddenly jerked his left hand and the cigar flew across the air. It had burned down to his fingers by now.

"It was a good plan, son," Murdoch said, still a little shocked.

"What? Offering it a smoke?" Scott clipped.

"Yeah, well, I figured he'd move to get away from it and he did," Johnny said as he sat back on the grass.  

Scott realized what he was saying and looked at him with a measure of anger coupled with a sense of gratitude.

"Are you insane? He could have bit you?"

Johnny glared at him. "I was trying to keep him from biting you. If you had shifted in your sleep...." he trailed off, not wanting that image in his head.

"Sorry, it just ..... thanks, brother," he said contritely.

"It's okay."

"Maybe we should get going. It's getting late," Murdoch inserted.

"Yeah, I was about to wake you both when I saw it."

Murdoch studied Johnny's face, what he could see of it. He realized his son was more affected than he first thought. He got up and retrieved the canteen from Barranca and brought it over.

"Here, son."

Johnny smiled gratefully and took a long swig.

"You okay?" Scott asked.

"Yeah, just a little shook up is all."

Murdoch offered his hand and Johnny accepted the pull up. He staggered a little into his father as he gained his footing. Looking up into the big man's eyes, he smiled a little. "Thanks for saving my life."

"I'm just glad I woke up when I did."

"So am I," Scott smiled.

********

Johnny glanced down and starting laughing hard.

"What's so funny?" Murdoch asked.

He pointed to Scott's leg and Murdoch looked. He too, began laughing. Scott looked as well but he didn't find it amusing.

"What is that?"

"Snake droppings," Murdoch chuckled.

"Looks like you scared the ....."

Murdoch clamped a hand over his youngest mouth and Johnny laughed even harder.

Scott jumped to his feet. "That is digusting!"

"Wanna take another dip before we go, brother?" Johnny guffawed.

Scott scowled at him and walked over to the water. He used his hand to cup some and picked up a leaf to wipe the foulness off his leg. Thoroughly soaking his pants, Scott was finally satisfied enough to make it home.

"You could take them off," Johnny suggested.

"Oh, of course. Why didn't I think of that? Why I could just ride home buck naked," Scott shot.

"Well, I'm sure most of the ladies would get a thrill out of that, brother."

Scott rolled his eyes and knew it was useless. He watched the two of them, standing together, amused at his expense. Suddenly, it was alright. He didn't care if he was covered in snake manure. This sight was worth almost anything.

Scott smiled and shook his head.

******

"Have dinner with us, Johnny?" Murdoch asked as they approached the gate.

"No, think I'll just head on back. You want me to work the south pasture tomorrow?"

Disappointment shone on the old man's face but he simply nodded. They all three pulled up just before passing under the arch. It was Johnny's turning off point.

"Maybe Sunday, then?" Murdoch tried.

"Sure, Sunday sounds good. See ya," he smiled and reined Barranca toward the cabin.

Murdoch sat there and watched him ride away.

"Did you think one day of swimming would fix everything?" Scott asked rather gently.

"No, I suppose not. Didn't keep me from hoping though."

"They say hope springs eternal," Scott cast a wry look.

"And you? Is there hope for you and me?" Murdoch asked out of the blue.

Scott was taken aback and merely stared at him.

"It occurs to me, Scott, that I have been so focused on Johnny, I've been ignoring your needs."

"Well, I ..... I don't really ......"

"Come on, son. Let's have some supper and talk," Murdoch smiled and clucked his horse on.  

Scott stared at his back for a few seconds before urging Remmie on home. A faint smile adorned his face.

******

Six months passed by quickly and Autumn was upon them. They had been through branding season and a cattle drive together and managed to stay alive. Johnny was thinking maybe this wasn't such a bad arrangement.

Though he missed spending more time with Scott, it seemed he and Murdoch got along better at a distance. He knew the true test would be living together. Seeing each other every morning and night. Finding out if they could get along without wearing on each other's nerves.

He had to hand it to the old man. Johnny had seen some spectacular changes in Murdoch. He was more relaxed, smiled more and got along with everyone. Johnny wondered if it was because he wasn't there.

With more reservations than resolve, he decided to feel Scott out on the subject. Finding his brother turned into a chore but when he finally did, Scott was more than happy to see him.

"Help me with this limb. It's the size of a sapling!"

"Well, hello to you, brother. How are you this fine day?" Johnny grinned and tipped his hat.

"I'll be better when this limb is moved," Scott scowled.

Johnny ground tied Barranca and helped his brother move the offending object. Scott sighed deeply and walked over to get his canteen. He leaned against a tree and wiped at his forehead.

"Aren't you supposed to be someplace else?" he quipped.

"Probably, but I wanted to talk to you." Johnny gave him a quick smile then turned serious.

"Well, talk."

"It's just that I was wondering what you thought about me coming back now," Johnny said softly, glancing up when he'd finished.

Scott's face was impassive. "I don't know, Johnny. It's been pretty peaceful. Murdoch may not want you back."

*******

Johnny didn't look up. He was staring at the ground. He simply nodded his head and turned.

"Johnny!"

"What?"

"I was joking," Scott laughed.

Johnny turned and forced a smile. "Okay. I'll see ya."

"Wait a minute, brother," he said as he walked quickly over and took Johnny's arm. "There's not an ounce of truth in what I said. You know he wants you back. He talks about it all the time. He keeps wondering if he's done enough, said enough, to get you to forgive him."

"Really?" Johnny asked hopefully.

"Yes, really. I'm sorry, Johnny. That was a lousy joke. Besides, I wish you would come home. I'm tired of beating Murdoch at chess."

Johnny laughed softly. "So, you want to lose, that it?" He walked over to the tree his brother had been leaning on and picked at the bark.

"I know you were jokin. It's just, I'm not sure about it. I mean, everything's been going really well. I'd hate to mess it up. Maybe ..... maybe me and Murdoch would be better off livin apart."

"I don't know and neither will you until you try it. All I do know is that the rest of us miss you. We all want you home, brother. ALL of us," he restated firmly.

Johnny turned to look at him and smiled. "Too quiet, huh?"

"Way too quiet," Scott laughed. "Come to dinner tonight and talk it over with him."

"Okay. I guess it can't hurt."

*******

Murdoch was thrilled to hear Johnny was having dinner with them in the middle of the week. They seemed to have developed a schedule of Sunday dinners only and Murdoch was not pleased with the arrangement.

Scott's cryptic message that Johnny wanted to discuss something with their father set him ill at ease, though. He hoped nothing was wrong with his son.

Scott assured him that, as far as he could tell, Johnny was fine. And so he waited anxiously for the dinner hour.

At five-thirty, Johnny rode into the yard. He couldn't believe how nervous he was. Even moreso than the day he and Scott had arrived eighteen months ago. He had tried to settle himself down. This was not good. When he was nervous, he said stupid things. Johnny took a deep breath and headed inside.

"Hi, son," Murdoch smiled.

"Hi," he smiled back.

"I'm glad you could join us. Would you like a drink or anything?"

Johnny considered it. "No, I don't think so."

"Well, come on in and sit. How was your day?"

'He's nervous, too. He's trying too hard,' Johnny thought. "Okay, the usual."

"Oh, listen, I wanted to talk to you about the line shacks. It's been awhile since they've been checked. I was going to send Scott so I need you to pick up some of the slack while he's gone."

Johnny tensed. Scott wasn't going to be here for at least a week! He started having doubts about this then berated himself. If they were ever going to get past it all, it would probably be better that Scott wasn't there.  

"No problem," he said.

*****

There was an awkward silence then and Johnny knew it was time. "Listen, I wanted to talk to you about something."

"Scott said you did but he wouldn't tell me what it's about."

"Where is Scott?" Johnny looked around.

"He's in the kitchen. What did you want to discuss, son?" He figured Johnny was losing his nerve but, if he was right, he didn't want to forestall this talk.

Johnny repositioned himself in his chair and crossed one leg over his knee. "Well, we've been getting along well lately. I thought maybe we could try ....." he gave a half shrug and cocked his head to one side a little.

Murdoch smiled widely. "When did you want to move back in?"

He smiled back, his eyes lighting up. "Tomorrow?"

Murdoch got up and walked over. He gave Johnny a couple of pats on the back. "That would be wonderful, son," he said in a sincere tone.

"That was easier than I thought," Johnny laughed a little.

"You know I've just been waiting for you," Murdoch replied as he took his seat again.

"Yeah, but, I thought maybe you were enjoying the peace and quiet."

"There will still be peace and quiet. At least, between us, son. I can promise you that."

Johnny frowned in thought. "We've had some disagreements but seems we were able to work them out fairly. I know how hard you've been trying, Murdoch. Thank you."

"I should be thanking you for even giving me the chance. And I do thank you, Johnny. More than I can say."

Johnny smiled at him warmly. "Well, are we gonna eat? I'm starving ta death!"

Murdoch laughed and stood up as Johnny joined him. Wrapping an arm around his son, they walked to the dining room together.

Murdoch Lancer was a happy man. And he knew he was a very lucky man. He also knew this would work. Nothing would ever come between he and his sons again. Especially him.

 

~end~
2004

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