Beyond Redemption by MaryB

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Episode tag for Warburton’s Edge

Word count: 1,325

Scott pushed his horse for more speed, cursing himself yet again for even leaving Murdoch behind. Jelly and a hand could’ve taken the prisoner into town to the sheriff without him. Which is exactly what they did when Scott decided halfway there to turn back towards home. Jelly didn’t even complain and tell him Murdoch would be fine. Which only added fuel to his worry.

Something hadn’t felt right about going without his father, but he had been so outraged at the whole affair that he let it color his instincts. How could anyone think that shooting a man in the back would de escalate the situation? How could… Never mind all of that now. All he knew was that he had left his father alone in more ways than one. Not only was he grieving Johnny’s decision, he was vulnerable in the hacienda. Nearly all of the hands were out with the herds, guarding the lifeblood of the ranch. And of the few left, two had gone with him to escort Driscoll.

What had he been thinking? Where was his precious military training? The only small consolation in all of this was that Teresa was out of town for the week. Pursing his lips in self- recrimination, he rode at top speed through the Lancer arch and up the lane to the house.

He pulled his winded horse to an abrupt stop, preparing to call out for his father. He changed his plan as his gaze took in evidence. The house was dark which was a bad sign. Murdoch would never have blown the light out until both of his sons were safe at home. As he stepped toward the doors, his boot crunched on broken glass. The panes of the French doors were all broken out. He pulled out his revolver and cautiously reached for the door handle. Something in his peripheral vision caught his attention. Mounds on the ground, covered with a blanket. Two of them. Two bodies. Caution be damned.

“Murdoch!”  He pushed open the doors and stepped into the dimly lit Great Room. His father sat at his desk, staring into space. Scott scanned the room, but there was no one else there. “Murdoch? Sir? Are you alright?”

Murdoch blinked and focused on the person before him. “Scott! You’re here.”

“Are you alright?” Scott repeated, more gently.

“Yes, I’m,,,unhurt.”

Scott looked around the room again. “What happened?”

“Two of Warburton’s men came to get me out of the way. Johnny….” He trailed off.

Scott’s stomach clenched. But there were only two bodies outside. “What about him? Where is Johnny?”

His father looked out of the shattered windows. “He killed them both. One was an old friend.”

He didn’t allow himself too much relief yet. “That must have been hard on him.”

“He tried to talk him out of it. He tried his best. But in the end, it was him or us.” He sighed. “Him or me.” he corrected.

Scott leaned toward his father and forced his voice to a calm he didn’t feel. “Where is Johnny, now?”

Murdoch shook his head.” I don’t know. He talked to me for a minute afterwards. He was torn, but in the end, he asked if I still wanted a prodigal son. We came in and got a drink, then he just looked at me sadly and walked back outside. I called to him, but he kept walking.”

Straightening up, Scott holstered the gun he had forgotten was still in his hand. ‘I’ll find him.” He paused. “Are you sure you’re okay? You seem pretty shaken by the attack.”

“Not the attack. I’m not surprised they came. It’s what they said.”

Scott’s brows drew down. “Said?”

“That gunfighters were fallen men. Beyond redemption. His friend told me that he didn’t think Johnny ever ‘hit the bottom’.”

“And what do you think?”

Murdoch stared again outside. “I think I don’t know my son as well as I thought I did.”

Scott couldn’t think of a reasonable response to that, so he didn’t try. What he did, was go out the ruined doors in search of his little brother. Not surprisingly, he found him in the barn, sitting on a bale of hay, head down, hands dangling between his knees. Without a word, Scott sat beside him.

After several seconds, Johnny said softly,” Is Murdoch okay?’’

“I believe so. He’s understandably shook up.” What could he say that would help? “He’s sitting in there; you’re sitting out here. Perhaps you should sit closer together.”

“Or farther apart.”

Scott frowned. “He said you wanted to come home.”

“I do, but…”

Scott mentally cursed his family’s sudden inability to finish sentences. “But?”

Johnny sighed. “There’s always gonna be Strykers or Warburtons or somebody to keep bringing up the past. I don’t think Murdoch knew what he was really asking for. He didn’t know who I really am.”

“Do you?”

Johnny snorted bitterly at the question. “I know exactly what I am, Scott.”

“I see. And being such a great judge of character, do you know who I am?”

His brother narrowed his eyes as if he was making light of the situation. “Scott…”

“I’m serious. Who, and what, would you say I am?”

Johnny looked him in the eye. “You’re Scott Lancer. Educated, former Army officer, great with horses, crack shot with a rifle, witty, honest, always believing the best about someone.”

“You left out a few things.”

Johnny cocked his head in question.

“Filthy, starving POW, womanizer, social snob, to name a few.”

“You’re not those things.”

“But I was. I have been. It’s all still there. It’s all part of me.”

Johnny shook his head. “But that’s not what anyone sees. I’m still Madrid on the outside, too.”

Scott shrugged. “So, I’m a better liar than you are.”

“Or you chose to be somebody better.”

“Just like you did.”

Another sigh. “Not there yet.”

“Maybe you don’t have to be. Maybe what matters is that you’re on the way there.”

“You sure about that?”

A voice from the door had him jerk up his head. “I am.” Murdoch walked closer. “I am sure I want my sons, prodigal or not.”

Johnny swallowed. “I’m sorry this came between us, Murdoch.”

His father shook his head. “You believed in something and gave your word to it. Just because I didn’t agree with you doesn’t mean you were entirely wrong.” Now both heads jerked up. Murdoch grinned. “But don’t quote me on that.”

A small smile crept onto his face. “Are you sure you want both Johnny Lancer and Johnny Madrid living here?”

“I only see one Johnny. Just like I see one Scott. He’s right, son. We’re all made up of all the pieces of our past. The good and the bad. We have to pick the pieces we’re proud of to build on.”

Johnny’s head dropped back down. “Not much of that.”

Scott raised a hand in protest. “I beg to differ. Your skills just saved our father’s life.”

Johnny looked thoughtful at that but didn’t respond.

“Come back inside, son.”

Johnny stood up but didn’t make any move toward the door. “I gotta go see about Tallie.”

“She’s welcome to come here if she needs to.”

“Thanks. There’s a lot to sort out, and she’s got no one to help her.” He started to head toward his horse’s stall, then turned back to his father. “We’re okay?”

Murdoch put a firm hand on his shoulder. “Yes, Johnny. We’re okay.”

Scott stood as well. “Want some company?”

Johnny smiled at him. “Thanks, but it’s probably not a good time for more than one Lancer to show up.”

Scott smiled back at all of the implied messages in that statement. He and Murdoch watched as he rode away. “So, what do you think now?”

Murdoch glanced his way, then turned back to the rider disappearing into the night. “I think no man is beyond redemption.”

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~end~

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