Discovery by Winj

Word Count 9,445


First of the Discovery series, followed by More Discovery

Johnny stepped off the boardwalk into the street of Morro Coyo. He smiled as he saw his father, who had just gotten off the stage from his trip to Stockton, waiting for him. Johnny raised his right arm and waved. Suddenly, he felt a force slam him backwards and he landed against a hitching post, his right arm wrapped around the railing, his right side on fire. He tried to reach his gun put his arm was impeded by the rail. He started to reach over with his left hand as he felt the familiar burning in his left side now, propelling him back again. He was splayed out, totally exposed and definitely disadvantaged. He tried once more, moving his right arm off the railing to get to his gun when he felt another blow, this time to his right chest. He knew what was happening but his mind was totally confused as to why. He didn’t waste any time trying to figure it out. He was fighting for his life and he knew it. He slid down to the ground, though he fought hard not to. He was hanging onto the rail with his left arm, keeping himself from being totally in the dirt and reached once more for his gun. As if waiting for this very thing to happen, another bullet ripped through his left side and he was knocked completely onto the ground.

Murdoch stood at the stage depot wondering why one of his boys wasn’t there to meet him as had been planned. He looked down the street and saw Johnny walking towards him. He smiled and waved and, as Johnny was returning the wave, he saw the horror unfold before him. Someone was shooting his son and from somewhere he couldn’t see. He took off at a dead run toward Johnny. He was only two blocks away but everything seemed to be moving in slow motion and he felt like his legs were not responding to his command to run. He saw Johnny being shot to pieces before his very eyes. As he neared his son, Johnny went down to the ground. Murdoch looked around, gun drawn, ready to kill whoever was doing this. He saw the young man come out of the livery stable with his gun drawn, aiming it once more at his boy. Murdoch fired three times, hitting his target each time, until he was sure the man wasn’t going to get up. He stopped only long enough to assure himself of this, then went to his son and knelt beside him.

“Johnny,” he whispered as he lifted his son up and held him in his arms.

“Murdoch. Welcome home,” Johnny whispered and passed out. Murdoch picked him up and carried him to the doctor’s office, kicking the door in with his foot. Doc Jenkins came out of the back.

“What’s all that shooting about?” he yelled. He stopped cold as he saw his friend carrying his youngest. “In here,” he directed Murdoch to the back room. Jelly came running into the room. Someone had bothered to tell him Johnny had been shot afterwards.

“Jelly, go back to the house and tell Scott to get to town,” Murdoch ordered. Jelly stood frozen in place for a second, then bolted out the door.

“My God,” Doc whispered as he unbuttoned Johnny’s once blue but now crimson red/purplish shirt. Murdoch winced as he saw the holes in his son’s body. “Murdoch, I don’t know about this,” Doc said.

“You’ve got to help him!” Murdoch exclaimed.

“Of course I’ll do everything I can,” Doc said. A younger man entered the room and Doc Jenkins sighed relief. “Thank God. I’m going to need you. Murdoch, this is Dr. Alexander. He’s been working with me. We’ve got a mess here, doctor.”

“We certainly do. When did this happen?” he asked.

“Just now,” Murdoch replied.

“Mrs. Folsom,” he called for Doc Jenkins nurse. He quickly instructed her on the supplies they would need and she set off to collect them. He and Doc Jenkins washed their hands and started probing the wounds. Johnny didn’t move. Doc listened to his heart beat and shook his head.

“He’s bleeding to death,” Dr. Alexander commented, keeping his voice low.

“I know,” Doc mumbled. “Murdoch, wait in the other room. This is going to take quite a while,” Doc instructed. Murdoch reluctantly left the room and waited in the front. An hour later, Scott and Jelly came bursting through the front door of Dr. Jenkins office. Murdoch stood up and took hold of his eldest by the arms.

“He’s not,” Scott said.

“No, he’s alive, but it’s bad, Scott. It’s very bad,” Murdoch said morosely.

“What happened?” Scott demanded. Murdoch told him and Scott began to fume. “Who was he?” he asked.

“I have no idea,” Murdoch answered.

“How much longer is it gonna be, Murdoch?” Jelly asked. Murdoch just shook his head and they all hung their heads.

Four hours later, Dr. Alexander came into the front room. “Mr. Lancer, is this your other son?” he asked.

“Yes, this is Scott,” Murdoch replied, confused by the need for introductions right now.

“You’re not full brothers?” he asked, taking in the blond, fair skinned man.

“No, we had different mothers. What difference does it make?” Scott asked, exasperated.

“All the difference. Mr. Lancer, your son has lost a great deal of blood. Too much. Do you understand what I’m saying?” the doctor replied.

“Is he going to die?” Murdoch asked, his heart being ripped from his chest by this stranger.

“He has one chance. You,” Dr. Alexander said.

“Explain,” Murdoch clipped.

“He needs blood. He needs what’s called a blood transfusion. It’s a fairly new procedure. There have been successes and failures. What I propose is to take your blood and give it to your son. Enough to sustain him until his body can regenerate and rebuild it’s own blood supply. There are risks. If his body rejects your blood, he will die within minutes. But, without it, he will die anyway.”

“He’s my son, why would he reject my blood?” Murdoch asked.

“He may have your blood type or his mother’s or a combination of the two. If he has anything other than your blood type, his body won’t accept it. Is his mother available?”

“No, she died,” Murdoch said.

“How can you know what type blood he has? Is there a test?” Scott asked.

“Yes, but it isn’t completely accurate. Sometimes we can’t tell for sure. The point is, it is the only option we have left. Without it, he will die and soon,” the doctor explained.

“Then let’s do it,” Murdoch decided.

“Wait a minute! I’d like to know the risks to my father,” Scott said.

“Virtually none. He may feel dizzy or have some nausea. There is a risk of taking too much blood from him but we can monitor that closely,” the doctor explained.

“It doesn’t matter, Scott,” Murdoch said.

“Can I at least be in there with them?” Scott asked, feeling totally miserable. For the first time, it mattered that he and Johnny were not full brothers.

Murdoch laid on the table next to his youngest. Johnny was paler than Murdoch thought possible. His long dark lashes lay against the pallid skin in an alarming contrast.

Scott sat next to his brother, holding his hand and feeling very sick inside. Johnny was so cold and clammy and his breathing was labored. There was blood all over the floor, his brother’s blood, and the coppery smell was overpowering.

Dr. Alexander set up his contraption quickly, explaining the particulars of what was going to happen as he did. Scott watched his every move, making sure no harm came to his father.

“Now, it’s going to hurt putting the needle in your arm but it’s imperative that you not move,” the doctor instructed Murdoch. He nodded his understanding and prepared for the sting. The blood flowed immediately through a tube into a glass bottle, then out another tube Doc Jenkins was controlling. When the blood reached the tip of the tubing, he clamped it off and inserted another needle in Johnny’s arm. He unclamped the tubing and allowed the blood to flow into Johnny.

“How long before we know if it’s going to work?” Scott asked.

“No longer than five minutes,” Doc Jenkins answered.

Scott was appalled at the short length of time. His brother could be dead in five minutes! He leaned over and stroked Johnny’s hair, whispering reassuring words to him.

Fifteen minutes later, both doctor’s gave a sigh of relief. Johnny was still breathing and Murdoch said he was fine, didn’t feel a thing. Doc Jenkins assured him he would before it was over, especially when he sat up. Murdoch brushed this off, he didn’t care if he was dizzy or nauseated, as long as he could help save his son’s life.

An hour and a half later, Dr. Alexander said it was enough. “Are you sure, if he needs more,” Murdoch said.

“If he needs more, he’s out of luck because you can’t afford to give it to him,” the doctor said flatly.

Murdoch motioned him over and grabbed his shirt collar, pulling him close. “Understand something. If Johnny needs more blood, you will take it from me!” he hissed.

“Murdoch! Let him go!” Doc Jenkins demanded. “Johnny’s heart rate is much better now and his breathing is easier. The transfusion worked. It’s enough to allow him a chance to fight,” he explained.

Murdoch released his hold on the doctor. He knew all Johnny needed was the chance and he would fight.

“Can you test me? Maybe I can give him some blood,” Scott suggested.

Dr. Alexander considered this. “It wouldn’t hurt to test you, Mr. Lancer. However, if it isn’t an absolute positive match, we can’t risk it,” he said.

“I understand,” Scott said. The doctor took a small amount of blood from Scott’s arm and went off to compare it to a sample he already had from Johnny.

“Can I get up, Sam?” Murdoch asked.

Doc came to his side. “Slowly, Murdoch.”

He rose up and felt the room spinning. “Whoa,” he said.

“I told you. Here, you need to drink a lot of fluids. I’ll get you some juice, too. The sugar will help,” Doc said as he handed him a glass of water.

“How do you feel, sir?” Scott asked, concerned.

“I’m alright son. Just a little dizzy. How does he seem?” Murdoch responded.

“He’s warmer than he was and I think he’s not quite so pale,” Scott reported.

Murdoch looked closely at his son, judging that Scott was right. He did seem to have a little color. He stood up slowly, gingerly testing his fortitude, and took small steps to reach his son’s side. He sat on a stool next to the examination table and took Johnny’s hand. He touched his face, stroking his cheek. “Johnny? Can you hear me, son? You have to fight this, Johnny. I know it’s hard, but you have to. I can’t lose you,” he spoke softly.

Scott smiled at his father’s tenderness. The past year had been hard on all of them. The arguments, the harsh hurtful words exchanged between his father and brother had cut him deeply. He had worked hard to keep them all together and he wasn’t about to lose it all now. Now that his family was more solid. Oh sure, they still went at it, butting heads more often than not. Still, the disagreements they had lately were more about the ranch than Johnny’s past. This, Scott could live with. Could even support whichever one of them he thought was right. It felt good to have this family, with all its trials and tribulations. He would not trade it for a lifetime of parties and inane conversations in Boston.

“Murdoch, lay back down. You are not as strong as you think you are,” Doc Jenkins admonished as he returned with a glass of juice. Scott gave his father a worried look but Murdoch shrugged off any concern for himself.

“I’m alright. I’m just a little dizzy, Sam. As long as I’m sitting, I’ll be fine,” he said.

Sam Jenkins sighed and gave in to what he knew would be a lost argument. Since Murdoch’s boys had come home, he was even more stubborn, if that were possible. His devotion was not easily seen until one of them was hurt or in danger. Sam shook his head sadly. Why did it always have to come down to one of them nearly dying to bring out the love and concern he knew his friend always felt for them?

“Well, at least drink this, ALL of it,” he ordered.

Murdoch took the juice and nearly spit out the first drink. “Good Lord, what did you do, put a whole sack of sugar in there?” he gasped.

Doc grinned. “You need it, now drink!”

Murdoch gave him a look of total disgust and downed the sugary fluid as quickly as he could. “Happy now?” he asked sarcastically.

“Very,” Doc answered in triumph.

Dr. Alexander came out then and Scott looked hopefully to him. “I’m sorry, Mr. Lancer. It isn’t a match. There are some similarities but you have a combination of your parent’s blood,” he reported.

Scott’s face fell, he had wanted desperately to be able to help his brother.

“Well, he has a fighting chance now and if I know Johnny, that will be enough,” Doc Jenkins said, trying to console the young man. Scott gave him a weak smile of gratitude.

“Boss?” Jelly said as he stepped into the doorway.

“Jelly, where have you been?” Murdoch asked.

“I was seein about that rascal that shot Johnny,” he said.

“And?” Scott asked.

“Some devil out of Texas. He’s been askin after Johnny for a couple a days. I reckon somebody finally obliged ‘im and pointed Johnny out. Pete at the saloon said he’s been in there every day but nobody’d talk to him,” Jelly reported.

“I sure would like to know who did talk to him,” Scott said, his anger on the rise once more.

“Take it easy, son. We need to concentrate on your brother, not revenge,” Murdoch said gently.

“Well, I suppose that’s easy for you to say, Murdoch! You got your revenge!” Scott said harshly.

Murdoch was taken aback by his usually calm son’s tone and anger.

“Jelly, why don’t you go get a hotel room for us. We’ll take turns staying with him,” he said, not knowing how to respond to Scott’s outburst.

“Sure thing, Boss,” Jelly said and scuttled off.

“Gentlemen, it isn’t necessary for you to stay here. Dr. Jenkins or I will be with him,” Dr. Alexander said. Doc Jenkins sucked in a breath and waited.

“I’m not leaving him alone here. One of us will be with him at all times,” Murdoch explained calmly.

Sam was grateful his friend didn’t go off on the young doctor again. The doctor started to say something but Doc took hold of his arm and shushed him.

“Murdoch, you had a long trip plus losing some blood. You should go on over to the hotel, get something to eat and rest. I’ll take the first shift,” Scott suggested.

“That’s an excellent idea. You really need to eat something soon, Murdoch. It will help a great deal to get you steady again,” Doc Jenkins said.

“All right. You’ll call me if there’s any change,” Murdoch said.

“Yes, sir,” Scott acknowledged.

It was late evening by the time Murdoch walked out of the doctor’s office. He felt guilty about leaving his son but he knew Scott would take care of his brother. He noticed as he walked to the hotel, that people were avoiding his gaze. How many of them knew and didn’t warn Johnny? He felt the anger come upon him again and he leered at everyone he passed, warning them with his eyes that he would not forget. He met up with Jelly in the hotel lobby and they had supper together. Jelly put his boss to bed and tucked him in, staying long enough to make sure he stayed put. Murdoch was asleep in about a minute. Jelly quietly left the room and headed to the doc’s office.

“How’s he doin?” Jelly whispered as he walked into the sick room.

“No change, Jelly. I was just talking to him,” Scott smiled tiredly.

“Go get some sleep, I’ll stay with him,” Jelly said.

“No, I’m okay. I don’t want to leave him,” Scott said.

“Doc say when he’d come to?” he asked.

“He said it could be a couple of days. His body needs to rest,” Scott reported. They were quiet for awhile.

Jelly didn’t want to leave but he knew they needed to take shifts to keep up the vigil around the clock. “Well, I’ll spell ya in a couple of hours,” he said.

“Jelly, I don’t want my father awakened. He needs to rest. If anything happens, I’ll get him but otherwise, let’s leave him alone,” Scott said. Jelly nodded his agreement and left. “Well, brother are you going to sleep all night? Can’t you open those eyes for a minute at least? Just so I know you’re still in there is all,” Scott whispered. Johnny didn’t respond. He hadn’t moved of his own volition since Murdoch carried him in there. He was still too pale for Scott’s liking. He pulled the covers up on his brother and laid his head gently next to Johnny’s.

A little spitfire came tearing into the living room, tears streaming down his face. “Papa!”, he screamed. Murdoch lifted him easily into his arms and the child wrapped his little arms around his father, sobbing into his neck.

“What is it, Johnny?” he said softly.

“Goldy died,” he sniffled.

“I know, son. I’m sorry. But he was a pretty old dog and it was just his time,” Murdoch explained.

“Why?” the boy sobbed.

“Oh, Johnny. Everyone and everything dies, son. It comes to all of us eventually. That’s how life is,” he tried to make the boy understand.

“Not you, papa. Not you,” he said, pleading with his clear blue eyes.

“Well, not for a very very long time,” Murdoch smiled.

“No, not ever!” Johnny announced with a firm nod of his head.

“Oh? Because you say so, huh?” Murdoch teased.

“Yeah,” he said simply.

Murdoch laughed and hugged the little body close. Suddenly, the boy was gone and he was holding air. “Johnny!” he cried out as he bolted straight up in the bed. He was drenched in sweat. It was only a dream, he thought.

“Hey, Boston. You gonna sleep all day. Come on, we got work to do.”

“Leave me alone, Johnny. I’m tired,” he answered sleepily.

“Hey, come on now. We have to get that herd moved today. You know Murdoch will have our heads if we don’t,” Johnny said as he pulled the covers off his brother.

“Hey!” Scott yelled.

“Hey nothin. Come on!” Johnny said as he pulled his brother out of the bed.

They were moving the herd to the south pasture. Johnny headed off to round up some strays and Scott watched him intently. He didn’t know why he was watching Johnny but he couldn’t take his eyes off him. He watched as his brother skillfully maneuvered the strays back into the herd and reined Barranca back into his place at the rear.

Then Johnny was yelling something to him but he couldn’t hear him. Suddenly, Johnny started toward him in a full gallop. Scott watched as he drew nearer, waving his arm at him. He realized Johnny was trying to get him to look behind him so he did. He saw nothing and when he turned back around, he saw Barranca riderless. His brother was gone, vanished into thin air. Scott jerked his head up and looked at the still figure on the bed beside him. He immediately put his hand on Johnny’s chest and felt the rise and fall as he breathed. He sighed with relief. It was just a dream, he thought.

Murdoch walked into the sick room with a frown of displeasure on his face. “How is he?” he asked first.

“No change,” Scott said.

“I’m not very happy with you right now, Scott,” he said. Scott looked up at his father’s frown and raised a questioning eyebrow. “You were supposed to come and get me,” Murdoch explained.

Scott smiled. “You needed to rest. Doc said as much. Besides, I’m fine,” he said, stifling a yawn.

“Sure you are. Go get something to eat and some sleep, son. It’s my turn.” Scott nodded, he was exhausted. He looked once more at his brother’s face and said a silent prayer.

Murdoch took up the vigil next to his son. Dr. Alexander came in and examined Johnny and Murdoch waited impatiently. “His heart rate is much better and his breathing has improved. Barring infection, he has a good chance of surviving,” he reported, then a frown crossed his face.

“What is it, doctor?” Murdoch asked.

“Mr. Lancer, I have to comment on the number of scars on your son’s body. I’d like to know how they got there,” he said.

“I’m sure you would, ” Murdoch clipped.

“Look, you may think it’s none of my business but he is my patient and this young man has been abused. Don’t you have anything to say about that?” Dr. Alexander said.

“Abused? What exactly do you mean by abused,” Murdoch asked.

“I mean the scars on his back. Those were caused by some kind of belt or strop. Plus the number of obvious gunshot scars. And some I can’t even recognize. My God man, what happened to this boy?” he exclaimed.

“I don’t know,” Murdoch answered barely above a whisper.

“What do you mean, you don’t know? You’re his father, how could you not know?” he pressed.

“Johnny has only lived with me for the past year. His mother took him away when he was two. I hadn’t seen him in almost twenty years. He was a gunfighter. He doesn’t like to talk about his past” Murdoch explained.

“It’s no wonder,” the doctor clipped.

“Look, I know you’re only trying to help, but Johnny’s past is of no concern right now. What’s happening now is what matters,” Murdoch said angrily.

“Is that what you tell him? I wouldn’t talk to you either!” the doctor shot back.

Murdoch stood up to his full height and towered over the younger man.

Doc Jenkins walked in just then and did not like what he saw. “What’s going on here?” he asked.

“You’re doctor doesn’t know how to mind his own business, Sam,” Murdoch spat.

“I was only asking about our patient’s history. It seems to me that he’s been through quite a lot,” Dr. Alexander stated.

Doc sighed heavily and took the young man by the arm once more. “Phillip, we need to talk,” he said and ushered him out of the room.

Scott paced the hotel room. He had tried to go to sleep but his mind was racing with worry. He kept thinking about conversations he’d had with Johnny over the past year. Little glimpses into his brother’s past that Johnny had shared with him. There were so few and Scott wanted so much to know about his brother’s former life. He felt that if he knew some of it, he could help Johnny get past the pain he always seemed to wear just beneath the surface of that smile.

He smiled to himself then, thinking about his brother’s easy grin and soft heart. He had never met a gunfighter before coming out west but Johnny certainly wasn’t what he had imagined a gunfighter to be like. He had pictured a cold, evil, blank-faced killer wearing all black. Not a smiling, caring, loving young man in a pink shirt! A man who’s eyes literally danced even when he was angry. Scott was intrigued by Johnny’s eyes. They were the deepest blue he had ever seen and so hard to read. They seemed to smile when he wasn’t and, even when he was deadly serious, still there was something … a sparkle in them as if he was always playing.

Of course, Scott knew that wasn’t true. Johnny could be deadly when he needed to be. Scott had seen it and it always made him cold inside. Especially afterward, when the dust settled and he had the opportunity to look into his brother’s eyes. The pain that he saw there, more brilliant and challenging than Johnny’s most charming smile, cut him like a hot knife. He felt weak-kneed suddenly and he sank to the floor beside the bed. He prayed harder than he had ever prayed in his life. Not only for his brother’s life to be spared but that somehow, Johnny could deal with his pain and get past it to be the man Scott knew he could be and was some of the time.

There was a light tapping at the door and Scott stood up, rubbing his hand over his face, and opened the door. Teresa was there, looking very sad and worried. No words were spoken as he took her in his arms and comforted her.

“How is he, Scott?” she was finally able to ask.

“Doc thinks he’s got a good chance, Teresa. He’s going to be fine, I know it,” he reassurred her.

She looked up at him and smiled through the tears. “I couldn’t stay home any longer,” she said.

“I know. Come on, let’s go see him,” he said.

“Have you slept?” she asked.

“No and I can’t so there’s no need to scold me,” he smiled.

They walked into the room. Murdoch was sitting in the same place, holding Johnny’s hand, rubbing it between his own.

“Murdoch?” Teresa said softly. He stood up and hugged her, then she went to his side. “Johnny, you’re going to be alright. Doc said you are so it must be true, right? Can you hear me?” she asked and started to cry again.

Scott took her into the other room and sat with her. He couldn’t stand to see her cry or hurt in any way. She buried her face in his chest and cried it out. After a while, she straightened herself and took in a deep breath.

“There, that’s all done. Now I can concentrate on taking care of Johnny and all of you,” she said firmly.

Scott thought she was trying awfully hard to convince herself not him.

Murdoch came out with Doc Jenkins. “I thought I’d catch you all up since everyone’s here. Where’s Jelly?” he asked.

“He’s sleeping I think,” Scott answered.

“Well, this is the situation. I know you all think Johnny’s better and he is but I don’t want you to think this isn’t going to be a long haul. When he does wake up, he’s going to be in a great deal of pain. Now I know how Johnny feels about laudanum or any drug but he’s going to have to have something. I need all of you to back me up on that. I can’t have him fighting me. He can’t expend any energy on that nonsense. In fact, I don’t want him worrying about anything but getting better. You all need to make sure you don’t upset him unknowingly, so you need to be careful of what you say to him.

Also, he’s going to be very weak for a long time. His spleen was damaged beyond repair and we had to remove it. That means that while he’s recovering, he’s going to be particularly susceptible to infection. We need to do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen. So if you get so much as a sniffle, you can’t go near him. He can’t be moved for at least a week so no ideas about taking him home until I say so. What he needs most from all of you is your love and support. Leave the doctoring to me until he’s well enough to go home. Well, I think that about covers it. I just want to make it clear that he’s not out of the woods yet. Are there any questions?”

No one spoke.

“Alright. Now the reason I’m telling you all this, is that I’m going to wake him up now. We need to do this so we can get a better idea of how he really is doing. Before you ask, yes you can be there. In fact, I insist on it. He’s going to be disoriented at first and he’ll need familiar faces to hold onto. I’m going to give him a small dose of morphine before I bring him around to stave off the pain.” Doc finished and simply walked back in with the Lancer family on his heels.

Dr. Alexander was standing beside the bed with a syringe in his hand. Doc Jenkins nodded to him and he injected the drug into Johnny’s vein slowly. When he finished, he stole a glance at Murdoch but he wasn’t looking at anything but Johnny. Murdoch stood behind Sam Jenkins and Scott stood on the other side behind Dr. Alexander. Doc Jenkins opened a small capsule and held it under Johnny’s nose. Slowly, he began to react to the foul odor. Murdoch felt his heart leap a couple of times as he watched his son slowly wake up.

Johnny opened his eyes to see Sam Jenkins looking at him. “Hey,” he whispered.

“Ssshhhh. Don’t talk, Johnny. I need to examine you. Just lie still,” Sam said softly.

“Murdoch?” Johnny whispered.

Doc shook his head. “You never listen do you?” he smiled.

“I’m here, son, and so is your brother and Teresa. We’re all here,” Murdoch said.

Johnny turned his head to find where his father’s voice was coming from. Their eyes met and he locked Murdoch into a stare that they kept until Doc was finished with his initial examination. Johnny felt someone else touching him and turned his head to the left. He tensed as he saw the unfamiliar face.

“Easy, Johnny. This is Dr. Alexander. He’s been helping me take care of you,” Doc said as he saw the tension.

Scott leaned over so Johnny could see him and Johnny smiled.

“Hey, Boston,” he whispered.

“Hush. Let the doctor take a look at you,” Scott said softly.

Dr. Alexander finished his part of the exam and moved away, as did Doc Jenkins as they conferred in the corner. Murdoch and Scott were both thankful to finally get closer to Johnny.

“How do you feel, son?” Murdoch asked.

“Not bad, actually,” he replied.

Murdoch frowned at this answer but quickly realized it was because of the morphine. He smiled. “Well, that won’t last. Doc gave you something for the pain before he woke you up,” he explained. Johnny frowned then and tensed again. “It’s alright, Johnny,” Murdoch said.

“No, it isn’t. No drugs!” he said, his voice louder.

Doc came over as he heard his patient getting upset. “That didn’t take long,” he said to Murdoch.

“I just told him about the morphine,” Murdoch said defending himself.

“Johnny, I want you to calm down and listen to me. Without the morphine you wouldn’t be able to stand the pain. You need it, boy,” he explained.

Johnny glowered at him, unable to settle down. “You think I don’t know what pain is, Doc?! I’ve been shot worse than this! NO DRUGS!” he hissed.

“Alright, Johnny, alright. I promise. Only if you ask for it, okay?” Doc said. Johnny relaxed then and nodded his head.

“Why doesn’t he want the medicine?” Dr. Alexander asked.

“I don’t know, he’s been like that since I’ve known him. He hates it,” Doc said.

Dr. Alexander looked at his patient, remembering the panicked look on Johnny’s face as he told Dr. Jenkins he wanted no drugs. He came to a conclusion that he thought was probably the reason but he said nothing.

“I’m sorry, son. You shouldn’t get upset. You need a lot of rest, Johnny,” Murdoch said.

“Who did this?” Johnny asked, calm now.

“It doesn’t matter, son. He’s dead,” Murdoch answered.

Johnny closed his eyes, trying not to be angry. He knew Murdoch only wanted to protect him. He just didn’t understand that Johnny needed to know.

Johnny awoke a few hours later with a groan escaping his lips. He was beginning to feel Doc’s warning and it hurt like hell. He opened his eyes to meet those of his brother and he couldn’t help but smile through the pain.

“Hey, kid. How do you feel?” Scott asked.

“Why does everybody keep askin me that? I feel like hell,” he said, grimacing.

“Don’t take my head off but, do you want something?” he asked hesitantly.

Johnny shook his head and Scott sighed. “Who did this, Scott?” he asked.

Scott considered him and decided he would want to know if it was him. “I didn’t get his name but Jelly found out he was from Texas. He’s been here a few days, asking about you. Pete said nobody would talk to him but evidently, someone finally did. He was looking for a reputation,” Scott replied.

Johnny sighed and shook his head slowly. “From behind a barn door!? That ain’t much of a reputation,” he said. He grabbed the blanket beneath his hand and grasped onto it for dear life. Scott took his other hand and spoke softly to him. Trying to ease him through the pain.

Johnny felt like someone was sticking hot knives into his body and they just wouldn’t stop. The pain would not ease up, not even a little and he prayed to pass out. His insides felt like they were on fire and he remembered the last time he had felt like this. He shuddered against the exquisite pain ravaging his body and Scott held onto his hand, knowing nothing else to do.

Murdoch stood at the door watching for a brief moment before approaching his son’s side. “Johnny, please, son. Take the medicine. I can’t stand to see you like this,” he practically begged.

Johnny only shook his head, he couldn’t speak. Sweat was rolling down his face and he tried to move to get away from the pain, but it only made it worse. He realized now that the last time was nothing compared to this. The laudanum he had taken the last time had dulled the pain which he had thought at the time was unbearable, but this was entirely different. This was unbearable and he considered, for the first time in a long time, giving in. Tears were steaming down his face but he didn’t care, he only wanted it to stop. He felt someone take his left arm and hold it out, then a sharp stinging sensation and something cold inside his arm. A minute later the pain was almost gone. He looked over to see Dr. Alexander holding an empty syringe.

“Damn you!” he hissed.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t let you do this to yourself. You’re only making things worse,” he said.

Johnny gave into the exhaustion and closed his eyes. His last thought was of beating the doctor senseless.

Johnny slept through the night and when he started to awaken the next morning, it was Jelly at his side. “I’d like to talk to my patient alone for a moment,” Dr. Alexander said when he saw Johnny waking up. Jelly nodded and went out to get some air. “Well, how do you feel?” he asked.

Johnny gave him a hard, cold stare. “When I get out of this bed, I’m gonna make sure you know exactly how I feel,” he said through clenched teeth.

“I already do, I think. Can I tell you something, I mean, will you listen to me?” he said. Johnny nodded his head. “Try to push your anger at me away for a minute. Johnny, I don’t know you. I’ve never seen you before you were brought in here more than half dead. But in the past few days, I’ve seen some things. The scars on your body are quite telling. And your father’s explanation tells me a lot as well.”

“My father’s what?” Johnny asked, his anger seething.

“He only told me that you didn’t grow up with him and he didn’t know much about your past,” the doctor explained.

“What business is it of yours?” Johnny fumed.

“Because you are my patient and I take that very seriously. You said something yesterday about having been shot worse than this before.”


“So, I understand why you refuse to take laudanum. This is different, Johnny. Yes, laudanum is a derivative of morphine but the chemical make up isn’t the same. What I’m trying to tell you is that we will be careful. We’ll make sure you don’t become dependent on the morphine,” he said as gently as he could.

Johnny stared at him, shocked and worried.

“I haven’t told anyone, not even Dr. Jenkins, of my suspicions and I won’t. I can promise you that,” he added quickly.

“I didn’t know what could happen. Nobody told me. I .. I never want to feel like that again,” Johnny said softly.

“You won’t. I promise. Do you think you can trust me to know how to take care of you? You can refuse the morphine from Dr. Jenkins and I’ll give it to you when you need it.”

Johnny studied the young man before him, he watched him carefully while he spoke. He decided, even though it was a lousy thing he’d done yesterday, he was only trying to help. “Ok, Doc. But I don’t want my family to know about … that,” he said.

“That’s up to you, but I’m sure they would understand. As it is, they think you’re just stubborn,” he said.

Johnny smiled. “I am.”

“So I’ve noticed,” the doctor smiled back.

The next time Scott and Murdoch saw Johnny he was awake and seemed much better. Scott was skeptical of this, it wasn’t logical that his brother would be feeling that much better so soon but he didn’t press. Murdoch was sitting at his side and Johnny reached out and took his hand. “I want to go home,” he said.

“I know, son. But Doc already warned us not to even ask. He said he’d let us know when it was time,” Murdoch explained.

Johnny smiled, Doc sure had him pegged in a short amount of time. As if on cue, Doc Jenkins appeared. “Doc, come over here,” Johnny said.

“Yes, is something wrong?” he asked.

“Yeah, there is. I want to go home,” Johnny said.

“Not yet, Johnny. You can’t handle the trip. It would be too rough on you,” he said.

“Come on, Doc. Murdoch can make me a bed in a wagon and I’ll be home and in my own bed in two shakes,” he tried.

“Forget it and don’t pout. It won’t work,” Doc admonished.

“I ain’t poutin!” he said.

“Well, how’s the patient?” Dr. Alexander asked as he walked in.

“Miserable,” Johnny said.


“HE won’t let me go home! Talk to him, Doc, you can make him let me go,” Johnny beseeched.

Dr. Alexander smiled. “I’m sorry, Johnny, but I have to agree with my colleague. It’s way too soon,” he said.

“Boy, you Doc’s all stick together don’t ya?” Johnny retorted.

“Just rest, Johnny. That’s the only way you’re getting out of here,” Murdoch said as he stood and motioned the doctor’s to the other room.

“He seems a lot better. Almost too good,” Murdoch said. Dr. Alexander avoided Murdoch’s stare.

“I know, it is puzzling. But then, I’ve never had a patient as resilient as Johnny. I think some of it is for show so you won’t worry so much,” Doc Jenkins said.

“Well that’s not good is it? I mean he shouldn’t be worrying about how we feel,” Murdoch replied.

“Tell him that and good luck,” Doc said with a laugh. Scott joined them and voiced his own concerns.

Dr. Alexander stepped quietly back into the sick room. “You need to at least act like your sick. Your father is getting suspicious,” he cautioned.

“Yeah, I have caught myself a few times. It’s hard to act like I feel worse than I do, though. I’ll be careful,” Johnny promised.

“Well, don’t get too sick suddenly, that will only raise more questions,” he said.

“Oh, there you are. I was wondering where you disappeared to,” Doc Jenkins said as they came back into the room.

“Just checking the patient. I have a confession to make, gentlemen. Johnny is feeling better because I’ve been giving him an herbal tea. I know it isn’t conventional but since he is so averse to medications, I thought it couldn’t hurt. I learned about it from a Chinese man I met once,” he lied.

“Well, why didn’t you tell us? I was worried,” Murdoch said a bit gruffly.

“I didn’t think you would approve, Mr. Lancer,” he said.

“Don’t blame him, Murdoch. It’s just tea, besides I didn’t want you to think I’d gone loco or something,” Johnny said, reinforcing the lie he was most grateful for.

“All I care about is you getting better, son. I don’t particularly care how as long as it doesn’t hurt you,” Murdoch said.

Johnny was grateful for the doctor’s lie but he felt bad for being the cause of it. Still, he couldn’t stand the thought of his family finding out about that time in his life when he was so weak. They had all told him it wasn’t his fault, that they just didn’t know the effects the drug could have but that hadn’t help. Johnny was ashamed he had let it happen and was unable and unwilling to stop it at the time. He had been hurting so bad and it wasn’t just from the five bullet holes his body had been riddled with, compliments of a ‘grateful’ town. They had turned on him, shooting him in the back as payment for saving their sorry hides. He would never understand that. He would have died if it hadn’t been for his friend, Tom. He had gotten Johnny out of there and to the next town where, thankfully, there was a doctor.

Unfortunately, the man was young and inexperienced. He had saved Johnny’s life, but in doing so had addicted him to laudanum. Once again, Tom had come to his aid, making him stop taking the drug that was so easily attainable. It had been a hard fight that Johnny had not been willing to take up but his friend would not give up on him. He smiled thinking of the man. He wondered where Tom was now, if he was alive. He sighed deeply and closed his eyes, trying to push the memories away. Murdoch watched him, wondering what his son was thinking about but knowing better than to ask.

A week later, Doc finally agreed to let Johnny go home. He was grateful and more than ready to get out of Morro Coyo. Jelly had fashioned him a bed in the back of the wagon that was a good half foot deep with hay and blankets. Johnny smiled at his friend’s overzealousness.

The trip home was not bad at all, thanks to Dr. Alexander. But Johnny knew he was about to find out if the trust he had placed in this man was going to pay off. He would not have access to the morphine now and he was apprehensive about finding out if it had done more harm than good. They settled him into his own bed and he had never felt so good. ‘Home’, he thought. It sounded so good inside his head that he said it aloud.

Murdoch smiled and took his hand. “Glad to be back, huh?” he asked.

“You bet. Now, all I need is a good night’s sleep and I’ll be rarin to go,” Johnny teased.

“Johnny,” Murdoch said in a very parental voice.

“Just teasin, Murdoch,” he smiled. He closed his eyes and smiled, letting out a sigh of contentment.

Murdoch and Scott suppressed the laughter, both were glad to have him home and to be home themselves.

Johnny awoke sometime during the night to find his father asleep in a chair next to his bed. He was hurting, but it wasn’t unbearable so he decided to take his mind off it. He always did this by allowing his thoughts to run free, never knowing where they might end up. Tonight, they were ending up very unpleasant as he couldn’t stop thinking about the laudanum thing. He felt the anger coming back at the townspeople who had betrayed him and he tried to shut off that memory. His mind wandered to Tom then. Thinking about his friend was hard because he had been the one to help Johnny through that whole mess. Still, he smiled at the memories of the man. He wondered if he shouldn’t try and find Tom. He wasn’t a gunfighter, although he was a thief by trade. Johnny never cottoned much to that particular line of work but he overlooked it where Tom was concerned. Again he wondered if his friend was still alive. Not many of his old friends were alive now. He sighed aloud at this thought without realizing it and he felt Murdoch touch his hand.

“You ok, son?” he asked.

Johnny smiled at him. “Yeah, just thinking about something,” he replied.

“Anything you want to share?” Murdoch asked.

“Nah, just thinking about an old friend of mine. It’s nothing,” he said.

Murdoch nodded and decided not to pursue the subject. “How’s the pain?” he asked instead.

“Oh, it’s just fine,” Johnny laughed. “It’s not bad, really,” he added.

“We should have gotten some of that tea from the doctor,” Murdoch commented.

Johnny looked away, he hated lying, especially to his father. “I don’t need anything,” he said softly.

Scott took the morning shift and was sitting beside him when he awoke again. “Good morning,” Scott gleamed.

“Mmmph,” Johnny replied.

“Are you okay?” Scott asked, frowning.

“Yeah,” was the only answer he got.

“Johnny, what’s wrong?” he persisted.

“Nothin! Just leave me alone,” he said harshly.

Scott studied his brother a moment, still frowning, and decided he would not leave him alone. “Are you in pain?” he asked.

Johnny closed his eyes and sighed. “Of course I’m in pain! But that’s not the problem,” Johnny shouted.

“Well, what is the problem?” Scott shot back.

“At the moment, you are! Is it possible to have one minute without being hovered over? Do you think that would be alright?” he asked sarcastically.

“It certainly is alright. It’s just fine!” Scott groused and stormed out of the room.

Johnny stared at the door and wondered if he was losing his mind. What had made him talk to his brother like that? He couldn’t believe the words coming out of his mouth even as he was saying them yet, he couldn’t seem to stop himself. He felt irritable and restless, still he had no right to talk to Scott that way. He pulled the covers back and held up his right hand. It was shaking and he couldn’t seem to stop that either. ‘What the hell is going on here?’, he wondered.

He realized he had been a whole day without the morphine and wondered if that was causing his foul mood. Still, he didn’t feel the same as when he’d stopped the laudanum. There wasn’t any pain, not that kind, or nausea, no cold sweats or vomiting. Maybe that’s all that’s going to happen. Just a little anger and shaking. He could handle that but he wished Dr. Alexander was there so he could ask him.

“What’s wrong, son?” Murdoch asked as Scott came into the kitchen.

“Nothing!” he clipped. Murdoch raised his brows and stared at his eldest. “Johnny’s in a foul mood. He just threw me out of his room,” he explained.

“He did?” Murdoch asked, surprised. That wasn’t like Johnny. Even when he was sick, he was rarely in a bad mood.

“Well, he’s probably hungry. I’ll take him some breakfast. That will make him feel better,” Teresa said. She took the tray to his room and opened the door.

“Doesn’t anybody around here knock?” Johnny huffed.

“Boy, you are in a bad mood!” Teresa said.

“Sorry, I guess I am. I’m just tired of being babysat,” he said.

“Well, I have no intentions of babysitting you, Johnny Lancer. I have better things to do with my time. I just brought you some breakfast,” she said indignantly as she set up the tray. “Now, I’m leaving. If you need anything, I guess you’re just out of luck,” she said with a firm nod of her head and walked out.

Johnny smiled at her back. She was the most tenacious of them all. He’d rather face down any gunfighter than face Teresa’s rath.

Murdoch tapped lightly on Johnny’s door about an hour later and slowly opened it. He peeked inside to see his son resting, his eyes closed. He stepped quietly over and eased into the chair next to Johnny’s bed. He was trying to be as quiet as he could but it didn’t work.

Johnny opened his eyes and watched his father easing into the chair. He had to smile at the melodramatic way Murdoch was trying to be clandestine.

“Oh, you’re awake,” Murdoch said, sounding like he’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

“Yeah,” Johnny answered.

Murdoch thought he sounded rather sad. “Johnny, what’s wrong?” he asked softly.

“I don’t know, Murdoch. I guess I’m just feelin a little antsy. I owe Scott an apology. I didn’t mean to yell at him,” he said morosely.

“No, son. There’s something else bothering you and I wish you would talk to me about it,” Murdoch pressed.

Johnny shifted his position in the bed, suddenly very uncomfortable with his father’s presence. “It’s nothing,” he said.

Murdoch started to say something but the door opened and Dr. Alexander entered the room. “Teresa said I should just show myself in,” he explained.

“She would,” Johnny said tersely.

“Yes, well I need to examine my patient, Mr. Lancer. Would you mind?” he asked. Murdoch still didn’t like the young man but he left the room anyway.

“I’m glad you’re here, Doc. I need to ask you something,” Johnny started right in. Dr. Alexander said nothing but waited. “It’s about the morphine. I’ve been meaner than a rattler today and my hand is shaking,” Johnny said, holding his right hand out to demonstrate.

The doctor nodded his head. “It’s common, Johnny. These problems will be gone by tomorrow, I promise,” he reassured. Johnny sighed his relief. “Now, lets take a look at those wounds,” Dr. Alexander said with a smile.

He finished his examination and smiled his approval. “Very nice. The wounds are clean and they are healing nicely. I’d say we can remove those stitches in a few more days,” he said.

“Really?” Johnny asked, getting excited.

“That does not mean you can start running around like normal. You still have some healing to do inside,” he cautioned.

Johnny made a face. “How long?” he asked.

“I’m afraid it will be at least a month before you can think about returning to your normal activities.”

“A month? Doc, I’ll be loco by then!” he exclaimed.

“Loco?” the doctor asked with a frown.

“Crazy!” Johnny translated.

The doctor laughed. “Well, I doubt that. You won’t have to stay in bed the whole time, but you will have to take it easy,” he said.

Johnny dropped his shoulders in defeat, he knew he wasn’t going to win this one, especially after his family found out.

“Is there anything else you want to ask me?” Dr. Alexander said.

“Yeah, well it’s about that problem. I hate lying to my family, Doc. I really hate making you lie to them. I just don’t know what to do about it,” Johnny said.

“You could tell them the truth. I know they’ll understand. They are very devoted to you, anyone can see that. Think about it at least. If you want, I could tell them or be here to help them understand what you went through,” he replied.

“Thanks, Doc, but Murdoch doesn’t like you and if you told him you lied to him, he’d probably hit ya or somethin,” Johnny grinned.

“Probably,” he agreed with a smile.

Murdoch had waited long enough so he came back into the room to see the two men smiling. He felt better instantly. “How is he?” he asked.

“Doing very well. The healing is coming along nicely but I’ve already warned him he can’t go back to normal for at least a month,” the doctor reported.

“Snitch,” Johnny said.

“When was he normal?” Murdoch teased.

Johnny smiled at this jab.

“Well, I have sick people to see, so if you will excuse me,” Dr. Alexander said with a nod and left.

“You like him,” Murdoch said.

“Sure, he’s alright,” Johnny replied.

“We were about to discuss something before he came in,” Murdoch reminded him.

“We were?” Johnny teased.

Murdoch’s face turned serious then. “Son, I want to know what’s bothering you.”

“Got a couple of years,” Johnny said snidely. “Sorry, I’m just irritated.”

“Why, son?”

“Because … because it’s a side effect of not taking the morphine,” he blurted out.

“But you weren’t taking it,” Murdoch said.

“Yes, I was. I just didn’t want you to know.”

“Why, Johnny?”

“I didn’t want to take it at all but Dr. Alexander said he could give me small enough doses so I wouldn’t …”, he couldn’t finish just yet but he also knew he couldn’t stop.

“Wouldn’t what?” Murdoch asked.

“Wouldn’t get addicted to it,” he finished.

Murdoch looked at him without comprehension. Suddenly his face lit up with understanding.”Laudanum. That’s why you wouldn’t take it,” he said more to himself than Johnny.

“Yeah. It was a long time ago but I didn’t want to take a chance. It was bad enough the first time.”

“How did it happen?”

Johnny smiled. “I knew you were gonna ask me that. I got shot up pretty bad once and the doctor kept pouring it down my throat. I didn’t know it could be so … so powerful. I was laid up for three months and he just kept givin it to me. By the time I was back on my feet, I couldn’t go without it. I think that’s the closest I ever came to dying without a gun in my hand,” he said, his voice distant.

“How did you … recover?”

“A friend of mine decided he was done watching me destroy myself, so he took me to a cabin in the mountains and made me stay there. I’ve never been so sick in my life. I must have called him every name in the book, but he stayed with me until it was over and I was myself again. That’s why I won’t take medicine. Doc Alexander promised me he would make sure I didn’t have the same problem with the morphine. That’s why I’ve been so hateful today. He said it was normal and it would be gone by tomorrow.” Johnny finished his explanation and couldn’t look at his father.

“So, Dr. Alexander knew about this,” Murdoch said.

“He figured it out cause I wouldn’t take anything and got so mad at him when he gave it to me anyway. I made him promise not to say anything, Murdoch. I didn’t want you to know.”


“Because! I didn’t want you to be ashamed of me,” he said softly.

“Johnny, I would never be ashamed of you! I understand, I just wish you could have told me about it sooner,” Murdoch said sadly.

“I’m sorry. I guess it’s just one more thing I couldn’t face having you know about me,” Johnny said in a whisper.

“Listen to me, son. There is nothing you can tell me that will change how I feel about you. Do you understand? Nothing,” Murdoch said, speaking softly and holding onto Johnny’s shoulder..

Johnny nodded his head but he wasn’t convinced, not at all, and he knew there were things he could never tell his father or another living soul.



To More Discovery

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