Happy Birthday To Me by Winj

Word count 1,891

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Johnny walked into the house as the sun set behind him. He was tired but, it had been a good day. He’d gotten a lot done and had no problems at all. He smiled a little. Just as it should be, he thought. He stepped into the great room and pulled up short when he heard the commotion, his right hand brushing the butt of his gun. 

“Happy Birthday, Johnny!”

“Feliz cumpleanos, hijo!”

“Another year older, brother. You’ll be caught up with me in no time!”

He looked at each of them in turn, a smile spreading across his face. They were all grinning at him and he laughed softly. “Well, that was some welcome. Thank you.”

Murdoch walked up and wrapped an arm around his shoulders, guiding him to a chair and sitting him down. “This is the chair of honor. No one else sits in it tonight but you.”

Scott slapped his knee, took a seat on the sofa across from him then eyed him critically. “Yes, I think I see the signs of aging right now.”

“Been looking in the mirror again, huh, brother?” Johnny retorted.

Teresa walked over with several brightly colored packages. She set them on the coffee table then leaned over and kissed his cheek and hugged him. “Maria has been cooking all day. She’s made all your favorites but she had to leave. She left a gift for you and said to give you her love and this.” She kissed him again. 

Johnny’s cheeks felt warm and he smiled widely at the girl. “I’ll be sure to thank her properly tomorrow.”

“Alright, son. Time to open your presents.” Murdoch rubbed his hands together then picked up a gift, handing it off to his son before sitting in the chair beside him and leaning in. 

He looked at the gift and felt a little embarrassed to be the center of all their attention. With a light sigh, he opened the package and stared at the contents. Slowly, he lifted out a shirt and shook it, examining its intricate pattern closely. “This is beautiful. Look at that stitching!” He showed his father the needlework. 

Murdoch nodded and smiled. “Maria has always been talented with a needle and thread.”

Scott picked up the next gift and handed it off. “Now, you may think … well, trust me you’ll like it.”

Johnny raised a brow at that and opened the present with some trepidation. Of course, he thought, a book. He looked at the cover and grinned. “Tom Sawyer.”

“It’s very good and funny. I know you’ll really enjoy it, brother.” Scott hoped so, anyway. Johnny was not easy to buy for. 

Slowly, Johnny looked over at his brother, his eyes dancing with humor and affection. “I’m sure I’ll love it. Gracias, hermano.”

Teresa went next. “This is from me. It’s not as … I guess I should wait until you open it.”

He laughed and ripped the paper off, smiling at the white shirt. The stitches weren’t as fine as Maria’s but, unless you looked very closely, you couldn’t tell.

“I’m not as good as Maria with the embroidery but, well, I hope you like it.”

“Querida, it’s beautiful. I can’t believe how well you’re doing. I know you worked hard on this and that’s the gift.” He leaned forward and kissed her on the head. Leaning back, he saw the table was now empty of presents. “Well, I’m getting pretty hungry for that meal Maria made.”

“Not so fast, son. You haven’t gotten my gift yet.”

“Right. Okay, where is it, old man? In your pocket?” Johnny stuck a finger in his father’s pocket and tugged lightly. 

Laughing, Murdoch slapped his hand away. “No, it’s outside, son. Come with me.”

Outside, Johnny looked around the yard and saw nothing but an old broken wagon wheel. He put his hands on his hips and gave his father a wary look. 

Murdoch grinned devilishly then held up a finger indicating Johnny wait while he walked to the barn with Scott. 

Sighing, Johnny wrapped an arm around Teresa’s waist. “For a minute, I thought it was gonna be an outhouse.”

“Johnny!” She laughed and smacked him in the belly. 

The barn doors opened and Murdoch and Scott appeared, carrying something draped with a tarp. It looked heavy and Johnny couldn’t imagine what it was. Gently, they lowered it to the tiled porch then, Murdoch waved him over. 

“I couldn’t wrap it. I hope you like it, son.”

Johnny raised a brow and leaned over, flipping the cover back. He sucked in a breath and dropped to his knees, his hand caressing the smooth leather of the saddle. Eyes roving all over, he saw the intricate markings, the silver studs and his own initials carved into the skirt in cursive: JML

“Oh, Murdoch,” he breathed out. He didn’t know what else to say. He couldn’t believe his father had gone to all the trouble of having a saddle hand tooled for him. He didn’t even want to think of the cost. He felt his father kneel beside him and turned his face up to look at the man. “It’s … it’s beautiful. Thank you so much.”

Smiling, the older man laid a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. “You’re very welcome, son. I’m so glad you like it.”

“Like it? I love it! I’ve never seen a finer saddle!” Johnny turned at the waist and hugged his father, not caring who else saw. 

Murdoch tensed at the unexpected action then quickly relaxed and returned the embrace, a smile lighting his face and making him appear almost youthful. 

Scott cleared his throat but he couldn’t wipe the smile from his face. “Would the three of you like to be alone?”

Johnny and Murdoch laughed as they pulled away from each other. 

“Barranca is gonna think he’s some kind of royalty with this on his back.”

“And I’m sure you’ll want to break it in, say tomorrow? You have the day off.”

Johnny looked at his father like he’d never seen him before and, he wasn’t sure he ever really had. His face softened and he shook his head, unable to believe his good fortune. “Thanks. Maybe, you could give me a hand breaking it in?”

Scott thought that an excellent idea. “I think you should, Murdoch. You know how he is with new toys. We wouldn’t want him to break it the first day out.” 

“How could you break a saddle?” Teresa asked then rolled her eyes. “Alright, put that thing away and let’s enjoy the supper Maria worked so hard on.”

Johnny and Murdoch got to their feet. “I’ll help you stow it away, son. We’ll be right in.”

As they put the saddle back where Murdoch had hidden it from view or possible damage, Johnny thought about the evening so far and figured it couldn’t get much better. Only one thing could top this and, since it was his birthday, he figured he should get that ball rolling. 

“Ready to eat?” Murdoch asked.

“In a minute. I just wanted to say, well, thank you again. It really is an amazing saddle.”

Smiling, Murdoch squeezed his arm. “You’re welcome, son.”

“I just wanted to say one more thing while we’re alone.” He glanced at his father then dropped his head, suddenly thinking this wasn’t his best idea. Still … he sucked in a breath and looked in the man’s eyes. “Thanks for saving my life. I … I love you, Pa.” He stared in amazement as his father started blinking several times. He could see tears well in the man’s eyes. 

Murdoch cleared his throat yet, his tone was still husky. “I love you so much, son. I always have and I always will.”

Johnny smiled and stepped into the open arms of his father. 

*

He jerked awake, Colt in hand and looking everywhere at once. Slowly, his heart slowed and his breathing eased as he saw no one on around. Johnny let out a heavy sigh and laid the gun down before scrubbing his head and face. 

He stood and stretched then scratched the three-day growth of beard with a grimace. Need to shave, I guess. Don’t really feel like it. Don’t really care. He scratched himself lower, then headed to the small creek and washed up. Dunking his head in the water, he shook the excess away and laughed sardonically. 

Stupid dream! Yeah, that was a real sweet one, alright. He reckoned he’d dreamt it because today was his birthday. He really couldn’t believe it. He was twenty-two years old. “Guess I got a few more years according to Scott,” he muttered as he headed back to his camp.

Stoking the embers, he reignited the fire and set the coffee pot on to warm. Still half full. No sense in wasting it. Shit, I can’t afford any more. Not for a while at least. 

He sat back against his saddle, the worn leather creaking under his weight, and crossed his arms as he waited for the coffee. Bet they got plenty of coffee at Lancer. Plenty of food, too. Platters of it on the table by now. He snorted derisively. 

Well, I hope you choke on it, you rotten son of a bitch. If you didn’t want me around, you shoulda said so right off. Not waited nearly half a year before kicking me to the road. Screw it! I don’t need you. Never did need you. Wish I’d blown your head off when I first laid eyes on you. Then, I wouldn’t be sittin here.

He laughed aloud. No, I’d be hanged or dead some other way if I’d done that. Well, what’s the difference? I might as well be dead as it is. Didn’t figure on living this damned long anyway. The only reason I didn’t kill the bastard was because of Scott.

Scott! The hell with him, too. Standin there all stuffy and proper, agreein with the old man. He hated it, he’d said, but it just wasn’t working out. Johnny snorted. Yeah, I could almost see the dollar signs in your eyes as you thought about your cut of half a ranch. Bet, in a year, he’ll be runnin Lancer and put the old man out to pasture. 

He thought he might check on that in a year’s time just to see if he was right. Then again, nothing said he’d be alive in a year or, another day. Truth be told, he didn’t give a rat’s ass, either.

Johnny leaned forward and poured a cup of stale coffee then raised it in a toasting gesture. “To Murdoch Lancer who spawned me. To Maria Lancer who spewed me out this day. To the Lancer ranch, may every acre burn down to ash. Happy Birthday, Johnny Madrid!”

The End
9/14/09

FOOTNOTE: Today is my birthday and, it’s just not as exciting as it used to be when I was, say ten. Still, it beats the alternative, I guess. LOL. So, I figured I’d take it out on Johnny. 😉  Of course, it’s AR but, if I’d told you that, it would have ruined the surprise. 

FOOTNOTE TO THE FOOTNOTE: The saddle initials were typed in Vladimir Script so, if it doesn’t show up purty on the post, hopefully, it looks right in the file. 

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Comments:  We don’t have this author’s current email address. If you leave a comment below, if she reconnects with the fandom, then she will see how much her work is appreciated.

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7 thoughts on “Happy Birthday To Me by Winj

  1. I really enjoyed this sweet story until I got to the end. Oh dear, poor Johnny. What on Earth happened for his father and his brother to turn him out of the house?

    Like

  2. Well done, as always. You are such a wonderful writer. I was overjoyed to see your name in the list of new stories in the monthly update. This one definitely left an opening for a prequel explaining why Murdoch and Scott finally showed their true colors and a sequel with Madrid landing on his feet in a really big way. Fanfiction is sooo much better than tv!!!

    Like

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