Word Count 1,499
This story takes place a few weeks after Johnny was shot in the first episode but before the signing of the partnership agreement. In the timeline of my stories, this happens the day after my story titled, A Question of Ownership.
The bit slipped silently between the palomino’s parted teeth. Johnny Lancer spoke softly while scratching the nearest golden ear and then rubbing the tips of his fingers in little circles down the length of the animal’s neck to its withers. “Bet I catch it from the old man for bein’ late to supper. Worth it, though, after the tight string Doc’s had me on. Ain’t been more’n a couple miles from the house. You needed a good run, too, didn’t ya? You sure was full of spunk, even after the ride Scott gave ya, yesterday. Guess you don’t like bein’ cooped up any more’n I do. Ain’t that right, Barranca?”
Barranca grunted his pleasure at Johnny’s touch. Then he snorted and bobbed his head.
With a soft laugh, Johnny patted the horse on the shoulder. He closed the stall door, threw some hay in the feed bunk, and headed for the house. His body was still stiff and sore from the wound he’d received a few weeks earlier in the battle with Day Pardee and his gang of land-grabbers, but he didn’t mind the discomfort. At least Doctor Jenkins’ had finally cut him loose, and it had felt good to be free to ride as far and as fast as he wanted.
A few minutes later, Johnny quietly entered the house through the front door and walked across the corner of the entry hall–spurs jingling softly. He paused inside the arched doorway into the large parlor and looked to his left. Yep, he was late. His father was already seated at the far end of the long dining table with Scott on one side and Teresa on the other.
Johnny slipped between the table and the bookshelves that lined the wall. After sliding back the chair next to Teresa O’Brien, he settled into the padded seat. “Sorry, I’m late. Hope ya didn’t hold up supper on my account.”
Teresa, brown eyes lighting up her pretty face, glanced over her shoulder at Johnny and tilted her chin upward. “Of course not.”
Johnny flashed a grin at her. Since no one scolded him for being late, he picked up his fork, reached across the table, and stabbed a juicy steak that was on a platter near his brother’s elbow.
Scott Lancer’s brows puckered and his jaw flexed.
“What?” Johnny asked.
“It isn’t proper etiquette to reach across the table. One should ask to have things passed to them.”
Johnny scowled at his brother and mouthed a silent, ‘Oh’. He put the meat on his plate, turned his head toward Teresa, and grinned. “Mind passin’ me those taters?” After taking the bowl offered by the girl, he slapped a big glob of the fluffy white contents onto his plate. He looked over at Scott and saw him frowning. “Now what?”
“Don’t you think you could have cleaned up a little before coming to the table?”
Johnny held up his hands. “I did. See? Washed ’em in the horse trough.” Without waiting for a response, he grabbed the handle of the odd-shaped dish that Teresa had recently informed him was a gravy boat and poured a healthy portion of the brown liquid over his potatoes. Next, he plucked a biscuit from the stack on a nearby plate, slathered it with butter, and crammed one side of it into his mouth.
Again Johnny noticed disapproval in Scott’s blue-gray eyes. He scowled back. “Now what am I doing wrong?”
“It isn’t proper to wear one’s hat to the table.”
“Is that all?” Johnny reached up with his free hand and grasped the brim of his hat between thumb and forefinger. With a flick of his wrist, he sent it sailing toward the coat tree near the doorway into the foyer. When the hat caught on the tip of one of the branches, Johnny looked over at his brother. “Is that better?”
Scott tipped his head slightly. “Yes, much better.”
Johnny sighed. As he began eating, he happened to glimpse a touch of amusement in his father’s eyes and a half-smile on his brother’s lips, which quickly sobered.
A surge of irritation ran through Johnny. What was Scott being so uppity about? Was he still mad about their fight over Barranca the day before? Was this his way of getting even?
The thought of being looked down on by his brother ate at Johnny. “I s’pose your manners are always perfect . . . huh, Boston?” he said in a sharp tone.
“I do my best.” Scott sounded a little smug, but his tone was polite when he added, “Would you pass the biscuits, please?”
“Sure, Brother.” Johnny snatched up a chunk of bread from the plate. He gave the biscuit a backhanded flip and watched it rise in a high arc.
The bread came down with a plop in Scott’s glass.
Johnny’s eyes widened and his mouth gapped open as the glass toppled, with a loud clatter, into the china plate in front of his brother. Red wine sloshed out and ran over the edge of the dish and onto the table.
Scott gasped, sending his chair skidding crazily backward as he leapt to his feet. “Johnny!”
Johnny hunched his shoulders and ducked his head. As he spoke, his eyes darted from his brother to their father and back again. “Sorry, Scott, it was an accident . . . honest.”
“Can’t you be more careful? These were new pants. I hope they’re not ruined.” Scott’s voice rang with displeasure that was clearly showed in the pinch of his brows. He turned away from the table. “I’ll be back as soon as I change,” he said to no one in particular. Then with head high and back straight, he strode toward the door to the left of the fireplace.
A thought hit Johnny just as his brother reached for the doorknob. “Hey, Scott,” he called.
Scott stopped, his arms crossing as he twisted to look back. “What?”
“Where’s them perfect manners you been talkin’ about? Weren’t ya tellin’ me the other day that you always excuse yourself before leavin’ the table on account it’s proper eddy-kit?” The smile on Johnny’s face widened.
Scott made a sweeping bow and spoke in a mocking tone. “I beg your pardon. If you will, please, excuse me, I’ll change into something a little dryer.”
As he watched his brother turn and stiffly stride from the room, Johnny broke into a hearty laugh. A sense of satisfaction washed over him at the sound of his father’s deep-throated chuckles joining in.
Teresa excused herself and headed toward the hallway that led to the kitchen. When she returned a couple minutes later, she smiled sweetly and held out a damp cloth. “Here, Johnny,” she said and sat down when he had taken it.
Johnny’s brow wrinkled. “What’s this for?”
Teresa waved her hand in the direction of Scott’s place at the table. “If you make a mess, it is only proper that you clean it up.”
Again laughter rumbled from Murdoch’s end of the table.
Johnny hung his head. He fingered the damp cloth in his hand and let out a long sigh. After yesterday’s fiasco, he supposed he deserved Scott’s treatment. And he did need to watch his manners. His mamma would’ve rapped his knuckles good for reaching instead of asking.
Without looking at anyone, Johnny went work wiping up the mess. He got a clean plate and glass, refilled them, and was about to return to his place when Scott walked in.
Johnny pulled back his brother’s chair. “Have a seat.”
“Thank you,” Scott said a bit stiffly. His jaw relaxed and a smile played at the corners of his mouth. “You have quite an aim. You’ll have to teach me how you do that, sometime.”
Johnny glanced at Murdoch and then smiled at Scott. “Sure . . . but I think we better practice somewhere else. Our old man might not think it’s proper etiquette.”
This is a short story that I wrote and posted shortly after joining the Lancer groups on Yahoo in 2002. I made some revisions in September 2003 prior to uploading it to my Lancer Web pages. In April of 2014, I gave it a thorough going over and added a bit more to the ending before adding it to files of the Lancer FanFiction group on Facebook. Originally this ended with Teresa giving Johnny the rag and telling him that if you made a mess it was only proper that you cleaned it up. I added a few more paragraphs to show that there weren’t any lasting hard feelings between Scott and Johnny. I hope you liked the final outcome.
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