Fandom: Lancer
Title: Shootout
Rating: PG
Genre: Brothers, adventure, Christmas, h/c
13,000 words, 5 chapters

A/N: After watching the Starsky & Hutch episode called Shootout, I thought, I can see this as a Johnny & Scott story! So, basing this upon the transcript, I changed it to reflect the times and exchanged S&H for Johnny and Scott Lancer, adding dialog and my own slant on the story.

• Written many years ago, I dusted off this story - although I haven't done any updating to it. I just noticed that it has two points of view, which I didn't remember. Hmm. Comments are always welcome and appreciated no matter how long ago it was written!

Chapter 1

"I need food, Scott. I'm starvin'!"

"Can't you wait to get home, Johnny? Lancer's not that far now."

"You said that hours ago, back when the sun was setting, and it seems like we're no closer to being home and no closer to getting some grub!"

"Look, Johnny, we've been pushing these horses as hard as we can –."

"So it makes sense that we stop and rest them up, right? There's a town just over the ridge," Johnny wheedled. "We'll stop just long enough to get some eats at the cantina and we'll push on."

Scott pushed his hat back off his forehead and tiredly wiped his brow. "Tonight is Christmas Eve and I wanted to spend it with the family. At this rate we'll be lucky if we get there in time to open our gifts tomorrow morning. I just don't want to miss being with my family," he said wearily. "All right, I guess we'd better get some food. I can hear your stomach rumbling from over here."

"That ain't my stomach growling, Scott."

Scott looked puzzled. "Then what's that noise?"

Johnny raised his face to the dark night. "Thunder. Felt a raindrop, too. We'd better get a move on, brother."

As the Lancer brothers spurred their exhausted mounts towards the twinkling lights of the nearby town, Scott called out, "What's the name of this town?"

"Uh… Schuttehaut? Oh, Shootout," was Johnny's reply, accompanied by wry laughter, as they passed a sign that read 'Welcome to Schuttehaut.'

~ • ~

The Blue Dove Cantina was the first building they came to, sitting right at the edge of town. The street was silent with only a few lights showing in the windows of the houses. They sheltered their horses alongside a handful of other animals in a lean-to at the side of the stucco building. Just as the Lancers dismounted, there was a clap of thunder and the heavens let go of the rain with a rush.

It was not busy in the small restaurant, due to the late hour and the rainstorm, although it appeared to be a decent establishment. There were even calico tablecloths on the tables in the cozy dining room, giving it a homey feeling. A waitress was busy serving a couple of men occupying a table in the far corner when Johnny and Scott entered, so they seated themselves at a table near the door.

"Hey, Scott?" asked Johnny, sniffing the aroma drifting from the direction of the kitchen. "You know what this place reminds me of?"

"Your grandmother's kitchen," Scott replied with a smile.

"Si, la cocina de mi abuela. How'd you know?"

"Because you say the same thing about every cantina we go to. 'Just like my grandmother's kitchen.' Smells bring back memories like no other sense can, so they say. All I can smell right now is sweat and horses. First thing I am going to do when I get home is find a bath."

Johnny had a far-away look on his face. "I wasn't very old when I used to go with my Mama to visit my abuela, my grandmother, but I remember sitting in her kitchen shelling peas. She'd say, 'Idle hands made light work for the Devil.'"

Scott looked pointedly at his brother. "Somehow I doubt she knew how you would take that to heart when you got older, little brother."

Johnny snorted and shrugged off his coat. "Poco ella sabía. Little did she know," he agreed. "I think the only reason my mother took me along was so the old lady would give her a little extra money when we left."

The waitress was a young woman in her early twenties, with long dark hair tied back with a ribbon, a full-skirted red dress covered with a starched white apron. As soon as she saw the new customers, she hurried over to their table. She offered them a limited choice of dishes, and an even more limited selection of drinks. "It's sort of late, gentlemen, but the cook's still back there and for a change hasn't drunk all the wine on hand. Lamb stew is on the stove. The beefsteak is getting a little green around the edges but the cook can sear it." The dark-haired young woman cast a glance towards the door as if expecting more customers as she asked, "You want coffee or Valle de Guadalupe? That's our house wine, made by the padres over at St. Tomas's."

Johnny ordered for both of them. "Tamales, some of that stew, and un crisol grande de café. Bread, if you have any that isn't too old. And it looks like my brother wants to try your wine, too. Bring him a jug and let's hope we can still make it home for Christmas."

Scott enquired, "Isn't it a bit late for you to be working, and alone?"

She looked startled for a second, then recovered. "The owner is out of town, visiting family. We're staying open for a special customer. Anything else?"

Scott shook his head and wished her a merry Christmas. She allowed a small smile and went to the kitchen, calling out the order to the cook.

Once the waitress had gone, Johnny started looking around the room, seeking something. Scott half-smiled and said, "Back there, down the hall, past the kitchen door, I expect."

"What is?"

"The johnny."

"Scott, Anyone ever tell you you're a ray of sunshine?" Johnny asked with a laugh, then made his way down the dark passage to seek the outhouse.

~ • ~

Scott casually observed the two men who were eating in a dark corner of the room, heads close as they talked intently. One appeared to be somewhat older than the other, but even from this distance he held considerable authority. Scott couldn't hear their conversation, but something in the way the men were talking suggested they were neither related to each other nor very fond of each other. Their animosity was clear right across the dining room.

There was no sign of Johnny returning, so Scott rose and made his way to the bar to see if he could pour himself a beer. There was no bartender at this late hour, but the waitress appeared as if on cue and immediately pulled a bottle of wine from under the counter. "Valle de Guadalupe," she said, as she worked the cork from the bottle. There was a shout from the kitchen that an order was ready, so she hurried away and left Scott to pour his own wine.

He wondered if Johnny had found the outhouse or if he'd stumbled into some trouble he'd need extricating from, once again. This was exactly the kind of delay Scott had been afraid of. By the time they finished eating and got back on the road it would be close to midnight. They had another couple of hours' worth of riding to do, and he did not look forward to traveling in the rain. He'd told Johnny right from the start that he didn't want to miss Christmas at the ranch. Scott's annoyance was rising when he heard the footsteps behind him. "What happened? You fall in a hole or someth –?" Scott started to turn from the bar but he stiffened as a hard shaft of steel was jammed in his ribs.

"Don't move a muscle," a man's steely voice commanded.

Out of the corner of his eye, Scott could see the gray hair of the older man who had been sitting in the corner just a minute ago.

"Don't move," the man ordered. "I've got a gun on you. Put both hands on top of the bar. Both hands." A glance down offered Scott the view of a revolver prodding his side, held in a businesslike way by a steady hand. He felt his own gun being whisked from its holster and hope sank rapidly.

The voice in his ear was low and confident. "You do as I tell you and we'll all get along fine. Yes?"

Scott nodded and wondered if he'd have any warning of Johnny's return and be able to call out to him. The sound of the rain pummeling the rooftop was drowning out sound, and had been enough cover for this man to get the better of him.

"Back to your table, slowly."

The older man's partner moved out into the light at that point, and Scott could plainly see the gun in his hand and a look of enjoyment on his face. He didn't take either as a good sign.

"Joey, get back and keep an eye on the door," the older man ordered as he took a firm hold of Scott's arm just above the elbow.

The young one hesitated before taking a step back. He stopped and called out urgently, "It ain't that one we should worry about, Lockley, it's that punk Madrid."

Desperately trying to figure out what he and Johnny had stumbled into, Scott attempted to turn, but his arm was mercilessly pulled back and up. Even as he gasped in pain, he got out, "I don't know what you're after but we don't have any money–."

"Shut up and move." Lockley stuck Scott's gun in his coat pocket as he propelled Scott forward.

As Scott approached their table, Johnny, hair and shoulders wet from the rain, strode into the room, calling out, "That outhouse was a block away and so dark I think I stepped on a –." Johnny looked up and saw the stranger with a drawn revolver pointing at Scott and immediately went into action, crouching as he drew his own weapon.

As Johnny's gun cleared leather, Scott shouted out a warning to his brother. "Look out! There's another one behind you!" In desperation, he elbowed the man at his side and tore his arm out of the viselike grip. As he broke away, a blow struck him hard between the shoulders and he crashed to the tile floor.

The kitchen door flew open and the waitress came out fast. Johnny pushed her out of harm's way with a sweep of his arm, even as he let off a shot at the man who had struck Scott down. Turning, Johnny fanned his gun at the younger shooter, then veered to his right, making for the cover of the bar. Gunshots roared deafeningly in the small dining room and black powder filled the air.

As Scott struggled to his feet, planning on tackling Lockley, another shot rang out from Joey's gun. He was horrified to see Johnny's body jerk back and fall heavily to the ground.

"Johnny!" Scott rushed forward, his only thought to get to Johnny's side and help him, but Joey moved faster and got between the brothers.

Raising his gun to Scott's face, the young gunman smiled with corrupt pleasure. "You want to join your partner? Looking for a way out? I'll help you." Scott saw the hammer being cocked, only inches in front of his eyes, and froze.

Behind him came a warning voice, full of authority. "Don't do it, Joey. You've done enough. We don't have time for this." Lockley commanded in a level tone, "Just get rid of the body before Montgomery comes." When Joey hesitated but didn't move, Lockley reiterated, "Joey! Get rid of Madrid's body. I'll take care of this one."

The outer door swung open and a dapper man strode in, laughing to the attractive woman he was escorting to a late dinner. They stopped in their tracks at the sight of the drawn guns and the body on the floor, then hastily started to retreat.

Lockley casually threatened them with his pistol. "Don't try it, folks. Make a smart decision and get over there." He indicated they should come in and sit down at a side table. With wide eyes, clinging to each other, the couple obeyed.

The young waitress cautiously emerged from behind the kitchen door, cringing as she stepped around Johnny's prone body. She barely glanced at the reluctant customers who were huddled in the corner as she made for Lockley's side. "You said it would only be Montgomery!" she cried.

Lockley, his eyes never ceasing to watch Scott, reassured her and threatened her in the same breath. "Couldn't be helped. Remember, you have to think of your mother, Theresa. You stay where you are, Blondie."

Joey leaned over Johnny, roughly rolled him on his side and pulled his six-shooter out from his limp hand. As Joey stood up and moved away, the wounded man's flaccid body returned to its facedown position.

Scott didn't take his eyes off Joey as he gauged what tactics would be best. He knew his type: arrogant, totally without morals, and extremely dangerous in his unpredictability. Lockley was a different kind of dangerous. He was calculating and professional, nothing like his loose cannon partner. Against all reason, Scott said evenly, "I don't care what your business is here tonight. I'm going to my brother."

Lockley said, slight amusement in his voice, "All right, go ahead. Go ahead." He motioned with his head towards Johnny, lying in the entrance of the dark passageway.

Joey rebelled. "Ah, no you don't! I say we plug him."

Scott, taking a deep breath, stood his ground. "If you're going to kill me, you'd better do it now."

The young gunman smiled wolfishly, his finger tightening on the trigger.

Lockley interrupted. "Joey, the cook has probably hot-footed out the back door by now. I want you to go take care of him."

Joey didn't move or break eye contact with Scott, enjoying the battle of wills they were engaged in.

Lockley stepped in expertly, smoothly placing his hand over Joey's raised gun, stopping the action of the hammer. "Joey, remember what we're here for," he hissed.

Joey's look of annoyance faltered as he faced his partner. Whatever he saw there was enough to cause uncertainty and his gun was slowly and reluctantly lowered.

Lockley's voice was terse as he commanded, "Joey. The man in the kitchen. Now!" As Joey slowly moved off towards the kitchen, the older man called after him, "No guns, and no noise."

Scott took the opportunity to brush past the gunman to get to Johnny's side. Kneeling, he quickly ran his hands over his brother, seeking the wound he was afraid to find. The fear in the pit of Scott's stomach lessened only slightly when he saw Johnny's arm twitch and heard a slight moan, barely more than an expelled breath. "Hey, Johnny. It's okay. I'm right here. I'm right here," he reassured him.

Johnny raised his hand to his head, his fumbling fingers touching the furrow left by his attacker's bullet. He jerked and groaned, mumbling, "Oh, my head. . ." Scott reached up to grab a tablecloth off the nearest table and dipped it in water from a tin pitcher. He held it to his brother's temple, where even in the dim light, blood could be seen mingling with the dark hair.

Johnny mumbled again, this time his words clearer. "I messed up? You get the bad guys?" His eyes opened and for a lucid moment he stared past Scott at the gunman standing a few feet away.

"More like they got us," Scott admitted.

From the kitchen came the sound of scuffling, a muffled shout, then the slamming of a door. Joey reappeared, looking satisfied. Lockley asked about the cook and Joey absently replied he was now locked safely in the wine cellar.

Trying to staunch the bleeding head wound, Scott pressed a wadded cloth to Johnny's scalp with one hand while he ran his other over his brother's body, seeking any other injuries.

Behind him, the gunmen were quarreling quietly, but the older one got the upper hand. Only listening with half an ear, Scott took in that they were waiting for a local rancher, Montgomery, to come to the cantina for a scheduled late meal. The man who was their intended victim was going to walk into a Christmas Eve dinner – and an untimely end.

With closed eyes, breathing heavily, Johnny asked, "How d' I look? Huh?"

Moving behind Johnny, checking his brother's torso, Scott replied lightly, "One of them bounced off that thick skull of yours."

Johnny gasped and groaned loudly when Scott's fingers touched his back, in a place below his shoulder blade. The wounded man was lying on his side and although it was too dark for Scott to see anything, he could feel the sticky wetness on Johnny's back that experience told him was blood.

Johnny repeated his question. "How d' I look, Scott?"

"Looks like another one found. . .your shoulder." Scott cursed himself for hesitating, but Johnny didn't seem to catch it. Wadding another tablecloth up, he pressed it to the wound.

"Hey, is that all? Shoulder's nuthin'. Get it there all the time." He started to chuckle but it turned into a series of coughs and wracked his body with pain.

Scott held his brother close until the coughing stopped, then turned to look intently at the gunmen. "I need to get him some help," he insisted, even as he knew his plea would do little good. "He's hurt bad and he's going to die right here on the floor unless I get him to a doctor."

Joey stared at Johnny, who was twitching in Scott's arms. "Your brother? Madrid is your kin?"

"Who the Hell did you think we were?" asked Scott.

"We thought you was bounty hunters or something. I recognized Madrid and knew when the action started he might take the wrong side, is all." Joey shrugged. " Nothing personal. Just business."

Scott locked eyes with the young gunman. He forced himself to remain as calm as possible when all he wanted to do was take a dull knife to the leering and dangerous snake. He repeated, "He needs a doctor now!"

"You just said it's only a shoulder wound," Lockley pointed out.

Joey watched, fascinated, as Johnny's legs jerked, even as Scott held him close. "Why's Madrid twitchin' like that?"

Scott ignored him, meeting only Lockley's eyes. "Look, I don't know who you are or why you're here, and I don't care. What I do know is that my brother here has got a bullet in his back. If he doesn't get help now, you're going to have a dead man on your hands. And not just some gunslinger with a reputation. Not Johnny Madrid, but Johnny Lancer, the son of Murdoch Lancer. If the thought of the biggest rancher in the county, with enough pull to get a posse of Rangers saddled and hot on your trail so fast it'd make you dizzy, isn't enough to scare you, then picture Lancer himself coming after you for letting his favorite son bleed to death on a cantina floor on Christmas Eve!"

Joey moved to his partner's side. "Hey, uh, maybe he's right. Maybe we oughtta get out of here while we can."

The slim hope Scott had that the two hired killers would just leave was dashed quickly by Lockley's statement. "It's too late to back out now."

Johnny's free arm flailed about as he unsuccessfully tried to reach his own back. His eyes were closed and a sheen of sweat glistened on his face. Scott, kneeling behind him, tried to keep pressure on both of the wounds. "Take it easy, Johnny. I'm here." He looked up and unintentionally implored Lockley with his eyes.

Scott never knew if it was some small bit of mercy, a touch of holiday spirit, or just plain sense to get the bleeding victim out of sight, but relief washed over him at Lockley's next words.

"Theresa, is there any place we can put him?"

The waitress came forward and pointed out a small office at the rear of the restaurant. Lockley briskly gave orders and Scott leaned over his brother, got a good grip on him, and with a heave, lifted him into his arms.

~ • ~