Constellations

By Cadillac Red

Setting: This is a WHN for Catch a Wild Horse, in honor of the 40th anniversary of Lancer.


Johnny had come home.

Scott Lancer sat in the dark courtyard of the hacienda, one arm immobilized in a sling, and gazed at the stars in the night sky. For the first time that day, he allowed himself to feel a deep sense of relief. The Strykers had been defeated, the doctor had been there and pronounced Scott's injury minor, and then the Lancers, Sam and Theresa had struggled through a sometimes tense dinner as he, Murdoch and Johnny tried once again to find their balance together as a family.

Scott knew there was still work to do on that, to break down his younger brother's carefully constructed walls, not to mention those of their father. And possibly some of his own. To find a way for three people who were strangers only three months earlier to become a real family. To help Murdoch figure out how to be a real father to two grown men he'd sired but did not raise. And most importantly to Scott at this moment, to ensure that leaving again was not the first option to occur to Johnny when things got difficult in the future—which they surely would. Scott felt the slight, warm breeze lift his hair and he closed his eyes momentarily, wondering how all of that might be accomplished.

The fear of losing his new brother was gone, replaced by a hopeful yearning that this place would truly feel like home for both of them someday. Without Johnny, it would have been impossible for Scott and Murdoch to reach that point, of that Scott was certain. Neither of them would ever rest easy not knowing where the younger son was, or whether he was dead or alive. It would have left a hole in their world they would never have been able to repair. Scott still didn't understand why but, from almost the first moment after arriving in this place, the Easterner knew it was worth the effort to try to make this work. It defied reason but it had happened in a flash. And Scott Lancer would give everything to the effort. He watched a single dark cloud pass slowly overhead--

"Stars different out here, Boston?" a soft voice drawled from behind him.

Scott turned his head toward his younger brother and smiled. "No. Same sky, same constellations."

"What's consta-la-shuns?"

Scott looked back at the sky and located an easy one. "Come here," he said, nodding toward a place on the bench next to him.

Johnny hesitated for a second, then he took a few steps and tentatively sat down at the other end of the wooden seat.

"See there?" Scott said once he was in place. He used his good arm to point to a section of the sky. "Seven stars that form a picture if you drew a line from one to the other. Starting there," he pointed to one, "then continuing to there… That's the Big Dipper."

Johnny nodded, impressed. "I see it," he said. "Never thought about how they make a picture…."

Scott smiled to himself. "And just above that, do you see there are seven more stars—" He drew the picture with his pointing finger.

"Yeah! It's the same thing, only smaller…."

"That one's called The Little Dipper."

"I see it. I can't believe I never noticed 'em before."

"Well, the Big Dipper's the easy one to locate once you know what it looks like. The Little Dipper's harder to find."

The two of them sat together in familiar silence for a minute, just enjoying the warm night and the comfort of being together. It was a new experience for both of them.

"I wanted to say thanks…." Johnny said, so softly Scott wondered if he was talking to himself.

"For what?"

"For…. comin' to town after me today. For tryin' to show me I was makin' a mistake."

Scott grinned in the darkness. "Oh, that. …. I'm pretty new at this but I'm fairly sure it's what big brothers are supposed to do for little brothers."

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Johnny smile and drop his head. "I guess I wouldn't know 'bout that….."

"Well, I guess you do now," the older brother said firmly.

"Yeah. Guess I do…," the younger man admitted somewhat reluctantly. The silence stretched between them once again and then Johnny turned his head and looked directly at his older brother. "You pick out that Big Dipper and Little Dipper 'cause they remind ya of me 'n you?"

The question caught Scott by surprise and he cast a fleeting glance at the younger brother. That hadn't occurred to Scott at all but it was interesting how Johnny's mind went there.

"Well… I don't know you well enough to know if you've got a little dipper— Ooomph!" He reacted as Johnny's elbow suddenly dug into his side.

"I meant 'cause one of us was easier to find than th' other," Johnny laughed.

"Oh, that," Scott replied, smiling broadly.

Johnny shook his head and tried to rein in his own smile. "Any other consta-lashuns up there?"

"Well, Polaris is interesting. It can mean the difference between life and death if you're lost."

"How's that?"

"See the brightest star at the end of the Little Dipper's handle?" Scott pointed to it, then felt Johnny's elbow stick him in the ribs again. "Stop that! I'm being serious."

"Oh," Johnny laughed. "I thought you was…. Never mind. I see it. It's brighter than any of the others."

"That's Polaris, the Pole Star. It stays in its place and the other constellations revolve around it. It's sometimes called the North Star. It's always where it's supposed to be, pointing true north, something you can always count on. If you're lost, you find it in the night sky and it can guide you home."

Johnny exhaled slowly beside him. "So… the North Star's kinda like the old man. Burns bright but if ya let it, it'll bring ya home…."

Scott turned to look at his recently discovered younger brother who was still staring at the night sky. "Yes, I like that analogy, little brother. The North Star's like Murdoch. The Big and Little Dipper revolve around it and the three of them stay together. That's… the way the way it's always been. How it always will be." As he spoke, he laid his good arm on Johnny's shoulders and ruffled the back of the younger man's hair.

"Yeah. How it's s'posed to be." Johnny said quietly, then he slipped his right arm around his brother's waist. "How 'bout I help you up to bed, big brother," he said, starting to help Scott rise.

"Okay, little dipper," the older brother said, stepping back momentarily to avoid the elbow that shot toward his ribs once again. The two brothers headed off to bed, arms around each other, feeling just a little more sure of their places in this new world.

Inside the open French doors, Murdoch Lancer watched them go and let himself feel a sense of relief for the first time since Johnny had stormed away from the house the day before. His sons were home, and developing the brotherly relationship he'd always dreamed they would have. And his boys equated him with the North Star.

The big man stepped out into the dark courtyard and looked up at the stars his sons had just been discussing. The Big and Little Dipper and the North Star stood out against the inky black sky above Lancer. Together. "How it's supposed to be," he quietly echoed his younger son's words. And then the big man smiled.

THE END