Disclaimer: Nope, don't own Lancer.
Scott heard the snick of a camera cap before hearing his brother's footsteps. He nudged down his sunglasses and squinted over the top of them just as the picture was taken.
Johnny viewed the image then quirked a smile. "I remember you sayin' you photographed well." He shook his head and tch'ed. "Maybe this just isn't one of those times."
"Planning on blackmail when the time is right? Oh wait, that's my side of the family. Sorry." Scott reclined against the mesh back of the patio chair, feeling it give against his weight. The sinking feeling warred with a headache the size of Arizona and mimicked his own sense of…what was he feeling anyway?
"Ouch." Johnny scraped out the chair opposite the table and dropped into it.
He flicked an irritated look towards the blurred image of his brother, hoping Johnny would get the hint and leave.
Johnny placed his camera on the table and crossed his ankles in a comfortable slouch.
Apparently not. "I'm not looking for platitudes."
"Whew, that's a relief, because I'm fresh out."
Scott reached up and fingered the rough edges of the abraded skin at his temple. The sound of a bullet shattering the car window replayed in his mind, much like it had during his almost sleep last night. Jiggling a knee, he scanned the lawn where manicured grass met rough and tumble trees. He'd almost become part of the landscape a few days ago.
Grandfather too, for that matter. It gave him a quick jolt remembering the old man hiking off, pulling the Degan brothers away. His right knee bobbed again. God, he needed a run in the worst way.
"So Scott, what I wanna know is..." Johnny leaned forward, a smile hovering. "Is your ass permanently glued to that chair or are you ducking the old man, uh…old men in the house? Because if it's the former, I know a good plastic surgeon who works cheap."
"My ass is not glued to this chair, so why don't you get off it?"
"Hm, cranky. Even more than usual. Headache?"
"On a scale of one to ten, try a fifteen."
Johnny's eyes lowered and his voice softened. "So, you would be evading the issues."
Scott peeled off his sunglasses, tossing them on the table, and rubbed a knuckle against each eyelid. Murdoch and Grandfather. Yeah, they were issues all right. Ones that wouldn't be solved any time soon. "Have you ever been sailing, Johnny?"
"Unless fishing crappie out of a johnboat on the blue waters of Lake Whitney counts as sailing, then no."
"Well, my sails are sucked out."
"I can guess that might be a bad thing."
"Before I came to Lancer, I had an idea this was a lark. Meet the wayward father and either punch him in the nose or give him money to go away. I had my life in Boston after all. Then I got here." He lifted a shoulder and shrugged. "Murdoch, you, Teresa. Lancer. It's more personal now."
Johnny's eyes tracked him, missile accurate. "Glad we count for something."
"In ways I'd never imagined."
"That doesn't mean you should just leave your past."
Direct hit. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. "Speaking from experience?"
Johnny glanced at him briefly, expression neutral. "I'm just saying one of those men in that house raised you and you can't forget it."
"Exactly. One of them did—the wrong one. I lived a lie for twenty-six years."
"And it was so bad there?"
"Fuck off, Johnny." He hated being trapped in the elegant house, prodded by ancient faces lining the library walls. Shrouded with expectations steeped in responsibility. Yet it was only a house. They were only pictures of bygone relatives. He'd convinced himself of that years before leaving for school and the Army, coming back to live there as a man. And hadn't he'd been content at one time?
"Hear me out. I know you're pissed…"
"As I was saying…throwing away the past is as bad as living in it, like Harlan does. What you're giving away is everything that made you who you are—good and bad."
His tone went cold. "Why are you protecting my grandfather?"
"Sixteen years of school and you're not smart enough to get it. I'm not protecting him, asshole, it's you."
Shit. What was he supposed to do? Johnny's car keys clattered on the table top when he reached for his camera. "Wait."
Johnny stood, his fingers moving with a restless motion. "No, you wait. Wait until your temper simmers off before doing anything you're gonna regret later."
Anger sizzled. He wanted to hit something, or someone, feel flesh beneath his pounding fists. It was a feeling that came too often since his grandfather had arrived at Lancer. Stirring up questions he thought buried long ago. Harlan's method of execution was merely the icing on the cake. He struggled to take a deep breath, and huffed it out. "Johnny…thanks."
"Where are you going anyhow?"
"Cipriano found one of the storage sheds broken into. The one by Parelli's Creek. Maybe it's just kids out having fun, but I want to take a look." He tipped his head towards the house. "So what are you going to do about the old man?"
They both froze when the door opened.
He looked at his grandfather. Harlan Morris Garrett was neatly wrapped in grey, from the cuffs of his trousers to his ever-present suit coat and tie. He looked like a successful businessman on his way to the club for lunch. But his eyes, a watery-blue, held concern. Seeing Johnny, he hesitated before coming all the way out to the table.
"I'd hoped to find you out here, Scotty," he said quietly and reached out to lay a hand on his shoulder.
He stifled a flinch. As a rule, Garrett men were not touchers. "And so you did, Grandfather." If he had been in Boston, the curt reply would have earned him a stern reprimand.
Johnny bounced on the balls of his feet. Then swung the camera strap over his shoulder, eyeing Harlan. Two pit bulls meeting on a sidewalk were friendlier. "I was just leaving."
Stopping by Harlan's elbow, Johnny tapped him on the wrist. "He's still hurting. Take it easy, huh?"
"Thank you young man, but I'm well aware of that." A hint of eastern accent crept into his tone and Harlan colored at his collar line.
Looking satisfied, Johnny nodded and walked off the stone patio towards the garage, yelling for Cipriano.
Harlan's hand on his shoulder squeezed. The gesture left already-sore muscles taut. It took all his willpower not to jerk away from the gentle fingers. "I need some time to think, Grandfather."
"By sitting out here all hours of the day and night?"
He raised his head to meet Harlan's eyes and followed him as he sat in Johnny's chair.
"Yes, my boy, I know you haven't been sleeping. I always could. But closing off is not doing anyone any good. We're family; we should be able to talk."
"Family?" He laughed out loud and the sound echoed off the patio into the trees. "Built on what? Lies and mistrust? You've lost the right."
Harlan's eyes, previously soft with sympathy, hardened. "Pretending to throw away our history together will never work. To toss everything you've earned, everything you made for yourself? I taught you better than that, Scotty."
"What are you talking about?"
"Perhaps I was less than enthusiastic about your choice to come to Lancer. I was the same with your choice of profession. But they were your choices and you succeeded. It appears to me you made more of the Lancer name than any of your Garrett ancestors did with their wealth and social power."
"I didn't come here to spite you."
"No, you did it for yourself against pressure—all mine." He leaned forward in his chair and struck his hand against the table. "God help me, I know that now. And what I did here, how I went about it, is inexcusable. But I'll ask you again: can we get back what we had for so many years?"
Emotions waxed and waned when he remembered the events from the past few days. This was the closest thing to an apology Harlan Garrett would ever make. Yet they were slipping away from each other. He was sitting two feet apart from his grandfather and watching the distance grow by leaps and bounds. Anger disappeared, leaving him hollowed out.
He cleared his throat. "Now is not the time to be asking, Grandfather."
Tasting defeat, the old man deflated, his shoulders becoming stooped. "For what it's worth, I would change things, if I could." He stood up and turned to the door, his voice reed-thin. "Scotty…you'll always have a home in Boston."
Scott smiled, but it was brutal, trying to do that.
Harlan turned the knob, and soundlessly stepped into the house.