Summary: What could possibly happen to the Cartwright boys between home and Virginia City?
Rating: K+ Word Count: 908
A/N: I put the blame for this squarely on Nanuk. So, if there be pitchforks after reading it, just know it was her prompt.
Short Trip Home
Adam, caked in blood and grime, staggered through the front door as Ben looked on in horror.
“Adam! What happened to you?” Ben asked, rushing to his son. He looked Adam over to see if he could find the source of the bleeding. “There’s blood all over you! Where are your brothers? They were supposed to go with you to Virginia City.”
Pulling away from his pa, Adam hobbled the settee and collapsed. He looked like he’d aged thirty years since he left for Virginia City. “Pa, they’ll be along in a minute. They’re putting the horses away. So far, the horses are the only ones that weren’t hurt.”
“Are in about the same shape I’m in,” Adam said as he covered his eyes with his arm. “And, no, you don’t need to send for Doctor Martin, either.”
They both looked up as the front door banged open, and Hoss and Joe came inside.
“Hoss, Joe! What in the blazes happened to you?” Ben asked. He’d thought Adam was exaggerating about the conditions of Hoss and Joe. Sadly, he wasn’t.
Joe, covered in torn clothes, blood, and leaves sticking out of his hair, shuffled towards an empty chair before easing into it. “Pa, it wasn’t our fault. Honest.”
“Pa, he ain’t lyin’,” Hoss said as he took he took off his new hat and stuck a finger through the hole in the front.
Ben looked at his sons and, while covered in blood, he couldn’t find a single cut on them. He took a deep breath and tried to remain calm. “Will someone please explain to me what, exactly happened this afternoon? All you were supposed to do was go into town to run errands. You look like you were run over by a herd of buffalo!”
Joe picked leaves out of his hair, said, “Pa, you’re not too far off. We did go into town, but a cliff magically appeared between Virginia City and –”
“Joseph, I may be getting old, but I am not getting senile. A cliff doesn’t just magically appear! It’s as flat as a pancake between here and town!” Ben said. He pinched the bridge of his nose and said, “Will you please start making some sense?”
“But, Pa!” Joe said as he watched a spider drop from his hair. He flicked the spider and watched as it landed by the fireplace before it scurried away. “I’m not making it up. Ask Hoss and Adam!”
Hoss looked up at Ben. “Pa, it was the dangedest thing. We was on our way back when this cliff showed up about halfway between here and town.”
“Adam,” Ben said, exasperated, “surely, you can tell me what happened.”
Adam lowered his arm and sat up slowly, scratching at a patch of dried blood on his cheek. He looked as baffled as Ben felt.
“Well, I promise we’re not making it up. A cliff really did appear out of nowhere. When it showed up, so did a freak gust of wind that knocked us off the horses and down into the ravine,” Adam said. “We rolled through God only knows what before managing to land at the bottom.”
Joe looked at Adam. “Older Brother, I think wearing the God knows what. I know I certainly have about half of it up my -”
“Joseph, that is enough!” Ben said. He could feel his blood pressure going up.
“Sorry, Pa,” Joe said. “But like Adam said, we rolled all the way to the bottom of that stupid ravine. Once we got down there, we could hear all this clacking going on.”
Hoss said, “Yes, sir, clacking. Like a telegraph machine, sorta. The clacking stopped, and we could hear this woman laughing. Kinda mean like. We heard, plain as day, a woman’s voice saying something about SAS and SJS and SHS.”
“Apparently, it stands for Suffering Adam Syndrome and Suffering Joe Syndrome. We asked,” Adam said when he saw his father’s confused look. “SHS is Suffering Hoss Syndrome. She said she had a “plot” she was working on and that she writes about us. The reason we’d been mishap-free for so long is because she took a break.”
The dull throb behind Ben’s eyes began to turn into a full blown migraine.
“When she got through explaining, she said she needed to turn in and shut down something called a laptop. When she did that, the cliff and cuts disappeared, and we were back on horses,” Joe said, bringing an end to their sad tale. He poked a finger through a hole in his shirt. “The blood and torn clothes didn’t disappear, though, for some reason.”
“Personally, I think each of you had one too many beers while you were in town. Now, what I want each if you to do is get cleaned up and go to bed. I’ll check on you in a bit to see if I need to send for Paul Martin,” Ben said. He watched his sons slowly climb the stairs, their muffled complaints drifted downwards.
Ben shook his head and leaned over and picked up Hoss’ ruined hat. Magic cliff indeed, he thought. He looked up when he heard Joe say his name.
“Oh, and Pa?” Joe said as he leaned over the rail at the top of the stairs. “She also said there was something called Suffering Ben Syndrome. Night!”
Tags: Adam Cartwright
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- The Author (by Arien)
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