SUMMARY: A WHN for The Hopefuls, this is a scene in which Hoss and Adam talk about an incident in Placerville. The actions Adam took there were because, although Regina was gone, her effect on him was still being felt.
Rating: PG. Word count: 1208
Can’t Smile Without Her
Standing with one hand on his hip and the other gripping his bedroll, Hoss Cartwright was the picture of a frustrated man as he stared down at his older brother who sat on a log next to their small campfire. “Ya didn’t kill the man. I don’t know why you’re so ornery.”
“I’m not being ornery. I’m thinking.” Adam was surly even in that response, and he didn’t even bother to look at his brother when he responded to him. Instead he kept staring into the fire which he had done much of the time since they had made camp.
“Ifn that’s thinking, ya ought ta do less of it. It sure makes it a mite unpleasant ta be around you. We coulda stayed in town and had beds ta sleep in tonight. We’re here because you wanted to get out of there, and I agreed it was best for you. I’d think you could have a little consideration for me after that.”
Hoss moved off then and rolled out his bedroll far enough away from Adam to let him know he didn’t want any more conversation. It was just as well. That day in Placerville, a man had challenged Adam to a gunfight. They had words in the saloon, and it had turned physical with Adam shoving the man out the door to end it. Except that hadn’t ended it. When the two of them walked out after having a couple of beers, the man was outside standing in the street ready for a fight. Although Adam had done nothing wrong because it was the other man who had instigated all the trouble in the saloon, he apologized to the man.
It had all been very surprising to Hoss almost as much as it had been to the stranger. As Hoss had watched from the side, he had seen the tension in his brother and knew he could have killed the man easily if it had come to a fight. There was no fight so no test of their skills ever took place. That man never knew how close he had come to spending his last day on earth in an upright position. Instead of a pine box, he was probably sleeping in his own bed because Adam’s apology had ended the confrontation peacefully and the man had grinned at winning the confrontation so easily.
However, when Hoss had asked Adam about it as they had their dinner, Adam had snapped at him instead of answering with anything approaching a reasonable response. Being told it was none of his business was not the response Hoss thought he deserved. He knew he was going to have some trouble falling asleep after that. Disgruntled, he never liked being at odds with anyone in his family even if he had done nothing wrong.
In the morning, Hoss noted that Adam hadn’t slept well either. His eyes looked red and were puffy. When Adam went to take care of the horses, Hoss quietly made breakfast being sure to make the bacon crispy and the coffee strong the way his brother liked both. When Adam came back and Hoss handed him a plate, Adam nodded his thanks and poured a cup of coffee. He ate silently and set his plate down to sip his coffee which had cooled sufficiently by then so it wouldn’t burn all the way down. Knowing he had been a jerk the previous night, he looked over at Hoss who was studiously avoiding looking at him. He knew the best way with Hoss was to be direct.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything to you like I did last night. There was no call for me to speak that way to you.”
“It’s all right.”
“No, it’s not. Nothing has been all right for a long time now. Ever since she left, I find it hard to smile. I find it hard to find joy in anything. I’ve lost my laugh. I don’t even want to talk to people I meet. Missing her makes me do things and say things that I wish I could redo. I’m sorry you were in the line of fire last night. You’re the one who has supported me the most whenever I needed it, and I should have shown you more consideration than being such a jackass as I was. I am sorry. I should have thanked you too for agreeing to leave town and make camp with me. We didn’t have to do that, and it was a sacrifice on your part which I should have acknowledged.”
Sipping his coffee, Hoss tried to think which ‘she’ he meant. What Adam said next clarified it though. He knew then who it had to be and realized she was still with his brother in some ways.
“She’s been gone for quite a while now, but some times she’s still here in my head though. Yesterday with that loud-mouthed drunk, it was like I could hear her voice. Everything that happened was his fault, but I heard her tell me that nothing was going to be settled with violence. That sweet voice was telling me I would only feel terrible afterwards for killing a drunk. To avoid it would cost me only a few words so that’s what I did.”
“Except that bothered you later.”
“Yes, I have to admit it did. Even though all of that was true, I worried about what all those people who were watching thought of me then. I worried that they might think me a coward. Last night, I spent an awful long time thinking instead of sleeping. Those people are strangers. What does it matter what they think? It matters what I think. It matters what you think.”
“I thought you done the right thing there. The cost to you for shooting him wouldn’t have been worth it.”
“I think Regina woulda thought you did the right thing too.”
Hoss would have liked to see a smile from his older brother then, but the memory of her leaving was still too painful for him. He couldn’t smile. He nodded because Hoss knew who he missed so much, and that was that. Hoss wondered how long it would be before he would smile again and when he would ever laugh again.
“As for leaving town, it was time to go. After what happened, wasn’t neither of us gonna have any peace there. It was quieter and easier on the heart and mind to be out here where it’s silent and peaceful.”
Adam was quiet but closed his eyes and sighed deeply.
“It’s kinda like being with her then, ain’t it?”
“Yes, you’re right. She could soothe me simply by being by my side. The quiet, gentle peace of this place reminds me of her.”
“I’ll try to make sure that’s what it is for the rest of the trip.”
They rode home in amiable silence lost in thoughts of a peaceful woman and what might have been.
Tags: Adam Cartwright, Hoss Cartwright
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