Summary: A WHN to “My Brother’s Keeper”. Adam suffers the guilt of accidentally shooting Joe even after Joe recovers. Can Joe forgive Adam and will things ever be the same between them? This was the first fanfic I ever wrote and the first that I posted on BW. Enjoy!
Rated: K+ (3,255 words)
What if He Never Forgives Me?
It was over now. The hell that had begun just two weeks earlier had ended finally. Joe was going to be alright. All was back to normal. At least it was in Ben and Hoss’s minds. Adam’s mind, however, was a different story entirely. He was still consumed with blame for putting Joe’s life in jeopardy on the first place. Why did he take a shot without knowing what it was he was really shooting at? Why hadn’t he listened to his own instincts and not Joe’s insisting when he had wanted to give up looking for that damn wolf and just go home? The questions that had been burning in Adam’s mind since that day at Mount Peeler gorge had still not stopped even though he knew that his little brother was going to be fine.
Hoss had done his best to fill his father in on the details of what he had missed without making it seem like the accident was Adam’s fault. Ben was quite sympathetic and agreed that the accident had been just that, and accident and no fault of Adam’s. Hoss was convinced that Adam now saw it that way too. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Adam did see it as his fault and believed that there was at least one person who would strongly agree. That person was his younger brother to whom the “accident” had happened.
It had been a week today that Ben had come home and also since doc Martin had last come to check on Joe’s condition. He was coming back today to do just that. He was going to make sure that the wounds had healed up nicely and that the medicine was still working properly. He was coming most of all though to see just how much of the incident Joe himself could remember. Ben, Adam, and Hoss already knew that Joe remembered Adam “clobbering” the wolf when it attacked him. What else about it did he remember though?
Hoss and Adam were in the barn working on chores while Ben waited for Doc Martin to arrive that morning. Aside from Hoss’s constant happy whistling, there hadn’t been much conversation. Hoss didn’t like that. He was one to talk while he worked to whoever was working with him. Adam was usually a good source of conversation when they worked together, Hoss had found, but not today. Today he hadn’t said a word and Hoss just had to find out why.
“Hot one today, huh, Adam?” He started, casually.
“Yea, sure is.” Adam answered shortly.
That was all he got. It was obvious to him now that his older brother wasn’t going to offer casual conversation. He decided that it was time to see what was really going on inside his brother’s mysterious head. He was going to ask his brother straight out what was bothering him and he wasn’t going to take “nothing” for an answer! He would get the truth out of his brother if it was the last thing he ever did.
“Alright Adam, I’ve had it! You look here at me when I’m talkin” to ya, ya hear?!” He said, sternly. Adam looked up from the saddle he had been cleaning. It was seldom that he had ever heard his brother, Hoss, raise his voice. He knew that it must be serious.
” I’m listening.” He replied in a calm, low voice.
” Ok, you’ve been mopin around here like a….well like a…oh I don’t know like a what, but my point is that you been upset about somethin and I wanna know what that somethin is! You better tell me right now, older brother and tell me the truth!” Hoss stopped to see what Adam was going to say. He expected Adam to say that it was nothing or none his business. He wasn’t going to accept it if he did though.
“It’s about Joe.” Adam finally admitted.
“What about him, didn’t the doc already say that he’s gonna be fine?” Hoss asked, still surprised that his brother had even answered him in the first place.
“Yes, he did say that, but that’s not really what I’m worried about.” Adam said.
” Then what in tar nation is it?” Hoss asked, frustrated.
” It’s the fact that he could remember.” Adam sighed.
“Remember that it was me who shot him! Remember that I’m the one who got him into that mess to begin with! Hoss, what if he never forgives me?” He exclaimed.
“First of all, it was an accident! Second, don’t you think if he remembers that part that he would have said something by now?” Hoss reasoned.
“I just can’t convince myself that it wasn’t my fault no matter what you or pa tries to tell me and maybe he didn’t say anything because he’s too angry too!?” Adam shot back.
“Boy, pa sure is right about you. You are hard headed!” Hoss said, infuriated.
Adam was about to answer when they heard a buggy pull up outside. It was doc. Hoss put his tools away and proceeded to go and greet him. Just before he did he turned to Adam who was following him out. “We’ll continue this conversation later!” He said, obviously trying to sound like his father.
“Good morning boys.” Doc Martin said, cheerfully.
“Morning, doc.” They both said.
“So, how is your brother doing today? Any changes I should know about?” Doc asked.
“He seems to be doing much better. Pa’s upstairs with him now.” Adam Sing had fixed for his lunch. Ben had stayed and made sure he ate every bite of it and now was keeping Meanwhile explained.
, Ben was in Joe’s room with him. Joe had just finished eating some soup that Hop him company until doc got there. He was pleased to see that his son was getting his strength back more every day. He didn’t talk much though. He just thanked his father for the soup before and after he ate it.
“So how do you feel now that you’ve eaten?” Ben said stroking Joe’s hair as he laid back on the pillow.
“I’m better now, pa. I should be able to get outta bed soon.” Joe replied.
“Not so hasty now, son. Let’s just wait to see what the doctor says first shall we.” Ben advised.
“But pa I just….” He was cut off by footsteps and voices headed for his door.
There was a short knock on the door then Adam’s voice said, “Pa, doc’s here”.
“Ok son, let him in.” Ben replied.
The door opened and the three men stepped in. Doc shook Ben’s hand first and then Joe’s. He then sat down on the edge of Joe’s bed to check him out. He pulled the covers back and peeled the bandage back from the bullet wound. Joe winced slightly in pain.
“Easy, boy. It’s lookin good. Now let’s have a look at those wolf bites.” Doc said redressing Joe’s bullet wound.
“These don’t show any signs of infection still so the medicine is clearly doing its job. You seem to be coming along quite nicely, as your brother, Adam said to me on the way up here.” As doc said that, Joe looked around for Adam as a sort of reflex of hearing his name. He spotted him leaning on the door on the other end of the room. Joe wondered why he wasn’t closer to the bed like he usually was when Joe was hurt. Like he had been throughout all of this so far.
On the other side of the room, Adam was watching and thinking to himself. He was thinking how lucky his brother had been and how grateful he was now that Joe was still that lucky. He was also thinking about the talk he and Hoss had just had outside in the barn and how, inevitably Hoss would bring it up again and he wouldn’t be so lucky as to be interrupted right before he had to tell Hoss how he really felt again. That wasn’t something Adam Cartwright did too well; talk about his feelings. He was woken up out of his trance and brought back to reality when he heard doc say his name.
“Adam, did you hear me?”
Sorry what?” Adam asked shaking his head.
“I said that you did a great job with these wounds when this happened.” Doc repeated.
“Oh, thanks.” Was all Adam said.
“Alright, one last part of this examination and I can let you rest again.” Doc announced.
“What part is that? See, cause I thought you were done and were gonna tell me I can get outta bed and not have to rest anymore.” Joe said, angelically.
“I’d say give it at least two or three more days then you can slowly resume normal activities. The last thing I have to do is only to ask you some questions, that’s all.” Doc explained.
“Two or three more days! I thought you said I was better!” Joe exclaimed.
“Joseph, it’s for your own good now focus!” Ben warned.
“Ok, what do you wanna ask me?” Joe said, heeding his father’s advice.
“Just one simple thing, what do you remember about the accident?”
There it was. The question that Adam had dreaded to hear doc ask Joe. Now was the moment of truth and Adam was scared to death. Did Joe remember that it was his own brother that shot him? Would he hate him forever because of it? All those questions bounced around in Adam’s head and Joe was about to answer them all.
Joe Hesitated for a moment. He had not expected doc to ask him this. What was he going to tell them? Should he tell them the truth or not? “Take your time, son.” He heard doc say.
“I…I just remember being shot and the next thing I know, I’m bein’ attacked by that wolf Adam and me were tryin to get. Then I kinda remember fading in and out and hearing some girl’s voice and hearing Adam and Hoss too. There was one time I remember hearing shooting. Sorry, that’s all I got for ya.” Joe lied.
He sat there hoping that they would believe him. Even though he had been lying through his teeth. He remembered the shooting and hearing Adam say that he was sorry and hadn’t seen him but he didn’t want to risk getting Adam in trouble by telling them that. It would be too risky to tell them the truth. He had to protect his brother, no matter what the cost. He knew that Adam hadn’t meant to shoot him. The whole thing was his fault anyway for persisting when Adam had suggested they go home.
Adam was bewildered. He thought for sure Joe would remember everything. So why didn’t he? Maybe he did and was lying. Adam wasn’t sure what to think. Frankly, neither was doc.
one final Now, you’re sure that’s all you can remember? You don’t know who shot you?” Doc asked in attempt to get all the facts.
Joe swallowed hard. “No……no, I don’t remember who shot me.” He said. He then accidently looked right into Adam’s eyes. That was all the proof Adam needed. He knew Joe did remember. He was just lying to protect him. He didn’t know that they already knew Adam had been the one who shot him.
“Joe, you don’t have to do this. You don’t have to pretend. They all know already that it was me who shot you.”Adam said hoping afterward that he hadn’t just made a huge mistake. Maybe he was wrong and Joe really didn’t remember. Had he just jeopardized his brother’s safety, again?
“Adam!” Ben said sharply trying to stop his eldest son from doing something that could set back his youngest son’s recovery.
Joe’s face became pale white after hearing what his brother had said. “Why is he trying to get me busted for lying? Can’t he just accept that I’m trying to keep him outta trouble and……what does he mean they already know? How could they? Did Adam tell them, really?”
“Joseph, are you alright?” Ben asked, worried about his son’s sudden change in color.
“Yea, pa I’m fine. Just swell.” Joe answered kind of sarcastically.
“Joe, I hate to do this but I have to ask, is your brother right? Is there more to what you remember than what you have told us?” Doc asked again.
“Now, doc don’t cha think we’ve put him through enough already without asking him the same questions more than once?” Hoss suggested.
“Um, yea, I agree with Hoss. Can we do this again later, doc? I think I need to rest again after all.” Joe lied again. He figured this way he could have some time to talk to Adam alone before actually having to answer that question.
“Alright if you insist, but make no mistake, I will be back tomorrow at the latest and I will be asking you the same question again and I want a straight answer when I do!” Doc said, admitting defeat for the moment. He only gave up so easily because he knew how hard it was to get a Cartwright to follow one of his orders and since one was doing it now he’d better not take it for granted. No matter what his gut told him was the real reason why Joe was doing what he was told for once.
“Thanks for understanding, doc. See ya tomorrow.” Joe smiled innocently.
“The boys and I will walk you out, Paul.” Ben offered.
“Fine, Ben. Now you do as I said, Joe. Don’t get outta bed until I see you again tomorrow and, maybe I’ll let you then.” Doc warned one last time before leaving.
Joe nodded and smiled to show that he had heard. Then, doc walked out followed by Ben and Hoss. Adam was about to follow too when Joe stopped him.
“Hey Adam, wait up a minute. Can I talk to you?” Joe asked.
“Sure, what do ya wanna talk to me about, kid?” Adam smiled lovingly.
“Close the door would cha?” Joe requested.
Adam did as Joe had asked and closed the door. He then walked over to Joe’s bed and sat at the end of it. He didn’t even have to hear what Joe was going to say before knowing what it was about. He knew that he was about to hear his little brother’s true feelings about what had happened that day.
“Now, what’s on your mind, little brother?” He asked pretending not to already know.
“I think you know that as much as I do, but I’ll tell ya anyway. It’s about this whole thing with me and getting shot. I didn’t know that you had told pa and Hoss that it was you who shot me.” Joe explained then paused to give Adam some time to respond.
“So, you did lie to doc. You knew the whole time that I shot you.” Adam figured out.
“Yes, I did. I also know that it was an accident and I didn’t want to tell them if they didn’t already know because I didn’t think that they’d understand that you didn’t do it on purpose.”He tried to explain.
“So, lemme get this straight. You lied to doc and really did know I shot you but you didn’t want to tell the truth because you thought they would think I did it deliberately?”
“Yea, that’s pretty much it.” Joe said.
“So, you were trying to protect me?”
Adam couldn’t believe it. All this time he had thought that his brother would hate him for what had happened. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only did Joe not hate him, but he had been trying to protect him!
“Adam, Adam….hello earth to Adam. You alright?” Joe said waving his hand in front of his brother’s face trying to get his suddenly drifted attention
“Yea, I’m fine. I’m just….well frankly, I’m surprised.” Adam said.
“Well what are you so danged surprised about?” Joe asked, confused a bit.
“Joe, I thought you were going to hate me because you knew that I had shot you! I thought….I thought that you’d never forgive me.” Adam said slowly.
“Never forgive you for what? It was an accident and after all, you did take care of me and made sure I got better! If anything you saved my life and I’m gonna make sure doc and pa and Hoss and everybody knows it!” Joe said proudly.
At that moment, Adam felt like a big burden had been lifted off of his shoulders. Joe didn’t hate him! In fact, they were probably closer now than they had ever been. He tried to hide the tear in his eye but he couldn’t so he did the only thing he could think to do. He put his arms around his little brother and hugged him.
“Thanks, Joe.” He said softly after letting his brother go.
“No Adam, thank you.” Joe smiled, also trying to hold back tears.
Little did they know it, but while they had been up there talking about what had happened, their father, doc, and Hoss had been by the door listening to every word. Now they all knew what Joe remembered and doc would not have to ask him again.
“Well Ben, I think I got what I came here for.” Doc smiled.
With that, Ben and Hoss walked him out. Then they went back in the house and never said a word about what they had heard.
Within the next two days doc had come back and gave Joe the right away to start moving around again. He told him to be careful though and start gradually. The others watched and made sure he followed orders.
By the time two weeks had rolled around, Joe was back in the barn cleaning saddles and bailing hay. It wasn’t a job he was very fond of, but because he had been in bed so long he was glad to be doing it again. He was glad to do any chore his father dished out for him.
He was cleaning his saddle next to Adam who was doing the same one day and he decided he had a question of his own about when he was sick.
“Hey, Adam?” He called out.
“Yes, little brother?” Adam replied.
“I’ve been thinkin and there’s just one thing I still wanna know about when I was ah….outta commission.”
“Oh yeah, and what is that?”
“I kept hearing this girl’s and this guy’s voices. They sounded Irish, I think. Who were they?”
Adam got up and sat next to Joe on the bale of hay he had been sitting on.
“I just knew you’d be asking me that question soon enough. Ok, here it is from the beginning.
After you got shot I was carrying you back home on my horse when this buggy pulled up……”
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
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- The House on Kay Street (by Bonanzaluver)
- Adam and Ruth – #1 – The Beginning (by Bonanzaluver)
- Adam and Ruth – #3 – In a Time of Miracles (by Bonanzaluver)
- Ghost of Cartwrights Past (by Bonanzaluver)