Summary: Ben and Adam face off over the doctor’s orders.
Rated: K+ Word count: 887
Ben’s harrumph made it clear that he thought his son had exactly that misdeed for which to atone. Adam capitulated. Turning back toward the bed, he shucked off the shirt he had just donned and pulled his discarded nightshirt back over his head. Then his lungs betrayed him, and he was racked by a wheezing cough.
Ben’s “see the doctor was right” remained unstated, but both men acknowledged the fact silently. As Adam settled back into his bed, Ben softened. “I know it’s hard, but you must rest, Son. Is there anything I can get for you?”
“The books,” Adam replied flatly stifling another cough.
Ben shook his head. “Maybe tomorrow. Today you rest.”
Adam waited until his father had turned to leave before he rolled his eyes. “Yes, Pa.”
Ben walked back out the open door, and Little Joe entered seconds later. Flopping down on the end of his brother’s bed, Joe declared, “Boy, are you lucky!”
“If I’d done what you did, my backside would be burning,” Little Joe observed.
“If I were still eleven, mine would be too.”
“See, you’re old enough to sass Pa. How old do ya have to be to get away with that?”
Adam shook his head slowly, “About as old as Methuselah, if you’re lucky. If you think I’m not going to pay for that one, you haven’t been paying attention. Once you’re over twenty-one, Pa just uses subtler methods.”
Little Joe heaved a great sigh. “Well, I’d take subtler over a tanning any day.”
Adam started to disagree but then shrugged and grinned. “Well, just make it through the next ten years and see if you still feel that way.”
“Adam,” Little Joe leaned toward his older brother, and his voice grew soft and conspiratorial, “Pa always makes us do exactly what the doctor says, but he never does. Do you think that’s fair?”
Adam thought for a moment and then tugged his ear. “It’s not a question of fair really.” Another cough broke through.
“I thought maybe it was that grown folk didn’t have to, but you’re grown now, and Pa’s making you,” Little Joe observed.
“I may be grown,” the twenty-three-year-old replied, “but I’m still Pa’s son. He knows he can probably see to it that I follow orders, and if he didn’t, well, if I disobeyed Doc Martin and then got sicker, well, Pa would feel guilty. I guess that’s the difference; if Pa disobeys the doctor and gets sicker, he doesn’t have to feel guilty; he can just be mad at himself.” Adam tugged his ear again; it had all become very clear to him as he spoke to his little brother.
“Nobody likes feeling guilty, I guess.”
“Well, then you best get down to the barn, so ya don’t have to feel guilty about not doing your chores.” Little Joe swung his head to look at his middle brother as he stood in the open doorway.
“I wouldn’t have to feel guilty about not doing them if you offered to do them for me.” Little Joe grinned.
“Maybe when the devil starts throwing snowballs,” Hoss countered as he strode across the room. Reaching the bed, he grabbed Joe and tossed him over one shoulder.
Little Joe squealed, “Hoss!” and then started to giggle.
Adam laughed but ended up coughing again.
“Hop Sing’s going to be bringing up some of his cough soother. He’s fixing it now,” Hoss told Adam while keeping a squirming Joe from falling back to the floor.
“Which one?” Adam inquired with concern.
Hoss started to tease his older brother but then broke into a grin. “The good one with the whiskey and lemon.”
Adam relaxed back against the pillows with a slight smile. “There are some advantages to being grown.”
“See, I told you you were lucky,” Little Joe called from his elevated position. “I always get the yucky one.”
“Poor baby!” both his brothers exclaimed and then laughed.
“Joe! Hoss!” Ben Cartwright’s voice echoed up the stairs. “Let your brother rest!”
“Yes, Pa!” Hoss called back starting toward the door.
“I’ll come keep ya company when I finish, Adam,” Little Joe volunteered in a stage whisper.
“Bring the checkerboard, “Adam replied with a smile and then reached for his book. He would be in bed for two more days, so he might have as well make the best of them. There was no way Pa would let him disobey doctor’s orders.
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