Summary: Missing bedroom scenes from the episode.
Category: The Big Valley
Word Count: 1981
Nick sat slumped in the chair beside his brother’s bed, bleary eyes locked on the too pale face, shallow — though even — breathing and heavily bandaged right arm that even now showed traces of blood seeping through its pristine whiteness.
He wanted desperately to close his eyes to the nightmare that they had found themselves in this fine sunny morning but each time he did, he saw the wayward bullet ripping through his brother’s body. Only it wasn’t the arm resting on the pillows bearing witness to the bullet’s path that he saw. Time and time again, he saw his brother’s chest spurting its life blood on the ground around them as he tried desperately to staunch its flow.
Nick ran a shaky hand through his uncombed black hair. Somehow he had managed to get his brother home and into the waiting arms of their mother. He looked down at his own clean, unstained shirt and pants. At some point during the morning’s horror, he had changed out of his blood-covered clothes but he couldn’t remember exactly when.
Was it before or after he had deposited Heath in his bed, or after his confrontation with his mother in the gun room? He groaned aloud. Surely he hadn’t confronted his mother, had he? He did vividly remember the comforting feel of the rifle in his hands as he lifted it from its resting place in the gun case and checked it for bullets.
Had Evan Miles walked through the doors at that precise moment, Nick had no doubt that he would now be languishing in the Stockton jail, charged with murder, instead of sitting slumped beside his brother. Nick clenched his fists tightly together in an effort to still their shaking. No matter what his mother had said downstairs, Evan was going to be made to pay for what he had done to his little brother and his family.
A soft moan from the bed lifted his head and shoulders as he watched the restless movements of his injured sibling. He stood quickly when he saw the eyes begin to flutter.
Leaning over the bed, Nick gripped his brother’s good hand and called softly to him. “Heath, can you hear me, little brother? You’re home safe and you’re going to be alright.”
Heath turned his head towards the sound of his brother’s voice and forced tired eyes to open. “Niiick?”
“Right here, Heath.”
Nick lifted Heath’s head and rested a glass against the colourless lips. “Small sips, Heath; we don’t need you getting sick on top of everything else.”
Nick lowered his brother back to the pillows, noting the once again closed eyes; he placed the glass on the nightstand, picked up the damp cloth and gently wiped the beads of sweat from his brother’s face. He smiled at the small sigh of appreciation coming from his brother.
With his brother’s immediate needs taken care of, Nick settled back into the chair once more.
“What happened?” The words were heavy with pain and accompanied by a grimace but the blue eyes were open and fixed steadily on Nick’s face.
“Evan shot you.” The face showed only anguish for the morning’s events but the voice betrayed the anger residing underneath.
Heath was finding it hard to focus on his brother but he didn’t miss the anger in the voice.
He closed his eyes again and thought on the mornings events. Why would Evan shoot him? It took him a moment but then his jumbled thoughts fell into place and with them a clear remembrance of what had happened.
“The cows! Did we get the cows back?” Heath tried to sit up, the room spun madly and fire shot up and down his arm, causing him to cry out in agony.
Nick was on his feet, gripping his brother’s good hand, feeling his own helpless agony as his brother fought the pain. “You gotta stay still, Heath; you can’t move your arm for a few days. You’ve already lost too much blood and you can’t afford to lose anymore.”
Once the trembling had subsided and his panted breathing eased, Heath squinted at his brother. “Nick, did we … get the cows?”
“To hell with the blasted cows, Heath.”
“Gotta be … worth something.”
“What’s gotta be worth something, Heath? You’re not making any sense.”
“Getting … shot. Something good … gotta come outta it.”
Nick took a deep breath to quell his rising frustration at his brother. There was so much about this boy that he didn’t know and he had very nearly lost the chance of ever finding out. He squeezed Heath’s hand gently. “Yeah, little brother, we got the damn cows back and Wally’s tearing down the fence Evan built.”
Heath nodded tiredly, his lips clenched in a grim line.
Nick watched worriedly as his brother seemed to pale even further before his eyes. “Heath, you need some medicine and sleep.”
“Don’t want no medicine.”
“I don’t care whether you want it or not, you’re taking it.” Nick knew it was dirty but … “You don’t want Mother coming in here and seeing you like this, do you? She’s worried enough about you as it is. You know she was right here with the Doc while he was tending to you. She’s seen that arm and she knows you’re hurting.”
Heath closed his eyes with a groan. That was the last thing he wanted. His new mother worrying needlessly over him. “Fine, Nick.”
Nick smiled at the grimace of disgust that appeared on his brother’s face after he swallowed the brown liquid and the half glass of water.
“You know it might not of been him.”
“Who?” Nick asked.
“Evan … that shot me.”
Nick sucked in a deep breath and closed his eyes, seeing again the smug smirk on Evan’s face as his father called out for who had fired the shot. Nick opened his eyes again as the image faded. “Of course it was. Who else do you think would have done it?”
“Accident. Coulda been … anybody. Lots a … shooting going on.”
“It was Evan alright and when I get my…”
“Where’s Mother and … Audra?”
Nick realized that his brother was drifting as the laudanum started taking effect and he wasn’t listening to him but he answered anyway. “Mother’s resting and Audra went into town to get you some more medicine and wire Jarrod. I bet big brother will be on the afternoon train. Should be back here later tonight. And when he does get here, we’re going to put a stop to Evan Miles once and for all.”
Heath struggled to keep his eyes open and focus on his brother. “Don’t do anything stupid, Nick, promise me?”
Nick watched the blue eyes finally succumb to the medicine and exhaustion, closing before he could make his own promise to his brother. “I’ll do whatever it takes to protect this family, little brother. That’s the only promise I can make. Guess that’s something you’re just going to have to get used too.”
Nick hurriedly turned back the covers of his brother’s bed, before turning to take his deathly pale, swaying brother, from Duke’s grip.
“Thanks, Duke, I can take it from here.”
“Yeah, thanks for the help.”
“Take care of yourself, Heath; me and the boys will be waiting for you.”
Heath nodded, too tired to do more to acknowledge their foreman’s words. Nick lowered his rapidly weakening brother onto the edge of the bed. “That was a fool stunt you just pulled, boy. You should have stayed here in bed.” Nick talked as he gently removed the injured arm from its supporting sling and started unbuttoning the blue shirt.
“Had ta … be there, Nick.”
“No, you didn’t, Heath; you had to stay here, rest up, get well. Just how did you think passing out in the barn was going to help anybody?” Nick removed the shirt, his stomach clenching at his brother’s gasp of pain.
“Didn’t mean … ta.”
“Oh great. Shall I put that on your tombstone? Here lies Heath Barkley; he didn’t mean to.” Nick’s frustrated glare had no effect on his brother’s distracted thoughts.
“Couldn’t let them … face it alone.”
Nick sighed realizing his brother wasn’t listening to him, again. “They weren’t alone, Heath; Jarrod and I were with them.”
“It started with me. Had ta … finish it.”
“Oh for crying out loud, Heath.” Nick threw his hands up in the air in a frustrated gesture. “It didn’t start with you. This whole sordid mess was all Evan’s doing.”
“I shouldn’t ta hit him that night.”
Nick reined in his growing ire at his brother’s stubbornness. “Heath, if you hadn’t have gone to Audra’s aid, there is no telling what Evan may have done to our little sister. You heard Jarrod in the barn tonight. Evan wasn’t right in the head.”
Nick eased his brother’s body around so that he was resting against the mound of pillows and then lifted the legs onto the bed. He pulled off one and then the other worn boot. He dropped them on the floor and then started unbuckling his brother’s gun belt. Why he was wearing it and how he ever thought he would ever be able to draw it was beyond him. He pulled the belt out from under his brother, depositing it beside the boots. “I’m sorry, Heath; I should never have left you to face Evan alone at the crossing. I should have stood beside you.”
“Not yer fault, Nick; you didn’t know he was gone in the head.”
Nick grunted “But I should have seen it, Heath. I’ve known him all my life. I should have realized what he was becoming.”
“You ain’t a mind reader, Nick.”
Nick sighed, “No, I guess I’m not.” He squeezed his brother’s hand gently. “It’s over, Heath. Evan’s dead. He can’t hurt this family, or his own, ever again.”
Nick undid the pants belt and then the buttons of the tight fitting pants before pulling them gently off his brother’s legs.
“Won’t be … over for a long … time. Mother should never have had ta …”
“You’re right, Heath, she shouldn’t have had to but she did and she’d do the same thing again for any one of us that was in danger. She’ll get past this with all our help, and the best way for you to help right now is to lay back and get well. Can you do that for her and me, Heath?”
Nick replaced his brother’s work pants with a pair of sleeping ones from the top draw of the dresser before pulling the covers over his brother making sure that his arm was well supported.
Nick squeezed his brother’s hand. “Heath.”
Lids that had slid shut somewhere during the undressing fluttered open and stared unfocused at the figure before them. “Mmmm.”
“You going to stay here and rest, get well?”
“Guess.” The word and following sigh were no more than breaths of exhaustion.
“Good, then take this medicine and get some sleep. I’ll be here if you need anything.”
Nick was startled but extremely grateful when no objections were voiced by the blond. With the medicine administered, Nick settled back into the chair he had occupied for most of the day.
Looking at his sleeping brother, a shiver ran down his spine as he thought of how close he had come to carrying home a corpse that morning. “You’re right, little brother,” Nick lent forward gripping his brother’s lax hand gently between his own, “it won’t be over for a long time” Nick released a sigh. “But it will eventually be over.”