Summary: Repercussions, consequences, and guilt. A Missing scene from She Walks in Beauty.
Word Count: 1550
It was hard to sleep. Hoss Cartwright tossed and turned in his bed so many times that when he eventually gave up fighting the covers he resembled a gigantic Swiss roll. He eventually succeeded in untangling himself and with a sigh, pushed himself away from the bed to walk over to the window.
The moon was so big and round. The serenity of it as it reigned in all its majesty in the dark sky drew Hoss to gaze upon it with awe. Beautiful. Just like – well, just like the other night when he had looked upon it with her, and held her close in a tender embrace. He had said that it had a ring around it, and that meant rain. She had looked at him as though he were the wisest man on earth. He had felt so proud, so happy, so sure.
There had not been any sign that she was unhappy with him. Surely had she not loved him she would have resisted him when he had put his arm around her and drawn her close to him? It had seemed the most natural thing in the world to do as they gazed up at the moon on the night they were about to announce their engagement. Oh, she had been so sweet, so warm and had made him feel as though he were her protector, her champion. She had smiled up at him and he had felt himself swimming into her gaze and forgiving her everything.
Hoss shivered as that word trembled on the fringes of his mind. Forgiven her? Yes. He loved her; it was easy to forgive someone he loved. Forgiven Adam?
He turned away from the sight of the moon as though its pale beauty and brilliant light had penetrated his heart and revealed to him the things he did not wish to see. Not yet. He sighed heavily again and turned to the window as the sound of a horse making its way into the yard caught his attention.
He watched the lone horseman dismount. He noticed the stiffness with which the other man moved. The stoop of the broad shoulders as though he bore a heavier load than usual. He noticed how his brother limped as he led Sport into the stables and carefully closed the door behind him.
The man at the window waited. The moon slid behind clouds. The stable doors remained closed. Minutes ticked away but still no one emerged from the stable.
Hoss bowed his head, and his brow touched the cool glass of the window. He should never have struck his brother; he knew that better than anyone. He recalled how Adam had never made any attempt to defend himself by striking back. Hoss felt fear touch his heart. He had never really won the love of that woman, he knew that now. He also knew that he could not bear to lose the respect of his brother and with a startled realisation of all that had happened and taken place, he hurried from the window, for more than anything else, Hoss knew he needed to have his brother’s forgiveness.
Rain was falling softly as Hoss crossed the yard to the stable. He had grabbed at his hat and pulled on his boots. They looked a trifle incongruous with his black and white chequered nightshirt but his appearance was not at the top of his list of priorities at this moment of time as he made his way from the house.
Thinking back to the fight Hoss’ steps began to falter. He recalled how he had thrown Adam across the room, he remembered how Adam had raised a hand, not in retaliation, but in a gesture of reconciliation. He felt anguish, like a knife, twist in his heart. What if he had seriously harmed his brother? Hoss paused, hesitated. They all knew, were well aware of the possibilities. He could fell an ox with one blow of the fist. He could have killed his brother.
The strength went out of his legs and he turned back to look at the house as though longing to walk back, to turn back the clock, to change things. He saw the shadow of his father passing and re-passing across the window, and the thought occurred to him that perhaps Ben was also thinking back to the fight, when Hoss had raised his hand against his brother.
Slowly Hoss pushed the door of the stable open sufficiently to admit him. Although the rain was soft and light it had soaked through his nightshirt, and entering the stable was something of a relief. He looked about him for a sign of his brother. There was nothing.
Chubb looked at him and nodded over the bars of his stall. His nostrils flared with pleasure at seeing his master and Hoss gently stroked his horse’s nose as he passed the stall. Cochise continued to eat, not much bothered by the intrusion of anyone other than his own master. Sport tossed his head haughtily, as though in accusation it seemed to Hoss.
“Hey, Sport, where’s Adam, huh?” Hoss reached out his hand and stroked the graceful arch of the horse’s neck, “Where’s he gone, boy?”
“Not far,” came the reply from behind him, “What do you want , Hoss? You ain’t come to start another fight dressed like that, have you?”
Hoss turned and faced his brother, and gulped. Leaning against the bars of the stall Adam watched Hoss. He knew the man so well he could read his feelings just by looking at him. He knew he was seeing a man in distress, greater than his own. He pushed himself away from the stall and walked towards his brother, twisting a knot of straw between his fingers as he did so. Each step seemed to be torture to Hoss who watched his brother approaching him with his heart pumping so hard that he fully expected it to burst out of his chest.
“I jest came – I saw you ride on in, Adam, and I jest came to see how you were,” Hoss swallowed, “Kinda.”
“Kinda? Sure, I’m alright, Hoss, just fine,” Adam smiled, a smile that did not quite match the dark coldness in his eyes, but he walked to Hoss’ side and draped an arm around his brother’s shoulders, “And so, how are you, brother?”
Hoss cleared his throat. Adam’s arm across his shoulders weighed heavy, and he felt he was going to sink beneath it,
“I’m alright, Adam. Look, I wanted to say,” he pulled away from Adam , and turned to face him, “I wanted to say how sorry I am, Adam. I should never have raised a hand against you. Never.”
“No,” Adam sighed, and tossed the straw aside, a flippant gesture. He saw Hoss’ blue eyes watch the frail thing fall to the ground, and wondered if Hoss were expecting him to sock him in the jaw, “Well, it’s done now, Hoss.”
“Yeah, sure, I know.” Hoss turned to look bleakly at his brother, and extended his hand towards him, “I’m sorry, ,Adam. Will you forgive me?”
Several answering responses tumbled across Adam’s mind in a matter of seconds. They ranged from flippant, sarcastic, unpleasant, downright unpleasant, to angry. He bowed his head and scratched the nape of his neck,
“You know, Hoss, you saw something in that girl, something you loved and needed. Ain’t that right?”
“Yeah, ,I guess so.” Hoss let his hand fall to his side, and nodded, wondering what his brother had in mind. He stepped back a pace or two, slowly, just in case whatever Adam had to say was going to be followed up by a fist.
“She saw something in you that she cared about, perhaps realised she needed.”
“That’s right too, I guess.” Hoss raised his head challengingly.
“I wasn’t kissing her, Hoss.” Adam said softly.
“Sure looked like it from where I was standing,” Hoss replied, with more warmth than he had intended.
“I know. I understand that, Hoss, I can see how it must have appeared from where you were standing. I knew then that no matter how you felt for her, or what she thought she would get from you, it wouldn’t work. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be able to tell you but I guess you worked it out for yourself, huh?”
“Sure, I guess I did.” Hoss frowned, and realised that he would have to sit and think over what Adam had said sometime later, when he was on his own.
“So, no bad feelings then?” Adam stretched out his hand.
“Sure, no bad feelings.” Hoss took the proffered hand and gripped it tightly.
“Not so tightly, Hoss.” Adam winced.
“Oh, sure, sorry.”
They walked together out of the stable. Not exactly arm in arm, but walking together side by side. If they did not speak to one another it was not due to any bad feeling, it was just that, well, everything that needed to be said for the night, had been said. That was all.