Summary: If only the Giggly sisters could truly understand those thoughts.
Word Count: 1500
Adam got up slowly and stretched his weary arms over his head. Two weeks on the trail certainly didn’t do his back any favors. It was good to be back at home and sleeping in his own bed again! Walking across the room, he caught sight of himself in the looking glass and let out a small groan. His entire lower face was covered in a thicket of dark hair, obscuring his mouth and chin. It would take some considerable amount of time to shave it off and restore his normal saturnine good looks. Well, he’d tackle that little chore after breakfast – the enticing smell of pancakes and bacon wafting upstairs was too good to resist!
It was a foregone conclusion that Hoss would already be at the table, along with Ben, the Patriarch of the Ponderosa, who laid great emphasis on punctuality and good table manners. Strangely enough, he never seemed to realize that the Cartwrights all used their cutlery in a most unorthodox way and had a distressing tendency to hold their knives as if they were pencils.
Adam grunted a pleasantry and took a long swallow of coffee. My, that coffee pot was an incredible piece of precision engineering! It managed to keep the brew piping hot for simply hours! Perhaps it was something to do with the strange enameled panels on the sides? There was a letter lying beside his plate, which he opened and began to devour with interest.
A few moments later, Joe came trotting down the stairs, followed by the Giggly Sisters and Paw, their pet bear. “‘Mornin’ everyone!” he said cheerily, bestowing a cheery grin on his family as he ran a hand though his rumpled curls.
“Who’s the letter from, Adam?” Ben said warily. How he hoped it wouldn’t be a heretofore never heard-of friend who was coming to stay for a few days. Something dreadful seemed to happen every time they had guests at the Ponderosa.
“From an old friend, keeping up to date with events at college,” Adam said, slightly evasively. The sisters had noticed that he was noticeably reticent about exactly which college he had attended. They had their own thoughts on the subject, of course.
“Why did you never write to me?” Joe asked plaintively.
Adam raised his eyebrows in surprise. “When we live in the same house?”
Joe gave a small, sad smile. “No, I was talking about that time when you were away and I was in that terrible explosion. I was really badly hurt and you never even wrote to me.”
Adam looked apoplectic. It was unusual for Joe to test his patience so thoroughly, so early in the morning. “You were blind!” he exploded and Joe assumed a saintly expression.
“Pa would have read it out loud, wouldn’t you?”
Ben, who still didn’t like to think about those dreadful days when they thought Joe would be blind forever, patted his youngest son lovingly on the hand. “Of course I would have. I did everything I could for you.”
The redhead heaved a sigh, and Ben looked at her. “So many JPMs,” she said, in answer to his unspoken question. “So many shots of Joe looking totally gorgeous.”
“And it was a tear-jerker,” the blonde amplified, looking a little teary just thinking about it. “Oh, the emotions.”
Ben looked rather overcome for a moment, too, while Hoss wiped away a tear. He’d done that in the episode, too, the sisters recalled. Adam rolled his eyes impatiently. “Joe, you got your sight back, so it didn’t matter that I didn’t write while you couldn’t see.”
“Good thing you’re so good at displaying your emotions,” the redhead said to Joe. “Since we got barely a flash from those lovely eyes of yours.” She peered more closely, still not sure what color his eyes were. Today, they looked more hazel than green.
“You never seemed to write many letters,” the blonde said to Adam. “Don’t you like writing letters?”
“I was far away,” he replied, evasively. “Letters would have taken a long time to get here.”
“Well, apart from that time in The Other Son, when you told me about the nitro-glycerin,” Ben reminded him.
“Yes, and I never heard the end of how Joe fell down a mountain, and barely managed to keep the box from falling, too.” Adam looked annoyed. “Pa, it wasn’t my fault that the clerk at the Wells Fargo office in San Francisco got killed. Or that Andy Watson got blown to kingdom come. Or even that Joe fell down the mountain!”
The sisters looked a little skeptical, but they had to admit that Adam hadn’t been anywhere near at the time. That had just been another unfortunate accident.
Hoss sat munching on a bit of extra-crunchy bacon and wondered why he was never portrayed as reading much. There was a bookcase in his bedroom, but for some reason the scriptwriters never seemed to want to portray him as having any grounding in the literary arts. Talk about stereotyping! Didn’t they realize he was an intensely cultured chap? He helped himself to another stack of pancakes and continued to muse on the injustices of size-conscious America.
Ben leaned back in his chair and thought of all the times he had provided stirring radio broadcasts. Why, he was even known as the Voice of Canada and scarcely a day passed without his stentorian tones issuing forth, causing small animals to flee in terror. Oh happy days! Mind you, that was considerably more rewarding than working on the interminable account books. He hated it when the script called for him to be poring over ledgers. It was virtually impossible to keep an interested expression on his face and it was made even worse by his eldest son. Adam had developed a very bad habit of upstaging his father on those occasions, always wandering around in a highly disconcerting manner, sometimes even pinching his nose for added emphasis.
“There’s something I always wondered about how you managed when you were blind,” the blonde ventured, dribbling some rose-hip syrup over Paw’s porridge. “How on earth did you ever manage to track down your bedroom? It’s bad enough trying to work out where it is with 20-20 vision.”
Ben gave her an old-fashioned look. He didn’t really approve of young ladies talking about the boys’ bedrooms and, if at all possible, liked to put female visitors in the downstairs bedroom. In many ways, Ben was still rather naive, despite having had three wives and it simply did not occur to him that the downstairs bedroom was rather secluded …
Joe decided it would be expedient to change the subject. “Weren’t you impressed with the way I was able to design that flume overnight in The Quest?” he asked eagerly. The girls had always been impressed with many things about Joe, but this had indeed been a seminal moment for him. Strangely enough, many fanfic writers liked to portray the darling boy as being a less than enthusiastic student, which was hard to square with the irrefutable evidence that Joe had the necessary mathematical skills and draftsman’s abilities to design the flume, while simultaneously have the actuarial knowledge to do all the costings, overheads etc.
“You’re one heck of a guy!” Adam said sardonically. “Of course, when I was at college …”
The redhead couldn’t refrain from interrupting. “Now, that’s something I’ve always wondered about. Wasn’t it rather unusual to study architecture at college? I thought you were apprenticed to architect’s office?”
“Not for some one of my skill and talent,” Adam replied hastily. Only the slight flicker of panic in his eyes gave him away.
At that point, Hop Sing bustled in the Territorial Enterprise. Once again, it was delivered in time for breakfast, just as it had been in A Passion of Justice, when Dr Zachary Smith (or was it Charles Dickens?) was staying on the Ponderosa. No one had ever been able to explain how the Cartwrights were able to get such an early-morning delivery, but allegations of children on hyperactive ponies were strongly denied.
“Anything interesting in the paper?” Adam asked, grateful for the change of subject.
“No,” Ben responded, after only a cursory glance. He folded it neatly and laid it by his plate. “Now, boys, its time for round up again, so this will be the last meal at this table for a while. It’ll be bedrolls on the ground again from now on.”
“How many round-ups do you have each year?” asked blonde, interestedly. “One big one, with a couple of smaller ones? Or several big ones? In spring or in fall?”
Ben smiled. He had learned the answer to questions like this.
“That’s another story,” he said.