Summary: The boys prepare for a night out, but someone’s watching.
Word Count: 2000
Joe stood in front of the mirror and surveyed himself critically, before finally breaking into a smile: gosh, he looked good! Behind him, reflected in the mirror, Paw bear tilted his head from one side to the other, carefully surveying Joe, before finally giving him a toothy grin and a gesture that looked remarkably like a “thumbs up”. Indeed, Joe looked particularly gorgeous: tight pants showing off a rear that had been voted winner in the “Nevada State Butt Championships” three years running, a smooth golden chest and an unfeasibly handsome face, surrounded by curls the Giggly Sisters just loved to run their hands through.
At this last thought, a frown crept across his face and he shot a venomous glare towards the hairdresser. Why on earth did the man insist on trying to brush his hair down flat? Didn’t he realize that his curls were glorious? Especially the one that would tumble down artfully over his forehead. Joe had developed a cunning strategy of running his hands through his hair in the middle of scenes, just to foil the hairdresser. Another favorite ploy was to push his hat back, ruffling his curls in the process, thus destroying hours of firm brushing and industrial-strength hair lotion.
Stepping back to survey the finished result, Joe buckled his belt. He’d often wondered why none of his pants had belt loops, but Pa had just given one of his “don’t go there, Joseph” looks. By contrast, Paw gave him an adoring look and Joe reached into his dresser drawer and pulled out two string ties. Joe secretly longed for a proper tie, or even a cravat, but the costume designer had claimed these would be anachronistic and insisted that the Cartwrights wear these blessed string ties, which were frankly rather girly and were just really satin ribbons. After tying the second ribbon in an extravagant bow around Paw’s furry neck, the pair went to see how the rest of the family was getting on.
Just along the hall, Adam was also putting the finishing touches to his preparations. As ever, he was wearing black. Unrelieved black. Even his socks and underpants were black, which was handy, as they didn’t show the dirt. Unfortunately, the Mercantile did not stock black handkerchiefs, saying there wasn’t much call for them, so Adam had to content himself with black-bordered hankies instead. The entire effect was rather funereal and was not really helped by the habitually dour expression Adam favored.
Looking at himself in the mirror, Adam essayed a small smile, but cringed as his dimples burst forward. Yes, the girls all thought his dimples were rather nice, but they weren’t quite in fitting with his Man In Black image. He would far prefer that people thought of him as serious minded, and dimples just shrieked of light-heartedness. In fact, he couldn’t figure out why Joe got the cleft painted onto his chin, and he was stuck with real dimples. It just wasn’t fair!
In the room across the hall, Hoss had barely glanced in his mirror as he got ready. He figured that he was handsome enough as it was, and didn’t need to tart himself up the way some folks did. Besides, the wardrobe department kept insisting that he wear that dreadful brown suit, and it didn’t do anything to show off his figure! He tied the string tie four times, but it still ended up looking untidy, so he decided to leave it be.
Ben was most formally dressed of the Cartwrights. He had a real weakness for his silver brocade waistcoat, and insisted on wearing it at every occasion, appropriate or not. He carefully knotted his tie, and wondered if he had remembered to tie his neckerchief around the brim of his hat downstairs. It was such a good way to keep track of it. Then he didn’t need to worry about the ends of it dripping in his food. (He hoped Hop Sing wasn’t serving that noxious jelly-soup. Or soupy-jelly, take your pick!) It really was strange the way that neckerchief had lengthened over the years. However, Ben liked to see it tied round his hat brim, even if the Giggly Sisters had implied that it looked like a ladies’ hat hanging there.
The four Cartwrights met at the top of the stairs and admired one another in their finery. Needless to say, each thought that he took the biscuit for sartorial elegance. There was a rather unseemly scrum as Adam, Hoss and Joe all tried to get down the stairs at the same time and, not for the first time, Ben cursed the inconvenience of the staircase. It was far too narrow, and that confounded bend in the middle meant it was a nightmare getting Joe upstairs when he’d indulged in another unfortunate accident. Not that the back stairs were much better. In fact, they were worse, being so elusive that they were never seen and only ever referred to obliquely.
For once, the Giggly Sisters had been able to commandeer the red leather chairs, which sat in what interior designers liked to call “a conversational group” at the bottom of the stairs. They were heartily relieved not to be sitting on the sofa, which had all the comfort and style of an upholstered breezeblock. Even better, this arrangement afforded them a prime view of the Cartwrights as they thundered downstairs with all the grace and elegance of a platoon of squaddies doing The Reel of the 51st Highland Division.
As ever, Hoss was bounding with enthusiasm and his hair was all fluffy. Combined with his round, blue eyes and guileless gaze, he looked like a very excited chicken. Except for the unfortunate brown, homespun suit. The girls looked at one another quizzically, remembering how Hoss had planned to borrow one of Ben’s suits for his violin recital in Maestro Hoss. Wasn’t that stretching the bounds of credulity just a little far? And would the suit ever have been the same afterwards?
Adam and Joe were both rather ruffled about the head too, which in Joe’s case only added to his overall gorgeousness. His hair curled wildly over his head, which increased his boyish charms. The hairdresser felt incredibly put upon and altogether unloved. All his hard work ruined! Did anyone even care that all that heavy-duty brushing had given him carpal tunnel syndrome?
His gaze fell upon Adam and the poor, hard-done by coiffurer nearly wept. That scuffle had spelt disaster for Adam’s bonce. Instead of its customary neatness, there was now a clear division showing between illusion and reality. Obviously, Adam had skimped on the Toupee Toffee that morning. In the past, Adam had overcome such diversities by tying a bandana around his head, cunningly disguising the gap and the fans had gone wild at the effect. However, the macho look wasn’t really appropriate for a glamorous night out.
Seeing all chances of winning an award for his skill and prowess with a hairbrush and scissors fly out of the window, the poor, hard done by hairdresser shuffled off to the edge of the sound stage and had a sharp word with Continuity, who were currently engaged in an engrossing game of Canasta. The director wondered if he could introduce pocket mirrors into the story line. After all, they’d not only be useful for ensuring tonsorial elegance, but they could come in handy for signaling across long distances.
Finally, Ben walked down the stairs, with appropriate gravitas, as befitting the Patriarch of the Ponderosa. His silvery hair was only slightly disheveled, which gave him the appearance of a wise and kindly snowy owl. He looked at the girls and wondered how it was that they had managed to get dressed and ready before all the men, given the accepted wisdom that women took twice as long to dress as men.
There again, he thought, as he looked at them with horror, they didn’t have much in the way of clothes on! Could they really be ready? And if not, why were they sitting in his great room wearing only their underwear, and no dressing gowns, scary maroon silk or otherwise? He opened his mouth to make a comment, but Joe had beaten him to it.
“You look gorgeous!” he exclaimed. Paw bear nodded vigorously. The girls, as always were stunningly beautiful, their make-up perfect, and their floor length, strapless satin evening gowns the epitome of chic.
“You look lovely yourself,” they said, and mussed his hair ever so slightly. They did so love that curl that fell over his forehead. “What’s the occasion?” the redhead asked Ben.
“It’s the Annual General Meeting of the Cattleman’s Association,” he replied. The sisters exchanged knowing looks: obviously a euphemism for cheap whisky and scantily clad females. In fact, not unlike a Burns Supper, but lighter on the sheep’s entrails.
Adam noticed that each girl wore a tartan silk sash across a comely shoulder. He’d always hankered after a kilt, but skilled weavers were sadly lacking in the environs of Virginia City. Besides which, he really didn’t have the calves to carry off a pair of ghillie begs. Strangely enough, although they encountered many people of different nationalities on the Ponderosa, the Scots had been noticeable only by their absence, until that never to be forgotten day when the Giggly Sisters had arrived. The girls now appeared to have made themselves completely at home. Adam glared at the sisters in a forbidding way, but they remained impervious, as was their wont. Despite himself, Adam was rather impressed by their sheer powers of endurance. Joe smiled happily: this was just one of the many characteristics he adored in his girls.
Ben looked at the grandfather clock, before realizing that it had stopped once again. He wondered why it was given houseroom, for it was a hideously ugly monstrosity, which was almost always told the wrong time. It was precisely because of this chorological defect that he had stuck the deuced thing beside the front door, where he didn’t have to look at it too often. Nevertheless, it was disturbing to notice how many fanfic writers included it in their stories.
The blonde and the redhead wriggled slightly in eager anticipation. This would be the ideal opportunity to put their little business-plan into operation. How clever of Nicki to suggest an international import/export business! Several muscly Scots in kilts were wrapped ready for shipping to America and waiting at Leith docks. This evening would allow them to select some appropriately handsome cowboys to complete the exchange. No doubt they would soon be lauded by women the world over for their philanthropic endeavors.
Hoss eyed up Paw suspiciously, the bear had successfully fought him for the last roast potato at dinnertime and he was still smarting at the defeat.
“Why is that bear wearing a bow?” he asked finally.
Joe smiled enigmatically, his wonderful eyes still somewhere between green, hazel and emerald. How he wished those fanfic writers would make their minds up! It had got to the stage where he was seriously considering putting “elusive” in the bit on the passport application form that requested details of eye color. However, the blonde had explained that most government officials were not known for their sense of humor. He looked at the small bear, bedecked in his ribbon and smiled happily. “Because we couldn’t find his sporran!” he laughed, and led the girls out of the house and into the waiting buggy.
Hoss and Adam exchanged perplexed looks, but Ben merely smiled.
“Boys, we live in a house where the bedrooms are constantly moving around and where long-lost relatives appear one day and then are never heard of again. Why should these girls be any different? They won’t be around for ever – just mark my words! And there is one other thing – remember that no matter how bad things seem, there’s always a satisfactory conclusion at the end of the hour!”
The blonde and the redhead exchanged knowing looks: they planned to be the exception that proved the rule