Summary: WHN after Triangle. Adam has been very quiet, but on a trip to town, Hoss finds out the reason for the silence.
Word Count: 1391
For a few days after Will and Laura packed their belongings and shipped them to their new home before climbing aboard that stage, Adam had been quiet. Then he had been even more quiet if that was possible when saying goodbye to Will, Laura, and Peggy, but the quiet he was afterwards was worrisome. Offering nothing in any conversation, he answered questions with the least amount of words he could. He went to his room in the evenings as soon as he could as if to escape before there were any more questions about anything. Clearly, he didn’t want to be drawn into any discussion or invited into an activity. On the fourth day after Laura left, when Ben saw him walk into the barn after lunch and begin saddling his horse, he had to ask.
“Son, where are you going? I thought the afternoon was going to be spent finishing the new corral here.”
At first, Adam said nothing, and Ben knew better than to press him. He would say something or nothing but pushing him would have no effect on what the outcome would be. When the horse was saddled, Adam mounted up and looked at his father almost as if to challenge him.
“I’m going to town. The corral can wait until tomorrow. My plan is to have a few quiet beers with God or maybe I’ll have a dozen.”
Then without saying anything more, Adam wheeled his horse around and rode out of the yard of the Ponderosa without a look back. Ben knew there was only one person he could send after his son who could be of any help. He was well aware he couldn’t go because the last thing Adam needed was a lecture or a sermon or anything that sounded even remotely like either of those. Little Joe couldn’t go because if he decided to say anything funny or flippant in any way or have any expression hinting at less than a serious demeanor, there were going to be fists flying or tables or bottles. He didn’t want to see his son spend a night in jail. Ben signaled a hand and sent him for Hoss. It didn’t take long to tell his middle son what the mission was.
When Hoss got to town, it only took him a few minutes to find his older brother. Sheriff Roy Coffee knew there was something wrong as soon as Adam showed up and headed to a saloon in the afternoon on a workday. When Roy saw Hoss ride in an hour later, he pointed the way to the saloon the moment he saw the big man. Hoss rode Chubb to the livery stable and asked them to give him a good rubdown because he had pushed him hard. Then he set his hat and made a direct trek to where he knew Adam was. Walking into the Bucket of Blood Saloon, Hoss nodded at Sam the bartender who hooked a thumb over his left shoulder indicating which direction Hoss should go. Like Roy, he knew something was wrong as soon as Adam walked in there. In the darkened back corner all alone sat Adam with three empty glasses already, and he was working on a fourth. Adam hadn’t been in town long so that was an impressive amount of beer to have imbibed so quickly. That told Hoss that Adam had been nursing this hurt, and it was a painful one. Hooking a chair with the toe of his boot, he sat down even if he hadn’t been invited to do so. With a belch, Adam made room for another big swallow, finished off the fourth beer, and signaled for a fifth one. Hoss pointed at the array of empty glasses.
“That’s a lot of beer for you. You that mad at him?”
With a frown, Adam answered. “Yes, He took her away.”
It was the answer Hoss had expected. “Yeah, I figured you were mad at him. Listen, I know you got cause to be really mad at Will.”
“Nope, I’m not mad at Will.”
At that point, Hoss was confused. “You’re not? He betrayed you. He’s our cousin, but he went behind your back, and he took up with your fiancé. That’s a dirty, underhanded thing he done. I never woulda thought he would do something like that. He ain’t hardly got the right to be considered family to do something low down and dirty like that.”
Pursing his lips, Adam sighed and then nodded. To Hoss’ surprise though, he didn’t look that angry. “Yeah, that’s true. He did do that. He’s definitely no good. But I’m not mad at him. I’m kinda glad he took Laura away. I really am.”
Hoss was getting more confused by every statement Adam made. “You are? You’re glad he took her away? But I thought you just said you were mad because he took her away?”
“No, he and Laura deserve each other, you know. She betrayed me too, you know. She went behind my back, too, you know. She was supposed to marry me, and she took up with my cousin, you know. She was supposed to be in love with me, but she spent her time in his arms. She’s no good for that. She’s really no good, and I’m glad he’s got her. They deserve each other. They really do.”
“Yes, I know they do, but you aren’t upset that Will took her away? Then why are you drinking all this beer, and why did you tell Pa you were gonna have a few quiet beers with God?”
“I already told you. He took her away.”
Hoss frowned. Usually Adam made a lot of sense, but after four beers, not so much sense especially this time. He muttered under his breath. “I don’t have no idea what you’re talking about. Shur is easier talking with ya when ya ain’t had so much beer.” Adam didn’t hear him and seemed lost in his thoughts almost seeming to forget that Hoss was there. After a few minutes, Hoss called his name to remind him he had company. Adam looked almost startled to see his brother there, but then nodded.
“Well maybe she wasn’t all bad. I did ask her to marry me.”
“I woulda made a good father, Hoss.”
Then Hoss thought maybe he got it. Suddenly, it all made a great deal of sense if he was right. As he began to put together who Adam meant when he said ‘He’ and it wasn’t Will. “Yeah, you would have been a great father. He took Peggy away.”
“Yeah, I know. He did, and they don’t deserve her.”
“No, they shur don’t.”
“They’re not gonna do a good job raising her up. They’re not good enough people, so how can they? It takes good people to raise a girl like her, and they showed us they aren’t good people.”
“No, they probably won’t because they aren’t. You’re right about that.”
“They’re selfish, you know. They only think about what they want most of the time. They don’t think about what other people need or want.”
“I always thought that about Laura. She wanted you because of what you could give her not because she could love you.”
But Adam wasn’t in a mood to talk about Laura. She was history as far as he was concerned. The one who mattered and would haunt him for some time wasn’t Laura.
“Before the stage left, Peggy said she wanted to stay with me. Laura said ‘don’t be silly. Adam doesn’t want you.’ She was wrong, Hoss. She was dead wrong. I wanted her to stay. Peggy, I mean, but I couldn’t do anything about it. So, it won’t ever happen, will it, Hoss? I love her and I woulda been a good father to her, but it won’t happen now, will it?”
“Nope, afraid it won’t. Nothing we can do.”
“Do you want a beer? I’m buying.”
“Yeah, I’ll have a few quiet beers with God too. We’ll let Him know we ain’t happy how He let things work out.”