Author: Nanuk

Rating: G

Summary: The things we do to the ones we love…

Author's additional note: an evening in 1846…


Deceive me not





He stood in front of his father, head held high, eyes ablaze. His hands shook where he held them down, but it cost him his last reserve not to move.


How dared he do that to him? How dared he?


The hurt was still fresh in his mind, and he tried not to look at his father as he stood in front of him, turned towards the window, breathing deeply. Every glance at the man who had raised him brought up new waves of hurt, and all he wanted to do was run and cry it out loud, but he stood his ground, his eyes flashing black with anger and daring his father to repeat what he had just said.


But then Ben Cartwright didn't need to confirm his decision. Every word he had spoken was still fresh in the mind of his son, and every word still as painful as if he had just spoken.


Adam shivered. His body trembled with suppressed rage, but he stood rooted to the spot, and despite the pain it brought him watched his father at the window as he deliberately kept his back at him.


"You will do as you are told."


Adam's eyes burned hot with tears that didn't fall. He clenched his hands and willed his voice to be calm. He almost managed it.


"Sir…", he choked, but the last note quivered, and he bit his cheeks. 


Ben turned around in surprise, but then Adam was gone; and the door was left open behind him.




It was dark when Adam finally went home. He had tried to exhaust his anger in running, but even though his body was tired, his mind still heard the harsh words, his memory still saw the face of his father in front of him as he told him of his decision.


For a second he stood with his hand on the doorknob, eyes shut tight. Then he straightened up and, willing his face into a mask of inscrutability, opened the door.




Ben Cartwright looked up from where he sat at the fireplace. Through the darkness of the living room he saw Adam approach, quiet and silent, moving like a shadow.


He got up and rubbed a hand over his face, then took one step towards his son. Adam looked pale, even in the candlelight. He took another step, until he saw him stop in his tracks and glance at him.


"Adam", he said huskily.


His eldest turned his head towards him, but his face showed no reaction.


"Pa", he acknowledged his father, but neither did he say something else, nor did he move.


Ben swallowed hard.


"Son…", he held out his hand to touch Adam's arm, but very subtly Adam drew back, out of reach, and Ben's heart skipped a beat. He tried to see his son's eyes, but his face was in the shadows, impossible to read.


He let his hand fall to his side.


"Adam…please, listen to me for a moment." He heard the yearning in his voice and swallowed again. Adam must have heard it, too, because he moved his head – very slightly.


"I'm sorry, Adam. I didn’t think it would be a problem. I…"


But Adam interrupted him.


"It doesn't matter". His voice was very soft and carefully void of any emotion. Ben glanced up sharply. Adam's voice this afternoon when he had been told had shaken with hardly disguised anger.


"It's always the same", he had said heatedly at one point, and Ben, even through his own temper, had heard that Adam was rapidly loosing control over his feelings. He had turned away then, to give Adam a minute to calm himself, but it had helped little.


"All the time you tell me one thing, just to change your mind at the last minute. And by then it's always too late for me to do anything about it." Adam had glared at him.  "How often did I have to give up my own plans when you decided to change yours? How often?"


Ben's temper flared. "Have you forgotten what I've done for you? All my life?" He turned angry eyes at his son, only to look up in surprise when Adam muttered a soft "…of course…" to himself. All of a sudden he sounded defeated.


Then he had left, and Ben had stared at the empty living room and wondered about what had just happened.


He tried again.


"Adam, this business is important for me…, for you, for this family. You know that. Please try to understand."


His son's eyes in the dim light were dark and unfathomable. Ben felt a shiver running down his back as he looked at him.


"I do, Pa." Adam’s voice when he spoke was as dispassionate as before. "I always did."


"But…?" Ben was confused.


He heard Adam sigh softly.


"This isn't about an appointment I miss, or a meeting I can't attend." Adam looked at a spot somewhere behind him as he spoke, but he didn't meet his eyes. "It's about all the meetings that I missed, all the appointments I couldn't make because you changed your mind at the very last minute and …" Adam turned his head to his father, but he still wouldn’t look at him.


"I don't mind the missed meetings", he said quietly, "but can't you just tell me the truth right from the beginning?"


Ben felt as if someone had just slapped him. His mind screamed that he had never lied to Adam, but his heart knew better, and his conscience suddenly remembered all the times when he hadn't told Adam of a job, or change of schedule, until the very last moment, counting on his sense of obligation and decency to get it done – because he wanted to anticipate a discussion he knew would ensue. And now he knew that Adam had known, and hadn't said anything until today.


Frantically he searched Adam's eyes, but his son just looked back at him, as silent and dispassionate as he had been since he opened the door.


"Oh Adam!" He rubbed his forehead in a vain effort to ease the growing headache, trying to think of any words he could say. "I didn't think …I didn't mean…" He suddenly looked up.


"I didn't mean to deceive you."


"It doesn't matter", Adam repeated lowly, with a voice so unemotionally calm that Ben want to shake him. He had the uneasy feeling that his usually proud and fiery son was slipping away from him, distancing himself further and further, second for second.


His voice was pleading as he spoke again.




He held out his hand. "It won't happen again", he said softly. "I promise."


Ben took a step, then stopped. "Please", he said, but Adam didn't move.


He softly touched his son's shoulder. "I'm sorry", he whispered huskily, and when Adam finally lifted his head and looked back at him, he drew him in an embrace and sighed.


Ben hugged Adam tight to himself, relieved that he had been forgiven. He smelled the fragrance of the summer hay in the soft waves of his jet black hair, felt the warm body in his arms…and then he realized that Adam didn't hug him back.


He drew back and looked at Adam's impassive face, searching, hoping, but Adam just disentangled himself from his father's arms and slightly bowed his head.


"Good night, Pa", he said, and walked up the stairs, away from Ben, his back straight as a ramrod.


Ben watched him leave.


He took a deep breath. It would be a long time before his son would forget what he had done.



~ ~ ~


The end