WHN Blood on the Land


By: Nanuk



Joe glanced over at his father who sat slumped in the red chair and gazed pensively into the fire. He sighed. Two days had passed since they had freed Adam from Drummond, and since then Ben had been abnormally quiet.


Something must have happened between their father and Adam, Joe mused, because Ben had excused Adam from almost all ranch duties to go and have a bit of time off – the reason why it was Joe who now had to fight with the books. And yet, he knew there was more on Ben’s mind, the true reason why he had given Adam time off, and why he watched him closely every time he was around.


Hoss came into the room and after a glance at Ben walked straight to Joe.


“He at it again?” He nodded his head to the living room.


Joe grimaced slightly. “Yeah. He’s been like that for the last hour or so.” He closed the ledger and sat back. Pondering he squinted up at Hoss.


“And you’re sure that nothing happened up there? You didn’t notice anything unusual?”


Hoss just shrugged. “Nope. Pa’s been Pa, and Adam…well, it wasn’t as if he coulda done a lot right then.”


Joe stood up. “Well, I guess the time is right to just ask him. He can’t go on like this.” Hoss opened his mouth to stop him, but Joe grinned. “And if he doesn’t stop watching Adam’s every move, older brother will get so mad that there’ll be no living with him.”


Ben, oblivious to the talk behind him, still sat gazing into the fire. When Joe moved over to him and shortly touched his shoulder, he flinched, then apologetically smiled at his youngest.


“I’m sorry, Joe, I didn’t hear you. Hoss.” He acknowledged their presence with a tired smile and rubbed a hand over his face. “I guess I was lost in thoughts, huh?”


“We wanted to talk to you about that”, Joe stated quietly. He laid a hand on Ben’s knee.


“Are you alright?”


Ben, startled, hastened to calm his sons. “It’s nothing. I’m alright, nothing to worry about.”

Judging from the dissatisfied looks on their faces he went on.


“Really, I’m fine.”


Joe and Hoss looked at each other, then back at Ben, and he could tell they weren’t convinced. His features softened at the concern he saw in their eyes. He smiled warmly at them, thanking God for the gifts He had given him.


“You know that I love you, don’t you?”


Their faces flushed an embarrassed red, but then they smiled and grinned shyly at him.


Hoss cleared his throat. “Aw, shucks, Pa, we love ya, too.”


“I know you do, sons. I know you do.” He leant back in the chair and smiled at them. Their faces were still heated, but the serious mood with which they had approached him seemed to have faded a bit.


“Are you sure you are ok?” Hoss, concerned as ever when it came to a member of the family, watched his face.


“I’m fine, boys. Just thinking. It’s the season, I think.” He yawned suddenly, making them break out in giggles. He drew his brows together in mock reprimand, then grinned at their faces. He could tell he hadn’t managed to destroy their worries, but at least he had  eased them a bit, and of that he was glad.


Already now they were giving each other challenging looks as to who should bring up the next game of checkers, each as eager to win as the other.


 He winked at them, then eased himself out of the chair and stretched to get the kinks out of his back.


“You go have fun. Your old father is getting an early night. Sleep well, Joe. Night, Hoss.” He stopped short at the bottom of the stairs. 


“Don’t forget we have to check the stream at the mill tomorrow.” He laughed out loud as he saw their crestfallen faces. Still chuckling, he made his way up the stairs.


The hilarity didn’t last long. Passing Adam’s door, he stopped short, hand on the wooden frame. Immediately he heard words in his mind that he didn’t want to hear, words that lingered in his memory.


Reaching his room, he closed the door and sat on the bed. God, what had he done? When had he lost his focus that he couldn’t tell anymore what was important to fight for and what wasn’t?


He didn’t know how much time he had spent lost in thoughts when laughter from downstairs rose him from his stupor. A door banged, and a deep voice mingled with the other two, teasing, joking. 


He sighed. Yeah, Hoss and Joe loved him, and knew he loved them. And what about Adam? Did he know he loved him? Unbidden, Adam’s words came back to his mind, words that had haunted him ever since that dreadful afternoon.


“It’s not worth it, Pa.


Ben clenched his fists.


It’s not worth it. My life isn’t worth 5000 acres of land, that was what Adam had been saying to him.


Ben’s heart ached. Had he lost so much focus that his child thought a bit of land was more important to him than his sons? His hand involuntarily gripped the blanket.


A soft knock on the door interrupted his sombre thoughts.


“Pa?” Adam’s soft voice, filled with hardly disguised concern, floated through the wood. “Are you ok?”


Ben took a deep breath when he heard the love in those simple words. He quickly wiped a hand over his eyes, then straightened up. He would tell him, and perhaps it wouldn’t be too late.




The end