Summary: A WHN for Triangle
Rating: T (3,980 words)
By Wisdom’s Wings and Love’s Own Hand
He tossed and turned, praying for sleep to claim him. The last thing he wanted to do was just lie there, staring at the ceiling. As much as he longed for it, sleep slipped beyond his grasp. Finally, rolling onto his back and tucking his hands beneath his head, Adam sighed and studied the shadows dancing across the ceiling.
Where did I go wrong? Laura loved me. I know she did! But I guess it wasn’t enough, just loving her. She wanted more. She wanted – what? Adventure? Romance? I don’t know what it was she wanted but I hope she finds it with Will. To shutter his heart against the pain those memories brought; all Adam could do was close his eyes. “Will I ever learn?” he whispered aloud.
“Probably not!” a soft low voice crooned.
Adam opened his eyes, startled at the sound! Then there came a low chuckle and Adam raised and turned his head, seeking the source. When he saw it, he rubbed one hand over his eyes, thinking that he was seeing things. When he dropped his hand, the vision was still there, aglow with a pale silvery light.
“I’m seeing things!” he moaned and dropped back, pulling the sheet over his head.
“No, you aren’t,” the husky, yet demure, feminine whisper replied as Adam felt tiny little pressure points walk up his chest.
He shook his head back and forth on the pillow. It’s finally happened, he thought, I’ve gone completely over the edge. “Pa will have to have me committed now for sure!”
“Don’t think so,” the voice said again. Adam felt the sheet being pulled from his hands and the cool evening breeze rushing across his face. Then, something lifted his eyelid. A very small something. He squeezed his eyes closed and felt the tiny twinge of pain having an eyelash pulled out caused. The tiny pressure points that had walked up his chest now went across his nose and the other eyelid was lifted. “You can’t shut me out that easy, you know,” the soft voice said again, this time right there on his cheek.
Adam opened both eyes and stared, nearly cross-eyed, at the tiny figure standing on his cheekbone. It was no longer than his little finger and there was no hiding the fact that whatever it was, it was female. Her dress, if that tiny piece of glittering, shimmering fabric that went from her bust-line to just below her hips could be called a dress, clung to her tiny, yet full curves. Her hair was dark; Adam thought maybe that it was as black as his own, as it trailed gracefully over one shoulder. Her tiny face, a glowing ivory oval in the thin light of the moon shining through the window, was delicate and beautiful with sparkling blue eyes that seemed to pull at him. But what captivated him completely were the gossamer fine wings that he could see behind her shoulders.
“Got an eyeful now?” she challenged and Adam caught himself about to apologize for staring at her.
“Could you…I mean….would you mind not standing there like that? I can’t see….” The little winged woman obligingly and gracefully fluttered backward to stand on his chest. She batted her eyelashes at him as he muttered to himself “What am I doing? Talking to a–a–a–a figment of my imagination!” He jerked the sheet back over his head and quickly rolled to his side, shutting his eyes tight.
The sounds of a struggle came to him just about the same time he felt little hands pushing at his chest and those same tiny pressure points, steps really, come up his arm. Then a miniature warm spot hit his shoulder.
He opened one eye. She was sitting cross-legged on his bare shoulder, shoving her disheveled hair out of her face. The warm spot, he decided, was her butt.
“I am going to count slowly backwards from a hundred and you will disappear. I will fall asleep-” he began.
She laid back and laughed, her feet kicking as she did. Adam began his counting. By the time he had hit ninety, she had rolled over onto her stomach, her chin balanced on her hands. At eighty, she yawned and politely patted her delicate lips but then resumed her pose. When Adam closed his eye again and continued counting, reaching fifty, he felt her slide down his chest and he almost laughed aloud with her.
“That tickles, doesn’t it?” she asked but Adam ignored her, steadily working the numbers down. “Hey, move your arm so I can walk down-”
“NO!” Adam hissed. “Forty-eight, forty-seven, forty-six,” he could feel the feather-like wiggling of whatever she was as she tried to get around his arm and further down his body. “Forty-four, forty-three-”
“Hey, you missed forty-five!” she called and finally slipped to just about his belly button.
“Forty, thirty-nine-” Adam intensified his determination. He could feel the tiny hands, pushing on his skin, making warm tracks in amongst the goose bumps.
“Whoa, momma! Have you ever got the big -”
That was it for Adam. He reached down and snagged the small body by one arm, pulling her back up to a less private level. Unceremoniously, he dropped her onto the top side of the sheet. She awkwardly sprawled then sat up.
“Thirty-eight!” she called to him. “You were at thirty-eight.”
“Just what is going on here?” he demanded, raising up on one elbow to glare down at her.
“Oh! You give up on the counting backwards? Shucks and just when you were about to hit the glorious twenties!”
“You aren’t answering me!” he contested hotly.
She stood up and fluttering her wings just once to settle them, pushed her short dress down with both hands. “Thirty-seven, thirty-six, thirty-five,” she began where he had left off.
He flopped back onto his pillow and let out a gusty sigh. Adam could feel her climb into his hand and begin to walk up his arm, counting as she came. When she hit five, she was standing on his chest again. He looked away as she adjusted her dress over her bosom, still counting. When she finally said zero, it was with a triumphant shout and she took several quick steps in place. Then she too flopped down and lay on his chest, her small body making a warm spot there.
“Okay, what are we gonna do next?” she asked, a bit breathlessly. And, Adam thought, a bit cheekily.
“For starters, how about an introduction? What are you?” he queried as he pulled himself up to rest his shoulders against the head board. The little creature he addressed hung on for all she was worth, her handhold the thick black hair on his chest. As he looked down at her, he caught the panicked expression on her face and graciously extended his palm for her to step into. Her gossamer wings held stiffly out behind her, she steadied herself for the ride to the bed’s surface. Once she was firmly on the quilt, she leaned against his thigh and just looked up at him. “I mean, are you a fairy? An elf? A pixie? An imp? What?” Adam crossed his arms over his chest as he spoke, thinking that he had surely gone insane to be carrying on a conversation with whatever this was he thought he was seeing.
She pursed her lips and looked thoughtful for a moment then she turned and propping both arms against his sheet-shrouded leg just looked up at him and smiled. “All of them,” she answered and loved the confused look that crossed his face in the pale moonlight. “And none of them.”
“I mean — are you like my fairy godmother, or something?” To keep from breaking out in an outright maniacal grin, Adam buried his mouth behind his hand.
“Do I LOOK like a fairy godmother? Oh please!” she pleaded.
“I have no idea what a fairy godmother looks like-” Adam began to explain only to have her pull herself up on his leg and proceed to march up it until she stood in his lap, her tiny feet pounding into his flesh with vigor.
“Fairy godmothers are old. And fat! They have little round faces with cherry-red cheeks! Now I ask you,” and she turned sideways and ran her hands down over her not-so-slender curves, “Do I look like a fairy godmother?”
He couldn’t hold the smile back any longer. “No, if that is what a fairy godmother looks like, I guess you aren’t one.”
“Thank you!” she nodded briskly and shook her head back to allow her black hair to fall between her wings. “And all those other things are just figments of your imagination anyway!”
“Could be more than just them,” Adam said slowly and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Well, if I were a figment of your imagination, wouldn’t I be bigger? I mean, this is your imagination we’re discussing here!” She leaned forward and studied him as he studied her.
“Got me there! But you still haven’t said just what you are. Hmm?”
She paced across his lap, carefully skirting what she imagined lurked beneath the sheet there in the center. “I’m that little voice that warns you not to have that next glass of whiskey,” she said, suddenly serious.
Adam took a deep breath and waited for her to continue.
She did. “I am that need you have buried deep that wants to be loved like a child again. I am that wish to laugh out loud and sing off-key in church. I am what stops your tongue when you nearly say something harsh and shameful to your father. I am that urge you have to correct your brothers.”
He raised his brows and tilted his head to one side, grasping the change that had come over her. No longer was she the flirty little winged apparition. “You’re my conscience?” he asked.
Quicksilver fast, she changed direction and began the struggle up his chest, coming finally to sit on his breast bone. With her hand aimlessly stroking the hair there, she went on. “I am that and more. And less. I am that creepy-crawly feeling up the back of your neck when you sense danger. I am that quiver in your belly when you see a woman you are interested in.”
“I’d say you are a pretty busy little thing, aren’t you?” he chuckled and she nearly lost her seat.
“And I have been around forever.”
Adam quit laughing and cupping his laced together fingers behind her to steady her, asked “Oh really?”
She leaned back in his hand and nodded. “Remember when your mother, I mean Inger, remember when she died? You stood there beside your father and told yourself that you weren’t going to cry because big boys don’t cry.”
The memory snagged on Adam’s heart a moment, holding him as a little boy suddenly trying to be an adult. For the briefest of moments, he could smell the dry earth and grass that they had dug through to bury Inger that fateful morning so many years ago.
“You stood there, trying not to cry but something made you look up at your father. And when you saw that he was crying, you couldn’t hold back your tears any longer. You figured out that if he could cry, you could too.”
“You’re going to tell me that you were that something?” Adam asked, his voice suddenly husky and low.
“And when you were away at school and got homesick? You would wonder what Hoss and Joe had been up to. How was this or that project going back home? And you used to long for Hop Sing’s cooking! Remember those times?”
“Oh yeah, but it always seemed like a letter or a package would show up right about then!” Adam chuckled, more for the memory than the fact that she was rubbing his fingers with her soft little hands. “Are you going to tell me-?”
She smiled coyly, her eyes sparkling, as she seemed to glow brighter. “And when you graduated, that longing to come home was me too.” But then again she grew serious and continued. “When you accidentally shot your brother, I was the one who steadied your hand so you could save his life. When Hoss thought you were after his girl friend Regan, I was the one who held your fists and kept you from lashing out at him.”
Adam sighed deeply and tried to look away but found he couldn’t, his eyes pinned to the little creature glowing in the moonlight before him. “You have been around a long time. But if that’s the case, why do you show yourself to me now?”
She shrugged and her wings fluttered with the motion. “Just felt like you needed this, this conversation, with someone you could see.”
“And what is this conversation I need?” Adam tried his best to avoid looking at her but failed. He slid down a little on the headboard, but left his hands in place to steady his tiny visitor.
She smiled a sad smile and stretched out full length on him, her wings fluttering just once. “It’s okay, you know, with me. Like I said, I’ve been around a long time and I’ll be around for a lot longer…that is if you let me. But right now you need to talk to someone-oh! Don’t give me that business about ‘I don’t need to talk about anything!’ You do, Adam Cartwright! You need to! You won’t talk to your father and I can’t fathom why. He has had his share of broken hearts-”
“Listen, that business with Laura Dayton is all over and done with!” Adam exclaimed, half-hearing her voice in his head that said she knew better.
“That’s right,” she agreed and rested her chin on her crossed arms. “It’s all over and done with and you are fighting yourself, beating yourself up over it!”
“I’m not-” he began but her tiny index finger waving in the air spoke louder than her gentle tsk tsk.
“You keep forgetting that I know you better than you know yourself. I was watching when the realization hit you that she wasn’t going to marry you. That she loved Will and that the two of them were going to go away together. Broke your heart? Sure it did, but not because she wasn’t going to marry you.”
Adam’s guard dropped for a few heartbeats. “You’re right, of course. Laura didn’t break my heart. Peggy did.”
The tiny woman rolled over onto her back, her wings brushing warmly against his chest. She sat up, her back to him. He found he could no longer stop his hand and he reached out and lightly touched one shimmering wing. He could feel the inexplicable warmth yet that was all that seemed to be there. It was as though the wing didn’t exist at all but was instead a bright shadow. She allowed him, looking over that shoulder and saw the awed expression the touch gave to his face. She languidly moved her wings, letting the one slip back and forth against his fingers.
Adam gulped and fought at the lump growing not only in his throat but in his chest as well. The wing, so warm, so gentle, so alive, sweeping across his skin was oddly…. sensual.
“Face it, Adam,” she said, calling his attention back as she spoke over her shoulder. “You are relieved. Oh, you can’t come out and say it. Not to your friends, your brothers, even your father, you can’t! But you can admit it to me because I already know it. You just need to say it aloud to make it real for yourself.”
“Relieved?” Adam echoed and withdrew his finger from its caress of the wing.
“Yes!” She turned and walked up his chest, hopping down eventually to the pillow beside his head. He had to turn his head to look at her. “You almost made a huge mistake. You knew in your heart that you didn’t love Laura enough make her your soul mate! Your wife, yes, but that would have eventually turned sour. But good old Adam Cartwright, you are a man of your word. You would have stayed in a loveless marriage to a woman as cold as ice just because you stood in front of a bunch of folks and said ‘I do!'”
“Now you can see the future too?” he teased and rolled his body so he could watch his visitor more easily. It was clear to him that she was becoming uncomfortable, more agitated, as she had taken to pacing back and forth in front of his face as she spoke. And her face had lost that impish and teasing smile.
“You don’t need a crystal ball to know what waited for you if you had gone ahead and married her! You can admit it to me: you fell off the roof, yes. You hurt your back, yes. And for a while, it was painful enough that you didn’t want to walk. But you were looking for a way out of marrying her! You thought that she wouldn’t want a man who was paralyzed, didn’t you?”
Again, that lump rose in his throat and Adam tried hard to swallow around it, to breathe around it so he could tell her that she was wrong! No matter how hard he tried, it wouldn’t budge until he finally gave in. “Yes,” he whispered. “You’re right. But what I didn’t count on was Will and her-”
She crossed the few inches between them and laid a tiny hand across his lips to silence him. “You didn’t, but I sure did. Oh, don’t look so surprised! And, no, I didn’t make that happen! I can do lots of things but make people fall in love isn’t one of them! I knew they were meant for one another. Laura wanted a Cartwright and it didn’t matter to her which one. She figured you were the most likely candidate so she went after you. What she didn’t count on was Will. There’s your wild card in this queer mixed up poker game we call Life.”
“Poker game?” he chuckled but there was little mirth to it.
“Okay, lousy metaphor but I’ll stick with it: Will, the joker, walked off with the queen while you, the king, got left in the deck. But Adam, she wasn’t the queen of hearts. At least not for you! Not your queen of hearts. There is someone else out there for you. Someone who will make you forget about Laura. Someone who will love you for who you are, not what your name is and certainly not for your family’s wealth. But if you don’t admit to yourself that you didn’t love Laura Dayton, you will never get over it. You will keep breaking your own heart every night when you go to sleep, dreaming of what might have been. And every morning when you wake up-”
“Enough!” Adam hissed, trying to silence her insistent truths. To block her from his consciousness, he closed his eyes and tried again to convince himself that she was a figment of his own wildly careening thoughts.
Two small and soft hands brushed across his cheeks gently, first the right then the left. “You never did learn that lesson very well,” he heard her voice, now gentle-hearted and soothing, saying. “You can cry when you’re hurt, Adam. It doesn’t mean that you are less of a man. But cry because of the right thing.”
Peggy, he thought, what hurts most of all was that she took Peggy with her. She left and took Peggy. That little girl deserves so much more than her mother will ever be able to give her. She needs a loving father…and I had the chance to be that father. I wanted to be that father.
As though he had spoken aloud, she murmured and continued to touch his cheek, now with her body pressed against his face. The words made no sense to Adam but he had reached a point where words didn’t matter. First one, then another and another, the tears slipped from under his closed lashes, streaming down his cheeks. He felt as powerless to stop them as he had all those years ago at Inger’s graveside. He rolled to his back and put his arm over his face, forgetting about the tiny winged woman, and cried as he hadn’t cried in years.
It was well past daybreak when he awoke. The bright sunlight streaming through his open window brought with it the smell of pine and the sound of horses leaving the yard. As he stretched and popped corded muscles, he breathed in deeply of the newness of the day. He felt more rested and more alive than he had in a long while. A dream, he thought, nothing more than a dream. Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he stood and snagging his clothes, began to dress. He shaved, the dark stubble disappearing and taking with it any lingering shadows. Adam pulled on his boots, settling them onto his feet with a quick stomp to each foot. That was when he noticed them.
That little woman, the spirit, the imp, what ever it was that she was, was part of a dream! Nothing more! Adam tried again to convince himself. But then he had to hastily discard that thought. There on his pillow, amid what he ashamedly knew was the dampened linen from his own tears, were two tiny, silver wings. Adam recalled in a heated rush what it had felt like to touch those wings, but where was their owner? For the briefest of instances, he considered tearing apart the bed, the room, the house, to find her then chided himself for the foolishness of his own thoughts. He reached over and picked them up only to watch as they dissolved on his open palm. But they left his hand warm.
Two days later, Adam Cartwright and his brothers made their way down Virginia City’s noisy afternoon main street. Joe had promised to buy the first round of beers and Adam had every intention on making him keep that promise. They were passing the stage depot, laughing at something Hoss had said when Adam saw her step from the stage. She had long black hair pulled over one shoulder. Her ivory skin caught the gold of the setting sun as she turned to look at him with intensely blue eyes. She smiled timidly up at him.
“Here,” Adam offered his hand to her as she stepped onto the wooden walkway from the dusty street. “Allow me, miss. Is someone meeting you?”
With an absent wave of his hand towards them, he dismissed his brothers. They no longer existed as far as he was concerned…at least for the moment.
The lovely young woman smiled again and said in voice very low and soft that no one was meeting her but that she would be staying in Virginia City a while before continuing her journey. Could he recommend some place for a single woman to stay?
“Let me get your luggage and I will be glad to escort you down to the International House. Finest hotel this side of the Mississippi!”
After he had retrieved her one carpetbag, he gallantly took her elbow and directed her in the right direction, introducing himself. He didn’t need an introduction from her for he was sure he knew her already. Didn’t her dark cape cover up where a pair of gossamer wings had once been?
With Wisdom’s Wings
And Love’s own hand
A broken heart
By the Tahoe Muse