AN// Eh.. I'm not at all happy about how I wrote Hop Sing in this chapter. I obviously haven't watched enough episodes with him in there. So, please excuse!

Epilogue

Hop Sing met them in the yard and helped Joe get Adam into the house and into bed. Joe went to send one of the ranch hands for the doctor, then came back up to check on his brother. He had kept from Hoss the bullet graze on his leg, but Hop Sing noticed. He turned from Adam and shook a finger at Joe. "You hurt. Bleed all over clean floor. Hand hurt too. Sit, and Hop Sing get you fixed up."

Joe smiled wearily and sat in the chair by Adam's bed as Hop Sing began cleaning the bullet graze and wrapping his wrist. He glanced at Adam and saw his brother watching him. Suddenly he felt about ten years old. "Adam, I'm sorry." he whispered.

"For what, Joe?" Adam murmured. Hop Sing had made him as comfortable as possible, but his face was pale and his breathing ragged.

Joe couldn't believe it. "For getting you into this mess! If I had listened to you..." He banged his fist against the chair angrily, causing Hop Sing to slip and scold him. He sighed. "You were hurt because of me." he said quietly.

Adam smiled and laid a hand on Joe's arm. "Well, even if I do agree with the part about you listening to me, it was not your fault, Little Joe."

"But--"

"Joe," Adam said sternly. "Did you fire the gun?'

"No, but--"

"It wasn't your fault. And believe me, having my little brother safe and sound is well worth having a sore shoulder for a few days." Adam grinned. "besides that, you'll have to do my chores for the next few weeks. That should make up for any guilt you might feel."

The regret lifted somewhat from Joe's eyes. "All right, brother. I'll try not to lose sleep over it."

"Good. Because I'm certainly not going to." Adam's face tightened with a wave of pain, and Joe bit his lip.

"Doctor's coming, Adam. Just hang on."

With a groan, Adam slipped again into unconsciousness. Hop Sing looked up at the frowning youngest Cartwright. "You fixed up now. Mister Adam be all right. You see."

Joe sighed. "Thanks." He rose to his feet. "I'm going to go get Hoss. We should be back around first light." he paused by the door and looked back at Adam. "Take care of him, Hop Sing. I hate to leave when he's like this."

"Doctor come while you gone. Mister Adam be all fixed up when you get back."

"I hope so." Joe murmured, slipping from the room. All he wanted was to get everything done so that he could come back.

--

By the time Joe and Hoss returned from bringing Ally and Emmet to the sheriff it was nearly ten in the morning. Tired as they both were, they wasted no time in going up to Adam's room. Paul Martin met them, and they were relieved to see that his face showed no signs of worry.

"Your brother will be fine." he assured them. "The bullet came out smoothly and he should sleep for a while. He has a fever, but I've given Hop Sing instructions about that, and with plenty of rest, and barring infection, he should recover just fine."

Joe and Hoss visibly relaxed, and Joe felt a horrible weight lift from his shoulders.

Dr. Martin picked up his bag. "I'll check back later in the week, Meanwhile, Hop Sing tells me that Joe was grazed by a bullet and sprained his wrist. So you come with me, young man." he ordered, leading the way to Joe's room. "And after that, I want both of you to sleep. You both look like you could use it."

"Just as soon as I snag me some dinner, Doc, I'll be happy to do just that. " Hoss said, yawning.

"Save some for me, Hoss." Joe said, far too tired to even argue with the doctor.

--

After the doctor left, and Hoss was asleep, Joe crept back to Adam's room to check on his brother. He watched the broad chest rising and falling steadily beneath the sheets and listened to the deep, peaceful breathing, feeling his own heart calm as he finally let himself believe that everything would be all right.

"What are you doing in here?" Adam murmured sleepily. "You're breathing louder than Hoss."

Joe grinned. "Sorry Adam. Go back to sleep."

"I thought you said you weren't going to lose any sleep over this."

"I'm not." Joe sighed. "Just makin' sure you were all right." he held his hand up to forestal the argument he could see Adam about to make. "I know that's your job. But I'm just not going to sleep until you tell me you're all right."

Adam smiled up at the narrowed green eyes, fixed on him in the dim light of his room, grateful yet again to be part of a family that cared for each other so much. Grateful for his life, and for the lessening of the ache in his shoulder. Grateful that his youngest brother was safe to make more mistakes and learn from them.

"I'm fine, Joe. Just fine."

END

AN// Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed! Its great to know that there's still some Bonanza fans out there! I'm planning another BZ story, hopefully longer and BETTER. ; )