A/N: I'm so sorry for the delay! I experienced a little writer's block, but I think I'm back on track :)
"Thank you for the lovely picnic, Adam," Andria said, stepping down from the wagon.
Adam smiled. "It was you who made it lovely, and Hop Sing who made the picnic. So really, I deserve no credit."
"You're right," Andria agreed, taking Adam's arm. She looked up at him very seriously. "Well? Don't you have something to say?"
"Something to say?" Adam asked, confusedly. It wasn't until she grinned at him that he realized he'd been teased. He sighed. "Oh, yes. Of course. Thank you for the lovely picnic, Andria."
Andria laughed. "You're very welcome."
Though Adam didn't like when someone got the best of him (and it wasn't very often that they did), he didn't mind it so much when it was Andria, who seemed to have an uncanny ability to always get the best of him. So, good-humoredly, he laughed along with her at his own expense.
They were about to walk into the ranch house when they heard a loud, most unsettling sound, similar to that of an out-of-tune violin. It was enough to cause Andria to jump and squeak, and startled Adam too, though he did not jump or squeak (much to his relief when he thought on it afterward).
"What was that?" Andria demanded, as though Adam should know every unnerving sound that happened on the Ponderosa.
Adam turned around and looked at the yard. "I don't know."
"Go see what it is," Andria said, releasing his arm and giving him a little push. When Adam glanced back at her, she added, "I'll wait here."
"Are you scared?" Adam asked with a humph of humor.
Andria glared at him. "Do you need me to hold your hand?" she asked sharply, crossing her arms.
Adam had never seen anyone as beautiful as Andria when she was in a temper. Somehow, she mustered up every ounce of feistiness (of which she had several pounds) and displayed it on her small featured, pretty face. Adam was sure, if he got close enough, he'd see little flames dancing in her eyes.
Unable to think of a comeback, Adam decided to let Andria have the last word, and started down the porch to investigate. As soon as he stepped into the yard, the hideous cry resounded. Instinctively, Adam reached for the gun at his side.
"What is it?" Andria called.
Another nerve-racking wail caused Adam to look up. And what he saw made him grimace. He turned around to look at Andria. "It's alright. It's just Superstition."
"Superstition? What's wrong with him?" Andria ran off the porch, and looked up where Adam pointed.
Up in the tree nearest the barn was a black cat staring down at them from the highest branch. "Reeeeaoowwwrrr!"
"Stupid cat," Adam breathed at the same time Andria cried, "The poor little dear!"
"You have to climb up and bring him down," Andria said simply, as though that were the only logical thing to do.
"Oh, no I don't," Adam declared, "He got himself up there, he can most certainly get himself down."
"Then why is he up there crying like he's at death's door?" Andria asked, crossing her arms.
"Because he wants attention. When he's ready to come down, he'll come down."
That said, Adam turned on his heel and started back to the house. He stopped when he realized that Andria wasn't following him. Though he knew he wasn't going to like what he saw, he turned around.
Andria was standing at the base of the tree, looking up at the cat whilst she strategically pulled up her skirts in preparation to climb the tree herself. Adam's worry for her wellbeing immediately tromped his initial embarrassment at seeing her legs.
"Alexandria!" he shouted, making a hasty return to the yard, "What are you doing?"
She looked back at him. "Well, if you aren't going to save him, I will."
"You are not going to climb that tree," Adam said firmly as he approached her.
Andria let her skirts down. "Then you'll do it?"
They stared at each other for several long moments, both equally staunch in their decisions. At least, that is what Adam thought. He had forgotten Andria's knack of getting her way.
Breaking her stare, Andria leaned down to regather her skirts.
"You're almost there!"
Adam looked up and saw Superstition's tail twitching about three feet above him. He was glad that he was too high for Andria to hear his ideas on how to remove the cat from the tree. Gripping the branch above him, he pulled himself up, and found a foothold. Two more branches and he was able to see the little devil eye to eye.
Superstition stared at him. "Mew."
"I don't know when I've ever hated you more," Adam growled, reaching out and grabbing the cat by the scruff of its fuzzy neck.
"Be careful with him!" Andria called up.
Adam looked down the twenty feet between them. "With kid gloves," he muttered, though he gently tucked the black cat under his arm.
Making the descent one handed was hard, made harder still by Superstition's squirming. The cat would reach out with its paws and try to latch onto the tree trunk, but Adam would give him a firm tug and continue down the tree, branch by branch.
Perhaps the most difficult part of the journey was Andria's "helpful" instructions.
"Put your foot down a little further, further, to the right, no, the left! Good!"
"I can manage, Andria, thank you," Adam raised his voice to say.
"I don't want you to fall," Andria replied.
"I appreciated your-"
"You might hurt the cat!"