PART 6

The months passed and Adam came to accept Dave Clayton as part of his life although he still begrudged him Lucy's affections; Clayton was courting Lucy. Adam, because he felt he should and also because he didn't want to expose his heart, was gracious. He wasn't warm to Clayton but he went to church every Sunday and sat politely through the sermons and yawned occasionally while Daphne Bryant sat next to him. But slowly, his attraction to Daphne cooled and he eventually went back to sitting in the front pew with the rest of his family where he would make it obvious that he was bored; he wanted to annoy Clayton and he did. He also hoped that perhaps Daphne would be attracted to the Minister, his doppelgänger, and that Lucy would lose favor with Dave when she had a more sophisticated rival, but it didn't happen.

But what annoyed Adam the most was that everyone, including his own family, liked Dave Clayton very much. "Every man has a right to start anew," Ben had said when Adam had made protestations about Clayton being so readily accepted by the citizens of Virginia City when he wasn't who he said he was, so Adam learned not to say anything against the minister to anyone. He wanted support, wanted someone to dislike Clayton as much as he did but could find no one. It wasn't that Adam really thought Clayton was devious, he just hoped he was. Then Adam could tell everyone that he had been telling them all along about Clayton and they should have listened.

It was a beautiful spring day and Adam was in town getting supplies when he ran into Dave Clayton who was ready to go into the store. Dave put out his hand and Adam shook it with a definite lack of enthusiasm.

"You buying food, Dave?" Adam asked. "I thought that you lived on the word of God."

Dave gave a small laugh. "No, we ministers also need bread." Adam went back to adjusting the sacks of flour and coffee and the cartons of canned goods in the back of the wagon.

You don't like me at all, do you?" Dave asked with a small smile.

"Is it that obvious?" Adam said, standing with his arms crossed high on his chest.

"Is it because I look like you?"

"Have you ever considered that it's because you almost got me killed?"

"That wasn't my fault but I do regret it."

"Regret it? You let some hothead blow your shoulder apart because you look like me and then I'll tell you that I regret it and see how much comfort it is for you. As a matter of fact, you've done nothing but benefit from our…resemblance. You have to admit that your looking so much like a Cartwright was your entrée into Virginia City society and your position in the church. And then there's Lucy; because of our similarity, Lucy Fairmont is wild about you."

"Did it ever occur to you that Lucy cares for me, and I believe that she truly does, because I give her the attention that every beautiful woman desires and because I care for her in return?"

Adam stood speechless. He had thought of it but didn't want to hear it. So instead of answering Dave, Adam just snorted and started to go back into the store but stopped and turned.

"You're quite the hypocrite, aren't you?" Adam asked. "You want nothing more than to have Lucy, to take her. You preach against the sins of the world and here you are, living a life under a different name and lusting after Lucy Fairmont. I see it, I know how tempting she is." Adam stepped closer to Clayton. "She's ripe for the plucking and as luscious as the apple that seduced Adam in Genesis, isn't she. Wouldn't you like to have a taste of her? Just like biting into a lush apple with all the juices running down your chin. Don't tell me you don't think of her at night just as I do."

"And you say I'm the hypocrite," Clayton said. "You want Lucy too. How long have you wanted her and not told her. She told me about all the years she spent running off every time she could to the Ponderosa and how cruel you were to her, telling her to go home, to stop following you-and all that time you wanted her to follow you, wanted her adoration. And now that you don't have it anymore, you're angry. You blame me."

"If you weren't a minister, I'd enjoy pounding you into this sidewalk."

"Don't let that stop you, Adam. Go ahead. As you say, I'm just a man with all the weaknesses that go with the flesh and if it would make you feel better, take a swing at me. And then I'll turn the other cheek and you can give me a left jab. Would that satisfy you?" Clayton stood and faced Adam, the tension almost palpable.

"Go to hell, Reverend," Adam said, and turned to go into the store, his hands clenched into fists and his jaw working. He wanted to swing at Clayton but knew what would happen if he did. And he also wanted to beat Clayton's face into a bloody pulp for two reasons; Clayton wouldn't be so pretty and also because Clayton was right about him-he was a hypocrite.

The dance was arranged by the Church Ladies' Guild in order to raise money for a stained glass window. Reverend Clayton had told them that a new window was just vanity and that the money could be better spent in assisting the needy but he soon learned that when it came to the Ladies' Guild of Virginia City, he would be better off trying to convince his horse it could fly; when they made up their minds to do something, there was no deterring them.

They had decorated the town hall with colorful crepe and banked flowers against the walls. All the ladies took turns serving cake and punch to the attendees and receiving compliments on how lovely the room looked and what a good idea it was to have a dance to benefit the church. And of course, Clayton had to graciously accept the compliments as well even though he told them that it wasn't his idea. People thought he was being humble but actually, he wanted to wash his hands of the whole thing. "A waste of money," he had told Lucy as he had walked her to the dance. Lucy told him that as long as people had a nice time, it didn't really matter. Dave started to lecture her on being prodigal but stopped himself; it wouldn't do to lecture her when she looked so very pretty.

Lucy asked herself many a time if she was in love with Dave Clayton. When he kissed her for the first time, she wondered if kissing Adam would be the same and then she had chastised herself. She was determined not to think of Adam anymore. Dave was as handsome as Adam-that was obvious to her-and he was so tender with her, gently pulling her to him, his lips molding to hers as he kissed her. Sometimes she felt as if he was on the edge of being more passionate with her, hoped that he would. She wouldn't even have minded if he had run his hands over her but he never did. And then, afterward, when she was in bed, she would think of Adam and then tell herself not to, pound her fist against her forehead to be rid of thoughts of him. But she couldn't help it and she told herself that she wasn't being fair to Dave-he deserved a woman who only thought of him, not another man-not another man that she wanted to love, to have caress her and make much of her. But, she told herself, how could she help but think of Adam when every time she saw Dave's face, it was Adam's. And so she was never at peace.

And here she was at the dance and Dave held her in his arms, twirling her around the dance floor and he was smiling down at her and she, up at him. He laughed as the music's tempo stepped up and they began to turn faster with a slight leaning in to the center. He bent his face closer to hers. "You look beautiful tonight, Lucy," he said. She looked up into his green/gray eyes. That was one of the subtle differences between Dave and Adam, their eye color; Adam had more gold in his.

Adam watched them on the dance floor and when the tune was through, Lucy and Dave, after clapping in appreciation of the musicians, walked over to the refreshments table where Adam stood, holding a punch glass in his hand.

"Hello, Adam," Lucy said. "Isn't this a lovely dance?" Lucy knew that it was silly to ask Adam such a thing-he wouldn't bother to have an opinion on such a trivial matter. "Did you bring someone?"

"No," Adam said, "I came with my brothers-they brought me. Actually, they practically dragged me."

"Oh, I just wondered because you danced a few times with Mrs. Dayton." Lucy hadn't wanted to mention Mrs. Dayton's name-it practically burned her tongue. She noticed that Adam had danced with her many times so far this evening and she saw how Adam smiled at her and she burned with envy. She envied Mrs. Dayton who was blonde and beautiful and Adam had befriended her. And Mrs. Dayton was older and, Lucy was sure, knew her way around men, Of course Adam was attracted to her and Lucy couldn't compete.

"How about a dance with me, Lucy? That is if you don't mind, Reverend." Adam said the last sarcastically.

"No, I don't mind. It's up to Lucy who she dances with." Dave stood back and smiled. "Besides, I'm not used to all this exertion."

Adam gave a small chuckle as the music started and he pulled Lucy to him. Over Lucy's head, Adam said to Dave, "If you plan on marrying Lucy, you'd better get yourself in better shape. I have a feeling that she can be quite demanding." And he took Lucy out on the dance floor while Dave stood and watched.

"What did you mean by that?" Lucy asked looking up at Adam. She had a suspicion that it wasn't nice.

He looked down at her innocently. "Nothing. Just that you're so full of energy-always have been. Could you be happy, Lucy, being a minister's wife, being so staid and polite and having the Ladies' Guild over for tea? Would you like them looking you over to see if you measure up to their ideals? You, who always rode all over the countryside on that little grey Appaloosa of yours, your skirts flying and your hair streaming out behind you. And I don't think that the girls' school your parents sent you to broke you of your hoyden habits. Did it, Lucy?"

"Somehow," Lucy said, "I don't think that's what you meant. And did you ask me to dance just so you could insult me?" She wanted him to be nice to her, to tell her that he missed seeing her out at the Ponderosa-and that he wanted to see more of her. But she knew he wouldn't; sadly that wouldn't be the Adam she loved so much.

"Now, Lucy," Adam said, a smile on his face, "If I wanted to insult you, I'd just do it outright. I wouldn't need to dance with you to do it. Besides, maybe I want to compliment you. You dance on the floor as an angel does in the clouds and you certainly are a vision of beauty in your new dress….it is a new dress, isn't it? At least I've never seen it before."

"Yes," she said tersely, "it's a new dress."

"Well, it's lovely and you're lovely and are you and the good Reverend serious?" he said with a suppressed grin.

Lucy pursed her lips; he was infuriating, so amused at her building rage. "What if I am? What if I marry him? What's it to you?"

"Oh, I was just thinking that with him and me looking so much alike, if you marry him and have any children, people might think they're mine."

Lucy stopped and tried to extricate herself from his grasp but he wouldn't let her go. Instead, he pulled her closer to him.

"What is it, Lucy?" he whispered close to her ear. "Haven't you thought of that or do your naive fantasies only go as far as telling me that you're marrying him. Haven't you thought of all that comes after?" He looked down at her face and saw that he had gone too far; he had upset her and he hadn't meant to. "I'm sorry, Lucy. I'm sorry. I've been an ass and I'm sorry. I shouldn't have teased you…"

"Just let me go," she said, pulling her hand from his, her voice quavering. Adam took his hand from her waist and watched as she walked out. He wanted to follow her, to beg her forgiveness, but people might notice and then there would be gossip so he stayed inside. But he did see Clayton follow her out and Adam realized that Dave had been as closely watching them dance as he had watched Dave and Lucy dance. And now that Clayton had gone after her, Adam decided that he would follow the two of them and apologize to them both.

He stepped out into the night and looked but didn't see them right away. Then he saw them down the sidewalk a short way; Lucy had apparently decided to walk off her anger and Dave had caught up with her. Adam saw this as the right time to apologize to both of them for his comments so he hurriedly walked to them.

"Dave, Lucy," he said. They looked over at him and Lucy pulled her hands out of Dave's; he had been holding her hands in his and quietly talking to her. "Look, I'm sorry for the things I said…especially to you, Lucy. If I could take them all back, I would."

"Well, you can't, can you?" Lucy said. Even in the darkness with only a few lights on in the distance, he could see her anger on her face and hear it in her voice. But then there was another voice behind them.

A man had apparently been in the alley and he came out behind them. "I've been waiting for you, Driscoll." Both Adam and Dave turned and saw a man with a gun pointed at them.

"Oh, my God," Lucy said and grabbed Adam's arm. He pushed her behind him and Dave stepped nearer Adam to place himself in front of her. Because it was a dance, Adam wasn't wearing his gun.

The man stared with a look of surprise, his eyes going from one to the other, staring at them. "Now, I remember you, Driscoll, and I'm sure you remember me-we met, oh, it's been over two years now? I'm the man who shot you down in the street and killed you or thought he did, but obviously, I didn't. I heard that you'd been in Cottonwood not that long ago and tracked you here and what do I find-two of you, one just as ugly as the other. Now, which one is Driscoll? Or do I have to shoot both of you?"

"No!" Lucy said, pushing out between them. She didn't know what she hoped to accomplish but she couldn't let either of them be shot-but most of all, she couldn't let this man shoot Adam thinking he was Driscoll. Not Adam-he had been hurt so much and Lucy realized that if she had to, she would give them Dave to save him, give them herself to save him if she had to. Her young girl's heart only knew that despite Adam's flaws, she loved him with a woman's desire.

"Lucy!" Adam grabbed her arm and pulled her back and she tried to pull away but he held her too tightly.

"Which one of you is Driscoll?" The man asked even louder. "You tell me, Missy. Driscoll? Which one?"

"Neither one," Lucy said, trying to sound brave. "One is Adam Cartwright and one's Dave Clayton, neither is this Driscoll you want."

The man laughed. "Well, well, well, aren't you a brave little thing. Well, Missy, I'm going to kill at least one of them-I have to finish what I started since I have the reputation of the man who killed Sam Driscoll and here he stands in front of me-hale and healthy-whichever one he is." He waved the gun at the men.

Dave stepped forward. "I'm Sam Driscoll and I do remember you. You were faster than I was and I paid for it. But I'm not Driscoll anymore so she's right. Neither of us is really Sam Driscoll."

"Shut up, Dave," Adam said. "I'm Driscoll. Give me a gun and I'll give you another chance at me." Adam felt that since Dave hadn't had any gun play for the last two years, he wouldn't stand a chance. Besides, he owed it to Lucy.

"Come 'ere," the man said to Lucy. "Get over here, girl." Adam, who still had Lucy's arm in his grip, pulled her back.

"Leave her out of this. She's got nothing to do with it. Let her go." Adam said.

"Oh, yeah, I'm going to let her go. She'd go running for help so fast there wouldn't be a chance in hell I'd get either of you. Now come over here, girl. Now!" The man stood and waited.

Suddenly, Clayton threw himself at the man and knocked him down into the street and the gun went off into the air. Adam moved to get the gun away from the man but before he could, it went off again and Lucy gasped; Dave lay on his back in the street, his knees drawn up, his hand clutching his left shoulder, rolling slightly from side to side and gasping. Adam held the man's gun in his hand, telling him to put it down.

"Oh, Dave," Lucy said, kneeling beside him in the dirt. "Is it too bad? You're not going to die are you?" Tears started to roll down her cheeks at the thought that she would have given him up if she had to in order to save Adam and here he had given himself up to save Adam. She felt evil.

"No, no, Lucy. It's not too bad but it does hurt-it hurts like hell." He looked up at Lucy and smiled and she gave a small laugh of relief.

People had come out of the dance when they heard the shots and Adam held the man at gunpoint while Clem, the deputy, came running over. "What the hell is this, Adam?"

"Here," Adam said, handing the man's gun to the deputy. "He shot Clayton-a case of mistaken identity. Do with him whatever you want. I wash my hands of the whole thing." Adam turned to help Clayton up and Lucy held onto Dave's arm.

"I guess we're even now," Dave said through the obvious pain he was suffering. "I just got shot in the shoulder too."

Not quite," Adam said. "You're lucky enough that the doctor's going to pry that bullet out of your arm-I had to rely on Hoss and I can't even begin to tell you what that was like."

"Do you want to give that gun hawk another chance at me? Would that make you feel better?" Clayton asked. He took a deep breath as he leaned on Lucy.

"Don't tempt me," Adam said, grinning. And putting his arm around Clayton, he and Lucy walked him to Dr. Martin's.

It was two weeks later when Joe came into the house and told Adam that Lucy was riding up.

"What makes you think she's here to see me?" Adam asked. Joe gave him a look that meant, "You have to ask?"

Adam stood up and opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch. Lucy had just ridden up but she didn't stop and dismount; she just stopped her horse in front of the porch.

"Aren't you going to come in?" Adam asked. He hadn't seen Lucy since the night Clayton was shot nor had he gone to church; he was too ashamed.

"No," Lucy gave a weak smile. "I just came by to say goodbye. I'm leaving Wednesday for Europe- for my grand tour."

"Why? What about you and Dave?"

"Oh, I realized that we…well, it just wasn't right" She looked down at her hands and played with the reins.

"I'm sorry, Lucy."

"Oh, don't be," she said with a wistful look on her face. "When he's able-bodied again, Dave said that he's going to look to start a church, go find someplace, some town without one and start a church. He feels that's his calling, so he's leaving too. I think he'll be happy and I wasn't cut out to be a minister's wife as you pointed out to me."

Adam looked down and Lucy could see his jaw work. She knew that meant he was upset, that he was trying to control himself. "Well, I have to get back. I have some shopping to do and packing and then I have to go to Boston to catch the ship and, I'm a little nervous but my parents have hired Mrs. Harrington as a companion to go with me so that I won't be alone."

"I'm glad to hear that, Lucy. You'll have a nice time and as pretty as you are, why you'll probably marry an Italian prince and live an outrageous life. Just don't start another war over there by having people fight over you." He smiled at her; he would miss her. He hadn't realized how much he would.

"Goodbye, Adam," she said and started to kick her horse on but Adam grabbed the reins. "Kiss me goodbye, Lucy."

She leaned down and as he clasped the back of her neck and pulled her to him, she placed her hand on his arm. She closed her eyes and as his lips met hers, she felt such a longing and such a thrill went through her that she knew that it was best that she not marry Dave; Adam's kiss told her that; she wanted to kiss him until her lips were bruised and sore. And when he let her go and stepped back, she turned and rode away but told herself, "One day, Adam. The time will be right for us one day."

And Adam stood and wondered what was in store for him and Dave Clayton and Lucy. "Life is strange," Adam muttered to himself. "And fate is not to be trusted. Buona fortuna, Lucy. And come home safely." And the fire she had ignited in him swept through his veins to merge in the center of his soul where it sat and smoldered, where it would lie as embers for years until it would one day flare up again and be all consuming.

~Finis~