Persistance & Moonlight

Moonlight bathed the valley in silvery light, the lunar orb hanging heavy and fully over the mountains. This time of year it seemed close enough to reach out and touch the vague handprint shape legend said was left by Sister Sun in her ire at Brother Moon.

Behind her she could hear the baritone of her father’s voice regaling the hands with one of his outrageous tales. It was going over well, as they always did, and the laughter bubbled up like a mountain spring, washing over the Lone Pine and reaching her position. She smiled in the night; she was happy to see him, but she needed to get away from the party, from the noise. Rebecca pushed off the corral fence she was leaning against and climbed up to sit on the top rail.

There were a couple of horses still out; one was Demon. He rarely took refuge in the barn unless it was the dead of winter, preferring to stay out in the open air to catch the night breezes that rolled down off the mountains and into their valley. He whinnied a greeting to her and then went back to speaking to the other horse out with him. She chuckled and fished a cigarette out of her pack just as she heard the familiar crunch of boots striding across the packed earth of the road.

Rebecca didn’t have to look to know. She would know that stride in her sleep. He climbed up beside her, already reaching for the matches in his pocket. Companionable silence held as the match hissed and flared to light. A calloused hand cupped around it to protect the flame when he held it up to her.

“Thanks,” she murmured, taking a drag. She looked at him from the corner of her eye. “Whatcha doin’ out here? Didn’ reckon you’d be a-tearin’ yerself away fer ‘ours.”

He shrugged and looked down at the toe of his boots. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously.


She caught a flash of hazel eyes when he peeked out from under the brim of his hat at her. “Nice night, ain’t it?”

“Wyatt …”

He removed his hat then, to get a better look at her.

Rebecca just gave him a steady and suspicious look in return. Then she nudged his foot with her boot. "That inn'cent look might work on Maggie, but ya practiced it on me fer years. It's right cute, but it don't work. What're you upta?"

There was a burst of song behind them and Rebecca shook her head slightly. Leave it her Dad to teach bawdy songs to the men around his daughter.

"Oh nuthin'. Just enjoyin' m'self is all. I-uh… I like your dad, did I tell you that? He's great and all, but there's something about him I really like."

She laughed. "Ev'rybody likes my Dad. Well, maybe not some of the kin, but most people." She looked at him again through a haze of blue-white smoke. "What brung this on? It ain't like ya never met him before."

"Well, I know that! But… I mean, I had a chance to talk ta 'im 'bout ya," he scratched his hat hair a bit then, looking at her and gauging her reaction. "Well, ask him, really, I s'ppose."

He put his hand on her thigh, looking at her. This itself was an intimate act. Well, intimate in a new way, anyway.

Rebecca's eyebrow curled as she looked from his hand to his face. "I reckon this oughta be good," she observed lowly. Rebecca flicked her cigarette off into the dirt of the corral and gave Wyatt her complete attention.

He began caressing her in a way that was a bit too tender, a tad too gentle. Then he said, "Well, I ask'd him permission to court ya, as such thangs go. I love you, Rebecca. You're what I love most of all and I wan'ed 'im ta know my intint." He looked into her eyes and, bringing his hand to her cheek, he began leaning in to give her a kiss.

She blinked at him. Clearly she was not at all sure she heard what she thought she heard, because they had already had this conversation. She thought.

Her finger across his lips stopped in from leaning in further. "Whoa thar, big fella. What'd ya go an' do that fer?" She paused and cut a sideways glance towards the party behind them. "What'd he say?"

Wyatt blinked twice, her finger still on his lips. He was not to be defeated this easily though: Wyatt leans back a bit and said, "Well, thangs 'ave chang'd, 'Becca. I mean, we ain't kids anymore… I wanna settle down with you."

Before she can protest, he continued with his train of thought, "I know it might take sum time but I reck'n we're ready, ya know?"

He looked at her with intensity then and said, "He gave me his blessin'. Said that if I could win your heart, I'd be yours to marry."

He started toward her again, his hands caressing her tenderly still. "Ya know I'll always be good to ya! I'm not controlling and you can count on me, always! Ya know that…"

Rebecca was so startled at her father's blessing that she nearly fell off the fence. She looked back over her shoulder, convinced he was watching from the dark somewhere and being amused.

Then she slowly looked back at her oldest friend. Her hand moved to his cheek, her thumb caressing along his cheekbone. "Wyatt," she spoke quietly. "You know I ain't stayin' in Cimarron. The day's gonna come when I have ta go with Dad."

"Is that what he told you?" Wyatt asked.

"Ya think I'm lyin' ta ya now?" Rebecca sniffed. "He's told me more then once, Wyatt. One day I'll have ta go ta Amber. There ain't no Lone Pine in Amber."

Wyatt put his hat back on and looked out to the stars for a moment, "I know but… Why would he let me go ahead with it if he thought ya'd go with him anyhow?"

He turned to her then and sighed, "I don't mind goin' with ya if ya would jus' ask me. Ya know that, right? Besides, you're absolutely right. There ain't no Lone Pine there… Amber can't be better than here, can it?"

"Prob'ly not," she agreed, sitting back again. "An' I reckon Dad might be thinkin' I should grab what happiness I can now."

Rebecca looked over at him again. "An' ya give me that. I can't imagine not havin' ya around. But married? Wyatt… I dunno. We ain't that old. Not really." She leaned sideways a bit so she could nudge his shoulder and smiled. "Tell ya what; ask me again in a few years. Gimme some time ta get used ta the idea of you bein' all domestic."

Wyatt laughed a bit. "I'd make a damn good husband too." He put his arm around her and kissed her. "It's like this world's too big fer someone like me, and you're a whole world on your own…"

"Good thang I'm sittin' up here and wearin' boots," Rebecca chuckled. She patted his knee. "And ya will make a right fine husband, I s'pect." Then she leered at him from under her hat. "I done got ya trained fer the important parts."

He laughed loudly and pushed her slightly out of balance.

"Oh, ya think ya should take credit fer that!? Well, naw ya've gone and broken my heart… Kiss and make-up?" He asked, half serious, pouting his lips.

Grinning, she leaned over and did just that, and made sure it was a damned good one before she pulled away a bit, both of them a little breathless.

"Don't ferget ta ask me again, later, ya hear?" she smiled. "In the mean time…" Rebecca hopped off the fence and looked up at him. "Think they'd miss us if'n we didn' go back?"

Wyatt blinked a few times after the kiss, then answered with a grin, "With yer Dad ta entertain, I'd be surprised if they r'member'd we're even 'round if we go back…"

"Al'right then." Smiling playfully, she pulled him off the fence and caught him when he stumbled.

"I wanna thank ya proper fer puttin' yerself up like that to my Dad. Yer place, or th' treehouse?"

To call it a treehouse was being generous. It was more a platform with railings built between two large redwoods down by the river. But it had been plenty enough when they were kids, stringing a couple of horse blankets for a roof for their adventures. It still sufficed for their more adult activities when they wanted to not be readily available to anyone. Wyatt's place was the first place they'd look for them, followed by the main house and the barns. If it was important, Zach and T would know where to find them.

"Treehouse sounds mighty fine ta me. But I wouldn't mind just lightin' a cig and chattin' it up with ya fer a while. I get the feelin' you'll be slippin' away from here b'fore I know it…"

She leaned in and kissed him. A Wyatt that was as talkative as he seemed to be planning was a rare thing. "Ain't no reason we can't do both. We'll stop by the house an' grab a blanket, an' a coupla cold drinks. Then if ya d'cide ta go chase butterflies we kin do that too."

"Ugh! Incorrigible, I tell ya!" He was literally dragging her there.

"No one but yerself ta blame," she smirked. They made their way from the lights of civilization. It would be by the light of morning before they were seen again.

The next day, Eric was making a hearty breakfast, sharing a personal recipe with Uncle T. They both turned around at the same time to greet her. Wyatt was elsewhere, of course, recovering, as can be expected.

Without a word, Rebecca hung her hat on the row of pegs by the back door, gave Uncle T a good morning kiss on the cheek, then rounded on Eric.

"What'n hell were ya thinkin', tellin' Wyatt that?" she demanded. "You've been tellin' me fer years I weren't gonna be able to stay ferever in Cimarron, an' my time here's growin' short. If'n I marry a man, I'm stayin' with him ta the end. There won't be any of this 'I'll visit when I can' shit that Mom put up with, no sir. Wyatt's sore equipp'd ta deal with that viper's den ya call home. Hell, I'm not sure I'm equipp'd ta deal with it. What'n hell are ya playin' at?"

Rebecca had never raised her voice to Eric, and while he had annoyed her in the past, she'd never been angry. But this, this was too much.

Eric raised an eyebrow and turned to face her fully. Uncle T helped himself to a plate of omelet royale and walked out into the veranda.

"What is it that makes you upset? The fact that you had to turn him down?"

She lifted her chin in challenge. "Who said I turn'd 'im down?"

Eric would have smiled, was this the true Eric?

"I'm sure you haven't set a date yet… If you hadn't turned him down, you would have been happy I gave him my blessing, and you probably would have stayed in bed later, I reckon." His tone was matter-of-factly, but his eyes reflected something more serious.

The steely look she gave him was very much her mother. "I didn' tell 'im 'no', and I ain't gonna. I'm upset 'cause ya jist cheerfully told 'im he had yer blessin' when we are both knowin' there's more ta it then that. I won't see Wyatt hurt; 'specially not by me an' mine."

"What do you think will happen when we ride out to Amber one day? You think people will be jolly for you? Once you leave, this place will hardly be your home anymore… Wyatt, well… He would have been the anchor to keep you here. Don't blame me because you didn't say yes. If I had told him 'no, you can never marry my daughter', you would have felt rotten about it. Worse than now, if I know you any. I'm not here to dictate your life. You be your own guide. I am simply passing options along. Amber is your heritage, but that doesn't mean you don't get a shot at a life here." His tone rose quickly. He helped himself to a steaming cup of coffee.

She scoffed. "This place'll always be my home, ev'n if only in my heart. Changin' tha place I hang my hat ain't gonna change that none. If'n ya think I'll turn my back on the Lone Pine or Wyatt after I'm taken to Amber, ya got another think comin'."

"I'm not saying Amber will be better than here. Why do you think I gave Wyatt a chance? I don't like reminding you, but there will be a time when you outlive the people here, and this place. It doesn't make them any less meaningful, you know. A life here with Wyatt is a viable option so don't go around dismissing it on the pretext of what daddy told you… You may not have said no to him, but if you had wanted it you would have said yes." Eric sighed, and in a gentler tone he said, "This is not a test you know. I did the right thing, for you…" He put his coffee down, having decided not to have anymore after all. "If you dislike my course of action, so be it."

She pursed her lips and turned to look out the window. The new group of foals were scampering around the lower pasture, playing among themselves on long, spindly legs while the mares looked on for signs of trouble.

"There ain't never been anyone for either of us but each other," she said after a moment. "Growin' up, it was jist accepted as fact that we was gonna end up t'gether. He's my best friend. I already told 'im I'll outlive him, told 'im lots of thangs. He asked ya without any illusions 'bout what he was gettin' inta with me." She turns back to Eric and added: "As long as I'm here. Can ya give me an'ther fifty years here? Seventy? The rest of his life? 'Cause if ya can, I'll send fer the preacher right now. But ya can't, can ya?"

"Shit," Eric said looking down. "There is a lot at stake, sure. Always. Everywhere. In Amber, here, and everywhere else. What it is you focus on is what you make worthwhile. There are things you can't change. I know you knew this was coming. Wyatt and I talked for a while yesterday and, well… I didn't mean to make things harder on you. I guess I… felt guilty."

"I took you for granted. Took it all for granted. Rebecca is coming with me to Amber when she's ready!" He laughed, shaking his head. "But when Wyatt came to me, I hadn't envisioned the possibility that I was dead wrong and that there were things here you may have wanted more. A life you could have here, that you could never have in Amber or anywhere else. It just made me realize that this is your heart, and I can't make you walk away from it all because of what I have in mind."

He walked to her and held her and said, "I love you, Rebecca. And if you choose to stay here, I will love you all the same…" He did not let go of her.

For a moment she was still in his embrace. She didn't like being at odds with her father. But she hadn't been ready for this, hadn't expected Wyatt to want to make their relationship "official". Then she blew out a breath and relaxed with her forehead on his shoulder.

"I didn' tell him no," she said again. "But I asked 'im ta give me some time and ask again later. We'll see, I reckon. I'm right as rain with tha way things are now." She managed a small smile. "I think he's afraid you'll be comin' fer his head if I come up pregnant."

"Ha! If only I was blessed with a grandchild before coronation, now that would be something!"

Eric cleared his throat and stepped back from Rebecca. He quickly retracted his previous statement, "Uhm, you know that I'm not being serious…"

Eric became serious again, "I hope the man asks you again, then. You will be better prepared to answer him once you can weigh your options for yourself. See? I always choose the wisest possible course of action in anything I undertake. Never forget that." He punctuated with a wink.

"Oh, he'll ask again if'n he knows what's good fer him," his daughter said with a brief chuckle. "Or I'll jest ask 'im myself when I'm ready."

Rebecca's expression grew stern. "But don' ya ever go and do somethin' like that without askin' me again."

Eric quickly answered, "You got it!" and kissed her forehead. Rebecca let the matter drop. Anything else would be between her and Wyatt.


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