Nick sat down on his haunches and sighed deeply at the forlorn and distraught figure in front of him; empty bottle in left hand, dark blond head resting in the crook of a slightly bent arm, the evidence of tear strewn cheeks clear, sleep now replacing the crying that had caused them.
"Boy," he sighed. "You've had me and Jarrod looking all over the ranch for you. So this is where you decided to come to, huh? I should have known. Lord knows you beat yourself up over not having known father. I'm sorry for what I said earlier. I'm sorry I've made it difficult for you to find acceptance here... no, not here, with me. Jarrod and Audra accepted you long ago, and Mother? Well Mother, she had the longest road to travel to you, longer than mine, but chose to take the shortest route. Smart woman, Mother. You noticed, huh? Sure wish I'd taken that route, but if you know anything about me by now, you know I'm a stubborn old cuss. Reckon you got a little bit of that old stubbornness in you too. No, don't argue with me. Reckon you and me have a few similarities even if I was too blind to see them.
"So, you come here to see father, huh? Don't reckon he'd mind you drinking, reckon he liked a drink or two himself. Spilled a bit, I see. Reckon he'd like that. A bit seeping down to him. Can just see him tasting it now? Yep, no matter what you're thinking now, you'd have like him, Heath. And he would have loved you. Been proud of you that's for sure.
"He was a big man, Heath, no bigger man in my eyes. Kinda larger than life, you know? Had to be out here, 'specially back then. What is it? You reckon you ain't got what it takes to fill his shoes, be a part of him and his family? From what I see, boy, you have what it takes and a lot more. Not just his qualities, but your own too."
Nick laughed, his laughter in no danger of disturbing Heath or his father. "Come on boy," with great care he turned Heath over and lifted him up his arms. Though tall, Heath was underweight and it surprised Nick how light his load was. Adjusting him in his arms so that Heath's head rested against his shoulder, Nick continued, "You and me have got a lot of talking to do and much as I like talking, I expect you to do your share too."
As he walked back to his horse, Jarrod came into view.
"You found him then?"
"Yeah. I found him by father's grave. Reckon I lost him there for a while," he said referring back to the weeks where he refused to accept him, "but I swear by father's grave it won't happen again. Heath's going to know I'm his brother from now on and that he's mine."