Luke rounded on his cousin, backing him up against the wall with a finger in his face. Grabbing a fistful of his shirt front, he shook him angrily.
“Don’t you ever, ever do that again, you hear me, Bo Duke?”
Bo covered Luke’s hands with his own, trying in vain to pry them off. “It turned out all right, Luke, what are you so mad about?”
“What I’m mad about is you jumpin’ the gun again. What were you thinkin’? Did you even think, or just run right in there?” Luke shook him again, blue eyes flashing. Bo didn’t think he’d ever seen him this mad at him before, except that time when he made up his mind to jump the cars at that carnival. The thought made him stop for a moment, considering it.
“Are you even listening to me, Beauregard Duke?”
Bo winced at the use of his full name. Jesse and Luke only used his full name when they were steaming mad. “Yeah. But I still don’t get—”
“No, of course you don’t! You never do, do you?” Luke raged, pacing back and forth in front of him. Bo felt his face flush.
“Let me finish a sentence, huh? I was just gonna say that I don’t understand what’s got you so riled up. It’s not like you weren’t there behind me!”
He was, of course, referring to the incident earlier in the day. The boys had been enjoying a peaceful day (naturally) and by mid-afternoon they were chasing some criminals who had committed a crime that Boss Hogg was trying to pin to them (equally as natural). They had finally cornered the thieves, who happened to be armed, when Bo had suddenly darted out from behind their cover and launched himself at the man. A bullet had clipped him on the side, though it was barely a scratch. Rosco showed up, apprehended the villains, and he had been happily driving home when he noticed Luke was silently staring out the window instead of making jokes and celebrating.
By the time they reached home, Luke was practically boiling, and Bo still didn’t understand what had gotten into him. Sure, he’d gotten a bit of a nick, but that was nothing, and he was fine now.
“I was there behind you, but that’s just it: what was I supposed to do behind you, Bo? You could’ve been killed!”
“Is that what this is all about?” Bo said, somewhat irritably. “It’s barely a scratch and it doesn’t even hurt.”
“That’s not the point!” Luke said suddenly, stepping towards his cousin again. “If it’d been a few inches over, you could’ve been hit in the lung or, or—” His voice trailed off, and Bo could hear him blowing out loud breaths through his nose.
He watched Luke take a deep breath, then began in a quieter voice. “You could have been killed. And I couldn’t have done a thing about it.”
“But I won’t be,” Bo grinned. “Because you’re there.”
It was perfectly normal. Bo got into messy situations, Luke fixed them. And even though Bo knew perfectly well that even Luke couldn’t protect him from everything, he just could not conceive the possibility of Luke not being able to save him from whatever he got into. Whenever they were in a sticky situation thanks to his big mouth, Luke always thought of something. When gunshots were zooming past, Luke always shoved him down and covered him so he wouldn’t get hurt. If he ever were in a truly dangerous situation, he counted on Luke to pull him through.
“Bo,” Luke sighed, then pushed his cousin down onto a hay bale, kneeling in front of him and putting his hands on Bo’s knees. “I’m not always going to be there. You’ve got to learn to start watching out, bein’ more careful.”
“Why?” It was an honest question, and not meant to seem spoiled. Maybe a bit naïve, but it just wasn’t possible that Luke would let him get hurt.
“Because, Bo, I can’t be there for you 24/7. And when you get in a situation one day when I’m not there, you gotta know not to do stupid stunts like you did today.”
“I know,” Bo said reasonably. “But you were there.”
“Yeah. I know.” Luke stood up, putting a hand to his head tiredly. “Never mind, Bo. Just… go to bed, all right?”
Bo gave him a long look, then nodded. “All right.” He headed back to the house, not noticing when Luke sat down on a hay barrel and let his head rest in his hands, giving an exhausted sigh that no one heard.