Disclaimer: I'd lay claim to them if I though it would do any good... maybe we could see them ride across the screen again. In the meantime, I don't get anything for this but a sense of satisfaction.
Notes: Definitely a PWP. Wanted something for Father's Day... this is what fell onto the page. \
Webmaster Note: This story was previously hosted at another website and was moved to blackraptor in June 2007.
"Good morning Papa."
Chris Larabee blinked open eyes that seemed weighted down and slowly focused on the tiny figure beside him. Smiling, he said in a breathless voice, "good morning, buddy."
Adam smiled up at his father from the edge of the big bed. "Mama asked me to check and see if you're awake. She made you breakfast. I'll go tell her you're up."
Chris watched his son sprint out the door, frowning as he began to register just how weak he felt. The room seemed warmer than normal, although he felt cool air on his face. His eyes closed and he drifted somewhere between wakefulness and sleep. The sound of two sets of soft footsteps roused him, and he pulled his eyes open once more to see his wife and son standing beside the bed now.
Setting the tray she carried on the dresser, Sarah Larabee moved to the bed with a soft rustle of skirts and petticoats. Perching on the side of the big bed she shared with the handsome blond, she reached out and stroked a hand down his face. A relieved smile graced her pretty features as she asked, "how're ya feelin', husband?"
"Tired. Wha... what happened?" He hated the weak sound of his voice.
Still stroking along the pale features, Sarah said softly, "You've been sick for a few days... fever. Do you remember?"
He was lost in the sound of her voice, so sweet and gentle with its slight Irish lilt. Slowly shaking his head, the ill man thought for a minute. "Last thing I remember is... leaving with Buck... heading for Mexico."
Her smile faltered, but her words were strong. "That's been a while, Chris... it'll come back to you I suspect. Now, do you think you can eat a little?"
He nodded, starting to push himself up and quickly thankful that his wife was nearby. Sarah grabbed hold of him, wrapping her arms around his shivering body. She pulled him forward to lean against her. He lay limply in her embrace, simply concentrating on breathing.
"Adam," Sarah called quietly, "come help."
He felt the mattress move and saw his little boy crawling onto the mattress. Adam carefully stacked pillows behind him. He felt himself lowered back then, as Sarah settled him onto the stack. He took a trembling breath, finding himself without the energy to keep his eyes open. A cloth was drawn across his face, bathing the perspirations from his ashen features.
Finally the blond managed to focus his attention on the beautiful woman hovering over him. "Sorry."
With a compassionate smile, Sarah said, "well, at least you were able to help a little this time. Now, let's get you fed." She settled the tray over his lap and pulled away the cloth that covered his breakfast.
Chris grimaced at the sight of oatmeal and tea. "Not exactly your chicken and dumplings."
"Well, if you hold this down, maybe I'll make them tomorrow."
Smiling once again, Sarah said, "no, but I'll make an exception."
They were quiet then as she fed him with loving tenderness. Adam was still near his father, playing on the mattress. He had all of the little figurines his father had carved with loving hands throughout the course of his young life. Wooden horses bounded across the folds and wrinkles of the quilts, wooden cowboys trying hard to catch them.
The ill blond managed to eat nearly half his breakfast before settling limply against the pillows. He felt the tray lifted from his lap; felt himself lifted once more into his wife's arms. Then he was settled back on a single pillow, his face once again bathed with a cool cloth. He let himself drift for a while, too tired to keep his mind focused on what was going on. The feverish man was aware of his wife stroking his face; his son playing quietly beside him.
After a while he pulled himself back, opening his eyes to take in his wife's beautiful features. Then something came to him. Frowning, Larabee said, "You shouldn't be taking care of me. What if..." he reached out with a trembling hand to rest on her stomach. Blond brows furrowed deeper and he looked up at her with a question in his eyes.
Closing her own hand over his and said softly, "its okay. Virginia's sleeping... snug as a bug."
He followed her eyes, resting his own on the cradle nearby, bathed in the morning sun beaming through the window. Then he looked at his wife once more. "Virginia?"
Tears glistened in dark blue eyes as his wife patiently explained. "Our daughter, darling. She's over a week old now."
He smiled broadly. "A daughter. She's... she's okay?"
"See for yourself." With that, Sarah padded across the room to the cradle, retrieved a blanket wrapped bundle, and returned to sit beside him. She pulled back the blanket he last remembered seeing swaddling Adam right after his birth.
He gazed down onto the tiny face, peaceful in sleep, then smiled up at his wife. "Oh my God... she's beautiful," he whispered reverently.
Smiling broadly Sarah said, "You told me she looks just like her Mama the minute she was born."
Smiling back, Chris said, "she does," then frowning as he looked first at his wife and daughter and then his son sitting nearby, he said, "are you sure she and Adam should be in here?"
Nodding, Sarah said reassuringly, "Sweet husband, we're fine. I promise."
Their infant daughter chose that moment to wake, her tiny face screwing up as she prepared to voice her needs. The auburn haired beauty shook her head as she said, "looks like someone's hungry. I'll be right over there in the rocker."
Chris watched as she took the babe across the room, settling into the big wooden rocker he had made her before Adam was born. She bared a breast, draping a shawl across herself in deference to their son, and began nursing the infant. He settled back with a sigh, basking in the comfort of home and family. Turning his attention to his little dark haired son, he watched as Adam continued playing with his handmade toys.
Dark eyes, the same shade of blue as his mother's, looked up and the cherubic face split in a grin. "Wanna play with me, Papa?"
Larabee stretched out an arm, but knew he wouldn't have the strength to play with his son. With a wistful sigh, he said, "I'll just watch you, how's that?"
"Okay," Adam said cheerfully. His face said quite clearly that what he wanted most of all was his father's attention. Settling cross legged on the bed, he began lifting each of the wooden toys, introducing his father to them one by one.
"This one is Pony, just like our Pony," Adam explained in a serious tone. He held up one of the bigger creations for his father to see. With a giggle he continued. "And this is Buck... just like Uncle Buck. "This one is King... and this one is Dolly. This one..."
The weary blond struggled to keep his eyes open and his attention focused on his child. His body begged to return to the darkness of sleep, but he found himself almost fearing it. His heart urged him to remain conscious; to enjoy each second he had with his family. Despite his resolve, however, he found himself drifting. His surroundings drifted in and out of focus, leaving him feeling light headed and somewhat confused. "Which one is Peso?"
"Peso?" Adam's face scrunched up into a frown. "I don't have one named Peso."
Despite his lethargy, Larabee's eyes snapped open and he stared around him. "No, this isn't right... I don't... I... "
"Mama!" The little boy called out.
Sarah was at her husband's side, reaching out to comfort the distraught man. "Sh, it's all right, Chris. You're safe."
"Mama?" Adam looked fearfully at his mother.
Sarah pasted on a smile as she looked across at their son. "Its all right, sweetheart, your Papa's just tired. Why don't you take your toys and go out on the porch for a while?"
Eyes still wide as his father continued to mutter, moving restlessly on the bed, Adam slowly nodded. He scooped his toys up into the little box he kept them in, and scooted off the bed.
As Chris began to calm, Sarah hurried around the bed and climbed onto the mattress beside him. Gently she gathered him into her arms, settling the trembling man against her. As the blond grew quiet, she stroked a hand through his damp hair. "Its all right Chris... you're all right. Sh... just lay still, I have you darlin' husband. Sh... its all right."
"Sarah," he whispered as he allowed himself to relax against her firm but yielding body. he sighed contentedly as she held him, rocking him slightly as she continued to comfort him. The fear began to fade, his thoughts becoming disjointed as sleep sought once more to claim him. One hand reached up and he stroked her face, fingers tangling in her long, rich curls. Snuggling into the comfort of her loving arms he whispered, "Sarah..."
"Sh... it's okay, Chris. You're all right."
Larabee's eyes blinked open and he stared around himself in confusion. Gone was the warm sunshine and the comfort of his cabin. Gone was the touch and smell of his loving wife. He stared around him at the stark walls and bare window of the room he had accepted as part of his payment as a peacekeeper during the past year. "Buck?"
"Howdy, stud," Wilmington said quietly. He poured a glass of water and lifted the blond's head, helping him drink. After a few sips, the big man lowered his friend back to the bed, reaching up unconsciously to brush a damp lock of hair back from the fever flushed forehead. "How y' feelin'?"
Chris frowned, trying to hold on to the dream he'd been wakened from. "I saw them, Buck... Sarah... Adam..." he hesitated then, managed a wan smile as he finished, "and our baby."
Buck blanched as the man's words sank in. Had Chris been so close to death that his family had come to visit? Then he looked around him, seeing the looks of concern and curiosity the blond's words had drawn from their five friends. He wondered if he'd be called on to explain Chris' words. While the others had known of Sarah and Adam, he doubted that even Vin knew of the fact that Sarah had been almost seven months pregnant when she and Adam had been killed. He hoped they'd just consider it a manifestation of the fever. The ladies man wasn't certain either of them could face that truth any time soon.
Wilmington looked down and saw glassy, unfocused hazel eyes staring up at him. "Yeah?"
"What... what happened?" His voice was little more than a hoarse croak.
"Not for certain. You came into town night before last, hangin' over Pony's neck and out of your head with fever. Things were quiet here, and you'd been out at your shack for a week. Nathan says that, from the looks of it, you'd been sick at least half that time."
He wondered just how long he had been in that other place... settled in the comfort of a home that no longer existed and a life he could never reclaim. His tired mind wrapped itself around the thought that somehow his family had managed to keep him alive. They had kept him safe while the others had worked to pull him back from the brink of death. Both families had worked together to keep him in the place he was needed most. Sarah, Adam and baby Virginia were fine, and let him know that. They had sent him back into the waiting arms of the brotherhood he had found a new life in; the friends who had given him a sense of purpose once more.
Chris looked around him, seeing for the first time just how tired the others looked. He saw the relief in six pairs of eyes as he stared up at each man in turn. Running the tip of his tongue across dry lips he said simply, "thanks... boys."