Little Joe tossed and turned in bed. He had to be careful not to fall. Since the accident, Little Joe had changed bunks with Hoss, making it easier for his brother to get around during the night. Little Joe glanced down throught the partial darkness at his older brother.

Hoss seemed to be sleeping so peacefully. He wasn't even snoring, which was a relief for a change. There were only a few more hours until Little Joe would start waking everyone up for Christmas.

As he leaned back against his pillow, Little Joe could just feel the chill in the air. He knew that there had to be snow on the ground. However, he could not bring himself to look out the window. He wanted the surprise to be even more exciting in a few hours.

Beneath him, he felt Adam stir. Little Joe peered over the side. "Adam, you up?" he asked.

"No," Adam answered. Little Joe cautiously climbed down out of the top bunk and into his brother's. "What is it, Little Joe?" Adam asked.

"Can I ask ya somethin'?"

Adam slowly sat up a bit in bed and rubbed his eyes. "It's only three in the morning," he said sarcastically. "Why not?"

"Are you sick?"

"No. What makes you think I am?"

"I dunno," Little Joe said. "I know ya don't like flapjacks all that much, but ya haven't ate breakfast with us in a while. And ya don't sleep too good. When I'm sick, I don't sleep too good either." Adam listened intently to his baby brother. "And then you fell in the barn.and ya didn't get up. I was scared."

"Oh, Joe," Adam said. "I didn't mean to scare you." He paused. "I guess I was sick for a while. But I'm gonna be OK now."

Little Joe put his hand up to Adam's forehead, his fingers spread and practically poking Adam in the eyes. Adam raised his eyebrows as Joe pulled his hand away.

"I didn't wanna check the way Ma useta," Little Joe said. "I think that only ladies can kiss ya on the head. Pa don't check like that."

"You know what, Little Joe?" Adam smiled. "I think you're right." He paused. "So, what do you think, doc?"

Little Joe giggled. "Ya ain't got a fever, so I guess you ain't sick nomore."

"I'm not sick anymore," Adam corrected him.

"That's right. Ya ain't sick nomore."

Adam shook his head, and playfully mussed Joe's hair. "I still have to catch up on a lot of sleep to be 100% better," Adam said. "And I think you should get some rest too if you're gonna get up in a few hours."

Little Joe slowly climbed out of his brother's bed and back up to the top bunk. He was silent for a moment, but then, "Hey, Adam?"

"Mmhmm."

"If you get up before me, don't look outside for snow. I want it to be a surprise, OK?"

"I won't," Adam assured him. "Now, get some sleep."

Little Joe snuggled down under his blankets and closed his eyes. It wasn't long before he was once again fast asleep.

***************************************************************

"Where do you think you're going?" he asked.

Little Joe climbed down off of the animal and approached his brother. After a short pause, he threw his arms around Adam's waist and began wailing.

"It's cuza the time I got candy in town when Pa told me not to," Joe cried.

"What is?" Adam asked unsure of the reason for his brother's dismay.

"It's why I didn't get my Christmas present this year."

"Joe, you got your present. It's inside on the tree."

"No!" Joe screamed. "I didn't ask for a present for me. I asked for snow. I wanted it to snow so that when Hoss woke up he would see it."

"Oh, Joe," Adam said holding his brother. "I think we all wanted that for Christmas this year."

Little Joe rubbed the tears from his eyes. "Then if we all wanted it so bad, how come we didn't get it?"

Adam thought for a moment. "I guess it's a little like...like when we went to the Trading Post looking for parts for a stove. We all really wanted it, but we still couldn't get it."

"But ya don't need money to make it snow."

"OK, I guess that wasn't such a good example. But... my point is, even though we may want something, we don't always get it. Sometimes, because we can do without it or because we're saving up for bigger and better things. And then other times, there just is no good reason why."

"This is one of them times, huh?"

" 'Fraid so, little brother."

Little Joe' eyes were large and filled with sadness. "But what about miracles? Pa even said that Christmas is a time for miracles."

"And it is. I think that we've already had a miracle. A few of them."

"When?" Joe sniffled.

"We're all here, we're together. We made it West, didn't we? That alone was a miracle."

"I guess so."

"I know that you wanted Hoss to see again, Joe. We all do, and that truly would be a miracle. But just being a live is itself a miracle. Think about it, Little Joe. If Hoss had moved half an inch more, he might not even be alive. That's a miracle." Little Joe nodded. "Come on," Adam said. "I think I can smell Hop Sing cooking breakfast. And if I'm right, it's hotcakes."

Little Joe managed a weak smile as Adam led him back to the house.

"What are you two doing out there dressed like that?" Ben Cartwright asked as his sons entered the house. "You'll get pneumonia."

"Sorry, Pa," Adam said.

Little Joe went unmoved, and Adam discretely elbowed him in the arm. "Sorry, Pa," Little Joe said grabbing his arm.

"Now, boys," Ben said having noticed Adam's action. "I won't have any of that. It's Christmas after all. A time of love." Ben had a strange smirk on his face as he shook his head.

"Somethin' sure smells good, Pa," Little Joe said. I can't wait to try some of them..."

"Pa!" Little Joe was interrupted by Hoss' sudden beckoning call from the bunk room. "Pa!"

The three Cartwrights shot a quick glance at eachother and ran for the bunkroom. As they entered, they saw Hoss standing with his back towards them and his hands resting on the sill of the window.

"What is it, son?" Ben asked. "Are you alright?"

"It's snowin', Pa." Hoss slowly turned to face them, his eyes filled with tears. "It's the prettiest thing I ever saw."

Little Joe's eyes widened and his lip began to tremble once again. He ran up to Hoss and embraced him. "I knew it would snow for ya Hoss," Little Joe cried. "I just knew ya would see it."

"It's a miracle, " Ben said turning to Adam.

"Well," Adam said. "You did say that Christmas is a time for miracles, Pa."

Hoss ran his sleeve over his eyes as Little Joe looked up at him. "Merry Christmas, Hoss," he said.

"Merry Christmas, Little Joe." Hoss looked over at the rest of his family. "Merry Christmas, Pa. Adam." He paused. "I don't reckon I coulda asked for anything else this year. All I wanted for Christmas was to be able to see you all again. This is the best Christmas gift a guy could get."

Adam turned to Ben. " So...do you think that's it?" he asked his father. "You think he's finally back to his old self again?"

"Mmmm," Hoss said. "Somethin' sure smells tasty. Smells like..." Hoss sniffed the air. "Hop Sing's hotcakes. Ooo, Hop Sing makes the best dang hotcakes I ever tasted. So what's everyone just standin' around collectin' dust for?" Hoss and Little Joe started out of the room. "I'm stravin', let's eat."

Adam pushed back the hair on his head and glanced back at Ben. "Yeah," Adam said. "He sure is back to his old self."

"You better get going, or there won't be anything left by the time you get to the table," Ben said.

"Aren't you coming, Pa?" Adam asked.

"I'll be along in a minute. Go on." Adam turned and left the bunk room as Ben walked over to the window. He glanced outside at the snow, which had already begun to coat the land. It was a wonderful and miraculous sight, and Ben couldn't help but feel a tear start to form in his eye. He quickly wiped it away and breathed in a sigh of relief, and then paused a moment, closing his eyes.

"Pa!" Little Joe called. "Hoss just ate my hotcake!"

"Did not," Hoss said.

"It was on my plate, Hoss!"

"Well...You weren't gonna eat it anyway."

"Was too."

Ben shook his head. "Boys!" he called out to them. "Back to normal," he said to himself as he walked out of the bunkroom and shut the door behind him.