Two weeks later

"Get up, Bart."

A groan came from Bart before he pushed the blankets down and sent Bret a glare.

Bret smiled in return. "Better get up before Pappy gets home." Bart's glare intensified but he rolled out of bed.

His grin growing, Bret went downstairs. Things were going better, even with Pappy starting to play poker again. Like Pappy had promised, they were sorting things out. Pappy didn't go to bed until after they left for school now, sometimes he fell asleep in the front room when he came home, but he always got up to make sure they were gone on time. Bret didn't have to worry about getting Bart up either. If Bart didn't get up when Bret called him, Pappy took care of it. The promise of that had made Bart much more cooperative the last couple of weeks.

Pappy was asleep in his chair when Bret got downstairs, but he stirred when he heard Bret. "Mornin'," he said stifling a yawn as he stood up.

"Mornin'," Bret answered pulling on his coat to ward off the morning chill.

"Bart up?"

"Supposed to be. Tell him when he gets up I'll take care of the milkin' today."

"Feelin' generous, huh?" Pappy asked with a smirk.

Bret shrugged. "I guess." Honestly, he didn't share Pappy and Bart's strong dislike for milking. He didn't enjoy it but it wasn't any worse than any of the other chores, and it would improve Bart's mood this morning if he didn't have to do it.

Pappy laughed. "Alright, I'll send him along when he gets up."

Bret was walking outside when he heard Pappy yell "Bart!"

"I'm up," Bart called back down sounding a little frantic. "I'm coming."

Bret smiled to himself as he shut the front door.

Once the chores were done and breakfast over, Bret and Bart were out the door before Beau even arrived. It wasn't too uncommon for that to happen now so the boys started towards Uncle Ben's house to meet up with Beau before heading to school. Bret thought part of the reason they often left early was so that Pappy could go to bed, but the reason didn't matter. The mornings were peaceful now, and they were almost always on time for school. They had been a few minutes late one day last week arriving just after Miss Potter had closed the door, but she hadn't said anything to any of them. Most days were like today, and they arrived before Miss Potter went out to ring the bell, which is what she was about to do when they walked through the door.

"Good morning, boys," she said as Bart and Beau hurried in.

They made their obligatory "good morning" reply as they scurried to get seats close to the potbellied stove.

"Good morning, Bret," she said to the eldest Maverick as he entered at a slower pace.

"Good mornin', Miss Potter," Bret answered trying to act a little more grown-up than his brother and his cousin.

Miss Potter didn't say anything else but held his gaze a moment before she smiled and patted his shoulder.

Bret returned the smile and sat down with a satisfied sigh. The last few weeks, things had been normal. At least as normal as anything had been since Mama died. Bret still missed his mother terribly and wished more than anything she was still with them. He was old enough to know that wasn't a possibility, though. This was their life now, and as long as they still had Pappy they would be okay. Especially since Pappy was acting more like Pappy than he had in a long while. If this was their new normal, Bret could live with it. The best part was, he was pretty sure both their new normal and the changes in Pappy were here to stay.

The End