A/N: Special thanks to MaverickLover2 for motivating me to flesh out this writing exercise and share it with the rest of you. Enjoy. By the way, I don't own the Mavericks, any of them.
Beauregard Maverick lit up yet another cigar and inhaled deeply before returning to the chair he'd been holding down most of the night. And what a terribly long night it had been, too. He checked the clock on the mantel one more time, finding the hands hadn't moved much since the last time he'd looked. Sighing, he slouched down in his seat, his feet automatically going to the top of the low table in front of him. Belle would have his hide if she knew his boots were on her table, but the action came naturally and he figured that at a time like this a few allowances could be made.
Slowly he drew off the cigar and just as slowly blew out the smoke, doing his best to force himself to relax. Everything would be fine. It had to be. Everything had been fine with Bret. There was really no reason for him to believe things would be any different this time around. Except he knew what could wrong this time. He hadn't been this nervous with Bret because he'd been too naïve to think anything would happen. He hadn't even been here for Bret. He'd simply told Belle he was going to town and she had let him. It wasn't until his nephew had been born that he had understood that there could be trouble, and now the only thing going through his mind was all the possible complications. He suddenly yanked his feet off the table. Belle was laboring to bring to bring his child into the world. The least he could do was keep his feet off her table.
'She's tough,'he told himself. Belle had always seemed sort of delicate, but that didn't mean she was weak; she was far from it. She was strong and tough as nails; she had to be to put up with him. 'She'll be fine,'he reminded himself again. Another sigh escaped as Beau leaned his head back and again tried some forced relaxation. He took another draw from his cigar and exhaled, watching the smoke he'd expelled dance through the air.
Beau sensed more than saw the presence in the hallway just outside the sitting room. The feet were still too small and too light to stir up much noise. Jerking his head around, Beau found a pair of dark eyes, so similar to his own, watching him. "What are you doin'?" he demanded his anxiety making his voice gruffer than he'd intended it to be. He instantly regretted his tone when he saw Bret drop his eyes. The boy didn't understand his concerns. Young as he was, he had no idea of the danger that both his mother and his younger sibling could be in. "I thought you were in bed," Beau said making a conscious effort to soften his voice.
Bret glanced back up. "Waked up," he replied softly obviously trying to gauge if he was in trouble of not.
Beau knew he should send Bret back to bed, but something about those eyes - and his own worries - held him back. Beau sighed. "Come 'ere," he said unable to keep himself from smiling when Bret's face lit up with that dimpled grin. 'He's gonna be a heartbreaker one day,' Beau thought as Bret toddled over to him.
Bret wasted no time in crawling onto his father's lap. "Am I a brother yet?" he asked, leaning his head against his father's chest.
"Not yet. Soon." Beau hoped Bret's excitement over his new sibling remained after the birth.
For several minutes, Bret sat quietly. So long in fact that Beau was sure he'd gone to sleep and was thinking about taking him back to bed when the boy stirred. Sitting up Bret reached into the pocket of Beau's vest and pulled out a deck of cards. "Do it," he demanded, offering the cards to Beau.
Chuckling, Beau took the cards and with his free hand began to cut them. Bret watched with rapt attention, as Beau separated the cards, flipped them around, and let them fall back together. For Beauregard, the movements were more a reflex than a conscious action. The exercise was one he'd been doing for so long it wasn't necessary to think about the position of his fingers, and it was something that absolutely delighted Bret. After cutting the deck several times, he offered the deck to Bret, who accepted it without hesitation.
As soon as the cards were in his small hands Bret carefully drew off the top one and studied it intently. After a long moment, he laid it face up on his father's thigh, the one he wasn't occupying and drew off the next card. That was soon placed beside the other one. The motions continued to be repeated as Bret separated the deck into the four different suites.
Beau smiled as he watched his young son work. Bret was still far too young to understand the specifics of poker, but he understood colors and he understood shapes. As soon as he understood numbers, Beau would get to work teaching him the wonderful science of poker. Belle wasn't terribly keen on his intention to teach their son the game so many associated with gambling, but Beau wouldn't have it any other way. He didn't gamble, he wouldn't teach his son to gamble, but the game was his life, and like any professional he wanted his son to understand the aspects of his work. What Bret eventually decided to do with that knowledge would be up to him, but Beau would teach his child poker. 'Children,' his mind corrected him, bringing his wife and the baby she was delivering back to the forefront of his mind.
One of the piles of cards Bret had stacked on his leg slipped and Beau reached out to grab it before it hit the floor. As he straightened the cards and moved them to a slightly steadier spot, Bret looked up and grinned. Beau's heart melted when he saw that grin, and he found his thoughts again drifting to the new addition that would arrive soon. He had often wondered during the last few months if he could actually love anyone else as fiercely as he loved Belle and Bret, but he always reminded himself of how fast he had fallen for Bret. If this new baby was even half the charmer its older brother was, then Pappy would have no trouble finding room in his heart for one more person to love.
Bret finished separating the cards and gathered them back up. "I can't," he said, a pout on his face as he gave them to his father to shuffle.
Beau quickly manipulated the deck once more and passed them back. "You'll be doing that before you know it, boy," he told Bret kissing the top of his head. "And you'll get to teach your little brother or sister how to do it too."
"Brother," Bret stated.
"You don't want a sister?"
Bret shook his head. "Brother."
Beau chuckled as Bret started sorting the cards again. Anytime talk of the baby had started Bret had insisted he was getting a brother. Both he and Belle had tried to prepare Bret for the possibility of a girl, but Bret wouldn't hear of it. Beau hoped Bret wouldn't be too disappointed if, come morning, he found out he was going to have to teach a sister.
Bret played with the cards for close to an hour before he gathered them up a final time and gave them back, leaning his head over on Beau as he did so. Smiling, Beau tucked the cards back into his pocket as he began to rub his hand along Bret's arm. It wasn't long before Bret was asleep, and incidentally, so was Beau's arm. He considered taking Bret back to bed, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. The boy's presence helped to ease his worries about Belle and the child she was bringing into the world; his innocence acting like a balm to Beau's frayed nerves. Beau wanted his son close by, and his resolve multiplied when he heard the first muffled cry drift in from behind the bedroom door. It was a rather quiet sound, given the work Belle was engaged in, but to Beau's ears it cut through the otherwise silent house like a knife.
Beau tightened his grip on his son, the sound twisting his heart. 'She's strong,' he told himself. 'She's done it before just fine.' Silence soon took hold of the room again and again Beau reminded himself to relax, wincing when another cry reached his ears. Blowing out a breath he forced himself to remember that a yell didn't mean anything was wrong. She was giving birth; she had every right in the world to yell if she wanted to.
The next two-and-a-half hours passed slowly. Beau tried to keep from looking at the clock, but there wasn't much else to occupy his time. He couldn't walk the floor with Bret in his arms, not without waking him up anyway, and he had smoked his last cigar hours ago, or at least the last one he had within reach. But he did his best to keep his mind busy. He played with the cards until another cry startled him and resulted in them falling all over the floor. Then he tried to think about something, anything, besides Belle. That worked alright until the cries from the bedroom became more frequent. By that time, Beau was a ball of nerves, and Belle was the only thing on his mind.
Just when he thought he couldn't take anymore another cry sounded; a different cry. This one was louder, younger, and born of indignity, not pain. It took a long moment for Beau to register exactly what that cry meant, but when he did a large grin broke out across his face. The newest Maverick had arrived.
"Remember, you need to be quiet, and no running," Beau told his oldest as he helped him get dressed. A little over three hours ago, just before dawn, he been given the news that Belle had delivered a boy, and both mother and son had come through the ordeal beautifully. He had wasted no time in taking Bret back to bed and rushing to the bedroom to see his wife and brand-new son. Just like Bret, this boy had instantly grabbed hold of his heart and gave no indication of letting go. It was Beau's hope and prayer that the grip would never loosen.
The boy was slightly smaller than he remembered Bret being, but he was livelier than his brother had been. Bret had spent the first day of his life sleeping, or with his eyes half open, but this one, even only hours old, had his eyes fully open looking like he was taking in the world. And to Beau's absolute delight, they didn't appear to be the almost black eyes he and Bret shared, but rather the bright, dark, dancing eyes of Belle.
He had stayed with Belle and their new addition until Bret had woken, and now he was getting the older boy ready to meet his brother. Bret had grinned triumphantly when he'd heard the news that there was a brother, not a sister, waiting to meet him and had barely been able to stand still since he'd found out. Now Beau was kneeling in front of his older son trying to explain the importance of being quiet. Belle had been impatiently waiting for her firstborn since delivering her youngest, but she had just completed nearly twelve hours of hard work, and Beau thought the last thing she needed was a rambunctious two-year-old sweeping in like a tornado.
Finally getting Bret dressed and having done his best to keep him calm, Beau took Bret to see his mama. Bret went ahead of his father and pushed open the door to the bedroom. Both Belle and Bret lit up when they saw each other, and Bret rushed to the bed. "Is that my brother?" he asked, staring at the bundle his mother held.
"It is," Belle answered. "Come up and see him."
Beau picked Bret up and set him on the bed; he instantly scurried over to Belle's side. Once he was sitting next to her Belle pulled back the blanket to show Bret his new brother.
Bret's eyes widened. "We keepin' it?"
Beau laughed and Belle smiled. "We most certainly are," she said before giving Bret a kiss. "We're keeping him forever." Bret looked up at his mother and grinned, obviously pleased with the news. "Would you like to hold him?" Belle asked.
If possible, Bret's eyes got even wider and he nodded solemnly. Belle shifted the baby to pass him over and Beau slid onto the bed, taking a seat on Bret's other side. Supporting the baby's head with one hand, Beau helped Bret "hold" his little brother. He and Belle had talked about the possibility of Bret being jealous once he had to share his mama, but if the way Bret was now gazing at his brother was any indication, that wasn't going to be a problem. Beau was trying to decide who seemed more in love with the baby, Belle or Bret.
"What's its name?"
Another smile was exchanged by the parents when Bret again referred to his brother as it. "His name is Bartley," Belle told him. "Bartley Jamison Maverick."
Beau gave her a questioning look after she answered, and she merely smiled in return. Belle had decided months ago that she wanted her next son to be Bartley, but this was the first Beau had heard about Jamison. He thought about the name for a moment and made her smile grow when he nodded his approval. He should have known Belle wouldn't give this one any middle initial but J. Not since it was a something he and Bret and Bentley and little Beau all shared.
"But we'll call him Bart," she added, once she received confirmation from her husband.
Bret didn't say anything else, but he continued to gaze at his brother lovingly. After a while, he turned back to Beau. "I get to teach him."
"That you do," Beau said ruffling his son's hair.
"You'll get to teach him a lot," Belle said. Beau doubted she knew what Bret had been talking about, and he wasn't about to explain it. "He doesn't know how to do anything right now."
"Nothin'?" Bret asked in disbelief.
Belle shook her head. "He'll need lots of help for a while."
Bret brightened again. "I can help."
"I know you can, and I'll need your help. You'll have to watch out for him, Bret. That's your job now that you're a big brother."
Bret positively beamed at the prospect of watching out for his little brother, and he kept little Bart in his arms until Beau told him it was time to let his mother and brother rest. Bret looked more than a little downcast as he surrendered his brother to their mother.
Before leaving Bret tightly hugged his mother, then very carefully kissed his brother's head. "I lub you, brother," he whispered before jumping off the bed.
Beau and Belle shared a look, Belle's eyes shining with tears, after hearing Bret's declaration. No, Beau didn't think jealousy was going to be a problem at all.