Ben arrived into the doorway of the room and watched his two sons. He's blaming himself for this Ben thought to himself. Slowly he came into the room and behind Adam laying his hand in silent support on his shoulder. "Any change Adam?"

"No Pa,he's still burning up" Adma replied sorrowfully.

"Why don't you get something to eat and some rest son" Ben urged.

"I'm not hungry or tired Pa. I can't leave him yet."

"Come on son you'll do your brother no good if you get sick yourself."

"I'm alright Pa, really."

"Alright son, I'm going to get some coffee for you at least."

Adam barely noticed his father leaving the room. He was visited shortly after by his brother Hoss. Again he refused to budge. About a half our later he heard footsteps heading back to Joe's room.

"Here son, I brought you some coffee" Ben offered the cup.

"Thanks Pa" Adam quickly drained the contents and resumed his bedside vigil.

"Well let me take a look at the boy" Doc Martin's voice announced before making his way to Joe's side and starting his examination. "His fever is a bit lower, but his lungs are quite full. I think we will have to do sulfur treatments. With those ribs he isn't breathing deep enough. Adam help me move your brother up and in a semi-sitting position, that should help breathe a bit easier."

The doctor didn't have to ask Adam twice, he was up in an instant to assist. Adam sat back down in the bedside chair and waited for the doctor to set up the sulfur treatment. Soon the movements around the room became a blur until Adam slipped off into sleep.

"Hoss help me get your brother into his own bed."

"Sure Pa."

They left with Adam to settle him in for the night.

"Adam sure is taken this hard Pa."

"Yes Hoss he is. I'm afraid your brother is blaming himself for his brother's condition."

"Why" It sure ain't his fault Little Joe is sick."

"I know son, but your brother seems to believe he should have prevented it somehow."

They made their way back to Joe's room and assisted the doctor with the treatments for Joe. They continued throughout the night and by daybreak they were rewarded with clearer lung sounds.

"Ben the treatments seem to be doing the trick. His fever is lower too."

The relief washed through the room. All were exhausted by the time Adam made his way into the room. "How's Joe" he asked as he made his way to Joe's bedside.

"His lungs are much clearer and his fever is down" answered his father

"Is he going to be alright?"

"Yes I think so" the doctor answered.

"Good. I'll sit with him now. Why don't you all go and get some food and rest." The tired group needed no prodding as each made their way from the room in search of food and much needed sleep. Adam returned to the bedside chair his father had occupied just a few moments ago. "Looks like you're going to be alright Little Joe. I'm so sorry I failed you. I'll be leaving tonight now that I know you're going to be okay. I don't want to fail you or Pa again. I don't think that I could live with that. I made a promise to your mother that I would always watch over you and keep you safe. I've failed you and I just cannot let that happen again. I'm so sorry Joe." Adam's voice cracked with emotion and he laid his head down on his brother's bed. The emotional turmoil that he was going though threatened to unravel the normally cool exterior he personified.

Joe had heard his brother's confession and placed his hand on his brother's head. "Adam" he called out weakly.

Adam was quick to straighten himself. "Joe your awake, your okay. Do you need anything?

Joe licked his lips but before he could ask for water it was in his hand and down his throat.

"Let me get Pa, he'll want to know your awake." Adam stood and went to leave the room and call their father.

"Wait Adam" Joe called.

"But" he was cut off by his brother raising a protesting hand. "What is it Joe?"

"I'm sorry." Joe said as tears threatened to pool over.

"You're sorry? You have nothing to be sorry about." Adam was dumbfounded, this was his fault, how could his brother even think he was at fault.

"I wasn't feeling good before we left town. I got worse and if I wasn't so stubborn I would have said something." He was stopped by a coughing fit. When he was finished he laid back in bed exhausted and catching his breath.

"Joe, this isn't your fault, it's mine. I was responsible to look after you and just look how well I did that." Adam said solemnly.

"No Adam..not's your fault. You took great care of me." He was breathing heavy by now and was obviously upset.

"Easy Joe, you need to rest" Adam urged.

"I'm sorry Adam, I didn't mean to cause you so much pain. Please forgive me." Joe finished with the long held back tears overflowing.

"I'm the one who is sorry. Can you forgive me?"

"Not your fault. Don't leave, please. I love you."

"Okay Joe, take it easy and rest. I'm not going anywhere. I love you too little brother. Now get some rest."

"Adam?" Joe called softly as his eyes fought to close.

"Yes Joe?"

"Will you read to me?" he said stifling a yawn.

"Sure Joe." Adam settled on the bed beside Joe and began to read aloud to Joe. Within a few minutes his brother was sound asleep. Adam adjusted the covers over Joe and settled back into reading. He felt better after talking with his brother and was at ease that he would be alright. Soon he was asleep next to Joe. Like many times in Joe's younger days the two boys slept side by side.

In the early morning hours the remainder of the household made their way into Joe's room. The doctor did an examination on Joe and smiled. He joined Ben and Hoss and spoke quietly to them. "Joe's fever is gone and his lungs are clear. He'll be alright now. Just keep him in bed for a week or two. I'm sure he'll be able to tell you when he is ready to be up and about. Just remind him to take it easy for awhile. I'll be back tomorrow to check up on him."

"Thanks Doctor." Ben said with relief.

"Hey Doc, I'll show you out." Hoss offered.

Ben made his way next to Joe when Hoss and the doctor left. He brushed the curls from Joe's forehead and was rewarded with two emerald eyes.

"Hi Pa" Joe smiled and it went straight to Ben's heart

"Hi yourself young man. How are you feeling?"

"Hmm I'm thirsty and I think I could eat more than Hoss" They both chuckled

"I don't think anyone could ever eat as much as Hoss" the voice coming from beside Joe added his part to the family joke.

"Morning Adam, I didn't mean to wake you" Joe said

"How are you feeling?" Adam asked worriedly

"He's fine. Fever broke and his lungs are clear."

"Hey short shanks your awake" came the excited bellow of his older brother Hoss.

"Morning Hoss"

Hoss entered carrying a tray of chicken broth and orange juice.

"Broth" Joe replied disgustingly with a distasteful look on his face. "Come on Pa can't I have some real food?" Joe pleaded

"Maybe this afternoon, but you haven't eaten anything in quite awhile. This will be easier on you"

"Alright Pa" he said as he began to eat the soup. His distasteful look quickly changed to a pleased and delighted look. A look that was not lost on the others looking on.

"Not so bad after all, huh Little Buddy?" Adam smiled as he watched the glee in his brother.

"Broth is okay. I was just thinking about those new horses. Hey Pa did you see them? They sure are nice horses. Why that stallion is just great. He's got to be one of the nicest horses I've ever seen. He's sure footed and smart. We got him for a great price too.."

They all started to laugh as Joe rambled on.

"Easy Joe. The horses will be here when your well" Ben said. "Finish eating and get some rest."

"Ah Pa I'm fine really."

"Well you were quite sick, so we'll just wait to hear what the doctor says young man."

"But Pa"

"We know, we know. Your fine" came the family chorus.

Later that afternoon Doc Martin returned and assured everyone Joe would be just fine. After a couple of weeks of rest he would be just like new. Ben noticed a change in Adam as well, he wasn't as quiet and withdrawn as he had been since they were brought home. That evening Ben made his way to bed and as accustomed he stopped by Joe's door. He smiled as he found Hoss asleep in Joe's bedside chair and Adam asleep next to Joe with a half-read book lying across his chest. Little Joe was between the two older boys wide awake with his finger to his lips. Both Ben and Joe smiled.

"Good night son, God Bless."

Three boys chorused "Night Pa" Two sound asleep and one very much awake and ready to be on his way out to work or play.

Yes Ben Cartwright was a very happy man as he made his way to bed. He was blessed with three wonderful sons. "Thank you Lord for keeping my boys safe."


OMG it's finished!