"No…I won't ….Laurie! NOOOO!"
Rick woke with a start, hearing his own voice yelling. A hand gently caressed his face, as Laurie's voice made his heartbeat start to slow.
"Rick…darling…I'm here…it's okay….what is it, love?"
Finally coming awake, he found himself staring into his wife's eyes, full of worry.
"It's all right…what happened, Rick?" she asked quietly, stroking the back of his head. Instantly he let out a sigh.
"Thank God it was just a dream…a horrible dream, angel. I'm sorry I woke you up, but it was so vivid…."
"What was it, darling? You can tell me…" Laurie assured him, encircling him with her arms.
"I saw Blair…he forced me to take his knife, and kill you…..you were screaming at me to save you, instead I had your blood on my hands!" He managed to say, as the images faded from his memory.
"Oh, no, love….you and A.J. saved me..and Quentin and Barnabas…. I'm all right….you will never hurt me..I know that… I'm safe…and so are you." She added, kissing him.
Taking a deep breath, Rick calmed down, then took his wife in his arms and told her, "I'm okay now, darlin'…. Just a bad dream… I'm sorry I woke you…"
"Never be sorry, love….I'd feel bad if you didn't tell me." Laurie murmured, then sighed as Rick kissed her back, then slid back down next to her and cuddled her in his arms.
"Well, I am, so let's get some rest…and I'll make us breakfast in bed."
The rest of the night and day found Rick trying to push the memory of Laurie's bloodied form from his mind, and after a healing visit to the Cultural Center's spa, he was certain the nightmares were gone. As the couple arrived back at the ranch, Rick saw Rudy at the front door, and he decided to tell their friend about his dream.
"Hey Rick…Missy….I've got some fish for dinner…" he began, then as Rick got closer, he stared at the older Simon's face.
"Is something wrong, son?"
"Just had a bad nightmare, Rudy…..Darlin'…can you get Rudy's catch ready, I'll grill them if you make baked potatoes." Rick asked, and Laurie nodded, understanding.
"Yes, love…..thank you, Rudy…what a nice idea for dinner." She gave him a kiss on the cheek, then took the string of rainbow trout into the kitchen.
"Here, Rick, I've got two cold beers in my bucket, let's go into the living room and you can tell me about this dream…" the old doctor said.
After filling him in on the frightening scene he "saw", Rudy put a hand on Rick's shoulder.
"I'm glad you told me, son….what you saw in your dreams is just your fears about Blair coming out…..of not being able to protect Missy. It's okay, they will fade as soon as you remember what happened, and how you did save her." he explained.
Rick breathed a sigh of relief, saying, "I'm glad…there's no way I want to wake up Laurie again like last night….I was afraid she'd have a nightmare too."
"If it does come back again, Rick…just talk it out, that might be the best way to protect both of your from these night frights…." Rudy advised. "On the other hand, you might not have another one because you have shared what you saw."
"I hope so….oh, thanks, sweetheart…" Rick smiled when Laurie came in with a serving platter of clean fish. "Now it's dinner time!"
Unfortunately, the next night Rick shot up in bed, yelling, "Laurie! Laurie! I'm sorry….wake up…don't leave me!"
"Rick? Darling …it's all right….please wake up." Her voice answered him and woke him from the worst of the images in his head.
"Laurie…thank God.." Rick felt her shaking him, and he again had to sit up and wipe his eyes.
"Oh, Rick…I'm so sorry….was it like last night?" she asked, and he nodded.
"Yeah, only worse…..I saw you fall again, then my hands were holding a gun…I'm so sorry, darling…..I just can't handle seeing you die!"
"Oh, Rick, I promise I won't…..you and A.J. saved me…" Laurie reassured him, snuggling into his embrace. "Remember, Blair's hold was broken…and he'll never hurt us again."
After a long moment, Rick managed a grin as he pulled Laurie closer to him, knowing he couldn't stop the nightmares if he didn't talk them out with her.
"Thank you, sweetheart….you are the best nightmare buster around!" he told her, as he kissed her back. "As well as my best girl. And…..we have an anniversary to celebrate!"
"Oh, Rick….you remembered." She exclaimed emotionally, then Laurie broke down in tears. Worried, Rick tried to comfort her, caressing her face.
"Darlin'…it's okay. .it's all right…what is it, my Laurie…"
"Blair was so vicious, he put his hands on me…..I was so frightened… he was going to torture you by killing me in front of you! I was afraid I would be the one having nightmares!"
"Not going to happen, sweetheart." Rick gave her another kiss, then added, "when A.J. came, it gave us the chance to stop him. No more bad memories."
"My brave love…" she murmured, putting her face against his. He gave a sigh, feeling the last of the nightmare images leave him as they fell asleep together.
In the morning he woke first, and very carefully got up, knowing he had only minutes to leave before she awoke. Getting dressed, Rick slipped out of the room, then entered their kitchen to find Robbie and Robin already up, fixing breakfast.
"Morning, Pop….I hope we didn't wake you." Robin yawned sleepily, breaking her father and brother up.
"No, but that yawn will put us all back to bed…" Robbie teased her, moving out of the way as she pulled her apron off and tried to hit him with it.
"Shhhh….you'll wake your mother, you two…" Rick cautioned, sitting down with a cup of coffee. He was unable to hide a grin, though. His two children….grown-up they might be, but they were young enough at heart to still tease each other.
If it weren't for their help the past few days, he wouldn't have been able to get Rob to understand that he was a victim of Nicolas Blair's
"I feel so ashamed….I nearly got you and Light killed..as well as your cousins…" Rob lamented. Rick had come to pick him up from the hospital the day after the warlock's defeat, and walked right into the tribal chief's self- pity party.
"Rob, just listen to yourself….you had no control over what Blair did…We all know you weren't responsible…..so get over it!" he had told his friend. From the look of astonishment, Rob obviously wasn't expecting to get some harsh words thrown back at him.
"Dad, Pop's right…" Robin had come into the hospital room unexpectedly, followed by her brother. Both came over to their birth father and embraced him, and for a few minutes none of them could speak.
"Don't mind me, guys…" Rob finally said, as Rick wiped his eyes. "I just forgot about what all I have….how very lucky I am to have a family."
Between the three of them, Rob had finally come to terms with what happened, and was beginning to heal.
"Pop, I've got Mom's present here…" Robbie's voice broke his reverie, and Rick looked up to see a brightly colored gift bag in his son's hand.
"I hope she likes it..I know she was upset with Jacky tearing her favorite blouse off the clothesline.."
"I think she will, next to turquoise, blue and violet are her favorite colors, and those two tops are just right for the scarves your Aunt got her." Rick smiled as Robbie placed it on the dining table.
"I'll be back as soon as I can, remember, if she asks where I went.."
"You went to give Uncle A.J. a jump…" Robin giggled. "It's okay, Pop…she'll be surprised."
Rick sighed. "Just want to make sure, honey." He finished his coffee, then gave a quick hug to both of them as he snatched up his keys. Just then Jacky came running into the room, and Robbie grabbed him before he could start barking.
"No you don't, little guy. Pop's going now, so you be good, here….Robin's going to give you your breakfast."
Shaking his head, Rick managed not to laugh aloud until he got outside and into his truck. As he drove onto the highway and toward Phoenix, he realized with a start that it was the first good laugh he'd had since the threat to his family had started.
"Everything's going to be all right." He thought, relieved.
Scarcely had Rick left when Laurie emerged from their bedroom, a wistful smile on her face. "Rick?" she called, and Robin came into the hallway.
"Mama, good morning…what are you doing up so early?"
"Good morning, sweet….I woke up and ..I didn't see your father….is he outside?" Laurie asked, and immediately Robbie appeared behind his sister.
"Morning, Mom….Pop had to go give Uncle A.J. a jump…seems he got stuck someplace. Why don't you go back to bed, we can serve you breakfast in bed."
"Oh, Robbie, darling…that is so sweet…but …I'm already up…why don't we have breakfast, then you can help me wrap your father's gift." Laurie asked, giving them each a hug.
"Sure, Mama…I think Pop will be so surprised..don't you, Robbie?" Robin said, with a wink to her brother.
"Yeah…surprised is the understatement." The younger Simon replied with a grin. Laurie just shook her head.
"You children are up to something…but I'll find out…" she smiled sweetly, then let her son help her into the dining room.
An hour later, Rick was set to return to the ranch, having rounded up the rest of the Simon family and his wife's anniversary "present".
"Everything ready at home?" A.J. asked, as he helped get the last of the kids in the car.
"Yep, Laurie's had breakfast, and Robin and Robbie are keeping her occupied. Steve and Jaime and Chrystal should be there by now, and so will Towne and Temple…."
"All right…Mr. Party Planner, lead the way." The younger Simon teased, and Rick pretended to grab for him.
"Richard, A.J…" Cecilia Goldman's voice carried from her husband's car, and both brothers laughed.
"Yes, mom…" Rick smirked, then climbed into his truck and led the way back to the ranch.
As Rick pulled into the parking area of the house, his wife came out onto the steps, and he nearly forgot to turn off the motor at the look on her face.
Laurie's excited squeal made him laugh as first Carolyn then David Collins got out of his truck then embraced their cousin. Behind Laurie, Robin and Robbie smiled as they waited their turn to greet their family.
"I'm so glad to see you…did you see Quentin and Barnabas when they left?" she asked, then started to laugh as the two older men stepped out of Oscar and Cecilia's car.
"Oh, this is wonderful….darling, did you plan all this?", Laurie turned to Rick, who had a Cheshire Cat grin on his face.
"Yes, sweetheart…Happy Anniversary!" he declared, then beamed as she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.
"Thank you, love….you are the best, most thoughtful husband in the world." She told him, and A.J. groaned.
"Sis, you'll give him a swelled head….besides, I helped."
"Well then, thank you, little brother….this is the nicest surprise yet!" Laurie released her husband long enough to plant a kiss on A.J.'s cheek.
"Ahem…enough mushy stuff…time for some lunch." Oscar teased. Cecelia just shook her head.
"Mushy stuff indeed…..come on, everyone, lunch is on the patio."
Giving his arm gallantly to his wife, Rick led the way into the house then back out the kitchen door, only to let out a yell.
"Jack! Get down from there…this instant!"
In front of the now laughing crowd, the little terrier leapt down from the picnic table where he had been poised to snatch a miniature sandwich. Spotting a sympathetic face, Jacky promptly jumped into a surprised David's arms.
"There's my buddy….I missed you…okay, little guy…." He sputtered, getting a lick from Jacky. Carolyn smiled as she petted the dog.
"He missed us too, I think, Laurie….I'm so glad Rick called."
"Me too, Carolyn.." she replied, clinging to Rick's hand as he sat her at the head of the first table, which was festively decorated with wedding favors and presents.
As the host of family and friends milled around, eating sandwiches and salads and desserts, Rick couldn't help but gaze every now and then at Laurie, whose face was glowing with happiness.
"Thirty-five years….and she still makes me feel like a king…." He thought, then snickered as suddenly utensils were clinking against glassware.
"As if I needed an excuse." He quipped, then kissed Laurie. She giggled as Melly, A.J.'s youngest blurted, "It's your turn, Auntie..you get to kiss Uncle Rick."
"If you insist…." She said, then kissed him back until both were breathless.
"I love you…" she whispered, catching her breath. In answer, Rick's lips met hers again, then he replied quietly, "And I love you, so very much, darlin'.."
"Thank you for the lovely lunch, and for bringing all our family together." Laurie told him, then laughed as he admitted, "I did have a little help…"
"Speaking of help, how about opening some presents…" A.J. asked, and amid protests of "You shouldn't have…", Rick and Laurie were presented with several fun gifts.
When the table was covered with tissue paper, Robbie and Robin brought forth first Rick's gift, then wheeled forward Laurie's gift to her husband.
"Darlin'…what did you get me?" Rick asked wonderingly, then proclaimed, "All right!" as he saw the hand painted and stocked fishing tackle boxes, attached to a wheeled cart.
"Happy Anniversary, love…I hope you catch lots of fish, specially now that you don't have to throw extra ones back." Laurie told him, then snuggled against his shoulder as he whispered, "Thank you, angel….for more then the tackle box…."
"You're welcome…." She returned. Just then there was another call for "speech, speech".
"I want to offer a toast…" Oscar stood up, then waved his glass as everyone stood up.
"To my….our children… Laurie and Rick, for thirty-five years of love, friendship, and laughter. May you both be happy all the days of your life, and continue to share that life with all of us."
As all the glasses clinked, Rick handed Laurie a napkin so she could wipe her eyes, then lifted his glass.
"Thank you from both of us, Dad….and Mom…and Ramona and Robbie and Robin and Ian….A.J. and Linda…all our children, and to our friends and family…. for supporting and being there always for us."
As Rick raised his glass to clink it against Laurie's, he thought he saw a familiar figure, standing at the back of the patio.
"Darling…do you see…" Laurie began, and he nodded.
"I think someone wanted to see us happy, sweetheart…." Rick added, and his wife kissed his cheek.
"They did, and I am……."
Gazing back at his "family", Chief Joseph waved at them, then disappeared in the afternoon sun.