Okay, now this isn't really a story. It's kind of a strange piece I wrote up over Easter weekend. It takes place after "A Circle of Women" and is part of that MH storyline with "Glimmer of Twilight", "Mustang Madness" and those stories. I hope it makes some sense. I was just having some fun when I had writer's block on a couple of the other stories. I hope you enjoy it!

The sunlight woke up C.J. before the noise coming from what sounded like the kitchen. She opened her eyes and looked around her, her hand instinctively caressing her abdomen as it did every morning. The cacophony continued as she sat up and reached for her bathrobe, pulling it on as she headed to find out what the hell was going on in there. Sure enough, there was Matt banging some pots as he worked on fixing breakfast for the both of them. Broken egg shells rested on the counter along with some slabs of bacon which were wrapped in paper towels. And there was freshly squeezed orange juice in a pitcher next to the juicer.

She stood there smiling at him while he threw his omelet ingredients on the skillet and watched them in grave concentration, apparently unaware she was watching him. One of her favorite activities these days as he put his domestic side more on display including in the kitchen which often made her laugh. Like it did this morning which was a big relief after the events of last night.


He turned around suddenly, nearly dropping a pan he held in his hand.

"C.J… good morning," he said, putting it down and walking over to wrap his arms around her.

"Mmmm, good morning to you," she said, kissing him.

"How'd you sleep," he asked, stroking her hair.

"Good," she said, "I guess I've been more tired than I thought after we got back from the hospital."

"How's our baby," he said, caressing her abdomen with his hands.

She smiled.

"Pretty active this morning," she said, "I think he or she's going to be an athlete like his or her father."

Matt smiled at the thought, not minding that at all. He looked forward to the time he would spend taking his son or daughter to tee-ball and pee-wee football practice and games as his father had done when he had been a little boy. He kept an eye on the omelet but noticed that a trace of sadness had crossed her face.

"The doctor says he's going to be just fine," Matt said.

She nodded, slowly while removing some plates from the cabinet.

"That was really nice of you to fly in the top pediatric cardiac surgeon in for the operation," she said, "He's done hundreds of these procedures."

"Well he was a friend of my daddy back in the day," Matt said, "and he pioneered this procedure. Danny will be in good hands with him."

"I hope the surgery goes well today," she said, "The little guy has been through so much since he's been born. He deserves a break."

Matt knew just how much Daniel had faced since C.J. and a federal prosecutor named Alex Walker had delivered Chris and Dan's son on the floor of an office inside the bank. Chris and C.J. along with Alex and others had been held hostage inside after it had been seized by three robbers. The delivery had gone very well considering the circumstances but about a month after his discharge from the hospital, his parents noticed signs of problems in their son taking him to different doctors. And today he had to undergo open heart surgery to repair a valve problem that had been the diagnosis at the end of the road.

"He's a strong little boy," Matt said, "He'll make It through this like he has everything else."

"I thought we'd head on down there after breakfast," C.J. said, setting the table.

Matt nodded, placing the omelets on the plates while she poured them both some juice

"How's your day looking otherwise," he asked.

"I've got to appear in court," she said, "but it's probably going to be postponed so I'll be at the hospital afterward."

"I've been handling things for Dan with his company," Matt said, "Everyone's pitching in so it shouldn't be a long day today. Everyone's taking Good Friday off tomorrow so it will be a long holiday weekend."

She nodded.

"I've got that meeting with the feds tomorrow," she said, "I guess they aren't taking Friday off."

He picked up the concern in her voice that she masked with a smile.

"You going to be okay with that?"

She nodded again.

"It's a pre-sentencing meeting with the prosecutor," she said, "They'll just be asking me some questions for their report to the judge."

Matt sighed inwardly at the words she said so calmly. He had hoped long ago that the ordeal she had been facing for over two years now would be over and behind them. But once the criminal cases hit the overloaded federal court system, their progression had ground nearly to a halt while attorneys on both sides delayed court dates to better prepare themselves for whatever lay ahead. It had been four months since the trial that had put one key player in her nightmare away after she had testified for two days against him. That man had been in custody since his arrest and sat in federal lockup awaiting his sentencing date finding ways to delay it until his excuses ran out. The prosecutor had told them after the trial that his own attorney planned to ask the judge not to sentence his client to prison but to probation because he had no prior criminal history.

When Matt heard that, it had taken all his control not to get on the phone and have a word with that attorney. C.J. and the prosecutor had explained that he was just doing the job he was hired to do, that the court system could only operate properly if its defendants were as vigorously defended as they were prosecuted. Matt understood all that from having learned it in civics class in college but when you brought the reality of what this one criminal had done into the equation, no it didn't seem fair at all. At one point, he had wanted to kill the man when he had the chance and it was times like this when he wished he hadn't been denied that opportunity to rid the world of one of its criminals so his wife could sleep better at night.

"You know Houston, I wish this were over too."

He looked up knowing that she had read his mind again. She rubbed her forehead and he could make out the faint lines on her fingers, her daily reminder of what she had been through and the first of her many scars from her experience to heal.

"I know that," he said, "These guys belonged in prison a long time ago."

"These things take time and there's reasons for that," C.J. said, "When I was a public defender, I took every advantage I could with those same delays for my clients."

"I wish the lawyer for that last guy would tell him to take the deal," Matt said, "so there wouldn't be a trial for him."

Meaning that she wouldn't have to get back on the witness stand and testify all over again.

C.J. shrugged.

"I can't blame his attorney for taking the gamble," C.J. said, "He's covered his tracks well for years, they are still sifting through his bank records and I still don't remember much about him."

"What about the other women," Matt asked.

She sipped her juice.

"They'll have to get to that place where they can sit in court and testify against him right to his face," she said, "and that's never the easy part."

C.J knew that only too well through her own experiences. In a way, it was a blessing sometimes that the courts worked as slowly as they did. Although it had been frustrating at times, she had needed that extra time to work at being a good witness, effective with using her words to put some dangerous men away. To teach herself to establish some emotional distance from her experiences so she wouldn't fall apart on the stand under cross-examination or when she looked across the room into the eyes of the men who hurt her and other women.

"They still have that attempted murder case against him."

Matt knew that as well. The man would be facing trial back in California's courts for trying to kill him not long after they had returned from the case they worked on in Silver Lode. The reason he survived was sitting right in front of him.

"One way or another he's going to go away for a long time," he said, "I'll make sure of that."

C.J. smiled at him. She knew that he could only do so much and that justice would have to take care of itself, but she loved him for his resolve at trying to fix the world anyway.

Chris had spent the night at her son's bedside because she wouldn't be anywhere else. After a sleepless night, she had watched the doctor examine him again as he had many times since he had been admitted. Daniel had smiled up at her with a toothless grin while she rubbed his stomach. Still, she knew that underneath, the oxygenated blood pumped by his heart had struggled to move through his body, sapping his strength. As it would until the surgeon repaired it and made it as good as new so that he son could start thriving for the first time in his life. The procedure itself hadn't appeared too complicated when the doctor that Matt had flown in had explained it and reassured her that her son would come through it with flying colors. She had taken a break to get some coffee when she saw C.J. enter with several bags of what smelled like breakfast. Her stomach rumbled because it had been a while since she had eaten because she had been unable to leave Daniel or think about anything else for hours.

She put her hands on her hips, a smile crossing her face.

"What's this," she asked as C.J. began pulling something that smelled delicious out of the bag.

"It's just a breakfast burrito," she said, "but the salsa pretty much hits the spot. It's from that Tex-Mex place that Rhonda always liked."

Chris' smile widened.

"You mean the one where she lured Jonathan…"

Their close friend had married the FBI agent and they had moved into Dallas where Rhonda had enrolled in college studying psychology When she wasn't in school, she put in plenty of hours at a women's crisis center run by a group of women including Alex Walker.

Chris unwrapped the burrito.

"How's the little guy doing," C.J. asked.

"About as well as can be expected," Chris said, "I know he'll be a lot better after the surgery but he has to climb that hurdle first."

"He'll do just fine," C.J. said, "But I think I know how much easier that is to say than to believe."

Chris sighed, sitting down.

"I keep telling myself what the doctor told me," she said, "but sometimes when I'm alone, I just feel so scared for him."

C.J. wrapped her arm around her friend's shoulder.

"That's okay," she said, "Sometimes we can't stop the fear from coming in and we should just accept it and not fight it so much. You'll release it in your good time."

Chris nodded slowly.

"Dan's been so strong but this must be difficult for him," she said, "It's tougher for guys to show their fear to others. I think they take it as a sign of weakness."

"I know," C.J. said, "Sometimes you just have to let them be and other times, you have to call them on it. And tell them it's okay if they can't run off and fix things all the time. It's just enough that they're there."

"I don't know what I would do without Dan," Chris said, "and all of you."

C.J. smiled.

"You've done so much for Houston and myself," she said, "More than I could ever say. We'll be here as long as you need us."

"Thanks," Chris said, "It's the waiting that's been so hard and not knowing what's ahead."

The two women took in the activity around them, while they sat there.

"Matt's keeping you busy, isn't he or is it the other way around?"

C.J. wore a bemused expression.

"He's been cooking breakfast so I can sleep in during the mornings," C.J. said, "It's really sweet of him and it's nice that life's settling down to normal."

Something she would never take for granted again and neither would Matt. Even though a few obstacles still stood in their way, she knew together they would overcome them together. One at a time.

"I think he's concerned about the sentencing hearing," she said.

"When's that going to be?"

"The prosecutor's not sure," C.J. said, "Maybe next month. I have a meeting with them tomorrow morning to talk about the scheduling and my testimony."

"Are you ready?"

C.J. had given that question so much thought since the jury convicted this man.

"I don't know if I can ever really be ready," she said, "This is much different than the trial. There, I testified about what happened to me. Here, it will be how it impacted me and my life."

"That sounds tough."

C.J. sighed.

"I've been putting in some extra time with Diana," she said, "and the advocate's been very helpful but I'm not sure how it's going to go this time."

"How much time do you think he'll get," Chris asked.

C.J. paused.

"I don't know. Most of the charges are conspiracy based," she said, "It's pretty much out of my hands anyway."

"Is Matt testifying?"

"He wants to," C.J. said, "But it's going to be very hard for him. I think a large part of him still wants to kill him."

"You can't really blame him," Chris said, "You know how he's been about everything that's happened."

That she did, only too well. Matt had a lot of anger inside him at what had happened to her and she knew that although he had worked through most of it over time, still a residue remained. That and the fear that he wouldn't always be able to protect her from harm.

That's the way it had always been between them, C.J. thought, this sense of protectiveness he had felt involving her. Especially when she had been in danger or had been targeted by some criminal while working with him in his investigative agency. Matt knew how to defend himself in a fight and knew how much force to use to subdue a resisting criminal but those individuals who had harmed his best friend, well they got quite a bit extra from him. Several times, police officers had to pull him off of those unfortunate enough to be within reaching distance after hurting or threatening his partner and he still often managed to get in that extra blow to knock them out. Like he had done to the man who had hired hit men to kill C.J. and her sorority sisters several years back or the corrupt DEA agent who had arranged hits against them by the Chinese Triad. C.J. couldn't really argue with him about that because she felt exactly the same way about him and if the officers saw that some of the men he apprehended bore looked a little bit worse for wear, they looked the other way.

C.J. knew too that along with other emotions, Matt had struggled with his own feelings of guilt for having taken off for six months after breaking up with Elizabeth. Part of him still believed that if he hadn't left, then she would never have been abducted from inside the parking garage at the office building in L.A. Not to mention his discovery that one of his college buddies had been involved in her kidnapping by a notorious human trafficker. C.J. knew that Matt had resolved most of those feelings and his focus had always been on supporting her own recovery from her traumatic experience but she wondered if he would ever be able to completely release them.

Matt parked the car and ran into Dan who had dropped by the office to talk to his employees before heading back to the hospital. The ex-cop ran a very successful security company that also conducted investigations, of which Matt had involved himself heavily in that part of the work. Dan briefed him on that meeting.

"I really think that with some of these new advancements in security technology, we can find a good market for them," Dan said, "I've been wanting to branch out in that area for a while."

"You already provide a great security system," Matt noted, "It's very thorough but not intrusive. The right combination."

Matt spoke as a customer who had installed it in the ranch house. C.J. hadn't wanted to turn the place into an armed fortress but she was a realist. She knew because of the work they both did and because of enemies in both of their pasts, they had to take serious precautions to protect themselves. And now that they had started their family, that became even more paramount. Matt knew that one of C.J.'s biggest fears was that someone with a grudge against one of them might target their children. She had a security detail when she had been testifying in court at the trial right after they had gotten married and even now, some of the hired help on their ranch had backgrounds in law enforcement and the military. Ranching hadn't exactly been first nature to them but Bo and Lamar taught them the ropes so that they could blend in better.

"Well Matt we've already gotten pre-orders coming in thanks to the ad campaign," Dan said, "and our first shipment is due in next week."

Matt and Dan walked into the front entrance of the hospital.

"Sometimes I wish we didn't live in that type of world," he said, "It's great for business but it's a dangerous world to live in sometimes."

"You don't have to remind me of that," Dan sighed, "I still remember what it was like as a cop running around putting out one fire after another."

"Moving out of Houston helped," Matt said, "even though that's not why we did it."

They stopped by the coffee machine.

"It will be a great place to raise your kids," Dan said, "Lots of clean air. Open space. Very little crime."

Matt nodded.

"There's a small town nearby with the basics," he said, "and we've met the neighboring ranchers. Very nice people."

Dan hesitated.

"Chris and I were thinking about moving out of the city," he said, "We're not ranchers but Chris grew up on a farm. She really wants to do some gardening and landscaping and that's hard in the city."

Matt smiled.

"It'd be nice to have you as a neighbor," he said, "There are still some nice parcels out there to build on."

Dan sipped his coffee.

"Definitely something to consider once Daniel's on the mend and doesn't have to be so close to the hospital."

Matt slapped him on the back of the shoulder.

"Listen if there's anything we can do…"

"Flying in that doctor was really great of you," Dan said, "He's put Chris so much more at ease and he's the best at this surgery."

"It was the least I could do," Matt said, "Besides he still owed my Daddy a favor after losing to him in a poker game."

Dan chuckled.

"Your father must have been really something."

Matt scratched the back of his neck.

"Yeah he was," he said, "I really miss him. I wish he had lived long enough to see that grandchild he always wanted."

"I'm sure he's watching all this from somewhere."

Matt nodded.

"You know he always teased me about settling down and having a family," he said, "He even had the woman all picked out."

"C.J.," Dan guessed.

Matt nodded again.

"So are you ready to be a father," Dan asked.

Matt smiled.

"I've been ready," he said, "I can't wait until I get to meet him or her. It feels like it took forever to get to this point."

"Some of us just took the more scenic route," Dan said, "The important thing is that we finally got there."

"Yeah, I see what you mean," Matt said, "I feel like I've spent a good part of my life waiting for that day to come. Now that it's nearly here, I hope I can be as good as my own father. Oh, we had our differences and our arguments, but I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for him."

Dan looked at his friend and the earnestness etched on his face.

"The one thing about fatherhood is that no matter how prepared you think you are, you're not," he said, "but then again, no matter how you think it will matter to you, it means that much more."

Matt had already begun realizing that since C.J. had first told him he was going to be a father. After 72 hours of living on fear and an adrenalin rush due to the hostage siege at the bank, she had told him the words he had been waiting most of his life to hear. And since then, he had done his best to make sure she had been eating enough even while suffering from morning sickness and getting plenty of rest. After a week off, she had returned to her work and had gone on a tear advocating for her clients in both federal and state court. If any member of the judicial system had thought that pregnancy would soften C.J.'s legal skills and drive, they soon found out they were mistaken. On the weekends, they had finished their ranch house, having hired a couple of friends in construction to do the heavy work. They had completed the work and had held their housewarming party just days before their wedding.

"Daniel's going to come through just fine," Matt said, "and when he's ready to come by the ranch, we'll hold a barbecue party for him."

Several hours later, Chris and Dan left their friends to say goodbye to their little boy. He appeared groggy from the medicine they had given him and had several tubes connecting him to a heart monitor which monitored his cardiac rhythm and an IV bottle. Sometimes, Chris thought she couldn't find her son underneath all the technology that was used to help keep him out of medical danger. So now, she settled for stroking his face with her finger tips. His face hadn't been ashen as it had been the night he had first arrived but held some color. Still, she willed some of her own strength to leave her and flow through her fingertips into his body. She would do anything for her son, to keep him alive one day longer. She had known that when she had first met him after C.J. had handed him to her after the delivery and she felt love so strong for the squalling baby that she knew she would give her life for him.

The doctors in their gowns came to check him over before the orderlies wheeled the stretcher into the pre-op room. Dan and Chris said their goodbyes to their son, neither believing anything but that they would see him again after more hours passed and the surgeons had finished repairing his damaged heart.

When they had wheeled him away towards the double doors at the end of the long hallway, Chris had to fight the urge to run after him. Instead, she felt Dan's arm slip around her shoulders and they walked back to sit and wait with their friends.

C.J. had watched the clock many times while sitting in waiting rooms at various hospitals during her life. She tried not to, figuring that if she looked too long at it, its hands would stop moving. A belief she had first picked up as a child when her mother had to have the first of several surgeries that were attempted by doctors to stop her death. Then when she had been in law school and Julia had what turned out to be an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant to cure her cancer and years later, when Matt's father had died after having been ill. And the countless times that Matt had been injured while working as a private investigator in L.A. Whether it was getting shot or in a car accident, those had been some of the toughest times of all. She knew that he had done his share of waiting hours while surgeons saved her life. And both of them had sat there waiting together when friends of theirs like Vince Novelli and Bo had been injured.

Matt had donated from his foundation to help pay for more than a few hospital wings and part of the reason is because the people who had worked in them had taken such good care of them and their friends. She looked over at him where he had been sitting, and she knew that he had been trying to keep Dan's mind over what was going on with his son. They all sat in the waiting room as the surgery stretched out the day.

Chris held the hand of the little dark haired toddler, who pulled on it wanting to be set free to move about and explore the world on his own. She held on knowing that if she did that, he would head straight to the cookie jar. Once he had started walking a few weeks ago, there was just no stopping him. She looked over to where C.J. sat on the couch with her little girl sitting on her lap, trying to grab her hair with her pudgy fingers. C.J. just smiled and talked to her, while stroking her back.

"What time will we be meeting them," Chris asked.

C.J. shrugged.

"You know them," she said, "Once you get them to one of those car shows, they practically have to kick them out."

Chris nodded.

"I know Dan has his eyes on the hot rod," he said, "He's got it in his mind that he wants to hit the racing circuit."

C.J. looked at her little girl, her dark curls framing her face and her brown eyes that looked so much like her father's. She resembled her father in other ways as well.

"Well, if we get there soon enough," she said, "We'll get a good table and they can join us when they've bought half the inventory."

Chris laughed, as she brought her son over to where C.J. sat.

"Works for me…"

C.J. woke when she felt the hand slip in her own, before the feeling of her daughter's skin had slipped away. She looked up and saw that Matt had joined her where she had stretched out in her chair.

"Has there been any word," she asked and he shook his head.

"Are you okay," he said, "Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?"

She sat up in her chair, caressing her abdomen.

"I'm fine Houston," she said, "But thanks for asking. How long was I out?"

"Not long," he said, "Besides you needed your rest."

She looked up at him.

"How are you doing," she said, stroking his face.

"Okay," he said, "I wish there were some news."

"These things take hours," she said, "I'm sure everything's going as well as can be expected."

"Dan's handling it pretty well," Matt said, "I don't know if I'd be as calm if it were our baby in there."

She knew what he meant. Some nights she had lain awake wondering if she were ready to be a mother, not so much in terms of handling the everyday details but what she would do if life threw her baby a curve ball like it had done with Daniel. But after some restless nights, she finally realized that she would just do the best she could with what life handed her and that Matt would be right there with her if any challenges did arise. After all, she had survived some horrible events and had managed to rebuild her life. A lot of that had been hard work, the support of her friends and the man next to her but part of it had been just having a little bit of faith.

"I think he understands that he's done all he can for his son and it's in the doctors' hands now."

Matt nodded.

"They worked really hard to have Daniel," he said.

"It's harder for some couples Houston," she said, "Then there are others who don't have to wait long at all. Life just works that way and it will work towards giving their son a happy and healthy life surrounded by people who love him."

"We owe our own little one to a late season hurricane," he mused, "Gracie, wasn't it?"

They had met up at Houston Enterprises, crashed into the top floor suite and waited out the hurricane together spending most of the time wrapped up in each other's arms forgetting everything else. She had been using birth control but had somehow gotten pregnant anyway.

She smiled at the memory of what they had shared, during the time the rest of the world had receded for a while.

"Best engagement present I could have ever received," she said.

When he had heard the news, he had wanted to move up the wedding date, but she had put her foot down saying she wanted to be married in their new house with their friends there in attendance. While planning her wedding, she had her dress picked out and okay, so it had to be altered…twice to accommodate her ever changing waistline. He smiled, remembering her at their wedding, standing at the end of the aisle with his uncle. She had looked so beautiful in her gown and yes, the gossip columnists in attendance had tried to make hay with her obvious pregnancy but neither of them really cared about that.

Now she had several months still left to go until they would meet their own child. She had some ultrasounds performed but had opted not to learn the sex of her baby. Not that she needed a test to tell her that her first child would be a girl. She had known that long before she had even known who would father her. Not that she would share that information with Matt who would just tease her about it.

Suddenly, they heard footsteps and looked up to see that the doctor dressed in blue scrubs with the surgical mask lowered had walked into the waiting room. They all got up out of their chairs to gather around him.

Chris breathed a sigh of relief when the doctor smiled and told her that her son had made it through the surgery in excellent shape. She hadn't realized until then that she had practically forgotten to breathe in the past six hours.

"Can I see him," she asked.

The surgeon nodded.

"Yes, for a minute," he said, "He needs his rest to heal up."

She and Dan followed the nurse while the surgeon looked over at Matt.

"Your father's one hell of a poker player," he said, "I was sorry to hear that he passed."

Matt nodded and thanked the surgeon, shaking his hand before he departed. He walked over to C.J. and offered to get her some dinner in the cafeteria.

"And there will be no arguments from you," he said, "You've had a long day too."

She nodded, feeling a bit tired but elated that Daniel had come through the surgery and that his heart would recover soon enough. Matt wrapped his arm around her shoulder and they walked to the cafeteria.

Chris and Dan stood by their son's bedside, where he appeared to be more wrapped up in tubes and embedded in medical equipment than he had before the surgery. But the doctor had explained to them beforehand that this type of procedure would temporarily weaken him before his body began to rebound and rebuilt its strength. The next several days would be critical but once Daniel had gotten past that, he would quickly be on the mend, given the resilience in young children.

"He's going to be just fine," Chris said, "You know this is the first time I've really believed it."

Dan nodded.

"Me too."

And they remained there for a while with their sleeping son so that if he woke up in a strange place, he would know that his parents were right there with him. Just as they always would be.

C.J. and Matt lay together, both exhausted from the events of the day which had ended so well for Chris,
Dan and little Daniel. She rested her head on his chest, content to listen to the beating of his heart. He stroked her hair content to feel the softness of her skin against his own and the weight of her body there.

"I'm so happy that everything worked out for them," she said, "They can spend their days being a little less afraid for him."

Matt knew what C.J. meant in that parenthood meant feeling a little fear all of time, because fear had evolved to serve as a tool along with a few other things for survival of the human race. Even so, you couldn't allow yourself to drown in them. Life would offer up both blessings and obstacles for those who traveled its path and accepting both was just par for the course. Things remained silent between them for a little bit as they unwound from the long day and he kissed her head. She tilted it up to look at him.

"I'm going to tell the attorney tomorrow that I'm ready for this sentencing," she said, "And if the other guy wants to go to trial, I'm ready for that too."

Matt searched C.J.'s eyes for any signs of uncertainty but didn't find any. He realized she wanted to put at least several more chapters of her life behind her before she opened up a new one with their baby.

"I'll be right there with you," he said, "I'll be in the audience anyway."

As he had been there for her when she had testified at the last trial. When she had felt her words begin to falter, she looked into his eyes and the strength she found there helped her to find them again. At the end of each day of testifying, he had taken her up to the hotel room, ordered room service and then afterward, they had lain on the bed, with his arms wrapped around her while she slept a dreamless sleep.

"I know you will," she said, "I've always known that."

"We've had quite a life together," he said, "even before we really started living it and found our way home."

She smiled at one of her favorite words in the world, knowing that home wasn't a physical place, it found its place inside the hearts of the ones you loved.

"You know, we owe them one of our Texan barbecues now, don't you?"

He looked at her, raising a brow.

"You know what that means," he said, "It means Bo and Lamar will want to put on a rodeo."

She chuckled.

"I'll have to sit this one out," she said, "But I sure wouldn't mind seeing you wearing your chaps and riding old Buckaroo as long as you don't break anything because I'm going to need your help when the baby arrives."

"Are you sure?"

"I'll even put up a $10 bet," she said, "But this time I'm not betting against you."

He blinked his eyes and then kissed her good night, a ritual she greatly enjoyed as did he. He stroked her arm idly.

"Maybe we'd better get that in writing in case you change your mind…"

He thought she would argue but she just smiled and he knew she had begun to relax again.

She cuddled up closer to him right now, his arms wrapped around her with his hands resting on her abdomen where their baby lived, his soft breath in her hair as she waited for sleep to find her.