"I don't know what to tell you, Ben." Ben Cartwright walked out of his son Joseph's bedroom with a doctor who was about his own age. "He's breathing fine, and that's good."

"He hasn't opened his eyes in days." Ben said. "The fever was incredible. It's still high."

"I'm not going to lie to you, Ben. I've never seen anything like this before. I really don't know what to expect. Joe has to ride this fever out, and then maybe... he'll open his eyes."

Ben lifted his hand and rubbed his eyes. "Thank you, doctor." he said shaking the man's hand.

"I'll be back in a few days to see how he's doing." Ben nodded. " I'll show myself out." the doctor walked away from the room and towards the front door. Adam and Hoss entered, passing the doctor. "Hello, boys." he said.

"Doc." Hoss said.

"Excuse me." the doctor said leaving the house. Adam and Hoss removed their hats and walked towards Joe's room. They opened the door and walked inside. Ben sat next to his son's bed, his head in his hands.

"Pa?" Adam said as they approached. "How is he?"

"There's been no change." Ben said. "He's not responding, the fever's still up."

"Well what did the doctor say?" Adam took a seat next to his father.

"He doesn't know." Ben said. "He says Joe needs to ride the fever out, but..."

"What kinda doctor is he?" Hoss got upset. "He doesn't know? He doesn't know what's wrong with Little Joe, he doesn't know how to help him?"

"Hoss." Ben said. Hoss looked at Little Joe then turned and stormed out of the room. Adam began to stand, but Ben grabbed hold of his shoulder. "Adam, let him go. Let him go." Adam looked at Ben. "He feels helpless, he thinks there should be something he can do."

"We all feel that way, Pa." Adam said. "Look at him. He's just lying there, nobody knows what's wrong. We don't even know when he's going to wake up."

"We have to keep our faith, Adam. The doctor says to let him ride out the fever and that's what I plan to help him do." Adam just looked at Ben, his blue eyes open wide and glossed over. "He'll pull through this."

"I know he will, it's just hard seeing him like this." Adam looked back over at Little Joe. Ben raised his arm and put it around Adam's shoulder as his son's head went down.

"It's going to be alright." Ben tried to comfort him. "It's going to be alright."


The sun shone through Little Joe's bedroom window. It illuminated the room and fell softly upon his face. Little Joe turned his head slightly and slowly opened his eyes. He sat up in bed, swinging his feet over the side and lifting himself onto the floor. Joe walked towards the door and out of the room.

"Pa?" he called. There was no answer. He began to walk around the house. "Pa? Adam?" There was still no answer. "Hoss? Is anyone one here? Pa?" He made his way towards a window and looked out. Joe could clearly see that his father and brothers horses were still in the stable. He quickly dressed and ran outside into the stable. "Pa?" he said as he entered. But they weren't there. Little Joe had a puzzling look on his face. He turned once again to walk out of the stable, and was blinded by the sunlight. All he could see was the silhouette of a man. Little Joe squinted his eyes to get a better look at him.

"Well hello, Little Joe." the man said as he sat high upon his horse. Little Joe slowly and cautiously walked towards him.

"How did you know my name?" Little Joe asked finally catching a glimpse of the man.

"You see, I know your Pa." he said. "Your brothers too. Adam and Hoss."

"Are you my cousin, or uncle or something?" Little Joe asked.

"Not really," the man said. "Follow me." Joe was a bit weary to follow the man but he did, right back into the house, and into Little Joe's bedroom. They walked slowly towards the bed, Little Joe stood behind the man, who suddenly moved aside revealing a sight that shocked the young boy.

"That's me." Little Joe gasped at the sight of his own body lying in the bed. "Am I... d...dead?"

"No." said the man," but you're quite sick. We don't know right now what's gonna happen to you."

"We?" Little Joe still stared at the body in the bed. " Are you an...an angel?"

"Not quite." he explained. "Let me try to explain myself to you. I'm... Well, my name is Joseph Francis Cartwright."

"Hey, that's my name." Little Joe exclaimed.

"Exactly. I'm you, in about another ten years."

"You're me? But then how..."

"That's a whole other story." he said. "The fact is, I'm here because you aren't fighting this. And if you don't fight this, there isn't gonna be a me....a you in ten years." Little Joe looked at him curiously. "To avoid all confusion, you can call me Joseph. Now come on, or we'll be late."

"Late for what?" Little Joe asked as he followed Joseph out of the house.

"Close your eyes." Joseph said. Little Joe did so. "Now just keep them closed until I tell you to open them. Little Joe squeezed his eyes tightly for a moment. "OK, open them."

Little Joe opened his eyes and was completely taken back by the beauty that surrounded him. Shining silver and gold, Bright lights, that no matter how bright they were would never be blinding. He was surrounded by joyous faces of people he had never known. "Is this heaven?" Little Joe asked.

"Yup." Joseph said taking the boy by the hand and leading him to an area where no one stood, "Just wait here." he said and began to walk away.

"Hey!" Little Joe ran after him. "Where are you going?"

"My job was to get you here. You'll see me again. Now you have to move onto a different department." Joseph explained. "The reason why you aren't fighting to stay alive. Now. Go wait over there. Go on." Little Joe turned back and waited where he was told. As soon as Joseph had disappeared, he heard a comforting voice from behind him.

"Don't worry, Mon Petit Joseph."

Little Joe's face lit up. "Ma." he said softly turned around. "Ma!" he ran towards his mother and grabbed onto her. "Oh, Ma. I missed you so much."

Marie bent down to her son's size. "And I missed you Mon Petit." she said. "But, I don't think..."

"Ma," Little Joe interrupted. "I'm so happy to see you."

"You can not stay here, Mon Petit."

But, why not?" Joe cried. "I wanna be here with you, Ma. I wanna be here with you."

Marie put out her hand. "Come." she said and led him off to a small wall. Little Joe could see over it by standing on his toes. "Look out there. Can you see them?"

"I don't see anything." Little Joe wiped his eyes. He looked deeper through the clouds. "Wait, I can see... it's...Hoss?"

"Now listen to him. You can hear what he is saying."

Little Joe leaned forward, straining to hear better, but the sound came in loud and clear. He could see his brother standing by the corral on the Greene ranch. Tess walked up beside him and leaned in....


"It's not gonna do you any good to stand out here and stare all day." Tess said as she stood beside Hoss. "Why don't you come inside? Ma's got flapjacks on the griddle. You love my Ma's flapjacks, Hoss."

"I ain't very hungry, Tess." Hoss said. "I don't think I can do much of anything with Little Joe lying in that bed. I can't sleep, I can' t eat. Pa said he's worried about me. He's worried about me, Tess. He shouldn't be worried about me, he should be worried about Little Joe."

"I'm worried too, Hoss." Tess said turning him to face her. "About Little Joe and about you."

"There ain't no reason to be worried about me. It ain't me lyin' in that bed. It ain't me who's got a fever so high, I can't open my eyes."

"But it will be. Hoss, it will be. Little Joe is gonna be OK. But you've gotta take care of yourself to take care of him. You know, some people care about you too, Hoss Cartwright. More than you'll ever know." Tess turned and began to walk away from the corral. Hoss turned around.

"Tess!" he called. "Tess." he said running up to her. "Don't leave me alone out here." His eyes began to water. Tess saw this and put her arms around him. Hoss put his head down and began to cry on her shoulder. "I'm afraid, Tess." he said. "I'm so afraid. The doctors don't know what's wrong, and were just waiting for him to open his eyes. What if he don't, Tess? What if he don't open his eyes?"


"Hoss ain't hungry?" Little Joe turned to Marie. "He really must be upset." He looked innocently at his mother. "But I'm just sick, right?"

Marie took his hand and led him to another area. "Now, look here." She said, and Little Joe stood on his toes once again trying to hear and see what was going on. Another image began to appear and Little Joe soon recognized the voices....


"Twenty dollars?" Carlos said stopping Adam as they walked out of the Trading Post. "Adam, you are being robbed."

"I have no choice." Adam said "Pa's going to have to bring Little Joe to the hospital in Sacramento, and it's gonna cost him a lot more money than we have. At least the twenty dollars will help to pay for some of it."

"But to leave Eagle Station and The Ponderosa? There must be something you can do around here, to be closer to your family, to Little Joe."

"I'm staying as close as I can."

"Salt Lake City?" Carlos said. "It will take days or even weeks to get there."

"It was the only place with openings. Besides, they only need me for a week or two at the most. We need the money, Carlos."


"This isn't easy for me either. I want nothing more than to stay here with my family, but I can't. I just can't stay." Adam walked towards Beauty and mounted.

"But what about your plans? I thought you had decided on attending university."

"It's gonna have to wait. Little Joe is more important. I've got to go pack." Adam said and rode off out of town, leaving Carlos standing there alone.


"Do you see how important it is that you get well, Mon Petit?" Marie asked Little Joe.

"Adam's been talkin' about going to college for as long as I can remember." Little Joe said. "And he finally saved up enough money to pay for a private university. He was gonna leave in a week."

"All his saved money was given to your father to pay for the doctor." Marie explained to him. "If you do not get well you will have to be brought to a hospital in California, which costs much more than they can afford to pay."

"What about Pa?" Little Joe asked, "I haven't seen him yet."

Marie brought him to yet another area. Little Joe looked again. "No need to strain yourself, Mon Petit." Marie told him. "He is talking to us." Ben's voice began to come through loud and clear and Little Joe saw him....


Ben sat, his hands folded , next to his son's bed. He was deep in thought, a look of worry on his face.

"Dear Lord," he said. "We have always been the type of family to follow Your teachings. We have done You no wrong. My son is only twelve. He has so much to look forward to in life, please. I know that all in Heaven is so much more lovely than anything here on Earth and I know that if my son were to die that he would find peace and eternal happiness with You and his beautiful mother. But, we need him here. Please, dear Lord, don't take my son away from me." Ben cried. "I would give everything and do anything to keep him here. All worldly possessions are worth nothing to me compared to the health and well-being of my boys." Ben closed his eyes, paused a moment, and took a deep breath. "When You took my wives from me, I did grieve, but none-the-less remained a solid and strong man, accepting what had occurred. I didn't understand it, but in time, I learned to live with Your decision for them to be with You in Your glorious kingdom of Heaven. My sons are my whole life. Losing Joseph would put a hole in my heart that no one would be able to repair. It's true we have our minor disagreements, but I still love him more than anything. I don't think I've ever prayed for a miracle harder than I'm praying to You right now. Please, let my son live." Ben's tears began to flow down his face in a stream. "Oh, Joseph."


"What do you think, Mon Petit?" Marie asked Little Joe. He turned to face her, tears streaming down his cheeks.

"They're all so sad." Little Joe said. "But..."

"You have to go back to them." Marie explained.

"But... But I miss you so much, Ma. I wanna be here with you."

"You can not stay. Think of the rest of you family. They need you."

"But, Ma."

"Please, do this." Marie begged him. "Go to them." Little Joe ran towards Marie, crying while he held onto her. "We will see eachother again. I promise you. Now you have to go."

Little Joe looked up into her eyes. "But..."

"You must go."

He held her tighter. "I love you, Ma." he cried. "I love you so much."

"And I love you, Mon Petit Joseph." Marie kissed the top of his forehead. "Very much." She stepped back from Little Joe. "Now. Just close your eyes." Little Joe looked at her. "Close them tightly, and if your journey here has change your mind, when you open them again you will see you family." Little Joe closed his eyes. He wanted to open them to take one last look at his mother, but he didn't. He wanted to remember her how had last seen her, and he knew that he would see her again someday.


Little Joe's eyes twitched. He couldn't stand to keep them closed any longer. He slowly eased his eyes open, allowing them to adjust to the bright light and the cloudy figures that surrounded him.

"Joe?" Little Joe couldn't quite see who said his name, but the voice sounded familiar. His eyes were still somewhat glazed, but he began to make out the bodies that stood over him.

"I can't believe this." the faces of these figures were soon seen by Little Joe. "Pa." Adam said nudging his father to awake. "Pa, he's up, Joe's awake."

Ben sprung up in the chair and leaned onto his son's bed. "Joseph." he said. "Thank God," he said softer.

"Pa." Adam said with his hand on Little Joe's forehead. He quickly stared over at his father and then to Hoss. "It's gone. The fever's gone." Ben placed his hand on Joe's head, and felt nothing.

"It's a miracle." Ben said.

Little Joe looked over at his father and brothers. "Your praying worked...Pa." he said. Ben just looked at him. "And now you can spend your money to go to college, Adam, 'stead of...of taking the job in Salt Lake City." Adam stared at Little Joe. "And I bet...Tess'll be glad that you're eatin'

again, Hoss."

"How'd you know what was..." Hoss began.

"I saw it." Joe interrupted. "I saw it all. A man came, and he was me, but he wasn't me. And he brought me up to Heaven and I saw Ma. Boy did she look pretty. And she said that I wanted to stay there, and I did, but she said I couldn't. So she showed me what you were doing and I changed my mind to come back... I guess."

"Woah," Adam said. "You didn't go anywhere, you were here the whole time."

"Yeah, I know. I saw me...the real me in bed when the other me came to bring me to Heaven?" Little Joe made a funny face as if he had just confused not only his family, but himself as well.

Ben, Adam and Hoss looked at eachother. "Must be those fever dreams talkin'." Hoss said.

"Yeah, why don't you get some rest, Little Joe." Adam said. "I'll get the doctor to come by in the morning. Is that alright, Pa?"

"Yeah." Ben said. Hoss and Adam rose and left the room. Ben stood and started to do the same.

"Pa?" Little Joe said. Ben stopped and turned to him. "You believe me, don't you."

"Of course I believe you, Joseph." he said. "Now, get some rest." Ben turned and started to walk again when Joe called him back.

"Pa?" Ben turned. "She looks exactly the same Pa." Ben was silent. "And...she can see us too. And hear us... And she does, Pa, I just know she does."

"I know she does, Little Joe." Ben said. "Now. Go to bed."

Little Joe pulled up his covers to right under his chin. "Goodnight, Pa." he said as Ben closed the door. Little Joe stared up at the ceiling for a moment and then closed his eyes to sleep. "Goodnight, Ma."