Sorry for the late update :) Christmas and all...


For the remaining way home both stayed silent, but words weren't needed. Laura listened to Almanzo's heartbeat - the steady pound making her feel calm and warm.

A few metres before Almanzo's reached the little house, the door swung open and Caroline rushed out. "Charles!" she cried back to her husband who had just worked in the kitchen.

"Oh my god! Laura!" She ran to the man who carried her daughter.

Before Almanzo could reply, Charles rushed through the door, "Half-Pint! What happened?!"

Almanzo looked down at Laura who still had nestled her nose into the warm fabric of his coat, before looking back at her parents, "Laura had an, um, … accident. I think it will be best if she could sleep for a while..."

"We need to get Doc Baker!" Caroline looked concerned at her daughter, caressing her hair.

"No… What Laura needs is rest. Believe me." Almanzo looked urgently at her parents. Charles and Caroline glanced at each other, both knowing that even though their engagement may have been broken off, Almanzo would still not want anything bad happen to Laura.

"Alright", Charles answered reluctantly, "I'll carry her to her bedroom."

Just as he was about to reach for Laura, she tightened her grasp on Almanzo and whispered, "No".

Charles and Caroline looked puzzled at Laura then at Almanzo. He tore his gaze off her, "I can carry her inside."

Charles nodded confused and worried, not really having another choice.

Almanzo carefully climbed up to the loft. When Charles wanted to follow him, Caroline touched his arm. He turned questioningly and his wife shook her head. Whatever just has happened, their daughter wanted to have Almanzo on her side right now. They needed to be patient.

He gently sat Laura down on her bed. She grimaced as her wound touched his coat.

"Is it that bad? Maybe it would yet be better to get Doc-"

"No!" Laura interrupted him, "No, it isn't that bad. I just need ... some time", she looked pleadingly at him.

"Alright… But you need to rest. Lay down. I'll talk to your Ma and Pa."

"But I can't rest. These pictures…" Laura's eyes burned and Almanzo put his arms around her. He gently stroked her hair and back.

"I don't want to sleep. When I wake up you will be gone", Laura sobbed.

He looked at her, "But I'll come back."

"And what if not?"

"I'll come back, Beth." He kissed her softly on the lips.

"Tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and the day after and the day after… I'll be there."

Laura smiled, "I try to rest" still her brown coat on, Laura moved her legs onto the bed.

"You want me to stay a little longer?"

She hasn't dared to ask but she didn't think she would be able to sleep alone. Laura nodded.

"Alright."

Too tired to get her boots and coat off, Laura just removed the few pins holding her hair up, so she could lie more comfortable.

"I missed seeing your hair down", Almanzo admitted as Laura has laid down with her head on the pillow. She blushed and it made him love her even more. He smiled, "Close your eyes now".

Almanzo gently took her hand in his and then leaned down to give her a little kiss on the lips. Laura opened her eyes. "I'll stay until you're asleep."

She smiled and squeezed his hand before closing her eyes again. The slow circles he drew on her skin made her more and more tired. Only a few minutes later she drifted off to sleep.

Almanzo stayed a little longer to make sure she wouldn't wake up. He stroked her soft auburn hair, brushing a strand away from her mouth. Gently he let go of her hand and covered her with the quilt on her bed.

If it wouldn't be forbidden he would lie down next to her, holding her close to make sure she had a safe sleep. But he'd already stayed longer in her bedroom than it was allowed.

Looking one last time at the woman he loved he forced himself to go. She was asleep now and soon he would see her again.

It was just the beginning.

Trying to make no noise, he climbed down the ladder. Charles and Caroline expected him.

What should he tell them?

"She's asleep now", Almanzo explained as he had reached the floor.

"Now maybe you like to explain us!" Charles said irritated. It made him angry that something had happened to his daughter and he didn't know what.

Both looked expectantly at the man in front of them.

"I…" he didn't blame Charles for being mad. He would have been too if something would have happened to Laura and nobody told him anything. "I'm not sure what happened. I was in the wood when I heard cries. I ran towards them and then I saw Jason holding Laura…"

"Jason?" Charles asked confused while Caroline encircled his arm, afraid of what they would going to hear.

Almanzo nodded "Jason Coleman. I don't know what happened. He held her and Laura struggled to get free. I charged him to get him away from her… Laura's got a bad wound on her hand. I think somebody should take a look."

Caroline closed her eyes as she imagined what had happened and Charles laid his arm around her waist to console her. Both couldn't really understand what Almanzo just had told them.

"She didn't want to talk about it. That's why I promised her not to do anything about it…"

Her parents nodded. "I can't believe it. What did that bastard say?" Charles asked, his voice full of anger.

"Nothing, sir. I… I punched him before he could say something. I saw Laura and I… I just…"

"It's alright Almanzo", Charles touched his arm with his hand, letting him know that he didn't judge him.

"Thank you", Caroline said shakily with tears in her eyes. She didn't even want to imagine what would have happened if Almanzo wouldn't have been there.

"Is it alright if I… would look after Laura tomorrow?" he asked unsure. Ever since they had broken off their engagement, he didn't know how her parents thought about him.

"Of course Almanzo", Charles smiled lightly.

"Well, I best be going then… Goodbye Mrs. Ingalls, Mr. Ingalls. It wouldn't be very appropriate to wish you a Merry Christmas…"