Chapter 7

Crane woke up Sunday morning and tried to dress for the day as quietly as possible. It was almost 5 am. On a normal Sunday, they wouldn't start chores this early, but it wasn't a normal Sunday. He would need to cover Daniel's share of chores today.

He looked over at his little brother sleeping soundly in the bed across the room. He was glad to see it, after him having such a rough night. Crane had awakened twice during the night, hearing Daniel stirring, trying with a fair amount of effort to haul himself out of bed to go to the bathroom.

Crane had told the boy to call out to him if he needed help during the night. Instead, teenage bravado dictated that he try to get up on his own. It didn't happen, however, as he had stiffened up considerably during the night. Crane had assisted him in getting out of bed and then waited dutifully in the hallway for him to take care of business, then helped him back to bed. Afterward, Crane walked down the hall and peeked into Ford's and Evan's room. Both boys were sleeping soundly. Crane knew that Ford was taking good care of Evan.

Crane set the alarm for 3 a.m., which was when Daniel's pain medicine was due again. He hoped the boy would sleep through and not need it, but when Crane woke up he found Daniel, essentially curled up in a near-fetal position, awake and moaning. He got up and gave his little brother a pain pill and some water, not even bothering to ask him if he needed it. Some time later, Crane could tell by Daniel's breathing that he had relaxed and gone back to sleep. Crane relaxed himself hoping to doze off himself. He wondered if Brian and Adam had talked. He supposed he would know soon enough. He said a silent prayer then began to drift off again, knowing that in little more than an hour he would be awakened by the familiar, but unwelcomed sound of their alarm clock.

And so he had...Crane rolled over and shut it off quickly, so that it wouldn't wake up his brother. Daniel was a good brother, but he was definately less than a joy to be around when he was sick or hurt. Crane desperately hoped to not disturb him.

He left the room quietly and made his way to the kitchen and was pleased to smell coffee brewing already, his thoughtful sister in law was already up and making breakfast. Adam was there too, along with Brian. Even little Guthrie had gotten up to help his big brothers this morning. Seeing his bright shining face made Crane smile. Too bad all the brother's weren't as full of energy as their 12 year old sibling.

He studied them all. He noticed Adam seemed relaxed and almost happy. Brian too, seemed to be more relaxed than he'd seen him in some time. Crane glanced at Hannah, who smiled sweetly and gave him a little nod that communicated to him that things were ok. Thank goodness!

"Good morning, Crane. Hannah greeted him with a cheerful tone.

"Good morning to you kind lady." Crane answered.

"I'm glad to see everybody is up and ready for the day. Let's hope I see the same enthusiasm out of you Monday morning short stuff!" Adam said, passing Guthrie's chair and mussing his hair as he made his way to the coffee.

"I can stay home if you need extra help!" Guthrie replied with way too much enthusiasm for such an early hour.

"That's ok, we'll manage just fine." Adam replied, smiling.

"Anybody wake up Ford?" Brian asked.

"I looked in on Evan and woke Ford up, but I could tell he didn't sleep well. He took charge of Evan last night. I'm gonna let him sleep til around 8. Hannah can wake him up when she takes breakfast to Evan." Adam replied.

"How's Daniel, Crane?" Hannah asked quietly, sitting down with her cup of coffee.

"He's sleeping right now. He had his medicine a couple of hours ago, so he'll probably sleep for a while." Crane answered.

"I'll check on him after I wake up Ford. I figure he and Evan will appreciate having breakfast in bed." Hannah said with a smile.

"Adam I'm gonna head on out to the barn. I'll take care of Evan's and Dan'ls chores." Brian offered.

"I was gonna do 'em." Guthrie piped up.

"I was gonna handle Daniel's chores, but you can help me with them Guth." Crane said.

"Ok. Then I can help Brian with Evan's too." Guthrie smiled.

"That'd be great, shrimp." Brian replied.

"Morning." Ford said, entering the kitchen.

"Hey sleepyhead. I was gonna let you sleep in." Adam said.

"Nah. I'm good. I may take a nap after lunch, but I can't sleep right now." Ford explained.

"How's Evan?" Brian asked. He had stopped at the door of the mudroom when Ford walked into the room.

"He's awake. I just gave him his medicine. Oh, Hannah- it's due again around noon." Ford replied.

"Thank you Dr. McFadden." Hannah replied, laughing.

"Adam, give me fifteen minutes, I'm gonna go see Evan." Brian said, already walking towards the living room.

Adam gave him a knowing look and an affirmative nod.

"Ok guys, let's hit it. Tell you what, Guthrie I'll go ahead and get you started on Evan's chores for Brian." Adam said.

Brian knocked softly on the door to Evan's and Ford's room.

"Come in." Evan replied.

"Hey, kid. You mind if I come in for a minute?" Brian asked, popping his head into the room.

Evan let out a sigh and replied, "Sure Brian, come on in."

Brian gasped a little as he took in the sight of his little brother. His face was sporting numerous bruises and his top lip was swollen and Brian noticed it was split too.

"Hey partner. Can I get you anything?" Brian asked.

"Nah. I've just been waiting for this pain stuff to kick in. I wish it made me sleepy like it does Daniel, but Crane said they gave him stronger stuff than me." Evan whined.

"Aww, they could just see that you're a tough guy. Guess they didn't figure you would need the hard stuff." Brian said with a nervous grin. He wasn't too sure how his little brother was feeling about him this morning.

"Well, they figured wrong. So what do you want, Bri?" Evan asked.

"I wanna apologize...for everything. I am so sorry about all of this, gotta know that." Brian offered.

"Yeah, I know. It's ok...I mean, it has to be. Ain't nothin' either of us can do to change it." Evan replied.

Brian eased over and settled on the side of Evan's bed.

"I didn't sleep last night. Couldn't stop thinkin' about you...and Daniel. I don't blame you for being pissed- I'm kinda surprised you're even talkin' to me now." Brian said.

"I'm too banged up to run away from you Brian. I may as well listen to what you have to say." Evan replied, sounding a little less agitated than Brian expected.

"Well, I was thinkin' about what I could do to make this up to you...and...I had an idea." Brian explained.

"What's that?" Evan asked curiously.

"Well, this is gonna depend on what the doctor has to say, but I know the last leg of the rodeo circuit for our region is still 3 months away. I was thinkin' if you're healed up in time, we can save up the money for the entrance fee and travel expenses and I can take you to Reno and you can compete there." Brian said.

Evan's eyes grew wide as Brian spoke and Brian could see the excitement building in his little brother.

"Really? You think we could afford it?" Evan asked, excitement ringing clear in his voice.

"You let me worry about the finances. You just tell me if you think you can be ready for it and I'll make a way for it to happen." Brian said with a broad smile on his face.

"Oh Brian. That would be awesome! I'll be ready, for sure. Are you sure Adam will let us go? We're talkin' 150 miles or better, one way. He might not like it." Evan said with doubt.

"Hey, Adam's not the only adult around here. Ol' Brian can be a responsible adult when he wants to be you know!" Brian said, laughing.

"That'd be awesome! I've read all about it in my magazines. They have the most awesome arena there!" Evan said excitedly.

"So I hear." Brian said, mussing Evan's hair.

"Glad I could make ya feel better. I just wish the whole family could come watch, but at least I can be there to cheer you on." Brian replied.

"I know." Evan said. "You know, I also read that Tanya Tucker is the entertainment for that one." Evan continued, a hint of guilt in his voice.

"I heard that too. I guess you're thinking of Daniel?" Brian asked, smiling and raising a curious eyebrow.

"Yeah, he's kind of in love with her, you know." Evan said...hoping Brian would catch the hint.

"Uh huh...I know. That's why I figured we'd invite him to go too, if you don't mind." Brian said with a mischievious grin."We'll make him pay for all the gas!" Brian teased, giving Evan a wink.

"Alriiiight. Road trip! We're gonna have a blast! Brian, you're the best...the absolute best!" Evan said and let out a boisterous 'yee haw!'

"Ok, ok calm down. So...we got a date, right?" Brian asked.

"You bet! Can I tell Daniel, please?" Evan begged, sounding like a 7 year old rather than a 17 year old.

"Oh, spoil all my fun, huh?" Brian asked laughing. "Sure partner, you can tell him when later when he wakes up."

"Evan, I'm not doing this to rack up brownie points. You're a good kid and I'm proud of you for having my back yesterday. This is my way of telling you how much I appreciate it. I want all you boys to know that I will move mountains to make you happy if I have to." Brian said, his eyes tearing.

Evan suddenly grew quiet, emotions taking him over too. "I know you would Brian. I've always known that. You've always been there for us. I'd take a beating for you every day if I had to." Evan replied, reaching over to hug Brian.

Brian reciprocated, being careful not to disturb the boy's ribs. "I love you little bro" Brian said.

"I love you, Brian...more than you'll ever know!"

God, I sure hope Adam remembers telling me I'm just as much a parent to them as he and Hannah. Oh well, if he pitches a fit, I'll just throw his words back at him! He can't win...

Brian shook his head and had to laugh out loud at his own thoughts.

the end...