Summary: Seeking shelter from a storm, Joe and Adam fine more than they bargained for.
Word Count: 1238
“Joe! I think I can see the line shack ahead,” Adam yelled, trying to be heard over the howling winds.
They had been coming back from checking the herd’s feed when the snow started and had been forced to make a detour for shelter. Thankfully, they had gotten as far as Ponderosa land before the flakes had come down in earnest.
Joe just nodded his head not quite sure what Adam had yelled at him. He prayed they would reach the shack soon. He was sure he was frozen in the saddle and wouldn’t be thawed out until summer.
When Adam saw the outline in the distance, he spurred his horse into a faster gait and checked to make sure his brother was following him. Quickly dismounting, he and Joe put the horses to bed for the night and headed for the door with their gear.
Flinging the door open with a loud bang, Adam was shocked to hear a scream. He stopped in his tracks unsure how to proceed.
“You think some woman’s in there?” he asked incredulously.
“Brother, if there is I’m all for it,” Joe said, dropping his gear and rushing forward before Adam could stop him.
Adam could only get out a “Joseph!” before he heard more screaming and his brother gagging in the back of the cabin. Not knowing what to expect, he eased his gear to the floor and carefully made his way towards the sounds.
He stopped short at the sight that greeted him. There was a woman on the small cot, clearly in labor, and Joe was leaning on the wall trying not to throw up. He wasn’t sure who to tend to first.
“Joe, sit,” Adam said, shoving his brother to the wooden floor. “Put your head between your legs. There’s enough to deal with without you getting sick on me.”
Joe gratefully sank to the floor since it kept him from feeling like the room was spinning. He could hear his brother talking in the background over the roaring in his ears.
“Ma’am, if you don’t mind me asking…what are you doing out here all along? Surely your husband…”
“The choice was mine alone to come this far without him. He’s…” the rest of the sentence was choked off in another cry.
Joe looked up to see his brother making a grotesque face as the petite woman on the bed mangled Adam’s hand. His brother was trying to gently extricate his hand but was meeting with little success.
“Ah, ma’am, you squeezing…” Adam wheezed, yanking on his trapped appendage.
After another moment or so, the woman’s breathing eased into shallow pants and Adam cradled his hand to his chest. ‘I’ll never play again,’ he thought to himself.
“I-I think the baby’s…almost here,” she panted just before another scream started. Her hand was flailing looking for something to grasp. Adam bravely stuck his hand out again and was proud of himself for not yelling with her.
Joe snorted when he watched his brother’s face. Stupidly, he glanced down. “A-Adam…I think…I think I’m gonna be sick…”
“Joe, for god’s sake, you’ve seen horses have foals and it didn’t bother you!”
“Don’t know how to tell you this but that ain’t no horse,” Joe snapped.
“No, really? I hadn’t noticed that,” Adam grunted as the young lady started trying to break his fingers again. “Joe! Go get some hot water ready and blankets…lots of blankets.”
Amazed, Joe looked on as his brother managed to get his fingers free once again. Taking a deep breath, he looked around for what he would need. Hurrying he started a fire, grabbed the needed blankets, and looked frantically for something to use for heating the water.
“Ah, lady, can you tell me who you are? I think we’re a little late on introductions. But I’m Joe Cartwright and this is my brother Adam,” he said as he slammed another cabinet shut. In the last one he found a small pot, and he rushed outside to gather some snow.
“Ma’am, you’re kind of—” Adam grunted.
The woman looked at him through pain dulled eyes. Joe felt sorry for her. No woman should have to go through this kind of thing alone, and it was only luck that he and Adam had come this way.
“My name is… M-Margaret…Be-bell…can’t you yank this kid out!”
Adam cringed at the thought. “Well, Margaret Bell, it’s nice to meet you.”
“Will quit yapping and DO something!” she yelled as another contraction started.
Adam didn’t hesitate as he held out his much abused fingers. He figured if he were at this end, he wouldn’t have to deal with the business end. “Joe, you’ll have to deliver the baby. I’m kind of busy up here keeping Margaret calm.”
Joe looked up from where he was melting the snow. His expression clearly said Adam had lost his mind. “You mean…and then…oh god…” he moaned in time with Margaret’s wails.
“Precisely. Look at it this way – if Hoss can do it, you can.”
“I’d like to hear you say that from this end!” Joe blurted.
He looked up to see Margaret looking at him. He tried to smile reassuringly but was sure he looked more like he was trying to not throw up. “Easy, we’ll get you and your little one taken care of. You’ll be relaxing in no time.”
Panting, she said, “I’ll just settle for not feeling like my lungs are coming out my—”
“Okay!” Adam yelled to be heard over the little woman. He didn’t want to even contemplate what she was going to finish that sentence with. “Listen, when Joe tells you, you need to push…all right?”
Exasperated, she gasped out, “What do you think I’ve been doing you…”
“Push!” Joe said from the end of the bed as another contraction started.
He glanced up and had to smile as his brother tried to not yank on his hand again. “You’re doing a mighty fine job of keeping her calm, Adam. How do you do it?”
Adam glared at his youngest brother. He wasn’t so sure now who had the easiest part. He’d have to remember this the next time they were in a similar situation. ‘Please, God, don’t let there be a next time!’ he silently prayed.
The wailing started again, and, feeling her starting to squeeze again, tried to brace himself without much success.
“One more push and I think we’ll have us a baby,” Joe said, trying to encourage Margaret. How could someone so small make that much noise he would never understand. “Push!”
He grabbed the baby, carefully cleaning the small, crying bundle and wrapped the child in one of the clean blankets.
Joe smiled as he gently held the baby out to the mother. “Here you go – one healthy baby boy. What are you gonna name him?”
After cooing at the baby, Adam walked around to the end of the bed to clean up. He felt his knees buckle and the world grow dim. He registered pain as he landed face first on the hard floor. Just before he completely passed out, he heard his brother’s mocking words.
“Gee, brother, haven’t you been around enough horses?”