Who's Child is this?

Written by:  Starlite

Ben Cartwright sat in his red leather chair and enjoyed the warm inviting atmosphere of the large room, which was adorned in all the finery befitting the Christmas Season.  The air was filled with the sweet scent of pine from the large tree, that was decorated with glass ornaments and candles. Puffing on his pipe, he glanced over the newspaper he'd been reading, to watch his sons singing Christmas carols.

Hoss sat on the settee facing the large brightly burning fireplace, with Joe perched on the low table in front of him.  In silent competition, each was trying to out sing the other, not only in volume, but also in vocal ability.  While Hoss took the lower bass octave, Joe tried his best at the higher pitch.

Adam sat across the room from his father in his favorite blue chair, accompanying his brothers' singing with his guitar.  He easily handled the baritone octave, but took pleasure in watching his brothers trying to outdo the other.

Suddenly a very shrill and definitely off-key note pierced the evening's music.  In reaction to the bitter sound, Adam's fingers involuntarily cringed causing a resounding TWANG.

Surprised, that any normal human male could make that kind of sound.  Unless of course, his pants were hitched too high and tight, Adam found his face had puckered at the noise.  Forcing his left eye open, he looked over to the cause.

"Sorry," Hoss offered slightly embarrassed, while Joe began to giggle uncontrollably.

Shifting his glance, he looked over to his father and found him chuckling quietly, while trying desperately to pretend that he was still reading the paper.

"Well, let's try something else this time.  Maybe something not so difficult for the vocally challenged."  Adam suggested somewhat mockingly.  Strumming out a few refrains, he began to sing, once again his brothers joined in.  

The Cartwright sons barely reached the first chorus when a sharp high pitched peal ripped through the air.  Adam's shoulders involuntarily jerked and he gagged.  Scanning the room he searched for shattered glass.  Looking toward the dining room, he found a very sour expression upon his father's face, he had the appearance of a man who'd been sucking on a very bitter lemon.  Both men began to laugh before looking over to the cause.

"Hey, my throat is just dry!"  Joe protested without success, as Hoss began to point and guffaw at him.

Once the laughter had finally ceased, Adam shook his head and decided to try one final time for a little musical entertainment.

"So much for the vocally challenged, why don't we just try one that requires no skill at all."  Smirking, Adam began to pick out the tune to 'Jingle Bells'.

"Hey, wait a minute Adam."  Hoss interrupted before Adam and Joe began to sing.  "Do ya hear that?"

"What?" Little Joe inquired.

"Sush.  That…  Do ya hear it?  It sounds like crying."  Hoss added becoming very quiet and turning his attention towards the front door.

"Probably just Hop Sing in the kitchen crying over you two's performance."  Adam deadpanned.

"Hush!"  Hoss again insisted.

All four Cartwrights stopped and strained to listen.  Faintly, they heard a very small yet distinctive cry coming from the direction of the porch.  Rising from their respective seats in the room, they hurried to the front door.  

Closest to the door, Joe reached it first and swung the door open.  Faster than both his father and larger brother, Adam was right behind and both he and Joe froze before the small basket that they found at their feet.  Ben was not far behind his oldest son and bumped into Adam not realizing that his sons had stopped suddenly.  Adam in turn fell against Little Joe who swayed slightly before Adam grabbed his arm to steady him.  Hoss was a little slower in joining his family, but he too didn't realize the sudden cease of movement by Adam and Joe and plowed into his father from behind.  The impact with his larger son caused Ben to collide with Adam, who then lost his balance and fell into Joe.  Both men began to topple, but desperate to avoid the small bundle, Adam pushed his little brother away causing Joe to fall with a resounding 'Thud' before doing his own ballet rendition of swan lake across the wooden planks of the porch.  Ben found himself lurching forward before he felt a very strong hand grab his shirt collar from behind leaving him suspended over the mysterious offering.  All four men's attention was quickly refocused on the small basket when they heard a loud squeal.

After regaining their composure, and now safely and resolutely upon their own feet, the four grown men encircled the small basket and found themselves staring down into the contents it contained in utter shock and surprise.

"It's a baby!"  Hoss exclaimed happily, as his brothers and father looked at him for stating the obvious.

"Here, I think we'd better…" Ben began to suggest that they take the child into the house.  Before he could complete the thought, his middle son easily lifted the small child wrapped in blankets into his arms, turning he walked into the house.

Shrugging their shoulders, Adam, Joe and Ben turned to follow.  Before entering the house, Adam reached down and picked up the basket and carried it inside.  He placed the makeshift cradle on the sideboard and examined the contents.  All he found were a couple of diapers, gowns and bottles for the child.

"Anything?"  Ben inquired noticing that Adam was checking the basket.

"Nothing, Pa."  Adam replied while walking over to join his family near the settee, where Hoss still held the infant in his arms.

"Can we keep it, Pa?"  Hoss asked, as he rubbed his big index finger over the tiny little cheek.

"Yeah Pa, can we keep it?"  Joe chimed in, reaching into the bundle to play with a little hand.

"NO!'  Both Ben and Adam responded in unison.

"For one thing, that's not an IT, that's a baby."  Adam corrected his younger siblings.  "And babies grow up to be little people, and if you're really lucky, they even grow up to be adults."  Adam finished and pointedly looked across to Little Joe.

Little Joe felt his oldest brother looking at him, he wasn't sure but he thought he'd just been insulted.  Glancing up from the baby, Joe recognized the smug expression upon Adam's face.  Not resisting the sudden urge, Joe stuck out his tongue in response.

"Point proven, case closed."  Adam remarked at Joe's insulting gesture.

"HUH?" Joe replied with mouth gaping over Adam's last statement.  He really wished that Adam would just make sense when he talked.

Impatient over his oldest and youngest son's bickering; Ben drew everyone's attention back to the issue at hand.

"Would someone care to explain how this child got here?"  Ben demanded; gesturing to the baby still engulfed in Hose's strong arms.  Hoss was so enrapt with the child he held, he wasn't even aware of the others in the room.

Adam had to bite his tongue to keep from giving his father a biological reason for the child's existence.  He knew it wasn't long before his father would explode and decided to keep his thoughts to himself.  Looking across to Joe, he realized that his kid brother was thinking along the same lines.  Determining that silence was the best course of action, both men smirked before looking to their feet.

Ben was not amused as he took in each of his sons.  His oldest and youngest looked like errant schoolboys and Hoss was behaving like a child with a new toy.  Taking stock of each of his sons and the situation before him, Ben Cartwright jumped to the conclusion that one of his sons, must be the child's father.

Adam suddenly felt very self-conscious as though someone was studying him intently.  Raising his eyes from the floor, he found a very serious and somewhat displeased, questioning expression displayed upon his father's face.

"What?"  Adam asked, looking back at his father, then blurted out when he realized what his father was insinuating.  "Don't look at me, it isn't mine!"  

"That's a baby, not an It!"  Little Joe corrected, very self-satisfied to get a dig in on his smart-aleck older brother.

Adam felt his blood begin to boil as he shifted his glare from his father to his baby brother.  Adam was indignant and uncertain as to whom he was madder at, Little Joe for throwing his own words back at him or his father for implying that the child was his.

Satisfied with Adam's response, Ben Cartwright turned the same suspicious glance to the next likely suspect.  Out of the corner of his eye, Adam noticed his father's eyes move in direction of his kid brother.

Joe watched in horror as his father and brother began to study him warily.

"Hey, I just kiss 'em and leave 'em!"  Joe defended himself, not wanting to be blamed for the little bundle of joy.

Adam rolled his eyes in response to Joe's statement.  Figures, I always thought he was more talk than action, Adam smirked.  

Both Adam and Joe looked to their father, with a 'what now?' expression and found their father studying their other brother speculatively.  Adam and Joe in turn, glanced over to where Hoss stood, still cuddling and cooing softly to the small child, totally oblivious to the stares from his family.

Ben, Adam and Joe pondered the possibility and with a single eyebrow raised in appraisal, turned back to face the others.  Still uncertain, they returned their attention to Hoss who was now making small goo goo noises to the baby.  Satisfied, Ben, Adam and Joe turned their attention back from Hoss and in unison announced:


Ben was satisfied that none of his sons were the child's father, but if they weren't, then who was?  And why was the child left on his doorstep?  Silently he pondered the questions until he sensed someone staring at him.  Looking up he saw the distinctively wicked grin of Adam and the shocked raised eyebrows of Little Joe.

"Don't be ridiculous!"  Ben barked, realizing what his two sons were suggesting.

Feeling vindicated after seeing their father's response, both Adam and Joe rolled their shoulders before turning their attention back to the baby.

The evening's relative peace was again shattered by a very sharp piercing wail from a small infant, followed closely by a shocked yelp from Hoss.

Hoss frowned and swallowed in mild disgust.  Adam and Joe began to laugh at their distraught brother with a very wet shirt, who now held the child at arm's length.

Ben shook his head in mild displeasure.  He was now very certain that none of his sons could be the father, because they were no more than children themselves.

"Adam, were there any diapers in that basket?"  Ben questioned; deciding someone needed to take charge of the immediate problem.  

"Huh, yeah."  Adam replied when he was brought out of his amusement.  He headed over to the sideboard to retrieve the necessary item.  Returning he attempted to hand the diaper to his father, "here."

"Don't look at me, I've diapered all the children I intend to in my lifetime."  Ben rejected the proffered item.

Turning, Adam attempted to pass the required item to Joe.

"Not me brother, I don't know nothing 'bout diapering babies."  Little Joe protested before beginning to cackle.

Thoroughly unamused at the way things were proceeding, Adam draped the diaper over Hoss's shoulder, before patting Hoss's broad back and announced, "It's all yours."

Hoss took a large swallow and turned sorrowful eyes to his oldest brother,  "Adam, please fix 'em."

Adam groaned and placed his right hand over his eyes in frustration.  He was reminded of a time, many years before, when a very young Hoss would bring baby Joe to him, so he could 'fix' this type of situation.  Moving his hand slightly, he surveyed the very sad hound dog expression displayed upon Hoss's face.

"Oh, alright."  Adam grumped as he took the cloth from Hoss and threw it over his own shoulder.  Retrieving the now screaming child from Hoss's hands, he made his way for the kitchen with Hoss on his heels.

Ben and Joe watched the interaction before them.  Ben knew Adam would succumb to his younger brother's pleas, Adam could never refuse Hoss anything.  They watched Adam and Hoss disappear into the kitchen, before breaking down into gales of laughter.


Ben looked up from his chair when he noticed his son re-enter the room with the child.

"It's a girl!"  Adam pronounced, as he thrust the child into his father's arms before his father had a chance to protest.  Striding quickly across the room, Adam retook his seat in the blue chair.

Little Joe jumped up from the settee.  He went over to his father to look at the small little girl he held, now dry and happy once again.

"How old do ya think she is?"  Joe pondered taking one of the small hands with his fingers.

"Oh, I'd say around five to six months."  Ben responded, as he looked down at the cherub face with rosy red cheeks.  

Ben was enjoying holding the baby.  He was a little disappointed and felt a twinge of regret that the child did not belong to one of his sons.  Even given the shameful and disgraceful circumstances, he definitely wouldn't mind being a grandfather.

Moments later, a much cleaner and drier Hoss rejoined his family, he stopped by his father's chair to once again ogle the little baby.

"Can we keep her?"  Hoss broke the silence of the room.

"Yeah, can we keep her?"  Joe again chimed in.

Adam let out an audible groan before responding, "That's a baby, not a puppy!"

"Adam, do ya have to be so cold hearted.  This little thing needs a home and it's almost Christmas."  Hoss complained as he glared across the room at his older brother.

"Yeah Adam, quit being so mean."  Joe piped in with his own angry stare.

"Boys, that will be enough!  Adam's right, this is no place for a small infant.  We'll go into town in the morning and notify the sheriff, and see what we can do about finding this little one's family."  Ben intervened before a full- blown squabble amongst his sons broke out.

The small infant girl began to stir and cry loudly over all the yelling in the room.

Adam began to pick out a very calming tune on the guitar, while he watched his father and brothers trying to sooth the crying infant.  Humming softly, he noticed the little girl begin to settle then fall asleep.  After playing one chorus, he began to sing quietly.

Ben recognized the tune Adam was playing; he frowned and was definitely not amused when Adam altered the words and began to sing, "Whose child is this?" for the first refrain.   


Adam rolled over in his bed and tried to cover his head with his pillow, attempting to block out the wail coming from the small room next to his.  Hearing his father's door slam and stomping footsteps coming down the hall, Adam decided to get up and join in on the fun.  He quickly donned his black jeans, house slippers and royal blue robe before making his way next door.  Stopping to lean against the doorframe, he enjoyed the spectacle before him.

"Can't the two of you quiet that baby down?"  Ben pleaded; looking quite frazzled due to the late hour and lack of sleep.

"We're trying Pa."  Hoss sorrowfully responded with his eyebrows raised in helplessness.

Adam chuckled in amusement when he noticed something off white staining the front of Hoss's blue and white checked nightshirt.  Chalk two up to the baby, Hoss is definitely her favorite target, Adam noted.

"Yeah Pa, she just won't quiet down."  Joe protested, clutching the child to his chest and jostling her up and down.

"Well, she never settle with you shaking her like that!"  Ben complained and grabbed the child from Joe's grasp.  "There, there."  Ben soothed as he began to rock the child in his arms.

Adam continued to watch his family with the girl, he started to laugh out loud when the child's cries became even louder.  He could tell his father was almost at wits end in frustration.

Ben tried to give the little girl her bottle, but she rejected it.  He was totally lost, he could find nothing wrong with the child, she didn't appear to be hungry, her diaper was dry, her color and temperature seemed normal, so why was she screaming like this?  Hearing his oldest son's amusement, he glared at Adam.

Adam recognized the distinctive unhappy scowl upon his father's face.  Deciding that he wouldn't be getting any sleep otherwise this night, he might as well offer his assistance.

"Here, let me try."  Holding out his arms, Adam progressed further into the room.

Ben gratefully relinquished control of the squalling child to Adam; then plopped down in exhaustion onto the bed.

Adam took the small girl into his arms and began to hum quietly to her, while he held her to his chest.  Slowly, her wailing began to lessen, then stop.

Ben, Hoss and Joe looked to Adam in amazement, turning their eyes heavenward; they gave a thankful prayer for the welcomed silence.  Looking back toward Adam, who was now walking the floor, they noticed the small child had finally fallen asleep.

Adam noticed the only sound, was that of his own voice in the room.  Smiling over to his father and brothers, he made his way to the child's basket.  He laid his small charge into the makeshift cradle and lifted the blanket to cover her.  Moving stealthy, he joined his family in a hasty and very quiet retreat for the door.  Ben, Hoss and Joe were standing in the hallway as Adam reached the doorway, when a piercing scream shattered the newfound peace of this night.

Adam groaned aloud as his father motioned him back into the room.  He responded with an angry glare at his two broadly grinning brothers, before turning around and heading back into the fray.  How could something so small make such a racket?


Ben awoke the next morning a little later than usual.  He was grateful for getting almost a full night's sleep.  Quickly dressing, he went to check on their guest.

Striding down the hall, he stopped at his eldest son's open doorway.  Adam rarely left his door open, and it was strange that his meticulous son's bed wasn't made.  Dismissing the oddity of the situation, Ben made his way to the room next door.

Quietly and with great care, he opened the door to peer inside.  Ben was touched by the scene before him; there in the rocking chair with his feet resting upon the bed was a silently dozing Adam.  On his chest, slept the little infant girl with one fist firmly grasping the royal blue flannel shawl collar of Adam's robe, and the other hand to her mouth, sucking on a very small thumb.  

Maybe Adam's heart wasn't so cold afterall, he mused as he warmly smiled then gently closed the door.

Ben glanced up when he saw Adam descending the stairs.  He quickly returned his attention to his plate to hide his smile.

Adam was exhausted; he'd barely gotten an hour's sleep the night before and it showed.  He came down the stairs with his hair not combed, his shirt unbuttoned and his boots in his hand.  Plopping down in the blue chair by the fireplace to put on his boots, he was not happy to find that he wasn't wearing any socks.

Little Joe and Hoss watched in amusement as Adam descended the stairs and went over to sit in the blue chair.  They could tell that the baby had gotten the best of big brother and began to giggle and guffaw.

"Hey, Adam, late night with a little lady?"  Joe taunted seeing Adam's drawn and weary face.

"Ain't she a little young for you?"  Hoss added a jibe of his own.

"Ha, Ha."  Adam answered; he debated tossing the useless boots at his younger siblings.

"Boys, that'll be enough.  Adam why don't you come and join us for breakfast."  Ben instructed, gazing at his very tired son.

Adam dropped the boots by the fireplace and started to button his shirt as he neared the table, but not bothering to tuck it in before he sat down.  Pushing his plate aside, Adam reached for the coffeepot and filled his cup.  Not worrying about the temperature, he downed the filled vessel and poured himself another.  Adam placed his left elbow on the table and used his hand to hold his head up before taking another sip of coffee.

Normally, Ben would have directed Adam to take his arm off the table, but felt given the circumstances, he'd let it slide this time.

Joe and Hoss watched their older brother before grinning across the table at the other.  Silently they each stole glances at Adam, while they ate their morning meal.  They watched in eagerness as Adam's head began to slowly descend toward his empty plate.  

"Adam, you and I'll ride into town today to see the sheriff."  Seeing Adam's predicament, Ben spoke loudly before fighting back a chuckle as Adam's head shot up and his eyes flew open in surprise.

Hoss and Joe silently chuckled when Adam awoke with a start, they could tell that Adam was startled to find himself asleep in his chair at the breakfast table.

"Ah, Pa, I'd like to run into town today too?"  Hoss asked, realizing what his father had just said.

"Yeah, I need to go too!"  Joe added, now ignoring his very sleepy brother.

"Fine with me."  Adam stated; he really wanted to stay home and go back to bed.

"No, no.  I need you two to check on the herd in the winter pasture today.  Adam will accompany me to town to talk to the sheriff."  Ben instructed as he looked to each of his sons in turn.


"Adam, why don't you go to the mercantile and see if you can't pick up some things for the little one."  Ben suggested.  Not hearing a response, he looked over to his eldest son.

Adam appeared to be asleep in the saddle.  Ben reached out to shake him awake and startled his son.  He grasped tightly to Adam's upper arm to keep him from falling out of the saddle.

"Huh, what?"  Adam looked sleepily around, surprised to find himself in the middle of town.

Grinning, Ben continued to hold Adam's arm until he was fully awake.

"I said, why don't you go over to the mercantile and get the some things for the baby, while I talk to Roy."  Ben repeated and watched as Adam yawned and blinked.  Feeling Adam was more alert; he let go of his arm.

"Yeah, sure Pa."  Adam answered before dismounting.  Tying the reins to the hitching rail, Adam ducked under the rail and stepped up onto the sidewalk.

"And, son…" Ben waited until Adam turned back to face him.  "Meet me at the sheriff's office when you're through and we'll stop off at the International House before we head home."

Adam nodded sleepily in return, then yawned once more before walking away.

Ben shook his head and smiled, Adam was definitely going to need more coffee before the ride home, that's if he stayed awake long enough to drink it.

Adam stumbled along the sidewalk, he was having a difficult time navigating with all the packages and bundles he carried.  He sincerely wished that he and his father had brought in a packhorse to carry everything home.  Then again, maybe he'd overdone things a bit much.  Not knowing much about little girls, he'd let the shopkeeper help him pick out different things, and due to it being Christmas Eve, he'd gotten a few extras as well.  Finally finding his way to Sport, he secured the items to his and his father's horses, before heading down the road to the sheriff's office.

Stepping off the high sidewalk, Adam caught a slight movement out of the corner of his eye and looked down the alley.  He grinned broadly when he recognized the two forms ducking behind some wooden crates.

"Hello, Joe.  Hello, Hoss.  Find any of our cattle down that alley?"  Adam smugly asked while walking over to where his brothers hid.

Caught red handed, Hoss and Joe stepped out from their respective hiding places to face their older brother.

"Doggonit, Adam.  We just wanted to pick up a few things for the little one."  Hoss admitted, looking down guiltily to his feet.

Adam glanced over his shoulder at his heavily burdened horse.  Yeah, the little one sure needed a few more things.

"We just wanted to get her something for Christmas."  Joe defended, while waving a hand at himself and Hoss.

Adam shook his head and folded his arms across his chest, before cocking one eyebrow at his two miscreant brothers.  "Merry Christmas," Adam muttered as he waved a dismissive hand back towards his brothers, then headed back toward the dusty street.  

Reaching the walkway once again, Adam was struck with a very devious thought.  Grinning wickedly, he called out "Hi, Pa!"  He turned to watch his younger brothers diving for their respective hiding places once again, chuckling he made his way down the road.

Adam approached the sheriff's office and heard a very loud and heated discussion taking place.  He paused by the front door to listen before entering.

"For the tenth time Roy, none of my boys are the child's father!"  Adam could hear the outrage in his father's voice, and decided to wait a bit longer before opening the door.

A moment passed without a sound before Adam heard his father's voice raise, yet again, in indignant rage.

"Don't be ridiculous!"  

Adam chuckled evilly; he knew what the sheriff must have implied.  Figuring he couldn't put off the inevitable much longer, Adam opened the door and stepped inside.

"Howdy Adam."  Roy Coffee turned to address the young man who'd just entered.  He was grateful for a change from the very irate older man standing before him.  "We was just discussing your family's little visitor."

"Ah huh."  Adam smirked impishly and bobbed his head slightly in response, noticing his very red-faced father.

Ben had had enough of this conversation with the sheriff, grabbing his hat from Roy's desk he turned to stomp from the room.  He stopped long enough to grab his very goofy acting son by the arm and direct him toward the door.

"Ben…" Roy Coffee called out, then waited until Ben had turned back to face him.  "I'll look into your little matter and let ya know what I find."

"Hurumph."  Ben replied as he turned his attention back to the open doorway.

"And Ben, just one more thing…" Roy again called out and patiently waited for Ben to look back.  "Merry Christmas!"  Roy added cheerfully.

Taking a deep breath, Ben waited a moment to calm his nerves before speaking.

"And a very Merry Christmas to you to Roy."  Ben replied pleasantly.

Peeking back into the doorway, Adam chimed in "Merry Christmas!"  

Ben pushed Adam back out onto the walkway, as he heard the sound of Roy's laughter ringing in his ears.  He began to mutter to himself as he once again grabbed his overtired son's arm and directed him down the road.


Adam once again found his face descending toward his plate and narrowly missed a collision with his mashed potatoes.  He really needed to get some serious sleep, but being Christmas Eve, and with family traditions, that much desired sleep was many hours away.  Adam heard his father tinkling a water glass with his fork.

"Sorry Pa."  Adam muttered and heard his two brothers laughing at his predicament.

Adam looked up to see the oriental cook bringing in dessert.  He offered a small apologetic smile when Hop Sing removed his almost filled plate from the table.  He rolled his eyes to his father when the incomprehensible angry Cantonese muttering began.

"Hop Sing…" Ben waited until the man stopped the chattering.  "Hop Sing, how was the baby today?"

"Missy vely fine.  Good baby for Hop Sing.  Sleep all day."  Hop Sing smiled very broadly in response before heading back for the kitchen.

A very disgusted scowl appeared across Adam's face and he grunted.

"Figures, she sleeps all day and keeps me awake all night."  Adam muttered.

Hoss and Little Joe started to titter and grin over Adam's comment.  Older brother did not seem too happy, they noted.


Adam quietly hummed 'Silent Night' as he began to undress and get into bed.  He was exhausted.  He really couldn’t recall much of the evening, except that the caroling with his brothers that evening was a disaster.  He couldn't seem to keep from yawning let alone make his fingers work to form the proper cords to play the guitar.

Adam slunk down into the inviting softness of his bed.  He was asleep the second his head hit the pillow.  The much-needed enticing sleep was suddenly shattered by a piercing wail.  Adam groaned; then rolling over he placed a pillow over his head.  Still the crying continued.

Not able to endure the ear splitting sound, Adam crawled out of bed.  Grabbing his jeans, he attempted to pull on the garment and tripped almost falling face first to the floor.

"Wonderful Adam, one leg at a time if you please."  He chastised himself.

"Can't anyone else hear that child screaming!"  He lamented as he grabbed his robe.  Reaching one arm into the covering, he was confused when he couldn't find the other arm.  Looking down he realized his mistake.

"Why don't you try right arm into right sleeve, genius."  Adam scolded himself continuing to make his way to the door.

"OUCH!"  Adam reached down to grab the toe he'd just stubbed on the bed, and began to hop on his uninjured foot.

"Can we keep it Pa?  We'll take care of her.  Sleeps all day and is awake all night!"  Adam griped as he searched for his slippers.

"Oh, forget it!"  Adam finally decided that he'd just go barefoot.  

Grabbing the door handle, he threw open the door to his room in frustration and froze.  Glancing back towards his room he felt an uneasiness wash over him.  In shock, Adam shuttered when he recognized a resemblance to his recent silent muttering tirade.

"Oh Lord, I'm turning into my father!"


Christmas morning found Adam once again fighting to keep his face out of his breakfast as his two brothers watched in amusement.  His father had once again found him in the baby's room, holding the small infant as she slept.

Even the excitement of opening presents had done nothing to rouse the over-tired man.  All Adam wanted this Christmas was a good night's sleep, on second thought, maybe a few good night's of sleep.

Adam again offered an apologetic small smile as Hop Sing retrieved his plate and stalked off to the kitchen muttering.  Adam was pretty sure the words were obscenities, because whatever Hop Sing was saying, it definitely didn't sound very nice.

Ben looked across the table at his exhausted son and offered a sympathetic smile.  He was about to excuse Adam from the table and instruct him to go up to bed, when he heard a noise coming from the yard.

"Hoss, could you see to that?"  Ben requested jerking his head in the direction of the front of the house.

Nodding, Hoss shoved a forkful of eggs into his mouth then rose to head toward the door.  

"Hey Pa, it's the sheriff and he's got some folks with him."  Hoss called back over his shoulder.

Rising from the table, Ben walked from the dining room to stand behind Hoss at the front door.  Adam and Joe followed to stand behind them.

Ben walked out to greet the Virginia City sheriff, and the two couples, which had accompanied Roy Coffee out to the Ponderosa on this very cold Christmas day.  One of the couples was about his age and the other around his sons'.

"Howdy Ben, I believe I found an answer to your little problem."  Roy beamed as he helped down the older woman from the buggy.

"Please, come inside and get warm."  Ben invited, indicating the house with his hand.


The four Cartwrights stood out in the freezing air and bid farewell to their recent visitor and her family.  They'd had a very pleasant day meeting the little one's family and were quite thankful that everything had turned out for the best.

In sending out wires for information, Roy had found from the sheriff in Carson City that a family was searching for a kidnapped child.  Apparently, the nanny and her boyfriend had stolen the child in hopes of obtaining a large ransom.  When things didn't go as planned and the boyfriend wanted to dispose of the child, the nanny had panicked and taken the child to Virginia City.  Not knowing what else to do, and figuring the Cartwrights could provide for and protect the child from her boyfriend, she had abandoned the child on the Ponderosa doorstep.  Now the boyfriend was sitting behind bars in Carson City, with the nanny cooling her heels in the Virginia City jail.

"It was a pleasure meeting you."  Ben stated as he shook the older man's hand.

"Thank you so much for taking care of my baby."  The young woman said as she kissed each of the Cartwright men in turn upon the cheek.

"You're welcome."  Adam replied as he took the young woman's hand and helped her into the buggy.

"Yes, thank you so very much."  The younger man added, as he reached across his wife to take Adam's hand and shake it vigorously.  Adam smiled broadly and nodded in response.

Adam, Joe and Hoss stepped forward to look at the little face once more.  Hoss reached out a hand to caress the baby's soft cheek; Joe took one small hand in his fingers and felt a little squeeze of the tiny hand, before Adam stepped forward to place a gentle kiss upon the tiny forehead.

"Merry Christmas, little one."  Adam whispered, gazing into the happy little face before stepping back to join his family.

Roy Coffee tipped his hat in silent farewell and he slapped the reins and drove the surrey away.

Little Joe reached up to put a playful arm around Hoss's shoulders.  Laughing, they made their way back into the warmth of the house.

Ben started to follow his two youngest and stopped when he realized Adam wasn't following.  Turning around he saw Adam staring wistfully down the road at the departing buggy.  Ben walked back to his oldest son and placed a reassuring arm across his shoulders.  

Feeling his father's arm, Adam glanced over to the man who stood beside him and smiled slightly.

"Someday son, someday."  Ben offered his understanding.  He too hoped that someday there would be a little one for his son.

Grinning slightly, Adam let his father turn him around to head back toward the house.  As they entered the large room, Ben walked over to his chair near the warm inviting fire and watched with concern as Adam headed for the stairs.  He started to chuckle when he heard Adam begin to sing while he ascended the stairs.

"God rest ye weary gentleman…"

The End