The call of a coyote pulled Emma from her fever-induced dreams. The solitary whine cut straight through to her heart and had her on her feet and shuffling into the next room.

Aidan lay in his crib tucked under a quilt made of remnants of Evan’s old flannel shirts and woolens. Kneeling down beside him she touched his reddened cheeks with the back of her hand. “Poor thing… poor sweet thing.” His skin was red and hot to the touch. It hadn’t been any different for the last four days, fever and pain.

She gently stroked the high line of his forehead, her fingertips ruffling the wet points of his baby-fine hair. He’d fallen asleep before she had. He had to. She couldn’t find her own rest until Aidan lay sleeping on his own.

That resolve had served her well during his illness, she was available to bathe his skin with soft wet towels when the fever threatened to burn him alive, but had left her without much sleep for herself.

There would be time for sleep when Aidan could open his eyes and smile at her again. Then, she would rest. That’s what she told herself when his back would arch and blood-curdling screams would wrest themselves from his throat as his hands fisted in her hair.

She didn’t mind the physical pain. It didn’t hurt nearly as much as the reality weighing down on her heart. Doc Baker had been out to see Aidan just yesterday morning and he’d given her a little hope. Medicine. Small doses for the baby, bigger for her.

It didn’t seem like much when her son was screaming at the top of his lungs and not even the old Irish songs that her father had taught her seemed to calm his frantic cries.

Then there would be those horrible, terrifying times when the crying would stop.
Silence, even for a short time was painful. It meant so many possible things… each one worse then the next, but the greatest fear was that the fight was over. That he’d been lost to the world after all. That she’d failed her child.

Now, he murmured in his sleep, little fists wound through the air as if he was trying to reaching for something unseen above him. Little rouge colored lips opened and sought solace from his mother’s touch and little Aidan began to cry again.

To Emma Crandall it hurt her ears, but the mere fact that his little lungs could gather up enough air to cry was cause for celebration. She lifted him up, her arms shaking from the exertion, and settled him against her body.

Once she had him cuddled against her side, nursing at her breast she stared down at his round face and willed him all of her strength and all the stubbornness that came with her Irish blood. He would need it, her little man.

Every hour seemed to wear him down, take a little bit of the glow from his skin; he was fading before her eyes. “I want you to live, little one. I want you to learn to walk right here beside me. Hold my hand when we walk through town. Go to school and make a hundred friends. Fall in love and marry a wonderful woman and give me grandchildren to fill my house with laughter. I want you to live.” Tears rolled down her cheeks and she swept them away before they could fall on his face. He didn’t need to feel her pain… her worry.

He fell asleep, his hands grasping the cotton of her robe.

She brushed a gentle kiss on his forehead. “Just live, baby… just live. For me.”



*written for Destardi's Live Journal challenge - prompt - I Want You to Live

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