Author's note: This story was intended for the Pick Six Challenge from October. It just took me a little longer than expected to write it! This story is the fifth story in my 'Home' series, following 'Heading Home', 'When Does a House Become a Home?', 'A Touch of Home', and 'The Home Stretch'.
Kid closed the barn door, giving it a firm pat with his hand as final assurance that the door was definitely secure. The past hour had proven that he definitely should have listened to Buck.
Buck had told him a bad storm would be hitting the area, and of course he'd been right. Deep down Kid had known it, too, but the weather was just so hot that he knew the horses would be more comfortable out in the corral, than inside the barn. So, he'd taken his chances, argued with Buck that it would probably just be a passing shower, and, as a result, he and Buck were now soaked to the skin from running around in the rain, chasing the horses that had busted down the corral fence.
Now the horses were safe in the barn and the *thunder* and lightning were fading into the distance, causing trouble for some other rancher no doubt. Kid took the lantern off the hook by the front door and quietly entered the house, glad to be in out of the pouring rain. He placed his hat on one of the pegs by the door and tossed one soaking wet *glove* then the other onto the floor; he'd hang them by the fire in the morning. He was too tired now and just wanted to go back to bed, and pull Lou against him as he dozed off.
Kid headed toward the steps then froze as he heard a creaking noise coming from the other side of the room. There was no need to reach for the gun belt hanging from another peg as he instantly knew what was causing such a noise. With a grin on his face, Kid lifted the lantern off the side table he'd placed it on and shone it in the direction of the fireplace. He took a step forward, and then paused at the beautiful sight in front of him.
Sitting in the *rocking* chair, that had once belonged to Emma, was Lou; and in her arms was their sleeping baby daughter. All their nights ended that way since Lou had given birth, almost three months ago. He couldn't get enough of watching that scene of mother bonding with her child … but it had already happened tonight as it was now well past midnight.
"Awe, did the storm wake up Charlie?" he asked as he walked across the small room to stand in front of Lou. That had to be the reason because if she was up to be fed, Lou did that upstairs in the rocker he'd made for her.
"No, I did," Lou muttered.
"What did you say?"
"No, I did!" Lou exclaimed, then lowered her voice to just above a whisper as the small body in her arms began to stir. As she automatically rocked faster, she turned sheepish eyes to Kid. "You were there when I fed her and put her back in her cradle. You saw how she fell right to sleep. A full tummy and she's good for a while; you know that. She had no problem sleepin' through the storm; I was the one who did."
"So you wanted her to keep you company?" Kid smiled at the thought of their infant daughter bringing Lou such peace.
"No, it wasn't for that." She shook her head then placed a soft kiss on Charlie's head. "I had my reasons."
The way Lou was avoiding looking his way, and how she kept a tight hold of their daughter, told him something had happened in the time he'd been outside. Kid took one of the chairs from the dining table and brought it over to where Lou sat. He sat down in it so he was facing her and lowered his head to try to meet her eyes. "I don't understand, Lou. You're the one always tellin' me to be quiet so as not to wake her when she's nappin' and you deliberately wake her up from a sound sleep? Why would you do that?"
Lou looked from his inquiring eyes to the precious bundle she loved more than life itself, and deciding not to fight her pent up emotions, everything came out in a whispered rush of words.
"My husband was outside tendin' to our horses, lightin' flashin' all around him, and it didn't seem right just turnin' over and goin' back to sleep. I felt I needed to lend my support by at least bein' down here, close to where he was. But that left my daughter upstairs all alone … very far from me." Lou paused to catch her breath.
"My mind kept thinkin' … she's up there, I'm down here, what if somethin' was to happen to the house as a result of the storm? What if I couldn't get to her? It just made more sense to have both of us down here."
Lou tried to read the expression on his face but all she saw were shadows cast by the lantern. Glad to have that off her chest, she gave a nervous laugh. "Listen to me *ramble* on like that. They'll probably *cart* me away for bein' a crazy woman doin' like you said - wakin' a baby from a sound sleep for no good reason." She gave another uneasy laugh.
"I'd say it was for the best reason in the world. Ain't no one gonna be cartin' you off anywhere. We need you too much." Kid paused until she was looking at him. "You take care of us like I never thought anyone could. You have so much love to give, Louise."
"Who'd have thought, huh?" she laughed. "Not me. I always cared about my brother and sister but somehow that was different than what I started feelin' towards you and the other boys, and Teaspoon and Emma, then Rachel. Somethin' happened to me when I came here for the Express. Feelin's started comin' to the surface that I thought were buried so deep within me that they didn't exist. And from the moment our sweet Charlotte was placed in my arms, I felt my heart was ready to burst. I couldn't show her … and you … enough of how much I loved the two of you." Lou looked away, embarrassed to be baring her soul so deeply.
"I didn't think I could feel that way either. I had always loved my ma and Jed but lovin' someone else, that just didn't seem likely. It makes me think of somethin' my ma used to tell us after a bad time with my pa. A lot more is grown at home besides crops, she would tell us; there's values, patience, responsibility, but most of all love. I could never understand what she was talkin' about. When I was real young I figured you just loved someone because they were a part of you, and they loved you back … but my pa put an end to that theory early in my life. I didn't realize they had to earn that love. So, I guess love really is home grown," Kid told her with a smile. He reached out and ran his fingers down her cheek, and then softly touched the downy head of his daughter. "It took comin' here and bein' part of a real family, havin' people who were once strangers to us risk their lives for us, and makin' us feel welcome, to help us develop feelings we never thought we'd have."
Lou smiled at Kid as she nodded her head. "To think I was worried about becomin' a wife and mother. Now it seems so natural to love you and Charlie. I couldn't imagine not doing it." She looked around them at the house that Emma had owned that she'd given to them as a wedding gift. "We're so lucky to have found this place. And I don't just mean so we could have a roof over our heads."
"I know exactly what you mean. Now how about we put this little one in her cradle where she belongs? I could sure use a change of clothes and a few hours sleep before that old rooster wakes us up!"
Laughing, Lou slowly stood up so as not to disturb Charlie. She expertly cradled the baby against her body as she led the way up the stairs, being guided by the lantern in Kid's hand. "I know of somethin' else that is home grown, Kid."
"And what would that be?"
"Our offspring. Charlie may not have been conceived here, but it's because of havin' been here that we have her today."
"Maybe the next time I'm in town I'll tell folks we grow children out here … lots and lots of children." Kid waited with a knowing smile on his face to hear her reaction.
"Lots, huh? How about we take it one at a time? And if you dare tell anyone what you just said … havin' them thinkin' that's all we do out here … I'll see to it that one is all you wind up with!" Giving a toss of her head, Lou entered their bedroom.
Kid laughed good-naturedly as he followed her into the room. She'd been so serious when they'd first moved here, trying to adjust to so many changes going on in her life at the same time. Things had settled down, with her finally enjoying married life, just before Charlie was born, and now, each day brought with it new challenges, but also new discoveries to explore in each other, just like he'd learned a lot about Lou tonight through her confession down by the fireplace.
He watched as Lou pulled the blanket over the sleeping little girl she'd placed back in her cradle. His ma had been right. A lot more than crops is grown at home, but the hard part was finding that home to grow all the other things that make you the person you want to be. He and Lou had been given a start in that direction by their mothers, but then it had been interrupted and if they'd never come here, neither of them might ever know what they were missing out on by giving your heart to another person, and accepting everything else that comes with it, including children.
Lou glanced at Kid, liking the description he'd given of his mother's to explain why they were able to feel love when they never thought they would. She sent his mother a silent thank you for starting her son on the right path, the path which led him to her. Deep inside she always knew things happened for a reason, and she didn't want to dwell on the past, but she was grateful to have found her way to this location.
She smiled as Kid climbed into bed, dry once more, and pulled her close. Lou looked into his eyes and said what were possibly the three hardest words to say, because a lot of times they are said for the wrong reason. But she said them for all the right reasons.
"I love you."