It’s Friday, Hearties! And more than that, it’s the Friday before a long weekend! Yahoo! I’ll do my best to get a blog up on Monday with the holiday and all, but I hope all of you are having so much fun that you can’t read it until Tuesday. You won’t want to miss it, though! Next week is special! And no, I’m not revealing why. 😀

And speaking of special, we’re doing something a little different today. Anybody ever watch Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman? I remembered this was something they did in an episode once. Colleen (the teenage girl in the series,) would rush to the telegraph office with her friends to read the latest piece of a story published in the newspaper. And every week, they would read the next part of the story until it was finished. How about we give that a try here? I’ll give you the first installment of my latest #FanFictionFriday story: A New Arrival; then next Friday, I’ll give a little bit more. How’s that sound? Now remember, it’s a short story, so the installments won’t be very long, but I hope you enjoy them. So…here…we…GO!

 

 

Nate slowed his mount Rusty to a walk as he reluctantly approached the wooden sign that named the town of Hope Valley. Sweat beaded on his brow, and his breath came in short, gasping huffs. Nate nervously gripped the reins tighter; Rusty nickered, and tossed his head anxiously as he took a few staggering steps backward.

“Sorry, boy,” Nate apologized as he patted the horse’s neck, trying to slow his own pulse. Rusty had always been a calming influence in Nate’s life, but not even his magic was working today; there was just too much at stake! With a forceful, determined exhale, Nate clicked his tongue, and nudged Rusty forward into the center of the frontier town. His face appeared calm, but his heart was pounding with every clip-clop of the horse’s hooves as the two plodded down the packed-dirt road. The astonished stares he was getting from a few scattered townsfolk wasn’t helping.

“Calm down,” Nate urged himself in a barely discernable whisper. “You know this has to be done! Just get it over with!” He found the jail with little trouble, and decided he should probably report to the sheriff before gallivanting about on his…other quest. He dismounted, tethered Rusty’s reins to the post, straightened his red serge jacket, and ascended the steps.

 

 

Well, that’s it. That’ll tide you over until next week, right? Have an absolutely FABULOUS Labor Day weekend, Hearties! This is Hooked Heartie, signing off. May your heart let your hope blossom!

 

Well, everybody, here it is! The final #FanFictionFriday of the season. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed them, because Sarah and I have loved writing them. Thank you for all the support! Now we’ll have to see how close we come, because our Christmas stories weren’t even REMOTELY close. Make sure you read last week’s story first, as this is a sequel of sorts. Without further ado, here is “A Shadowed Heart”, by Kami Clements and Sarah Nitsch.  

 

A Shadowed Heart

Jack collapsed into the chair behind his desk, his head fell into his hands.  His arms were shaking, and were only steadied by his quivering knees.  It was happening again!

No, no, NO!  Jack begged himself as he pushed a fist against his closed eyelids.  Not now!  Elizabeth was due at the jail any moment, and thus far, he had kept this from her.  But nothing could stay the horrible plague now: the horrible plague of war.  Jack’s mind was overtaken: the smells of the gunpowder and rotting flesh, the feel of every cannon shot that shook the earth beneath him, the sounds of pistols fired and men screaming in pain, the metallic taste of blood in his mouth when he was thrown from Sergeant…

Jack’s eyes flew open, and he put his fingers to his lips to ensure there was no red residue.  He looked toward the door in time to see the ashen, ghostly face of one of his fallen soldiers.  Jack’s skin went cold, his eyes widened, and he couldn’t catch his breath as his comrade reached toward him.

“You didn’t save me,” the soldier wheezed.  “Why, Jack?  Why?

“I tried,” Jack gasped out in short breaths, trembling with panic.  “I really tried.”

The soldier limped closer, his bloody hand coming ever closer to Jack’s shoulder.  “Jack!  Jack!”  Jack bolted from his seat, and grabbed the wrist; then he was looking into the terrified face of Elizabeth, and the phantom face melted away.  His eyes darted downward.  Instead of a soldier’s bloody paw, there was only Elizabeth’s dainty fingers, with his ring adorning one of them.  With a groan of both fear and frustration, he released her gruffly, and started to pace.

Elizabeth forced her breathing to slow as she watched Jack circle the room like a caged animal.  She was worried.  In the weeks that had followed his homecoming, she had seen the haunted look on his countenance more and more often.  Elizabeth knew Jack thought he was keeping it from her, but she’d have to be blind not to see the look of death itself in his eyes.  She just didn’t understand it, and she wanted to change that.

Jack had finally stopped pacing, and wearily sank into his chair, squeezing the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger.  Elizabeth approached him as she would a skittish child on their first day of school.  She tentatively touched his arm.  “Jack?”  Jack reluctantly raised his gaze, looking for all the world like he’d rather be anywhere but here.  “Jack, please tell me what’s wrong.  You know you can talk to me about anything.”  No answer.  “Jack, please?  I know something has been tearing you apart inside, and I want to help.” 

Jack looked sharply at her, trying not to be angry.  He thought he was concealing it; of course he couldn’t, not from her.  “That’s just it, Elizabeth!”  he responded defensively.  “I can’t tell you!  I can’t expose you to that kind of horror.  I spend my time trying to forget all of that!”

“But you won’t,” Elizabeth shot back.  “You won’t forget about it, so let me help you through it.”

Jack paused a moment, considering Elizabeth’s words.  No, he wouldn’t forget these terrifying images, not any time soon.  Maybe he should talk to her about it.  She was going to be his wife, after all.  Jack immediately shook his head, as if to physically shake off the idea.  Out of the question!  Part of his duty as her husband was to protect her.  He wasn’t going to let her experience even a fraction of the nightmares he was seeing in his head.  No, he would handle this himself!  His face took on a look of stern resolve, and he turned determined eyes back to his fiancée.  “There’s nothing you can do,” he replied, cold as ice.  The look of shock on Elizabeth’s beautiful face nearly made him flinch, but he held his ground.  “Please, go.  I need to be alone.”  He turned away, unable to look at her anymore.

Elizabeth knew with that look and that tone, there was no talking sense to him now.  “All right, Jack.  I’ll go.”  She barely made it through the door and got it closed before she had to lean against it to let the tears spill.

Jack didn’t budge when he heard the door open, but when he heard it shut, he thought he’d made a mistake.  He charged at the door, ready to take Elizabeth in his arms, and pour out his whole soul to her.  But the door was like a blockade stopping Jack in his tracks.  He leaned his head on the door in defeat, then turned to lean against it with a sigh of frustration.  How was he going to get through this?

Elizabeth tried to calm her emotions, but to no avail.  She just stood there, leaning back on the door, silently spilling her sorrow, and trying not to care that people were starting to stare.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this!  Everything was supposed to be perfect when Jack got back!  Elizabeth felt lost; she didn’t know what to do.  Abigail.  The name alone had a calming effect.  Abigail will know what to do.  Elizabeth cleared her throat, wiped her tears, stood straight, then crossed Main Street to the café.  She opened the door to find the place devoid of customers.  She must have missed the lunch rush.  That was a relief!  Abigail looked up at the sound, and smiled brightly to see Elizabeth come in.  The smile faded when she saw the shine of fresh tears on Elizabeth’s cheeks.  Abigail rushed to her friend, and enfolded her in a soothing embrace, no questions asked.  “Everything will be all right,” she whispered.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Elizabeth did feel better after having a cup of tea and a scone…and talking things through.  She still felt troubled though.  “Why does it have to be this way, Abigail?  My greatest wish to have him home and uninjured has come true, but nothing is right!”

“But Elizabeth,” Abigail reasoned, “what if he isn’t uninjured.”  

“What do you mean?”

“His mind and heart have been scarred, Elizabeth.  Think about all he’s been through, all the terrible things he’s seen.  That became daily life for him: always worrying about his men, and watching so many of them die, always suspecting danger around the next corner, always thinking that bullet passing his ear could have ended his life.  Now he’s suddenly taken out of all that.  He’s trying to get used to a life where he doesn’t have to constantly look over his shoulder; trying to put away all those awful sights and sounds.  I even dare say he has something I’ve heard of called shell shock.  The brain gets rattled from all the explosions, and causes him to panic. How do you think he’s feeling?”

Elizabeth was stunned into silence.  Of course!  How could she not realize?  The pieces began coming together as she spoke her thoughts aloud.  “You’re right.  All that time Jack was away, I only prayed for him to come home alive, that I would see him again.  Then he came home with no serious injury, and I counted myself extra blessed.  I knew he would need time to adjust and mourn his lost friends, but I never considered that it could go so deep.  I just assumed that after a few months, he’d be fine.  Oh, I feel so guilty now!  He’s not fine, Abigail.  He’s…different.  We’re different.  It feels like we’re on completely different paths.”

 “No,” Abigail wisely countered.  “It’s true your path has changed.  It’s rockier to be sure, and probably a bit longer than you planned.  But your destination is still the same.  You just need to find a way to walk that path together.”

 Elizabeth considered this, but there was still something else.  “How do I do it?  He won’t let me in; he won’t even really talk to me.

“Then you have to show him you love him despite this rock in your path.”

 “More like a boulder,” Elizabeth muttered ruefully.  Then she sighed.  “But how do I do that?”  

Abigail took her hand.  “I can’t answer that one for you.  Listen to your heart.  You’ll think of something.”  She could tell Elizabeth needed some time to mull things over.  She patted Elizabeth’s hand, then stood to collect and wash the dishes.  Elizabeth just sat, staring at nothing in particular, thinking about her past with Jack.  Her mind wandered over their first meeting, the spider incident in the row boat, their first kiss on the hill, the first time he told her he loved her after he’d lifted her as though she were weightless, the relief of him being alive after being ill with pneumonia, his proposal with all the beautiful candles and rose petals…Elizabeth’s eyes suddenly brightened, and a mischievous smile crept its way to her mouth.  She had an idea.

 The next evening, Jack was still distressed.  He hadn’t had any more visions, but he hadn’t seen Elizabeth since she’d flown out like her skirt was on fire.  Now that things had settled down a bit, Jack knew he’d overreacted.  He just didn’t know how to fix things.  He’d just bowed his head to pray for help when a gentle knock sounded at the door, and there she was, coming in the doorway.  Jack felt his heart race with nervousness.  He so wanted to patch things up between them, he just didn’t know the course.  Well, no time like the present to figure it out.  “Elizabeth,” he started.  “Elizabeth, I…”  Jack sighed, and ran a hand through his hair.  “I really don’t know what to say,” he admitted.

Elizabeth smiled sympathetically, and took his hand.  “Then let me help you.  Jack, I know you saw some terrible things up north.  Why won’t you share them with me?”

 Jack sighed again.  “I told you, Elizabeth.  I can’t share them with you.  Up there…it was worse than anything you could possibly imagine.  I would never forgive myself if I subjected you to any of that.  And now, I don’t know if I can even…”

“Jack,” Elizabeth interrupted gently.  Jack stopped.  He’d expected her to get upset again, so her soft tone took him off guard.

“What?”

“Take a walk with me.” 

Jack’s eyes widened.  Of all the things she could have said, that was the last he’d expected.  “Elizabeth,” Jack said in a business-like tone, “I don’t think this is the time to…”

“Jack,” Elizabeth implored, holding her hand out to him the way he often used to, “take a walk with me?”

Jack felt his heart soften.  The glow of her eyes and the love in her voice told him he probably should go along.  He smiled for the first time in days, took her hand, and replied, “Is there a reason for this walk?”

“There is,” Elizabeth stated with conviction, “and it might be a little long,” she added as she grabbed a lantern.  Jack wondered how far they could be walking, but he followed his bride-to-be out of the jail and down Main Street.

As they walked, Jack realized they were headed toward the land he’d bought.  Maybe she had a new idea for the house or the garden she wanted to show him.  They’d have to be quick, he observed, as they were quickly losing daylight.  When they weren’t far from the property, Jack saw several lights in the distance.  He looked inquisitively at Elizabeth, but she only smiled, and kept walking.  As they arrived, Jack felt his heart melt completely.  What looked like a good half-acre was covered in candles, very similar to what he’d done at the church when he’d proposed to her.  “What’s all this?” he asked, emotion filling his voice.

Elizabeth set the lantern down, faced her fiancé, and took both his hands.  “Jack, I love you.  More than that, I am in love with you, and I can’t wait for us to spend our lives together.  That means for better and for worse.  So whatever it is you’re struggling with, I’m not going anywhere; I’m staying right here by your side.  I just hope you’ll let me into your heart again, and let me share this burden with you; because your pain is my pain.”

Jack couldn’t hold back the tears any longer.  He hadn’t cried like this since he lost Doug; he was overcome.  Oh how he loved her!  Then show her, a voice said to him inside his head.  “Oh, Elizabeth!” he cried hoarsely, then pulled her close, and pressed his mouth over hers.  He kissed her like she was water, and he was a man who had crossed a desert.  Why had he denied himself this beautiful connection when it replenished his soul so completely?  He kissed her on and on, and when he released her lips, he spread tender kisses all over her face and throughout her hair.  Then he took her face into his hands to just gaze at her, and marvel at her beauty, inside and out.  His next thought couldn’t go unsaid:  “How did I ever live without you?!”  He kissed her once more, then put his arms around her to just hold her close.  Without letting go, he positioned their arms into a waltz and began to dance with her, their faces close together. 

Do it now, the same voice inside Jack’s head told him after a bit.  Tell her!  Jack gently stopped the dancing, took the lantern in one hand and Elizabeth’s hand in the other, and led her to the log to sit.  He put his elbows on his knees, and took a deep breath.  “It started about a week after I got home.  At first, it wasn’t too bad: I’d close my eyes and see a blast every once in a while, or look behind me when things got too quiet, sure that someone was following me.  But the last few weeks, it’s gotten worse.  I can see everything like it happened yesterday.  I can smell all that gunpowder, and taste blood in my mouth.  But then a few days ago, something truly terrifying happened:  I saw him.”  He paused, trying to gather the courage to go on.

“Saw who?” Elizabeth prodded.

Jack blew out a breath.  “I saw one of my men who got killed.  I watched him die, Elizabeth.  One of those gang members,” he almost spat the words, “took aim and fired right at his heart without a second thought.  I tried to run to push him out of the way, but I wasn’t fast enough.  I wasn’t fast enough!” he repeated harshly.  He finally faced her.  “I saw him again in my office right before you came in yesterday.  I saw him as plainly as I see you now.  It was so real!  I’m haunted, Elizabeth,” he acknowledged.  “I’m haunted.  And if this keeps happening, I can’t protect you.  I can’t take care of you.”  Jack took a cleansing breath, feeling a little better already.  “That’s what’s been happening to me; that’s why I’ve pushed you away.  I’m afraid I won’t be able to take care of you.”

“Oh Jack. I’m so sorry!”  Elizabeth could only hug him, hoping she could take some of the fear away.  Please, God, Elizabeth prayed silently as she squeezed her eyes shut.  Please give me the words to say.  Almost instantly, words flooded into her mind, and her eyes popped open.  She eased back to look into Jack’s lamp-lit hazel eyes.  “Jack, let me make one thing very clear: I don’t need a husband to take care of me; I need an equal partner so we can take care of each other.”

Jack’s emotional sigh was filled with relief and love, and more tears.  He returned his hands to her face.  “I love you!  I love you so much!”  Jack slowly looked around at all the candles, then an idea appeared in his mind.  His hands dropped to her hands, and one knee hit the earth beneath them.  “Elizabeth Thatcher, will you still marry me?”

 Now Elizabeth cried a few tears of relief.  She touched his face, and replied, “I can think of no greater honor, Jack Thornton.”  She joined him kneeling on the ground, and kissed him deeply, finally feeling their spirits connect once again. 

Photo credit: Crown Media
Edit by: Mary Schmidt

 

Okay, Hearties, here you go!  It’s #FanFictionFriday, and it’s a biggie!  This is the first story I’ve written to be published straight to the blog.  This is one way to envision Jack’s permanent return home.  This one has been a long time in the making.  Sarah Nitsch and I strated playing with this idea at least 3 months ago, if not longer.  So have fun reading “Halley’s Comet”, written by Kami Clements and Sarah Nitsch.

 

Elizabeth sat on her porch, wrapped in her favorite shawl, staring at nothing in particular. These nights with Jack gone seemed to weigh down her shoulders like an anvil of loneliness. The darkness seemed endless, pushing into her face. She anxiously waited for the stars to appear to pin it back in the sky where it belonged. A few stray tears trailed down her cheek. Elizabeth brushed them away, blaming the chilly night air for the sting in her eyes. She ruefully rolled her eyes, and shook her head. Of course she was fooling herself. The melancholy heartbreak she’d experienced since Jack left after Christmas reminded Elizabeth of those sorrowful days when he’d briefly been reassigned to Cape Fullerton. She hadn’t known then if Jack would ever come back; at least she knew now. A few more days, Elizabeth coached herself inwardly. Just a few more days, and THEN he’ll the home. “For good,” she added aloud.

There had been an article in the newspaper that the syndicates and gangs up north had surrendered, and the fighting had finally come to an end. Then, just a few days later, Elizabeth had received that long-anticipated telegram that STILL filled her with unspeakable bliss: Jack was coming home! She’d broken down right there in the mercantile, and shed MANY tears of relief. Of course, Abigail’s shoulder had been readily available to absorb all that moisture; as was her sister Julie’s!

Elizabeth finally smiled as the memory of her sister’s astonishing arrival mingled with the sounds of her moving around in the guest bedroom upstairs. What an ironic turn of events, Julie turning up unexpectedly two times Jack was forced to depart Hope Valley. Strangely enough, that familiar twist of fate was very comforting to Elizabeth now.

Preferring “comforted” to “downcast”, she closed her eyes to soak in all the familiarity around her: a few horses nickering as they settled in for the night, the wind breezing its way across the pond, Lee and Rosemary laughing next door, Julie humming to herself upstairs. Yes, she felt comforted. Now all she needed to feel completely at peace was to have Jack home safe and sound. Why was it that she felt his absence more acutely now that she knew he was headed this way? Maybe it was the anxiousness settling in, or the fear that something would happen to him when the danger was supposedly passed, and he was traveling home alone.

“Breathe,” Elizabeth reminded herself. Maybe a short walk would help clear her head of all this fretting. She made her way down the steps, but when her feet touched the path, she became distracted by the stars starting to appear. Each one was a bright spot of hope, reminding Elizabeth to keep the faith, and put her trust in God. She repeated this thought in her head as she breathed the way Jack had taught her to when she needed to settle down: in through the nose, and out through the mouth. After a few repetitions, her breath came in normal, regular intervals. She smiled fondly at the memory, and went back to star-gazing.  

“I thought Halley’s Comet only came by every 75 years,” said a voice behind her. Elizabeth knew that voice! Its familiarity washed over her like warm water. She inhaled excitedly, and turned to gaze at the voice’s owner. There stood her hero in red serge, removing his riding gloves. To Elizabeth, he’d never looked more handsome. “Or is that just another excuse to wait out here in the middle of the night?” he added mischievously. They both smiled broadly. Jack dropped his gloves to the ground, and opened his arms. Elizabeth let out a cry of pure delight, ran to him at full speed, and leapt into his outstretched arms with such force that they spun in a circle.  Jack chuckled warmly near her ear, and Elizabeth felt a shiver of excitement shoot down her spine.

Even when they slowed to a stop, and Jack had removed his hat, he wouldn’t loosen his hold. Elizabeth wasn’t objecting; she was in no hurry to let go of her fiancé. Nothing made her feel more content or at peace than having this man envelop her; and it had been so long!

“I missed you so!” Jack exclaimed. He finally eased back to look at her, and put a hand to her face. “You are a sight for sore eyes!” His thumb traced the same path where tears had been only minutes before. “So beautiful.”

Elizabeth smiled bashfully, and reached up to clasp Jack’s hand. He only moved their hands to his heart. “I’m so glad you’re back safely!”

“You worried I wouldn’t be?”

“Maybe a little,” she responded coyly.

“Just a little,” he countered teasingly.

She pretended to be insulted, and push him away. “Don’t push it!”

Jack’s eyes suddenly turned serious, his voice gravely and passionate. “Too late for that.” And then he kissed her. Elizabeth felt her heart catch on fire, as if the pieces were fusing together, where before, they had laid separate and broken. Her heart felt full and complete. And by the way Jack was kissing her,  it felt like life was being breathed back into the hollow cavity of his soul. Elizabeth thought she was going to faint from dizzy ecstasy when she heard a surprised, “Oh!”

Startled, Jack and Elizabeth broke apart to see Julie darkening Elizabeth’s front doorway. While looking a bit on the stunned side, she looked devilishly pleased. “I thought I heard something out here.”

Suddenly self-conscious , Elizabeth eased away from Jack as Julie skipped down the steps, and took both Jack’s hands in her own. “Jack! So good to see you home uninjured!”

Jack good-naturedly held her hands for a few moments, and cheerfully answered, “Julie! Lovely to see you again. How long have you been visiting?”

“About 3 weeks. Elizabeth was sounding so glum in her letters, I was afraid she just might wither away without me. So I came on the first stage I could catch.”

“Well, that was so kind of you,” Jack said as he released Julie’s hands, and slipped an arm around Elizabeth’s shoulders. “Thank you for looking out for her,” he added, giving Elizabeth a small side hug.

“Oh, it was nothing; my pleasure really,” Julie passed it off with a wave of her hand. “I took it as my family duty to aid my sister in her time of trial.”

Elizabeth tried not to snicker at her sister’s dramatic monologue. Despite the theatrics, she knew Julie meant every word. She also knew that she and Jack weren’t ready to say goodbye for the night, and would rather not have an audience. She lightly cleared her throat and widened her eyes, hoping Julie would take the hint. She took it alright, and very obviously yawned; then she announced, “Well! What a  day it’s been, and I am positively fatigued. I hope you two will excuse me?”

 “Sure,” Jack said with a smile. Julie flamboyantly, but graciously, turned and floated inside. As she watched her go, Elizabeth caught sight of Lee and Rosemary excitedly peering out the window. 

 Rosemary appeared like she’d like nothing better than to bolt out the door to welcome Jack back herself.  Thankfully, Lee held her back. They both gave a final wave, and disappeared. Jack and Elizabeth smiled, and waved back; then Jack turned Elizabeth around to kiss her again,  both smiling all the way. 

Jack paused, and just drank in her presence, their faces close together. Elizabeth relished his nearness, loving that their foreheads touching wasn’t merely a dream. She finally inched backed just enough to look at him. “So, it’s really over?” she inquired, searching his eyes.

“It really is. The fighting has stopped, and my posting has been terminated. It’s all over,” Jack’s last words came out heavily, as if they themselves carried great weight. Elizabeth touched his face. “And how are you? Really?”

Jack’s smile faltered slightly, and his eyes turned dark for a moment. Elizabeth’s heart started to pound. What had happened? What was wrong? Had he, indeed, been hurt? She was just about to voice these questions when the light came back into his eyes, and his smile returned. He cradled her hand in his own, and kissed her engagement ring the way he did so often; she never tired of it though. Jack put her hand back on his heart, and answered her. “Don’t you worry about me, Miss Thatcher. I’ll be fine. It was hard up north, I’m home now, safe and sound. It WILL take time to get used to life away from all the fighting, but I’ll do it. With you.”

Elizabeth threw her arms around Jack, and held him close. “And I’ll be right here,” she murmured into his shoulder. She pulled back, and looked him square in the eye. “Right here,” she reiterated.

Overcome with emotion, Jack pressed his lips to hers, anxious to show her just how much her words meant to him. “I love you, Elizabeth!” he whispered as their lips parted. Then he looked HER square in the eye. “You are my life!”

Elizabeth smiled, tears and nostalgia shining from her eyes. “And you are everything to me!” she added.

 

 

Well my dear Hearties, we’ve arrived. Welcome to the final Christmas edition of #FanFictionFriday. This is the last “Kami’s vision” homecoming scenario you’ll read before we see the REAL one in TEN DAYS!!! Now if you’ve seen the promotional photos of the episode, keep in mind that I wrote these well before they were published; so the two won’t mesh. But I hope you still like it.

This story was my first attempt at a plot longer than a single page. I wanted Jack to be spotted by one of the school children from far away, and Harper’s sweet temperament and fresh-looking face wouldn’t leave my head. So let yourself be swept away to Hope Valley, and watch Jack and Elizabeth reunite in your head one more time.

 

HARPER’S MOUNTIE SIGHTING

Harper ambled his way through the icy grass, crunching his way to the pond. His right hand clutched his fishing rod, his left hand fingered the knife in his pocket. He hadn’t told his friends where he was going; how could he explain why he was going fishing in December? It was because Papa had taught him how to fish, and Christmas had been his favorite time of year.  To Harper, it made perfect sense to put the two together, but it might not to anyone else…so he kept it to himself. He wasn’t even expecting to catch anything; he just wanted to feel close to Papa for a little while.

Harper quietly recited the St. Francis Prayer to himself as he went through the motions of baiting his hook, smiling fondly as he remembered Papa teaching him that too.  He had just started trying to poke holes through the frozen water when something caught his eye.  Quite a distance away was a black horse carrying a rider with a long black coat and a very familiar wide-brimmed hat.  Harper squinted, then froze like the snow beneath him as he watched the rider dismount.  Was it really?  He shook his head; no, it couldn’t be.  Just when he made up his mind to go back to fishing, the rider took off his coat and hat, revealing a bright red serge jacket, and short brown hair.  It had to be!!!  It had to be Mountie Jack!!!  Harper jumped up, ready to be the first one to welcome him home.  Then he stopped himself.  “No,” Harper said aloud, “Miss Thatcher should be the first one to welcome him back.”  With his back turned, Mountie Jack hadn’t seen him yet!  Harper backed away as carefully as he could until he was sure Mountie Jack wasn’t turning around, then he took off running toward town; racing as fast as his legs would carry him.

Jack panted impatiently as he dismounted Sergeant to look at the horse’s left rear leg.  Then he groaned in frustration as he removed his coat and hat.  Sergeant had somehow cut himself pretty badly right on the hock; there was no way he could go on until Jack stopped the bleeding.  “It’s not your fault, boy,” Jack sighed as he patted Sergeant’s back and reached in his saddle bag for supplies.  He couldn’t help but think that if only his fellow Mountie whom he’d invited home for Christmas hadn’t needed to stop in Cape Fullerton first…he might have been able to leave Sergeant in his care; then he could have gotten home to Elizabeth that much sooner.  No sense in dwelling on that now, Jack scolded himself.  Just get it done.  Jack managed to stop the bleeding, then he wrapped up Sergeant’s leg.  “You’ll be all right, boy,” Jack soothed the horse.  “We’ll rest here for a bit, then we’ll go home.”  Home.  The word tasted like honey on his lips.  Honey, not vinegar, he laughed to himself; then a picture of Elizabeth’s enchanting smile appeared in his mind.  Oh, how his arms ached to wrap around his beautiful fiancée, and just hold her!  He could see the pond from where he stood; her row house was only a few minutes from there.  He was so close!  Jack donned his coat and hat again and began to pace, the minutes stretching into hours.

Harper burst into Abigail’s Café, and hastily looked it over, gasping for breath. 

Abigail scurried over to the boy.  “Harper, what’s wrong?!” 

“Where’s…Miss…Thatcher?” 

“She’s at the mercantile,” Abigail replied, concerned.  “Is something the ma…” 

Harper turned, and bolted back outside; leaving nothing but a cold gust of wind, and Abigail’s confused face behind.

Elizabeth was having a rare, but pleasant conversation with Bill while she did her shopping.  He was asking for her Shepherd’s Pie recipe, of all things!  She was just telling him to add paprika instead of pepper, when the door was forcefully pushed open.  Elizabeth gasped, then breathed a little easier when she saw it was only Harper.  He was probably in a big hurry to buy some Christmas candy.  But he charged straight at her! 

“Harper, what’s wrong?!” she inquired as the boy desperately tried to talk. 

Finally he puffed, “Mountie Jack…he’s back!!!” 

Elizabeth felt all the blood leave her face.  She hunched down to his level.  “Harper, are you absolutely sure?”  Harper nodded fervently.  “Where is he?” Elizabeth tried to keep her voice from quivering as her student caught his breath enough to speak. 

“Just beyond the pond, where the hills start.  I wanted you to be the first to welcome him home.” 

A laugh erupted from Elizabeth’s throat as tears spilled from her eyes.  She squeezed Harper tightly, then stood upright.  “Bill, could I borrow your horse?” 

Bill gave her a gruff, but endearing, “Go ahead.  Consider it an early Christmas present.”  Elizabeth pressed a kiss to his cheek, sprinted out the door, mounted Bill’s horse, and flew toward the pond; her heart pounding as wildly as the hooves.

“All right, my friend,” Jack said firmly as he took hold of the reins beside his mount.  “Time to go.”  Sergeant snorted at him, as if irritated.  “I promise to take it slow,” Jack grumbled good-naturedly.  He had led the horse along for about two minutes when a blur of a pink coat and long, curly hair appeared on the horizon.  Jack’s determined face broke into a delighted smile, and his heart leapt into his throat as the love of his life rode up to him, reined in the horse, and jumped down with practiced expertise. Then she suddenly looked uncertain, as if she didn’t know quite how to greet him after so many months apart.  Jack briefly wondered if somehow her feelings had changed, but then he saw the adoration in her eyes, the tears of relief on her face, and his ring adorning her finger. 

“You’re home!” she cried. 

He smiled broadly, and admitted, “This isn’t quite how I pictured it.  I was hoping to surprise you.” 

“Oh, you certainly did that!” her voice continued to quaver.  Then almost at the exact same moment, they both decided they couldn’t stay apart any longer. They darted toward one another, and met in an embrace of pure ecstasy. 

Elizabeth could hear Jack chuckle warmly near her ear, and a shiver rushed through her body.  How she had longed for the warm, tender, and protecting clasp of this man’s arms; this man whom she would marry.  She felt him press light kisses to her cheek and into her hair as if she were water to a dehydrated man, and she shivered again.  He stepped back and cradled her cheek in his hand, looking at her with such devotion she thought her heart would burst.  Then he smiled with mischief in his eyes, and said, “You look cold.  Let me keep you warm.”  And then he kissed her.  Elizabeth barely felt the ground under her feet.  All these months apart, she had let doubts of Jack’s constancy creep into her mind; all those thoughts vanished, and her heart swelled with joy.  Their kiss lengthened, their souls reconnecting.  She finally broke contact so she could gaze into his adoring hazel eyes with equal affection. 

“Merry Christmas, Constable Thornton,” she almost whispered. 

He kissed her forehead, then replied, “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Thornton…almost.”

 

Hello, and welcome to another Christmas edition of #FanFictionFriday. We are only 2 weeks and 3 days away from seeing the real reunion, so this can get your imagination rolling. And if you haven’t seen the promo pictures on Facebook, you should definitely check them out. That’ll get your blood pumping! So have at it!

 

A MOUNTIE CHRISTMAS SURPRISE 

Jack and the young Mountie ride up to the edge of town, and stop for a moment to catch their breath after riding hard for the last leg of their journey.  They see the view with the mountain in the background, and several lanterns still lit.  The Mountie turns to Jack with a knowing smile and tone, “Hope Valley?” 

Jack nods and smiles, “We made it.”  Under his breath, “I’m home.”

 They quietly ride into town, Jack looking in every direction with perfect joy, but trying not to be seen.  Awkwardly clearing his throat, Jack says, “If you don’t mind…” 

The Mountie smiles again.  “Don’t worry, Constable.  I’ll just make my way to the hotel.” 

Jack gives a relieved and you-got-me chuckle, “Thank you.  It’s just there.”  He points, the Mountie tips his hat, and quietly trots to the saloon.

Jack turns Sergeant around, and eagerly makes his way to Elizabeth’s row house. As he gets closer, he can hear Christmas music coming from the Victrola.  Jack jumps off Sergeant, and gives him a final pat, and “Good boy!”  He peeks inside the window and sees Elizabeth decorating her tree, longingly fingering his ornament that Rip tore. 

Unable to wait another moment, Jack silently steps to the door.  The knock startles Elizabeth from her reverie, and she makes her way to the door, noting the late hour.  She opens it only to see her Mountie hero, his hat under his arm.  She gasps, and puts her left hand to her mouth; desperately trying, but failing, to hold back her emotions.  But she can’t move!  All those times the knocks at the door weren’t Jack, and suddenly here he is! 

 When her hand goes up, Jack catches a glimpse of his ring on her finger, and his composure begins to fail.  With tears in his eyes, he gently murmurs, “Merry Christmas, Miss Thatcher.” 

“Jack!” she quietly cries, finally feeling her body obey her wish to throw herself into his arms.  She almost sends them both sailing down the steps, but Jack’s strong embrace keeps them firm.  He cradles her head in his hand, breathing in her sweet scent, convincing himself he’s really here holding her again.  Finally, he steps back and begs, “Let me look at you,” with his hands to her cheeks, looking over every inch of her face as if for the first time.  “I’ve dreamt of this moment for so long!”  He takes her in his arms and gives her a long savory kiss, sending his energy rushing into her, and feeling it come back to him with added strength.

When they finally break, Elizabeth laughs through her tears, and manages to say, “This is the best Christmas present I could ever ask for!”  Then remembering they’re outside she urges, “You must be freezing!  Come inside!”  Jack chuckles as he comes in, not having felt the cold since he saw her.  

Elizabeth closes the door, and Jack take her into his arms again.  Elizabeth sighs, “I missed you.” 

He sighs too, thinking how the thought of his beautiful fiancée is what kept him alive so much of the time up north.  “I missed YOU…so much!”  Then he can’t help but say, “Now THIS is the best way to keep warm!”  They both laugh, then the laughter fades as Jack’s eyes bore into hers. 

“I love you,” she manages to say first. 

“I love YOU,” he replies.  “You are everything to me.”