Nick Barkley was glad it was not a school day. He could see the daylight trying to break into his bedroom but he was having none of it. Not today. Today he was having a sleep-in, courtesy of Jarrod who had agreed to do his chores in payment for a favor Nick had done for him. It hadn’t been much of a favour as Nick saw it, just a matter of listening to Jarrod argue a defense as though he was in court. He’d been pretty good at it, too, Nick thought. Of course, Jarrod wasn’t a lawyer yet, but Nick had every confidence that he would be – after he finished school an’ all.
Nick liked to do his schooling’ on the ranch and in books about bloodstock. If ever there was a child born for ranching it was Nick Barkley. He lived and breathed it at every opportunity. He was, now that Jarrod had indicated his preference for law, his father’s apprentice and he relished the responsibility and trust his father placed in him. He understood that it was a responsibility he would share with Heath one day and he looked forward to that.
For now though the eleven year old debated how long he would sleep in. Sleep-ins were rare. Usually, he be up an about having breakfast before doing his chores. Then it was off to school. So this indeed was a treat. How long should he have? An hour? The bed was warm and cozy. Perhaps he’d have two. Three? Well no self-respecting young rancher would show such contempt for a God-given day. No, two would be more than adequate.
He settled even further into the bedclothes. He had a big bed now. One like a grown used and tall enough to fit a man over 6’ tall and then some. Truth be told he got lost in it sometimes. Of course, his baby brother thought that the big bed meant it was room for him now as well, and he would creep in and sleep next to Nick on some occasions when he had a disturbed night or just wanted the company of his big brother.
Nick was vey good not to complain. He was extraordinarily patient with his younger siblings. Of course, he loved them, and he was extraordinarily protective of them, too, but they were still just kids and he was eleven going on twelve after all.
All of a sudden he felt the bed covers raised, a depression made in the bed and the familiar sound of his five-year old little brother getting into his bed. His sleep-in was all of fifteen minutes old.
Heath tapped him on his shoulder somewhat heavily with the palm of his hand. "When are you going to get up, Nick?" The little boy was an early riser, clearly wide awake and wanting a companion with whom to play.
"I'm not. Now go back to your own bed." Nick mumbled, refusing to move from under the bed covers or lift his head from the pillow.
Heath face appeared over his shoulder and Nick felt his brother’s warm breath on his cheek. "But ya got to get up Nick!" Heath shouted loudly into his brother’s ear, the little boy not realizing the assault it created on Nick’s delicate eardrum.
"Whoa there kid!" Nick objected, rubbing his ear. "You nearly blew my ear off!”
Heath was apologetic. “Sorry, Nick. I didn't mean to.” He hugged his soft toy for comfort.
Nick turned over on his back and eased himself up on to his elbows. Now how was he going to ignore his kid brother. Darn if the kid was impossible to refuse. “It’s okay, Heath." He pacified. "My ears are still working. See!” He said, tugging his ear to give Heath further reassurance. Heath giggled. “You look funny, Nick. Do it again.” Nick obliged, tugging on both ears and sending himself backwards on to the bed without the support of his elbows.
Heath was on him in a flash and the two brothers giggled as Nick tickled Heath and Heath tried to curl himself into a ball so Nick could not find his ticklish spots.
“Hey there!” Nick exclaimed as, quick-thinking, he caught his brother when he almost tumbled out of the bed from his excitement. The tickling resumed and then a chase ensured under the bed clothes as Heath dove under the sheets to escape being caught by his brother. Within minutes the tidy bed was in complete disarray and eventually the two brothers lay back exhausted from their play.
“Are you going to get up now?” Heath asked, his original question still not forgotten.
Nick shot him a look, a look that would follow him into adulthood. “You never give up, do you kid?”
Heath sat on the bed and tucked his legs under his nightshirt. “Mama says you go to bed when the sun goes to sleep and get up with it when it opens its eyes the next day. It's the next day now, Nick. You gotta get up!”
“Well, that’s true,” Nick replied, not wanting to undermine his mother, “True that is," he qualified, "for five-year old boys. Of course, things are different when you’re a big kid like me.”
“How different, Nick? “
“Well, I get to go to bed a bit later than you. And that means I can get up a bit later, too.”
“But you’ll miss breakfast. Silas says he is cooking pancakes for us. I love pancakes. And you do, too. I know cuz you ate a whole pile last time and then you ate some of mine.”
Nick’s stomach showed a keen interest. “Pancakes, huh?” Maybe, he thought... he could eat breakfast and then come back to bed. Didn’t sound a bad idea.
Before he knew it, his mind and his stomach had conferred and he was pushing the bed covers back and leaping to his feet to grab first a robe and then Heath off the bed.
“Well, come on kid. Don’t you know there’s pancakes downstairs!” he said to a stunned Heath.
Taking command of the situation he dragged the five-year old into the hallway, the little one holding on to his big brother’s hand and his feet running under his billowing nightshirt in order to keep up with his brother’s long strides.
“Nick,” he said quietly, his other hand holding his favourite soft toy.
“I like having you as my big brother.”
Nick looked at his little brother and grinned. “Feeling’s mutual, kid. The feeling’s mutual.”
Heath didn't know what mutual meant, but he reckoned it was something good because of the big grin on his brother's face.