Sam did her best to contain the laugh she felt bubbling up inside her as she heard Forrest closing in on her. She didn’t mean to hit him that hard with the towel, but it did him some good to smile, and judging by the surprised look on Maggie’s face he hadn’t been smiling much if at all the last few days. She made the mistake of glancing over her shoulder at Forrest and nearly stumbled over her own feet. Forrest had a grin on his face as he started closing in on Sam, and after a couple more seconds, he lunged at her, bringing them both to the ground.
As soon as she hit the ground Sam started laughing, and it only got worse when Forrest tried to lift her over his shoulder, only for him to keep touching the spots she had tickles. Tears were streaming down her face as she wriggle around, her foot accidentally connected with his shin as she cackled. Forrest let out a small chuckle, before grabbing her around the waist and throwing her over his shoulder. As Forrest carried her back towards the station, Sam wriggled slightly in an attempt to get more comfortable on his shoulder. Forrest reached his left hand up to tickle the backs of her knees, while his right arm kept her on his shoulder.
Forrest tickling the backs of her knees only made her wriggling worse, and Sam wondered if he had purposefully tickled the back of her knees because he remembered how ticklish she was there, or if it was just dumb luck. By the time Forrest had reached the station and dumped her into the chair on the porch, Sam’s face was bright red and she had tears streaming down her face. Cricket and Maggie laughed as she gulped in air, finally being able to take in a proper breath without it being halted by her laughter.
“Whatcha gonna do with her Forrest?” Cricket asked him with a grin.
Forrest grunted in thought, carefully watching Sam’s face as he thought of what he was going to do to get her back for the towel whip.
“This one time, we were out at Sam’s and were working in the back on the barn,” Cricket told Maggie, “And Sam dumped a bucket full of water from the loft straight over Forrest. So Forrest picked her up and threw in the lake near her house.”
“Thankfully we aren’t close enough to the lake today for that to happen,” Sam said laughing at the memory, “Don’t fancy getting wet at this moment in time.”
An idea came to Forrest then, and he looked at Sam with a smile on his face. Sam looked up at him suspiciously, before a look of realisation crossed her face and she leapt out of her chair and tried to bolt again, but Forrest easily caught her around the waist and threw her back over his shoulder. Looking at Maggie and Cricket, who were watching him both expectantly and with curiosity, he nodded his head towards the shed where they sometimes kept the cows at night if it got too cold.
“Forrest!” Sam shouted pounding on his back, “Put me down right now, Forrest!”
Forrest grumbled, and continued walking towards the shed at the same pace, he didn’t seem at all affected by Sam pounding on his back with her fists.
“Cricket!” Sam pleaded, looking up at Cricket who was walking behind Forrest with Maggie, “Cricket, please help! I’ll make you hot chocolate and all.”
“No ma’am,” Cricket answered her with a small mischievous grin, “You knew what you was getttin’ yourself in for the minute you hit Forrest with the towel.”
“Traitor!” Sam cried out, but Cricket knew she was only teasing.
“Him bein’ a traitor would mean he had to be loyal to you in the first place,” Forrest rumbled out, as Cricket rushed ahead to open the door to the shed for Forrest.
“Maggie!” Sam called out, her last attempt at getting free, “We girls have to stick together!”
“Yeah, that we do,” Maggie agreed, following Forrest into the cow shed, “But I’m mighty curious what Forrest’s going to do with you.”
“Shit,” Sam muttered, and started squirming harder as they approached Forrest’s destination.
Forrest swung Sam down from his shoulder and her feet had barely touched the ground before he had lifted her back into his arms, carrying her bridal style.
“I’m sorry Forrest,” Sam apologised, her final resort, “You know I didn’t mean to hit you that hard.”
Forrest looked down at her, his eyes softening slightly and Sam felt a small glimmer of hope. Her eyes widened when she suddenly felt him throw her and she let out a little shriek as she landed in the water trough. She was soaked from head to toe, and looked up miserably at the trio who were all amused by her situation.
“Shoulda thought of the consequences before you started a war with a Bondurant,” Forrest teased her, his eyes brighter and a light-heartedness she hadn’t seen in him for a while. Sam grinned back at him, she had accomplished her goal, not having liked how tense he had been during the entire meeting with Pete and Rakes and how that tension had stayed in him until now.
Howard and Jack arrived back in the truck to hear a shriek coming from the cowshed. Without a second thought Howard had flung himself out of the truck that hadn’t fully stopped and was running towards the cowshed. He started slowing down when he heard laughter coming out from the same place, and when Jack soon caught up to him, he gestured for him to slow down, before they cautiously walked into the cowshed.
Howard was in shock of the scene before them. Forrest was smiling, properly smiling for the first time in weeks, Cricket and Maggie were laughing harder than he had ever seen. At the centre of the commotion was a women lying in the water trough, her hair dripping into her face. There was only one person he knew that could make Forrest smile like that, and Howard analysed the women in the trough more carefully, grinning when he saw a pair of mischievous grey eyes peeking through her short hair.
“Sammy,” Howard greeted the soaked woman with a smile.
The woman’s head snapped to look at him, and she awkwardly pulled herself out of the trough, her hair covering her eyes and impeding her vision. She ran her right hand through her short undercut hairstyle, it somewhat resembled the style she normally had it in and she could properly see the man before her.
“Howard,” she grinned at him.
Howard took four long strides towards her, and wrapped her up in a hug, lifting her up off the ground and twirling her around slightly. Sam laughed as she wrapped her arms tightly around the eldest Bondurant brother, burying her head in against his neck in an attempt to get warmer. He span her around a couple of more times before placing her back down on her feet and gently kissed her forehead.
“We’ve missed you around here the last couple of weeks,” Howard said to her quietly, not wanting the others to hear him having a soft moment.
“So Cricket was telling me,” Sam teased him, “Said you were like an old woman, constantly complaining about me not being around the last couple of weeks.”
Howard let out a booming laugh and draped an arm around Sam’s shoulders, turning to look at Forrest’s reaction. His younger brother had a lightness to him that Howard had only seen when Sam was around, and he was relieved that his younger brother seemed to be enjoying himself for the first time in a while.
“I definitely missed your sharp tongue,” Howard admitted, “Jack’s so easy to rile up and Forrest just grunts.”
Sam snickered at the undoubted accuracy to that statement, and glanced up at Forrest to see his brows furrowed at Howard.
“You come across trouble on your way home?” Forrest asked his older brother, brow furrowed as he saw some blood on the torso of Howard’s shirt.
“No, why?” Howard asked confused.
Forrest just nodded towards the blood stain on Howard’s shirt, it looked fresh enough and made Howard even more confused. Sam shifted slightly, and gained Forrest’s attention. He immediately noticed that one of her arms was now subtly wrapped around her abdomen, carefully looking at the part of her abdomen that she seemed to be protecting and saw a small bit of blood on her shirt.
“Sammy,” Forrest rumbled, and she looked up sheepishly at him.
Forrest took a couple of steps towards her, and gently moved her arm out of the way. He let out a low rumble, the blood stain on her shirt was now visible and seemed to be slowly growing bigger. Without saying a word, he scooped Sam up into his arms, and started walking towards the station, ignoring her protests. Jack rushed ahead to open the door to the station for them, while Howard easily kept pace with Forrest and was watching Sam with a mix of guilt and concern.
“’M alright, Forrest,” Sam murmured quietly, “I can walk.”
“Like hell,” Howard said angrily, “That’ll only make you worse.”
Forrest grunted in agreement with his brother, and carefully turned slightly to the side as he walked through the door of the station, making sure Sam didn’t hit against the doorway. Forrest walked into his office, and gently put Sam sitting on his desk. Howard took a step forward, taking over as Forrest stepped back, letting Howard have a look at the injury. He gently lifted Sam’s shirt out slightly, before lifting it up so he could have a look at her wound. Sam hissed as her shirt brushed against her wound, and Howard mumbled a quiet apology.
“You’re gonna have to take off that shirt so I can clean your wound properly,” Howard told her, and Sam nodded.
“I’ll clean her wound,” Maggie offered, “You boys can go wait outside.”
“Ain’t nothing’ I never seen before,” Howard replied, not moving from Sam’s side.
Sam snorted, while Maggie looked at him shocked. Forrest let out a low grumble, Sam glanced up at him feeling his gaze on her, his face was completely blank. Sam kicked Howard’s leg gently, knowing that he was trying to get a rise out of his silent brother.
“Forrest, why dontcha get a bowl of warm water, a cloth, a needle and some thread,” Howard suggested, glancing over his shoulder at his younger brother, “Jack and Cricket, give the lady some privacy.”
Forrest mumbled something before he left the room, Jack and Cricket followed him. Howard turned his attention to Sam to see if she wanted Maggie to stick her up if she would prefer him to do it.
“Maggie, Howard’s stitched me back together so many times he might as well do it now,” Sam told the woman with a gentle smile.
“If you’re sure,” Maggie replied, “I’ll see if there’s anything small I could cook up for you.”
“Much appreciated,” Sam said gratefully, and felt a bit confused as Maggie gave her a knowing wink before leaving them.
“Why do you have to rile him up so much?” Sam asked Howard, as he helped her take off her baggie jumper.
“’Cause it makes me smile,” Howard answered grinning at her, hanging her jumper over the back of Forrest’s chair. Sam then began to gently manoeuvre her way out of the shirt she had been wearing under the jumper, Howard watched her for a few seconds and when he saw how badly she was struggling, he helped her out of her shirt.