Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. The rights to those characters and to the show belong to the creators of the show, to CBS, The Sullivan Company and to A&E.

A New Life

By, Ashley Jenkins

Chapter 1: A New Home

Cloud Dancing had been very generous in giving up his travel companion for the sake of love. He knew Sully and Michaela wanted to spend every moment of their trip to Colorado Springs with each other, so Cloud Dancing told Sully to go with her and he'd ride by himself.

For the past several days, Michaela and Sully talked about their lives, their backgrounds, and enjoyed being in each other's company. Sully had told Michaela all about Abagail and the baby. They both expressed their feelings on the future, what kind of life they wanted to have. There was no question about it. These two wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. It was a mutual feeling that they were both more than happy with.

It was late at night, and the train was due to arrive in Denver in the morning. From there, Michaela and Sully would take the stagecoach to Colorado Springs, since the territory didn't have a train running through it.

"Since we'll be in Colorado Springs tomorrow, is there anything I should know about the townspeople?" Michaela asked. Sully sighed heavily and chuckled a bit. "Is that bad?"

"Most of 'em aren't that bad. Some of 'em can be pretty bad sometimes, but they can also be good. Ya never really know what to expect out of Hank, Jake, or Loren.

"Loren, you said that was the name of Abagail's father."

"Yeah. Loren Bray was Abagail's father. His wife Maude passed on a few years before Abagail and me got married. He's never been the same, but he ain't too friendly to me. He blames for Abagail and the baby dyin'. But the thing is, sometimes I blame myself for that too."

"It's not your fault."

"Everyone tells me that, but I ain't so sure. But Loren can be a good man . . . just not around me."

"And the other two? Hank and Jake?"

"Hank is the bartender. He runs a saloon and he has prostitutes."
"Oh," Michaela said quickly.

"He ain't the nicest man you'll ever meet, but he's been known to help out if someone was hurtin'. But mostly, Hank's lookin' out for Hank. Jake is another story altogether. He's the barber and he thinks that makes him a doctor."

"He has no medical background?"

"Nope. The only thing we got close to a doctor in town is the Widow Cooper. She's got three kids, like I told ya before. Widow Cooper is the midwife, and her daughter Colleen sometimes helps out. The oldest is Matthew and he's the man of the house since his pa left town."

"I thought you called her Widow Cooper."

"Yeah. Well, the townsfolk respect her, so they call her Widow Cooper. Her husband ain't dead, but he might as well be. Anyway, the youngest is Brian, and he loves the Indians. He's tried to follow me out to the reservation a lot." Michaela smiled. "Miss Olive is Loren's sister, but she ain't around this time of year. She's off with her cattle at a ranch in Mexico. Robert E. is the blacksmith. He came here a few years back. He's a free man now, but sometimes the townsfolk don't think of him like that. They don't see him as an equal."

"That's terrible. My father is an abolitionist. He believes that no man has the right to own another man."

"That's exactly what I think. What about you?"

"I think that all people should be equal." Sully smiled at Michaela. That was yet another thing they had in common. It was becoming quite clear that it didn't matter that they came from different places and were raised in different ways. Both of them accepted each other as they were.

"Right before I left, a lady rode into town with Miss Olive. Miss Olive was just stoppin' by for a visit with Mr. Bray and Widow Cooper. She left the same day, but Grace stayed. Grace is like Robert E. She's free. She's a real nice lady, but then again, I only got to talk to her for a few minutes. If ya need to send a telegram, Horace is the man for the job. He usually tries not to take sides, and that's what I respect about him. Reverend Johnson is a good man, but sometimes he lets his personal feelin's get in the way. It's a nice town, but ya gotta watch your step sometimes."

"Thank you for warning me," Michaela said with a smile. "Now how do you think the town's going to feel about having a woman doctor?"

"Well, they ain't very happy about change most of the time. They probably won't like it at first, but you're their only hope. Don't forget that no matter how hard they fight you bein' a doctor. You are the only one that can help 'em when they need helpin'." Michaela sighed gently. "Don't fret about it. Don't expect too much at first, because most of 'em never heard of a lady doctor."

"Well, they're about to hear of one," Michaela replied with a smile. Sully put his arm around her and she rested her head on his shoulder. "We best get some sleep. It's gonna be another long day tomorrow."

"I ain't tired," Sully replied, kissing the top of Michaela's head. "But I like watchin' you sleep." Michaela grinned and Sully leaned down to kiss her.

"Sully, I never realized I could be so happy."

"My plan is to keep you happy for the rest of your life," Sully replied, squeezing her shoulder a bit.

"Well, that's not possible, but I'm sure that you'll try," Michaela challenged. Sully smiled and they both chuckled.

"Well to tell you the truth, I ain't been this happy in a long time."

"Since you and Abagail were married?"

"Yeah," he answered quietly. He didn't like to talk about the past because now he knew that he had a future to look forward to.

Michaela and Sully drifted off to sleep awhile later, even though Sully claimed that he wasn't tired. He found it easy to sleep when Michaela was in his arms.

Early the next morning, before the sun was up, the train pulled into the station in Denver. The passengers were evacuated as Michaela went to get stagecoach tickets and Sully got the luggage. Cloud Dancing saw his friends for the first time in days, and he and Sully hugged at their reunion.

"How was your trip?" Sully asked.

"I slept most of the time," Cloud Dancing confessed. "The spirits told me that Snow Bird is lonely. I must go to her as soon as we reach the plains." Sully nodded. "And your trip with the medicine woman?" Sully smiled and he and Cloud Dancing chuckled together.

"I'm happier than I've been since Abagail and I were married."
"Dr. Mike is your soul mate."

"I believe she's the one I'm supposed to spend the rest of my life with. I ain't gonna let her go."

"Where is she now?"

"She went to get stagecoach tickets."

"What will she do when she gets to Colorado Springs? There is no hospital; no place for her to practice her medicines."

"We'll think of something," Sully replied. "She doesn't know it yet, but I'm going to fix up the homestead and give that to her."

"That was your home with Abagail."

"Not anymore. Now it's an empty house that needs lived in."

"Sully! Cloud Dancing!" Michaela called. She waved them over. "I've got the tickets."

"When do we leave?"

"As soon as we get there. Apparently we three have the stagecoach to ourselves."

The stagecoach departed with Michaela, Sully, and Cloud Dancing inside. The stage drivers promised to get them to Colorado Springs before noon. Sully was thankful for that because he knew he could get Michaela introduced to Widow Charlotte Cooper and ask her to let her stay in one of the boarding rooms for awhile. He was going to fix up the homestead as a surprise for Michaela, so he would need her to have someplace to say before it was finished.

He had never intended to fix the broken window or the loose board on the side of the house. He had never intended to take the chest of baby clothes out of the house. He had only intended to leave it the way it was the night Abagail gave birth and died along with the baby. But now that Michaela was in his life, he wanted to put the past behind him. Michaela gave him hope for the future, and the past was locked up inside of that homestead.

Michaela wasn't homesick, but she did miss the company of her eldest sister Rebecca and of her father. But she knew that once she began her new life with Sully, she would soon learn to deal with missing them. It wasn't like they were never going to see one another again.

Sully couldn't help but smile at Michaela's enthusiasm of the frontier. As the stagecoach bounced through the prairie, Michaela looked out at all of the buffalo and other wild animals. She had already caught glimpses of a few Indians on horseback. The small frontier homes were nothing like the extravagant homes she had seen in Boston. She had never seen his part of the world, and it was all new, wonderful, and exciting.

"Sully, what's that?" she asked, pointing off into the distance.

"That's Indian land."

"Oh . . ." Michaela responded, sounding positively intrigued.

"You will have to meet Snow Bird," Cloud Dancing said with a nod. Michaela glanced at Sully.

"Snow Bird is Cloud Dancin's wife."

"She must miss you terribly."

"We see each other in our dreams," Cloud Dancing replied with a smile. Michaela smiled back, eager to learn all about the Indians. She thought that perhaps she could visit the Indian reservation where Cloud Dancing's people were. Maybe she could bring some of her medicines to their world while Cloud Dancing brought some of the Cheyenne medicine to her world.

After a couple of hours, Cloud Dancing slapped the side of the stagecoach to signal to the drivers that he wanted off. The stagecoach slowed to a halt and Cloud Dancing said goodbye to his friends. As soon as Cloud Dancing was ready to head toward the reservation, the stagecoach pulled away and carried Michaela and Sully closer to their destination.

"Sully, where am I going to stay when we get into town? I haven't thought about that until now."

"I can ask Widow Cooper if she'll let ya stay with her for a few days."

"A few days? What then?" Sully smiled a little. "What is that grin for?"

"Well, I was gonna keep it a surprise, but I've got a homestead that I was gonna fix up for you to stay at."

"A homestead? What do you mean fix up?"

"Well, it's been empty for awhile, and . . ." Michaela realized what he was saying.

"It was the home you shared with Abagail, wasn't it?" Sully looked down.

"Yeah. But that's the past. You need a place to stay, and I've got one."

"I can't stay there, Sully. I'll feel guilty, like I'm intruding."

"You ain't intrudin', Dr. Mike." Michaela looked away.

"It's not right, Sully. It's just not right to live in a place, knowing you had a family there once. I won't feel right."

"Why? They're the past, Michaela. We're the present and the future. Abagail wouldn't begrudge it." Michaela sighed heavily.

"Sully, what was she like?"

"Abagail?"

"Yes. Will you tell me about her?" Sully looked away. "If it's too painful, you don't have to."

"No. You should know about her," Sully replied. Clearing his throat. "I met Abagail when I first came here. It took me awhile to fall in love with her because she was always yellin' at me. I didn't know why until I found out that her pa, Loren, didn't want her to have anything to do with me. He told her he'd have me arrested if she had anything to do with me." Sully laughed a little. "She was young and foolish. She didn't know that I couldn't be arrested for just talkin' to her. But finally, she came around. We got married, and Loren shut her out. He regretted it after she was gone."

"I can imagine."'

"Abagail had the longest black hair I'd ever seen. I thought she was the prettiest lady I'd ever seen. I was young and I thought I was in love."

"You weren't?"

"I didn't really appreciate how much she loved me until after she and my little girl were gone. I loved her and I told her I did, but I was too young to know how to be a good husband and pa. But I never got the chance to make things better." He looked out the window of the stagecoach and Michaela put her hand on his.

"I didn't mean to bring up those memories. They seem painful for you."

"They are, but it's good that I remember them. I told myself that I could just let go of the past by movin' you into the homestead. I thought that by doin' that, I could forget about how I felt like I failed my family. The truth is, I'm always gonna remember that."

"You're right. You will always remember that. But you'll also remember that you were young then. Sully, you're a bit older now and you've found love again. I'm sure that Abagail would be happy that you've moved on."

"If she'd be happy for me movin' on, she wouldn't mind you movin' into the homestead." Michaela sighed.

"Do you really want me to live there?"

"I want you to live in my home. I ain't livin' there, but I built it. I know it's safe."

"If it'll make you feel better, Sully. I'll move into your homestead."

"You sure?" Michaela smiled.

"I'm sure. I think I was just worried about what moving into your homestead would mean. I was afraid of exactly what you were doing, blocking out the past. But I know how you're thinking. I'll move into the homestead."

"It ain't permanent. Someday I'm gonna build a bigger homestead.

"I know you will. But you don't have to rush."

"Rushin' seems to be what we do best." Michaela laughed and Sully pulled her into his arms. "I love you."

"I love you." They kissed softly and sat holding each other for the rest of the stagecoach ride into Colorado Springs. The start of their new life was just around the corner, and they were both hopeful of what it was going to bring.