Chapter 12: Distractions

"How big is the house?" Brian asked in wonder as Sully drove the wagon out to the new homestead. Matthew was riding ahead on his horse while Sully drove himself, Michaela, Colleen, and Brian. It was Christmas Eve, and Sully had finished the house in record time, having Matthew help him put in the 'indoor plumbing.' Sully couldn't wait to show Michaela the home he had created for their new family, and he figured he would bring his future children along because it would be their home one-day too.

"It's got five bedrooms upstairs," Sully explained. Michaela hadn't been out to the new homestead since the day after Thanksgiving, and she was anxious to see what Sully had done with it.

"Are you comin' to the Christmas party tonight, Sully?" Colleen asked.

"If your ma's comin' on my arm, I sure will."

"Of course I am," Michaela replied.

"It looks like it's gonna snow," Brian said with a hopeful grin.

"Well, now that the house is done, we don't have to worry 'bout it," Sully replied with a chuckle. The wagon rounded the bend and the beautiful home came into view. Michaela's jaw dropped and her eyes widened.

"Oh Sully!" Michaela exclaimed. The children became excited by the home as well. "It's even more beautiful than I had imagined! Oh!" Sully stopped the wagon and helped Michaela and Colleen out as Brian hopped out the back. Michaela hugged Sully and kissed him several times as the excitement built up inside of her over the house. She hadn't been so thrilled about something like this in a long time.

"I'm glad you like it," Sully said with a smile. "I was hopin' to get it done before winter."

"Oh, Sully, I can hardly wait until May to marry you and move into our new home." The children shared a knowing glance and nearly burst out into laughter. It was amazing that young Brian Cooper had managed to keep a secret for so long, and for a moment, Colleen thought he was going to give it all away. But they ran off to go explore the house while Matthew unlocked the door with a key Sully had given him. As soon as the children were inside, Sully picked Michaela up into his arms as she wrapped her arms around his neck. Their lips met and they kissed softly. A moment later, the kiss built up quickly, but they were interrupted by the cries of excitement coming from Colleen as she saw the kitchen. They laughed and Sully took Michaela's hand.

"You ready to see the house?"

"Yes," Michaela replied. She smiled a little. "But before we go in, I need to ask you something."

"What's that?"

"I know the wedding isn't until May, but I need to tell you before it's too late, that I don't want to change my name."

"What?" Sully asked quickly.

"I don't want to change my name from Quinn to Sully."

"Why not?"

"Well, I wasn't going to bring this up, but I was going to ask you to wear a ring."

"Wear a ring?" Sully asked. "No. I ain't wearin' a ring."

"Well, I've thought about that for awhile, and I knew that you probably didn't want to wear a ring, because it doesn't mean the same thing to you as it does to me. So, I knew that you'd say no and I accepted the answer before I heard it. If I can accept your not wanting to wear a ring to show the world that we belong to each other, you should accept that I don't want to change my name."

"What's the other reason? I know you've got one."

"Well, I believe that I have worked very hard to become Dr. Quinn, and I really don't want to change that. Sully, I would be proud to wear your name, and it's not that I wouldn't love to be Michaela Sully, but I've just worked too hard and too long for people to recognize my name and notice me as a woman doctor."

"But, women always change their names."

"You have forgotten that I'm not like most women." Sully sighed in frustration.

"But, Michaela, I figured that it was somethin' you'd do just because it was traditional."

"I'm sorry if I'm upsetting you, Sully."

"Look, this ain't gonna fix itself right now," Sully replied. "I brought us all out here to see the house, not to argue with ya." Sully walked ahead to check on the kids and Michaela folded her arms across her chest. Sully was walking away from her. She wondered why he was getting so upset with her right now. They had plenty of time to discuss it, didn't they? They weren't getting married until May. They had five more months to figure it out.

Brian came running out of the house and hurried over to Michaela who was a bit upset.

"Why didn't ya come in with Sully?"

"I'll be along in a minute, Brian."

"Why are you cryin'?"

"I'm just a little overwhelmed," Michaela replied with her best fake smile. She knelt down in front of him and decided to get her mind off of her spat with Sully. "Brian, what do you think of the house?"

"I like it!" he said with a grin. That grin soon faded. "I only wish I wasn't movin' in just 'cause ma was sick. I wish God would decide to take her cancer away."

"I know. So do I, sweetheart," Michaela replied. She pulled him into a hug and breathed heavily. "So do I." She took Brian's hand and they walked into the new homestead. Michaela had already fallen in love with it the moment she saw it, but now that she was inside, she could see that it was more beautiful that she could have ever comprehended. Sully had done a lot of work in the past few months, and it definitely paid off. Brian ran off to look in the root cellar with Matthew and Colleen.

Michaela climbed the stairs for the first time, disappointed that she wasn't climbing those stairs with her husband-to-be. She found him standing in the master bedroom. He was leaning against the posts of a hand-made bed.

"Sully," Michaela began, her eyes focused on the intricately designed bed that had Indian feathers carved into the headboard.

"I made this right after we got engaged. It's my weddin' present to ya." Sully turned to look at Michaela and she sighed heavily.

"I didn't mean to hurt you."

"I know ya didn't," he replied. "I didn't mean to snap at ya."

"I suppose every couple has to have their arguments," Michaela pointed out.

"I just hate arguin' with ya."

"Me too," Michaela replied. "We don't have to settle this right now."

"We need to."

"Why? We have until May to figure out what to do. Why are you in such a hurry?"

"Because," he began. He took a deep breath. "Because I want to make sure we've got everything taken care of." Sully pulled Michaela close and looked into her eyes. "Just don't make me wear a ring. Abagail tried to make me wear a ring, and the day I finally decided that I'd wear it was after we were married, and it was the day she died."

"Oh Sully, I didn't know," Michaela whispered. "I'm so sorry."

"Don't fret about it," he replied. "You're right. You didn't know. I hadn't told you." Michaela sighed heavily.

"I feel terrible."

"Don't," Sully replied. He took Michaela's hand in his and kissed it delicately. "The only thing we should be worrying about is the weddin' day. We've got plenty of time to sort those things out. And, I'm sorry for upsettin' ya. If not havin' my name is important to ya, then you don't have to take it."

"Sully, I want you to know that I would be honored to have your name, but being an established doctor, or at least a doctor who is trying to make a name for herself, makes it even harder when you have to tell everyone you've changed your name."

"You don't have to do that then," Sully replied. "Rings and names don't matter. What matters is how we feel about each other."

"Sully, I can give it some thought if you'd like me to," Michaela offered. Sully shook his head and smiled, kissing his soon-to-be wife's cheek.

"You don't have to. I want you to be happy, and if keepin' your name the same makes you happy, then I'll be happy."

"Do you really mean that?" Michaela asked.

"You know I'm a man of my word," Sully replied. He pulled Michaela close and kissed her. A weight seemed to lift off of both of their shoulders. They had survived their first lovers' quarrel, but that was a small one that was easily fixed. Matthew knocked on the door and stepped inside as Michaela and Sully pulled away.

"Uh, sorry," he said, his cheeks blushing a bit.

"That's alright, Matthew," Michaela relied. "What is it?"

"Can I talk to Sully for a minute?"

"Certainly," Michaela replied. She kissed Sully on the cheek and started out the door to check on the children. As soon as Michaela was out of earshot, Matthew cleared his throat.

"Dr. Mike's sisters are supposed to get here today," he said quickly.

"Alright. Would you mind ridin' into town and telling them to stay at the mercantile?"

"Did you ask Mr. Bray?"

"Yeah, I settled that with him last week when they were supposed to get there."
"Alright. I'll go ahead." Matthew walked downstairs and started for the door.

"Where are you going?" Michaela asked curiously.

"I forgot that I have to do somethin' in town. I'll see you guys later." He left before Michaela could get another question out. Sully came walking down the stairs and Michaela looked over at him.

"Did Matthew tell you where he was goin'?"
"He has somethin' to do in town," Sully replied with an innocent shrug. "Come on. We better get into town before they start the tree lightin' without us." The Cooper children, Sully, and Michaela all left the house, locking it up tight, and started off for town in the wagon. All the while, Michaela couldn't help but wonder where Matthew had gone off to in such a hurry. She was starting to become suspicious once again.

Matthew helped Marjorie, Rebecca, Claudette, and Maureen out of the stagecoach. The Quinn sisters had celebrated Christmas with their respective families before they headed off to Colorado Springs. They wanted to be with their sister for her first Christmas in a new place.

"Michaela isn't around, is she?" Marjorie asked.

"Nope. Sully's showin' her the new homestead."

"Wonderful," Rebecca said with a smile. "Ladies, we should have time to make it over to the church."

"The dress is finished," Dorothy said with a smile. "So are the bridesmaids' and Matrons of Honor dresses. You ladies can relax until tomorrow."

"Even better," Claudette said with a laugh. "Come along ladies." They all started over to the mercantile. Jake and Hank walked over to Matthew.

"Dr. Mike and Sully are comin' into town, now."

"Alright, we have to distract her so she doesn't see her sister's luggage."

"Not a problem," Hank said with a sly grin. Jake helped Matthew carry in Michaela's sisters' luggage.

Hank swaggered over to the livery where Sully was parking the wagon. Hank helped Michaela down and Sully looked at him questioningly.

"Why thank you, Hank," Michaela said, surprised he had actually extended his hand to help her down and hadn't pulled it away at the last minute to let her fall on the cold hard ground.

"Dr. Mike, I'm feelin' a scratch in my throat. Do you think you could take a look at it?"

"Sure. Come over to the clinic," Michaela replied, surprised at Hank's sudden manners. When Michaela turned away, Hank pointed toward the mercantile and mouthed to Sully that Rebecca, Marjorie, Maureen, and Claudette were there. Sully nodded in appreciation. He had been surprised when Hank and Jake had offered to help with no strings attached, but perhaps it had to do with Marjorie's and Myra's persuading Hank to do it, and Hank telling Jake he'd cut him off at the saloon if he didn't help.

Michaela and Hank entered the clinic while Sully walked over to the mercantile. After properly looking at Hank's throat, Michaela concluded that Hank was as healthy as a horse.

"Are you sure that your throat is scratch? I see no signs of irritation," Michaela explained, cleaning her hands off in a basin of water.

"Well, it is that time of year when people start getting sick," Hank said with a shrug.

"Well, the only thing I can think of for you to do is to brew some hot tea and drink that before bed every evening or when your throat starts to bother you." Hank shook his head.

"Nah, I got whisky for that." Hank left and Michaela shook her head in confusion. It had almost been as if Hank was trying to distract her. She shrugged that feeling off and went about straightening things up. She wasn't going to work on Christmas Eve, but she could at least tidy things up for the day after Christmas when she returned to work.

Sully entered the mercantile, his face a bit pale. Loren saw him and he knew immediately what was going through Sully's mind.

"Where are Dr. Mike's sisters?"

"Dorothy's settlin' them in upstairs. Sully, you're as pale as a sheet. Sit down," Loren offered, pulling a chair down for the man to sit on. Sully gladly accepted Loren's offer. He felt weak in the knees as butterflies practically performed somersaults inside his belly.

"Good," Sully said, swallowing hard, trying to keep the butterflies from leaving his stomach. Loren patted his back and Sully nearly felt his stomach lurch. Loren chuckled and sat down in a seat across from him.

"You're nervous."

"No I'm not."

"I can tell. You're nervous about Dr. Mike's surprise tomorrow."

"Well, I guess I am a little."

"Well, there ain't nothin' to be worried about. She's gonna love it because you came up with the idea. She's going to be grateful for everything you've done."

"You think so?" Sully asked quietly. Loren nodded.

"I know so. I just want ya to know there's no hard feelins'. Not anymore." Loren extended his hand and Sully's face seemed to regain a bit of color. He shook his former father-in-law's hand and stood up. "It's Christmas Eve. You should be spendin' it with the woman you love." Sully nodded in realization and hurried over to the clinic. He burst through the doors, and Michaela jumped in shock.

"Sully! You startled me!" She waited for her heart to return to it's normal pace.

"Sorry," Sully replied with a sheepish grin. "I just thought that since it's Christmas Eve, we could spend the day together."

"Well, I have a lot of things to prepare for when I return to work."

"Can't they wait?" Sully asked. Michaela saw the look in his eyes and she couldn't help but smile.

"Of course they can." She reached out and caressed his cheek softly with her hand. Sully smiled and waited for her to at least finish putting the fresh bandages and sheets into the closet. He helped her into her coat, and they walked hand-in-hand over to Grace's Café.

"I'm honestly thinkin' of buyin' my own buildin' to have this café in. It's gettin' too cold to be workin' out here. I'm gonna have to close up for the winter," Grace said as she poured a cup of coffee for Michaela and one for Sully.

"Well, you've done very well for yourself since it opened. I'm sure that more customers will come along when it begins to warm up."

"I'm not worried about the money. Myra already told me that she ain't worried about it neither."

"Where is Myra, anyway?" Michaela asked.

"I gave her the day off to spend with Horace. Those two really are sweet on one another." Michaela and Sully smiled at each other before Sully looked up at Grace.

"Grace, why don't ya take the day off?" Sully asked, drinking down his coffee in on very scorching gulp. Michaela looked at him when his face turned a bit pink.

"Y'know. I might just do that," Grace replied with a quick nod. She realized what was going on, and she decided it was time to get Michaela out of there. Michaela drank her coffee carefully but quickly and gave Grace the cup. Sully stood and helped Michaela up.

"Did you bring the gifts for Brian, Colleen, and Matthew into town?" Sully wondered.

"Oh! I completely forgot. They're at the homestead."

"Come on. I'll take you to pick them up." Michaela nodded. Grace watched as Sully and Michaela got into the wagon at the livery and drove off before she gave a signal. Dorothy, Myra, Elizabeth, Claudette, Maureen, Marjorie, Rebecca, and Colleen rushed over.

"Alright ladies. We've got a lot to do for today. We ain't doin' the hot food till tomorrow mornin', but we can get the things that can wait overnight finished today. We need to hurry before Sully gets Dr. Mike back into town. He's takin' her out to the homestead, but he knows he needs to stall. We need to get movin' quickly." The ladies all got to work while Sully distracted Michaela for the rest of the afternoon.

"Sully? Where on earth are you going? This isn't the way to the homestead."

"I know," Sully replied with a sparkle in his eyes.

"I'm confused."

"We'll go to the homestead later. I just wanted to spend some time with ya. Talkin', you know?"

"Alright," Michaela replied, scooting closer to him. He drove the wagon holding onto the reins with one hand while his other arm moved around to wrap around Michaela's shoulders.

"Michaela, what do you want to do once we get married?"

"What do you mean?"
"For the honeymoon? Where do you want to go?" Sully asked as the wagon rolled along slowly. Michaela took a deep breath and thought for a moment.

"When I was a little girl, I always wanted to go watch a play in a big city, but I've done that in Boston. I think that I would just enjoy a quiet, un-interrupted night in our new house." Sully smiled and kissed Michaela softly.

"I'd like that too," he replied. As they continued along, Michaela became very content with riding out alone with Sully. It was so cold that all she could think about was him keeping her warm. She knew she needed to get her mind onto other things.

"Do you think it will snow tonight?" she asked. "Brian wants to have a snowy Christmas."

"Well, I suppose it might. Those clouds seem to be settlin' in instead of passin' us by."

They continued on for the rest of the afternoon, not stopping by the homestead until later that afternoon. Michaela didn't notice how the time was passing, because she was with her future husband. The only thing she was regretting was that she wouldn't have him to keep her warm tonight, a night that promised to be mighty chilly.

Sully noticed Michaela starting to shiver, so he pulled a blanket from the back of the wagon and wrapped it around her shoulders.

"Better?"

"Mmm," she replied with a nod. Sully kissed her, feeling the coldness in her lips fading away at his touch.

"You're so beautiful." Michaela blushed and snuggled closer to him. He kept a tight arm around her and continued on.

Michaela woke in the morning feeling very cold but surprisingly well-rested. The evening had been beautiful. She had given the Cooper children their presents early, and even spent most of the evening with Charlotte who was too tired to get out of bed. However, Michaela found her surprisingly cheery and not at all drowsy.

She and Sully had lit candles together for the Christmas tree in the center of town. She had spent time with her family and hadn't gotten home until well after midnight. She looked out the window and she was excited and very much surprised to see a fresh, sparkling blanket of snow on the ground. Her eyes lit up and she couldn't wait to get into town to be with her family for Christmas.

She washed up and dressed quickly, brushing her hair out and putting on her nicest dress. Once she had she shoes on snugly, she walked outside to hitch up the wagon. She was surprised to see that the wagon was hitched up and decorated with a chain of red roses. Even the horses had rose garlands around their necks.

"What in the world?" she wondered. Matthew, Colleen, and Brian Cooper came out of the barn wearing their finest clothes. Michaela grinned at them when she saw how wonderful they looked. "Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, Dr. Mike," they replied. Matthew helped her into the wagon and they rode into town, careful of any icy patches that may have been hidden beneath the fluffy blanket of white.

"What brought you out here this morning?"

"We thought you might now want to ride into town alone today, is all," Brian replied. He was about to burst, wanting to blurt out the surprise, but he knew that everyone in town would have his hide if he did so.

Michaela talked with the children during their ride into town, and she was happy that they had surprised her. She wasn't quite sure why they had decorated the horses with rose garlands, but it was beautiful. She decided not to ask questions.

"This is gonna be a great Christmas, Dr. Mike," Colleen said with a dreamy look in her eyes.

"One you'll never forget" Brian added. Matthew wanted to nudge his little brother, but he was driving the wagon. Colleen did it for him. "I mean, it's snowin' on Christmas for once, so that makes it extra special." They continued on in silence as a light flurry of snow showered down upon them.

"Colorado is even more beautiful at Christmas time," Michaela noted.

"It sure is," Matthew agreed.

As they neared town, Michaela became confused again. She saw Grace, Myra, and Dorothy at the café. They were cooking, and Michaela distinctly remembered Grace saying the café wasn't going to be open until the day after Christmas. She didn't say anything, not sure of what to say anyway. She figured Matthew would be pulling the wagon over toward the livery, but he turned and took the wagon toward the wooden bridge crossing over into the churchyard. Michaela noticed silver and baby blue ribbons decorating the wooden bridge.

"What's that?" she asked. The children were quiet and seemed as if they didn't notice. Matthew stopped the wagon in front of the church. Michaela noticed the railing of the steps. They were decorated in white and blue flowers along with the silver and blue ribbons.

"Sully asked me to give you this," Matthew pointed out. He pulled a folded letter out from his coat. Michaela took it from his gloved hand and Matthew helped her out. He got back into the wagon and started off.

"Where on earth are you going?" Michaela called after him.

"I just remember that I have to do something," he called back. Michaela noticed Colleen and Brian looking back at her with big grins on their faces. She shook her head, not understand what was going on. She unfolded the letter that Matthew had given to her and she began to read.

Michaela,

You must be confused about what has happened to you today. Meet me in the church and I will explain everything. Love, Sully

Michaela slowly ascended the steps of the church, and when she walked in, she found blue and white flower petals mixed in with red for the color of Christmas. She swallowed hard and looked around the corner to see candles lit all along the walls, and candles as centerpieces on beautifully decorated tables. Sully was standing at the front of the church wearing something Michaela had never seen before. It was an intricately designed Indian suit of some sort. The patterns and beads were breathtaking.

"Sully?" she asked. He held his hand out to her and she joined him, taking his hand in her own.

"Merry Christmas," he said, flashing her a smile. She noticed that he was clean-shaven. She smiled back.

"Merry Christmas," she replied. Her fingers played with the strings on Sully's suit. She wasn't quite sure what to make of it. "What's this you're wearing?"

"This is what Cloud Dancin' wore the day he and Snow Bird married." He swallowed hard and Michaela's eyes went wide.

"Married?"

"Michaela, I know this is early, and I know that you wanted a May weddin', but I also know you want your pa to give you away and you want Charlotte to be there with you. So, I'm askin' you right here, right now, if you will marry me today." Michaela felt as if she wasn't breathing. Her heart seemed to stop for a second, and her eyes were tearing up.

"Oh Sully," she whispered. Her hands went up to touch his face. "This is what you've been planning for so long? This is why you wanted to finish the homestead before Christmas? This is why everyone has been so secretive?" she asked in realization. Sully nodded with a small grin on his face. "They all knew?"

"They wanted to do somethin' nice for ya, because you've brought medicine to a town where people were afraid of a cold. They didn't have much, but since you've been here, everyone is comin' to you even though they don't know much about lady doctors. They care about you and they wanted to help me."

"Even Hank and Jake?"

"Hank did it because Marjorie and Myra talked him into it. Jake did it because Hank threatened him." Michaela laughed and the tears began to fall.

"So what do you say? Will you marry me?"

"Sully, I am so surprised! I had no idea what was going on. You did a wonderful job of keeping me very confused." They both laughed together and Michaela's arms wrapped around Sully's neck. "I would be honored to marry you today. I love you more than I've ever loved anyone. I can't imagine my life without you."

"Same here," he replied, kissing her softly.

"I'll marry you today," she replied softly, looking up into his eyes with more love and devotion than Sully ever thought possible. "We're marrying in here?"

"No," Sully replied. "There ain't enough room, plus, this is where the reception's gonna be." He pointed toward one of the side windows. "Look out there." Michaela slowly walked over and peered out the curtain. She gasped when she saw a lovely altar constructed with rows and rows of white chairs. A beautiful pure white tent covered it with flower garlands wrapped around the posts. Her hand moved to her mouth and the tears flowed even heavier. She sniffled and wiped her eyes.

"Sully, it's so beautiful. I can't believe you've done all of this!"

"I'm glad you like it," he replied. He kissed her cheek. "Come on out everybody! She agreed!" The church crowded with Myra, Grace, Dorothy, Elizabeth, Reverend Johnson, Loren, Jake, Hank, Robert E., Josef, Horace, Charlotte, the children, and everyone that had grown close to Michaela. Her eyes went wide when she saw her four sisters.

"Before you say anything, we arrived yesterday," Marjorie said with a cheerful laugh. Charlotte walked up to her with a smile on her face.

"We best be getting you ready. Your groom is already ready."

"He shouldn't see me! It's bad luck!"

"Don't worry about that. Cloud Dancin' is wardin' off the bad luck," Brian said with a grin. Michaela smiled and leaned down to kiss the boy's cheek.
"Come along, Dr. Mike," Grace said. "The food's cookin', and it ain't gonna be finished until after the weddin'. We've got all the time in the world."

"Come on, Sully," Matthew said, patting his future father on the back. The women ran off with Michaela and the men took Sully before they could even get a chance to kiss one another goodbye. The children were left to decorating the wagon with tin cans and more ribbons to coincide with the rose garlands. It was sure to be a grand day!

The ladies were all wearing light blue dresses with beautiful ribbons tied into their fancy hairdos. The Quinn sisters had helped with the hair because they were so used to doing their own hair in those styles. Everyone was working with Michaela's hair after they had put her dress on. She was mesmerized by the sight of herself in that dress, and she knew that this was the first and last time she would ever be wearing it.

Charlotte was holding something behind her back as she made her way over to Michaela.

"Dr. Mike?" she asked. Michaela turned around.

"What is it, Charlotte?" she asked with a smile. The older woman pulled a pair of brand new white, elegant boots from behind her back. They weren't bulky at all, but dainty and sleek like Michaela's beautiful dress. "Oh! They're lovely!"

"I sent the money with Colleen who ordered 'em from Boston. I thought you might like to have 'em for your weddin' day."
"Thank you," Michaela whispered, tears starting to come to her eyes again. The two hugged and the other woman seemed to be on the verge of tears.

"You look so beautiful," Myra whispered. "So grand!" Michaela blushed and Dorothy walked up to her with a bouquet of beautiful blue and white flowers.

"Don't ask me how I got 'em, but it was quite a headache to get these and those roses. It ain't easy to find flowers in the wintertime."

"Thank you Dorothy, they're lovely," Michaela replied, hugging her.

"Well, you have you need something old, new, borrowed, and blue," Grace pointed out.

"The shoes are new," Michaela suggested.

"You can borrow these," Marjorie offered, holding out a strand of pearls.

"Thank you, but I'm going to wear the locket Sully made for me," Michaela replied. Elizabeth fastened it around her daughter's neck.

"You can borrow this," Myra replied, handing her a white lace handkerchief. "Don't worry, it ain't been used." The women all laughed. "It's old too. My grandma gave it to me."

"We have old, new, and borrowed."

"The flowers are blue," Grace replied. "She's all set!"

"Are you ready to get married?" Charlotte asked.

"I'm more than ready," Michaela replied with a content sigh. "I've been waiting for this moment for so long, and I'm so happy that I don't have to wait until May." The girls all giggled and everyone began making last minute preparations as everyone worked with Michaela's hair, putting beautiful ringlets in and plenty of pins to hold it together.

"Are you sure you're ready for this?" Jake asked as Robert E. rubbed the waiting groom's shoulders. Sully was sitting inside of the church with all of the men. Robert E., Jake, Horace, and Matthew were acting as groomsmen.

"Sure I am," Sully replied.

"What are you frettin' about then?"

"Cloud Dancin' ain't here yet," Matthew pointed out. Despite the town's differences with the Cheyenne, they certainly weren't going to start anything on Dr. Mike and Sully's day.

"Well, if he don't make it, Matthew can step in as your best man," Jake pointed out.

"He'll be here," Matthew replied. As if on cue, Cloud Dancing stepped into the church. Sully was completely relieved as he walked over to greet his Cheyenne brother.

"Glad you could make it," Sully said with a chuckle.

"Where is your bride?"

"She's getting ready," Sully replied. Cloud Dancing nodded. Colleen rushed into the church.

"The bridesmaids are comin' down the street."

"Places gentlemen," the Reverend ordered. The men filed out of the church and into the cold winter air. The snow was falling softly and there was no wind. Although it was cold, Sully couldn't tell. He was only focused on the train of women coming across the bridge. Rebecca and Charlotte were at the back and ahead of Michaela. Sully's eyes froze on his bride as she paused on the bridge. Josef Quinn held his arm out to her and she linked her arm with his.

This was the proudest day of Josef Quinn's life. He hadn't been more proud since the day Michaela was born. Now he was giving his last little girl away, and it brought a tear to his eye to see how amazing she looked in her gown.

"I'm so proud of you," Josef whispered as the wedding march began to play. Michaela's heart began to pound as the shivering townsfolk stood and gasped at her radiance.

Michaela and Josef made their way up the aisle, and as soon as they reached the front, Josef handed Michaela off to his soon-to-be son-in-law. They shook hands and Michaela and Sully stepped up to the Reverend. Sully and Michaela were completely oblivious to the cold, and the audience was so focused on the ceremony that they had forgotten about the cold as well.

Rebecca and Charlotte stood closer to Michaela than the bridesmaids while Cloud Dancing stood with Sully.

The sparkling snow seemed to make Michaela's dress shimmer and glitter in the sunlight. The Reverend cleared his throat to speak.

"Dearly beloved, we have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony. These two have been blessed with the love that God has endowed them with, and they have used it to come together in the union of marriage." He paused for a moment and looked at the bride and groom before he continued with the vows he had written out at Sully's request. "Into this holy union, Michaela Quinn and Byron Sully now come to be joined. If anyone here in our presence today can show a reason why they should not be wed, please speak now or forever hold your peace." Nobody spoke, all knowing that Michaela and Sully were meant to be with one another forever. "Who gives this woman to this man?"

"I do," Josef replied proudly. Michaela and Sully turned to smile at the proud father of the bride. They turned back to focus on one another as Josef sat down beside his wife.

"Do you, Sully, take Michaela to be your wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as you both shall live?" Sully looked into Michaela's eyes and smiled at her with warmth and love.

"I do," he promised. The Reverend continued.

"Do you, Michaela, take Sully to be your husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as you both shall live?"

"I do," she replied, without hesitation.

"The ring, please?" the Reverend asked. Cloud Dancing passed the solid gold band to his best friend. "Lord, bless this ring as a symbol of Sully's love for Michaela, and grant them the strength to love one another all of their days." Sully slipped the ringer onto Michaela's hand, and she looked down as her gold band and diamond ring connected for the first time. The Reverend took Michaela's hand and Sully's in his own. "By giving each other their solemn vows and the ring to symbolize their eternal love, I now pronounce them husband and wife. Those whom God has joined together, let no man put asunder. Amen." A brief 'amen' came from the crowd, and Sully and Michaela grinned happily at one another. "You may now kiss the bride." Everyone began to clap as Sully pulled Michaela into his arms, cupping her face in his hands and kissing her with a tender passion. The crowed cheered louder as their lips broke apart and met again in another quick kiss. Sully and Michaela joined hands again and looked at each other before they made their way down the aisle, hand-in-hand as husband and wife.

THE END