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. This is the sequel to "Miracles Unbound."Eternal Changes
Chapter 1: Leaving the Nest
The crowded church was stifling in the late days of August. Children were shifting uncomfortably in their nicest attire, while mothers anxiously rocked crying babies to sleep. The two infants in their best behavior were eleven-month-olds Connor and Daniel Sully, who were sleeping in the church pews beside their five-month-pregnant mother.
Michaela was feeling awful despite the beautiful day and the special occasion. Her feet were aching, her ankles were swollen, her back was killing her, and she had the worst headache from the stress she had been under preparing for this day. To top it all off, the morning sickness had been bothering her since dawn, and it was well past noon now.
The Reverend stood at the front of the church with his bible in one hand as the wedding march began to play. Everyone stood. Hank reached his hand out and helped Michaela stand, as it was difficult for her with her belly already in the way. Sully came walking down the aisle with the beautiful bride on his arm. Ingrid's dress was gorgeous, and specially made by the women in the town, including Michaela, Dorothy, Olive, Jenny, Myra, and Grace. Since Ingrid's father had passed away long ago, Sully offered to walk her down the aisle, and serve as his son's best man along with Ingrid's brother Jon.
The wedding wasn't quite as traditional as others. There were five flower girls. Though she was a bit over age, Colleen was serving as the flower girl along with Ingrid's four little sisters, and Brian was serving as the ring bearer, though he too was a bit over age. The church was decorated in beautiful yellow and white flower petals, and the seventeen-year-old groom-to-be stood at the front of the church with Jon, waiting for Ingrid to join him at the altar.
Michaela couldn't believe her oldest son was getting married. She was feeling very emotional today, especially because a stagecoach was waiting outside to carry the bride and groom off to Denver. Matthew had made a payment on a small house in Denver to rent, and it was almost time to let go. Matthew had already packed up all of his things, and they were waiting on the stagecoach. His bedroom was empty, except for his bed, and Brian was already itching to upgrade to a larger room. Michaela had been trying her hardest to keep herself together for her son's sake, and Sully was sure that he'd have a very emotional wife to care for that evening. She had been a little weepy, but he knew that once Matthew was truly on his way to a new life, she would break down into tears.
Michaela moved to stand next to Ingrid. Standing up had been hurting her back, so they had all agreed for Michaela to join them at the front once Ingrid arrived. She stood up next to the young girl, just barely seventeen, who would be her daughter-in-law very soon.
The Reverend began his sermon, as Ingrid stood with tears in her eyes. Matthew looked nervous but happy at the same time. Colleen put her hand on her mother's arm, letting her know that Matthew was doing the right thing in marrying the woman he loved and still going through with going to college. They were young, but they loved each other and wanted to care for one another.
Michaela's eyes locked on Sully's, and she saw the gleam in his eyes. He was smiling at her, loving her, and letting her know that it was going to be all right with just one glance. Michaela felt a tear trickle down her cheek as Matthew and Ingrid began to say their vows. They did things a bit differently this time.
Ingrid took her ring and placed it upon Matthew's finger.
"I Ingrid, take you Matthew, to be my husband," she whispered. "Forever." Matthew took his ring from Brian and placed it on Ingrid's finger.
"I Matthew, take you Ingrid, to be my wife," he whispered softly, his eyes connecting with hers. "Forever." The Reverend went through the rest of the service, and finally had them say their traditional vows.
"I now pronounce you husband and wife," the Reverend said joyously. "You may kiss the bride." Michaela and Sully watched their oldest son's face brighten up as he kissed the love of his life. "It gives me great honor to introduce Mr. and Mrs. Matthew Sully." The crowed cheered and applauded, and Michaela still couldn't believe it was happening.
The guests gathered outside while the family stayed inside with the new husband and wife. Even Reverend Johnson left after giving the couple his wishes of happiness. Hugs and kisses went around, and when Matthew came to his mother, he hugged her and kissed her on the cheek.
"Don't worry, ma," he said softly. "We'll come home as much as we can." Michaela nodded, swallowing hard.
"I'm so proud of you, Matthew."
"You sure you're not mad at me for leavin'?"
"Of course I'm not mad," she replied. "Don't be silly. I'm just sad that you're going away."
"Don't worry. I'm gonna try to make it home to see my little sisters be born." Michaela rolled her eyes.
"I see your father has been teaching you well." Sully laughed as he patted his son on the back.
"I'm proud of ya, son."
"Thanks pa," Matthew replied. Hearing that from the man who he had grown to love as his father made him feel at peace with the fact that his birth father was a murdering deadbeat. Colleen hugged her brother next.
"I bet our real ma was watchin' over you today."
"I think she always is," Matthew replied. "I'm gonna miss you."
"I'll miss you too," Colleen replied, brushing a tear out of her eyes. Matthew went to his younger brother and smiled down at him.
"You take care of things around the house when pa's not home, all right?"
"I will," Brian promised. "Promise you'll come back for Christmas?"
"I'll do my best, Brian." He hugged his brother, and moved to pick up Connor and Daniel.
"Matt!" Connor exclaimed. The boys lovingly called their brother by that name, seeing as they couldn't exactly say Matthew yet.
"You boys are growin' up so fast. Don't go growin' so much. I wanna recognize ya next time I see ya. Don't worry, I'll send somethin' for both of ya for your birthday."
Michaela's lower lip trembled, and she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned to face Ingrid, who had just said her goodbyes to her brother and little sisters.
"I will make a good wife to Matthew," Ingrid promised. "I will make him happy." Michaela smiled through her tears.
"You already have, Ingrid. He loves you, and his eyes light up every time he sees you. I know you'll make one another happy." Ingrid and Michaela embraced, and her belly got in the way again. They both laughed.
"I will send something special for the new baby." Michaela and Sully took their youngest boys into their arms, and the Sully family gave more warm wishes and hugs before the new husband and wife left the church, being showered with rice and flower petals. They made their way to the stagecoach under the rain of rice and petals, and Michaela felt the tears starting to flow again.
Matthew helped his new wife into the stagecoach, and climbed in behind her. As the stagecoach pulled away, Michaela began to cry, already missing her oldest son.
"It's gonna be all right, ma," Brian assured her. Michaela nodded and sniffled, but began to cry again, her emotions elevated from the pregnancy hormones. Unfortunately, time didn't allow for a reception, because school started in a few days, and Matthew needed to buy his books and supplies and get settled in.
As the stagecoach disappeared out of town, Michaela let out a heavy sigh. Sully put his hand on Michaela's back as he balanced Daniel on his hip.
"C'mon. Let's go home."
After dinner that evening, Colleen and Brian had cleaned everything up and gone up to bed. Sully was outside working in the barn, and Michaela was sitting in a warm bath. Her head was resting along the back of the tub, and she was slowly running her hands over her belly beneath the water. The baby kicked a lot, but luckily it wasn't big enough to pack quite hard punch. The kicks felt like fluttering butterflies underneath Michaela's stretched out skin, although sometimes she'd wake to a strong kick in the middle of the night.
It felt good to relax, and Michaela wondered if the stagecoach had made it to Denver yet. She knew that her son would be celebrating his wedding night, and it was hard to believe that he was already going to college. She was so proud of him. He had an idea of what he wanted to do with his life, and he was sticking to it.
The door slowly creaked open, and Michaela covered her exposed chest with her arms, but breathed a sigh of relief when Sully walked in. He shut the door behind himself and smiled at his wife.
"You feel better?"
"Mmm," she replied with a nod. "Much."
"I bet they're in Denver by now."
"I can't believe he's married and moved away," Michaela said, shaking her head. "I miss him."
"He's happy, Michaela, and it ain't like he's gone forever. He's gonna come around once in awhile." Michaela nodded.
"I know," she replied. "It's just strange to know that we have another empty room in the house, and one of our children is married."
"I know," Sully replied. "But I'm proud of him."
"So am I," Michaela replied. She smiled and felt the baby kick again. She took Sully's hand in hers and put it under the water to rest over the spot where the baby was kicking.
"They're really active today, huh?" Michaela laughed.
"Sully, I've told you a hundred times that I've only heard one heartbeat."
"So?" Sully wondered.
"I just don't want you to be disappointed."
"Hey," Sully interrupted, pressing a kiss to her lips. "You will never disappoint me." Michaela shook her head.
"You're bound and determined that we're having two girls. I'm telling you, Sully, we're having one baby, and there is as much of a chance that it will be a boy as there is that it will be a girl." Sully chuckled.
"Trust me. If we're havin' just one baby, it's gonna be a girl."
"What makes you so sure besides the dreams?" Michaela asked curiously. Sully swallowed hard.
"You're carryin' the way Abagail was with Hannah." Michaela sighed knowingly. She held her hand out to Sully, and he helped her stand. She pulled her robe around herself and stepped out of the tub. Sully stood behind her, drying her neck off with a soft towel.
"Is that why you want a daughter so much? Because of Hannah?" She turned around, and Sully shook his head.
"No," he replied. "I just want a little girl who's got her ma's eyes and smile. You'd be doin' the world an awful lot of good if ya brought another beautiful life into it." Michaela smiled at her husband's words.
"Well, I'll see what I can do," she laughed. Sully picked her up into his arms, twirled her around, and kissed her. "Sully!" He laughed and put her down.
"You don't want me make me sick, do you?"
"That's why I put ya down. Why don't ya go rest?"
"My mind is too busy to relax."
"What are ya thinkin' about?"
"Everything," Michaela exaggerated. "Matthew and Ingrid, the baby. The baby."
"What is it?"
"This baby has already been so much, and it isn't even born yet," she explained. "I just hope that the next four months are much easier. I don't want our baby being brought into the world thinking that everything about it is bad."
"You think the baby will remember everything you went through?"
"Who knows?" Michaela wondered. "But I believe the baby could be affected by everything that's happened." They were quiet as they went across the room to their bedroom, passing by the one empty bedroom. Once they were secure within their room, Michaela pulled a nightgown on and turned to her husband. "I'm just worried."
"There's nothin' to be worried about, Michaela. Our baby's gonna come into this world with the happiest parents on earth. There're so many people who can't wait to meet her. It's gonna work out just fine."
Michaela crawled into bed to try to get some rest, and Sully heard one of the boys crying.
"I'll take care of it." He kissed her forehead and pulled the covers up over her. Michaela closed her eyes as Sully went to deal with Connor. He walked into the boys' room and picked him up out of his bed.
"What's the matter, son?"
"Papa," he sniffled.
"I'm here," Sully promised. "What's wrong?" He held the boy close. The boy began to cry again, and Sully sat down in a rocking chair with him. Though he felt like he couldn't sing at all, he began to hum a Cheyenne lullaby to his upset son. He glanced over at Daniel, who was sleeping soundly through his brother's cries. As Sully rocked the boy back and forth, the cries subsided, and Connor fell into a deep sleep. Sully held the boy's weight against his chest, and examined his little fingers. Every time he looked at his twin boys, he felt so proud to be able to call them his own blood. They looked more and more like him every day, though sometimes they were just as stubborn as their mother.
Having children was better than he ever thought it would be. He never got to be a father to Hannah, and the thought of her could still bring tears to his eyes. He was glad that he'd been given the opportunity to help Michaela raise Charlotte's children, and to be a father to them as well as his own true children. There wasn't a difference in neither Sully's nor Michaela's eyes. Charlotte's children were just as much their own as Connor and Daniel were, honestly. They felt a connection to all of them, and the children knew it too. Fortunately, they'd all gotten along, and the transition after Charlotte's death had been a little smoother than it would have been if they'd have been complete strangers to one another.
Michaela had started to feel lonesome, so she had crept out of bed and down the hall to the boys' room. She stood in the doorway, listening to her husband humming to Connor. She smiled, crossed her arms, and leaned against the doorway, knowing Sully couldn't see her because his eyes were closed.
She bit her bottom lip and crept across the room, trying not to step on a creaky floorboard, and she came to stand behind Sully's chair. Her arms snaked around him from the back, and she gently stroked their son's back. Sully looked up sharply to see his wife standing behind him.
"That song was beautiful," she whispered.
"It was nothin'."
"The boys love when you sing to them," Michaela pointed out.
"I think they like your singin' better than mine." Michaela made a face, not liking the sound of her own singing voice. Sully chuckled a little and stood up. He put Connor back down in his bed. Michaela left the room, and he joined her in the bedroom a few minutes later. She was standing beside the window, looking up at the moon. She put her hands on her belly, and Sully smiled at the sight. When he closed the door, Michaela looked over at him. "I admire you."
"What are you talking about?" Michaela wondered. Sully strode across the room and stood behind his wife. She leaned her back against him, and his hands moved to touch her rounded belly.
"You held up real good today."
"What are you talking about?" she asked with a laugh. "I think I cried more than the twins do on a regular basis." Sully chuckled and nuzzled her neck with his nose.
"You didn't cry near as much as I thought ya would. You're strong Michaela. I think ya made it easier on Matthew." Michaela smiled and yawned.
"C'mon. Let's get to bed." He took her hand and they retired to their bed for the rest of the night.
Kid Cole sat at the sheriff's office, plucking away at his guitar. He'd been hired on as the sheriff of Colorado Springs about a month ago, and he hadn't had much to do lately.
The afternoon sun was high in the sky, and he tipped his hat to Jenny Baker who was hurrying across town. Jenny was in quite a rush. Poor Clayton had fallen from the loft in the barn when a board broke through. The poor man was lying in pain on the floor of the barn, and Jenny knew Michaela could help.
Michaela was sitting at the clinic, filling out a record about the appendectomy she had performed that morning. Business had pretty much been slow, which Michaela was thankful of, because that mean less people were sick, and she had more time to rest.
"Dr. Mike!" Jenny called, rushing into the clinic.
"Jenny? What is it?"
"Clayton fell through the loft. He's hurtin' pretty bad." Colleen walked into the clinic.
"Colleen, will you watch your brothers for me? I need to see a patient."
"Sure," Colleen replied. Jenny and Michaela left the clinic, and Colleen went to check on her brothers. Connor was standing up in his bed, while Daniel slept. Colleen smiled at them, vaguely remembering when Brian was that little. Her oldest brother had only been away for a day now, and she missed him dearly. Brian was off fishing with Mary and Anthony, so there wasn't anything to do. Colleen had friends, sure, but they were all busy helping their families. Most girls helped their mothers around the house, but not Colleen Sully. She helped her mother at the clinic, doing important things that saved peoples lives.
Though Colleen always felt good after helping Michaela with a surgery, she felt as though she was missing out on so much of her life. Boys were beginning to notice her, but anytime they asked her to go for a walk in the meadow or something, she would be busy and rush off to help her mother with the twins' or assist with a surgery.
"Up!" Connor insisted of his sister. He held his arms out, and she picked him up.
"All right," she replied with a smile. "Do you wanna play a game?" Connor looked around, happy to be out of his bed. Sully walked into the room.
"Hey Colleen. Where's your ma?"
"She rode out to the Baker farm with Jenny," Colleen replied. She sighed and heard the laughter of a few of her friends outside.
"No," Colleen replied, putting Connor back down.
"You sure?" Colleen nodded, looking away.
"C'mon. You can tell me." She sighed heavily.
"I was wonderin' if maybe I could go see my friends."
"What's stoppin' ya?" Sully wondered.
"Well, ma asked me to watch the boys."
"I'll take care of 'em. I just got back from the reservation, and I was plannin' on headin' home."
"You don't care?"
"'Course not," Sully replied. "Go on. Just be home before dinner."
"I will. Thanks pa," Colleen replied with a smile. She hurried off. Sully scooped the boys up into his arms and locked up the clinic before heading home.
That evening, Michaela sat anxiously at the table, waiting for her daughter to return home.
"Are you sure you told her to be home before dinner?"
"Yeah," Sully replied. "She shoulda been home an hour ago." He sighed heavily and walked over to look out the window so Michaela wouldn't have to.
"She'll be home soon," Brian said confidently. Michaela smiled weakly at him, grateful that he was trying to make her feel better. Sully decided to change the subject.
"Ya think Clayton will heal all right?"
"He just had a dislocated shoulder, which was not as bad as it could have been. I think his arm will heal nicely. Unfortunately for Olive, he won't be able to work for a few days. Olive is going to pay Ingrid's brother Jon double seeing as both Matthew and Clayton aren't there."
"He could use that money for his little sisters," Sully said thoughtfully. Michaela nodded and took a sip of water from her cup. Sully could tell that she was nervous.
"You want me to go out to Becky's house and see if they're over there?" Michaela thought about it for a moment.
"You wouldn't mind?"
"'Course not," Sully replied. "As long as you get up to bed and stop frettin'." Michaela nodded sheepishly. Sully walked over to give his wife a kiss. "I'll be back in an hour." He started toward the door.
"Can I go too?"
"Brian, I think it'd be best if ya stayed here with your ma."
"But I wanna help. She's my sister!" Sully looked at Michaela.
"I suppose it's all right."
"You really wanna stay here by yourself?"
"Sully, I'm pregnant. I'm not sick or hurt. I can take care of myself," Michaela insisted. "I'll put the boys down with a lullaby and come back down to wait."
"Why don't ya get some rest?"
"I won't rest until Colleen's home." Sully sighed and put his hand on Brian's back.
"C'mon, son." They left and started out to the barn. Michaela knew the boys were up in bed, but they were never sleeping this early. She climbed the stairs, and her suspicions were confirmed when she saw them both standing up in their beds, holding onto the railings. She smiled at them.
"Aren't you two tired yet?" Connor grinned and bent his knees a little. Michaela chuckled, loving how rambunctious her boys were, even though she knew that would be tiresome in the future. But they were healthy and happy, and that was all that mattered now.
"Mama," Daniel shouted out.
"That's right," Michaela replied. She pulled both boys into her arms and sat down in the rocking chair beside the window. The boys were both wide-eyed and not at all sleepy. Michaela smiled at them and began to hum the song she and Sully first danced to. Before too long, the boys were sleeping, and Michaela was putting them down in their beds. As she was leaving, Daniel woke again and began to cry out. Michaela got a brilliant idea. She moved to her bedroom, retrieved the music box, and opened it up, putting it on the edge of the rocking chair. The song lulled Daniel back to sleep, and she knew he'd sleep the rest of the night.
She quietly closed the door and slowly moved down the stairs and into the kitchen. She put water in the kettle to boil. She intended to brew a tea that would calm her nerves. She was worried that something bad had happened to her daughter, and she didn't quite know what to do about this. Colleen had never drastically disobeyed her parents before, so why now?
Michaela had dozed off for about an hour, and when Sully arrived home, she woke up. The door opened and he walked in with Brian.
"Where's Colleen?" Michaela wondered, alarmed.
"We couldn't find her. Becky's been home since two hours ago. Colleen was gonna come straight home."
"Oh God," she whispered. She looked at Sully with fear in her eyes. "Something terrible must have happened!"
"I'm sure it ain't like that," Sully replied. "But just in case, I'm gonna take Wolf out." At that moment, the door opened and Colleen walked through. Michaela's hormones were peaking again.
"Where have you been?!"
"I'm sorry I'm a little late," she replied quietly, shutting the door behind herself.
"A little late?!" Michaela asked. "You promised your father you would be home before dinner!"
"I know. I'm sorry."
"You had us worried sick!" she exclaimed. Sully put his hand on Michaela's back, knowing she needed to calm down.
"I know," Colleen replied. "I'm sorry I worried you."
"Where were you?" Sully wondered.
"I was at Becky's." Michaela and Sully glanced at one another.
"But Becky's been home since before sundown," Brian pointed out. Colleen's eyes went wide.
"You were checkin' up on me?" she asked.
"'Course we were! We were worried about ya," Sully explained. "You need to tell us where ya were."
"I don't have to do that."
"Colleen, you're only fourteen years old. You don't have the right to go traipsing out in the woods at this hour of the night. It's dangerous!"
"I wasn't out in the woods!" Colleen exclaimed angrily.
"Where were you?" Michaela asked angrily.
"I was with a boy from school. You know him ma. Jared." Michaela felt a lump in her throat. Her daughter had been out in the dark, alone with a boy for the past two hours."
"Colleen, go up to your room. I'll be there shortly to speak with you," Michaela said softly, trying to keep herself calm. Colleen looked at her father, hoping for a reprieve. He nodded.
"Best do as your ma says." Colleen sighed and started up the stairs. Brian retired upstairs, deciding to be the good child for the night and go to bed without having to be told.
Michaela looked at Sully and the kettle began to whistle. Michaela went to get it.
"I'll take care of it." He gave her a reassuring smile, and Michaela started up the stairs to have a talk with her daughter.
She knocked on the door, and when she didn't get an answer, she went in anyway. Colleen had pulled her nightgown on, and she was lying on her bed, her feet dangling over the side.
"Colleen, we need to talk." Colleen pulled a chair out from Colleen's homework desk. She sat down, and Colleen sat up in her place on the bed.
"All right," Colleen replied. "Ma, I'm sorry for stayin' out so late without tellin' you." Michaela sighed heavily.
"I know you're growing up, Colleen. But if you want to spend time with a boy, at least don't do it in the middle of the night without letting me know where you are. If it's after school in a supervised area, I wouldn't mind a bit." Colleen crossed her arms over her shoulders.
"Ma, you think I'm a kid! You don't let me do anything I want to do!" Michaela was taken by surprise.
"You always expect me to be there to help with the boys or at the clinic."
"I thought you enjoyed working at the clinic."
"I do," Colleen replied. "But sometimes I want time to see my friends. Can't you understand that?"
Michaela looked into her daughter's eyes. She couldn't believe she had overlooked her daughter's most delicate years. When she had been Colleen's age, she hadn't made time for friends or boys. She had spent her time trying to make her father proud and quarrelling with her mother constantly.
She couldn't believe she had actually thought that Colleen would rather spend time at the clinic and helping out with the boys than find time for boys. She knew Colleen had friends whom she studied with, but she just didn't realize that Colleen had started taking a liking to the boys in town.
"Oh, Colleen," she whispered. "I'm sorry I've overlooked this." She shook her head.
"It's not your fault, ma," Colleen replied. "You've been real busy with the boys, the new baby, the clinic, and planning Matthew and Ingrid's weddin'."
"I should have paid more attention."
"Ma, I ain't mad. I'm sorry I stayed out so late, but I didn't feel like I had a choice."
"You've always got a choice, Colleen, and the problem is making the right one."
"I know," she whispered. "I'm sorry, ma."
"I'm sorry too," Michaela replied, putting her hand on her daughter's cheek. "Just remember that if there's ever a time you want to spend with your friends, and if it's a reasonable hour, all you have to do is ask me or your father. I won't mind you spending time away from the clinic. I'm perfectly capable of taking care of things myself. It's just that I've gotten used to having you there." Colleen smiled.
"I'll be there tomorrow, all right?" Colleen asked. Michaela smiled.
"All right," she replied.
"You should go rest ma." Michaela nodded. She kissed the top of her daughter's head.
"Night." Michaela left her daughter's room, feeling a little bit better. She trusted that her daughter hadn't done anything inappropriate, and she didn't think it would be right to bring it up now after having worked through this problem a few moments ago. She decided to let it be for now.
When she got downstairs. Sully was just pouring a fresh cup of tea. Michaela sat down at the table, and he handed it to her.
"You get it worked out?" Sully asked. Michaela nodded slightly.
"She's growing up," she replied.
"Yeah," Sully answered. "Ya gotta give her some room."
"I know," Michaela replied. "But you were also pretty hard on her."
"Sometimes ya gotta be. She's gotta know she can't come and go as she pleases at this hour." Michaela nodded and drank the tea slowly, savoring the taste and the warmth. Sully walked up behind her and began to rub her shoulders. Michaela sighed from relaxation.
"That feels nice." Sully smiled and continued his actions. Michaela quickly finished her cup of tea and stood, wrapping her arms around her husband's neck. She kissed his neck as his hand moved to graze against the side of her breast. They looked into each other's eyes with desire, smiled, and began to walk toward the stairs hand in hand. A loud thump outside of their door startled them both, and Sully wasn't sure what to expect on the other side. "Sully?" Michaela wondered. Sully slowly walked over and unlocked the front door. He looked back at Michaela. His hand moved to his hip, and he realized that he'd left his tomahawk in the barn.
Sully slowly turned the knob on the door, and Michaela stepped closer to get a better look. Neither of them were prepared for what they were about to find.