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.

Many Happy Returns

By, Ashley J.

"Whoa," Sully commanded the horses as the wagon pulled up outside of the barn after Michaela's birthday party. As the wagon stopped, Matthew, Colleen, and Brian barreled out of the back and went inside to get ready for bed. A very curious Brian had spotted Sully kissing Michaela outside of the clinic, and he'd rushed to let his brother and sister know. So, they were also hurrying along into the homestead so they could give their mother some time alone with Sully.

Michaela's heart was light and full of happiness and curiosity. Sully sat next to her, unsure of what to say next. Their walk to the party had been a silent one, but as they walked hand in hand, they'd felt more connected than they ever had before.

The stars were sparkling brighter than usual, and Sully realized that he was noticing the stars' beauty for the first time in many years. He hadn't felt this way in so long. Maybe he'd never felt this way at all. Michaela seemed to leave him breathless, and as he glanced at her, the beauty in her eyes shone bright, making his heart flutter in his chest.

Sully hopped down from the wagon, and for a moment, he stood frozen, nearly forgetting what the appropriate thing to do next was. As his senses came back slowly, his hand reached up, reaching for Michaela's. Michaela looked down, her eyes sparkling like the stars with a bright, shining hope.

Her hand met his, and his fingers enclosed around hers, holding her hand so softly, yet his touch had a firmness that silently told Michaela he'd never let her go. Just one touch seemed to say so much.

As her free hand moved to his shoulder, his free hand moved to her waist for support. As she stepped off of the wagon and let her feet land on the soft dirt, her eyes didn't dare meet his. What was to come next? Was he going to kiss her again? Did he even mean to kiss her earlier? Oh God, what if she'd been the one to initiate the kiss? Her mind was racing, and all she could remember was his eyes, his soft lips, and the feel of those lips pressed against her own.

The saddlebags! Yes! Sully had given her the saddlebags, and she'd thanked him with a kiss on the cheek. But as they had pulled away, he returned her gesture in kind with a kiss upon her lips. So brief it had been, but so beautiful. Michaela had never felt those sparks with David. Had Sully felt them too?

Sully wasn't sure what Michaela was thinking, but his only thoughts were those of worry now. What if he'd been too forward? What if Michaela was afraid of him now? No. She couldn't be afraid of him. She had smiled at him after the kiss, hadn't she? Or had he imagined it the entire time?

It was only moments, but it seemed like an eternity of silence until Michaela spoke up.

"It's getting late," she whispered, looking up at the moon as it shone dimly behind the clouds in the darkened sky. Sully nodded.

"It's been a long day for ya. You should get some sleep." Sully wanted to stay a minute longer to talk with her or to get a faint whiff of those fancy soaps she used. He wanted to feel her soft skin under his touch, but he couldn't let that happen now. He cared for her, yes, but he was frightened by what his feelings meant. The door to his past was shutting slowly, and he wasn't sure if he was ready for his future to open up to him.

"I suppose you're right."

"Don't worry 'bout the wagon. I'll get it into the barn."

"Thank you," Michaela replied, disappointed that the romance of the evening had seemed to have disappeared. She reluctantly turned away to walk toward the house.

"Wait," Sully called out, walking to fetch the saddlebags he'd made from the back of the wagon, needing an excuse to see her beautiful face one more time before he left. She turned around. "Ya forgot this."

"Of course," Michaela replied softly, blushing a bit.

"I'll put it in the barn for ya."

"Thank you," she said with an appreciative smile.


"Good night."

Sully led the horses and wagon into the barn, and Michaela walked into the homestead to find Matthew sitting at the table with a cup of cider in his hand. Colleen and Brian were already tucked into bed. "Matthew, you should probably go get some sleep."

"Are you two courtin' now?" he asked curiously. Michaela felt her skin grow hot.

"What!" Matthew's lip curled up into a grin, and he removed his hat to run his fingers through his hair.

"Brian said he saw Sully kiss ya." Michaela sighed and closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them again, she couldn't help but feel her cheeks blushing and a smile creeping over her lips.

"He did, did he?"

"Yeah. Well?"

"Well, I think it's time for you to go to bed." Matthew rolled his eyes.

"I'm gonna stay in here tonight if that's alright. Brian asked me if I would stay with him."

"That's fine, Matthew," Michaela replied with a smile. Matthew put his cup onto the stove and left Michaela alone. When she found herself looking out the window, her heart began to pound. She saw Sully walking out of the barn wearing that handsome suit. He looked wonderful, and she had been surprised to see how nicely he cleaned up. But, she had to admit to herself that she enjoyed him in his everyday clothes. Seeing him dressed up was nice though and a pleasant surprise.

Sully looked up to see Michaela staring at him, and as he felt his own skin growing hot, he knew it was best not to stay any longer. He needed time to think, and he knew Michaela needed time to think.

Michaela's fingertips touched the glass on the window, and Sully gave her a warm smile and a nod before he lifted his hand to wave her goodnight. As he disappeared into the night, Michaela lingered a few moments longer, reliving the kiss in her mind; their first kiss.

The crickets outside reminded Michaela that it was getting quite late, so after she changed into her nightgown and blew out the candles, she found herself going to sleep with dreams of her first birthday celebration in Colorado Springs, the repaired China dishes given to her by the children, the beautiful sign given to her by the entire town, and of course, her most cherished gift, the kiss Sully had given her to top the night off and make it even more special. It had definitely been the best birthday she'd ever had!

Though she wouldn't remember her dreams in the morning, Michaela Quinn would never forget the kiss that had changed everything. Little did she know that in just a few years, she would have everything she'd ever want and even more.

The End.