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.

Snowed In

By, Ashley J.

The children had gone to bed an hour ago, and Brian's brand new puppy was lying at Brian's feet. The boy already loved his new wolf pup, and Michaela was grateful to Sully for giving it to him. Brian was starting to adjust to life without Charlotte, but it was good that he finally had a companion. He'd named his new friend Pup, and the two were already becoming fast friends.

"More tea?" Michaela asked, feeling a bit nervous as she sat across from the mysterious mountain man. He'd been gone for quite some time, and she wasn't sure where he'd been or what he'd been doing since he'd safely taken Chief Black Kettle away.

"Thanks," he replied, holding his cup out to her. She poured some of the steaming liquid into his cup, and he drank it down slowly. He had finally warmed up, and now that he was warmed up, he felt as if he should be going. Being around this beautiful lady was a bit overwhelming, and seeing her fair skin illuminated by the orange glow of the fire gave her a beatific appearance.

"I better go," he said quietly. "It's getting late."

"Mr. Sully," she replied quietly, "there's a blizzard outside."

"Please, it's just Sully," he said, holding a friendly hand up. Michaela smiled, though she still felt awkward. She hadn't been frightened of Sully, even from their first uncomfortable meeting, and somehow she knew he'd never cause any harm to her or the children. He had a gentle way about him, even though his appearance was a little rough. He was handsome, and those eyes seemed to pierce right into her soul. That was what made her nervous. She felt like he could read her like a book when they barely even knew each other.

"Sully," she repeated quietly. "Why don't you sleep here? I don't have an extra bed, but I do have a warm fire." She could hardly believe the words were coming out of her own mouth. She was actually asking this man to sleep inside of her home when the quarters were already small enough. In Boston, that would have been frowned upon, but her hospitality overshadowed everything else. He'd been so kind to her, and she couldn't just let him walk away without knowing when or if he'd come to visit again.

"I don't wanna impose."

"You're certainly not imposing. You've made our Christmas Eve so much better. I haven't seen Brian so happy in a long time, and Colleen and Matthew loved their gifts. So did I." She blushed a little, running her fingers along the plaque Sully had made for her.

"I'm glad," he replied, his eyes searching hers. He couldn't help but notice how beautiful she was. He'd thought so the moment he saw her lying face down in the mud. Even covered in dirt, she was the most beautiful creature he had ever laid eyes on. "But I can't stay."
"If it bothers you so much to sleep on the floor, you can sleep in the barn, but I wouldn't advise that."

"I ain't no stranger to the cold, Dr. Mike."

"I'm sure you aren't a stranger to a warm place to sleep and a hot meal either. Please, it would make me feel better if you stayed here." Her breath caught, and she cleared her throat. "I mean, if you stayed here, I wouldn't have to worry that the storm had gotten the better of you."

Sully took another sip of tea, and thought about Michaela's offer. It wasn't as if they hadn't shared the same sleeping quarters before. They'd slept very close in the teepee at the reservation before they'd gone to look for Brian, but now, something was different. Sully's feelings for Michaela were definitely not just friendly. He was afraid she'd see the truth if he got too close, but he had to admit that spending the night in front of a nice warm fire sounded quite tempting. It was certainly more appealing than a bitterly cold and dreadful march back to the lean-to in a blizzard.

"You sure ya don't mind the company?"

"Of course not," Michaela replied. She walked over to a trunk near her bed and pulled out a warm quilt. "I don't have an extra pillow, but you can have the one off of my bed." Sully shook his head.

"A blanket's fine," he replied. Honestly, a pillow would probably feel nice compared to the solid ground he usually slept on, but if he had to spend one night inhaling the scent of her beautiful hair, he knew his every thought would be of her. But what else was new? Most of his nights since taking Chief Black Kettle back to safety had been spent staring into the blackness of the night, while thoughts of Michaela's face brightened his thoughts.

She yawned, thinking about the day's events. She'd been up with the sun, working on decorations to the homestead and helping to put the finishing touches on Colleen's dress. Though they'd ended up spending the entire afternoon and evening at home, they had still had fun. Colleen had been the most upset about the snowstorm, however, because she had really wanted to show her brand new dress off to the town. Michaela had suggested that she could wear it next year, but that didn't help Colleen's mood one bit.

"Perhaps we should get some sleep," Michaela pointed out. Sully nodded, and Michaela took his empty cup over to the stove, making a mental note to finish cleaning the dishes in the morning. Sully watched her walk across the room, admiring every detail of her figure. He shook his head, feeling as if he was betraying Abagail's memory by thinking of Michaela in this way. But somehow, it all felt right. There was nothing wrong with caring for her was there? It wasn't as if it would amount to anything. They were very different, possibly too different, and Sully didn't think of himself to be someone Michaela would be interested in.

Sully stood to walk over to the stove near Michaela. She was piling all of the dirty dishes into the washbasin. Sully's hand gently touched hers, and Michaela felt a warm spark spread from his hand to her heart. Her eyes turned toward him, and they were full of question and wonder.

"Sully?"

"You go on and get some sleep. I'll take care of these." Michaela cocked her head a little to the side. Somehow she just couldn't picture Sully doing dishes.

"No, that's alright."

"You've been nice enough to offer a warm place to sleep for the night and a good meal. The least I can do is finish the dishes for ya." Feeling exhausted, Michaela decided to take him up on his offer just this once.

"Alright." She smiled at him and started over toward the bed. She crawled under the covers wearing her dress, knowing that it would be entirely inappropriate to change into her nightgown at this point.

She leaned over to turn down the oil lamp, and the room darkened a bit. She watched as Sully finished the dishes, and she couldn't help but smile as he tried to find a place for everything. It was obvious that he didn't do this kind of thing much, but it didn't seem that he was one who needed to live this kind of way. He'd obviously gotten along fairly well over the past couple of years since his wife and daughter died. Michaela knew it was just a kind gesture after her own display of hospitality.

She closed her eyes as Sully moved across the room to settle onto the floor beside the fire. He lay down and covered himself with the blanket, and Wolf came over to lay beside his master, much like Brian's new pup was doing.

Michaela opened her eyes again, smiling at the gentle side of her new friend. He was a friend, wasn't he? They'd both given help to one another when help was needed. That was a part of friendship right? Well, she supposed she would find out in time. What she knew for sure was that she trusted him. He'd been very good to her since she arrived. Though he was a little rough around the edges, it was obvious that his heart was in the right place. He'd proved that when he had helped her find Brian.

Her breath caught in her throat as Sully's eyes moved to meet her gaze. She wanted to close her eyes, but she'd already been caught, and she'd feel foolish to pretend to be asleep now. She watched as his breath seemed to catch too, and she felt her cheeks growing hot from embarrassment. She silently thanked God that the room was darkened, with the exception of the light from the fireplace, and she slowly closed her eyes, hoping that sleep would come quickly.

Sully watched Michaela for a few more minutes before shutting his own eyes, realizing for once that perhaps there could be something more in store for them in the future.

THE END