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.

The Photograph

By, Ashley J.

As soon as Mr. Watkins gave the word that his photograph was taken, the reflections of the townspeople captured for eternity in a little black box, the townsfolk began to scatter. The children ran off to meet with their friends, and Matthew walked with Ingrid, Jon, and their little sisters toward the immigrant camp.

Sully realized that he was still touching Michaela, and she turned her head to him. Michaela smiled, feeling foolish for thinking Sully was ready to move to the next step. Just because they kissed on her birthday didn't mean anything, did it? Well, she had to admit that she thought it did. She cared for him deeply. She was falling in love with him, and though she didn't know he was falling in love with her, she felt that it was time for their relationship to move on to the next level, whatever that was supposed to be.

She couldn't be too forward though. She needed to wait for him, because she'd always been taught it was appropriate for the man to express his feelings first.

"I better go help Mr. Watkins," Sully said, clearing his throat as he glanced at Michaela. He wished he could tell her how he felt. He wanted to tell her how his every moment, awake and asleep, was spent thinking of her, but he didn't want to scare her after everything they'd been through together.

"Alright," she replied quietly, giving him a small nod. She searched his eyes, and she knew he wanted to say something more. But, he turned away and went to talk with Mr. Watkins.

Michaela sighed heavily and started over toward the clinic. She knew the children would end up over there when they grew tired of running around in the meadow. She was in need of a little quiet, and with the idea of more than friendship with Sully on her mind, she couldn't think of anything else she'd rather do than go sit at the clinic and think. Perhaps she'd be able to talk herself out of wanting more, but her heart and mind knew that was utterly impossible.

As she was walking over toward the clinic, she heard Mr. Watkins call out to her. She was surprised that Sully's conversation with him had been so short. But, Sully was walking over toward Brian and Colleen, so she figured it mustn't have been very important.

"Yes, Mr. Watkins?"

"I was wonderin' if ya might take a look at my foot again. The bandage looks like it needs changin'."

"Certainly, Mr. Watkins. Come with me," Michaela replied with a nod. "Would you like me to help you carry something?" She noticed that he was holding a portfolio containing a few different photos.

"Not necessary, Dr. Quinn." As they walked, Michaela thought back to the town's photo. It had taken so much effort to get it taken, and now that it was finally imprinted and frozen in time forever, Michaela felt that it perfectly symbolized her relationship with Sully. It captured reality, and it was frozen in time. Their relationship was very real, but neither dared to make the first move. Neither dared to change reality, or perhaps neither dared to face it just yet.

When they entered the clinic, Mr. Watkins could sense that something was wrong.

"Do I have somethin' on my face?"

"Hmm?" Michaela asked quickly. "Oh! No. I was just wondering if . . ." A knowing smile spread across Mr. Watkins' face. "I don't want to trouble you, but I'd like to have a copy of that picture." Mr. Watkins' nodded.

"Once I get to Denver, I'll have the arrangements made." Michaela smiled.

"Thank you, Mr. Watkins."

"My pleasure." He tipped his hat to her. "You're not the only one wantin' a copy of that picture anyway."

Later that afternoon, Michaela was outside of the homestead hanging laundry on the lines to dry. Brian was chasing after Pup, trying to teach him a new trick. Matthew and Colleen were in town picking up a few supplies from the mercantile, so Michaela was keeping to herself, letting Brian run around and have fun before dinner. Besides, running around always gave Brian quite an appetite.

Michaela couldn't wait to get the photo of the town. She would cherish it forever, she knew, because it was a memory of her first year in Colorado Springs and of all of the people she'd met. Her children were there, Cloud Dancing, Grace and Robert E. and even Ingrid were there. What she would cherish the most was that Sully was standing next to her with his arm around her. That memory would never be lost.

Michaela picked her last garment up to hang on the line, and as she was reaching up, a voice from behind startled her.

"Afternoon, Dr. Mike," Sully said warmly. Michaela turned quickly and dropped her camisole into the dirt. She sighed heavily and took a deep breath. "Sorry."

"It's not your fault." Sully noticed how tense and nervous she seemed.

"Everything alright?" Sully wondered. Michaela picked up her undershirt and tossed it into the washing tub. She could feel herself blushing, so she looked down and began to scrub the garment against the washboard. Sully watched her, and he knew something was wrong. "If this is about what I said earlier . . ."

"No," she replied quickly. "It's just been a busy day, and I'm trying to get the rest of the washing done." She hadn't meant to snap at him, but her own thoughts had gotten away from her, and when Sully actually showed up, she wasn't sure how to react.

"I'll just come back later," he suggested. He turned to walk away.

"Wait," she called out quickly. "I didn't mean to snap at you." Sully turned back toward her.

"I know." He took a few steps in her direction. "You've been real quiet ever since we talked earlier. What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Michaela lied. "I'm fine. I told you I wasn't ready yet either." He could see the look in her eyes, and he knew she wasn't speaking the truth. Maybe he needed to convince himself that she was. He didn't want to feel guilty for leading her on.

She felt foolish. She knew he could see right through her, and she felt like she was being forward without even being forward at all. She turned away from him and brought her camisole back out of the washing tub to hang on the line. As she was finishing up, she felt Sully's hand on hers. She swallowed hard and turned to face him.

"If I could tell ya the things I wanted to tell ya, I'd do it right now," he whispered. "But the truth is that I ain't so sure that you're ready to hear 'em. I ain't sure I'm ready to hear 'em." What was that supposed to mean? Why did this all have to become so confusing all of a sudden?

Sully realized that his hand was still touching hers, and as he pulled away, Michaela could see a glimmer of something in his eyes. She didn't know what that glimmer was, but it wasn't anything bad. She understood what it was like to not be ready for something. She was well past the point of moving on from David, but it was a scary and awkward thought to move from friendship to something more.

"I know," she replied with a smile. It was obvious that Sully did have feelings for her, so Michaela decided that pursuing any kind of a relationship could wait. If it was meant to be, it would happen. If it wasn't meant to be, they would remain friends, and Michaela knew that being friends would be better than nothing.

The End