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.

Come Back for Me

By, Ashley J.

With the night drawing on so slowly, Sully thought for sure that he was going to drive himself crazy with worry. He had been sitting with her since she came down with what was, in her medical terminology, influenza. Why did it have to happen to her of all people? No, Sully didn't wish the terrible ordeal on anyone, but she was the one who was fighting so hard to save everyone. Now she had nobody who knew what they were doing to fight for her, except for Olive and Emily who could only keep her comfortable with no Quinine or medical knowledge. Poor Colleen was left watching on, knowing that Michaela needed the Quinine, but they were all out.

Cloud Dancing had administered the purple coneflowers and had performed a healing ritual, but there had been no change in Michaela's condition yet. Why wasn't she getting any better? Sully had seen Cloud Dancing administer purple coneflowers many times, and they had worked nine times out of ten in very serious cases. He knew that he had to fight for her now. He had to keep her strong and will her to live. He couldn't lose her now. She'd done so much good in her short time in Colorado Springs. She'd saved Brian from further injury when they'd found him after he'd run away. She had saved Chief Black Kettle's life, and she'd done her hardest to save the citizens of Colorado Springs during the epidemic.

She looked so very pale as she lay on the bed with sweat covering her body. He couldn't take the waiting, but that's all he could do. Emily had gotten a good portion of the tea into Michaela's system, and the good thing was that she hadn't gotten any worse. Her condition seemed to have stabilized. But God, she was beautiful. He knew that in any other circumstance, she would not appreciate the fact that he saw her in such a small amount of clothing, but she wasn't in a position to be complaining, seeing as Sully had brought her to Cloud Dancing, but he wasn't going to make anything out of it. She was his friend, and he wanted to be there for her.

He couldn't help but stare at her though. Her perfect skin was slightly paler than normal, but her angelic face still had that beautiful shine to it.

Sully stopped himself. How could he think of her like this when he'd promised Abagail never to love again? Would Abagail truly hold him to that promise? Sully knew in his heart that she wouldn't, because she would want him to be happy. Abagail had had one of the biggest, most loving hearts he'd ever known, and he knew she wouldn't begrudge his moving on. Moving on? Wait, what was he thinking of? Michaela was his friend. His friend! He could not be thinking of anything of the sort. He was merely worried about her, and his mind was wandering, because he was so concerned for her life.

"Sully?" came a soft voice from the doorway. It was Colleen.

"Come in," Sully whispered. She slowly walked in with her hands stuffed in the pockets of her apron. Her apron was covered in white powder from working with the Quinine Michaela had had her help administer to the patients. But the medicine was long gone, and several others were already improving after the administration of the purple coneflower tea.

"Mr. Slicker and Mr. Bing are getting better," she whispered.

"Good," Sully said with a nod.

"It was too late for Mr. Johnson," she said sadly. "He was gone before we got 'round to him." Sully let out a disappointed sigh. "Mr. Sully, why ain't Dr. Mike getting any better?"

"I don't know," Sully replied quietly. "She will. She ain't worse though. That's the good thing." Colleen nodded.

"Brian's real worried about her. We all are." Colleen left the room, and Sully cleared his throat. They weren't the only ones. He was sure most everyone was worried about her. Yes, she was a woman doctor, and most of them didn't think that was the right career choice for a woman, but she sure had saved most of their lives, hadn't she? Those she couldn't save had been saved by the Cheyenne tea, and he was quite sure that if, no once Michaela made it through, she wouldn't second-guess the treatment again.

"Come on, Dr. Mike. Ya gotta make it through so I can say 'I told ya so.'" Michaela groaned softly in her sleep, and she mumbled something Sully couldn't quite make out. He hoped she was waking up. "Dr. Mike. Come on, ya gotta wake up now. The kids are real worried about ya. I—I'm worried about ya too. Ya can't give up now. Ya gotta wake up and prove to the folks in this town that you ain't gonna give up. If they see that, they'll start thinkin' you ain't leavin', and they might just start acceptin' the fact that you're a doctor. You're a good doctor, and we don't wanna lose ya. We can't lose ya."

Sully felt exhausted, but he didn't want to sleep. Sleeping wasn't an option right now, especially when he was unsure if Michaela was going to live or die. So, he was watching her sleep, hoping she'd wake. She seemed to be getting a little better, but she was still battling a slightly elevated fever, though it was lower than it had been before. Sully knew the purple coneflowers were having some effect on her, but he wasn't sure if the effect was strong enough to keep her alive. Before too long, he was leaning back in his chair with his eyes closed to rest, but he was definitely not sleeping. He couldn't sleep until he knew she was going to make it.

"Sully," came a soft whisper. Thinking it was one of the children, Sully looked toward the door. The children weren't there, and he heard her whisper again. "Sully." His eyes turned toward Michaela, and he saw that her eyes were slightly open.

"Dr. Mike? I'm here," he said quietly, touching her hand. Her flesh was hot, and he knew the fever hadn't dissipated. Michaela swallowed hard and gave him a weak smile. The thoughts running through her mind had to have been painful. He could see how the light in her eyes was fading, and that was not a good sign.

"Tell the children I love them." Her eyes closed slowly, and she was unconscious yet again.

"Dr. Mike?" He gently shook her arm, but she didn't wake. His heart nearly beat out of his chest with fear when he thought he'd lost her. He checked her pulse. It was still there, and she was breathing normally. "Dr. Mike! Wake up!" He grabbed the washbasin and wrung out the sponge. He gently ran it along her face and her neck, trying to keep her cool. More tea? Yes, he could try. "Olive!" Miss Olive entered the room with a pitcher in one hand and a cup in the other.

"What is it?" she wondered worriedly.

"Anymore of that tea?"

"Just a bit left in this, and Emily's brewin' more downstairs. Why?"

"Dr. Mike woke up, but she went back to sleep, and I ain't so sure she's getting any better." Olive came over to the bedside and put her hand to Michaela's forehead.

"Fever's down a bit. Best give her some more to be safe." Sully nodded. "Lift her head." Sully moved around so he could hold Michaela's head up a little. Olive poured some of the liquid into Michaela's mouth, and when Sully let her rest her head again, she instinctively swallowed. "Everybody's fevers are breakin'. Some of the folks wanted me to tell ya thanks."

"Wasn't me," Sully replied. "Dr. Mike's the one who kept 'em alive with her medicine."

"Yeah, but that Indian medicine seems to be pullin' people out now that the Quinine's gone." She put her hand on Sully's back. "She's gonna be fine. Ya gotta believe that." Olive left, and Sully continued to sit at Michaela's bedside. He took her weak hand in his and softly kissed it.

"Ya gotta stop scarin' me like this. C'mon, Dr. Mike. Ya got a lot of good years left in ya, and I don't want to see ya give up on all of 'em. Ya worked too hard to become a doctor, and I can't let you die. I won't let you die."

Sully sighed softly and brushed his hand across her cheek.

"Dr. Mike," he whispered softly, "you're really scarin' me here. I need to believe you're gonna get better. I can't believe anything worse, but it's getting harder and harder. I need ya to know somethin'. I need ya to know that I'd do anything to keep you safe from harm. I'd gladly take your place right now if it'd keep you from bein' sick. I hate seein' ya like this. Please, Dr. Mike. Come back. Come back for the kids." He paused for a moment, trailing his fingertips along her delicate jaw. "Come back for me." He swallowed hard, thinking she probably hadn't heard him. But he needed to get those thoughts out, and telling them to her sleeping form was the next best thing to telling her to her face. He just wasn't ready yet.

It wasn't long before he could no longer keep control and stay awake. Soon, he was sleeping in the chair and waiting for a sign of Michaela's recovery.

Needless to say, Michaela recovered quickly after that. She woke and had time to realize that she had in fact taken the purple coneflower tea, and she also had time to let the children know she was alright. Even though she was only awake for a couple of minutes, she had no idea that Sully had placed that kiss upon her forehead. She had no idea that he'd said the things he had said. Sully, on the other hand, would never forget it, and he hoped that someday he would be able to say those things to her face.

A week had passed since the epidemic. The people of Colorado Springs were much healthier, and the town's activities had started to return to normal. Michaela was much stronger, and she was creating a clinic out of Charlotte's boarding house.

As she was working on filling bottles with a new shipment of Quinine, a memory, no, a voice seemed to float through her head.

"Come back for the kids. Come back for me." She knew it had been in her head. That voice. Sully?

"Ma?" Michaela turned and saw Brian standing in the doorway.

"What is it, Brian?" she wondered, looking at the young boy with a smile on her face.

"Miss Olive wants to know if you wanna come on our picnic." Michaela thought for a moment, but looked at all of the new medicines that had arrived on the stagecoach earlier that day.

"Um, tell her 'thank you,' but I'm busy with all of this unpacking." It was true that she didn't own the place, but she could use it for the time being, couldn't she?

"Okay. She said we'll be home around dinner time."

"Have fun!" Michaela called after him as he rushed out to catch up with Olive, Matthew and Colleen. Michaela smiled and went back to filling her new glass jars with Quinine.

"Please, Dr. Mike. Come back."

Michaela was suddenly curious to know why she was having these thoughts. She sat down for a moment, and slowly but surely, she began to remember. She could hear all of the words he'd said to her. She could feel his lips upon her hand, and she could feel the kiss he had placed upon her forehead later on. The thoughts made her heart race! Sully had feelings for her, didn't he? She shook her head. Oh, he was probably just worried and trying to say anything to keep her holding on.

Sully couldn't have real feelings for her. Even if he did, she wasn't ready for any kind of relationship, and she knew he'd feel the same way. It hadn't been too long since his wife and child died, so how could she expect him to want something now. Expect? She didn't expect anything, did she?

"Dr. Mike?" Michaela jumped and turned around quickly. She felt her cheeks growing hot when she noticed Sully standing in the doorway where Brian had previously been. She looked at him, really looked at him for the first time. As she gazed into his eyes, she saw something there. It was a softness that she knew had been there all along, but she'd never paid much attention to it. She saw the way he looked at her, and she had seen the way he looked at other women. Something different was there. He never looked at other women the way he looked at her, and the mere thought made her skin prickle with goosebumps.

He did care for her. That was as plain as day, but she didn't want to say something to upset or scare him. If her assumptions were correct, then something would work out in the end . . . one way or another. She didn't know if she should tell him about what she remembered. Had he meant for her to hear it? She couldn't have been sure. The more she thought about it, the more she realized that he had been saying that to get it off of his chest without really having to say it to her. He had really believed she couldn't hear him, and that's probably how he'd intended for it to be.

"Sorry if I scared ya," he said with sheepish look.

"It's alright. What can I do for you?" She mentally scolded herself. She could have come up with something a little better than that!

"Uh, I saw the kids leavin' with Miss Olive. I thought ya might wanna take a break. You've been workin' hard all day."

"The children wanted me to go, but I told them I would stay here. I'd feel bad if I didn't."

"The kids would understand. Cloud Dancin' wants to talk with ya."

"He does?" Sully nodded.

"He wants to make sure you're alright for himself. Please, come with me?" Michaela smiled a little. A break did sound nice. Plus, it would give them time to talk together. No, she wouldn't tell him she remembered what he had said. She knew it was best for both of them to keep it to herself. But that didn't mean she couldn't be thankful to him, did it?

Michaela grabbed her medical bag, removed her apron and draped it over a chair. She walked over to him and awkwardly stood on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. She felt foolish once she pulled away.

"What was that for?" Sully asked nervously.

"It was a thank you," Michaela replied. "I wanted to thank you for taking care of me while I was ill."

"No need for that," Sully replied.

"Well, too bad, because I'm thanking you anyway. If it wasn't for you getting those coneflowers, I might not be here today. The entire town may have been wiped out. If you'd listened to me, everyone could have . . ."

"Don't talk like that, Dr. Mike. You were only thinkin' about the people that needed ya. You were right. Ya didn't know how much to give 'em, so if ya didn't give 'em the right amount it coulda made things worse."

"But it didn't. Everyone is getting well again."

"Yeah, but you played a big part in that. You saved 'em. The tea just made 'em stronger. Don't be too hard on yourself. Ya deserve a lot of the credit for makin' sure most of 'em survived."

"I wish I could have saved them all." She shook her head.

"Nobody's got that power, Dr. Mike. Just be thankful you had enough to save those that could be saved." Michaela nodded, knowing Sully was right. She gave him an appreciative smile and decided to put the past behind her. There was nothing more that could be done now, and there was no use dwelling on the past.

"Shall we?" Sully nodded. They both left the boarding house together and rode out the reservation. The entire ride was silent, but they both knew it was a comfortable silence. Though they were so very different in many ways, they were comfortable around one another, because they both knew that they could trust one another with their lives. Michaela knew in her heart that she wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for Sully. He had taken her to Cloud Dancing, and he made sure she got what she needed to ensure her survival. They knew from that point on that for as long as they lived, they would take care of one another no matter what.

The End