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.
Sisters of the Heart
By, Ashley J.
Michaela sighed as she sat at Grace's with Katie in one arm. Her other arm was preoccupied as she held a letter from Colleen in her hand. Colleen wouldn't be making it home for the next couple of months due to school-related problems. It had already been a month since Michaela had seen her oldest daughter, and Matthew didn't make it out to the homestead for dinner quite as often as he used to. She was lucky if the entire family was together once a month these days.
"Dr. Mike?" Grace asked, taking the opportunity to take a break since the lunch rush was over. She sat down at the table, and six-month-old Katie grinned at her. She reached out for the baby, and Michaela handed her over. "What's the matter?" She saw the letter in her friend's hand. "Bad news? It ain't your ma is it?" Michaela shook her head.
"Colleen's not coming home." Realization crossed Grace's face.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Grace replied. "I'm sure Katie misses her big sister."
"Yes," Michaela sighed. "But it's more than that. I want Colleen and Katie to be close, and I realize that it's difficult with Colleen away at college. Sometimes I'm afraid that Colleen will come back, and Katie will forget who she is."
"She'll never forget Colleen. They're sisters. Maybe they ain't by blood, but they still got a connection."
"I know," Michaela replied. "It's just that it's difficult not having the family together all of the time."
"Kids are growin' up," Grace reminded her. Michaela nodded thoughtfully.
"Yes they are. I just figured they would be home more often when they got out on their own."
"Least ya still have Katie and Brian at home."
"I know. Brian has been a tremendous help with Katie."
"No buts. I'm thrilled that Colleen and Matthew are happy."
"But?" Grace repeated. Michaela rolled her eyes. Her friend knew her so well!
"But . . . I feel like we're all losing touch with one another."
"That ain't never gonna happen, Dr. Mike," Grace said softly, bouncing Katie in her arms. "Those kids love you so much, and they ain't gonna forget about ya. They're just busy now is all. When things start settlin' down, they'll come around more often. Ya gotta be patient."
"Grace?" called one of the other customers. Grace gave Michaela a concerned glance.
"Go on. I'm going to take Katie back to the clinic with me."
"Alright. I'll see ya later Dr. Mike." Grace handed the baby back to her mother and went to tend to the other customers. Michaela started over toward the clinic, and Katie sat comfortably on her mother's hip. Just getting up and walking around seemed to make Michaela feel better. There were a few clouds in the sky, but they were bright white and fluffy. The November air was a little chilly, but it was nothing that a light shawl couldn't handle. The sun was shining, and those simple little things made Michaela feel so much better about everything.
"Dr. Mike!" came Matthew's voice from across the street. He jogged over to see her.
"Oh, Matthew, I have some news," Michaela said softly.
"What news?" He noticed the disappointment in his mother's eyes and heard it in her voice.
"Colleen isn't coming home for a couple of months."
"Why not?" the concerned oldest brother asked.
"She's very busy with school and needs to catch up on her reading."
"Can't she do that here?" Michaela shrugged.
"I think it would be easier on her to stay there. At least I'm assuming that's the reason."
"Oh," Matthew replied. "Well, I have some good news anyway."
"I can make it to supper tonight."
"Oh that is good news! You don't have to go to Denver?"
"Nope. They don't need me after all." Michaela breathed a sigh of relief. She was always thankful when her oldest son could come to dinner. "I do have to get out to Widow Anderson's to check on her cattle. She said a couple fellas took off with some of 'em last night."
"Alright. I'll see you at seven?"
"Seven," Matthew replied. He walked off toward his horse, and Michaela smiled at Katie.
"Are you happy that your big brother is coming for dinner tonight, Katie?" Katie giggled, and Michaela kissed her little cheek. She carried her off into the clinic to put her down for her nap. When Michaela had finally settled the baby in upstairs, she sat down at her desk and began to look through a few files of patients she was supposed to see that afternoon. Thankfully there weren't any serious cases she needed to deal with, and she only had a few inoculations to administer and a post-operative check-up.
It wasn't long before she heard the sound of a wagon rumbling into town.
"Michaela!" Sully shouted. Michaela jumped up from her desk, fearing that her husband had been seriously injured. As she stepped out onto the porch, she saw Sully sitting in the driver's seat of the wagon. Matthew came rushing over on his horse.
"Came across these folks getting robbed. There were three men. They shot the father, and the mother got hit. The baby seems to be alright."
"I'll go after 'em," Matthew said, putting on his hat and bringing his horse into a quick canter. Jake and Hank came over to help Sully bring the parents inside. Michaela stared down at the baby that had been in her mother's arms. Her clothes were stained with blood, and she was crying so loud that Michaela wasn't sure what to do for her. But, her maternal side quickly kicked into gear, and she examined the baby, seeing that she was about Katie's age.
"Come on, little one," she whispered. She had seen the amount of blood that both of the parents had lost, and she had a terrible feeling that this child was going to lose the only two people she knew. Dorothy rushed in behind Michaela.
"Here, I'll take the little one."
"Why don't you take her upstairs? There are some fresh clothes I've used for Katie."
"Sure," Dorothy said quickly. She hurried off with the baby in her arms, and Michaela moved to work with the parents.
"Annabelle!" the husband shouted. "Ya gotta save her." Annabelle was crying out, reaching for something.
"Julia," she whispered. "Where's my baby!" So the baby's name was Julia.
"They're the new couple. Mr. and Mrs. Mackenzie. Just moved here a week ago," Jake explained.
"Joe, where's the baby?" Annabelle cried.
"Your baby's safe," Michaela soothed them as she began to work on Annabelle, who was bleeding the worst. "She's upstairs." She glanced at Hank. "Hank, run over to Grace's. I saw Andrew over there having lunch. Tell him to get here right away." Hank nodded and ran off. "Jake, take a look at Mr. Mackenzie's wound until Andrew gets here." Jake went to work, and Michaela used chloroform to render Annabelle unconscious. She couldn't have the woman jolting about as she prepared to extract the bullet.
"Uh, Dr. Mike," Jake said quietly.
"What is it?"
"I think ya better come here."
"I'm sorry Jake, but I . . ." She glanced over at Mr. Mackenzie. "No . . ." Sully moved over to Mr. Mackenzie and looked at Michaela. He shook his head gently. When Andrew came running in, Jake moved out of the way.
"They were attacked by some bandits. Matthew's out lookin' for 'em," Jake explained.
"I'm gonna go catch up with 'im. See if I might be able to help," Hank offered.
"Thanks," Michaela said quietly. She turned her attention back to the task at hand. "I'm afraid Mr. Mackenzie didn't make it."
Michaela walked out of the clinic where everyone had gathered. Andrew followed right behind her; the looks on their faces were full of defeat. Sully moved to put his arm around his wife, and she leaned her head on his shoulder.
"We lost Mrs. Mackenzie as well," Andrew said quietly. A hushed sadness fell over the crowd. A child had just been orphaned. It happened everyday, but this had happened so tragically. Dorothy was holding the fussing baby Julia.
"Somebody ought to send for the orphanage officials in Denver," Jake pointed out as if this was all so natural and normal.
"I'll get right on it," Horace offered. The way they conversed made it seem as this kind of thing happened to them everyday.
"No, Horace," Michaela spoke up, surprising herself. "I don't want to do anything right away. Perhaps I can find her a home nearby. A trip to Denver would be difficult on a child so young." As the crowd began to dissipate, Michaela talked with Jake and Robert E. about burial instructions. After that was taken care of, she took baby Julia upstairs to the room Katie was sleeping in. She sat down in the rocking chair and stared down at the crying child. "I'm sorry, Julia. I'm so sorry this happened to you." The baby to suck on her thumb, and Michaela knew she was hungry. Michaela checked the baby's gums. Only a few teeth had come in. Her size was about Katie's, and her development seemed to be around the same as Katie's as well. Yes, she was very, very close to Katie's age; perhaps a bit younger.
Katie started to cry, and just as Michaela was getting up to walk to her bed, Sully stepped in.
"I'll get her," he replied. Both Michaela and Sully had learned to distinguish her cries. The current cry, for instance, meant that she needed changing. Michaela settled back down into the rocking chair with Julia in her arms. She continued to fuss.
"Sully, I feel so terrible for her."
"Sounds like she's hungry." Michaela swallowed hard and looked down at her.
"I could feed her," she whispered, caressing the side of the baby's cheek. Sully eyed his wife for a moment.
"I'm sure Katie wouldn't mind sharin'. That baby probably ain't had nothin' to eat today at all." Michaela wouldn't have thought twice about it if she hadn't thought she might get attached. The bond she'd shared with Katie the first time she nursed had never been broken. This baby needed food and caring for, and Michaela knew that she had the love and the patience that someone needed to care for a baby. But Katie was still so young, and it worried her that this might cause some kind of emotional stress for both herself and her daughter.
After Michaela glanced at her husband and daughter once again, baby Julia let out a loud cry. Without another thought, Michaela unbuttoned the front of her dress and put Julia to her breast. It wasn't long before the baby began to nurse. A tear slipped down Michaela's cheek. This baby would never get to know the love of her mother and father again.
"Sully, I don't think this baby should go to an orphanage."
"Don't ya think it's a little early to talk about this?"
"Well, no," Michaela replied, rocking back and forth slowly. "She has no parents, Sully. She needs someone, and we need to find her a good home. I don't want her going some place where she's not going to feel the love of a real family."
"What are you suggestin'?" Michaela looked down at the nursing child at her breast, and her heart broke into a million pieces.
"I'm suggesting that we keep her with us for awhile. Just until we can find her a suitable home," she added quickly. "How do you feel about that?" Sully finished with Katie and put her back down. He walked over to kneel next to the rocking chair. "Sully, I know Katie's young, but that shouldn't mean . . ." Sully put his finger to Michaela's lips.
"I think this little girl deserves just as much love as our kids do. She's young and innocent. Ain't no way I'd ever refuse to help somebody in need, 'specially if that somebody was a child." Michaela breathed a sigh of relief. She had known he'd never turn away a child, but she also knew that their lives had changed forever when Katie entered the picture. Taking on the responsibility of another infant would be quite difficult, especially when that child was just as much of a stranger to them as they were to her.
"You truly feel that way?" she asked softly. Sully smiled.
"Truly. I'll leave ya to feed her, and I'll take Katie and Brian to Grace's."
"No, no, leave Katie here. She'll be hungry soon." Sully nodded.
"Alright. We'll be back in a bit." He gave her a tender kiss and left the room. Michaela looked down at the child in her arms. She was beautiful with dark brown hair, and as the baby's eyes opened to look up at her, she could see that her eyes were hazel in color.
"We're going to find you a good home, Julia," Michaela whispered. "And if we can't, you'll have a good home with us." She found it amazing that her heart was already becoming attached to the little orphaned baby. If no family came for her, they would ask around town, and if nobody could take her, she knew that the child would be welcome into their family with open arms. She was already welcomed, but Michaela didn't want to rush into anything just yet. She didn't want to get her hopes up, because if she fell too quickly in love with this tiny life, her heart could be broken just as quickly with the arrival of true family or another good family that could love her and provide for her just as much as Michaela and Sully could.
When the baby was finally full, Michaela wrapped her up and placed her down into the little bassinet next to Katie. Katie looked at her for a moment and grinned. Michaela picked up her little girl.
"Are you hungry, Katie?" Michaela settled back down and let her daughter nurse. As Katie ate, she stroked the baby's cheek softly and hummed a song to her. After Michaela and Sully became engaged, she had found herself dreaming of having several children. Katie had been a miracle and a blessing, because Michaela hadn't even been sure if she was able to bear children because of her age. But nevertheless, Katherine Elizabeth Sully had come into the world after nine months of pure worry and hope. Perhaps this child was a sign that any more children between Michaela and Sully in the future would never happen. Perhaps this orphaned baby was a sign that they should take this as a last chance before it was too late.
Michaela sighed heavily. Could they really take on the responsibility of another child? Was it even right to think about this right now when Julia's parents had just died over an hour ago? She didn't know the answers, but she did remember that taking Matthew, Brian and Colleen in after Charlotte's death had been one of the best choices she had ever made. Was it to be this time around as well?
Three weeks had passed since the deaths of Annabelle and Joe Mackenzie, and little Julia was thriving in the Sully household. Colleen had finished early with her schoolwork and had come home to visit for a few days. She had bonded with the temporary member of the family before leaving again. Katie already loved Julia as if they were sisters. Everyone was getting used to having her around, and Sully noticed that Michaela was shining even more with two infants under her care and protection. She was deliriously happy with Katie, and now that she had two little girls to nurse and care for, she seemed to be twice as happy.
Sully had to admit that he enjoyed putting two little ones to bed at night as well. The shame was that no family had come to claim the little one, even after putting four notices in gazettes and newspapers as far as Denver and Boulder.
On this day, Brian was at school, and Colleen was back in Denver. Sully was at home alone with Katie and Julia. Michaela was taking the slow day at the clinic as an opportunity to go around asking the townsfolk if they could possibly take the child into their care. Everyone had other obligations that kept them from being able to take in a child. Grace and Robert E. had Anthony and his health plus their own jobs to think of. Dorothy had the Gazette to occupy her time, and she was working on her new book about Cloud Dancing. Others had their own priorities, and it seemed that the orphanage was the only other choice.
Only, in Michaela's heart, the orphanage wasn't a choice at all. She found herself thinking about what would have happened if she'd given up on parenthood and sent Colleen, Matthew and Brian off right from the start. She couldn't have lived with herself if she'd done that. No. Baby Julia would not go to an orphanage. Michaela had made up her mind.
"C'mere Kates," Sully whispered, taking his daughter into one arm as he held Julia in the other. He sat on the edge of his and Michaela's bed with the two little girls in his arms. Those little girls were just like sisters. Maybe they weren't sisters by blood, but they were already sisters of the heart. Katie loved having someone her age to wake up crying with in the middle of the night.
The task of taking care of this little girl was not as difficult as he and Michaela had at first thought it would be. She was a very easy baby to care for and usually only cried when she was hungry or needed changing.
"What do you think, Julia?" Sully wondered. "Ya think you'd like stayin' here?" A knock came to the door, and Sully looked up to see Michaela standing there with a smile upon her face. "I didn't hear ya come in."
"You weren't meant to hear me come in," Michaela replied as she walked in. "But, I'm glad to know you feel the same as I do about having Julia here." Sully's eyes sparkled, and he handed Julia to Michaela.
"You don't wanna give her up either, do ya?"
"No I don't," Michaela responded softly. "Sully, it's been three weeks. Three. I know it's a bit soon to think about this, but when we were going to adopt Colleen and Brian we were told to post notices in the papers."
"We did that. Are ya sayin' you wanna adopt Julia?"
"I'm saying that if we all agree that we want her to be a part of the family, we should seriously consider it. Nobody has claimed her, Sully, and I don't want her to go through life not feeling like she belongs anywhere. Sully, I can't tell you how attached I've grown to her. I love her as if she were my own child."
"That's good, 'cause I do too."
"Really?" Michaela asked, her eyes sparkling happily.
"Really. It's been nice havin' her here. She and Katie get along too, so that's a good thing. Katie seems happy to have someone her own age here."
"Yes," Michaela replied with a nod. "That is good. Who knows how things will be when they're older, but I don't care, Sully. Right now, I care about giving Julia a good and loving home. She'll have plenty of brothers and sisters and two parents who think the world of her."
"I think we decided," Sully said with a chuckle. "Looks like we're addin' one more to the family sooner than we thought." Michaela sat down on the bed with Julia in her lap and leaned over to kiss Sully. When they pulled apart, she rested her head upon his shoulder.
A couple of minutes later, a loud knock was heard on the door downstairs. Sully put Katie in Michaela's lap.
"I'll see who it is." Michaela nodded and walked over to sit in the rocking chair with both of the girls in her arms.
When Sully opened the door, he was surprised to see Horace standing there with a young woman at his side.
"Horace? What can I do for ya?"
"Afternoon Sully. I finally found some kin for that orphan baby."
"What?" Sully asked, his heart automatically leaping into his throat.
"Hello," she said with a slight smile. "I'm Emily Williams. Annabelle was my sister. I didn't find out about my sister and husband's deaths until just this afternoon. I had been in New York during their deaths, and I was coming to visit. Unfortunately, Mr. Bing had to deliver the bad news.
"So you're here for . . ."
"I'm here for my niece Julia, yes," she said with a smile. She looked like a nice young woman. "My husband is taking care of the finances in town with Mr. Lodge. We're going to buy my sister's home and raise Julia here so she's close to where her parents are buried." Sully's throat was dry. He didn't know what to say. How could this have happened? He and Michaela had been looking for family for the little one all along, and when they had finally decided that her staying with them permanently would be best, a family member came along. "If you need proof that I'm her aunt, Mr. Sully, I have proof. I acquired a copy of a certificate of birth Julia's birth from Denver." She handed him several documents, including one that showed that Julia's birthday was just after Katie's, and with one glance over them, Sully knew she was telling the truth. God, now he would have to tell Michaela.
"I'll get her," he said quietly, trying not to let his voice break. As he ascended the stairs, his feet felt as if they were made of lead. He could already picture the look in Michaela's eyes when he told her that the little girl they'd both grown to love so much was being taken from them by her rightful family. He could already hear her heart breaking at the news.
When he entered the bedroom, Michaela was tickling both little girls as the babies lay on the bed. She looked at him with a big grin and laughed a little.
"Who was it?" That was when she saw the hurt in his eyes. She stood and walked over to him. Her smile turned to a frown. "Sully? Who was at the door?"
"It was Horace. He brought Julia's aunt."
"What?" Michaela asked, fear filling her heart and dashing her dreams. She sucked in a sharp breath and turned away. "Are you sure she's Julia's true family?"
"She's got papers provin' it."
"Sully, no," Michaela whispered, turning back to face him. He saw the hurt in her eyes, and he pulled her into his arms. "We can't lose her. We've become a family, Sully!"
"I know," Sully whispered.
"How do we know she's fit to be a parent?"
"She's got the right," Sully replied quietly. "She's got the right to take her. She's family."
"Sully," Michaela warned. "Ethan had the right too, but that didn't mean he was a suitable parent for our children!" She moved to pick Julia up into her arms. "I know I'm being selfish, Sully, but I don't care! This little girl is a part of me now! She's a part of all of us!"
"I know that, Michaela, and if I wanted to be nasty about it, I'd go to the highest powers in court to fight for her, but we've gotta do right by her. Her aunt looks like a nice lady, and her husband's even buyin' the Mackenzie property so they can raise her near her ma and pa." She knew he was right. She knew they couldn't drag this poor child through a custody battle. It had been hard enough on Brian and Colleen when they understood what was going on, but she was just a baby and would have no idea why everyone was fighting and why she wouldn't have a stable home for a while. No, they couldn't fight. They had to give her what she deserved: a happy home.
"You truly believe that she'll be better off with this woman?"
"I can't know that for sure, Michaela. I know that I want her to have everything she needs and wants. I want her to have the love that we've given her these past three weeks for the rest of her life. I want her to be healthy and cared for the way a child should be."
"I've heard enough," came a voice from the hall. The woman who had arrived with Horace stepped into the room.
"Michaela, this is Emily Williams," Sully said quietly. Michaela looked at the woman with envy in her eyes, but she couldn't help herself.
"Do you believe that you can give Julia a good home? Do you believe you can love her with your whole heart and provide for her for the rest of your life?" she asked.
"Yes I do," Emily replied, stepping further into the room, glimpsing her niece giggling and tugging at Katie's bonnet strings. "But I believe you can too."
"What?" Michaela asked with surprise.
"I've seen and heard all I've needed to."
"What are you talkin' about?" Sully wondered. Horace stepped in.
"I've seen the way you are with her. I even heard Dr. Mike talkin' with Dorothy sayin' she'd love to have her permanently. I just figured that if ya hadn't decided yet, I might help a little." Michaela let out a sigh and choked back a surprised laugh.
"My husband and I could provide for her. We're both wealthy, but the truth is that we're recently married and not ready to be parents just yet. We love our niece dearly, but Mr. Bing told me about you nice folks. My husband isn't buying my sister's property. We just needed to be sure that you were as kind and honest as Mr. Bing said you were."
"So, you're not here to take her away?" Sully asked.
"No," Emily replied. "In fact, these records are for you so the adoption process will be easier. That is, if you're still planning on adopting her." Michaela and Sully looked at each other with a newfound hope in their eyes. They nodded and hugged one another.
"Yes," Michaela whispered. "Thank you so much. You have no idea what kind of gift you've given us. Thank you."
After saying goodbye to her niece, Emily left with Horace, and Michaela and Sully were left in a happy silence.
"Did that really just happen, Sully, or is my mind playing tricks on me?" Michaela asked. Sully laughed happily.
"It really happened," he replied, stroking the side of her cheek. "Thanks to you."
"If ya had just gone along with it and hadn't argued with me, Emily wouldn't have thought we truly wanted her here. You proved it, Michaela. You proved that Julia is a part of our family now." Julia began to fuss, and a moment later, Katie did the same. Sully took Katie into his arms, and Michaela took Julia.
"What do you think, miss Julia? Do you want to be a part of our family?" Julia giggled, and Michaela hugged her as she reached over to stroke Katie's back.
"C'mon," Sully whispered. "Let's go into town and celebrate with our little girls." Michaela's eyes went wide.
"Sully, we have two little girls now," she said softly.
"You're just now realizin' that?" he asked.
"No, but it's different when you hear it." Sully nodded and put his free arm around his wife, and with that, mother, father and daughters left the homestead to go into town to celebrate the new addition to the family.