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 Darkest Hour

By, Ashley J.

The darkest hours of the night fell upon Colorado Springs and its citizens. The cold fog crept in, and an eerie silence filled the streets. The clouds were heavy and thick in the sky, and they covered the moon and the stars completely. The only light that could be seen for miles was that from Michaela and Sully's bedroom window. The midnight oil was burning.

"Sully, I don't know what we're going to do," Michaela fretted as she paced back and forth along the length of their bedroom floor. Sully watched his wife with worry in his eyes. They were days away from the arrival of their second child together, and Michaela was worrying more than ever. This pregnancy hadn't been planned by any means, and with Katie just over two years old, they weren't sure how they were going to go about raising two young children on their combined income, especially with helping Colleen with college and then medical school. On top of all of that, Brian would be going off to college in a few years.

"Ya shouldn't be worryin' like this, Michaela. It ain't good for you or the baby." He had become very concerned about her over the course of the past two weeks. She had been running nonstop despite Dr. Bernard and Dr. Cassidy's stern warnings. She was taking care of herself and trying not to overdo it, but she had so much on her plate that she couldn't just drop everything at once. She was handling it all well, but her emotions were running on overdrive. Luckily, Colleen and Andrew were visiting for a few days, so Michaela was able to take time off at the clinic to rest. Sully was staying home rather than doing any surveying work, because he didn't want Michaela to have to run around after Katie all day. With Brian at school, working at the Gazette and spending and increasing amount of time with Sara Sheehan, Sully really had no other choice.

"I know," she replied, sniffling a little as a tear streaked down her cheek. "I'm sorry. I can't help but worry. We're not at all prepared for this baby!"

"Sure we are," Sully replied, standing to walk over and comfort his wife. "We didn't know what we were gonna do when Katie got here, but we did just fine, didn't we? Look, we're usin' Katie's old cradle and crib. We've got all her old baby clothes. If it's a boy, you've already got some clothes made. There's nothin' to fret about." Michaela shook her head and moved over toward the window.

"Something doesn't feel right."

"What's that?" Sully wondered, walking over to add a few logs to the dwindling fire. If they didn't get to bed soon, the sun would probably be up before they got to sleep.

"I don't know," she admitted. "Alright, we are prepared, but I just feel like something isn't right."

"With the baby?" Michaela was silent. "The baby's gonna be fine."

"Yes, I'm sure it will be." Sully moved to stand behind his wife, and he enveloped his arms around her.

"Ya know we've been through this before. You were so strong when Katie was born. There ain't a doubt in my mind that you're gonna be just as strong this time around." Michaela turned in Sully's arms, still feeling as if something bad was going to happen. But, she didn't want to trouble him. He was so excited about the upcoming arrival, and she didn't want to dash that happiness any longer.

"I'm sure you're right." She gave him a brave smile, but he could see past her brave exterior. He saw straight into her soul, and her soul seemed to be trembling like a frightened child.

"Ya don't gotta pretend to be brave for me. You can be scared, Michaela. That's normal. I just wish ya wouldn't fret so much. Everything is gonna be alright. Our baby is gonna be here soon, and when he or she is born, you'll see. Nothin' is gonna happen to you or our baby. I won't let it happen."

"I know you mean that," Michaela sighed. "But, I don't want you to make promises you can't keep." Sully furrowed his brows. Why was she acting so strangely?

"What are you talkin' about?"

"I don't know. I'm just confused."


"About everything. I have been so happy all throughout this pregnancy, and now that it's coming to and end, I can't help but feel nervous. I suppose you're right. It is normal." She stood upon her toes and kissed her husband's lips softly. She closed her eyes so he wouldn't see any more fear, and she finally came to rest her head upon his chest. Her belly pressed against his stomach, and he could feel their child kicking within her womb. What an incredible feeling! He could only imagine what it felt like to Michaela, who was feeling all of this happening inside of her body. She truly was amazing for being able to carry another human being inside of her for the good part of a year and then give birth to it. He appreciated her even more after Katie's birth. Seeing her go through all of that pain and anguish with such a beautiful result had been one of the most intense experiences he'd ever had. Now it was about to happen all over again.

"I think ya just need to relax a little. Stop thinkin' 'bout the bad things." Michaela nodded a bit.

"Perhaps you're right." She took his hand and led him to the bed. Once she sat down, Sully climbed on to sit behind her.

"Lean forward," he whispered. Michaela did so as best as she could with her bulging belly in front, and Sully's hands worked their magic on her lower back. His fingers carefully dug into her flesh, massaging her sore muscles and working out the knots she was feeling. "Better?"

"A little," she admitted. Sully smiled.


"I think the baby likes it too."

Before too long, Michaela was sleeping. Sully couldn't sleep, however, and as he made his way down the stairs, he heard movement in the kitchen.

"Brian? Is that you?"

"Yeah. It's me, Pa."

"What are ya doin' up so late?"

"Couldn't sleep."

"Somethin' wrong?"

"Nah," Brian replied, sitting down at the dinner table. Sully moved to sit in the chair across from him.

"Ya sure? If there's anything ya wanna talk about, ya know I'm here to listen."

"I know," Brian replied. "I'm just worried about Ma. She's been real upset lately."

"Ya know how she got right before Katie was born. She's just goin' through the same kinda things again."

"I know. I just feel bad." Sully was so proud of his son. Brian was growing up so quickly, and it seemed as if just yesterday he was a little "Cheyenne-crazy" kid. Now he was well on his way to becoming a man, and he was juggling all of his daily duties while still finding time to be a good big brother to Katie.

"You're gonna be a good Pa someday, Brian."

"Why do ya say that?"

"'Cause you've been real patient with your ma while she's been pregnant. If you're half as patient with your future wife, ya ain't gonna have any problems." Brian smiled a little.

"Well, that ain't gonna be for a long time. Right now, I'm happy just bein' a big brother. I wanna go off to school before I even think about getting married. Sara said she wanted the same thing." Sully raised an eyebrow.

"You've talked about it with her?"

"Well, I don't think we're even old enough to be thinkin' about it. We don't even know if we're still gonna like each other in the future." Sully laughed and breathed a sigh of relief. He was relieved that his son wasn't growing up too fast. After all, he was just entering his teenaged years. Matthew was well out of those years, and he wasn't married yet either.

"Good. Ya don't wanna rush into anything."

"Is that why you and Ma waited so long? Everybody knew after Ma's first birthday party here in Colorado Springs that you two were gonna get married."

"They did?"

"Yep. I heard Hank and Jake makin' bets on it."

"Well, your ma and me ain't had it easy," Sully explained. "We've had to fight for a lot of things. Sometimes we fought with each other." Brian laughed a little. "But, it took us a little while to realize that we were meant to spend the rest of our lives together."

"When did you know you loved her, Sully?"

"Me? I knew right off, but I didn't admit it to myself 'til a little while later." Sully yawned. After having had a lot of trouble trying to sleep with Michaela's constant efforts to find a comfortable sleeping position, he hadn't had a good night's sleep in a long while.

"Pa, ya look tired."

"Yeah. I think I best get up to bed. It's getting late. You probably should turn in too."

"I will in a little while. I'm gonna go up and read in a few minutes."

"Alright," Sully replied, standing from his seat. He leaned over to pat his son on the back. "G'nite, Brian."

"Night, Pa."

Sully decided to stop by Katie's room to check on her before he went in to go to bed, and he stayed longer than he'd expected when Katie woke up fussing. He hadn't wanted to bother Michaela, so he figured he would handle the situation by telling her a story and rocking her to sleep.

Michaela, however, woke to something much different than her two-year-old daughter's cries. She felt a sharp pain in her back, and that caused her to suck in a sharp breath and open her eyes. She looked over to see that Sully wasn't in bed yet, and she knew it was time to get into town to the clinic. Andrew and Colleen were staying there in order to give Michaela some space during this stressful time of preparing for the new baby.

"Sully?" she called out quietly. "Sully?" Sully's footsteps came down the hall and stopped outside of the door. As he walked in, he found Michaela sitting up awkwardly in the bed. It was time. He could tell.

"Uh, Michaela? It's time, isn't it?"

"I believe so," she replied, groaning from the pain, digging the heels of her hands into her back, trying to apply a counter pressure to the pain she was feeling there.

"Alright. You, uh, you stay here. I'll go bring the wagon 'round the front." Michaela nodded, and a moment later, Sully was rushing out of the room. As he hurried down the stairs and out the front door, he shouted to Brian that it was time. Brian rushed upstairs to see his mother standing from the bed. He moved to her side to help her.

"Here Ma. I'll help ya down the stairs."

"No, no. Sully will be back in a moment. Will you please go get Katie ready for me? Make sure she has her bunny or she won't sleep at the clinic tonight."

"Sure thing. Ma? Do you need anything else?'

"I'll be alright," Michaela replied, giving him her best attempt at a smile, but it came out as a grimace as the pain started up again. She moved to find the bag she'd packed for her stay in town at the clinic, and she hoped to God that she hadn't forgotten anything. Now wasn't the time to be thinking about that though. It was time to focus on bringing this beautiful life into the world.

Five minutes later, Sully rushed into the room with Brian and Katie right behind him.


"Ready as I can be," Michaela replied. She put her arm around Sully, and the family began a slow descent down the staircase and out the front door. Brian held onto Katie and put Michaela's bag into the back of the wagon. Just as Sully was helping Michaela up into the wagon, a coyote howled in the distance, spooking the horses that were hitched to the wagon. One whinnied loudly, and they both strained, pulling the wagon a little bit forward. That small distance was enough to cause Michaela to lose her footing, however, and Sully broke her fall, but her head hit the ground with a heavy thud. The last thing Michaela saw before she went unconscious was everything turning as black as the midnight sky.

Andrew had asked Sully, Brian and Katie to wait outside of the clinic, while he and Colleen examined a still unconscious Michaela. Sully couldn't sit, and he felt that he needed to keep moving out of fear that his worry would get the better of him. He had to keep his mind moving as well. Brian was holding Katie as she slept, and he couldn't help but watch his father pace back and forth with anxiety. Michaela hadn't regained consciousness since her fall, and they all knew that was a bad sign.

Brian wished Matthew was there to help support Sully through this. But, Matthew was off at college now, and Brian was the oldest child living at home. He needed to be there for his father more than ever.

The other townsfolk hadn't heard the commotion of the wagon rumbling into town, so they were all still nestled peacefully in their beds.

"What's takin' so long?" Sully asked nobody in particular. He had the strong urge to burst through that door and demand answers. But, he was thinking clearly and rationally enough to know that he wouldn't be helping Michaela in the least by doing so.

"Don't worry, Pa," Brian spoke up. "She's gonna be alright. You'll see." Sully nodded even though his mind wasn't convinced. He knew that Brian was exhausted, and little Katie was sleeping away in her big brother's arms. He didn't want them to have to be out in the cool weather all night long. It wasn't going to help Michaela either.

"Brian, why don't ya take Katie over to Grace and Robert E.'s?" Sully asked. "You could spend the night." Brian shook his head.

"I ain't leavin' 'til ma wakes up," he insisted.

"Katie shouldn't be out here all night, and I'd like you to stay with her." Brian looked down at his baby sister, and he knew that it was in her best interest to find a warm bed for the evening that was close enough to the clinic. So, he stood and began to walk across town with Katie in his arms, and it wasn't long before Robert E. was coming over to sit with the distraught husband and expectant father.

"She's gonna make it, Sully. Dr. Mike's a strong lady." Sully felt as if he couldn't speak. His throat had gone dry, and his head felt dizzy and heavy. He didn't know what to do, and he felt helpless as his wife lie unconscious behind that door. It was taking every ounce of control he had in his body to keep from climbing up the side of the clinic out of sheer frustration, worry and fear.

He didn't know what to do. Why tonight of all nights? The horses rarely spooked due to the coyotes after years of getting used to them. Why did it have to happen, and why did it have to result in Michaela being seriously injured? He could still see the look of fright that had appeared on Michaela's face just before she had fallen back into him, and he had caught her. God, if only he'd caught her sooner, perhaps her head wouldn't have hit the ground. No. There was no use placing blame. He had done that too much in the past with Abagail and Hanna's deaths. No. All he wanted to do was focus on the positive and hope for the best. But, he didn't know if he could do that with all of the terrible thoughts and 'what ifs' that were running around inside of every corner and crevice of his mind.

The door to the clinic opened, and Colleen came out with a look of distress in her eyes. His mind automatically flashed back to the night that Jenny and Clayton Baker had lost their son. Sully moved over toward her.

"How is she?" he asked, his voice coming out just above a whisper.

"Andrew is in the middle of performing a Caesarian Section." Sully felt his heart begin to thud hard in his chest. "She hasn't woken up yet, and the baby's ready. He had to do it, Sully. There was no other option. If he hadn't, Ma would've died for sure." Sully felt himself shaking, and horrible images began to flash through his head. Those images were followed by horrible thoughts. Michaela could be dying at that very moment, for all he knew.

"Her head," Sully stammered. Colleen swallowed hard.

"The good news is that there wasn't any compression or hemorrhaging." Sully blinked a couple of times.

"What's the bad news?" He saw his daughter hesitate. "Colleen? Tell me."

"There is some swelling that Andrew hopes will go down." Sully suddenly felt as if the earth was moving underneath him. Robert E. had to rush to help him sit down. "Sully, he said that there is a chance the swelling won't go down, and . . ." her voice broke then, and she broke down into tears. Even after what she'd been taught by her mother and by those in medical school, she couldn't help but put her personal feelings ahead of everything else. This was her mother, for God's sakes! She couldn't act so professional when her mother was lying on an operating table and could quite possibly never wake up again.

Sully stood shakily and walked over to her. He pulled her into his arms to console her, and as he hugged her, he felt his own tears coming through. Sully wasn't one to cry on many occasions, but this was too much. After everything he and Michaela had gone through – jumping off of a cliff, for example – one short fall was quite possibly going to be the one thing that took her from him? No! He wouldn't accept it! He couldn't.

"Colleen, I need you!" Andrew called from inside of the clinic. Sully felt his heart stop for one brief moment. Colleen dried her tears, took a shaky breath and rushed inside to help her husband.

"C'mon," Robert E. urged. "Come sit. It's gonna be alright." Sully moved to sit back down, and he felt his tears falling. He didn't want to cry. He wanted to stay strong for Michaela. He wanted her to sense that he knew she was going to get better.

Horace came walking over. He had been up for a drink of water and had seen something going on at the clinic. So, he had dressed and started over to see what had happened. He immediately saw Sully and knew by the state he was in that something terrible had happened.

"Sully?" Robert E. looked over at Horace.

"Dr. Mike took a spill, and Andrew's in there deliverin' the baby." Horace glanced at Sully who had dried his tears but had his face buried in his hands.

"I'm sure everything is gonna be fine, Sully. Andrew's delivered babies before." Robert E. cleared his throat. Sully stood and walked off to get a little space for a few minutes.

"Dr. Mike hit her head. They ain't sure she's gonna wake up," Robert E. explained. Horace's face fell at the severity of the situation. He and Robert E. walked over to Sully.

"I'm real sorry."

"It ain't your fault, Horace." Sully shook his head and cleared his throat.

"Do ya want me to go fetch the Reverend?"

"No!" Sully snapped. "She's gonna get better. She don't need the Reverend." Horace realized how that must have sounded, and he automatically felt guilty.

"I didn't mean it like that. I just thought that maybe he could sit with her, ya know?" Sully thought for a moment and finally nodded. Horace pat him on the back and walked off. Just as Sully was turning to walk back toward the clinic, the cries of a baby were heard. Sully's heart caught in his throat for a moment, and then he ran for the clinic porch. Robert E. followed, and Sully looked as if he was about to fall to the ground. The sounds of the newborn's cries were like music to Sully's ears, but it was a bittersweet moment due to his wife's condition overshadowing everything else.

"Thanks for sittin' with me," Sully said quietly to his friend.

"Think nothin' of it. We're friends, Sully. You and Dr. Mike have been there plenty for me and Grace when we needed ya."

Silence followed for about twenty minutes, and finally, the door opened. Colleen appeared with a sleeping infant in her arms. She smiled, though sadness still lay heavily in her features in her face.

"Ma's still unconscious. She's restin' upstairs now. She didn't lose much blood." She smiled down at the child whom Sully's eyes were transfixed on. "It's a girl! Don't worry. She's healthy with all her fingers and toes. Ma's fall didn't hurt her a bit." She placed the child in Sully's arms. Sully was amazed. The baby's head was covered in a thick, light brown hair, and though she had barely been in the world for a half hour, she looked like the spitting image of her mother. "You can go see her now."

Hours ticked by so slowly, and when the sun rose, news spread of the accident and the baby's birth. Brian, Katie, and Colleen were sitting in the recovery room with Sully and the new baby. Sully hadn't let his new daughter out of his sight since the birth, and the Reverend had come and gone long ago. There had been no change in Michaela's condition, but Sully didn't want to give up hope. She couldn't die. She had a newborn baby who needed her, as well as a husband and four other children.

Andrew had encouraged Sully to let the child lay in her mother's arms and nurse, but he had also provided fresh milk in a newly designed bottle, knowing that they needed to be prepared for other feeding methods if Michaela didn't make it.

At the moment, the unnamed baby girl was sleeping, and Katie was wriggling in her brother's lap, wondering why her mother was still sleeping.

"Wake, Mama," she whimpered for the tenth time that morning. Brian sighed heavily. Other than Katie's whimpers and an occasional sound from the baby, the room was silent. Colleen stood up, seeing how Katie's pleas were getting to Sully.

"Come here, Katie," Colleen said softly. "Let's go downstairs and see Andrew." She lifted her little sister into her arms and left Sully, Brian and the baby alone with Michaela. Sully stood with the baby in his arms and carried her over to the balcony. He pulled back the curtains to let the sunlight filter into the room. Brian watched his father walk out onto the balcony with the baby to look over the town, and he took the opportunity to go sit beside his mother. He reached over to take her hand in his.

"Ma, can ya hear me?" he whispered. "We need ya here, Ma. Katie don't understand what's goin' on. Pa's goin' outta his mind with worry, and the baby needs a name. I miss ya. Horace wired to Denver for Matthew, and hopefully he'll be here sometime tomorrow. Ya can't leave us, Ma. I can't lose another ma, and Pa can't lose another wife. C'mon. Please come back to us."

Andrew tapped on the door and walked in with Colleen and Katie behind him. They'd met halfway in the stairwell.

"Brian? Would you mind going downstairs with Katie? Colleen and I need to talk to Sully alone."

"Sure," Brian replied. He swallowed hard and kissed his mother upon the cheek. "I'll be right back, Ma." Brian took Katie into his arms and left the room. Sully walked back in and closed the balcony door. He placed the infant down in the old bassinet they had used for Katie at the clinic. He smiled down at her. She looked just like Michaela, and he couldn't wait until she could see her.

Andrew moved to Michaela's bedside and did an examination of the sutures he'd put in place after the C-section, and he finally moved to examine her head injury. The bleeding there had been minimal as well, and luckily, there was still no internal hemorrhaging. Unfortunately, the swelling hadn't dissipated yet. That wasn't a good sign.

"Any change?" Sully asked hopefully. Those were the first words he had spoken in hours.

"I'm afraid not," Andrew replied gently. "Sully, I was hoping for at least a little improvement by now."

"It's still early," Sully insisted. Colleen moved to her father's side, and he pulled her into a hug.

"She's gotta get better," Colleen whispered, knowing from her medical perspective that it wasn't looking good for Michaela at all.

"Colleen," Andrew said softly, "perhaps you should leave the room as well."

"No. She's my mother! I won't leave when I've been here this far."

"Colleen," Sully whispered softly. "When Brian fell from that tree, your ma wouldn't let either one of us be there. She said no family. Maybe it's best if ya let Andrew take over completely."
"But Andrew's family too! He's my husband!"

"I know," Sully replied, hugging her sympathetically. "Why don't ya take a break then? Go be with Brian and Katie?" Colleen looked at Andrew.

"Go on, honey. Just take a small break. You haven't slept."

"I won't sleep. Not 'til Ma wakes up." Colleen looked at her father once more. "I'll take the baby, too." Sully watched nervously as Colleen picked up the newborn. Once he saw that she was holding onto her carefully, he could breathe a little easier.

Once they were left alone in the room, Andrew and Sully took chairs on either side of Michaela's bed.

"What do you think?" Sully asked.

"As a professional, I think that the situation is almost hopeless. The swelling hasn't gone down at all, and she's made absolutely no change since you brought her in. But, as a son-in-law, I want to say that there'll always be hope." Sully swallowed hard. He wasn't hearing this. He couldn't be. "Colleen is letting her personal feelings precede everything else. She knows not to, but when it's her mother, it's a different story." Sully stood again. He walked to the window to stare out, tears stinging his eyes and begging to be let free to fall. "I'm sorry, Sully, but if her condition doesn't improve within a week, and if she's still with us, I think it might be best to think about sending her somewhere where she can have around-the-clock care."

"No. It ain't gonna come to that. Even if it did, I wouldn't let some stranger take care of my wife."

"Sully, you're not being rational here."
"Rational?" Sully asked angrily. "Have you ever spent your entire life searching for that one person you want to spend the rest of your life with only to marry someone you thought would be with you forever? Have you ever lost that person along with the child you created together? Tell me Andrew, how would you feel if, after all of that, you finally found your soul mate, created a family with her, and had her life ripped away from you in an instant?" Andrew swallowed the lump that was forming in his throat. "Michaela is everything to me, alright? I never thought I'd find the kind of happiness I found when I met her. But I found it, and I ain't willin' to let that go." The tears were falling freely now. He didn't care. He didn't care that someone was seeing him cry. His own pride meant nothing when it came to his wife. He loved her and would do anything in the world to take away her suffering.

"I'm sorry," Andrew choked out. "Many people believe that the best think you can do for someone you love is to be there with them. Hold their hand. Pray." Andrew turned and left the room. Sully walked back to his wife's side and sat down. His hand tenderly touched her pale cheek.

"I remember when you were layin' in this very bed. You were sick with the Grip. I woulda done anything right then to make sure you survived. It's been a long time, Michaela. A long time. I love you more and more every day, and thinkin' 'bout life without you ain't somethin' I like doin'. So, ya gotta wake up, Michaela. Ya gotta wake up and give our little girl a good name. Ya gotta come back to us all, 'cause I don't think we're doin' so good without ya." He kissed her forehead softly. "Please don't leave me." His tears trickled down onto her cheeks, and it almost looked as if she were crying too.

Three days had passed, and the baby was doing well. She was missing out on bonding with her mother, but Sully made sure to place her in Michaela's arms quite often. There had been no sign of Michaela waking up, but the good news was that the swelling had gone down a bit.

The situation was taking its toll on all of Michaela's friends and family. Sully was at a loss. He didn't know how to help his wife. He sat with her every night, and he hadn't slept since before it all happened. Katie was still confused as to why her mother wouldn't wake, and Colleen was beginning to think that Andrew was right. She wished to God that it wasn't true, but it was looking like Michaela might never wake. Whispers were already circulating about making funeral preparations, and the beautiful lady doctor was still alive. It wasn't something any of them wanted to think about, but they were trying to be practical and think of what Michaela would want.

Sully didn't appreciate what he'd heard, but he knew that folks were dealing with the situation in their own ways. But, Michaela wouldn't want her life to end like this. She wouldn't want to die without ever getting to open her eyes and meet her newborn baby. She had to wake up!

Brian was devastated. He couldn't come into the room anymore. He'd prayed so much, but it hadn't worked. It wasn't working just like the time he prayed for Reverend Johnson to get his eyesight back. Why was this happening to his mother? How could God take away another mother when he'd already lost one?

Dorothy was sitting with Michaela on this afternoon, and this had been the first time Sully had left the clinic since he met his newborn daughter. It took Jake, Hank and Robert E. to convince Sully to get out and spend some time with his children. Andrew and Colleen were at the clinic watching over Michaela, and now Matthew was back home after hearing of the accident, and he was being especially helpful. He had told Sully that he was willing to give up school to come home and help out if that was what it would take. But, Sully quickly let his oldest son know that Michaela wouldn't want him to give up school. Sully promised that Michaela was going to get better, but he wasn't even sure if his mind believed him anymore.

It was a sunny day, and they were having a picnic in the meadow like on every Sunday. They had gone to church that afternoon, but nobody knew what to say to Sully after the service. Grace had brought a lot of food to help out the family while Michaela was in a coma. A coma. It was unbelievable how much of a difference the word could make when she went from just unconscious to being in a coma. Sure, the swelling was decreasing, but she wasn't any better.

Brian had Katie in his lap, and Matthew was holding the new baby in his arms. Sully hadn't had anything to eat, and he looked like he was on the edge of exhaustion.

"Brian," Matthew said quietly, "take Katie to the clinic." Brian nodded slowly, took one last piece of fried chicken and carried Katie off. Matthew put the baby down on the picnic blanket. "Sully, ya gotta eat somethin'. Brian said ya ain't had nothin' to eat for three days."

"I ain't hungry."

"It ain't doin' her any good with your not eatin'. She'd want ya to keep your strength up."

"Matthew, why don't ya take the baby back to the clinic? I don't want her out too long."

"You comin'?"

"In a little while. I need to do some thinkin'." Matthew nodded. When Ingrid had been bitten by Wolf, in the back of his mind, Ingrid's probable death was always haunting him. But nevertheless, he hadn't been prepared for it. He knew Sully was dying inside, because the woman he loved was lying in a coma, and there were so many things he had left to say to her. "You ain't gonna let 'em send her to a hospital, are ya?"

"No," Sully replied, swallowing hard. "She wouldn't want to be away from her friends and family. She'll stay here. If it comes down to it, I'll take care of her." At some point over the last three days, he'd given up on saying she was going to pull through. In his heart, he truly believed she would, but it seemed that Andrew was skeptical, and Colleen was becoming more and more skeptical by the day.

"When ya get back to the clinic, ya oughta lay down for awhile." Matthew took the baby, stood and carried her off toward the clinic. Sully watched as they disappeared behind a thick blanket of dust from the streets, and he finally felt hunger overtake him. He ate for a few minutes, only a few bites of this and that, but at least he was getting food into his stomach.

He stared off toward the little graveyard beside the church. How long had it been since he'd prayed, truly prayed? The one night that particularly stood out was the night that Abagail and Hanna were taken from him. When Michaela's accident had occurred, he had been too frightened to think of anything, let alone pray. He hadn't prayed to God in years, though he had let the spirits guide him quite often. The spirits had shown him the vision that made him realize that he couldn't lose Michaela. They had pushed him to do the one thing that had changed his life forever for the better. He had proposed to Michaela.

He slowly stood and walked toward the graveyard, leaving everything behind in the meadow. He needed to be someplace where he knew he could talk and someone could hear him. It felt as if Abagail always heard him when he spoke at her grave.

When he arrived, he knelt down at the side of the marker and swallowed hard. He looked up.

"I don't really know if anybody up there is listenin'. I don't even know if there's anybody up there to listen, but if there is, ya know I ain't a prayin' man. Michaela is a firm believer in God, and she's a doctor. She's made her own miracles, so if there really is a God, I need ya to do somethin' good for someone who's done nothin' but have compassion for those who needed her. The kids need her. Katie's just two, and we've got a new little girl who ain't even been named yet. Brian, Colleen, and Matthew already lost one ma. They can't lose another one." He wept softly, feeling his entire body trembling as he knelt at Abagail's grave. "I need her too. She brought light back into my life when I was livin' in darkness. Ya can't take away the one thing that I love more than anything else. Please. Please don't take her away from me."

He stood and went back to gather up the picnic supplies. As he was doing so, Hank came running across the field.

"Sully! Ya gotta come quick!" Sully looked up quickly. The worst feeling came into his gut, and for a moment, he thought she was dead.

His feet pounded heavily on the stairs as he ran up to the second floor of Michaela's clinic. Dorothy, Grace, Robert E. Horace, Jake, Hank, Brian, Katie, Matthew, and the baby were all gathered outside of the room and waiting for news.

"What happened?" Sully asked, out of breath.

"Colleen said there was some kinda change," Brian replied, bouncing Katie a little on his hip.

"Andrew said for you to go in there with the baby," Matthew explained. He held the infant out to Sully, and Sully took her into his arms. As he stepped into the room, Colleen smiled at him with a newfound hope in her eyes.

"What happened?"

"The swelling is completely down, and Michaela's eyes fluttered open for a moment," Andrew explained with a fresh coating of hope in his voice.

"She's wakin' up?"

"It appears so," Andrew said, his own surprise shining through.

"What do ya want me to do?" Sully asked, sitting down in the chair beside his wife's bed.

"Just talk to her," Andrew replied. "Hold her hand and talk to her. "I'm starting to believe she's going to pull out of it. Just talk to her."

"What if she won't wake up?"

"There's a chance that it was just a muscle spasm," Andrew replied. "But, based on what we've observed . . ."

"She's gonna wake up, Sully. I know it," Colleen said with a smile. "We'll leave ya alone." Sully swallowed hard.

"Don't tell the others." He was suddenly beginning to worry about the odds that were against them. "I don't want 'em getting their hopes up." Colleen and Andrew left the room together, leaving Sully and the baby alone with Michaela. Sully placed the baby in his wife's arms, and he ran his hand along her cheek. "Don't worry, Michaela. I ain't gonna give up on ya. But, you can't give up on yourself. You gotta fight. Fight and wake up, Michaela. Come on. Wake up and open your eyes." He took her hand into his and pressed his lips against it. He rubbed his thumb along the soft area that he had just kissed, and he closed his eyes, willing her to wake with his mind. "Open your eyes, Michaela. Come on. You've come so far. Ya can't give up now."

The sun began to peek through the curtains, and Sully stood to slowly walk over to the balcony doors. He opened the curtains, letting the sunlight completely fill the room. Michaela's face glowed with the warm rays of the sun, and the baby stretched and fell back to sleep in her mother's arms. Sully paced the room, crossing his arms across his chest. His heart was breaking as he watched his wife lie there for the third day in a row. She hadn't moved. She hadn't woken up, and the moment she had nearly opened her eyes, he had missed it. What now? Would he never get the chance to see her beautiful, radiant smile again? Would he never get to feel her in his arms and tell her how much he loved her and hear her express her own words of love again?

As the evening wore on, the townsfolk decided to go about their regular lives once no word was heard about Michaela's condition. Andrew came in to check on her periodically, and each time he came in, Sully was seated at his wife's side with his hand clasping hers. If anything above physical and medicinal powers could bring Michaela out of her coma, it was Sully's strong will to have her back. With the recent news of her nearly briefly opening her eyes, he was more determined than ever that his wife was coming back to him. It was just going to take some time. He wasn't going to give up hope now. His mind had started giving up hope, but his heart hadn't, and now that he knew it was a possibility, he was confident with every part of his being. He just had to wait for her to find her way back to him.

Now, however, it was in the darkest part of the night, and Sully was rocking the baby in his arm, while his other hand stayed wrapped in Michaela's. As he was pressing a kiss to his daughter's forehead, he felt the slightest squeeze from Michaela's hand. He paused. Had he really felt it? Was he just imagining things? No! He couldn't be. He had been focusing on that little baby at the moment she squeezed his hand.

"Michaela?" he asked. "Michaela, can you hear me? Squeeze my hand again if you can hear me." Sure enough, a weak squeeze followed his command, and a moment later, her eyes were trying to open. "That's it, Michaela. Come on. You're doin' a good job. Just come back to me."

"Sully," she whispered. His heart leapt for joy as he finally heard her speak his name. She was coming back!

"I'm here," he whispered, leaning over to kiss her forehead. "Come back to me, Michaela. Don't give up. Keep fighting." He pulled back a little to give her some air, and her hand moved. He unclasped his hand from hers and used his other hand to help support the baby as he scooted to the edge of his chair.

"Sully," she said again, this time wincing and bringing her hand to her abdomen.

"I know it hurts. I know. Come on. Open your eyes, Michaela." As Sully leaned over to place the baby in the bassinet, Michaela's eyes fluttered open. The first thing she saw was Sully, and her eyes focused on his face. He turned to her and saw her eyes for the first time in days. They were full of life, and they obviously showed that she was in pain. "Welcome back." She blinked several times and frowned a little.

"Sully, what happened?" As Sully took her hand in his again, he kissed it softly.

"Ya went into labor, and as we were getting into the wagon, the horses got spooked, and ya fell. Ya hit your head."

"The baby," she moaned. Her hands moved to her now flattened tummy. "Oh no . . ." Tears filled Michaela's eyes, and she immediately thought that her baby was gone. "The baby."

"Don't worry. She's just fine," Sully whispered.

"She? She is?" Sully nodded and moved the bassinet over beside the bed. Michaela tried to sit up and winced in pain.

"No, no," he urged. "Lie back. Andrew did somethin' called a C-section."

"Caesarean Section," Michaela said thoughtfully. Her hand moved to her head, but the pain seemed to disappear when she saw the baby for the first time. "Oh!" Sully placed their daughter in Michaela's arms. "How long ago?"

"Three days," Sully replied, swallowing hard. "They didn't think you'd wake up."

"But you believed." Sully smiled.

"For awhile, I was startin' to wonder, but my heart never gave up hope. I knew deep down you'd come back to me. Ya did." Michaela began to cry, and Sully pressed his lips against her forehead.

"I heard you," she whispered.


"I heard you begging me to come back. Sully, thank you for fighting for me."

"You did it all," he insisted. "You're the strongest person I know, and you proved it again by comin' back." A tear slipped down Sully's cheek, and Michaela slowly lifted her weak hand to brush it away. "Thank you for not givin' up."

The next afternoon, Michaela was a bit stronger, and after being overwhelmed by visitors, she was settling down into bed at home. Andrew and Colleen were sleeping in Colleen's old bedroom, so they could monitor Michaela if anything strange began to happen. But, she seemed to be well on her way to recovery already, and she was enjoying bonding with their new daughter. They hadn't thought of a name for her yet, but they had made out a long list to choose from.

If there had ever been a time when Michaela proved her strength, it had been the moment she woke from her coma. Many people were absolutely shocked that it had happened, but Sully knew that she'd brought the miracle he'd prayed for to life.

It was going to take time for everyone to recover from their near-loss, and with Brian still truly shaken, it was going to take time for him to be able to accept the fact that his mother was safe from harm. He was constantly asking Colleen and Andrew to check on her out of fear that some kind of relapse might occur, but her vitals were improving and she showed absolutely no sign of having a deteriorating condition.

As Michaela stroked the baby's cheek as she nursed, Sully climbed into bed next to her with Katie in his arms. Katie was so happy to have her mother back, and Michaela couldn't wait until she was feeling up to her old self and ready to go about chasing after her little girl in the yard again.

"Nearly losin' you was somethin' I never wanna go through again." Michaela looked up at her husband.

"I'm sorry," she whispered.

"It wasn't your fault. I'm just sayin' that I don't ever wanna see you lyin' there helpless when I can't do nothin' either. I hated feelin' like that. I hated not knowin' what was gonna happen next."

"Sully, I want you to know something."

"What's that?"

"All the while I was in that coma, I had a dream. One dream."

"You did?"

"The dream played over and over again in my mind," she said with a nod. "I kept seeing you standing on the other side of a door, and every time I would walk through that door, you would get farther and farther away from me. But somehow, someway, I made my way to you. That told me something, Sully. It told me that no matter what kind of problems we encounter, we're always going to find our way back to each other. Even in the face of death, we found one another again." Sully tenderly kissed his wife's lips, savoring the delicate moment they were sharing.

"I learned somethin' outta all of this too."

"What's that?"

"I learned that I'm never takin' life for granted for one single second ever again. Ya never know what you're truly gonna miss until ya come close to losin' the person you're meant to spend forever with." With that said, Sully wrapped his free arm around Michaela while his other arm held Katie. Katie fell asleep in her father's arms, and soon, they were left dozing off to sleep with the two most beautiful products of their love for one another. Life would never be the same again, but life would be better than ever now that they had a second chance.

The End