Once night fell, the party guests had gone home, and the party girl was tucked into her bed with Ella at her side. Matthew and Brian had fallen asleep as well. It had been a big day, and both Sully and Michaela were surprised that the two oldest had been able to go to sleep so quickly after having so much sugar in their systems from the party! Sully had seen Colleen go to the punchbowl at least six times, while Matthew had devoured four pieces of cake. It was a wonder than anyone had gotten some of the cake once the children had had their share!
Sully had quickly realized that his plan to go off someplace with the lady doctor would not work out once the potential baby-sitters explained that they had other things to do. Now, another problem had arisen. Michaela didn't have a ride home. But, Sully was quickly coming to up with a solution for that problem.
Michaela was sitting out on the porch with her medical bag in her hands. She didn't have much on her mind at the moment besides the upcoming trial. She knew that what had happened to Sam hadn't been her fault, but she also knew that many people didn't approve of women being doctors. She realized that if this Judge Edwards was one of those kinds of people, this could end up being one obstacle that Michaela Quinn M.D. could never overcome.
Sully had been in the barn putting a saddle on a spare horse for Michaela to take into town. He hated the idea of having her going off alone at night, but he couldn't take her back to town and leave the children unattended in the dark of night.
"I got a horse ready for ya. She'll move fast for ya if ya stick to the path and go straight into town," Sully explained, walking out of the barn. Michaela nodded her head in thanks, got up and started for the barn. Sully saw how upset she looked, and he followed her into the barn to see if there was anything he could do to help her.
He found her standing beside the horse; her hands were resting on the top of the saddle. Sully noticed her back heaving from silent sobs. He wasn't sure what to say to console her, so his hand moved to gently rub her back. She didn't draw away from his touch, but she turned to face him and threw her arms around his neck. Her head rested against his chest, and he wrapped his arms around her, making sure that she knew that he would always be there for her whether she needed him or not.
"I'm sorry," she cried, embarrassed by her sensitivity. She was supposed to be strong, bold and brave.
"Don't be," Sully whispered. "If the worst happens, Michaela, I'll fight it all the way to Washington by your side." Michaela nodded.
"I know, Sully. That's not why . . ."
"What is it, then?" Michaela closed her eyes, pulling away from him a bit. "You can tell me. C'mon." He took her hand in his and led her inside of the; over to a soft pile of fresh hay. They situated themselves comfortably across from one another, and Sully offered her a handkerchief.
"Thank you." She dried her own tears and wiped her nose. Sully waited patiently until she was ready to talk. He saw so much bursting to come out of her. He knew she was about to say something she'd kept suppressed inside of herself for years. "When I was growing up, I felt so alone. I was the black sheep of the family; I didn't fit in. The only one who truly seemed to care was my father. Of course I was close with my oldest sister, Rebecca, but she was growing up already and had her own problems to deal with. Now, she has her own family, and father is on the other side of the country. I especially felt alone when father was away on business, and I felt as if I had turned invisible. Does that sound ridiculous?" Sully shook his head.
"'Course it don't." He took Michaela's hands in his and kissed them both. "Feelin' alone was somethin' I felt most of my life 'til Charlotte helped me make a life. She was a good friend to me, and takin' in her kids made that lonely feelin' go away." Michaela's tears began to fall again, and Sully reached up to brush them away.
"If I ever had a problem, I would go to my father, but when he was away, and I needed him the most, I would keep my troubles to myself. Once in awhile, I would talk with Rebecca, but most of the time, I would feel as if I was walking along a dark and empty street, and not one home was lit up with an inviting light."
"Ya felt like nobody wanted to help ya?" Michaela nodded, grateful that Sully understood her.
"Exactly. Perhaps that was one of the major reasons I ultimately decided to become a doctor. I wanted to belong, and even if my career choice would be frowned upon, I would have some recognition. I would not be invisible." Sully was amazed at this woman's words. He now knew why she was so vocal and adamant about having her say. She wasn't invisible, and in Sully's eyes, she never would be.
"Don't worry 'bout that. You could never been invisible to me. You're the most beautiful woman I ever saw, and if ya ever feel like the world don't care, come out here. There's always gonna be a light in the window invitin' ya inside." Those words filled Michaela's heart with more love than she'd ever thought possible, and a smile brightened her face.
"Sully," she whispered, "thank you for understanding." For the first time, he truly did! Sully pulled her close, bringing her into his arms and placing feather-light kisses upon her forehead, nose, and finally her lips. She reciprocated, and her arms wrapped around him. She felt his hands caressing the back of her head. She felt him pull her hair down from the pins that had been holding it up, and his fingers began to stroke her long, gorgeous hair.
Michaela fell backwards into the hay, and with her arms wrapped around Sully, he fell on top of her. She let out a laugh as Sully pulled back a little to pull the straw out of her hair. She grinned up at him, loving how good he could make her feel after just a few words and a kiss. He looked down at her, smiling with more happiness that she'd ever seen from him. He was so beautiful, and all she wanted to do was kiss him again.
The smile slowly faded from her beautiful face, and Sully brought his face down to hers again. He stared into her eyes before she closed them as his lips touched hers again. Her hands moved to his back, and she felt his heart pounding so hard in his chest; she knew it was pounding just as fast and hard as her own. As her mouth opened up to his probing tongue, their connection grew by the moment. Sully suddenly drew back as if he'd been burned, realizing what was happening. He didn't want to hurt Michaela, and he knew that what was about to happen would have serious consequences for their relationship.
"I'm sorry," he said quickly, putting some space between himself and the woman he loved. Michaela sat up quickly, picking the straw out of her hair.
"No. I'm sorry. Sully, I'm the one who was emotional . . ."
"Yeah, and I didn't need to take advantage of that."
"You didn't!' Michaela exclaimed. "You didn't see me resisting did you?"
"No, but I shouldn't have done that."
"It's not your fault, and I don't blame you." She pressed a kiss to his cheek. Sully smiled a little and helped her with a few strands of straw that she hadn't found in her hair. "Sully?"
"I want to be more . . . more for you."
"I have my boundaries, Sully, but I don't want to tense up when we get . . ." Her face was blushing by the moment.
"Ya weren't tense a minute ago."
"I know. Sully, I think we need to be careful, because I don't want to do something we might regret."
"Hey, I didn't have that intention," Sully replied. "I guess we just got a little carried away."
"I know. I trust you," she whispered, kissing him softly again.
"Good. Besides, I know what you're talkin' 'bout. I think waitin' is best too." Michaela looked at him as if he'd grown three heads. "What?"
"Nothing!" she insisted. She finally caught his gaze and shook her head. "I know you've never been married, but something always told me that you . . . hadn't waited." Sully swallowed hard, and a smile slowly spread over his face. She didn't quite know if he'd just said he had or hadn't waited, and she felt that she needed to know to put her own curiosities to rest.
"Would it matter to ya if I hadn't?"
"Why are you asking me this?" Michaela wondered.
"I just wanna know."
"Sully!" Michaela laughed, standing up and shaking the straw off of her skirt. Sully stood to face her. "Well, a part of me would be a little worried that you hadn't, but I could accept it." She blushed and looked away. "I don't know why you want to know, anyway."
"'Cause I wanna know what's important to ya." He took her hands in his for what seemed like the thousandth time that evening. "Just so ya know, I've been waitin' too. I wanted to wait 'til I met the woman I wanted to share my world with, and . . . that woman's you." Michaela was completely blown away! The words he'd just said to her had surprised her, but they had made her weak in the knees at the same time. "So now ya know."
"I do know," she whispered. They met in a loving embrace, and Sully rested his chin on the top of Michaela's head. A moment later, she pulled away with a new look in her eyes.
"You said . . . you said I was the one you've been waiting for."
"That means . . ." She couldn't bring herself to say it, because the idea was completely overwhelming!
"Say it," he urged after several quiet moments.
"You . . . you want to marry me?" Her question didn't even phase him, and he stepped closer to her.
"I wanted to wait a little while before askin' ya," he explained. "But, now that ya figured it out, the surprise is ruined." Tears welled in Michaela's eyes, but this time, they were tears of absolute joy.
"Sully . . ."
"I don't have a ring. I was gonna order one, and I was even makin' arrangements with Loren." Michaela let out a small giggle, but quickly grew serious when Sully cleared his throat. "This is crazy. I never thought I'd fall in love. I never thought I'd ever be happy. Never had much luck as I was growin' up, and I never thought I'd be lucky enough to meet somebody as special as you. I fell in love with ya as I was watchin' ya care for my kids, and I'll never forget the look on your face the first time I told ya how I felt. I just want to spend the rest of my life with ya, and we can raise my kids . . . our kids together. You're a good ma to 'em, and they love ya so much. Michaela, will ya make our family official? Will you marry me?"
"Sully," she whispered again, smiling as the tears trickled down her face. "Look at me, I don't think I'll ever stop crying!" Sully grinned and moved to kiss her cheek; he kissed away the tears. When he pulled back, her eyes glittered like a million stars in the sky, and she nodded. "Yes, Sully. I will marry you."
Jake sat out on the porch of the barbershop, watching the goings on at Hank's Saloon. That place used to be like a second home to him, but he hadn't had a drop of alcohol in a long time. He felt as if he could use one at that moment, but of all people, the lady doctor had convinced him that he didn't need alcohol. Alcohol didn't make him a better person, and it didn't make him feel better, but his body had grown accustomed to having whiskey when he felt the way he did right now.
The pain was killing him, and he wanted to talk about everything to someone who would listen. He wanted to pour everything out to somebody who didn't know him. He just wanted to feel like he could breathe again and not feel the pain that came with every waking moment.
At that moment, he saw Judge Edwards walking toward the boarding house after having left the saloon. The man didn't look affected by the alcohol he may have consumed, so Jake figured he'd been questioning people and past patients in order to prepare for the trial that would be occurring the next afternoon. It occurred to him that Dr. Mike might lose her license to practice medicine if she didn't win the case tomorrow. As much as he hated to admit it, Colorado Springs needed her, and she had been their only hope when it came to having a doctor come to their fair town.
"Judge Edwards!" he called out. He hoped to God that was the name of the judge. From what he'd heard around town, it was his name, and when the judge turned, he figured he'd been correct in his assumption. Jake walked over to meet him in the street. "Your honor, I'm Jake Slicker."
"Ah yes. I was going to speak with you at the trial tomorrow."
"I'd rather talk to ya now."
"What are you talking about? I was going to have you come to the stand to testify."
"I don't want to go to the stand, your honor. I don't want people knowin' the things I've got to say. But, I think I've got somethin' that can help Dr. Mike."
"Yes. Can we go to my shop to talk?"
"Well, I don't normally do this, but you seem to have something important to say, and from what I've heard from the citizens of this town, that's a rare thing. So, lead the way." Jake decided not to feel insulted. The two men crossed the street and filed into Jake's shop. Jake locked the doors and lit a few lanterns before pulling up a chair for the judge to sit in.
"Where do ya want me to start?"
"You tell me. You're the one with the important information to divulge. What do you know about this case?" Jake cleared his throat and hoped that he could get through this private testimony without difficulty.
"I know that Dr. Mike did her best to save that baby. The surgery went just fine, and the baby didn't die 'til after he went home. He was just fine!"
"And what other knowledge brings this about?"
"I've seen it happen before."
"Care to explain?" Jake swallowed hard, his hands shaking and longing for a drink to hold. "Take your time, please." Jake only nodded.
"I was married a long time ago. Annabelle was her name. My Ma didn't approve of her, and her Ma didn't approve of me. But, we loved each other, and we got married after skippin' town together. We made a decent life for ourselves, and then I went to California when I got word that my Pa'd been found. My Pa ran out when we were little. I went lookin' for him, and I gave her the address to where I was stayin'. We'd been married just a few months when I left. A few months later, I got a letter from her sayin' we were gonna be parents." His lower lip was trembling, and he reached over to get a cup of water. He drank it down, and the judge watched him with curious eyes.
"Continue when you're ready," the judge urged.
"I went home as soon as I could, and by the time I got there, she was near ready to deliver. Took me months to get back to her. But, a week later, we had a son, Jake Jr. He looked just like me, but he sure had his ma's eyes." He cleared his throat again. "After a few weeks, he started getting sick, so we took 'im to the doctor. Doc Porter said he had some kinda blockage in his intestines. He told us what could happen, and we talked it over. We finally said it'd be best for Jake Jr. to get the surgery. He was fine after the surgery. Doc Porter told us to be careful with the bandages when we were visitin' the boy. He told us everything. Everything! But, Jake Jr. died at the hospital while all of us were sleepin'."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"He'd be eleven now. His ma said she blamed me, but I know she blamed herself. She killed herself the next mornin' before his funeral." He forced the tears back and silently swore to God that he wouldn't cry. "Found out later that the cut from his surgery got infected, 'cause one of the nurses forgot to check 'im on her rounds. Same thing happened with Horace and Myra's baby, only the baby was already home and outta Dr. Mike's hands. Dr. Mike didn't do nothin' wrong, and we can't lose her here. Maybe she can stop it from happenin' again."
The trial went on the next afternoon, and after Horace gave his testimony, several other citizens were called to testify. Since Horace couldn't afford a lawyer, Michaela decided that representing themselves would be the best way to go.
Grace and Robert E. were both called to testify, and both gave their observations of Michaela's professional skills, shedding a good light upon the young woman doctor. A few children wanted to come up and speak about how she'd fixed their scraped knees and 'boo-boos.' Jake avoided the trial at all costs, knowing that his own story would impact the judge. He only hoped it would impact him in the right way.
Myra was the next to come to the stand.
"My baby boy was the most precious person to me in the whole world," she explained with tears in her eyes. "I trusted Dr. Mike to save his life, and she did that. She never broke that trust. My baby died, and it was an accident. It shouldn'ta happened, but it did, and now he's gone. I can't change that. Dr. Mike can't either, but I'm sure that if she could, she would."
"You still have faith in this woman after everything that has happened?" Judge Edwards wondered.
"More now than ever. She's a good doctor, and she did save my baby's life. She don't deserve to even have to be sittin' here today. My husband is too caught up in his grief to see that he's part of the reason this happened."
"And your relationship with your husband?"
"I ain't told nobody this yet, your honor, but the way I see it, my baby's gone 'cause his daddy wasn't doin' what he shoulda been doin'. I'm filin' for divorce papers come next week." Horace didn't even look surprised. He looked empty inside, and as Michaela looked at him, she didn't know if anyone would ever be able to get through to him again.
It wasn't long before Michaela was called to the stand to give her own testimony.
"Dr. Quinn, do you have anything you'd like to say before I make my decision?"
"Yes, your honor," she said softly, looking out to the people of Colorado Springs. "I came here, because I was hired by the people of this town. They needed a doctor; a good one. The needed someone who could take care of children when they were sick, deliver babies and care for the mothers, and they needed someone who could make sure lives were saved when they didn't need to be taken. I'm that person, Judge Edwards. I've made mistakes in my life that I will regret for the rest of my life, and I must say that I do feel guilty for what happened to Samuel Bing. I'm always asking myself questions like 'what if I had kept him a day or two longer at my clinic?' I don't know if it would have made a difference. I know Mr. Bing is terribly angry with me, and I can't blame him. Grief can do that to a person, but I can assure you that I am qualified to be a physician in this town. I graduated at the top of my class in medical school, and the license I was given proves it. I want to make sure there are no more unfortunate accidents like in Samuel Bing's case. I want to save mothers the grief of losing a child if I can possibly do so." She was silent, and her eyes moved to meet Sully's, and he nodded, knowing she did fine.
Judge Edwards cleared his throat as the people in the audience began to murmur.
"I don't need time to think about my decision. From what I've heard, many people in this town do not approve of having a woman doctor, but they do approve of you Dr. Quinn. I've heard a lot about you, Miss Quinn. I've heard about you from as far as San Francisco. People I've passed on my journeys have mentioned being bandaged up by a nice woman doctor in Colorado Springs, and I must say I've never heard a bad thing about you until now. From the testimonies I've heard today and in private, I have no other choice but to dismiss all charges made against Dr. Quinn." A cheer rose up from the crowd, but Horace moved to leave. Michaela, needing him to understand, moved to go after him. He turned to her and whispered something vile and swore to find some way to get her license revoked. But, Sully took Michaela's hand, whispered that he was proud of her, and the trial was adjourned.
Sully and Michaela stood together outside of the church, and Michaela felt a weight lifted off of her shoulder. But, she noticed Horace kneeling at his son's grave.
"He's never going to forgive me, Sully."
"Give 'im time, Michaela. Give 'im time." He squeezed her hand and looked into her eyes.
"Thank you," she said softly, "for supporting me."
"I'll always support ya, no matter what." He looked toward the children who were playing around Abagail and Martin. "C'mon, let's go tell the kids the good news."
"They were in there, Sully. They know the charges were dismissed."
"Not that news. Our news," he said, a smile appearing on his face. Michaela's smile brightened, and she nodded. The two walked off, hand-in-hand with their fingers linked together, to tell the children the good news of their engagement.
Life would never be the same for anyone in Colorado Springs, but Michaela Quinn soon found out that she was never going to be the black sheep again. She'd gained a new husband and three children six months later, without her mother's blessing, but with her father's, and she never had to worry about coming home to a dark clinic anymore. No, now she had a real home. She would always come home to a beautiful house with a loving family waiting inside, and she'd always be greeted by the glowing light of a fire in the window on the darkest of nights.
THE END...thank you all so much for your wonderful feedback!