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.
By, Ashley J.
"Leave me alone!" Michaela screamed as she ran through the dark house, trying her best not to stumble or fall. The mysterious stranger's heavy footsteps pounded on the floor of the homestead, and as Katie began to scream with fright upstairs, the only thing Michaela could think of was that she had to get to her baby before the intruder did. "Go away!" She heard the staggered and labored breathing of the man as she rushed up the stairs. His heavy footsteps thundered behind her, and as she reached the comfort of the master bedroom that she shared with her loving husband, she slammed the door and propped her nightstand up against it to jar the knob.
This was the moment she silently cursed to herself for not wanting locks on the inside doors. Now someone was trying to get her. No, he wasn't trying to rob her or scare her. He was trying to physically hurt her, and she couldn't let that happen. There was no escape now. She and her screaming infant daughter were trapped inside the room, and there was no way out. They surely couldn't escape through the window without falling.
"Get out of my house!" she screamed as the enraged man pounded upon the door. The heavy nightstand was beginning to wobble as he started to push his way through the door. Michaela threw herself against it, planting her feet firmly onto the floor. She could actually feel the impact of his fists through the wooden door.
Katie continued to scream, and Michaela wished that she had the shotgun, but it was nestled safely downstairs above the mantle. Why did this have to happen? Of all weekends, it had to be the one when Brian and Sully were in Denver visiting Colleen. Michaela had wanted to go, but Katie had come down with a fever on the morning the train departed. Sully and Brian weren't due in until the morning.
"It's alright, sweetheart!" Michaela called to her baby girl who was kicking and screaming in her bed. "Everything's going to be alright!" The door came flying open, and the nightstand toppled to its side as Michaela fell to the floor with a heavy thud. She gritted her teeth as her attacker stepped upon her nightgown, pinning her to the floor. "No! No, please don't!" She couldn't see his face through the dim moonlight, but as his knees pinned her legs to the floor, and one strong hand moved to grasp her wrists and hold them above her head, she could feel his weight crushing her and squeezing the air from her lungs. "No! Stop!"
A dry laugh escaped the back of his throat, and Michaela couldn't pull herself out from under him. This was really happening, and there was nothing she could do to stop it. As the air left her body, and her head began to spin, she felt the sickeningly hot breath of the man on her skin.
A moment later, air came rushing back to her lungs as her aching body was released from the man's weight. She could see the glint of steel in the moonlight as Sully threw himself on the man and wrestled him to the ground with his tomahawk in hand. Brian ran into the room and helped his mother up.
"Get Katie and get out!" Michaela screamed breathlessly. Brian didn't want to leave his mother, but he knew that getting Katie out was the only thing he could do at that point. So, he grabbed his infant sister, swaddled her in a blanket, and rushed out of the room.
"Go, Michaela! Get out!" Michaela stood frozen in terror as the man pushed Sully off. Sully stumbled backward, hitting the back of his head on the stone mantle of the fireplace. The attacker got up and rushed out of the house. Sully moved to go after him, but Michaela reached out, holding onto Sully's arm.
"No! Don't leave me!"
"He tried to . . ." Sully couldn't finish the words, and everything went black. Michaela cried out as Sully slumped to the floor. She rushed out of the room to find Brian. She instructed him to get a fire going in the master bedroom as she went to prepare a few things to care for Sully with.
Ten minutes later, Sully woke from his spot on the floor to find his wife sitting next to him. She had a cold, damp cloth in one hand and a cup of some sort of brew in her other.
"You took a hit to the back of your head, and you're lucky that there isn't any damage. Drink this. It'll reduce any pain you may be feeling," she said blankly, handing him the steaming cup. Brian stood in the doorway with a sleeping Katie in his arms.
"Did he get away?" Sully asked.
"Yes," Michaela whispered. "He's gone now." Sully looked at Brian and sat up.
"Brian, will you take Katie downstairs and play your flute for her? I know she's sleepin', but she likes it when ya play that for her."
"Sure, Pa," Brian replied quietly. He left, knowing his parents needed to talk. Sully turned his attention to Michaela.
"Sure am glad we took an earlier train and came back tonight. Who knows what woulda happened," Sully whispered, taking Michaela's hands in his.
"Nothing happened." She pulled away and walked over to place the basin of water back on the stand next to the window.
"What are ya talkin' about? That man almost . . . he almost raped you, Michaela. He probably woulda killed ya."
"Well, he didn't. I don't want to talk about it anymore." Sully stood, still feeling dizzy, and moved to console his wife. As his hands moved to her shoulders, she drew away. After what had just happened to her, or almost happened, he couldn't blame her. She had every right to be jumpy, but he couldn't help but secretly feel a little hurt that she was drawing away from him when she needed him the most.
"Michaela," he whispered, being careful not to physically reach out to her, no matter how badly he wanted to draw her into his arms and hold her until the end of time.
"Sully, please, it's been a long night, and I just want to get some sleep." Sully nodded slowly.
"Alright. You go on to bed, and I'll get Katie."
"You're hurt," she replied, turning to him with tears in her eyes.
"I'm fine. Go get some rest. You deserve it." Michaela finally realized that her aching body needed to rest, and she crawled under the covers. Soon, Sully was joining her, and as he leaned over to press a kiss to the side of her head, she closed her eyes and let the tears flow freely. She didn't want to let out a sob that would send Sully to question her further. All she wanted to do was lay in the comfort of her husband's arms. So, after brushing away the tears, she turned to face her husband, snuggled against him, and closed her eyes at the feel of his arms wrapped securely around her. Michaela Quinn didn't sleep that night, and she feared she never would again.
When the sun rose, Michaela pulled herself out of Sully's arms and quickly moved about to prepare for the day. She grabbed a fresh pair of stockings from her drawer, a clean dress, and her necessary under garments. After she checked on a sleeping Katie, she went downstairs to sponge off before anyone woke. After dressing and disposing of the water she'd washed herself with, she began to prepare breakfast.
It wasn't long before Sully appeared downstairs to see his wife keeping herself busy.
"Mornin'," he said quietly, unsure of what spirits she would be in.
"Good morning. Are you feeling any better?"
"Headache's all gone," he commented.
"The tea worked, then?"
"Yep. You feelin' alright?"
"Of course I am. Why wouldn't I be?" she lied. Sully knew she was lying by the sound of her voice, but he knew she was shaken.
"Why don't ya take the day off today?"
"Oh, I can't do that. I have patients to see."
"Do any of 'em need ya today?"
"Well, not necessarily," she commented.
"Well, why don't we both stay home today and spend some time with Katie?" Michaela knew that spending time with Sully and Katie would do her some good, but she didn't like being in the house. She didn't feel safe. But, having Sully with her helped tremendously. She merely nodded.
Brian came down the stairs, rubbing his tired eyes.
"Sorry I ain't got time to eat this mornin'. I gotta be at school early to help Miss Teresa."
"Why don't ya go hitch the wagon? I'll take ya into town." Brian nodded and went to do as his father had asked.
"I thought you were staying home today?" Michaela asked immediately.
"I am," Sully replied reassuringly, rubbing her back softly. "But I'm going to talk to Matthew and some of the fellas in town. I want them out lookin' for the man who broke in last night."
"Can't Brian inform them?" Michaela asked.
"Normally, yeah, but I got a better look at him. I'll be back in an hour. Will ya be alright?" Michaela nodded and swallowed the lump in her throat.
"Of course," she said with a brave smile. "I'll make breakfast once you return, and I'll go upstairs and give Katie a bath." Sully nodded and moved toward the door.
"I don't want ya to be alone though. I mean, the chances he'd come back ain't too great, but I still wanna know that you're safe."
"I'm safe, Sully. Go on." Sully didn't look convinced.
"You sure you're gonna be okay?"
"Don't be silly," Michaela said with a forced laugh. "I'll be just fine."
"And don't worry 'bout the kitchen window. I'll have Loren place an order for a new one." Michaela nodded, swallowing hard but finding her mouth extremely dry. Sully walked back over to his wife and gave her a loving kiss upon the lips. Her arms snaked around his neck, pulling him closer as if she never wanted to let go. His arms wrapped around her protectively, and he didn't want to leave her.
"C'mon, Pa! We'll be late!" Brian called from outside, as he pulled the wagon around. When Michaela finally loosened her hold on her husband, she gave him one more kiss upon the lips.
"I love you," she whispered.
"I love you too," he replied. "I'll be back real soon. Don't forget to lock the door behind me." Michaela nodded and watched as her husband walked outside and shut the door. She stood in the silence of her home, re-living the night before every step of the way.
She quickly moved to lock the front door, and as she walked over to the shattered window in the kitchen, she heard the shards cracking and splitting into thousands of smaller pieces under her shoes. The sound made her wince at the memory of everything that had happened. She remembered it all so clearly.
"Come along, sweetheart," Michaela whispered, picking her baby girl up out of the high chair. "It's getting late, and your papa and big brother will be home tomorrow morning. Besides, you've had a long day." Michaela held her daughter up and kissed her little nose. Katie giggled and smiled happily at her mother. Michaela was grateful that her baby was feeling much better after her fever had broken.
Michaela carried Katie up the stairs and placed the baby in her crib. She covered her with a blanket and watched over her until she fell to sleep. It was getting dark and cold, and Michaela knew that she needed to bring some more firewood up and start a nice warm fire. But, until she could do that, she made sure Katie was nice and warm under the blanket.
Once the baby was sleeping, Michaela changed into her nightclothes and brushed out her hair. She started down the stairs to turn down the lamps.
With each oil lamp she turned down, she felt herself missing Sully more and more. She missed having him in her arms, and she kept telling herself that he'd be back in the morning.
By the time all of the lamps were turned down, the entire downstairs was as black as pitch. Michaela felt around for some firewood, but as she was searching, she heard the shattering of glass coming from the kitchen. Her heart nearly leapt out of her chest, and she dropped the kindling from her hands. Her breath caught in her throat as she heard a heavy foot crunching the glass under its weight.
Michaela felt as if her feet had taken up root in the floor. She couldn't seem to move. But, when the footsteps came closer toward the living room, she managed to pull herself away to hide under the staircase. The crawlspace was the closest place she could think of to hide.
Michaela pulled her knees up against her chest, holding herself very still. The man walked around slowly. He was searching for something. Why wasn't he taking any of the expensive items that were imported from Boston? Perhaps he wasn't looking for objects. Perhaps he was looking for . . . her. Michaela could hear the steel in the heels of his boots as they clunked along the wooden floor.
Katie! She had to get to Katie! Though the moonlight that now filtered in made it more difficult to see, she could tell that the man was still in the living room, and if she made a dash for the stairs, he'd surely see her.
Michaela let her eyes adjust to the bluish-black haze that hung about the room. She waited until his footsteps became louder before she moved toward the kitchen. She waited as his footsteps grew closer to the stairs. No! He couldn't get upstairs. He couldn't get to Katie!
Her hand slipped, causing a ladle to cling against a pot. The footsteps immediately came toward the kitchen, and that was when all Hell broke loose.
Michaela found herself trembling at the memory. She couldn't stand thinking about it. The house had been filled with such a chill with all of the flames out and only the light of the moon to cast a ghostly path toward the steep stairs.
There was a chill in the air even now, and Michaela looked away from the mess on the floor. She rushed outside, closed the shutters on the window and rushed back inside to re-lock the door. As she leaned against the front door, her heart pounded in her chest. She couldn't close her eyes to the darkness now. Every time she'd close her eyes for even a moment, she'd see him standing over her, his faceless shadow grabbing her and pinning her to the floor.
Tears sprang to her eyes, and she slumped to the floor, pulling her knees to her chest like she had in the crawlspace the night before. She hated feeling so frightened, but just knowing that some stranger had been in her house and had tried to rape her made her feel so violated and completely unsafe. She had never felt so unsafe in her own home before, and knowing that someone could have easily killed her or her newborn daughter was too much to deal with.
"Sully," she cried, burying her face in her hands. "Please don't leave me alone. Please don't . . ." The rest of her words were lost in her tears and sobs. Her entire body was quaking with fright, and she felt as if she was frozen in place. She couldn't pull herself up to go check on Katie. She couldn't move to make some tea to calm her upset stomach and nerves.
Every movement she made upset her nerves. The tap of her shoe on the floor reminded her of the intruder's footsteps. Every creak on the floorboard made her jump and look toward the kitchen window, only to find the shutters still closed.
Wails from the master bedroom upstairs startled Michaela. Katie needed her now. She couldn't cower downstairs forever. She couldn't turn into some weak little kitten. No. She survived the night before, so she had to survive this.
She shakily pulled herself off of the floor and moved toward the staircase. A creak on the floorboard underneath her startled her, and she let her tears fall freely again. She glanced toward the mantle and noticed the shotgun resting ominously.
Though she was strictly opposed to guns, she knew that she needed to protect herself and her daughter. What would happen if the man were to come back? What if he'd come back to finish what he had started? She couldn't let that happen.
Her hands grabbed the gun, and she held it protectively in her arms. As she moved up the stairs, Katie's cries became louder and more persistent. She propped the shotgun up against the wall beside the bedroom door and closed that door behind her. When she brought Katie into her arms, the baby could sense that she was upset and continued to cry.
"It's alright, Katie. Please don't cry," Michaela whispered, rocking her back and forth. She sat down in the rocking chair, keeping her eye on the door. As she rocked Katie back and forth, the child seemed to calm. Within the matter of a half hour, Katie was sleeping soundly again, happy in her mother's loving arms.
Katie's slumber had gone unnoticed to Michaela. Her eyes were still transfixed on the closed door, and as her eyes played tricks on her, she could have sworn that the doorknob would turn a bit from time to time.
When the sound of an approaching horse snapped Michaela out of her trance, she looked down to see Katie snuggled peacefully in her arms. She stood and placed the child back in her bed, covering her with a blanket. She moved to look out the window, but she couldn't see anything. She heard footsteps inside of the house. Oh God! He was back! She slowly moved toward the door, being careful not to make a sound. When she had the gun in her arms, she prepared it to fire. She moved to stand by the rocking chair, and she knew that if she had to, she would shoot her attacker. She had taken an oath to preserve life, but she had to make an exception when her life and her child's was in danger.
When the footsteps grew closer and closer, Michaela's finger rested on the trigger.
"Go away!" she screamed. The door began to open, and her finger shook against the trigger. "Go away! I'll shoot!"
"Michaela, it's me!" came Sully's voice. His voice broke the frozen terror that gripped her heart, and the gun clattered to the floor. Luckily for everyone, it wasn't loaded.
"Sully!" she cried. Sully came rushing through the door and moved to take his wife into his arms. She broke down into tears, her knees buckling beneath her, and Sully scooped her up into his arms. Her arms wrapped tightly around his neck, and she didn't want to let go.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, holding her close. "I'm sorry I left. I shoulda thought." He carried her over and sat her down on the bed. He sat next to her and wrapped his arms around her. "It's alright now. You're safe."
Sully leaned against the counter in the kitchen, waiting for the teakettle to whistle. Michaela was resting in bed upstairs, and the shotgun had been safely placed back above the mantle. She was still shaken, and wasn't ready to talk yet. Sully had promised to brew her some tea to calm her nerves, and he hoped she'd speak with him about it once she had settled.
The good news was that the man had been caught. The man had tried to rob Mr. Bray's store approximately an hour after having come to attack Michaela. He was a wanderer, and Matthew had had no choice but to go after the man after he'd taken off with all of Loren's money. The night had ended badly for the intruder, and his life had ended with a single gunshot wound. The bad news was that Sully didn't get to punish the man with his own hands for trying to hurt Michaela.
Sully had seen the man's body when he went to report the crime to Matthew, and he knew from the sheer size and shape of him that it was Michaela's attacker. Yes, the danger was gone now, but that wasn't going to ease Michaela's worries. Who was anyone to know if something like that could happen again?
Once the tea was finished, Sully poured Michaela a cup and carefully carried it up the stairs. When he entered their room, Michaela looked over to him with a grateful smile on her face. He handed her the cup.
"Careful, it's hot," he whispered. She sipped at it before blowing over the top of the cup to cool the scalding hot liquid. When she put the cup aside, she took a deep breath. Sully settled into the bed beside his wife. His arm snaked around to pull her close. "Ya don't need to tell me if ya don't want to."
"I need to," she whispered.
"Before ya do," Sully explained, "that man ain't never gonna hurt ya again. He was shot last night after robbin' Loren. He's dead." Sully noticed the bruises on Michaela's wrists, and all he wanted to do at that point was bring the man back from the dead just so he could kill him himself. "He did that to ya?" Michaela nodded sadly. The bruises were dark and a purplish green color. He could actually see individual fingerprints from the man's tight grasp. "I coulda killed him," Sully said angrily.
"I'm glad you didn't," Michaela whispered. "You don't kill in rage, Sully. You're a man of honor, and that's one of the many reasons I fell in love with you."
"Michaela, that man almost raped you!" Sully yelled, standing up from the bed. Those words stung Michaela. She knew he wasn't angry with her. He was angry with the intruder and with himself. "If I had got there sooner . . ."
"You got there just in time, Sully," Michaela explained. "These bruises will heal. If you had gotten there any later . . . well, I couldn't have come back from that." Realization came over her face. "Oh, Sully, you didn't tell them what he almost did, did you?" Sully shook his head reassuringly.
"I just told 'em he broke in while you and Katie were alone."
"They don't need to know anything more. It's over now. He's dead," Michaela whispered. Sully noticed her shaking.
"It ain't over, Michaela. Look at yourself. You're scared to death. I was stupid to leave ya alone this mornin'. I wasn't thinkin'."
"No. I told you I'd be alright," Michaela insisted. "The truth is that I didn't feel right at all. Sully, I know it's going to take some time, but I don't want to be alone. I don't want to be here by myself; alone with the memories of what happened."
"I ain't gonna leave ya alone," Sully promised.
"I can't ask you to stay with me every time I'm home, Sully. You have your own work to do."
"You're more important to me than anything else, ya understand? I don't care if I gotta stay home with ya for the rest of my life to make sure ya feel safe. I don't ever want ya to be afraid to ask me to keep ya company. I love you, Michaela." He settled back into the bed beside her.
"Oh Sully," she sobbed as he pulled her into his arms again. "I hate feeling this way!"
"Just keep tellin' yourself that you're lucky. You're lucky that it didn't go further, and you're lucky to be alive."
"Sully, if you hadn't come home . . ."
"Don't think about that," Sully whispered. "The point is that I did come home." Michaela shook her head.
"It isn't fair. It's not fair that I have to feel unsafe in my own house. Why would someone break into someone's home? Why would someone come after me the way they did?"
"Some folks didn't have the kinda life that other folks get. Lots of folks don't grow up with a Ma and a Pa to tell 'em they're bein' bad."
"You were alone for most of your life, Sully. You turned out to be more of a man than any man I know. You're caring and kind. You'd never hurt someone, least of all a woman."
"I can't speak for all folks, but in my opinion, a man who'd hurt a lady ain't a man at all. I'm gonna make sure this don't ever happen again."
"I feel safe with you, Sully," Michaela whispered. "But I need you to give me time. It's going to take a while for me to feel safe here again. In my heart, I know I will with time."
"I'll be patient," Sully whispered. "But I don't blame ya one bit. Truth is, when me and Brian came ridin' up last night, first thing I thought when I saw the broken window was, 'what if my Michaela's gone? What if I never get to see her face again?'" He reached over to brush his wife's tears away. "I'm just thankful that you and Katie are alright." Michaela smiled at her husband as she looked into his eyes. Yes, she would recover, but she would never forget what happened the night before. She would never forget the feeling of having someone inside of her home, chasing her and attacking her. She'd never forget Katie's wails during the struggle, and she'd never forget Sully coming to save her life.
It was all so overwhelming, and she hated feeling helpless. But she knew she could count on her husband to make her feel safe. Above all else, Sully was her home. In his arms was the place where she felt like nothing bad or evil could happen.
"Hmm?" Michaela swallowed hard.
"Hold me." Sully kissed his wife's forehead gently and pulled her into his lap. He held her close and never wanted to let her go.