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.

Parting Words

By, Ashley J.

Michaela's own worries and troubles at the moment were nothing compared to what she had just heard from Sully. She'd learned more about him than she had ever figured she would, but she was glad that he had opened up to her. He'd been born between England and America, his father died before he could even get to know him, and his mother had drowned when he was a small boy. He'd had a hard life compared to her life on Beacon Hill in Boston.

Having his arms wrapped around her made Michaela feel safe, and as his hand stroked her soft hair, she wished that the moment would stay that way forever and never end.

Tears rolled down Michaela's cheeks, dampening the soft material of Sully's shirt. He swallowed hard, knowing she was hurting; scared. She didn't know what to expect to find when she arrived in Boston to be at her mother's bedside. What if it was something serious that couldn't be fixed? He knew that it would just about kill Michaela if she arrived and saw that nothing could be done. If there was something that Michaela wasn't, she wasn't a quitter. She always tried to do what she could to help those she loved, and if Elizabeth's condition was too serious, he knew that guilt would eat away at her heart for the rest of her life.

"I'm sorry," Michaela whispered, pulling away from Sully. When she was out of his arms, Sully suddenly felt cold and wanted to hold her again. He wanted to ease her fears and brush her tears. Most of all, he wanted to let her know that he'd always be there for her.

"There's nothin' to be sorry about," Sully whispered. "Ya might be strong, but ya gotta cry sometimes."

"You don't cry," Michaela argued, walking over to sit on the porch of the homestead. Sully moved to sit beside her, and he made sure to keep his distance. He looked down, thinking about all of the times he could have cried but held it in. He was sure he had run out of tears long ago.

"You're right," he said quietly. "I haven't cried . . . really cried . . . since the day I buried my wife and daughter." Michaela looked at Sully with surprise in her eyes.

"Not once?" Sully cleared his throat.

"Maybe a few tears here and there, but nothin' much."

"Why not?" She immediately shook her head. "I'm sorry. I'm sure this is difficult for you to talk about." Besides, men never talked about crying. Most of the men in Colorado Springs came across as trying to be overly manly. There was no way they'd let themselves be caught crying if they could help it. Of course, there was the occasional break down, as in Mr. Slicker's case during his drinking problem.

"It's alright," Sully replied. He gently ran his thumb across Michaela's cheek, brushing away the tear that still lingered there.

"You don't have to tell me about it, Sully."

"I know," he replied softly, "but I want to." Michaela smiled a little, her heart warming to the fact that Sully wanted to talk to her; open up to her about his past. She'd always been so curious about how he'd been raised, and most of all, she'd been curious about his relationship with Abagail. But, she didn't want him talking about something he wasn't ready for, so she wouldn't push or pry. She'd let him do the talking, and she'd be there to offer support.

"Alright," she breathed. She rested her hand upon his shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze to let him know she was there for him. Sully looked into her eyes, and he felt as if he could tell her anything.

"When Abagail and Hanna died, I thought I was gonna die too. My heart felt as if it had literally stopped beatin' when theirs did. All I did that night was cry and scream and throw things around. I actually asked God how he could take them from me. 'Course, I didn't hear nothin' back. I went away. I went away to a spot that only I knew about, and I sat there. I screamed up at the sky, and I wished that it had all turned out different." Michaela felt the tears beginning to fall again. She could hear Sully's voice breaking as he told the story. "I didn't know how to make it through the pain, but Cloud Dancin' helped me. I knew I had to pull it together."

"You're lucky to have such a good friend," Michaela whispered. Sully nodded and gently took her hand in his.

"Ya got a friend too," he promised. "If ya ever need me, I'll be here to talk to, alright? I can't promise I'll always know the answer, but I'll at least listen to ya."

"I appreciate that," Michaela said softly, looking toward the road that led away from the house. Sully nodded and continued.

"I don't know if I slept or ate or did anything between the time Abagail and Hanna died and the moment they were buried. All I remember is a splittin' headache that nearly blinded me. The pain and the tears hadn't stopped, and I always thought that the headache was my body's way of tellin' me to move on. So, when the funeral was over, I told myself that it was time to stop cryin'. Abagail never liked seein' me upset."

"So you just stopped crying?" Michaela wondered in amazement. Sully shrugged.

"I don't know. I just know that cryin' ain't been the same ever since. I mean, losin' somebody ya love is definitely a reason to cry, but I ain't lost nobody since Abagail. Livin' alone don't give me much time to get close to folks." He looked away, feeling Michaela's eyes staring at him quizzically. "Don't know what I'd do if anything happened to you or the kids." Michaela felt her heart skip a beat. "You've been a good friend, Dr. Mike."

"It looks as though we have something in common," Michaela said with a smile. "Nothing is going to happen to me or to the children." Sully looked into her eyes and realized that he wished she didn't have to leave. He didn't want to have to lie awake every night while she was gone, wondering if she was alright. But, she had to see her mother. She had to go make sure everything was alright for herself.

"I think you're right." Silence followed Sully's comment, and as his eyes searched hers, he saw a smile creep across her face. Without thinking, he brought face an inch from hers. He could feel her breath on his lips, and he realized he must be frightening her. His eyes opened only to find that hers had closed, and she was leaning in toward him. He took a breath before placing an ever-so-gentle kiss upon her lips.

"Sully," she whispered as he pulled away. Sully cleared his throat and looked away. "I'm sorry. I'm just . . ."
"I know," Sully replied. "I understand. Just . . . um, thanks for listenin' to me."

"You said you'd always listen to me, Sully. It goes both ways. I'll always listen if you want to speak." The seconds moved by once again, and both stared off toward the beautiful mountains.

"Sure is gonna be quiet 'round here when you're gone."

"It isn't as if I'm leaving forever. We'll be back as soon as mother's feeling better."

"Ya sure about that?"

"Why wouldn't I be?"

"Well, Boston's your home. Everybody ya ever knew before ya came out here is there. Your family's there."

"Right," Michaela replied. "But, Colorado Springs is my home now. I'm not abandoning it forever. I'm only leaving for a little while." For some reason, Sully had the feeling that Michaela's words wouldn't be able to ease the worry he'd suffer through all of the days she would be gone. For some other reason, he couldn't get over the feeling that her going and coming back would not be so simple.

Michaela took a deep breath and stood up.

"Where ya goin'?"

"I need to finish packing," Michaela stated plainly. She didn't exactly think she wanted Sully around when she began to pack her undergarments. "You don't have to stay."

"Well, I should be getting along anyway. Gotta check my snares."

"Alright," Michaela replied with a slight smile. "You'll be there, won't you?"

"Where?"

"In town when we leave," Michaela explained.

"Oh," Sully replied quietly. He wasn't quite sure if he could watch her leave Colorado Springs. The love he felt for her was so overpowering that seeing her ride away in a stagecoach would be painful, especially when he wasn't with her.

"I'll try to be," he said quietly. "But I promise ya that me and Robert E. will look after the place while you're gone."

"I appreciate that."

"How long ya plannin' on stayin'?"

"If mother recovers quickly, it shouldn't be more than a week or two." Sully nodded. Brian came rushing out, not sure if his mother was upset with him or not for his earlier stubbornness when it came to the trousers he wanted to bring to Boston..

"Ma?" Michaela turned to him with a smile on her face, and he knew she wasn't upset with him anymore.

"Yes, Brian?"

"I need help findin' somethin'."

"I'll be along in a moment," Michaela promised. Brian shut the door as he re-entered the homestead. Sully cleared his throat and stuck his hands in his coat pockets.

"I best be goin'," he noted.

"Alright. I hope to see you tomorrow." Sully nodded.

"If I ain't there, I'll see ya when ya get back." Michaela nodded slowly, hoping with all of her heart and soul that Sully would be there to see her off in the morning. She didn't want to leave him, and his parting words hadn't seemed promising for his presence of their departure.

"See you," she whispered after he was out of sight. Blinking back the tears again, she disappeared into the homestead to help the children finish packing.

The End