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 Heart Divided
Three-year-old Katie was sleeping in her father's arms as the train pulled into Colorado Springs for the first time that morning. It was the eight o'clock train, and the Sully family had been awake since dawn, preparing for their guests.
Fourteen-year-old Brian grinned when he saw his older sister stepping off the train. Andrew assisted her, and she adjusted her coat over her pregnant belly. She was due any day now, and she wanted her baby to be born in the place that she still considered her home.
Michaela was excited for her daughter and son-in-law, though she only wished that Colleen were already finished with medical school. But, Colleen had insisted that she was going to go through with medical school after the birth, and she would have plenty of help with the baby while she was at school.
One exciting element to this situation was that her first grandchild would be just a little younger than her second birth child. Elizabeth Marjorie Sully had been born just a week ago, and she was already thriving. It was amazing to see how much this little one looked like her older sister. It hadn't been long ago that Miss Katie had been that size, and there was no mistaking that they were sisters!
"You feelin' alright?" Sully asked, worried about his wife's health. She'd had a very healthy and uneventful pregnancy, but he was even more protective of her now, because she was wearing herself out by getting up at all hours of the night with the baby. Beth, as they called her, had quite a temper, and if her needs weren't tended to right away, the exhausted parents wouldn't get much sleep for the rest of the night.
"I'm fine," Michaela replied. "I'm just a bit nervous. I haven't seen her since before she announced her pregnancy. I only wish I could have been there for her during this. It's not an easy time, and it happened so quickly." It was true! Colleen and Andrew hadn't even been married for three months when they received the surprising news. Their first anniversary had just passed, and the biggest gift of their lives was due at any time.
"From her letters, it sounds like Andrew's been takin' real good care of her." Colleen and Andrew began to walk toward their welcoming party, and Colleen practically flew into her mother's arms.
"Colleen!" Michaela exclaimed with tears of joy in her eyes. "Oh sweetheart! I've missed you!"
"I missed you too," Colleen replied, nearly bursting into tears at the sight of the family she held so near and dear to her heart. "I missed you all!" She hugged Sully and then Brian. Matthew, who'd just arrived, took his little sister into his arms and held her close.
"Look at ya," he said, holding her out at an arm's length a moment later.
"Yeah, yeah. I know I'm as big as a house," Colleen commented, making a face.
"Ya look great," Sully said with a smile, beaming with pride that his oldest daughter was about to be a mother herself. Sully looked at Andrew. The young doctor seemed to be pale and a bit disoriented, and he stepped over to the side as Colleen took her youngest sister into her arms for the first time.
"This must be Beth," she cooed. "Hi Beth! I'm your big sister, Colleen." Sully put his hand on his son-in-law's shoulder.
"Hello, Sully," Andrew said with a forced smile.
"Of course. Why wouldn't it be?"
"Let's take a walk."
"Later," Andrew replied. "I'd like to take our things to the boarding house."
"Nonsense!" Michaela exclaimed, overhearing Andrew's suggestion. "You'll be staying at the clinic. "I'd rather you stay at the homestead, but with Colleen due at any moment, I'd feel better if we all slept in town to avoid any late-night trips."
"Are ya sure it's no trouble, Ma?" Colleen asked, rubbing her swollen belly with her free hand.
"I'm sure," Michaela replied. "Come along. We'll go get settled in at the clinic." Sully pulled Michaela aside and kissed her cheek.
"Why don't ya go ahead with 'em. I'm gonna have a talk with Andrew."
"Is everything alright?"
"Yep. Everything's fine."
"Don't worry 'bout the luggage. We'll take care of it," Matthew offered, thumping his brother on the back. "C'mon, Brian." The two went about to take care of Colleen and Andrew's suitcases. Sully turned to Andrew.
"Let's take a walk. They're takin' care of everything."
"I'd rather not," Andrew said hesitantly. Sully looked at his son-in-law sternly. "On second thought, I could use some fresh air." The two walked off toward the street. Sully was silent as he held his sleeping daughter in his arms. He was trying to figure out what to say to him first.
"Expectin' a baby is a pretty stressful thing," Sully commented slowly. Andrew nodded. "Ain't been sleepin'?"
"Colleen's been feeling ill lately," he explained. "I haven't slept, because she hasn't slept. When I do manage to catch a few minutes, I'll wake up feeling like something's wrong." Sully remembered back to the few weeks before Katie's birth, and he'd been the same just a week ago as he was waiting for Beth to come into the world.
"Last weeks can be hard on some women."
"It's been especially difficult for Colleen," Andrew replied. "She's been frightened of something happening during the delivery, and she won't let me comfort her."
"She's pushin' ya away?" Andrew nodded.
"Things have changed. We're not ready for a child, Sully." Sully looked at his son-in-law with surprise.
"It's a little late to change your mind, ya know? You're gonna be a pa in just a few days."
"I know, and that's what scares me," Andrew replied. "I love Colleen, don't get me wrong, and I love this child, but . . ."
"I'm never going to be there. Colleen is going to take time off of school to care for the baby until she's well enough to go back, and I'm going to be working extra hours to bring home enough money to support the three of us. It wouldn't be so financially difficult if Colleen weren't preparing to start medical school. Don't get me wrong, because I can't wait until the two of us are able to practice medicine together, but we never expected this to happen so soon. She's asked me to talk with her grandmother about borrowing money, but I don't feel right about that."
"If ya need a little extra . . ."
"No," Andrew said quickly. "I appreciate that, but you and Michaela have enough to worry about with Beth and Katie so young. I don't want you putting your own financial situation in jeopardy." Sully knew that Andrew was correct, so he decided not to press the matter any further at the moment. Besides, he couldn't force money into Andrew's hands when he knew that he wouldn't accept it if he was in the young man's position.
"I got the feelin' that money ain't the only think you're worryin' about." Andrew shook his head as they rounded a corner and started toward the clinic.
"You're right. I don't feel ready to be a father. Perhaps it's because I was never close with my father." Sully put his hand up.
"That ain't got nothin' to do with it. I don't remember my pa. I was always angry 'bout that, 'cause I thought I wouldn't be a good man without him tellin' me the things I needed to know. Look at me now, Andrew. I got a wife and five kids who love me more than I ever thought was possible. Bein' close with your pa don't have to make a difference. Remember that." Sully patted his son-in-law on the back, and they walked into the clinic. Colleen was sitting on a stool while Matthew and Brian were upstairs putting the trunks and suitcases away.
Colleen smiled when she saw her husband, but Michaela noticed a sort of tension between the two of them.
"How are you feeling?" he wondered.
"I'm a little tired," Colleen confessed. "Would you mind helping me upstairs so I can rest?" Andrew nodded.
"I believe that's a good idea, Colleen," Michaela noted. "I'm pleased that you know when to give yourself a rest." Colleen smiled, knowing that her mother was thinking back to when she was pregnant with Katie, and she nearly pushed herself too hard.
"Take it easy," Sully called after his daughter as Andrew helped her up the stairs. Michaela smiled and moved to take little Katie out of her father's arms.
"She's had a long morning. I'll take her upstairs for a nap."
"Alright, but after that, we gotta talk." Michaela hated the sound of that.
"What's the matter?"
"I just wanna talk with ya for a few," Sully replied, leaning over to kiss her cheek. Michaela smiled, assured that her husband wasn't upset with her. She carried the sleepy girl upstairs, and Sully moved to the bassinet to look in on little Beth. He ran the back of his hand against her cheek, and she turned her face toward him and continued to sleep. He grinned down at her, and his heart swelled with such pride!
Brian and Matthew made their way down the stairs.
"All done," Brian announced.
"Good," Sully said with a nod. "Why don't the two of ya go over to Grace's and get somethin' to eat?"
"I ain't hungry," Brian replied. Matthew looked at his little brother.
"Since when are you not hungry?"
"Well, I guess I am a little. Want me to bring you and Ma somethin'?" Brian asked.
"That's alright. We'll get a bite to eat later." Matthew and Brian left quickly, and Sully walked over to look out the window. He smiled when he saw Matthew and Brian jump onto their horses to race a fairly short distance to Grace's Café.
"Sully?" Michaela walked back into the room and over toward Beth's bassinet. She tucked the blanket around her more snugly, and walked over to join her husband by the window. "What's on your mind?" Sully looked out to see the figures of Matthew and Brian slowly disappearing into the dust from the streets.
"Do ya think Ethan is part of the reason Matthew and Brian turned out the way they are?" Sully wondered. Michaela raised an eyebrow. Ethan was someone nobody had mentioned for a long time!
"Why do you ask?" Sully swallowed hard.
"Andrew's worried that he ain't gonna be a good pa. He says it's 'cause he wasn't close to his own pa." Michaela looked a bit surprised.
"Sully, Andrew will make a wonderful father. He's only nervous. Once the baby gets here, he'll see how wonderful having a child can be. He's not doing it alone." She reached out to stroke Sully's lightly stubbled cheek. "You grew up without a father, and look how wonderful you turned out." Sully smiled, loving the way his wife could make the best out of any situation. He carefully brought her into his arms and reminded himself not to squeeze her too tightly. He knew her muscles were still sore from the delivery a week ago.
Beth began to fuss, and the rare quiet moment was shot to pieces. Sully gave Michaela a smile and kissed her softly.
"It's time for her feeding."
"I'll go upstairs and check on Katie." Michaela nodded, grateful to have such an attentive husband. As Sully started up the stairs, Michaela picked up Beth and carried her into the other room. She sat down in a rocking chair and unbuttoned the front of her blouse, which she'd gotten very good at doing one-handed since she'd had Katie.
As Beth began to nurse, Michaela lightly stroked the child's cheek with her fingers, and she rested her head upon the headrest of the rocking chair. She closed her eyes, thinking about how she wished she could have been there for Colleen to better prepare her for motherhood.
She knew Colleen had been wonderful with Katie, but Colleen didn't know what it was truly like to be a mother. It was one of the most incredible experiences anyone could ever have during one lifetime, and Michaela felt privileged to have five wonderful children. She thanked God for them everyday.
Sully walked in a few minutes later, and Michaela saw that he was carrying Katie in his arms. She was awake now, and as soon as she saw her mother, she held her arms out to her.
"Not just yet, Miss Katie," Sully said with a grin, kissing his little girl upon the cheek. "Mama's gotta finish with Beth first." Katie yawned and leaned her head upon her father's chest and watched her mother nurse her baby sister.
"Mama," she cooed.
"Mama used to hold ya like that too," Sully remembered. "Just like this." He scooped her up as if she were a newborn babe, and he rocked her back and forth. Katie giggled, and Sully tickled her tummy to make her screech with delight. Michaela smiled happily as she watched her husband and oldest birth child.
"Mama work?" Katie asked as she finally settled down.
"No sweetheart. I'm here, because your niece or nephew is going to be born soon." Katie looked confused. "Colleen's baby is coming."
"That's right. There'll be another new baby in the family, only this one ain't gonna be with us forever. Colleen's baby is gonna go back to Boston with her and Andrew as soon as she's feelin' up to travellin'." Katie only nodded, not fully understanding what her parents had said to her. She rested her head on her father's shoulder again and was dozing off to sleep again a few moments later.
"I think Miss Beth is finished," Michaela noted, feeling that her baby had completely relaxed and was no longer suckling. She buttoned her blouse up and carried her sleeping baby back to her bassinet.
"Want me to take Katie back up to bed?"
"That might be a good idea, but could you wait until I return from checking on Colleen and Andrew? I want them to get settled in."
"Sure. Take your time." Sully sat down in Michaela's desk chair and watched her slowly but carefully climb up the stairs.
Michaela tapped on the door, and Andrew came over a moment later. Michaela smiled.
"I was wondering if there was anything you both needed?" Michaela looked over to see Colleen lying in bed with a look of misery upon her face. "Can I get you something from Grace's?"
"I'm not hungry, Ma," Colleen replied.
"I'm not hungry either," Andrew replied. Michaela nodded with understanding.
"If you need anything, Sully and I will be downstairs." Michaela left the room, and Andrew shut the door behind her. Colleen watched as he walked over to open the balcony doors.
"Andrew? Is something bothering you?"
"I'm fine," he replied, his face growing an even paler shade of white.
"No you aren't Andrew, now tell me what's wrong."
"I don't want to bother you," he answered softly. "I just want you to concentrate on keeping yourself calm and safe."
"I'm doing that. I'd like to know what's bothering you or else I will get upset." Andrew turned toward the bed.
"Don't worry. Nothing's wrong. I'm just getting nervous about the baby."
"You're sure that's it?" she asked, reaching up to run her fingers through his soft blonde hair. He took her hand in his and kissed her knuckles.
"I'm sure," he replied quietly. I'm gonna go for a walk outside. You get some rest." He started for the door, and as his hand was reaching for the knob, Colleen let out a cry of pain.
Brian and Matthew were now seated downstairs at the clinic. They were with their littlest sisters; waiting on news of Colleen and the baby. Andrew and Sully were standing in the hall outside of the room upstairs, and though Andrew wanted to be at Colleen's side, he was growing faint, and it was best for him to stay outside until everything was over.
Colleen was screaming so loudly that every scream made him feel guilty. He'd gotten her worked up just before she went into labor, so naturally, he assumed that this was all triggered by his own fears and petty inside battles with himself over whether or not he was going to be a good father.
"Ma, I'm scared!" Colleen cried as Michaela reached up to dab her forehead with a cool, damp cloth.
"You're doing fine, Colleen!" Michaela encouraged her knowing all too well that she wasn't fine. More blood that normal was flowing, and it didn't seem to be letting up. The baby was close to delivery, and Michaela knew that once it was out, she could work quickly to stop the bleeding.
"Colleen, the baby's head is right there. Come on, Colleen. You can do it!" Her heart was beating a mile a minute as Colleen pushed and pushed, and more blood came out.
"Ma!" Colleen screamed as she felt more pain than she'd ever felt in her entire life. The children could hear the commotion from downstairs, and Sully and Andrew both tried to ignore the screams. Andrew looked ready to pass out onto the floor, and Sully was afraid for his daughter. He'd heard that the experience of childbirth was different for most women, but Michaela hadn't carried on like this with either of her births. It was frightening!
"Push, Colleen!" Michaela exclaimed one more time, holding onto her daughter's hand. Colleen was about to give up, but she found the last bit of energy she had left. She pushed with all of her might, and a moment later, Michaela was lifting her grandchild into the world.
Healthy cries could be heard, and the exhausted mother's head hit the pillow. Michaela quickly cut the child's cord and kept her eye on Colleen.
"Colleen, you have a . . ." She glanced at Colleen's pale face, and she saw the life draining from it. "Oh my God! Colleen!" She placed the baby down safely and moved to take action to stop the bleeding.
"Ma," Colleen whispered. "My baby . . ."
"The baby's fine. Just lay still, sweetheart," Michaela whispered, tears streaming down her face. It was amazing how quickly they had gone from tears of joy to tears of frustration and pure fear. Colleen was about to whisper something else before she lost consciousness, and Michaela knew she didn't have much time to save her oldest daughter.
"Don't do this to me, Colleen," she whispered. "Sweetheart, you have to be strong!" Andrew had breathed a sigh of relief after hearing his child's first cries. But all was silent now, and he was worried.
"I have to go in there," he said quickly, starting for the door. Sully stepped in and pulled Andrew back.
"Michaela's takin' care of it. Ya don't need to be in there."
"No!" came a cry from inside.
"Michaela!" Sully asked quickly.
"Colleen!" Michaela's sobs were heard above all else, and Andrew finally burst into the room. He found Michaela, the usually strong and collected doctor, sobbing at her daughter's bedside. He saw blood staining and soaking the sheets. Sully stepped in and immediately looked away, not being able to take in the scene.
"Michaela?" he asked softly.
"No!" she cried again. She was supposed to be the calm one! She wasn't supposed to get emotionally involved with her patients, but she had had no choice this time! Colleen was her daughter, and she'd failed her! She hadn't been able to save such a brilliant, beautiful life.
"Colleen!" Andrew cried, kneeling at his wife's bedside. Sully moved to Michaela's side and slowly pulled her up. She was shaking all over, and she couldn't stop staring down at her daughter's body.
"No," she cried. "No!" Andrew's face was buried in Colleen's thick, beautiful hair, and he was sobbing uncontrollably.
"The baby?" Sully asked, his voice breaking as a tear slipped down his cheek.
"The baby's fine," Michaela whispered, pulling herself toward the child. The baby had fallen asleep in its swaddling blankets. She slowly picked the child up and looked up at Sully with tears in her eyes. "It's a girl." She shakily started toward the door, and when she got into the hall, her kneels buckled. She held the baby close to her body, and felt Sully's strong arms break her fall. She began to sob, gently clutching the child to her chest. Sully sank to the floor with her, and he held her close, crying his own tears of grief over his daughter's death.
Brian and Matthew stood down the hall with their little sisters in their arms. Matthew had to stay strong for his younger siblings, but fear was deeply carved into his features, and now that he saw his parents sobbing in a pile on the floor, he knew the worst had happened. Colleen was dead.
"Matthew?" Brian whispered. Without a word, Matthew put his arm around his little brother and led him down the stairs.
"Sully," Michaela cried, holding her newborn granddaughter close. "This isn't happening. It can't be happening." Sully looked into his wife's eyes and shook his head.
"She started hemorrhaging so quickly, and once the baby came, I couldn't get it to stop." The newborn in her arms began to cry. "Sully, why? Why? Why?" She asked it over and over again until her words weren't distinguishable through her sobs and tears. Sully held her close, asking himself the same question. Why did a young woman with so much love for life and helping others have to die so young?