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.

Already There

By, Ashley J.

Written June 19, 2005

"I'm pregnant," Michaela whispered as Sully held her so close in front of the fireplace. Any other day, Sully would have grinned from ear to ear gleefully and proudly, but tonight, he didn't smile or jump with pride. He began to weep into his wife's shoulders, and she melted against his body, half holding him up and half keeping herself from falling to her knees.

She hadn't wanted to tell him today, but she had just found out, and she knew he needed to know before he went away. He was leaving in the morning after being enlisted into the army. He hadn't wanted to go, but his Cheyenne friend Cloud Dancing had been visited by the spirits, and after months of deliberation, Sully finally decided that if he could fight for his country, it would be a way of fighting for his Cheyenne family and his family in the home he built for them. Though the army wasn't looking to help the Indians, Sully hoped that he could quickly gain enough power to make them see things differently. Perhaps he could convince Washington to truly see what the Cheyenne were going through. But now he only felt guilty. He wanted to stay and fight with his friends and not with men who despised the so-called "red rebel."

"I don't have to go," he said quietly; almost desperately. "I can stay here and strike a deal with the army."

"No," Michaela whispered softly, stroking the tears from his cheek. "You have to go, Sully. You'll be arrested if you don't."

"I might never see you again," he whispered. He couldn't bear the thought of that.

"If you're arrested, they'll never let you see me again," she explained. "Sully, I wish you didn't have to go. I wish it was any other man but you, but it is you, and you're an honorable man."

"But with a baby on the way . . ."

"The baby will be here in eight or nine months, Sully. I'm sure you'll be back by then." She didn't believe her own words, but she needed to fill Sully with some kind of hope. God, she feared the worst. What if he was killed? The strongest man could die out on a battlefield, and she had been haunted by her nightmares for the past several weeks. She'd confided in her husband after every one of them, but she knew that there really was nothing he could do to get out of going.

"But ya can't stay here all by yourself with the kids and a baby on the way."

"I won't be alone, sweetheart," she whispered. "Olive and Emily won't let me out of their sights once they find out." That settled Sully's jumpy stomach a little bit. "Sully, please, trust me. I'll be fine."

She dried his tears away, and slowly, their bodies began to sway together to the sound of the crackling, sparking flames in the hearth. They held one another close that night, and after giving themselves to one another with more passion than before, they rested together, listening to one another breathe. Sully couldn't help but think that this might be the last night he ever got to hold his wife close and smell the sweet scent of her perfume.

Long after Michaela fell asleep, Sully heard stirring from the other room. He couldn't leave without seeing his children and holding them close again. He needed to remember every moment.

He slipped out of bed and put on his buckskins for the last time in a long time. In the morning, he would be sporting an official soldier's uniform and marching out of town to the cheers of the folks in Colorado Springs. He hated himself for leaving. He wanted Cloud Dancing to hate him too for joining the army, but Cloud Dancing was convinced that his friend's going was for the greater good and somehow, Sully's fighting side-by-side with the army would help the Cheyenne nation. At least that's what the spirits told him.

Sully knew the truth now as he slipped into the bedroom down the hall. Normally, the children slept in their separate rooms, but this was the last night Papa was going to be home, and they were scared to be alone. They were scared to be away from one another. Sully was surprised they hadn't all climbed into bed with him and Michaela.

The oldest, seven-year-old Matthew was sleeping in the middle while five-year-old Colleen snuggled against him. Against his other side was three-year-old Brian. One-year-old Katie slept soundly in her crib, and Sully sat down in the chair next to it. He could hear nothing but the sounds of the soft breathing that came from his children's lungs. He couldn't believe he had created those amazing little creatures with Michaela, though he had expected them to be so beautiful coming from a woman as gorgeous as his wife.

When the morning came, the children all stood on the porch, and Matthew was holding Katie's hand, helping her toddle. They watched as their father stood in his magnificent uniform, and Colleen looked up at him as if he were a prince. She had tears in her eyes as she blinked into the sun. Matthew swallowed hard, knowing he was going to be the man of the house until his father returned, whenever that would be.

Michaela choked back a sob as Sully held his cap under one arm. Her hands were embedded in his long locks. She knew that when he arrived at the fort, they would cut his beautiful hair. She knew that having long hair meant something special to him. Perhaps that was just the way he liked it, but that was part of who he was. She couldn't stand the thought of her husband changing for the sake of the government. She knew it was killing him, and regret was filling his entire being. But there was no turning back now. This was really happening.

Sully pulled himself away from his wife and knelt down on the porch in front of the children. All of them ran into his arms, and Colleen attached herself to his arm.

"Don't go, Papa! Please don't go!" Sully choked back the tears, and Matthew was certain this would be the first time he would see his father cry. Sully had always shown his emotion, but tears didn't come often, and when they did, it was behind the closed doors when a new baby was born into the family.

"Aww, Colleen," Sully whispered, kissing her forehead. "I'll be back before ya know it."

"How long will you be gone?" Matthew asked, standing tall and proud for his father.

"I don't know, son," Sully said, placing his hand on the back of his son's head and smoothing his hair back. "But I want you all to remember somethin'." He sat down on the step and pulled Katie into his lap. The children sat down, and Michaela looked on with sad tears in her eyes. "You'll always be right here," he whispered, patting his chest above his heart. "Always and forever. All four of ya and your Ma."

"And the new baby," Brian reminded him. Sully chuckled. The children learned of their new sibling earlier that morning.

"All five of ya and your Ma," he corrected himself. "Wherever I go, all of ya will be with me. I'll always be thinkin' of ya."

"Why are ya fightin' with the army?" Matthew asked for the hundredth time in the past few months. "The army hates the Cheyenne." Sully sighed.

"Son, I don't wanna do this," he explained. "But, I enlisted up after lots of talkin' with your ma and Cloud Dancin'. I regretted signin' up, but Cloud Dancin' thinks this will work out best for the Cheyenne with a friend on the enemy's side."

"It doesn't make sense," Matthew replied.

"I know," Sully said quietly. "But, someday it might makes sense to all of us."

"Or maybe you'll just die and it'll be for nothin', and the army will come back and kill all the Indians." Matthew turned to run away, but he felt his father's hand grasp his. He turned around slowly and saw the tears in his father's eyes. He knew he couldn't turn away from his father when this might be the last time he'd ever see him. He had to remember this moment for the little ones. He had to tell them how brave their father was and how honorable. He was doing something he didn't want to do with the hopes of turning things around and providing a better life for those he loved.

Without saying another word, Matthew jumped into his father's arms like Brian often did. He hugged him and cried so hard that he didn't think the tears would ever stop. But it was okay, because Papa was crying too.

Michaela was sobbing by the time Sully turned back to her. She wanted to stay strong for him, but it was impossible to stay strong when the love of her life was leaving.

"I'll come back, Michaela. Somehow, I'm gonna get back to our family." Michaela only nodded and rested her forehead against his as he held her close. "We'll be together again." He kissed her lips gently, and a moment later, he was mounting his horse and riding out away from the homestead. The children, except for Katie, ran after the horse as fast as their little legs could take them. Michaela held Katie in her arms and sobbed so hard as she watched each of her children tire, tumble in the dust, and cry in their father's absence.

He called her on the road

From a lonely cold hotel room

Just to hear her say I love you one more time

And when he heard the sound

Of the kids laughing in the background

He had to wipe away a tear from his eye

A little voice came on the phone

And said "Daddy when you coming home"

He said the first thing that came to his mind

Six months came and went, and Michaela had received many letters from her husband. Each of them had told her that he loved her and that he loved the children. He always sent letters for the children, but lately, the letters had been growing fewer in numbers. It was painful to think that her husband was being put through this awful war, and each letter grew more depressing, though he tried to sound hopeful. She knew now that Sully had lost all hope of his endeavors benefiting the Cheyenne. He had been woken painfully in the night by two soldiers who beat his weary body to a pulp because of his sympathy toward the Cheyenne. Things were looking grim.

"Read it again, Mama," Brian said as he climbed into her lap. Her belly was heavy and bulging large, and though she was uncomfortable, she couldn't help but smile as she read the words her husband had written to his children. Colleen, Matthew and Katie watched on. Young Katie had grown a few inches taller, and her blonde hair was beginning to grow a faint tan tinge.

"Dear children,

I hope you know how much I love you all. I ain't so good with words, but just know that I keep your pictures in my pocket and look at them every night before I go to sleep. I hear you're all growing like weeds, so don't grow too much or I might not recognize you when I get home! Take care of your mother and make sure she rests. Matthew, you're the man of the house, so you make sure she leaves the clinic early every day. I love you all. Pa."

After reading the letter three more times, the children finally dozed off to sleep. Michaela let them sleep on the floor with Wolf, who had become a pillow for Matthew. She picked up Katie and carried her up the stairs to her bed.

"Sleep tight, sweet girl," Michaela whispered as she tucked the baby into bed with her. Katie had grown accustomed to sleeping beside her mother, and Michaela often woke to Katie's little hands resting on her belly to feel the baby kicking.

Michaela had rested plenty lately, but sleep was something she hadn't been getting much of. She lived in fear of getting a telegram from the army telling her that her husband had been captured or killed. She was dreading the day any bad news came and prayed to God every night for her husband's safe return. With the little one due at the end of the season, she was wishing harder and harder that Sully would walk through that bedroom door and be home permanently.

She pulled a letter out of the side table and began to read the words over and over again. It had been the first letter he had sent her, and she could practically see the look on his face as he was writing it. Fear and concern hidden behind bravery and honor. She knew he was as frightened as a kitten on the inside, but he was strong. He was going to find his way home to her.

I'm already there

Take a look around

I'm the sunshine in your hair

I'm the shadow on the ground

I'm the whisper in the wind

I'm your imaginary friend

And I know I'm in your prayers

Oh I'm already there

Katie had just turned two, and with the birth of Alexander and Elise Sully, things were hectic. Katie was running around and getting into mischief with Brian, so with Matthew and Colleen around, Michaela had a little help, but not much.

Miss Olive and Emily stopped by as often as they could, but they were busy with the general store and the dress making respectively. So, Michaela had cut back her hours at the clinic severely, but luckily the citizens of Colorado Springs were in good health, and Michaela was available to come to town on emergency calls if someone was there to stay with the children.

On this day, Michaela was resting at the desk in the clinic. The newborns were sleeping in a bassinet nearby, and Colleen and Matthew were off at school. Brian was running around with Katie, but Michaela was keeping an eye on them.

"Careful with her, Brian," Michaela reminded her son. "She's two years younger than you, so she can't play as roughly."

"Sorry, Mama," Brian said, sticking his finger up his nose. Michaela couldn't help but smile at her boy. Despite the finger sticking up his nose, Brian was the spitting image of his father. He had the same eyes and the same chin. He was a miniature Sully. His little legs were even a bowed a bit like his father's. Oh yes, Brian Sully was going to be just like his papa.

"Dr. Mike?" came a voice from outside. Horace walked in with a piece of paper in his hands. Michaela felt as if her heart had stopped beating. This wasn't a letter from Sully. She hadn't received one in months, but she hadn't received word from the army about his capture or, God forbid, his death. The letters she'd written to him had been returned unopened by the army. Sully hadn't received notice of the twins' birth. He didn't know anything that was going on at home. God, it was all a mess. It was chaos.

"This came for ya." Horace swallowed hard, placed the telegram face down on her desk and walked out. Michaela stared down at the back of the piece of paper for the longest time, fearing the worst. Brian came rushing over with Katie's hand in his.

"What is it, Mama?"

"Sweetheart, go play with your sister," Michaela instructed him. Brian sighed and took Katie into the other room. Michaela let her tears drip and dampen the back of the paper. "Please, God. Please let him be alive." She turned over the paper and began to read. It said that Lieutenant Sully had been wounded. That was it. What was this all about, and when did he become a lieutenant! Michaela felt her breath catch. It didn't say when he was injured or where. It didn't even say how serious his condition was! God, all she wanted to do was help him. She wanted to go to him and tell him that everything was okay.

She stood, wanting to keep herself busy, but images of Sully lying injured in a hospital haunted her mind. She ended up sitting on the floor with her sobbing face in her hands. She needed her husband now, but she wasn't sure she'd ever feel him in her arms again.

She got back on the phone

Said I really miss you darling

Don't worry about the kids they'll be alright

Wish I was in your arms

Lying right there beside you

But I know that I'll be in your dreams tonight

And I'll gently kiss your lips

Touch you with my fingertips

So turn out the light and close your eyes

Three long months had passed, and the twins were growing stronger and bigger by the day. Sully had managed to get word to Michaela that he was alright, but he was being moved to another facility for treatment. He hadn't managed to write out the rest of his letter, and Michaela assumed that he'd gone unconscious before he'd finished it, because the last words were the start of an I Love You, but the sentence were never finished.

Matthew and Colleen helped their mother tremendously when they weren't at school, and the townsfolk had hired a doctor from Denver to come until Michaela was strong enough to be back at work. She was crying herself to sleep at night and barely eating, which was not good for the twins. But, she was eating just enough to keep herself available to the twins for nursing, though the ladies in town were seriously contemplating getting a wet nurse to help out.

Michaela swallowed down the last bit of tea in her cup and stared down at the pile of letters in her lap. She missed her husband terribly. He had been gone a year, and all of the children were growing so much. She worried that they wouldn't remember him, though she told them stories of him every night before bed.

"Sully, come home soon. We need you. I need you."

I'm already there

Don't make a sound

I'm the beat in your heart

I'm the moonlight shining down

I'm the whisper in the wind

And I'll be there until the end

Can you feel the love that we share

Oh I'm already there

We may be a thousand miles apart

But I'll be with you wherever you are

"Happy birthday, little ones," Michaela whispered as she tucked her little ones into bed on their first birthday. She walked into Matthew and Brian's room. The nine-year-old was reading his homework, and five-year-old Brian was learning his ABC's. "Time for bed."

"Just a few more minutes, Ma?" Matthew pleaded.

"Please, Ma?" Brian begged. Michaela grinned.

"Well, as long as you turn your lamps out in five minutes, you can read a little longer."

"Hooray!" Brian said as quietly as a five-year-old could. Michaela blew them kisses goodnight and shut the door. She checked on the girls. Three-year-old Katie was snuggled up against her seven-year-old sister. She didn't want to disturb them, so she closed the door and padded down the hall toward the bedroom. Once she was inside, she checked on the twins again and slipped under her covers. She closed her eyes and listened to the rain as it made pitter patter noises on the roof above. She shivered as a draft blew into the room, and she pulled the covers closer around her body, wishing she was in the arms of her husband.

She closed her eyes and her dreams carried her away.

She walked out onto the porch to see her husband standing in the rain. His clothes were torn and his head was bandaged, but he was her husband. His hair had grown back, and he was as handsome as she'd remembered him and maybe more.

"Sully!" she cried out, reaching out to him.

"I'm here," he whispered. His words sent chills up and down her spine. "I'll always be here. Never forget me." He disappeared into thin air.

Michaela woke in a cold sweat. It was morning, and the children were already up and running about downstairs. The twins were sleeping peacefully like little angels.

"Ma!" came Matthew's voice downstairs. Michaela felt her heart skip a beat at the sound of her son's voice. It was filled with excitement, and that was something she hadn't heard in a long time.

She quickly pulled her robe around her body, tied it and rushed down the stairs.

"Somebody's comin'!" Matthew yelped as he ran to the door from looking out the kitchen window. Michaela made it to the door first and rushed out onto the porch. She saw a horse coming up the dirt road slowly but surely. She saw a man sitting tiredly atop it. His hair was shoulder length, and his horse was carrying a large pack.

"Oh my God!" she cried, tears immediately springing to her eyes. She'd had faith all along, and that had brought her husband home. "Sully!" She began to sob as she ran barefoot down the lane. Matthew, Colleen, Brian, and Katie rushed after Michaela, but they weren't as fast.

The man on the horse slowly jumped down and began to limp slightly toward Michaela. She noticed this limp, but all worries were lost when they were holding one another.

"Sully! It's really you!" she cried, pulling back, cupping his cheeks in her hands and staring in his eyes. He had scars on his face, slight ones, but they were there.

"God, I was startin' to think I'd never see your face again," he said softly. His dirt-darkened hands cupped her lily-white face, and he drank in her beauty. "I've missed ya so much. I'm sorry I couldn't get your letters. Things were so busy that most mail was lost."

"It's alright. It doesn't matter. You're home."

"Yeah. They discharged me after I got outta the hospital and couldn't fight. Took forever to get out, but they let me go. I woulda written, but I didn't think. I just needed to see ya. I needed to see the kids." Sully was crying now, and he and Michaela clutched one another.

"You're home now. You're home." She still couldn't believe it!

"Pa! Pa!" the children finally caught up to their parents. Sully and Michaela pulled apart, and Sully looked down at the miracles he had created with his wife. He had seen so much death in the past year that seeing his children being normal, happy children was a breath of very fresh air. "You're back!"

"I'm back," he uttered, amazed at how much the children had grown. Matthew had grown at least a foot taller. The boy clung to him, hugging him around the middle.

"Careful, sweetheart," Michaela reminded her son. She noticed that Sully's pant leg was patched, most likely done by the nurses after he was wounded.

"He's fine," Sully said. He lifted Colleen into his arms. She was crying tears of joy as she wrapped her arms around her father's neck.

"I knew you'd come back. I knew it!" She kissed her father's cheek.

"Oh, sweet girl, I've missed ya," he said softly, holding her tight. Brian, barely remembering his father, tugged on Sully's pant leg as Michaela lifted Katie into her arms.

"Brian, you've gotten so big."

"I'm a big boy now," he said to his father. Sully chuckled and knelt down to pull his son into a hug. Katie began to fuss. Sully looked up at his angel baby.

"Kates," he whispered. Michaela kissed Katie's cheek.

"You remember, Papa, sweetheart?" she asked. Katie looked from her mother to her father. This was the man who'd been missing from the family for so long.

"Pa," she attempted. It sounded right! "Papa?"

"That's right," he said with a nod. She looked skeptically at him for a moment before holding her hands out to him. Michaela stood back and watched as her children and husband reunited, and a moment later, Sully was pulling her in. They stood together for the longest time, crying and laughing and talking about nothing and everything at the same time.

It wasn't long until a wail came from the homestead, and Sully looked up. Michaela took his hand and squeezed it.

"Come along. There are two little ones who are very anxious to meet their father." Sully looked at her with wide eyes.

"Two?"

"You've missed a lot, Sully. It's going to take some time to adjust to, but I'll help you." Sully gave his wife an appreciative smile, and soon, the family was retiring to the homestead to catch up on the precious time they had missed.

I'm already there

Take a look around

I'm the sunshine in your hair

I'm the shadow on the ground

I'm the whisper in the wind

And I'll be there until the end

Can you feel the love that we share?

Oh I'm already there

Oh I'm already there

Song Credit: I'm Already There by, Lonestar