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.

Remember When

By, Ashley J.

Written on July 1, 2005

I remember when I first saw him. I was staring out of the stagecoach window and saw him standing in the center of town with a lone wolf at his heels. He was handsome, and I could see from such a distance that he had the most striking, beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen. His skin was tanned deeply from the Colorado sun, and his hair fell down in beautiful dark curls. I'd never seen a man with his hair uncut in such a way, and I had never seen a man dressed the way he was in his buckskins. He was beautiful.

He saw me too, and I'll never forget the way the sun sparkled in his eyes, or was that his instant recognition that I was staring at him as he was staring at me? Those sparkling blue orbs kept a steady gaze with mine, and I felt my heart flutter for the first time. The hair on the back of my neck stood up as my nerves caused goose bumps to form on my warm skin.

My cheeks flushed red as the stagecoach pulled to a halt. The sun was setting behind the mountains, and an amber haze clung to the billowing clouds. I watched as he walked toward me, and I felt my heart begin to race. I felt as if I was running, but I was standing still as the door opened, and an older gentleman reached for my hand. My eyes fixed on the young man at the back of the crowd as I made my way to step onto the Western soil for the first time.

I remember the way I began to fall, and the way he ran to catch me. His arms encircled my waist and pulled me up. I felt like I couldn't breathe. He was touching me for the first time, and I didn't even know his name. His blue oceans stared into mine, and I felt like I was being carried away. I remember how he let go of me with great hesitation, and I remember how his cheeks began to turn red above his Colorado tan. I remember that he was charming.

The first time he spoke to me, I'll never forget. His trusted Wolf was sniffing at the edges of my skirts, and I drew back.

"He won't hurt ya," he said softly. Music to my ears. His thick voice was kind and gentle, and as I looked up into his eyes, I knew he was smitten with me. I was afraid, but I trusted him. The first time I spoke to him, a softness came over his features, and I knew he wanted to hear more.

"Thank you, sir," I said softly, taking a long, slow breath and inhaling the sweet mountain air.

"Sully," he said quietly. His name? I didn't press him, because I knew it was true.

"Dr. Michaela Quinn," I said with a smile. This was the first time he made me smile. I remember when he first called me Dr. Mike.

"That's a mouthful," he said, helping me pull my belongings down from the stagecoach. "Mind if I call you Dr. Mike?" I would have said yes to just about anything he was willing to call me at that point.

"My father called me Mike," I said with a smile. "You may call me whatever you like." That was the first time I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed around him, but I made him smile; smile at me for the first time.

I remember when he reached for my suitcase, and I thought he was reaching for my hand. He took me to the boarding house and introduced me to the Widow Charlotte Cooper. I met her children, and I noticed how the youngest one jumped into Sully's arms. That was when I knew he was good with children. A ruggedly handsome man from the mountains who was good with children? I never would have known!

I remember settling into my surroundings and making new friends. Most of all, I remember Charlotte's death and my taking custody of the children. Matthew, Colleen and Brian were a part of my life permanently now, and most of all, Sully was still around.

He took us fishing once, and he tried to impress me by catching the largest fish. I tried to impress him by catching one even larger, but I ended up making a fool of myself and falling in the creek. That was the first time we laughed together, and I knew he wasn't laughing at me. We watched the sunset together that night as I dried off, wrapped under a warm blanket as I sat on the porch of the homestead; a homestead he had built for his late wife and rented to me for only a dollar a month.

When he first told me his real first name, I remember the look of embarrassment in his face, as if he was waiting for me to laugh. I smiled and told him that Byron was a lovely name, and I would respect his wishes and continue to call him Sully.

I remember the first time he stroked my cheek and wiped the tears away. Brian had grown ill, and he had been there through the fever and helped me nurse him back to health. I remember he told me it was going to be all right, and then he hugged me for the first time. I remember the scent of some unknown sweet cologne that he wore, and I remember him inhaling the scent of the soaps I used in my hair. He hugged me so close, and then we kissed. We kissed for the first time, and it was brand new. I felt his lips on mine, and I let him hold me. My lips moved against his, and our hearts beat together as if we were two pieces of a puzzle that were meant to be connected. That was the first time we realized we were in love.

I remember when he first told me he loved me. We were strolling back to town from the reservation where I had spent countless tiring hours trying to control a horrible epidemic. He had told me he was proud of me, and we shared another kiss. I had contracted the fever, but had survived the illness, and I knew he never wanted to lose me. He held me tight and whispered it in my ear. I had thought I was dreaming, but I told him my feelings too. We knew then that we were soul mates. He called me his heart song and we continued home.

For the first time, he told me about Abagail and Hanna, the wife and daughter he had lost to childbirth. I saw his tears for the first time, and he saw mine when I told him of David, the fiancé I lost to an influenza epidemic. We held one another and thought about the future. An uncertain future it was, but I knew Sully would be in it.

Our first dinner together as a courting couple was spent at my home with my children, and Colleen cooked. Of course, the children assumed we were to be married, but it didn't scare Sully when Brian outright asked him to propose. I, however, nearly choked, and he thoughtfully poured me a cup of tea so I could relax.

I remember the ring he gave me five months later when he asked for my hand in marriage. The diamond sparkled and glittered under the snowflakes that fell, and I said yes with absolutely no reservations. I kissed him and told him I would love him forever, and he spoke to me in Cheyenne; a prayer for our love and future. I listened, not knowing the words, but they didn't speak to my ears. They spoke to my heart, and somehow, I understood.

Never will I forget our first fight. I had never seen him so angry with me, nor had I ever seen myself so angry with him. He wanted me to change my name, and I wanted him to wear a ring, but we compromised, and neither had to be done. I would have proudly lived as Michaela Sully for the rest of my life, and I knew in my heart that was who I would be, but Michaela Quinn was the doctor's name, and a doctor was who I was. I needed to keep that part of me to truly be me.

I remember the first time he was hurt trying to protect me. A bounty hunter had come after our good friend Cloud Dancing, and when I got in the way I was nearly shot. Sully stepped in and took the bullet for me. The bounty hunter took off, and I worked to save his life. I had never been more scared in my entire life, and when I heard his breath return to his lungs, I screamed out for him, begging him to keep fighting. He never slipped away from me after that, and I nursed him back to health feeling lucky to be alive and thankful to Sully.

The first time I cooked for him, I prayed that he wouldn't call off the wedding on account of my horrid cooking skills. He ate down every hard as a stone biscuit and every burnt piece of roast beef, and I taught him to dance under the pale moonlight. I had never felt more in love in my life, and when he took my hand and led me off into the night, I felt safe, because I was with him. He took me to a beautiful two-story home and told me it was ours. I looked at him with shock in my eyes, and he told me he created it for our family. Family was what I wanted more than anything, and now I knew how Sully felt.

I was as nervous as ever on my wedding day, and my family came to support me on my special day. I remember the look on Sully's face as I walked down the aisle, and I blushed as everyone stood and turned to stare at me. I had never felt so beautiful; so loved. My eyes never left his.

The first and last time he slipped the ring onto my finger caused the tears to fall, and when he lifted my veil, for the first time, his fingers delicately ran through my long hair that was let down in a natural, beautiful way. He kissed me as my husband for the first time, and all was lost except the two of us.

We honeymooned in our brand new house, while the children stayed at the old homestead. Matthew was old enough to watch over the family, and I was grateful to have the privacy that Sully and I had both anticipated. I remember feeling so free as we made love together for the first time. My experienced husband was gentle and patient with me as we explored one another and physically expressed our love for the first time. I'll never forget how good he was to me, and how he held me close at night and promised we would be together for eternity.

We were blessed with a child not long after the wedding, and when I found out I was with child, I rushed home as soon as I could to tell my husband our news. He had been caught of guard, but by the time we told the children, we were both so happy that we were able to sit back and watch their reactions as we told them the news.

I remember when I gave birth to our first child. Sully cared for me when we were stranded in the wilderness after a run in with a few corrupt soldiers. Josef Byron Sully was born into the world by his father's hands and my physical triumph, and I had never felt so strong. When I held that boy in my arms for the first time, I saw his father in his eyes and his grandfather in his smile.

I remember when Josef started walking before he turned one and nearly drowned in the pond. I blamed myself, but Sully held me close and assured me that what had happened happened, and we should just feel lucky that our boy was alive. I never quite forgave myself, but I learned to accept that our boy survived and my turning my back for only two moments hadn't cost his life, but he still had a little time left.

I remember when we grieved together over the passing of our dear sweet Josef. He died in his sleep of seemingly natural causes right before his second birthday. I had never felt such pain, and I sunk into the darkest, saddest part of myself, and I thank God everyday that Sully never gave up on me. He held my hand day and night and yelled with me when the emotional hurt transformed into physical pain. It truly hurt to grieve, and when I fell ill, Sully was there by my side, holding me and treating me as I had done for him many times before.

Before I was able to cope with Josef's death, I knew I was pregnant again. The moment I found out, I pulled myself up and told myself that Josef would want me to be strong for his younger sibling. With Sully's hand in mine, I found my way back to my family and was able to enjoy my pregnancy, though fear still lingered. What if it happened to this child too?
When Katherine Elizabeth Sully was born into this world, she looked just like me and was just as stubborn. She was the apple of her papa's eye, and I knew she was a miracle sent to us amidst the worst pain we had ever suffered.

I remember when Sully danced with me on the night of our daughter's birth, and I told him that I was scared. I told him I didn't want to lose our daughter, and he swore to me that our Katie would be safe and loved, and that our Josef was watching over her with his namesake, my father, in Heaven.

I remember when Colleen married and went off to medical school. It was the proudest day of my life, but it saddened me that my oldest children were growing and would be scattered to all parts of the country in no time. But, Sully was there with me, telling me that I was strong, and I believed him, and I was. I felt like I could do anything, and some part of me knew I could.

When Katie turned five, we took our first trip to Boston as a family. Sully felt like he didn't belong, and my extended family didn't do much to make him feel welcome. My mother and sisters were kind, however, and they spoiled Katie to no end. With Matthew off at law school and Brian just beginning to study in Boston, we were able to hold onto as much family as we could until it was time to go home.

I remember when I felt as if my world had fallen apart. Sully was falsely arrested for treason, which he hadn't committed, and sentenced to life in prison. He was gone for a year and missed our baby Samuel's birth. I was desperate to have him home, and I realized that I hadn't been strong on my own in such a long time. I pulled myself up again and cared for my family. Katie was getting old enough to watch her young brother for short periods of time, and I was working overtime at the clinic and overtime trying to get my husband home to me. It wasn't until Samuel was two, and Sully's beloved Wolf had passed on, that proof of Sully's innocence was found, and Sully was released from prison and reunited with his family. I had thought that he would be a changed man after over two years in prison, but he wasn't. He was the man I loved more than life itself, and we made up for lost time that night and into the wee hours of the morning.

I remember holding him through his nightmares as his prison days came back to him through his subconscious. I held him every night until after many months, his nightmares were replaced by dreams of hope and family. Soon, our nights were normal, and we were able to talk more freely about Sully's time in prison. He hadn't changed, though. He was still the man I fell in love with all of those years ago.

I remember when Matthew married his longtime girlfriend Ingrid, and Brian married his childhood sweetheart, Sarah. I remember when our first grandchild was born, a boy born to Colleen and Andrew.

I'll never forget when I became emotional over my first gray hair and my first wrinkle, and Sully hugged me and told me I was more beautiful than the day we first met. I had to face that I was growing older, but I didn't feel old. Not with Sully by my side.

The day Katie married, I thought I was losing my little girl forever. I believe our Josef was with us that day, walking at his sister's side, giving her away along with her father. Katie's hair, hair of my own color, was done up in ringlets, and she wore the dress I wore on the happiest day of my life. She hugged me close that day and told me she loved me, and that even though she was moving away to New York with her new husband, she would always come to the place she would always call home. She would tell my grandchildren how proud she was to have a doctor as a mother, and how their grandmother inspired her to do great things with her life. Yes, my sweet young Katie was going to medical school as well, and she was going to bring the practice of using Cheyenne medicine with her. She was determined, and her stubbornness was still there. I knew she was going to be an amazing woman and an amazing doctor. Sully said she reminds him of me.

We have our children and more family through their spouses, but from the moment we first saw one another, we've had each other. Life hasn't always taken the turns I've wanted it to, but I wouldn't change it. The two years I spent with my wonderful young Josef so many years ago were years that I would never forget. He was gone, and how I wish we would have had more time together, but it wasn't meant to be. Our boy is watching over us, and as I finish my lifelong story, I know we'll be together again. Until then, his father still holds me close, and we protect one another, fighting for the life we deserve to have, and preserving the peace and happiness that we want to pass on to our grandchildren. We've lost so much, and there is so little time, but we make the most of what we have and are thankful for all we have been blessed with, and that is something we know we've instilled in every one of our children and they in theirs.

Though over two decades have gone by, I will forever remember when we first danced and kissed. I'll never forget the way he held me when he told me he loved me for the first time. I'll never forget how wonderful he was with the children, but the one thing I'll remember most of all is what started it all. I'll always remember when I first saw him and his sparkling blue eyes that still hold that sparkle every day when we stare into each other's eyes and remember the day that changed the paths of our lives forever . . . the day when we first met.

The End