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.
Author's Note: I'm using my creative license to make up a specific herb in this story. I've never heard of it, and if it does exist, probably not for the specific purpose I've assigned to it.
Holding on to April
By, Ashley J.
Written July 4, 5 and 6, 2005
"I can't believe it," she whispered to herself as she stared at her form in the full-length mirror. She furrowed her eyebrows and placed her hand on the small bump just below her belt. She shook her head. "I can't be!" She looked again, knowing she was thickening around the middle just a little. But, didn't that sometimes happen as one got older? "This is nonsense!" She breathed heavily and shook her head. She unfastened her belt and let her skirt drop to the floor. She pulled up her camisole enough to reveal the flesh of her belly. Well, she had been under a lot of stress lately, and watching her figure hadn't been a priority on her mind. But, she had never struggled with her weight, and she had been under stress before. But then again, never in her life had her husband been hiding from the army on the charge of treason. Plus, she hadn't had her monthly, but she hadn't come to rely on that in several years.
She closed her eyes, trying to lie to herself. When she opened her eyes, this so-called "bump" would go away, and this would all be a dream. She held her eyes closed tightly, but she couldn't wish it away. Even though these were terrible circumstances, what with Sully away, she couldn't help but yearn for another child to fill the house with cries and laughter. When she opened her eyes, her belly still stuck out just the tiniest bit. Yes, this was happening. She only needed to confirm it.
She swallowed the lump that was forming in her throat. God, what was she going to do? She had a baby who was just over a year old, her husband was hiding from the army, and she was pregnant again. She knew she was supposed to avoid stress, but she was smack dab in the middle of a stressful situation! There was no way to avoid it!
Katie began to whimper from her crib, and Michaela walked over to pick her up.
"Hello there, my sweet girl," she whispered, kissing the side of her daughter's head. "Did you have a good nap? I know Mama will need lots of naps soon." She couldn't say it just yet. She needed to confirm it. She swallowed hard and placed Katie upon a blanket on the floor to play. She handed her the toy rabbit she loved dearly and moved toward the bed. She pulled her shirt and undergarments off and slipped into a gown and robe. She wrapped her arms around herself and closed her eyes as she started taking the pins out of her hair.
Once she was comfortable, she picked Katie up and put her back down in her bed. Michaela wanted to sleep, but she knew her thoughts would keep her from doing so. So, she padded down the hall on her bare feet and started down the stairs, holding onto the railing, minding her balance now more than ever. She made her way over to strike a match and light a lamp, and she poured herself a glass of milk, spat it out and reminded herself that the cow needed to be milked in the morning.
She felt her stomach growing queasy, and she closed her eyes, waiting for the feeling to pass. She only wished that Sully were here so she could talk to him and let him know what was going on. She didn't know for certain yet, but she was almost sure enough to be able to tell him she was expecting.
As if her mind had been read, she heard the doorknob rattle in the back, and she heard Sully's moccasin-covered feet moving along the hardwood floor.
"Sully?" she asked softly. He wasn't supposed to return from talking with Black Moon for another week at least. Sully stepped into the light of the room.
"You're up late. I was gonna sneak upstairs and surprise ya." Michaela smiled at the thought and stood, feeling her head swimming. Should she tell him? No, not yet. She needed to find out what news he had to bring. He obviously had news, because he was home early.
"You're home early," she reminded him, bringing her arms around his broad shoulders. He encircled his arms around her waist and pulled her close. Michaela wondered if he would be able to feel a change in the way she felt when he held her. But, he didn't seem to notice. "You have news." She knew. It wasn't a matter of a question. They pulled from each other's arms, and she saw a smile appear on his face.
"Major Morrison is in Denver, and Black Moon's gonna agree to turn himself in for the sake of his people's safe passage into the northern territory. I'm gonna turn myself in too."
"Sully, no!" Michaela exclaimed, her heart beating frantically.
"Ya don't understand, Michaela," he whispered. "I got in touch with Welland Smith. Ya remember him, right?" Michaela nodded hopefully. "He's got some kind of pull, and he's gonna talk to the Major on my behalf and see if he can get me and Cloud Dancin' pardoned. Michaela, this time tomorrow, Cloud Dancin' could be livin' freely, and I could be comin' home." It was then that she wanted to tell him exactly what he was coming home to, but she didn't want to get his hopes up, especially if she wasn't truly pregnant, and if Major Morrison didn't agree to the treaty with Black Moon. So, she held her tongue and merely wrapped her arms around her husband and held him close, burying her face in his neck. She inhaled his scent, missing him with all of her heart. She wiped a tear from her eye and clutched him with even more need in her embrace. "I gotta be in Denver by noon tomorrow. Probably ought to start out by sun up." Michaela nodded and stood on her tiptoes to kiss his lips.
"But, you're here now," she whispered. Her eyes spoke directly to his soul before she whispered, "Please hold me." Sully stared into his wife's eyes and saw the desire, love and need burning there for him and him alone. Their lips met again in a feverish kiss, and soon, he was scooping her up into his arms and carrying her away to the privacy of their room. Sully only hoped that the next night he spent there would be as a free man.
In the morning, Michaela woke alone as she had on many mornings after Sully had snuck out. She sadly wished he had woken her, but she also knew he wouldn't loved to watch her sleep and wouldn't have dared to wake her. She remembered waking many nights on their honeymoon and catching him staring at her as she slept. She loved the way he watched her, and she felt safe and happy with him.
Her heart was light this morning, which was more than she could say for her stomach. She felt ill, and she knew she was having morning sickness. She moved over to the water basin and poured some cold water into it and directly splashed it onto her face. She heard Katie stirring in her crib, and she moved over to peer down at her little one. Katie was starting to wake, but it was a long process, so Michaela knew that it would be about breakfast time before Katie woke.
She pulled on a clean dress and fixed her hair. She felt that the dress was a little more snug that usual, and she knew she would have to go to Andrew today before anyone in town grew suspicious and started whispering before Michaela could tell Sully.
Matthew and Brian were already doing chores outside, and when she looked out toward the barn, she could see that Brian was milking the cow. She was thankful for that, so she went around collecting what she needed for breakfast. But, as soon as the eggs hit the frying pan, the smell hit her hard, and she rushed to empty the contents of her stomach into the inside toilet.
She was still feeling ill when the boys returned inside to find the eggs burning in the pan. Matthew went to take them off of the fire, and Brian knocked on the door to hear a groan of response from Michaela.
"Ma? Are you alright?"
"I'm fine, Brian. Would you go wake your sister and bring her down for me?"
"Sure, Ma," Brian replied. He did as he was told, and Michaela appeared into the kitchen to find Matthew starting a new batch of eggs.
"You alright, Dr. Mike?"
"I'm fine. I'm just not feeling myself this morning." Her face was pale, and her eyes were glistening with tears.
"You feelin' like goin' in to the clinic today?"
"Yes, of course." She sat down at the table. "Black Moon is turning himself in to the army today."
"What? How do you know?" Matthew asked quickly. Michaela gave him a look.
"Sully came to me last night." She blushed a little, thinking of the glorious few hours they had had alone together. "He's turning himself in."
"What!" Matthew hurried over to his mother's side. "Is he crazy?"
"Apparently Welland Smith may be able to get him pardoned. Sully didn't go into detail, but he sounded rather confident." Michaela swallowed hard and put her hand over her stomach as another wave of nausea hit her.
"I'm worried about ya, Ma. Maybe I should get Andrew."
"No, no," she said softly. "But, I think I actually will stay home today. Would you mind taking Brian to school and taking Katie with you?"
"Sure thing." Brian started down the stairs with Katie, and he put her in her high chair. Breakfast was ate in silence as Michaela tried not to smell the aroma of the cooked eggs. She knew she was going to be sick again, but she held her own and waited out the miserable nausea.
As soon as the children left, Michaela pulled on her shawl and started walking. She didn't feel like riding to the chateau, because all of that jostling would make her feel worse. So, she set out for the walk, and she thought about this possible pregnancy as she went along. She thought about what the child would look like and what Sully's reaction would be when he found out. There was no doubt in her mind that she wasn't pregnant, but it was her heart that was telling her not to get too attached to the idea yet. She knew she wanted this baby, but this was happening at such an awkward time. She hoped to God that Major Morrison agreed to the treaty and that Sully would be coming home tonight.
The chateau was just starting to come into view, and Michaela was feeling a little better. The nausea had passed, and she felt happy. She felt guilty for feeling so happy on a day that was so uncertain for Sully, but she couldn't help it. The idea of a new baby filled her heart with so much hope, and she felt that anything was possible, including her husband's free return to the homestead and the dismissal of the soldiers standing guard outside.
Michaela looked up just in time to see two hawks soaring beneath the clouds together. She smiled, thinking of Sully and their romantic adventure in the woods last year. It seemed ironic that the man who had angered Michaela, because he had wanted Sully to move to Wyoming to work for him might just be saving his life at this moment. She swallowed hard and absent-mindedly put her hand on her stomach as she stepped onto the porch of the chateau.
"Ah, Michaela!" Preston greeted her as usual. Michaela felt her stomach churning again. She swallowed hard and smiled.
"Good morning, Mr. Lodge. Is Andrew in?"
"Yes. Dr. Cook was just about to join me for breakfast at Grace's Café." Michaela looked toward Andrew's office.
"Would you mind if I kept him for a few minutes? I need to consult with him." Preston looked irritated that this woman was interfering with his breakfast schedule, but he knew she wouldn't take no for an answer. So, he walked away, and she started toward Andrew's clinic. She felt the perspiration beading at her brow as she knocked on the door. Her knuckles felt weak against the wood, and when she heard Andrew's voice calling her in, she wanted to run away and forget about it. But, she couldn't. She had to confirm what she already knew.
"Michaela? Good morning!"
"Good morning, Andrew."
"Is everything alright?"
"Yes. Yes, everything's fine. I came to ask for your . . . your opinion."
"My opinion? On what?" he wondered. Michaela swallowed hard.
"I need to confirm a pregnancy." She looked up at him, and he looked a bit confused.
"Haven't you confirmed hundreds of those?" She sighed heavily.
"Of course I have! I meant my own."
"Oh," Andrew said quickly, suddenly feeling nervous that he would have to examine his colleague. Of course he had been there to deliver Katie, but he hadn't gotten the chance, and since then, they had become very good friends and worked together quite frequently. He knew he had to be professional, but he felt nervous at the same time, because this was Dr. Michaela Quinn he was about to take into his care. "Alright. Well, you, um, you know what to do." Michaela couldn't help but blush at Andrew's sudden shyness.
The examination went rather quickly, and Michaela knew he had found the answer in almost record time. As Michaela was adjusting her clothing behind a curtain, Andrew was cleaning his hands and writing something onto a chart. Michaela knew the answer before Andrew even told her, and she knew that the he was about to give her the news.
As she stepped into view, she saw Andrew smile and look at his chart.
"Your suspicions were correct, Michaela. Congratulations! You're pregnant." Michaela smiled, feeling the hope burst through her heart and rage throughout her entire body. "But, I must warn you." Michaela hated the sound of that. She swallowed hard, nodded and listened. "I'm sure you know the risks." Michaela nodded. "You're very fortunate to be having a baby, being a woman of your age. This will be your second child in your later childbearing years. I know you struggled for a time during your pregnancy with Katie, so I must caution you to take it easy. Perhaps you should end work at two instead of three. You should take extra precaution if you begin to feel tired or overworked." Michaela felt that hope starting to fade a little. She knew that it was a theory that stress could provoke a miscarriage, and she had certainly been under a lot of stress lately.
"Thank you, Andrew."
"Michaela, as a doctor yourself, you know I'm not just saying this as a preliminary warning for expectant mothers. I know you're under a lot of stress with Sully's absence and the army patrolling around outside of your homestead. The best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to get plenty of rest and nourish yourself."
"Yes, I know," Michaela said with a weak smile.
"You seem to be in your third month," Andrew noted. "You should be having an April baby." Michaela smiled a little more at the thought of her Spring baby. She left the chateau clinic with worry on her mind. She was happy to be pregnant but worried at the same time. It was true, she was older than most women who had babies. She was almost forty, and she would be the mother of two little ones soon enough. She wasn't sure she had the strength for it, but she knew that being pregnant gave her another sense of strength. She could do this. It was going to take some extra work, but she could do it. This baby . . . Sully's baby was going to be fine. It had to be.
The treaty was signed, Welland Smith was leading the Indians to the northern territory, and Sully was returning home with his Cheyenne brother. Cloud Dancing had been allowed safe passage to Colorado Springs in order to make an appeal to the town for a right to travel between the northern territory and Colorado Springs freely. Sully knew it would take some persuading of the town council, but he had the feeling it was going to work, especially if Michaela had anything to say about it.
"Your family will be happy to see you," Cloud Dancing remarked as the horses jogged carefully down a winding path.
"I've been waitin' a long time for this." Cloud Dancing looked around, feeling his freedom. It had taken quite a bit of effort to get Major Morrison to agree to a treaty, but Black Moon had given his freedom for the freedom of his people. Sully wished there was a way to help him, but this was the only way that the Indians could go on as free people and try to rebuild every part of their lives that had been taken from them by the white man.
Sully had initially wanted to accompany the Indians into the northern territory, but before they had set out, he had gotten the feeling that he was needed at home. It wasn't like any feeling he had had during his stay at the cave either. It was an urgent feeling gnawing at him and telling him it was time to go to his family and to his wife. He hadn't informed Cloud Dancing of this, but he was thankful for the company on the way home.
He brought his horse into a slightly faster canter, and Cloud Dancing hurried to catch up. He looked at his brother and knew something was wrong.
"What troubles you?"
"I don't know," Sully admitted quietly. He swallowed hard and tightened his hold on the reins. He looked up at the clouds in the distance toward Colorado Springs, and he noticed that they were growing dark and ominous. He needed to get home, but it would take another few hours, especially if it started storming.
"Something is wrong," Cloud Dancing noted.
"You can tell?" Sully asked, looking across at his Cheyenne brother.
"You can." They continued on in silence toward Colorado Springs.
Michaela was feeling tired by the time she got back home, and she was surprised to see Brian, Matthew and Katie all at home.
"Miss Teresa cancelled school on account of the storm that's comin'," Brian announced.
"We were getting worried 'bout ya," Matthew noted. "Where'd ya go?"
"I just went for a walk," Michaela replied. The boys knew she wasn't telling them something. Michaela moved over to pick up Katie who was dozing off in her high chair. "Hello sweet girl." She gave Katie a hug. "I'm going to put Katie down for a nap before the storm hits." The boys watched their mother start up the stairs. Once she was out of earshot, Brian turned to his brother.
"Somethin' is wrong with her," he noted. "She didn't feel good this morning, and she's been real tired lately. I caught her sleepin' at the clinic a couple days ago." Matthew looked toward the dark stairway.
"I'm gonna go talk to her."
"I'm goin' too." They started up the stairs to find Michaela pulling Katie's blanket up and tucking her into her crib. She heard her sons and turned to face them.
"I'll start dinner soon," she promised with a knowing smile.
"No, it's not that," Brian said quietly.
"We wanna talk to you."
"What about?" Matthew shifted in his spot.
"Well, Brian says he saw ya sleepin' at the clinic the other day. You're real tired lately, and you were pretty sick this mornin'. What's goin' on? Is there somethin' wrong with you?" They sure got right to the point, didn't they?
"You certainly are observant," she said, skirting around the issue.
"Ma? If there's somethin' wrong, ya gotta tell us," Brian insisted. "We're worried."
"No, no, nothing's wrong," she promised.
"Then what is it?" Matthew asked. She looked into her boys' eyes, and all she saw was worry. She knew she could trust them with this. She didn't want anyone else to know before Sully knew, but she had to tell her boys so they could stop fretting.
"There is something." They continued to stand there before her, preparing themselves for bad news. "You should sit down." They looked at one another nervously, but sat down on the edge of the bed.
"Whatever it is, Ma, we're here for ya. You know that, right?" Matthew asked. Michaela nodded.
"Thank you both. I don't know quite how to tell you this, because it's so unexpected. So, I might as well just say it." She swallowed hard. "I'm going to have another baby." For a moment, she wasn't sure they had heard her, but the very next moment, they were hugging her and kissing her cheek.
"Congratulations!" Brian said happily.
"I'm happy for ya. Does Sully know yet?"
"No, no. I just found out today, and if all goes well, I'll be able to tell him this evening."
"Wait 'til folks in town hear!" Brian said eagerly.
"No, no," Michaela said, shaking her head. "I don't want anyone to know just yet, alright?"
"Alright, Ma." They all hugged again, and Katie woke from the commotion. She stood in her crib and rubbed her eyes.
"Come here, Katie." Michaela picked her daughter up. "Guess what?" Katie glanced at her mother and yawned. Michaela laughed. "You're going to be a big sister!"
It was getting dark, and Michaela's hopes for seeing her husband again on this night were slowly being dashed. More than anything, she wanted him home safe and out of danger from the army. She didn't know how many times she had dreamed about running off into the wilderness with him. Of course that wasn't logical or anything Michaela would ever do. Perhaps if they didn't have a family, but they did, and she needed to be there for them. She needed them now more than ever.
She pulled her robe around her body snugly and fixed herself a cup of tea. She found it soothing, because morning sickness was also afternoon and evening sickness. But, she wasn't feeling right. She felt weaker now. She hoped that it was all in her head, because she didn't want to think about the warning Andrew had given her. Of course she was going to take care of herself, but she didn't want to have to start out this pregnancy feeling as if something wasn't right.
Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled, causing Michaela to tense up. She was thinking about the storm she and Katie had been caught in last Thanksgiving. That had been horrible, and she hoped nothing like that would ever happen to her family again.
The doorknob rattled, and Michaela remembered locking the door earlier. She stood and hurried over. She unlocked it and threw it open to come face to face with her husband. She threw her arms around his neck and held him tightly as they stood under the awning on the porch. It was late at night, but he had made it home.
"I woulda been home sooner, but we got stuck in the storm." His lips covered hers and kissed them softly before he showered her face with kisses. They held one another for the longest time, and Cloud Dancing slid past them and into the warmth of the house. Sully led his wife inside and closed the door to hold out the storm. Cloud Dancing was standing by the fire to warm up, and Michaela moved to hug him.
"It is good to see you, my friend," he said before looking at Sully as if to tell him that his worries were over and that his family was fine.
"Major Morrison allowed Cloud Dancin' to come back with me to ask the town council for permission to have citizenship in Colorado Springs. If we can get that, Cloud Dancin' will have safe passage from here to the northern territory."
"That's wonderful news," Michaela said with a smile. "I'll call a meeting of the town council tomorrow."
"Shouldn't we talk to 'em first? I mean, try to convince 'em to vote in favor of Cloud Dancin'?" Sully asked.
"Leave that up to me," she said with a smile. "Cloud Dancing, you're welcome to stay here for the night."
"I will sleep in the barn." Cloud Dancing started outside before Michaela could protest and ask him to stay inside. Sully pulled his wife into his arms again, and they held one another for the longest time. When he pulled away, he looked into her eyes.
"How do ya know they'll even vote in favor of him?"
"Well, Jake has no reason to vote against him. I'll remind him of how Cloud Dancing has helped him. Remember the Thanksgiving we found out we were having Katie? Cloud Dancing quite possibly saved his life. Loren won't be a problem. He'd do it for Dorothy. Robert E. will most definitely vote yes. I will."
"That leaves Hank."
"Well, it won't be unanimous, but I'm sure it'll be a majority vote." Michaela felt the dampness of her husband's clothes. "Come along. You must be freezing." She took his hand and led him up the stairs quietly. "Let's not wake the children. They'll be surprised in the morning." Sully smiled and nodded his head, happy to be home as a free man.
"Everything's alright?" he asked as Michaela shut the door and moved to find him some dry clothes to sleep in. Sully moved to the crib to peer down at Katie. He gently brushed her white blonde hair with this fingertips.
"Of course. Why wouldn't it be?" she wondered. Sully turned back toward her and removed his jacket and his shirt. His skin was damp, and Michaela handed him a towel.
"I dunno. I just got this feelin' that somethin' was happenin', but it looks like everything's fine. You sure nothing bad happened?"
"No. Nothing bad," she promised. "Though, there is something." Sully slipped out of his buckskins and moccasins. He toweled off and decided to sleep nude on this night. He walked toward his wife, and she saw that look in his eyes. She blushed and stepped toward the bed. "Sully, there is something I need to tell you."
"Can it wait 'til mornin'?"
"No," she replied, placing her hand on his chest, feeling the heat of his skin under the cool dampness of the rainwater. It was so hard to concentrate now, but she needed to! "This is important." A serious shadow guarded Sully's face now. "I know things have been horrible with you away all of the time, but I do have some good news."
"What's that?" he asked, swallowing hard, eagerly anticipating what his wife had to tell him. He wasn't expecting what he was about to hear, however!
"I'm pregnant." She said it so quietly that she wasn't sure he had heard it, but he had, and that shadow had gone away. His eyes were beaming, and his mouth was grinning widely.
"You're havin' a baby? Really?" Michaela giggled as Sully's eyes followed a trail to her belly, which was covered up by her robe.
"Really," she said softly, framing his face with her hands. "Our baby, Sully." They pulled one another into a happy embrace and stood that way for a moment, reveling in the fact that they were going to have another baby together. When they pulled away, both had tears in their eyes.
"When did ya find out? When's the baby gonna be here?"
"Just today," she replied quietly. "The baby's due in April." She paused for a moment. "I wasn't sure if it was true or not, but it is, Sully! I had to tell Matthew and Brian, because they were worried about me. I don't like it when they worry." Sully nodded.
"It's alright. Anybody else know?"
"Besides Andrew? No," she replied. "I'd like to keep quiet about it for a while. It's nice with only the family knowing." Sully smiled.
"Yeah. It is." Michaela drew her husband toward the bed. "It's so wonderful having you here and knowing you won't have to sneak out in the morning. Oh, Sully, I love you so much." Sully stroked her cheek with the back of his hand.
"I'm here now, and I'm never goin' away like that again." He drew her into his arms, and they spent their official reunion night making love and hold each other close.
Michaela's eyes fluttered open in the morning, and she could feel something laying on her belly. She looked to see Sully's hand laying upon her bare skin, and she smiled, snuggling closer to him.
"Mornin'," he whispered, kissing her cheek softly. "Sun's up. It's been up for at least an hour." Michaela loved waking up in Sully's arms after sunrise. This was the first time in months that they had been able to do that.
"Good morning," she whispered, pressing her lips to his and feeling his kiss wake her up. His hand was stroking her belly and moving up to caress her breast, and she giggled when he began to tickle her. She was breathless and red in the face, and Sully stopped tickling her so he could stare down into her face and watch as her smile faded, and she closed her eyes, waiting for another kiss. He happily obliged, and just as the passion began to rise, Katie stirred in her sleep. Michaela nodded a little, and Sully let her up. They both dressed, and Michaela moved to get Katie ready for the day. Sully helped, happy to be getting back into the routine again. He knew things would start getting hectic as soon as the new baby arrived.
Katie was all smiles on this morning, happy to have her father back. She wouldn't let go of him for the world, and every time Sully tried to hand her over to Michaela, Katie would keep one arm around his neck and one hand wrapped around his beads. She would shake her head and bury her face in his neck. Michaela took no offense to it, because she knew her baby girl had been missing her Poppy.
The sound and smell of breakfast cooking downstairs caused Michaela to go to the door. She wanted to surprise the boys this morning. Sully knew what she was doing when she winked at him and started down the stairs by herself. He followed slowly, and waited on the landing for his cue.
"Mornin' Ma," Brian said as he placed eggs on a plate. Her stomach lurched. "Don't worry. Matthew's a better cook than me." She laughed a little and hugged her son. Matthew moved to pour three glasses of milk.
"Would you mind pouring a fourth?" she asked.
"Mornin' everybody," came Sully's voice at that moment as he appeared with Katie in his arms. "Make that five, right Kates?" Katie giggled. Matthew and Brian stared at their father for a long moment before the reunion began.
"You're home!" Brian exclaimed. "For good?"
"For good," Sully promised. The front door opened, and Cloud Dancing walked in.
"Cloud Dancin'? You're back too?"
"I'm going to speak to the town council today," Cloud Dancing explained. "I will ask for permission to have citizenship to this town so I may pass between here and the northern territory in peace."
"Ya think they'll listen?" Matthew asked after he gave Sully a hug.
"They will," Michaela said confidently. At that moment, she felt a small cramp, but she didn't think anything of it. She sat down at the table, and Matthew made room for Cloud Dancing to have a plate. Everyone chattered happily at breakfast, and Brian couldn't wait to get to school and tell his friends that his pa was home.
"I'm done," Brian said after finishing his meal. He had had an extra helping, and everyone else was finished with their food by the time he was finished with his second plate.
"I'll go hitch the wagon, and we'll all go into town," Sully offered. He, Cloud Dancing and Matthew went out to the barn, and Michaela picked up Katie. She felt another pain, and she groaned a little.
"Ma? What's wrong?" Brian asked immediately.
"Oh, nothing. I just picked her up too quickly," she lied. She swallowed hard. "I'm fine. Why don't you go outside and help with the wagon?" Brian merely nodded, and Michaela helped Katie into her shawl and bonnet. She leaned against the table, supporting herself with one arm while the other held Katie. She knew something wasn't right.
She also knew from experience that it wasn't safe to go about as if nothing was wrong when something definitely felt wrong. She swallowed hard and placed Katie back into her high chair. She gripped the table hard as another pain rushed through her body. She cried out and sat down slowly, feeling the pain like a thousand knives digging into her.
"Michaela? Wagon's ready," Sully said as he came through the door. He found his wife hunched over at the kitchen table, her hands on her belly. "Michaela!"
"Oh Sully," she cried. "Something's wrong!" Sully took Michaela into his arms as Matthew came in.
"What's goin' on?" he asked quickly.
"Matthew! Ride out to the chateau and get Andrew. Hurry!" Sully ordered. Matthew saw the way Michaela was clutching her stomach, and he knew this was definitely an emergency. He rushed out the door as Brian came in. Sully hurried up the stairs with his wife in his arms, and when they reached the solace of their bedroom, he placed her down on the bed.
"Oh Sully!" she cried out. She began to sob as Sully stood helplessly by her side. "This can't be happening!" Sully knew what she meant, and he wished there was something he could do.
"What do I do?" he asked.
"Nothing," she whispered. "I can't . . ." She gasped, and Cloud Dancing came into the room. His face was set firmly with worry.
"She's pregnant," Sully said softly, bending his head and sitting next to his wife. Cloud Dancing remembered the pain Snow Bird had gone through with the loss of their unborn child. Michaela screamed out again and gripped Sully's hand.
"There is a root," the medicine man said.
"Root?" Sully asked.
"Black Root has been said to stop this pain. It has been said to save women and their unborn children." He bent his head sadly. "I have seen it work, but it did not work on Snow Bird." Sully watched his wife writhe in pain and finally relax as the pain stopped.
"Can ya get it?" he asked. Cloud Dancing nodded.
"It will not take long to find." Cloud Dancing left without another word, and Michaela wiped her tears away. Sully leaned over to the water basin, wrung out a cloth and wiped off her sweaty forehead.
"Sully," she whimpered.
"It's gonna be alright, Michaela."
"Please don't leave," she whispered.
"I ain't leavin'. I'm stayin' right here. I promise." Brian came into the room with Katie, and Michaela put on a brave smile.
"What's goin' on?" he asked softly. Michaela wasn't sure how to answer her son, and Sully sure as hell didn't know what to say. "Are you okay, Ma?"
"I'll be fine, Brian. Why don't you take Katie for a walk?" Brian nodded.
"I'll take her into town and wire Colleen."
"No," Michaela started to protest, knowing all to well that she truly wanted her daughter here with her.
"Yes, Ma. Don't argue." Brian kissed his mother on the cheek and left with Katie. Michaela looked up at Sully.
"I'm so sorry, Sully. I'm so sorry I'm losing our baby." She swallowed the sob that was about to escape her throat. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry!" She buried her face in her hands.
"You ain't gonna lose the baby," Sully urged. Michaela broke down again, and Sully held her as she screamed out her pain into his shoulder. Sully needed to get her focus off of the pain. "Just keep thinkin' about April. Keep holdin' on and think about how we're gonna have a new baby in April." He smoothed back her hair as she relaxed against the pillow. "Michaela?"
"Hmm?" she asked, closing her eyes.
"Remember our first kiss?" he asked. Michaela nodded slightly.
"The one you forgot about," she said quietly. "Before we got married, you had forgotten that we hadn't kissed until my birthday."
"Nah," he said quietly. "I never forgot that kiss. I remember bein' so nervous before I came to the party. Took me forever to get the courage to put on that suit, but I knew you were expectin' me, and I didn't wanna let ya down." Michaela smiled softly.
"You didn't. I was surprised to see you dressed that way. I thought you looked so handsome, but to be honest, I prefer you like this." She was referring to his moccasins and buckskins.
"Ya looked beautiful that night, Michaela. You were so happy 'bout the town's gift, and I wasn't sure ya would notice I was there. I bet I stood there for five minutes before I spoke up."
"No you didn't," she argued with a smile.
"Sure did. I just didn't know what to say. I was nervous, 'cause I didn't know how you'd react to me wearin' a suit and bein' all dressed up for your birthday. I loved you so much then, Michaela. I guess I shoulda known better than to think ya wouldn't love me."
"I loved you then, Sully. I know I did. I couldn't admit it, but I was in love with you. I wasn't ready to be in that place though. I needed time, and I'm so glad we found our way to one another." Sully smiled and picked up his wife's hand. He kissed her knuckles and then the rings that he had placed on her finger almost two and a half years ago. He wiped a tear from his wife's cheek and continued talking.
"What were you thinkin' when I kissed ya?" Michaela smiled a little after the pain subsided.
"Thinking? I couldn't breathe let alone think." Sully chuckled and gave her hand a gentle squeeze. "Though I remember wanting to kiss you when you gave me those saddlebags. I just didn't expect you to kiss me back."
"Oh, I'd thought about it for a week," he chuckled. "I wanted to kiss ya, but I didn't know how you'd react. So, when ya kissed my cheek, I thought it was as good a time as any. I'm glad I didn't scare ya."
"I felt uncomfortable at first, but when you took my hand and led me to the party, I felt happy. I felt as if some weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. We had finally had our first kiss." At that moment, Michaela cried out in pain again, and Sully felt his stomach tie up in knots. He wanted to do something to comfort her, but as she sat up in bed in that awkward position, he started to think that this was really going to happen. He was about to watch his wife lose their baby.
Andrew came through the door with his medical bag, and he moved to examine Michaela.
"Sully, would you wait outside?" he asked.
"No!" Michaela cried. "I need him here." She reached for Sully's hand, and he took it. She squeezed it tightly, and Andrew nodded.
"Very well." Sully noticed that no blood was showing on Andrew's hands as he worked, and he took it as a good sign. Sully wiped Michaela's forehead with a damp rag after Andrew gave her something to ease the pain. Soon, the pain was mild, but it was still coming every fifteen minutes or so.
After a while, Brian had returned with Katie, bearing the news that he had only told Horace to wire Colleen that Michaela needed her help and that she needed to get home soon. There was no need to explain about the baby right now. Michaela wouldn't need those kind of questions if this miscarriage happened.
Michaela was still feeling uncomfortable, but Andrew had done all he could for her. There was no bleeding yet, so that was a good sign, and Andrew hoped he wouldn't have to perform any kind of emergency surgery. Michaela deserved this child and any future children she may have, so he hoped that her chances weren't taken away from her.
Sully found himself wondering where Cloud Dancing was. He only wanted the best chance to save this child, and if this Black Root could save Michaela the pain of a miscarriage, they needed to administer it soon.
"The pain is subsiding?" Andrew asked his patient.
"It's still there, but it's not as painful as it was."
"Good," Andrew replied, concern still ebbing in his eyes. Michaela caught the look in his eyes, and she closed hers away from the pain that was in her husband's eyes and the diminishing hope that lay in Andrew's. A bustle was heard, and the door opened. Cloud Dancing walked in with a cup in one hand and a pouch in the other.
"I have found the root," he announced. Michaela looked hopefully at her friend and fellow healer. Sully went to work at mixing the root with the water.
"What is that?" Andrew asked skeptically as he placed his instruments and supplies into his medical case.
"Black Root. Some call it the Baby Root, because it has been known to save the lives of unborn children and their mothers."
"You've seen it work?" Andrew asked.
"It has worked. It did not work on my wife, but it has worked for others before and after her." Michaela trusted her friend, and she knew that this was her last hope of saving her unborn baby.
"Here, drink this," Sully urged, handing the cold cup to his wife. Michaela drank the bitter drink, forcing the liquid down into her stomach, hoping and praying to God that her child would be able to be born and be able to run and play in the meadow. She needed this child, she realized, and she couldn't bear the thought of losing it when she had just found out it existed.
An hour had passed, and Michaela hadn't felt anymore pain. The drink she had been given was now being brewed downstairs so it would be warm for her. She was to drink it all and get plenty of rest, and even Andrew had been amazed at the way it had relaxed her and caused no more pain.
"I'd like for you to stay in bed and not get up unless it's deemed necessary," Andrew noted. He looked at Sully. "Please make sure she follows that order, because it's vital to her health and the baby's." Sully nodded and shook Andrew's hand.
"Thanks for everything." Andrew nodded, patted Sully on the back and promised to come check on her in the morning. Matthew, Brian, Katie and Cloud Dancing were all downstairs, so Sully decided to leave Michaela for a moment to check on them.
"You'll be okay?"
"Yes. I'm feeling rather tired. I think I may take a nap."
"If you start feelin' poorly, call down." Michaela nodded.
"I will." Sully kissed her upon the forehead, and she grabbed his hand. "Sully?"
"Thank you," she whispered. "For not giving up." Sully knew she wasn't out of the woods yet, but he couldn't help but feel happy and relieved.
"I told ya we weren't gonna lose our baby." She nodded and wiped a few tears away before Sully disappeared down the stairs.
"Come on, Michaela! Push!" Sully called out six months later. He was standing behind the examination table with his arms linked with his wife's. She was leaning against his chest as she put the rest of her strength into her pushes. Andrew was delivering, and Colleen was assisting him. Michaela had insisted on Sully's being at the birth, because he helped her through Katie's, and he made her feel stronger.
"One more push, Ma! The head's almost out!" Colleen cried, tears streaming down her cheeks as her new sibling began to make its entrance into the world.
Outside, the citizens of Colorado Springs, including Cloud Dancing, were seated or standing impatiently. They couldn't wait for the new member of town to be born. It had been a long road to this day, but in the wee hours of the morning on April 15, 1873, a new Sully was being born, and the struggle was almost over.
"Mama," Katie whined as she reached toward the door from Brian's lap.
"Ma's gonna be fine, Katie," he said with worry in his voice. "Ya just gotta be patient. These things take time."
"Sully!" Michaela screamed, startling everyone outside. Inside, Michaela was panting after a hard contraction. The baby's head was out, and this time, it had a thick mane of dark brown. Michaela couldn't help but smile. Her mother had always told her that she had been born with dark hair, but it had lightened over the years. At this point, Michaela knew it was a girl.
"Almost there, Michaela!" Andrew urged. "Give me another push!" Michaela felt like throwing something, but she controlled herself and focused on pushing the baby into the world. Not thirty seconds later, a cry was heard, and the baby was being lifted up onto Michaela's belly.
"Oh!" Michaela cried as the tears began to fall. The baby squirmed and flexed its fingers and toes, trying to figure out its new surroundings.
"What is it?" Sully asked through his tears as the baby's cord was cut, disconnecting it from Michaela through the last physical connection.
"You have a daughter, Sully," Andrew said with a smile. Colleen beamed from ear to ear as she watched her second sister with her mother. Michaela gathered the child into her arms and held her close, looking into her eyes. The baby blinked trying to figure out where she was, and Michaela touched her tiny fingers.
"April," she whispered. She looked up at Sully who had come around to the side of the table. "We'll call her April." Sully kissed Michaela's forehead as April began to wail louder. Michaela brought the child to her breast, and soon, the little one was nursing like a pro. Sully was in awe, and he realized that he was the one who needed to give the good news.
He shakily stepped out onto the porch as the citizens stood, waiting to hear the news, though they had clearly heard the screams of April Charlotte Sully.
Sully looked at the faces of Matthew, Brian and Katie. He smiled, seeing how wonderful his children were together. Now they had another sister to watch after, and he couldn't have been happier.
"Well, are ya gonna stand there all day?" Jake asked eagerly as he held his wife's hand. She was showing a healthy pregnant belly as well, and their child was due in the late summer.
"It's a girl," Sully said, not sure if he had even heard his own words. He was too happy to notice the hugs and congratulations he had been given. He knew he didn't deserve them. Michaela was the one who had carried that baby nine months. Michaela was the one who had been in labor for sixteen hours and had pushed for three. She was his hero.
"Feelin' better?" Sully asked as he pulled a chair up alongside Michaela's recovery bed. Michaela nodded and looked down at the sleeping baby in her arms. "She looks just like ya."
"I think she looks like her pa to me," Michaela replied with a smile. Sully chuckled.
"Nah. She looks more like Katie did when she was born, only April's got a lot more hair." Michaela giggled. Sully had brought the baby to the door long enough for the citizens of Colorado Springs to see her, and of course, Jake Slicker had to make the comment about her hair. With Katie, she hadn't had any hair, but this one had a thick coating of it. He had said that, considering her parents, it wasn't a surprise that she had so much hair. That had caused some chuckles, but everyone agreed that April Sully was a beautiful little girl with eyes just like her mother's.
"Where are the children?"
"Matthew just took Brian and Katie home. Katie was feelin' awful tired."
"Alright," Michaela replied with a smile. "Sully, I'd like to go home tonight." Sully nodded. He knew that his wife would feel better staying home with her family on this first night with the new baby.
"You're sure you're up for it?"
"Of course I am. I feel fine. I'd rather rest at our home where it's quiet." Sully nodded and reached over to touch his new daughter's fingers. "I can't believe she's actually here. We nearly lost her, Sully."
"But we didn't." He brought the baby into his arms and held her close. "She's just fine." The baby stretched out, and Sully held her carefully. Michaela smiled at her husband and daughter. She had truly wondered if this day would ever arrive. She had a difficult time giving birth to her, and even though it took longer than Katie's, the pain didn't seem as bad.
Michaela wondered if she would have more children in the future. Andrew saw no reason she shouldn't be able to, but she needed to face the facts. She was forty now, and with five children, two of them under the age of two years, and her practice, she needed to plan carefully. Having children had always been a dream of hers, and she knew that she would find a way to keep that family together and still have her practice. Being a doctor had been her dream from the start, and she felt blessed to have a family that supported her through all of her hard times.
She felt like she had been neglecting her patients, though she really hadn't. She had cut back her working hours more than she had during her first pregnancy, and she had certainly rested more. She knew better now, and after taking it easy, she had had a rather smooth last few months.
April began to cry, and Sully handed her over to her mother. The little one began to nurse again, and Sully watched his wife in awe, doing what she had been doing for the last six months. She was holding on to April; holding onto the miracle that had almost been taken from them. He would never take another moment for granted again, because he knew that life was too precious; April's life was too precious. They had the family they had always wanted, and they had nothing left to ask for. Now it was time to enjoy with this spring had given them. April Sully was alive and well, and they knew that holding onto her had been the best thing they had ever done.