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.

A Love that Heals

By, Ashley J.

Written July 6, 7, 2005

"For Heaven's sakes!" Elizabeth Quinn exclaimed as the stagecoach rumbled along the Western prairie. "I don't think I've ever felt so uncomfortable in all of my life!" Elizabeth took off her gloves and placed them on her lap.

"You insisted on accompanying me, mother," Michaela explained as she glanced out to see that the sun was rising over the mountains. "I warned you it would probably be a very long and uncomfortable trip, but you insisted on escorting me." Michaela unfastened the top neck button on her dress. It was rather warm, and she was beginning to grow uncomfortable herself. Her mother's complaints weren't making it any easier.

"You're my daughter, and with your father gone, it is up to me and myself alone to make sure you're safe. I'm only here for your well-being, my dear." Michaela sighed and gripped her medical bag's handle with one hand. If she hadn't been wearing white gloves, her knuckles would be so rigid and white that she would appear frightened. She was a little frightened of coming to this new place, but she was more irritated than anything. Elizabeth and done nothing but complain during this entire journey, and she still insisted upon taking the rest of the trip! Michaela almost regretted not leaving her mother back in Denver.

"I'm sure we'll be there soon, mother," Michaela hoped.

"I certainly hope so." Michaela closed her eyes and swallowed the urge to give her mother a tongue-lashing. She knew her mother meant well and loved her very much, but she was going too far now. She had insisted on dragging nearly every one of her possessions out from Boston, and now she was complaining about every little bump and swerve. They had been on the stagecoach for almost four hours, and Michaela could feel that they were almost there. Colorado Springs was going to be her new home.

"Mother, I can give you something if your stomach is bothering you." Her mother used to feel ill on long buggy rides back to the house.

"I'm fine, my dear," Elizabeth assured her, breaking out into a smile. Though she didn't approve of her daughter's choice in profession and lifestyle, she couldn't help but feel proud when her daughter expressed concern over her. After Josef died, her five daughters were all she had left, and with Michaela being the youngest, she was having a difficult time letting go.

The horses whinnied outside, and Michaela felt a nervous jump in her stomach, but the stagecoach continued to roll onward. Up on a hill were a dozen or so Indian men on horseback, and Michaela practically stuck her head out of the window to watch in awe.

"Michaela!" Elizabeth gasped. "Do you want us to get killed?"

"They don't look hostile, mother," Michaela assured her. But, she was still a bit nervous anyway, though her logical thinking told her that this was merely a hunting party looking for food.

"I don't care at this point, Michaela! This is a strange place, and you can't go about trusting everyone you meet along the way."

"I could say the same for Boston." Michaela continued to look out at the rough land that they were passing by. It was beautiful though, and she had never seen anyplace quite like it. This was a far cry from Boston, but it was a breath of fresh air compared to the dressed up Boston that seemed to have no room to grow. She knew that Colorado Springs was a developing town, and she hoped that with her help, many great things could be done. She only hoped it didn't become a second Boston, because she had to admit that it was a relief to get away.

She pulled something out from her medical bag and looked down onto it. It was a picture of her fiancé who had been killed in the war. She sighed, tracing her finger along the frame. She kept it with her out of guilt. She had never loved David, and she had only agreed to marry him to please her mother, which she now knew was a terrible idea, and she had agreed because she thought they would have been a good match. But, she had never felt toward David the way her parents felt toward one another. They had had an incredible love, and now that her father was gone, she could see that she was trying to have that perfect match and perfect love too. But, the love hadn't been there on her part, and she knew that David had only held her on his arm at social gatherings to make the other men jealous.

"This is a dreadfully awful way to get from place to place," Elizabeth muttered.

"That's enough!" Michaela exclaimed. "For the past week, I've endured you complaining about every part of this trip! I know you don't want me to be a doctor! I know you didn't want me to answer the advertisement, and the only thing I don't know is why you insisted on coming with me if you were going to make it a terrible experience!" Elizabeth was shocked, but she knew she should have been used to her daughter's rants. Michaela had many opinions, and she was never afraid to let people hear them.

"All I wanted to do was to make sure you got to Colorado Springs safely."

"As you can see, I would have been fine on my own." Elizabeth sighed with exasperation.

"Believe it or not, I love you despite the fact that you've chosen to take on this burden. Your father loved being a doctor, but that love kept him away from home so often."

"He loved you, mother. He loved us all."
"But he convinced you that you wanted to be a doctor."

"He didn't convince me. I knew from the time I was a little girl. I want to help people."
"Can't you at least do that in Boston?"

"I need to do this, mother. You have to understand."

"I suppose I never will."

The trip continued on in silence, and Michaela placed David's photo back in her medical bag. She leaned her head back and watched as the yellow prairie grass rolled by and the mountains came into a better view.

"It's so beautiful," Michaela whispered as she looked out at the beautiful scenery. She caught a glimpse of her mother smiling and enjoying the view for the first time on their journey. She relaxed a bit and breathed in the fresh mountain air. They would be in Colorado Springs in no time, and Michaela couldn't wait one more moment!

Another twenty minutes passed, and this time, they were silent. Michaela was happy that her mother's spirits were lightening. She had even started humming an upbeat tune, but when the horses began to whinny and snicker loudly, the happy humming stopped, and Elizabeth's hands sat nervously in her lap wringing her white gloves.

A gunshot was fired, and Michaela felt her heart skip a beat.

"Mother!" she exclaimed out of instinct. She gripped her mother's hand as she looked out of the side of the stagecoach to see what the commotion was all about. The carriage jostled violently, and Elizabeth let out a frightened yelp. Another gunshot came, causing the horses to start barreling along the countryside. Michaela felt as if she couldn't breathe, and she felt her body being lifted from the seat as the wheels hit large bumps.

More gunshots fired, and she saw one of the drivers falling and being left behind in the dust.

"Indians!" Elizabeth cried out. Michaela caught a glimpse of a man riding on horseback, and she shook her head.

"No! Not Indians!" she cried out. She heard another thump, and she knew the other driver was gone, and now their protection was gone as well.

Michaela wanted to try to climb out and take control of the reins, but she knew it was nearly impossible. She swallowed hard and wrapped her arms around her mother, preparing for a crash.

Elizabeth wasn't frantic any longer. She had a peaceful look upon her face as if she knew something was about to happen to her.

"We're going to be alright," Michaela promised. "Just hold on to me!" They held one another tight, much like they had done several years ago after Michaela had had a bad dream. Of course, she always reached for her father, but on the nights he was working late at the hospital, her mother would comfort her instead.

"Michaela," Elizabeth cried out a moment later, tears coming to her eyes. Another violent jolt shook Michaela to her very core, and a few seconds later, she was toppling head over heels as the stagecoach fell and rolled and the horses scrambled to stand and run away. She felt herself being dragged, but soon, everything was still and dark, and she could feel pain and damp blood soaking her petticoat. The last thing she saw before everything went black was her mother's motionless face, stained with the frightened expression of a woman's last living moment.


Sully stepped out from underneath his lean-to at about nine in the morning. The sun was just rising above the mountains, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It was warm, but not hot enough to warrant a canteen of water for his trip into town. He was meaning to go straight into town for supplies, but something told him that he needed to take a different way. Something told him to take the path alongside Willow Creek.

"C'mon, boy," Sully said, whistling for his faithful companion. Wolf looked up from the bug he had been chasing after and quickly moved to obey his master. "Let's go this way today." He scratched the animal behind the ears, and Wolf began to follow at Sully's side. Sully had had his faithful companion for several years now. He had acquired this friend shortly after arriving in Colorado, and he had been one of his best friends except for Cloud Dancing. Sure, he had friends in town, but he mostly kept to himself, and that was the way he liked it. He liked having quiet nights to himself, though he longed for a companion, not a furry one, to lie at his side or to just have a pleasant conversation with on those cold nights. He longed for a soul mate.

Wolf barked when a rabbit ran ahead on their path, but Sully kept him at bay.

"Later, boy." Something told him that he needed to keep going and keep focused. Something didn't feel right. He looked up at the sun just in time to see a crow soar by. He didn't take that as a good sign, and he decided to turn to the west. When he heard the screams, he started to run.


Michaela woke in an excruciating amount of pain, and she found herself submerged in darkness. The only light coming in was the light from the side window, but it was covered with luggage, and she knew she was buried underneath. The light was shining in and casting a glow on her mother's face. The only thing she could think of was that she needed to help her mother.

"Mother!" she cried out. "Mother! Wake up!" Michaela found it hard to move, but she reached for her mother's hand. She was warm, but something was wrong. How long had she been unconscious? "Mother! Please wake up!" She was starting to grow frantic, and when she saw the blood dried to her mother's temple, she began to scream. She screamed so loud, but she knew nobody could hear her. Nobody could hear her cries, and they were going to die.

She felt as if knives were sticking into her legs, and when she threw her mother's carry-on bag to the side, she found that her legs were pinned under the seat. She was in an awkward position, and when she was able to pull her legs from their prison, she saw the blood and felt the breaks.

"Please help!" she began screaming. She didn't care who heard her now. She only wanted to get out of the suffocating confines of the overturned stagecoach. She moved back to her mother. "Wake up!" She reached to feel her mother's pulse and broke down into tears when she knew her mother was gone. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry!" She felt her own heart racing and ready to burst. At that moment, she heard rustling, and she saw arms breaking through the luggage and into the stagecoach. Before everything went dark, she remembered hearing the cocking of a gun.


Wolf was barking up a storm right ahead, and Sully rushed to catch up to him. When he looked down into the deserted "Devil's Trail," he saw the stagecoach turned on its side. Luggage was strewn all about, and Sully knew somebody was hurting. He had to get to them. But first and foremost, he needed to get help.

"C'mon, boy!" Sully and Wolf rushed to the scene, and the first thing Sully saw was an empty money pouch lying on the ground along with a medical bag that was half-empty. He saw a piece of paper with the words "Michaela A. Quinn M.D. printed on it, and he searched for something to write with. Luckily, this Michaela Quinn carried a pencil with her too.

Stagecoach accident on Devil's Trail. Bring help. Sully. He tore a piece of cloth from his shirt and wrapped the note around Wolf's neck.

"Go to town. Go to Mr. Bray. Now!" Wolf did as his master asked, and Sully rushed to see if he could help whoever was in need. He stuck his head into the carriage to see a woman lying dead, blood drying to the side of her face as if she'd been in a massacre. He knew that the first thing the townsfolk would assume was that this was an Indian attack, but no, this was nothing like that. Nothing at all like what he'd seen before.

"Ma'am?" he asked, hoping that perhaps she was still alive. But, when he felt her temperature, he knew she was gone. "I'm sorry. Someone's gonna come for ya soon." He knew that there was too much luggage strewn outside of that carriage for just one woman. Someone else was there, but where was this person?

He saw the blood. Blood was dripped along a trail, and drag marks were made in the soft soil. Sully felt sick to his stomach, but he grabbed the medical bag and threw everything into it that had to have spilled out. He began to follow the trail, hoping to God that he wasn't too late.


Michaela woke to the sound of running water and the deep smell of moss. She opened her eyes and felt pain as the sunlight filtered through the pine trees. She cried out, feeling a fresh bruise on her cheek. She knew her nose was bleeding, but it wasn't broken. She tasted blood in her throat from its running down from her nose. She tried to sit up, but she only felt pain.

"You're awake," came a rough voice. Michaela froze in fear at that voice. She remembered a laugh from this man as he pulled her from the wreckage. At first, he had been her savior, but now she remembered it all. He was the man who did this.

She looked up at him through sore eyes and saw that he was counting the money he had emptied from her money pouch.

"You ladies just bought me dinner for the next two months." Michaela was so terrified that she couldn't speak. She saw a gun resting by the man's foot, and she knew some of the gunshots she had heard had come from it. "Don't worry. I don't wanna kill ya, but ya might be dead by mornin'." He laughed a little. "Though I left ya here by some water, cause I thought ya been through enough." He shook his head. "I never meant to hurt nobody, but I got a family to feed." Michaela felt the anger rising in her blood.

"You killed my mother!" she screamed out. The man jumped up as if he was shot and came to her, kneeling beside her broken body.

"You hush up! I don't wanna kill ya, but if ya carry on like that again, I'll just have to!"

"Why?"

"Like I told ya. I got a family to feed."

"You're so desperate for food that you'd kill four innocent people?"

"I do what I gotta do for me and mine." He brought a cup of water to her lips, but she smacked it away with all of the strength she could muster. The man hit her across the face, and she knew he had left the bruise before. She felt sick and turned to her side, vomiting from the trauma she had been through on this day.

"I'm gonna leave ya now, ma'am. Best thing ya can do now is just lay there and accept it. Go to sleep, and ya won't feel a thing." Michaela began to sob quietly as she heard the man ride away. She desperately wanted to run after him and punish him for what he'd done to her mother, but she knew she couldn't get up. She had two broken legs, and from the pain in her side, she knew she had a broken rib or two.

She didn't know how long she waited before she began to scream for help, but she had wanted to make sure the man was long gone. Her screams were hoarse, but loud enough. She screamed constantly for what seemed like twenty minutes. She clawed at the ground, trying to bring herself closer to the water. Her mouth was dry and tasted of blood. All she wanted was a little comfort after what she had just been through.

She coughed and felt pain in her side. Yes, it was a broken rib, she diagnosed. She was able to bring herself close enough to the water to dip her hand in and bring it to her mouth for a drink. It was refreshing, and once she had had her fill, she rested upon the muddy bank and waited, waited to die.


Sully had been searching for an hour. He had gone off in the direction of the screams he'd heard after he'd left the stagecoach, but he had had no luck. The blood trail had ended long ago, and all that remained were horse tracks, but those horse tracks mixed with the tracks of several other horses, and all Sully could think was that this had been planned. Perhaps it was no use to go after the other person. Perhaps they were already dead.

Then he heard it again: a scream in the distance. It was the same scream he had heard before, but this time it was weaker. Whoever it was, he needed to get to them and fast.

He started running toward Snow Creek.

"I'm coming! Where are you!" he called out. A moment passed and another scream came. It was louder and somewhat stronger. He was getting closer. "Stay there! I'll find you!" He ran through the pines for what seemed a good fifteen minutes. He could smell fresh water soon, and he knew he was close.

"Help!" Michaela screamed out, feeling the pain rising to a higher intensity. She could hear his footsteps breaking branches left and right as he rushed through the woods to find her. She only hoped he was there to save her and not to kill her.

That's when he saw her. She was lying on her back beside the creek bed. She was covered in bruises and dried blood. Her hair was matted in mud and fresh blood that was seeping from a cut on her scalp, just inside of her hairline. Through the blood and the bruises, the only thing he could think was that this was the most beautiful creature he'd ever seen.

"Oh my God," he whispered under his breath as he rushed to her side. He felt her pulse and watched as tears slipped out of her eyes and burned the scratches on her face. "You're gonna be okay. You're gonna be fine." He saw her reaching for something, and he quickly realized it was the medical bag.

"Don't worry. I've got supplies here. I ain't a doctor, but I'll fix ya right up." Michaela was too weak and tired to say anything, and she moaned in pain when Sully pulled her from the mud and placed her in the soft, dry grass.

"Please," she whispered.

"Shh. Don't try to talk," Sully urged. "Just rest." He removed his shirt, and Michaela drew back in fear. "Don't worry. I ain't gonna hurt ya." He took the off-white shirt and dipped it into the creek. He moved to her side and tore a shred away from the cloth and began to clean the cut on her head. Michaela relaxed a bit and closed her eyes. She swallowed hard and winced when the pain was too great.

"Is the cut deep?" she wondered.

"Nope. You're lucky."
"I won't need stitches then," she said thankfully.

"Don't look like it." He wiped down her face with another strip of cloth, and soon, her beautiful green and hazel eyes were sparkling with tears of gratitude. "Do ya remember what happened?" Michaela strained to think. She did remember, but it almost physically hurt to think about it. She started to speak, but only a squeaky sob escaped. "It's alright. Ya don't gotta think about it right now. You've been through a lot."

"My mother," she whispered. Sully suddenly felt terrible.

"That was your ma?" Michaela nodded weakly. "I'm sorry." Michaela's lips were trembling, and Sully felt his heart breaking for her. But, he could tell she was strong.

"You left her out there all alone?"

"Don't worry. Nobody comes through there unless there's trouble. I sent word into Colorado Springs, and they'll take your ma someplace safe."

"I was going to Colorado Springs. I was . . . I was answering the advertisement." She coughed, and Sully moved to elevate her head into his lap. She rested on his knee, and he dabbed away a little of the blood that was seeping from a cut on the side of her face. Sully suddenly remembered the piece of paper. Michaela A. Quinn M.D. The folks in town had mentioned of a lady doctor coming all the way from Boston.

"You're Michaela Quinn?" She merely nodded. "I'm Sully. You're hurt bad, so I'm gonna try to get you into town."

"No," she said quietly.

"It's only a few miles."

"I can't travel that far," she said quietly. "Both of my legs are broken and at least one of my ribs."

"And I don't have a horse," Sully said with disappointment. "Alright, well, I'm gonna go get my friend Cloud Dancin'. He's a Cheyenne medicine man."

"No!" she cried. "Don't leave." He saw the fear in her eyes. She'd been through so much, so the least he could do was respect her wishes. Sully nodded.

"I won't leave. I'll stay here. Don't worry." Michaela felt relieved, and she winced, pulling at her skirt to reveal her bruised legs. She sighed with relief when she saw that the scratches were merely scratches, and none of the bone was sticking through the skin.

"I won't have to set them," she whispered thankfully. "But I'll need to keep them . . . keep them still."

"What do ya need me to do?"

"I need pine or cedar boxes," she explained. She told Sully of a way to build boxes filled with sand and oats to keep her legs strong but immobile while they healed.

"I'll get to that now," he promised.

"Wait," she called, grabbing his hand as he started to leave. She didn't feel embarrassed, because, quite frankly, she as in too much pain to care, and she knew that no matter how much she didn't like it, she was in this man's care now. She only hoped that she could trust him. "They'll need to be washed." Sully looked slightly uncomfortable for only a moment, but without a word, he took the rest of the cloth from his shirt and began to wipe her legs down ever-so-gently. When she cried out in pain, he knew he couldn't do anything until she was feeling better.

"Alright, I'll be right back."

"Where are you going?"

"Just over here to the willow tree."

"Willow tree?"

"Willow bark tea. It's been known to help pain and slight fever." Michaela finally nodded and grabbed her medical bag. Sully began to go to the willow tree, and Michaela pulled out bandages and bottles of different types of things. She had about a fourth of a bottle of quinine and a full bottle of laudanum. She knew that if she took the laudanum, she'd want to sleep, and sleeping wasn't something she needed right now. She wanted to be alert. This new stranger was kind enough, but she had just met him, and after what she'd been through, she was losing trust for strangers despite what her father had taught her as a child. He had taught her to be kind to strangers unless given a reason not to be. She wasn't so sure that had been the best advice.

She felt disgusting in her dirtied clothes. Mud stained the white top with intricate lace on the collar. Her skirt was ripped and stained with dark red blood and dirty mud spots.

She let out a sigh as Sully moved toward her with the willow bark. He looked around, searching for something to use as a cup. He knew that his lean-to was nearby.

"Do ya have anything I could use for a cup?"

"No," she whispered, her eyes downcast. Sully nodded

"I live close to here. I could get somethin' from there."
"You're leaving?"

"I ain't gonna leave ya. I'll carry ya." Michaela looked surprised. She didn't expect this man to actually carry her back to his home, but when he scooped up her medical bag and picked her up gently in his arms, she relaxed, feeling as if she could trust this man. She wrapped her arms around his neck and rested her head on his shoulder as he carried her off toward his lean-to.


Michaela had drifted off to sleep on the way to the lean-to, and when they arrived, Sully placed her down on the soft furs. There was a creek nearby that he would take her to bathe in later, but for now, he knew she needed to rest and get her strength up. So, he worked away at building a fire and finally brewing the willow bark into water to make a tea. Michaela slept for hours, so Sully kept the drink warm, knowing she wouldn't need it if she was sleeping. But, he used the rest of his tattered shirt to clean off her arms, hands and feet. Her legs were so bruised and starting to swell. He knew she knew what she was talking about, so he trusted that her legs wouldn't need to be set after being broken.

Sully found Michaela's medical bag and slowly began to go through it. He looked at each of her supplies one at a time, and he nearly cut himself on a broken shard of glass. It was a picture frame, but the glass had been broken. He pulled it out slowly and saw the picture of a young man in uniform. Who was he? He was obviously important to Michaela if she had a photo of him in her medical bag.

Michaela began to stir, so he tucked away the things into her medical bag and placed it back where he had gotten it. He watched Michaela, and he saw how beautiful she was beneath the scratches and bruises. Beneath the blood and dirt, there was a gorgeous young woman who had been through more in one morning that some folks had been through in their entire lives. She had nearly been killed, had been robbed and had lost her mother. He wouldn't blame her if she went right back to Boston.

He noticed that the flies were starting to fly around the areas she had been bleeding from. Sully sighed and moved over to her.

"Michaela?" he whispered. "Michaela?" He pulled a cup of willow bark tea into his hands. Michaela moaned softly before opening her eyes.

"Hmm?"

"Drink this. I'm gonna take ya to Willow Creek so ya can get cleaned up." Michaela was about to protest, but the pain in her side and in her legs was too great. She drank the hot liquid, and she was feeling better within a few minutes. Sully was gathering towels and blankets, and Michaela watched as he put on a clean shirt. She felt bad that he had to destroy one of his shirts just to clean her wounds.

"This is where you live?" she asked, looking around at the humble structure.

"One of the places," he replied mysteriously. "You feelin' good enough to go down to Willow Creek?"

"How far is it?"

"Not far."

"Alright," she replied. She remembered that she couldn't stand, so she waited for Sully to pick her up in his arms. He carried her, careful of her legs and broken rib, toward Willow Creek with blankets, towels and other supplies necessary for washing.

"Ow," she whispered as Sully bumped her leg as he placed her on the banks of Willow Creek.

"Sorry."

"It's alright," she promised. She looked at the water and gently dipped a toe in. It wasn't too cold, and she was grateful. It was June, so she figured it would be a little warmer than other months. Sully looked at her nervously.

"Well, I'd leave ya in privacy, but I know you've got two broken legs and can't stand on your own." Michaela blushed.

"How deep is the water?"
"Not too deep."

"I can manage," she assured him. Sully didn't want to leave her, but he figured she was a modest woman, judging by the button up collar on her dress that exposed as little skin as possible. So, he handed her what she needed, helped her out of her skirt and petticoat so it wouldn't weight her down, and he placed her into the creek. She waded for a moment and decided she would be fine. "I'll call for you when I'm finished." Sully nodded and went to sit behind a bush nearby. Michaela began stripping out of the rest of her clothes, and she tossed them onto the sandy bank. She felt the cold water come into contact with her naked body, and she gasped. The water felt good on her legs, but her side was aching worse than before. She knew that Sully would have to wrap her abdomen, because there was no way she'd be able to do it herself.

Sully could hear her splashing around in the water, and he could hear her breathing heavily, trying to ignore the pain. He would hear her sputter once in awhile, and he knew she was washing and rinsing the mud out of her hair.

"Sully?" he heard her voice after awhile. Sully swallowed hard and stood. He grabbed a large blanket and carried it toward the creek. Her body was submerged beneath the water, but he saw how she was blushing.

"Don't worry. I won't look," He promised. Michaela smiled gratefully, and Sully looked away as he scooped her into his arms. A moment later, he was wrapping the blanket around her and carrying her off toward the lean-to. "You're not used to people helpin' ya, are ya?" He clutched the supplies in his hands as he held her.

"How do you know that?"

"Ya seem nervous." Michaela winced in pain.

"I am," she admitted. "I don't know you, but I'm completely reliant on you right now. I can't walk, and I have to trust that you're a good person."

"It's hard to trust after what happened to ya, I know." Michaela was shocked. How had he known that?

"Yes," Michaela replied quietly.

"Well, don't worry. I ain't gonna hurt ya." Michaela knew that he spoke the truth, and they were silent until they returned to the lean-to. "Don't worry. We ain't gonna stay here long. There's a cave nearby that I'll take ya to once you've dried off and had somethin' to eat."

"We'll have to do something about my broken rib," Michaela pointed out as she wrapped the blanket more tightly around her shoulders. Her legs were throbbing again, and she winced in pain. Sully looked at Michaela's ripped and soaking wet clothes, and he reached into the back of the lean-to for his blue shirt with white stripes. He handed it to Michaela and turned so she could put it on. "There are bandages in my medical bag." Sully found the large white roll and turned to Michaela as she finished with the last button. She looked so tired and helpless, but at the same time, she was determined and strong.

"You want me to . . ."

"I don't think we have a choice." Michaela groaned in pain as she secured the blanket around her naked lower half and raised the shirt up just enough to reveal the large bruise on her side just under her breast. Sully sucked in a sharp breath as he saw the beautiful outline of her body.

"Okay," he said quietly. He knelt down beside her and ever-so-gently wrapped the bandage around her until it was secure and tied snugly. Michaela felt as though she had lost every shred of dignity. Never would Michaela Quinn of Boston let some rough-looking mountain man carry her naked body around and see so much of her as he had. But she had never had to depend on anyone before. She had always been self-reliant and now that she was almost helpless, she couldn't let feeling embarrassed get in her way of healing. Sully was there for her, and he was her only hope. Considering she was Colorado Springs' only physician, there was no luck of getting a doctor out to her, and Sully seemed gentle enough.

"Thank you," she said with tears in her eyes. Sully merely nodded and gave her another cup of willow bark tea to drink. By the time Sully had caught, cleaned and cooked a rabbit, and they had had a quiet dinner, Michaela was sleeping, and Sully was watching her over the firelight. It was dark, and he knew they would work on healing her legs in the morning. Until then, they would sleep, and she would regain her strength.

Wolf came bounding into camp with a note tied around his neck. Sully pulled it off and opened it up.

We brought the lady into town. Heard talk of a stagecoach robber in Manitou and Bolder. Hank and the boys went out lookin'. We heard the lady doc was on the stagecoach and that this was her mother. Let us know if you need anything. Loren.

Sully sighed heavily and wrote out that the lady was Mrs. Quinn and that he had the lady doctor. He also made note that she was hurt, but they were nowhere that a search party could get to easily. He then made mention that he needed supplies and gave a location to meet him in the morning.

"Go on boy," Sully urged. Wolf bounded off again, and Sully glanced at Michaela. "You're gonna get better, Michaela. Don't you worry. You're safe with me."


Michaela was still sleeping early in the morning, and Sully made sure she wasn't about to stir before he walked off to meet Loren for supplies. He had money with him, and he only hoped it was enough. Loren was a good business man, and he was also a man of his word, most of the time.

Wolf had made his way back to the camp around midnight, and he had rested the rest of the night. Sully knew he couldn't keep Michaela out in the woods in her condition. He had to get her someplace safe, and he knew that the safest place wasn't the cave, but it was at the homestead he was in the process of building. It wasn't completely finished, but it could provide a warm place for her to sleep and protection from the elements of nature.

"Sully!" Loren shouted out as he saw Sully step into view at the side of the road. Loren pulled the wagon up closer to Sully. "I've got everything ya need. How's the lady doc doin'?"

"She's hurtin' awful bad. I might need your help."

"My help? How?"

"I need to get her out to my homestead. Ya know the one I'm buildin'?"

"Right."

"I need to make the wagon as comfortable as possible for her. Can ya do that? She's got two broken legs and a broken rib. She needs to be real comfortable."

"I'll see what I can do," Loren promised, shaking Sully's hand. Sully paid the man and hurried back toward the lean-to.


Michaela opened her eyes to find that she was all alone and the fire was dying out. She sat up quickly, regretting that as soon as the pain began to throb. She groaned and pulled the blanket off of her legs to see that the swelling hadn't gone down. She looked away, hating the sight of her temporary disability.

Her heart nearly stopped beating, and her breath caught in her throat. She felt like she was choking, and her fear was overpowering her. She didn't want to be alone. The last time she was alone, she was crawling toward the water and trying to stay alive.

A vision of her mother's lifeless body flashed before her eyes, and she screamed out.

"No!" She fell back onto the furs and began to weep. She felt as if she was being punished for something. Was she being punished for defying her mother's wishes? Were her broken legs supposed to be some kind of irony to persuade her to go back to Boston and lead a "normal" woman's life?

She glanced over to see that Wolf lay sleeping. Sully was coming back. He had to come back. What if he was hurt and she couldn't get to him?

"Sully!" she cried out, tears falling down and wetting the fabric of the shirt that practically hung off of her body. She pulled the blanket up around herself on this hot June morning, needed to feel safe.

"I'm here," he said quickly, running into sight.

"You told me you wouldn't leave," she whispered, putting her face into her hands. He sat down at her side and put his hand on her shoulder. She was trembling, and all he could do was carefully pull her into his arms and hold her close.

"I'm sorry. I went to get supplies. I'm takin' ya somewhere safe." Michaela didn't protest. She merely rested as Sully traveled back and forth, taking things to the wagon and coming back. Finally, he was ready to take her, and he scooped her up in his arms and carried her off toward the wagon where Loren was waiting.

When they arrived, Loren eyed her and saw the scratches and bruises on her face. He saw that she was wrapped in a blanket, appearing to be in considerable pain.

"Michaela, this is Loren Bray. Loren, this is the new doctor."

"It's nice to meet you," Michaela said under a painful moan.

"For Heaven's sake! Are you alright?"

"She's hurtin' awful bad, like I told ya. The wagon's ready?"

"All set," Loren said, moving out of the way so Sully could put her in the back. Michaela expected to ride alone in the back the entire way there, so she was pleasantly surprised when Sully climbed into the back rather than the front with Loren. He propped her head up on his lap, and held a cup to her lips to keep her drinking the willow bark tea.

"Sully?" she asked as they started moving.

"Hmm?"

"My medical bag." She yawned gently. "There's a blue bottle."
"Yeah?"

"It's laudanum. It'll make me want to sleep, but it'll help with the pain."

"You sure?"

"Mmm," she replied, feeling safe now. All she wanted to do was let her dreams carry her away from the pain of her life at this moment. Sully nodded and gave her a bit of the medicine. Michaela felt better a few moments later, and soon, she was sleeping soundly with a peaceful look upon her face.


Michaela slept all of the way through breakfast and lunch, and Sully was starting to think she'd sleep clear through dinner. He had already fashioned two strong boxes for Michaela's legs, and all he had to do was wait for her to wake so he could show them to her.

Wolf whined from his spot in front of the fireplace. He kept looking over at the bed to check on Michaela. Now Sully was worried. Wolf was great at judging when something was wrong. So, he moved toward the bed and bent down to place his hand on Michaela's forehead. She had a bit of a fever, and she was sweating.

"Michaela?" he asked. "Michaela?" He tried to wake her, but she continued to sleep. He didn't know much about medicine at all, but he knew this was not a good sign. He had to get Cloud Dancing. "C'mere, boy." Wolf followed him to the door. Sully opened it. "Find Cloud Dancin'. Bring him here." Wolf hurried off toward the Cheyenne reservation, and Sully shut the door. He moved over to sit beside Michaela's bed.

"Sully?" she asked faintly, her breaths coming in small pants.

"I'm right here, Michaela," he promised, taking her hand in his. Michaela's eyes fluttered open, and she squinted into the dim firelight. "You've got a fever, Michaela. I sent for my friend Cloud Dancin'."

"Quinine," she whispered hoarsely.

"What?"

"In my bag." She gestured toward her medical bag. Sully grabbed it and took out the bottle of powder.

"This?"

"Ye . . ." he whispered. "Yes. Mix it with water." She closed her eyes.

"Michaela? Don't go to sleep. C'mon, stay awake. Talk to me or somethin'." Michaela felt nauseated suddenly, and she rolled to her side, screamed out in pain and vomited on the floor. Tears sprung to her eyes. Never had she felt so useless. "Don't worry 'bout that. I'll clean it up." He handed the quinine mixture to Michaela, and she drank it down. Sully went to work at cleaning up after this woman, and he watched her frail, broken body tremble under the covers.

"I'm sorry," she moaned after drinking the rest of the quinine mixture.

"Nothin' to apologize for. You've been through a lot." Michaela rested her head on the pillow as Sully finished cleaning.

"He was tall." He noticed her clenching a pillow in her hands. Her knuckles were white and rigid.

"What?"

"The man who attacked us. He was tall and wore a black shirt. He had a black hat. His hair was fair, lighter than yours and trimmed short, and he was clean-shaven. He said he had a family to tend to. That's why he attacked us." Sully nodded and brushed the hair out of Michaela's face.

"I'll let Loren know in the mornin'."

"Sully, I was so frightened," she whispered. "I've never been more frightened in my entire life."

"It's over now, though," Sully whispered. "I know it's a bad thing to try to get over, but you will."

"My mother is dead because of me," she cried. "We were having an argument right before it happened! She was complaining, and I was getting tired. I never meant for this to happen. I let her down, Sully! I let my entire family down!"

"No ya didn't. I didn't know your family, but I'm sure they loved ya very much. I'm sure your ma was proud of ya."

"She never wanted me to come here. She wanted me to stay in Boston and get married. I didn't want those things. I wanted to be the best doctor I could be, and I wanted to do that before anything else." She pulled the picture out of her medical bag. Sully swallowed hard, not wanting to pry. Michaela glanced at Sully, wanting him to ask who this man was. She wanted to tell him so many things about herself, and it scared her. She didn't know this man at all, but she knew that he was gentle and caring. She knew he would do anything to keep someone safe. He had saved her life after all.

"Ya don't have to tell me who he is, ya know?"

"I know, but I feel like you've seen me at my worst, and you're still here. I feel as if I can trust you."
"You can trust me." Michaela nodded, swallowing the lump in her throat.

"Yes, I know." She sighed heavily. "His name was David Lewis. He worked as a doctor at my father's hospital. He was kind and charming, and we were to be married." Sully heard the tension in her voice. "We courted for an entire year, and I told myself we were a good match, and we were. We were both excellent physicians, and we worked wonderfully together. My father was so happy that I had met David, and my mother was over the moon that I was courting with a doctor. She felt that I would probably give up the idea of being a doctor once I married him and settle down to be a housewife like her."
"But ya didn't," Sully said with a knowing smile. He didn't know her very well, but Michaela Quinn was no housewife! She was made to be special, and special she was. She was a lady doctor and nothing less.

"No," she replied. "When I agreed to marry David, I thought I could talk myself into loving him before the wedding. My mother told me that a good match was more important than love, but I called her a hypocrite, because she and my father loved one another very much." Michaela shook her head. "Two weeks before we were to be married, David was sent off to war, and I never saw him alive again. His body was sent back to Boston, and we buried him in our family plot, because David's family was all gone."

"Sorry to hear he died." Michaela nodded. "Sometimes I used to think that his dying was a way of letting me be free to control my own life." She sighed. "That's silly, isn't it?"
"I don't think so. But, I don't believe ya would've ever given' up bein' a doctor even if ya had married David. I'm relieved ya didn't marry him." This surprised Michaela.

"What?"

"Well, if ya woulda married him, ya wouldn't be the same woman ya are today. I know I don't know ya very well, but ya don't seem like the kinda woman who'd marry someone without lovin' 'em." How had he known that? It was as if he knew her very soul. She was taken away. But she suddenly felt as if she were freezing, and she pulled the covers up around her neck. "Michaela?" Sully put his hand on her forehead. "You're burnin' up." He quickly mixed together some more of the quinine.

"It's not working," she whispered.

"Don't worry. You're gonna be alright."

"Sully, if I die . . ."

"No! Don't even think it. You're gonna be alright! Just relax." Sully mixed the last of the quinine with water and gave it to Michaela. He watched as her eyelids fluttered shut, and he hoped that Cloud Dancing would arrive soon. "C'mon, Michaela. Stay awake. Talk to me."

"Talk about what?" she asked, pressing her hand to her side where her broken rib was.

"Anything." Michaela had told Sully quite a bit about herself, but she knew virtually nothing about him.

"Tell me about . . . about your childhood." Sully's face started to turn pale.

"Ya don't wanna hear about that."

"Sure I do. Please, tell me?" Sully sighed.

"Alright. What do you want to know?"

"Where did you grow up?" she asked, panting a little as the pain started to grow more intense. Sully took a sponge from the water basin, wrung it out and wiped it across her forehead and cheek.

"I grew up in New York," he replied, "but I headed out West when I was ten, 'cause both my folks were dead."

"You came out here all by yourself? You must have been frightened."
"I was, but weren't you?"
"Yes, but I was coming out here as an adult, and I wasn't alone. It must have been quite an experience for you."

"It was, but I'm glad I did it." Michaela smiled, but that smile quickly disappeared when she began trembling again.

"Michaela? Michaela, come on, just hang on." Sully had seen fevers like this before, and he'd always seen the patients being cared for and being sponged off. He wasn't sure if Michaela would appreciate being given a sponge bath by him, but he had heard that it was one of the best ways to help bring the fever down without medicine.

"The quinine," she muttered.

"It's gone," Sully said softly. "But Cloud Dancin' is gonna be here soon. Don't you worry." He took the sponge into his hand again. "Michaela, you're the doctor. Ain't it best to . . ." he motioned toward the sponge, and Michaela put her hand to the buttons on her shirt.

"I'll be alright."

"Michaela, I know it ain't all that proper, but if its gonna save your life, I think you can put modesty aside for a minute." Michaela's cheeks were red, and Sully was sure that was more from embarrassment than the fever. Finally, she let her guard down, once again feeling as if she had lost just about every shred of dignity once she had vomited on the floor. He had definitely seen her at her worst, and Sully had proven himself to be a pretty trustworthy fellow. So, she nodded and closed her eyes, hoping this wouldn't take very long.

"Don't worry. I won't look if it'd make ya feel better." Michaela smiled a little through the pain, and she shook her head.

"I trust you, Mr. Sully."

"Why are ya bein' so formal all the sudden?"

"I'm sorry. It's an old habit." Sully smiled.

"Give it up." Michaela closed her eyes again and tried to relax as Sully worked on the buttons of her shirt. He was gentle and caring as he ran the sponge over her chest just above her breasts. Sully was a gentleman and looked away as he ran the sponge over the rest of her chest. Michaela opened her eyes a little and saw that he wasn't looking at her. Her breath caught in her throat when his thumb accidentally grazed the side of her nipple, and she blushed. Beyond the pain, she felt something stir inside of her. Never had she known a man's touch to be so gentle and caring. Never had she experienced the kind of feelings she felt when she was in Sully's presence. He made her feel better despite the pain she was in.

Sully did up the buttons on the shirt Michaela was wearing, and he noticed that her fever had come down a little. She had fallen back to sleep, and he knew she deserved to rest. He heard Wolf scratching at the door outside, and moved to open it up. Cloud Dancing stood on the porch with Sully's faithful Wolf.

"There is trouble?" Sully pointed toward the bed.

"She's got a bad fever, and she had somethin' called quinine, but it ain't workin'."

"There is another way. The purple cone flower has been known to reduce fever."

"Can ya find some?"

"Yes."

"Hurry?"

"I'll do my best." Cloud Dancing started off, and Sully went to sit back at Michaela's bedside.

"Just hang on, Michaela. Don't give up. Keep fightin'."


A week had passed, and Michaela was doing much better. Her fever was gone, her scratches were healing, and her dark bruises were now light yellow in color. Her legs were immobilized in cedar boxes, and she was uncomfortable most of the day and night, but Sully kept her entertained by reading to her and telling her more stories from his childhood.

They had gotten to know one another very well, and they were becoming fast friends, but they were also quickly falling in love with one another. They were alone most of the day and night every day, except for the few instances when townsfolk brought by food or supplies. Michaela was gradually getting to know some of the people that she would be seeing everyday once she was able to start working.

Sully had even asked Michaela if she intended to stay in Colorado Springs, and she told him that yes, she was staying, because she couldn't very well run away from everything that had happened. She needed to keep fighting. Yes, Michaela Quinn was a fighter. He knew she was still hurting emotionally though. It would take a long time to get over what happened to her mother, and he knew that it was possible that she might never get over it. Someday it would be easier for her though, and the memories wouldn't haunt her every night. He didn't know how many nights he'd heard her crying out for her mother in her sleep. It was heartbreaking.

Loren had come by earlier that week to let them know that the man who'd caused this mess had been caught and was going to trial in Denver. Michaela's family had arranged for Elizabeth's body to be sent back to Boston, and Michaela knew that she would never get the chance to say goodbye to her mother. Sully had made things easier for her, however, by just being there and sitting with her. They had been through so much together already, and Michaela was quickly overcoming many embarrassments, especially since Sully was the one who would have to help her out to and back from the outhouse. She was amazed that he had seen so much and was putting all of his effort into getting her well, and none of it seemed to phase him. He was still just as caring as he had been the day they met. He was a wonderful caretaker and a good friend. Michaela knew that whatever happened, this would be the most memorable week of her life.

"You hungry?" Sully asked as he came in with supplies from town. Michaela was sitting up in bed reading over one of her medical books.

"No," she said softly. Her appetite had been very poor lately, but she had to keep food in her body to stay nourished.

"Michaela, ya gotta eat," he warned, going over to the stove and starting the fire. Thankfully, he had enough of the house finished that the stove was already in place so they could have hot meals. Michaela continued to look over her books, but the pain in her legs grew to be too much.

"Sully? Could you bring me the laudanum?" Michaela asked. She hadn't relied on it too much over the past week, but the pain was really bothering her now.

"There ain't anymore," Sully pointed out. Michaela sighed with frustration.

"I'll bring ya some Willow Bark tea."

"No, I'll be alright."

"I don't want ya to hurt."

"I'm fine. Come talk to me for awhile." She patted the chair beside her bed.

"Alright. Only if I get to ask the questions this time."
"Why?"

"Well, I think you know more 'bout me than I know about you," he pointed out. Michaela felt that that wasn't true. He'd seen her in the worst shape of her life, and he was now no stranger to helping her with her undergarments before she went to use the outhouse. She had been so dependent on him.

"Sully, I don't think that's true. I've never let anyone get this close to me before."

"It ain't like ya had a choice."

"You don't mind taking care of me?"

"Nope. It's nice bein' able to take care of somebody besides myself for once." Michaela leaned her head back on the headboard of the bed. "Alright, so can I ask ya a question?"

"Why not? It's not as if I can run away from it." Sully smiled a little.

"It's about your ma if that's okay." Michaela tensed up a little. "Sorry if I upset ya."

"No, no you didn't. I just miss her. She was an amazing woman despite her constant nagging." Michaela smiled a little.

"I bet ya loved her very much."

"I did. She had five daughters, and that's a lot to deal with when you have Quinn blood in you." Sully chuckled. "I was the baby of the family, and my father assumed I would be a boy. Well, I wasn't, but I was given the "oldest son" treatment, even though I was the youngest daughter. He took me everywhere with him, and I practically grew up in hospitals."

"Is that how ya decided to become a doctor?" Michaela nodded.

"The first time I saw a man die, I wondered how anyone could ever want to have somebody's life in their hands. But, the first time I saw a child being born, I realized that being a doctor was so much more than making sure people don't leave this world. It's also about making sure more lives are brought into the world healthy and strong." She smiled a little. "It's about making people feel better and get better." Sully watched her as she stared off with a happy look in her eyes. Her eyes were sparkling, and he thought she had never looked more beautiful. It was then that curiosity got the better of him. He knew her fiancé had died in the war, but did she have someone waiting for her in Boston? Did she have someone coming for her?

"Michaela?"

"Hmm?"

"I know David died in the war."

"Yes," she said softly.

"Did you ever . . . I mean, is there someone waitin' for ya that I should notify?" Michaela smiled at his curiosity.

"No," she replied. Then she decided to get him at his own game. "Is there anyone that I should know about in case I'm taking all of your attention?" Sully chuckled and cleared his throat, standing and walking to the stove.

"Nope. Nobody." For some reason, Michaela felt relieved by that. She only smiled as Sully began to cook supper.

"Sully?"

"Hmm?"

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"For everything. You've been so helpful to me. I know I've been stubborn about a lot of things, but you've stayed strong for me and helped me through the first week. I would normally feel uncomfortable about telling someone that they've been my rock when I've known them barely a week, but I don't feel uncomfortable with you."

"Well, I like to think we're friends, and friends are supposed to be there for each other." Michaela smiled at Sully's words.

"Yes. We are friends." Sully liked the sound of that, but he wanted something more than friendship with this woman. He was in love with her. He had seen her at the lowest point in her life, and he had helped get her through it. Now he wanted to be there for every point in her life whether it's high or low.

Sully looked away out of fear that Michaela would be able to see his true feelings. Michaela watched as he continued fixing their meal, and soon, she was drifting off into a peaceful sleep, dreaming about walking again one day; walking with Sully's hand in hers. Little did she know that when she dreamed of him, she whispered his name, and Sully knew she was falling in love with him too.


Several more weeks passed by, and on this day, two months after Michaela and Sully had met, the wooden boxes were being taken off of Michaela's legs for good. Michaela could hardly wait to walk again, and Sully was eager to help her out. He knew she would want to do it on her own, and he was also worried that her walking would lead her to walk away from him. The past couple of months had been wonderful, and Michaela seemed stronger than ever. It had taken a little while longer for her legs to heal considering they weren't properly immobilized from the beginning, but she was in better spirits and building her strength back up.

Shortly after Michaela came to stay with Sully, Loren had dropped off the belongings that had been recovered from the wreckage of the overturned stagecoach, and the belongings of Elizabeth Quinn had been sent back to Boston. Michaela was grateful to have her own things now, and she was able to change into different clothes on her own. The only thing Sully needed to help her with was the back button on her skirt, though she was having an easier time now that her rib wasn't so sore.

"You ready?" Sully asked as he moved to the latches on the cedar boxes. Michaela swallowed hard and put her brush down. She had been combing her hair, and Sully noticed that she was glowing like an angel.

They had become such wonderful friends over the past couple of months, and there was no doubt about the fact that these two were in love. Even the folks in town were starting to talk about a romance between the two, but Sully insisted that the relationship was purely a friendship and nothing more, though he and Michaela both longed for something more . . . much more.

"I'm ready," she said with a smile. Sully opened the first box, and he helped her lift her stiff leg out of the sand. He took a cloth and wiped her leg down, and he smiled when she didn't wince in pain.

"How's it feel?"

"Good," she said, actually referring to the way Sully was touching her. She blushed and cleared her throat. "It's a bit sore, but I'm sure once I start exercising them, they'll feel better. He helped her bring her other leg out of the box and cleaned it up too. He disposed of the prisons that had kept her legs from moving for so long, and when he returned, she was sitting on the edge of the bed with her legs on the floor. He smiled as he watched her from the doorway. She was pulling her hair back into a bun, and she looked so innocent and sweet. He watched as she grabbed the bedside table and attempted to stand for the first time. It was much like watching a child try to walk for the first time. She was a little clumsy and slow, but she knew what she wanted to do, and she wasn't going to give up until she accomplished it.

She went to take a step, but her legs were so weak from nearly two months of bed rest that they felt wobbly like a chicken leg after being left in acid. She started to tumble to the floor, but Sully caught her.

"I can do this myself!" she insisted harshly. Sully helped her sit back on the bed. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped at you like that."

"It's alright. I know you've been pretty dependent for a while. I bet you're lookin' forward to doin' things for yourself now." He was a bit sad that she would be leaving soon. He'd have nobody to care for laugh with. He'd have nobody to read to at night or to have long talks with until the wee hours of the morning.

"I must admit that it'll be nice to be able to walk myself to the outhouse," she chuckled. Sully smiled and nodded his head.

"I'll make ya some crutches if ya need me too."

"No. I need to do this on my own."

"Let me help ya until ya find your footin' then." Michaela nodded and stood with Sully. She wrapped an arm around his waist, and he wrapped one around hers. They slowly started for the door. Michaela concentrated to keep her legs steady, and they were soon out on the porch and standing in the sunlight. "Feelin' tired yet?"

"No. Sully, take me out there." Michaela pointed to a sunny patch in the nearby meadow where the flowers were in bloom. The thick scent of honeysuckle was clinging in the air and calling them out to stand in the beauty of the summer.

They walked out there steadily, and Michaela felt comfortable in Sully's arms. She smiled at him as he concentrated on getting her to where she wanted to go. She felt like she wanted to run through the flowers like a child in the spring time, but she knew it was far too soon for that.

When they arrived, Michaela bent for a daisy and plucked it from its roots. She smiled and sniffed the delicate flower, and Sully watched as she steadied herself. He let go of her, and she didn't seem to notice. The sunlight filtered down onto her and surrounded her. It was the most beautiful sight Sully had ever seen. So many emotions and feelings were running through him at that moment, and when he saw her let her hair down and place the flower in her hair just above her ear, it was too much.

"Michaela," he said quietly, turning toward her and reaching for her hand. She looked up at him, and the sun was in her eyes. She felt him drawing near, and soon, he was close enough to block out the sun, and she was leaning toward him.

"Oh Sully," she whispered before their lips met in a sweet kiss. Soft lips met soft lips and arms wrapped around bodies. They were pulling one another in, feeling more dependent on one another than ever. They were drunk on love, and when they pulled away, the sun seemed be shining brighter.

"Sorry," Sully whispered suddenly, not wanting to frighten her. She seemed taken aback.

"Sorry? Why are you sorry?"

"I just thought that maybe you thought it was too soon."

"Sully, I'm not sorry," she whispered. "After what I've been through, I've realized that time is important. Time is all we have, and if we can't make the most of it, what's the point?" She ran her hand alongside Sully's cheek. "You've been there for me, Sully, through so much. These past two months have been quite an experience. You helped me through the lowest point of my life. You helped me cope with my mother's death by just being there for me and talking with me. Sully, it's not too soon for a kiss. It's not too soon for me to tell you how I feel. Sully, I love you." She started to speak again, but Sully drew her in for another kiss. She melted into his embrace, and when they pulled apart, he caressed her cheek with his thumb.

"I never though I'd meet somebody like you. But now that I have, I gotta say I feel like the luckiest man on earth." Michaela grinned with tears in her eyes. "I thought that bein' in love was somethin' much harder than this. But it's so simple, Michaela. It's so easy to love you, 'cause you've got the kindest spirit. Bein' with you the last couple months has really shown me what's important in life. Havin' you here has made me feel like I got a place in this world. Michaela, I love you too." They embraced then, holding each other close for the longest time. They didn't want to move from that spot, but it was time. It was time for Michaela to take her first steps alone and for them to continue on together with the rest of their lives.

The End