Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. The rights to those characters and to the show belong to the creators of the show, to CBS, The Sullivan Company and to A&E.
Remember When Part II
By, Ashley J.
Written July 9,10, 2005
I remember waking up on that hot summer morning feeling different than before. I remember walking into town for supplies with my faithful friend Wolf. I remember seeing the stagecoach rolling into town with a cloud of dust a mile long behind it. The sun was shining down on it and causing the sun to reflect off of the shotguns carried by the drivers. I don't know what caused me to peer into the coach, but sheer curiosity overtook me when I saw a delicately gloved hand holding onto the side of the window. That was when I saw her. Through the dim air inside of the stagecoach, I saw the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes upon, and my life was changed forever.
Her hair was done up and pinned under a fancy hat, and I knew from the beginning that she was trouble, but not in a bad way. The look in her eyes as she met my gaze told me that she as a handful, and it was only going to be the beginning of something I would never forget. And I still haven't to this day.
I remember when the horses stopped, and the creaky stagecoach stopped along with them. I began to walk toward the stagecoach, wanting to be closer to this beautiful stranger. Loren Bray stepped in first, however, and I remember when she moved to step out. Her eyes surveyed her surroundings as if she was a newborn child becoming familiar with the world for the first time. Her eyes squinted into the sunlight, and I felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck as her gaze fixed on mine. I started to move forward as Loren helped her step down, and I watched as she lost her footing and began to fall. I was halfway there before she started to fall, and I quickly moved to stop her from hitting the ground. I didn't want her to have a bad first impression of Colorado Springs, though I knew there were many folks who would have the pleasure of doing that for themselves.
When I caught her, my arms wrapped around her waist and held her close. I inhaled the fragrance of her hair, and I felt as if I was falling too. I steadied myself as Wolf came to sniff around, and I stared into her eyes as her arms wrapped around my neck involuntarily. As I looked into her eyes I noticed something quite special about her. Her eyes were two different colors, and if it was possible, it made her even more beautiful.
The folks around us began to scatter, but the stagecoach drivers were beginning to pull her luggage down from the top of the carriage. I was fascinated with her, and when I saw the way she was dressed, buttoned up from neck to knees, I instinctively wondered what she might look like underneath all of those layers of fancy clothes.
I remember when I felt her tremble for the first time, and her eyes stared into mine, causing my knees to go week. I hesitated with her in my arms and reluctantly let her down so she could step into the soft Western soil for the first time in her life. I remember that she swallowed hard and watched me for a moment. I'm not sure what she was thinking at that very instant, but I backed off so I wouldn't frighten her.
She looked down with fright when Wolf started sniffing at her skirt edges. I smiled a little and knew he was just being friendly and getting to know her, but she was new to the west, and I'm sure she hadn't been expecting a wolf to come up to her in the middle of town. I knew it was time to say something. I needed to speak to her, and more than that, I needed her to respond. I needed to hear her voice.
"Don't worry. He won't hurt ya," I assured her. Something flashed in her eyes, and to this day, I'm not sure if it was the sunlight, but later on, she told me that at that very moment, she knew she trusted me.
"Thank you sir," she said softly. Her voice was pure and soft. She definitely wasn't from anywhere around Colorado Springs. She didn't have the Western drawl that many folks had, and she spoke in a proper tone that drove me wild. She closed her eyes for a moment and breathed in the mountain air. I watched her, and it was as if I was dreaming. I had the distinct urge to pinch myself, but before I could think, her eyes opened again, and she stared at me. I remember that I must have had a funny look on my face. I was smitten with her, and she knew it.
I remember her looking at me as if she was waiting for a response. This was the first time I had ever felt stupid in my entire life. I was just standing there and gawking at her as if I'd never seen a lady before. Well, I hadn't. Not one quite like this lady, anyway.
"Sully," I said blindly. Then I felt ridiculous, because the look that crossed her face was one of wonder. She looked as if she were about to ask another question, but she extended her hand to me.
"Dr. Michaela Quinn," she said with a slightly nervous smile, but a smile nonetheless. I remember that this was the first time she truly smiled at me. I remember her flinching as if I were going to laugh at the fact that she was a doctor. I remember giving her a nickname that would stick with her for the rest of her life.
"That's a mouthful," I responded, feeling more and more like an idiot. "Mind if I call ya Dr. Mike?" She looked surprised and amused at the same time.
"My father called me Mike, but you may call me whatever you like." I remember the first time she felt embarrassed in front of me. Her cheeks turned red, but I didn't want to make her feel any more uncomfortable than she already was.
I remember introducing her to the Reverend Johnson and a few other folks in town. Then, I led her to the boarding house, where she met the Widow Charlotte Cooper for the first time. I remember that the kids took a liking to her right away, and she was brilliant with them. She looked as if she hadn't been around children much of her life, but I knew she was a doctor and had to have an excellent bedside manner. When I saw her with Brian, I knew she was going to make a wonderful mother, and I couldn't help but picture her holding our first born. I remember being overwhelmed, because I had never felt so strongly about someone before, not even Abagail, and it shocked me, because I had known her all of two minutes. I remember that was the first time I realized I was falling in love with her.
I stayed around for days and days helping her settle into life on the Western frontier. I knew my way around and showed her places that I'd never shown anyone before. I joined her for quiet lunches and early dinners, and she had to have known how I felt for her. I didn't want to scare her, but I knew she cared for me too.
I remember when Charlotte Cooper died, leaving her children Matthew, Colleen and Brian to Michaela. Michaela was a nervous wreck when it came to caring for the children, but she didn't let Charlotte down. They grew to love her as a mother, and despite the lack of any parental experience in the past, she did just fine.
I remember checking on them every other day. I stayed close to the homestead in case they ever needed me. I took them fishing and taught Michaela many things she didn't know, and I learned a lot from her. I remember the first time I took her to meet my Cheyenne brother Cloud Dancing. They became good friends right away, and I knew she was the one. She wasn't scared of my friendship with the Indians, and she was truly a free thinker. She didn't succumb to the pressures of the masses and draw away in fear. No. She was as gentle and friendly as ever. She certainly was the one I was destined to spend the rest of my life with.
I remember that I let myself be a fool in front of her. I tried impressing her on our little fishing excursions, and when I tried to catch the biggest fish, she tried to catch one even bigger. Needless to say, she fell in the creek and spent the rest of the afternoon drying off. That was the first time we laughed together, and it felt so nice. I had wanted to kiss her then, kiss her a thousand times, but I knew it was too soon. It was too soon to scare her or start that next chapter in my life. I needed to wait a little longer.
I remember watching the sunset with her that night. She was curled up under a blanket as we sat on the porch of the homestead that had once been built for Abagail. The painful memories of Abagail and Hanna's deaths that always came to me when I stepped foot inside that house seemed to disappear now, and I knew I was letting go of the past.
Weeks later, I remember that Michaela asked me my true name. She told me she didn't quite believe that my name was just Sully. She asked what my last name was, and I remember her giggling when I told her it was Sully.
"It can't be Sully Sully," she said incredulously. I only chuckled and shook my head. "Your first name? What is it?" I shied away, not wanting her to know the burden of a name I had carried with me my entire life. "Sully, it can't be that bad. Please tell me?" The first time I swallowed my pride in front of her, I prepared myself for the worst.
"Byron," I said with quietly.
"What?" she asked. "I didn't hear . . ."
"Byron," I replied louder. I figured she'd laugh or smirk even, but she didn't. "Go ahead."
"Go ahead and what?"
"Laugh. I know ya want to." Michaela merely shook her head at me.
"I think Byron is a lovely name," she said with smile. "It's very noble." I groaned, and she grinned again. "But I can see you don't like it, so I will only call you Sully." I smiled at her words, and again, I held back from kissing her.
I remember the first time Brian grew ill while in Michaela's care, and I comforted her as he lay sick in bed. I remember the first time I held her close and whispered in her ear, telling her everything was going to be all right. I held her and rocked her as if she were the child, and when Brian began to feel better, I wiped the tears from her eyes and caressed her cheek. I told her she was a good doctor and hugged her close. When we pulled apart, my senses overpowered me, and I brought my lips to hers. I remember our first kiss. It was soft but loving, and I knew then that she loved me. Maybe she wasn't ready to say it, but I knew it in my heart.
I remember when we finally declared our love for one another. It had been a good two months since our first and only kiss. An epidemic had spread throughout the Cheyenne reservation, and we had spent hour after hour nursing some back to health and giving heart-breaking news to others. I had been protective of her, hoping she would be all right, and luckily she was. When it was all said and done, I remember her collapsing in my arms on our way back to the homestead. She hadn't slept in three days, she had dark circles under her eyes, but to me she was just as beautiful as the first time I'd laid eyes on her. Nothing mattered except for her pure heart and giving soul. I held her close.
"I'm proud of you," I whispered as she sobbed in my arms. I felt her trembling and pulled my arms tighter. I wanted her to feel safe, and I wanted to protect her.
"I didn't do anything but try to help those who were dying."
"Ya saved some too," I reminded her. "Ya did good, Michaela. I'm so proud of you." I tilted her chin so my lips could greet hers with a tender kiss. We held one another, clinging on to one another for dear life. We had just been through quite an ordeal, and it was obvious how important life was to both of us. And, when our lips parted, I looked into her eyes and placed her hand upon my chest so she could feel my heart beating; pounding for her. "You're my heartsong." She looked up at me, and I wasn't quite sure she understood. But she understood soon enough. "I love you." Her breath caught in her chest, and she let the tears slip down her tired cheeks.
"I love you too," she whispered. "I love you too." I picked her exhausted body up in my arms and carried her home.
I remember telling her the heartbreaking story of my first wife's death. I told her of how she died giving birth to Hanna, and how Hanna died shortly thereafter. That had been the most painful experience of my life, and having Michaela's love brought a new meaning to a life I had once thought was over. I needed her to be with me, and I needed her to know that I had never felt the way I felt about her for anyone else, including Abagail. I'm not sure if that upset her or not. Somehow, telling her about this painful memory eased my own pain. Watching her eyes glisten with tears made the tears of my past begin to dry up. I felt an even closer connection with her.
I remember her telling me of the fiancé she lost to an influenza epidemic. His name was David, and when she talked about him, the tears were nothing compared to what I had shed over my late wife's passing.
"You didn't love him did you?" I asked as my arm rested over her shoulders. Michaela shook her head guiltily.
"No, I didn't. We were to be married, but that doesn't mean I loved him." We held one another in silence the rest of the evening, thinking of the future that was ahead of us and wondering what it would bring.
I remember the first time she invited me for dinner after we began courting. She was so nervous, and not a great cook I might add, so she had Colleen do the cooking and even paid her fifty cents to do so. Of course, Colleen later told me all about it and gave the money back to her mother. The children were as eager to get us together as we were. Brian, of course, had to ask outright when I was going to propose to his ma. Of course, I already had engagement on the mind, but I wasn't expecting the children to mention it. I remember when Michaela's face went pale and she immediately refilled the water glasses before Colleen even served the meal. Watching her get flustered was a treat, and I only smiled and let her go on. I knew she was modest, and I couldn't wait to agitate her barriers of modesty and watch her cheeks blush crimson. After a few more questions, poor Michaela nearly choked, so after the children went to bed, I fixed her a cup of tea so she could relax. I knew she was grateful, but no words were needed, and we sat on the porch in a comfortable silence under the pale moonlight.
I remember when I first placed the order for her engagement ring. It was a beautiful single-diamond ring with a gold band. It was a wonderful mixture of simple and elegant, and I hoped Michaela would love it. I remember the night I gave it to her five months after our courtship began. I had asked her to take a stroll with me in the middle of the afternoon, and we held hands as we walked alone under the snowflakes. When I pulled the ring from my pocket, her eyes shined with happiness and warmth.
"Michaela Quinn, would you do me the honor of becomin' my wife?" I asked, my nerves bundling into a tight ball in my stomach.
"Yes," she answered right away, any reservations she may have had were scattered to the wind. I placed the ring on her finger, and she practically leapt into my arms, showering my lips with kisses. I didn't mind, and I pulled her closer, bringing her kisses closer and deeper. "I'll love you forever." With those words, I whispered a short Cheyenne prayer into her ears, and I watched the tears well up in her eyes and fall, glistening like tiny icicles in the winter sun.
I still remember our first fight, and I can't help but laugh about it to this day. I mention it to her sometimes, and she pretends to be upset with me, but she soon breaks down and laughs along with me. She wanted me to wear a ring, and I wanted her to change her last name. We were both stubborn, but we quickly compromised and decided that if I didn't have to wear a ring, she didn't have to change her last name. To think about it now, I know it was a petty fight, but we had both blown it out of proportion and become so infuriated. But, we loved each other to no end, and that was what counted the most.
I'll never forget the way she cried when her own mother refused to come to her wedding. I'll never forget how heartbroken she was and how I vowed to make things right. I wired her mother and told her of our situation, and after several weeks, I convinced her to come to the wedding. When Michaela found out, she was angry with me at first for meddling, but she soon realized that I had been doing it in her best interest, because I hated to see her crying over her mother's stubbornness, when she had clearly gotten some of that same stubbornness from Elizabeth Quinn.
I'll always remember when I first needed her medical expertise. We were trying to save our Cheyenne friend Cloud Dancing from bounty hunters. My heartsong jumped in the middle and nearly got herself killed, but I took the bullet. I nearly died, and I'm sure I heard Abagail calling for me, but I had to stay. I had to stay for the woman I loved and promised myself to for the rest of my life. I couldn't leave her. Not now. Not ever. Luckily for me, Michaela was amazing with a needle and had an impeccable bedside manner. I healed in a very short time, and I thanked the spirits everyday for my being able to see another sunrise and Michaela's smile glowing beneath it.
I will definitely always remember the first time she cooked for me. Michaela had been so nervous that I wouldn't like her cooking, and frankly, it was horrible. But, she had slaved over that stove for an entire afternoon, and I couldn't let her hours go to waste. So, I ate every biscuit that could break a window and every piece of roast beef that came out looking like jerky. Once our romantic dinner was over, and she hadn't had a bite, we went outside and sat on the porch.
"Sully?" she asked me.
"On our wedding night, will you dance with me?" I looked away with embarrassment and told her I didn't know how to dance. Just then, she stood and held her hands out to me.
"Come. I'll teach you." I reluctantly reached out and took her hands, and in no time, we were swaying together underneath the moon, and her eyes were glistening happily. It was then that I knew it was the perfect moment to take her to my secret place. It was a place I had been going to in private for several months now, and she hadn't even known it. Many times, I had worked there in the dead of night, but it was time to show her.
I remember when I took her hand and led her down a path with nothing but the moonlight guiding our way. Wolf trailed ahead, making sure we were safe, and we held each in the chilly night air. I led her a mile from the homestead, and to my surprise, she didn't ask questions. She trusted me completely, and when we arrived at our destination, I witnessed the moment her breath was taken away. Tears sparkled in her eyes, and she smiled happily. She looked up at me, and I merely nodded.
"Sully, this is. . . wonderful." She gazed down the hill at the two-story home. A small plot for a barn was fenced off across from the house, and the homestead was nearly complete. It was then that I saw the question in her eyes. We had never talked about having children together. I know we had both assumed it would happen, but now I knew that a question was rising. She knew of the daughter I had lost, and it was plain as day that we would already have three children once we were married. We were adopting them together, and we had just never talked about expanding with children of our own.
"There's plenty of rooms," I commented quietly. "One for us and each of the kids. There's an extra room too." I smiled down at her, and she wrapped her arms around my neck, knowing the answer to her unasked question.
I'm not sure who was more nervous on our wedding day, me or my bride. She tells me that she was only a little nervous, but from what I heard from her bridesmaids, she was a nervous wreck. I was so happy when her mother and two of her sisters showed up for the wedding, and it was great to see my wife-to-be mend the strained links with her family.
When she marched toward me down the aisle, I remember thinking that this was the beginning of the rest of my life. Our eyes never broke the amazing gaze we shared, and as Reverend Johnson spoke, we only listened to the beating of our hearts and felt the love we had for one another through our joining hands. I'll never forget slipping that ring onto her finger, a place where it will remain even after death parts us. She cried, and I know tears were in my eyes, because right before I lifted her veil after we were pronounced man and wife, she brushed a tear off of my cheek with her thumb. I lifted the fabric that separated our lips, and soon, we were kissing for the first time as husband and wife. The crowd was cheering, but the only thing I sensed was her lips on mine and our hearts beating as one.
I danced with her at our reception, and we spent our honeymoon at the new house. It was fully furnished and waiting to be lived in, and luckily the children were staying in town to give their ma and me some privacy. I smiled when Michaela stood on one side of the bed, and I stood at the other. I knew she had never been with a man before, and I swore to her that we would take it easy, and I danced with her on our wedding night as I had promised months before.
I'll always remember when she bared herself to me for the first time, and the shadows from the firelight glistened on her body. She was perspiring, and she lay down on the bed, waiting for me to join her. I remember feeling like I was going to faint, but I never told her this. I removed my clothing as easily as I possibly could, but not too quickly. I didn't want to frighten her. When we finally came together as only a man and woman could, I tried to make the new experience as painless as possible for her. She was grateful for my patience, and we gradually became more and more knowledgeable of each other's bodies throughout the night.
We wanted children, and it wasn't much longer than a month after our wedding that we found out we were going to have a child. She found out first, of course, but I'll always remember when she came running home, her cheeks flushed red, her hair flying wildly and loosely behind her.
"Sully!" she said breathlessly. I pulled her into my arms as she came onto the porch.
"What is it?" For a moment, I was worried something had happened to one of the children.
. . ."
"Michaela? What's the matter?" She was trying to catch her breath.
"We're having one!"
"A baby! Sully, I'm pregnant!" I remember that my world spun out from underneath me then, and I held onto my wife for the longest time. We celebrated our upcoming arrival, and when we told the children, they couldn't have been happier. Little did I know that I was in for quite a new experience. Never had I had to care for an infant before, and I was about to get a crash course.
I had never been so frightened than when I was stranded with Michaela after a run in with a few corrupt soldiers. I ended up delivering our child into the world with my own hands, and I was so glad that Michaela was there to coach me as I delivered our child from her. We named him Josef Byron Sully after his grandfather and father. I hadn't wanted my name to be a part of his, but Michaela insisted, wanting our son to always carry a part of me with him.
As Josef grew, he loved to get into everything, and when he started walking, we had to watch him. There were accidents, but minor ones, and we were grateful when he pulled through them with only minor scrapes and bruises. Though, he nearly drowned just after his first birthday, and Michaela blamed herself for a long time afterward. I promised her that these things happen and that we were lucky he came through it alive. But she still carries the guilt of turning her back for a moment. That moment had been long enough for him to fall into a nearby pond.
Josef didn't die when he fell into that pond, but it was just a year later that he did pass on. Our sweet boy had been too beautiful and sweet for this world, and Michaela sobbed about how God had taken him in his sleep, so he would forever be sleeping with the angels. The entire family grieved, but I had never seen Michaela so sad. She had sunk so deep inside of herself that it was hard to watch her cry day and night and refuse to get out of bed in the mornings. But, I couldn't give up on her. I had to be there to hold her hand and tell her I loved her. We went through emotional Hell, she and I, but she finally pulled herself up and came back to us, my Michaela. I saw her at the lowest point of her life, and I never left her. I swore before God that we would be together until death parted us, and Josef's death was not the death we vowed to stay together until.
Not long after Josef's passing, we discovered a new blessing was on its way. Michaela was pregnant again, and of course she was frightened. We all were, but we were happy at the same time. This was a gift that Josef had sent us. He wanted us to be happy again, and this new child would bring light to us all.
As soon as our Katherine was born, she was her papa's girl. Katie was the spitting image of her mother, and I couldn't take my eyes off of her. I danced with Michaela the night our little Kates was born, and we vowed to protect her with all of our strength. We loved her, and we knew that she nor any other child that might come along would ever replace our little Josef, but we could love her and care for her as much as we loved our first-born son.
I was able to play the part of the father of the bride on Colleen's wedding day. Michaela had been crying all morning long, but they were happy tears. Colleen was marrying the gentlemanly Dr. Andrew Cook and going off to medical school herself. Colleen looked beautiful in her mother's wedding dress, and it brought back memories of the day I had put that ring on Michaela's finger. It was still in the same place it had been put those few years before.
With our oldest boy off in law school, it was Michaela and myself with Katie and Brian. Michaela was sad that two of her children were off leading their own lives, but a new part of our life together was just beginning.
We took a trip to Boston when Katie was five and old enough to be a little lady and not fuss and scream when she was tired or hungry. It was only the three of us on the trip there, however, because even Brian was off studying. I remember how Michaela's mother and sisters were kind to me, and they spoiled Katie, but a part of me longed to be back in Colorado. Michaela knew it, and she tried her best to keep my mind off of my homesickness, especially at nights. But, I couldn't help but long to visit my Cheyenne brother and even break up a few saloon fights in town. Wearing those stuffy and tight Boston suits made me itch and squirm, but I adjusted well enough until it was time to go home.
Then came the day that I'll never forget for the rest of my life. I'll never forget the look on Michaela's face as I was dragged off in shackles at gunpoint. I was arrested for treason, a crime I swear to this day that I didn't commit. A few of those corrupt soldiers were in the army, and when talk of a revolt at the Cheyenne reservation leaked out, a certain sergeant swore on the Bible that he heard me talking of leading the revolt, but it was another man, whose name I will not say to this day. I couldn't very well give up the name of a man who was trying to help my Cheyenne family. I swore to Michaela that I would be freed someday, though I knew it wasn't likely.
Michaela's eyes were on me as I was carted away, and I didn't look down in shame. I stared into her eyes as she held a crying Katie's hand. I was being hauled off for a life term in a federal penitentiary. I'd never see my family again.
Some time after I began serving my life sentence in prison, I received notice that I had a new son. Samuel was his name, and I could picture him in my mind. For two long years, I pictured what he looked like in my mind, and I hoped that I would see his face before I died.
I'll always remember when I was released from prison after two terrifying years. I had been beaten and tortured in prison, but I had kept my mind on my family the entire time. I thought of them, because they were home, and when the torture happened, I closed my eyes to it and went home as my body was bloodied and bruised.
When I saw my family waiting for me, all of them minus my beloved Wolf who had passed on months before, I broke down into tears. I knew my loving wife was prepared for the worst, but I was still the same man she married. The only scars I carried with me from prison were the ones in my dreams and under my clothes from the beatings I endured. But, I was still the same man.
I had nightmares for months of my prison days, but Michaela held me through the night and got me through it. She knew I hadn't changed, and she was proud of me for being so strong. When the nightmares finally went away, we were able to move on and look forward to the future.
The future held weddings for our two oldest sons. Matthew married his long-time sweetheart Ingrid, and as his father, I was the proudest man in Colorado. Brian married a short year later to his sweetheart Sara Sheehan, and in the summer, our first grandson was born to Colleen and Andrew.
Our lives were changing all of the time, but Michaela and I had one another. Katie and Samuel were growing like weeds, and it wasn't long before Kates was graduating from the Colorado Seminary College and marrying a respectable young man from New York named Isaac McKenna. On her wedding day, her hair was done up in ringlets like her ma's, and she wore her mother's wedding dress.
"Pa," she whispered as I walked her down the aisle. "Don't worry about me. Next time I come home, we'll go fishing just like we used to." Tears were in her eyes, and my Kates was a then a lady. I couldn't believe it. I still remembered the day she was born as if it had been an hour before. Oh, she was stunning in her dress, and my Michaela was weeping silently as Katie's Matron of Honor. I gave my youngest daughter away on that day, and I gained a new son-in-law.
Over two decades of memories fill our home in picture frames and scrapbooks. My beautiful wife looks as lovely as she did the day I first met her, and she literally fell into my arms. I'll never forget when Josef and Katie were born. I'll always remember seeing Samuel for the first time and meeting my first grandson Christopher. When Katie and Isaac's first and only child Elise was born, I had never been so proud of my precious Kates. Elise Elizabeth McKenna was surely the most beautiful little girl I had seen since her mama was born, and frankly she was the spitting image of her gorgeous grandmother. I'll always remember holding my wife close on all of those nights and listening to her breathe as we fell asleep. Michaela gave me the life I never expected to have, and that never would have been possible if it hadn't been for that fateful day, the day she came riding into town without a clue as to where her life was about to take her.