In Search Of Lost Time

Author's Note: Some of the ages of the characters may not be exactly accurate with what was written on the show, but to fit in with the timeline I am going for, use your imagination. The time and setting are basically a decade and some change before the show actually started. Michaela and Sully's characterizations are slightly different than usual, basically because I truly feel if things hadn't turned out the way they did on the show, both of them would be very, very changed people. I am also not following the storyline of the show.

By Jules

Chapter 1

May 1860

She had really done it. As the early morning light began to peek over the passing farmland of Missouri, the young woman curled closer to the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of this strange land that was so foreign from the cobblestones and mausoleums of her hometown of Boston. But Boston wasn't to be her home anymore. It wasn't to be their home. Dr. Michaela Quinn shifted again, turning to look at the sleeping form of her fiancé, Dr. David Lewis. She smiled and touched the side of his cheek, ignoring the lump in her throat, ignoring the memory of her mother crying and the look in her father's eyes as she defied their wishes. But her father's words wouldn't go away, and she could hear his pleadings just as if he were sitting next to her.

"Mike, look at me. Look at me! I know you think you love him. Of course you do. He's the only man you've ever courted. That's probably my fault. I didn't encourage you to meet other people, instead, I dragged you along with me on my rounds. But sweetheart, I want more for you."

"I can't stay here. I love you, but I can't be here with you."

"No Michaela!" he said hoarsely, shaking them both as he used her given name. "I've never once seen you laugh with him! I don't believe he'll be able to give you the freedom you need—"

Michaela couldn't listen to anymore. She turned from her father and ran up to her room. Her bed had always been a comfort, but not now. Her home was a prison. "David…David will protect me."

"Michaela?" She jerked as she realized that David was awake and starring at her.

"I'm sorry. I was just—" She lowered her eyes, biting her lip shyly.

"It's alright. I know this is difficult for you. But at least we'll be together this way." He took her gloved hand in his. He had always been comforting to her, especially in the hospital when she didn't always receive the same respect he did. It was as if he always carried her along with him.

She put the brightest smile on her face as she could muster. "So tell me about this little town in Colorado."

"Well, it's called Colorado Springs, and they are in desperate need of a doctor."

"Sully!" the young woman nearly shrieked as she jumped off of the wagon in front of their rustic homestead. "Where are ya, Sully?"

"In the barn, Abby!" he called. Abagail Sully, his young wife, only twenty-two, came bolting through the barn doors. Her raven hair was disheveled, but her eyes were sparkling and her cheeks were rosy against her ivory skin. Sully had to laugh at her childish appearance—as subdued as she could be at times, this was a welcomed surprise.

"Oh Sully, the most wonderful thing in the world has just happened!" She ran into his arms. Sully welcomed the embrace, not really knowing what to make of it. He held her close, but not too close. There was something about his wife that reminded him of glass, and he was always fearful that if he pushed too hard or let her in too much, she would break.

"What is it, Abby? You're shakin'." She pulled back from him, tears glistening in her eyes.

"Sully, I just went over to Charlotte's because she's the only one who seems to know anythin' about this kind of thing, and I've been suspectin'—"

"Suspectin' what?"

"We're gonna have a baby, Sully," she whispered. All the hope in the world rested in her eyes in that single moment, and Sully felt the ground drop out from beneath him.

"A pa? I'm gonna be a pa?" His throat was dry, and all he could do was hold on to her, hold on to the woman in front of him for dear life.

2 days later

"Stage coach!" Jake Slicker acknowledged as it passed by into the center of town. Colorado Springs was a quiet mountain town, so the stage coach was a big to do, especially with all the political upheaval going on in the East. Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln were going at it again—this time for president. Jake was away from all that melarky. To him, the beautiful young lady coming out of the stage coach was far more interesting.

"Who in the hell is that?"

"Awe, pick your mouth up off the ground, Jake!" Loren Bray answered, sneaking up beside him. "Haven't you ever seen a woman before?"

"Not one like that." Jake answered matter-of-factly.

"Well, you might as well stop droolin'. Looks like she's got a fella with her."

Suddenly the man with the beautiful young woman approached Jake and Loren, disrupting their assessment of the situation. "Excuse me, gentlemen. I'm Dr. David Lewis and this is my fiancé Michaela Quinn."

"Dr. Michaela Quinn." She held her hand out. Loren and Jake looked at her like she had sprouted horns, and the glazed over look in Jake's eyes suddenly dissipated.

"A woman doctor?"

"Yes, I am."

"You sure this fiancé of yours isn't cuckoo, buddy?"

David sighed and prepared to go into his usual defense mantra of Michaela, "Yes, she is a doctor and we work together. Please show her the same respect as you would show me. Now. We're looking for the Reverend Timothy Johnson."

"Well, you'll find him at the church. It's just down the road and over the bridge," supplied Loren.

"I'm much obliged. Good day, gentleman."

As the couple walked away, Jake and Loren looked after them. "Well, I suppose she can't really hurt anyone. Especially if he's doing all the real doctorin'."

"A nurse never hurt no one. Especially a pretty one." Jake snickered and returned to his barbershop.

Charlotte Cooper opened the door to her bustling boarding house and almost dropped her baby boy out of her arms when she saw the happy couple in front of her. "Oh, Abagail, Sully! I'm so tickled pink for the both of you! I gotta say, for selfish reasons, I hope it's a girl so she can marry my little man Brian here!"

"Oh Charlotte! I think you're thinkin' a little far ahead now!" Abagail giggled, and Sully smiled indulgently behind her. The protective hand around Abagail's waist didn't go unnoticed by Charlotte. She knew she would have to have a talk with him later.

"Now you two come right on in. Dinner is almost ready. Oh! And I have the nicest surprise! There is a new couple in town from Boston. And get this—they are both doctors."

"Even the wife?" Abagail's eyes were wide with disbelief.

"She's his fiancée. Apparently they are waitin' and savin' up to build a homestead before they get married. So she'll be staying her with me. It'll be so good for the two of you to have some young folks to socialize with. Plus, they'll be here for your baby. Just think of that good fortune!"

"Oh Sully…" Sully kissed her forehead. For the first time that day, he felt like he could breathe easier. Doctors. Actual doctors in Colorado Springs. He constantly worried about Abagail, but hopefully these doctors could ease some of the worry and burden he carried every day.

"Ladies, I'll be out back for a bit while you are gettin' everythin' ready." Abagail simply nodded as she took Brian into her arms. Sully smiled as he watched the two of them. She was going to be a fantastic mother.

Michaela sat on the edge of the porch, combing her hair out. She wasn't ready to go inside yet. Charlotte had been quite welcoming, but she couldn't get rid of the knot in the pit of her stomach. Colorado Springs was so different than Boston. What if she couldn't handle it? What if she was only seen as nothing more than David's wife and not a doctor in her own right? He wouldn't let that happen, would he?

Suddenly the door of the porch slammed shut, and she turned around to first see boots and trousers and then a faded white cotton shirt. Then she met his eyes. They were blue, piercing, and what was it? She knew the expression…they weren't sad, but maybe… lost? His skin had a deep tan, obviously long hours of work in the sun, and his hair was long, unkempt. Despite it all, he was extraordinarily handsome. And despite her upbringing and the strict rules her mother had instilled in her where men were concerned, she continued to stare at him.

Her hair was the most beautiful long brown hair he had ever seen. He had seen her combing her hair from behind the screen door, and whether it was curiosity or his unmodified attraction, he did not leave the lady to her solitude. He needed to see her face. And what a face it was—strong, perfect, and her eyes, different shades in the night, leaving her a mystery, her mouth twisted shyly as she looked at him, but she didn't look away, so Sully was left even more confused in those brief moments they shared.

He knelt down beside her and held out his hand. "The new doctor, I'm guessin'?"

Michaela smiled and took his hand. "Dr. Quinn. And you are?"

Lord she was to the point. He couldn't help but smile wryly at her. "Hungry. Let's eat."

Chapter 2

"Ma! Ma!" Colleen Cooper tugged eagerly on Charlotte's skirts as her mother washed the dishes after the rather interesting and illuminating dinner. Colleen had been absolutely enthralled with the new lady, with her fancy Boston dress and handsome fiancé. Charlotte could easily see why. The doc was absolutely lovely, but as she watched her through dinner, the young woman seemed quite anxious, looking to her fiancé every time she spoke. Something about it just didn't seem right to Charlotte.

"Ma!" Colleen called again, finally getting Charlotte's attention.

"Yes, sugar?"

"Look what the Doc gave me!" Colleen proudly held her wrist, displaying a delicate charm bracelet, slightly too big for the little girl.

"Well, that's beautiful, Colleen, but it's gonna plum fall off if you ain't careful!"

"I know. I promised the doc that I'd keep it some place special until I was old enough to wear it."

"Now that sounds like a plan, my sweet." Charlotte shook her head as her seven year old pranced away.

"Do you need any help, Charlotte?" A voice came from the kitchen doorway.

"Oh I have it under control, Doc, but you could help keep me company." Michaela walked into the kitchen and leaned against the counters. She knew Charlotte was a kind woman, but she didn't know if she was ready to answer any questions about her personal life.

"So…"

"So, Doc… What should I call ya?"

Michaela looked down for a moment, the sadness that she had tried so hard to hide throughout the day surfacing without warning. She cringed as she her voice break, "My… my father called me Mike."

"Oh… What happened between you?"

"Are you always this good at reading people?"

"Well, I can just tell you need to talk to someone about it. And I'm here."

Her eyes glazed. "He doesn't believe David and I should marry. So I left home, and we haven't spoken since. I'm afraid we never will."

Charlotte dropped her dish towel in the sink, forgetting all about the chores. "Whew. Dr. Lewis must be pretty special for you to give up your family."

"He's the only man I've ever loved—besides my father."

"Didn't you go to parties and dances?"

"I was too busy studying. I met David in medical school, and he just made studying—"

"More interestin'?" Michael blushed at Charlotte's insinuation. Yes, she and David had had stolen kisses here and there, but still, it had always been about the medicine, the work, not nearly as romantic as it seemed to most people, or even her family. What she and David did was important. The work, the people they helped. She thrived being around him, watching him work, diagnosing cases together, and curing illnesses. It was more interesting.

"Well. Let me tell you, Dr. Mike. You need anything during this time, you come to me. Gettin' married isn't somethin' I take lightly. Why, when I think of what Abagail and Sully went through—"

"Are you gossipin' about me, Miss Charlotte?" Abagail walked in the kitchen, her face aglow with amusement.

"Oh Abby, we're just talkin' about the joys of marriage and the objections of parents. You know somethin' about that, doncha?" Charlotte smiled at the young girl. She loved Abagail, but when she thought of how young she was when they got married, she could almost see where Loren was coming from. No one liked to think of that first year.

"Oh Pa! He can just got to Hell for all I'm concerned!" Abagail's face flushed quickly as her temper flared, a habit whenever she talked about her father.

"Abagail!" Charlotte admonished. The young girl never cursed, but when the subject of her father came up, she was quite relentless.

"Oh, I don't care, Charlotte. All he ever does is beat up on Sully. And for what reason? Simply because he married me!" Abagail's neck and face suddenly went from a blood red to a ghostly white as she shook vehemently. Michaela quickly reached up and circled her arms around Abagail's waist. The fit came on fast, but Dr. Mike caught it quickly, her medical skills kicking into high gear.

"Charlotte, do you have anything sweet?" Dr. Mike asked calmly as they slowly sank to the floor of the kitchen. Never did Michaela imagine that her first case would be in the kitchen of the boarding house, but as life always was for her, nothing ever turned out how she planned it.

Charlotte was so shocked, she barely had time to regroup and function for Dr. Mike. She hadn't seen the attack coming, nor would she have known what to do for it if she had.

"Sure, I keep some candies for the kids in the cookie jar—"

"Hurry, Charlotte, and then call David and Sully in here. Fast." Charlotte scrambled to the cookie jar, finding several peppermints. She quickly gave them to Dr. Mike.

Dr. Mike cradled Abagail's head in her lap as the young woman trembled, muffled sobs beginning to escape her tense jaw. "Ok, Abagail. I need open your mouth, and put this peppermint at the back of you tongue."

Abagail moaned, fighting the candy, but finally opened her mouth. "There you go. I've got you. It'll be alright."

David and Sully rushed through the door together. Sully immediately started for Abagail, but David held him back. "What are you doin'!"

"She needs her space, Mr. Sully. Let Michaela do her job."

"But she's pregnant—" Sully protested, hating that he couldn't protect Abagail.

David looked at Sully, understanding. Michaela often put herself in situations that were bigger than her. Physically, she was in perfect health, but he knew it was his job to take care of her at all times. "Don't worry, Mr. Sully. We'll take good care of your wife."

Abagail came to slowly, her eyes going straight to Michaela's. "What happened?"

"I believe you had a diabetic attack. Have you ever had one before?"

"No, but I've fainted several times."

"Have you lost weight recently? And are you often hungry?"

"Yes."

"Then it's probably Gestational."

"I agree," David concurred.

"What does that mean?" Abagail asked, confused by the technical terms.

"It means that the diabetes was brought on by your pregnancy," Michaela said gently.

Sully quickly interjected, "You mean to tell me that this happened because she's going to have a baby?"

"Yes, but we can control it by regulating her diet and monitoring her pregnancy. And usually after the baby is born, the diabetes dissipates."

"So you'll stay with me?" Abagail tightened the grip on Michaela's hand.

"Of course. I promise you, Abagail. I'm going to do everything I can for you and your baby."

Abagail reached up and touched Michaela's cheek. "You're an angel."

"I'm just doing my job."

"Well, I don't care what happened back in Boston," Charlotte proclaimed, finally breathing for the first time since Abagail's attack. "I believe the good lord sent you two here for a reason."

Sully finally walked forward, still shaken as he stared back and forth between the two women, holding tight to each other, one so strong and the other so weak. He knelt down beside them, catching Michaela's eyes first in silent thanks. There was something about her. Perhaps Abby was right. She was their angel.

Chapter 3

David descended the boarding house stairs. It was decided that Abagail would stay in town tonight under his and Michaela's care. Well, Michaela's care, the truth be told. After Michaela handled the attack so quickly and professionally, Abagail had put all of her faith and trust in his fiancée, and all David could do was idly observe. Usually it was the other way around. But what was he thinking? He loved this woman. He should be happy for her successes. He should be. Things would be different in Colorado Springs.

As Sully saw the young doctor approaching the door, he stood up from his place in front of the fire. "Hey doc."

"Yes?"

"Thanks again for everything you're doing for my wife."

David smiled through his grimace. "It's Dr. Mike you should be thanking."

"True," Sully peered closely at the man before him, "but I assumed you two were a team."

"A team," David lowered his eyes thoughtfully, "well, I'll be turning in, I believe. Michaela is staying with Abagail tonight, so you needn't worry."

"Goodnight," Sully said, wondering if his read of the doctor could be right.

"Goodnight." As David left the boarding house, Charlotte made her way into the living room.

"Well Sully, you know you're welcome to stay the night," she offered as she put her hand on his tight shoulder. She could feel every muscle in it, and her heart went out to him. Sully had no family besides Abagail, so she always looked on him like another son.

"Thanks Charlotte. I think I might stay down here. Don't know that I want to intrude on the ladies."

"Abagail sure has latched on to Dr. Mike. A friend will be good for her."

"A doctor will be even better."

Charlotte paused and reached for Sully's hand. "Did you have any idea?"

"No. But Abby's always been so delicate and soft. We should have never…" Sully broke off, unable to say it. They had loved each other with such youthful abandon, but when it came to their physical expression of it, he had to be restrained, he learned early on, in order not to hurt her. "And now she's sick… but she wanted the baby so much. You should have seen the look in her eyes."

"I know, Sully. She told me. But Dr. Mike's here. She'll make everything ok."

"I just wish there was something more I could do for her."

"I need to tell ya again, Dr. Mike. I really didn't mean all those horrible things I said about my pa. I was just being… theatrical."

"Theatrical?"

"Yeah. It always got me in trouble with him. We would both start yellin', saying things we didn't mean, cursin' like sailors…" Abagail and Michaela laughed together. It was hard for Michaela to imagine this pretty young woman acting like that, but she had seen the evidence of it the day before.

"Well, I met your father, I believe, when I first stepped off the stagecoach. He didn't take too kindly to the idea of a woman doctor in town."

"Of course he didn't. Pa doesn't like anythin' new."

"Especially Sully?"

"Especially him." Abagail patted the seat next to her on the bed. She hadn't had anyone close to her age to talk to in the longest time, and perhaps it was a little soon, but she innately trusted Michaela. "I was engaged to Martin Anderson. My father absolutely adored him, wanted him to take over the store one day. But Sully came into town, one of those miners, ya know? And we just fell in love, despite everything. He was so strong and passionate and kind, and I had never in my life met anyone like him. But my father was insistent on my marriage to Martin, a man I had only met twice. So…"

"So?" Michaela caught herself quickly. She couldn't justify her excitement in Abagail and Sully's story, but she wanted to know more of their romance.

"Sully stopped the wedding and we eloped." Abagail finished excitedly. Michaela didn't know what to say. Yes, she and David had done almost the same thing, but somehow, it didn't quite seem the same. No. Her stomached tightened. She knew it wasn't the same. "So tell me about you and David."

Michaela lowered her eyes and blushed. "I think it's time you went to sleep, Abagail."

"But…"

"No buts, doctor's orders. We'll talk more tomorrow."

"Alright, Dr. Mike. But on one condition."

"What's that?"

"Please call me Abby."

"Alright. Goodnight Abby."

"Goodnight Dr. Mike."

Michaela descended the stairs, catching the sight of an unexpected fire awaiting her. It was nearly midnight, but she couldn't sleep. Thinking of David's rather cold departure didn't sit well with her. What had she done wrong? He was usually so proud of her when she assisted him in cases. Tea. Yes, she needed some tea.

"Emo'onahe!"

Michaela screamed as a man's hand came up around her mouth and around her waist. She clawed at his hands with her nails and finally uncovered her mouth. "Get your hands off me!"

"Dr. Mike?"

"Sully?" Michaela turned around in his arms and tried to make out his face with only the light of the fire coming from the other side of the room.

"What are you doing sneakin' around this place in the middle of the night?" he whispered harshly, still keeping a firm arm around her waist.

"I live here now, Mr. Sully! And I wasn't sneaking around. I was going to make some tea."

"Well give a man some warnin' next time. I thought you were tryin' to rob the place."

"And I'll thank you to stop manhandling me! You can let go of me now, Mr. Sully!" She pushed against his chest, freeing herself from his arms.

"Well excuse me, Dr. Quinn." Sully felt his blood boiling. Angel his foot. She was a little devil.

They stared at each other, at an impasse. Michaela raised her chin, giving him cold eyes. "Tea, Mr. Sully?"

"Well, since we're bein' all formal now and since I'm up, sure," Sully replied dryly. He followed her into the kitchen, realizing for the first time that she was only in her nightgown and how inappropriate he was just a few minutes ago. As she scurried about the kitchen, searching for things, Sully shook his head, gently grabbed her wrist, stopped her, and said, "Let me."

He didn't really want to apologize just yet, because she really did irritate him with her highfaluting Boston attitude a minute ago, but he could at least make her tea so she could go ahead and get back to bed and leave him in peace.

Michaela watched him work meticulously. Abagail surely must have stars in her eyes when it came to this man. Yes, he was handsome, no denying that, but how irritating could one man be? And how ungentlemanly! She still couldn't quite digest the fact that he had held her…no, that wasn't the right word, manhandled her for so long. David hadn't even… Thank God it was dark so he couldn't see the color of her face.

The silence between them only magnified the sounds of the country around them. Sully watched her eyes as they reacted to a coyote in the distance. What a strange place this must be for her.

She knew he was watching her. Judging her probably. She wasn't scared. She wasn't.

He smiled when he saw the resolve come over her. This woman was indeed different than any he had ever met. As the kettle whistled, their silent examinations ended.

"Here. For you." Sully handed her the mug. Michaela sniffed it curiously, not recognizing the scent.

"What—?" She looked at him warily.

"Try it. You'll like it. Trust me." She sipped it slowly and they walked together back into the living room. Sully nonchalantly went back to his place in front of the fire. He turned back to Michaela to find her standing behind him awkwardly. He didn't know what to make of her. She was bold and fierce one minute, and the next she was incredibly shy and nervous. "Why don't you sit down?"

She guffawed at him. "On the floor?"

"Sure. Why not?"

Because her mother would have a fit. It was incredibly unladylike. But her mother wasn't here, was she? "You're right. Why not."

"Look… I'm sorry I scared ya earlier. And I'm sorry I grabbed ya like that. It wasn't right."

"I accept your apology, Sully. It's nice to know that if I had been a real bugler, we'd all be in good hands." They both smiled, glad the good humor between them had returned. "Can I ask you something though?"

"Sure."

"What did you say when you first… you know… grabbed me? It wasn't English."

Sully looked at the fire, embarrassed. He had hoped she would have forgotten about that. "It's just an expression."

She raised her eyebrows at him, and he knew that wasn't good enough for her. "It's Cheyenne. Emo'onahe."

"And what does it mean?" Michaela pressed.

"Nothing. You wouldn't understand. And I shouldn't have said it. Alright?"

"Alright. I'm sorry. I won't press you."

"Good." They were silent for a moment, until the subject seemed completely dropped. "Look. I want to ask you. I've been meaning to do something special for Abby. Do you have any ideas?"

"Well. What have you never done together that she would really love to do?"

Sully quickly mumbled something under his breath that Michaela couldn't understand. "Excuse me? I didn't understand you."

"I said dance! We've never danced together." Sully put his hand over his eyes.

"Dancing? That's all! Well, why don't you just ask her sometime?" Sully dropped his hands and looked her square in the eye.

He sighed and leaned his head back. "I don't know how."

"Oh good grief! Get up! I'll show you." Michaela jumped up, letting her shawl fall on the ground. She held her arms open to Sully as he stared up at her like she was completely insane.

Sully honestly didn't know what to do. Here was the same woman he had grabbed not twenty minutes earlier, inviting him back into her arms. He had never even thought of touching another woman after he married Abagail. "I don't think so."

"Come on. Anyone can learn to dance." Michaela reached down and pulled his hand until they were standing face to face. "Do it for Abby."

When Michaela mentioned her name, Sully focused and sighed. "What do I do?"

"We'll start with the waltz. It's the easiest. Take my right hand in yours, and put your left hand around my waist." Sully followed gingerly. As he pressed his hand against the small of her back, the cotton nightgown did little to hide her warmth or her figure from him. He pushed those thoughts to the back of his head and focused on her voice as she counted out the steps in a one, two, three pattern. They began to turn slowly around the room as Sully began to get the hang out it, and he could feel a smile spreading to his lips. He tightened his grip on her, and finally began to lead her around the room.

Michaela actually laughed as he spun her right out of the living room and onto the porch. "What are you doing!"

"There's more room out here. Plus we'll have the moonlight."

"You're going to wake up the entire household, Sully!"

"This was your idea, teacher." He let one of her hands go and twirled her around. And for the first time since Michaela had left Boston, the knot in her chest didn't bother her. The time flew by that night, and neither of them would ever really remember who stopped the dance or who said goodnight first. The time was lost to the next day, and they didn't mention the dancing lesson to anyone.

Chapter 4

"David!" Michaela had never seen him this excited. He quickly led her out of the boarding house and down the street, past the telegraph office to the empty lot next to it. "David, what are you doing? You're going to pull my arm off!"

"Oh Michaela, I'm sorry, but I just had to show you—"

"Show me what?"

"Where our new clinic is going to be!"

"What? You bought this land?" Michaela spun around, looking at the dusty nothingness.

"Yes, don't you love it, Michaela? I can start building right away, and—"

"But what about our home?" Michaela looked at the empty lot, her stomach tightening once again. "We won't have enough money to build from the ground up twice."

David paused, a hesitancy coming over his dark features. "Well, I was thinking… Couldn't we live above the clinic, near the recovery rooms? We'd always be close to our patients and money wouldn't be so tight."

"I suppose you're right… but I had hoped…" She looked into David's eyes, wishing he would see their future children and the intimate nights sitting by the fire… She suddenly blushed, furious at herself. It wasn't right to think of such things. "Nevermind. You're right. Living above the clinic will be best."

David smiled, unsure of the sudden change in her, but happy she agreed nonetheless. He kissed her forehead. "We're going to be so happy, Michaela."

She pulled away from him, ready to think about anything but where she was going to live for the rest of her life. "I need to go check on Abby. Will you come with me?"

David stiffened. "She's your patient, Michaela."

"But I always help on your cases." Michaela tightened her arms around herself.

"That's different." David knew he was hurting her feelings, but his pride wouldn't let him go. "Go on. I'll see you later tonight."

Michaela simply nodded and walked back towards the boarding house. If she said anything more, she knew she would start crying, and she couldn't let him see that. Getting out to the Sully homestead by herself couldn't be that difficult.

"Are you sure you know how to ride a horse?" Charlotte asked as Michaela impetuously stuck her foot straight through the stirrup of Bongo's saddle.

"Have I ever ridden a horse!" Charlotte cringed as she watched Michaela bounce around in a circle, finally getting her footing back. This was not going to be easy, but the doc was insistent.

"Ok, now up and over. Up and over! Up and over!" Charlotte commanded as Michaela tried to pull herself over, to no avail.

Suddenly out of nowhere, Michaela felt herself almost flying through the air until she was resting firmly on the saddle. She looked down to see none other than Sully's smirking face.

"You're welcome."

"Sully! I was just on my way out to your place!"

"Oh yeah? Abby'll be happy to see ya. How bout I show ya the way?" Sully caressed Bongo's neck and cocked his head to Michaela. "Ready?"

"Of course."

"Alright. Now just give the horse a gentle kick, Dr. Mike—" Michaela kicked him once, but he didn't budge.

"He's not moving, Sully. Maybe I should kick him harder?—" Sully's eyes bulged as he watched Michaela jab hard and thrust into the side of Bongo. Without thinking or letting his fear of horses get the better of him, he grabbed the side of Bongo's main and jumped up on the horse behind Michaela just as the horse broke into a full blown canter.

"Oh my lord!" Charlotte watched the two of the clear out the center of town. If there were ever two people who shouldn't be on a horse together, it was definitely those two. They were going to kill each other!

"Sully! Sully! Stop him!" Michaela screamed as they flew past the General Store, getting the attention of Loren Bray.

"What the hell are you doing, Sully!" he called after them. He already knew that Sully was a no good loser who had stolen his only daughter, but now he was running around town with another woman? Well, he wouldn't stand for that!

"I can't stop him, Dr. Mike!" Sully tightened his hold on her waist as the horse sped up. If they fell off, they would break their necks for sure.

"What!"

"This is my first time to ride!"

Jake ran out of the barbershop, as the pair came barreling by. "What the hell?"

Charlotte and Loren came running down the street behind them, and finally stopped, out of breath. Matthew and Colleen came running from the boarding horse. "Ma! What was that?"

"Dr. Mike just bought her first horse and she kicked him too hard, so Sully jumped up there with her," Charlotte explained, jostling a wide-eyed Brian in her arms.

"What did he do that for? Everyone knows Sully can't ride!" Jake exclaimed.

"I suppose he was tryin' to protect her. The doc was goin' out to the homestead to check on Abagail."

Loren suddenly softened, the anger fading from his face to concern. "What happened to Abby?"

Everyone grew quiet around Loren. He hardly ever mentioned his daughter. Charlotte went to his side and touched his arm. "She had a diabetes attack the other night, Loren. But Dr. Mike knew exactly what to do for her. She's takin' care of her."

"Well… That's good…That's…" Loren turned away, but suddenly turned back. "Maybe we should go after Dr. Mike and Sully? Make sure they're alright?"

"Here! Here! Let's pull on the reigns!" Sully and Michaela were completely tangled up on Bongo, but without talking, he pulled on the right side and she pulled on the left side. "Whoa! Whoa!"

The horse slowed to a trot and eventually, he was walking again. Sully breathed a deep sigh of relief. "We're about a mile away from the homestead now."

"I hope you don't mind that we stick to a walk the rest of the way," Michaela laughed, relieved she was still alive.

"I'll be happy if I never ride a horse again, Dr. Mike."

"Don't say that. Not after all the trouble I went through to get you up here," Michaela said dryly.

"I'd rather dance." Michaela smiled at that comment, agreeing silently.

"So have you yet?"

"Nah. The time hasn't seem right yet," Sully said quietly.

"How's she doing?" Michaela asked tentatively, reading his silence and the loosening of his hand on her waist.

"A little tired, but I think the diet ya got her on is agreein' with her and the baby."

"She's going to be alright, Sully. I'm not going to let anything happen to her." Michaela impulsively put her hand on his. She knew it was wrong making such promises, but she hated seeing him so sad.

Sully smiled and squeezed her hand in return. He didn't know why, but he wanted to believe her.

"What did she do?" David asked, coming upon the crowd that had congregated outside of the boarding house.

"I told ya, David. She was determined to go see Abagail, and she doesn't have the best riding skills, so Sully jumped on the horse behind her, and he doesn't ride at all, so they could both be lying in a ditch somewhere for all we know."

"I should have gone out there with her in the wagon," David chastised himself. "What are we going to do now?"

"Jake and some of the other boys are going to ride out there and check on them. But they better hurry. I'm not sure the weather is gonna hold up and that horse tore outta here like hell on wheels."

"This is it." Sully pointed to the rustic wooden homestead coming into their sightline. He leaned over Michaela's shoulder, trying to see the expression on her face. "What do you think?"

"It's lovely, Sully. You built it yourself?" Michaela turned to answer, not realizing his face was so close. She swallowed and quickly turned back around. In turn, he cleared his throat and called out for Abagail.

Abagail came to the front door, a bright smile on her face upon hearing her husband's voice. When she saw Dr. Mike, her smile spread even wider. "Dr. Mike! Sully? What are you doin' on a horse?"

"It's a long story, sweetheart," Sully laughed, as he haphazardly got off the horse and proceeded to help Dr. Mike off as well.

Michaela approached Abagail, protectively putting her arm around her waist. "How are you feeling?"

"So much better. I've been doin' everythin' you told me to do." Abagail beamed, but Michaela knew Sully was right about Abby. She was much weaker than she let on.

"Well why don't you let me examine you?"

"Sounds just fine. And you'll stay for dinner and tell me all the news in town and all about you and David?"

Michaela glanced to Sully. She didn't know how she would feel talking about David to Abby and Sully. She couldn't get over how different she and Abby were although Michaela knew she couldn't be that much older than her. Abby had a spirit that didn't seem to fit with her body or her life choices. She was so sweet, yet had an excitable nature that obviously got her in trouble.

"Well, I suppose so," Michaela smiled and followed Abagail into the homestead.

"…so I guess we'll be moving in after it's built. Sometime this fall." Michaela supplied as they finished their dinner.

"That sounds lovely, Dr. Mike," Abagail said before taking another bite of stew.

Sully watched as Michaela took a piece of bread and dabbed it over and over again the stew without eating bite. He put down his fork. "Yeah, but is it what ya want?"

Michaela dropped the bread and looked at him. "What do you mean?"

"Well, everythin' you told us was David's idea." Sully looked down, knowing he shouldn't say it, but did anyway, "And you just… You just don't seem real happy about it. That's all."

The table fell silent for a moment as Michaela and Sully stared at each other. Abagail, horribly embarrassed that Sully would imply something like that about her friend, broke the silence and jumped up from the table and began clearing the plates. "Well, of course she's happy about it, Sully. I can't believe ya would even suggest somethin' like that!"

As Abby turned her back, she didn't realize that Michaela and Sully were still fixed on each other. Michaela's eyes had brimmed over with tears. How had he seen that? How could he know what David hadn't? Could he see anything else?

Sully's heart immediately went out to her. He had felt something off between her and David the minute he had met them, but now he knew it was true. He needed to talk to her.

When Abagail came back to the table, she put a firm hand on Sully's shoulder. "I think you owe Dr. Mike an apology."

Sully looked at Abby's pointed expression, and then back to Michaela's lost eyes. He reached for her hand across the table, and she placed it in his. His voice was low, deep, and only Michaela understood the real meaning of his words, "I'm so sorry."

"Good!" Abby smiled, as if everything was right in the world. "Now why don't you take the wagon and get Dr. Mike home? It looks like it's gonna rain soon."

Michaela and Sully rode silently in the wagon. Michaela didn't know what to say to him after he read her so completely. Almost completely. No one had ever been able to do that, with the exception of her father.

Michaela suddenly looked around, not recognizing her surroundings. "I think we missed a turn, Sully."

"Nope. We didn't. I'm just takin' ya to a place that can help." Sully kept her eyes on the road.

"Where are we going? It's going to be dark soon and it could rain any second!" Michaela protested.

"You'll be fine. Trust me."

"We were just on the town road, Abby," Jake argued. "We didn't see them."

"You know how Sully is," Abagail said defensively, "He doesn't always take the road."

"Is Michaela all right?" David asked. "That's all I care about."

"She's fine, Dr. Lewis. Don't you worry. I'm sure she'll be waiting for ya by the time you get back to town."

"Where are we?" Michaela asked in wonderment as she saw the tepees and drumming circles come into view.

"It's the Cheyenne village. Come. I want you to meet a friend of mine." She followed him down the ridge quickly and into a large hut. As Michaela entered, she immediately faced a dark man with a kind face. His eyes found eyes and he held out his hand for hers. Sully was about to speak, but the man silenced him with a decisive wave.

"I have waited many moons to meet you. As I know my brother has." He touched the side of her face. "It will not be easy for you. For you have so much to learn. Evoneše."

The man looked up to Sully. "Emo'onahe."

"Yes. She is."

"Why did you wait so long to bring her to me?" The wise man questioned as he looked between the two of them.

"Cloud Dancin'," Sully said quickly, suddenly embarrassed, "She isn't Abagail."

Cloud Dancing looked back at Michaela, unphased by the mistake. The gods were never wrong, and they told him that she was special. "What is your name?"

"Dr. Michaela Quinn."

"I am a medicine man myself."

Sully walked around the fire and sat next to Michaela, taking her hand. "Cloud Dancin' saved my life once. I was thinkin'… he could do the same for you."

Cloud Dancing watched the exchange between his brother and the medicine woman. No. The spirits were not wrong. He could hear the lightening in the distance. The rain was coming. They wouldn't be going anywhere tonight.

Chapter 5

"David, for Pete's sake, sit down! You're gonna put a hole in my floor pacin' up and down so much!" Charlotte sighed heavily as he walked the length of the dining room table.

"She should be back by now. What if she's hurt or lost?" David ran his fingers through his dark locks, now accumulating sweat.

"Ain't she a doctor? And Sully knows this land better than anybody. I'm sure they just stopped to get out of the rain for a bit. Now sit," Charlotte ordered. She didn't know what to make of the young doctor. He had seemed nice enough at first, but he was awfully tense and high-strung in a stressful situation.

"I should have never come back here."

She smiled and shook her head. "And done what? You would get yourself killed lookin' for them."

David flexed his hands on the kitchen table. "I just feel like… I'm not doing enough to take care of her."

Charlotte leaned forward thoughtfully. "Maybe you're lookin' at this all wrong. Maybe you're doing too much in some places and not enough in others. Did you ever ask her what she wanted?"

David looked up, undiplomatically. "I just assumed we wanted the same things—"

"And that's where you're goin' wrong, son. Don't assume. Ask her when she gets home."

Cloud Dancing considered the young medicine woman across the fire. She was beautiful to be sure, but he felt such a heavy weight on her soul. Her place in this world was not yet clear.

"You are to be married?"

"Yes."

"But this troubles you."

Michaela bit her lip nervously. She wasn't use to talking in this manner but found herself stuttering, "My fiancé—David—and I…we see the world differently. We see our futures differently."

"Have you told him your fears?"

"I tried, but then I couldn't. He just didn't see." Michaela turned to Sully, who was beside her, watching her intently.

"It is important you talk. It is the only way you will realize your destiny. Then you must find the strength within yourself to leave or stay with this man." Cloud Dancing said simply. Michaela and Sully were silent as Cloud Dancing stood. He began to exit but stopped himself. He looked penetratingly at them. "What is to come shall be difficult to overcome. Do not let it destroy what you have."

Michaela frowned at his last words. They didn't make any sense. She shivered and immediately felt Sully's hand on her shoulder. "It's alright. Maybe you should get some sleep? We can get goin' by sun up if the rain stops."

Michaela nodded and curled in front of the fire. Sully moved to the opposite side. Her face glowed like amber across the fire, and they watched each other in silence.

"Sully?" Michaela finally whispered.

"Yeah?"

"Why have you never brought Abagail here?" Sully immediately turned on his back, avoiding her eyes. Michaela watched as he breathed deeply for a few seconds, calming himself.

"Abby knows almost nothing of my friendship with the Cheyenne."

"When they are so important to you?" Michaela sat up on her elbows, shocked.

"Loren, his wife Maude, and Abagail were on the stagecoach coming back from St. Louis in '48. Abby was just a little girl. A band of Dog Soldiers hijacked the stagecoach and scalped Maude right in front of Abagail and Loren."

"Dear God," Michaela whispered. "Were they ever caught?"

"Supposedly the law chased 'em North into an Apache village. They slaughtered the village. I don't know if they ever really found the Dog soldiers, but that's how this endless battle goes, Dr. Mike," Sully voice was close to a whisper. Michaela didn't know what to say.

"I'm sorry, Sully."

"Abby and I do fine, Dr. Mike. It's just never gonna be like this." Michaela froze at the implications of his words, and she wondered if he even realized what he said. She looked across the fire at his profile, wondering why he came into her life now, wondering who he was supposed to be to her, and wondering what she could even do about it.

As she thought about Abby and what she must have suffered, she realized: the truth was nothing. He had to be nothing.

Michaela could hear a red bird singing in the distance as they came into the outskirts of town. When she woke up in the morning, Sully wasn't sleeping. He was sitting outside the tepee, staring off into space. She knew it was time they returned to town.

Early morning workers were just beginning to open their doors and the streets were almost empty. Sully pulled the wagon in front of Charlotte's boarding house and looked at Michaela for the first time since they began their ride that morning.

"Well."

"Thank you, Sully." Michaela said sincerely. Sully nodded quickly and got out of the wagon. He went around to the other side and held his arms out for her, but didn't look her in the eye.

Michaela reached down and jumped out, not prolonging the time in his arms. Everything had changed last night. There was an unspoken agreement between them now.

"I hope folks weren't too worried about ya."

"It'll be alright. Tell Abby I'm sorry for keeping you out all night."

"She'll understand."

"Goodbye Sully." Sully only nodded, unable to say the words in return. He watched her disappear into the boarding house. He needed to go home. Abby would never understand this. He needed to go home now.

The door slammed and there she was. "Where have you been?"

David exhaled and ran to her, wrapping his arms around her possessively. "Where have you been, Michaela?"

"I-I got caught in the rain, David." He had never held her like this, so fiercely, as if he could lose her at any moment. "I'm fine. Sully was with me."

David's arms tightened on her shoulders and Michaela flinched. "We got to the Sully homestead just after you left. We never saw you on the road. Where did you go?"

She pushed his hands off of his shoulders, walking around to the other side of the table. "We went to the Cheyenne Indian Camp. Sully wanted me to meet the tribal medicine man—"

"An Indian camp? You know nothing of them, Michaela. They could have killed

you—"

"I was perfectly safe, David. And Cloud Dancing is wonderful. He wants to show us some of the local herbs and—"

David leaned across the table. "Do you here yourself? Michaela, you can't run around with Indians whenever you feel like it. People don't accept that!"

Michaela jerked back, slamming her hands down on the table until her face was right in front of his. "You mean you don't accept that! I'm a doctor and plenty of people don't accept that. You never had a problem with it in Boston. What is this really about, David?"

David circled the table until he was standing right in front of her. "Michaela, you can't run around town with a married man! Everyone saw you and Sully yesterday on that horse!"

"If you've forgotten, David, I was going out to his house to check on his wife who is pregnant and who am I treating for diabetes. I asked you to go out there with me, but you refused for reasons that are beyond my comprehension. So I took matters into my own hands and got myself a horse. It's true, I don't know how to ride that well, but I'm not about to let a patient suffer simply because of my pride or lacking as a human being. Sully, who doesn't ride himself, offered to show me the way to his place, but I accidentally kicked the horse too hard. If Sully hadn't jumped on behind me, I could very easily be lying dead in a ditch somewhere. You should be thanking him; not accusing me of God knows what! He's a good person and he would never do anything to dishonor his wife or me!" Michaela panted, her eyes wild, daring David to argue with her.

David rubbed a hand across his face and exhaled. "Are you done?"

Michaela snapped back, "Yes. Are you?"

David nodded, regret in his eyes. He didn't dare mention Sully's name again. As much as he didn't like what had happened, he knew if he pushed the subject, he was sure to lose Michaela forever. It was written all over her face.

"I'm sorry, Michaela. I'm so sorry." He took her in his arms again. "I was thinking… We may have to wait longer, but I know how much you wanted a home of your own. It'll be two more years, but I'd like to build you your dream home. What do you think about that?"

Michaela's face brightened. He could see it—maybe this was really her destiny. Maybe she was making the right decision after all.

"Sully?" Abagail sat up in the bed as he gently shut the door. "Where have ya been?"

Sully came to sit on the edge of the bed. "Dr. Mike and I got stuck in the rain. We had to take cover for the night."

Abby lowered her eyes and laid back down in the bed, turning her back to him. "Oh."

Sully put a hand on her lower back and massaged it. "You understand?"

"You didn't take the town road," she whispered.

"Nope," he sighed.

Abby pulled the covers up tighter around her neck. "You like her, don't ya?"

Sully swallowed. "Sure I do."

Suddenly Abby's voice broke as she fought not to cry. "She can do things… I can't."

Sully's hand stopped moving on her back, and his head dropped. He could feel her small body shaking now against him as he moved to lie beside her. "Abby—"

"She's smart and educated and healthy and beautiful… She's open minded and she wants to help people. She wants to see your world. And you can show it to her all you want. I don't mind. I know you love me. But she doesn't know what it's like yet. She doesn't know what damage those people can cause. She hasn't seen her mother cryin' out in pain, bleedin' to death, simply because people are angry and violent."

Sully didn't know what to say to her. "Abby, I want you to be a part of it. I always have—"

Abby's voice was unusually strong and forceful. "You know I can't! You didn't see what I saw, Sully. But she didn't. Share it with her." Abby turned around, tears running down her eyes. "But save the rest of your heart for me."

Sully took her in his arms. How could having so much feel like losing something at the same time?

Chapter 6

November 1860- 7 months later

Within a week of each other, the clinic was finally completed, Lincoln was elected as the first Republican president of the United States, and the annual Sweethearts' Dance was announced.

David and Michaela had been swamped with patients the last couple of months. It was if Michaela had returned to her self-imposed isolated college days, when all she did was work and sleep. Unlike most engaged women, she did not give herself the time to consider the future. David was simply a fixture in it.

It still amazed her how well they worked together. She stood outside the new recovery room, where Stephen Phillips now slept peacefully. She was tired herself after nearly five hours of surgery. She was anxious, as she often was after new cases. They were able to save the lung, but there was no guarantee that the cancer would not come back. She left the room and began to walk down the hall, until she heard David's voice call her name.

Michaela walked into the other recovery room and found him sitting on the bed, leaning against the headboard. "David? Are you alright?"

"Just tired." He held out his hand for her. "Come sit with me for a while."

She sat beside him, keeping a small distance between them. He shook his head. "Closer, Michaela."

"David—" She gripped the sheets of the bed, not wanting to move.

"Just let me hold you for a while. Please?" He put his hand over her knotted one, separating her fingers in between his. "No one has to know."

Michaela could hardly breathe, and suddenly David's lips were upon hers, prying her mouth open. He held her hands behind her back as he kissed her hungrily, not waiting for her reaction or permission.

As Michaela had no choice but to open her mouth to his, he finally released her hands, giving her the chance to push him away. She jerked away from him and jumped off the bed, glaring at him. "I'd know, David. Don't ever do that again."

She left the room, ran down the stairs, and out the clinic door. She needed air.

The night air was chilly, but Michaela didn't care. She couldn't be inside any longer. As soon as she walked outside, she felt the tears come. They only made her walk faster and faster, until she was standing alone in the dark on the bridge. She gripped one of the posts and tried desperately not to weep, but a deep keeling wail escaped her mouth.

He had seen her coming as he emerged from the woods. The second he saw her profile, he knew something was wrong. And then he heard her pain. He knew he had to go to her. They had been avoiding each other for months, only seeing each other in the form of doctor and patient, but not now. He had to go to her.

"Michaela," he said her given name for the first time. She turned to look at him, horrible pain filling her eyes.

"Sully," she whispered. She had missed him. She didn't realize how much she had until this moment.

Sully took two tentative steps forward and held out his hand to her. She took a deep breath and then looked in soft, concerned eyes. She didn't see what she saw earlier. He was safe.

She took his hand and he slowly pulled her into his protective arms. He felt warm. Safe. "Can I ask you something?" She whispered after her tears had subsided.

"Anythin'. We're friends." Sully pulled back and stroked the side of her cheek that was stained from crying.

"Did you and Abby…before you were married…did you…well…" Michaela looked down, blushing. "I shouldn't be asking you this."

"It's alright. I respected Abagail and her wishes." Sully smiled slightly, a little embarrassed.

"Oh." Michaela returned her head to his chest, hiding.

"Michaela? What is it?" He lifted her chin off his chest, and as their faces stood an inch apart, those suppressed feelings that had been squelched reignited as quickly as they had been extinguished, as time found them again.

Being in Sully's arms was even worse than being in David's, but Michaela had no desire to move or speak because she knew that it would all have to come to an end. She could feel the acceleration of his heart against hers, and his eyes were cutting through hers. And suddenly, he knew.

"Michaela, ya can't marry David."

"What?" Michaela jerked back from his arms.

Sully gripped her shoulders. "Ya can't. Promise me ya won't go through with it."

Michaela crossed her arms, defensively. "And what am I supposed to do? We just finished our clinic, Sully!"

Sully turned and gripped the railing, before pushing off on it hard. His voice was passionate and loud, cutting into her. "That's just material! Ya don't want to be with him!"

Michaela was nearly shaking, and she wasn't quite sure why. "How do you know that?"

"You wouldn't be here with me if ya did!" Sully retorted and they both froze. They were now trotting on dangerous ground, and words had to be chosen carefully before they both said something they might later regret.

Michaela took a deep breath and slowly began to stalk back towards him. "You are the most selfish, presumptuous man I have ever met in my life!"

"Maybe, but I'm right, ain't I?" Sully crossed his arms defiantly.

Michaela put her face in her hands. "This is pointless, Sully."

He touched her wrists, removing them from her face. "Why is it pointless?"

"Because I already made my decision!"

"Well unmake it, damn it!"

Michaela looked at his hands holding hers. "Why is this so important to you?"

Sully softened, seeing their joined hands linking, his darker covering her lighter ones. "Because I want you to be happy. I don't want to find ya like this ever again."

"Sully…"

He leaned in, his forehead nearly touching hers. "Shhh… We probably just woke up the whole town with all that screamin'. We better get outta here. Ya think about what I said?"

She nodded, uncertain, so uncertain. "I'll think about it. But I can't promise you anything."

December 20, 1860

"Are you sure about this, Abby?" Sully asked as her led her very pregnant figure to the center of town where the Sweethearts' Dance was being held. Dr. Mike had told her that she needed to stay in bed for the last month, but Abagail was determined to go to the dance.

"I'm sure, I'm sure Sully. Dr. Mike said it was alright, as long as I didn't dance too much, but luckily the only man I want to dance with is happy to sit it out with me." She smiled impishly at Sully and he winked at her.

"Well, ya never know. I may have to have one dance with my wife and baby."

"What! Ya don't know how to dance." Abby's eyes were wide and shocked.

"Come here." Sully held his arms out for Abagail as a country waltz began.

"Sully!" Abagail nearly squealed as he spun her around. "I'm so impressed! How?—" Suddenly Abagail's arms dropped from Sully's and her face went snow white. "Dear God. Sully. Look."

David stood across the dance floor in a Union army uniform. A crowd surrounded him as word of the South Carolina secession from the Union roared through the townspeople. A call for the Union army had gone out that morning, and David was returning to Massachusetts to join. Sully and Abby watched from the distance as cries of others determined to join the fight began.

"Sully," Abby whispered, pulling on his shirt, pointing to a dark corner a small distance a way from the crowd. Michaela stood alone, leaning on a post, her eyes downcast. "Go check on her."

"You sure?"

Abby gestured towards David. "Look at him. He doesn't even see she's hurting. Go."

Sully walked across the dance floor until he stood right in front of Michaela. "So he's leaving."

"Yes," she whispered.

"I'm sorry, Michaela." He put his hand on her arm. "But maybe it's for the best."

"The engagement is still on, Sully." Michaela looked up, tears in her eyes.

"What? You can't." Sully felt sick to his stomach, as the crowd behind them suddenly lifted David on their shoulders, cheering for him wildly.

"I'm waiting for him," she whispered, looking into the crowd with lost eyes.

"Michaela—no!" He pulled her back to him, forcing her to looking him in the eyes.

Suddenly, there was a piercing scream across the dance floor. The crowd quieted and lowered David down, and Michaela and Sully jerked away from each other.

Abagail was on the ground unconscious.

Chapter 7

Michaela tried to gain control of her emotions as she ran ahead of Sully and Abagail. She had to focus, but all she could hear was Sully's pleading voice trailing her, begging his Abby to wake up. His Abby.

She shook the irritating tears away and burst through the clinic doors, lighting two lamps as quickly as she could.

"Dr. Mike," She turned to see Sully standing in doorway, one of his hands trembling, covered in crimson. "She's bleedin'."

"Lay her on the table, Sully. I want you to go get Charlotte for me and see what's keeping David."

"I don't want him touchin' her. Just you."

"Sully! No matter what you think of David, he's a very skilled doctor—"

"I don't care! I trust you. You can save her. You promised her."

"Sully!"

"No. Just you." Michaela shook her head. There was no time to argue with him. She wasn't about to let Abagail die. She was loosing so much blood, and the longer they waited, the less chance Abby and the baby had to survive.

David ran down the street, unbuttoning his uniform, preparing for a difficult birth. Just as he got to the clinic door, Sully stepped right in front of him, stopping him. "Don't."

"Are you insane? Your wife needs a doctor!"

"She already has one."

David scoffed, "Dr. Quinn is a good doctor, but your wife might need more help than Michaela is able to give by herself. She works better with me."

"I said no. And as far as Dr. Mike's concerned, she's better off alone than with you."

David's eyes clouded with blackness, and he ground his teeth down into a hard smile.

"You'd like that, wouldn't you?"

Suddenly Michaela opened the door, her eyes going immediately to Sully. "I need your permission to operate."

David frowned, a sickening feeling coming over him. "What are you doing, Michaela?"

"The baby won't come on its own, Sully. I need to cut."

"Michaela!" David stepped forward and grabbed her wrist. "You don't want to do this."

"I have to, David."

"But what if—"

"It won't." She glared hard at David, stopping him, his thoughts, the past. "I promised Abby." Michaela turned to Sully, completely ignoring David now. "Sully, please."

Sully nodded, unaware that his whole body was shaking. "Do it. I trust you."

Michaela slipped back into the clinic without a sound. The night air surround swallowed them, David leaned in closer to Sully, and whispered in his ear, "Maybe Dr. Mike's scalpel will slip and—"

"You son of a bitch!" David still had a menacing grin on his face when Sully pulled his tomahawk out, forcefully pushing David against the side of the clinic, throwing the blade so close to his head, he cut a piece of his hair off.

"Get out of here now. You have disrespected me, my wife, and your own fiancée. You don't deserve her."

"Maybe not. But you'll never have her." David pushed away and walked off into the darkness, pushing through townsfolk as they came from the dance to check on Abagail.

"Why isn't she wakin' up, Dr. Mike?" Charlotte asked, panicking at the pale, lifeless form of Abagail. "Is she gonna die?"

"I don't know… Now I'm going to cut down the center of her abdomen. There's a good chance the baby has been losing oxygen. Charlotte… you need to be prepared to listen carefully. Alright?"

"Whatever you say, Dr. Mike."

"Dear God. Please let the baby still be alive…"

Loren stood outside of the clinic, along with the rest of the crowd. His eyes couldn't help but veer towards Sully. He didn't know whether to hug him or wring his neck. He had been watching Abagail across the dance floor, half way smiling at her when he saw her swaying back and forth to the music, leaning over, and talking to her round belly. She was like a princess, until she keeled over and collapsed. And where had Sully been? Talking to that woman doctor.

"Loren?" Sully was standing quietly next to him. Loren looked at him warily, not really knowing what to say. "She's gonna be alright. I know it."

"Of course she is. Who else is gonna scream and yell at me?" Loren and Sully laughed tensely.

The door of the clinic opened slowly and Charlotte pushed the door open with one hand, quickly putting her hand back on the bundle she carried. "Sully?" she whispered, a tired smile on her face.

Sully stepped forward, and the townspeople quieted so Charlotte could speak. "You have a beautiful baby girl."

Applause and cheers erupted, but all Sully could see was the little angel being given to him. He didn't say a word, but a broken laugh escaped as he leaned down to kiss her tiny fingers. He looked up to see Loren watching the baby intently and asked, "Do you want to hold your granddaughter?"

Loren nodded, just as lost for words as Sully was, and took the cooing baby in his arms. "She's got Abby's eyes!" he exclaimed proudly.

Sully quickly turned back to Charlotte who had a pensive look on her face. "Charlotte. How is Abagail?"

"Sully…" Charlotte bit her lips and put on her bravest smile. "Dr. Mike is doing everything she can. Abby just lost so much blood…"

Loren looked up. "Charlotte, what aren't you sayin'? We're her family now. You gotta tell us."

Charlotte shook her head, tears coming to her eyes. "Maybe you two should talk to Dr. Mike."

Michaela led Sully and Loren into the recovery room where Abagail seemed to be sleeping. Her skin was ghostly white and dark circles had formed under her eyes. Michaela bit the inside of her cheek until she could taste the blood. She had let them down. She had let all of them down.

Loren walked slowly to the side of her bed and sat down next to her. He took her limp hand in his. "What's my babygirl doin' so quiet? That's not like you, Abby! You need to wake up for us, and see your beautiful little girl. She's an angel, Abagail. Just an angel." Loren brought her hand up to his, kissing it.

Sully didn't move.

Michaela swallowed, staring at him. She was going to be sick. "Excuse me."

Michaela slipped out of the room and ran to the other end of the all. She had to get out of there. She couldn't stand to see the look on Sully's face. She ran into the other recovery room and dropped in front of the water basin. As she vomited, she heard footsteps behind her, and then felt someone pull her long hair back.

Once it was over, she fell back on her knees, and then felt a cool rag run across her mouth.

"Put your arm around my neck," Sully whispered. He lifted her up and placed her on the bed.

He leaned over her and wiped away the sweat from her face. "You shouldn't be taking care of me. I let you down. I—"

"Shh…You did everythin' right. She's still alive. She's still got a chance. And we're gonna fight for her," Sully said resolutely.

Michaela swallowed. He was never going to understand this. He had so much faith in Abagail. He had so much faith in her. "Sully, you need to listen to me. She's in a coma. She might not wake up. Her blood sugar is so low. And we have no way to feed her."

Sully's eyes bled through hers. "She'll wake up, Dr. Mike."

She put her hand on the side of his face. "Sully. Look at me. If she doesn't wake up in the next forty-eight hours, she's going to die."

Sully's hand circled her wrist. "She's not goin' to die. You promised her."

"I'm going to do everything I can, but Sully—"

"You don't know her like I do, Dr. Mike. She's going to wake up for our little girl."

Charlotte carried the little girl upstairs and caught Dr. Mike in the hallway outside of Abagail's room. "Well, it's a good thing Brian is still breast feedin' cause this little one certainly was hungry!"

"It's very generous of you, Charlotte," Dr. Mike rubbed her neck, cramping from lack of sleep. Suddenly Michaela jumped up. "Maybe if the baby were closer to Abagail, it might help her wake up?"

"Couldn't hurt." Charlotte grabbed her arm. "Is there any change?"

"No. But Sully's not giving up. And neither am I." Michaela took the baby in her arms and carried her into the recovery room. Loren was curled up in the corner asleep and Sully was sitting on the edge of the bed. "I brought someone to visit. I thought she might like to meet her mama."

Sully reached for the infant and drew close to Abagail. "Abby? I've got our little girl here. She's so beautiful. She's like a little you. And she's got this golden sun kissed skin. We never really decided on a name. So much commotion goin' on we never got round to it. But if you open your eyes, if you just open your eyes and look at her, then you can give her the perfect name. Only like her mama could."

As Abagail lied there motionless, Sully suddenly sighed heavily and lifted the baby out of his arms, placing the baby in Abagail's lap. He took her limp hands and wrapped them around the child, making Abby hold the child. "Abagail. Wake up! You're holding your little girl. You have to wake up now. You have to look at her."

The baby began to cry without a steady cradle, and Sully, practically crazed at this point, didn't realize what he was doing. He shook Abagail's body, hard moans releasing as hopelessness washed over him. Charlotte turned away and Michaela stepped forward, taking the baby away, before she fell.

"Wake up, Abby. You can't do this! You can't leave me like this! Abby!"

Suddenly, Abagail moaned and everyone in the room fell silent.

"Abby?" Michaela asked, shocked. She fell to her knees, still comforting the baby on her shoulder. "Abby, open your eyes and look at your daughter."

"Daught—?" She said weakly.

"Yes, you have a beautiful little girl. Look."

Abagail opened her eyes, unfocused, but finally saw the child who had quieted in Michaela's arms. "All my life…Oh Sully."

"She's ours. Now we just have to get you better." Abby smiled weakly at him, but moved her eyes towards Dr. Mike.

"Love her like your own," Abagail's eyes began to shutter. "Love you S—"

Abagail exhaled and smiled, her eyes opening once more, as she turned to see Loren. "Pa."

She didn't take another breath.

The baby, without a name and now without a mother, began to wail in Michaela's arms.

Sully stood up slowly and left the room without looking back.

Chapter 8

Author's note: Rough translations: "Netonêševehe, ve'ho'a'e?" means "What is your name, white woman?" and "Navese'e?" means "Friend?" and "Eanovetano." means "He is sad."

Two days later—Christmas Eve

Michaela cradled the little girl in her arms, rocking her back and forth in the rocking chair while Charlotte prepared lunch for the children. The baby's eyes never left Michaela's. With Abagail gone and Sully missing, Michaela wouldn't let her go. Loren had come by to see the baby, but even he couldn't persuade Michaela to let go of the child for a few minutes to rest.

Michaela looked up suddenly, startling Charlotte and the children. "She needs a name. We can't go on like this. She needs a name."

"I reckon that's up to Sully, Dr. Mike," Charlotte shook her head sadly. "But who knows if he's ever comin' back."

Michaela felt her chest tighten. "He's coming back. He wouldn't abandon her."

"Sully wouldn't leave without sayin' goodbye," Colleen whispered, her words more a question than a statement. "Would he, ma?"

The room grew silent, but Michaela finally broke it as she jumped up, handing the baby to Matthew. "No he wouldn't. And I'm going to make sure of it." Michaela grabbed her coat and ran out the door into the winter afternoon.

As she saddled Bongo, she didn't hear the sound of his boots approach behind her. She stopped as she saw his hand splayed against the horse's neck. "Where have you been?" she asked quietly.

"I thought you may need some time to yourself. To deal with things." He placed a hand on her shoulder.

"Where were you when I needed you? I lost her, David. I nearly lost their little girl too."

"But you didn't. The baby's fine, isn't she?"

"Yes, but—"

"I know you doubt yourself sometimes, Michaela. I'm ashamed to say that I even doubted you. But with Abagail… there was nothing you could have done. She shouldn't have even been carrying a child in her condition."

"Don't say that, David! I promised her that I would do everything I could—"

"And you did." He leaned in and kissed her forehead. "I'm sorry I wasn't with you. I'm sorry I didn't believe in you. But Sully…"

"I know. But you could have been there afterwards." The burden of the last few days seemed to pull down on her all at once. "When are you leaving?"

"Tonight."

"Christmas Eve?"

"I was supposed to leave yesterday, but I couldn't go without seeing you. I wasn't sure… if things were alright between us." David swallowed. He wasn't often nervous, but there seemed to be a new energy about him, and Michaela wasn't exactly sure why. She knew they had argued before the birth, but other than that…?

"If I would still wait."

"Will you?" He took her hand in his. "I love you, Michaela. That's all that matters."

He didn't know if Sully had told her about his behavior the other night, but he didn't doubt that he would do anything to ruin his relationship with Michaela now.

"I need… I need to go somewhere… to think… before I make any decisions, David." She let go of his hands and seated the horse. "I'll tell you tonight before you leave."

Michaela followed the path she remembered from so many months ago. She could see smoke from the campfire coming over the oak trees. She had to be right about this. If she wasn't, she had no idea where he was.

All of a sudden, a brave jumped out from the trees and grabbed a hold of her reigns.

"Netonêševehe, ve'ho'a'e?" Michaela stared in the dark man's eyes. She didn't see anything foreboding, so she took a deep breath and tried to communicate with him.

"I am looking for Sully. Is he here? I'm his friend."

"Navese'e?" the brave pointed at her, furrowing his brow.

Michaela nodded, unsure of what she was saying, but continued, "I need to see Sully. I have news of his daughter. His baby." Michaela gestured with her arms, cradling them, until the brave recognized the sign.

The brave's voice lowered, and he shook his head. "Eanovetano." He took her reigns and led her horse into the woods.

Michaela and the brave passed through the clearing where the Cheyenne village was and went deeper into the woods. Just outside of a granite cave, Michaela finally saw Cloud Dancing waiting, as if he had known she was coming.

She immediately jumped off her horse and went to Cloud Dancing. "Is he alright?"

"He has not eaten or slept for two days. I fear we might lose him."

"No," Michaela shook with guilt, "He's got to eat. He has a daughter that's waiting for him."

"It was you that saved this child?" Michaela nodded. Cloud Dancing took her hands. "Then it is up to you to save the father as well."

Michaela entered the dark cave, the cold dampness icing over her body immediately. His black shadow danced against the walls of the cave, and she was horrified by what she saw.

The knife sliced through the flesh of his arm, but the physical pain was numb compared to the pain in his heart. He didn't understand how this could happen. He didn't understand how he would be able to forgive himself. How he would be able to forgive her. He didn't understand how God could be so cruel.

"Sully," she whispered, her eyes fixed on his open wounds.

Cutting deeper into his arm, Sully said hoarsely, "Go away, Michaela."

"You're bleeding. I can't." Michaela walked slowly towards him, careful not to make any sudden movements. She reached out and tried to make contact with his shoulder, but he flinched away from her touch.

"I said go away!"

She took a hold of his shoulder again, not letting him move away. "No Sully."

"You're the reason I'm bleedin'! Don't you understand that?" He turned his face away from her, but she grabbed his chin and made him look at her.

"Sully…I swear to you...if I could bring her back, I would. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry, Sully."

Sully closed his eyes at her soft touch, hating himself. "It doesn't matter, Michaela. This is my punishment."

"For what? You didn't do anything wrong!"

"I betrayed her… I let her down… I—" Sully cried, but Michaela held the sides of face up, not letting him concave inside himself.

"No. You didn't. You loved her, and she loved you. She still loves you." Impulsively, Michaela brought his forehead to her lips, trying to give him some kind of comfort.

Sully sighed, but the guilt, the aching guilt that stained his arms, made him push away from her, the resentment and unaimed anger surfacing as her gripped the sleeves of her jacket. "Don't do that."

"I just want to help you. I can't let you bleed to death." Michaela reached again for his arms, but he saw what she was doing, and caught her arms, wrapping them around her back.

"Don't!" She screamed as she struggled to gain the freedom of her arms. Michaela could feel his blood soaking through her jacket, and struggled all the more to get out of his grasp.

But Sully pulled her arms hard against her back, holding them tightly. "I said don't," he whispered harshly, mixed emotion draining from his eyes as they clutched each other in a stand still of wills.

Then Sully lost. He pushed the pain deeper; he cut further than he thought he could ever go. Like a flash, his lips melted into hers, cutting her the only way he knew how. If she had resisted, he could have healed. If she had resisted, the kiss would have been nothing but another scab on his arm.

But she didn't. She opened her mouth tentatively, slowly, seductively. Taking him in, gently, as if she were wrapping them in gauze, hiding them from the world.

But the blood was too much. His guilt was too deep. This was wrong. The time was wrong. Everything about them was wrong.

No matter the sweetness of her kiss, no matter the passage of time, they were lost.

He pulled away from her, freeing her, his blood now her blood.

"Sully?" She whispered, shocked.

"I have loved ya from the moment I first laid eyes on ya." Michaela covered her mouth, sobs coming to her swollen lips. "I betrayed Abagail in the worst way a husband can. I don't think I can live with myself, Michaela. Please go."

Michaela stood up, completely bewildered. "What am I supposed to do?"

"I don't know. But we can't see each other again." Sully looked down. Michaela gaped at him, stupefied.

"Not see each other? But what about your daughter? You have to see her, Sully! She's your own flesh and blood!" Michaela was freely crying now, her pride completely gone.

"I can't be with her. Will ya… will ya take care of her?"

"Sully!"

"Will ya?" Sully nearly begged. Michaela turned around, wiping her eyes.

When she turned back around, her expression was stone cold. "I will. If you ever want to come and see her, her name is Abagail."

Michaela stared at him for a long moment, fixing his image in her mind, before she turned around and walked out.

Michaela rode back into town, just as the local army was getting ready to march out. She jumped off of Bongo and ran to the uniforms.

"David!" she screamed. "David!"

She couldn't find him. What would she do if she couldn't find him?

"Michaela?" David touched her shoulder, but then quickly stepped back. "Jesus! You're bleeding!"

"It's not my blood, David."

"What?"

"It's nothing, really. It was all nothing. I just wanted to give you an answer." She took a deep breath, looked down at the dried blood encrusting her hands and said in a defiant voice, "I'll wait for you."

Chapter 9

January 1, 1863- 3 years later

"Ready or no-ot! Heh I come!" Brian Cooper slammed through the clinic door, his knees bent low to the ground, fingers splayed in anticipation, and his tongue out in serious concentration. He stalked around the room once, but there was no sign of his prey.

Suddenly, a tiny giggle came from above.

"I heard dat!" Brian spun around in a circle, but he still didn't see anything. Before Brian could inspect further, Dr. Mike came through the front door, freezing Brian in his place.

"Brian?" She smiled at him sweetly, but was puzzled to see him alone in her clinic. "Are you sick, sweetheart?"

"Uh—" He scratched his head, trying to think of something to say.

"Do you have a headache?" She walked closer to him, feeling his head and finally lifting him up on the table. She ran her hand across his face. "You feel a little clammy to me. Maybe something in the cabinet might help—"

Michaela walked over to the cabinet and opened the door. "Oh my God!" She nearly jumped when she saw the tiny hand holding up the bottle of pills.

"Shhh! I hiddin' Mama! Don't tell Brian!" Abagail Sully whispered loudly as she hid her face in a tangle of wild curly brown hair.

Brian suddenly stood up on the examination table, jumping up and down, pointing to Abagail. "I gotcha! I gotcha!"

"Nuh uh! Gotta catch me furst!" Abagail screamed as she dove out of the cabinet into Michaela's arms, knocking down half of the medicine on the shelves.

"Whoa whoa whoa, Little Miss Sully! I think you and Brian need to calm down a bit, don't you?" Michaela gave her a pointed look and gestured to the spilled pills. Abagail looked over her shoulder and looked back at Michaela, blowing a loose ringlet out of her eye.

"I shoulda stayed in da cabnet." Abagail looked at her guiltily with big doe eyes.

"Maybe. But then I'd never see your beautiful face again, Miss Sully." Michaela kissed Abagail on the cheek and sat her down on her feed. "I'll help you and Brian clean it up, and then we'll head home for dinner, how's that sound?"

"K, Mama." Abagail turned to Brian as Michaela went to go get a broom.

"Next time we play in Mr. Bray's sto, k?" Abagail covered her mouth and giggled.

"Gwandpa love dat!"

Fredericksburg, Virginia

A lantern glowed beside the mahogany bed, casting a shadow over two pairs of intertwined arms and legs.

"I had that dream again."

"Did ya now?"

"I can't seem to get it out of my head."

"Was there anything different this time?"

"I dreamed we were together. Finally together. In every way possible. And then I just…"

"You just what?"

"I let her go."

"You let her go? You?"

"But then I turn around, and she's dead. And I know it's because of me. I killed her."

"Davy…You must stop thinkin' like that. It's the war talkin'. You'll get home to your sweetheart."

"Will I?" He took a drag of his cigar and exhaled. "You're such a damn romantic, Rose."

David rolled over and blew out the light, leaving them in darkness.

"Jus one mo, peas?" Abagail looked up at Michaela imploringly, who had just finished her third bedtime story.

"Sweetheart, you've heard all of these a hundred times. Aren't you tired of them yet?" Michaela didn't even know why she asked, because her answer was an impish shake of the head.

"Tell me bout Mista Sully and Misses Sully and how they made Miss Sully!" Michaela smiled indulgently. She had trouble refusing her anything. Abagail was her life now.

"Well your ma and pa loved each other very much. So much that they decided to have a little girl. But God decided that he needed more angels in heaven so he took your ma Abagail up there to be with him. But God knew there would be an Abagail missing on earth, so he sent you down to be with your pa and everyone who loved your ma. So you are now Miss Abagail Sully. You carry on the memory and the love of the entire Sully family. And that makes you so very, very special." Michaela felt Abagail sigh as she rocked her, and she smoothed away some of her loose ringlets so she could see her face.

"I weesh God didn't need so many angwels." Michaela's eyes clouded over, but she controlled her emotions as she spoke to the little girl.

"So do I, sweetheart. But we'll always have each other."

"What bout…pa?" Michaela's breathing slowed as she mentioned Sully. She was quite sure that Abagail didn't even understand what a 'pa' was, but she knew that Abagail felt his absence deeply. She felt his absence deeply.

"I don't know, Miss Sully. I don't know." Michaela lifted the little girl in her arms and tossed her into the bed. "Alright. Enough discussion. Goodnight babygirl."

"I had a dream last night."

"Oh?"

"I dreamed I went home."

"After so much time? Why now?"

"A feelin'."

"The child?"

"No. Her." Sully ran his finger down the scar tissue of his arm. He looked across the campfire at Cloud Dancing, the fire turning his eyes violet.

"Where is your mother, Colleen?" Dr. Mike asked as she came downstairs for breakfast, Abagail riding on her back.

"She went to the telegraph office, but she should be right back, Dr. Mike." Suddenly, Charlotte burst through the door, Horace on her heels.

"Dr. Mike…I-I-didn't know what to do bout this one…" Horace stammered, his eyes frozen with worry. "But even with the way things are I figure you'd want to know—"

"Know what?" She asked quickly. Abagail's grip tightened around her neck, making her all the more anxious.

"Well… here… telegram from Boston." He gave her the yellow piece of paper and stepped back.

"Come at once. Stop. Father is deathly ill stop. Your sister Rebecca." Michaela dropped the piece of paper on the ground and felt the weight of her body suddenly lightening.

Charlotte reached quickly for Abagail, grabbing the child before Michaela fainted. Horace broke her fall, patting her cheeks slightly.

She came to immediately, tears coming fast and unstoppable. "I have to get there now, Horace. I have to get to my father now, don't you understand?"

Horace's expression widened at her suggestion. "Dr. Mike… there's no way you can travel across the country right now! There's a war goin' on!"

"I don't care! I have to see my father!"

Charlotte interrupted, "Horace is right, Michaela. You go past the Mississippi and you're a dead woman."

Michaela glared at both of them. "I'll find a way to get there. Don't you worry about me." She pulled Abagail from Charlotte's arms. "Come on Miss Sully. Let's go pack."