Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. The rights to those characters and to the show belong to the creators of the show, to CBS, The Sullivan Company and to A&E.

Author's Note: This story is dedicated to Jules, because she convinced (forced) me to write it during my writer's block. She's awesome, and I'm very grateful that she asked me to do this. Thanks for your help, Jules!

Starting Fires

By, Ashley J.

Her back was pressed against the door, her dress and corset cutting off her air supply, as his cool blue eyes stared into hers. She didn't know what to think or say, and he had her cornered. She had a way out, but her feet wouldn't move. She didn't want to leave, but it was too hard to stay. Finally, she motioned toward the rope near the wall.

"If you need anything…just ring." Sully nodded, his eyes searching hers. He couldn't let her go yet. It had been so long since he'd seen her, and he had missed her so. God, he hadn't realized just how much until he'd finally seen her again. Here she was, and she was so scared. She was like this because of him, and it hurt to know that he made her so uneasy. "Goodnight." He was missing his chance. She was turning. She had a foot out the door already. Finally, he reached for her.

"Don't go," he said softly, not wanting to wake the children down the hall. She froze at his touch, but her skin trembled up and down her spine. She closed her eyes for a moment, gripping the door. With her back to him, she whispered.

"It's getting late."

"Just for a little while." As much as she wanted to stay and to see him again, everything she had been taught about Boston and propriety was being thrown back in her face.

"Sully, we shouldn't…I shouldn't be here."

"Why not?" She slowly turned to look into his eyes, her hands trembling on the doorframe.

"It's…it's not proper."

"It's not proper to say hello to someone ya ain't seen in weeks?"

"Sully, I…" she sighed, looking into his eyes and knowing she couldn't deny him that. She had missed him so, and a little while wouldn't be improper. "What would you like to talk about?" He opened the door wider, so she could come in, and he closed it. The clicking of the lock made her body tremble, and she could hear his breath and almost feel it on her neck. But, he was moving across the room.

"Help me light the fire?" Michaela felt frozen in place, as he knelt down by the hearth. He looked up at her, his long hair falling into his eyes. "Ya can't tell me ya forgot how already, can ya? C'mon." Michaela swallowed hard.

"All right." She knelt down beside him, removing her gloves. She placed them aside and got to work, her hands passing over his for a moment, as they lay fresh firewood into place. She could feel his eyes on her, and she felt a heavy flush rising up higher and higher. He watched her, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. It was a smile she couldn't see yet. "We never had to do this by ourselves."

"I know," he answered quietly. "Ya never had to clean or cook or ride a horse either, but ya learned." Michaela nodded, watching him put the final log into place. "Ya had to learn a lot of things ya weren't taught here, and ya managed just fine. Why're ya tryin' to forget 'em now?"

"I'm not," she protested. "I'm trying to fit in. Boston and Colorado Springs are so different, Sully. I have to fit into each of them differently." She shook her head. "Though, sometimes I don't feel like I fit in at all."

"Sure ya do."

"Do I?" she questioned, looking into the cold hearth. "Sometimes I feel that the only reason people accept me in town, is because I'm raising Charlotte's children."

"Folks are set in their ways is all. But ya gotta remember who I am. Ya don't have to fit in with me. I like ya just the way ya are, Dr. Mike." She looked at him curiously, as his fingers rolled a match between them.

"And how is that? How do you see me, Sully?" Her hands knotted at her skirt nervously, waiting for his answer. He glanced at her for a moment, before he struck the match. He let it glow, slightly singeing the flesh upon his finger, before he threw it into the hearth. The flame died, and Michaela took the box of matches from him, their hands connecting for a moment, their eyes locking for what seemed a decade. When she struck the match, their eyes never broke the gaze they were trapped in; the flame flickering inside both of them. She caught her breath and tossed the burning stick into the logs, feeding it and letting it grow. Sully watched her, as her skin glowed, and her eyes sparkled. Finally, she looked up at him. "Sully?"


"You never answered my question." Sully searched his mind. He'd lost his train of thought, but he remembered. What did he think of her? There were so many things he thought of when he thought about her, and he couldn't figure out how many of those were appropriate to speak of in front of her. He sighed softly, tossing another match into the flames for good measure.

"I think you're the bravest lady I ever knew. Ya care 'bout folks, and ya care 'bout helpin' 'em. Ya love your kids, ya love your friends, and ya don't let nobody push ya around." He paused, searching for her eyes, but she was looking at the fire. "Ya got this glow 'round ya when you're with the kids. They make ya smile and laugh, and it's good seein' ya so happy. I'm guessin' that ya got plenty of chances not to be happy when you're a doctor. Losin' people is hard. You're one of those kinda people who makes a connection with everybody ya meet. We didn't know each other very long, but I remember thinkin' a lot of people'd be lost if ya didn't survive…"

"The Influenza?" Michaela questioned. He nodded.

"Yeah. Lots of folks care 'bout ya, so there ain't no need to worry 'bout not fittin' in. Your friends care, the children care…I care." Michaela smiled a little.

"I remember thinking the same thing when Rankin almost…when he…"

"That was hard on everybody," he noted. "I didn't think I'd ever get the strength to walk again, but ya never let me give up. I don't think I ever thanked ya for that, Dr. Mike. I never appreciated anything in my whole life more than I did when ya saved my life." He sighed softly. "Truth is that we need ya in Colorado Springs. Ya been gone so long that I was startin' to wonder if ya were gonna come back." He eyed her. "You're thinkin' about stayin' aren't ya." Michaela looked away, turning toward the flames.

"I don't know," she replied. "A part of me is loving being back in Boston, and I think it's influencing my better judgment. I know I'm needed more in Colorado Springs than I'm needed here. I just…I feel like Mother needs me."

"She's a real strong lady, Dr. Mike. Must run in the family." Michaela shook her head.

"I don't feel very strong right now." She looked into his eyes. "I'm sorry for the way I acted toward you. I suppose I was mostly overwhelmed to see you. I did miss you, I truly did."

"I know," he replied gently. "They treatin' ya right here?"

"As well as I could expect," she replied. She slowly stood up, moving toward the door. "I really should be going now, Sully. It's getting late, and I have things to do tomorrow."

"With William?" he asked, trying not to let the flat, jealous tone seep out too much. Michaela sensed it though, and she nodded.

"As a matter of fact…" She saw the look in his eyes, when he stood and wiped his hands on his pant legs. "He's a very kind man, Sully."

"Sure," he said with a smile. "Seems real nice." Too nice, he thought. "Well, if ya feel like it's that important to ya, then ya better go." He turned away, moving to draw the curtains. Michaela stood at the door, her eyes staring at his back. She had never seen him quite like this before.

"Sully…" He didn't answer. He unbuttoned a couple of buttons on his shirt, and Michaela felt her heart skip a beat. "I don't want to argue with you. I don't want us to go to bed angry."

"Ya like him?" Sully finally asked. "The kids like him?" Michaela felt like she was put on the spot, but she answered.

"Of course. He's kind and charming. He's been very helpful with mother, and Colleen and Brian have taken to him." Sully felt his heart tear a little bit.

"He likes ya?" Michaela was starting to get a sense of where he was taking this conversation.

"I suppose so," she replied, looking toward the fire again. "He's taken the initiative to escort us to dinner."


"Myself and the children."

"Has he asked ya to go out…alone?"

"What does it matter?" When his eyes bore into hers like two hot embers, she felt perspiration building at her brow. "We've had lunch together on occasion to discuss mother's condition. I don't see that it's any of your business." She turned toward the door again, angry with herself for trying to walk out. She stopped herself and turned around. "Why do you want to know? Why is it so important to you?"

"Is he one of the reasons you're thinkin' about stayin'?"

"You haven't answered my question, Sully. Why is it so important to you?" Sully shook his head, not knowing how to form the words anymore. He knelt in front of the fire, using the poker to move the logs around. She sighed heavily, and she turned back toward the door.

"Why do ya keep runnin' away, Michaela? What are ya so afraid of, huh?" Hearing him say her first name like that for the first time sent tingles up and down her back.

"I beg your pardon?" She turned back to him, her eyes flashing for a moment.

"The night we kissed on your birthday…we didn't talk 'bout it 'til months later. Every time…"

"Every time what?" How was he supposed to say it without her running away again?

"Forget it. Just…go get some sleep. I'll see ya tomorrow."

"No. We need to talk about this, Sully. Right now."

"Thought ya said it was late. I thought it wasn't proper for ya to be here with me. Just go on. Don't worry 'bout it." Michaela would have growled if she hadn't gritted her teeth and took a deep breath.

"You are truly the most frustrating human being I have ever met, Byron Sully." Sully choked on a laugh.

"I'm frustratin'? What about you? Seems like I'm just startin' to make sense of how ya feel…how we feel, and ya throw me for a loop again and again. Sometimes I feel like ya don't even see me. I'm here, Michaela. I'm standin' right here."

"I see you!" she yelled back. "What is this all about? Why are you so upset?" She thought over his words. "How…how we feel?" She eyed him. "You said you weren't ready yet."

"So did you." When she looked away, he moved closer to her. "Did ya mean it?" She didn't answer him. "Michaela!" Her heart was beginning to like the way he said her name, even though he was upset with her. "Talk to me."

"I refuse to have this conversation." She wanted to run, but she didn't move.

"'Cause you're scared?"

"Because it isn't the proper thing to talk about!"

"In Boston?"


"Remember, ya don't gotta be all proper with me. Talk about whatever ya wanna talk about."

"I don't want to talk about it!" she replied angrily, her eyes glaring at his, but the ache in her heart showing clearly.

"You're scared, Michaela. Admit it." She didn't move. She didn't flinch. She felt helpless. He knew her so well. "Ya don't gotta be strong all the time. Tell me you're scared. I know ya are. I see it in your eyes." Michaela shook her head.

"Stop it. I need to leave."

"I'll stop when ya stop pretendin' that ya don't feel. Ya feel, Michaela. I know it. Ya feel scared, ya feel worried, and ya feel lost. I saw it the day you were packin' for Boston. Tell me, Michaela. Tell me now." The tears couldn't stop for anything now, and Michaela let them fall. He watched her shoulders slump and her eyes close, trying to ward off the emotions, but she couldn't. She wanted to throw herself into his arms and ask him to kiss away the pain, but she knew that was the last thing she needed at this very moment.

He took another step toward her, his anger subsiding and his heart reaching out to hers. He didn't want to see her cry, but he needed her to be herself with him. He hated making her cry, but he needed to see it. He needed to look into her eyes and see how she felt about him, because his love for her had been driving him crazy long enough. The wondering and the waiting for her had driven him toward the brink of insanity, and he needed to tell her. He needed to see into her soul and know how she felt for him.


"What? Tell me." His hands moved to her shoulders, and she didn't shy away.

"I don't know what's wrong with me. I don't know why I can't let myself…feel things that I want to feel."

"What things?" She swallowed, not moving another muscle. Her eyes stared up into his, however, reading him. Could he really let her see how he felt?

"So many things. I can love and laugh and cry and feel everything, but when it comes to…to certain people, I become confused, and I…I feel like I'm frozen."

"Frozen?" She nodded.

"When it comes to…I…I feel like I'm barely breathing. I always want to say things or do things, but everything I've learned…everything I am stops me from doing and saying them."

"That ain't no way to live." Michaela was trembling now.

"Losing David…I…I never thought I could let my heart love again. I shut myself off." Love. Love. She said it. She didn't say it to him directly, but she said it. He only nodded, letting her continue. She finally broke free of her paralysis, and she moved to stand next to the hearth. She placed her hands on the cold marble, and he moved to stand behind her. His hand gently touched her back, and she shuddered. "I want to feel, Sully. I want to stop being afraid." He moved to stand beside, her, and he took her hand in his.

"So do I." Her eyes didn't meet his at first. She let her gaze linger on his hand that was folded over hers. She squeezed his fingers, and she felt the warmth of his touch. She could hear him breathing, and she could hear her own heart pounding in her ears.

"You're not afraid to feel things, Sully." She finally found his gaze. "I've never thought that about you." Ever so slowly, his hand that held hers laced his fingers through hers. He brought her pale hand to his lips and pressed a soft kiss there, sending shattering sparks to her very being.

"Maybe not, but I can't say the things I feel." She went to speak again, but he continued. "I told myself I wouldn't let myself care for anybody after Abagail died. I swore to myself that I was through with it all. I never…I never counted on you comin' into my life."

"Sully," she said quietly, her eyes breaking away from his again. She blinked back fresh tears. She was ready to hear it, but at the same time, she was petrified.

"Sully?" A knock came to the door following the voice, and Sully turned quickly, not wanting this interruption. "Sully? It's me, Brian." Michaela quickly drew away, moving toward the window, pulling the drawn curtain back a little, to star up at the bright, full Boston moon.

"Uh…what is it, Brian?" Sully asked, clearing his throat and moving toward the door.

"I can't sleep. Will ya tell me a story?" Sully felt his heart drop. He turned toward Michaela, seeing her back turned to him, her posture shaking as she continued to peer outside.

"I…uh…yeah. Go get in bed. I'll be right there."

"Kay. Thanks, Sully," Brian replied quietly. A moment later, his footsteps were heard going back down the hall.

"Michaela…" He moved toward the window, but she kept her back to him. "Will ya be here when I get back?" He didn't want to leave her now.

"I shouldn't," she said softly, shaking her head. She turned back to him, and she stared at him, seeing the need in his eyes. He was almost desperate. "I'll be here." Sully slowly left the room, moving down the hall toward Brian's room. Michaela waited a moment, and when she heard Brian's door open and squeak shut, she followed her heart and waited out in the hallway. She could hear Sully's voice, so she inched closer to the room, wanting to hear his story.

"What kinda story?" he asked Brian.

"One about the Indians," Brian said with tired eyes. "I miss 'em."

"Me too," Sully replied quietly.

"Bet Ma does too." Sully nodded, and Michaela let another tear slip out in her silence. "Okay. Tell me the story." Sully cleared his throat.

"All right." He paused for a few moments, gathering his thoughts, and Michaela leaned closer to the door, wanting to hear every word. "Once, there was a young Cheyenne warrior. From the time he was a little boy, he had dreams of a fair Sioux maiden who just happened to live all the way across the mountains. She was months away, and he grew up with her in his dreams. He thought he knew everything about her, and by the time he was old enough to marry, he told his tribe that he was leaving to find the Sioux woman he had fallen in love with in his dreams." Brian was wide eyed now. "Now, the Cheyenne tribe told him that his dream love might only be that…a dream. Besides, she was not Cheyenne. But, he believed it in his heart that he could find her and love her, and she would love him too. He traveled many moons just to see her face, tell her he loved her and see if she loved him too."

"What happened, Sully? Did she love him too?"

"Hold on. I'm getting there," Sully laughed. Michaela's hand was over her heart, and she had closed her eyes, listening to the sweet tale. "Well, the Sioux maiden did recognize him and called him her dream warrior. She told him she had been afraid she couldn't possibly love him, because she didn't know if his love was real. But, when she looked into his eyes, she knew he'd loved her all along…from the first time he saw her in his dream."

Michaela was breathless. She didn't need to hear anymore yet. She wanted him to tell her. She knew the truth, and as she slipped silently down the hall, she closed herself back inside of Sully's room, waiting for his return. She felt like the Sioux maiden waiting on the man of her dreams to tell her he loved her.

She could hear his footsteps coming down the hall, and she tensed, kneeling down beside the fire. She settled herself down, and when he entered the room, she wondered what to say or do. Sully smiled a little, making sure the door shut all the way.

"He's sleepin'," he announced. Michaela nodded.

"Finish the story for me."


"The story you were telling Brian. What…what happened after the Cheyenne warrior and the Sioux woman told each other how they…how they felt?" Sully smiled a little.

"Ya were eavesdroppin'?"

"Merely curious," she responded. He moved to sit down beside her in front of the hearth. "Please? Tell me." Sully nodded.

"They spoke with each of their tribes, and they weren't granted permission to be married. But they didn't care. They loved each other too much to be apart." Sully watched the flush creep back into Michaela's cheeks. "He carried her away in the night, and even though they didn't have a ceremony, they had three children, and they eventually disappeared into the woods and made their world what they wanted to make of it, not what their societies expected them to make of it."

"So they…lived happily ever after?"

"As far as I know," Sully replied quietly. "I like to think so, anyway." Michaela watched him, and he could feel her eyes burning into his soul.

"He traveled all that way…into a place where he didn't fit in with the other people, just so he could tell her he loved her?"

"Yeah," Sully replied, tossing something into the fire. "He didn't know how she'd welcome him, but he knew her people wouldn't think much of him, 'cause he wasn't like them. He only hoped she could look past their differences and see how alike they were."

"Wasn't she afraid their differences would overpower their similarities? Didn't she wonder how someone she hadn't prepared herself to love could ever make a good partner?" Sully turned toward her slowly.

"You tell me." Michaela swallowed hard, feeling her heart racing again.

"If I was her…I wouldn't want to hide my love, just because my people don't approve. I wouldn't want to run away either. I'd want to face the differences with…with him." She took another breath. "I wouldn't care what anyone said. I'd respect my family, but I wouldn't do as they said. I'd love whom I chose, and I wouldn't care for their opinions. It doesn't matter if y…he dresses differently. It doesn't matter if he doesn't act the same way as they do. What matters is what's in his heart. Nothing else." Without thinking, without hesitating, he spoke.

"And that's why I love you so much." Their eyes locked in that instant, and the world stopped spinning. Night stood still, and the flames crackled louder than ever, burning hotter than before. His heart was in his throat, and he was hanging from thin air. He had taken a mighty tall leap, and he was trying not to fall right on his face. What was she going to say? She was frozen, not sure what to do. "I…I didn't mean to scare ya. I didn't think. I…"

"Sully," she finally spoke up.

"Michaela, I really…"

"Just stop. Hold on for a moment. Just…don't speak." In that moment, feelings from the past year came surging through her body, unlocking the chains she'd forged around her heart. The ice melted, and her lips crashed down onto his, patiently and curiously. Without pulling back, her hands touched his cheeks, feeling the light stubble. She felt his arms snake around her waist, pulling her closer, needing to feed the hunger that had been growing for months and months. She found her own desires pounding through her body, making her silently scream out for more of his touch.

Breathing became more infrequent, as they tumbled back onto the Oriental rug in front of the hearth. Michaela's back was pressed against the floor, and the heat from the fire was no match to what she felt inside. His lips continued to massage hers, and his tongue begged for entrance, which she eagerly, hungrily and happily granted. When he finally pulled back for air, tears sprang to her eyes, and she ran her fingers through his hair, pulling it back from his eyes.

"I love you too." Without hesitation, they came together again, pulling one another in, succumbing to the forces of nature that had brought them together. Yes. This was happening. Yes. It was everything they'd dreamed. They wanted more. They craved it and needed it. There was no denying their hunger now. They were soul mates.

Her trembling, inexperienced hands began to work with the buttons on his shirt, and this action caused his head to tell him what he was about to do. He put his hand over hers, and he tried to control his breathing.

"Michaela…we…we're…" She silenced him with a kiss, and when she rested her head back against the rug, her passion-inflamed lips parted, and a sigh escaped.

"For once in my life, I don't care what they think," she breathed.

"Is this what you want?" She kissed him softly, and she moaned against his lips. She'd never felt this way before. He had never expected her to be this way, and he wasn't complaining. When she didn't answer, he rolled to the side. She placed her hands over her face for a moment, trying to control the crimson in her cheeks. He stood and moved away, needing air. She slowly stood, her knees unsteady.

"Sully?" He turned back to her, and he saw her taking the pin and black feathers out of her hair. "I'm sure." He moved toward her again, taking her completely into his arms. She let the pins drop from her hand, and she wrapped her arms around his neck. His lips kissed the warm, pulsating flesh on her neck, and she let out a soft moan. He pulled back again.

"I…don't wanna be the reason that ya…"

"Sully," she said quietly, forcing herself to look him in the eye. She was scared. She was going against everything she had been taught. Who was to say it was right? When had she learned to go against her heart? This was what her heart wanted. Propriety didn't matter. Propriety was something that was expected, but she knew for a fact that it hadn't always been practiced in her family. Why deny her heart what she wanted? Why not give herself to the man she knew she would spend the rest of her life with? This was it. It was time.

When they came together again, she looked into his eyes.

"I've never…" He nodded, kissing her softly.

"I know." After a moment, he caressed her flushing cheek. "If you're sure…I want ya to know I respect ya, Michaela."

"You're the most respectable man I know, Sully. I know how honorable…"

"I want ya to know somethin'…" He kissed her softly. "I can wait, Michaela. I…I wanna marry ya. I never thought…I never thought I'd say that to anybody after Abagail died. But, ya changed it all. Ya made me want things I never wanted before."

"So have you," she whispered. "I want to marry you too." She smiled softly. "I know we'll be together."

"And, ya don't wanna wait?"

"I'm tired of waiting. I'm tired of living my life all closed up. I want to be free, Sully. I know I'm free with you." Pure joy swelled inside of Sully's heart, and he took her hand, leading her to the bed. She sat down, and he knelt in front of her.

"Then I wanna do this the right way." He watched the tears sparkle and shimmer in her eyes, and he knew the answer before he asked the question. "Michaela Quinn? Will you marry me?" Without a moment needed to think, Michaela nodded eagerly.

"Yes. I'll marry you." The firelight burned, as future lovers took their engagement kiss, and the night was theirs to make of it what they would.