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.

Warning: This short story contains a graphic sexual encounter between two consenting, engaged adults. If pre-marital sex offends you, please turn back now.

Out of the Cold

Written By, Ashley J.

November 9, 2005

Months of wondering, months of waiting for their hearts to be ready, and months of needing to reach out had finally come down to this one pivotal moment. Yes. Yes. Yes. She had said yes. Was it real? Were they still on opposite sides of the country, dreaming about one another as if they were really there? Were they hallucinating? Neither one of them were quite sure, as their tears mingled together, creating a river of wonder and joy that surrounded them both like a vast ocean; one that couldn't tear them apart if it tried. Love was a difficult thing, but at this moment, it was anything but. It was so easy to feel it now. It was so easy to look into one another's eyes and feel love and want to express it.

When they pulled back from the kiss that sealed their engagement, they wore each other's tears and smiles, and their breaths were merged as one. The remaining crystals of ice that protected Michaela's heart from letting herself fall in love finally dissolved, and she saw him, saw him completely for the first time, and he was seeing her in a new light too.

"We're…engaged," she said softly, touching her finger where the ring would be someday.

"I promise I'll get ya a real ring and make it official."

"It is official," she replied softly. "Sully, I never dreamed this could happen for us." She flushed. "I did dream, I never…I never expected it."

"Me neither," he replied, still looking up at her from his position on the floor. He took her hand in his, and she slid off of the bed to sit next to him. They sat next to one another, their heads turned so they could see each other's face, but neither one of them were quite sure what to do now. They knew what they had been preparing themselves for, but they weren't sure it was the time. They needed one another more than they had needed anyone in their entire lives, and that knowing, that needing…it pushed them onward. They were stepping lightly around the edges of innocence and passion, and Michaela was the one who was blindfolded, not knowing what her next step would bring or what she could do to keep herself holding on. A large part of her was fighting the urges she was feeling, as his hand caressed her arm and slowly cupped her cheek. She knew it wasn't proper, but who cared about propriety when they'd been re-awakened to life and love?

She leaned into him, as his lips brushed over hers, tasting the salty tears of happiness and newly found happiness. She had been happy, but this was a different kind of happy. It was the kind of happy that made her want to burst at the seams and scream out to the world that she, Michaela Quinn, was in love…truly, madly in love for the very first time, and she wasn't afraid to let anyone know it.

Her love for Sully was so much different that the love she'd felt for David. She knew Sully more than she'd known David. She knew his heart, yet there was still so much she had to learn. There were still so many unanswered questions that she wanted answers to. Yet, not knowing made it a more exciting love; a more forbidden, passionate love. She couldn't wait to discover his secrets, and she couldn't wait to divulge her own to him.

"Sully," she said quietly, innocently, as he pulled away.

"Hmm?" His lips were burning for more of her sweet, sensuous kisses, but he restrained himself. Her eyes were clouded with passion and love and need and so many other things that she could have been feeling at that exact moment.

"What's next?"

"Honestly?" he asked, a slow breath escaping his aching lungs.

"Honestly," she replied, softly running her finger down his jaw line.

"I'm not sure," he said quietly. She felt so young at that very moment, yet she knew she wasn't growing younger. In fact, she was just shy of her thirty-sixth birthday. What was she waiting for? All of her sisters had been married long before this age. Why had it taken her so long? It had taken Sully to make her realize that she could love in the way she needed to love.

"What did you…I mean…"

"What is it?" he asked, taking her hand and placing it against his heart. She could feel his heart pounding for her, beating new life into him, because she'd changed everything around. This was because of her, and it sent a thrill throughout her entire being.

"Abagail," she said quietly, her cheeks burning red and her heart betraying her. She pulled her hand away from him. She knew she shouldn't have brought that name up, but she needed to know. She wanted to. Sully cleared his throat, and he looked into the fire.

"Would it matter either way?"

"It's none of my business. It isn't proper to ask," she said quietly, turning her body away from him, turning her eyes toward the flames.

"Remember," he said softly, "don't worry 'bout propriety with me. Propriety ain't nothin' but rules that are set up to keep people in line and keep 'em from bein' free."

"It's worked for me for so long, Sully," she said softly. "I'm not sure how to truly be free." He brought his lips to hers, and her lips parted, and he breathed new life into her.

"You're a good woman, Michaela. All ya gotta do is follow your heart. What's your heart want?" Her face flushed again, and she bit her trembling lip. "If ya wanna be free, ya gotta do what your heart tells ya, but if it don't feel right, ya pull away. Bein' free don't mean breakin' the rules. Part of bein' free means knowin' what's right and wrong. Ya just gotta decide…is it right for you?" He brought her hand to his lips and softly kissed it. "You're smart enough to know what's right for ya, though there are some things…some things…"

"Mother always said it was immoral and disgusting if someone wasn't married," she said softly.

"That's what my ma told me too," Sully replied, tossing something into the flames of the fire. "When I got old enough, I realized that it's the same thing married people do, but they just got a paper and a ring and a vow that proves they don't got nothin' to be ashamed of." Michaela nodded.

"I've always wondered, Sully. I've always wondered why something that creates life…something that shares a part of oneself was considered to be so wrong."

"There's nothin' wrong with showin' somebody ya love 'em." He moved closer to her. "I know you're scared. I know you're wonderin'. Me and Abagail…we did wait." Michaela smiled sadly.

"I can't imagine what you must think of me right now. I've never talked about this with anyone before," she said quietly.

"What do I think of ya? I think you're tryin' to figure out what ya want, and you're tryin' to talk yourself into somethin' ya ain't ready for." Michaela turned toward him, propriety's hands gripping her arms, trying to pull her back in. But this was her chance to truly be free. This was her chance to do what she knew her heart wanted. She was scared, she was petrified, but he was there. Sully was the man she loved more than anything, and she knew his love matched that. She knew he'd never leave. What was to be scared about? What was so horrifying about two people sharing their love?

"I'm not ready?" she asked, mostly asking her heart. She knew the answer. She swallowed hard and stood up, moving toward the large windows that overlooked the town. The clock in the hallway chimed one. Where was the time going so quickly? Sully stood, keeping his eyes on her. Her hair hung all the way down her back, free and loose and unconfined by the pins that had held it up earlier. He watched her trace her finger along the cold window, staring out, searching for answers for her soul that she wasn't sure she'd ever find. He knew he needed to be strong for her, so he cleared his throat, stepping toward her.

"Michaela, it's getting late. Ya best go get some sleep," he said quietly, not wanting her to go; not wanting this night to end.

"I should," she replied. When she finally turned around, she took a liberating, deep breath. "But, I don't want to go." Sully swallowed the fist-sized lump in his throat.

"I don't want you to go." He moved across the room, being careful not to touch her just yet. "Tonight is your night, Michaela. I'll respect ya no matter what. I love you with everything I have, and I don't want ya to hold back with me, and I don't want ya to do somethin' ya don't want to do. If ya want to kiss me, kiss me. If ya want to leave right now, then leave, because no matter what, we have tomorrow morning. It's just another day. We have the rest of our lives." The flush from Michaela's cheeks was gone, and a new rush of energy flowed through her veins. She stepped closer to him, her eyes locking his into a gaze. "Are ya sure?"

"I'm sure," she replied, every bit of confidence in her voice, as if she was making a decision on whether or not to operate on a patient. The tone of her voice was solid and pure, and she felt so liberated, as if she'd thrown her corsets into a burning barrel. She was throwing her inhibitions to the wind for this night. She was going to feel…she was going to feel everything in his arms, and she would have more power than she'd ever had before. This was her choice. There would be no regrets. She had loved this man for a long time, and she wasn't afraid of that anymore. She didn't care how long they had known. She didn't care how long they'd been engaged. All she cared about was that they had this night, this one night of absolutely liberating conversation and revelations…and much more.

He drew her to him just then, pulling her closer than she'd ever been pulled before. They could feel each other's hearts beating, and his arms protectively surrounded her shoulders and back. She smiled shyly up at him, her olive and hazel eyes sparkling in the firelight. A smile played at the corners of his mouth, and he ever so slowly kissed her, baring his soul to her completely. As their lips connected, their hearts and minds connected, and they were already one.

The slow, sweet kisses ignited a flame that burned hotter than any other, and Sully's hands moved down her shoulders, her arms and her waist, letting his hands rest at the curves of her hips, feeling the fabric of her dress against his palm. She was walking backward, and a moment later, her back was against the far wall, and his hands were growing anxious as they rested on her hips. She tried to control her breathing, as his lips found her neck, pressing kisses to her sensitive flesh. A moan escaped the back of her throat, and she bit her lip, needing to feel more of his touch. Her moans urged him forward, and he dared to go lower, kissing a line from her shoulder down the neckline of her dress. It drooped lower and lower, and her breath caught, when his lips placed hot, wet kisses on the tops of her breasts.

"Sully," she whispered, her breath ragged, as she ran her fingers through his hair. His mouth found hers again, feeding the flame of their desires. She moaned as he pressed into her, his hands bunching her skirt up obliviously. Higher and higher it went, and she could feel it, and her arms wrapped around him. Her skin was burning under all of those clothes, and as Sully's hands continued to push her skirt up, her hands found the front of his shirt. She began working with the buttons, not letting herself think; only letting herself feel and want and need and crave. "Ahhh…" Her knees were growing weak, and when her fingers began to fumble with the last few buttons, Sully let go of her long enough to remove his shirt and throw it over his shoulder. She ran her soft hands over his smooth, chiseled chest, making a mental note of his structure. Her cheeks filled with red again, and when he kissed her once more, she let go. She placed a kiss to his chest, feeling the muscles rippling and his heart pounding fiercely there.

"Ya nervous?" he asked softly, running his fingers through her slightly tangled hair. She looked up into his eyes and nodded.

"A little." Sully nodded.

"No turnin' back?" She shook her head. Their lips crashed against each other's again, and his hands continued to push her skirt up, feeling her bare thigh against his palm. She fell into him, holding on for dear life, as she felt his hand against her bare flesh…a place no man had ever touched before. She moaned as his hand kneaded her lily-white skin, feeling her muscles clenching in his hand. She hooked one of her legs with his, letting his hand explore her further. As they continued to explore each other's mouths, he touched her for the first time, causing her to push herself back into the wall, moaning forcefully into his mouth. When he touched her most sensitive flesh, she did her best not to scream out her frustrations. She knew they'd wake the entire household, and if Mother knew what she was doing…well, she wouldn't think about that. She clenched her fists in his hair, the unbelievable feeling taking over her. Sully's fingers continued to explore her and touch her.

"Sully…I…I can't hold on…I need…you…" Something was changing inside of her. She didn't know what. She'd never felt this way before. "Sully…" He knew she needed him now in the way he needed her. She untangled her leg from his, letting him step back. He kissed her once more. Finally, he nodded, and he slowly moved around behind her, kissing the flesh of her shoulder, sending chills up her spine.

"We'll take it ever so easy," he swore. She shuddered; trembled and felt herself falling inside and starting to soar. He slowly unbuttoned and untied the back of Michaela's dress, kissing a trail down her back with every inch of exposed flesh. She grabbed onto the bedpost to keep herself standing, and her eyes focused on the fire, feeling her own body burning just as hot. Soon, he saw the back of her corset, and he loosened the rest of her dress. It slid easily off of her shoulders and piled in a pool at her feet. She felt so exposed, her stocking-clad legs shaking, as she stood in nothing but her underclothes: a long chemise and her corset.

He smiled, kissing her neck, as she leaned into him.

"You're beautiful," he breathed, his hands trying to find the right way to unfasten her corset. Michaela bent her head forward, as he pulled her hair up, so he could kiss the back of her neck. It was a thrilling feeling, and it made it even more intense to know that this was a forbidden sort of passion; something they weren't supposed to feel until after the wedding. But, God, this was something she knew she'd never share with another man. This was her choice. As he worked, she slipped out of her stockings and boots, pressing her toes into the cold floor.

His hands roamed over her slender waist, taking his time with her, as he unfastened her corset at a tortuously slow pace. She leaned into him again, silently begging him to keep going. He was finding the rest of his own clothes to be terribly uncomfortable now, and he scooped her up and led her to the bed. He placed her down, and she watched him, desire glistening in her eyes, as he removed his moccasins and worked with the button on his pants. Her breath hitched in her chest. This was happening. This was really happening, and she had honestly thought it never would. She hadn't even thought it would be like this.

"I don't wanna hurt ya." His sweet words melted her heart, causing tears to spring to life. She smiled lovingly up at him.

"You won't," she said softly. "I trust you." Sully suddenly felt like the center of attention, and his heart thumped wildly, as he peeled his buckskins off and tossed them aside. He waited for her initial reaction, and the fire cast shadows on her face. Shadows of doubt or fear? He wasn't sure. He stepped closer to her, seeing the wonder in her eyes, and the bashful gaze that played over his body. He took her hand and helped her stand, and he stood behind her, running his hands alongside her body again, making her comfortable and wanting her to feel ready. He finished with the corset, and he ran his hands up her arms, bringing the long chemise with it. Her bare body stood in front of his, and he reached out, running his hands along her smooth, pale back.

She was trembling, and he could feel her, and he wrapped her in his arms, holding her close. She turned, pressing her body against his. He wanted to see her, but he knew this was new and scary for her. He would hold her for as long as it took.

"Michaela," he breathed, gently caressing her back, rocking her slowly. When she relaxed, she looked up at him, her eyes filled with uncertainties and needs that Sully only hoped he could take care of, and he knelt on the bed, lowering her down onto the blankets. He lifted himself up, taking her in with his eyes, wanting her to know just how much the sight of her body pleased him.

She covered her face with her hands for a moment, her innocence shining through like white-hot light.

"It's okay to be scared," he whispered. "We can stop. We don't gotta go no further if ya ain't ready."

"No," she breathed, placing her hands on his broad shoulders. "I am. I'm ready." She smiled up at him, beaming with happiness. Her hand slowly moved to rest over his heart. "I'm here with you. Always."

"Always," he breathed, his body aching for hers. "Always…" Their lips met once again, and this time, there was no going back. They met each other's kisses with an intensity they'd never felt before. She breathed between his long, passionate kisses, getting used to the feeling of his hands on her body. He admired her, worshipped her sensually, gently running his hand up her thigh and up to her breast, shaping the warm, silky orb into his palm, rolling his finger against her already taut nipple. She gasped at the feeling, choking back a million different pleasurable sounds that would most definitely wake the entire household.

"Sully," she half-hissed, half-moaned as his warm mouth enclosed over the other nipple, teasing her, playing with her to heighten the sensations. Finally, he settled himself between her legs, feeling one hook around his hip. She pulled her other knee up, letting him come closer. She closed her eyes, as he touched her again, and she bit her bottom lip, softly moaning. Suddenly, her eyes flew open, and she gasped, sitting up and nearly knocking Sully off of the bed.

"Michaela?" he asked, too stunned for many other words.

"The door. The lock…it's not…what if someone…" She couldn't gather her words anymore. Sully wasn't exactly in a position to get up and move about the room, but he did so anyway. She buried her face in her hands, laying in the delicate position she was in, and she heard the lock turn, and she heard something scooting about the floor. She looked over to see him propping a chair under the knob for good measure. She bit her bottom lip, feeling guilty, but she'd never felt more alive. Her senses were working overtime now. "I'm sorry…" He chuckled, climbing back onto the bed.

"Don't worry 'bout it. I'm glad ya remembered." He was going to need a few more moments. So, he leaned down, kissing her again, letting the last minute pass them by, feeling the warmth returning to their bodies. She could soon feel him against her, and she jumped at the feeling. He felt that, but he held her closer, wanting to be there for her. But, when he let her go, she gasped, feeling the air hit her body, as he moved away. She felt him touch her again, slowly, carefully making his way up her body. She was feeling all of those needs pooling at her center, threatening to break the dam.

"Sully," she moaned. She'd never expected that he could make her feel this way. Her stomach was jumping, her nerves were all on alert, and every tiny inch of her body was sizzling and burning like the embers in the hearth. His hands moved against her, touching her, kneading her, stroking her…loving her. When he made his was by up to her mouth, he kissed her slowly and lovingly, enveloping her body in his arms. When she could feel him again, she gasped into his shoulder, finding that to be the place where all of her cries of pleasure could go and be muffled from the unsuspecting ears in the other rooms.

Within minutes, he was preparing to join her, and she was already holding onto him tightly, waiting, wanting, worrying. He slowly rolled onto his side, bringing her close to him. She opened her eyes, snuggling closer to him, draping her leg over his hip as they lay on their sides, facing one another. She nodded without a question being asked, and she leaned her head back, scooting closer to him. She was scared and willing and trembling, and she held him tightly with both arms, as he slowly guided himself inside of her. She gasped in pain for a few moments, and he hesitated, but she pulled him closer, urging him on. She had known it would be a little painful, and she wasn't going to let pain or fear stop her from sharing herself with the man she loved.

With slow but sure movements, Sully embedded himself within her; inside of his love, his forbidden love. God, this woman could make him think things he'd never thought before. The way she fit around him told him they were soul mates. They were molded to fit one another perfectly. With a soft sigh, Michaela opened her eyes, looking into his soul, as he drew her closer. He saw the pain in her eyes, but past that, he saw the liberation and the love. She was free. She was soaring now.

"Michaela," he breathed, drinking in her beauty, her warmth and her entire being. She moaned softly, biting her lip and trying to ease the discomfort. Sully rolled her onto her back for a moment, letting her adjust to the feel of him inside of her. "Did I…I…did I hurt ya?" She shook her head.

"No. No. I…Sully…" Tears flooded her eyes, and she pulled him down onto her, caressing his back. "I love you so much."

"I love you," he replied in a hoarse whisper, feeling her clenching around him, continuing to adjust. They rolled back to their sides, and they were completely wrapped up in one another, moving together in the most natural act since the beginning of time. It was more natural that breathing. It was living. It was making the most of love and life and sharing parts of themselves with each other; parts they wouldn't dare to share with anyone else as long as they lived.

They were slow and gentle and careful with one another, exploring and sharing as they went along. The discomfort was still there, but Michaela was beginning to let go of it all and let herself feel the things that only this man could make her feel.

Moving, kissing, loving, touching, feeling, moaning, sweating, kissing, loving, feeling, needing, wanting, holding. They felt as if they were spinning, and the entire world was falling down around them. Only they were left, and they held on tight as the journey came to an end. They cried out inside of a kiss, wanting the world to know of their love but wanting to keep it to themselves. It was their secret. It was their journey to take together and no one else's.

She curled up at his side and waited…waited for air to come back to her lungs, waited for time to start again, waited for the world to continue turning and waited for him to wrap his arms around her, which he did.

"You okay?" he asked softly after several minutes of silence. They could almost hear the dawn approaching.

"I…I'm fine," she replied shakily, her hand trembling as it rested on his chest. "I'm only…overwhelmed."

"Never expected this," he said quietly. "No regrets?"

"None," she replied softly, tears coming to her eyes again. "I've never felt more free with you, Sully." Two o'clock was approaching. "Thank you for letting me be…be…"

"Yourself?" Michaela blushed, and she nodded.

"I never imagined I could be this way. I never thought I'd be like this with someone I love," she breathed. They shared a sweet kiss, and a grin spread over Sully's lips. "What?" He gently ran his fingers through her hair.

"This mean ya ain't goin' with William in the mornin'?" She almost burst with laughter, and she shook her head.

"I'd forgotten about that," she whispered. "Don't worry about William. I could never feel about him the way I feel about you. I love you so much." She sat up slowly and stiffly, pulling his hand into her lap. She pressed his hand against her heart and smiled. "I have to go."

"I know," he said with a sigh.

"Mother will be suspicious," she said quietly. "I don't want her to have to be hospitalized again."

"She's a strong lady, just like you."

"But she might not be able to handle this," Michaela replied. Sully nodded, watching her get out of bed and gather her things, her hair wild and untamed. She quickly pulled them on as best she could to get her down the hallway, and Sully did the same with his own clothes, not bothering with his shirt, however. Silently, they slipped out into the dark hall and made their way down to Michaela's bedroom. She opened her bedroom door, and he followed her in.

"So this is you're room?" he asked.

"Well," she said softly, "Colleen took my old room. This is merely a guest room." Sully nodded. He pulled her close, and she sighed against him, wanting to feel more of his touching but knowing she had a busy day ahead of her in the morning. It would be hard to keep herself away now, knowing what the so-called "wifely duty" was about. She couldn't wait to be his wife. She couldn't wait to share her life with him.

"I'll see ya in the mornin'?" he asked.

"Of course," she whispered, kissing him softly.

"Wish we didn't have to sleep apart," he said gently. She grinned, her eyes gleaming once again.

"Soon," she whispered. "Soon." He pulled her into one final passionate kiss before he reluctantly departed to sleep alone in his room. It would certainly be much colder without her there.

Michaela pulled her gown on and threw her clothes into a pile for Martha to take care of in the morning. She washed up, feeling tired and woozy but unbelievably happy. She had never known that breaking the rules of propriety could be so exhilarating, so liberating and so, so right.

She finally climbed into bed, thoughts of her husband-to-be dancing through her mind. She wouldn't be able to sleep for the world, not with him right down the hall, but she would try. She had to try.

Slowly, she managed to drift off to sleep, dreaming of the future with the man she loved. Never had she imagined that one night, one pivotal event could change her life forever. Little did she know, the changes were just beginning.

The End…or is it?