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.

Free Falling

By, Ashley J.

November 12, 2005 – November 15, 2005

Another morning dawned, and the sun rose without hesitation. Michaela woke in her bed long after the fire had died in the hearth, and the cold, gray ashes had settled. But, she was warm, wrapped in the embrace of the man she was destined to spend the rest of her life with. She smiled, cozying up closer to him, feeling his arms tighten around her, as snug as her corset but much more comfortable. Her hand moved to his chest. Feeling his heart beating slowly and steadily made her relax and settled into his hold. It was so comfortable and so right.

"Mornin'," he whispered, yawning and stretching with her in his arms. She stretched with him, her eyes flittering open, greeting the sunlight that stretched through the tiny cracks in the curtains. She moaned softly, pulling the blanket up around her body. His hand found her thigh under the blanket and gently moved over it. She pulled away with a laugh, feeling his hands tickling her and torturing her at the same time. She suddenly realized that it was morning, and Sully had stayed the entire night in her room.

"Sully!" she exclaimed in a whisper, sitting up in bed, pulling the blanket up around her. Sully sat up with a bemused look upon his face. "You stayed the entire night?"

"I fell asleep," he said with a chuckle. "Guess I was too tired to wake myself up." She wanted to throw a pillow at him, but those thoughts were lost, when he took her hand in his and kissed it softly. "Looks like it's around seven. I'll sneak out." Michaela sighed softly.

"This is the first time I've been grateful for locks on the bedroom door," she breathed, pulling herself out of bed and crossing the room carefully. "What if one of the children…" She could feel his eyes on her bare body, and she realized she had never been so exposed to him in the daylight. She turned toward him, her arms wrapping around her body. He got out of bed and pulled his clothes on, as she did the same.

"You're mad."

"No," she replied, her eyes full of worry. "I'm only surprised. I thought…well, I suppose I was too tired to make you leave." She smiled sheepishly at him. "We should be more careful."

"We will be," he promised. "'Specially since we'll be goin' home soon." Michaela nodded slowly. At that moment, a rapping at the door sounded, and Michaela felt her heart stop beating.

"Michaela? Michaela, are you awake?" Mother! Sully cast Michaela a helpless glance, and she pointed toward the washroom that was connected to her bedroom. Michaela straightened her wild hair in the mirror and rushed over toward the door. "Michaela! What on Earth are you doing with your door locked?" Michaela quickly turned the lock and threw open the door. She came face to face with the confused glare of her mother. "Martha's ill today, and…" She looked around. "Michaela, why was your door locked?" Michaela couldn't think of anything to answer her with, so she simply stared at her. "It's odd, because I just stopped by Mr. Sully's room, and he didn't answer his door. His door wasn't locked."

"Mother…" Michaela said quietly.

With realization settling in and making her blood boil, Elizabeth shook her head. "I thought you surely would have learned after our talk yesterday."

"Our talk? Mother…"

"How could you want to marry a man that…that disrespects you this way?" Elizabeth asked, turning and stalking down the hall. Michaela sighed heavily and followed after her.

"Mother, you have no right to tell me how to lead my life."

"I'm trying to protect you!" Elizabeth replied, spinning around and facing her daughter with a frustrated gaze. "You've never appreciated that."

"I do appreciate your concern, Mother, but I'm old enough to make my own decisions."
"What kind of example are you setting for those children?"

"How I raise my children is none of your concern," Michaela fumed, following her mother into her room. She promptly closed Elizabeth's door and watched as her mother moved about the room, gathering her money purse. "What are you doing?"

"I'm going out," Elizabeth replied sharply.

"Mother, you're still recovering…"

"I need to get out of this house until the people staying under its roof gain some morality and common sense." Michaela sighed heavily.

"You may never accept my relationship with Sully, but that will not stop me from loving him. He's a good man, Mother, a good man!" Elizabeth stopped what she was doing and turned back toward her daughter, cold words flittering off of the tip of her tongue.

"A good man wouldn't disrespect you in the way Sully has."

"Disrespect? Mother, he has been nothing but respectful to me since the day I met him. You barely know him. How dare you make such assumptions?" Elizabeth shook her head.

"David never would have taken advantage of you." Michaela's eyes widened and flashed with memories of the past. She shook her head.

"First of all, Sully hasn't taken advantage of me in any way, shape or form. Second of all, you have no idea…NO idea what went on between myself and David."

"David was a good man." Finally agreeing with her mother, Michaela nodded.

"He was," Michaela replied. "And, I loved him so much, Mother. But, you have no idea what happened the night he came to tell us he was leaving." Elizabeth sat down on the edge of her bed and looked toward her daughter, her own worries and fears pressing into her like a curse.

"Don't tell me he tried to have his way with you," she muttered, her voice thick with a mother's protectiveness.

"No," she replied. "But, he wanted…he wanted me to know he was coming back for me. He wanted…" She turned toward her mother's mirror, seeing years of sadness in her own reflection. She closed her eyes, swallowing the lump that was forming in her throat. She slowly sat down in a chair near her mother's bed. "He wanted to…" She couldn't finish the sentence.

"Michaela, you didn't…"

"No," she said quietly. "I loved him so, and I wanted him to know that, but everything I had learned held me back. I kissed him, and I held him close, and I told him I would wait for him. He respected me, Mother, but I lost my chance to show him how much he meant to me. He died before he could know." Michaela turned her gaze to her hands that were folded in her lap. "But, now I know that David and I…that love wasn't the kind of love that Sully and I have. David was my first love. He wasn't my true love." She moved to the floor, kneeling beside her mother. "Don't you see? I won't risk never telling the man I love how I feel…showing him. I love Sully, and he knows it." Elizabeth stood and moved away.

"I don't care how you say it, Michaela. It's still disgusting. I won't have my grandchildren learning such behaviors." Michaela stood, stalking toward her mother.

"You may think what you want, but you will not tell me how to be a mother to my children or a wife to the man I'm going to marry." She turned and left the room quickly, without another glance backward.

She made her way back down the hall, and she saw Sully's bedroom door closing. She took a deep breath and moved toward it, slowly turning the knob. When she opened the door, she saw him facing the window, looking out, his muscles tense under his beige shirt. She smiled a little, and she silently creped in, closing the door far enough without it latching. She caught him by surprise, when she touched his back. He turned, his eyes sparkling and happy, when he saw her face.

"Everything okay?"

"Mother's still being…well, Mother," she replied. Her eyes cast downward, and Sully touched her cheek.

"What is it?"

"She…she doesn't understand, Sully. I'm not sure I blame her, but…" She slumped down on the edge of Sully's bed, took a deep breath and straightened herself out. Sully slowly sat down beside her. "I need to tell you something."

"Tell what?" he wondered. Michaela reached for his hand, and she brought it into her lap. She looked down at his knuckles, gently running her pale fingers over them. "You know all about David and the fact that we were engaged to be married…"

"Right," Sully replied with a nod. "So?"

"Well, you know…well, the two of us, Sully, we've been…" She took in a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves.

"Right," he replied, pulling his arm around her. She tensed, and he went to pull away, but she clung to him.

"No. I'm fine," she said softly. "I'm…"

"Say it," Sully whispered.

"When David and I were together, we almost…well, I wouldn't let it happen. He was going off to war, and we loved each other so much. But, I told him I would wait for him. I would wait for him to come back and for our wedding night…I…" Sully breathed out slowly.

"It's okay," he said quietly. "I knew ya were…well, that ya never…" He chuckled a little, feeling tongue-tied himself. "Ya know I knew that. Ya told me, Michaela."

"I know I did. But, I didn't tell you that…I made myself stop with David. At the time, I wanted…I wanted a lot of things." Sully nodded, squeezing her hand. "But, I don't regret waiting now. I saved myself for the man I know I'm supposed to marry." Sully smiled and kissed her softly.

"Even if ya hadn't waited, it wouldn't have made me love ya any less. Do ya love me any less, 'cause I was with Abagail first?"

"No, but…but, you were married."

"We ain't married." Michaela nodded.

"You don't think any less of me, because we didn't wait, do you?" Sully turned his body toward her, taking her hands in his.

"I already told ya I don't, Michaela. In fact, I love ya more now than ever."

"Why?" Sully smiled softly, knowingly.

"'Cause you're free." He tilted her chin up, so he could look up into her eyes. "Free to love me with everything ya have." He wrapped her in his arms, crushing his lips upon hers, tasting the sweetness of her kiss. In a matter of moments, she was leaning into him. They were like matches. It only took one strike to set everything on fire.

When they toppled back onto the bed, Michaela fell right into his kisses, but she realized that she had plenty to do today to make up for yesterday.

"Sully," she said softly, as his lips explored her neck. She giggled, as his stubble tickled her skin. "Sully!"

"What?" he asked, pulling away, moving to kiss her lips again. But, this time, she blocked his kiss with her fingers and kissed his nose instead.

"I have to meet William." He sighed softly. "We have work to do at the hospital."

"Why're ya workin' there anyway? Ain't we goin' home soon?" Michaela sighed softly.

"Very soon, but I've promised William to teach him the things I've learned from the Cheyenne. There's no harm in that, is there?"

"I s'pose not, but I…"

"What?" Sully sat up, and Michaela sat up beside him, putting her hand in his.

"I don't like the way he looks at ya, is all." Michaela looked away, shaking her head.

"William understands…"

"Ya sure about that? Ya haven't known him for very long, and…"

"What are you saying? Don't you trust me? Do you think I'm foolish enough…"

"Trust? Who said anything about trust?"

"Then, what are you so worried about? Sully, William and I are friends and colleagues, and it's nothing for you to worry about."

"I can't help but worry. I love you."

"And, I love you. But, you have to trust that I know what I'm doing with William. He's a gentleman."

"And I ain't?" Michaela sighed with exasperation.

"I am not having this argument." Before Sully could interrupt, she spoke up again. "And, just for the record, I'm not running away from this. I'm late. I'll be home before dinner." She turned and stormed out of the room. Sully sighed with exhaustion and collapsed back onto the bed, covering his face with his hands. He hated fighting with her, yet at the same time, it stirred something inside of him.

Brian watched around the corner, as his mother disappeared down the stairs. He had heard their argument, and he felt terrible. He hated when they fought, and it made him worry that maybe they wouldn't get married. He knew his mother loved Sully, but there were times when their stubbornness got in the way of letting them cooperate. He only hoped that whatever quarrel they'd just had wouldn't last long, and they would be happy and getting married in no time.

Not even a minute later, Sully came out of his room, pulling on his jacket. Brian watched him go to the large picture window on the landing and watch her climb into a carriage. Sully wanted to go after her, but he knew they needed time apart to cool off. So, slowly, Sully descended the stairs, and Brian quickly followed. He snuck out of the house, watching Sully turn in the opposite direction that Michaela's carriage had headed. He pulled his coat around him tightly and stayed a good distance behind his future father. He didn't want to be caught, because he wasn't sure if Sully could punish him yet. He didn't want to take that chance, and he wanted to give Sully space before he tried to patch things up himself.

Sully walked and walked and walked until he reached the river, and Brian jogged to keep up, as Sully's steps grew larger, and he was almost running. Finally, Sully stopped, and he sat down, throwing pebbles and larger stones into the water, watching it ripple and churn and return to normal, much like their lives after this petty argument. Brian stayed back.

Sully sighed heavily, throwing another stone into the water. He felt like an idiot for the way he'd acted back at the house. He wanted so badly to find Michaela and make it better, but he knew that finding her now would only make things worse. She'd probably accuse him of not trusting her again, and he didn't want that. He knew she didn't have feelings for William, but he knew that Michaela was a beautiful woman, and any man could see it. It was obvious that William was attracted to her, so naturally, Sully was wary of him. He only wished she could see that this was a natural feeling.

Finally, he stood, deciding to go back to the house, despite the icy glares that he would most likely receive from Elizabeth from time to time. The children were there, and they would keep him company until Michaela came home.

As he stood and turned to head back the other way, Brian moved to try to avoid being seen, but in his attempt to hide, he lost his footing and found himself falling; falling into the cool waters of the Charles. Sully heard the splash and the screams of women and children nearby. He saw a small child thrashing about in the water, and when he heard the voice, his heart jumped into his throat.

"Sully! Pa! Help!"

"Brian!" Without thinking, Sully made a run for the banks, and he dove in after Brian. The river currents tried to push him away from Brian, but he grabbed onto the boy, feeling the water stinging him like a hundred thousand needles. "C'mon, Brian. Keep your head above water. C'mon, boy." He pulled him close, using his free arm to paddle, and a few men had come over with a rope to throw in. Sully found it blindly, and he held on tightly to it and to Brian, letting the three men reel them in like catfish on a line.

They dragged them up the bank, and when they were safely out of the water, Brian sprawled out on the grass. Sully took him by the shoulders, shaking him firmly.

"What were ya thinkin' comin' out here by yourself?" he asked, not in anger but in fear. The tears welled in Brian's eyes, and he began to cry. He clung to Sully, and Sully felt the lump in his throat forming.

"I'm sorry. I…I heard ya fightin' with Ma. I wanted to help. I…I'm sorry. I didn't wanna…" His sobs made the rest of his words uncontrollable, and Sully felt utterly guilty now. He held him close and kissed the top of his head.

"It's all right, Brian. You're safe now. But, I'm takin' ya to the hospital to make sure ya didn't hurt yourself."

"I'm fine. Honest." Brian wiped his nose with his wet coat sleeve.

"We're goin'," he replied. Sully stood shakily, and those nearby watched him walk off without saying a word. Brian shivered in Sully's arms, and Sully couldn't stop thinking about what could have happened had he not grabbed Brian in time.

"Thank you, William," Michaela said quietly, as she grabbed the chart from him. She could feel him watching her, and it made her nervous, though she was certain he wouldn't try anything. She was an engaged woman, and she was in no way interested in any kind of romantic relationship with him.

She wrote a few things down on the chart and handed it back to him.

"Did you need anything else?"

"No, I think everything is fine. If you want to go back to your family, I'd understand, but we could use you here today."

"I told them I would be home for dinner," she said thoughtfully, "though it would be nice to spend the day with them again." William watched her, and Michaela sighed softly.

"I haven't seen you this happy since you arrived."

"I am happy."

"Do you really love him? Does he really make you happy?" Michaela nodded, smiling to herself.

"Yes. I really love him. I've never been this happy before," she replied quietly, a blush filling her cheeks. William nodded, moving toward the window of his office, packing up yet another of his crates. He had by the end of the week to be out. Dr. Hanson wasn't wasting any time.

"I was hoping to ask you to be my partner once I got back on my feet," William explained quietly. Michaela smiled warmly.

"Had there been different circumstances, I might have accepted." His eyes brightened. "You're a wonderful doctor, William. I would have been proud to work with you."

"And I with you," William replied, moving closer to her. She could sense his feelings for her again, and it was overwhelming. She felt her stomach squirm, and she moved toward the door.

"William," Michaela said quietly, "I'm not sure what expectations you had of me, but I want to put any questions to rest. I'm happy with Sully, and I can't imagine spending my life with any other man." William's face faltered, and he nodded, looking toward her. He was about to say something more, when a few nurses came running down the hallway.

"Dr. Quinn! There's a man looking for you," one woman said quietly, her eyes full of worry and surprise. Michaela furrowed her brows, thankful for the escape from William's office, and she hurried after the nurses. She never expected to find what she found when she arrived in the main entrance foyer of the hospital.

"Sully!" He was standing there, soaking wet with a shivering Brian in his arms. Michaela's heart leapt into her throat, and she rushed over. "Oh my God! What happened?"

"He…he followed me," he said quietly, carefully passing Brian over to his mother, treating him as if he was as fragile as glass. Michaela's tear-filled eyes glanced into his, seeing the pain, the guilt and the absolute terror. "I didn't know. I didn't know he followed me." Michaela couldn't think at the moment. All she could do was pull her little boy close and rush him down the hall. He was awake, but his little body was pale and shivering.

"It's all right, sweetheart," she whispered, carrying him into an empty room. Sully came in, and William followed promptly behind him them.

"What can I do?" Sully asked. Michaela couldn't snap at him. It wasn't his fault that this happened. She looked toward a cabinet and pointed that way.

"There's a gown in there. Bring it over here." She and William began to strip Brian from his wet clothes, peeling off each layer and tossing them aside. Sully nervously handed Michaela the gown and watched, as she slipped it over Brain. He stood back, as William helped her examine him. Sully had never felt so helpless, but he stood by, and Brian kept his eyes on him the entire time.

"Does anything hurt, Brian?" Michaela asked softly.

"No, Ma. I'm just cold," he said quietly, pulling a blanket around himself. "I didn't mean to get so close to the water. I was…I was…" Michaela sat down, taking her little boy's hand in hers. "I heard ya fightin' with Sully this mornin', and I followed Sully, 'cause I thought maybe I could help. I hate it when ya fight, Ma. You're still getting married, aren't ya?" His little teeth were chattering. Michaela sighed softly, kissing Brian's hand.

"Of course we are, Brian. Just because we quarreled doesn't mean we're not getting married. People who love each other argue sometimes." William suddenly felt uncomfortable in this situation, and he excused himself. He didn't belong anymore.

"Your ma's right, Brian," Sully said quietly. He sat down at Brian's other side. "What we were arguin' about this mornin' was silly."

"It was," Michaela replied, her eyes on Sully's.

"We know we never shoulda argued 'bout it, 'cause we both know the truth." Michaela smiled a little bit, and she sighed softly.

"So…ya ain't mad at each other?" Brian asked quietly, his eyes full of life again, his skin turning from ashy blue to pale pink again. Michaela shook her head.

"No, sweetheart. We're not angry with each other. We're worried about you, though. You shouldn't have done what you did."

"I know, Ma. I was just tryin' to help."

"I know, but sometimes the best way to help is to not do anything at all." Brian's lower lip quivered slightly.

"Ya mad at me?"

"No sweetheart." She kissed his forehead. "You just lay here, and I'll bring you in some hot soup. That river must be freezing this time of the year." Brian merely nodded. "You seem fine, but I'm going to keep you here tonight. I'll stay with you."

"So will I," Sully offered. Michaela looked up at him, tears in her eyes, and she nodded.

"I'm hungry, Ma." Michaela shook her head.

"I'll go get you something. I'm glad you haven't lost your appetite. I'll send Sully back to the house to get Matthew and Colleen." She slowly moved out into the hall, and Sully lingered to speak with Brian for a few more minutes. When he finally left the room, Michaela was leaning against the wall, tears threatening to break free. She placed her hand on her cheek, feeling the rush of warmth there. "Sully…I'm…"

"I'm sorry," he said gently, reaching out to stroke her arm with his hand. "I shouldn't have acted the way I did this mornin'."

"No. You…you had every right. I…" She looked away, brushing a tear from her cheek. "William does have feelings for me, and I don't think he realizes that I don't feel the same." Sully sighed quietly. "But, that doesn't matter right now. What matters is Brian."

"It's my fault. I should've stayed home. I…"

"It isn't your fault, Sully. We both know how Brian is. He was trying to help…"

"Yeah. But, if I hadn't acted the way I did…"

"I'm not angry with you. I'm sorry about everything." She let out a deep breath, and Sully pulled her close. She melted against him, shaping herself inside of his arms. He gently caressed her back and kissed the side of her head.

"I'm sorry too. I hate when we fight."

"It was foolish." Sully nodded.

"It was. But, we know what's important to us." Michaela nodded. She pulled away slowly and looked up into his eyes. "Thank you for saying you'll stay tonight." He kissed her hand softly.

"I'll always stay when ya need me." Michaela nodded, feeling his heart against hers.

"I know you will," she whispered softly, linking her fingers through his. Their lips met in a brief but sensual kiss, before Sully pulled away.

"I'll go get the kids." She nodded and watched him walk away, eager to see him again. As soon as he was gone, she rushed off to get a few things for her little boy, not wanting to leave him alone for too long.

Sully arrived at the Quinn house, and Elizabeth was rushing about the foyer, wringing her handkerchief in her hands. She turned abruptly, when he walked through the door.

"Mr. Sully! Where have you been?" She looked him up and down like a mother would look at her child before administering punishment. "Your clothes are damp. What's going on?" She looked around. "Was Brian with you? We haven't been able to find him all morning."

"Brian's fine."

"Where on Earth is he?" she asked, as Colleen and Matthew came rushing down the stairs. Elizabeth stepped toward Sully.

"I don't have time to talk, Mrs. Quinn. I need to take Colleen and Matthew to the hospital."

"The hospital!" Elizabeth's eyes widened. "What happened?"


"Brian's in the hospital!" Colleen asked, fear rising from the back of her throat.

"Mr. Sully…"

"He followed me, and I didn't know 'til it was too late. He fell in the river, and I had to jump in after 'im." He didn't look Elizabeth in the eye. He glanced at Matthew.

"He's all right?"

"Your ma says he'll be just fine. She's gonna keep him there overnight, but she wants the both of ya to come sit with him for a while." Colleen and Matthew nodded, and they rushed away to grab their coats. Sully stood face to face with Elizabeth, trying to study the features of her face.

"You saved my grandson," she said, as if she were surprised. Sully started to move toward the stairs, but Elizabeth stopped him, putting a hand on his shoulder. "You saved his life, Mr. Sully, and for that I'm thankful."
"I didn't do it for your thanks, Mrs. Quinn. That boy's like a son to me, and I ain't willin' to lose him. I'd do anything to protect your family…my family." He started for the stairs again, and Elizabeth called out to him.

"At least change into some dry clothes, for Heaven's sakes. You'll freeze to death out there."

"I'm fine, Mrs. Quinn."

"Don't tell me you're as stubborn as my daughter is." Did he actually see a smile forming at the corners of her mouth?

"Ya don't gotta worry 'bout me. I can take care of myself."

"You are as stubborn as she is. I should have known." Elizabeth sighed, and she looked up into Sully's eyes. "I may not approve of the way you and my daughter handle your relationship, but the fact that you saved my grandson's life today proves that you are capable of…" She hesitated, letting out a slow breath of air. "Mr. Sully, what do you have to offer my daughter?" He hated being put on the spot, especially when he was in a hurry to get back to Michaela and Brian, but he knew that having this conversation would be best for everyone, including Michaela.

"I don't have a lot of money. I make my money by helpin' folks, trappin' and doin' odd jobs for folks when they need work 'round their homesteads. I don't even have a house of my own. I got about two shirts to my name, and I live off the land. I'm nothin' like the kind of man you want your daughter to marry, but nobody could ever love her as much as I do…the way that I do." Elizabeth nodded sadly, realizing that her daughter's choice for a husband may have been better than she'd thought.

"Do you truly believe you can make her happy? You can help her raise those children?"

"Yes, Ma'am, I do. She's doin' a good job as it is. She's a good ma."

"She is a wonderful mother. I only worry that your decisions may…"

"What we decided don't have nothin' to do with those kids. They'll be old enough to make decisions themselves someday. Me and Michaela are gonna raise 'em the best we can, and that's all we can do. They're smart enough to know what's right for 'em." Elizabeth nodded. "Ya gotta trust us, Mrs. Quinn."

"Trust…" She sighed heavily. "Mr. Sully, if you love my daughter, why did you convince her to…"

"Convince? Mrs. Quinn, I ain't gonna discuss what happens between me and your daughter, but I ain't never tried to convince her to do anything. She does what she wants. Ya raised a headstrong daughter, and ya should be proud to know that she don't let nobody push her around."

"You'll never hurt her?" Her voice was wavering.

"I'd die first," Sully replied. "I love her, Mrs. Quinn, with all my heart, and I only wish ya could see that."

"I see it, Mr. Sully," she said sheepishly. "I see it now." Not sure of what to make of all of it, Sully retreated up the stairs. Elizabeth promptly instructed Harrison to take a suit to Sully, so he wouldn't have to run around in damp clothes for the rest of the day.

Colleen and Matthew hurried into the foyer with their coats, and Elizabeth was buttoning her shawl.

"Grandma?" Colleen asked.

"Ya goin' somewhere?"

"I'm going with the two of you and Mr. Sully to see Brian at the hospital."

"Do ya think that's a good idea?" Matthew asked. "Dr. Mike thinks ya need to rest more."

"I'm perfectly fine," Elizabeth replied quickly. "I need to see my grandson."

Michaela sat with Brian, until he fell asleep, and when she heard the familiar voices of Colleen and Matthew, she looked up to see them coming through the doorway with Elizabeth right behind them.

"Mother?" Michaela asked quickly, standing up and hurrying toward the door. "You should be resting!"

"Mr. Sully told me what happened, Michaela, and I want to see my grandson. He could have drowned."

"Brian's all right now," Michaela said softly. "Thanks to Sully." Her eyes dared her mother's, and Elizabeth simply nodded, refusing to argue anymore. She was tired.

"I know." Michaela turned, watching her mother, as she glided toward the bed. Colleen and Matthew rushed toward the little brother's bed as well. It was then that Michaela saw Sully standing in the hall wearing one of her father's nicer suits. She swallowed hard, seeing him smile at her from the hallway. She moved out of the room, closing the door behind her. The empty corridor was filled with static space and the tip tapping of a nurse's shoes somewhere in the distance.

"What?" he asked, shifting under her gaze. "Your ma sent these up with Harrison. Said I needed to get out of them damp clothes so I wouldn't get sick."

"Mother?" Michaela wondered. He nodded.

"Somethin' changed, Michaela." He took her into his arms. "Ya okay?"

"Yes. I'm just tired and sore from being on my feet all day. I'm used to it though." She chuckled a little, as he brushed his lips over hers. "Brian's fine. No fever, so I'm hopeful it will stay that way." Sully took her hands in his, and he began to lead her away. "Sully?"

"Follow me."

"Where are we going?" She felt her cheeks flush red at the gleam in his eyes. He led her to a dim corner, and he pulled out a chair. She eyed him, wondering what he had up his sleeves. She was nervous, knowing that he wasn't afraid to express himself, and she knew that he knew better than to try…this! "Sully? What…"

"Sit down," he said with a chuckle. Without a question, she sat down, and she could feel him right behind her. His fingers gently brushed along her shoulders, and she relaxed, the tension from the day slowly melting away. She sighed softly, practically melting in the chair, her skin tingling at his touch. Her dress began to slip down her shoulders just a little, as his fingers massaged away the aches and knots she'd acquired that day.

"That feels nice," she admitted after a few minutes. "I didn't realize how tense I was."

"You've been takin' care of people for so long. I thought it was 'bout time somebody took care of you." She heard the slight quiver in his voice, and it made her shudder. She bit her lip, relaxing even more by the moment. She knew she needed to stop him soon, but the feeling was too nice to let go of right now. Soon, she felt his lips brush over her ear, and she shuddered, completely losing her grip on her thoughts. It was going to be a long night at the hospital. A very, very, very long night.

Matthew and Colleen had gone home with Elizabeth hours ago. Michaela had lit an oil lamp to give them some light, as they set up two cots beside the window in Brian's room. The blankets were tucked in, and the pillows were fluffed, and they shut the door to drown out the sounds from the late night passers-by in the hallway.

Brian was sleeping again, after Sully had told him one of many stories about the Cheyenne. He had been drowsy throughout the afternoon, so Michaela was certain he'd sleep well into the late morning.

Sully moved around to one side of his cot, pulling back the covers and sliding underneath. He felt constricted by all of his clothes, but he knew better than to sleep how he usually did. Michaela pulled the pins out of her hair, letting them fall to the floor. She was too tired to look for them, and she decided to grab them in the morning. She climbed under the covers of her cot, and she turned down the lamp, letting darkness bathe them.

The tick-tocking of the clock was all either one of them could hear, and Michaela couldn't get comfortable. She turned to lay on her back, her eyes staring into the darkness toward the ceiling. She was cold, despite the fact that Sully was only a mere foot away. She was amazed at how tense she was already.

He could hear her breathing softly, trying to tame the knots that were building up inside of her. He wanted to hold her and comfort her, but the longing he had for her needed to be pushed aside for a little while. He could hear her turning, and he could almost see her face through the darkness. He reached out for her, finding her hair with his hand. He felt her shiver underneath his touch, and her hand moved over his.



"As soon as Brian's feeling better…" He could hear her swallow hard.


"I'd like to go home. I miss Colorado Springs." Sully couldn't stop the smile that spread over his face, and he brought her hand to his lips.

"Ya mean it?"

"I do," she breathed. "I miss everything." Sully squeezed her hand.

"Me too." He heard her move, and he could see her form sitting up. He tensed, as her hand found his cheek, and she leaned over, drawing her lips to his. He smiled, kissing her back, and she sighed against his lips.

"Good night," she whispered, reaching out to touch his cheek through the darkness.


A week later, the train station was packed with people coming and going, and the Quinn family was there to see Michaela, Sully and the children off. For the past week, the family had endured many heartfelt goodbyes, as Michaela's sisters came for a visit with their families. Rebecca and Marjorie spent more time with their sister than Maureen and Claudette, and it was obvious that the bond Michaela felt with Rebecca and Marjorie was stronger than most. Elizabeth had changed her tune as well. She still disapproved of Michaela and Sully's choices, but after Sully had saved Brian from the Charles River, she realized that he was meant to be a part of her daughter's life, even though she still wondered if they would ever see the consequences of their actions.

Sully and Michaela had arranged for a private car, so they could all rest and have their private sleeping quarters. The sleeper car had four compartments. Colleen was getting her own, Sully his own, Michaela her own, and Matthew and Brian were sharing one, seeing as all four compartments held two small bunks that could be pushed back into regular seats for the day.

"I'll miss you, Grandma," Brian said, hugging Elizabeth securely around the middle.

"I'll miss you too, Brian," Elizabeth replied. "Just remember…I'll be with you in your dreams." Brian hugged her tightly again, and Michaela felt a tug at her heartstrings. She didn't know when she'd see her mother again. She was going to get on that train and ride off into a new life with her future husband and her children.

Matthew and Colleen said goodbye to their grandmother, and Michaela gave her sisters warm hugs again, as Sully stood aside, watching her say goodbye to her family. He felt guilty for that, but he knew that Colorado Springs needed her, and she needed Colorado Springs.

Elizabeth hugged Colleen and Matthew once more, and the train whistle blew. The conductor was warning everyone to board the train.

"Children, why don't you go pick out your sleeping compartments?" Michaela asked softly. "We'll be along in just a moment." They obeyed, and they boarded the train, giving a final wave to their mother's family…their family. Sully went to board the train as well, but Elizabeth stopped him.

"Mr. Sully," she said quietly, "I want you to hear what I have to say to my daughter." Michaela raised an eyebrow.

"Mother?" Elizabeth fiddled with something in her hand, and it caught the gleam from the sun. Michaela directed her sight toward it, and she noticed Elizabeth's wedding band. She nearly gasped, but she waited for her mother to speak.

"This ring was intended for you, my dear," she said quietly. "Your father and I discussed it the day you were born. It was going to be a gift to you, and you would wear it throughout your marriage, and you would be blessed with many happy years, healthy children and dreams come true." Michaela saw the hint of sadness in her mother's eyes, and she wanted to hold her then. "We may not see eye to eye, but you are my daughter, and I'll love you forever. I see the love inside both of you, when you look at each other, and I see now that you feel this is what's right. I wish you all of the happiness in the world, Michaela…in your life with Sully." Michaela's eyes widened, and the tears formed. Sully put his hand on her back, and he felt her heart pounding so hard.

"Mother…what are you saying?" Michaela asked, as the train gave its final warning. Elizabeth placed the ring in the palm of her daughter's hand.

"I'm saying…I wish you both great happiness, and I hope you've made the right choice for yourselves. Be happy. Make your choices count for something." After a short pause, she spoke again. "You have my blessing." Michaela nearly broke down at that moment, and she pulled her mother into a hug.

"I love you, Mother."

"I love you. Remember what I said. Make your choices count for something. You made the choice. You love him."

"I do. I always will. Thank you, Mother." They held onto each other for a few moments longer, before the train began to shudder.

"Michaela," Sully said softly. "We better get goin'." Michaela knew she had to go. She kissed her mother on the cheek, and she hurried up onto the train with Sully. The stood on the back, as it slowly began to pull away from the station. Elizabeth finally turned away, not wanting to see her baby girl disappear from her life once again. But, remembering that she hadn't seen her off the first time forced her to turn around again. She watched, until they disappeared inside of the sleeper car, and then she turned away and started home with the rest of the Quinn clan.

Inside of the sleeper car, the train gave another shudder, as it began to pick up speed, and Michaela and Sully fell right into the door of one of the sleeping compartments. The door swung open, and Michaela held onto the knob. They nearly knocked poor Brian over, and they couldn't control the laughter. Despite the sadness of leaving Boston behind again, the trip home was already off to an interesting start.

"Hey, this is my cabin. Get your own," Brian teased.

"It's our cabin, little brother," Matthew replied, pushing his way in. "Ya just remember that."

"Why does Colleen get her own?" Brian griped.

"We haven't been on this train more than two minutes, and you're already bickering?" Michaela asked.

"Sorry, Ma." Michaela smiled anyway, and she rapped on the door to another compartment. Colleen came to the door, and she smiled at her mother.

"I got plenty of room to stretch out," she said thankfully. Michaela smiled.

"It's lovely, Colleen."

"It's no fair. She don't have to share," Brian spoke up, standing out in the small corridor of the sleeper car.

"Someday, Colleen may have a little sister she has to share with," Sully spoke up, causing Michaela to feel the sweat forming at her brow. She smiled nervously, as the children looked at her.

"I wanna baby brother," Brian said quickly.

"Then your cabin would be even more crowded, silly," Colleen replied. "A sister would be nice." Michaela cleared her throat, and she moved into the small room beside Colleen's. Sully gave her a look, before he took the one beside Matthew and closed himself inside. He could hear the boys settling down with books and candy that Elizabeth had loaded them down with.

It wasn't long before the sun had settled into the horizon, and the sleeper car grew darker as the hour grew later. Brian had fallen to sleep already, still exhausted from his accident a week earlier. By the time it was dim enough to light the lamps, Michaela crept out of her compartment to check on the children. Colleen had fallen asleep in her bunk with a book draped over her chest. Brian was snuggled up warmly in his bunk, while Matthew stared tiredly out of the window, his eyes threatening to shut him off from consciousness. Michaela knew he was thinking about Ingrid. She smiled a little, turning the golden wedding band over in her hand. She hadn't let go of it yet.

She slowly shut the door to the boys' compartment, and her eyes darted toward Sully's door. She sucked in a slow, soft breath, resisting the temptation to go to him now. She silently slipped back into her compartment, and she changed into a sleeping gown, folding all of her clothes and undergarments up and placing them aside. She sighed heavily, taking her brush out and removing the pins from her hair. She sighed, letting her long, golden brown hair cascade down her back in a rush of curls and waves.

She smiled, bringing the golden band to her lips. She kissed it softly and tucked it away in her trunk for safekeeping. She lay down in her bed, turning down the small oil lamp that was secured to the wall. She felt the train bump and jostle a little, and she closed her eyes. It was going to be a very long night.

Over the past week, she and Sully had continued to meet one another late in the night and hold each other until dawn. They usually parted ways before breakfast, and Michaela knew her mother had known all along. But, it was her life, and she loved living it.

As Michaela was beginning to doze off to sleep, she felt the train jostle again. She sighed heavily. She needed to walk, and there wasn't an entirely large amount of room to pace around. So, she stood, her bare feet touching the cold floor, and she moved toward the door. As soon as she turned the knob and opened it, she came face to face with Sully, who was just reaching for the knob.

"Sully!" Michaela whispered, almost in a hiss. "What…"

"Didn't mean to scare ya," he replied sheepishly. "Couldn't sleep."

"Neither could I," she replied, smiling at him through the dim light in the corridor of the train car.

"Kids sleepin'?"

"I'm sure they all are now," Michaela replied. "It's late." He nodded, and she saw the look in his eyes, one that she'd seen so often lately. She couldn't help but lean into him, when his hands found her waist. She breathed softly against his lips, before they connected and met each other in a lover's embrace. When they pulled apart, words were not needed, and they disappeared into Michaela's compartment. He silently shut the door behind himself, being careful of the latch. He watched as she turned up the flame on the lamp, and he smiled at her in her natural beauty. Her hair was in slight disarray, and her body was completely hidden beneath the long white gown, though he knew that underneath it were curves of delicious proportions and silky smooth skin that he could caress for days.

"Sully?" Michaela asked, as he moved toward her.


"When did you start to fall in love with me?" Michaela asked softly, her eyes glistening in the dim golden light. Sully thought back, smiling a little, as he met her in the middle of the sleeping compartment.

"When? Well, I gotta say I started fallin' for ya the day I saw ya fall in that mud. I mean, I didn't really see ya that well, but I already knew ya were beautiful. But…with losin' Abagail and everything, I guess I didn't feel like I was free to fall just yet. I fought myself every step of the way, wantin' to fall in love again, but afraid of hurtin' again. I just…I didn't let myself realize it 'til…'til the time ya were sick."

"The Influenza?" Sully nodded. Michaela smiled quietly to herself.

"You kissed me."


"You kissed me. I know you did. If you didn't, I was dreaming." Sully smiled, his eyes flashing with guilt but no regrets. "You did." She giggled lightly to herself.

"I thought ya were out cold again."

"I think I was, but…I suppose you've had that affect on me from the beginning." She sighed softly. "The day we met in the mercantile…that was the moment I knew there was something more than what you showed there in front of Loren and the soldier. I saw into your eyes, and I saw your heart." And, she was in his arms again, being consumed by his hunger, and letting her own hunger grow. She gasped into his mouth, when his hand grazed over her backside, sending tremors through every part of her.

She gently pushed against his chest, and she looked him in the eye, daring him to come at her again. He saw the flash in her eyes, and he leaned in toward her, but she turned away, opening up her trunk and digging something out. He watched, and when she straightened up again, she placed it in his hands. He felt the cold band against his palm, and he smiled down at it.

"When you put this on my finger," she began, "I want you to look at me and let me see your heart like I did the day we first met." Sully nodded, and he took her hand in his, softly kissing each knuckle. She shivered with anticipation, and her eyes widened, when he started slipping it onto her finger. "Sully?"

"I love you. The day I put this ring on your finger might make it official, but I already vowed myself to ya. We're forever, Michaela. Ya know that."

"I do," she breathed, her cheeks flushing, and her eyes glistening with joyful tears. She curled her hand into a fist, looking down at the shimmering gold, a bit faded from the years, but still beautiful and filled with years of happy memories.

His hands framed her face, and the look, oh the glorious look in her eyes made his heart melt. She was truly happy, and there was no denying that. Both of them looked around the tiny room, and they made their way to her bed. The tiny bed that could fit one person would have to do for now. The time was now, as if there was no tomorrow.

Skillfully, his hands unbuttoned the gown that covered her body, and it easily fell to the floor. Her skin was hot and flushed with desire, and when he reached past her to turn down the lamp, his mouth grazed over her shoulder, nipping at the flesh. She sighed softly, as they were bathed in darkness, and she felt him growing against her, his need building up to almost insurmountable heights.

"Sully," she breathed into his ear, as her hands snaked through his hair. He pulled her bare body close to his, and he scooped her up, laying her down in the small bed. She heard him breathing, and each breath was deeper and heavier than the last, and she knew she did that to him. She reached out, grazing her hand against his buckskin-covered thigh. She felt a wisp of fabric brush against her arm, and she knew that was his shirt. When her hand was no longer touching fabric, but bare skin instead, she closed her eyes and waited for him, waiting to shatter against him and feel him falling inside of her.

Michaela situated herself in the small bed, as he knelt on the side, trying to find his way in the darkness, his hands slipping over her body, exploring her without his sight. It heightened his other sensations, and he could feel the heat rising from her core and emanating through every pore in her skin. When he felt her hand on his chest, he took it in his, and he guided himself between her knees, feeling the coldness of the wedding band against his skin.

He leaned down, pressing clumsy kisses upon her chest, her neck and her face. When his lips found hers, she opened herself up to him, inviting him to explore her, which he did fully. His free hand touched her, feeling her eagerness for him, and she gasped into his mouth, never breaking their kiss. When they joined, her head pressed into the flat, stiff pillow, and his mouth followed hers. She wanted to cry out, but they both knew she couldn't. A silent expression of their love was something they'd grown accustomed to, though they'd never had to be this still before.

Slowly, he moved within her, torturing her with his slow yet powerful movements. Their tongues danced together, as their bodies met and broke apart time and time again, the need and the passion building by the moment. They lay together, hands caressing hands, thighs caressing thighs and hearts beating like one, as they started to soar.

He knew she was nearing her peak, when her breath came in ragged gasps in his mouth, and her entire body tensed, pulling every sensation into a ball in her very center, tightening and rolling and screaming for release. When he pulled his arms around her, he felt her shake against him, and he let her head roll back, and she buried her whimpers in his mouth, yet he continued to move in her, finding it harder and harder to hold on. He needed more of her, and when he reached to drape her knee over his hip, she took him in further, heightening the sensation for both of him. She was coming closer again, though the passion was escalating faster and faster for him, and he felt as if they were racing against time and love and need. They were pulling one another closer to the edge of ecstasy, and in one grand finale, they crashed together, falling freely together and never letting go.

The End…or is it?