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.

When the Sun Comes Up

By, Ashley J.

Written December 9-10, 2005

When she opened her eyes, she felt the overwhelming sensation of cold in her toes. That was the first thing she felt. Next was his damp body pressed firmly against hers and his hand clutching hers firmly at her side. Her thoughts were muddled, and when she opened her un-adjusted eyes, she could barely see a foot in front of her face. It was still early, because the sun hadn't yet begun to peek through the trees, and it was incredibly cold; cold enough to make her push her body closer to his. When she thought about this, she quickly scooted away, hoping she wouldn't disturb him.

The feel of his hand in hers made her feel safe, and she gently ran her thumb over his knuckles, feeling how clammy his skin had become over the night. For a moment, she felt so comfortable there in his half embrace. He had crawled under their small shelter the night before, and he had pulled himself so close to her, close enough that she could feel his breath on the back of her neck.

When her own body began to shiver, she wondered if Sully had caught himself a cold by sleeping in those wet clothes, and she turned slightly to her side enough to see his face almost buried in her shoulder. She would have gasped, but that would have only made the situation much more uncomfortable.

She tenderly pried her fingers out of his, her own hand becoming cold without his touch. She pulled herself away, feeling the dampness of the back of her clothes. She was stiff and exhausted and sore, but she felt relaxed. She hadn't slept that well in a long time, and she realized that when she sat up, tucking the blanket around him with her good arm. She figured he could use a little more sleep anyhow.

She slowly began to creep away from the campsite, but when she felt a hand on her ankle, she turned around briskly to look into his eyes, feeling her heart pounding. She wasn't sure if it was from being startled or just from the feel of his hand on her. She swallowed hard.

"Where ya goin'?" Letting out a soft breath, she pulled her ankle out of his grasp and wrapped her good arm around herself to shield her body from the cool wind.

"I thought you were sleeping," she said quietly, placing her hand over her pounding heart.

"I don't want ya goin' off alone. We're closer to the Harding's mill than we were yesterday," he pointed out. "It's just about a twenty minute hike away. Who knows where those guards are?" He sat up, his hair dry for the most part except for the curls at the back of his neck and at his hairline. She smiled a little, and he didn't see it, because he was pulling on the still-damp moccasins that he'd kicked off at sometime during the middle of the night. She felt the overwhelming urge to place her hand against his forehead to check for fever, but she fought against it. She knew he didn't want her fussing over him.

"How are you feeling this morning?" Michaela asked, as she ran her fingers through her tangled, wild hair. Sully couldn't take his eyes off of her face. Despite the fact that she looked like she'd tossed and turned all night, she was beautiful. Her eyes were tired but full of energy at the same time; ready to get this excursion over with. Her face was bright and calm despite the frenzied features of her chestnut locks. His mind couldn't pull itself away from the image of her barely-clad body from earlier yesterday after they had pulled one another out of the lake. She had told him not to look, and he almost felt guilty for sneaking a quick peek. Almost. He had to admit to himself that it had been worth it, despite the fact that Michaela would probably skin him alive if she ever knew. The silence was becoming too much for Michaela. "Sully?"

"I'm fine," he said quickly, answering her previous question. "I say we eat a quick breakfast and head out just after sun up." Michaela nodded.

"I agree." Michaela stood, her body responding to the fact that she was awake now, and she glanced at Sully. "I'll be right back."

"Where ya goin'?" She flushed and stared at him for a moment, her eyes begging him not to make her actually say it. A slight grin curled up at the sides of Sully's mouth, and he looked away.

"Don't get too far away from camp. I don't wanna have to come lookin' for ya." Michaela turned away, trying not to roll her eyes. She knew he wasn't as annoyed with her as he pretended to be. After last night, she felt as if they had an unspoken understanding that they were equal in many ways. She could keep up with him, despite the fact that she had a broken wrist, and they had both learned a little something about one another. They were both stubborn, which caused them to clash, but they were slowly starting to learn when to give in and put aside the old habits.

They had worked wonderfully together after all. They had helped each other hide from the guards and pulled each other out of the water. Even though she'd never throw it in his face, Michaela had practically saved his life, pulling him with her until he regained his consciousness in the water.

When she returned, she found Sully laying out berries and some different kinds of nuts. She smiled a little before sitting down across from him. She was grateful that he knew how to find food!

"Figured since we can't make a fire, berries'll have to do 'til we get back to town." Michaela merely nodded and held her good hand out. He poured a handful into her palm, and his fingers brushed over hers, sending mutual sparks through each of them. Sully glanced up into her olive and hazel eyes that flashed in the dim light. The sun was slowly rising, but it would be a while until they had enough light to set off safely. But, at the moment, the light didn't matter. Beneath the dust that had settled over Michaela's features, her pearly white teeth glimmered under her perfect, soft lips, and he found himself wondering what they felt like.

"Sully?" Michaela had noticed the way he was looking at her, and she hadn't seen that look in his eyes before. It confused her and stirred up feelings she hadn't known before. She swallowed hard, as he shoved his handful of berries into his mouth and reached for the canteen. After he took a swig, he glanced at her.

"Want some?" She studied his face for a moment before nodding, and he handed it to her, and she accepted it gratefully. The water was cold and felt good to her burning throat. She figured it would be a miracle if she got home without pneumonia.

"Let's try to stay dry today," Sully said quietly, and Michaela wasn't sure if he was trying to be funny or not, but when his soft blue eyes stared into hers, she found herself blushing, and before she knew it, the canteen slipped from her shaking hand and spilled all down her front. Sully did his best to contain his laughter. Michaela looked pitiful at this point, with one arm in a makeshift sling and the rest of her body tired and sore. But, nevertheless, she was still beautiful.

"Oh!" she cried out at the feeling of the cold water against her body. She quickly picked the canteen up and screwed the lid on. Sully took it and immediately handed her something to mop up as much of the water as she could. "I'm sorry. I know we were trying to save water…"

"Don't worry 'bout it. There's no harm." He smiled a little, and she smiled back gratefully. The last thing she needed was for him to be sore at her. When he saw her shivering again, he felt bad, and he dug the blanket out from under the lean to. It was only slightly damp, so he figured it would have to do. He moved around behind her, and Michaela pinched some of the fabric of her shirt between her fingers and fanned it away from her body, trying to keep as much of the water off of her skin as she could.

Michaela nearly jumped, when she felt his hands on her shoulders. Oh, this was nice and very familiar. She swallowed hard, and when he pulled the blanket around her snugly, her mind sent her sailing back to the first night they had spent alone together inside of the teepee on the reservation. Merely thinking of that night brought a shiver to her body, one that she had been feeling quite frequently on this little adventure in the woods.

"Thank you," she said quietly, her voice barely above a whisper, as she shuddered underneath the blanket. The water was getting to her, and it was starting to soak through her camisole. His hands were still on her shoulders, and he could feel her shaking but trying not to. He moved around to face her, and he saw the discomfort in her eyes.

"Here. Take off your shirt, and…" Michaela's eyes immediately widened.

"I beg your pardon!" Realizing that his words hadn't come out how he'd meant them to, Sully felt his own face growing red.

"I mean…I…I was gonna let it dry for a little bit 'til we leave." Michaela eyed him, and she knew that it was the best thing to do to avoid making herself anymore ill that she was going to be.

"Turn your back," she instructed as she had the day before. Sully didn't think twice about it, and he gave her her privacy. She maneuvered under the blanket, pulling the cloth off of her body and feeling the chill of the air hit her bare arms and bite through her camisole. She quickly wrapped the blanket around herself again and tossed the shirt at Sully. He felt it hit him, and he took it into his hands, feeling her warmth still clinging to the dry parts.

"How much longer until we leave?" Michaela asked, trying not to look him in the eye. She pulled the blanket even closer around herself, trying not to move her injured wrist very much. It was more difficult to hide herself using one good arm than she figured it would have been. But, Sully was being a gentleman and not gawking at her.

"We'll give it 'bout another hour." At this point, the sun had cast a golden glow upon everything around, as the early morning dew glistened. Michaela looked around, trying to help Sully keep watch.

Several minutes passed by without a word spoken between them. It was nearly completely light outside, and the cold morning was slowly warming up. However, Michaela was still shivering, and when Sully's eyes met hers, her heart began to pound. She wished that she could explain the reason why her heart skipped a beat every time she heard his voice say her name or why her stomach twisted up into knots when she was expecting him for dinner. Having him around was wonderful, and the children loved him. She often wondered why he came by so often, when that house held all of the memories of his marriage to Abagail and the plans they had made for the future.

When he noticed her mind drifting off someplace else, he wanted to reach out and touch her, but he decided against it.

"What's on your mind, Dr. Mike?" he asked slowly, his voice low and full of concern as it had been many times before. She shook her head, not having to search very far for an answer.

"I was…I was thinking of the children," she said softly. Her mind wandered back to that night in the teepee again; the night she was looking for Brian. The Cheyenne had taken her in and promised to help her search for him in the morning. "Do you think they're all right?"

"I'm sure Grace and Robert E. are doin' a good job of lookin' in on 'em."

"I wonder…if they think…"

"I'm sure they're wonderin' when we'll be back, and we'll be back sometime today if everything goes all right," Sully said soothingly, trying to keep her nerves down. "But, I don't want ya over-doin' yourself. If ya need to rest, we'll rest tonight and go back tomorrow." Michaela merely nodded, and she tried to suppress the lump in her throat that she'd acquired by just thinking about how close she had come to never seeing her children again. She certainly could have gotten more than a broken wrist. She was lucky. "How's your wrist?"

"I'll live," she replied, realizing the throbbing pain was starting to come back. The tears were forming, and there wasn't anything she could do to stop them. Sully wished there was something he could do for her, but he knew that what she needed was to finish this task and get back home to the children.

She realized that she couldn't stop herself, and even though she hated to cry in front of him, it was too late.

"Maybe…maybe this was a terrible idea," she sobbed. "I'm sorry I dragged you into this…I…" Thinking quickly, he scooted closer to her.

"Hey, hey," he said softly. "Ya were doin' what ya thought was right, and ya didn't drag me into it. I was gonna go with or without ya." This didn't seem to help at all, and Michaela choked back another sob. "Dr. Mike, I'm startin' to think that maybe I shoulda tried harder to get ya to stay in town." She shook her head. "Yeah, but I'm startin' to realize that when ya put your mind to somethin', there ain't no changin' it." She took a deep breath and shook her head.

"I'm sorry, Sully. I'm not usually…I…"

"Ya don't gotta explain yourself to me," he said quietly, gently brushing her hair back and out of her eyes. He swallowed hard and gave her a tense smile. "Ya been through a lot." Michaela's watery gaze met his at that instant, and she moved her hand to her face to brush her own hair away, and her fingers brushed against his. Their eyes didn't leave each other's, but when Michaela began to tremble under her blanket again, Sully dared to pull her into his arms, minding her broken wrist, and he embraced her fully, letting her cry on his shoulder. "It's all right." He didn't quite know what else to do. Holding her was something he had only really thought about, but he hadn't let himself really enjoy the idea of it, because things were so different. She had entered his life like a whirlwind, stirring it up completely. But, he didn't mind. He liked having her there. But, now she was in his arms for real. He hadn't been prepared to hold and comfort her, and now that was exactly what he was doing.

The sound of a snapping twig sent Sully on the alert, and he quickly turned his gaze toward the direction of the sound.

"Michaela, be real quiet," he whispered softly. Without warning, he pushed her back onto the ground, covering her body with his. Michaela was too overwhelmed to make a noise, and she held her wrist out of harm's way, as Sully's hand moved to his tomahawk, ready to take drastic measures with the guards if need be.

Michaela's breathing returned to normal relatively quickly, despite the fact that a handsome man was lying directly on top of her, almost cutting off her air supply. His eyes were no longer searching for the guards, but as soon as he'd landed where he had, his eyes had become transfixed on hers. Michaela's eyes traced an invisible path along the features of his face, and she couldn't help but smile at the sight of his lips. They were parted slightly and dry, and his breaths were coming out in small puffs of fog in the cool air.

The voices of the guards could be heard now, and Michaela didn't dare to move for fear that she'd give away their hiding spot. They were almost out in plain daylight, but luckily it was early enough in the morning that the haze and fog could cover them up a little. His eyes hadn't moved from hers. It was as if they'd locked one another into a trance, and neither one of them could pull free from it. However, a jabbing pain finally brought Michaela to her senses, and her good hand immediately dug its nails into Sully's back. He winced in pain, searching her eyes for an explanation.

"Your knee!" Michaela whispered hoarsely, becoming painfully aware that it was pressed into her hipbone. The voices of the guards were still close by, and Sully tried to shift himself slowly and silently. Michaela breathed a breath of relief when his knee rested beside her instead of on her. Still, this was one of the most awkward positions she had ever physically been in.

Sully couldn't put into words how he was feeling at that moment with his own body straddling hers, as she lay on the ground, tired and completely confused. He couldn't take his eyes off of hers, and the temptation was becoming too strong to fight. Maybe just one kiss would make him realize what he wanted. Maybe it would free him from the confinement of his past. Maybe it would change his life forever. But then again, it could just be a simple kiss that they would never have to talk about again.

She wondered what he was thinking about. God, why was he looking at her like that? Something inside of her had completely changed at that moment. She wasn't thinking. She couldn't even remember her name at that point. It was as if everything had turned to dust around her, and she and Sully had hidden themselves away from everything and everyone. And…she couldn't read him. She couldn't even begin to venture a guess at what was running through his mind.

Michaela couldn't even remember if she was breathing at that point. She felt like she was floating above herself; looking down at the scene, and it felt so right. She couldn't begin to describe what she was doing. But, her eyes closed, and her good arm moved around his neck. Sully hadn't had time to think about what Michaela was doing, before he felt her lips against his.

What was she doing! Everything came rushing back at her at that moment, and she knew she should have pulled away. However, if there was anything she had learned in the past couple of days, it was that she needed to stop being so stubborn. She needed to give into what her heart wanted for once. But, a moment later, Sully pulled back, surprising her. The guards' voices were long gone.

"Dr. Mike?" he asked softly. Michaela wasn't sure what the expression on her own face was, but she was sure all of the blood in her body had rushed there.

"Sully…I…" She wasn't even sure if she had actually formed those words. Her mind was working faster than anything else at that moment. The lingering feeling of each other's lips made another kiss so tempting, and before either of them knew it, they were exploring each other's lips slowly for the first time. Her heart was panicking but telling her that it was right. It felt right, but it felt so new and different to her.

As his lips passed over hers, Sully couldn't help but think about how wonderful it felt to finally be able to hold her like this. He hadn't expected it would be so soon, but he had often thought about it happening in the future. It was happening now, and he wondered if she would resent him for it later.

They weren't sure how much time had passed, but they slowly pulled apart, and Sully sat up, facing Michaela, as she continued to lie on the ground. The blanket had opened a bit, revealing her camisole-clad body, and when Michaela moved to cover herself, a shooting pain rushed through her arm.

"Oh!" she hissed. Sully helped her sit up.

"Did I…"

"No. I moved it the wrong way. I…" She ran her fingers through her hair and shook her head. "I'll be fine. I just need to slow down, I suppose." Sully sat back a little, giving her some room, and he watched as her cheeks blushed with red. He loved how innocent she was and how a simple kiss had brought about a blush.

"The guards are long gone," Sully said quietly, standing and moving toward the lean to. Michaela's shirt was hanging there to dry. He picked it up, still feeling the dampness, and he glanced down at Michaela. She was gathering the blanket tightly around herself again. "Won't be long 'fore we can head out." Michaela nodded. "Ya okay?"

"I'm fine," she replied quietly. Sully furrowed his brows and sat down across from her again.

"I'm sorry, Dr. Mike…"

"You don't have anything to be sorry about," she replied, shifting slightly. Sully thought back to their kiss, realizing that she had initiated it, and he couldn't help but smile.

"Dr. Mike, ya don't gotta be embarrassed."

"I'm not!" she defended, still not looking him in the eye. She didn't see the sparkle in his eyes. He gently touched her shoulder, and she closed her eyes, trying not to think about what they had just done. Oh it had felt wonderful, but she wasn't supposed to feel this way about him, was she?

"Well, if ya hadn't done what ya did, ya know, maybe one of them guards woulda heard us give ourselves away. It's a good thing, Michaela…" She sighed softly, appreciating his attempt to pass it off as a way to stay quiet, but she knew it had been much more than that. Then a thought occurred to her. What if that's all he thought it was? What if he wasn't trying to make her feel better, and he honestly believed she had kissed him to protect themselves from being caught?

"Sully, you…you really believe that?" she asked quietly.

"'Course I do," he replied, not wanting her to be any more embarrassed than she already was. He knew that things took time with her, and he would just have to accept it. He didn't know what he wanted, but he knew that she was a big part of whatever that was going to be. The look in her eyes told him she wasn't too thrilled about something. "What?" She swallowed hard, not even thinking about what she was going to say and not caring about her own embarrassment at that point.

"You obviously don't know me very well!" she exclaimed, her voice shaking slightly, as she forced herself to stay quiet. He glanced at her quickly, seeing the fire in her eyes, and he raised an eyebrow.

"Dr. Mike?"

"What do you think of me if you think…if you think I would just kiss someone without meaning it!" And then it was said, and silence followed. The kiss had woken something deep inside of both of them, and now, here they were in the seclusion of the woods with a secret between them. He knew it now. He knew that she cared, and she wasn't sure what to do with herself, so she stood and walked to the lean to. Sully watched her, not sure of what to say to make her comfortable. He wanted to tell her that he believed that she kissed him because she wanted to, but he wasn't quite sure that would make it better. Honestly, he wasn't sure which way was up when he was around her.

"'Course I don't, Dr. Mike…I just…" He stood up to move near her, and she walked away. "Where ya goin'?"

"I'm going to put this back on," she replied, showing him the still damp shirt. "We should start toward the mill."

"Dr. Mike…" She continued on, and he sighed heavily. "So you're not gonna talk to me now?" She stopped for a moment, but she didn't turn back to face him.

"I don't know what to say to you. I feel like a fool, Sully."

"At least look at me when ya say that." Michaela finally turned on her heels. "That's better." He stepped toward her, and he could see the embarrassment had put tears in her eyes. "Don't be afraid to look me in the eye when ya say somethin' like that to me. So ya wanted to kiss me…is that so bad?"

"I…" she began, not sure of what her answer was. Finally, his casual demeanor was too much. "Of course it's bad, Sully! We hardly know each other, and…and…"

"Dr. Mike…"

"Would you be quiet for a moment and let me speak?" she asked with a glare. "This entire trip, you've been pushing me and trying to…to make me regret coming out here. Well, I have news for you, Mr. Sully." Sully folded his arms across his chest. "You can be the most self-centered, arrogant, egotistical…typical man!" She turned in a huff, and Sully stared at her back, not sure whether to laugh or defend himself.

"Ya wanna use some words that I didn't learn in them fancy Boston books you read?" She turned to face him once more.

"This isn't the time for jokes."

"Oh, it ain't?" he smirked.

"No!" She had completely forgotten about the pain in her arm at this point. She wasn't sure what had gotten into her, and she didn't know if she would regret what she said later, but he was the most infuriating man she'd ever met! He stirred up something inside of her that she'd never felt before, and she liked it!

"Then what do ya expect me to say?" he asked, stepping closer to her. Michaela was at a loss on this one. "Ya expect me to stand here and let ya call me…whatever ya just called me? Ya expect me to let ya stand here and defend yourself for kissin' me, when all I wanna do is prove to ya that there ain't nothin' to be embarrassed about?" She cocked her head to the side slightly, her blood still boiling.

"Prove it?" she asked. Without warning, she felt his arms around her, pulling her in. Before she could breathe, his lips were pressed against hers, and she wasn't sure if she remembered how to function at this point.

Despite the fact that every part of her being was reacting to the feeling of his mouth upon hers and his body against hers, she knew she couldn't let this go on. She used her good arm to push back on his chest, and when they broke apart, she glared into his eyes.

"What do you think you're doing!"

"I think that's pretty clear," he said, his own blood boiling with the need to explore this new predicament they had gotten themselves into.

"This…this was a terrible idea! I should have come out here without you. I'd rather…I'd rather risk being eaten by a mountain lion than…than being out here with you!" He knew she didn't mean it.

"That right?"

"That's right!"

"Do ya know how silly ya sound right now?"

"How dare you!"

"You're the one who wanted to kiss me." He realized at that very moment that she wasn't ready to be teased just yet. Her cheeks flushed again, and she turned away.

"Perhaps I was wrong," she said quietly, walking away. Sully watched her walk away, and he was stunned. Had he hurt her with his words? They hadn't argued like this ever before, and it was a new feeling to him. Pressing her buttons really got him going, and he knew she felt the same way.

"Dr. Mike?"

"What?" she asked coldly from behind the bushes.

"I'm gonna go get that water sample."

"I'm going with you."

"No ya ain't. It'll be easier if I go by myself. Just tell me what I need to do."

"I'm going!" she protested. Sully sighed heavily.

"Ya know just as well as I do that ya wanna be alone right now, so stop bein' so stubborn!" Michaela cringed.

"Fine." Michaela finished up the buttons on her shirt. When she came back into sight, she slowly explained how to get the water sample and test it for mercury poisoning. As soon as Sully had repeated the procedure to her twice, she let him go, and she went about picking up the remains of their overnight stay.

She sighed heavily, feeling terrible about snapping at Sully. She did care for him, and she had wanted to kiss him, but letting herself open up like that to someone scared her, because she had never felt like that with anyone before.

After the pain in her arm grew more intense, she rested it for a little while, hoping her shirt would dry a little more before Sully came back. She wasn't sure how long it would take him, but she was concerned. She hoped that he wouldn't be caught, because most likely, Harding wouldn't hesitate to kill him if there weren't witnesses or a lady present.

After about an hour, Michaela began to get nervous, and she started pacing the campsite. She had figured he would be back by now, and she was about ready to go off after him. She didn't now how to get anywhere from that spot, however. She couldn't bare the though of them having hurt Sully. The thought made tears form in her eyes, and she choked back the urge to let out a nervous cry.

Soon, the breeze settled down, and it grew warmer. Michaela was at the panicking point by now, not sure of where to go or how to even begin looking for Sully. She was resourceful, but she was in too much pain to really focus on what way Sully had gone off in.

Before she had the chance to think about a search plan, she heard the cocking of a gun right behind her. She turned swiftly, seeing one of the two guards holding a shotgun firmly in his hands.

"Hold it right there, lady," he said, his voice unforgiving. "Mr. Harding sure is gonna be glad to see you." Without another word, he took her by her good arm and led her off, not letting up for a moment, as she struggled along the way.

"Sully!" she screamed out, but she didn't receive an answer. She began to think that this was it. She'd never see her children again. She'd never have the chance to apologize to Sully for being so foolish.

"Don't bother hollerin'," he said gruffly. "Let's get goin'."

She stared coldly ahead at Harding, as he emptied the contents of her pack onto the table. The jug of moonshine that was contaminated with mercury was placed aside.

"We have evidence, Mr. Harding," Michaela said assertively. "As soon as I get back to town, I'll make sure you're shut down." Mr. Harding shook his head.

"I told ya to stay out of it, lady," he said quietly. "It ain't none of your concern."

"A man is dead because of that poison!" she exclaimed. "Happy Walker used water from Willow Creek to make his moonshine."

"He drunk himself to death, is all. There ain't nothin' wrong with that water."

"My Pa don't lie, lady," Calvin Harding said, eyeing the moonshine for a moment. "That water's good." Michaela shook her head and glanced at Clay.

"If you don't put a stop to this, many innocent people are going to die, and I know exactly where to put the blame, Mr. Harding." Clay looked at his guards, and Michaela looked around for any sign of Sully.

"Take her to the tent, boys. We'll figure out what to do with her later. We got some work to do." The rough guard took Michaela by the arm, and she decided not to put up a struggle this time. She needed to focus on finding a way out.

As soon as he pushed her through the tent flaps, her eyes widened. She had never been so happy to see his face before!

"Sully!" she exclaimed. He was sitting on the edge of a cot, and when he heard her voice, he jumped up, relief flooding his face, and he rushed over to fold her in his arms.

"Dr. Mike…did they hurt you?"

"No, no, I'm fine," she said softly, as she rested her head against his chest, feeling comfortable once again.

"I got the sample, and they caught me 'fore I could get it back to ya."

"I was so worried. I thought they'd…I thought…" She pulled back, tears in her eyes. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," he said quietly. "I was just worried 'bout you. They weren't rough with ya?" She smiled a little.

"Don't worry about me. I can take care of myself." She shook her head, remembering their situation. "Sully? What do you think they're going to do?" He shook his head grimly.

"Take us somewhere and make it look like an accident," he replied. He pulled away after that. Michaela's face fell, and she swallowed hard.

"We can escape."

"He's got more guards," he replied quietly. "We wouldn't get one step outta this tent." Michaela nodded. She knew it, but she didn't want to think about the worst possible scenario. However, she knew what could very possibly happen. They could be the last person each of them ever saw.

She settled down onto one of the cots, and she looked at the ground, not wanting to accept the fact that their fates were being decided by a bunch of greedy gold diggers. She looked up to see Sully peering out of the flaps, his vision being slightly blocked by the neck of a shotgun that belonged to one of the guards outside of the tent.

"This isn't happening," Michaela said softly. "The children…they need me." The choked back her fears, and Sully moved across the tent to sit down beside her on the cot. Without thinking, he put his arm around her, and she didn't dare pull away. She sighed softly and rested her head on his shoulder. "Charlotte asked me watch over them, and I…I…"

"Ya did a real good job, and as soon as we get home, you'll continue doin' what ya promised her ya'd do." Michaela shook her head, though she couldn't argue with him. She had to believe that they were going to get out of this.

"Sully," she whispered, "I'm so sorry."

"Ya don't got anything to be sorry for," Sully assured her.

"I was so…I'm sorry for the things I said."

"We both said some things…well, they just don't matter, Michaela. What happened was…" Michaela watched as he stumbled for the words, and he couldn't come up with anything. Trembling, she looked into his eyes, and she swallowed hard. If she was going to die, she could at least spend the last few minutes of her life being honest with herself and with the man she cared for.

"What happened was what I wanted," she said softly. "I never thought that anything like that could happen between us, but…I…" Now she was stumbling over her words.

"Don't do this. We're gonna make it out just fine, so just hold onto what ya gotta say. It don't need to be said right now."

"No, Sully. Just in case…I want you to know that I'm not angry that it happened. I…I wanted the kiss." He swallowed hard, and a smile crept to the corners of his mouth.

"I know. Ya don't gotta explain it to me, Dr. Mike. I wanted it just as much as you did…maybe more. I know you're scared. So am I. But, we got the rest of our lives to figure out what it all means. What we gotta do now is figure out how to stay alive". Michaela stood and moved toward the entrance of the tent. He watched her nervous features and felt terrible for her. She'd been through a lot in the past couple of days, and he only hoped that she'd give herself a nice, long rest as soon as they made it home…if they made it home.

"Someone has to be out looking for us," she said quietly.

"I'm sure they are." He watched her start to pace, and he sighed quietly. He stood up and moved toward her. "C'mon. Let's sit back down. Ya need to rest."

"I don't want to rest. If I'm going to die, I don't want to last few minutes of my life to be spent…resting!"

"Well, let's talk then."

"About what?" He led her back over to the cot and sat down. She sat down next to him, and they turned toward one another. "Sully, I think…I think we need to talk about what happened."

"I thought we did."

"We did," she said quietly, "but we didn't talk about…" She sighed softly. "I suppose I just surprised myself. I was brought up thinking that the woman shouldn't…that…"

"Dr. Mike," Sully said with a slight chuckle, "ya don't gotta worry 'bout them fancy Boston rules. See, I was raised thinkin' that if ya want somethin', ya gotta be patient and work for it…or ya just take the plunge..." When a smile came over his lips, Michaela cocked her head to the side. "Otherwise you'll never learn…"

"What are you smiling about?"

"Nothin'…I was just thinkin' 'bout the first girl I ever kissed." Michaela's cheeks flushed.


"Yeah. Louise Martin." Michaela grinned. "We were thirteen, and she'd been battin' her eyes at me for days. So, I walked with her one day, and when we got to her house, she turned to me. I didn't know what I was doin'…but she was just…lookin' at me like she was expectin' somethin'. So, I kissed her."


"She slapped me." Michaela giggled, temporarily forgetting the fact that they were being held prisoner.

"Slapped you! What for?"

"She said I didn't do it right." Michaela grinned. "Well, I hadn't kissed a girl before. How was I s'posed to know?"

"What happened then?"

"She made me do it again. Guess she's the one that really taught me how to kiss." He glanced at Michaela, seeing the crimson rising in her cheeks. "She said that practice makes perfect. I guess she's right."

"Yes," she replied. Her breath caught, and she flushed again, shaking her head. "I mean…"

"It's all right."

"We're so different, Sully. You've been taught so many things that I've…"

"Ya been taught to follow your heart, haven't ya?" Michaela nodded. "Well, it felt like ya were doin' just that earlier today." He smiled to himself. "Ya know ya don't need to fret about it. There's no shame in kissin'."

"No, but…"

"It's somethin' ya shouldn't have to think about. It should just happen when it feels right, Dr. Mike. Plannin' everything isn't what's gonna make ya happy. It's those unexpected things that are s'posed to do that." He sighed softly. "When ya plan everything, it's just gonna get ya trapped…like we are now."

"Not always."

"Maybe not always, no, but ya gotta let your heart do the thinkin' sometimes." Michaela smiled a little.

"I'm afraid I've been letting it do that a lot lately."

"I guess I ain't been followin' my own advice," he said with a laugh. "Guess we both got a lot to learn." Michaela nodded a little bit.

"Well, if we agree on that…we can call it even." He smiled a little, taking her hand in hers, and a moment later, they were leaning in, their eyes focused on each other's, before they both gave in and closed their eyes, letting their hearts see all.

Just as their lips were about to meet, Clay Harding burst in.

"Hey Doc! My boy needs ya." Michaela quickly pulled away from Sully, and she stood, seeing fear and anger in Clay Harding's eyes.

"What's wrong?"

"His stomach is hurtin' him somethin' awful." Michaela nodded.

"Take me to him." She cast a glance at Sully, and he nodded. Clay and Michaela both exited the tent, and Sully followed after to see if he could help with the Harding boy and possibly come up with a plan for escape.

Michaela sighed with relief after Calvin Harding started feeling better. Clay was with him in their tent, and the guards had backed off of Michaela and Sully, though they were still being watched carefully.

"Do you think he'll let us go?" she asked softly, turning to Sully. He looked off into the distance, looking toward the mountains. The pessimist in him wanted to say 'no,' but he didn't want to worry her.

"There's no way of knowin' really," he said quietly. "Hopefully Harding's got enough of a heart to let us go…'specially since ya saved his boy."

"Dr. Quinn," came the voice of Clay Harding. Michaela turned quickly, and she felt Sully's hand on her back, letting her know he was there for her.

"Mr. Harding," she said warily. "How is Calvin feeling?"

"Much better, thanks to you. I want to let ya know that I really appreciate everything ya did for him."

"I wouldn't have had to treat him had that water not been contaminated." Clay nodded.

"I'm gonna do somethin' about it. I'm just glad ya were able to save him."

"I hope I don't have to do this again. This could have been prevented."

"It could have. I wish there was somethin' I could do…"

"You could offer a settlement to Happy Walker's family." Clay eyed her and nodded. "And you can let us go."

"Dr. Mike!" Michaela turned at the sound of Sully's voice. She followed his gaze, which led to a rider coming swiftly into camp.

"Matthew!" Michaela exclaimed.

"Dr. Mike!" Matthew dismounted and quickly rushed over to Michaela and Sully, as the guards surrounded them.

"He's my son," Michaela said to Clay. Clay nodded to his guards before turning his attention back to Matthew.

"Ya best get your Ma and your friend outta here. They look like they could use some cleanin' up. We'll loan ya some horses," Mr. Harding offered. "I know it ain't gonna make up for what we done, but it'll at least help ya get back to town."

"Thank you, Mr. Harding," Michaela said softly. Michaela watched, as he turned to Matthew.

"C'mon, boy. I'll show ya to the horses." Matthew nodded. Before he went with Mr. Harding, he stepped closer to his mother, and she wrapped her good arm around him.

"Ya okay?"

"Just a broken wrist," she said softly, happy to see him. "It'll heal."

"Ya sure you're all right?"

"I'm fine."

"Ya shoulda seen your ma, Matthew. She woulda surprised ya," Sully said with a relieved chuckle. Michaela's cheeks flushed, and she smiled. Sully grinned at her coyly, as Matthew went with Mr. Harding to get the horses.

"Lookin' forward to getting home," Sully said, kicking absently at a dirt clod on the ground. Michaela nodded and turned to face him.

"So am I." She smiled a little, watching the sun twinkle in Sully's eyes. "Thank you for everything."

"Hey, ya did real good, Dr. Mike."

"Despite the broken wrist, I think I'd have to agree with you. If it wasn't for me, you'd have been bitten by that rattlesnake. What was it that you called my mirror, again? Junk?" Sully rolled his eyes.

"All right. All right. So ya proved me wrong."

"You thought I'd slow you down."

"Ya did." She raised an eyebrow. "Just a little bit."

"And you thought…" Sully sighed and let out a laugh, shaking his head.

"Does it really matter? Ya did good, Dr. Mike. Ya did real good." Michaela smiled, feeling more at ease with him now. She sighed softly, moving toward him without even knowing it. "Ya might make a real good woodsman someday." Michaela rolled her eyes.

"I think I'll stick to what I know best," she replied.

"Nothin' wrong with that." He smiled a little, and she smiled with him. She hadn't felt this comfortable with him ever, and she knew now that feeling this way was something she needed.



"Thank you for being here. Thank you for everything you've done." Sully shook his head.

"Sometimes it's good to let someone else take care of ya for a change. Ya don't gotta be so strong all the time." She nodded.

"I know. Thank you for pointing that out to me." She stood on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek, and she didn't pull back when his arms gently encircled her, pulling her close and planting a soft kiss upon her lips. She sighed softly, relishing the feel of his lips against hers for the few seconds they where there, and when he pulled back, their eyes were full of unspoken promises and hopes of the future.

He let her go, and they stood there silently, neither sure of what to say but not sure they really needed to say anything at all. When Matthew came riding up with two extra horses, Sully helped Michaela mount up, and they headed off toward home.

The End