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.

Touch

By, Ashley J.

Written December 11-12, 2005

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

The warmth from the fire and the feeling of Sully's blanket wrapped around her body didn't offer much comfort to Michaela. Her bones were tired; her eyes were glassy and full of tears that were ready to spill over at any moment. Her body trembled, and she couldn't contain the feeling of guilt and of breaking her promise to Charlotte. What had she done? How could she have let him run away? How could she have not heard him sneaking out?

When he turned to his side, Sully's eyes gazed over her trembling form, and he could tell that she was troubled. She wouldn't be able to sleep, he knew, and without sleep, she wouldn't be in any shape to search for the boy at sunrise. He slowly sat up, and Wolf whimpered, sensing that he needed to leave. Sully watched the animal slowly crawl out from under the opening flap, and he turned his attention back to the lady doctor.

"Hey. Hey…ya okay?" Michaela didn't move or say a word. She let the tears slip silently down her face, dampening the hair that clung to her cheeks. She bit her trembling lip and took a heavy, shaky breath. "Dr. Mike?"

He watched her, cocking his head to the side. She wasn't sleeping, but she was pretending. She was understandably upset, but he hated to lie there and listen to her cry herself to sleep.

From the first moment he'd seen her, he had seen such a beauty and fire inside her. Most people who had been through what she'd been through since arriving would have long ago packed up and headed back to where they came from, but not Michaela Quinn. She was a fighter. She was strong. This was the most vulnerable he had ever seen her, and it made a lump form in his throat.

Michaela blinked for a moment before closing her eyes tightly again, trying to hold off the cry that was rising in the back of her throat. She couldn't do this in front of him. She had hoped he would have gone to sleep before the tears started, but now he was up and obviously aware that she needed someone to talk to. But, she didn't know how to talk to him. Could he actually understand how lonely she was? How so alone she'd felt since she had arrived in town? Those children were the only reason she could think of to stay in Boston. She had to make a life for herself and for them.

"Just try to get some sleep," he said quietly after a few minutes, figuring that she didn't feel comfortable talking to him about it. But, what was so different about now than ten minutes ago? She had let a tear slip loose. She had opened up about her fears for Brian's safety. Now, it was as if she'd cocooned herself, trying to deal with it all on the inside.

She heard him lay down, and she closed her eyes, feeling her tears burning the insides of her eyelids. She blinked a few times, letting them escape, and she took in another breath, trying to calm herself. But she couldn't calm down. Not when that little boy was out there somewhere. What if he was hurt? What if he was hungry? She couldn't handle the idea of losing him.

Sully closed his eyes, listening to the sound of her rolling onto her back. He could hear her suppressing her sobs, but he knew she was crying, because he could hear her gasping for breath once in a while. He felt so terrible for her. He knew what it was like to feel like a failure; like he'd let someone down. He knew what it was like to want to talk to someone but being afraid of what to say or what to feel.

Michaela sighed softly, running her hands over her face, brushing away the hair and tears. She knew that crying wasn't going to help Brian. This release wasn't making her feel any better either. She just wanted to feel some sort of comfort. Charlotte had been the one person she had been able to really talk to since arriving in town, and with her gone and three children to take care of, Michaela was at a loss. The children weren't enjoying their new living arrangements at all, and she couldn't blame them. They had lost their mother. Matthew was bitter, because he'd had nearly seventeen good years with his mother, and he was at a very pivotal point in life, and Charlotte wasn't there for it. Brian was upset, because he hadn't had enough time with her, and he still needed the comforts that a mother could give to her little boy. Colleen was adjusting better than the boys, but she hadn't found the connection with Michaela that most girls had with other women. Michaela had been a friend up until Charlotte died, and now she was the one responsible for taking care of them. She hadn't been prepared for motherhood. In all honesty, she had never thought about having children since David's passing.

She hadn't truly been able to grieve since Charlotte's death, because she had focused all of her energy on making the children comfortable and making the transition as easy as possible for all of them. It hadn't been easy, and the children hadn't let it be. They had fought tooth and nail to keep things the way they were before Charlotte died. In the end, they had let themselves start to adjust to living at the old Sully homestead and waking up to a different face at the breakfast table each morning.

After a while, Sully couldn't hear her sharp gasps any longer, and he knew she had stopped crying. He figured she was still awake though, and he turned on his side. He could see her fidgeting under the blanket, trying to find a comfortable position. Sully felt his heart beat a little differently than normal. This feeling inside of him was starting to take over. He hadn't felt like this in a long time, maybe ever.

He closed his eyes again, turning onto his back once more. He looked up, watching the smoke from the fire swirl and escape through the top of the teepee. He placed his hand over his heart, feeling the ache that had been there for so long. He hadn't noticed it over the past hour or so. His talk with Michaela had kept his mind off of the things he had been dealing with for so long. Abagail and Hanna were still very much a part of him. He carried them in his heart every day, the memory of them weighing heavy on his guilt.

She had wanted to start a family, and he hadn't had any reservations. They had been so very much in love, and neither one of them had anticipated any complications. Getting pregnant had been easy for Abagail. She'd conceived right away, almost, and their family had been on the verge of being complete. Then, in one night, he had lost the only woman he had ever loved and the child he had been looking forward to for nine months.

When he heard her stir again, he turned toward her, seeing her facing him now. He swallowed hard, hoping she wouldn't open her eyes and look at him, but not being able to take his own eyes off of her. His breath caught in his throat, and he couldn't move. He was paralyzed by the sight of her, though his heart was fighting for the strength not to burst.

She sighed softly, feeling his eyes on her. Her pale cheeks flushed in the glow of the firelight, and she wondered if he had noticed. She could see him just barely through the tiny slits of her eyelashes, and she swallowed hard, wondering how long he had been watching her. Strangely, it didn't make her want to draw away. Nobody had ever looked at her the way he had. It was as if he was looking right into her soul, and that made her curious. Sully was a mystery, and she had thought she'd had him figured out until tonight.

He saw her eyes flinch, and he quickly looked away, rolling to his other side. This time, he could feel her eyes on him, and it was killing him. Why couldn't he look at her? Why couldn't he look into those enchanting eyes? He knew that he was scared. He was terrified of looking at another woman and feeling more than he had ever felt for the wife he was supposed to have loved until death parted them. Death had parted them, guilt had taken root inside of his heart, and he had vowed to himself to honor Abagail for the rest of his life. Meeting Michaela had changed something inside of him.

The thought made him turn onto his back again. Michaela stirred as well, and he felt as if he was keeping her from resting. Maybe he needed to find someplace else to sleep. He thought about it, but the exhaustion in his bones kept him still for a while.

He could hear her breathing. She hadn't gone off to sleep yet. She would sigh now and then, frustrated with the fact that Brian was out there somewhere, wondering if anyone even cared if he was lost.

She opened her eyes, facing the flames. She wondered how long they had been lying there so silently. She wanted to sleep, but every time she closed her eyes, she saw Brian in the worst possible scenarios, and she felt Charlotte's heart breaking for letting her down. She would see Charlotte lying on her death bed, begging her to take care of her children, and she could feel the tension building up inside of her stomach as it had when she was faced with the decision. She felt sick to her stomach. What if she hadn't made the right choice? What if she wasn't mean to be a mother?

The fit of worries that invaded her body seemed to lull her into a half sleep, and Sully could hear her breathing quickening. She was obviously becoming more and more upset, and he didn't know what to do. He couldn't just let her lie there like that, could he?

His own past was haunting him. He was remembering the sight of Abagail's face as the life slipped out of her, and the feeling of his little girl slipping away in his own arms. His entire body was on alert, and he felt as if the past was choking him. He needed air.

"No! Brian!" Michaela cried out, sitting up frantically. Sully immediately sat up, seeing the fear in her eyes. She started to claw her way toward the door flap. He put his own thoughts aside and moved toward her.

"Dr. Mike! What're ya doin'?"

"Brian! He needs me! He's lost. He's probably terrified. What if he's hurt!" She was in tears again, and Sully pulled her back.

"Ya can't go out there, Dr. Mike. It ain't safe this time of night." This made her even more distressed, and he used all of his strength to hold her back.

"You can't stop me! He needs me! I promised I'd take care of him! I promised!" Sully felt his heart break at Michaela's desperate declarations, and he held onto her, holding her back firmly against his chest, waiting until she settled down.

"Brian's a smart little boy," Sully pointed out. "He's smart enough to find a place to stay warm and dry."

"He's so little, Sully. He…he needs me!"

"He does need ya. He needs ya to be strong and rest and look for him in the mornin'. Ya ain't helpin' him by goin' out in the middle of the night and getting yourself hurt."

"Sully…"

"Dr. Mike, trust me. The best thing ya can do for him is to wait 'til sunrise."

"What if he can't wait that long? You said yourself…there's know way of knowing if he'll be all right. Sully, please..." She tried to pull herself out of his arms, but his grip on her was astounding. "Please! Please, I need to find him!" Michaela's wails sent Sully back to the night Abagail died. She was screaming, screaming at Charlotte to save the baby. He could do nothing but sit and wait as the life drained from Abagail's body.

She felt his grip weaken on her, and she pulled away. But, when she turned to face him, his own features had gone pale. His eyes were glazed over, and she knew something wasn't right.

"I'm sorry, Sully. I…I just…" She sighed softly. "I know better. I know he'll be all right. I'm just scared to death, because he's already been through so much. All of them have…" He blinked a few times, trying to get those awful screams out of his head. He reached out to her, touching her, needing to feel something full of life. It seemed that everything he'd loved in the past had died, no matter how hard he'd tried to prevent it. He couldn't save his father. He couldn't save his mother. Then there was Abagail and Hannah, and there had been nothing he could have done for them. But, right now, this woman needed him, and he was going to try his best to help her; save her from her emotional pain.

"C'mon, Dr. Mike. Let's just get some sleep. Ya don't need to fret. Brian's gonna be all right." She stared at him, her own face etched with confusion.

"How can you say that? You don't know."

"No…I don't. But, I just…I don't know what else to say." Michaela sighed quietly, pulling Sully's blanket tightly around herself. She stared into the flames of the fire, and she pulled her hands out to warm them.

"I really thought I could make it work. Nothing has turned out the way it should have."

"Ya sure about that?"

"Charlotte shouldn't have died. If I hadn't gone off to confront the Reverend about hiring a new doctor…maybe Charlotte wouldn't have been bitten. Maybe I would have been there…"

"But ya weren't. It wasn't your fault, Dr. Mike. Ya never know when things like that are gonna happen. Ya never know when something ya never counted on…can change your life forever." Michaela stopped, noticing the pain in his features.

"You're thinking of your wife," she said softly, immediately regretting her words, when she saw him retreat and scoot back a little. "I'm sorry. It wasn't my place."

"It's fine," he replied quickly. "I don't talk 'bout her much, ya know? I just ain't been ready…"

"I understand. I do."

"How could ya even begin to understand?" She sucked in a sharp breath at his question, and she closed her eyes momentarily. Another tear slipped down her cheek, and Sully noticed.

"Oh, I understand, Mr. Sully. I do," she said softly. "Maybe I was never married, but I understand what it's like to lose the person you love most in the world. I know what it's like to want to deny that they're gone. I know what it feels like to realize that all of your plans were shattered in just a moment." He watched her, seeing the past flickering in her eyes. "I only had two days to say goodbye to him, and I honestly thought he was coming back." She didn't suppress the sob that made its way out this time.

"I didn't know," he said quietly. She nodded.

"The only person I'd told here was Charlotte," she said quietly. "He died before I ever got to see him again."

"I'm sorry."

"And I'm sorry," she breathed. "I've never lost a child, but the thought of losing Brian…" He scooted closer to her, taking her hands in his without even thinking.

"Ya ain't gonna lose him. Ya hear me? Brian's gonna be just fine. You'll see."

"I want to believe that. Every part of me wants to believe it, but I can't help but feel like I'm being…punished. Maybe I could have saved Charlotte."

"Ya know there was nothin' ya coulda done."

"But…"

"Ya ain't bein' punished, Dr. Mike. Those kids need ya, and even if ya don't know it yet, you need 'em too." He shook his head slowly. "Sometimes ya don't realize how bad ya need someone 'til they ain't there anymore." Michaela's lower lip trembled, and she blinked away her tears.

"It must have been terrible for you." He looked away, still holding onto her hands. "You must have loved her very much."

"I did. I loved her. I just…I shouldn't have taken her away like that. She wasn't ready. I shoulda been stronger…"

"We all make choices we aren't proud of. I'm not proud of letting David go without telling him how I felt."

"Ya never told him?" She shook her head.

"I knew I loved him, but telling him…that was something beyond what I thought I was capable of at that point in my life. I wasn't sure if I was ready to say it. We were engaged, but…to most everyone, love didn't matter. We were a good match." She brushed a tear from her eyes, as his hands squeezed hers.

"Loren wanted Abagail to marry somebody…anybody besides me. He didn't like me from the first time he saw me. Sometimes, I think that made her wanna be with me all the more, just to spite her pa. She loved him, but she didn't wanna be stuck helpin' him run the store for the rest of her life. I couldn't give her much better." Michaela didn't know what to say, and she saw the ache in his eyes, and it was an ache that matched hers. They were both hurting and longing for companionship, yet they were afraid to let anybody close or let themselves get too close to anyone.

"But she loved you. She wanted to be with you enough to marry you."

"Maybe I should've pushed her away." He let go of Michaela's hands and turned toward the flames, immediately regretting what he'd said. Michaela scooted closer to him, putting her hand on his arm.

"You didn't." He shook his head. The fire crackled and sputtered for a moment, and Sully took a deep breath. "It's getting late."

"I know. I suppose it's been so long since I've talked with anyone like this."

"Yeah. Same here."

"I never got to…well, there were so many things I wish I'd said."

"Like what?" Michaela's eyes met his, and Sully shook his head. "I'm sorry. I mean, ya probably don't feel like talkin' to me 'bout this. It ain't my business."

"It's not," she agreed, "but I haven't been able to talk about this with anyone since Charlotte. She says you're a man of your word, so I trust that you'd never say anything to anyone." He didn't move or blink or speak, and she knew she could trust him. "Well, if he were here…I'd tell him that I didn't want him to go, but I understood that he had to. I'd tell him that I…that I would continue what I loved…what he loved to see me do, and that's…being a doctor. And…I'd tell him that I love him."

"Is that what ya'd say to him if he was here right now? Do ya still love him after all these years?" Michaela sighed softly.

"There are so many different kinds of love," she said softly. "I've known the love of family and friends. I've known the love of a colleague, a man who was my friend through the most difficult obstacle in my life before I moved here. He supported me in everything I did, and I think I loved him, because he was the only one there for me to really share myself with. But, I'm older now, and it's been a long time…a long time. I don't know what kind of love I'd feel for him…if he was here today." Sully swallowed the lump in his throat, and he looked back toward the flames. "It's your turn." His eyes met hers again.

"What?"

"What would you say to your wife if she was still here?" Sully was taken aback, not expecting that she'd ask him such a thing. What words could he possibly say that could echo the pain he'd felt since losing her and the baby that night? For months after she had died, he'd spoken with her in dreams, but he'd never said enough. He just stared at her, taking in the sight of her. He'd never told her the things he should have said before she went away.

"I don't…I don't think I could say anything to her. I mean, if she was here right now, I'd tell her how much I missed her. If she never…if she never went away, I think I'd make sure she knew I loved her. I'd tell her at least once a day. I don't think I told her enough…when she was here. I told her before she…" his voice faltered. "I don't think she heard me." Michaela watched a loose tear make its way down Sully's face, and she scooted closer to him, feeling cold.

"I'm sure she heard you," Michaela said softly, placing her hand on his back. Just a few minutes ago, she wouldn't have dared to get this close to him. She hadn't even begun to break through the exterior, but now, here she was sitting right next to him, hearing and seeing his pain and suffering with him. She had never opened up to anyone like that, except for maybe her father, but there were some things that she wouldn't have even dared to speak with him about. And Charlotte…well, she hadn't told Charlotte everything. Sully knew more about her pain than anyone ever had, and that almost frightened her.

His eyes finally met hers again, and the flames danced passionately in the reflections their gazes held. He reached out to her, touching her cheek, brushing a stray tear away from her pale skin. She smiled a little, leaning into his touch, embracing the feeling of his calloused hand against her cold cheek. She reached out to him, not sure where to touch him, but knowing that he needed to be touched. She gently ran her fingers across the small scar on his neck, almost feeling his pain surge through her fingers and into her heart. She wanted to ask him where he got it, but in a way, she didn't really need to know. She could feel his pain, and she had never felt so connected with anyone before.

Suddenly, the fire began to burn brighter and hotter, but the chill in the air still clung viciously to their skin. They huddled closer, still connected through touch and feel. They needed this more than they needed anything, and neither one of them had realized it before.

Michaela began to tremble, and Sully felt it under his hand. He moved his hand to her shoulder, and she swallowed hard, trying not to shrink away.

"You're freezin'."

"No…I'm fine."

"No ya ain't."

"How do you know?" she asked, closing her eyes, as his hand cupped her cheek again, needing to feel her warmth. He knew it was there. She just needed him to bring it out in her.

"I know. You're just as cold as I've been for a long time." His words struck a chord in her, and she let out a soft breath, feeling her tears burn her skin again. "Don't cry."

"I can't help it," she said hoarsely. "I've never felt this way before." He swallowed hard, shaking his head.

"Me neither. I honestly don't even know what I'm feelin' right now, but…" He couldn't come up with the words. He had never been good with words, and this was the very moment that they failed him again. "I just…I know how it feels to be alone in the world…feel like ya got nothin' left to live for." Whatever had changed inside of Michaela seemed to surge with new life, and she exhaled slowly, and he felt the warmth of her breath on his skin. She didn't know what to say, and he had nothing left to offer, and they stared at one another. Time seemed to stand still for only a moment, as they sat connected with one another in body and spirit. Their souls touched, and everything seemed to shudder around them. Their hands found each other's again, and the ice started to melt away. The warmth began to settle in, and they could both feel it. It wasn't enough yet. They needed to touch and feel and be alive. They were terrified and absolutely blind to what they were doing, yet their spirits guided them closer, as the fire continued to dance beside them.

They couldn't stop it, and neither of them really wanted to. It was a force that seemed to capture them and pull them together. His arms pulled her in, wrapping her tightly in his embrace, feeling her warmth against his own. She sucked in a sharp breath, closing her eyes as their bodies met for the first time. His hands framed her face before moving through her tangled hair. She let out a soft whimper, as their lips met for the first time in a slow, needing kiss.

She gasped, as his hands pulled her closer, deepening their kiss; their desires. Her hands instinctively moved down his shoulders and back, touching him and caressing him. Her hand moved around to tuck inside of his shirt, feeling his heart beating strongly against her palm, as her mouth opened to him.

Her mind started to scream at her, but she ignored it. She didn't care anymore. Her mind had never let her feel this way before. Her mind had only told her to be careful, and careful wasn't what she needed right now. It was the last thing she needed. She wanted to feel like she could break in his arms and still be put back together again. She wanted to fall apart and know that it would be better in the end.

His eyes opened for only a moment, feeling her hands warming his skin like never before. His guilt was trying to force him away from her. He couldn't let it sway him. He had to live. If he lived only to please Abagail, he would be a dead man.

When he heard the first moan from deep inside of her, he knew that it was right. It all felt right, despite what his mind was telling him. His heart wanted to feel again, and he hadn't felt like this before.

He heard another small whimper come from her throat, and he started to pull away. Her arms pulled him tighter, and he knew this was what she needed too. The Spirits had brought them together on this night, and it was for a reason that they couldn't explain just yet. But, it felt right, and they felt more alive than they had in a long time.

"Oh…" she breathed, as his mouth found her neck, and his fingers began to work with the buttons on her blouse. Her legs were wrapped around him now, and she felt as if a part of her had gone numb, only to let the rest of her feel what she needed to feel.

Her porcelain skin ignited with the heat of a thousand fires, and she let out a deep sigh, as Sully's blanket fell off of her shoulders in a pile behind her. She hooked her arms around his neck, letting his mouth explore the nape of her neck and the small bit of flesh that he had exposed from a few unfastened buttons. She smiled to herself, as her body began to react in a way that it never had before. Something was turning inside of her, flooding through her system faster than a spark could ignite a fire.

She didn't know she was falling, until her back hit the warm blanket, and her head rolled back to rest upon the soft material. Sully was trapped between her legs, as they continued to stay wrapped around him. He began to run his hands along her sides, touching each part of her, kissing each feature of her face. She smiled when his stubble tickled her nose, when he kissed her forehead, and she placed a kiss to his neck where the small scar was.

When his hand cupped her breast, her eyes flew open and stared up into his. He almost pulled away, but her hand found his, touching him and daring him to keep going. She didn't feel afraid anymore. She didn't feel afraid to let someone love her.

"Ya okay?" She only nodded and answered him with a kiss, pulling him down onto her. They seemed to breathe new life into one another, and as the kiss deepened, their hands worked at each other's clothes, trying to reduce the barriers that kept them apart.

Her hands instinctively reached up to help him with his shirt, and he adjusted to help her lift it off of him. Her hands gently pressed against his warm chest, and running around to touch and caress his back and pull him closer again. Their lips met hungrily, as his hands opened up her shirt and pulled it from her skirt. He slid it skillfully off of her arms, and she breathed in sharply as his eyes gazed upon her camisole-covered chest. Nobody had ever touched her in such a way before, and it felt better than she could have imagined. Being so close with him was indescribable, and she only wanted more.

While his one hand worked at her skirt, the other gently ran through her hair. No words needed to be said' no kisses needed to be given. There was an overwhelming sense of knowing that they were about to step into the unknown.

"Sully," she gasped, as his hand loosened her skirt and started to tug it down.

"Ya okay?" She nodded again.

" I'm just…I've…I…" She closed her eyes, wanting to hide her face, but he smiled, gently caressing her flushing cheek.

"We can stop." She shook her head slowly.

"No we can't," she whispered. "Not now." At this point, his entire being was about to burst. Not even an hour ago had he thought this would ever happen. Now he was staring down at her, watching her reach out to him and silently ask him to hold her; to touch her. She needed him, plain and simple, and it went both ways.

When his hands both swiftly removed her camisole and skirt, she leaned her head back, waiting for his touch; afraid of the unknown but fully willing to accept it. She bit her bottom lip, waiting, as his hand moved up her leg, caressed her thigh and finally touched her. She gasped at the feeling, and when she breathed again, she found his lips on hers again, kissing her as deeply as he touched her. She shuddered against him. It was all she could do to keep from screaming, and she muffled her cries in his mouth, urging him to continue. He was afraid of hurting her, but the way she moved against him let him know that she knew what was happening. She knew it wasn't going to be easy, but she was strong. She needed this.

"Sully," she finally breathed, as her hands traveled down his torso, gently touching his stomach. His sensitive skin jumped back at her touch but relaxed soon enough. She could feel his desire for her, and he made her body quiver and quake and start to shatter. She closed her eyes, feeling him pull away long enough to rid himself of the confines of his buckskins.

When he crawled over her again, he peered down at her body, admiring the way she looked as she writhed underneath him. Her entire body felt flushed, and every part of her tingled. He pulled her up into his arms, holding her, as he wrapped the blanket around them. She smiled, her arms encircling his broad shoulders, and she could feel his strength pounding against her thigh. She moaned softly, kissing him and feeling him lift her up and onto him. She hadn't been prepared, and the pain that overtook her paled in comparison to the way she had felt as of late. This was a different kind of pain, but when she looked into his eyes, her own brimmed with tears, and she knew that she had made the right decision.

Her slow, hot breaths had turned into ragged gasps as her body begged for release, and when they tumbled backward, she felt his body crash into hers, pulling her down and taking her with him. Her nails raked down his back, and he groaned into her neck, his own body screaming for release. But, he was taken aback at the way her body fit so tightly around him. She had tears streaming down her face, and he knew at that moment what he'd done; what he'd taken from her.

"Oh God…"

"Sully," She whispered, her lips meeting his. He pulled back, and she frantically clutched at him. She didn't want this to end. She needed to feel. "Don't leave. Don't." He stared down into her eyes, his brain screaming at him; his heart doing this same. He could feel her heart against his, and he bent down to take her lips against his again.

"I ain't goin' nowhere," he whispered, gathering her into his arms and pulling her closer. She cried out, as he began to move inside of her, feeling every ripple and curve of her body, feeling his own body charging forward. He tried to ease her pain, but he knew there wasn't much he could do. It had been the same with Abagail, but this was so much different; much more intense. He hadn't been this connected to anyone before.

She held onto him, not letting go for anything, feeling the pleasure start to build, though the pain was still there. Her hands moved along his body, sending heat to every part of him.

His hands moved to her hips, as her body urged him on. They couldn't stop the will of the Spirits, and they knew that this was it. He kneaded her soft flesh in his hands, as he brought her with him; helped her meet his thrusts and rocked their bodies in one fluid motion. She was starting to relax, but the feeling of having Sully so close to her; inside of her was amazing. It was right. It was so right.

His movements slowed for a moment, and she gasped for air. He couldn't control himself any longer, and she accepted him fully. They held onto one another tightly, as their bodies melted into slow, deep thrusts, pushing them both further than they had ever dared to go. When they cried out together once more, she felt his back grow rigid, and she squeezed her eyes shut, feeling their journey come to an end.

Sully rolled to the side, not knowing what to expect. His hand searched for hers under the blanket, and he ran his fingers through his hair, leaning back in exhaustion. She was laying there still, her eyes closed. He was afraid he had hurt her. That had been the last thing he wanted. He had wanted to take the pain away, and he knew the feeling had been mutual.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt ya." She didn't respond immediately. Her entire body was still tingling from the rush of such an unexpected act. Her body hadn't been prepared, but her soul had. Not only had they joined as one, but their souls had touched, bringing them closer than either had thought possible. She squeezed his hand under the blanket. "I didn't…I didn't think."

"Neither did I. Don't be sorry."

"I didn't know that you…I shoulda realized."

"It's all right. It's fine," she said softly, tears in her eyes and a tired smile forming at the corners of her mouth, as she turning onto her side. "Just hold me." He didn't hesitate to pull her into his arms. He cradled her there, rocking her slowly, and she placed a gentle kiss to his chest. She had never though he could make her feel this way, and it all seemed so real and so comfortable. It was as if their hearts beat as one; as if they were kindred spirits.

His lips found her forehead, pressing a soft kiss there. He heard her moan softly and caress his arm. He couldn't believe how thrilling one woman's touch could be or how it could open up so many doors he had once slammed shut and locked forever.

Her breath against his skin drove him wild, and he gazed down into her tired eyes, caressing her cheek with his fingers. He didn't see pain there anymore. Right now, he saw peace and her needs satisfied. For a moment, she was calm and still in his arms but clutching him so close, as if she didn't want to let him go.

She could hear him; hear his heart. It seemed as if the world had opened up at her feet. She had never imagined herself making love with anyone besides David, and not even that had become realized. Being with Sully was something unexpected, but her soul was free now, and when they had both exhausted every attempt to stay awake to just hold one another, they fell asleep locked in a lover's embrace.


"Dr. Mike," he whispered, gently shaking her shoulder. She moaned softly, her body awakening to the cold of the morning and the soreness in her body. "Dr. Mike. It's almost sunup." She sat up quickly, realizing exactly what that meant. The blanket pooled around her, but she didn't care. It was time to find her son.

She began searching around the dying fire, trying to find her clothes. Sully had already pulled on his own, and she smiled when he went about trying to help her.

"Ah, I think this is yours," he said quietly, handing her the camisole. She smiled shyly and nodded.

"Thank you," she said softly. She took the garment into her hands and turned her back to put it on. He found it endearing, and he decided to test the waters that surrounded him. He reached out and touched her bare shoulder, feeling her practically melt under his touch. But, she was still tense, and he knew she had every right to be. They could only imagine what they would or wouldn't find on the search today.

"Let me help," he said softly, as she pulled the camisole on. His hands nervously worked at the ties, hoping he knew what he was doing. But, when she lifted her hair up to let him work, he easily put the ties into place and laced her up. His hand moved to her shoulder again, and this time, she placed her hand over his.

"Thank you." He responded by moving aside to let her finish dressing. She was modest now, that was for sure, keeping her eyes on the fire pit as she worked. He couldn't help but smile, but he didn't want her to get the wrong idea. He wanted her to trust him and know that he'd never hurt her. He wanted her to know that last night meant just as much to him as he hoped it had to her.

He turned aside to make her more comfortable, but he couldn't help but notice how slowly she was moving. He was overwhelmed with the thought of having hurt her, and it was killing him. He sighed quietly, pulling on his coat. He saw her glance at him, and when he felt confident that she was fully dressed, he turned back toward her. She was working on putting on her shoes.

"Dr. Mike?"

"We should get going. Brian needs us."

"He does. They're saddlin' up the horses now. Do ya feel like ridin'?"

"I feel like finding my son." Her words were sharp, but her gaze was soft, and she turned it toward him. She smiled a little. "I want to thank you for being so…so…"

"Don't mention it," he said quietly. "Look…if I'd have known that you hadn't…" He watched her face fall, and she seemed to turn inside of herself.

"I'm not upset with you, if that's what you mean," she whispered.

"I didn't want to hurt ya. We both needed…we needed holdin'."

"Indeed," she replied shyly, pulling on her own coat.

"I just wanna make sure that everything's all right. If I took it too far…"

"You didn't. Please, don't put all of this on yourself. I was very confused last night…I think we both were. But, I don't…" She tried to suppress her embarrassment and smiled up at him bravely. "I don't want there to be any regrets between us." At that moment, a young Cheyenne child came into the teepee, spoke something to Sully and left again. "What did she say?"

"She said they're ridin' out in fifteen minutes." Michaela breathed a sigh of relief.

"We're going to find him," she whispered with more confidence than she had felt the night before. "I can feel it." She could feel so much, and when she looked into his eyes, a smile fell across her face again, making him want to hold her like he'd held her the night before.

"You're his mother now, whether he knows or likes it yet or not. The Spirits know that," Sully said quietly. "If you can feel that he's all right, he will be." She nodded. She breathed out a heavy sigh.

"I only wish I knew how to be a good mother."

"Ya are one. Ya might not feel it yet, but ya are. Ya love those kids, don't ya?"

"Yes."

"Ya'd do anything for 'em?"

"I would."

"Then you're a good ma. Don't think ya ain't. Just give 'em time. It ain't gonna be easy." Michaela smiled softly, sad recollection filling her eyes.

"That's what Charlotte told me when she helped me move into your homestead. She was so right."

"Lots of things ain't easy, but ya take 'em a step at a time." He chuckled a little, and she knew what he meant.

"Or you just plunge right into them," Michaela breathed. "I just…I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I didn't want…"

"C'mere," he said softly, pulling his arms around her. She leaned into him, and the warmth of his embrace relaxed her. "Things happen for a reason, and whatever the reason is, I'm sure it's a good one. We were both hurtin' last night, and we were the only two people we could reach out to. That's somethin' big for me. I ain't never been able to talk to anybody the way I talked to you."

"Neither have I, Sully."

"So, don't let yourself fret over it. What's done is done, Dr. Mike. No goin' back. No regrets." She nodded.

"No regrets." He stood slowly, pulling her up with him.

"Let's go mount up. Ya sure you're feelin' up to ridin'?" he asked again.

"I'll be fine." He eyed her cautiously, and his arms pulled her close. "I'm being completely honest."

"I know," he replied with a small grin. "Just know that…ya can talk to me about anything."

"I can feel that," she breathed, her eyes tearing up again.

"Everything that happened stays here. Ya got my word." She nodded, and she stood on her tiptoes, as his lips pressed against hers gently. When he pulled back, he squeezed her hand. "C'mon. Let's go find your son."


Brian slept peacefully in Sully's arms, as the horses rounded the bend and came upon the humble homestead. Matthew had ridden ahead to give Colleen the news, and she came running up to greet Michaela and Sully. Brian woke, rubbing his tired eyes, and a grin poured across his face when he saw his sister.

"Brian!" she exclaimed.

"Hey Colleen," he said with a yawn.

"You okay?"

"Dr. Mike fixed me up real good," he said quietly, leaning his head in the crook of Sully's arm. Colleen looked up at Michaela and smiled.

"Thanks for findin' him, Dr. Mike." Michaela dismounted her horse first, and Sully gingerly handed Brian down to her. She quickly carried him into the house, and Colleen helped her change him into his nightclothes.

"I ain't sleepy," he protested.

"But you're going to be resting for a while, young man," Michaela said sternly.

"I'm real sorry, Dr. Mike. I didn't mean it when I said I hated ya." Michaela smiled and gently ran her fingers through his feathery hair.

"I know, sweetheart. We'll talk about that later, all right? We need to get you feeling better."

"All right." He paused for a moment. "I promise I won't run away again, Dr. Mike."

"I should hope not," Michaela replied quietly. She heard two more people enter the homestead, and she could feel Sully watching her from the doorway. Once she tucked the covers around Brian, she turned to Colleen. "Would you make your brother some soup?"

"Sure," Colleen said obligingly. "What kind do ya want, Brian?" While Brian rattled off various types of soups, Michaela made her way across the homestead.

"Dr. Mike," Matthew said, placing his hand on her arm. "I don't know how to thank ya enough for bringin' him home."

"You don't have to thank me, Matthew. What I did…well, it was my job. We're family now, like it or not." Matthew swallowed hard and bent his head in a nod. "Why don't you go sit with him? He has quite an adventure to tell."

"I'll do that," Matthew replied, turning toward his brother's bed. Michaela turned to Sully, and he motioned for her to join him on the porch, which she did. They shut the door, and he leaned against the porch railing.

"So, he's gonna be all right?"

"Thankfully, yes. The break wasn't major, and he's strong for such a little boy."

"He is. He gets that from his ma."

"Charlotte was a strong woman," Michaela agreed.

"I meant you too, Dr. Mike," Sully replied. "You're a strong lady."

"I'm afraid you saw me at my weakest moment last night."

"I could say the same for myself. Ya know…I just can't help but wonder what it is that makes it easy for us to talk to each other. It wasn't at first, but somethin' changed."

"If I had the answers, it would be much easier," Michaela said with a smile. "Unfortunately, it's not anything I learned back in Boston." He shook his head and drew his arm around her. She came to him willingly, resting her hand and her head against his heart. "Maybe we'll never know."

"Maybe not. But, at least we know it was for somethin' right. Right?" She nodded, blinking away the tears.

"Right." Michaela's body was tired and weak, and Sully felt her leaning into him. So, he slowly sat down, bringing her with him, and she sighed heavily, leaning against him.

"I can stay in the barn tonight, if ya want. I know you're tired, and with Brian needin' carin' for, I could help out around here."

"You don't have to."

"I know. I want to," he replied, gently squeezing her shoulder. "I never had a reason to come back to this place 'til you came along." Michaela's hand found his, enclosing it in her own. "Talkin' about Abagail ain't easy."

"I know. Neither is talking about David."

"But it's different with you." She nodded. "With you here…seein' this place ain't so hard anymore. Abagail woulda liked ya. She woulda liked what you've done with the place." She looked out at the horizon, her eyes full of thick tears. These tears were different from the ones she had spilled the night before. Now, she had something to look forward to. Her children were home safe and sound, and thankfully, Brian was going to be all right. She had a friend…confidant…a companion. He was just as terrified to love as she was, but somehow, being with one another made it easier to care about someone; care about helping them. Helping him had made her feel like she had done something right. She had made the right choice.

He dared to press his lips to her forehead, and she sighed softly, looking up into his eyes when he pulled away. They met in a tender kiss, strengthening and warming one another in the cool breeze. They didn't say a word, as the sun began to set in the sky, and they held one another close, not wanting to break apart from this pure connection they shared. No, it wasn't the end, but it was certainly the beginning of something completely new and different. They knew they could count on one another now. It was going to be a long, interesting journey, but they were willing to take it together.

The End