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.

Across the Stars

By, Ashley J.

Written January 6, 2006 - ?

Chapter 1

August 1870 – Somewhere in Texas

He shot up coughing in his cot, his entire body aching. His shirt was drenched in a cold sweat, and he could feel the heat from the dream against his skin. He could still feel the smoke burning his lungs. He could taste it. It had been so real. He'd been right there…that same dream.

"Sully?" Sully looked over to see a pair of dark, piercing eyes peering at him from the entrance of the tent. His heart was racing, and he put his head in his hands for a moment, trying to stop the pounding headache. It would go away after a little while. It always did after the dreams.

"What is it?" he asked quietly.

"It's your turn to keep watch. Cattle are kinda restless tonight."

"Thanks Daniel," Sully said quietly, taking hold of his canteen. He took a swig of water and pulled on his boots. He started to leave, and Daniel placed a hand on his shoulder. He tensed up and caught Daniel's gaze.

"Ya had that dream again, didn't ya?" He scuffed his feet in the dirt.

"Naw…I just…" He couldn't think of anything to say. No excuse could compare to the terrifying visions he had had just a few moments ago—visions of the past—and he couldn't stop the trembling that started in his soul and moved outward.

"Ya can't lie to me, Sully. I've been able to tell when you're lyin' since we were ten. Ya can't fool me." Sully frowned and shook his head. "Ya alright?" He shrugged off Daniel's hand.

"I'm fine." He pushed his way out of the tent and started toward his horse. Daniel stared after him for a moment and shook his head, hoping his friend would find what he was looking for soon. He'd been lost for far too long.

When Sully mounted up, he felt his horse Bandit fidget underneath him. He swallowed hard and stroked the creature's neck, coaxing him to stay calm. "C'mon, boy." He started him in a walk toward Billy Montgomery, a fellow cattle driver.

"Hey, Sully," he said with a yawn. "You up for the night watch?"

"Ain't I always?" Billy chuckled and puffed on his cigar. His dark eyes were set back, but they were warm and never full of anger. He was rather soft for being on a cattle drive. He never yelled at anyone except if he needed to shout over the noise of the cattle. Most every man on the drive was there looking for a purpose. Most every man was lost.

"How long you been on this drive?"

"This one? 'Bout a month."

"When're you goin' home?" Sully didn't answer, and he looked off toward the mass of cattle that stood before them. When he looked up at the stars, he couldn't think of any place he could call home. But, his eyes found the North Star right away. He took in a breath of fresh air and rubbed his tired, aching neck. "Is Lenny still awake?" Lenny Montgomery, Billy's brother, was the trail boss on this drive.

"Should be. Why?"

"I think it's time I get goin'."

"Yeah? Home?" Sully shook his head.

"Naw. I think it's 'bout time I go see an old friend." He nodded to Billy, dismounted his horse and started over toward Lenny's tent.

September 1870 - Boston

Michaela Quinn settled down at her desk, going over charts that she'd neglected for the past few days. She had been so incredibly busy at the clinic that she hadn't had much time for updating them. With her father gone now, she had acquired most of his patients, though only a few of them came to her. Most of them had switched to Dr. Hansen and Dr. Burke. She didn't care for either of them, though Dr. Burke had tried hard to convince her to join their practice. Dr. Hansen had nearly fired him for that.

Though she was content with practicing by herself, she felt as if she had done all she could for herself in Boston. Yes, it was a comfort to have her family there for the little support they offered, but not having her father at her side day by day made her realize that she needed to go somewhere where everyone would take her seriously; someplace that desperately needed a doctor, regardless of his or her sex.

She hadn't expected to have her own practice so soon. Sure, being thirty meant that she had been out of medical school for years, but she had expected to practice with her father for much longer. His sudden death had taken its toll on the entire Quinn family. Michaela hadn't had an easy time dealing with her emotions, but it had been a year since his passing, and she knew that he would want her to move on.

With a heavy sigh, she pushed the charts away and stood up. She moved toward the window she had already stood at six times that morning. She couldn't concentrate. She was going stir crazy in that cramped little space. It was hardly a clinic, but she called it one anyway. It was more like an office with a back room. She did her best with what she had to work with.

A knock came to her door, and she looked at the clock. She didn't have an appointment set up, so she shrugged her shoulders and moved toward the door. When she opened it up, she saw her mother standing there. She smiled in surprise. Her mother rarely ever ventured into this part of town.

"Mother! What are you doing here?" She hoped this would be a pleasant visit, but those came few and far between.

"I haven't seen you in three days, Michaela. You haven't been home," she said with worry in her voice. "Is everything all right?" Michaela suddenly felt very, very tired. Her mother usually had that affect on her.

"No. I mean…yes, everything's fine, Mother. I've just been working late trying to update my charts. I've been sleeping here."

"Here? Michaela, do you realize how dangerous this part of town is?"

"Yes, Mother. That's why I work here. I'm always suturing somebody up." Elizabeth rolled her eyes, not caring for her daughter's sense of humor this early in the day. She reminded her so much of her father, but at least Josef had had a sense of propriety!

"Don't be smart, Michaela," she said huffily. "I'm concerned about you."

"Don't be. I'm fine." Michaela picked up her medical charts and shuffled them slowly in her hands.

"Michaela, why don't you come back home and start trying to find yourself a husband?" Michaela turned her back. Her mother pulled this on her at least twice a week.

"You know my practice is everything to me right now, Mother."

"Your practice? Michaela, your practice consists of three regular patients and drunkards who stumble in with gunshot wounds."

"But I'm doing what I went to school to do. I'm helping people. If I only help two people in one day, that's something." Elizabeth put her hands in the air.

"Fine. Fine. If you insist on keeping this…this practice of yours going, you could at least move it closer to Beacon Hill."

"For now, I'm comfortable here, Mother."

"I'm not comfortable with you being here at all."

"It's not your choice."

"No, but you obviously weren't thinking clearly when you chose to practice here." Michaela was about to boil over at this point. Every time her mother brought this up, she bit her tongue, but she had just about had it. She was sick of her mother trying to order her around, as if she wasn't capable of making her own decisions.

"I could have opened my practice just two blocks away from home, Mother, but you were the one who couldn't spare the extra hundred dollars for a deposit. I worked with what I could afford."

"I was trying to do what was best for you after your father passed. I was trying to convince you that you couldn't continue to be a doctor without your father's watchful eye." Michaela controlled the urge to roll her eyes.

"I'm fine, Mother. I promise." Elizabeth exhaled sharply and paused, deciding to drop the subject for the time being.

"Will you be home for dinner?"

"Yes, Mother. I was actually about to pack up for the day."

"Already? It isn't even noon yet." Michaela nodded.

"I don't have any appointments today, and if there's an emergency, they'll know where to find me." Elizabeth stared at her daughter. She wasn't comfortable with the fact that Michaela had given out her home address to each patient she saw in case of an emergency. Elizabeth Quinn didn't trust most people. Many people from this part of town were either beggars or made just enough money to get by from week to week. She couldn't be too careful, being a woman of higher class. She'd been raised only to trust those who were her equals, and she made a few exceptions from time to time throughout her life.

"Well, you can ride home with me then. Martha is serving dinner promptly at five o'clock."

"Five o'clock? Why so early?"

"She's going home to see her sister, Michaela. I told her she could leave as soon as the dinner dishes were finished." Michaela sighed softly.

"You could have given her the entire day off." Elizabeth didn't reply to her daughter's remark, and she simply walked toward the door.

"Are you coming?"

"Yes, Mother," she replied. As soon as she put her shawl over her shoulders and grabbed her medical bag, she turned her sight in the direction of her mother again. "You aren't inviting another…another suitor, are you?"

"For the twentieth time, my dear…"

"I'm just making sure," she responded with a smile. "You should know better than that. I don't respond well to the men that you think are right for me. Those men aren't my type." It was Elizabeth's turn to roll her eyes, though Michaela didn't see, and the two left the clinic together, bickering all the way to the carriage.

She finished adjusting the curls she'd spent two hour on, and she gave herself a look in the mirror. She sighed softly, not really knowing why she bothered so much with her hair. She felt just fine wearing it down and not making a fuss over herself. But, she'd been doing this since she had figured out how to do her hair for herself; back before she had decided to be a doctor and put her personal life aside to pursue a life of helping people just like her father did.

"Michaela?" A voice sounded at the door, and Michaela turned.

"Come in," she said quickly. The door opened, and her eldest sister Rebecca walked in.

"Mother sent me to tell you that dinner's ready," she said with a smile.

"Thank you," Michaela answered. "I wish she didn't treat me as if I were a child."

"You're the baby of the family, Michaela. It's difficult for her to accept that you're all grown up."

"I've been 'all grown up' for quite some time. Mother needs to learn how to…"

"Let go?"

"Precisely," she said with a heavy sigh. Rebecca grinned. "What?"

"You're so much like her. You just don't see it."

"I'm nothing like her, Rebecca. She's…she's so pushy…and…stubborn!"

"Who's the one who insisted she go to medical school and wouldn't take 'no' for an answer?" Rebecca asked, raising an eyebrow.

"That's different," Michaela insisted. Rebecca stifled a giggle and gave her little sister a hug.

"Come along, Michaela. Let's get through dinner tonight, and hopefully Mother will be on her best behavior."

"When is she ever?" They let out a laugh together, and Rebecca shook her head.

"Michaela Quinn…you should know better." She gave her a wink and grinned anyway. "Come on. It'll be fine. You'll see!"

September 1870

He pulled his coat tightly around his body, paying the two bits to the stable hand. It had been so long since he'd walked on these streets; since he'd seen the house on the corner with all of the lights in the window.

Smiling to himself, he shook off the cold feeling that soaked through to his bones. He had forgotten how cool this place could get at this time of year. He was used to the sweltering heat from the cattle drive; sleeping in the cold at night and waking to the glare of the hot sun. It was a wonder he hadn't gotten sick more often than he did. Living like that could kill a man after so long. At least it kept his mind on the present and on getting through each day. He didn't have to think about the past or the future, except maybe to think about his next meal or his next shift with the cattle. Cattle drives came and went though, but he'd traveled across a good part of the country, seeing places he'd never even dreamed of seeing as a child; experiencing things he'd never thought he'd experience.

His feet ached underneath him. His entire body was exhausted. But he was there. He had made it to the only place he could call home, yet he hadn't been there in so long…too long.

When he made his way up to the front door, his nerves began to set in, causing his stomach to leap and twist inside of him. He didn't know what he'd say when he saw her. He didn't know how she'd react to his being there. He only hoped she'd be happy to see him. He hadn't heard from her in so long, but that was pretty much his fault. He hadn't stayed in one spot for too long. If she had replied to his telegrams, he hadn't gotten them, because he usually sent them out as he was heading out of town.

His knuckles rapped against the door, and the sound pounded inside of his head. He closed his eyes, gaining his composure, and he was surprised to see the face of an older gentleman when the door opened.

"Mr. Sully!" he said, extending his hand warmly as if he was greeting a man he'd known since childhood. Sully smiled back, his intentions clear in his eyes. He couldn't think of anything else to say, except…

"Is she here?"

"She is," he replied. "She's…"

"Don't tell her I'm here. I want to surprise her." The older man smiled and nodded his head, moving out of the way only for Sully. He closed the door, and Sully stepped into the house, taking in the sights around him. Things hadn't changed much since he'd been there last. He only hoped that she hadn't changed either.

Sully watched as the man disappeared from sight, and when he heard her voice, he straightened up, feeling nervous again. Then he saw her. He couldn't believe she was really there. Her eyes met his, and she froze, her eyes wide in shock. What was he supposed to say? How was he supposed to greet her after so much time had passed?

"Oh my God," she breathed. "Sully!" Sully's worry melted away at that moment, as a smile spread over her face. She rushed toward him, and he held his arms out to her. She leapt into his embrace, and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck. "It's really you! You're here!"

"I told ya I'd be back," he said softly. "Just a little later than I expected."

"That's all right," she whispered, closing her eyes, sinking into the feeling of being in his arms. She hadn't expected it to feel so much different than before. She hadn't expected it to feel so…good. "I just…I can't believe you're standing right here!" She pulled out of his arms and took in the sight of him. "You look wonderful."

"Oh c'mon. I just rode here from a cattle drive. Ya don't gotta lie." She laughed happily. He frowned a little. "I'm sorry I wasn't here…for…"

"That doesn't matter. He understood."

"When I got word…it was too late. I wasn't home much, y'know?"

"I know," she whispered. "I received your telegrams, but I'm afraid you didn't receive any of mine." Sully nodded sadly, but she smiled warmly. "Don't worry. You're here now, and that's what counts." Sully wasn't convinced, but he hugged her again.

"I still wanna make it up to ya." She thought for a moment after he pulled away.

"You can make it up to me by joining me and my family for dinner." She tugged on his hand, and pulled him toward the dining room, feeling happier than she'd been in years.

"If you insist."

"I do," she laughed. "Doctor's orders."