June 9, 1871 - Cheyenne Reservation
Morning dawned, and Michaela woke to the sound of Snow Bird coming into the teepee. Michaela had slept in Snow Bird and Cloud Dancing's lodge, because she needed to keep an eye on the older medicine man. It was obvious to Michaela that Snow Bird hadn't slept much at all, and that concerned her, but Snow Bird was eating breakfast, which was good for both the mother and the baby.
"Sorry to wake you," Snow Bird said softly.
"That's ok, really. What time is it?"
"Just after dawn."
"Oh," Michaela breathed, stretching and slowly sitting up, which wasn't an easy task with the size of her belly.
"You should eat. Have some." Snow Bird handed her a bowl of the same thing she was eating.
"Thank you," Michaela said with a smile. She took a few bites before leaning over and placing her hand upon Cloud Dancing's forehead. "His fever's broken."
"Yes. He woke an hour ago to tell me he was fine, and I made him go back to sleep." Snow Bird grinned, and Michaela smiled back at her. "He wanted to get up to hunt with the other men, but I told him he would not go anywhere until you told him he could." Michaela raised an eyebrow. "He was not happy about it, but he was too tired to resist. He thinks I am becoming too independent. He doesn't realize I like it that way." Snow Bird stifled a giggle, and Michaela shook her head.
"He does love you very much."
"Yes he does," Snow Bird replied. "He does not realize that he is my world. He and our child."
"I think he knows, Snow Bird," Michaela whispered. One of the babies kicked again, and Michaela's mind went running back to Sully. She had barely slept last night, and when she had, she'd had nightmares about his condition. If he was out there with what was left of the search party, who of them knew how to treat a bullet wound? Hank would either give him whiskey or suggest leaving him to die, Robert E. would step up and try his best to save him, but there was only so much he could do. He was a blacksmith, not a doctor. He'd helped bandage minor injuries, but he most likely had no idea how to tie off bleeders. Kid Cole might know a little about it, but she didn't know his experience with gunshot wounds, except causing or receiving them.
It was just then that Michaela panicked. The children! Gabrielle and Little Wolf were alone!
"Oh no. I have to get back to the children."
"The children are fine. Matthew Cooper rode them out last evening after you fell asleep. He said he offered to look after them, but they wanted to be close to you. They slept with Black Kettle's children. Michaela felt her pulse slow a little. She felt terrible, but at the same time, she'd had an emergency. Gabrielle was old enough to look after Little Wolf, but to think she'd left them made her sick.
"I need to see them."
"They are already awake and eating with the other children. They are fine, Dr. Mike. Do not worry." Michaela nodded, but she still left the teepee to find the children seated outside one of the teepees with a few other children. Gabrielle waved at the sight of Michaela, and Little Wolf smiled as well, though he looked happy enough just to be with some of his old friends.
"Hi Dr. Mike!" Gabby said with a grin.
"Are you children alright? I'm sorry I…"
"We're fine. I heard when Snow Bird came in, and Little Wolf and I went to Matthew and Ingrid's. We knew you were going."
"I should have taken you."
"No you shouldn't have. It was an emergency," Gabrielle replied with the wisdom of someone far older than her years. Michaela sighed heavily and rubbed her sore back. "Are you ok?"
"Yeah," she replied. "I'm just tired."
"Maybe we should go," Gabrielle queried. "You're supposed to rest, right?"
"We'll go once I know Cloud Dancing's alright."
"His fever's startin' to get worse," Robert E. pointed out, as they took a break about a day's ride out of town. They'd ridden the entire night through, hoping to get home before too long.
"Check his bandages," Kid Cole suggested.
"They need changed," Robert E. said with a sigh. As he went to work changing Sully's bandages, Kid Cole gave Ruth and Sully both drinks of water. Ruth had woken up several times, but she was far too exhausted to get up. She was weak, sore, and she didn't think she could walk. Sully wasn't awake yet, but they could at least get a little water into his system.
Hank hung back, puffing on a cigar and swinging his rifle from shoulder to shoulder, demonstrating his impatience.
"If we keep goin', we might get to town by nightfall."
"We're restin'. Ruth and the baby need the rest."
"I'm ok. We can keep goin'," Ruth said weakly.
"You're far from ok right now, darlin'. We're gonna rest. You and the baby…"
"Need to get back to town so Dr. Mike can look at 'em," Robert E. replied. "I agree we need to rest, but I think we ought to goin' in an hour at the most." Kid Cole sighed and gave his wife another drink.
"I'm gonna go find us somethin' to eat. We'll eat and then we'll head off." Ruth nodded, and he kissed her forehead. Standing up, he motioned toward Hank. "You're comin' with me."
"Great," Hank replied sarcastically. The two went off to find food, while Robert E. stayed with Sully and Ruth. Ruth closed her eyes again, but much to Robert E.'s surprise, Sully's fluttered open.
"Michaela," he moaned hoarsely.
"Sully. Sully, can ya hear me? It's Robert E."
"Back in town. Sully, ya been shot. The bullet went clean through, and I patched ya up as good as I could, but I don't know how long the stitches'll hold. We're takin' ya back to town, and Dr. Mike is gonna take care of ya from then on." Sully swallowed hard, barely opening his eyes. Everything hurt. It hurt to talk and to breathe. All he wanted was his heart song, but he was thankful she was back in town and out of harm's way. It was all coming back to him. He remembered getting shot, but after that, everything was a blur.
"Jim?" he asked.
"Dead," Robert E. replied. Sully swallowed again, and he reached for his medicine pouch, gripping it and silently praying to the Spirits. Robert E. decided to leave him alone, and he went back to check and make sure the litter was still fastened down on the saddles.
"What the hell was that?" Hank asked, as he and Kid Cole stood still after having just heard noise up ahead. "Sounded like horses." He aimed his rifle toward the noise.
"Would ya put that thing away? Ya don't know what that is? Might be a lady for all you know."
"No lady that ain't askin' for trouble would be out here all by herself." Kid Cole gave Hank a warning glare before stepping forward.
"Show yourself!" he called out ahead.
"Sheriff Cole?!" came a young voice, just as Mary and Johnny came into sight.
"Mary? Johnny? What on earth are you two doin' out here?"
"Lookin' for my pa. Where is he?" Johnny asked quickly, as they rushed over.
"Clingin' on by a thread," Hank said with a snide glance at the kids before puffing on his cigar again. Johnny looked worriedly at Kid Cole, who shook his head.
"Your Pa got shot, but we're takin' real good care of him. We're on our way back to town, but we're takin' a break to hunt."
"Did ya find Ruth?"
"Yeah, we got her, and she's gonna be ok," Kid Cole said, relief flooding his voice. "Come on. You two come on with me. I'll take ya to your pa, boy, and we'll stay there while Hank gets us somethin' to eat."
"'Scuse me?" Hank asked. "Who said you call the shots?"
"Just do it. The sooner we eat, the sooner you can get back to your whiskey and poker games," Kid Cole replied. He was probably a good five years younger than the bartender, which he knew made Hank less inclined to do his bidding, but the fact that the kids were there turned on Hank's censor, and he stopped himself from telling Kid Cole exactly where to go and exactly where to stick those orders of his.
"Pa!" Johnny exclaimed, running over to the litter. Sully slowly opened his eyes and saw his son. Worried, he started to sit up, but the pain was too much.
"Johnny, what are ya doin' here?"
"I came to find ya, Pa."
"Why ain't you at home with Dr. Mike?"
"Ma's ok. Brian's lookin' after her."
"Ya shouldn't have come out here. Ya coulda got hurt. Ya know how she worries."
"I'm fine, Pa. You're the one that's hurt, so it's a good thing I did come to find ya." Sully sighed heavily and swallowed hard. "Ain't ya glad to see me, Pa?"
"'Course I am," Sully replied. "I just don't wanna see ya get hurt. I don't want your ma worryin' either."
"You should rest, Pa. We'll be back to town soon." Johnny sighed heavily and went back to Byron to brush him down. Mary sat down next to the litter.
"Uncle Sully, don't be mad at Johnny."
"What are you doin' here?" he asked.
"I followed him."
"What are we gonna do with you kids?"
"My mother's not going to be happy, is she?"
"If she's anything like your Aunt Michaela, no she ain't." Mary looked a bit worried, but she ran off to help Johnny with the horses. It was Kid Cole's turn to talk to him now. As he knelt down, Sully coughed a little and waited for the man to speak.
"I don't know what to say, Sully. Ya did somethin' real brave back there."
"You woulda done the same thing."
"But I didn't. I owe ya a lot, Sully."
"Ya don't owe me nothin'. Maybe some sleep, but nothin' else."
"Ain't nothin' to joke about," Kid Cole replied, removing his hat and running his fingers through his midnight black hair. When he could see Sully dozing because of the pain, he decided to let him rest. "Just feel better, Sully. I don't want that wife of yours comin' after me. Lord knows a pregnant woman's hormones are bad enough, but when it comes to that lady doc, I think I'd better stay clear for a few days." He saw a brief smile on Sully's lips, and he hoped he'd given him something good to dream about. When Sully was finally asleep, he moved toward his wife and gently cared for her, wiping the hair away from her face and giving her more water. The color was coming back to her face, but he wouldn't stop worrying until they got back to town and she was thoroughly examined by the good doctor.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the presence of God and this congregation to join Byron Sully and Michaela Quinn in Holy matrimony. Marriage is the union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind. This occasion marks the celebration of love and commitment with which this man and this woman begin their life together. And now – through me – God joins you together in one of the holiest bonds. This relationship stands for love, loyalty, honesty and trust, but most of all for friendship. Before they knew love, they were friends, and it was from this seed of friendship that is their destiny." Sully leaned forward, squeezing her hand.
"Are ya alright? Do ya wanna sit down?" he whispered, motioning toward a finely decorated chair they had put together in case she felt the need to sit down.
"I'm fine," she whispered. "I want to stand here with you."
"Sully, you told me that you'd like to recite your own vows?" Sully nodded his head slowly, and Michaela's heart swelled with surprise. She hadn't expected this! But, she smiled lovingly, as he brought her hands up between them.
"First time we met, I was chasin' ya down the beach, and you were tryin' your best to get rid of me. But I wouldn't go. I knew there was somethin' special about you, and I had to find out what it was. And when I did, I found my soul mate. I never thought much about havin' a soul mate. I'd already lost the one person I thought I was s'posed to spend the rest of my life with, but it didn't turn out that way. When I met you, ya changed all that. It took a while, but I realized that what I needed was to keep survivin', and ya gave me a reason to. I'll never regret a minute we spent together, Michaela, 'cause we only got one life to live, and I wanna live the rest of it with you. I take you as my wife now and forever. I love you." Wiping a tear from her eye under the veil, Michaela let out a slow breath.
"I…I wasn't prepared for this, but I don't think I really need to be," she said gently. "You were my best friend. I could talk to you about anything, and it felt like we'd known one another forever. It's hard to think of a time when you weren't in my life, because you've been so important to me for so long now. When we first met, I truly didn't believe we'd ever be standing here today, though I often let myself dream. Having you in my life has been the most amazing experience, and I wouldn't give that up for the world. I'm proud and honored to be a part of your family." She smiled, thinking of the note Sully had just given her minutes before. "And I can't wait to make to make more memories with you. I take you as my husband now and forever. I love you, Sully."
"The ring, please." Johnny promptly handed the ring over to Timothy who then handed it to Sully. Sully smiled, never taking his eyes off of Michaela, as he slipped the ring onto her finger. "You have pronounced yourselves husband and wife but remember to always be each other's best friend. What – therefore – God has joined together – let no man put asunder. And so, by the power vested in me, I now pronounce you man and wife. You may now kiss the bride." A hush fell upon the crowd, as Sully lifted the veil, unmasking his bride's face and letting the sunlight that filtered through the trees reflect and shimmer in her tears. Leaning down, he brushed his lips in soft caresses against hers, and she sighed against him, opening up to him for only a moment, as the crowd clapped and cheered at their union. Pulling back, Michaela and Sully couldn't take their eyes off of one another, and their smiles were enough. "I present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Byron Sully." Surprising Michaela, Sully scooped her up into his arms, pulling her into another kiss, as the townsfolk laughed and cheered louder than before.
Michaela smiled at the memory. It hadn't been long ago, but she knew she'd never forget a moment of that wonderful day. She couldn't bear to think about what would happen if it was taken all away. Their plans to spend the rest of their lives together and started way before they got married. They were meant to be, and they had promised themselves to one another the night they chose what was right for them, regardless of what everyone else thought. What she shared with Sully was indescribable, and nobody could understand it. Sometimes, she worried she didn't quite understand it. But it worked. They worked. And they had a loving family and two little ones on the way to show for it.
With a sigh, she leaned against the wagon. Cloud Dancing was doing much better, though she wanted to wait around a little while longer to make sure that he wasn't going to relapse. Cloud Dancing barely remembered his vision, which was odd to Michaela and only made her worry more about her husband.
Cloud Dancing and Sully shared a connection. There was no doubt about it. But she and Sully were connected in many ways as well. They had this amazing connection that nobody could understand. They'd been apart for so long and then reunited. Had anybody experienced such a separation, such a pain like they had, maybe they could understand the extent of the emotions that had flooded through them that night.
She was getting closer, and her heart was pounding. Getting closer to what? She felt blind, as she worked her way through the empty San Francisco streets, her heart telling her where to go...the star leading her. Where was she? Where was she going? When her feet sunk into the sand, she knew. The clouds temporarily covered up their star, and she looked toward the waves, watching them crash inward, as the distant sea churned and groaned as it had for millions of years. She realized where she was, and the memories of that night came back to her.
His own feet hit the sand, and he looked out, watching the ocean. He began to walk, and he could see a figure in the distance. As he moved closer, he could see her skirt floating in the breeze, as her hair whipped at her face, causing her to shiver and turn away from the wind. He watched her for a moment, wondering if his heart was playing games with his eyes. Was she an angel fallen from the heavens and wandering the coast…searching for him?
He watched her wrap her arms around herself, shielding herself from the cold. That was his job. Those were supposed to be his arms around her. He had never seen her look so lonely. When he looked up to see the starlight break through the clouds again, he knew exactly where he was. He was home.
He wanted to reach out and pull her in. He didn't want to frighten her, but he couldn't keep his feet still. He moved toward her, watching her shiver and search for some much-needed warmth. He needed that warmth too. This was it. There was no turning back. He hoped that when he looked into her eyes, he wouldn't see pain or anger. He wanted to see her soul; every beautiful part of her that he loved so much.
Did he dare to speak? Would she run or fade away? Would she make him chase her down the beach again like he had the night they first met? Would she be happy to see him? Would she ask him why he dared to show his face in front of her again? There was only one way to find out. So, he glanced back up at that star, and he stepped toward her another inch.
"It worked." Michaela's eyes went wide. She didn't startle, but inside, her heart recognized his cracking voice. She wanted to see him; turn to him, but she was afraid that he might disappear like Orpheus' Eurydice or that she was just imagining things. She was afraid it would be just like her dream. If he was there, would he stay? Would he tell her things she didn't want to hear? "It brought us here...the North Star."
It had all come down to that moment. They reconnected and never wanted to be apart. It was an incredible thing, love. It could cause them to do crazy things that they wouldn't do with anybody else. It could cause them to act against everything they'd ever been taught but still feel right and wonderful. It could cause them to see the world through new eyes and realize that in the end, they would be together no matter what.
The babies began to kick again, and that only reminded her of everything they'd gone through. This had been a tumultuous pregnancy, and it wasn't over yet. Only God knew what lay ahead for their family, but that's what they were. A family. Some didn't approve; some never would. Luckily, just knowing that Sully loved her and would never leave her was enough for her to face the world with him. She wanted the best for her children, yes. She wanted a safe, healthy environment for them, yes. She didn't want them to bear the burden of their choices. That was for them alone to carry, and God, she would carry it a thousand times over just to have Sully back home safe and sound.
A tear slipped down her cheek, carrying her worries down into the earth. Where was he? Why couldn't she feel their connection now? When would she see him again? She had to be strong, and she knew he did too. It was only a matter of time now, that she knew. But only time would tell whether their family would be able to carry on or be cut off in one unimaginable, indescribable way.
Thanks for the comments so far! Please keep them coming! I like to know when you enjoy or don't enjoy something! Feel free to let me know, and please be honest:) Chapter 118 will hopefully be along soon!