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.


Chapter One

New York, 1845

"Byron, your dinner is ready. Come here and eat."

"Comin, ma," he answered slowly making his way over to the small table in their one room apartment. He looked at his mother sitting on the other side of the table and smiled at what he saw. She was usually so sad but the past couple of days had been different. Instead of sitting aimlessly at the window and crying as she did most days, she had cleaned the apartment and had spent time playing with her son. They had gone on long walks in the park and down the busy city streets. She had held his hand as they looked in shop windows and chatted about what they would buy if money wasn't an issue. Of course money always was an issue- there was never enough of it but just for a little while they pretended and laughed as if they were carefree.

"Byron," she said softly as he looked up from his dinner plate "never forget how much I love ya, my sweet boy. Okay? Promise mama ya will never forget." Like any boy of ten, Byron hated it when his mother said things like this but he was glad she looked happy so he shook his head and smiled at her briefly. Then he quickly returned to his food. She continued to watch him as he ate. He was turning into a young man so fast. She couldn't believe how much he looked like his father. Just the thought of his father sent the familiar ache through her chest. How she missed him! Her heart grew heavy with her burdens and her face fell.

Byron noticed this as he glanced up from his dinner. He was afraid he had made her sad. He stood and walked over to her side of the table and wrapped his arms around her neck.

"Ma, I do love ya," Byron said as he hugged her tightly.

"I know, darlin', I know," she said her voice filled with sadness. Tears began to stream from her eyes.

"Ma, please don't cry. Ya've been so happy. Please mama, don't be sad. I love ya…" his voiced trailed off realizing once again that his words held no comfort for his mother. She wiped her tears and smiled up at him weakly. His eyes were full of sadness and concern. She had promised herself she wouldn't cry anymore. She wanted to make these last days with him precious. She wanted his last thoughts of her to be filled with happiness. Once again she had messed up, but that was why he would be better off without her.

"Can I please go with you tomorrow, Father, please?" she begged while dancing from foot to foot. "I don't want to go shopping. I don't need any more dresses or shoes or gloves. Please Father I want to go with you to the hospital. I promise I will be so quiet you will not even know I am there."

Josef chuckled to himself, smiling at his daughter. "You mean my inquisitive daughter is actually going to remain silent for the whole day. I might have to take you with me just to witness this phenomenon."

"Father, I promise I won't make a sound as long as you say I can go," Michaela replied hoping against hope that her Father would agree. She knew her mother would return soon and then her chance to escape a day of shopping would be lost.

"Mike, I don't know. I would love for you to accompany me but I don't think your mother will be too happy with either of us, if I agree," Josef frowned as he said this. His heart went out to his daughter but after the hectic day he had just experienced he wasn't in the mood to have a fight with his wife. Michaela's face fell and she closed her eyes as she felt the tears building up behind her eyelids. She rarely cried but the thought of spending the whole day going from store to store with her mother and sisters was all too much for her. Josef watched his daughter. Perhaps this was more important to her than he had originally thought. He could tell she was struggling to hold back her tears and so he placed his hand on her shoulder and spoke gently to her. "Mike, I know you want to go with me tomorrow but your mother has already made plans. I know shopping isn't your favorite pastime but how about if I take you to the bookstore tomorrow when I return from the hospital. I will let you pick out anything you want." Michaela sighed and opened her eyes slowly as one small tear leaked out and ran down her cheek. She sniffed loudly as her nose was now running from her suppressed tears but still she did not speak nor meet her father's eyes. It was now Josef's turn to sigh. As much as he dreaded a fight with his wife, he knew he could not resist his daughter's tears. "Okay, Mike, I will talk to your mother but I can't promise that she is going to let you go."

"Oh, thank you, Father, thank you," Michaela said throwing her arms around her father and hugging him tightly. Josef smiled at her and leaned in to kiss her forehead. Just then the door opened and Elizabeth Quinn along with Marjorie and Maureen entered. Michaela let go of her father and stood guiltily to the side knowing that her mother would not like what was coming.

He opened his eyes but tried not to move. He heard his mother's sobs coming from the other side of the room. She had been so happy over the past couple of days. What had changed so suddenly that caused her sadness to return? If he thought it would have done any good, he would have gone to her and told her again how much he loved her but he knew from past experience that his presence would make little difference. The death of his father and brother still haunted her like it had happened yesterday.

He heard her moving around the room and quickly closed his eyes so she would not know he was awake. Stilling his breath he listened closely to hear her feet shuffling towards his cot. Suddenly the noise stopped and he felt a light kiss on his forehead. Then his mother whispered "I love ya, Bryon, never forget your ma loved ya." He felt the words as they escaped her mouth and a chill went through his entire body. The words were full of despair – despair so deep he couldn't understand it.

He heard her moving away from him. "Mama," he called sounding like a scared little boy. But he received no answer. "Mama," he called again this time more urgent. He heard her feet stop and then she must have walked back to his cot for he felt her hand upon his cheek stroking back his hair.

"Shush, go back to sleep. Ain't time for ya to get up" she said with the same despair in her voice. She sat down at his bedside and continued to stroke his cheek and hum softly. Byron lay still almost holding his breath. He knew she would continue until he was asleep but he was just as determined to remain awake. Something wasn't right- he could feel it. He was afraid that if he went to sleep something horrible would happen. Resolved to remain awake, he concentrated on steadying his breathing so that she would assume he was asleep. It must have worked because after a few minutes of her humming and stroking, she got up, kissed him again and moved off towards the door.

He felt a light breeze as the door opened. His breath caught in his throat and his heart pounded in his chest. He tried to cry out for her but no sound came from his mouth. He sat up in bed quickly as he heard the door close behind her. Where was she going? He knew at that second that his earlier fears were coming true. Something horrible was going to happen. In that instant, he knew he had to follow her. He struggled in the dark to find his clothes but at last his hands found the chair he had laid them on the night before. He quickly pulled his pants and shirt on, and then headed for the door where he had left his shoes. Time was of the essence and he feared it was already too late to follow his mother. Slipping first one foot and then the other into his boots, he quickly bent over and tied them. He opened the door and took off down the hallway hoping he was not too late.

Josef looked at his pocket watch by the dim light of the oil lamp. It read four-thirty. It was still early but he wanted to get Mike up and out before the rest of the family awoke for the day. He didn't have to be at the hospital until six but he knew Mike would enjoy stopping and having breakfast on the way. He silently moved through the hotel room he shared with his wife, being careful not to make any noise. Carefully, he opened the door to his daughter's room, waiting while his eyes adjusted to the dark. Mike slept on the cot in the corner while her sisters shared the bed in the middle of the room. How different she had always been from her sisters. He had always assured Elizabeth that it was just a stage she would outgrow. Now even he was beginning to doubt that was true. By age twelve, all of his girls had shown interest in dresses, dances and boys much to his dismay. But Michaela only cared about school, books and helping him at the hospital, not that he minded.

The moonlight shone down on Michaela's face as he approached and he smiled at the sight of his daughter. She was certainly beautiful and soon boys would be noticing her even if she cared little for them. He gently reached out his hand to shake her lightly. Her eyes fluttered open and she immediately smiled at her Father still giddy over the fact that she had managed to escape her mother and sisters for the day. Wordlessly she rose to get dressed, anticipating an adventure filled day at the large hospital in New York.

Her father exited the room quietly closing the door behind him. The only light left in the room came from the moon. That was fine with her. She had carefully laid out her dress the night before while listening to the angry whispers in her parent's room. Surprisingly her mother had not put up much of a fight over the shopping trip. She had simply shaken her head and muttered something under her breath. The angry whispers she had heard later on in the evening had to do with Michaela's future. Her mother was adamant that her daughter stop the foolish talk about becoming a doctor. She was angry with Josef for indulging Michaela's whims. Still ringing through Michaela's head were the words she had overheard last night. Her father's calm quiet words had been unintelligible but she had clearly heard her mother say, "I don't care if you take her with you tomorrow but things are going to change once we return to Boston." Michaela did not know what that statement meant but an uneasiness had already formed in her stomach. Yet she refused to let that ruin her day with her Father.

After slipping into her underclothes and dress, she made her way over to the mirror. It was too dark to really see anything so she hastily brushed through her hair and pulled it into a low bun. She smiled again thankful for her fathers' wisdom in getting out of the hotel room before her mother woke up. This day was turning out better than she could have imagined. She walked quietly to the door and slipped her feet into her shoes bending down to tie them. She grabbed her coat off the hook by the door before entering her parent's room. Her father stood at the window looking out into the city. He didn't hear Michaela enter but turned as he felt her hand on his arm. "Ready." she whispered reaching up to give him a kiss on the cheek. He shook his head and motioned for her to head towards the door while he took care of the oil lamp.

Byron flew down the stairs and out the front door of the apartment building. His heart was pounding so hard it felt like it was going to come out of his chest. He couldn't' imagine what his mother was doing. He looked left and right hoping for a glimpse of her but the night was so dark. Suddenly the moon appeared from behind a cloud casting an eerie light on the streets allowing him to catch a glimpse of her. She was running away towards the right. Byron took off after her. The night air was brisk and each breath he exhaled formed a cloud of steam. His feet felt like lead as he tried to catch up with his mother. What could she be doing? Where was she going? He had no answers but his gut told him that whatever was happening was not good.

Ahead, he glimpsed his mother turning off the street to the right. The river was in that direction. His mother liked the river. Sometimes she would go there to think. Perhaps that was all she was doing now. His side ached from running and he knew he needed to slow down for a second. He stopped, taking in huge gulps of air and trying hard to slow his breathing. Somewhere close by a clock chimed the hour. He counted the dongs – one, two, three, four, five. It wasn't really the middle of the night- just early morning. His mother probably just wanted to go clear her head before she started the day. Byron pondered what to do. Should he return to their apartment? He turned to head back the way he had come but the feeling that something was not right persisted. "I'll just see what she is doing," he said to himself feeling a little foolish for speaking the words out loud.

As he neared the river, the moon illuminated the scene before him. There she was kneeling on the small foot bridge. He knew she was praying and he felt foolish for having followed her. She crossed herself and stood looking out at the river. The night grew dark again as a cloud passed in front of the moon and his mother was obscured from his view. He did not see what happened next but he heard the splash and he knew.

Josef and Michaela walked the short distance from the place they had eaten breakfast to the hospital. "Now, Mike, you have to stay out of the way. I don't expect you to not speak but you will need to control your tongue today," Josef warned.

"Don't worry Father, you won't even know I am here," she replied. "Thank you for letting me come today. Thank you so much!"

"Mike, you really don't have to thank me. I like having you with me. Pretty soon, you will much prefer the company of others to that of your Father. I guess I should relish the time I have with you now." Michaela shook her head at her Father's suggestion. She could not imagine anything she would rather do than be at her Father's side helping in anyway she could. At night she dreamed of the day that she would become a doctor. Somehow she had to make that dream come true.

As they entered the hospital, the first thing Michaela noticed was a boy sitting in the chairs. He was soaking wet from his head to his feet. Michaela wondered where his parents were and she looked around but saw no one. While she had been preoccupied with thoughts of the boy, her father was whispering with another doctor. Then Josef went over and spoke with the nurse behind the desk.

Returning to Michaela he said, "Mike, I have to go look in on a patient. I need you to stay here in the waiting area. I have asked the nurse at the desk to keep an eye on you. If you need anything just ask her. No exploring until I get back – alright?"

"I promise I will stay right here," she replied grinning mischievously. Josef smiled back and suppressed a laugh before turning and disappearing behind the door at the other end of the room. Michaela turned back around and noticed that the boy was still by himself. He had his arms wrapped around himself and he was shivering. Michaela shook her head – this boy needed to get warm. She went over to the nurse at the desk. "Excuse me; do you think I could get a blanket for that little boy over there? He appears to be wet and cold." The nurse looked up at her and then at the boy.

"Just a second, sweetie," the nurse answered before disappearing behind the same door as her father. When she returned a second later she was carrying a rough wool blanket. "Here ya go, just make sure ya get it back."

"I will. Thank you." Michaela answered. She took the blanket and started over towards the boy. "Hello, I brought you a blanket because well you looked cold," she smiled as the words came tumbling out of her mouth. The boy finally looked at her. The first thing she noticed was that he was crying. Tears ran unchecked down his cheeks and his nose was dripping. The next thing she noticed was the color of his eyes. They were blue but not ordinary blue. They were the most brilliant blue she had ever seen. They reminded her of a picture she had once seen of the ocean in the tropics.

He reached out for the blanket and took it from her. Then he dropped his head and mumbled something that sounded like thank you as he unfolded the blanket and spread it over himself. Michaela pulled out her handkerchief and sat down beside him. "Here take this as well," she said slipping it into his hand. Their eyes met for a second time but this time neither turned away.

This is my first fan fiction. Please review and let me know what you think! Thanks for reading.