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.

Walk With Me

By, Ashley J.

Written October 30, 2006

Michaela's heart was fluttering, as she and Sully walked into the quiet foyer of the Quinn home on Beacon Hill. Her chest felt tight, and she tried to pass it off as the tight corset underneath her shimmering black dress that she had worn on her wonderful evening with Sully. They'd just come back from the opera, and she was amazed at how interested he had seemed in it. She'd stolen several glances at him, each time her heart racing at the prospects of how the night would end. She couldn't help but wonder if perhaps something would spark a conversation in which Sully would reveal just how he felt about her. She knew he cared. She had known that for a very long time, but the fact that they'd been apart for so many weeks and her mind had been fixed on helping her mother and teaching William some of the treatments she had learned from the Cheyenne made her wonder if perhaps things had changed between them.

She turned to him, her gaze hesitant and uncertain. Sully smiled a little, stepping forward. His courage was now fleeting, and he felt his throat grow dry. What could he say to her? How could he find the words to tell her how much her going with him tonight had meant? How could he possibly begin to tell her how much he'd missed her and how he'd had trouble sleeping at night just worry about if she was alright. She could take care of herself, but he was so used to being nearby just in case. He'd grown accustomed to having Michaela and the kids nearby. He'd started to feel like a part of the family, and he hadn't realized how lonely he would feel until they were gone. Then he'd started wondering if they would ever come back. The nights had turned into weeks, and finally he hadn't been able to stand it anymore. Now she was standing before him, her lips tuned up in a timid smile, while her eyes lowered. She was just as uncertain as he.

"It was beautiful. Thank you," she finally said after too many moments of silence. He saw a moment of hope, but he wasn't certain how to ask her. The children had told him to ask her to the opera very shortly after their dinner, and she had said yes. What if he asked her this time and she declined? What if she didn't want to spend so much time with him? What if… He gazed into her eyes, and he swallowed hard.

"You're welcome," he offered, feeling his palms beginning to sweat quite profusely. He clenched his hands at his sides and continued to watch her.

The way he was looking at her made her slightly uncomfortable, but at the same time, she couldn't help but blush. It was obvious that he still cared. He wouldn't have been pursuing these nights out with her if he didn't. How could she have been so foolish as to think he could stop caring just because she'd been away? If he truly felt the way she did, there was no way he could stop. She only prayed that she wasn't getting her hopes up. But when he didn't say anything else, she was afraid that this really was the end of their evening. She knew it would probably be best to retire upstairs now, but a part of her didn't want to go just yet. But when the moment had dragged out too long, she started to turn away.

"Good night." His heart stopped for a moment, as she started up the stairs. Had he missed his chance? Maybe not.

"Wait," he called out. She froze, her hand gripping the banister. When she turned, she looked down at him from the step and waited. "It…it was beautiful." She felt her heart flutter, and she smiled, her eyes shimmering in the dim light of the foyer. She was smiling at him, and his heart soared. Now was his chance. "Would you like to take a walk with me tomorrow?" Michaela's smile fell.

"Oh, Sully," she said softly. "I'd love to, but I have a lecture to go to. I…" When she saw the disappointment in his eyes, she felt guilty. He knew exactly who was giving that lecture, and when she saw the disappointment in his eyes, she knew now that he was highly uncomfortable with her friendship with William. It was just a friendship and nothing more. How could he not see that? But then again, she'd often sat in her old bedroom thinking about the possibilities. What if she never saw Sully again? William was a kind man, and he was very obviously sweet on her, but could she actually see a future with him as her mother could? Her mother had tried pushing them together, and it hadn't been much of an effort at all for a friendship to blossom before her mother even got involved. But love? She could never love William in that way. Did Sully think she could?

"Alright. Well, that's ok. Maybe some other time," he offered, feeling like a coward for giving up. He started to turn toward the parlor, where he sometimes stayed up late to read, and Michaela stepped off of the stairs, not wanting to end the night like this.

"Sully, wait." He turned back to her. "Thank you for the offer. It's just that…William asked me to come."

"Ya don't have to explain. I understand." Those words held much more meaning than that, and Michaela knew it.

"No, I don't think you do." Sully sighed, trying not to show his emotions right now. He didn't feel like hearing how wonderful William was or now she was enjoying being back home so much. On the one hand, he was happy that she was with her family and that she was spending time with her mother, but on the other, it was killing him that with each day, a little bit of her life in Colorado Springs seemed to slip away and become as distant as Boston once was. "Sully, I told William I'd come tomorrow, but I've gone to a few of his lectures over the past few weeks. It wouldn't hurt to miss one."

"If ya wanna go, you should go. I don't wanna stop you."

"I realize we haven't had much time to…talk since you got here. I'm sorry, Sully. I really would like to go on a walk with you tomorrow. I'll tell William that I can't make it."

"You already told him you'd go. You should keep your word."

"I didn't promise him, Sully. I told him I was pretty sure I could make it, but it wasn't set in stone. William is a good friend, but so are you." He had to cringe at being put in the same category with that man. Something about him just didn't sit right. Sully knew in his heart it was just because he had affection for Michaela and she seemed to reciprocate that somewhat, but he wanted to believe it wasn't just because he was jealous. "I really would like time to talk. We didn't really do much of that tonight." Sully shrugged, but he really didn't want her to change her mind again and go off with William. He truly wanted to see her. He knew that if he didn't tell her how he felt soon, he might lose her forever. He didn't even know how to say it yet. He didn't know if he was ready, but if she was and he didn't tell her, things might never be the same between them again.

"If you're sure…"

"Of course I'm sure," she replied with that same beautiful smile. She didn't look as if she was giving up something important to make time for him. That was the last thing he wanted. "Besides, mother is well now, and just the other day Martha told me that I'm working too hard. She suggested that I enjoy my time while I'm still here." Sully seemed to brighten at those words, and Michaela smiled again.

"Alright. Well, how does eleven sound?"

"Eleven sounds wonderful." She turned on the staircase again.

"G'night."

"Good night, Sully."


At ten forty-five the next morning, Sully was standing in front of the mirror. He'd gone over and over the choice between wearing that uncomfortable suit or being comfortable in his buckskins. He was already uncomfortable enough with the thoughts that were running through his mind. He didn't know how she was going to react. He didn't even know if he was going to tell her yet.

Finally, he decided that he was going to be himself. He was going to wear the clothes he'd arrived in. Martha had managed to take care of the washing, and she did a fine job, considering she had probably never dealt with cleaning buckskin trousers before.

When he arrived downstairs, the house was quiet except for the sweeping of the broom in the kitchen. He wrung his hands tightly together, waiting for her. The room felt hotter than before, and he started to sweat. So, he pulled his coat from the closet and stepped outside into the nippy morning air. Horses and carriages clopped by on the cobblestone streets, and he watched the walkway swarm with folks on their way to the park or to work or to wherever they wanted to go. That wasn't the walkway he was going to take with Michaela. He'd found another one that seemed safe but less traveled, and it was going to be perfect for their stroll. He only hoped his words didn't stumble clumsily from his mouth…if he was going to say any at all.

The door opened, much to Sully's surprise, and he was face to face with Michaela. She wore a beautiful white dress with an overskirt that was decorated in sheer, black lace. She had a hat pinned into her hair, and she looked absolutely stunning.

"You…you're early," he stammered. Michaela smiled, and she closed the door tightly behind herself.

"I know. I finished dressing early, and I suppose I was feeling a little eager just sitting in my room." He smiled at the fact that she'd been eager. Had she been eager to walk with him or to get out of the house? It didn't really matter.

"You look beautiful," he said quietly, not certain if it was the right thing to say so early, but when she smiled, lowering her eyes for a moment, he knew she was flattered.

"Thank you. I must admit I'm relieved to see you back to your old self."

"Ya didn't like the suit?"

"Oh, of course I did. You always look handsome in a suit. You just looked so uncomfortable. I felt terrible that Mother insisted on influencing you to wear it."

"I thought maybe it'd make ya feel better if I did. I didn't want ya to be embarrassed."

"Embarrassed?" she asked, slipping her arm through Sully's, as they started out on their walk. "I don't know what Mother said to you, but I'm not embarrassed. Colorado Springs is almost a completely different world, and there's not a thing wrong with that." They began to veer off in a different direction, and Michaela glanced at him curiously. "Sully? Where are we going?"

"You'll see," was all he said. Michaela cleared her throat and tightened her hold on Sully's arm. It was growing warmer, but Michaela shivered, leaning closer to him. She wondered if he noticed, and she blushed, feeling as if she had been too bold, but Sully didn't seem to mind.

Finally, they turned off down a little path, and Michaela smiled. She knew where this lead to, but she didn't want to spoil Sully's fun. She simply stayed close to him and took a deep breath, inhaling his scent and hoping he didn't notice. She suddenly felt as if she were back in Colorado Springs, and she and Sully were walking together in the woods. The trees along the path seemed to hug in all around them, and the noises from the city disappeared. She began to miss Colorado Springs, but being right here with him at this moment was enough.

"The night before I got on the stagecoach to Boston, I was sittin' in front of the fire, and I got lost in it. I could see you. You were dancin' and you were happy, and I was happy too. But you weren't there. You were here in Boston. You were dancin' with somebody else." She felt him starting to tremble, but she decided to let him finish. Her own nerves were beginning to stand on end. Her stomach was twisting up into knots. "You're happy here?"

"I am. I'm very happy here, Sully. I didn't realize how much I'd missed it. Being with my mother again and just…seeing her well…it makes me very grateful that I came." She sighed softly and looked up at the sun that filtered through the leaves. "But when I really stop and think about it, I miss Colorado Springs. I consider both Boston and Colorado my homes, but I can't be in both places at once. I don't think I want to be either. It's nice having a place to come back to and knowing that I'll still be accepted, but it's still a scary thought. On my way here, I wondered how well I could possibly fit in again. And now it worries me…"

"What?"

"When I go back to Colorado Springs…"

"Will ya wish you were back in Boston?" Michaela frowned and looked away. But then he heard the words again, and he stopped, turning to face her.

"Ya mean, you are comin' back?"

"Of course I am, Sully. I admit I thought about what it would be like to stay, but there's so much waiting for me in Colorado Springs. I have a practice, I have friends. I could never take the children away from the place they grew up. It wouldn't be right. I just don't know how well I'll fit in when I return."

"You'll fit in just fine. The folks in that town might not want to admit it most of the time, but they appreciate havin' you there. If they didn't have you, most of 'em would've died a year ago in that epidemic. Heck, even Hank needed ya. The point is, if you weren't there, it wouldn't be the same. I might not even be there if you weren't." Michaela looked up in surprise.

"Sully?"

"After Abagail died, I figured I could just move on, but I couldn't just leave. Her and Hanna were buried there, and I felt wrong about it. But after learnin' from the Cheyenne, I started movin' on, and I realized that if I wanted to, I could leave, 'cause I'd always carry my family in my heart." He paused, looking directly into her eyes. "Then you showed up." Michaela slowly turned from him, and they continued walking side-by-side. But she had wrapped her arms around herself, an internal emotional war raging inside of her. She knew how she felt, but could she say it? Was she ready? Would he say it, or was she just imagining things? She suddenly felt very young and very naïve. "I'm glad I stayed."

"You are?"

"Yeah. I wouldn't have met you if I didn't. I wouldn't be the same if I hadn't met you."

"I'm sure you would have been, Sully. You're a good man. As long as I've known you…"

"I'm tryin' to say…I just…" He sighed with frustration, causing Michaela to flinch with worry. Was he trying not to hurt her? Was he about to let her down? Her head was swimming with confusion. He cared. She knew it. She believed it. He would never hurt her, because she trusted him.

"What are you trying to say?" She searched his eyes, and she saw he was scared. She wanted to hold him and tell him she was just as scared, but she couldn't move. She couldn't stop staring into those eyes.

"I…I wanted to tell you that if you're happy here, you should stay. I don't want you to do somethin' you don't wanna do." Michaela swallowed hard when he looked away, breaking their bond for a moment. She shook her head, and he looked up at her. "What?"

"You're lying to me. I didn't think you ever could."

"What? Michaela, I…I want you to be happy."

"I don't doubt that. But you don't think I should stay."

"I want you happy."

"Did it ever occur to you that I wasn't happy in Colorado Springs?"

"No. I just…I'm sorry. I'm messin' this up." Michaela smiled, as he ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. She felt bad for putting him on the spot, but she was feeling more and more confident that his feelings for her ran just as deep as hers did for him.

"You're not," she assured him, placing her hand on his arm. They faced one another, and the breeze began to blow softly around them. "Tell me why you really came here."

"I told ya why," he whispered. "I was worried about you."

"You could have written. You could have sent a telegram. I could have told you just as easily that way," she challenged.

"I needed to see for myself."

"Why?"

"'Cause I was…"

"I know. I know you were worried. I'm glad you came. I just…I need to know the real reason."

"You already know."

"Do I?"

"Michaela, I don't know what ya want me to say." He knew. She was giving him the perfect moment. Why was he trying to mess it up? He had to say it. He had to let her know. If she broke his heart, then so be it, but he couldn't keep it to himself any longer. Why was this so hard?

"Sully, from the moment you arrived in Boston, you've been trying to do everything to make me happy. I am happy, but…but what makes you happy?" Sully shivered, and he looked away. The 'what if's' were running rampant through his mind now.

"You really want me to tell ya that?"

"Only if you want to," she whispered, stepping closer to him, her cheeks reddening from the wind and from her own nerves. Taking a deep breath, he swallowed hard and reached for her hands.

"What makes me happy?" She nodded. He squeezed her hands gently in his. "You." Michaela felt her heart stop for only a moment. Had he really said it? She hadn't been prepared, though she'd been hopeful. Now she didn't know what to say.

"Sully, I…" The hope that filled his heart began to falter. Had he just imagined this? Had he only let himself believe that she could love him too? He didn't know, but he couldn't let himself be a coward. He had to tell her no matter what.

"Michaela, I came, because bein' apart from ya was too hard. I had to see ya. I had to know that you and the kids were alright. It was drivin' me crazy not seein' your face everyday or seein' you smile. I didn't realize how lucky I was to have ya until you were gone, and I realized I might never see ya again. I'm sorry it took me so long to say it."

"Say what?" she asked, her hands now trembling in his.

"Michaela, I love you. I…" There. He'd said it. Now he had to wait. And when he looked into her eyes, he saw so many emotions running through her mind. But the smile on her face told him all he needed to know. "I love you. I love you so much."

"Sully…" She caught her breath, realizing she'd been holding it.

"That's why I came. I just wanted you to know. I didn't know how to tell ya, Michaela. But I said it. I mean it. I just hope that—"

"I love you too."

"—that ya understand that—what?" he asked, having just registered her declaration. "You…ya what?"

"I love you too," she repeated. "I…I knew you felt the same. I hoped, anyway." Sully felt the worry inside of him fade away. He couldn't believe how wonderful it felt for everything to be out in the open. And she'd said it too! She loved him! Now it felt as if he'd known it forever. He felt as if new life had been poured into him, and he pulled her close, clutching her against him, not wanting to let go. She held him too, burying her face against his chest, clutching to him in the realization that if neither one of them had had the courage, they might never have gotten this far.

Then she pulled back, looking up at him with happiness in her eyes. He smiled, caressing her cheek with the backs of his fingers, and she closed her eyes, leaning closer. His lips fell softly onto hers, and he pulled her closer, delicately kissing her. She gasped at the feel of his lips on hers. She'd missed this. She'd felt it only once before on her birthday, and now, feeling him lingering on her lips without fear made her heart respond, racing so fast she thought he might feel it against his own.

When they finally pulled away from one another, Michaela had fresh tears streaking down her face. Sully swallowed hard, amazed by her beauty and the love that filled her eyes. He realized now that that love had always been there. He just hadn't realized it was all for him. His breathing began to return to normal, and he held her hand in his.

"I didn't know how to say it," he said softly. "I was afraid you wouldn't love me…"

"I've loved you for…a long time, Sully. I just didn't know how to find the words. I sometimes wonder if I even know how to love you."

"Me too," he said softly. "I wanna learn. I wanna know everything about you, Michaela."

"And I want to learn about you." He kissed her hand softly.

"I wanna show you my world."

"I've seen your world, Sully."

"Not all of it. Now I wanna show you everything." Those words made her body tremble with worry and excitement at the same time, and she smiled, her heart filling with relief and joy. She wrapped her arms around him, feeling the walls of propriety crumbling down for a moment. She was so grateful he was here. The man she loved. Her best friend. They were tears of joy she had wanted to weep the moment she saw him come into the dining room that night. But now she knew how she really felt, and she knew how he felt in return, and that was all she'd wanted.

"And I want to show you…" She looked up into his eyes, as his gaze lingered on her lips before he shared her gaze again. "I want to show you the world I knew before you." Sully smiled, realizing now that their worlds could connect. They would find a way. And when she smiled, he fell in love with her all over again. Bending slowly, he pulled her into a kiss, neither wanting to let go. But they didn't have to be afraid now. They had one another, and for that moment, knowing that was all they needed.

The End