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.

Counting the Minutes

Written by, Ashley Jenkins

Chapter 1: Marriage

"What's happened to me?" she asked herself, as she lay sprawled out on the floor, head pounding, lip bleeding, eye bruising and swelling to uncomfortable proportions. Her mind whirled with frantic thoughts. Get up. Get out of here. Find them. What if he hurts them? What if…?

Tears burned her pale, bruised face, as she struggled to get up off of the hardwood floor. Her back ached. Her hand rested on her stomach, praying that the only one hurt was herself. She hated herself in that moment. She hated herself for staying so long. She should never have married him. She should have left after the first baby. She could have left after the last, but no. She had stayed. He'd broken her down. He'd made her into a woman she'd once sworn to herself she'd never become. She hated him for doing it to her, but she was more critical of herself for having let her once brilliant future shatter into a thousand pieces and become ground into the dirt.

"God," she whispered, praying for the first time in a long time. She'd stopped looking to God for answers when he never answered her. "Please don't let him hurt my babies. Please…" Trying to pull herself up, she only failed, feeling every muscle in her body aching now. That had been the worst yet, and she was certain it would get worse in time. It always did. What infuriated her more than his beatings was her inability to leave. Well, no longer. "I swear to God, I won't stay another night." As she lay there, she closed her eyes and thought about the events leading up to this moment; her moment of decision.

As a child, Michaela Quinn had had a strong will, just like her mother and father. Only, she was her mother's pet, always being primped and shown off to the ladies at tea. To her father, however, she was a friend, a confidant, and an equal. He'd taken her to the hospital for the first time when she was four years old to visit a lady who'd just had twins. When Michaela saw her father holding those babies, two little miracles, she had known she wanted to be a doctor, despite her mother's constant disapproval and reluctance to even consider the option of her daughter being anything other than a wife and a mother to a wealthy businessman.

She was the son that her father, Dr. Josef Quinn had never had. He hadn't minded having all girls, but he had expected a son after having had four daughters with his wife Elizabeth.

Michaela was bright, beautiful, and very charming. She was bright enough to make her way through college, though her mother had insisted she go to finishing school. She knew how to be proper; how to be a lady, and she didn't feel she needed all of that extra education. Instead, she went to a women's college, and eventually, a women's medical school, where she graduated at the top of her class. She had blown away her fellow scholars, as well as a few doctors, who refused to let it be known that they were, in fact, impressed.

Before medical school was over, she had plans, and she knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life. She was going to join her father's practice, and not only would they be father and daughter as well as best friends, they were going to be colleagues.

Everything changed when she met James Franklin Laurie. He was a suave, educated lawyer who had been a patient at her father's hospital. He had been injured in a carriage accident, and her father had helped him get on the mend. One afternoon, she'd gone along to the hospital with Josef, only to meet the charming Mr. Laurie. Following their initial meeting, he had tried to court her. She had declined, insisting that she needed to focus on her studies. She was near the end of medical school, and she had almost completely insured the top spot in the graduating class, but that did not matter. She wanted to do her best until the very end.

"I admire a woman who wants to work in a man's world," he'd said with a charming smile and a wink. "If you're as good of a doctor as your father, I might just have to fake an illness just to get to see you again." Michaela had appreciated the flattering remarks, and while she had been attracted to him, she had no experience with relationships or most any men at that.

After graduating medical school and beginning her career as a doctor, Michaela continued to be pursued by Mr. Laurie. Finally gaining her father's trust, Mr. Laurie got his permission to court her, and Michaela eventually agreed upon a night upon the town. He then swept her off of her feet, and they became inseparable on the evenings Michaela wasn't busy with patients at the hospital.

They courted until Michaela was twenty-five, and finally, they married in a small ceremony on Beacon Hill. Michaela was madly in love, and she thought James was as well, with her. The honeymoon took place in a quiet little cabin in northern Massachusetts, and he was a caring, gentle companion, assuring her that he'd never hurt her, and that he would support her in her career and in their lives together.

She was counting the minutes. Each time the clock chimed in the hallway, Michaela Quinn-Laurie's heart would pause in her chest for a brief moment, only to resume its frantic beating in an instant. He always came home at half past five, and dinner was to be on the table no later than five twenty-eight. If it was not ready to serve by the time he walked through the door, there was hell to pay.

It was five o'clock, which gave her twenty-eight minutes to finish preparing dinner. When they'd gotten married, she hadn't been able to cook well at all. But, after a few months, she had improved, because she had had two choices: improve or be punished.

"Mama!" The cry snapped Michaela out of her thoughts, and she turned to the stove, making sure nothing was scorching. Then, she turned to hurry up the stairs to her daughter's room. Breathless and panicked, Michaela found her four-year-old, Julia, standing in the center of the room, a broken china doll at her feet. The damage might not have been to her own body, but to Michaela, it might as well have been. Michaela gasped and rushed to scoop the little one up in her arms.

"Oh sweetheart," she whispered, cradling the whimpering child, as she, too, trembled. "Darling, I told you to be careful. That doll was not meant for playing. Your father…"

"I wanted to touch her hair, Mama. It's soft like yours." Michaela's lower lip quivered, and she closed her eyes tightly.

"Come. Sit on the bed while I clean this up."

"Papa will be mad," Julia whispered. "Don't tell him, Mama. Please."

"Shh, darling. I'll take care of it, ok?" In fact, Michaela knew that telling James of her daughter's accident would only enrage him. He'd paid nearly one hundred dollars for that doll in a Paris shop a year ago. He'd warned her not to play with it, and that if she broke it, she would be punished. Michaela had succeeded for the better part of four years to keep her child out of harm's way, but it was getting more and more difficult, because each time the child upset her father, his rage would be taken out upon his wife. The bruises faded, and the blood dried, but the scars never went away.

Once the shattered doll was cleaned up and disposed of, Michaela moved back to her daughter's bed and took her into her lap. She smoothed back the child's soft, brown hair. The little one turned her head up, and her sparkling green eyes bore into her mother's.

"Don't tell Papa, please," the girl begged. She'd seen her mother take too many beatings in her few years, and she didn't want to be the reason.

"Shh. Papa won't know, Julia. It'll be our secret, ok?" She held her finger to her lips in the sign of secrecy, and Julia mimicked her. Wrapping her little arms around her mother's neck, Julia sighed and sniffled. "Darling, how would you like to spend the night with Grandma Quinn tonight?"

"Yeah!" Julia exclaimed, bouncing up and down. "Grandma Quinn! Grandma Quinn!" Michaela smiled, taking joy in her child's excitement. She was still young and innocent enough to be happy. Michaela hadn't felt that way since the day she'd brought Julia into the world. It was a happiness only she could know, and she'd stayed in the hospital for a week with her child. James had come to visit only once, hoping for a son, but being bitterly disappointed. He doted on his daughter, yes, but now Michaela knew that it was only a matter of time until she would be hurt as well.

"Alright. I've already arranged for Harrison to come pick you and your brother up. He should be here any moment." She'd told him to be there at five-fifteen sharp, so she would be long gone by the time James arrived home. "Your overnight bag is downstairs." Julia nodded and bounded out of the room. Michaela quickly made her way into the nursery, where six-month-old Liam, affectionately called Lee, slept in his bed. She looked down at her beautiful boy, seeing so much of her father in his features. She was grateful he had acquired some Quinn traits, because if her son grew up to look like the man that tried to cripple her, emotionally and physically, she didn't think she could take it.

With a sigh, she picked her little boy up, and he continued to sleep against her chest.

"I should have gone before you ever came," she whispered, kissing the top of his head softly. "But if I had left, I wouldn't have you. You and Julia…you're my miracles." A tear slipped out. "I'm going to make up for keeping you here this long. I promise. He won't ever touch my babies, because if he does, I'll…" Could she say it? She felt like she was going to choke, but the hate that she harbored for a man that forced himself on her and took what he wanted was too much. "I'll kill him if he does." She would not let her daughter be put through any more pain. She would not let her son grow old enough in that house to remember.

Everything changed after the wedding. Certainly, at first he had been gentle and attentive, making sure to keep her comfortable for their first union as husband and wife. She hadn't expected their family to grow so quickly, but when she became pregnant with their first child only a few short months after the wedding, her life turned upside down.

James had become protective, telling her he didn't want her working at the hospital around illnesses. At first, he hadn't wanted her working too hard, because he hadn't wanted her to tire herself.

"You need your strength, little Michaela." He was only two years older than her, and "little Michaela" had always been his loving way of teasing her. Well, it had been loving, to her, at first. But, after a while, once she assured him that her work would not interfere with her pregnancy, he began to come up with other excuses to play upon her insecurities about being a mother. She wanted to be a great mother, because she knew that her relationship with her mother had often been strained. She wanted nothing but a solid relationship with her child, and when he told her that her working would create tension in the house, she grew fearful that perhaps he was right.

"I make more than enough money, Michaela. I don't want you worrying yourself. I don't want you working if it's going to tear our family apart."

"But James," she had insisted, "I didn't go to college and medical school to be a housewife." He would only shake his head.

"But you are my wife, love. Now you're about to be a mother. Perhaps if we had waited to have children, your being a doctor wouldn't be so inconvenient. But we've just gotten married, and now…now there's a child involved. I don't want to lose you. I know what can happen, Michaela. Your father has told me horror stories of the delivery room, and if you work yourself too hard, God, I couldn't live with myself if I lost you, knowing I could have prevented you from working so hard." She had felt badly for her husband's worrying, so she had begun cutting back on her time at the hospital. She still read medical journals and kept up with the latest developments in the medical world. But, it wasn't the same. It wasn't enough.

When the first scare in her pregnancy came along, he snapped. He forbade her to go back to the hospital. He told her that this was an omen that her working would only lead to her death or their child's. He began to become even more protective and possessive, and it took a while, but finally, Michaela stopped arguing. He had never hit her, but he had certainly convinced her that her family came first, and she had to choose. She could either be a doctor, or she could be a mother. Choosing had never been part of the question before, but after a while, she began to think that way. Her mother began to press her to be a mother and wife first, and with her husband reinforcing that, it became reality.

Her father had taken ill and had shocked everyone with his death. Michaela had felt the inkling to go back to medicine, but her pregnancy had slowed her down just a bit, only because James had convinced her that it was best for everyone if she stayed home from now on. Slowly but surely, some of her stubbornness had dissolved, and he'd broken through her proud, stable exterior and used her weaknesses to keep her from what she loved most.

Now, she was a housewife, taking care of the children and darning her husband's socks. Certainly, being a housewife was a good thing for those who wanted it, but for a woman who had the ability to be a doctor and couldn't, it was hell. She cleaned, cooked, kept the children in line, and when she had free time to herself, she read medical journals from her late father's library that were most certainly contraband in the Laurie house. He didn't even want her thinking about medicine anymore. Her task was to focus on him and on the children. She was to put them first, herself second, and her mother and sisters third. She barely spoke to them, and it was only when James was out of town that she could really make the time to visit with them. But, there had been a time when she'd thought things would get better, and now, she realized, she had been very wrong.

After the baby was born, things were fine for a while. He was doting and brought her everything she needed. He was very protective of Julia, and he had been the first to hold her. He had been the first to put her down to bed. At first, it seemed as if he was becoming less controlling and that he was just being a new father. But, soon, he began to demand that Michaela give him a son. She'd told him it would take a while before she was healed enough from the birth to conceive again. But, one night, after the little one had been put down for the night, James had demanded that Michaela resume her wifely duties in the bedroom. Adamant that she wasn't ready, she struggled, and he left bruises on her; made her bleed. She'd have left, but where was she to go? How was she to go there with a newborn child who was so fragile and in desperate need of a warm home? That, she had. A loving one? Far from it.

Michaela had packed herself up, and she had packed the baby up, but he always found out. He never let her go. She tried leaving when he was gone, but something always came up that caused her to stay. Her mother's health was up and down, and leaving Boston would only make things worse at that time. The baby had caught a few chest colds, and traveling was out of the question, that Michaela knew. By the time a year had passed, another child was on the way. This time, the beatings came even in the happiest of times. He'd beaten her so badly once that she couldn't walk for days. Shortly thereafter, she'd lost the son her husband had so badly wanted. In anger, he had beaten her for that too.

Once the children were safely on their way to Beacon Hill, Michaela rushed to the kitchen and proceeded to fill the dinner table with the perfectly prepared roast. The seasoning was just right, because she knew that if it didn't taste the way he liked it, she'd be in for it.

The thought enraged her to her very core. She often thought about how she had become so weak, but she always told herself that she was strong for her children. But she'd stayed far too long. If she stayed much longer, anything could happen.

At five-twenty-seven, the table was ready, and she sat down, her hands folded in her lap. She watched the door, her mouth twitching nervously, thinking about what she was going to say. She was going to tell him one thing that would make him happiest and, and then she was going to tell him another that would completely anger him to his very core.

But right now, she didn't care. Julia and Lee were safe. Unfortunately, the only person to protect the child she secretly carried inside of her was herself. She felt sickened to be carrying another child given to her by this man. But, this was her child too. She was going to do whatever it took to protect her children, and that meant protecting herself now, because she was the only chance they had.

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