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.
By, Ashley J.
With a frustrated sigh, Michaela Quinn stepped out of the hospital and took in her first breath of fresh air of the day. She had worked overtime today, and her father had sent her home after realizing how long she'd been there. After a few minutes of protest, Michaela's fatigue finally won out, and she complied with her father's request. Now, she stepped out onto the sidewalk and began toward home on Beacon Hill.
Frankly, however, home was the last place she wanted to go. She faced her mother nagging her about spending so much time in a hospital with sick people and then her remaining sisters at home asking her if she'd met any handsome doctors. Michaela couldn't stand all the poking and prodding about her career, especially when her family was only concerned with her finding a man and getting married. She wanted that, yes, but she was fresh out of medical school, and she didn't want to get married out of some obligation to her family. She wanted to marry a man she loved and who loved her and accepted her career choice.
No sooner had she started rifling through her medical bag to find her key to the house, her ankle went weak beneath her, and she stumbled, dropping her bag in the middle of the sidewalk, the contents spilling out like jelly beans out of a candy jar. Embarrassed and exhausted, Michaela knelt down to pick up the contents, and as she was putting her scalpel case back in the bag, a larger hand reached down and picked up her stethoscope. Michaela's gaze rose to meet his ocean blue stare. She nearly gasped at the bright blue hue of his eyes, and she felt herself blushing immediately, feeling like a fool.
"Here ya go," he said in a much different accent than she was used to hearing in Boston. He certainly wasn't from around here.
"Uh, thank…thank you," Michaela stammered like a school girl getting her first crush. He handed her the stethoscope, and she quickly gathered the rest of her things into the bag. He reached a hand out to her, and she accepted it, swallowing hard, as he lifted her up gracefully.
"You ok? You ain't hurt?"
"I'm fine. Perhaps a little embarrassed, but I don't think anybody's ever died from that." She smiled a little, brushing off her skirt. He smiled back, his eyes sparkling bluer if it was possible. As he looked at her, his eyes gazing into hers, a mismatched perfection that highlighted the beauty of her gleaming smile, he felt a warmth grow up from the pit of his stomach to his heart.
"Nope, don't think so, now that I think of it." He looked down at the bag in her hands. "You're a doctor."
"Yes," she replied, ready to go on the defensive.
"Ain't never met a lady doctor before. Nice to meet ya, Dr.—" He paused, waiting for her name. She seemed to relax a little.
"Quinn. Dr. Michaela Quinn," she said softly. "And you are?"
"Just Sully," he replied. "Are ya sure you're alright? Looks like ya ripped your dress a little." Michaela looked down to find a rip where her foot had stepped on the hem. She frowned.
"I'm fine," she answered. "Thank you." She cleared her throat, not wanting to leave, but knowing that if she lingered too long, somebody was bound to notice and start talking. "I…should be getting home."
"Oh. Right. Sorry," he said quickly. "I…uh, well, could I ask ya a favor?"
"I'm a little lost. I ain't from around here, and I need help findin' this address…"
"Oh…it's…yes, that's just a few blocks away. I could show you."
"If ya wouldn't mind. I don't wanna keep ya."
"Don't be absurd. My family is used to me being late. What's a little longer going to hurt?"
"Ya don't know me…"
"That's true. But, I've gone all day listening to pigheaded male doctors trying to scare me out of working at the hospital. You, Mr. Sully, you don't frighten me." In fact, that was a lie. She had butterflies in her stomach. Normally, she wouldn't immediately agree to show a stranger around town, but something was different about him. She felt foolish for being so forward with him. She had never done this before, and that frightened her. But, she figured she'd never see him again after this afternoon, so why not leave it on a friendly note?
"Well, that's good. I don't like to scare people, 'specially ladies." He smiled at her, and she blushed. They strolled down the sidewalk, turning the corner.
"So, what business do you have here, Mr. Sully?"
"It's just Sully."
"That's your name?"
"It's the only name I want." There was a pause. "I'm here on business. Actually goin' home tomorrow. Just gotta send a telegram back home."
"To your family?"
"Ain't got a family. My folks passed on when I was a kid. The only family I've ever known is the Cheyenne."
"Indians?" Michaela asked, her eyes wide with surprise.
"Yeah. They're good people. Saved my life more than once. I owe 'em more than my life." They were quiet for a few minutes. "Anyway, I'm sendin' a telegram to Colorado Springs…to…ah…Abagail." Michaela's heart skipped a beat.
"We were engaged."
"Yeah," Sully said quietly, as if it was a sore subject. He glanced at her. "You want to ask what happened."
"I don't want to pry."
"Sure ya do. You're just too nice to ask." Michaela glanced at him curiously. "She left me for some banker that passed through town. They're getting married next month."
"And you still correspond with her?"
"We're still friends. I just don't want to marry somebody who'd rather be with somebody else."
"That's…good logic," Michaela said with a nod. "I don't know if I could forgive someone for doing that to me."
"Ya think about it long enough…you can." Glancing sideways at her, he asked, "you ever been engaged?"
"Me? Ah, no." She flushed bright red. "I was proposed to, but if I had married him, I wouldn't have made it through medical school."
"He was a doctor, but he didn't want a doctor for a wife. So, when I turned him down, he went off to fight in the war. He came back to Boston when it was all over, settled down, and he has a family. I couldn't be happier for him."
"Ya ain't jealous a little?" Michaela thought for a moment.
"No," she decided. "I didn't love him." They went on in silence, turning with Michaela's direction, toward the telegraph office. What was strange to Michaela was that she knew more about this man in the last five minutes than she'd known anybody in a long time. She just didn't make it a point to make friends at the hospital, because none of the other doctors wanted anything to do with her. The nurses were bitter too, either because they disapproved of seeing a woman making more money than them or because there would be hell to pay if the other doctors caught them supporting her.
"Ya sound pretty sure about that."
"About David…oh, yes, I'm sure. He was a nice man, a good man. I didn't love him though. I couldn't make myself fall in love with him, though my mother and sisters desperately wanted me to." She rolled her eyes a little. "No, like you, I want to marry someone who loves me. If I never get married, I won't be miserable, because marrying for less than love is only self-mutilating." Sully was taken aback by her harsh words, but he knew she stuck by them. "I'd rather be alone than with a man who didn't love me."
As they reached the telegraph office, Michaela waited outside, sitting on a bench near the window. Sully gave the information to the man behind the counter. The telegram simply said: HEADING HOME TOMORROW. TELL LOREN TO ORDER SUPPLIES FOR RESERVATION. As he was waiting for the man to send the message, he glanced over his shoulder, catching a peek of Michaela watching him through the window. When she caught his gaze she immediately turned, pretending she hadn't been watching him. Sully smiled to himself, shaking his head. He couldn't get over how beautiful she looked. Her dress fit her body so beautifully. It was blue with a black lace around the neck and the hem. It brought out her eyes, which he found completely fascinating.
"Sent, sir," the man behind the counter said stiffly.
"Thanks," Sully replied, paying the fellow and walking back outside. Michaela was now standing, staring across the street at a small outside café. Her stomach began to growl, and Sully heard it. "You hungry?" Michaela blushed, embarrassed he'd heard that. She hadn't eaten since that morning, and she was beginning to feel puckish and a little light headed. "Ya helped me find this place. The least I can do is buy ya dinner."
"Oh, that isn't necessary," she said, shaking her head and waving her hand.
"C'mon. I thought ya weren't afraid of me."
"I'm not," she insisted.
"Then what's the harm in eatin' a meal with me?"
"Mr. Sully…it's not appropriate for…"
"For two folks to sit down and eat together?"
"Where I come from, that's just called socializin'."
"Dinner is just dinner, Dr. Quinn," he said with a charming smile. Something was shy about it though, and that was endearing to Michaela.
"If you want me to call you Sully, then I insist you call me Michaela. It's only fair."
"Good. I like the sound of Michaela a lot better. Dr. Quinn's too formal."
"Well, this is Boston," she said with a chuckle. "Alright, dinner then. At least let me pay my way."
"Nope. It's on me. I'm payin' ya back, remember?"
"Can you afford…"
"I can take care of it," he insisted. "I got my own money. Ain't always got a lot of it, but I make enough." Michaela blushed.
"I didn't mean to imply that you didn't."
"I know," he replied. "C'mon." Sully offered his arm to her, and she stared at him for a long moment, pondering the propriety of it, and then she told herself what he told her. It's just dinner. Dinner is just dinner. So, she took his arm, and he escorted her into the café.
Dinner went by quickly, it felt like, though after two hours, they were in deep conversation about the beautiful landscape of Colorado Springs, which Michaela now so badly wanted to see. She had told him stories of her experience in college and in medical school, and he had listened with fascination as she retold unbelievable stories from the operating room. The fact that those hands, those delicate hands, had performed surgeries, delivered babies, saved lives…it was mind boggling.
"Ya know, I think we been here a while," Sully finally said, taking a sip of water from his glass. Michaela looked at the clock on the wall, and her eyes went wide.
"My mother probably has the entire street out looking for me," Michaela said with a sigh.
"Everybody in the neighborhood?"
"Oh, if it was possible, my mother would have the actual street out on search and rescue." She smiled a little, for once not really worried about the fact that she was going to be very late. If her mother asked, she could at least please her by telling her she had been dining with a handsome man.
"I've never even met your ma, and I feel like I know her just from what you said about her."
"Oh, don't get me wrong. My mother can be a wonderful woman sometimes. She's just very critical."
"But she loves ya."
"Yes. She wants the best for me, and sometimes…it seems like she's suffocating me."
"You ever think of movin' out?" Michaela was the one to be taken aback now.
"Well…yes, I have. I make enough of my own money. I just haven't been actively going about trying to find a home of my own. My mother wants me to live at home until I find a suitable husband. I'm not living at home forever!"
"Forever? Somebody's bound to come along before then," Sully said with a smile, gently touching her hand. Michaela glanced down at his hand on hers, and their eyes met a moment later. She smiled, swallowing nervously, and she slowly slid her hand away and into her lap. "Somebody as pretty as you…somebody's gonna fall in love with ya."
"And if I don't fall in love with them?"
"Then…I guess that's too bad for them." Michaela laughed a little at his comment. Her gaze moved to the dance floor, watching happy couples swaying blissfully to the music like doves dancing along a cloud. She let out a slow, soft breath, and her eyes sparkled with the desire to dance. Sully caught the change in her mood, and he saw the dreamy look in her eyes. He knew she was dancing on the inside, and though he wasn't very impressed with his own dance skills, he couldn't pass up the opportunity to hold her in his arms, because he knew this might be the only chance he'd ever get. "Michaela?"
"Hmm?" She snapped out of her daydream, and her eyes fixed on his. She noticed the quiver in his lips, and she saw the nerves begin to rise up into his face, causing a faint blush, but a blush nevertheless. "Sully?"
"Uh, would ya…I mean, do you…you like dancin'?"
"I love dancing," Michaela smiled. "Do you dance?"
"Not a lot…Abagail taught me some, but I don't…well, if ya wouldn't…" Michaela smiled, trying to hold back a giggle. She didn't want to embarrass the poor man. He was trying his best to muster up the courage.
"A dance is just a dance," she whispered over her glass of water.
"Ah, yeah," he answered, clearing his throat. "Would ya like to? Dance, I mean…" Michaela tilted her head to the side, studying him for just a moment to see what his reaction would be to her silence. When she saw the nerve running out of him, she nodded her head.
"I'd love to," she replied. Sully's face filled to the brim with relief, and he stood, taking her hand. Her fingers slipped through his, and he realized they were holding hands. She realized this too, and while she felt several eyes lift from dinner plates to stare at them as they walked to the floor, she felt her confidence rising. Never had she felt so comfortable with a man before, let alone a man she'd only just met a couple of hours ago.
As they began to move to the music, it took Sully a few moments to adjust, and Michaela was patient, smiling and encouraging him, and finally, they were in step, dancing together, moving about the floor a bit more awkwardly than the other couples, but they were dancing anyway, enjoying one another, not able to take their eyes away from each other. Her smile, a bit lopsided, he realized, sparkled up at him, and he only smiled wider, his heart leaping. She was growing more and more beautiful by the moment, it seemed, and he had never fallen this fast in his life. His hands were sweating and he knew she could tell, but he didn't care right now.
"You dance very well," Michaela finally said.
"You're kiddin' right? Abagail used to say I've got two left feet."
"Well, you're certainly holding your own. I wouldn't turn you away for a dance." She blushed as she said this, all of her mother's rules of propriety screaming through her skull, but she blinked, swallowed hard, and shoved them aside. For once, she was going to trust her instincts and enjoy herself.
After the dance had ended, neither wanted to leave the dance floor, but Michaela knew it was time to go.
"It's getting late."
"I'll walk you home?"
"Can you find your way back to…wherever it is you're staying?"
"Sure," he replied with a nod.
"I'm good with direction," he assured her with a smile. "Just not good with findin' the telegraph office, I guess." She grinned, and she nodded. Sully picked up her doctor's bag and he handed it to her. After paying the bill, he escorted her out into the night. She shivered with the immediate contact of the now cool air. Sully was quick in taking off his jacket and offering it to her.
"Thank you," she said softly, as he placed the coat over her shoulders, his hands lingering a little longer than she expected. Finally, he moved away, and she found herself hunching into the jacket, blushing furiously. As she inhaled, she smelled the scent of him, a musky, rugged scent mixed with a dash of cologne.
"Ya know," he said after a long pause, "Colorado Springs needs a good doctor. If ya ever find that your ma is smotherin' ya too much, you can always come out west."
"That's a tempting offer. Father used to read me stories of the West. I always found it fascinating."
"Ya probably didn't read many good things 'bout the Indians."
"No," she said with a solemn shake of the head. "But he's a good man, and he's always taught me not to judge people unfairly. I know what that's like, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone."
"Your Pa does sound like a good man. Sounds like you're a lot like him."
"He expected that after four daughters, he'd get a son. Apparently, God had other plans."
"Guess so," Sully said mildly, glancing at her with a smile. "Ya don't wanna leave him, do ya?"
"We have a partnership. I don't want to lose that. I still have a lot to learn from him."
"I understand," Sully replied quietly. "I know it's gotta be hard havin' one of your folks supportin' ya and the other…"
"It is," she said softly, "but, Mother will either learn to accept it someday, or she won't. I can't make her accept the fact that I'm a doctor."
"Nope. But she should be proud of ya."
"I think she is in her own way. She just worries about me." She shrugged her shoulders. They turned down the street, and she could already see the light glowing from her house's windows.
"I wanna see ya again," Sully blurted out of nowhere. Michaela froze, turning toward him.
"Sully, you're leaving tomorrow, and we've only just met."
"I know. I know it might sound crazy or somethin', but…I really wanna see ya again. I feel like I've known ya for so long. I can't explain it."
"Neither can I," she said breathlessly, her eyes clouding over.
"You feel it too, don't ya?"
"I…I don't know what I feel. This can't be, Sully. You're leaving tomorrow, and…"
"So come with me."
"What?! Sully!" she exclaimed in a hushed, frantic whisper. "This is absurd. We barely know one another. I can't just leave everything behind. I have a life here…a career!"
"I know. You could have all that in Colorado Springs. You could. I just…I know a good thing when I see it, and this…somethin's here, Michaela. I ain't good with words, and I wouldn't have brought it up, but…if I leave tonight, I might never see ya again. A man like me don't get to travel places like this much. If I leave tonight…I might lose out on somethin' really special." Michaela blushed, turning away from him.
"This isn't appropriate…I don't…"
"I know," Sully said quickly, touching her arm, sending her spinning around toward him. "Look, I'm sorry. Ya have no idea how scared I am right now. I don't even know why I'm sayin' it, but I am. Come to Colorado Springs with me. Just…please, come with me."
"I can't," she whispered. "I can't leave." He could see in her face that she wasn't completely turned off to the idea of getting out of Boston. He was only scaring her, and he felt like an idiot.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry," he said quickly. "I don't know what I'm saying. This is new to me…I can't explain it."
"It's ok. I feel something too." She bit her lip. "You have no idea how many lines I crossed with you tonight. I've never done anything like this…never felt like this. It's just…it's because we're strangers, and we're new and different. It'll pass…"
"I don't think so," he said quietly. "I can't let you go without knowin'…"
"Knowing what?" she asked. He stepped toward her, and she froze, her eyes locked on his. "Sully…"
"A kiss is just a kiss."
"It's so much more than that."
"Only if you want it to be."
"What are you suggesting?"
"This doesn't lie." With that, he pulled her close, and at the same time, she pulled him in, letting go of any inhibitions, sinking into him, kissing him, being kissed for the first time. She nearly fell into his arms, the intensity shaking her to her core. Her heart pounded so quickly, she could barely feel it anymore. Her body was overcome by wild urges that terrified her and spurred her on at the same time. What was wrong with her? She wasn't herself? Yet she felt more alive and more herself than ever before.
He pulled back, breathless and looking into her eyes, as she touched her swollen lips. Tears were floating along the brim of her eyes, now, and she knew she had to let him go. He had a life without her, and she without him. It wasn't the right time, but she knew…someday.
"Sully," she whispered.
"I felt it too," he breathed, his hand clasping hers.
"Then you know…you know you have to go." He rested his forehead against hers, breathing in the sweet scent of her hair, of her perfume, of every scent he could take in to remember her by.
"I'll stay if you want me to."
"I can't ask you to do that." She struggled for those words, wanting nothing more than to keep him with her forever.
"And I can't…I can't ask you to come with me. Not yet, anyway."
"Not yet. Someday," she whispered.
"Someday?" She nodded, and he kissed her hand.
"That's all I can hope for."
"I'll see you soon?"
"Soon." And as if in an instant, he was gone, and she was standing at her front door, as if transported there by some other force. She had walked in a daze, now wondering how she'd gotten there at all. Had it all actually happened? Had it been a dream? Oh, but the tingle on her lips told her the truth, and as she went to put the key in the door, it opened quickly, and she came face to face with her mother.
"Michaela Quinn! Do you have any idea what time it is?!"
She wrestled with the knots in her stomach, thinking back to that night. She clutched her medical bag in her hands, looking out at the scene around her, as she bounced into town on a rickety old stage coach. She was seeking him with her eyes, wondering if he would remember her. Of course he would, wouldn't he? She hadn't sent word. Maybe she should have. God, how could she have even been so foolish as to come out here without any indication as to whether he even wanted her anymore.
The pregnant lady in the cab with her grimaced from the grueling day's ride. Her name was Emily, Michaela had discovered, and she too was coming to town alone with her son, newly widowed and expecting her second child any day. Michaela felt an almost sisterhood with this young woman, coming out here on her own, completely frightened of what lay ahead, but she was doing it anyway.
The coach slowed to a halt, and the sticky air of Colorado Springs began to seep into the depths of the stagecoach, coating everything and making Michaela more uncomfortable than she already was.
The door opened, and a rough hand extended her way, helping her down into the soft, dirt street. She motioned for her luggage, a few simple cases, and the man placed them on the porch of the local mercantile. Looking around for any sign of Sully, she frowned, her stomach knotting even tighter.
"I must be crazy," she thought to herself, smoothing out the wrinkles in her skirt from the ride. Emily and her son came out of the cab next, and they immediately went to the mercantile for supplies. Michaela was stuck, uncertain of what to do next.
"Need some help, Miss?" and older gentleman with graying hair asked, stepping out of the mercantile, tying an apron around his waist.
"Yes…I'm…I'm looking for Mr. Sully. Um, Sully." Loren's face grew solemn.
"He'd be over at the cemetery…visitin' my Abby."
"You're Abagail's father?"
"Was. She died, 'bout a month ago. You a friend of Sully's?"
"Yes…yes, I…I'm sorry, I didn't know."
"It was influenza. Her husband…he's buried with her."
"I'm so sorry." Loren didn't say another word. He just turned and walked back into the mercantile to deal with customers. With a lump in her throat, Michaela moved her luggage to a safe corner and proceeded toward the church, figuring the cemetery would be nearby.
Sure enough, as she drew closer, she recognized the shape of the man she fell in love with back in Boston. He was dressed much more ruggedly than she expected, but still, he was the man she loved, and she hoped he still felt the same way about her.
She wasn't sure if this was the time, considering his past with Abagail, but she couldn't stop herself. Reaching the gate, she finally paused, but her foot tossed a rock, making Sully turn toward the noise. He stood quickly, seeing her there, not really believing if it was true.
"Michaela?" He blinked, thinking he was dreaming. Oh, he'd dreamed of this many times. "It's you? You're really here…"
"I'm sorry about Abagail, Sully." He couldn't believe those were the first words she said to him. Moving across the lot in a few strides, he bridged the gap and pulled her into his arms, kissing her without abandon.
"God, I missed you. You're really here…for…for good?"
"I hope so. If the town'll have me."
"They will. I promise they will." His hand took hers. "Your Pa?"
"He insisted I start my career alone to gain some independence. I suggested Colorado Springs, and he was wary at first, but he thinks it'll be a good experience." Sully smiled gleefully, and he kissed her again, touching her cheek.
"I was startin' to think I'd never see ya again." Michaela closed her eyes, blinking back tears. She looked over his shoulder at Abagail's grave.
"You loved her, didn't you?"
"I did…one time. I told her about ya, you know? She told me I was crazy for leavin' Boston in the first place. I gotta say she was right."
"Well, I'm here now," she whispered. "I'm sorry it took me so long. I had to figure some things out. I know what I want now, Sully. It's going to take me a while, but I…I do know." Sully nodded, knowing she couldn't say it straight out yet. No, that was ok. At least he had her here now. She was here.
"You are here," he whispered. Silence followed, and he held her close. She rested her head on his shoulder, and he slowly rubbed circles along her back. Within a few moments, though, he pulled back and wiped a few tears from her eyes. "So, whaddya say? Would ya like to go to dinner with me tonight?"
"Dinner? Well, I hardly know you," she whispered.
"It's just dinner, Michaela."
"Well…if you put it that way," she sniffled, as he kissed her forehead. Arm and arm, they headed back toward town, pride shining from every part of them. It would be a long road, they knew, for they still had so much to learn, but they were willing, eager, and extremely happy to have the chance to fall in love all over again.
The End…or is it?