Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters from Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. They belong to Beth Sullivan and CBS.
The Heart Yearns
By, Ashley Jenkins
Katie giggled, as Brian tickled her on the floor of the Quinn parlor. She'd just finished opening up her birthday presents, having received two lovely party dresses from her grandmother, a doll from her Aunt Marjorie, and a book of children's stories from Aunt Rebecca. Of course, Michaela was the one who would be reading them, so she flipped through the pages, remembering her father reading them to her as a child. Little Byron sat in his mother's lap, trying to grab the book she held onto, but he wasn't having much success.
"Did you have a good birthday, darling?" Elizabeth asked, rescuing her granddaughter from her big brother's tickling fingers. Katie giggled as Elizabeth perched her on her knee.
"Bwian mean!" she said, making a face at him and then giggling. Brian stuck out his tongue at her.
"Now Katie, ladies don't tease their brothers like that," Elizabeth exclaimed, as Brian laughed at his sister. "Unless they deserve it, that is." Katie clapped her hands, and Brian rolled his eyes, smiling. It was Katie's day, so that meant he had to watch out for her. She was going to practically get away with anything.
"Oh, you don't remember the day you were born, sweetheart, but you were so beautiful. Your mother and father came riding into town, and you were all bundled up in that brown coat…" Elizabeth looked up to see Michaela's eyes focusing on the floor now, away from the book. Tears were in her eyes now, and Elizabeth immediately felt guilty. "Oh, Michaela, I'm sorry…"
"No, she needs to know these things," Michaela said quietly. "I'm just…I suppose I have to…" The tears began to break free and cascade down her cheeks, and she stood quickly, handing Byron off to Marjorie. "Excuse me." She rushed from the room, and Brian immediately got up.
"I'll go talk to her," he assured his grandmother. He rushed after her, and Elizabeth looked at her other daughters.
"He's become quite the young man."
"If you ask me," Marjorie said sadly, "he's had to grow up too quickly. It's painful to lose a parent at any age, but I can't imagine what it'll be like for him…for Katie and Byron to grow up without Sully."
"Ma? You ok?" Brian asked, as he stepped out onto the terrace just outside of the kitchen. Michaela was standing out in the fresh air, one hand covering her eyes as she sobbed silently. Brian moved toward his mother, gently putting a hand on her back. "Ma?" She turned, and without a word, her son hugged her.
"I'm sorry, Brian. Today's a special day, and I'm ruining it."
"You ain't ruinin' it, Ma. You're just sad. I get sad about Pa too." He looked down. "He'd have wanted to be here today."
"Yes, he would have." She took a few deep breaths, as the tears seemed to dry for now. "I had never seen him so happy as the day Katie was born. He was the proudest Pa I'd ever seen." She smiled, dabbing a handkerchief under her nose. "It's hard to think about."
"I know, Ma. But Pa wouldn't want ya to be sad. He'd want us all to be happy, like me, Colleen and Matthew were when we came to live with you. Our ma knew we'd be happy with you. It took a little while for all of us to adjust, but we did."
"When did you grow up so fast, hmm?" Michaela asked, placing an arm around her son's shoulders. "We'll be going home tomorrow. Are you ready?"
"Yeah," he said softly. "I'll miss Boston and Grandma, but I wanna go see my friends at home. I wanna sleep in my own bed."
"I know what you mean," Michaela replied. She had seriously considered getting rid of her and Sully's wedding bed, but she couldn't part with it. He had crafted it with his own two hands. Katie was created in that bed. There were too many good memories that they overshadowed the pain.
She remembered sleeping alone the first few months after Sully died. Not that she did much sleeping. She often lay awake all night listening to the wind blow, a coyote howl, or the subtle creaks of the settling house.
"Why don't you go back into the parlor? I'll be back in in a few moments."
"You sure, Ma?"
"Yes. Go on." She smiled bravely for him, and as soon as he was gone, her face fell. She looked out over the lush gardens in the back of the house, remembering running through them as a child, getting so dirty that her mother would have Martha put her in the wash tub and scrub her until her skin was red. Just a few years ago, she'd have loved to see her children running through the gardens, growing up where she grew up. But she had moved past that, and she knew that the only place she wanted to raise her children was in Colorado Springs. Yes, there were some intolerant people there, but there was so much natural beauty and beauty in the souls of other citizens that she couldn't part with that chapter of her life. It was too important to her.
She could hear Katie's laughter, and she felt guilty for making such a scene on her little girl's birthday. She swallowed hard. Each year, she'd be reminded of Sully's death, and it would make Katie's birthday difficult every time. But, she had to let go of the pain if she was going to be able to function normally again. She had to move on.
After a few minutes, she re-joined her family in the parlor, and Brian treated them to a few songs on the piano, while Elizabeth bounced Katie on her knee, and Marjorie tickled little Byron, making him squeal with laughter. Michaela sat quietly, watching her family have a good time. Elizabeth would glance at her daughter from time to time, and when their eyes met, Michaela gave her a reassuring smile and a nod. Everything was going to be alright…somehow.
With a sigh, he leaned back against a tree, staring out over the lucid water of a small pond on the outskirts of town. The sun was beating down warmly over the earth, but he was seated in the shade. As he gazed at the water, he gently ran his finger along the slowly fading scar that ran along his chin back toward his ear. It was barely noticeable under the short beard he kept now.
He touched his hair, wondering when he'd let it get so long. He couldn't remember much of anything, but he knew it had been years since Abagail and Hanna died. What had happened to him in the years between waking up in that little cottage outside Manitou and losing his wife and child? Nobody in Manitou seemed to know him, and Miss Allison, the lady who's house he'd woken up in, had said neither she nor her husband had known him.
He stretched a bit, staring down at his clothes. These suddenly didn't feel right. Black pants and a loose white shirt, perfect for working in, but he felt like he wasn't himself anymore. He had asked them how he'd come to be at their home, and Miss Allison, as he knew her by, only said that her husband had been hunting when he'd come by his body at the creek. He'd thought he was dead, and they brought him back, nursing him back to health.
"You were in and out of it for days and days," Henry said. "Allison says ya kept askin' for Michaela. Who's that?" Sully wracked his brain. He couldn't think of anybody who fit that name. Eyes came into his mind. One green and one brown. But no faces. No other memories.
"I don't know," he stated, his body aching all over. "I can't remember. I…"
"You sure? You kept callin' for her. Seemed like she was pretty important."
"I can't remember," he groaned, putting his hand to his face, feeling the rough stitches there. He couldn't remember much of anything, but he remembered losing Abagail and Hanna. The thing was, he didn't feel the pain anymore. He felt as if he had already grieved. Some time had passed. He could feel it in his bones. "What year is it?"
"1872," Henry said slowly. A look of absolute shock came over Sully's face. "I take it that ain't the answer you was lookin' for." How could so much time have passed? Sully couldn't believe it. He had to have had a life somewhere…but he couldn't remember it. He looked down at his hand. No wedding ring. Nothing. Would he have worn a ring like he had with Abagail? His head was spinning, and he suddenly felt weak again. "Hey, why don't ya just rest? Allison's makin' some of her famous stew. You just lie back, and we'll bring ya your supper when you're feelin' better."
The sound of footsteps approaching startled Sully from his thoughts.
"Sully," came a soft voice a moment later. Sully looked up to see the young woman with long, auburn hair. She was constantly pale, though she always put too much rouge on her cheeks. She was sweet enough and was the daughter of the man who ran the hotel Sully had been staying at for the past few months.
"Anna," Sully said with a nod. She smiled, reaching out and handing him a picnic basket.
"I thought you might be hungry. You been workin' hard and everything, I thought I'd make ya a hot meal."
"I appreciate it," he said with a smile, as he uncovered the basket, finding meatloaf, biscuits, potatoes, and gravy.
"Pa wanted me to ask if you'd mind fixin' a leak on the porch roof."
"Sure. I'll do that first thing when I get back this evening."
"Good," she said with a smile. "A few girls lookin' to come to school here are comin' in by train in the mornin', and Pa wants the hotel in top shape for when they get here. He's convinced they'll be stayin' here when they get here."
"There's always a good chance. It's right in the center of town," Sully pointed out. "A little too crowded for me, but some folks like that."
"If it's so crowded, why do you stay?"
"Ain't got no place else to go," he pointed out. The barking of a dog nearby caused something inside of him to stir for a moment. A flash of grey and white fur. A tomahawk.
"Sully? What's the matter? You got the strangest look on your face just a minute ago."
"I…" She gasped.
"Were you rememberin' somethin'? You were, weren't you!"
"I'm not sure. That dog just…I don't know. I can't remember anything."
"You still haven't figured out who that girl is? That girl with the eyes?"
"It's just eyes," Sully replied. "Nothin' else." He sighed with frustration, running his fingers through his hair. He'd never been so frustrated before. He knew who he was, but he'd lost so many years. What had happened? Who was this woman…these eyes he was dreaming about? Maybe he didn't know himself as well as he'd thought.
"Thanks for the food, Anna. I gotta be getting back to work though," he said quietly. "Maybe go ask Jon Dennison if he wants to have a picnic." Anna blushed.
"No!" she laughed. "I can't do that."
"I know you're sweet on him. Ya ain't gonna get nowhere if ya don't ask him."
"He should ask me! I'm not that kind of girl," she replied with a crinkle of her nose. "He doesn't notice me."
"Sure he does. I've seen the way he looks at ya when he passes by the hotel every day. Go talk to him." Anna shook her head. Sully was like a big brother to her, really. He looked out for her, and he was always around to talk to when she needed the company. Still, she worried that whatever life he'd forgotten was waiting for him somewhere and he was missing out on it even more.
"Well, I'm goin' back into town. You sure you're not hungry?"
"No, but thanks anyway," he replied. "I'll see ya later this evenin'." She nodded and took off. Sully sighed and picked up a small rock, examining it between his fingers before tossing it into the water, watching the ripples fan out until the surface was still again. His head hurt, and his soul was restless. He had to figure out his life before it drove him crazy.
She lay back in bed, staring up at the ceiling. Tomorrow, they'd be at the train station, and in a little under a week, they'd be in Denver and then switching trains to go straight home to Colorado Springs. She couldn't believe it. She was going home. It didn't feel like home though. Nothing felt like home anymore.
She sighed softly, pulling herself out of bed. She couldn't sleep, even though little Byron was sleeping, and it was the perfect opportunity for her. She padded across the room and silently opened the closet door. She found one of the bags she had packed up for tomorrow, and upon opening it, she fetched out a familiar blue and white striped shirt. She clutched it to her hands, bringing it to her face and feeling the soft fabric against her cheek. She inhaled deeply, his scent still lingering. Perhaps it was all in her memory, but she felt closer to him.
With tears in her eyes, she carried the shirt back to her bed and held it to her heart, curling up on her side to rest.
"Sully, I miss you so much," she whispered into the darkness. "Sometimes…sometimes I feel like you're still here, still with us. Sometimes I wake up forgetting I won't see your face as soon as I open my eyes." She choked back a sob. "Sometimes I wonder if I'm crazy, but it doesn't feel like you're gone. We had a funeral for you, but you're not in that grave. You're…you're just gone. And I can't fix that. I can't mend it. It's out of my hands." She swallowed hard. "I feel like I've lost complete control…and you…you were the one that always pulled me back when I started to lose faith in myself…in what I was doing. But you're not here to reassure me." She began to sob now, her chest swelling and shaking as she cried unyieldingly into his shirt, dampening it with her tears. "I miss you…God, I miss you."
"I miss you…God, I miss you." Sully woke with a start, sitting straight up in his bed, his heart pounding. It had been like a whisper in his ear. He looked about the room, seeing nothing but the dimming lamp at his bedside. He was drenched in sweat and breathing so hard.
Blood pounded at his temples like waves crashing against rocks. He moaned in pain and stood up, moving toward the window. He threw it open, and a cool breeze met him and began to calm him. It wasn't enough. He pulled on his clothes and his shoes and silently crept out of his room and out of the hotel. Standing on the porch, under the newly fixed roof, he watched as the town stood still, save for a young man and young woman walking arm-in-arm down the dark street. She wore a nice dress with shawl, and he wore a casual suit, his hair slicked back, a professional man. He couldn't make out their faces, but from the tones of their voices, they knew one another quite well. They, however, were completely oblivious to his presence and were holding a conversation. Sully sat down on the bench outside of the hotel, taking a few deep breaths, catching snippets of their conversation.
"You ain't gonna be in trouble for getting back this late, are ya?"
"Of course not, Matthew," Colleen replied. "Curfew is eleven. We still have an hour." Matthew nodded. "You knew that."
"Sorry," he said. "I guess my mind's just on other things right now."
"Like Ma coming back?"
"Yeah," he replied. "I think we should ride with her into Colorado Springs when she gets here at the end of the week. I think she'd like the company." Colleen nodded.
"Thankfully school lets out until the fall at the end of the week, so I should be able to finish my finals and come home for the summer."
"I'll have a couple weeks left, but I'll see what I can do to get home early."
"Ma would like that a lot." She smiled. "I can't wait to see Brian again. I can't wait to see how big Katie's getting. From what Ma says, baby Byron looks just like Pa." She smiled sadly, and as he heard the young woman's words, Sully froze. Byron. Never in a million years would he have guessed that somebody else would have to be stuck with that name.
They disappeared around the corner, and Sully leaned back in the chair, looking up at the starry skies. There was a yearning deep within him to lie under the stars and fall asleep, face toward the sky as the sweet smell of the mountains washed over him. But, tonight, he was going to have to settle for his stuffy hotel room.
Picking himself up from the porch of the hotel, Sully crept back into the hotel, unable to get the conversation he'd overheard out of his head. Something inside of him was struggling for reason; for connection. He just couldn't wrap his head around it. So, feeling defeated, he collapsed back into his bed and tried to go to sleep, all the while hearing over and over again "I miss you…God, I miss you."
"I wish you would reconsider, Michaela," Elizabeth said with a sad sigh, as she gave her daughter a hug, reluctant to let her go. Michaela closed her eyes, knowing she was going to miss her family. Her mother and sisters had been an enormous support system to her over the past several months, and she didn't know what she was going to do without them. It was like leaving for Colorado Springs for the first time all over again.
"I can't, Mother. I have to go," Michaela said softly, holding Katie with one arm while the other still held onto Elizabeth. Brian stood nearby with baby Byron in his arms, having already said goodbye to his grandma and aunts. Marjorie and Rebecca were standing still, watching as their sister said goodbye again.
"Let us know the moment you arrive back in Colorado Springs," Rebecca insisted.
"I will," Michaela assured her. "I want to thank you all for everything." She pulled away from her mother. "You've helped us through a really difficult time…"
"There's nothing to thank us for," Elizabeth stopped her. "I told you that before, and it stands true. If you ever need anything, you're always welcome here." Michaela nodded, her lower lip trembling, her entire body wracked with anxiety about this return home.
"We'll visit soon," Michaela promised.
"Don't wait too long. I want to see those babies again before they're taller than their big brother," Marjorie teased. Katie giggled and waved at her aunts, while Byron yawned and leaned his head against Brian's chest.
"Shall we?" Michaela asked, looking at Brian. He nodded, and he stepped onto the train first, finding the compartment they'd be staying in for the next several days. As soon as they were all situated, Michaela turned to the window, waving at her family as the train pulled out of the station. Soon, they were out of sight, and she closed her eyes, placing her hand against the window, closing her eyes, and saying goodbye to Boston one more time. They were going home.
Please let me know what you think! This was the second story of the Without You series, and I'd like to know some of your feelings on where you think the story's heading. Any ideas? Suggestions? Keep writing? Burn it and start over? What? Let me know! Thanks! --Ashley