Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters from Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. They belong to Beth Sullivan and CBS.
As she clung to him, he felt how her heart beat so quickly against his chest. She was crying against his shoulder, but they were happy tears. The moment she put her arms around him, it was as if he could feel what she was feeling, but he couldn't let her go on believing that whatever bond they'd had before was still there. He had to tell her the truth.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I…"
"Sully, the children…we have to tell them," Michaela exclaimed, pulling out of the embrace, not ready to let go just yet. But, her hands framed his face, and she looked into those beautiful blue eyes she'd been longing to see for far over a year. Her finger found the hidden scar along his jaw, and she softly traced her finger along it. "What happened to you?"
"I don't know," he said quietly, feeling the warmth of her touch, worrying that perhaps this was wrong. He slowly stepped back, and she looked at him with confusion clearly upon her face. "You know me…"
"Sully? What are you talking about?
"I've been dreaming about you. I woke up, and I didn't know where I was. I remembered burying Abby and Hanna, and I remember wantin' to leave town. But I can't remember…" Michaela's face fell. Her heart dropped, and she couldn't even form the words. "I woke up, and I was all broken up. I stayed in this cottage near Manitou with this couple, and then I came to Denver. I've been dreamin' about you, and I've been havin' flashes of memories, but I can't remember…and you know me, so…"
"Sully," Michaela whispered. She was devastated, and that was plain as day.
"Who am I?"
"You're…you're Byron Sully," she whispered. "You're the man I fell in love with." He swallowed hard. Michaela looked down at her hand. "You put this ring on our finger on our wedding day." Our third anniversary…it's just days away." Her tears began to flow anew. "You don't remember me?"
"I feel a connection, but I can't remember…I'm sorry, I…" He felt like he needed to sit down, but he move anymore than she could.
"You don't remember any of it? Nothing?" He shook his head, looking down.
"We looked for you. We searched for months, Sully! We couldn't find you…" She looked away, feeling as if she'd failed him. "Sully, you buried Abagail and Hanna nearly a decade ago. You…you moved past that."
"But to me it feels like it was just yesterday." Michaela felt as if she'd been shot through the heart. She couldn't blame him, because he had lost so much of his memory, but at the same time, this was her husband! She'd thought for over a year that he was dead, and now, here he was standing before her. This should be the happiest moment of her life, and instead, she was beginning to sob tears of sorrow, as if she had had to bury him all over again.
"You're telling me…you don't remember the first time we met? Our first kiss? You don't remember proposing to me?" He looked away, uncertain of what to say. This woman was full of so much love, and he could feel that as he stood before her. But what was he supposed to say? "You don't remember marrying me…making promises to me? Katie? What about her?"
"Our daughter, Sully!" Michaela cried out in frustration. "She turned one just shortly before you went missing. And our son, Sully. You never met our son." Sully looked up quickly.
"What?" Her eyes widened in surprise.
"Byron's the baby you just had." The way he said it, so distant, that hurt more than anything. She turned away from him. Maybe she was dreaming. She's prayed for this moment for so long, but never had she expected this. She had him back, but he was no more hers than he was the day they first saw one another. It was like she was meeting him all over again. He was the same man, just a decade behind himself in memories.
"I named him after his father," she said gently, reaching out for his hand. He let her take it, looking down at her delicate fingers, seeing the wedding band shining up at him. "Sully, you don't remember anything?"
"I'm sorry. I wish I did. I just…can't." Michaela took a deep, shaky breath.
"You need to see a doctor."
"Aren't you a doctor?" Michaela looked at him, again in surprise.
"You remember that?"
"The banker said Matthew Cooper's ma was a doctor, so I just…"
"You've seen Matthew? You've spoken with him?"
"No. I just heard him and some girl, I guess his sister…they were talking about a baby named Byron, and I was curious, cause I was the only other Byron I knew." Michaela stepped back a little.
"I don't understand," she whispered. "Five minutes ago, I thought I'd never see you again. I came here to put some memories to rest…to try to move on. And now you're here, and you're saying you don't even remember me! I don't know how to deal with all of this!" She turned, looking up at the opera house, praying to God to change it all. Take it all back. Let them start over from that night. She just wanted everything to be good again.
"I'm sorry," he said, putting a hand on her shoulder. She closed her eyes. It was his touch. It was his hand. His warmth and caring, but he wasn't her husband anymore. It had all been washed away by a horrible accident, one that never would have happened had he not helped the dog soldiers. No. She couldn't think like that. She'd put that all behind her. He'd done what he'd thought was right. Unfortunately, it had cost him a lot more than anybody had ever expected. "I need to remember."
"I don't know how to help you," she breathed, turning back to face him. "You don't understand what this is like for me! I grieved…I thought…we had a funeral, Sully! There is an empty grave in Colorado Springs with your name on it!" Her voice was growing louder, more strained, and even more frantic. "I gave birth to your son three months ago, and he looks just like you. And you don't even remember marrying me, making love to me…raising the children. You remember Abagail but not me…"
"I don't doubt I'm married to ya," he said quietly. "You're beautiful, and you're all I've been able to think about since ya came into my dreams. But just like you grieved over your husband, I grieved over my wife, and hearin' that I've got a whole other family, it's a lot to take in. I never thought I'd love anybody again after Abagail, but I had to have fallen for you." He looked down. "I wish I could take back whatever it was that caused the accident. I was helpin' Indians, wasn't I?"
"How do you…"
"The banker again. He's got lots of stories, but I'd rather hear the truth from you."
"I don't know how to deal with this," she said quietly. And suddenly, as if waking from a dream, she gasped. "The children! They're waiting for me at the train station. I don't know how to tell them you're here…they…it's been difficult for us all." She wiped tears from her eyes. "But you're their father. You're my husband. We're your family now, and we want you back in our lives. I don't care what it takes, but we're going to get you through this." He had seen a change in her. Now, she was pushing everything aside and slipping into control. "I want to examine you and make sure you've healed properly."
"I'm fine." For a moment, her heart leapt. He was still the same stubborn Sully, but he looked at her the same way he'd looked at her when they'd first met. There was a connection there, but he was just as scared about relationships now as he was then. He was going to have to put Abagail behind him all over again, and that thought was killing her.
"You're not fine…you've lost your memory…"
"There ain't nothin' you can do for me." Michaela looked away. "And I'm all healed. Everything works the way I remember it workin'." He rubbed his hand over his jaw.
"I don't need an examination," he replied. Michaela looked down.
"Alright." She didn't know whether or not to hug him again or to break down in tears. Either way, she felt her heart breaking and her hopes fading. "How can I help you?"
"Help me remember," he said quietly. "What can I do?" She watched him. What could she ask of him after all of this? She knew what she wanted, and with all of her heart, she wanted her family to be whole again. But, before that could happen, he had to discover who he was, what his family meant to him, and he had to do that all despite the fact that to him, their marriage never existed.
"You can come home." Sully looked into her eyes, seeing the emotion there. All of her hopes rested on this decision. If she was his wife, they were still married, despite the fact that she thought he was dead. He had a family, and while he didn't know them, he had to do the right thing. If she was going to help him, he had to help her. He had to be there for her.
"To Colorado Springs?"
"Yes," she said. "That's where our home is. The home you built for us." He swallowed hard.
"What happened to the homestead that…"
"That you built for Abagail?" Michaela looked away when Sully nodded.
"It was burnt to the ground by Dog Soldiers shortly before you…"
"Ma?!" Michaela turned at the call of Brian, who was rushing after Katie, who was about three steps ahead of him. She was giggling and clapping her hands, but the moment she spotted the man with her mother, she froze, and Brian nearly tripped on her.
"Papa!" Katie screamed at the top of her lungs. Brian went to tug on her, but she wriggled out of his grasp.
"Katie, Pa's gone!" Brian tried to reckon with her, but her little legs were carrying her right across the street, and Michaela watched in horror as riders stopped their horses from trampling her.
"Katie, no!" Michaela exclaimed. Sully, instinct kicking in, rushed out into the middle of the street, as one oblivious carriage driver looked to the side instead of to the front. Katie stopped in her tracks, but he swooped in, scooping her in his arms and pulling her to safety. Michaela, in tears again, immediately took Katie into her arms, but Katie looked past her, reaching for her pa.
"Papa, papa!" she cried. Brian, now stunned from Katie's almost accident, made his way across the street, his eyes on Sully. He was walking very slowly now, eyes full of confusion.
"Brian," Michaela said quietly. She glanced at Sully who was now breathing heavily. Katie continued to cry, reaching out for Sully, not understanding why Michaela wouldn't let her go. "Thank you, Sully. Thank you for saving her…I…I should have…"
"Is she ok?"
"What's goin' on?" Brian asked. "Pa? You're alive?"
"Brian," Michaela breathed, "it isn't..." Brian shook his head.
"I don't understand."
"We need to explain…but it's…" Before Michaela could finish, Colleen and Matthew, with Byron in tow, came rounding the corner in full pursuit of Brian and Katie. Looks of utter astonishment were on the elder Cooper children's faces.
"Sully?" Matthew asked. Sully looked at Michaela pleadingly.
"What's going on, Ma?" Colleen asked, wide-eyed. "Sully? It's really you?"
"It's me," he said, "just…not all of me."
"What's wrong, Pa?" Brian asked.
"Brian, your father…he's been through a terrible ordeal…we need to give him some time to…"
"Where've you been all this time?" Matthew asked, eyeing the man he'd always looked up to as a father figure. "Hidin' from the army? If that's so, the army dropped their charges. Why'd ya stay away so long?" His jaw tensed with each word. "We looked for months, Sully."
"I'm sorry," he said, shaking his head, stepping back a ways. He looked at Michaela. "I can't go back to Colorado Springs." He took off, and Michaela knew that if she didn't go after him, this might be her last chance of having her dream come true; having her family back together.
"Papa!" Katie cried. "Back! Back, Papa!"
Michaela handed a crying Katie off to Colleen.
"Go to the train station. We'll be there shortly."
"Both of you?" Brian asked.
"Both of us," Michaela promised. "Go on!" The kids took off in one direction, and Michaela took off in the other, praying to God she'd be able to convince him to come home. She saw him up ahead, heading straight for a hotel. She gasped, realizing which hotel it was.
When she saw him stop on the porch steps, she swallowed hard, remembering they'd spent their honeymoon in this very hotel.
"Sully, wait!" she exclaimed. He placed his hand on the banister, and he turned to look at her.
"I can't go back there. Loren, he…"
"He forgave you a long time ago, Sully," she assured him. "Nobody blames you for what happened to Abagail and Hanna. Nobody." She reached out to him, taking his hand in hers. She gave it a gentle squeeze. "You have a lot of friends who love you back home, but most importantly, you have a family that needs you. We've missed you terribly, Sully. Life hasn't been the same. We left Colorado Springs when we lost you, just as you left when you lost Abagail. You didn't get a second chance with her, but we've gotten a second chance with you. I'm not willing to let that go. I need you too much to let you walk away from us!" She gulped for breath, going on. "I know you're afraid. I know you don't remember. I'm afraid too, Sully. But I want to help you remember. I want my husband back." She began to cry, and he stepped down toward her, his hand still in hers.
"Please don't cry. I don't ever wanna make ya cry…" She couldn't help it, and she leaned against him. He wrapped his arms around her, feeling her breaking down in his arms. "It's alright. It's alright." She felt foolish, crying in the arms of a man who barely knew her. But she knew him, and she wanted him to remember. She willed him to remember. But it wasn't that easy.
"I'm sorry," she sniffled, slowly pulling back. "I know it isn't your fault, and I don't want you to feel guilty…"
"I'm just afraid I won't ever be the same man you married."
"You are the man I married." She smiled sadly. "I only wish you could remember our wedding." She took a few slow, deep breaths. "Please come back with me, Sully. Please try. For our family…" Sully closed his eyes, looking down for a moment, trying to decide if he was ready to do this or not. But he was only thinking of himself. He had an entire family that had been left with a gaping hole in it for over a year. He couldn't very well just turn his back on them. He didn't know much about himself at this very minute, but he did know he was a bigger man than that. He never wanted to see children hurt because of him. He never wanted to see this beautiful woman shed tears of sorrow because of him either. No, it was time to make things right.
"I'll try, Michaela. I'll try."
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