Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. They belong to CBS, A&E, and the creators of the show.

End of the Road

Chapter 1

Stifled giggles came from the small upstairs bedroom. Sully was trying to get Katie dressed and ready to go before Michaela arrived home, because he wanted to surprise her with what Katie had decided to be for Halloween. The little girl, just two years old, had woken up in the middle of the night while her mother was out on a house call, and she'd rushed to her parents' bedroom, leaped up onto the large bed, and had proudly announced that she, Katherine Sully, was going to be a doctor. Now, she was fidgeting as Sully hurriedly tied the tiny apron around the little girl's waist. Grace had made it just for the child, a gift to her goddaughter.

"Hold thtill, Kateth. I almotht got it. Hold on."

"Hurry, Papa! Mama's coming!" Sully paused for a moment, and sure enough, he could hear Flash galloping toward the homestead.

"Hold your hortheth," he chuckled, taking the safety pin out from the corner of his mouth, thus clearing up his temporary speech impediment. Katie giggled, covering her mouth.

"Papa talk funny!"

"There. Ya look perfect." He'd even managed to get the little girl's light-blonde hair into a very short braid. One of Michaela's old stethoscopes hung loosely around her neck, and she carried a dusty old doctor's bag. She looked even smaller with those props, but it melted Sully's heart to see his little girl looking even more like her mother than she already did.

Her big blue eyes were the only feature she possessed that gave her away as his daughter. The rest of her was purely Michaela. Sully felt certain that someday, her almost white blonde hair would be auburn like her mother's.

"Come on, Kates." Sully scooped his daughter up into his arms and made his way down the steps of their two-story home. He was proud to say he built it with his own two hands, building it with every intention of filling it with a large family someday. Just over a year after they first said "I do," Katie was on her way.

As soon as Katie's feet touched the floor, she ran to the door.

"Hold on! We gotta get your shawl. It's getting chilly out there. Mama has her coat on."

"I be like Mama." Sully knelt down, pulling the warm, lavender shawl around Katie. Her grandmother had made it for her, with arm holes so she wouldn't have to hold it on herself. Just the perfect garment for this weather.

Sully opened the front door, and Katie tore out of the homestead, rushing directly for the barn.

"Slow down, Katie!" But she was already climbing over the corral fence and hurrying into the barn to greet her mother. For two years old, she certainly was a quick child!

Michaela Quinn-Sully, Dr. Quinn to her patients, turned at the sound of her daughter's laughter. She didn't have time to take in the child's attire, because the little girl was already wrapping her arms around her mother's legs, hugging her. Michaela let out a little giggle and scooped the little one into her arms.

"Hello, sweetheart! What's this? You have Mama's stethoscope?"

"Not just any stethoscope," Sully pointed out, stepping into the barn. "The first one ya had when ya came to Colorado Springs." Michaela thought back, recalling a time that seemed like so long ago, when in fact, it was just shy of six years ago. "And one of your old medical bags."

"Katie," Michaela said softly, holding her daughter out to look at her. "You're a doctor!"

"I'm Mama," Katie insisted. Michaela laughed, hugging the little girl close.

"Miss Grace was real nice to make the apron on short notice. Katie only just told me last night."

"I'll have to give her a free check up for that," Michaela nodded, making a mental note. "Katie, you look lovely. Let's go inside before you get all dirty before the party."

"What Mama go as?"

"It's a surprise."

"Papa know?"

"Nope, she won't even tell me," Sully laughed.

"Mama Princess?"

"You'll have to wait and see," Michaela pointed out.

"C'mon, Michaela. Ya know what I'm goin' as."

"That doesn't count," Michaela laughed. "You're going as Prince Charming again."

"It worked the first time didn't it?"

"And the second time, but Sully, a third time? Really?"

"What? The suit still fits." Michaela laughed, rolling her eyes a little. "Well, you do look awfully handsome in it. But I'm still not telling you what my costume is." She pulled a large bag out from the back of an empty stall.

"That's where ya been hidin' it."

"I knew if you were home with Katie all day, you wouldn't be out here to snoop around."

"I thought ya trusted me."

"With my life, Mr. Sully, but not with my costume." She smiled, and Sully pulled her into a quick embrace, kissing her lightly on the lips.

"I'll watch Katie while you get ready." Sully took his daughter into his arms and followed his wife into the house.

Michaela took each step carefully, as she made her way down the stairs. She bit her lip with anticipation as she heard Katie's giggles coming from the kitchen. She could hear Sully's low voice, and she took a deep breath. Adjusting her hair so it was just-so, she finally took the last step off the stairs. She stepped into the glowing light from the fire, and she watched as Sully's gaze moved slowly from her feet to her eyes. A sparkle was hidden there, and he smiled.

"I thought perhaps we should match this year."

"You're Cinderella again?" he asked.

"I thought this dress could use a little more wearing. Besides, I wanted to see if it would fit me again. I wasn't sure if it would after Katie…"

"Ya look beautiful," he whispered, stepping over and sweeping up his wife into his arms. Kissing her lovingly, he chuckled as Katie clapped her hands.

"Dance with Mama!"

"Mama's feet might get tired," Sully pointed out. "Better save that for the party."

"Otay," Katie said with a nod. "Papa get dressed."

"You'd better hurry," Michaela urged. "We don't want to be late." Sully nodded, kissed his wife's hand, lingering there for an extra moment just to make her blush, and then he headed up the stairs to dress for the party.

The ride into town was cooler than Michaela expected, so she held Katie in her lap, arms wrapped around her, making certain she kept warm. Katie leaned against her mother, reciting as much of the ABCs that she knew, which was only up to the letter E. They were working with her, and folks in town were beginning to label her as the smartest little girl of her age they knew. Michaela was starting to worry that perhaps Katie would be made fun of just as she was as a child, but she also knew that there was no excuse for sacrificing a good education. Katie was a beautiful, smart child, and she had many opportunities ahead of her. She only hoped the little girl would realize this with age and understand that it's ok to be smart. To be different. That's what made her extraordinary.

"Warm enough?"

"Yes," Michaela said sleepily.

"You ok?"

"It's been a long day. Mr. Myers' appendectomy took longer than expected. He started bleeding out, and I thought I was going to lose him."

"He's ok?"

"Yes. Charlotte was there, and she was able to assist me."

"Good," Sully nodded.

Charlotte Cooper was the midwife in town before Michaela showed up. She often assisted with births, and it was not uncommon to see her assisting in other medical procedures. She wasn't a doctor, but she could hold her stomach at the sight of blood, and she could get her hands dirty when necessary.

As they were rounding the bend to get onto the last small stretch of road that would lead them into town, the sound of a wagon coming toward them at breakneck speed startled Flash and Bear, and Sully directed them to pull over to the side of the road.

"What's this about?" Michaela wondered, holding on snugly to Katie. When the approaching wagon began to slow at the sight of the other wagon up ahead, Michaela noticed the face of the driver.

"Robert E.?"

"Dr. Mike! I was comin' to fetch ya. There's been an accident." Michaela took one look at Sully, and he nodded. "They got a fella at the clinic. I need to turn around up ahead, but it's an emergency."

"Thank you, Robert E." Michaela nodded to her friend, and Sully got the horses going again, as they headed on toward town. Robert E. continued on in the direction of a good turn around spot.

"Papa, what take so long?" Katie asked, as she sat on her father's lap just outside of the clinic.

"Mama's helpin' the man inside. She'll be out soon, I bet." He glanced at the gentleman standing next to the porch rail, staring out at the townspeople as they headed toward the Halloween party.

"What was it you said happened?"

"We were on the train, and he just collapsed. He's…he's my brother, and if anything happens to him…"

"Dr. Mike's a good doctor. If he can be fixed, she'll fix him." The older man just nodded.

"I sure hope so. We were on our way here to talk to a fella about a job. My brother's better with the words than I am, and…"

"Who're you lookin' for? I know just about everybody in this town. Well, used to 'fore the train came along."

"We were comin' to talk to Mr. Sully." Sully glanced at Katie, who giggled.

"Papa!" Sully placed the little girl next to him on the bench and stood up.

"I'm Sully."

"The Mr. Sully who's been working with the higher ups in Washington to get the Cheyenne land named a historical landmark?"

"That's right."

"Well, I'm Daniel Smith. My brother? His name's Welland. I…I should wait to talk to ya about this 'til…" The door to the clinic opened, and Michaela came walking out. Sully, quite curious about this job offer, watched Mr. Smith as he walked over to Michaela."

"Your brother is going to be fine. He was simply exhausted, probably from the trip, and the lack of sleep caught up to him. A couple of days rest, and he should be as good as new."

"Thanks Dr. Quinn. Can I see him?"

"Of couse." She smiled, and the man hurried into the clinic. "Sorry about the Halloween Party, Katie. We can still go."

"I'm sleepy, Mama. Let's go home." Michaela smiled, and she nodded her head.

"I think that sounds like a good idea." She scooped the little girl up, noticing the look on her husband's face.

"Sully? Is something wrong?" He shook his head.

"Nothin' to worry about. C'mon. Let's go home." He took Katie as Michaela climbed up into the wagon. Then he handed the little girl up to her mother, climbed in next to them and headed off toward the homestead, Daniel Smith's words ringing over and over through his head.