The Prize

Disclaimer: The story of Christy is owned the

Marshall-LeSourd Family. I am in no way seeking profit

or credit for her story. This fiction is written for our

own amusement only. This story uses themes from the book,

CBS series, and the PAX movies

Authors Note: I took the scene in the schoolyard from the TV series, but took the rest from the movie. Basically it's a way of getting rid of Margret without having to deal with her death. This is one of my first fanfics, so please be kind.

Prologue: The stage was set, the curtain about to rise. What was she to do? She knew that this past year in the Cove had led to this point. A culmination, the climax of all the feelings in her heart and those of the two men she stood between. Each man presented a different path: one straight and narrow, the other winding and far less traveled. Which, oh which was she to choose?

Lovely, so very, very lovely I thought as I gazed at the diamond engagement ring in my hand. The way the light seemed to dance upon its surface captivating me; never in my life had something as simple reflecting light captured my attention so. Then again, at this moment I seemed to be searching for something, anything to take my mind off the quandary at hand. I knew in my heart what the right answer was, but in my mind every reason for objection was being tossed about like a ship on a stormy sea.

Was I to choose David, the man whom I had come to respect for his determination and willingness to help the people of the cove; the man who I had grown rather fond of over these past few months? But was that all I felt for him, fondness? That was not enough to build a good marriage on even I knew that.

Then there was Neil. He was the man that had caused such complications in my feelings both for David and for himself. Somehow my respect for him had grown into admiration, trust, and dare I think it? Love. Love was what you needed to build a marriage on, and that along with respect and trust were the makings of a marriage that would last a lifetime, the type of marriage I wanted.

"Christy" David's voice woke me from my stupor. Glancing up I realized that I was still standing between David and Neil. I looked at David then to Neil then back to David. I knew what I had to do, but how was I ever going to find the strength to do it?

"I, I…." was that all I could say? "I" Taking a deep breath I willed myself to go on.

Before I could open my mouth the speak David interrupted.

"Doctor, why don't you just give it up? She's mine, she always has been and she always will be! I won her heart fair and square. If you would just leave us alone and stop confusing her none of this would have ever happened!"

Never before had I heard such harsh tones in David's voice or seen such anger in his eyes. Opening my mouth again I tried to speak, yet once again I was interrupted, this time by Dr. MacNeil.

"Is that what Christy is to you Reverend? Some type of prize to be won and had? She is not some marble that you win in a childish game! You never won her, she is not yours. She belongs to no one but herself."

I took a step towards Neil. "Neil" I began, "David and I need to talk." No more words were needed, but as I looked up into those blue eyes that so closely mirrored my own, I mouthed three words. "I love you." With a curt nod to David, Neil spurred his horse and rode away from the school house.

School! I had completely forgotten. Glancing up I looked towards the schoolhouse. Standing on the porch were all of my pupils and much to my horror I realized that they had all witnessed the scene that occurred just moments before. Mustering my courage and trying my hardest to keep my voice from faltering I called out to Ruby Mae.

"Ruby Mae, would you be as kind as to dismiss school for today. Classes will continue tomorrow as they normally would." With a nod Ruby Mae turned to the children and told them all that they could return home.

When I could no longer see any of the children, I turned to David. "David would you be so kind as to join me for a walk in the woods?" Nodding yes, he grabbed my hand and we set off towards the forest. I did not resist his touch; my mind was to busy grasping for the words to tell him how I we had walked a little ways in silence, I seemed to miraculously find my voice.

"David, I'm sorry I can't." I snapped the ring box shut and held it towards him in my outstretched palm. "Neil was right, I don't belong to you and even if I did, you never had me to begin with. You think that you're in love with me. I made the same mistake and thought that I was in love with you. But the reality is that I'm not nor have I ever been. We're not right for each other and we'd only make the other miserable."

"Christy" David interrupted, "This is all MacNeil's fault. If he hadn't come along when he did you would have said yes and everything would be alright."

"It's not Dr. MacNeil's fault. I realized all of this on my own. You treat me like a child. You never want to talk; all you want to do is kiss me. You're not in love with me; you're in love with the idea of me; the preacher and the teacher, a match made in heaven. I'm sorry David, it's just not meant to be. "With one final look at David, I turned and began the long walk back towards the mission.

When I reached the school house, I found Sam Houston waiting for me. "Teacher, are ya gonna marry the preacher?" I shook my head no. "Well Ima surely glad. Ya see, all of us youngins are rootin for you and the Doc. He loves you ya know." I nodded my head yes. "I know he does Sam Houston, both of us are just too stubborn to admit it." Sam just shook his head as he walked away, "I jest don't rightly understand adults, they just cain't say wat they mean." At his last remark, I had to laugh. Sometimes children were far wiser than adults, especially in matters of the heart.

The week that followed seemed to drag on forever. Neil had been called away to Low Gap, and I had not seen him since that afternoon when I had turned down David's proposal. Things around the mission were extremely awakward. David avoided me at all costs, and I had heard from Ms. Alice that he was making plans to return home as soon as the term was over. It hurt me that our friendship had not been able to survive my refusal. But then again, for David had there really ever been anything more than stolen kisses in the moonlight?

Finally one day after school, I heard the noise that I had been longing to here for the past week; the sound of hooves coming towards the school house. I smiled to myself, Neil was back! I ran down the school house steps only to be disappointed. Neil glanced my way, said "Miss Huddleston" and continued on towards his cabin. I felt crushed. Sam Houston had said that the doctor loved me. Why then had he acted so aloof? I wasn't sure why, but I knew I had to find out. I decided to follow him, but on foot. If he saw me riding after him, he was sure to avoid me and go anywhere but back to his cabin.

When I arrived at his cabin, I knocked quietly on the door but no one answered. Deciding that he was most likely asleep, I decided that I would go inside and wait for him. Opening the door, my mouth nearly fell open in shock. Clothes, books, and other miscellaneous items littered the floor of the cabin. Dishes were piled in the sink and there was a solid layer of dust over the entire cabin. How could the doctor live like this? I had seen his laboratory and compared to the neatness of it, the rest of the cabin was in utter chaos. Then again, what had I expected? The doctor had been widowed for the past five years, and was rarely at home. I had to laugh at my expectations, as great a doctor as this man was, he was still a man. Sighing, I made my way inside and glanced around searching for a bucket. After finding a bucket and filling it with water, I set about the enormous task of scrubbing every inch of the good Doctor's cabin. I assumed that if the Doctor had not come to see what was causing all of the noise in his cabin that he was not home. Five hours later the dishes were done, the floor was scrubbed, and dinner was set on the warmer on the stove. Scanning the main room of the cabin I realized that the cabin had probably not been that clean in a very long time. I decided to wait a little longer to see if the Doctor showed up, I wanted so badly to talk to him and explain everything that had happened. I felt so comfortable in his cabin that in a way it scared me. I started a fire then sat down in the rocker in front of the hearth. Soon, the gentle rocking motion and warmth from the fire lulled me into a peaceful slumber.

When I awoke I couldn't place where I was. All I knew was that I was warm under a quilt in a strange bed. Glancing out the window, I realized that it was completely dark. Panic coursed through my veins. How long had I been gone from the mission? More importantly, where was I? When the haziness of sleep faded, it all came flooding back to me. I had come to Neil's cabin looking for him, but he had not been here. I had cleaned his cabin and then I must have fallen asleep in front of the fireplace. My eyes quickly darted around the room. I realized that I was in Neil's room in Neil's bed! How did I end up here? Sitting up, I studied the room more closely. There were two windows, one beside the bed and one on the opposite wall facing the river. There was a chest of drawers on the wall opposite the bed, and a trunk at the foot. The room was small, but it was cozy. The lamp on the chest cast a warm glow about the room. For some odd reason I felt safe, as if nothing would ever be able to harm me.

"Ah, Sleeping Beauty has awakened at last."

Turning towards the door, I found Dr. MacNeil staring at me. He had a look on his face that I had never seen before, and I couldn't quite figure out what it was. From the moment that he had walked into the room, the racing of my heart seemed to be increasing dramatically. Why did this always have to happen when he got close to me?

"What time is it?"

"About eleven."

"Eleven! I've got to go; everyone at the mission must be worrying about me!"

"Calm down Miss Huddleston. Alice came by on her way back from Lufty Branch to check on me and when she found out that you were here, she decided not to wake you. She said that lately you had been looking rather pale and decided that it would be best to let you rest. "

Once again, the doctor's tone was all business. There was not a trace of any emotion what so ever.

"If you don't mind me inquiring Miss Huddleston, why were you here in the first place? I'm sure your future husband would not be happy if he found you here." His words hurt me in a way that I had never felt before. Why was he being so cold towards me?

When I realized that I was still in his bed, I quickly rose and began to straighten out my rumpled skirts. Gulping I prayed silently that I would find the courage to tell him what I had to say. For some reason whenever I was around him, I became completely tongue tied and seemed to find the ability to babble like an idiot. Taking a deep breath and looking him straight in the eyes, I began to speak.

"I came here because I needed to speak with you. I always come to you when I have a problem." Before I could continue, he interrupted.

"Miss Huddleston, I'm sure that your future husband might feel that it is his place to help you with your problems. Perhaps you'd best go to him." Again there were cold tones in his voice and his eyes might as well have been frozen, they were so icy. Why was he acting this way?

"There is no future husband!" I snapped. "I thought you already knew that. " I told David that I couldn't marry him right after you left the school yard."

"I, uh, well no I didn't know." Never before had the Doctor been at such a loss for words, and never before had I seen him so vulnerable. Taking a deep breath I forged ahead. I had found my strength and my voice; nothing was going to stop me now.

"You see, I have a problem that I need to discuss with you and it concerns something that is of no interest to David. In fact Doctor, my problem lies with you."

"What problem would that be Miss Huddleston?" The icy tones in his voice had been replaced by something else. Was it fear?

"You see Doctor you made a mistake the other day." With each word I spoke, I took a step towards him. My heart was beating so fast and so loud that I swear Neil could've heard it. If he couldn't hear it, he should definitely have been able to see it.

"I did, did I? Well please Miss Huddleston do enlighten me."

"You said that I belong to no one but myself, you were wrong. There is a part of that belongs to someone. That someone owns my heart and holds it in his hands. It belongs to someone whom I have come to trust, respect, and love with every fiber of my being." My face was now just inches from his. I placed my hands lightly on his broad chest. He looked so vulnerable at that moment that it made my heart surge with love for this man: a man who on the outside seemed so strong and invincible, but then when the armor was broken he was as vulnerable as everyone else.

"Who would that be Miss Huddleston?" His face was the perfect picture of calmness, but his voice betrayed him. That Scottish brogue which I loved so dearly was husky with emotion and faltering with every word he spoke. Looking up into his eyes I smiled tenderly.

"Don't you already know Doctor? My heart belongs to you and it has from that first day in the Spencer's cabin; I just didn't realize it. I love you Neil MacNeil and no matter how hard you push me away, I will push back towards you with the same strength.

Rising up on my toes, I brushed that stray lock of sandy red hair up and off of his forehead. I didn't know what else to say. I had told him how I felt and now he had my heart in his hands. It was his to do with as he pleased.

"And I love you lass." With those words he placed an arm around my waist and drew me to him. Never taking his eyes off mine for a second he lightly brushed his lips against mine. The faintest touch from him sent a shock through my entire body. Sighing with contentment, I buried my head in his chest. I was genuinely happy for the first time in months. I felt as if a great burden had been lifted from my shoulders and I was free at last. I had his heart and he mine. Together at last, out hearts were bound together by a bond that would last for a lifetime.