Disclaimer: I do not own the characters to Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. The creators of the show and Beth Sullivan own the rights and the characters and the show. Thank you to the wonderful creators of Dr. Quinn for inspiring me to write. Thank you so much!

Summary: Byron Sully and Michaela Quinn meet under extraordinary circumstances at very crucial points in both of their lives. Will their common circumstances bring them closer together?

Before You

Ashley J.

Chapter 1: Roadside Assistance

Byron Sully sat on the bench just outside the mercantile in town. In his arms lay a sleeping baby girl. Her icy blue eyes may have been hidden beneath her heavy lids, but her dark, black hair was a mess of curls in stark contrast to her father's off-white shirt.

In the past six months, he'd grown more as a man than he'd ever had to in such a short time before. He had to learn how to raise a newborn baby on his own, keep his livestock well fed and protected from the elements, and he had had to earn a living by doing odd jobs. His Cheyenne friends had been a big part of his life since he first met them almost a decade ago. But nobody, not even his friend Cloud Dancing who had fathered three children with his wife Snow Bird, could have prepared him for fatherhood, especially as a single parent.

The glass-paned wood doors to the mercantile creaked open, and a haggard-looking gray-haired man stepped out. He was surprised to see Sully standing there, as the two hadn't been on very good terms before Hanna's birth. Even though things were better between them now, it was still a surprise to find him waiting outside before the town had even really woken up.

"Whatcha doin' here so early, Sully?" Loren asked, instinctively reaching for his grand daughter. The little girl stirred only slightly before continuing her slumber in her grandfather's arms.

"I've got some work to do out at the Daniel Miller's place. I was wonderin'…I know it's a lot to ask, but…"

"I'll watch her. Don't you worry about that. A man's got to do what he has to to provide for his family, I know that." Sully nodded slowly. It was still unusual to get so much support from the older man. "I know you and me had our differences, but I know you're takin' good care of my grandbaby. 'Sides…Maude's been asking me to come and get her for days now. Just hadn't gotten out to the homestead yet." Loren looked down at little Hanna. "Still ain't easy for me to come out there, ya know?"

"Oh, I know," Sully murmured. He reached out and placed his hand on Hanna's tiny back. "I'll be back 'fore suppertime." Loren merely nodded and turned to head back in the store to tell Maude they had a visitor for the day. But before he closed the store doors again, he turned back to Sully.

"You ain't heard nothin' from her, have ya Sully?" Sully only shook his head, swallowing the lump in his throat.

"Not since I got the divorce papers," he replied. With that, he turned and headed off out of town to do his work for the day.

"A lady doctor," Jake Slicker said, shaking his head in disbelief. "Why'd you go and send for her?"

"Jake," Reverend Johnson said firmly, "no other doctor would answer our advertisement. We're out in the middle of nowhere, no train, only one telegraph."

"So she's our last resort?" Jake asked.

"You sure she's even a real doctor?" Hank Lawson snickered as he puffed on his cigar. "Sure she ain't one of them snake oil salesmen, comin' in to sell you a cure for somethin' that ain't got a cure?"

"She has a medical degree, Hank. I'm sure she's a qualified doctor," the Reverend pointed out. "She don't seem to be wanting to sell any snake oil. She bought the old boarding house in town, anyway. Said she's gonna use it for her clinic."

"Yeah, well, we'll see," Hank chuckled.

"You ask me, a woman belongs in the kitchen, not in the doctor's office…less'n she's a patient," Jake said firmly, folding his arms.

"Well, let's just hope you don't need doctorin' then, Jake. You might just have to go all the way to Denver for stitichin' up, unless you plan on doin' it yourself," Grace Smith said with a cocked eyebrow as she turned to walk away with her husband Robert E. Jake felt like replying with something spiteful, but instead, he turned and walked away from the church toward the barber shop. The new doctor was supposed to be arriving by stage today. He couldn't wait to see how a woman crazy enough to try and be a doctor looked.

As the wagon jostled and creaked across the plains, Sully spotted something off on the distance. He slowed the horses to a stop and stood up, peering out toward the scene, squinting to keep the sun from interfering in his gaze. He saw what appeared to be the stage coach, only it was leaning to one side.

Figuring it had lost a wheel, he urged the horses forward toward the site. The closer he approached, the sooner he realized that the driver was attempting to prepare a wheel that was beyond repair.

When the wagon neared close enough that the driver could hear it approaching, he reached up from the front of the coach to retrieve his shotgun.

"Havin' some trouble?" Sully asked, stopping the wagon just feet away. He stood up and stepped down into the tall prairie grass.

"Just a broke wheel, mister. Nothin' I can't fix."

"Sure," Sully said with a slow nod. "But that wheel's busted. It ain't gonna get you very far. I got a wagon. If you're headed to Colorado Springs, I could give you a lift, pull the coach behind. Whaddya say?" Before the driver could respond, a cry out came from inside the stage coach. The driver put his weapon away and moved toward the doors.

"Ma'am, it's just gon' be a few more minutes." Sully immediately hurried over to peer inside the stagecoach. What he found, to his surprise, was a beautiful woman lurched over gripping her stomach in pain. Tendrils over her reddish brown hair were matted to the sides of her face from sweat. And judging by the size of her stomach, Sully guessed she was about to bring that baby she was carrying into the world.

"Ma'am, we got a midwife in town. Let me help you out…we'll get Widow Cooper, and…and we got a doctor supposed to be coming in today."

"No," she cried out between clenched teeth. "I'm…I'm the doctor. Oh!" She doubled over again, and Sully's eyes widened.

"C'mon. Take my hand. Take it, and we'll…we'll get you back to town real quick, alright?" The woman, taking only a moment to think about it before the pain hit her again, accepted Sully's hand and let him help her out of the stagecoach.

"Sorry, Mister, but I ain't got time to hitch that rig to my wagon. I'll have somebody meet ya. I gotta get this lady back fast." The driver just waved him off and went back to his useless attempt to repair the damaged wheel. Sully helped the woman up into the back of the wagon. As soon as she was secure, he got in the front and urged the horses to turn the wagon around. Within seconds, they were speeding toward town, destined to arrive within an hour.

The young woman had grown very quiet during the ride, and Sully kept looking back to make sure she was alright. She was awake and breathing and clearly quite miserable. And about twenty minutes outside of town, she let out a mighty cry, one strong enough to startle the horses. Sully grabbed the reins tightly and slowed the horses to a stop. He jumped out of the wagon and rushed around to see if there was anything he could do.

"Ma'am…we're almost there. Just another twenty minutes or so, and…"

"No," she panted. "Baby's…coming now." She let out another yell, and Sully felt his heart stop in his chest for a brief second.

"Are…are you sure? We just…"

"I'm certain," she groaned. "I have to…I have to deliver this baby here." The fear in her eyes told him that while she may have been a doctor, she was in no way prepared for what she was about to endure. He'd been on the outside of the bedroom when Abagail had given birth to Hanna. It had been an excruciating few hours hearing her yell and carry on like that. He had feared he was going to lose her, but the moment he heard Hanna's cries and saw Abagail was alright for himself, all those worries had gone away. Now, even though he had absolutely no idea who this woman was, he was feeling those familiar pangs of worry creeping in.

"You uh…you probably need to get outta this wagon. Let me help you." She only nodded and let him help her. They found a little clearing nearby, and he helped her settle down onto the ground.

"My bag," she gasped, clutching her stomach. "I'll need it…we'll need to..." He was gone in a flash before she could finish her sentence. When he returned, she grabbed the bag and opened it up, groaning and clenching her teeth as she searched for things inside.

"What're ya lookin' for?"

"I need…scissors to cut the cord…I can't…ohhhhh!" The bag fell to the ground, and Sully grabbed it. He began sifting through looking for what she needed. When he found them, he placed them aside.

"What should I do? Boil some water?"

"I'll be alright," she groaned. "I just need…some privacy."

"'Scuse me, ma'am, but I think this is a two person job." She shot him a glare that could boil molasses. "I'm just sayin'…you're gonna need somebody to…to…"

"Aaaaah!" Sully spotted a creek just a few yards away.

"I'm gonna go wash up. You…you don't move, and I'll be right back. I'll start a fire and…"

"It's coming!" Within moments, she was collapsing against the tree, and Sully decided he had to do something. He began to move her skirt, but she swatted his hands away before grabbing onto a large, thick tree root and holding on for dear life. "I can't…I…"

"Look at me. Hey! Look at me." She took a few staggered breaths before she looked at him. "Let me help you do this. You gotta let me help you get this baby born, alright?" She swallowed hard and let out a whimper before biting her lower lip and nodding.

"I can't do this. I can't…"

"Yes you can. You got this far. Just a little bit longer, alright? Soon as it's done, we'll get you to town, alright? You're gonna be alright."

"I am. I am…" She closed her eyes and seemed to be drawing strength from somewhere deep inside. "I am."

"Alright. You can do this, alright? Just…just push." She quickly rid herself of her under garments and, pushing modesty and propriety aside for the sake of her child, she let Sully help her bring her child into the world. "I can see the head, alright? So just…just push, ok?"

"Is it blue?"

"What?"

"The head, is it blue?"

"No…it's…it's red…pink." With that bit of good news, she bore down and began to push. Four pushes and an extraordinary amount of screaming later, Sully held up a crying, newborn baby girl.

"It's…it's a girl." Besides holding his newborn daughter in his arms for the first time, this was the most extraordinary thing he'd ever been witness to or part of. He handed the screeching infant to her mother and watched as pure joy and relief and love flooded over the new mother's face.

"Hello beautiful," she murmured, kissing her child's head and cuddling her close. "Hello…" Sully sat back in amazement, feeling completely engrossed in this moment, a moment he likely never would have been a part of had it not for his need to go out to the Millers' homestead that morning.

"I guess it's a little late for introductions," he said quietly. "I'm Byron Sully." The exhausted mother smiled through her tears and took a big breath.

"I'm Michaela Quinn."