Debby K's Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman Fan Fiction



All Human Songs


by Debby K


Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
All Human Songs
by Debby K

************
Chapter 1
************

Michaela awoke and squinted against the ray of sunlight that focused on her face.

"'Mornin'," Sully sat on the edge of the bed, studying his drawing.

"Good morning," she rubbed his arm. "Today's the day."

"Yep," he smiled. "Gonna start work on the addition t' the homestead."

"I remember when you showed me the first drawing of our home," she recalled.

"That's been nearly ten years," he nodded.

"Really?" she was amazed. "Ten years since...."

"Since I asked ya t' marry me," he leaned over to kiss her.

"I can scarcely believe it," she ran her fingers enticingly through his hair. "This place seemed so large when you completed it. I wondered if we would be able to fill it."

"You done real good fillin' it," he glanced toward the cribs.

Her cheeks warmed, "I believe you had a hand in it, Mr. Sully."

"I love havin' my hand...." he paused to place his palm in a provocative place.

"Sully!" she gulped.

"What?" he pretended to not know the effect he had.

"What are you doing?" she began to melt.

"I gotta explain after all this time, Michaela?" he teased.

"I...." her cheeks reddened. "I... mean.... ah... that is...."

"Say what's on your mind," he continued his movements.

"You're.... making it difficult," she closed her eyes, savoring his touches.

"Difficult?" he lightly placed his lips on her neck.

Clasping the sides of his head, she became breathless, "We.... can't do this.... right now.... I have an appointment.... soon."

"Can't do what?" he caressed her breast.

She swallowed hard, "I'm expecting.... a.... patient...."

"What time?" he kissed the lobe of her ear.

"What time what?" she began to forget.

"Is your appointment?" he paused.

Michaela rolled him onto his back, "I have time."

"But you said...." he stopped when she kissed him.

"I feel a sense of urgency, Mr. Sully," she kissed his chest.

"I'm kinda gettin' that sensation myself," he shut his eyes to savor her caresses.

"Sully," she gazed at him intently. "I adore you.... with all of my heart."

"I love how ya wake up," he grinned.

"But...." she placed her finger to his lips. "What about the babies?"

"They're sleepin'," he hoped more than knew.

"What if we waken them?" she felt his increasing need.

"Michaela," his pulse raced. "Ya can't be thinkin' about them right now."

"I can't help but think of them," she knew he could hold back no longer. "They're our children."

"Michaela," he rolled her onto her back.

"Mmm?" she ran her finger along the line of his jaw.

It was then that he noticed the teasing gleam in her eye, "Ya got me all worked up just t' stop like this?"

"You are rather.... worked up," she smiled.

"I thought you adore me," he frowned.

"I do, I do, I do," she kissed him after each phrase. "And...."

"And what?" his body tingled.

"And the babies are asleep," she kissed his neck.

"An' ya ain't teasin' me anymore?" he clasped her hands.

"Me tease?" she smiled. "I'm the one without a sense of humor. Remember?"

"But ya got other good points," he joked.

Resuming their kisses, passions stirred with greater fervor. Soon, they were enraptured in their special world. The dizzying heights of energy which they exchanged prompted an explosively satisfying resolution. With rapidly beating hearts, they finally slowed their movements to allow their bodies to calm.

"I do adore you," she repeated as she stroked back the moist hair from his face.

Sully's eyes met hers as he recited:

"Wit, and Grace, and Love, and Beauty,
In a constellation shine;
To adore thee is my duty,
Goddess o' this soul o' mine!"

"Sounds like Robert Burns," she smiled.

"Right," he kissed her again.

"Ma..." Annie's voice came from her crib.

Michaela quickly glanced at their daughter, "Good morning, my darling."

"I'll get her," Sully sat up and drew on his buckskins.

Lifting the little girl, he rested her soft blonde hair against his lips, "How's my little darlin' this mornin'?"

"Pap," she leaned into him.

Michaela reached for the child, "Sully.... you don't think she heard us...."

"Michaela," he handed Annie to her mother. "She's only ten months old."

In the brightening light of day, Michaela held the baby closer and looked at her eyes.

"I never thought having eyes like mine was beautiful, but on Annie, they certainly are," she mused.

"Whoever told ya your eyes weren't beautiful?" he questioned.

"I was teased mercilessly as a child," she remembered. "Marjorie in particular was relentless."

Sully sat beside his wife and daughter, "I reckon she was jealous."

"Of my eyes?" she doubted.

"I bet your Pa loved 'em," he sensed.

"As a matter of fact, he did," she turned up the corner of her mouth at the memory.

"Ma," Annie touched her mother's lips.

Michaela kissed the baby's fingers, "Dorothy and Cloud Dancing are coming by the Clinic today to discuss the Indian School. Do you think you might take time from working on the homestead to join us?"

"Sure," he clasped Annie's tiny hand. "What time?"

"Noon?" she proposed.

"I'll be there," he agreed.

************

"Dr. Quinn?" the woman greeted Michaela in her office.

"Mrs. Jackson," she rose to shake her hand. "You didn't mention the nature of your problem when you made the appointment."

"Breathing," the woman brushed back a lock of her hair. "I came to Colorado Springs for curative powers of its air, but this week, breathing has been a bit difficult. Dr. Kelly at the College recommended you as the finest physician in Colorado."

"Thank you," Michaela noticed her accent. "Are you by chance from Massachusetts?"

"Yes," she smiled. "I detect the same of you."

"Boston," Michaela returned.

"Amherst," Mrs. Jackson nodded.

"How long have you been in Colorado Springs?" Michaela prepared a breathing treatment.

"Five years," she replied.

"And we've never met?" the doctor was incredulous.

"I'm afraid I prefer communing with the mountaintops than the social life of Colorado Springs," the woman explained.

"I want you to take deep, even breaths," Michaela held the mist closer.

The patient complied and soon began to improve.

"So how do you like Colorado Springs?" Michaela inquired.

"The fairest spot on earth," Mrs. Jackson smiled. "I love to go to a special mountain and spend the entire day writing about what I see.... how I feel."

"Just like Thoreau," Michaela compared.

"Yes, he at Walden, me at Cheyenne Mountain," she added. "Emerson has encouraged my poetry."

"You're a writer," Michaela's eyes widened. "And you know Emerson?"

"Yes," she smiled. "But for a woman author, a pseudonym is often a necessity."

"By what name have you written?" the doctor was interested.

"H.H.," she noted. "And Saxe Holm."

"My goodness," Michaela stepped toward her bookshelf. "I have one of your books. It's a favorite of my daughter, Katie."

"A physician and a mother," she smiled. "How many children have you?"

"My husband and I adopted three when we first married," Michaela detailed. "Their mother had died and left them in my care. And now, we have four of our own."

As Michaela spoke, the woman's eyes saddened, "You're very fortunate, Dr. Quinn."

"Please," she touched her hand. "Call me Michaela."

"Michaela," Mrs. Jackson repeated the name.

"Do you and your husband have children?" Michaela probed.

"Not as of yet," she took a deep breath and sighed. "I had two sons by my first husband, but.... they're dead."

"I'm sorry," Michaela immediately regretted her question.

"I remarried," she returned. "I met my second husband here in Colorado Springs."

"We have even more in common then," Michaela smiled. "I met my husband here."

The patient inquired, "How did you come to be a doctor?"

"My father was a physician," Michaela explained. "I spent every opportunity I could with him, and against all objections from my Mother, I became a doctor, as well."

"I like that," she smiled. "A woman of spirit and determination."

"Mrs. Jackson," Michaela invited. "Could I interest you and your husband in joining my family for dinner this evening?"

"Please, call me Helen," she responded. "And yes, we would love to join you."

************

"Where is that leprechaun?" Bridget spoke to herself as she searched the living room. "Josef!"

Noah tapped his highchair, "Up!"

"Not so fast, laddie," the nanny continued looking. "Not 'til I find that brother o' yours."

"Ka-" the baby boy called out.

"Your sister's at school, boy-oh," she wiped his mouth. "An' if I don't find your brother, your Ma's gonna have my head."

"Ma!" Annie recognized her mother's name and wanted up.

"Lordie, help me," Bridget took a deep breath. "You wee ones are gettin' t' be as busy as Josef. Now, where could he be?"

At that moment, Sully stepped into the house, Josef under his arm.

"Pa!" Noah shouted. "Up!"

"Sully," Bridget pointed to Josef. "I been lookin' for that one."

"He wandered outside," Sully kissed his son and set him down.

The child pouted, "I wanna help ya, Papa."

"Pa!" Noah reached for him.

Bridget sighed.

Sully smiled, "I think maybe these kids are a handful t'day."

"Ya can say that again," Bridget shook her head.

"How 'bout I take 'em int' town with me?" he offered.

"But what about your buildin' project, lad?" she tilted her head.

"I told Michaela I'd come int' the Clinic at noon," he glanced at the clock. "I know she'd love t' see the children."

"Then I could get a bit o' work done," she was grateful.

"Come on, Joe," Sully pointed toward the steps. "Let's get the twins ready."

Bridget watched him scoop up the babies into his arms and energetically climb the steps with Josef struggling to keep pace.

"I wish I had that kinda energy," she lamented.

************

"Hey, Loren," Brian entered the Mercantile.

"Brian, lad," his eyes brightened. "Got a fine pen set in from New York City. Just what a young writer needs."

"I'm not here t' buy anythin'," his expression was serious.

"Somethin' wrong?" the shopkeeper sensed.

"I...." he hesitated. "I was wonderin' if I could talk t' ya."

Loren glanced around the empty shop, then stepped toward the door, turned the sign to "Closed" and returned to the young man's side.

"Have a seat," Loren gestured. "What's on your mind?"

Brian sat on the simple wooden chair and fidgeted with his hands.

Loren pulled a chair close and joined him, "Go on. You can tell me."

"Promise ya won't tell anyone?" he requested.

"'Course I won't," Loren pledged.

"I.... kinda wanted your advice," the young man began.

"My advice?" Loren wondered. "About what?"

Brian cleared his throat and went on, "Women."

Loren's eyes widened, "Ah, women. What ya wanna know?"

Brian folded his arms uncomfortably, "What do ya do when you like one a lot, but she don't like you?"

"Well, it so happens I been in that situation," the older man nodded.

"With Miss Dorothy?" Brian commented.

"Yea," he responded. "Loved her most o' my life."

"But didn't ya love Aunt Marjorie, too?" Brian queried.

"'Course I did," he asserted. "An' I loved my wife Maude. See.... there's different kinda loves. Take your brother, Matthew."

Brian's shoulders slumped.

Loren continued, "He loved Ingrid with all his heart. Then Emma come along, an' he was sweet on her. Now it appears like he's got his sights set on Lily."

"So does that mean he doesn't love Lily like he loved Ingrid?" Brian struggled.

"It means he loves her different," he endeavored to explain. "When ya lose the woman ya love, there's always that place in your heart for her. But ya can still make room for someone else."

"I guess that's how Sully must've felt about Abigail, then fallin' in love with Dr. Mike," Brian compared.

Loren swallowed hard at the mention of his daughter's name.

"Why you so interested in this subject?" Loren challenged. "You in love?"

"Sorta," Brian hedged.

"Sorta?" Loren chuckled. "Lad, when you're in love, it ain't sorta."

************

Sully slowed the wagon to a stop in front of the Clinic and hopped down. After helping Josef from the buckboard, he spotted Cloud Dancing's approach.

"Cwoud Dancin'!" Josef rushed to him.

"It is good to see you Ho'neoxhaaestse.... Brave Wolf," the medicine man lifted the little boy.

"You gonna see Mama?" he hugged him.

"I am here to see your mother, yes," Cloud Dancing smiled. "And your father."

As Sully lifted the baskets containing the twins, Cloud Dancing set Josef down to assist him.

"You are the mother today?" the Cheyenne teased.

Sully shrugged, "I thought Bridget could use some help."

Dorothy approached, "Well, well.... what have we in those baskets?"

"It's the twins, Miss Dorfy," Josef responded quickly.

"It is good to see you," Cloud Dancing leaned closer to kiss her.

At that instant, Michaela opened the Clinic door to escort her guest out, "We'll see you this evening then?"

"Yes, thank you, Mic...." she suddenly stopped when she saw Cloud Dancing kissing Dorothy.

************
Chapter 2
************

"Well, look who's here," Michaela smiled at her children.

"Mama!" Josef rushed to his mother.

"Hello, Sweetheart," she lifted her son. "Helen, I'd like for you to meet my family and my dear friends."

"How do you do," Helen nodded.

"This is my husband, Byron Sully," she gestured. "Our son, Josef, our twins, Annie and Noah.... the Cheyenne medicine man, Cloud Dancing and the town's newspaper editor, Dorothy Jennings."

"I've read your paper, Mrs. Jennings," Helen smiled.

"May I present, Mrs. Helen Jackson," Michaela announced. "She's originally from Massachusetts."

"Nice t' meet ya," Dorothy greeted.

Helen returned, "It's a pleasure to meet all of you."

"She's joining us for dinner this evening," Michaela informed Sully.

"That's real good," he grinned.

"I'll see you later then," Mrs. Jackson departed.

Michaela spoke to Dorothy, "She's a writer, too."

"I'd love t' talk t' her about it," Dorothy acknowledged.

Michaela hugged Josef, "To what do I owe the pleasure of your company, young man?"

"Papa say Miss Bwidget needs a bweak from us," he informed her.

"A break?" she was puzzled.

"The kids are real active t'day," Sully stepped into the office and set Annie's basket on the floor.

Cloud Dancing followed with Noah.

"Josef," Michaela set her son down. "Would you watch the babies in the anteroom while the grownups talk out here?"

"Ya want me t' watch 'em?" he pointed to himself.

"Yes," Michaela removed his coat.

"Who's gonna watch me?" he questioned.

"Come on, Joe," Sully lifted Annie's basket and guided his son into the anteroom.

"If you'll excuse us for a moment," Michaela lifted Noah and followed Sully.

After settling their children with toys to occupy them, Michaela and Sully returned to her office.

"Now," Michaela sat at her desk. "I understand that you've heard from the government regarding the curriculum."

"Yes," Dorothy opened a letter. "But our approach t' the school will involve a combination of government required studies an' lessons in Indian traditions."

"The government approved that?" Sully was skeptical.

"Well...." Dorothy hesitated. "I didn't tell 'em the part about Indian traditions."

"The Army's sendin' a detachment here t' keep an eye on things," Sully cautioned.

"I'm sure they won't be watchin' what goes on every second," Dorothy reasoned.

"Don't seem right," Sully rubbed his upper lip. "Soldiers t' watch children."

Michaela expressed concern, "Perhaps we can request that they not carry guns on the school grounds."

"Speakin' of school grounds," Dorothy added. "Cloud Dancin' built lodges for the children t' stay in."

"That won't sit right with the government either," Sully folded his arms. "They'll insist on wooden buildin's." Then he noticed his friend's quiet, "What do you think, Cloud Dancin'?"

He smiled slightly, "I thank the Spirits.... and Michaela for this opportunity. After Washita, I had lost my hope. But it was a child who gave it back to me. Now I wish to give back to the children."

"What child?" Michaela wondered.

"Brian," the medicine man noted. "With his music on the flute. I said at the time, I will keep the song alive. This is a chance to do that. The Spirits have guided me."

Sully patted his back and smiled. Suddenly, the cries of a baby interrupted them.

"Excuse me," Michaela rushed to the anteroom and opened the door. "What happened?"

"Don't get mad," Josef raised his hands.

"I'm not angry," she knelt down and picked up a screaming Noah. "But I would like to know why your brother is crying."

"Mama," Josef tilted his head. "Ya know how babies are."

"Josef Michael Sully," her tone began to change.

"Okay," his shoulders slumped. "He bump his head."

"How?" she began to feel the baby's head.

"Well...." Josef hedged.

"Tell me," she was growing impatient.

Josef came out with it, "I go under the bed. An' Noah follow. He lifted up. Next thing, he cryin'."

The baby began to calm in his mother's arms, "Josef, you know that Noah wants to imitate everything you do. You must be more careful and watch out for him."

"That mean I can't explore?" his brow wrinkled.

"No," she caressed his cheek. "It means that this little one doesn't know better, and you must teach and protect him."

"Okay," he rubbed Noah's head.

Michaela glanced toward Annie, who was merrily playing with the wooden blocks Sully had carved for Katie when she was a baby.

"Everythin' all right?" Sully stood at the doorway.

"Pa," Noah reached for him.

Sully cradled the baby and lifted him up toward the ceiling. Noah burst into giggles.

"Everything is fine," Michaela smiled.

************

"Loren," Brian requested. "Ya gotta promise not t' say anythin' t' anyone."

"I told ya before I won't say nothin'," the older man affirmed.

Brian still could not bring himself to say what was truly on his mind.

"Lad," Loren touched his shoulder. "Ya ain't got a girl in trouble, have ya?"

"In trouble?" he was puzzled.

"Ya know," the shopkeeper paused. "In a family way.... with a baby."

"A baby?" Brian's eyes widened. "No! It's nothin' like that."

Loren was relieved, "Then what is it?"

"I'm in love with.... Lily," the young man confessed.

"Lily?" Loren's eyes widened. "Matthew's Lily?"

"Uh huh," Brian looked down.

"Does she know?" he questioned. "Does Matthew?"

"No," he shook his head. "I've tried not t' think about her. But with Matthew an' her so close, she's around a lot."

"An' it breaks your heart," Loren sympathized.

"I think I should go back t' Boston," Brian reasoned. "Back t' The Globe. I'll be able t' forget her there."

"It's hard t' forget what's in your heart," Loren stood up and went to his counter.

"I can't go on feelin' like this," he struggled. "I got an ache in my heart that won't go away."

Loren opened a candy jar and pulled out some taffy, "Here. This will help."

Brian smiled for the first time.

"I reckon ya gotta figure out what means more t' ya," Loren counseled. "Bein' near family or bein' away from Lily."

"I love my family," the young man asserted.

"'Course ya do," he nodded. "An' they love you. Dr. Mike pined somethin' awful when she came back from Boston with you an' Colleen still there."

"I'm sure most of it was losin' her Ma," Brian reasoned. "Besides, she's got lots t' keep her occupied. Not just the kids, but the new hospital."

"You think that anythin' can take away the emptiness of not bein' with your child?" Loren's eyes watered.

"Maybe I need t' go on a vision quest," Brian speculated.

"Vision what?" Loren asked.

"A Cheyenne vision quest," he clarified. "Go out on my own for several days without food an' water until I get a vision of what I should do."

"Sounds like a fool thing t' do," Loren frowned.

"More foolish than sellin' everythin' to move to Bolivia?" Brian raised his eyebrow.

"That's different," he asserted.

"How?" Brian questioned.

"I took food an' water," Loren returned.

************

"When does the Army arrive?" Dorothy asked Sully.

"Could be any day," he answered.

"Cloud Dancin' an' me have already lined up the first group of children t' attend the school," Dorothy explained. "And there are two Cheyenne adults to help supervise the young ones."

"It sounds like you have everything well in hand," Michaela smiled.

"Thanks t' your generosity," Dorothy looked at her friend. "We have everythin' we need."

"I'm happy to help," Michaela commented. Then she glanced at the clock, "Oh, dear. Myra is due for her appointment shortly."

"Could ya keep the kids here, Michaela?" Sully requested. "I got some more work t' do on the house."

"Of course," she agreed. "Dorothy, Cloud Dancing, why don't you join us for supper tonight? We can further discuss your plans."

"But what about Mr. an' Mrs. Jackson?" Dorothy wondered.

"I think having two writers at our dinner table will be quite interesting," Michaela smiled. "Sully, would you ask Bridget to prepare for our guests?"

"Sure," he nodded.

As Dorothy and Cloud Dancing departed, Sully stepped into the anteroom to bid his children goodbye.

"Don't ya need my help, Papa?" Josef offered.

"Another time, Joe," Sully knelt down. "T'day's lots o' diggin' an' liftin'."

"I good at diggin'," the little boy's eyes saddened.

Sully could not resist his expression, "I reckon you're right. I could use your help."

"Thanks!" Josef rushed to get his coat.

Michaela touched her husband's back, "And I thought I was the only one who could not resist him."

Sully grinned, "I guess I ain't so strong."

"I never question your strength, Mr. Sully," she stroked his arm.

Sully drew her closer, "A good woman makes a man stronger."

They kissed sweetly, then pulled back.

"I'll see you later," she stroked his chest.

His pulse quickened, and he kissed her again. This time, their contact deepened.

Then Sully felt a tugging on his leg.

"You two finished?" Josef looked up.

"For now," Sully winked. "Let's go, son."

Josef turned to his mother, "See ya, Mama."

"Goodbye," she kissed his cheek. "Be careful, and don't let Papa work too hard."

"I won't," the little boy pledged. "You watch the kids now. 'Kay?"

"I shall," she opened the door for them.

There stood Myra.

"Hey, Miss Mywa," the child beamed. "Papa an' me are gonna dig."

"Sounds real fun," she touched the little boy's chin.

************

"So, William," Preston's smile was blinding. "I think you can see for yourself that a business opportunity of this type is...."

The man held up his hand to stop the banker, "I see that my wife is finished."

"Finished?" Preston was puzzled.

"She had an appointment with a Dr. Quinn," he could see Helen's approach through the bank window.

"I hope she's not ill," Preston stood up.

At that moment, Helen entered the bank.

"Helen," William Jackson greeted his wife. "How are you?"

"After a breathing treatment, much better," she smiled.

Preston cleared his throat, "Helen, a pleasure to see you again."

"Thank you, Preston," she politely offered.

"I have many fond memories of your meeting at my Chateau," the banker grinned.

William ignored the banker and spoke to his wife, "Are you ready to go now?"

Helen nodded, "We have a dinner invitation for this evening. Dr. Quinn and her family."

"Goodness," Preston frowned. "Why dine in such provincial surroundings when my Chateau offers the finest of cuisine in a refined atmosphere?"

"Dr. Quinn does not strike me as being provincial," Helen observed.

"Oh, not her," Preston clarified. "But her husband.... well, just beware of that tomahawk-bearing mountain man. He is as uncouth and uncivilized as the Cheyenne he befriends."

"Good day, Preston," William interjected. As he led his wife from the bank, he put on his hat, "I won't be able to attend dinner."

Helen sighed, "Why not?"

"Business," he replied simply.

"Then I'll go alone," she remarked. "It seems that's how I spend most of my time anyway."

"Suit yourself," he led her to their carriage.

************

"And so, Myra, if it is agreeable to you, I intend to begin an experimental treatment," Michaela concluded.

Myra pondered, "You think this will work, Dr. Mike?"

"To be perfectly honest, I don't know," Michaela confessed. "But based on all of the information I can discern, I believe that it is promising."

"You ever use this.... what's it called again?" Myra inquired.

"Colloidal silver," Michaela specified. "Yes, I used it once, on Sully."

"He had this, too?" the woman's eyes widened.

"No," the doctor indicated. "He was suffering from a fever, caused by a tick bite."

"But how can it work if I don't got the same thing?" Myra questioned.

"You know that some medicines are used to treat more than one type of ailment," Michaela returned.

"Colloidal silver," Myra repeated.

"I would prepare the treatment fresh each time I administer it to you," Michaela explained. "It would not be a medicine that I give you to take at home."

Myra steeled herself, "I trust ya, Dr. Mike. If you think this might work, then I'll do it."

"Good," Michaela smiled. "I'll administer your first treatment today. I'll need to monitor you closely each day... looking for changes in your condition, possible side effects or adverse reactions."

"Is it dangerous?" she suddenly feared.

"Myra," Michaela placed her hand on her friend's. "I honestly don't know what to expect. But I am certain of one thing. If we do nothing, then what you have will lead to...."

"To death," Myra finished her sentence. "Let's do it then. Go ahead."

************

"Jesus, Mary an' Josef," Bridget held the sides of her face when Sully led Josef into the house.

The little boy was covered from head to toe in dirt, and Sully was not much better in appearance.

"Your mother will have your hide, laddie!" the nanny exclaimed.

"I'll get him cleaned up," Sully offered.

"Out t' the barn with the both o' ya then," Bridget ordered. "I got a large dinner t' prepare, an' I don't need the kitchen any dirtier."

"We take bath in barn, Papa?" Josef looked up at his father.

"We do what Miss Bridget says, Joe," Sully directed him outside.

"We be cold?" Josef feared.

"I got a pot o' water boilin'," Bridget gestured toward the stove. "Use that t' warm the pump water."

Sully led his son out to the barn, and with the little boy's help, they soon filled the tub with water. Steam rose from their bodies as father and son sat down in the liquid.

"This fun, Papa," Josef's face lit up. "I never taked a bath with ya."

"Yes, ya did, Joe," Sully chuckled. "But you were just a baby."

"What was I like when I baby?" the child wondered.

Sully smiled and lathered his hands, "Beautiful. Tiny. Active."

"I gettin' bigger," the little boy commented as his father washed his hair.

"Your Ma said you'd have a growth spurt after your shootin', an' she was right," Sully chuckled.

"I catched up with Katie," Josef told him.

"I believe you have," Sully smiled.

Josef was inquisitive, "Tell me more 'bout bein' a baby."

Sully playfully splashed him, "You loved bein' in the water."

"I still do," Josef giggled.

"It's like watchin' ya all over again when I see Noah," Sully compared.

"Mama say he likes doin' what I do," the child informed him.

"That's true," Sully nodded. "He loves his big brother."

"I like bein' big bwother," Josef smiled.

"An' you're real good at it," the proud father tickled his son's side.

As the two began a splashing battle, they heard a wagon pull up to the house.

"Mama's home!" Josef climbed out of the tub and rushed through the barn door.

"Joe!" Sully called after him.

************
Chapter 3
************

"I'll take the twins inside," Brian volunteered after helping his mother down from the wagon.

"I'll help ya, Bran," Katie offered.

"Thank you," Michaela reached for her medical bag as her family entered the homestead.

"Mama!" Josef rushed to her.

Michaela was aghast. There was her son, stark naked and dripping wet, running from the barn.

"Josef!" she quickly reached for a blanket in the buckboard. "What are you doing out here like this? You'll catch pneumonia."

"Papa an' me take a bath in barn," he pointed. "Miss Bwidget thwowed us out."

"Threw you out?" Michaela covered him with the blanket.

"We was dirty from diggin'," Josef attempted to breathe from his mother's vigorous drying.

"And your father let you come out here in the cold air?" she questioned.

"Papa didn' stop me," he shrugged.

"Is he still in the barn?" Michaela questioned.

"Uh huh," Josef nodded. "He's bigger. Takes longer t' clean him."

"You go into the house right now, young man," she instructed. "Ask Brian to get some clean clothes on you, then I want you to stay near the fire to warm up. Understand?"

"Yep," he quickly obeyed.

Michaela took a deep breath to calm her upset, then she headed for the barn. When she stepped through the door, the misty air created a surreal effect. Then she saw Sully, still in the tub.

He had his back to her, "Mad at me?"

"Yes, I am upset," she stepped closer. "Why would you let Josef outside like that, Sully?"

"He got away before I could stop him," he replied. "I figured you'd get him covered soon as ya saw him."

She could not take her eyes off of his muscular physique as the water glistened against his bronze skin.

"Did ya?" he turned to look at her.

"Did I what?" her voice seemed different.

"Did ya get him covered?" Sully repeated.

"Uh... yes," she averted her eyes. "He's in the house now."

"Good," he watched her. "Somethin' wrong?"

"Ah... no," she warmed at the sight of him.

"Still upset?" he questioned.

"No," she removed her hat.

"Why ya lookin' at me like that then?" he tilted his head.

She walked to the edge of the tub and knelt down beside him, "Are you.... clean now, Mr. Sully?"

"Yep," he grinned. "But I still got a problem."

"What's that?" she touched his cheek.

"I forgot my clean clothes in the house," he winked.

"Shall I get them for you?" she suggested.

"In a minute," he clasped her hand.

Michaela saw the invitation in his gaze, and she leaned closer to kiss him. Her breathing quickened as she pulled back. Sully toyed with a lock of her hair, still expressing in his eyes the longing which was growing inside of his body.

"Our dinner guests will be here soon," she felt herself unable to draw away from him.

"How soon?" he whispered near her ear.

"Sully," her heart raced. "We.... we can't do this. Not here. Not now."

"We ain't doin' anythin'," he kissed the sides of her mouth lightly.

With a slight gasp, Michaela gave more to their kiss. Then she stood up and went to the barn door. Securing it with the bar, she tossed her coat aside and went to her husband.

Sully smiled and stood up. Michaela embraced him, disregarding the fact that he was soaking wet. Soon her clothing was drenched. Sully led her to a bale of fresh hay and guided her back into his arms.

"I can't believe I'm doing this," she closed her eyes.

"Ain't doin' anythin' ya don't wanna do," he unbuttoned the top of her blouse.

He began to caress and kiss her. Michaela closed her eyes, transported by his feather light touches. Then he stopped, prompting her to look at him with questioning eyes. He lifted several strands of her hair and let them fall loosely through his fingers.

Smiling, Sully quoted:

"Love in the land where love most lovely seems!
Land of my love, tho' I be far from thee,
Lend, for love's sake, the light of thy moonbeams,
The spirit of thy cypress-groves and all
Thy dark-eyed beauty for a little while
To my desire. Yet once more let her smile
Fall o'er me: o'er me let her long hair fall...."

She cupped his cheek in her palm, "Was that Wordsworth?"

"Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton," he clarified.

"Oh, Sully, your words are so beautiful," she was becoming lost in his embrace.

His wandering hands began to arouse her passions further.

"What will Bridget think when I come into the house like this?" she attempted to reason.

"We could stop," he ceased his movements.

"I don't want to stop," she pulled closer.

"Me either," he smiled.

"We just had an encounter this morning," she swallowed hard. "And yet, I want us to be together again. Is that wrong?"

He seemed to look into her soul, "We follow our hearts, Michaela. I wanna love ya all the time, mornin', day, night. I see ya, smell ya, touch ya, an'....."

"One of these days, we'll be caught," she ran her finger along his jaw line.

"What if we are?" he posed the question.

"What if it's one of the children?" she countered.

"Don't ya like a little risk?" he teased.

"Sully!" she was horrified. "What if one of the children walked in on us right now?"

"Ya bolted the door, Michaela," he pointed.

"Suppose I hadn't," she presented to him.

"Then I reckon we'd have t' finish our business quick," he spoke with a gleam in his eye.

"I.... I rather prefer that we take our time," she considered.

"Me, too," he kissed her again. "Make things last longer."

"And I prefer to not think of this as... business," she added.

"Whatever you want," he kissed her neck.

She melted at his loving gestures, "I want you."

"I want you, too," he perceived her readiness to receive his love.

With an ardor and energy that had never waned since their marriage began, Sully and Michaela gave themselves to each other. The warmth of their exchange lingered as they returned to the reality of their world.

Making lazy circles on his chest with her fingertips, she spoke softly, "I love you, Sully."

He kissed her temple, "I love you, too."

"How are we going to explain our appearance?" she spoke low near his ear.

"Why d' we have t' explain it?" he retorted.

She took a deep breath and sighed, "I wish I had your ability to not care about what others think."

"Only one person whose thinkin' I care about," he kissed her again. "An' I just found out what she thinks."

She shook her head and smiled.

************

Brian sat pensively by the fireplace with Josef on his lap.

"Ya think I dwy, Bran?" the little boy inquired.

"Hmm?" he was uncertain.

"Dwy," Josef pointed to himself. "Can I get up now?"

"Sure," Brian set him down.

Katie looked up from her position beside Wolf, near the hearth, "Mrs. Johnson says the Indians are gonna have a school."

"Thanks t' your Ma," Sully finished drying his hair.

"Why'd Mama rush upstairs?" Katie wondered.

Sully fumbled for an excuse, "Uh.... she got wet helpin' me empty the tub."

"Papa," Josef tapped his leg. "Why Miss Bwidget mad?"

"She's not mad, Joe," he spoke low. "She's just got a lot t' do. We're havin' some folks for dinner."

The little boy peeked around the corner of the fireplace to watch the nanny, "Maybe I help her."

"No, Joey," Katie rolled her eyes. "Then she would get mad."

************

"Mam," Annie sat on the bed watching her mother.

"Almost finished, my darling," Michaela brushed her still-damp hair.

"Ka-," the baby called.

"Katie's downstairs," she smiled.

"Bo," Annie tapped her chubby legs.

"Josef is downstairs, as well," she spoke softly.

"Pap," the little girl clapped her hands together.

Michaela stepped to the bed and leaned down, "Papa is.... Papa is wonderful. Can you say wonderful?"

Annie giggled, "Wa..."

"Wonderful," Michaela repeated as she lifted her daughter.

She heard a carriage approaching the homestead.

"That will be our guests, Sweetheart," Michaela kissed her. "Do you think that you and Noah can be quiet through dinner this evening?"

"NO!" the little girl shouted.

"No?" Michaela was surprised.

Annie pointed at her twin brother, just awakening in his crib, "No-."

"Oh," Michaela turned up the corner of her mouth. "You'd better learn to add the 'ah' after 'No' when speaking of your brother, young lady."

************

Matthew decided to stop by his office in town before heading out to the homestead for supper. Lily was away.... again. Since his proposal of marriage and her acceptance, she had wanted him to keep their engagement a secret. At first, he did not mind, seeing as how she was in mourning following the death of her mother. But Valentine's Day had passed, and he was anxious to give her a ring. He was becoming increasingly frustrated at her desire to maintain privacy about their betrothal. And at her frequent absences.

As he dismounted his horse and fumbled for his key, he did not notice the shadowed figure near his door.

"Hello, Matthew," it was a woman's voice.

"Who...." he stopped cold.

He knew the voice, but had not heard it in years.

"Ya look real good," she uttered.

"Emma?" he was certain.

"Yes," she stepped closer to the lantern.

In the golden hue, she looked like a beautiful doll. His heart pounded faster at the sight of her.

"I.... I thought you were travelin' the world with Gilda St. Clair," he folded his arms.

"I saw so many cities, I lost count," she shivered slightly.

"Ya must be cold out here," he reached for his key.

Unlocking the door to his office, he invited her inside. After lighting several lamps, he was even more stunned at her appearance. She had a more mature yet strikingly lovely countenance.

"Ya sure do look...." he stopped himself.

"Gilda was real good t' me," she noticed his discomfort.

"Is she in town?" he assumed.

"No," she shook her head. "I left her in St. Louis."

"Why?" he was puzzled.

"To come home," Emma stepped closer. "Home to you."

************

Sully opened the door, "Nice t' see ya again, Mrs. Jackson."

"Helen," she amended. "Thank you, Mr. Sully."

"Just Sully," he took her coat. "Where's your husband?"

"He couldn't make it," she did not contain her sarcasm. "William Sharpless Jackson is needed at a meeting of the board of directors at his railroad in Denver."

"I heard o' him before," he recognized the name.

"You have?" Helen was curious.

Sully recounted, "I wasn't in favor o' the railroad comin' here. I never met him, but I let it be known that I opposed it. Just standin' up for what I believe in."

"A trait I admire," she returned. "I'm glad to see you're not wearing your tomahawk."

"My tomahawk?" Sully was puzzled.

Josef and Katie appeared at their father's side to greet the guest. Brian stood behind them.

"I think ya met Josef t'day," Sully ruffled his son's hair. "An' this here's Brian an' Katie."

"A pleasure," Helen smiled. "My, dinner smells delicious."

"Miss Bridget's a good cook," Katie pointed.

"Bridget?" Helen's expression changed.

The nanny stepped forward, wiping her hands across her apron.

Then a look of shock crossed her face, "Mrs. Hunt!"

"Her name's Jackson," Sully corrected.

"Bridget," Helen's face reflected her recognition.

"You two meet before?" Sully was puzzled.

"My God," Helen hurried to her. "It's been.... how long? Fourteen years!"

"Aye," Bridget's eyes reddened as she embraced the woman. "Your little Rennie had just passed on, God love his soul. You're Mrs. Jackson now?"

Helen took a deep breath, "I.... remarried three years ago last October."

"Good for you, lass," Bridget smiled.

"You knew Helen back East?" Sully queried.

"Aye," the nanny nodded, uncertain as to how much more to say.

"Bridget was the nanny to my son," Helen related.

"I'll tell Michaela you're here," Sully guided his children into the living room. "Brian...."

"I'll watch 'em, Pa," he perceived his father's intent.

In the kitchen, Helen spoke, "I want to hear how you came to Colorado Springs, Bridget."

************

Sully reached the bedroom just as Michaela finished getting ready.

"Pap!" Annie called to her father from the bed.

"Hey there," his face beamed. Lifting the little girl, he kissed her cheek, "Helen's here."

"Good," Michaela checked her hair. "But not her husband?"

He leaned closer to kiss her, "He had some board meetin'. Ya look beautiful."

Her cheeks flushed, "Thank you."

Sully remarked, "Bridget knows Helen."

"She does?" she was amazed.

"She was nanny t' her son," he stated.

"Helen mentioned that her first husband and sons had died," she recalled.

"An' her current husband...." he paused. "He's William Jackson, the railroad magnate."

"That Jackson?" she was surprised. "He helped to found the Colorado College. I've met him, Sully. He's the treasurer for the college board of trustees."

"Good thing he ain't here t' meet Cloud Dancin'," he mentioned. "Seein' as how his railroad's responsible for the Indians bein' run out."

She tensed, "It wasn't the railroad. It was the government's policies and the Army."

"They're all in it together," his voice rose slightly.

"Pap," Annie touched her father's mouth.

"Please let's not argue about this?" Michaela requested.

"I ain't arguin'," he kissed his daughter's fingers.

"Good," she lifted Noah. "Let's go greet our guest."

************
Chapter 4
************

"And Cheyenne Canyon is my favorite place of all," Helen related. "It's a most stunning view."

"I know it well," Cloud Dancing nodded.

Sully described, "Granite walls, the seven waterfalls droppin' nearly 200 feet below. Michaela an' me have been there a time or two."

Helen nodded, "The wildflowers, the rippling stream, animals and birds of all sorts and variety. I've written several poems there."

"I'd love t' read some o' your poems," Dorothy spoke up.

"Ready for dessert?" Bridget offered.

"I am!" Josef raised his hand.

"I knew you would be, boy-oh," she winked.

"If you'll excuse me," Brian stood up. "I think I'll go int' town t' check on my brother."

"Yes," Michaela agreed. "I'm concerned that Matthew didn't join us for dinner."

"Prob'ly workin' on a case an' forgot all about it," Sully reasoned.

"I wanted him here to look over the government papers regarding the Indian school," Michaela explained.

"Indian school?" Helen raised her eyebrows.

"Yes," Michaela smiled. "Dorothy and Cloud Dancing are going to run it."

"I'll help ya get your horse saddled, Brian," Sully perceived that all was not well with his son.

"Thanks," he stepped toward the door and donned his coat.

"Be right back," Sully told their guests.

Shivering in the cool March air, Brian paused on the front porch.

Sully placed his hand on his back, "Somethin' wrong?"

"No," Brian started down the steps.

"Hey," Sully caught up. "It's me. I know ya pretty good, an' I know when somethin's botherin' ya."

"What would ya think if I went on a vision quest?" he came out with it.

"Must be pretty serious," Sully rubbed his upper lip.

"So," Brian waited. "What do you think?"

"I think.... It'd be a good idea," Sully admitted. "Provided it's what ya really need."

"Pa," Brian's shoulders slumped. "I.... I don't know how much longer I can stay around Lily. Seein' her an' Matthew t'gether.... it's like a dagger in my heart."

"That's how I felt when I saw your Ma with David," Sully remembered.

"But Ma chose you," the young man pointed out. "I got no hope.... no future with Lily."

"I know this has been weighin' on ya, Brian," he acknowledged. "An' a vision quest could help."

"But how will Ma feel?" Brian questioned.

"You're a man now," Sully stated. "She respects that an' will accept what ya need t' do."

"Please don't say anythin' t' her yet," the young man requested. "I need t' think more about it."

************

At the dinner table, Dorothy and Cloud Dancing spoke enthusiastically about their school. They held hands and cast loving glances at one another. Helen observed their behavior with interest.

"This school sounds like a grand idea," Helen commented.

"Long as the Army don't interfere," Sully added.

"If there is anything I can do to help, please don't hesitate to ask," Helen remarked.

"I have a thought," Michaela spoke up. "Your husband's position on the board of trustees at the Colorado College might provide a useful resource for the Indian school."

"How so?" Helen questioned.

"What if the school for Indians were affiliated with the college?" Michaela proposed. "Perhaps young teacher trainees could even help."

"That's a wonderful idea, Michaela!" Dorothy acknowledged.

"I'll inquire," Helen offered.

"Maybe the Army would be more acceptin' of what we're doin' if the college had a hand in it," Dorothy contemplated.

"I reckon it all depends on how big that hand is," Sully was skeptical.

Michaela cast her husband a perplexed glance.

"May I go t' the Indian school?" Katie requested.

"Sure," Sully responded.

"Let's wait until the school is functioning before we discuss such a thing, Sweetheart," Michaela advised.

This time it was Sully who gazed at his wife in puzzlement.

Helen changed the subject, "How long have you and Cloud Dancing been... friends, Dorothy?"

"It's been about six years now," she calculated.

"It must be difficult for you both," the woman judged.

"Near impossible," Dorothy's voice choked slightly.

Cloud Dancing touched her arm, "We became close when she wrote a book about my people."

"I'd love to read it," Helen's eyes lit up.

"I had t' destroy the original," Dorothy's shoulders slumped. "When the Army came lookin' for Cloud Dancin'. It was a terrible time."

"I'd like to hear more about it," Helen sympathized.

"I'm so glad we got t' meet ya, Helen," Dorothy smiled. "I got a feelin' you're a kindred spirit."

"I have a tremendous respect for your people, Cloud Dancing," the woman spoke with admiration. "And for the endeavor on which you are about to embark."

************

"Sounds like ya saw more o' the world than most folks could in a lifetime," Matthew smiled at Emma's recounting.

She stood up, "Oh, Matthew. I learned a lot. I wouldn't trade the experience for anythin', but...."

"But what?" his brow wrinkled.

"But there was always something missing," she reached out to touch his hand. "I couldn't share my joy with anyone."

He drew his hand back uncomfortably, "I know what ya mean.... about not bein' able t' share joy with other folks."

"I been doin' all the talkin'," she realized. "What about you? What have you been doin'?"

"Well...." he shrugged. "As you can see, I'm a lawyer now. Had some interestin' cases."

"What about Dr. Mike an' Sully?" she asked. "An' Colleen an' Brian? And even little Katie? I've missed you all."

"Colleen's a doctor now," he related. "She an' Andrew got married. They live in Boston an' run a clinic."

"Boston!" her eyes lit up. "It's a beautiful city."

"I know," he nodded. "Brian's workin' on a career in journalism."

"I knew he'd make a fine writer one day," she smiled.

"Dr. Mike an' Sully had some rough times after you left," Matthew said. "Sully was wanted by the Army for incitin' a riot at the Indian reservation."

"Oh, my!" she held the sides of her face. "Are they all right now?"

"Yea," he detailed. "He was pardoned. An' they had some more children."

"They did?" her eyes lit up.

Matthew grinned, "Had a little boy, Josef. He just turned four in December. An' Ma had twins last May. A girl an' a boy, Annie an' Noah."

"That's wonderful, Matthew," she spoke with a hint of sadness. "I know how much family means t' you."

He glanced at her intently, "I once wanted you for my family, Emma."

She felt a tear, "Have you... found someone new?"

"I have," he nodded.

Her expression changed, "That's good then."

An uncomfortable silence ensued. Matthew found the sight of her irresistible, and he stepped closer. Touching her cheek, he softly caressed it with the back of his hand. Emma tilted her head, savoring his nearness.

"I never stopped havin' feelin's for you," she spoke low.

Matthew leaned closer, his lips near hers.

"What about your girl?" she hesitated.

"She ain't here," Matthew could not stop himself.

"Oh, Matthew," she lifted up to kiss him.

"Emma," he closed his eyes and gave into his emotions.

************

Brian dismounted his horse and walked toward the light emanating from his brother's office. Then he saw the couple embracing. Lily must be back, he thought. His heart ached at the thought that she was kissing Matthew, but.... Wait. His eyes widened. He was leading her into the back room. But it was not Lily in his brother's arms. It was.... Emma!

Brian drew back, his thoughts swirling. What was Matthew doing? How could he betray Lily? Quickly, he mounted Taffy and took off.

************

"I believe that Dorothy and Helen really got along well," Michaela glanced at Sully as he stood staring into the living room fireplace.

"Hmm?" he looked up.

"I said...." she paused, noticing his demeanor. "Is something on your mind?"

"I just hate seein' folks get their hopes up about this school, Michaela," he revealed.

She moved closer, "Sully, without hope, the world would never improve."

He returned his glaze to the fire.

"Despite their many obstacles, Cloud Dancing and Dorothy have hope," she pointed out.

"An' I don't wanna see 'em disappointed," he spoke quietly. "You an' me both know the government's gonna put up every obstacle they can think of t' this school."

"Should they not attempt it then?" she debated.

"I ain't sayin' that," he stood up. "I'm just sayin' they shouldn't expect much from it."

She slid her arm around his waist and leaned against his chest. Sully stroked her soft auburn hair, then kissed the top of her head.

She sighed.

"I'm sorry, Michaela," he lamented.

"For what?" she raised up to look at him.

"For soundin' so negative," he clarified.

"You're only being honest," she allowed. "And I appreciate that, Mr. Sully."

He smiled and kissed her again.

"Sully," Bridget called from upstairs. "The wee ones are ready for their story."

"I better go," he released her.

"Sully," she touched his arm. "About Katie wanting to go to the Indian school...."

"I guess you ain't gonna allow it," his voice held a trace of sarcasm.

She felt the sting of his tone, "I.... I didn't mean to sound that way."

"It's somethin' we oughta talk about," he stated.

"You're serious, aren't you?" her brow wrinkled.

"'Course I'm serious," he avowed. "I want our kids t' know the Cheyenne ways just as much as the children of the tribes."

"You're right," she pulled back tensely. "It is something we need to discuss."

He could tell from her facial expression that the topic was one on which they would disagree.

"I wonder what's keeping Brian?" she changed the subject and strolled toward the window. "He and Matthew should have been here long before now."

"Maybe they got t' talkin' an' lost track o' time," he speculated.

"Brian seemed very quiet at dinner," she observed. "I would have thought he would be full of questions for Helen."

Sully contemplated telling her about his conversation with Brian.

"Papa!" it was Katie's voice from the landing.

"Your children are growing impatient," Michaela smiled.

************

Michaela heard the horse approaching. Gazing through the living room window, she saw the shadow of Brian as he led Taffy into the barn. She went to the kitchen and began to warm some milk for him. As a little boy, he used to relish curling up in her lap and sipping a cup before bed. Even now, as a man, he relished his mother's attentive gestures.

Soon Brian came through the door. Silently, he removed his hat and coat, then hung them on the peg by the door.

"I made you something," Michaela spoke to him.

He glanced at it, "No, thanks, Ma. I'm just gonna head up t' bed."

"What happened?" she questioned. "Didn't you find Matthew?"

"Oh, I found him," his voice was bitter.

"What's wrong, Brian?" she grew concerned.

He pondered how to word his response, "Ma.... have you ever.... sorta.... I don't know, seen somethin' ya shouldn't?"

"Seen something I shouldn't?" she tried to imagine.

He grew even more uncomfortable, "Seen a man an' woman.... ?"

Brian could not complete his question.

"Sweetheart," she struggled to understand. "Did you see something you shouldn't have? Something with a man and...."

Suddenly, Michaela's heart stopped. The thought entered her mind. Had Brian seen Sully and her in the barn earlier? Her cheeks began to redden with embarrassment.

"I'm goin' t' bed, Ma," he headed for the steps. "I'll see ya in the mornin'."

"Brian," she called after him.

He did not stop. Reaching the top floor, he paused and listened to Sully telling a story about the Indians to the children. Recognizing it as one that Sully had told him as a little boy, he smiled slightly, then took a deep breath and entered his own bedroom.

************

Michaela cleaned up the kitchen, hoping that busying her hands would prevent her mind from racing at what her son had seen. On a few occasions, she and Sully had experienced close calls with their dallying. But such an encounter was different when witnessed by a child. A simple explanation would suffice. This time, it was a young man.... their Brian, who....

"Oh, my God," she feared. "What on earth can we say to him?"

"What's that, dearie?" Bridget reached the bottom step.

"Nothing," Michaela quickly changed her expression. "I was just thinking about a patient."

"Will Sully be workin' on the house again t'morrow?" the nanny inquired.

"Yes," she answered. "Why?"

"Will the leprechaun be helpin' him?" Bridget added.

Michaela assessed her question, "Quite possibly."

She shook her head, "The mess them two got into t'day was somethin' t' behold."

"I imagine it was," Michaela turned up the corner of her mouth.

************

Sully concluded the story to his children, ".... An' that's how the man won his wife.... with the beautiful music of the flute."

"Is that how ya won Mama?" Josef wondered.

"I've used the flute a time or two," Sully tickled his side.

"Perhaps it was I who won your father," Michaela stood at the doorway.

"I think ya both won," Katie observed.

Michaela noticed that the twins were asleep on Sully's lap. Reaching down, she lifted Noah.

"Am I gonna have my own room when Poppy finishes addin' on to the house?" Katie wondered.

"Do you want your own room?" Michaela questioned.

Katie paused while glancing toward her younger brother, "I like havin' Joey in here, but...."

"But what?" Michaela smiled.

"He moves around a lot," the child noted.

Michaela kissed Noah's forehead, "Little boys do that, Sweetheart."

"Put Noah an' me in a room," Josef volunteered.

"An' Annie with me," Katie continued.

"We'll take that into consideration," Michaela smiled. "Say your prayers now."

************

Having placed the twins in their cribs, Michaela and Sully silently prepared for bed. There had been a growing tension between them over the topic of Katie's education and the Indian school. Unknown to the other, each also held a secret about Brian. But each was too stubborn at that moment to broach the subject.

"'Night," Sully lightly kissed his wife's cheek and crawled into bed.

"Sully," Michaela started to say what was on her mind.

"What?" he paused.

"Nothing," she turned away and continued to button her nightgown.

************
Chapter 5
************

Helen Jackson opened the door of the Gazette and strolled inside.

Looking up from her printing press, Dorothy's eyes lit up, "Helen! It's nice t' see you again."

"It's nice to see you, too," Helen returned.

"What brings ya here at this early hour?" the redhead questioned.

"I wanted to speak with you further about the school for Indians," Helen specified.

"Sully an' Cloud Dancin' are meetin' with Michaela an' me later t' talk about it," Dorothy informed her. "Why don't ya join us then? Around noon at Grace's Cafe."

"I'd love to," Helen agreed.

************

Sully awoke to find Michaela tucked beside him, her head resting contentedly against his shoulder. For an instant, he forgot the tension which had existed between them. Instinctively, she had snuggled against him during the night. He softly stroked her long hair. Suddenly, she stirred, prompting him to pull his hand away.

"Sully?" she became aware of her closeness.

"I...." he attempted to explain. "You leaned against me durin' the night."

"I always do," she warmed at his proximity.

"I didn't want ya t' think...." his voice trailed off.

She lifted her head to gaze into his eyes, "I don't like this."

"Don't like what?" he was unsure.

"I don't like this awkwardness between us," she clarified. "We're closer than any two can possibly be.... yet, after last night...."

"Must be your imagination," he refused to admit.

She reached up to caress his cheek, "I'm not imagining."

"Michaela," he sighed and averted looking at her.

"Let's talk about it," she encouraged.

"Talkin' don't always solve things," he resisted.

"There's nothing we can't discuss," she attempted to gauge his expression.

"We ain't gonna agree," he pointed out.

"But might we compromise?" she suggested.

"Compromisin' don't always work either," he knew.

"Then are we to remain like this?" her tone changed. "Tense.... awkward.... uncommunicative?"

He did not respond.

"Sully," she sat up. "Please."

His jaw tensed, "Michaela, we got four kids t' educate. What's wrong with wantin' t' see them get a taste of both our worlds?"

She took a deep breath, "I want that, too. I want Katie to learn the ways of the Cheyenne. But I also know that in the Indian school, she would be different. The only white child."

"So?" he saw nothing wrong. "There was a time, I was the only white man livin' among the Cheyenne."

"Do you recall when we were trying to choose Katie's godparents?" she presented.

"Yea," he rubbed his upper lip.

"And do you remember why I objected to Cloud Dancing as her godfather?" she added. "As dearly as I love him, I did not want to entrust our daughter's upbringing to a people whose future was so uncertain."

"That's different," he tensed. "We ain't talkin' about raisin' her without us."

"Education is a vital part of a child's upbringing," she argued.

"What can she learn in town that she can't learn at the Indian school?" he questioned.

"Sully," she was growing flustered.

"See?" his volume rose. "Talkin' about it ain't workin'."

She stood up and walked to the cribs. Reaching down, she stroked the babies' hair. Sully watched her, in awe of her beauty and caring. But on this issue they would not see eye to eye.

Turning to look at him again, she asked, "You'll still be joining us at noon to discuss the school?"

"I said I would," he was curt.

He stood up and pulled on his buckskins. Michaela watched him, in awe of his handsome features and caring heart. When Sully looked in her direction, she quickly busied herself by brushing her hair.

Sully sighed, "I gotta go milk the cow."

************

"Matthew," Emma awoke.

He turned from gazing out the window, "What have I done?"

"Please don't feel guilty," she reached for her dress.

"I got a girl, Emma," he folded his arms.

"What happened between us...." she paused. "It's something we both wanted. And it was beautiful."

"That's not how she'll see it," he countered.

"You and I have something special," Emma reminded. "And I nearly threw it all away when I left you. I won't make that mistake again."

"You're staying?" he questioned.

"If.... if you want me to," she spoke softly.

He turned away without speaking.

"Matthew," she reached for his hand. "Do you want me to?"

"I don't know," he shook his head.

************

"Bridget," Michaela helped her bathe the twins. "Tell me about Helen Jackson."

"What a sad time she had of it," the nanny shook her head. "Nearly broke my heart."

"She lost her husband and children?" Michaela tried to imagine.

"Aye," Bridget nodded. "Her maiden name was Fiske. Helen Fiske. She was just a wee lass when her Ma passed away. Then not long after, her Pa died. She was raised by an aunt, but her father had provided for a fine education for his two daughters."

"A good education is essential for a young lady, in order to pursue her dreams in a man's world," Michaela seemed to be speaking of more than Helen.

"I wouldn't know, dearie," she shrugged.

"Go on," Michaela encouraged.

"Well," Bridget pondered. "I know that at school, she became friends with that real fine writer.... Emily somethin'."

"Dickinson?" Michaela's eyes widened.

"That's the one," Bridget pointed. "Emily Dickinson. Let's see.... Miss Helen married a military man when she was in her early twenties. Edward Bissell Hunt. Him bein' an Army engineer, they traveled around a lot. They had their first boy, Murray, right quick. Poor babe died from a brain disease 'fore he reached his first birthday."

Michaela's heart saddened, "How terrible."

"They had another boy, Rennie," Bridget continued. "When the War started, that's when they hired me. I'd been workin' for a family in Boston. I took care o' Miss Helen an' the wee one when Mr. Hunt was away."

Michaela smiled, "I'm sure you were a tremendous help."

"Rennie was about Katie's age when..... " Bridget could not go on.

Michaela put her arm around the woman for support.

Bridget spoke low, "Major Fiske died in the War."

Michaela remembered that feeling, having experienced such news of her fiance during the War, "So she and little Rennie were left alone."

"Aye," Bridget choked back tears.

"I'm sorry," Michaela regretted her questions. "This is much too painful for you to discuss."

"No, lass," she steeled herself. "I think I need t' talk about it. I never did with anyone before."

"Here," Michaela handed her a handkerchief.

"Thanks," Bridget wiped her eyes. "'T'was only two years after her husband died that Rennie got the diphtheria an' passed on. Same year as the War ended. That was the last time I saw her."

"What a life she has had," Michaela remarked.

"I don't think she's happy in this new marriage," Bridget commented.

"You noticed, too?" Michaela asked.

"Aye," the nanny nodded. "That ain't all I noticed."

"What?" Michaela was curious.

"You havin' a fuss with your man?" the nanny observed.

Michaela regretted her tension with Sully at that moment, "I think I'll go check on their progress with the excavating."

Bridget grinned, "Don't ya be lettin' them get dirt on ya, lass."

************

"You make up your mind yet, Brian?" Sully shoveled dirt into the cart.

The young man was lost in thought as he swung the pick.

"Brian?" Sully stopped.

"Huh?" he was suddenly aware of his name.

"I said, did ya make up your mind yet?" Sully repeated. "About the vision quest."

Brain glanced at Josef, sitting on the ground and scraping a stick across the soil.

"No," the young man wiped his brow.

"Somethin' else on your mind?" Sully perceived.

Brian lifted the pick again, "You could say that."

Michaela rounded the corner of the house with a plate of cookies.

"Mama!" Josef rushed to his mother, his clothes and face covered by soil.

"Josef," she shook her head. "Look at you."

"I'm dirty!" he proclaimed. "Papa lettin' me dig over there."

"So I see," she glanced toward Sully. "Here's a cookie from Miss Bridget."

"Thanks!" the child bit into it.

She neared the others, "How's it coming?"

"Slow but sure," Sully wiped his brow.

Michaela held up the plate, "I brought you gentlemen something to eat, courtesy of Bridget."

"No thanks," Brian continued to dig.

Michaela cast a worried glance toward him. He could not even look at her, she perceived. Her son was too ashamed of his mother.

Michaela swallowed hard and spoke to Sully, "We're due in town for our meeting soon."

Sully glanced up at the sun, "I reckon we better stop so I can get cleaned up."

Josef had heard, "We take bath in the barn, Papa?"

"Sure," he smiled.

"Only this time, don't go traipsing outside without your clothes on, young man," Michaela told her son.

When Sully and Josef had departed, Michaela approached Brian.

"You're working rather hard this morning," she commented.

"Nothin' better t' do," he did not look up.

"Brian," Michaela's voice implored. "I'm sorry."

"For what?" he was curious.

"I'm sorry that you saw.... what you saw," she remarked. "But sometimes, in the emotion of a moment, a man and a woman.... can become...."

"It was disgustin'!" his tone was bitter.

"Please don't think that," she said. "Love is...."

"I don't wanna talk about it," he slammed down his pick and walked away.

************

Sully was quiet on the ride into town. Michaela folded her hands and rested them on her lap.

"It seems to be a bit warmer today," she broke the silence.

"Um-hmm," he flicked the reins.

"Sully," she broached the subject. "Has Brian said anything to you?"

"'Bout what?" he was evasive.

"About what's bothering him," she clarified.

"I know he's havin' some trouble with.... his feelin's," he was vague.

"His feelings?" she questioned.

"Feelin's about.... love," Sully responded. "I reckon he's gotta work his way through things on his own."

"But...." she began.

"He's a man now, Michaela," Sully interrupted. "He's gotta find his course, an' we gotta respect that."

"I do respect that he must find his course in life," she defended.

"Our kids can't always do an' be what we want," he added.

"That's a curious thing to say," she looked at him.

"I guess I don't feel the need t' interfere in people's lives," he stopped the wagon in front of the livery.

"Interfere?" she reacted. "Is that what I'm doing?"

"Hey," Robert E approached them.

Sully reached up to help his wife down, "Hey, Robert E."

"How is Grace?" Michaela inquired.

"Real good," his face beamed. "'Cept, she oughta slow down an' rest more."

"I'll speak to her about that," Michaela replied. Then glancing at her husband, she said, "I have a patient. Then I'll join you for lunch."

"All right," he nodded.

"Somethin' wrong?" Robert E noticed the strain between them.

Sully shook his head, "Just a little difference of opinion."

As he walked away, he spotted Cloud Dancing near the Depot. He speeded his pace to catch up to him.

His Cheyenne friend smiled at his approach, "You are ready for our meeting?"

"Cloud Dancin'," Sully said. "You sure you wanna do this?"

"Yes," the medicine man replied. "But you are not?"

"I don't wanna see ya disappointed," Sully said.

"Do I look disappointed?" Cloud Dancing had a gleam in his eye.

"You know what I mean," Sully folded his arms. "About this school."

"The school is what bothers you?" his friend perceived.

"What d' ya mean?" Sully's brow wrinkled.

"I saw the look between Michaela and you at dinner," he noted. "There is trouble."

"She don't want Katie t' go t' the Indian school," Sully confided.

"It does not yet exist," Cloud Dancing pointed out. "Maybe she will change her mind when it does."

"How often you know Michaela t' change her mind?" Sully challenged.

"About as often as you," Cloud Dancing smiled.

************

"And there were no ill effects from your treatment yesterday?" Michaela listened to Myra's heart.

"No," the woman noted. "Just like drinkin' water."

"We'll continue to check on you daily, just to be certain," Michaela stated.

As Myra finished dressing, she commented, "Samantha was wonderin' if Katie could sleep over t'night. I said I'd check with you 'fore she asks Katie."

"Sleep over?" Michaela closed her medical cabinet.

"T'morrow's Saturday," Myra pointed out. "An' she'd love t' have her friend stay the night. I'd make sure they get t' bed on time."

"I'll speak to Sully about it," Michaela said. "But I don't think he'll have any objections. Then again, I'm not certain how he thinks lately."

"Somethin' wrong between you two?" she queried.

"Just a little difference of opinion," Michaela amended.

"Well, just remember how much you two love each other," Myra advised. "Life's too short t' spend it fussin'."

"You're right," Michaela agreed. "And thank you for the reminder."

A knock at the door interrupted them.

"Come in," Michaela called.

Sully opened the door, "Hey, Myra."

"Sully," she smiled. "I was just leavin'."

"You ready?" Sully asked his wife.

"See ya later," Myra wrapped her shawl around her shoulders and departed.

"Myra wondered if Katie might spend the night with Samantha," Michaela informed her husband. "I told her I'd see if it was all right with you."

"You askin' my opinion about one o' the kids?" his words stung.

Michaela stepped closer to her husband, "You know that even though we may have differing opinions, I still love you with all of my heart."

"Sure I do," he regretted his remark. "An' you know I love you, too."

Tentatively, she lifted up to kiss him. Their lips met, sweetly.

"I think we better get goin' or I might forget all about this meetin'," Sully pulled back.

"Sully," she stopped him. "We need to be much more careful.... about our.... intimacy."

"What?" he was puzzled.

"Making love," her cheeks flushed.

He tilted his head, "Why? Is somethin' wrong?"

There was a knock at the door.

Dorothy opened it and spoke to her friends, "You two ready?"

"Yes," Michaela smiled. "We're coming."

************

Loren looked up from his ledger to see Brian step into the Mercantile.

"Think we could take a walk?" the young man looked at him.

"I reckon," Loren read his serious expression. "Come on."

He locked the store door and stepped down from the porch.

"You still thinkin' about that vision quest thing?" Loren asked.

"Yea," Brian put his hands in his pockets.

"You talk t' Dr. Mike an' Sully about it?" Loren wondered.

"Just Sully," he said.

"An'?" Loren waited. "What'd he say?"

"He said t' go ahead," the young man looked up as they neared Matthew's office.

"What about your brother?" Loren questioned.

"What about him?" his tone changed.

"Did ya talk t' Matthew about you goin'?" Loren specified.

"No," Brian frowned. "I ain't gonna talk t' him about anythin'."

"Why not?" Loren was puzzled. "You boys have always been close."

"Not anymore," he stared at the office.

At that moment, Matthew exited his office door, "Hey, little brother. Loren."

Without a word, Brian took off running away from them.

************
Chapter 6
************

"What got int' him?" Matthew pointed in the direction his brother had run.

"He's got a lot on his mind," Loren wiped his brow.

"Well, I'll go find him," the young man put on his hat.

"Matthew," Loren touched his arm. "Be careful."

"Careful?" he questioned.

"Brian's goin' through a rough time right now," Loren suggested.

"What makes ya say that?" he was curious.

"He's in love," the older man revealed.

Matthew's eyes widened, "He is?"

"I already said too much," Loren pivoted and headed back to the store.

************

Dorothy took the pencil from behind her ear and read from a tablet, "So far, we got 51 students enrolled. From five different tribes."

"Are they tribes that get along?" Sully questioned.

"We'll see that they do," Dorothy answered. "We'll have six grades at first. I'll be teachin' readin', writin' and arithmetic. Cloud Dancin's gonna teach 'em huntin', fishin' an' their culture."

"The government's gonna let ya?" Sully again challenged.

"I thought about your idea, Michaela," Helen spoke up, "I asked my husband to speak to the College board of trustees about it.... having some of their students teach the Indian children agriculture, animal husbandry and carpentry. If the government sees that the children will be taught such skills, they may have fewer qualms about the school."

"Government won't even let 'em use their native names or speak their native tongues," Sully folded his arms.

Michaela frowned at her husband, "There is certainly adequate acreage for farming and grazing."

"Where's the Army gonna stay?" Sully asked.

"We set aside an area for them," Dorothy returned. "Far away from the children's lodges."

Cloud Dancing looked at Helen, "I am grateful to you for your suggestions."

"You agree with this?" Sully searched his friend's eyes.

"Yes," Cloud Dancing affirmed.

Loren approached, "Dr. Mike, Sully, could I speak t' ya?"

"Certainly, Loren," Michaela noted his expression. "Are you ill?"

He waited until they were near the Clinic before responding, "It's about your boys, Matthew an' Brian."

"What about them?" Michaela grew concerned.

"I think there's gonna be trouble between 'em," the storekeeper noted.

"Why ya say that?" Sully rubbed his upper lip.

"Awe," Loren felt guilty. "Brian asked me not t' say anythin'.... but I figure you two oughta know."

"Know what, Loren?" Michaela tensed.

"The lad's in love with Lily," he came out with it.

"We are aware of that," Michaela noted.

"He came in the store just a little while ago," Loren went on. "When we started for a walk, he saw Matthew, then took off mad as a hornet. Matthew went after him."

"Thanks, Loren," Sully touched his arm. "Come on, Michaela."

************

"Brian!" Matthew called. "Come on! Where are ya?"

He sensed that his brother was near.

"Go away!" a voice called.

Matthew headed closer to him, "What's wrong with you?"

"I said go away!" Brian was out of breath.

Matthew caught a glimpse of him, and approached slowly, "What are ya mad about?"

"How could you, Matthew?" Brian's voice choked.

"How could I what?" he questioned.

"How could you do it?" the brother responded.

"What are ya talkin' about?" Matthew challenged.

"You know what I'm talkin' about," Brian grew angrier. "An' don't come any closer."

"I do not know what you're talkin' about," Matthew did not stop.

"You're a liar!" Brian shouted.

Michaela and Sully heard the sounds of their voices. Sully raised his hand for Michaela to remain silent.

"Brian," Matthew put his hands on his hips. "How can you say that?"

"Leave me alone!" Brian shouted.

"Sully," Michaela whispered. "We can't let them go on like this."

"Yes, we can," he drew her away. "We gotta let them work this out on their own. Long as we know they're talkin', let's leave 'em be."

"But...." she resisted.

"Come on," he took her hand.

As they retreated from their sons, Sully watched his wife intently.

"Michaela," he questioned. "Is there somethin' you ain't tellin' me?"

"What do you mean?" she was puzzled.

"What ya said back in the Clinic earlier," he clarified. "'Bout you an' me bein' intimate."

She stopped walking and turned away from him.

"What's wrong?" his tone was soft. "Are you.... pregnant?"

"No," she quickly responded. "Why would you think that?"

He explained, "Ya been actin' kinda strange.... then tellin' me we gotta be careful. I thought maybe there was a problem. You know you can tell me if we're expectin', Michaela."

"It's nothing like that," she began. "Something that Brian said last night has me concerned."

Sully wondered if their son had told her about the vision quest, "What did he say?"

"It's most.... embarrassing," she swallowed hard.

Before she could reveal more, Brian rushed past them.

"Brian!" Michaela called to him.

Next, followed Matthew.

"Matthew!" Michaela shouted.

Neither one stopped.

"Brian must have told him about his feelings for Lily," Michaela assumed.

Sully sighed in frustration, "You catch up with Matthew. I'll find Brian."

"I thought you said we should let them work it out," she reminded.

"An' they didn't," he returned.

************

When Sully neared the Depot, he spotted soldiers. The Army unit had arrived. He studied their faces, attempting to see if he recognized any of the soldiers. He did not. The commander, a young man with a ruddy complexion and bright blue eyes, raised his hand to halt the troops.

Then he called out to Sully, "You, sir. Could you tell me where I might find Miss Dorothy Jennings?"

"Down this street, an' around the corner," Sully pointed. "In the Gazette office. If she ain't there, you'll find her at Grace's Cafe behind it."

"Thank you," the man touched his cap.

Sully folded his arms uncomfortably to watch them pass. He tensed at the reminder of their presence at the reservation and the disastrous results of his run-ins with them. Then he spotted Brian at the Livery. Quickly, he walked toward his son.

"Hey," Sully placed his hand on the young man's shoulder. "How 'bout you an' me go over t' Grace's?"

The young man did not object, and soon they were headed in that direction. As they neared the Cafe, Sully saw the Army commander speaking to Dorothy. Two of his men stood near Cloud Dancing, hands resting upon their holstered revolvers.

"Is this Indian going to help with this school?" the officer questioned.

"His name is Cloud Dancin'," Dorothy maintained her composure. "And, yes, Sergeant Dirksen, he is helping.... with the translations."

"He speaks English?" Dirksen asked.

"Ask for yourself," Dorothy indicated.

In a measured and stiff style, the Sergeant spoke to Cloud Dancing, "You.... are.... under.... my.... command."

"I am under no Army's command," Cloud Dancing defied calmly.

The soldiers with their hands on the revolvers drew them and aimed at Cloud Dancing.

Sully rushed forward, "Hold it, Sergeant. This man has protected status in this town."

"This Indian is exhibiting insubordination," the sergeant countered. "And who are you?"

"Byron Sully," he answered. "I work for the government."

"In what capacity?" the officer demanded.

Brian spoke up, "Most recently for the General Land Office. An' he knows Secretary of Interior Schurz."

The sergeant gestured for his men to put away their weapons, "We don't want any trouble."

"Then I suggest ya keep your men unarmed around the children at the school, Sergeant," Sully's eyes narrowed.

"That's not possible," Dirksen reacted. "It goes against regulations, and we are here to see that regulations are strictly enforced."

"Does that include for your own men?" Sully probed.

"You may work for the government, Mr. Sully, but the Army is in charge of Indian matters out here," Dirksen informed him.

"It's Sully who got the government t' give permission for this school in the first place," Brian noted.

"Who are you, young man?" the officer inquired.

"Brian Cooper," he answered. "I'm a journalist, an' I'm gonna keep a close eye on the Army's conduct at that school."

After a salute, the officer gestured to his men to mount their horses. Soon they departed.

"What a dreadful situation," Helen shook her head.

"You got no idea," Sully's jaw tensed. "This was a Sunday picnic compared t' some run-ins we've had with the Army."

"The Army hunted for Sully for six months," Dorothy revealed. "For allegedly incitin' a riot on the reservation."

"I didn't incite a riot," he declared. "I was just tryin' t' save their lives."

Cloud Dancing spoke up, "I must go now."

"Mind if Brian an' me walk with ya for a spell?" Sully requested.

"I do not mind," the medicine man nodded.

After kissing Dorothy, Cloud Dancing joined his friends.

"Brian's thinkin' about goin' on a vision quest," Sully stated.

"This is good," the medicine man agreed. "I shall prepare you for your quest."

"I really appreciate it," Brian expressed.

"Does Michaela know about this?" Cloud Dancing questioned.

"No," Brian responded. "Not yet."

"Telling her is the first thing you must do," the medicine man smiled. "Then we will talk."

************

"Hey, Loren," Jake entered the Mercantile. "You see who's back in town?"

"No, who?" Loren looked up.

"Emma," Jake smirked.

"Emma!" his eyes widened. "Well, now, don't that beat all. I wonder if she's gonna wanna come t' work for me again."

"More likely for Hank," Jake motioned with his thumb. "I saw her goin' int' the Gold Nugget."

"Does Matthew know she's back?" Loren wondered.

Jake leaned closer and lowered his voice, "I'm sure he does. I saw her comin' outa his office early this mornin'. REAL early."

"You don't mean...." Loren paused. "Nah, it couldn't be."

"I don't know," Jake tipped his hat back. "Lily's been outa town a lot lately. A man gets lonely."

"Not Matthew," he was horrified at the thought.

"He's only human," Jake shrugged.

************

"Matthew," Michaela entered his law office.

"I know ya heard Brian an' me arguin'," he looked up. "So if you're here t' lecture...."

"I'm not here to lecture," she countered. "But I would like to know what is happening between the two of you."

"I don't know," he shook his head. "Brian started yellin' at me when Loren an' him were walkin' past my office."

"But why?" she questioned. "Sully and I heard him call you a liar, Matthew."

"I didn't lie t' him," he became uncomfortable.

"And you have no idea why he's upset?" she repeated.

"Loren said it's 'cause he's in love," Matthew recalled his earlier conversation.

"Did he say with whom?" she wondered.

"No," the young man indicated.

Michaela sighed, "I don't like to see you two like this."

"I don't like it either, Ma," he assured. "But don't worry. I'll talk t' him later, after he cools off."

"Thank you," she nodded. "Now, if you have a little time, I'd like for you to look over these papers regarding the Indian school."

"Sure," he smiled. "For you, anythin'."

************

"Well, well," Hank puffed his cigar. "Look who's come home t' roost."

Emma drew her shawl tighter around her bosom as she noticed the direction of Hank's gaze.

"I ain't come home t' roost," she denied.

"Then what brings ya here?" he questioned. "I thought you an' Miss High-an'-Mighty Sinclair was off seein' the world."

"I saw as much as I wanted," she shrugged.

"An' now?" he wondered.

"Now.... I've come home," she stated.

"Home t' the Gold Nugget, or home t' somethin' else?" Hank grinned.

"Home t' whatever I want," Emma informed him.

"That include Matthew?" he leaned back in his chair. "He ain't sheriff anymore, ya know. I am."

"I see your badge," she noticed.

"So, does that make me more.... desirable?" he raised an eyebrow.

"The badge was not what interested me about Matthew," she defended.

"You know he's got a gal," Hank folded his arms.

"He ain't married," she pointed out.

Hank chuckled, "So you got your sights on him after all."

"Matthew and I have something very special," she asserted.

"You think he's interested in marryin' ya?" he challenged.

"Only one way t' find out," Emma turned and walked out.

************

At the homestead, Michaela had packed a small suitcase for her daughter. When Myra and Samantha arrived to pick her up, Josef retreated quietly to a hiding place beneath the dining room table.

"Be good for Miss Myra," Michaela buttoned Katie's coat.

"We're gonna have lots o' fun," Samantha beamed.

"Don't you worry about her, Dr. Mike," Myra smiled. "We'll take good care o' her."

"Bye, Mama," Katie embraced her. "I love you."

"I love you, too, my darling," Michaela felt her eyes welling.

Sully stooped low to kiss his daughter, "See ya t'morrow, Kates."

The little girl put her arms around his neck, "Take care of Mama. She's kinda emotional."

Sully grinned, "I will. Love you."

"You, too, Poppy," she kissed his cheek.

Then Katie crouched down to look at her brother beneath the table.

"Bye, Joey," she spoke.

The little boy folded his arms and turned away.

Katie looked up at her mother, "I think he wants t' come, too."

"Don't worry," Sully stroked her hair. "We'll take care o' him."

With a final kiss for the twins and Bridget, the little girl picked up her doll Marjorie and strode down the steps with her friend.

Michaela wiped a tear, "Look at her, Sully. So confident and sure."

He nodded, "I see."

Suddenly, they heard the sound of muffled crying. Turning, they saw their son, still beneath the table. Tears were streaming down his cheeks.

Sully went over and knelt down, "Come here, Joe."

The little boy rushed to his father's arms, "I don't want Katie t' go, Papa."

"She'll be back t'morrow," he consoled.

"No, she won't!" he turned his face into Sully's shoulder.

"How 'bout a pickle?" Bridget offered.

"No, thanks," the child did not look up.

"Game o' checkers?" Sully suggested.

"I don't wanna do nothin' 'til Katie comes home," Josef frowned.

Michaela leaned closer to kiss Josef's cheek, "This has not been a good day for our sons."

At that moment, Brian entered the homestead.

"Bran!" Josef's eyes brightened.

"Hey, Josef," the young man attempted to smile.

"Can I get ya somethin' t' eat, lad?" Bridget offered.

"Maybe later, thanks," he turned to his mother. "Ma, do ya think I could talk t' ya?"

"Certainly," she became tense.

"Maybe upstairs?" he lowered his voice.

She caressed Josef's cheek and whispered, "I think Papa really wants to play checkers."

Josef turned his attention to his father, "Do ya?"

"Yep," Sully answered.

"'Kay," the little boy agreed.

With that, Michaela and Brian headed for the stairs.

************
Chapter 7
************

Michaela folded her hands and sat on her bed watching Brian pace back and forth.

"Sweetheart," she finally spoke. "Please tell me what's bothering you. Does it have to do with your feelings for Lily?"

He took a deep breath and sighed, "It's a lot more complicated now, Ma."

"How so?" she was curious.

"I.... I can't really talk about it," he shook his head.

"Then why did you want to see me?" she wondered.

"I wanna do somethin', an' I'm not sure you'll approve," he began.

Her brow wrinkled, "Do you want to return to Boston?"

"Maybe eventually, but.... that's not what I wanted t' tell ya," he hedged.

"Brian, you can tell me anything," she assured.

He decided the direct approach, "I wanna go on a vision quest."

"A vision quest?" she questioned. "Why?"

"Same reason Sully an' Matthew went on theirs," he returned.

She became silent, pondering what to say.

"Ma," he sat beside her. "It's t' help me get a clear picture of who I am an' what my purpose is in life. I gotta do it on my own."

"It can also be quite dangerous, Brian," she cautioned.

"I'll be careful," a smile crossed his face.

"Have you spoken to Sully about this?" she inquired.

"Yes," he nodded. "But I asked him not t' say anythin' until I could talk t' ya."

"What did he advise?" she queried.

"He said it was fine," Brian summarized.

"Then.... I suppose I shouldn't object," she looked into his eyes.

"I appreciate you understandin'," he clasped her hand.

She touched his cheek, "When will you go?"

"I'm meetin' with Cloud Dancin' in the mornin' t' talk about it," he informed her. "If the Army doesn't give him any trouble about leavin' the school grounds."

"The Army?" she was puzzled.

"They got here this afternoon," he revealed. "Pa had some words with their officer."

"What kind of words?" she grew uncomfortable.

"I'm sure he'll tell ya about it," he rose.

"Brian," she stopped him. "This business between you and Matthew...."

"Please don't ask me about it, Ma," he implored.

"All right," she sighed.

************

Matthew heard a knock at his office door. Looking through the window, he saw Emma. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door.

"Hey, Matthew," she smiled. "I was wonderin' if ya might like t' take a walk."

"A walk?" he questioned. "At this hour?"

"I know it's late," she said. "But that's the best time t' do it. No one around t' bother a person."

He hesitated, "I... I don't know."

"I won't bite," she smiled flirtatiously. "We'll be back in no time."

He reached for his hat, "Well, okay. I best go with ya anyway. Pretty woman like you shouldn't be out alone at night."

"Don't Hank make the town safe?" she joked.

"All depends on who's out walkin'," he retorted. "Let's go."

Watching from the Gold Nugget porch stood Hank. He saw Matthew and Emma leave the office and decided to follow.

************

"An' I called her Marjorie for my Aunt who died," Katie finished explaining the name of her doll to Samantha.

"She's the prettiest doll I ever saw," the child was in awe. "Dr. Mike can buy you lots of nice stuff."

"This was from my Grandma," Katie corrected. "She died last year."

"I never knew my grandmas," Samantha pondered.

"I just knew one of mine," Katie said. "But she lived far away.... in Boston."

"Your Mama can take you to far away places," she returned.

"So can your Mama," Katie responded.

"No, I don't think so," the little girl's eyes saddened.

"Why not?" Katie tilted her head.

"I think she's sick," Samantha revealed.

"Why ya say that?" she questioned.

"She goes t' see Dr. Mike every day," Samantha noted. "And she looks real tired."

"Sound like my Mama when she was expectin' the twins," Katie recalled. "She was in bed a lot."

Samantha's eyes widened, "Do you think.... Mama might be gonna have a baby?"

"Could be," Katie nodded.

Myra entered the bedroom where the girls had been talking and giggling, "All right, I promised Dr. Mike you'd be in bed on time, so you two better get t' sleep now."

"Okay," Samantha rushed to embrace her mother. "Good night, Mama."

"'Night, sweetie," she kissed the top of her daughter's head.

************

"Did ya visit the privy, Joe?" Sully tucked him in.

"Yep," he nodded.

"An' say your prayers?" the father added.

"Uh-huh," Josef folded his hands long the edge of his covers. "Where's Mama?"

"She'll be in shortly," Sully drew back a lock of his son's hair.

"We gonna dig t'morrow, Papa?" the little boy inquired.

"Sure are," he smiled. "'Cept we gotta stop gettin' more dirt on you than in the cart."

"Dirt finds me," the child yawned. "I just can't help it."

Sully chuckled.

"Papa, I ask ya somethin'?" Josef requested.

"Sure," he nodded.

"What are we lookin' for?" the little boy came out with it.

"Lookin' for?" the father did not understand.

"When we dig," Josef noted.

Again, Sully laughed, "We're clearin' away the dirt t' make room for expandin' the house, Joe."

"Oh," Josef sounded disappointed. "I keep what I find?"

"What have ya found?" Sully wondered.

Josef reached his hand under the blanket and withdrew it, revealing a small, shiny rock. Instantly recognizing it as gold, Sully's eyes widened.

The father accepted it into his hand, "That's nice, Joe. Think I could have it?"

"Can't I keep it?" he frowned.

"I'll get ya somethin' even nicer," Sully leaned down to kiss him. "Let's keep what ya found our secret. Okay?"

"But why, Papa?" the child was confused.

"Well...." Sully rubbed his chin. "You know how your Ma is about bringin' dirty things int' the house. Close your eyes now."

"Gotta wait for Mama," he delayed.

"I'm here, Sweetheart," her voice came from the doorway.

The child looked up, "Are the babies okay?"

"Yes," she smiled. "They're sleeping."

"Oh," his voice hinted at disappointment.

"Were you thinking of playing with them at this hour?" she teased.

"Kinda," he yawned again.

Michaela leaned closer to kiss him, "Close your eyes, and picture Katie in your mind. It will be just like she's here with you then. And soon after you awaken tomorrow, she'll be home."

Her soft, lilting voice with its reassuring tone soon turned his drowsiness into sleep.

Sully watched her with their son, his heart in awe of her way with the little boy. Michaela had often told him that her love for him increased each time she saw him with their children. He had the same thought of her at that moment. Suddenly, he felt guilty for his curt and argumentative comments to her earlier. As she had told him in the Clinic, no matter what disagreements they may have, they still love one another. And nothing was more important than that.

She lifted up and whispered, "He's asleep."

"So I see," he slipped his hand around her waist.

She warmed at his loving gesture. They retreated to their bedroom, where each searched for an opening to end their strained status.

"Michaela...." "Sully...." both spoke simultaneously.

"You first," he smiled.

"I'm sorry for upsetting you about Katie and the Indian school," she opened.

"An' I'm sorry I been so negative about things," he added. "I know that there's good intentions with this school."

She broached the subject, "How will you feel when the Army arrives?"

"They did arrive," he informed her.

"And?" she waited.

"An' nothin'," he shrugged. "They got some officer named Dirksen tryin' t' prove he's a by-the-book administrator."

"You met him?" she probed further.

"In a way," he began to unbutton his shirt. "Him an' his men weren't real friendly t' Cloud Dancin', so I let 'em know that wasn't how they oughta act."

"Sully," her voice sounded disappointed.

"Michaela," his volume rose. "I ain't gonna let them push him around. I'm sick an' tired o' how his people an' all the other Indians have been treated. I...."

She stepped forward and placed her finger gently to his lips, "I know. It's just.... I remember before, your altercations with Sergeant O'Connor and what they led to."

He realized the fear she felt, "I ain't gonna ever do anythin' that would jeopardize our life or home. Ya gotta trust me."

"I do trust you," she embraced him. "But I don't trust the Army."

"I'll keep calm an' work t' see that the school succeeds for those children," he pledged.

"And I'll consider your wish to have Katie attend classes there," she matched.

"So.... what did Brian want?" he climbed into bed.

"He told me about his desire to go on a vision quest," she brushed her tresses. "He said you knew and approved."

"I agree that it could be what he needs," Sully lifted up on his elbow to watch her. "I've never seen Brian so troubled, Michaela."

"I know," she strolled to the cribs to check the babies. "I wish there were something we could do to help him."

"We can," he responded. "In this case, just by lettin' him be until he asks for our help."

"What if this doesn't work?" she pondered. "What if he returns from his vision quest even more troubled?"

"Now look who's bein' negative," he grinned.

"His arguing with Matthew has me quite upset," she frowned. "I haven't seen them like this since.... Ingrid died."

"I know," he pulled back the covers for her. "I don't like seein' other folks argue either.... like us."

"Were we arguing?" she turned up the corner of her mouth.

"Kinda," he smiled.

"Well," she caressed his cheek. "You know what must happen after we argue."

"What?" he played along.

"We...." she paused to kiss him. "Say we're sorry."

He savored her lips on his, "Then what?"

"We...." she paused to kiss his chest. "Say we love one another."

"Mmm," his passions were stirring. "And then?"

"Then...." she tucked her form against his. "We make up."

"How far do we go with that?" he slid his hand through the opening of her nightgown.

She gulped, "Go with.... what?"

"With that makin' up?" he continued the loving movements of his hand.

"We go...." she reacted to his touch of a particularly sensitive area. "We go as far as our hearts desire."

"My heart's got desire without boundaries, Michaela," his voice further inflamed her longing.

"How did we do this, Sully?" she spoke tenderly.

"Do what?" he did not follow.

"How do we go from being upset with one another to being.... like this?" she ran her hand up and down his muscular arm.

"I reckon it's because love's more powerful an' more important than any other feelin'," he reasoned.

"Your love," she was becoming lost in the blue of his eyes. "Your love is like my blood.... my being."

"Michaela," he was reminded of her cryptic comments earlier. "What did ya mean about bein' careful with our lovin'?"

"I...." her mood immediately changed.

"Tell me," he implored.

"Brian saw us, Sully," she finally came out with it.

"Saw us what?" he asked.

"Saw us in the barn.... making love," she kept her voice low.

"How?" he was surprised. "We had the door barred."

"There are windows," she noted.

"I don't believe it," he grinned.

"How can you smile about something like this?" she objected.

"I ain't smilin' about what we did," he stroked the hair from her face. "I'm smilin' 'cause.... what makes ya think he saw us?"

"He as much as told me," she was serious.

"He told ya he saw us makin' love?" his eyes widened.

"Well.... not specifically us, but he worded it such that there could be no mistaking what he had seen," she said.

Sully fell back and began to chuckle.

"What are you laughing about, Byron Sully?" she was taken aback.

"Michaela," he did not want to upset her further. "Think about it. What could he have seen?"

"Us!" she insisted. "You and I.... embracing.... kissing...."

"He's seen us do that hundreds o' times," he debated.

"We did... quite a bit more than that in the barn," she insisted.

"I know," he fondled her breast.

"Sully!" she clasped his hand and moved it away.

"He ain't here now t' see us," he teased.

"I've often wondered what if this were to happen," she became more flustered.

"This?" he returned his hand to her breast.

"No!" she did not appreciate his levity. "What if one of the children caught us.... in the... throws of passion?"

Sully stifled another laugh, "Michaela, I love ya so much when you're like this."

"Like what?" she could not imagine.

"Embarrassed," he touched her rosy cheek.

"You love to see me embarrassed?" she was offended.

"First time I ever saw ya, you were embarrassed," he grinned. "Face down in the mud."

"That's hardly comparable," she countered.

"Okay," he put on a straight face. "If Brian saw us.... in the throws o' passion, so what?"

"So what?" she was amazed. "So... it was inappropriate for him to...."

"Inappropriate for him to see us lovin', needin', wantin' each other?" he interrupted. "Two people.... married.... in love? Is that wrong?"

"It's not wrong for us to love, need and want each other," she repeated. "But it's inappropriate for one's child to.... see the physical.... encounter that goes with it."

He maintained a serious expression, "Well.... what should we do, then? Stop makin' love?"

"Of course not," she answered. "But we can certainly be more careful where those.... encounters occur."

"Encounters," he smiled. "Okay. We'll be more careful."

"Thank you," she sighed.

"One more question," he lifted up again. "Is this an appropriate place for an encounter?"

She responded, "Certainly."

"You sure?" he looked about the room. "The twins might wake up."

"As you have pointed out before, they're only ten months old," she slid close to him again.

He leaned in to kiss the soft skin of her neck and shoulder, "Ten months of watchin' 'em grow."

She felt her pulse race, "Ten months of seeing their sweet little personalities emerge.... Our Cheyanne and Aenohe."

"I love you," he kissed the lobe of her ear.

She closed her eyes and felt herself melt at his tone, "I love you, too."

"Mmmichaela," he said her name in the voice she adored.

"Mmm?" she was becoming lost in his arms.

"I know Brian didn't see us," he trailed his kisses along her jaw to her chin.

"But he...." she stopped when he kissed her lips.

Deepening the kiss, she maneuvered her leg across his.

"How...." she paused to savor the sensations he was awakening.

"How what?" he lowered his kisses.

"How...." she gulped. "How do you know he didn't see us?"

************
Chapter 8
************

Sully paused inches from his wife's face, "If Brian was lookin' in the barn window...."

"Yes?" Michaela ran her finger along his lips.

"He couldn't have seen us," he noted. "We weren't near it."

Suddenly, she realized that he was correct. The spot at which they had made love was not within sight of the window.

"Then why would he ask me about seeing a man and woman.... doing something he shouldn't have seen?" she questioned.

"I don't know," he ran his hand along her side.

"Do you think it could be connected to his feud with Matthew?" she speculated.

"I'd rather think about other things connected," he raised an eyebrow.

She did not understand, "Other things connected?"

"You an' me," he grinned.

"Sully!" she tapped his side.

"Ya got me all stirred up here, Michaela," he kissed her. "An' when that happens, I don't wanna think about anythin' but you an' me."

"You're stirred up?" she teased.

"Can't ya tell?" his ardor continued to build.

"Then perhaps we should think about you and me," she kissed his chest.

"Glad t' hear it," he was reaching a point of no return.

Slowly, they positioned themselves for more intimate contact. Kisses, caresses and the soft sounds of love engulfed them as their physical attraction continued to heighten. The scent of her inflamed his senses and filled him with overwhelmingly surging sensations. His movements, instinctive and warm, fulfilled and delighted her.

As their rhythmic motions continued and intensified, they reached a blindingly powerful and explosive exchange of energy. Nothing else existed in the world at that instant. They prolonged their union as long as they could. Eventually, they began to quiet, with breathing and pulses slowly returning to normal.

Sully kissed her sweetly and brushed back the locks of auburn hair from her face. Then he recited:

"O Love Divine, that stooped to share
Our sharpest pang, our bitterest tear,
On Thee we cast each earth-born care,
We smile at pain while Thou art near!
Though long the weary we tread,
And sorrow crown each lingering year,
No path we shun, no darkness dread,
Our hearts still whispering, Thou art near!"

"I'm glad thou art near," she stroked the sides of his moist face.

"I love nothin' better than bein' near t' you," he smiled.

"I recognize the writer," she retorted.

"Who?' he questioned.

"Oliver Wendell Holmes," she returned.

"Very good," he lay his head against the pillow.

"Sleep," she caressed his face tenderly. "I love you."

Michaela could tell from his breathing and posture that Sully had fallen asleep. She kissed his cheek and adjusted her nightgown. Then she rose from their bed and donned her robe. Quietly, she opened the door and made her way to the children's room. In the low light of the lamp which they had left on for their son, she noticed that Josef was not in his bed. She felt a rush of anxiety. Just as quickly, she saw that the little boy had curled up in his sister's bed.

Smiling, she went to him and stroked his hair. How like Sully he appeared. He had his father's features, eyes, hair. But her smile, she thought. It was at moments like this that the child, so full of mischief and curiosity, seemed so vulnerable and sweet. She smiled further as she glanced toward his nightstand. On it lay the contents of his emptied pockets.

"My little boy," she chuckled softly at his penchant for collecting knickknacks.

"Mama," he opened his eyes sleepily.

"Yes, Sweetheart," she whispered.

"I miss Katie," the edges of his mouth curled down.

"Shhh," she climbed into the bed beside him. "Close your eyes, and go back to sleep."

"I twy," he nodded obligingly.

"I love you, Josef," she stroked his temple.

"Thanks," he shut his eyes. "I 'pweciate it."

Snuggling closer to his mother, he felt warm. Soon, cocooned in her embrace, the little boy fell back to sleep.

************

Matthew enjoyed his lengthy conversation with Emma. As they walked, he forgot all that troubled him and found her stories of travel to be fascinating. Several hours had passed since they set out from town, but each had much to catch up on with the other.

"Wonder what time it is?" he inquired. "I lost track o' time."

"Does this place look familiar?" Emma stopped.

Matthew surveyed the dimly lit landscape, "Should it?"

"Uh-huh," she smiled. "It's where we first kissed."

Suddenly aware of the nearness of the bubbling hot spring, Matthew tensed.

"Emma...." he gulped. "About last night."

"It was somethin' I dreamed about for a long time," she moved closer.

He backed up a step, "I can't.... I can't do this t' Lily."

"Lily?" she shivered slightly. "Is that your girl's name?

"Yes," he sighed.

"Please don't feel guilty," she urged. "She don't ever have t' know."

"But I know," he shook his head.

"Matthew," she touched his chest. "What happened between us.... it can be just for that one time.... or...."

"No," he interrupted. "We can't do this again."

"If that's what ya really want," she let her shawl fall to the ground and stepped closer to the bubbling water.

"What are ya doin'?" he watched.

"I'm gonna rest in the hot spring," she began to unbutton her dress. "You can go back t' town if ya want. I'll be all right. Fact is, I'm used t' bein' by myself."

"But...." his brow wrinkled. "I thought you an' Gilda Sinclair went everywhere t'gether?"

"I was her seamstress, Matthew," Emma had stripped down to her undergarments. "Not her companion. I was lonesome most o' the time."

He folded his arms uncomfortably, "You'll catch a chill."

"No," she stepped into the steaming water. "It's real warm in here. Don't ya remember?"

"I remember," he looked away.

"Go ahead back t' town," she lowered herself down to the point where the bubbling liquid covered her shoulders. "Thanks for the walk."

"Emma," he toyed with the rim of his hat.

"Mmm?" she closed her eyes to enjoy the relaxing moisture.

"I...." he swallowed hard. "I... gotta tell ya somethin' about last night. Only promise me ya won't say anythin'."

"'Course I won't say anythin', Matthew," she pledged. "It's nobody's business."

"It was.... my first time.... bein' with a woman," he confessed.

She gazed at him with a slight smile, "It was?"

"Yea," he became embarrassed.

"Well, then," she spoke softly. "It was even more special because o' that."

"Was it.... okay?" he felt his cheeks warm.

"You were wonderful," she eyed him flirtatiously.

He resumed his demeanor of propriety, "I can't.... we can't do this anymore."

"I understand," she rose up slightly to reveal her cleavage.

He gulped, "Okay, then. I.... I'll see ya."

"See ya," she replied.

He turned and walked away.

"I don't wanna let ya go a second time, Matthew," Emma spoke to herself. "An' I'll do whatever I have to so we can be t'gether."

Hank had heard it all. He pondered approaching the young woman. Her moist skin glistened in the moonlight. He felt himself stir at the sight of her. Next to Myra, he had most regretted letting Emma go. Stroking his beard, he quietly retreated and headed back to town.

************

Michaela felt an odd tickling sensation beneath her chin. She flinched and opened her eyes, struggling to focus in the dawning light. Then she saw the reason for her discomfort. Josef held a feather.

"What are you doing?" she questioned her son.

"Ticklin' ya," he grinned.

"Why?" she yawned.

"So ya wake up happy," he answered simply.

She smiled, "I think it's working."

"You was wight, Mama," he touched her hand.

"About what?" she embraced him.

"Thinkin' about Katie help me not miss her," he replied. "An' you sleeped with me."

Michaela kissed his temple, "I'm glad."

"Papa not mind?" he wondered.

"Mind what?" she queried.

"You sleep in here?" the little boy specified.

"Papa understands," she smiled.

"I know why he like sleepin' with ya," Josef snuggled closer.

"You do?" she raised an eyebrow.

"'Cause ya warm," he innocently remarked. "But he taked my wock."

"Your rock?" Michaela was curious.

"My shiny one," he nodded. "He say he get me somethin' nicer."

A puzzled Michaela kissed him again, "Guess who'll be home soon."

"Katie!" he bolted up.

************

Helen Hunt Jackson glanced at her notebook, having enjoyed another sunrise at Cheyenne Mountain. Lifting her pen, she began to write:

"By easy slope to west as if it had
No thought, when first its soaring was begun
Except to look devoutly to the sun.
It rises, and has risen, until glad
With light as with a garment it is clad.
Each dawn before the tardy plains have won
For us, the light doth cling reluctant sad
To leave its brow. Beloved mount, I
Thy worshiper, as thou the sun's, each morn
My dawn, before the dawn, receive from thee;
And think, as thy rose-tinting peak I see,
That thou wert great when Homer was not born,
And ere thou change, all human songs shall die!"

She spoke aloud as she finished, "All human songs. Will they die? Who will speak for the Indians? The unfairness of their plight."

Suddenly, she heard footsteps approaching. Then she recognized the figures.

"Cloud Dancing, Brian," she smiled. "Good morning."

"Good morning," the medicine man returned the smile. "You have come to write?"

"Yes," she nodded. "Will you two join me?"

"If you wish," the Cheyenne medicine man sat down beside her.

"What brings you two gentlemen out on this beautiful morning?" Helen inquired.

"We were talkin' about a Cheyenne vision quest," Brian stated.

"I wonder...." Helen hesitated. "Cloud Dancing, would you tell me more about your people, the Cheyenne?"

"You wish to write of this, too?" the medicine man questioned.

"Yes," she acknowledged.

"The story of my people is the story of a century of dishonor," Cloud Dancing frowned.

"A century of dishonor," she repeated and jotted down the words in her journal.

Cloud Dancing began, captivating Helen and Brian with his eloquently moving descriptions.

************

"Mornin'," Sully spoke to his wife as he finished changing the squirming twins' diapers. "I missed wakin' up beside ya."

"I missed you, as well," she kissed him.

"These two are real active this mornin'," he rubbed the babies' bellies.

"Ma!" Noah rolled over on the bed when he saw his mother.

"Good morning, my darling," she lifted the active baby boy.

"Is Josef okay?" Sully cradled Annie in his arms.

"Yes," she kissed Noah. "He went downstairs to wait by the door for his sister."

"He did?" he chuckled.

"Sully," she recalled. "He said something about a rock you took from him. Was it dangerous?"

"More than he knows," Sully lowered his voice. "Michaela, he found gold."

"Gold!" her eyes widened. "Where?"

"Back o' the house, where we were diggin'," he rubbed Annie's back.

"What.... what should we do about it?" she pondered.

"Nothin'," he asserted.

"Nothing?" she repeated. "But...."

"Think about it," he raised his hand. "We go lettin' word get out, an' what's gonna happen? Another gold rush. Greedy miners, businessmen, crime.... You wanna see that swarmin' around our land?"

"Of course, not, but...." she was interrupted again.

"But nothin'....." he stroked the soft hair of his baby daughter. "If we don't say anythin', then none o' that will happen. We gotta make sure Joe don't say anythin' either. Michaela, our lives would never be the same if....."

"You're right," she spoke softly. "And we certainly don't need the money."

"So, now I gotta come up with somethin' even better for our son," he smiled.

"He might not even remember that you took it, given his excited state over Katie's impending arrival," she leaned over to kiss Annie. "What are you going to do with the gold that he found?"

"I ain't sure yet," he pondered.

************

"So, Matthew," Hank approached him at Grace's Cafe. "Ya look kinda tired. Stayin' up late, are ya? Prob'ly workin' on some.... case."

Matthew eyed the Sheriff skeptically, "You want somethin'?"

"Just bein' hospitable," he sat down beside the young man. "By the way, I saw Emma yesterday."

"Yea," Matthew tried not to react. "She's back in town."

"Wonder where she's spendin' her evenin's," Hank hinted.

Matthew was sarcastic, "Can't picture her comin' back t' the Gold Nugget."

"She's been back," Hank smirked. "Ain't had a whore as good as her since she left."

Matthew clinched his fist, but quickly regained control of his temper, "Too bad ya gotta rely on that line o' work t' make your money. 'Specially since you're the town sheriff now. Seems like you'd wanna do honest work. Set a good example."

"Thanks for the advice," Hank stood up. "I know who t' come to for showin' me a good example. You're a real pillar of the community."

"Why you actin' like this, Hank?" Matthew tilted back his hat.

"Like I said, just bein'....." suddenly he stopped when he saw the approach of a beautiful woman. "Well, here comes Lily. Headin' this way."

Matthew swallowed hard and stood up, "Hey, Lily."

"Matthew," she kissed his cheek.

"Ain't that sweet," Hank winked.

"If you'll excuse us...." Matthew gestured for him to leave.

"Sure," Hank shrugged. "Don't have t' hold up a sign t' convince me t' go. Oh, Lily. Maybe you can find out why Matthew looks so tired. I'm real worried about his....."

"Hank!" Matthew raised his voice. "Good bye."

"See ya around," he headed away.

"What was that all about?" Lily questioned.

"I ain't sure," Matthew changed the subject. "How was your trip t' Denver? Third one this month."

"I...." she hesitated. "I wanted to speak with you about that."

************
Chapter 9
************

"Katie!" Josef rushed to his sister as she entered the homestead.

"Hey, Joey," the little girl embraced her little brother.

"I glad you home!" he did not contain his excitement. "The babies missed ya."

"I missed you, too," she tickled his side.

"There's my sweet girl," Sully lifted his daughter and kissed her. "How was your visit?"

"Good," she hugged him. "We had fun. Where's Mama?"

"Upstairs with the twins," Sully pointed. "They're waitin' for ya."

"I'll go see them," she hurriedly removed her coat.

Josef was about to follow, when Sully held him back, "Just a second, Joe. I got somethin' for ya."

"Ya do?" he raised his eyebrows.

"Yep," Sully reached into his pocket. "Got ya this."

"Papa!" Josef's eyes widened as he beheld the object. "What is it?"

"It's a top," Sully informed him. "Ya spin it like this."

The little boy was mesmerized, "Thanks."

"Thought ya might like it," he was amused.

"I do!" Josef attempted to spin the top.

"Like this," Sully guided him.

Pleased that his son seemed to have forgotten the gold, Sully stroked the little boy's hair.

"I go see Katie now?" the child was anxious.

"Sure," Sully smiled.

Josef climbed the steps quickly, "Katie!"

"Hey, boy-oh," Bridget met him at the top of the steps. "Hold your horses. Not so fast."

Josef immediately slowed his pace and entered his parents' room. Katie was sitting on the bed playing with the babies as Michaela watched.

"Lookie what Papa give me," he proudly held up his toy.

"You'll have lots of fun with that, Joey," Katie smiled.

"We gonna dig, too," he proclaimed.

"Are you goin' to the Clinic today, Mama?" Katie questioned.

"Yes, Sweetheart," Michaela began folding a clean pile of diapers. "Did you want to come along?"

"May I?" the little girl requested.

"Certainly," Michaela smiled.

With his mother and sister distracted by the babies, Josef began to explore the room. One of his favorite endeavors was to open several drawers in the chest and search through them. He began pulling open a few drawers, then pretending it was a cliff, began to scale his way to the top. His eyes widened when he dug into the top drawer and spotted the treasure that awaited. It was his rock. The shiny one. Taking it into his hand, he climbed down and placed it in his pocket.

Michaela turned to him, "Close the drawers now, Sweetheart. We're going downstairs."

"'Kay," he obeyed.

************

Matthew leaned his elbows on the table at the Cafe, "You wanted t' speak t' me about your trip t' Denver?"

"Yes," Lily nodded.

She hesitated and folded her hands nervously.

"Somethin' wrong?" Matthew perceived.

"Matthew," she paused. "I know my frequent absences have put somewhat of a strain on our.... friendship."

"Friendship?" he controlled his hurt. Lowering his voice, he added, "Lily, we're engaged."

"Yes... well...." she hedged.

"We are, aren't we?" he swallowed hard.

"I.... I don't know how to say this," she could not look him in the eye.

"Just say it," he implored.

"There's someone.... a man in Denver.... and we.... that is...." she found it difficult to go on.

"What, Lily?" Matthew's eyes narrowed.

"I've grown very fond of him," her voice was barely audible.

"I see," he felt an ache in his heart.

"I'm sorry, Matthew," she regretted. "I didn't mean for this to happen. It's just.... I met him when I worked for the bank in Denver.... and when I returned last month on some business for my father, we became reacquainted."

He folded his arms uncomfortably, "So.... you're in love with someone else?"

She reached for his hand, "I never meant to hurt you."

He pulled away, "Good bye, Lily."

Rising from the table, he stormed toward Grace, paid his tab and left.

************

Cloud Dancing continued his description to Helen, "The winter of 1877 and summer of 1878 were times of misery for my people. The buffalo were driven off of the only hunting grounds on which we have permission to search. Hunger.... so much hunger. With nothing to hunt, my people are forced to give up our ways for the ways of the white man. But the white man also brings disease. Thousands of Cheyenne lay sick and dying, with no medicine as the agents promised."

Brian added, "Sully used t' be the Indian agent here and tried t' get them food an' medicine. He tried so hard. But the Army worked against him at every turn."

"This school," Helen wondered. "Do you think it will be any different from the reservation life?"

"The children will have food and medicine," Cloud Dancing nodded. "This alone is more than they have had in many years."

"But they will be learning the ways of the white man," she pointed out.

"Not just any white man," he countered. "Sully.... Dorothy.... Michaela...."

"Me, too," Brian interjected. "I'll teach 'em."

"They will be among friends, people who respect the ways of the Cheyenne," the medicine man placed his hand on the young man's back. "And they will be safe."

"What about the Army?" Helen inquired.

"That does concern me," he sighed. "We must do things differently from before. We must be clever. Patient. Anticipate where the Army may attempt to stop us."

"I wish...." she stopped herself.

"What?" Brian wondered.

"I wish I could help," Helen set down her pen. "I know many people back East. They need to be made aware of this.... century of dishonor."

"You are married to a man who helped to bring about the loss of our land," Cloud Dancing stated. "He does not object to your position?"

"William is a very complex man," she folded her hands. "He's quite shy and difficult for many to understand."

The medicine man found her comments curious, "You do not speak of love."

Helen suddenly felt the need to share her feelings, "I did not want to marry him at first. My age difference.... five years older. But he persisted. Now it seems.... well... we have found ourselves drifting apart."

Brian pondered her dilemma, "How can that happen when ya love someone?"

Cloud Dancing spoke, "Sometimes people mistake love for something else."

"I didn't mean to turn this around to a discussion of my marriage," Helen felt a bit embarrassed.

"I hope ya don't mind me askin'," Brian spoke up. "It's just.... I been havin' a lot o' questions on my mind.... about love."

Helen smiled, "There is nothing grander than being in love."

Cloud Dancing patted the young man's back, "Or more confusing."

"That's true," Helen nodded. "I am in the presence of two very wise men."

"I don't feel so wise," Brian answered. "Seems like things just get more muddled every day."

"Then maybe you are in love," the medicine man teased.

"I'll tell ya one thing," he asserted. "I won't ever betray the woman I love."

************

"Mama, can I ask ya somethin'?" Katie finished rolling bandages beside her mother.

"Of course," she smiled.

"How do ya know when someone's gonna have a baby?" the little girl questioned.

"Well..." Michaela replied. "The woman begins to exhibit certain symptoms.... certain signs."

"Like what?" the child persisted.

"She.... feels tired," she noted. "There is weight gain, special cravings for certain foods, and.... well, a certain thing that a woman experiences once a month stops happening."

"What certain thing?" Katie questioned.

Michaela cleared her throat uncomfortably, "It's called a menstrual cycle."

"Do I exper'ence it?" the little girl's eyes widened.

"No," her mother assured. "But when you get older, you will."

"Is it fun?" she imagined. "Like Poppy's bicycle?"

"Uh...." Michaela contained her laughter. "I would not describe it as fun. Why all of these questions, Sweetheart?"

"I was thinkin' about Samantha," Katie returned.

"Why?" her brow wrinkled. "Is she not feeling well?"

"She's okay," the child said. "But she thinks her Mama's sick. I told her she might be gonna have a baby 'cause she's tired a lot.... just like you were."

"No," Michaela lifted her daughter and set her on the examining table. "She's not going to have a baby, Katie."

"Then why's she come here every day, an' why's she so tired?" the child inquired.

Michaela leaned forward and kissed her cheek, "You're a good friend to Samantha. She's a lucky little girl."

"You not gonna tell me?" Katie assumed.

"Do you remember my telling you about doctor/patient confidentiality?" she smiled.

"That mean ya can't tell me?" Katie reasoned.

"Yes," she commented. "That's what it means."

"I know Miss Myra will get better," the little girl embraced her mother. "I know you'll help her."

"Thank you, my darling," Michaela closed her eyes and prayed that her daughter was correct.

"Am I gonna go t' the Indian school?" Katie changed the subject. "I bet Samantha would come, too. But I know Wendell Reed won't. He says Indians are heathens, whatever that is."

"Your Daddy and I need to discuss it further, Katie," Michaela ended the subject.

************

"Mattew!" Josef spotted the approaching horse first.

Sully wiped his brow and took a drink from his canteen.

"Hey," the young man alit his horse. "You two look like you could use some help."

Sully detected more to his arrival, "Sure can. There's the pick."

Matthew drew on his gloves and quickly began to swing away at the hardened earth.

Josef's eyes widened at the intensity of his brother's work, "Look at Mattew, Papa."

Sully went over and knelt down beside his young son, "Would ya do me a favor, Joe?"

"Yep," he nodded.

"Go t' the kitchen door, and ask Miss Bridget if our sandwiches are ready," he tapped the little boy's behind.

Josef took off around the corner, leaving Sully alone with Matthew.

"You okay?" he challenged.

"Not really," Matthew was out of breath.

"You an' Brian have another fight?" Sully was curious.

"No," Matthew folded his arms. "It's Lily."

"What about her?" he questioned.

"She's found someone else," the young man revealed.

"Who?" Sully wondered.

"Some man in Denver," he kicked a piece of dirt. "Why does this always happen t' me, Sully? Why does the woman I love always leave me?"

Sully placed his hand on his shoulder, "I don't have an answer for ya, but I know what Cloud Dancin' told me once."

"What?" his blue eyes met Sully's.

"He said that sometimes when ya lose one thing ya love, it's t' make room for somethin' new," he advised.

"I've had it," Matthew shook his head. "I'm through lookin'.... I'm through carin'.... "

"Then you're through bein' you," Sully counseled. "You're a carin' man, Matthew."

"Now that I think about it," Matthew paused. "It's what I deserve."

"How can ya say that?" Sully squinted against the sun.

"I did somethin'....." he hesitated. "Somethin' bad."

"We all do bad things," Sully observed. "We're human."

"No," Matthew's jaw tensed. "I did somethin' a man in love should never do."

Sully watched him agonize, "If your woman loves ya, she'll forgive ya."

"Not for this," Matthew knew.

"Sounds pretty bad," he studied his son's face.

"I gotta go," Matthew took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

"Why don't ya stay for supper?" Sully invited. "The kids would love it, an' your Ma would....."

"No, thanks," he was determined. "Tell Ma I'll see her later."

************

Michaela tiptoed away from the cribs, having just gotten the babies to sleep. As she stretched her tense muscles, Sully entered the bedroom.

"They sleepin'?" he whispered.

"Yes," she kept her voice low. "Katie and Josef, too?"

"Yep," he stepped behind her to massage her shoulders.

"That feels wonderful," she closed her eyes.

He drew back her hair to kiss her soft skin. She enjoyed his tender ministrations.

"Michaela," he spoke low.

"Mmm?" she warmed at his voice.

"Matthew came by t'day," he began. "He said Lily came back."

"And?" she anticipated.

"And she told him somethin' that.... well, it upset him," he revealed.

"What is it, Sully?" she turned to face him.

"She told Matthew that.... she's found another man," Sully came out with it. "Someone in Denver."

"What?" her eyes widened. "I can't believe Lily would do this to Matthew."

"We can't always control where our heart goes," he pointed out. "Look at Brian."

"Brian...." she shook her head. "So tormented. And he hasn't even heard this news about Lily."

"Cloud Dancin' will take good care o' him," he assured.

"Will he go on the vision quest with him?" she questioned.

"You know he can't go along," he turned and walked to the cribs. "But he'll prepare him."

Sully reached down and lifted Annie into his arms.

"What are you doing?" she asked. "I just got them to sleep."

"Can't help it," he rested his lips on the baby's hair.

She smiled and stroked his arm, "You never can resist your little girls, Mr. Sully."

"Nope," he grinned.

Annie stirred and turned her head into her father's chest. Sully slowly swayed back and forth to lull the baby.

"I love watchin' them grow, Michaela," his eyes filled with love.

It was then that she realized, "Sully.... it's what you missed. Isn't it?"

He was amazed at his wife's perceptiveness, "Annie's almost the age Katie was when I went int' hidin'. Only stolen moments with my little girl. Not bein' here for you either...."

He kissed the baby, then set her gently to rest in her crib.

Michaela went to him and touched his cheek, noting a bit of moisture beneath his eye.

"We've made up for that time, Sully," Michaela observed.

"Can't really make up for what I missed," he lamented.

"You've more than made up for it," she asserted. "You've spent every moment you could with our children. You brought them into this world. Held them as they took their first breath. How many fathers have experienced that?"

"Sometimes, I still feel guilty," he sat on the edge of the bed. "I guess seein' the Army in town again, hearin' that sergeant.... brings it all back."

Michaela came to his side and clasped his hand. Raising it to her lips, she kissed his palm. Sully turned it and softly touched her cheek.

"You're the most beautiful woman in the world," he smiled.

"I love you," she fan her fingers through his hair.

"I love you, too," he whispered.

He tilted her head against his shoulder and lifted her hand to his lips. Then he recited from George Meredith:

"Hither she comes; she comes to me; she lingers,
Deepens her brown eyebrows, while in new surprise
High rise the lashes in wonder of a stranger;
Yet am I the light and living of her eyes."

She smiled, "You are the light and living of my eyes."

"That's how ya make me feel," he grinned. "Even when we argue."

"No arguing tonight," she stated.

"Why not?" he teased. "Don't ya like makin' up?"

"I love making up," she nodded. "But.... we don't always have to argue in order to...."

Suddenly, they heard banging at the front door. Sully stood up quickly and headed for the hallway. Michaela heard his footsteps descend the steps and then discerned an opening of their homestead door. She heard someone speaking to her husband. Assuming her services must be needed by a patient, she checked on the babies one more time.

Just as she turned to go, Sully reentered the bedroom.

"Who is it?" she grew concerned.

"Hank," he answered.

"Sully," she noted his expression with alarm. "What is it? What's happened?"

"It's Matthew," he replied.

************
Chapter 10
************

"What's wrong with Matthew?" Michaela became anxious.

"He's at the Gold Nugget," Sully clasped her hands. "Hank put him in one o' the rooms there after he passed out."

"Passed out?" her eyes narrowed. "Why?"

"He's drunk," Sully returned. "I told him we'd come int' town t' fetch him."

"Yes," she nodded. "Let's go."

************

"Cloud Dancin'," Brian felt warm in the sweat lodge. "When will I be ready for the vision quest?"

"Soon," the medicine man returned. "You face many mountains in your life journey. You must not think of them in that way. Do not try to move the mountain. Instead, move each stone that makes the mountain. Walk softly. Speak softly."

"I'll try," the young man affirmed.

"You must understand," Cloud Dancing paused. "The quest is not just this one time. Your quest is your entire life. You must seek the power of the Great Spirit.... of all the spirits. Understand that there will be sacrifice. The Spirits will come to you in visions.... in the form of animals, birds, forces of nature. It could be thunder. It could be the wind."

"But how will I know it's a Spirit?" he questioned.

"Keep your heart pure," Cloud Dancing told him. "You will come to know your oneness with all life. All creation is your relative. When you serve others, you will know the Spirits. Those who are greater than you."

"Keepin' my heart pure," Brian pondered. "Does that mean... about... women?"

Cloud Dancing rubbed his chin, surprised by the question, "You have not treated a woman with respect?"

"I have," Brian emphasized. "But.... never mind."

"No," the medicine man raised a hand. "You must rid yourself of all thoughts that interfere with your quest. What is it about a woman that could hinder you?"

"I... love someone who's already taken," Brian felt ashamed.

"She is married?" Cloud Dancing queried.

"No," the young man shook his head. "But.... It's Lily. I'm in love with her. Matthew's Lily."

"Is she to be tsevestoemose?" Cloud Dancing spoke. "His wife?"

"They were movin' in that direction," Brian swallowed hard. "But.... I saw somethin', Cloud Dancin'."

"What is it that you saw?" he questioned.

"I saw Matthew with another woman," Brian revealed. "With Emma. She's back. Back in his life."

"When you say you saw him with her...." he paused.

"I mean physically together.... kissin' an'...." the young man tensed.

"You are disappointed in your brother," Cloud Dancing perceived.

"Of course, I am!" Brian exclaimed. "I know I got no right... no claim t' Lily.... but if ya love someone, ya don't betray them."

"You are right," the medicine man nodded. "This will bring great trouble to Matthew."

"T' Matthew?" his brow wrinkled. "What about t' Lily if she finds out?"

"Who will tell her this news?" the medicine man wondered.

"I should," Brian rested his arms on his knees. "But I can't. You're the only one I told about this, Cloud Dancin'. What should I do?"

"The Spirits will guide you," he counseled.

************

Michaela and Sully rushed into the room where Matthew lay lifeless on the bed. Checking his pulse and respiration, Michaela grew more concerned. Hank joined them.

"How is he?" Sully stood, arms folded.

"Not good," she rolled up her sleeves.

Repeatedly calling her son's name loudly, she shook his shoulders, "Matthew! Matthew!"

She pinched his earlobe to see if there was any reaction. Only slight.

"Help me put him on his side," she requested.

Hank and Sully complied with her wishes.

"Has he vomited?" Michaela questioned the sheriff.

"Yea," he nodded. "Downstairs. Couple o' times."

Michaela's anger increased, "How could you let him consume this much alcohol, Hank?"

"He's of age," he shrugged. "Could get it somewhere's else if not here."

Again she shook her son and called out his name.

"Anything I can do t' help?" Sully offered.

"He'll need to be monitored throughout the night," she checked his pulse again. "He might have seizures."

"Then we'll stay here," Sully nodded.

"The children will wonder where we are in the morning," she commented.

"I'll ride out t' tell Bridget we're stayin'," he offered.

Michaela drew back a lock of Matthew's hair from his face, as her concern grew.

************

Brian sat in the sweat lodge, anxious for his journey to begin. He had absorbed the advice of Cloud Dancing. He knew that he would go to a mountaintop. He was prepared for the sacrifices he must make. No food, nor water. Painting his body with white clay. The circle of rocks, inside of which he must remain.

Cloud Dancing studied his pupil, "You are ready?"

"Yes," the young man nodded with certainty.

"You have within you the power to succeed in your quest," the medicine man counseled. "Listen to your senses. They will guide you."

"I will," Brian asserted.

Cloud Dancing reminded, "Crying for a vision is seeking the highest in man: the highest of his physical nature; the highest of his feeling nature; the highest of his mind nature; and the highest of his spiritual nature. These are the four balances, the four directions within you, the four levels of being and unfolding."

"I understand," Brian answered.

Cloud Dancing added, "You will be on the mountain without any guide -- only your own inner guide. You will fast during the quest and commune with the Great Spirit in silence."

"I will," Brian nodded.

The medicine man advised further, "Walk around the vision grounds slowly and silently four times each day. Twice at sunrise and twice at sundown. You accept all that you must do, Brian?"

He agreed, "I do."

************

Sully awoke in the chair opposite Matthew's bed. He cringed at the stiffness in his back and sat up straighter. It was then that he observed Michaela, beside their son, her hand still monitoring his pulse.

"Any change?" he spoke low.

"Somewhat improved," she yawned. "His pulse is stronger."

"Why don't I do that, an' you get some sleep?" he offered.

"No, thank you," she refused. "I wish he would wake up, Sully."

He rose from the chair and walked to her.

Kneeling before her, he took her hand and raised it to his lips, "He will, Michaela. He will."

"And then what?" she glanced back at Matthew. "Obviously, he is quite troubled by what Lily has done."

"Or what he's done," Sully stood up.

"What do you mean?" she questioned.

"Somethin' he told me yesterday," he recalled. "He said he deserved t' lose Lily. Told me he'd done somethin' bad that a man in love shouldn't do."

"What could it be?" her brow wrinkled. "What could he have done that would drive him to this?"

There was a light knock at the door. Sully rose to open it.

He was surprised, "Emma?"

"I heard about Matthew," she spoke in a hush. "Could I see him?"

Michaela turned, "Emma! We didn't know you were back."

"Been back a couple days," she informed them.

"Did Matthew know?" Michaela queried.

"Yes," Emma answered simply. "We.... saw one another. Please, Dr. Mike, could I see him?"

"Of course," Michaela stood up.

"Why don't you an' me go t' Grace's an' get some coffee," Sully urged his wife.

"But...." she hesitated.

"I'll let ya know if he wakes up," Emma offered.

With that, Sully escorted Michaela out of the room.

"Oh, Matthew," Emma stroked his hair. "What have ya done?"

***********

In the hallway, Michaela turned to her husband, "Could this be what's caused the rift between Matthew and Brian?"

"What d' ya mean?" Sully rubbed his upper lip.

"The man and woman Brian saw," she reminded. "Could it have been Matthew with Emma?"

"I reckon it could," he pondered. "Might explain Brian sayin' he betrayed Lily."

"And Matthew's saying he had done something a man in love should not do," Michaela added.

"Almost like the plot o' one o' them dime novels," he joked.

She shook her head, "I find no humor in this, Sully. These are our children."

"I know," he touched her chin. "Let's go get that coffee."

As they exited the Gold Nugget, they encountered Loren in the street.

"What in tarnation are you two doin' comin' outa there at this hour?" the shopkeeper's eyes widened.

"Can't a man spend the night with his wife in a Saloon?" Sully spoke with a straight face.

Michaela's cheeks flushed, "Sully! It's not like that, Loren. We were with Matthew. He fell ill at the Saloon last night."

"Ill?" Loren frowned. "He okay now?"

"Improving," Michaela nodded.

"How's Brian doin'?" the older man inquired.

"He's gone on a vision quest with Cloud Dancing," Michaela informed him.

"I hope he knows what he's doin'," Loren shook his head.

"Nothin' wrong with a vision quest," Sully stated.

"He gonna come back dressed like an Injun.... like you?" he wondered.

"Prob'ly be wearin' war paint, too," Sully teased.

"Awe, you know what I mean," Loren waved his hand.

"He'll be fine," Sully patted his back. "Thanks for askin'."

As they left him, Michaela looked at her husband, "I hope you're right."

"Hmm?" he did not understand.

"I hope Brian will be all right," she said.

************

Matthew opened his eyes, his mouth parched and his vision blurred.

"Hey," Emma leaned closer.

"Emma?" he attempted to focus.

"I'm here," she clutched his hand.

"Where am I?" he felt nauseous.

"The Gold Nugget," she informed him.

"What?" he started to rise.

The ache of his head quickly put a damper on his ability to get up.

"What happened?" he tried to remember.

"Ya got blind drunk last night," she answered.

"Oh, no," he vaguely recalled.

"Your Ma an' Sully just left for some coffee," she said. "I'll go fetch 'em."

"No. Wait," he clasped her hand. "Don't leave me again."

Emma ran her hand tenderly along his cheek, "I don't wanna ever leave you, Matthew. I... I love you."

************

Sully and Michaela sipped their coffee quietly. He saw that the beverage was not enough to counter her fatigue.

"Why don't I take ya over t' the Clinic?" he offered. "Try t' get some sleep."

"Not until I'm certain that Matthew is all right," she resisted.

At that moment, they spotted Hank heading toward their table.

"Well, folks, Matthew's awake," he grinned. "Don't feel very good, but Emma said he's alert."

"Thank you, Hank," Michaela was relieved. "I'll be over to check on him shortly."

"Good," he pivoted to leave.

"Hank," she stopped him. "Thank you."

"For what?" he questioned.

"For coming to get us last night," Michaela expressed.

"That's all right," he answered. "It ain't good for business t' have him hawkin' all over the bar."

Michaela shook her head at his gruff manner. Then over Sully's shoulder, she saw an approaching soldier.

"Are you Michaela Quinn?" the sergeant queried.

"Yes," she looked up. "Who are you?"

"Sergeant Francis Dirksen," he eyed Sully. "I wonder if I could speak to you in private."

"This is my husband, Sergeant," she noted. "Whatever business you have with me can be discussed in his presence."

"You're married t' Byron Sully?" he was surprised.

"Why do you ask?" she questioned.

"I did some checking up on you," Dirksen spoke to Sully. "Seems like you got into a great deal of trouble with the Army a few years back. You were a wanted man."

"And if your investigation was thorough, you would also know that he was given a full pardon by President Grant," Michaela amended. "Now, why did you wish to speak with me?"

"I want to see the papers for that Indian School of yours," he stated.

"For what purpose?" she returned.

"For the purpose of seeing how they're worded," he announced. "And I want to see the letter of permission sent by the government."

"Somethin' wrong?" Sully challenged.

"Not specifically," he said. "I just want to be certain that all is in order. Now, if you could have those papers for me by this afternoon, Mrs. Sully. We've got our bivouac just on the edge of town."

"Of course, Sergeant," Michaela attempted to be pleasant.

The officer touched the tip of his cap and departed.

"What d' ya think he really wants?" Sully watched him.

"I suppose he wants to see if there are any loopholes," she said.

"I don't have a good feelin' about this," he cautioned.

"I'm going to go check on Matthew, then get some rest," she patted his hand.

"Good," he acknowledged. "I'll go out t' the homestead t' check on the kids. Want me t' bring the papers int' town for ya."

"Yes, please," she replied. "And tell the children I'll see them later."

"I will," he leaned closer to kiss her.

************

Brian sat, cross legged in the center of the encircling rocks. He closed his eyes, attempting to ignore the chill he felt. He thought back to his childhood, when he had tried to join Matthew on his vision quest.

"Great Spirit," he sighed to himself. "Why? Why's it gotta be like this for my brother an' me?"

A breeze caressed his cheek. Cloud Dancing had said the Spirits could be speaking to him in many ways. He released all thoughts, hoping that the clear air would carry him.... transport his consciousness to another level. Was the breeze talking to him? Telling him something?

Then he heard the rustle of some branches. Quickly, he opened his eyes and beheld the approach of a deer. The animal seemed unafraid of him.

"Hey, girl," Brian spoke softly.

The doe's ears moved in response.

"What are you doin' up here?" he smiled. "Are ya hungry?"

The animal moved closer, attracted to the timbre of his voice. It was then that he noticed that she was old. Maybe ten or eleven, he judged. The notion crossed his mind that the doe had come here to die.

Saddened by the thought, he spoke again, "Come here, girl. Come on."

What he saw next surprised Brian. Was it indeed a sign from the Spirits?

************
Chapter 11
************

"Byron?" Brian touched the doe's shoulder.

There was the scar on her left front shoulder where she had been shot many years ago. Sully and he had rescued her, and Dr. Mike had made her well again.

"I can't believe it, girl!" he raised up to hug the animal. "Look at ya."

************

"Mama!" Josef rushed into the Clinic first, quickly followed by Katie.

Michaela opened her eyes and yawned as her children hurried to greet her.

"Hello, you two," she embraced them.

"Papa say ya up all night," Josef sat beside her on the bench where she had rested.

"Yes," she adjusted her hair. "But I've had a nice nap."

Sully entered the Clinic and pulled some papers from his pocket. He smiled at his wife, who was immersed in answering the children's questions.

"Where's Mattew?" Katie queried. "Poppy said he was sick."

"He's at his office now," she replied.

"We go see him?" Josef requested.

Michaela caressed his cheek, "Yes, but hold Katie's hand, and be careful crossing the street."

"We will," Katie led her brother from the Clinic.

As the door closed behind them, Michaela sat up.

"You sure ya got enough rest?" Sully wondered.

She stretched her arms, "As much as I'm going to get. I've been thinking about Matthew and Brian."

Sully sat down beside her, "Me, too."

"Matthew said very little when I checked on him after he awoke," she mentioned. "And now that Emma's back, what will become of him, Sully?"

"Only thing I know is Lily's out o' the picture now," he rubbed his upper lip.

"Which means that Matthew is very vulnerable," she concluded. "His feelings for Emma have apparently resurfaced."

Sully took her hand, "When ya love someone, that's bound t' happen. Ya can't hide it for long."

"If Brian did see Matthew and Emma.... together...." she pondered. "What must he be thinking?"

"Brian's thinkin' about that an' a lot o' other things right about now," Sully counseled.

"Do you think he'll return to Boston?" she expressed her fear.

"Michaela," he paused. "If that's what will make him happy, we gotta abide by it."

"But he came home because he wasn't happy," she reminded.

"Or because he wasn't truly ready t' leave," Sully amended.

There was a knock at the door.

"That will be Myra," she stood up.

"I'll leave ya be then," he approached the door. "Maybe I'll have Matthew take another look at these papers before we show them t' Sergeant Dirksen."

"That's a good idea," she nodded.

************

"Dorothy?" Helen Hunt Jackson approached her at Grace's Cafe.

"Helen," the redhead smiled. "Good t' see ya."

"I was wondering," Helen paused. "I know that you wrote a book about Cloud Dancing and the Cheyenne.... and I was hoping that perhaps you might look over some preliminary notes I've made for possible work."

"'Course I would," her blue eyes brightened. "I'm honored that you'd ask me."

Helen handed Dorothy the journal.

She opened it and read aloud, "'A Century of Dishonor.' That's a right fine title for what happened t' the Cheyenne."

As Dorothy read, she periodically paused and wiped a tear from her eyes. One paragraph was particularly moving to her:

"It would seem that there could be found nowhere in the melancholy record of the experiences of our Indians a more glaring instance of confused multiplication of injustices than this. The Cheyennes were pursued and slain for venturing to leave this very reservation, which, it appears, is not their reservation at all, and they have no legal right to it. Are there any words to fitly characterize such treatment as this from a great, powerful, rich nation, to a handful of helpless people?"

Dorothy closed the journal, "Helen.... I don't know what t' say."

"I've only begun the research for it," the woman explained. "I'm going back East soon. I want to involve myself as a voice for these people, Dorothy. I'll take it to the highest levels of government, if need be."

"That's good news," the editor felt her eyes welling again.

"Do you mind if I ask you something?" Helen touched her hand.

"Go ahead," Dorothy encouraged.

"It's.... rather personal in nature," she hedged.

"Then if I don't wanna answer, I won't," Dorothy smiled.

"What will become of Cloud Dancing and you?" Helen came out with it. "What lies ahead for you?"

"I don't know," her shoulders slumped. "We're from two different worlds. There's been times when I wanted t' give up everythin' and go with him... anywhere. But, he's always pulled back. Never wantin' me t' give up my world for his."

"Perhaps it's because of the uncertainty of his future and that of his people," Helen speculated. "It leads one to wonder..... what if you were part Indian?"

"Part Indian?" Dorothy chuckled. "Look at me. I got red hair an' blue eyes."

"Oh, I know you're not, in reality," she smiled. "But.... just think of how it would shake up our society. A woman, seemingly white, who is really an Indian."

"Ya got quite an imagination," Dorothy chuckled. "But.... as for me an' Cloud Dancin'.... I can't think o' my life without him. I'm really happy that we'll be workin' t'gether on this school."

************

Matthew looked up from reading the papers Sully had brought.

Rubbing his eyes, he sighed, "I don't see any problem with 'em. Everythin' looks legal an' proper t' me."

"Want me t' read them?" Katie offered.

"Go ahead," Matthew grinned.

"Wead t' me, Katie," Josef requested.

The two sat on a bench near the window and pretended that they understood the documents.

"How ya feel?" Sully questioned his son.

"Like I been hit by a hammer," Matthew took a sip of coffee.

"Drinkin' will do that," he responded.

"I don't need a lecture, Sully," Matthew was curt.

"I ain't lecturin' ya," he countered. "But when ya almost die, your Ma an' me got a right t' be concerned."

"I'm sorry," the young man regretted his tone. "It's just.... things have gotten real complicated for me. I.... I guess I thought I could escape for a while."

"Complicated 'cause Emma's back?" Sully wondered.

"That's part of it," he nodded.

"You never stopped lovin' her, did ya?" Sully observed.

"No," he shook his head. "When she told me she was leavin' t' go with Gilda St. Clair, I thought we were through.... that we were just meant t' be friends an' nothin' more. I never realized how much I missed her, needed her, 'til I saw her the night she came back."

Sully studied his son's face, "Maybe things ain't so complicated after all, if the woman ya love has come back to ya an' the woman ya thought ya loved has left ya for someone else."

"You make it sound simple," Matthew sighed.

"Seems simple enough," Sully shrugged. "Just give yourself time. You'll see."

Matthew glanced out the window, "Here comes Ma."

"Mama!" Josef rushed to the door to greet her.

"Hello, my darling," she embraced the little boy when she entered the office. "Matthew.... how are you doing?"

"I'm fine, Ma," he acknowledged. "Sorry I put ya through that last night."

"I'm more concerned about what you put yourself through," she countered.

"Kates. Joe," Sully spoke to his children. "Let's head over t' the Clinic. Let your Ma check on Matthew."

Katie neared her older brother and placed her hand on his, "I hope ya feel better."

"Thanks, little sister," Matthew kissed her cheek.

Sully returned the government papers to Matthew, then gave his wife a smile as he led the children out the door.

Michaela removed her stethoscope from her bag and began to place the ends in her ears.

"That's not necessary, Ma," Matthew raised his hand. "I'm feelin' better, really."

She paused, "Would you mind if I ask you something?"

"Go ahead," he nodded.

"Sully told me about Lily," she said. "I.... I know it's terribly difficult for you, Matthew. And now that Emma has returned, your feelings will certainly be...."

"It's only a little like when David came back, Ma," he knew what she was thinking. "But all these years, I knew Emma was still alive, an'... well, I been thinkin' about my feelin's for Lily. It's not like what I feel for Emma."

"You truly love her?" she spoke softly.

"I never realized how much until we...." he stopped himself.

"I know this is very personal, but there's a reason I ask," Michaela probed. "You and Emma.... since her return.... have you been....together?"

"That IS very personal," he interrupted.

Michaela studied his expression, instantly realizing that her son had been intimate Emma.

"I see," she was barely audible.

"Ma," he took her hand. "I been lookin' for happiness my whole life. The kind of happiness you an' Sully have."

"And we want you to be happy, as well," she added. "But... I don't want you to confuse love with.... physical attraction."

"Can't they go t'gether?" he posed the question.

She blushed slightly, "Yes."

Michaela turned when she heard the door open.

It was Emma, "Hey, Dr. Mike."

"Emma," Michaela acknowledged with a smile. "If you'll excuse me, I have to meet with the Army."

"Did ya want me there, too?" Matthew offered.

"If you wouldn't mind," she nodded.

"'Course I don't mind," he reached for his hat.

Emma offered, "I could watch your children for ya, Dr. Mike. I saw Sully takin' them t' the Clinic."

"I'd like that," Michaela smiled. "Thank you."

************

Brian kept his hand on the deer, who had laid down beside him. He was amazed that the animal had instantly been so comfortable with him, as if she had never forgotten the kindness he had shown her.

Suddenly, he noted that the breathing of the doe was becoming labored.

"What's wrong, girl?" his brow wrinkled.

The animal lifted her head, her large brown eyes meeting his. Brian stared at her intently. It was then that an inexplicable thing happened. He felt a puff of wind caress his cheek. Opening his mouth slightly, the air entered his mouth. Suddenly, he filled with an incredible peace.

"My spirit," he whispered. "You gave it back t' me."

Lowering its head to his lap, the animal stopped breathing.

"Byron," his eyes watered.

************

"And this is Matthew's good friend Emma," Michaela spoke to her children.

"I've met you before, Katie," she smiled. "When you were just a baby."

"Ya meet me?" Josef stepped closer.

"Nope," Emma smiled. "But I'd know whose little boy you were, even if your Ma didn't introduce us. Ya look just like your Pa."

"Folks say that," Josef nodded.

"Emma's going to stay with you at the Clinic while Papa and I go to Grace's," Michaela explained. "Be good for her."

"I will," Katie smiled.

"Joe," Sully's expression was serious.

"I be good," he nodded.

"If it's all right with you, could I take them out to the Chateau?" Emma requested. "I have some sewing for Preston's guests."

"That would be fine," Michaela agreed.

As Michaela and Sully approached the Clinic door to leave, Josef rushed to them.

Motioning with his finger for his father to lean closer, the little boy whispered, "Where's Lil?"

"We'll talk about that later," Sully spoke softly. "Be real nice t' Emma, Joe."

"I will," he agreed.

************

Sergeant Dirksen rose when he saw Michaela, Sully and Matthew approach the table. Dorothy and Cloud Dancing were already there with him.

"Sergeant," Michaela sat. "This is our son, Matthew Cooper. He's an attorney."

"Mr. Cooper," the officer acknowledged.

"Here are the papers you wanted to see," Matthew handed them over.

Dirksen silently read over the documents, pausing periodically to shake his head.

Michaela reached for Sully's hand. He clasped it.

"All seems in order," the Sergeant finally spoke.

"Good," Michaela smiled.

"Except for one thing," the officer glanced up. "Mrs. Jennings said that there are two Indians who will be on the premises to supervise the children."

"That's right," Michaela agreed.

"They'll spend each night under our guard," Dirksen returned the papers to Matthew.

"Now, just a minute," Sully protested. "They ain't prisoners."

Dirksen swiftly rested his hand on his revolver, "They are subject to Army regulations, just like...."

"They ain't combatants," Sully interjected. "This is a school, not a reservation."

"Cloud Dancing may have protected status," Dirksen countered. "But the others do not."

Michaela could see her husband's anger growing, "Sergeant, when you say that the Indians will be under your guard, may I ask for what purpose?

"For the purpose of seeing that they don't try to harm any unsuspecting settlers or townsfolk," he replied.

"That's absurd," Dorothy spoke up. "These Indians are an older couple, married. How can you consider them to be dangerous?"

Dirksen eyed her sternly, "Every Indian is dangerous."

"Look," Dorothy's cheeks reddened. "Our school is gonna open soon, an' I don't want any trouble. Just keep your men out of the way, Sergeant, and....."

"My men will not be kept out of the way, Mrs. Jennings," he interrupted. "Our purpose here is to protect the citizens of Colorado Springs."

Michaela sensed that Sully was about to speak again, but she quickly headed him off, "Thank you, Sergeant. We want that, as well."

The officer rose from his chair, tipped his hat and departed.

Sully's jaw tensed, "This ain't gonna work."

"Sully," Michaela hoped to calm him. "Please.... let's give this a chance."

He abruptly stood up and left the table in silence.

************

"This is a nice carriage," Katie commented to Emma.

"It belongs t' Mr. Lodge," she replied. "He's lettin' me use it to return some alterations I made for his guests."

"What's al'erations?" Josef questioned.

"It's makin' changes in people's clothes," she explained. "Sometimes they need 'em bigger, an' sometimes smaller."

"Mine need bigger," Josef shook his head. "Mama say I gwow like a weed."

Emma chuckled, "Well, you can hand the clothes you outgrow down to your little brother. I'd love to meet the babies soon. What are their names?"

"Annie an' Noah," Katie said. "They're growin' fast, too."

"Those kids are a han'ful," Josef remarked.

"It must be real nice, havin' four children," Emma spoke wistfully.

"We would've had six," Katie informed her. "But Mama lost two babies."

"She did?" Emma was surprised.

"One after me, an' one after Joey," the little girl detailed.

"That must've made her sad," Emma sympathized.

"But we make her happy," Josef smiled.

"I bet you do," Emma tickled his side.

"There's the Chateau," Katie pointed.

When the carriage drew to a stop, Preston approached.

"Well, well, I see that you brought the Sully progeny with you," Preston helped Emma from the carriage.

"I hope ya don't mind," she offered. "I was watchin' them for Dr. Mike an' Sully.

"As long as they don't touch anything," the banker gruffly responded.

"Hey, Mr. Lodge," Katie smiled.

"How are your investments?" he inquired.

"I don't have any," the little girl shrugged.

"Pity," he retorted.

As they chatted, Josef spotted a railed-in hot spring and headed for it.

"You there," Preston called after him. "Stay away from my customers."

The little boy reached into his pocket for his top, hoping to spin it along the railing. As he withdrew it from his pocket, the piece of gold fell unnoticed onto the ground beside the spring.

"Come on, Josef," Emma summoned him. "Time to go back to town now."

The child reluctantly returned his top to his pocket and took off for the carriage.

************
Chapter 12
************

Sully stood atop the mountain, his and Michaela's mountain. He closed his eyes, hoping to calm the angst he felt.

"Why's it gotta be such a struggle?" he sighed in frustration.

"It is in the struggle that we learn," a voice replied.

Quickly pivoting, he saw Cloud Dancing.

"How'd ya know where t' find me?" Sully questioned.

"A man who is angry is not difficult to find," the medicine man returned.

"How can ya go through with this, Cloud Dancin'?" Sully eyed him. "How can ya let the Army control everythin'?"

"They cannot control what is inside," he pointed to his heart.

"But they're gonna...." he shook his head.

"My brother," Cloud Dancing placed his hand on his shoulder. "What are you afraid of?"

"Afraid?" he was puzzled.

"Yes," his friend commented. "You are afraid."

"No, I ain't," Sully denied.

"Look inside your heart," Cloud Dancing counseled. "What is it that you feel?"

"I feel...." Sully paused. "Frustrated. Unable t' help you or the Cheyenne."

"We are to have a school for the children," the medicine man pointed out. "We have land for it. We will have books, and supplies and medicines. How can this make us helpless?"

"Because you'll also have the Army," Sully noted.

"Having the Army is something we cannot avoid," Cloud Dancing noted. "But think, my brother. Think what these children will have that they did not before."

"How can you be so calm about it?" Sully tilted his head.

"Because I have already known the greatest losses a man can suffer," Cloud Dancing's eyes moistened. "My wife, my son, my people. But.... the Spirits kept me alive. I have searched for many years for the reason why. And now, I know. I will sing the song of my people to these children. They may wear the white man's clothes, speak his tongue, read his books. But inside, they will hear my song, the Cheyenne song."

Sully felt a lump in his throat, "I want my children to hear your song, too."

"They already hear it," Cloud Dancing smiled. "From their parents."

************

"Should I be servin' dinner, Dr. Mike?" Bridget questioned. "Or should I wait for Sully?"

"The children are hungry," Michaela observed their restlessness. "Go on ahead and set the table."

"Somethin' happen t' the lad?" the nanny referred to Sully.

Michaela did not contain her upset, "He's being quite stubborn."

"He'll be home soon," Bridget assured her. "Ya look exhausted, lass. Why don't ya go on t' bed right after ya eat. I'll take care o' gettin' the wee ones ready for bed, an' I'll put the twins in with me t'night."

Michaela realized the truth of her words, "If you wouldn't mind, Bridget, I think I'll go up now."

"I don't mind a bit," she patted her back. "Go on, an' I'll keep the leprechauns quiet for ya."

************

As Sully neared the homestead, he smelled the aromas of dinner. Mounting the steps, he opened the door. Quickly, he was surrounded by the open arms of his children.

"Papa, where ya been?" Josef reached up for him.

Sully lifted the little boy, "Been thinkin', Joe."

"Ya get answers?" the child wondered.

"A few," Sully stroked his hair. "Where's your Ma?"

"She went up t' bed," Bridget informed him. "Poor darlin' was worn out."

Sully set his son down, "Finish your supper now, Joe."

"'Kay," he returned to the table.

Sully removed his coat and belt, then hooked them on the peg beside the door. He walked into the kitchen to wash his hands.

Bridget approached him, "Are ya goin' up t' see Dr. Mike?"

"Yes," he nodded.

"Good," she advised. "I think you're just what she needs."

"She say anythin'?" he was curious.

"No," she fibbed. "Off with ya now."

Sully turned and climbed the steps. As he neared their bedroom, he paused. Then he heard it. The sound that broke his heart. Michaela was softly weeping.

Without hesitation, he entered the room and quietly closed the door. With her back to him, she did not seem to notice. Then she felt the bed move when he climbed in beside her.

Rolling over, she wiped her tears, "Sully."

"I'm sorry, Michaela," he touched the moisture gently. "Please don't cry."

"Where were you?" she questioned.

"I went t' our mountain t' think," he told her.

"And?" she waited.

"An' Cloud Dancin' found me there," he stroked her hair. Unable to resist her, Sully leaned closer and tenderly kissed her, "I never wanna make ya cry."

She more urgently deepened their kiss, then pulled back, "I love you so much."

"I love you, too," he smiled. "An' I always will."

"What did Cloud Dancing say?" she asked.

"He said I'm afraid," Sully confessed.

"Afraid?" she repeated.

"Cloud Dancin' thinks I'm afraid that what happened before, t' the Indians an' him, will happen again," he specified.

"And are you afraid?" she cupped her hand to his cheek.

He took a deep breath, "I guess I am."

"I wish I could tell you that everything will be all right with them," she ran her fingers through his hair. "But you know as well as I, there are no guarantees. Still, we must do our best. Strive to make things better for the Indians."

He smiled, "I love your optimism, Michaela Quinn."

"I'm not the only one," she noted. "There's Dorothy. And Helen. She's returning to the east coast to heighten people's awareness about the plight of the Indians."

"Too bad you three don't run the country," he teased.

She linked her fingers in his, "Sully, I've been thinking about Katie's education."

"What about it?" he tensed.

"I think it would be good for her to spend some time each week at the Indian school," she conceded. "She could come with me when I go out to check on the children. While she's there, she could attend some classes."

"Why the change of heart?" he was curious.

"It's precisely because of my heart," she touched his chin. "I came to the realization that living with the Cheyenne made you who you are. The man who holds my heart. The man who so passionately cares for his fellow human beings. I want our children to learn those same traits."

"I don't know what t' say, Michaela," he was overwhelmed.

"Say.... that you'll help Bridget with the children while I get some sleep?" she smiled.

"Glad t' do it," he softly kissed her. "Close your eyes. The rain will help ya sleep."

************

Brian stared at the mound of earth under which he had buried Byron. He swallowed hard, still overcome by the emotion of his experience with the deer. Then his thoughts turned to Matthew. Curiously, his anger toward his brother was gone. He felt only sympathy and compassion for him. Matthew had always tried to do the right thing, yet always seemed to be hurt by it.

Then Brian began to contemplate his feelings for Lily. Why did he love her? Certainly her beauty was part of it, but his parents had taught him to look beyond the superficial. Did she have inner beauty? He supposed that she did, though he could not truly think of an example of her showing much interest in anything he had ever said or done. For that matter, she had not done that toward Matthew either.

The more Brian thought about her, an idea began to take shape. Was it possible that he loved Lily because she was unattainable? Upon closer examination of his feelings, it hit him. He did not truly love her at all. He was ashamed to admit it, but his attraction to her was.... a physical desire.

What was it Cloud Dancing had said? The vision will come when a man forgets his own selfish needs and thinks only of others.

Again, at that moment, a wisp of air brushed his cheek. And again, he glanced at the grave of Byron. He stood up and began to twice traverse the vision grounds as Cloud Dancing had told him. Then he sat and pulled the buffalo hide around his shoulders to protect against the chill of the evening air. He heard distant thunder and knew that before long, it would begin to rain.

************

"Emma," Matthew knocked at her door.

"Matthew?" she opened it.

He removed his hat, "I.... I was wonderin' if I could talk t' ya."

"Sure," she stepped back to invite him inside.

He stepped closer to kiss her. Their contact began to intensify before she placed her hands against his chest and pushed back ever so slowly.

"What did ya wanna talk about?" she felt her heart race.

"Us," he stared at her intently. "Before ya left, you an' me talked about gettin' married."

"I know," she nodded.

"An' ya came back.... sayin' ya still love me," he recalled.

"I do," she agreed.

"That's the two words I want us t' say t' each other, Emma," he felt his heart beat faster. "I still love you, too, an'.... I wanna marry ya."

"Matthew," she was taken aback. "This is all movin' real fast. Ya just lost Lily."

"I never really had Lily," he amended. "But you an' me.... Emma, I've never been so sure about anythin' in my life."

She smiled, "Matthew Cooper."

"So you'll marry me?" his eyes widened.

She threw her arms around his neck, "Yes."

"Good!" he kissed her. "Let's go tell my family!"

"T'night?" she was surprised.

"I wanna tell the world!" he felt euphoric. "Lily wouldn't even let me tell a soul that we were gonna get married."

"Matthew," she stepped back. "You were engaged t' her?"

"Yes," he confessed. "But she wouldn't let me tell anyone, an' she wouldn't wear a ring."

"Matthew...." she hesitated.

"What's wrong?" he clasped her hand.

"Are you proposin' t' me because of what Lily did?" the idea occurred to her.

"What are ya talkin' about?" he protested. "No, Emma. I never, ever stopped lovin' you."

"But you were engaged to her when you an' me made....." she was interrupted.

"Please," his eyes watered. "I can't bear the thought o' losin' you again. If ya don't wanna tell my family yet, that's okay. I never should've said anythin' about Lily."

She hedged, "I think we need t' slow down a bit."

"I know what I feel in my heart, Emma," he pledged. "An' I'll wait as long as ya want, long as I know you an' me have a future."

She nodded, "I know we do, Matthew."

************

Sully opened an eye as a slit of morning light hit his face. Against his back, he felt the warmth of his wife.

He rolled over to see that she, too, was awake, "Mornin'."

"Good morning," she wrapped her arm around his waist.

He kissed the top of her head, "How ya feel?"

"Quite rested," she smiled. "What time is it?"

"Goin' on seven o'clock," he checked the mantle clock.

"I have a little time, then," she snuggled closer.

"Time for me?" he raised an eyebrow.

"Always," she whispered.

He caressed her cheek, "I love lookin' int' your eyes, Michaela."

"You make me so happy, Sully," she felt her emotions swell. "And in my eyes, you see my abiding love for you."

Sully kissed her sweetly, then recited:

"Stay, O sweet, and do not rise!
The light that shines comes from thine eyes;
The day breaks not: it is my heart,
Because that you and I must part.
Stay! or else my joys will die,
And perish in their infancy.
'Tis true, 'tis day: what though it be?
O, wilt thou therefore rise from me?
Why should we rise because 'tis light?
Did we lie down because 'twas night?
Love, which in spite of darkness brought us hither,
Should in despite of light keep us together."

"You make me want to stay in bed all day, Mr. Sully," she ran her finger lightly along his lips.

"Not such a bad idea," he grinned.

"Was that Shakespeare?" she guessed.

"John Donne," he corrected. "So why don't we?"

"Pardon me?" she was curious.

"Stay in bed all day?" he specified.

"You know that's not possible," she stroked his arm.

"Hmm," he caressed her cheek. "Maybe I ain't usin' all my powers of persuasion."

"Sully," she smiled. "You are quite persuasive, but it would be impossible for us to...."

She stopped when she felt his hand, maneuvering lower to awaken her senses. She felt her cheeks flush. As his movements and kisses continued, she felt herself unable to resist him.

"Mmm?" he smiled at her reaction.

"Don't be so smug," she again felt a wave of pleasure from his touches.

"Me?" he grinned impishly.

"Two can play at this game," she reached beneath the covers.

He gulped, "I guess you got some persuasive powers, too."

Michaela trailed kisses across his chest, then brought herself up to the level of his eyes. Sully gently rolled her onto her back and positioned himself with care. Sensing when she was ready to receive his love, he held back no longer. With eager anticipation and longing, they fulfilled their desires, as the warmth of their connection surged through them. Finally, their union complete, they began to calm.

Sully kissed her and whispered, "Thanks for persuadin' me."

************

Matthew was awakened by a pounding on his office door. Making his way from the back room, he pulled on his pants and shirt. When he reached the door, he was surprised to see his brother.

"Brian?" he turned the knob. "What the.... You're soakin' wet."

"Could I come in?" the young man requested.

"'Course, ya can," Matthew stepped back and went to the stove to toss in some wood.

Brian shivered, "I hope I'm not disturbin' ya."

"Why would ya ask that?" his eyes narrowed.

"In case ya had.... company," Brian lowered his eyes.

"I don't have company," Matthew went into his back room and returned with a dry clothes. "Here, put these on."

"Thanks," he began to change.

An awkward silence followed.

Matthew finally spoke, "Ya hungry?"

"Starvin'," Brian nodded.

"I'll take ya over t' Grace's when she opens," he offered.

"No, thanks," he said. "I'll head home soon as I warm up."

"How was your vision quest?" Matthew was curious.

"I learned a lot," the young man acknowledged.

"Look, Brian," Matthew spoke up. "I... I don't know why you an' me have been like this, but I don't like it. Whatever I did t' upset you, I'm sorry."

"No," he shook his head. "I'm the one who's sorry. I.... I gotta tell ya somethin'."

"What?" Matthew waited.

"It's about Lily," he began. "I.... I thought I was in love with her."

"Ya did?" the older brother's eyes widened.

"Uh huh," Brian rubbed his hands together for warmth. "But.... I came t' the conclusion that I'm not. And I realized that havin' you for my brother is more important than.... holdin' a grudge."

"Why would ya hold a grudge?" he was curious.

"You an' Emma," Brian confessed. "I.... I saw you two t'gether.... the other night."

Matthew swallowed hard, "What exactly did ya see?"

************
Chapter 13
************

Brian hesitated as his brother waited for an answer, "I just saw you an' Emma kissin'. That's all."

"She's back in my life, little brother," his face lit up. "An' as for Lily, I realized the same thing about her. I don't love her."

"Ya don't?" Brian was shocked.

"I love Emma," he nodded.

"So we both been goin' through all this over someone we aren't even in love with?" Brian stated.

"I guess so," Matthew chuckled.

Both brothers began to laugh.

************

Matthew and Brian halted their horses when they reached the homestead. Laughing still, they climbed the steps and savored the aromas of Bridget's cooking.

Matthew opened the door, "Look who I found."

"Bran!" the children excitedly greeted him.

"Sweetheart," Michaela embraced Brian. "How are you?"

"I'm fine, Ma," he smiled.

"You and Matthew...." she noticed their relaxed demeanor.

"We're okay," he simply answered.

Michaela placed a hand on each son's arm, "Come in and eat."

"I got a couple of ideas I wanted t' share with ya about the Indians at the school," Matthew sat down.

"What's that?" Sully was interested.

"The way I figure," Matthew began. "We could get the town t' grant protected status t' them like we did for Cloud Dancin', or I could argue the case that it's a private school, an' they're employees of Ma. Either way, we could take the Army t' court if they try t' interfere with things."

"That's brilliant, Matthew," Michaela marveled.

"I think ya got somethin'," Sully nodded his ascent.

Josef noticed Brian's quiet, "Hey."

"Hey," Brian smiled.

"Wanna play with my top?" Josef offered. "Ya spinned it."

"I'd like that," the older brother consented.

Michaela sat back and smiled at the scene. Brian and Matthew had returned to their old selves. The conversation was lively, and.... and Sully was watching her. Then he grinned and nodded his head.

He knew, she thought. He knew she was happy.

Sully stood up and tapped Brian on the shoulder, "I could use some help in the kitchen if ya got a minute."

"Sure," the young man followed.

When they reached the sink with their dishes, Sully turned to him, "Well? How'd the vision quest go?"

"Good," Brian seemed at peace. "You'll never believe what I saw."

"What did you see?" Michaela stood nearby.

"I saw Byron," he grinned.

"Me?" Sully pointed to himself.

"Byron, the doe," he clarified. "Remember, when I was little, we found her? She'd been shot. Ma fixed her up."

"My goodness," Michaela marveled. "How on earth did you know it was the same animal?"

Sully studied his son's expression, "He knew."

"She gave me back my spirit," Brian felt a swell of emotion.

"Your spirit?" Michaela did not understand.

Sully placed his hand on the young man's shoulder, "I can see it in your eyes, son."

************

"Loren," Preston was out of breath.

"Hold your horses," he turned the sign on his mercantile door to "Open."

"I need all of your picks and shovels," Preston insisted.

"All of 'em?" the shopkeeper was puzzled.

"Yes," Preston demanded.

"Why?" he questioned.

"I.... ah.... that is.... I'm thinking of expanding the Chateau," the banker lied.

"All of a sudden?" Loren reasoned. "Why, the last time someone came in here buyin' up all my picks and shovels was when they discovered..... Hey, you ain't discovered gold have ya?"

"Shhh," Preston raised his finger to his lips.

"You have!" Loren's eyes widened.

"You must observe the strictest secrecy, Loren," the banker grew more uncomfortable. "Perhaps I might even let you in on a little share if...."

"I won't say a word," Loren assured. "You can trust me."

************

"Mr. Sully. Mr. Cooper," Sergeant Dirksen looked up from his desk. "What brings you here?"

"I got some advice for ya," Matthew set a paper before him.

"What's this?" the officer questioned.

Sully spoke up, "This is why the Army's gonna leave the Indians alone at the school."

"Now, look," he stood up. "I told you before....."

"Read it," Sully insisted.

Dirksen sat again and perused the notes, "You're bluffing."

"One thing you better learn, Sergeant," Sully cast him an cold glance. "Where the Indians are concerned, I don't bluff."

"We'll see about this," he returned the paper to Matthew. "I'll be in touch with my superiors."

"Be in touch all ya want," Sully folded his arms. "But don't interfere with the Indians at that school."

"I fear you and I shall have further issue over this, Mr. Sully," Dirksen warned.

Matthew added, "Then you'll have issue with the judicial system, too."

"Good day, gentlemen," the officer indicated they should leave.

************

"Well, Dr. Mike?" Myra anticipated.

"I do believe it's beginning to have an effect," Michaela concluded her examination.

"A good effect?" she hoped.

"Yes," Michaela began to make some notes in her record. "How do you feel?"

"I gotta tell ya that I'm startin' t' feel a little more energetic," Myra stated.

"Then, we are making definite...." she stopped when she heard the commotion outside.

"What's goin' on?" Myra wondered.

Michaela opened the door to discover a crowd of people swarming around the entrance to the Mercantile.

Horace rushed toward the Clinic door, "Myra! Dr. Mike! They discovered gold!"

"Gold?" Michaela felt anxious.

"At the Chateau!" he exclaimed. "I'm goin' out t' stake me a claim."

"Preston won't let folks do that," Myra assumed.

"He'll hire Pinkerton guards, no doubt," Michaela speculated.

"Come on, Myra," Horace extended his hand. "Let's go."

"Horace, we can't just...." she hesitated.

"Then I'm goin' myself," the telegraph operator informed her.

"I better go then," Myra shrugged. "Someone's gotta talk some sense int' him. Thanks, Dr. Mike. I'll see ya t'morrow."

"Good bye, Myra," she smiled.

Michaela folded her arms and watched the scene unfolding before her. Then she spotted her husband rounding the corner from the Livery.

"See what a gold rush is like?" he reached her.

"Sully, do you think there's really gold there?" she stepped back to let him enter the Clinic.

"Who knows?" he shook his head. "Just the rumor of it sets people off. Can't think o' anyone who deserves this craziness more than Preston."

"Thank goodness no one knows about what Josef found," she sighed. "And how was your morning, Mr. Sully?"

"Me an' Matthew just came from the Army's bivouac," he informed his wife.

"Why were you there?" she grew anxious.

"Matthew showed Dirksen a proposal for the town council t' give protected status t' the Indians at the school," he smiled.

"And what was his reaction?" she anticipated.

"He didn't like it," he was brief.

"I wish...." she stopped herself.

"What?" he anticipated.

"Nothing," she decided against it.

"Michaela," Sully stepped closer. "I'm only defendin' what's right."

"I know," she touched his cheek. "But promise me...."

He interrupted, "I'll be careful. An' I'll do things within the law. Don't worry."

"I suppose I can't help it," she attempted a smile. "How did Matthew seem?"

"He's feelin' better," he interpreted.

"I mean, how do his emotions seem?" she clarified.

Sully studied her expression, "You gettin' at somethin'?"

She took a deep breath and sighed, "Just the other night, we thought we might lose him. He was depressed, tormented.... and now that Emma has returned...."

"You thinkin' it all seems too easy?" he pondered.

"Aren't you?" she tilted her head. "I sometimes wonder if Matthew knows his own heart."

"Time will tell, I reckon," he determined. "We'll see how things go for Emma an' him."

"She can't give him children," Michaela reminded. "Will he come to resent that?"

"Maybe," Sully replied. "But then again, maybe, more than anythin', he just needs someone t' help him know his heart. Could be, Emma's that someone."

There was a knock at the door.

"Come in," Michaela beckoned.

"Michaela," Helen Hunt Jackson stepped into the office. "I came to say good bye. From the look of things out there, it seems I'm leaving just in time."

"Helen," Michaela shook her hand. "It was a pleasure meeting you. Please return soon."

"I don't know when I shall," the woman returned. "But I will never forget what I've seen here or the people whom I've met."

"Is your husband going with you?" Michaela inquired.

"No," her eyes saddened. "He does not share my passions. He merely tolerates them."

"That's too bad," Michaela replied.

"I want you to know that I shall not rest until the voice of the Indians is heard," she asserted.

"I trust that they will have no truer friend," Michaela smiled.

"Sully," Helen shook his hand. "Michaela is a lucky woman."

"I'm the one who's lucky," he beamed.

As Helen exited, a tear appeared on Michaela's cheek.

"What's this?" Sully touched it gently.

"I was just thinking about her marriage," her voice cracked slightly. "To have a husband who doesn't share her passions.... it's very sad."

"Just reminds us that what we got is rare, Michaela," he kissed her.

She framed his face in her hands, "I love you, Byron Sully."

"I love you, too," he smiled. "Especially your passions."


THE END

EPILOGUE

Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-85), a native of Massachusetts, began her writing career following the deaths of her husband and two young sons. While traveling in Italy, she developed respiratory problems, and she went west in search of a cure. In November 1873, she arrived in Colorado Springs. While staying at the Colorado Springs Hotel, she met William Sharpless Jackson, a fellow boarder. They married in 1875.

Helen Hunt Jackson wrote every day, producing essays, poems, prose and books for children and young adults. Her story about a young girl whose family moves to Colorado, "Nelly's Silver Mine" (1878), made her famous on the East Coast.

At that time, female writers generally used a male pseudonym. However, when she began to write books about Native Americans, Helen Hunt Jackson proudly signed her full name. She became perhaps the most prolific woman writer of her era in the nation. In 1874, Ralph Waldo Emerson, called her "the greatest woman poet" and ranked her poetry as superior to the work of most of her American male contemporaries.

In 1879, a turning point happened in Jackson's life and career. While in Boston, she attended a translated lecture by Chief Standing Bear detailing the federal government's forcible removal of the Ponca Indians from their Nebraska reservation to Indian Territory. Moved by his message, Jackson became a relentless crusader for the Indians. Besides exposing the government's mistreatment of Indians in her writings, she organized petitions on their behalf, raised funds for lawsuits, wrote to newspaper editors, and attempted to stir public opinion against the Indians' deteriorating condition. She came into conflict with such government officials as U.S. Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz over the existing Indian policies of extermination and tribal reservation.

Stories of the mistreatment by whites led Jackson to undertake research that resulted in "A Century of Dishonor" in 1881. This passionate plea on behalf of the Indians caused a national sensation by revealing broken treaties, deceitful deals, ignored promises and the federal government's corrupt mismanagement of its Indian wards. Jackson sent a copy of her book to every member of Congress with the following comments boldly printed in red on the cover: "Look upon your hands: They are stained with the blood of your relations."

Her blistering attack led the U.S. Department of the Interior to authorize her and translator Abbot Kinney to investigate the condition and needs of the Mission Indians in California. In 1882, President Chester Arthur named her special commissioner of Indian Affairs, the first woman to hold that position. Her report of 1883 called for "some atonement" for past neglect and injustice, but was not acted upon by government authorities.

Jackson did not relent in her efforts to heighten awareness of Indian grievances. She returned to her earlier career as a writer of poetry, essays, and novels. In 1884, based upon her earlier experience with the California Indians, she penned the popular, commercially successful novel, "Ramona." Its central theme involved the tragic fate of a half-breed senorita and her Indian husband at the hands of prejudiced whites. The work was the highlight of her literary career. In 1886, one reviewer called it "unquestionably the best novel yet produced by an American woman," rating it with "Uncle Tom's Cabin," by her friend Harriet Beecher Stowe, as one of the two foremost ethical novels of the century. However, Jackson was disappointed by the public's failure to appreciate the work for its effort to do for the Indians what Stowe had done for the issue of slavery. The romantic novel did sell 600,000 copies in 60 years.

In June 1884, a severely fractured leg left Jackson an invalid. Still, she returned to California to visit Hispanic friends and to continue writing. While there, she developed cancer. She never lost hope for the future until she passed away on August 12, 1885. Her final letter was sent to President Grover Cleveland urging him to read "A Century of Dishonor." Temporarily buried in San Francisco, she later was reburied near the summit of Mount Jackson, Colorado, a Cheyenne peak named for her, about four miles from Colorado Springs. To prevent possible vandalism and commercialism, her body was removed permanently to Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs. Helen Hunt Falls in Cheyenne Canyon bears her name. She so loved that location, she had the entrance of her downtown home reoriented to face it.

An exhibit at the Pioneers Museum preserves her writing desk and many other items from her home. In 1885, realizing that her end was near and that her husband desired children, Helen suggested her niece as a suitable wife, having left her estate to that niece.

William Sharpless Jackson, a founder of Colorado Springs, was a banker and executive for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. He was also a charter member of the Colorado College's board of trustees, serving on the board until 1917, with a hiatus from 1880 to 1888. In the early years, he was board treasurer. Jackson made a large donation to establish Hagerman Hall, the first men's dormitory on campus. The college bestowed upon him an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1910 in recognition of his long-standing service and support. The Jackson House on North Nevada Street was named for him in 1938. 

Helen Fiske Banfield, niece of Helen Hunt Jackson, married William Sharpless Jackson in 1888 and had seven children before her death in 1899. In keeping with the Jackson interest in the Colorado College, all but one of those children (a daughter who died in infancy) initiated their educational careers at the college or attended its preparatory Cutler Academy. To this day, descendants of their union have attended the college, and two are slated to graduate in 2003.



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