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

Baby Boom


by Debby K

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
Baby Boom
by Debby K

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

Sully had been working on repairs of the fence by the barn for most of the crisp, cool day. Fall was in the air, and he wanted to finish the work today. He would have to leave by the end of the week for a job with the U.S. Geological Survey. He had not quite figured out how to tell Michaela that he would be gone for three weeks. By late afternoon, she, Brian and Katie pulled up in the wagon. Helping his family from the buckboard, he gave his girls a kiss and patted Brian on the shoulder.

"How was school today?" Sully asked his son while Katie hugged him.

"Good, Pa," the boy responded. "Miss Teresa really liked my journal from our trip back east."

Lifting Katie into the air, Sully asked, "How 'bout you, my sweet girl? Did you have a good day?"

"Papa!" Katie giggled. "Higher!"

"I'll unhitch the wagon for ya," Brian offered.

"Thank you, Brian," Michaela sounded tired.

Sully put his arm around her waist and pulled her closer, "Busy day?"

"Not particularly," she forced a smile. "I'll start dinner. Where's Matthew?"

"Manitou. Should be back by dark," Sully lifted Katie again.

As they headed for the steps to the homestead, Michaela noticed, "It looks as if you finished the fence."

"Yep," he nodded. "Got a lot done today."

He sat down by the fireplace with Katie on his lap. He removed her coat and hat, while the child fidgeted impatiently.

Sully rubbed her hands to take away the chill. Michaela, having put on some stew to boil, came in and sat down beside them.

"Ya tired?" Sully noticed her appearance.

"Somewhat," Michaela closed her eyes.

Katie toddled over to her mother and tapped her knees, "Mama, we play?

"Not now, Sweetheart," Michaela sighed.

"Here, Kates," Sully picked up her letter blocks from the toy chest. "Let's make a word."

Katie soon forgot everything else as she plopped down beside the letters. Sully sat on a stool at Michaela's feet and started to remove her shoes and stockings. His healing hands began to work wonders.

"That feels good," she turned up the corner of her mouth.

"I got a telegram from the U.S. Geological Survey today," he broached the subject.

"Oh," she knew what was coming.

"Somethin' botherin' ya?" his voice was soothing.

"Not really," she did not sound convincing. "When do you have to leave?"

"End of the week," he continued his tender massage.

Brian entered the homestead and slammed the door. Removing his coat, he came over to the fireplace for some warmth.

"Animals are all taken care of for the night," the boy spoke up.

"Thanks, Brian," Sully stood. "Could ya keep an eye on your sister while I take your Ma upstairs? I think she needs a nap."

"Sure," Brian smiled and sat down beside Katie. In concern, he looked at Michaela, "Ya look tired, Ma. Try t' get some rest."

"I shall, Brian," Michaela did not resist her husband's urgings to go upstairs.

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

Sully pulled down the covers for his wife, "A little nap, an' you'll feel better. The boys an' me'll get supper ready. You just take it easy."

"Thank you," she could hardly keep her eyes open. "Perhaps just a little rest will help. Call me in an hour, please?"

"I'll call ya when dinner's ready," he covered her up and gently kissed her cheek.

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

Matthew finished setting the table. Sully and Brian carried in the food for the evening repast, setting the steaming hot meal on the table.

"I best go get your Ma," Sully inspected that all was in place. "Brian, could ya put Katie in her high chair?"

"Sure, Pa," Brian lifted his giggling sister.

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

Sully quietly opened the bedroom door and walked to his wife.

"Michaela," he gently touched her shoulder.

"Mmm?" she barely roused.

"Supper's ready," Sully sat on the edge of the bed. "Ya hungry?"

"I'm so sleepy," she yawned. "Why don't you and the children go ahead without me."

"Ya sure?" he was concerned.

"Yes," her eyes were still heavy.

"Want me t' bring somethin' up for ya?" he offered.

"No, thank you," reached out to him. "I don't know why I'm so tired," she caressed his face.

Sully leaned closer and kissed her cheek, "Think ya might have more energy later?"

A slight smile crossed her face, "For you?"

"Um-hum," he slid his hand across her breast and caressed it.

Michaela winced.

"I'm sorry," he quickly withdrew his hand. "Did I hurt ya?"

"No," she took his hand in hers. "I'm just a bit tender."

He stood up, "Close your eyes, an' go t' sleep then."

Sully brushed back the hair from her forehead. Then, turning, he departed.

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

"Ain't like Ma t' miss dinner when she don't have a sick patient," Brian sipped a glass of milk.

"Sully," Matthew changed the subject. "There's somethin' I been wantin' t' ask you an' Ma."

"What is it?" Sully broke Katie's biscuit into small pieces.

"Now that Colleen's moved out, do ya think I could move int' her room?" Matthew asked. "Much as I like sharin' with my little brother, we both could use more space. I got more an' more law books t' store, an' I'm gonna start work on a real big case in Denver soon."

"I'll talk t' your Ma about it," Sully replied. "Don't see any reason why she'd mind though."

"Thanks," Matthew smiled.

"What's your case about?" Brian was curious.

"'Bout a murder that took place in Centerville," Matthew explained. "A man named George Harrington was shot an' killed this summer. He was a postmaster and merchant there."

"How'd he die?" Brian's inquisitive mind wondered.

"Someone set fire t' his smoke house," Matthew began. "As Harrington was throwin' water t' put out the fire, two rifle shots were fired from behind him. The first hit him in the small o' the back goin' almost t' his heart. The second shot passed clean through his head from back t' front. Harrington was dead before he hit the ground."

"Who do they think killed him?" Brian was enthralled.

"They're puttin' a couple o' men on trial for it, a neighbor Elijah Gibbs and his hired hand, Stewart McClish," he detailed. "Their lawyers asked for a venue change, so the trial's bein' held in Denver."

"Sounds real interestin'," Sully attempted to get Katie to eat some potatoes.

"It is," Matthew reached for some more stew. "The presidin' judge is one o' the most respected in the whole territory. His name's Ebenezer T. Wells. He's who I'm gonna be workin' with."

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

After doing the dishes and playing a game of checkers, the boys retired for the evening. Sully washed up his daughter, carried her upstairs and sat down in her room to rock her to sleep. He relished these special moments alone with the little girl.

"Papa, tell story?" Katie requested.

"All right. Let's see. Once upon a time," he began. "There was a little princess who lived in a castle high in the mountains."

Katie interrupted, "What was name?"

"Her name?" Sully stalled for time. "Uh, her name was Michaela."

"Like Mama?" the little girl recognized.

"Yep," he grinned. "Anyway, Michaela was the prettiest princess in the land, an' all the princes wanted her hand in marriage."

"Mama pwetty," Katie stopped him.

"Yep, she sure is," Sully kissed the top of her head. "So one day the princess fell in love with a plain woodsman from the mountains."

"What his name?" the child patted his hand.

"His name?" Sully hesitated. "Ah, his name was Byron. Byron of the Mountains."

"Funny name, Papa," she smiled.

"I know," he laughed. "Real funny. Byron didn't like his name either, but Michaela didn't mind it a bit."

"She love Bywon?" Katie suspected.

"Yep," he continued to rock her. "An' one day he asked Michaela to marry him. Ya know what she said?"

"She say 'yep?'," the sleepy girl yawned.

"Yep," Sully whispered. "An' they lived happily ever after."

"Good story, Papa," Katie could hardly keep her eyes open. "I say 'night t' Mama?"

"I'll take ya in t' say good night, but Mama's most likely sleepin', too," he lifted her.

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

Entering the bedroom, Sully carried Katie to Michaela's side. The doctor stirred, as her daughter leaned over and planted a kiss on her cheek.

"Well, hello, there," Michaela squinted. "Who's this little one?"

Katie whispered, "Me, Mama. I say 'night."

Michaela reached for her to pull her closer, "Good night, Sweetheart. I love you."

"Love you," Katie replied. "Papa tell story."

"Did he?" she smiled. "Did it have a happy ending?"

"Yep," Katie grinned.

"Papa always makes happy endings for us," Michaela touched his hand. "Are you ready for bed now?"

"Uh-huh," the little girl answered.

"Have sweet dreams," Michaela gave her a kiss.

"I will," Katie responded.

Sully left with the child, and Michaela rolled over to go back to sleep.

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

Michaela did not stir as her husband slid into bed beside her. She did not waken when he spooned his body next to hers for warmth. She did not even rouse when he softly kissed her head and wrapped his arm around her. She was most certainly not herself, and Sully was becoming more concerned.

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

"Michaela," Sully gently touched his wife's shoulder. "It's nearly 9 a.m. The boys are already up an' gone."

"Wh--what?" she struggled to open her eyes.

"It's mornin'," he knelt down beside the bed. "Ya been asleep for 15 hours."

She yawned and stretched her arms, "I think I could sleep another 15."

"Why?" his voice reflected his concern.

"I don't know," she yawned. "I can't remember the last time I was this tired."

Sully rose up to sit on the edge of the bed, "I can."

"What?" her mind was still not clear.

"I can remember the last time ya were this tired," he took her hand.

"When?" she squeezed his hand slightly.

"When ya were expectin' Katie," he brushed the hair from his wife's face.

"I think you might be right," she tried to sit up.

Sully supported her shoulders, "So do ya think that's what's makin' ya feel tired?"

"Katie?" she did not get his meaning.

"No," he grinned. "Do ya think we might be expectin' again?"

She paused to let his words sink in, "It's possible, I suppose."

"Ya suppose?" his voice was growing more excited.

"I'll wire Dr. Bernard," she was more alert at the prospect. "I'll ask him to examine me."

"Michaela," Sully leaned closer to kiss her.

She tempered his enthusiasm, "Sully, let's not get our hopes up just yet. We've been disappointed before."

"I know," he was still happy. "But we been tryin' so hard, an' I got a feelin' this time it's gonna happen."

"I want this more than anything in the world," she stroked the side of his face.

"Me, too," he grinned. "A little brother or sister for Katie."

She indulged in a bit of whimsy, "Which would you like this time?"

"Ya takin' orders?" he joked.

"Of course," she teased.

"Humm," he looked up at the ceiling to think, then turned it around. "What would you like?"

"I think I would like a little boy, with your eyes and smile," Michaela took his hand. "And you?"

"I think...." he pulled her hand to his lips and kissed it. "I think I'd like whatever comes along."

"No fair," she replied. "You requested a little girl, and we had Katie. Tell me what you would like this time."

"I'd like...." he began. "I'd like one or the other."

"Sully!" she playfully poked his side. Then her thoughts turned more serious. "How I missed being able to do this with you last fall."

"What's that?" he put his arm around her.

"Tell you about having another baby," her voice trailed off.

He swallowed hard, regretting anew that he had been away, "I'm sorry, I wasn't here when ya had the miscarriage."

"No, I didn't mean that," she smiled faintly. "It's just that I wanted you to be the first one to know. As it was, the whole town found out before you."

"Well, this time I know even before the doctor," he grinned.

"I pray that you're right," she sighed.

"Almost forgot t' tell ya, Matthew asked if he could move int' Colleen's ol' room," Sully broached the subject.

"I don't see any reason why not," she replied.

"He's gonna be workin' on some big murder trial in Denver," Sully informed her.

"What a wonderful opportunity for him," she felt proud. "And Brian will be finishing his schooling this year. I wish there were a college here in Colorado Springs for him to attend. I hate the thought of his leaving us so soon."

"Why don't ya do somethin' about it?" Sully suggested.

"What do you mean?" she was curious.

"I mean do somethin' about startin' a college here," he helped her stand.

"I can't just start a college," she shook her head.

"You can do anythin' ya put your mind to," he kissed her forehead.

Walking to the mirror, she sighed, "Oh, my. Look at me. My hair's a mess, my clothes are all wrinkled...." She unbuttoned the top of her skirt, "And look how tight this is on me. Oh, Sully, maybe... just maybe."

Wrapping his arms around her, he rested his hands on her abdomen, "Maybe I won't be able t' do this much longer."

"Oh, no," she rolled her eyes. "I can't wait to look like the side of the barn again."

"You'll still be beautiful," he comforted her.

He turned her around to look at him. Cupping her face in his hands, he moved closer for a kiss. As their loving touches began to intensify, they heard Katie calling.

Sully exhaled, "Soon we'll have two little voices stoppin' us from doin' this."

"It is what we want," she grinned.

"Yep," he nodded. "Lots o' little voices fillin' the house."

"Be careful what you wish for," she turned to go get Katie.

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

Michaela brought Katie downstairs while Sully prepared breakfast for them. Placing her daughter in her high chair, Michaela quickly headed for the privy. Sully noticed her mad dash, and went to her.

"Ya all right?" he saw her pale complexion.

"Nausea," she uttered. "I haven't eaten since yesterday's lunch, and the smell of breakfast has"-- She turned from him.

Sully ran to the water pump and dampened a cloth. Returning to his wife, he rubbed it across her forehead.

"Better?" he was worried.

"Some," she felt another wave of nausea.

"Mama! Papa!" Katie demanded attention.

"You go to her," Michaela weakly told him. "I'll be fine."

Sully left the cloth with her and went to tend to Katie. Michaela was certain now that she was pregnant. Her upset stomach, fatigue, tender breasts and waistline had convinced her.

"Please, God," she whispered. "Let us have this baby."

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

Michaela was able to keep down some toast and tea. She dropped off Katie with Dorothy for the morning, then went to the Clinic. Meanwhile, Sully volunteered to go to the Depot to wire Dr. Bernard.

Sitting at her desk, Michaela daydreamed about what awaited them. Morning feedings, never a peaceful moment, diapers.... And it all made her smile.

When Sully returned, he knelt down before her, "What ya thinkin' about?"

"What our life will be like with another little one," she ran her fingers through his hair.

"Can't wait," he smiled broadly. He lifted up to kiss her, then pulled back and spoke in a more serious tone, "Michaela, 'member yesterday when I told ya 'bout gettin' a telegram from the U.S. Geological Survey?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, Sully," she shook her head. "I completely forgot about it with everything else we've been thinking about."

"They wanted me t' map some o' the mines in the Colorado Rockies along with some prospector they've hired," he related.

"I see," she looked down. "How long will you be gone?"

"I ain't goin'," he stood up.

"What do you mean?" she was surprised.

"I ain't leavin' ya," his voice was certain. "They can find someone else. My place is with you."

"Sully," she stood up and went to him. "I'll be fine. I'm sure it would only be for a short time."

"No, Michaela," he shook his head. "I couldn't live with myself if somethin' happened t' ya, and I wasn't here."

"How much does it pay?" she turned his face to look at her.

"A lot," he muttered.

"We can certainly use the money," she sighed. "The closer I get to delivering the baby, I won't able to work any longer. And if you have to be away, I would rather it be now, than later."

"I don't know," he hesitated.

"When would you have to leave?" she took his hand.

"End o' the week," he answered.

"And for how long?" she tried to sound brave.

"Three weeks at the most," he figured.

"Then you'll be home just in time for Thanksgiving. It's settled," she smiled. "Did you send the telegram to Dr. Bernard?"

"Yep," he pulled her into his arms. "Horace said he'd bring the reply soon as it comes."

Right on cue, there was a knock at the door. Sully opened it, and there stood Horace, note in hand.

"Got that reply for ya, Sully," the telegraph operator offered the folded paper to him.

"Thanks, Horace," Sully took it. "Much obliged."

"Sure thing," Horace departed.

Sully handed the note to his wife, who nervously opened it.

"He'll be here later this afternoon," she smiled. "I'd better prepare the Clinic."

"Prepare the Clinic?" Sully looked around. "It's already the cleanest place in town."

"It certainly cannot compare to the facilities to which he is accustomed in Denver," she began to straighten her desk.

"Mind if I stay with ya?" Sully sounded a bit lost.

"Of course not," she stopped and put her arms around his waist.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. When Sully opened it, Jake and Teresa Slicker rushed in.

"Jake? Miss Teresa?" Sully was surprised. "Somethin' wrong?"

Jake spoke nervously, "She ain't feelin' good, Dr. Mike. The Reverend's teachin' at the school while I brought her here t' see ya."

"Here, Mrs. Slicker," Michaela indicated for her to sit on the examining table. "What seems to be the problem?"

Jake answered nervously, "She's real sick t' her stomach, an' tired a lot. She fainted this mornin', so I brought her t' see ya."

Sully raised his eyebrows, "Come on, Jake. Let's you an' me wait outside while Michaela checks your wife."

"But...." Jake wanted to stay.

"She'll be fine," Michaela smiled.

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

Jake paced nervously until Sully beckoned him to sit.

"What d' ya think's wrong with her?" Jake turned to Sully.

"I ain't no doctor," Sully rubbed his chin. "An' I wouldn't wanna speculate."

"Speculate?" Jake was growing more anxious. "Then ya got an idea what it might be?"

"Sort of," Sully smiled.

"What?" Jake felt his heart sink.

"How long has she been feelin' like this?" Sully asked.

Jake stood up and began to pace, "I don't know. Couple o' weeks maybe, but t'day's the first time she fainted."

Sully raised up as well, "I'm thinkin' she might be...."

Opening the Clinic door, Michaela wiped her hands on a towel and smiled, "Jake?"

"What is it, Dr. Mike? You can tell me," he was prepared for the worst.

Michaela smiled, "Why don't you go in and speak with your wife."

Quickly, Jake bounded into the examining room. Michaela stepped outside with Sully and closed the door.

"Pregnant?" Sully grinned.

She nodded, "Yes."

Suddenly a loud crashing sound came from inside the Clinic. Sully and Michaela rushed in to find Jake passed out on the floor.

"My husband seems to have fainted, Doctor," Teresa was embarrassed.

"I've seen it happen on occasion," Michaela went to her medicine cabinet. Pulling out a small bottle, she walked to Jake's lifeless body and stooped down, "This should revive him."

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

Sully paced at the Depot, waiting for Dr. Bernard's train to arrive.

"Nervous about somethin'?" Horace noticed.

"Just waitin' for the doctor," he answered.

"Somethin' wrong?" the telegrapher began stamping some papers.

"Nope," Sully did not feel like confiding.

Perceptively, Horace commented, "Sure hope Dr. Mike's expectin' again."

Sully stopped in his tracks at the sound of the train whistle.

"Looks like your waitin's over," Horace came out of his office.

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

Dr. Bernard stepped down from the train. Sully recognized him from Michaela's description.

"Doctor Bernard?" Sully extended his hand. "I'm Byron Sully, Dr. Quinn's husband."

"Oh, yes, Mr. Sully," the physician shook his hand. "How is your lovely wife?"

"She's fine," Sully escorted him down the street.

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

Michaela jumped when she heard Sully enter the Clinic with the physician.

"Dr. Bernard! Thank you for coming on such short notice," she shook his hand.

"It was no bother, Dr. Quinn," he smiled. "However, I don't have much time, so let's get right to your examination, shall we?"

"Certainly," Michaela began to set up the table. "Ah.... would you mind if my husband stays with me?"

"It is highly unusual," Bernard removed his coat and jacket. "But I suppose it would be all right."

"Thanks," Sully took off his coat and hung it on a wall peg. "Where d' ya want me, Michaela?"

"Right here beside me," she sat up on the table and laid back.

Sully pulled up a stool and positioned himself beside his wife. Picking up her hand, he held it to his lips.

Dr. Bernard began his examination. Michaela asked questions and used terminology that Sully could not understand, but he kept watching Michaela's face and listening to her voice as indicators that all was proceeding in a normal fashion. Finally, Bernard took his stethoscope and placed it on Michaela's abdomen. He mumbled something indistinguishable.

Sully whispered, "What'd he say?"

"I don't know," she spoke low.

"How old are you, Dr. Quinn?" the physician raised his head.

"I'm forty," she squeezed Sully's hand.

Sully sensed from the tone of her response that she was concerned.

Finally, Dr. Bernard stepped back and began to wash his hands, "That concludes my examination."

"And?" she began to sit up.

"I've seen this several times before in pregnancies," he rolled down his sleeves.

"I'm pregnant?" Michaela quickly smiled at Sully.

"Nearly three months," he nodded. "But..."

"But what?" Sully rose to his feet, still clasping Michaela's hand.

"Well, you need to be prepared for something," Bernard buttoned his cuffs.

Michaela looked up at Sully, "Prepared for what?"

"Twins," the doctor said matter-of-factly. "At the very least."

"What?" Sully's eyes widened.

"At the very least?" Michaela could not believe it.

"Yes," Bernard nodded. "Possibly even triplets."

Again, he and Michaela began to use terminology that Sully could not translate. Sully felt his knees begin to buckle, and he sat down in stunned silence.

Bernard's voice took on a serious tone, "I don't need to explain to you, Dr. Quinn, the risk of any pregnancy at your age. To your advantage, however, you are a strong and healthy woman. However, the complication of multiple births will make this pregnancy an even greater risk. In all likelihood, you will not carry the babies to full term."

Michaela felt tears forming in her eyes, "I... am aware of that, Doctor."

Sully asked, "How long does she need t' carry 'em?"

"If it's twins," the physician answered. "I would want them to go at least 7 months. Eight would be better. Much depends on their size. With triplets...." he did not go on.

"With triplets," Michaela finished his thought. "There is a probability that not all of them would survive."

Sully's eyes searched for some assurance, "Michaela."

She patted his hand, "One day at a time, Sully. That's how we must take this."

"In the meantime," Bernard closed his medical bag. "I'm sure you know the importance of rest, Dr. Quinn. And a proper diet. Let your body be your guide, but I believe you should suspend your practice of medicine within a couple of months. And above all, avoid stress. Oh, and you and your husband should discuss not having...."

"I shall, Dr. Bernard," she interrupted. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," he smiled. "I'll stop by as frequently as possible to check on your progress. I have delivered several healthy sets of twins in my career." Opening the door, he said, "I can find my way back to the Depot by myself. Good day."

Michaela stood and put her hand on Sully's shoulder, "Are you all right?"

"I reckon," he looked down. Swallowing hard, he asked, "What are our babies' chances, Michaela?"

She sat on his lap, "I don't want you to worry. I'm going to do this, Sully. I'll have our babies."

"But what about you? The doctor said it's risky for ya," his voice faltered.

"I'll get plenty of rest, I'll eat properly, and I'll have our healthy children," she sounded convincing.

"I can't leave ya now," he thought about his job.

"You have to," she lightly touched his chest. "How else are we going to get money to feed all these mouths."

He exhaled loudly, "I don't know 'bout this, Michaela."

"I do," she placed his hand on her stomach. "By the time you return, these babies will be much larger, and so shall I."

"I'll like that," he grinned. "When d' ya think we should tell the children about this?"

"How about tonight at dinner?" she stood up.

"Sounds good," he joined her and put his arms around her waist. "What did Dr. Bernard mean when he said we should discuss not havin' somethin'?"

At that instant, Robert E burst through the door.

"Dr. Mike!" he was out of breath. "It's Grace. I think she's havin' the baby!"

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

Michaela quickly sprang into action. "Sully, would you help Robert E carry Grace to the Clinic? Then go get Katie from Dorothy. Tell Dorothy I need her help."

"Sure," Sully bolted out the door with Robert E.

Michaela swiftly readied her examining room for the arrival. Soon the men returned carrying Grace gingerly through the door.

"Dr. Mike!" the woman was screaming. "It's too soon. It's too soon for my baby!"

"Shhh," Michaela directed them to the table where they laid her down. "Everything will be fine, Grace."

Sully quickly ran to get Dorothy.

"Robert E," Michaela washed her hands. "Perhaps it would be best if you waited outside."

He looked at his wife. She nodded.

Robert E kissed Grace, "Whatever you say, Dr. Mike."

He stepped outside and closed the door.

Sully returned with Katie and Dorothy, who rushed into the Clinic.

"Robert E," Sully handed his daughter to his friend. "Could ya watch Katie while I go t' the Depot. Maybe Dr. Bernard's train ain't left yet."

"Sure thing," Robert E took the child onto his lap.

Sully took off around the corner. Robert E struggled to remain calm as he heard the screams of his wife.

"Wobet E," Katie patted his arm. "Why Miss Gwace cry?"

"She's havin' a baby, Katie," his voice was gentle.

"It huwt?" the child was becoming concerned.

"It hurts 'til the baby's born," he explained. "Then the Mama and Papa are real happy."

Grace wailed again, and he jumped.

"Better go help Miss Gwace," Katie directed.

"Your Ma thinks I oughta stay out here 'til Grace has the baby," he wanted to rush into the Clinic. "I reckon I'd be in the way."

"Oh," Katie seemed finished with her questions for the moment.

Sully raced back to the Clinic with Dr. Bernard. The red-faced physician hurried through the door. A crowd began to gather, having heard the news about Grace.

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

After an agonizing two hours, the cries of an infant were heard.

Robert E raised his head, "Sully?"

"Congratulations," the mountain man patted his friend on the back.

The Clinic door opened, and Michaela stepped out.

"Robert E," she smiled. "You have a beautiful daughter."

"A daughter?" he thought his heart would burst with joy. "Is Grace all right?"

"She's resting, but she would like you with her now," Michaela felt a bit weepy.

Dr. Bernard and Dorothy passed Robert E in the doorway as they came out of the Clinic.

Bernard commented, "You did an outstanding job, Dr. Quinn."

She suddenly felt exhausted. "I appreciate your assistance. And, Dorothy, I am so grateful."

"Michaela," Dorothy observed. "Ya look like you're the one who's been through labor."

Sully noticed his wife's fatigue, "Here, Michaela, sit down."

She willingly obeyed. Katie reached for her, "Mama, Mama!"

"Yes, Sweetheart," she pulled her daughter onto her lap.

"Miss Gwace have baby?" the child was excited.

"Yes, a little girl," Michaela stroked her daughter's hair.

"Now her Mama an' Papa weal happy!" Katie smiled broadly.

The rest of the town folk departed, and Dr. Bernard left for the Chateau, having missed the last train to Denver for the day.

Michaela closed her eyes and leaned on Sully's shoulder.

"Let's get you home an' t' bed," he kissed her cheek.

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

Michaela had a nice nap before dinner, and when she sat down to eat, her sons had a stream of questions about the birth of Grace's baby. Her answers were interrupted by her need for frequent trips to the privy. She was convinced that her bladder would never be the same. With dinner and the discussion of Grace and Robert E's baby concluded, Michaela asked her children to go into the living room.

Brian held Katie on his lap, while Michaela and Sully stood before the fireplace to make their announcement.

"Sully and I have something we'd like to tell you all," she began. Then bursting into a wide grin, she proclaimed, "I'm pregnant."

"Another baby!" Brian lit up.

"It's a bit more complicated," Sully smiled.

"What do ya mean?" Matthew sounded worried.

"We're going to have more than one," Michaela clarified.

"More than one?" Brian did not seem sure.

"Twins," Sully nodded.

"Perhaps even triplets," Michaela added.

Matthew and Brian shouted simultaneously, "Triplets!"

Katie had been trying to absorb the meaning of this conversation. Sully went to her and lifted her from Brian's lap.

"Do ya know what we're talkin' about, Kates?" he kissed her cheek.

"Nope," she shook her head.

"Ya know how you been wantin' a little brother or sister?" he stroked the side of her face. "Well, you're gonna get your wish."

"I not want Mama t' huwt," her lower lip curled under as she fought back tears.

Michaela patted her back, "It's all right, Sweetheart. Mama's not hurt."

"Miss Gwace huwt," the child remembered the events of earlier today.

"It was only for a little while," Michaela assured her. "And now she has a sweet little girl."

"She scweam loud," the child recalled. "Huwt bad."

"Katie, tomorrow we'll visit Grace and her baby," Michaela offered. "Then you can see for yourself that after the hurt ends, it's wonderful."

"Wondraful?" the little girl could not imagine.

"Yes," Michaela kissed her cheek.

"We're all gonna have t' help your Ma," Sully instructed. "She's gonna need lots o' rest and has t' eat right. I'm especially countin' on ya when I have t' be away for three weeks."

Brian stood up and walked to his mother, "You can count on us, Ma."

She hugged him, "I know I can, Brian. Thank you."

Nature called again, and she headed for the privy.

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

With the children finally asleep, Michaela and Sully retired to their room.

"What a day," Sully sat on the edge of the bed to remove his shoes.

Michaela ran the brush through her long brown tresses, "I know. One baby born, and many more on the way."

Sully laughed, "Couldn't believe Jake fainted. Wait 'til Hank an' Loren hear about it."

"Well, I'm certainly not going to say anything," she knew they would find out anyway.

Standing up, she walked to him. Sully parted his legs to pull her closer. He softly caressed her abdomen and smiled.

Then he spoke to his unborn children, "Now listen here, you kids. This is your Pa."

"You think they can hear?" Michaela placed her hands on his shoulders.

"Sure they can," he looked up into her eyes. Then he returned to his instructions for the babies. "I want ya t' take it easy on your Ma while I'm gone. Don't go makin' her sick in the mornin'. Don't go makin' her tired all day. An' don't go givin' her a hard time."

"That's a lot for such little ones to remember," she tapped his head.

"Think I'm bein' too strict?" he grinned.

"No," she whispered. "They need firm rules from the start."

Then he pulled her closer to kiss her stomach, "An' remember I love ya. All of ya."

"They'll remember," she played with a lock of his hair.

She climbed into the bed. Sully quickly undressed and snuggled beside her.

"So when d' ya think the babies will come?" he slid his arm beneath her shoulders.

"Let's hope for April," she took his hand. "That would give twins a good chance. If it's triplets, Sully...."

"Gives me plenty o' time t' start makin' cradles for 'em," he did not want to think about anything bad. "I still can't believe it."

"Mother was a twin," she revealed.

"Was?" he was surprised.

"Her twin brother died at birth," her voice cracked.

He pulled her closer. "I know it ain't gonna be easy for ya, Michaela."

"I don't know what's in store for us," she stroked his arm. "But I know we'll go through it together."

He kissed her cheek.

Michaela then brought up a rather delicate subject, "Sully, you know some things will have to be different for us with this pregnancy."

"Sure," he nodded. "You'll need more rest an'...."

"No, I mean between us," she emphasized.

"Between us?" he wondered.

"Well," she sighed. "When Dr. Bernard said today that we needed to discuss not having something, he meant.... because of the risks involved, we can't be... intimate before they're born. Is that all right with you?"

"Depends on your definition of 'intimate,'" he grinned. "Can I hold ya?"

"Of course," she laughed.

"Can I kiss ya?" he brushed his lips across her cheek.

"Yes," she nodded.

"Can I touch ya like this," he ran his hand lightly across her breast.

"Well," she shivered. "That may be going a bit too far."

"Why?" he teased.

"Because," she hesitated. "I might not want you to stop there."

He chuckled, "Okay. No bein' intimate then."

"I'm sorry," she stroked his arm. "I know this will be difficult."

"Michaela," he tried to assure her. "This is what we both want, an' we gotta do everythin' t' make sure the babies are safe. I don't mind."

"Are you certain?" she searched his eyes.

"Yep," he nodded. "How 'bout you?"

She kissed his hand, "I think I'll miss it. I know I'll miss it. And as a man, you do have... well, certain needs."

He grinned, "Oh, I do?"

Michaela informed him, "Yes, you do. And I'm sorry I won't be able to... satisfy them."

Sully lifted her chin to gaze into her eyes, "An' do you have needs, too?"

"Well..." she suddenly felt embarrassed. "Yes."

"I'm sorry I won't be able t' satisfy 'em," he turned it around. "But maybe we can come up with some other ways o' satisfyin' each other."

"Sully," she snuggled closer. "I was thinking about when we made our babies."

He was interested, "When do ya figure it happened?"

"I think it was the night after the opera in Philadelphia," she recalled their grand tour.

"That was a night t' remember," he grinned. "Maybe we should name the twins Alfredo and Violetta."

"Oh, my," she laughed. "Would you want your son going through life with a name like Alfredo Sully?"

"Better than callin' him Violetta Sully," he joked.

"I suppose we should think of names," Michaela yawned.

"Don't gotta be t'night, though," he reached to lower the lamp. "Time for you t' get some sleep. Thank you, Michaela."

"For what?" she warmed at their closeness.

"For them," he caressed her abdomen.

"Good night," she kissed him. "I love you."

"'Night," he whispered. "I love you, too."

Sully felt his wife fall asleep in his arms. But he was wide awake thinking about having to leave her the day after tomorrow. He prayed for the Spirits to keep her safe, to watch over the babies, and to bring him back safely to his family.

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

Sully met up with Cloud Dancing outside of Bray's Mercantile.

"My friend!" the medicine man greeted him. "The Spirits have told me that you have good news."

"Michaela's expectin'!" Sully beamed.

"Two children," Cloud Dancing knew.

"The Spirits told ya that?" Sully ran his hand through his hair.

"I will pray for their health," his friend told him.

"Did the Spirits say if they're boys or girls?" the mountain man joked.

"You would love them regardless," Cloud Dancing's eyes shone.

"That's true," Sully patted his back. "How 'bout you, Cloud Dancin'? Are you all right?"

"I am well," he nodded. "I am finding doing business with Mr. Bray a delightful challenge."

"I never heard anyone describe dealin' with Loren as 'delightful,'" Sully laughed.

"I am also enjoying my opportunities to come into town," Cloud Dancing glanced toward the Gazette office.

"I know Miss Dorothy enjoys your visits, too," Sully agreed.

"I must leave now, my friend," the Cheyenne mounted his horse. "Give Dr. Mike my good wishes."

"I will," Sully watched him ride out of town.

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

Michaela escorted Katie into the recovery room, where Grace was nursing her infant daughter. Robert E looked on with love.

"Mama, what Miss Gwace doin'?" Katie began her litany of questions.

"She's feeding the baby, Sweetheart," Michaela sat down and lifted Katie onto her lap.

"Why she not eat food?" the child asked.

"She is, Katie," Michaela tried to explain. "Her Mama has special food just for her."

"Oh," Katie toddled over to get a closer look, just as the feeding ended.

Michaela pulled out her stethoscope to check on the mother and child more closely.

"How is everyone?" the doctor inquired.

"Fine, Dr. Mike," Grace's smile lit up the room.

"Good," Michaela sat down again.

"How 'bout you, Dr. Mike?" Robert E leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. "Ya look pretty tired."

"I am, Robert E," she sighed. "But it's for a wonderful reason."

"Bet I know," Grace gently rocked her infant daughter.

"You do?" Michaela raised her eyebrow.

"Yep," the new mother responded. "A woman knows these things. You're pregnant, ain't ya?"

Katie looked up at her godmother, "Mama havin' babies."

"Babies?" Grace tilted her head.

"Yes," Michaela smiled. "Twins."

"What's Sully think o' all this?" Robert E wondered how his friend would react.

"He's thrilled," she replied. "We both are."

Katie tugged at Grace's sleeve, "What baby's name?"

"Harriet," Robert E announced.

"We named her after Harriet Tubman, a woman who helped win freedom for black folks," Grace explained. "Little Harriet here's the first child born in our family as a free person."

"What a wonderful name," Michaela smiled.

"Wondraful," Katie repeated. "I play with her?"

"Not for a while yet, Sweetheart," Michaela pulled her daughter near.

They heard footsteps in the hallway. Sully appeared at the doorway.

"How's the new baby?" he spoke low.

"Papa!" Katie ran to her father.

"Shhh, Kates," he held his index finger up to his lips. "The baby's sleepin'."

"Baby Hawiet," she told him.

"Harriet," he clarified. "I like that name."

"We hear you an' Dr. Mike are gonna increase the' population of Colorado Springs," Robert E stood and patted Sully's shoulder.

"Yep," he smiled at his wife.

"Jake an' Miss Teresa, too," the blacksmith added.

"Yes," Michaela stood up slowly. "But for now, I think little Miss Harriet deserves the attention in town." Turning to her husband and child, she said, "Come on, you two. Let's leave this family alone for awhile." She advised Grace, "I'd like for you to get up and move around as much as possible today. I think you can take your little one home tomorrow."

"That's good news," Robert E beamed. Then his voice filled with emotion, "Dr. Mike, Grace an' me wanna thank ya for bringin' our baby int' the world."

Michaela touched his arm. "Seeing you both so happy is all the thanks I need."

"God bless ya, Dr. Mike," Grace kissed Harriet's little head.

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

At dinner that evening, the Sully-Quinn-Cooper clan filled one another in on their day.

"I'm learnin' so much about the law with this murder trial in Denver," Matthew passed the corn. "Judge Wells takes notes on what everybody says, testimony of witnesses, an' arguments by the lawyers. He knows the pleadings in every case by heart."

"He sounds like an outstanding jurist," Michaela offered Katie a cup of milk, but the child showed no interest.

Matthew went on, "He writes down the biographies of the jurymen an' even what the weather is like each day."

As dinner continued, Brian turned to Sully, "Who's goin' on the expedition with ya, Pa?"

"A prospector that the U. S. Geological Survey's hired," he responded. "They want me t' map some o' the mines she's laid claim to."

"She? A female prospector?" Michaela was surprised.

"Yep," Sully wiped his mouth with his napkin. "Her name's Caroline Mallen."

"I heard o' her," Matthew nodded.

"She lives over 'round Buena Vista," Sully continued. "But she's done most o' her prospectin' in the Twin Lakes Minin' District on Mt. Elbert. She's had 15 minin' claims."

"She sounds like a persevering woman," Michaela began her third helping of potatoes.

Sully spoke admiringly, "I been told she's skilled at drillin', blastin', and even wheelin' out ore and waste by herself."

"How old a woman is she, Pa?" Brian thought she must be quite young.

"I don't know," Sully offered Katie a small bite of meat, but the little girl declined.

"You will be careful, Sully," Michaela began to miss him already.

He put his hand on hers, "Course." His voice reassured her.

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

Michaela prepared Katie for bed while Sully and the boys took care of the animals for the night.

"Katie," Michaela struggled to get the child's arms through the sleeves of her nightgown. "I think you've outgrown this already."

"I growin', Mama?" her daughter fidgeted.

"Yes," she answered. "By leaps and bounds."

"Leaves an' pounds," Katie started jumping on the bed.

Michaela laughed, "I don't know how you manage to grow at all, as little as you eat."

"You feed me?" she sat down very seriously.

"We tried to feed you, young lady, but you ate very little that Papa and I offered," Michaela said.

"No," Katie recalled what she had seen at the Clinic that morning. "You feed me like Hawiet?"

Michaela sat down on the bed and encircled Katie with her arms, "I can't do that anymore with you, Katie. You're a big girl now, and you must eat big people's food."

"I gotta?" the toddler sounded disappointed.

"Yes," Michaela touched her nose. "Before our new babies come, Mama will have to save food for them. Then I'll feed them like you saw Miss Grace doing today. But I think I would like someone to hold one while I feed the other. Would you be able to help me?"

"Yep," Katie was confident. "I help."

"Good," she led her daughter to the rocking chair.

"Can we name a baby Hawiet?" the toddler wondered.

"I'll add that suggestion to the list that Papa and I are making," she began to rock.

Michaela hummed Katie's favorite lullaby and quickly fell asleep. The little girl leaned closer to her mother.

"Mama?" she whispered.

Michaela did not respond. Katie slid from her lap and went to the bed to get a quilt. The child dragged it across the wooden floor and tried to lift it up to her mother. Sully walked in just as she was attempting to tuck the quilt snugly around Michaela.

"What ya doin', Kates?" he whispered.

Katie kept her voice down and strolled over to her father, seeming quite grown up, "Mama sleepin'. These babies makin' her so tired, Papa."

It was everything he could do to keep from bursting into laughter.

"I know it," he lifted her into his arms. "That's why we gotta help your Ma. We need lots o' rest, too. So, let's get you t' bed."

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

He carried the child into her nursery and sat down with her in the rocking chair.

"Papa, how babies get int' Mama?" she startled him with the question.

"Ah, well....," he was at a loss. "How ya think they got there?"

"Someone put 'em?" she guessed.

"That's a good answer," he nodded.

"Who?" she persisted.

"Who ya think?" Sully patted her back.

After pausing to consider, she suggested, "You?"

"In a way, I guess," he began to rock her.

"How ya do that?" Katie continued the discussion.

"Humm," he delayed. "By lovin' your Ma."

"I inside Mama, too?" she thought.

"Yep," he simply replied.

"Lovin' Mama put me there?" the child surmised.

"Um-hum," he spoke low.

"But I love Mama," she did not quite grasp things. "I put baby in her?"

"There's sort of a special way that Mamas an' Papa's love each other that puts a baby in the Ma," he tried to explain.

"I huwt Mama when I come out?" her voice saddened.

"It was a different kind o' hurt, sweet girl. When it went away, there was our beautiful little Katie in our arms," he hugged her.

"Good," she finally dropped the subject.

"Kates," he wanted to prepare her. "I gotta go away for a little while."

"No, Papa!" her little brow wrinkled. "No go 'way."

"Now, don't go gettin' sad," he pleaded. "When I come home, I won't be goin' away again 'til after the babies are born."

"When that be?" Katie patted his chest impatiently.

"I hope around May. 'Round the time you turn three," he told her.

"That long time?" she had no concept.

"Yep," he stroked her fair hair. "I'll be with ya for a long time when I come back."

"Pwomise?" she leaned back and yawned.

"I promise," he kissed the top of her head. "I love you, my sweet girl."

"Love Papa," her eyelids grew heavier.

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

When Sully returned to their bedroom, he found Michaela unchanged from her position in the rocking chair. He lifted the quilt from the floor.

"Michaela," he knelt down in front of her.

"Mmmm?" she stirred somewhat.

"Let me help ya t' bed," he supported her as she stood up.

"Oh, Sully," she was disoriented. "What time is it?"

"Time for bed," he replied.

"Where's Katie?" she remembered rocking the child.

"Ya fell asleep, so she tried t' cover ya with the quilt," he helped her out of her robe.

"Oh, no," she was embarrassed.

"She's in bed now," he smiled. "Should o' seen her, though. She came right up t' me real protective of ya an' told me these babies are makin' ya so tired."

"How adorable," Michaela sat on the edge of the bed.

"Then she asked me how the babies got int' ya," Sully began to massage her feet before maneuvering them under the covers.

"What did you tell her?" she loved the feel of his hands.

"She figured it out on her own," he replied.

"She did?" Michaela was amazed.

"In a way," he smiled. "I told her lovin' her Ma in a special way put 'em in there."

"Good answer," she patted the bed beside her.

Sully swiftly undressed and slid in beside his wife. Lowering his hand to her abdomen, he tenderly touched her.

Michaela placed her hand atop his, "When you come home, you'll be able to feel a bit more there."

"I'll love watchin' 'em grow," his eyes shone with love.

"Oh, they'll grow," she sighed. "And so will I. Bigger and bigger."

"I love every inch o' ya," he assured her. "Just gives me more t' love."

"Katie saw Grace nursing Harriet today," Michaela shared with him. "She wanted me to do the same to her."

"What'd ya tell her?" he asked.

"I told her I needed to save food for the babies," she informed him. "I asked if she'd help hold one, while I feed the other."

"What'd she say?" Sully loved hearing every detail of what his daughter did.

"She agreed to help," she smiled. "I think she's going to be a wonderful big sister."

"Yep," Sully nodded.

He removed his hand from her abdomen and raised it up to caress her neck. Low, he spoke into her ear:

"I love thee. In thy sight I stand transfigured, glorified aright,
With conscience of the new rays that proceed
Out of my face toward thine."

She kissed his hand, "Elizabeth Browning?"

"Right," he smiled.

"How shall I live without you beside me these next few weeks?" her voice became choked with emotion.

"I think a better question would be, how ya gonna put up with me once I get back?" he teased.

"Put up with you?" she closed her eyes and sighed. "Before I wake each day, I think of you. When I behold the starlit night, I think of you. When I see our daughter's smile, I think of you." Then pulling his hand down to her stomach, she added, "And when I feel these little ones growing in me, I think of you. How can I exist and not think of you?"

"I married a poet," he tenderly kissed her. "I'll be home 'fore ya know it." Gently rubbing her abdomen, he added, "An' I do expect t' be able t' see some more o' these children when I return."

"I love you, Sully," she closed her eyes.

"I love you, too," he softly caressed her cheek. "'Night, Michaela."

She was already asleep.

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

Michaela was up several times during the night running to the privy. She tried not to waken Sully, but each time he welcomed her back into bed with, "I missed ya."

At sunrise, he rose quietly from the bed. He washed, shaved and dressed without Michaela's stirring. He heard Brian and Matthew take Katie downstairs, and knew that his sons would start breakfast. Sully folded a few belongings and stuffed them into his travel bag.

The smell of bacon cooking finally roused Michaela, but it was not the kind of greeting to which Sully was accustomed. She bolted for the door and dashed downstairs to the privy. He shook his head and glanced around the bedroom, feeling the need to remember how it looked.

When he reached the bottom step, Katie spotted him, "Papa! Papa! Mama sick!"

"I know, sweet girl," he kissed her cheek and gobbled down his breakfast.

"Seems worse this time than when she was expectin' Katie," Matthew referred to his mother's morning sickness.

"I know," Sully ached for his wife. Walking to the privy door, he knocked, "Michaela, ya all right?"

"Yes," she stepped out, somewhat pale. "I'm going to ask Cloud Dancing for some of that root he gave me with Katie."

She hugged her sons, then went to her daughter, "Good morning, Sweetheart."

"Mama, babies bein' bad?" the child had connected her mother's pregnancy with her discomfort.

"No," Michaela sat down beside her. "Mama's body just needs to adjust to things, but it's not the babies' fault."

Sully walked into the living room, "Michaela, can I see ya in here?"

She went to him, and he put his arms around her.

"I don't wanna leave ya," he felt guilty.

"I don't want you to either, but I'll... we'll be fine," she put on a brave face.

"Money don't mean nothin', Michaela, if I don't have you or the children," he thought about the pay he would earn.

"Don't worry about us," she sounded convincing.

"I'll try t' check in as often as I can by telegram," he embraced her. Sully pulled her closer and brought his lips to hers. Suddenly, with their bodies close, he flinched, "I felt somethin'!"

"I did, too," her eyes widened. "Like little fluttering wings." She ran her fingers through his hair, "They're telling Papa it's all right to go."

He closed his eyes and swallowed hard, "I love you, Michaela. I'll think about ya every minute. Please take care o' yourself."

"I promise you I shall, Sully," her eyes reddened. "And you take care to come back safely to us."

Buried in a deep embrace, each knew the other was fighting back tears. Finally, Sully pulled back and sighed. Walking into the kitchen, he shook hands with his sons. Then he picked up Katie. He held her close and relished the scent of her.

"Not sad, Papa," she patted his back. "I take care o' Mama."

He smiled, "You're gettin' t' be such a big girl."

"I growin' by leaves an' pounds," she declared.

"By what?" he chuckled.

Michaela answered his question, "That's leaps and bounds."

"Oh," he laughed. Then turning back to Katie, he kissed her cheek, "I love ya, Kates."

"I love Papa!" she spoke each word succinctly.

He thought back, recalling that as the first sentence his daughter had ever spoken, earlier this year. He set her back into her high chair and touched her cheek.

"Come on, Wolf," he called to his faithful pet. Then he was on his way.

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

Michaela traveled into town to check on Grace and Harriet. She pronounced that mother and child could go home, and Robert E proudly escorted them out of the Clinic.

Then, sitting down to update her patient files, Michaela began to daydream. She missed Sully already. She closed her eyes and saw him home with her. The babies had been born, a boy and a girl. Sully lifted them both into his arms and kissed their tiny foreheads. Then he....

Her thoughts came back to reality when Dorothy arrived with Katie.

"Mama, Mama, look!" the toddler handed her a piece of paper.

On it, the child had printed 'K A T I E".

Michaela raised her eyebrows in amazement, "Why, that's excellent!"

"I swear, she's the brightest child I've ever seen," Dorothy declared.

"I agree," Michaela pulled her daughter into her arms. "Thank you for watching her this morning."

"No trouble at all," Dorothy bushed back a lock of her red hair.

"Dorothy, there's something I would like to tell you." She directed Katie toward her play area in the corner.

"What is it?" her friend wondered.

"I'm pregnant," Michaela smiled.

Dorothy jumped up, "Oh, Michaela! That's wonderful!" She hugged her friend. "It's the best news I've heard in a long time. Does Sully know?"

"Yes," she grinned. "This time, I made certain that he was the first."

"I'm real glad for ya both," Dorothy patted her hand. "Where is Sully?"

"He went on a job for the government," Michaela's voice tried to mask her emotions. Then she changed the subject, "May I ask your opinion of something?"

"'Course ya can," the newspaper editor assured her.

"What would you think if Colorado Springs had a college?" the doctor asked.

"A college?" Dorothy pondered the notion. "I think that would be grand. But how do we start a college?"

"I could wire some of my father's old colleagues in Boston for advice," Michaela was already planning. "I think that we should call it by a name that would attract students from a wide area, something like Colorado College."

Dorothy's eyes lit up, "I can do a piece on it in the Gazette."

"Of course, I would have to bring it up before the town council, but I can't see any reason why they would reject the idea," Michaela thought out loud.

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

"What a lame brain idea!" Jake pounded his gavel at the council meeting.

"Careful with that gavel," Loren snickered. "Ya might pass out again."

The mayor was not amused.

"Just a minute, Jake," Robert E chimed in. "I wanna hear what Dr. Mike has t' say."

"How the hell we gonna pay for a college here?" Hank puffed his cigar.

"Students would pay a tuition to enter," the doctor described. "That would cover some of the costs. And the increase in the town's population would be a boom for local businesses. That would help the town foot some of the bill."

"I like the idea, Michaela," Dorothy nodded.

"Well you ain't on the town council," Jake shook the gavel at her.

"I like it too, Mr. Slicker," Teresa referred to her husband formally in public. "The children of our town deserve a higher education."

"Well," Jake softened. "Maybe we could think about it. Ya say you're gonna write t' some folks back East, Dr. Mike?"

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

Sully met up with Caroline Mallen at Buena Vista. The female prospector was one of the most unusual women Sully had ever seen. In her mid-forties, she dressed like a man and chewed tobacco. In fact, if she had not opened her mouth to speak, he would not have recognized her as a female. He smiled to himself recalling the time Michaela had posed as a man to ride Flash in the race.

"Nice t' meet ya, Caroline," Sully shook her hand. "Could ya tell me where the telegraph office is? I wanna let my wife know I got here okay."

"I'll do better than that, Sully," she pointed to a small structure. "I'll take you there."

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

After wiring Michaela, he checked into a hotel, ate dinner, and promptly went to bed. He was exhausted from his travels of the day. Tomorrow he would begin his work. The sooner he concluded it, the sooner he could return to his family.

Sully closed his eyes and thought about Michaela. He rolled onto his side and reached for a pillow. Holding it against his chest, he imagined that it was his wife. As he fell asleep, his hand softly stroked the pillow as if it were her belly.

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

While Michaela lay in bed, her eyes began to grow heavy. She was finding that a couple of short naps throughout the day helped with her fatigue. She hoped that her inquiries about starting a college would yield useful information. Then, reaching to turn down her lamp, her thoughts turned to Sully. His telegram had been reassuring to her, but she longed to have his arms around her. She yearned to have his soothing voice tell her that everything would be all right. Then she slid her hand down to her abdomen. At that instant, she felt a connection to him, as if he were there, stroking her belly. She smiled and fell asleep.

************
Chapter 7
************

Sully and Michaela were at a secluded pond in the woods. She was clad only in her undergarments, and he was pushing her back and forth on a makeshift swing near the water's edge. She was laughing as he pushed her higher, her hair blowing wildly each time she sailed back and forth.

In a burst of laughter, she jumped from the swing and into the pool. Sully ran to the edge of the water just as she emerged and beckoned him to join her. He pulled his shirt over his head, removed his shoes, and dived into the water. He came up for air just as he reached his wife. Pulling her into his arms, they began to kiss.

Sully could feel Michaela's arms slide down his chest to his buckskins. Then she slowly maneuvered her hands around to his back side. He ran the tops of his hands down her chest, feeling her physical reaction as he moved. Their kiss became more passionate as each stirred the other's desire.

"Sully!" Caroline Mallen pounded on his door, awakening him from the dream. "Time to get going!"

He punched his pillow, "I'm awake, Caroline. I'll meet ya at the cafe across the street in about ten minutes." He sighed and shook his head. "Can't wait t' get this over with."

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

Michaela awoke before the children, but this time there was no nausea or rush to the privy. The root tea that Cloud Dancing gave her was working. She felt so warm and comfortable lying in bed. Touching Sully's pillow, she smiled. Then an idea came to her. She pulled some paper and a pen from her night stand. She decided to write a daily progress report from the perspective of her growing babies, for each day that Sully was away. Placing pen to paper, she began:

"Dear Papa,

Today we let Mama sleep in without making her sick to her stomach. She touches us a lot and tells us about you. She says she loves you a lot. She thinks one of us is a girl, and one of us is a boy, but she just calls us This One and That One. We know that you are thinking about us, too, Papa. Speaking of names, Mama told us that our big sister wrote her name yesterday. We hope you come home to us soon. We are growing bigger.

Love,
This One and That One."

Michaela rose from the bed slowly, and prepared to go into town. Today she hoped to arrange for the care of her patients once she suspended her medical practice. She was not going to take any chances with this pregnancy.

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

Sully sipped on a cup of coffee as Caroline described where they would go today.

"Prunes will take us to Free Gold Hill," she informed him. "I have a cabin up there about 9 or 10,000 feet up."

"Prunes?" Sully wondered.

"My burro," she answered. "He's a floppy eared, shaggy critter, but he's real smart and loyal."

"I see," he smiled.

"He can be stubborn, too, mind you," Caroline added. "Most of my prospecting's been done alone, but once I got Prunes, it sure helped my back."

"I imagine so," Sully chuckled. "Well, let's get goin' then. Got a lot o' climbin' t' do."

"It's going be a might tricky today because of the early snowfall up there," she cautioned.

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

Hank greeted Michaela as she climbed down from her buckboard.

"So ya find any professors for your new college?" he joked.

"Not yet, Hank," she sighed. "But I am optimistic that we'll have a start to the Colorado College by spring."

"Just in time for your new kid?" Hank lifted Katie down from the wagon.

"Kids," she corrected. Looking down, she lowered her voice, "I pray that I carry them that long."

"Wha'd ya say?" he leaned closer.

"Nothing," she shook her head. "So what can I do for you, Hank?"

"Got a new girl I want ya t' see," he smiled at Katie. "She ain't feelin' so good."

"I can see her this morning," she replied.

"I'll send Monica right over," he turned to leave. Then he stopped and looked back at her. "I hope ya carry your kids that long, too, Michaela."

She smiled. He had heard her. "Come on, Katie. Aunt Dorothy is going to watch you this morning."

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

Sully was getting short of breath trying to keep up with Caroline's climbing abilities and vigor.

"Can we rest for a spell?" he stopped.

"I reckon for a little bit," she replied. "Looks like another snow storm's brewing though."

"I noticed," he looked at the sky.

"Reminds me of when I was in Russia," she said matter-of-factly.

"Ya went t' Russia?" he raised his eyebrows.

"Yea," she nodded. "The Spirits sent me."

"The Spirits?" he was not sure of her reference.

"Sure," she took out some beef jerky to chew on. "They told me to break off my engagement to the czar of Russia."

"You were engaged t' the czar?" he began to wonder about the sanity of the woman.

"For a while," she chewed.

Sully bit into some hardtack, "What else do the Spirits tell ya?"

"They tell me where to dig for gold," she acknowledged. Looking down on Buena Vista she shook her head, "When I first came here, this town only had three buildings. Now it has three or four hundred cheap wooden structures." Then looking up, Caroline added, "I think we better get moving again."

Sully shook his head and wondered what he had gotten himself into this time.

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

Michaela looked up when she heard the knock at her door.

"Come in," she called.

A dark haired, buxom girl entered the clinic, "You Dr. Mike?"

Michaela smiled, "Yes. You must be Monica."

"Hank sent me," the girl looked at the diagrams on the clinic wall.

"He says you're not feeling well," Michaela indicated for her to sit on the examining table. "What seems to be the trouble?"

"It's kinda embarrassin'," Monica looked down.

Michaela patted her hand, "It's all right. You can tell me."

"Has t' do with one of my customers at the Gold Nugget," she fidgeted with the ends of her shawl. "I ain't even told Hank what he's been doin'. 'Fraid o' what he might do."

"I can assure you that whatever you tell me will be kept in strictest confidence," Michaela tied her apron behind her back.

"Well...." Monica hesitated. "I only work part time at the Gold Nugget right now, sort o' learnin' the trade. I wanna get full time work there someday, but if Hank don't think I'm good enough t' stay, I'm afraid he might kick me out."

Michaela rested her hands on her abdomen, "So your problem isn't exactly physical."

"Well kinda," the girl hedged.

"Monica, perhaps I can help you if you tell me what the problem is," Michaela gently encouraged her. "What is it that this 'client' is doing that has upset you?"

"I don't know if you ever heard tell o' somethin' like this, Dr. Mike," she replied.

"If you have symptoms with which I'm unfamiliar, I'll look through my medical books and journals," the doctor sat down.

Monica finally burst into tears, "I don't think you'll find somethin' like this in a book!"

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

Sully and Caroline reached her cabin just in time. A blizzard began to bury the mountaintop in a sea of white. The prospector quickly started a fire.

"Good thing we brought fixings," Caroline warmed her hands at the fire. "Looks like you aren't going to do much mapping in this weather."

Shaking his head, he looked out her window, "I ain't even gonna be able t' wire my wife t' check in with her."

"Something wrong with her?" she asked.

"She's expectin'," he smiled.

"Oh," a gleam came to her eyes. "I miss my children."

"You got children?" he was amazed.

Caroline replied with some sadness, "Two. Back in Ohio. I had to leave them back with my folks when I came West."

"That must've been hard," he sat down on a primitive wooden chair.

"It was," she glanced down. "I had no choice. My husband died and left us with nothing." She changed the subject, "So how many children do you have?"

"My wife an' me got a little girl, plus, we adopted three more kids," he smiled. "Now we're expectin' twins."

"Twins!" her eyes opened wide. "And I bet you didn't want to leave to come up here."

He smiled, "Needed the money."

"Well, soon as this storm ends, we'll get to work," she assured him. "We'll get you back to your wife as soon as possible."

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

"Monica," Michaela put her arm around the girl. "Tell me what's wrong. Please?"

"Oh, Dr. Mike. I don't' think I can," she shook her head.

************
Chapter 8
************

Michaela's voice was calming, "You can tell me what this man is doing, Monica."

The young woman hesitated, "He has me do things that... involve my mouth."

Michaela was uncertain, "Your mouth?"

"Uh, he likes me t' use my mouth on his...." she stopped. "That's how I got this stain on my dress."

"Goodness!" Michaela was embarrassed.

"That ain't all, Dr. Mike," Monica continued.

Michaela blushed, "Well, ah... certainly you can confide in me."

"It seems t' satisfy him," the prostitute continued. "But the other day, he did somethin' t' me that... well, it was real unusual."

Michaela was now feeling quite uncomfortable, but she tried to give the facade of professionalism, "Go on."

"It involved a cigar," Monica looked down.

"A cigar?" Michaela was lost.

"He used it... here," the young woman pointed to an intimate area of her body.

Michaela gasped, "A cigar?"

In her years of practicing medicine, she had never encountered such a thing, not even from treating Hanks's girls. Michaela stood.

The physician proposed, "I think I should examine you and then make a recommendation regarding this... ah.... practice."

"Ya think there's somethin' wrong with me, Dr. Mike?" Monica asked.

"Perhaps there's something wrong with our society," Michaela felt an urge to lecture on the presence of prostitution in town.

"Please don't think anythin' bad about me," Monica urged. "My best friend back home, her name's Linda. She thinks I'm real bad t' do this for a livin'. She even told my folks what I been doin'. A real friend don't tell on ya, Dr. Mike."

Michaela washed her hands. "Try not to worry. Everything will be all right."

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

Sully kept watch through the window of Caroline's cabin. The snow seemed to be ebbing.

"Think we oughta be able t' start out pretty soon?" he turned to ask her.

She nodded, "Yes. We'll finish Free Gold Hill today."

"How'd it get its name?" he wondered.

"When workers were blasting and filling in the gulches to lay the railroad bed for the Midland Railroad, gold was supposedly so plentiful, the workers were more interested in picking up particles of gold after each blast than in continuing their work," she explained.

"I remember readin' about how rich a find it was," he nodded. "Can we get goin' now?"

"Sure thing, Sully," she began to bundle up. "One thing, though. We have to be careful of avalanches. They're a real danger up here."

"I'll be careful," he smiled.

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

Michaela concluded her examination of Monica, "I can find nothing physically wrong with you."

"That's a relief," the young woman sighed. "What do ya think my problem is?"

"Perhaps anxiety about this... activity with your customer is making you ill," Michaela herself was feeling queasy.

"Ya think I should stop, Dr. Mike?" Monica asked.

"As a matter of fact, I do, but it's up to you," Michaela began to write in her file. Then looking up from the paper, she asked, "What do you want to do?"

"This may sound strange, but I.... like doin' this," she replied. "But I don't think my customer will be back again though."

Michaela went to the stove to put on some water to boil.

She felt a wave of nausea coming on, "What makes you think he won't be back?"

"He's thinkin' about runnin' for some office, an' if his opponent got wind that he's been keepin' time with a prostitute.... Well, it might hurt his chances o' winnin'," Monica got down from the examining table. "Thanks for checkin' on me, Dr. Mike. Hank said he'll settle my bill with ya."

"Yes, that would be fine," Michaela sat and began to sip the tea she had brewed.

Her stomach was settling. The girl departed just as Loren arrived.

"Dr. Mike?" he removed his hat.

"Loren," she smiled. "How are you?"

"I'm fine," his clothing was wet.

"It's raining?" she noticed his appearance.

"Started a little bit ago," he cleared his throat. "I come over 'cause I heard about ya."

"Heard about me?" she sat down again to sip her tea.

"'Bout havin' twins," he grinned.

"Oh," she smiled shyly.

"Anythin' I can do, Dr. Mike, ya only gotta ask," he put his fingers in his vest pockets.

"Thank you, Loren," she expressed her appreciation.

"I mean it," he asserted. "I felt real bad last year when ya... well, if you're gonna have twins, I figure you an' Sully are gonna need lots o' baby things. I got some catalogues at the store that you can look at."

"We're grateful," she was beginning to feel better.

"That's all I wanted t' say," he turned to leave. "Take care o' yourself. Careful in the rain."

"Thank you, Loren," Michaela stated.

The storekeeper departed. Michaela knew that Brian would be be bringing Katie from the Gazette soon. She sat back in her chair and thought about Sully and the babies. Closing her eyes, she allowed her thoughts to drift.

Sully was holding one of the babies and she the other. She reached to push back a strand of hair from his face. He was making faces at the baby in his lap, and the infant was smiling. As the child in her arms slept peacefully, Sully leaned over and kissed its forehead. Then he gazed into her eyes. She felt his love. Suddenly his face turned pale as he began to choke for air.

Michaela awoke from her dream. Her breathing was quick. She reached down to her abdomen and felt the small mound of her babies. They were fine. She was fine. But Sully.... An anxious feeling began to grow in her, sparked by the strange dream from which she had just awoken.

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

Sully and Caroline had completed the mapping of her mining claim and were on their way back down the mountain.

"This next set o' climbs is real tricky in the snow, Sully," Caroline cautioned.

Before he could respond, he heard a rolling thunder sound and felt his feet give way from beneath him.

"Avalanche!" Caroline yelled.

It was too late for Sully to grab on to something for support. He felt himself start to slide down the mountain, surrounded by a sea of snow.

************
Chapter 9
************

"Sully!" Caroline called out. She held on to Wolf, so he would not go after his master.

Sully begin to swim in order to ride with the snow as it rippled down the mountain. Nearly as quickly as the avalanche had begun, it ended.

Caroline knew they had to act quickly. "Come on boy," she spoke to Wolf. "Find Sully."

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

Brian arrived at the Clinic with Katie.

"Mama, Mama!" the child ran to her mother. "Look!"

The little girl handed her mother a drawing. Turning it several directions, Michaela attempted to make out the forms. Sully was always much better at this, she thought.

"Babies," Katie explained.

"Well, it's a wonderful picture of them," she pulled her daughter near and kissed her. "We'll save it for Papa to see when he returns." Turning to her son, she smiled. "How was school today, Brian?"

"Good," he responded. "We're havin' an essay contest about Thanksgivin'."

"About the history of Thanksgiving?" she removed Katie's wet coat.

"No, 'bout what Thanksgivin' means t' us," he elaborated. "The winner gets $20, donated by some newspaper in Denver."

"I see," her thoughts were distracted by a growing uneasiness about her husband.

"Somethin' wrong?" Brian noticed.

"I'm not certain," she replied. "I'm worried about Sully."

"Have ya heard from him today?" the young man inquired.

"No," her voice choked slightly.

"He'll be okay, Ma," Brian put his hand on her shoulder.

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

Wolf stopped at a small ledge on the mountain. He began to bark. Soon Caroline and Prunes caught up with him. Grabbing a shovel from the burro, she started to dig. About a foot down, she came to a shoe. Sully's. She continued to dig, and quickly removed all of the snow under which he had been buried.

With the strength of a man, Caroline Mallen pulled Sully up from the hole. She checked to see if he was still breathing. He was. Then she got him up on Prunes and headed back to her cabin.

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

Michaela looked out the window, wondering when the rain would let up.

"I can't remember the last time it rained this hard, Ma," Brian played with Katie.

Michaela pulled her shawl around her shoulders, "Nor I, Brian."

"The creek will be sure t' rise, maybe even flood," he observed.

"Perhaps we should move some of my medical supplies upstairs just in case," she told him.

"I'll carry 'em up for ya. Just tell me what to take," he volunteered.

"Thank you Brian," Michaela began to empty her medicine cabinet.

Katie, being an old hand at doing this when it was not allowed, helped.

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

Sully was lying in a meadow of wild flowers. Clad in only his buckskins, he could see Michaela from a distance walking toward him. She wore all white. Once before he had seen her like this. It was in a dream right before he asked her to marry him. But was he dreaming?

She came to him and sat down. She ran her hand softly across his chest. Sully reached for a flower and offered it to her. She smiled and raised the petals to inhale the scent. Then she cupped the side of his face in the palm of her hand.

"I love you, Sully," she spoke low. "I'm waiting for you."

Her words and touch sent shivers through him, "I love you, Michaela."

"Sully?" Caroline's voice interrupted his thoughts.

He tried to open his eyes. The aches in his body told him that there was something wrong.

"Wha- What happened?" his lips were dry.

"Avalanche," she answered simply. "Your wolf found you. You're in my cabin now, darn lucky to be alive." Helping him sit up, she asked, "Is Michaela your wife?"

He rubbed the back of his head, "Yes. Why?"

"You kept saying her name while you were unconscious," she answered.

"How long was I out?" Sully noticed it was dark.

"Several hours," she offered him a cup of coffee.

"I gotta get down t' Buena Vista t' wire Michaela," he attempted to stand.

"I don't think that's such a good idea," she held up her hand. "It won't be safe to travel until tomorrow, and even then I'll have to lead you through some of the more dangerous areas. Don't worry, we'll let your wife know you're okay tomorrow."

"Thanks, Caroline," he said. "I know ya saved my life."

"Don't mention it," she smiled. "Have to get you back to that family of yours in one piece. I know how unhappy the Czar was when I was away."

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

Michaela sat at her desk and looked out at the dark sky. She could make out the figures of townsmen in the street preparing for possible flooding.

"Should we try t' get back t' the homestead, Ma?" Brian finished taking up the last of Michaela's valuable medical equipment.

"No, Brian," she shook her head. "The roads will be quite muddy. I think it best we stay here. I wonder if the train from Denver will be able to get through. Matthew is due home soon."

"I'll go check," Brian put on his coat. "Be right back." The door slammed behind him.

Katie had become bored with her toys in the corner and strolled over to her mother, "Mama, Bran get wet."

"I know, Sweetheart," she smiled. "But he's going to check on Matthew's train."

"Papa get wet?" the little girl wondered.

"I don't know, Katie," Michaela tried not to let her voice reflect the concern she felt. "It might not be raining where he is."

Katie leaned her head on her mother's lap. Michaela stroked her blond tresses.

"Babies talk?" the little girl lifted her head up.

"Not talk exactly," her mother explained. "Sometimes they move around a little bit and I can feel them."

"Feel 'em now?" the child placed her hand on her mother's stomach.

"Not right now, but Papa and I felt them before he left," Michaela fondly recalled.

"Next time I feel?" Katie asked.

"Yes, of course," Michaela patted her back gently.

Brian burst through the door with Matthew close behind.

"Matthew!" Michaela was relieved. "Your train got through."

Her older son hugged her, "No problem, but if this rain continues, I don't think it'll be runnin' tomorrow."

Both boys removed their wet jackets and went to the corner stove to warm themselves.

Michaela closed her eyes and thanked God that her children were safe, but Sully was still ever on her mind. She knew that she had to remain calm for the sake of her unborn babies.

"Brian," she requested. "Would you brew me some tea?"

"Sure, Ma," he put on some water to boil.

"How ya feelin'?" Matthew asked his mother as he lifted Katie high into the air.

"I'm fine," she assured him. "But I haven't had a telegram from Sully today."

"He'll be all right," Matthew asserted. "Probably not near a town is all."

"What happened at your trial today?" Brian asked his brother.

"Heard a lot o' testimony," Matthew replied. "I think Judge Wells is gonna have 'em start runnin' the trial at night, too. I might have t' spend a few days in Denver if ya don't need me here."

Michaela's heart sank at the notion that another of her family might not be nearby, but the opportunity for Matthew was too great to pass up. "We'll manage, Matthew. You are quite impressed with Judge Wells, aren't you?"

"I am," he agreed. "Real impressive background. He's from New York, but studied law at Knox College in Illinois. Then he spent three years in the military durin' the War, emergin' as an adjutant general. He came out here in '65 and was elected t' the territorial legislature two years later."

"Maybe he could help ya with your plans t' start a college here, Ma," Brian suggested.

"I'll mention it t' him, if ya want," Matthew offered.

"That's a wonderful idea, boys," she smiled. "Thank you."

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

As Caroline slept, Sully lay by the fire and closed his eyes. He believed that if he could think and feel deeply enough in his heart, Michaela might sense that he was all right. It had happened before, this inexplicable communication between them--when she had been kidnapped by Dog Soldiers, when he had fallen from the cliff, when they were in Yosemite earlier this year. He freed his mind of all thoughts but his wife.

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

The family had retired to bed upstairs at the Clinic. Michaela tucked Katie next to her, but she could not yet sleep. She thought that if she could focus all of her attention on sensing Sully's status, she might be able to allay her fears. Then it happened. A calm came over her. He was all right. She knew it. Michaela rolled over and reached for a pen and paper. She would write him another progress report on the babies.

"Dear Papa,

Even though Mama did not hear from you today, she knows that you are all right. She said she feels it. She thinks about you a lot. We're eleven weeks old now. Our big sister tried to feel us today, but we did not let her know we're in here. Mama says she's putting on some weight, but that you won't mind. It has been raining all day, and it might even flood in town. We're staying at the Clinic. We hope you hurry home, Papa. We love you.

This One and That One"

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

Sully sighed as he watched the flickers of light from the fire reflect on the walls of Caroline Mallen's cabin. He wished he was home with his family, lying in bed beside Michaela. There was a time when he could not imagine letting himself feel this way. Now he could not imagine his life without them. He vowed at that moment that he would finish this job with all deliberate speed. His heart ached too much to stay away from his wife and children one second longer than he had to. Then he fell asleep.

************
Chapter 10
************

Sully rose with the sun. Caroline anticipated his apprehension and was quickly ready to depart.

"I figure we can get a few more mines in today if the weather holds," she informed him.

"Ya got a lot o' minin' claims. Fifteen, I heard," he packed up his gear, his back somewhat stiff from the fall yesterday.

"That's right," she counted. "The Queen Bee, The Thomas Paine, The C.R.M., The Headlight, The Witch of Eudora, The Old Chief, The Mystic, The Orlando Lode, The Nettie, The Belle of Granite...."

He interrupted, "An' how long will it take t' see all of 'em?"

"I know you're anxious to get back to your family," she grinned. "So, let's get going."

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

Michaela heard the birds chirping and glanced toward the glass doors of the recovery room. She rose slowly. No nausea. Katie was warmly tucked in bed beside her. She walked to the doors and opened them. The sun was rising. Below were the muddy streets of Colorado Springs, but the anticipated flooding never came.

She inhaled the crisp, cool morning air. Touching her belly, she lovingly greeting her unborn children. A little voice called to her.

"Mama," Katie spoke up.

"I'm here, Sweetheart," she shut the doors and went to the bed.

Katie sat up and rubbed her eyes, "What you do?"

"Just looking at the sunrise. Would you like to see it, too?" Michaela went to her daughter.

"Nope," Katie pulled the quilt back up. "Mama need sleep."

Michaela chuckled, "You sound like your father."

"Papa say sleep," Katie patted the bed beside her.

Michaela pretended to obey, "Yes, Ma'am." Then she felt the babies flutter. "Katie, give me your hand quickly."

The little girl reached over and Michaela placed her tiny hand on her abdomen. Katie's eyes grew wide.

"What is?" she whispered.

"That's the babies," Michaela smiled. "They're moving around in there."

"They know I here?" Katie rubbed her mother's belly.

"They know," she nodded.

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

Matthew was able to catch a train to Denver, and Brian stayed at the Clinic to help return equipment and supplies to the examining room. School was canceled due to the muddy conditions.

There was a knock at the door. Brian opened it and greeted Horace.

"Mornin', Brian. Dr. Mike," he tipped his hat. "Got a couple o' telegrams for ya."

Michaela anxiously took them, "Thank you, Horace."

The telegrapher departed, and she opened the first note to read:

"Michaela. Had a little fall yesterday but am okay. Will map as many mines as possible today to get home faster. Please take care. Love, Sully."

Her mind raced. A "little fall" with Sully could mean off of a cliff, and he did not want to worry her.

She opened the second note.

"Dr. Quinn, I am interested in the prospect of starting a college in Colorado Springs. I represent a group of backers and wish to speak with your town council on said topic. Will arrive first week of December. Dr. William Slocum."

"Good news, Ma?" Brian noticed his mother's smile.

"Yes," she nodded. "Your father is safe, and Dr. Slocum is coming from Massachusetts in a few weeks. He's going to work with us in starting the college."

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

Within two weeks, Sully and Caroline completed the mapping process. He decided to surprise Michaela and not tell her that he would be home early. It was the dinner hour when he approached the homestead.

Michaela and the children were preparing supper. Katie began to fuss and cry for no apparent reason, so Michaela took her into the living room while Brian and Matthew finished the preparations.

Michaela pulled Katie onto her lap and rubbed her back, "What's the matter, little one?"

The little girl's redden face was moist, and the tears would not stop. A burst of cold air rushed in when Sully opened the door. Wolf ran to Brian.

Katie's crying abruptly ended when she saw her father, "Papa! Papa!"

She slid from her mother's lap and hurried to him. Sully lifted her high into the air and lavished her with kisses. Michaela joined them and hugged her husband.

"We weren't expecting you for another week," she kissed him.

Brian and Matthew patted his back, "Welcome home."

"Thanks," Sully's grin was broad. "Good t' be here."

"You're just in time for dinner," Michaela smiled.

The boys returned to the kitchen to carry the rest of the meal to the table, and Sully put Katie in her high chair. Taking Michaela in his arms, he kissed her more deeply.

"I missed ya," he whispered. Then rubbing her belly, he asked, "How are we doin'?"

"They wrote you periodic updates in your absence," she placed her hand atop his.

"Oh, they did?" he grinned. "They're learnin' t' write before Katie?"

"She wrote her name while you were gone," Michaela informed him.

He turned to his daughter, "Kates, ya wrote your name?"

She nodded, "Yep."

Michaela went to the desk and brought the little girl's primitive penmanship over to her husband.

"Good job!" Sully leaned over and kissed her cheek.

"She did this, as well," Michaela handed him the drawing Katie had made.

"The babies!" Sully recognized.

Michaela was incredulous, "How did you know?"

Sully winked, "Good guess."

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

Sully updated his family on his excursion. From the avalanche to the discussions with Caroline, he quickly filled them in. Not one to talk about himself, however, he wanted to know what they had been doing.

Matthew provided an update on the trial in Denver, "After four days an' nights o' testimony, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty to both defendants, Elijah Gibbs and Stewart McClish. But it's not over yet."

"What do you mean?" Michaela reached for another helping of meat.

"Vigilante groups have been formin'." he continued. "They're screamin' that justice hasn't been served in Denver, but it will be in Lake County."

"So they're gonna take the law int' their own hands," Sully's eyes saddened. "Sounds like a lot o' blood will be shed."

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

Sully stayed down in the kitchen to take a bath after the family went upstairs to bed. Michaela was rocking Katie in the nursery when he quietly joined them.

"Papa hold!" the little girl saw him and reached up.

He gently lifted her into his arms and sat down on the floor beside Michaela.

"Ya sleepy?" he spoke softly to the child.

"Nope," she yawned.

"Kates," he doubted her.

"Yep," she amended her previous answer. "Tell story, Papa."

Sully smiled and began, "Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was lost in the woods."

"Sully!" Michaela cautioned. "You'll give her a bad dream."

"No, Mama," Katie tapped her mother's knee.

"Let me finish my story here, ladies," he went on. "The little girl came to a hole in the ground, when up popped a rabbit from it." Sully handed Katie's worn bunny to her. "The rabbit said, 'Are ya lost?' The little girl said, 'Yep.' So, the rabbit said, 'Where do ya live? Maybe I can show ya the way home.'"

Katie's eyelids were growing heavy, but he continued.

"The little girl didn't know where she lived, so she said, 'I live where my Mama an' Papa love me.'"

Katie pulled back to look into her father's eyes, "That here, Papa."

"Yep," he nodded. "An' ya know what?"

"What?" Katie yawned again.

"The rabbit knew just where t' take her. 'Fore ya know it, the little girl was safe at home with her Ma an' Pa. An' they loved her even more."

Katie leaned against her father's chest, and he lovingly caressed the back of her head. Then he stood up and placed her into her crib. Sully turned to Michaela to see a tear streaming down her cheek. He extended his hand and helped her stand up. Both parents kissed their daughter, then silently left the room.

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

When they entered their bedroom, Sully noticed several sheets of paper lying on the night stand.

"What's this?" he asked.

"Some letters from your children," she sat down to brush her hair.

Silently, Sully picked up the letters, sat on the bed, and began to read. She could hear an occasional chuckle from him, and then silence. She turned to look at his reaction. He was lovingly gazing at her, his eyes moist from the emotions that he felt.

Sully stood up and walked to her. Kneeling before her, he took her hands in his. She drew one of his hands to her abdomen.

"This One an' That One, huh?" he smiled.

"Um-hum," she guided his hands in a small circle around her stomach.

"So which one is which?" he grinned.

She held his palm a bit low on her belly, "This One." Then she slid his hand a few inches higher, "And That One."

He rubbed her abdomen again, "They're gettin' bigger."

"Pull a chair over here and sit down with your back to me," she instructed him.

"What for?" he complied.

"I want to massage your back," she told him. "I can tell that your shoulders ache from your fall."

"How can you tell?" he smiled.

"I just can," she made sure he was close enough and began to rub his back. "I can't believe you were in an avalanche."

Her touches had their healing effect on Sully, "Feels real good."

"I'm glad," she continued. Leaning forward to kiss his back, she added, "I can't have my husband all tense and sore."

As she massaged, Sully pulled her legs up on either side of him, still with his back to her, and began to massage them. After gently ministering to one another, they felt quite relaxed and warm.

"Ready for bed?" she whispered in his ear.

"Yep," he nodded.

He joined her in bed. With their bodies tucked next to one another, Sully asked, "How's the college plans comin'?"

"I'll tell you about it in the morning," she felt exhausted.

"Tired?" he kissed her neck.

"I'm afraid so," she sighed.

"Then let's get a good night's sleep," he pulled her closer. "It's sure good t' feel ya next t' me again."

She was asleep.

************
Chapter 11
************

Sully and Michaela were in the pond. Lifting her from the water, he carried her to shore. Her soaked undergarments clung to her like another layer of skin. Sully's passion was aroused at the sight.

With his strong arms around her, Michaela felt safe and loved. She ran her hand across his chest and stopped when she felt the beating of his heart. Her longing for him was overwhelming her. She pulled him closer. Her lips brushed across his.

The sound of a rooster suddenly awakened Sully from his dream.

With a slit of morning sun shining through their bedroom window, Sully inhaled the scent of his wife lying next to him. How he had missed her and his children. So much had changed in his life in the past six years. He had gone from a reclusive widower to a happily married man. He had found love again, and it was all because of the woman lying next to him.

Propping himself up on his elbow to gaze at her, Sully ran his hand across her long tresses. That was one of the things he had noticed about her when they first met. He loved it when she wore her hair down. Hearing her steady breathing, he was reassured that she and the babies were getting their much needed rest.

He was inspired by lines from Keats to whisper:

"Pillowed upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel forever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so to live forever..."

This One and That One, he mused. Leave it to Michaela to come up with those labels. What should they name the babies, he wondered silently. As if she knew his thoughts, Michaela awoke.

"Morning," she turned to face him.

"Mornin'," he kissed the tip of her nose.

"You're awake rather early," she smiled.

"Yep," he grinned broadly. "Thinkin' about what t' call these children after they're born."

"Katie suggested Harriet," she started to sit up.

"How's Harriet doin'?" Sully inquired.

"Wonderfully," she replied. "I'm so happy for Robert E and Grace."

"Me, too," he ran his finger along her chin. "So what do ya think we should name ours?"

"Well," her logical mind took over. "We should plan names for two boys, for two girls, and for a boy and girl."

"I know one name we can eliminate right off," he joked.

Simultaneously, they both said, "Byron."

They laughed.

"Three sets o' names," he pondered. "I think one o' the boys oughta be Josef, after your Pa."

She smiled, "Thank you, Sully. What about your father?"

"Nah," he shook his head. "Not a pleasant memory there. What about your Ma's twin brother who died? What was his name?"

"They had planned to name him Elias after my mother's father," she explained. "What about your brother's name?

"No," his voice saddened.

"But we shouldn't pick names only from my family," she stroked his arm.

"You are my family," he answered. "How 'bout Michael, for the boy your Pa never got?"

"We could pick a new name," she thought. "Something like... James."

"Jack!" It suddenly came to him.

"Jack?" Michaela grinned. "Do you mean John?"

"Nope. Jack," he repeated.

"I love it. It's a good, strong name," she agreed.

"Josef and Jack Sully," he said the names aloud. "I like 'em, too. And what if we get two girls?"

"Katie already has our mothers' names," she reasoned.

"What about Marjorie?" he touched her cheek.

"No," she felt a lump in her throat. "I'd rather not."

"Charlotte, Olive, or Maude?" he mentioned women who had touched their lives.

"Something new," she replied. "How about Deborah?"

"Deborah?" he pondered. "Where'd ya get that one?"

"In the Bible," she answered. "A Hebrew judge."

"Never heard o' anyone with that name," he thought about it.

"Benjamin Franklin's wife was named Deborah," she informed him.

He nodded. "Okay then, that's a fine name for This One. How 'bout That One?"

"Susan," it suddenly occurred to Michaela.

"Susan?" he wondered.

"After Susan B. Anthony, crusader for women's rights," she sounded sure.

"She'll be most like her Ma," he chuckled. "Deborah and Susan Sully. It's settled."

"What about a boy and a girl?" she tapped his chest.

"Josef and Deborah," he answered.

"Good," she nodded. "And middle names?"

He rolled his eyes, "A topic for another mornin'."

"All right," she smiled. "But until they arrive, it's...."

"This One an' That One," he rubbed her tummy again. "Has your nausea stopped?"

"For the most part," she nodded.

"I best be gettin' up now," he looked out the window. "Why don't ya stay in bed a while longer?"

"Don't leave just yet," she pulled him closer.

They began to kiss, slowly at first, then more deeply. Their feelings quickly intensified until Sully suddenly pulled back. Michaela saw his physical reaction.

"I'm sorry, Sully," she blushed.

He swallowed hard, "That's okay."

He sat up and realized he had better not stand yet. She touched his back. Turning to face her, Sully took her hand in his. He raised her palm to his lips and kissed it.

"I really did miss ya," he grinned, slightly embarrassed.

"I wish we could...." she felt a tear.

"No, Michaela, please don't cry," he wiped away her tear with his thumb. "I'll be okay. We can't take any chances with the babies."

"I know," she looked down.

"I'll go take care o' the mornin' chores," he said. Then he winked, "Choppin' wood helps."

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

Sully met Matthew at the bottom of the steps. Matthew's face was pale.

"What's wrong?" Sully noticed.

"Come here an' look at this," Matthew led him out to the front porch.

There was a knife stuck onto a note on the railing leading up the homestead steps. Blood was on the note which read:

"Cooper, you were part of the injustice in Denver. Watch your back."

"From the trial," Matthew shook his head.

"Don't tell your Ma," Sully removed the knife and paper. "No use worryin' her. Go ahead an' let Brian know. But you an' me better take turns watchin' the house at night. I'll keep Wolf outside, too."

"I'm sorry," Matthew looked down.

Sully put his hand on his shoulder, "Ain't your fault. We better warn the men in town, too."

"We can take care o' that today. Is Ma goin' int' town?" Matthew asked.

"For a little while," Sully replied. "She's cuttin' back her hours. We gotta make sure no one in the family goes anywhere alone 'til this is settled."

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

Michaela, Sully and Katie arrived at the Clinic. Hank stepped over to greet them as Sully helped his family from the buckboard.

"Mornin', folks," Hank grinned.

"Hank," Sully acknowledged.

"I come t' settle Monica's bill with ya, Michaela," the saloon owner pulled some money from his pocket.

"Go on inside, Michaela," Sully told her. "I got somethin' t' discuss with Hank first."

"What is it?" she was curious.

"Somethin' he wants me t' make," Sully fibbed.

"All right," she took Katie's hand. "Come on, Sweetheart. Let's go inside."

When Michaela was out of earshot, Sully turned to Hank.

"What's this all about?" Hank was curious.

"Somethin' I wanna warn ya about, but I don't want Michaela t' worry," Sully spoke low.

"Warn me?" the barkeeper stood up straighter.

"That case that Matthew was workin' on in Denver's caused a lot o' folks t' be upset," the mountain man informed him. "Someone left a threatenin' note at the homestead t' him. I just wanna make sure Michaela and the children are never alone til this is over."

"I'll keep an eye on 'em," Hank nodded.

"Thanks," Sully turned to go into the Clinic.

"'Fore ya go in," Hank tugged at his sleeve. "What am I supposed t' have ya make, in case Michaela asks?"

Sully smiled and headed for the Clinic, "I don't know. How 'bout a sign?"

"A sign sayin' what?" Hank followed.

"Think o' somethin'," Sully opened the door.

Hank paid Michaela and hoped that she would not inquire about his discussion with Sully. His luck ran out.

"So what is Sully going to make for you?" she put on her apron.

"Ah, er...." Hank stammered. "A sign."

"Oh? Saying what?" she was curious.

"Ah, sayin'.... er, 'No Spittin''," he announced.

"No Spit...." she stopped when she heard a yell.

"Dr. Mike!" Horace's voice could be heard from the street. "Dr. Mike!" he ran through the open door.

"What's wrong, Horace?" she tried to calm him.

"Telegram from Colleen," he caught his breath, handed her the note and departed.

She quickly unfolded the paper while Sully and Hank gathered around.

"Oh, my!" she sat down.

"What is it, Michaela?" Sully took the note from her and began to read.

************
Chapter 12
************

"Colleen's havin' a baby!" Sully sat down, too.

"You two look like ya seen a ghost," Hank grinned. "It's a regular baby boom 'round here."

"How could this happen?" Michaela took the note and read it again.

"Michaela," Hank joked. "I think ya know damn well how this could happen."

"I'll thank you to not use profanity in front of my daughter," she sat up straighter.

Hank laughed, "Know what this means? You're gonna be grandparents."

"Hank," Sully spoke up. "Maybe now ain't such a good time."

"Okay. Here, Michaela," he handed her some bills. "This oughta settle your fee for seein' Monica. I'll leave you two alone." He departed.

Katie toddled over to her parents and put her hand on Sully's knee, "Papa, what happen?"

Sully looked at his wife. Her complexion was returning to normal.

Pulling his daughter onto his lap, he said, "We'll tell ya later, Kates."

Michaela looked up from the telegram, "Sully, from her due date, I think the baby was conceived...."

"I know," he grinned. "That was some opera."

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

Michaela and Sully decided to tell the children about Colleen after supper. When the meal was complete, Sully had the family gather in the living room. He held Katie as Michaela began.

"Sully and I have something that we want to tell you," Michaela rested her hands on her blossoming belly.

"What's wrong, Ma?" Brian had a foreboding feeling.

"Nothin's wrong," Sully assured him.

"It's Colleen," Michaela announced. "She and Andrew are going to have a baby."

Matthew and Brian leapt to their feet.

"A baby! Our sister's gonna have a baby!" Matthew's eyes widened.

Sully placed his hand on Michaela's abdomen, "Due 'round the time these little ones make their appearance."

Katie put her arms tightly around her father's neck and began to cry.

"Kates, what's the matter?" he was surprised.

She buried her face in his neck, and her tears increased.

Michaela moved behind her husband to look at the little girl's face, "Sweetheart, why are you crying?"

Finally, Katie spoke through her hiccups, "More babies."

"But that's a good thing, Kates," Sully patted her back.

"I not baby no more," she sobbed.

"But now you'll be the big sister and an ...." Michaela stopped, realizing that her two year old daughter would be an aunt.

Sully smiled, "You'll always be our first baby, sweet girl."

A slight grin crossed the child's face, "I first one?" Her crying ebbed.

"Yep," her father assured her. "The other babies will look up t' ya. Like your Ma said, you'll be the big sister. They'll need your help."

"I help babies?" the little girl felt needed.

Michaela kissed her cheek, "I'm counting on you."

Brian asked, "Did Colleen say anythin' about the holidays?"

"Oh, yes, I nearly forgot," Michaela sat down. "They plan to visit over Christmas."

"Ma, do ya realize that Miss Teresa, you, an' now Colleen are all gonna have babies at the same time?" Brian recounted. "Added t' Miss Grace's baby...."

"It is rather incredible," she nodded.

Sully sat down beside his wife, "And wonderful."

"Wondraful," Katie imitated him.

"With Thanksgiving coming, we have been truly blessed," Michaela smiled.

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

The hour was late when Michaela and Sully finally got into bed. Matthew told his mother he had some late night reading to do and would be staying up a while longer. This was his ruse to guard the homestead for the evening. Sully led Michaela up to their room.

"How many naps for ya today?" Sully slid his arm below her shoulders as they made themselves comfortable in bed.

"One," she sighed. "I'm not as tired as I was."

"You okay about Colleen's news?" he sensed she was concerned.

"I'm worried about her medical school," she shook her head. "How will it be possible for her to finish school with a little one to care for?"

"They'll figure a way," he lifted her hand to his lips.

"But she's wanted to be a doctor for so long," Michaela sighed.

"She still can be," he assured her. "If there's one thing she's learned from her Ma, it's that a woman can be more than just a cook an' baby maker."

"Well, she certainly didn't learn cooking from me," Michaela chuckled.

"How 'bout havin' babies?" his voice sounded suggestive. "You've become pretty good at that."

"I think you played a part in that," she turned onto her side to face him.

"My pleasure," he grinned.

"I must admit I quite enjoyed it, as well," she surprisingly responded. "Sully," she pulled back slightly. "Would you get my medical bag from the dresser?"

He suddenly worried, "Somethin' wrong?"

"No," she patted his arm. "I want my stethoscope."

He rose from the warmth of their bed and quickly retrieved her bag. Michaela pulled herself up, resting her back against the headboard. She took the instrument from her bag and lifted up her nightgown.

"What's that?" Sully noticed a faint line down the middle of her abdomen.

"Perfectly normal," she said. "It's called linea negra."

"I don't remember you havin' that with Katie," he touched it.

"Shhh," she placed the ear pieces of the stethoscope in her ears and rested the bell end on her abdomen.

Sully remained perfectly quiet as she listened intently around the mound where the babies were growing.

"I can very faintly hear two distinct heartbeats," she felt a tear run down her cheek.

"Can I hear?" he whispered.

"Of course," she stroked his face.

Sully began to listen. His eyebrows raised, "Sounds like real far off horses runnin'."

"Oh, Sully," her tears flowed freely.

He pulled her into his arms, "They're gonna be fine, Michaela." He kissed the tears on her cheeks, "Know what I'd like ya t' do?"

"What?" she pulled his arms more tightly around her.

"Keep on writin' those reports for me from This One and That One," he reached down and touched her abdomen.

"But why? You're back home," she was puzzled.

"I know, but I love readin' em," he ran his hand in circles on her belly. "I wanna share everythin' with ya, Michaela. Your notes help me understand what you're thinkin' about an' goin' through."

"Then I shall keep writing them," she pulled him closer for a kiss.

The movement of his hand was arousing her, "Um, Sully."

"Humm?" he continued to stroke her.

"I don't think I should chop wood in my condition," she gazed into his eyes.

"Why should ya chop wood?" he did not realize the effect he was having.

She placed her hand atop his to stop his movements, "This... is doing something to me that might be very hard to stop."

"Sorry," he was embarrassed.

As he pulled his hand up, it accidentally brushed across her breast. She shivered.

"Ya cold?" he felt her quiver.

"No," she tried to sound unaffected by him.

Then he saw through her nightgown the effect he was having on her.

"Maybe I oughta go check on Matthew," he started to get up.

Michaela felt a tear well up again in her eye, "Oh, Sully. Please don't go."

"I don't wanna.... " he was at a loss. "Maybe if we don't touch while we're in bed together."

"We could hold hands," she suggested.

"All right," he got back into bed and pulled up the covers. With a one foot space between them, they reached out to hold one another's hands.

"Better?" he searched to see if she was still crying.

"Better," she nodded. "Good night."

"'Night," he gave her hand a little squeeze.

Soon, she was asleep. Sully heard a noise outside and then Wolf's growl. He rose quietly, pulled on his buckskins and strapped on his belt. Descending the steps, he saw the front door open but no sign of Matthew or Wolf.

************
Chapter 13
************

Sully whistled softly for Wolf. He heard a low whine coming from the direction of the barn. Pulling his tomahawk from his belt, he crept onto the porch and closed the door behind him. His eyes adjusted to the blackness of the night. Again, he whistled. Wolf quickly appeared.

"Where's Matthew, Boy?" he whispered.

Wolf took off toward the barn. Sully followed.

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

Michaela awoke with a start. She reached her arm toward Sully's place on the bed, but he was gone.

"Sully?" she whispered.

Why did she have a feeling something was wrong? She rose from the bed and pulled on her robe.

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

Wolf led Sully directly to his older son. Matthew was lying unconscious in one of the horse stalls. His head was bleeding. Swiftly, Sully sprang into action, lifting the young man and carrying him toward the house.

Just as he reached the top step, the door opened.

"Sully! Matthew!" Michaela was horrified.

She cleared the dining room table, and Sully gently placed Matthew on it.

"I'll get your bag," Sully closed and locked the front door, then ran for the steps."

Wolf whimpered softly as Michaela felt for internal injuries. Apparently the cut on his head was Matthew's only wound.

"He's going to be all right, Wolf," she looked down at the animal. "What happened?" she asked when Sully returned with her bag.

"Don't know," he caught his breath. "Is he gonna be all right?"

She took a cloth and disinfected it. Then she began to clean Matthew's head. The cut was superficial, but there was a growing bump on his head.

"He looks as if he's been struck," she ascertained.

The young man began to regain consciousness.

"Matthew," Michaela stroked his head. "What happened?"

Her son's blurred vision began to clear, "I went... out t' the barn when I heard somethin'."

Michaela patted his shoulder, "And?"

"An' that's all I remember," Matthew replied.

"Did you take a lamp with you?" she wondered.

"No," he tried to sit up.

"You must have struck your head on something in the dark," her curiosity was satisfied. "Sully, would you help him up to bed?" she turned to her husband.

"Sure," Sully stepped forward. "Come on. You, too, Michaela. Still need t' rest."

"If ya don't mind, I'd rather stay down here, Ma," Matthew looked at his mother.

She was puzzled, "But you'd be much more comfortable in your own bed."

"I'll be all right. Thanks," he smiled.

"Be up in a second, Michaela," Sully said. "You go ahead." When he was certain that she was out of earshot, he asked, "What happened out there?"

"I'm not sure," Matthew offered. "Wolf started growlin'. He led me to the barn. It was dark, an' the next thing I knew, I was unconscious."

Sully brought two lamps to the table and lit them, "Come on. Let's go look for footprints."

After an examination of the ground around the barn revealed nothing out of the ordinary, Sully and Matthew headed back to the house.

"So it could've been just an accident," Matthew reasoned.

"Maybe," Sully was not so sure.

When they reached the front door, Sully commanded Wolf to stand guard and volunteered, "Why don't you go get a good night's rest. I'll watch things here."

"Thanks, Sully," Matthew smiled. "I don't feel too good."

Sully patted his back and sat down by the fireplace.

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

The next morning, Michaela awoke, rolled onto her side and saw that her husband was not there. She pulled out paper and pen and began to write:

"Dear Papa,

Thanksgiving is coming tomorrow, and we are grateful that you are our father. Mama told you about our big sister on Thanksgiving Day three years ago. She says that she is thankful she met you. We are going to start moving around more and hope that you will talk to us. Then we can get used to the sound of your voice. Mama says that she loves to hear your voice.

Love,

This One and That One"

Michaela put down her pen and rose to look out the window. There was Sully chopping wood. She chuckled and reasoned that they would have the tallest stack of wood in Colorado Springs this winter. Then she felt something.

Raising the window, she called for her husband, "Sully! Come quickly!"

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

Sully burst into the bedroom, steeped in perspiration.

"Michaela!" he was near panic. "What's wrong?"

She sat on the edge of the bed and reached for his hand. Placing it on her abdomen, she excitedly said, "It's This One. He's moving!"

Sully was silent. Then he felt the pulsating movement of his child.

Whispering, he looked at his wife adoringly, "How do ya know it's This One?"

She moved his hand slightly, "Because That One is up here."

"Seems like they're movin' a lot earlier than Katie did," he observed.

"I just recognize the babies' movements with this pregnancy," she admitted. "Multipara, it's called."

"What's that?" he was curious.

"Women who have had a baby before, generally feel their next baby move about a month earlier than their previous pregnancy because they know what they're feeling this time," she explained.

Then he saw the morning report that she had written from the babies. Picking it up to read, he laughed.

"They want me t' talk to 'em, huh?" he smiled at her.

"Um-hum," she nodded.

Sully knelt down on the floor and positioned himself to speak to his wife's abdomen.

Rubbing her belly gently, he spoke low, "Hello in there. This is your Pa. I thought I'd let ya get t' know the sound o' my voice."

Michaela placed her hand on his shoulder as he continued.

"Your Ma is takin' real good care o' ya, an' I wish I could help her out more. I already love ya both more than I can say. I love ya 'cause you're a part o' your Ma an' me. When you're born...."

Sully stopped when he felt movement again.

"They're both moving!" Michaela exclaimed.

"I can feel 'em," his eyes widened.

Sensing the presence of someone, Sully pivoted toward the door. There stood Katie, her finger in her mouth.

"What doin', Papa?" she toddled to her father.

"Mornin', sweet girl," he pulled her onto his lap as he sat on the floor. "I was just talkin' t' the babies. Wanna help?"

Katie looked up at her mother, "Babies hear?"

"I believe they can, Sweetheart," Michaela smiled.

"What I say?" the child stood up.

Michaela leaned over to kiss her daughter's cheek, "Just tell them what's in your heart, Katie."

"Humm," the little girl folded her arms.

Her parents stifled a laugh at the child's stance.

Then Katie became quite serious and said, "Where I talk?"

Michaela pulled her closer and put Katie's hand on her belly, "Right here."

Leaning toward her mother, the little girl began, "I'm Katie. When you come t' see me? I wanna hold ya."

Feeling the movement of the babies, Katie jumped back slightly.

"Mama!" she took a deep breath. "They come now!"

Sully laughed, "Not yet, Kates."

"Yes, Papa!" his daughter insisted.

Michaela patted the bed beside her, and Sully lifted Katie up to sit next to her mother.

"The babies will be born in April or May, Katie," Michaela hoped.

"I be ready," she folded her arms again. Then she surprised her parents, "Papa stop choppin' wood then?"

"Ah, maybe, Kates," Sully touched her nose.

"I want to check on Matthew," Michaela started to get up.

"He an' Brian already went int' town," Sully stopped her.

"How is his head?" she asked.

"Said he felt fine," he responded.

"Then I should get started on the Thanksgiving plans," she reached for her robe.

"We have a lot t' be grateful for, Michaela," he touched her knee.

"That we do," she turned up the corner of her mouth.

Suddenly, they heard the sound of the front door slamming.

"I thought you said the boys went to town," Michaela was curious.

"Maybe they forgot somethin'," Sully got up. "I'll go check."

************
Chapter 14
************

When Sully came down the steps, he spotted Matthew pouring over a newspaper.

"Back so soon?" Sully approached his older son.

Matthew handed him the Rocky Mountain News, "Read this."

The headline said, "Lake County War Erupts."

Sully scanned the story, occasionally uttering a phrase or two, "Lines drawn..., murders..., kidnappings..., tortures..., vigilantes..., political corruption." Sully looked up in concern.

"Some folks are sayin' it's the most violence ever seen in Colorado," Matthew shook his head. "All on account o' this not guilty verdict. I sure hope Judge Wells gets in."

"Gets in?" Sully put down the paper.

"He's up for Supreme Court judge o' the territory," Matthew explained.

"Against who?" Sully asked.

"Some lawyer from Denver by the name o' Elliot Truly," Matthew picked up the newspaper. "I better make sure Dr. Mike don't see this."

"See what?" Michaela and Katie had come downstairs.

Sully thought quickly, "See that we ain't done any o' the chores ya need us t' do t' get ready for Thanksgivin' dinner t'morrow."

Michaela readily accepted his response, "Where did I put my list?" She began to look around the counter top. "Ah, here it is."

She sat down at the table as Sully lifted Katie into her high chair.

"Are my girls hungry?" he pulled out a skillet.

At the same time, Katie replied, "No," as her mother answered, "Yes."

"Matthew?" Sully began to prepare breakfast.

"Oh, no thanks. I wanna get back t' town," he kept the newspaper hidden behind his back.

Sully said, "Let me check on your horse, Matthew. Ya say she's favorin' one o' her legs?"

"Ah," Matthew looked curiously at his father. "Yeah, favorin' her leg."

Both men went out to the front porch.

"Matthew, ya shouldn't've come home by yourself," Sully put his hand on the young man's shoulder.

"I had t' show ya the newspaper," he reasoned. "Ma's bound t' hear about this in town at the Thanksgivin' dinner."

Sully pondered the dilemma, "Maybe it would be okay for her t' find out, long as she don't know about the threatenin' note ya got. I'll break it to her. Meanwhile, if you're goin' back int' town, take Wolf with ya."

"All right," Matthew put on his hat. "I'll see ya later."

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

Reentering the house, Sully saw his wife pouring over her list. Katie was playing with some cereal Michaela had prepared for her. He went to the stove and started breakfast. So intent was his wife at completing her list, she did not even notice until he placed a plate of bacon and eggs in front of her.

"Sully!" she looked up. "Thank you. You didn't have to...."

"I wanted t' make sure ya get plenty t' eat," he sat down beside her.

Picking up a strip of steaming hot bacon, he held it up to his lips and softly blew on it to cool. Then he held it toward Michaela's lips. She turned up the corner of her mouth in a grin, then took a bite. As she chewed, she lifted another strip and held it toward Sully's lips. He worked the whole piece into his mouth then sucked on her fingers to remove the juice.

Their eyes locked onto one another. Back and forth, they silently fed one another until the plate was bare.

Sully spoke low, "Still hungry?"

"Mmm," she nodded.

"How 'bout some biscuits?" he smiled.

"Sounds delicious," she took his hand. "May I thank you?"

"Sure," he leaned closer.

They began to kiss. Suddenly they felt something wet strike the sides of their heads. Quickly glancing toward their daughter, they realized that she had tossed cereal at them.

"Katherine Elizabeth!" Michaela picked up a piece of cereal. "Did you throw this?"

The child was silent. Sully went to her and lifted her from the high chair.

"Your Ma asked ya a question," he sounded stern.

Katie shyly put her finger in her mouth.

"Katie," Michaela touched her daughter's hand. "Did you throw this?"

Katie nodded yes.

"Why?" Sully asked.

"Don't know," the little girl began to sway her leg back and forth.

"Do ya know it's wrong?" Sully gently stilled her leg.

Katie nodded again. Michaela stood up and got a damp cloth to wipe her face. Then she cleaned the milk from the side of Sully's head.

"We're gonna have t' punish ya," he turned Katie to face him. "Ya can't just throw things at folks."

Michaela sat down beside her husband, "What kind of punishment should it be?"

"I thought you might know," he whispered.

"Oh, well, we could.... no, that would be.... maybe we should....," Michaela shook her head. "I don't know. Certainly not a spanking."

"No, not a spankin'," he agreed.

"What spankin'?" Katie perked up.

"That's hittin' ya on your behind," his voice was serious.

"No spankin'," Katie shook her head.

The parents were having difficulty keeping straight faces at their daughter's expression.

"Okay, for your punishment, ya can't play with your bunny for 10 minutes," Sully finally concluded.

"How about five minutes, Papa?" Michaela urged.

"Okay," he compromised.

"Not play with Bunny?" Katie's voice saddened.

"That's right," her father shook his head. "Startin' now."

Katie slid down from his lap, and slowly counted, "One... two... thwee... four... five. Now I play?"

"Papa said five minutes, not five seconds, Sweetheart," Michaela reached for a biscuit.

"I not like puniment," the child sat down on the floor.

"Ya ain't supposed t' like it," Sully stood up and towered over her. "That way, ya won't do somethin' wrong again."

"Puniment when I do somethin' wrong?" Katie raised her eyes to him.

"Yep," he simply replied and walked into the living room.

Katie folded her hands across her lap. Then she began to hum. Finally, she could wait no longer and sweetly asked her mother, "Now five minutes?"

"Better ask Papa," Michaela thought the little girl looked just like her husband at that moment.

Sully stepped back into the kitchen, "Okay, Kates, time's up. Now, after ya tell your Ma an' me that you're sorry, ya can play with the bunny."

Immediately, their daughter jumped to her feet, "I sorry." As fast as her little legs would carry her, she headed for the steps, causing an immediate burst of laughter from her parents.

"I don't think that was five minutes," Michaela teased.

"Do ya think we could've lasted that long?" he chuckled.

"No, I suppose not," she rose to put on some water for tea.

Sully looked up and yelled to his daughter, "What ya doin', Kates?"

Her small voice called back, "Playin' with Bunny."

Sully smiled, "Reckon she learned her lesson?"

"I believe she merely wanted some attention from us," Michaela sat down beside him. Stroking her belly, she added, "And when these little ones arrive, I imagine we'll see even more attention getting behavior."

"Then we gotta be sure t' include her in everythin'," he vowed. "We can't let her think we don't love her anymore. Remember when we first got married an' again after Katie was born, how Brian carried on 'cause he thought we didn't care 'bout him? "

"I remember," she recalled. Then she changed the subject, "So, what was in the newspaper that Matthew didn't want me to see?"

"What?" Sully was surprised. "Ya knew?"

"Of course," she said nonchalantly.

"The paper just talked about the big feud in Lake County over the verdict in the Harrington murder trial," he told her.

"That's the case Matthew worked on," she recalled the name.

"Right," he slid closer to her.

"And?" she assumed there was more to the story.

"An' that's it," he pushed back a lock of her hair from her eyes. "Ya sure look beautiful this mornin'."

"Are you changing the subject?" she tilted her head.

"Yep," he grinned.

"What time did you start chopping wood?" she took his hand.

"Dawn," he simply stated.

"I love you, Sully," her eyes began to well up.

"What's this?" he wiped away her tear.

"I don't know," she suddenly felt overwhelmed with adoration for him.

He pulled her over into his lap, "I seem t' remember some cryin' when ya were expectin' Katie." Then he captured her soul with his eyes, "I love you," Looking down at her tummy, he added, "An' you, too." He turned her attention to tomorrow's dinner, "So what do we need t' do t' get ready for Thanksgivin'?"

She reached for her paper, "I've made a list."

Sully rolled his eyes, "I had t' ask."

************
Chapter 15
************

Weather permitted the town's Thanksgiving celebration to be held in the meadow by the church, and a large turnout was present. Three rows of tables were set up, two for those who were partaking of the meal and one with a plentiful supply of food adorning it.

Jake stood up to make a speech, "I wanna thank the town for supportin' me as mayor."

Hank shouted, "Not much choice, Jake. It was you or Preston."

The banker glared, "Very funny."

Jake returned to his speech, "An' t' any o' you who might not've heard, I wanna announce that Teresa an' me are expectin' a baby."

When the applause died down, he glanced at the assembly and asked if anyone else wished to speak. Cloud Dancing rose. A murmur of comments stilled as the Cheyenne medicine man began:

"I stand before you the only Indian permitted in this town. This is the day on which the white man commemorates his first year of living in America with the cooperation of the Indians. My people have known many tragedies and sorrows since that first 'Hahoo Tsexheemesehestove'-- Thanksgiving, but I know not all white men wish us ill. I feel gratitude in my heart. For my brother, Sully and Dr. Mike. For Dorothy. I can appreciate this Thanksgiving."

Robert E was next.

"I just wanna say thanks t' my wife Grace who has blessed me with our little girl Harriet," he simply stated.

Michaela rose, "I know that you are all anxious to begin this wonderful meal, but I have a comment or two to make."

"Only one or two, Michaela?" Hank shouted.

Sully cast him a disapproving look, and Hank backed down.

"I want to thank all of you for your compassion and friendship this past year, for it has been one of great loss and hardship for all of us. However, amidst tragedy can come hope for the future. Coupled with the birth of little Harriet and Jake and Teresa's wonderful news, I would like to share an announcement, as well. For those of you who don't know, Sully and I AND Colleen and Andrew are expecting, too."

Excited voices and applause greeted her news. Michaela raised her hand to ask for quiet.

"I want to conclude...." she was interrupted.

"'Bout time," Hank leaned back.

She frowned at him, then continued, "I want to conclude by saying that I am grateful most of all to my husband and children for their love."

"We eat now, Mama?" Katie's voice was heard.

Laughter erupted.

Then Jake announced, "We eat!"

Suddenly the sound of lively conversation was suddenly interrupted by an explosion from beneath the table containing the food. Splintered wood, shards of glass and pieces of food hurled in all directions.

Sully instantly shielded Michaela and Katie from flying debris. Matthew and Brian, on the opposite side of the table, were unhurt. Amid screams and panic, the smoke began to clear.

Dorothy shouted, "Michaela, quick! It's Loren."

The storekeeper, who had been sitting closest to the explosion, was unconscious. Blood was oozing from his back.

Sully helped his wife and crying daughter up from the ground, "Ya all right?"

She brushed back the hair from her eyes, "Yes. You?"

"I'm okay," he nodded. He lifted Katie from Michaela's arms, "It's okay, my sweet girl." Then turning to his sons, "Boys?"

"We're fine, Pa," Brian assured him.

"Brian, would ya take your sister?" Sully handed his daughter over. "I wanna help your Ma tend t' the injured.

Michaela and Dorothy knelt beside Loren. Cloud Dancing joined her, as Sully rushed to them.

"How is he?" the mountain man inquired.

Michaela's voice faltered, "We need to get him to the Clinic immediately."

Hank approached, "There's a lot o' folks cut, but nothin' too bad. Jake can stitch 'em up."

Sully directed Hank, Robert E, and Matthew to help him carry Loren's lifeless body to the Clinic, while Jake tended to the injured in the meadow. Hank and Sully then returned to inspect the area from which the explosion emanated.

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

By dusk, a vigil began outside the Clinic. Inside, Michaela and Cloud Dancing completed their medical ministering to Loren. Sully held a sleeping Katie against his chest, with Brian sitting next to him on the bench. Other townsfolk came and went as the evening wore on.

"Pa, do ya think Mr. Bray will be okay?" Brian anxiously asked.

Sully put his hand on the young man's shoulder, "Ya know he's in good hands, Brian. Your Ma an' Cloud Dancin' will do all they can for him."

Finally, an exhausted Michaela stepped onto the porch of the Clinic. She cleared her throat and told the crowd, "We have removed many pieces of broken glass from his back, but these cuts appear to be not very serious. I'm more concerned about a blow that Loren sustained to the back of his head. Now, it's a matter of waiting."

Sully stood and went to her, "Is there anythin' else we can do?"

"Simply wait and pray," her voice was faint.

"Let's get you up t' bed," Sully took her arm. Indicating the sleeping child in his arms, he added, "Both o' my girls need their rest."

Sully led her into the examining room. Dorothy was sitting beside Loren, holding his hand. Cloud Dancing was softly chanting. Sully nodded to them and took Michaela on up to a recovery room.

He laid Katie on one side, then escorted Michaela over to the other side of the bed. He guided her back onto the bed, then removed her shoes and stockings. Massaging her feet and legs, he smiled down at her.

"Do you know what happened?" her eyes were becoming heavy.

"Not yet," he continued his soothing movements.

"Was it dynamite?" Michaela tucked Katie in beside her.

"Most likely," he nodded.

"But who.... why would someone do such a thing?" she was feeling relaxed at his touch.

"I don't want ya t' worry about it," he spoke to her in a soothing voice.

She lowered her hand to her belly, "I am rather tired, I'm afraid."

Sully placed his hand on hers, "Just shut your eyes and go t' sleep."

Soon she was asleep.

Sully went back downstairs to check on his sons. They were still on the porch of the Clinic.

"I think you two t' should spend the night here," he informed them.

"Do ya think this is on account o' the war in Lake County, Pa?" Brian looked up at him.

"I do," Matthew's jaw tightened. "Hank says it was dynamite. There were a couple o' men spotted near the table just before the explosion. No one recognized 'em, an' they weren't around after the explosion."

"So now they're bringin' their war here," Sully shook his head.

"All on account o' me," Matthew looked down. "Maybe I oughta go away."

"Matthew," Sully assured him. "No use blamin' yourself. Ya didn't do anythin' but observe the trial."

"But if I went away...." he stopped.

"If ya went away," Sully told him. "We couldn't help ya, an' your Ma would worry somethin' awful."

"I wouldn't tell her the real reason I was leavin'," the young man reasoned.

"She'd still worry," Sully replied. "Here, we can protect ya."

"Protect me?" Matthew raised his voice. "What about Loren? He's lyin' in there on account o' me. Who's gonna protect everyone who comes near me?"

Sully tried to calm him, "Nothin' can be done t'night. Let's sleep on it."

They turned to enter the Clinic. Brian stopped to look at Loren. He reached over to touch the still hand of the man who had been like a grandfather to him. Sully put his reassuring hand on Brian's shoulder, then guided him toward the steps.

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

Sully awoke to the low sounds of Katie's voice as the first rays of dawn filtered through the curtains of the recovery room. Opening his eyes, he saw his daughter leaning toward Michaela's abdomen.

He listened more intently.

Katie was speaking to the babies, "....an' I let you play with my bunny, too."

"Kates," he whispered and pulled her up into his arms. "Ya talkin' t' the babies?"

"I wake 'em up, Papa," she smiled.

"I wanna ask ya somethin'," he spoke low.

"What?" she crossed her arms.

"Do ya think if ya wake up the babies, it'll wake up your Ma, too?" he stroked her fair hair.

She thought about it for a moment, "Yep."

"So if your Ma needs t' rest, then ya oughta let the babies rest, too," he tried to reason.

"But I wanna talk to 'em," she did not understand.

Michaela stirred and rolled over to look at them, "What are you two discussing?"

"You," Katie rocked back and forth giggling.

"She was talkin' t' the babies," Sully informed his wife. "I told her it'd wake you up, too."

"Well, we're all awake now," Michaela sounded a bit out of sorts. "I'd better go check on Loren."

As she started to get up, she felt light headed.

"Ya all right?" Sully touched her back.

"Yes," she sighed. "After I look in on Loren, I think I'd better come back up here to rest some more."

She pulled on her stockings and shoes, then left the room. Brian burst in suddenly.

"Pa!" Brian stopped when he saw Katie beside him. "Could I see ya in the hall?"

Sully stood up and pointed to the bed, "You stay here for a minute, Kates."

"This puniment?" she wondered.

He chuckled, "No, my sweet girl." He handed her the stuffed rabbit from the night stand.

Brian led him into the hall, "Matthew's gone!"

"Oh, no," Sully shook his head. "Stay here with your Ma an' Katie. I'll go look for him. How long ago did he leave?"

"I don't know," Brian shook his head. "I was asleep."

"Don't worry," Sully put his hand on his shoulder. "I'll find him." He returned to give Katie a kiss, then went downstairs.

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

When Sully entered the examining room, he could see that Loren's condition was unchanged from last night. Michaela looked somber.

"Can I speak t' ya in the hallway," Sully motioned.

"Certainly," she went with him.

"I gotta leave for a little while, Michaela," he swallowed hard.

"Leave? But why?" she was afraid. "Does this have something to do with the explosion?"

"In a way," he hated to be evasive with her.

"Where are you going?" she put her hands on his waist.

"I'm gonna go see if I can find out more," he rested his hands on her shoulders.

Then he cupped her face in his hands, "I love you."

She kissed him, "I love you, too."

He smiled, "Don't worry." Then he bent down to her tummy, "Take care o' your Ma."

With that, he was gone.


************
Chapter 16
************

Michaela returned to the recovery room where Katie and Brian sat.

"Is Pa gone?" Brian looked up.

"Yes," she fought back a tear.

"Sad, Mama?" Katie toddled to her mother.

"I'm just tired, Sweetheart," Michaela reassured her daughter. "Where's Matthew?"

Brian did not want to lie, "I don't know."

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

Having a hunch that Matthew might have gone to the homestead for supplies, Sully and Wolf raced for home. When he reached the outskirts of his land he saw Matthew in the distance with two other men. One was holding his son while the other was yelling at Matthew.

Sully felt a rush of rage. He turned to circle around and reach the house from the back. Stealthfully, he approached. Before the men could react, Sully jumped them. Wolf snarled and bit into one man's leg, and Sully knocked the other out instantly with a punch to his jaw. Then the other intruder felt the thrust of Sully's fists and kicks. Within moments, it was ended, and Matthew was safe.

"Ya all right?" Sully was out of breath.

"I'm fine," Matthew assured him. "These two are from Centerville. They're friends o' George Harrington, the man who was murdered."

"Let's get 'em back t' town. We can put 'em in jail," Sully started to get rope to bind their hands.

"If we take 'em t' jail, others will follow t' get 'em out," Matthew picked up their weapons.

"You sayin' we should let 'em go?" Sully could not believe it.

"Maybe I should take 'em back t' Centerville an' try t' negotiate," the young man offered.

"Matthew, who knows what they'd do t' you?" Sully refused to listen. "Besides, these are probably the two who set off the explosion yesterday."

"I don't know how else t' handle this, Sully," Matthew agonized.

"How 'bout takin' 'em t' Denver?" he suggested. "Let that Judge Wells handle things."

"That's a possibility, I guess," Matthew pondered it. "But if they're the ones who set off the explosion, it's not in Judge Wells' jurisdiction."

"In a way, it's connected t' the vendetta an' murder trial," Sully figured.

"You're right," Matthew seemed calmer. "Let's take 'em t' town, then arrange gettin' 'em t' Denver."

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

Matthew locked up the two men, and Sully and Wolf headed for the Clinic. Brian, Dorothy and Cloud Dancing were still holding vigil over Loren when Sully opened the door.

"Pa!" Brian ran to him.

Sully motioned for his younger son to step outside.

"Matthew's all right, Brian," Sully hugged him. "We got a couple o' men locked in the jail who we think set off the explosion. Would ya do me a favor?"

"Sure!" Brian was eager.

"Go tell Hank we got the suspects at the jail," he told his son. "Have him go over there. Matthew can fill him in on everythin'. An' you, too."

The young man took off across the street to the Gold Nugget, with Wolf following close behind. Sully reentered the Clinic.

Cloud Dancing came to him, "The Spirits say that Loren needs a special medicine."

"Anythin' I can do?" Sully swallowed hard.

"No, I must bring it back," Cloud Dancing informed him.

"I can come with ya," Sully volunteered.

"No, my friend," the Cheyenne medicine man grasped his arm. "You must stay here to look after your family."

"Is Michaela upstairs?" he asked.

"Yes," Cloud Dancing responded. "She needs you, Sully."

"I know," Sully affirmed. "Is Katie with her?"

Dorothy spoke up, "Grace is watchin' her."

"I go now," Cloud Dancing looked at Dorothy. "I return as soon as I find this medicine."

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

Sully quietly entered the recovery room where Michaela lay in bed, her back to the door. He sensed that she was not asleep as he saw her shoulders slightly shake.

She's crying, his heart sank.

He went to her, "Michaela."

"Sully!" turned to him and reached out her open arms.

He rushed to her and embraced her tightly.

"Did you find out who is responsible for the explosion?" she pulled back to look into his eyes.

"We think so," he nodded.

"We?" she wondered.

"Matthew an' me," he replied.

"Is Matthew all right?" her concern returned.

"Yep," he smiled. "We're all fine."

"Thank God," she pulled him closer.

"I didn't mean t' worry ya, Michaela," he whispered in her ear.

"It's so many things right now, Sully," she leaned against his shoulder. "Loren, you, the babies. I worry that Katie will adjust, that Colleen is all right. I worry that Matthew won't be hurt."

"What do ya mean?" he feared she suspected.

"I know that this vigilante group from Lake County is behind the explosion yesterday," she answered. "And that they hold Matthew responsible in some way for the injustice of the verdict in the case."

"How do ya know that?" Sully was astounded at his wife.

"I just do," she quietly responded.

"You amaze me," he pulled her back to look into her eyes.

"I do?" she blushed.

"You do," he kissed her forehead. "Now, I want ya t' lie back down here."

She obeyed. He sat beside her, lovingly stroking her hair and reciting:

"Love is Nature's second sun,
Causing a spring of virtues where he shines."

"Mmm," her voice captured his heart. "Byron?"

"Nope," he leaned closer. "George Chapman."

"Never heard of him," she whispered.

"I been readin' a new book," he kissed her cheek. "Now, you get some rest, an' I'll go get Katie."

Michaela pulled him back, "Stay with me a few more minutes?"

"Okay," he slid into the bed beside her. "Ya talked me into it."

With her back to his chest, she fit snugly against his body. To have her next to him like this was to feel complete. Sully draped his arm over her and tenderly placed his hand on her abdomen.

"Did I ever tell you how glad I am that you married me?" she felt the warmth of his breath on her neck.

"Sort o'," he ran his hand in circles on her tummy.

She yawned, "Good. You'll let me know if Loren wakens?"

"Yep," he spoke low. "Cloud Dancin' went t' get him some medicine."

She had fallen asleep. Sully gently rose from the bed and kissed her cheek.

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

Downstairs, Dorothy greeted him, "Did ya find the men who did this?"

"We think so," he went to the stove to pour some coffee. "Why don't ya go get some rest. I'll call ya if there's any change."

She brushed back a lock of red hair from her forehead, "I don't wanna leave him. Michaela says we can't even move him yet."

"I promise t' get ya if there's any change," he took a sip.

"All right then," she went to the door. "Thank you, Sully."

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

While Sully, Matthew and Brian sat in the Clinic with Loren and Michaela rested upstairs, Grace with dinner and Katie.

"Grace," Sully lifted his daughter. "Ya shouldn't have gone t' all this trouble."

"No trouble," she spoke softly, seeing Loren on the examining table. "Any change?"

"He's still out," Sully shook his head.

"I brung dinner for all o' ya," she set it down. "But I best be gettin' back t' my Harriet now."

Sully smiled and looked at Katie, "It's hard t' leave 'em. Thanks again for supper."

"You're welcome," she exited.

Katie tugged at her father's shirt, "Misser Bway sleepin', Papa?"

"Not exactly," he put her down. "I'll fix a tray an' take it up t' your Ma. You boys call us if there's any change in Loren."

"We will," Matthew nodded and picked up Katie. "Are ya hungry, little sister?"

"What we eat?" the finicky-eating child surveyed the offering.

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

Sully quietly entered the recovery room where Michaela slept and set the tray on the night stand. When he sat down beside her on the bed, her eyes opened.

"Is it Loren?" she rolled over.

"No change," he uncovered the tray. "Thought ya might be hungry. Grace brought dinner."

"What about the children?" she sat up.

"They're down watchin' Loren," he informed her. "An' eatin'."

"Katie's eating?" she was surprised.

"Only what she wants," he smiled. Situating the tray on her lap, he instructed, "Now, eat."

She began to dig into the meal. Sully sat back, grabbed a bite or two himself, and watched with amusement as she cleaned the plate.

He rubbed her belly, "Gettin' bigger."

"Don't remind me," she rolled her eyes.

He grinned, "It's a good thing, remember?"

"I know," she smiled. "But my wardrobe is becoming severely limited again."

Brian appeared at the door, "Can I come in?"

"Certainly," Michaela reached out to him.

Brian came to her and kissed her cheek, "Ya feelin' better?"

"Thanks to the tender care of my husband and children, yes, thank you," she squeezed his hand.

"I come t' get Pa," the young man said. "Hank's downstairs an' wants t' talk t' ya."

Michaela set the tray aside and lowered her feet to the floor.

"Ya don't need t' get up," Sully tried to stop her.

"I want to check on Loren," she insisted. "I feel fine, Sully."

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

Hank was standing beside Loren when they entered the room. Everyone spoke in hushed tones as Michaela monitored his condition.

"Brian, would ya take Katie upstairs?" Sully requested.

"Okay," he took the little girl by the hand. "Come on, Katie."

"Maybe we oughta step outside," Hank did not want Michaela to hear.

"It's all right," Sully took his wife's hand. "She knows about the vigilantes."

Hank shook his head, "I had t' let 'em go."

"What?" Matthew nearly choked.

"Friend o' there's posted bail," the barkeeper told them.

"What do we do now?" Matthew was distraught.

************
Chapter 17
************

"Who set bail for 'em?" Sully asked about the Centerville duo.

"Some Denver lawyer named Truly showed up with a circuit judge," Hank showed them the paperwork. "The judge set bail, Truly paid, an' now they're out."

"Let me see that," Matthew grabbed the papers. "Elliot Truly!"

"Ya know him?" the bartender was intrigued.

"He's up for Supreme Court judge opposite the man who presided over the Harrington murder trial," Matthew answered.

"I reckon Truly was a friend o' Harrington's," Sully connected them.

"And if he gets on the Supreme Court, these vigilantes may never be apprehended," Michaela sat down.

"Did Truly come here in person t' get 'em?" Sully asked.

"Yeah," Hank revealed. "They're stayin' at the Gold Nugget 'til mornin', then goin' back t' Denver."

"Think I'll have a talk with him," Sully removed his coat from the wall peg.

"I'm coming with you," Michaela reached for her coat.

"Michaela....," he hesitated.

"I want to see the men who threatened my son," she argued.

Hank winked, "Guess I don't need t' tell ya once she's got somethin' in her mind, Sully...."

"I know," he shook his head.

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

The smoke-filled barroom of the Gold Nugget was alive with activity. Michaela's discomfort in the place was obvious. She glanced around at the drinking, smoking and propositioning of women. Then she spotted Monica talking with a well dressed, gray haired customer.

"There he is," Hank nodded.

"The man with Monica?" Michaela's eyes widened.

"Yep," Hank grinned. "He's been here before. Knows Monica real good. I never knew his name 'til he bailed out those two men today."

"Sully," she tugged at her husband's sleeve. "She knows him."

"Yeah, that's what Hank said," he wondered why she repeated it.

"May I speak with you privately?" she lowered her voice to her husband.

"I got things t' do," Hank tipped his hat and walked to the bar.

There he saw the men who had accosted Matthew. When they started to move toward Sully, Hank pulled his gun.

"You boys wouldn't wanna interrupt their conversation, would ya?" Hank clicked back the trigger.

The men turned around to face the bar.

"That's better," Hank grinned. "Don't like folks t' be rude in my place."

"What is it?" Sully turned to Michaela.

"That man, Truly, has done some very bizarre things to Monica," she was embarrassed.

"Bizarre?" he was curious.

"Yes," she stopped.

"Like what?" Sully pushed.

"I'd rather not say," she felt her face flush.

"Michaela, I'm your husband. You can tell me," he encouraged her.

"Things.... with a cigar," she looked at the floor.

"A cigar?" he spoke louder.

"Shhh," she raised her finger to her lips.

"What'd he do?" he raised his eyebrows and looked back at the man.

"He... used it in..." she leaned closer to him. "In an intimate area."

"You sure o' this?" Sully whispered.

"I'll verify with her that he's the one," Michaela replied. "But it seems logical. Monica told me that he is a politician from Denver, and Hank says he knows Monica well."

"Okay," he nodded. "I'll speak t' him, an' you talk t' Monica just t' be sure."

They approached the couple.

"Dr. Mike!" Monica smiled. "I'm surprised to see ya in here."

"I just wanted to see how you were doing," Michaela looked at Truly with a disapproving glance. "Might I have a word with you alone?"

"Ya mind?" the prostitute looked at her customer.

"Go ahead," he nodded.

As the women walked away, Sully spoke, "You the man who bailed out the two men from Centerville?"

"Yes," he eyed Sully with suspicion.

"They set off an explosion at our town Thanksgivin' dinner," Sully came to the point.

"Pure conjecture," Truly answered. "And what business is this of yours, sir?"

"It's my business 'cause a friend o' mine is lyin' near death on account o' them," he took a step closer to peer into his eyes. "An 'cause I caught 'em on my land makin' threats t' my son."

"They'll have their day in court, I can assure you," Truly took a sip of whiskey.

"Speakin' o' court," Sully glanced at Michaela. She nodded, and he continued, "I understand you're up for the Supreme Court."

"How do you kn...." he stopped when Sully's steel blue eyes glared at him.

The mountain man spoke in a low, threatening tone, "If ya don't want your little meetin's with Monica here t' get out t' the newspapers, you'll keep this Lake County War away from my family, my home, an' my friends. Otherwise, you'll have more t' worry about than your dirty little career in politics." Through clinched teeth, Sully added, "Do I make myself clear?"

"Perfectly," Truly was perspiring.

"I expect you'll be leavin' first thing t'morrow?" Sully backed away when he saw Michaela and Monica returning.

"Ah, yes," Truly tried to loosen his collar.

"Good," Sully frowned.

He took Michaela's arm and escorted her to the door.

"But I didn't speak to Mr. Truly," she resisted.

"Ya ain't missin' much," Sully opened the door for her.

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

They met Cloud Dancing as they crossed the street.

"Did ya find the medicine?" Sully asked his friend.

"I did," the Cheyenne medicine man pulled some leaves from his pouch. "Dr. Mike, the Spirits have guided me to use these on Loren."

"What is it?" she looked at the plant.

"Deer fern," he said.

"I have come to trust the wisdom of your medicine and your Spirits," Michaela nodded. "Let's go."

They entered the Clinic and began their work.

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

It was quite late before Michaela and Sully finally got into one of the recovery rooms. Katie slept soundly in her crib, Dorothy and Cloud Dancing kept watch over Loren, and Matthew and Brian were asleep across the hall.

Sully pulled his wife closer, "Tired?"

"Not really," she patted his arm. "I had plenty of rest earlier."

"Good," he smiled. "The babies movin' around much?"

"Quite a bit today," she slid her hand down to her belly. Then she turned to her husband, "Sully, may I ask you something?"

"Yep," he looked at her with interest.

"When I was examining Monica, she told me something else that Mr. Truly had her do," she began to wonder if she should mention this.

"What?" he smiled at her reserve.

"I don't quite know how to broach the subject," she looked away.

"Just tell me, Michaela," he gently guided her face back to look at him.

"Monica talked about a way of satisfying a man's... needs... without their actually having...." she stopped again.

Sully put his finger to her lips, "Michaela, this don't sound like somethin' that you an' me would do."

"Do you know what I'm talking about?" she raised her eyebrow.

"When ya live in a minin' camp, ya learn things," he wanted to allay her discomfort.

"I just... well, I wanted to tell you that if you want us ...." she was prevented from finishing her sentence when he leaned closer to kiss her.

"Stop worryin' about me," he spoke low.

She turned up the corner of her mouth in a grin, "I don't want you to hurt yourself chopping all of that wood."

"My needs go deeper than just physical love, Michaela," Sully tried to explain. "Most of all, I need t' know that you're safe, healthy, an' happy. We'll have our physical love again when the time's right. Understand?"

Her eyes welled up with tears, "You are an incredible man, Byron Sully."

"Nah," he shook his head. "You're the incredible one." Rubbing her belly, he added, "What's happenin' in here's pretty incredible, too."

"A poem?" she requested.

After pondering for a moment, he spoke:

"She gave me eyes, she gave me ears;
And humble cares, and delicate fears;
A heart, the fountain of sweet tears;
And love and thought and joy."

"Shakespeare?" she pulled his arm around her.

"Nope," he kissed her shoulder. "Wordsworth."

"I still insist that you're incredible," she felt warm and safe in his arms.

"If it'll help ya sleep, then go ahead," he grinned.

"Good night then. I love you," she closed her eyes.

"'Night," he whispered. "I love you, too."

It was still dark when a sudden cry from downstairs awakened them, "Michaela!"

************
Chapter 18
************

Sully and Michaela hurried down the steps. To their amazement, Loren was awake and speaking.

"Cloud Dancin's medicine worked!" Dorothy exclaimed.

Michaela began to examine Loren's eyes and neurological reactions, "Loren, how do you feel?"

"Like I fell on my head," the storekeeper's voice was faint.

"Can you drink some water for me?" Michaela asked.

"I reckon, but I'd rather have somethin' stronger," Loren replied.

"In time," she patted his arm.

Brian rushed down the steps and heard his friend's voice, "Mr. Bray! You're better!"

Loren pretended to not be pleased to see the young man, "Ya call this better?"

"Better than unconscious, Loren," Sully put his hand on Brian's shoulder.

"What happened t' me anyway?" Loren sipped the water.

"It's a rather long story," Michaela smiled.

"Well, ain't someone gonna tell me?" the older man looked around.

"I will, Mr. Bray," Brian offered.

Noticing Cloud Dancing, Loren said, "What's he doin' here? Plannin' on takin' over my Mercantile?"

"Loren!" Dorothy scolded. "Ya owe your life t' Cloud Dancin' and Michaela!"

"Puttin' these Injun leaves all over me?" he picked up one of the plants.

"Those have healing powers," Cloud Dancing stated.

"Heathen nonsense," Loren bellowed.

"I'd say he's back to his ol' self," Sully shook his head.

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

In time, Loren was able to return to his room at the Mercantile. Michaela began devoting more of her time to planning for the Colorado College, but she continued to delight Sully with her daily updates about This One and That One. Christmas was a mere two weeks away, and Colleen and Andrew would be joining the family for the holidays. Michaela was going into the Clinic only two days per week, mostly to check on little Harriet and Teresa Slicker.

In the meantime, Dr. William Slocum, the man who expressed interest in helping to start the college, was to arrive later in the day. Thanks to Matthew, Judge Ebenezer Wells persuaded General William Jackson Palmer, the founder of Colorado Springs and the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, to donate land and contribute funds to the Colorado College.

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

On the morning of Dr. Slocum's arrival, Sully woke before his wife and decided to read her latest installment of This One and That One.

"Dear Papa,
We enjoy it when you talk to us. Mama says the sound of your voice makes us move around more. She told us that her navel is about to pop out and will not be back to normal for some time. We weigh about 6 ounces now, but Mama believes This One is a bit larger than That One. Less than five months before we meet you.

Love,
This One and That One"

Sully put the note back on the table. Carefully, he pulled the quilt down from Michaela and began to unbutton the middle of her nightgown. Sure enough, her belly button was changing. He smiled and rebuttoned the gown. Then he adjusted the quilt to ensure her warmth.

She stirred, "Wha-- What are you doing?"

He leaned closer, "Just checkin' on things."

"And?" she opened her eyes wider.

"An'," he cupped his warm hand on her growing belly. "This One an' That One are just fine."

"Why did you unbutton my nightgown?" she placed her hand on his.

"T' check your navel," he shyly smiled.

Michaela sighed, "I'm getting so fat."

"No ya ain't," he could see that she was about to cry. "It's the babies growin', not you."

"My legs are cramped," she felt a tear run down her cheek.

Sully sat up and reached down to massage them, "Better?"

Her tears began to flow more freely, "Oh, Sully."

He pulled her into his embrace, "Hey, everythin's all right. You're still the most beautiful woman in the world."

"How could you ever think that with me like this?" she sobbed.

He stroked her cheek with the back of his hand,

"Thou art fairer than the evening air,
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars."

"Not even Shakespeare can make me feel beautiful right now," her tears dampened his arm.

"It was Marlowe," he teased.

"I'm fat and getting fatter," she looked down.

Sully lifted her chin to gaze into her eyes. That was it for Michaela. No matter how she felt, when her husband looked at her with those blue eyes, her soul was captured. Without another word, Sully softly wiped her tears. Then he slowly moved his lips toward hers.

"When I tell ya that you're beautiful, Michaela," he paused.

She leaned forward to await his kiss.

"You're beautiful," he completed the kiss.

"Thank you, Sully," her mood instantly improved.

"For what?" his heart was full of love for her.

"For making me feel better," she confessed. "For being my best friend... for being the love of my life."

"My pleasure," his voice made her long for him.

Under normal circumstances, Michaela would have surrendered herself to him completely at this moment. She knew that he wanted it. She herself wanted it. But it could not be. And so, he rose from the bed, washed his face, and turned to her.

"Why don't ya sleep some more?" he pulled on his buckskins.

"I have to prepare for Dr. Slocum's arrival," she pulled her legs around to the edge of the bed. "Why don't you?"

"Gotta go do some chores," he buttoned up his shirt.

"Chopping wood?" she assumed.

He laughed, "Always gotta do that."

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

Dorothy and Sully stood with Michaela as she anxiously awaited Dr. Slocum's arrival in Colorado Springs. When she saw a well dressed man and woman disembark from the train, she stepped forward. William Slocum was a refined gentleman whose background in New England academia circles was quite distinguished.

"I'm Dr. Michaela Quinn. I sent you the telegrams about the Colorado College," she extended her gloved hand.

"Fred Slocum," he removed his hat. "And this is my wife Elizabeth."

"Fred?" Michaela was confused. "I thought your name is William."

"Yes, Frederick is my middle name, Dr. Quinn," he smiled politely. "I must say, I was not expecting to see a...."

"Woman?" she finished his sentence.

"A woman in such a radiant blossom of maternal anticipation," Elizabeth tapped his arm.

Michaela blushed, "I'd like to introduce my husband, Byron Sully. And this is the editor of our newspaper, Dorothy Jennings."

He shook hands with each, "A pleasure to meet you both."

Preston Lodge approached, "Slocum! Slocum!"

"I don't believe it," the professor frowned. "Preston A. Lodge III."

An out-of-breath Preston approached him, "You remember me!"

"One does not forget a bad toothache," Slocum said, under his breath. Then to the banker, "Yes, Mr. Lodge. How is your father?"

"Rich," Preston replied.

"Unlike you," Dorothy could not resist the dig.

"I understand that you've come to help establish our college," Preston ignored her remark.

"Yes," Slocum nodded. "I am anxious to discuss with your town council the financial backing, curriculum and degree requirements as soon as possible."

"You ARE staying at my spa," Preston motioned for an employee to pick up his luggage.

"Well, we....," the professor stammered.

"I insist," Preston grinned.

"Dr. Slocum," Michaela spoke up. "You and your wife are more than welcome to stay with us."

Elizabeth intervened, "We would not want to inconvenience you."

"Mr. Lodge's establishment will be fine with us. What time do I meet with the town council?" the professor inquired.

"Seven," Michaela informed him.

As Preston led them away, Slocum turned back, "We'll be there."

"Think I'll ride out with 'em to do an interview" Dorothy pulled a pencil from behind her ear, then rushed to catch up.

"Looks like it's just you an' me for the afternoon," Sully put his hand on his wife's disappearing waist.

"Sully, I have to...." she responded to the nearness of him. "What did you have in mind?"

"How 'bout a picnic, just us?" he raised his eyebrows.

"A picnic?" she was tempted.

"Um-hum," he nodded.

"You want to go on a picnic with fat me?" she teased.

"Fat?" he slid his hand to her tummy. "Nope. I wanna go on a picnic with my wife an' babies."

"What about Katie?" she thought.

"Visitin' Grace's good practice for Katie helpin' with a baby. An' after these young'ns come, we won't have much time t' ourselves," he reasoned.

"I suppose you have a point," Michaela agreed.

"You'll come with me?" he anticipated.

"I'd love to," she accepted.

************
Chapter 19
************

Sully and Michaela arrived at a secluded pond in a wooded area. It was the same pond at which they had taught Katie to swim. He helped her down from the buckboard, then lifted the picnic basket and blanket from the back.

"You've thought of everything," she looked around.

"I dreamed about this place," he unfolded the blanket.

"Dreamed about it?" she wanted to know more.

"Um-hum," he nodded. "When I was mappin' the mines with Caroline."

"Caroline inspired you to dream of this place?" she pretended to be jealous.

"No," he smiled. "Missin' you inspired me."

"It's rather chilly for a picnic," she shivered.

Sully engulfed her in his arms.

"Warmer?" he hoped.

"Somewhat," she turned to face him.

Lifting her hands to his cheeks, she stood up on her toes to kiss him.

"Just like in my dream," Sully hugged her.

"What else was in your dream?" she sat down on the blanket.

"Some things we can't do," he placed the basket beside her and sat down, too.

"Like what?" she opened to see what food had been packed.

"In my dream, I made a swing for ya an' pushed ya back an' forth over the water," he set down the plates.

"You're right," she unfolded a napkin and placed it on his lap. "We can't do that right now. What else did we do?"

"We both ended up in the water," he unfolded a napkin for her.

"Too cold for that today," she shook her head. "And was there more to your dream?"

Sully caressed her cheek:

"And her face so fair,
Stirred with her dream as rose-leaves with the air."

"It must be Byron," she turned his hand to kiss its palm.

"Yep," he acknowledged. "Ain't ya hungry?"

"Hungry?" she pulled out the fried chicken from the basket. "Of course! And you?"

"A little," he enjoyed watching her ravenous appetite. "You go ahead and start."

Michaela dug in to the meal.

"Forgot somethin'," Sully reached into the wicker container.

"What?" her mouth was still full.

"This," he retrieved a giant dill pickle from the basket.

"Just what I craved!" she exclaimed. She began to devour it, as well. Suddenly the expression on her face changed.

"Michaela?" he noticed.

"Sully," she grabbed his hand. "They're moving."

He laughed, "Must be the pickle."

"Here," she pulled his hand to her abdomen.

"Josef an' Deborah are real active today," he rubbed.

"Joseph and Deborah?" she teased. "So it's a boy and a girl."

"I think so," he pretended to be quite serious. He slid his hand lower, "This One's Josef." Moving his hand, he added, "That One's Deborah."

"And how do you know?" she indulged him.

"Cloud Dancin' told me 'he eka e kone' and 'hetaneka e kone'--a girl an' a boy," Sully broke up a biscuit to munch on.

Michaela repeated the Cheyenne words. Then she asked, "How do you say I love you in Cheyenne?"

Sully lifted her hand and held it against his heart, "Nemehotatse."

"Nemehotatse," she imitated his inflection.

For some time, they sat with their foreheads leaned against one another, feeling the movements of the babies. Michaela shivered slightly.

"It's gettin' colder," he observed. "I best be gettin' ya back home."

"Sully," she squeezed his hand. "Thank you."

"Any time," he winked. "Gotta get ya ready for this meetin' t'night." He helped her up.

"May I make a request?" she slid her arms around him.

"Sure," he was pleased at her maneuver.

"Would you bring me back here again?" she looked demure.

"Yep," he kissed her. "Come on. Let's go home."

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

"Okay," Jake spoke up to quiet the crowd which had gathered at the church. "Time t' hear from Dr. Slocum 'bout startin' our college."

The mayor sat down, and the professor rose to address the group.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Slocum began. "I want to assure you that the dream of starting a college here in Colorado Springs is well within the realm of feasibility."

Loren leaned over to Hank, "That mean it's possible?"

"I think so," the bartender nodded.

Slocum continued, "In addition to the land and funding granted by General Palmer, you will have the support of the Congregational Ministry. Among the financial backers of this endeavor is Henry Cutler of Massachusetts. Together, we shall make this a reality. Although construction of buildings will take a while longer, I believe that using a temporary facility, matriculation can begin by May of next year."

"May?" Michaela was pleased.

"Yes," the professor replied.

"Anyone got any questions for Dr. Slocum?" Jake spoke up.

Dorothy raised her hand, "Where will we get the teachers?"

"I have been in touch with some New England colleagues and am confident that we shall have a highly qualified faculty in place by May."

Loren stood, "What about buildin's? Who's gonna construct 'em?"

"I think Sully oughta be in charge o' that," Jake pointed to the silent mountain man. "What do ya say?"

Sully replied, "Gotta think about it."

Robert E contributed, "I'd be willin' t' help, Sully."

"Me, too," Matthew volunteered.

Michaela caught her husband's glance from the council table and smiled. At that moment, Sully knew he would begin working on some drawings for the Colorado College buildings.

"Any more questions?" Jake scanned the room.

"I have one," Preston rose to his feet.

"Can't wait t' hear it," Hank said sarcastically.

Preston glared at the barkeeper, "I am volunteering my services to oversee the fiscal management of the college."

"That mean ya wanna handle the money?" Hank sat up straighter.

"In a manner of speaking," Preston answered.

"We got no use for your hands on the money," Loren pointed his finger.

"Gentlemen," the banker looked around the room. "Who among us has more experience than I in dealing with such large sums of money?"

"An' losin' it," Hank sided with Loren.

"Maybe we oughta hold off on decidin' that," Jake attempted to compromise.

"But I'm sure that Dr. Slocum will need the money handled in a timely manner," Preston pressed.

The professor cleared his throat, "I have known Mr. Lodge for many years. If there is one thing that I know about him, it's his acumen for banking. However, to allay any concerns that you good citizens may harbor, why don't you appoint an oversight committee?"

Loren turned to Hank, "That mean we're gonna keep an eye on him?"

"Yes," Michaela acknowledged. "That's an excellent idea, Dr. Slocum."

"Right, then," Jake pondered the committee. "I appoint Dr. Mike, the Reverend, an' me."

"The Reverend?" Hank could not believe it. "He can't even see money."

"Dr. Mike an' me can tell him how much is comin' in an' leavin'," Jake reasoned.

"I accept your appointment," Michaela said.

"And I, as well," Reverend Johnson raised his hand.

"When d' ya think we should meet on this again, Dr. Slocum?" Jake folded his arms.

"Perhaps once a month until March, unless something warrants our attention sooner," the professor replied.

With a bang of the gavel, the meeting adjourned.

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

Michaela came down the steps into her kitchen. The hour was late, and she was curious as to what her husband was doing. She noticed his back to her at the table and papers strewn about the area.

"What are you doing down here?" she placed her hands on his shoulders.

"Workin' on some drawin's," he did not look up.

"Drawings?" she did not understand.

"For the college," he raised his head.

Michaela came around to sit on his lap, "You've decided to accept the job?"

"You knew I would," he took her hand in his.

"I hoped you would," Michaela picked up a piece of paper. "This one looks good."

Sully turned the paper around, "Ya got it upside down."

"Oh," she grinned. "Now it looks even better."

"Any suggestions?" he placed the design back on the table.

"A bell tower," she nodded.

"All right," he wrote that on a list. "Any other ideas?"

She ran her hand across his chest, "I have an idea that we should go to bed. It's late."

Sully stood up and picked up the lamp, "You're right."

Michaela led him up the steps after an obligatory visit to the privy. He placed several logs on the fire in their bedroom.

"That's quite a stack of wood," she nodded to the pile.

"More where that came from," he unbuttoned his shirt.

Sully immediately noticed that Michaela was having difficulty sitting down on the bed. "Legs crampin' again?"

"Yes," she felt a tear.

Sully lifted them up and gently began to massage, "Any better?"

"Um-hum," she smiled faintly.

"Somethin' else wrong?" he sensed.

"Some dyspepsia," she held her stomach.

"I thought ya were over that," he held her hand.

"For the most part, I am," she tried to find a comfortable position. "Something at dinner did not agree with me."

Sully finished preparing for bed and climbed in beside her. Sliding his arm beneath her shoulders and gently placing his hand on her belly, he sighed, "Is this a more comfortable position?"

A grin crossed her face, "Yes."

"Good," he rubbed her tummy. "I got a question for ya."

"What?" she was beginning to feel better.

"What would ya like for Christmas?" he whispered.

"I have everything that I need," she kissed his cheek.

"Not much help," he teased.

"What would you like for Christmas, then?" she turned it around.

"Another book o' poetry," he answered.

"I thought you said you got a new one," she tried to read his face.

"I did, but I go through so many with you," Sully joked.

"Now may I ask you something?" she was curious.

"Sure," he replied.

"How do you find time to memorize all of these beautiful lines of poetry for me?" she spoke softly.

"I read when I can't sleep," he began to explain. "When I come across somethin' that makes me think o' you, it's easy for me t' remember. So ya gonna get me that new book?"

"I'll work on it," she yawned.

"Am I borin' ya?" he knew he was not.

"Never," she placed her hand on his chest. "I love to feel your heartbeat."

"My heart leaps up when I behold," he quoted. Before she could name an author, he added. "Wordsworth."

"You didn't let me guess," her voice was disappointed.

"I know you're tired," he pulled her hand up to his lips.

"Not too tired to guess," she yawned again.

Michaela closed her eyes. Sully could tell from her breathing that she was asleep. He was wide awake, however. In passing, he contemplated going back downstairs to continue work on his building design, but the feel of his wife in his arms, the scent of her hair as her head bordered his cheek, the warmth of her body next to his convinced him that he was where he needed to be.

************
Chapter 20
************

Christmas Eve arrived, and Michaela nervously sat at the kitchen table finalizing dinner plans. They had invited Cloud Dancing and Dorothy to join them for dinner after the church service. Colleen and Andrew were due to arrive by train this afternoon.

Sully descended the steps after putting Katie to bed for her nap.

Michaela looked up from her list, "Do you think I should invite Dr. Slocum and his wife for dinner?"

"If ya wanna," he looked on the stove to see what was cooking.

"We already have eight, plus Katie," she tallied.

"Always room for a couple more," he dipped his finger into a pan to taste the contents.

She sighed, "I want this Christmas to be special."

He pulled a chair close to her and sat down, "Cause o' the babies?"

She lowered her hand to her belly, "Yes. And I'm anxious to see Colleen again."

He assured her, "Everythin' will go fine."

"But it's been snowing all morning," she set down her pencil. "Matthew and Brian aren't back from getting our tree, Colleen's train may be late now, and I...."

Sully touched her lips, "An' ya gotta worry 'bout somethin'. The boys know how t' take care o' themselves. Colleen's train may be a little late, but everythin' will be okay."

The neigh of horses outside brought a smile to her face, "They're back."

"Now we can get the tree decorated," Sully went to the door to help his sons bring in the evergreen.

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

"Ma, it's real pretty out," Brian took off his hat. "You're always wantin' a white Christmas."

"I know," she sighed. "But I'd prefer it after my family is safely at home."

Soon they had the tree up and ready to decorate. Michaela started for the steps.

"Where ya goin'?" Sully turned to her. "This is your favorite part."

She headed up the stairs, "I want Katie to see."

They laughed as she went to get her daughter.

Sully and Matthew carefully placed the ornaments on the upper branches, while Brian handled the middle. They left the lower branches and unbreakable decorations for Katie.

When Michaela escorted the child into the room, her eyes opened in wonder.

"Big twee!" the little girl exclaimed.

"Come here, Kates," Sully bent over and clapped his hands.

She ran joyfully to her father and jumped into his arms. Sully lifted her up and helped her place the angel atop the tree. Then he set her down to complete filling in the lower branches as Michaela supervised from a chair.

"The angel is crooked," she observed.

Sully stepped back, "No it ain't."

Michaela insisted, "Yes, Sully. It's tilted to the left."

He repositioned himself to look again, "Seems straight to me. Maybe 'cause you're sittin' down."

"I know when something is crooked, and I am telling you that it's askew," she was unbending.

"Here," he went to her and helped her stand. "Look now."

She eyed the tree in silence for a few moments.

"Well?" Sully was growing impatient.

"It's fine," she walked into the kitchen.

"That mean it's not crooked?" Sully called after her.

"Yes," she muttered too softly for him to hear.

Fearing that she was upset, he followed after her.

"Ya mad?" he put his arms around her waist.

"Maybe," she loved the touch of him.

"For bein' wrong?" he teased.

"No," she looked down.

Sully lifted her chin to view her face, "Why then?"

"Nothing," she was closing down.

"I was only jokin' with ya, Michaela," he spoke low.

"I know," she walked to the kitchen window to view the drifting snow.

He went to her and placed his hands on her shoulders, "They'll get here safe."

She turned around to face him, "I love you, Sully."

He saw the tears in her eyes, "Hey? What's all this?"

She began to cry, "I don't know."

He wiped her cheeks, "I love you, too."

She slid her hands down to touch the babies. He gently placed his hand on top of hers. Unspoken was the love that they both felt at that moment for the precious lives growing inside of her.

Suddenly they sensed the presence of someone next to them. It was Katie. She reached up her little hand to try to touch her mother's belly. Sully stooped down and lifted her so that she could be included in the tender moment.

"I love babies, Mama," the little girl's hand fit inside her father's, and both rested on Michaela's abdomen.

"They'll love you, too, Sweetheart," Michaela smiled.

Brian approached and cleared his throat, "Me an' Matthew were just talkin'. Think we could ride int' town early an' wait for Colleen's train?"

Sully looked at his wife, "I think that'd be okay. If the weather turns too bad, just stay at the Clinic."

Matthew smiled. "I can't wait t' bring my little sister back home."

"I doubt if she'll be very little when you see her," Michaela predicted.

They donned their coats and departed.

Sully glanced toward the living room, "Know what that tree needs?"

"What?" Katie could not imagine.

"Needs some presents," he walked to the fireplace. "Who ya think could bring 'em?" Sully looked at this wife.

"Do you think that Santa Claus might deliver them since there's a little girl here?" Michaela's eyes grew wide.

"Who Santa Claus?" Katie was quite interested.

"He's also known as St. Nicholas," Michaela sat down in one of the wing back chairs. "He brings gifts for little girls and boys on Christmas, provided they've been good."

"I good," Katie was becoming excited.

"Yep," Sully lifted her into his arms. "Best little girl we know. Right, Mama?"

"That's right," his wife responded. "But I believe that the good little boys and girls must also go to bed early, in order for Santa to stop at their house."

"I go now!" Katie rushed to the steps.

"Not yet, Kates," Sully gently pulled her back. "After dinner tonight. Maybe we can even ask Santa t' get her t' eat more."

"Her finicky appetite is perfectly normal for her age," Michaela's physician mode kicked in.'

"Thanks, Dr. Mike," Sully grinned.

Michaela sat down and sighed, "This is turning into a blizzard."

With Katie in his arms, Sully sat beside her, "Michaela, if things get too bad, the boys'll stay in town 'til the storm lets up. Colleen an' Andrew will be all right. Why ya gotta fret? It's Christmas Eve. You an' me got some time alone with Katie 'fore we got a house full o' company t'night."

"I know you're right, Sully," she forced a smile and took her daughter's hand. "Are you excited to see your big sister, Sweetheart?"

"Yep," Katie's eyes brightened. "She sleep in my room?"

"Oh, Sully! I forgot all about sleeping arrangements," Michaela was upset.

"Okay," he set Katie down to play with her bunny. "Matthew an' Brian can double up again, and Colleen an' Andrew can have her ol' room."

"What if Cloud Dancing and Dorothy need to spend the night?" she reached for her list.

"We'll work somethin' out," his voice was calming.

Sully stood up and extended his hand to help her up.

"It ain't good for ya t' be frettin' about all o' this. Everythin'll work out," he slid his arms around her and pulled her closer.

She put her head against his chest and glanced out the window, "I hope you're right."

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

Matthew and Brian felt chilled from the falling temperatures. The drifting snow was reaching depths as high as two feet now. Their horses lumbered through the drifts, and finally they reached town.

Colorado Springs had been blanketed by the white carpet since early morning. The boys managed to make it to the Depot, where Horace was busily receiving and sending telegrams. Matthew and Brian entered the office.

"Horace," Matthew removed his hat. "How's the train runnin'?"

"It's crazy 'round here, Matthew," the telegraph operator nervously shook his head. "Just got a wire from Denver. The train Colleen an' Andrew are s'posed t' be on ain't there yet."

"Where is it then?" Brian wondered.

"Don't know for sure," Horace heard his wire ticking again. "Another message comin' through," he picked up his pencil. "This one's from Colleen!"

************
Chapter 21
************

Horace spoke as he translated the Morse code, "They made it t' Denver. Trains ain't leavin' there though." Then he paused.

"They won't make it for Christmas, then" Matthew looked at Brian.

"They're takin' a Wells Fargo stage," Horace continued.

"Can it get through?" Brian worried.

Horace looked up as the message concluded, "Yep. They'll have two drivers an' plenty o' shovels. Don't ya worry."

"Ma's the one who'll worry," Brian sat down.

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

Sully convinced Michaela and Katie to take a nap. He estimated that the temperature had dropped at least 30 degrees since morning. Putting on his coat, he began shoveling the steps to the homestead. Then he made several trips to the already overstocked woodshed to bring in logs for the fireplaces.

With his chores complete, he sat down in a wing back chair and pulled a small package from his pocket. A note on it read "To Michaela. Love, Sully." He opened it to checked one last time that it was positioned just right in the box. The gold, heart-shaped charm made him smile. Engraved were the words "My Heartsong" in Cheyenne. Replacing it in the box, he contemplated where to hide it.

He did not hear his wife approach.

"What's that?" she noticed the object in his hands.

"Nothin'," he swiftly returned it to his pocket.

"Is it my present?" she moved closer.

"Don't know what you're talkin' about," he lied.

Michaela sat down on his lap. She ran her fingers through his hair and leaned closer for a kiss. Sully soon forgot to be on guard. At that instant, his wife lifted the package from his pocket.

"No fair!" he laughed.

Michaela read the note, then shook the small box, "What is it?"

"Ya don't really wanna know before Christmas, do ya?" he sounded disappointed.

"Humm," she pondered.

Slipping the gift back into his pocket, she sighed, "No. I'll wait."

Sully fidgeted.

"Something wrong?" Michaela returned to stroking his hair.

"I think I best go chop some wood," he swallowed hard.

She was suddenly embarrassed at the effect her kisses had on him, "I'm sorry, Sully. I shouldn't have...."

"That's okay," he helped her up. "We need more logs anyway."

"We have the best stocked woodshed in the territory," she grinned.

"Think of it as a symbol o' how much I love ya," he winked.

He put on his coat and exited, sending a burst of frigid air into the house. Michaela was amazed at the temperature drop. The window panes were forming ice crystals, fogging the visibility. She began to busy herself with dinner preparations.

"Mama!" Katie's voice was heard from overhead.

"Right here, Sweetheart," Michaela lifted her voice up.

"I cold!" her daughter shouted from the top step.

"Come here, and let's warm you then," the mother positioned herself at the bottom step.

Katie made her way down the steps under Michaela's supervision.

"Let's sit by the fire to warm you," she took her daughter's hand.

"Where Papa?" Katie asked.

"Outside," Michaela replied.

"Cold out," the little girl climbed up to look outside. "Papa choppin' wood again?"

"Yes," Michaela felt her cheeks warm.

Katie was soon distracted and went to check the tree, "I sleep but no pwesents, Mama."

Michaela followed her into the living room and sat down, "It's still Christmas Eve, Katie. Santa comes tonight."

"Oh," the toddler raced to her mother. "Babies movin'?" Katie rubbed her mother's tummy.

"Not at the moment," Michaela smiled. "They're quiet. I think they might be asleep."

"How they sleep in there?" Katie's eyes widened.

"They're all curled up and warm," the mother smiled. "How about you? Are you warm now?"

"Yep," Katie nodded. "Mama hold?"

"Of course, Sweetheart, but you'll have to help Mama. Can you climb up here beside me?" Michaela extended her arms.

"I climb," the child quickly managed to reach the comfort of her mother's arms. "I like here."

"I like having you here," Michaela stroked her daughter's fair hair.

Katie's inquisitive mind was soon at work, "I give Papa pwesent for Cwismas?"

"I know something he would love to have from you," she replied.

"What?" the little girl's eyes widened.

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

It was after dark and still no sign of her children. Michaela knew that she must remain calm for the sake of the babies. The were probably staying in town, delaying their return until the weather broke. The snow stopped falling at dusk.

"Mama!" Katie shouted from the living room. "Look what Papa got!"

Michaela entered the living room to see Sully's hanging a piece of mistletoe near the mantle. She smiled to herself.

"Did Papa tell you what that's for?" she neared her husband.

"Said ya have t' kiss him," Katie clapped. "Ya wanna?"

"I wanna," Michaela grinned.

Sully pulled her into his embrace and sweetly brought his lips to hers, whispering, "Merry Christmas."

Closing her eyes to enjoy the moment, Michaela forgot her concerns and let the security of her husband's arms carry her away. She found the effect of his embrace to be more calming than anything she could imagine. Both parents were too lost in each other to notice that Katie had climbed up to look out the window.

"Big wagon here!" the child shouted.

"What?" Sully turned to her.

"Big wagon," Katie pointed.

Sully and Michaela went to the window. To their amazement, a Wells Fargo stage had pulled up in front of the homestead. Sully grabbed his coat and went outside. Out of the coach stepped Matthew and Brian, Colleen and Andrew, along with Dorothy and Cloud Dancing.

They quickly entered the house carrying packages and food. Hugs greeted each of the guests as they crossed the threshold. Sully invited the drivers in, as well, but they insisted on heading for home.

"Colleen!" Michaela embraced her daughter. "You look wonderful."

"I feel great, Ma," her cheeks were rosy. "You look real good, too."

"I didn't expect you in this weather!" Michaela bade her to sit.

"Matthew an' Brian talked the drivers into it," her daughter laughed.

Matthew spoke up, "Told 'em a pregnant lady needed t' get home for Christmas."

"Once we reached Colorado Springs, it wasn't that much further to have the stage come here," Andrew added.

"And when Miss Grace offered extra food for dinner, they couldn't refuse," Brian grinned.

Michaela sat down, overwhelmed by joy of having her friends and family.

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

After dinner, all congregated for Michaela's annual reading of "A Christmas Carol." The hour was quite late when she concluded, and everyone retired for the evening. Dorothy slept in Katie's room, while Cloud Dancing slept in the living room. Michaela and Sully put their daughter in with them for the night.

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

The next morning, Michaela and Sully were awakened by their Katie's gleeful screams, "Santa here! Mama! Papa! Wake up!"

"We're awake, Kates," Sully yawned. "So's half o' Colorado Springs now."

"Open pwesents," she called.

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

Everyone assembled in the living room to await the gift exchange. Katie jumped up and down when she saw a wagon, a sled, and a new doll.

Cloud Dancing opened his gift from Dorothy, a new pair of moccasins. "Thank you, Dorothy," his eyes shown with love. He began a story, and all stopped to listen.

"When the white men first came to the Indian camps, they announced that they wanted to buy 'moccasins.' But the Cheyenne who heard them thought they were looking for 'Makasee,' a Cheyenne lady. So they called for Makasee. She arrived wearing moccasins.

"The white people saw her and assumed she was willing to sell the moccasins to them. So they asked 'How much?' This time, the Indians thought they were asking for 'Homate,' a large-nosed Cheyenne man.

Still not understanding, the whites asked more clearly, 'How much money?' The word 'money' did not help much for the Indians thought it was 'manehe' meaning pelican. The Indians figured that the whites must be saying that Homate was a pelican, so they replied that he is not a pelican. He just has a big nose."

They all laughed, and soon everyone had opened their gifts except for Sully and Michaela. The glances which they exchanged indicated that they preferred to do this in private.

Dorothy noticed and looked around the room, "Who wants to help me fix breakfast?"

To her amazement, everyone replied in the affirmative. Soon all had relocated to the kitchen, leaving Michaela and Sully alone.

************
Chapter 22
************

Sully lifted a small package from the mantle. He held it before Michaela and smiled, "Merry Christmas."

"Thank you," she coyly looked up at him.

Delicately, Michaela unwrapped the box and opened it. Her expression spoke volumes to her husband.

"Sully! It's lovely!" she gently removed it and held it up to read the inscription. "What does it say?"

"It's Cheyenne for 'My Heartsong,'" he unhooked the latch to put it around her neck.

"My Heartsong," she pulled back her hair to allow easier access to her neck. "That's beautiful."

"I never told ya before," he revealed. "But when ya were abducted by Dog Soldiers, and I didn't know where they took ya, I lifted my cries to the Spirits. I went from village t' village askin' if anyone knew where ya were. To the Indians, that's what I called ya. My Heartsong."

Tears formed in her eyes, "Sully, thank you for this charm and for that beautiful story." She kissed him, "And thank you for loving me."

"You're welcome," his heart was full.

"Now, it's your turn," Michaela lifted his gift from the mantle, as well.

Sully took the package, "Humm. What could it be?"

"You'll never guess," Michaela teased.

It was the book of poetry he had requested. Inside was a message in Michaela's handwriting:

"Poets are all who love, who feel great truths and tell them.
And the truth of truth is love."

He smiled, "Thank you, Michaela. Whose quote?"

"Philip James Bailey," she hugged him. "There's another gift for you." She pointed behind the tree, "There. Can you lift it for me?"

He pulled it up and shook it, "What is it?"

"Open it," she was anxious for him to see.

Sully pulled the wrapping off and discovered its contents. It was a wooden-covered scrap book. On the front, was delicately carved "This One and That One."

He opened the cover to find each of the letters she had written from the perspective of the babies to their father mounted on a page of its own.

"Michaela," he could hardly speak.

"There's room for more letters," she indicated. "Cloud Dancing did the cover."

"I love it," he ran his hand across the carving.

"Good," she cupped his hand to his cheek. "There's one more gift for you."

"What's that?" he kissed the palm of her hand.

"Katie!" Michaela beckoned her daughter. "Come here, Sweetheart."

The little girl toddled in, icing around her mouth.

"What's this?" Sully lifted her into his arms, wiped the confection from her mouth and tasted it.

Michaela dampened her handkerchief and removed the remaining icing from the little girl's cheek, "Now, do you remember what you were going to give Papa for Christmas?"

"I 'member," she nodded. She looked straight at her father with great attention and seriousness as she began a rendition of "Silent Night." The words were not all correct, but the sound of her voice sweetly singing to him, coupled with the expression in her beautiful brown eyes, brought a lump to his throat.

The rest of the household fell silent, listening to Katie. When the song concluded, tears streamed down Michaela's cheeks. Sully proudly grinned, and kissed his daughter's cheek.

"That was real pretty, Kates," he hugged her. "Thank you."

"Welcome," she smiled.

"Ready t' give Mama her present?" he gave her a gentle shake.

"Yep," she nodded.

Sully reached behind the tree and pulled out a piece of paper. Handing it to Katie, he said, "Give it to your Ma."

The child excitedly reached out to present a piece of paper to her mother. It was folded neatly in half. On the front was a primitive drawing of a Christmas tree with an angel discernible on the top. Michaela opened it and saw a large outline of a heart in red. Inside, in her daughter's handwriting, were the awkwardly drawn words, "I LOVE MAMA. KATIE."

With moist eyes, Michaela leaned toward Katie and kissed her.

"Ya sad, Mama?" the child noticed her mother's tears.

"No, I'm quite happy!" Michaela told her. Then looking at her husband, she lovingly said, "Sully, just think. This time next year, we'll have two more little ones with us."

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

The afternoon was spent in delightful conversation and company. It had been many weeks since Michaela and Sully had felt so at peace and relaxed.

Dorothy and Cloud Dancing borrowed two horses to head back to Colorado Springs. She wanted to get out a special edition of the Gazette on the blizzard. Matthew and Brian took Katie outside to make a snowman once the temperature rose to a tolerable level.

Michaela and Colleen took the opportunity for privacy to sit by the fire in the living room, while Sully and Andrew conversed in the kitchen. Andrew paced as Sully sat leisurely watching his children through the window.

"Somethin' botherin' ya, Andrew?" the mountain man noticed.

"Well, um," the young doctor debated. "I was wondering if I could have a sort of... man-to-man talk."

"Sure," Sully turned to face him. "What's on your mind?"

Andrew swallowed hard, then sat down near Sully to keep his conversation from being overheard in the living room.

"As a physician, of course, I realize that, biologically, certain things occur when a woman is expecting a baby," Andrew began.

"And?" Sully encouraged.

"I was just wondering if, as a husband".... he hesitated.

"Just say it, Andrew," Sully prodded.

"Well, it's Colleen's mood shifts," the son-in-law finally blurted out. "I never know what to expect. One minute she can be laughing and talkative. The next, she's quiet or in tears. What can I do?"

"Just love her," Sully grinned. "Always tell her that ya love her. She's carryin' your baby. Ain't nothin' more precious," he looked outside again. "T' tell ya the truth, Michaela's mood swings just make me love her more."

"They do?" Andrew found it hard to believe.

"Yep," Sully sighed. "When her mood changes, it lets me know she needs me even more."

"I never thought of it that way," Andrew pondered it.

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

"Ma," Colleen glanced at her mother. "Can I ask ya something?"

"Something about medical school?" Michaela wanted to discuss her daughter's future.

Colleen recognized the maneuver, "No. Don't fret about that. I'll finish school. I haven't given up my dream."

"I'm glad," Michaela smiled. "What did you want to ask me?"

"'Bout the way Andrew's acting," Colleen lowered her voice.

"How is he acting?" Michaela was concerned.

"He... he seems sort o' distant lately," the daughter replied.

"Is he still spending a lot of time at the hospital?" the mother inquired.

"No," Colleen shook her head. "He's home more now."

"Well, keep in mind that you two are still newlyweds, Colleen," Michaela explained. "You still have many adjustments to make."

"I think he might be acting different 'cause of the baby," Colleen confessed. "Like he's afraid."

"He does want this child, doesn't he?" Michaela patted her hand.

"Oh, yes," Colleen asserted.

"Then don't worry," her mother grinned. "Perhaps he's nervous about all of the changes the baby will cause in your lives."

"Ya think that's it?" the young woman hoped.

"I believe so," Michaela replied. "Andrew has delivered babies, but it's quite another story when the baby you're bringing into the world is your own. But as my mother once counseled me, there is no greater joy on this earth, Colleen. Relish each second of it. This baby is a part of you and the man you love."

"It seems like I been expecting forever," Colleen looked at her belly.

"I know that feeling!" Michaela laughed. "But in a few months, it will worth every second of it."

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

"With Katie, Michaela felt like she'd been expectin' forever," Sully recalled.

"That's how Colleen feels," Andrew agreed. "So just tell her I love her?"

"That's it," Sully shrugged. "It's amazin' how powerful those three words are."

Michaela entered the room as he finished his comment.

"What three words?" she set down her tea cup.

Sully pulled her into his arms, "I love you."

Michaela blushed at his move, "My favorite three words."

Sully motioned with his head for Andrew to go join Colleen, and the young man left them.

"What were you an' Colleen talkin' about?" he asked.

Michaela paused before answering, "Andrew and the baby."

"What about 'em?" Sully walked to the window to check on Katie.

"Do you think he may be uncomfortable at the changes the baby will bring?" she confided.

"Maybe," Sully nodded. "I know he's uncomfortable with the changes in Colleen."

"Perhaps I should speak with her again," Michaela started for the living room.

Sully pulled her back into his arms, "Let Andrew have a turn."

"Know what?" she leaned her head closer.

"What?" he felt her belly against him.

"I'm the luckiest woman in the world," she smiled. "I don't know how you do it, but you always know just the right thing to say to me."

He lifted her chin for a kiss, "Sometimes I don't wanna say a word."

As their kiss deepened, they heard Colleen clearing her throat, "Ma? Pa? Can I ask a favor?"

Andrew was by her side.

"Of course," Michaela was a bit flustered.

Sully put his hand on his wife's shoulder, "What can we do for ya?"

************
Chapter 23
************

Colleen just came out with it, "Would you mind if we stayed in Colorado Springs 'til after our baby is born?"

"Of course we wouldn't mind," Michaela looked to Sully.

Andrew added, "We would not want to impose by staying here. I'm sure Preston would take me back, and we could stay at the Spa."

"And I want to get back to medical school as soon as possible," Colleen assured her parents. "It's just, I'd feel a whole lot better about everything that's going to be happening if I were here."

"I understand," Michaela was relieved to have Colleen nearby again.

"Sounds good," Sully smiled. He put his arm around his daughter, "Good t' have ya home again."

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

The months passed, and the expectant mothers' waistlines continued to expand. Dr. Bernard made more frequent trips to Colorado Springs. Andrew returned to his job at the Spa and found Preston even more annoying than ever to work for. Still, it was an income and a nice roof over their heads.

Jake Slicker was the most nervous expectant father the town had ever seen, but he stayed sober. Hank and Loren began a betting pool on when all of the babies would be born.

Dr. Slocum proceeded on schedule in assembling a faculty and curriculum for the Colorado College. With the aid of Robert E, Matthew, and many other volunteers, Sully had nearly completed the construction of a building in which classes could begin meeting.

Michaela's writings about This One and That One became as lengthy as a book. And the log pile grew to epic proportions. By spring, Sully found it difficult to explain to visitors why so many logs were necessary.

April was passing with no labor pains by Michaela. However, all of the symptoms of her early pregnancy returned--fatigue and a constant need to visit the privy most noticeably. With Sully's finishing construction of the college building and the impossibility of Michaela's traveling, they decided to move into the Clinic until the babies arrived. Matthew and Brian still stayed at the homestead, and Katie joined her parents.

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

Sully left Michaela a note and took Katie with him early one April morning before his wife rose. They rode to a special place, a place he had not visited for a year. When he dismounted, he carried his daughter to the tree sapling.

"Where we are, Papa?" Katie toddled around in the tall grass when he set her down.

"Come here, sweet girl," he clapped his hands. "I wanna show ya somethin'."

Katie joined him, "We look at twee?"

"Yep," he sat down and pulled her into his lap.

"Why?" she resorted to her favorite question.

"'Cause it's a special tree," he spoke softly.

"Why?" she truly wanted to know.

"I planted this tree when I was real sad, an' I just wanted us t' see how much it's grown," Sully informed her.

"It growin' by leaves an' pounds," she looked it up and down.

"Yep," he nodded.

It was here that Sully had come to grieve when Michaela told him of her miscarriage last year. He had found the seedling and planted it in a safer place. To the mountain man, it symbolized the continuation of life, and somehow it gave him peace.

Sully began to chant softly in Cheyenne and looked upward with closed eyes. Katie raised her eyebrows, never having heard her father do this before. Instinctively, the child knew to not interrupt him with further questions.

When Sully finished, he whispered to his daughter, "Kates, pick a leaf off the tree."

This time, she did not ask why, but simply obeyed and handed her father the leaf. He took it and placed it in his shirt pocket.

"Ready to go back t' your Ma?" he touched her nose.

"Yep," she stood up.

They were soon headed for the Colorado Springs.

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

Later in the day, Sully stopped by the Clinic to check on his wife. He found Katie and Michaela upstairs.

Katie did not hear her father's footsteps in the hall, "Mama, tell story."

"What story would you like to hear, Sweetheart?" Michaela could not make herself comfortable on the bed with her protruding belly in the way.

"Tell story 'bout when babies come," the child requested.

Michaela was now lying down, totally unable to see her feet, "Katie, I don't think I can even breathe, let alone tell you...."

Sully entered the room.

Katie leapt from the bed, "Papa! Mama not breathe!"

Sully hurried to his wife's side, "Michaela?"

She struggled to move, "Sully, could you help me sit up? I feel like a beached whale!"

"Prettiest whale I ever saw," he slid his arm beneath her shoulders and lifted.

"Wait!" she felt a sensation.

"What?" he wondered if it was time.

"I need to move a little to my side," she tried to turn.

Katie stood back and observed the awkward movements of her parents, "Mama, babies need out."

Sully looked at his daughter, "Kates, not now."

Michaela began to cry, "I can't do this anymore. I can't move. I can't breathe. I can't even tell my daughter a story."

Sully maneuvered her again and began to massage her feet and legs, "Better?"

"Some," she was still misty-eyed.

Her husband looked at their little girl, "Why don't ya tell your Ma a story?

"Okay," Katie climbed up beside her mother.

"Careful, now," Sully cautioned her not to get too close.

"One 'pon time," the child began. "Pwince Bywon climb mountain."

"Prince Byron?" Michaela raised an eyebrow.

"Funny name, huh, Mama," Katie giggled.

Michaela glanced at Sully, "I rather like it. Go ahead with your story, Sweetheart."

"Pwince Bywon love Pwincess Michaela," she patted her mother's hand. "She got your name."

"So I see," she smiled.

Katie then did a quick change of subject, "Papa put leaf in pocket."

"Leaf?" Michaela turned to look at him.

He replied, "From the tree I planted when we lost the baby."

"Why did you do that?" Michaela reached to touch his hand.

"I wanted t' have a little reminder o' that baby with us today," he pulled it from his pocket. "I'm gonna press it in the book for This One an' That One."

"Sully," her eyes filled. "That is so sweet, but why today in particular?"

Suddenly, the conversation was interrupted by a commotion downstairs.

"Dr. Mike!" it was Jake's voice.

Sully went to the doorway, "Up here, Jake. Somethin' wrong?"

"It's Teresa! She's havin' the baby!" he called up.

"Sully, please help me up," Michaela tried to move.

"Michaela, ya can't," he took her hand. "I'll ride out t' get Andrew."

"That's all well and good, but in the meantime, I must go to her," she replied.

More voices were heard downstairs.

"Michaela!" This time it was Andrew calling.

Sully ran down the steps, "Andrew, what...." He saw Colleen.

"We were riding into town to check on Michaela, and Colleen went into labor," he supported his wife.

"Two women at the same time!" Jake was distraught.

"Jacob," Teresa patted his hand. "I shall be fine."

"Where's Dr. Mike?" Jake demanded.

"She's upstairs lyin' down," Sully was becoming impatient.

"Well, who's gonna deliver the babies?" Jake put his hands on his hips.

"Andrew's a doctor," Sully nodded toward the young physician.

Suddenly Colleen screamed as another pain gripped her.

"What should I do?" Andrew was turning pale.

"Just stay calm," Sully took over.

Gently, Sully lifted Colleen and carried her up to one of the recovery rooms. Michaela heard them on the steps and was able to get up from the bed. She and Katie entered the room where he had placed Colleen.

"Colleen an' Miss Teresa are both in labor," he was out of breath.

"Can you and Jake bring Mrs. Slicker up, too?" she took Colleen's hand.

"Yep," he headed back down the steps.

Within moments, Jake and Sully brought Teresa into the room previously occupied by Michaela.

Michaela stood in the hallway between the rooms with a curious Katie clinging to her skirt, "Where's Andrew?"

"Downstairs," Sully picked up his daughter. "I'll take Katie over t' Grace's an' send Andrew up."

Both Colleen and Teresa let loose with blood curdling yells just as Sully reached the bottom step.

"Andrew!" he saw the doctor sitting in a daze. "What're ya doin'?"

"Sully," he seemed ready to faint. "I'm going to be a father."

"Then I suggest ya get up there with your wife," Sully headed for the door with Katie.

Just as he opened it, there stood Dr. Bernard.

"Am I glad t' see you!" Sully welcomed him. "Michaela's upstairs with two women in labor. Go on up."

With that, he left. Bernard hung up his coat and began to wash his hands.

"Dr. Cook, I believe?" the older physician recognized him from a conference in Denver.

"Ah, yes," Andrew nervously stood.

"Why are you down here? Shouldn't you be assisting Dr. Quinn with these women?" Bernard sarcastically remarked.

"One of them is my wife," the younger doctor replied.

"I should think that all the more reason for you to be there," Bernard walked toward the steps.

"I.... Don't think I can watch her go through this," Andrew was ashamed.

"I see," Bernard shook his head. "If you change your mind, we could use the help."

At that moment Jake came down the steps into the examining room, "They threw me out. Guess I'll wait outside."

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

Sully returned to find his son-in-law pacing, "Bernard upstairs?"

"Yes," Andrew sat down.

"Andrew," Sully put his hand on his shoulder. "Ya got a chance t' share in the birth o' your baby. Don't pass it up."

Sully rushed up the steps. He found Michaela sitting on the bed beside Colleen speaking in relaxed and measured tones.

"How ya doin'?" he spoke low.

"She's doing marvelously," Michaela kept hold of her daughter's hand.

Suddenly, Michaela felt a pain, "Sully!"

"I'm here," he recognized that voice. "Is it time?"

"I'm afraid so," she clutched her abdomen.

"I'll get ya downstairs then. Can ya walk?" he supported her.

"I... I think so," the first pain passed.

"Come on, then," Sully assisted her.

When they reached the bottom step, Andrew stood, "Michaela too?"

"Yes," she felt another contraction coming on. "Sully!"

He helped her up onto the examining table, "Breathe, Michaela. You're doin' fine."

"I don't know," her eyes expressed her fear.

Sully commanded his son-in-law, "Look, Andrew. I want ya t' go upstairs. Help your wife an' Miss Teresa, an' get Dr. Bernard down here."

The young physician hesitated.

"NOW!" Sully's look was severe. "He's delivered twins before, an' I want him here."

Moments seemed like hours while Michaela and Sully were left alone.

"Sully, I... if something should happen...." she clutched his hand and pulled it to her cheek.

He caressed her, then touched her necklace, the one he had given her for Christmas.

"Shhh," he brushed back the hair from her forehead. "You're doin' fine."

"Just think, we're about to meet our babies," she closed her eyes.

"I know," he gulped. "Sure is excitin'."

"Do you think we'll have a little boy and little girl?" she was now perspiring. Talking very quickly the first rambling thoughts that came into her head, Michaela went on, "I hope one of them is a little boy, Sully. He'll look just like you. Of course, it really doesn't matter what they are, as long as they're healthy. And...." She felt another wave coming, "I... have to tell you something."

"I know," he grinned. "Ya love me. Just don't squeeze my face this time."

"OH! SULLY!" she closed her eyes and screamed.

"Michaela!" Sully was frightened. "Michaela! You can do it! Keep talkin' t' me. Come on, Michaela...."

************
Chapter 24
************

"Michaela!" Sully shook her. "Michaela, wake up!"

"Wha--what?" she saw that the bedroom was dark, and she was disoriented. She suddenly remembered, "Sully, where are the babies?"

"What babies?" he lit the lamp.

"Our twins," she touched her flat abdomen.

"What're ya talkin' about? Ya been takin' a nap since ya got home, an' I come t' wake ya for dinner," he sat down on the edge of the bed.

"No, that can't be!" she sat up. "Sully, I was pregnant. So were Colleen and Teresa Slicker. We were all three in labor at the same time."

"That was some dream," he grinned.

"But it was so real," she shook her head. "You went on that job for the U.S. Geological Survey, and you met a female prospector named Caroline Mallen. Dr. Slocum came to help us start a college in Colorado Springs. Matthew worked on a case in Denver that started a vigilante war in Lake County. Robert E and Grace had a little girl. And Loren! He was injured in an explosion on Thanksgiving."

He smiled at her.

"What?" she saw no humor in her story.

"You," he shook his head. "Only you would dream such things." Seeing her serious expression, he pulled her into his arms.

"Do you think the dream means something?" she could not help the feeling.

"Means ya got a real good imagination," he slid his hand across her chest.

Her reaction was immediate, "Sully. We couldn't do this in my dream," her lips brushed against his.

"This?" he deepened the kiss.

"Mmm," her pulse quickened.

"Can't do it now either," he pulled back. "The kids are waitin' for us at the supper table."

She sighed, "Would you do something for me?"

"Sure," he stood up.

"Would you take me to the pond where we taught Katie to swim tomorrow?" she rose from the bed.

"Any particular reason?" he brushed back a lock of her hair from her face.

She sighed, "I just would like to be with you there."

"Then we'll go," he avowed.

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

The next morning, Sully took Katie into town and dropped her off with Grace. He asked his daughter's godmother to pack a special lunch for a picnic. Then he returned to the homestead.

By early afternoon, he and Michaela arrived at the pond. Sully pulled a rope from the back of the buckboard.

"What's that for?" she observed.

"Thought I'd make us a swing," he grinned.

"Sully, that was in my dream!" she informed him.

"Still thinkin' about that dream?" he swung the rope over a sturdy branch.

"Yes," she unfolded the blanket and sat down to watch him.

"Sure is warm for this time o' year," he was perspiring.

He removed his coat. As he did so, a leaf fell from his pocket.

"Sully!" Michaela picked it up. "Look at this."

"Just a leaf," he continued his work on the swing.

"But it's not like any of the trees around here," she observed it more closely and set it on their blanket. "It's like the seedling you planted when we lost our baby."

"Guess so," he did not see the significance.

Finally, he checked that the swing was secure.

Extending his hand to Michaela, he invited, "Care t' try it out?"

"I'd love to," she removed her coat.

Sully held the swing steady as she sat on the board at its base. Slowly, he pulled her back, then released the swing. Back and forth he pushed her. He loved the sound of her laughter and sight of her hair flying in the breeze. Then, in an uncharacteristically bold move, Michaela released her hands and jumped into the water fully clothed.

"What're ya doin'?" he laughed.

"Come join me," her voice quivered from the chilly water.

"We didn't bring any dry clothes," he tried to sound practical.

She splashed water at him, "I'm cold."

Sully pulled off his shirt and shoes, "So we both gotta catch pneumonia."

As he waded into the water, Michaela dunked down under the surface.

Looking around, he tried to spot her, "Where'd ya go?"

Suddenly before him, she popped out of the water and wrapped her arms around him. He laughed and returned the embrace.

"Still feelin' cold?" he felt her body through the soaked garments.

"Not in the least," she kissed him. "Sully, I need you," her urgent voice aroused him further.

Lowering them both into the water, he swirled them around in a playful manner. Then he lifted her into his arms and carried her to the bank.

Setting her on the blanket, he suggestively announced, "Better get out o' these wet things."

She ran her fingers through his hair and hungrily pulled his mouth to hers.

"Michaela," he was pleased at her eagerness. "What's happenin'?"

Her physical needs took over, "I... I can't help how I feel."

Sully smiled, "I ain't complainin'. I love how ya feel."

Slowly, he unbuttoned her blouse and peeled it back, kissing her soft skin as he went. He pulled the blanket up over them. Michaela was on fire with longing for her husband. With her dream still fresh in her mind, it seemed like months to her since they had made love. She rolled him over onto his back and caressed his muscular shoulders. Then her hand found its way down to his buckskins. She unbuttoned the pants and awakened his passion. Neither could hold back a moment longer. Shedding their wet garments, they succumbed to their desires.

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

Lying in his arms, Michaela sighed, "I guess you won't have to chop wood so often now."

"Mmm?" he did not understand.

"In my dream, we could not make love because of possibly endangering the babies. So you found another way to release your energy," she explained.

"Oh," he stroked her arm. "I chopped wood?"

She laughed, "We had the tallest log pile in the territory."

"Sort of a symbol of my love for ya," he smiled.

She quickly raised her head, "That's what you said in the dream!"

"Sounds like I was pretty worn out," he grinned.

"I wrote you nearly everyday about the babies," she reflected.

"Wha'd ya say?" he kissed her shoulder.

"I wrote as if they were speaking to you, calling them This One and That One. But we had names picked out for them, as well," a melancholy crept into her voice.

"Sounds like a good dream," he whispered.

"Most of it was. I wish I could have seen our babies before I woke up," she was disappointed.

"I understand," he pulled the blanket more snugly around her.

"Sully, it made my feelings about wanting another baby even stronger," she confided.

Michaela reached for the leaf that had fallen from her husband's pocket earlier. She held it up to her cheek.

"Got any ideas on how we could help that along?" he whispered.

"I do," she felt a renewed burst of desire for him. "I... I think I would like for us to...."

"Do this?" he turned her face to his and began to kiss her anew.

"Mmm," she raised her hand to his neck.

"Clothes need some more time t' dry," he pulled back.

"I know," she gently tugged him back to her. "I love you, Sully."

"I love you, too," his body ached for her. "Wanna know how I feel when you're in my arms?"

"I don't mind your telling me," she grinned.

"Sensations sweet, felt in the blood, and felt along the heart," he recited.

"Byron?" she guessed.

"Wordsworth," he could hold back no longer.

Again they made love in this oasis of beauty, surrounded by those elements of Nature which both found endearing. The call of birds. The light wisp of breezes. A deer wandering by. It all seemed so right. For this afternoon of love, Michaela and Sully had no need of dreams. Reality was quite all right with them.

THE END

EPILOGUE

I employed several historic elements in the story. The people and events described in the trial and Lake County Wars were true. Judge Wells, murder victim Harrington, and accused murderers Gibbs and McClish were all real people in the story of frontier justice. In the Centerville cemetery, countless victims of the Lake County War lay side by side with their tormentors and aggressors. More than 100 homicides occurred at this time, without a single conviction because no witnesses would swear to what they saw. Historians describe it as the most violent period in Colorado's early history. Judge Wells became a Supreme Court judge and stands as one of Colorado's most respected members of the legal system.

Real, too, was Caroline Mallen and her prospecting adventures. She was an incredible woman who was active on "Free Gold Hill" for many years, in addition to her having many holdings located further up the Arkansas River near Granite and on Mt. Elbert. Caroline really did claim to have been engaged to the Czar of Russia and guided by Spirits. She built her own house in Buena Vista in 1889, and it still stands today.

There really was a mining burro named Prunes, too. History buffs, along with local residents in the Leadville, Fairplay, Dillon, Buena Vista, and Alma areas so fondly respect the role burros played in the early Colorado development, that annual pack-burro races are held to commemorate them. Prunes, by the way, died at the age of 63 in 1930, after having served virtually every well known mine in the area. His last owner even built a monument to his faithful friend with his bare hands.

Colorado College opened in May of 1874. Dr. William F. Slocum served as its first president. The first building (still standing) was originally called Palmer Hall (now called Cutler Hall). It replaced a frame building downtown on Tejon Street known as "The College."

So, maybe it was not all a dream.



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