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



A Bit of Earth




Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
A Bit of Earth
by Debby K

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

Michaela nervously gazed out the train window as the familiar landmarks approaching Colorado Springs came into view. She felt Sully touch her hand.

"Don't worry," he smiled.

"I'm afraid I can't help it," she returned. "This is my first test since regaining my memory."

"I was your first test," he said with a gleam in his eye. "An' ya passed just fine."

"What if I forget something, Sully?" her anxiety increased. "With one of the children, or with a patient?"

"Then there's folks t' help ya," he assured. "But you won't have that problem."

"There's the school," she felt the train slowing.

"Yep," he noticed.

"I'm so anxious to see the children," she smiled.

"Me, too," he nodded.

Finally, the train lumbered to a stop. It was several minutes before they were ready to disembark, but when they stepped down onto the depot platform, their entire family was there to greet them.

Katie and Josef rushed to their parents first. Michaela knelt down to greet them, then Sully lifted each into his arms for a kiss. Matthew and Colleen brought the twins to their father. Sully held them while Michaela made her way to a bench. Then he set Annie beside her mother.

Noah began to cry.

"What's wrong, No-bo?" Sully wiped the moisture beneath his son's eyes.

"He's teething," Colleen assessed.

Brian handed his mother a bouquet of flowers, while Katie and Josef spoke enthusiastically of what had transpired in their absence. Still, Noah wailed.

"Sweetheart," Michaela reached out to him.

Sully set the toddler on his mother's lap. Instantly, the little boy embraced her as if he never wanted to let go. Michaela stroked his back tenderly.

"Were you a good boy?" she asked.

Noah leaned against her shoulder and began to calm.

"Good," his tears ebbed.

Brian sat beside Michaela, "How ya feelin', Ma?"

"I'm fine," she kissed his cheek. "And I want to hear all about what I missed."

"When Pa sent the telegram, we were real worried," he studied her expression.

"How was the reunion?" Colleen queried.

Michaela smiled, "We saw Miriam Tilson and heard Elizabeth Blackwell speak."

"How is Dr. Tilson?" Brian wondered.

Michaela refrained from mentioning the unpleasantness, "She's.... considering returning to medicine."

"That would be wonderful," his eyes brightened.

"And how is Henriette?" Michaela questioned her son.

"She's real good," Brian's cheeks reddened.

"We got a surprise for ya," Matthew announced.

"Surprise?" Michaela was curious.

"Come see," he lifted Noah from her.

The little boy began to cry again.

"No-ah," Annie reached out to him from Sully's arms.

"Here," Sully held out his hand. "I'll take him."

Gathering the twins into his arms, Sully comforted Noah until he settled again.

"Come on, Ma," Brian grinned. "We all chipped in t' get it for ya."

"Goodness," she smiled. "What could it be?"

"I know," Josef began to speak.

Brian quickly covered his little brother's mouth, "Shhh. Don't tell her."

They led Michaela across the railroad tracks. There parked and waiting for her was a two seat surrey. White in color, it had a top to protect passengers from the rain and sun.

"It's an early birthday present," Matthew grinned. "T' help with your doctorin'."

"Children," she held the sides of her face. "It's magnificent."

Colleen added, "We thought it would be more comfortable for your house calls."

"An' ya can take us for wides," Josef added.

"Thank you," tears glistened in her eyes. "Thank you so very much."

"You're welcome," Matthew kissed her.

Sully offered, "Thanks, kids. It was real nice of ya."

"Can we go home in it?" Josef requested.

"Sounds like a good idea," Sully grinned.

Settling Josef and Katie on the outsides of the back seat, he positioned the twins in between them.

"Don't let them climb around," the father cautioned.

After helping Michaela into the front seat, Sully sat beside her and offered the reins, "You wanna drive?"

"Of course," she smiled.

"We'll take care o' your luggage," Matthew stated. "Then we'll all be out t' the homestead. Bridget's prepared a feast."

"I can't wait," Michaela's stomach had been rumbling.

With a flick of the reins, off they went. Giggles emanated from the back seat as they headed for home.

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

During dinner, Michaela and Sully were updated on the town gossip and events.

"Bran taked us t' the Indian school," Josef informed them.

Brian smiled, "They got t' play games with the children there."

"What sort of games?" Michaela inquired.

"Coyote game, jumping from side to side, running through the line, playing bear...." he listed.

"An' thwowin' fire," Josef added.

"Throwing fire?" Michaela wondered.

"Don't worry," Brian assured her with a chuckle. "Nobody got hurt."

"Still," Michaela paused. "I don't like them to...."

Sully placed his hand atop his wife's, "It's okay, long as they're supervised an' learn the dangers."

Michaela cast a worried glance at him. Sully smiled to reassure her.

"We taked Wendell, too," Josef added.

"He said Mama better stop havin' babies," Katie announced.

"Wendell needs to have better manners," Colleen advised.

"Mrs. Johnson tries, but she says he's incor.... incorri.... she can't do anythin' with him sometimes," the little girl explained. "But all the other kids are happy Mama's gonna have a baby. Millie Whitlatch's Mama is gonna have one, too."

Michaela smiled at her husband, "I'll be delivering Mrs. Whitlatch's baby before ours is due. How is Hank?"

"I told him not to drink for a while, but he ignored my advice," Colleen mentioned.

"He's sweet on Miss Lexie," Josef added, his mouth full.

Michaela touched her son's hand, "Don't speak with your mouth full, Sweetheart."

Josef raised his hand to his lips and deposited the food from his mouth into the palm of his hand, "Is this better?"

"Josef!" Michaela was mortified.

Sully immediately lifted his son from the table and carried him into Michaela's office.

"What I do, Papa?" the child did not understand.

"You don't put food in your hand like that," Sully's tone was stern.

"The twins do it all time," Josef's brow wrinkled.

"The twins are too young t' know better," Sully stated.

Josef's lower lip curled under, and he swiftly crawled beneath his mother's desk. Before Sully could coax him out, Michaela appeared at the door. Stepping closer, she knelt down.

"Josef," she extended her hand.

"I sowwy, Mama," tears flowed down his cheeks.

Michaela looked up at her husband. Sully nodded and left them alone.

When Michaela sat down on the floor, Josef's tears stopped. He scooted out from his hiding place and onto her lap.

"Ya mad at me?" he gazed at her with his father's eyes.

"Mad?" she stroked his hair. "No, but I want you to promise me that you will try to have better manners."

"I pwomise," he pledged. "What I do with food when I wanna talk?"

She counseled, "You could wait until you finish chewing, and swallow it before you speak."

"Then I might fowget what I wanna say," he reasoned.

"Take smaller bites," she touched his nose.

"Good thinkin'," he embraced her. "I missed ya, Mama."

"I missed you, too, my darling," she cupped the back of his head and drew him closer. "Now, let's go join the others."

"Are Colleen an' Andwew gettin' a diforce?" he blurted out.

"Divorce?" she was aghast. "Why would you ask that?"

"I hear it," he was vague.

"Where did you hear it?" she challenged.

"Colleen say it t' Mattew," Josef specified.

"Well...." she hedged. "That's up to Colleen and Andrew."

"Why they get a diforce?" he was puzzled.

Michaela framed her words carefully, "When a married couple.... drift apart, argue, disagree on things, they might decide it would be better to live separate lives."

"I thinked married people oughta stay marwied," he affirmed.

"Sometimes, it's not good for them, Sweetheart," she told him.

"Oh, Mama," he worried. "Please don' diforce Papa."

"Josef," she stated. "I would never divorce your father."

"What if ya dwiff apart an' argue?" he queried.

"Then we'll make up," she smiled.

"Can Colleen an' Andwew make up?" he offered.

"I hope so," she cast a concerned expression toward the door. "In the meantime, I think I'm ready for dessert. How about you?"

"Ya think ya should?" he lightly touched her abdomen. "You ww....rreally gettin' big."

"That's the baby growing," she placed her hand atop his.

"Does it eat, too?" he tilted his head.

"Yes," she informed him.

"Is it takin' your food?" he frowned.

"I'm eating for both the baby and myself," she noted.

"No wonder ya don' let food outa your mouth," he reasoned.

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

After dinner, the family gathered around the living room fireplace.

Katie spoke up, "What was the most interestin' thing ya did in Phildelphia?"

"I think when your Ma delivered a baby elephant at the zoo," Sully answered.

"How ya do that?" Josef's eyes widened.

"You delivered an elephant?" Colleen was amazed.

"The zoo staff did most of the work," Michaela minimized her role.

"Ya should've seen her," Sully's eyes shone with admiration.

"Tell us, Mama," Katie encouraged.

"Tell," Annie imitated.

"I will if Papa brings down that package we brought home," Michaela was vague.

"I'll get it," he winked.

Michaela began the tale. By the time she finished, Sully had returned with a large parcel.

"I can't believe it," Matthew shook his head. "An elephant."

"I'd like t' do an article on it for The Gazette, Ma," Brian was intrigued. "Imagine it. The first elephant born at the Philadelphia Zoo."

Sully set the package on the floor and sat down. Noah and Annie climbed into his lap as he opened it.

"Your father came up with the idea of this gift for each of you," Michaela smiled.

Sully began to remove stuffed toy elephants. Each child enthusiastically welcomed the gift. Sully smiled and handed one to Matthew, Colleen and Brian, as well.

"Thanks," Matthew grinned at his wife. "Where do ya think we should put ours?"

Emma smiled, "A place of honor."

"I put mine under Mama's desk," Josef stated.

Noah embraced the stuffed toy, "Bun."

"Not bun, No-bo," Sully tickled his side. "El."

"All right, you wee ones," Bridget's voice beckoned. "It's time t' get ready for bed."

Sully handed the nanny a toy elephant, "An' one for you."

"Thank ya lad," she chuckled.

"Please can we stay up lil' longer?" Josef implored.

"Do what Miss Bridget says," Michaela touched her son's hair.

"I got idea," he delayed.

"What?" she anticipated.

"We make a tent in your www.... rrroom," Josef suggested.

"Oh, could we?" Katie loved the notion.

"Papa?" Michaela looked to him.

"I reckon we could do that," Sully nodded.

"I help," Josef started for the steps.

"Woah," Bridget lifted Annie from Sully's lap. "First we get ready for bed."

"Come on then," Katie took Noah's hand.

"I'll bring up your elephants in a little bit," Sully smiled at the children as they departed.

When the little ones were out of the room, Colleen turned to her mother, "No ill effects from the train wreck?"

"I had a case of temporary amnesia," Michaela revealed.

"Amnesia?" Brian became anxious.

"It took a few days to recover," Michaela added. "Dr. Bernard will examine me tomorrow."

"You okay?" Sully worried.

"Yes," she smiled at him lovingly. "Just a precaution after our journey."

"Well," Matthew glanced at the mantel clock. "We best be goin'. I got a trial in Denver t'morrow."

"Will you be working at the Clinic tomorrow, Ma?" Colleen inquired.

"No," she caressed her abdomen. "I think I'll get some rest."

"That's a good idea," Colleen smiled. "I'll take care of things for you."

"Brian," Sully sensed their daughter wanted to speak to Michaela. "Could ya help me take care o' the animals?"

"Sure," the young man stood up.

"'Night, Ma," Matthew kissed her cheek.

Taking Emma's hand, Matthew departed behind Sully and Brian.

"So," Michaela broached the subject with her oldest daughter. "How are things?"

"Things," Colleen folded her arms. "Things are.... fine."

"Your little brother thinks otherwise," Michaela remarked. "Josef overheard you mention divorce to Matthew."

"I didn't realize he heard us," she sighed.

"Have you asked Matthew to begin divorce proceedings?" Michaela came to the point.

"Yes," Colleen's jaw tensed.

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

"I see," Michaela's heart saddened.

"There's a part of me that will always love Andrew," Colleen admitted.

"But not a big enough part?" Michaela wondered.

"Maybe I was impulsive when I married him," she noted. "But I'm not being impulsive now. We can't go on like we have, Ma. As long as we stick to medicine, we're fine, but otherwise, we argue. I'd rather end things now and hope to remain friends with him."

"Does Andrew know you've discussed this with your brother?" she was curious.

"No," she shook her head.

"He doesn't know you want a divorce?" Michaela was incredulous.

"It would just be another thing for us to argue about," her shoulders slumped.

"When do you intend to tell him?" Michaela queried.

"When Matthew has the papers drawn up," she responded.

"Colleen, this isn't like you," Michaela stated. "You've never given up on something worthwhile."

"As worthwhile as marriage, you mean," the young woman clarified.

"It's the most worthwhile thing I can imagine," she returned.

"For you an' Pa, it is," Colleen agreed. "And for a time, it was like that for us, but when two people only hurt one another.... well, it changes how they feel."

Michaela sighed.

"Don't worry," Colleen touched her hand. "I know it won't be easy, but I'll get through this."

"You know you're welcome to stay with us," she offered.

"I think I'll continue to stay at the Chateau for a while," Colleen mentioned. "But thanks for your offer."

Michaela extended her open arms, and Colleen went to her. Embracing, they each felt tears welling.

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

"So, how are things with Henriette?" Sully questioned as Brian helped him cover the surrey.

"Real good," the young man answered. "She helped me with the kids at the Indian school."

"Plannin' anythin' for Valentine's Day?" Sully grinned.

Brian blushed, "I thought I might take her t' the party at the Chateau."

"Dinner an' dancin'?" Sully winked.

"Yea," Brian smiled. "Maybe get her somethin'."

"Like what?" he queried.

"Like.... I don't know, a necklace?" Brian pondered.

"Necklace would be nice," Sully nodded.

"Are you an' Ma goin' t' the party?" he questioned.

"We haven't made plans yet," Sully responded. "Her birthday's the next day."

"That's right," Brian was grateful for the reminder.

"We'll see how she feels," he handed his son a pitchfork.

As they labored to put hay in the stalls for the animals, Brian said, "I think I'm gettin' pretty serious, Pa."

Sully stopped, "You mean marriage?"

"Not that far," he commented. "But.... I wanna tell her I love her."

Sully smiled, "There's no sweeter sound than hearin' she loves ya, too."

"That worries me," Brian paused. "What if I tell her I love her, an' she doesn't feel that way about me?"

He patted his son's back, "I reckon it's a chance ya take."

"Look how long it took Ma t' tell you," Brian pointed out. "We had t' travel all the way home from Boston."

"Longest wait I ever had," Sully replied with a grin. "But, I'd say it was worth it in the end."

"Sometimes I wonder how women think," the young man remarked.

Sully chuckled, "First thing ya gotta remember is women don't think like men."

"What do ya mean?" Brian was curious.

"Well," Sully paused. "Men don't always have t' talk about what we're thinkin' an' feelin'. Women do. Plus, women think if ya don't talk, there's somethin' wrong."

"Then tellin' her I love her would be talkin'," Brian reasoned. "That's good. Right?"

"Yep," Sully nodded. "But then she'll wanna know why."

"Why what?" he tilted his head.

"Why ya love her," Sully specified. "An' it's not just what's on the outside."

Brian considered, "Kinda reminds me of that essay I wrote for school, 'What Is Love?'"

Sully recalled, "Maybe you should show that t' Henriette. Could save ya some talkin'."

"You think she'd like t' read it?" he wondered.

"Sure," Sully patted his back. "Women love t' read about love."

Brian shook his head, "Read about it, hear about it. Love sounds like hard work."

"I'll tell ya somethin', son," Sully eyed him seriously. "It's the best hard work in the world. An' if ya find the right woman, it don't even seem like work at all."

"Do you remember when I was little, an' I ran away 'cause I didn't wanna grow up an' go through puberty?" Brian questioned.

"I remember," he chuckled softly. "Why? You gettin' some.... urges toward Henriette?"

"Sorta," Brian's cheeks flushed. "But don't worry, Pa. I'll always treat her with respect."

"Good," Sully patted his back.

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

In his bedroom, Sully finished draping a blanket over a rope he had secured between the chest of drawers and Michaela's vanity. Beneath it, he set pillows and more blankets for the children.

Michaela began to undress as he put the finishing touches on the "tent." When she paused to yawn, she felt her husband's arms around her.

"What's this?" she warmed at his wayward hand tantalizing her.

"Just me lovin' t' hold ya," he turned her around in his arms.

Pressing his form to her, he kissed her sweetly.

"Mmm, that's nice," she smiled as she stroked his hair.

"It's good t' be home, ain't it?" he kissed her again.

"Yes, it is," she rested her palms against his chest.

They stood quietly, heads tilted together for several moments, until they were interrupted by a light tapping at their door.

"Better get your nightgown on," Sully rubbed her back.

When he opened the door a crack, he spotted Katie in the hallway, arms folded.

"Can we come in?" she requested.

Sully looked over his shoulder to see that Michaela was clothed, "Yep."

When the little girl entered her parents' room, she smiled, "You got the tent ready for us."

"I figure you'll be nice an' warm by the fire," Sully gestured. "But I put up the screen t' make sure you kids don't get too close."

"Noah cried every night while you were gone," Katie informed them.

"Every night?" Michaela grew concerned.

"I think it was 'cause he missed ya," she commented.

Sully scooped his daughter into his arms, "What about you, sweet girl?"

Katie quickly threw her arms around her father's neck, "I missed you, too."

"What we doin'?" Josef strolled into the room, wearing his night shirt.

"Papa has your sleeping area ready," Michaela pointed. "Good night, my darlings."

"'Night," Josef kissed her, followed by Katie.

"You two scoot under there," Sully held up a flap of the tent. "We'll put the twins between ya."

At that moment, Bridget entered with Annie and Noah. Sully went to them and drew them into his strong embrace. He kissed the tops of their heads.

"Mmm, these two smell good," he said.

"Mama," Noah reached for Michaela.

She sat on the bed, and Sully situated the little boy beside his mother. She held him and kissed him. Soon, he was calm.

"Come on, Noah," Josef called.

Bridget sized up the tent, "An' just how long d' ya think those leprechauns will stay under there?"

Sully settled Noah with the other three children, "All night."

"Don't hold your breath, lad," the nanny retorted.

"Bridget," Michaela drew her aside. "Did Noah cry every night?"

"Just the last couple, darlin'," she nodded. "But it was a fussy cry. Dr. Colleen said he was teethin'."

"We missed them so," Michaela cast a loving gaze at the children.

"An' they missed you, too," she mused. "But sometimes it's good t' get away. Makes us appreciate home all the more."

"I'll always appreciate home," Michaela knew.

"How's your memory doin'?" Bridget inquired.

"Thus far, no problems," Michaela stated.

Bridget embraced her, "Get some rest, you an' that new babe."

"Good night," she smiled.

"'Night, Bridget," Sully spoke from his position on the floor next to the children.

When the nanny departed, Michaela joined them.

"Uh-oh," Josef looked up. "We forget somethin'."

"What?" Michaela was curious.

"The el'phants," he noted.

Sully retrieved them and handed the stuffed toys to the children. Then he held an extra toward Michaela.

"What's this?" she was uncertain.

"For the new baby," he caressed her belly.

"Want me t' hold it 'til the baby comes?" Katie offered.

"Thank you for offering, Sweetheart," Michaela smiled. "But I think I'll keep it with me."

Noah stood and walked to his father, "Up, Papa."

"Shh," Sully held his index finger to his lips. "It's time for bed. Get back under there."

Annie smiled at her father, "Shh."

Reluctantly, the little boy obeyed.

"Say your prayers now," Michaela encouraged.

As Katie and Josef closed their eyes and folded their hands to pray, Noah and Annie imitated them.

"Sully," Michaela whispered. "Look at them."

"Yep," he felt a lump in his throat.

Josef concluded his lengthy list of whom God should bless, then scooted beneath the blanket.

"Uh-oh," Josef paused. "I gotta use pwivy."

"You want me t' go with ya, Joe?" Sully offered.

"Yep," Josef extended his hand.

The two exited the room. Michaela stroked the tops of the children's heads and softly hummed to them.

Katie looked up, "What's that song, Mama?"

"Nothing in particular," Michaela answered.

"I've heard it somewhere," Katie recognized.

Suddenly, Michaela wondered if it was a song she should know. Was her memory failing her?

"I like it," Katie commented. "Keep hummin' it."

She resumed. Soon, Sully and Josef returned.

"What we doin'?" Josef wondered.

"Mama's hummin' a song," Katie informed him.

"Start again," Josef requested.

Michaela complied with his wish. As she hummed, she leaned back against Sully's chest. He caressed her abdomen and softly kissed the top of her head. Finally, their little ones stopped fidgeting.

"I think they're asleep," Sully spoke low.

"I think you're right," she observed quietly.

"Come on," Sully rose from the floor and extended his hand to her. "Time for you t' get some sleep, too."

"I am rather tired," Michaela admitted.

When she eased back against the pillows, she sighed in contentment. Walking to his side of the bed, Sully soon joined her. Michaela lifted up slightly to allow him to slide his arm beneath her shoulders. He positioned himself at her side and tenderly stroked her abdomen.

Michaela pivoted to face him. Softly, she ran her fingers through his long locks and turned up the corner of her mouth.

"Why are you smilin'?" he grinned.

"Because I'm so happy," she replied simply.

His heart filled, "Nothin' I like more than seein' you happy."

"That's how I feel about you, as well," she returned.

He was moved to recite:

"The treasures of the deep are not so precious
As are the conceal'd comforts of a man
Locked up in woman's love. I scent the air
Of blessings, when I come but near the house.
What a delicious breath marriage sends forth...
The violet bed's not sweeter."

She lightly kissed the edges of his mouth, "Was that Shelley?"

"Washington Irving," he smiled.

She traced the line of his jaw with her finger, "What blessings we have, Sully."

"You an' the kids fill up all the places in my heart," he kissed her palm.

"Speaking of our children," she paused.

"What about 'em?" Sully glanced toward the sleeping babes.

"Our grown children," she clarified. "Colleen is talking of divorce."

He sighed, "It don't surprise me."

"What went wrong with them, Sully?" her heart ached at the thought.

His eyes saddened, "They lost their way."

"There must be something we could do to help them find it again," she wondered.

"Maybe it ain't meant t' be," he suggested.

"You mean they don't belong together?" she interpreted.

"All I know is some folks drift apart, an' there's no gettin' 'em back t'gether," he noted.

"I don't want to see them unhappy," she commented.

"Colleen's a strong girl," he stated. "She's got an independent streak like you. She'll get through."

"Has her independent streak cost her Andrew's love?" she pondered.

"Could be," he nodded.

She felt a twinge of insecurity, "Why do you tolerate my independent streak?"

"I got no choice," he grinned.

"Oh?" she was curious.

"When you get on your soap box about somethin', I just hold on for the ride," he mused.

She gazed at him adoringly, "Why are you so different from most men?"

"'Cause I love a woman who ain't like most women," he uttered.

"I don't know what I would do if I ever lost your love, Sully," she shivered.

He drew her closer, "You'll never lose my love."

"When I think about how insecure I was when I first fell in love with you," she hesitated. "It's a wonder you didn't give up on me."

"Every moment we're t'gether is worth any problems we've had, Michaela," he assured.

"Mama," it was Noah's voice.

"I'll get him," Sully rose and went to the little boy. "What's wrong, No-bo?"

"Wat," he whined.

"Water?" Sully perceived. "You sit here with your Ma, an' I'll get ya some."

Michaela raised up to cradle him. Drawing back the hair from his forehead, she kissed her son. Noah pointed up to her and smiled. She kissed his fingertip.

Soon, Sully returned with a small cup of water and handed it to his wife. Michaela held the cup for Noah to consume the cool liquid.

Then she tilted him back in her arms to gently massage his gums, "He's cutting a molar."

It was not long before her gentle rocking motion lulled the little boy to sleep.

"I wonder if he senses he's not gonna be the baby anymore," Sully caressed the child's cheek.

"Perhaps," she smiled.

"I'll put him back with the kids," he whispered as he lifted him from her.

Michaela lay back again and waited for Sully to join her.

Then she resumed their previous topic, "Do you think if they were to have a child, things could be different for Colleen and Andrew?"

"Would that be fair t' a child, bringin' it int' the world just t' try an' save a marriage?" he posed the question.

"Children have a way of giving us lively perceptions," she observed. "Earlier tonight, Josef asked me if I would ever divorce you."

"An' you said?" he waited.

"Never," she smiled.

"What if I fooled around with another woman?" he teased.

"Sully," she tapped his chest. "Don't even joke about something like that."

He chuckled, "You wouldn't divorce me?"

"Never," she repeated.

"Good answer," he sighed as he enfolded her in his arms. "I love you, Michaela."

"And I adore you," she melted at his tone.

After a long silence, she spoke again.

"Sully," she toyed with the hair on his chest.

"Mmm?" he was half asleep.

"You would never do that, would you?" she raised the question.

"Do what?" he was unsure.

"Fool around.... with another woman?" she specified.

"Never," he pledged. "Nothin' can top foolin' around with you."

"Good answer," she kissed him.

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

Sully awoke, sensing that he was being watched. When he opened his eyes and adjusted to the dark, there stood Josef beside the bed.

"What's wrong, Joe?" Sully kept his voice low.

"I'm scared, Papa," he replied.

Sully touched his son's shoulder, "What're ya scared of?"

"I had a bad dweam," Josef returned.

"Here," Sully lifted him and placed him between Michaela and himself. "Tell me about the dream."

"A el'phant was chasin' me," the little boy described.

"Did he catch ya?" Sully raised an eyebrow.

"No," Josef shook his head.

"That means you're a real good runner," he smiled.

"Can I sleep with you an' Mama?" the little boy requested.

"Sure," Sully kissed his cheek. "But don't go kickin' your Ma."

Josef glanced over his shoulder at her, "She's the pwettiest woman I ever see."

"I agree," Sully drew up the blanket to ensure his son's warmth. "Close your eyes now."

"Papa," Josef delayed. "Where we gonna put the new baby?"

Sully lifted up on his elbow, "We'll keep it in here with us for a while, like we did with all you kids."

"Then ya build another ww.... rroom?" the child innocently inquired.

Sully tilted his head, "What do you think I should do?"

"The baby can sleep with me if ya want," he offered. "Then ya don't gotta build no more."

"You like bein' a big brother, don't ya, Joe?" Sully smiled.

"Oh, yea," he nodded matter-of-factly. "But Wendell say Mama better stop havin' babies or she'll die. She won't, will she, Papa?"

Sully swallowed hard, "Your Ma's real strong. She's takin' good care of herself an' the baby. An' she's bein' careful not to do too much. That's why we gotta help her as much as we can."

"Pwomise she won't die," the child persisted.

"I promise," Sully felt a lump in his throat.

At that moment, they heard one of the children stirring beneath the tent. Soon, Annie appeared beside the bed and reached up to her father. Sully's heart melted as he lifted her.

"Ya gotta keep quiet an' not kick Mama," Josef cautioned his little sister.

"Shhh," Sully gestured.

"Shhh," Annie imitated.

"She does whatever we do," Josef giggled.

"Quiet now," Sully made room for Annie between them. "Don't wake up your Ma."

Annie leaned her head against Sully's shoulder and closed her eyes.

"Do like your sister, Joe," he advised. "Go t' sleep."

"What if Katie an' Noah wake up?" Josef hesitated. "What if they want up here, too?"

"Then we'll make room," Sully grinned. "Maybe I'll have t' sleep in the tent."

"You like sleepin' with Mama better," Josef smiled.

Sully adjusted the blanket again. Then he heard Noah stirring.

"Papa," the youngest child approached and tapped the side of the bed. "Up."

Sully sighed and lifted him, "Come on, No-bo."

"Not much more ww.... rroom," Josef observed.

Katie heard the whispered conversation, "What's goin' on?"

"You want up here, too, Kates?" Sully sat up.

"I'm chilly," she scampered to the bed and climbed up.

"It's a wonder your Ma's still asleep," Sully positioned all of them.

"Who says I'm asleep?" Michaela opened her eyes.

"Ain't this fun, Mama?" Josef looked at her.

"Isn't this fun," she corrected.

"Thanks for fixin' my talkin'," he offered as he snuggled close to her.

"Who started this parade?" Michaela queried.

"Me," Josef pointed to himself.

"I should have known," she teasingly touched his nose.

"Mama," Noah whined.

"I think he wants next t' ya," Josef interpreted.

"Let him come then," Michaela invited. "His gums might be bothering him again."

"Want me t' get your medical bag?" Sully offered.

"Would you please?" Michaela requested.

"Sure," he rose from the bed and headed for the door. "I'll get some more logs, too."

When Sully returned, he set Michaela's medical bag on her nightstand. Then he glanced at the bed. The children and Michaela had all fallen asleep. Placing several logs on the fire, he stoked it and stepped to the bed. There was no room for him. Tenderly, he made certain that the blanket covered all of the children. Then he went around to Michaela's side of the bed. He lightly caressed her abdomen and kissed her forehead. Then he walked to the makeshift tent and settled himself on the floor to sleep beneath it. He had certainly spent many nights in more uncomfortable conditions. However, the thought that his wife and children were warm and protected brought comfort to him. He fluffed a pillow, noticing that he was surrounded by stuffed toy elephants. Soon he slumbered.

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

Michaela awoke with a small finger in her eye. Noah was curled next to her, unaware of the discomfort he was inflicting on his mother. Gently, she adjusted his hand, then noticed that Sully was not in the bed. Sitting up, she spotted his leg sticking out from beneath the makeshift tent.

She smiled and rose from the bed. Then she knelt down and lightly ran her hand along his leg. She saw her husband flinch slightly. Drawing back the tent flap, she peeked underneath.

"What are you doing under here?" she whispered.

Sully yawned and rolled over to look at her.

Reaching up to caress her cheek, he responded, "No room for me in bed."

"There's always room for you," she smiled.

"When I came back with your medical bag, you an' the kids were all sleepin'," he explained.

"I missed you next to me," she mused. "Somehow having Noah's finger in my eye is not quite the same."

He smiled.

"May I join you under here?" she queried.

"Michaela, you shouldn't be sleepin' on the floor," he advised.

"I've slept under worse circumstances," she reminded.

"Not when you were pregnant," he reminded.

"What about the night Katie was born?" she tapped his side. "Move over, please."

"Here," he fluffed some pillows for her.

Michaela made herself comfortable beside him, "That's better."

"Forgot somethin'," he held up a stuffed elephant and placed it on her belly.

She clasped the toy, "Should we name it?"

"How 'bout Philly?" he offered.

"Philly, it is," she agreed.

Sully turned on his side to face her. Caressing her abdomen, he plied tender kisses to the lobe of her ear.

"Think you can sleep now?" he spoke low.

"Not if you're going to kiss me like that," she smiled.

"Can't help myself when you're so close," he raised an eyebrow.

"Might I request some more poetry?" she placed her hand atop his as it rested on her belly.

He pondered a moment, then recited:

"Love be enough: though the World be a waning,
And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining,
...Though the skies be too dark for dim eyes to discover
The gold-cups and daisies fair blooming thereunder,
Though the hills be held shadows, and the sea a dark wonder,
...And this day draw a veil over all deeds pass'd over,
Yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter;
The void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter
...These lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover."

With that, he softly kissed the sides of her mouth.

"Was that Wordsworth?" she guessed the poet.

"William Morris," he identified.

"Oh, Sully," her voice broke slightly. "How can I ever tell you what you mean to me?"

"You tell me every day, in many ways," he raised her hand to his lips.

"I have a confession," she spoke.

"What?" he inquired.

"I'm nervous about returning to work," she admitted.

"Why?" he was curious.

"I wonder if I might have a memory lapse," she expressed.

"You'll do fine," he assured.

She sighed.

"Anythin' else?" he questioned.

"What do you mean?" she questioned.

"Anythin' else botherin' ya?" he specified.

She was silent.

He kissed her shoulder, "Tell me."

She took a deep breath, "I don't want to burden you."

"You could never burden me," he encouraged.

"Some things are better left unspoken," she was cryptic.

Sully sensed her angst, "Is it about the baby?"

She quickly turned her head to look at him, "How did you...."

"I know you," he offered.

"I'll see Dr. Bernard in the morning," she noted. "It's just precautionary. There's no basis for concern."

"You'll do fine," he smiled.

"As a physician, I know there are risks, given my age and previous miscarriage after the stabbing," she put on her professional air.

"You don't have t' be the doctor around me," he grinned. "We been through too much for that. It's natural t' be nervous."

"I remember when we were first married," she paused. "I wanted with all my heart to give you a child. But it seemed to be taking so long. I thought I was doing something wrong."

He smiled, "You did everythin' just right."

"I know how much it meant to you," she felt another wave of tears.

"And t' you," he knew. "But we got four examples in our bed right now of how quick you learn."

"The closer I get to having this little one, the more I realize how many.... things could go wrong," she turned her face away from him.

Gently, Sully guided her back to look into her eyes, "Nothin's gonna go wrong. This is just night fear talkin'."

"Night fear?" she was puzzled.

"Yep," he nodded. "In the middle o' the night, our fears seem bigger."

She acquiesced, "You're right. I suppose I'm just tired."

"Why don't you get back in bed?" he gestured. "I'll bring Joe an' Katie down here with me t' make more room for ya."

"No," she snuggled closer. "I'm right where I want to be."

"I was just thinkin'," he raised an eyebrow. "What about you an' me doin' somethin' special for Valentine's Day?"

"Special?" she was intrigued.

"Yep," he winked.

She turned to run her fingers through his long locks, "What do you want to do?"

"You gotta ask?" he grinned impishly.

Michaela smiled at his expression, "You have that look, Mr. Sully."

"What look?" he feigned innocence.

"The look that makes my heart beat a little faster," her gaze intensified.

"So we're doin' somethin' special on Valentine's Day then?" he pursed his lips.

She leaned forward to kiss him, "I look forward to it."

"Now, you an' Philly better get some rest," he pulled the blanket more snugly around her.

"Sully," she paused.

"Hmm?" he waited.

"Thank you," she leaned her head against his.

"For what?" he stroked her arm.

"For making my night fears go away," she smiled.

"Maybe next time I have some, you can make mine go away, too," he kissed the top of her head.

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

Dawn rose on Colorado Springs. Rays of golden sunlight filtered through the chilly air, brightening the pristine snow atop Pikes Peak.

Loren began to sweep off the planks of wood in front of his mercantile. Robert E fired up the forge at his Livery, as Grace poured him a cup of steaming coffee from her stove at the Cafe. Jake opened the door to his barbershop and yawned. With a nod, he greeted Loren. At The Gazette, Dorothy finished cleaning the printing press while Henriette proofread the article she had written on the upcoming Valentine's dance at the Chateau. She wondered if Brian would ask her to go with him to the gala.

At the Sully homestead, Brian rose early and finished shaving. He dabbed some of the special cologne Sully used onto his cheeks. Straightening his tie, he headed down the steps to the aroma of sizzling bacon in the skillet.

In their bedroom, Michaela and Sully were curled on the rug next to the fireplace. Sully felt a light tapping on his shoulder.

"Papa," it was Annie.

Sully stretched his arms, then suddenly realized the little girl was beside him, "How'd you get outa bed, darlin'?"

"Hold," Annie plopped beside her father.

"Come here," his heart melted. "Nothin' I like better than holdin'."

Annie smiled as he sat up and enfolded her in his arms.

"Can you give your Pa a kiss?" he invited.

Annie closed her eyes and puckered her lips. Sully smiled at her expression. Leaning forward, she kissed him.

"That was nice," he grinned. "You sure look beautiful in the mornin'. Just like your Ma."

"Mama," the little girl reached out to her mother.

"Shh," Sully kissed the top of her head. "Let her sleep."

"Bun," she pointed to the stuffed elephant next to Michaela.

"That's Philly," he held it up for his daughter. "Can you say Philly?"

"Pilly," Annie attempted as she touched his lips.

"Close," he pretended to nibble on her fingers. "Are ya hungry?"

The child nodded in the affirmative.

"Let's get you somethin' t' eat then," he rose to his feet, still holding her in his embrace.

Pausing by the light of the window, he held his daughter up and caressed her cheeks with the back of his index finger.

"How'd you get your Ma's beautiful eyes?" he kissed her.

Annie opened her eyes wider as if to exaggerate the distinction.

When Sully opened the door, Bridget stood before him poised to knock, "I was just comin' t' see if these wee ones were up."

"Just Annie," he remarked. "I don't know how she got outa bed without fallin'. The kids ended up sleepin' in bed, an' Michaela an' me on the floor."

Bridget reached out to the little girl and chuckled, "You got your Papa wrapped around your finger, don't ya darlin'?"

"Yea," Annie agreed, not sure of what the nanny meant.

At that moment, the other children began to awaken. Sully kissed each good morning and helped them from the bed. Soon, Bridget had them downstairs for breakfast.

Sully returned to Michaela's side. Kneeling down, he gently slid his arms beneath her. She did not awaken. Lifting her, he carried her to the bed and placed her on the soft mattress, still warm from the children's earlier slumber there.

"Sully?" she opened her eyes a slit.

"Sorry I woke ya," he apologized. "I thought you could use some more rest in bed."

"Where are the children?" she became more alert.

"Downstairs for breakfast," he folded the blanket they had used for a tent.

She yawned, "I should get up then."

"What time are you seein' Dr. Bernard?" he queried.

"Ten," she sat up. "Oh, my."

"What?" Sully noted the raised pitch of her voice.

"Come here," she reached out her hand.

Swiftly, Sully went to her side, "What is it?"

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

"Here," Michaela guided Sully's hand to her belly. "Can you feel the baby moving?"

His eyes brightened, "Sure is active in there."

"Oh, Sully," her smile broadened. "Isn't it the most wonderful feeling?"

He tilted his head against hers, "Sure is."

They were interrupted by a light tapping at their door.

"Come in," Michaela beckoned.

Josef opened the door and entered the room, "What we doin'?"

"We're feeling your little brother or sister moving," Michaela held out her hand to him.

"How ya do that?" his eyes widened. "They're downstairs eatin'."

"No, Joe," Sully lifted him onto his lap. "She means the new baby."

"You can feel it?" his eyebrows rose.

"Right here," Michaela pointed to her belly.

"Can I feel?" the little boy hoped.

"Certainly," Michaela placed his hand on her abdomen.

"I don' feel nothin'," he frowned.

"Be patient," she counseled. "There. Did you feel that?"

"Whoa!" Josef pulled his hand back quickly. "Is it tww.... tryin' t' get out?"

"Not yet," she smiled at his reaction.

"Does it hurt, Mama?" he grew concerned.

"No," she assured. "You were active, just like this one."

"How big is the baby?" he wondered.

She held her fingers apart, "I would say, about this size."

"That not big," he rubbed her belly. "Lookie how much www.... rroom it takes up."

She smiled, "If you gentlemen will excuse me, I'm going downstairs."

"You excused," Josef allowed. "I help Papa."

When she departed, the little boy turned to his father.

"Somethin' on your mind, Joe?" Sully suspected.

"How ya know?" he was curious.

"I just figured you wanted t' talk t' me," Sully returned.

Josef took a deep breath, "Could I ask ya somethin'?"

"Sure," he consented.

Josef sighed, "I know what Mama say, but I wanna know what you say."

"Say about what?" he waited.

"Diforce," the little boy specified.

"What about divorce?" Sully stroked the child's back.

"It means ya not marwied no more," Josef defined. "W....right?"

"Right," he nodded.

"But when Mattew an' Emma get marwied, W....Revwend Johnson say 'til death apart," the little boy recalled. "Is Colleen gonna die if she gets diforce?"

"No," Sully assured.

"I thinked marwied people gotta stay forever," Josef continued.

"They're supposed to," he agreed.

"If Colleen an' Andwew get diforce, they're apart," Josef struggled.

Sully nodded, "I reckon it's confusin'. Huh?"

"Uh-huh," he sighed.

"When folks get married, they do promise t' stay t'gether until death," Sully explained. "But sometimes, the couple finds out they made a mistake."

"Colleen maked mistake?" his brow wrinkled.

"Maybe," Sully nodded. "She an' Andrew gotta figure that out. If they can't have a lovin' home, then they figure it's best t' not stay t'gether."

"We got a lovin' home, don' we, Papa?" Josef looked up.

"Sure do," he grinned.

"Samanta's Mama an' Papa didn'," the little boy's eyes saddened.

"It's been rough for her," Sully commented. "She's a lucky little girl t' have a friend like you."

"I don' think there's a lot o' lovin' homes," he speculated.

"What makes ya say that?" Sully inquired.

"You an' Mama hug an' kiss," Josef stated. "I don' see other Mamas an' Papas do that."

"Maybe they do it but not so others see," he offered.

Josef fell silent.

Sully anticipated, "Anythin' else on your mind?"

"I jus' hope we stay happy home," the little boy affirmed.

"Well...." Sully paused. "What can we do t' make sure it stays happy?"

Josef pointed to himself, "You askin' me?"

"Uh-huh," Sully grinned. "You got any advice?"

The child's brow wrinkled, "We in twouble if ya gotta ask me, Papa."

Sully chuckled and kissed the little boy's cheek, "Don't worry, Joe. I'll tell ya a secret about a happy home."

"What?" Josef was interested.

"No matter what happens, ya gotta keep on lovin' each other," he affirmed.

"Even if ya do somethin' bad?" the little boy wondered.

"Especially then," Sully informed him.

"You ever do bad things, Papa?" Josef inquired.

Sully was quiet for a moment, then uttered, "Yea, I have."

"An' Mama keep lovin' ya?" he questioned.

Sully's eyes glistened, and he swallowed hard.

"Yep," was his simple reply.

"She loves me, too," Josef added. "Even with my bad manners."

"Ya know, your Ma's birthday's comin' up," Sully noted. "We gotta give her somethin' special t' thank her for lovin' us an' t' let her know how much we love her."

"What we get her?" the child considered.

"Let's think on it," he advised.

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

As Sully, Michaela and the children neared the Livery, the surrey slowed.

"Hey, Dr. Mike," Robert E stopped hammering a horseshoe.

"Good morning, Robert E," she acknowledged.

"Is it okay if Grace brings Abraham by later?" he requested. "He coughed most o' the night."

Though she had not intended to see any patients, she replied, "I can see him in about an hour, if that's convenient."

"Thanks," he was grateful.

"Okay if we leave the rig here, Robert E?" Sully helped his family down.

"I'll take care of it for ya," he grinned. "Sure is a fine lookin' carriage."

"I'll get the kids settled in at the Clinic while you pick up the mail," Sully offered.

Michaela kissed Katie, "Have a good day at school, my darling."

"Thanks, Mama," she smiled as she skipped over to meet Samantha Bing.

Then Michaela headed toward the Depot.

"Mornin', Dr. Mike," Horace looked up from his desk. "Kinda warm for February, ain't it?"

"Yes, it is" she smiled. "How are you doing?"

"I been okay," he shrugged. "Valentine's Day is kinda hard.... ya know."

"Perhaps Myra would like an invitation to the Chateau dance," she suggested.

"Ya think?" his expression changed.

"You could go as friends," Michaela mentioned.

"That's a good idea," he sifted through the mail. "This here's for you."

She accepted the stack of letters, "My, this is quite a lot. Thank you, Horace."

"Thank you, too," he grinned.

Michaela pivoted and headed toward the construction site of the new hospital. The brick facade was complete. Several workers were carrying wood into the building. They nodded as she passed.

"Hey, Dr. Mike," the foreman approached her. "How was your trip?"

"It was.... interesting, but I'm happy to be home," she smiled. "How are things coming?"

"I figure we oughta be done by late April," he assessed. "It's been a little longer than we anticipated on account of the shortage of some of the supplies, but you wanted the best."

"I understand," she nodded. "Have a good day."

"You, too," he smiled and watched her depart.

From his shop, Jake spotted Michaela and called to her. She stopped as he crossed the street.

"Hey, Dr. Mike," he tipped his hat. "While you was gone, the town council had a meetin'."

She tensed, "A meeting about what?"

"We voted t' give the teachers a raise, just like you suggested," he hoped she would be pleased.

"What about the bond?" she wondered. "How shall we pay for it?

"Don't need t' worry about it," he explained. "Old man Jenkins died an' left a bunch o' money t' the town for improvements."

"I'm sorry to hear of his passing, but that was most generous of him," Michaela noted.

"We're gonna put in some new sidewalks, even over t' your new hospital," he boasted.

"That's wonderful," she smiled.

"Thought you'd like it," he grinned broadly. "You an' Sully goin' t' the Chateau for the Valentine's Dance?

"I.... we haven't discussed it," she knew their schedule would be hectic.

"Teresa an' me are plannin' on bein' there," he stated.

"Things are...." she paused.

"Real good," his eye had a twinkle. "Well, have a good day."

"You, too, Jake," she resumed her walk to the Clinic.

Colleen greeted her at the door, "Good morning, Ma."

Michaela removed her jacket and kissed her daughter's cheek, "Good morning. How are you today?"

"I'm fine," she returned. Touching her mother's belly, she added, "How's this little one?"

"We felt movement this morning," Michaela's face beamed.

"Wonderful," Colleen grinned.

Sully emerged from the anteroom, "They oughta stay occupied for a while."

"Did you tie them down?" Michaela teased.

"It was temptin'," he winked.

"Dr. Bernard should be here any minute," Michaela began to prepare the examining table. "Then I'm going to check Abraham."

"I thought you weren't working today," Colleen recalled.

"Robert E said the baby coughed all evening," she remarked. "I'm concerned about him."

"If you're sure you're up to it," Colleen shrugged.

"I must say, this has been my smoothest pregnancy," Michaela caressed her belly. "I hope it continues."

"You've been real careful," Colleen commented.

"The train accident concerned me," she admitted. "But the physician in Philadelphia said everything was normal."

Michaela stepped behind the screen to change from her dress.

Sully approached her, "Anythin' ya need?"

"Why don't you look through the mail while I put on a gown?" she suggested. "It's on my desk."

Sully lifted the stack and began to go through each piece, "Ya got a letter here from Miriam."

"Miriam?" she peeked out from behind the screen.

"Yep," Sully handed it to her.

Then he spotted a note addressed to him. It had the return address of a United States Senator.

Colleen noticed, "Looks important."

Sully placed it in his pocket and spoke sarcastically, "If it's from a Senator, it can't be that important."

Michaela appeared from behind the screen, "A senator?"

"What's Miriam have to say?" Sully changed the subject.

"The most wonderful news," her eyes lit up. "She is returning to medicine."

Sully touched her shoulder, "That's real good. You must have inspired her."

"Her letter is quite flattering," she blushed.

"Could I read it?" Sully requested.

Before she could respond, Dr. Bernard arrived. After greeting him, Michaela settled back onto the examination table, with Sully at her side. She clasped her husband's hand. He sensed her angst and gave her a reassuring squeeze to ease her tension.

Bernard spent longer on the examination and asked Michaela more questions than he had done before in this pregnancy. Many pertained to the train wreck, and some had to do with her diet. Sully could tell that his wife was becoming tenser.

"Everythin' all right, Doctor?" Sully could contain his curiosity no longer.

Bernard paused before responding, "Everything appears to be progressing normally."

"Are you certain?" Michaela was still nervous.

"Yes," the physician rose. "The train injury seems to have had no ill effects on the baby."

"That's a relief," Michaela could finally breathe. "We felt it moving this morning."

"Quite normal, as you know," Bernard smiled. "You're doing fine. Both of you."

The physician joined Colleen, who handed him a file on which Bernard could update the information on Michaela.

Sully caressed his wife's abdomen, then sweetly kissed her, "Feel better?"

"Thank God, everything is all right," she sighed.

"I know you were kinda nervous," he smiled.

"So were you, Mr. Sully," she knew.

Bernard returned to her, "All is well, Dr. Quinn. Just keep doing what you've been doing."

"I'll take care of her, Doctor," Sully assured.

"I know you will," he smiled. "I'll see myself out."

"Since you're staying at the Clinic for a while, I'll go over and check on Aida May Jenkins, Ma," Colleen offered. "Her husband died."

"Jake told me," Michaela's eyes saddened. "Mr. Jenkins left an endowment to the town, and part of it will be used to give the teachers a raise. He mentioned new sidewalks, too."

"Without a bond?" Sully tilted his head.

"Apparently it won't be necessary," Michaela sat up and reached for her blouse.

"I'll see you two later," Colleen departed.

"Please convey our sympathies to Aida May," Michaela requested.

Sully helped his wife with the buttons on her blouse. Then she felt his warm breath, kissing her neck.

"Sully," she tingled.

"Ya know, I was thinkin' about a Valentine's Day ten years ago," he mused.

"Ten years ago?" she pondered. "That was when you gave me my engagement ring."

"Uh-huh," he came around to face her. "I was fixin' your examination table, an' you told me how you wanted t' spend our first Valentine's Day since gettin' engaged."

"Then you had to attend a conference and left," she reminded.

"But I came back an' gave ya your ring," he recalled.

"I remember," she curled up the corner of her mouth.

He continued, "Back then, ya mentioned wantin' t' go on a picnic in the woods, have a romantic dinner, take a walk by moonlight."

She sighed, "We never got around to that, did we?"

"Nope," he lightly placed his hand on her abdomen.

She put her palm atop his hand, "What made you think of that?"

"I'd like t' do that for Valentine's Day," he mentioned.

"Do what?" she was uncertain.

"The picnic in the woods, romantic dinner, walk by moonlight," he repeated.

"Sully," she shook her head. "That's impossible."

"Why?" he was curious.

"Because I.... we have entirely too much to do," she noted.

"I thought I cured you," he teased.

"Cured me?" her brow wrinkled.

"Cured you of thinkin' up excuses why we can't be romantic," he retorted.

She leaned closer to kiss him, "We're very romantic, but...."

"No but's," he placed his finger lightly on her lips. He pivoted to leave her, "I'm goin' out t' see Cloud Dancin'."

"Byron Sully," her voice stopped him.

"Mmm?" he turned.

"I love you," her tone softened.

"I love you, too," he grinned. "See ya later."

"Sully," she clasped the lapels of his jacket.

"Mmm?" he paused.

"The letter from the Senator...." she paused. "Read it."

"Michaela," he began to protest.

"Please?" she looked up with the eyes he adored.

"All right," he consented. "But later."

"Why later?" she wondered.

He was out the door before he could answer her. Michaela shook her head and went to the file in which Dr. Bernard had logged her examination. She sat at her desk to peruse its contents. Suddenly, she felt the baby's movements again. Lightly placing her hand on the mound, she softly rubbed it.

"You certainly are an active one today," she smiled.

At that moment, there was a knock on her door.

Michaela beckoned, "Come in."

Grace appeared with Abraham in her arms, "I hope it's no bother for ya t' see him, Dr. Mike."

"It's never a bother," she rose. "Could you place him on the examination table for me?"

"Sure," Grace nodded nervously.

Michaela's voice was calming, "Good morning, Abraham."

The little boy put his finger in his mouth and looked at her inquisitively. She placed her stethoscope to her ears and began to listen to his heart and lungs.

"He's all right, ain't he, Dr. Mike?" Grace folded her hands.

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

"His lungs are a little congested," Michaela ascertained. "Robert E said he's been coughing."

"Seems a little better t'day," Grace explained. "But I wanted ya t' check him."

"Certainly," Michaela went to her medicine cabinet. "I'm going to give you some bark to make a weak tea for him."

"Bark?" she was uncertain.

"An Indian remedy," Michaela explained. "It works. I've used it on my own children."

"I trust ya," Grace smiled.

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

"It is good to see you, my brother," Cloud Dancing greeted Sully. "How was your trip to Philadelphia?"

"We had quite a scare," Sully confided. "We were in a train wreck. Michaela lost her memory for a spell."

"The baby is all right?" the medicine man hoped.

"Dr. Bernard checked on things t'day," Sully nodded. "An' we felt it movin' this mornin'."

"This is good," he smiled broadly.

"Yep," Sully folded his arms. "How's everythin' goin' at the school?"

Cloud Dancing replied, "The children are eager to learn, but we must still use caution around the Army."

"They try anythin'?" his brow wrinkled.

"No," the medicine man noted.

"I wish there was another way," Sully sighed. "A way for the children t' live an' learn the ways of their grandfathers without the soldiers bein' so close."

Cloud Dancing placed his hand on his friend's shoulder, "For most of my people, it is much worse. Dr. Mike has provided a place for the children. She cares for their health and well being. Having a few soldiers here is not so bad."

"I guess," Sully shrugged.

Cloud Dancing observed his demeanor.

"There is something troubling you, my brother?" he sensed.

"I got a letter from Senator Hoar," he took the paper from his pocket.

"I do not know this name," Cloud Dancing said.

"He's from Massachusetts," Sully unfolded the letter. "He's got a friend who wants t' see some o' the land around here. Wants me t' take 'em for a tour. Welland Smith recommended me for the job."

"This request concerns you?" he interpreted.

"I don't trust Senators," Sully's jaw tensed.

"Because of what happened in Boston," Cloud Dancing knew.

"They always got a reason behind what they say an' do," he sighed.

"This reason could be a good one," the medicine man counseled.

"You think I oughta do it?" Sully tilted his head.

"What does Dr. Mike think?" he wondered.

"I haven't talked t' her about it yet," the mountain man returned. "But she'll probably want me t' do it."

"It could be what the Spirits mean for you to do, as well," Cloud Dancing advised.

"We'll see," Sully was noncommittal.

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

At the Cafe, Brian and Henriette sat at a table isolated from the other diners.

"I'm glad you could join me for supper," the young man smiled.

"I'm glad you asked me," she returned.

"I was wonderin'...." he hesitated.

"Yes?" Henriette anticipated.

"How'd ya like t' go t' the Valentine's Dance with me?" he blurted out.

Without hesitation, she answered, "I'd love to."

He sighed in relief, "Good."

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

"Myra," Horace hesitated at her boarding room door.

"Horace," she folded her arms. "Ya been hemmin' and hawin' for ten minutes. What's on your mind?"

"You wouldn't wanna go t' the Valentine's Dance, would ya?" he framed his question.

Myra eyed him curiously, "Are you askin' me t' go with you?"

He cleared his throat uncomfortably, "If you wanna put it that way, yea. I am."

"Sure, Horace," she smiled. "I'll go with ya."

"It's just as friends," he began to defend before her answer registered. "Ya will?"

"Thanks for askin'," she kissed his cheek.

Horace touched the area, "I.... I'm real glad."

"Night, Papa," Samantha peeked around the corner.

"Night, Sweetie," his face beamed.

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

At the Cafe, Hank eyed Brian and Henriette as Lexie completed her meal.

"Looks like love's in the air for the town reporter," he joked.

"Henriette is a nice young lady," Lexie dabbed the napkin at the corners of her mouth.

"I hear she's part Injun," he leaned his elbows on the table.

Lexie decided to broach the subject on her mind, "Do you have any special plans for Valentine's Day?"

"Valentine's Day?" he chuckled. "Yea. My special plans are sellin' lots more whiskey than usual."

"More whiskey?" she was puzzled.

"Lots o' lonely hearts on that night," he took a sip of liquor from his private flask.

"So, you wouldn't want to do anything special with.... me?" she mentioned.

"I wanna do what we always do after I close up the Gold Nugget," he reached for her hand. "I come out t' the ranch an'...."

"That's not what I mean, Hank," she interrupted. "Valentine's Day is for.... lovers."

"Ain't that what we are?" he tilted his head.

"Never mind," she exhaled loudly.

"What are you gettin' all huffy about?" he retorted.

"Hank," she grew more frustrated. "I was hoping we could go to that dance at the Chateau."

"The Chateau?" he frowned. "Preston's Chateau? I'd rather be bit by a rattle snake."

"Perhaps that can be arranged," she replied sarcastically.

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

Sully sat quietly at the dinner table, while his children prattled on in lively discussion. Annie and Noah seemed particularly fussy, and it was all Michaela and Bridget could do to keep them occupied while the family dined.

"Why's Bran not eatin' with us?" Josef raised the question.

"He's dining with Henriette this evening," Michaela answered.

Katie informed the family, "We learned in school that they're gonna count everyone in a sentence this year."

"I believe you mean census, Sweetheart," Michaela amended.

"That's the word," Katie agreed. "Will they count our new baby?"

"That depends on when the census person does the counting," Michaela noted.

"It's part o' the Consitution," Katie went on. "They gotta count us."

"We do that to determine representation of each state in the House of Representatives," Michaela specified. "Those states who gain more people will gain more representatives."

"It's part o' Congress," Katie smiled.

"I don' like Congress," Josef added.

"Why not?" Michaela's brow wrinkled. "It's where the people's will is heard in our democracy."

"I don' know what it is," Josef shrugged.

"So you don't like what you don't know?" Michaela touched her son's nose.

"Yep," he agreed.

"You'll like it when ya learn about it in school, Joey," Katie informed him.

"I'm never goin' t' school," he folded his arms.

"Why not?" Michaela was surprised. "You used to talk about going all the time."

"I wanna stay home with Annie an' Noah," he replied.

"I wish I would have finished school, don't ya know," Bridget added.

"I bet Mrs. Slicker an' Mrs. Johnson would let ya come t' our school," Katie suggested to the nanny.

"I'm too old for that, darlin'," Bridget smiled wistfully.

"Did you finish school, Papa?" Josef wondered.

Lost in his own thoughts, Sully did not reply.

"Poppy?" Katie got her father's attention. "Joey asked ya a question."

"What?" he became more focused on his children.

"Did ya finish school?" Josef repeated.

"No," he replied.

Michaela studied her husband's expression, "Your father did not have the same opportunity that you children have."

"I wish I would've," Sully nodded. "You kids will have lots of book learnin', just like your Ma."

"Why I need book learnin'?" Josef countered.

"So you can be whatever ya wanna be," Sully stated.

"I wanna be like you, Papa," the little boy returned.

"Still, book learnin' won't hurt," he suggested.

"Who's ready for dessert?" Bridget's eyes widened.

Quickly, Katie and Josef raised their hands. Imitating their older siblings, Annie and Noah put theirs up, as well.

"Come help me, Katie," Bridget rose from the table.

"Papa," Noah reached for his father.

Sully absently lifted the child from his high chair and settled him on his lap. Michaela continued to wonder why her husband was so distracted.

"Sully," she spoke low. "Is there something...."

"Here's your pie, Mama," Katie set the dessert before her mother.

"Thank you, Sweetheart," she smiled. "It looks delicious."

"An' for you, Poppy," the little girl placed her father's on the table.

"Thanks, Kates," he acknowledged.

Noah began to reach for the pie.

"Hold on, No-bo," Sully drew him back.

"Are you mad, Papa?" Josef perceived.

"Mad?" he was puzzled. "No."

"You're rather quiet this evening, Sully," Michaela mentioned.

"Just thinkin', is all," he returned Noah to his high chair. Then he rose from the table. "I'm gonna go take care o' the animals. Dinner was real good, Bridget."

"Thank ya, lad," she looked to Michaela. "I'll keep an eye on things here, dearie. Maybe Sully could use some.... help with the animals?"

"I help," Josef bolted up.

"Not you, boy-oh," the nanny drew him back. "I need you t' test this pie."

"Why's it need a test?" he was curious.

"I used a new recipe," Bridget fibbed.

"Okay," his shoulders slumped.

Michaela stood up and went to the door. After pulling a shawl around her shoulders, she left the house.

When she reached the barn, Sully was leaning against a support beam, his eyes closed.

Michaela went to him, "What's wrong?"

"I'm gonna have t' add on t' the barn so there's more room," he remarked. "The surrey takes up...."

"Sully," she interrupted. "That can't be why you were so quiet."

"I was gonna wait 'til later t' talk about it with ya," he lifted a pitch fork.

"Talk about what?" she questioned.

"That letter I got t'day," he specified.

"You read it?" she was pleased.

"It's from Senator Hoar," he identified.

"Senator George Frisbie Haor?" her eyes widened.

"Uh-huh," he noted her expression. "You heard o' him?"

"Father knew him," she explained. "He was an abolitionist. His brother Ebenezer was Attorney General for President Grant. Why is he writing to you?"

"Last year, Congress established the Bureau of Ethnology," he detailed. "John Wesley Powell is headin' it."

"Ethnology," she paused. "Having to do with races and culture? For what purpose?"

"There's a bunch o' men who wanna preserve the Indians' antiquities," Sully returned. "Senator Hoar is one of 'em."

"That's wonderful," she reacted.

"No, it ain't," he frowned.

"Why?" she touched his arm.

"Antiquities are what's left after the people are gone," his jaw tightened. "Why didn't they try t' save the people, instead o' their things?"

She sympathized, "It's important that future generations never forget the Indians, Sully. Don't you want our grandchildren to grow up knowing about Black Kettle, Chief Joseph and all those who...."

He cut her off, "All these men will do is put some fancy words in a book or a few arrowheads in a museum. T' them, the Cheyenne land is just a bit of earth. They got no notion of what it means beyond that."

"What does Senator Hoar want you to do?" she was curious.

"He wants t' introduce legislation t' preserve the antiquities on federal land," Sully explained. "Meanwhile, some fella named Adolph F. Bandelier is comin' out here t' look around. He'll be here t'morrow. They want me t' show him some old Indian sites in Colorado."

Though she thought it a good idea, she refrained from voicing her unsolicited opinion. Instead, she linked her fingers in Sully's.

He sighed, "I gotta think on this, Michaela."

"I understand," she backed away.

He turned to her, his eyes moist.

"Sully," she rushed to his arms.

After a warm embrace, she looked up and cupped his cheek in her hand.

"You ain't gonna try t' talk me int' doin' it?" he anticipated.

"I'll support whatever you decide," she smiled.

With that, she left him.

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

After tucking in her children for the night, Michaela settled back on her pillow. Sully had not returned since he left the house after dinner. Her heart ached for him. Accepting the notion that things could never be the same for the Indians was a terrible realization. Would the only thing left for future generations be a trip to a museum? If that were the case, no one was better suited than Sully to play a part in what would be preserved to posterity. But this had to be his decision. She also knew that trusting anyone associated with the government was nearly impossible for him. He had been lied to and deceived far too many times.

She rose from the bed and stepped toward the window. Glancing out, she noticed that the barn light was still on. She sighed and returned to the bed. Soon, her eyelids grew heavy, and she dosed off.

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

After checking on his sleeping children and kissing them good night, Sully entered the bedroom as quietly as he could. He stood for a moment, gazing at his wife. Without her uttering a word, he knew that she thought he should lead Bandelier on a tour of the Indian lands.

He sighed, "I know what you want me t' do, Michaela."

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

Stepping toward the mantel, Sully quietly placed two more logs on the fire.

"Sully?" Michaela yawned. "What time is it?"

"Little after eleven," he turned. "Go back t' sleep."

"Have you made up your mind?" she wondered.

"Still thinkin'," he folded his arms.

She sat up, "Why don't you come to bed now?"

"In a little bit," he stared at the embers near the hearth.

Michaela rose and went to him, "Is there anything I can do?"

He kissed her forehead, "Just you bein' here helps."

She slid her arms around his waist and leaned her head against his chest. Sully stroked her belly, then felt the baby move.

"You feel that?" he whispered.

"It's hard not to," she chuckled.

Sully observed, "Sure is active."

"At least it's not twins," she retorted.

"I don't know how ya do it," he toyed with a strand of her hair. "I sure do admire ya, Michaela."

"Admire me?" she wondered. "Why?"

"For what ya go through t' have a baby," he clarified.

"It's all worth it in the end, isn't it?" she looked at him adoringly.

"Yep," he smiled.

She leaned against his chest again.

Sully kissed the top of her head, "You better get t' sleep."

"Not without you," she drew closer.

He uttered low:

"Heart, are you great enough
For a love that never tires?
O' heart, are you great enough for love?"

"Was that Byron?" she peered into his eyes.

"Tennyson," he smiled.

Michaela slipped her hands slowly to his chest and began to plant light kisses on his flesh.

"Mmm....Michaela," he caught his breath.

"Mmm?" she continued without looking at him.

He framed her face in his hands, bidding her to look into his eyes, "I love you."

"And I love you," her tone was enticing.

"You know.... what you're doin' t' me," his pulse raced.

"Mmm-humm," she unhooked his buckskins. "Do you want me to stop?"

"No," he gulped.

"Good," she smiled.

Sully drew up the hem of her nightgown, pausing at her abdomen to kneel and kiss her belly. Michaela closed her eyes, allowing him to transport her to heightened pleasures.

"I need you so much, Sully," she invited.

"I need you, too," he stood up.

"When I saw you in the barn, struggling over what course of action to take, I needed to be with you at that instant," she confessed. "I wanted to show you how my heart is yours, and you're not alone."

"I know your heart is mine, an' I'm not alone," he smiled. "But I sure do like it when ya show me."

Sully completed the task of lifting her gown over her head and tossed it toward their bed. Michaela tingled as he drew her closer. She reached down to finish divesting him of his buckskins. Now their contact was unencumbered.

As he continued his tender kisses, Michaela felt his growing need. They reclined beside the hearth, ready to fulfill their love. Soon, their physical attraction could no longer be contained, and they were overwhelmed by the waves of pleasure their intimacy always brought.

Their union complete, they settled next to the fire. Sully reached for a blanket to cover themselves as Michaela savored the afterglow of their passion.

"Do you remember our first Christmas together?" she suddenly queried.

"What made ya think of that?" he grinned.

She paused to run her fingers through his long locks, "You came to the old homestead when we were snowed in. You brought us gifts."

"I remember," he paused.

"That's when I knew you were the man I would marry," she revealed.

"'Cause I brought ya gifts?" he joked.

"No," she linked her fingers in his. "Because you touched my heart."

He raised an eyebrow, "You sure took your time admittin' it."

"I couldn't tell you right away," she ran her finger along his chin. "I remember you curled up by the hearth to sleep that night. It was the safest I had felt since moving to the frontier. And here you are at my hearth again, still making me feel safe."

"I think I like sleepin' by the hearth better when you're beside me," he teased.

"Ten years, Sully," she contemplated. "Can you believe we've been married nearly ten years?"

"Nope," he clasped her hand and drew it to his heart. "A lot o' folks didn't think it would last."

"Little did they know," she mused.

He replied, "I reckon they figured two people so different could never make it."

"We're not so different," she noted. "Not where it matters."

"Maybe that's why Colleen an' Andrew are havin' such a rough time," he speculated. "Maybe they're too different where it matters."

Her logical mind took over, "They're both physicians. They're compassionate and...."

He tenderly placed his finger on her lips, "You think maybe you could show me how your heart's mine again?"

"Again?" she warmed. "Is this your way of getting me to stop talking?"

"Works every time," he placed his hand in a particularly sensitive area.

Michaela kissed him, "I'd love to show you again."

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

"Mornin', Poppy," Katie joined her father at the breakfast table. "Is Mama still sleepin'?"

"Yep," he kissed her.

"You okay?" the child placed her hand on his shoulder.

"Fine," he smiled.

"You were sorta quiet last night," she observed sensitively. "Didn't ya feel good?"

"Your Ma made me feel better," he grinned.

"She's the best doctor in the world," the child commended.

"Sure is," Sully concurred.

"What are you doin' t'day?" she queried.

"I was gonna go check some traps," he informed her.

"Oh," she sounded disappointed.

"You wanna come?" he invited.

"No, thanks," she sighed.

"Somethin' special you wanna do?" he sensed. "I could check 'em another time."

"I just wanna spend some time with you an' Mama," she revealed. "I haven't seen ya very much lately."

Sully reached out to her, "Come here, sweet girl."

She smiled and went to him. Sully drew her onto his lap.

"Maybe we could go for a surrey ride," he raised an eyebrow.

"Ya think it would be okay with Mama?" she hoped.

"I think so," he nodded. "Should we take the other kids?"

She pondered, "I guess it can't be just the three of us anymore."

"If you want it t' be just the three of us, then that's the way it'll be," Sully assured.

"But isn't that bein' selfish of me, Poppy?" she considered.

He stroked her curls softly, "I think you're a very unselfish little girl. Your Ma an me are real proud of you, Kates."

She blushed, "Thanks."

"How about you eat breakfast, an' I'll go check with your Ma?" he grinned.

"Okay," she agreed.

At that moment, Josef bounded down the steps, his shirt buttoned crookedly.

"You dress yourself this mornin', Joe?" Sully observed.

"Yep," the little boy proudly showed him.

"Joey, you didn't do up the buttons right," Katie gestured.

"I have extwa one left over," he pointed.

"Would ya like me t' fix it?" Katie offered.

"No, thanks," Josef sat down. "What we havin' for bweakfast?"

Bridget placed a bowl of steaming oatmeal before him, "We'll start with this, Master Sully."

"Master?" Josef's eyes widened.

"That's a young mister, laddie," Bridget noted.

"I like lepwechan better," the little boy asserted.

"Leprechaun Sully," the nanny tilted her head. "You're right. It does sound better."

Sully smiled and headed upstairs. He paused at the twins' room to check on them. They still slumbered. Then he entered his bedroom. Michaela lay on her side of the bed with her hand resting on his pillow.

"Mornin'," he kissed her cheek.

She rolled over and yawned, "Good morning. Is everyone up?"

"Twins are still sleepin'," he ran his hand along her belly. "You hungry?"

"Famished," she exaggerated.

"I love it when you get plump," he grinned.

"Plump?" her brow wrinkled. "Am I plump?"

"Only right here," he caressed her abdomen. "An' it's for a good reason."

"How did I get in bed?" she suddenly realized.

"I thought you an' the baby would sleep better on a mattress," he explained.

"Thank you," she sat up.

"You got any patients at the Clinic t'day?" he queried.

"No appointments," she yawned again. "Colleen is on call in the event of any emergencies. Why?"

"Katie wants t' spend some time alone with us," he mentioned.

"Alone?" she was puzzled. "Is something wrong?"

"Nope," he smiled. "But I think she's feelin' a little left out."

"There's no reason for her to feel that way," she considered. "We include her in everything the other children do."

"Maybe it's just a case of rememberin' what it used t' be like before we had the other kids," he offered. "When our time wasn't divided among so many."

Michaela felt a pang of guilt, "And it won't be any easier for her when this little one is born."

"Nope," he knew. "So I told her we'd go on a surrey ride."

"That's a splendid idea," she agreed.

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

Katie sat on her father's lap, and he let her hold the horse's reins.

"This is fun," the little girl remarked.

"It's a lovely day for a ride," Michaela smiled. "Where shall we go?"

"I wanna go t' the Reservation," Katie specified.

"There is no more reservation, Sweetheart," Michaela noted.

"Where they used t' keep Cloud Dancin' an' the other Indians," Katie clarified.

"It's been vacant since the rev...." Michaela stopped. "For many years."

Sully wondered, "What makes ya wanna go there, honey?"

"'Cause of all the stories you an' Mama tell about the old days," Katie recalled. "I didn't go with ya then."

"You were too young," Michaela explained.

"May we go there now?" the child requested anew.

Michaela glanced toward her husband.

"Sure," Sully consented.

They traveled onward toward the old Palmer Creek Reservation. A few wooden beams and posts remained visible. However, most of the area was overgrown, reclaimed by Mother Earth.

There was an eerie silence about the place. Sully pulled the reins to stop the horse. Climbing down, he helped Michaela and Katie from the surrey.

Katie looked around, awe struck, "I feel like I've been here before."

"Perhaps it's because of how often we've spoken of it," Michaela suggested.

"This is where they had the school?" Katie spotted some overturned benches.

"Yes," Michaela clasped her hand.

Sully folded his arms tightly against his chest as he watched them walking. He saw Michaela gesture toward various remnants and knew she was telling their daughter about them. But memories of the gunfire that erupted when he tried to help the Indians flashed before him.

"Poppy?" Katie held out her hand to him.

He stepped forward to join them. Gradually, Sully's tension eased, and he began to tell his daughter about the people who had inhabited the reservation. He related how they were treated by the Army and the promises that were broken.

Katie's face reflected her sadness.

"Maybe that's enough for now, Sully," Michaela worried over the child's sensitivity.

"I don't understand why the Army was so mean," Katie shook her head.

"That's something we'll never understand either," Michaela told her daughter.

"Two things make men forget all sense of decency and compassion," Sully paused.

"What two things?" Katie wondered.

"Money an' power," he asserted.

"It makes ya mad, doesn't it, Poppy?" the child observed.

Michaela touched her husband's arm, "Your father did everything he could to help the Cheyenne."

"I still let 'em down," he filled with guilt.

"You could never let anybody down," Katie hugged him.

Sully closed his eyes, savoring the warmth of his daughter's embrace. He felt a lump in his throat as he looked toward Michaela. Seeing the moisture in her eyes, he felt awash in their love.

"Thanks, sweet girl," he spoke tenderly to his daughter.

Katie assured him, "I won't ever forget about the Cheyenne people. An' I'll tell Joey, Annie, Noah an' the new baby all I learn, too."

"At least you kids will know Cloud Dancin'," Sully nodded.

"I wish I could've known Black Kettle an' Snow Bird," Katie remembered their frequently mentioned names.

Sully caressed her cheek, "Long as we think about 'em, they'll never be gone."

"Brian told me about No Harm," Katie mentioned. "He plays a flute song in his memory."

"No Harm," Sully could scarcely say the child's name. "He died at Washita."

"Someday, I wanna go there," Katie informed her parents. "An' Sand Creek. too."

"Why?" Sully's voice was hushed.

"It's like bein' here, Poppy," Katie glanced around. "You don't see much, but you can feel it. Like they're still here."

"You're an incredible little girl," Michaela stroked her daughter's hair.

"Just like your Ma," Sully added.

"I think we oughta save their things," Katie picked up a small cooking pot.

Sully suddenly realized the wisdom of his daughter's words, "You think that would help folks remember them, Kates?"

"Sure," the little girl agreed. "Like when I see Grandma's brushes, I think of her. I can remember when she would brush my hair."

"Sully...." Michaela sensed he had experienced a change of heart.

"I'll let Senator Hoar's office know I'll help Bandelier," he avowed.

"Who are they?" Katie was uncertain.

"They are men who want people to remember the Indians, too, Sweetheart," Michaela informed her.

"May I help?" she requested.

"You already have, Kates," Sully kissed the top of her head. "You already have."

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

"Robert E," Grace tapped her husband's arm. "The baby's still fussin'."

"You gotta let that tea Dr. Mike gave ya work," he assured.

"I think he's got a fever now," she felt the child's forehead.

"Maybe he's just cuttin' a tooth," he speculated.

"Could be, I guess," Grace's brow creased.

"You think we oughta bother Dr. Mike t'night?" he frowned.

"I.... I don't know," she rocked Abraham.

"See if he'll sleep," Robert E urged. "If not, I'll ride out t' get Dr. Mike."

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

With eyes closed, Josef finished counting, "...eight, nine, ten. I comin' now."

When he opened his eyes, the living room was deserted except for Annie. She was sitting on the floor in plain sight, her little hands covering her eyes.

"Annie," Josef went to his little sister. "I can still see ya."

"No," she shook her head.

"When ya play hide 'n' seek, ya gotta hide, not cover your eyes," he explained.

She covered her eyes again. The little boy sighed in frustration. At that moment, Sully stepped through the front door.

"Papa!" Josef summoned his father. "Ya gotta help."

"What's wrong?" he removed his jacket and hung it on a wall peg.

"I twy t' get Annie t' hide, but she jus' covers her eyes," Josef explained.

Sully lifted Annie into his arms, "Where's Katie an' Noah?"

"Hidin' like they're s'posed to," he folded his arms.

"Well, ya best find 'em," he touched his son's nose. "It's almost time for bed."

"No, Papa," the little boy protested. "Would you play with us?"

Sully sat on the floor, still holding Annie. Josef immediately jumped on his father and wrestled him back. Soon, Katie and Noah came out of hiding to join them. Sully pretended that the children were overpowering him.

"Saints preserve us," Bridget rushed in. "It sounds like a riot in here."

"We're holdin' Papa down," Josef informed her.

"An' why might that be?" the nanny questioned.

"Jus' for fun," the little boy returned, giggles filling the room.

"If ya call this fun," she shook her head and returned to the kitchen.

Finally, Sully freed himself and sat up. Exhausted from the experience, the children each found a position near him.

"Poppy's gonna help save Indian anti.... what's it called?" Katie tilted her head.

"Antiquities," he specified.

"What's that?" Josef's eyes widened.

"It's their old things," Katie explained. "Like cooking pots."

"You gonna save ours, too?" the little boy wondered.

"No, Joey," Katie rolled her eyes.

Sully changed the subject, "You think of somethin' t' give your Ma for her birthday?"

"We could give her antiques," Josef pondered. "An' a party."

"When's your birthday, Poppy?" Katie wondered. "We've never had a party for you."

"It ain't important," he returned.

"Why?" Katie was curious.

"It just ain't," Sully's mood changed.

"Don' ya know it, Papa?" Josef was amazed. "Wasn't ya born?"

"Joey," Katie eyed him sternly. "'Course he was born."

Sully rubbed his son's back, "I mean I don't wanna talk about it, Joe."

"Hmm," Josef folded his arms. "This is a misery."

"Mystery?" Sully interpreted.

"Didn't your mother tell ya?" Katie tilted her head.

At that moment, Michaela descended the stairs, calling to her children, "All right, time for bed." Then she spotted her husband, "Sully, I didn't know you were home. What did Cloud Dancing say?"

He scooped Noah and Annie into his arms, "He'll come with me."

"Good," she was pleased.

"Come on, kids," Sully headed for the steps with the twins.

Josef scampered behind him, but Katie lingered to speak with her mother.

"Mama," the little girl kept her voice low. "Do you know when Poppy's birthday is?"

"He's never told me," she confided.

"You asked?" the child wondered.

"Of course, but all he would say was the year, not the month or day," Michaela stated.

"I wanna give him a birthday party," the little girl's eyes saddened.

"It's a sensitive subject with your father," Michaela replied. "It's a part of his past that he doesn't like to talk about."

"Can we find out when it is?" the child persisted.

"I don't know if he would want us to do that," Michaela suggested.

"But he always remembers our birthdays," she noted.

"We have to respect his wishes, Katie," Michaela pointed out.

"What year was he born in then?" the little girl inquired.

Michaela caressed her daughter's golden curls, "1835."

Katie calculated on her fingers, "So he's younger than you."

"By two years, yes," Michaela nodded.

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

When Michaela entered her bedroom, she saw Sully rocking Noah. The little boy was whimpering as he leaned against his father's shoulder.

She approached them and sat beside him, "His tooth?"

"I don't know," Sully kissed the little boy's forehead. "He seems a little warm t' me."

Michaela leaned over and rested her lips on the baby's head, "Yes, he is. Perhaps I should give him something."

"You're the doctor," Sully smiled.

"I'll be back," she exited.

When Michaela returned to the bedroom, Noah had fallen asleep in his father's arms.

"I guess he's okay," Sully whispered.

"I'll leave the medicine up here in case he wakens," Michaela set it on the night stand.

"Should we keep him in with us t'night?" he wondered.

"No, he'll sleep more soundly in his own bed," she noted. "And next to Annie. You know how they are."

"I never knew twins would be so close after they're born," Sully remarked.

"It's an incredible bond," she concurred.

"I'll take him in with Annie then," he rose quietly from the chair.

Michaela went to the chest of drawers and began to select some of Sully's shirts. Then she lifted several pairs of socks. Soon she felt her husband's warm hands on her shoulders.

"Can't wait t' get rid of me, huh?" he teased.

"Sully," she pivoted quickly. "You know that's not true."

"'Course I know," he grinned.

She informed him, "I simply want to ensure that you dress warmly."

He slid his arms around her, "Thanks for lookin' out for me."

"Would you get your traveling pouch, please?" she requested.

He exited the room, returning shortly with the bag. Michaela began to set articles on the bed for him to pack.

"Ya know, I could do this in the mornin'," he pointed out.

"What time will Mr. Bandelier arrive?" she queried.

"The letter didn't say," he responded. "But the first train from Denver arrives at ten o'clock."

"We'll be rushed getting everyone ready for church," she said. "By packing tonight, it will be finished, and you'll have time for other things."

"What other things?" Sully questioned.

"Relaxing.... things," she smiled to herself.

"That's it then," he closed the bag. "Now we.... I can do relaxing things."

"Sully," she pretended to protest. "What about your razor?"

"Don't need t' shave," he commented.

"Why not?" she questioned.

"'Cause shavin's for bein' around you," he grinned impishly.

She ran her hand along his cheeks, "You shaved tonight?"

"Um-hum," he kissed her invitingly.

"For me?" the edge of her mouth curled up.

"Um-hum," his breath was warm.

"Good," she kissed him sweetly.

"Think we could start out in bed t'night instead of the hearth?" he joked.

"I was thinking the same thing, Mr. Sully," she stepped back toward the mattress, bidding him to follow.

When she sat on the edge of the bed, Sully leaned over to deepen their kiss. Then he spoke softly:

"So, little, youthful maiden come
Into my ample, feverish heart
For heaven and earth and sea and sky
Do melt as love has melt my heart."

She lovingly ran her fingers through his long locks, "I'm hardly little, youthful or maiden, Mr. Sully."

He smiled, "Ya are t' me."

"Was that Herrick?" she ventured.

"Heinrich Heine," he uttered before kissing her again.

She reached up to undo the buttons of his shirt, then leaned forward to kiss his chest. Sully closed his eyes, stirred by her gesture. After setting his travel pouch on a chair, he returned to his wife. Lifting her legs to the bed, he then leaned her back against the pillows. In a fluid motion while kissing and caressing her, he undid her clothing.

Michaela quivered in anticipation of what would follow. Tantalizing her further, Sully stood up and removed his shirt and buckskins. Michaela's hand reached out to him. Linking his fingers in hers, he joined her on the bed and tucked his form against hers.

"I'll miss you so," she whispered.

"You know I'll be back soon as I can," he kissed the palm of her hand.

"It's never soon enough to suit your wife and children," she made lazy circles on his chest.

Sully clasped her hand and drew it to his lips to kiss her fingers. His gaze burned with desire. Michaela felt a rush of excitement, reciprocating the intensity of his look.

"I'll always love you," he spoke near her ear.

"And I, you," she turned to more fully fit her form against his.

Softly, Sully began to kiss the lobe of her ear, then her neck. Michaela closed her eyes and tilted her head to give him freer access. His hands and lips ignited a fire within her. Soon, intense sensations heightened and engulfed them. With rhythmic movements, their acts of love commenced. Finally, satiated by the tremendous power of their connection, they completed their union.

Sully lightly stroked her midriff, "Won't be able t' do this much longer."

"I know," she kissed him again. "But for now, it's marvelous, Sully."

"You're an incredible wife," he smiled. "Likin' us bein' t'gether just as much as me."

Her cheeks blushed.

He lightly touched them, "I didn't mean t' embarrass ya."

She averted her eyes.

"Hey," Sully turned her chin. "Michaela, I'm sorry if...."

"No," she returned her glance to him. "You didn't embarrass me. You have a talent for seeing into my very soul, Sully, sensing what I'm thinking, often before I even realize it myself."

Sully kissed her again, "I sensed ya wanted me t' go with Bandelier."

"Is that why you're going?" she feared.

"Partly," he drew the blanket up snugly around them. "I care what you think."

"But I don't want...." she stopped herself.

"You're the reason I gave the letter a look in the first place," he hoped to explain. "But it was bein' out there with Katie t'day that convinced me t' do it. I don't want our kids or grandchildren growin' up never knowin' who the Indians were."

"I think Mr. Bandelier will be very impressed with my husband," she ran her finger along his lips.

"Don't matter t' me if he is or isn't," he sighed. "You're the one whose opinion matters most t' me."

"I.... suppose you may be gone through next weekend," she suddenly realized.

"More than likely," he agreed.

She swallowed hard, regretting that he would miss Valentine's Day and her birthday.

"Sorry," he apologized.

"That's all right," she forced a smile. "We can't always be together. When our work takes us elsewhere, it's unrealistic to think...."

Sully stopped her with a kiss, "But.... we're t'gether right now."

She smiled, "Yes, we are."

Michaela suddenly had a flash of memory of his weeks away from her during the time he was wanted by the Army.

"You okay?" he noted the subtle change in her.

"Hold me, Sully," she sounded urgent. "Hold me all night long."

"I will," he kissed her temple.

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

The next morning, Sully and Cloud Dancing scanned the faces of each man who stepped from the Denver train. When he spotted one holding a camera, Sully stepped forward.

"Mr. Bandelier?" he extended his hand to the man.

"You must be Byron Sully," the man had a trace of a French accent.

"Just Sully," he gestured. "This here's Cloud Dancin', a medicine man of the Cheyenne people."

"A pleasure to meet you," he shook Cloud Dancing's hand.

"Where ya wanna go first?" Sully was direct.

"I'd like to start with the site of the Sand Creek Massacre," Bandelier replied.

Sully determined, "It would be best t' take the train t' Pueblo, then over t' Fort Lyon. We can get horses an' ride from there."

"Are we taking that wolf?" the man gestured.

"Yep," Sully nodded as he stepped up to purchase their tickets.

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

"Hey, Ma," Matthew smiled when she pulled her surrey to a halt near the church.

"Mattew, Papa's went t' save stuff," Josef informed him.

"Save stuff?" he was puzzled.

"Antiquities," Michaela clarified. "He's guiding a Mr. Bandelier of the Bureau of Ethnology. He wants to chronicle the Indian culture and preserve their antiquities. Cloud Dancing went with them."

"Sounds good," he nodded.

Emma helped Katie from the wagon, "What a pretty dress you're wearing for church this morning."

Katie's face beamed, "You made it for me."

"I know," Emma winked.

"Would ya like t' hold one o' these wee ones, Miss Emma?" Bridget offered.

"Let's see," Emma leaned closer and extended her arms. "Who wants to come to me?"

Annie joyfully reached for her.

"Noah seems kinda quiet today," Emma noticed as she held Annie.

"He hasn't been feeling well," Michaela agreed.

When Brian gazed toward the Gazette, Michaela noticed.

"Perhaps a young lady is waiting for you to ask her to join us," she offered.

His shoulders slumped slightly, "She's Catholic."

"She's still welcome," Michaela encouraged. "Why don't you ask her?"

His face brightened, "Okay. Be right back."

At that moment, Robert E approached from town, "Dr. Mike, Abraham's still not feelin' good. You think you could...."

"Take him to the Clinic," she sensed his angst. "I'll be right there."

"We'll help Bridget take care o' the kids in church, Ma," Matthew spoke up. "Don't worry."

As the church bell tolled, Michaela retrieved her medical bag from the surrey and accompanied Robert E to town.

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

"Hey, Henriette," Brian entered the Gazette office. "Church service is just startin'. Would ya like t' come with me?"

"I'm sorry," she returned. "But I can't."

"I understand," he said. "I just thought maybe.... well, I know you're Catholic an'...."

"It's not that," she interjected. "I'm just not feeling well."

"I'm sorry," he sympathized. "Can I get ya anythin'?"

"No, thank you," Henriette smiled. "I think I just need to get some rest."

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

"I gave him the tea like ya said to, Dr. Mike," Grace folded her hands nervously.

Michaela finished checking Abraham's lungs, then used a tongue depressor to examine his throat and mouth.

"Oh, my," Michaela sighed.

"What is it?" Robert E felt as if his heart would stop.

"I'm afraid it's Measles," she looked at the concerned parents.

"Measles," Grace shook her head. "I had them when I was little."

"Me, too," Robert E added.

"Good," Michaela wiped a cool cloth across the little boy's brow. "I think I should keep him here at the Clinic."

"Here?" Grace was uncertain. "Why?"

"Because he was born prematurely, and his lungs are more vulnerable to respiratory ailments," she explained. "Just like...."

Robert E wondered why she stopped, "Just like who, Dr. Mike?"

"Robert E," Michaela paused. "Would you go over to the church and ask Matthew to bring Noah and Annie to the Clinic?"

"Sure," he headed out the door.

Grace lifted her son, "You think they might be sick, too?"

"I'm afraid I attributed Noah's symptoms to teething," Michaela regretted. "But now I suspect that he might have Measles, and if he does, Annie will surely get them."

"I know it's real contagious," Grace acknowledged.

"No doubt most of the town has been exposed," Michaela realized. "Why don't you take Abraham upstairs to the first recovery room on the right? It has a crib. I'll be up shortly."

"Okay," Grace cradled her son to her bosom.

Michaela began to sterilize her instruments. Within a few minutes, Matthew and Colleen rushed into the Clinic, followed by Robert E. Her older children held the twins.

"Ma, what's wrong?" Colleen spoke, out of breath.

"Abraham has the Measles," she answered simply. "Could you set the children on the table?"

"Mama," Noah whined.

"Where's Grace an' the baby, Dr. Mike?" Robert E queried.

"Upstairs," she indicated. "It's all right to go on up."

As he hurried to join his wife, Michaela began to examine Noah. Soon she confirmed that her youngest child had the ailment, too. In addition, Annie was beginning to feel warm.

"Ma, what about you?" Colleen was anxious. "Have you had them?"

"Yes," she nodded. "My sisters and I had them when we were quite young."

"We did, too," Matthew spoke for his brother and sister.

"We need to inform people that there are now cases of the illness in town," Michaela determined. "They should be made aware of the symptoms and told to come to the Clinic if they have them."

"I'll go back to the church to let folks know," Colleen volunteered.

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

When the service ended, Colleen stepped forward.

"Could I have everyone's attention for a moment?" the young woman spoke up.

The congregation quieted.

"Dr. Mike has asked me to make a very important announcement," Colleen began. "Two children have been diagnosed with Measles this morning, and a third is showing early symptoms."

A low murmur rose from the assembly.

Colleen continued, "So far, Abraham and Noah have it."

"Noah?" Katie's brow wrinkled in concern. "Is it bad?"

"Shhh," Bridget clasped her hand. "Listen t' your sister, darlin'."

Colleen's voice was calm, "If you've already had the Measles, you're immune to getting it again, but our concern is for any who have not had the disease. My mother wants the town to be alerted to the symptoms. The first are usually a fever, with a cough and runny nose. Next, red eyes with sensitivity to light will occur. Then some spots will appear in the mouth. If you or your children get any of these symptoms, we'll be at the Clinic to help."

Andrew stepped forward, "I'll help, too."

"Thanks," Colleen acknowledged.

Anna Campbell approached, holding her son's hand, "My Seth's been feelin' warm an' coughin'."

"Take him to the Clinic," Colleen felt the child's head.

Several other townsfolk headed for the Clinic.

"Is there anything I can do?" Brian volunteered.

"Could you help Bridget with Katie and Josef?" Colleen suggested. "It's more than likely they'll get the Measles, too."

"I don' want 'em," Josef frowned.

Colleen knelt down, "I'm afraid you can't stop them if they come, honey."

"Will I die?" he feared.

"You'll have a rash for a few days," she noted.

Sensing Josef's angst, Loren approached, "I heard tell that pickles help prevent folks from gettin' the Measles."

Josef's eyes widened, "They do?"

"How'd ya like t' come over t' the Mercantile an' have one?" the older man suggested.

"Good thinkin'," Josef nodded.

"Ya think Miss Bridget an' your sister should come, too?" Loren hesitated.

"Sure," the little boy clasped Katie's hand. "Bran an' Emma, too."

As they began to cross the meadow toward town, Katie tugged at Loren's sleeve.

"What's on your mind, Katie girl?" Loren slowed his pace.

"I wanna ask ya somethin'," she stopped.

"Here's the key, Brian," Loren handed it to him. "Go on ahead. We'll be right there."

When the others had proceeded, Loren knelt down.

"What is it, lass?" he waited.

"Do you know when Poppy's birthday is?" she queried.

Loren's expression suddenly changed, and his jaw tensed, "I don't wanna talk about it."

Katie was taken aback, "Why not?"

"I just don't," he snapped back. "Let's go now."

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

"What got you so interested in the Indians?" Sully asked Bandelier as the train lumbered on.

He responded, "I know there are many myths about them. I want to educate the whites with the truth."

Cloud Dancing detected his accent, "You are not from America?"

"I'm Swiss," Bandelier informed them. "When I was a child, my family immigrated to America. We settled in Missouri, near St. Louis."

"You met Indian tribes there?" Cloud Dancing was curious.

"In a way," he smiled. "I developed an interest in the Indians of the Southwest after reading a book. Later, on a trip to Rochester, New York about seven years ago, I met Lewis Henry Morgan."

"Didn't he write a book about the Iroquois?" Sully recalled.

"Yes," Bandelier was pleased. "I can see why Welland Smith recommended you, Sully."

"That still don't explain what brings ya out here," he remarked.

"Mr. Morgan has done a significant amount of work on the ethnology of the Indians," Bandelier resumed. "We are like minded in the belief that the public's estimation of the Indian rests upon an imperfect knowledge of his character and is colored with prejudice. To put it simply, I want to counteract that false picture."

"And to do this, you want to visit where the Indians lived and died?" Cloud Dancing assumed.

"That's correct," Bandelier opened his journal and began to write. "After I leave you, I'm heading for New Mexico to study the Pueblo ruins there."

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

Dorothy reined in her horse when she reached the Clinic. The redhead slid down from the saddle and rushed to the door. Without knocking, she burst into the examining room.

"Michaela!" she was out of breath.

"Dorothy?" Michaela looked up from tending to Noah. "What's wrong?"

"Some of the children at the Indian school," she took a deep breath. "They're real sick."

"Oh, no," Michaela felt a rush of anxiety. "Measles."

"How do you know?" her friend was curious.

"Many children in town have them, too," she replied. "Colleen and Andrew are tending to them upstairs. We need to get the affected Indian children here, as well."

Matthew spoke up, "I'll take a wagon out t' get them."

"I'll help you," Dorothy offered.

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

As Loren, Bridget and Emma entertained Josef, Brian noticed that Katie was standing quietly apart from them.

He approached his little sister and knelt down, "Somethin' wrong?"

"Mr. Bray's mad at me," her lower lip curled under.

"Mad at you?" Brian was incredulous. "What makes ya say that?"

"I asked him somethin', an' he got upset," Katie divulged.

"What'd ya ask him?" he inquired.

"I asked him if he knows when Poppy's birthday is," she stated.

"He wouldn't get mad about that," Brian assured. "Maybe he doesn't want to admit he doesn't know."

Katie shook her head, "No, he was mad."

"Loren," Brian beckoned. "Could you come here?"

As the older man neared them, Katie edged closer to her brother.

"What d' ya need?" Loren questioned.

"Could you tell Katie that you're not mad at her?" Brian embraced the little girl.

"'Course I ain't mad at ya," he leaned down. "Where'd ya get a fool notion like that?"

Katie explained, "When I asked ya about Poppy's birthday...."

Again, Loren tensed, "It's nothin' t' talk about. Now, leave it be."

With that, he pivoted and returned to the others.

"See?" Katie spoke softly to Brian. "He's mad."

"There's more to it than that, Katie," he perceived. "I'll see what I can find out. Meanwhile, don't mention it t' him again. Okay?"

"All right," she sighed. "I just wanna give Poppy a birthday party."

Brian lifted her, "How about a lemon drop?"

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

Private McIntosh stopped the wagon and questioned Matthew, "What brings you out to the Indian school?"

"Just bringin' some supplies," he fibbed.

The soldier went to the tarp in the back of the wagon and lifted it. There were several boxes beneath it.

"Go ahead then," McIntosh waved them on.

"How are we gonna get the children past him on the way back t' town?" Dorothy fretted.

"We'll think of somethin'," Matthew assured.

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

Bandelier mentioned to his traveling companions, "I read the government report about Sand Creek."

"Did ya believe it?" Sully challenged.

"I believe what I can see and measure," he responded.

"And now you work for the government," Cloud Dancing pointed out.

"Were you there at Sand Creek, Cloud Dancing?" he wondered.

The medicine man swallowed hard, "Yes."

"Could you tell me about it?" Bandelier requested.

Cloud Dancing began, "The white chief, Governor Evans, had told all of the peaceful tribes to gather at Fort Lyon. If they did not, they would be killed."

Sully added, "Evans told the whites t' 'go in pursuit of all hostile Indians of the plains... kill and destroy, as enemies of the country, wherever the Indians may be found.' Then Colonel Chivington gave a speech about the Indians. He said, 'kill and scalp all, little and big... nits make lice.'"

Bandelier shook his head in disgust.

Cloud Dancing resumed, "Black Kettle, the leader of my people, obeyed the government, and we went to Fort Lyon. There, we were told by Major Anthony to relocate, along with some Arapahoe, to Sand Creek, forty miles from the Fort. Anthony told us we would be safe there, and we would have much game for food. He presented a white flag to Black Kettle as a symbol of his pledge to protect us."

Cloud Dancing paused to compose his emotions. Sully and Bandelier waited in respectful silence.

Then the medicine man resumed, "On the morning of November 29, 1864 according to your calendar, Chivington led the Army in an attack against my people. Major Anthony was with him."

Sully interjected, "He set ya up."

Cloud Dancing continued, "They had weapons we had never seen, guns that could mow down my people faster than the elk can run. We numbered about 600, mostly women and children. For eight hours, they attacked us."

"It's incredible you lasted that long, considering the weapons against you," Bandelier remarked.

The medicine man nodded, "Black Kettle put out the American flag and the white flag given to him by Major Anthony. The Army ignored them and attacked anyway. The soldiers seemed confused, at times firing at their own men."

Sully contributed, "Chivington would later brag that he killed 600."

Cloud Dancing remembered, "Most of our people, led by Black Kettle, managed to escape as the warriors held off the Army. His wife had been shot nine times, but she survived. When it ended, more than 100 of my people lay dead, mostly women and children."

Sully's jaw tensed, "Chivington was welcomed back to Denver as a hero. The Rocky Mountain News reported that Colorado soldiers had 'covered themselves in glory.' Far as I'm concerned, they covered themselves in the blood of innocent children."

Bandelier commented, "I read the Congressional investigation into the massacre. They condemned Chivington's actions for his barbarity."

"Though the Dog Soldiers fought back, Black Kettle continued to work for peace," Cloud Dancing detailed.

"I never knew a man who wanted peace more," Sully looked down. "An' look where it got him. Killed at Washita by Custer."

"I want people to know the truth," Bandelier pledged. "As far as I'm concerned, that land should be preserved."

Sully began to feel admiration for him, "You ain't like most government men I've met."

"I'll take that as a compliment," he smiled.

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

Matthew and Dorothy loaded the sick children into the back of the wagon and again used the tarp to cover them. When they reached the Army checkpoint, Sergeant Dirksen was watching.

Matthew stopped the wagon.

"What do you have in the back?" Dirksen eyed him suspiciously.

"Just some crafts that the children made," Dorothy spoke up. "Mr. Bray is going to sell them at his Mercantile."

"Check under the tarp," Dirksen commanded Private McIntosh.

The soldier obeyed. When he lifted the cover, he saw several of the children huddled together in fear.

"Well?" Dirksen waited.

"Just like he said, sir," the Private lied.

"Go ahead and pass then," Dirksen nodded.

As the wagon departed, the Sergeant shrugged, "Who'd want to buy their junk?"

McIntosh returned, "I reckon there are people who think the Indians have some worth, sir."

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

Brian knocked on the barbershop door. Jake came out of the back room and opened it.

"I'm closed on Sunday," the barber reminded.

"I'm not here for a haircut," Brian told him.

"What d' ya want then?" he questioned.

"I need ya t' look up somethin' in the town records," Brian requested.

"Town records?" Jake went to his desk. "What?"

"The date when Sully married Abigail Bray," the young man specified.

"Sully an' Abigail?" Jake was surprised. "Why ya wanna know that?"

"The record would show his date of birth, wouldn't it?" Brian figured.

"It should," Jake opened the ledger. "What year were they married?"

Brian thought back, "I think.... 1861 or so."

Jake perused the pages, "Byron Sully an' Abigail Bray.... here it is."

"Does it have his birth date?" he stepped closer.

"February 16, 1835," Jake nodded.

"Thanks," Brian turned to leave.

"Before ya go, is your Ma at the Clinic t'day?" Jake stopped him.

"Yea, why?" he was curious.

"Maria's not feelin' too good," Jake informed him. "She's got a fever an' cough."

"You weren't in church t'day," Brian recalled. "After the service, Colleen made an announcement that we've got an outbreak of Measles. Better take Maria over t' the Clinic an' have Ma look at her."

"Thanks," Jake began to button his vest. "We'll do that."

Brian exited the barber shop and crossed to the Mercantile again. When he entered the building, he noticed that Bridget and Emma were showing the children some of the catalog pictures, but Loren was standing quietly to the side of his cash box.

"Hey," Brian put his hand on the older man's shoulder. "You okay?"

"Just thinkin'," Loren sighed.

"About what?" the young man probed.

"Abigail," Loren wiped the moisture beneath his eyes.

"Any particular reason?" Brian questioned.

"It's comin' up on the fifteenth anniversary of her death," he revealed.

"Katie said ya seemed upset about somethin'," Brian broached the subject. "Anniversaries like that are hard."

Loren glanced in Katie's direction, "I was kinda harsh with her. But...."

"But what?" Brian wondered.

"She was askin' when her Pa's birthday was," Loren paused.

"So?" the young man anticipated.

"That's when my Abigail died," Loren swallowed hard. "It was on Sully's thirtieth birthday."

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

After examining Maria, Michaela informed Jake and Teresa, "It's the Measles. I hope you two have had them."

"I have," Jake nodded.

"As have I," Teresa answered.

"I'll take Maria upstairs," Andrew volunteered. "You can come with her if you wish."

Teresa followed him, but Jake lingered.

Colleen looked at the list she had been compiling, "We don't have much room left, Ma."

Michaela sat down, as fatigue began to claim her, "Matthew and Dorothy are bringing more children in from the Indian School. We have to find beds and cots for them."

"Indian children?" Jake overheard.

"That's right," Michaela asserted.

"You gonna treat them here?" he frowned.

"I treat all in need here, Jake," she reminded.

"Well, they best not make my daughter worse," he turned and ascended the steps.

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

Lexie looked out the window when she heard a horse approaching. She had not felt well for several days and was glad to see Hank nearing the ranch.

"Hey, beautiful," he dismounted his horse and stepped into the house.

Lexie threw herself into his arms.

A passionate kiss began until Hank suddenly realized, "You're burnin' up with fever."

She felt light-headed, "I...."

With that, she fainted.

"Lexie!" Hank caught her.

Scooping her into his arms, he rushed from the house and headed for town.

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

"An' Private McIntosh didn't say anythin'," Matthew concluded his description about the ride into town.

"Could you get them upstairs?" Michaela requested. "I'll prepare their medicine."

At that moment, Hank burst into the Clinic, holding Lexie, "Michaela, ya gotta do somethin'."

Quickly, she ordered, "Put her on the examining table."

Hank complied and held Lexie's hand, "She gonna be all right?"

"I'm afraid she has the Measles, too," Michaela checked Lexie's throat.

"Measles?" Hank's brow creased. "It ain't fatal, is it?"

"I'll do everything I can," Michaela advised. "Have you had them, Hank?"

"Me?" he retorted. "I've had everythin'."

"As you can see, it's highly contagious," Michaela stated. "The Clinic is full."

"You sayin' you don't have room for her?" he frowned.

"We'll make room," Michaela affirmed.

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

The train lumbered to a stop near Fort Lyon. Sully found a livery, and soon the men prepared their horses to depart for Sand Creek.

"We'll ride 'til dusk," Sully advised. "I hope the weather holds."

"It will," Cloud Dancing assessed.

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

After dinner, Bridget felt Katie's forehead, "A fever."

"Josef, too," Emma nodded.

"I think I got them Neasles," Josef announced.

"We best get the darlin's int' town where their mother can keep an eye on them," Bridget determined.

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

Having settled her children in the anteroom, Michaela took a few minutes to rest.


She sat at her desk, gazing at the photographs of little ones. She lifted Josef's last formal portrait and ran her finger along the gold frame, smiling at how her son could always make her laugh.

"Neasles," she grinned.

"Ma," Brian appeared at her door. "You okay?"

"Just tired," she drew back a stray lock of hair.

"You got a minute t' talk?" he sat beside her.

"I think so," she set down the photograph. "What did you want to discuss?"

He took a deep breath, "Katie's been wantin' t' know when Pa's birthday is."

"I know," she nodded. "She wants to have a party for him."

"She asked Loren, an' he got all mad about it," he mentioned. "So, I did some investigatin'. I found out when it is, an' I know why he never told us."

"You did?" her eyes widened. "When is it?"

"February 16," he noted. "The day after yours."

She folded her hands, "That's incredible. How did you find out?"

"I checked the town registry for his marriage t' Abigail," Brian explained.

"You said you know why he never told us the date," she mentioned.

He swallowed hard, "I understand why."

"I simply assumed that he was uncertain of it, having been born on a ship crossing the Atlantic," she stated. "But... why hasn't he told us?"

"Abigail an' Hannah died on his thirtieth birthday," Brian revealed.

"My God," Michaela's heart ached for him. "No wonder. Did you say anything to Katie about your discovery?"

"No," he shook his head.

"Please don't," she advised. "I want to speak with...."

At that moment, Dorothy burst into the Clinic, "Michaela, it's Henriette. She's sick."

Brian jumped to his feet, "I'll get her, Ma."

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

Preston looked up from his accounting books in the bank, "What do you mean you won't be in to work for the next several days, Myra?"

"Samantha's at the Clinic," she informed him. "She's sick with the Measles."

"Children get sick all the time," he scoffed.

"Well, this is one o' those times," Myra asserted. "An' if I was you, I'd cancel that shindig Saturday. With so many children sick, folks won't be partyin'."

"Nonsense," the banker fumed. "Not everyone has children, and I've paid for the orchestra."

"Well, Grace won't be able t' fix the food 'cause Abraham's got it, too," she detailed.

"Then I'll contact a caterer in Denver," he insisted.

"Suit yourself," she drew her shawl around her shoulders. "Good bye."

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

Michaela checked on Katie and Josef in the anteroom.

"I'm sorry we got sick, Mama," Katie apologized.

"There's no need to apologize, my darling," Michaela wiped her daughter's forehead with a damp cloth.

"The pokle didn' help me," Josef sighed.

Michaela caressed his hair, "Perhaps some medicine will. I'll get it for you."

When she left them, Katie glanced toward the crib, "Are the twins sleepin'?"

"I don' know," Josef fidgeted with the edge of the blanket.

"Noah sure is still," the little girl assessed. "I think Mama's worried about him."

"Here," Michaela returned. "I want you to each drink this."

As they took their medicine, Michaela went to the crib.

"Is Noah okay?" Katie watched with concern.

"He'll be fine," she leaned down to stroke her youngest son's belly. "I wish...."

"Wish what, Mama?" Katie sat up.

"I wish I could lift him and hold him in my arms," she started to give in to her emotions.

"Sit down in the rockin' chair," Katie rose from the bed. "I'll bring him to ya."

Michaela did as her daughter requested. Carefully, Katie lowered the railing to lift her brother and carry him to their mother.

"Thank you, Sweetheart," Michaela smiled. "Now, put the railing back up and get back into bed for me."

Katie obeyed, but continued to eye her little brother, "You sure he's gonna be okay?"

"I pray that he is," Michaela touched her lips to the child's forehead.

"Joey," she nudged her brother. "Let's pray for Noah."

Josef folded his hands, "God bless Noah."

"An' make him better," Katie added.

"Make all of us better," Josef amended.

"Amen," Katie finished.

Josef sat up, "Mama, you won' get sick, will ya?"

"No," she assured. "I already had the Measles when I was about your age."

"I wish Poppy was here," Katie sensed her mother's angst.

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

Colleen and Andrew spoke low in the upstairs hallway.

"We can't fit anymore patients in these rooms," Andrew assessed. "The conditions are already beyond crowded."

"You know Ma would never turn anyone away," she whispered.

"I'm concerned about Henriette," he nodded toward one of the rooms.

"And the Indian children aren't doing well either," she added.

Mrs. Campbell overheard their conversation and approached, "You say somethin' about Indian children?"

"Yes," Colleen nodded. "They're sick, too."

"Here?" the woman was surprised.

"Yes," Colleen told her.

"Well, I'm not keepin' my Seth here, then," she turned to fetch her son.

"Mrs. Campbell," Andrew followed her into the recovery room. "It's not advisable to move Seth at this time."

"Then you best move the Indians," she pulled back the blanket from her son.

Other parents heard her remarks and likewise began to protest the presence of the Indian children.

Colleen tried to assure them, "Please, everyone. Calm down."

"Not if you're treatin' Indians," Mrs. Campbell challenged.

"Yes, but...." Colleen was cut off.

"I'm takin' my son home," Mrs. Campbell lifted the little boy.

Several other townsfolk followed her lead.

"Perhaps we could treat the Indian children elsewhere," Andrew suggested.

"Andrew!" Colleen stood in disbelief. "They have just as much right to be here as anyone else."

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

Colleen descended the staircase and paused at the anteroom. There, she saw Katie and Josef asleep in the bed. Annie was likewise slumbering in the crib while Michaela rocked a listless Noah in her arms. She approached quietly and felt Noah's forehead.

Michaela opened her eyes, "I'm afraid his lungs will fill with fluid."

"Oh, God," Colleen felt her heart sink.

She stroked the little boy's feverish head, "I dare not give him any more quinine. Could you brew some sassafras tea?"

"An Indian remedy?" the young woman assumed.

"Yes," she nodded. "When Western medicine doesn't work...."

"I'll be back shortly," Colleen left to brew the tea.

"Noah," Michaela cradled him to her bosom. "You will get better."

All the little boy could do was to look up at her, then cough.

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

Sully sat by the campfire, gazing at the stars. Bandelier and Cloud Dancing had fallen asleep an hour earlier, but he could not. Something intangible was gnawing at him. He missed Michaela and the children, as always, but.... he could not shake the feeling that something was amiss.

"Michaela," he closed his eyes and freed his mind to sense her thoughts. "What's wrong?"

Turning to open his travel pouch, he dug down to search for the photograph of her which he always carried. Near the bottom, he discovered an envelope. He pulled it from the bag and read the words written on it in Michaela's hand, "Do not open until Valentine's Day."

He smiled, then put it back in the pouch. Folding his arms, he leaned back against his saddlebag and closed his eyes, hoping to dream of his wife.

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

Hank stood at the doorway of the Clinic anteroom, "Michaela."

She opened her eyes and stroked Noah's back, "Hank? Are you sick?"

"No, but ya got people upstairs that are," he gestured.

"Colleen and Andrew are taking care of them," she assured.

"I want you t' look at Lexie," he demanded.

"Ma?" Colleen heard the raised voice. "Isabel just brought in Wendell. Andrew's seeing to him."

"Is there a cot for him?" she queried.

"Yes, but...." Colleen was interrupted.

"You gonna check Lexie now?" Hank demanded.

"Colleen," she looked to her daughter. "Could you take Noah?"

"Sure," Colleen lifted the boy into her arms.

Michaela rose from the rocking chair and rubbed her aching back. Hank stepped aside to let her pass. Grasping her medical bag, she ascended the stairs with Hank following.

When she entered the room in which Lexie lay, Michaela became quickly alarmed at her appearance, "Your fever's up. You need another dose of medicine."

Immediately, she began to administer quinine to the woman.

"Thank you, Dr. Mike," Lexie was barely able to speak.

Michaela stroked back her hair, "Your rash is starting."

"I can't stop coughing," Lexie's breathing was labored.

"I'll give you something for that, too," she reached into her bag.

"Colleen said your children are ill," Lexie sympathized.

"Yes," Michaela nodded. "My son, Noah...."

Her voice trailed off.

"He's the smallest?" Lexie recalled.

"Yes," she swallowed hard.

"What about Lexie?" Hank spoke up. "She gonna be all right?"

"Hank," Lexie frowned at him. "I'll be fine. This just has to run its course. Can't you see Dr. Mike is worried about her baby?"

He returned, "All I see is she's got patients overflowin' from these rooms, an' she...."

"Hank," Michaela stopped him. "I'm doing my best. Now, if you'll excuse me."

She began to check on the condition of the other patients in the room, administering medicine to some, offering a reassuring word to others.

"She acts like there's nobody else sick but that little boy," he persisted.

Lexie clasped his hand, "How you would feel if it was Zack who was ill?"

The question silenced him.

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

Brian looked up from Henriette's bedside when his mother entered the room, "She's real bad, Ma."

Michaela checked her breathing with the stethoscope, then poured medicine onto a teaspoon, "Could you lift her head?"

Brian did so, and Michaela got the young woman to swallow.

"How's Noah?" the young man asked.

"Not very good," she felt tears welling again.

Brian touched her hand, "You look tired, Ma. Ya need t' rest."

"There's too much to do," she straightened up.

Matthew appeared at the doorway, "Ma? Colleen said t' fetch ya quick. It's Noah."

Swiftly, Michaela headed for the steps. A concerned Brian followed. Grace saw their urgent passing in the hallway and made her way downstairs, as well. When Michaela reached her son, Noah's breathing continued to be labored.

"Ma," Colleen choked back tears. "I think...."

Michaela leaned over and listened to her son's lungs. Her heart sank, "Pneumonia."

"We have no place to isolate him," Colleen stated.

"Dr. Mike?" Grace's brow wrinkled. "Is there anythin' I can do?"

Matthew suggested, "We can put the other children in your office area an' use the anteroom t' isolate him."

Michaela took a deep breath, hoping to clear her thoughts, "Yes, let's do that."

"Then I'm gonna go get Sully," Matthew determined.

"Where would you begin to look?" Michaela feared.

"Maybe Horace saw what direction he went from the Depot," the young man speculated.

"He's upstairs with Samantha," Michaela nodded.

"I'll get Robert E t' move the children," Grace volunteered. "You go find Sully, Matthew."

Swiftly, the young man bounded up the steps and located Horace.

Drawing the telegrapher into the hallway, he quietly questioned, "Did ya see where Sully an' Cloud Dancin' headed this mornin'?"

Horace sensed the urgency in Matthew's voice, "They took the train t' Pueblo. Then they were gonna catch the Atchison, Topeka an' Sante Fe line over t' Fort Lyon. Mentioned somethin' about goin' on t' Sand Creek."

"When's the next train 't Pueblo?" Matthew frowned.

"'Fraid it won't leave 'til mornin'," the telegrapher shook his head.

"Damn," Matthew became more agitated.

"Maybe we could wire t' the Fort, an' they could send someone t' find Sully," the thought occurred to Horace. "What's the rush, anyway?"

"It's Noah," Matthew kept his tone low. "He's pretty bad."

"Poor little fella," Horace glanced toward his daughter. "Come on. We'll send the telegram."

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

At Fort Lyon, the telegraph operator heard the clicking sound from his machine. He yawned and rubbed his eyes, then went to respond. He translated the signals into words and jotted them down for his commanding officer.

Then he sighed, wondering if he should wake him up. He read the message again.

"To Fort Lyon. From Matthew Cooper, Colorado Springs. Looking for Byron Sully. Believe him to be on route to Sand Creek, traveling with two men. Sully is needed at home. Family emergency. Please send someone to contact him."

The telegraph operator set the paper on his desk and spoke to himself, "No one could look for this Sully fella until morning. This'll keep 'til then."

He stumbled back to bed.

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

Michaela forced herself to make rounds upstairs. She determined that Henriette and two of the Indian children should be brought downstairs with Noah, as they had developed pneumonia, as well. She hoped that by isolating them, closer monitoring of their condition could be achieved.

"Dr. Mike?" it was the Reverend.

She guided him into the anteroom, "What can I do for you, Reverend?"

"I thought you could use some help," he offered.

"Your prayers are certainly appreciated," she felt a lump in her throat.

"Could you take me to each bed, and tell me who is in it?" he requested.

She did as he asked. Beside the bed of each pneumonia patient, he knelt and uttered words of prayer. When she reached Noah's crib, she knelt with him and held her son's hand. The little boy opened his eyes. They were red. Michaela forced herself to smile at him, soothing back his moist hair.

"Thank you, Reverend," she kept her emotions in check.

"If you can point me in the direction of the stairs, I'll go back up," he said. "Wendell will have things in an uproar if I don't return shortly."

She smiled, "He's a handful, isn't he?"

"A blessed handful," he grinned.

Michaela cast a glance back at her son, "At times like these, the impishness of a little boy doesn't seem so bad."

He consoled, "The Lord will watch over the children."

"I hope so," she knew it was no longer in her hands.

"If there's anything Isabel and I can do...." he paused.

"The school should be closed for at least the week," she noted.

"Yes, they've done that," he nodded.

"Michaela," Dorothy approached her friend. "How are you doin'?"

"I'll leave you two to talk," the minister tapped his cane on the floor.

"Thank you, Reverend," Michaela touched his arm.

Dorothy looked at the children and Henriette, "Brian went out to the homestead to take care of the animals."

"And Matthew's going to try to find Sully," Michaela's voice cracked slightly.

Dorothy guided her to the rocker, "Come here and sit down. You need t' take care o' yourself an' that baby."

"What about my other baby?" she glanced at Noah.

"He knows you're here," she assured.

"Hank thinks I've been ignoring my other patients," she wiped the moisture beneath her eyes.

"What is it about that man that you let him vex ya?" Dorothy questioned. "Ya know you're doin' all ya can for everyone who's sick."

"Dr. Mike?" it was Bridget's voice.

"Bridget?" she rose from the chair.

"Aye, lass," she stepped closer to embrace Michaela. "When Brian told me what's been happenin' here, I insisted he bring me int' town. Now, I want you t' get some rest. I'll watch the wee ones."

"Bridget," her tears flowed more freely.

"Come on, dearie," the nanny ran her hand soothingly up and down her back.

"Bridget's right, Michaela," Dorothy stated. "We'll get another cot set up in here for you."

Michaela began to release her emotions, "Bridget, it's Noah. He's so sick."

"Think, lass," she clasped her shoulders. "You're the best doctor in' the world. Ya gotta think clear now, an' do what has t' be done."

Michaela rubbed her temple, "It's so hard."

For a passing moment, she wondered if her bout with amnesia was taking a toll.

Then Bridget removed her shawl and rolled up her sleeves, "It's understandable. You're tired, you're worried, an' you're pregnant. That's quite a lot t' handle at one time."

Michaela began to focus, "I need to fill the room with steam.... to help with their coughs."

"That's my girl," Bridget encouraged. "We'll get some water boilin' then."

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

Sully awoke with a start, prompting Wolf to lift his head and whined. Sully lazily stroked the hair on the animal's neck.

"Somethin's wrong, boy," Sully sensed.

Wolf's ears became more alert.

Sully took a deep breath and sighed. Then he reached for his travel bag and pulled out Michaela's letter. Wolf growled slightly.

"I gotta read it, boy," Sully explained.

The animal rested his head on Sully's knee as he opened the envelope. Holding the paper closer to the fire for light, he began to read.

"My dearest Sully, as I sit here writing this on the night before you leave, I am watching you sleep. I am filled with unimagined love having you next to me. I also know that you have opened this envelope prematurely."

Sully smiled at her prediction, then resumed his reading.

"As Valentine's Day approaches, I cannot help but reflect on all of the special ones we have shared. I think of the many ways you have shown your love to me: through your poetry, your gifts and your tenderness. Our children are the most fortunate in this world to have you for their father, and I am forever blest to hold your heart in my safe keeping. Though we are apart, I only need think of you, and you're with me, beside me, holding me, loving me.

Sully felt a lump in his throat as he read the concluding lines.

"I am tremendously proud of you for your courage and character. I am filled with admiration for your dedication to finding the truth, to standing up for your principles and to preserving the heritage of the Indians. History will owe a debt of gratitude to you for your actions. Never doubt the direction you have taken, Sully. You are an inspiration to me and to our children.

I am forever your loving wife, Michaela."

He touched the paper, his heart overwhelmed by the love he held for her.

"I didn't get her anythin', Wolf," he whispered. "First time since we been married, I didn't get her anythin' for Valentine's Day."

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

As dawn broke over Colorado Springs, light filtered into the rooms of the Clinic.

"Mama," Noah called weakly.

Michaela opened her eyes, uncertain of what she had heard.

"Ma," Brian lightly touched her arm. "Noah wants ya."

She bolted up and went to the child, "I'm here, my darling."

Brian instructed, "Sit in the rocker, an' I'll bring him to ya, Ma."

"Thank you," she complied.

She cradled the little boy and slowly rocked him back to sleep.

"What time is it?" she whispered.

Brian calculated, "About seven."

"Have you been up all night?" she yawned.

"Uh-huh," he glanced toward Henriette's cot.

"Could you put your little brother back in his crib?" she requested.

He lifted the child from her arms, "He doesn't feel as warm this mornin'."

"He still has a fever," she retrieved her stethoscope. "But you're right. It's not as bad as last night."

"So he's gonna be okay?" Brian anticipated.

"It's a good sign," she smiled.

Michaela turned her attention to Henriette and the two Indian children, Sun Walking and Young Wolf.

"Brian," she lingered longer at the bedside of Young Wolf. "Could you bring me some fresh water?"

"Sure," he left her.

Michaela felt the pulse of the little boy, then spoke his name, "Young Wolf." Struggling for a moment to remember the Cheyenne language, she uttered, "Ho'neheso."

There was no response from the child. She could barely perceive a pulse.

"Here's the water, Ma," he handed her a glass.

Quickly, Michaela mixed quinine into the liquid.

"We need to get this into him," she looked at her son.

Brian knelt down and lifted the little boy up as Michaela attempted to pour it into his mouth. With a last sigh, the child died in Brian's arms.

"God, please, no," Michaela hoped to find a heartbeat.

"Ma?" Brian's brow wrinkled.

"Brian, would you get Dorothy please?" she requested.

Gently, he put the boy down again. When her son left the room, Michaela cupped her hand to the child's cheek and began to softly weep.

"Michaela, what...." Dorothy stopped when she saw her friend beside Young Wolf.

"He's gone, Dorothy," Michaela looked at the little boy.

"Oh, no," she felt her heart sink.

"Ma," Brian knelt beside his mother.

"I'm sorry," Michaela felt a sense of guilt.

"You did all ya could," Dorothy knew. "It's harder for them t' fight the white man's diseases."

"Cloud Dancing isn't here to offer the prayers and perform the rituals," Michaela regretted.

Brian pledged, "We'll take care of him."

"Dr. Mike?" Matthew entered the small room.

Brian informed his brother, "Young Wolf is dead."

Matthew closed his eyes as a lump formed in his throat. Soon, Colleen and Andrew entered the room and learned of the child's fate.

"Come on, Michaela," Dorothy guided her friend into the office.

Matthew followed, "Ma, I didn't get a reply t' the telegram I sent t' Fort Lyon."

"Noah seems a bit better this morning," she noted.

"So you don't think Sully should be here?" he wondered.

She took a deep breath and sighed, "I.... I'm not certain."

Bridget approached them, fearing they might waken the other children, "What's wrong, lass?"

Michaela felt an ache in her heart, "One of the Indian children passed away."

Bridget made the sign of the cross, and uttered a silent prayer. Matthew directed them onto the Clinic porch to continue their conversation. Momentarily, Brian joined them.

"Ma," Brian touched her arm. "Jake says we can't bury Young Wolf at the town cemetery because...."

"Because he's an Indian," her jaw tensed as she completed his thought. "Then we'll take him to the school."

"We'll have t' bury him rather than use the traditional Cheyenne ritual of placing the body on a scaffolding," Matthew reasoned. "No tellin' how the Army might react t' that."

Michaela sat down, her heart heavy from all that was happening.

Matthew placed his hand on her shoulder, "Brian an' me will handle things, Ma. We'll see that Young Wolf is taken care of nice an' proper."

She looked up at her sons, then clasped their hands, "Thank you."

"I'll help ya, boys," Dorothy offered.

Matthew added, "Anythin' else ya need?"

"No," Michaela wiped the moisture from beneath her eyes. "I'd better get back inside."

"Ma," Brian stopped her. "You did everythin' you could. Don't doubt yourself."

"I appreciate that, Brian," she swallowed hard.

At that moment, the Clinic door opened.

Colleen stepped out to fetch her mother, "Ma, ya better come quick."

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

Bandelier gazed at the landscape of Sand Creek in awe, "You can feel what happened here. It hangs heavy over the place."


"It is said that sometimes the cries of the children and babies are heard by people who come here," Cloud Dancing related.

Sully closed his eyes and held his palms open at his side. He could feel the presence of the spirits who had lost their lives in this place.

Cloud Dancing began a narration, as Bandelier wrote, "It was at this very place that Chief Black Kettle held the American flag tied to a lodge pole. He called to us to not be afraid. He told us that the soldiers would not hurt us."

Sully glanced down and spotted a broken lodge pole.

Cloud Dancing gestured, "It was there that White Antelope fell. He had seen 75 summers. He was unarmed. When he came toward soldiers, he shouted, 'Stop! Stop!' He spoke it clearly, in the white man's tongue. Then he folded his arms, only to be shot down. As he died, he sang the song of death: 'Nothing lives long. Only the earth and the mountains.' The whites mutilated his body."

Sully felt tears welling in his eyes as his friend related that terrible day.

The medicine man went on, "Left Hand of the Arapaho tried to reach Black Kettle's flag with his people. When he saw the soldiers, he halted and stood with folded arms, saying he would not fight them. He told his people that the white man is his friend. He, too, was shot, but he lived."

"Such shameful acts," Bandelier spoke low.

Cloud Dancing nodded, "So many women and children fell. One of them lay here on this bank, her leg broken. A soldier drew his sword and brought it down on her. This broke her arm. He raised the sword again, only to break her other arm. Then he left her to die."

"Should have been Chivington left to die," Sully spoke with bitterness.

Cloud Dancing continued to relive the day, "A girl of six carried a white flag toward them. They shot her. A woman who was with child was cut open and the unborn baby put at her side. Many infants were slain."

Sully shuddered, thinking about Michaela and his own children, "An' the white man considers himself civilized."

The medicine man told them, "The whites scalped my people, mutilating many of the bodies. But most of us managed to escape."

Sully added, "'Cause the Colorado troops were hung over from drinkin' the night before."

"And because they did not shoot with great accuracy," Cloud Dancing knew. "Those of us who survived began our journey eastward, toward the Smoky Hill. We were without food. We had many children and injured to care for. And we felt the grief of losing our loved ones. Many gashed themselves to mourn, and the blood flowed in a trail along the way."

Sully stated, "When ya think of it, Chivington destroyed the Indian leaders who wanted peace. Those who were left wanted revenge."

As Cloud Dancing and Sully watched, Bandelier began to walk along the creek bed. With his meter stick in hand, he measured and jotted down in his journal. Periodically, he knelt down to observe some object he had found.

"What do you think, my brother?" Cloud Dancing asked.

Sully folded his arms, "He knows the true worth of this bit of earth."

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

"What's wrong, Colleen?" Michaela questioned.

"It's Sun Walking," she specified. "He's taken a turn for the worse."

Michaela swiftly made her way into the anteroom. There the Cheyenne boy was gasping for air. She quickly prepared to treat him, but before she could act, the little boy gasped for air and died.

"No!" Michaela exclaimed.

Colleen placed her hand on her mother's shoulder.

For several minutes, Michaela tenderly stroked the child's hair. Then she rose from the bed to wash her hands.

"Ma?" Colleen watched her. "You all right?"

"Yes," she seemed too calm.

"I'll tell Brian and Matthew about Sun Walking," Colleen offered.

"Yes, thank you," Michaela folded her arms tightly against her chest.

"You sure you're all right?" the daughter sensed.

"I said I'm fine," she was curt.

When Colleen left the room, Michaela stepped toward the cot on which Sun Walking's body rested. She felt a tear trickle down her cheek. It fell on the boy's hand.

"Mama," Noah called.

Turning her attention to her youngest child, Michaela put on a brave face, "Mama's here, and she's going to see that you get well."

"Papa," the little boy pointed upward.

"Papa will be home soon," she assured. "Now, I want you to take your medicine. All right?"

"Uh," he made a face.

Michaela encouraged, "That's my good boy."

At that moment, Brian and Matthew stepped into the room.

Matthew gently cradled Sun Walking in his arms and carried him toward the door.

"Brian?" Henriette spoke weakly from her cot.

"Hey," he knelt down and clasped her hand.

"I think...." her voice trailed off as she closed her eyes.

"Ma?" Brian looked to his mother.

Michaela knelt beside the young woman and employed her stethoscope, "Oh, God."

************
Chapter 11
************

"Ma, what's wrong?" Brian panicked.

Henriette's hand fell limp.

"Ma, do somethin'!" the young man implored.

"What's goin' on?" Matthew had heard his brother.

Michaela felt Henriette's pulse, then shook her head to indicate there was none, "I.... I'm sorry, Brian."

"Ya gotta help her!" Brian's eyes filled with tears.

Matthew rested his palm on his younger brother's shoulder.

"She's just sleepin'!" Brian insisted. "Give her some medicine, Ma."

"Brian," Michaela's heart went out to him.

"Michaela?" Dorothy entered the small room.

"It's Henriette," she gestured toward the bed.

"My, God, no," Dorothy shook her head. "Not her, too."

"Ma?" Colleen was next to arrive.

"Colleen," Brian looked to his sister. "Maybe you could check Henriette. Tell Ma she's all right."

Colleen glanced at her mother. Michaela nodded. The young woman sat on the edge of the cot and could perceive no heartbeat.

"I'm sorry, Brian," Colleen offered.

The young man knelt beside Henriette's body. He lowered his head to touch her hand, then whispered, "I love you."

Michaela overheard his words, "I'm so sorry, Brian"

"No!" he bolted from the room.

"Brian!" Michaela called to him.

"Let him be for now, Ma," Matthew knew. "He's gotta be by himself."

She started toward the door, "I don't want him to be by himself."

Matthew gently clasped her arm, "It's what he needs right now. He'll need us later."

Michaela returned to Henriette, "Such a beautiful young woman, with so much promise."

"Mama," Noah beckoned. "Cah."

"Mama's here, Sweetheart," she went to the little one.

Then she placed the bell of her stethoscope on Noah's chest.

"Any better?" Colleen queried.

"No," Michaela stroked back her son's hair to examine his rash.

"Michaela," Andrew appeared at the door. "It's Samantha. She's developing pneumonia."

"Oh, God," Michaela closed her eyes.

"I think Lexie is, as well," he added.

"We should move them down here, then," Michaela determined.

Matthew spoke up, "I'll get Jake, an' we'll take care of Henriette."

"Please get the Reverend, as well," she requested.

"I'll clean and disinfect this room before we bring them in," Colleen said.

Dorothy volunteered, "I'll help ya."

Michaela went into her examining room, where Bridget was watching over Katie, Josef and Annie as they slept.

"How are they doing?" the concerned mother spoke low.

"Saints preserve us, Dr. Mike," Bridget noticed her appearance. "Ya need t' rest, lass."

"I lost three patients this morning," she went to her desk.

"I know about the two little Indian children," the nanny mentioned. "Who else?"

"Henriette," Michaela sat down exhausted.

"That's why Brian bolted out o' here," she assumed. "Poor lad."

"Now Samantha and Lexie have pneumonia," Michaela opened one of her medical texts.

"An' Noah?" Bridget wondered.

"He's still the same," she scanned the pages. "When he was born, he wasn't breathing, but he fought to live and...."

She couldn't go on.

"Dr. Mike?" Bridget sympathized.

"I'd better go upstairs to check on the others," she stood up and steeled herself for the strain.

"Take care, lass," Bridget advised.

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

Brian approached the cemetery at the church.

Falling to his knees at his mother's grave, he lowered his head, "Why'd this have t' happen, Ma?"

"I ask that a million times," Loren's voice startled him.

"You heard about Henriette?" the young man looked up with reddened eyes.

"Yea," Loren wiped his nose. "You were sweet on her, weren't ya?"

Drawing a necklace from his pocket, Brian showed him, "I was gonna give her this for Valentine's Day."

"It's real pretty," Loren's voice choked.

Brian confided, "An' I was gonna tell her I love her."

"Nothin' worse than losin' the woman ya love," Loren placed his hand on the young man's shoulder.

With Loren beside him, Brian broke down and began to weep. The older man rubbed his back as he felt tears welling in his own eyes. They sat like that for several minutes.

"Brian?" Michaela stood at the gate.

Loren rose and silently nodded to her.

"Thank you, Loren," she spoke as he passed her.

"Wish I could do more," he regretted.

She touched his arm, "Your being here means a lot to him."

As he left them, Michaela approached her son.

"You shouldn't be out here, Ma," he stated. "You're needed at the Clinic."

"I'm needed right here," she knelt beside him.

"Now I know how you felt," he sighed.

"How I felt?" she was uncertain.

"When ya thought David was dead," he wiped the moisture beneath his eyes.

"I know there are no words to take away your pain," she drew back a stray lock of hair from his eyes.

"Matthew an' Sully," he paused. "They know what it feels like, too."

"Sweetheart," she kissed his cheek. "We love you, and we're here for you."

"I know," he was overcome by another wave of tears.

Michaela cupped her hand to the back of his head, "Oh, Brian, I'm so sorry."

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

All day long, Sully and Cloud Dancing helped Bandelier locate and log the various relics they found. As dusk approached, Sully built a fire and prepared their meal. Then they sat back to watch the sunset.

"Do you have family in Colorado Springs, Sully?" Bandelier wondered.

"Yep," he nodded. "Got a wife an' seven kids, with another on the way. My wife's a doctor."

"A doctor!" his eyes widened.

"She's from Boston," Sully added. "Her Pa even knew Senator Hoar."

"She must be quite a lady," he smiled.

"She is," Sully folded his arms.

"My wife Fanny and I...." Bandelier stopped when he heard a horse approaching.

Sully instinctively reached for his tomahawk.

"It is a soldier," Cloud Dancing recognized first.

"Maybe you better hide," Sully told his friend.

Swiftly, the medicine man gathered his belongings and positioned himself behind a bush.

The soldier slowed his horse to a stop, "Evenin', gentlemen."

"Good evening," Bandelier returned.

"I'm looking for a group of three men traveling near Sand Creek," the soldier informed them. "You wouldn't have seen them, would ya?"

"Three men?" Sully rubbed his upper lip.

"Yea," the soldier pulled the telegram from his pocket and read it again. "Got a telegram here for one of 'em."

"No," Bandelier shook his head. "There are only two of us."

"Okay, thanks," the soldier turned his horse and galloped away.

"Maybe we should've asked who the telegram was for," Sully worried.

"Are you expecting a wire?" he questioned.

"No," Sully shrugged. "I guess not."

"It's all right to come out now," Bandelier called to Cloud Dancing.

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

"Mama," Katie spoke her mother's name softly. "What's goin' on? Why's Brian upset?"

She debated what to tell her daughter.

"Mama," Josef gestured. "My feet are wed."

"That's the rash, Sweetheart," she pulled his sheet higher.

Annie sat up, "Noah."

"He's sleeping in the other room," Michaela guided her young daughter to lie down again.

"You didn't answer about Brian," Katie returned.

"Brian is fine," she evaded an answer. "Now, it's time for your medicine."

"I don' like that stuff," Josef turned up his nose.

Michaela encouraged, "It will help you get well."

"I weally think it makes me worser, Mama," Josef countered.

Katie frowned, "Mama's the doctor, Joey. She knows best."

As Michaela held the cup before her son, Josef tightly pursed his lips together, refusing to drink the quinine.

"Josef Michael Sully," Michaela's tone was stern. "I have no time for this."

Josef tilted his head upward, "Sowwy."

"Drink it," Michaela insisted.

The little boy did as she said.

"That's better," she secured the sheet around him.

"Dr. Mike," Robert E entered the examining room. "Jake's called a town council meetin' over at the church."

"What?" she was incredulous. "Why are they having a meeting?"

"I don't know," he shrugged.

"My children...." she hesitated.

"I'll be here with them, Dr. Mike," Bridget assured. "You go ahead t' that meetin'."

After informing Colleen where she would be, Michaela left the Clinic.

Katie toyed with the edge of her sheet, "Miss Bridget, do you know why Brian's upset?"

"Nothin' for you t' worry about right now, darlin'," the nanny counseled.

"Somethin' happened in our play room, didn't it?" the child persisted.

"I think I better go check," Josef started to rise from the cot.

"Not so fast, boy-oh," Bridget guided him back. "You have t' stay in bed when you're sick."

"Is Poppy comin' home?" Katie hoped.

"He'll be home in due time, lass," she replied.

"I think we oughta get wid o' this medicine," Josef folded his arms. "It maked me all ww.... rred."

"That's the sickness, not the medicine," Bridget explained.

"You sure?" Josef questioned.

"Aye," Bridget affirmed.

At that moment, Emma entered the Clinic holding a book.

"Emma!" Katie was delighted.

"I thought maybe they could use a story," the young woman removed her shawl.

"Good thinkin'," Josef nodded.

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

At the church, Jake spoke up, "Hank asked for this meetin' t' talk about the Measles epidemic."

"What does it have to do with the council?" Michaela questioned. "This is a medical matter."

"I ain't so sure your medicine's helpin'," Hank accused.

"What do you mean?" Michaela's brow wrinkled.

"I mean three of your patients died this mornin'," Hank added. "All of 'em was Injuns. An' now, whatever killed them is likely t' put others in danger. Wouldn't surprise me if they brought it here in the first place."

"The Indians are more vulnerable to fatality from the disease," she explained. "Historically, the white man's illnesses have decimated their populations."

"You can use all the big words ya want," he pointed his finger at her. "But ya better figure out a way t' stop it."

"Measles is a disease that must run its course," she detailed. "All I can do is try to keep down the fevers, suppress the coughs and treat the cases of pneumonia that may arise."

"If anythin' happens t' Lexie...." Hank was interrupted.

"Dr. Mike's doin' everythin' she can," Robert E interjected.

"Before this gets outa hand, I gotta tell ya somethin' else, Dr. Mike," Jake spoke up. "We can't bury Henriette at the church cemetery."

"What?" she was flabbergasted.

"She's part Injun," Jake put his hands on his hips defiantly.

"She's a Christian," Michaela countered.

"We're only tryin' t' avoid trouble," Loren defended.

"How can you sit there and behave in this manner, Loren Bray?" Michaela raised her voice. "One minute you comfort my son, the next you insist that the woman he loves can't have a proper burial in our cemetery?"

"Maybe you can bury her with the Indian children at the school," Jake suggested.

"This is an outrage," she pointed her finger at him. "And I'm going to...."

Suddenly, her face paled, and she felt faint.

"Dr. Mike?" Jake went to her side.

"Don't touch me," she waved him aside.

Robert E helped her, "Sit down, here."

"I'll go get Colleen," Loren headed for the door.

"Here's some water," Jake handed her a glass.

Michaela held her abdomen.

"Are you in pain, Dr. Mike?" Robert E feared.

"No," she tried to calm herself.

She sipped on the water and began to feel better.

"You sure you're okay?" Hank questioned.

"I'm just tired," Michaela excused. "A little rest is all I need."

Hank frowned, "Don't look like you're gonna get it."

She pivoted and with her back to them softly spoke her husband's name, "Sully."

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

The uneasy feeling which Sully had experienced the previous night returned. As the others slept, he drew the photograph of Michaela from his pouch and lightly ran his finger along the outline of her face, the most beautiful he had ever seen.

He smiled, thinking about what she might be doing at that moment. Maybe she was looking out at the stars or taking Josef to the privy. Maybe she was reading a story to the twins or brushing Katie's hair. He closed his eyes and imagined her standing before him. Her arms were open and inviting.

"Sully," she uttered in the voice that sent tingles down his spine.

"Sully," it sounded different when he heard it again.

He opened his eyes, the gnawing presence of something out of balance persisting.

"You are troubled, my brother?" Cloud Dancing awoke.

"That telegram," Sully's thoughts returned to the soldier. "What if it was for me? What if it was from Michaela? He said they were lookin' for three men. She knows I'm with you an' Bandelier."

"Would she have sent a soldier to deliver it?" the medicine man considered.

Sully thought about it, "I didn't tell her where I was headed. Only one who would know was Horace, an' he knew we were goin' t' Fort Lyon."

"Is it only the telegram that worries you?" Cloud Dancing inquired.

"Last two nights, I've had a feelin' somethin's wrong," he gazed into the fire. "Then just a little bit ago, I thought I heard her call my name."

"You have a bond with her," his friend counseled. "You speak to each other through your hearts. If her heart is troubled, so is yours."

"What about Bandelier?" Sully gestured.

"I will guide him," Cloud Dancing offered.

"But what about when you try t' come home?" he was concerned. "If the Army stops ya...."

"I have evaded the Army more than once, my brother," a slight grin appeared on Cloud Dancing's face.

Sully looked up at the stars and contemplated.

Finally, he spoke, "Michaela needs me."

"Then you must go to her," Cloud Dancing urged.

************
Chapter 12
************

Michaela kept a vigil in the anteroom all night. Periodically, she rose to check the respiration and pulses of her patients. Grace and Robert E, Horace and Myra and Hank also stepped into the room quietly to observe their loved ones.

At daybreak, Michaela was awakened by a queasy stomach. She yawned and caressed her belly. She knew she needed to eat.

Bridget entered with a tray of eggs, toast and tea, "Ya need this."

"You read my mind," Michaela smiled slightly.

The nanny stepped to Noah's crib and gently felt his forehead, "Still has a fever."

"I know," Michaela sipped the tea.

"The others?" she kept her voice down.

"Holding their own," Michaela started on the eggs.

"I heard ya had a spell at that town meetin' last night," Bridget broached the subject.

"I'm fine," she assured.

"Lass," Bridget eyed her with concern. "I been watchin' ya, an' ya need t' slow down. Ya got Drs. Colleen an' Andrew here helpin'. Ya don't have t' do everythin' yourself, don't ya know."

"I know," she sighed. "But I feel responsible. These people are entrusting their loved ones to me. I can't let them down."

"Ya can't let down that babe that's growin' inside ya either," she reminded. "It's a miracle, it is."

Michaela ran her hand across her abdomen, "It is indeed."

"I know folks will understand if ya excuse yourself once in a while t' rest," she pointed out.

"Hank won't," Michaela noted.

"That one," the nanny shook her head. "Seems t' me I should talk with him an' tell him the world don't revolve around what he wants."

"Hank saved my life," Michaela confided.

"When was that, darlin'?" she was interested.

"When I was shot," Michaela thought back. "He rushed me to the Chateau Clinic, where Andrew could remove the bullet. Sully says when someone saves your life, you have a debt on them."

"Mama," Noah's little voice could be heard.

"I'll get him," Bridget turned.

Lifting the child from the crib, she brought him to his mother's side.

Michaela checked his breathing with her stethoscope, "No change."

She softly rocked her son back and forth, hoping to lull him to sleep. It worked.

"Ya got a way with him," Bridget observed with a gleam in her eye.

"Have you seen Brian this morning?" Michaela wondered.

"Aye," she nodded. "He was writin' in his journal a little bit ago, poor lad."

"I wish I could take away his pain," Michaela kissed Noah's forehead.

"I never met anyone like you, Dr. Mike," Bridget spoke with admiration. "The way ya love your husband an' children, care about your friends, doctor your patients. There's such love in everythin' ya do. It's a gift."

"Thank you," her cheeks flushed. "But I think of my family, friends and patients as gifts to me."

"Leave it t' you t' see things that way, lass," Bridget smiled.

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

"It's been a pleasure meeting you, Sully," Bandelier shook his hand.

"Same here," he returned. "You'll let me know what you're doin' an' if ya need anythin'?"

"I shall," he agreed.

"Cloud Dancin'," Sully embraced his friend.

"Good-bye, my brother," he smiled. "I shall see you soon."

They watched Sully mount his horse and ride off with Wolf following close behind.

"She must be quite a woman," Bandelier spoke.

"Dr. Mike?" Cloud Dancing raised an eyebrow. "She is."

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

By Friday morning, February 13, Michaela deemed that most of the children who remained at the Clinic were improved enough that their parents could safely take them home. But the conditions of Noah, Samantha and Lexie remained in the balance. Each was placed in an individual recovery room.

With the Clinic less crowded and hectic by afternoon, Brian and Matthew headed out to the Indian school with the bodies of Henriette, Young Wolf and Sun Walking. Robert E went with them to help with the burial. When they reached the Army checkpoint, they were relieved to find Private McIntosh on duty.

He stopped them with a raised hand, "Just visitin' t'day?"

"That's right," Matthew nodded.

McIntosh lifted the tarp in the back of the wagon, observing three wooden coffins. He shook his head solemnly.

"Go ahead then," he waved them onward.

They found a spot on a hill above the school grounds and began the task of digging the graves. When they prepared to place the coffins in them, they heard an approaching carriage.

"Look," Brian pointed. "It's Ma's surrey."

Matthew squinted, "Looks like she's not alone."

"It's Loren an' Dorothy," Robert E recognized.

The surrey slowed when it reached them.

"Ma," Brian helped her from the carriage and embraced her. "You shouldn't have come out here."

"I wanted to be with you," she touched his cheek.

"I brought the children's things," Dorothy held a small bag.

Loren spoke up, "I couldn't let them come alone."

"Thanks," Brian smiled knowingly.

Each coffin was opened, and belongings were placed into the hands of the deceased. Brian approached Henriette's body and knelt down. He reached into his pocket and withdrew the necklace he had purchased for her.

"Brian?" Michaela wondered.

"I was gonna give it t' her for Valentine's Day," he choked back his tears.

Michaela rested her hand on his shoulder for support. Then Brian withdrew a knife from his pocket.

"Brian!" Michaela feared.

"It's all right," Matthew assured her.

Brian then cut a small lock of his blonde hair. Tenderly, he placed it in Henriette's hand with the necklace.

Michaela lowered her head and softly wept. Dorothy, too, could not contain her tears. The two women linked their arms as they watched the coffins being lowered into the ground.

"Wait!" Brian stopped them. "I don't feel right about doin' this with the children."

"Doin' what?" Robert E was uncertain.

"Buryin' them," he stated. "All their lives, they were forced t' live the way the white man told them. In death, they deserve t' be treated in the ways of their ancestors. Their bodies should be on scaffolding.... or at least in a tree."

"What about that one?" Matthew pointed to one a dozen yards away.

"Yes," Brian nodded. "That'll do."

Robert E's brow wrinkled, "You sayin' we gotta put these children in a tree?"

"It's the right thing t' do," Brian swallowed hard.

Loren disagreed, "They'll get eat up by creatures."

"That's how they return to Mother Earth," Brian explained.

"What about Henriette?" Matthew paused.

Brian shook his head, "She followed the ways of the white man. She should be buried."

"All right," Robert E acquiesced.

As gently as they could, they removed the small bodies from the coffins, then found a way to secure them in the tree.

Brian began to softly chant a Cheyenne song that Cloud Dancing had taught him when No Harm died ten years ago.

Then he spoke in a voice full of emotion, "Nothing lives long. Only the earth and the mountains."

Suddenly, he felt a presence nearby. Turning, he saw who it was.

"Pa!" he rushed to Sully.

Sully embraced him, "I'm sorry, Brian. Horace told me what happened. I came straight here from the Depot."

Michaela circled her arms around his waist, "You received our telegram."

"Actually, I didn't," Sully revealed. "But I had a feelin' somethin' was wrong."

"I'm glad you're home, Pa," Brian looked up at him with reddened eyes.

"Nowhere else I wanna be," he felt a lump in his throat.

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

In the misty recovery room, Sully tenderly cradled Noah in his arms, "He's lost weight."

"He hasn't been able to eat much," Michaela informed him.

"Hey, No-bo," Sully kissed his son's feverish forehead.

There was no response from the listless little boy.

"Samantha and Lexie have shown no improvement either," she sighed.

"You gotten any rest?" he noted her appearance.

"Not much," she shook her head. "I've been here at the Clinic since Sunday."

Sully returned Noah to his crib and went to his wife, "I want you t' lie down right now."

"I need to check on the others," she resisted.

Guiding her toward the recovery room bed beside the crib, he insisted, "Now, Michaela. Colleen will tend t' the others."

She stretched out without further protest, "Just for a little while."

He drew up a blanket around her, "I'll keep watch over Noah. You rest."

"Sully," she clasped his hand. "He'll be all right."

"'Course he will," he kissed her.

"You didn't tell me how things went with Mr. Bandelier," she started to relax.

He stroked her hand, "Real good. We went t' Sand Creek. It was hard, bein' there, knowin' what happened. But he was respectful t' the land an' the relics. Kinda made me think...."

"Think what?" she wondered.

"That someone who respects the Indians can make a difference," Sully spoke in admiration. "He's not like most government men."

"Neither are you," she smiled at him.

"I don't work for them anymore," he pointed out.

"Someday you might again," she considered.

"Not likely," he dismissed the notion.

"I'm glad you're home, Sully," she became drowsy.

"Me, too," he sweetly kissed her.

She closed her eyes, and within minutes was asleep. Sully pulled a chair closer to the crib. He stretched his arm between the rungs to hold his son's hand.

He did not hear Hank enter the room, "When'd you get back?"

Sully turned, "This afternoon."

Gesturing toward the crib, Hank whispered, "He any better?"

"No," Sully returned his glance toward his son.

"Neither's Lexie," Hank folded his arms. "Colleen's in with her now."

"She's a good doctor," Sully assured.

"I guess," Hank shrugged. "Still, I think Michaela oughta...."

"Michaela needs t' rest," Sully cut him off.

"Does your boy need anythin'?" Hank offered.

"You ain't a prayin' man," he knew.

Hank offered, "You want me t' go get the Reverend?"

"No," Sully stated.

"What about you an' Michaela?" his tone softened. "Anythin' I can do for ya?"

Sully looked up, "Help me make a lodge."

"A lodge?" Hank's eyes widened.

"You heard me," Sully stood up.

"This some sort of Injun mumbo-jumbo?" Hank's brow wrinkled.

"The sweat lodge is used for healin'," he informed him.

Hank conceded, "I guess I could help ya. Where ya wanna build it?"

The two men crossed the hall into an empty recovery room.

Sully determined, "We'll build it here."

"Inside?" he was puzzled.

"Yep," Sully affirmed.

In the recovery room, they began to prepare a makeshift sweat lodge. As they worked, they could hear the clock downstairs on Michaela's office wall tolling midnight.

When their work was complete, Sully eyed it, "That'll do."

"Don't let it get around that I helped with this," Hank quipped.

"I need somethin' up here t' keep the stones hot," he determined.

"How ya gonna do that?" Hank folded his arms.

"Loren still have that small stove?" he wondered.

"It's after midnight," Hank answered. "He'll be in bed."

"Then I'll wake him up," Sully started for the door.

Hank grabbed his arm, "Let me go. I like wakin' up folks."

"Thanks," Sully nodded.

Crossing the hall, Sully checked on Noah, then approached Michaela. He sat on the edge of the bed and caressed her cheek.

She awoke with a start, "Noah?"

"He's sleepin'," Sully assured. "But I wanna perform a sweat lodge ceremony."

"Sully, we can't take him outside," she countered.

"Hank an' me made one across the hall," he smiled.

"What?" she sat up.

"We put together a sweat lodge inside," he explained. "Hank went t' get that small stove of Loren's. I'll let ya know when it's ready."

She pinned up a stray lock of hair as she prepared to rise.

Sully watched her lovingly, "Happy Valentine's Day."

She avoided looking at him, "I'm sorry I have nothing to give you."

He clasped her hand and drew it to his lips. "You gave me that letter."

She curled up the corner of her mouth, "I knew you'd read it early."

There was a light knock at the door, "Ma?"

"Come in, Colleen," Michaela bid.

The young woman approached her parents, "Any change in Noah?"

"No, and your father has decided to perform a sweat lodge ceremony," she replied. "How are Samantha and Lexie?"

"That's why I'm here," Colleen responded. "Samantha's fever has broken, and her lungs sound somewhat better."

"That's good news," Michaela smiled. "Are Myra and Horace...."

"They're with her," the young woman interjected. "She's sleeping finally."

"And Lexie?" Michaela questioned.

"Still the same," Colleen shook her head.

They heard footsteps in the hallway.

"That'll be Hank with the stove," Sully stood up.

When he left the room, Colleen turned to her mother, "A sweat lodge?"

"I've seen its effectiveness," Michaela nodded.

"Do you need my help?" she offered.

"No, thank you," Michaela smiled.

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

When Michaela entered the sweat lodge recovery room, Sully closed the door behind them. He gently set Noah on the bed and removed his nightshirt and diaper. Then he took off his own clothing. Michaela did likewise, but drew a shawl around her shoulders.

Sully pulled back the flap of the lodge for his wife to enter. She was suddenly hit by the intense steam. Beads of perspiration began to appear instantly. Cradling Noah, Sully joined her and secured the flap shut.

He held the baby up and kissed his cheek. Normally, Noah would take delight in such special attention, but the child could scarcely hold up his head.

Michaela poured more water onto the rocks to generate added steam. After Sully handed the baby to his mother, he opened the bag of herbs he had brought and sprinkled them on the heated water. He softly chanted and called to the spirits of his grandfathers to heal his son.

Then the concerned parents huddled closely together to offer prayers for their child.

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

"Myra, you hear somethin'?" Horace sat up straighter.

"Sounds like Indians singin'," she discerned.

"You think it's the ghosts of them children who died here?" his eyes widened.

"'Course not," she reasoned.

"Then what?" he tilted his head.

Suddenly, they became aware of Hank's presence at the doorway.

"Mind if I come in?" the sheriff kept his voice low.

"I mind," Horace frowned.

"Come on in," Myra invited.

"How's Samantha?" Hank looked toward the little girl.

"Colleen said she's turned the corner," Myra smiled.

"Good," he folded his arms.

"How 'bout Lexie?" Myra wondered.

"No change," he answered.

Horace heard the chanting again, "It's ghosts, I tell ya."

Hank smirked, "Yea, I hear 'em all the time across the street at the Gold Nugget."

"Ya do?" Horace's eyes widened.

"He's jokin', Horace," Myra placed her hand on his.

"It's Michaela an' Sully with some Injun nonsense," Hank retorted. "They think it'll help their boy."

"Poor Noah," Myra sighed. "He's been the sickest little darlin' all week long."

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

Looking for the slightest sign of improvement, Sully could not take his eyes off of his son, as the little boy lay tucked against his mother's bosom. Michaela began to nod off, but as her head leaned forward, it wakened her.

"Let's get you two int' the bed now," Sully whispered.

"The steam is good for him," she knew.

"There's plenty o' steam in the room, too," Sully assured.

He stood up and opened the lodge flap, then lifted Noah from his mother's arms. Michaela rubbed her back, and stepped toward the bed. Sully drew back the blankets for her. When she was prone on the bed, he placed Noah beside her. Then he went around to the other side of the bed. With their child between them, each parent held one of his hands.

"Sully," Michaela turned onto her side to look at him.

"Mmm?" he curled Noah's fingers around his thumb.

"You said you came home early because you felt something was wrong," she broached the subject.

"It gnawed at me," he described. "I even heard you call my name."

"I did," she nodded.

He leaned over to kiss Noah's cheek.

"He has a strong will to live," she watched with love.

Unspoken between them was the heart wrenching fear that the child's will to live would not be enough to pull him through.

************
Chapter 13
************

Matthew neared the Gazette office and through the window, noticed Brian busy at the printing press.

He entered the building, "Hey, little brother."

"Hey," Brian did not look up.

"How ya doin'?" Matthew toyed with the rim of his hat.

"Okay," Brian shrugged.

"You wanna talk or anythin'?" he queried.

"Did you?" Brian snapped back.

"Did I what?" Matthew was uncertain.

"Did you wanna talk when Ingrid died?" he clarified.

"You know the answer t' that," Matthew returned. "But folks don't always handle grief in the same way."

Brian stopped his work and wiped his brow, "If you'll excuse me, I got a paper t' get out."

"Sure," Matthew began to back away. "I'll be around if ya need anythin'."

"Thanks," Brian's tone softened.

Matthew crossed the alley to the Clinic. When he entered the office, he saw his sister, seated at the desk.

"Mornin'," he greeted.

"Good morning," her expression was glum.

"I just came from the Gazette," he folded his arms. "Brian's throwin' himself into his work."

Colleen sympathized, "It's a natural reaction."

"I stopped by the homestead this mornin' t' take care of the animals," he stated. "The kids are full of questions about Noah."

"Ma an' Sully performed a sweat lodge ceremony for him last night," she revealed.

"Where?" he was surprised.

"In the recovery room," she answered.

"What are his chances, Colleen?" a concerned look crossed his face.

She took a deep breath and sighed, "To tell you the truth, I'm surprised he's survived this long. He's so weak."

"God," he shook his head.

"I know it's not scientific, but I think the love Ma and Sully have for him is the only thing keeping him going," she offered.

"Love's a powerful force," he nodded.

"I know their love is," Colleen folded her hands. "I wish I could say the same for mine."

"Did you tell Andrew about the divorce papers yet?" he wondered.

"There's been no time to discuss it," she replied. "And he's been so much help here, it didn't seem right."

"You havin' second thoughts?" Matthew questioned.

"No," she sounded sure. "I'll try to bring it up later today if the opportunity presents itself."

"Not t'day, Colleen," he advised his sister. "Not on Valentine's Day."

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

Michaela awoke to the feel of something on her pillow. It was an envelope. She sat up and reached for her stethoscope. She determined that Noah's temperature was significantly lower, but his lungs were still congested.

She drew back a lock of the child's dark hair, then gazed at Sully. She smiled and drew back an identical lock of her husband's hair from his face. Her hand lingered on his cheek.

Then Michaela turned her attention to the envelope. Inside was a paper, on which were drawn eight hearts. Matthew, Colleen, Brian, Katie and Josef had all written their names in one of the hearts. Annie had scribbled something in a sixth. Then she recognized Sully's handwriting. He had put Noah's name in the seventh. The eighth heart had a question mark in it. Beneath them all, Sully had written:

"A Valentine to My Wife
by Eugene Field

Accept, dear girl, this little token,
And if between the lines you seek,
You'll find the love I've often spoken 
The love my dying lips shall speak.

Our little ones are making merry
O'er am'rous ditties rhymed in jest,
But in these words (though awkward very)
The genuine article's expressed.

You are as fair and sweet and tender,
Dear brown-eyed little sweetheart mine,
As when, a callow youth and slender,
I asked to be your Valentine.

What though these years of ours be fleeting?
What though the years of youth be flown?
I'll mock old Tempus with repeating,
"I love my love and her alone!"

And when I fall before his reaping,
And when my stuttering speech is dumb,
Think not my love is dead or sleeping,
But that it waits for you to come.

So take, dear love, this little token,
And if there speaks in any line
The sentiment I'd fain have spoken,
Say, will you kiss your Valentine."

She held the paper to her breast as a tear made its way down her cheek.

Sully opened his eyes and focused on her. Michaela smiled down on him, then leaned closer to softly kiss him. Sully reached up to cup the back of her head in his hand. Their kiss deepened as each began to lose themselves in the attraction they felt.

"Thank you, Mr. Sully," she smiled.

"You're welcome," he grinned.

"Noah's fever is down," she whispered.

"That's real good news," Sully touched his son's belly.

The child opened his eyes and uttered weakly, "Papa. Up."

"That's my boy," Sully smiled.

Michaela started to get out of bed.

"Wait," he beckoned.

"Yes?" she paused.

"You feel okay?" he caressed her abdomen.

"Hungry," she stated.

"I got up durin' the night," he revealed. "I ran int' Hank in the hallway. He said you had a faintin' spell at a town meetin' the other night."

"It was nothing, Sully," she assured. "I was tired and hungry."

"That's all?" his expression was serious.

"That's all," she smiled. "Now, if you gentlemen excuse me, I want to get dressed and check on my other patients. I believe Samantha will be able to go home."

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

"Hey, beautiful," Hank leaned closer to Lexie.

She tried to smile, "You like your women beet red, do you?"

"I been known t' turn a few women red," he retorted.

She coughed just as Michaela entered the room.

"Would you excuse us for a little while, Hank?" Michaela set her medical bag on the stand beside the bed.

"I guess," he rubbed his sleeve across his upper lip.

When he departed, Lexie looked up at Michaela, "The truth, Dr. Mike."

"The truth...." Michaela paused. "As you know, you have pneumonia. It's imperative that we get your fever under control and try to clear your lungs."

"Last night, Hank said something about an Indian treatment you used on Noah," she said. "Did it help him?"

"His fever is lower today," Michaela related.

"Maybe I should think about it, too," she pondered.

Michaela held a spoonful of medicine before her, "This should help your cough."

Lexie swallowed the liquid.

As she put the lid back on the bottle, Michaela posed the question, "Do you believe in the medicine of the Cheyenne?"

"I don't disbelieve," Lexie considered. "I've never tried it."

"You're not prejudiced toward them?" she tilted her head.

"I have nothing against the Indians, if that's what you mean," Lexie returned.

"I'll discuss it with Sully," Michaela offered. "But I don't know if Hank will approve."

"Hank's not the one who's sick," she coughed again.

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

When Sully entered the Mercantile, Loren looked up from is paperwork, "How're the children?"

"Okay, except for Noah," he did not mask his concern. "He's still got the pneumonia, but his fever's down some this mornin'."

"You need anythin', just let me know," Loren offered.

"I ain't had much time for shoppin'," Sully counted the money he held. "I wanna get somethin' for Michaela's birthday t'morrow."

Loren pursed his lips, "I see."

Sully noticed, "I know what the day after that is, Loren. I still remember. Pain like that don't go away."

"I know ya do," he acknowledged. "It's just hard when I see ya buyin' a gift for your wife."

"I had t' go on with my life," Sully felt a lump in his throat. "But there ain't a day goes by I don't think about Abigail an' Hannah."

Loren confessed, "Sometimes I feel like there's a hole in my heart that'll never go away."

"I know," he sympathized.

"What did ya have in mind for Dr. Mike?" Loren returned to the subject.

"I don't have much money on me," Sully stepped toward the display case.

"Got a nice music box here," the older man gestured. "Plays a waltz. That's Dr. Mike's favorite dance, ain't it?"

"Uh-huh," Sully smiled wistfully. Lifting the lid and listening to the music, his eyes lit up. "That song. What is it?"

Loren read the label on the bottom of it, "Says here it's by Johann Strauss. 'Roses From the South.' That mean somethin' t' ya?"

"Sure does," he recalled. "How much is it?"

"How much ya got there?" Loren pointed to the money in his hand.

"Five dollars," Sully said.

"That's how much it costs," the shopkeeper agreed.

"Loren...." Sully doubted.

"Don't argue with a businessman," he became gruff.

"Thanks," Sully set the money on the counter top.

"You want me t' wrap it for ya?" Loren offered.

"If ya would," he nodded.

Several minutes later, Loren handed him the package.

"Much obliged," Sully told him.

"One more thing before ya go," Loren went to his candy jars.

Removing a small piece of licorice, he wrapped it, as well.

"Michaela don't like licorice since she won that horse race," Sully joked.

Loren countered, "This ain't for her. It's for Noah."

"He can't have candy, but...." Sully was cut off.

"It's for when he can have it," Loren interrupted.

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

Hank stood before Michaela, "She wants what?"

"A sweat lodge," she stated.

"Look, I went along with Sully for your kid, but this is ridiculous," he objected.

"Her mind is made up," Michaela emphasized.

"Damn fool woman," he shook his head and left her office.

Colleen chuckled, "Maybe you should have a lodge constructed beside the new hospital, Ma."

"Don't laugh," she turned up the corner of her mouth. "I've thought about that."

Colleen studied her demeanor, "You seem more relaxed today."

"Noah had a good night," she explained. "And I always sleep better when Sully's home."

Colleen's expression changed, and she began to busy herself by rolling bandages.

"Did I say something that upset you?" Michaela interpreted.

"I just remember what it was like," she had a far away look in her eye.

"When you and Andrew were happy?" the mother assumed.

"Yes," Colleen nodded. "I took many things for granted."

Michaela glanced at the clock, "Do you think you could keep an eye on the Clinic for a little while? I want to go to the Mercantile."

"I can go for you, Ma," the young woman offered. "What do you need?"

"No, thank you," Michaela removed her apron. "I want to pick this out for myself."

"What?" Colleen was curious.

"A special gift," she put on her coat. "Lexie and Noah have had their medicine, and Sully is up with him. You know where I'll be if there's an emergency."

"Happy shopping," Colleen grinned.

Michaela crossed the street to the Mercantile. Relishing the fresh air, she paused on the walk to take a deep breath before crossing the street.

Loren met her at the door of the Mercantile, "Dr. Mike. You got a list for me?"

"No," she entered the store. "I'm not here for groceries."

"A gift maybe?" he had an intuition.

"As a matter of fact," her face flushed. "Yes."

"I got some new cologne," he gestured. "From Paris."

"For men?" she clarified.

"Smells like it t' me," he removed the lid. "Take a whiff for yourself. Why, this was made for Emperor Napoleon himself by the royal perfumer Giovanni Maria Farina."

"It does smell rather.... that is.... quite good, but I don't know if Sully would...." her voice trailed off.

"The usual cologne then?" he frowned.

"Yes, please," she smiled.

"Creatures of habit, I guess," he shrugged.

"You really think so?" she considered.

"Don't ya wanna be darin'?" there was a twinkle in his eye. "Have an adventure?"

"What was the name of that cologne of Napoleon's?" she blushed.

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

Seeing the Gazette interior illuminated, Sully stepped into the office. Brian did not look up from his desk. Silently, Sully walked to him and placed his hand on the young man's shoulder.

Gazing up with reddened eyes, Brian spoke dejectedly, "Hey, Pa. Is Noah okay?"

"Doin' a little better," Sully pulled a chair closer and sat beside him. "You still workin'?"

"Not really," he shrugged. "Just tryin' t' keep busy."

"Sometimes there ain't enough work t' keep our mind off things," he counseled.

"It hurts so bad," the young man felt his emotions swelling.

"Anythin' your Ma or me can do?" he offered.

"I never felt like this before," Brian eyed him earnestly. "Not even when my real Ma died."

"It's a different kind o' love," Sully advised. "Your first grown up love."

Suddenly, Brian realized it was nearly the anniversary of Abigail's death, "I know it ain't anythin' like what you went through.... when Abigail an' Hannah died."

"When ya lose someone ya love, it's never easy," he counseled. "Even if ya didn't know 'em very long."

"I been thinkin'," Brian hesitated. "Maybe I'd like t' go back t' work at the Boston Globe."

Sully studied his expression, "If that's what ya want."

"What d' you think?" he sought his advice.

"I think ya gotta go and do what will get ya through this," Sully stated.

They both fell silent.

Then Sully spoke up, "I know some children who miss their big brother. Maybe you could spend the night at the homestead?"

"I miss them, too," he swallowed hard. "Do they know about Henriette?"

"No," Sully noted.

"Maybe I should tell them," Brian pondered.

"You want your Ma an' me there when ya do?" he offered.

"No," he shook his head. "You're needed here with Noah."

"We love you, Brian," Sully again touched his son's arm.

"I love you, too," he felt his eyes welling again.

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

In her office, Michaela finished explaining the procedures to be followed at the sweat lodge ceremony, "And you can't make light of it, Hank. It's quite serious."

"Sounds like a dip in the hot springs t' me," he folded his arms.

"If you can't take it seriously, then you shouldn't be here for it," she countered.

"You gonna be in the teepee with us, Michaela?" he grinned. "Gotta strip down."

"Hank," her cheeks flushed. "I'll be with my son."

"You gonna let Sully be in there with Lexie and me?" he raised an eyebrow.

"Don't turn this into some sort of tawdry event," she scolded. "It's a sacred Cheyenne ritual, and you'll have blankets draped around you."

"Suit yourself," he shrugged. "When's the fun begin?"

"When Sully returns," she answered.

At that moment, the Clinic door opened and Sully stepped into the room.

He removed his jacket and placed it on the wall peg, "Everythin' ready?"

"I've tried to explain this to Hank," she sounded frustrated.

Sully stepped up to Hank and eyed him sternly, "This ain't a joke, an' it ain't for fun. You understand?"

Hank felt the intensity of his gaze and replied, "Yea."

"Good," Sully nodded. "Then let's get started."

************
Chapter 14
************

The children were gathered in Katie's room. Bridget had been tending to them in this central location since they had came home from the Clinic. The nanny had just finished giving them their medicine when Brian tapped lightly on the door frame.

"Bran!" Josef's eyes widened. "Where ya been?"

"Ban," Annie smiled.

"Is Noah okay?" Katie noticed his expression.

"He's doin' better," Brian stepped into the room.

Bridget sensed his need to be alone with his siblings, "I'll go get ya somethin' t' eat."

"No," Brian urged. "Please stay."

"When's Mama an' Papa comin' home?" Josef queried.

"Soon as they can," Brian hedged.

"Is somethin' wrong?" Katie inquired.

"There's somethin' I wanna tell you kids," his eyes began to fill with tears.

"What is it, Brian?" Katie's brow wrinkled.

"It's.... Henriette," he could scarcely speak.

"I like her," Josef smiled.

"Hush, Joey," Katie knew there was more.

Brian continued, "She developed a complication from the Measles. It's called pneumonia. An'.... well.... she passed away."

"Where'd she pass to?" Josef tilted his head.

"To heaven," he felt a lump in his throat.

"I'm sorry, Brian," Katie embraced him.

"Me, too," Josef did likewise.

"Me," Annie reached for him.

Brian opened his arms to encompass them all, "She really liked you kids."

"Is she buried now?" Katie asked.

"Uh-huh," Brian nodded. "At the Indian school, along with two little children who died of the pneumonia, too."

Katie suddenly thought, "Is that what's wrong with Noah?"

"He's gonna be okay," Brian assured.

"Mama an' Poppy must be real worried," the little girl assumed.

"Could ya stay here with us t'night, Bran?" Josef requested.

"Sure," he embraced them again.

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

In the sweat lodge, Sully, Hank and Lexie positioned themselves around the hot stones. As steam rose from them, Sully sprinkled the herbs onto them, creating a sizzling sound. Then he began to chant.

When he finished, he spoke to them, "I'm gonna leave ya now. But stay here until the steam is gone. I'll be with Michaela if ya need us."

"Thank you, Sully," Lexie leaned against Hank for support.

He rose and left them.

"So you think this is gonna work?" Hank posed the question.

"I hope so," she coughed.

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

Sully entered the recovery room where Michaela lay curled up on the bed with Noah. He watched them for a few minutes, then stepped to the French doors to look at the evening sky.

"Sully?" Michaela lifted her head.

"Right here," he came to her side.

"How did it go?" she positioned herself on her back.

"Hank took it serious," he informed her.

She turned her head and touched Noah's forehead, "He's doing better."

"Good," Sully smiled.

"Is it still Valentine's Day?" she squinted to view the clock.

"Uh-huh," he stroked her arm. "For a few more minutes."

"Then I have something for you," she gestured toward the stand by the bed.

Sully noticed the package, "What is it?"

"Open it," she encouraged.

He smiled, then ripped off the paper.

He noted the label on the bottle, "This ain't what I usually wear."

"Loren said it's from Paris," she stated. "Napoleon wore it, too."

"You want me smellin' like some French dandy?" he smirked.

"He was Corsican," she corrected. "And if you don't like it, I can take it back. I just thought.... well, it's something different.... adventurous."

"You don't like my old cologne?" his brow wrinkled.

"I didn't say that, Sully," she defended. "I love it. I love you. This is just meant to be something new, a Valentine's gift."

He detected the hurt in her eyes, "I'm sorry, Michaela. I'll give it a try."

"Not here," she cautioned. "It might set off Noah's cough."

He grinned, "Adventurous, huh? No tellin' where that might lead."

She turned up the corner of her mouth, "Just mind who you wear it around. It's.... rather stirring."

He grinned impishly, "Stirrin'?"

She maintained a sober expression, "I'm glad you didn't wear it during the sweat lodge ceremony."

"You think I might have stirred up Hank?" he joked.

"I was thinking more of Lexie," she clarified. "You should only wear this when you're with me."

"You turnin' int' one o' them possessive women?" he leaned closer.

"I see how women look at you," she raised an eyebrow.

"An' do ya see who I'm lookin' at?" his voice held a rasp.

"Me?" she pointed to herself.

"Only you," he kissed her tenderly.

She reached up to toy with the hair at his temple, "How I adore you, Mr. Sully."

He grinned, "Feelin's mutual."

Their kiss intensified.

Sully whispered, "Thanks for the cologne."

"You know, Napoleon conquered nearly all of Europe," she smiled.

"I already conquered the only territory I want," he retorted.

"Oh?" she raised an eyebrow. "What territory is that?"

"You," he kissed her again.

"You consider me to be your territory?" she stopped the kiss.

"Uh-huh," his eyes held a gleam. "An' no other man better try t' take ya from me."

"You think other men even look at me?" she gestured toward her blossoming figure.

"I know they do," he ran his finger along the line of her jaw.

"And do you notice where I'm looking?" she kissed the tip of his finger.

"At me?" he spoke softly.

"Only you," she returned.

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

Michaela rose early the next morning and examined Noah as he slept next to his father. The little boy was continuing to progress in his recovery. Next, she made her way to the room containing the sweat lodge. She lightly tapped on the door.

Hank opened it, "Lexie's still sleepin'."

Michaela stepped forward, "I want to check her lungs."

"I put her in the bed after the steam went away," he indicated.

Michaela sat on the edge of the bed and listened to Lexie's breathing with her stethoscope, "A little better."

"Dr. Mike?" Lexie opened her eyes.

"Good morning," Michaela smiled. "How do you feel?"

Lexie took a deep breath, "Like a weight's been lifted from my chest."

"You sayin' that Injun medicine worked?" Hank folded his arms.

"Her lungs are showing signs of improvement," Michaela nodded. "I'll come back a little later. Grace will be bringing breakfast shortly."

Michaela left them and returned to her husband and son. When she entered the room, she noticed a package on the side of the bed where she had slept.

"What's this?" she realized Sully was awake.

"Happy birthday," he sat up.

"Sully," she smiled. "When did you have time?"

"When did you?" he pointed to the cologne.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Michaela began to open the package.

Her eyes widened when she beheld its contents, "A music box! It's beautiful! Thank you."

"Listen t' the song," he urged.

Michaela lifted the lid. The tune prompted a tear to form in the corner of her eyes.

Sully clasped her hand, "Reminds me of the most beautiful woman in the world, sittin' across from me at a fancy restaurant in Boston. Her hair was done up real pretty, an' her gown was black an' white. I was courtin' her, ya see, hopin' she'd notice that I had good table manners while I ate those snails she liked."

"She did notice," Michaela referred to herself in the third person.

Sully continued, "An' I remember when I asked her t' dance, I thought my heart would pound out of my chest. I felt so stiff, wearin' that suit an' waltzin' around the dance floor t' this song, but when I had my arm around her, I felt like I was floatin'."

"You danced divinely," she commended.

"I was hopin' t' win her heart," he tilted his head.

"You most definitely did," her eyes shone with love.

He wound the box again to play, "Roses From the South."

Then he stood up and drew her into his arms, "May I have this dance?"

"I'd love to," her heart skipped a beat.

Sully pulled her as close as her figure would allow. They did not perform the sweeping full waltz steps. Instead, they simply swayed to the melody.

He framed her face in his hands, "I sure am glad you were born."

With their heads leaning against one another, they continued their motion. Suddenly, they could feel the baby's movement. They smiled at one another, relishing the sensation.

"I think she likes this song, too," Michaela commented.

He grinned, "Feels like it."

"I never dreamed when I danced with you that evening in Boston that...." she paused, overcome by the memory.

"Hey," he caressed her cheek. "It's not supposed t' upset ya."

She regained control of her emotions, "I never dreamed that by giving you my heart, I would gain so much more in return."

He moved closer and recited softly near her ear:

"Lie by me and hold me, sweet,
Clasp arms and sink;
There needs no weariness of the feet,
Neither to toil nor think;
Almost the pulse may cease to beat."

"Was that Donne?" she guessed the poet.

"George Cotterell," he uttered.

She tilted her head to look at Noah, "Thank you for my gifts."

"He's gonna be fine now, Michaela," Sully sounded certain.

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

A knock at the door of his Chateau Clinic prompted Andrew to look up from his desk, "Come in."

Colleen stepped into the room.

Andrew stood uncomfortably, "Colleen.... I didn't expect to see you. Is everything all right at the Clinic? Is Noah...."

"He's doing better," she assured. "So's Lexie."

"Good," he folded his arms uncomfortably. "Uh.... please have a seat."

"Thanks," she settled into one of the green leather chairs before him.

"Can I get you anything?" he offered. "Some tea, perhaps?"

"No," she shook her head. "Thank you."

"Well," he sat down. "Is this a professional call?"

"No," she never failed to notice how he could not look her in the eye when he was nervous.

"Then?" he waited.

"I'm here to discuss us," she came to the point.

"I see," he fidgeted with the pen on his desk.

"Andrew," she paused to gain his attention. "I'll always love you, but... I'm afraid it's no longer in a way that a wife should love her husband. Please understand, I treasure our time together. You've been kind and considerate, and a good friend to me."

"Where's this leading, Colleen?" his brow creased.

"I think you know," she lowered her eyes.

"Divorce?" he concluded. "You want a divorce?"

"Yes," she was scarcely audible.

"That's out of the question," he protested. "You're my wife. We took vows."

She sighed, "Yes, and at the time, I meant them."

Andrew's volume rose, "Well, you can't just throw that away."

"I'm not throwing it away," she countered. "But you know as well as I that we haven't had a true marriage for some time."

"Not since we came back here to Colorado Springs," he frowned.

"Let's not get into another argument about my family or where we live," she spoke up. "This is about us.... how we feel."

"How I feel?" he pointed to himself. "When was the last time you considered how I feel?"

"Right now," she asserted.

Andrew stood up and began to pace, "What about our plans?"

"What plans?" she challenged. "We never seem to agree on them."

"We agreed that...." he stopped, unable to think of an example.

"See?" she pointed. "We don't agree on anything."

He placed his hands on his desk, "Colleen, a divorce is much too drastic. We should work this out. Maybe we could see the Reverend."

She withdrew some legal papers from her purse, "Matthew drew these up. I'll leave them for your signature."

"Colleen, no!" his heart began to ache.

"Andrew, I don't want to prolong this any longer than necessary," her eyes welled. "You're a fine doctor and a good man. If it's at all possible, I'd like for us to remain friends."

She extended her hand. Andrew paused, then shook it.

"Could you give me some time to think about this before I sign?" he gestured toward the papers.

"All right," she consented.

************
Chapter 15
************

Preston noticed Andrew sitting in the Chateau dining room, "No patients today?"

"No," he did not look up.

"You seem out of sorts," Preston observed. "Is something wrong?"

"It's not your concern," Andrew sighed.

Preston sat down beside him, "Of course it's my concern. You're one of my employees. I care about their welfare."

Andrew eyed him suspiciously.

"Come now," Preston persisted. "Tell me what's bothering you."

The young man came out with it, "My wife wants a divorce."

"Divorce?" Preston's eyes widened.

"But she still wants for us to be friends," he added.

"Do you love her?" Preston probed.

"Of course I do," he was offended.

"Then fight for her," the banker proclaimed.

"How?" Andrew tilted his head.

"Show her the sensibility of remaining husband and wife," he considered. "Why, the income of two doctors alone would be enough for most right-minded people to remain married."

"We don't make that much money," Andrew countered. "This isn't Boston."

"You're right about that," he agreed. "But she's a woman. She likes the finer things. That's one thing which has always puzzled me about Michaela. How can she remain married to a shiftless nobody who cannot provide for her in the way a woman such as she deserves?"

"Sully's a fine man," Andrew stated.

"Nonetheless, that does not solve your problem," Preston rubbed his chin. "We must come up with a plan."

"What kind of plan?" he was uncertain.

"A plan to win back your wife," Preston determined.

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

The children were gathered around Brian, while he read a story aloud. They heard someone coming down the hallway.

"Mama!" Katie was surprised to see her enter the bedroom. "You're home!"

"I am indeed," she smiled broadly. "And look who I have."

Sully stepped into the room holding Noah. The little boy was weak, but the color had returned to his cheeks, and he was alert.

"Noah!" Josef's eyes widened. "He don' got numons anymore?"

"Pneumonia," Michaela amended. "He's well enough to be treated here at home now."

Annie reached out for her brother. Sully set the boy on the bed beside her. In no time, the two were giggling.

"Look at that," Michaela was amazed.

Bridget folded her arms, "It's about time things get back t' normal around here."

"Whatever that is," Michaela smiled.

"Happy birthday, Mama," Katie realized.

"Thank you," she responded.

"Did ya get a lot o' pwesents?" Josef queried.

"Papa gave me a beautiful music box," she kept her eye on Noah. "And I received the wonderful gift of being able to bring this little one home."

Bridget contributed, "'Tis the best gift of all."

"Bran was ww.... rreadin' us a story," Josef informed them. "Now Noah can hear, too."

Michaela noticed Brian's expression, "Perhaps your father could finish it for you."

"Yep," Sully reached for the book. "Let's see where he left off."

"The dwagon was breathin' fire," Josef informed him. "I don' un'stand how he does that."

"Page ten, Pa," Brian specified.

Michaela ensured that the children were settled in bed, "Now, rest is of utmost importance. I want you all to settle down while Papa reads."

"You're the doctor, Mama," Josef smiled.

"I'm your mother, too," Michaela touched his nose.

Michaela took Brian's arm. Leading him to her bedroom, she guided him to the double rocker. There, they sat.

After clasping his hand, she asked, "How are you doing?"

"I'm okay, I guess," he shrugged.

"Would you like to talk about it?" she invited.

He took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly, "What's there t' say?"

She pondered, "You can say it's not fair. You can say that you're angry or sad or...."

"I'm all those things, Ma," he swallowed hard.

"Sully told me that you're thinking about going back to Boston," she mentioned.

"Just thinkin'," he said. "I don't want you gettin' upset."

She commented, "I don't think it's advisable to make any decisions about your future right now, Brian. You have to give yourself time to grieve."

"How much time is that, Ma?" he stood up and walked to the fireplace. "When can I say, okay, now I'm done feelin' so sad an' lonely? Now the ache in my heart can go away."

"It's impossible to assign a time to it," she knew. "But you can turn to your family and friends for the emotional support you need for as long as you need it."

"Is that what you did when ya thought David had died?" he wondered.

"I had many lengthy discussions with my father," she noted. "He was a wise counselor and a rock of support for me."

"I wish I could have known him," Brian considered.

"You and he would have had many lively discussions," she mused. "He did not have a fondness for journalists."

"Why not?" he was curious.

"He was of the belief that they slanted the truth," she detailed.

"He must've been readin' the wrong papers," he noted.

At that moment, Sully tapped lightly on the door frame, "Mind if I come in?"

"Sure," Brian invited.

He walked to his son, "The kids fell asleep. You must read better than me."

Brian smiled slightly.

"Bridget said dinner would be ready at six," Sully informed them. "Matthew, Colleen an' Emma will be over soon."

"All right," Michaela nodded.

"I think I'll go check on Iggy an' the horses," Sully stated.

"I'll help ya, Pa," Brian offered. "I think Ma should rest."

"Are you certain that you...." Michaela was cut off.

"I'm fine," Brian interrupted.

"Let's go then," Sully put his hand on his son's back.

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

Hank glanced down at Lexie as she slept. She had eaten a little broth and a biscuit before dozing off an hour earlier. Stretching his arms, he stood up from the chair in which he had been sitting.

At that moment, Lexie opened her eyes and yawned, "How long was I asleep?"

"'Bout an hour," he leaned down to feel her forehead. "Almost time for your medicine."

"Hank," she clasped his hand. "I really appreciate you taking care of me."

"It's nothin'," he shrugged. "Just repayin' ya for nursin' me back t' health when I was shot."

"I was thinking...." she paused.

"Dangerous thing for a woman," he quipped.

She went on, "I was thinking about how much I like having you here with me."

"I like bein' with you, too," he assured.

"What would you think if we made it a more.... permanent arrangement?" she posed the question.

Hank gulped, "I.... uh.... that is.... I got a business t' run in town an' with my duties as sheriff.... I really couldn't."

She observed his anxiety, "I was just testing the waters."

"Waters?" he was uncertain.

"You're not ready," she smiled slightly.

He raised an eyebrow impishly, "I'm always ready."

"That's not what I mean," she discerned. "You're not ready for marriage."

"Marriage!" he was shocked. "Where'd ya get a damn fool notion like that?"

"When two people love each other.... want to spend time and take care of each other.... they think about things like that," she defined.

"Marriage ain't for me, Lexie," he softened his tone.

"I guess I was fooling myself," she sighed.

"Now don't go gettin' a misty-eyed look an' turnin' down the corners of your mouth like that," he frowned.

"I can look any way I want, Hank Lawson," she declared.

"Yea, well, I don't like it when ya do," he folded his arms.

"That's too bad," she rolled onto her side with her back away from him.

Hank took the hint, "I'll give ya your medicine now. Then I best be gettin' int' town."

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

Michaela leaned back from the table, "This was quite a feast, Bridget."

"It's good t' be able t' make somethin' besides soup," she responded. "I'm glad t' have some hearty eaters at the table again."

"I'm quite hearty," Michaela caressed her abdomen.

"It sure seems quiet with the children upstairs," Colleen remarked.

"You don't know what it took t' keep 'em in bed," Bridget joked.

Sully smiled, "It's good t' have 'em home all t'gether."

"How is Noah doing?" Matthew inquired.

"His improvement has been dramatic," Michaela replied.

Matthew chuckled, "All everyone in town is talkin' about is how ya used a sweat lodge ceremony on him an' Lexie."

Colleen then mentioned, "Cloud Dancing is back."

"When'd he get home?" Sully asked.

"Miss Dorothy said this afternoon," she indicated.

"I'll get these dishes cleaned up now," Bridget stood.

"I'll help," Emma began to gather the plates.

"Me, too," Colleen offered.

"I can certainly dry them," Michaela started to get up.

"No, ya don't, lass," Bridget said. "You need t' rest."

"Why don't you go check on the kids, Michaela," Sully instructed. "I'm gonna borrow the boys for a little while t' help me with somethin'."

"What?" she was curious.

"You'll find out later," he smiled.

"Very well," Michaela started for the steps.

"What did ya need us t' do, Pa?" Brian was curious.

"Come with me," Sully patted their backs.

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

"All right, children," Michaela opened the book she held. "I'm going to read the first chapter of 'Swiss Family Robinson' for you."

"What's Swiss?" Josef queried.

"That's cheese, Joey," Katie returned.

Michaela smiled, "Or in this case, it's someone from Switzerland."

"Why don' they call 'em Switzers?" the little boy tilted his head.

"Where's Switzerland?" Katie was curious.

"It's a very mountainous country in Europe," Michaela described. "Now, may I begin the story?"

"Yea!" Annie clapped her little hands.

Michaela read aloud:

"For many days we had been tempest-tossed. Six times had the darkness closed over a wild and terrific scene, and returning light as often brought but renewed distress, for the raging storm increased in fury until on the seventh day all hope was lost.

We were driven completely out of our course; no conjecture could be formed as to our whereabouts. The crew had lost heart, and were utterly exhausted by incessant labor.

The riven masts had gone by the board, leaks had been sprung in every direction, and the water, which rushed in, gained upon us rapidly."

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

Colleen entered her room at the Chateau. To her surprise, there were lit candles throughout the place. Just as she turned to inform the desk clerk, there was a knock at the door. She opened it.

There stood Andrew, a box of chocolates in hand, "For you."

She was puzzled, "Why?"

He frowned, "Because.... I wanted to give you something special."

"Are you responsible for the candles, as well?" she wondered.

"Uh, yes," he straightened his tie nervously. "I thought you might like the atmosphere they create."

"Andrew," she eyed him suspiciously. "Are you trying to be romantic?"

"Well...." he hesitated. "I suppose you could say that."

"In an effort to make me change my mind about a divorce?" she was blunt.

"I think perhaps we should try again, Colleen," he spoke as if rehearsed. "When you consider all aspects of our union, I think you'll conclude, as have I, that it makes sense for us to remain married."

"Is that supposed to sound romantic?" she questioned.

He continued, "Think about it. Think of our incomes, our common professions. That should count for something."

"What about love, mutual respect and compromise?" she countered.

"You know that I love you," he asserted. "And of course, I respect you. As for compromise, that takes two."

Colleen felt her temper rising, "Thank you for the chocolates. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm tired. I need to get some rest."

"But...." Andrew attempted.

"Good night," Colleen opened the door for him.

"You're serious about this divorce, aren't you?" he assessed.

"Yes," she nodded. "While we still at least like each other."

"Where did we go wrong, Colleen?" his shoulders slumped.

"I don't know if I have an answer," she felt a tear trickle down her cheek.

"Please," he reached for her hand. "Don't do this. Don't turn me away."

"Andrew," she closed her eyes for strength.

"Colleen," he slid his arm around her waist.

Without resistance from her, he stepped closer for a kiss. Colleen felt herself drawn into his embrace. Andrew closed the door and guided her toward the bed.

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

Michaela stepped into her bedroom, surprised to see the bathtub filled with steaming water. Sully stood, arms folded, waiting for her.

"Is this what the boys were helping you with?" she raised an eyebrow.

"Yep," he stepped closer.

She noticed the scent of him, "Mr. Sully, is that your new cologne I smell?"

"Uh huh," he grinned. "Stirrin'?"

"Stirrin'," she imitated his dialect.

He gestured toward the tub, "I figured after a week at the Clinic, you could use some pamperin'."

"It would be nice to clean up properly," she smiled.

"Then, let me help ya," he began to undo her buttons.

As he slid her blouse off her shoulders, he kissed her neck. Michaela instantly became aroused by his ministrations. Next, he unhooked her skirt and slipped it past her hips. He held her hand so that she could step out of it. Then he sensuously began to remove her undergarments.

Michaela trembled.

"Here," he led her to the tub. "Let's warm ya up."

She sat down in the bath water and was soon transported by the relaxing sensations it created.

"Mmm," she pinned up her hair, then closed her eyes.

Sully dipped his hands into the water and lathered them with the lilac soap she liked. He massaged her shoulders and back.

"Feel good?" he kissed her neck again.

"You have to ask?" she smiled.

He continued his tender movements until she was totally relaxed and lathered. Then he bid her to stand while he poured fresh water to rinse off the suds.

Before she could feel cold, Sully wrapped her in a towel. Then he guided her to sit by the fireplace with him.

"You're kinda quiet," he remarked as she settled back in his arms. "What's on your mind?"

"You," she glanced over her shoulder at him.

"Good answer," he tucked her back against his chest.

"Sully...." she was careful with how she broached the subject. "I've learned something, and... I.... I want to discuss it with you.... but I don't want to upset you."

"Learned what?" he asked.

"Promise me you won't be upset," she hesitated.

"I promise," he assured. "You can discuss anythin' with me, Michaela. What is it?"

"I know when your birthday is," she turned to gauge his reaction.

************
Chapter 16
************

Sully immediately tensed. Michaela lightly placed her hand on his shoulder, but he stood up and walked away from her.

"Sully," she beckoned.

He frowned, "Why'd you go lookin' int' that, Michaela?"

"I never knew why you felt so strongly about avoiding it," she qualified. "But I understand now."

"How could you understand?" he contained his temper.

"In case you've forgotten, Katie was kidnapped on my birthday three years ago," she defended. "When I thought she was dead, I felt that from then on, my birthday would be the most horrid day of the year."

"But she wasn't dead," he pointed out.

Michaela remarked, "Thank God."

He remained uncomfortable, "Now that ya know when it is, I don't want ya doin' anythin' for my birthday."

"I won't, if that's your wish," she agreed.

"I don't even know why you'd go tryin' t' find it out," he shook his head.

"It was actually Brian who learned it," she informed him.

"Why was he lookin' then?" he was curious.

"Katie has been so wanting to know your birthday, so she asked Loren if he knew," she detailed. "He became upset and refused to tell her."

"He got upset with Katie?" his brow wrinkled.

"Katie turned to her brother for an answer, prompting Brian to check the town records for your marriage to Abigail," she explained.

Sully took a deep breath to calm himself, "No one should've investigated. It's nobody's business."

She stood and walked toward him, "It's natural for your children to be curious. They see everyone else's birthday being celebrated."

"Mine ain't a day t' celebrate life," his jaw tensed. "It's a day of death."

"Sully," her heart went out to him. "I'm so sorry."

She circled her arms around his waist and leaned her head against his chest. At first he did not react. But the warmth of her, the scent of her melted his reserve. He embraced her and kissed the top of her head.

Then he spoke tenderly, "Did Brian tell Katie what he found out?"

"No," she looked up at him adoringly. "Nor will I."

"Thanks," he replied simply.

They stood, enfolded in one another's arms for several quiet minutes. Michaela clung to him, not daring to let go for fear he would brood. Sully could feel her trembling in his arms.

"You must be gettin' cold," he realized. "I'll get your gown."

She knew that her revelation had put a damper on their passion for the evening, "I'm sorry."

He helped her remove the towel and slip into her gown. All the while, she watched him with concern.

He noticed, "I'm okay. I just don't want it brought up again. All right?"

"I can't prevent the children from being curious," she qualified.

He guided her to the bed and pulled back the covers, "You must be pretty tired."

"I...." she felt awkward. "If there's anything you want .... or anything I can do, just let me know."

He kissed her softly as he drew the blankets up to cover her, "You've done enough. Get some rest."

"Sully," she clasped his hand.

His eyes reflected the sadness of the memories she had stirred, "'Night, Michaela."

"Are you coming to bed?" she hoped.

"In a little while," he whispered as he lowered the lamp.

With that, he left her.

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

With her back to Andrew in bed, Colleen wiped the moisture from beneath her eyes. She reproached herself for giving in to her husband's advances. And now, all she could feel was guilt and regret.

"Colleen?" he touched her back. "Are you all right?

"Yes," she tried to sound calm.

"Are you sure?" he doubted.

"Yes, Andrew," she sat up.

"Have you been crying?" he detected.

"No," she denied.

"What happened between us.... surely, it must show you that we still love one another," he reasoned.

"It should never have happened," she was barely audible.

"But.... I don't understand," his brow wrinkled.

"Andrew," she looked at him with reddened eyes. "A marriage is more than.... this."

"Granted, but...." he was interrupted.

"I'd like for you to leave now," she requested.

"Just like that?" he was baffled.

"Please," she implored.

"Not until I'm certain that you're all right," he resisted.

"I'll be all right," she asserted.

"Very well," he agreed. "Good night."

He dressed as Colleen drew on her robe. With one last look, he opened the door and departed. She closed the door behind him and blew out the candles.

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

Cloud Dancing was surprised to see Sully, "It is late, my brother."

"Colleen said you were back," Sully entered his lodge. "Just wanted t' make sure you're okay."

"Yes," he sat. "Will you join me?"

"Thanks," Sully positioned himself cross legged near the fire.

"Dorothy told me what happened," Cloud Dancing's eyes saddened. "I have visited the young ones who died. They have gone to be with their grandfathers."

Sully nodded respectfully, "It was a good thing I came home when I did. Noah was real sick."

The medicine man spoke the boy's Cheyenne name, "Aenohe is a strong one. He fights to live."

He agreed, "He sure does. We finally brought him home from the Clinic t'day."

"Today was a special day for Dr. Mike," Cloud Dancing recalled.

"Her birthday," Sully acknowledged.

"Yet you are here?" the friend raised an eyebrow.

"She found out when my birthday is," Sully's shoulders slumped.

"This upsets you?" he interpreted.

"You know why," Sully stared at the flames of the fire.

"What does she want to do with this knowledge?" he posed the question.

"Nothin'," Sully told him.

"Then why does it upset you?" Cloud Dancing was curious. "There is little Dr. Mike does not know about you."

"It stirs up memories," he stated.

"You have made peace with what happened those fifteen winters ago," the medicine man reminded.

"It's hard t' feel the peace on the anniversary," he swallowed hard. "What should I do?"

"This you must learn for yourself," he counseled. "But the Spirits will guide you, just as they brought you home when Aenohe needed you."

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

Before opening his store for the morning customers, Loren headed for the cemetery. It was a trek he had made on this date for the past fifteen years. To his surprise, as he neared the gate, he could see Sully was already there, kneeling by the grave sites of Abigail and Hannah.

Loren paused to watch him.

"Sully?" he approached tentatively.

"Loren," he looked up.

"You okay?" the older man offered.

Sully wiped his upper lip, "I been better."

"Were you here all night?" he observed his appearance.

The mountain man did not respond.

Loren placed some dried flowers at the foot of each grave, then stepped back.

"You don't have t' go," Sully watched him. "I'll leave ya be."

"You don't have t' go either," Loren responded. "We ain't enemies anymore."

"I was never your enemy," Sully looked at him.

"I know that now," Loren admitted. "When I lost Abigail, I was in too much pain t' know it wasn't your fault."

"I thought a million times, if only there would've been a doctor here t' help the baby an' her," Sully felt moisture beneath his eyes.

Loren placed his hand on Sully's shoulder, "Even when there is a doctor, it don't always work out the way we want. Look at Henriette."

"Now Brian's goin' through the same feelin's of loss," Sully shook his head.

"He'll be okay," Loren felt certain. "Time heals."

He stood, "I best be gettin' home now."

"Sully," Loren extended his hand.

Sully started to reach out, then found himself compelled to embrace the older man.

"I'm sorry, Loren," he was overcome. "I'm so sorry for what happened."

"Me, too," the older man patted his back. "I want ya t' do somethin'."

"What's that?" he paused.

Loren looked directly at him, "Forgive yourself."

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

Michaela awoke to find that Sully had not been to bed. She rose and donned her robe. Then she went to check on the children. Feeling each forehead, she noted that temperatures were normal except for Noah. He was burning up.

Swiftly, Michaela went to the top of the steps and called, "Sully!"

Bridget respond from the lower floor, "He's not here. What's wrong, lass?"

"It's Noah," she sounded urgent. "Could you bring me my medical bag?"

"Be right up," the nanny replied.

Michaela returned to her son. Katie and Josef had wakened when their mother had shouted in the hallway.

Brian opened his door and entered the children's room, "What's wrong, Ma?"

"Noah's fever is up," Michaela informed him. "Could you take him to my bed, then see if you can locate Sully?"

"Sure," he lifted the limp child.

"Mama," Katie spoke up.

"Not now, Sweetheart," she left the room abruptly.

"What's wrong?" Josef inquired anxiously.

"I don't know," Katie put her arm around him. "But I think it's bad."

In her bedroom, Michaela began to remove Noah's nightshirt and diaper. Bridget arrived with her bag. At that moment, the little boy became stiff.

"Dr. Mike!" Bridget made the sign of the cross.

Noah's head flew back as his body began to convulse. His complexion became nearly blue.

Sully burst into the room, "Michaela, what's happenin'? What's wrong?"

"It's a febrile convulsion," she explained.

Sully knelt beside his son and watched helplessly, "Why's he doin' this?"

"It's brought on by his fever," she noted. "It should end soon."

"What if it don't?" he worried.

Michaela did not answer.

Sully rushed from the room, brushing past Brian in the hallway.

"Pa!" the young man went after him. "Pa, wait!"

Sully stopped when he reached the remnants of Michaela's vegetable garden. Brian approached and gently put his hand on his father's back.

With eyes reddened from his tears, Sully fell to his knees.

"Pa," Brian had never seen him like this.

Sully closed his eyes, "I can't go through this again, Brian. I can't lose another baby. Not on this day, of all days."

"You're not gonna lose Noah," Brian knelt beside him. "When he opens his eyes, he needs t' see you holdin' him. Ma needs ya, too."

Sully glanced up toward his bedroom window, suddenly ashamed for leaving his wife and child. He looked at Brian and lightly touched his cheek. Then without a word, he stood up and walked toward the house. Brian followed.

When Sully reached his bedroom, Michaela was stroking Noah's hair. The child was calm again but unconscious. Bridget stepped back and nodded to Sully.

The nanny whispered to Brian, "Let's go talk t' the wee ones. They'll be full of questions."

Michaela and Sully were left alone with their youngest child. As his temperature began to moderate, Noah roused, and as he did, he cried.

Sully reached down and stroked the little boy's moist hair, "Shhh. You're all right, No-bo."

"What about you?" Michaela studied her husband's expression. "Are you all right?"

"I'm ashamed of myself for what I did, Michaela," he avoided looking at her.

"Please don't be," she implored.

"I left ya when ya needed me," he regretted.

"You came back," she looked at him with forgiveness.

"What can I do t' help?" he offered.

"Hold him so that I can administer his medicine," she instructed.

"The convulsion...." he paused. "Will he have another?"

"This one didn't last long," she reasoned. "So it's not likely that he will suffer any permanent damage. But keeping his temperature under control is of utmost importance."

Sully lifted his son. He kissed the boy's forehead, then tenderly set him on the bed. Michaela gave the child his medicine.

"I'm going to explain what happened to the children," she paused. "I'll be right back."


Alone with the little boy, Sully gently kissed his cheek, "I'm sorry, Noah. I'll never leave ya when ya need me again."

At that moment, Noah opened his eyes and looked up at his father. The little boy smiled and clutched Sully's shirt, then fell back to sleep.

When Michaela returned, she found Sully stretched out on the bed beside Noah. Ever so lightly, she leaned closer to kiss her husband.

He opened his eyes and clasped her hand, "I wanna tell ya somethin'."

"What?" she anticipated.

"I wanna tell ya what happened fifteen years ago," he clarified.

"Sully, I thought you didn't want to...." she was interrupted.

"I need ya t' know," he asserted.

Michaela sat beside him.

Sully paused to look at Noah again, then began, "It was my thirtieth birthday. Abigail wasn't due for another week, an' she wanted t' do somethin' special for me. She'd been havin' some real bad headaches that week, but she insisted on preparin' my favorite supper. She was on her feet all day. Suddenly, she started havin' a convulsion."

Michaela reached out to clasp his hand as his voice choked.

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

"Miss Bridget, Mama said Noah's gonna be okay," Katie mentioned. "But I don't understand what happened."

"His temperature went up, darlin'," the nanny explained.

"Is he passin' on t' heaven like Henwette?" Josef feared.

"Of course not," Bridget stated.

Brian stood at the doorway, hearing the muffled conversation of his parents.

"What's goin' on, Bran?" Josef noticed.

"They're just talkin'," he turned to his young brother.

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

Sully went on, "Abigail fell t' the floor, an' her eyes started rollin' around, while her head kept hittin' the floor."

"Eclampsia," Michaela nodded.

Sully continued, "Her mother Maude was visitin', so she went t' get Charlotte Cooper. I put a pillow under Abigail's head. Then her water broke."

The sting of tears in his eyes prompted him to stop again.

Michaela's heart ached for him, "You don't have to go on, Sully. It's too painful."

He looked down on his son, "I don't know what I'd do if I lost another child, Michaela. I'm so grateful you knew just what t' do t' save our little boy."

She began to feel overwhelmed by the power of his revelation. Never in their nearly ten years of marriage had Sully confided in her about that day. She slid her arm around his shoulder.

Sully composed himself enough to resume, "When Charlotte got there, the baby was startin' t' come out. But the cord.... it was wrapped around her neck."

He was unable to continue. Michaela embraced him, hoping the warmth of her love would comfort him.

Sully wiped the tears from his cheeks, "Hannah was stillborn. She was perfect, Michaela. Looked just like she was sleepin'."

"I'm so sorry," she sympathized.

"Then Abigail started bleedin'," he swallowed hard. "We couldn't get it stopped. All that blood.... I couldn't...."

Finally, Sully broke down in his wife's arms. As his tears flowed unabated, Michaela kissed his temple and uttered words of comfort.

"I'm here," she whispered to her husband. "I love you, Sully."

When he finally began to compose himself, he heard a little voice from the bed.

"Papa," it was Noah, looking up at him with his big blue eyes.

"Hey, No-bo," Sully forced a smile. Lifting the little boy, he enfolded him in his arms, "You sure are lucky t' have your Ma for a doctor."

Michaela smiled, "And he's lucky to have you for a Papa."

"I never wanna let him down, Michaela," his voice cracked. "Not like I did Hannah an' Abigail."

"Sully, you didn't let them down," she assured.

"I couldn't help them," his heart ached. "I couldn't do anythin'. If only she wouldn't have been makin' me that birthday supper...."

"It wasn't your fault," she affirmed. "You didn't cause the eclampsia or hemorrhaging."

"A man's supposed t' protect his wife an' kids," he kissed Noah's forehead as the child began to doze.

"We can't always do that, Sully," she noted. "We couldn't protect Matthew or Brian when they lost the women they loved. Some things are simply out of our hands."

"Your hands...." he linked his fingers in hers, then raised them to his lips. "Your beautiful, healin' hands."

At that moment, there was a light knock at the doorframe.

"Pa?" it was Brian's voice.

"Come on in, Sweetheart," Michaela bid.

The young man observed his father cradling Noah, "Is he all right?"

"Yes," Michaela nodded. "He's sleeping."

He stepped closer to the bed, "Pa, I was thinkin'."

"About what?" Sully looked up.

"About what day this is," he replied.

"Brian...." Michaela was uncertain if he should broach the subject.

************
Chapter 17
************

Sully touched his wife's hand, "It's okay, Michaela."

"I'll promise not t' bring it up again," Brian vowed. "I never understood what it was like t' feel that kind of pain, but now I do. If rememberin' your birthday is gonna be like this, I don't wanna put ya through that again. I'm sorry I ever found out."

Sully considered his son's words, then gazed down upon Noah, "Things changed t'day."

"What d' ya mean?" Brian was puzzled.

"T'day, the life of one of my children was saved," Sully clarified. "It ain't so bad anymore."

Michaela knew there was more, "And perhaps you finally forgave yourself."

"Does that mean you can celebrate your birthday again?" Brian wondered.

"I don't know if I wanna celebrate gettin' old," he mused. "But I don't mind my kids knowin' that it's my birthday."

"You're certainly not old, Mr. Sully," Michaela smiled.

Brian turned to leave, but Sully's voice stopped him, "Thanks, Brian.... for everythin'."

"That's what family's for," he smiled.

Michaela watched him depart, "He's quite a young man."

Sully agreed, "Sure is."

"May I ask you something?" she waited.

"Sure," he nodded.

"Where were you last night?" she queried.

"I went t' talk with Cloud Dancin'," he informed her. "Then t' the cemetery."

"You were there until morning?" she was astounded.

"Uh-huh," he returned his gaze to Noah.

She touched his arm, "I want to say something to you.... that I've never been able to say before."

"What's that?" he was curious.

"You won't mind?" she hesitated.

"'Course not," he assured.

"Happy birthday," she leaned in to kiss him.

"Thanks," he felt a lump in his throat. "Seems strange havin' someone tell me that after all this time."

"I sure am glad you were born," she spoke the words he had often said to her.

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

For the first time in over a week, the entire Sully family gathered for a meal, though Noah was positioned on his father's lap.

With everyone gathered around the dinner table, Sully cleared his throat and spoke up, "I got somethin' I wanna tell ya."

"What is it, Poppy?" Katie was curious.

"It's somethin' I know has been on the mind o' you kids for a while," he began.

"Is it about that Switzer Fam'ly?" Josef asked.

"Switzer Family?" Sully tilted his head.

Josef informed him, "They're on an island with dessert."

"That's the Swiss Family Robinson," Michaela clarified. "I was reading it to the children last night."

Sully chuckled, "No, Joe. This is about my birthday."

"Your birthday!" Katie's eyes widened. "Oh, Poppy, I wanna give ya a party."

"I don't need a party, honey," he smiled at his daughter. "I'm just happy t' have all you kids healthy again."

"When is your birthday?" Katie asked.

"It's t'day," Sully announced.

"T'day?" Katie was surprised. "But we didn't get you anythin'."

Sully touched her cheek, "I don't want gifts or anythin' fancy. This is already the best birthday I ever had."

"Why didn't ya tell us before?" Katie questioned.

Michaela responded, "Your father had his reasons, Sweetheart. But now, he doesn't mind our knowing."

Matthew grinned, "Happy Birthday, Sully."

"Thanks," he smiled.

While the rest of the family began to offer their best wishes to him, Sully did not notice that Bridget had entered the dining room with a cake. Atop it was a single lit candle.

"Make a wish," Bridget set the confection before him.

Sully closed his eyes and blew out the candle.

"Why's there only one candle?" Josef counted.

"It's the first birthday I ever wanted t' remember," Sully understood.

After dinner, Michaela insisted that the children return to their bedrooms. They gave no resistance when Matthew and Emma offered to continue the "Swiss Family Robinson" story to them. Michaela, Sully and Colleen sat by the fireplace while Brian and Bridget cleaned up the dishes. Michaela had noticed her daughter's quiet all evening but assumed it was the divorce weighing on her mind.

Colleen took a deep breath and informed her parents, "I gave Andrew the divorce papers yesterday."

"How did he react?" Michaela wondered.

She fell silent.

Sully sensed she wanted to speak with Michaela alone, "I gotta go check the animals for the night."

"Thanks, Pa," Colleen knew he was merely excusing himself.

Sully placed his hand on her shoulder reassuringly, then left them.

Alone with her mother, Colleen divulged, "Andrew came to my room last night in an attempt to dissuade me from going through with the divorce."

Michaela assumed more, "Did he try something?"

Colleen's eyes welled.

"Sweetheart," Michaela reached for her.

The young woman rushed to her mother's arms and finally let her emotions go. Michaela ran her hand up and down her daughter's back, hoping to soothe her.

Finally, Colleen drew back and uttered, "We were intimate."

Michaela questioned, "Did he.... force himself on you?"

"No," she assured.

"Have you changed your mind about the divorce?" Michaela wondered.

"No," she dried her tears. "I feel terrible that I let this happen."

"Colleen," Michaela counseled. "You didn't do anything wrong. Andrew's your husband, and...."

"How could I sleep with him after serving him divorce papers just hours earlier?" she swallowed hard. "How could I give in like that?"

"Perhaps, in your heart, you needed to know if there is still something there ," Michaela speculated. "Did you speak.... after it happened?"

"Briefly," she acknowledged.

"What do you think Andrew will do?" Michaela posed the question.

Colleen speculated, "I think he'll believe we still have a chance of saving our marriage."

"And what do you think?" she inquired.

"I don't know what to think anymore," Colleen sighed.

"Do you still love him?" she was blunt.

"Is it possible to feel a physical attraction for someone you don't love?" the daughter speculated.

Michaela was flustered, "I.... suppose.... that is, I...."

"You don't know," she assumed.

"Colleen," Michaela paused. "I do know that intimacy is a beautiful part of love and marriage, but.... it's not the only part."

"That's what I told Andrew," she nodded.

"And what did he say?" Michaela was curious.

"That's when I asked him to leave," she folded her hands and stared toward the fireplace.

"I suppose the best thing to do, if you're uncertain about things, is to do nothing," Michaela considered.

"I can't live like this," she tensed. "There are things about Andrew that are admirable and good, but...."

"No one's perfect," Michaela told her. "No marriage is perfect.

"Yours is," Colleen looked at her.

"Sully and I have had our differences," she stated.

"The way he looks at you.... and you look at him," Colleen smiled wistfully. "I've dreamed of a love like that."

"Was it ever like that for Andrew and you?" Michaela posed the question.

"I wanted it to be," she admitted. "Sometimes, we would argue about it. I would tell him what I felt.... what I expected to feel, and he would say, we're not like your parents."

"I'm sorry," Michaela regretted.

The daughter eyed her earnestly, "Ma, I don't want you to worry. Things will work out the way they're supposed to. Thank you for listening to me."

"I love you, Colleen," she touched her daughter's cheek.

"I love you, too," Colleen returned.

"Oh," Michaela's hand went to her abdomen.

"A kick?" she smiled.

"Moving," Michaela's expression was one of wonder.

"What's it feel like, Ma?" she touched her mother's belly.

"It feels like.... a miracle," Michaela described.

Colleen changed the subject, "Brian told me what happened today.... Sully's reaction to Noah's convulsion."

"I think today was an epiphany of sorts for Sully," Michaela described. "He let go of many things that have burdened him for some time."

"And Noah?" she asked.

"I believe he's going to be fine now," Michaela acknowledged.

Brian approached them, "Dishes are done, Ma. Anythin' ya need?"

"Yes," Michaela considered. "As a matter of fact, there is something I'd like you to do."

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

Sully entered the house to find Matthew and Emma about to depart. Each said their goodbyes to him.

Brian patted his father's back, "Why don't you go on up t' bed, Pa? I'll lock up down here."

"You gonna stay up for a while?" Sully's brow wrinkled.

"Yea," the young man nodded.

"I'll stay up with ya then," Sully offered.

"No, thanks," Brian felt a lump in his throat. "If ya don't mind, I'd rather be by myself."

"Sure," Sully placed his hand on his son's shoulder. "But.... if ya need anythin'...."

"I know," he acknowledged. "Thanks."

"Good night, then," Sully turned to go up the steps.

Brian went to the fireplace and stretched out on the rug. Soon, Wolf joined him and curled up beside the young man.

Brian ruffled the animal's fur and sighed, "I got a lot o' thinkin' t' do, boy."

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

Sully stopped by Katie's room to say good night and found Annie in bed with her.

"How are my girls?" he smiled.

"Better," Katie's face lit up.

"You two sure are beautiful," he sat on the edge of the bed. "Even with that rash."

"'Night, Poppy," Katie reached up for him. "I love you."

"I love you, too, my sweet girl," he relished her embrace. "And you, Annie."

"Papa," she held out her arms in imitation of her sister. "Luv."

Sully smiled and drew her into his arms. He kissed her cheek, then touched the tip of her nose. Gently, he set her beside Katie and pulled up the covers.

As he reached the door, he heard Katie's voice, "Happy birthday, Poppy."

"Thanks," he smiled.

Next, he went to Josef's room. Carefully stepping to avoid the child's belongings around the floor, he approached his son's bed.

"Joe, you gotta be neater if ya wanna keep from breakin' things," Sully advised.

"But if things bweaked, Mama buys me new stuff," he reasoned.

"You gotta take care of what ya got," Sully counseled. "It's a way of thankin' folks for what they give ya."

"I never thinked about that," Josef rubbed his chin.

Sully pulled up the covers, "You warm enough?"

"Uh-huh," he toyed with the edge of his blanket. "Can I ask ya somethin'?"

"Sure," Sully anticipated.

"What's a lobster?" he queried.

"It's sorta like a big crayfish," Sully described.

"I think I wanna eat one," the little boy considered.

"We don't have 'em around here," Sully noted. "But maybe one day when we're near the ocean, ya can. Why ya wanna know?"

"That Switzer Fam'ly ate lobster," he replied.

"You're real interested in that story, aren't ya?" Sully smiled.

"Uh-huh," Josef nodded. "Could we live on an island?"

"Sometimes I wish we could, Joe," he leaned down to kiss his son. "'Night. I love you."

"Love you, Papa," the child closed his eyes.

Sully lowered the lamp and navigated to the door. When he stepped into the hallway, Bridget stood cradling a sleeping Noah.

"I'll take him now," Sully offered.

"I told Dr. Mike I'd keep him in with me t'night," the nanny stated. "You two need a good night's sleep."

Sully felt the little boy's forehead, "No temperature."

"See how well he does for me?" she teased.

"Good night then," he smiled. He kissed his son's forehead, "'Night, Noah."

She turned and entered her bedroom. Sully stood in the hallway for a moment, pondering the day's emotional ride. Then, he stepped toward his own bedroom.

The second he entered, he saw steam, rising from the tub.

"Michaela?" he was surprised. "What's goin' on?"

She lowered the lamp so that the candles she had placed around the room would create a more romantic atmosphere. Then she poured a small quantity of his new cologne into the bathwater.

"It's your turn to be pampered," her voice was tempting.

Sully stood still, while she slowly unbuttoned his shirt and slid it from his shoulders. Her warm hand lingered sensuously on his chest. Next came her tantalizing kisses. He gulped when she undid his buckskins.

"You'll have to do your shoes, Mr. Sully," she gestured.

As soon as he was divested of his clothing, she guided him to the tub and bid him to lower himself into the soothing liquid.

"This feels real good," he closed his eyes.

Michaela dipped her hands into the water and lathered them. Then she began to massage his shoulders and chest. As her figure would allow, she leaned closer to kiss him. Sully cupped the back of her head in his palm and savored the nearness of her.

She drew back, gazing at him with the dissimilar eyes he adored. She lifted his hand to her lips and kissed each finger.

Then she recited:

"O sole desire of my delight!
O sole delight of my desire!
Mine eyelids and eyesight
Feed on thee day and night
Like lips of fire."

His body noticeably reacted to the timbre of her voice, "Is this the shy Michaela of our honeymoon?"

She continued to bathe him, "Aren't you going to guess the poet?"

"Swinburne," he knew.

"Very good," she smiled.

When he traced the line of her jaw with his hand, her gown become saturated with water.

He caressed her breast, "You keep this up an' I'm not gonna wanna stay in the tub."

"I think you're clean enough," she smiled enticingly.

When Sully stood up, he stepped out of the tub and pulled her into his embrace. Instantly, she was drenched as his body pressed against her. Sully slowly pulled up the hem of her gown and raised it over her head. His kisses across her body triggered a flame within her.

"How I love you," her voice was full of emotion.

"Your love keeps me goin'," he kissed her more passionately.

At that moment, the outside world ceased to exist for them. In the comfort and warmth of each others arms, they commenced the joining of their bodies as one. Neither wanted the pleasurable sensations to end, but when at last they had taken their passions to the ultimate conclusion, they basked in the electrifying completeness of their union.

Sully sweetly kissed her, then stroked her abdomen where the baby grew safely within her.

"Won't be long now," his hand was warm on her belly.

"You're willing to put up with my complaints and moodiness one more time?" she smiled.

"Long as you put up with me," he grinned.

They quieted, relishing the warmth of their embrace.

Sully heard the sound of boots on the floorboards downstairs, "Brian's still up."

Her heart ached for their son, "I wish I knew what to do or say to help him."

"He knows we're here for him," Sully counseled. "He's got a lot t' think on."

"Will he go back to Boston?" she pondered.

"If he wants t' go, we gotta let him, Michaela," Sully advised. "He's gotta make his own way through all the hurt.... go where his heart leads.... figure out what he wants for his future."

"As you did," she compared.

"If I'd have known you were down the road, I'd have moved a lot faster," he quipped.

They kissed and caressed one another, then fell silent again. Michaela sighed.

Sully sensed, "You an' Colleen have a good talk?"

She hesitated.

"It's okay if ya don't wanna tell me," he assured.

Michaela knew she could confide in him, "Colleen and Andrew.... they were.... intimate last night."

He waited, anticipating more.

"Don't you have a comment?" she tilted her head.

"I'm not surprised," he toyed with a lock of her hair.

"You're not?" her eyes widened.

"Maybe they needed t' give things one last try," he speculated. "I reckon it didn't change anythin' though."

"No, apparently not," she revealed. "I believe I know why their marriage is falling apart."

"Why?" he raised an eyebrow.

"I think Colleen fell in love with the idea of love more than with Andrew," she described.

"I don't follow," he was puzzled.

"I believe that being around you and me.... knowing what our marriage is like, gave her expectations that it would be the same for Andrew and her," she speculated.

He kissed her softly, "Nothin' wrong with havin' expectations like that."

"Sully," she framed his face in her hands. "You've often told me that we are a unique couple. Perhaps she tried to hold her marriage to too high a standard and was disappointed."

"Is she gonna be okay?" his brow creased.

"She's going to need our love and support," she noted.

"She'll have it," he pledged. "One thing I realize more, with each time I'm away from you, is there's nothin' more important than what we got."

She framed her question carefully, "How did you feel when you were with Mr. Bandelier?"

"How did I feel?" he was puzzled.

"You knew he worked for the government, yet you went along with him to preserve the antiquities," she detailed. "How did that make you feel?"

"Like I was doin' somethin' worthwhile," he replied.

She probed further, "Is it the type of work you might like to continue?"

"Maybe," he considered.

"You said that the government only thinks of the land of the Indians as a bit of earth," she recalled. "Have you changed your mind?"

"Why are you askin' all these questions?" he countered.

She looked into his eyes, "I believe the government behaves as it does because it is so lacking in men of principle. This Mr. Bandelier impressed you, and you think he can make a difference. But I can think of no man more principled than you. The government would benefit from your counsel and expertise."

"You sayin' you want me t' work for the government again?" his brow wrinkled.

"I'm saying I want you to do whatever your heart.... and character tell you to do," she qualified. "It's men like you who will ensure that the magnificence of our land will never become just a bit of earth."

"I'll think on it," he allowed. "Long as it wouldn't take me too far from you an' the kids. But in the meantime, I got another job."

"Doing what?" she raised an eyebrow.

"Makin' you happy," he grinned impishly.

"That is a job at which you most definitely excel, Mr. Sully," she kissed him. "And one for which I have an absolute appreciation."

THE END

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

EPILOGUE

Adolph Francis Bandelier devoted himself to archaeological and ethnological work among the Indians of the southwestern United States, Mexico and South America. Beginning his studies in Sonora (Mexico), Arizona and New Mexico, he became the leading authority on the history of this region, and one of the preeminent authorities on its prehistoric civilization. In 1892, he traveled to Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru, where he continued ethnological, archaeological and historical investigations.

Bandelier uncovered many historical myths, particularly in his writings about the Inca civilization of Peru. His factual publications on his findings are numerous. He also penned a fictional novel entitled "The Delight Makers" about the prehistoric Pueblo people.

"Bandelier: the Life and Adventures of Adolph Bandelier" is a biography written in 1996 by Charles H. Lange and Carroll L. Riley. They also edited Bandelier's personal journals and traced his life through his first interest in ethnography and archaeology through his sudden career change at the age of 40, into his disastrous first attempts at ethnography at Santo Domingo and more successful work at Cochiti pueblos, in the American southwest.

Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico is named for him. In 1880, he first visited the Anasazi ruins there. Bandelier National Monument covers more than 33,000 acres.



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