Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
The Christmas Coat
by Debby K
Pencil in hand, Michaela stood in the kitchen, perusing and checking off several items
on the list of chores in her hand.
Sully called from the living room, "Michaela, is this where ya want the piano?"
She stepped into the room and placed her hands on her hips. "What do you think?
Is it better against the back wall or where we had it?"
He was slightly out of breath. "I'm thinkin' it's best right here since I ain't inclined
t' wanna move it again."
She smiled as she approached him.
Running her hand along his broad shoulders, she remarked, "Then we'll keep it here."
At that moment, Bridget descended the stairs with Hope in her arms. "All right, the
babes are ready."
Michaela reached for her youngest child. "You're a dear to take the children into
The nanny nodded. "You an' Sully will get more done without these darlin's under
your feet. Besides, it never hurts t' have a little time t' yourselves. I'll have
plenty of help from Loren, Matthew an' Emma."
Sully joked, "Maybe it ain't such a good idea t' leave us alone. When Michaela gets
that look in her eye, I know I'm in for a hard day's work."
Michaela protested, "What look?"
He teased, "That 'I've got a list of things for my husband t' do' look.'"
She retorted, "I prefer to think of it as being organized."
Bridget declared, "We'll keep the wee ones busy while you get things ready for Thanksgiving.
Don't you worry."
Michaela retorted, "You might be worried when you taste my cooking. I've never prepared
a meal for this many people by myself."
Sully winked, "Won't be by yourself."
At that moment, they heard the sound of Katie, Josef, Annie and Noah bounding down
the steps. Sully reached for the children's coats. Michaela handed the baby to
the nanny in order to help Sully prepare their offspring for the outdoors. Kneeling,
the parents bundled their children up, provided some last-minute instructions, and kissed
them good bye. Sully escorted them outside with their small bags, then helped them
into the surrey.
When he reentered the homestead, he found Michaela standing by the living room mantel,
a family photograph in her hand.
He approached and slipped his hands around her waist. "What ya thinkin' about?"
She leaned against his chest. "I'm thinking how wonderful it would be to have Brian
home for Thanksgiving. We'd have all of our children together."
"His last letter said he'd try t' make it for Christmas," Sully reminded.
She was silent.
Sully kissed the top of her head. "What else is on your list?"
She pivoted in his arms and smiled. "We need to clean the children's rooms thoroughly."
He grinned impishly. "Ah, my favorite."
"I doubt that, Mr. Sully," she mused.
After returning the photograph to the mantel, he took her by the hand then guided
her toward the stairs.
On the way, he lifted a broom and several rags. "You take these upstairs, an' I'll
get the bucket."
"I appreciate your enthusiasm," she smiled.
He winked. "I'll hold ya t' that."
For the rest of the day, the duo dusted, cleaned, mopped and polished their children's
rooms. Josef's proved to be the most challenging, as the little boy generally hid
things under his bed when he was supposed to put them away neatly.
Wiping his brow, Sully sighed. "Done."
Michaela nodded. "Finally."
Sully folded his arms and leaned against the door frame of their son's room. "I think
this job's harder than choppin' wood. We don't pay Bridget near enough."
Michaela agreed, "Perhaps we should give her time off this Christmas. You and I could
take care of everything."
He concurred, "Maybe she'd like t' go back t' Boston for a couple weeks. We could
buy her ticket."
She smiled. "A wonderful idea, Mr. Sully."
Sully warmed at her expression.
Extending his hand, he caressed her cheek. "I do love your smile, Mrs. Sully."
She pivoted her head to kiss his palm. "I think we could do with some dinner."
He drew her closer. "I'll go fix somethin'."
Michaela rested her hands on his shoulders. "Sounds romantic. We could eat by the
He raised an eyebrow. "Upstairs or down?"
"Up, of course." She smiled temptingly.
"Good answer," Sully returned. "I'll get this stuff downstairs, fix us supper, then
be up t' join ya."
"Take your time," she remarked flirtatiously. "I have a few preparations first."
After a kiss, he departed.
Michaela made her way to their bedroom and surveyed the room. She always became more
reflective at the end of the year. So many memories in this room.... joys.... tragedies....
But most of all love.
Sighing, she walked to the fireplace and added two logs to the flames. Then she turned
toward her vanity to wash up. She wanted to smell good for her husband.
Sully placed a steak in the hot skillet. As the sizzling meat fried, he added potatoes
to a pan of boiling water. Next, he retrieved a tray from one of the upper kitchen
shelves and set it on the table. On top, he added a plate, two napkins, and enough utensils for their meal.
He glanced around. Everything seemed just right. While the dinner cooked, he stepped
to the sink and began to wash up. He wanted to smell good for his wife.
Smelling his favorite meat, Wolf approached and whimpered.
Sully smiled down on his faithful pet. "Don't worry. I saved some for you, too."
Sensing his master would offer some to him, the animal sat to patiently wait.
Sully dried off his face and arms. He offered Wolf the treat, then sat down to allow
the dinner to cook.
Michaela smiled in the mirror as she dabbed perfume behind her ears. It was Sully's
favorite on her. Next, she rose and walked to her her chest of drawers. Opening
the bottom drawer, she lifted the negligee that her mother had brought from Boston
for her daughter's trousseau. Sully loved her in it. When she wore it, his eyes sparkled
with memories of their honeymoon.
She soon stood before a mirror donning the French-made fabric. Michaela marveled
that she could still fit into it after giving birth to 5 children.
Instantly, her mind flashed back to the baby she lost earlier this year. A piercing
pain gripped her heart. She fought the urge to cry, but it was too strong. She
slumped into her vanity chair, and tears began to stream down her cheeks.
It was on this scene that Sully, tray in hand, entered the room.
At first, he did not notice his wife's emotional state and joked, "I had t' give Wolf
some o' this before he'd let me pass."
Michaela did not respond.
He sought her attention. "Michaela?"
Sully set the tray on the bed and went to her.
Kneeling before his wife, he looked up. "Hey? What's wrong?"
She turned to him and wrapped her arms around his neck.
He embraced her, then rubbed his hands warmly up and down her back, giving her time
to compose herself.
Finally, she drew back slowly. "I'm sorry, Sully."
He tilted his head to look at her more directly. "What's wrong?"
She shook her head. "Just a painful memory."
He recognized her tone. "The baby."
Silently, she nodded. Reminded of their tragic loss, he felt a single tear escaped
Michaela peered at him, then softly touched the moisture on his cheek. "I don't mean
to feel this way."
"It's natural," he assured. "We're still grievin'."
"Grieving...." She lowered her head. "It seems we've done more than our share."
He pointed out, "We still got each other t' hold onto."
Lovingly she ran her fingers through his hair. "And I nearly lost you and Annie this
He responded. "We're fine now."
She glanced toward the tray. "Dinner smells good, but I don't think I can...."
Gently, he touched his index finger to her lips. "We don't have t' eat right now.
Ya look like you could use some holdin'. Come sit with me by the fire."
She whispered, "You read my mind."
He smiled. "Can't think of anythin' I'd rather read more."
They situated themselves on the rug near the hearth. Michaela leaned back against
his chest, and Sully encircled her in his arms.
They were quiet for several minutes. Sully kissed the top of her head.
Michaela turned to peer into the eyes she adored. "I love you so much, Sully."
He lifted her chin for a sweet kiss. "Just so happens that's how I feel about you,
"Thank you for moments like this," she uttered.
He drew her hand to his heart. "Gotta steal moments like this while we can with our
She said, "I wonder if the children...."
He interrupted, "They're fine. Don't worry."
She mused, "Reading my mind again?"
"Yep," he admitted.
She turned to face him more fully. "Perhaps we should eat before our dinner cools."
"Now you're readin' my mind," he retorted.
Sully stood and retrieved the tray. He rejoined her on the rug and placed the meal
She was surprised. "One plate?"
"I figured it would save on washin' later," he quipped.
She lifted the knife and fork.
Sully stopped her. "Let me."
He began to cut the steak into bite-sized portions. Then he paused to lift a piece
and extend it toward his wife's lips. Alluringly, she smiled and opened her mouth.
When Sully placed it on her tongue, Michaela's lips closed around his fingers.
Temptingly, she lifted a piece of the beef for him, as well. He chewed it slowly,
watching his wife with an intensity that ignited a flame with in her. He enticed
her with a morsel of potato. Back and forth, the lovers sated their appetites until
the plate was bare.
Michaela wiped Sully's mouth with the napkin, then dabbed the sides of her lips.
HIs eyes reflected the flickers from the fireplace. "You ready for dessert?"
Her eyes widened. "I don't think I could eat another bite."
"Who said it was food?" he teased.
"Mr. Sully...." she shook her head.
Her expression suddenly became serious.
Sully tenderly ran his finger along the line of her jaw. "What ya thinkin' about?"
Several words came to her mind. "Thanksgivings.... Christmases.... children."
Sully set the tray aside and slid closer. "Happy thoughts or sad?"
Michaela reminisced. "Both."
He became pensive. "Sometimes when I watch Katie, I wonder if she acts like you did
as a little girl. Then I'll see an expression on Annie's face, with your beautiful
eyes, and I wonder if you had that same look as a child. Or.... when I'm rockin'
Hope t' sleep, I wonder if your Pa felt like I do when he held his youngest little girl."
Michaela spoke softly, "What an amazing man you are."
He pointed to himself teasingly. "Me?"
She nodded. "Yes, you. You had so many Thanksgivings and Christmases with no one,
Sully. So alone, and yet.... your experiences made you into the caring and compassionate
man you are today."
He returned, "You're the most important influence on the man I am t'day."
She raised an eyebrow. "Me?"
He grinned. "Yes, you. As for my childhood, I remember one year, after I'd run away
from the orphanage, I was walkin' along the docks. A man, a real gentleman, tipped
his hat t' me. He asked why I was sad. Bein' the stubborn lad I was...."
She interrupted, "You? Stubborn?"
He went on, "Well, it was before I met you. Anyway, I told him I was sad 'cause I
had no place t' go for Christmas. The gentleman invited me t' celebrate with him
an' his family."
"That was very thoughtful of him," she noted.
He took a deep breath, then exhaled slowly. "Yea, it was."
"Did you go?" she questioned.
Sully paused, then spoke low. "I went."
Michaela stroked his hand. "I'm sorry, Sully. If it's too painful."
"No, it ain't exactly painful," he assured. "His wife fed me a real good meal, an'
his son let me play with some o' his toys. Then we sang Christmas Carols. It gave
me an idea of how a family oughta be. I never dreamed anythin' like that could happen
Michaela observed, "It did happen."
"There are miracles," he acknowledged.
She reflected, "When I was a girl, I read and studied countless texts and journals,
but.... I didn't allow myself to dream about a husband and family. Of course, Mother
was so convinced I would never marry, she was ecstatic when David proposed."
He bit his lower lip. "Tryin' t' make me jealous?"
She resumed, "Of course not, but when I thought he had died, I convinced myself that
I would never find a suitable match, as mother called it. I'd never have the sort
of Christmases that my sisters did."
"Your Ma didn't think I was much of a match," he joked. "But I reckon she did come
around t' likin' me."
Michaela chuckled, "She came to love you. And I came to realize that my sisters settled
for convention. I found true love."
"With an unlikely husband," he retorted.
She gazed at him adoringly. "Some may consider me to be an unlikely match for a mountain
"I reckon the most important thing is that we both got second chances at love," he
"We certainly did," she agreed. "And we have formed our own traditions for the Holidays."
He laughed, "Lookin' at the world through 'our' eyes."
She recognized the comment he had made when they were engaged. "So, what do you think
we should get for the children this year?"
He glanced up at the ceiling to think. "Everythin' they want."
She frowned, "That certainly doesn't sound like you, Mr. Sully."
He grinned. "Truth is, they been workin' on their lists. I reckon we'll just have
t' wait an' see. That gentleman I mentioned from my childhood? He gave his son
everythin'. But he had somethin' for me, too. I just remember how happy they were."
"And our children are happy," she reminded.
He accepted, "Yea, they are."
Michaela added, "Well, one thing is for certain. You do not have to give me a gift."
He reacted, "Are you kiddin'?"
"No, I'm not joking," she stated. "I have the greatest gifts of all in you and our
"Okay, I won't get ya anythin' then," he relented.
She hesitated, then spoke, "Truly?"
"Truly." He paused. "I'll just give what I got you t' someone else."
She was curious. "You already have my gift?"
He was serious. "Yep."
She inched closer to kiss him, but stopped. "And you would actually give my gift
to someone else?"
He stroked her auburn hair. "If it makes ya happy."
Michaela kissed him, then drew back. "You have many ways of making me happy."
He smirked. "You, too."
A smile of anticipation crossed Sully's face. He ran his hands down her sides and
up her back. Michaela manipulated her fingers to further rouse her husband. With
no one else in the house, an uninhibited groan escaped his lips.
She spoke low into his ear. "Like this."
The timbre of her voice had a particularly pleasing effect on him. Sully kissed the
ivory skin of her neck while lowering the straps of her negligee. She closed her
eyes, savoring the sweet sensations that he was stirring.
"Even though I love t' see ya in this...." He paused to expose more of her. "I think
I love seein' ya with out it more."
Tingling at his touches, Michaela inched her hand beneath the opening in his shirt
and toyed with the hair on his chest. Sully raised up and pulled the garment over
his head. Tossing it aside, he protectively cupped the back of her head and guided
her back onto the rug. Slowly, he lowered himself to be flesh on flesh.
He lifted a lock of her hair and let it slip through his fingers. "Most beautiful
woman I ever saw."
Michaela closed her eyes, intoxicated by the musky scent of him. She kissed him more
A blissful heat began to burn within them. Soft kisses followed as the rest of their
clothing was discarded. Onward with increased intensity, their bodies drove them
toward a cresting wave of delight. Unfettered from the embarrassment of being heard
by others in the house, they made love with unbridled passion. This year of trials
and heartbreak could be finally put to rest through the fervent renewal of their
profound love for one another. Their bodies trembled from the unique union of hearts
and souls, and neither wanted the feeling to end.
At last, they could sustain the magnificent merger no longer. Pulses began to calm,
and steeped in perspiration, they covered up with a quilt from the bed.
Michaela's heart felt as if it would burst with love for this man. "Sully... I...."
When she paused, he grinned. "Sure was powerful."
She stroked his cheek. "It certainly was. I... I feel so incredibly close to you
at this moment. Through all that has happened this year, after all we've been through,
we've never truly been alone. You're such a part of me."
He added, "An' you're part o' me, too. I feel like I wanna give ya the world, anythin'
ya want t' make you happy."
"You do make me happy," she interjected.
He was moved to recite:
"I shall never, in the years remaining,
Paint you pictures, no, nor carve you statues,
Make you music that should all-express me;
So it seems: I stand on my attainment.
This of verse alone, one life allows me;
Verse and nothing else have I to give you.
Other heights in other lives, God willing--
All the gifts from all the heights, your own, Love!"
With feather-light touches, she trailed her fingertips along his temple. "Was that
Elizabeth Barrett Browning?"
"Close," he replied. "Robert."
She considered, "Earlier, when you were telling me about the generosity of that man
who found you on the docks, how old were you?
He thought back. "I was ten. It was the same year I ran away from the orphanage."
Tears welled in her eyes. "Such a poor little boy. I wish I could have helped you.
But thanks to that man, at least you spent Christmas surrounded by love. You mentioned
that he gave you a gift. What was it?"
"A coat," he recalled. "I wore it 'til it was nearly thread bare and too small for
Her expression changed. "Sully...." she paused. "This was in 1845?"
"Uh-huh," he agreed.
She queried, "Do you recall in what part of New York City his home was located?"
He observed her expression. "Why ya wanna know?"
"Just curious," she replied.
"Let me think...." He took a deep breath to clear his head. "After I ran away from
the orphanage, I was stayin' in Five Points.... mostly on the streets. Lot o' Irish
came there on account o' the potato famine. I hardly ever stayed on the same street two nights in a row. Too dangerous. A lot o' gangs fought it out, the Dead Rabbits,
the Plug Uglies, all sorts o' criminals."
She touched his arm. "I'm so sorry for what you went through. I remember when Uncle
Teddy resided in New York City, we would visit him. He told us to avoid that area
because of the crime."
Sully's memory became clearer. "As I recollect, that Christmas, I couldn't take stayin'
there anymore, so I started walkin' toward the East River, then north toward Kip's
Bay. That's where I was when the man found me."
She teared up. "Thank God he did."
Sully resumed, "You asked where he lived. I know it was near there. Maybe 'round....
what was the name...." He was quiet for a moment, then remembered. "Murray Hill.
He lived in Murray Hill."
She stated, "Uncle Teddy lived in Murray Hill."
Sully shrugged. "Lot o' rich folks lived there. Just coincidence."
Michaela swallowed hard. "It couldn't be...."
"What couldn't be?" he questioned.
Michaela became more curious. "Sully, do you remember last year, when we read about
your mother's death?"
He nodded. "'Course, I do."
"And we also discovered that my father had done the autopsy on her while he was visiting
Bellevue Hospital," she added.
He was puzzled. "So?"
She detailed, "Your mother died while we were staying with Uncle Teddy."
"We already knew that," he reminded. "Found it out in your Pa's journal. He even
wanted t' adopt me."
"And mother rejected the idea, so we went home," she knew. "But we came back to New
York for another visit that Thanksgiving."
His brow wrinkled. "I still don't understand why you're bringin' this up, Michaela."
She described, "Father and Uncle Teddy taught their children to have compassion for
the poor. We would often use our allowances to purchase winter clothing for those
less fortunate than ourselves. When we visited Uncle Teddy for Thanksgiving that
year.... 1845.... my sisters and I, along with our cousin Carlton, did household chores
to earn extra allowance money in order to provide for those who had lost so much
in the great New York fire that summer."
He nodded. "I remember the fire, but I still don't know what you're gettin' at."
Michaela clasped his hand, "Sully.... the gift you received for Christmas.... Was
it a navy pea coat?"
Sully's eyes widened. "Yea, but how'd you...."
Her heart pounded with the revelation. "That year, with my allowance, I had purchased
a pea coat. Carlton had tried it on and said it would be a good gift for someone
"You sayin' the man who took me in an' gave me that coat was your Uncle Teddy?" he
wondered. "An' the coat that I got came from you?"
She acknowledged, "I believe so."
"But I met your Uncle here in Colorado Springs a few years back," he countered. "I
didn't recognize him from when I was a boy."
She pointed out, "In 1845, he had a full head of hair. You mentioned that the family
sang Christmas Carols. Did the gentleman play a piano as they sang?"
"Come t' think of it, he did," Sully recalled. "Was real good, too."
They took a moment to absorb the notion.
Then he felt a lump in his throat. "You said you wished you could have helped the
sad little boy I was, an' you did, Michaela. You did. That night, after your uncle's
family went t' bed, I put on my new coat an' ran off, determined t' make a better
life. I kept runnin' 'til I found my way here t' Colorado."
She embraced him. "Where fate at last brought us together."
Sully tucked the quilt snugly around them. "Seems like a miracle. A mountain man
an' a lady doctor, meant t' be t'gether."
Michaela pondered. "Miracles are what Christmas is about. A tiny child, laid in
a humble manger, would one day change the world."
"I'm gonna make this Christmas the best we ever had," he pledged. "We'll have all
the kids here. We'll watch the little ones play with their toys. I'll chop down
the biggest tree, an' we'll gather 'round the piano t' sing carols."
"I love seeing the excitement in your eyes," she observed. "It's the same look of
wonder that I see in our children."
"Our children...." he reflected. "I want us t' teach 'em the same thing your Pa an'
uncle taught you. Helpin' those who don't have anythin'."
Michaela recalled one of her favorite biblical quotes from the Book of Acts: "I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak,
and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, 'It is more blessed to
give than to receive.'"
Sully embraced her. "It's a good message, not just for Christmas but for all our
Epilogue: I did not have the opportunity to go through my usual process of editing and proofreading because I wanted to get this up by Christmas. I apologize for any errors. May you be filled with the spirit and meaning of this holy time. Debby K
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