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

Language of the Heart


by Debby K

****WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions of war and death at the Battle of Little Big Horn.****


Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
Language of the Heart
by Debby K

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

"Why did you bring me out here, Sully?" Michaela grinned slightly.

She glanced out across the landscape. Mountain peaks in the distance, still snow covered at their crests, signaled that the summer weather had not yet melted their icy summits. Sully had told her that he wanted to go for a ride, but without specifying where, Michaela's curiosity was aroused.

"Just wanted ya t' see this view," he assisted her in dismounting her horse.

She stood transfixed for a moment, admiring the vista.

Sully wrapped his arms around her, "Ain't it beautiful?"

"Mmmm," she agreed, warmed by his touch.

"Sometimes it's important t' stop an' admire the view," he spoke near her ear.

She rested her arms on his chest, "I'm glad that you remind me of things like that."

"Plus, I wanted us t' spend a little time t'gether," his voice hinted at another reason.

She took a deep breath, "I treasure every minute that we do, Sully."

"Me, too," he smiled. "Michaela...."

She knew something was on his mind, "What?"

"I'm leavin' t' find Cloud Dancin' t'morrow," he told her.

"Tomorrow?" her heart sank.

"Well, ya know I wanted t' leave for Montana on the 25th o' June," he explained. "But Jake insisted I start on his house first. Then I stayed for the Centennial Independence Day picnic for you an' the kids. But now that I got some time 'fore the next lumber shipment arrives, I thought I'd ride up t'...."

He paused, noting her expression.

Not wanting to make things more difficult for him, she rubbed his arms, "Don't worry about us."

"Sure am gonna miss ya," he leaned closer.

She raised her hands to frame his face, drinking in every bit of his handsome features, "I'll miss you, too."

"I've never been real good at good-byes," he released his hold on her and turned away.

"But you're very good at welcome homes," she touched his shoulder.

He picked up a small stone and threw it as far as he could. Michaela watched it soar, then turned to him, noticing his expression.

"Sully, tell me what's bothering you," she sensed something different in him.

"I'm sorta dreadin' what I might find when I reach Cloud Dancin'," he confided.

"I know what you mean," she nodded.

"Wish I could figure out why the world's so upside down," he folded his arms.

Michaela's heart reached out to her husband in his pensive mood, "There are some things in life that are sure and certain."

"Like what?" the blue of his eyes captivated her each time he gazed at her.

"Like us," she reminded him.

"We're about the only thing in life I can count on," he touched her cheek with his fingertips.

"That's quite a lot, you know," she smiled.

He took a deep breath and pulled her into his arms, "Oh, Michaela."

She leaned her head against his chest, "I hate seeing you so lost, Sully."

"I ain't lost when I'm in your arms," he cupped his hand against the back of her head. "I can't help thinkin' what things have come down to. Everythin' the Cheyenne used t' have.... all gone."

"I know," she agreed.

"I fought so long an' so hard," his voice choked. "Seems like it was all for nothin'."

She pulled back to look at him, "No, Sully. It wasn't for nothing. Everything you did was to help."

"I made a mess," he recalled his time in hiding.

"It's the Army who made the mess," she countered. "Your motives and your heart were always in the right place."

"How do ya do it?" he grinned.

"Do what?" she smiled.

"How do ya make me feel so good, so loved?" he ran his hands up and down her back.

"Because you are so good and so loved," she retorted.

"Reckon I better get ya back t' town," he sighed.

"The children love spending the time with their godparents," she hesitated.

"That mean ya ain't in a hurry?" he grinned.

"I think a leisurely pace is just what the doctor ordered," she slipped her palm through the opening of his shirt.

Sully's pulse quickened, "I love you, Michaela."

"I love you, too," she kissed his chest.

Holding her next his heart, Sully felt an incredible peace, one that he only found in his wife's arms. He had brought her here, hoping to feel her love. He experienced that and more.

"Lost in thought again?" she pulled back.

"Lost in you," he kissed her tenderly.

"Why don't we sit down?" she gestured.

"Sure ya can spare some time?" he hoped she wanted to stay.

"There is nowhere I would rather be than with you, Sully," she assured him.

There were few things in life which put her husband in a state of melancholy. Coping with what had happened to the Indians was one of them. Her emotions paralleled his when it came to viewing the government's treatment of the Cheyenne.

Michaela sat down and patted the ground next to her as an invitation for Sully to join her. A smile crossed his face. He knelt down before her and raised her hand to his lips. Then he positioned himself beside her.

"How'd I get so lucky?" he toyed with a lock of her hair.

"Good living?" she teased.

"Look, Michaela!" he pointed to a pair of hawks soaring above them.

"Look at their movements," she rested her cheek next to his. "One moves, the other reacts. They are in such perfect accord, as if they're two bodies but one spirit."

"Like us," he smiled.

She placed her palm over his heart and let it linger there.

"What ya doin'?" he covered her hand with his.

"Feeling the rhythm of your heart," she replied.

"I'm gonna miss you an' the kids so much," his eyes captured her soul.

"Nothing can break our incredible bond, Sully," Michaela's voice was soothing to him. "Wherever we may travel, we are still with one another."

"You're so beautiful," he placed his fingers just beneath her chin. "I was wonderin'...."

"Yes?" she anticipated his question.

"I was wonderin' if maybe you an' me could....," he paused.

"Could what?" she smiled at his hesitation. "It's not like you to be shy, Mr. Sully."

He inhaled the pure mountain air and closed his eyes to absorb all of the sounds around them.

"Sully," she caressed the hair behind his ear. "What is it?"

"I'm havin' a real powerful desire t' love ya right now," he revealed.

Michaela smiled, "That's funny."

"Funny?" he found her statement odd.

"It's funny because I have that same desire," she replied. "Out here beneath the hawk and his mate in flight."

"Seems like we both want the same thing," he grinned.

"In certain matters," she amended.

"So," he leaned closer and kissed her neck.

"So," she tilted her head back to relish the touch.

"Tell me what you're feelin'," he stroked her arms.

"Oh, my," she blushed from her body's reaction to him.

He held her gaze and recited:

"Then nature rule,
And love, devoid of art,
Spoke the consenting language
of the heart."

"Byron?" she could scarcely breath.

"John Gay," he noted. "So... tell me what you're feelin'."

"You know what I'm feeling," her pulse surged.

"I wanna hear ya say the words," he undid the button of her blouse at the neck. "Everythin' ya feel."

"Why?" she kissed his palm. "We rarely talk when we...."

"'Cause I need t' know," he continued until he could lower the material off her shoulders.

"I'm feeling... very warm," her voice quivered.

Sully slid his fingers beneath the straps of her camisole and pulled them down toward her elbows, "An' now?"

Her breath caught in her throat, so heightened were her senses.

"Now..." she tingled. "Now I feel alive and overwhelmingly in love with you." Then she pulled his shirt from his buckskins, and undid them. "How about you, Mr. Sully? What are you feeling?"

He gasped as her hand found its way to his most sensitive place, "I'm feelin' like we're about done talkin'."

Neither was capable of speaking another word. Their passionate cravings took over and transported them beyond the realm of reason or logic. Sully withheld the release of his energy until Michaela was ready to share the warmth of his love. Then when it came, he so enveloped her, she felt as if he had touched the very core of her being. Like the hawks above them, their bodies soared together as one spirit.

Michaela shivered in his arms, prompting Sully to drape his shirt across his wife.

Tenderly he kissed her temple, "Ya okay?"

"Oh, yes," her heart still leapt at the nearness of him.

"Thank you, Michaela," he spoke.

"For loving you?" she raised an eyebrow.

"For that," he smiled. "An' a million other things. I.... I need t' ask your forgiveness."

"For what?" she was puzzled.

"For anythin' I ever did that hurt ya," he responded.

"Sully," his request had a ring of fatalism to it, and it frightened her. "Why would you ask that? You know I...."

"I just wanted ya t' know I never meant t' do anythin' that would harm you or the kids," his eyes reddened.

She caressed his cheek, "Listen to me. I love you, and I harbor no regrets for anything you have done. We are one, remember? We just proved that a few moments ago. I know in my heart that you would never do anything to hurt our children or me. Do you understand?"

He nodded, and she pulled him closer for a kiss.

"I don't deserve t' be this happy," he was almost inaudible.

"Sully, please don't feel guilty because of what you have," she ran her hand down his stubbled face. "We are blissfully happy, but your Cheyenne brother is not. Cloud Dancing is living a life of uncertainty and perhaps even fear. But it's not because of anything you have done. On the contrary, you have moved heaven and earth to help. Please don't think that you are undeserving. I know of no man who deserves to be happy more than you."

"I'm afraid, Michaela," he said as his voice quaked.

"Oh, Sully," she threw her arms around him. "I know you are."

Tears trickled down the sides of his face, "I can't shake the feelin that Cloud Dancin's in terrible trouble."

She kissed each tear, "I wish that I could go with you."

He reached for his belt, and withdrew his knife from its encasement.

"What are you doing?" she was surprised.

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

"Why have you drawn your knife, Sully?" Michaela repeated.

"I was wonderin' if I could take a lock of your hair?" he requested shyly.

"Of course," she pulled her long tresses around from her back for him.

Sully cut off a snippet, then loosened his medicine pouch and placed it inside. Snugly securing the ends again, he returned his knife to its sheath.

"Thank you," he tenderly gazed at her.

"Is there some significance in the Cheyenne culture?" she was curious.

"No," he smiled. "Just significant t' me. Now, I can carry part o' you with me."

"I see," she slipped her arms about his waist. "Think we might return to town now? I'm missing a couple of little ones."

"Me, too," he kissed her again. "Let's go."

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

"Miss Grace," Katie squashed the ground meat between her fingers. "What ya put in the meat t' make it loaf?"

"Now, that's a secret," Grace began tossing in some spices.

"Ya sure cook good," the little girl grinned.

"Well, thank ya very much," the cafe owner's eyes glistened. "An' you're a good helper."

"Ka-tee," Josef tugged at his sister's hem as she stood atop a chair.

"No, Joey," she shook her head. "Ya can't help."

"Pwease?" he tapped her foot.

"Miss Grace," Katie turned to her godmother. "Can Joey help?"

"Robert E was s'posed t' be watchin' him," she wiped her hands, then lifted the little boy.

A broad grin crossed his face now that he could more clearly view the proceedings, "Pokle?"

"I'll get ya a pickle," Grace carried him to a jar. "Just a little bite, though."

With the tasty cucumber in his mouth, the child was now content.

"Robert E!" Grace called to her husband. "Where are ya? Ya were s'posed t' watch this child."

Out of breath, he approached, "I was watchin' him, woman. He got a way."

"Well, ya gotta be more careful," she charged.

"Miss Grace," Katie summoned her. "My hands are gettin' tired."

"All right then," Grace handed Josef to Robert E. "Let's get ya cleaned up, 'fore your Ma and Pa see ya like this."

While Grace washed Katie, Robert E lifted Josef high into the air and swung him around. Upon this scene, Horace arrived.

"Have ya seen Sully?" the telegraph operator asked urgently.

"Due back soon," Robert E cradled the giggling little boy in his arms.

"Gosh," Horace smiled at the child. "Don't he look more an' more like his Pa?"

"Sure does," the blacksmith held up Josef. "If there's a telegram, I can give it t' him."

"Thanks," Horace handed the paper to him. "I gotta get back t' the Depot."

Josef reached for the paper.

"Nope," Robert E cautioned. "That's for your Pa."

"Papa?" the little boy looked up hopefully.

"Right here, big boy," Sully's voice stirred the child.

"Papa!" Josef reached for his father.

Sully kissed his cheek, "Hope he was good for ya."

"Only got away from me once," Robert E grinned.

"Mama!" the toddler spotted Michaela.

Lifting him into her arms, she pulled back the hair from his eyes and kissed him, "How are you, my darling?"

Josef nodded, "Good."

"Where's Katie?" Sully searched.

"Grace is gettin' her cleaned up," the blacksmith answered.

"Did she get int' somethin'?" Sully chuckled.

"Just helpin' make some meatloaf," Robert E patted his back. "Oh, by the way. Horace brung ya this telegram."

"Thanks," Sully opened it.

"What is it?" Michaela came to his side.

"Up, Papa," Josef requested.

"Not now, Joe," he read.

"Sully?" she became alarmed at his expression.

Suddenly Sully sank to his knees, dropping the telegram.

"Robert E," Michaela handed Josef to his godfather.

Kneeling beside her husband, she placed her hand on his shoulder for support. She picked up the telegram and read.

"Oh, my God," tears welled in her eyes. Then she tried to assure Sully, "We don't know if Cloud Dancing was there."

He stood up and headed off toward the meadow. Michaela took a step toward him, then pulled back, recognizing that he would prefer solitude at this moment.

"What's wrong, Dr. Mike?" Robert E asked.

"There's been a battle at Little Big Horn," her voice quivered. "An Indian village attacked by the Army. Scores are dead."

"Mama!" Josef reached for his mother, noticing her upset.

Robert E did not know what to say as Michaela took her son.

Their silence was broken by Katie's call, "Mama!"

With Josef in her arms, she leaned down to greet the little girl.

"Where's Poppy?" she wondered.

"He's in the meadow," she replied. "He'll join us soon."

"Anythin' I can do, Dr. Mike?" Robert E offered.

"Could you watch the children for a little while longer?" she requested. "I want to go tell Dorothy. Then.... Sully will need me soon."

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

"Who's there?" the Reverend heard footsteps as he prayed at the cemetery.

There was no response.

"Is there something I can do for you?" the minister offered to the person standing nearby.

"It's me, Reverend," came the reply. "Sully."

"I didn't mean t' disturb you," the blind man backed away. "If you prefer to be alone with Abigail and Hannah."

"No," Sully touched his arm. "I just come here t' think."

"You sound as if something is troubling you," he perceived.

"Somethin' bad happened," Sully's voice cracked.

"What is it?" he was genuinely concerned.

"Massacre at Little Big Horn in Montana," the mountain man informed him. "June 25th. Custer attacked an Indian village."

"Oh, no," the minister shook his head.

Sully stated, "I need t' find out more."

Suddenly it occurred to the reverend, "Isn't that where Cloud Dancing went?"

"He was with one o' the tribes ridin' with Sittin' Bull," Sully noted. "Might've been there."

"I see," he lowered his head.

"If ya don't mind, Reverend," Sully said. "I'd like t' be alone right now."

"Certainly," he set the tip of his cane to the ground. "I'll keep him in my prayers."

Watching the minister leave, Sully again sank to the ground and found his tears came quite easily.

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

"Dorothy," Michaela entered the Gazette office.

"Back here!" her friend called from the back room. Then upon entering her front office she smiled. "What brings ya here, Michaela?"

"There has been some news from Montana," she broached the subject.

"From Cloud Dancin'?" Dorothy's heart leapt.

"No," Michaela searched for the right words. "Sully received a telegram. There has been a battle at an Indian encampment at Little Big Horn. Hundreds were killed, including Custer."

Dorothy covered her mouth and sat down.

"That's all we know," Michaela concluded.

The redhead sprang into action, "I'm gonna get over t' the Depot an' start wirin' other papers. See what I can find out."

"Let us know if you learn any more," Michaela called after her.

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

Michaela tentatively approached her husband, his back to her. He tilted his head in recognition of her scent. She sat down beside him on the edge of the cemetery and rested her hand on his shoulder.

"Dorothy is sending out telegrams to try to learn more," she told him.

"I'm leavin' first light t'morrow," he said.

"I'll come with you," she vowed.

"No, Michaela," he turned to face her for the first time. "I don't want ya t' see that."

"But there will be wounded," she reasoned.

"The Army'll have people treatin' the wounded," he countered.

"Not for the Indians," she knew.

He took a deep breath, "After what happened the last time you an' me went up there, I... I don't want ya comin'. That's final."

In anger, Sully stood up and began to walk toward town. Then he stopped and paused. Pivoting around to face his wife he returned to her and offered his hand to help her up. Michaela accepted and rose from the ground. Silently, he continued to hold her hand, then led her toward the bridge connecting to the main street.

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

"The boys will be back from Philadelphia at the end of the week," Michaela finished reading a letter from them.

"How's Colleen?" Sully leaned back against a porch post, his children on his lap.

"Her grades are top of the class," Michaela beamed.

"Colleen comin' home?" Katie hoped.

"No, Sweetheart," Michaela returned the note to its envelope.

"Poppy?" Katie tapped her father's arm. "Why ya sqeeezin' so tight?"

"I'm sorry," he loosened his grip on her. "I just don't wanna let go, I guess."

"Don't worry 'bout me," the little girl smiled. "I not gonna go 'way from home."

"Ya may change your mind one day, Kates," he kissed her cheek.

"Papa," Josef pointed to a flying bug near the lamp.

"That's a moth, Joe," Sully lifted him a bit higher. "They like the light."

"Don't they get burned?" Katie figured.

"If they get too close t' the flame," Sully nodded.

"Not s'posed t' get close t' fire," she recalled repeated warnings from her parents.

"That's right," Michaela smiled.

"Sometimes the fire can't be avoided," Sully spoke with a deeper meaning.

"Then what ya do, Poppy?" Katie was curious.

"Sully...." Michaela feared his words might frighten her.

"Don't worry, sweet girl," he pulled her close again. "I'll protect ya."

She hugged him, "You the best father in the world!"

Josef reached up, "Bes."

The lump in Sully's throat made it difficult to swallow. He looked at Michaela and caught sight of a moistness on her cheek.

"I'll tell 'em about leavin' in the mornin'," he kissed each little forehead tenderly.

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

Dorothy had fallen asleep in a chair near her printing press. Sounds from the Gold Nugget had ebbed for the night, and a calm had fallen over Colorado Springs. At first, she did not hear the faint tapping at the window abutting the alleyway next to Michaela's Clinic.

It came again, this time louder. She woke with a start. Who could it be? She pulled up a few stray strands of her red locks and looked for something to use as a weapon. Nearby was a block of wood which she sometimes used to hold open the window. Then she went to investigate.

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

"Can't sleep?" Michaela stirred and sat up.

Sully was standing before an open window in their bedroom, surveying the landscape.

He did not turn around, "Go on back t' sleep. I'm fine."

She rose from the bed and went to him, "I wish I knew what I could say or do that could take away your anguish."

He smiled slightly and put his arm around her, "Just you bein' here for me helps, Michaela."

She leaned her head against his chest, "I don't know why this happened, Sully."

"Custer prob'ly ran head first int' it," he tenderly touched his lips to the top of her head.

"Do you think the Army will permit you access to the battle site to search for...." she could not finish the thought.

"I don't care if they permit it or not," his words were bitter.

She held back expressing her fears. He noted the sudden tenseness in her body.

"I ain't gonna do anythin' t' get myself int' trouble," he assured her. "But I gotta find out what happened."

"I know," she was barely audible. "Sully, what if you don't find him?"

"I'll find him," he vowed.

"But what if nothing... remains?" she feared.

"I'll find someone who can tell me," he did not consider the difficulty.

"I.... I should go with you," she pleaded.

"We been through that already," he tensed. "I don't want ya t' see what might be out there. I don't wanna have t' worry about ya."

She held her counsel, knowing it was no use arguing with him. She preferred to hold him.

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

Dorothy reached the window and tentatively glanced out. Then she saw him lying on the ground. It was Cloud Dancing! With all of the speed she could muster, she burst through the door and ran to him. He was unconscious, bleeding from his side and face, but still alive.

She knew she had to summon help quickly. Swiftly, she raced to the home of Robert E and Grace. Pounding on their door, she finally saw a lamp light.

"Dorothy?" Robert E wiped the sleep from his eyes. "What's wrong?"

"Robert E," she kept her voice low. "It's Cloud Dancin'. He's here in town, at the Gazette, but he's hurt bad. Do ya think ya could ride out t' fetch Michaela an' Sully?"

"Sure," he became more alert. "I'll get Grace so's she can watch the children."

"Thank you," she brushed back a tear. "He's in the alleyway between the office an' Clinic."

"I'll get him inside the Gazette 'fore I leave," he reentered his house to waken his wife.

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

Michaela touched her husband's cheek, "I wish that you could get some sleep before you leave."

"Don't know if I can," he sighed.

"Then at least lie down," she tugged gently at his side. "For me?"

"All right," he agreed.

They climbed back into bed and settled into one another's arms.

"When I'm with ya like this, I don't ever wanna leave," he warmed at the nearness of her.

"It's our own little world," she said. "Only you and I know what it's like here."

"I like that," he grinned. "Just you an' me."

"It's hard to believe how far we've come, Sully," she became philosophical. "When I think about the different worlds we came from, to have found one another and to love like this.... well, it's incredible."

"I remember how we both fought our feelin's," he linked her fingers in his.

"But each time you looked at me, touched me...." she hesitated. "It was as if you reached into my soul. I still feel that."

"Me, too," he nodded. "I never met anyone in my life more beautiful an' carin' than you. Once I knew I loved ya, I never dreamed we could share a life t'gether."

She was silent.

Sully felt a drop of moisture on his chest and knew that his wife was crying. It broke his heart. He hated to see Michaela cry. There had been times in their lives when he had to force himself to let her alone to work out her troubles through tears, especially after the Washita Massacre.

Now there had been another. Another attack on his Cheyenne brothers. Another government lie and violation of treaties. He wondered if the history books would ever tell the truth about what had happened. He wondered, too, if his children would even remember the Indians. Fighting back his own tears, his breathing quickened in anger.

"Shhh," Michaela placed her hand over his heart. "We're here. Safe in our world for the moment."

He pulled her hand to his lips, "I love you, Michaela."

She lifted her head to gaze into his captivating eyes, "I love you, too."

They kissed sweetly.

"I was thinking," she pondered. "It might be better for me to stay in town with the children while you're away. Until Brian and Matthew return from Philadelphia, I'd prefer to stay at the Clinic."

"That's a good idea," he nodded. "I'm sure Robert E can take care o' the animals here."

"And I'll read," she turned up the corner of her mouth.

"Read?" he tilted his head.

"I'll read to help pass the lonely nights," she replied.

"What ya gonna read?" he played along.

"Perhaps some of your poetry books," she smiled.

Pulling her nearer, he recited:

"If I could write the beauty of your eyes,
And in fresh numbers all your graces,
The age to come would say, 'This poet lies;
Such heavenly touches ne'er touched earthly faces.'"

"Who was that?" she asked.

"Don't ya wanna guess?' he was surprised.

"Not tonight," she answered.

"Shakespeare," he kissed her temple.

"I think I'll read some Shakespeare," she suggested. "Romeo and Juliet might be nice."

"I don't much care for the endin'," he teased.

"I'll read up to the ending then," she retorted.

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

Dorothy ministered to Cloud Dancing in her bed. She knew and trusted that Robert E would return soon with Michaela and Sully. But until they came, she was uncertain of what to do. She covered the Cheyenne medicine man with several blankets and gently cleaned the blood and mud from his face.

She studied his face, tenderly stroking his cheek. His strong face, she smiled to herself.... his impish grin when he joked or teased with his droll sense of humor.... his brown eyes which gleamed when he was happy. She hoped that she had helped him find some happiness and love in this world of hatred and bigotry.

She herself had been so ignorant and bigoted when it came to the Cheyenne, and then she had written the book about them. Cloud Dancing's book really. She had merely been the one to chronicle the story. How she admired this proud man. How she feared for his safety since the moment she gave her heart to him.

When would Michaela arrive, she thought as she glanced toward her clock. Its ticking seemed to highlight the slow passage of time.

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

Sully jumped when he heard the pounding on their door. Robert E's voice called to them.

"Perhaps someone is sick," Michaela pulled on her robe. "Or it could be for Mrs. Blake. Her baby is due any day."

"I'll go check," he pulled on his buckskins and a shirt.

Rushing past the nursery, he pulled the door shut so the children would not be frightened by the noise.

"Robert E? Grace?" Sully was surprised to see them both. "What's wrong?"

Michaela reached the bottom step as their friends entered the house, "Is it Mrs. Blake?"

"No," Robert E stated. "It's Cloud Dancin'."

"What about him?" Sully's heart nearly stopped.

"He's in town," the blacksmith said. "At the Gazette. Dorothy sent me t' fetch Dr. Mike an' you. He's hurt real bad."

"I came t' watch the children," Grace added.

"I'll get dressed," Michaela returned up the steps.

"Robert E," Sully tapped his arm. "Could ya help me saddle the horses?"

"Sure," he followed him out the door.

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

"Dorothy," Cloud Dancing attempted to open his eyes, one of which was swollen.

"I'm here," she clasped his hand. "Michaela's gonna be here soon."

"I...." a tear trickled down his cheek. "I don't know if I can hold on."

"Just hold my hand," she grasped it more firmly. "I'll help ya."

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

"I must tell you something before I die," Cloud Dancing struggled to remain conscious.

"No, please," Dorothy did not want accept his words. "Ya can't die. Ya can't."

"I have seen the death at Little Big Horn. Now I will be with my people," his breathing was labored.

"There's people here who need ya, Cloud Dancin'," she caressed his face. "Sully, Michaela, their children.... Me. I need ya so much."

"I have enjoyed our friendship very much," his voice was fading.

"Stay with me," she begged. "Michaela's gonna help ya get better."

"She does not have medicine strong enough to heal my heart," the Cheyenne shook his head slightly.

"Your heart?" she took his meaning literally. "Are you injured there?"

He could not stay awake. Dorothy heard a commotion and realized that Michaela and Sully had arrived. Robert E, too, came in to see if he could offer help.

"Cloud Dancing!" Michaela rushed to his side.

Sully stood back at the doorway to the bedroom for a moment, uncertain what he should do.

Dorothy approached him, "Go to him."

The mountain man sat down on the side of the bed and grasped his friend's hand. He began to speak in Cheyenne as Michaela examined the wound to Cloud Dancing's side.

"It appears to be from a bayonet," she assessed the area. "It looks as if he tried to treat it himself."

"How'd he get here?" Robert E wondered.

"He spoke some, just before ya got here," Dorothy informed them. "He was at the battle of Little Big Horn. He... made his way here to say good-bye."

"Good-bye?" Sully looked up.

"He says it's time for him to be with his people," the redhead noted. "T' die."

"Michaela?" Sully hoped his friend was not mortally wounded.

"I'll do what I can," she pulled out her stethoscope from the medical bag. "I... I don't think we should move him to the Clinic."

"I'll take care o' him," Dorothy assured her.

Michaela began to make a list, "Sully, I need these from the Clinic."

When she completed it, he read over it, then headed toward the door.

"Sully," Robert E stopped him. "Do ya think the Army might come lookin' for him?"

"I don't know," he had not considered the possibility. "I reckon we better keep his presence here a secret."

"He's under the town's protection," Michaela remembered their edict several years ago.

"Now he's under my protection," Sully stated firmly. "I won't let anythin' happen t' him."

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

Katie rubbed her eyes and rose from her bed. She stepped toward her brother's crib and saw that he was still soundly sleeping. Reaching through the railing posts, she pulled his blanket higher, then decided to check to see if her parents were up.

She was pleased to see that the door to their bedroom was open and that she would not have to knock. Entering the room, she was surprised to discover that they were not there. Then she noticed that their bed was unmade. Katie found it very unusual. And the house was quiet. She returned to her bedroom and pulled on some slippers, then checked Josef again.

"Maybe Mama an' Poppy are downstairs kissin'," she smiled to herself.

She giggled thinking about how they liked to do that when they didn't think she was watching. Tentatively, she descended the steps.

"Miss Grace?" the little girl's eyes lit up.

"Mornin', child," Grace smiled.

"What ya doin' here?" Katie hugged her.

"Your Ma an' Pa asked me t' stay here with ya for a spell," Grace replied.

"Where are they?" a hint of fear entered her voice.

"It's okay," Grace assured her. "They had t' go t' town real early. They're fine."

"We cook somethin'?" Katie was satisfied that her parents were all right.

"What would ya like?" Grace reached for some plates.

"Meatloaf?" Katie requested.

"For breakfast?" the cafe owner chuckled. "You an' your brother got the strangest appetites I ever saw."

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

Michaela finished cleaning and dressing Cloud Dancing's wounds. None were life threatening, but she was concerned about his dehydrated and exhausted state.

"It's imperative that we get him to drink water when he wakens," she spoke low to Sully and Dorothy.

"Will he be all right?" Dorothy's eyes reddened.

"I believe that his injuries will heal, but...." she hesitated.

"But what?" Sully searched her face.

"His will to live seems to be gone," she looked down. "What he saw, what he experienced must have been horrific."

"Would it help t' get him t' talk about it?" Sully speculated.

"It might," Michaela agreed. "He needs to know that we're here for him. That we care about him. That he's safe."

Sully's jaw tightened, "But he ain't safe."

"He's safer with us right now than he was at Little Bighorn," Dorothy contributed.

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

"Robert E!" Katie saw his horse pulling up to the homestead. Running to the door, she inquired as soon as he opened it, "Ya see Mama an' Poppy?

"Sure did," he grinned. "They asked me t' bring ya int' town."

"Good!" she hopped up and down. "We made meatloaf."

"How's Cloud Dancin'?" Grace pulled her husband aside.

"Not so good," he replied. "Dr. Mike's done all she can, but...."

"Shhh," she saw Katie approach. "Okay, now. Let's get this meatloaf ready t' take int' town."

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

Michaela continued to monitor Cloud Dancing's condition throughout the day, but his spirit seemed defeated. Along with Dorothy and Sully, she languished over what they could do to in some way restore his will to live.

Grace had occupied the Sully children, but by dinnertime, having seen their parents only briefly that morning, the little ones were anxious. Grace decided to take them to the Gazette.

"Mama? Poppy?" Katie called from the office.

Sully swiftly entered from the room in which Cloud Dancing lay, "Shhh, Kates."

"Papa!" Josef's eyes lit up.

Sully knelt down and hugged them, "Ya okay?"

"Where's Mama?" the little girl could not contain her curiosity.

"She's takin' care o' Cloud Dancin'," he informed her.

Her little brow wrinkled, "He sick?"

"'Fraid so," Sully's voice faltered.

"Where is he?" Katie sensed her father's upset.

"Back there," he gestured over his shoulder.

"Can I see him?" the child asked innocently.

"I don't know, Kates," Sully said.

"I think it would be a good idea," Michaela entered the room.

"Mama!" both children ran to her.

Michaela hugged them and smiled, "Were you good for Grace?"

"Sorta," Katie hedged.

"Sorta?" Sully raised an eyebrow.

"Joey break a plate," she revealed.

"Josef?" Michaela frowned at her son.

He nodded shyly and placed his finger in his mouth.

"Nothin' t' worry about," Grace smiled. "It was an accident."

The little girl requested, "We see Cloud Dancin' now?"

Sully glanced at his wife. She nodded.

"Gotta talk real low, Kates," Sully took Katie's hand and lifted his son.

Michaela turned to her friend, "Thank you, Grace."

"I best be gettin' back t' the Cafe, Dr. Mike," she touched her arm. "If ya need anythin', holler."

"I will," Michaela replied.

Sully escorted his children into the back room, silently hoping that the little ones would cheer the spirits of the Cheyenne medicine man.

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

"Matthew! Brian!" Horace greeted the train from Denver. "Didn't think you boys would be home 'til the end o' the week."

Matthew glanced toward town, "We got word about what happened at Little Big Horn."

"We wanted t' come home right away," Brian contributed. "We were worried about the Cheyenne."

"Have folks here heard the news?" Matthew wondered.

"Sully got a telegram yesterday," Horace nodded.

"He must be real worried 'bout Cloud Dancin'," Brian sensed.

"I reckon so," the telegraph operator nodded.

"Wonderin' if he was at the battle," Matthew's eyes saddened. "Wonderin' if he was he hurt."

"I figure he was there," Horace speculated.

"We best be gettin' home," Matthew lifted his luggage.

"Saw your Ma an' Pa goin' int' the Gazette a while ago," Horace pointed out.

"Let's get over there, Brian," Matthew tapped his brother's arm. "Thanks, Horace."

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

Katie sat on the edge of the bed somewhat in awe of her Cheyenne father. His eyes were closed.

"Can he hear me, Mama?" she turned to Michaela.

"I believe so," she encouraged.

Sully, with Josef in his arms, sat on the other edge of the bed so that his son could watch.

"Cloud Dancin'," the little girl whispered. "It's me, Katie. When ya gonna wake up?" She paused for a reaction, then continued. "I missed ya when ya went away. I like it when ya tell me stories."

Katie turned to her mother as if to ask if she could continue. Michaela nodded.

"Joey's here, too," she placed her little hand on the medicine man's arm. "He likes your stories, but he don't understand everythin'."

Josef, emboldened by the mention of his name, crawled from his father's lap and sat next to Cloud Dancing. Leaning over, the little boy kissed the Cheyenne's cheek.

"Up!" Josef commanded. "Play."

At the doorway, Dorothy struggled to contain her tears, then heard someone enter the Gazette.

Turning, she recognized the two visitors, "Brian! Matthew!"

Katie slipped from the bed and ran to greet her brothers when they reached the entrance to the sickroom. Hugs and kisses were exchanged among the family, then the two young men turned their attention to the scene before them.

"What happened?" Matthew wondered.

"It's so terrible," Dorothy's eyes were red. "He was at Little Big Horn. Did you boys hear what happened?"

"That's why we came home early," Matthew nodded.

"Can we do anythin' t' help, Ma?" Brian swallowed hard.

"Talk t' Cloud Dancin', Bran," Katie requested. "Joey an' me tried t' wake him up."

In turn, both Brian and Matthew spoke softly to the injured Cheyenne. And still, there was no response. Finally, determining that they had done all that they could, Sully and Michaela decided to spend the evening with their children at the Clinic. Brian and Matthew opted to stay at Matthew's law office. All would be at Dorothy's call should there be further developments with their friend.

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

"Mornin', Dr. Kelly," Horace greeted the gray-haired man. "Some newspapers come for ya."

"Thank you," he took the stack.

Brain heard the exchange and approached him, "Are you a doctor?"

"Not a medical doctor," the twinkling eyes lit up. "I'm a retired history professor."

"A history professor in Colorado Springs?" the young man was pleased.

"I taught at the University of Denver until a few weeks ago," he grinned. "I decided to settle here. My name is Howard Kelly."

Brian extended his hand, "I'm Brian Cooper. I love history, Dr. Kelly."

"That's a healthy love to have," he nodded.

"Think I could talk t' ya about it sometime?" Brian asked.

"I would enjoy that," Kelly smiled.

"Sure got a lot o' newspapers there," the young man pointed. "Could I help ya carry 'em?"

"Thank you," he agreed. "I subscribe to several papers from around the country."

"I see ya got one here from New York, one from St. Louis," Brian looked at the headings of the front pages.

"Indeed," he acknowledged.

"They all got big stories 'bout the massacre at Little Big Horn," the young man noticed.

"I'm eager to read about it," the professor stated. "I was going over to Grace's Cafe. Would you like to join me?"

"I sure would," Brian grinned. "Thanks."

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

"No change," Michaela felt Cloud Dancing's pulse.

"He moved very little during the night," Dorothy informed her. "What can we do, Michaela?"

"I'm afraid I'm at a loss," she looked down.

Sully stepped closer, "His spirit has already gone t' be with his grandfathers."

"No!" Dorothy refused to listen. "As long as he's still alive, we can't give up."

"I don't wanna give up, Dorothy," Sully's expression was pained.

"Sully," Michaela took her husband's hand. "Why don't we go for a little walk? The children will be all right with Grace for a bit longer."

He sighed, "Okay."

Dorothy sat down beside the Cheyenne medicine man after they departed. She lifted his hand to her cheek and felt her tears begin anew.

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

Out of sight from the town, Michaela and Sully strolled along the bank of a stream. Finally, they stopped and sat down. Neither had spoken since they left Cloud Dancing.

Michaela reached out and lifted a lock of hair from her husband's face. He turned to look at her. His was an expression of anguish. Without words, she pulled him into her arms and kissed his temple. Sully buried his face in her neck, no longer holding back his tears.

She had sensed his need to release his pain, and she tenderly stroked his hair as his emotions burst forth. Only alone with his wife, would Sully allow himself to grieve for what had and might still happen. Finally, after several minutes, he regained his composure. She pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and lovingly touched the moisture on his cheeks. Then, cupping his face in her hands, she gently kissed him.

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

Katie and Josef saw Brian seated at a table at the Cafe, and Grace brought them over to him. Brian pulled Josef onto his lap and helped Katie sit at one of the chairs. Grace took their orders, then left.

"This is my little sister, Katie," Brian told the professor. "An' this is my brother Josef."

"Pleased to meet you both," the academian winked.

"This is Dr. Kelly," he introduced the professor.

"Ya gonna help Cloud Dancin' get better?" Katie asked.

"Pardon me?" the older man was curious.

"She thinks you're a medical doctor," Brian chuckled. "Katie, Dr. Kelly knows all about history."

"Ya do?" her eyes lit up. "What's history?"

Grace returned with their refreshments, "Coffee for the professor, lemonade for Brian an' Katie...." Then she glanced at the little boy on Brian's lap. "An' what ya think I brought you?"

"Pokle!" Josef reached up with his tiny hands.

"Right!" Grace grinned. "Anythin' else for ya?"

"No, thanks," Brian replied.

As Grace departed, the professor returned to Katie's question, "History is the study of things that happened in the past."

"Why ya wanna study that?" the little girl was fascinated.

"Do you ever wonder what things were like before you were born?" he leaned closer. "Where your mother and father came from?"

"Yep," she nodded. "Mama an' Poppy tell me, too."

"That's part of your family's history," Kelly took a sip of coffee. "I study the family history of our country.... of the world."

"That's a lot o' people," her brown eyes shone with wonder.

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

Sully leaned back and rested his head in his wife's lap, "When I didn't wanna go on livin', Cloud Dancin' brought me back from the darkness."

She ran her fingers through his hair, "And I'm eternally grateful for that."

He lifted up to look in her eyes, "The love of a woman makes a man wanna live."

"Dorothy loves Cloud Dancing," she said.

"He's closed his heart t' love now," Sully speculated. "He's seen somethin' so terrible...."

"Would a sweat lodge help?" Michaela wondered.

"It might," he warmed to the idea. "Is he well enough t' travel?"

"I believe so," she answered. "We would not have to take him far."

"Later t'day be okay?" Sully inquired.

"Yes," she nodded.

He closed his eyes and leaned back again, only to be roused by his wife's lips on his. He continued their kiss as he sat up and guided her back against the soft leaves. Initially, their contact was light and soft. Then, as their bodies began to react to the nearness of one another, they became more urgent and hungry.

"Sully," she broke it off breathlessly. "Out here?"

"You started it," he teased.

"I did?" she turned up the corner of her mouth in a grin.

"Ya kissed me," he ran his finger along her chin.

"And that....." she stopped when he spoke.

"I love you, Michaela," his eyes burned with need.

"I love you, too," she could not resist him.

Slowly, he undid the buttons of her blouse and trailed kisses across her chest. Michaela could not contain her excitement at his touch. Sully's caresses made her tingle with desire. Then Michaela encouraged him onto his back. As she opened his shirt and lightly kissed his chest, he leaned his head back and closed his eyes, transported by her ministrations.

Finally, she positioned herself along his form, eager for their joining. With the enthusiasm that they both relished, they shared their love. Flesh against flesh, they clung to one another, rhythmically taking and giving to the other.

With his beloved tucked against him, Sully stroked her back and whispered:

"Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake.
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou,
And slip into my bosom and be lost in me."

"I am lost in you," she confessed. "Hopelessly, totally, unconditionally."

He kissed her again, "Don't know what I'd ever do without you, Michaela."

"Nor I without you," she murmured. "Was that from Shakespeare?"

"Tennyson," he kissed her again.

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

From her seat at the Cafe, Katie spotted her parent's arrival, "Mama!" Lifted into her mother's embrace, the child queried, "Why ya got leaves in your hair?"

Michaela blushed, "Oh... ah, your father and I took a little walk and... uh."

"You know how it is in the woods, Kates," Sully kissed his daughter's cheek. "There's leaves an' branches, an...."

"Ya kissin'?" Katie whispered in her mother's ear.

"Katie!" Michaela became embarrassed.

"Ma, Pa," Brian beckoned.

They approached their sons. Josef reached up to greet his parents and ended up tucked in his father's embrace.

"I want ya t' meet Dr. Howard Kelly," Brian said. "He's a retired professor o' history from Denver. This here's my Ma, Dr. Michaela Quinn an' my pa, Byron Sully."

"It's a pleasure, sir," Michaela extended her hand.

"Your son has been telling me about you," the professor smiled. "He speaks with great admiration of you both."

"What brings ya t' Colorado Springs?" Sully shook his hand.

"The beauty of these surroundings," he took a deep breath. "I've decided to make this my home. I bought the Murdoch place."

"I discern a Boston accent," Michaela noted.

"I discern the same of you, Madam," he smiled. "I taught for a number of years at Harvard."

"I'm originally from Boston," Michaela acknowledged. "I practiced medicine there with my father until his death."

"Quinn," he rubbed his chin. "You go by your maiden name?"

"Yes," she stated.

"Was your father, by chance, Dr. Josef Quinn?" he speculated.

Michaela's eyes lit up, "Why, yes. Did you know him?"

"Only by reputation," Kelly smiled. "A man of great integrity."

"Thank you," she was moved. "You must join us for dinner some time."

"It would be my pleasure," he nodded. "If you'll excuse me now, I'm feeling a bit tired. It's time for my nap."

Sully kissed his son's cheek, "Same for these two."

As the older man left them, Brian pointed out, "He gets newspapers from all over the country. That stack he's carryin' has stories about Little Big Horn."

Suddenly they were brought back to the reality of their friend's health.

"Brian," Michaela said. "I want to hear all about your trip to Philadelphia and your visit with Colleen as soon as possible, but first Sully and I need to help Cloud Dancing."

"We're gonna try a sweat lodge," Sully touched Brain's back. "Think you an' Matthew could watch the children while we take Cloud Dancin' there?"

"Sure," the young man agreed.

"Let's get him ready then," Sully escorted his family toward the Gazette. "Dorothy should come with us."

"I agree," Michaela said.

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

Sully spent most of the afternoon preparing the sweat lodge. They wrapped Cloud Dancing in blankets to hide his identity. Then, with Robert E's assistance, he carried the medicine man to the wagon through the rear door of the Clinic. Dorothy sat in the back of the buckboard with him, and Michaela joined her husband on the seat.

They arrived at the site Sully had chosen. He explained to Dorothy what would happen in the ceremony. Clad in only blankets, they sat in the steaming heat of the lodge. Sully chanted and sprinkled herbs on the fire. Each took a turn conveying to Cloud Dancing what he meant to them. Then, they waited.

Finally, the medicine man opened his eyes, "My friends."

Michaela immediately urged him to drink some water before talking. His lips parched, his vision blurred, and his side aching, he managed to comply with her wishes.

"Good t' see ya," Sully touched his friend's arm.

"It is good to see all of you," his voice was weak. "The Spirits have heard your prayers. They have told me I must return."

"Return?" Michaela was uncertain of his meaning.

"Return to you," the medicine man said. "I am to tell the truth of what happened."

"The first thing ya have t' do is get well," Dorothy felt a tear on her cheek.

"This I shall do," Cloud Dancing nodded. "Then I will tell of the story of Little Big Horn."

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

In a cloud of dust, a troop of Army cavalry arrived in Colorado Springs. Most of the townsfolk gathered in the street, curious about their arrival. One of the soldiers dismounted and approached Hank.

"Do you have a sheriff or law enforcement officer here?" the young man asked.

"You're lookin' at the enforcer," Hank tapped the gun strapped to his hip.

"I'm the mayor," Jake spoke up. "What's goin' on?"

"We got orders t' round up any Indians in the territory an' take 'em t' one o' the reservations," the military man replied.

"Ain't no Indians here," Matthew spoke up.

The soldier studied the faces around him, "If anyone's hidin' Indians or withholdin' information, I got orders t' place 'em under arrest."

"What if the Injun has papers allowin' him t' be here?" Jake wondered.

"General Sheridan has issued my orders," the man responded. "Those orders say all Indians."

There was silence.

"We'll be makin' camp in that field for the night," the soldier gestured toward the meadow by the church. "Anyone who wants t' turn in a red man can see us there."

The soldiers turned and retreated across the bridge.

"Anyone here see Cloud Dancin' lately?" Hank asked.

Those who knew that the medicine man had returned held their silence.

"Better not be holdin' back," the bartender cautioned. "Ain't worth goin' t' jail t' protect him."

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

"Matthew," Robert E pulled the young man aside. "Ya know where Sully took him?"

"I do," he answered.

The blacksmith kept his voice low, "Better get out there an' warn 'em not t' bring Cloud Dancin' back t' town."

Unseen by them, Hank had been watching their exchange. When he saw Matthew mount his horse and take off, he decided to follow.

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

"We gonna stay at the Clinic again t'night?" Katie asked her brother.

"I'm not sure," Brian rocked Josef in the chair. "Have t' see what Ma an' Pa say."

"Bran, can ya tell me 'bout history?" the child sat at her table.

"Like what?" he chuckled.

She shrugged, "I don't know. Tell me history story."

"Well," he pondered her request. "Long time ago, far away across the ocean there was an empire ruled by the Romans."

"They lost?" she innocently asked.

"Why'd ya ask that?" he was puzzled.

"Ya said they were roamin'," she replied.

"No," he laughed. "Their capital was in Rome, an' they were called Romans."

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

"Sully!" Matthew's voice could be heard outside the sweat lodge.

The mountain man rose and looked out through the opening, "Come on in."

The young man dismounted and was pleased to see their Cheyenne friend had regained consciousness, "Cloud Dancin', it's good t' see ya."

"And you, my friend," he replied.

"Is something wrong with one of the children?" Michaela wondered why her son had come.

"No, it's the Army," Matthew informed them. "They're camped in town, lookin' t' round up Indians. Said they'll arrest anyone they catch hidin' 'em."

"Then we gotta....." Sully suddenly stopped, having heard another horse approach. "Quick, Dorothy, Cloud Dancin', under there."

Swiftly, the duo was hidden beneath a buffalo hide.

"Sully, what are we...." Michaela fell silent when her husband raised his finger to his lips.

"I'll see who it is," Matthew exited.

"What ya doin' out here, Matthew?" Hank asked.

"Come t' see Ma an' Sully," he responded.

Hank dismounted, "What the hell's goin' on?"

Matthew tried to remain calm, "Don't know what ya mean."

"In there," Hank pointed to the sweat lodge. "Ya hidin' someone?"

Sully slipped out through the opening of the lodge, "What brings ya out here, Hank?"

"I followed Matthew," the bartender replied, suspicious at the sight of Sully with only with a blanket around his waist. "Why ya half dressed? What kinda Injun games ya playin' in there?"

"No Indian games," Sully answered.

"Yea?" Hank approached the opening. "I'll be the judge of that."

When he stuck his head inside, he saw Michaela, clad only in a blanket.

Ogling her, a grin appeared on Hank's face, "Well, well. What have we here?"

"Hank," Michaela nervously pulled her blanket higher.

Sully quickly led him to a conclusion, "Can't a man an' his wife have a little privacy?"

"Sure," Hank tilted his head. "Ain't this cozy."

"Yep," Sully patted his back. "Now, if you'll excuse us. Michaela an' me got.... business t' attend to."

"Why'd Matthew interrupt ya?" Hank was still curious.

The young man had now concluded that Hank had seen him speaking with Robert E before riding out to his parents, "Robert E told me he an' Grace couldn't watch the children t'night. I just wanted t' let 'em know."

"Uh, thank you, Matthew," Michaela was regaining her composure. "We'll return to town shortly."

"Yea, well...." Hank laughed. "I reckon I got a business t' run. You two kids have fun."

"Oh, we will," Sully grinned.

Hank was soon gone.

"Think he believes ya?" Matthew put his hands on his hips.

Michaela was embarrassed, "I'm not sure I like having him assume....."

Dorothy poked her head out from under the hide, "Awful warm under here."

"Sorry, Dorothy," Sully pulled back the cover. "Michaela, I want ya t' get back t' town an' fetch the kids. Take 'em home. Dorothy, ya better take Matthew's horse, an' get back t' town, too. When it's dark, Michaela can bring the buckboard back for Cloud Dancin', Matthew an' me."

"Where can we take Cloud Dancing?" Michaela was uncertain.

"The homestead," Matthew responded. "It ain't safe in town."

"That could be dangerous if someone gets wind o' it," Sully shook his head.

"The cave," Michaela offered. "Where you hid from the Army, Sully."

"Do ya mind, Cloud Dancin'?" he turned to his friend.

"I am not in a position to complain," the Cheyenne smiled faintly. "The cave will be good."

"We gotta be careful t' make sure we ain't followed comin' an' goin' from town," Sully cautioned. "An' the fewer people who know he's here, the better."

"I'll tell folks that I'm goin' t' Denver," Dorothy said. "That way, I can tend t' Cloud Dancin' at the cave."

"Okay, then," Sully nodded. "Better get goin'."

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

A man pulled up to the Gold Nugget, tired and dusty from riding all day. He slid from his horse and looked around as dusk descended on the town. He rubbed his throbbing leg, then stepped into the saloon.

"What can I get ya?" Hank spotted him at the bar.

"A bottle of your finest whiskey, and a glass," the man replied.

"Look like ya been ridin' a spell," Hank observed his appearance.

With raven hair and eyes to match, the man in his late thirties wiped his parched mouth, "Mine, and most of our fortunes, tonight, shall be drunk to bed."

"Huh?" Hank stopped pouring.

"William Shakespeare," the stranger cited the author.

"You an' 'Will' need a room, too?" Hank joked.

"Just I," the stranger replied.

"Need some companionship?" Hank nodded toward some of his prostitutes.

The man refilled his own glass, "'Company, villainous company, hath been the spoil of me.'"

"That Shakespeare, too?" Hank was catching on.

"Indeed," the dark eyes of the stranger gleamed.

"Ever speak for yourself?" the bartender joked.

"The Bard's eloquence is difficult to surpass," he replied.

"My name's Hank Lawson," the saloon keeper stated. "Need t' know your name for my hotel records."

"St. Helen," the man replied. "John St. Helen."

"Dollar a night," Hank informed him. "More if ya want one o' my girls."

Taking his bottle and glass, "Tonight, I wish to sleep. 'To sleep, perchance to dream.'"

"That you or Shakespeare talkin'?" Hank stepped out from behind the bar. "Come on, I'll show ya your room."

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

Sully awoke from a dream and tried to calm himself. The images were so vivid. He glanced at Michaela, then rose from the bed. Walking to the basin, he splashed some water on his face to clear his head. He had dreamed about Cloud Dancing in the cave. The Army found out about him, surrounded it, and opened fire. Wiping the water from his face, he took a deep breath.

"Sully?" Michaela heard him.

"Just washin' my face," he spoke low. "Go back to sleep."

She raised up on her elbow, "What time is it?"

"After midnight," he replied as he climbed back into bed.

She spooned herself against his warm body, "Cloud Dancing is going to be fine, Sully."

"Physically, I believe that," he rubbed her arm. "I ain't so sure about his state of mind."

"We'll go to him tomorrow," she kissed his hand. "He needs to talk about what happened."

"Maybe I should've stayed with him in the cave," Sully had second thoughts.

"Matthew's with him," she reminded him. "He wants you to be careful with the Army in town. They may be watching you."

"I know," he sighed.

She changed the subject, "I can only imagine what Hank must have thought about us in the sweat lodge."

He grinned, "Do you really care what he thinks?"

"Well, he's bound to tell others in town what he saw," she thought.

"So?" he kissed the tender skin behind her ear. "Folks know what we feel for each other."

"We were hardly dressed!" she said.

He ran his hand along her waist, "It was worth it t' have him think we were bein' t'gether out there rather than have him learn the truth."

"I know," she nodded.

"Don't worry 'bout your reputation," he teased. "It's safe with me."

"I'm glad I'm in good hands," she smiled.

He pulled her closer, "Always."

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

"Brought ya breakfast," Sully entered the cave.

"Thank you, my friend," Cloud Dancing sat up.

Michaela followed her husband, "I'm happy to see you have an appetite."

"I best be gettin' back t' town," Matthew donned his hat. "I'll keep an eye on things."

"Thank you, Matthew," Cloud Dancing smiled.

"You're welcome, he smiled. "Take care."

Michaela checked the Cheyenne medicine man's injuries, "Your wound is healing nicely."

"Someone's comin'," Sully suddenly drew his tomahawk. He rushed to the entrance and peeked out. "It's Dorothy."

Sully met her at the entrance and to insure that she had not been followed.

Dorothy told him, "The Army's camped out in the meadow by the church."

"Any idea how long they intend t' stay?" Sully put away his weapon.

"No," she shook her head. "I told Loren I was goin' t' Denver for a few days, so I can stay here now."

"Remember t' keep your horse hidden," Sully cautioned. "We'll supply ya with food."

"All right," she brushed back a lock of her red tresses.

"I was thinkin'," Sully suggested. "Maybe you could write that friend o' yours, Charles Stoddard, an' see if somethin' could be done t' protect Cloud Dancin'."

"Marjorie's Uncle?" Dorothy said. "But he doesn't work for Sheridan anymore."

"They're friends," Sully responded. "Nothin' t' lose by tryin'."

"You're right," she nodded. "I'll do it."

They entered the cave as Michaela concluded her examination of their friend.

"Cloud Dancing," Michaela touched his arm. "Do you want to talk about what happened to you?"

He was silent for several moments as his eyes welled up with tears. Michaela felt guilty for her question until the medicine man finally spoke.

"I am ready to tell what happened," he spoke surely.

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

"Dr. Kelly!" Brian saw the professor at the Cafe.

"Good morning, Brian," Kelly smiled.

"Did ya get a chance t' read those newspapers?" the young man asked.

"I did," he nodded. "Won't you join me?"

"Thanks," the young man sat down.

"What did ya find out?" Brian inquired.

"I thought you might glean much from this one," he handed Brian a newspaper.

The young man read aloud, "The Bismarck Tribune. Says here in the headlines:

Massacred. General Custer and 261 Men the Victims. No officer or Man of 5 Companies Left. 3 Days Desperate Fighting by Maj. Reno and the Remainder of the Seventh. Full Details of the Battle. List of Killed and Wounded. The Bismarck's Special Correspondent Killed. Squaws Mutilate and Rob the Dead. Victims Captured Alive. Tortured in Most Fiendish Manner. What Will Congress Do About It? Shall This Be The Beginning of the End?"

The professor began to fill in the background, "Custer left the Rosebud on June 22 with twelve companies of the Seventh Cavalry and headed in the direction of Little Big Horn. On the evening of the 24th, fresh trails were reported, and on the morning of the 25th, an Indian village, twenty miles above the mouth of the Little Horn was reported about three miles long and half a mile wide. It was less than 15 miles away."

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

Cloud Dancing sipped some tea, then began his description, "On the night before the attack by Custer, Sitting Bull went to a ridge overlooking our camp. He made offerings to the Creator and prayed for his people in these words, 'Wakantanka, pity me. I offer you this peace-pipe. Wherever the sun, the moon, the earth, the four points of the wind, there you are always. Father, save us, I beg you. We want to live. Guard us against all misfortune. Pity me.'"

He paused. Sully put his hand on the medicine man's back for encouragement.

Then Cloud Dancing went on, "The day of the battle was sunny and hot. About forty of our warriors spotted Custer's men. They raced back to the village to warn us. The people of the village were spending the afternoon quietly. Women were bathing in the river, children playing in the water. Then came the alarm that soldiers were coming. We heard the shooting. I took the children to hide in the bushes."

"Thank God you did," Dorothy clasped his hand.

Cloud Dancing went on, "From my vantage point, I could see the Army cross the river and form a skirmish line. They began firing at the edge of our village. It seemed strange that there were so few of them. Our warriors soon outnumbered them."

"Why would such a small force attack a large village?" Michaela wondered.

"I believe that they were expecting reinforcements," the medicine man replied. Then his face took on an expression of pain, "A Lakota bullet struck the head of Bloody Knife, one of the Army scouts, splattering his brains over the Army commander's face. The commander then ordered his troops to fall back to the grove of cottonwoods."

"How terrible," Michaela's stomach become queasy.

"I moved the children to a different hiding place, but then another attack came," Cloud Dancing said. "The sounds of the shooting multiplied. Women and children were screaming. Old men were calling the warriors to fight. Young men were singing their war songs. We heard the sounds of the battle change from place to place. Then it seemed the Army was in retreat with our warriors following them, shooting, and beating them."

All were silent in the cave, riveted by the story.

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

Two soldiers entered the Gold Nugget and approached the bar. Matthew followed them in and stood nearby drinking a cup of coffee as he listened.

"What can I get you fellers?" Hank smiled.

"Beers," The taller of them spoke up.

"So, did ya find any Injuns?" the bartender poured.

"No, but I lost some friends at Little Big Horn," the other young man replied.

"That so?" Hank rubbed his chin. "I hear Custer got it there."

"He deserved it," the taller of the two said bitterly.

St. Helen came down the stairs and crossed to the bar, "So wise, so young, they say, do never live long."

"Huh?" the tall soldier was clueless.

"Thinks he's Shakespeare," Hank pointed.

"What is your name, my good man?" St. Helen asked.

The tall soldier replied, "Carpenter. This here's Whitehorn."

"Carpenter and Whitehorn," St. Helen repeated the names with dramatic flare. "Please continue with your fascinating story of Custer and his men."

Whitehorn picked up, "We was with Colonel Gibbon. Got t' Little Big Horn on the 27th."

"Must have been a gory sight," Hank took a drink.

"I found Custer's brother, Tom," Carpenter said. "He'd been scalped, his abdomen cut open, an' his face so damaged, no one knew who he was."

"How'd ya know it was Tom Custer then?" Hank rubbed his beard.

"He had a tattoo," Carpenter detailed. "The goddess of liberty, a flag an' the initials T. W. C. "

"We buried him beside his brother George," Whitehorn nodded.

"It weren't no burial, really," Carpenter shook his head. "We just scraped dirt over the bodies from both sides. We weren't equipped t' bury all them men."

"Why do you speak so ill of Custer... that he deserved to die?" St. Helen was puzzled.

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

"Cloud Dancing," Michaela touched his arm. "This can wait, if you prefer."

"No," he resolved. "I must speak of what happened. Our warriors swept after the Army, causing a retreat toward the summit of a long, high ridge. I could see the legs of the men and the horses tremble as they staggered onward. I do not know if it was from fatigue or from terror."

"Prob'ly both," Sully reached for his wife's hand.

"One of the warriors, Low Dog, called to his men, 'This is a good day to die; follow me,'" Cloud Dancing recalled. "At this, our men massed and rushed at the Army."

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

"Dr. Kelly," Brian was curious. "Why did Custer attack such a large village?"

"That is a question that may be debated through the ages, Brian," the professor surmised. "When Custer neared the village, he discovered that the Indians were moving in hot haste as if retreating. Custer pushed his command rapidly through. The men had marched 78 miles in the previous 24 hours. Reno was ordered to take three companies of the 7th Cavalry and attack the village at its head, while Custer with five companies went to the right to commence a vigorous attack."

"It must have been a slaughter," Brian's eyes widened.

The professor continued, "Reno was almost instantly surrounded and within an hour had lost many men. He cut his way through to the river and gained a bluff 300 feet in height, where he entrenched and was soon joined by Captain Benteen with three companies. In the meantime, the Indians resumed the attack. They made desperate charges and were repulsed by the Army with great loss of life. But then the Indians gained higher ground and with their superior weapons were able to keep up a galling fire until nightfall."

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

In the Gold Nugget, the soldiers continued to drown their troubles in ale, as they poured out their hearts with the tragic story of Little Big Horn.

"Custer disobeyed a written command from Terry," Whitehorn stated. "He was told t' wait until Gibbon was in position upstream before he moved. As it was, he put Reno smack dab in the middle of hell."

"Reno's men were outnumbered ten t' one," Carpenter was beginning to slur. "They'd been without water for 36 hours. One commander decided to lead his men t' the river at all costs."

Whitehorn added, "Even though the Indian sharpshooters were waitin', they got through and were able t' bring back water t' Reno's men."

"What about Custer?" Matthew held his silence no more.

"It had been forty-eight hours of fighting for Reno's men, with no word from Custer," Carpenter spit out the words. "General Terry an' our men under Gibbon arrived, an' I never did see grown men cry like them boys under Reno's command. They was so glad t' see us. The Indians finally stopped the attack an' deserted the village. Then we went t' look for Custer."

"Only one o' his men, a Crow scout lived t' tell what happened," Whitehorn informed the interested crowd that had gathered. "All the rest o' Custer's men died. They had been surrounded on every side by Indians. Men an' horses lyin' everywhere. The bodies were stripped, except for a newspaper correspondent. Most o' them had been mutilated, like Tom Custer, but not George. No, sir. He'd been shot through the body an' head, but they left them long locks on him."

The barroom was silent.

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

"I'm so thankful you were spared," Dorothy wiped Cloud Dancing's brow.

The medicine man went on with his account, "Scattered along the slope, Custer and his men dismounted and tried to defend themselves by firing into our warriors. But one by one, his men were wiped out. His soldiers would dismount to fire their guns. They held onto their horses with one hand while they were shooting, but the horses were so frightened, they pulled the men all around and caused the shots to go up into the air."

"How were you injured?" Michaela questioned.

"One of our warriors began calling out that all of the soldiers were dead," he swallowed hard. "I went to the battlefield to tend to the wounded among our men. As I did, an injured soldier lifted his bayonet and lunged for me."

"My God," Dorothy covered her mouth.

"One of our warriors grabbed the soldier and began to pound on him with his fists," Cloud Dancing recounted. "The soldier lifted up in a rage and tried to bite off his nose, but the warrior knocked him over, shot him in the head, then in the heart."

Sully glanced at his wife and saw tears streaming down her face. He gently rubbed his thumb along the top of her hand.

Cloud Dancing was spent from his description, but he was not finished, "The women went onto the battlefield and began to cut off the arms or legs of the soldiers who were not yet dead."

Sully felt his wife's body tense.

"What about Custer?" Dorothy had recalled with great disdain their encounters with him.

Cloud Dancing's jaw clenched, "Two Cheyenne women found Custer. They pushed the point of an awl into each of his ears, into his head. They said this was done to improve his hearing, as it seemed he had not heard what our chiefs in the South had said when they smoked a peace pipe with him. They told him then that if ever afterward he should break that peace promise and should fight the Cheyenne, the Everywhere Spirit surely would cause him to be killed."

All in the cave fell silent.

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

Dinner at the Sully homestead was a somber affair. Other than the youngest children, each of them had been touched that day by the graphic descriptions of what had transpired at Little Big Horn. Sully sensed that Matthew and Brian needed to talk about it, but he did not wish for Michaela to again endure the horrific account.

"Michaela," Sully placed his hands on her shoulders as she began to wash the dishes. "Why don't ya go on upstairs with the children? I'll clean up here."

"No," she continued to wash, not looking up. "I want to get these put away."

"Hey," he gently turned her to face him. "I think the boys need t' talk about what they heard t'day, an' it wouldn't be good for Katie an' Josef t' hear. I.... I ain't so sure it'd be good for you either."

"I'm fine.... really," she returned to the dishes.

Sully recognized her habit of throwing herself into busy work when she was upset, "Michaela."

"What!" her voice rose. Then her eyes welled up, "I'm sorry, Sully. I didn't mean to...."

He could barely discern her next words as her voice quivered from crying. Sully encircled her in his arms as she buried her face against his chest. Tenderly, he stroked the back of her head.

Then, finally composing herself, she looked up at him, "You might have been there, Sully. You could have been at Little Big Horn had you left when you originally...."

Again her tears flowed.

"Mama?" Katie stood at the edge of the kitchen fireplace.

As quickly as she could, Michaela tried to calm herself, "Yes, Sweetheart."

"Why ya cryin'?" the little girl was frightened.

Sully wiped his wife's tears, "Mama heard some sad news t'day, sweet girl."

Katie approached and tentatively reached out to touch her mother's hand, "I sad, too."

Michaela lifted her up, "Why are you sad, Katie?"

"I sad when you sad," the child answered.

Sully pulled both of them into his arms, "How 'bout you two take Josef up an' get him ready for bed?"

"I help ya, Mama," Katie touched her mother's moist cheek.

"I love you, Katie," Michaela kissed her. "I love you so much."

The little girl hugged her, "I love you, too. Let's put Joey t' bed."

Sully nodded in agreement, and Michaela acquiesced.

"Josef," she called out for her son.

They heard the scurry of his little footsteps. Then he appeared at the same spot by the fireplace that his sister had vacated. Wolf was by his side.

"Time for bed, big boy," Sully leaned over.

"No!" Josef giggled and ran from the room.

Michaela set her daughter down, "Josef Michael Sully."

Josef stopped dead in his tracks when his mother used that tone. He pivoted around and contritely approached Michaela.

"Bedtime, young man," she calmly stated.

"Play?" he countered.

"No," she shook her head and extended her arms.

The little boy rushed to her and as she lifted him up, he hugged her. Michaela tenderly touched his head to her cheek.

"Oh, Sully, we're so lucky," her voice choked.

"I know," his eyes were watering.

"Come on, Joey," Katie tugged at her brother's leg. "We say 'night t' Bran an' Mattew."

He squirmed in his mother's arms, and she carefully put him down to go with his sister. Michaela turned again to Sully and with her expression, told of her love for him.

"I'll be up in a little bit," he kissed her.

Michaela bid good night to her older sons and took the two younger children upstairs. Sully approached Matthew and Brian, each of whom sat in a wing back chair.

"Here, Pa," Brian began to stand. "You can sit here."

"No," Sully plopped before the fireplace and folded his legs. "I'm comfortable here."

"What did Cloud Dancin' tell ya about Little Big Horn, Sully?" Matthew broached the subject.

As he began to describe the events as seen through the eyes of the Cheyenne medicine man, Brian and Matthew contributed what they had heard from the newspaper accounts and from the soldiers who had come upon the scene. The differing viewpoints disturbed them.

"Which version do ya think the history books will write about?" Brian put the question to them.

"Which do you think?" Sully's response was almost sarcastic.

"It ain't fair, Pa," Brian shifted in the chair. "History's only gonna call Custer a hero who died servin' his country."

"Too bad there's no one t' tell the story in the language of the heart," Sully turned to stoke the fire.

"Language of the heart?" Brian was puzzled.

"The language of someone who was there and felt the pain of watchin' his people be destroyed," Sully clarified.

"Maybe there is someone," Matthew offered.

"Who?" Brian wondered.

"Miss Dorothy," the older brother responded. "She's already a published author. She could write a book about Cloud Dancin's version. Maybe even interview other Indians."

"Who's gonna read it?" Sully turned to look him in the eye.

"Maybe not many people right now," Brian considered it. "But someday, folks might want more than one version o' the story. Dr. Kelly says that primary sources are real valuable in the study o' history."

"Primary sources?" Sully tilted his head.

"Eyewitness accounts," Brian clarified. "Miss Dorothy's book could be like that, tellin' future generations the Indian's version o' the story."

"260 fallen men of the Seventh Cavalry an' George Armstrong Custer," Sully clenched his fist. "That's all history will wanna remember. No one will bother t' count the Indians they killed."

"From what I hear, Custer disobeyed orders," Matthew said. "Don't sound like he'll be a martyr t' me."

"I wouldn't put it past the government t' conveniently forget those orders," Sully stated. "Just like they forgot all the treaties they ever signed."

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

"Mama," Katie rubbed her mother's hand as she lay in bed.

Michaela cradled her sleeping son, "Yes?"

"Tell me why ya sad," the little girl requested. "Poppy say it helps t' talk."

"Your Daddy's right," Michaela smiled. "I'm sad because.... sometimes things happen that hurt people."

"Like when I fall tryin' t' get on Flash?" she remembered her injury.

Michaela tenderly brushed her hand across her daughter's cheek, "Yes, something like that."

"Maybe if ya talk t' Poppy, it'll help you, too," Katie contemplated.

"I think you're right," the mother lifted her sleeping son.

With loving care, she placed the baby in his crib, and stroked his auburn curls.

Then she returned to her daughter, "Say your prayers now."

Katie obeyed, adding at the end a request, "Please help my Mama an' all the people t' not be sad."

"Thank you, Sweetheart," Michaela kissed her.

Katie raised her finger for an added comment, "An' God, please make Joey stop eatin' so many pickles."

Michaela covered her mouth to prevent her daughter from seeing her smile.

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

"Loren, Jake," Hank motioned toward St. Helen. "See that feller?"

Jake sipped a sarsaparilla at the bar, "Yea, what about him?"

"Thinks he's Shakespeare," Hank blew a ring of smoke from his cigar.

"Shakespeare, the writer?" Loren chuckled.

"No, Shakespeare the cowboy," Hank rolled his eyes. "Whatever ya say, he's got some line from Shakespeare spewin' forth outa his mouth."

"Let's see," Jake wanted a good laugh. "Call him over."

"Hey, St. Helen!" the bartender summoned. "Got a couple o' fellers I want ya t' meet."

"Oh?" the dark haired man approached with an empty glass.

"Here," Hank poured. "Let me freshen that up. This here's our mayor, Jake Slicker, an' this is one of our leadin' businessmen, Loren Bray."

"Gentlemen," St. Helen bowed.

"Say somethin' to 'em," Hank said.

"Pardon me?" the man's eyes were dark as coal.

"Somethin' from Shakespeare," the saloon keeper chuckled.

"A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" St. Helen spoke with impeccable elocution.

"Robert E's got horses," Loren took him literally.

"Sir," the man shook his head. "That was Richard III, Act 5, Scene 4."

"Sounded more like a want ad in the Gazette," Loren turned away.

"Ya look familiar t' me," Jake scratched his head. "We ever meet before?"

"It is highly unlikely, sir," St. Helen replied.

"Hum," Jake was puzzled. "What ya do for a livin'?"

"I.... uh, I'm a house painter," he answered.

"House painter?" Jake's eyes widened. "I'm buildin' a house."

"Sully's buildin' it," Loren corrected.

"Anyway, maybe I could use your services," the barber suggested. "Ya gonna be in town very long?"

"Of that, I am uncertain," St. Helen replied.

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

"Cloud Dancin'," Dorothy encouraged him to drink some water. "I was thinkin'. I'd like t' write a book about what happened. I'd like t' tell the story of individuals who witnessed the battle."

"I can tell you their stories," he was appreciative. "I spoke to many after the battle."

"Let's do a few at a time, so we don't tire ya out," she recommended. "Ya need lots o' rest, too."

"There is one story I will tell you tonight before I sleep," he grasped her hand.

Dorothy braced herself for what was to come, "I'm listenin'."

"There are so many voices," he began. "So many cries of sorrow and of war. Riding next to One Bull, there was a warrior, Good Bear Boy, who was injured. One Bull tied a lariat around him and dragged him out of harm's way. When he tried to secure Good Bear Boy to his horse, the pony was hit. One Bull walked them both to the rear and became covered with the blood of the warrior and the horse. Then he heard a scraping sound."

He paused, and for a moment Dorothy thought he had drifted off. She raised his hand to kiss it, then reached for her tablet and pencil. She began to write down what he had said.

"I am not finished," he saw her working.

"Sorry," she stopped. "Go on."

He continued, "One Bull heard a scraping sound. He turned and saw it came from his friend's bones rubbing together."

Dorothy felt her stomach weaken, unsure if she would be able to listen to these tales of horror. Then she looked into the pained eyes of her friend. Yes, she thought. I must listen. I must hear. I must tell.

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

"Sully," Michaela sat in the rocking chair by the bedroom fireplace. "Do you think Lives in Hope survived?"

"I don't know," he washed his face. "We can ask Cloud Dancin' t'morrow."

"We must be careful going to and from the cave," she stared at the glowing embers. "Just like...."

Sully knew she was remembering his time in hiding. He came to her and, kneeling down, rested his hands on the arms of the chair. Michaela looked at him, then ran her fingers through his hair.

"I'm here," he said softly. "I ain't hidin' in the cave anymore."

"The description of what happened at Little Big Horn," she shook her head. "It reminded me of Washita."

"I know," he nodded.

Suddenly her face became pale, and she bolted from the chair. Running to the basin, she threw up. Sully took the damp towel he had just used and rushed to her. He rubbed her back until the nausea passed, recalling her same reaction to the massacre of Cheyenne by Custer at Washita. Then he tenderly wiped her face.

"I'm sorry," she was embarrassed.

"It's okay," he wrapped his arms around her.

"I can still picture the carnage," she was becoming faint.

Sully felt her knees buckle, and lifted her into his arms. He gently set her on the bed.

"Michaela," he kissed her forehead. "I'm gonna get ya some tea."

"No," she reached for him. "Please don't leave me. Don't ever leave me, Sully."

"I'm not leavin'," he sat beside her. "I just wanna help settle your stomach."

"I'll be fine," she closed her eyes. "As long as I don't dream."

He stroked her hair until she fell asleep. Then he ran his finger along her chin.

"I love you, Michaela," he whispered.

"Poppy?" it was Katie softly knocking at the door.

He opened it and lifted his daughter, "What are you doin' up, Kates?"

"Wanna check on Mama," she pointed. "She okay?"

"She's sleepin'," he whispered. "See?"

"She's so pretty when she sleepin'," the little girl smiled.

"She's pretty when she's awake, too," he grinned. "An' ya know what?

"What?" she loved the scent of her father.

"You look just like her," he rubbed her back.

"I do?" her eyebrows rose.

"Yep," he kissed her cheek. "Mama's gonna be okay, my sweet girl. Now, let's get you back t' bed."

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

"Paint a house?" St. Helen sat alone in his hotel room, inebriated. "A man of my fame? A man of my greatness? Ha!"

He poured another glass and rubbed his throbbing leg.

"If they only knew who I really am!" he raised his glass as he glanced in the mirror. "But no one must know. No one must ever know."

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

"Hey, Horace," Jake called just as Horace opened his window for business.

"You're up awful early," the telegraph operator yawned.

"Got a busy day," the barber tilted back his hat. "Do me a favor."

"What?" Horace put on his sleeve protectors.

"Let me look at your wanted posters," Jake said.

"They're on the board," he pointed.

"I mean old ones," Jake countered.

"How far back?" Horace opened a drawer.

"How far back do they go?" he asked.

"Couple o' years," the telegraph operator pulled them from the drawer. "Who ya lookin' for anyway?"

"John St. Helen," Jake answered. "If that's his real name."

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

Michaela yawned and stretched as the morning sun brightened the room. She turned and ran her hand along Sully's arm. He continued to sleep. She rolled over onto her side and began to rise, but stopped when she felt his warm palm against her back.

"Mornin'," he said.

"Good morning," she drew her face close to his.

"How ya feel?" he caressed her cheek.

"I feel.... all right," she kissed him, then started to rise.

"Where ya goin'?" he hoped she would prefer to stay in bed a while longer.

"I have patients to see, I have inventories to do, I have...." she stopped.

"Do ya really?" Sully knew her too well.

She looked down at her folded hands, "No."

"Come here," he opened his arms to her.

She lay down in his embrace and closed her eyes, feeling the power of his love engulf her, calm her, love her.

"Oh, Sully," her voice wavered.

"Tell, me what's botherin' ya, Michaela," his eyes implored.

She took a deep breath, then sighed, "I want to hear what happened. I want to be there for Cloud Dancing."

"But, it's tearin' ya up," he recognized.

"What should I do?" she looked away.

"What does your heart tell ya?" he said softly.

"It tells me that my dear friend needs me," she answered. "It tells me that the man who gave you the will to live is aching for the comfort of his family."

"An' what does your head tell ya?" he kissed her hand.

"My head tells me that I don't think I can bear to listen to the atrocities," she confessed.

"So which do ya listen to?" he asked.

"I don't know," she was still frustrated. "What do you think?"

"I think it would be best for ya t' go int' town t'day," he stated. "See some patients, do your inventories, spend time with the children."

"Why?" she did not expect that reaction.

"Because sometimes ya gotta step back from what bothers ya an' do the things that make ya feel comfortable an' safe," he counseled.

She felt as if a weight had been lifted from her heart, "You wouldn't mind?"

"Mind?" he pulled her closer. "Is that what's been botherin ya? Thinkin' I'd mind?"

"I want to be there when you need me, Sully," she touched his cheek.

"An' I wanna be there when you need me," he tenderly kissed her. "But I don't want ya gettin' sick, losin' sleep, or achin' in here."

"I want to be there for Cloud Dancing, too," she felt guilty.

"Dorothy an' me will be there," he assured her. "Let's just take things one day at a time. Who knows? Ya may feel different t'morrow."

"I do want to check on Cloud Dancing's condition," she began to rise from the bed.

"Hey," he got a pouty look.

"What?" she could not help but smile at his expression.

"I was sorta hopin' you'd check my condition, too," he tried some levity.

"Your condition?" she played along. "Don't you feel well?" She felt his forehead. "Temperature's normal."

"How 'bout my heart?" he lay back.

She placed her hand on his chest, "It's beating just right."

"Just right for what?" he grinned.

"For this," she leaned forward and gave him the kiss that he craved.

Instantly, she triggered in him a consuming desire. She immediately felt it, as well. How was it possible, each one thought, to hold so much love and longing for someone?

Michaela leaned back and pulled her husband atop her. His ability to share his strength and power in such a tender and gentle way amazed her. Her ability to be so vulnerable and soft in such a beguiling way totally captivated him.

"I will love you all my days," he repeated the words of his marriage proposal.

"I never imagined I could be so happy," she closed her eyes and remembered.

"Thank you for giving me your heart," he kissed the sides of her mouth.

She reached up and captured his lips in a deeper kiss. Moved to greater passion, his body began to ache for her. She yearned to have him share his love. And so in this private haven, they came together, reaching unimagined heights, feeling unimaginable satisfaction.

She wiped the moisture from his face as he gently let his body rest on hers, prolonging their union. Sully peered directly into her eyes as he softly spoke:

"From woman's eyes this doctrine I derive,
They sparkle still the right Promethean fire;
They are the books, the arts, the academies,
That show, contain and nourish all the world."

"Byron?" she surmised.

"Shakespeare," he whispered.

Katie's voice broke the intimacy of the moment, "Mama!"

"Speaking of nourishment," she smiled. "I believe our little ones are hungry."

"Either that or they're int' somethin'," he joked.

"I love you, Mr. Sully," she reached for her robe.

"I love you, too," he kissed her. "Stomach feelin' okay?"

"Yes," she nodded. "I'd better start breakfast."

"I'll get the horses ready," Sully pulled on his buckskins. "Matthew said he'll watch the kids this mornin'."

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

"What are you doin'?" Dorothy awoke to find Cloud Dancing pacing.

"I must move around," he said. "I cannot continue to lie down."

"But you're recoverin' from your wound," she pulled her hair back. "Wait 'til Michaela checks ya."

"I know what my body needs," his words were biting.

Dorothy looked down, stung by his tone.

"I am sorry," his voice softened.

"I'll make ya breakfast," she hoped he would be able to eat.

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

"Find what you're lookin' for?" Horace asked Jake.

"No," he returned the wanted posters.

"Who is this St. Helen fella?" the telegraph operator queried.

"Met him last night at the Gold Nugget," Jake answered. "Real suspicious man. Acts like he's on stage spoutin' off words from Shakespeare. An' he looks so familiar."

"Maybe he's an actor," Horace suggested.

"An actor?" Jake made a face. "Why the hell ain't he in a play then, 'stead o' drinkin' by himself at the saloon?"

"I don't know," Horace shrugged. "Just a thought."

"Well, I got work t' do," Jake turned to leave. "Thanks."

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

"Your recovery is progressing nicely," Michaela completed her examination of Cloud Dancing.

"I have had good care," he smiled.

"He's been tellin' me more about what happened at Little Big Horn," Dorothy held up her notes. "I'm gonna get it printed."

"That's just what Matthew suggested last night," Sully commented.

"Cloud Dancing," Michaela broached the subject. "What happened to Lives in Hope?"

"He was unharmed," the medicine man's words comforted her.

"Thank God," Michaela closed her eyes.

"It is my hope that people will read Dorothy's words," Cloud Dancing stated.

"Well...." Michaela began to feel uncomfortable at the thought of reading such an account. "I'm afraid I must go to the Clinic now."

"Thank you, Michaela," Cloud Dancing understood her discomfort.

"You're welcome," she leaned forward to embrace him. "I leave you in good hands."

"I know," he agreed.

"I'll take ya t' your horse," Sully escorted his wife to the cave's entrance.

"Don't let him overdo it, Sully," she advised. "He still needs a great deal of rest."

"I'll see to it," he placed his hands on her shoulders. "I'll stop by the Clinic later."

"Good-bye," she kissed him.

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

Brian entered the library and began to peruse the titles of books about history.

"Looking for anything in particular?" Professor Kelly's voice startled him.

"Dr. Kelly!" the young man turned around. "What are you doin' here?"

"I have volunteered my services for a few days a week," he smiled. "I'm even loaning out some of my personal collection of books."

"Gosh, ya must have lots of 'em," Brian's eyes widened.

"So, how can I help you?" the professor asked.

"I don't know," Brian returned his glance to the shelves. "What do ya think might be interestin'?"

"In history?" the older man chuckled. "Everything is interesting to me."

"Have ya ever written a book o' your own, Dr. Kelly?" Brian wondered.

"I've written papers that have been published," he replied. "But a book, no."

"What's the most interestin' historic events t' you?" the young man inquired.

"Humm," he rubbed his chin. "That's difficult to narrow down. I have a great deal of interest in revolutions, I suppose."

"Like the American Revolution?" Brian offered.

"Yes," Kelly responded. "And the French Revolution. And I have a particular fascination with our Civil War."

"That was a revolution?" he leaned against the shelf.

"An attempt at one," the professor smiled. "I doubt if any event in our history will ever have a more profound impact on our country."

"We studied about the War an' President Lincoln," Brian noted.

"Ah, Lincoln," Dr. Kelly's eyes saddened. "I met him once."

Brian's eyes widened, "Ya did?"

"Yes," he said. "It was in 1863, at the height of the War. Ironically, it was at Ford's Theater. I was in attendance of the play 'The Marble Heart.' President Lincoln was there, too, and I introduced myself to him afterwards."

"I'd have loved t' have met President Lincoln," Brian was awe struck.

"An even greater irony was the star of the show," the professor stated.

"Who was the star?" the young man was enthralled.

"John Wilkes Booth," Kelly answered.

"The man who shot the President?" Brian remembered.

"Yes," the older man folded his arms. "The president was so impressed with the young tragedian's energy and talent, he sent a note backstage asking if he could meet him. Booth declined."

"That's real interestin'," the young man observed.

"History is full of ironies such as that," Kelly told him. "Did you know that Booth came from an acting family? His older brother Edwin is considered one of the greatest actors in our nation."

"I've heard of him," Brian recalled.

"Edwin once saved the life of President Lincoln's son, Robert, at a railroad station in New Jersey," Kelly recounted. "And Edwin gave a special performance a few years later by special appointment with Lincoln and the First Lady."

"He could've shot the president, too," the young man hypothesized.

"No, Edwin was very pro-Union," the professor countered.

"Why ain't that in the history books?" Brian speculated.

"I suppose because history is full of so many details, the writers prefer to include only the big events," he answered.

"But it's the little details that are the most interestin'," Brian said.

"Think how long history books would be if they included every single detail," Kelly chuckled.

"I guess you're right," Brian smiled. "So, what book would ya recommend for me t' read?"

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

Cloud Dancing sat down, "I wish to tell the story now of a black man who died."

"A soldier?" Dorothy asked.

"Yes," the medicine man nodded. "Eagle Elk came upon an Indian woman standing over a black man who had fallen from his horse as the soldiers ran from the woods. The dark-skinned man was begging for his life. The woman called out, 'If you did not want to be killed, why did you not stay home where you belong and not come to attack us?' Later I heard what happened to the body of the dark-skinned soldier."

He stopped, and Sully gulped, knowing how painful it was for his friend.

Cloud Dancing then continued, "He had been shot in the knees, his skin stripped off, his blood drained into a bucket, and an iron picket pin driven through..... his manhood."

"The Indian woman did that to him?" Dorothy was sickened.

"I do not know," he shook his head. "But I do know that she wanted revenge for the death of her brother."

Sully closed his eyes, relieved that Michaela had not been there to hear the description.

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

"Michaela," Hank's voice was urgent. "Need ya t' come t' the Gold Nugget right away."

"What is it?" she rose from her desk.

"One o' my customers is real sick," he informed her. "Think he might be dyin'."

"I'll be right there," she reached for her medical bag and followed him.

Hank led her across the street and up to the room of John St. Helen. The man was pale and burning up with fever.

As she began to examine him, the man grabbed her wrist, "I... I am dying."

"I'll try to help you," she hoped to allay his fears.

He became delirious as he recited:

"My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain."

Michaela looked up at Hank with a questioning expression.

He shrugged, "He's a walkin' fountain o' Shakespeare."

St. Helen continued:

"I shall despair. There is no creature loves me;
And if I die no soul will pity me:
And wherefore should they, since that I myself
Find in myself no pity to myself?"

"I know he ain't right in the head," Hank leaned over. "But what's physically wrong with him?"

"I believe he has dysentery," she concluded. "I need to get him to the Clinic at once."

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

"Madam," St. Helen's eyes tried to focus. "Who are you?"

"I am Dr. Michaela Quinn," she told him. "You're in a recovery room at my Clinic."

"I am dying," he repeated the words he had spoken earlier in the Gold Nugget.

"You have dysentery," she diagnosed. "I've given you some medicine for it."

His dark eyes had a haunted look, "You don't understand who I am."

"You're John St. Helen," she answered.

"No," he shook his head slowly. "I have been living a lie these past eleven years, and I'm so tired."

"Then you need to rest," she counseled.

"I don't want to die without the truth being told," his hands shook.

"Ma!" Brian's voice was heard from downstairs.

"Mr. St. Helen," she patted his arm. "I want you to rest right now."

He closed his eyes and began to drift off as Michaela left to check on her son.

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

"What is it, Brian?" she reached her office.

"I had the most interestin' mornin' with Dr. Kelly," he was excited. "He's volunteerin' at the library."

"That's wonderful," she smiled.

"He told me all about John Wilkes Booth," the young man could not contain his exuberance.

"The man who shot President Lincoln?" she removed the soiled sheets from her examining table.

"Yep," he nodded. "Dr. Kelly even got t' meet President Lincoln once, an' saw John Wilkes Booth in a play."

"Goodness," Michaela understood her son's energetic reaction.

"He loaned me this book t' read, too," Brian held it up.

Before Michaela could respond, Matthew arrived with Katie and Josef.

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

Cloud Dancing related another tale, "There was Black Elk, who was staring at the body of a white soldier. An old warrior rode by and said, 'Boy, get off and scalp him.' Black Elk nervously slid off his pony's back. He had never done this before. He unsheathed his knife, knelt down and began to cut. The soldier squirmed and ground his teeth in pain. He was still alive. Black Elk swallowed hard, finished the cut and popped off the hair. He raised it high, but did not know whether to exult or to feel sadness for the life he took. He rode back to his mother to show her."

"I can't imagine seein' what you saw," Sully shook his head.

"There is nothing glorious in war," the medicine man leaned back to rest. "All men bleed the same color blood."

"But the soldiers shouldn't've been there t' begin with," Dorothy noted. "It was your land by treaty."

"A soldier and a warrior know the risk of what they do," Cloud Dancing observed. "It is for the innocent women and children that I grieve."

"We can stop an' rest if ya want," Dorothy understood he must be tired.

"No," he closed his eyes and sighed. "There is the story of Gall, the old Hunkpapa warrior. He had been in the valley, unable to get to the fighting. When he returned to the village, he found it abandoned and his family missing. Gall went out to find them, and met up with Sitting Bull and One Bull, who guarded the refugee women and children. Still he could not locate his family. Gall rode back to the village, where he finally found his two wives and children. Dead."

Sully suddenly craved to be with his own family.

"Now, I must sleep," Cloud Dancing closed his eyes.

Dorothy looked at Sully and he nodded.

"I'm goin' int' town," he said. "I'll bring ya back some supper."

"Here, Sully," Dorothy handed him a note. "Could ya have Horace send this t' Charles Stoddard?"

"Sure," he agreed.

"I figured a telegram would be faster. I told Charles t' send his reply t' Matthew," she said.

"Matthew?" Sully was puzzled. "Why?"

"I thought it best t' have someone with legal knowledge look over what he says," Dorothy answered.

"Good idea," he acknowledged.

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

"Got a note here Miss Dorothy wants sent t' Charles Stoddard," Sully urgently approached Horace.

"That the uncle o' the little girl who ya found in Denver?" the telegraph operator asked.

"Yep," Sully replied.

"I thought Dorothy's in Denver," he opened the note.

"'Fore she left, she asked me t' send this for her," Sully fibbed.

"Okay," Horace began to click his telegraph. "I'll get it out right away."

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

"Michaela!" Sully burst into the Clinic and embraced his wife.

"Sully?" she could hardly breath in his arms. "What's wrong? What happened?"

"I just needed t' be with ya," his eyes were red.

"I'm here," her voice reassured him.

"Katie! Josef!" he knelt down and beckoned his children from the anteroom.

They soon responded to their father's voice and rushed to his arms. Sully lifted them and sweetly kissed his daughter and son.

"Where's Brian?" he glanced up at Michaela.

"He's at Matthew's office," she placed her hand on his shoulder. "The boys are safe, Sully."

He stood up and drew her into his arms again, "I love you."

"Poppy?" Katie tugged at his leg. "Wanna go t' Willow Pond an' throw rocks?"

"I'd love to, Kates," he smiled. Turning to his wife, he asked, "Can ya join us?"

"No," she shook her head. "I have a patient upstairs."

"We'll be back in a little bit then," he kissed her and took his children by the hand.

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

After a brief rest, Cloud Dancing resumed his descriptions. Dorothy tried to keep up with the many tales of horror that Cloud Dancing had witnessed and heard. There was the story of an Indian walking dizzily to the rear of a battle line, his jaw nearly shot off and blood dripping from his mouth. There was the Minneconjou Hump, who was shot down with his pony. When he sat down to examine his wound, he found the bullet had torn a path from his knee, up his leg and out his hip. He lay in the dirt and watched the strangely serene sky.

"Why not take another rest?" Dorothy lay down her pencil.

Cloud Dancing took a deep breath, "I still see the blood when I close my eyes."

She placed her hand in his, "You're safe now."

He shivered, "No, I am not safe. Nowhere will I be safe."

"Where did Sittin' Bull take the tribes?" she asked.

"North," he replied. "They will try to make safe passage to Canada."

"Will you...." she paused, not knowing if she truly wanted to know.

"Will I go to them?" he completed her thought.

"Yes," she caressed his cheek.

"I will go where the Spirits lead me," he responded.

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

"Poppy," Katie tossed a pebble into the pond and giggled at the ripples.

Sully leaned back and held Josef above his head, slowly lowering and raising the little boy to kiss him. Josef tried to grab his father's nose each time he was lowered.

"How ya make the stones bounce on the water?" Katie tapped her father's leg.

Sully threw one sidearm, and it bounced as Katie counted, "One, two, three, four, five, SIX times!"

"Stand up, an' try it, Kates," he advised.

She did as he suggested and counted, "One,.... that's all?"

"Lean sideways," he recommended.

Katie did and fell over as she threw the rock. Her lower lip turned under as if she were about to cry, but she saw her father's expression and stopped.

"Mama gonna be mad I got my dress dirty," she brushed off some leaves.

"Nah," he set his son down and held out his hand to her. "She won't be mad."

"She likes me t' stay clean, Poppy," Katie had a serious expression.

He pulled both of his children into his lap and kissed them, "I think I'll get both o' ya as dirty as I can."

"Yea!" Josef cheered.

"Why?" Katie could not believe her father's behavior.

"'Cause sometimes ya get dirt on ya when ya play," he tickled her side.

Suddenly, Katie stopped laughing, spotting something a few yards from them, "Poppy, look."

It was a dead bird, ants crawling over its body.

"Leave it be, Kates," he attempted to divert her attention.

"Why the ants all over it?" she could not contain her curiosity.

Josef now stopped to observe the object of his sister's fascination.

Sully pulled his children closer, "When an animal dies, it goes back t' Mother Earth."

"Just like when people die?" the little girl recalled.

"Right," he nodded. "We put them in a box an' bury 'em. But no one puts animals in a box. Mother Earth just takes 'em back a little bit at a time. An' the ants help with that."

"Can we put the bird in a box, Poppy?" she requested.

Sully stood up and went to the buckboard. In the back, he found a small box containing some hinges for Jake's doors. He emptied it and returned to his children. He placed the bird in the box. Katie and Josef helped him dig a hole, and they buried it. Then the children listened in wonder as their father chanted some Cheyenne words.

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

"Dr. Quinn," John St. Helen awoke to see the doctor checking his pulse.

"I'm going to give you another dose," Michaela stirred some powder into a water filled glass.

"I.... I need to confess something," he tried to hold his eyes open.

"Please drink this first," she held the glass to his lips.

He did as she ordered, then returned to his confession, "I must tell someone before I die. I am not John St. Helen."

"You're not?" she was convinced the fever was affecting his lucidity.

"No," he swallowed hard. "If I tell you who I really am, promise me you'll notify my family of my death."

"I promise," she saw something sinister in his coal black eyes.

"I am a murderer," he stunned her.

"A murderer?" she tensed.

He demanded, "Get me a mirror."

"A mirror?" Michaela did not know what to think of the strange man.

"Yes!" he insisted.

She left the room, to return momentarily with a handheld mirror.

He grasped it and gazed at his reflection, "This messenger of death is my quest, and I desire to see the curtain of death fall upon this last tragic act of mine. I have something to tell you. I am going to die in a few minutes, and I don't believe you would do anything to injure me. Did it ever occur to you that I am anything but an ordinary painter?"

************
Chapter 11
************

"Mr. St. Helen," Michaela began to feel apprehensive. "I.... I think...."

"Listen to me!" the man's voice echoed through the room. "I killed the greatest man that ever lived."

"Who?" her nerves were frayed.

"Abraham Lincoln," he replied. "I am John Wilkes Booth."

She was now convinced the man was mad, "John Wilkes Booth was killed in a barn in...."

"I escaped from the troops who pursued me," he spoke rapidly. "The man who was killed at Garrett's farm was named Robey. On the afternoon of April 25, 1865, I remembered that I had left my diary, wallet and other personal effects in the marsh a few miles from the farm. Robey was the caretaker of the farm, and I asked him to retrieve them for me."

Michaela listened incredulously to the man's story.

"I found out that the federal troops were closing in, so I made a hasty getaway," St. Helen detailed. "I later learned that when Robey returned with my possessions, he discovered that I was gone and kept them on his person. That night, he slept in the barn with Davy Herold, one of my comrades. When the government agents arrived, they set the barn on fire and killed Robey. Finding my papers on him, they assumed they had killed John Wilkes Booth."

Not wanting to agitate the disturbed man, Michaela calmly spoke, "I think that you need to get some rest now."

"When I am gone," his voice was fading. "Please notify my brother, Edwin Booth of New York City."

She waited until he was asleep, then left the room. Pensively, she went to her desk and sat down, pondering the man's claims.

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

Sully gathered dead leaves into a heap, and invited his children to jump into it. Turn after turn, the two leapt into the cushioned pile, laughing and inviting him to join them. Sully watched with a full heart, relishing these two little lives whom he and Michaela had created from their love. He took a deep breath and let the sound of their joyous tones play like music to his ears.

Soon, they were indeed dirty from head to toe. Neither they, nor he minded. Sully wanted to remember this day with them for the rest of his life. When the children began to tire, he pulled them into his embrace and kissed each soiled little cheek.

"I best get you two back t' your Ma," he smiled.

"Mama not gonna like seein' us dirty," Katie predicted.

"Your Ma will love seein' ya, no matter how ya look," Sully winked.

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

"Brian," Michaela greeted her son. "I want you to see if Dr. Kelly can come to the Clinic right away."

"Why, Ma?" he was curious.

"You won't believe this," she said. "I have a patient upstairs who believes he's going to die and wanted to confess his real identity. He claims to be John Wilkes Booth."

"What?" he laughed.

"Brian," she was serious. "He knew details that sounded strangely feasible. I know it's an absurd notion, but out of curiosity, I would like for the professor to speak with him."

"Sure, I'll go get him," the young man opened the door to leave.

At that moment, Sully arrived with the children.

"Afternoon, Brian," Sully patted his son's back.

"Hi, Pa," he tickled his little brother and sister. "I gotta run an errand. I'll see ya later."

"Sully!" Michaela stood up when she saw their children. "What happened?"

"Told ya she'd be mad," Katie glanced up at her father.

"She's not mad, Kates," Sully looked at his wife. "I let the kids jump in leaves by the pond."

"They're a mess!" she did not see one square inch on them that was clean.

Sully pulled her into his arms, "They had a real good time."

"But...." she was interrupted by his kiss.

Katie leaned over to her brother and spoke low, "Joey, ya might as well get used t' that. Mama an' Poppy kiss a lot."

Josef clapped his little hands, "Play!"

"Who is going to bathe them, Mr. Sully?" Michaela pulled back.

"Thought we both could," he raised an eyebrow. "Meantime, I'm gonna take supper out t' Cloud Dancin' an' Dorothy. I'll meet ya at home later?"

"Agreed," she kissed him again.

Sully kissed the children and left. Michaela stood, arms folded, looking at her offspring.

"What we gonna do now?" Katie looked up.

"I imagine you could both use a nap after such a busy afternoon," the mother smiled.

"Ya not mad, Mama?" the little girl was relieved.

"Well," she acquiesced. "This is not something I would want you to do on a regular basis, but since you were in your father's care and he approved of it.... no, Sweetheart, I'm not angry."

"Joey," Katie took her brother's hand. "Poppy was right, but now we gotta take a nap."

"Okay," he thought it a good idea.

Michaela settled the children into bed in the anteroom, and returned to her office to await Brian's return with the professor.

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

"Brought ya some supper," Sully entered the cave.

"He's sleeping," Dorothy whispered.

Sully set down the basket and looked at his Cheyenne brother.

"What will become of him, Sully?" she asked.

"I don't know," he shook his head. "All I know is, I'm grateful he's alive."

"I am, too," she agreed. "But I fear for his safety. How long will the Army stay in town?"

"I doubt it will be too much longer," he replied. "But we still gotta be careful. I brought an extra horse for him, in case ya need t' make a quick getaway."

"That's good," Dorothy nodded.

"What is good?" Cloud Dancing roused from his rest.

"How is your side feelin'?" Sully asked.

"I am much better," the medicine man replied.

"Michaela will be back t' check ya in the mornin'," Sully stated. "Anythin' I can get ya?"

"No, my friend," his eyes seemed brighter. "You have a family to return to."

Sully chuckled, "I had the kids out by Willow Pond t'day. Got 'em all dirty."

Dorothy laughed, "What did Michaela say?"

"We got some cleanin' t' do t'night," he grinned.

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

"Professor Kelly," Michaela greeted the man. "I know this must seem an unusual request, but I appreciate your coming."

"I don't mind, Dr. Quinn," he replied. "Most certainly, these are the delusions of a disturbed man, but nonetheless, it is a fascinating curiosity."

"Can I meet the man, Ma?" Brian requested.

"I think that would be all right," she agreed.

Brian and the professor entered the room where John St. Helen lay. Michaela stood at the door to listen if her children woke. Sensing their presence, the sick man stirred. Kelly was immediately struck by the man's resemblance to Lincoln's assassin. The hair, the eyes, the coloring.

"Who are you?" St. Helen was uncomfortable. "Are you the authorities?"

"No," Kelly assured him in a soothing voice. "I'm Dr. Kelly, and this is Brian. We're here because...."

"Because you heard who I am," the man completed his thought. "Well, it's true. I am John Wilkes Booth."

He proceeded to relay the story of escape and mistaken identity which he had earlier provided to Michaela. Kelly was more and more impressed with his knowledge of details.

"Would you mind if I ask you a few questions?" Kelly requested.

"No," the man answered. "You'll soon confirm who I am."

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

"Know that Shakespeare guy that was in here last night?" Hank leaned on the bar talking with Jake and Loren.

"Yea," Jake folded his arms. "I checked out some old wanted posters at the Depot. He looks so familiar. Didn't see him, though."

"Well, this mornin' he got real sick," the bartender told them. "He's over at the Clinic now."

"Strange fella," Loren put his fingers in his vest pockets.

"He ain't who he claims t' be," Jake said. "That's for sure."

"Think he's dangerous?" Hank's brow wrinkled.

"I think he's crazy," Loren asserted.

"Why, Hank?" Jake wondered.

"Just thinkin' I oughta warn Michaela," he speculated.

"Aw, Sully watches her like a hawk," Loren assured him.

"Still," he stood up straighter. "Think I'll go over an' check things out."

As he crossed the street, Hank caught sight of the mountain man nearing his wife's Clinic.

"Sully," he approached.

"Hank," Sully acknowledged.

"Michaela tell ya about a patient she's got in there?" he asked.

"I know she's got one," Sully nodded.

"He's a real strange one," Hank informed him. "Got sick at the Gold Nugget. Night before, he was in the bar, quotin' from Shakespeare an' actin' all dramatic like some actor."

"Maybe he is an actor," Sully offered.

"Said he's a house painter," Hank countered. "I just thought ya oughta know t' keep an eye on him."

"Thanks," Sully turned to enter the Clinic.

************
Chapter 12
************

Michaela heard someone enter her office and left the room of St. Helen.

"Sully," she saw her husband when she reached the bottom step.

"Hank just told me that patient ya got is a strange one," he was concerned.

Michaela relayed to him the story of St. Helen's claim of being John Wilkes Booth and informed him that Professor Kelly and Brian were upstairs with him.

"Is he dangerous?" Sully queried.

"He's too weak to do any harm," she replied. "I believe that he's mentally unbalanced, but...."

"But what?" he noticed her expression.

"He knows things that suggest his claim may be true," she stated. "That's why I asked Dr. Kelly to see him. If anyone can corroborate his story, the professor can."

"Probably just read a lot about the subject," Sully reasoned.

"Ma?" Brian came down the steps.

"What is it?" she turned to her son.

"Are you an' Pa goin' home soon?" he asked.

"I was going to get Mrs. Madison to stay at the Clinic with Mr. St. Helen tonight, then go," she said. "Are you ready to leave?"

"I was wonderin' if Dr. Kelly an' me could stay with him?" he requested.

"I think that would be all right," she nodded. "What do you think, Sully?"

"I think I wanna meet this man first," he walked toward the steps.

"Brian, please stay here in case the children waken," Michaela followed her husband.

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

Cloud Dancing returned to his account of Little Big Horn, "Runs The Enemy said the soldiers and Indians were so mixed up, you could not tell one from the other. When the last white man was killed, the smoke rolled up like a mountain above our heads, and the soldiers were piled one on top of another dead. Runs The Enemy came upon a big soldier with plump cheeks and a stubby black beard. Suddenly the man rose up on one elbow and frightened some Indians. Soon, he lay dead, the last man killed in the battle."

Dorothy finished writing down the narration, and turned to see if there was more.

Cloud Dancing said, "There was joy in the village after the battle, for a great victory had been won. Yet there was sorrow, too, for what wife, mother or sister gives thought of victory when she finds her own family among the killed? Too many had gone to the Spirit Land. There was great respect for the bravery of those who died, including the white men."

"It was a victory against the Army," Dorothy considered.

"Though my people celebrate the victory, it will only bring more soldiers," he answered.

"How many Indians lost their lives?" she wondered.

"40-50 I believe," he estimated.

"Cloud Dancin'," Dorothy reached for his hand. "If you go to be with your people, I want to come with you."

"No," he slowly lowered his head. "That is not possible."

"I know the risks," she countered. "I would rather be with you in that existence, than be without you, wondering if you're safe."

"Dorothy," his eyes reddened. "I do not wish to discuss this now."

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

St. Helen was sleeping when Sully and Michaela entered the recovery room.

The professor approached, "Dr. Quinn, I know of some distinguishing markings on the body of John Wilkes Booth which I would like for you to verify."

"What are they?" she stepped toward the bed.

Kelly recalled from his research, "Booth had an injury over his right eye, inflicted during sword play."

Michaela pulled back the inky black hair of the man, "He has scar tissue above his right eye that is consistent with that sort of injury."

The professor continued, "Booth had an injury to his right thumb, said to have occurred when he caught his hand in a windlass."

"Here," Michaela turned his wrist and saw the mark.

"And," Kelly concluded. "John Wilkes Booth broke his left leg in his leap from the President's box at Ford's Theater."

Michaela pulled back the covers to examine St. Helen, "His left fibula has been broken and set, many years ago."

"Doctor, if one of these injuries were missing from this man, it could be concluded that this is not the assassin of President Lincoln, but...." Kelly stopped.

"But the presence of all of them is compelling evidence," Michaela felt a chill.

"I would like to stay the night here," the professor requested. "I can question him further when he wakes."

"Brian wants to stay with you, Dr. Kelly," Michaela stated. "Would you mind?"

"Not at all," he smiled. "I am impressed with his intellect and natural curiosity."

"I'll leave some instructions for Mr. St. Helen's care," she began to write on a tablet. "If his condition worsens, have Brian ride home to get me."

Sully was convinced that St. Helen represented no physical danger to his son or the professor, and so, they departed.

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

"Teresa," Jake spoke to his wife at the dinner table. "Ya know where I put those old newspapers I saved from the end o' the War?"

"Yes," she replied. They are in the bottom drawer of our bureau. Why?"

"I saw a man the other night who looks real familiar," he responded. "I think it might've been in one o' them papers long time ago."

"I will get them out," she nodded.

She returned shortly with a stack of newspapers, flaking off along the edges from age.

Jake began to sift through them, delicately handling them to prevent their falling apart.

Then he suddenly stopped, "Here. Look at this."

"It's very difficult to make out the man," Teresa shook her head. "The photograph has turned very yellow."

"I'm tellin' ya," he asserted. "This is the man I saw."

"John Wilkes Booth?" she laughed. "Jacob, he is long dead."

"I'm gonna talk t' Dr. Mike first thing in the mornin'," he stated. "He's in her Clinic."

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

"Josef!" Sully chased his dripping wet son through the living room. "Come back here!"

The toddler happily ran naked between the downstairs rooms, having completed his bath. Michaela was drying off Katie, who complained of water in her ear.

"Mama," Katie turned. "Why's Joey runnin' 'round like that."

"I believe your brother is teasing your father," she chuckled. "He seems to be developing an impish streak."

"I have an impish streak?" Katie repeated the phrase.

The mother smiled, "You've been known to be a bit devilish at times."

"Why?" the child inquired.

"Why are you devilish?" Michaela repeated. "I suppose because a certain man encourages it on occasion."

"What man?" Katie's eyes widened.

"Your Daddy," Michaela leaned forward and kissed her.

Sully finally corralled his son and returned him to the kitchen, "Don't think we need t' dry him off, Michaela. His runnin' took care o' that."

"Here," she handed Katie's nightgown to him. "Put this on your daughter, and I'll dry his hair."

"Mama, Mama," Josef sang as she ran the towel through his long locks.

"What song is that, Sweetheart?" she chuckled.

"I been tryin' t' teach Joey songs," Katie related. "But he makes up his own words."

Michaela diapered the little boy and lifted him up to kiss him.

"Got a couple o' sweet smellin' kids here," Sully winked.

"We play in the leaves again t'morrow, Poppy?" Katie requested.

"Uh," he looked toward his wife. "I don't think so, Kates, but I'll take ya back t' Willow Pond again soon."

"Time for bed now," Michaela led the way for the steps.

"I don't think Mama was mad, Poppy," Katie whispered.

"Told ya so," he grinned.

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

"What can I get for you boys?" Hank smiled when the soldiers, Carpenter and Whitehorn, entered the Gold Nugget.

Matthew paid close attention to their conversation.

"Beers," Carpenter removed his hat.

"Round up any Injuns?" the bartender smiled.

"No," Whitehorn sipped his drink. "We've been ordered back t' Fort Lincoln. Leavin' t'morrow."

"Then the beer's on the house," Hank poured another round.

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

"Matthew," Horace pounded on his office door.

Matthew raised his suspenders and peered through the window, "Horace?"

"Telegram just came through for ya," he answered. "Sully sent it this afternoon, an' the reply's for you. Sorry t' wake ya, but I figured it's important."

"Thanks," he yawned.

Opening it, he read quickly. Then he rushed to finish dressing.

"Gotta show this t' Sully an' Ma," he said to himself.

************
Chapter 13
************

"I've never seen our children so filthy," Michaela half scolded her husband as they prepared for bed.

He did not reply, but merely washed his face.

"Did you hear me?" she brushed her hair.

"I heard," he opened the window.

"I'm sorry, Sully," she regretted teasing him. "I know you had a wonderful time with them."

"That's okay," he leaned his elbows on the sill and inhaled the cool night air.

She tenderly set her palms against his shoulder blades, then kissed his back.

"Katie saw a dead bird this afternoon," he raised his arm to encourage her to slide around to his side.

She responded to his invitation.

Sully continued, "She saw ants crawlin' all over it."

"Oh, my," she knew their daughter's curiosity would be raised.

"I told her the ants help Mother Earth take back the body o' animals," he rubbed his upper lip. "She knew they put dead people in a box, so we had t' bury the bird the same way."

"Sounds like you handled it well," she supported his treatment of the subject.

"Sometimes it's hard bein' a Pa," he closed his eyes. "They ask questions that are tough t' answer."

"I know," she smiled. "But I can think of no one better equipped to handle their questions."

He pulled her closer for a kiss, "Thanks."

"I always knew you would make a wonderful father," she rubbed his arm.

"How'd ya know that?" his eyes gleamed.

"Because you're kind," she kissed his left cheek. "And caring," she kissed his right cheek. "And loving," she ran her finger along his lips.

"Wonder how they'll turn out?" he contemplated.

"Our children?" she drank in his handsome face. "They will turn out perfect."

"Perfect?" he chuckled. "If bath time is any indication, we got our work cut out for us."

"Us," she repeated the word. "It is the most wonderful word, Sully. Our beautiful children here because of 'us.'"

He lightly touched her cheeks, her temples, her nose, her lips as he recited:

"Her angel's face
As the great eye of heaven shined bright,
And made a sunshine in the shady place;
Did never mortal eye behold such heavenly grace."

She sighed and turned to kiss his hand, "Was that Wordsworth?"

"Edmund Spenser," he leaned in to kiss her more deeply.

"When was the last time I told you how much I love you, Mr. Sully?" she felt her pulse race.

"Um," he looked up as if to ponder it. "Can't remember."

"Well," she ran her hand across his chest. "I do love you."

"Sure am glad," he grinned.

Again, he initiated a kiss. He ran his hands up and down her sides, then pulled her so close, she could feel every contour of his body.

"Oh, Sully, how I need you," she invited.

"I need you, too," he lifted her into his arms.

Carrying her to their bed, he began to lower the straps of her nightgown. His caresses fueled her desire even further. Soon, they carried their longings to their ultimate fruition. Sully pulled the sheet up to cover them. Michaela stroked the side of his face and lightly kissed him. Soon, engulfed in one another's arms, they fell asleep.

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

"Dr. Kelly," Brian touched the older man's arm. "He's wakin' up."

"Mmm?" Kelly stirred.

St. Helen stared at the two beside his bed, "Why are you still here?"

"Our purpose is twofold, Mr. St. Helen," the professor explained. "We are monitoring your condition on behalf of Dr. Quinn, and we are here to question you about your claims, should you feel up to it."

It was at this moment that the sick man realized he was feeling much improved. He hesitated to continue with the story of his true identity.

"What claims?" he said.

Kelly was puzzled, "You told us that you are John Wilkes Booth."

St. Helen laughed, "Surely, you jest."

"Jest?" Brian was surprised. "Ya look like Booth, ya talk like him, an' ya...."

"Brian," Dr. Kelly interrupted. "It appears that Mr. St. Helen has changed his mind."

"But..." the young man sat in disbelief.

"Come," the professor rose from his chair. "Let us leave him to rest."

St. Helen laughed again as they departed. The professor pulled Brian aside in the hallway.

"He's recanting, Brian," the older man said.

"What's that mean?" he wondered.

"He's disavowing his statements about his identity," Dr. Kelly defined. "He's feeling better, and he believes that death is no longer imminent."

"So, he's not John Wilkes Booth?" Brian concluded.

"If he is, he no longer wishes for anyone to know," the professor looked down.

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

Matthew entered the darkened house and found his way to the kitchen.

"Maybe I oughta wait 'til mornin'," he said to himself.

"Matthew?" Sully came down the steps, tomahawk drawn.

"Yea," he nodded as he lit a lamp.

"Somethin' wrong?" Sully feared.

"This telegram came for me from Charles Stoddard," he handed the message to Sully.

"Nothin' he can do," Sully scanned it. "Sheridan's ordered revenge for Custer's death."

Sully took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

"Sorry, Sully," Matthew knew how upset he was. "I still believe the town edict will protect Cloud Dancin'."

"Federal orders would overrule whatever the town council says," Sully countered.

"Found out the Army's leavin' for Fort Lincoln t'morrow," his son yawned.

"Sully?" Michaela had heard voices. "Matthew, what's wrong?"

"Sully sent a telegram from Miss Dorothy t' Marjorie's Uncle Charles. Stoddard replied that he can't help Cloud Dancin'," he summarized.

"If he goes back t' his people, there's danger he could be captured or killed along the way," Sully thought about it. "If he makes it safely, he could be caught up in another attack on their village. An' if he stays here...."

Matthew completed, "He's either gotta stay in hidin' or always be in danger o' the Army catchin' up t' him."

"Or someone turnin' him in," Sully folded his arms.

"What is the best option?" Michaela posed the question.

"Cloud Dancin's the only one t' answer that," Sully knew. "We can't tell him what t' do."

"I'll look through my law books," Matthew put on his hat. "Maybe I can find somethin', anythin' that could help him."

"Thanks, Matthew," Sully saw him to the door.

When he closed the door, Sully leaned his head against it. Then he felt Michaela's hand on his shoulder.

"We'll find a way, Sully," she tried to assure him.

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

Sitting Bull had reached the Land of the Grandmother, Queen Victoria, his name for Canada. The Army sent a representative to meet with the great Indian leader. The general offered Sitting Bull a full pardon on the condition that he settle at an agency. Sitting Bull angrily responded, "This country is my country now, and I intend to stay here and raise people to fill it. We did not give our country to you; you stole it. You come here to tell lies; when you go home, take them with you."

Cloud Dancing awoke from his dream and instantly felt a sense of peace.

"What is it?" Dorothy heard him.

"I have seen what I must do, where I must go," he replied.

"Where?" she sat up.

"I must return to my people," he calmly stated. "They will be safe."

"Then I'm goin' with ya," she vowed.

"No, Dorothy," his voice was tender. "This is not a life that I want you to live."

"I want t' be with you," her voice choked. "Cloud Dancin', I never met a man like you before. I never before felt the feelin's I feel with you. When you're away from me, I...."

"Dorothy," he pulled her closer. "Our worlds are too different. I cannot ask you to live as a Cheyenne, and you cannot expect me to live as a white man."

"Then let's make our own world," tears streamed down her cheeks.

"The Spirits have spoken to me in my dream," he wiped the moisture from her face. "I leave tomorrow."

"Please, let me go with you," she begged.

"It is not possible," he responded.

"Then let me be with you tonight," she implored.

"You are with me," he did not comprehend her meaning.

"I mean as a man and woman who love one another," she clarified.

"Dorothy," he resisted the idea. "I cannot ask that of you."

"You're not askin'," she clasped his hand. "It's what I want."

"I cannot offer you...." he stopped when she spoke.

"I ask nothin' from you but this night," she spoke low.

He stood up and walked to the entrance of the cave.

"Where are you goin'?" she was caught off guard.

"I must think," he stepped into the night.

************
Chapter 14
************

Sully heard the pounding at their door before Michaela. He sat up and touched her arm, then pulled on his buckskins and opened the bedroom door. Quietly, he came down the steps to find Wolf whining at the door. When Sully opened it, there stood a frantic Dorothy.

Sully swallowed hard, "Somethin' wrong with Cloud Dancin'?"

"He's gone," her voice bordered on crying.

"Gone?" he wiped the sleep from his eyes. "Where?"

"Here," she handed him a folded piece of paper. "He left this."

Michaela, having heard the conversations from overhead, came downstairs.

"Dorothy?" she went to her friend.

"It's Cloud Dancin', Michaela," the redhead shivered. "He's gone."

"Back t' Montana t' find Sittin' Bull," Sully continued to read.

"Come into the kitchen," Michaela wrapped her arm around Dorothy. "I'll make you some tea."

She sat down and in a low voice confided, "It's me, Michaela. I drove him away."

"What?" she sat beside her. "How?"

Dorothy turned to see that Sully was rereading the note, "I wanted t' be with him.... in an intimate way tonight."

"What?" Michaela was surprised.

"I don't expect ya t' understand," Dorothy pulled her shawl tighter. "But I'm afraid that's what caused him t' leave."

Sully stepped into the kitchen, "I'm goin' after him."

"Sully," Michaela hoped to dissuade him.

"He don't want ya to," Dorothy knew the contents of the letter. "He don't want any of us to."

"He had a dream," Sully told his wife. "T' go t' Sittin' Bull an' live in Canada."

"Is he well enough t' travel that far, Michaela?" Dorothy asked.

"He traveled here from Little Big Horn in worse condition," she assessed things. "Cloud Dancing is a man of great fortitude."

Sully walked toward the door and opened it.

"Sully!" Michaela followed on his heels. "Where are you going?"

"Just t' think," he said over his shoulder.

"That's the last thing Cloud Dancin' said t' me," Dorothy told her. Seeing the look of anguish on her friend's face, she encouraged, "Go t' him, Michaela. I'll be fine."

Michaela stepped onto the porch and spotted her husband sitting on the front steps, bathed in moonlight. She silently approached him and sat down beside him. They did not speak for several moments.

Then Michaela slipped her hand in his, "This is where you told me you'd be my family."

"An' where you said you'd be my best friend," he recalled fondly.

"You've kept your part of the bargain," she leaned closer.

"So have you," he took a deep breath.

"What will you do, Sully?" she finally said what was troubling her.

"I know what I wanna do," he sighed.

"What?" Michaela was uncertain if she truly wanted to know.

"I wanna...." he stopped.

She squeezed his hand for support.

"I wanna do what's right for everyone," he answered.

"But that's not always possible," she observed.

"True," he agreed.

Turning to pull her into his arms, Sully rested his chin lightly on her head.

"My first obligation is t' you an' the children," he avowed. "I put us all in jeopardy once before when I tried t' help the Indians."

"It was the way you tried that was unfortunate," she clarified. "Not the fact that you wanted to help."

"I'm still so sorry, Michaela," the guilt had never left him.

"It's all right," she rubbed his arm.

"No, it ain't," he swallowed hard. "I almost got killed, put ya through hell while I was in hidin' all those months. I missed out on so much o' Katie's growin' and...."

He fought to maintain control of his emotions. Her touch reassured him of her love.

In a soft voice, he continued, "An' I wasn't here when ya lost the baby."

Michaela glanced at him and saw the glistening shape of a teardrop on his cheek. She pulled closer and tenderly kissed it.

"Don't do this to yourself," she hated to see him like this. "We're safe now.... and happy."

"An' I don't ever wanna jeopardize that again," he responded. "But, Cloud Dancin' is all alone out there."

"Perhaps not," she pondered.

"What do ya mean?" he was curious.

"I mentioned his fortitude," she answered. "Cloud Dancing is the most spiritual person I have ever met. He has endured tragedies beyond our imagination, and through it all, he has emerged strong in spirit. His faith has become his companion."

Sully considered her words, "Faith."

She sensed his need to be alone and felt better for having spoken to him, "I'll go check on Dorothy now."

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

"Michaela?" Dorothy looked up. "The water was boilin'. I set it t' the side."

"Thank you," Michaela poured them each a cup and brewed the tea.

"Sully okay?" the redhead asked.

"He needed to be alone," she replied.

"Don't ever let go o' him," Dorothy urged.

"He must make up his own mind," she knew her husband. "And somehow I must accept what he decides."

"Don't sound like the strong-willed Michaela I know," Dorothy smiled.

"In some matters, I cannot ask my husband to do as I wish," she handed her friend a steamy cup. "Much as I want him here with the children and me, I know that he must go where his heart tells him."

Dorothy blew across the top of the cup to cool the contents, "That man loves ya more than life itself."

"Cloud Dancing loves you, too," Michaela pointed out.

Dorothy's cheeks reddened, "Hope I didn't shock ya with what I told ya earlier."

"Shock me?" she had forgotten.

"When I told ya I wanted t' be intimate with Cloud Dancin'," her friend reminded her.

"I... I guess I was caught a bit off guard," Michaela's Victorian upbringing took effect.

"All I wanted was this one night with him," Dorothy needed to talk.

Michaela placed her hand over Dorothy's, "I won't judge you for that."

"Instead, he left me," she saw his letter sitting on the table.

Michaela considered her words, "I think he did not want to have the people whom he loved in danger."

"That wouldn't have endangered him," the redhead was puzzled.

"Had your relationship moved to that level, it might have made it more difficult for him to leave," she continued. "Consummating the love between a man and woman changes everything."

"But it changes things for the better," Dorothy countered.

"As much as I loved Sully before we were married," Michaela attempted to express herself. "Once we.... gave ourselves to each other in that way, I felt one with him. I worried more when he was away. I.... craved that part of our relationship. He became part of me."

"An' you're sayin' Cloud Dancin' wanted us t' not reach that point," Dorothy was beginning to understand.

"Yes," she said. "And I believe another reason that he left was to prevent Sully's having to make the choice between his family and his best friend."

At that moment, Sully entered the house and looked at them. His expression beckoned Michaela. Excusing herself, she went to him. He pulled her around to the other side of the fireplace, hidden from Dorothy's line of vision.

"Sully?" she caressed his face.

"I made up my mind," he rested his hands on her waist.

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

At the Clinic, Brian and Dr. Kelly each occupied a different recovery room, as they soundly slept. John St. Helen sat up gingerly in bed. His strength was not yet fully recovered, but he knew that he could no longer remain in Colorado Springs. Not after his confession. It would be best if he changed his name and moved on.

As he pulled on his shirt, he thought about names. Then he spotted a newspaper which the professor had left on the nightstand. Opening it, St. Helen began to read. There was the list of fallen soldiers of the Seventh Cavalry at Little Big Horn.

"Humm," he closed his eyes. "Maybe these fellows can be of help."

He pointed to a name and opened his eyes to look.

"David E. Lewis, Sergeant," St. Helen spoke the name above his finger. "Well, that's all right for a first name, but I prefer.... Why not the good leader himself for my last name? David E. George. Yes. Unobtrusive. It will do quite nicely."

Completing the task of getting dressed, the man made his way past his sleeping caretakers and down the steps.

************
Chapter 15
************

Michaela attempted to remain calm, "What have you decided?"

"I'm stayin' here," he replied.

She could breathe again, "Are you certain?"

"I know this is where I belong," he pulled her closer. "Cloud Dancin' said in his letter that I was needed here with you an' the kids. He said he couldn't live with himself if he was the cause of separatin' us again."

"Oh, Sully," she threw her arms around his neck. "I love you so much."

"I love you, too," he hugged her. "Even without his advice in the letter, I couldn't go away like this. He's my friend, my Cheyenne brother, an' I'll always pray for his safety, but... you're my heart, Michaela. You're the reason I look forward t' each day."

"I don't want you to have any regrets about staying," she searched his eyes.

"I gotta believe that Cloud Dancin' is doin' the right thing for the right reasons," Sully rubbed her arms. "An' I know he'd want me t' take care o' Dorothy. She's gonna have a tough time."

Michaela could not help but marvel at this turning point in their relationship. She knew that Sully's heart ached for Cloud Dancing. She was well aware that he would always feel the draw toward the Cheyenne, but tonight, safe in her arms, he had put their relationship above all others. For that, she closed her eyes to offer a prayer of thanks. And a prayer for their friend.

"Ya okay?" he lifted her chin.

"Yes," wiped away a tear. "I'd better go help Dorothy. I'll prepare the spare bedroom for her tonight."

"Good," he kissed her.

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

"Mama," Katie knocked on her parents' bedroom door.

Michaela was barely able to open her eyes from lack of sleep, but she pulled herself up and donned her robe to open the door.

"Good morning, my darling," she smiled.

"Mornin'," Katie skipped into the room. Then she lowered her voice to a whisper, "Poppy still sleepin'?"

"Yes," she sat in the rocking chair and pulled her daughter onto her lap. "We were up very late last night."

"Ya were?" the little girl leaned back. "Why?"

"Miss Dorothy came and spent the night," Michaela informed her. "We talked until quite late."

Katie shifted in her mother's lap. "Did ya know that when aminals die, they get eaten by ants?"

"Yes, I'm aware of that," Michaela slowly rocked her.

"It made me sick at my tummy t' see," the child confessed.

"That's a natural reaction, Sweetheart," she lovingly placed her hand on her stomach.

"Can't we do somethin' t' make 'em stop?" Katie inquired.

"To make what stop?" the mother was unsure.

"Make the ants stop eatin' the dead aminals," the little girl clarified.

"No, I'm afraid not," she responded. "It's all part of the cycle of life."

"Like Poppy's bicycle?" Katie drew a comparison.

Michaela chuckled, "Well, you've seen your Daddy and Brian ride the bicycle. And did you notice that the wheels turn around and around?"

"Uh-huh," she nodded.

"Those wheels are a little like the cycle: life, death, life again," Michaela tried to draw an analogy. "All living creatures are born, live, die, and return to the Earth, but while they live, they produce more animals to live on after them, so that life continues."

"That why you an' Poppy have Joey an' me?" she reasoned.

"Well...." Michaela did not quite know how to respond. "It's a little different for people."

"Why?" Katie was not yet satisfied.

"Your Daddy and I had you because...." she hesitated.

"Because it's one way a man an' woman show how much they love each other," Sully spoke from the bed.

"Poppy!" Katie slipped from her mother's lap and jumped up on the bed to kiss him.

He rubbed his daughter's back, "We had you an' Josef 'cause o' how much we love each other. An' lovin' you makes that love grow even more."

"The way you two love, ya oughta have lots o' kids!" Katie concluded.

"Katie!" Michaela blushed.

Sully laughed and pulled his little girl closer for a kiss. Suddenly, they heard the front door slam.

"Who could that be?" Michaela turned.

"I go see," Katie volunteered.

"No," the protective mother reminded her. "You know that you are not permitted to open the front door by yourself."

"Mama," Katie put her hands on her hips. "The door was already open. Somebody shut it loud."

Brian appeared at the door, "I'm glad you're up."

"Bran!" the little girl rushed to her older brother. "Glad t' see ya!"

He lifted her into his arms, "Glad t' see you, too, Katie."

"Has Mr. St. Helen taken a turn for the worse?" Michaela assumed.

"He left while we were sleepin'," the young man stated. "Last night, he re-.... re-...."

"Re- what, Bran?" Katie thought he was playing a game. "Re-Turn? Re-Move?"

"Shhh," Sully winked at his daughter.

"Recanted," Brian suddenly remembered the word. "He recanted his story about bein' John Wilkes Booth."

"What does Dr. Kelly think?" Sully wondered.

"He thinks St. Helen was feelin' better an' no longer thought he was gonna die," the young man set his sister down. "So he didn't want folks t' think he's really Booth. Do you think he could be?"

"There was very compelling evidence," she nodded. "But not enough to alert the authorities."

"What if we tried t' find him?" Brian contemplated.

"And then what?" she responded. "We cannot force him to come back. We cannot prove that he assassinated the president. He could claim that his confession was the effects of his fever."

"What's assinated?" Katie picked up.

"Assassinated," Michaela enunciated. "It's an attack against someone by surprise. The word usually refers to an attack on a prominent person such as the president of the United States."

"Dr. Kelly's thinkin' about contactin' the Booth family," the son noted.

"I don't know if that would be wise either," she folded her arms. "I think the man wants to be left in peace."

"If he's really John Wilkes Booth, what kinda peace is he gonna find?" Sully contributed. "He's always gonna be on the run, changin' his name. He can never return t' his family."

"But if he's Booth, he should be punished," Brian was adamant. "It means the man who killed the president got away with murder."

"I doubt if we'll ever know the truth, Brian," Michaela put her arm on his shoulder.

"Then the history books could be lyin'," he looked down.

"Ain't nothin' new there," Sully was sarcastic.

"When kids in the future read about what we lived through, it won't be the way things really were," he felt sad.

"I reckon that's why it's important t' talk to older folks," Sully figured. "They can tell us what things were like in the past. Katie here wasn't around for the Civil War, but she can talk t' us t' learn what we went through. Then she can tell her children an' grandchildren someday."

"I have grandchildren?" Katie's eyes widened.

"Not for a while, Kates," he grinned.

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

It was sunset on the day that both Cloud Dancing and John St. Helen had left Colorado Springs, and both men faced uncertain futures.

Michaela and Sully sat with their children on the porch of the homestead.

Matthew broke the stillness of the evening, "No luck with my law books t'day. But I'm goin' t' Denver next week. I'll check out some more books there."

"Thanks, Matthew," Sully held Josef on his lap.

"Is Miss Dorothy gonna be okay?" Brian thought about her.

"I'm certain that her book will keep her busy," Michaela speculated.

"I'll help her all I can with the Gazette," he offered.

"Tell 'bout your trip t' Phildelpea," Katie requested.

"Colleen an' Andrew are gettin' along real good," Brian began. "An' Colleen's startin' t'.... look different."

"Different?" Michaela questioned.

"More mature," Matthew reworded it. "More like a grown woman."

Michaela felt a twinge of sadness, "She is a grown woman now."

"What about the Centennial Exhibition?" Sully changed the subject.

"We spent a lot o' time at Machinery Hall," Matthew smiled. "Remember that man, Mr. Watson, we met in Boston?"

"I recall your mentioning him," Michaela answered.

"His associate, Mr. Bell, demonstrated this new machine called a telephone," Brian's voice became excited. "Ya can talk t' people real far away on a line, like a telegraph wire."

"How can voices be transmitted along a wire?" Michaela queried.

"I'm not sure," the young man shrugged. "But it works."

"An' they had this real big engine," Matthew said. "2500 horsepower."

"That's hard t' believe," Sully stroked Josef's soft hair.

"It was all s'posed t' show how far the United States has come in its first 100 years," Brian informed them.

"How far we've come," the mountain man shook his head.

"Wonder what it'll be like 100 years from now?" Matthew speculated.

"1976?" Michaela spoke the year. "I can't imagine."

"Bet the telephone will still be around," Brian projected. "An' I bet everyone has one."

"That's where your grandchildren come in, Kates," Sully looked at his daughter. "They'll be here for the 200th birthday o' the United States."

Matthew chuckled, "Maybe one of 'em will be president."

"No," Katie was certain. "Not want 'em t' be assinated."

"I doubt if another president will ever be assassinated," Brian reasoned. "I'm sure they'll protect him lots better by then."

"Well," Matthew stood up. "I best be gettin' back t' town. 'Night."

"And I know some children who are long overdue in bed," Michaela warned. "Come on."

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

"Jake came to see me at the Clinic today," Michaela brushed her hair.

"He not feelin' good?" Sully asked. "Or is it Miss Teresa?"

"No," she replied. "They're fine. He came to see me because he had met John St. Helen and thought he resembled John Wilkes Booth."

"What did ya tell him?" Sully removed his shirt.

"I told him the man had left town," she took off her robe and draped it across their bed.

Sully climbed into bed and pulled down the covers for her. After lowering the lamp, she joined him and slipped comfortably into his embrace.

"Sully?" she spoke low.

"Mmm?" he caressed her shoulder.

"Are you all right?" her hand rested on his heart.

"I'm okay," he simply stated.

"You can tell your best friend, you know," she curled the hair of his chest around her finger.

He ran his hand up and down her back, "I'll be fine, Michaela. Honest."

"I wish there were something I could do or say to take away your concern," she lifted up on her elbow to gaze into his eyes.

"You do that every day," he smiled.

She leaned closer and kissed him, "I love you."

He traced the outline of her jaw, as he recited:

"Love in her sunny eyes does basking play;
Love walks the pleasant mazes of her hair;
Love does on both her lips forever stray;
And sows and reaps a thousand kisses there."

"What that Herrick?" she guessed.

"Abraham Cowley," he kissed her sweetly. "Good night, my friend."

"Good night, my family," she rested her head against his shoulder.

As sleep began to claim them, their thoughts drifted to Cloud Dancing, the Cheyenne medicine man who meant so much to them.... the friend who was very much responsible for their being together. He had left them, for who knew how long?

Sully inhaled the scent of his wife and was suddenly filled with peace. At that moment, he somehow sensed that Cloud Dancing would find his way. He would be safe. How could he know this, he wondered. Michaela had said it. Faith.

THE END

EPILOGUE

The graphic descriptions of the battle of Little Big Horn were taken from actual Indian accounts. George Armstrong Custer disobeyed written orders and paid no heed to reports of the extent of the Indian encampment. Dividing his small number, he left himself with 250 men. Attacked by Chief Gall, Chief Two Moons and Crazy Horse, leading somewhere between 2,000-4,000 braves, Custer and his men were quickly annihilated. Only the Indian scout Curley and a horse belonging to Captain Keogh escaped alive. Among the dead, now buried at Arlington National Cemetery, was Sgt. David E. Lewis.

Custer's death might have dropped into oblivion instead of the history books, had it not been for its national repercussions. The nation was infuriated, and the Army was finally free to fight an all-out war. Within a year, thanks to Custer's "last stand," the Sioux were a broken, defeated nation.

The story of John St. Helen was true. In early 1877, he thought himself near death and confessed his identity to a young Texas lawyer named Finis L. Bates. The physical similarities to Booth and his explanation of how he escaped in "Language of the Heart" were as Bates told them in his book.

St. Helen recovered, and by 1878, the two men went their separate ways. In 1903, Bates received word that a man named David E. George had apparently committed suicide in Oklahoma. The man's personal papers bore Bates' name, and the word was spread that the deceased confessed to being John Wilkes Booth. After viewing the body, Bates declared that it was his old friend St. Helen, and he instructed the mortician to mummify the remains.

The mummy was later exhibited throughout the United States during the early part of the 20th century. Bates published a book in 1907 titled "The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth." In 1931, the remains of David E. George were X-rayed, operated on and otherwise examined by a group of medical men and criminalists in Chicago. The panel concluded that all of the evidence indicated it was indeed John Wilkes Booth, but only tabloids printed the conclusions, and their findings were discredited.

Otto Eisenschimil released a book in 1937 titled "Why Was Lincoln Murdered?" He produced a vast amount of documentation that suggested Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was the ringleader of the plot to kill Lincoln and arranged for Booth's escape. Another historical volume published that year was "This One Mad Act" by Izola Forrester, a descendant of John Wilkes Booth. She said that her family was in contact with Booth for a generation after 1865.

In 1994, members of the Booth family and some historical researchers petitioned for the exhumation of Booth's body from The Green Mountain Cemetery. Their petition contained credible evidence questioning the conclusion that he had died in 1865. In spite of a well-documented legal argument, the court denied the exhumation request. The mummy has not been seen since the 1970's.



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