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

What's Past


by Debby K

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
What's Past
by Debby K

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

"I believe that's everything," Michaela squeezed the last piece of clothing into her trunk.

Sully sat on the bed playing with Josef, "We're only goin' t' Denver for two days."

"I know, but this time of year, one cannot be certain of the weather," she reasoned. "Besides, you're starting your new job, and I want to make a good impression."

"Michaela, look," he pointed to the baby.

Josef had managed to rise up onto his hands and knees in a crouching position. A broad grin crossed Michaela's face, and she rushed to the bed with her arms outstretched. Just as she reached her son, he fell forward onto his tummy, prompting his parents to laugh.

"He's gonna be crawlin' soon," Sully rubbed the baby's back.

Katie and Brian entered their parents' room.

"What funny?" the little girl approached.

"Your brother is nearly crawling," Michaela lifted the little boy up and kissed his cheek.

"When Joey gonna walk?" Katie persisted in asking this question each time Josef reached a milestone in his development.

"Not yet, Kates," Sully smiled. "But once he's crawlin', he's gonna be hard t' keep up with."

"I recall your giving us quite a scare when you began crawling, young lady. On one occasion, you disappeared," Michaela set the baby back onto the bed.

"I was supposed t' be watchin' ya," Brian crouched down and tickled her. "But before I knew it, ya crawled off."

"Where I go?" Katie was fascinated.

"I found ya under the steps," Sully winked.

"I like under steps," she giggled.

"We soon learned that," her father nodded.

Josef suddenly made a loud sound.

"I believe he's trying to speak," Michaela rubbed his tummy.

Then the little boy laughed.

"Ya gonna be good for your brothers while your Ma an' me are in Denver?" Sully touched Katie's nose.

A pouty look crossed her face, "I come, too?"

"Not this trip, sweet girl," her father lifted her into his arms.

Michaela's heart sank, "Perhaps I should stay with them."

"They'll be fine, Ma," Brian assured her. "For only a couple o' days, what could go wrong?"

She looked at her infant son, who had discovered his feet to play with, "It will be very difficult."

Sully put his hand on hers, "Two days, Michaela."

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

After insuring that their children were tucked in for the night, Sully and Michaela sat on the rug by their bedroom fireplace. She leaned back against his chest and sighed.

Sully kissed the top of her head, "If ya ain't ready t' leave the baby yet, I can go by myself."

She touched his hand as it rested on her shoulder, "I'll be fine. I want to go with you."

He leaned his cheek against her head, "I can sure use your help."

She turned her head to look into his eyes, "You can?"

"Yep," he nodded. "I need ya t' keep me from grabbin' some o' those politicians an' tellin' them off."

She laughed, "You think I can stop you?"

"Yep," he said again. "You're a civilizin' influence on me."

She returned her glance to the fireplace, "Sully, you're the most civilized man I know."

He kissed her temple, "'Cause o' you."

She smiled, "Do you feel up to reading me some poetry?"

"Sure," he reached for one of his books. Opening it, he said, "How about Walter Scott?"

"Mmm," she nodded and curled herself against his body.

Sully began to speak low into her ear:

"True love's the gift which God has given
To man alone beneath the heaven;
It is not fantasy's hot fire,
Whose wishes soon as granted fly;
It liveth not in fierce desire,
With dead desire it doth not die,
It is the secret sympathy,
The silver link, the sunken tie,
Which heart to heart and mind to mind
In body and in soul can bind."

"I don't know about that," she teased.

"What?" he closed the book.

"That part about not living in fierce desire," she slid her hand across his chest.

"I reckon he means love ain't desire alone," he nibbled on her ear.

"That's true," she began to tingle.

Michaela turned completely around to face him, then lightly touching his shoulders, pushed him down onto his back. She hovered over him, occasionally leaning down to kiss him. Each feather light touch of her lips aroused him.

Sully reached up to caress her and slide her nightgown up across her hips.

"Careful, Michaela," he grinned.

"Why?" she undid his buckskins.

"Careful 'bout that fierce desire," he rotated her over on to her back.

"I think I'll take my chances with you," she ran her fingers around to the hair at the base of his neck.

"Ya took all kinds o' chances with me," he kissed her neck and chin.

"And I always shall," she held his interest with her eyes.

"I'm lookin' forward t' havin' ya t' myself in Denver," he ran his hand lightly across her chest.

Her body shivered, "I'm looking forward to being with you, as well."

"Think we oughta get t' bed?" he stopped his movements. "We got a long day ahead o' us."

She pulled his fingers to her lips, "I'm not quite ready for bed."

"What d' ya have in mind then?" he enjoyed her attention.

"I believe you know precisely what I have in mind," she replied.

"Would ya rather be in bed now?" he continued the banter.

"I'd rather be right here next to you," she pulled him closer.

Sully positioned himself to fulfill their desires. Michaela locked her arms around her husband's neck and closed her eyes to the pleasures he was awakening in her. Rhythmically, their bodies began to move until they gave all to each other. The exchange of their love was a physically exhausting and at the same time, an exciting experience which never failed to amaze them.

"Whew," Sully pulled back from her. "What ya do t' me, Dr. Mike!"

She drew his hair back from his face, "Did you reserve our honeymoon suite in Denver?"

"Yep," he kissed the palm of her hand.

"Good," she smiled. "I think I'm ready for bed now."

He rose to his knees and lifted her into his arms. Carrying her to their bed, he gently settled her under the covers. He gave a quick glance at the baby, now in his crib, and he joined her.

He enfolded her in his arms, "I love ya, Michaela."

"And I, you," she touched his chin with her index finger. "Very, very much."

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

The next morning, there was a soft knock at their door.

"Mama," Katie's weak voice beckoned.

Michaela, sensing immediately that her daughter was ill, quickly rose and opened the door. Kneeling down, she pulled the child into her embrace.

"Somethin' the matter?" Sully sat up.

"She has a fever," Michaela sat with her on the bed.

Sully reached over and rubbed the child's back, "Ya not feelin' good, Kates?"

Katie did not respond but curled up in her mother's lap.

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

"Yes, please," the physician responded.

As he left the room, Michaela set the little girl on the bed and went to pour some water into the basin. She dampened a cloth and returned to Katie. Opening the child's nightgown, she saw speckles of red eruptions on her daughter's torso.

"Oh, my, Sweetheart," she sat down beside her. "It appears you have chicken pox."

Sully returned at that instant, "Chicken pox? That's real contagious."

"Have you had it, Sully?" she glanced up at him.

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

"Yes," she wiped Katie's forehead. "I don't know about Brian or Matthew, however."

"I'll go check," he started for the door. Then he stopped and turned to her, "Michaela, what about the baby?"

"At five months old, it's possible he could get it," she answered. "If he were younger, then it would not be likely, but at his age, it's a distinct possibility. And he certainly has been exposed to it if Katie has."

Sully sighed heavily and exited to go check on the boys. Returning shortly, he went to Michaela, who was now rocking Katie.

"They both had it before," Sully informed her.

Michaela held Katie's head to her shoulder, "It will be at least two weeks before she is able to go out."

"I'll wire Denver an' tell 'em I can't come," he caressed the child's head.

"You can still go, Sully," she assured him. "It would not be good for you to miss the organizational meetings."

"I know I oughta be there," he took a deep breath. "But I don't wanna leave my sweet girl when she's sick."

Michaela lightly touched his cheek, "She'll be fine. It just has to run its course."

"Ya sure?" he felt his heart grow heavy.

"Yes," she knew that he was torn. "Only two days, remember? What can happen in two days?"

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

Sully gently lifted Josef into his arms. The little boy was sleeping, but the proud father wanted a moment to hold him and kiss him before departing. Sully lovingly caressed the infant's hair, then raised his tiny forehead to his lips.

"I love ya, son," Sully felt a lump in his throat. "Be good for your Ma."

The baby's face puckered, and then he yawned. Sully set him back in his crib, then crept into Katie's room.

"I'll be home day after t'morrow, Kates," Sully sat down and stroked her hair.

"I miss ya, Daddy," she whimpered.

"I'll miss you, too," he adjusted her blanket.

"Gotta scwatch," she fidgeted.

"Nope," he took her hands in his. "I got an idea."

"What?" she always enjoyed his ideas.

"Why don't ya name your spots?" he smiled.

"Name 'em?" she giggled.

"Yep," he nodded. Pointing to a mark on her arm, he suggested, "This one here's Ezra." Then indicating another spot, he told her, "An' this one's... you pick a name."

She looked up to ponder it, "Bran."

"Ya wanna name it after your brother?" he chuckled.

"Can I?" she became serious.

"They're your spots," he smiled. "Name 'em whatever ya want."

"Okay," she felt relieved.

Sully touched her curls, "I love ya, my sweet girl."

"Love ya, Daddy," she went back to naming her chicken pox.

Sully stood at the doorway for a moment to gaze at her, then departed.

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

"I hate t' leave like this, Michaela," Sully held his wife in his arms.

"By the time you come home, Katie will be feeling much better," she smiled. "You're needed in Denver."

"If you're sure," he hesitated.

"I am," she rested her hands on his broad shoulders. "Please take care of yourself, and in my absence, refrain from grabbing any of those politicians."

He chuckled, "I'll try."

They sweetly kissed, then after a pause, gave into a much deeper one, filled with longing. Finally, he pulled back.

"I love ya," he ran his finger along her chin.

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

Michaela watched as he mounted his horse. She did not close the homestead door until he was out of sight. No matter how many times she watched him leave, her heart felt an aching sense of loss. She knew she would never get over that feeling, and in truth, she never wanted to.

"Mama!" Katie called.

"Coming, Sweetheart," she headed for the steps.

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

"Ma!" Brian shouted as he returned from school.

"Upstairs, Brian," she called from the second floor.

He bounded up the steps by twos, and stopped when she greeted him at the top of the stairs.

"What is it?" she was curious.

"Letter come for ya," he handed her the post.

"Thank you," she did not read the front. "Perhaps it's from Mother."

"Nope," he shook his head.

Then she read the return address, "David Lewis."

"Your old fiance," Brian knew she really needed no reminder.

"I wonder why he's writing?" she brushed back a lock of her hair.

"One way t' find out," the young man pointed to the letter.

She hesitated, "I'll... I'll read it later."

"Why?" he did not understand her reaction.

"Katie needs me right now," she turned and entered the little girl's bedroom.

The child was experiencing some discomfort from her illness, but Michaela had cut back her daughter's fingernails to reduce the effects of scratching and had given her baths to alleviate the itching. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Michaela was relieved to see that she had fallen asleep. She held the letter up and decided to open it. Reading silently, she took a deep breath.

"Dear Michaela,

I have not been in communication with you since I departed six years ago, but it is not for lack of thinking of you. To help cope with my feelings, I have not been idle. I have been working with and sometimes against government agencies in my efforts to preserve various lands. I shall not bore you here with the details.

I hope that you are well and assume that you and Sully are now married. Perhaps you even have children. I know that you will make as fine a mother as you are a physician. I have long believed that you can do anything you set your mind to.

My reason for writing is to inform you that I shall be passing through Colorado Springs on my way to San Francisco and would like very much to see you. I arrive May 10. I can only stay two days, but I have a surprise for you.

All my best,

David"

"May 10," she said aloud. "That's tomorrow."

Katie stirred and opened her eyes, "Mama."

"I'm here, Sweetheart," she touched the child's hand.

"Itchy," Katie rubbed her side.

"Try not to scratch," Michaela counseled. "If the eruptions burst from your scratching, it could leave scars."

"What scar?" the little girl asked.

"A scar is a mark left on your skin when new tissue replaces injured tissue," she explained.

"What looks like?" Katie persisted.

"Like the mark on your father's leg from when he broke it," Michaela cited.

The child grinned, "Daddy tell me t' name 'em."

"Name what, little one?" Michaela asked.

"Name spots," Katie pointed. "This one Ezwa."

"Did you name that or did your father?" Michaela raised an eyebrow.

"He name," she turned onto her side and saw the envelope in her mother's hand. "Ya got letter?"

"Yes, from an old friend," she responded. "He's coming to visit."

"I get better," Katie sounded determined.

"First you need to get some sleep," Michaela pulled up her covers. "Do you think you can do that?"

The child nodded and closed her eyes. Michaela lowered her lamp and stepped into the hallway. Glancing again at the letter, she headed for her bedroom.

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

That night, Michaela dreamed that David returned. She met him at the train station. Katie and Josef were with her, but Sully was not there. When David stepped from the locomotive, he was clean shaven and much younger looking than the last time she saw him. She introduced her children, but he lifted them into his arms, and said, "They're mine." Then he turned to carry them back on the train.

"NO!" she called out and sat up.

Now wide awake, Michaela realized that the vivid dream was not real. She tried to calm herself. Hearing the baby coo from his crib, she rose to check on him. Then she glanced at the clock. 2:00 a.m.

Sitting in the rocker with her son, she cradled him and smiled, "Why are you awake? Did Mama waken you?"

Josef reacted to the tender timber of his mother's voice and smiled. His first tooth was clearly visible, and two more were starting to come in.

"Oh, Josef," she lifted him to her shoulder. "I miss your father, and he has not even been gone an entire day."

The baby made a sound that she was certain sounded like, "Pa."

Putting his face close to hers, she smiled, "Did you say, 'Pa?'"

The infant cooed and moved his legs.

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

Sully stretched out on the large bed in his room--the room that he and Michaela had shared on their honeymoon and their trip to Denver two years ago. He was restless and could not sleep. He had experienced a frustrating time since his arrival. The endless meetings and delays were exasperating. As it turned out, not all of the men with whom he was supposed to meet could attend the sessions until next week.

"Oh, Michaela," he sighed.

A strange sensation entered his being.

"You're missin' me, too," he pulled a pillow next to him. Then he bolted up, "What am I doin' here?"

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

At dawn, Michaela was awakened by her daughter's calling. When she entered the child's room, Katie was sitting up and crying.

Pulling the little girl into her lap, Michaela spoke words of comfort, "I'm here, Sweetheart. Are you itching?"

"Make stop, Mama," Katie's tears poured down her cheeks.

"Let me get you into the tub again. That helps," Michaela lifted her.

Following a soaking, Katie's temperament and condition improved. Brian came downstairs just as the physician finished gently drying her daughter.

"I checked on Josef," Brian informed her. "He's sleepin'."

"Thank you," Michaela smiled. "We're not out of the woods yet as far as his contracting chicken pox."

"Joey gonna get it?" Katie wondered.

"I don't know," Michaela picked up the child. "Let's get you back upstairs."

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

Katie settled back to sleep, and Michaela was finally able to lie down to rest. Matthew and Brian had departed for town, and her thoughts turned to the letter from David. She had left it on her bedside table, and the sight of it reminded her of his statement that he had a surprise. Michaela closed her eyes and wondered what it could be. Then she thought of Sully. Her Sully. Her heart ached so when he was away. But he would return to her tomorrow, she thought as she drifted off to sleep.

Michaela began to dream about David's arrival. She opened the front door, and there he stood, handsome and smiling. She stepped back to invite him into her home, but he grabbed her. "It's my home," he said in a demanding voice. "Mine."

Michaela felt him press his lips against hers, and she struggled to pull free of his grasp, "NO!"

"Michaela!" Sully had his hands on her arms.

"Sully?" she opened her eyes. As the reality of his presence became clear, her heart leapt, "Sully!"

She sat up and threw her arms around his neck.

Then, pulling back, she held his face in her hands and asked, "What are you doing home?"

"When I was tryin' t' fall asleep in our room last night, I couldn't get my mind off ya," he searched her face. "I didn't wanna be there with all those politicians. I want t' be with you."

"Oh, Sully," her lips met his. "I want you here, too, but what will become of your job now?"

"I left a message for 'em an' said I'd be back when I could," he leaned forward to caress and kiss her neck. "Somethin' was pullin' me back t' ya."

He noticed her silence.

"You were havin' a bad dream," he recalled how she wakened.

"Yes," she replied. Then turning to the nightstand, she lifted the letter and handed it to her husband.

Sully read silently, then in a voice tinged with anxiety said, "David."

She put her hand against his chest, "My heart belongs to you, and you alone."

He smiled slightly and covered her hand with his, "I know. Wonder what his surprise is?"

"I have no idea," she started to swing her legs around to get out of bed.

"Wait," he stopped her. "Ya don't have t' get up yet. I looked in on Katie when I got home. She's sleepin'. How's she doin'?"

"She had a difficult morning," Michaela replied. "But a bath helped relieve her itching somewhat."

"My poor little girl," he sighed. "How 'bout Josef?"

"No symptoms yet, but he has been sleeping more often," she was pleased to say. "Oh, and last night, I could have sworn I heard him say 'Pa.'"

"He did?" Sully's eyes opened wide.

"It certainly sounded like it," she touched his cheek. Then her curiosity was aroused, "What was pulling you back to me?"

He placed his hand on her thigh, "I ain't sure. I just felt like ya needed me."

"Always," she smiled.

Sully leaned forward and tenderly kissed her. Then he stood up and removed his coat and belt, all the while locked into his wife's gaze. Michaela slid over to make room for him beside her.

As he positioned himself against her, he grinned, "I guess ya domesticated me, Michaela, much as I never wanted it."

"What?" she was surprised. "What do you mean domesticated you?"

"Look at all the years I was by myself, livin' outdoors, trappin' for food, comin' an' goin' as I pleased?" he turned on his side to look at her. "Now, I can't stand t' sleep outa this bed."

"You still come and go as you please, you still trap, you still love the outdoors," she defended. "But I must confess, I certainly am happy that you can't stand to sleep outside this bed."

He began to play with the buttons on the front of her blouse, "Ya sure smell good."

She chuckled, "I smell like medicine."

He nuzzled her neck, "You're my best medicine."

She felt shivers down her spine, "I love you."

"I love you, too," he opened her blouse and began to caress her.

Michaela felt afire with longing for him, "As I watched you leave yesterday, I began to miss you immeasurably."

Sully kissed the valley between her breasts and then gazing into her eyes spoke:

"To sorrow
I bade good-morrow,
And thought to leave her far away behind;
But cheerly, cheerly,
She loves me dearly;
She is so constant to me, and so kind."

"Sounds like Keats," she whispered.

"Right," his eyes gleamed.

"Want to know a secret?" she positioned her lips near his ear.

"Mmm-humm," his voice was low.

"I'm glad you chose to come home," she slid her fingers around to the back of his neck.

"Why's that?" he kissed her ear.

"It's rather selfish of me," she leaned back as his kisses worked his way around her neck, stirring delightful sensations.

"You're allowed," he stopped to adore her eyes.

"I'm lost without you," she confessed.

"Nah," he grinned. "I think we both just need t' know the other's always nearby," he became serious. "'Cause we been through so many rough times when we couldn't be with each other."

"But we're not going through a rough time right now," she stroked the side of his face."

"Our little girl is," he sighed. "An' she's a part o' both o' us."

"She's the best part of you," Michaela spoke softly.

"An' you," he smiled. "She's beautiful just like you."

"And she's caring, just like you," she countered.

"Michaela," he became serious. "What were ya dreamin' about? Ya seemed scared."

"You know how dreams are, Sully," she said.

"That don't answer my question," he did not let it drop.

"I was dreaming about David," she confessed. "And I dreamt about him last night, too."

He was silent, waiting for her.

"It's silly, really," she went on. "In my first dream, he tried to take Katie and Josef with him, and in this morning's dream, he was demanding that this was his house."

Sully stroked her arm, silently, then spoke, "Do ya ever wonder how your life would've been if ya married him instead o' me?"

"Of course not!" she started to sit up.

Gently, he pulled her back into his arms, "I don't mean it that way."

"I love my life with you," she sounded defensive.

"Listen," he touched her lips with his finger. "I just meant that maybe his letter made ya wonder what kind o' house you'd live in or...."

"No, Sully," she insisted. "I don't know why I had the dreams, but it has nothing to do with my wondering what life would be like with David instead of you."

"I didn't mean t' upset ya," he kissed her hand.

She was silent.

He raised an eyebrow, "Are we gonna fight?"

She remained silent.

"Ya mad at me?" he ran his hand down her thigh.

She tried to remain calm, "I'm not angry with you."

"Good," he maneuvered his hand further. "'Cause ya know how I get when you're mad at me."

She fought a smile, "I still can't get over how you...."

His touches made her forget what she was going to say. Soon, they gave into the physical need which overwhelmed them. Each time they shared their love, it solidified even further the bond which they felt for one another.

Sully toyed with a strand of her hair, "I think I made the right decision."

"To come home?" she smiled.

"Yep," he nodded and kissed her.

"Now what are your plans for the day, Mr. Sully?" she ran her hand across the hair on his chest.

"Humm," he looked up. "Stay in bed with you all day?"

"I don't think that would be very practical," she responded.

"Do I have t' be practical?" he teased.

"Um-hum," she kissed him.

He sighed, "Then I reckon I'll help ya take care o' Katie. Ya must be tired."

"That would be nice," she leaned her head against his shoulder.

************
Dr. David Lewis stepped from the train onto the platform of the Colorado Springs Depot. His beard and the patch over his eye masked the scars from his brutal experience in the War. Yet, his good looks remained. He raised his hand up to help a woman from the train. Then he looked around to see if Michaela was there.

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

Horace knocked on the door of the homestead. When Sully opened it, the telegraph operator tipped his hat.

"Mornin', Sully," he smiled.

"Hello, Horace," Sully stepped back. "Come on in."

"Can't stay but a minute," he removed his hat. "Brung ya a telegram from Denver."

"Thanks," Sully took it.

"Someone arrived in town," Horace hedged.

"That right?" Sully waited.

"That David fella that Dr. Mike was engaged to," he came out with it.

"Thanks for the information," Sully said.

"Ain't ya wonderin' what he's doin' back in Colorado Springs?" Horace was surprised.

"Little bit," Sully acknowledged. "Why? Do ya know why he's here?"

"Nope," he replied. "But he's got a fancy lookin' woman with him."

"Oh?" Sully folded his arms.

"They're stayin' at Preston's," Horace concluded his visit. "I best be gettin' back t' town now."

"Thanks again, Horace," Sully escorted him to the door.

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

Michaela was folding clothes on the bed when Sully entered.

"Who was at the door?" she looked up.

"Horace," he answered. "He delivered this telegram."

"Why haven't you opened it?" she noticed.

"It's from Denver," he sighed.

"Aren't you the least bit curious about its contents?" she asked.

He took a deep breath, "I reckon I should open it."

Silently, he read, then handed it to her. She scanned its contents:

"Mr. Byron Sully,

The Territorial Public Waters and Land Commission wishes to inform you that your committee has postponed its meeting until June 15. We look forward to seeing you then. John N. Reigart, Secretary to Governor Routt."

He sat down beside her, "Looks like I got a reprieve."

She placed her hand on his shoulder, "Is something else on your mind?"

"Horace said David arrived," he stated. "He's at the Chateau."

She looked at Katie's dress in her hands, "Oh."

"He's got a woman with him," Sully tried to gauge her reaction.

"A woman?" she was curious.

"A fancy woman," he amended.

"Do you suppose he's married?" she folded Katie's clothing.

"Could be," Sully speculated.

"Should we contact him?" Michaela searched his face.

"Would be the sociable thing t' do, I guess," he nodded.

"Perhaps we should invite him for a brief visit," she suggested.

"We could," he replied. "Better make sure he's had chicken pox first."

"Sully," she took his hand. "We don't have to do anything if this is too uncomfortable for you."

"It ain't," he stated. "How 'bout for you?"

"I must confess, it is a bit awkward," she looked at her wedding band.

Sully took her hand and lifted it to his lips, "I know ya gotta be curious about who this woman is."

She smiled the crooked grin he loved, "I want David to be happy. I wish him the same happiness that we have."

They leaned toward each other for a kiss when Josef began to cry.

Michaela rushed to his crib and lifted him, "Here, now, Sweetheart. What's wrong?"

Sully stood and embraced them both, "He teethin' again?"

"His temperature is elevated," she touched his forehead to her lips. "Let me take a better look."

She laid the infant down on the bed and raised his shift. There on the baby's torso were a few red eruptions.

"Oh, no," she brushed back a lock of her hair.

"Chicken pox?" Sully was concerned.

"Yes," she cradled the baby against her.

"Would a bath help him?" he suggested.

"We'll try it," her voice quivered slightly.

"Michaela?" he noticed. "What ain't ya tellin' me?"

She looked at Josef, "Chicken pox in an infant can be extremely dangerous, Sully."

"I see," he placed his hand on his son's head.

"I'll give him that bath now," she carried the child out.

"Mama!" Katie beckoned.

Sully responded to his daughter's call and went to her room.

"Your Ma can't come right now, sweet girl," he sat down on the edge of her bed.

"Daddy?" she was surprised to see him. "Ya home?"

"Yep," he took her hands in his. "How ya feelin'?"

"Okay," she pointed to one of the red marks on her arm. "Wolf itch."

"That one's named Wolf?" he grinned.

"Uh-huh," she nodded.

"Maybe if we think o' somethin' else, it won't itch so bad," he slid around to hold her.

"What we think about?" she leaned her head against his chest.

"We could think about somethin' real nice," he recommended. "Somethin' ya wanna do."

"Wanna wide horse," she immediately responded.

"Ride a horse?" he pretended to be surprised. "Did I ever tell ya 'bout when I learned t' ride a horse?"

"Nope," she quickly forgot about her discomfort.

Sully began the story of how Cloud Dancing had taught him to ride, and within minutes, he had the little girl giggling.

"Why ya not wide horse when ya little, Papa?" she asked.

"Papa?" he caught her slip. "I thought ya were callin' me Daddy."

"Can I call both?" she glanced up with her mother's eyes.

He melted, "Sure. I was afraid t' ride a horse for a long time."

"Why?" her inquisitive nature took over.

"My brother," his voice trailed off.

"Ya have bwother?" she sounded excited.

"He's dead, Kates," Sully stroked her hand. "He was killed ridin' a horse. That's why I want ya t' be bigger before ya ride by yourself. It's dangerous."

"You wide with me, Poppy?" she requested.

"Poppy?" he chuckled.

"I call ya Poppy," she flashed a smile. "Papa an' Daddy."

"Ya sure do like t' change your mind," he shook his head. "We'll see. Maybe I'll take ya ridin' when you're all better."

He heard Josef's cries continue from the kitchen. Standing, he handed Katie her stuffed bunny rabbit and doll.

"Here, Kates," he suggested. "You play with them while I go check on your Ma an' Josef."

"Okay, Poppy," she was content to hold her toys.

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

As Sully came down the steps, he saw the look of concern on Michaela's face. She held Josef in the water and tried to soothe the discomfort he was feeling. Sully came around to face his son.

"Hey, big boy," Sully smiled and splashed the water a little bit.

The baby settled some as his father made faces.

Michaela gently lifted the child from the water and patted him with a towel. After treating the rash on Josef's trunk, she diapered and placed a clean cotton shift on him. Sully reached for the infant and took him into his arms as Michaela cleaned up.

"It's very important for us to keep the children clean," she wiped the spilled water. "And to keep our hands clean when holding them."

"Okay," he tenderly caressed Josef's head. "He's really burnin' up, Michaela."

"I know," she tried to remain calm.

"What can we do?" he realized the severity of things.

"Watch him carefully," she advised.

"What could happen to him?" Sully looked at the little life in his arms.

"Let's not think about that," she walked to him and kissed her son's head.

The baby did not respond, but remained somewhat listless.

"Michaela?" his eyes searched for reassurance.

"He's a strong little boy," she tried to be brave. "He'll fight this."

At that moment, there was a knock at the door. Michaela walked to open it. There stood David.

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

"Michaela," David's face beamed. "It's wonderful to see you."

"And you," she straightened her hair.

He waited for an invitation, "May I come in?"

"Oh, I'm sorry," she was a bit disconcerted. "Yes, please do come in."

As he stepped through the threshold, he caught sight of Sully holding the baby.

"Sully," he extended his hand.

Sully did not reciprocate but spoke low, "Baby's sick."

David sounded sincere. "You have a baby! That's wonderful."

Michaela motioned to the living room, "Won't you come in?" As he followed her and sat down, she nervously looked to her husband.

"Hope ya had chicken pox," Sully stood nearby.

"Yes, as a child," he answered. "Your baby has chicken pox?"

"I'm afraid so," Michaela knew the physician in David was well aware of the risks.

"I won't stay but a minute," he understood. "How are the other children?"

"They're well," she responded. "Colleen is married and in medical school in Philadelphia. Matthew is with us and studying law. Brian will soon be thinking of graduation. And..."

"And?" David was enthralled by her every word.

"And Sully and I have two of our own," she smiled. "Our daughter Katie is upstairs with chicken pox, as well."

"And this child," he indicated.

Her look was serious, "Our son Josef has just..."

"Josef," David interrupted. "After your father. That's wonderful, Michaela. I'm quite happy for you."

"Would ya like some coffee?" Sully continued to sway with the baby in his arms.

"No, thank you," he shook his head. "I'm certain that with two children ill, the last thing you need is a visitor. No, I merely wanted to stop by to say hello."

"Understand ya got a travelin' companion," Sully could not contain his curiosity.

"As a matter of fact, I do," he stood. "My wife Caroline is with me."

"Is she the surprise you spoke of in your letter?" Michaela inquired.

"Yes," David smiled.

"Under different circumstances, we'd love to meet her," Michaela stood.

"Yes," David rose, as well. "Perhaps another time. I'll be going now. It's been wonderful seeing you again, Michaela."

"Thank you," she held out her hand. "Good-bye."

He shook it, "Good-bye."

He lingered a moment without releasing her hand. Then he opened the door and departed.

"So, he's married now," Sully said.

"Yes," she approached him. "He looks well."

"Yep," Sully responded. Then he placed his hand on her back, "Was that hard for ya?"

"Seeing him again?" she clarified. "Not particularly."

"Curious about his wife?" Sully probed.

She knew he could see through a denial, "Some. What about you, Sully? I know it was difficult for you to see him again."

"Not as hard as I thought," he replied. "It's good he's moved on with his life."

"Yes," she nodded. Then she took a deep breath, "I suppose I should start dinner. The boys will be home shortly."

"I'll take Josef up," he offered. Turning to go up the steps, he paused, "Michaela?"

She glanced up.

"I love ya," he smiled.

"I love you, too," she returned a smile.

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

When Michaela entered their bedroom, she saw Sully on his side asleep, with the baby tucked against him and his hand resting on the infant's leg. She crept into the room and felt her son's head. Still warm.

She reached for her medical bag and pulled out her stethoscope. Sully awoke.

"What's wrong?" he saw her place the bell of the instrument on the baby's chest.

"His breathing is becoming labored," she answered.

"Why?" he wanted to be clear.

She kept her voice low, "It could be varicella pneumonia."

Sully tenderly rubbed his son's tummy. The baby did not react.

"Can't we do somethin'?" Sully felt helpless.

Michaela tried to control her emotions, "All we can do is wait, Sully."

"Wait for what?" he did not mean to sound angry.

"Just wait," she clasped his hand.

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

By late evening, Matthew and Brian kept Katie occupied while Michaela and Sully continued to tend to their son.

"Sully," Michaela laid the despondent infant on their bed. "I'm afraid."

He rushed to her side, "Why?"

"I believe that he is developing vesicles on his trachea," she answered.

"What's that mean?" he knew it was dangerous.

"His windpipe. I'm afraid the chicken pox may be spreading there, and it's affecting his breathing," she felt a tear run down her cheek.

"What if that happens?" Sully wanted to know all of the possibilities.

"If his breathing is totally cut off, I'll have to do a tracheotomy," she indicated. "But...."

Sully put his hand on her arm for encouragement.

She continued, "I've never done such a procedure on an infant," she confided. "It is extremely dangerous because his trachea is so small."

"If it comes t' that, you can do it," he assured her.

"I know someone who has done it before," she ran her hand gently over Josef's dark hair.

"Who?" Sully wondered.

"David," she replied. "I think we should send for him."
Without reply, Sully dashed to the door.

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

"Ma," Brian knocked gently on the frame of the bedroom door. "I saw Pa leave in a hurry. Is everythin' all right?"

"Brian," she motioned for him to enter. "Josef's condition is growing worse."

The young man glanced at the infant whose labored breathing indicated a serious condition. Michaela had removed the baby's shift and diaper to keep him cool.

"He looks so helpless," Brian fought back a tear. "Where'd Pa go?"

"He went to get David," she replied.

"Why?" he did not understand.

"He has performed a procedure that may be necessary for your brother," she answered.

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

Sully knocked on the Lewis' door at the Chateau. A beautiful woman opened it. She had blonde ringlets that nearly reached the laced collar of her blue dress.

"Pardon me, ma'am," Sully cleared his throat. "My name's Byron Sully."

"Oh, yes, Mr. Sully," her blue eyes beamed. "Michaela's husband."

"I'm sorry t' bother ya," he was anxious. "My wife asked me t' bring your husband back t' our homestead. Our baby's real sick. She said he might be able to help."

"Who is it, my dear?" David's voice called from an adjoining room.

"Mr. Sully," she stepped back to invite him in.

"Sully?" David entered the room and noticed the mountain man's expression. "Is something wrong?"

"Josef," he nodded. "Our boy's taken a turn for the worse. Michaela asked if ya could come quick."

"Certainly," he reached for his coat. "May my wife come, as well? She's a nurse."

"Sure," Sully responded.

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

Michaela sat holding her son's tiny hand. The tears streamed down her cheek as she tenderly stroked his little fingers.

"Please, God," she prayed. "Please let him live."

Josef twitched slightly, as if responding to his mother's plea.

"Josef, Sweetheart," she leaned closer. A tear fell from her eye onto his cheek. "Please, Josef, be strong."

She dampened a cloth and dabbed his skin to cool him. He fidgeted slightly in obvious discomfort, but his energy to respond was waning.

Michaela tried to keep her voice calm for him, "Mama loves you."

She heard the front door open and discerned voices from downstairs. The voices became more subdued as they approached the bedroom. Sully escorted David and Caroline into the room.

Michaela looked up, "Thank you for coming, David."

"Of course," he removed his jacket. "Michaela, this is my wife Caroline. She's a nurse."

"Caroline," Michaela attempted a smile. "We appreciate your coming, as well."

"I'm sorry we meet under these circumstances," she said.

Sully stepped back as the three began to converse in technical medical terms. Michaela noticed and reached out to her husband. He quickly responded by clasping her hand.

"How's he doin'?" Sully leaned over and stroked his son's head.

"No change," she sighed.

"Anythin' I can do?" his eyes caught hers.

"I'm afraid not," she knew she must be strong.

"I'll go check on Katie," he excused himself.

"Tell her I'll be in shortly," she released his hand.

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

Sully entered his daughter's bedroom, just as Matthew closed a book.

"Poppy!" her eyes brightened. "Mattew weadin' t' me."

"He is?" Sully pulled her into his lap. "How ya feelin'?"

"Itchy," she turned up her nose. "Who come in house?"

"Some folks who wanna help your brother," he smiled.

"Joey itchin'?" she sympathized.

"Not too much," he thought about the listless little body in the next room. "We just wanted ya t' know that 'cause he's so sick, your Ma an' me are gonna be spendin' a lot o' time with him. We didn't want ya t' think we forgot about ya," he tickled her side.

"I unstand," she nodded.

"That's my sweet girl," he kissed her. "Now, you be good, an' don't scratch.... what's that one's name?" he pointed to a red mark on her arm.

"That Mr. Bway," she informed him.

"Okay," he grinned. "I'll check in on ya later."

Matthew waited for him at the door, "Sully, is Josef gonna be okay?"

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

Brian joined them and silently sat beside his sister.

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

"Michaela," David spoke sympathetically. "Perhaps you should wait outside while I examine the baby."

"No," her voice was stern.

Sully stepped into the room just as she responded.

Caroline went to Michaela and put her arm around her shoulder, "Do you think I might have a cup of tea?"

"I'm sorry," Michaela could feel herself losing control.

Sully rushed to her, "Come on. Let's go make some tea."

He quickly escorted her downstairs, where safe in his arms, she released the pent-up emotions that she had been suppressing. In a rush of tears, she buried her face in her husband's shoulder and wept uncontrollably. He stroked her back and felt his own tears welling.

He kissed her hair, "It's okay, Michaela."

"Did you see, Sully?" her weeping continued. "Did you see his little body, so sick?"

"I know," he felt his eyes sting. "We gotta believe that he'll pull through."

She wiped her eyes, "I want to believe."

He held her face between his hands and told her in his most assuring voice, "Then believe."

She fixed her gaze on his eyes and felt a growing strength from him. Then she placed her hand over his heart. He covered it with his own. They stood like this for several moments until they heard David call.

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

Rushing into their bedroom, they saw Josef's pale figure, dwarfed by the size of their bed. Michaela sat down beside him and felt his pulse.

David spoke calmly, "I believe that a tracheotomy is not advisable at this time. The baby's windpipe is still permitting the passage of air to his lungs."

"But his appetite," Michaela said. "He has eaten very little all day."

"How about his temperature?" Sully asked.

She felt his forehead, "Actually, it seems to have dropped slightly."

"Babies are resilient, Michaela," he touched her shoulder. "I suggest we wait."

Sully took a deep breath, "Wait?"

"Yes," David nodded.

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

As the vigil for the baby continued through the night, Sully came downstairs to get Michaela a bite to eat. There, he found David and Caroline sitting in the wing back chairs.

"Thought Michaela might be hungry," Sully folded his arms.

Caroline rose and went to him, "Let me fix something for you both."

"Thanks," he did not really feel like eating.

"Sully," David called to him.

Entering the living room, the mountain man sat down beside the man who had nearly married his wife.

Awkwardly, Sully searched for the right words, "What are Josef's chances?"

The doctor rubbed his beard, "It's difficult to say. How old is he?"

"Five months," Sully replied.

"How has his health been prior to this?" David continued.

"Good," Sully was hopeful.

"Is Michaela nursing him?" the physician asked.

"Not for a couple weeks," Sully shook his head.

"So he is bottle fed," David nodded.

"Is that bad?" his eyes darkened.

"Some studies suggest that babies who are breast fed seem to have better abilities to fight off diseases," the doctor noted.

"I see," Sully looked down.

"I'm sorry I can't tell you more, Sully," he lowered his voice.

Caroline had prepared a tray, "I'll take this up to Michaela. There's a sandwich on the kitchen table for you, Sully."

"Thanks," his appetite was gone.

Both men fell silent.

Then Sully spoke, "Your wife's real nice."

"Thank you," David's face lit up. "She has filled my life like no other wom..."

"I understand," Sully smiled slightly.

"We've been working together on some projects to protect large tracts of land from development," David explained.

"I'm sorta involved in that line o' work now, myself," Sully rubbed his hand across his chin.

"I wish there were something I could do for you and Michaela," David stared at the fire.

"We lost a baby a couple o' years ago," Sully confided. "I wasn't with her when it happened. I don't want her t' go through that pain again."

"Some things are out of our hands," David counseled.

"It ain't fair," Sully stood and walked to the fireplace. "Seein' your poor, helpless little baby sufferin' so."

David's voice saddened, "I'll never know. Caroline and I cannot have children."

"I'm sorry," Sully felt guilty.

"It's all right," he said. "We've accepted it. We have dedicated ourselves to our work."

"That's good," Sully folded his arms across his chest.

"Don't worry about Michaela," David changed the subject. "She's the strongest woman I've ever known. When we would go on rounds at the hospital, she was like a whirlwind. Her diagnostic skills were unrivaled. Her compassion and...."

He stopped, realizing that he had suddenly been transported back to the days when he first fell in love with Michaela.

"Why'd ya stop?" Sully smiled. "I love hearin' about her."

"I didn't want you to think it inappropriate," the physician was embarrassed.

"Nope," Sully was glad for the diversion. "I wish I could have known her then."

"I am certain that she is still that woman," David stated. "And I believe that your little boy has that same determination."

"I know he's got her smile," Sully mused. "An' the sweetest disposition ya ever..."

Caroline came down the steps, "Sully?"

He swiftly went to her.

"Michaela would like to see you," she kept her voice down.

He bounded up the steps.

"How is the baby?" David looked at his wife.

She shook her head.

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

"Everythin' okay?" Sully entered their bedroom.

Michaela was lying on the bed with their infant son beside her. Holding a damp cloth, she was cooling his skin.

"Yes," she spoke low. "I just wondered where you were."

He lay down on the bed beside her and tucked her against his body. With his arm draped across her, he tenderly placed his hand on the baby's little hand. Josef made an effort to squeeze his father's finger.

"See that, Michaela?" he kissed her hair. "He's gonna be all right."

"I pray that you're right," she could feel a tear.

He tried to give her courage, "Sure I am. This little fella's gonna learn 't walk an' talk. He's gonna love bein' outdoors an' bringin' his Ma flowers t' cheer her up."

A smile crossed her face as she imagined Josef doing just that.

"And going fishing with his father," she added.

"Yep," Sully rubbed his thumb across the baby's fingers. "An' makin' his sister come runnin' t' tell us what mischief he's made."

"Do you think he knows how much we love him?" Michaela leaned down to kiss Josef's head.

"Definitely," Sully assured her. Then he noticed her untouched tray, "Think ya can eat a bite?"

"Not at the moment," she changed the subject. "Caroline is a wonderful woman. I'm so happy that she and David...."

Suddenly, the baby began gasping for air. Sully jumped to his feet and ran to the top of the steps to call for David. The physician moved as quickly as he could in response to Sully's plea.

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

Michaela attempted, without success, to clear a passageway for the baby's breathing. Quickly, she opened her medical bag and removed a scalpel. She disinfected it and moved toward her son.

"Sully," she nervously requested. "A feather. Get a feather."

Recalling how she had used a feather for a breathing passage on Black Kettle when she performed a tracheotomy, he hurried to fetch one.

When David saw her hand shaking, he took the instrument from her hand. Caroline assisted him, as he made the small incision to ease the infant's breathing. Sully returned with the feather, and Michaela quickly prepared it for insertion. She bit her lower lip to steady her hands and placed the tube of the feather into her son's throat. For several tense moments they watched and prayed. It worked.

Then Michaela reached for her husband. Sully pulled her into his arms, his heart nearly pounding out of his chest in fear. His wife continued to tremble as he embraced her and stroked her back.

At that moment, Matthew and Brian, having heard the commotion, appeared at the door. Seeing their mother silently weeping in Sully's arms, they assumed the worst.

"No," Brian shook his head. "Please say he ain't dead!"

David went to him and put his hand on the young man's shoulder, "He's alive, Brian. But I had to do a tracheotomy."

Michaela composed herself enough to sit beside the infant and assure him by her touch that she was there with him. The little boy curled his fingers around his mother's thumb.

"Look, Sully," she glanced up.

"I see," his voice choked.

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

As dawn broke upon the landscape of the homestead, the golden red sky cast its light through the windows. David and Caroline had been given Matthew's room in which to sleep. Matthew spent the night in the nursery, stiffly reclining in the rocking chair in case Katie woke.

Neither Michaela, nor Sully had slept, but hovered over their son to monitor his continued breathing. With the room now lit from the sunlight that filtered in, Michaela rose from the bed and stood over Josef to assess his condition. His intake of air was steady and sure.

She knelt down beside the bed and silently began to pray. Sully stood up and went around to join her. Side by side, the parents raised their fervent requests for their son's life. Sully then pulled Michaela into his arms and kissed her temple. She held onto him, then they rose to continue their vigil.

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

By mid morning, it was thought safe enough to remove the tiny tube through which Josef had been breathing. David performed the procedure, and Josef came through it well enough to breathe normally.

Placing her hand on David's arm, she said, "I don't know how to thank you."

"No need," he smiled. "This little boy is quite a fighter."

"Yes," she nodded.

"Michaela," Caroline went to her. "It appears that Josef has endured the worst of things, and we must be going."

Michaela embraced her, "Thank you. I don't know what we would have done if...."

"Walk me downstairs," Caroline took her hand.

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

The two women sat at the kitchen table.

"Michaela," Caroline began. "David has told me about you and him, how you thought he was dead during the War and how you came out here."

Michaela folded her hands, "When I thought he was dead, I wanted to die, as well. I threw myself into my work. Then after Father passed away, I knew I would never be accepted, continuing my medical practice alone in Boston."

"And what a shock it must have been for you when David turned up just as you had become engaged to Sully," she sympathized.

"Yes, it was a shock," she acknowledged. "I was relieved to know that he was still alive, yet angry that he had not contacted me in all those years."

"I don't mean to bring up unpleasant memories," Caroline patted her hand. "I just want to tell you that it's because of what happened that David and I found each other."

"How so?" Michaela was curious.

"When David returned to the East after you decided to stay with Sully, he became very despondent," she explained. "He... he attempted suicide."

"What!" Michaela responded.

"He was hospitalized, and that's where we met," Caroline explained.

"I.... I never knew. I never heard from him," she began to feel pangs of guilt.

"Please don't blame yourself," Caroline assured her. "It was meant to be this way. David and I were able to find each other. I was a widow, still grieving for my deceased husband after many years. In David, I found a new life, although it took us some time to admit how we felt toward one another. Since our marriage two years ago, we've been extremely happy."

"Then I'm happy for you," Michaela smiled faintly.

"When we were planning our trip to San Francisco, I insisted that we stop here so that I could meet you," Caroline said. "He had told me so much about you, how much he admired you."

"David is one of the finest men I've ever known," Michaela stated.

"He will always hold a special place in his heart for you," Caroline said. "But what's past is past, and life has a way of showing us so many new opportunities if we only open our hearts and minds to them."

Michaela nodded, recalling that when she allowed her heart to open up to the possibility of loving again, Sully had filled it with tremendous joy."

They heard someone descending the steps. Turning, they saw David.

"Is Josef all right?" Michaela felt anxious.

"Yes," he answered. "He's doing well."

Michaela stood and went to him. She wrapped her arms around him, then pulled back.

"Thank you, David," she looked at him with admiration. "You have given us a miracle."

"No," he smiled. "That little boy is a miracle into himself. The love that you and Sully have for him is what brought him back."

"You haven't met our Katie," she realized.

"Perhaps our next visit?" Caroline stood.

"Oh, yes," Michaela grasped her hand. "Please do come back."

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

After escorting them out, Michaela ascended the steps and quietly looked in on her daughter. Katie was peacefully at rest. Michaela went to Matthew and touched his knee.

"Wha-?" he was disoriented. "Ma? Is Josef...."

"He's fine," she smiled. "Why don't you go get some rest?"

"Ya sure?" he yawned.

"Yes," she nodded.

When he left the nursery, Michaela sat on the edge of Katie's bed.

Playing with a lock of her daughter's hair, she sighed, "Oh, Sweetheart, how precious you are to me."

Katie slowly opened her eyes, "Mama?"

"Yes," Michaela felt her forehead. "How are you feeling?"

"Sleepy," she yawned.

"Then go back to sleep," the mother stroked her hair.

"Joey okay?" the little girl asked.

"He's doing much better," Michaela informed her. "Now, you get some rest."

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

Entering their bedroom, Michaela saw Sully lying beside the baby. Miraculously, Josef was alert and looking around the room.

Sully glanced up, his blue eyes gleaming, "I think this big boy's hungry."

"I'll go fix his bottle," she turned.

"Michaela," Sully beckoned. "Did David an' Caroline leave?"

"Yes," she replied. "I'll return with his bottle shortly."

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

When she reentered the bedroom, Sully placed the infant in his mother's arms. Josef looked up at her and smiled. Michaela thought her heart would overflow with love. She began to feed the little boy, making certain that he did not consume too quickly or too much at a time.

With Sully stroking his head as he fed, Josef fell asleep. This time it was a peaceful sleep. There came a soft knock on the door.

"Come in," Sully whispered.

It was Brian, "How's Josef?"

"Much better, son," Sully patted his back.

"I'm headin' int' town then," Brian grinned. "I told Miss Dorothy I'd help her with the Gazette. I'm real glad Josef's gonna be okay."

"Thank you, Brian," Michaela spoke low.

"Matthew's still sleepin'," Brian grinned.

"I'm afraid he didn't get much rest in the rocking chair last night," she kissed Josef's forehead.

"I'll see ya later then," Brian closed the door.

"His fever is gone, Sully," Michaela reached for her husband.

"Sure is somethin' how babies bounce back," he held her hand.

"I'm so tired," she closed her eyes.

"Let me put him in his crib, then ya can get some rest," he reached for the baby.

"I don't want to let him go," she was reluctant.

"Then I'll put ya both in the bed," he reasoned.

"Will you be joining us?" she stood up.

"In a little while," he escorted her to the bed.

He held Josef while she made herself comfortable in the bed, then after kissing the little boy's head, he set the baby beside her.

"Get your rest now," he advised.

"Thank you," she closed her eyes.

Sully looked down upon these two cherished people in his life and took a deep breath. Then he turned to leave them sleep.

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

Michaela woke and quickly looked at her son. He was sleeping calmly. She inspected the tracheotomy incision and was pleased to see that it appeared normal. She closed her eyes and uttered a silent prayer of thanks for her little boy's life. Then she wondered why Sully had not come to bed. He must be exhausted. Tenderly placing Josef in his crib, she headed down the hall to check on Katie.

Michaela peeked into the nursery and saw her daughter still sleeping. Matthew's door was closed, as well. She made her way to the steps, and as she descended, caught sight of her husband in the living room.

"Sully?" she spoke softly.

He turned, "Everythin' all right?"

"Yes," she neared him. "You haven't gotten any rest."

He folded his arms against his chest. "I ain't really sleepy."

Placing her hand on his shoulder, she balanced on the arm of the chair, "Is there something you'd like to talk about?"

"Not really," his voice was melancholy.

Their conversation was interrupted by Matthew, who had come downstairs.

"The kids okay?" he stepped up to them.

"Yes," Michaela smiled. "Our hardest task now will be to prevent them from scratching."

"That's good," the young man grinned. "I got some errands t' run in town."

"Thank you for everything, Matthew," Michaela stood up to kiss him.

He hugged her, "No problem. I'll be home for supper."

Sully had remained quiet through this exchange. Michaela again turned her attention to him. She took his hand.

"What's troubling you?" she grew concerned.

He was vague, "Just got a lot on my mind."

Michaela was familiar with Sully's occasional sullen moods and times in which he preferred to be alone. However, the longer they were married, the less often these spells occurred. She was never truly certain how to handle it when he brooded, but she had learned that it was not personal.

She stroked his cheek, "I'm here if you want to talk."

He glanced up with the eyes she adored, "Thanks."

She started to stand, but he took her hand and held it against his lips. Swiftly, he pulled her into his lap and hugged her.

"Sully?" she was caught off guard by his action.

With his face against her shoulder, she felt his crying. Wrapping her arms around him, she kissed him and tenderly ran her fingers through his hair. For several minutes, Sully released the emotions that he had suppressed. Then Michaela began to weep with him. Cocooned in each other's arms, the parents let loose the tears that they had been holding back. Only to each other, now would they allow their facade to come down.

Finally, Michaela cupped his face in her hands and told him lovingly, "We're very fortunate, Sully."

"I know," he wiped away her tears. "I... I don't think I could've stood losin' another child."

"I'm so sorry," she shook her head.

"Sorry?" he touched her hair. "Why?"

"Sorry that you went through this before," she responded.

"I wanted t' be strong for you," he confessed.

"You were," she replied. "And are."

"An' ya went through it without me here when ya had the miscarriage, too," his eyes saddened.

She stroked his hair, "We're fine now. The children will be fine."

"But things can change in the blink of an eye," he told her.

"You're the one who always assures me that we can't live in the past," a slight grin passed her face. "We can't live in fear, remember?"

"I remember," he nodded.

"Perhaps a nap will make you feel better," she stood up.

"Doctor's orders?" his sense of humor returned.

"Yep," she imitated his dialect.

She tugged on his hand until he rose to his feet. Then she wrapped her arm around his waist.

"Come with me, Mr. Sully," she led him to the steps.

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

They came to Katie's room. The little girl was still sleeping peacefully. Michaela led her husband into the nursery. Sitting on the edge of the child's bed, they leaned over to kiss her.

Sully whispered, "She's callin' me 'Poppy' now."

Michaela controlled her laughter, "What?"

"Poppy," he repeated. "It's a combination of Papa an' Daddy."

"She has quite the imagination," she replied.

"Sure does," he nodded and looped his daughter's curls around his finger.

After lingering for several minutes, watching Katie slumber, Michaela reached for his hand again. She guided him to their bedroom. They checked on Josef, who was soundly asleep in his crib. Michaela rested her hand on the baby's forehead.

"Feels normal," she whispered. "They're going to be fine, Sully. Both of our babies are all right."

He took a deep breath and realized what she had done. Smiling, he pulled her into his arms.

"Thank you, Michaela," he rubbed her back.

"For what?" she seemed surprised.

"For remindin' me what didn't happen," he noted.

"We can still touch them, kiss them, hold them," she ran her hand along his cheek.

He closed his eyes to savor her touch.

"You look exhausted," she stopped. "Let me put you to bed."

"I got some paper work t' do," he resisted.

"Byron Sully," she opened her eyes wide. "It is usually you who must tear me away from work."

"You're right," he realized. "Sleep's what I need right now. I ain't thinkin' real clear."

She sat him on the edge of the bed and removed his shoes. Then she untucked his shirt from his buckskins.

"Now," she pushed him slowly back onto a pillow. "I'm prescribing some sleep. I anticipate that your children will be well rested and in need of your attention quite soon." She pulled a cover up to his chest and stroked the hair back from his face, "Rest well."

Sully closed his eyes, and soon, as he held her hand, he drifted off.

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

When Michaela came down the steps, she saw the stack of papers on the kitchen table that Sully had been sifting through. She contemplated how hard it was for him to be saddled with so much bureaucratic paper work. She shook her head and thought to herself, he loathes this.

Sitting down at the table, she pondered what he was going through for his family. He had lost the Indians. He was losing the land. The train had come. And now he was becoming a bureaucrat.

"Oh, Sully," she sighed. "Is this what you really want? Have I really domesticated you into this?"

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

The sound of his family's voices woke Sully. He yawned and stretched his arms. Darkness had descended, and he wondered what time it was. Rising from the bed, he stepped toward the baby's crib. It was empty. He put on his shoes and exited. There was no one in Katie's room either. When he came downstairs, he saw his wife and children.

"What's all the commotion?" he rubbed his eyes.

Michaela was feeding Josef, "Nothing in particular. You didn't sleep very long. How did you rest?"

"Good," he squinted. "What time is it?"

"Time for supper," Brian began to set the table.

"Poppy, lookie," Katie was drawing.

Sully lifted her artwork, "Looks like a little girl an' boy with chicken pox."

"You're much better than I," Michaela smiled. I could not recognize her design no matter at what angle I tried to examine it."

"Just gotta think about what's in this little girl's mind," Sully patted Katie's head. "How ya feelin', Kates?"

"Still itchin'," she turned up her nose.

"Which one itches the most?" he teased.

Pointing to a speck on her arm, she replied, "Mama."

Sully burst into laughter.

"What's so funny, Pa?" Brian placed the eating utensils around.

"Nothin'," Sully walked to his wife. Bending down to whisper for her ear alone, "I got an itch for her Ma, too."

Michaela blushed.

Sully rubbed Josef's head tenderly, "How's this big boy doin'?"

"Much improved," Michaela replied.

Matthew glanced up from his law books, "Sully, I was thinkin'. Ma showed me all the paper work ya got, and well... If ya need any help, I'd be happy t' give ya a hand."

"Thanks, Matthew," Sully patted the young man's back. "I'll be okay t' do it."

Michaela eyed her son gratefully.

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

After a late meal, Brian and Matthew retired for the evening. Michaela put Josef down to sleep, and Sully spoke quietly to Katie in the nursery.

"I gettin' better, Poppy," the little girl informed her father.

"That's good, Kates," he touched her cheek.

"Now I go widin'?" she reminded him.

"Not yet," he pulled up her blanket. "An' when ya do go ridin', it's gotta be with one o' us, sweet girl."

"When I wide by self?" her lower lip curled.

Sully smiled, "Ya know how ya keep wonderin' when Josef's gonna walk?"

"Yep," she nodded.

"An' we keep tellin' ya he can't walk 'cause he's not ready; he's not big enough, he's not strong enough," Sully explained. "If he tried t' walk now, he'd get hurt."

"He too small?" she reasoned.

"Right," Sully took her hand. "Just like you're too small t' ride a horse by yourself. But don't worry. You'll grow soon enough, an' then we won't be able t' keep ya off o' the horse."

"I wish I gwow faster," she squeezed his hand.

Michaela entered the nursery, "Grow faster? If you grow any faster, young lady, we won't be able to keep up with you."

"Mama," Katie's eyes lit up. "Joey too small t' walk."

"He is," she sat down beside them.

"Poppy say I too small t' wide," the child added.

Michaela agreed, "Your father's correct. However, you will grow soon enough to ride. Just take each day one at a time, Katie. Don't try to rush things."

"Wush things?" the little girl did not understand.

"Don't be in a hurry, Kates," Sully grinned. "Josef's gotta crawl before he walks and walk before he runs."

Michaela chimed in, "And you must grow bigger before you ride."

The child was silent.

"What ya thinkin' about?" Sully touched her nose.

"Thinkin' I better help Joey cwawl," she replied.

"He'll love having his big sister help him," Michaela replied.

"Mama," Katie looked up. "Joey bad sick."

"Yes, he was," the mother's eyes saddened.

"I make him sick?" Katie feared.

"No, Sweetheart," Michaela realized what her daughter was thinking. "You both were exposed to the disease. You simply got it first, but you didn't give it to your brother."

"I help Joey name his," she pointed to her chicken pox spots.

Sully chuckled, "What's this one called again? This real itchy one over here?"

Katie was quite serious, "That Mama."

"An' Mama's the most itchy one ya got?" Sully looked suggestively at his wife.

"Yep," Katie responded innocently.

"Well, don't scratch," Michaela reminded. "Now, you must get your rest if you're going to do some of that growing."

"Okay," the child closed her eyes.

They listened to her prayers and quietly left the room to go to bed.

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

"I don't appreciate your encouraging Katie to refer to her most irritating eruption as 'Mama,'" Michaela pretended to be annoyed.

Sully rubbed his chin, "Ya really upset?"

"Yes," she remained serious.

He walked to the crib to check on his son, "Really?"

She stepped closer to him, "No."

Sully caressed Josef's head, "He's sleepin' so peaceful an' nice."

"Yes," she felt a tear. "The resiliency of children amazes me."

Sully pulled her into his arms, "You amaze me."

"I do?" she slid her hands up to his shoulders.

"Um-hum," he grinned. "Ya do it all, Michaela."

"So do you," she said. "May I ask you something?"

"Sure," he answered.

She turned to walk to the bed.

Sitting down, she looked at her hands, "A while ago, you said that I had domesticated you."

"I didn't mean...." he started toward her.

She held up her hand to continue, "When I saw all of the paper work that you have to do, Sully, I began to think about how different your life has become because of me. I think about what you've lost, and I'm saddened that your life has changed so drastically."

"You're right," he sat down beside her. "My life is different."

She lowered her head.

Sully reached over and raised her chin to gaze into her eyes, "Both our lives have changed. The world changes. But one thing's for sure. You make my life worth livin'. Every mornin' I wake up beside ya, I think how lucky I am. Every time I look at the children, I know they're here 'cause o' you."

"I don't want you to give up the life you had," she tried to explain.

"The life I had was lonely, Michaela," he responded. "I had nothin' t' look forward to. I had no one t' come home to. But it's past. I wouldn't wanna go back t' that life. Not after what we got."

"I wish there were some way that you didn't have to work with all of the government bureaucracy," she shook her head.

Sully took her hands in his, "Ya know how when you were in medical school, ya had t' sit through a lot o' borin' classes an' read a lot o' borin' books?"

She nodded, "Yes, but..."

"But," he grinned. "Look at the end result. Ya save lives. Ya deliver babies. Ya mend people. It ain't so bad goin' through borin' papers if, in the end, a lot o' good can come from it. I wanna leave our children a Colorado that has all the beauty an' natural wonders that I love."

"So you don't mind the paper work?" she wondered.

"Oh, I mind," he raised an eyebrow. "But I don't have t' do it all the time. An' when I do, I'll need your help."

"You will?" she was pleased.

"Yep," he sounded impish. "I need ya t' distract me from all those papers every once in a while. Know what I'm talkin' about?"

"Does it have something to do with scratching an itch?" she suggested.

"Ya read my mind," he grinned.

She framed his face in her hands, "I love you, Sully."

"I know ya do," he smiled. "An' I love you."

They leaned toward one another to kiss sweetly.

Sully lifted her hand to his cheek and quoted:

"Oh Love! in such a wilderness as this
Where transport and security entwine,
Here is the empire of thy perfect bliss,
And here thou art a god indeed divine."

"Sounds like Byron," the corner of her mouth turned up.

"Yep, it is," he kissed her palm.

"Sully," she ran her finger along his chin. "Do you recall what you said to me when you asked me to marry you?"

"The first or the second time?" he teased.

She poked his side, "The first."

He raised his eyes to the ceiling, then spoke in the exact voice she remembered from six years ago, "Let me see. I think I said, 'I wanna be with you. I need t' be with you. I will love you all my days. Will you marry me?'"

"That's exactly what you said!" her eyes lit up.

"See?" he grinned. "Some things from the past are worth hangin' on to. Do you remember what you said to me?"

"The first or the second time?" she retorted.

"The first," he rubbed her arm.

"Let me see," she looked up. "I think I said, 'Yes.'"

"Do ya remember what happened next?" he raised an eyebrow.

"I believe we kissed," she smiled.

"Like this?" he tenderly brought his lips to hers.

"That's exactly the way it was," she nodded.

"An' then what?" he asked.

"Then we came back to the old homestead to tell Matthew, Colleen and Brian," she recalled.

He ran his hand along her hair, "Then what?"

"Then you left," she replied.

"Now," he began to unbutton the top of her blouse. "Times are different. When I kiss ya, I don't have t' go t' some lean-to in the woods."

"I see your point," her voice quivered in anticipation. "There is a lot to be said for the present."

"Yep," he slid her blouse and camisole off of her shoulder.

"I love our present," he continued to undress her and ply his kisses to her body.

Michaela began to remove his clothing, and soon they slid beneath the coolness of the sheets on their bed. Carefully, mindfully, they began to arouse strong and tempting passions in one another. The familiarity of what pleased the other made their touches even more stirring. Soon they could not hold back the fulfillment of their longing, and in a blinding flurry of energy, they gave themselves to one another.

They lay still, allowing the electric feelings which engulfed them to finally calm. Their tender touches and kisses continued without words.

Then Sully spoke low, "Beats paper work any day."

"And boring books," she kissed his chest.

"If ya come t' Denver with me next month, I oughta survive the bureaucrats just fine," he said.

"So I'm to be a distraction?" she tried to sound upset.

"Nope," he ran his hand across her back. "They're the distraction. You're the main attraction. I'd much rather be doin' this with you."

"I see," she smiled. "I suppose I can live with that role."

"Bein' my main attraction?" he chuckled.

"Yes," she sounded satisfied. After pausing, she thought about the past few days. "Sully, Caroline told me something disturbing about David."

"What?" he was curious.

"After I told him that I was staying here to marry you, and he returned east, he lost the will to live," she said. "He tried to kill himself."

"Don't surprise me," he replied.

"Why?" she asked.

"'Cause losin' the woman ya love can have that effect," he lowered his voice. "But love can also give a man back the will t' live an' face the future."

"That's when he met Caroline," Michaela continued. "They found each other."

"Sounds like a familiar story," he pulled her closer and kissed her cheek.

"I'm glad that we found each other, Sully," she closed her eyes.

"An' we'll never let what's past take away what we got here an' now," he ran his hand across her temple. "Never."

THE END



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