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


by Debby K

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
by Debby K

Chapter 1

"What ya doin', Mama?" Katie stood beside her mother at the kitchen table on a cold December morning.

"Putting some things in this family album," Michaela glued the corners of a photograph to the page.

"Can I help?" the little girl was fascinated.

"Can?" Michaela smiled.

"May I help, please?" the child amended her question.

"Of course, Sweetheart," she pulled her into her lap. "At least until your brother wakes."

"Why'd ya put that picture there?" Katie pointed to the album.

"It's a photograph that Colleen sent of Brian and Matthew's visit to Philadelphia," she explained.

"When are we gonna see Colleen again?" the little girl questioned.

"I'm not certain," Michaela fought back a tear. "She's on her way to England."

Katie noticed, and stroked her mother's hair, "Don't be sad. I'm here."

Michaela put on a brave face, "Yes, ma'am."

The child giggled, "When's Poppy comin' home?"

"Before dark," the mother glanced toward the window.

"Mama!" a cry came from upstairs.

"Sounds like Joey's up," Katie slipped from her mother's lap.


Robert E and Sully completed their plastering work for the Slickers' new living room.

"I never used this stuff before," Robert E commented.

"Makes a room real nice," Sully washed his hands in a bucket of water. "Michaela's Ma has plastered walls with fancy paper on 'em. Nice an' smooth."

"So's Preston. Think Jake's gonna want the walls papered, too?" Robert E asked.

"Maybe," he dried his hands.

The sound of a horse approaching caught their attention. Shortly, Jake entered his new abode.

"So, what do ya think?" Robert E awaited his approval.

"Looks good," Jake stood back, fingers in his vest pockets.

"Gettin' nervous?" Sully smiled.

"'Bout what?" Jake cocked his head.

"About the baby?" Sully knew the feeling.

"Nah," he waved his hand. "Havin' a kid's easy."

"For a man," Robert E chuckled.

"Not for this man," Sully pointed to himself.

"That's cause you an' Dr. Mike never do things the easy way," Jake commented.

"That's true," Robert E acknowledged. "Ya managed t' be stranded where no one could help ya when Katie an' Josef were born."

"Ain't natural for the father t' be there when his kid's born," Jake announced.

"Why not?" Sully chuckled.

"It just ain't," Jake reasoned. "Woman's got enough on her mind with all that screamin' an' pain without worryin' about her husband."

"I can tell ya the last thing a woman's worried about is her husband," Sully recalled. "In fact, she might say things that'll make ya think she never wants t' see ya again."

"Even better reason for the man t' not be there," Jake concluded.

"But t' be the first t' hold your baby," Sully's voice filled with emotion. "T' see the first moment of its life.... t' put your little girl or boy in its mother's arms, there ain't no feelin' in the world like it."

Both men fell silent, respecting the profoundness of his statement.

Suddenly, they heard Horace shouting, "Jake, Jake! Are ya here?"

"'Course I'm here," he sauntered onto the front porch.

"It's Teresa," he called. "Dorothy sent me t' get ya. She's havin' the baby!"

"She is?" he froze.

"I'll go get Michaela," Sully breezed past them and jumped on his horse.

"Jake?" Robert E shook him. "Are ya all right?"

He stood numbly silent.

"Ain't ya comin' back t' town?" Horace was puzzled.

"Tell Dorothy I'll bring him," Robert E instructed.

Horace soon departed.

"Jake," Robert E took his shoulders. "Ya gotta straighten up. Your wife's havin' a baby."

"I know," he was still in shock.

"I'll take ya," the blacksmith led him to the door. "Let's go."


"Poppy," Katie was drawing a picture. "Why'd Mama leave so quick?"

"'Cause she's gonna help Miss Teresa have her baby," Sully stroked her soft hair.

"Up, Papa," Josef craned his neck to look at his father.

Sully grinned and hoisted the little boy nearly to the ceiling.

"Up!" Josef reached to touch the beams.

"Better not, Joe," Sully lowered him to kiss his belly. "Your Ma don't want little hand prints up there."

Then he pulled back his son's hair from his face.

"Who's got a birthday comin' up?" Sully's eyes widened.

"Me!" Josef pointed to himself.

"How old ya gonna be?" the proud father nodded.

"One, two," the little boy counted.

"You can drop the 'one,' an' just say 'two' when somebody asks how old ya are," Sully smiled.

"Poppy," Katie innocently asked. "How'd Miss Teresa make a baby?"

Sully gulped. He and Michaela had once offered her an explanation for how Josef came to them, but he suspected it was not sufficient to contain her curiosity.

"How 'bout we play a game?" Sully changed the subject.

"What?" Katie was receptive.

"Uh," he hesitated. "You pick, Kates."

"Hide an' seek?" she suggested.

"Good one," Sully winked.

"I'll hide," she ran toward the steps. "Count t' ten, then you an' Joey try t' find me."

"Sounds good," he smiled. "Let's count, Joe."

The child began, "Two...."

"No," Sully corrected. "One comes first."

Josef was confused, recalling that his father had told him to begin with two, but he obeyed and started again. Faintly, Sully recited the numbers as Josef spoke them loudly, tripping a bit over "seven," but otherwise completing the goal of "ten."

Then Josef shouted, "We come!"


"Don't push yet, Teresa," Michaela tried to calm the pregnant woman.

"Please, I must!" her face cringed in agony.

Michaela felt the woman's abdomen, "How far apart are the pains?"

Dorothy held Teresa's hand, "Seems like they're comin' about every five minutes."

Michaela gestured for her friend to step over to the doorway with her, "There's a problem."

"What's wrong?" the redhead was concerned.

"It's a breech birth," the doctor noted. "I'm going to have to do a Caesarean procedure."

"I know ya done 'em before, Michaela," Dorothy stated. "Whatever ya think best."

Michaela noticed the father's absence, "Where's Jake?"

"I ain't sure," Dorothy brushed back a lock of hair. "I sent Horace t' fetch him. I'll go see if I can find him."

"I hope he's not at the saloon," Michaela muttered.

Teresa let forth a scream of agony as another labor pain gripped her.

"Doctor," Teresa's eyes filled with tears. "Where is my husband?"


"Poppy," Katie tired of the game. "Let's do somethin' else."

"It's time for your nap now," he held his sleepy son in his arms.

"Do we gotta?" her disappointment was evident.

"Yep," he stroked her cheek. "Take off your shoes, an' hop int' bed."

"Would ya tell us a story?" she implored.

He sat down on the edge of her bed. Josef toyed with his father's beads.

"Any particular story?" he pulled up her cover.

"Tell us where Miss Teresa got her baby," the little girl returned to the topic.

"Katie," he was uncomfortable.

"Please, Poppy?" she knew her father could never resist that voice.

"Tell ya what," he smiled. "Your Ma an' me will tell ya when she gets home."

"When will that be?" she was impatient.

"Kates," he knew she was stalling. "It's nap time. Close your eyes."

"Okay," she rolled over onto her side away from him.

"Hey," he tapped her leg.

"What?" she looked over her shoulder with an expression reminiscent of her mother.

"You mad at your Pa?" he raised an eyebrow.

"No," her smile melted him. "I never been mad at ya, Poppy."

"Good," he kissed her cheek. "I got a feelin' that won't always be the case."


"Jake," Robert E coaxed the barber as they stood in the street. "Ya gotta go in."

"I can't," he was petrified.

Hank saw them and approached, "You fellas lookin' t' get run over?"

Robert E explained, "Teresa's in labor, an' Jake here won't go in."

"Ya scared or somethin'?" Hank charged.

"No," Jake denied. "I just...."

"Ya just what?" the bartender folded his arms.

The sound of Teresa's voice echoed into the street.

"It's just I don't wanna hear all that screamin'," Jake answered.

"It's your fault she's in there screamin'," Hank grinned. "Least ya could do is be in the same buildin' with her."

"I need a drink," he turned toward the Gold Nugget.

"Jake," Robert E blocked his path. "Ya been sober for months. Don't do it."

Loren strolled out onto the wooden walkway, "What's everyone doin' out here?"

"Jake here's afraid o' his wife's screamin'," Hank sarcastically accused.

Loren chuckled, "Go in there. Ain't nothin' to it."

"See?" Hank noticed. "She's stopped screamin'."

He nudged Jake toward the barbershop.

At that moment, Michaela rushed through the door, "Jake, I need to speak with you right now."

"Why?" his knees shook.

"There's a problem," the physician wiped her hands on a towel.

"A prob...." Jake's voice trailed off as he fell into a dead faint in the street.

Chapter 2

"I'll fetch a pitcher o' water t' wake up Jake," Loren turned to go into the mercantile.

"I must return to Teresa," Michaela reentered the barbershop.

"I'll come with ya," Dorothy followed.

"Don't need t' go t' any trouble, folks," Hank leaned down and slapped his friend repeatedly. "Jake! Wake up! Your kid's here."

"Huh?" he slowly opened his eyes.

Hank and Robert E helped him to his feet.

"Boy or girl?" Jake's legs were wobbly.

"Don't know yet," Hank pushed him. "Now get in there an' do what Michaela needs ya t' do."


Sully smiled at his sleeping children. Brian would be home from school soon, and Michaela.... He stopped to think about what she was doing at this moment. Bringing a baby into the world. His heart saddened. He knew it might remind her of the baby they would have had a few weeks ago if....

Sully shook his head, trying to get the thought of her miscarriage from his mind. He stroked Katie's beautiful hair, marveling at how she was growing and reminding him more each day of Michaela. And her curiosity. Where did Miss Teresa get her baby, he smiled. It was at times like this that he needed Michaela's help with explanations. Then he chuckled at how Michaela had once given Brian a detailed anatomy lesson, using words and charts that the boy could not possibly understand.

He walked to Josef's crib. Rubbing the little boy's back, he noted how fast he was growing. Just as bright as his sister, Josef always tried, and usually succeeded in making his family laugh with his antics. Michaela said that their son reminded her of him. Sully didn't see it, except for his eyes. He sighed and listened, relishing the peaceful sound of his children's steady breathing.


"It's a breech birth, Jake," Michaela explained to the man, his face pale with fear. "I'm going to do a procedure to remove the baby, but I must begin as soon as possible."

Teresa let forth another scream in the next room.

Dorothy called, "Michaela!"

Michaela took Jake's shoulders, "Your wife wants to see you. She needs to hear your reassuring voice that all will be well. Can you do that?"

"I.... I guess," his voice quaked.

"Jacob!" Teresa was heard again.

"Go to her while I prepare my instruments," Michaela urged.

As Dorothy helped Michaela, Jake sat down beside his wife.

"Hey," he smiled uncomfortably.

"Where have you been?" Teresa's face was steeped in perspiration.

"Been out t' the house," he blotted the moisture with a towel. "Robert E an' Sully got the livin' room plastered."

"That is good," her face began to contort.

"Ya okay?" he worried.

She suddenly yelled, nearly breaking Jake's heart. She grabbed his shirt and almost ripped it from his chest. Jake was paralyzed with fear.

"Dr. Mike?" he called to the doctor.

As the pain passed, Michaela nodded for him to go. He paused at the doorway to glance back.

"Tell her you love her," Michaela coached in a whisper.

"I love ya, Teresa," the barber's voice choked.

"I love you, Jacob," her eyes sparkled for that moment.

"I'll be in the next room," he informed her.

There, waiting for him as he entered the front of his shop were Loren, Hank, Robert E, Horace, the Reverend and Grace.

"Everyone needin' a haircut at once?" Jake made light of their presence.

"She okay?" Hank stood up.

"Dr. Mike's doin' some procedure t' remove the baby," he tried to calm his voice.

"I remember when she did that with Emily's baby when she first moved here," the Reverend contributed.

"Ain't it risky?" Loren stated.

"Good move, Loren," Hank motioned to Jake. "He's barely able t' keep from passin' out, an' you go an' worry him more."

"Teresa's in good hands," Grace affirmed.

"Amen," the Reverend said.

Suddenly the wail of a newborn baby interrupted the discussion.

Dorothy rushed in to announce, "It's a girl! A beautiful baby girl."

Everyone applauded except Jake. He had again passed out, this time in his barber chair.

Hank stepped to the counter and picked up a basin of water. Throwing it in Jake's face, the man instantly woke.

"You're a pa, Jake!" Horace smiled.

"I.... I... am," he smiled.

"Do ya wanna see her?" Dorothy invited.

"Sure," he wiped the liquid from his face.

Tentatively, he stepped toward the door and witnessed Michaela tenderly wrapping the baby in a cloth.

"Teresa?" he felt as if his legs would buckle again.

"She'll be out for a while longer," Michaela held up the infant. "Come look."

Jake went to her and stood in awe, "She's beautiful."

"It appears she has her mother's dark hair," Michaela smiled. "Would you like to hold her?"

"Can I?" he nervously requested.

"Certainly," she handed the baby to the new father. "You can be the one to present her to her mother when she wakes up."

"Sully told me what this would feel like," he was transfixed by the baby's face. "But I never imagined it would be this good."

The mention of her husband's name brought a smile to her face, "Teresa is going to have to remain in bed for a while. The surgery is...."

"I'll see that she stays in bed," he interrupted. "I'll take care o' everythin'." His eyes filled with tears, "Dr. Mike, thank you. Thank you so much."

"You're welcome," she wiped away her own tear.


"Mama's home!" Katie heard horses. "Bran, too."

The little girl met them at the door.

"Miss Teresa get her baby, Mama?" the child queried excitedly.

"Yes, Sweetheart," Michaela set down her bag and hung her coat on the peg.

"She had a little girl," Brian's face lit up.

"A girl?" Katie's eyes widened. "That's great!"

"Good thing Dr. Kelly took over teachin' us last week," Brian mused. "Otherwise Miss Teresa might have had the baby at school."

Sully came down the steps with Josef in his arms.

"Mama," the little boy reached for her.

"Hello, my darling," she kissed his forehead. "Hello, Papa."

Sully kissed her, "Missed ya. How'd everything go?"

"Fine," she noticed Katie hanging on every word. "I'll fill you in later."

"I'll get supper started for ya, Ma," Brian offered.

"Thank you, Brian," she set Josef down.

"I'll help!" Katie offered.

"Katie," Josef implored.

"Okay," she took her brother's hand. "You can help, too, Joey."

Sully led his wife into the living room and pulled her into his arms for a warmer reception. After a tender kiss, he rubbed his hands up and down her back.

"Ya okay?" he sensed her melancholy.

"Fine," she nodded.

"Sure?" he was not convinced.

"We'll talk later," she leaned her head against his chest, savoring the warmth of his arms around her. "They have a little girl, Sully."

"I heard Brian when I was upstairs," he kissed the top of her head. "Teresa okay?"

"I had to perform a Caesarean," her mood lightened. "Jake was a nervous wreck."

"I know," he laughed. "Had a talk with him at the house before Horace came."

"Jake mentioned that you did," she smiled. "And that you told him what it would be like to hold his baby."

"Yep," he cupped his hand gently against the back of her head. "What are they gonna name her?"

"Maria," she replied. "Jake's mother's name was Mary, and Teresa's was Maria."

"Nice way t' remember their mothers," he stroked her hair.

"Like Katherine Elizabeth," she pulled him closer.


Katie spoke as her mother brushed her curly hair, "Mama, Poppy said when ya got home, you'd tell me where Miss Teresa got her baby."

Sully completed diapering their son, "Uh... well, I thought maybe we both oughta give it a try."

Michaela glanced sideways at her husband, "Thank you."

He grinned, "You're welcome."

"Katie, do you remember what your Daddy and I said when you asked where Josef came from?" Michaela began.

"A little bit," she shook her head. "Ya told me ya got a lot o' love t' share."

"That's true," the mother caressed her daughter's cheek.

Sully tried to settle Josef in his arms, "Is that all ya remember?"

The little girl paused to consider, then replied, "Yep."

Sully asked, "Where do ya think babies come from, Kates?"

"Outa their Mama," she reasoned. "But I don't know how they got in there."

"You know that a baby grows in its Mama's tummy," Michaela said.

"Uh huh," she recalled her mother's size before Josef was born. "It gets big, an' so does the mama. But our baby died before Mama got big."

Both parents fell silent, painfully reminded by the loss they had suffered.

Katie sensed their change in mood and placed her hand on her mother's, "Ya miss him, Mama?"

Sully could see Michaela tense, "Kates, maybe we oughta talk about this t'morrow."

"But you said...." she stopped when she saw her father's expression.

"I'm sorry," she was not certain of what she had done, but knew it upset her mother. "Mama?"

Michaela quietly leaned forward and kissed her cheek, "Good night, Katie. I love you."

"I love you, too," the little girl searched her mother's face.

Michaela forced a smile, then kissed her son, "Good night, Josef. I love you."

"'Night, Mama," he yawned. "Luv."

Sully sat beside his little girl, "Say your prayers now, Kates."

"Mama's mad at me," her lower lip curled under.

"No, she's not," he touched his thumb to her chin. "She's had a long day, is all. We'll talk about things t'morrow. Okay?"

"Okay," she nodded and folded her hands in prayer.


"Michaela?" Sully entered the bedroom to find her staring into the fire.

"Are they all right?" she did not look at him.

"They're fine," he went to her.

She warmed at the feel of his arms around her, "I thought I was handling it, Sully. I thought I was moving past losing the baby."

Chapter 3

"You've done real good," Sully assured her.

She closed her eyes, "Not really. There have been nights when..."

"When what?" he lightly ran his finger along her jaw line.

"When I dreamed about our baby, held him in my arms...." her tears started to flow freely.

"Why didn't ya tell me?" he wiped the moisture with his thumbs.

"What could you have done, Sully?" she said. "I didn't want to remind you, too."

"I could have listened.... held ya...." he hesitated. "Wait a minute. I been so busy worryin' about Cloud Dancin' and buildin' Jake's house, I ain't been here enough for ya. God, I'm sorry, Michaela."

"No, please," she captured his face between her hands. "That's not true. You do hold me and listen to me. I just didn't tell you. I didn't want to see the hurt in your eyes."

He felt his own eyes water, "If ya wanna talk now, I'm here t' listen."

"I think I just want you to hold me," she pulled him closer.


"Joey," Katie softly called to her brother.

The little boy did not rouse from his sleep. Katie rose from her bed and touched his arm.

"Joey, wake up," her voice was slightly louder.

Josef began to whimper.

"Shhh," Katie held her finger to her lips. "We gotta cheer up Mama."

Josef yawned and pulled himself into a sitting position, "Mama?"

Katie continued, "We gotta think o' somethin'."

"Sleepy," Josef yawned again.

"How can ya sleep when Mama's sad?" the little girl put her hands on her hips. "She misses our baby."

"I baby," he pointed to himself.

"No," she rolled her eyes. "Our other baby. Don't ya remember? Ya put the bunny in the box before Poppy buried him."

"Bunny," he nodded.

"Maybe Bran can help," she tiptoed toward the door.

"No go," Josef reached out.

"Shhh," she scampered back to him. "What are we gonna do, Joey?"

"Sleep?" he recommended.

"I can't sleep," she stated.


Sitting on the bed, Sully pulled Michaela onto his lap, "Feelin' better?"

"Some," she felt a lump in her throat. "I suppose delivering the Slicker baby today just..."

He interrupted, "It's natural that it would make ya think o' our baby."

"And with Josef's birthday coming up," she smiled slightly.

Their conversation ceased when they heard low voices.

"Is that the children?" she wondered.

"Sounds like they're up," he responded. "Maybe they need somethin'. I'll go check."

"No," she placed her hand against his heart. "I'll go."


Michaela opened the nursery door slightly. The slit of light caught Katie standing by the crib.

"What are you doing up?" Michaela entered the room and lit the lamp.

"Up, Mama," Josef reached.

She lifted the little boy and held him close, "Is something wrong?"

Katie approached her mother, "We're worried, Mama."

"Worried?" Michaela's brow wrinkled. "Why, Sweetheart?"

The little girl climbed up on her bed and stood at eye level to her mother, "'Cause you're sad."

"Oh, my darlings," Michaela instantly felt her eyes moisten again as she hugged her children.

For several moments, she stood with them in her arms.

Then she released Katie, "Under the covers now."

The child obeyed, looking up at her mother with concern. Michaela sat down beside Katie while Josef stroked his mother's hair.

"Sometimes we get sad," Michaela began to explain. "Sometimes we miss people, but then we are reminded of how very lucky we are."

"We're lucky?" Katie attempted to understand.

"Very lucky, indeed," she replied. "We have one another and lots of love."

"I love you, Mama," Katie sat up again and put her arms around her mother's neck.

"And I love you," she kissed her cheek. "You make me so happy and so proud."

"We do?" the little girl beamed.

"Oh, yes," Michaela noticed her son drifting off.

"You're not sad now?" Katie hoped.

"I'm never sad when I'm around you," she answered.

Sully appeared at the door, "Everythin' okay?"

Michaela held up Josef for him, "Yes, we're fine."

He carried his sleeping son to the crib and tenderly placed him in it.

"Mama's not sad now, Poppy," Katie informed him.

Sully placed his hands on his wife's shoulders, "That's good."

"I don't wanna make ya sad again," the child pledged. "I won't ask ya where babies come from anymore, Mama."

Michaela clasped her hand, "No, Katie, I want you to know."

"But it makes ya sad t' talk about," the little girl feared.

"It doesn't make me sad," she responded. "Babies come from...."

"From love," Sully picked it up. "When a grownup man an' woman love each other, they get t'gether in a way that puts the baby in the Mama."

"Can I try it?" the little girl innocently asked.

Michaela nearly felt her heart stop, "NO!" She quickly realized how loud her response was and lowered her voice, "No, Sweetheart. Your father said grownup, remember?"

"When I grow up, can I make a baby?" Katie persisted.

"After you get married," Michaela amended.

"I gotta get married first?" the child asked.

"It's a real good idea," Sully grinned. "An' the man's gotta get my approval before he can marry ya."

"What ya 'provin', Poppy?" the little girl was puzzled.

"Before ya get married, I wanna meet the fella," Sully avowed. "I gotta say he's good enough t' marry my little girl."

"But I'll be grownup," she countered. "I won't be a little girl then."

"You'll always be our little girl in here," Michaela pointed to her heart.

For a moment, Katie was silent.

Then she returned to the subject, "When the grownups get t'gether t' make a baby, what do they do?"

Both parents glanced at one another.

"Well..." Michaela cleared her throat. "They.... ah... that is to say.... they...."

Sully offered, "They share things."

"What things?" the little girl's curiosity continued.

"Things of an intimate nature," Michaela tried.

"Intimate?" Katie hoped for more.

"Private," Michaela was now blushing.

"Why's your face red, Mama?" Katie touched her cheek.

"It's a little warm in here," she looked toward Sully.

"Kates, I think you've learned enough for t'night," he touched her nose.

"But, I don't understand, Poppy," her eyes begged.

"We promise to tell you more when you're a little older," Michaela smiled.

"Just like goin' t' school an' ridin' a horse," Katie frowned. "I gotta wait for everythin'."

Michaela kissed her forehead, "Are you the one who's sad now?"

Katie quickly changed her mood, "No. I just like t' know things."

"I was like you when I was a little girl," Michaela stroked her curls.

"Ya were?" the child's eyes lit up. "Did your Mama an' Papa tell ya how t' make babies?"

"Uh..." Michaela was taken aback again.

"Kates," Sully pulled up her blanket. "Some things are worth waitin' t' find out about."

"It better be good," Katie folded her arms.

"Good things are always worth the wait," he kissed her. "Can ya go t' sleep now?"

"I guess so," she nodded.

He tickled her side, "I love you, sweet girl."

"I love you, too," she giggled. "An' you, Mama."

"Good night, Sweetheart," she kissed her daughter's cheek.


"Whew," Sully shook his head when they reached their bedroom. "I don't know what we're gonna do with that girl."

"I know," Michaela smiled. "I never quite know what to expect from her next."

"Look at you," he grinned.

"What?" she turned to face the mirror.

"You're smilin'," he rested his hands on her waist.

"One cannot help smiling around Katie and Josef," she stroked the hair at his temples. "When I see you with them, it makes me want to...."

He noticed her hesitation, "To what?"

"To give you more children," she sighed.

"Never know," he winked. "It might happen."

"Well, we're doing all of the right things," she ran her finger along his lips.

"I never thought it would be like this, Michaela," he savored her touch.

"Like what?" she queried.

"I never knew raisin' children would be so hard," he clarified.

"Shall we send them back?" she teased.

"I reckon we oughta keep 'em," he laughed. "But what's it gonna be like when they're grown up?"

"We already know that with Matthew, Colleen and Brian," she told him.

"They turned out good," he smiled.

"Agreed," she kissed him.

The nearness of her triggered his desire, "I sure do love you."

"And I, you," she repeated the kiss and deepened it.

His heartbeat quickened, "Ya know where this is leadin', Michaela?"

She embraced him, "I believe so. I... hope so."

"Ya do?" he raised an eyebrow.

"I believe it's leading... over there," she guided him toward their bed.

Sully fell back onto the soft mattress. She slowly climbed up beside him and started to unbutton his shirt. Then she hovered over him, plying kisses to his chest, neck and lips.

At first, Sully lay back to enjoy her overtures, but when she stopped, he looked at her with concern.

"Ya okay?" he wondered.

"Yes," she retorted. "I'm waiting for you."

"Waitin' for me?" he chuckled.

"To... you know," she felt flushed.

"T' do this?" he rolled her onto her back and kissed her throat tenderly.

"Mmmm," she closed her eyes.

He stopped, and she curiously opened them again, "Something wrong?"

"Nope," he grinned. "Just waitin' for ya."

"I'm here," she ran her hands along his form.

"So I noticed," he was reaching the point of no return.

Michaela leaned close to his ear and whispered:

"My heart shall be thy garden."

"You doin' the poetry now?" he raised an eyebrow.

"I couldn't resist," she commented. "Just as I cannot resist you."

"So who was the poet?" he kissed the tender skin behind her ear.

"Alice Meynell," she tingled. "I adore you, Mr. Sully."

"I'm sorta fond o' you, too," he grinned.

"Is that all?" she tapped his side.

"How 'bout I show ya how fond?" he suggested.

"I'd like that very much," she relished his attentive kisses.

"Ya sure inspire me," he smiled.

"I do?" she tingled. "To do what?"

"This," he caressed her.

Michaela's heart skipped a beat at Sully's ministrations. She closed her eyes, relishing every tantalizing sensation he was stirring in her. When each was certain of the other's readiness, they joined their bodies as one, giving and receiving all that they possessed. Clinging to one another, the satisfying kisses they shared solidified their already unbreakable bond. Slowly, as he encircled her in his arms, they fell asleep.


Katie could hear the faint voices of her parents in their room. Then she heard their bed creak. She continued to feel a certain uneasiness that her mother was still sad, but she was sure that her father would try to lift her mother's spirits. Maybe he was helping her at that moment. Poppy had a way of making things better, she said to herself.

Then the little girl's imagination ran.

She pulled her dolls closer and spoke to them, "Swirl, Annie, maybe I can make a baby for Mama. But I gotta find a husband first, an' Poppy's gotta like him. He likes Bran. Maybe he could help. I'll ask him t'morrow."

Chapter 4

"Can I come with ya t' see the new baby, Mama?" Katie finished her breakfast.

"Not today, Sweetheart," Michaela responded. "I want you to be on good behavior for Miss Dorothy when she watches you this morning."

"I will," she wiped her mouth on her sleeve.

"Katie," Michaela lifted her napkin. "Did you forget something?"

"I kept my napkin nice an' clean," she was proud.

"The napkin, not the sleeve, is meant for that purpose," the mother reminded.

Michaela sighed when she looked at her son. Josef had made his usual morning mess on his high chair tray and surrounding floor space.

"Josef Michael Sully," she cast him a disapproving glance. "Where are your manners?"

Thinking the question had something to do with his food, he obligingly pointed to the floor.

Michaela dampened a cloth with which to wipe his hands and face. As she began to clean up the floor, Sully and Brian entered through the front door.

"Wagon's hitched up for ya," Sully rubbed his hands together for warmth.

"Brian," Michaela requested. "Would you finish up here? I need to speak with Sully before I leave."

"Sure, Ma," he nodded. "Come on, Katie. Let's get this cleaned up."

Michaela put her hand on her husband's arm, beckoning him into the living room, "Sully, I think all is in readiness for Josef's birthday party."

"Good," he smiled. "Do ya need me t' do anythin'?"

She kept her voice down, "What about his wagon?"

"Robert E said he'd have the wheels on it by t'morrow mornin'," he whispered.

"Everyone I've invited is coming," she pulled a guest list from her pocket.

He glanced over her shoulder, "I don't know how we're gonna fit all them folks in here."

She nudged him, "Very funny. Oh, Josef's suit arrived yesterday. It's adorable."

"Can I see?" he asked.

"I want to surprise you," she eagerly replied. "It's the latest fashion."

"Our Joe in the latest fashion?" he sounded skeptical.

"Tomorrow morning, I'm going to take him into town," she explained. "While we're gone, Grace is going to bring the food here, and guests will begin arriving. I'll bring Josef home around noon, and we'll have the party."

"Sounds like ya got it all planned," he felt a little left out.

"I hope I haven't forgotten anything or anyone," she ran over her list again.

"I'm sure ya ain't," he replied.


"Bran," Katie sat at the table. "Can I ask ya somethin'?"

"Sure," he lifted Josef from the high chair.

"Do you know how t' make a baby?" she came out with it.

"Why'd ya wanna know that?" he nearly dropped his little brother.

Katie made certain that her parents could not hear, "I wanna make a baby t' cheer up Mama."

"Uh...." he struggled. "Ya gotta be older t' make a baby, Katie."

"I'm five," she announced.

"An' ya gotta be married," he continued.

"Would you marry me?" she was direct.

"I can't marry ya," he chuckled.

"Why?" Katie persisted.

"'Cause ya can't marry your brother," he was becoming frustrated.

"I guess I can't marry Mattew either then," she frowned in frustration.

"What makes ya think a baby would cheer Ma up?" he queried.

"'Cause last night, she got sad when I said about our baby dyin'," the little girl recalled. "If I give her another baby...."

"She'll be okay," he touched her nose. "Nothin' for you t' worry about."


"Dr. Mike!" Jake beamed. "Come on in!"

"How is our newest citizen?" she smiled.

"Real good," he escorted her into the bedroom where Teresa finished feeding the newborn.

"Looks like Nature is taking its course," Michaela noticed. "How did mother and daughter sleep last night?"

"Off and on," Teresa commented. "The little one will dictate to us now."

"Never knew kids ran the household," Jake leaned on the door frame.

"You'll establish a routine," Michaela lifted the baby.

Maria opened her eyes to the stranger.

Michaela kissed her little fingers, "Hello, there, little one. How are you?"

The baby yawned.

"Eat an' sleep," Jake stated. "That's all she does."

Michaela felt the diaper, "There is one other thing that she does."

"Yea, that, too," he nodded.

"Have you changed her yet?" Michaela turned to the new father.

"Me?" Jake stood in disbelief. "'Course not."

"Why not?" Michaela sounded surprised.

"Men don't change diapers," he folded his arms.

"Are you saying my husband is not a man?" Michaela countered.

"Sully ain't like most men," the barber rolled his eyes.

"That's very unfortunate for the world," the doctor responded.

"Hand me my daughter," Teresa said. "I will change her."

Michaela cast a disapproving glance at Jake, "I suppose some men are afraid."

"I ain't afraid," he spoke up.

"Then come here and watch me," Michaela set the baby on the bed.

In rapid fashion, she cleaned and diapered the infant.

"You expect me t' learn from that?" Jake rolled up his sleeves. "Do it again, only slower."

Michaela repeated the exercise, then stood up straight, "Now, you try it."

Nervously, Jake cleared his throat, then imitated what the doctor had demonstrated.

"Easy as pie," he held up his child.

"Except for one thing," Teresa pointed to where the diaper had slipped off of the baby.

"I'll work on it," he handed his daughter to Teresa.

"Now I have a favor to ask of you," Michaela turned to Jake.


Horace looked up to see Sully approach the Depot, "Hey, Sully. Letter come for ya."

"Thanks," Sully looked at the front of the envelope.

"It's from Washington," the telegraph operator noted.

"Yep," Sully nodded. "Thanks, Horace."

He strolled to a bench and sat. Taking a deep breath, Sully began to read.

"Well, well," Preston approached. "The mountain man is literate."

"You got a reason for stoppin' by, other than to annoy me?" Sully glared.

"As a matter of fact, I do," Preston grinned. "This little Colorado Commission of Mines that Michaela arranged for you to head.... the one which will screen prospective companies who wish to locate here... I want to insure that the Sierra Copper Mining Company is approved. Now, in February, a man named Garrick will be here to...."

"Long as they meet the requirements an' don't pose a threat t' the environment, they got a good chance," Sully answered.

"Oh, I can assure you that they will," the businessman affirmed.

"Somehow your assurance don't assure me," Sully was leery.

Preston tipped his hat, "Good day then." As he walked away, he muttered something indistinguishable.

Sully shook his head and returned to his letter.


"What kind o' favor, Dr. Mike?" Jake wondered.

"I believe that I am finally ready for you to trim Josef's hair," she said.

"'Bout time," he quipped. "Folks think he looks like a little girl."

"I am aware of the comments," she was cool.

"Bring him by whenever ya want," the barber encouraged.

"Tomorrow morning," she told him. "It's going to be a surprise for his father."

"Yea, well, I'd like t' see that," Jake chuckled.

"You will be at his birthday party, won't you?" she queried.

"I'll stop by for a while," he nodded. "I don't wanna leave Teresa an' the baby for long."


"Damn!" Sully crinkled the letter into a ball and stuck it into his pocket.

"Somethin' wrong?" Loren overheard as he neared the Depot.

Sully folded his arms in frustration, "Government bureaucracy."

The store owner sat down beside him, "What are they doin'?"

"More like what they ain't doin'," Sully shook his head. Closing his eyes, he sighed, "I'm so tired."

"Ya been workin' too hard t' get Jake's house done," Loren observed.

"It ain't that kinda tired," Sully took a deep breath. "I'm tired o' watchin' the government destroy what oughta be kept an' keep what oughta be destroyed."

"Them politicians in Washington's only lookin' out for themselves," Loren reasoned. "Same as any good businessmen would do."

"Good businessmen?" Sully tilted his head in disbelief. "When is there gonna be a businessman that does good?"

"I do good," he sounded offended.

Sully stood up, "See ya, Loren."

"I'll see ya at Josef's party," the store owner called after him.


Sully walked and walked, unable to get the words of the letter out of his mind. "The Red Rocks do not merit protected status at this time." If not now, when? He picked up a twig and snapped it.

"Damn, I'm so sick o' hittin' my head against a wall," he looked up at the sky. "Sometimes I just wish...."

He stopped, "No. I don't wish I could leave it all. I had a life o' separatin' myself from the world. I gotta think about somethin' else. Somethin' besides buildin' a house... somethin' besides fightin' the government bureaucrats...."

He folded his arm, "Josef. I'll think about Josef's birthday. Two years old."

He could not help but feel his heavy heart lighten at the thought of his children. Josef was becoming such a handful, getting into everything, demonstrating a stubborn streak just like....

"Just like Michaela," he whispered. "Oh, Michaela. We thought we could change the world. Make it a better place. What do we have t' show for our efforts?"

A melancholy began to fall over Sully as he continued to dwell on his feelings of frustration. Losing track of time, it was dusk before he headed for home.


Michaela looked out the window.

"Any sign o' Pa?" Brian noticed.

"No," she returned to the table. "You and the children go ahead and eat, Brian. I'll wait for Sully."

"Maybe he's at the Slicker house," he speculated.

"Perhaps," her instincts told her otherwise.

"Poppy's gonna miss supper," Katie commented.

"I'll fix him something when he gets home," Michaela could not shake the uneasy feeling that was building in her.

Chapter 5

Michaela drifted off to sleep in one of the wing back chairs near the fireplace. Brian, Katie and Josef had been in bed for some time. She stirred and glanced at the clock. After 11 p.m. Her anxiety over her husband's whereabouts increased. As she rose to look out the window, the door opened.

"Sully!" she rushed to him. "Where have you been?"

"Just thinkin'," he responded. "Didn't mean t' worry ya. I lost track o' time."

"That's all?" she was puzzled. "You lost track of time?"

"That's what I said," he was in no mood for further explanations.

"Your supper is on the stove," she pointed. "I'm going to bed. We have a busy day tomorrow."

"Michaela," he called after her as she ascended the steps.

He did not intend to upset her, but how could she possibly understand his need for solitude this afternoon? She never had comprehended why he would occasionally go off on his own. He removed the lid from the dinner pan and dipped in a spoon. After a few bites, he replaced the lid, his appetite gone.


The next morning, Sully left before dawn, heading for town to pick up Josef's wagon from Robert E. He avoided contact with any townsfolk, returning home with his son's birthday gift. He placed it in the barn and began to pitch some hay for the animals. Then feelings of guilt began to creep into his emotions as he contemplated his behavior last night. He had not seen the children, tucked them in, told them a story. He had upset his wife. He knew she would be angry with him, particularly since Josef's party was today, and there would be much work left to do.

He leaned the pitchfork against the wall and sat down. Frustrated with himself and his feelings, he lay back against the hay. Sleeping on the living room chair had been no rest for him. Soon he drifted off.


"Have you seen Sully this morning?" Michaela asked Brian.

"No," his voice did not mask his concern. "I didn't even know he came home."

"Late last night," she informed him.

"Why?" he wondered.

"He didn't say," she busied herself with feeding the children. "Would you milk the cow? Oh, and hitch up the wagon, please"

"Sure," he donned his coat and headed out the door.

Michaela wanted to take Josef to town for his haircut. Where was Sully? Why was he behaving like this? And in the midst of the party preparations of all times. As she finished cleaning up the kitchen, Brian returned.

"Ma," he closed the door. "I think ya oughta go out t' the barn."

"Brian, I have too much to do this morning," she wiped her hands. "What is it?"

"It's Pa," he said. "Asleep in the hay."

"What?" she was surprised. "What on earth is he doing?"

"I don't know," he shrugged.

"Would you put the children's coats on them, please?" she reached for her jacket. "I'll go check on him."


"Sully," Michaela knelt down beside her husband. "Are you all right?"

"Mmmmm?" he was startled. "Where...."

"You're in the barn," she said. "Is it your headaches? Have they returned?"

"No," he brushed off the straw. "I was just tired."

"You didn't come to bed last night," she stood up.

"I slept in a chair," he rose to his feet.

"Please tell me what's wrong," she implored. "You stayed out late yesterday, left early this morning, and here you are asleep in the barn."

He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, "Nothin's wrong. I'm just feelin' a little... cooped up."

"Cooped up?" she was taken aback. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Cooped up," he repeated. "Like I don't have any freedom."

Michaela swallowed hard, "What kind of freedom do you want?"

"I don't know," he turned away. "Freedom t' come an' go as I please. Freedom t' not have t' answer t' anyone."

"Freedom from me?" she added.

"I didn't say that," he pivoted to face her.

"You implied it," she felt her heart sink. "Apparently you miss your previous life."

He felt his temper rise, "I didn't say that either. Don't put words in my mouth."

"Well," she looked down at her hands. "If you can find time to attend your son's birthday party today, I won't ask you to stay beyond that. If you feel.... cooped up... then feel free to leave."

"Fine," he turned and exited the barn.

Michaela watched him storm toward the homestead and felt as if her heart would break. Why was he suddenly acting this way? Why did he feel cooped up with her and their children?


"Poppy," Katie rushed to her father. "Where ya been?"

He lifted her for a kiss, "Had a few things I needed t' do, Kates. What ya been up to?"

"Nothin'," she hugged him. "I don't know what t' give Joey for his birthday. Mama's takin' him int' town."

"Pa?" Brian approached. "Everythin' okay?"

"Fine, Brian," he patted his back. "Katie, why don't ya draw Josef a picture. I know he'd like that."

"Ya think?" her eyes widened.

"Yep," he set her down. "Where is our birthday boy?"

"He was here a minute ago," Brian looked around. "Josef!"

The little boy did not respond.

Sully clapped his hands, "Josef, where are you?"

"Papa!" the child came out from under the staircase.

"What were ya doin' under there?" Sully raised him up.

The little boy giggled, "Hidin'."

"Hidin'?" Sully made a face. "Why?"

"Play," Josef laughed.

He kissed the boy's cheek, "Well, your Ma's takin' ya int' town, so ya better not be hidin' from her."

"Okay," Josef agreed.

"Are you goin' with her?" Brian asked.

"No," he responded. "I thought you, me an' Kates could get things ready here."

Michaela entered the house, "Is Josef ready?"

Sully silently handed their son to her.

"Papa?" Josef looked back at his father.

"No, you go with your Ma, big boy," he stroked his son's back.

"We'll be home by noon," she stated.

After kissing Brian and Katie, Michaela left. She had said nothing to Sully.

"I'll get the decorations," Brian headed for the steps.

"I'll draw Joey's picture," Katie followed him.

Alone in the living room, Sully glanced toward the mantle and spotted his wedding picture. Nearby were photographs of the children. He instantly regretted his words to Michaela. He wanted nothing more in the world than to be with her and the children. Why had he said what he did?

"Here they are, Pa," Brian set the box on the table.

"Let's get started, then," he smiled. "Folks will start arrivin' soon, an' I need t' get cleaned up."


"Now, Jake," Michaela reminded. "Just a trim. I want it so that Josef's hair no longer falls into his eyes."

"Don't worry," he nodded. "I done this a million times."

"Jacob," Teresa's voice called from the back room. "Is that Dr. Mike?"

"Yea," he answered.

"Would you ask her to come here, please?" his wife requested.

"You go ahead an' check on Teresa an' the baby," Jake lifted the little boy from her arms. "Josef an' me will get a long just fine."

She looked into the blue of her son's eyes, "Be a good boy for Mr. Slicker, Sweetheart."

"Good," Josef studied the barber's face.


"Well?" Jake stood back to admire his work when Michaela returned. "What d' ya think?"

Michaela's heart sank into her stomach, but she tried to show her reaction. Her son's hair had been lopped off to the point that only a couple of inches remained on his head.

Her mind raced in contemplation of what Sully would say, "I think.... It looks... different."

"Sure it does," Jake smiled. "He looks like a boy now."

"How much do I owe you?" she opened her purse.

"First haircut's on the house," he raised his hand.

"Thank you, Jake," she pointed. "Could you place his locks in a bag for me? I want to save them."

"If you say so," he shrugged. Jake leaned closer to the little boy, "How old are ya t'day, Josef?"

"Two," he held up his thumb and index number.

"Two?" Jake's eyes widened. "I think that deserves a piece o' candy."

Josef sought his mother's approval and she nodded. He placed the sweet treat in his mouth and smiled. Michaela nervously pulled the child into her arms. What would Sully say? She would explain that unsupervised by her, Jake had removed too much of their son's hair. He would understand.


Sully tugged uncomfortably at his shirt collar. The house was ready, the food was ready, the guests had arrived. Michaela would be in her glory, he determined. She loved fancy affairs, though this was primitive compared to her years in Boston.

Katie strolled over to her father and held up the drawing, "Look, Poppy."

He knelt down, "Look's real good, sweet girl. Your brother's gonna love it."

"I put his favorite colors in it," she pointed. "When's Mama comin' home with him?"

"Any minute now," he stood up and began to circulate around the room, catching snippets of conversation as he went.

"So what d' ya make o' the presidential election results, Matthew?" Dorothy asked.

Loren chimed in, "Seems like Tilden won fair an' square."

"Didn't get enough electoral votes though," Matthew contributed.

"So does that mean we don't have a president?" Robert E pondered.

"Grant's still president until March," Matthew explained. "There's rumors they're gonna set up a commission t' decide whether Tilden or Hayes will be president."

"Who d' ya think they'll pick?" Dorothy queried.

"It don't seem like they'll pick Tilden," Loren speculated. "He's a Democrat."

Sully couldn't resist, "The politicians will pick whoever they think they can manipulate."

"Ya sure sound cynical," Dorothy noted.

"It ain't cynical," Sully shrugged. "Just the way it is."

He turned and walked toward the kitchen.

"Got anythin' harder than this?" Hank held up a cup of punch.

"No," Grace scolded. "It's a little boy's birthday party, not a bachelor party."

"A party's a party," the bartender scoffed. Pulling out a flask from his jacket, he added some liquor to his beverage, "This'll put a kick in it."

"Where's the guest of honor?" Preston approached.

"Who invited you?" Hank looked him in the eye.

"Michaela," he retorted.

"Can't believe Sully would," Hank shot back.

"Other than siring her children, I have no idea what a beautiful woman like Michaela sees in an insignificant and shiftless man such as Sully."

"Don't suppose love has anythin' t' do with it," Hank chuckled.

"Love?" Preston raised an eyebrow. "What do you know about love?"

"Love's my business," he winked and walked away.

It took every ounce of self-control he possessed for Sully to not throw Preston Lodge from his home, but.... he took a deep breath and counted to ten. Besides, Michaela was upset enough with him. What would she do if he punched the banker at their son's birthday party?

"They're here!" Brian shouted from his post looking out the window.

Everyone positioned themselves quietly to await the opening of the front door. When at last, Michaela carried her son across the threshold, all cried out, "Surprise!"

Josef quickly turned his back in fear. Sully stepped forward, instantly noticing the little boy's changed appearance.

"Come here, Joe," he held out his arms.

Josef turned to look at his father, and Sully nearly gasped. Gone were the long curly locks. Gone were the play clothes. Instead, the child wore maroon knickers, a shirt with a ruffled collar and a matching maroon jacket.

"What have ya done t' him?" Sully said to his wife.

"I told Jake to trim...." she was cut off by her husband.

"Look at him!" the father could not believe his eyes.

"He looks quite handsome," Michaela defended.

Sensing trouble, Matthew stepped forward, "Come on, Josef. Let's go look at the cake Miss Grace made for ya."

"Cake?" he grinned.

Matthew carried him off, and the guests began to converse among themselves, all aware of the tension that now existed between their hosts. Fortunately, Brian saw to it that Katie and the other children were entertained.

Sully folded his arms and fumed at his wife, "He looks like some dandy out of a catalog."

"There is nothing wrong with his looks," Michaela removed her coat.

"What are ya tryin' t' do t' him, Michaela?" his temper boiled.

"I'm trying... to celebrate his birthday," she felt a tear. "What are you trying to do?"

"Nothin'," he opened the door and abruptly left.

Chapter 6

Josef's birthday party had become a somber affair as the guests became aware of what had transpired between Sully and Michaela. After the gifts were opened and the cake was consumed, most had departed.

"Want me t' go after Sully, Ma?" Matthew approached her.

"No," Michaela's disappointment grew. "He has chosen to do this. Let him go."

"But ya know he wouldn't..." he stopped when she spoke again.

"Let him go," she repeated.

"I gotta get back t' town then," he kissed her cheek. "If ya change your mind, I'll be here for ya."

"Thank you, Matthew," she watched him exit.

"I'll help ya clean up, Dr. Mike," Grace looked around.

"Thank you, but I think it can wait until tomorrow," she was tired.

"Any idea where he went?" Grace knew her friend's mind was on Sully.

"No," she pulled her shawl closer.

"Want me t' ask Robert E t'...." Grace stopped when Michaela shook her head.

"No," came Michaela's response. "Something's bothering him right now. He has chosen to not confide in me what the problem is. Perhaps it's even.... me."

"You?" the friend could not believe it. "That man's head over heels in love with ya. You're not the problem."

Michaela sighed loudly.

"I got an idea," Grace put her arm around her. "Why don't I take the children int' town with me for the night? That way, when Sully comes home, you two can have a nice talk."

"Talk?" Michaela glanced out at the darkening sky. "Since yesterday, all we do is bicker. Besides, I don't even know if he'll be home tonight. No, thank you, Grace, but I do appreciate the offer."

"Thing's will be all right," Grace put on her coat. "Come on, Robert E. Let's go."

The blacksmith joined her, "Night, Dr. Mike. Nice party."

"Thank you for your help with Josef's wagon," she said. "I hope you understand why I didn't want to give it to him yet."

"Sure," he donned his cap. "I figured ya wanted Sully here. He built it for Josef."

She folded her arms. "I would have thought he would want to be here for this."

"'Night," Grace hugged her.

"Good night," she forced a smile.

"Ma?" Brian approached her.

"Yes," she turned to face him.

His voice was understanding, "I'll get the kids cleaned up an' ready for bed for ya."

"Thank you, Brian," she threw her arms around the young man.

"Sure," he pulled back and gathered the children.

She listened to their gleeful giggles as Brian led them up the steps. On what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, she felt empty and alone. She and Sully had experienced misunderstandings before, but deep down, each had always understood the other's feelings on some level. She struggled to comprehend what would prompt her husband to act this way.

She saw his jacket on the wall peg. Lifting it, she hugged it to her bosom. Then she began to fret. Sully had left wearing only a suit. In the cold, he could become ill. Then she pulled his jacket around her shoulders, closing her eyes to imagine it was his arms.

Putting her hand inside a pocket, she felt a crumpled piece of paper and pulled it out, "What's this?"

She hesitated reading it, but soon gave in to her curiosity.

"Oh, Sully," her heart went out to him. "They've turned you down."


"Well, boy," Sully glanced down at Wolf. "This ain't the smartest thing I ever done."

Hovering near the fire he had built, Sully shivered. Wolf positioned himself near his master for warmth, but without a protective coat, Sully could not make himself comfortable.

As he stared into the flames, he thought about what he had said to his wife... Being cooped up. Lacking freedom. Then the lines of a Richard Lovelace poem crossed his mind:

"Stone walls do not a prison make
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for a hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty."

He rose up and doused the fire. Tapping his leg, he summoned, "Come on, boy. Let's go home."


Michaela tucked in her children, then returned to the living room. Pacing back and forth, she attempted to keep her imagination in check. What if Sully were freezing out there? What if he needs me? No, he made it very clear he prefers his solitude. The thought prompted an ache in her heart. Solitude. How could she live if Sully ever left her? If he didn't need her?


As he made his way back to the homestead, Sully's limbs began to feel numb. How could he have been so foolish, so headstrong, so cruel? He had let down his wife and children, and on Josef's special day. Please forgive me, Michaela, his anguished inner voice spoke. I don't wanna be without ya. I don't want solitude.


Michaela glanced at the clock. Two years ago on this night, she had also feared for her husband's safety. Caught in a flood, he had nearly drowned the night Josef was born. Josef. Their beautiful little boy. Why had Sully reacted so vehemently against the hair and suit? The hair was finally out of his eyes and would certainly grow back. The suit was only for this occasion. She had no intention of dressing their little boy like that every day. But his birthday. How could Sully have left during Josef's birthday?


Sully quickened his pace, desiring nothing more than to be in his wife's arms. He languished at the guilt he felt. He had to make it up to her. He had to get home to tell Michaela. What if she was crying? Each tear was like a dagger in him, and this time, he was the cause of her tears. Gotta fight the numbness, he told himself. Gotta keep goin'.


Tears streamed down Michaela's cheeks. Soon it would be sunrise, and Sully had still not come home. He wouldn't stay out all night unless something were wrong. She knew, deep down, he must be hurt. She raced up the stairs to change clothing. Sully needed her.


His legs no longer able to carry him, Sully lay on the cold hard ground. His mind was nearly as numb as his body. Wolf whimpered.

"Michaela," his voice was faint. "Go get Michaela."

The animal sped off to fetch his master's mate.

"Good boy," Sully said to no one but himself.

He spotted a large old tree trunk, hollowed out by rot. Inside were leaves. If I can make it there, he thought. If I can protect myself until Michaela gets here... I'll be okay. I'll be able to tell her I love her. He crawled into the hollow of the tree.

"Please don't let me die before I can tell Michaela I love her," he enveloped himself in the leaves and closed his eyes.


Michaela hastily scribbled a note to Brian. She placed Sully's coat and buckskins in a pack, grabbed some blankets and her medical bag, then headed for the barn to saddle Flash. It took what seemed an eternity, but finally she was ready to depart. Leading the horse from the barn, she heard a faint barking sound.

She stopped to listen more carefully. It... sounded like Wolf. Perhaps Sully was home at last. Her heart leapt with excitement. But then she saw the animal nearing the homestead. Wolf was alone. And when he reached her, his whines alarmed her already worried heart.

"Take me to him, boy," she mounted Flash. "Take me to Sully."


"Mama! Poppy!" Katie bolted up in bed.

Her shouts startled Josef, who promptly began to cry.

The little girl repeated her plea, "Mama! Poppy!"

Brian heard his little sister and brother, and wondered what was wrong. Rising from the bed, he rubbed his eyes, then headed down the hallway to the nursery.

"Bran," Katie reached for him.

"You're okay," he hugged her.

"Where's Mama an' Poppy?" she asked.

Brian went to the crib and lifted his red-eyed little brother to calm him, "I don't know, Katie. Maybe they're downstairs an' didn't hear ya."

"Why'd Poppy go away t'day?" she wondered.

"I don't know that either," he stroked Josef's back.

"Are they fightin'?" the perceptive child asked.

He hesitated to answer.


"I'm dyin'," Sully could not feel anything.

Once before, he had found himself in such a condition. After his fall from the cliff, he had tried to survive. Broken and malnourished, he had tucked himself away in a similar haven. But Michaela had found him, breathed life back into him.

"I love you, Michaela," his voice was soft. "Don't ever doubt that I loved you."

He closed his eyes, giving in to the darkness and the silence.


Michaela felt the sting of the cold air against her face. Wolf seemed to know where he was going. Cloud cover prevented any illumination from the moon. It was difficult for her to see five feet in front of her. She relied on Wolf and Flash to guide her blindly through the night.

Suddenly, she was hurled from her horse. The instant realization that she was airborne left her no time to cushion the blow as she hit the ground and succumbed to the darkness.

Chapter 7

Sully began to dream. There was his beloved Michaela calling out to him. But something was wrong. She was ill... or hurt... he couldn't tell. She was too far away. He had to find her, help her. He began to feel warmer. How could this be? Slowly, he opened his eyes. Dawn was barely on the horizon, and he felt warm.

He swept the blanket of leaves from his body and felt the ground. It was indeed warm. Was he still dreaming? No, he was awake. How could the soil be so warm? It was as if he had been rejuvenated in the womb of Mother Earth. And now he was ready to go forth into the world. Not only had Sully experienced a physical healing, but his soul, his spirit seemed renewed, as well.

Michaela. He felt her need for him. It was overwhelming. It was drawing him, more powerfully than he had never known before. As the sun rose, casting brilliant colors and glistening shimmers on all that it touched, he lifted up from this cocoon.

Then he saw the reason for his survival. Near the hollowed out tree trunk was a natural hot spring. Its warmth had saved his life. Clearing his mind, he knew he must find Michaela. He whistled for Wolf.


Brian had finally gotten the children back to sleep and made his way downstairs. He threw some logs on the kitchen fire and stoked it. Soon it was emanating heat into the frigid room. Then he saw the note from Michaela. His adrenaline pumped as he finished. Brian had great faith in his mother's instincts when it came to sensing danger to her family. If she was going after Sully, he was in trouble.

He contemplated what to do. Maybe he should get the children dressed and hurry into town to fetch help. Would people believe there was a problem based solely on his mother's instincts? Matthew, Miss Dorothy, Robert E and Grace would, he concluded. With that, he bounded up the steps to get his brother and sister ready.


Wolf heard Sully's beckon. He had been huddling over Michaela, but instantly reacted to his master's call. He bolted in the direction from which the whistle had come.


"Wolf!" Sully greeted his pet. "It's Michaela, ain't it? Somethin's wrong."

The animal whimpered.

"Take me to her, boy," he commanded.

It was only a five minute jog before they reached Michaela. A shaft of sunlight illuminated her still body. Sully fell to his knees beside his wife.

"Michaela!" he saw that her coat lay open, thus exposing her to the frigid temperature.

He felt her shivering, then spotted Flash nearby and rushed to get the blankets packed on the horse. He noticed that she had brought his buckskins, as well. He covered Michaela and swiftly lifted her into his arms.

"Gotta get her t' that hot spring," Sully said to Wolf. "Bring Flash, boy."

Wolf obeyed and captured the bridle strap between his teeth. Tugging on the rein, Wolf coaxed the horse to follow.

Sully determined that his wife's body temperature was lower than normal and swift action was needed to warm her.

"I'm so sorry, Michaela," he spoke softly as he hurried along. "I love you. Please don't leave me."

They soon reached the hot spring, where Sully removed his wife's clothing down to her underwear. Tenderly, as he held her in his arms, he stepped into the bubbling water. Soon, her shivering began to subside, but she was not yet awake.

Sully positioned her head against his chest and spoke soothingly, "Michaela, I'm sorry. I never should've said what I did. I didn't mean for ya t' think I ain't happy with you an' the children. I don't want t' spend one second o' my life without you."

Still, she did not waken, and his concern grew. He had kept her in the water as long as he dared. Lifting her from the bubbling warmth, he began to dry her off. He removed her wet undergarments, wrapped her in the buckskin coat and pulled the blankets around her.

Sully started a fire to keep them warm. Shivering from the cold air, he donned his buckskins. His only thoughts were of Michaela. Hopeful that his wife's body temperature was now warmer, he ran his hand along her hair. It was then that he felt it. A bump. How did that happen? Upon closer scrutiny, he also noted bruises on her side, as well.

He again ran his fingers lightly along the head injury more carefully. Suddenly, he realized that the reason for her being unconscious might go beyond the cold temperatures. Michaela must have fallen on her way to him. A frightening thought shot through him. A concussion. Only recently, they had dealt with their son's concussion. And he recalled that Michaela had kept the child quite still.

"Oh, God," his heart skipped a beat. "I been movin' ya all around, Michaela. Movin' ya when ya got a concussion."

He felt even more anguish at the thought that he had compromised his wife's health further. This was all my fault, he filled anew with guilt. We wouldn't be out here if.... The children. What about the children?


"Ma didn't say which direction she was headed," Matthew read the note.

"I know," Brian spoke with urgency.

"I'll get some men t'gether," he pulled on his jacket. "You watch the kids."

"I'm comin', too," Brian asserted.

"Look, little brother...." Matthew stopped when he saw his expression. "See if Miss Grace can watch the children."


"Michaela," Sully lay down beside his wife, his heart breaking at the stillness of her body. "I don't know if I can...."

His voice trailed off. He was exhausted and unable to think clearly. He lifted the covers around Michaela and placed his body against hers. Then he tucked the covers around both of them. Willing her to feel his love, his warmth, he stroked her hair and kissed her forehead. Not for one moment did he release his gentle hold on her.


"Mr. Bray," Katie called out to the shopkeeper as he approached the Cafe.

"Katie, girl," he grinned. "How are ya?"

"Scared," her sad brown eyes melted him.

"Everything's gonna be fine," he sat down and put his hand over hers.

"I don't know where anybody is," her voice trembled.

"You'll be back with your family real soon," he assured her.

"Can you answer a question for me?" she hoped.

"I'll try," he smiled.

"How can I make a baby?" the little girl came out with it.

Loren nearly choked, "Wh... what? Now, why would ya wanna know that?"

"Nobody'll tell me," she folded her arms. "I was thinkin' Mama might like t' have another baby."

"Well, then," he searched for what to say. "Maybe it's best that ya let your Ma an' Pa worry about it."

"But ya know, our baby died," the child commented. "That made Mama an' Poppy really sad."

"I know," Loren well recalled the event.

"I don't know what t' do," she sighed.

"Come here," he pulled her into his lap. "Maybe a lemon drop would help."

"Good thinkin', Mr. Bray," she kissed his cheek.


"We got no idea where t' start," Jake mounted his horse.

"Let's go out t' the homestead," Matthew directed. "Maybe we can find tracks from Wolf or Flash."

"Wolf?" Hank was skeptical.

"He was with Sully," Brian contributed.

"I still think it's a wild goose chase," the bartender said.

"We got nothin' t' lose by tryin' t' find 'em," Robert E countered. "You can stay here if ya think that way, Hank."

"Aw, I got nothin' better t' do on a Sunday mornin'," Hank shrugged.

"Let's go, then," Matthew waved his hand.


The feel of Michaela next to him brought Sully some comfort. She was warm now. Her breathing was steady. There were no more shivers, but still, she remained unconscious. Remorse for his actions and words swept over Sully like a drowning wave of water.

"Remember when I first told ya I loved ya?" he whispered. "I wanted t' tell ya so many times before that. But ya scared the daylights outa me."

Sully was beginning to feel transported as he reminisced.

He took a deep breath, "An' remember when ya tried t' teach me t' dance? You knew I had other things in mind. I think I scared the daylights outa you."

He smiled at the memory.

"An' remember durin' the cattle drive, when I was washin' your back?" he toyed with a lock of her hair. "I told ya that ya had the most beautiful long brown hair I'd ever seen."

Not wishing to jostle Michaela further, Sully slid lower to kiss her on the lips, "This is t' tell ya I love ya, Michaela. Don't let it be our good-bye. Let's keep on makin' those beautiful memories. Please. Please come back to me."

Chapter 8

Michaela slowly opened her eyes. There was Sully, his face so close, she could feel his warm breath. Her head ached. And her side. Her throat was dry. As she assessed her own condition, she moved slightly to check on her husband.

"Michaela!" he opened his eyes. "Are ya okay?"

She focused on him, "Sully, are you hurt?"

"I'm all right," he caressed her cheek. "I found ya freezin' an' with a bump on your head."

She suddenly realized that she was naked beneath the blankets and coat, "What happened to my clothes?"

"I laid 'em t' dry by the fire," he smiled. "I took ya int' the hot spring t' warm ya up. Then I discovered ya hurt your head."

"My head," she tried to sit up.

"No," he gently pulled her back. "Don't try t' move yet. I gotta tell ya somethin'."

"I... I thought you were hurt," she feared he might lecture her for coming after him. "I thought you might need me. But if you prefer to be alone, I'll...."

"No, Michaela," his voice choked. "I don't wanna be alone. I'm so sorry for what I said. I didn't mean it."

"I found the letter," she confessed.

"Letter?" he was unsure.

"From the Interior Department," she answered.

"It don't matter," he shook it off. "I only care about you an' our life with the children. I feel so terrible. I let ya down. I let them down. I...."

She placed her fingers over his lips, "I love you, Sully."

"I love you, too," he pulled close. "An' I never wanna live without ya."

For several minutes, they embraced, happy to be in one another's arms again.

"I'm sorry about Josef's hair, but I was in the other room when Jake...." Michaela hesitated.

"No," he touched her lips. "I overreacted, an' the suit...."

"I won't put it on him again," she interjected.

"It's fine, Michaela," he shook his head. "It just surprised me, is all, but it wasn't any way for me t' act."

"From now on, I won't order any outfits without your approval," she pledged.

"Ya don't need my approval," he said. "You know that. You can dress the kids however ya want."

"Sully," she took a deep breath. "I don't want to do anything without you."

He pulled her close again and passionately kissed her. She did not want the feeling to end, but knowing her condition would not permit more, he pulled back.

"Speaking of clothes," Michaela glanced shyly toward her own, "Could you help me?"

"Sure," he reached for her undergarments.

Gingerly, she rose and with her husband's guidance and started to pull on her camisole.

She chuckled.

"What's so funny?" he smiled.

"I suddenly thought of our search for the source of the tainted water years ago," she replied. "When I needed your help in dressing, but didn't want you to watch me."

He began to button her blouse for her, "Ya got no idea how bad I wanted t' kiss you then."

"I wouldn't have minded, you know," she revealed.

"Ya wouldn't?" he was surprised. "I didn't wanna offend your proper Boston ways."

Her expression became serious, "Boston doesn't hold my heart, Sully. Only you do."

He swallowed hard, hoping to not feel the remorse anew, "Ya got a nasty bump on the head, an' your side's bruised."

"I was knocked off of Flash on my way here," she informed him.

"You should be in bed," he advised.

She ran her fingers along her scalp, "Would you look at my pupils?"

He complied, "Look normal t' me."

"Good," she reached for his help in standing. "I don't believe it's too serious. Could you help me with my bloomers?"

"Sure have come a long way since the bad water days," he assisted her.

She finished buttoning her skirt, then rested her palms on his chest, "Shall we go home?"

"I got a lot of apologizin' t do," he looked down.

Michaela lifted his chin, "Not to me. I only want to love you."

He stroked her hair, "I gotta apologize t' the kids, t' our friends. I missed Josef's party."

"I didn't give him the wagon from his Papa yet," she smiled.

"Ya didn't?" he raised an eyebrow.

"No," she slid her hands around his waist. "You'll give it to him when we go home."

"Home," he closed his eyes and sighed.

"Our coop," she teased.

"Our cocoon," he amended.


Sully and Michaela reached the homestead just as the search party arrived.

"Ma! Pa!" Brian jumped from his horse and ran to them.

He helped Michaela down.

"Are ya hurt?" he feared.

"A bump on the head and some bruises, but otherwise fine," she hugged him.

"You okay, Sully?" Matthew pulled up beside them.

He nodded, then said, "I wanna apologize t' all o' you. Ain't no excuse for me takin' off like I did."

Hank lit a cigar, "Well, ya missed one hell of a party."

Sully smiled, "That so?"

"Kids runnin' everywhere," Hank smirked. "Preston bendin' my ear. Just don't get any better."

"Thanks, Hank," Sully knew why he was there.

"Don't mention it," the gruff bartender nodded.

"I reckon ya don't need us anymore then," Robert E observed.

"Always need good friends," Sully stated.

"Let's get back t' town," Jake stated.

"Why you in such a hurry?" Hank joked.

"Gotta see my kid," the barber retorted. Then looking at Michaela and Sully, he added, "I know now how much children mean t' ya... how ya'd go t' the ends o' the earth for 'em."

"Speakin' of children, Matthew an' me will go get the kids," Brian volunteered.

"Thank you," Michaela glanced at them. "All of you."

The search party turned and headed back toward town as Sully helped his wife up the steps.

"First thing you're doin' is goin' t' bed," he said as they reached the doorway.

"I feel as if I could sleep for a year," she sighed.

"Come on," he lifted her and carried her up the steps.


"How long is Mama gonna sleep?" Katie sat in her father's lap.

"Until she feels better," he said.

"Poppy," the curious little girl tapped his arm. "Why'd ya leave Joey's party?"

He shifted uncomfortably, "I guess I needed t' be outdoors, away from folks."

"Away from me?" she feared.

"No, never away from my sweet little girl," he quickly responded.

The child leaned her head against his chest, "I was scared."

"I'm sorry," he placed her little hand in his. "I was foolish, Katie, an' I'm real sorry."

She pulled up and locked into his eyes, "Poppy, please don't do it again."

He smiled, "I promise. An' I don't want ya t' be scared anymore. I'm right here."

Contentedly, she leaned back again, "Do ya like Joey's haircut?"

He was diplomatic, "It takes some gettin' used to."

"I think I like it," she provided her opinion.

At that moment, Josef's voice was heard, "I hidin'!"

"Ya are?" Sully chuckled. "Should we go find him, Kates?"

She rolled her eyes, "He's always under the steps."

"'Cause he always wants t' be found," he kissed her. "Just like your Ma found me."

"You wanted t' be found, too?" she wondered.

"Sure did," he nodded. "Let's go find Joe."


Michaela awoke to the sound of her family's laughter. As she sat up, her head felt much improved. She was still weak but knew that a bite to eat would help. Descending the steps, she found Sully, Katie and Josef under the stairs laughing. Brian knelt nearby holding his side from chuckling.

"What's so funny?" she reached the bottom step.

"Josef," Brian pointed. "He tells us he's hidin', wants us t' find him, but he's always in the same place."

She leaned over and reached out her arms, "How is my two year old?"

"Good," he hurried to her.

"Papa, do we have a belated gift for this little one?" she asked.

"Got somethin' in the barn," he nodded. "Brian, Katie, would ya help me bring it in?"

"Yep!" they both answered.

As they left, Michaela sat on a kitchen chair with her son on her lap, "Two years old, my darling. I can scarcely believe it."

"Two," he held his fingers before her face.

She pretended to chew on his fingers as he giggled. Then she ran the palm of her hand across his shortened hair, missing the feel of his long, soft locks which reminded her so of Sully.

"Mama," he hugged her. "Luv you."

"I love you, Josef," she kissed him. "My sweet little boy."

"I big boy," he repeated the term of endearment often used by his father.


"Pa," Brian pulled Sully aside. "Everythin' okay with you an' Ma?"

"Real good, Brian," he smiled.

"Good," he nodded.

"I'm sorry I...." Sully stopped when Brian interrupted.

"No, need," the young man interjected. "Glad t' have ya home."

As they prepared the wagon to take into the house, Katie approached her father.

"Poppy, I'm gonna give you an' Mama a nice present, too," she announced.

"Ya are?" he grinned. "What?"

"A baby," the little girl stated. "I'm gonna make one for ya."

"Uh, Kates," he leaned down. "You still thinkin' about babies?"

"Uh-huh," she responded. "It'll cheer up Mama."

"Katie," he pulled her close. "Let me explain somethin'. Your Ma an' me don't want ya t' worry about this. You don't have t' try t' get us another child. It made us real sad when the baby died, yes, but... But only grownups can make babies. If we're meant t' have more, it'll happen, but we're already real lucky t' have the kids we got. When you grow up an' meet the man you wanna marry...."

"If you 'prove," she raised her finger.

"Right, if I approve," he kissed her finger. "Then you an' your husband can start havin' babies t'gether. But right now, I'd sure rather have you just be my sweet little girl, who likes t' play, an' draw, an' make music. Mama will be okay. It cheers her up just bein' with you an' your brothers."

"Ya sure?" she hesitated.

"Never been more sure in my life," his eyes glistened.

"Okay," she consented. "I'll let you an' Mama make a baby."

"Thanks," he winked.


"Papa!" Josef's eyes widened when he saw his gift. "Mine?"

"Yep," Sully lifted him and placed the little boy in the bright red wagon. "Now, ya gotta remember that this is for outside or in the barn, but just this once, I don't think your Ma would mind if I pulled ya around in the house."

"Mama?" Josef turned to her.

"Go ahead," she smiled.

Sully lifted Katie into the wagon, as well. Then he began to pull the children through the living room, dining room and kitchen. The two little ones clapped their hands and laughed for the round trip.

When they completed the loop, Michaela lifted her son and stroked his hair, "What do you say to your Daddy?"

"Tanks, Papa," the toddler's grin lit up the room.

"You're welcome," he tickled the little boy's side. "Happy Birthday, Joe."

"Whose birthday are we gonna have next?" Katie queried.

"Ma's is in February," Brian pointed out.

The mention of that month triggered a tension in Sully as he recalled Preston's comment about a Mr. Garrick and the Sierra Copper Mining Company coming then. He quickly shook it off.

"We'll have t' do somethin' special for your Ma's birthday," Sully announced.

"Sully," Michaela immediately felt uncomfortable. "I prefer a nice, quiet birthday with my family. No more surprises."

"Sure," Sully winked at the children. "Whatever ya want."


It was quite late when Sully entered their bedroom. Michaela had drifted off to sleep waiting for him, secure in the thought that he would join her soon. When he finally arrived, she stirred.

"Where were you?" she yawned.

"Writin' a letter," he told her as he removed his beads.

"To whom?" she rose from the bed.

"Interior Department," he started to unbutton his shirt. "I ain't givin' up on the Red Rocks."

"Good," she felt her heart swell with love. "I'm so proud of you, Sully, for your courage and determination."

"A good woman makes a man wanna do good things," he turned it around. Then he changed the subject, "Do ya know what Katie's been up to?"

"One can only imagine," she shook her head.

"She wanted t' make a baby t' cheer ya up," he revealed.

"Oh, my," she went pale. "What did you tell her?"

"I told her t' stay our sweet little girl an' leave makin' babies t' us," he kissed her.

She quietly reflected on his words.

"Ya okay?" he feared he had upset her.

"Yes," she assured him.

"I also told her that her just bein' around cheers ya up," he added.

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

"How's your head?" he gently touched the bump.

"Much better than this morning," she slid her arms around his waist.

"We sure ain't had good luck lately, with everyone takin' spills on their head," he joked.

"On the contrary," she smiled. "I think we're very blessed to have come through each crisis."

He noticed her gazing at him, "What ya thinkin' about?"

She rubbed her hands up and down his sides, "How much I love you, Mr. Sully."

He paused to relish the feel of her embrace.

"Hey," she shook him slightly. "You're supposed to say you love me, too."

"I don't thinks words are enough t' tell ya how I feel, Michaela," he kissed her forehead. "I already done enough damage with my words."

"You did no damage, Sully," she assured him. "You were tired, disappointed...."

He walked toward the window and turned his back to her, "I regret what I did more than I could ever tell ya."

"Sully," she neared him, wondering what to say. Then she thought about another time when he had been disappointed. "It's past. We're the present.... if you'll have me."

He immediately recognized those lines. His mind drifted back to seven years earlier when her fiance David had turned up alive. Forced to choose between the two men, Michaela had returned to Sully with those very words.

"Will you, Sully?" she touched his back and continued the dialogue from their previous reconciliation.

He closed his eyes, recalling his answer, "Will I what?"

"Will you marry me?" her voice choked in the familiar reply.

Slowly he turned and brushed back a lock of her hair, "Yes."

They embraced and tenderly kissed.

"It's good t' be in your arms," he whispered. "An' I do love you."

"Would you care to show me?" her tender touches began to stir him.

"You sure you feel all right for that?" he needed to be certain.

"I want nothing more than for us to be together," she invited. "Besides, we don't want to let down our daughter."

"Huh?" he forgot their earlier comments.

She lowered her voice, "About making babies."

"Oh," he tilted his head to kiss her. "You're right. We shouldn't disappoint her."

Sully lifted her and carried her to the bed. His kisses and caresses excited her, and she in return, delighted him with her feathery light touches. Gone were the fears and pain. Only the healing tenderness of his lips on hers could be felt. And as they came together, he filled her with the energetic warmth of his love. They were transported with an overpowering and electrifying surge of passion. Each had never felt more alive than at that moment, and each spoke a silent prayer of gratitude for such a union as theirs.

Michaela slowly stroked his arm, "Perhaps next year."

"Mmm?" he wondered.

"Perhaps Katie will get her wish," she captured his eyes. "You make me so happy, Sully. I thank God every day for your love, for the courageous and compassionate man you are."

He kissed her temple, "I'm the lucky one, Michaela."

Then, noticing that his wife was drifting off to sleep, he linked his hand in hers and spoke softly some lines of Tennyson:

"To love one maiden only, to cleave to her,
And worship her by years of noble deeds,
Until they won her, for indeed I knew,
Of no more subtle master under heaven
Than is the maiden passion for a maid,
Not only to keep down the base in man,
But teach high thought, and amiable words
And courtliness, and the desire of fame,
And love of truth, and all that makes a man."


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