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

Thanksgiving


by Debby K

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman
Thanksgiving
by Debby K

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

"Ma, do ya think Colleen an' Andrew can make it home for Thanksgivin'?" Brian reached for another helping of mashed potatoes.

"I believe a Christmas trip is more likely," Michaela informed him. "But it really depends on their schedules."

"What Thanksgivin'?" Katie picked up on the conversation.

"It's a holiday where we observe the survival of the Pilgrims in their first year in America," Brian said.

"What Pilgrims?" the child probed further.

"People who came from England to the New World," Brian replied.

"Why?" Katie continued.

"T' worship as they wanted," Brian wondered when she would be satisfied.

"Why we have holiday?" the little girl was not finished.

Sully wiped his mouth and took his daughter's hand, "Kates, do ya know how every year we celebrate your birthday?"

"Yep," she smiled. "Ya give me present."

"An' what do ya say when someone gives ya a present?" he touched her nose.

"Thank you," she knew her manners.

"Right," he nodded. "The Pilgrims were a group o' people who came t' a new land and were helped an' given presents by the Indians. So when their first year here passed, they got t'gether t' offer thanks. Every year now, we keep up that Thanksgivin' tradition."

"And 12 years ago, President Lincoln designated the last Thursday o' November, t' celebrate Thanksgivin' as a holiday," Matthew added.

"Do ya understand now, Katie?" Brian hoped.

"Yep," she grinned. "I gonna get present?"

"Do ya think ya should?" Sully winked.

"I wanna ride horse," the little girl requested.

"Katie," Michaela held another spoonful of mashed carrots for Josef. "We've been through this before. You're still too small to learn to ride."

"But ya always tell me I growin'," Katie folded her arms.

"You are, Sweetheart," Michaela smiled. "Too quickly, if you ask me."

"Not fair," the little girl looked down.

"Katie," Sully waited for her to pay attention.

She paused, then finding her father's voice irresistible, she tilted her head to listen.

"Ya know what's more important than presents?" he asked.

"What?" she was intrigued.

"Love," he stated simply.

"I got lots o' love," the little girl beamed.

"Right," her father kissed her hand. "Never forget that."

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

Michaela settled Josef into his crib, "Sully, perhaps we could get her a pony."

"Ya know my opinion on the subject," he was adamant. "She's too small t' ride."

"She wants this so much," Michaela turned to face him. "It's all she talks about."

"She's gotta learn that ya don't always get what ya want, when ya want it," he removed his beads and walked to the crib.

"So you think it would be spoiling her?" she sat to brush her hair.

"I think it's too dangerous," his tone indicated the topic was closed.

He undressed, washed and got into bed in silence. Picking up a book, he began to read. Michaela finished brushing her hair, removed her robe and joined him. Then she leafed through one of her medical journals.

"Anything interesting in there?" she glanced over.

He did not respond. She rubbed her leg against his. Still no reaction.

"Are you upset with me?" she was curious.

"No," he continued to read.

"Would you rather I leave you alone?" she hoped otherwise.

Sully set down the book and turned toward her, "Michaela, ya know what happened t' my brother."

She set aside her journal and touched his hand, "I remember your telling me. He was dragged to his death by a horse when he was a child."

"So ya understand me not wantin' Katie t' ride," he kept his emotions in check.

"Of course I understand," she clasped his hand. "And I respect your wishes."

"Thank you," he folded his arms.

"If we are in agreement on this, what's wrong?" she noted his mood. "Is there something else on your mind?"

He took a deep breath, "I want ya t' be careful when you're at the Clinic, Michaela."

"I am careful, Sully," she thought the request odd. "Why?"

"There's rumors that two outlaws, the Haswell Brothers, are in the territory," he ran his hand long his upper lip. "Their Ma lives about twenty miles from here."

"How dangerous are they?" she asked.

"Capable o' killin'," he recalled seeing the poster at the Depot. "There's a $5000 reward out for their capture."

"Rest assured, I'll be careful," she snuggled closer to him.

"I was supposed t' ride up t' Central City on some business, but I think I'll stick closer t' home," he rubbed her arm. "'Sides, with Thanksgivin' comin' up, I don't wanna be too far away."

"I can't say I'm disappointed that you'll be near," she smiled.

"Oh? Ya like havin' me near?" his temperament brightened.

"Very much so," she raised an eyebrow.

"How near?" he wrapped his arm around her shoulders.

"So near, I cannot tell your heartbeat from my own," her voice spoke of longing.

Sully's pulse quickened at the suggestive tone in her voice.

"Love and the gentle heart are but a single thing," he quoted.

"Humm," she pondered the poet. "Shakespeare?"

"Dante," he kissed her temple.

She toyed with his hair, looping some of it behind his ear, "I enjoy your poetry."

"I enjoy what you're doin' right now," the blue of his eyes melted her.

Then Michaela felt him pull back as if lost in other thoughts.

"What are you thinking about?" she caressed his sideburn.

"Nothin'," he attempted a smile.

"I know better," she said.

She waited, and then he revealed his anguish.

"I was just rememberin' my brother," his brow wrinkled slightly.

"Sully," she traced her finger across his forehead. "I'm so sorry."

"Sometimes bad memories don't leave ya be," he sighed.

"I understand," her mind flashed to the loss of her sister. "But I'm here for you."

"I know," he kissed her hand. "That thought always fills my heart."

The quiet of the room was momentarily disturbed by a restless whimper from Josef. After turning his head, the baby soon drifted back to sleep.

"He must be dreamin'," Sully smiled.

"Or perhaps he has an upset tummy," she glanced in the direction of the crib. "He seems to be sleeping soundly now."

"I reckon we oughta get some rest, too," he suggested.

"If that's what you want," she tried to conceal her disappointment.

He sensed it, "You not ready t' go t' sleep?"

She fought against her yearnings, "If you are."

He grinned, "Know what?"

"What?" she ran her hand across his chest.

"Now that ya mention it, I don't think I'm ready t' go t' sleep," he traced his finger along the V-opening of her nightgown.

"No?" she tingled.

"Nope," he slipped his hand beneath the fabric.

Michaela's body quivered, and she was quickly succumbing to the passion he was igniting, "You're doing it again, Mr. Sully."

He trailed his kisses across her neck, "Doin' what?"

She caught her breath at the movement of his hands, "Making me forget everything in the world."

"Ya forgettin' me?" his warm hands pulled her closer.

"Not hardly," she twined her fingers in his long hair.

"Good," he grinned.

"Please don't stop," she found the temptation of his body overwhelming.

He positioned himself to fulfill their desires. She willingly received his love, shuddering at the totality of the experience. The satisfaction of his cravings left Sully spent and breathless. How this woman could so continue to gratify him was astounding. It was as if their bodies and souls had been created expressly for one another.

Michaela spooned her back against his chest, and pulled his hand to her heart.

"Can ya hear my heartbeat?" he whispered.

"As my own," she kissed his fingers.

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

"I want you to stop back tomorrow so I can check your stitches, Mr. Howard," Michaela spoke loud so the elderly gentleman could hear her instructions.

"I will, Dr. Mike," he headed for the door at a slow gait.

When he had gone, Michaela opened the anteroom door to see her children.

"Mama!" Katie stood up from her table. "Why ya talkin' so loud?"

"Sometimes when people get older, they have difficulty hearing," she lifted Josef and sat in the rocking chair. Kissing the baby's cheek, she smiled, "I think we're going to have to put a bigger bed in here for this young man."

"Mama!" Josef placed his hand on her mouth.

"Joey take off his socks an' try t' climb outa his crib," the little girl informed her.

"As I suspected," Michaela made a face at her son.

The baby giggled and hugged her. Suddenly, a loud bang shattered the office door window. Michaela immediately stood up and looked toward the examining room. Shards of broken glass were strewn about the floor. Before she could react, Sully burst into the Clinic.

"Michaela!" he had his tomahawk drawn.

"In here, Sully," she called. "What's wro...."

"Stay in there an' get on the floor with the children," he cautioned.

"But...." she was interrupted.

"The bank's bein' robbed!" he peeked out the opening in the door. "Get down!"

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

Michaela clutched the children to her bosom. Josef, frightened from the loud noises, began to cry.

"Mama," Katie's eyes widened. "Why we on floor? Why Poppy yellin'?"

"Shhh," Michaela ran her hand along her daughter's cheek. "Stay quiet."

Michaela kissed the baby and murmured comforting words to him, all the while trying not to let her children feel her own fear.

Finally, Sully stood and rushed into the anteroom, "They made a getaway. Ya all right?"

"Poppy!" Katie reached her little arms up to him.

He helped Michaela stand up with the baby, then lifted Katie into his arms.

"Could you tell if anyone was hurt?" Michaela carried Josef into the office.

"Didn't see," he rubbed the back of his son's head.

"Papa!" Josef pointed to the broken glass. "Ba ta!"

Sully's eyes reflected his concern, "It was the Haswell Brothers. A stray bullet hit the door window."

He set Katie down, "Stay away from the glass."

Walking to the wall opposite the Clinic door, he spotted the bullet lodged in the wood.

Michaela's heart skipped a beat, "Not five minutes ago, I was standing there."

The paleness of her face prompted Sully to pull her into his embrace. Josef then reached for his father.

"You okay, big boy?" he smiled and lifted him close.

"Papa!" Josef pointed to the door.

The little boy began to pat his father's shoulder and babble on. Sully smiled and hugged him a little tighter.

"I'll get a broom," Michaela said. "If anyone was hurt..."

Before she could finish her sentence, Hank burst in, "Michaela! Preston's been shot. They're bringin' him over. We're gettin' a posse t' go after 'em."

"How badly is he hurt?" she rapidly cleared the glass from the floor.

"Ain't too bad," he said. "Ya wanna come with us, Sully?"

"That won't be necessary," a calm voice spoke from the doorway.

There stood a black man. His head nearly touched the top of the door frame with his imposing stature. His large black hat with a straight trim was slightly turned up in the front. At his hips were two Colt revolvers, butt forward for a faster draw. He wore neatly tailored clothes, and his boots were polished to a gleaming shine.

"Who are you?" Sully moved to protect his wife and children.

The man slowly pulled back the lapel of his jacket to reveal a badge, "I'm Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal from Fort Smith."

"You're awful far from home," Hank was skeptical.

"Got an arrest warrant for the Haswell Brothers," he pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket. "Issued by Judge Isaac Parker."

"Well, if ya move fast, ya might be able t' catch 'em," Hank relaxed. "They just robbed our bank."

"Make way!" a call came from the street.

Jake entered the Clinic, helping to support Preston. The banker's sleeve was covered with blood. Sully swiftly placed his children in the anteroom while Michaela began to minister to his injury.

Preston noticed Reeves' badge, "Well, what are you waiting for, man? Go after the outlaws."

"I know where they're headed," the Deputy calmly stated. "I'm going to try to do this with as little bloodshed as possible."

Jake pointed to the lawman's Colts, "From the look o' things, ya know how t' use those. We got men willin' t' go with ya, if ya want."

"That's good to know," Reeves nodded. "But not yet. I'll do this in my own way."

"There happens to be the little matter of $10,000 cash which was stolen from my bank," Preston contributed. "What if they decide to hide it? I think it advisable that...."

Reeves lifted his hand, "I'll recover your money, sir."

"Strange kinda lawman," Hank said under his breath to Sully. "Seems t' me he oughta deputize us an' go after the Brothers."

"Just 'cause he don't wanna do it in some blaze o' guns an' glory, don't mean he won't catch 'em," Sully folded his arms.

A crowd began to gather outside the Clinic just as Michaela finished stitching Preston's wound.

The banker pulled a coin from his vest, "That should cover your services."

"Come back tomorrow so that I can check it," Michaela advised.

"Thank you," Preston slid from the examining table and exited, clearly upset that nothing was being done to retrieve his money.

"Michaela?" Dorothy rushed into the Clinic. "What happened?"

"I'll fill ya in," Jake escorted her to the door.

Reeves spoke, "Is there a place I can get some rooms an' board my horses?"

"Rooms?" Hank was surprised. "Only one o' ya."

"The rest of my group will be here by evening," he answered. "Whenever a deputy marshal leaves Fort Smith to capture outlaws, he takes a wagon, cook, and posseman depending on the temperament and reputation of the outlaws he's pursuing. And I got my horses."

"Ya need more than one?" Hank was fascinated.

Reeves nodded, "I travel with a red stallion, two good riding horses for pursuit, as well as a run-of-the-mill horse for undercover work. Surest tip-off to an outlaw that a rider's a deputy marshal is if he's got a superior horse."

Hank raised his eyebrows, "Well, I got a place across the street ya can let rooms, an' Robert E will take care o' your horses."

"Much obliged," the Deputy tipped his hat.

Hank escorted him out, leaving Michaela and Sully alone.

He pulled her into his arms, "You okay?"

"Yes," she rested her cheek against his chest. Then she glanced up at his face, "Sully, promise me you won't get involved in this."

"The Deputy don't need my help," he rubbed her back.

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

"An' I heard they call Judge Parker the 'Hangin' Judge,'" Matthew contributed to the dinner conversation. "President Grant appointed him Federal Judge in the Western District of Arkansas, an area that includes the Indian Territory."

"So he's the one who sent Deputy Reeves after the Haswell Brothers?" Brian was intrigued.

"Right," Matthew sipped from his glass of milk. "From what I hear, Parker's determined t' bring law an' order t' the territory. They hired 200 deputy marshals t' bring in all the robbers, murderers an' thieves."

Michaela noticed her daughter's fascination, "Perhaps this isn't appropriate dinner conversation for young ears."

"So, did ya get Ma's window patched up, Sully?" Matthew changed the subject.

"I wanna hear more 'bout bad men," Katie was disappointed.

"Ya finished eatin', Kates?" Sully asked.

"I have Mama's pie?" her eyes implored.

"I'll get it," Brian rose from the table.

Sully served his daughter a small portion, "Ya sure ya got room in there for pie?"

"Yep," she nodded enthusiastically.

Josef reached for the dessert, as well, "Papa!"

Michaela scooped a small amount onto her spoon for her son, who took it and awkwardly fed himself, "You know, not long after Thanksgiving, it will be this young man's first birthday."

"Joey gonna be one?" Katie calculated.

"That's right," Michaela wiped her son's chin. "Can you say 'one,' Josef?"

"Aah," he pointed. Then he directed his attention toward the pie again, "Mama!"

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

"Poppy," Katie settled under her covers. "Why bad men take money?"

Sully held Josef on his lap as he responded, "Sometimes folks think it's okay t' take what ain't theirs. That's stealin', an' it's wrong."

"I not gonna steal," she pledged.

"Kat!" Josef pointed to his sister.

"He's almost sayin' your name," Sully kissed the top of his son's head.

"What happen when bad men get caught?" the little girl persisted.

"They'll take 'em far away, an' make sure they don't do anythin' bad again," Sully's voice was soothing.

Josef reached down and lifted Katie's stuffed bunny saying to himself, "No!"

"Poppy, Joey's stealin'," she pulled it back.

"It ain't stealin' if ya give it to him," he counseled.

"They take Joey far away?" she wondered.

"Ya gonna share the bunny with your brother?" he raised his eyebrow.

"I share," she lovingly handed it to the little boy.

"Then it's not stealin'," he leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "Now, say your prayers."

"Mama not here," she did not want to end their conversation.

"I'm right here," Michaela walked in.

"No more delays," Sully touched the little girl's nose.

They listened to her prayers, then kissed her good night.

"Joey not sleepin' yet," she opened her eyes.

"He will be soon," Sully informed her. "Good night, sweet girl," he lowered the lamp.

"Night," Katie hugged her doll.

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

Sully leaned back against several pillows on the bed, resting his son against his chest.

"When ya gonna get sleepy?" Sully lifted the baby high, then lowered him again.

"Certainly not as long as you play with him," Michaela washed her face.

"Can't help but wanna play with him," Sully smiled.

The baby reached for his father's nose, "Papa! Na!"

Sully pulled the little boys fingers into his mouth and talked nonsense. Josef giggled uncontrollably. Michaela found the sight and sound of her husband's antics to be amusing.

"Another baby in this house spoiled," she shook her head and stretched out on the bed beside them.

"Mama!" Josef reached for her.

Sully stood the baby up between them, and the little boy began to bend his legs up and down in a bouncing motion. With each laugh he elicited from his parents, Josef continued his exercise with greater enthusiasm. Then he plopped down and removed his socks.

Michaela found herself glancing at her husband with love, "You know, when I see you like this, I find you irresistible."

"See me like what?" he pulled Josef close to kiss his belly.

Squeals of delight emanated from the little boy.

"See you playing with our children," she stroked the baby's hair. "Loving them so much."

Sully felt a lump in his throat, "I don't wanna miss one minute o' bein' with 'em. Life's too short, an' they grow up too fast."

"I know," she touched his arm.

Finally, Josef began to calm. He yawned. Sully lifted him and changed his diaper. By the time he settled him into his crib, the baby had drifted off. Sully poured fresh water in the basin and washed up. Then he joined his wife in bed.

She soon cuddled next to him, "Good night, Sully."

"What was that about findin' me irresistible?" he was not quite ready to sleep.

"Are you tempting me?" she enjoyed the thought.

"Why'd ya put on that perfume?" he had noted her spraying the fragrance on her neck before climbing into bed. "Ya know I can't resist ya when ya wear that."

"Oh, you noticed?" she was being coy.

"I notice everythin' about ya," he let his hand drift to her chest. "How ya curve right here, how ya smell...." Then he leaned in to kiss her, "How ya taste."

"So you're not losing your TOUCH," her voice rose as he placed his hand in a provocative spot.

"Shhh," he whispered. "You'll wake the children."

"Sully," she captured his soul with the word. "I love you."

"I love you, too," he smiled. "That's why t'morrow I want you an' the children t' stay home."

"Why?" her brow wrinkled.

"I'd feel better with those outlaws on the loose," he responded.

"But they've already robbed the town's only bank," she reasoned. "What's left?"

"Lots o' reasons for 'em t' return," he stated. "Horses, liquor, supplies, medical attention."

"But I have patients to see," she protested.

"Michaela," his voice became stern. "I want ya home t'morrow."

"But, Sully," she tensed.

He threw back the covers and rose from the bed. Silently, he left the room. Then she heard the front door open and shut.

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

Michaela rose from the bed. Putting on her robe, she checked that her son still sleeping, then she made her way downstairs in search of her husband. Gazing out the kitchen window, she saw no sign of him, but Wolf rested on the front porch.

Opening the front door, she greeted the animal, "Where's Sully, boy?"

He whimpered and looked toward the barn.

"Thank you," she descended the front steps.

The barn door was ajar, and when she slipped through the opening, Sully's lightning quick reflexes pivoted to see who had entered.

"It's me, Sully," she spoke low. "What are you doing?"

"I came out t' get some fresh air, then thought I heard somethin' out here," he put his tomahawk away. "What are you doin' out here?"

"I was concerned about you," she pulled her robe tighter in the chilled air. "I didn't want us to go to bed angry."

"I ain't angry," he asserted. "You can go back in the house."

"You are angry," she refused to budge.

"Why d' you have t' be so stubborn?" he shook his head.

She approached him, "I thought you like me that way."

"For once," he rolled his eyes. "Just one time, I wish I didn't have t' explain why I want ya t' do somethin', Michaela."

"Do I not have a right to know why you want me to stay at home?" she countered.

"You have the right t' take care of our children an' yourself," he retorted.

"Is that all?" her voice rose. "You want me to be some unquestioning, unthinking... subservient... chattel?"

"No," he softened his tone. "You know that ain't true."

"I want to be your partner in life," she lowered her voice, as well.

"We are partners," he sighed. "But sometimes, I know what's best for ya."

"I don't doubt your uncanny ability to sense danger," she said. "And I appreciate your fierce devotion to protecting your family...."

"But ya don't just accept things without explanation," he added.

"I believe in knowing all of the facts," she smiled slightly.

He made a sweep through the barn to check on the animals.

"Are they all right?" she observed him.

"They're fine," he nodded.

"How about you?" she saw that he wore no shirt. "You'll catch a cold out here."

"There was a time when this was all I wore," he sounded almost melancholy.

Michaela detected his mood, "Do... do you miss that time, Sully, when you could be by yourself with no one to ask questions of you?"

He came to her, "No, I don't miss that time."

"You're certain?" she ran her hand along his chest.

Longings began to stir in him, "I... I'm sure. I wouldn't trade your touch for anythin'."

"This touch?" she kissed his torso.

His pulse began to race, "Michaela."

He clasped her arms and pulled her up to reach his lips. Then he slid his hands beneath her robe and around her waist. Michaela shivered.

"Maybe we should go in the house," he pulled back.

"Are you cold?" she hoped not.

"No," he held her tight. "I thought you might be."

"I feel only warmth against you," she clasped his shoulders.

Sully initiated another kiss, which was welcomed by the parting lips of his wife. Then he clutched the material of her nightgown and began to inch it higher. As he did so, her fingers began to undo his buckskins. Soon there was nothing to encumber their passion.

Gently, he guided her back amid a mound of clean hay. The sight of his body aroused every pore in her being. As Sully knelt down before her, she reached for his arms and guided him to her. Her body welcomed his as they began to move as one. Driving toward the ultimate satisfaction of their wants, their ardor was finally satiated.

"Perhaps I should help you check the barn more often," she grinned.

"I'd never get anythin' done," he plied tender kisses to her.

"And my stubbornness?" she rubbed his arm.

"What stubbornness?" he teased.

"How shall I explain this hay in my hair?" she asked.

"No one's gonna see it but me," he picked a piece from her tresses. "An' for me, it'll just be a pleasant reminder."

"By the way, I'm staying home tomorrow," she stroked the sides of his face lovingly.

"By the way, I'm glad ya came out t' the barn t'night," he grinned. Then he offered her his hand to shake, "Partners?"

She shook it, then raised it to her lips to kiss, "Partners. I take it your low spirits have lifted?"

He ran his finger along her lips, as he recited:

"If the heart of a man is depressed with cares,
The mist is dispelled when a woman appears."

"A woman?" she joked. "Does that mean any woman?"

"Nope," he picked another piece of hay from her hair. "Just one woman for me."

"Was that from Shelley?" she guessed.

"John Gay," he replied.

"Do you suppose we should return to the house?" she was beginning to feel the cold.

"Good idea," he helped her up.

Swiftly, they dressed and returned to the warmth of their home.

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

A loud pounding at the front door awoke the entire household just after dawn. Sully wiped the sleep from his eyes and went downstairs to answer it. To his surprise, when he opened the door, there stood Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves.

"Sorry to disturb you so early," the lawman removed his hat.

"That's okay," Sully stepped back to invite him in.

"I met you yesterday," Reeves spoke.

Sully extended his hand, "My name's Sully."

Matthew made his way down the steps, followed closely by Brian.

"These are my boys, Matthew an' Brian," Sully indicated. "Can I offer ya a cup o' coffee?"

"Pleased to meet you," he nodded. "I'm afraid I'm not here on a social call, Sully."

Michaela silently descended the steps, with Josef in her arms and Katie clutching her robe.

"Is something wrong?" she approached.

Sully put his arm around her waist, "This here's my wife, Dr. Michaela Quinn, an' our children Katie an' Josef."

"Guess that's why you were stitching up the banker's arm yesterday," Reeves smiled. "You're a doctor."

"Yes," she nodded. "What brings you out here so early?"

"Business with your husband, Ma'am," his tone suggested they speak in private.

Sully spoke up, "Brian, take the children upstairs."

"But, Pa...." he stopped when he saw Sully's expression.

The young man lifted his little brother and took Katie's hand.

When they were upstairs, Reeves glanced toward Michaela, "Maybe I oughta talk t' your husband alone, Ma'am."

"You can say what ya need t' say in front of my wife," Sully linked his fingers in hers.

"My reason for comin' is to ask for your help," the Deputy came out with it.

Sully felt Michaela's hand tense in his, "What kinda help?"

"From what I gather, you know this territory better than anyone in Colorado Springs," Reeves replied.

"So?" Sully wondered.

"So, I need a good man t' lead me on my mission to capture the Haswell Brothers," Reeves came to the point.

"How dangerous is this mission?" Michaela could not remain quiet.

"I won't lie to you, Ma'am," he rested his hands on his gun belt. "It's very dangerous, but all I need your husband to do is help me make my way through the backwoods to their mother's house. Once I locate them, Sully can come home, and I'll take it from there."

Michaela and Sully glanced at one another.

"I'll pay you well," the Deputy added.

"Would ya excuse us for a minute?" Sully escorted Michaela into the kitchen.

As Matthew discussed the lawman's background with him, Michaela's eyes reflected her fear.

"Sully," she held his hands. "I don't know about this."

"I reckon I could tell the Deputy how t' get around, but it would be quicker if I led him," Sully reasoned. "That means he'll capture those boys faster."

"So you're going," she looked down.

He lifted her chin with his finger, "I'll be careful."

She took a deep breath, "I know this is something you must do."

"I got your blessin'?" he smiled.

She leaned in to kiss him, "Always."

"I should only be gone a day or two," Sully held Michaela in his arms. "The boys can take care o' things around here 'til I get home."

She pulled him close, "I love you."

"I love you, too," he controlled his emotions, never finding it easy to say good-bye to his family.

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

"Kates," he knelt down. "Be good for your Ma an' brothers."

"I give ya surprise when ya come home," she flashed a smile that melted his heart.

"I love you, sweet girl," he grinned.

"I love you, Poppy," she hugged him.

"Jo-sef," Sully clapped his hands.

His son was standing by one of the kitchen chairs, finger in his mouth. The child sensed that everyone was sad.

"Papa," his little voice melted Sully's heart.

"Come here, big boy," Sully extended his arms.

Josef began slowly, but quickened his pace and awkwardly made it to his father's arms. Sully lifted him and kissed his cheek.

"I love you, Josef," Sully cupped the back of the baby's head in his hand. "Bye-bye."

Josef, pointed at the door, "Bah."

Handing the child to his mother, Sully turned to the older boys, "Take care o' things."

"We will, Sully," Matthew shook his hand.

Brian gave into his emotions and hugged him, "Be real careful, Pa."

Sully patted his back, "I will, Brian. I love you."

Finally, Sully returned to his wife and sweetly kissed her. With that, he joined Reeves and departed.

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

Sully and Bass Reeves traveled the first part of their twenty-mile journey with the Deputy's entourage, but as they neared the suspected hideout of the outlaws, the two of them continued without company.

Now, Reeves shed the natty clothing and dressed as a humble tramp. A master of disguise, he wanted to bring no suspicion to himself when he neared the outlaws' home. He removed the heels from an old pair of shoes, carried a cane, concealed his handcuffs, pistol and badge under his clothes, and wore a floppy old hat into which he had shot three bullet holes.

At dusk, Sully and Reeves made camp within a brief ride of the Haswell homestead.

"I appreciate your coming with me, Sully," the lawman bit into some hardtack.

"I figured the sooner I got ya here, the sooner ya catch 'em," Sully replied. "What made ya go int' this line o' work, anyway?"

"I was born a slave," the black man informed him. "I was playing cards with my master once, and caught him cheating. I knocked him out cold, then ran for my life."

"They could've killed ya for that," Sully knew the law.

"I fled across the Red River," the Deputy went on. "Lived with and fought some battles in the War for the Seminoles and Creek Indians. I got to be friends with Creek Chief Opothleyaholo."

"Knowin' Indian ways gives ya special insight int' things," Sully knew.

"Judge Parker thought I might be useful," Reeves nodded. "I know the Indian Territory like a cook knows her kitchen. I made a living for a while as a scout and tracker for peace officers, but when I got to be good with a gun, I figured I could do more than scout."

"You're pretty far from home now," Sully stared at the flickering campfire.

"I got a wife and children, too," the lawman assumed Sully missed his family. "But my jurisdiction covers more than 75,000 square miles, and sometimes I need to ride as far as Fort Reno to get my man. The pay's too good to quit."

"I reckon we oughta get some rest now," Sully stated. "I'll be headin' for home at first light."

The sound of breaking twigs caught the mountain man's attention. He raised his hand to indicate for Reeves to be quiet. Then he heard the sound of a rifle cock. Too late, he reached for his tomahawk.

"Don't move," a woman's voice instructed them coldly.

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

"Mama," Katie stood watching her mother bathe Josef. "I wanna give Poppy somethin' when he come home."

"Kat!" Josef splashed water. "Papa bah."

"Joey," the little girl wiped herself off with a towel. "Poppy's comin' home soon."

Michaela lifted the baby from the water into a towel she had draped across her shoulder, "Katie, why do you want to get your father something?"

"For Thanksgivin'," she announced.

Michaela smiled, "I'll think about it, then. Perhaps we can come up with something very special for him."

"Good," the child was satisfied.

"What about you, young man?" Michaela lifted her son above her head. "Do you want to give your Papa something?"

"Papa!" Josef giggled.

He latched on to his mother's necklace and pulled it toward his mouth.

"Let go, now," she tenderly undid his fist.

Michaela diapered the little boy and placed a cotton shift over his head. Then she set him on the floor to pour out the bath water. Josef pulled himself into a standing position and headed for Wolf, asleep at the kitchen hearth. He plopped down beside the animal and began to pet him. Then Josef leaned over and placed his head on the pet's fur.

"Woh," he smiled. "Papa!"

The animal lifted his head to view the youngest Sully more carefully. Then he began to lick the little boy's face. Josef exploded into laughter.

"Josef!" Michaela shook her head. "I just gave you a bath."

Lifting her son up, she wiped off his face. The baby's lower lip began to quiver indicating a crying spell was eminent.

"Mama!" his blue eyes reddened. "Woh!" he pointed to the animal.

"You may play with Wolf tomorrow," she rubbed his cheek. Strolling into the living room, she announced, "What time is it?"

Katie slipped from Matthew's lap, "Mama, I gotta tell ya I not wanna go t' bed right now."

"Kat!" Josef pointed to his sister.

Brian made faces to distract the little boy, much to Josef's delight.

"Why is it that you do not wish to go to bed?" Michaela gave Katie the opportunity to explain.

"I not sleepy," she responded.

"Why must you be so stubborn about doing as you're told?" Michaela tried to remain calm.

"What stubborn mean?" she tilted her head.

"It means unwilling," Michaela held out her hand. "Come on, now."

"Bran an' Mattew not goin' t' bed," Katie delayed.

"And they are not four years old, either," Michaela was losing her patience.

"I not wanna go t' bed, Mama," Katie sat down defiantly.

"Katherine Elizabeth Sully," Michaela raised her voice. "You will come with me right this moment, or you will stay in your room tomorrow during wash day."

Katie loved wash day. She enjoyed helping her mother with every aspect of washing and rinsing the laundry. Reluctantly, the little girl rose.

"Good night, Katie," Matthew smiled.

"'Night," Brian chimed in.

"'Night," the little girl gruffly responded. "I gonna tell Poppy about this."

"I hope you do, young lady," Michaela escorted her to the stairs. "What would he think about your being disobedient?"

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

"Lower that tomahawk," the woman directed Sully.

Before them stood a hefty, gray-haired woman in her fifties, pointing her rifle at them. Her demeanor and tone of voice suggested she was not one to ignore. Sully obeyed.

"We don't mean no harm, Ma'am," Reeves spoke up. "My friend here's mute. Lived with the Indians all his life."

Sully rolled his eyes and cast a disapproving look at the lawman.

"Who are you?" the woman directed her question to Reeves.

"My name's Tom, Ma'am," he used his cane to try to stand. "I don't got no last name."

"What about him?" she aimed her gun at Sully.

"I don't know his name, Ma'am," the Deputy shrugged. "He can't talk."

"Both o' ya stand up," she commanded. "You're on my land."

"We're sorry," Reeves stooped over. "It's just we been walkin' all day an' had t' rest. My feet really hurt."

"Why ain't ya on the main road?" she was suspicious.

"We been pursued all day by a posse," the lawman continued his act. "They put three bullets clean through my hat."

He removed the headgear and showed her.

"My God!" she exclaimed. "Will ya look at that! Why ya wanted by the law?"

"Tried t' rob a bank," Reeves responded. "Sheriff showed up before we got the safe open."

Sully was amazed at the man's ability to think so rapidly on his feet.

"You two look like ya can use a hot meal," she lowered her gun. "Ya think ya can make it to my homestead?"

"I think so," Reeves picked up his gear, and Sully followed. "This is mighty nice o' ya."

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

Katie lay in bed, her hands folded across the blanket.

"Did you say your prayers?" Michaela entered the room.

"I did," the child responded.

"Is there something on your mind?" the mother noted her quiet.

"I thinkin'," Katie turned to her.

"Thinking about a present for your father?" Michaela sat beside her on the bed.

"Um-hum," the little girl nodded.

"You know that he doesn't expect a gift from you," she informed her. "Your Daddy's greatest joy is in seeing you smile."

Michaela touched the side of her daughter's mouth and drew a grin.

Katie bolted up and threw her arms around her mother, "I sorry I stubborn, Mama."

Michaela rubbed her back, "I've been known to be a bit stubborn myself."

"Your Mama make ya stay in on wash day?" Katie wondered.

"No," Michaela guided the little girl to lay back. "In my home in Boston, we didn't have to do laundry."

"Ya wear dirty clothes?" Katie was amazed.

"Servants washed our things," Michaela answered. "Every day."

"We not gettin' servants, are we?" the child considered it.

"No," she situated the covers around her.

"Good," Katie was relieved. "I like wash day."

Michaela chuckled, "You do make it entertaining, Sweetheart."

"Mama," Katie reached for her mother's hand. "Ya miss Boston?"

"I miss seeing my mother and sisters," Michaela replied. "But I love being here with you and our family."

"Maybe Poppy take us there," Katie speculated. "He do it if we ask nice."

"Your father would give us the world, wouldn't he?" Michaela leaned down on her elbows.

"Yep," Katie grinned. "Love you, Mama."

"I love you, too, my darling," Michaela kissed her. "When's the last time I told you how proud I am of you?

"Ya tell me all time," the child assured her. "I pwr... proud o' you, too, Mama. I wanna be doctor when I grow up."

"I thought you wanted to be a mountain woman," Michaela chuckled.

"I do," Katie compromised. "I do both?"

"You, Katherine Sully, can do anything you put your mind to," the mother boasted.

"Just like you," Katie's heart filled with admiration.

"Do you think you can put your mind toward a good night's sleep now?" Michaela broached the subject.

"Yep," Katie closed her eyes.

"Good night, Sweetheart," Michaela kissed her.

"'Night, Mama," Katie's soft voice trailed off as she yawned.

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

"That was a real fine meal, Mrs..... I don't know your name, Ma'am," Reeves knew perfectly well who the woman was.

"Blanche," she put a helping of apple pie on their plates. "Blanche Haswell."

"You're awful kind t' two strangers like us, Mrs. Haswell," the lawman buttered her up.

"You boys got somethin' in common with my sons," she sat.

"What's that?" Reeves pretended to be interested.

"They're wanted by the law, too," Blanche confessed.

"They prob'ly didn't even do nothin' wrong," the Deputy said.

"Hey," she sat up straighter. "It would be a good plan if you an' my two boys join forces so you can be a protection for one another."

Reeves eyes opened wide, "That sounds real smart, Mrs. Haswell."

"Does your friend here understand?" she motioned toward Sully.

The mountain man faked a wide smile and nodded.

"He understands, all right," the black man grinned.

Suddenly a sharp whistle was heard from the nearby creek. Sully quickly placed his hand on his tomahawk.

"Calm down," Blanche rose to her feet. "That's my boys."

She opened the front door, walked out and whistled an answer. Soon they heard two horses approach. Sully was becoming more uncomfortable, the longer she stayed outdoors with her sons.

Reeves picked up on it and whispered, "Stay calm. They don't know us."

Then two men appeared at the doorway, guns drawn.

"What you two doin' in our Ma's house," the taller one demanded.

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

Blanche Haswell entered her house and slapped her son's arm, "Jeb! I told you these two could be a help. You can join forces for theft an' plunder. Now put that gun down."

Jeb, a tall, blonde-headed youth of perhaps twenty, rubbed his arm, "Ma, ya gotta be careful."

"Well, you tell me," she pointed to the lawman and Sully. "Do ya think a colored man an' a half-breed are gonna arrest you?"

The other son spoke up, "Ma's right. These two are in the same boat as us."

The other Haswell son was a darker blonde and not as tall as his younger brother. He held in his hands a bag marked "Bank of Colorado Springs."

He extended his dirty hand, "My name's Frank."

"Good t' meet ya," Reeves shook his hand.

Sully continued his role as the mute man of mystery and simply nodded.

"Ma said he don't talk," Frank indicated.

"Right," Reeves nodded.

"Here," Blanche pointed to the table. "You boys oughta be starvin'"

Blanche left the kitchen as her sons sat down and, casting manners to the wind, dug into her home cooking. They hungrily devoured the food in no time as Reeves and Sully watched, partly in astonishment, partly in revulsion. Loud belches signaled their completion of the meal.

Blanche returned, "I fixed you an' your friend a place t' sleep in the spare room."

"Ya know what I was thinkin'?" Reeves spoke up.

"What?" Jeb was interested.

"I was thinkin' it might be a good idea for all four o' us men t' sleep in the same room," the Deputy detailed. "Somethin' might happen, an' if we're separated, we couldn't be much protection for one another."

"That sounds like a good idea," Frank wiped his mouth on his sleeve. "We got some bedrolls ya can stretch out on."

"It's real kind o' you, Mrs. Haswell," Reeves said.

They all settled into the small room. Sully tucked his head against the bed roll and closed his eyes, thinking about his wife and children. "I'll be home tomorrow," he sent his thoughts to Michaela.

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

Michaela looked up from the journal she was reading, suddenly feeling the warmth of her husband's love. She ran her hand along his pillow and felt a tear. "I love you, Sully," she sent her thoughts to him.

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

Neither Reeves nor Sully could fall asleep from the horrific snoring that emanated from the sinus cavities of the Haswell Brothers. But then, they did not want to sleep. Sully watched and waited for the Deputy to make his move. Then it came. Shortly before dawn, Reeves stood up and more quietly than Sully thought humanly possible, the lawman slipped handcuffs on the sleeping brothers. Then Sully crept into the living room to snatch Blanche's rifle and the money from Preston's bank.

When all was ready, Reeves kicked the brothers, "Come on boys, let's get going."

They woke with a start and finding their hands immobilized, immediately began to curse. The noise wakened Blanche, who tore into the room. Sully kept watch over her as Reeves helped up his two captives.

Standing them side by side, he pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket, "Boys, this here's a writ for your arrest, issued by the honorable federal Judge Isaac Parker, of the Indian Territory. As a Deputy U.S. Marshal, sworn in by Judge Parker, I'm takin' ya in."

"You can't do this!" Blanche shouted.

"Yes, he can," Sully replied.

"You can talk!" Jeb gawked at him.

"Only when I got somethin' t' say," Sully smiled.

"Let's go," Reeves pushed the outlaws toward the door.

"Where the hell do you think you're takin' my baby boys?" the mother yelled.

"Back t' the Indian Territory for trial," the Marshal replied. "You can come, too, if ya want."

"Damn right, I'm comin'," she quickly grabbed some belongings.

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

Matthew and Brian began the morning chores in the barn, as Michaela and Katie filled the washtubs beside the house. Josef sat nearby playing with Wolf. By late morning, the first batch of clothes had been washed and rinsed. Michaela began to hang them up. This was Katie's least favorite job since she was too short to reach the line.

"I go watch Mattew an' Bran, Mama," Katie skipped down to the barn.

Just inside the fence was her mother's beautiful horse, Flash. Katie gazed up at the animal in awe. If only she could show Mama and Poppy that she was a big girl. That she could ride a horse. How proud they would be. Then it occurred to her that riding Flash would be the perfect present for her father.

She climbed the fence and sat on the top rail, "Here, Flash."

The horse responded to the curious little voice and approached her. Katie precariously positioned herself so that she could swing her leg over the horse.

"KATIE! NO!" Michaela shouted.

At that instant, Flash reared up and threw the child off. Katie lay still in the dirt. Michaela reached her within seconds.

"Brian! Matthew!" the frantic mother called as she began to examine the little girl.

"What is it, Ma?" Brian rushed to her side. Then he saw his little sister. "Katie!"

Matthew arrived moments later and knelt beside them.

"Brian," Michaela tried to steady her hands. "Go get Josef. He's up near the clothesline. Matthew, please get my medical bag. It's on the table by the front door."

Both young men rushed to do their mother's bidding. Brian found that Wolf had been instinctively guarding Josef.


When he picked up the baby to take him inside, the little boy began to cry, "Bah! Woh!"

Matthew returned with the bag, "How is she?"

"She's alive," Michaela's voice quivered. "Nothing appears to be broken."

"Should we get her inside?" Matthew considered the late fall temperature.

"I think it would be all right to move her," Michaela nodded.

After completing her examination, the mother gently lifted the little girl. Her son noted the trembling of her arms.

"Ma," Matthew stepped forward. "Let me carry her."

"Thank you, Matthew," she transferred her precious little girl into his care.

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

Sully arrived in Colorado Springs and unhooked the money bag from his saddle. Entering the bank, he set the currency on Preston's desk.

"Here's your money," Sully said matter-of-factly.

Preston jumped up, "Sully, my friend! Thank you."

"I ain't your friend," the mountain man turned to leave.

"You know there was a reward for the return of my money," Preston smiled.

"I already got paid by Deputy Reeves. Give it t' the school at shantytown," Sully said as he departed.

He stood on the walkway, gazing at the bustling town, when the sound of a speeding buckboard caught his attention. Focusing on the passengers, he saw his own family rushing to the Clinic. He raced across the street in time to see a frantic Michaela directing Matthew to carry the lifeless body of Katie inside.

"Michaela!" he neared. "What happened?"

"Oh, Sully!" she rushed to his arms. "Katie fell off of Flash."

"What was she doin' on Flash?" he filled with anger.

"Let's get her inside first!" she replied.

Sully took over and lifted his little girl gently from the back of the wagon.

"Papa!" Josef called as he watched from Brian's arms.

The nervous father tenderly set Katie on the examining table, then kissed her forehead.

Michaela tried to assess her condition, "I... I think she's going into shock."

"What?" Sully felt his heart stop.

Michaela continued to probe, "Her belly is rigid, almost like a board. She's cool, clammy."

Sully placed his hand on Katie and felt what Michaela had described, "No, Katie."

Michaela felt the child's wrist, "Pulse is weak and rapid."

"Michaela," Sully's voice shook. "What can ya do?"

"Operate," she rushed to prepare her instrument case.

"Do ya need me t' do anythin'?" he wanted to be useful.

"Go get Jake," she instructed.

Sully burst through the door, past the crowd that was gathered and ran to the barbershop.

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

"Jake!" Sully stormed in.

The barber nearly slit Loren's throat, "What is it, Sully?"

"It's Katie!" he caught his breath. "She's been hurt in a fall. Michaela has t' operate an' wants your help."

"Katie's been hurt?" Loren wiped his face.

"How bad is it?" Jake reached for his coat.

"Real bad," Sully replied.

"Now, don't you worry," Loren assured him. "Katie's real strong. She'll pull through just fine."

"Loren," Sully's blue eyes met his. "I can't lose my little girl. Not again."

The older man put his hand on Sully's shoulder, "I know. It ain't gonna happen this time."

"Come on then," Jake headed out the door.

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

Outside the Clinic, Sully sat with his son on his lap and waited as Michaela performed surgery on their daughter. Josef merrily babbled on and played with his father's beads, happily unaware of how his sister's life hung in the balance. Brian leaned against a post, his mind drifting to the many happy times he had spent with Katie. Matthew paced. Other townsfolk waited, as well.

Grace arrived with a large pot of coffee and some mugs, "Any news?"

"Nothin' yet," Sully shook his head.

"I could use some o' that coffee, Grace," Loren walked to her.

She poured it and cast a side glance toward Sully, "Want me t' watch Josef for a while?"

"No thanks," Sully pulled the baby closer.

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

Jake struggled to keep down his lunch as he watched Michaela begin the exploratory surgery on her daughter. Slowly she made the incision into her daughter. Her hands were quickly covered in the blood that filled the child's abdominal cavity.

"I need you to suction that, Jake," Michaela informed him.

The barber did as she had shown him before the surgery, feeling nearly faint at the sight. Michaela continued to explore the little girl's injuries.

"There's blood oozing from her liver," Michaela maintained her composure.

Steadying her hands, she began to stitch the laceration.

"How's her pulse?" she wiped her forehead on her sleeve.

"Weak," Jake felt. "Pretty fast."

Michaela explored further, "She's losing so much blood." The mother in her was taking over, "Oh, God, I don't think I can go on."

Jake took a deep breath, "'Course ya can, Dr. Mike. Katie needs ya."

Michaela fought the stinging tears in her eyes and continued to probe.

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

Sully closed his eyes and thought back to the beautiful day so long ago and the horse that his older brother had proudly mounted. His breathing quickened as he recalled the shouts of terror, witnessing the little boy being dragged along, his foot caught in the stirrup, his face covered with blood, his mother's agonizing wails of anguish.

A little voice brought him back to the present, "Papa."

It was Josef, rubbing his father's stubble of a beard.

"Shhh," Sully caressed his son's cheek.

"Kat!" the little boy pointed to the doorway of the Clinic.

"Katie will be fine," the father assured him. "Mama's takin' care o' her."

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

Michaela shifted to the left side of the abdominal cavity, "Her spleen appears to be all right."

Jake continued to monitor Katie's vital signs while Michaela started to close the incision.

"I'm concerned about the loss of blood," the physician shook her head. "She's going to need a transfusion."

"I remember when Sully gave blood t' Loren," Jake said.

"And to Cloud Dancing," she added. "Could you get Sully for me?"

"Sure," Jake wiped his hands.

While he walked to the door, Michaela rinsed her blood drenched hands. Then she hovered over her daughter, gently kissing her head.

"Be strong, Katie," her tears now flowed freely.

Sully quietly entered, placing his hand on his wife's back, "Michaela?"

She stood up and wrapped her arms round his waist, "She needs a blood transfusion, Sully. She's lost so much."

He glanced around the room at the blood filled basins, the puddles on the floor and felt his stomach sicken.

Then he rolled up his sleeve, "Go ahead. Take mine."

"I know that this has worked before," she prepared for the transfusion.

"But it ain't a guarantee this time," he nodded. "If she don't get the blood?"

"She'll most certainly die," Michaela responded.

"An' with it, she's got a chance t' live," he said.

Sully positioned himself where his wife could initiate the transfer. With painstaking care, she withdrew her husband's blood and transfused it into their daughter. Katie's breathing remained steady, but her pulse was barely perceivable.

"Did ya give her enough?" Sully rolled his head to look at the child.

"I believe so," Michaela sighed.

She removed the needles from their arms and began to clean her instruments.

"Need me t' help?" he watched her.

"No, thank you," she immersed herself in the task. "You need to lie still for a while."

"I'm okay," he sat up and rolled down his sleeve.

He recognized from the rapidity of her movements that his wife was near a breaking point. Standing up, he went to her and took the instruments from her hands. He held her hands in his, noticing the traces of blood still there and all over her clothing.

Shaking, she glanced down, "Look at my hands, Sully."

He held them steady, "I see."

"Her blood," Michaela felt tears welling. "Our baby's blood all over me."

As he pulled her into his arms, the flood of tears which she had been trying to control burst loose.

Sully rubbed her back, "She's gonna be okay, Michaela. We gotta believe that." Then he broached the subject that weighed heavily on his mind, "Can ya tell me how this happened?"

She pulled away quickly, "It's my fault, I know."

"No, Michaela," he regretted his question. "I didn't mean any blame. I just wanted t' know how she fell."

She pulled her arms tightly against her chest, "I'll never live with myself if anything happens to my little girl."

Sully went to the child and sat down. Lifting her hand, he stroked it tenderly with his thumb. Then he rested his forehead on the edge of the table where she lay.

His wife's comforting hand came to rest on his shoulder, "I'm sorry, Sully."

He cast his blue eyes up toward her, "Michaela, I don't blame ya."

She took a deep breath, "We were washing clothes. While I was hanging the wash on the line, she decided to go down to the barn to see Brian and Matthew."

He stood up, "You don't need t' tell me if ya don't want."

"You have a right to know," she found the strength. "She climbed atop the fence and when Flash neared,... Katie tried to climb on. It all happened before I knew it, Sully."

"I know," he drew her near. "She's just been so intent on ridin'.... Maybe you were right. Maybe we should've gotten her a pony. 'Least if she fell, it wouldn't be so far t' the ground."

They stood quietly embracing for several more moments, then Michaela pulled back. She clutched Katie's wrist to check her pulse.

"It's so weak," her eyes filled with tears. "I just don't know if...."

"If what?" Sully's heart was breaking.

"I don't know if she'll make it to evening," Michaela reached for her husband.

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

"Any news?" Hank meandered over to the group holding vigil for Katie.

"Nothin'," Loren shook his head.

"She lost a lot o' blood," Jake informed them. "Got it all over Dr. Mike, the basins, even the floor."

"Do ya have t' talk about that in front o' her brothers?" Dorothy cast him a disapproving glance.

"Miss Dorothy?" Brian approached her. "Do ya think you could send for Cloud Dancin'?"

"'Course, Brian," she stood. "I'll get him right away."

"Sully give her blood?" Hank asked.

"Doin' that right now," Jake nodded.

"Well," the barkeeper rubbed his nose. "Tell Michaela if she needs more, I'm available."

"I'll tell her, Hank," Matthew nodded. "Thanks."

The bartender returned to the Gold Nugget.

"I feel so useless just sittin' here," Brian sighed.

"If you're prayin' for that little girl in there, ya ain't useless," Grace kissed Josef's head.

"That's right," Reverend Johnson spoke up. "The Lord hears all prayers."

"Well, why'd the Lord let a little girl fall off a horse?" Brian snapped.

"Easy, little brother," Matthew patted his back.

"When's Ma or Pa gonna tell us somethin'?" the young man grew impatient.

"Soon as...." Matthew stopped when the Clinic door slowly opened.

Michaela stepped out, her eyes red, her features pale. Everyone feared to hear the words she might say.

"Ma!" Brian rushed to her. "Is Katie gonna be okay?"

"I.... I don't know, Brian," she put her arm around him. "Sully and I want to thank all of you for your thoughts and prayers. Jake, I appreciate your help with her surgery. I've done all that I can. She's been given a blood transfusion. All we can do now is wait."

"And pray," the Reverend offered.

"Yes," Michaela felt another wave of tears coming.

"Mama!" Josef beckoned.

The sound of her son's voice caused Michaela to falter. At that moment, Sully appeared at the door to support her.

"I'll take him, Grace," he extended his arms.

Pulling the child into his arms, Sully kissed the baby's hair.

"Come on, Michaela," he urged her inside.

She retreated back into the Clinic.

"Brian, Matthew," Sully said. "Could you go out t' the homestead, take care o' things?"

"Sure," Matthew stood. "Anythin' ya need?"

"Better bring your Ma some clean clothes," he could not forget the image of their daughter's blood on her clothing.

His sons departed.

"I'll get ya some supper," Grace stood.

"If ya need anythin' from the store, let me know, Sully," Loren offered.

"Thanks," Sully smiled. Then turning to Jake, he added, "Thanks for everythin' you did t'day."

"No trouble," he tilted his hat back.

A sudden scream came from inside, "Sully!"

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

Sully swiftly handed Josef to Grace and raced into the Clinic.

"Sully!" Michaela's body shook in anguish as she leaned over Katie. "She's.... She's gone."

"No!" he felt as if his own life had ended. "No, Michaela! Ya gotta do somethin'!"

"She's not breathing," Michaela's voice quivered. "There's no pulse."

"Do what ya did t' me!" he shouted.

"What?" she was losing control.

Sully grabbed her by the upper arms, "Michaela, listen t' me! When I fell off the cliff an' ya found me inside that tree trunk."

Instantly, she knew what he meant. She tilted Katie's head back and breathed into the lifeless lips of the little girl. Sully held the child's hand.

"Breathe, Katie!" he pleaded.

Michaela paused to see if her labors were working. Still no pulse. She tried again.

"Katie!" she was nearly blind from her tears. "Come back to us!"

"You can do it, sweet girl," Sully stroked her hand. "Don't leave us."

Michaela clasped her daughter's other hand, then releasing it, sank to her knees, "Nooo!"

Sully stared at his child, as if he could will the life back into her. Michaela's crying broke the eerie quiet of the room. Even the normal bustling sounds of the street outside seemed to still for the loss of this child. Sully couldn't let go of her hand yet. He couldn't say good-bye. But Michaela needed him. He had to be strong for her.

Sully stood and went to Michaela where she knelt on the floor in a pool of their daughter's blood. He got down on his knees beside her and pulled her into his arms. She could not control her weeping as he embraced her. They were consumed by grief.

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

Outside, Josef began screaming for his mother. His little face was becoming puffy, and nothing Grace did could make the little boy stop. Then Cloud Dancing arrived with Dorothy.

"What news is there?" he asked.

"I don't know," Grace spoke above the baby. "An' I can't get Josef quiet."

Cloud Dancing extended his hands, and Josef went to him. Almost instantly the little boy ceased his tears. Then from inside, they heard cries from Michaela.

"Oh, God, no," Grace assumed the worst. "Not that sweet little girl."

Cloud Dancing knocked softly on the door, then without waiting for a reply, he entered. There huddled on the floor in tears, he saw his best friends. He walked to them, placing a hand on Sully's shoulder, then Michaela's. The medicine man handed the baby to his mother. Pulling Josef to her bosom, she continued her tears. She caressed the baby's head and kissed his cheek. Josef wrapped his arms tightly around her neck, frightened for what was happening.

Sully stood up and hugged Cloud Dancing. Then the medicine man turned to Katie. He placed his hand on her and began to chant. Michaela composed herself enough to stand up and watch him.

Katie's hand hung over the edge of the operating table where Michaela had released it. Sully noticed and reached out to tenderly place it on the table beside her body. As Cloud Dancing continued his actions, Sully drew Josef into his arms. He set the little boy beside his sister, an act which Michaela did not understand.

Josef reached out his fingers and touched his sister's lips, "Kat."

"Sully, please, no," Michaela did not want their son to see Katie like that.

Then they witnessed what could only be described as a miracle. Katie's chest was moving faintly... up and down. Almost imperceptibly.

"Sully!" Michaela rushed to the child.

She felt for a pulse. It was there, faint, but there.

"She's alive!" Michaela shouted.

Sully felt as if a weight had been lifted, "Katie!"

"She is breathing," Cloud Dancing smiled.

"What did you do?" Michaela turned to the medicine man.

"I prayed," he answered simply.

"Sully, oh, Sully!" Michaela looked to her husband.

He lifted their son and embraced her.

"Mama," Josef touched a tear on her cheek. "Sad."

"No, Sweetheart," she kissed him. "Mama's happy!"

"She is still in danger," Cloud Dancing assessed the little girl's condition.

"I know," Michaela reached for Katie's hand. "But she's alive. There's hope."

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

Through the long night, either one or both of Katie's parents held her hand. Brian and Matthew were upstairs with Josef, attempting to sleep. Grace's dinner sat on Michaela's desk, uneaten.

Outside, no one left the waiting area. Loren, Jake, Cloud Dancing, Dorothy, Robert E, Grace, Reverend Johnson, Horace, and Hank stood or sat nearby for any news of the little girl's condition. To everyone's surprise, even Preston stopped by, offering to pay for a specialist, should one be needed.

"Why don't lie down on the cot an' try t' get some sleep, Michaela," Sully recommended.

"I don't want to leave her side," she answered.

"I'll keep watch," he touched her hand. "Ya look awful tired. I'll wake ya if there's any change."

"No, thank you," she shook her head.

"Come here then," he extended his arms. "Ya look like you could use some holdin'."

She stood and went to him. He pulled her onto his lap, and she rested her head against his shoulder.

"She's gonna make it, Michaela," he kissed her temple.

"If we ever lost her...." her voice trailed off.

"It ain't gonna happen," he was certain. "Nothin's gonna take our precious little girl away from us."

"Sully," she toyed with the button on his shirt. "With all that happened, you didn't tell me how things went with Deputy Reeves."

"I'll save that story for when things get back t' normal," he ran his finger along her chin.

"I love you," she captured his eyes.

"I love you, too," he smiled.

From overhead, they heard the sounds of Josef's fussing. They could tell that both Matthew and Brian were trying to settle the baby but without success.

"I'll go," he offered.

"No," she patted his chest. "I'll check on him."

When Michaela left the examining room, Sully leaned his elbows on the side of the operating table on which Katie lay, still unconscious.

He brushed back her curly locks of hair, "You keep gettin' better, my sweet girl. I love you."

Michaela returned with their restless son, "He's wide awake."

"So I see," Sully reached out for the baby.

Josef smiled and accepted the invitation to be held by his father.

"Think this little fella knows what's goin' on?" Sully wondered.

Michaela rubbed their son's back, "I believe he does. He saw quite a bit today."

Then pausing, she asked, "Sully, why did you set him down beside Katie when we thought she was.... gone? Was that part of some Cheyenne ceremony?"

"No," he kissed the baby's soft cheek. "I don't know why I did it. It just seemed like the right thing t' do."

"Do you believe it helped Katie come back to us?" she pondered.

"Maybe," he answered. "You an' me both know love's a powerful thing. Combination of our love an' your doctorin' did it."

"And Cloud Dancing," she recalled.

"All part o' the love," he smiled.

Josef wanted down on the floor to walk. Sully set him on the wooden planks and supervised as the little boy toddled toward the anteroom.

"You know he's been trying to climb out of his crib?" she kept a close watch on the child.

"I remember when Katie did that," a smile crossed his lips. "Seems like they always give us somethin' t' worry about."

She looped her arm through his, "But great joy."

"Yep," he stroked her arm. Standing, he stretched his back, "I better go check on our boy. See what he's into."

When Sully entered the anteroom, he saw that Josef had pulled Katie's stuffed bunny from the stack of toys brought by Matthew and Brian earlier. The child carried it back into the examining room.

"Where ya goin' with that, Josef?" Sully knelt down.

He continued past his father toward his sister. Then he held the bunny up to her bed.

"Ka-tee," Josef spoke her full name for the first time.

"Sully," Michaela felt a lump in her throat.

"Looks like he wants her t' have the bunny," he lifted Josef up to Katie.

Gently, the little boy set the stuffed toy next to his sister and stroked Katie's hand. Ever so slightly, they discerned a movement in her hand.

"Look!" Sully exclaimed. "Did ya see?"

"I saw," Michaela placed her stethoscope to her ears. After listening to their little girl's heartbeat, she declared, "I can't believe it."

"What is it?" Sully swallowed hard.

Michaela removed her hand from Katie's wrist, "How much stronger her pulse is."

"She's gettin' stronger," Sully touched his daughter's cheek.

"Yes," she nodded. "She's not out of the woods yet, but this is such a positive sign."

"Best Thanksgivin' I can imagine," he smiled.

"Goodness," Michaela realized. "I forgot all about Thanksgiving."

"That's understandable," he rubbed her arm.

"Papa!" Josef demanded attention.

Sully lifted the little boy high above his head, "Best Thanksgivin'!"

"And Josef's first," Michaela caressed the back of the baby's head.

"Do ya remember our first one t'gether?" Sully asked.

"Quite well," she smiled shyly. "We ended up all wet from the downpour."

"Didn't matter though, did it?" he put his hand around her waist.

"No," she glanced down.

Sully lifted her chin with his finger, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," she replied. "I'm just so grateful that Katie is still with us."

Sully escorted her over to the cot, "I want ya t' lie down now. Get some rest."

"But...." she stopped when he placed his finger to her lips.

"No arguin'," he guided her to lie down. Then he looked at their son, "How 'bout you, Joe? Wanna rest with Mama?"

"Mama," the baby pointed.

Sully placed the child in her arms, and he cuddled next to her, content to play with her hair while Michaela drifted off to sleep. Sully pulled a chair next to Katie, and placed her small hand in his. Then, leaning back, he finally closed his eyes.

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

It was not much time later that a voice shook them from their sleep.

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

"Mama," Katie's faint voice beckoned. "Poppy."

Sully bolted up, "Right here, sweet girl."

Michaela roused from her sleep and rushed to her daughter's bedside, "Katie, Sweetheart."

"Mama, I hurt," Katie's face reflected her pain.

"I'll give you something for the hurt," Michaela rushed to her medical cabinet.

"Poppy," Katie's eyes saddened. "I do bad thing."

"Shhh," his voice was soothing. "Don't think about that right now, honey. Just think about gettin' better."

"I tw... try t' ride Flash," she felt the need to confess. "I was bad. I sorry."

"Oh, Katie," he felt tears. "Mama an' me forgive ya. We love ya."

"Not mad at me?" the little girl asked.

"Not mad," he smiled.

Michaela returned, "I'm going to give you something that will make you sleepy, Sweetheart. Just rest now."

"I sorry," Katie closed her eyes, a tear trickling down the side of her face.

Michaela checked her vital signs and nodded to her husband that she was all right, "I think we can move her upstairs to a recovery room later."

"How long before we can take her home?" Sully wondered.

"A few days," she speculated.

"Reckon we should have Thanksgivin' here then," Sully stood up.

"Sully," she shook her head. "Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We can't possibly have everything ready."

"I'll take care of it," he kissed her. "Leave everythin' t' me."

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

Katie continued to sleep most of the day, having been moved upstairs by her father. The next morning, Sully, Matthew and Brian prepared for Thanksgiving at the Clinic. For the town's celebration, the townsfolk pitched in and decided to set up tables outside, beneath the little girl's recovery room.

Katie heard the sounds of their preparations, "Mama, what they doin' out there?"

Michaela positioned herself beside the little girl, "Thanksgiving. The town is going to celebrate right under your window so you can be part of it."

"I not get Poppy present," the little girl's voice saddened.

"On the contrary," Michaela kissed the top of her head. "You gave your Daddy the best Thanksgiving present he ever had."

"I did?" she looked up. "What?"

"You're here," the mother smiled.

"Ya sure Poppy not mad at me for ridin' Flash?" Katie needed the reassurance.

"I'm positive," Michaela answered. "But Katie, do you understand now why we did not want you to ride a horse?"

"I unstand," she nodded. "I NEVER gonna ride horse again."

"Never is a very long time," she smiled. "But certainly not until your father and I say you may."

"I gotta do what ya tell me," Katie toyed with the edge of her blanket.

"And do you know why?" Michaela caressed her cheek.

"'Cause ya love me?" the little girl replied.

"And because we want you to be safe," Michaela kissed her forehead.

Josef chose that moment to call for his mother from the recovery room next door.

"Your brother has a surprise for you," she stood.

"What?" Katie's eyes brightened.

"Let me get him, and you'll see," she left the room.

Holding Michaela's hand, the little boy toddled into his sister's room, carrying the stuffed bunny rabbit. Michaela lifted him onto the bed beside Katie, and he leaned forward to kiss her.

"What my surpw... prise, Joey?" the little girl waited.

He handed her the bunny and smiled, "Ka-tee."

Katie's eyes widened, "Joey say my name!"

"He's very happy to see his big sister doing so well," Michaela kissed the baby.

"I gonna get better?" she reached out her hand for her mother.

"Very soon, my darling," Michaela stroked her hair.

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

Though Katie could not partake of the solid food, Sully carried her out onto the balcony during the town feast to receive their good wishes. The townsfolk gave her a round of applause when she waved to them. Then Sully took her back to her bed.

"Wanna stay outside, Poppy," she protested.

"Kates," he explained. "Ya had a real serious injury, an' ya need t' take things very slow for a while."

"Okay," she folded her hands. "Ya tell me story?"

"Sure," he winked. "Then I want ya t' rest."

"Papa!" Josef called as Brian held his hand.

In toddled the little boy to see his sister.

"Joey! Bran!" Katie's face brightened. "Poppy tellin' story."

"Come on you two," Sully smiled.

Sully lifted Josef onto his lap, and Brian pulled up a chair.

"Okay," Sully saw that his children were situated. "I'm gonna tell ya about a real famous horse."

"I not like horses," Katie shook her head.

Sully patted her hand, "Kates, it wasn't the horse's fault that ya fell."

"It wasn't?" she was amazed.

"Nope," Sully said. "Ya know ya shouldn't have been tryin' t' get on Flash in the first place, but someday when you're bigger, you'll ride just fine."

"Who's the famous horse, Pa?" Brian was curious.

"Aristides," Sully replied.

"Never heard of that horse," Brian noted.

"Won a big race this year at a course called Churchill Downs," Sully expanded. "The race is called The Kentucky Derby, an' they're gonna run it every year. The horse's owner won almost $3000."

"$3000!" Katie's eyes widened. Then she pondered it, "That a lot of money, Poppy?"

"Sure is," Sully nodded.

"Papa," Josef reached his hand to his father's mouth. "Aaaaah."

"Remember when Ma raced Flash?" Brian recalled.

"Mama race a horse?" it was news to Katie.

Brian chuckled, "They wouldn't let women race, so Ma dressed up like a man, an' won."

"Nobody know Mama a girl?" the little girl was shocked.

"We knew," Sully winked.

"She win $3000?" Katie speculated.

"Only thing she won was respect," Brian answered.

"That's more important than money," Sully advised them.

They heard voices in the hall, and in short order, a table was set up in Katie's room, with all the fixings of a Thanksgiving meal. She was joined by Michaela and Matthew. The little girl sipped turkey broth. Having her family near was the best medicine she could imagine.

When the meal was over, and the dishes were being cleared, Katie summoned her father near.

"Poppy," she whispered. "I gotta tell ya somethin'."

"What is it, honey?" he stroked her cheek.

"I wanted t' get ya a Thanksgivin' present, but...." she stopped when he touched her lips.

"You ARE my Thanksgivin' present," he responded.

"Mama say that," she grinned.

"You got such a beautiful smile," his heart melted. Then he stood up, "I made ya somethin'."

"Ya did?" she turned her head.

"Yep," he teased. "Wait right here."

Returning within moments, he held something behind his back.

"What ya got?" Katie was curious.

Sully pulled it around to face his daughter. It was a beautifully carved horse, only four inches in height.

"I made this for ya," he told her.

"Oh, Poppy," she was excited.

"I want ya t' promise me that this is the only horse you'll be interested in until ya get big," he said.

"I pw...promise," she ran her hand along the carving.

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

A week later, they were able to transport Katie back to the homestead. Her recuperation was progressing nicely, and life for the Sullys could begin to return to normal as the last month of 1875 began.

It was the evening of Katie's first day home. Matthew offered to sleep in Katie's room to give his parents a break. Sully and Michaela had spent every waking hour caring for the little girl. After the household was asleep, the parents finally had time to be alone.

"Good 't be home," Sully unbuttoned his shirt.

"Mmm," Michaela was too exhausted to speak.

Sully took her by the hand and guided her to lay down. Then he began to remove her shoes and stockings, massaging each foot as he went.

"My, that feels good," she sighed.

"Ya sure earned your pay the past week," he joked.

She cast him a suspicious glance, "And what about your pay, Mr. Sully? Did Deputy Reeves reward your efforts?"

"Yea, but it was a bit more work than I bargained for," he continued to rub her legs.

"More than just guiding him there?" she perceived.

"We ended up eatin' supper with the outlaws' mother," he explained.

"What?" she was astounded.

"Reeves posed as a tramp," Sully chuckled. "I was his mute sidekick."

"What?" she reacted even louder.

"After we got friendly with her, the sons showed up," he went on. "Deputy Reeves suggested we all sleep in the same room that night. Then he handcuffed 'em when they fell asleep."

"I thought you weren't going to be in any danger," she tensed..

"T' tell ya the truth, I never felt in any danger," he stated. "Reeves was always in control o' things. I never met anyone like him."

"Then you arrived home just in time to...." she felt herself tearing up.

He slid his hands up and down her legs, "Everythin's fine now, Michaela. We got her home again."

She felt her tension abate at his touch, "That feels so good, Sully."

"Glad ya like it," he smirked.

His hands found their way to the top button of her blouse. When all buttons were free, he slid the material from her shoulders.

"You're awful quiet," his kisses trailed across her neck and shoulders. Then he stopped, "Michaela, if ya ain't in the mood...."

She cupped his chin in her hand, "Not in the mood for you?"

"Ya seem miles away," he said.

Her eyes focused intently on his, "I was thinking about how much I need you."

"Ya sure?" he was uncertain.

"Let me show you," she pulled him close.

Sully's hot breath on her neck aroused passionate longings in his wife. Michaela encouraged him onto his back and quickly unbuttoned his shirt.

"In a hurry?" he teased.

"I told you I need you," she smiled.

Then she undid his buckskins, placing her hand in places that elicited powerful yearnings from her husband.

"I love you," she looked up from kissing his chest.

Sully slid his hands along her slender waist and positioned her atop him. He pulled her skirt higher and higher until she felt that which she most desired. Gently, he rolled her over onto her back.

"I love you, Michaela," he spoke close to her ear.

"I can feel your heartbeat," she could not hold back much longer. "Love me, Sully."

"I want t' love you more than anythin'," he vowed.

His sensual kisses fueled her overwhelming need for him. She tingled in anticipation. Neither of them could wait another second, and finally they surrendered completely to each other.

"You own my heart," she sighed.

"Hearts are not had as a gift, but hearts are earned," he quoted.

"You have more than earned my heart," she inhaled the scent. "Was that Browning?"

"Yeats," his caresses further assured her of his devotion.

They lay in each others embrace for some time.

Sully folded his fingers between hers, and he drew them to his lips, "Your skilled hands saved our little girl." Then he kissed the sides of her mouth, "And your lips breathed life back int' her."

Michaela pulled his hand against her breast, "And your blood replenished her."

"We make a good team," he smiled.

"Partners," she shook his hand.

"Partners," he nodded. "Forever."

THE END

EPILOGUE

Bass Reeves was a real person in history. His physical appearance and background were as I described them, and the story of how he captured the two outlaws really happened (in a different location and minus our Sully, of course). By 1901, Reeves had arrested more than 3000 men and women in his service as a deputy marshal, but none was harder for him than the one involving his own son.

The incident occurred late in his career. His son Bennie was charged with the murder of his wife and was a fugitive somewhere in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Though shaken by this tragedy, Reeves demanded to take the warrant, saying it was his responsibility to bring his son in and knowing it would be the toughest, saddest manhunt he ever undertook. After two weeks, he brought in his son for trial. Later Bennie was pardoned.

Reeves is the only deputy on record who started working for Parker's court in 1875 and worked up to Oklahoma statehood in 1907, a total of 32 years. Being a former slave, he was illiterate. He would memorize warrants and writs. In those 32 years, he never arrested the wrong man due to the fact that he could not read.

African American deputy marshals who worked the Indian Territory had the authority to arrest whites, blacks or Indians who broke federal laws. On one occasion Reeves was given a warrant for Belle Starr. It was the one time she turned herself in to the Fort Smith Court.

Reeves was a legend in his own time. He was the epitome of dedication to duty, Judge Parker's most trusted deputy.



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