For personal use and select distribution only © December 2000 by Amber Stockton
Previously, in "The Unexpected Storm":
"She ain't there," Hank called.
"Any idea where she went?" Sully asked.
"Yeah, said she had to go out and see that Fulton fella at the chateau," Hank answered. He noted Sully's look of slight annoyance. "What's the matter. She get a better offer for lunch?"
* * * * *
Loren looked out the window to see what was holding Sully's attention, and he saw Dr. Mike with Dr. Fulton. "Them two sure have been getting' pretty chummy lately!"
"Yes, in fact, I've seen them quite often together out at the Chateau. They certainly do spend a substantial amount of time together," Preston remarked. He turned to face Sully. "They must have quite a lot in common."
Sully pulled his gaze away from his wife after the door to the clinic closed and turned to face the two men. "They're both doctors. Why wouldn't they have something in common?" He tried to sound nonchalant.
"Yes, but I have seen them together without any patients, and the door is always closed when Michaela is inside," Preston said, unable to resist driving the point home.
"Preston, when are ya gonna start payin' attention to what concerns ya, instead of gettin' involved in everyone else's business?"
* * * * *
Sully leaned against the examination table and crossed his arms. "Sorry I wasn't there to pick ya up earlier."
"Oh, that's all right, Sully. John had to come into town anyway, and he offered me a ride," Michaela quickly assured him.
* * * * *
Sully placed his cup on the table between them and stood to his feet. He picked up a piece of paper Michaela hadn't noticed before and walked to the fireplace. "I got a telegram from Welland Smith," he said without preamble.
Michaela closed her eyes briefly, then opened them and looked directly at him. "When do you leave?" she said softly.
"Wednesday," he replied. "He says it will only take a couple of days, and I'll be back by the weekend."
"What's that mean? You know my jobs take me away once in a while."
"Oh, it's not that, Sully. It's Colleen and Andrew. They're coming on Thursday. I had hoped you would be here to greet them. We haven't seen them in almost six months, and I was hoping we could all be here when they arrived."
Sully stared back into the fire and looked again at the telegram in his hand. "Well, I'll be back on Friday, so it'll only be a day later."
* * * * *
"Dr. Mike," Horace repeated. "Got a telegram for ya. Just came in, and thought ya might wanna see it." He handed the paper to her.
Michaela quickly scanned the words and she couldn't keep the disappointment from showing on her face.
"What is it, Michaela?" Dorothy asked.
"It's from Sully," she replied. "It says they've run into some unpredicted delays, and he's going to be a little longer than he originally planned."
* * * * *
Michaela avoided his eyes, briefly. "Oh, he and John left a little while ago to get a tree."
"He and John?" Sully asked. "They went out together?"
"Yes," she replied, chancing a glance in his direction. She was quietly defensive. "He was really looking forward to getting the tree, and you weren't here " She didn't finish, but waited for him to say something. "John simply offered, and we didn't think you would mind. After all, we didn't know when you were going to be home."
* * * * *
"Well, seems to me you been spendin' a lot of time with John, lately."
"And what do you mean by that, Sully?"
"I don't know, Michaela. Why don't you tell me?" he demanded.
"I only agreed to John accompanying Brian because he was so discouraged when you weren't here in time to take him yourself. If you had been here, I wouldn't have had to do that," she challenged.
* * * * *
"You seem to have someone else waitin' to take my place when I'm not here, so I'll make it easy on ya. I'll just leave!" he stated, firmly, brushing past her to grab his coat and reach for the doorknob.
"Sully, please, don't rush off in anger. We can work this out, if you'll just listen to reason," she pleaded.
"No, Michaela. Not this time. I need to think." With that, he stormed out of the homestead and closed the door behind him.
* * * * *
Wolf lifted his head from the floor and whined. Sully reached down and patted his head, rubbing his ears. But, he wasn't comforted. He sniffed the air and continued to whine.
"What is it, boy?" Sully asked, and Wolf got up, walking to the door and scratching at it.
It didn't take long for Sully to meet him at the door. He wrapped the blanket more securely around him and reached for the knob. Wolf continued to scratch at it. "It's okay, boy. We'll see what's out there."
He turned the knob and opened the door at the same moment a figure fell against it and collapsed at his feet.
A Christmas to Remember
Sully was frozen to the floor for a split second before his survival instincts took control. He lifted Michaela into his arms and kicked the door to the cabin closed with his boot, walking back over to the fireplace and sitting down with Michaela still held in his arms. He tried to wrap his blanket around her, but it wasn't enough for the both of them, so he looked around the small cabin for something else he could wrap around her chilled body. Spotting a couple of blankets on the straw mattress in the corner, he gently laid Michaela down on the rug and stood to retrieve them.
On his way back, his eyes happened to fall on a metal tub. Good. He could use that for a hot bath once she regained consciousness. First things first, though. He had to do everything he could to keep her from succumbing to the cold. He laid the blanket across a chair on his way into the kitchen area and grabbed the small basin from the set on the side table as he went to the inside pump to fill two pots with water to heat. He did this so he could cycle the hot water without having to wait each time for a new pot to heat. It was a good thing the people who lived here had thought to include this somewhat modern feature. He was also lucky the pipes weren't frozen from the cold temperatures. He set the pot on the stove, grateful he had already found the cabin before Michaela arrived and had been able to get the fire going in it.
While he waited for the water to heat, he returned to Michaela, kneeling once again beside her and cradling her against him. He removed her cloak and spread it out beside them on the floor before wrapping her in his arms. He began to vigorously rub her arms and hands, all the while praying that she would awaken. Her head fell back against his cheek and he started at how cold her face was.
"This isn't working," he thought out loud. "I've gotta find a faster way." He estimated the water being hot enough to work, so he again stood and walked to the stove, taking the pot off and carefully pouring the water into the basin. He slowly returned to Michaela and set the basin down beside her. He quickly removed her boots and reached up to remove her stockings before immediately placing her feet in the hot water. Her body reacted to the change in temperature, flinching slightly, and Sully took that as a good sign.
Then, he suddenly realized Michaela must have had Flash with her, and the horse was most likely still outside in the storm. Not really wanting to leave her, but knowing he had no choice, he propped up Michaela with the extra blankets and made sure her feet rested in the basin, before getting up and putting on his coat to go find Flash. He braced himself against the blast of wind he knew would hit him the moment he opened the door. Just as quickly as he opened it, he closed it and stood to allow his eyes to adjust to what little he could see.
He whistled and heard a responding whinny, so he whistled again and came to see Flash only a few feet from the door, standing up against the front side of the cabin. Praying for guidance and help, he reached out for Flash's bridle and led her the few feet in the direction of the animal barn, a crude structure erected solely for the purpose of sheltering any animals which might belong to the residents of the cabin. Thankful he had made it directly to the barn without much trouble, he opened the door and led Flash inside, walking her to one of the posts where he unsaddled her, tied the reins around the post and found a blanket to throw over her back to protect her from the cold. There were no other animals in the barn, but he was sure Flash would be safe, here, a lot safer than she would be outside.
He gave her a final pat and piled some hay in front of her, just in case it was a long time before anyone was able to venture out here again, then drew his coat around him before making his way slowly back to the cabin. Grabbing the saddlebags he had taken from Flash, he again prayed for guidance and help from above in not being misdirected by the storm. A few steps later, and he was back at the door, which he quickly opened and closed, breathing heavily from the exertion. He immediately shed his coat, dropped the saddlebags on the table and made his way to Michaela, dropping to his knees.
Shifted to gently lift Michaela into an almost sitting position, he took the extra blankets and wrapped them around her, leaned her against him and wrapped his arms around her to add his warmth to that of the blankets.
"God, please," he pleaded. "I can't lose her, now......not like this!" He resumed the vigorous rubbing of her arms and hands and made sure the blankets were tucked securely around her. He still couldn't believe she had ventured out in this storm to come after him. That, in and of itself, was enough to change his attitude about things. He sat with her like this for quite some time before he felt her breathing change ever so slightly. His senses were immediately alert.
"Sully," she whispered, faintly.
"I'm here," he replied.
It took her a moment to focus and formulate her words. "What...what happened?" she asked.
"Ya got caught in the snowstorm outside and somehow managed to find the same cabin I did," he answered her. "I think the cold was startin' to get to ya, and now I'm tryin' to get you warm again."
"Clothes," she choked out, barely audible. "Clothes are wet," she finished, her teeth chattering, slightly..
Sully had to strain to hear her, but he understood what she meant. "Your clothes, Michaela? What about em?"
"Wet," she replied. "Must come off," she chattered in broken sentences, trying to take some deep breaths of the warm air around her.
"Your wet clothes! Why didn't I think of that?" Sully exclaimed. He immediately turned her slightly and pushed back the blankets from her shoulders, letting them fall to the floor. He kept one leg supporting Michaela's back and the other tucked underneath him as he reached for the first buttons of her blouse. When that was off, he reached to unfasten her skirt, lifting her feet from the water, briefly, so he could slide the skirt and wool petticoat off her legs.
He felt her chemise and pantalettes and realized the snow and moisture hadn't penetrated enough to do more than dampen them, so he didn't see the need to completely disrobe her. With the blouse and skirt somewhat spread out next to them to absorb the heat from the fireplace, he placed Michaela's feet back into the basin of water and turned her back around into his arms, carefully tucking the blankets around her again.
"Sully?" Michaela called softly.
"Shhh," Sully crooned against her hair. "Just rest," he advised. "There's time for talkin' later. Right now, we gotta get ya warmed up."
Michaela leaned more securely into his arms and took in some deep breaths. There was so much unspoken between them. They had parted on less than amiable terms, and she knew they had to talk, but Sully was right. She had to do what she could to help her body recover from the exposure to the cold and the elements. They could worry about what they would say later.
* * * * *
"I'm worried about Ma and Pa," Brian admitted to his brother and sister later that night. "She left before lunch, and the weather's only gotten worse."
"I'm worried, too, Brian, but Ma wouldn't do anything foolish. She's lived her long enough to be aware of the warning signs. I'm sure she found someplace to take shelter before things got too bad,"Colleen comforted.
"Yeah, you know Dr. Mike. She ain't about to keep goin' when she knows it ain't a smart thing to do," Matthew added.
"She may have even found Sully," Colleen continued.
"Yes, Michaela is quite intelligent. She is aware of the dangers, and I am certain she would not take any unnecessary risks which would put her in harms' way." Andrew reached for Colleen's hand without being seen and gave it a quick squeeze.
They all knew they were just trying to comfort themselves as well as reassure Brian. After all, it didn't take much in a blizzard to lose your way. They all knew that, having lived in the area all their lives. Even Andrew had lived there long enough to learn this. You could be five feet from your home and freeze to death from being unable to see the door. Nevertheless, they all needed to keep their spirits high. It wouldn't do them any good at all to allow themselves constant worry.
"Papa? Mama?" Katie pouted as she looked from one worried face to the other of her brothers and sister.
"Come here, Katie," Colleen called softly, holding out her arms to her little sister. Katie toddled over and willingly went into Colleen's arms. She grabbed her bunny and hugged it to her, a sad look on her face.
"Aw, Katie, don't worry," Brian consoled. "Ma and Pa are gonna be all right. They're just takin' some time to talk together."
"Why?" the little girl wanted to know.
"Well," Matthew began. "Ya know how ya get upset and ya wanna tell someone about it?" Katie nodded. "That's what Dr. Mike and Sully are doin'. They gotta talk to each other so that they're not upset anymore," he explained.
"No, Katie! You weren't bad at all!" Brian assured her. "Ma and Pa aren't mad at you or any of us. They're just upset with things that've been happenin.' Don't worry. They'll be home soon, and we can have a lot of fun for Christmas." He tried to keep things light.
Andrew watched the family with awe. This closeness they had was something he had never had with his family. Of course, he lived in the more priveleged area of Boston and never had to worry about anyone getting lost in a blizzard or going hungry or even wondering if they had clothes to wear. Looking at these siblings comforting the youngest member of their family almost made him feel like an outsider. He really was lucky to have met and married someone like Colleen.
"I have an idea," Brian suddenly suggested.
"What's that," Matthew asked.
"Why don't we play some chess or checkers? It'll help us keep our mind off of things and we could even have Katie play with us."
"That sounds like fun!" Colleen exclaimed.
"Yes, that certainly sounds like it could be quite entertaining," Andrew agreed.
"We play games?" Katie immediately brightened.
"Yeah, Kates," Brian replied. "Ya wanna be my partner?"
The little girl nodded, and the young family set out the boards and pieces and began their battles of fun.
* * * * *
"It's really gettin' bad out there," Loren remarked to the Reverend, who had joined him for a cup of hot coffee.
"Yes, I can sense the cold and hear the wind blowing," the Reverend agreed. "I only pray those who were heading home were able to make it there before the worst of the storm hit."
"Yeah, it'd be a real shame and sad tragedy to have someone get caught out in somethin' like this. Good thing everyone here in town thought to close down early at the signs of the weather gettin' worse."
"That was certainly a good idea. If they hadn't, we might all be gathered in one place waitin' out this storm."
A loud knocking on the mercantile door downstairs startled them both.
"What the blue blazes!" Loren exclaimed. "Who'd be out in this?" He stood from his seat in the rocking chair next to the Reverend's bed. "I'd better go and find out. Sure don't want em freezin' to death tryin' to get in."
The knocking came again, only this time it was louder.
"I'm comin'. I'm comin'. Hold your horses!" Loren yelled to the person standing outside. He maneuvered the stairs as fast as he could and made his way to the door, quickly unlatching the lock and opening it just a crack to reveal Hank and Daniel standing on the threshold. "Daniel! Hank! What're you fellas doin' here? Ya wanna come in?"
"Nah, we just came to check to see if you an' the Reverend's all right," Hank replied.
"Yeah, we figured it'd be a good idea to make sure everyone was safe at home here in town," Daniel added.
"Ya mean the two of ya are walkin' around in this, tryin' to get to all the buildings?" Loren asked incredulous.
"Yeah, we needed ta make sure there ain't anyone out in this," Hank told him.
"We can't be sure about anyone caught outside of town. We just have to hope they made it home. I'm thinkin' of gettin' a search party goin' just a little ways outside of town, just in case," Daniel said, thinking more out loud than talking.
"Well, me an' the Reverend's doin' just fine, so the two of ya can just be on your way." Then, a thought crossed his mind. "Just how do ya think you're gonna get to all these buildings without gettin' lost in this?"
Hank stepped aside to reveal his hand gripped to a piece of rope. "We each got us a rope tied to the jail bars in the sheriff's office. Robert E loaned us some, since he was right next door."
"We had to tie several long ropes together, but Robert E helped us make sure they were knotted real tight. They should get us where we need to get to," Daniel added. "We best be on our way. Keep things closed tight in here," he admonished.
"Don't you go worryin' about us. Me an' the Reverend'll be just fine. Go on and check on everyone else," Loren replied.
"See ya," Hank called as Loren closed the door behind them.
The two men walked together towards the Gazette building. Since it was easier to get there by going through the narrow walkway behind the jail and clinic, they chose that route. They were less likely to get deterred by the storm. They were able to see Dorothy and find she was all right, sitting in front of her fireplace wrapped up in several blankets and drinking a cup of hot cocoa. They made sure she didn't need anything before venturing out in the cold once again. The next stop was the train station. They had to untie one of their ropes and tie the ends together, since it wasn't going to reach, and they only hoped this one was long enough. It took them a while to fight their way through the snow blowing in their faces, but they finally arrived and Horace answered their knocks, surprised to see them.
"Just got a telegram come in from Denver sayin' the trains are stopped and ain't comin' through until the weather clears up," he announced to them both. "You two wanna come in and warm yourselves a little?" he invited.
"That might not be a bad idea," Daniel accepted. He tied off the rope to one of the posts outside and followed Hank into the depot's office.
Neither one of them had ever really been inside, but it was kept real tidy and organized, out of necessity, they both guessed. Horace had to know where the mail was as well as any telegrams and packages which arrived, schedules and train information. He was a man who was most often taken for granted, but everyone did appreciate his work. They just didn't tell him all that often.
"So, they tell ya how bad things are in Denver?" Hank asked.
"Nah, just that they're holdin' the trains until it stops snowin' and they can see the tracks enough to clear em'," Horace replied. "That means we won't be gettin' no supplies in, neither, and I won't be takin' the train tomorrow to go see Myra and Samantha for Christmas."
"Well, I'm sure they'll understand, Horace, and I think the town'll be all right for a little while," Daniel stated. "As long as this thing doesn't last long, we won't be in any trouble."
"And what happens if it does last long, sheriff," Hank remarked, sarcastically.
"We'll deal with that when it happens," Daniel replied. It was obvious neither one of them liked working together any more than the other, but they didn't have much of a choice. Besides, if truth be told, Daniel couldn't ask for a better man for deputy than Hank. Of course, he'd never tell Hank that.
"I think we'd best be goin'," Hank announced.
"Yeah, we gotta check on Robert E and Grace and the twins again. Thanks, Horace, for allowin' us in for a few minutes."
"Sure thing," Horace replied. "You two be careful out there."
"Thanks," the two replied in unison and left the depot. They each grabbed hold of the rope and ducked their heads to fight their way through the blowing snow yet again.
* * * * *
Morning sunlight filtered in through the windows of the small cabin and fell upon the two sleeping forms on the floor. Wolf lifted his head and stretched, then nudged his master's leg.
Sully stirred slightly and opened his eyes, taking a moment to remember where he was. He looked down and saw Michaela sleeping peacefully and everything returned in a flash. He was immediately concerned about her body temperature, so he placed his hand on her face and felt no chills. He then reached for her hands and found them just as warm, relaxing slightly and sighing with relief. He didn't know how he could have allowed himself to fall asleep with Michaela being the way she was last night, but thank God, she was all right.
"Hey, boy," he said softly. "Ya keepin' her feet warm?" he asked, noticing that Wolf was lying at Michaela's feet, allowing the bulk of his body around his chest to cover them. Wolf only yawned in response, and Sully chuckled.
Michaela moaned slightly and took a deep breath, starting to come awake. "Mmmm." She stretched and opened her eyes, surprised at how rested she felt. She was immediately aware of a weight on her feet and looked down to find Wolf lying partially on them. Seeing him brought back what had happened last night, and she turned to find Sully right behind her, his arms still lightly touching her.
"Good morning, Sully," she replied, quietly, unsure of his mood. She wasn't about to instigate conversation centered on their recent argument, so she steered talk towards something safer. "How long have we been here?"
Sully expelled a breath. "I don't know, Michaela. You got here sometime around evenin', but it's hard to say with the sun bein' hidden by the storm. We've been here more than twelve hours, I'd say."
"The children!" she suddenly exclaimed. "They're going to be so worried about me....about us," she quickly amended. "I left a couple of hours after breakfast yesterday morning to come find you, despite Matthew and Andrew advising me not to come."
"Why didn't ya take one of em with you?" Sully asked, a little upset at her stubborness.
"I truly didn't think it would take me long to find you, and I certainly didn't expect the storm to worsen," she defended her actions.
"Michaela, this is Colorado. What do ya expect to happen in the winter?" He was immediately aware of how accusing his voice and words sounded and instantly regretted it.
"I'm sorry, Sully. So, I was mistaken. I don't wish to argue about what I should or shouldn't have done," she stated, hotly.
"Michaela," Sully began, moving his hands to wrap around her shoulders as he tried to pull her back against him.
She resisted, however. "No, Sully. It's obvious that whatever was bothering you is still bothering you, so just leave me alone for the time being. I'm not in any mood to fight with you, but I also don't want you to act like there's nothing the matter," she told him.
"Fine," Sully replied, removing his hands from her shoulders and scooting away from her.
Michaela grasped the edges of the blankets and pulled them more tightly around her, tucking her feet under her for added warmth. Sully stood to his feet and went to add a few more logs to the stove and checked to be sure there was water in the pot for heating. He thought it was a good idea to keep hot water, just in case. Then, he walked back to the fireplace, adding a few more logs there and stoking the fire until it was blazing again. It wouldn't do either of them any good to let the fires go out.
He glanced at Michaela out of the corner of his eye and saw her just staring into the fire, no emotion on her face, whatsoever. "What was she thinking?" he wondered. He couldn't exactly blame her for being upset with him. After all, it was him who left in a fit of anger, but he just couldn't help it. So much had been bothering him, lately, mostly his own feelings of guilt at not being there for his family. He knew he was doing what was best for them, but that didn't prevent the feelings from intruding once in a while. He turned his eyes back to the fire, then he went to sit next to Michaela, but made sure not to touch her. Wolf immediately rose and came to lie next to him, and he patted the dog's head in soothing strokes.
The two of them sat like that for a long while, neither one talking, neither one moving, just staring at the fire or into space, lost in thought. Michaela wondered if she should be the first to break the silence, or if she should wait for Sully to say something. Knowing him like she did, it wasn't likely he would offer any form of conversation first. How did this happen all over again? How did they get to the poing of not talking over something so trivial? Was this how things were going to continue to be between them? Were they just going to exist, occasionally sharing their thoughts and feelings? What had happened to them in the past year? What had happened to the bond they shared for so long, a bond which had held through the most trying of circumstances?
Michaela thought back to not too long ago when they had been close, when they could read each other's thoughts and know what the other was feeling. That sense of companionship and connection hadn't been very evident lately, and she found herself wondering what went wrong. Would it be possible to put things right again? She let one lone tear fall from her eye and run the course down her cheek. Several more followed only moments later, and she was unable to keep them in check.
Sully turned towards her at that moment. "Michaela?" he asked, concerned. "What is it? What's the matter?"
Michaela sniffed and lifted her hand to wipe the tears from her face. She wasn't sure she could bring herself to talk to him at this point.
Sully scooted himself closer to her and placed his hand over hers, which was holding the blankets around her. "Michaela, ya know you can talk to me. Tell me what's upsettin' ya," he pleaded.
She swallowed, then took a deep breath. "I miss us," Michaela replied in a whisper, allowing the tears to fall, unabashed.
"Us?" Sully questioned, confused.
"Yes, us," she repeated. "You and me, together. Us, working together to help someone in need. Us, spending time together alone. Us, being so in tune with each other that we don't even have to speak our feelings. We just know them. Us, taking wagon rides or going horseback riding just to ride. Us, visiting a patient of mine or a friend of ours. Us, sitting on the front porch and reading poetry, sipping tea or coffee. Us, Sully."
Sully closed his eyes for a moment, then turned his head and stared into the fire, not speaking. Michaela wasn't sure what he was thinking, so she continued. "What happened to us, Sully? What happened to the couple we used to be?"
"I don't know, Michaela. I miss all that, too." Sully sighed. "Lots of things have happened to us, lately. Things like we been through ain't all that easy to overcome."
"Like you running from the army, or me suffering from a miscarriage," she whispered, lost in her own memories.
"Michaela, ya don't know how many time I beat myself up about not bein' there for you durin' that."
"I know, Sully, and I'm no longer hurting from that, although I will never forget having to endure it. I am well aware that both of us lost a lot during that time. I just feel like we buried it inside instead of really opening up and talking about it." She paused a moment and turned to look at him. "I know we talked about it several months ago, and I know we came to a resolution about it, but there is still a small part of me that feels we haven't resolved everything between us."
"I know what ya mean, Michaela," Sully agreed. "We've tried to talk things out, but there always seems to be somethin' gettin' in the way or comin' up once in a while to slow us down from really talkin'."
"Yes, and I don't want that to be the case with us, Sully. I want to be able to tell you anything, to be honest about my feelings and not feel like I have to keep them inside for fear of what you might think," she confessed.
"I want that, too, Michaela." He looked away and into the fire again. "I know I was wrong in jumpin' to conclusions about you and John," he said, softly. "I know I shoulda talked to you about it, and I shouldn't have let my feelin's of jealousy interfere with what was really happenin'."
Michaela reached out a hand and turned his face back to hers. "No, Sully, I understand why you felt the way you did, why you feel the way you do about us. I won't say I agree, or admit that I was doing anything wrong, but I can see how it could be misunderstood. It certainly didn't help having our friends talking about me the way they were, but that isn't something we're going to be able to avoid. I simply need to be more careful." She paused for a moment, wondering if she should continue with what she was thinking.
Sully sensed her hesitation. "What is it, Michaela?"
She sighed, then continued. "I was just realizing that this situation is no different than what happened between you and Catherine."
"Michaela," Sully mildy protested, but Michaela cut him off.
"No, Sully, please, let me finish." He nodded. "You told me, then, that there was nothing going on between the two of you, but I refused to believe it. Instead, I listened to what others were saying, and I allowed my eyes to convince me there really was something there.
"My spending time with John and your understanding of it is no different. John and I just have medicine and our professions in common. I spend time with him in the same way I spent time with Andrew, when he was practicing here in Colorado Springs. No one thought anything of the time we spent together because Andrew is so much younger than me. However, John is much closer in age, and I can see why others would view that as being questionable behavior."
"But, that don't excuse me not willin' to talk about it with ya," Sully replied.
"Was I any different when you tried to talk to me about Catherine?" Michaela countered. Sully didn't reply, so she continued. "Sully, how long is it going to take us to realize what we really have together?"
"I don't know, Michaela. I'm hopin' not long, since I don't like fightin' and arguin' with ya. It especially ain't easy on the kids seein' us not gettin' along, and I don't like hearin' the townsfolk talkin' about us the way they do when they can see we're not close the way we should be," Sully confessed.
"I know, Sully," Michaela stated. "The townsfolk are going to talk, no matter what we do, and our friends are going to try to help in any way they can, even if their efforts aren't always beneficial."
"They mean well." Sully defended them a little.
"Yes, they do, but that doesn't make it any easier to handle when you and I are at odds with each other, does it?"
"Nope, sure doesn't," he agreed.
Michaela fell silent, unsure about all that she had said and how Sully was taking everything. He seemed to agree with her; in fact, he seemed to want just what she wanted, missing what she missed about them, as well. However, their recent strains gave her cause to doubt her intuitions about him, another thing she missed.
"Hey," Sully whispered, lifting her chin with index finger to look into her eyes. "You sure you're all right?"
"Yes, Sully, I'm fine," Michaela replied. "I'm just wondering how you feel about all of this," she confessed.
"Me? You're wonderin' how I feel?" She nodded. "Well, let me show ya," he replied, pulling her face towards his and lowering his mouth to cover hers in what quickly became a very passionate kiss.
It had been a long time since they had shared such a kiss, much less such a sense of rightness between them. Michaela trembled, slightly, and Sully broke off the kiss, staring into her now passion-glazed eyes. He gave her a quick peck, almost like an exclamation point on their kiss, and Michaela sighed in contentment.
"Ya still wonderin' how I feel?" he teased.
She smiled, slightly, one corner of her mouth turning up.
"I'll admit, I prefer that type of a greeting in the mornin' better than anythin' else," he continued to tease.
Michaela dipped her head in embarassment, and Sully reached out to lift her gaze to his once more.
"So, are we startin' to get a little better again?" he asked.
"I hope so," she breathed.
He pulled her to him again for a brief, yet satisfying kiss, then wrapped his arms around her in a warm embrace. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, as well, and the two of them simply sat and rocked in each other's arms for several moments. Finally, Sully pulled away.
"Whaddya say we take a look outside at things?"
"Do you mean to see if we are able to go home?" Michaela asked.
"Yep, although I wouldn't mind stayin' here a little while longer." He ran his thumb across her still kiss-swollen lips and grinned.
"I, uh...I think we should look outside," she stammered.
Sully smiled. "I love you," he said, seriously.
"I love you, too," she replied, looking him directly in the eyes.
He placed a quick kiss on her lips and rose to his feet, pulling her up with him and leading her to the window.
"Snow's stopped," Sully remarked.
"Yes, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything," Michaela countered, turning to grab her cloak and walk towards the door. She pulled her cloak tightly around her and opened the door, then took a step out. Glancing up at the sky, but she didn't know enough about the weather to make a prediction.
Sully joined her and looked up as well. "Don't look like it'll be holdin' for long," he noted.
"What are we going to do? It's Christmas Eve, and we have to get word to the children, or they're likely to come out and look for us, themselves. We can't risk anyone else getting lost in this on account of us."
"You're right, Michaela. How about we send a message with Wolf?" he suggested. "It ain't the best idea, but it's better than anythin' else I can think of."
"That just might work, Sully! Wolf is far more accustomed to this weather than you or I, and he's also faster."
"What are we waitin' for? Let's find some paper and get that note written!"