For personal use and select distribution only © December 1997 by "Tiff" Amber Stockton
Healing of the Hearts
by Tiffany Miller
Michaela sat in front of the mirror in her bedroom preparing for bed as she listened to Sully say goodnight to the kids. For the past 6 months, she had been the one to do that, but now that Sully was home, she felt the he needed this time with their kids. While he was gone, Michaela had moved Katie back into their room to help dispel the lonliness she felt in not having Sully there. Now, with Katie back in her own room, she and Sully coud share some privacy again. She absent-mindedly stroked the brush through her waist-length auburn tresses as she thought back over all that had happened since the outbreak at the Reservation.
When Sully had gone behind her back to help the Indians escape from the Palmer Creek Reservation, she had at first been angry at him. As she realized what could happen to him as a result, that anger turned to worry. After learning in town that Sully had told everyone he was out working at Preston's homestead, knowing full well that he had quit, she rode home to see if he was there. When she looked in the pastures around their home and saw that the half dozen or so horses, which had supposedly been Robert E.'s horses just using their land to graze, were gone, she knew at once that something was wrong. She immediatly rode out to the Reservation only to find everything in an uproar. The last person with whom she spoke was Sgt. McKay who swore that he saw Sully there and would make sure he would pay for this treason.
From there, things just got worse. The army was out searching for Sully, and Sgt. O'Conner, who hated Sully was brought in to help in that search. Realizing the worry this was causing Michaela and knowing full well that Sgt. O'Conner was out to kill, Sgt. McKay pleaded with her to tell him where her husband was and assured her that he would get him a reduced sentence of life in prison instead of having to face death. He rode out to find him, but Sgt. O'Conner was already on the trail. He never found Sully, but O'Conner did and the result of their fight was a fall over a cliff and the death of O'Conner on the rocks below. McKay, along with Michaela and Dorothy came upon the scene where the fight took place and saw Wolf, Sully's faithful companion, whining while looking over the edge of the cliff. When they investigated the area where the two had fallen, they found O'Conner's body, but Sully was nowhere in sight. The only part of him which was located was his medicine pouch, which he always wore around his neck. From that point, Michaela endeavored to not give up until she found him.
After searching for weeks, Michaela had just about lost hope when she had found him half-dead and buried beneath leaves and dirt in an eroded-out area under a tree. For the next 4-6 weeks, she, along with her children (Matthew, Colleen, and Brian), Daniel (Sully's friend who had come to Colorado Springs to help with the search), and Cloud Dancing (the Cheyenne medicine man who was a brother to Sully and a good friend to the Sully family), helped Sully recover from his many injuries, which included two broken legs, many cuts and bruises, and a couple of broken ribs. Since he was wanted for treason and the murder of O'Conner and the army was searching for him, they had to hide him in a cave near town. Many trips were made out to the cave during that time, but when the army began to get suspicious and began watching them more closely, those trips became more infrequent.
For the past 4 months, Sully had remained hidden while working with Cloud Dancing to help dispel the revenge-like feelings of the Dog Soldiers or Renegade Indians against the army and the whites living in Colorado Springs. This included a trip to Wyoming to talk to Black Moon, the leader, who also came to Colorado Springs to meet with them. The only other times he was away from the cave, was when he made emergency visits into town, or when he made surprise visits out to the homestead to see Michaela.
While all of this was happening, the Sully family and the people of Colorado Springs were not without stress, turmoil and sadness. Matthew had resigned from the Sheriff's job so that he could study the law and help Sully. There was a fake memorial service in honor of Sully so that everyone would think he was dead and stop looking for him, as well as watching Michaela's every move. The only people, other than the family, who knew he was alive were Dorothy Jennings, the editor of the Gazette and Michaela's best friend, and Daniel. Hank and Jake had found out that Sully was alive and accused Dr. Mike of hiding that information from the town, which caused feelings of betrayal to abound. Hank decided that a Sheriff was needed so he ran for the job, but Daniel beat him out. Founder's Day was celebrated, but arguments developed over what would be included in the Time Capsule they were going to bury, causing a rift amongst the members of the town. At that same time, Dr. Mike had discovered she was pregnant, but the stress of having Sully on the run, as well as the heightened worry about Dog Soldier attacks and the stress in her relationships with the town, resulted in a miscarriage. Anthony, Grace and Robert E.'s son, died from his mysterious illness (which we know today as Sickle Cell Anemia). Jake had another encounter with his alcoholism, causing a rift in his new relationship with the schoolteacher, Senora Morales, while Marjorie, one of Michaela's sisters, leading the WCTU (Women's Christian Temperance Union) arrived to break up the saloon. Michaela's mother and oldest sister, Rebecca, came out to Colorado Springs for Thanksgiving, but a diptheria epidemic hit town, resulting in the deaths of many people, among them Marjorie and Becky, Colleen's best friend. Finally, litigation fever broke out when Hank broke Horace's nose on accident, and Horace's law suit against him led to a long list of other complaints and cases. Since the District Court Judge wouldn't be able to make it for two months, and Jake Slicker, the Mayor, was out of town, Dr. Mike was elected to act as the judge. The freedom of Sully was another matter, entirely, and Michaela didn't want to think about that now.
Sully was finally home. Being without him had been torture on her, and she cried herself to sleep many nights, alone with her tears. He hadonly come to the homestead three times since he had been gone. The first was soon after he had healed. He snuck past the army who had set up station outside the homestead and climbed in through the upstairs window to surprise her. That was when she had gotten pregnant. The next time, he had snuck up beside the barn to tell her that things weren't going smoothly with the peace talks. The most recent was riding under the wagon which carried supplies as well as Daniel and the children to thehomestead for Thanksgiving. He had snuck in through the outside cellar door which opened into the homestead's main living space. Other than that, she was all alone in her sadness and grief, spending many days in the barn with Katie's old crib and baby clothes, crying over her lost baby....her and Sully's baby. She had never come to grips with the loss, but now that Sully was home, she would never have to spend many long nights without him.
She was so deep in thought and memories that she didn't hear the door to their bedroom close or see Sully come up behind her. When he leaned down and kissed the bare side of her neck, she nearly jumped out of the chair.
"Sully," she said as she came out of her reverie.
He took her brush and began working it through her hair. "What were ya thinkin' about that had ya so deep in thought?"
She sighed. "I was thinking about allthat has happened since you and O'Conner went over that cliff nearly 6 months ago."
"It sure ain't been easy, bein' away from you through all that."
She averted her eyes. She didn't want to think about the pain right now.All she wanted to think about was having Sully home again. "I agree, but you're here now, and just like you said, we survived everything together."
Sully stopped brushing and placed the brush on the table. He came around to her side and pulled her up to stand with him. "I told ya we would.We work best when we're together," he said and smiled as he leaned down to kiss her.
Michaela savored the taste and feel of his lips on hers and wrapped her arms around his neck as he deepened the kiss. He pulled away and Michaela looked up at him, seeing the passion burning in his eyes. Hepulled his shirt up over his head and tossed it onto the rocking chair by the fireplace. Michaela ran her hands up and across his bare chest and over his broad, muscular shoulders, to lock behind his neck again. The passion evident in his eyes was now mirrored in her own. She reached up and brought his head down to hers so that their mouths met again, igniting the fire within them.
Sully scooped up Michaela into his arms without breaking the kiss and carried her to their bed. He laid her on the covers and then reclinded beside her. As he began unfastening the strings to her nightgown, Michaela looked up at him with a seductive smile on her lips.
Sully smiled back and as he leaned down to kiss her again, he said, "It's the only place I want to be," and he reached over to extinguish the lamp, casting the room in total darkness, with the exception of the moonlight shining in through the window.
Michaela awoke halfway through the night wishing she could find her wonderful dream again, a dream that felt so real, she wished that it really was. So often she had dreamed that same dream over the past several months. If only Sully were here for real. More often than she wished, she had cried herself to sleep, wishing he was here with her. Even though he was near, she still wanted him home. A tear escaped, unbidden, and fell down her cheek.
As she shifted in the bed, she became aware of two arms holding her in a loving embrace. She turned her head sharply around rousing the man who held her captive from his deep and contented sleep. He opened his eyes and gazed at her.
"Michaela?" he whispered worriedly. "What's wrong?" he asked after seeing her tears.
"Sully, I....you....you're really here," she cried.
"Of course I am," he replied softly. "Are you okay?"
"I thought that....I thought that I was dreaming again. It was such a real and wonderful dream, Sully....and I had dreamed it so often while you were gone, that I was just surprised to find you really here." As she was speaking, more tears gathered in her eyes and fell down her cheeks.
Sully turned her around to face him and buried his face in her hair. "Oh, Michaela," he groaned softly. "I'm so sorry for causing ya so much pain." He pulled away a little and looked into her eyes, one brown and the other green, beautiful though filled with tears. "I know I hurt ya and I'm sorry. Ya don't know how often I wished things had been different, that I hadn't caused all that trouble at the Reservation. So many people suffered 'cause of me, especially you and the kids. If I hadn'ta done what I did, I wouldn't 've had to hide, you wouldn't 've had to spend weeks searching for me, and then helping me heal, the town wouldn't 've been so angry at me, and Cloud Dancing..."
Michaela stopped him by putting her hand on his mouth. "....would still be on the Reservation, possibly beaten to death. You did what you had to do, and now we're together again, as a family. That's all I care about."
"I just wish I could 've been home sooner. I missed Founder's Day and had to sneak into my own home to spend Thanksgiving with my family." He paused before continuing. The supportive and encouraging look in his wife's eyes gave him the strength to continue. "I wasn't here for you when you needed me most. If I'd been home, you wouldn't 've had ta deal with the everyday stress of havin' me gone and worryin' about whether or not I was safe from the army. You wouldn't 've had to face Hank's feelings of betrayal or the town's anger that you had lied to them about me. I could 've helped ya through the pain of tellin' Grace and Robert E. that their son, Anthony was gonna die. And most of all, I could've been here when you went through the pain of losin' our baby."
Michaela turned her eyes away from him remembering all to vividly everything she had had to endure over the past four months and the pain she experienced at the loss of her son....their son. Of all of the nights she had wished for her husband to be home, that one was the most important. So often she wondered if Sully had been home, would she have still lost the baby? Now, nearly two-and-a-half months later, the pain was just as fresh.
She gathered all of the strength she had in her and pushed these thoughts away from the surface. There was no use in worrying about the "would have beens". Although it was difficult, she gave Sully a reassuring smile. "Sully, I know this hasn't been easy for either one of us. You know as well as I that there are always consequences for every action. You have been paying those consequences of your decision long enough, and yes, while I was very angry at times that you were not here, even to the point that I blamed you for everything that had happened, I knew that you were here in spirit," she paused and locked her gaze with his, "and in my heart.
"You were not here for a lot of important events, but you *are* here now, and you have not missed Christmas. That is still one week away. We can make this year the most special one we have ever had."
Sully was amazed at his wife's strength and positive attitude. Normally, he was the one telling her that things would work out. Now, the roles were reversed and her words were bringing him the comfort he needed. She really had done a lot of healing while he was gone. He regretted that he was not there with her for it, but was happy to see that it had happened.
He gathered her to him once again, and whispered huskily, "I love you, Michaela," as he leaned towards her to kiss her lips softly.
"And I love you," she replied as she returned his kiss.
He wrapped his arms around her and deepened the kiss, all thoughts of the past gone from his mind. All that mattered was Michaela and him here together, just the way it should be.
The next morning, long after the sun had risen over the horizon, Sully and Michaela lay still sleeping in their bed, wrapped in each other's arms. After their late-night discussion, they had fallen into an exhausted sleep. Both were happy that Sully was home, and now all of their worries could be put to rest.
Downstairs, Brian and Colleen had made breakfast and made sure that Katie had some as well. Meals progressed much easier now that Katie was feeding herself. In addition, she no longer needed to be carried everywhere, and could climb in and out of her high chair without help. She was growing up so fast, and talking a hundred words and minute. Her ma, brothers and sister, along with the various members of the town could hardly believe that she was a year-and-a-half already. To many of them, it seemed like just yesterday that Sully and Michaela came riding in from their excursion in the woods with newborn Katie in Michaela's arms. Everyone was so surprised that Michaela had delivered Katie out in the middle of the woods, instead of in the safety of her clinic, but they were happy that everyone was safe all the same. Katie had touched the lives of many people in that town already, and although her parents were seen as a very unlikely pair, no one could doubt the sincerity nor depth of their love for each other.
As Colleen and Brian were cleaning up after breakfast, including the mess Katie had made of her oatmeal, Brian gave Katie her stuffed rabbit to occupy her. It never ceased to amaze the Sully family how one child could make such a big mess of food. Katie seemed to get more fun out of playing with her food than eating it. However, although cleanup was a chore, no one would change a thing. Katie brought laughter and joy to the Sully household and was great entertainment for those dreary days.
All of a sudden, Katie had had enough and wanted to get down, so she dropped her bunny on the floor and climbed down from her chair. She ran into the kitchen and into Brian who was drying some of the breakfast dishes that Colleen had washed. Colleen took her hands out of the soapy water and dried them on a towel.
"Hey there, Katie. Slow down. Where do you think you're going?" she said as she swung Katie up into her arms.
"Mama, mama," Katie whined.
"No, Katie, mama is sleeping."
"Mama up. Get up," Katie demanded, obviously not happy with the answer.
Brian interrupted, "Colleen, it's gettin' kinda late and I've never known Ma to sleep this long. Do you think she's okay? Shouldn't we wake her up?"
Colleen smiled. "Brian, Sully came home last night, and I think we should let them sleep. Besides, it's Saturday, so Ma doesn't have to go into the clinic. We're all finished here, so why don't we go outside and feed the animals. Katie is anxious to get moving and you know how much fun she has with the oats for the horses. It will do us all some good to get some fresh air."
"Alright," Brian agreed.
Colleen bundled up Katie really well since it was the middle of December and the temperatures were dropping more and more as the days went by. She wondered if they would have snow this Christmas, and whether or not it would be a blizzard, remembering the last blizzard they had.
It had been soon after her real Ma had died of a rattlesnake bite and Dr. Mike took her and Brian and Matthew in to care for them. They weren't too happy about the arrangements, but they soon learned to love her and accept her as their Ma. Besides, she knew nothing about living on the Frontier, so they had to work together and show her how to live.
That Christmas was going to be really special. Colleen had made a new dress for the Christmas Social at the Church and everyone had gotten dressed up to go. But, snow had begun falling that day and as it got closer to the time to leave, it had turned into a blizzard. They were snowed in and had no way of making it into town. All of her hopes were destroyed and she thought that Christmas would be ruined. When the four of them had begun to sing Christmas Carols, a knock on the door had startled them. Dr. Mike went to answer the door and found Sully standing there, wrapped in nothing but a large wool blanket.
She invited him in to warm himself by the fire, and that was when he pulled out his gifts for the children. Brian got a baby wolf, which he named Pup. Matthew got a pocketknife which Sully had made, and Colleen received a beautifully-carved hair comb that Sully had made and smoothed from wood. Then, to the surprise of the all, Sully pulled out a hand-made shingle with the words: "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" carved into it. He handed it to Dr. Mike and smiled, "Now, that's a shingle."
She smiled back and said, "Thank you," all the while remembering when he had first brought her out to his homestead so that she could rent it from him. She had looked inside and then taken out a small shingle which had hung in her Boston home under her father's, a sign that represented their partnership in medicine. She held it up to the outside wall and asked Sully what he thought of it. His reply was, "Sure ain't much of a shingle." Now, she had one to hang.
As Sully turned to leave, Matthew had begged Dr. Mike with his eyes to ask Sully to stay, so she invited him to join them for Christmas supper. As he sat down next to Dr. Mike, Colleen looked at the two of them and knew at that moment that their lives would never be the same.
Now, as she finished getting Katie dressed and put her own coat, gloves and hat on, she realized just how different their life was.
That first Christmas with Dr. Mike and Sully had begun a wonderful friendship between the two of them which had eventually blossomed into love. If you ask Sully, however, he'd say that he knew he loved Dr. Mike from the first moment he saw her, face down in the mud. Then, when he saw her again at the mercantile posting a notice for a wanted place for rent, he had shared a look with her that reached into the cold recesses of his heart and warmed it in a way that he had not felt in almost two years. He knew he loved her, but the difficulty was in convincing her of it.
Three years later, they had married, and a year after that, Katie was born. Now, a year-and-a-half later, after enduring the stress of having Sully in hiding, he was home and their lives could return to normal.
Katie tugged on Colleen's coat, startling her out of her reverie. "Out. Go out," she demanded.
"Okay, okay. We're going." Colleen turned to Brian, "Are you ready?"
"Yeah," he responded.
With that, the three siblings went out to the barn to feed the animals. Once that had been done, Brian took the pitchfork and scooped up some hay from the pile in the corner of the barn.
"Hey, Colleen," he called, and as she turned around, he tossed the hay at her, covering her head. She screamed.
"Alright, you," she threatened and grabbed the other pitchfork to toss some back at him. Soon, it turned into an all-out hay war.
Katie turned from petting the horses and saw her brother and sister playing with the hay. She squealed with delight and ran right into the middle of it. Brian and Colleen stopped for a moment and saw their chance to have some fun, so they both went to Katie and picked her up. Together, they swung her back and forth in the direction of the hay pile. She was laughing really loud and had no idea what her brother and sister were going to do. She didn't care, though, since she was having so much fun. Then, they let go and she went flying through the air. For a moment she was scared, but then she landed on the pile of hay and went rolling down one of its sides. She got up and ran over to Colleen and Brian.
"'Gain. Do 'gain," she demanded. Colleen and Brian gladly obliged.
They continued this game for another couple of minutes and then Brian decided that he wanted to play in the hay, too, so he jumped into the middle of it after Katie had gotten back up. Colleen thought that it looked like fun, so she joined in and soon, all three of them were tossing hay and having a lot of fun. They didn't even realize that they were making enough noise to awaken their parents, sleeping in the homestead.
Sully awoke, and tried to wipe clear the cobwebs from his mind. At first, he was really confused at his surroundings. He realized he was in a bed and that he was inside a house, but he didn't know why. He wondered how he got here and where here was. When Michaela shifted in her sleep next to him, he looked over at her, and everything came flooding back. He was home.
Home. It was incredible how good that word made him feel. He had spent most of his life wondering what exactly that word meant. When he was 10, after both of his parents and brother had died, he set out on his own across the country. He took any jobs he could and years later, in 1859, found himself in a mining camp near Colorado Springs, looking for silver. He had met a guy named Daniel who was also working there, and they had fast become friends. They worked side by side in all of their shifts, and when there was a cave-in which trapped Sully and about 10-15 other miners, Daniel didn't give up until he was out.
During that time he had met Abagail, the mercantile owner's daughter and had fallen in love with her, but her father didn't approve and did everything he could to keep them apart. After the cave-in, Daniel had set off on his own to look into gold-mining and wound up opening his own mines. Abagail and Sully had eventually married, against her father's wishes, so he disowned her. Maude; however, Abagail's mother, gave Abagail and Sully a piece of land on which to live and Sully built them a homestead. That was the first time Sully had ever felt like he had a home, yet he still didn't feel complete.
In 1863, when Abagail became pregnant, but lost the child in birth, and also died as a result, Sully headed off to war. His skills with a gun were soon recognized and he became a sniper, but when he killed a man as part of a false assignment, he deserted and headed into the hills of Colorado, having given up on life. He had nothing to live for anyway. That was where Cloud Dancing, the Cheyenne Medicine Man had found him. He took Sully into his camp, and Sully lived with them for almost two years, learning their ways and some very important lessons about life. Then, in 1867, when Dr. Mike came to Colorado Springs, he knew his life would never be the same. From his first encounter with her, unbeknownst to him, his heart had begun to heal from the wounds of the past.
His relationship with Michaela had grown into a good friendship, but he realized that it was much more. He knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with this woman, but he wasn't sure if he would be dishonoring his first wife's memory by pursuing that life. In 1870, he and Michaela had married, and he discovered a sense of fulfillment like none he had ever experienced before. He and Michaela were one person and that scared him at times, but it also thrilled him. When Katie was born in 1871, he knew, for the first time, his life was complete.
Now, he turned his head to gaze upon his beautiful, but sleeping wife. Then, he heard the strange noises that he knew must have awaken him. He quietly got out of bed, pulled on his buckskins pants, and went to the window. What greeted his eyes was a surprise. His three youngest children were in the barn, in the middle of a hay war. He smiled, in spite of himself, and realized how blessed he was.
During the time he was hiding in the cave away from the army, he spent a lot of time wondering if he would ever have the chance to come home again and be with his family. He wondered if everything he did for the Indians at the Reservation, would end with him hanging from a rope. There were many times he wished he had never helped the Indians, but each time he saw Cloud Dancing, free and living like he always did, he knew it was the right thing to do.
When he was brought before the District Court Judge in a trial that would determine his fate, he had to admit his fear at the possibility of never being free again. He was willing to pay the consequences of his actions, but at the same time was worried about what those consequences might be. If nothing else went well, at least he and Cloud Dancing had worked with Black Moon while Michaela had worked with the army to guarantee safe passage of Black Moon and his people to the northern Cheyenne territory in exchange for their word that no more attacks would be made on the people of Colorado.
As he sat, facing the judge, impatiently awaiting the verdict, he listened to all that was going on around him. First, Matthew, the oldest of the Cooper children, had presented the judge with a statement, based on information from previous court cases, that since there was only one witness to the fact that Sully was involved in the Reservation uprising, there wasn't enough evidence to convict him. As person after person testified for him, he felt the scales tipping more and more to his side. Yes, there were some people who still blamed him for all of the trouble that resulted from his actions, but the majority wanted him free. Finally, it came time for Sgt. McKay to step up the witness stand. This was the part that he remembered vividly in his mind.
"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?" asked the judge.
"I swear," responded McKay as he took his seat.
"Now, tell us what you saw out there at the Reservation that day," commanded the judge.
"It all started when an explosion went off up on a hill. I sent my men to go up and investigate, and before I knew it, the entire Reservation was in rebellion. The Indians were firing rifles and lighting sticks of dynamite, killing my men and blowing up the buildings. I immediately took cover and tried to see what was going on. Everything was happening so fast, that I almost couldn't see anyone involved. Then, through the smoke of the fires and the shooting, I saw a man that looked like Mr. Sully, helping an injured Indian out of his confinement tent and off the Reservation. At first, I wasn't even sure it was him, but then his wife, Dr. Quinn, came riding up, looking around, and I knew he was there.
"Later, Sgt. O'Conner was brought in and a search was made to find Mr. Sully, Cloud Dancing, and any of the Indians that escaped from the Reservation. We found some and sent them to another Reservation. After a few days, O'Conner took some men and went into the hills, saying that he knew where Sully and Cloud Dancing were. I followed them, and when I caught up with O'Conner's men at the entrance to a box canyon, they told me that he had ridden in to fish them out. Dr. Quinn and Mrs. Jennings came riding up, but instead of waiting, went into the canyon as well to try to find Mr. Sully themselves.
"I followed Dr. Quinn and Mrs. Jennings, but we found no trace of either O'Conner, Sully, or Cloud Dancing. When we came upon Wolf, Sully's dog, looking down over a cliff, we looked over and saw a body down on the rocks below. After further investigation, we found O'Conner's body, dead, on the rocks. Sully was nowhere to be found, so I thought that he had killed O'Conner and then ran off. However, Wolf had been looking over the edge of the cliff which told me that Sully had gone over that cliff as well. Clearly, Sully was acting in self-defense, since O'Conner swore to me that when he found Sully, he would kill him. So, the charges against Sully for murder are unsubstantiated and I ask that they be dropped."
The judge thought about what had been said so far, and realized that McKay was speaking the truth. "Permission granted. The murder charges are, as of this point, dropped," and he banged his gavel on the table. "Continue Sergeant," the judge commanded.
"I had assumed that his body had floated down river, and engaged a search party to find him. After 3 days of finding nothing, I was given orders to call of the search. When a memorial service was held in Sully's honor, I was thought he was dead, but his wife and kids certainly weren't acting too sad. So, I investigated some more, but found nothing.
"Then, Hank, the saloon owner, came back from a search in the woods and revealed that Sully was, in fact, still alive. After that, I sent out multiple search groups to find him, but found nothing. However, I had my men stand guard at his homestead, as well as in town, and had some keep watch in the woods in case they saw or heard anything. At the same time, Dog Soldiers were making attacks at various times on the town and some of the nearby homesteads, so I had to have a lot of my men to stop the attacks. Then, the attacks became fewer, and the worry lessened. Two weeks went by and nothing happened. Then, Dr. Quinn came to me and asked that I try to get a treaty devised that would guarantee that Black Moon and his people would receive safe passage to the northern Cheyenne territory if they agreed to stop their attacks. At first, I was reluctant, but then, I realized that this would solve all of our problems with the Indians, so I had the treaty drawn up. I met with Black Moon and signed the treaty. When it was all over I got onto my horse and started back for town.
"I wasn't quite out of earshot, when I heard some familiar voices. I quietly turned back around and headed back in the direction of where I had met with Black Moon. When I came upon the clearing, I saw Cloud Dancing and Sully standing there talking with him. I quickly dismounted and approached them, holding my gun pointed at Sully. However, at the same moment, at least a dozen other Indians came out from behind trees and bushes and pointed their guns and rifles at me. I surrendered my gun and they brought me before Black Moon to talk.
"What I learned that night changed my mind about all that had happened. Black Moon told me about how his people, as well as Cloud Dancing and his Cheyenne family, had been forced to live on a Reservation, with their way of life stolen from them. He and his people had rebelled and when the uprising occurred at Palmer Creek, the Dog Soldiers made their attacks more frequent. Cloud Dancing spoke of his people as well, and how they never wanted anything but peace, but the army wouldn't settle for that, and as a result, his entire tribe and family were killed at Washita. Then, Black Moon spoke about how Sully, even though he was wanted for treason, risked his life to ensure that peace was returned to Colorado, and worked with Black Moon to stop the attacks. After that, Sully told me that he would turn himself in, so I arranged for this trial.
"I realize, now, that a lot of what has happened has been the army's fault as well as the white men who have taken these Indians captive and forced them to change their way of life. I know that Sully did what he thought he had to do to help those in need. I respect and admire him for his decision and for the courage to face up to his mistakes and face the consequences. I know that what Sully did was wrong, but wrong according to whom? He was helping a friend who would have most likely been beaten to death had he not intervened. I ask you, is this how we should treat another human being? He has the same rights as any of us, and Sully was just helping to get those rights for him.
"So, with all things being considered, sir, I move that the charges against Sully for treason be dropped." With that, he stepped down from the chair and returned to his seat in the first row.
The entire room was deathly quiet as the judge thought over everything he had heard that day. Everyone was waiting expectantly for the verdict, but no one was more anxious than Sully himself, for the judge's decision would decide whether or not he would receive his pardon or whether he would swing from the rope.
The judge cleared his throat and looked out over the room, his gaze coming to rest on Sully. "Mr. Sully, would you please stand. After listening to all of the testimonies in your favor today and hearing what Sgt. McKay had to say regarding what has happened over the past 6 months, I find it in everyone's best interest that all charges against you be dropped and that you receive your full pardon for what you did." As the room began to erupt in applause, the judge banged his gavel on the desk and everyone quieted immediately. "I am not finished yet. Mr. Sully, because of your actions, which spawned the attacks of the Renegade Indians, there were many buildings in town which suffered great loss and there were a few homes that were burned down. I require that you pay a fine in the amount of $100 to the town for repairs, and work to help restore the homes that were burned. In addition, for the next 6 months, you will be placed on temporary probation, pending any evidence of any more of your involvement in Indian affairs. Should you be found responsible for any more trouble, I guarantee you that the next trial you face will be your last." With that, the judge banged his gavel and dismissed the court.
As Sully continued to stare out the window at his children playing in the barn, he was so deep in thought that he didn't hear his wife rise from the bed.
Michaela grabbed her robe and wrapped it around her as she walked over to the window where her husband was standing. As she came up behind him, she put her arms around his waist and leaned in to kiss the back of his neck.
Sully started and turned his head around towards her. He smiled and brought her around to stand next to him, while putting his arm around her waist, drawing her close to his side. He placed a soft kiss on her head.
"Sully," she breathed, "What were you doing?"
"Thinkin'," he responded.
"About what?" she asked.
"About how lucky I am to have three wonderful children, a beautiful home, a town full of great friends, and a beautiful wife to share my life with," he told her as he leaned towards her to kiss her.
She smiled and returned his kiss, turning herself to face him and deepening the kiss. When the finally parted, she rested her head on his shoulder and looked out at their children playing in the barn, a contented smile on her lips. "I agree," she murmured.
"With how lucky I am?" Sully teased her.
"Mmhm. And how lucky I am to have those same things as well."
"You have a beautiful wife to share your life with?" he continued teasing.
"No, but I do have a very handsome and wonderful husband who has given me the best gift I could ever receive....the gift of love," she returned and reached up to kiss him again, then placed her head back on his shoulder, looking back out the window. "Why don't we join them? It's been a while since we've had a tumble in the hay," she reminded him suggestively.
Sully looked down at her and smiled. "Why not?" he agreed and turned them both from the window so that they could get dressed.
The air was bitingly cold as Sully and Michaela stepped out of the homestead onto the front porch. The children were still in the barn, making a lot of noise and having fun, so Mike and Sully made their way towards the open double doors. When they entered the barn, they were surprised at what they saw. The clean and swept barn was now covered with small piles of hay, and the pile which had sat in the corner had been flattened and strewn all over the ground. Their three children had hay in their hair, in their clothes, and little Katie at that moment had some in her mouth. As she wiped at her mouth to rid herself of the "yucky"-tasting stuff, Michaela covered her mouth in a giggle. This caused Brian to look over from where he was standing, ready to throw some more hay at his sister, Colleen.
"Ma! Pa! You're awake!" he exclaimed as he dropped the hay he was holding and walked over to give them both a hug.
Katie looked up at the commotion, and having gotten rid of the hay from her mouth, cracked a big smile on her baby face. She stood up and toddled over to her parents. "Mama, Papa, up!" she exclaimed as she wrapped her little arms around Michaela's skirts. Sully grabbed her and swung her up into the air, eliciting a loud giggle from his daughter.
Colleen had paused in her hay-throwing, dropping it to the ground, to gauge the response from her parents before walking over to them. When she saw that they were not upset with them, she smiled and said, "Ma, Pa, good morning. We were just having some fun. We had our breakfast and cleaned up, but Katie wanted to wake you both up, so we brought her out here to feed the animals. We had no idea that we were making so much noise," she explained.
Sully looked at his older daughter and thought about how happy he was that the three Cooper children, Colleen, along with her younger brother, Brian, and her older brother, Matthew, had been given to Dr. Mike after their real mother died. Although Matthew was of age to be out on his own, and he was really pleased to have Katie, he knew his life wouldn't be complete without these other children as well. He stopped tossing Katie up into the air and looked at Colleen.
"That's alright, Colleen. You didn't really wake us up," he told her with a glance and a smile over at his wife. "It was getting late and we needed to be getting up anyway. I'm glad that you've had your breakfast and that the chores are done, for the most part," he said, looking around at the hay scattered all over the ground.
"Oh, we'll clean it up, Pa," Brian assured him.
Sully smiled at Michaela and set Katie down, much to her chagrin, as he stepped over to the hay pile in the corner. As he picked up a handful of hay, himself, he said, "That's good, 'cause I got a surprise planned for all of us today."
"Really, Pa? What is it?" Brian asked, excitedly. It was so good to finally have Sully home and not have to worry about whether or not soldiers were going to be riding by the homestead and might find him.
"Well, if I told ya, it wouldn't be a surprise, would it?" he asked and then threw the handful of hay he was holding at Colleen, who had been standing there and watching Katie, not him.
Colleen turned, clearly surprised that Sully would do such a thing, but immediately picked up some hay again and threw it back at him. Brian joined in the fun as well, and Katie started to toddle over to them, but looked back at her Ma as if she were asking permission to join them. Michaela smiled down at her and picked her up. She took a few steps towards Sully and got his attention. Then, she tossed Katie to him, causing Katie to laugh loudly as her Pa caught her, then just as quickly tossed her onto the pile of hay, watching as she rolled down to the bottom.
Michaela walked over to the hay pile and reached down to pick up Katie just as Colleen and Brian were about to throw some more hay at Sully. Sully grabbed a hold of his wife's waist, causing her to gasp, and drew her in front of him, effectively blocking the hay from hitting him, and landing all over his wife.
Mike sputtered as she spit some hay which had gotten into her open mouth, then turned to look at her attackers. Colleen and Brian stood there wondering whether or not she was angry, but soon realized that she wasn't as she grabbed a handful of hay and threw it back at them. Now, the entire family was having a hay war, with little Katie, intermittently being tossed onto the pile by her Pa.
After a few minutes, Michaela had begun to grow tired, so she picked up Katie and walked over to a bench to sit down. As she began picking the hay from her daughter's hair and clothing, she looked over at her husband and other two children playing and wondered what her mother would think if she could see them now.
Raised in a proper Bostonian home, Michaela was expected to behave accordingly and to learn and practice all of the manners of a proper lady. Fun was a word that was never heard coming from Elizabeth Quinn's lips, let alone even mentioned in her house. Oh sure, she and her four older sisters got into their share of mischief, but made sure to never allow their mother to find out about it. But of all of the Quinn girls, Michaela was the worst. According to her mother, she was spoiled and rebellious and needed a good dose of reality to get her feet back on the ground.
Josef Quinn, a highly respected doctor in Boston, adored his youngest daughter immensely. He loved that she admired him and wanted to follow him everywhere he went. When she made the decision to become a doctor like himself, he couldn't have been more elated. Although he had so wanted a son, thus the name Michaela by adding an "a" to the name Michael, he was just as happy that one of his children would follow in his footsteps and carry on the Quinn practice.
As the years went by and Micheala completed medical school, returning home to work side by side with her father, Josef realized that his life was complete. Then, seven years after Michaela's graduation, he suffered a stroke and died.
This tragedy struck Michaela in the worst way. With her father gone, she had lost her best friend, as well as all of her patients. No one wanted to come to see a woman doctor. Since practicing medicine was her life, she answered an ad in the paper for a doctor needed in Colorado Springs and packed up her belongings to head West. When she arrived, she faced the same prejudices that had haunted her in Boston. But, she worked hard and had eventually won their faith and trust.
One person who had never doubted her had been Byron Sully, known simply as Sully. As that friendship bloomed, little did she know that she would eventually fall in love with him, share her life with him, and have his child. Although the move west was a difficult one, she wouldn't change anything for the world.
The laughter from her husband and children brought her thoughts and focus back to the present. Although still involved in the hay war, Sully noticed his wife's movements. For a few more minutes, he continued the game, but then called a stop to it.
"Alright, that's all for now. We need to get movin' if we're gonna make it to my surprise. Colleen, Brian, get the pitchforks and start cleaning up the scattered hay. I'm gonna straighten up this pile over here."
Colleen and Brian did as they were told and within a few minutes, the barn was clean again. Brian, Colleen, and Sully then got all of the hay out of their hair and clothes and threw it onto the pile. Michaela had successfully rid her daughter of any hay, and had begun to clean up herself. Sully walked over to her and took Katie into his arms.
"Colleen, take Katie here, and you both and Brian go on into the homestead and pack us up a nice picnic lunch," he instructed.
"There's some pickles in the root cellar, and some fried chicken from last night's supper. There should also be two pies on the cooling racks by the window," Michaela told them.
So, the three siblings left the barn and headed for the homestead to prepare the lunch. As soon as the barn door closed, Sully walked over to Michaela and kneeled in front of her. She looked at him and smiled.
"Are you okay?" he asked her, concerned.
"Yes, I'm fine. I'm just a little tired. I guess everything that has happened recently with Black Moon's warriors moving up to the Tongue River Valley, the trial to gain your freedom, and then having you back home, is really taking it's toll on me." A knowing look crept into her eyes. "There's nothing wrong with me that a little outing in the woods and a visit to a certain waterfall won't cure," she assured him, smiling.
"How did you...?" he started.
"I haven't been married to you for two-and-a-half years for nothing," she smiled lovingly. "Besides, the children don't know and Katie has never been there, so it will be a wonderful surprise for all of them."
"I love you," Sully told his wife as he leaned in to kiss her lips. Then, he got up from his knees and sat down next to his wife. "Now, turn around, and let me get this hay out of your hair." She did as he asked.
Sully was a little upset that she hadn't put it up this morning before coming out. He so enjoyed taking the pins out of her hair and encouraging the soft tresses to fall down her back. However, it was down and he could still run his hands through it as he rid it of the hay that was stuck in it. Once he was finished, he brushed her hair to one side and leaned down to kiss her neck. A sharp intake of breath from Michaela assured him that this action had the effect he wanted. He placed his hands on her arms and turned her around to face him, all the while never ceasing to kiss her neck, which elicited a very soft moan and a whispered, "Sully" from her lips. He moved up to her ear and chin, then once she was turned completely around, he captured her lips with his own, drawing her into a very passionate embrace. Her hands moved up his arms of their own accord and found their place entwined in his hair at the base of his neck. Sully shuddered but didn't break the kiss.
Once they parted, they were both breathless. Michaela smiled up at Sully. "I think we better go into the house, before the children wonder where we are. Besides, I'm anxious to get going on our little excursion. Aren't you?" she smiled seductively.
Sully stood up, drawing his wife up with him. "I couldn't agree more," he responded and led them both out of the barn and back to the house.