For personal use and select distribution only © July 1998 by "Tiff" Amber Stockton
All That's Needed
by Tiffany Miller
Author's Note: Now, since so many readers have wished to see a Mike and Sully story centered around the theme of romance without love scenes, I decided to try my hand at writing a story about them before they were married. This will eliminate any possibility of using love scenes, and I can include some of the great conversations we missed in the episodes that we saw.
Don't get me wrong, I think they did a great job portraying Mike and Sully's romance, but I found myself wishing that we saw more of their courtship - more walks alone, more talking over a cup of coffee or tea, more gathering of flowers or herbs, more Sully using more of his skills, more fun and laughter, etc.
I must say, this was no easy task. It's been so long since I've seen Mike and Sully not married, that I had to try not to give them love scenes! But, despite that, I had a lot of fun writing this story. It takes place about one month prior to their wedding, so they are engaged. I didn't even want to try writing a story prior to their engagement, since that would have really tested my memory. So, without further ado, here it is:
* * * * *
The wagon rumbled slowly into town, with Dr. Mike holding tightly to the reigns. Colleen sat on the seat next to her, and Brian was in the back with Pup. As they pulled up to the clinic, Brian hopped down and gathered his books for school as Pup jumped down behind him. Colleen climbed down and prepared to follow them.
"See you this afternoon, Ma," Brian called as he walked by the wagon.
"Bye, Ma," Colleen echoed, following behind Brian.
"All right. Goodbye, Brian, Colleen. Have fun at school," Dr. Mike answered as she set the brake and prepared to climb down from the wagon.
Sully came up from behind her and placed his hands at her waist to help her down. She jumped slightly, because she hadn't seen him come up behind her, and fell back against him. He caught her and kept them both from falling, and once they were steadied, kept his hands at her waist.
"Mornin'," he greeted as he leaned around to place a kiss on her cheek.
"Good morning, Sully," she replied as she stepped out of his embrace. "What brings you here?" she asked as she turned to face him.
"I was comin' to see you," he replied.
"Oh? What for?"
"I wanted to ask you if you wanted to have lunch with me today," he invited. "We could go for a walk and then have a picnic lunch in the field. You been workin' real hard lately, and I thought you could use a rest."
"That sounds very nice, but..."
"But what? Ya said ya ain't got any patients today, and them records you keep can wait. Sides, it might not be so nice out tomorra, and we ain't had much time together in a while."
He was right. She had been working very hard the past few weeks. It seemed that the people of Colorado Springs had come down with every illness known, and all at the same time. There were times when she thought that she wouldn't be able to handle it, when she thought of closing the clinic just to go home and rest. She was working from sun-up to sun-down, and sometimes later, when a patient came to her with an emergency or when she had to perform an operation, whether it be stitching up someone who had cut themselves, or resetting a broken bone.
By the time she got back home, she was so exhausted that she didn't even feel like eating. But the doctor in her knew that she needed food to help her maintain her strength to keep going, so she ate. It was a good thing that Colleen was there to cook, since she was always too late to do it, and truth be known, she wasn't all that good at cooking, anyway. She burned almost everything she tried to make, despite Colleen's efforts to teach her. The one thing that she could make was apple pie. It wasn't the best-tasting pie that she'd eaten, but it did taste good, and it wasn't burnt.
It didn't take her very long to decide what she wanted to do. She turned around and looked up into Sully's eyes, smiling slightly. "All right. You win. I have been working very hard, lately, and I could use the break. Besides, I'd love to go on a picnic with you."
"Good," he responded, then leaned down to give her a quick kiss. "I got some work to do for Robert E, but I'll be back at noon to pick ya up. Make sure you're ready."
"Should I go to Grace's and make sure she has a basket prepared for us?"
"Nope. I took care of that. I'm bringin' the food," he answered with a pleased look on his face.
"Oh, you did, did you? And you were so sure that I would agree to come with you?" she asked him, teasingly.
"Yep. Cause if ya didn't, I'd have taken ya by force," he threatened as he grabbed her and swung her up into his arms, kissing her again.
"Sully! Put me down, please. People are watching. They'll see you!" she protested.
"Let em. They'll just see how in love we are."
"Yes, but this is hardly the time or place."
"Okay. I guess I can wait 'til our picnic," he smiled as he set her on her feet.
"Sully," she muttered and blushed furiously.
He leaned towards her and whispered in her ear, "Did I ever tell ya how beautiful ya are when ya blush?"
"Dr. Mike!" someone shouted as a wagon came racing around the corner from the direction of the livery, interrupting the couple. Dr. Mike breathed a sigh of relief, thankful for the interruption that kept her from responding. She didn't remember the last time that Sully had been so amorous, and while she was very happy to spend time with him, she was still a little unsure of how much affection she should display in public. But, she turned her thoughts to the person presently bring the team of horses to a halt in front of her.
"Mr. Anderson, what happened?"
"It's my boy. He was up in the loft of the barn this mornin' and he musta slipped, cause he fell off. He ain't bleedin' or nothin', but I think his arm might be broken. Maribelle's sittin' with him now. I didn't wanna risk bringin' im inta town, in case there's somethin' else wrong with im. Can ya come with me and fix im up?" he explained.
"Certainly. It was wise of you not to try moving him, just yet. Just let me gather some supplies from the clinic, and I'll be right there," she answered as she turned towards the door. Sully touched her shoulder, halting her progress.
"I'll take your wagon over ta Robert E's with me and see you at lunch," he offered and took the reigns in his hand as he prepared to climb up onto the bench.
"Thank you, Sully," she replied, then went into the clinic. Sully turned the team around and then waved to Mr. Anderson.
"Good day, Jacob," he called.
"Sully," Jacob acknowledged and waved back.
A few minutes later, Dr. Mike came out of the clinic, leaving the "closed" sign on the door as she pulled it shut behind her. She walked over the Jacob's wagon, and he helped her up onto the bench. He slapped the reigns and the horses took off for the Anderson homestead. Dr. Mike was glad they didn't live very far from town, since she didn't want Robert to have to wait long, even if it was just a broken arm. She knew that it wasn't comfortable, and was thankful that Maribelle was there with him. She'd have to remember to stop over at the schoolhouse and let the Reverend know that he wouldn't be coming in today.
They pulled up to the homestead, and Dr. Mike immediately jumped down and hurried into the barn. She found Maribelle sitting at the edge of a pile of hay, holding Robert's head in her lap. She set to work, examining him to check for other injuries, but soon discovered that the broken arm was the only one. Jacob came in moments later.
"Is there anythin' I can do ta help?"
Dr. Mike turned her head to look at him. "Not at the moment, no, but could you make sure that we have some blankets for the back of the wagon?"
"Sure," he replied and went to gather them.
Dr. Mike turned her attention back to Robert. "Now, Robert, I'm going to have to reset your arm, and it's going to hurt, but only for a little bit. After that, we're going to have to go back to my clinic, so I can make a cast for you," she explained.
Robert nodded, and grabbed his mother's hand to prepare for the pain. Dr. Mike went right to work, trying to alleviate as much of the pain as possible. Robert gritted his teeth and squeezed his mother's hand, but never once let out a yell, despite the fact that his eyes were filled with tears that threatened to spill over.
When Dr. Mike was finished, she wrapped his arm in a sling and set it against his chest. "You're very brave. Now, you're going to have to try as much as possible not to move that arm at all. We'll help you up and then you can ride in the back of the wagon while we go back to town."
"Alright, Dr. Mike. Thanks," he agreed as he allowed his mother and Dr. Mike to help him up. They walked back to the wagon and Dr. Mike settled Robert in the back of the wagon, wrapping a few blankets around him from the barn, to make sure that he wasn't jostled too much. Then, she climbed up onto the wagon bench, followed by Jacob. He slapped the reigns again and they headed back to town. Maribelle waved as they drove off.
As soon as they arrived back at the clinic, Dr. Mike began working on the cast. She mixed up some plaster for the cast and began making it fit onto Robert's arm. When she was finally finished, her stomach began to growl, and after looking at the clock, she realized that it was time for lunch.
"Well, Robert, you're all set. It's going to take some adjustment to get used to the cast, but if everything goes well, you should only need to wear it for about four to six weeks. I'll make an appointment for you to come back and see me in about two weeks to make sure that everything is okay."
Jacob helped his son down from the examination table, then turned to Dr. Mike.
"How much do I owe you?"
"Um, three dollars. That will also cover his next visits until we take the cast off," she told him.
"That's fine." Jacob reached into his pocket and paid her, just as there was a knock on the clinic door and Sully walked in a second later. When he saw Robert standing next to his pa, he smiled.
"Hi, Robert. Heard ya fell this mornin'."
"Yeah. I'm glad I didn't hurt nothin' else," he smiled back.
"Well, glad to see that everythin's okay. Dr. Mike fixed ya right up, didn't she?" he asked, then glanced over at Michaela and winked.
"She sure did, and it didn't hurt that much."
"We're much obliged, Dr. Mike," Jacob thanked her as he slapped his hat on his head and led his son towards the door.
"You're quite welcome, Mr. Anderson, Robert. Now, you be sure to go straight home and rest, young man. I give you permission to miss the remainder of school today, and no more climbing in barn lofts unless you're near a railing," she admonished with a grin.
"Yes, ma'am. And thanks!" Robert replied. "See ya!" he called as he and his pa left the clinic.
Sully walked over to Michaela and greeted her with a brief kiss. "Are ya ready for our picnic?"
"Yes!" she breathed. "It's been a long morning. I halfway expected someone else to come up while I was making Robert's cast and keep me from taking a break."
"Well, that wouldna happened, 'cause I woulda had ta tell him you'll be back later. Less, of course, it was an emergency, like this one."
"And I would have had to refuse," she responded, settling into the bantering they had begun this morning.
"Do I haveta remind ya that I ain't above kidnappin'?"
"No, you demonstrated that quite well this morning. I promise to go willingly, this time," she raised her hands in surrender, causing him to smile.
"Good. I wasn't really in the mood ta take a hostage, anyway," he responded, then held out his hand to her. She placed her hand in his and walked with him out the door.
Sully and Michaela had walked hand-in-hand from the clinic to the field. She didn't realize until they were almost there, that Sully didn't have a picnic basket or a blanket on which they could sit, but she didn't question him. He said he had taken care of everything, and she trusted him. It wasn't easy to do this, since she had never liked to depend on anyone for anything, but her relationship with Sully had helped her to learn to trust. There were times when she thought that he did what he did just so that she would be forced to trust him. It was as if he could see right through her and know that she would question him, so he did something that would cause her to doubt, and if she asked, he would respond by saying, "Trust me," and then grinning.
Today was no different. She knew what the result would be is she said anything, so she kept her mouth closed and focused on the beautiful day. The temperature was just right, not too cold, not too hot, with a slight breeze gently blowing through the trees. The birds were chirping and the sky was a clear, azure blue. It was a perfect Spring day, and she was very glad that Sully had planned this picnic lunch for them. She didn't realize that she was so tired until the thought of relaxing on a blanket with Sully caused her to sigh in contentment.
Sully looked over at her when he heard her sigh and smiled. "What was that sigh for?" he asked.
"I just realized what a beautiful day it is," she replied.
"Well, you been cooped up in that clinic for the past few weeks, and ya ain't had time to notice that Spring had come," he pointed out.
She sighed again. "You're right. I have been too busy. Thank you for making me see that."
He smiled again and squeezed her hand slightly. They continued to walk in contented silence until Michaela broke it again.
"Where are we going?"
"It's a surprise."
"Well, you said we were going to the field, but this isn't the way we normally take to get there."
"I know. Just wait and see."
"Michaela. What did I tell ya 'bout questionin' me?" he reminded her as they approached a clearing. He knew what would happen the minute she realized that they had arrived.
"I know. You want me to trust you. But, Sully, it's difficult not knowing...."
She stopped when they came to the edge of the field and Sully paused. He was right, they were at the field, but they approached it from a different direction. This must have been his way of keeping her guessing. She smiled, thinking of how he loved to play games with her, especially since they had become engaged. As she looked around, she noticed the blanket that he had laid down at the base of a tree which sat at the edge of the field. On it sat a picnic basket and two books. It was so cozy-looking, that Michaela immediately regretted having any doubts about him, at all.
"Oh, Sully!" she breathed. "It's beautiful."
"I know," he replied, sure of himself.
She stared again at the picnic he had painstakingly prepared; how he had chosen a spot right at the edge of the field and near a tree, half in the shade, and half in the sun. No matter what she did, he always found a way to remind her of his love for her and of how foolish she was for not trusting him. "I'm so sorry....for doubting you," she apologized and looked up at him.
"I know ya are, Michaela, but I guess ya could say I'm gettin' used to it," he teased as he released her hand and put his arm around her waist, drawing her to him for a brief hug.
"Shall we?" he invited as he gestured towards the blanket.
She walked with him, placing her arm around his waist, as well. When they arrived at where the blanket was, she removed her arm and sat down. Sully walked around her and sat between her and the picnic basket. He pulled out their lunch: sandwiches, salads, and cold apple cider.
"Care of Grace's Cafe," he informed her.
She smiled as he gestured his hand over their meal with a flourish. What he did to impress her! They ate their lunch in companionable silence, and when they were finished, Sully produced a plate of oatmeal cookies for dessert.
"I thought they would go nice with a little Whitman," he suggested as he picked up one of the two books and opened it to a marked page. He looked over at her, placed the book in his left hand, then extended his right arm to invite her to come sit by him.
Michaela wasn't sure if she really wanted to do that, but she hesitated only a moment, for one look at Sully's eyes and her heart dictated what she would do. She scooted over to sit next to him, and he placed his arm around her shoulders, then reached around and opened up the book to the poem he wanted. As soon as he began reading, Michaela closed her eyes and leaned her head against his shoulder, concentrating on the words that were being read as well as to the voice that was reading them.
Sully turned to a very familiar passage, one he knew would bring back some pleasant memories to Michaela from their courting days.
" You see, I resign myself to you, also.
I guess what you need.
I behold, from the beach, your crooked, inviting fingers.
I believe you refuse to go back without the feeling of me.
We must have a turn together.
I undress, bring you out of the sight of land.
I cushion you soft, rocking in the billowy droughs.'"
He turned to look at Michaela and saw a slight blush creeping in to color her cheeks. He smiled, then turned a few pages, and continued:
" I sing the body electric.
The armies of those I love ungirth me,
And I ungirth them.
They will not let me off until I go with them,
Respond to them, and discorrupt them,
And charge them full with the charge of the soul.'"
As he finished and closed the book, he glanced down and saw that Michaela's eyes were closed, but he knew she wasn't asleep, so he put the book down on the blanket and picked up a cookie. As he began eating it, Michaela lifted her head, and looked at him.
"That was beautiful, Sully. Thank you."
"Brings back lotsa memories, don't it?" he asked softly.
"Yes," she breathed and sighed. "I can hardly believe how far we've come since those days," she said, remembering those nights when he had read Walt Whitman's poetry to her. Then, she realized that he hadn't read from the other book that he had brought. "What is the other book that you brought?"
Sully smiled and picked up the other book, then handed it to her. "I thought that you would like to read some out of this one," he told her.
She glanced down at the title and saw that it was the book of Emerson that Sam Lindsay had given to her the night before she had climbed Pike's Peak. Thoughts of her and of their trip climbing up Pike's Peak, despite the fact that she wasn't invited, brought unbidden tears to her eyes that threatened to spill down her cheeks. When Sully noticed this, he turned her head so that she was looking up at him.
He caught a couple of tears with his finger, then reached down and cupped her chin. "Hey," he said softly, "no cryin' today."
She sniffled, then nodded. "You're right. It's just that when I saw this book, I remembered Sam, and that the last thing I did before I left her up there, was read from it."
"Why dontcha read what you read to her that night?" he suggested. "I don't think I ever heard it, and I'd love ta hear it now."
"Alright," she agreed, then opened the book to the well-known passage.
" Life goes headlong. We chase some flying scheme. We are hunted by some fear or command behind us. But if, suddenly, we encounter a friend, we pause. Our heat and our hurry look foolish enough. The moment is all. And in all noble relations, a friend is the hope of the heart.'
"She also wrote me a little note." She laughed as she thought about it. "Well, actually, it was a long note, but it meant the world to me, and I will never forget it, because it came straight from her heart to mine," she told him, and her eyes began to tear again.
"Would ya mind readin' it to me?" he asked softly. "I'd love to know what Sam said as her partin' words to ya."
"Okay," she responded in a whisper, then turned to the note Sam had left, worn from being read over and over again.
" My dearest Michaela,
I can think of no better place to say goodbye to you than among these remarkable words of our friend, Ralph Waldo. Words of truth and self- reliance; words of the path less-traveled, tenderness and friendship; words that remind me so much of you....................I hope to hear how you lived each day to its fullest, always daring to stay true to yourself. I'll listen to how you loved, and laughed, and cried, and played, and worked, and took delight in each sunrise, and gave thanks for every star in the night sky; and that all of your moments were as glorious as saying goodbye to a new friend, or hello to an old; as glorious as climbing to a mountain peak, or maybe even, falling in love.'"
When she finished, Sully squeezed her shoulders slightly in a gesture of comfort, then pushed her head down to his shoulder. He kissed the top of her head, then placed his chin on top of her hair, allowing her to cry as she remembered a special friend.
Later that day, after Dr. Mike had returned home from the clinic and the children had come home from school, Colleen was helping prepare supper and Brian was helping Matthew do the chores in the barn. The cow needed to be milked, the stalls needed to be cleaned and the chickens needed to be fed. That was normally Colleen's job, but since she was cooking supper, Brian offered to do it.
Sully walked up just as Brian was trying to avoid having his feet get pecked by the chickens he was feeding.
"Hey, Brian," he called.
"Oh, hey, Sully," he replied, then jumped at a one of the chickens pecked at his boot.
Sully laughed then walked over to the henhouse. "I think ya better try feedin' em from outside the pen, next time."
Brian agreed, "Yeah, I think you're right," and laughed. "So, did ya come to stay for supper?"
"Yep. Your ma asked me to come this afternoon when I saw her at the clinic."
"Good. I like it when you're here," he told Sully.
"Me, too," Sully replied and grinned.
"Hey, Sully," Matthew greeted as he came out of the barn.
"Matthew," Sully greeted in return.
"Dr. Mike's in the house with Colleen, cookin' supper, if ya wanna talk to her," Matthew informed him.
"Truth is, Matthew, I come to stay for supper, if you don't mind," he teased.
"Na, I don't mind, and I know Dr. Mike doesn't, either," he teased back, sharing a private look with Sully.
At that moment, the front door to the homestead opened and Colleen stepped out. "Supper's ready," she called to her brothers. She didn't even look out and see Sully standing there with them before she turned and went back inside.
"I guess we better get goin'," Sully said. "We don't wanna keep the ladies waitin'."
Once inside, Matthew spoke up. "Look who we found outside and invited in for supper, Dr. Mike."
Michaela looked up, saw Sully standing with Matthew and Brian, and smiled. Sully walked over to her and gave her a quick kiss. She kissed him back, then blushed, as she stepped over to the kitchen to bring the supper to the table. Everyone sat down, Matthew on one side, Colleen and Brian on the other, and Michaela and Sully at the heads. They joined hands for grace, then dished out the food.
Supper passed pleasantly, with everyone talking about their day. Dr. Mike talked about Robert Anderson's broken arm, Colleen and Brian talked about learning about the Revolutionary War at school, Matthew talked about working with his cattle, and Sully talked about helping Robert E with shoeing the horses and making some tools for some other customers.
When everyone was finished, and Colleen and Dr. Mike began clearing the dishes, Brian went over to the corner and got out the checker board.
"Hey, Sully, wanna play me in a game of checkers?"
"Sure, Brian. That sounds like fun," he agreed, then helped clear a spot for the board on the table. They commenced their game, as Dr. Mike and Colleen washed, dried, and put away the dishes from supper, and cleaned up the left- overs. Matthew sat across from Brian, trying to figure out how many head of cattle he had, since some of the cows had given birth to some calves. Once the dishes were done, Dr. Mike and Colleen went back to the table and sat down.
"Colleen, would you like to play me in a game of chess?" Dr. Mike asked.
"Sure, Ma, I'd love to," she agreed as she got up to get the board and pieces, then brought it back to the table.
As she and Colleen set up the board, she glanced up and caught Sully's eye. He winked and she smiled, their eyes locking momentarily, as if drawn by a force too powerful for them to control. They both suddenly realized where they are, and they both returned to their games. They continued like this for about another hour, then Brian jumped over Sully's last checkers, and Dr. Mike finally caught Colleen's king in check-mate.
"Alright, I think it's time for you children to go to bed. You have school, tomorrow, and you need your rest," she told them.
"Okay, Ma," they agreed as they both gave Dr. Mike a kiss. "Goodnight, Matthew. Goodnight, Sully," they both said.
"Goodnight, Colleen. Goodnight, Brian," they replied as the two headed off to bed.
"I think I'll turn in, too," Matthew said. "I had a rough day with the cattle today, and I gotta move em to the north pasture tomorrow, so I'd better get some sleep." He walked over to Dr. Mike and gave her a kiss on her cheek. "Goodnight, Dr. Mike. Goodnight, Sully."
"Goodnight, Matthew," they both replied as he headed for the door to go out to the barn.
Michaela looked up at Sully once everything quieted and was suddenly nervous again. "Would you like a cup of coffee, or tea?" she offered.
"Tea'd be nice," he answered.
"Alright, I'll put the kettle on," she told him, suddenly feeling the need to be busy.
"Ya wanna go out and sit on the bench, outside?" he invited.
She paused for a moment, realizing that that was exactly what she wanted to do. She didn't know why she was so nervous. It was just Sully. "That sounds nice," she heard herself agreeing. "It's such a beautiful night, and the stars are shining really bright," she agreed.
Once outside, settled on the bench, they each sipped their cups of tea, and just gazed up at the stars, each lost in their own thoughts.
Sully was thinking about how soon his life was going to change once he married Michaela, and wondered how he was going to handle it. He had been living on his own for so long, and outside, for that matter. How was he ever going to adjust to having a family again, and living in a house? He knew that he was the happiest he'd ever been in his life, and was sure that he would adjust, as long as she was there to share it with him, no matter how difficult it would be.
Michaela was thinking about the day and how much she loved the man beside whom she was sitting. He always knew what she needed and what she was thinking, even before she voiced it. Despite her many fears and worries about what her life would be like with him once they were married, she knew that she could face them with him by her side. She knew that she could talk to him without the fear of him laughing at her, or thinking her foolish. She turned towards him.
"I wanted to thank you for today, and for coming to supper tonight," she began.
"You're welcome," he replied as he looked over at her.
"You have no idea how much it means to me to have you there to remind me to take some time to enjoy myself and not get so involved in my work all the time." She paused briefly, then continued.
"When I was growing up, I didn't remember many times when my father wasn't doing something that was related to his work. He was always out on house calls, or at the hospital, or in his study, writing in his journal or reading the latest from his medical journals. Mother would always get upset when she couldn't get him away from his work long enough to pay much attention to my sisters, but he always had time for me. No matter how busy he was, if he was home, he didn't mind me being with him. And no matter what I did, he supported me. He always knew when something was bothering me and encouraged me to talk out my problems.
"After he died, I felt like I lost part of myself. I had lost my best friend. But, when the advertisement came for a doctor here in Colorado Springs, I immediately answered it and came out here. Before I met you, I had turned back to my work and immersed myself just like my father had done. Then, when you came into my life, you reminded me of what it was like having my father around me again. You are always telling me relax and take a break, and I want to thank you for that," she finished.
Sully finished his tea, thoughtfully, then placed the cup down on the bench beside him. He reached his arm around her, then drew her to him, placing a kiss on top of her head. "You do the same thing for me, Michaela. For years, I'd become a loner. I didn't make an effort ta really talk ta too many people, cept Charlotte and the kids. I had resigned myself to bein' alone for the rest of my life, but then I met you, and my whole world was turned upside down.
"You helped draw me out of myself and forced me to bury the past, lettin' me see that I had a lot more life to live. You remind me of what life was like when my mother was still around, talkin' to me as a little boy and tellin' me that there was no reason to be afraid as long as she was there. I was happy then, and I'm happy, now. You and the children give me a reason to be happy." He paused, and then smiled. " Sides, I figure I'd better get used to havin' ya around and eatin' supper with ya. In another month, I won't have ta be invited. I'll be livin' here," he teased.
Michaela smiled and blushed, turning her gaze away from him, as she realized that he was right. In less than a month, she would no longer be a single woman. She would be married and her entire world will change, for the better, she was sure. That thought opened up an entirely new set of thoughts, ones on which she didn't want to dwell as long as Sully was sitting right next to her. She might do something she would later regret.
As if Sully knew what she was thinking, he brought her eyes back to look at his. "You're gettin' aheada yourself, Michaela. Just be content sittin' here with me, and don't worry about the future, tonight." He moved his hand to cup her chin and draw her lips to his. "I love you," he said, as his lips met hers.
With those last thoughts in her mind, she responded with more passion than she thought possible, and forced herself to realize where they were. She pulled back slowly, as if she didn't want the kiss to end, and truth be known, she didn't. She was amazed at the emotions this man could spark inside of her.
When she pulled away, Sully looked down into her eyes and smiled, drawing her head down to his shoulder again, then placing his head on top of hers, as they leaned back against the side of the homested and gazed at the stars above.
* * * * *
As the day of her wedding drew nearer, Michaela found herself constantly daydreaming about what her life would be like with Sully. She knew that she was in love and that they shared a very special bond that few couples ever find, but at the same time, she was scared of getting so close to a man, even Sully. Sure, they had been through a lot during their relationship, but that never stopped them from coming back to one another. Even when she had been kidnapped, last year, by Dog Soldiers, and she was scared about what they would do to her and whether or not Sully would still want her when or if he found her.
And then, just a couple of months ago, the massacre at Washita happened. It was a horrible thing, and it caused quite a rift in their relationship, especially since she couldn't bear to be around Sully, since he reminder her of what had happened. It took some time spent with Cloud Dancing, the Cheyenne Medicine Man, sharing in his grief over losing his people as well as his beloved wife, a best friend to Michaela, to set her straight again, and help her regain her hope. Afterwards, Sully had his healing time and together they united their paths again. Not even the pre-marriage consultation with the Reverend could sway them from their plans, even if they got a little upset at some of what was discussed. In the end, they both realized that the love they shared could overcome anything, and that they would be foolish to not stay together and make it work.
There had been many times, especially since Sully gave her the engagement ring on Valentine's Day she now wore, when they had allowed their passions to get out of control, but one of them always stopped before it went too far. They both knew that they would regret it if they weren't careful. But, despite all of that, Michaela still wondered about the physical aspect of their marriage. She knew that Sully had been married before, and he had assured her that they would take it easy and slowly, but she wanted to find a way to calm her own fears before the day arrived. She didn't want to disappoint Sully, but at the same time she was anxious for the day to arrive. Thinking about it made her smile.
She was so lost in thought, that she didn't hear the door open.
"Ma?" Colleen called.
Michaela started out of reverie. "Colleen! What are you doing here?"
"I always come after school on Wednesdays."
"Oh, that's right, you do. I'm sorry, I must have been daydreaming," she apologized and walked over to the examination table.
"Musta been a nice dream."
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, you looked real happy, and you were smilin'," Colleen told her.
"I was thinking of our wedding. It's going to be here very soon."
"You're not gettin' cold feet, are ya?" she teased.
"No, no. It's not that. Actually, I was counting the day until it arrives. It seems it can't come soon enough," she answered, and then turned her head so that Colleen could not the look of worry that crossed her face. She handed some instruments to Colleen to dry after she washed them.
"You know, I was thinking that I really should go out and collect some more herbs. I'm running very low on stinging nettles and chamomile."
"I'll take you," a voice called from the doorway.
"Sully! What brings you here this afternoon?"
"I was on my way over ta Loren's and thought I'd stop by. Did I hear ya mention that ya needed to go 'n' get some more herbs?" he asked.
"Yes, I really should restock. I don't want to be caught without them," she answered.
"Well, today's as good a day as any. Wanna go now?"
"Alright." She turned to Colleen. "Colleen, do you think you can handle the clinic while I'm gone. We shouldn't be too long, and we'll be back in time for supper."
"Be sure to lock up when you leave," she instructed.
"I will, Ma, now go on, and don't worry about a thing," Colleen assured her.
"Alright." She turned to Sully. "Shall we?" she asked as she grabbed her bag so that she could put the herbs in it when she collected them. Together, they left the clinic to head for the woods. They stopped off at Robert E's livery so that they could get their horses, since it was quite a long walk, and they didn't want to do it on foot.
Once their horses were saddled, they nudged their horses in the direction of the woods, walking out of town. Sully called to Wolf and the animal immediately followed them. The minute they reached the edge of town, Michaela slapped the reigns and squeezed her legs against the side of her horse, and Flash took off like a bolt of lightning. It took Sully a second to realize what she was doing, and he did the same to No Name. They found themselves racing all the way to the woods. When they arrived at the edge of the woods, they both reigned in their horses and continued at a walk.
"You cheated. You had a head start," Sully accused her.
"Who said anything about racing? I was just galloping on Flash. You were the one who had to catch up to me," she teased.
"Well, I couldn't let ya get too far ahead of me, now could I?" he teased in return.
They turned their attentions back to walking near the woods, and then Sully spotted one of the herbs that Michaela said she needed.
"Michaela. There's some chamomile leaves for your tea," he pointed out.
"You're right," she said, and reigned in Flash, as she hopped down to gather the leaves.
They spent the next two hours walking and talking and gathering more herbs, Wolf walking beside them for part of the way and running off to explore for the other parts. They were content to just be with each other. No thought was given to the fact that the wind had all of a sudden picked up and dark, ominous clouds had moved in to hide the sun. Sully looked up when he heard Wolf whine and then noticed the low rumblings of thunder from a distance. When he saw the sky, he knew what was going to happen, and soon. He didn't want to worry Michaela, but they needed to get back on their horses and head back for the homestead. They didn't need to be caught out in this storm.
"Michaela? I think we need to get movin'. We promised the kids we'd be back in time for supper, and I think a storm's comin' in fast," he urged her.
Michaela looked up from wrapping the stinging nettles in a cloth and placing them in her medical bag. She saw a flash of lightning and looked beyond Sully to the sky above. She saw that he was right. A Spring storm had come in its usual fashion, unannounced. She closed her medical bag and stood to her feet.
"Alright. I'm finished, here, anyway. I have what I came to gather, and we can head on home."
"Let's get movin'."
They mounted their horses, and turned them in the direction of the homestead. He snapped for Wolf to come with them, and the animal immediately obeyed. They had only gone a few hundred yards when Sully felt the first drops of rain hit his head. It didn't take long for the sky to open up and dump its fill onto them, soaking them. Since they were in the woods, and the trees shielded them for the most part, he realized that it must be raining a lot harder than what they felt. If they didn't hurry, they wouldn't make it back in time. He didn't want to stay out here in this storm, especially in the woods, but he might not have a choice. If this storm was as bad as it looked, they wouldn't be able to ride their horses in it. They wouldn't be able to see to walk, let alone enough to guide the horses.
He was debating whether to tell this to Michaela, when a sudden bolt of lightning followed immediately by a crash of thunder frightened Flash, causing her to rear up and whinny in fear. Michaela held tight to the reigns, trying to calm her down, but with the rain and the fear of the animal, she couldn't hold on tight enough. She was thrown from Flash's back when another bolt of lightning and crash of thunder erupted, causing Flash to rear up again. Sully was trying to calm his horse while, at the same time, thinking of how he could help Michaela.
Immediately after Michaela was off her back, Flash began to run off. Michaela wasn't injured from the fall, and reacted as fast as she could. She grabbed the reigns, trying to stop Flash, but, the ground was too slippery. Flash pulled her, slipping and sliding along the wet ground, when suddenly Michaela's foot caught on an upraised tree root. She was forced to let go of the reigns as she tripped and fell, hitting her head on another root.
Sully threw his horses' reigns over a nearby branch and immediately ran to Micheala. He wasn't worried about Flash; she would run back to the homestead. He was more concerned about Michaela and wanted to make sure she was alright. Wolf was whining softly as he sat next to her. When Sully got to where she was, he kneeled beside her and lifted her head, cradling it in his lap. Then, he slowly and carefully turned her over so that she was laying on her back and smoothed her wet, clingy hair away from her face while he tried to shield her from the falling rain.
Michaela looked up at Sully and smiled slightly. "I....guess....we're going to....have to wait out the storm....right here," she whispered, so low he could barely hear her.
"I'll build us a shelter, keep of the rain and wind," he told her.
"That's a good idea," she whispered back.
She looked around and saw that the trees above her started swirling. She looked back at Sully's face and realized that it was getting blurry, and dark. The last thing she remembered was the worried look on Sully's face, and then her whole world blacked out.
Sully saw her look above them at the trees, then return her eyes to his face, as if she was trying to focus on something. He saw her eyelids start to droop, and a worried expression crossed his face as he watched them close.
"Michaela!" he said firmly, tapping her cheek and trying to revive her. "Michaela! Wake up!" He tried again, but it was no use. He looked around and saw that she must have hit her head on the root next to them. He felt around for any blood, but didn't find any. As he was exploring, he did find a small lump on the side of her head and realized that that must have been what caused her to slip into unconsciousness. He hoped beyond all hopes that she didn't have a concussion. He had seen her treat many patients over the past three years and knew that if that was the case, the important thing was for the patient to remain awake. He tried again to revive her, but had no such luck. The fall, added to the rain that had soaked her to the skin, the bump on her head, and the fact that she had been working entirely too hard, lately, must have taken their toll on her weary body.
He laid her head back on the ground and went to fetch his bedroll from his horse. He cushioned her head with it, then went off to build a shelter for them both. He would worry about waking her up and keeping her warm once the shelter was built.
Colleen had supper prepared and Brian and Matthew were finished with the chores. They all sat inside, listening to the rain coming down hard and the wind blowing fiercely outside. They were lucky to have finished the chores before the storm arrived.
"I wonder where they could be?" Colleen said, worried.
"Do you think they got caught out in the storm?" Matthew asked.
"I'm scared, Matthew," Brian said. "What if somethin' happened to em and they can't get back?"
"I'm sure they're fine, little brother. Don't you worry," he assured everyone. "Most likely, they were out walkin' when the storm hit, and took cover somewhere to wait it out. They'll be here as soon as it's over." He tried hard to sound sure, even though he wasn't sure of it himself.
At that moment, they heard the sound of hoofbeats outside the door.
"They're home!" Brian called and ran for the door.
"Brian!" Matthew called. "Don't go out there! It's pourin' down rain, and we don't need you gettin' hurt or sick," Matthew commanded, then opened the door to look outside.
When he saw Flash, alone, without Dr. Mike, he really began to get worried. But, he didn't want to let his brother and sister know that, so he turned around and told them. "It's just Flash. Dr. Mike's not on her, and Sully's not out there, either," he said, calmly.
"Ohhh. I just knew something was wrong. She must be hurt, and that's why they're not here. I just know it!" Colleen cried.
"Colleen, stop!" Matthew commanded. "Now, I know it's stormin' out there, but Sully knows what he's doin'. He's been livin' out there for years, and he's still alive, so I'm sure they're fine, whatever happened."
"But, what if they're both hurt?" Brian asked.
"If they were, dontcha think Sully's horse would have come back, too?" Matthew pointed out.
"Yeah, I guess you're right," Brian agreed.
"Now, look. There's no use sittin' here worryin'. So, why don't we have some supper, and then we can play some chess or checkers. We can't do nothin' for them while this storm's here. We can't even get to town to tell anyone. So, we're just gonna haveta wait it out and hope they come home, soon. If they're not here by tomorrow, and the rain has stopped, I'll ride inta town and get a search party lookin' for em. Alright?"
"Alright," Colleen agreed.
"Alright," Brian echoed.
The three children ate their supper and then Brian and Matthew played checkers while Colleen did some sewing. None of them knew that at the same time they were eating supper, Michaela lay unconscious and Sully was fighting to wake her up.
The shelter was built, a fire was burning, Willow Bark tea was being kept warm, and now Sully had to get Michaela warm. Wolf was lying on the ground next to her, sleeping peacefully. Michaela had stirred a few times while he was building the shelter and making the fire, and she had even opened her eyes once, calling his name. He told her that he was here, and that she had fallen and bumped her head, then asked her how she felt. She said that she felt fine, except for a slight headache and feeling very tired. He asked her if she might have a concussion, and she assured him that she didn't, since she knew what the symptoms were, and she didn't have any of them. He then told her that she needed to get some rest, so she willingly closed her eyes and fell into a deep sleep.
As he listened to her even breathing, he sighed with relief. Now, onto getting her warm. He knew he had to remove her outer clothing and dry it, and this wasn't the first time that he had seen her in her underclothes. He had already removed his shirt and it was drying by the fire. He needed to do the same with her skirt and blouse. He removed her boots and stockings, then unbuckled her skirt and pulled it down off her legs. He immediately covered up her feet with the blanket, so that she didn't catch a chill. He reached to undo the buttons of her blouse, and she stirred slightly, moaning.
She opened her eyes and saw Sully sitting next to her without his shirt. "Sully," she said tiredly. "What are you doing?"
"I gotta get you warm," he answered. The less he told her the better.
"Alright. I am a little cold," she replied.
He reached for a cup and poured some tea into it, then lifted her head and held the cup to her lips. "Here. Drink some of this tea. It'll help with your headache and let you sleep better," he said as she opened her mouth to swallow some of the tea. She took one more drink and then drifted off to sleep, and he put the cup down next to the fire.
Once he was sure she was sound asleep, he resumed his task and carefully removed her blouse. He put thoughts of her out of his mind as he gathered up her clothing and laid it across some sticks he had stuck in the ground to have a place to hang their clothes. He stoked the fire a little, then moved back to Michaela. He covered the remainder of her with the saddle blanket and tucked it tightly around her. Then, he laid down next to her, wrapping his arms around her to share his warmth with her.
All of a sudden, he realized that the children would be worried sick when they didn't return home, especially since he was sure that by now Flash had arrived, without Michaela. He thought about how he would get word to them that they were fine, when Wolf stirred and shifted his position. He realized that Wolf would be able to deliver a message and wouldn't mind running in the rain.
He got up and searched in Michaela's medical bag for a pencil and a piece of paper. When he found them, he scribbled a quick note, telling the children what had happened and assuring them that they were okay, and that they would be home as soon as the storm was over. Then, he whistled for Wolf, and the dog woke up, slowly stretching and then coming over to him. Sully fastened the note to Wolf's collar.
"Go home, Wolf. Go find Brian. Go on. Find Brian," he commanded and the dog barked then ran off in the direction of the homestead.
With that done, he felt much better, so he laid back down and drew Michaela to him once more. He reached under the blanket and realized that she wasn't getting very warm, and wondered what else he could do. Then, he realized that it would be better if they were sharing the blanket. Then, he could wrap his arms around her and share his warmth, directly, instead of through the blanket. He lifted the blanket from around her and placed it around both of them. Then, he wrapped his arms around her and drew her against his chest, taking one of her hands in his and clasping it tightly, and like that, he fell asleep.
* * * * *
Matthew awoke to the sound of someone or something scratching at the front door. He had decided to sleep inside the homestead tonight since he didn't want to leave Colleen and Brian alone, nor did he want to risk going out and getting wet in the storm. He got up and walked to the door, preparing to open it when he heard Pup whine. He knew that it must be Wolf outside, so he opened the door and let him in.
Wolf immediately jumped up on Matthew and licked his face, whining.
"Alright, boy, what is it? Where's Dr. Mike and Sully?" he asked, then realized that it was foolish to talk to an animal. He couldn't answer him. But, Wolf whined and jumped up again, this time turning his head around to try to grab a piece a paper tucked into his collar.
"What is this?" Matthew said to himself as he took the note and began to read it.
"Matthew, what's going on?" a sleepy Colleen asked.
"Are they home?" an equally sleepy Brian added.
"No," Matthew answered them. "But Sully sent Wolf here with a note. He says that Dr. Mike fell off Flash and hit her head, but she's okay. They decided that it would be best to wait out the storm there, and they'll return in the morning."
Brian and Colleen both sighed. "Good," they said in unison.
"Now that we know they're okay, why don't we get back to sleep. I'm sure they'll be fine," Matthew suggested.
"Alright," Colleen answered and walked back to her bed, leading Brian.
Matthew went back to his pallet on the rug in front of the fireplace. He didn't want to sleep in Dr. Mike's bed just in case they came home and she needed it. Wolf came over and laid down next to him, and Pup went in with Brian. They all fell back to sleep listening to the howling of the wind and the patter of rain on the roof. Now that they knew that Dr. Mike and Sully were okay, they could sleep peacefully.
Michaela awoke in the middle of the night, wondering where she was. Memories of a being thrown from Flash, lightning, hitting her head, a thunderstorm, having a headache, and talking to Sully flashed in a confusing order through her mind. She remembered something about going for a walk to gather herbs, and of Sully telling her, for some reason, that they needed to hurry to get home, but she couldn't understand why. As she started to focus a little more, she became aware that she was outside, under a shelter, and that she was lying on the ground.
She shifted slightly and became aware that she was not alone. She, also, was not able to move much, since she was being held in someone's arms. She turned her head and saw Sully lying next to her, asleep, and he wasn't wearing a shirt. Then, she embarrassingly became aware of her present state of undress. The first thing that came to mind was how improper it was for her to be lying here like this with a man, unmarried. Then, her senses returned, and she realized that it was Sully, the man she would marry in less than a month. It wasn't the first time he had seen her in her underclothes.
All of a sudden, everything came back to her. She remembered gathering some stinging nettles, and then Sully telling her that a storm was coming, and that they needed to get home before it hit. The next thing she remembered was riding Flash when a lightning bolt and thunder frightened her horse, and she was thrown to the ground. She had tried to calm Flash, but had tripped on a tree root, tripped, and hit her head. Then, she blacked out and didn't remember much more, except at one point being cold and having a headache, drinking some tea. Now, she was very warm, and very comfortable, and she no longer had a headache.
Sully stirred behind her, causing her thoughts to focus on him and where they were. The rain had stopped, and everything seemed very peaceful. The fire had died out a couple of hours ago, but they were still warm. She decided that it was time to wake up Sully.
"Sully," she said, quietly. When he didn't respond, she tried again, this time a little louder. "Sully."
"Mmm," he moaned in his sleep.
"Sully," she tried one more time.
"Michaela?" he answered.
"Yes, Sully. You need to wake up. It's stopped raining," she told him.
He opened his eyes and turned to look at her. "Are you alright?" was the first thing out of his mouth once he was fully awake.
"Yes, I'm fine," she assured him as he sat up, allowing her to keep the blanket around her.
"Do ya want some more tea?" he asked.
"No, thank you. But, I could use some water. My throat is very dry."
"Okay. Hang on, and I'll get it," he told her, as he got up and went to his horse to get the canteen, bringing it back and handing it to her.
"Thank you," she said and took a long drink, then handed it back to him. He took a long drink, as well, and then closed the cap, setting it down by their clothes.
He stood there, just looking at her, not realizing that he was making her very uncomfortable. He was thinking how beautiful she was, even with her hair a tangled mess and her lying there wrapped in a blanket.
Michaela looked away, then said, "Sully?"
"Mmm," he replied, bringing himself out of his reverie.
"Do you think our clothes are dry?"
"I don't know, but they should be. Let me check," he answered as he stooped down to feel the garments hanging on the sticks. "Yep, they're dry. Ya wanna get dressed?"
"Yes, I would. I'm getting rather chilled sitting here in......in nothing but my underclothes," she finished softly as she turned her head and blushed. It was a good thing that it was dark, since she knew that her face was very red.
"Alright. Here," he said as he gathered her clothes and handed them to her.
She took them and then waited for him to turn his head, but realized how foolish that was. So, she allowed the blanket to fall from her shoulders and put on her blouse. Then, she moved out from under the shelter so that she could stand to put on her skirt. Once that was fastened, she put on her stockings, but left her shoes off. Then, she moved back under the shelter and sat on the blanket.
Through all of this, Sully sat watching her with amusing interest. No matter that he had seen her a few times before wearing nothing more than her camisole and underclothes, she still blushed when she realized that he was watching her. To him, it was very becoming, and he loved her even more for her modesty. When she moved back under the shelter and sat down, he joined her. He looked around and realized the sun would be up in another couple of hours. When he saw her push her hair out of her face, then begin to twist it up, he reached out and stopped her. Then, he retrieved the brush from her medical bag that he had seen earlier, moved to kneel behind her and began untangling the knots, very gently, so that he didn't hurt her.
At first, they sat like that, in silence, Michaela enjoying his ministrations, and Sully enjoying his task and the feel of her long and glorious hair in his hands. Then, he decided to start a conversation.
"So, are ya ready to pack up and head home, now?" he asked.
"I guess so. I feel fine now, and very rested......thanks to you," she added.
"I was so worried when ya fell and hit your head. I kept prayin' that you hadn't cut it and that you didn't have a concussion, cause I wouldn'ta known what to do, then. As it was, I just did what I seen you do so many times when someone had gotten soaked or hit their head."
"Well, you did a very fine job, and it worked," she commended him.
"I had a great teacher," he answered her, teasingly. Then, he reached over her shoulder and took one of her hands in his. "Sides, I wasn't about to let you go that easily. I woulda done everything I could to make sure that you got back to town, no matter what it took, even if I had ta ride all night through the rain and walk real slow, I woulda got ya there. I've spent too many years bein' alone, and I ain't about to go doin' it again so soon. I just got used to the idea of havin' a family again, and I love everything in the new life we are going to make. I ain't gonna let you get away from me before we even have a chance to start that life. We've been through too much for me to lose you now," he admitted.
Michaela felt tears coming to her eyes as she listened to him tell her how much she meant to him, and how much he was willing to do for her. She really didn't deserve him. In all of the time that she had known him, he was always willing to help anyone who needed helping, no matter who that person was. If Sully believed that what had happened was wrong, he fought to make it right again. That is one of the things she loved about him. Another is his truthfulness. Even when he didn't always talk to her immediately, he always came forth with what he was feeling eventually, and he never kept anything from her. There relationship truly was a very special one. The Spirits were certainly smiling upon them right now.
Sully realized that she was thinking and not really paying direct attention to him, so he leaned in and placed his lips near her ear, continuing where he left off. "And I definitely ain't gonna let ya go before I have the chance to take ya away from here to Denver on our honeymoon," he whispered then waited to see her response.
She started out of her reverie and blushed furiously at the thoughts his comment brought into her mind. She turned her head forward and looked out into the trees surrounding them. As if it suddenly mattered, she realized that they were completely alone, with only the darkness and the few nocturnal animals that were out to watch them. This made her suddenly very uncomfortable, but all of a sudden, Sully set down the brush and came around in front of her. He reached out and turned her face back to his.
"Hey," he whispered. "Don't worry. Everthin's gonna be alright. I told ya that I wasn't gonna rush nothin' and we'll take things slow and easy," he assured her, thinking that she was worried about their wedding night and honeymoon.
She took a deep breath, then said, "That's not what's worrying me," she told him honestly, her heart and her thoughts in her eyes as she looked at him.
Sully's heartbeat quickened as he read what she was thinking and feeling in her eyes. With no regard to where they were or improprieties, he cupped her chin and drew her face to his. When his lips met hers, there was no impatience evident, only sweet and cherishing love. Michaela responded with all of the love that was in her, and as the kiss deepened, Sully laid her down on the blanket. They both became absorbed in the kiss and soon Michaela's hands had wrapped around his back, as Sully's arms had wrapped around her and began to move up and down over her hip and leg. She shuddered and broke the kiss. He looked down at her and then realized what had just happened. He gave himself a mental shake, then slowly removed his arms from around her and sat them both up.
"I'm sorry, Michaela," he apologized. "I don't know what got into me."
"I'm as much to blame as you. I don't recall stopping the kiss any more than you," she pointed out. "Besides, you don't have to apologize. That makes me feel as if you shouldn't have kissed me, or that you really didn't want to," she admitted.
Sully took her hands again into his. "No, Michaela. I don't feel that way at all. I want to kiss you, more than you know. And I sometimes get so carried away with my love for you that I forget that we're not married yet. I just want so much to be close to you, to be with you, that I sometimes let my emotions get out of control. I love you so much, but I don't want to do anythin' that will cause ya to not trust me."
Michaela squeezed his hands. "You don't have to worry about that. I feel the same way. I know I don't often talk about it, but that's because I was brought up to believe that people just didn't talk about things like that, not even engaged couples, or even married, for that matter. At least not in public. And I never saw anyone in private, so I didn't know what was discussed then. I'm very new at this, and am very unsure about what I should and should not say," she admitted, then took one of her hands from his grasp. "I do love you, with all of my heart. You fill me in a way that I never thought possible. I can't imagine my life without you. Please know that."
Sully brought his one hand up to place over hers. "I do know that, Michaela. And it's okay if you're not sure of what to say. That's what learning is for. We have the rest of our lives to learn and love and explore and have some great experiences." He brought their hands back to their laps. "Now, why don't we pack up here and head home to the kids. I'm sure they must be worried sick about us," he suggested.
"The children!" Michaela exclaimed. "I nearly forgot about them. I hope they're alright."
"I'm sure they are," Sully assured her. "I sent Wolf back to the homestead a few hours ago with a note tellin' them that we're okay and that we'll be home in the mornin'. He hasn't come back, so I assume they let him in and he stayed there."
"Oh, Sully, thank you," she breathed.
"You're welcome." He stood and drew her up with him. "Now, let's get movin'."
They packed up the camp in record time, then Sully helped her up on his horse, climbing up behind her. He reached around her and took the reigns, nudged his horse, and they headed for home.
Matthew, Colleen and Brian had woken up with the first signs of the sunrise and gotten dressed. Colleen wanted to have a breakfast ready for Dr. Mike and Sully when they arrived. The note said that they would be home in the morning, and the rain had stopped hours ago, so they should be home any minute. She began frying up some ham and bacon and eggs, then made some mix for pancakes and biscuits. She figured that they would both be famished after the day and night they had. She had no sooner began pouring the pancake batter into the pan when she heard a horse whinny outside. Brian ran to the window and looked out.
"They're home!" he shouted, then threw open the door and ran out to greet them.
A few minutes later the three of them came into the homestead, and Sully sniffed the air appreciatively.
"Mmm, smells good. What's cookin', Colleen," he asked.
"Breakfast. Now, sit down at the table and I'll get some for you both. I'm sure you're both starvin'," she commanded.
"Yes, ma'am," Sully responded.
"Actually, we are quite hungry," Michaela agreed as she joined Sully at the table.
Brian helped Colleen with the food, and Matthew was tending to the horses out in the barn. Sully turned and looked at Michaela, then reached for her hand, which she gave him willingly. Colleen turned and saw them, then encouraged Brian to go with her into the other room to give them some privacy.
"Ya know, I never told ya what a fun time I had yesterday and last night," he said softly, so as not to be heard, then realized that Colleen and Brian had moved to the other room.
Michaela blushed, then smiled. "Me, too. It brought back a lot of memories."
"Yep. I remember another time when we were caught out in the rain and I had to build a shelter. Except that time, you weren't too sure about bein' alone with me."
"Oh, that's not how I remember it," she reminded him. "I remember you acting very strange and aloof, as if you were afraid to get too close to me."
"Well, I was. I was worried about what I would do if I got too close to ya," he admitted.
"Well, I didn't make it too easy on you," she pointed out.
"No, you didn't, but that didn't make much difference. I wouldna done anythin', anyway. I knew I'd never live if I tried anythin'," he teased and smiled.
"You're right," she agreed and smiled back. "I also remember, on that same trip, when you had spread out our clothes to dry and then I had asked you to help me do up the buttons on my blouse."
"That was one of the most difficult tasks you've ever asked me to do," he admitted, then continued. "You know back in the woods last night, when I had to get you out of your clothes, I kept wonderin' what you would say when you realized what I had done."
"Well, I don't think my mind was in a proper state to worry about something like that," she reassured him. "And when I did realize what had happened, I was too grateful for you getting me warm to even care."
"Well, I'm just glad that we're back safe and sound here. And in another three weeks, I won't have to worry about keeping my emotions intact," he whispered.
She smiled slightly, then got serious. "Sully, I want to sincerely thank you for all that you've done for me over the years. You've been very patient with me, through everything, and no matter what I said or did, you were always there for me. I'll always be thankful for the ad that brought me out to Colorado Springs and into your life. Sometimes, I feel that I don't deserve you, or that my love isn't enough to convince you to stay," she confessed.
Sully brought her hands to his face and kissed her palms, then whispered, "Your love is all that's needed to keep me in your life, and you won't get rid of me anytime soon," he promised and she smiled in return.
Colleen and Brian came back in and interrupted them, served them breakfast, then sat down with their own plates of food just as Matthew came in from outside to sit down as well. They said grace, thanking God that Dr. Mike and Sully were back and that He had watched over them while they were away, then blessed the food and began eating.
As the sun began its upward ascent into the sky, and the birds awoke from their night's slumber to offer their song to the heavens, the family sat inside their home, enjoying each other's presence and the comfort that came with knowing they had all of the love they needed to last them for the rest of their lives.
The quoted passages are from Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" and Emerson's "Friendship" Essay
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