This story takes place right after the end of the episode "Giving Thanks." I always thought it was really cool how Sully and the Cheyenne had birdcalls to communicate with each other, so I wondered if Michaela ever learned how to make her own bird song. This is what I figured it might have been like if she had.
by Amanda B
"Ugh, you must be soaked to the bone!" Michaela said as she poured water for Brian's bath. "I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't all catch pneumonia! Now quickly, off with those clothes, young man." She directed Brian towards the iron basin and pulled the curtain behind him. "Now don't dawdle, you need to get to sleep. You have school tomorrow, remember." From across the room a sneeze sounded. Dr. Mike turned around and raised her eyebrows hopelessly at Colleen. She shook her head as she realized that the girl was already ill. "Oh Colleen. Here, I'll fix you some tea. You go get out of that wet dress right now and put an extra blanket on your bed. You'll need it tonight." Colleen sniffed and mumbled a "Yes, Dr. Mike," as she headed towards her room.
As Michaela set about boiling the water for tea, her mind wandered to the events of the day. Finally. Rain. It did spoil the Thanksgiving dinner, or at least the food part of it, but she couldn't have thought of a better ending to it than the dancing and celebrating that went on in the street. And the look in Sully's eyes ... well, that was something to cherish forever, as he stood there, holding her hand. They hadn't partaken in all the activities, yet they watched them together, and though he shied away from the dancing, he seemed to enjoy just being with her. If it hadn't started to lightning, she was sure that the festivities could have gone on through the night. But there was school, and people were going to get sick if they stayed out in the rain. Chances were the next day would be a busy one at the clinic. She walked over to her medicine bag and then to the cupboard to see if she had enough herbs to make Colleen's tea. There was barely enough. She would have to see if Sully could help her gather more for the patients who would have colds tomorrow. Hopefully he could, for their walks together were things Michaela held very dear to her heart. In fact, any time she had with Sully was precious. She just couldn't seem to get enough of him.
As if on cue, there was a knock on the door, and as Michaela was startled from her thoughts and turned around, Sully pushed open the door. "Are the horses settled for the night?" she asked.
"Yup. And Matthew says goodnight. I guess I'll be headin'...." She watched as Sully's eyes wandered past her and his brow suddenly creased. His eyes shot open and he leapt for the stove. "Look out!" He grabbed the lid of the kettle and slammed it down on the pot, then reached for the handle and with lightning speed removed the bubbling-over water from the heat and placed it on the countertop.
"Oh my goodness! I forgot all about the water! Oh, Sully, are you burnt? Are your hands all right?" Michaela quickly took hold of his rough palms and made sure there were no scold marks. Finally satisfied, she lifted her face upward towards his and saw a slight smile turn up the corners of his mouth. His eyes were gleaming. "And what are you smiling about, may I ask? What were you thinking? You could have scorched your hands!"
"The real question is...what were *you* thinkin' about? Must 'a been somethin' important, 'cause that pot just 'bout exploded." There was a sparkle in his eyes as he admonished her, as if he knew that he had been on her mind, and she quickly lowered her face toward the ground so he wouldn't see her cheeks flush.
"I ... well, I ..." Michaela was stuttering, and Sully knew her well enough to see that she was embarrassed about something, and he had a pretty good idea of what it was.
"Never mind then," he said as he placed his fingers on her lips to silence her. They stood there like that, simply gazing into each other's eyes, for an endless moment, neither wanting to break the silence. Sully placed his hand over her cheek and caressed it while Michaela held his other hand. Finally she could withstand it no longer and reached up to pull his lips down to hers. Just then, the side door slammed. Michaela jumped and ducked her head away as Sully pulled back his hand simultaneously. They both turned to find out who their intruder was and saw Matthew. Matthew cleared his throat and cast his eyes downward. Michaela couldn't help but feel sorry for the young man as she flashed a grin at Sully and asked, "Yes, Matthew?"
"Ahem, um...I was just comin' in to grab some more ... uh ... blankets. Barn's awful cold tonight." He quickly turned away and went to the closet. As Dr. Mike watched she felt Sully's hand reach for hers and he gave it a reassuring squeeze. She gave him a smile and saw amusement dancing in his eyes. Once more they found themselves caught in a trance as they gazed at each other, oblivious to the sound of the closet door closing. "Uh..." The couple once more jumped back and turned their attention to Matthew. "I - I think this should do," he said as he held up a folded red quilt.
They still stood there simply watching him and Matthew began to shuffle his feet on the floor. "I guess ... uh...I'll be ... I oughta -"
"Goodnight Matthew," Dr. Mike interrupted, biting her lip to keep from smiling at the boy's awkward situation.
Matthew heaved a sigh of relief. "G'night Dr. Mike, night Sully." Quickly he turned and walked out the door, shutting it behind him. Michaela couldn't help the giggle that escaped from her mouth as she fell into Sully's arms and buried her head in his shirt to keep from laughing out loud. Sully smiled and held her there until she had suppressed the laughter. She lifted her chin and gave him a quick peck on the cheek before gently pushing away. "Colleen's going to be wondering what happened to her tea." She moved over to where Sully had placed the kettle and, finding it still warm, poured it into a mug along with the leaves. "Oh, that reminds me!" Dr. Mike said as she poured in the last of the herbs, "Could you possibly take me out to gather some more leaves tomorrow morning? I suspect they'll be quite a few people complaining of colds - after tonight," she added, her cheeks once again turning a slight shade of crimson at the remembrance of Sully standing with her in the rain. She kept her face turned away so he wouldn't see.
It was no use. Sully came up and put his arms around her and whispered in her ear, "I'd be happy t-" From the back room Brian called out "Goodnight Sully!" Michaela covered her face with her hands as she laughed once more at the impeccable timing of her children. Behind her, Sully buried his face in her hair and laughed right along with her. Finally they both straightened up and Sully said, "Well, it certainly was a night, but I oughta be goin'. See ya tomorrow, Dr. Mike." She cringed slightly at the use of her common nickname, but presumed he didn't notice as he kissed her cheek and headed for the door. "Sully?" she asked, and he paused to look back at her. Realizing she didn't have any excuse to have him stay she said, "Goodnight."
He smiled. "Goodnight, Michaela." With that he walked into the night air and closed the door behind him. Michaela shivered as she stood there staring at the door, though whether it was from the cold or the thrill of having Sully pronounce her name so tenderly she couldn't say. Snapping out of her delight, she picked up the mug and walked to Colleen's room. There she found the girl lying on her bed fast asleep; the blankets tucked in closely around her. Dr. Mike walked over and sat on the bed. "Colleen," she whispered.
"Hmmm?" came the drowsy reply.
"Here," Michaela said as she gently helped raise her daughter's head to the mug. "This will help you feel better in the morning." Slowly Colleen swallowed the Indian tea and then laid her head back down onto the pillow. Michaela softly stood and blew out the candle. She was almost out of the room when she heard Colleen say to her, "It's good about you and Sully, Ma. I'm ... I'm," she yawned, "I'm glad you two ... found each other ... I'm glad we're back." She rolled over and drifted off. Michaela smiled, and, as she walked away, she whispered to herself, "Me too."
* * * * *
"Whoa!" Matthew called to the horses as the wagon rolled to a stop in front of the clinic. He jumped out and then held his arms out to help Dr. Mike down from her seat. "Thank you, Matthew," she said as she grabbed her medicine bag with one hand while lifting her skirts above the mud with the other. The rain may have done wonders for the crops in the fields, but it most certainly didn't help the condition of the dirt streets in town.
"Bye Ma!" Brian and Colleen hollered in unison as they jumped off the back of the wagon and joined their friends on the way to school. Michaela followed them with her eyes and couldn't help the smile that came to her face when she saw Brian already splashing through the puddles and the mud caking the bottom of his trousers. By the looks of things, she'd be doing non-stop laundry for weeks until the mud dried.
Matthew jumped back up into the wagon and said to her, "I'll be back later on this afternoon, Dr. Mike. I ... got plans. Uh -" he looked down and took off his hat before running his fingers through his hair, "Is it okay if I invite...someone...for dinner?"
Michaela smiled to herself. Matthew had hardly left Ingrid's side since they'd arrived back from Boston. And, after feeling somewhat jealous of the happiness the young couple found in each other, she now shared the same thing with Sully. "Of course, Matthew. I'll see you this evening. And," she gave him a sly side-smile, "say hi to Ingrid for me." Startled, Matthew looked up, but Michaela had already turned the key in the door to the clinic and was closing it behind her. He sat there for a moment before realization hit him and he chuckled as he shook the reins and took off down the street.
Inside, Michaela set down her bag, hung up her coat, and began to prepare for the day ahead. Walking to the cabinet she saw with dismay that almost all the cold medicine was gone and there were hardly any tea leaves left. On the floor by the doorway a basket contained the freshly washed linens for the beds - none of the recovery rooms were suitable for any patients who might come in with fevers and need to lie down in a bed. With determination, the doctor pushed up her sleeves and set to work. She made up all the beds, straightened up the rooms, and started a list of all the new supplies she would need from Denver with the cold weather settling in. As she sat over her desk compiling the list she heard a knock at the door. Oh good, she thought, that will be Horace with the medicine from Chicago. The stagecoach must have just come in. She hurried to the door and threw it open. "Thank you, Horace, I-" she began. A look of disappointment filled her eyes for a moment before she bashfully smiled and looked to the floor.
"Well, that's some welcome, I guess. Sorry to disappoint you," Sully said with a light tone in his voice. "I'll just go an' get Horace for ya and come back later when," he looked all around the room, "you're not so busy."
"Oh Sully!" she said with exasperation as she grabbed his hand and pulled him into the clinic, shutting the door behind him. "I'm sorry. I thought Horace had come with the mail and ..." Her voice trailed off as she saw the light gleaming in his eyes. She gave him a coy smile, "I must say, though, I'm glad it was you instead."
"Well, I should hope so," Sully responded with a gruff voice, "otherwise I'd be havin' some serious words with Horace right 'bout now. The nerve o' the guy, stealin' a fella's girl right under his nose." Michaela laughed and threw her arms around his neck.
She asked coolly, "What's the matter, Sully? Surely you're not jealous of the attentions of other men, are you?" She ran her hands through his hair. "Though I must say, it is awfully flattering to a girl to have a man stick up for her in such a manner." He raised his eyebrow at her and said, "Well, if that's the case, maybe I just oughta let you out more often. It could help me more 'n I know."
She playfully pushed him away. "Oh no you don't!" Sully said as he reached for her arms and pinned her to his chest. "Not now that I just figgered out how ta keep ya!"
"Oh you just 'figgered it out,' did you?" Michaela asked with sarcasm in her voice. "Well, in lieu of that, maybe I should just fight harder to make sure you don't get arrogant, then, shouldn't I?" She jutted her chin out to emphasize the point.
"Hmmm... you could do that, huh? Well, I guess I'll just have to keep you all to myself and away from any o' those other attentions, mmm?" He lifted her chin up to look her in the eye.
"I guess so," she whispered as she melted under his stare and felt her knees grow weak. He bent his head down and brought his lips to hers. Michaela felt her head spinning and the thrill of his kiss sent chills up and down her spine. As they slowly pulled away, she looked into his eyes and couldn't imagine how this man could stir such strong feelings and affection in her. She loved him so much, and the knowledge that the love was mutual sent butterflies to her stomach.
"Whatcha thinkin'?" Sully asked seeing the glazed look across her face.
"Mmm, nothing, just ... thinking ..." Michaela said as she rested her head against his chest.
"Just...how happy I am ... and ..." She sighed, "how wonderful everything is. It feels so good to be home ... and it wasn't as hard to leave Boston as it was when I was younger ... and to finally have some type of understanding with mother ... and now Matthew and Ingrid can be together again ... and ... well ... us." There was a moment of silence while each reflected on the events that had brought them together again. But Michaela continued, "and then the rain -"
Sully snapped his fingers. Startled out of her reverie, Michaela looked at him quizzically. "Well, ya know how you said people'd be gettin' sick an' all? 'Cause o' the rain?"
"Oh! The herbs!" She put her hand to her mouth. "Oh, Sully...I completely forgot!"
"Well, so did I, apparently ... Miss Dorothy's waitin' outside with a fever. I told her I'd come in an' get ya ... I, uh ... musta got sidetracked." He gave her an amused smile but there was apology in his voice for his forgetfulness.
"Sully! How long has she been out there for?" she asked as she pulled away and grabbed her shawl to go outside. Sully stepped to the door first and opened it for her with a bow. Michaela rolled her eyes but smiled graciously at him as she hurried out. Dorothy sat on the bench with her hand to her head, drowsily watching the morning traffic go by. "Oh, Dorothy, I'm so sorry!" Dr. Mike quickly apologized as she sat down beside her friend and took her hands. She gave Sully a look with just a tint of humor in it. "I didn't know you were waiting."
"Oh, it's no problem, Michaela. I don't mind." She smiled to herself as she thought of how Sully had been so eager to see Dr. Mike just as she was about to enter. It was so good to see those two together and so content with each other. She was happy to give them some more time together. Besides, she wasn't too sick. "I - I just wanted to stop by and see if you had anything for this fever of mine. I feel hot one minute and cold the next. And my stomach just don't feel right, neither."
"Why don't you come in and rest awhile? I'll fix you some tea. I'm afraid I don't have much. Sully and I are heading out to gather some more. But I can give you what I have. It should help settle your stomach." Dorothy shivered and nodded her head in thanks. "Here, let's get you inside where it's warm. Sully?"
Sully approached from his position by the door and offered his arm to Dorothy. "Miss Dorothy?"
Dorothy gathered up her strength and, relying heavily on Sully, stood weakly by his side. Her head spun and her legs felt like jelly, but she managed a tight 'Thank you,' as he walked her towards the door. Yet he paused momentarily as he flashed Michaela a loving smile. She ducked her head, blushing, and followed behind them in silence.
Sully led Dorothy upstairs to one of the recovery rooms and Dr. Mike quickly helped her get comfortable. "You're going to be fine, Dorothy, you just need some rest, that's all. I'll go get you your tea and another pillow. You just lay back and relax, all right?" Taking the slight murmur from Dorothy as a yes, Dr. Mike turned and ushered Sully out of the room with her. They went downstairs and Michaela marched over to the cupboard to get the leaves Cloud Dancing had given her.
"Sully, would you please go get a pillow and a blanket from the closet for Dorothy while I go get some water?" she asked as she grabbed a glass from a table.
"Thank you. Now, I need...wait, what did you say? Why ever not?" It came as such a shock to have Sully not take up a task to help someone.
He walked over to where she stood holding the cup and took it out of her hands. "I know about you and boiling water," he said with a grin. "I'll get the water. You stay here with Miss Dorothy. I'll be right back." He gave her lips a quick kiss and then abruptly turned to go to Grace's for water. Michaela stood there awe-struck for a moment before giving a short laugh and heading for the closet.
* * * * *
"Dorothy gonna be okay?" Sully asked as he and Michaela rode their horses through the woods together to gather plants. There had been so many patients coming in that they didn't get a chance to go out for more leaves until the afternoon.
"Yes, she should be fine as far as I can tell. Seems just like an ordinary fever. Fourteen other patients came in with the same thing today. And several others with horrible colds. I wish everyone wouldn't have stayed out there so late in the rain last night. It's not healthy."
Sully nudged his horse over closer to Dr. Mike's and leaned in to whisper in her ear. "Oh, I dunno about that...I certainly found it healthy, and rather enjoyin' if ya ask me." He reached up and brushed a hair back from under the brim of her hat.
She turned to give him a playful glare. "Well, Mr. Sully, I wasn't intending to ask you!"
He still leaned over close to her and said, "Ya know, your face looks real pretty in the rain."
"Sully!" Michaela's cheeks went bright red.
"Not that it ain't always the prettiest face I ever saw anyways. You just cast this whole glow around you ... and the rain makes your hair cling real nice around your face, too."
"Sully, I think that's enough -"
"An' yer eyes sparkle with this little light..."
"What? You're real pretty. What's the matter?" Sully raised his eyebrows innocently.
Michaela simply rolled her eyes and continued riding at a faster pace. Without hesitating Sully brought his horse up equal to hers and kept his gaze straight ahead. Mike looked at him with a smile and wide eyes. Teasingly, she sped up slightly to put Flash a length ahead of Sully. Immediately Sully came up beside her once more. The game went on until they were almost galloping. As Sully once again pulled up next to her, Michaela yanked back on the reins and came to a stop. Sully looked back at her and did the same thing.
"What's the matter? Flash can't go any faster than that?" he asked with a smirk.
She pulled back and raised an eyebrow at the challenge. "Surely you must be forgetting who you're dealing with, young man!" she said sarcastically. " 'This 'ere's the fastest darn 'orse in all the territories, and don't you be forgettin' it!' " she said, talking like a cowboy and pulling her hat down sharply, almost over her eyes, to emphasize her words.
Sully walked his horse back towards her until he was next to her and facing her. He remembered the Colorado Territory race all to well - particularly the sight of Michaela with her hair pulled up under her hat in men's clothes. "Oh, you don't need ta go into all that again, Dr. Mike. I was there, remember? 'You got anymore o' that great licorice-tasting tobacca left fer me?" he asked, playing along with her mock accent. She stuck her tongue out at him, but just as she did so, Sully reached over and grabbed her hat off her head. Michaela's hands flew up to smooth down her hair, and just as a hint of anger came into her eyes, Sully turned and sped his horse up the trail. He held her hat dangling precariously to the side in his outstretched hand, taunting that he would drop it down the mountain and letting Michaela know that she would have to catch him in order to get it back.
"Oh, so that's the way it's going to be, now, is it?" She hollered as he disappeared from her sight around a bend. "Come on Flash! Let's go!" She dug in her heels and raced after him. "Sully! You can't run for long! We're coming!"
She reached the end of the trail in hardly any time at all, yet Sully was not there. She turned Flash around to look back down the trail, but he wasn't there either. Helplessly, she gazed out across the great span of Colorado, an endless sea of mountains as far as the eye could see. Yet in the sky to the west she saw storm clouds racing in fast. At the thought of more rain mixed with the winter chill in the mountains Michaela shuddered. She had to find Sully and get home. The medicine could wait for tomorrow. The only problem was she had no idea how to find Sully. The thought scared her, but she knew that her best method of getting home safely was to have Sully take her there. She'd never ridden this trail on her own, and in the dark of the closing evening she wasn't sure she could find her way off it.
A wave of fear passed over her. All of the sudden the forest became alive to her. The roar of a mountain lion sounded in the distance ... branches snapped on the ground in the trees next to her ... an owl screeched at her ... there was no peace. Her stomach felt uneasy. "Sully?" Her voice sounded strange to her and very out of place on the mountaintop. Yet he was her only hope at this point. Where could he have gone? He wouldn't have left her...she was sure of that. But did he know where she was?
"Sully? I know you're out there! Please! I ... look I give up, all right? You win ... you can keep the hat if you like ... just ... Sully? I - I'm frightened. Please come out. I - Sully? Please!" She felt tears welling up in her eyes. This is ridiculous! Why am I crying? I know he'll come ... I trust him ... I'm sure he knows where I am ... he'll be along shortly ... I just have to be patient. Slowly she tried to calm herself down. She gently nudged Flash forward to head back down the trail. The horse took a few sturdy steps, then suddenly became skittish and started to prance her feet around. Dr. Mike crouched over the horse's neck to calm her down. "Flash! Flash, what is it? Whoa, girl, shhh! It's all right! What is it, Flash?" A low growl was her answer.
Startled, Michaela looked up and found herself staring straight into the eyes of a black beast. The bear was poised on its hind feet, obviously ready for a meal to stock up before the long winter. Flash reared up, throwing Michaela off balance. She threw her arms around the horse's neck and held on for dear life. Even with Flash up on her heels, the bear still stood a head taller and he knew it. He opened his mouth to the evening sky and let out another growl, this one seeming to echo deep down in the pit of Mike's stomach as he came down on all fours. Oh my gosh ... there's no way out of this, is there? We can't get past him down the trail; he's blocking it. There's no point in trying to dodge whatever strike he makes; we'll either go straight into a tree or off the edge of the mountain. I could let Flash go and she'd distract him, but I still wouldn't have an escape and I'd be stuck out here without a horse ... and I'm not going to sacrifice Flash anyway. If I stay mounted, I'm trapped when he attacks. If I get off, Flash will spook for sure and there's no telling what she'll do. Oh, God, please help us! We're trapped! We're going to die, aren't we?
There was a moment of silence. Both sides seemed to analyze the other. Michaela's thoughts were running wild through her head. Thoughts of escape, thoughts of death, thoughts of Boston, her friends, her children ... Sully. Flash was still prancing around beneath her, though Mike calmly and soothingly stroked her neck. She kept her eyes on the bear. The bear kept its eyes on her. Her reflexes were sharp, but she had no idea as to what she would do once the bear jumped. She heard its loud and ragged breathing ... she felt Flash's pulse pounding under her hands ... she could hear her own heart throbbing in her ears ... she heard the nearby call of a bird.
Everything was tense. Her eyes were glued to the quivering nose of the bear. She heard the same birdcall again. Odd, she thought, it's late for the birds to be singing. I don't here any others out. Her ears were now acutely tuned to the sound and she tilted her head slightly to hear it again. As if on cue, the call came, somewhat louder this time, and the tune was different and longer. Not wanting to alert the bear, Michaela slightly pursed her lips and let out a soft, low, whistle. The same whistle came back to her a moment later. She felt her heart leap for joy. She knew Sully was in the trees beside the trail. From his position he was in between her and the bear. She knew he wouldn't let anything happen to her. She trusted him with her life - and she loved him for being there for her.
But she now had the awkward task of waiting longer. She had no idea what Sully would do. Hopefully he wouldn't take it upon himself to wrestle the bear - though she wouldn't be surprised if he did ... and won as well. There didn't seem to be many other options. If he wasn't going to fight the beast, Sully would have to scare him off. Maybe she could help there. If Sully could divert the bear's attention, she and Flash could ... well ... what could they do? She knew she had to help. And obviously she didn't want to do anything before she found out what Sully was planning on doing. He couldn't speak to her - the animal would find out he was there - but maybe she could talk to him ... if she didn't startle the bear in the process.
Timidly she spoke out, "Sully?" She was answered with a short call of a bird. She continued almost breathlessly so as not to arouse suspicion, "Sully, what do you want me to do?" There was no reply. Of course not, Michaela! What did you expect? Him to just walk out and tell you *and* the bear the whole plan? Look, just stick to yes/no questions. Quickly she corrected her question, "Answer me if you want me to move Flash." Another quick whistle came. "Where?" No response. Michaela could've kicked herself. Something he can answer to! "Closer to you?" Silence. For a moment she thought he was gone. "Away from you?" A birdcall. Still speaking as softly as she could, she asked, "Back? Away from the bear as well?"
As if he had heard his name, the bear let out an ugly growl. He came up on his hind legs again, but just as he did a crushing of leaves sounded as a huge tree branch swung horizontally from the brush on the side of the trail and caught the bear full in the stomach. Sharply, Michaela yanked back on the reins and tried to cling tightly as Flash stumbled backwards. Her eyes frantically searched the trees where the branch had come from and where Sully was hiding, yet she couldn't see a thing.
The bear groaned and fell forward to land on his front feet. The breath was knocked out of him and he was angry, but he couldn't see his attacker through the protection of the tree brush. He staggered a little as he turned to look back at where Michaela and Flash stood, then, with one weary glance into the shadows where Sully hid, he turned and walked away.
Michaela didn't realize she'd been holding her breath. She let it all out in one big sigh and sank out of the saddle to find Sully. As she walked forward, Sully climbed wearily out of the trees, peeling the leaves out of his hair.
"Oh, Sully!" Michaela cried as she ran towards him. He jerked his head up at the sound of her voice and opened his arms with a smile. Gladly, she sank into them and Sully held her tightly and stroked her hair.
"Shhh...it's all right now...you're safe...I'm here, it's okay...shhh..."
Michaela couldn't help the tears that poured out of her eyes. "Oh, Sully, I was so frightened! I thought ... I thought -" she sobbed.
"Shhh ... never mind that ... it's all over ... everythin's okay ..." Sully held her and comforted her for what seemed like hours. He cradled her in his arms and dried her tears. Finally she sniffled and pulled her head up to look into his warm eyes.
"Thank you, Sully ... it seems I really have come to depend on you, haven't I?" she asked with a tear-stained smile.
"I don't mind a bit..." He reached into the trees behind him and pulled out her hat. "Glad to be o' service ma'am," he teased as he plopped it on her head and flicked the brim up. He leaned in and whispered softly, "I'd like ta see Horace wrestle a bear single-handed like that." Michaela laughed before her eyes once again filled with tears at the memory of her narrow escape. If Sully hadn't been there ...
Sully watched the expressions flooding over her face. Her lower lip quivered with fear and her eyes were shimmering. He had come so close to losing her so many times that he wasn't sure he could deal with much more of the pain. Quickly he pushed the thoughts from his mind and grinned down at her. "Ya know, you're real pretty when you're cryin' too." Shyly, Michaela smiled and rested her head against his chest. She closed her eyes and took deep breaths. Sully simply held her close until her breathing returned to normal.
At last she pulled back, gave his hand a caring squeeze, then walked over to where Flash was beginning to cool down from her scare. Michaela gave her neck a tender pat before Sully came over to help her up into the saddle. He checked to make sure she was up and comfortable, then he took hold of the reins and began to lead the horse and Michaela down the trail.
"Sully, where's your horse?" Michaela asked as they walked along.
He nodded his head further down the path. "Down a ways. Figgered I'd come lookin' for ya on foot. Easier that way." That was all that was said as they walked on in silence. When they came to the spot that Sully's horse was tied, he handed Michaela her reins and mounted his horse. They kept on without saying anything - just reflecting on everything that had occurred. They heard the distant rumble of thunder occasionally, though nothing was mentioned of it.
Finally, as they came nearer to town, Michaela broke the silence. "Sully ... I just wanted to say thank you ... for everything. Once more, I don't know what I would've done if you hadn't been there."
Sully kept his eyes straight ahead as they rode side by side. He gave a little chuckle. "I musta sat there for ages calling like a bird with its head chopped off. I knew that bear was takin' it's own sweet time, so I just tried ta call you an' hoped ya'd recognize it. Got so quiet at one point I thought the bear knew it was me."
"Where'd you learn to mimic that bird?" Michaela asked curiously.
"It's what the Cheyenne taught me. Each man has a birdcall to use so the enemy or prey won't realize there's anyone around durin' a raid or a hunt. I got mine from one time I was up in the mountains. It was just after I'd come to live with the Cheyenne. I got lost, prob'ly would 'a died out there if this bird hadn't kept singin' as it headed off in some direction. I just up an' followed it, an' it led me back to the village. So I chose its song as my call." He threw Michaela a glance. "An' it looks like it works, I guess."
It sounded like a reasonable thing to her. She wouldn't mind having her own method of communication. "Do the women have birdcalls as well?" Sully laughed and pulled his horse to a stop to look at her.
"I should 'a known you'd ask that."
"What? It's a perfectly sensible question! I don't see why the men should have a safe alternative to talking in the woods and the women should simply rely on the men! It isn't practical," she argued as she jutted out her chin for emphasis.
Sully shook his head. "There's no fightin' you, Dr. Mike. If ya want me to teach you a birdcall, I will. All ya gotta do is ask." Michaela bit her lip. She hated it when Sully relented and gave her her way so easily. It made her feel guilty about pushing him into something. As if reading her mind, Sully added, "I don't mind at all ... like ya said, it's a good thing to know if you're gonna be out in the woods."
She smiled at him and nodded her okay.
"All right then, I'll teach ya. How's tomorrow sound?"
"Can't you teach me now?" Michaela didn't want to return back to town just yet. She wanted to spend more time with Sully. She felt so safe when she was with him. Besides, she wasn't ready to explain her adventure to everyone.
Sully glanced up at the sky. The clouds were coming in dark and ominous. "Looks like it's gonna start to rain soon."
"Oh please, Sully? I - I don't want to go back to town right now. Couldn't we just stay out a little longer?"
He gave her a weary look, then smiled at her and nodded his head. He jumped off his horse and tied the reins to a nearby tree. He walked back to Michaela and held his arms up to help her down. She slid off and he kept his hands at her waist. She gazed up into his eyes and gave him a sideways smile. With one hand he pushed her hat back a little further on her head and then lifted her chin slightly as he brought his lips down to meet hers. It was a long and tender kiss. Neither wanted to break it. Finally Sully pulled back ever so slowly and rested his forehead against hers. His hands caressed her cheeks and she held onto his arms. "I love you," she whispered.
"I love you back," he answered as he once more gave her a loving kiss. At last they broke apart and Sully led Flash over to the same tree his horse was tied and did the same to Flash. Then he came back and took Michaela's hand. They walked a ways off the trail and finally they sat down on a large rock overlooking the town. They sat and listened to the sounds around them for awhile, intently focused on the nature and beauty surrounding them.
Sully turned to look at her, immediately awed by her striking profile. She felt his eyes on her and turned and gave him a caring smile. He snapped out of his reverie and said, "Ya know, there aren't gonna be many birds out here ta pick for your sound."
Michaela sighed and turned back to gaze at the view before them. "I suppose you're right. It was foolish of me to have you stop for this. I guess we should just -"
Suddenly, Sully covered her mouth with his hand. She turned her startled eyes to him to question his actions. He put his other hand up to his ear to tell her to listen. She drew quiet as she tuned her ears to the noises around her. Immediately she heard the sweet song of a winter bird. Sully took his hand from her mouth as her eyes grew wide with pleasure and her mouth stretched out to form a smile. They sat and listened to the tune until a clap of thunder arose and the bird stopped its song. They were silent for a moment to see if the bird would continue, but it was gone.
"Oh, Sully! It was such a beautiful song! Oh, I wish I had that for my call!"
Sully shrugged. "Why not?"
She looked at him with amazement. "You mean - you could teach me to sing that song?"
Michaela threw her arms around him. "Thank you Sully! Wasn't that the most beautiful thing you've ever heard?"
Sully just smiled and patted her head. Then he gently pushed her away so she was facing him. He kept his hands on her shoulders. "Okay. First off, I want ya to hum it for me." She cleared her throat and timidly began to hum as much as she could remember of the song. For a moment Sully sat mesmerized by how beautiful and clear her voice was. As she stopped he leaned over and gave her a quick kiss on her cheek.
"What was that for?" she asked, blushing.
He simply smiled and ignored the question. "All right. Now I want you to whistle that same tune."
Michaela followed his instructions and pursed her lips. When she had finished, Sully took her hands and positioned them to form a cup around her mouth. "Now, open up your lips a little more and whistle into your hands." Michaela nodded and blew. A long and loud stream of air came out. She burst into laughter at the sound and covered her face with her hands. When she brought them down and smiled at Sully, he gave her a pat on the cheek and then replaced her hands over her mouth. They worked on her call for almost half an hour until it was perfected. Michaela's lips were swollen from blowing through them for so long, her head felt dizzy from losing so much air, and Sully was beginning to get a headache from the consistent whistle in his ears. Once they were both satisfied and had whistled their calls back and forth to each other, they held hands and walked back to where the horses were tied.
As Sully helped her up onto Flash, Michaela leaned down and gave him a kiss. "Thank you."
Sully smiled up at her. "You're welcome. Now whenever you're in trouble, just call for me and listen real close - you'll hear my call." He reached up and took hold of her hand. He held it in both of his and gave it a tender kiss. Then he gallantly bowed, turned, and jumped onto his horse. He gave Michaela a charming smile as she put her hand to her lips and blew him a kiss. With another rumble of thunder roaring behind them, they trotted off together, now tied together more closely than ever. And Michaela would have a whole other adventure to look forward to tomorrow when she and Sully went out once more to gather the herbs for her tea.