For personal use and select distribution only (c) November 1998 by Cathy Ellison

This story was inspired by a large carved bird that I have seen both in the original homestead from the old stories and in the new homestead in recent stories. For the sake of my story, I have decided that this bird is a hawk. The story evolved into two parts. Part I occurs very early in Michaela and Sully's relationship. Part II is an extension of the story "One Touch of Nature".

They Mate for Life
by Cathy Ellison


KkeeerrrKkeeeeeerrrreeee. . . .

"Sully, what's that noise?" Michaela and Sully were walking in the woods above the homestead gathering herbs for her medicines.

"Why, that's a red-tailed hawk, Dr. Mike. You've heard them before."

"I know, but never like that before. Why is it flying up so high and making so much noise?"

"Because it's courtin'."


"You do know what that means don't you? Don't they do things like that in Boston?" Sully asked jeeringly. Sometimes it irritated him that she so often often acted more like a gauche teenager than a mature woman. He wondered how "mature" she really was.

"Of course I know what courting is. I just didn't realize it was something birds did." Sometimes Sully made her feel really angry because he acted like she was a child, a not very bright child.

"Courtin' is real important for that hawk, because when he finds his mate, they'll mate for life."

"For life? . . . even if something happens to one of them?"

"Yup" Sully stated succinctly as he started to walk away.

Michaela had to hurry to catch up with Sully; she found him sitting on a log looking out over the stream. "Sully, do you think people are like hawks?"


The next day Michaela and Olive were sitting on the bench in front of the clinic. "Olive, would you tell me about Abagail and about Sully's life with her?"


"Because sometimes, living in her house, I feel her presence around me, but she's just out of reach. I think she would have been a friend. I'd like to know, that's all."

Olive looked at her friend and considered for awhile. Finally she began, "I'm sure you would have been friends. Abagail didn't put labels on people or try to keep them in their place. She liked everyone and 'most everyone liked her. She was younger than Sully -- 18 to his 25 when they married and just 22 when she died. Sully was working at the silver mine but he wanted to quit, to be able to stay near Abagail. He didn't know what else he could do, but he knew he wanted to work closer to home. Abagail had lost a couple of babies before she got pregnant with Hannah. When we knew she was going to go full term we were all so happy. We had no way of knowing they would both die. Sully blamed himself. He felt the miscarriages should have made him stop trying to have a family. After Abagail and Hannah died, Sully believed he wasn't meant to be part of a family. You need to understand, for all their troubles, they never lost sight of the love they had for each other. Loren hated it. It was the only time Abagail had ever defied him. Loren had picked out a husband for Abagail. As soon as Abagail saw Sully, she fell in love with him. Sully was thrilled -- she was more than he'd ever hoped for. When Abagail died, Sully gave up all hope of ever having a normal family life. He is a sad and bitter man."

"Thanks for telling me that, Olive."

Sully had taken Brain and Matthew fishing, so Michaela had invited him to stay for dinner. Sully kept watching Michaela with the children. He could see how much she had changed, was still changing. When the three Cooper children had first come to live with her, Michaela had been very stiff and ill at ease with them. Now he watched her as she freely hugged and caressed her children, laughing with them, teaching them, loving them.

When Sully was ready to leave, Michaela walked out on the porch with him. "Colorado has really changed you Dr. Mike," Sully said. "I don't know if any of your Boston friends would recognize you now."

The two thoughts warred in Michaela's mind. How had she changed and what did he mean by "Boston friends"? If she was honest with herself, her truest friends were all from Colorado Springs - - especially Sully.

"You're a lot more comfortable with Colleen, Brian and Matthew than when they first came to live with you," Sully continued, thinking again about the pleasant evening he had just spent with the family.

"That's true. In Boston I was so busy trying to get established as a doctor that I didn't pay much attention to children. My sisters are all married and I have lots of nieces and nephews, but I never spent any time with them, never got to know them. After the children came to live with me, I wrote my mother asking for advice; she told me to return to Boston, find a husband, and have children of my own."

"Is that such a bad idea?"

"Only the part about returning to Boston."

"So there are no broken-hearted men moping around Boston because you're here?" Sully was uneasy about the turn this conversation was taking and wanted to steer it to a safer topic. He thought his little joke might help.

"No, the only broken heart was mine, and it followed me to Colorado Springs."

That certainly was not the answer Sully was looking for. Was she talking about her father or someone else? "Have you ever been in love?" he finally asked.

"Yes, I was engaged to be married. David and I had known each other since we started working at the hospital together. He respected me and accepted me as a doctor. We had the same causes -- fighting against slavery, for example. We wrote speeches and attended rallies. I thought we would have a wonderful life -- partners in work, in our beliefs, in our love, in our family . . ." Michaela's voice just faded away as her mind moved back to before the War, to a different time when her life had been completely different.

"So, what happened?" Sully asked, not sure he really wanted to know.

"He got killed in the War." Michaela was quiet for a moment and then, without knowing why, she continued. "I don't want to be like you Sully. I don't want to think that David was my 'mate for life'! Maybe you can accept Abagail as your only chance for love because you were married for a while, you lived your dream. Mine is still trapped in my imagination. I'd hate to think that's as close as I'll come to love."

Not knowing what to say, or how to get out of this conversation, Sully sneered "Is that why you flirt with every man you meet?" Sully didn't understand why he felt so angry as he stalked off. Michaela didn't understand why his anger made her so sad.

Michaela and Sully didn't see much of each other after that. Occasionally, Michaela would catch a glimpse of Sully at the Reservation when she went to see Cloud Dancing. She didn't feel she could talk to Cloud Dancing about Sully, it might be like asking one friend to betray another. Cloud Dancing was aware of what was happening with his friends. He wondered when they would realize it too and what they would do when they did.

About six weeks later, after the children had gone to bed, Michaela was startled to hear a knock on the door. Fearing some emergency was going to pull her away from home, her first thought was of Sully. If he were around, he could watch the children for her. She was both surprised and relieved when she discovered Sully at her door.

"Sully, what is it?" she whispered, not wanting to wake Brain, who was a very restless sleeper.

"I brought something for you. Would you come out on the porch please?"

Michaela grabbed her shawl and met Sully on the porch. There, by the light of the full moon, she saw a beautiful carved hawk. "Sully, it's wonderful. Did you carve it yourself?" As Sully shook his head in the affirmative, Michaela looked at it again. "It looks so proud and ready to take off. I wonder what it's thinking? . . ." Michaela mused.

Sully had never had an easy time expressing himself. Now in front of this incredibly cultured and beautiful woman, he felt as if he would choke on the words he had been thinking of as he carved the hawk.

"Michaela. . .". She started and turned around wonderingly. Sully had never called her "Michaela" before. "I don't know if people are like hawks - if they mate for life. I don't know if I can ever find love or even if I want to find love again. Yet I feel that you need to find love again. So I want you to take this hawk and just put it away somewhere. I don't want you to give it a place of honor in your house, because I don't know where it belongs. Maybe someday, you and your husband will put it in a place of honor in your home. That is where I really want to see it some day."

Michaela didn't know what to say. Sully had never spoken so much to her before. He was telling her he hoped David wasn't her "mate for life" but that she would some day marry. He was telling her he didn't know where he fit in her life, whether as a husband or a friend. He was telling her he wanted to be in her life some where. Michaela couldn't know either. Her thoughts were as confused as Sully's. She thought, she hoped, she wanted more than friendship from him. She thought of him like the hawk -- noble and free -- and she knew she would accept whatever part of him he was willing to give. She would take this hawk and put it on a shelf in the kitchen. She would dream on it, but she wouldn't push Sully on it. Hopefully, one day everything would be clear to both of them.

"Thank you, Sully. This is truly beautiful and I love everything the hawk represents.

Part II
Thanksgiving evening, 1870

Sully relaxed after lighting a fire in the living room fireplace. He looked to the stairs -- on the second floor Michaela was helping the excited children get ready for bed. It had been a tremendous day. It had begun with Michaela and him reaching an agreement over their pregnancy fears -- hers that she could never conceive and his that something might happen to her if she did. Then there was the Thanksgiving dinner at the Reservation and finally Michaela arriving with the news that she was already pregnant, she just hadn't realized it. Sully reflected on how incredibly happy he was. After Abagail had died he didn't think he could ever be happy again. Now he had a nice home, a beautiful wife, two adopted children and another child on the way. He knew that if Abagail was still alive, he would still be in love with her and he would be content with his life. But there was a different dimension in his love for Michaela. Somehow, it was deeper, stronger . . . Finally Michaela was coming down the stairs. As Sully stared at her incredibly happy face, he thought of how he had been holding himself away from her for the last week. Trying to ignore the occasional tremor of fear her pregnancy caused him, he smiled to himself that what he had been trying to prevent was already an accomplished fact. He planned to show Michaela a newer, more tender aspect to their lovemaking tonight (although it would be torture after resisting her for so long) so that she would know physically as well as intellectually that they weren't going to hurt the baby. The baby -- what an incredible, wonderful thought.

Michaela grew thoughtful as she came downstairs and went to stand by a box Matthew had delivered from the homestead shortly after they had returned from the Reservation. "I'm really glad I saw David again, that he's alive. Spending those days with him so long ago helped me realize that I really had loved him, that if it hadn't been for the War, we would have been married and we would have been happy." Sully was amazed that her thought reflected his own of just a few minutes past. "I can also understand your love for Abagail. I don't try to wonder what she was like and how you could love two totally different women. I appreciate her for making you the wonderful, loving husband that you are."

Sully got up and walked over to stand on the other side of the box and leaning over it gave her a loving kiss. "Can you help me open this Sully?" As Sully used his knife to pry the top off the box, Michaela continued. "My love for you is so strong. Every night I go to sleep thinking I could never love you more, and every morning when I wake up and see you sleeping next to me, my love just grows. Of course, that was before these last three days. . ." Michaela added coyly.

"I intend to make up for that blunder as soon as you tell me about this box," Sully promised.

"Years ago you gave me this" Michaela told him, removing the lid and the protective covering. Sully looked inside and saw the hawk he had carved when he was still fighting his feelings for Michaela. "I kept this on a shelf in the kitchen as I told you I would; but I could not bring myself to bring it here to this home and to put it in a place of honor as you suggested. I kept thinking about your statement that hawks mate for life. I wondered if our marriage, with us both getting a second chance at love, somehow was against the hawk's point of view. You had married Abagail for life. Now I feel that marriage vow was fulfilled. You would have had a good and happy life. I would have married David and continued my life in Boston; and I would have had a good and happy life. Those things didn't happen. I came here, met you and fell in love with you, and more wonderful of all, you fell in love with me. You would have stayed married if Abagail hadn't died. Being married for life has more than one meaning. Besides meaning a length of time it can mean purpose. You gave me a new life, so when we married we too 'mated for life'. Now I have a better life than I ever could have imagined, a stronger love than ever thought possible. We also married 'for life' in order to create life. We're doing that now. Our love has created this new life I'm carrying. Sully, I can't tell you enough how much I love you and how thrilled I am to be able to give you a child. Therefore, now I am ready to put this hawk over our fireplace."

Sully lifted the hawk from the box and placed it on the mantle. He took Michaela in his arms and together they sat in front of the fire. No more words were necessary. Sully and Michaela were so tuned to each other that their thoughts mingled and matched. As their thoughts focused on the baby, they both looked up at the hawk. They turned to each other and were immediately lost in a lingering kiss. The hawk seemed to smile down on the enchanted couple, as they stretched out on the hearth.

The End