For personal use and select distribution only(c) February 1998 by Lee Ann Monat

Author's Note: I had always wondered what their first Married Valentine's Day would have been like, and since the writers didn't show us, I took the liberty to explore that romantic day.

A Valentine's Day to Remember
by Lee Ann Monat

Michaela awoke in the early morning light. The first thing her eyes came to rest on was her engagement ring, sitting next to her wedding band.

It had been one year ago that Sully had placed that diamond on her finger. As if he had sensed what she was thinking, Sully's hand came to rest over her rings. He stroked her hand as he kissed the back of her neck, snuggling her close.

"Mornin'," he said softly into her hair.

"Good Morning," she replied as she clasped his arm more securely in front of her.

"Happy Valentine's Day," he whispered into her ear.

She turned in his arms until her eyes locked with his.

"Happy Valentine's Day," she returned as she kissed him tenderly.

They remained entwined until Michaela became aware of the world around them once again. She had a tendency to lose herself during these moments alone with her husband.

"I should get up and start breakfast for the children."

"No need," he said, continuing to hold her close.

"Why not?" she questioned, a bit confused.

"Because they're with Matthew. He came to get them a little while ago."

"I thought I heard a wagon, but it was so cozy in here I didn't pay much attention," she said, still not realizing what Sully had done.

"Michaela, don't ya get it? Today, it's just me and you," he said as he leaned in to kiss her, "Surprise."

"Oh, Sully..." she breathed after the kiss.

"So, whatever you want to do , we'll do it," he said seductively.

She considered it for a moment, and then said, "You know, it isn't often that we get the whole house to ourselves, why don't we take advantage of it?"

"Sounds good to me."

"Why don't we start by sleeping in to an ungodly hour," she said, feeling incredibly comfortable in his arms.

"Sleepin'?" he questioned with a smile.


His kiss cut off her words.

Much later, when Michaela had finally gotten out of bed and made her way down the stairs, she noticed that Sully had prepared a bath for her in the kitchen. She smiled as she slipped off her nightgown and stepped in to the heavenly, warm water. It wasn't often that she could enjoy a quiet bath, and after the baby was born, she knew it would be even longer until she and Sully would be able to be alone. As she thought this, she heard him approach from behind. She had been washing her neck, but he happily took over the task.

"I remember the first time I did this for ya," he said, remembering the cattle drive they had gone on when they were engaged.

"So do told me how beautiful you had thought my hair was the first time you saw me," she said, the memory of his words still touching her.

"The most beautiful, long brown hair I ever saw..." he said as he kissed her neck.

"I never dreamed, that first day I saw you, that you would be helping me with my bath one day." Michaela said with a laugh.

"I dreamt about you after that day...but I thought that dreamin' about doing this was all I'd ever do. I never thought that I'd be married to that beautiful woman I saw lying face down in the mud." Sully said with a laugh of his own. He loved to tease her about that fall.

They both laughed together as Sully encircled her with his bare arms, remembering that day, and what joy fate had brought to them since.

The bath took longer than usual since Sully was helping. He didn't rush, or miss an opportunity to kiss his wife. He loved doing things for her---especially things like this, a job reserved for the husband. He loved being her husband. It was a job he had taken on quite enthusiastically.

Sully helped her out of the tub when the bath could not go on any longer, because the water had gotten cold, and Michaela was getting all pruny.

So, he wrapped her securely in a soft towel, and proceeded to help her back upstairs...back to their bedroom. When they entered, Sully steered Michaela toward her dressing table, and had her sit down as he reached for another towel to dry her hair. Then he got her hair brush, and began to untangle the brown waves. This was his favorite job. After all the years he had admired her from afar and wished he could run his fingers through her hair...being able to touch it any time he wanted was still like a gift to him.

Michaela watched as her husband ran the brush through her hair. He had such an adoring look on his face. It still amazed her how loving and considerate he was (It didn't surprise her, because deep down she had always known him to be a caring man, but it always amazed her that she had him in her life).

Michaela was aware of the fact that he was also a very strong, masculine, honorable, person. She was sure that most people thought him to be tough, rugged, and intimidating---a man of few words. After all, she had thought these things that first day in Loren's store, but after knowing him for a short time realized he was a very caring, sensitive individual. As for being a man of few words, that was usually true, but his few words held more, and meant more to her than most people's entire conversations. Although there were many people he wouldn't converse with, he had always been able to speak to her, and for this she had always felt special. She couldn't believe she had fought the love she felt, though he had fought it in the beginning as well. It seems they had both fought a losing battle. Michaela felt truly blessed as she watched him now, grateful that he had come into her life, and honored that she was carrying his child.

"Michaela?" Sully said, breaking her reverie.

"Hmm?" she answered, focusing on the present once again.

"I asked you what you wanted to wear, unless you had planned on stayin' in that wet towel for the rest of the day," he said with a smile.

"Oh, it doesn't really matter...we haven't paid much attention to getting dressed this far..." she said as she observed his bare chest and remembered her nightgown on the kitchen floor.

"Okay, well since it doesn't look like we're leavin' the house, why don't you wear this..." he said as he moved to where he kept his clothes.

He pulled out a soft looking, brown papered object tied with a red bow. Then he placed it in her lap as her surprised eyes flashed from the present to his reflection in the mirror.

"Open it." he urged.

She delicately ripped open the paper to uncover a beautiful white nightgown with a lovely hand stitched lace collar.

"Oh, Sully! Where did you get this, it's so beautiful!"

"I asked Emma to make it for ya," he said as he helped her stand so she could slip into the gown, It'll fit right up until you have the baby, and then Emma said she could take it in for ya."

"You're so thoughtful," she said as she kissed him and admired the gift in the mirror, "I love it."

Well, I noticed you were gettin' upset about losing your figure, which is silly, because you look even more beautiful bein' pregnant ," he said as he watched her.

"To you maybe," was her reply as she also looked at herself.

"Well, I'm your husband, ain't I...I'm the only person who's allowed to admire ya...this close," he said as he hugged her from behind and placed his chin on her shoulder, "'s my baby you're carryin', so to me, you are the most beautiful woman in the world. (Of course, in his eyes, she had always been the most beautiful woman in the world).

"You can always make me feel better. It's just another reason why I love you so much...thank you," she said as she held his arms in front of her.

"Well, what do you wanna do now?" Sully whispered into her ear.

"Anything, as long as it's with you." she replied.

"How 'bout I get a fire goin downstairs and we do some snugglin'?"

"Sounds perfect. We never get to relax down stairs, alone," she said as she tipped her head to accomidate Sully's kisses.

Then they went downstairs, and Sully made a fire. Michaela tried to help, but he wouldn't have it, and turned her toward an arm chair. When the fire was going strong, Sully spread out a blanket and some pillows on the floor, then settled his wife on the quilt in front of him. Michaela felt quite happy and secure leaning against his strong frame, his arms wrapped around her. They both enjoyed the silence and closeness.

Sully rubbed her shoulders and rested his lips on the top of her head. Michaela loved the feeling of his gentle touch. Whether he was holding her hand while walking down the street, or holding her close in the privacy of their bedroom, she reveled in his touch.

"I can't believe we have the house all to ourselves," said Sully, breaking Michaela out of her thoughts.

"I know, I love the children, but I love being alone with you too."

"We never had much time to ourselves after the honeymoon...except when we were in our bedroom, and sometimes not even then..." said Sully, remembering a time when Brian had walked in on a rather ardent moment shortly after they had been married.

"I know, this is heavenly," Michaela said, laughing as she too remembered that morning.

"It's not often I get you all to myself..." said Sully as he hugged her tighter.

They continued to watch the fire, and hold each other close as they day began to dwindle. After awhile, Sully spoke, "Why don't you rest here while I start supper."

"Oh Sully, I can certainly help you with supper," she said, determined to help once on this wonderful day.

"No you can't," he said as he made sure she didn't get up.

"Why not?"

"Because I love you and you're havin' our baby, so I'm tellin' ya to rest."

"Honestly Sully."

"No arguments," he said as he hushed her protests with a soft kiss.

They dined on a stew Sully had learned to make while working in the mining camps. They took turns feeding each other, their eyes remaining locked throughout the entire meal. This was definitely something they couldn't do with the children around. After supper, Sully cleared the dishes, and then disappeared upstairs while Michaela finished her second piece of apple pie (her favorite). She then tried to start the dishes, but Sully saw her getting up when coming down the stairs, and halted her with a hand on her shoulder.

"I feel so lazy today," said Michaela, "First spending the whole day in my nightgown, and not helping you out with dinner."

"You're not bein' lazy, and I'm not dressed up any more than you. I think you look beautiful in that nightgown. You just have to let yourself be spoiled once and a while---you deserve it. (he kissed her on the cheek tenderly) You're always takin' care of everyone---now it's my turn to take care of you," Sully said with a twinkle in his eye.

"I just don't feel like I deserve any of this," Michaela said with the hint of tears in her eyes.

Sully saw this and forgot about the one dish he had yet to wash. He took her in his arms, now used to these emotional displays since she had become pregnant.

"Sshh..." Sully soothed, "How can you say that?"

"Well, look at me...." She sniffed, not making any sense.

"I am, and I love what I'm looking at," he said, realizing she wasn't making sense, but not paying attention to that.

"How can you say that, I'm..."

"You're pregnant, and you look absolutely beautiful," Sully said, cutting off her words of hormone induced self pity, "I love that you're carryin' my baby."

Sully hugged his wife, rubbed her back, and kissed her tenderly...he was a man truly and completely in love with his wife (being pregnant only made him love her more...if that was possible).

"Now, what do you say we go on up to bed..." he said through a kiss.

"Oh, I'm not tired, it's early." Michaela said, a little embarrassed by her emotional outburst. She loved Sully so much for giving her this day, and she didn't want to ruin it for him.

"I'm not tired either, and it is gettin' darker (he turned down a lamp) and darker," Sully said as he turned to her, reminiscent of their wedding night.

Michaela felt a little naive for missing his original intention, and a bit amazed that he could still desire her in her pregnant state. She thought herself to be fat and ugly.

Sully could read her feeling as they flashed across her blushing face, and it made him want to show her how much he loved her even more. He knew that, regardless of the fact that he always made his love for her aparent (anyone around them could spot the fire in his eyes when he looked at his wife) She needed to be assured now, more than ever. So, he quietly kissed her hand and led her to the stairs. He kissed her softly on the lips at the bottom and, always the gentleman, followed her up to their bedroom.

When Michaela entered, she noticed that their fireplace was nestling a cozy fire, the bed was turned down and candles were blazing on either side. She stood in the doorway feeling the warmth of the crackling fire in front of her, and the heat of Sully's hands on her shoulders.

"Oh my..." was all she could say.

"I wanted to surprise ya..." he said.

"So, this is what you were up to after dinner."

"Yup," he said as he led her further inside and in front of the fire.

There, on a small table was a vase holding a single red rose. Sitting next to the fragile bud were two wine glasses, and since Michaela was pregnant, a canister of Grace's delicious apple cider.

"It's all so beautiful," she said with more tears creeping into her eyes.

"Oh Michaela, there's no need to cry...I love you, and this is just to show you how much you mean to me," he said, fearing she was upset again.

"Oh Sully, I'm not sad..I'm just feeling very happy, and extremely lucky," she said with a reassuring kiss on his concerned lips.

"I'm the lucky one," he said as he returned her kiss, "I only want to see you smile," followed by another kiss.

And smile she did.

They sipped the cider while the fire snapped and crackled before them. They sat as they had when downstairs---with Sully's arms around her, their fingers entwined, and laying protectively on her stomach.

"Well, this Valentine's day is certainly different from last years," said Michaela.

"Yeah, I've been here for the whole thing."

"But last year's was so special. I will forever treasure that day." said Michaela in a wistful tone.

"Why's that?" Sully whispered into her ear.

"Because you rushed back to give me this ring on Valentine's day because you wanted it to be special. It showed me how much you cared."

"Well, I'd had my heart set on givin' it to ya on Valentine's Day for months---and you know that when I've made up my mind, there ain't no changin' it," he said while admiring the ring on his bride's hand.

"I'll never forget your face the first time you looked at it on my hand."

"It was just so amazing to me---that you were wearing my engagement ring---that you were really mine."

"But we'd been engaged for months," she said, smiling at his words.

"I know, but the ring was proof. It let everyone know that you were finally mine...that we belonged to each other," he said, remembering that day, "And I loved the look on your face when I gave it to ya...I could tell you weren't expecting it."

"Well, you had said once, before Horace and Myra's wedding, that a man didn't have to give his fiancee a ring, because he showed her how much he loved her every day."

"I guess I changed my mind, especially after I realized how much it meant to you...a symbol of our love," he said as he lifted the hand wearing the ring to his lips.

"Well, this Valentine's Day will stand out in my memory as well."

"Why's that?" Sully asked, a smile upon his lips.

"Because it's my first as your wife."

"And it's my first as your husband," he said, and then kissed the top of her head.

"Now it's time for your present," Michaela said as she struggled to get up.

"Where ya goin'?" he said as he jumped up to help her stand.

She walked over to her dressing table, opened a drawer and retrieved a small, brown package.

"Happy Valentine's Day," she said as she handed him the gift.

"Michaela, you didn't have to," he said as he sat down on the edge of their bed. Getting presents was still something new to him after all his solitary years. Besides, he considered Michaela and the kids the greatest gifts life could have ever given him.

Sully unwrapped the paper to reveal a small silver whittling knife.

"Read the inscription." Michaela urged.

"To my cherished husband, from your loving wife, Michaela," he read aloud, "Michaela, it's beautiful."

"I thought you could use it to one day pass on your artistic gift to our baby. I only wish I could give you more after the day you've given me."

"You've given me your love---that's all I've ever wanted, it's all I'll ever need; And now you're having our baby."

The love she saw in his eyes reflected her own. They leaned toward each other and clung---lost within the fire. They both knew that their love was the best Valentine's Day gift.

Later, while lying quietly immersed in their love, they continued to savor their solitude. Sully lay on his side and pulled Michaela more securely against him. They continued to stare at the hypnotic flames---the flames, however, were not in the fireplace. They were two fires, brown and blue, burning as one.

"I remember how Sam had said that seeing us together was like watching a fire burn," said Michaela, still holding her stare.

"I think that's a good way to describe our love," said Sully as he stroked her auburn hair, "My feelings for you are so strong they consume me---it feels a lot like a fire burnin'."

"You don't think it could burn out, do you?" she questioned in a teasing tone.

"If after all we've been through hasn't put it out, nothin' will, he said as he hugged her tighter, If anything, every problem we faced seemed to fuel it."

"I know what you mean. I used to think that love was supposed to be easy. I remember saying that to Dorothy when you and I were first courting, and I felt confused. She just laughed."

"If it's easy, then it ain't real. We had our tough moments. I thought I'd lost ya a few times (in more ways than one), but because I knew I loved you and you loved me, I fought against everything else. A love like ours is worth fightin' for."

"Well, it seems as if we won," she said with a smile.

"Seems that way," he said as he rubbed her back.

"Sometimes I think about how far we both have traveled to get here. Me from Boston, you from New York. I went from living in a town house to the old homestead, and you went from the old homestead to the woods. Our lives were so far apart, but then we came together, and ended up in the same place."

"And in the same bed," he said as he kissed her and smiled (she blushed), "And you gave me an instant family when the children came into the picture...somethin' I'd always wanted."

"But you had Cloud Dancing and the Cheyenne?"

"True, but I had depended on them when they took me in. When you and the children came into my life, you needed me. I liked watchin' out for ya...still do."

"Well, I don't know what we would have done without you. It was very important to Brian and Matthew to have a man to talk with after being surrounded by women."

"Well they helped me out in a lot of ways too. I hope I'm a good father when our baby's born."

"Sully, you already are."

He smiled.

Time alone like this was a rarity for them. The children would be back tomorrow, but now they were alone and did not squander their time or take it lightly. This was a time when they were assured privacy---no problems to come barging in. This was a day for them to be husband and wife (in every sense of the word). It was a time fore them to laugh, love, talk about the past and look forward to their future.

"It took so long for us to meet and then build a relationship, yet the time since has just flown by," said Michaela.

"I know. Seems like only yesterday I was tellin' you I loved ya on a train in Boston," reflected Sully.

"Or standing at the altar," said Michaela.

"And now, we've created a new things for sure, this baby is bein' born into a lot of love," said Sully as he looked into his wife's eyes.

Life has given us so many gifts and second chances." Michaela said, returning her husband's stare.

They kissed while their hearts blended around the life that pulsed between them. They had both been given a second chance on love, and that second chance had produced a new life. To both husband and wife, that was the greatest gift of all.

The End