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Family and Responsibilities

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She was on his mind. As Sully sat on top of his mountain that he went to in times of change he continued to see visions of her, and the way she moved in his arms. Her skin was like silk and her scent was intoxicating. They had awoke in each other's arms, full of love and happiness. Michaela needed to check on Brian so Sully took her to town. The sun was setting and the sky was purple with shades of pink and orange. The light cast back across the sky glowed with softness and kissed the skyline. In the distance silhouettes of mountain tops reached into the sky. His feelings remained the same, and he had a peacefulness about him. He looked at the tall grass swaying in the breeze. It's dance was mesmerizing, moving like the ocean, billowing softly. This place was beautiful, it reminded him that she was beautiful.

Michaela was proud of the care Colleen and Matthew had given to Brian. He had pain from the surgery, but overall he was improving rapidly. Colleen had stayed right by his side and not left him to wake up alone. Michaela thought about Colleen's wish to go to medical school, and despite their drastically different upbringings, Colleen reminded her of herself. She wouldn't give up, not even one bit, and she truly cared. The similarities were great and she wondered if that would mean that Colleen would not spare the time to be with friends or go out with young gentlemen that came to call. Michaela had done that, because in her life she had learned that the only person she could really trust was herself. If she relied on anyone else too much, she might fail, and that reminded her, and she thought of how faithful he was.

It was time to go back and Sully began his journey into town. He walked down the hill admiring the beauty of nature and all the delicate flowers that had grown by the road. He knew he would have to get an early start the next morning, but he needed to see her.

He entered the clinic to find her sitting at her desk. The light from the lamps cast a soft glow on her face and he paused at the door to look at her. She looked up, turning her head and their eyes met. She blushed at the way he looked upon her but she smiled and said "Hello." He spoke softly, "Hello…..How's Brian?" Relieved that some of the heat was leaving from her face, she answered back. "He's doing very well, I plan to keep him at the clinic for the next few days, it will be best if he doesn't move around too much. And we can also take him to see the new school house when he feels like going. Thank you for working so hard to help finish it, I was under so much stress I didn't really get to tell you." He looked down to the floor and fumbled his hands, "It was the only thing I knew to do while we waited, kind of tried to take my mind off of what was going on in here, although I have to admit, Brian stayed on my mind the whole time." He looked up into her eyes, "You were on my mind too" The blush returned. He stepped forward and took her hand, "Michaela, these hands of yours," he caressed her fingers, " you have a powerful gift." He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it, she was comforted by his sentiment and she smiled at him. He took her in his arms and just held her, and she let herself let go, with her head nestled on his shoulder. His arms were so safe, so inviting. Eventually a noise from upstairs broke them apart, and they both decided to go check on Brian together. When they walked in the room, Colleen was playing checkers with Brian, who seemed to be in good spirits. "I think you should rest now Brian, doctor's orders," said Michaela. "Sully and I wanted to come tell you goodnight." Colleen collected the checkers and the board and moved it to a side table for tomorrow. "We'll finish this soon,little brother! Sully looked at her and said, "Colleen, you are going to make a fantastic doctor one of these days." She smiled at him and said "Thank You." Brian took great delight in having Sully there to tuck him in, and he ask if he could tell him a story. Sully sat on the bed and Colleen and Michaela left the room. Colleen was staying in the next room over and had taken the room at the end of the hall. However, she decided to go back downstairs and finish her paperwork, so she wished Colleen a goodnight and went back downstairs.

She was finishing up her paperwork when Sully came back down the stairs. She looked up and ask if Brian had gone to sleep. Sully told her he had tucked Brian in at the end of the story because he could hardly keep his eyes open. "Would you like to go for a walk with me" he ask, hoping she was done with her work. Michaela felt slightly nervous, but she did want to go with him. "Yes," she answered, "just let me put these files away." As she put them back in the cabinet, Sully retrieved her shawl from the coat rack near the door. "Thank you," she said as he walked toward her. When he reached her he wrapped it around her shoulders and handed her the two ends.

They walked to the door, and went onto the porch of the clinic. The moon was bright and it was casting a soft glow about the town. Sully stepped onto the ground below and turned, offering his hand. She smiled and placed her hand in his. Their fingers interlocked, and they turned toward the church and the meadow. Neither one said a word, but there was comfort in knowing that they could spend time in each other's company. When they reached the bridge, Sully stopped at the side to look at the water flowing beneath them. He released her hand and placed both on top of the rails of the structure. He stared straight ahead and said, "No one thinks about the persistence of this water, how it provides for every animal, plant, and person giving us life. It's soft and pleasing, but it also has great strength. It made this creek, it shapes canyons and mountains, it rushes with power when the storms come, and it renews the land when the rains fall." The compliment wasn't lost on Michaela and she marveled at his ability to use his love of the earth to express his feelings for her. She moved closer and placed her hand on top of his. He took her in his arms and held her as they continued to watch. Michaela broke the silence, "I feel so safe and free with you, I've never had that before." Her head was resting against him and the warmth of his body was warming her cheek. The slight chill in the air had faded. She heard him breath in deeply and then exhale. The sound of his heartbeat was in her ear and it kept steady time. Her arms were around him and her hands clung to the muscles on his upper back and sides, occasionally caressing them. "Michaela, you're the strongest woman I know, but even the strongest people need love, care, and support. I want to take care of you, not because you need me to but because I want to. I've never had to depend on anyone either, but your love makes me better, it makes me want more. Will you take a walk with me tomorrow afternoon?" She could hear his heart speed up, and she listened as her own heart began to match it's rhythm. She looked up at him and said, "Yes, I'd love to." He looked down at her and gave her a gentle kiss. They pulled apart and started walking back to the clinic.

When they reached the door of the clinic, Sully wished her goodnight, and kissed her hand as he backed off the steps. She smiled and opened the door, when it closed behind her, she leaned up against it and exhaled. He walked away with a happiness in his heart that hadn't been present for a while. All the time that he had spent running away from his past and his feelings had led to this moment in time, it had led him to her. Michaela thought about how different he was. More than any man she had ever known, he was the opposite of what she was expected to engage with. But for her, he was the only one she could ever imagine spending her life with. It would be hard to sleep tonight thinking about their walk tomorrow, but she was exhausted and she made her way up the stairs to the room at the end of the hallway.

When Michaela woke the next morning, she could here Brian and Colleen giggling. A smile spread across her face and she again contemplated the events of the past few days. She loved them so much and it felt strange to think of a time when they were not in her life. She wondered what the future would hold and would she be having the same thoughts about Sully in a few years. Already her life in Boston seemed to be missing the life and freedom she had found in Colorado Springs. She stretched her legs and got out of bed. She had work to do and then she would be meeting Sully for their walk. She made the bed and went to check on Brian.

Sully wanted everything to be just right for their walk. He kept going over and over what he might say but nothing seemed to match his love or dedication. He was nervous and he didn't know why. She clearly loved him, but this was a commitment that he had been avoiding for a while. He mounted his horse and turned toward town. When he arrived he dismounted and walked to the door of the clinic. Inside Michaela had been quickly preparing to leave, everything had a place and her instruments needed to be well cared for. She had been nervous all day, but why couldn't she just relax, she knew he loved her? She began to think about her fears, but she didn't get far when she heard a knock on the door. "Come in," she said with enough volume to address whomever was at the door, but she knew it was him. He opened the door and walked in. When he saw her, he couldn't take his eyes off of her. Her hair was up, but as usual, little strands flew freely around her face, caressing her shoulder, and her dress accenting her curves that, until recently, had been left to his imagination. He could only think of how beautiful she truly was. Again, her face was warm with the blush that resulted from his gaze. His crystal blue eyes were intense but soft with the look of love. He stepped forward and took her hand, kissing it. "Are you ready?" She smiled and replied, "Yes." As they walked out front Michaela stopped in confusion, "Sully, I didn't think we would be riding today, I let Matthew take my horse!" "That's ok," he said. "You can ride with me," as he smiled at her with love in his eyes. He mounted his horse and reached down to pull her up into his lap. She sat across the horse with her back against Sully's chest. Michaela had never ridden bareback before, but with Sully's arms around her, she felt safe. His hand eased around her waist and pulled her close as he turned the horse and began the trip to their destination. The horse walked slowly and Sully made sure that he kept it that way for her comfort and also so he could hold her in his arms for as long as possible. They left town and traveled for a good distance. His face was so close to her neck and she continued to be aroused by the warm breath that lingered near her ear. She could feel his freshly shaven face brush against her face so softly. Her breathing had slowed down and it was hard for her to focus on the conversation as he told her where they would leave the horse. Her heart was slowly pounding. She cleared her throat, "Are we almost there?" she ask, knowing she couldn't take much more. Sully chuckled, "Yes, it's just up this hill." She had no idea that he was fighting just as hard to stay in control and only resorted to describing the trip so she would have no idea how close he was to losing it. Her back rest against him and his lips were so close to her neck. He could smell the fancy soap that she used and it was intoxicating. He wanted to kiss her so badly, but he wanted to wait, so he just enjoyed the close proximity. She was determined to keep herself in check. Knowing it was a short distance more, gave her the strength to hold on. When they stopped he hesitated and moved closer to her neck and shoulder. "Let me get down first." He climbed off his horse and moved in front of her. He put his arms up to help her down. As she slid into his arms, the force of sliding off the horse propelled her a little faster than either one of them thought, and Sully had to act fast to reassure her that he had her. Their bodies met with force and Sully gripped her tightly. "Ohhh," she exclaimed, as they surprised each other with their contact and closeness. He held her for a few seconds, right up against his body where he had caught her. Then he eased her to the ground. They had locked eyes and she grew nervous and ask, "shall we go?" His hands slowly moved across her sides and his fingertips one by one lost contact. He reached for her hand and they started to walk. Michaela shyly lowered her head and smiled to herself. They walked a good distance in silence, comfortable with just being together. Finally, Sully looked over at her and said, "we're almost there, just to the top of this hill. She smiled and looked around, the scenery was pleasant but she wondered what was awaiting them at their destination. The sun was going down and it lit up the sky with golden hues and purple and pink shades of dusk. As they topped the hill Michaela started to realize that she was somewhere special. The hilltops opened to a valley with a vast mountain range behind it. A creek cut it's way through the valley. Wildflowers bloomed all around. Nature, fragile and harsh, all combined into the same environment. The scenery was breathtaking and Michaela gasp and whispered, "it's beautiful…." She looked around with wonder. Sully slowly confessed, "I come here when I need to think. It's my place that I go to when my soul needs guidance. I was here just yesterday, thinking about you, thinking about why I love you, and how I want to take care of you… how I need you." Michaela turned her head to look at him, "Sully"….,she whispered. His confession took her breath away, and she gazed up at him. Suddenly the wonder that had surrounded her focused on him. His features were illuminated by the golden sun and his eyes were shining so bright and blue. "I've never brought anyone here Michaela, you're the only one." He reached in his pocket to retrieve the ring he had purchased that morning. He took her hands and knelt to one knee. Michaela's heart leapt as she realized what was happening. "Michaela Quinn, you are the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with, I've been running away from everything and everyone for a long time, trying to ease the hurt inside, but I cannot deny that you have healed my heart with the love you give. I can not deny that I have fallen for you, that I love you, and I can't bear for us to be apart any longer, my heart is yours, will you marry me?"

Michaela's heart pounded so deeply and she took in every word he said, as she heard the words she had waited to hear, she fought her patience in letting him say what he needed to. She felt the smile spread across her face as he finished the words that had requested her devotion to him. Not just devotion, but love, and care, and partnership, all that she could give and share with him. With one word she would start the rest of her life, the rest of their lives. His love filled her soul, and her heart sang the simple answer, "Yes."

Sully had been holding his breath, and as soon as she answered, he exhaled with more love than he knew how to express, he quickly stood and placed the ring on her finger. Then he pulled her into him and kissed her with passion. They kissed again, and again, and again. He held her tight and turned them toward the sunset as she placed her head on his chest. It was magnificent, and beautiful, and all the glory of God was shining for them. Michaela's heart was full of love and happiness and she wished for the sun to suspend itself so the moment could last longer but alas, the sun faded behind the peaks and cast the night sky above them. The stars were shining brightly and the Milky Way was beautiful reaching across the sky. Sully spread a blanket that he had left from the day before on the ground. He reached out his hand to her and kneeled in the center. She went to him and he pulled her with him as he lay flat on his back and crossed his ankles. She kissed him with her tenderness and rolled to his cradling arm. He placed his other hand under his head and gently caressed her arm as they gazed at the night sky. He smiled as she settled into him and he heard her softly sigh. The feeling was mutual as they realized how comfortable they felt together with his gentle warm embrace and her feather light touch freely resting against him. She shifted in his embrace to hold her left hand to the sky and place her ring with the stars. He removed his hand from behind his head and took her hand. He brought the ring to his mouth and kissed it. He rolled to his side and gazed into her eyes as he supported his weight on his elbow with his hand moving to support her neck, and his other hand moved to her torso just below her breast. Her eyes sparkling greater than any star or diamond, he whispered, "I love you so much." Her heart was full of love and she reached up and caressed his face, and then played with his hair. She looked deep into his eyes and whispered, "With all my heart and soul, I'm yours Sully." A happy tear left her eye and he brushed it away as he took her mouth, pressing into her and grasping her body with his warm, masculine hands.

He moved to the side and trailed kisses down her neck, as she rolled her head to give him better access. She trembled briefly as every nerve ending longed to be the object of his affections. The heat started to pool and she could feel the blush on her skin. The instant heat gave her a chill as the night air now felt cold. Sully notice her reaction and rubbed her arm…, "sorry" he smiled. "Don't be", she smiled back. He kissed her again. "I suppose we should be getting back so the children don't worry about us." She agreed, "Yes, I suppose we should."

They gathered the blanket and started for the hillside, hand in hand. She gazed at him. "Sully?" He looked at her and said, "hmm." "Can we come back and spend the day here sometime? It's so beautiful, I'd like to bring a picnic, and spend some time together." He smiled and said, "I think I can arrange something, I'd like that." Michaela smiled,this had been the most beautiful day of her life, she wished it could last forever but they did have to be getting home. They reached Sully's horse and he turned to her. "With it being dark, I think maybe you should ride on the back this time." It pained him to say so because he wouldn't be able to hold her in his arms this time. She nodded, " I think that would be wise." Sully wrapped the blanket around her to keep her warm and jumped up on the horse. He reached down and pulled her behind him. She adjusted her position to get comfortable and moved up to his back. Her hands grasping onto his sides. He loved her touch and she formed her hands to him and slowly slid her hands around his torso as she leaned against him and put her head on his back. Sully looked down at her hands and he placed his hand on hers. He turned slightly to make sure she was settled and then he took the reigns and turned. As they made their way back, he could feel her against him. She enjoyed being close to him and the heat that radiated between them more than made up for the chill in the air.