Michaela didn't want him to leave. She had been clinging to him in some way almost non-stop since everything had been resolved in town. She couldn't forget what he had asked her on the edge of that cliff in the small cave. "Did they hurt you?" It must have been terrible for him to think that he was too late to save her virtue. She could feel him trembling as he waited for a response, and the answer she had given had been immediate. She didn't want him to believe for one more second that they had violated her honor. "No." It was the most compassionate no she had ever spoken. She thought back to them making their way up the mountain while they avoided capture. She was exhausted, absolutely exhausted and Sully didn't have a problem carrying her. She was so relieved to be in the gentle hands of someone she trusted so much, and had trusted so much before. Sully had hurt her with his actions when Catherine had been in their lives, but searching for her, endlessly searching, she couldn't be angry with him anymore. They had been mending the fractures in their relationship for weeks and weeks, and now she could not imagine her life without him. She was sure he had exhausted himself looking for her, and she was sure she would not have made it much longer in the company of the dog soldiers. Who knew what the night would have brought on if she stayed with them for another moment? One Eye's actions beside the water had proved that. She turned her head more into him, her cheek finding the warmth that radiated from his chest. She murmured, "Sully, you don't have to carry me, I can walk." She was almost delirious, and Sully whispered to her, "Shhhh, I'm going to take care of you, I won't let anyone hurt you anymore Michaela. Just a little further, I think there is a small cave up here, we can rest there." Relieved that they would rest soon, she was still thinking about how Catherine had changed them. Raising her head she said,"Sully, I'm sorry about everything that has happened with us recently." He softly made his way up the hill so no one would hear them. "It's quite alright Michaela. Please don't think about all that right now, just rest." She sighed lightly, and put her head back against his chest, she was so very tired. The constant need to be alert and aware of her surroundings, the heightened senses, had caused even more fatigue than she realized. His arms were so safe, and as she enjoyed their warmth, she drifted off to sleep.
Reaching the top of the hill, he was happy to see a small cave where they could take shelter for the rest of the night. He had noticed the tension leave her body as she turned into him and drifted off to sleep, he was glad she was resting. He needed to gather some bedding for the hard rock, so kneeling to the ground he gently started to set her down against the rock, but as gently as he tried, she startled herself awake, and gasping for air she became terrified, but she quickly realized she had nothing to fear as he covered her mouth with his hand and with his piercing blue eyes said, "shhhh, we're in a safe location, but I need to gather some bedding for the cave. I'm going to leave you right here but I won't go far, I promise. She didn't want him to leave, but she had survived days alone with the Indians and she slowly nodded her head as she stared into his eyes. Sully could see the fear she had of being alone. He committed himself to moving swiftly and he effectively gathered the pine limbs as quickly as possible. As he made his way back up to the top with the branches, Michaela's eyes were wide with fear and she stood, as she heard him before she saw him in the darkness. He quickly whispered, "It's me, it's me." She relaxed, and he moved to the cave. "This should be soft and it will help keep some of our body heat." She hadn't really thought about it but she supposed this would be just like the rain storm they had endured together so long ago. She had begun to shiver from being alone for so long and he moved to her once he placed the limbs and said, "We have to get out of these clothes or we will get too cold." The river had made sure they would be close tonight. Michaela had been struggling to stay awake as it was but when Sully reached for the buttons on her blouse, her eyes were wide open. "You know we have to get warm Michaela, you know that." She did know that but as it left Sully's mouth, he was sure of it too. He had lived a great deal of his life outdoors, and living it in reality made him more than educated about the proper time to make such decisions.
He slowly unbuttoned her blouse and he did it with the familiar love that he always had, but unlike before she started to shake. Michaela was so nervous and terrified to be so wonderfully attracted to him. She revolved the thought that she could let him be so much more than just the man she loved at this moment, she would throw away her propriety to be with him after everything that had happened. Everything had been so violent, so unsure, she thought about all the times she wasn't sure if she would make it much longer, and she didn't want to cry, but tears were leaving her eyes. Sully was gutted, what had they done to her? He saw the tears start to form and slowly fall down her face. She was trembling and he continued because he knew he needed to get her warm. "Shhhh, it's going to be okay, Shhh, Michaela….." She looked up at him and her lower lip started to shake. He whispered, "I'll die before they take you again, you're safe." He had finished unbuttoning her blouse and he slowly slid it off her arms. He was horrified to see the bruising and the scrapes on her beautiful skin, but he didn't let her see his shock. He just wanted her to get some rest, so he decided now was not the time to ask her, only to make her more upset than she already was. They were both tired right now and the important thing was that right now she was safe and they were going to go home in the morning. Michaela noticed the bruising on her skin and she quickly tried to cover it with her hand but there was no use, the cuts and scrapes and bruises were all there, and she couldn't possibly hide them all. One by one she appeared to discover the damage they had done, she didn't want him to see her this way. He reached for her hand and slowly moved it back down to her side, taking her blouse he used it to gently wipe away her tears. "I'm sorry I didn't get to you sooner Michaela," she could hear and see the emotions he was having. "I know you're hurt, maybe uncomfortable about your clothes, but trust me……" he lovingly implored her, "trust me?" In that moment all the conversations they had about rebuilding the trust of their relationship in the weeks prior were irrelevant. She whispered, "I trust you Sully." He took her hand and caressed the top ever so slightly, then gently pulled her away from the rock and walked around her to release her skirt. He let it fall to the ground and the bruising on her back and legs was just as bad as the rest of her. She had insect bites and more cuts, but it was dark and he couldn't see so well. He would help her clean the cuts in the morning when he could see. He slowly walked back to the front and took her hand so she could step out of her clothes. Leading her over to the tree branches he said, "Sit here, I'm just going to lay our clothes out to dry." She nodded her head. He quickly gathered her things and placed them on the rock where the sun would be shining in the morning. He reached for the bottom of his shirt and quickly removed it laying it against the rocks. The air was cold against his wet skin, and he would have to keep his buckskins on considering he certainly didn't want to frighten her by making her think he would take advantage of her, like the dog soldiers had most likely done. They were mostly dry by now anyway from the climb up the mountain. This was the best he could do.
He made his way over to her, she was still cold. He crouched down, and Michaela stared at him. His chest was so broad compared to her entire body, and she would be in his arms soon. She shuddered to think of him this way and she felt a little warmer already. He whispered, "You okay?" She nervously said, "Yes." He crawled behind her and gently touched her shoulder, she flinched a little and leaned back into him. He was warm, warmer than she was anyway. He rubbed his hands over her arms being careful not to hurt her injuries any further. He whispered in her ear, "come on, let's lay down." She placed her hand against the tree limbs and lowered herself. He laid down behind her, timidly putting his arms around her, he started to rub her skin. The heat felt good and she paused all thoughts to take in the warmth that was now warming the areas he was in contact with, but she was still cold. After a while she whispered, "Sully, I can't seem to get warm." He thought for a minute, "Hold on." Releasing her felt so empty and it was just as traumatic for her as well. He gathered up some of the branches and built up a small barrier behind her. Without thinking he climbed over the top of her and it startled her a bit. Sully hated himself, he figured she was remembering something bad . Quickly he moved over her and stopped just in front of her on his knees, putting his hands on the ground to back away. She was trembling but he had no way of knowing it was from how nervous she was to be so unexpectedly, intimately close for those few seconds. "I'm sorry Michaela." She was speechless, she didn't know what to say, still in shock, she started looking back into the cave area, she needed to say something to hide her feelings. "I'm just so cold Sully, please hold me." Feeling like he had upset her enough, he gently moved back down on the tree limbs and faced her. Reaching for her shoulder, he said, "I'm going to move in close and cover you if that's ok. She nodded that it was. He moved closer and positioned himself and her body so that her head was just in his neck and chest, and her chest was against his midsection. Intertwining their legs he wrapped his arms around her and pulled himself closer so that her body was between him and the built up tree limbs. It was slightly awkward and uncomfortable for him but he didn't care, he just wanted her to be safe and warm. He whispered, "You're safe." His hands gently caressed her and she focused on the pleasing feel of them. The tension she felt eased and he gently and warmly rubbed his hands over her back. Sully lay there wondering about all that had happened, wondering if he could help her get through any of the traumatic events that had happened during his arduous search.
She was warm and she felt so safe in his arms pressed against his chest. This was the closest they had ever been to an intimate embrace. She knew he would not force himself upon her no matter what. He was the most respectful man she knew, despite his constant advances, previously recognized by her awkward longing and propriety induced rejection of such affections. Her heart beat heavily as she pressed her body into his and her cheek found the warmth of his broad chest to be the most comfortable of all. She could hear the sound of his heart, and it was so strongly beating, doing it's best to circulate the blood necessary to warm them both. She felt slightly guilty for not being able to give him the same warmth in return, but she was so relieved to be warming up. She let the tension melt away and firmly pressed into him. As the heat from his body gently warmed her own, a cold wind blew against him and he pulled her into him, determined to comfort her. Her body was finally staying warm and she didn't even notice the chill anymore, within minutes, she was asleep. Michaela slipped into an almost peaceful slumber as she truly appreciated the feel of him against her skin, against her body.
Sully was distraught. He wasn't going to sleep at all, he had told her they were safe but in reality, they were still in great danger. It wasn't that he didn't want her to know, he just didn't want her to worry and not get any rest. She was breathing steadily against him now her lips half touching his skin and the air was blowing against him in soft short breaths. His feelings for her grew by the second, and he held her firmly. He wished he had been stronger, or had a better plan for when they had taken her. Now he truly wished he would have fought to the death to let her get away. Terrible thoughts of how they may have hurt her crossed his mind and he kept pushing them away. He felt entirely guilty but for now he hoped she was feeling safe, feeling as comfortable as one could. His hand continued moving slowly up and down her back. Her short steady breathing paused and she mumbled something, but he couldn't tell what it was. His hand stopped and he held her firmly, she breathed a little rapidly and tensed up, but then went back to a more relaxed posture. Her hands had been pressed up against her chest and to his surprise, she opened up to him a little and let her left hand reach up above her and slide into the tiny gap under his arm and around his back, her fingers gently and timidly making their way to a resting place. She clung to him though, and that was the most upsetting to Sully, as she trembled in her sleep and gasp occasionally with tiny whimpers and moans, he knew that she was dreaming about her time in captivity. He gently nudged her and she seemed to wake briefly, shift a little, and then go back to sleep. He was confident that she was warm now though, she felt very warm against his skin. He knew that they would be fighting her nightmares together for a while, and he vowed to give her the time and space she needed to heal and be confident again. He knew, against all obstacles and difficulties they would face, she was the only woman he would ever love for the rest of their lives, and he would spend all his days making hers better and supporting her happiness. After a while he knew he should get up and survey any threat that would be approaching with the morning light. His stomach growled a little and he felt guilty again knowing that she must be so hungry and weak from being held captive. Last night his main goal was to find a safe place where they could be warm. He remembered getting caught up in some thorns while he looked for suitable bedding and wondered if they could possibly be blackberries. Gently easing away from her body, he lingered close for a while to make sure she would be okay. After realizing that, as opposed to last night, she looked very comfortable, he softly rolled away from her and left to look for food. Making his way back from the area where he had been caught in the thorns, Sully was relatively happy with his success. The thorn bush had been blackberries and upon searching the area, he had also discovered a beehive. Honey being good for energy, he figured it might make up for the lack of abundance. When he returned he placed the food near where she lay and looked at her sleeping peacefully. She had stretched out a little and Sully thought that must be a good sign because otherwise she would have been curled up. At least she looked like she could be okay. He sat on the edge of the cliff in the pre dawn glow of darkness listening and looking all around. Eventually he decided that they were in a safe location and now thinking upon the challenges ahead for them, he tried to focus on the love he could give her. He knew she would be reluctant to talk so soon, so he planned to just be supportive as possible. He had held her close until the dawn. He wondered how he could help Michaela most. Standing to search for any threats again, he was deep in thought about how broken she must feel. A most important virtue of hers had most likely been taken from her, and he was to blame for letting them do so. He thought about making her feel safe again, how he would patiently wait for her to find the trust she would need to be with him as his wife. He wanted to build her trust with him to a much deeper understanding than they had shared before. His guilt was threatening to overwhelm him and he thought about how the dog soldiers had hurt her, he was confused about who his friends were right now. He was troubled by his desire to save his Cheyenne friends but also condemned the actions of the dog soldiers. There was no definitive answer to how complicated things were. Thinking about the confrontation, and regarding everything, he heard her call out to him.
She was desperate for his touch, desperate to have him close to her. When she woke, she quickly noticed the cold void as she opened her eyes and called for him. The fear of him being taken, of him being subjected to the dog soldiers was overwhelming. They would kill him for sure. Cloud Dancing's son had been her protection before and he died. All the senseless killing for nothing. She wouldn't be able to take it if they had killed Sully all while she slept. She was afraid for him, afraid of what they would surely do to her when they came back for her. All these things raced across her mind in the half second it took for him to answer back. "I'm here ……" He moved to her and gently took her hand as he locked eyes and repeated, "you're safe." He wanted to kiss her but didn't. Sully knew she was in shock, he didn't want to take advantage of her, he wanted her to be able to control the situation, so he maintained a supportive distance from her. She quickly and passionately reached for his face, he had saved her, he was safe. She wanted him more than ever before. Sully was afraid that he would frighten her with any unrequested affections. Being dressed so similar to her captors, he wanted to make it clear that he was nothing like them, even though she already knew his true character. Because Michaela did know his true character, she was indeed surprised when he didn't show her more affections, but maybe her forgiveness of recent painful truths in their relationship was not an invitation now. She was the one who had needed distance between their trust and their physical relationship. She quickly reasoned that although responsive and caring in his rescue, he may not have wanted to return to her, she had to respect that he was trying to distance himself, no matter how painful that might be to his wants and desires. She eased back a little, barely able to contain her own desire. She needed to be kissed but she now realized that it wouldn't be right given the agreement they had reached. They were both tortured by the want they felt inside being overpowered by the mutual respect they had for each other and neither one of them wanted to jeopardize the love they both knew still burned deep within. It was slightly awkward and Sully remembered the injuries she had. Turning away, he began to talk about getting back to town and in the process cleaning the wounds on her feet. But his distraction was so overwhelmingly obvious as he awkwardly tried to clean her feet. They stung and burned and Michaela knew there would be a lot more pain in her future but at least for now, there was no more risk of worse injury to her already battered feet and body. He seemed distracted. Sully was restraining his anger as he tried to be gentle with her. Every touch brought on new admissions of pain and he could only imagine the other injuries she might have. How they may have violently hurt her, he loathed the dog soldiers above everything else right now. As he cleaned her feet he tried to distract himself by talking of their plan to get back home, but he couldn't think of anything else besides the injury, the blood, and her shame that she might be carrying. He didn't want her to be ashamed, it wasn't her fault if they had forced themselves upon her, brutally forcing themselves upon her. He felt sick and rebuked himself for even thinking about it, he stopped, he was overwhelmed, he had to ask her now. It was so low, his voice, that she barely heard him ask, but she heard his question all too clearly, "Did they hurt you?" She had seen a reaction in him with his back to her, he didn't want to see the answer in her eyes, he didn't want to see his failure in her eyes. It consumed him, and his shoulders sunk and his back gently heaved trying to hide the release of his question, facing his own sickness that a man could be so vile, that he couldn't protect her from them. So that had been the reason he had been so careful with her so far, and she loved him even more that he was so tragically sickened by the thought. Obviously, they had hurt her very much, but not in that way, and she knew what he had really asked. She didn't want to leave him in such a disheartened state of failure and destress for any longer, she quickly answered him with the slightest mix of compassion, joy, and relief, "No." He turned quickly and he looked into her eyes, at that moment she wanted nothing more than to give herself to him and she looked into his eyes to tell him so. Sully was relieved beyond all things, he thought for sure they had raped her. He let out the breath he had been holding and trembled, he wanted her so badly but for now he would accept that she had been spared, rescued from the most vile act. He knew the way he had seen One-Eye treat her by the water, that he most likely would have been too late if he had not found her. Michaela knew it too and she was strangely happy knowing that Sully would be the man to take her innocence away. She looked at him with the desire to have it happen immediately, but he couldn't, it still wouldn't be right, so he quickly changed the subject and suggested that she eat. It wasn't much but he showed her the berries and honey. What he hadn't expected was the longing desire she held for him and so as much as he tried to distract himself, when she dipped her fingers in the honey and touched it to her tongue, the sweet, sticky substance brought a tear to her eye, and he was seduced by her. It was pure and sweet, innocent until it wasn't. Never had anything tasted so good, never had she known that she would be completely his and it seemed so clear to her now. Looking back into his eyes she longed for him to kiss her, she needed him to take her lips, and because she knew him well enough to respect her virtue, she knew they would have to settle for a kiss. She wanted him to experience the same sweet taste, the innocence bursting onto his tongue, and so without even hesitating any longer, she invited him to her, to taste the feelings she now tried to resist. This was new to her, the seduction. She slowly licked the honey and sucked on her finger. She couldn't help caressing her own lip, anticipating his own touch, his lips caressing over hers, she could see it in his eyes that he was longing to taste her, to taste her lips. He couldn't stop himself, passion fully realized, he leaned into her and tasted the sweet honey with his tongue. Licking her lip as he kissed her, he slowly sucked it from her. Pulling away he stopped the reaction he was having and breathing heavily, licked his own lips to recover any remnant of her he could still salvage. This was dangerous, it threatened her virginity and he would not take her now, he would not be unrestrained, he would wait. He respected her more than anything. Michaela realized the same. She realized that he would truly put her before every want and desire. They couldn't act on this. So her request was simple, she needed him to hold her. Fingers still covered in honey, she sensually slid her hands around him, feeling every muscle, feeling the heat that was burning within them. He held her firmly, and she nuzzled against him, into his neck and chest. Repositioning a few times she was distressed about not being closer to him than she was now, there was only one way they could be closer, and that was skin to skin bodies entangled in passion, so for now her cheek pressed restlessly against his bare chest and realizing that she would not find any more satisfying feelings at the moment, she settled against him.
Eventually their desires cooled as they talked of a need to return. They realized they would need to move in order to get back to town before Custer could harm their friends. Despite everything, the treatment of the Cheyenne was still atrocious and they still had friends within the tribe. They couldn't leave Cloud Dancing and the tribe to the mercies of Custer, they would surely die. He had carried her away from the place they had slept together and she was physically exhausted still. She refused to let him carry her the whole time, it just wouldn't be right and it would be so physically demanding of him. He had done his best to take care of her, but she had to find the strength to make this final journey back to where they both belonged, away from the adversities of this threat, to everything she held dear. Stopping to rest, her focus was on the rest of the day, making their way back, finding strength to continue. She was breathing heavily to ease the pain in her muscles, they were burning with exhaustion, more than tired, more than weak, but she still knew she was fully capable of continuing. Continuing to catch her breath a bullet ricocheted beside her as she heard the sound of a gun. Their safety was once again threatened