As Michaela and Sully followed the doctor and his friends to the tavern Michaela was filled with slight trepidation as she neared the entrance. The horrendous vision of the inside of the tavern she had seen in her dream of the stench of death and the pale gaunt faces of the ones that were dying, left such an indelible impression upon her mind that she was somewhat hesitant about going inside. She momentarily paused as Sully turned and cast a look of concern upon the anxious features of her face.
"Michaela are you all right?" Replied Sully wrapping his arms around her in a reassuring embrace. As he looked into her eyes he saw the same fear in her eyes he had seen the night that she had the nightmare of all the people dying in the pueblo. He gently pressed her close against him in a warm loving embrace and tenderly kissed her cheek. Michaela wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tight as she lay her head against his shoulder and sighed.
When they parted from their embrace Michaela looked at Sully and smiled. "I'm all right Sully. Thank you. I just..."
Sully nodded and gazed earnestly into her eyes. "I know. Everything's going to be all right Michaela." Replied Sully as he cast a warm smile upon her face.
As they turned and walked inside the tavern, Michaela released a small sigh of relief as her eyes scanned the array of beds that were set up in the tavern. As she glanced around at the patients lying in their beds, she was glad that the scene before her was nothing like the vision in her dream.
There was still the smell of sickness and medicine in the air, but she was accustomed to that. She was also surprised at how organized and clean the tavern looked for a makeshift hospital. As she looked upon the faces of the patients she could tell that they were in various stages of the influenza. Some were worse than others. The one thing that impressed her most was that it was obvious that every patient had been well cared for.
Sometimes during times of epidemic the conditions of the clinics became foul and contaminated and many patients died as a result of these conditions. Fortunately, this was not the case however.
Doctor Hernandez explained to her that many people had died due to the influenza, but that he had instructed all the volunteers that it was important to keep things clean and that this would lessen the chances of spreading the virus to others. The main thing that he was most concerned with, was the fact that they were running low on quinine and many of the patients were not getting their proper doses. Michaela opened her medical bag and took out several medium sized glass vials of quinine that she had brought and handed them to doctor Hernandez.
The moment he saw them, his eyes widened and a broad smile flashed across his face.
"Madre de Dios! This is what I have been praying for! Gracias Seņora! You have just saved the lives of many people!" Replied doctor Hernandez as he glanced at the vials and then cast a warm gaze at Michaela.
Michaela slightly blushed and smiled. "I'll be glad to help you prepare that doctor." Commented Michaela amiably.
Doctor Hernandez nodded and smiled. "Yes of course doctor Quinn! I would be more than happy for you to help me!" he replied sincerely. He cast a hesitant look at Sully before he and Michaela walked away. "Seņor Sully, do I have your permission to borrow your wife!" he slightly chuckled.
Sully shook his head and slightly smiled. "Doctor Hernandez, that's one thing I've learned about Michaela. Once she has her mind made up to do something, she does it! She's her own boss!" replied Sully casting an affectionate gaze at Michaela.
Michaela walked up to Sully and flashed a captivating smile at him. "You don't do so bad yourself Sully!" she commented affectionately. She wrapped her arm around his neck and pressed a tender kiss to his lips and then parted from her quick embrace and walked off with doctor Hernandez to help prepare the medicine.
Sully cast a quixotic gaze upon his beautiful wife as he watched her walk away and sighed and smiled. As he stood gazing at Michaela, he momentarily felt a firm but amiable hand upon his shoulder. He inwardly snapped himself out of his romantic reverie and turned to see Diego standing beside him smiling.
Sully slightly blushed as he acknowledged Diego. "Seņor de la Vega! I'm sorry, I didn't hear you walk up." Replied Sully apologetically.
Diego shook his head and smiled. "There's no need to apologize Seņor Sully. You're a very lucky man to be married to a woman like that! Imagine, a woman doctor! How truly amazing! And very lovely too!" commented Diego as he eyed Michaela and doctor Hernandez busily preparing their medicine.
Sully turned a resolute eye to Diego. "Yes, Michaela is an amazing woman all right! He replied smiling as he gazed proudly at Michaela. "You're right, I am lucky! But then again, Michaela is pretty lucky too!" he slightly chuckled.
Diego slightly smiled and nodded.
Sully cast an attentive look at Diego. "Seņor de la Vega, are you married?" he inquired curiously.
Diego slightly cleared his throat and cast an earnest look at Sully. "Since you're going to be here for some time, I would be honored if you would call me Diego." Diego commented as he held out his hand to shake Sully's.
Sully eyed Diego resolutely and smiled as he took Diego's hand and shook it. "All right Diego. You can just call me Sully." He said decidedly.
"Gracias Sully." Said Diego smiling.
As the two men finished their handshake, Sully cast a discerning eye at Diego. "Diego, you didn't answer my question." Reminded Sully resolutely.
Diego slightly blushed and shook his head. His eyes momentarily caught a glimpse of Victoria taking some food to a young girl laying in bed.
"No Sully, I'm not, but some day..." he trailed as he cast an affectionate gaze at Victoria.
Sully's eyes followed Diego's as he looked at Victoria. "She's very pretty! You must love her very much!" Sully commented as he cast a discerning eye on Diego. He recognized the look in Diego's eyes. He felt the same way the first time he saw Michaela when she first came to Colorado.
As Diego watched Victoria feeding the young girl, a warm smile momentarily graced his lips.
"Yes, Victoria is quite beautiful! She's very independent too! Very kind, compassionate,..." he slightly blinked as he felt his face become slightly flushed. He shook his head and sighed. He momentarily glanced at Sully.
"You're right Sully, I do love Victoria...very much!" Diego smiled and cast an affectionate gaze at Victoria.
Sully looked at Diego earnestly with an amiable smile on his face. "You know something Diego, I felt the same way when I first saw Michaela. Victoria is a lot like Michaela. I think that's what drew me to Michaela. She was very independent like Victoria. Very determined, yet she had compassion and respect for other people. She fought for what she believed in and never gave up! You know people never thought we'd get married. I was so used to living outside, on my own. I never thought I needed anyone until I met her! She completely turned my whole life around. Now I can't imagine life without Michaela! After all these years, I'm still in love with her!" Sully concluded as he glanced over at Michaela and smiled.
Diego gave a slight nod and smiled. "Victoria and I were best friends as children. Even though we were from different backgrounds we were still best friends. My father sent me away to school in Spain when I was older. He wanted me to have the best education so that one day I could take my place in society as a caballero and one day run my father's ranch. My father called me home early from school because of the political unrest here at home. When I came home, everything had changed including Victoria. Here she was all grown up and running her own business. You're right, she is very much like your wife. She wasn't afraid to take on a challenge or stand her ground! She was also the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life! I fell in love with her the moment I saw her. We were still quite young and I didn't tell her how much I loved her." Diego said somewhat wistfully.
Sully cast a curious gaze at Diego. "Did you ever tell her that you loved her?" he inquired earnestly.
Diego sighed and nodded. "Yes, I finally got around to telling her. But as far as marriage... that's another story amigo!" he slightly shook his head and sighed.
Sully put a reassuring hand on Diego's shoulder and cast a decisive look at him. "Don't wait too long Diego! Victoria is too good of a woman just to let her slip away! I should know! Before we got married, I once thought that I had lost Michaela to an old flame who came back after the war. Actually it was her fiance'. She thought he had died in the war. But when he came back, it brought back all those old memories she had about him. To make a long story short, she finally realized that what we had together was more important than just faded memories and we eventually got married." Sully glanced over at Victoria with a thoughtful gaze and smiled. He cast a discerning look at Diego.
"I don't mean to be tellin' you how to run your life or anything, but I do know, that once you find the right woman, don't ever let her go! If you do, you'll regret it for the rest of your life!" replied Sully as he slightly nodded.
Diego put his hand to his chin and looked at Sully thoughtfully as he listened to him reminisce about how he and Michaela fell in love and got married and how he was still in love with her after so many years. He wondered if it would ever be that way with him and Victoria. He thought about what Sully had said, about not letting Victoria get away. He guessed he had put off asking her for too long. At the time it seemed the right thing to do. But time was slipping away. A sudden fear briefly struck Diego and he turned an anxious gaze on Victoria. What if something happen that she was suddenly taken away from him and he would never see her again.
He had come close to losing her once. Not to an old flame however, but to an assassin's bullet. His mind flashed back to the time when Bishop was just about to shoot Zorro, Victoria quickly stepped in front of him, pushing him out of the way and took the bullet that was meant for him. As he sat beside her bed praying for her life he was ready to give up his mask...give up Zorro then and there if it had not been for the fact that Bishop had challenged his father to a duel. He knew he couldn't let Bishop kill his father too. Losing his father and Victoria all in one day, would have been devastating. Especially Victoria. If she had died he never would have forgiven himself. It would have completely destroyed him. It was by the grace of God that Victoria had lived and by shear hatred for Bishop that he had saved his father from being killed. That hatred almost drove him to kill Bishop, but he knew that justice not revenge was the answer and spared his contemptible life.
Diego inwardly shuddered as he tried to erase such a painful thought of losing Victoria, from his mind. The thought of her being torn from his life seemed to make him realize what he was really missing in his life. Diego cast an insightful look at Sully and smiled.
"Thank you Sully. I appreciate your honesty and compassion. I will take into consideration your advice. I have given much thought to what you have said in the past, but sometimes it helps to have someone remind you what is truly important. Thank you again Sully. You are truly a good friend." Diego replied sincerely.
Sully slightly shrugged and smiled.
Diego put a congenial hand on Sully's shoulder and smiled.
"Sully you and your wife are welcome to stay at our hacienda while you are here. We have more than enough room. I'm sure my father would not mind." He requested amiably.
"Gracias Diego. It'll be up to Michaela." He replied earnestly.
Diego slightly chuckled. "I suppose you're right!" he said as he watched Michaela dispensing the medicine to some of the patients.
Diego momentarily glanced back at Sully. "Well, you and Seņora Sully talk it over and let me know what you decide. Right now, there's something I just remembered I have to do!" Replied Diego as he cast a thoughtful gaze at Victoria.
He slightly smiled at Sully and turned and walked over to Victoria.
Sully shook his head and smiled. He wasn't quite sure what Diego had on his mind, but he knew for a fact that it concerned Victoria. In the back of his mind he couldn't help but think that there may be a marriage in the near future. That look on Diego's face was so obvious that Sully knew he would eventually pop the question. Maybe not now, but he had a feeling it wouldn't be too long. He shook his head and sighed. He suddenly felt a slight rumble in his stomach as it churned from the emptiness inside. He rubbed his hand across his stomach and looked around the tavern. It had been a long day and he was tired and hungry. He knew Michaela was too, but sometimes she would get so preoccupied with her work, that she would forget what time it was! He knew the kitchen was somewhere, but he just didn't know where! He momentarily saw a lanky dark haired young boy coming out from behind some curtains taking soup to one of the patients. He glanced over and saw Victoria and Diego sitting with a patient and smiled.
'Well...maybe she won't mind.' He thought as he headed toward the kitchen.