As the day was coming to a close the invitation to stay at the de la Vega hacienda was becoming more appealing to Sully as he glanced over and saw Michaela tending a patient and brushing a strand of hair from her eyes and sighing. It had been a long day for both of them and the stress of Michaela keeping up with doctor Hernandez was beginning to show on her face. Doctor Hernandez was a kind and learned man and warmly welcomed her into the pueblo. He had even come to her defense when the Alcalde had serious doubts about her credentials. But there was still that competitive drive within Michaela that seemed to compel her to constantly prove herself whenever she was in the company of other doctors, especially when the doctors were men.
Throughout her training as a doctor, it had been a constant struggle for her to prove to her male colleagues that women could be just as good doctors as men and it was this competitive drive that finally allowed her succeed and become the successful doctor that she had always wanted to be. Of course as far as Sully was concerned, the moment she performed that life-saving operation on Black Kettle and he had given her the name of Medicine Woman, he knew that she didn't have to prove herself to him. He knew right away that she was a good doctor.
As Sully walked over to her, he saw doctor Hernandez put a reassuring hand upon her shoulder as he looked at her with deep concern.
"Doctor Quinn, it's getting very late and you and your husband have been quite generous in your assistance in helping these patients. You have worked hard today and I think you should get some rest." He remarked warmly.
Sully eyed Michaela as she released a weary sigh. "The doctor is right Michaela. You need to get some rest. We've been through a lot today and it's been a long day." He said putting his arm around her shoulders and gazing earnestly into her eyes.
Michaela looked at Sully and nodded. "I supposed you're right Sully. It has been a long day and I am a bit tired." She replied with a slight sigh. She turned to doctor Hernandez.
"Are you sure you won't be needing any help tonight? I would more than happy to stay and help you." She replied warmly.
Doctor Hernandez smiled and shook his head. "No señora. You have done more than your share of the work tonight. You don't know how much I appreciate everything you have done so far. Just bringing this medicine and having you here to help us was a blessing. You are truly an amazing woman doctor Quinn. Forgive me for saying so, but your understanding of medicine and procedures is equal to any male doctor I have ever worked with. I feel honored just working beside you señora." He replied proudly and smiled.
Michaela slightly blushed and smiled. "Thank you doctor Hernandez. You don't know how much I appreciate you saying that. It's been hard for me as a woman to try to make a place for myself as a doctor in such a male dominated profession. Sully and my father were the only ones who really believed in me and now I can say you as well. Gracias señor for standing up for me today. You are truly a man of honor." Replied Michaela earnestly. She held out her hand to shake his but instead doctor Hernandez took her hand and lightly kissed it and smiled.
"Buenas noches señora, until tomorrow!" doctor Hernandez replied smiling.
Michaela felt her face become flushed as he smiled at her. "Until tomorrow doctor." Michaela replied amiably. She modestly slipped her hand from his and smiled.
Sully smiled as he gazed at the soft blush on her face and pressed a tender kiss to her cheek
Michaela turned and gazed into Sully's eyes as if she had seen him for the very first time. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him close and pressed a tender kiss to his lips. Sully wrapped his arms around her and pressed her close to him and deepened his kiss.
As they stood in their romantic embrace, doctor Hernandez politely excused himself and returned to his patients, but as he looked back he doubted that they even noticed he had gone. He shook his head and sighed as he adjusted the covers on a young boy as he lay sleeping soundly in his bed. He wasn't sure how this amazing doctor and her husband had arrived but he was at least grateful that they had brought the medicine he needed to help cure this epidemic and save his people.
Sully and Michaela's passionate moment was briefly interrupted as they heard the distant clearing of a throat as Diego stepped up to them slightly embarrassed at having disturbed their tender moment together. Sully and Michaela slowly parted and looked at one another and smiled, their faces a bit flushed from their heated emotions. Michaela turned her soft warm eyes toward him and flashed a retiring smile at him.
"Please forgive us señor....we..." Michaela began. Diego held up his hand and shook his head.
"No señora, forgive me! I shouldn't have interrupted. I only came to tell you that you and Sully are more than welcome to stay at our hacienda while you are here. Father and I would be honored to have you." Diego replied warmly and smiled.
"Gracias señor, but we wouldn't want to be an inconvenience to you and your father." Michaela replied modestly.
Diego shook his head and smiled. "Believe me señora, it will not be an inconvenience. In fact it would be a pleasure to have you." Diego replied congenially.
Alejandro momentarily walked up and put his hand on Diego's shoulder. "Is everything all right son?" he inquired.
"Everything is fine. I was just inviting señor and señora Sully to stay at our hacienda while they are here." He stated.
Alejandro smiled. "By all means! You are most welcome to stay with us. We have more than enough room and we would certainly enjoy your company." He replied warmly.
Michaela looked at Sully briefly as if waiting for him to come to some decision. Sully nodded. "It's up to you Michaela." He stated earnestly.
She turned to Alejandro and Diego and smiled. "Thank you..." she nodded. "we would be glad to stay at your hacienda." She replied.
Alejandro smiled. "Bueno! Diego get Felipe and tell him we are having company. He and I will ride ahead and I will get him to prepare your room." He stated.
Diego nodded and left to find Felipe.
As Alejandro helped Sully and Michaela gather their things Diego glanced around the tavern and saw Felipe helping Victoria carry some dishes into the kitchen.
'Perfect!' thought Diego 'I can get Felipe and tell Victoria good-bye at the same time!'
He walked over and followed them into the kitchen.
Felipe set the dishes in the sink and turned around to see Diego standing beside a counter in the kitchen. He looked at him and smiled.
"Ah Felipe..." Diego began. "Father wants you to ride back to the hacienda with him to help prepare for our guests tonight." He stated earnestly.
Victoria turned and looked at Diego. She and Felipe's eyes widened almost at the same time.
"You're having guests Diego?" she said in surprise.
Diego looked her smugly and smiled. "Now don't get excited Victoria, we only invited señor and señora Sully to stay at our hacienda while they are here. I thought it was the least I could do since they are here to help us." He replied sincerely.
Victoria shook her head and looked at him mildly. "I wasn't getting excited, I was just surprised that's all!"
He looked at her warmly and smiled. "My mistake señorita. I apologize."
She flashed a captivating smile at him. "Well...I suppose I could forgive you...this time!" she replied with a wink. She turned and put on her apron and began washing her dishes.
Diego felt his heart slightly flutter as he stood gazing at her.
"Besides, ..." she began as she rinsed off a plate. "I think it's very gracious of you and Alejandro to offer to let them stay with you while they are here. If my tavern wasn't being used as a hospital, they could stay here." She shook her head and sighed wearily.
Diego walked up behind her and put his hands upon her shoulders and slowly turned her around to face him. He looked at her with deep concern.
"Don't worry Victoria, it's only temporary. I have feeling things will be getting better from now on." He stated earnestly.
"I know..." Victoria began as she dried her hands on her apron. She looked up at Diego and managed a slight smile. "I have a feeling that they will too. But sometimes I just have to keep reminding myself of that fact." She replied as she looked into his eyes.
As he looked at Victoria he could feel himself being drawn into those dark brown eyes of hers in a long lingering stare. His heart skipped a beat as he gazed into her eyes. He slightly blinked as he managed to pull himself out of his quixotic haze and sighed.
"Victoria, you have been so brave through all of this. You have endured so much since all of this began. When all of this is over maybe...." He suddenly stopped. 'This isn't the time.' He thought. But it was too late. He saw her eyes widen. It was obvious she knew what he was going to say.
"Maybe....what Diego?" Her eyes bore into his in a piercing stare.
As he felt the intensity of her stare he felt his heart suddenly pounding against his chest as if he were being chased on foot by the Alcalde and his men. Right now he wished that were the case instead of confronting Victoria. At least with the Alcalde and his men he knew what to do. With Victoria, it was another story.
He slowly dropped his hands by his sides and walked over to Felipe. "We should go Felipe. It's getting late." He remarked as he eyed Felipe sternly. Felipe looked at Diego with curiosity and shook his head and signed what was the matter.
Diego shook his head sternly and motioned for him to leave. Felipe shook his head and walked out. He wasn't sure what was wrong, but he knew there was something definitely going on between those two.
Diego turned to Victoria and anxiously looked at her. "Victoria I..." She quickly broke in.
"Good night Diego!" she replied with a slight edge to her voice. She turned her back on him and continued washing the rest of the dishes.
He felt a knot in his stomach as he stood watching her. He wished there was something he could say that would smooth things over, but he had a feeling that it probably wouldn't do any good. He had obviously put his foot in it this time and right now there was nothing he could do. He shook his head and sighed. He wished she could see the hurt in his eyes and know that he was sorry. But maybe it was just as well she didn't.
"Good night Victoria." He said softly. As he was about to leave he turned and glanced back at her once more. "I love you Victoria." And then he quickly left.
Victoria suddenly felt herself gripping the edge of her sink as she felt the tears run down her face. She threw her rag in the warm sudsy water and sat on her stool and softly wept.
In her mind she wished that things were back the way they were when they were just friends. At least it wasn't so complicated like it was now. Now she loved him with all her heart and he loved her just as much. But when was he going to tell her he was Zorro and when was he going to ask her to marry him! Damned this epidemic! She put her face in her hands and cried.
She was so consumed in her grief that she didn't hear the footsteps of the kindly doctor step through the curtain. He looked over and saw Victoria crying. He shook his head as his eyes cast a soulful gaze upon her. He walked over and put reassuring hand upon her shoulder.
"Victoria, what's the matter child." He said softly as he gently touched the back of her head.
Victoria sat up and dried her eyes with her apron. She shook her head and stood up.
"I'm sorry, doctor Hernandez. I didn't hear you come in." she said her face flushed with embarrassment.
As she started back over to her sink, he gently grabbed her hand. She flashed a look of surprise at him.
His eyes cast a look of concern upon her face. "Victoria, why were crying?" he asked compassionately as he looked upon her tearstained face.
Victoria shook her head and sighed. "I guess it's just this epidemic. I was just so upset by everything that's happened. I wish it was over." She said sadly as she lowered her head.
Doctor Hernandez stepped up to her and put his hands upon her shoulders in a fatherly gesture and looked warmly into her eyes. She raised her head up and looked at him.
"Everything is going to be all right from now on Victoria. Doctor Quinn has brought us the medicine we need and with her help this epidemic will soon be over. Many of the patients are already showing signs of improvement and that's a very good sign!" he stated earnestly.
Victoria's face became flushed as she lowered her eyes. "I feel so ashamed for being so upset. I guess I was just feeling sorry for myself. I'm sorry." She replied regretfully. However she knew that was only part of the reason. Yet she didn't want to burden the kind doctor with her own dilemma.
Doctor Hernandez tenderly put his hand upon her cheek and shook his head.
"There's no need to apologize my child. I think God will forgive us for having a moment of doubt. I too have had my dark moments of doubt and questioned my ability as a doctor. But things happen for a reason, sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad. But we should remember that God has a plan for us and only he knows what that plan is. It is up to us just to do the best we can and have faith in Him and trust his judgement. Everything will work out in the end. You'll see!" he replied warmly.
"In the meantime,..." he began somewhat sternly. "you need to get your rest. You've been working much too hard Victoria. You won't be of much help to anyone if you are exhausted or ill. Go to bed and maybe things will look better tomorrow." He remarked as he gently patted her cheek.
Victoria slightly smiled and nodded. "I supposed you're right! It's been a long day for everyone." She remarked. Victoria glanced over at some of her unwashed dishes and sighed. "I suppose I can finish this tomorrow. I know it will be there in the morning." She mildly chuckled.
She looked at doctor Hernandez attentively. "You need your rest as well doctor Hernandez. You've been working harder than anyone." She stated.
He smiled at her and nodded. "I will be all right. Most of the patients are asleep now and as soon as I finish making some notations in my journal, I'll turn in." he replied.
Victoria looked at him sternly and then smiled. "Make sure that you do! We can't have you getting sick too!" she remarked. She put her hand upon his shoulder and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
Doctor Hernandez's eyes widened. "Señorita, what was that for?" he exclaimed as he slightly blushed.
Victoria smiled. "Ever since my parents died, you have always been like a second father to me. Always giving me advice and listening to me when I had something on my mind. I just wanted to thank you doctor Hernandez. I owe you so much." She replied compassionately.
"No señorita. You do not owe me anything! I am just glad that I have lived long enough to see you grow up to become a beautiful, strong and independent woman. Despite what you have been through, you have overcome those odds and have become successful in your own right by looking at the positive things in your life instead of the negative things. If only your parents were alive today they would be as proud of you as I am. If I could have had a daughter Victoria, I would have wanted her to be like you." Doctor Hernandez remarked.
Victoria slightly blushed as she gazed at him and smiled. He was right. He had brought her into this world when she was born and watched her grow from just a tiny baby into a grown woman. He had watched her through her struggles and successes and had been there for her when her parents died. Of course her brothers supported her through everything as well, but Victoria had always held a special place in her heart for doctor Hernandez. He had always been so kind to her after the death of her father and offered his counsel if she needed it. In many ways he reminded her of her father. Kind, compassionate and willing to help others. She supposed that was why she felt that way about him.
The only other person or people who also cared as much for her was of course the good padre Benitez and the de la Vegas. In particular Diego. Victoria's mind momentarily drifted. Ah yes...Diego! Right now she wasn't sure if she even wanted to think about him. She slightly shook her head and blinked. If she was ever going to get any sleep tonight, she was just going to have to try to forget that episode tonight ever happened.
She smiled at the kind doctor and sighed. "Gracias doctor Hernandez. I am flattered. You are very kind to say that." She replied modestly.
"I was only stating the truth my child." He remarked earnestly.
Victoria slightly blushed. "Well, I suppose I should be turning in. As you said, it's very late." She remarked.
"And I as well." Hernandez returned.
They walked out of the kitchen and said good-night and headed for the comfort of their own beds. It had been a long day and they were both weary from the mental and physical stress that transpired during the day. Victoria even more so as she walked into her room and shut her door. The remnants of the episode between Diego and herself still hung in her mind like a bad dream and she couldn't understand why it wasn't going away. Maybe it was her stubbornness that wouldn't let it. Or maybe it was just too meaningful to forget. Whatever the case, at least what doctor Hernandez had said was of some emotional comfort to her and maybe with that in mind she would be able to get some well-deserved rest. As he had said, 'maybe things will look better tomorrow.' 'Maybe.' Thought Victoria. She slipped on her nightgown and turned down her bedcovers and climbed into bed. She momentarily gazed up at the ceiling and sighed. 'I love you too Diego.' She whispered to herself. She reached over and turned out her light and finally nodded off to sleep.