Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. The rights to those characters and to the show belong to the creators of the show, to CBS, The Sullivan Company and to A&E.

Scrapes and Bruises

By, Ashley J.

After the cattle drive had ended quite successfully, Michaela was ready to go home and get cleaned off. The rest of the group was taking the cattle out toward Olive's old ranch, and they'd insisted that Michaela go home and rest after nearly being trampled and collapsing after the brushfire.

Sully rode halfway to the ranch with the rest of the group, and once he was sure they could make it without his assistance, he doubled back and started toward the homestead. He wanted to check on Michaela and make sure that she was feeling well and that her cuts and bruises were healing. He knew she'd be fine, especially with the fact that she herself was a doctor, but he needed some kind of excuse to see the woman he loved while the children were away.

The kids wouldn't be home until later, because after the cattle were deposited at the ranch, the group was going for a free hot meal at Grace's. That would give Sully and Michaela plenty of alone time. He enjoyed the time they got to spend alone together, because it happened so rarely with the kids around all of the time. He loved the kids, but he also enjoyed a little privacy. At least they'd have a bit more after they were married and moved into the new homestead.

Meanwhile, Michaela had taken her soaps and sponges down to the nearest creek about ten minutes away from the homestead. She was sitting atop a large rock in the middle of the creek, clad in only her underclothes. Her feet dangled in the later, and she had the legs of her underpants rolled up so she could clean away the dirt and grime that had somehow managed to get into her shoes and up to her knees. As she lathered the soap onto her arms and legs, she heard a twig snap. She jumped it fright, but was calmed a few moments later when Sully stepped into view.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, seeing her betrothed standing there. It wasn't as if he hadn't seen her in this attire before, but that had been under far different circumstances. "Sully!"

"Didn't mean to scare ya."

"That's alright." Michaela quickly rinsed off her arms and legs before she rolled down the legs to her underpants. She stood in the water and walked over to get dressed. She didn't ask him to turn away, however, because it wasn't anything he hadn't seen before. She wasn't completely naked at least.

She had brought a clean outfit to change into, and after she'd pulled on her skirt, Sully bent down, picked up the shirt, and held it out to her, taking noticed of the scratches on her arms.

"They still hurt?"

"Not really," she replied. "They're already beginning to heal."

"That's good," he said with a nod. He noticed a little blood seeping from one of the scratches. He took her hand and led her over to a tree stump. She was about to put her shirt on over her camisole. "Wait." He grabbed the sponge and started to walk towards her. Memories of Sully washing off her arms and neck on the cattle drive came to Michaela, and she realized she was blushing. Sully smiled, seeing how innocent she looked. He crouched down and brushed the sponge over her arm, mopping up the bit of blood. He showed it to her.

"Oh. Thank you. We should get back to the homestead so I can . . ."

"What's the hurry?" he wondered.

"Well, I am rather tired." Sully leaned in and kissed her softly. She brought her hand to his face and when he pulled away, she pressed her lips against his again.

The wind picked up a bit, and Michaela's wet skin felt chilly. She pulled away from Sully, gave him a smile and pulled her clean shirt over her scratched and bruised arms. As she was doing up the buttons, Sully reached out for her hands, brought them to her lap, and he proceeded to do up the buttons himself.

"Sully, I'm perfectly capable of . . ."

"I know," he interrupted. His lips curled up into a smile, which seemed to reflect on Michaela's face as her own smile brightened her smudged features.

When Sully had finished buttoning Michaela's shirt, Michaela brought the sponge to her face and washed away the dirt and grime from the cattle drive. What she wouldn't have given to wash her hair right then, but she figured she would do that later when she had a little more privacy to bathe her entire body. It hardly seemed proper to reveal so much at this point.

"Ya ready to go?"

"Go?" Michaela wondered.

"Well, the kids are goin' to town to eat at Grace's. Did ya wanna come too?" He hoped she'd say 'no' so they could be together and talk for a while.

"I'm actually not feeling up to it," Michaela admitted.

"But ya gotta eat."

"I'm not feeling very hungry right now." The only thing she could actually feel at the moment was the tingling sensation that lingered after Sully's touch.

"Let's get ya back to the homestead then," he suggested. Michaela nodded, and Sully helped her pack up her washing supplies.

As they walked toward the homestead, they talked about many things, including Brian's progress since the scorpion bit him. He was doing so much better, and she was sure that there would be no long-term problems. They also made a bit of light chitchat with talk of a few humorous happenings on the cattle drive.

"I can't tell you how many people came to me saying that one of the cowhands had saddle sore."

"Most folks ain't used to ridin' so much."

"That's for sure," Michaela replied with a chuckle. She remembered how Mr. Bray had tiptoed around the matter, trying to be as vague as possible about the situation. Of course he couldn't have just come out and said what his problem was, seeing as she was a lady doctor, but he knew she knew what to do for it.

"Folks really have come to respect ya, Dr. Mike," Sully said with a smile, tossing a fallen tree limb out of their path with his foot. "When ya first got here, they barely gave ya the time of day."

"It took awhile, but they came to realize I was the only doctor they had." Sully nodded. "I feel like I've been in Colorado Springs for my whole life. I suppose I never really belonged in Boston."

"I sure am glad ya came here. I never woulda met ya if ya hadn't decided to come West."

"No, I suppose you're right. Besides, I don't think I would have enjoyed working in Boston very much. I have the feeling I would have ended up working as an assistant."

"Nah. Ya woulda found a way to get things done your way."

"What makes you so sure? You certainly saw how differently I acted when you came to Boston."

"But I know who ya really are. I know your heart, Michaela."

"I suppose you do," she replied with a smile. Sully noticed how the breeze began to blow Michaela's long, beautiful hair about. He wished he could just pull her into his arms and get lost in those beautiful eyes of hers. "Sully?" She noticed he'd been very quiet for the past minute.


"Is everything alright?" Sully simply nodded, and he began to think about all of the times he'd nearly lost her. God, what a fool he'd been to have ignored his feelings for her for so long. When they had finally began courting, he had messed things up by the incident with Catherine. So many things had happened since he met Michaela that had put him in danger of losing her.

"I don't know," he admitted as they made their way into sight of the homestead. Once they reached it, they sat down together upon the porch.

"Tell me what's on your mind. What's bothering you?" Sully tossed aside a piece of straw that had drifted onto the porch of the homestead.

"I nearly lost ya."

"But you didn't."

"Not just then. I nearly lost ya so many times, and I ain't willin' to lose ya again." Michaela reached over to take Sully's hand.

"Look at me," she whispered. Sully slowly let his gaze meet hers. "You're not going to lose me. It's going to take a lot more than a cattle drive to lose me. I love you, and I love the children. That's a lot to live for, and I'm not one who gives up."

"That's for sure," Sully added. "Ya don't give up on anything."

"Sully, if you're afraid I'm going to leave or change my mind about the wedding, you can think again."

"I ain't worried about that. I know ya love me. I know we're gonna get married and have our family. I'm just worryin' 'cause it seems like every time we get the chance to be happy, somethin' comes along, and it all gets messed up."

"The both of us should know by now that life isn't perfect. Nobody can ever be completely happy all of the time, but the time we are given to be happy should be cherished, Sully. We can't keep worrying about what could happen. What matters is enjoying the good times ahead and getting through the bad."

She was right. Dwelling on the 'what ifs' was never a good idea. He'd done that plenty in the past. What if he had done something different when Abagail went into labor? What if she hadn't died? What if he had never asked Abagail to marry him? Forcing himself to think about what could have been or what could happen in the future was only a way of slowly killing the beauty of life that was right in front of him.

"Thank you," Sully whispered. Michaela smiled, understanding what Sully had been thinking of. She'd gone through a period of paranoia and thinking about how things might have been if David hadn't gone to the war. But she was glad that she hadn't stayed with David. She never could have experienced the kind of love and happiness she experienced when she was with Sully. He completed her, and that was what mattered the most.

Sully's arm wrapped around her, and his hand moved down her arm gently, being careful of the scrapes and bruises. His arm finally settled on her waist, and she leaned her head on his shoulder. Sully turned his face, and Michaela looked up at him with a bright smile upon her lips. The two leaned into one another, capturing each other in a soft kiss. Just as that kiss was begging to grow more intense, they heard the scuffling of shoes and broke away to see Colleen standing there with red cheeks.

"Uh, I'm sorry," she said with a nervous smile, biting her bottom lip. Michaela felt her own cheeks growing rosy.

"It's alright Colleen. What is it?"

"Um, Brian wanted me to come convince ya to eat with us, but ya don't gotta come," Colleen replied, wanting to get out of there as soon as possible to avoid any further embarrassment. Michaela smiled.

"Thank you Colleen. I am beginning to grow a bit hungry. We'll be there shortly." Colleen nodded and hurried off toward town. Michaela and Sully laughed a little, and Michaela stood. She reached her hand out to the man she loved. "Would you care to join me for lunch?"

"I'd like that," Sully replied, standing and taking Michaela's hand. He leaned in to kiss her softly before they started off toward town walking hand-in-hand.