Summary: Dorothy surprises Cloud Dancing when he returns from the North.

Disclaimer: I own nothing of Dr. Quinn.

Rating: T+

Pairing: Dorothy and Cloud Dancing

HOMECOMING:

Dorothy Jennings stood on the porch of the Gazette looking out at the people who passed by as they wandered into town for the day. She smelled the delicious scent of food from Grace's Café out back and was instantly hungry. Last night she had been so consumed by the next addition of the paper that she might have forgotten to eat. Her stomach rumbled in demand of nourishment. Casually her gaze drifted towards the road out of town where she imagined Cloud Dancing riding into town. Oh how she missed him. For eight months he had been with his people in the Tung River Valley . Some days she thought he was never coming back, but then she knew that to be plain foolishness. He had promised her that he was coming back. Cloud Dancing didn't make promises lightly if he had no intention of keeping them. She just had to wait and wait she would even if it killed her. Bringing her eyes away from the road Dorothy went to her horse that was tethered to the railing. The mare had been a gift from Cloud Dancing before he had left. "What do you think Wind Chaser? Will he be back soon?" Dorothy asked. She smiled when the mare shook her head. "Me too," Affectionately, Dorothy rubbed the mare's forehead before heading back inside.

It wasn't until late afternoon that Dorothy found herself back out in front of the Gazette looking up the same road, looking for Cloud Dancing. The sun cast its heated golden rays down over the town in such intensity that Dorothy had to shade her eyes as she saw men on horse back ride towards town. None of them were Cloud Dancing. In the background of all the noise she realized someone was calling out to her. Turning from the road Dorothy saw her long time friend Loren Bray coming towards her. He was a dear sweet man and had been there for her for many years. "Hello Loren." Dorothy greeted forcing herself not to turn back to look for Cloud Dancing.

"What are you doing out here?" Loren asked, but he knew who she was looking for. Eight months and Dorothy had done nothing but wait for the Indian. He hadn't understood what she saw in Cloud Dancing, but Loren knew that the medicine man made her happy.

"Taking a break from the paper," Dorothy lied not wanting to admit that it had been Cloud Dancing she had been searching for. She should have gone with him even though he never would have dared to ask her. At one time Dorothy had considered breaking her love out of a jail cell and fleeing with him from Colorado up into the Northern Territory so he could be with his people. Cloud Dancing hadn't let her. He didn't want her to give up her life for him just as she hated to even think about the life he was giving up for her.

"You was looking for Cloud Dancing." Loren prodded. He knew it as he stepped up onto the porch next to her. For eight months she had been half in town and half up north with her Cheyenne . Loren hated to see her hurting and hurting she was. She was missing him.

"Am I that obvious?" Dorothy lowered her head looking at the dusty planks of her porch. "I just miss him so much." She whispered. Though, in the time he had been in the Northern Territory it had afforded her the time to set in motion a few surprises for him when he returned home to her.

"Have you heard from him?" Loren asked gently. He placed his right hand on her back, rubbing small comforting circles to try and help soothe her heart ache. Dorothy had been there for him when Marjorie had died casting him deep down in a well of despair. The least he could do was be there for her as she waited for a man who could never come back.

"A message here and there," Dorothy answered. "I should have gone with him." She leaned her head on Loren's shoulder fighting back tears. Her horse was saddled; she could still ride out of town and be half way towards the Tung River Valley before night fell. She had been there before, but that time Cloud Dancing had come back with her and was nearly captured by the army when he and Sully lingered to help try and broker a peace between the army and the renegades. No, she couldn't just show up. She would wait, she would worry, and she would be here when he came home.

"Maybe ya don't have to." Loren looked up the very road Dorothy had been watching when he came up to see the man she had been missing riding into town. About time too, he thought. Dorothy looked at him. Loren only pointed up the road.

Dorothy felt her heart kick up in beat at anticipation of seeing Cloud Dancing again. Could he really have come home? Slowly she turned from Loren to look up the road and sure enough, there he was riding towards her. Before she knew it her feet were moving and then she was off and running towards him. All that mattered was getting to him, feeling his arms around her. Dorothy needed him. Then, like magic, she was there and his arms were around her lifting her off her feet. "I missed you." Dorothy sobbed, tears finally falling.

"As I have missed you," Cloud Dancing had been trapped in a soul crushing darkness since the morning he had rode away from Colorado Springs , and away from Dorothy to help his people in the Northern Territory . His arm tightened around her needing to feel all of her pressed against him. Could Dancing didn't care that people were looking at him, all that mattered to him was Dorothy. "I am home now."

Dorothy felt whole once again being in his arms. "I should have gone with you." She said against the side of his neck. Cloud Dancing pulled back from her, bringing his hands up to cup her face. Automatically she gently wrapped her hands around his wrists as his thumbs wiped away her trail of tears.

"I could not have asked that of you," Cloud Dancing mumbled even though it had been his greatest wish for her to be with him. "This place is your home. I could not ask you to leave." He said. Though, every minute he had been away from her his heart ached to see her.

"My home is with you." Dorothy announced seeing happiness bring light to his eyes. She knew that where ever he would go, she would go with him. It was torture being away from him. Even when he had been close to the town hiding with Sully, Dorothy had hurt deeply knowing that she couldn't go to him with the army so close. "Where ever life takes you, I will be there with you." She tried to peak through the second wave of tears. They weren't from sorrow, they were from joy.

Cloud Dancing pulled her in tight against him again infusing her with all the happiness he could. She had said the one thing he had longed to hear from her; she wanted to be with him. He knew from the moment he realized he loved her that he could never be apart from her, but Dorothy had to come to it on her own terms. She loved him; she wanted to be with him truly. "Then we will be together." He promised her. Dorothy hugged him harder.

All was right with the world. Dorothy had the man she loved and the life she wanted. "I know you just got home, but I have a surprise for you." She took his hands in hers pulling her back towards the Gazette where her horse was saddled. "I hope you're up for riding?" They had to ride out to Daniel's land; the former reservation for the last Cheyenne people. Together they reached the Gazette and Dorothy went to her horse. She didn't notice Cloud Dancing tether his horse to the railing as she looked around for Loren. Her friend walked up the road towards his General Store.

Cloud Dancing stood for a moment beside Dorothy as she settled herself into the saddle. Then, seeing that few people were around, watching them, Cloud Dancing swung up behind her putting his arms around her waist. Dorothy leaned back against him when he whispered, "My horse needs a rest. I will ride with you."

"People are staring at us," Dorothy mentioned as she nudged Wind Chaser away from the Gazette and on to the road that would take them to Daniel's land. The short ride through the streets had Dorothy nearly closing her eyes to block out the stares people were sending her way. What made it bearable was having Cloud Dancing's arms around her waist.

"I see no one but you," Cloud Dancing whispered. A few minutes later they were out of the watchful eyes of the town's folk allowing him to steal a kiss. Greedily he plundered her mouth trying to dispel the months he had been away from her. Dorothy eagerly let him take what he wanted. She moaned into his heated kiss. Reluctantly he unsealed his lips from hers. "I am sorry." Cloud Dancing murmured.

"Don't be. I love when you kiss me." Dorothy said breathlessly. His kisses always left her dizzy. Everything about him could spin her about in the best way possible. Cloud Dancing was a man she knew she could spend the rest of her life loving and not being ashamed about it. After she showed him what she had been working on for eight months, Dorothy hoped for more of his kisses.

Cloud Dancing hugged her close enjoying the ride, enjoying the feeling of her near him until he realized where they were headed. "We are near the reservation." He commented feeling a rise of despair mixed with panic flood through him. He had been imprisoned on this land with the illusion of freedom. Why would Dorothy be taking him back?

"Daniel bought this land, as you remember, and he gave me some of it." Dorothy answered without giving away the surprise she wished to give him. "I know this land holds terrible memories for you, but I hope where we end up, those memories will just fade away." Dorothy continued nudging her horse onto a side path so they avoided the former entrance to the Reservation where Daniel's home now rested adding a sense of peace to the scarred land.

Cloud Dancing took in slow deep breaths in an attempt to calm his heart. Off in the distance he saw another structure partially obscured by the land, by the trees. It almost looked like a house built around the natural growth of the trees and the gentle hilled land. He couldn't believe what he was seeing at first. Then Dorothy urged the horse to stop and Cloud Dancing dismounted to help her down; all the while keeping his eyes on the dwelling before him. A home.

Dorothy took his hand, lacing their fingers together, pulling him towards the wide porch. Evening had fallen and soon the lamps would need to be lit to scare away the darkness. "I wanted to give you a place that I could share with you that also honored the land you people lived on for so long." Dorothy whispered taking that first step up on to the porch. "This home is what I want to share with you, to live with you." The cool evening air of summer wafted around them. "Sully, Daniel, Mathew, Brian, and Robert E helped bring this to life." She said turning to him. On his face was a look of pure wonderment, of joy.

Cloud Dancing stepped in close to her, once again taking her mouth in a heated kiss. She was his woman, his love. In one single afternoon Dorothy had given him so much that he didn't know how to convey the right words to her. All he knew he could do was to kiss her, to show her how happy he was.

Her head was swimming with so many emotions as his lips danced over hers. She had imagined so any reactions from him; all running from the best to the worst. Dorothy was thrilled that this made him happy. In this moment she knew she had made the right choice in asking for Sully's help to bring this dream to life. Out of breath she reluctantly took her lips from his, "Let me show you." She whispered. Taking his hand again Dorothy led him inside where the main room was built around the trunk of a large oak tree; the same tree she and Cloud Dancing had sat under many times while he spoke of his people, imparting the tale's, the history for her book.

Cloud Dancing moved about the main room where a medicine wheel graced one wall, a buffalo fur lay in front of a fire place, with various other Cheyenne belongings scattered about. It was a taste of his world melded perfectly with the life Dorothy knew. The sense of home that overwhelmed him had tears filling his eyes. She loved him enough to give him this gift. Looking at her, he noticed she lingered by a doorway covered by a Cheyenne woven blanket in bold blues, reds, yellows, and greens. She was watching him wearing a contended smile. The lodge was open with barely any walls on the inside that didn't need to be. He was comfortable and unconfined. "What have I yet to see?" Cloud Dancing asked coming to stand in front of Dorothy.

Dorothy shrugged adding a coy smile and a light laugh. "I'm just saving the best for last." Reaching behind her she swept aside the blanket revealing the bedroom; all open space with a large doorway leading to the back yard where the rising sun could be seen. Rolled above it, as was above the front entrance, was a heavy buckskin flap that would be used in the winter to keep out the cold. There was even a large fireplace near to breath warmth into the room on chilly nights. Dorothy was reveling in the utter wonderment she saw from Cloud Dancing at he walked around the room. Then he stopped at the bed and Dorothy's heart leapt into her throat. He had once told her a story of ancient Cheyenne warriors and the belief that when they died in battle their souls would be reborn into the hearts of their horses. When Dorothy had asked Sully about it, he had cobbled together the right sized pieces of wood to construct the elaborately carved framed that looked like stallions running free.

Tentatively Cloud Dancing reached his hand out, placing his palm over the carved heard of the nearest horse. Just when he thought Dorothy could do nothing more to surprise him, he sees this knowing it came out of her love for him. "The frame is lower to the ground." He commented showing Dorothy the range of emotions crossing his face.

Dorothy came to him then setting her hand over his, "I know you're used to sleeping on pallets of buffalo skins, but I remembered what you told me about the Cheyenne warriors and I thought this more fitting." Adorning the bed were woven blankets under a buffalo skin. She could see he was stunned beyond words, happiness radiated out from his heart. "Does this make you happy?" Dorothy whispered. His response was to gather her in his arms holding her close, his cheek to hers where she felt tears painting his skin.

"Yes, my heart swells with love for you." Cloud Dancing looked at her so she could see the truth of his words in his eyes. "I love you with all that I am."

"As I love you with everything my heart has to offer." Dorothy responded. From inside the pocket of her dress she pulled out a box. "I have one more gift for you, for us."

Cloud Dancing was intrigued all over. Taking his arms from around her, he took the box opening it revealing two bands, one was small and the color of lavender, the other was fit for a male finger and the color of moss. "I do not understand." He knew the significance of rings to the White Man.

Dorothy took the box removing the green jade ring. She took his right hand sliding the band on to his ring finger. "I know that our world doesn't understand why I would love you, would want to be with you, but in my heart I am…" Dorothy let the sentence die. When she had been married she had wanted nothing more than to be free of her abusive husband. Then Cloud Dancing happened to her, opened her heart again, and brought love back into her life. Her life truly was joined with his now.

"You are my wife." Cloud Dancing finished for her. Late at night when the rest of his people had fallen into slumber he had been awake sitting on a near by hill watching the heavens wondering what Dorothy was doing at the same moment. Since he had been allowed free passage to and from Colorado Springs he had spent every moment he could with Dorothy. "In my heart, in my soul, you are my woman." Cloud Dancing removed the lavender ring placing it on her right ring finger. He was honored beyond all words. Leaning into her Cloud Dancing kissed her; he couldn't stop kissing her. Her hands fisted in the front of his shirt, suddenly, desperately trying to tug it up and off of him. "Are you certain?" He asked.

"Yes," Dorothy gasped out trying to drag in vital oxygen to think. A rumbling laugh vibrated his chest under her hands as he raised his arms above his head. She pushed the buck skin shirt up over his head where he pulled it the rest of the way off letting it drop to the floor. She felt heat rise to her cheeks when his hair fell over his shoulders. Her Cheyenne Medicine Man was beautiful to her. She knew she could trust him and was unafraid for him to see her scars. His hands rested at her waist for a few seconds before traveling up her sides to the nape of her neck where the buttons of her dress were being held together. One by one he released them until he could pull aside the light blue fabric down her shoulders. Slowly he was leading her back to the bed that would now be theirs.

EARLY THE NEXT MORNING:

Cloud Dancing had barely slept after her and Dorothy had made love passionately into the early morning. She had slipped into a blissful sleep leaving him wide awake to enjoy the pre-dawn morning listening to the sounds echoing through the trees and carried along on the wind. He held up his hand gazing at the ring gracing his finger; a sign of Dorothy's devotion to him. Cloud Dancing knew he was fully devoted to her in return. This life, the path he chose made the ground beneath his feet feel steadier as he walked because he knew he walked with Dorothy.

Dorothy stood leaning against the doorway with one of the blankets wrapped around her as she watched Cloud Dancing. There was something so enticing about watching him as he watched the land that was so quiet. Slowly she walked to him and wrapped her arms around his waist pillowing her head on his forearm. "Everything is so still." She whispered. Thin fog coated the land weaving in and out through the sections of tall grass. It gave a hint of mystery to the land.

"This is the time of day I enjoy." Cloud Dancing answered bringing Dorothy into his arm; her back pressed to his chest. Taking her right hand in his he pointed to where Deer appeared. "If we are still we can see the life that belongs to this land," He kissed Dorothy's temple in counterpoint to the gentle swaying he had started. "There is much to be learned from the land."

"I still remember what you taught me." Dorothy replied angling her head so she could kiss the underside of his chin. "It's cold." She mumbled. "We should head back to bed." They had the rest of their lives together. This morning would be one of many and Dorothy found peace in that knowledge that she now shared her life with Cloud Dancing. He took her hand leading her back inside, back to the bed they now shared.