Disclaimer: the rights to 'Star Trek: Voyager' do not belong to me. No infringement of copyright is intended and I make no money of this.
Author's Notes: I finished this somewherearound august, but never posted it, for whatever reason. Reading it now, I can't remember why I thought it to be brilliant then, but I did. Yes,I know it rates high on the 'sap' meter. I believe my beta Kimmy is working on a sequel to this. Enjoy!
"Was that really," a tearful Kathryn whispered with a voice close to breaking, "an ancient legend?"
"Yes. But it does convey how I feel."
Kaitlin Jane Travers froze at the end of the duckboard to gaze at the landscape of the New World. The small town where they'd docked their ship made little effort to stand in the way of her study, as she took in the grasslands with their tender flowers and the green backdrop of hills. The deep golden sun stood high in the sky and covered the whole scene with an almost surreal shine.
"Hey Kate, stop staring and move; you're blocking the way!" The sound of her father's deep voice lifted her out of her trance and she quickly picked up the bags she'd dropped on the ground while admiring the landscape to carry them to one of the waiting wagons. They'd be leaving as soon as everything was packed to head for their new home, somewhere to the west of this small harbour. Her father, John Travers, was the leader of their mission.
Once she'd gotten her bags safely on one of the wagons, she turned to help load the rest of the baggage. When all that was finished, most of the women and children found themselves a seat on a wagon, while the men strapped on their guns and mounted their horses. Kaitlin was the only woman to ride during their journey. She got on her beautiful brown mare, named Molly, and turned as she heard her father approach.
"Here, honey, let's hope you won't need it." He held out a pistol, which she hesitantly took. He gave her an encouraging smile and a wink before walking back to his own stallion. "Alright, people. On to our new home!" The convoy consisting of almost fifty colonists left the town accompanied by whistles and joyous shouts: a picture of merriment.
A few weeks later they made an entirely different and not so happy picture. More than a dozen people had died due too several run-ins with Indians and spirits were low. With their slow-moving wagons and small number of people, they were now easy prey. Their mission was to build a settlement, and therefore most of the colonists had been new couples, and the children they had were very young. The men were inexperienced and mostly educated in the fields of construction and agriculture – not weaponry. They were with too small a number to defend themselves from all their enemies.
The latest fight, which had taken place last night, had claimed the lives of two men and a small child who'd been trampled in the disorganization of the attack. One of those men had been John Travers, the leader of their small expedition. With him gone, panic spread quickly amongst the women and children, and some of the men as well. Kaitlin had seen this, and forced aside the grief for her father to take control of the demoralized group. None of the other people tried to stop her and she quickly ordered everything to be reloaded on the wagons and led the people – now her people – farther across the New Land.
Two weeks without any more attacks helped the small group regain some of its cheerfulness and vitality. However, Kaitlin knew that one large attack would be enough to wipe out those of them who'd survived so far. Guards at night were doubled and traps built all around the camp. This slowed them down significantly, but made all of them feel a lot safer. Also, knifes were now always held within reach and their journey was even delayed a few days to teach some of the women – and a few men who hadn't quite mastered the skill yet – how to use a gun. She hoped that would be enough to protect them from future raids.
It happened on the eve of their seventieth day. While the women were cooking dinner and the men were building up their shelter for the night, the evening's peacefulness was suddenly disturbed by the sound of war cries. Within minutes their camp was overrun by Indians. The group didn't seem very organized, but they held the element of surprise and quickly managed to overpower a lot of the men. Kaitlin, who'd been helping in the construction of the tents for lack of any cooking skills, was one of the first to be pulled into the fight. Abandoning their stoves and pots, the women grabbed their knives and guns and followed her example, putting their newly learned skills into practice. Within minutes, the balance of power tipped in favour of the colonists. The Indians, war paint disguising their features, found themselves surrounded by the group they had thought would be an easy victim. With the diminishing of the chaos, the settlers noticed how small the number of Indians actually was. Only about a dozen armed men had been the cause of the panic and those were now surrounded by adrenaline-driven Europeans. Angered by their losses and the past attacks, one of the settlers shouted that the native soldiers should be hung or shot. His proposal found a lot of support and the Indians started to feel threatened. One of the men had already taken a step forward and aimed his gun at what seemed to be the leader of the natives.
"Stop!" Kaitlin yelled as she too stepped to the front, her blazing eyes focussed on the troublemaker. The crowd of settlers stood down, intimidated by her menacing stance. Except for the man who still held a gun to the Indian's head. Kaitlin turned to face him, eyes blazing in anger.
"I don't take no orders from no woman!"
"You've been taking orders from me for the past two weeks. Now, I suggest you lower your weapon and step back." The man made no effort to move, but instead broke away and shifted his gun's aim from the Indian's head to his heart. He sneered at Kaitlin and pulled the trigger. Kaitlin's eyes grew wide, but she wasted no time in reacting. With a fast leap she hurled herself in front of the bullet and right into the brave's arms. A shocked silence fell over the camp as the people, natives and settlers alike, stared at the scene in front of them.
The Indian, who had been thrown backwards by the sudden force of Kaitlin's petite body connecting with his, quickly scrambled to his feet; Kaitlin herself was already standing. If the people had been intimidated by her before, they now almost shivered as her eyes once again found those of the white male. This time, her rage was intense enough to heat up their entire camp.
"How dare you." In contrast to her almost flaming hair and eyes, her voice was cold as steel and cut through the silence like a knife. "I told you to lower your weapon." A few steps forward brought her almost nose-to-nose with the man. "Don't you ever disobey me again. Understood?" A quick nod and a strange strangled sound was all the poor man could manage. "Good. Dismissed." The rest of the colonists followed him as he hastily went back to the camp. Kaitlin watched them go before turning back to the Indians.
"Which one of you is the leader?" None of the braves moved for a moment, before the tall man with the tattoo whom she'd earlier jumped in front of spoke.
"I am." Kaitlin nodded as her original guess proved correct.
"I would like to speak with you." The tall Indian nodded and waited for Kaitlin to take the lead. She led him to the largest of the tents already put up and showed him in. Neither of them gave any thought to the fact that he could easily overpower her, just like none of the Indians had even entertained the thought of escaping earlier after the settlers had left her alone with them. Kaitlin motioned for him to sit down and seated herself on an opposite log. For minutes they just looked at each other, sizing each other up. It was Kaitlin who finally severed the silence.
"My name is Kaitlin Jane Travers, what's yours?" The Indian stared at her so long she wondered if he was going to answer. Finally a small smile graced his lips and he said something she couldn't understand. His smile widened as he noticed her confusion.
"It means Lone Wolf" Her earlier confusion didn't slow her down for a minute.
"Alright, Lone Wolf, if you don't mind my asking; why did you attack us?" The Indian's eyes, which until that time had looked soft and almost kind, hardened until they sparkled with anger. Kaitlin was momentarily taken aback by the sudden change.
"We don't like white men going though our land; they bring nothing but trouble." His harsh tone made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end, but she refused to let him see how intimidated she was. The knowledge that he could kill her with ease suddenly became clear to her.
"We're just passing through; we don't mean any harm."
"Neither did we." In light of their recent attack on her camp, those words sounded strange to Kaitlin and she was about to retort sharply when she looked at him more closely. She saw the deep pain in his eyes.
"What did they do?" Her tone now was soft and Lone Wolf looked up in surprise. Their eyes met and held and Kaitlin felt as if her very soul was suddenly laid bare to him. She saw the same surprise she felt reflected in his eyes and when she looked deeper she noticed the hurt the actions of other white people had put in his heart. As they stared at each other, her own painful emotions concerning her father's death, those which she had buried in order to take over his role, resurfaced. She could feel the wound of pain it had caused closing just as she could see the pain in Lone Wolf's eyes diminish.
Finally their eyes let go of each other's when Lone Wolf looked down at the ground and took a deep breath to steady himself. Kaitlin too felt rather shaky.
"You said you wanted to talk to me, so what is it?" His controlled voice reminded both of them that they were in truth enemies and Kaitlin quickly rearranged her features to show an expression that was all business.
"Would you and your tribe be interested in joining us?" Once again an expression of complete surprise graced his features.
By the time they came outside, Kaitlin's people had once again surrounded the Indians. But opposed to their earlier hostile stance, they were now merely curious. They easily parted when they saw Kaitlin and Lone Wolf approaching. The braves also, had relinquished their former tense poses and appeared much more relaxed. Kaitlin and Lone Wolf stopped just in front of the natives, each seeming to support the other in whatever they had decided. Lone Wolf was the one to tell them what that was and break the silence.
"Miss Travers here has made a proposal I think we should consider. She asked me to join her people. They have been under almost constant attack and lost a lot of good men and women. In exchange for my help, she offered me whatever I need to make a new home, as well as gain her friendship. This offer is extended to all of us. I have already accepted, and I hope you do too." Once again a shocked silence filled the air when he finished talking, but this time, that surprise was felt by both his and her people. Kaitlin and Lone Wolf held their breath as they waited for the others come to terms with this new situation.
"How do we know we can trust them? They might just kill us in our sleep!" Even though one of Kaitlin's people had asked the question, the same thought seemed to float through the brave's heads.
"We have nothing to gain by that. And anyone who attempts something like that will first have to go through me." The settlers seemed to take him on his word and stood down again. And just like Lone Wolf had answered the question for her people, Kaitlin now turned to the Indians.
"And as to why you should trust me, well, if I had wanted you dead you would have been so by now. I don't have anything to gain by that either." There was some murmuring among the natives, as they discussed their options. Finally, one of them stepped forward.
"We accept the offer." Kaitlin smiled widely and nodded at them and Lone Wolf's face relaxed.
"Thank you, Takaya." Kaitlin wondered briefly about the soft tone in his voice as he addressed the small Indian, but dismissed it after a second. Then she turned back to Lone Wolf and offered him her hand.
"I look forward to working with you." He took her hand after a slight hesitation and a smile finally formed on his face when she shook it.
"Me too." The glances among the braves were lost on Kaitlin as she noticed the dimples in Lone Wolf's cheeks.
The next few weeks went reasonably well; there were no more attacks and only a few minor disagreements between natives and immigrants and those were quickly resolved. Mostly, the Indians kept to themselves, taking refuge among their own, and the settlers did the same. Only the two leaders, Kaitlin and Lone Wolf, seemed to break that silent agreement, and they could often be seen walking through the camp or riding next to each other. Sometimes they were silently keeping control of the group, overseeing everything. Other times, they were talking softly or laughing together and once or twice, they could be seen arguing passionately, but never aggressively. They seemed to be working well together and after a while the rest of the group tentatively followed their lead and began interacting with each other. They learned to rely on each other as they made their way through this new landscape of open plains dotted with small forests.
One day, when Kaitlin and Lone Wolf had walked into the deep forest to gather some firewood, they were surprised by a storm. To protect themselves from the heavy rains and wind, Lone Wolf proposed they head towards the foot of the hills and hope to find some shelter there, as their camp was a long walk back. Kaitlin's answer was lost over the force of the wind and he could see her struggle to move towards him. In seconds he was by her side. He quickly rearranged the branches he carried so he could free one arm, which he wrapped around her as he began moving to where he hoped they could find some cover. While struggling against nature, Kaitlin suddenly saw a cave through the slits of her eyes. She shouted at Lone Wolf, but he didn't hear her over the storm. The kindling she held in her arms making pointing impossible, she simply poked him in the side to get his attention and then indicated the cave with her head. With a few final strides they were inside and with a sigh of relief dropped the twigs to the cave floor. They sat down closely together on the mossy rocks and hoped the storm would quickly pass.
About an hour later, it became obvious the storm wasn't going to settle any time soon. The question now was whether they were going to remain where they were or brave the elements and try to make it to the camp. A quick look outside was all Lone Wolf needed to see to know it would be impossible to head out now, but Kaitlin, determined to return to the camp, took a few steps outside. She was almost smacked against the side of the cave before she was fully outside. Unwilling to give up so easily, she made it out a few steps before having to admit that it was a fool's work; she couldn't see even two meters ahead because of the pouring rain and the winds were obviously far too strong. She made her way back inside as quickly as possible, already soaked and cold to the bone.
"Well, it seems we're stuck here, at least for tonight." Lone Wolf wordlessly put his buffalo skin jacket over her shaking shoulders and sat down. Kaitlin followed suit and sat as she pulled his shirt closer to try and get rid of the chilling feel in her limbs.
"We can't make a fire here; there's nowhere the smoke could go, so we'll have to stay close together to keep warm." Lone Wolf said apologetic. "Don't worry, you're safe with me." He continued as he saw her looking at him with a hint of fear in her eyes. Kaitlin smiled softly in response.
"I know. I've just never slept in a cave before. Or in the dark." Lone Wolf looked down at her with surprise.
"You never sleep in the dark?" Kaitlin glanced at her feet before looking back up in his eyes.
"I've never quite liked the dark and I always have a lantern next to my bed. When I was still a child, my mother fell down the stairs and broke her neck. She had tripped over something in the dark. I found her in the morning, lying at the bottom of the stairs. Her eyes were stared at nothing and her body was half-twisted. I spent a long time by her side, shaking her and asking her to wake up. But she didn't wake up and I finally gave up. That's where my father found me when he woke up: crying in the hall and clinging to my mother's body. After that, I've always slept with a candle or lamp next to my bed." Lone Wolf pulled her in to a hug and only then did she realize where she was and who was holding her. She blushed deeply and tried to pull away. "I'm sorry, forget I ever said that." But Lone Wolf wasn't willing to let the subject drop just yet.
"It's alright. You don't have to be embarrassed; I'm honoured you'd tell me." Kaitlin's gaze, which had been focused on a point just beyond her shoes, darted back to his face. The vulnerability he could see in the depths of her eyes made his heart constrict, but outwardly he only smiled gently at her. The corners of her mouth slowly curved into a crooked smile.
"I though I'd gotten to know you quite well in the past few weeks, but you still manage to surprise me. Any other man would have just though I was a typical woman after this; weak and teary-eyed and incapable to face the 'cold, hard world', yet I still see respect in your eyes. Why?" Lone Wolf's smile grew wider as he gave his answer.
"You're certainly no typical woman, Kaitlin. Not that I agree with how you think men see women, but even compared to the women I know, you're very different. Who else would have been able to take command of that group of settlers without yielding to the sorrow of just having lost their father? And what about your actions when we first met? You could have single handily defeated all of us, just with that stern look of yours and your proposal to work together was brilliant. No other woman, or man, could have done what you've done in keeping this group together. And showing vulnerability certainly isn't something to be ashamed of. Sometimes that takes a lot more courage." Her expression was grateful and she was very touched by his words.
"Thank you." The moment was broken when Kaitlin's body gave another violent shiver and she wrapped her arms around herself. Lone Wolf also put one of his arms around her shoulders and pulled her closer to him. She instinctively stiffened, but after a few minutes relaxed in the warmth of his embrace. A comfortable silence stretched between them. After a while, Lone Wolf started talking in a gentle voice and the soft tones penetrated the silence.
"Do you remember when we met? When you'd shown me into that tent and wanted to talk business. Just before you proposed we work together, you asked me what they did. I never really gave you an answer." He paused a moment and Kaitlin waited patiently. "Our tribe wasn't always this small. We used to have a large village and a wide area to hunt and gather food. I never quite felt like I belonged there, but it was home. Then one day, they came. White men on horses and with rifles. They destroyed our whole camp and killed everyone they could find. Men, women and children alike. I wasn't there. We'd gone out to hunt. When we got back, we almost didn't recognize it. Everything was dead and burned to the ground. I found my parents and my sisters lying in our hut and on our fields. Or at least what was left of them. They were barely recognizable. In the woods, a little away from our village, we found Takaya. She had been there when the white men attacked and saw everything, but she'd been able to escape. She told us what had happened. Ever since that day, we've been roaming the lands; attacking every white man we could find to revenge our families. When you met me, I was angry and devoured by hate. It wasn't until you jumped in front of me to save me from that bullet that I realized not all white people were evil. And then when you made that offer… That's when I swore to myself that I would stay by your side, doing everything I could to make your burden lighter. And in helping you, I found peace within myself. You helped me release all that hate. For that I thank you." Kaitlin had turned in his arms during his monologue. Now her eyes were brimming with tears and a single tear escaped, running down her right cheek. He softly brushed it away as her eyes held on to his.
"I'm so sorry about what happened to your village."
"I know. As soon as I saw you I knew you'd never do something like that." As if driven by a force beyond her, Kaitlin's hand moved up almost on its own. It hung in the air only a moment before being joined by Lone Wolf's hand. Their hands weaved together and tightly gripped each other. For long moments Kaitlin and Lone Wolf gazed in each other's eyes. Then, acting on impulse, Kaitlin hugged him tightly, wanting to force out all his painful memories of that time. Lone Wolf readily returned the hug and held her close. Kaitlin realized she didn't want to let go, noticing how his arms around her blocked out both cold and any thought of danger. She laid her head in the crook of his neck and he rested his cheek on her head. That's how they fell asleep; lying together in a dark and cold cave while a storm was raging outside.
Chakotay felt himself falling into the grey depths of her eyes. Almost out of their own volition, their hands came up and clasped each other in an old gesture, as their fingers weaved together: a new legend was born.