Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Dances with Wolves.

A/N: Italics means they are speaking in Lakota.

Freedom's Spirit

It had been thirteen years. Thirteen long years since the Sioux had rescued Dances with Wolves from being executed by Union soldiers. Thirteen years since he and his wife left them for their safety. Over those thirteen years the last free Sioux had been rounded up and forced onto reservations. All but four.

Dances with Wolves crouched in the bushes just off a wilderness road. The pistol he clutched in his right hand was one of the few things from his past as a white man that he still had with him. His clothes and the knife in his left hand were all Sioux.

But his past was starting to catch up to him. Soldiers were hot on their trail. Dances with Wolves scanned the road once more before following the setting sun to where his family hid. He sulked through the bushes not sure if anyone else besides his wife, daughter, and son were near.

As he approached the camp he saw his daughter, Red Star, sewing her brother, Young Bull, a new pair of moccasins as he sat bare foot a few feet away from her. Stands with a Fist sat on a fallen log opposite the fire from her children. She sat tense and alert. This was quickly shown when Dances with Wolves carelessly stepped on some dry leaves. The rifle Stands with a Fist had across her knees immediately went up towards the source of the noise.

"It's alright. It's only me," he said emerging from the brush. He took a seat near a small fire and tried to warm his hands against the cold of the coming night. Dances with Wolves wished that he could make the fire bigger, but a big fire was a signal and he couldn't risk his family like that.

His wife leaned closer to him, not wanting to upset the children with talks of paranoia. "Was there anything on the road?"

Dances with Wolves shook his head. "Nothing yet, but we should move camp soon."

Stands with a Fist looked concerned, "I'm not sure the children could go much further." The family had been traveling for three months straight. It had been hard on Red Star and Young Bull. Even though, they had grown up as nomads they couldn't constantly move with little rest.

"You have to keep going."


"They are after me. You and the children have a chance without me."

"No! I'm not leaving you!" Dances with Wolves took her hand to help quiet her. He looked over at his children. They were uneasy from their parents' conversation.

"Do it for Red Star and Young Bull."

Stands with a Fist kept shaking her head, "After everything I can't leave you. I just can't." Tears welled in her eyes as she remembered how thirteen years ago; she had almost lost him to the white soldiers. She almost died when he didn't come back from Fort Sedgewick to retrieve his precious journal.

Dances with Wolves tired to comfort his wife. "It will be alright. Let's just try and get some sleep."

Dances with Wolves woke up with a start in the middle of the night. His eyes strained in the darkness. The red coals of the fire's remains did little to help him see. But he didn't need to see because he heard.

Clop-clop-clop-clop. For Sioux, that sound was all too familiar. Horses . . . and close!

"Stands with a Fist," he quietly shook his wife, "Stands." She quietly rolled over towards him and opened her eyes. Dances with Wolves pressed a finger to his lips, "Wake the children and stay quiet."

Her eyes turned from sleepy to curious to scared. And then she heard it too. She threw off her blanket and rushed to her children.

Dances with Wolves went to his pack where he had laid his pistol and knife.

"Hold it right there."

Dances with Wolves found that there was a rifle barrel against his fore head. He hadn't realized that the horses were that close. Very slowly he backed away from his pack; hands were they could be seen. Further away from the barrel he could see them now.

Six men on horseback. All of them had a rifle and a pistol, while Dances with Wolves was left with his bare hands. To make matters even worse they were all wearing the same blue uniforms. Soldiers!

"What do we have here boys?"

"Looks like a pack of injuns!"

"Must be our lucky day."

Stands with a Fist pulled her children so close to her that Dances with Wolves questioned their breathing ability.

A young private leaned up close to his wife and children. His eyebrows bunched together as he stared at them, "Awfully, pale. Ain't they?"

An older man leaned closely to see. "Wait a sec'. I know you!" Dances with Wolves felt his heart fall. "You were at Fort Sedgewick all those years ago. You're Dunbar!"

One of the men leaned over to his companion, "Who's Dunbar?"

"A deserter and a murder."

The man who knew who Dances with Wolves was gave a yellow toothed smile. "Won't they be glad to see you at Fort Peck."

"That's fine," Dances with Wolves turned to him assuming he was the leader, "Just let my family go." He wouldn't have them suffer for his sins.

"I don't think so. All injuns have to live on reservations. Even you pale ones. Now get moving." And so they were captives.

It took three days to travel to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Dances with Wolves knew this would be where he met his end and where his family would be forever imprisoned by the United States. That alone would have been enough to dishearten him, but as they continued through the reservation he saw the terrible state of its people.

Rickety lean-tos seemed to stretch on forever as scrawny people with dirty faces peeked out, curious of the white Lakota. Would this be how be how Stands with a Fist and the children were to live? Dirty and hungry, never to roam free across the prairie again?

"Dances with Wolves!"

As his name was being called out, he looked around with curiosity.

"Dances with Wolves!"

Running towards them was a young warrior. He was tall and lanky with a broad smile across his face.

"Smiles a Lot?" Yes, it was Smiles a Lot! He had grown so much. No longer was this the young boy who idolized a white man the Lakota adopted. Here was a strong warrior.

"I never though I'd see you again. We all thought you had made it away."

"We did for thirteen years. I should have known that we couldn't run forever."

"We all missed you. I wish you hadn't left."

"Maybe we shouldn't have. A lot of good it did now."

Dances with Wolves shook his head wishing for better things to talk about.

"What of Wind in His Hair? How is he?"

Smiles a Lot fell silent and he became very somber. "Our tribe was cornered in the mountains he tried to give us some time to flee . . . He put up a good fight."

"What about Kicking Bird? What about Pretty Shield? Where are my parents?" Stands with a Fist was nearly pleading.

Smiles a Lot looked at the ground while he relayed the new. "Kicking Bird is alive, but Pretty Shield was taken by some white man sickness four years ago. Now, Kicking Bird is numb to everything. It took him weeks to start eating again and even now he does not speak."

Stands with a fist looked away, but everyone could see a tear escaping her eye.

By that time the soldiers had had enough Lakota chatter. "Get out of here, you dirty red skin." One man pushed Smiles a Lot away with the butt of his rifle. Smiles a Lot continued to follow but at a distance this time.

Dances with Wolves, his family, and the soldiers finally dismounted in front of the only stable looking structure in the reservation. Dances with Wolves, Stands with a Fist, and their children were led inside. Inside were only a desk and a few chairs. A group of five officers were standing around the desk looking at a map.

"Sir." Their captors' leader saluted the officers.

"At ease, Lieutenant," said a beady eyed colonel from behind the desk. All he saw was another bunch of Lakota. "New arrivals? Sergeant Mathews, get them some ration cards."

"No, sir," the Lieutenant said, "May I introduce former Lieutenant John Dunbar of Fort Sedgewick."

The colonel cocked an eyebrow at him for a minute before turning to stare at Dances with Wolves for a long moment. His dark eyes seemed to pierce right through Dances with Wolves.

"I'll be damned. It is him. I remember that face anywhere. Good work, Lieutenant Johnson."

The lieutenant saluted the colonel and left with his men.

The colonel leaned back in his chair to study the small family. "Well, well. Lieutenant John J. Dunbar. You put us through hell trying to find you."

That name. It had little meaning left in him. "I am no longer John Dunbar."

"Yeah, yeah. Dancing Dogs or something like that, right?"

Young Bull felt greatly offended for his father and would have tried to hit the colonel if his father hadn't secured him.

A private laughed at Young Bull. "If you weren't born injun, you could have been a serving boy for a commander."

"Why would I want to be a slave to the white man?!" Young Bull snarled in his accented English.

"Watch your mouth, boy. You ain't exactly red-skinned yourself, ya know."

The colonel turned back to Dances with Wolves. "Lieutenant John J. Dunbar, you are charged with desertion, murder, and evasion of arrest. How do you plea?"

"I have done all of those things you said to protect my family."

But Dances with Wolves motives didn't matter to the colonel who merely shrugged at the statement and said, "Lieutenant Dunbar you are here by found guilty of all crimes and are to be hung by the neck until dead."

"No." Stands with a Fist's voice only came out as a whisper. Her throat was so thick with tears.

"Father!" Red Star cried and clung to his mother.

Young Bull turned as white as a sheet and threw his arms around his father's neck. Dances with Wolves pulled him into a tight embrace, but a lieutenant didn't give the father and son any time to say their goodbyes. Dances with Wolves was dragged to his feet and pushed out the door. He landed hard on his right side.

"Don't worry," the lieutenant said before laughing in his face, "it's only a short hop to the gallows."

Dances with Wolves raised his head to see the platform where the rope was already being prepared. So that was what death looked like: some old wooden beams and fraying rope. No quiet death of old age. No dignified battle. Just a fall.

A colonel grabbed Dances with Wolves by the scruff and hauled his back to his feet. "Move!" he shouted as Dances felt a hard shove between his shoulder blades. He stumbled once again but was able to stay on his feet this time.

Young Bull burst out of the building after his father with his mother and sister close on his heels. "Father!"

"Young Bull," Dances with Wolves throat nearly closed. He knew that this would be the last time he could speak to his loved ones. "My son, stay close to your mother and sister. They will need you." His eyes then rested on his daughter scared and crying, "Don't be afraid, Red Star. Remember, although your skin is pale you are a strong Sioux maiden." Just hearing her father's voice made Red Star straighten.

Lastly, he turned to Stands with a Fist. She had weathered more with him then she should have had to.

"Stands with a Fist . . . I love you." He wished he could have said more to her of all people but he couldn't. But although those three words were small they left a big impact and the only thing keeping Stands with a Fist from running to her husband's side was a strong private.

With the last shred of dignity he could muster, Dances with Wolves walked up the rickety stairs of the platform and mounted a stool with no prodding. The hangman who hadn't been expecting it to be that easy with the prisoner was still tying the noose.

He remembered what he yelled at the soldiers of Fort Sedgewick when they had told him to give up his tribe. Dances with Wolves found his tongue, "My name is Dances with Wolves!"

Many turned to look at him for his sudden outburst, soldiers and Sioux alike, but Dances with Wolves didn't care. He wanted then to know who he really was. He wanted them to know that he was a Lakota warrior.

"My name is Dances with Wolves!"

"Dances with Wolves!"

Just as his own voice had startled anyone near, Dances with Wolves was startled at his name being called.

"Dances with Wolves!" And there was Smiles a Lot. He was standing straight and tall. Their gazes locked in a final goodbye before Smiles a Lot continued yelling. "Dances with Wolves! Dances with Wolves!"

A crowd was now beginning to form. They were curious to see a white Lakota and wondered why Smiles a Lot was yelling his name.

A pair of soldiers were starting to get annoyed by Smiles a Lot's repetition. But as they began prodding him away another began yelling.

"DANCES WITH WOLVES!" A voice was screaming at the top of their lungs. A weathered old man limped to joined the crowd. His eyes were full of pain, but everyone could see wisdom behind that, wisdom that Dances with Wolves would always remember for he was the first Sioux he met, his father-in-law: Kicking Bird.

His hoarse voice carried over the gathering crowd, "Dances with Wolves!" He too had come to say goodbye.

Then more Lakota began yelling his name with Smiles a Lot and Kicking Bird. Many didn't even know who Dances with Wolves was, but they didn't care. The white man may have their lands and be keeping them prisoners on the reservation but the Lakota spirit will always remain. Dances with Wolves couldn't keep a smile off his face to see Young Bull shaking his fist at the nearest private and shouting in Lakota.

"Hurry up!" A lieutenant shouted to the hangmen, "Before they start a riot!"

Stands with a Fist turned her children away as the stool Dances with Wolves was standing on got kicked out from under him.

The chanting continued for several minutes before soldiers broke up the crowd.