Ever since John Smith had left for London so that his wounds could be properly tended for, Pocahontas had devoted herself to helping her tribe in every way she could. She greeted each ship that came to shore, hoping each time that John Smith would be aboard. Each time, she was disappointed.

Courageous as ever, though, she talked often to the new settlers and taught them about her land. Gradually, other members of her tribe also stepped forward to converse with the settlers. A cautious system of trading began.

There had been other bids for Pocahontas's hand in marriage, but she pleaded with her father to postpone any arrangements for a marriage for a year. She did not have to say that she was waiting for John Smith's return. The sad light in the chief's eyes conveyed his understanding.

Many moons passed. Pocahontas watched each waning and waxing phase with anticipation, each new moon slowly chipping away at her. She knew John Smith was still alive, so what was keeping him from returning to her? Grandmother Willow had no answer for this, only that Pocahontas must be patient and listen to her heart.

After the moon completed its final cycle, Chief Powhatan requested his daughter's presence. She dreaded the meeting. His promise had been kept, and now she must keep hers.

"Daughter," he began.

"I know, papa."

The requested year had passed.

"Many have requested your hand in marriage," he stated.

Pocahontas was silent. There was not a single man she'd encountered who had interested her in the slightest- not in her tribe nor from the ships full of settlers. Her ability to fall in love seemed to have departed with the final gust of wind filling the sails on the ship which took John Smith away from her.

"Daughter," he said again, his voice taking on a lecturing tone, "you must choose someone. You are the daughter of the chief. It is—"

"My duty. I know, papa."

"And it is past time that you fulfilled it. You are brave and strong, like your mother. You will be a good wife and a good mother." He caressed her cheek affectionately, his hand resting on her mother's necklace.

Pocahontas bit her lip. She did not want to be a mother yet. And there was only one man she would consider marrying.

The chief grimaced regretfully. "Perhaps he has chosen a different path…" he began.

"No!" she protested. "He wouldn't."


"I know him, father." Her tone was resolute. "He would not forget me."

"Neither has he returned for you. You have always chosen your own path, daughter. I hope that you choose the right one."

Pocahontas sat on a hill overlooking her village. Beside her was her best friend, Nakoma. They were discussing Pocahontas's various suitors. "Well, what about Takoda?" Nakoma asked. "He's friendly."

"Yeah, he's friendly," Pocahontas responded uninterestedly, "and he weighs about as much as a buffalo."

Nakoma laughed, then immediately felt bad about it. She was used to her friend's barbed criticisms by now. Both of them wearied of the fruitless subject, but Nakoma had been assigned the task of trying to talk some sense into Pocahontas. "Wanahton?" Nakoma suggested. "He's never lost a fight…"

Pocahontas silently stared into the distance, gripping the now-worn compass which never left her side.

Nakoma went on optimistically, as though Pocahontas's silence was an invitation to elaborate on Wanahton's virtues. "He's big and strong. He'd defend you well, if we ever went to war…" She fell silent when Pocahontas stood and held a finger to her lips, frowning.

"Do you hear that?" Pocahontas whispered.

At first, there was only the sound of leaves rustling in the breeze. Then Nakoma stood. She heard it too. "Drums." Her eyes widened. She turned to Pocahontas, whose eyes were also wide. Their eyes locked.

Wordlessly, Pocahontas darted down the path towards their village. Nakoma had to sprint to keep up with Pocahontas's effortless long-legged stride.

They found the chief standing in the middle of the village and assembling all its warriors.

"What is happening, father?" she asked.

"I do not know, daughter." He returned his attention to his warriors and instructed them to gather their weapons. "Whatever this invasion is," he concluded, "we will be ready for them!"

Just then, a strange man burst through the forest at the edge of their village. He wore no war paint, but it was clear from his clothing that he was from another tribe. Several warriors had raised their bows and had arrows trained on him, but the chief held his arm out. "Hold your weapons. This is not a warrior."

The man was panting and covered with sweat. He seemed to have run a long way. He cast a grateful look at the chief as he made his way towards him.

"What is it you seek, stranger?" the chief demanded cautiously.

"Strange men… Skin pale like the moon… They came and killed… Most of my tribe… dead…" The stranger spoke between gasps.

Pocahontas's heart clenched with fear. The settlers in Jamestown had been cautious and distrusting, but mostly harmless. The worst they had done was bring new sicknesses, but none of them had been fatal thusfar, unless it was winter. These new settlers must be from somewhere else.

"Sit down, brother. Why did you sound drums? We thought you meant to fight us." The chief's voice was kinder now, but he was still cautious.

The stranger refused to sit just yet, however. He shook his head. "It was not me. People in my tribe… they sounded those drums, hoping to find… nearby village…" His breathing was calming down, but he was still visibly shaken.

"How many?"

"Don't know… Whoever is left…"

Chief Powhatan paled. "Then," he said, turning to address his tribe, "he has led them here."

{Several months earlier…}

John Smith's gunshot wound had healed almost perfectly, leaving him only with a faint scar. Every time he accidentally touched the slightly raised tissue, he was reminded of the burst of rash bravery which had brought him here. At the time, all he could think was 'It can't end like this!'

John's muscles ached from disuse. The doctors had insisted on keeping him in bed for the duration of the treatment. Only recently had they permitted him to go out and about, and shortly after that, he was 'out' for good. He stretched experimentally, flexing his fingers. Had the doctors insisted that he spend one more day at the hospital, he thought he might punch something. His release from care had come as a huge relief.

During his stay at the hospital, John had inquired about journeys to the New World, what dates they were leaving, and where exactly they were headed. He intended to board the first ship to Jamestown, or as close to Jamestown as he could get. Pocahontas had done the right thing in sending him to London in order to save his life—for the second time. Twice now she'd saved him, and he was twice in her debt for it. But that was a mere footnote to the real reason he was bound for the New World.

Although many ships were leaving to explore the New World, none of them were headed for Jamestown, not for several months. John Smith also had the misfortune of being extremely popular, so he was in high demand for every expedition once knowledge spread that he was fit for travel again.

Which was how he found himself on a ship bound for the New World, several hundred miles away from where he wanted to be. He closed his eyes and inhaled the welcoming salty sea breeze. Even though his ship was destined to land far from Jamestown, he would be much closer to her than he was in London.

Two canoes full of refugees from the stranger's tribe arrived on the riverbanks bordering Pocahontas's village. It was mostly women and children; the warriors who had survived were badly wounded and in need of immediate medical attention. Chief Powhatan instructed his own warriors to stand at the ready while the women of the village attended to the visitors.

For several tense hours, the warriors stood guarding the edge of the village facing the direction from whence the canoes had come. However, as the sun set behind them, it became clear that, if the settlers had followed the fleeing tribe members, they were far behind. The warriors set up camp by the riverside and kept watch in shifts, ever-ready for attack.

The wounded had been tended. Only one man had died, and he had been given a warrior's burial to honour his sacrifice. Several families had been instructed to shelter the refugees in their own homes for the night.

To complicate matters further, word had come from Jamestown that a ship was on the horizon and would likely land in two days. Pocahontas and a group of other courageous natives were expected to greet the new settlers once they arrived. Their village was far too weak and facing the possibility of a hostile attack at any moment.

No one slept easily that night.

The following morning, the river was still void of signs of pursuers. This put no one at ease. If anything, it put everyone even more on-edge. Each moment which passed seemed to increase the danger and decrease the distance of said danger from where they stood.

However, as the sun neared the end of its arc across the sky that second day, some members of her tribe began to express cautious skepticism. Perhaps the white men were not coming after all.

Only time would tell.

{6 months ago…}

The moon hung, full, like a pregnant woman's belly in the night sky. John Smith stared restlessly at it, wondering if Pocahontas was watching that same moon at the same moment. When he was in London, this thought used to calm him. It made him feel as though they were connected somehow.

Now it just made him anxious. It was torture to be so close, yet so far. For the hundredth time since landing earlier that week, he debated the possibility of escaping into the woods in search of Jamestown. It would be easy to survive- there was plenty of food, fresh water, and trees for shelter. He cast his eyes around his tent, inventorying his supplies, which would comfortably fit into his over-the-shoulder sack. All he really needed was his canteen, his compass, a decent knife, a pot—

John Smith's thoughts were interrupted by the night watchman strolling past with his gas lantern. The man was absently humming to himself, some church hymn the crew members found comforting.

With a frustrated sigh, John Smith settled back down in his makeshift bed. Although sneaking out of camp would be a relatively easy task, there was the matter of his crew. It would only be a matter of minutes before they realized he was missing, and if he kept near water, he would leave footprints in the soft ground, leading them right to him before he travelled very far.

His only other option was to travel inland.

This idea was risky, as he didn't know how friendly the other tribes were, nor where they were located, and although he had his compass, he had no map. That was the main point of the expedition: to more accurately map the New World. Not to mention the predators grew larger further inland and he would have no way of knowing when he would find fresh water. Taking this route could mean death.

But John Smith couldn't bear the idea of boarding a ship back to London, only to be sent who-knows-where on his next expedition. It might bring him closer to her, but it might also take him farther away.

He mused late into the night and did not surrender to the tug of sleep until dawn had already begun to spread its rosy fingers into the sky.

John Smith was unusually absent-minded the next day. There were bags under his eyes and he kept forgetting which orders he gave to who. One of his men pulled him aside and asked if everything was all right, but John just brushed him off and mumbled something about noise keeping him up during the night, even though the North American forest had been nearly silent, with the exception of crickets and the occasional owl. He should have slept perfectly.

But of course he hadn't. His mind could focus only on Pocahontas. Half the time, he couldn't even remember why his ship had been sent here.

Enough was enough.

That night, John Smith gathered the necessary supplies and put them in his over-the-shoulder bag. He was too tired to embark immediately, though, so he resigned himself to sleep, thinking he might leave just before dawn, if he could rouse himself before the others.

With this comforting thought, John Smith drifted off to sleep.

It was as if Pocahontas's spirit had reached across the night to whisper in John Smith's ear just before dawn. The sky had barely begun to brighten, giving him just enough light to find his way without the aid of a torch. Adrenaline rushing through his veins, he poked his head out of his tent.

The night guard was nowhere to be seen.

He hastily dressed, grabbed his bag, and tiptoed to the edge of camp, the taste of freedom tantalizing the tip of his tongue, its scent filling his nostrils. Adventure stretched out before him with open arms, welcoming him like an old friend. He was only two yards from the forest when he heard a sound behind him.

Heart pounding, he spun around, scanning the area with keen eyes. Still no night guard. Odd… where was he? John Smith squinted, peering cautiously at places where a man might hide. Perhaps the night guard had wandered off…? If so, he was unfit for this expedition! -Not that it mattered much to John, since he was in the process of deserting it altogether.

Another strange sound directed John Smith's attention to a tent to his right. A hairy arm was sticking out of the flaps, sprawled out on the ground. The sounds had apparently been made by a restless sleeper thrashing around, changing positions.

John Smith breathed a sigh of relief and turned around again, facing the forest. He nearly fell over when he found himself nose-to-nose with the night guard.

"D'aah!" Smith exclaimed, jumping back two feet, arms up defensively.

The night guard grinned. "Did I spook you?" he asked eagerly.

Smith regained his composure and wiped his face, annoyed. "You've got a quiet tread!" he replied in a hushed voice, hoping not to wake anyone else.

The night guard, however, did not seem to care who he awoke. "Thanks!" he beamed. "Where are you off to this early?" There was a hint of suspicion to his voice.

"Oh," John Smith said off-handedly, "I was just going to walk around a bit. You know. Get the lay of the land. That kind of thing…" Internally, he cursed the man blocking his path.

Said man nodded sagely. "Always so sensible. That's what we love about you, Smith! But don't be out too long, all right? The men might lose courage if they thought you'd gone for good!"

No kidding. "Don't worry," John said, struggling to look cheerful. "I'll be back before anyone notices I've gone!"

The night guard saluted him and returned to his circuit, leaving John Smith to walk far enough into the woods that no one would hear him beating every tree around him in frustration.

"I could fake my death by Indians! Then no one would come looking for me!" John Smith thought desperately. "…but then they would go searching for the Indians and start an unnecessary war, and Pocahontas would hate that." He kicked a stone. His head shot up suddenly. "Or! I could tell them I was out hunting, and I'd have an excuse to go into the woods, where I wouldn't leave as many tracks, and they wouldn't know I was gone for several hours!" He'd been talking excitedly with his hands gesturing wildly, but they fell limps as his face fell, realization sinking in again. "But… they wouldn't stop looking for me until they found me, and they might still blame my death on Indians." He threw a stone against the ground, upsetting a squirrel in a nearby bush. "Why does this have to be so difficult?" he shouted at the sky. A flock of startled birds fled from their perch above his head.

John Smith sat on a log and gazed mournfully at the rising sun. He buried his face in his hands, locks of golden hair slipping between his fingers. He cursed his popularity. There had to be a way to get to her.

Perhaps if he faked his death and framed a wild animal…? It would ruin his reputation, but that was something he didn't care about so much anymore.

Except for one problem.

If he deserted his crew, and made it to Jamestown, and found Pocahontas… what then? He loved this land and all its quirks, its wide open spaces, its towering forests and quiet streams. There was so much to explore!

But he was in high demand in England. Heck, he was in high demand here. What English settlers hadn't heard about the legendary John Smith? He wouldn't likely be left alone for the rest of his life. And honestly, he did enjoy the attention. Sometimes.

But right now…

Right now, he needed to go back to camp.

Just as the refugees had begun to hope that their trek down the river had thrown the white men off their scent, someone spotted a plume of smoke only a mile away in the direction from which they had fled.

Everyone stood at attention, tense and ready any moment for their arrival. No one really knew what to expect, but whatever it was, they would be ready— to fight, if necessary.

At high noon, a war cry sounded from the river, quickly followed by a gunshot. Then, silence. Against her father's wishes, Pocahontas made her way to the river to see what had happened.

She could not have been more shocked by what she found there.

{7 weeks ago…}

John Smith packed up the last of his things. He had returned from his third expedition to the New World only a few days earlier, and he was about to embark on a fourth. Funds were running low, but he really couldn't care less. He had sold his house; he didn't need one anyway. He was barely ever home. He checked his reflection in the hall mirror one last time, then packed that as well. The remaining possessions which he did not need, he sold with his house. Furniture was highly overrated.

What he had seen in the mirror haunted him as he made his way to the dock. He was just as muscular as ever, but he had neglected certain things once too often. His hair was unkempt more often than not, his chin shaded with stubble, his eyes bloodshot from not enough sleep and too much drink. He looked wild, desperate—which is how he felt. Bystanders had begun to give him a wide berth, frightened by his wild hair and the gin on his breath.

Those bystanders, in all likelihood, would never see him again. He carelessly passed them by without a word of explanation.

His men greeted him with grins, slapping him on the back. To them, he looked rugged and a little tired. They thought he'd just been going too long without a break. Many offered him beer and rum. More drink was the last thing he needed.

Fortunately, the familiar salty sea breeze invigorated his exhausted mind. He held in a lungful of it for a few heartbeats before letting it out, reveling in its sharp cleanliness.

The ship cast off.

Radcliffe stood on the opposite bank of the river, decked out in chunky gold jewelry. His garish necklace, thick gold arm bands, and heavy brooch looked like they added at least fifteen pounds to his already impressive weight. He was holding a pistol, which he had apparently fired at the top of a nearby tree, from which a small branch dangled high above the ground. Both sides had their hands on their weapons, but not one weapon was raised. From what she could hear, he seemed to be bargaining with them. As she got closer, she could hear that this was, indeed, the case.

"So you see," Radcliffe was saying, "I know you filthy heathens have gold. Now if you will kindly lead me to it, I promise no one will get hurt." His filthy smile was anything but reassuring.

Pocahontas stepped forward. "But there is no gold!" she retorted loudly.

His grin turned condescending as he faced her. "Then what do you call this?" he challenged, holding up his necklace.

She made no reply. Wherever he had gotten his gold, it wasn't from around here.

Radcliffe chuckled victoriously. "As soon as the rest of my men arrive, you and your little Indian friends had better cooperate. You wouldn't want a repeat of last time!"

Pocahontas glared at him.

Radcliffe's grin was viciously smug. "Didn't think so."

At that same moment, the aforementioned ship which had been spotted on the horizon was landing in Jamestown. The settlers wondered at the absence of the now-usual greeting party headed by Pocahontas. To the settlers' further disappointment, the crew landing there had few supplies and almost no women and children. It was clearly an exploration party.

Just as the settlers' interest in the newcomers was fading, a rugged man in a silver helmet burst from the crowd and demanded the direction of the nearest Indian village. He smelled of saltwater and had eyes like lightning. The energy radiating off of him could be felt several yards away. Some somewhat confused settlers pointed in various directions, but the majority of the fingers indicated the same general direction.

Before the crew could clarify what this rogue man wanted with the Indians, he had borrowed and mounted a horse and galloped away. A few men shouted after him, then demanded to borrow horses of their own. This irritated the settlers, as they didn't have many horses to spare, and had been hoping that this ship would bring more, but the crewmen were so desperate, it seemed unwise to turn down their request.

It was with confusion and disappointment that the settlers watched half the men from the ship set off for the Indian village, leaving them with only two horses- a foal and its mother, who had only recently given birth.

The remaining crewmen continued unloading the ship, but when curious settlers asked about supplies, it was reaffirmed that this particular ship carried very few. There was more grain, and some old biscuits, some rum, and some beer, but other than that, nothing significant. The settlers returned to their business, disappointed.

John Smith thundered into the Native American village, his heart keeping pace with his horse's hooves. Every beat brought him closer to her. When he pulled his horse to an abrupt stop in the middle of the village, it reared, its front legs cartwheeling. The horse landed heavily on all fours, panting. John Smith gripped the reins in clenched fists. Something was wrong. He could feel the tension in the air.

"Stranger!" boomed a familiar voice. "Why are you here?" Chief Powhatan's impressive browbone was creased with worry, his mouth grim.

John Smith whipped off his helmet. "What's going on? Where is Pocahontas?" he demanded.

Recognition registered on the chief's aristocratic face. "John Smith!"

John smiled, honestly happy to see the chief again, alive and well, but his happiness quickly returned to his former anxiety. "Why is the village so empty? What happened?"

"Everyone is hiding. Another ship of your men came and attacked a neighboring village. They came to us for help. Not many survived the attack. Our warriors were sent to guard the village. They may be fighting right now."

John Smith's mind raced. Another ship. But why would they be attacking the peaceful natives? Something wasn't right. "And Pocahontas? Where is she?" he repeated.

The chief shook his head sadly. "She went to go see the warriors."

Chief Powhatan barely had enough time to point the direction of the river before John Smith set off at a full gallop.

The warriors were becoming agitated. The phrase "no gold" did not seem to be in Radcliffe's vocabulary. He had advanced across the river with his men and was threatening the warriors in every way he could think of. The warriors refused to be intimidated.

"Pity it had to come to this…" Radcliffe stated with fake sympathy. Men she hadn't known were there grabbed Pocahontas from both sides at once, effectively trapping her. "But you've left me no choice!" He dropped his pity act and grinned viciously. "Until you lead me to the gold… Pocahontas is mine."

"I will never cooperate!" she retorted fearlessly. She would fight until he killed her, if that's what it took.

Radcliffe laughed condescendingly. "Foolish savage. I don't need you to cooperate. I just need you to be my hostage."

"Not so fast!" called a familiar voice from several yards away. Everyone's attention turned to the mounted soldier at the edge of the forest. His sword was drawn, his horse rearing dramatically.

Radcliffe regarded the newcomer with wary annoyance, Pocahontas with wary caution.

The rough-looking stranger charged towards Radcliffe and his men, scattering the cowards and slashing at the braver ones with his sword. This was done almost absent-mindedly, though, as the stranger's eyes almost never left Radcliffe.

Knowing he was outmatched with a sword, Radcliffe raised his gun and aimed it at the stranger's horse, puncturing its forehead and killing it instantly. The stranger nimbly dismounted, cursing. As he rolled to his feet, his helmet fell off, revealing unruly golden waves and, as he turned to face Radcliffe, a familiar pair of flashing blue eyes.

"You!" Radcliffe sputtered, pale.

John Smith held his sword to Radcliffe's chest, his face a mask of rage. "Let her go," he ground out ferociously.

Radcliffe backed away slowly, but John Smith's sword remained planted firmly against the absurdly purple material covering Radcliffe's massive chest. "Not likely," he was saying, "because you see, my boy, I don't have to follow your orders. Never did, really."

A feral sound escaped John Smith's throat. Although fear briefly registered on Radcliffe's face, he still acted as though he had the upper hand. "Make one more move, Smith, and there's no telling what my men will do to your little Indian friend."

John froze for an instant. "You wouldn't."

"I would, Smith, but it doesn't matter what I would do, seeing as I'm not currently the one pointing a gun at her head."

John Smith's eyes flickered to Pocahontas for a second, just long enough to confirm that Radcliffe was not bluffing about the gun. "You need her," Smith stated. "She's nothing but a bargaining chip to you, and she's so much more useful alive than dead," he spat.

"Is that so?" Radcliffe's face was still confident, but his eyes betrayed him. Smith had hit his mark.

Suddenly, about a dozen angry men on horseback burst out of the forest. "Smith!" one of them called out. He halted with the others and sized up the situation. "…What on Earth do you think you're doing?"

"Hopefully saving Pocahontas. You?"

His men were speechless for a second. John Smith could sense everyone comparing weapons and trying to figure out who was on which side.

"Radcliffe!" another of Smith's men called out. "What on Earth are you doing here?"

Before Radcliffe had a chance to explain, John Smith had taken advantage of his distracted state and knocked him over the head with the butt of his sword. Radcliffe was only stunned, not unconscious, and was starting to come around again.

"Oh, for pity's sake!" Smith whacked him in the head again, harder this time. This time Radcliffe crumpled to the ground, totally out of it. "Anyone else want some?" John Smith demanded, eyes wide, expression fierce. Radcliffe's men all seemed to be having second thoughts about where their loyalties rested. "No takers? All right then! If you gentlemen would kindly return to your camp, and bring this scoundrel with you," he indicated Radcliffe by kicking him with the toe of his boot, "I think we would all be a little happier."

Radcliffe's men stood around, shoulders slumped, still gripping their weapons, and cast uncertain glances amongst each other.

"Ye heard the man!" boomed a particularly large man on horseback, belonging to Smith's crew, "Git yer filthy arses outta here before we decide t' git nasty!" To back up his claim, he aimed a huge rifle at several of them in one sweeping motion.

This sent the men scrambling to retreat from the scene. It took four of them to lift Radcliffe.

As soon as John Smith was certain the danger had subsided, he focused his attention on Pocahontas, who was slowly walking towards him. His heart hammered against his ribs. She was just as beautiful as he remembered.

Everyone seemed to be holding their breath as Pocahontas closed the distance between them. Her tread was silent and careful, as if she was terrified that any second, her foot would land too roughly and shatter the dream they had found themselves living.

"John…" she said in a near-whisper.

"Pocahontas," he returned in the same tone. Cautious inches separated them.

She searched his face, belief slowly sinking in. "Where were you all this time…?"

"Trying to get back to you," he answered truthfully, his voice low. He was leaning closer to her. Thousands of miles had separated them for too long, and then hundreds, and he'd been counting the nautical miles decrease as he'd traveled closer to Jamestown. These last few inches were the scariest to breach. He still feared that if he breathed wrong, she would disappear. She probably felt the same.

Their eyes met; their gazes held. Neither was consciously aware of who had closed the gap between them, but only the thinnest breath of air stood between them now.

"Oy!" shouted a member of John Smith's crew. "Couldj'ye maybe catch up another time? We've got matters to settle wi' the chief!"

"Just a minute!" John Smith called back desperately, but Pocahontas had backed away half a step and was looking around, embarrassed. The moment was gone.

Chief Powhatan was confused at first to see his warriors returning with a dozen white men on horses, but when John Smith appeared on foot, his helmet under his hand, the chief understood. "Twice now, you have brought peace between my people and yours," he told John Smith. "We are grateful that you have returned."

John Smith bowed deeply. "With all due respect," he replied, "It is I who should be thanking you. I wouldn't be on your side if it were not for your daughter…"

The chief smiled fondly at him. He stepped closer and lowered his voice so that only John Smith could hear him. "My daughter has refused every offer she has received for marriage."

John Smith's heart pounded. In an equally low voice, he replied, "If she should accept my offer… would you grant me your blessing?" His eyes met the chief's at the end of his daring request.

The creases at the corners of Chief Powhatan's eyes deepened with his smile. "It would be an honour."

It was hours before John Smith had another opportunity to speak with Pocahontas. When he found her and said, "Pocahontas! I need to talk to you," Pocahontas shushed him and beckoned for him to follow her. With a shrug, he complied.

When she slowed to a walk, he found himself nearing a very familiar old willow tree. Grandmother Willow greeted him with enigmatic surprise, failing to mask her happiness at his return. "John Smith!" she said, "What kept you?"

He grinned fondly at the old tree. "It's a long story. I'm just glad I'm here." He cast a warm, questioning glance at Pocahontas, who smiled in return. "Me, too," she said.

John Smith's returning smile was lingering and dreamy. "You would not believe everything I had to do to get to you."

Her smile spread. "Tell me about it sometime…"

He stepped closer, leaning towards her. "Not right now, though…"

She closed the remaining distance and they wrapped their arms around each other. At long last, their lips met.

This time, no one interrupted.

Minutes passed before the two parted for air.

After a long moment of drinking each other in, memorizing every detail of each other's faces, John Smith spoke: "I missed you so much." He held her close, burying his nose in her neck.

"I missed you too," she returned, her arms tightening around his upper back.

"Why didn't you come with me to London?"

"I don't know," she replied. "I thought… it would be better if I stayed."

He backed far away enough to see her face, but from the chest down, they were still glued together. "Did you do the right thing?"

She hesitated for a moment, but when she answered, her voice was sure. "Yes."

"Did you regret it?"


He squeezed her tightly, crushing his cheek against her neck.

"I knew you'd come back," she said.

"I had to," he replied, his voice catching.

She smiled into his neck. "And you'll return again…?"

"Return? Again?" he backed his head away again, looking at her face. "Pocahontas, I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying right here."

She was uncertain. "But…"

"But nothing! There's so much land to explore, so many adventures to be had! And… there's you." He smiled at her tenderly. "What more could I want?"

She smiled back.

"Oh, and there's one more thing I should mention…" he stated, his eyes glimmering. "I had a little talk with your father. And I was wondering… if maybe… you wanted… That is, if you would accept… …my hand in marriage."

Pocahontas's eyes widened; her rosy lips parted in surprise.

He held up his hands defensively. "I know it's kind of sudden," he gripped her hands in front of him and pulled her closer again, "but I've been dying to ask you for a long time now, and I've just received your father's blessing, so—"

Pocahontas disentangled their hands and launched herself at him, kissing him on tiptoe. He had just relaxed after his initial surprise when she released him and landed on her heels. "Of course I will."

"You will," he repeated uncomprehendingly. Then it dawned on him what had just happened. "You will?" She just smiled. "-You will!" John Smith lifted Pocahontas, twirled her around in a circle, her feet off the ground, and kissed her when he set her down again.

Grandmother Willow listened quietly, unnoticed and unsurprised. Their laughter echoed into the night, then faded as they embraced yet again.

And, yes, they lived happily ever after.