Title: Where I Belong

Rating: T

Genre: Romance/Drama

Summary: Katherine, the daughter of a Quaker, had felt certain of everything she knew in her life until she met White Fox, the mysterious Native American that walked the beaches and watched her with his dark, thoughtful gaze. One shot.

X

Where I Belong

Part I

Katherine had lived in Delaware for her entire life and while she often asked her father whether they would ever go to Philadelphia, he often responded with something akin to, "When the good Lord wishes for us to be there, we shall be there." She had accepted these responses, but often wondered to herself whether the Lord would ever wish for them to leave Delaware. She was musing on this while walking the beach with her younger sister, Mary, who would occasionally kneel down and start digging in the sand for shells. The air from the Atlantic Ocean beat at her face, making it feel raw and chapped. She heard cries and glanced to the side to see brown skinned children running along the beach, some of them jumping and hollering. Mary stilled beside her, watching the children and Katherine waited for the inevitable question that Mary always asked when she saw such grand displays of emotion from the Natives. "Katherine, why are they allowed to act so?" she turned to look at her sister inquiringly.

"Their ways are not as ours," she answered gently, "but we must follow the ways of our Friends and how the good Lord wishes for us. They follow a different God, one that is not the true God, so they act thusly."

Mary was only six, but she seemed to understand enough to know that what Katherine was really trying to tell her was that she ought not to act in the same manner as the Natives. Katherine had been taught by her mother to be more open-minded and welcoming in regards to the Natives and so she never called them 'heathens,' 'savages,' or any other such demeaning name like some of the Friends did in her town. When they entered to trade, she smiled and bowed her head demurely, just as she would in any other situation. She made certain that Mary was raised in such a way, as well, and not exposed to the type of harsh words that many of their fellow Friends used when speaking of their Native neighbors.

"Do they have a fun God?" Mary asked in her childlike manner.

"Fun or not, their God leads them to a path of sin. 'Tis no fault of their own." Mary nodded and turned her eyes away from the gallivanting children to continue her hunt for shells in the sand. The Native children drew close to them, looking at Mary curiously and then spoke in their language, pointing to the sand. Mary stared at them curiously and then held up a shell, unsure of what they asking. One of the Native girls nodded and then said something before rushing towards the edge of the water and then bending down, digging in the wet, packed sand, and coming back with a handful of what looked like mud.

"'Tis just dirt," Mary said with a dubious glance into the girl's hands and then continuing on her own search. The girl shook her head and said something again, thrusting her hands out. When Mary simply looked at her, she began to rub the sand around in her hands before she held a full clam out to her.

"It's still alive," Katherine said, leaning forward a bit to look in her hands. Mary took the clam in her own grubby hands and peered at it thoughtfully, rubbing the sand away from its shell and inspecting it thoughtfully. The Native girl and her two companions chattered in their language and the girl grinned at Mary before rushing off with her companions, running the way they had come, dashing about and yelling as gaily as before. Not for the first time, Katherine wondered what type of knowledge of the Earth her people could learn from the Natives.

X

Every month, there was Monthly Meeting at the Meeting House, much of it involved in discussing who the Friends would disown from the town and for what crimes. It was often that it was for dancing or committing acts that are unbecoming of a Quaker, such as being too vain. Meeting was one of Katherine's least favorite things to do, but she was comforted by the fact that it was merely every month rather than every week, although with the long list of people that were disowned that day, she felt the blow would be lessened if they did it every week. Her mother and father sat solemnly with their newborn, Thomas, and Mary sat next to Katherine, leaning against her as she drifted in and out of sleep. Katherine kept nudging her, glancing at her parents to see if they noticed her younger sister's impudence. Her father believed in giving complete attention when at Meeting and Mary was sure to get a scolding if she fell asleep.

After Meeting, one of the older boys that she had went to school with, William Snow, approached Katherine while she walked behind her parents with Mary. "May I come to visit you tomorrow afternoon?" He smiled prettily at her and she blushed, glancing at her sister that was staring at them interestedly.

"If you would like," she replied politely.

He smiled again and then bade her a good day before returning to his family.

"Oh, Katherine," Mary said, looking up at her. "He has such a nice face."

Katherine laughed, but said nothing to this, increasing her walk a bit so that Mary stumbled a bit. She was embarrassed and looked around, tucking a stray piece of hair that had escaped from beneath her cap. She knew that some of the younger girls had noticed Will's approach to her. When they had been in school, Will had been one of the most well-liked boys and everyone had been sure that he would be married soon. Katherine wondered if his attentions towards her meant anything as big as that. Certainly, she had heard he had his own plot of land and had been building a home, but did not think that meant he was readying himself for a wife.

I'm seventeen, she thought. I'm the right age... She drew in a deep breath, but said nothing, feeling her cheeks warm with the thought of being sought out as a wife. She certainly had never looked at any of the boys that way.

"I'm going to take a walk down to the beach, Mary, did you want to come?" Katherine said when they got home.

"I'm tired," Mary replied. Her mother instantly went to her, pressing a hand to her forehead.

"Go on, Katherine," their mother told her. "She's feeling a bit warm."

Katherine nodded, her forehead creasing with worry before she gathered her cloak and left Mary to their mother's care. She took their usual route down to the beach and found herself traveling along the cold edge of the water, staring out at the ocean. She knew their ancestors had traveled here from Great Britain, but she couldn't imagine anywhere but the colonies here. A place with palaces and tall, grey brick buildings and no Natives seemed strange and faraway, almost nonexistent to her. If it wasn't for the British soldiers and occasional French traders from the colonies in the north, she would never have believed it to be possible for such grand places to exist elsewhere. Kings and queens and the beautiful aristocracy, she thought. That seems like an entirely different world than ours.

Katherine held herself, her auburn hair spilling out from beneath her cap from the sharp wind. As she reached up, pushing the hair away and attempting to stuff it beneath her cap again, she froze, noticing a lone figure on the other side of the beach, watching her. She would not have guessed that he was watching her had he not been so still. Hesitating, she pulled her cloak around her a bit more securely and walked forward, feeling a sliver of anticipation. As she drew near, she was able to make out the man's features. He was a Native and his dark, long hair was whipping in the wind freely, part of it braided back. There were feathers and beads intertwined in his hair, making him look even more foreign. She took a deep breath and then smiled timidly, bowing her head respectfully. He considered her and then inclined his head, walking past her. She continued forward for a moment and then paused, looking back. He was still walking, as if he had never stopped.

How very strange, she thought. She shook her head at his behavior and continued on, wondering at the intensity of his dark gaze.

That night, as Katherine lay next to Mary's small, hot little body, she wondered at the Native's behavior. He seemed familiar to her somehow and only after much searching in her mind did she realize that he was one of the older Natives that would often be with the children on the beach. That was the first time he had been alone, without anyone else. But why had he been watching me? She knew for certain that he had been, for why else would he have stood and remained so still if he had not been? The thought unnerved her. She drew her blankets closer to her face and turned on her side, her back against her sister. It was nothing. In spite of her open mind, however, she could not help but think of the many kidnappings of white children by the Natives.

X

"She is getting worse," her father said softly. Katherine stood on the stairs in the dark, listening to Mary's harsh breathing, the only sound besides the fire crackling. She clasped her hands and pressed them against her lips, straining her ears to hear the doctor.

"Give her some sassafras tea to help with the cough and her breathing," Doctor Rusworth instructed. "I will consult my books in the meantime. Her fever has not yet broken in the seven days that she has been ill, either..."

"She has not even woken up."

"Hmm...I worry that it may be yellow fever..."

Katherine closed her eyes, pursing her lips tight, listening to the silence that fell after the doctor's words. She could hear her heart pounding in her ears and could feel the tears threatening to spill from behind her eyes.

"...Only the good Lord can decide who shall remain on this Earth and who shall return to him in Heaven, doctor," her father said after a tense silence.

"He knows all and knows best for our lives," the doctor agreed soberly.

Katherine crept back up the stairs and slipped back inside her blankets, staring up at the ceiling. She slept poorly that night, praying to God to save her sister's soul, to allow her to live and enjoy His creations for at least a few more years. Only when she was too exhausted and could no longer keep her eyes open did she fall asleep, waking two hours later to her mother's soft calls of her name. Katherine washed herself hastily with a bowl and washcloth and dressed, pinning her hair in a bun and tying her cap. When she went downstairs, her mother's eyes swept over her face inquisitively, but she did not ask any questions. Katherine knelt beside Mary, whose breathing sounded even more labored than last night. "Be strong, my sister," she whispered, leaning down and kissing her forehead.

"Why don't you go out and walk a bit, Katherine?" her mother suggested gently. She turned, looking startled. She knew that it was a sacrifice for her mother to allow her a morning of leisure, as there was much work to be done with churning the butter and washing and drying the many apples they had from the harvest.

"Thank you," she said, nodding.

She went to the beach and found herself thinking back on the past few days. Will had visited her that day, as promised, but his conversation was more polite than amorous and he promised to visit her again soon, but she had not seen him since then, although she had seen him with other girls in the town. She suspected that he was, in fact, searching for a wife, but had not set his sights on any particular woman yet. She was unbothered by this, though, as her only concern was Mary. She could not bear the thought of her frail sister dying so soon in life.

As usual, the Native was there again. She had become more accustomed to seeing him on the beach, whether by himself or with the others. Today, he was by himself, sitting far from the water in the sand. Unsure of what exactly she was doing, she found her feet guiding her to him and she stopped beside him, clutching her hands together. He turned his face to her and stared at her, saying nothing. Not for the first time, she noticed the defined angles of his caramel face, so different from the faces of her Quaker Friends.

"I know you probably don't understand me," she began in a trembling voice, "but I know that your people have different healing methods...and my sister is very sick. Our doctors...some of them do not have an open mind, but I would try and do anything to help my sister. She has the yellow fever and whenever a doctor declares that as his diagnosis, their patient always dies and I cannot bear to think of her as losing her life so soon." She blinked the tears that were gathering in her eyes and took in a deep breath. "Please help me...if you understand me at all."

For a long moment after she had spoken, he simply stared at her and then abruptly rose to his feet. She took a step back, startled. She hadn't been aware that any tears had escaped her eyes until he reached out and brushed beneath her eyes with his fingers, very gently. Katherine ducked her head and rubbed her eyes, feeling foolish. Of course he didn't understand her, why had she bothered asking?

"Hot coals," he said in English. She raised her head, shocked. "Pour water onto hot coals, will help her sweat out sickness." His English was still somewhat broken, but good enough that she could understand him.

"You...can speak English?"

He simply turned away, as if she hadn't spoken. She opened her mouth and made to follow him, but stopped herself. Pestering him more might anger him and he was still of a different attitude than her. She didn't know how he would react. Rather than pursue him as she had wanted, she turned away and went to return home to try what he had suggested.

"Where did you hear such an idea?" Her mother had asked as they heated stones in the fire. Katherine hesitated. As soon as she had gotten home, she immediately told her mother what she wanted to try and while her mother seemed doubtful, she, too, was willing to try anything in order to save Mary.

"One of...the Natives told me," she said carefully.

Her mother nodded. "They know these lands better than we, what they have to offer, and what type of sickness come from this harsh land. Some of their healing methods may prove to work as well, if not better, than ours." Katherine smiled and nodded. She was glad that her mother was so open when it came to the Natives; if she had told her father the same thing, she doubted she would have gotten the same response.

They did as the Native had told Katherine, allowing Mary to sweat under the steam from the water on the hot stones. They washed her body down afterward and then wrapped her in warm blankets and set her back near the fire and gave her some sassafras tea.

"Now, it is in God's hands," her mother said quietly.

For the rest of the day, Katherine washed and prepared apples for apple butter and applesauce and strung apples from the rafters to dry. When she went up to sleep that night, she could still smell the sweetness of the apples and that and her belief in the Natives' healing remedies was all that allowed her to sleep.

When she went to check on her sister the next day, her stomach nearly jumped when she felt her forehead. "Mother," she said quietly, turning to look at where her mother was nursing baby Thomas. "Her fever is gone."

"God be praised," her mother whispered, closing her eyes and seeming to send a prayer of thanks to the Lord.

Katherine found herself looking for the Native the next time she went on a walk on the beach. When she found him, she approached him, feeling almost shy because of how bold she had been beforehand when asking for his help. He was walking serenely and stopped when she approached him. She cleared her throat and kept her eyes respectfully lowered, murmuring, "Thank you." When he said nothing, she risked peeking up at him, but he was simply looking at her with his dark, intense gaze. She caught her breath when his hand reached out and lifted her chin up so that her eyes met his. He dropped his hand and there was a long moment where she found herself gazing back at him.

"Is your sister well?" he asked at last.

"Yes...her fever broke and she is getting better."

He nodded and then untied a pouch from his waist and held it out to her. She took it and turned a confused look up to him. "Willow bark," he said. "It will help."

"I...have nothing to give you in return for this," Katherine said, feeling bemused.

"I asked for nothing in return."

She surveyed him and then said, "I will have something for you next time." His eyebrows rose slightly and then he nodded. When he made to move to turn away, she quickly said, "Please. May I have your name?"

He looked at her thoughtfully and then said, "White Fox," before he turned away completely and walked away. Katherine watched him, holding the leather pouch in her hands. His black hair was as wild as usual, tossed around in the ocean's breeze. Her grip tightened on the pouch and then she left the beach.

X

Katherine had never made much time for any type of sewing or embroidery like many of the other girls did. She was taught it, of course, but she had never thought to embroider herself anything until she had been given the Willow Bark by White Fox. At the end of the night, she bent over her stitches and carefully wove through the fabric by candlelight. It was a tiresome activity, especially when she was exhausted from the day's labor, but it was worth the strain. When she straightened her aching back, she could not help but think of White Fox's mildly surprised look when she told him that she would have something for him. She sat back in the chair in the kitchen, bringing up an image of his face in her mind. He had an attractive face, much more so than any of the men in the town. There was something about his intensity that she wanted to explore.

Blinking, she sat up straight, startled by the thought. He is still a Native, she told herself firmly. He does not walk in the world of light, of God. I am simply returning his favor. But even as she continued on her embroidery, she could not help but remember the feel of his fingers on her chin, the roughness of his skin on hers.

Katherine took several days to finish her project but when she had, she surveyed it critically and then asked Mary, who had been sitting with her near the fire, "What do you think of this, Mary?"

"What is it?" her sister asked, looking up from the husk doll she had been playing with.

"It's a pouch. I lined the inside with a bit of leather to protect the items inside and embroidered the outside." Mary took the pouch and turned it around in her tiny hands.

"It's very pretty. Is it for me?"

"No...It's a trade item for the medicine I got for you." Mary looked somewhat crestfallen, so Katherine gathered her up in her arms and said, "But I promise I'll make you one. And you can tell me exactly what type of designs and flowers you want on it." Her sister seemed cheered by this and began to explain in detail all the types of flowers that she would like upon her pouch.

Katherine had seen White Fox every time that she had gone to the beach between when she received the Willow Bark and felt his searching, curious gaze on her and knew that he wondered whether she would keep her promise. She rarely spoke to him on those occasions, though, as Mary was usually with her and their trips to the beach were briefer since Mary's sickness. She went alone the next time, however, and when he turned his gaze to her, she smiled and greeted him by raising her hand, approaching him. "I have your gift," she said and then hesitated, feeling suddenly insecure. Does it really matter if he likes it or not? she thought, annoyed by her own vanity. She pulled the pouch out from her dress pocket and handed it to him. He took it and inspected it thoughtfully and then tied it around his waist, near the other pouches he held there.

"You made it?" he queried.

"Yes, I did. I apologize for not having it sooner."

He shook his head. "The longer it takes, the more care that is put into it." His lips curled into a smile, the first time she had ever seen him smile at her. "Do you go into the forest?" He pointed to the forest that she often saw him walking into at the end of their meetings.

"I'm not allowed in there, father says it's too dangerous."

"It is alone. Come with me." He turned and started towards the forest. Katherine hovered behind him uncertainly and then followed behind closely, glancing behind her to see if anyone from the town was on the beach. If anyone had seen her being led into the forest by a Native, she knew that she would be disowned at Meeting by the Friends. Once they were encased in the trees, she felt a bit safer from any prying eyes and glanced around curiously. She had only been allowed inside the forest with her father and even then, it had been the very edge of the forest. White Fox led her deeper into the forest and she wondered briefly whether she might have misplaced her trust in him, that perhaps he was going to kidnap her as she first thought when she saw him alone. He paused and caught her looking behind her. "Are you scared?"

"No...I've just never been this deep into the forest before. Where are we going?"

He put a finger to his lips. "Follow me." They walked for another ten minutes, enough time for Katherine to become anxious, until she realized he was leading her into what looked like a clearing. When they broke out of the trees, she gasped. The clearing was in fact a small meadow of wildflowers that was on a cliff facing the ocean. He leaned down and used a small dagger to cut one of the yellow wildflowers and held it out to her. She took it and breathed in the fragrance, smiling. "Your people do not know of this place."

"It's lovely." She gingerly stepped through the wildflowers and peered over the cliff. It was high up and she could see the waves crash against the cliff face and the sharp rocks at the bottom. White Fox joined her and she looked at him, smiling at him. "Thank you. This is a wonderful place." Katherine felt strange, as if she were not quite herself. She was taught to be demure and shy, quiet spoken, and polite, but she did not feel impudent speaking her mind with White Fox, nor did she feel as though she were offending him. She supposed that she felt less constrained with him and more like herself than she did when she was with the Friends and her family, with the exception of Mary. "If I may ask...why have you been kind to me?"

"You are not like other white people," White Fox answered readily enough, as though expecting the question. "They accept us, but do not welcome us. Some hate us, call us savages." His eyes settled on her and she was suddenly aware of how close he was, his arm nearly touching hers. "But you welcome us, accept us, treat us as your own. You do not fear us. You let your sister talk with my sisters and brothers. You are willing to learn us."

"And...you are not like other Natives that have come into town," Katherine pointed out. "You learned our language."

He smiled slightly. "I wanted to talk to you. When I first saw you, I did not know your language, but I watched you more and knew you did not have the evil spirits the other white people do." She blinked, surprised by this analogy. "When you first brought your sister down to walk, but you did not notice me then. One of the other men in my tribe that does trading taught me, but I did not tell him why."

"That was almost two years ago," Katherine said slowly. "There were more Native children that played on the beach, but my mother wasn't afraid of us being harmed. She trusts in your people."

"Do you?"

"Yes, but sometimes I don't trust my own people." She shook her head and looked down at the wildflower clutched in her hand. "They know the good Lord is in everything, everyone, and yet they do not treat your people with the respect that God expects."

"The great spirit works in many different ways, in many different people," White Fox said, a subtle outline of their difference in thinking. It did not bother her that he was not Christian, as much as it should have. She should have been appalled or even unnerved, but instead she accepted it calmly. She felt his fingers brush her cheek and she blinked, raising her eyes up to him nervously. When his hands slid on her cheeks, she felt her heart do a little dance in her chest. He pressed his lips to her forehead and they were warm against her cool skin. A moment later, he had withdrawn from her and said, "I will take you back to the beach."

He didn't follow her out of the forest, so she crossed the beach and returned to town alone, clutching the wildflower in her hand as though it were a life anchor. Later that night while she lay in bed with Mary curled up against her, her mind was filled with thoughts of White Fox, some quite innocent and some that she knew were sinful. She kept the thoughts locked against her heart, her own secret that only the Lord would know about. She knew, however, that if any Friend discovered her warm emotions for a Native, she would surely be disowned by not only her entire town, but perhaps her family and all of her people.

X

"Do you hear about broken treaties?"

Katherine looked up from the log she was sitting on. She was on one of her many excursions with White Fox since he had guided her to the cliff. She had been feeding a small squirrel some corncake that White Fox had brought with him, but the creature had lost interest in her after seeing that she had no other treats for it. "Treaties? With the Natives?" she asked and then considered over the question. "At the Monthly Meeting, we will bring them up, but I haven't heard of any of them being broken." At his confused frown, she explained, "Every month, our town of Quakers have a Monthly Meeting to discuss town problems and to announce people that have fallen out of favor and are disowned."

"You get rid of your own people?"

"They go against the word of God and the ways of Quakers," Katherine said, dropping her gaze to the hem of her dress that was quite dirty from walking in the forest. She heard him move and a moment later, he was kneeling in front of her, raising her face. She blinked at him.

"Do not turn your eyes from me," he said softly, "even if you are ashamed."

"I'm not ashamed," she protested, but her head tried to duck again and she knew it was a lie. White Fox smiled. "I don't agree with much of what they do, but it is our way of life and they say it is the way that God wishes for the righteous to live...but some of the ways they act is against God's word." She hesitated. "And I know that I would be disowned if they discovered me talking to you." If they saw you touching me, she amended silently.

Perhaps he could hear her amendment behind her words, but he did not move away from her. "My people would be displeased, as well, but they would not reject me. We have adopted white children into our tribes and families and have taught them our ways. We are accepting, but only when the white man does not break his treaty. Many have been broken recently. My people wish to attack, to remind your people of our strength."

"And...you?" She reached out and touched his cheek and then withdrew, suddenly aware of what she had done. He took her hand abruptly before she could completely withdraw.

"They want to attack your town. I cannot keep your family safe if they do." Katherine felt a trickle of fear find its way down through her chest and into her stomach where it churned uncomfortably. He could protect her, and maybe Mary and baby Thomas, from being harmed, but he would be unable to stop any attack on her parents.

"But they don't want to fight your people any more than I do," she said, gripping onto his hand tightly.

"They slaughtered innocents," he told her in a low tone, "and so my people view it in the same way, that they are within their right to do the same. If you can warn your family, though, and keep them safe in your home, they may not come to harm. Those traveling alone, away from the town, will more likely be kidnapped or killed."

"But then..." Her eyes searched his face. "I won't be able to see you for a while, because I will be unable to come to the beach."

"It will be unsafe for you to be at the beach alone and word will soon reach your town of our attacks. They will not like any of us being near your town."

"White Fox..." Katherine began and then trailed off, uncertain of what exactly to say. His dark eyes seemed to search her own hazel eyes for something. He released her hand and then untied her cap. "Oh..." He pulled it off and then leaned forward, his fingers skimming her jawline before his lips met hers. She shivered and felt a sudden, bold irrationality and she rested her hands on his shoulders, her fingers tangling in his long hair. His kiss was sweet and soft, but she feared she would never see him again after this and clung to him.

"This is not goodbye," he said firmly when he raised his head to look at her.

"Are you certain?"

"Yes."

She gave a teary smile. "I will wait for you, then." He returned the smile and kissed her again and then brushed a kiss below her ear before he handed her cap back to her and stood up. After she had tied her cap back on securely, he took her hand and guided her back to the beach, but remained in the forest.

"Katherine." She looked up at him, surprised, as it was the first time he had ever used her name. "I promise I will come back." Katherine considered him and then reached up and undid the clasp for her necklace and handed it to him. He looked down at the silver cross curiously.

"So you'll have a piece of me with you."

"Ah. Then I will give you this." He reached up and took a moment to pull something over his head. When he put the necklace around her neck, she noticed it was a piece of wood with an engraving of a fox on it. He smiled as she looked at the engraving. "A fair trade." He nodded towards the beach. "Go." She nodded and after tucking the necklace beneath her dress, she left him, feeling a heaviness in her heart that she was not willing to think about too closely.

X

Part II

"It's like an unending war," one of the other girls, Charity, said in a hushed voice to Katherine after the Monthly Meeting. It had been nearly half a year since Katherine had parted with White Fox. There had been continuous attacks on white settlements, even on their own town. Katherine had pleaded with her father to stay in the home and bar the door and close the shutters each night and only through a good deal of tears did he heed her. It was that, she suspected, that kept them safe. Other families were not so lucky, especially farms that were farther away from the town. Many children were kidnapped on their way to school and the raids on Native villages continued. Katherine grew ill every time she heard of the bloody slaughter on the Natives and she found herself crying quietly at night after hearing such news, not only because she was unsure whether White Fox had been caught in the villages, but also because of the sheer horror of so many innocent lives taken because of the hatred that her people held.

"When will it end?" Katherine whispered, closing her eyes, pained. "I just wish it would all end." Charity put a comforting hand on her arm. "Oh, how our Lord must be shedding tears over our shameful actions..."

"The Natives are not children of the Lord, Katherine."

"Everything in this world has a small of piece of Him, Charity, and that includes the Natives. They would not be on this Earth if not. Some of those that were killed were even Christian." Charity merely shook her head sadly at the news and her grip on Katherine's arm tightened a bit.

The ground and leaves were beginning to thaw from the winter frost and as Katherine stepped into the carriage with her family to return home, she felt no joy in the upcoming spring or summer. She had not been to the beach in months, nor had she been anywhere that was not densely populated. Mary had stopped going to school, as the walk was too far and much of it was through lonely fields where there were not even farms close by. Instead, Katherine had been teaching her during the mornings and then would help her mother the rest of the day.

"How can we let them do this?" Katherine asked a few nights after the Meeting. Her mother sighed, looking up from the pumpkin pie she was making. "To slaughter even the Christian Natives...killing our own."

"The Devil possesses even the kindest of hearts," her mother told her, reaching out and holding her cold hands in her own warm, moist ones. "This is not the work of the Lord, but the Devil is intervening, corrupting the hearts of good men, turning their mind and heart from the good Lord and to a darker, more twisted path. We can only pray and hope that they can regain their strength and faith."

The next day, disgusted and angry, Katherine walked alone to the beach, but rather than stop at the beach, she went into the forest and stumbled her way through to the cliff with the meadow. It was bitterly cold and the wildflowers were gone, dead from winter. She collapsed in the clearing and sobbed, pressing her hands against her face. But mother, these men are acting in the name of the Lord, she thought, heaving deep, loud breaths as she tried to reign in her tears and found herself sputtering from the effort. It's not the Devil at work, it's the men themselves. Our men are corrupt. After she had cried, she wiped her face with the edge of her cloak. Sniffling, she moved to stand up and turned around to return to the beach. She froze, seeing a group of Natives blocking the entrance to the forest. Their faces were painted red and appeared impassive and unrecognizable, a blur of blood red, nightmarish faces. She took a step back, but knew there was nowhere to go except for over the cliff.

The eldest one said something in his language and then gestured towards her.

"No, please, please," she begged, stepping back again as one of the Native men moved towards her. The man grabbed her arm and dragged her back to the group. The eldest nodded and then went into the forest, but rather than go towards the beach, they moved deeper into it and dragged her along, saying little to each other and nothing to her.

When they left the forest, it was near dusk and Katherine had no idea where they had emerged. She had never been far from town and now she was being pulled through rocky valleys and over hills and when night came, they set up camp and made a small fire, ushering for her to sit at it. She sat numbly, staring around at the faces. She pulled her cloak around her, frightened and cold and wishing she had never been so foolish as to leave the town. She pressed her hand against the throat of her dress, where the tiny wood pressed into her skin. I'll never see White Fox again now..., she thought dismally. One of the Natives offered her what looked to be a corncake. She took it and nibbled on it, but for the most part it sat in her hands uneaten.

They seemed to travel for days, but Katherine lost track of how long it had been that she was with the men. When they arrived at their tribe, many children and women came out to welcome the men back. Katherine couldn't understand a word they were saying, but watched them closely. The women smiled and reached up to touch the men's faces, the children danced around them, some of the men picking them up and lifting them high above their heads. Those outside of the party of men that had taken Katherine looked at her inquisitively and occasionally asked the men questions that she was certain was about her, but the eldest man held up a hand and then ushered for two of the men to follow him and they pointed for Katherine to follow the eldest Native. Tired and feeling defeated, she did as he bade. He entered the dim longhouse and the two Natives remained outside, guarding the entrance while he gestured for her to sit beside the pit that was in the middle of the large longhouse.

She sat down and waited for her eyes to adjust. There was only a handful of Natives in the longhouse and she was too tired to concentrate on what was happening around her. She kept her eyes at the burning embers in the pit and heard the eldest man speaking and another, low, elder voice speaking in their language. After this went on for some time, a new voice entered, startling her out of her thoughts. Her head snapped up and she looked round until her eyes landed on the Native that was speaking.

White Fox? she thought, staring at him uncomprehendingly. She wasn't sure what he was saying, but the elder man sitting next to him seemed to approve of what he was saying and the man that had brought her in was nodding his head as though agreeing. Suddenly, the man sitting next to White Fox turned to Katherine and spoke to her in English.

"You stay in village," he told her in broken English. He gestured toward White Fox. "Will be son woman."

What? What is a sun-woman? she wondered, confused, certain that her expression relayed how baffled she was at what was occurring.

"Clean now, son later," he said, extending a hand to White Fox again.

Why does he keep mentioning the sun? The elder man that had brought her in took her arm, helping her to her feet and then pointed to the entrance. She left the longhouse, feeling dazed from seeing White Fox and not understanding what was going to happen while she was in the village.

She was handed off to some of the Native women and they scrubbed her down, tore a comb through her hair with bear grease, and then dressed her in Native garb and moccasins. She had torn off White Fox's necklace and had clutched it stubbornly in her hand, refusing to open her fist to let them take it from her. Afterward, they handed her back to the two Native men and they left her in another hut, but she knew they were outside guarding. It was dark inside, as it was nearly night. Rather than sit in the middle of the hut where the men had instructed her to sit, Katherine got up and prowled around the hut, suddenly fearful that she was going to be made as an offer to the elder man that had been sitting near White Fox.

The thought perturbed her so badly that, with badly shaking legs, she collapsed at the back of the hut. She had of course heard of such stories, of Natives raping women and keeping them captive for their own enjoyment. The thought was making Katherine feel faint and sickened. She felt improper without her woolen dress on. Her throat, wrists, and ankles were exposed, her hair was unpinned, and her head was bare. She had never been so indecently exposed. She heard low voices outside the hut and then someone entered. She curled into as small of a ball as she could in the corner of the hut. She covered her face and then heard something strike rock and even through her hands, she could see that there was light in the hut, but she dared not uncover her face.

"Katherine?" The sound of White Fox's voice, so near to her, made her slowly remove her hands from her eyes. He was kneeling next to her and his eyes looked worried and almost fearful. She sensed his hesitation as he remained a distance away from her, as though afraid of frightening her.

"Am I dreaming?" she whispered.

"No, it is me." She uncurled herself and crawled to him, clutching him around the waist. He sat back and pulled her into his lap, holding her close. His necklace was still clenched in her hand, she realized as she started crying into her hands.

"I thought they were going to kill me when they took me," she hiccupped. He didn't answer, but held her against him. Katherine felt exhausted after she had cried, but lay limp in his lap, her cheek resting against his chest. It was a most improper situation, but he was the only solid anchor she had in this strange, unknown place she was now in.

"Come," he said, raising her to her feet. "You are tired." She noticed that he had made a fire in the pit that was similar to the one in the longhouse and there was a hole in the top to let the smoke out. He knelt down at the bed and gestured for her to get beneath the warm animal pelts. She hesitated and then lay down beneath the pelts. When he lay down beside her, she sank under the pelt slightly, feeling shy.

"This is inappropriate," she mumbled.

"This is the only way I can keep you safe," he told her with a small, exasperated sigh.

Katherine said nothing and then asked, "What is a sun-woman?" He stared at her blankly. "That man called me a sun-woman."

"No," he said carefully. "He means to say that you are his son's woman now. My woman." Katherine gazed up at him, shocked, and feeling her cheeks warm at the revelation. "I told you, my people view you differently than you view us." She simply nodded, unsure of what to say. He smiled and he propped himself up on his elbow, his long hair hanging over his shoulder. He reached out and brushed his fingers over her cheek, a soft, fleeting touch, before he leaned down and kissed her gently. "I was worried something happened to you. I am grateful it was my tribe that found you."

"We kept getting stories of attacks," she whispered and felt herself blush when she leaned up and tucked his hair behind his ear. "I thought you were dead." Her fingers lingered and then, feeling bold, she leaned in and kissed him, less gentle. One of his hands stroked her shoulders and down her arm, while his other reached up and caught her chin as he deepened the kiss, easing her lips apart. She made a tiny, surprised sound in the back of her throat in feeling his tongue in her mouth. The surprise lasted but a moment as her passion took reign. He cradled her in his arm and guided her back down while he came above her, his long hair draping down around her face like a curtain.

"I love you," he said softly, drawing away to look down at her. His eyes were burning so intensely that she knew he was nothing but sincere.

"I know...I love you, too. I missed you so." He smiled and kissed her again, lowering himelf, pressing into her body. She shivered and circled her arms around his neck and found him fitting himself between her legs. She stilled, feeling something hard press against her hip and then blushed realizing what it was. "White Fox...If I am your woman..."

"Yes?"

"Then I...truly...want to be your woman."

His eyes searched her face, as though to make certain she was aware of what she was saying and then he smiled again. "But only mine," he clarified.

She returned his smile. "Yes, only yours."

X

Katherine's days with White Fox passed by with shocking ease and while she missed her family dearly, especially her younger sister, she knew that she was where she belonged. She was slowly learning the language and spent most of her time when White Fox was hunting helping the other women in the village or playing with the children. White Fox's sister recognized her as the girl from the beach and followed her around the village, reminding Katherine of Mary. She spent some hours while helping the women scrape animal hides thinking of Mary and how dreadfully lonely she was must be without her there. Most of all, she worried that they might send someone after her and try to kill the tribe. If she had to give up her family to protect her new Native family, she would. She could not bear the thought of them being harmed because of her, even though she had been kidnapped.

"Are you still here?" White Fox asked her one night after they had made love.

"What do you mean?"

"There are times when you go somewhere," he said and brushed his knuckles against her forehead. "Here."

"I'm afraid for you," Katherine admitted, her brow wrinkling in concern. "But...sometimes...I'm also afraid for Mary. It's...hard to explain."

"Try."

She sighed a bit. "I know that it was my fault for leaving the town when I knew I should have stayed there, but the Natives intentions were not good when they kidnapped me, so I fear that Mary's loss of me will make her think poorly of the Natives where she will fear them and hate them. But I also fear that my loss will make them send more people after the Natives, like they have with other kidnappings, and that they will find the tribe and harm them. I fear that they'll take me away from you...or kill you." Now that she had spoken her fears aloud and her biggest one being the last, it seemed more real to her that it could happen. She kept her eyes on White Fox's handsome face, feeling her chest fill with emotion at the thought of no longer being with him.

"It is a fear that I have every day," he said after a moment's pause. "Thinking of anyone taking you from me gives me great pain. But I will never let it happen. I will always be here for you." She smiled, somewhat comforted by the thought, but her dreams were restless with bloody images and fires.

It was not long after that conversation that Katherine's fears came true. As she and White Fox's sister, Brave Owl, were making small corn husk dolls, there came a sudden commotion as the hunting party that White Fox had taken out came running back in, yelling in Native. Katherine caught enough to know that it had to do something with the white man. Katherine scooped Brave Owl up just as a group of white men came charging in, screaming. There was sudden, complete chaos. The longhouse went up in flames as one of the white men with a torch lit it on fire. Native men went into a rage, attacking the white men. Women screamed and grabbed children, trying to flee from the scene. Some of the white men went after the women, some of whom fought, some who were too old or too weak to fend for themselves. Katherine was caught between finding White Fox and taking Brave Owl to safety. She caught sight of him mid-battle with one of the white men, his long hair flying, his face set into a terrifying expression.

They won't harm me, thinking me a captive, she thought, but they will hurt Brave Owl. She took Brave Owl and fled, crashing through the forest, hearing other sounds of women fleeing. Brave Owl clung to her, crying in her neck. Katherine held her close, murmuring to her absent-mindedly as she tried to find her way to the river. When she broke from the trees, she gave a sigh of relief seeing the river. She waded across it, as the water only came up above her waist, and then hurried up the rocky hill on the other side. She found the cave that one of the medicine women had shown Katherine some time ago. From what little she could understand, Katherine had gathered that the women had chosen it as a safe spot if anything like an attack happened on the tribe. There were a few women already there, looking fearful and some of them bloody. "Take Brave Owl for me," she told one of the women who had one of White Fox's brothers with her. "I have to go back to White Fox."

She took Brave Owl, but said in Native, "You shouldn't go back. He wouldn't like it."

"I can't leave him," Katherine said firmly as the woman tried to take her arm. "I have to go back." She gently removed her hand from her arm. "Thank you. Take care of Brave Owl." Katherine left her then, even though she could hear Brave Owl crying out for her.

She found her way back to the village and it was completely aflame. Many of the men were still fighting off the white men and some of the women were trying to fight the white men, trying to get away. Katherine tried not to look at the fallen bodies, many of them women and children. She grabbed a hatchet that was lying on the ground and hurried to find White Fox struggling on the ground with a large, beefy white man on top of him. She clutched the hatchet, feeling her palms sweat and then swung at the man's head. There was deadening thud and then he swayed sideways. White Fox's eyes darted to her and they were wide in fear.

"What are you doing here? I thought you got away," he said as she pulled the hatchet from the man's head. She had to look away from the gash she had left in his head, feeling incredibly nauseous at the sight. "Katherine!" He grabbed her shoulders when she ignored his question. "You need to leave!"

"I'm not leaving here without you," she said stubbornly.

"Go help the women," he said instead, realizing that he neither had the time nor the ability to persuade her to leave the village. Katherine did as he said and she had to sneak up and kill two additional men with her small little hatchet to help the other women. The remaining Native men handled the other white men and then began to rush her and the three women out of the village, White Fox nearly dragging her through the forest. She had dropped the hatchet at some point and her hands were shaking.

"Wait, please," she begged when they got to the river. He released her arm and she stumbled away from him. She retched, emptying what little contents her stomach had, feeling nauseated by the gore and the horror of what she had done. Her entire body was shaking and she could barely move. She wiped her mouth with a trembling hand and was certain that she was going to pass out. She felt White Fox move behind her and in an instant he had her in his arms, carrying her. Rather than protest, she clung to him and clenched her eyes tight to forget about the men – her own people – that she had killed.

"Katherine!" Brave Owl came hurtling towards White Fox, crying her name, clearly thinking she was dead. White Fox waved his sister away as he set Katherine down and then went to talk to the other men. Brave Owl watched her brother walk away and then cautiously moved up to Katherine. Katherine smiled wanly at her and opened her arms for the little girl to climb into. Just as Brave Owl was seeking comfort, so was Katherine, so she sat huddled against the cave wall with the girl wrapped in her arms. The medicine woman went around and did what she could for the wounded. As soon as everyone was accounted for, they immediately left the cave to go to a neighboring tribe to seek refuge. Their chief had died in the attack, but White Fox still remained as his son and took up command.

"Are you well?" White Fox asked Katherine as they traveled through the rocky terrain. "I apologize for my harsh words to you."

"I knew you wouldn't like me going back for you," she said quietly, "but I couldn't leave you there." He didn't say anything immediately. Brave Owl was walking with her brothers a few paces behind them.

"You killed your own kind for me...for the tribe. I know what that must have done to you."

"Am I living a sinful life?" Katherine asked him softly. "Is this the path the Lord chose for me? Did I do the right thing in killing those men or was I possessed by evil? Or were they possessed by evil?"

"You protected innocents. Those women's deaths were not justified. We were not even able to bury our dead." Katherine looked up at the melancholy tone to his voice and reached down to take his hand, knowing that he was thinking of his father.

They traveled swiftly and only broke camp for a few hours in order for the children to rest. They arrived at their closest neighboring village within a couple days and the chief was already prepared to welcome them, having heard the news of their village's attack. "It is happening to many," the chief said to White Fox in Native. "These white men are demons and have no mercy for even their own kind. They demand we worship their God and still they will slaughter." The chief shook his head and looked at Katherine, as though directing the accusation at her.

"She has more of a piece of the great spirit than she does a white woman," White Fox said, as though the chief had asked a question.

"One of the men said that she killed her own kind for your tribe," the chief remarked musingly. "This is how I know that she is truly a warrior for our people and less a white woman seeking to destroy others."

"Thank you," Katherine spoke up in Native. The chief simply smiled.

That night, Katherine wandered from the longhouse where they were dancing a slow, rhythmic dance of mourning for the losses of those in the tribe and sat on a rock at the edge of the cliff that hung over the vast forest. It was a safe enough place for a village, but Katherine realized that even the safest place was not always going to be safe from the hate and spite of her kind. She hugged herself realizing that she could no longer identify with them after seeing the horrors they had inflicted upon the Natives in her village. Her life as a white woman seemed long and far away and seemed a shadow compared to her life with the Natives. She heard White Fox approach her before he wrapped his arms around her from behind and pressed his cheek against hers. "What are you thinking?" he murmured.

"I'm thinking that I am where I should be," she told him honestly.

"I know," he said and withdrew, moving around until he was standing in front of her. He took her hands and pulled her to her feet. "When I first saw you, I knew that you did not belong in that town, Katherine. You had too pure of a spirit." He rested his forehead against hers. "And even now, after that day, I believe your spirit is still pure. Your spirit flies when it is with my people and is only suppressed when you are with your own."

"I don't even really think of them as my people anymore...," she admitted. "I do miss my family, but they feel like such a distant memory and I think I would only bring them unhappiness as I am." She smiled up at him. "And that is how I know I am in the right place."

He smiled. "Yes. You are."

Finis

X

A/N: This originally ended about five pages before now, but it just didn't feel complete, so I finished it this way. In any case, please leave reviews letting me know what you liked, disliked, or any critiques :) Cheers!