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What Has Gone Before
                      Part 4

Vin had slowed his pace as he followed Nona's tracks.  the trail was easy  to follow, but Vin didn't want to go too fast in case he came across Nona hurt .....or worse.  A woman was an easy target alone on the prairie, especially in winter, and Vin had already noticed spots where it looked like Nona had slipped or fell.  And if she had been hurt in one of the mishaps, she may have set up a shelter to rest.  At least Vin hoped she was using her senses and would do so if she was hurt.

Vin kept a sharp eye on the tracks and the surrounding area, looking for anything that might be used as a shelter by Nona.  He saw many possibilities, but the tracks lead to none of them.  Instead, they continued forward, never veering from the direction Vin was heading in.
 
As Vin scanned the terrain, checking to make sure Nona wasn't holed up somewhere, he realized where he was and the direction he was headed in.

"Whoa fella," Vin said, reining in his horse.

Vin dismounted and knelt to examine the tracks closely.  He stood suddenly and looked straight ahead, fear surging through him.  He quickly mounted and spurred his horse into a dead run, ignoring the treacherous ground.


Nona tried to open her eyes.

What was that sound she kept hearing?
 
She focused, and slowly raised her heavy eyelids. The sound was getting louder.
 
"NONA!"

Nona tried to raise her head when she heard her name.

"Nona!!  I'm comin'!  Don't move!" Vin shouted jumping from his horse and running to the lakes edge.  He stopped short before stepping onto the fragile ice.

"Don't move!!" he yelled to her as he saw her trying to pull herself onto the ice.

Nona saw Vin standing on the bank and struggled to reach him.

"Vin," she called weakly.
 
"DON'T MOVE!" Vin screamed again.

Damn it! he thought as Nona ignored him and continued struggling to free herself of the hole.  Her stubbornness is gonna get her killed.

Nona had managed to pull herself partially from the water, her upper body now resting on the ice.  Vin searched his mind frantically for a solution to this dilemma.  He could go out on the ice himself to get Nona, but that meant risking falling through the ice himself.  If the ice wouldn't hold Nona's weight, there was no way it would support him.

Suddenly, the ice beneath Nona gave way again, and she splashed back into the freezing water.

"NONA!!!" Vin screamed watching in horror as she disappeared below the surface.

Nona resurfaced, sputtering for air.

"Vin!" she called out, clinging weakly to the edge of the hole.

Vin reached to his horse and dumped his saddle bag looking for rope. Once he found it, he dashed back to the lake.

"I'm comin'!  Hold on!" he called out.

As Vin uncoiled the rope, he could see it wasn't long enough to reach from where he was.  It was a good three feet too short.  He'd have to go out onto the ice.

Vin started to carefully inch his way onto the ice, testing it as he went. "Nona?" he called.

She didn't answer.

"Nona!  Listen up!  I'm comin' out!  I'm gonna throw you this rope and I need you to grab onto it!" he yelled.
 
Nona still didn't reply.

"Nona!" he yelled loudly trying to keep her awake. "Did you hear me? I need you to help me here!"

Nona heard Vin through a fog.  The time in the freezing water was beginning to take it's toll on her.  She could hear Vin's voice, but couldn't seem to understand what he wanted from her.

Suddenly, something smacked the ice next to Nona's head.  She opened her eyes and saw the end of a rope.  Nona looked at it, not knowing what it was for.

"Grab the rope Nona!" Vin called to her.

Nona stared at the rope, but made no move toward it.

"Come on!  Grab the rope!" Vin urged seeing she was fading fast.

Nona slowly reached for the rope.

"That's it!" Vin yelled seeing her movement.

Once Nona grabbed the rope, vin started pulling her to him.

"Hold on tight Nona!  I'm gonna pull you out!" he called.

Nona nodded slightly, focusing all of her remaining energy on holding onto the life line.  Vin carefully pulled Nona from the hole, moving as quickly as he dared.  When she was about three feet from him, the ice broke again.

Vin rushed into the waist deep water, grabbing onto Nona and pulling her to the safety of the lake's bank.

"I got ya....I got ya..." he said, holding Nona to him as he moved away from the water.  Vin suddenly realized how frightened he was. He was wet from the waist down and knew he had to get himself and Nona dry and warm.....fast.

Vin carried Nona over to his horse and set her down.  He then made a quick inventory of his supplies.  He pulled his bedroll from behind his saddle where it was always kept.

Vin dropped it on the ground then turned to Nona and began stripping off her wet clothing.  Nona shook violently as the cold air touched her bared skin.  Vin quickly wrapped her in the blanket then turned and hurried to the task of building a fire.

Once the fire was blazing, Vin checked on Nona.  Her shaking had stopped, but Vin grew very concerned as he noted she was still very cold to the touch.  Nona's breathing was becoming shallow, and her lips turning blue.

"Damn!" Vin said at a loss.

Nona didn't seem to be warming up, and he was worried that she may have been in the freezing lake too long.  Vin himself was starting to feel the cold as his wet pants clung to his skin.  He smoothed back Nona's hair, looking tenderly at her.

Vin knew he needed to get dry and warm himself.  But Nona would die if he didn't get her warmed up.  Vin stood and quickly stripped off his own cloths, then crawled into the bedroll with Nona, pulling her tightly against him, giving her his own body warmth.

The touch of Nona's icy skin against Vin's warm skin caused a shocked gasp. Vin pulled her close and began rubbing her back, moving to her arms and shoulders trying to get the blood flowing.

Vin continued his actions until he could see the color returning to Nona's face and her skin warming.  He breathed a little easier when Nona's breathing started to become more regular and she appeared to be resting.

Vin held her to him. suddenly realizing the impact it would have had on him if she had died.  Nona shifted slightly, causing Vin to become aware of her bare flesh.

Vin had come to see Nona as a sister, never thinking of her in a physical sense.  But his body was seeing Nona as the young woman she had become. Vin lay rigid as his body became more aware of the person next to him.

Shocked, Vin gently released Nona from his embrace and quickly crawled from the bedroll.  He scrambled into his still wet pants, welcoming the dampening effect they had on his emotion.
 
What the HELL was that?? he thought to himself still shocked by the experience.

A sound from behind him caused Vin to turn to Nona.  She stirred slightly, but didn't wake.  Vin quickly donned the rest of his clothing, then moved Nona closer to the fire.  He then began the task of drying out her clothing, the memory of what had just occurred weighing heavily in his mind.
 

Part 5

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