What Has Gone Before
                   Part 5


Nona rode silently in front of Vin as they headed back to the village.  She was upset by the events that had just transpired, but even more upset that her plans had been usurped.  She hadn't spoken since she had woken up and realized that Vin wasn't going to let her go on her way.  He wouldn't have anyway, but especially not after pulling her from the frozen lake.

Nona had been so preoccupied by these thoughts that she failed to notice that Vin was riding very stiffly behind her, trying not to continuously bump into her.

He too was preoccupied, but not with thoughts of why Nona had run off.  His earlier reaction to being close to Nona still weighed heavily on his mind.  Vin hadn't told Nona what had happened for fear it would frighten her.  Hell, it frightened him.
He kept telling himself it was a normal reaction to the situation.  But for some reason that explanation didn't calm or comfort him.  Instead, it prompted him to wonder just what he had been doing taking off his clothes and crawling into the bedroll with her.  He wondered what his real motives had been.

But at the same time, Vin told himself not to be foolish.  He had been trying to save Nona's life, and if he hadn't done what he had done, she might not be riding in front of him now.

Vin slowly started to convince himself that worrying about this was stupid.  In fact, he hadn't even asked Nona why she had left.

He took a deep breath and released it slowly, letting his tension ease away as he exhaled.  He then shifted in the saddle to shake away what tension remained.  Vin then turned his attention to the girl riding in front of him.

"Ahem..." Vin said clearing his throat.  "Wanna tell me what you were doin'?" he asked Nona.

Nona, pulled from her thoughts by Vin, shifted uneasily in the saddle.  She didn't answer.

Vin stopped his horse and turned Nona in the saddle slightly so he could see her face.
"Nona....you can tell me," he said gently.  He could see she was upset, and he was sure there was more to it than falling through the ice.

Nona wouldn't meet Vin's eyes, and still didn't answer.  Vin sighed.

"Okay....you can tell me when you're ready," he said giving his horse a gentle kick.

They continued on to the village in silence, each absorbed in their own thoughts.  Nona was wondering just how she was going to explain to Vin what she had been planning.  She knew he wouldn't approve.  Plus she was embarrassed over her inexperience and inability to actually carry out her plan.

Nona hadn't realized just how foolish her actions had been until she had fallen through the ice.  It was time to reevaluate her plan of attack.

There was time.  And next time she would be prepared.

Vin looked up at the scratch on the door flap to his dwelling.

"Come on in" he called.

Vin stood as Chumani stepped through the opening followed by Matoskah.  He nodded to them as he indicated for them to sit, offering them something to drink.  Matoskah smiled as he declined.  Chumani also smiled at Vin, a bit nervously.

Vin returned her smile, happy to see she seemed less wary of him since he had returned with Nona.  He then looked back to Matoskah who seemed to be waiting for him to do so.

"It is good that you have come to us Vin Tanner," Matoskah said.

"Thanks," Vin said grinning, wondering why Matoskah was speaking so formally.  Matoskah nodded before continuing.

"You have brought Wenona back to us.  This is a good thing, for Wenona is a gift from the spirits, sent to show our people how to be at peace with the white man," he said.

"Well, I'm glad I could help," Vin replied.

"You have done more than help.  You have preserved the one thing that has shown us from evil, good can come," Matoskah told Vin.  "And for this we are very grateful and wish to make you part of the tribe."

Vin was stunned.  He knew that the village loved Nona a great deal, but he had no idea she was that important to them.  And the offer to become part of the tribe was the last thing he had expected.

"I'm honored that you asked..." Vin started, unsure of how to reply.

"Before you answer, there is more I must say," Matoskah said, cutting Vin off.  "Chumani has come to me and has asked that you be allowed to join her family."

Vin glanced at Chumani, unsure of what this meant.

"I'm not sure what you're gettin' at" Vin admitted.
 Matoskah grinned at Vin's confusion.

"Chumani has asked to be allowed to 'adopt' you as her son," Matoskah explained.  Vin was even more shocked than before.
"You would be son to Chumani and brother to Wenona." Matoskah added.

Vin thought about this for a moment, then realized he was very happy to be offered this.

"I'd be honored to be Chumani's son and Nona's brother," Vin answered.

"Good," Matoskah said smiling.  He then rose and turned to go without another word, Chumani following.

Vin stood and watched the door flap long after Chumani and Matoskah had left.  As the shock began to wear off, he sat, overjoyed at the thought of his coming adoption.

Vin really didn't have any family left, but now it seemed he would.

The tribe gathered around the large fire that had been built in the center of the winter village to be witness to the adoption ceremony.

The new moon was high overhead as Matoskah, dressed in his chieftain clothing and headpiece, stepped forward.

"We have come together in the light of the new moon to honor Vin Tanner and welcome him to our people," Matoskah said to those gathered.

He then turned and motioned for Chumani, Nona, and Vin to join him.

"Chumani has asked that Vin Tanner be adopted into the tribe as her son.  I have found Vin Tanner to be worthy of the Sioux people and have agreed," Matoskah said then turned to Chumani.

Chumani handed Matoskah a package from which he withdrew a small amulet.  Matoskah turned to Vin and slipped the pouch over his head and laid it over his heart.

"From this day forth, you are one of the Sioux people," Matoskah said to Vin.  Vin looked down and gently touched the amulet resting against his chest.

"Welcome Enapay [En-ah-pay], son of Chumani, brother of Wenona," Matoskah finished.

Vin grinned and nodded to Matoskah, a bit confused as to why he had been called Enapay.  But he didn't have time to dwell on it as Matoskah called for the celebration and feast to begin.

As the tribe gathered around Vin to give him small gifts and words of welcome, he noticed Nona standing off to the side.  He was worried about the way she was acting.  Her fire had seemed to have gone out in that frozen lake.  But as worried as he was, he stuck to his decision to let her come to him.

As the night wore on and the festivities began to die down, Vin snuck away to catch his breath and take a moment to rest.  He had been the center of attention all evening, something he was not accustomed to or very comfortable with, as was feeling very tired.

Vin leaned back against a tree and rubbed his hands together, warming them as he gazed up into the night sky.  The sound of snow crunching alerted him to someone's approach.  Vin turned to see Nona coming toward him.

"Hey there!  Where ya been hidin' all night?" he asked as she came to stand beside him.

Nona grinned a little sheepishly at him but didn't answer.  Instead, she looked up to the full moon and quietly gazed at it.

Vin watched her, noticing for the first time how lovely she looked when she wore that thoughtful expression.

Whoa...!  he thought looking away.

There it was again!  That inkling of something more than mere platonic feelings.

Nona noticed Vin's movement and looked over to him.  He shuffled awkwardly.

"Something bothers you?" Nona asked.

"Huh?  Oh..no.  I was just wonderin' somethin'," Vin covered quickly.

"What?" Nona asked.

"Oh...I was just wonderin' why Matoskah called me Enapay, " Vin said, honestly wanting to know.

"That is your Sioux name.  It means, 'he who goes forth bravely',"  Nona answered with pride in her new brother.

 "I like that," Vin said.  Nona smiled at him.

 "It is a good name" She replied.  "A name for a strong man."

Vin returned her smile, touched that she considered him worthy of the name.  Nona then glanced at the ground shyly.

"Vin....there is something I must ask you," Nona said a bit hesitantly.

Vin suddenly became scared that Nona knew about the incident at the lake, his reaction to being close to her.  And maybe this was why she was behaving so strangely.  Maybe she hadn't been asleep.  He should have explained himself, but he had been sure she was unconscious.  And he hadn't seen the point in mentioning it.

Nona looked up at Vin, and seeing his worried expression, frowned slightly.

"I..I was wondering...if you would teach me to be like you," Nona said.

"What???" Vin said, his breath coming in an explosion from being held.  "What do you mean 'like me' ?" Vin asked, confused.

 "I want to be able to take care of myself and my people like you can," Nona answered.

"Okay...but I've already shown ya how to track, and I'm teachin' ya to hunt.  What more do you need to know?" Vin asked.

Nona looked at Vin with a determined set to her features.

"Teach me to shoot," she said.

"Why??? " Vin asked not liking what Nona was asking him.

"I need to know...." Nona answered softly.

Vin stepped closer to Nona, gently touching her arm. "Why? " he asked softly.  "What's goin' on with you Nona?"

Nona looked at him then back to the ground. "Please" she said softly.  "I'm asking as your sister...teach me all you know."

Vin could feel his heart melt as Nona called herself his 'sister'.  He grinned at her, knowing he would never refuse her anything, simply wanting to know her reasons.

"Okay," Vin answered giving Nona a warm hug.

Nona returned his hug fiercely, grateful he would help her, grateful he was there, and grateful that he was her brother.

To be continued....

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