Love Rides the Wind by M C Pehrson
Summary:

Over her father's objections, Tru Kirk heads off to the wilds of California for the summer, where events at the Dreamcatcher Boys' Ranch impact her life and that of her family in unexpected ways. 

Other ongoing characters featured: Sam Kirk, Father Phineas O'Day, and Anika Pontus S'chn T'gai. 

Image courtesy of bk images at freedigitalphotos.net

love rides the wind photo d9701d18-17e3-46a9-aac9-37820abcd407_zpsf7dd901b_1.jpg


Categories: Original Series, Expanded Universes Characters: Kirk, Antonia Cordova, Kirk, James T., Kirk, Tru, Redfern, Duncan (Lame Wolf), S'chn T'gai, James
Genre: Angst, Drama, Family, Romance
Warnings: Adult Situations
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: Beyond
Chapters: 8 Completed: Yes Word count: 10448 Read: 10820 Published: 01 May 2015 Updated: 01 May 2015
Story Notes:

This tale references some happenings from previous stories in my Star Trek: Beyond series.

1. Chapter 1 by M C Pehrson

2. Chapter 2 by M C Pehrson

3. Chapter 3 by M C Pehrson

4. Chapter 4 by M C Pehrson

5. Chapter 5 by M C Pehrson

6. Chapter 6 by M C Pehrson

7. Chapter 7 by M C Pehrson

8. Chapter 8 by M C Pehrson

Chapter 1 by M C Pehrson

LOVE RIDES THE WIND      By: M. C. Pehrson

 

The room was dead quiet. Tru Kirk stood before the neatly packed suitcase on her bed and hesitated before closing its lid. Her soulful eyes went to the little dreamcatcher that hung from a nail above her pillow. There was no one to notice how her expression softened or wonder at the reason for it.

 

Lame Wolf’s dreamcatcher could stay, she decided. In California she wouldn’t need the circle of rawhide and its trailing feathers to make him feel closer. Knowing that she would see him every day brought a smile to her face and made her heart beat a little faster. But by the time she carried the suitcase downstairs, her mouth set in a straight, determined line.

 

Tossing back her reddish-blonde hair, she looked at her parents seated together on the sofa and said, “I’m ready.”

 

Her mother sat stiff and silent, not out of disapproval, but because she knew an unpleasant scene was coming. Sure enough, Dad rose with a quick motion that meant he was still annoyed. Tru had recently graduated from high school and would turn eighteen next month. She had always thought of herself as an artist, painting birds and flowers and landscapes in watercolor, but to appease her father she had applied and been accepted for the upcoming term at Starfleet Academy. And now, since he knew that her heart wasn’t in it, he wanted her right here at home where he could keep the pressure on. It didn’t matter that she had been spending the better part of each summer at the Dreamcatcher Boys’ Ranch since its founding.

 

His hazel eyes sliced into her. “I thought you’d reconsider, at least for your mother’s sake. Once you’re in the Academy, we won’t be seeing much of you.”

 

Holding onto her temper, she said, “At Dreamcatcher, I’ll be giving the boys art lessons and teaching them to ride. I’ll be training horses, too. It’s useful work, Dad, and I enjoy it.” On inspiration she added, “It’s the sort of work that teaches responsibility and command skills.”

 

“You’ll be working for your brother. That doesn’t look good on a resume.”

 

Tru sighed. “Lame Wolf is only part owner, and the fact that you were once his guardian doesn’t make him my brother.”

 

There was a clatter of feet on the stairs, and ten-year-old Sam burst in. “What’s that about your brother?”

 

Like Tru, Sam strongly resembled their father, but Mom’s Latin blood made their skin a shade darker.

 

Tru ruffled Sam’s auburn hair and gave him a hug. “Promise and I are heading out for the summer. Want to see us off?”

 

“Sure,” he said, and they went to the stable to get her horse.

 

***

 

Tru came out of the transporter beam face to face with her father’s Vulcan-looking namesake, James S’chn T’gai. They were standing by the Dreamcatcher barn. At her side, Promise reared up and kicked his heels in protest at finding himself suddenly whisked from Idaho to California.

 

Jamie came forward and caught the big white gelding by the halter. Then he smiled a welcome at Tru and said, “You made it.”

 

“Yes, thank God,” she smiled back. It was a relief, getting away from the tension at home. Thinking of the pleasant weeks ahead made her feel gloriously happy. Maybe the summer would go on forever and she would never have to leave for the Academy. As they unsaddled Promise and turned him out to pasture, she asked, “Where’s Lame Wolf?”

 

Jamie flipped a hand eastward. “Down at the creek with some boys.”

 

That was a bit disappointing, but with Jamie toting her luggage, she went inside and greeted his wife Anika, meeting several boys along the way. There were sixteen in residence now, boys of every shape, size, and color. A new wing had been added to the main house, along with a little veterinary office. Anika no longer worked in Weaverville, but handled appointments from here while caring for the ranch stock. Everyone shared cleaning chores and took turns helping in the kitchen.

 

By dinnertime, Tru had settled in. Lame Wolf and his charges arrived just as everyone was sitting down to eat. Two long tables ran the length of the dining room. It was a happy, boisterous group. Lame Wolf’s dark eyes lit with pleasure when he saw Tru, and they shared an embrace. After washing up, he took his place at the head of her table. The room fell silent as Jamie offered a blessing, then Tru watched mounds of food disappear down the hungry boys. No wonder they had finally hired cooks; it would be a full-time job just keeping those kids fed.  

 

After dinner the boys cleared the dishes, then those not on kitchen duty rushed out to play baseball. Lame Wolf came over and sat beside Tru. He grinned at her, his teeth very white against his smooth brown skin.

 

“Another summer,” he said. “It’s great to have you back. Now that you’re out of high school…do you think you might stay a little longer?”

 

An ache settled in her heart, for she hadn’t told him about the Academy. She hadn’t dared. He knew how she felt about Starfleet and had not expected her to give in. He didn’t understand how hard her father—the illustrious Captain Kirk—had made things.

 

“I…I can’t,” she stammered. “I have to go away in late August.”

 

“College?” he asked.

 

A great thump saved her from answering. Lame Wolf turned toward the shatterproof window as a baseball rebounded into the yard.

 

“Mark’s at bat!” Anika called from the kitchen.

 

Lame Wolf rose and said to Tru, “Want to watch?”

 

Glad for the reprieve, she accompanied him outside.

 

***

 

In the days that followed, Tru checked out all the changes at the ranch. Behind the barn, a new henhouse provided fresh eggs. Her love of birds extended even to chickens, and she delighted in the colorful assortment of breeds. On the ranch road, Jamie had erected a wayside shrine at the spot where he once ran over his son with a tractor. Now Cody was a lively eight-year-old, and he enjoyed teasing his father about the accident. The near-tragedy had deepened Jamie’s religious convictions. As a reflection of that faith, he was constructing a chapel dedicated to the Good Shepherd. Not all the boys at Dreamcatcher were Catholic, but Jamie tried to impart good moral values to every youngster. Over the years, he had kept in close touch with Father Phineas O’Day from back home, and the retired pastor had agreed to come out in September and act as chaplain for the boys. In Idaho, Tru had belonged to O’Day’s parish when Jamie was her neighbor, and she was very fond of the old priest. Here was one more reason why she wished she could stay, but since that was impossible, she tried to content herself with the daily round of activities. Besides helping the boys master their computer Outreach education, each member of the staff had a special area of expertise. Lame Wolf managed the operation, Jamie counseled the youngsters, and Anika mothered them. For now, Tru was the resident artist.

 

On the day Tru turned eighteen, her family showed up for a surprise dinner party. The Dreamcatcher boys happily joined in the celebration, crowding around her famous father, and he seemed to enjoy the attention. Tru was jittery all evening, waiting for him to “spill the beans”. And then it happened.

 

The cake had just been served when her father stood, raised his glass of iced tea, and proposed a toast. “To my own Starfleet cadet, Elena True Kirk.”

 

There were murmurs of astonishment, then a burst of applause. Tru’s face burned with embarrassment and shame as she glanced over at Lame Wolf. He was not clapping. His handsome features were set like stone.

 

As soon as her family left, she went out into the night, but there was no escaping Lame Wolf’s displeasure. Suddenly the crickets fell silent and she heard his footsteps approaching. Her heart began to pound wildly. Turning toward him, she saw the moon reflected in his solemn eyes.

 

“Starfleet,” he said in a pained voice. “Is that what you want? Or is that what your father wants?”

 

“It’s what I’m going to do,” she hedged. “For a year, anyway.”

 

“A year! Do you really think it will end there? Do you think he’ll be satisfied with one year? He’ll keep on pushing you, making you feel guilty. I can’t believe you gave in to him!”   

 

Tru’s fingers clenched. “So it’s all my fault? You don’t know what it’s been like; you don’t live there anymore.”

 

“He pressured me, too. He had my life all planned, but I stood up to him. Why can’t you?”

 

Overcome with anger, Tru shouted, “This is none of your business! Leave me alone! It’s my life and I’ll do whatever I want!” Then tears came and she ran all the way to her room.

 

***

 

Early the next morning, Lame Wolf took six boys into the mountains on horseback. The camping trip could not have come at a better time. He sorely needed to get away from the ranch, but the sting of Tru’s words followed him through the canyons.

 

Had he been too hard on her? He always thought of Tru Kirk as strong, but now he remembered those terrible days when everyone thought her father had died in Space. Her strength had failed then, and when Jim came back, she had suffered ever more, thinking that he no longer loved her. Now it seemed that she would do anything to keep her father’s love. But what loving parent would manipulate a daughter that way? Lame Wolf owed Jim Kirk for providing a home when he needed it, but his concern for Tru outweighed any sense of gratitude. She had always been his “Little True Friend” and he could not bear to see her in pain. But now even he had hurt her.

End Notes:

 

Chapter 2 by M C Pehrson

Tru felt utterly miserable, and with Lame Wolf gone, she tried to distract herself with the daily round of activities. A new boy had arrived. Fair-haired Hunter was ten like her brother Sam, but painfully withdrawn from years of abuse. His empty blue eyes watched her help a teenager train a yearling filly. Later, he sat staring dully at his blank paper while the rest of her art class sketched the big red barn. Before dinner, Tru took him out to pick some wild roses for the tables. Butterflies danced over the pink mounds of flowers, but Hunter showed no interest. All day long, the boy never spoke a word.

"Some kids are like that," Jamie said later. "They retreat deep inside themselves so nobody can hurt them anymore. Other boys come to us angry and rebellious. In time, they all learn that it's safe here. Once they see that we love them, they start to relax."

The next day dawned still and bright, but as the sun rose, a searing wind began to blow out of the north. The air grew hazy from the Mount Shasta volcano, which was still belching a little smoke and ash. Tru conducted her art class indoors and showed the boys how to paint their barn scenes with watercolors. She sketched a barn for Hunter, but despite every encouragement, he sat with his hands in his lap.

When it came time to dismiss the class, Tru went into the office and found Jamie quietly talking with Anika, phone in hand.

Turning to Tru with a serious expression, he told her, "There's a fire up north."

Tru's heart seized. Jamie's father had installed a fire shield for the ranch, but Lame Wolf and his boys were out of its range. Unless a structure was threatened, the Forest Service let these seasonal fires run their natural course. The long established policy resulted in fast burning fires that spared the mature trees and cleared brush from the forest floor. But fast fires were unpredictable and dangerous.

Jamie had called Lame Wolf to check on his location. For now the group was safe, but with the blaze tearing through canyons, he decided to fly out in a ranch skimmer and pick up the boys.

"But what about Lame Wolf?" Tru asked.

"He'll try to bring the horses in. You know how beaming frightens them, and two of the mares are pregnant." He started for the door.

"Hold on, don't leave yet," Tru told him. Before he could speak a word, she rushed to her bedroom and stuffed a few items into an overnight bag.

She caught up to him at the skimmer, and seeing that she meant to go along, he said, "Tru, I'm sorry, there's just no room. It will be tight enough bringing back six boys, and I don't want to make two trips."

Tru's chin lifted with determination. "I'm going to stay with Lame Wolf and help bring back the horses. You said he's safe, didn't you? Well then, I'll be safe, too."

***

Lame Wolf was shocked to see Tru alight from the skimmer and declare her intention to stay. As the disappointed boys climbed aboard with their gear, he told her, "No, you have to go back with them."

Her brows drew together with annoyance. "You said I shouldn't let people tell me what to do. And besides, there's no room."

They were still arguing when the skimmer rose from the little clearing and flew out of sight. Smoke hung in the air. A restless wind stirred the pine trees and made the horses tug nervously at their leads. Lame Wolf felt uneasy, too. The ride home would not be peaceful with Tru here.

"You should not have come," he insisted in a stubborn tone.

Wordlessly she drew her wavy hair back into a loose braid. Then she chose a black and white pinto and slung her bag from the saddle horn. Tightening the cinch, she mounted and looked down at him.

Lame Wolf stood his ground. "Why are you doing this?"  

Beneath thick lashes, her eyes suddenly grew gentle. Softly she said, "Because you're alone. Because I want to be with you. Because...because I needed to say that I'm sorry."

The unexpected apology moved him deeply and he told her, "I'm sorry, too. I only want you to be happy." But he added, "James should never have let you come here. It's too risky."

"Help is only a phone call away," she reminded him.

"You rely too much on technology. What if it fails?"

Her lips stirred into a smile. "You won't let anything bad happen to me. You've always kept me safe. Remember when I got half-frozen hiking out to your cave? Remember when I fell through the ice at Little Kirk Lake?"

The old memories tugged at his heart. Either time, she could easily have died, had he not been there to save her. One way or another, he would keep her safe now.

Lame Wolf strung the remaining horses together and they set out. It was rough going. The game trails were busy with wildlife fleeing the blaze, so rather than encounter a cougar or bear, Lame Wolf forged his own path and phoned James at regular intervals. By sundown they were halfway home.

***

Tru was more tired than she was willing to admit. Gladly sliding from the saddle, she helped Lame Wolf tether the horses and dole out grain. Their camp was on high ground, with a clear view of the fire line. Distant flames glowed in the twilight as they sat quietly eating cold beans and leftover cornbread. It was almost dark when they finished. Tru laid a bedroll near Lame Wolf's spot. The wind had changed direction and the air was clean. Kicking off her shoes, she stretched out and closed her eyes.

Sometime later she awoke with a start. The sky was full of stars. Over by the trees, the horses were snorting and tugging at their leads. She looked toward Lame Wolf and saw that he had raised up on one elbow and was listening with a stun weapon in hand.

A deep hair-raising cry echoed in the canyon below. Then something large moved in the woods beyond their clearing. Tru scrambled over to Lame Wolf and held on tight. For the first time in memory, she found herself terrified by the outdoors.

"What is it?" she whispered.

The eerie wail sounded again. Nearby, something cracked loudly, wood striking wood. The restless wind swung around and carried a foul stench.

"What is that?" Tru said again.

Lame Wolf lowered the weapon and Tru could feel some of the tension leaving his body as he answered, "Sasquatch."

Sasquatch! Long ago, scientists had proven that the legendary Bigfoot creatures exist, and had mapped their habitat with biosensor technology. But in the mountains of Idaho, Tru had never set eyes on one or even come across any sign of them. Normally the creatures stayed far away from people, but now the fire had them on the move and their paths were crossing.

Tru shivered with fear.

"They shouldn't harm us or the horses," Lame Wolf said, "but we better sit back to back and keep an eye out."

After they positioned themselves, Tru checked the time on her wrist phone. It was almost four o'clock. Lame Wolf began to play his Indian flute, and the soothing notes helped relax her. The air felt pleasantly warm as they awaited daylight. Dreamcatcher Ranch lay just beyond the next ridge. By tonight they would be home, safe in their beds. Home. Yes, California was beginning to feel more like home than Idaho. Listening to the mellow tones of the flute, she became acutely aware of Lame Wolf's back pressing against hers. His nearness created a pleasant ache that was becoming all too familiar.

She knew what it meant. Deep down, she had felt it coming for a long time, though she had never dared call it by its rightful name. And suddenly there on the mountaintop she realized that this was why she had given in to her father and applied to the Academy. Hot tears pricked her eyes and her throat tightened. Her body shook with each thump of her heart, and she wondered if he could feel it.

"Duncan," she said thickly. When had she last used his legal name? But it seemed to fit this moment perfectly. "Duncan...I have to leave Dreamcatcher."

The flute went silent. All but a handful of stars had faded, and a blush of dawn tinted the eastern sky.

"In August?" he asked.

"No. Tomorrow."

It seemed to her that he was holding his breath. Then he said, "Why?"

She bowed her head and began to cry.

The sound of her tears tore at Lame Wolf. Rising, he gently helped her to her feet. Tru's eyes gleamed as he gripped her slim shoulders.

"Little True Friend," he said tenderly, but she was no longer Jim Kirk's little girl tagging along like a puppy. A memory came to him-a visit back to the Kirk Ranch. He had exchanged gifts with Tru. He had told her she was beautiful, and then she startled him with a kiss on the cheek. She had been just short of thirteen, part child and part woman.

Now her lips trembled, and at eighteen she was clearly more woman than child.

"Leave?" He repeated with emotion, for he did not want her to go away, now or ever. The truth was, he did not want her to leave him.

Now he understood why he remembered her kiss so vividly, why her gift of artwork had always seemed so precious. In itself, the rendering of Kirk's ranch was not important. What mattered to Lame Wolf was the hand that created it. Only Tru mattered.

Pulling her body close, he said, "Don't go."

For a wonderful moment she held onto him. Then crying harder, she pushed back, seemingly angry. "I have to go! Can't you see? I'm sorry...but I love you. I think I've loved you for the longest time..."

Lame Wolf stared at her, hardly believing what he had heard, thinking that her words meant something other than he imagined. But the look of misery on her face gave him hope-that she did love him, not as a little sister, but as a woman loves a man. Though his heart was slamming, time seemed to stand still. Reaching out, he swept her back into his arms and kissed her soft cheek. Tru's lips moved to his and their mouths touched...gently at first, then with a mutual passion that set his blood aflame. Now there was no longer any question. His True Friend had become his True Love, and all the world seemed beautiful.

Chapter 3 by M C Pehrson

The days passed like a strange but marvelous dream. After the boys were in bed, Tru and Lame Wolf went out walking where only the stars heard their secrets. Clearly trouble lay ahead, but they never spoke about her father. Nothing must spoil this sweet interlude of newfound love.

A month after the fire, they took all the boys berry picking. Down in the lower pasture, the thickets were heavy with blackberries. The boys happily set to work, dodging thorns, eating as many berries as they put into their pails. Only Hunter's fingers remained unstained. Silent as always, he stood in the shade of an oak tree, dangling his empty pail.

Tru looked out across the brambles and found Lame Wolf gazing at her. His black braids glistened in the sunlight. She smiled at him and as he smiled back, she longed to touch his smooth brown skin. Resuming her work, she picked berries in his direction and he steadily picked his way toward her. Most of the boys had moved to another thicket. Their cheerful voices drifted in the warm, fragrant air.

"Look," Lame Wolf said, pointing to an orange and yellow bird perched on a pine branch.

Tru had never lost her girlhood thrill of sighting a colorful bird. "It's a tanager!"

As she walked over to get a closer look, Lame Wolf went with her. They were ten feet from the tree when the male tanager took flight.

Tru said, "I wonder if he has a nest nearby."

Turning, she found herself inches from Lame Wolf. His unexpected nearness made her wish they were alone, so she could kiss him. But the pails were full of berries, and Cook needed them for tonight's pies.

"Okay, boys!" Lame Wolf called out. "Let's get these berries to the kitchen!"

They were halfway to the residence when Tru realized that Hunter was missing. She told Lame Wolf and their eyes met with a shared sense of guilt. They both knew they had been negligent.

"I'll find him," Lame Wolf said, and ran back toward the pasture.

Sick at heart, Tru took the other boys home.

Lame Wolf made a quick sweep of the berry patch and found Hunter's empty pail, but the boy was nowhere in sight. He fought a rising sense of panic as his shouts went unanswered. There was no reason for alarm. Tru would bring a tracking device that would quickly direct them to Hunter, but this should never have happened. New boys needed special attention. Lame Wolf had let his feelings for Tru distract him from his responsibilities and had not even taken a head count before starting home.

"Hunter!" he called again.

The horses in the pasture pricked their ears and stared at him. He stopped to study the animals. A horse's hearing was acute and their behavior might offer some useful clue. Sure enough, first one and then another horse turned its attention on a section of forest beyond the fence. Soon Lame Wolf was searching among the trees, calling Hunter's name again.

He came upon the boy suddenly. Hunter stood with one hand on the withers of an old roan mare. The horse's front legs splayed and her head hung low. Patches of hair had been burned away, leaving raw oozing flesh.

Hunter looked at Lame Wolf and uttered his first words. "She's hurt bad, Mr. Redfern. Please, you gotta help her."

***

The fact that Hunter had finally spoken created as great a stir as the broken-down horse. It was assumed that the old mare had been caught in the forest fire. She had no I.D. chip, and no reports had been issued about her. Perhaps she had been abandoned and was living wild until Hunter noticed her head poking out between some trees. He named the horse Blaze and stayed at her side while Anika treated her burns.

That evening, Jamie called a staff meeting to review the incident. As Lame Wolf sat down beside Tru,   her icy fingers gripped his under the table. There was no excuse for their carelessness today, and they both said so. By ignoring established procedures, they had put one of their young boarders in danger.

"None of us is perfect," Jamie responded kindly. "There are bound to be lapses, but today we all learned the importance of staying alert, when something as simple as a bird can distract us."

Tru swallowed hard and admitted, "It wasn't just the bird."

All eyes were on her. Blushing, she glanced at Lame Wolf in silent appeal. They had already discussed the matter, and now he nodded to reaffirm his consent.

She turned to Jamie and Anika. "There was something besides that bird distracting us. You see..." her voice faltered.

Lame Wolf brought their joined hands into view. "This is the little bird who distracted me. Tru and I are in love...and she's consented to be my wife."

Anika's jaw dropped. Jamie stared, a furrow forming between his slanted Vulcan brows. Their thoughts were so apparent that they did not need to say a word. Like everyone else, they had always viewed Lame Wolf and Tru as siblings. Lame Wolf knew he had done nothing immoral, but for the first time it occurred to him that his love for Tru might cause problems for James and Anika. Tru was more than an employee at Dreamcatcher; she was a family friend, barely eighteen, and her father expected everyone at the ranch to look out for her.

Each time Lame Wolf thought of Jim Kirk, he went cold inside. The man he called "Uncle" was going to be furious. Tru would not be attending his beloved Academy, but it was more than that. A ragged Shoshone boy had come into his fine home and stolen his only daughter.

Anika got up and hugged each of them, relieving the tension.

Across the table, Jamie recovered enough to offer a weak smile and say, "I never dreamt...but why not? You two belong together. Congratulations."

Chapter 4 by M C Pehrson

The golden days of August arrived. Tomatoes ripened on the vines, and boys ate their fill of fresh-picked melons. Blaze recovered from her burns and followed Hunter around the property like a big ugly dog. In the youngster's eyes, she was magnificent. It was truly beautiful to watch Hunter speak to her tenderly and see him start to participate in ranch activities. Tru didn't want to miss a single day of his growth, but a painful task awaited her in Idaho and she could not put it off any longer. Lame Wolf wanted to come along, but one warm morning she kissed him goodbye and stepped into the Weaverville transporter alone.

Mom met her in Pinehaven, Idaho. Knowing what was coming, Tru settled into the family skimmer with a churning stomach.

They were in the air when her mother said, "So Promise is staying in California. But why didn't you bring your luggage?"

"I have everything I need," Tru answered vaguely.

The countryside swept below them. After a few moments Mom remarked, "You're awfully quiet. Are you having second thoughts about the Academy?"

Tru took a deep breath and admitted, "I'm not going."

Mom cast a troubled glance her way. She knew that the peace of her home was about to be shattered, but she also knew that Tru didn't belong in Starfleet. Finally she said, "What made you change your mind?"

Tru gave no reply, for they were already landing at the ranch. Dad and Sam came out of the paddock. Tears sprang into her eyes as she left the skimmer and hugged them.

"I love you," she told her father.

He gave her an affectionate squeeze and proudly asked, "How's my prize cadet?"

With a wan smile, she drew back. A horse nickered by the stable and familiar mountain birds were calling. In a moment all this will be lost to me, she thought, and as her heart flailed in her chest, she found herself wishing that she had brought Lame Wolf along, after all.

Her voice tremored as she said, "Dad, Mom, let's go inside. I have something to tell you."

Once in the house, only Sam took a seat, for he was too young to sense trouble coming. But Mom was stiff with concern and Dad looked wary.

All in a rush, Tru said it. "I'm not going to the Academy. Lame Wolf and I are getting married."

Both her parents were clearly stunned.

Even Sam sat up and took notice. "Marry Lame Wolf? But he's our brother!"

"He is not my brother," Tru said forcefully. "He has never been my brother. I love him and we're going to get married."

She watched the anger building in her father, but it was her mother who spoke first. "Tru, this is very sudden. What's the hurry? You're so young. Why not give the Academy a chance?"

Startled, Tru turned on her. "Mom! The Academy? Whose side are you on?"

"The side of reason," she replied.

"Oh, so I'm being unreasonable? Look, Mom, I know you want to make Dad happy, but I have a right to some happiness, too. This is my life."

"Young lady, that's enough!" snapped her father.

Tru gathered her courage and faced him. "Starfleet is your dream, not mine. Dad, I'm an artist."

"Then study art! I'll send you to the best damn art school on Earth. But marriage...to Lame Wolf? Tru, you're nothing but a kid."

"No, Dad," she said levelly. "I'm not a kid anymore. You can't tell me what to do."

His face went stony. "Tru, Sam-go upstairs."

Tru matched his glare and didn't move.

Her mother pleaded, "Tru, honey, give us a moment alone. Won't you?"

For her sake, Tru followed Sam. On the way upstairs, she heard Dad say to her mother, "Did you know about this?"

She went into her bedroom and left the door ajar. Sitting on her bed, she heard the sound of her parents arguing and it was as if the years had fallen away and Dad was just home from the Nexus.

His voice raised another notch. "I should have seen this coming! I should never have taken that Indian into our home. I should have listened to you."

"I was wrong then," Mom answered, "and you are wrong now. Duncan is a fine young man-you've said it over and over."

"Yes. But he's not..."

"Not good enough? Not educated enough? Not white enough? Jim, listen to yourself!"

"I'll never give my consent! That girl isn't running off to live with an Indian in the wilds of California. She's going to college. She's going to make something of herself."

Mom's voice came back. "Tru has already made something of herself. ‘That girl' is a talented young woman who knows her own mind, her own heart. Remember the stories you've told me about Spock's father? How stubborn and manipulative Sarek is? Well, keep it up, and Tru will see you the same way. You'll lose her, Jim."

"That's up to her," he countered.

Sick at heart, Tru gazed at the little dreamcatcher on her wall. She had heard enough. There was nothing else here that she really needed. Taking the dreamcatcher, she walked out of her childhood bedroom and went downstairs. Her father glared at her as she used her wrist phone to call for a direct transport.

"Oh, no you don't!" he declared with a step toward her.

Choking back tears, she said, "Goodbye, Dad." And to her mother, "I'll be in touch."

Then the transporter beam caught her and she was gone.

Chapter 5 by M C Pehrson

Having Lame Wolf at her side helped eased the pain of her father's rejection, but now even the happy memories of Tru's childhood seemed tainted. Lame Wolf kept insisting that Dad still loved her and that he only needed time to adjust. But Tru doubted he would ever change.

One day when she was alone with Lame Wolf, she called her father a bigot.

Lame Wolf would not accept it. "Tru," he said, "I've always tried to respect your father. People carry many feelings inside-some good, some bad. Anger can make the bad ones slip out into the open. Do you know that he once lived among Indians? It happened on a distant planet, where members of a tribe had been transplanted. He told me that he admired their way of life."

Astonished, she replied, "Really? Then why..."

"Tru, you're his daughter. He wants only the best for you."

At that, she put her arms around him. "Duncan, you are the best...and Dad is blind if he can't see it."

As the season turned, Jamie and Anika grew accustomed to the idea of Tru and Lame Wolf marrying. Each day dawned with a chill in the air, and autumn rainstorms turned the pastures green. After school, boys climbed the orchard trees and picked bushels of crisp red apples. Work ended on the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. Once the altar was consecrated, Father O'Day settled into his new quarters and took over Tru and Lame Wolf's preparation for the sacrament of marriage.

Tru extended a wedding invitation to her family, but only her mother came for the ceremony on Christmas Eve. From the beginning, Sam had sided with their father. He called her a fool and a quitter for turning down a place at Starfleet Academy. He said even more hurtful things about Lame Wolf, but Tru suspected he was just repeating what he heard around the house.

Following the ceremony, Tru posed with her new husband for a few last pictures-before the hearth with a large dreamcatcher above it, then beside the Christmas tree with all the boys happily crowded around. After a celebration dinner, she went over to Lame Wolf's cottage to change her clothes. These past weeks, she had added her own feminine touches to his Native American décor. The little home was warm and inviting, like Lame Wolf himself. She had loved him for such a long time, and now they truly belonged to one another. Her father's opinion should not have mattered, but somehow it did.

In a spiral of sorrow, she scarcely heard the cottage door slowly opening. She was sobbing when Lame Wolf came up from behind and encircled her with his strong arms.

"Little True Friend," he said softly, as if she were still five years old.

Ashamed of her tears, she brought herself under control and faced him. He was very handsome in his suit, with a beaded Shoshone headband across his forehead. His long raven hair shone, and his eyes were dark pools of concern.

Looking at him, she thought, Here is all the love I could ever hope for. And focusing on their future, she welcomed his embrace.

***

Pale light filtered through the lacy bedroom curtains when Tru awoke, finding herself in the curl of her husband's arm.

"Merry Christmas," he said with a sweet smile.

"Merry Christmas," she smiled back, her heart so full of love that there was no room for anything else. Since their engagement, a deep yearning for a child had come over her, and now she said, "Just think. Maybe this time next year, there'll be three of us."

Lame Wolf drew her into a kiss, but a sharp rapping sound disturbed them.  Someone was at the door leading to the main house.

Lame Wolf called out, "Who's there?"

Young Cody answered, "Hurry up! Everyone's awake! There's lots of stuff under the tree!"

Tru and Lame Wolf quickly showered and dressed. Out in the main room, the boys were gathered in their pajamas, barely containing their excitement. Father O'Day had organized a Christmas donor program, so each child received some new clothes, candy, and couple of toys. Later came Christmas Mass in the chapel and an early dinner. Cook was home with her own family, but she had baked plenty of pumpkin and apple pies ahead of time. Tru rolled up her sleeves and helped Anika make mounds of potatoes and vegetables for their ham feast. Perhaps it was a strange honeymoon, but she enjoyed the day. She liked to watch Lame Wolf interact with the children. His kindness and patience made her sure that he would be a good father.

Late in the afternoon, Jamie and Anika shooed them away. They donned their coats and went out for a walk. The sun barely warmed the crisp air as they followed a forest trail, hand in hand, to the little clearing that had long been set aside for a special purpose.

"No more delays," Lame Wolf said. "When summer comes, the boys and I will finally set up Deer Camp."  

"Wickiups and Shoshone lore," mused Tru. "I'm coming along."

His lips curled into a crooked smile as he put his arms around her. "By then, your belly will be getting so large that you won't want to live in a wickiup."

"Oh, I hope you're right," she said with a laugh.

He bent down to kiss her, and the touch of his mouth took her breath away.

Chapter 6 by M C Pehrson

It snowed on New Year's Day. By noon the soft, fat flakes covered the ground in a white blanket. Lame Wolf and Jamie hitched a team of horses to an old-fashioned sleigh. As the boys took turns gliding along the road, Tru went indoors and decided to call her brother to wish him a happy birthday.

On the phone screen, Sam gave her a hateful glare. "Dad's gone and it's all your fault!"

Tru's heart plummeted. "What?"

Sam went off-screen, and her mother appeared, grim-faced, her emotions tautly controlled. "It's not your fault," she said. "Jim was never the same-not after the Nexus."

"He's really gone?" It had been Tru's greatest fear ever since her father came back. The Nexus had always exerted a strange hold on him. Even in the best of times, he would stop and stare off into empty space, no doubt feeling the seductive pull of a world where people never aged and every wish was fulfilled. "That's where he's gone, isn't it? Back to the Nexus."

Mom's eyes welled with tears. She nodded. "It happened two days ago. He...left a note."

Tru felt something tickle her face and wiped at it. Her hand came away wet.

Mom spoke again. "Listen to me, honey. It would have happened, sooner or later. There was something wrong inside him."

Tru drew in a shuddering breath. "His note...what did he say?"

Her mother's gaze fell and her silence cut like a knife. So he had blamed Tru, had probably blamed all of them. He had found his real-life family such a disappointment that he was escaping back into a selfish, make-believe world. Anger and pity warred in Tru's heart. Poor Sam...and poor Mom, all alone on the ranch.

Finally she asked, "Are you alright? Do you need us?"

Her mother did not have to stop and think. It was as if the plans had been worked out long ago. "I'll be fine," she said sincerely. "I'm going to sell off all but two horses. I lived here before your father came along, and I'll go on living here...painting...as I always have." Lowering her voice, she added, "Pray for your brother."

Yes. Sam. This would be hardest of all on him.

***

Jim Kirk's disappearance finally made the news and everyone assumed that he had gotten his wish; he had found his way back into that writhing energy flux called the Nexus. Some of Sam's classmates began to taunt him. He was eleven now, with an ever-growing chip on his shoulder that created trouble at home and at school. He argued with Mom and sassed his teachers, neglected his assignments and picked fights with other boys. Punishment only increased his anger, for in Sam's view, everything was his father's fault...and Tru's.   

Meanwhile, Tru thanked God for her peaceful life at Dreamcatcher, and before long, her dearest wish was realized. In late October she would have a baby girl.

Proudly Lame Wolf said, "It's about time we get some more ladies around here. We need to add another bedroom and a little studio where you can paint."

Tru had grown to love their little cottage, with its kitchenette and pleasant sitting room that looked out at the sunsets. Her watercolors hung on the walls, and she continued to sell paintings through her mother's gallery in Idaho. She enjoyed teaching art to the boys, some of whom were quite talented, and had begun to advance her general education with college Outreach courses.

Spring brought a new crop of foals. Dreamcatcher was a small-scale horse ranch, so her skill as a trainer was always in demand. She had learned everything she knew about horses from her father, and that was the way she would try to remember him-in from the stable, smelling of horse stalls and saddle leather. But just when Tru was coming to terms with his departure, new shocks awaited her.

On the first of May, Sam was expelled from school. His behavior at home was no better, and he was wearing their mother down. A week later, Tru was in the strawberry patch when Lame Wolf walked up. Noting his sober expression, she wiped her juice-stained hands on her apron and prepared for more bad news.

Quietly he said, "Your mother called. Sam was caught stealing a car. She wants to see if the court will place him here."

Sam arrested! Though the sun was warm on Tru's shoulders, a chill swept through her. "But there's a waiting list," she said, "and he hates me. He blames both of us for Dad taking off."

"He is very hostile," Lame Wolf agreed, "but many of the boys come to us angry. James and Anika said we can move Sam to the top of the list...and with Jason leaving to join the Coast Guard, there'll be room next Wednesday."

Jason was a success story, but the thought of her own brother here at Dreamcatcher made Tru uneasy. There was bound to be conflict.

Lame Wolf put his hands on her shoulders and searched her eyes. "We won't authorize it without your consent. It's up to you."

Numbly she nodded. "He's my brother. I guess we have to try."

***

Sam's arrival brought every bit of trouble that Tru had anticipated. From the very first day, he shunned her and Lame Wolf. As the ranch counselor, Jamie took charge of him and explained the Dreamcatcher code of behavior. Among other things, fellow boarders must be treated with respect and he would not tolerate backtalk toward any of the staff, including Tru. By observing the rules, Sam would earn privileges, but infractions would result in punishment.

Sam seemed to prefer punishment. He was a sturdy boy, unafraid of a fight, and he had turned into a swaggering bully. At Dreamcatcher, Hunter became his favorite target. Sam delighted in ridiculing Blaze because he saw how much Hunter loved the old mare. Late one afternoon, Sam caught Hunter and Blaze alone by the barn.

"Stupid, ugly nag," he jeered. "My father would sell him off for dog meat."

"What father?" Hunter retaliated.

Sam lit into him with both fists flying. It was the first in a series of scuffles that involved boys of all ages, and Jamie's counseling had little effect. Day after day, Sam continued to show a rebellious spirit. For most of the children, June brought a welcome break from school, but Sam and two other boys were so far behind in their studies that they had to receive some remedial instruction. Sam considered it unfair, yet when his turn came to build wickiups at Deer Camp, he refused, saying, "I don't want anything to do with stinking Indians." As a result of that racist outburst, Jamie confined him to his room with a lesson on Native American culture.

As soon as Tru heard about the incident, she headed upstairs. She found her brother sitting on the edge of his bed, glowering darkly. A school Padd lay upside-down on the floor.

Tru's heart ached as she stood before him. "Sam," she said softly, "how could you say such a thing? You've told me yourself that Lame Wolf was like a brother. And now he's your legal brother-in-law."

Sam glared at the wall in icy silence, a lock of hair hanging in his eyes.

Tru touched the bulge at her middle. "And this little girl...your own niece...she's half Shoshone, you know."

He leapt to his feet, fists clenched, and for an instant she thought he would strike her.

"I hope she dies!" he snarled. "I hope you all do! You made Dad go away! You ruined everything!"

They were the first words he had spoken to her since arriving, and they cut to the bone. Tru swallowed against the pain. "Our father was an unhappy man."

"You made him that way!"

"No," she reasoned. "It wasn't my fault, or your fault, or anyone's fault. It was the Nexus."

"Liar!" he shouted.

In the old days, Tru could have taken him into her arms and soothed the hurt, but he wanted no part of her now. Perhaps he never would. Sadly, she turned and left the room.

Chapter 7 by M C Pehrson

Wild roses bloomed in great pink mounds, and blackberry vines put forth their white blossoms. July's hot sunny days turned the pastures brown, but in the vegetable garden, boys hoed and picked produce and measured themselves against corn stalks.

Sam detested weeding. Because he refused to do his share, he had to stay behind at the ranch while the other boys went to a swimming hole in Little Browns creek. During the outing, a teenager named Ellis discovered a raw diamond among some pebbles. Next day, when all the other boys were outdoors, Sam sneaked into Ellis' room and found the diamond hidden in a drawer. He slipped it into his pocket.

As he was heading back outside, Jamie met him at the main door and asked, "Why aren't you with the others?"

Sam lied so easily that his heart scarcely pounded. "I needed to use the bathroom. Is that against the rules?"

Jamie lectured him about insolence, then let him go. The first chance Sam got, he went to the barn and jammed the diamond into a crack between two boards. Another day passed before Ellis realized it was gone. Jamie called the boys together and questioned them, but no one would admit to taking the gem.

"You probably took it out yourself and lost it," Sam accused.

But Ellis knew better. There was a thief in their midst, and he let all the boys know that he suspected Sam.

In August, Jamie's brother-in-law Aaron Pascal donated a model train layout to make room in his basement for a new one. Aaron was Chief of Research and Development at Starfleet. In his free time, he had spent countless hours laying the track and creating lifelike scenes that included a miniature version of the Kirk ranch.

Tru went to the rec room and watched the delighted boys take turns at the controls. The trains raced around and around, disappearing into a mountain tunnel, emerging on a trestle, and heading for the switching yard in a miniature town. She studied the replica of her childhood home nestled among little pine trees, complete with Appaloosas at pasture. There was even a tiny male figure by the stable, but it was all an illusion. In real life, her father was gone, along with most of his horses.

Though the layout saddened Tru, it had a different effect on her brother. Sam boasted long and loud about the "famous Kirk ranch" and his father's "prize-winning Appaloosas". When he started to demand more than his share of train time, another fight was inevitable.

It was Lame Wolf who broke up the latest melee. Sam came at him, swinging, but Lame Wolf easily caught the boy in a capture hold and hauled him to the office. Four other youngsters were involved. An investigation found Sam at fault, and he was banned from the trains until autumn.

***

On the day Sam took the diamond, he began to formulate a plan. This latest sentence of punishment settled things for him. He hated Dreamcatcher Ranch and everyone in it. He would run away and take shelter in a cave near the Trinity River, where there was plenty of fish. Maybe he would find more valuable gemstones, enough to live on.  

Little by little, he pilfered nonperishable items of food and stashed them outdoors, along with a fishing pole. One morning in late August, all the boys went out hiking with Jamie and Lame Wolf. Sam pretended to feel sick and stayed behind in bed. Soon after his sister checked on him, he dressed, stuffed some clothes into his backpack, and tiptoed downstairs. Once outside, he pried the diamond out of the barn siding and retrieved the other things he had hidden. So far, everything had gone perfectly, but as he headed down the river trail, he heard something moving through the trees. Suddenly Jamie's dog padded up beside him. Dusty was so old that his muzzle had turned gray. The least exertion left him panting, and now his tongue lolled and his big brown eyes stared accusingly.

"Go home," Sam told him. "Go back home, you stupid mutt."

Dusty barked in response.

"Shut up!" Sam hissed. "Get out of here and leave me alone!"

The dog stood his ground and barked again. If he kept it up, Anika or Tru would come out and check on him.

Sam took off running. He sprinted headlong down the trail until a stabbing pain in his side made him gasp and pull up. After a moment he turned around and saw Dusty. The dog was panting harder than ever, yet still found enough breath to bark.

"Get!" Sam snapped. Reaching down, he picked up a palm-sized stone and threw it at the annoying animal. The stone hit Dusty's rump with a dull thud. He cringed, backed up, and began to bark even louder.

Furious, Sam dropped his fishing pole, and using both hands, grabbed an even bigger rock. With all his might, he hurled it at Dusty and made contact. The dog yelped, fell to the ground, and lay softly whimpering as his dark, frightened eyes pleaded for help.

Sam felt a lump forming in his throat. Swallowing hard, he turned from the injured dog, picked up his fishing pole, and ran.

***

In the midst of his daily stroll, Father Phineas O'Day heard a dog barking, and then a terrible yelp of pain. It sounded to him like Dusty. Stopping in a shady spot, he held tightly to his walking stick and listened. Aside from the birds, all was silent.

He set out in the direction of the yelp and had not gone far when a boy emerged from the woods ahead of him. With a fishing pole in hand, Sam Kirk froze like a startled rabbit.

"Good morning, Sam," Phineas said amiably. He noted the boy's bulging backpack and suspected that he was running away. "Going fishing, are you?"

Sam gave a slow nod.

"Beautiful day for fishing," Phineas said with a smile. "Myself, I have to walk...every day...the doctor says so. Mind if I walk a ways with you?"

"Sure," Sam mumbled, and they proceeded down the trail together.

The old priest had known Sam Kirk since birth, baptized and shepherded his young soul, but this boy at his side seemed like a resentful stranger. Surely something more than chance had brought them together on this fine morning, and Phineas chose his words carefully. "There's nothing like fishing to bring a fellow some peace. Life has been rough on you, Sam. Terrible thing, your dad running off like that..."

Sam spoke through clenched teeth. "It was because of Tru...and that Indian drifter. Dad didn't want her to marry Lame Wolf. She was all set for Starfleet Academy."

At least the boy was willing to talk about it. "Sure enough, that was a hard blow for your father. But Lame Wolf is a good, upstanding man...and your sister has a right to live her own life. Sam, you need to understand something. Jim Kirk spent years commanding a starship. He grew accustomed to ordering people around, and in the Nexus he always had his way. That kind of power isn't good for the soul."

Sam kicked at a pinecone on the trail. "I don't care. He left because of Tru."

"Did he?" With a sigh, Phineas stopped near a fallen tree and rubbed at his aching back. "Sam, let's sit down and rest for a bit. I have a little story to tell you." The priest settled onto the tree trunk, but Sam remained on his feet, looking as if he might bolt at any moment. Clasping the knob of his walking stick, Phineas offered a swift, silent prayer and said, "It's high time that you know something. Your father isn't a churchgoer, but over the years we became friendly, and from time to time he confided in me. Do you remember the night his Phantom caught fire and burned up in the pasture? No...of course not. You were just a wee thing, then."

Sam's chin came up. "I know all about the Phantom. That was the ship he flew out of the Nexus. We have a picture at home."

"Yes. Well, it was your father who burned it."

"He burned it?" Suddenly Sam was listening so intently that he almost seemed to have forgotten his anger.

"Yes," replied Phineas, "your father told me. Until this very moment, I've kept it to myself."

"But why would he burn it?" Sam said with suspicion. "He loved that ship."

"He loved his family more. You see, he had been all set to fly off in that Phantom and return to the Nexus. Not because of Tru, or you, or your mother...but because he couldn't get the Nexus out of his head. He never could, completely. This trouble of his had been brewing for a long, long time."

Tears shone in Sam's brown eyes. He blinked, and two wet tracks rolled down his cheeks. "I don't believe it," he said low.

Phineas' heart went out to him. "My boy, have I ever lied to you? It hurts me to say it, but if your father hadn't destroyed the Phantom, he would have left long ago."

Sam's head bowed and his shoulders sagged beneath the weight of his backpack. Fresh tears fell into the dirt. "Father..." his voice quavered, "I was running away...just like him. I don't want to be like him. I don't want to hurt people...or...or..."

Phineas braced himself with his walking stick and got to his feet. Putting an arm around Sam, he said, "Now, now...there's a lot of good in your father...a lot that you can be proud of. Remember, it was the Nexus that lured him. Who knows, maybe someday he'll find his way home again."

The boy was quiet for a time. At last he looked up at Phineas and said, "Oh please, won't you help me? I've done something terrible."

Chapter 8 by M C Pehrson

They found Dusty barely clinging to life. Though Sam had hurt the dog badly, Dusty licked his hand as if to say, You came for me and that's all that matters. It was Dusty's final act before he lapsed into unconsciousness. There was nothing Anika could do to save him.

Frightened and miserable, Sam ran from the veterinary office to his room, and stayed there. Jamie had raised Dusty from a pup. Their son Cody and all the boys at Dreamcatcher loved the old dog. There would be hell to pay when they came back from the hike.

Hours passed and he heard boys in the hall, but even his roommate stayed away. When Sam ignored the lunch bell, Tru brought a sandwich and sat beside him on the bed.

"They all hate me," he told her, picking at the bread. "I just know it."

"Oh, Sam," she said, and held him close.

***

Tru spent a restless night. Each time she dropped off to sleep, dreams awakened her with dark visions of death and bereavement. She feared for Sam's future. This latest charge against him was so serious that he might have to leave the ranch. Before dawn, she went to pray in the chapel.

Lame Wolf found her there and spoke quietly. "If Sam is really sorry, it could go well for him. You'll see."

Tru loved the sound of her husband's voice. It was as calm and still as the forest depths, and never failed to comfort her. But there was no telling how Sam would behave at today's council.

After breakfast, they gathered to bury Dusty, but Sam still kept to his room. At ten o'clock, the staff convened a general council in the dining hall, and every boy attended. Tru sat Sam between her and Father O'Day so he would not have to face the charges alone. Gone was the tough, angry façade. Sam had become a very subdued boy who welcomed her love and support.

Jamie brought the council to order and called on Father O'Day to offer a prayer for wisdom. Then Jamie read the long list of charges against Sam, ending with the cruel act that resulted in Dusty's death. He spoke directly to the boy, reminding him that some of the offenses violated the conditions of his probation.

In conclusion he said, "You have held the Dreamcatcher code in contempt. You have steadfastly refused our friendship and guidance. For the welfare of the boys, our staff has discussed handing you back to the juvenile court, but you have expressed a change of heart and asked to remain here. In cases such as this, I leave the decision to our boys." His somber expression made him seem very Vulcan as he eased back in his chair. "Samuel Kirk. Do you have anything to say in your defense?"

Sunlight streamed through the windows as Sam slowly rose, traces of red glinting in his hair. He was the image of his father, and Tru's heart went out to him, for he had been robbed of a son's right to paternal love. For a long moment Sam stood with his eyes downcast. Fighting for control, he dug into the pocket of his jeans and set a crystalline object on the table before him.

"Here's the diamond," he choked out. "I took it and I'm sorry. I'm sorry about Dusty, too. It was a mean thing, but I never meant to...to hurt him that bad. I guess I've hurt all of you. I've used up all my chances around her, and I don't blame you for hating me."

Sniffling, he dropped down in his chair. The hall was very still.

A chair scraped. Ellis came over and retrieved his diamond from the table. "I don't hate you," he said, and returned to his seat.

Jamie and Anika's son, Cody, had known Sam as a neighbor in Idaho. Now he rose up and said, "I just wanted us to be friends. It's all I ever wanted."

Mark and Hunter agreed.

"We've all had our problems," said another lad whose discolored eye was the work of Sam's fist. "I say ‘every boy deserves a chance'-one more chance, if he really wants it."

When all the boys finished talking, Lame Wolf moved to an empty chair beside Tru. Her heart pounded as she gripped his strong hand tightly. Now was the time for her to speak. Clearing a thickness from her throat, she stood and said, "Sam has made a lot of mistakes and hurt a lot of people...but it was because he was hurting and didn't know how to deal with it. I want everyone to know that no matter what you decide here today, Sam is my brother and I love him."

Then Jamie called for a vote.

***

Sam stayed on at Dreamcatcher and was among the first to welcome his niece into the world. The big orange pumpkins were ripe when Mary True Redfern arrived. Being an uncle suited him just fine, and as a sign of his growing maturity, he took a special interest in each new boy that came to the ranch. He made friends with everyone, and at Christmas he asked Tru to help him buy a new pup for Jamie-a red and white Spaniel. Cody called the pup Rusty and the name stuck.

Sam was twelve when he went back before the judge. He had served his probation and caught up on all his schoolwork. Tru stood with their mother as the court commended Sam and asked about his plans for the future.

"I want to go home," he said. "Mom's all alone now, and she could use a man around the house."

And so Sam left the wilds of California, and Tru returned to her cozy cottage with its little studio full of windows, where she could paint when Mary True was napping. It was June at Dreamcatcher Ranch. Foals frolicked with boys in the pasture. Out in the garden there were red, ripe strawberries, and every breeze carried the scent of wild roses.

 

                                                                                                  oooOOooo

End Notes:

Next in the series, Nayo and D'Gar return in "There May Yet Be Hope". 

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