|Photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing|
"Well, since you have proven so uncooperative, I will be back tomorrow to ask you again. If your tongue is not ready to waggle by then, well, you can just say goodbye to one of those pretty little fingers of yours." The sheriff leaned in and whispered, taking Alexis's small finger in his long, bony ones and bending it back until it almost reached the breaking point. She stifled the scream that rose to her lips as the pain jarred the hazy stupor she was in, and she looked at him through sunken, bloodshot eyes. A look emanating nothing but defiance.
The sheriff slapped her smartly across the cheek before turning on his heel and strutting out of the room followed by Gisborne. Alexis watched them go, and as soon as she assured herself they weren't coming back, she slumped to the ground, lying in a tired heap, in too much pain to even cry. Everything in her throbbed and ached until it all came together in her mind as one endless haze that surrounded her, filling her lungs and strangling her until she could hardly breathe. She heard low, slurred moans in her ears, but it took a long time to realize that they were coming from her. They seemed to originate somewhere far away, dark, hopeless and terrible.
Her skin crawled with scars and bruises as a result of the sheriff's berating. Upon acquaintance, he was staggeringly more ruthless and cruel than Gisborne when he didn't get what he wanted. He thought she knew where the camp was and all of Robin's secret plans. It almost amused her to think that he believed Robin trusted her with anything, or that she had trusted him.
The hours had passed lower than ever for her, drowning in pain, hunger and fear, at times struggling for consciousness as the dark, looming prison walls seemed to close in on her and another strike from the Sheriff sent her reeling in the abyss. And all the while Gisborne stood in the doorway, arms folded, jaw set, eyes revealing nothing, watching her suffer. His gaze was more torturous than any beating. It burned at her pride to know he was there, that he was the reason for this pain, and now he watched her slowly dying, a mere spectator. Why didn't he do anything? She had stolen one of his most precious heirlooms, why wasn't he beating her with his master? She would have endured that without complaint if it meant being spared his condescending, inhuman glower.
She sat now on the cold floor wet with what she realized was her own blood, dripping carelessly from her shoulder, her dress covered in scum and all but ripped to shreds. The darkness and the overpowering smell of death made her head swim and stomach lurch, but all she could see was his eyes. They haunted her, staring into her soul, turning her into an animal, being beaten and pulled apart out of a sick sense of curiosity. How could he do that? As he watched, she became no more than a thing in his eyes. She knew he had seen so much human suffering that for him it ceased to be human. Where did he get the power to take away someone's soul?
She bled and bit back tears as she thought of the days to come, of the endless hours of torture and sleepless nights drenched in agony. "You fool. Why did you leave? You could be safe there now, you might even have a chance with Will had you just listened." But she knew why. Every minute she spent with them, every secret about her that they uncovered was putting them in more and more danger. If they became associated with her... She didn't want to think about the consequences.
And Adam. He had finally come back after all those years. If she ever saw him again, he would most likely try and get back what they'd had before, but he was stubborn idiot when it came to love. He'd try and be brave for her, tempt her with all sorts of valiant speeches about starting a life together, protecting her, clearing her name. But no man could do that, it would take an act of God.
It had been so long, surely he knew nothing of her situation. When he left, she didn't know about it herself, but there was no doubt he would try and win her over again. And she would have to say no. She would have to look him in the eye and break his heart, holding it in her hands and crushing it, when she wanted nothing more than to give it back to him whole and unstained, and hers right beside it.
A sob rose in her throat. She wanted to love him again, to be with him forever and to know the warm, passionate, burning feeling that filled her heart whenever they were together. But now it was too late, and the only thing she could do was protect him. Her heart quaked when she realized the one way the safety of him and everyone she loved could be ensured: by dying. Dying and letting her secrets and her sins follow her to the grave, where they would never hurt anyone again.