|photo credit: Cheryl Ruffing|
Alexis spent the better part of the evening inside the lean-to, taking care of Adam, wanting to be there if he woke up, trying to think of what to do next. The days were growing colder and harder to endure. The nights were worse, spent huddled by the fire, wrapped in her cloak and shivering from head to foot. And without Will, she wouldn't have any fire. She needed him.
But what would he do when Adam revealed what she was to him? Could she really get away with them being 'just friends'? And what would she do about Adam and his wishes? Would he still want to be with her, and could she ever be with him?
"I hate this." She moaned in the darkness, looking up at the chinked wooden roof, stroking Adam's hand. If Will knows, she mused, he'll know that I lied to him. And why would he help a liar? Why would he help someone he couldn't trust?
Although, she'd never actually lied before this, only kept silent. She hadn't said anything, true or false. "I don't know what to do..." She murmured, looking into the peaceful face of the man sleeping beside her, a face that she had once spent the days of her girlhood dreaming about and smiling at the sight of. A face that made her heart flutter and her world stop.
But now, when she looked at it, all she saw were memories. Memories of pain and loneliness and pointless longing, because through all those times she'd dreamed of him and wanted him, he was gone. He wasn't there when her mother was dying and she waited by her side all day, forced to look into the eyes of a woman who had seen so much, been so much, to so few, and would never be that again. He wasn't there when her brother was cut down in front of her, as she bit back screams, running at full speed, looking back and seeing her his blood pooling and spilling across the filthy ground. She didn't even know what they'd done with his body. She had no grave to visit and weep by, no funeral to say her goodbyes.
And now, despite everything, when she cried out at night, pulling herself from the engulfing, clutching nightmares, it was Will's name that waited on her lips, and the lingering whispers of the feel of his arms about her that gave her the strength to sleep again. It was his face, with those bright blue jay eyes, so soft and gentle, and his brave, strong countenance, promising that all would be well and that she was safe, that she saw in lonesome moments when her mind wandered and her thinking lapsed.
And now, he was there again, right outside the door, just like back at the camp, all those weeks ago. It felt like years. She looked down again, and saw that Adam was breathing peacefully, now only sleeping, and had no fever. She stood up and braced herself, believing that if she spent any longer hiding from him, Will would only grow more suspicious. She cleared her throat and concealed her trembling hands in the folds of her frayed skirt and exited.
He was sitting there on the ground, hands in his lap, staring into the blaze with a distant look on his face that she caught glimpses of in the orange flickers. Flashes of pain and sorrow. He didn't notice her as she looked about, noting the new shelter that had been erected and the newly-slain deer laying on the ground beside the fire, ready to be skinned. "Well, you've been busy." She remarked finally, breaking the silence, but not Will's reverie. He refused to look at her, even as she gingerly took a seat beside him, angry at herself for feeling so embarrassed. "Thank you." She whispered, looking at him, stammering only slightly on the words.
"I had to do it. I can't leave you alone like this, it would be wrong of me." He glared more determinedly at the crackling, licking flames.
"Oh." She breathed, swallowing at the burning that leapt to her throat and continued into her cheeks. What an idiot she was, thinking she could ever have anything with this man. He didn't love her, didn't even like her, and why should he? All he saw in her was a pitiable, helpless creature that served only to inconvenience him, but he continued to help, bound by a sense of honor and duty. Hadn't she known this? Why on earth did she keep fooling herself?
"Adam is feeling much better, and I think he will be well and conscious by morning." Her voice cracked only slightly as she made the remark, turning her attention to the fire as well. Adam had come back for her. Adam still loved her, and maybe, with time, she could rekindle what they once had.
"Good. Do you have anything here that you want to bring with you? We'll leave as soon as he's awake, so you ought to pack now."
"Leave?" She now whipped her head to look at him, incredulous.
"Don't start that argument again. I came here to find you and bring you back to the camp, and that's what I'm going to do. Whatever else happens will happen after that." He now met her gaze to enforce his words, but his eyes were not soft as they had once been, but hard with annoyance and anger, and they were red. He had been crying.
Rage and indignation had risen quickly to her mouth, but when she saw his face and the pain in it, her hot words faltered and slid back down her throat, and she sighed, lowering her own gaze, no longer able to stand the force of his. "Fine, for the time being, I will go with you."
He nodded slightly, quickly. "Let me look at your arm." He demanded.
Alexis glanced at the lifeless limb and pushed her cloak away from it. Will took it gently in his hands, laying it out across his lap as she grimaced and bit back a cry of pain. He looked at it, strangely bent, black and blue, running his fingers along it, pressing here, rubbing there, as she gasped and tears were jerked from her eyes. He worked faster, moving up the arm. Finally, he tore her sleeve off with a jerk, revealing the dirty, blood-drenched, tattered bandage around her throbbing shoulder.
"You idiot." He seethed, looking at her and dropping it unceremoniously, making her cry out as it swung back to her side. He stood up and walked away, running his hands through his hair and turning to look at her. He was more angry than before. His voice trembled and eyes watered. "Why did you do that? Why?"
"Do what?" Alexis asked over the black waves of pain swelling and crashing inside her, beating mercilessly against her head and through her arm. She clenched her teeth against them and struggled to stay awake.
"Why didn't I stop you?" His voice dropped to a whisper, his gaze fell to the ground. Alexis looked at him and saw the guilt and sorrow weighing down his shoulders, oppressing him and making it hard to breathe. It was something she recognized all too well. She tried to speak, but all that came out was a cracked, tainted sigh as the tears fell harder, no longer the result of physical pain. "Will..."
He whipped around again, passion rekindled. "Why did you leave? Why did you let him take you, do this to you? How could you?" He shouted at her, a tear slipping down his face. He wiped it away hastily with a shaking hand.
"I had to. I had to." She rose slowly to go to him, but he turned away from her, trying to regain control, of his emotions, his limbs, his heart. The things that woman did to him...
"Stop lying to me." He breathed, attempting to calm down. "You didn't think, you didn't care. You only thought about yourself.
"I thought about you! All of you, I did it for your protection." She yelled, but found that she was trying harder to convince herself of it than him. "I—I did it because..." She faltered, glancing at the ground and then back at him, feeling her world shake and tumble about her. She felt as though she were standing on the edge of a cliff, looking down, down, down, and could not turn back. The only options were to either fall, or fly. "Because I love you." Her feet left the edge, and she waited in the air, hanging on his words. "Because I love you, and I couldn't handle that. And you were learning. Learning about me, and if you know, then..." He took her hand, pulling her to him.
His lips moved towards hers, unfaltering, but stopped as a voice pierced the silence. "Alexis!" Adam stood, arms crossed across his chest, in the doorway.
Start at the beginning: Chapter 1 Part 1