To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.
- Bertrand Russel
Hours later, William entered his darkened tent, carrying a tray of food – some stale bread, some beef broth, a cup of ale. He was going to have one of his soldiers carry it into her, but then he thought of her, alone in his dark tent, and suddenly wasn't hungry anymore.
Night had fallen on the camp, and thousands of soldiers were settling down for the night. Torches were light and bobbed here and there throughout the camp like fireflies, as the cries and good natured complaints of the men filled the air. On the Scottish border, just over the wall, there was silence and an endless stretch of darkness. William made a conscious decision not to look in that direction – he was a brave man, an excellent solider and a fearless leader. But there was something about the never-ending dark that made the hair on the back of his neck prickle and a chill run down his spine.
As he pulled back the canvas flap, he suddenly stopped, his eyes flickering back and forth, straining to see passed the shadows. His tent was empty. Could she have been crazy enough to--?
But his thought was suddenly cut short as he noticed her, her back against the far wall of tent, her chin perched on her knees, dark green eyes staring unblinking into the distance.
He paused, suddenly taken aback. She didn't look up as he entered, placed the tray on the small table near his cot and slowly lit the candles. She still didn't look up.
He eased himself to the floor next to her with a sign, leaned his back against the tent and mirrored her pose, locking his fingers and resting them on his knees. The candle light flickered and made long shadows on the floor.
"Hungry?" he finally ventured, when she made no move to even acknowledge she was there.
She shook her head no, and unable to stand the quiet any longer, he asked, "Has something happened since I last left this tent?"
Kenna inhaled slowly, and finally lifted her head and made eye contact. She was ashamed of herself for letting him see how affected she was by the sight of her homeland; she was ashamed of the tears that threatened to fall, at the fear that was making her throat ache. She suddenly remembered her brilliant plan to make William her protector; and it suddenly seemed so naïve and futile that the darkness outside seemed to be seeping inside her.
"No," she answered finally. "Nothing new has happened. I've just…been thinking."
"Thinking?" he echoed. "About something in particular?"
Kenna looked up at him through dark lashes. She was acutely aware of her position – his captive – but at this moment, so deep in her own despair, she was less of a Scott and more of a young girl. She needed someone. She could not do this on her own. And if what she knew to be true actually came to pass – if she was actually taken back to London and executed – much as she loved her country, she would rather spend her last few days with someone she could talk to, then someone who she must keep a wall up against.
"We are friends, right?" She asked, picking up on their theme from the other night.
William nodded, his blue eyes bright, his face ruddy from the hard morning ride. "Yes, Kenna. We are friends."
"I'm going to die, aren't I?" she asked bluntly – and as soon as the question was out in the air, she felt lighter. Just thinking it in those terms – honestly, without any frills, just plain fact – she was going to die – made her feel slightly better.
William broke eye contact with her, looking out the tent toward Scotland. "I don't know, Kenna. It is out of my control."
"What's it like to die?"
The question was so childish, that despite the severity of the words, William let out a laugh, and without thinking, reached over and cupped her cheek with his palm. Her eyes were wide in the firelight, her bruises healing well, and with her curly hair she just looked so innocent, so young. How could this girl – this girl – possibly be anything dangerous, any sort of threat?
"Oh, my dear," he said, his voice thick with unconscious affection, "I have not the faintest idea. Nobody does."
"But you've seen men die," Kenna persisted. "You've killed them."
He sighed, his thumb mindlessly stroking her cheek, as she hesitantly leaned towards him. "I've seen the light drain from men's eyes, yes," he agreed. "But …executions are different. It is quick. It is probably painless. It is…" he trailed off as he saw the fear flicker in her eyes. "Not something we should talk about."
"Kenna, please—let us not—"
"I've never been on the continent," she said suddenly. "I've never been to France, or Germany. I've never danced with a lord, or had a child, or been on a grand ship...or.."
William stared at her for a moment, a loss for words as this child listed the things she would never get to do. Suddenly, he got up, and double checked the latch on his tent to make sure it was secured. He lit another candle and stood in front of her, extending his hand. "Stand up," he ordered.
She tilted her head back and blinked at him, towering above her, his dirty boots inches away from her. "Excuse me?"
"Stand up," he repeated, his tousled blonde hair gleaming in the light. She noticed the tips of his eyelashes were as blonde as his hair, and for some reason, this fact made her reach out and put her hand in his. He tugged her gently to her feet. She came up to about his chin, eye level with the beginnings of a fuzzy blonde beard beginning to grow in. For the first time since her capture, was at a loss for words.
He rested his hand on the small of her back, and held her about arms length away, in the traditional style of the day, his other hand held tight on hers. She tilted her head as his actions started to dawn on her, and a real smile began to bloom on her lips.
"If you ever tell any of my men I did this," he promised, as they began to slowly make their way around the tiny tent, their feet moving slowly, clumsily – beautifully – around the makeshift dance floor, "I will never forgive you."
Kenna tilted her head back to smile up at him. "I won't," she said softly, "I promise."
She knew where this was going to end. A man does not dance around –even with the best intentions – for no reason. And sure enough, she suddenly stumbled slightly, and he wrapped his arms more tightly around her, to steady her.
She looked up in her face, and she knew what was coming, knew it was wrong – and knew just as surely that she was going to do it anyway. She was going to die, she was finally accepting that, and before that happened, before it was all over…she wanted to live.
She leaned into his kiss without shame, his lips coming down to meet hers, his hand moving up to tangle gently in her hair, pulling her up towards him. She didn't stop him when he moved his hand down, trailing across her collar bone, softly undoing the ties of her cloak. She didn't stop him when her cloak fell to the floor, or when he gently pushed her down on the cot. When he slipped his hands under her shirt, gently running his fingers over the bruised flesh, she stopped him front taking off her shirt. She was still conscious of the leather pouch resting gently against her chest – but that was about all she was conscious of.
She pulled back gently, and looked him in the eyes, and consciously shut off all of the thoughts that were raging across her mind. He stared back her, his expression unreadable, unsure if she was really about to go through with this, if he should really be allowing it.
Just as he opened his mouth to reassure her, or object, or apologize, she put a soft finger to his lips.
Leaning over, she gently blew out the candles. And gave herself over to her captor, to the night, to her fear…but most of all, to feeling, anything at all.