It was so cold. Luke Scarlet feverishly traced the tile beside his head on the hard dungeon floor. If he kept his hands busy, he did not have to think. He was holding back his sobs. He was far too old for tears, but it was very hard to keep the tears at bay when he was hungry and cold, and his hero had failed him, and, above all, there would be a noose around his neck the next morning. At the last thought, he could not help the slightly strangled sob that slipped out.
Will sat up quickly from his place on the floor near by. He gripped his brother's arm in concern.
"Luke? What's wrong?"
Luke turned his face away, hiding his tears. "I'm c-cold." He did not want his big brother to think him a coward.
Will felt his stomach constrict within him. He reached over and pulled his baby brother into his arms. He was so young. Too young to die, thought Will bitterly.
"Come here. We'll be warmer together."
Luke clung to his brother for dear life, absorbing the comforting calm from his warm, sturdy frame. He rested his head in the crook of Will's arms. Will smelled like home and Luke closed his eyes and tried to pretend he was miles away—safe in their small cottage. He felt safe in his brother's arms. It was like being a child again, cradled in his mother's arms after falling and scraping his knee. Thinking of Mother made him think of Heaven. When Mother died, Dad had held him close and told him Mother was in Heaven. He had tried to imagine what it was like. Now he would soon know. Before the next night, they would be there with her. It was a strange thought, to be living their downtrodden life today and living in Heaven tomorrow. He wondered if Will had thought of it. But if they were in Heaven, with Mother, who would look after Dad? He would be all alone!
Will felt Luke stiffen.
"What about Dad?" Luke sounded on the verge of tears.
Will found himself swallowing back tears of his own. "I don't know, Lukey."
"He'll be alone. Who'll help him with his work?"
"I don't know."
Will wished he had an answer for his brother, but he had no answer for himself. Their father's heart was breaking that night. He would likely not survive losing his two sons in one day, so soon after losing his wife. His thoughts were interrupted by another question from Luke.
"Will, are you scared?" Poor child—he was trying so hard to be brave!
"Of course. Nothin' wrong with being scared," Will spoke as reassuringly as he could, tightening his embrace comfortingly around his little brother.
Luke trembled slightly. He was glad to know Will was scared, too. Will was the bravest man Luke knew, beside his dad. If Will was scared, then it was indeed a frightening thing. Luke had to ask another question, had to know the truth about another thing that was bothering him.
"Will it hurt to die?"
Will felt sick. He wished Luke had not asked. He could not lie to him, but the truth was brutal. Hanging was a horrible way to die. Many victims remained conscious and in pain for a while, rather than dieing the second the floor dropped from beneath them. He had heard men talk about it before, never dreaming that one day he would feel its effects for himself. And not alone, either. He thought he could almost have borne their death sentence if it were not for Luke hanging beside him.
Though Will had not spoken, Luke thought he knew the answer from his silence. There would be no painless, gentle death for the Scarlet boys.
Will sighed. "I don't know, Lukey," he answered truthfully, "I have never tried it."
Luke smiled ruefully.
Will would give anything to have his brother safely home. He would give anything to be home eating their meager supper by the fire after a long, hard day's work, with his father and brother at his side. He just wanted to be home. Most of all, though, he wished he could go back to the moment he had let his brother help him steal the flour. If he had stopped him then, Luke would not be spending tonight in a dungeon cell, awaiting an execution in the morning.
I am so sorry, Lukey.
He felt Luke relax in his arms. Good, he was asleep. It was best that way. For now, that was all they had. Tomorrow would have to worry about itself.
Yes, I know another family/hurt/comfort story--two in a row. What can I say? :) The brotherly relationships in the show are so sweet. Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed the story. It has gone through about three versions/revisions. Please drop me a review--I may need it after tomorrow, with tests n' stuff sigh-- and let me know what you think. Thanks for reading and thanks ahead of time for reviewing!
Oh, heh heh-- I had to edit this, so if anyone read the unpolished version, I apologize. I don't know what happened! I had to go back in after posting and edit mistakes I know I fixed in the original document. Grr--technology. :-)