Chapter Fifty-Two

Sleep came easier to Gisborne after Vaisey had been convicted, officially, from his testimony. He prayed every night that he laid down that tonight would the night that he would see Julia. Maybe tonight she would come to him. Help his wounded heart heal. And this night she did. He was in the Ruins at Long Bridge. The air was cool, soft even, and the sun shining through the trees was warm on his skin. He walked around the rocky terrain and took in deep breaths; wanting to pull all of it into his skin. He turned and saw her. She wearing the same dress she was wearing when he first met her in his study. Light green gown cinched tight at her waist and her hair was mess of brown curls pulled back from her face. Her eyes lit up when he saw her. He wasted no time and ran to her; sweeping her off her feet. His arms wrapped tightly around her and her arms pulled his chest to her. He could feel all of the breaths entering and leaving her body; the warmth from this breaths on cheek and neck. Neither one moved or said anything; not wanting to break the spell.

"I miss you." She said softly against his ear. He burrowed his nose even deeper into her hair. Julia carded her fingers through the hair at the nape of neck.

"Not as much as I miss you. Not possible."

Guy placed her back on her feet, but did not let go of her. Not yet. He walked them back to a pile of rocks that was once a wall and sat down; pulling Julia into his lap. She climbed into his embrace and leaned into his chest; resting her head on his shoulder. They sat like for as long as Guy dared before he broke the silence. He knew that they were on borrowed time right now. These dreams never lasted as long as he wished.

"Did what I promised. The King has convicted Vaisey. He and the other Black Knights will hang. My testimony was the main evidence. Soon he will be hell and England will begin to heal. I just wish you could see it. I tried to make you proud; do good, if that is even possible." Shame flooded him. She pulled his gaze to her and softly carded her fingers through his hair. His eyes slid shut for a moment to bask in her touch. She spoke when he opened his eyes again.

"I am so proud of you. It would have been easy to give up, to give in. To let yourself die, but you are still living. For me. I love you. I tried not to, I fought it. I went to Locksley to punish you for what had happened to Marian and my uncle, but I lost. I lost my heart to you. I hate that you are all alone now. And I hate that I am not here with you." Guy was watching her face as she spoke; tightening his arms around her waist. Tears falling from her eyes and down her face. "If I could have stayed any longer I would have. I fought to stay as long as I could. I did not to be away from you. You have to know tha…," Guy cut her off with a swift kiss that she gave into. He could feel her tears on his face. They pulled away from each other, but not apart. "I love you." She whispered against his lips. "I will see you again."

"How can you be so sure?" Guy's voice was so grave, hopeless even. "I doubt St. Peter will open the gates for me." His chin dropped to his chest, avoiding her gaze. Julia pulled his chin up and held his face in her hands.

"Because I know you. How noble and honorable you really are. I could feel who you really were when you held me and kissed me. No one is unredeemable." Guy's brow furrowed, not believing her words. "Well, except maybe The Sheriff." They both had to chuckle at that one. "You did the right thing. You stood up to Vaisey and you told the truth, even if it painted you as the villain. You did not lie, the truth is powerful. History will know what happened and none of that would have happened if you hadn't. Remember my promise to you, whenever you need me, I will be here. For you, forever." She pulled him back to her and wrapped her arms around him. "Just hold me. Hold me as long as you can." They held tight to each other until Guy could feel himself waking up. Pulling away from his dream and back to reality. He sat up in bed and looked about the small room that had been his home for these many weeks. When he decided to be the King's witness, his accommodations had been upgraded from the dungeon to this tiny room. For Guy, he did not care where he was sleeping. He just wanted to finish his testimony and see the King hang the Black Knights. That was his only goal right now. To see Vaisey swing for all he had orchestrated. Maybe then, he would be able to truly sleep; to rest.

Today was the day. The former Sheriff of Nottingham, Vaisey was set to be executed. Hung by the neck until dead. The air around the castle and surrounding villages was abuzz with activity. The villagers were near celebrating as time drew closer. Robin and his men asked to be witnesses of the festivities; they had a spot reserved on the castle steps to see it all. Gisborne was also supposed to be there to see what his testimony had wrought. Robin had been looking for nearly an hour when he finally realized Guy had been hiding. He told the gang to wait where the King asked them to be and went in search of Gisborne. He took the stairs two at a time and found him. He was sitting on the stone with his back pressed against outer castle wall. Guy heard someone coming up the stairs and raised his eyes to see Robin.

"You hiding up here?" He asked and cautiously walked closer to the brunette. He sat down near him and waited from him to speak.

"I'm not particularly safe on the grounds, despite what the King wants."

"I can't argue with there. The day is late and we're needed in the courtyard. Vaisey is hanging today."

"Trust me Locksley, I know what day it is." Guy said with heavy annoyance in his voice.

"Then why are you up here?"

"Just thinking about Julia. Everything that happened since she came into my life. I was so lucky to have her." His late sentence came out in a soft voice, Robin could barely hear him.

"Maybe it's karma." Robin responds and Guy looked at him in confusion. "It's an ancient philosophy that the good deeds are rewarded with good outcomes and evil deeds are punished with evil outcomes."
Guy let that roll over him. To think that Julia was taken from him because of things he'd done made as good as sense as anything else. He cursed her.

"So, my karma punished Julia because she loved me. It's as good any other reason." Guy said and sunk even lower into his seat on the stone floor.

"Gisborne, I wouldn't go that far. Maybe we were the ones that were rewarded. These two amazing women came into our lives and left us better than they found us. Maybe they were not meant to be in our lives for long. As painful it was losing them, maybe they were meant to come to us and make us better men before they left us. I was a horrible, spoiled brat that wanted to be better to deserve Marian. Julia made you a better man. You're the reason the sheriff is being executed today. As much as I wanted to punish you for what happened to Marian, I think you have punished enough. Both of us have. I forgive you Guy." Robin finally said it out loud, Guy's eyes shot up and met Robin's; shock all over his face. "I have to. My soul will not be able to heal if I hang on to it. Marian and Julia will have died in vain otherwise. I think you need to forgive yourself for what happened too. Julia loved you, I am sure of that, and she would not want it to be this way. I know it is not easy, but you will, some day, be able to say goodbye to them."

"You've given this a lot of thought."

"Some days it is all I can think about. There has to be a reason for it all. It is the only thing that gets me out of bed some days." Robin confessed. He and Guy looked at each other and knew what the other was thinking. They had to get passed all of this animosity, before it hurt more people and killed them. Something good had to come from all of this. It needed to stop. Robin stood and offered his hand to Guy, who took it and was pulled him to his feet. Guy turned and looked out over the forest towards Locksley.

"I loved her with all that I am," Guy remarked without taking his gaze away from the forest.

"I know that now. Truly."

"She never needed to steal my heart," Guy finally turned back to face Robin. "I would have given it over to her gladly." Robin knew exactly what he meant. Marian had his heart his entire life and Julia would have Gisborne's until he left this earth. Both men nodded and went down towards the courtyard. They needed this to end and Vaisey's death would be the first step towards that.

Robin joined the gang at the bottom of the castle steps with the King on his throne surrounded by his knights. The courtyard was filled with citizens and many more were standing along the castle walls and they also spilled out into Nottingham village. It had become standing room only. Gisborne stood back from the crowd at the top of the stairs behind the King, almost hidden in the shadows. This was about the former sheriff and he did not want to make this about him. He knew there were many people who thought he should hanging with Vaisey today; not that he could argue with that. Staying away from it all would keep the attention where it needed to be. The crowd was getting loud until the King stood from his throne and they slowly quieted to hear him.

"Citizens of Nottingham. I, Richard, King of England, stand before you as we draw to a close a very dark time for England. While I was away, some took advantage and broke the laws of this grand country. These malicious men have been arrested and convicted of crimes against England and against the crown itself. I am here to tell you that this chapter is closed and we will move on together and repair what has been done. The first step is to punish those who have broken these laws. With the testimonies from Guy of Gisborne and Robin of Locksley, we will execute the mastermind behind these acts today. Vaisey, Former Sheriff of Nottingham." The crowd erupted in jeers and cries for justice. "I know how you feel and today will mark the season of healing that we all desperately need." The King looked to a set of guards at the end of the courtyard. The door swung open and a fighting Vaisey was pulled into the sun. He looked worse for wear. His skin was near white from being held in the dungeon for weeks. His clothes were covered in dirt and muck. He looked much thinner than the last time Guy had seen him that day castle was overrun. Robin and Guy watched as the former sheriff was ushered through the angry crowd and up to the gallows stairs. Vaisey was brought to center to face the King and pulled out the guards grasp. Defiant until the end. The King's scribe stepped forward and rolled open piece of parchment and spoke to gathered people.

"Vaisey, former Sheriff of Nottingham, you have been convicted of treason, thievery, murder, and disloyalty to the Crown. You have been sentenced to death, to be hung by the neck until dead. Have you anything to say before your sentence is to be carried out?"

"I, Vaisey, Sheriff of Nottingham, did everything that I have been accused of and I would do them again. You all deserved what you got, you pathetic pieces of garbage." He spewed hate over the crowd and they returned in kind, getting angrier and pushing towards the gallows. The crowd would tear him apart if they reached him. The King's men held them back as best they could. The King stood and his voiced carried above the hoard.

"Vaisey, have you nothing to say that you want recorded for history. Forgiveness perhaps?"

"Forgiveness?! No, your majesty! That would imply guilt and I do not feel guilty for what I have done!" The King nodded to the executioner for him to proceed. He raised a hood to cover Vaisey's head and he pulled his head away. "I want to see you all at the end." The executioner raised the noose over his head and tightened it around his neck. Vaisey looked at all the assembled party on the steps and peered into the eyes of each them. He finally locked eyes with Gisborne standing back from the rest, slightly hidden under an arch. "Gisborne! I wish I could have seen you here before I went! You are just as guilty as I am no matter what anyone says!"

His hatred was heavy in his look and words until the moment that the floor fell out from under him.