|At the End of Our Days
Author: fireblazie PM
Their bond is one that defies words, actions, and even death. Robin/Marian. Spoilers for the Season 2 finale.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Drama - Marian & Robin H. - Chapters: 2 - Words: 12,152 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 15 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 05-30-09 - Published: 05-04-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5039963
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: At the End of Our Days
Spoilers: This is set post Season 2 – expect spoilers for the finale and for a bit of Season 3.
Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing.
"We have forever, my love…"
"I hope we have forever in heaven because we didn't have enough time on earth. Not nearly enough time."
The first thing Marian sees clearly is Knighton Hall, with its dark browns and rich reds. The scent of food is in the air, and a feeling of home, more than anything, consumes her. When she looks down at herself, she finds that she is no longer in a borrowed white dress, but in that sea-green dress Robin loves so much. There is also no gaping wound at her side. Like this, the Holy Land and its scorching sun and pesky grains of sand seem like nothing but a distant dream. Before she can ponder any longer, however, voices echo in the room and she hastily ducks behind a door.
"Edward! Is that her?" She recognizes him as Robin's father, years younger. Peering around from behind the door, she sees a wooden crib in the middle of the room, and a small bundled figure lying in it.
That's… me, she realizes, with a gasp of recognition.
"It is her," her father agrees, a smile on his face, weary and content all at once. "My daughter, Marian."
"She's beautiful," the other man says, just as a toddler, barely two or three years old, peeks from behind his knees. "Oh." A chuckle. "You'll have to excuse Robin, I'm afraid. He's an impatient one."
"Just like his father?" Edward kneels down to Robin's level. "Well, would you like to meet my daughter?"
A confused look, a furrowing of the brow, and then a gurgled "Yes" escapes the little boy's lips. He is picked up by his father and held over the crib. He stares intently at the baby, and Marian stealthily moves from her spot by the door to see how this plays out.
He grabs her nose.
The infant breaks out into loud, tearful wails as Robin is quickly pulled away from her. Edward lifts her into his arms, bouncing her and whispering soothing words into her ears as he paces the room. Fortunately for him, she has never been a loud baby, and she drifts back into sleep in a matter of minutes.
"Well, Robin." Edward arches an eyebrow. "That was impressive."
"It's his way of proposing," quips his father. "What say you, eh? A betrothal between these two?"
Half-joking, Edward accepts. "Why not? They certainly seem to get along well enough."
Oh, you'll regret that soon enough, Father, Marian thinks to herself.
When her sight clears again, Marian finds herself perched on a thick tree branch in the middle of the forest, staring down at the forest floor. Instinctively, her eyes roam for traces of the camp, but she finds nothing. This much is certain: This Sherwood is not the one of the outlaws'.
"Quick, Much! Maybe we can lose her!" Robin, around eleven years old or so, emerges from the bushes, Much on his heels.
"Master, she'll only put up a fuss with her father –"
"I don't care," Robin says, glowering. "I don't want to hang around with some girl my father wants me to marry. It'd be better if it was just you and me, don't you think so, Much?"
"Well –" Much begins, but is promptly cut off by a small girl whose hair has been tied back, skirts muddy from romps through the forest.
"I told you to wait," she says, frowning.
"And we didn't listen, did we?"
"Robin of Locksley, I do not like you," she informs him, dead-pan.
"I shall try to keep myself from falling into the pits of despair, Lady Marian," he retorts.
"You two are rather funny, d'you know?" Much observes, eyes darting back and forth between the two adolescents. "You'd make a great couple. I wonder what sort of kids you'd have."
"Shut up, Much!"
"And anyway, who said I would marry you?" Marian's words are sharp, a foreshadowing of the woman she will grow up to be. "You're an awful person."
"And you're boring!" Robin shoots back. "You're always so serious, so proper –"
"It's better than running around here all the time like savage, uncivilized beasts –"
"You're just scared that your dad'll catch you behaving all unladylike," he says, baiting her. "Climbing a tree or wearing trousers or playing around in the mud instead of… learning how to sing or do your embroidery or something."
"Oh, is that how I feel?" she spits out angrily. "Well, then, I'll show you."
"Err…what?" The smug grin falls off his face rather quickly, but she's already hiked up her skirts and started up a tree. Marian, two trees away, peers over, mentally bracing herself for what she knows will happen next.
"I'll climb up to the very top branch," she boasts.
Robin's face takes on an expression she's all too familiar with – one that clearly depicts the sheer alarm and panic he's feeling, but refuses to give into. "You're bluffing," he calls up to her, just as she swings a leg over the lowest branch.
She shoots him a Look. "You really don't know me very well, do you?" And goes back to try for the next branch.
Robin and Much exchange identical looks of unease.
"Milady," Much calls, tentatively, "it's really getting rather late. We should be getting back. Your father will be worried."
"I'll be down soon," she replies.
Moments of growing terror – for the two boys, anyway – pass as the younger Marian steadily makes her way to the top. Robin bites his lip in apprehension. Much mutters to himself, wringing his hands.
It happens exactly as Marian remembers – a few yards away from the top and final branch, she slips. A muffled shriek escapes her throat as she frantically grabs for the nearest branch, tearing the sleeve of her dress in the process. An angry red scrape etches itself onto her skin.
Shakily, she manages to get herself onto the branch, but suddenly, the ground is a lot farther than it seems.
"Oh," she murmurs, suddenly quite afraid.
Before she can gather the courage to make the slow descent down – there's absolutely no way she's asking Robin of Locksley for help! – he's already scurried up to where she is, a worried look on his face.
"Come on," he says, impatiently, and holds out a hand.
Without thinking, she takes it.
And it's in this manner that he hops nimbly from branch to branch, extending his hand out to support her as they move towards the ground, uncharacteristically gentle.
As they finally make it to the ground and her world is finally set right again, she lets him know, "I didn't need your help."
He throws up his hands in exasperation. And then, quite unexpectedly, laughs. "All right. All right. Fine. You win."
Marian leans her head against the bark of the tree, smiling. She thinks this may be where it all started, the very moment Robin of Locksley began to take her heart away, piece by piece.
"Well, take it." The world has shifted again. This time, she's eavesdropping behind the walls of Locksley Manor, watching as a fifteen-year-old Robin awkwardly hands her a ring. She doesn't have to see it to know what it looks like – silver, with an amethyst stone directly in the center.
"I –" Wordlessly, she takes the ring. She's known of their betrothal to each other, of course, it was hardly a secret. But here, turning the ring over and over in her hands, the concept of marriage is suddenly stronger and more real to her than it ever has been before.
"Here. Give it." Before she can react, he takes the ring from her hands and slips it into her fourth finger, easy as pie. She takes a second to admire it on her hand. It fits perfectly. She wonders if he'd planned it that way.
"A perfect fit." He nods and grins, a shadow of his normally wide, cheeky smile. He's different with her, she realizes. She's seen him with the other girls in the village, flirtatious as can be, throwing winks and kisses like scraps of food.
The words tumble out of her. "What is it?" she asks, before her mind can catch up with her tongue. "Do you really not like me?"
He glances at her, startled. "What?"
"Oh, you know." She brushes off his faux innocence impatiently. "It's quite obvious. The way you flirt with everything in a skirt. Smiling here, touching there. It's all quite sickening, really. If you'd rather have one of them, then just tell your father. I'll tell mine, too. You won't be in trouble if it's mutual."
He looks perplexed. "Marian, what are you talking about?"
Oh, don't say my name like that, please, she thinks, desperately.
"I am talking about –" She falters at his thoughtful gaze on hers and breaks eye contact, staring at some point above his left shoulder. "—about your constant, incessant encounters with the village girls. I am not blind, and I will not be made a fool. Go on, then. Just say the words. I'll give you your ring back and you can go back to – to gallivanting with them and –"
He presses a finger to her lips. Heat floods her body.
"What are you doing?" She backs away, staring apprehensively at his finger.
He laughs and drops his hand.
"It was the only way I could get you to shut up," he replies, nonchalant. She bristles at his easygoing ways and moves to slide the ring off her finger, but he's too quick, and his hands, at the stage of growing from a boy's to a man's, envelop her own.
"If you take that ring off," he tells her, "I'll push you into the mud."
Irritation courses through her veins. "What?" she snaps.
"If you take that ring off," he begins, "I'll cut off all your hair."
Indignant, she reaches up to touch her head. "How dare you –"
"If you take that ring off," he says, once more, "I'll follow you around forever and ever, no matter where you go. Wherever you look, wherever you turn, wherever you end up, I'll be two steps behind you. Even when you have to take a bath. Especially when you have to take a bath." He punctuates the ending with a classic smirk.
She stares at him, aghast.
"So," he says, dropping his voice to barely over a whisper, "don't take the ring off."
It's a while before she finally finds her voice. "So," she starts, "does that mean that if I keep this, you'll leave me alone?"
The line of his mouth curves into a mischievous grin. "I didn't say that." He folds his arms behind his head and begins walking off in the direction of the forest. "Like it or not, I'm afraid you're quite stuck with me."
The thing is, she thinks as she follows him, she doesn't really mind.
"I have to talk to you," he whispers into her younger self's ear in the middle of the day, in the middle of lunch. She spares him a momentary glance and a barely perceptible nod before she returns to her meal. Eighteen years old and steadily growing into a man, he has earned more than just her admiration these past years.
Marian lets out a sad sigh as she ducks beneath an open window, allowing for the sounds of cutlery and pleasant conversation to float around her head. She knows only too well what happens in this part of the story.
Which brings her to wondering… what exactly is going on here, anyway? So far, she's been whisked away to see various flashbacks of her life with Robin, but what does it all mean? Is this some strange dream that she hasn't woken up from? Or is she dead, in some strange afterlife? This certainly isn't what she figured the afterlife to be. Then again, the blood had been so fresh, the blade so sharp, her flesh so soft…
"What is it?" Marian's head jerks up to see Robin exiting the house, a younger Marian behind him, looking curiously at him.
He leads her out a little farther away from the open window. Marian stares forlornly at him, at the sadness in his eyes, the angular curve of his jaw.
He turns away from her. "Marian, I'm leaving."
She freezes, and stares. "Leaving?" she echoes, faintly.
He exhales, lets out a heavy sigh. "I've… decided to sign up for the Crusades."
She stares at him in disbelief, unwilling and unable to speak.
He takes this as an invitation to go on. "I have to go, you must see that. For England. For King Richard. I can't just stay here while our king is fighting for – for us, for – for God, for –"
"Yes, you can." Her voice is quiet. Quiet and cutting. "I don't see the rest of the men clamoring to fight. You have no obligation to the king. You don't have to do anything."
"It goes against my very being!" His eyes are incredulous, refusing to believe that she can't understand. "I cannot sit here while our king fights. I'm good with a bow and arrow, you know that. I could do so much. I could help him fight –"
"So you want glory." She refuses to meet his eyes. She stares up at the sky. How can it be so perfectly blue, so perfectly cloudless, so perfectly sunny, when her world is crashing down around her? "Glory in the battlefield, as you kill Saracen after Saracen with your golden bow and arrow."
"That's not it, and you know it." He grows angry. "Why can't you understand?"
"I understand perfectly," she bites out, "I understand that you want to leave, leave the village and its people, leave your father, leave everyone, so that you can have your moment of glory in the Holy Land. Do you expect that they'll sing ballads about you when you return? Here comes Robin of Locksley, hero of England, the best archer the world has ever seen! Do you expect to take back the Holy Land singlehandedly? Do you mean to ingratiate yourself with the king, so that he will reward you with riches and gold beyond your imagination? Tell me, Robin, for I'm simply dying to know."
His eyes glint with fury. "You're deliberately misunderstanding me."
"And you're deliberately leaving your people."
"I'm fighting for my people!"
"Your people do not care if you fight in the Holy Land." Bitterness creeps into her voice. "Your people would rather have you stay. Here."
He regards her silently and perhaps a little sadly, too. "I had hoped to leave with your blessing," he says, quietly, "but I can see that that won't happen."
She shakes her head. The ring is cold and heavy on her finger and she begins to take it off.
"Please don't," he says suddenly. "Don't – don't."
She doesn't listen. The ring is even heavier in the palm of her hand. "I will not wear this while you are away. I will not wait. You can't possibly ask me to wait."
"No," he says, sounding defeated. "No, I – I suppose I can't."
It's the hardest thing she's ever had to do, but she holds out the ring. "Well, take it."
He smiles dryly, and she thinks she can see tears. "It wouldn't be any use asking you to keep it, would it?"
"No, it wouldn't." Her heart is heavy and her throat begins to constrict. Suddenly it becomes much too difficult to even talk. How dare he throw this away, she seethes to herself, how dare he throw all of this, everything away! Her emotions are beginning to show, and she absolutely will not allow herself to break down in front of him.
She turns away.
"Marian –" He calls, and falters even as she stops. "I'm sorry. I wish that – I wish we could –"
"Yes," she says, as she continues walking away, slowly building up her defenses. "Me, too."
Robin watches her younger self return to the house, an unreadable look in his eyes. He pinches the bridge of his nose and lets out the saddest sigh she's ever heard. She has the urge to wrap her arms around him and tell him it's okay, it's all okay, but is too afraid to do so.
He kicks up the dirt around his feet and walks towards the window. Alarmed, Marian scurries to her feet. There is nowhere to hide. What will she say, what will she do?
His eyes meet hers.
"Robin, I –" She starts, but is cut off as he passes straight through her.
Straight through her, like she doesn't exist.
She stands, stock-still, gaping at him as he presses his forehead against the side of the house, anguish and weariness evident in every bone of his body.
Suddenly, it's all very clear.
"I'm dead, aren't I." She speaks aloud, staring numbly at her trembling hands.
"Yes, my dear, I'm afraid you are." She whirls around to see someone she's sorely missed ever since his untimely departure from her life. Her father. And he's just the way she remembers him before he died, years older than the one dining inside the house. "And I'm so, very sorry, Marian."
After Robin leaves for the Holy Land, she has dreams.
She hates herself for it, naturally. She is not the type of woman who worships the ground other men walk on, not the type to lose herself senselessly in the tumultuous emotions of love. She has always prided herself on that fact. She doesn't – she doesn't need him, for God's sake, he's just a silly boy with silly ambitions and silly pride.
Nonetheless, she still wakes up in the middle of the night, drenched in cold sweat.
"Robin, no –" but he doesn't listen, he never does.
"Robin, look out –" But he looks straight ahead, completely ignoring her.
"ROBIN, BEHIND YOU –" But the Saracen has run him straight through with a sword, blood spewing forth from his abdomen, his mouth, oh God, it's everywhere, it's everywhere –
When she finally wakes, tears drip from her eyes, soaking her nightgown. The thing that hurts the most is that there is no definite way of telling whether the dream is fact or fiction. He could, in all probability, be lying, half-conscious, in the middle of the desert, steadily bleeding to death. He could – he could – he could even already be –
The thought hurts more than she can bear, and she fumbles for her rosary. If there is one time in her life that she will pray, this is it.
"Please," she murmurs, clutching the beads tightly in her hands. "Please, bring him back to me."
"You're being very quiet," Edward notes, looking intently at her.
"Am I?" She lets out a small laugh. "I'm sorry. Is there some sort of protocol for the dead? Should I be – Should I be overjoyed? Depressed?"
"I thought you'd ask more questions, that's all." He lays a comforting hand on her shoulder and lets out a sigh. "This is very difficult for me as well. I never thought – I never thought I'd see you here, so young. I always thought you and Robin would finally marry and live to a ripe old age –"
"Me, too," she murmurs, so quiet she can barely hear herself.
"I'm sorry," he repeats, sadness in his eyes. "This is not the future I would have wanted for you."
"Yes, well…" She forces a smile. "There's not much we can do about that, can we?" She gestures out to the forest. They're perched on a tree; it's the same one Robin had helped her climb down after her disastrous first attempt. "Well, go on. Tell me. What's it like, being dead? Do we just hang around, reliving our lives? Is there anything else to do?"
"This isn't exactly it," is the somewhat evasive reply. "There's more, beyond all of this. The reason you haven't moved on quite yet is because there's still something left for you to see."
"Is there, now?" She tilts her head, curious. "I don't understand. I've… sort of seen all of this before."
"Not this one," Edward tells her. "Look around. Does this look like the Sherwood of years past?"
She glances curiously at the trees, the leaves, but they all look too similar. But then, there it is – a flash of the outlaws' camp, traps nestled surreptitiously between the leaves. When she turns to question her father, he's gone.
Footsteps tread quietly across the forest floor, and her heart leaps into her throat as she realizes who it is.
And it's not eighteen-year-old Robin, not fifteen, not thirteen. It's Robin of the now, after the Holy Land, after her death. Tears well up in her eyes and there's a roaring ache in her heart, far, far worse than anything she'd experienced the first time he'd left her.
He stops directly beneath her tree. She scurries down the bark, stepping down beside him. He kneels. She kneels beside him, eyes roaming his face hungrily.
He digs a shallow hole in the ground, and she can see the unmistakable grief in his face. She watches him, struggling to commit every detail of him to memory.
"I miss you so much," she whispers. "I wish we could – that for once, for once, God would smile down on us and let us – let us be happy. We deserve it, we do. After everything that we've been through – after all that we have done, it's the least that we could have!"
She tastes salt on her tongue, feels the trail of tears down her cheeks.
He takes the ring off his neck and kisses it desperately. She has never seen him this forlorn, this desolate and she despises herself for being the cause of it.
"I will never stop loving you," he whispers fiercely. He blinks back tears as he places the ring into the ground. The purple stone glints beneath the sunlight before he covers it with dirt. He remains in place, unmoving. He loses his battle against the tears and they begin to trickle slowly down his face.
"And I will never stop loving you," she murmurs, reaching out to catch his tears. It's a futile attempt, of course, and her hands simply pass through his flesh. The sight of it makes her cry even harder. To be so close, and yet so far away, stings at her heart. "I'm so sorry, Robin, I'm so sorry," she sobs, falling on her hands. She curls her hands into fists and pounds them against the floor. "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry," she repeats. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
She squeezes her eyes shut, finding it difficult to breathe.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry –"
She lets out a gasping breath. "Oh, God, Robin, just look at me, please!" But he doesn't. She pounds angrily at the trunk of the tree, sending a flurry of flower petals swirling down onto the ground. Some land between the strands of his hair and for a fleeting moment, she feels jealous.
She breathes heavily, clutching at her chest. He lets out a shaky sigh and starts to stand. This is it, then, the final goodbye. Years will pass before they see each other again. Her heart hurts, and she knows it doesn't make sense, isn't she dead, for crying out loud, and shouldn't everything be perfect and painless?
He walks away, footsteps echoing in her head as she lies down on the damp ground. Tears drip down her cheeks helplessly. She doesn't move to wipe them away.
When she next opens her eyes, she's in an entirely different plane of existence. She's never been here before, but it looks rather empty. Sad. There are benches on a raised platform, facing a series of metallic strips which seem to go on for miles.
"If you're here, you've seen what you've needed to see." Her father steps out from seemingly nowhere. "Or learned what it is you needed to learn."
Her eyes feel sore and puffy. "Yes," she says, quietly, "I suppose I have."
He sighs and gestures around. "This is – it's the middle ground. Beyond the world of the living, but not quite the after, either. It's a place of waiting. Waiting and contemplation. Do you understand?"
A loud, shrill whistle pierces the silence, and Marian watches as a series of carriages, somehow connected together, ride along the metallic strips. Steam floats from a strange, cylindrical object attached to the top of the carriage. She turns to her father, a questioning look in her eyes.
"This is a train," her father explains. "It's… it's the mode of transportation used around here. If you get on, it will take you to… the after."
"And if I don't?"
Edward glances at her, startled. She keeps her eyes focused on the train.
"If you don't… you'll simply stay. Here." He sighs. "It's not fun. Not something you would particularly enjoy, seeing as you've always had a craving for adventure and excitement."
"Perhaps," she says, "I've had enough adventure and excitement for one lifetime."
She sits on the bench and stares at the vacant train. Funny. Even now, after death, with her beyond his reach and he beyond hers, he still has the power to affect her. The ache in her heart is undeniable proof of that.
One day, Robin of Locksley, you will pay, she thinks to herself, a half-smile upon her lips.
Edward watches her, and then lets out a sigh. "You're not coming, are you?" The question is unnecessary; he already knows the answer.
She stands and takes his hands in hers. Stands on tiptoe and kisses him on the cheek. "Not just yet, Father." She leads him to the train. The doors open automatically, and she leads him to a window seat. Then she calmly walks back out and watches as the doors slide shut. The train lets out one thunderous whistle before beginning to move. She watches it until it becomes little more than a speck in the fog, and then until it disappears completely.
She sits back down and makes herself comfortable, a wry smile on her lips. If she knows Robin – and quite clearly, she does – he'll keep her waiting for quite a while.
"Foolish man," she says to no one in particular. Then again, she's rather foolish, too. Only a fool would wait this long for someone. But as she sits there, she thinks she can hear his voice, and it makes the waiting a little better…
"I love you… my wife."