|You'll Be the Death of Me
Author: SilasBrandybuck PM
"Much tried. He honestly did. But there was no good bit to any of this." Every chain has a weak link, even in a group as close-knit as Robin's gang, and the strength of that link is about to be tested. Set mid-season one, rated for whump and thematic elements. Some Robin/Marian, and juuuust a hint of Will/Djaq.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Drama - Much - Chapters: 21 - Words: 70,963 - Reviews: 69 - Favs: 15 - Follows: 27 - Updated: 04-21-13 - Published: 08-04-12 - id: 8393870
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
This chapter's a little later than I wanted to post it, but the revision fairies wouldn't cooperate with me today. So I submit to you this chapter (finally!), sleep-deprived but triumphant. :P
DoubleDaggered: I'm so glad you're enjoying this tale! I agree - Much could do with a hug right now, and I feel kind of rotten for being the cause of his misery. But the writer Kurt Vonnegut has a good quote on the subject: "Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them - in order that the reader may see what they are made of."
SleepingwithinWater: That's a good point about Much's vest. I can't remember exactly why I left him with it, except that I didn't want the first thing that happened in the dungeons to be Much losing his shirt and vest. That seems to happen so often with leading characters in episodes and fics that I kind of went the other way with it. But for the purposes of the story, we'll say it's because Gisborne knew another layer of cloth wouldn't make that much of a difference, unfortunately... *wince*
Without further ado, the next chapter...
At first, hearing the soft tapping against her window frame, Marian considered simply pushing Robin and his insufferable smile right off the roof. It was late, she was already in her nightdress – no doubt something he was counting on – and after such a wearisome day, Marian was in no mood to deal with Robin's banter. The tapping came again, and she set her brush aside with a resigned sigh of frustration. Wrapping her robe tightly around herself, she tried to resist the urge to indulge such petty thoughts; after all, angry as she still was with Robin of Locksley for abandoning her for the glory of the Crusades, some little part of her still stubbornly loved the madman. Perhaps she would only slam the shutters in his face and hope he fell off the roof of his own accord.
Then Marian opened the shutters to see his face drawn tight with a hurt his eyes couldn't conceal, his smirk absent as if it had never existed, and she couldn't find the heart to shut Robin out. He swung through the window with his usual grace, boots almost silent on the floorboards, but he made no playful remark about her state of dress or the hour. Instead he threw back his hood and scrubbed a hand down his face wearily, leaning against the window frame. His familiar figure seemed somehow diminished, a dimmed candle; instead of the people's acclaimed hero, he looked like any other man, tired and worried and kept from sleep by the thought of his trouble.
"Robin… What is it? What's wrong?" she ventured. This visit was over something far graver than wheedling a kiss out of her. The solid jut of his jaw and his silence told her that plainly enough. Lately it seemed as if Robin only turned up when he wanted something from her, as often to tease and ask for a lock of her hair as to ask for information from the castle. She had to admit, it was usually something his men or the shire's people honestly needed, but Robin was too fond of their banter to simply ask for anything, and she had braced herself for a new bout of wordplay.
Yet the man before her didn't meet her eyes, barely moved, the words lost somewhere in his throat. Finally, when real fear had begun to worm its way into Marian's stomach, Robin growled, "It's Gisborne. He-" Disappointment ground the fear to ashes, and Marian groaned in exasperation, turning on her heel toward her wardrobe with no real purpose other than to get away from Robin and his jealousy. Before she'd taken more than a step, however, Robin said, "No, Marian, you don't understand. Please, just…" Warily, she turned back to face him, and he stepped forward, pain roughening his voice, dragging his shoulders down, "He's got Much, Marian. He caught Much this morning, and…"
For a moment, even Robin's voice faded. Marian could not move, could hardly breath, could only try to accept what she had just heard. Before Robin had spoken, she'd imagined a dozen possible dangers and problems, but never one of Robin's gang taken. How had she not heard? She'd been in town this very morning….
"We raided the Sheriff's coffers today, but somehow Gisborne and his men caught wind of it," Robin was saying. "He'd expected us somehow, I don't know how. We got out, but Much stayed behind to cover our retreat, and…" He shook his head, letting out a helpless sigh, and looked up finally, the moonlight turning his hazel eyes pale and desperate. "I need your help, Marian, to get him out. Gisborne will do anything to get that silver back before the Sheriff returns and finds out. Much has been down there for hours already… I don't know how much time we have."
Mind reeling, Marian crossed to sink onto the edge of her bed, resting her hand on the quilt beside her in a wordless invitation. The mattress rustled softly as he sat slowly, achingly, his shoulder brushing hers. The thought of Much waiting in Guy's unforgiving control sank worry deep into her stomach even as it set her thoughts racing to compose a plan.
"I will go to Nottingham tomorrow morning on some pretense. Guy will no doubt be eager for a chance to boast, and I'll see what I can find out." She half-expected Robin to protest such a bold tactic, and was both surprised and concerned when he only nodded, lacing his calloused fingers with hers. This, more than anything, told her the depth of his distress, and she added, "We'll think of something. Surely…" His tousled head swung her way, candlelight casting the desperate lines of his features into sharp relief, and she trailed off, unsure what platitude she had been about to offer, then amended, "Much is the most loyal man I know, and believes in you. He knows if there is any way to do it, you will free him." Her words only seemed to drive the blade deeper, however, Robin's frustrated exhalation drawing his shoulders tighter, his hand tensing in hers.
"I shouldn't have let this happen in the first place. We could have stayed, fought." His voice was hoarse in the shadows beside her. "We had the whole gang there. None of us should have been left behind." Self-recrimination dragged at his words, deepened them from the tones of a young man's frustration to the guilt of a soldier who felt he'd failed his companions.
"We could have done it!" he snapped, drawing a hiss for silence from Marian. Her father would have fits if he found Robin in her room at this hour, especially sitting on her bed with scarcely an inch between them. "A leader is supposed to keep his men safe, Marian. I should've…" A heavy silence welled up and grew between them, and for the first time since Robin's return to England, Marian caught a glimpse of the Crusader who'd returned in place of young Master Robin of Locksley. He'd always been prone to dark moods as well as his merry, exuberant light ones, a man of passion whichever way his humors took him, but there was a new heaviness in this, an extra weight across the span of his shoulders like a cloak he couldn't shrug off. This Robin understood consequences, however often he chose to throw them to the wind, and knew all too well what bleak fate lay in store for Much if they could not thwart the Sheriff's men once more.
Then Robin shook his head and stood, shoving his hand through his hair as he crossed to the window, steps careful and light on the creaking boards. "The lads are waiting for me. We can meet you along the North Road tomorrow." Marian followed him to the window, hugging her robe close as the evening breeze picked up for a moment. Robin clambered nimbly over the sill, then turned around suddenly to press a kiss to her forehead and whisper, "Thank you," before slipping away. The warmth of his fingers lingered on her cheek, despite the cool night air. She watched him lope across the moonlit grass into the forest before fastening the shutters and returning to sit on her bed, heart and mind in a tumult.
With the Sheriff away on business, Guy had control of all his matters, including the final say on punishment for criminals. Ordinarily, Marian knew, this would result in unceremonious hanging for any outlaw, a welcome chance to exercise the power he craved, but thankfully, Robin and his men had gotten away with a significant amount of money. Guy was doubly motivated to retrieve the silver as quickly as possible, both to regain the money itself and also to have the situation well in hand when the Sheriff returned – for these, he would need Much alive. Much was the only one who could lead them to the outlaw camp and the silver, not that the loyal manservant would speak a word toward Robin's harm.
In that loyalty, Marian considered as she snuffed the candle and pulled the worn quilt to her chin, lay the greatest danger to Much. For if Sir Guy found his prisoner could not or would not help him gain back the silver, Much would hang; she half-prayed Much would let something slip, just something small, something to keep Guy content until she and Robin could work out a plan. Much had already been in the dungeons for nearly a day... Given Guy's intense need to rectify this situation before the Sheriff returned, Much may as well have been there for a week. They needed more time, and urgently.
Reviews make me dance for joy, and occasionally sing a Broadway show tune out of sheer delight. :D