N/A: Sorry, again, for the long wait. I had no idea how to start with this chapter, with who's point of view and all. I hope it's long enough to appease you!
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Chapter sixteen: Spring fever

As the days lengthened and the snow melted away, activity once again increased in the Forest community. Many small defects and chores had gone unnoticed for more than three long months, and were now revealed by the thaw. It was now March, and everything and everyone was already getting in the mood for spring. The wood animals were coming out of their burrows again, hibernation being over. The hunters were tempted to shoot some fresh game, but refrained when they saw how little meat there was on the creatures. It was clear that the winter had been harsh; on animals and people alike. Even with the tight rationing, the last days of cold had still almost been too much for the supplies. It had been difficult for the villagers to ignore the hunger, and now the weather was clearing up they seized every distraction that presented itself.

One of the few that weren't so happy about the long list of chores was Duncan. Ever since he had arrived in the camp he had been made to perform his stable boy duties, which he had already loathed while still at the manor. At least there it had been the imposing figure of Lord Locksley who had ordered him around. Here, it was either a girl, or one of those two lowly peasants, the Littles. Though Duncan was little more than illiterate, he considered himself of a much higher rank simply because he was in the service of a noble family.

His complete reluctance to work was anything but concealed. Everyone could see the permanent scowl on his face and the slowness of his movements, as well as hear the heavy sighs he heaved. At first the villagers decided to ignore it, to keep up the good cheer. But after a few days it started to annoy them severely. No one else was complaining as hard as he was, and he wasn't even given the hardest of jobs.

Robin had noticed as well, and had at first dismissed it as childish laziness. But when Duncan's procrastination became blaringly obvious, she knew she had to step in. It wasn't fair to the others if he got away with doing next to nothing to earn his keep, when they had been generous enough to allow him to stay in their midst when there wasn't even an immediate threat to his life; which had been the ground rule before his arrival.

When the first week of March had passed, Robin decided it was time to put an end to it. His behaviour had put enough of a stain on their connection. That, and Will was about to strangle the boy. She approached Duncan when he was brushing down one of the horses, once again at an achingly slow pace.

'Hey', she said, startling the boy out of his daydream.

'Oh! Hey, Robin', he answered, flustered.

Robin proceeded to pet the horse, which was Wulf's, thinking on how to best say this. After a few minutes, during which Duncan became increasingly uneasy, she spoke.

'Why are you here, Duncan?' She asked, looking straight at him.

Surprised, the boy turned to look at her. 'I told you, Sarah was worried, and we were almost out of money. I also figured you needed a messenger.'

Robin sighed. 'Yes, you told me that. But you have to understand it's not that simple. You can't just waltz in and out of the Forest, so being a messenger is folly. But since you seemed eager to be here, and I liked to have someone from home around, I thought you could stay with us. It took a lot to convince the others, but I promised them you would be useful.'

She now looked him sternly in the eye. 'I vouched for you, Duncan. And frankly, right now you're embarrassing me.'

Duncan's eyes widened, anger and indignation rising in his stomach, but he managed to keep a straight face.

Robin continued, 'You mope around all day, work as little as possible while you don't even have difficult chores and sometimes even hide for a few hours to avoid working! There are children half your age here who work twice as hard!'

Robin realised she had raised her voice, and kept silent for a while to rein in her temper. 'What I'm trying to tell you is that if you keep this up, I won't have a use for you anymore. I'll be forced to send you back, and admit my mistake to the others.' She smiled wryly at him. 'I must admit you've disappointed me a bit, Duncan.'

The boy hung his head and said nothing. To Robin it looked as if he was repentant, but on the inside he was seething. How dare she chastise him! A mere wench! She had no authority over him! He'd always thought she was strange, and forgetting her place in this world. And her father had done nothing about it. It was alarming how boyish she acted, when she was clearly a woman. She should be sewing and cooking instead of gallivanting around with outlaws. Not to mention those disturbing accusations of witchcraft. He would never admit it to himself, but he'd always resented her being braver than he was, doing things he could only wish for, and being allowed anything she wanted by her doting father. And now he hated her even more, for still getting all the attention and admiration of the people for doing these scandalous things.

In his internal rage, he didn't hear Robin walking away, and didn't see the dejected droop in her shoulders. She really was disappointed; she had hoped that this connection to her home would be nice to have around; someone to talk to about the home she still sorely missed sometimes. But it had not been meant to be. Duncan had avoided her often, and when they did talk, he didn't seem to want to reminisce. All in all, it did seem best to just send him home, and admit defeat to the others, who then might come to doubt her judgment.

'I thought I told you not to harm her.' An ominous voice spoke from behind Duncan. He jumped, dropped the brush and whirled around. He managed to contain a gasp, and answered as levelly as he could: 'I didn't touch her.'

Will stepped into the light. 'There are other ways of hurting someone. With your behaviour you have hurt her more than you slapping her ever could've.'

'What's that supposed to mean?'

'It means, you stupid little boy, that you couldn't inflict bodily harm if your life depended on it, and that she foolishly cared about you enough to be disappointed by you.'

Duncan almost missed the insult because of its phrasing, and failed to grasp the concept of the second part as well.

Will had expected at least something of a reply and was anticipating it gleefully, but when all he got was a 'What?' he seemed to deflate a bit. He didn't know what to say to someone who understood so little that his ingeniously worded insults were simply not processed.

He finally settled for: 'Congratulations, you have proven to be completely useless in every aspect.' He shook his head and glared at the boy.

I'll leave you alone for now, but if you cause any more grief and don't clean up your act, I'll be delighted to personally toss your sorry behind back into the stable you crawled out of. Got that?'

He waited for Duncan to nod nervously, and then briskly walked away in search of some real verbal amusement. It seemed even he was feeling the effects of spring approaching.

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George had heeded Mortianna's advice, and as soon as the snow had melted away for him as well, he sent Guy up north. The boy Guy had been so busy with during the winter was now apparently firmly planted in Locksley's camp, so his cousin had his hands free. And George did so love to torture him a bit. He could still see the apprehensive swallow when Guy was informed of his new mission. He was afraid of the Celts, and with good reason. They were fearless and cruel warriors, even the women. Many myths and stories about them circulated in England, including the fact that they apparently drank the blood of their deceased. On top of that, they were Pagans. Godless people with little to no morals and horrific rituals, as the Bishop had more than once told his parish. But Guy knew he had no choice, and that made him resent his cousin even more. So, resigned to his fate, he steeled his already feeble resolve, and decided to trust in his abilities of persuasion.

Despite the heavy thaw, the highway to the north proved to be a challenge. The originally Roman pavement had not been cleared since their rule, and was currently covered with mud at least an inch thick. All things considered, it took Guy the better part of a week to get within the borders Celtic territory. The further he progressed, the colder and more uninviting the landscape became. And just as importantly, the more he felt watched. When Guy had asked how to actually contact the Celts, all he had gotten as a reply was: 'don't worry, they'll find you.' An ominous statement if ever there was one. Sighing, he looked around once again due to the continuous itching sensation at the back of his neck. When he once again found no telltale sign of the savages' presence, he grew annoyed. The feeling of being toyed with was steadily growing, and he was fed up with it. If they meant to kill him, why not just get it over with and spare him the wait? Just as he was contemplating just throwing down his things and setting up camp right there, Guy's world exploded in chaos.

From all around him forms clad in thick furs appeared out of nowhere, and advanced at him at a terrible speed. They uttered blood-curdling cries and wielded outlandish weapons. Guy scrambled to get his sword out to defend himself, but already knew that it was futile. His assailants numbered at least ten, and by the looks of them knew quite well what they were doing. Taken by a desperate feeling of not wanting to die just yet, Guy gripped his sword tighter, and waited for the first direct attack. He didn't have to wait long.

The threat of death had given him wings, and he managed to take out two or three of the savages before a surprise-attack from his left made him drop his sword. The Celt responsible wasted no time in kicking it out of reach, and with another kick to the back of Guy's leg, brought the Englishman to his knees. The fight had lasted less than two minutes, but all the participants were heaving and sweating. Guy figured detachedly that it was because of all the excitement. The Celt who had defeated him towered over him as he circled around his captive, saying incomprehensible things in that ugly language of his. But Guy didn't need a translation; he figured it wasn't good news anyway.

The impressive warrior had ceased his circling and now stood before Guy. It was obvious that he intended to kill the Englishman as he swung his enormous blade back. As he realised his fate, time seemed to slow down for Guy, and he suddenly felt at peace. It's over. It's finally over. No more worries, only blessed ignorance. He found death didn't scare him any longer, and that he now only longed to embrace the sweet nothingness it would bring. He closed his eyes, and awaited the blow.

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'I think we should have a celebration.'

Robin jumped as Wulf dropped his tall form next to her. 'You have got to stop sneaking up on me. Look at what you made me do.' She showed him the small trickle of blood on her thumb; she'd been preparing twigs for future arrow-making.

Wulf glanced at it, and shrugged. 'Eh well, not my fault yer clumsy wi' knives.' He looked away, secretly smiling. Three, two, one…

'I am not clumsy with knives! I'll have you know that I'm a decent woodcarver, and have been doing all sorts of things with this particular knife since I was six!' Wulf merely laughed when he turned his eyes on her indignant face.

'Don't you laugh at me!' Robin exclaimed, ready to launch into an all-out tirade, if not for Wulf's interruption.

'Dear me, ye sure are easy to wind up, Robin. Now I can see a bit why Will can't resist it.'

'Since when do you agree with Will on anything?' Robin grumbled, taking another vicious swipe at the twig.

Wulf took pity on her, and turned to face her completely. 'Well, let's have a look at yer thumb then. Give it here, woman!' He added when she stubbornly refused.

While Robin reluctantly let Wulf take care of the wound – it was only a small nick in the skin anyway – she looked around the square. They were sitting on one of the benches in the roofed community area, near the main fire pit, and she could oversee most of the village. When her gaze travelled over Will's usual seat, she had to do a double take. As more often than not these days, Will was there working on something or other that needed mending. He had surprisingly skilful hands and a remarkable patience for such things, considering his temper. But that was not what made Robin's eyes linger on him. It was the fact that he was actually looking straight at her and Wulf or at what Wulf was doing with her hand to be precise. Robin was surprised at the intensity of his gaze, at the undecipherable emotion in it.

It was as if he had felt her looking at him, because he now shifted to look her straight in the eye. Robin felt embarrassed at having been caught, but couldn't look away even if she wanted to. They were connected as Robin could see through Will's eyes into his soul for the first time, though not comprehending what it was she saw. After a moment that seemed to stretch into eternity, Will seemed to once more become aware of himself. He blinked, and returned his complete attention to his mending. Robin watched him a little while longer, and was only startled back to the present when Wulf spoke.

'There, all done.' Robin looked down to inspect her thumb, making sure Wulf wouldn't notice anything.

'But to get back to the initial point; I think we should have a celebration.'

Robin looked up at him, having banished all thought of Will for later contemplation. 'Oh? And why is that?'

'Well', he made himself comfortable as he always did when he was going to explain something, 'fer one, everyone's in a right good mood 'cause o' the spring. Secondly, we've caught up wi' all the chores, so now we're all just doin' our regular tasks. Our food supplies are back to an acceptable level again, 'cause the animals have gotten more active the past week.

'So', he concluded, 'we have the mood, the time and the food. Why not take our successful survival o' this horrible winter as the occasion?' He directed a huge grin at her, he obviously felt like having a party too.

Robin stayed silent for a bit, thinking the suggestion over. Seeing no flaw in the plan, she nodded.

'You're right. The people deserve to have a bit of fun.' Then another thought struck her. 'Do you know if anyone knows how to play an instrument here?' She asked, a smile now gracing her lips.

'Let me think….. Aye, I think I can round up a few.' Wulf replied, having caught on right away. 'So when do ye want ter do this?'

Robin went over everything again in her mind. 'I'm thinking… three days from now?' She turned to Wulf for confirmation.

He grinned and nodded. 'Consider it done. You mobilize Wat and the women fer food preparations, I'll tell the lads ter hunt some larger game. And I'll tell some o' our hidden musicians ter come out.' He waved his salutations at Robin and left grinning all the while; a new spring in his step with the thought of the upcoming feast.

Duncan smiled to himself, feeling immensely pleased with Wulf, whom he had cursed a thousand fold only a short while ago. The reason he liked the blundering oaf so much right now, was his idea of a celebration. Duncan reasoned it would undoubtedly be a rather wild celebration, as it was the first in a very long time – or so he had gathered from the women's excited tittering. It would be the ideal opportunity to leave the Forest and relay his findings to the Lord of Gisbourne.

The obstruction that had initially kept him from doing so had been the simple fact that he had not known the way to the Forest's border. He had after all been brought to the village blindfolded. That had been rather a large problem for him, as his main objective had been to provide his new lord with directions to 'the Locksley wench's lair', as Guy had put it. But now this little predicament was solved: during the time that Robin had believed him to be hiding from work he had in fact waited for a switch of men for sentry duty at the outskirts of Sherwood Forest. He had simply slipped out in the hustle and bustle of the village, and followed the men at a careful distance, taking great pains to discreetly mark his progress. After the two – admittedly, not so bright – men had settled in their designated spot in the watch tree, he had calmly backtracked; with no one the wiser.

After that, he had only needed to wait for the perfect time to escape. He had come to the conclusion that Robin of Locksley was every bit the strange, scary and annoying woman that the Lord of Gisbourne had told him she was, and he felt no need whatsoever to keep the whereabouts of his erstwhile mistress a secret. Instead, he greatly looked forward to the reward he would receive once he got to Nottingham.

He had inconspicuously taken some supplies from under the noses of the frenziedly cooking women, and was now all set to leave. He was now only waiting for the villagers to become thoroughly enraptured by the festivities, which were by now only a day away.

Robin looked around approvingly. The preparations for the feast were coming along nicely, and at this rate everything would be ready well before nightfall. Long tables were placed under the roofed area, waiting for the numerous dishes to be set upon them. In the cooking area said dishes were being kept warm until the time came for them to be served, allowing the women to clean themselves up before the feast. The group of five musicians that Wulf had managed to round up had already lain down their instruments on the makeshift stage they were to occupy later, and all pieces were already tuned as much as they could in these circumstances.

After a last glance around, Robin turned to go to her house to clean up as well, only to be ambushed by some of the younger women.

'Hi Maggie, all ready for tonight?'

'Aye, I am. But yer not!' Maggie, a stout girl with a broad smile and long blond hair, exclaimed at the sight of her leader.

'No I'm not, but I was just going to clean up a bit.' Robin tried not to fidget under such scrutiny.

'Only a bit? No, if I know you, Robin – and I do – then yer just gunna splash some water in yer face and be done with it!'

'And what's wrong with that!' She was feeling a bit threatened now.

Maggie looked at her pityingly, 'Rather a lot, I'd say. And it's not gunna happen either! Yer comin' wi' me, leader or no, and we'll make a woman out o' ye yet', She then turned to her friends, 'come on, ladies! What say you to "cleanin' up" Robin?'

All protest Robin might've uttered was drowned in a loud cry of 'AYE!' by Maggie's friends, and before she knew it she was being hauled of to Maggie's house.

Robin realised pretty quickly that all this had been planned long in advance; from what dress she was being forced into, to when exactly she should be presented to the crowd. Though she was being forced to play dress-up for several hours, time went fast because of the amount of different female faces she saw that were all chattering loudly with each other. But now, when the dishes had already been laid out and the musicians had just started to play but dancing had not yet begun, Robin's captors deemed her ready to join the crowd.

She was wearing what obviously was the best dress of the girl who was closest to Robin in size. It was a dark, saffron yellow with a few embroidered brown flowers at the hem and moderately cut, and managed somehow to look good with Robin's dark red hair that now reached mid-back again. Maggie had wound the upper half in a complex braid and had left the lower half loose, so that the braid rested on a blanket of almost black hair and creating a simple yet elegant effect. Her eyelids were darkened somewhat with coal but she had adamantly refused any more face paint, arguing that she would rub it off anyway because she wasn't used to it.

Now that all the girls were standing still and looking at her approvingly, Robin suddenly felt very self-conscious and nervous.

'Do I look alright?' She asked in an uncharacteristic small voice.

'Are ye kiddin' me?' Maggie replied equally soft, 'ye look absolutely stunnin'. Yer gunna turn every male head that's present!'

Everyone paused for a second, until Robin spoke again. 'Thank you, all of you. I don't kno-'

'Don't thank us yet, dearie!' Maggie said, louder now, 'ye'll know how much te thank us tomorrow, when ye've finally bagged yerself a man!'

In the loud laughter that followed, Robin was spun around and pushed outside. As the suddenly magnified sound assaulted her ears, Robin froze in sudden panic. Did she really look nice? What was everyone going to say at the surprising sight of her wearing a dress? Before she had time to take off in the direction of her own house to hide, a tall person came up in front of her.

'Well, they told me ye were bein' cleaned up by the young lassies, but I think they underestimated Maggie and her cohorts.'

The gentle joke shook her out of her panic, and she looked up to find no other than Wulf. She uttered a sigh of relief.

'Wulf, thank God it's you. Quick shield me from view while I go to my house and change!' Robin asked her friend urgently.

'Change? Why? Ye look nice, Robin. Don't worry everyone looks special tonight.' He indicated himself, and surely he was wearing a beautiful leather tunic with some curling designs burned into it, and had somewhat successfully tamed his wild hair after scrubbing up.

Suddenly Robin's insecurity swung the other way. 'Only nice! What about stunning, or beautiful, ever heard of those!'

Now Wulf knew Robin had worked herself up into frenzy, since she normally wasn't vain at all. He realised she must be feeling extremely anxious for some reason, though he couldn't fathom what. She did look beautiful, as she'd said herself, so what was the problem? He'd only used the euphemism because he knew she felt uncomfortable with compliments, but it seemed that had been the wrong road to take tonight. He could see some of the girls peeping out of the house to listen to their conversation, so he bent closer to Robin and lowered his voice while he gently took her by the arms to calm her.

'Calm down, Robin. Yer not talkin' sense. Yer absolutely fine and to be frank I think ye'll be the star of the evenin' lookin' like this. Ye look every bit as nice as Maggie must've told ye, so there's no way I'm lettin' ye sneak off home to put on some bland pair of breeches. Now come wi' me, and have fun.'

At this point he looked at her searchingly. After he could see she had regained her composure somewhat, he added:

'What do ye say?'

Looking into his kind face Robin could detect no lie, and after a moment she dared a smile. The taller boy smiled back while putting an arm around her shoulder to guide her towards the festivities. Feeling she was still rather tense, he murmured: 'Loosen up, it'll be fine. I promise.'

At this point Robin finally relented and abandoned all hope of her comfortable and safe breeches, and decided to meet all reactions head on. She might've lost her calm a little while ago, but she could deal with this. She wasn't the leader for nothing, although she couldn't help but think that her visit to Nottingham in the autumn had been easier to pull off than this would prove to be.

As the two approached the gathering Wulf's arm fell away to the point where it was just a reassurance behind her back. The bushy haired boy didn't want to aggravate the unfounded gossip about their friendship that was already circulating, but at the same time he refused to throw his young friend to the lions.

What greeted them was a silence much the same as the one that had sounded when Robin had emerged out of the water all those months ago. Even the music stopped as everyone, especially the men, gawked at her. The girl once again fought the urge to fidget, and was relieved when a very large silhouette made his way through the crowd towards them.

'My word, Robin! No one can doubt that yer a lassie now! Ye look mighty fine, girl. Come have a dance wi' me! Fanny'll forgive me, won't ye Fanny?' John Little, also clad in his finest clothes, sent a loving wink to his wife and took Robin's hand. He then turned to the musicians. 'What's this? I'll have no silence on this feast, so pick up yer things and play a tune! A lively one', he added to Robin with a large grin.

Feeling more at ease already, she grinned back as John wasted no time to pull her into a jig. She briefly waved back at Wulf in apology, but he waved her away with a grin identical to his father's.

A little further away Will was watching the proceedings, absolutely dumbstruck. He had been curiously eyeing the girl Wulf was talking to, and from what he could see at such a distance she was very pretty in her yellow dress. He'd already started thinking of ways to get her to dance with him when she and Wulf approached the group. It was to his horror that the closer she came, the more he realised who she was. By the time John had swept her into a dance, he was ready to drink himself into a stupor. How could he not have seen it was her! He, who had habitually watched the wench every day since her arrival in their midst. How could he have missed that shock of red hair, the way she held her head so irritatingly high causing her hair to gently sway across her back, the way her shoulders tensed slightly in determination causing the cutest of frowns to appear in her forehead…? Oh dear God. He could really use something stronger than ale about now.

The night progressed in rambunctious pleasure for Robin, alternately dancing with whoever of her friends wanted to have a go and eating some of the delicious cooking that Wat and his numerous assistants had managed to put together. She had by now forgotten all about her appearance, not in the least because she had had three goblets of ale that she wasn't at all used to. Because of all this she hadn't noticed the absence of a certain stable boy.

She had just sat down completely out of breath and with her head spinning, when a hand was thrust into her line of sight. She looked up, to find the least likely person standing there.

'Don't ask why, 'cause I don't know either, but I've the inexplicable urge to dance with you.'

Robin was quite certain that Will was well on his way to becoming completely plastered and opened her mouth to ask anyway, but was interrupted.

'Don't say anything. I'm guessing you're drunk and I'm sure as hell I am, so let's just abandon who we are right now and have fun. We can forget all about this in the morning and go back to being our fighting selves.'

Through her slightly hazy state Robin could've sworn Will sounded bitter, which was all the more puzzling. Not really able to deal with the issue right now, she made the split decision to take his hand. Will seemed momentarily startled that she'd accepted, but shook it off and pulled her up before she could change her mind. He refused to think about why in the world he was doing this. He only knew that he had to dance with her as the others had even if it was only this once. He'd face the consequences of this strange urge when he was sober.

Will had misjudged the strength with which to pull the girl up, and she ended up standing flush against him. Her eyes went wide at their proximity, and in his intoxicated state Will couldn't help but get lost in their emerald depths. After what seemed like ages Robin spoke.

'Ehm… shouldn't we…dance…or something? Will?'

The utterance of his name jogged the young man into motion. He nodded once and started to pull Robin to the dance floor as steadily as he could, which was surprisingly well. This gave Robin the time to examine her new partner's attire. Will was wearing a beautiful cream coloured shirt with a very well-cut and dear-looking sleeveless leather jacket over it. He was also sporting worn leather breeches and boots that lent him an air of wildness. Her gaze roving upwards again, she lingered shortly on his hand. The fingers holding hers were lightly calloused from use of weaponry, but were still long and nimble. She decided he had very elegant hands for a peasant. Going up once more, she looked at his hair. Even in the dim light of the fire she could see it was a light brown that would no doubt be highlighted further when the sun finally regained its strength. It was peculiarly layered and hung down to his collar in the back, while she recalled that it only reached his jaw in the front.

At that point Will had apparently reached his destination and interrupted Robin's observations by spinning her around to face him. This prompted her to look into Will's face again, searching for any indication as to what she was supposed to do. Astounded by his own daring, Will took her right hand in his left and put his own right hand on her waist. From this position he remarked that Robin actually only came up to his nose, and that in reality she wasn't as impressive as she seemed to be when he argued with her.

Robin, on her part, had automatically put her left hand up to Will's shoulder when he had instigated the position, and now made use of the momentum to continue her analysis of her partner with his face. She had never paid that much attention to its particulars during their fights, and only now realised that without its customary scowl it really looked quite handsome. His features were sharp and boldly cut, which matched his defiant nature. His nose was a bit too long and his mouth a bit too wide too be striking, but they somehow suited the rest of his naturally tanned face. His eyes were definitely his best feature, she unconsciously decided. They were a very dark brown and quite expressive, and were encircled by surprisingly long lashes for a man. A pair of thick, stern eyebrows completed the pleasing but intimidating picture.

Before Robin could be caught up in the whirlwind of drunken emotion in those eyes, Will swept her into motion in time with the tune the band had just started. As they danced, the exertion and the alcohol they had ingested made them surpass their awkwardness and they both noted that the other was quite a gifted dancer. As such, neither sought a different partner when the song was finished. They shared many more dances, and seemed to have forgotten why this wasn't such a good idea. Not once did they catch other people's speculative and incredulous glances, or the murmurs that were rising in various places in the crowd.

Wulf had noticed them when they had just stepped onto the dance floor and had wanted to separate them in protection of his friend, but when he could see that Robin wasn't struggling it occurred to him that this might be the way to bury the hatchet between his friend and Will. That didn't mean he wasn't going to keep an eye on them though.

When at last both Will and Robin were out of breath, they made their way to a small bench that sat a bit to the side of all the excitement – again, together. They hadn't said a word to each other since they'd begun dancing, and still didn't until both had caught most of their breath. Will's head had cleared somewhat by now, as opposed to Robin's who didn't have the other's tolerance for alcohol. The young man was starting to realise the implications of what they'd done, and he was desperate to know what his pensive companion was thinking. Not knowing how to broach the issue, he simply started by getting the girl's attention.

'Locksley-'

Robin grimaced. 'Don't call me that.'

Will looked at her strangely. 'Why not?'

She remained silent for a time and started to play with the fabric of her dress. 'I don't want to be reminded of home. And it makes me feel like…'

When she didn't continue, he prompted, 'like what?'

Robin sighed, and raised her head to look him square in the eye. 'Like you think I'm the lowest creature you've ever laid eyes on.'

The young man was taken aback by this frank admission, and at first didn't know what to say. He then decided to be equally frank; the damage was done anyway, as would become apparent in the morning.

'I try to make myself think that as well, but I'm succeeding less and less these days I'm afraid.' When Robin didn't reply, he continued. He had to get this off his chest. 'When you just came here, I did hate you. Because you changed things, and brought danger to our hideout. Even when you later compensated this by helping us get more organized, I kept hating you.' He now looked straight back at her to emphasize his point. 'I don't have much left in this world, and one of those few things is my pride. I couldn't let myself admit that I stopped hating you somewhere along the way, and that I actually…', he had to force the words out by now, 'admired you for what you were doing. I couldn't even dislike you for your personality anymore, either. You're just so bloody likeable!' He raised his voice briefly, and tried to calm himself by dragging a hand through his hair and closing his eyes for a short time.

'But by then we were set in our ways. It would have looked very strange if I'd started being nice to you all of a sudden. So I continued with the fights, and it seemed like you'd given up on achieving peace with me anyway.' He sighed deeply once again, gathering courage for his final admission. He turned completely towards Robin now to commandeer her complete attention.

'But I can't do it anymore. I'm tired of trying to hurt you with my remarks for appearance's sake. I want to…I want…' He struggled to find the words to describe what he was feeling. No doubt the alcohol was enhancing those feelings and making him more talkative than ever; making Will admit things he'd otherwise never tell a living soul.

'I want to matter, I want to be important to you, Robin.' She was struck by his use of her name, which was a first since she'd met him. He seemed to wait for some sort of reply, but she was at a loss what to say. That she was still feeling the effects of the ale wasn't helping any either.

Seeing that Robin was to perplexed to react, Will sighed and changed the subject. 'You've obviously indulged yourself a little too much tonight. I think it's time for bed.'

Will stood up again, and hoisted his companion to her feet. 'Come on, I'll take you home.'

Robin merely nodded and allowed him to take her by the arm and guide her to her house. When they had arrived there without any major mishaps and Will turned to go, Robin finally spoke up.

'I don't want to fight anymore either, Will. I wish we didn't always have to. I bet you're nice, deep down. You have secrets though, many of them. I see them in your eyes and I can't help but want to know them. Want to know you.' It was clear that by this time Robin was more sleepy than anything else, and therefore exercising no censure over her thoughts before voicing them. She now tugged at his sleeves a little to get him to listen closer. 'Will you let me, Will? Let me know you?'

The young man was stunned as his brown eyes looked down into a set of green ones that seemed to be glowing, not aware that he was leaning ever closer. He was deeply touched by what she'd said, even if she was drunk. Not able to stop himself, Will gently cupped the younger girl's face and softly kissed the mouth that had tempted him all night. He refused to think about what he was doing, and equally refused to think about its implications come morning – if Robin would even remember things. He suddenly wasn't sure whether he wanted her to remember or not.

Feeling Robin respond hesitantly, Will started to move his mouth softly and slid one hand into her hair. He marvelled at the softness it and wished he could keep doing this forever. It was this thought that finally set off the alarm bells in his head, and he gently pulled back. Opening his eyes to look at Robin he saw that she still had hers closed, and had a contented expression on her face. Not knowing how to continue and too confused himself, he merely said, softly:

'Go to sleep, Robin. We'll see about all this in the morning.'

He then caressed her cheek one last time, turned and walked away swiftly. Robin's eyes fluttered open and followed his retreating figure before turning also and climbing the ladder to her house, her mind too muddled to make sense of anything. In the same contented mood she readied herself for bed, and nodded off as soon as her head touched the pillow.

Neither had noticed the lone spectator during their exchange. This spectator now dragged a hand through his bushy hair and turned to go back to the festivities that were dying down now. Things could become very interesting the following morning, he thought.

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N/A: I hope the party scene between Will and Robin wasn't too sappy. I haven't written that kind of thing before so if it's too much, just say so and I'll try to tone it down.

Sometimes I'm unsure about whether or not some words are used in Medieval times or not. I try to keep modern words to a minimum, but if you still find some inappropriate ones, I apologize.

Also, sorry to leave you with a cliff-hanger in Guy's part of the story; I kinda felt like using one and it gives me an easy way to start the next chapter.

Bet you can't wait, huh? .-