So now I'm sitting here in our burned and ruined lair, gazing up at the stars. Everyone else is gathered by the campfire, checking their weapons or the plan once more. I don't mind being alone, though. It means no one will see my fear.
Except the Moor, of course. Bloody educated barbarian.
"I want to be alone, Hassim." I said, as politely as I could manage.
"No one should be alone tonight. Of all nights." I had to fight the urge to roll my eyes. So typically Hassim.
"Did Robin send you over here?"
"If I had not wished to come, no one here could have made me, Christian."
"Will. My name's Will." I said, turning to glance at him quickly. He grinned, white teeth visible in the shadow.
"Will…" He seemed to be trying out my name – ordinary and typically English as it was to me.
"Hassim…" I mimicked, and then frowned. "What does 'Hassim' mean, anyway?" One eyebrow was raised.
"'Great one'." Hassim said, daring me to say something.
"Did you give yourself that name?" I asked, a faint grin twisting my lips as I leaned back. There was a moment of silence. "What?"
"You and your brother are so very alike." He muttered.
"In what way?" I asked, eager to know more about the boy who had grown into a man since my own childhood.
"The ways you think." Hassim said after a minute in which I began to think he would not answer. "The way you plan. You let yourself get lashed open to be set free to tell us of the Sheriff's plan, did you not?"
It's the longest speech Hassim's ever made in front of me – but I'm too busy thinking of other things.
"No. I was going to kill him."
"I cannot believe you, Will-the-Christian, would kill your brother. Now, you are betraying Nottingham's trust."
"It's probably what he wants."
"Nottingham. He probably knows I'd lead Robin to him, and I am." I stop, suddenly fully aware of what's going to happen. Without permission, a tear slides down my cheek. I really am going to loose the last member of my family. "Robin's going to die."
Hassim sort of stiffens beside me when I angrily brush the tear away.
"He cannot die, Will." He said, without much conviction. "He cannot die until I have fulfilled my vow."
Despite Hassim's unease, I feel comforted. The Moor is a seriously good fighter, and a man who takes his vows seriously. I catch myself fiddling with the sheathed dagger at my side. A heavy hand came up to rest lightly on my shoulder and squeezed.
"Neither of you shall die tomorrow." He says, brown eyes wide with solemnity.
"Or you." I say, knowing I sound like I'm begging; knowing that I could stop Hassim from giving up and dying by begging him to live, and hating what I'm doing at the same time. Hassim hesitates. "Swear to me." I continue. "Swear you won't die."
"All men die when Allah wills it. Once I have fulfilled my vow to Robin, I have nothing to live for."
I cast around the darkened forest quickly.
"Me." I said, and Hassim looks taken aback, but hopeful as well.
"You?" He repeats. I have no idea why I just said that. "Why should I live for you?" It's not said with disgust – just with an amused curiosity. I don't know which is worse. Disgust would mean he knew what even I don't fully understand, so he would leave, and I wouldn't have to explain, but curiosity means I have to figure out what on earth I'm talking about, and then explain. Then he'll be disgusted and leave.
"Me." I finally repeat, firmly. "Live for me…by my side."
"With you?" Hassim said. I just held my breath, waiting for the inevitable rejection.
He chuckled, and I looked down in shame. My face was turned back to look directly at his by a large, warm hand; and I just about stopped myself from nuzzling into it.
"I would do that." Hassim said, and leaned in, pressing his lips to mine before pulling away. "I would live for you, and more. I would love you, Will Scarlet."
He pressed his lips to mine again, this time lapping once at them so that I opened mine and let his tongue enter my mouth.
"You taste like honey." Hassim murmured when he pulled away again.
"From the mead." I said, wallowing. His dark eyes glint with amusement, and his hands run down my front.
My eyes fluttered shut, and a moan escaped me before I could stop it. Hassim stopped the next one though, covering my mouth with his as his hand ran over a very interested bulge in my trousers.
"Promise me." I said, gasping as he broke away for air. "Promise me you will not die tomorrow."
There's another pause, but he hasn't stopped petting me, and – God forbid! – I'm actually enjoying it.
"I promise, on my honour, and my love for you, Will Scarlet – I shall not die tomorrow. And neither shall you."