(I don't own any of these folks, wish I did. I just borrowed them. No profit, just entertainment.)


by White Wolf

Robin sat leaning against a tree with his head back and his eyes closed. None of his friends said anything, fearing that whatever they said would make matters worse. He looked as miserable as they knew he felt.

Finally, John approached him and sat down next to him on the ground. Robin didn't move or acknowledge John's presence. "It wasn't your fault," John said for the hundredth time. Everyone else had said the same thing to him. It had as much impact now as it did then. John looked helplessly at the others.

Robin opened his eyes and saw everyone else's eyes on him. He took a deep breath and stood up. "I know you all want to help, but you can't change the facts. During a raid, I killed a little girl. Do all of you understand? I killed a child!" He closed his eyes against the memory and shook his head. It was too horrific a thing to believe even as he said the words. "I know you all mean well, but, please, don't say again how it wasn't my fault. It was my arrow. I'm responsible." He was close to tears.

"She ran out in front of you," Will insisted. "You didn't mean to do it."

"No, Will, I didn't mean to do it, but she's dead none the less, and it's because of me." Robin walked toward the campfire. "How can I stay here when I can do something like that? I came here to help, not harm."

"Robin, Herne chose you," Much reminded him.

"Well, Herne made a mistake. He didn't know I'd end up killing children." Robin took Albion out of its scabbard and plunged the point into the ground. He then turned and walked into the forest, soon being swallowed up by the trees and underbrush.

The outlaws looked at each other. They each had the same unspoken question on their faces: What can we do?

"Somebody stop him," Much said, desperation in his voice.

"How're we gonna do that?" Will asked emphatically.

For a long time no one spoke. No one answered Will's question. No one knew the answer.

Nasir turned around. "I'll find him."

"What good is that gonna do? He won't come back." Will said. He had made up his mind that Robin was gone for good. It was an idea that he would've dismissed, if he had stopped to give it more than a fleeting thought.

Nasir's face was unreadable. "I'll talk to him."

Again no one spoke. Nasir was a man of few words. His emotions ran deep, but he rarely spoke of them. Everyone liked the Saracen, and he got along well with them all. But, it was Robin who was best at getting him to open up. The two of them often talked quietly when they were alone. Nasir also had a secret that none of them knew about, not even Robin. Nasir now hoped that secret might make a difference. Without waiting for a comment, he walked into the forest after Robin.

Much looked at John. "Do you think Nasir can help?" he asked hopefully.

Perhaps it was wishful thinking, but John convinced himself that if anyone could get Robin to stop beating himself up over what happened, it was Nasir. Even Marion might not be as successful. She was now married to Robin and would not be as likely to give him the straight talk he needed instead of the confessions of love she would undoubtedly give him. Maybe, Robin needed both. "It's worth a try, isn't it?" John replied to Much's question.

"Aye, it is. So, I guess we wait," Tuck said with resignation. He gave a heavy sigh as he sat down on a log.

"What if Robin leaves Sherwood?" Much asked with obvious distress in his voice. He didn't want to think about the prospect that they could all lose another leader. This would not be the same kind of loss, but a loss none the less. He had come to think of Robin as much like a brother as Loxley had been. He didn't think of it as disloyalty to Loxley. He simply loved both men.

"Nobody knows," John answered. "We'll just have to see what Nasir can do." John didn't know whether there was really anything to worry about. Robin had come to Sherwood as their new leader because Herne had chosen him as his son. Robin's commitment to the people was too strong to just quit and leave them and his friends to their fate. At least, that's what John believed.

When Robert of Huntingdon had first shown up, John hadn't believed anyone could take Loxley's place. Yet, John had been the first one to call Robert, Robin, though it had embarrassed John when he had done it. Soon, they all thought of him only as Robin. When he had finally accepted Albion from Marion, that had sealed it. Nasir would just have to accomplish what none of the rest of them had been able to.

Nasir followed the track that Robin made through the trees. It was obvious he wasn't trying to hide his trail. Nasir didn't think Robin believed anyone would come after him, if he even gave it a thought at all. He probably just wanted to get away by himself and think. Nasir didn't believe that was best right now. Robin needed someone to talk to him earnestly about his feelings, not just tell him over and over that he wasn't to blame.

It took only fifteen minutes to finally reach Robin, who had stopped beside the same stream that wound around and flowed near their camp. Nasir found him sitting a few feet from the water's edge, leaning against a tree much the same way he had been back at camp. His eyes were closed now as well.

Robin looked up just to make sure it wasn't someone to be wary of, like one of the king's foresters. He wasn't surprised to see it was Nasir. The only other person he thought might have come was Marion.

Robin decided to let Nasir do the talking. He knew the first words out of his mouth wouldn't be, "It's not your fault." He waited.

Nasir sat down next to him. After several minutes of silence, he said, "When I was fifteen years old, I went to a place my father had told me never to go. It was the place where a memorable battle had been fought many years before. It wasn't sacred ground, but it was revered. Our people had won a great victory there. Several of my friends and I decided to re-enact the battle. I insisted on being the honored Saracen leader, Ahkmed Jaman. I ran forward and swung my sword with a flourish, trying to imitate the moves of Jaman. I struck my best friend across the neck, and he bled to death in my arms." Nasir had a faraway look in his eyes at the memory. "I didn't believe I would, or could, ever touch another sword as long as I lived. I faced his family to confess, but I never could look them in the eye after that, not that they ever wanted me to go near them."

The words were obviously painful to Nasir, and the importance of them, and the fact he told Robin the story, were not lost on the young leader. He also realized that Nasir knew exactly how he felt. No one else who had not been through something like that could have really understood.

"How long did it take you to get over it?" Robin asked in a quiet voice that showed his respect for Nasir's feelings and the fact he trusted Robin enough to tell him this most private story. Robin knew it wasn't easy for this man to expose such inner pain to anyone.

Nasir would have loved to be able to tell Robin it would go away in time, but he knew that wasn't true. He would never be able to think about it and not have it hurt. Robin needed honesty, so Nasir said, "I never have. I just learned to live with it."

That isn't what Robin hoped to hear. "You're saying that's what I have to do," he said, knowing that was exactly what Nasir meant.

"If you want to have any kind of happiness in your life, you do. It will get easier, if you don't constantly dwell on it. If you do, it will eat you alive."

The two friends fell silent again. It wasn't an awkward silence. They had always been comfortable together. Now they each felt for the other's pain.

Robin looked at Nasir. "Maybe, you're stronger than I am," he said finally.

Nasir shook his head. "No, I'm not. This just happened to you, Robin. You have to give it time."

Robin sat quietly for a moment, then said, "You also want to know if I'm thinking about leaving Sherwood."

"Are you?"

Instead of answering, Robin asked questions of his own. "What kind of leader have I become? How can I regain the faith of the people? Without their trust in me, none of us are safe. Your life, as well as mine, would be put at even greater risk. They now look at me as a child-killer, which is exactly what I am." He stopped because he realized he had implied that Nasir was one, too, and he never meant it to sound that way.

Nasir understood and changed the subject. "I can tell you that you're needed here. I can't tell you how to endure the feelings you have or when you'll be able to go on without thinking about it all the time." Nasir remembered the tongue-lashing Robin received from the parents of the little girl that died. He also remembered the way the villagers of Pemberton had turned and walked away from him, disgust and hatred on their faces. There was no way he could tell Robin to ignore that. He and the other outlaws would be there to lend whatever support Robin needed, but in the end, Robin would have to work through it himself. They both understood that.

Nasir got up and turned to go. Just before he headed back into the trees toward the camp, he added, "You're also wanted here." Saying any more than that now would only cause Robin to shut down and stop listening. It was best to let him digest the things that Nasir had already told him.

* * * * * * * * * *

When Nasir got back to camp, he sat down beside Tuck and stared at the fire. Everyone looked at him and waited for him to say something. He didn't.

Will, ever the impatient one, said, "Did you find him?"

"Yes," was all the Saracen said.

"Well, what happened?" Will demanded impatiently.

"Will, give the man a chance to talk." Tuck said. He hid the fact that he was as anxious to hear what Nasir had to say as Will was, as they all were.

"I talked to him." Nasir spoke calmly.

"Nasir, come on. You have to tell us more than that," Will insisted. He was like a bulldog on a bone.

Marion stood up. "Let it go, Will. Whatever Robin and Nasir talked about is between them." She truly felt that way even though she also wanted to know if Nasir's talk helped. Her heart was breaking to think of the pain Robin was in.

Thinking the same thing Marion was, Much asked, "Just tell us, then, if it did any good."

"I don't know. He has a lot to work out." Nasir continued to stare at the fire. There was a deep sadness in his dark eyes both for Robin's situation and the remembrance of the reason for his own pain. It had been a long time since he thought of it. He wasn't sorry he had brought it up, if it would serve to help Robin overcome his despair.

"Is he coming back to camp today?" John asked.

Nasir shook his head. "I doubt it."

"He can't leave us," Much said almost under his breath. Louder he said, "It's more than just him being our leader. He's like a brother to me." Much looked at Marion for a brief moment. She was in love with Robin now, and her past with Loxley was finally in the past, but he hadn't meant to bring any old grief to the surface.

"I understand, Much," Marion told the young man. "We all love him and don't want him to leave Sherwood."

Will stomped over to the fire. He turned to face the others. "He was called by Herne to be the new Robin Hood, and we all accepted him as that." His anger was causing his face to turn red. "Now, he's thinking about abandoning us, like he doesn't care about us anymore."

Fury rose in Marion and she turned it on Will. "How dare you say that, Will. Robin would give up his life in an instant for any one of us, and you know it! You make it sound like something trivial has happened. He killed a child, and that's a devastating thing to have happen." Marion's fury was rising. She almost couldn't stop herself. "You never wanted him here from the beginning, did you? He's nobility. He's the one who makes the decisions. And, he's a Norman. You also spend too much time thinking about yourself." Marion turned her back on Will, who stood with his mouth open.

"I didn't mean it to sound the way it did," a contrite Will said. "I do want him here. I care about Robin. You know that."

"Do I?" Marion said harshly without turning around. She was so angry, she was shaking.

"What you said was out of line, Will," John said. "Right now, we should think only about how Robin's feeling."

Will walked over to Tuck. "I didn't mean it the way it sounded," Will pleaded his case to the friar. "I didn't. I'd help Robin if I could."

Tuck wasn't too pleased at what Will had said. "You might try being a little sympathetic." The friar looked him in the eye with no small amount of disdain.

When Will turned to John, the big man turned away. He had no intention of getting into a battle of words, and he knew he might lose his temper as Marion had done. Then he decided, why not? He turned and faced Will, taking up Marion's argument. "You sometimes act like you are the only one that counts, Will. You don't seem to care that if Robin left, it would be because he feels he's not good enough to be our leader anymore. He wouldn't be thinking of all the good he's done here. You only worry about what it would mean to you. It isn't Robin, the person, you seem concerned about. It's Will Scarlet!"

Will again stood with his mouth open for the second time in less than five minutes. "I never meant it that way," he insisted again, trying desperately to plead his case to anyone that would listen.

"So you keep saying," Tuck reminded him, "but, then you turn around and act the same way as before." The friar looked at his friend with something less than friendship. "The first time you laid eyes on Robin, you hit him."

"That's not fair, Tuck. I didn't know him then, and I was drunk. Besides, didn't you tell us you tried to drown him when you first saw him because you thought he was trying to steal your fish?"

Tuck nodded, unable to deny that truth or to suppress a smile at the memory. "Point made. But, that doesn't excuse the present. You do know Robin now. He's saved your life too many times to count. He's done it for all of us."

Will walked away from the group before he made them even angrier by saying that they had saved Robin's life as well. He stopped a few yards from the camp and sat down on a patch of grass. He shook his head and lowered it into his hands. Why did he always run off at the mouth without thinking first? Why did he always say things he didn't mean, or at least, didn't mean the way they often came out? After the incident when he had choked Robin in a fit of rage, he had promised Robin he would try to think before he acted. He hadn't kept that promise strictly, but he had done better. Keeping his mouth shut was another matter all together. Robin knew it and hadn't asked him to promise that, thank goodness. He wouldn't have been able to come near keeping that promise. What had just transpired was proof of that.

He had always been hotheaded and spoke his mind, but now his leader and friend was in trouble emotionally, and he should be doing all he could to help. He should not be making matters worse. Everyone in the group jumped on him from time to time; everyone, that is, except Robin. There were times when Will himself didn't understand how Robin could overlook the things he sometimes said. Robin would occasionally have to call him up short, but he never lost his temper or failed to accept him, warts and all. Will was always forgiven.

John approached Will, who didn't look up. With his head still in his hands, he said, "I don't need you to tell me again what a jerk I am. I know it already."

"That's not what I came over here to say."

Will raised his head. "All right. Say it."

"I don't want to go on about the things that come out of your mouth when you get wound up. So, I'll tell you a little story." John took a deep breath and started. "When I first met Robin, we ended up in a fight the same as you did only with quarterstaffs. This you know. Afterward he told me some things I've never discussed with anyone else. It's not that they're secrets, its just something personal I haven't mentioned."

Will sat up and faced John.

"Robin told me that as long as he could remember, his father had told him that some day he would become the Earl of Huntingdon, that it was his destiny, his duty. Then when Loxley died, Herne chose him to take his place. I immediately told him no one could take Loxley's place. He said that he had believed that, too, which was why he couldn't do it. He lacked the courage even though he saw injustice all around. Then he said that Marion had come to Huntingdon, and she was pale, and lost, and her heart was broken. He said that no matter what had happened, she was still one of us. I told him that he wasn't the only one that had lacked the courage; none of us had it, either. It was then that I decided to join him. Tuck already had. Much insisted on coming, too. We found you, and you know the rest."

Will made no comment, but he was clearly interested.

John hoped that by telling Will about the conversation he and Robin had when they first met, it might help Will understand Robin a little better. He waited, but Will still didn't say anything. So, John continued. "You've been with Robin long enough to know what kind of person he is. He's smart, brave, loyal, and compassionate. He's always out front. He fights with us and for us, and he never thinks of himself first. You know what he gave up to come to Sherwood and become a hunted outlaw. Two of the things he cares about most are keeping us safe and helping the people of Sherwood. Can you try for just a moment to put yourself in his place and feel just a bit of what he feels right now?"

"I can't," Will said finally. "It's not that I don't want to try. It's just that I can't begin to imagine how something like that would feel." He picked up a stick and threw it against a rock. "Maybe, that's why I've been acting like a selfish fool; I just don't want to think about myself in his place."

It wasn't easy for Will to admit any kind of weakness to anyone, even himself. He liked to think that he was bad, capable of doing almost anything. More than once, he gloated to Robin about his killing prowess. He sometimes thought of himself as capable of doing the dirty work he knew Robin wouldn't do. That's why he often yelled at Robin for not killing someone he, Will, thought worthy of death, like Gisburne. Will always seemed to give Robin's upbringing as the son of an Earl as the reason, but Will knew it wasn't the only or even the main reason. It was just Robin. In the best of worlds, there'd be no injustice or tyranny at all. In the second best world. Robin would want to be able to fight for people without any bloodshed. Will would never have admitted it, but he admired Robin for refusing to give in to the baser instincts of an outlaw. He could easily have been corrupted by the lifestyle, but his character was too strong. Robin was a good man and a good leader. So, why was Will always causing him grief? He wished he knew.

It was almost an hour before Tuck called Will to join them at the campfire. John had long since left him to himself. Will went over reluctantly. He wasn't sure just how the others would receive him. None of them greeted him warmly, but no one yelled at him anymore nor did anyone tell him to leave. He sat by the fire glumly.

Tuck had prepared a good supper, but it was a quiet one. None of them felt like talking. There was no thought of small chitchat, just like they didn't feel like going over the situation at hand. They had said all they could to Robin and to each other, and the implications of Robin leaving Sherwood for good were too painful to think about. Yet, that is exactly what they were all thinking to themselves.

Marion sat and toyed with her food. She absently put the bread that Tuck gave her in her pocket and put her plate down. She shouldn't be here. She should be with her husband, the man she loved, even if all she did was hold him and not say a word. Now, it was dark, and she knew the others wouldn't let her leave by herself. She didn't want to find Robin with all of them trouping behind.

Finally, she couldn't stand it any longer. She stood up. "Nasir, take me to Robin. That's where I belong. I'll go alone if you don't take me." There was a no-nonsense edge to her voice. They knew better than to argue with her when she was like this. They also believed she was right in wanting to be with Robin. He needed her.

"He may not be there now," Nasir replied.

"Then you'll find him like you did before," she said emphatically. Nothing was going to dissuade her.

Nasir nodded as he got up and strapped his brace of swords on.

The others looked at her, but none of them asked to go along. They understood how she felt and knew Robin probably didn't want them all showing up. What good would it do to leave a camp full of people, if the camp full of people showed up?

* * * * * * * * * *

Even in the dark forest, it took Nasir only a few minutes to find Robin. He was still sitting against the tree, just as Nasir had left him three hours earlier. Nasir stopped while still in the trees, pointed to Robin, and then backed away.

Marion approached quietly, but Robin had heard them both when they came. He knew without looking that this time it was Marion. He looked at her somberly.

"I came because I love you, and I don't want you to be alone all night," Marion began. "I won't say a word, if you don't want me to. I'll talk all night, if you want me to do that. I'm just here for you." She sat down next to him. She longed to embrace him but didn't make a move to do so.

Robin made the first move when he reached for her. They held each other tightly. He put his head against her shoulder and began to cry softly. Marion stroked his long, golden hair. She wanted to tell him everything would be all right. She believed it would be, but he had heard it so often, now was not the time to say it again. She kept silent.

It was a long time before Robin's body relaxed. Emotional and physical exhaustion had finally overtaken him. There was no place on earth he felt more secure than in Marion's arms, so he had finally fallen asleep.

After a couple of hours, Marion's arms and legs began to get numb, but she didn't move a muscle. She couldn't risk waking Robin up. It had been three days since the incident. He had gotten only a few hours sleep, and that had been fitful at best.

A little while later, she put her cheek down on his head and fell asleep herself.

The next morning a shaft of sunlight, shining in her eyes, woke Marion up. When her vision adjusted to the brightness, she saw Herne standing about six feet in front of her. She looked down at Robin's golden head and saw that he was still asleep. "Should I wake him so you can talk to him?" she asked.

Herne shook his head.

"Please tell me how I can help him?" she asked helplessly. "What can I say to him?"

"Say what is in your heart," the Lord of the Trees told her.

"It isn't enough. He's suffering so much. He's even thinking about leaving Sherwood."

Herne shook his head again. "You are looking for something to say that will make everything the way it was before. It never can be. Remember, nothing is ever forgotten. Robin is strong, and this will only make him stronger. He won't leave Sherwood."

"Thank you," Marion said gratefully.

Herne now nodded. He turned and walked back into the forest as silently as he had come.

Marion leaned down and kissed the top of Robin's head. He shifted in her arms but didn't wake up. As much as Marion wanted him to continue sleeping as long as he could, she could no longer sit holding him. Her arms and legs were screaming from the pain of forced inactivity. Very slowly, she moved from behind Robin and laid him gently down on the mossy ground. He stirred and opened his eyes, then closed them again. Marion sighed when she realized he hadn't woken up.

Marion walked around, stretching and rubbing her limbs. trying to restore normal feeling in them. She winced as they began to ache even more, tingling like someone was poking her with needles. Despite the pain, she stamped and shook.

Gradually, she began to feel normal again. She went toward the stream and began her morning ritual of cleaning her face and teeth and fixing her hair.

When she finished, she walked over to Robin and sat down beside him. Resisting the temptation to touch him, she sat and looked across the stream, staring into the trees on the opposite side. The foliage had not yet begun to turn into the reds, golds and browns of Fall. 'It won't be long now,' she thought. She had been so concerned for Robin, she hadn't noticed that the morning air held a crispness that had not been there the day before.

It also occurred to her that it had been almost a year ago that she had broken Robin's heart when she left him to go into Halstead Priory. What a mistake that had been. Her life was at Robin's side, as his wife, and nothing in all the world could change that. Even what was happening now couldn't separate them. She looked down at Robin again. This was truly where she belonged. She looked up at the blue morning sky and sighed.

"Marion?" Robin was looking up at her, a melancholy smile on his face that barely lifted the corners of his mouth. Despite the look, he was glad to see her.

"Good morning." Marion tried a more cheerful smile.

Robin sat up and yawned. "I guess I slept all night. I don't remember much after you came. It's not very chivalrous of me."

"You slept. That's the main thing. I'm glad you felt secure enough with me to do it." Marion reached over and took Robin's hand. She kissed the palm of it tenderly. "Herne was here earlier."

Robin's expression changed, but it was difficult for Marion to read. "What did he have to say?" Robin asked evenly.

"That you are strong and what happened will make you stronger."

Robin frowned. "Well, what would you expect him to say? He chose me. He's not going to say he made a mistake." Robin looked intently at Marion. "He said something else, too, didn't he?"

"Yes. He said you wouldn't leave Sherwood."

"He can't know that. I don't even know that."

"Maybe, that's why he's Herne the Hunter," Marion laughed lightly. "He does know things ordinary people don't know." Her demeanor changed. "Seriously, Robin, Sherwood is where you belong, even if you don't believe that right now."

"You're right. I don't believe it, at least, not completely. I'm not sure what I believe."

"I know," was all Marion said. Her vice was soft. She wanted so much to make it all just go away. Unfortunately, she knew that wasn't possible. So, she just sat and watched Robin with sympathetic eyes.

Robin got up and walked to the stream's edge. He knelt down and scooped up some of the cold, clear water and splashed it on his face. He did it twice. He took a wet twig from the water, broke it in two, took one of the broken ends and began to rub it up and down on his teeth. He rinsed his mouth out several times. When he finished, he splashed more water on his face, this time rubbing it before rinsing one last time.

Marion smiled as she watched him go through the same ritual she had just moments before. When he finished, she asked, "What are you going to do now?" She honestly wasn't sure what the answer would be.

Robin didn't respond at first. Then he said, "Think some more. I don't want to make a decision, one way or another, that I'll regret later."

Completely changing the subject, Marion said, "How about if I fix us something to eat? I know you must be hungry. You've barely eaten anything the last few days. Making yourself sick won't improve the situation."

"Nothing will," Robin replied with both a note of hopelessness and a touch of sarcasm. Then he quickly smiled, so Marion wouldn't think he was not grateful for her offer. He really did appreciate it. He also had to admit to himself that he was ravenously hungry. "What did you have in mind?"

"I don't know. I'm sure I can scare up something that we can eat." Life in the forest had given her a whole new appreciation of Nature and the bounty it provided. She had been introduced to so many new and wonderful things she hadn't known even existed. "We can start with berries. I saw some across the stream."

Robin said, "It's starting to get cold." He looked up at the sky. "It's going to be an early winter this year. And, a cold one, I fear."

Marion couldn't help smiling, despite the dire prediction. Robin, too, had learned the ways of the forest. He now knew as much about Nature and its many faces and rhythms as any of them. He, himself, sometimes marveled at the difference between Robert of Huntingdon, raised in a castle, and Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest. Robin, in his own defense, would say he hadn't been so pampered that he hadn't known anything about the world outside the castle walls. The Huntingdon earldom consisted of vast lands, containing a number of small villages, several castles, and a few manor houses used more as hunting lodges that anything else. He was exposed to all 'classes' of people.

Before he ever left Huntingdon, he had been a good student as well as an accomplished swordsman and archer. He was also very good with a quarter staff. His skills were sharpened to the point where he used them instinctively to save his own life and the lives of his friends and the people he vowed to protect. The one thing he said he sometimes had trouble with was tracking. Nasir often exercised his tutorial skills in that area. Robin loved horses but wasn't overly crazy about most other kinds of animals, especially pigs.

"I'll get the berries. I don't want you getting your feet wet." Robin said as he stepped into the cold water that reached half way up his boots. He was across in a few strides. He turned to the right and headed down to the small berry bush Marion had pointed to. Not having anything to put the berries in, he broke off several branches loaded with the plump fruit.

Marion remembered the bread from last night's dinner that she had put in her pocket. There wasn't a lot when it was divided, but it would go well with the berries and help fill their empty stomachs.

After they had eaten, Marion looked at Robin. She almost hated to ask the question, but she was following Herne's advice. The question was in her heart, and she had to voice it. "Will you be going back to camp?"

"Ah. That's the question, isn't it?" Robin said with the tiniest bit of mockery. "Will Robin Hood return?"

Marion didn't know if Robin was trying to be flip or not, but she wasn't smiling. In fact, her expression was one of sadness, as if she already knew the answer was no.

"I'll go back, but I don't know if I'll be staying," was Robin's honest answer.

"Herne says you will," she reminded him. She started to say she hoped he didn't leave just to prove Herne wrong. She immediately chided herself. She knew Robin wasn't the kind of person to do anything like that. Robin cared for Herne and would never do anything deliberately to hurt him.

After a long silence, Marion blurted out, "I love you. I don't want you to leave."

"Wouldn't you go with me?" Robin asked, this time with a hint of humor in his voice. However, the question was a serious one.

"Of course, I would. I'm your wife. I'll go anywhere you go. But, you know the others love you, too, and they would have a hard time leaving Sherwood and trying to start once again somewhere else. You have to think of them and all the people you came here to help."

"I don't want to leave my friends. As for the people, they would probably all like to see me hung. Without their help, we can't survive out here. How can I even attempt to keep us safe, if we aren't supported? You know how much we depend on them. I'd be more of a danger than an effective leader, if I stayed." Robin said all this with a despondency in his voice and in his expression that Marion had never seen there before. It broke her heart.

"I know the people are upset right now, but when they get over what has happened, they'll realize how much they depend on you and how much worse their lives would be if you were gone. If they really wanted you hung, they'd have formed a mob and done it." Marion realized how terrible that last statement sounded. She didn't apologize, though, because she believed it was true.

Robin took Marion's hand and held it gently in both of his. "I know you want me to stay. But, do you really think it's the right thing to do? Before you answer, think how hard and how dangerous it would be, and then give me an honest answer."

"I don't have to think about it. I know without a doubt it's right that you stay. It will be hard for a while, but it's right. As for the people, I don't think it would take too long for them to come to their senses; one or two raids from the Sheriff or Gisburne would change their minds in a hurry."

Robin leaned over and kissed Marion firmly on the mouth. "You are the most amazing woman." He kissed her again, this time with his arms encircling her in a passionate embrace. He had fought so hard to win her love. He was determined that there was nothing, not even the doubts he had, that would ever separate them again. "All right. Let's go tell the others they're stuck with me a while longer," he said.

Marion smiled. He had spoken with more of the old cheerfulness than she had seen or heard since the incident. Funny how she referred to it that way. It was too painful to think of as the death of a child. She wasn't fooled into thinking Robin was even close to being over it. It was, however, a step in the right direction.

* * * * * * * * * *

Much was the first one to see Robin and Marion coming through the trees. He took one look at Robin's face and knew the decision he had made. "Robin," he called out happily.

All the others turned to look at their approaching leader. They, too, saw his expression.

"You're staying," Tuck said. It was a statement, not a question. There was overwhelming relief in the words.

"If you still want me after the turmoil I've caused all of you and not for the first time. I guess I'll get my act together one of these days."

John was the first one to reach Robin. He held his hand out and shook Robin's hand. Each one in turn did likewise. They greeted him as if he had been gone a long time. In one sense, he had.

On a more serious note, Tuck said, "You know we'll do all we can to help."

"We'll do what we have to do," Will said. "As long as you stay with us, we can do it." He offered Robin his hand again. He was truly happy Robin was staying. He also felt more than a little guilt at the way he had acted the night before, even though Robin hadn't been witness to it.

Just then, the sun came from behind a cloud and shone down on the little group. Robin looked up and smiled. The accident had cast a shadow in his mind and would forever remain there as well as in a small part of his heart, but with the love of his friends and the woman at his side, Robin knew he would be all right.