Author's Note: Just a quick story based off the BBC version of Robin Hood. It is set after Roy has been killed.
Disclaimer: None of it's mine... :(
He waited silently for night to fall completely, for all his men to fall asleep in the woods they know called their home. Much had been the last to fall asleep- the last to even approach lying down. He was worried, Robin knew he was. But that was Much- it was his job to worry and it was Robin's to make him worry. But gradually, even the faithful Much had succumbed to the sleep that Robin would not allow himself- not yet.
Instead he had watched as Will had gone to sleep first, as he usually did. Will wasn't quite used to all the riding they did and exhaustion commonly took the youngest member of the group first. Next Djaq had settled in- she was the smart one who knew that sleep was to be savored. She always rolled around a bit, not quite used to the roots of all the trees yet. John usually went next, glaring at Alan who never seemed to notice that everyone was asleep and begged for another round of cards quite loudly. Of course, when Alan decided it was time to sleep he handled it like a pro, he was only one of them who slept propped up on a tree, head back, arm slung comfortably on top of his bent knees. Robin had tried the position, thinking maybe it was more comfortable. Instead, he had flopped and twisted all night and woken with incredible neck pain. Alan was obviously the most used to living in the woods. The next to fall asleep was usually Robin, simply because Much didn't go to sleep until the camp was looked after, the dishes were clean, and of course, Robin was settled and safe.
Robin loved Much for this reason. Though, on nights like tonight when he needed Much gone - it could be a pain, it kept him feeling safe. Much had been the same in the Holy Land and probably would be for as long as the two were sleeping within the same country. Robin smiled to himself, and making sure everyone was truly and deeply asleep (he was careful to be extra sure Much wasn't faking) he silently ghosted away from their clearing and into the deeper wood.
There he began his ritual, for his first time ever. Roy was dead- this needed to be done. There was a commander in the Holy Land who did something similar and Robin had known ever since he heard the inkling that he might have his own command that this was something he needed to do. He had never had those troops- his injury caused him to be sent home- but his outlaws were his troops now and something inside of him needed to do this. Carefully and silently he took off his shirt and removed all his weapons except one- his small knife that was kept in his boot- drawn for dinner or other random times. Sitting on a fallen tree, he held the knife and thought for a moment.
Roy was dead. He had loved Roy for his simple mind, his clear view. While Robin would over think some things and question actions after they had been done, Roy was always steady. Crueler men would say Roy didn't have the capability of comprehending complications but Robin maintained that Roy simply didn't see the need for them. Life was simple. Roy never doubted that. Roy never doubted their mission, never doubted their morals, never doubted Robin. Robin prized this mentality. Much would follow anywhere- but Roy would never complain. Roy was dead.
Robin nodded to himself. Roy deserved to be remembered. Generals in the Holy Land, as Robin had seen throughout the war, began to forget the men they were losing in battles. Men became statistics; a simple count of how many had died decided who won the battle. The commander Robin had known had fought alongside his men fiercely, had mourned every single one that fell. Robin knew that if more leaders were like that one man, the world would be a better place- there would be none of that God-awful waste that he had witnessed in the war. This commander had stitched his fallen men's names onto his uniform. 'A reminder,' he had called it, 'to stop me from ever taking lives for granted.'
Robin knew that, unlike that man's uniform, his clothes were not guaranteed to survive with him. They were common, they were worn and Much mended them more times than Robin could count. Robin had struggled with what to do- how to make sure he remember his fallen since it became clear that he lead these outlaws. There was only one thing that he could think of that he would never lose. Roy deserved this. He deserved to be remembered.
Nodding to himself, he gently brought the knife up to his left arm, above the elbow. He took a deep breath and firmly, quickly cut. He gasped and clamped a hand over the cut, closing his eyes for a second. He opened them and wiped his knife clean, setting it beside him. He carefully removed his hand and wiped away the blood in order to see the cut. It was perfect; shallow enough to heal quickly, deep enough to scar. Just to be sure, he moved his arm around a bit- it was fine. As long as no one grabbed it for a few days, he would only feel a slight discomfort. And when it had healed, he would have a clean scar- Roy would always be with him.
Deciding to allow the bleeding to stop, he casually looked out into the forest, into his home. It was dark, only the palest of moon light managed to make it through the trees, pooling in gentle spots of light against the blackness of the ground. Gradually his eyes fell back to his arm, which was still bleeding and as he traced a drop of blood working its way down, his thoughts turned to his other outlaws, to that marks that he hoped would never be there.
He didn't know when exactly he had picked out spots for all of them, it had been an unconscious decision, made perhaps in the few quite moments he had to himself, or in the nightmares he had late at night. He knew where they all belonged know and he found himself thinking of each of the outlaws as if they too needed to be remembered tonight.
Djaq's place was high above Roy, almost at his shoulder, for no reason that he could remember except that is where it was. Perhaps he placed her closer to the Allah that she loved so dearly. He loved her for that. At first she had been an unpleasant reminder of the war. She was the face of the men he had killed. He saw her and saw wives without husbands, children without mothers, sisters without brothers. The first few nights after she had joined the band he had had nightmares constantly. He knew Much had the same problem because the same nights he had nightmares were the same ones he would wake up and see Much not in the camp. He would see Much come back later with the same horrified expression that he knew was on his face. This had changed however, he had grown to accept her and she was as much a part of the gang as any of them. He loved her for her cool logic in the face of danger, for her feisty attitude with the men. He loved the way her eyes would light up at a challenge and the quick joy that would flash when she won the challenge. Yet, she never gloated overly long- she was careful not to damage too much pride. Instead she taught the boys quietly, while seeming not to. She was special, not because she was of a different race or a different sex, she was special because she was Djaq.
Will was below his elbow, again for unknown reasons. Will was Robin's purpose in the group; he was the reminder of what Robin was doing. Will was the reason Robin was an outlaw, the reason he stole from the rich, the reason he was willing to risk his life, Will was Locksley. He stood for the old friends Robin had, their children, the people he didn't even know. When Robin began to despair, a glance at Will reminded him that giving up was not an option. Of course, Will was not just a symbol. He was a friend and Robin loved him for many things. He was perhaps the most down to earth of the crew, usually silent, commonly moody and always thinking. Put a problem of mechanics in front of Will and Robin would always watch amused as his eyes would squint, his eyebrows draw together and his tongue would leave his mouth to be bitten. Then there was the sudden and short-lived wide grin that would spread across his face for an instant as he thought of the answer. And though it was always said simply, Robin could detect the subtle pride lingering in his words, the way the young man's eyes would move quickly from face to face trying to catch approval from the older men's faces. The relief would wash over Will's face when John gave his usual nod at the good idea, and Djaq would smile broadly. His head always bowed slightly as if to hide a blush when Alan always patted him on the shoulder, praising his brain. He gave a small secret smile when Much declared either that it was splendid or it was too dangerous. And last, his eyes would always seek out Robin and Robin would grin and give him a nod of praise or perhaps a bow of congratulations and for the first time pride would shine through those dark serious eyes. Robin hoped that someday when all this was done he could reward the youngest member of the group with more than just a grin.
John's spot was perhaps the only one that Robin had a clear idea why it was there. It was perpendicular to Roy's, crossing the other man's clearly. The reason was obvious, John and Roy belonged together. Deep down, Robin knew that John was hurt worse than Robin was upon Roy's death. They were closer- they were the first. John was Robin's second in command; he had been the leader before Robin showed up. Robin was immensely grateful that John had chosen to follow Robin, consequently giving up his power to the younger, smaller man. But there were times when Robin would glance at John during difficult situations, looking for answers, needing the older man's experience. Help or approval was always given, sometimes privately, sometimes publicly, but twisted in a way that made it seem like Robin's idea. This balance of trust meant more to Robin that he could ever put rightly into words, but like everything else- John somehow understood that. Whenever Robin tried to thank him while they were alone, John would shrug it off, pretending not to know what the younger man was talking about. While John's approval soothed some of Robin's worries, his sometimes disapproval, Robin knew, kept him firmly on the ground. John was his gravity- he stopped the former noble from letting the power get to his head. He appreciated that, it helped him to know that he wasn't turning into some of the generals he knew in the war. Robin needed John because the big man was his rock and his spot on Robin's arm was different from the others- standing tall and proud, as John always did.
He had decided at some time, unknown to himself, that Alan would have a curved shape. He just couldn't see the man wanting a normal straight line. Alan was different, he was loud, he was cunning, he was an actor. He acted his way through the slave mines, he acted his death so well that soldiers ran from his corpse without ever thinking the man was faking. But Robin knew of another act that Alan played perfectly. In a way, Alan's jokes covered something that when Robin first glimpsed, he thought he imagined. Alan's jokes covered his pain. The first time Robin had glimpsed it was before he even knew the man's name, it was his quiet admission of "I won't win a trial," the quiet acceptance to lose a finger instead of a hand. After seeing the man in the dungeon and getting to know him later, Robin thought he had imagined it- Alan hid it well. But Robin sometimes glimpsed under the façade of uncaring bravo, the darker side of Alan-a-Dale. It was there when sometimes, when the fire was low and everyone was half-asleep. Robin would notice that sometimes, Alan would sit, staring into the fire, glaring at the flames as if they were somehow at fault. It was there when sometimes Alan would grab a bowl of Much's food and simply stare at it for a second, and then slowly savor it as if it was the only bowl he would get for a while. It was there when sometimes Robin would be falling asleep and glance at Alan to see the other man staring at him with stark need in his eyes, the need to believe in something good in his life. Pasts weren't discussed in the group, but Robin didn't need to know details that Alan wasn't as carefree as he pretended it was. Robin was happy to know that he was Alan's "something good" to believe in. He loved Alan's bravo as well, for he knew that that side of Alan was just as much Alan as the other, unseen side. He loved the other man's jokes, his ability to lift the spirit of the group and of course, the fierce loyalty that had gradually grown from the trickster.
And of course, there was Much. Robin didn't know how to describe Much accurately, even in feelings. Much was his best friend. But best friend didn't cover it. Much was his protector, Much was his guide, Much was his angel. Sure, the man was always eating, usually complaining and endlessly wanting a bath- but Much did so many things that were unseen to the other members of the group. The group took Much for granted, as Robin knew he himself sometimes did. Of course dinner would be cooked- Much would do it. Of course the dishes would be washed- Much would do it. Of course any spare clothes would be taken care of- Much would do it. He was rarely thanked, except for the mumbled "Thanks," as his hard work was passed out and eaten rapidly. He was ruthlessly made fun of, his constant worrying making him an easy target for Alan's loud impressions, John's overloud laugh, Will's quick eye roll and, to his sham, even Robin's wide grin. True apologies were a rare thing. Alan would give a quick embarrassed, "Sorry, mate," if one was really required, while contesting that he was only joking. John would pat him on the back and then, shamefaced, do whatever Much said for the rest of the night. Will rarely had to outright apologize since he rarely spoke, but he would lock eyes with Much have give him a long, slow, grave nod as if accepting full responsibility. Robin had his own way of apologizing to Much, he would approach Much while he was working- cooking or cleaning - and ask him to come have a scrimmage. If Much was really mad and refused, Robin would order him- the rare times that Robin still ordered Much. The servant would sometimes look offended and try to refuse- but Robin would firmly force the man's hands to drop what he was doing and curtly tell Alan to finish the chores. Then he would drag Much away to another clearing, where both men would get out their swords and fight for fun. Much was a very good swordsman and it would be a long duel before one of them won and both collapsed to the ground panting.
"Forgive me?" Robin would ask, lying on the ground.
"I didn't hear you say sorry," was Much's usual panted reply.
"You know I am," was the answer.
"Then you know I forgive you."
That was it- their simple was of absolving whatever fights occurred between them. On the extremely rare occasions when Much was truly hurt perhaps two nights of this were required- but a fight like that hadn't happened in year, since they were in the Holy Land. Much was quick to forgive anyone any offense. Perhaps part of it was because he still felt he was a servant, trained to be obedient- not quite worthy to be mad at a free folk, or at least especially not Robin. Maybe he was just naturally someone who liked to be at peace with everyone. Robin didn't know the answer- it wasn't something you discussed.
Another thing not discussed was Much's loyalty- unwavering, bone-deep, never ending loyalty. There was no one that Robin felt safer with. Even when Robin lay delirious from fever and infection from his wound he had recognized Much whenever he awoke. After he had healed enough to travel and stay conscious, he had been horrified to find Much had lost weight and was swaying from lack of sleep. But as he came fully awake for what he guessed to be the first time in at least a week, the happiness, relief and pure, unadulterated glee in Much's eyes had made him feel truly loved. He distinctly remembered smiling and somehow finding the strength to grab Much's hand, he remembered Much tearing up and wanted to make fun of him for it, but instead just grinning, grinning like mad man at his servant's joy and at his own joy for being alive. Much was there for that. Much was always there.
Much had two spots, which spot was used depended on when Much died. He shuddered at the thought. The first spot was on his face, he saw it as a thin line that ran vertically down from his hairline to his jaw, close to his ear. It wasn't a disfiguring scar, it was off to the side of his face- but it would always be seen. Much deserved it if he were to die first. Much deserved anything and everything Robin had.
The second spot was one that Robin usually pushed his mind from. He didn't want to think about it. But deep inside he knew that if Much was the last one to die- if after Much, Robin was alone, without any other outlaws, without Marian- there was the chance that he would use the second spot. The second spot was across his wrist- where the hand started to form- it was the deadly spot. When Robin first realized he was thinking of this as Much's spot, he had panicked- he wasn't suicidal- he loved life. He had denied it- but now he had accepted to cruel fact that it might happen. A part of him would die when Much died- he honestly couldn't say what the rest of his half-self would do.
He closed his eyes, forcing his thoughts away from the spots or his outlaws or the awful thought of Much dying. He took a deep breath and, seeing that the blood had slowed to a trickle, calmly wrapped the injury with a rag he had grabbed. He put the knife in his boot and carefully put his shirt back on.
He re-entered the camp, glad to see that no one had awoken when he was gone. He looked at all of them, John snoring slightly, Will looking serious even in sleep, Djaq rolling over yet again, Alan completely still in his odd position and finally Much- curled up and managing to still look worried. They were all sleeping peacefully. They were not dead. They were alive and Robin planned to keep them that way. He slowly sunk onto the mat of blankets Much had prepared for him. He carefully lay on his back and stared up at the canopy of trees above him.
They were not dead. Roy would be remembered. His eyes slid closed and he smiled.
Athor's Note: Thank you for reading and please leave a review!