Title: In Absentia
Robin Hood (2006)
The Scarletts; the Littles
Rating: PG
Locksley Village waits for Robin. A ficlet for shanaqui's fanwork-a-thon. Prompt # 36: The Scarlett family - life before Robin's return.

When Robin returns has become a byword in the village for happier times.

"When Robin returns, there will be maying again," giggles Eleri. The girls consider Robin a romantic ideal.

To the boys, Robin is the king of adventure. "I reckon I'll win the first archery contest when Robin comes back," Luke boasts to an adoring John Little.

Mothers are more practical. "There'll be food enough to fill my boys' bellies when Robin returns," Jane Scarlett promises herself as she divides her meager portion onto her sons' plates.

"When Robin returns, the work will be a little easier," Alice Little tells Will as he chops wood for her, so she and her son won't freeze to death this winter.

Dan catches his son glaring after Gisborne, while Sir Guy rides away with some of the best Scarlett craftsmanship at a fifth the promised price. He places a calming hand on Will's shoulder. "We'll get our due when Robin returns."

Will has heard every variation on the theme, and he never says anything to dissuade the others. Everyone needs a little hope.

He remembers the days when Robin dwelled at Locksley Manor. He remembers the laughter, the fun, the folly. Life was still hard then – when was it ever not? – but it had not been this daily struggle for survival.

So it is not that he doesn't understand their faith; he just cannot share it. Robin is gone, has sailed away across oceans impassable, to fight in cities whose names Will can't even pronounce. He will not return.

The second winter after Robin left arrives, and people still speak of Robin's return. Now, though, there is an underlying desperation to their words:

"When Robin returns, he'll get my wife—"

"—my father—"

"—my boys—"

"—the medicine they need."

There is hunger, dark and ravenous, in every belly, and somehow Robin is the solution to that as well. He will make the crops grow and the cows give milk.

Will snorts at these vain wishes and finishes another chest to house the Sheriff's money.

Another year goes by, and Will stands between his father and his brother while they lower his mother into the ground. The memorized words of the cleric offer him no comfort; he cannot even hear them over the angry rush of blood in his ears. He is furious with this friar and his God for their seeming complacence, at the Sheriff and Gisborne for their cruelty, at himself and his father for not seeing what she was doing before it came to this.

Mostly, he is angry at these people and their absent hero. Look around, he wants to scream, while you sit here waiting for a savior, we're all dying, one by one, a little bit a day. When Robin returns – if he returns – all he'll find is a graveyard.

Will gnaws the inside of his cheek and says nothing.

Slowly, word trickles to Nottinghamshire from the Holy Land. Robin of Locksley is a celebrated member of the King's guard; he has saved Richard's life.

This news is greeted with nearly universal pride throughout Robin's lands. The Scarlett household does not escape the rush to once again lift the idol to his tarnished pedestal.

"And when Robin returns," Luke babbles excitedly while Will sharpens his axe, "I'm going to have him teach me to fight, so I can go with him on the next Crusade."

"When Robin returns, the sun will shine green, and the sky will rain mutton," Will snaps. "In the meantime, we're starving to death." He looks towards forbidden Sherwood and thinks of the game that abounds there.

He is tired of the endless wait; he will live no longer on a hope he does not have. He turns back to his brother, filled with a purpose for the first time in years. "Get your bow. We're going hunting."