Author's Notes: Aw. I love Much. And I was disappointed that we never got to see a proper apology scene from Robin after the season finale. Much deserved one!
So here it is. For my favorite servant.
"I am a lousy, ungrateful friend."
Much dug his heel into the dirt, enjoying the padded brown sparks that caught the wind. He didn't turn around at the voice, nor did he move as his master sunk into a seated position beside him. Neither man spoke for a minute.
Robin sighed, running a hand through his hair. "I did not mean what I said this morning," he said quietly. "I would not have survived in Jerusalem if it weren't for you."
The servant stiffened. "I'm sure you could have found some other scratch to push you out of arrow's way," he snapped, careful not to add words like expendable or stupid in case Robin agrees that he is both.
"I don't just mean physically, Much," his master said gently. "Although undoubtedly that is true. I mean . . ." he trailed off, tone frustrated. Robin didn't engage often in emotional heart-to-hearts and Much wasn't particularly surprised to find it slow going. He waited; Robin shifted suddenly closer and lowered his voice, as if his words did not bear hearing by anything but the trees. "When I was captured, our third year-- " Much looked over, surprised.
They had never spoken of those months, that unbearable separation. Robin never offered more than a feverish thank you and Much had not pressed. Some things, a man cannot repeat or relive; some things belong in the mind and the passed and will never stand on the wet exit of the mouth, the tongue.
But Robin continued, slowly. "I was never afraid. No, I-- I was. I was afraid of the-- the torture . . . I grew to fear darkness, Much, and the sound of dripping water against stone-- just that sound, all night, into the impenetrable darkness, bouncing off of the stone into the blank eyes of corpses and skeletons; this I feared. I feared the emptiness of my own soul . . . it terrified me that beneath my skin I was nothing but an unending stretch of desert, starved and dead and burning beneath the red sun, soaked in blood that belonged to myself and those I had failed to save."
Both men shuddered; Much shifted closer in a sort of fascination, is heart squeezed as Robin's words latched onto him. He forgot to be angry and rested his hand on the other man's shoulder. "But I did not fear death."
Much blinked. "Beg pardon?"
Robin's voice was quiet but firm, although he could not look at his servant as he spoke. "I did not fear death, Much, because I knew-- I knew you would come for me. Even if . . . even if you came too late, I knew you would take my body before I become like the bones beside me. I knew you would bring me home to England. I knew-- " His words became violent and wet and almost desperate around the edges. "I knew that if my soul was a desert you were the single, water-bearing cactus in it, Much, do you understand?"
His friend nodded, slowly, fighting the urge to release the pressure building in his skull. "You are not an itch, my friend," Robin whispered. "You are my clothes, my health, my determination. I could not do this without you."
"Stop it already," Much begged roughly, not trusting himself not to try and-- hug, or something. "I forgive you, all right?"
Robin broke into a grin-- the grin he's had since he first realized what fun trouble could be-- and threw his arm around Much's shoulders. "I'll probably be horrible to you again," he warned jovially, casting away his earlier sentiments with a sad sort of desperation, eager to be rid of the words and the pictures and the memories.
"Well then I'll stop clothing you and keeping you healthy and egging you on," Much answered with a little smile.
Robin grinned, standing and then offering a hand. "God forbid, Much. God forbid."