Author's Notes: I have become weirdly obsessed with Robin's relationship with King Richard lately, and this is where that stems from. Why does Robin care so much about his King? He says the king "trusts him", he risked his life for him when he was mortally wounded, and he went absolutely berserk when he realized Gisbourne was behind the attack. Why did King Richard send Robin home if he was healing? For simplicity's sake, or to help a friend? I just get the impression that there is more than a simple "he is the king" feeling here.

Anyway . . . this is more from King Richard's POV than Robin's. But I think the basic point still gets across.

a matter of trust

A slow fire eats its way across the horizon, devouring clouds and dunes alike in unstoppable hunger. The sadly burning sun sinks down beneath the earth, cowering in the face of its own brilliance as darkness leaks over the camp in slow drips.

Robin watches it come, one hand on his hilt and the other around his bow. It's strange, but he feels somehow naked without them.

"It is hard to accept that such beauty can continue in the face of such destruction."

He smiles, head dipping in an automatic bow as King Richard's voice slides across his shoulders. "It would be harder to accept if it couldn't," he answers, eyes still glued to the purples and oranges streaked across the sky, burying the moon.

The King laughs, and the sound is rusty from disuse. He shakes his head, clapping Robin's shoulder hard enough to cause a stumble. But he leaves his hand there to catch the guard before he so much as falters. "You are right, my friend. And perhaps the Turks draw comfort from that same sun."

Robin's voice his sharp. "It is theirs as much as ours." A beat. Then, "Forgive me, my Lord. I spoke in haste."

Richard regards the young man for a moment, allowing his grasp to slip from his shoulder. "I've been hearing things about you again, Robin of Locksley." Robin smiles again, vague and distantly concerned, his eyes sliding across the camp to his tent. A silhouette of his beloved servant and friend can be seen there, bent over a stew. "Not from Much," Richard corrects, and then adds as an afterthought, "Well . . . not any more than usual from Much."

He's rewarded with a laugh—a small one, certainly, but nevertheless he's pleased. "I apologize for his eagerness," Robin says with a brief smile, finally turning to face his King. Richard can see the light hiding there, itching to make its way into his other features. Light that he's sure once defined Robin's whole being, that preceded and followed his every step but trapped, for now, behind plain and ordinary eyes. "He is a good and simple man."

Richard smiles, gesturing back inside his tent. Robin follows wordlessly, and the King notices the slight relaxation of his grip on the weapons at his side. They sit, Robin slouching into the chair as if he has not sat in days, and in the calm Richard sees a sliver of the boy the Earl of Huntington was upon his first arrival in the Holy Lands. "You have been reading the Koran, I hear."

The guard nods, accepting a goblet of wine with a half-smile. "I have," he answers cautiously. "I wish to understand what we are fighting—and why."

Richard hesitates. "And what have you found?" He asks after a pause.

"May I speak freely?"

"Of course."

Robin sits up, leaning towards his King and speaking with fierce conviction. "This war is injustice itself," he declares, his voice quiet but building upon every syllable. "It is a war of ignorance—of superstition—of fear. The Turks fear us, fear our cruelty and our desperation . . . they fear the slavery we subject them to and our stubborn inability to recognize other ways of life. But we, sire, fear them more because we fear what we cannot understand. We are not battling for land! We are battling against religion—against the gods of other men. And why? I have read their bible, my Lord! They preach goodness, and wisdom, and peace! Surely God created them exactly as he created us. It is His duty, and His alone, to take men's lives and dictate their beliefs."

Robin stands, moving to the door of the tent and gazing once more at the dying sun. "Do we not have faith that God has a plan for these Turks? That He will judge them upon their death?" He sighs, stepping back towards King Richard with a half-hearted shrug. "I kill for you, Majesty, and for the men fallen at my side. I kill for Much, so that he might make it home to be Lord of Bonchurch. But I do not kill for religion. I do not kill for God."

The King remains silent, Robin's words rolling across his mind in slow waves. He can feel the eyes of his guard on him. "I will tell you a secret, Robin," he says finally. "I, too, do not kill for God."

"Then for who, Your Highness?"

Richard closes his eyes and remembers the sprawling grass and trees outside the castle, the sound of his mother's laughter echoing against stone. "For home," he answers simply. "For family. I came here believing that the Pope's desire to purge the Holy Land stemmed from England's—and Rome's—need for a Holy Land. But it is not just ours, friend. It is theirs, too."

He tips back a sip of wine and Robin echoes his movement, a smile playing on his mouth. "This is wonderful wine, my Lord," he complimented, the faintest hint of puzzlement betraying his tone. "Did you drag it all the way from England?"

King Richard grins a child's grin. "I won it," he confesses delightedly. "In a bet, can you imagine that?" Robin looks shocked for a minute before breaking into a hearty laugh, weight crumbling off his shoulders and leaving only traces on his arms as he steps from it.

"Who on Earth did you win it from?" He questions gleefully, taking his seat across King Richard's table. "Who would bring wine to war?"

"One of the new guards," Richard whispers confidentially. "His mother sent it."

They share a smile, Robin mock-applauding. "There are two people on this Earth I wouldn't wager against, my Lord, and you are certainly one of them."

The King arches an eyebrow, leaning forward in his intrigue. "And who's the other? Much?"

The other man laughs, a loud and happy sound that seems inappropriate given the setting. "King Richard, I would be fool not to wager against him. He is a wonderful man, but a horrible gambler. Poor Much couldn't see a lie if it bit him in the nose."

"You are right about that. Who then?"

A secret smile steals across Robin's lips. He shakes his head, suddenly averting his gaze to the floor and idly swirling the wine in his goblet. "'Tis just a childhood friend. Someone very dear to me—although after four years she's surely found new . . . friends, I should think."

Something dangerously like affection teases a grin from the older man; he finds hope in the fact that even here, in this place, surrounded by so much blood, a young man still gets shy about his woman. "Friend, you say?"

"Hardly. She didn't take my leaving well." Robin's voice is tired and sad but laced with affection, barely singeing the edges of his words. "If my memory serves, she chased me out of her house with arrows."

The King laughed. "At last! Someone who can tame you!"

"Aye, if anyone can. Could have. We were betrothed, but I believe that shooting arrows at your fiancé is just one way of saying I would rather marry a snake." He grinned ruefully. "Although she said that, too."

The words are light but Richard can hear the sadness in them and drops his hand onto the guard's shoulder. Gratitude and pride flows through him freely; he has watched Robin from the beginning until now, has watched him shift from a boy into a man, from a skilled soldier to a master of weaponry. "In truth, son, the madder they are . . . the more fun is the reconciliation." He hesitates. "What is her name?"

He looks away, closing his eyes for a brief moment as he murmurs, "Marian." The name rolls of his tongue like it belongs there, like its greatest home is between the lips of the Earl of Huntington. "Marian."

Richard leans forward. "You will see your Marian again, Robin. Trust me."

Robin raises his head, his mouth a roadmap through a life of troublemaking and laughter. He raises a hand and claps his King firmly on the shoulder.

"I do, my Lord. I do."