Author's Notes: Well, I've gotten a few requests for Sheriff/Robin and Guy/Robin, so I thought I'd throw it together into a little hodge-podgy piece (with, of course, Robin/Marian because I really can't help myself.)
This has a higher rating because, um, the Sheriff is exceedingly creepy.
some timid wind
The line between love and hate is so easily blurred. Nottinghamshire has long treaded with a foot on either side, never sure and hardly caring which emotion happens to own the hour.
England hangs from a noose and its people neither cry nor cheer. They have grown used to the sight of hooded faces, of legs that twitch and kick, of shoulders that disconnect in the struggle to be free. England chokes without a sound, and its people merely watch her swing.
The problem, of course, is that the Sheriff wouldn't know fondness if it held an arrow to his head. He hasn't been liked since he was eight and it suits him fine; he loves nothing more than the terror and shattered silences, the sound of a soldier trembling beneath his armor, the slice of an arrow as it pierces skin. He enjoys being to only one unaffected by death; it raised him above the petty peasants and nobles, above the pathetic Gisbourne and bleeding-hearted Marian.
There is distinct and certain pleasure in watching pain, in feeling its ghostly touch flutter through his own limbs—not a bite or burrow, simple a wispy breath that might have been compassion in another life, in another man.
And it is for this reason that he is drawn to Robin of Locksley, Robin of Huntington, Robin of the King's Guard, Robin of the Wood, Robin of the People. He becomes obsessed with the People's Champion. With his pain.
To clarify, it is not physical pain the Sheriff enjoys in context of Robin. Something in him repulses such agony. Robin's skin was not meant for piercing or cutting or breaking or burning. It is mind, his heart that consumes Vassey, the unspoken torment that drives the outlaw's consciousness.
How many men has he killed? How many merciless bodies have fallen by the force of his bow or his sword?
He could dispose of him so easily.
Dogs, fire, bait. These things draw Robin like silver attract peasants, and he could be crushed like a caged bird who refuses to sing.
These were the ways he planned for Robin to die: weak and coughing, bloody and weary and helpless.
He wakes just once to Robin's face on his, mouth so close the Sheriff can feel and taste his breath, whispering across his lips and sliding along his cheeks. Robin's eyes are fierce and bright and burning, such hatred glowing in them that the Sheriff cannot look away. He has not seen such emotion, never had the pleasure of watching such fury. And he cannot extinguish it, cannot bear to think of a Nottingham without that passion and ferocity.
He torments the peasants to draw the hero, traps him and tricks him and captures him so get but a few more moments with those eyes and that mouth, that face that reads such unadulterated revulsion. It fills him, sending tense shivers up his spine and through his whole body, dragging him closer and closer until he can feel again that breath, can almost taste the sweat and blood and rage.
The Sheriff dreams and wakes up hot, an image of Robin's smug grin and narrowed eyes burning in his mind.
But surely, in the end, it is only an addiction.
Sometimes Guy thinks that he fell for Marian because of her fire, of that burning purity that warms whatever room she walks into. She is incapable of evil, and she will cleanse him if he lets her. Marian is loved and that adoration will surely spill onto him if he stands close enough.
Sometimes Guy thinks that he fell for Robin because he is cleansed even when standing hundreds of feet away.
It is a sin he is not proud of. But one does not stand in the shadow of such ferocity and not be drawn into its heat. He was impressed, in the Holy Lands, and oddly aroused by the bleeding soldier who defeated him even while dying. He convinces himself that it is fury in his blood as that same soldier declares I am Robin, Earl of Huntington and not dark attraction.
The words were smug and angry, and instantly Guy remembers the other noble boys of his youth, the ones that used to mock and bow to him from their carriages and steeds. Sir Guy of Gisbourne, they would laugh, might I have directions to your estate?
And yet this does not anger him; instead he understands that Robin can erase them, can—with a single nod—create in Guy the sort of legitimacy he craves.
He steals his life when he realizes he can not steal the man himself.
He takes Locksley, he takes the title of Earl, and he takes Marian because these are things that Robin has touched, has loved, has lived in. He is not lying when he says that he will think of Robin in the marriage-bed.
He chooses not to clarify just what he will be thinking.
She finds a balance, while Robin is away, between being a woman and being free. She grows almost fond of her double-life—she enjoys being pampered and wooed during the day and lashing out at night. Marian has never pretended not to enjoy dresses and jewelry, but she does wish they didn't label her so solidly.
And then he returns, and her whole system is demolished in a single instant.
With every word spoken he drags her further and further into the past—kicking and screaming, she watches as her life as the Nightwatchman fades and fades away, as her composure and cool exterior start to fall away and mix in with common dirt.
He helps the people more than she does, and this fact infuriates her, picking at scabs and blowing salt onto the wounds. She is shaped, in part, by him—she became the Nightwatchman to help, yes, but also to prove herself, to prove that she could do just as much good as he, thousands of miles away.
Robin wears most of himself on his sleeve—his anger, his disgust, his righteousness, his humor. And yet his hurt, his sadness, his fear . . . these things are left to be deciphered. She has always been the one who could see them clearly, could take one look at his smiling face and understand that he is tortured beneath. It has always fallen to her to see these things and solve them.
Five years as a vigilante, and as soon as he steps foot on English soil the world shoves her back into the position of nursemaid, holding a cloth to his nose and listening to his words when others merely scold.
She hates that it is a job she must do, because without her she knows he could not succeed. She hates that when he is tired and rundown and still smiling, she is the only one who thinks to pull him aside and force him to speak. She hates that he still trusts her, after all these years, trusts her without thought or hesitation. She hates that he looks at her sometimes like she is the only thing he can see, like she is the only reason he doesn't get on a horse ride until the forest swallows him.
She hates that when he looks at her this way, even after all those years of absence, she can't help but look back.
The line between love and hate is so easily blurred. But we walk it anyway, teetering with every step, waiting for some timid wind to knock us in a certain direction.
Who can say which way we will fall?