Title: And Then There Were Seven
Pairings: Will/Djaq, Robin/Marian, Much/Eve (mentioned)
Notes: Marian lives with the outlaws in my story simply because it suits my purposes for this story. Additionally, the outlaws know that Djaq has the recipe for Greek Fire. Artistic license and all that. Huge thanks to Avictoriangirl for the incredibly inspiring signature she created!
Disclaimers: I own no one and nothing Robin Hood. This is simply what happens when I get stopped in District traffic for over an hour and have to entertain myself. My first Robin Hood fic so I hope I did the characters justice.
And Then There Were Seven
The Outlaws and Marian were on their way back from a trip into Locksley where they had distributed recently acquired money and food to the peasants. Djaq had also taken the opportunity to stock up on medical supplies while Much and the others carried food and various other supplies for their camp.
Much and Alan led the way, Alan chattering a mile a minute as he told Much and Little John a story about a girl he and his brother Tom had known when they were growing up. "Gorgeous, she was," Alan sighed. "And madly in love with me, too." Much, who was thinking about what he was going to prepare for dinner that night, managed pleasant or noncommittal responses when they seemed necessary even though he wasn't certain Alan would notice if he answered or not. Little John made no attempt to join in the conversation, walking silently alongside the other two men.
Will and Djaq walked a few paces behind them in companionable silence, each stealing furtive glances at each other when they thought the other was not looking. They were walking so close to each other that Will's swinging hand brushed against Djaq's, causing a pleasant tingle to run down his spine. Djaq looked up and caught his gaze and as he smiled shyly down at her he could have sworn he saw the faintest hint of a blush on her cheeks before she turned her head away again.
Robin and Marian were bringing up the rear of the group, alternating between teasing and minor arguments. "You know that a part of the reason you do it is because you want them to love you," Marian told Robin with a smile. "You'd give them every last penny you had just to see the smiles on their faces."
"And you wouldn't, Nightwatchman?" Robin teased back. "Face it, Marian. You are just jealous because the townspeople know that it is me when I help them since I don't have to hide behind a mask."
Marian's retort was cut off when Alan shouted from the front of the group. "I'm not being funny or anything, but does anyone else think it looks like it's gonna rain?"
The words were no sooner out of his mouth than the skies opened above them and the rain came pouring down. "Robin, we have to find somewhere to wait this out," Djaq called back to him. "Our supplies will be ruined before we can make it back to camp."
In an effort to prevent anyone tracking them back to the camp, the outlaws had devised several different routes back through the woods from town. Unfortunately, this meant that the path they were currently on was through relatively unfamiliar forest territory and no one in the gang was entirely certain where to find shelter from the storm.
"What about there?" Marian cried out suddenly over the crashing rain. "Up there on the right behind that tree."
Robin looked in the direction Marian was pointing, squinting against the heavy downpour. He could just make out the mouth of a cave partially obscured by a large tree and he gave Marian's hand a quick squeeze. "Good work. Gang, this way," he called, taking off at a quick trot, the rest of the group following closely behind.
Once inside, Djaq set down her pack and took a quick inventory of her supplies to make sure that nothing had been ruined by the sudden downpour. "Everything all right?" Marian asked as she wrung the water from her hair.
Djaq nodded. "It would seem you found us shelter just in time," she told the other woman with a smile.
"Well I for one had hoped we were done spending time in caves," Much grumbled under his breath. "Dark, dirty, full of creatures that-" His words were cut off as he caught his foot on a loose stone on the cave floor. He yelped as he tripped, grasping at the cave wall for support.
"Much, are you all right?" Robin asked his friend, moving to his side.
"I'm fine," Much said, shaking off Robin's offered hand as he straightened up, embarrassed by his clumsiness. As he rose back to his full height, something caught his eye. When he had grabbed at the cave wall for support, he had knocked a stone from the wall. Now through the small opening, Much could see a small object stuck in the wall. "What on earth?" He gingerly reached into the hole and pulled out a medium sized wooden box.
"Have you found something?" Marian asked, joining Robin and Much.
"Yes, but it's difficult to see," Much responded. He moved closer to the cave entrance in order to see the box more clearly in the light coming from outside.
The other outlaws crowded around him as he pried the box's lid open. "What is it?" Alan asked.
"Money," Robin responded with a grin, reaching into the box and pulling out several gold coins.
"But who would just leave something like this in a cave?" Marian asked, leaning over Robin to run her fingers along the box's edge.
Little John shook his head. "This I do not like," he said gruffly, closing the box's lid. "We don't know where it could have come from or who it belongs to."
"Well it belongs to us now, doesn't it?" Alan grinned. "I don't see anyone's name on it or anything."
"May I see the box?" Will asked. Djaq took it from Much and handed it to him. "It's beautiful," Will said, examining the box closely. "I've never seen anything like it. I don't know of anyone around here who could have created a box like this."
"Oi, let me see that a second," Alan said in an authoritative tone.
Will handed him the box and the other outlaws watched in interest as Alan sifted through the coins in the box. "Do you recognize it?" Djaq finally asked.
Alan looked up at them and grinned. "No. But the rest of you got to see it, I didn't want to be left out."
Much rolled his eyes. "Brilliant."
"Well, we'll bring it back to camp and add it to the collection for the poor," Robin said, closing the lid and sticking the box in the bag that hung from Much's shoulder. "Every little bit helps," he added, patting Much affectionately on the shoulder.
"Yes, well, now if the rain would only stop, we could get all of these things back to camp and have some dinner," Much responded.
Little John gestured to the mouth of the cave with his staff. "I said, it's stopped. The rain."
"Good," Alan said, walking toward the entrance. "Let's get back to camp already then. I'm starving."SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1 The outlaws gathered up their supplies and followed Alan out of the cave, all of them eager to finally get home.
"So what are we eating this time, Much? Still doing your part to keep the squirrel population down?" Alan teased as the dinner plates were filled and passed around.
"It's lamb stew," Much huffed. "Not squirrel. Thornton saved it just for me. Though I don't know why I waste good meat on you lot."
"I'm sure it's grand, Much," Robin said with a smile. "Don't pay any attention to him."
"Like I would listen to Alan. But I still don't want to hear a word about it," Much snapped. "Someone else can cook next time if they think they can do so much better."
"Well, I know I could," Little John muttered. Everyone stopped and stared. All were surprised by the normally quiet man's response, but it seemed none more so than John himself.
"What?" Much said testily.
Little John shrugged, shook his head, and returned to his dinner, still confused by his own words.
Djaq reached up to take her plate from Will and paused, startled. She closed her eyes a moment before looking up at Will again. "Are you all right?" he asked quietly, concern evident in his eyes.
Djaq gave him a small smile. "I am fine. Just a little, um, tired." He nodded as he sat down next to her and began eating. You imagined it, Djaq thought to herself, shooting a sidelong glance at Will. You know him better than that. She shook her head at her own foolishness. Surely it had been a trick of light or something. Still, she could have sworn to herself that when she had first met Will's gaze, the expression in those beautiful green eyes as he had looked at her had been one of raw, animal desire.
Seated on the opposite side of the fire, Robin turned the little wooden box over in his hands. He had taken it out of Much's pack soon after they had returned to camp and had been examining it ever since. "Any ideas on where it could have come from?" Marian asked quietly from her place on Robin's left.
Robin shook his head. "But wherever it came from, it will be going to a good cause now." He grinned. "Not a bad day's work overall, don't you think?"
Marian smiled in response. "Not bad for a band of outlaws," she teased. "However, the Nightwatchman-"
Robin cut her off with a quick kiss to her nose. "Would have done just as well. She just would have looked prettier doing it." Marian wrinkled her nose in response before resting her head gently against Robin's shoulder and closing her eyes with a contented sigh.
For a short while, the camp was quiet while the rest of the gang finished up their dinner. After a few moments, Djaq spoke up, breaking the silence. "Is there any more of that stew left, Much?" she asked. The others looked at the small woman in surprise. "What?" she asked self-consciously. "I'm hungry. It was a long walk to Locksley and back."
"You're not wrong about that," Alan said as he rose to his feet. "Here, you can have the rest of mine. I'm knackered." He passed his plate of stew off to Djaq before climbing into his bunk and almost instantly falling asleep.
"That's rude," Marian spoke up. "What if other people were still hungry, too?"
Djaq looked over at Marian. "Would you like some? There's plenty here, I can't imagine I'm going to be able to eat it all."
Marian shook her head, looking puzzled by her own outburst. "I, no, I just-" She stood. "It's been a long day. Perhaps Alan had the right idea."
"Bed it is," Robin said as he rose to his feet as well. "Much, wake me when it's my turn for watch, please."
"Robin?" Djaq called as he and Marian walked toward their bunk. "Shouldn't that go in the poor chest?"
Robin stopped and looked down at the box in his hands. "Of course," he said with a sheepish smile. "Just, um, just bringing it there now." Robin stored the box with the rest of the gang's collection of valuables before retiring to the bunk he and Marian shared.
Little John silently handed his empty plate back to Much for morning washing and walked over to his bunk. A nagging voice in the back of his mind was telling him that something was not right in the camp but he couldn't quite put his finger on exactly what was worrying him. Each of the outlaws seemed a bit out of sorts to him. Much had been rather crabby since they had all returned to camp and even Robin seemed a bit off. Of course, that probably had more to do with Marian's presence than anything else, he reasoned.
He turned his gaze to Will and Djaq as they made their way to their own beds and watched as the young man shyly bid the Saracen woman goodnight. Djaq laid a hand on Will's arm briefly and John smiled at the blush he could see rising on both of their cheeks even in the dim light of the fire. Young love, he thought to himself as Will boosted himself into the bunk above Djaq's. Now if those two could only get their act together enough to tell the other. He paused a moment in his thoughts. Not that I am one to talk of brave deeds when it comes to women. He recalled his own shyness when he had begun courting Alice all those years ago and his expression turned wistful a moment. If it hadn't been for Alice's patience and her not so subtle hints, he knew he would probably still be trying to work up the nerve to ask her to marry him. He shook his head fondly, choosing to stop that line of thought before his thoughts could become too maudlin and instead glanced back over at Will and Djaq in their respective bunks. Those two would find their way eventually. He was sure of it.
And their behavior is perfectly normal for them, he thought as he settled more comfortably into his bunk. Everything was fine. Without any present threat from the Sheriff, he was now probably starting to imagine trouble where there was none, he reflected. It had been a long day, after all. He sighed softly. The best thing to do right now was to get some sleep. He was sure everything would feel right again in the morning.
The next morning, Little John was one of the first to wake and was finishing his breakfast by the time the others began to rise. "I'm going to go patrol," he announced, putting his empty breakfast plate aside.
"Isn't it Alan's turn to do that?" Will asked, glancing over at Alan who was still curled up in his bunk.
"I'll take care of it," Little John replied. "Don't get up, Alan."
"Wasn't going to," Alan mumbled from beneath his blanket.
As Little John walked off into the forest, Will could have sworn he heard him muttering under his breath, "If you want something done right, you had better do it yourself."
"Why doesn't Alan have to get up?" Marian complained as John walked away. "The rest of us are up."
"'Cause I'm tired," Alan offered.
"And you don't think the rest of us are?" Much retorted. "But no, of course you wouldn't think of the rest of us. Selfish little – Djaq! What do you think you're doing? You can't have all of that for breakfast. There won't be enough for everyone else!"
"But I'm hungry," Djaq replied. "And you didn't give me enough to start with. I need more."
"Well, that's too bad," Much shot back. "Everyone gets an equal amount. You'll have to get someone else to share with you if you want more."
"You can't have mine," Robin said, shoving past the other outlaws to get to his breakfast. "It's mine and I'm starving." He snatched his plate from the table and quickly moved away from the rest of the outlaws as he began shoveling food into his mouth.
"I'm pretty hungry," Will said, letting his gaze sweep slowly up and down Djaq's body. "But I never mind sharing with you."
Djaq flushed under the heat of his gaze but was saved from having to respond when Alan called out to the rest of the camp. "Anyone want to bring my breakfast over here?" he asked, never opening his eyes. "I'm really quite comfortable at the moment."
"No," Much snapped. "If you don't get up and come get it, then you don't get breakfast."
Alan shrugged. "All right, then. Djaq, guess you can have mine," he mumbled, as he rolled over to face the wall.
With a triumphant look at Much, Djaq added more food to her plate before walking over to sit by the fire. Moments later, Will joined her. "Are you cold?" he asked her softly.
"A little," Djaq mumbled around a mouthful of food.
Will took his cloak and wrapped it around both of their shoulders, pulling their bodies so close together that Djaq was almost sitting in his lap. "Better?" he asked huskily, dropping a hand to rest on her thigh. Djaq looked up at him as he began to rub her thigh gently and he smiled suggestively at her. She smiled back briefly, enjoying the warm sensation flooding through her, before returning her attention to the food in front of her.
Marian sat down next to Robin with her breakfast. "Robin, would you mind giving me some of your cloak?" she asked, shivering a bit in the cool of the early morning.
Marian stared at him, her mouth dropping open slightly. "What?"
"No," he repeated. "I am not giving you my cloak."
"But I'm cold," she protested.
Robin shrugged. "You have your own cloak. Why don't you use it?"
"But it's over there. Why can't you just share yours with me while we eat?" Marian asked.
"Because this one is mine and I'm using it. All of it."
"But Will is sharing his with Djaq. She's so lucky that he cares. I want yours. Why won't you share with me?" Marian asked plaintively as she began tugging on Robin's cloak.
"Stop whining," Much barked at Marian. "You sound like a child."
"But I'm cold," Marian repeated. "And Robin won't share."
Any further conversation was cut off as Little John hurried back into camp. "There's a large carriage on the North Road," he told the others.
Robin jumped to his feet, grabbing his bow and sword as he did so. "Right, gang, you know what to do. Let's go relieve these travelers of their burden."
"Do we have to?" Alan whined. "Couldn't I just stay here and, you know, protect the camp?"
"No," Marian said crossly. "If the rest of us have to go, you do, too. Now get up."
Grumbling to himself, Alan slowly dragged himself from his bunk. After stopping to stretch for a few moments, he eventually picked up his bow and trudged after the rest of the gang.
By the time Alan caught up to them, the outlaws had the carriage's guards and driver disarmed. The noble who had been riding inside now stood on the road before the outlaws looking terrified.
"So here's how it works," Robin began.
"Can't we just skip this whole thing?" Alan complained. "Look, long story short. Starving poor people, they need your money, you give us ten percent of what you have."
Robin looked back to the nobles. "My friend has gotten most of it right," he told them.
Much scowled at Alan. "Trust you to stuff it up," he said scathingly.
"We are here to take money and valuables from you," Robin continued. "However, we want it all, everything that you have."
The others looked at Robin in varying degrees of surprise. "But Robin," Little John began. "That's not what we-"
"All of it. Now," Robin commanded, raising his bow once again.
The noble nodded nervously, holding his hands up. "I have a purse and some valuables," he told them, never taking his eyes off of Robin's bow as the other outlaws approached him and the carriage.
"What else?" Much demanded as he took the offered purse and rings from the man. "Any other money or valuables in there?"
The man nodded. "There's a trunk inside with some things in it. Please don't kill me," he whimpered.
"Please don't kill me," Much mocked. "Why don't you just shut up? Whiny nobles," he grumbled to himself as he made his way back to Robin's side.
Will slipped into the carriage and passed a medium sized trunk out to John while Marian and Djaq held the guards at bay. Together, the two men carried the chest back to where the others waited as Robin bowed to the noble. "A pleasure doing business with you, sir. Gang, let's go." With a last look at the guards, the outlaws turned and made their way back through the forest to the camp.
When they returned to camp, John and Will placed the chest in the middle of the camp. Much added the purse and jewelry to the collection as they all gathered together.
"So I guess this means tomorrow we'll be heading to another village to give this stuff out," Alan said with a yawn.
"And why would we do that?" Robin asked, looking at the bounty.
"Well, I'm not being funny or anything, but that's what we do, right?" Alan responded.
"No need to be hasty," Robin replied. "Let's take a little time and enjoy this. Maybe go through it ourselves first, see what's here." He opened the trunk and the others moved closer to see what was inside.
"Ah, very nice," he said as he pulled an intricately designed silver goblet from the case. "And plenty more where that came from. Not a bad day's work. Looks like we're rich, gang."
"What about the poor?" Marian asked. "Don't you mean they're rich?" Robin ignored her as he continued digging through the contents of the chest.
"This is quite lovely," Djaq said, pulling a fur-lined cloak from the box.
Without a word, Will took it from her and draped it around her, allowing his hands to linger on her shoulders a moment before running them lightly down her arms. Djaq smiled blissfully at the luxurious feelings of the fur and Will's gentle hands and leaned back against Will as he continued to run his hands along her arms and back.
"Why does she get to have that?" Marian pouted. "I want something pretty."
"She doesn't get to keep it, Marian," Robin assured her. "Djaq, put it back."
"But it feels so nice," Djaq replied, pulling the cloak more tightly around her. "We never have things this nice out here."
"Djaq, give it to me. Now," Robin commanded, holding out his hand.
Will took the cloak from Djaq and tossed it to Robin while the Saracen woman frowned at their leader. "Don't worry," Will whispered in her ear. "I'll make it up to you. You don't need it anyway. Too much clothing just gets in the way."
Djaq looked up at him, surprised at the words coming from the normally quiet young man's mouth and slightly unnerved by the positively lascivious look in his eyes. "Um, I think I'm just going to take a walk," she said.
"I could come with you," Will told her, his eyes telling her that a walk was not all that was on his mind.
"No, that's okay," Djaq said, edging away from the carpenter. "I'm just going to find some food, maybe some berries or something to eat. I will be back later." She nodded to the others as she quickly left the camp leaving Will staring hungrily after her.
Alan, meanwhile, made his way over to his bunk. "Just gonna catch a quick one," he mumbled as he stretched out on his bed. "Exciting morning and all that."
"It's not like you did anything anyway," Much grumbled. "Djaq was right, I need some time away from all of you as well."
"Do you know when you'll be back?" Marian asked.
"When I feel like it," Much snapped, picking up his sword and shield.
"Well I hope it's before dinner," she replied, unfazed by his tone. "I don't want to get stuck making it if you're not here. It's very unfair - they always seem to turn to me to take care of them if you're not here." Much glared at her before walking out of the camp in a huff.
Little John looked around the camp and shook his head in annoyance. "It's like a pigsty in here," he muttered. "Robin, we are out of meat. You, Marian, and Will need to go hunting."
"But, John," Robin began.
John cut him off. "No buts. And I need you all to not be underfoot while I clean up the mess you have all made of our home."
"But what about the money?" Robin asked. "I can't just leave it here. What if something happens to it? I worked hard for it, I don't want to lose it."
Little John took a deep breath and exhaled slowly before answering. "Robin, put the chest with the rest of the money. I am here and nothing will happen to it while I am around, all right? Now, we need food, so you three need to go hunting. I would do it myself but someone has to clean up this place and we all know I am the best one for the job. Best one for the hunting, too, of course," he added, "but even I can't be in two places at once. At least with three of you, you should be able to handle what I could do on my own."
"What about Alan? Why doesn't he have to come?" Marian asked grumpily.
John gestured to Alan, sound asleep in his bunk. "Do you really think Alan would be any kind of a help right now? He'll only slow you down or scare away dinner with the way he's been acting. You're far better off going just the three of you."
Marian scowled but said nothing, knowing John was probably right. She and Will gathered up their weapons while they waited for Robin to store the chest with the rest of their valuables. They had offered their help but he had insisted upon doing it himself. When Robin had finally finished, John handed him his bow and then shooed the other outlaws out of the camp. "This lot can't get anything done on their own," he sighed to himself. "They're very lucky I'm here."
By early evening, a sense of calm seemed to have settled over the gang once more. Little John was quite pleased with the job he had done cleaning up the camp and Djaq had managed to find a rather large selection of berry bushes while on her walk. Some of the berries had even made it back to camp to be added to the group's dinner. Will, Marian, and Robin had managed to catch four rabbits while out hunting and Much, who seemed to be in a better mood than he had been that morning, was currently preparing the animals for dinner.
Will was barely paying attention to his surroundings as he walked back from washing up at the river, his thoughts on a certain small dark-haired woman back at camp. As he reached the clearing before the camp, he heard the sound of footsteps and paused. "Djaq?" he called hopefully.
Marian stepped into the clearing. "Only me," she said with a smile. Her smile disappeared, however, as she saw Will's disappointed expression. "You know, Will," Marian said, "Djaq is not the only woman in camp. Don't you find me attractive at all?"
"Of course I do, milady," Will replied.
"Marian. Of course you are attractive," Will told her, reaching out to cup her face in his hand.
"Well why don't you tell me that, then, instead of spending all of your time focused so intently on Djaq? I mean, sure she's exotic and everything," she continued, reaching her hand up to cover Will's, "but aren't I prettier?"
Will chose not to answer that, instead whispering to her, "We're all alone out here, Marian." He leaned his head down toward hers but, unfortunately for him, it was at that moment that Robin appeared at the edge of the clearing.
Robin froze a moment, disbelief filling him upon seeing the woman he loved in the arms of one of his men. Then he saw red. He charged over and shoved Will, pushing him with such force that the younger man fell to the ground. "Keep your hands off of her! She is mine and mine alone!" He grabbed Marian's arm and pulled her close to him. "My Marian," he said, pressing a passionate kiss to her lips.
When they separated Marian looked breathless but also quite pleased by the sudden turn of events. Robin gripped her hand and turned away from Will who still sat on the ground. "And it's time for dinner," Robin bit back over his shoulder as he hurried back to camp with Marian in tow.
There was an uneasy silence in camp as the outlaws gathered around the fire for dinner. Robin was glued to Marian's side for the entirety of the meal, repeatedly shooting Will nasty looks as he kept a possessive arm wrapped around his love's waist. Tension once again seemed to rise from Much in waves as he looked ready to start a fight with anyone who looked at him cross eyed. Djaq shoved food into her mouth as if she hadn't eaten in months and Alan was barely able to keep his eyes open.
"Is there any more left, Much?" Djaq asked as she ran her finger around the edge of her plate.
Much shook his head. "I think you finished it up on your second enormous helping," he replied irritably. "I don't think I've ever seen anyone eat so much in one sitting – not even someone several times your size."
Djaq shrugged as she licked her fingers. "I must have just worked up a healthy appetite on my walk today." She turned to Robin with a smile. "Robin, surely you wouldn't mind if I stole some of your berries," she said, reaching a hand toward his plate.
Robin slapped her hand away. "Those are mine," he said, pulling his plate out of her reach. "And you can't have them. Some of us haven't eaten as much as you have."
Djaq shrugged and looked to Alan. "Alan," she said sweetly. "Are you going to finish that?" There was no answer and Djaq called his name again. "Alan?" She leaned over and shook his shoulder.
Alan opened his eyes and looked at Djaq. "What's going on?" he asked drowsily.
"I asked if you were going to finish that," Djaq repeated, pointing at Alan's nearly full plate.
"What? Oh, no, I'm done," Alan said. "In fact, I think I'm just gonna go to bed. Today really took a lot out of me. Goodnight, all." He dragged himself to his bunk and collapsed, his soft snores letting the gang know he was asleep almost instantly.
Djaq quickly finished what was on Alan's plate and then looked around at the others' plates. "There's no more to eat?" she asked in disappointment. "I'm still hungry."
"Too bad," Much told her. "There's no more left and that's your own fault."
"But there has to be more food," Djaq protested. "I'll starve if I don't have more!"
"That is all of the food that is available for dinner," Much told her shortly. "There will be no more until the morning so you can just stop your complaining right now."
Still hungry, but finally accepting the fact that she wasn't going to be getting any more to eat that night, Djaq sulkily climbed into her bunk and was soon sound asleep.
She was awakened some time later by the feel of something warm pressing against her side. She opened her eyes and blinked a few times to clear them from sleep before focusing on the face of Will Scarlett above her. He had apparently grown tired of his own bunk and decided to climb into hers. The fact that the bunks were really not designed for two people and caused their bodies to be pressed flush against each other didn't seem to bother Will in the slightest.
He smiled slowly. "I was beginning to think you'd never wake up," he murmured, gently running his thumb down the curve of her jawline.
Djaq shivered as she leaned into his touch. "Will," she breathed, reveling in the feeling of his fingers on her bare skin. She wove her hands through his dark hair and pulled him closer even as he dipped his head down toward her. Their bodies were pressed tightly against each other's but it still wasn't close enough for Djaq. She dug her nails into his arms as she clung to him, wanting more, desperately needing him to be closer. Their lips were millimeters apart and Djaq closed her eyes in anticipation, waiting to feel Will's mouth on hers.
The next thing she knew, there was a thump followed by a muffled curse and Djaq was alone in her bunk once more. Her eyes shot open in surprise and she saw Little John standing before her with a very disgruntled looking Will sitting at his feet.
"You, stay there," John said, pointing at Djaq in her bunk. "You." He pointed at Will and then gestured to his own bunk across the camp. "Over there."
"But John-" They both began to protest.
"No. Not another word. To bed with both of you. Now." He shook his head as he watched Will morosely make his way over to John's bunk. "It'd be like Sodom and Gomorrah without me here. Just fall into ruin if I weren't around to keep them in line," he grumbled. He settled himself on the ground between the two bunks as a precaution, determined to keep an eye on all of the outlaws for the rest of the night. "I hope they all realize just how lucky they are to have me here."
Only moments later, Little John became aware of a new disturbance, this time involving Marian and Robin.
"Robin, you've taken all of the blanket," Marian complained.
"So?" Robin mumbled, half asleep.
"So, you're supposed to share it with me."
Robin shook his head. "No. This is my blanket. You'll have to get your own."
"No." He snatched the edge of the blanket from Marian's fingers and tucked it under his body. "Go find your own."
"Quiet!" Much demanded.
Robin chose that moment to stretch out across the bed, knocking Marian to the floor where she landed with a thump. She rose to her feet quickly and stood glaring at Robin, hands on her hips. "Robin, I want that blanket," she told him fiercely. "It's the best blanket and it's not fair that you have it. I want it."
"No." Robin shook his head again like a small child. "Mine."
"I said QUIET!" Much thundered.
Little John rose to his feet and walked to Marian's side. "Come here, Marian," he said, gently leading her away from Robin's bunk. "You can have Will's bunk and his blanket, all right?"
Marian climbed up into Will's bunk and glared down at Robin. "But Robin has the best blanket," she whined. "I want it."
"Marian, listen to me," Little John said. "I know what is best and I am telling you to go to sleep. Now." The tone of his voice brooked no room for argument and with a dramatic sigh Marian rolled over on her side and closed her eyes, soon falling back to sleep and leaving the camp quiet once more.
The next morning, Little John was again one of the first ones to wake and he sat staring at the others thoughtfully as he ate his breakfast. Something is very wrong here," he thought to himself. And since the others are clearly incapable of doing so, it looks like I'm going to have to figure it out and save them once again. He shook his head. "They'd be lost without me," he muttered as the other outlaws began to wake up.
Will rose from John's bed and grabbed his plate from the kitchen area as he made his way to Djaq's side. "How are you this morning?" he asked her quietly as he sat down next to her. She merely shrugged as she finished up her breakfast. "Perhaps later we'll be able to finish what we started last night. I know I was certainly enjoying myself before we were interrupted."
"Yes, that was nice," Djaq agreed absently. "Are you going to finish your breakfast?"
Without a word, Will picked up the berries from his plate and began feeding them to Djaq one at a time.
Marian glared at Robin from where she still sat on Will's bed. "He won't share," she muttered darkly. She shifted her gaze to where Will and Djaq sat together and her eyes narrowed further at the sight of the young carpenter hand feeding Djaq the berries from his plate. "He says he loves me, but he doesn't even pay any attention to me."
She climbed out of bed and made her way over to where Robin sat eating his breakfast. "Robin," she said sweetly. "Would you mind sharing some of your breakfast with me?"
"Marian, there's a plate for you over there," Robin told her. "Go and eat your own breakfast."
"Look at Will and Djaq," Marian pouted to Robin. "Will's so kind and sensitive and he takes care of Djaq. Why does she get to have so much? It's not fair."
"Marian, I don't care what they do," Robin said. "The point is, this is my breakfast and I am going to eat it. You can't have any. Go and get your own plate."
Meanwhile, Much was sitting by himself near the kitchen area mumbling to himself. "The sheriff's fault," he muttered. "And Gisborne. If not for them, I would have my lodge at Bonchurch. I would be sleeping in a soft bed every night instead of in this miserable forest." His voice rose as his rant continued. "There would be servants preparing my meals and my baths. I would be with my Eve instead of you insufferable lot." His eyes glinted dangerously. "It's all their fault, everything. But I'll make them pay. I'll make them sorry they ever thought they could do this to me." He jumped to his feet, brandishing his sword. "I'll make them pay!" he roared.
Much managed to take three steps in the general direction of Nottingham before Little John's staff connected with the back of his head and he collapsed to the ground unconscious.
Little John looked up from Much's prone body to stare at the other outlaws. "What on earth is wrong with all of you?" he asked them in exasperation.
"What do you mean, wrong?" Marian asked.
"What do I mean? How about the fact that Will can't keep his hands to himself, Djaq is eating enough to feed a small village, and Much is unusually touchy even for him. Marian, you're whining like a child whenever things don't go your way," John continued, "and Alan can barely be bothered to move from his bed for any reason. Even Robin seems to have forgotten that after we steal from the rich, we are supposed to give to the poor, not keep the money for ourselves."
Little John looked up to find the other outlaws staring at him. "What?"
"Not being funny or anything, but when did you become so chatty?" Alan mumbled as he stretched languidly on his bunk.
"Do none of you really see that something is wrong here?" John asked incredulously. The outlaws who were still conscious looked back at him blankly and John sighed. "No, of course you don't. Of course I am the only who sees that there is a problem."
Alan shrugged. "So what? So Will's finally got the guts to show Djaq how he feels about her. So Robin wants to keep some of the money we got from robbing those gents. Not like that's a crime or anything." He paused a moment to consider his own words. "Well, maybe it is, but that's not the point."
Little John shook his head. "Not a crime," he mused aloud. "A sin."
"What was that?" Will asked, pulling his eyes away from Djaq to look at the older man curiously.
"A sin," John repeated. "Like the seven deadly sins in the Bible," he finished slowly. "Of course. It all makes sense now. Well, it does to me, anyway."
"John, what are you talking about?" Marian asked. "There's nothing wrong with us. Well, except for the fact that Robin is refusing to share, even with me."
"You have your own blanket and cloak," Robin began. "And your own breakfast plate."
John put his hand up for silence. "This is what I am talking about. Each of you is infected with a sin. Alan, your sin is sloth. Marian, envy. Much-" He nudged the man at his feet. "Wrath. Djaq, gluttony. Will, lust. And Robin, greed. You see, you all have one."
"Yeah, then how come you don't have one of 'em?" Alan asked.
"Well, obviously I'm immune," Little John said. "I'm clearly stronger than the rest of you."
Robin snorted. "Yeah, that must be it." John gave him a warning look. "Fine, then. If what you say is true, then just what do you propose we do about it?"
John thought for a few moments before he spoke. "Djaq, you have the recipe for Greek Fire. Do you think you could mix some up immediately?"
"I have never tried before," Djaq answered. "But the recipe is not complicated. I should be able to create it fairly quickly."
"All right, get started on that right away, then," John told her. Djaq nodded and headed off to collect the supplies she would need for the black powder.
"What is the plan?" Robin asked.
"We're going to take this box and put it back where we found it. Then we're going to make sure that no one finds it again."
Robin frowned. "We're keeping the money, though, right?"
"No, Robin," John said patiently. "I believe both the box and its contents are cursed with the sins. We have to get rid of all of it."
Robin folded his arms across his chest. "Such a waste," he grumbled, glaring at Little John.
John took a deep breath. "Lord, give me strength," he muttered.
"So we're all going back to the cave?" Marian questioned.
"Do we have to?" Alan groaned from his bed.
"No," John replied. "We are splitting up. Djaq, Robin, Marian and I will take this box back and seal the cave. Will, Alan, and Much will stay here."
Will frowned. "Can't I come, too?" he asked. "Alan's here, he and Much can look after each other."
"Do you really think sloth is going to be any help if Much wakes up and tries to run off to Nottingham to go after the Sheriff and Gisborne? We need you to stay here with them," John explained reasonably.
Will sighed unhappily, staring at Djaq longingly. "Can't Djaq stay, too?"
Little John rolled his eyes. "Absolutely not. Only Djaq knows how to use the Greek Fire and we need it to seal the box in the cave. She is coming with us, you are staying here, end of story," he finished firmly as Will opened his mouth to object.
A few moments later, Djaq rejoined the group. "All right, it is ready."
"Robin, Marian, are you ready?" John asked. The two nodded sullenly. "Then let's go."
He turned to Djaq whose eyes lit up as a thought suddenly crossed her mind. "There are many berry bushes on the way to that cave," she said to Little John excitedly. "Let's get started!" She fairly jogged out of the cave ahead of the others as Little John turned to Will and Alan once more.
"You two stay here and make sure Much doesn't go anywhere, all right? And you, too, Will. We'll be back before you know it." He then turned and followed Marian and Robin out of the cave, the box tucked carefully into his own pack.
"I doubt that very much," Will said mournfully as he stared dejectedly after Djaq, his head filled with thoughts of the night before and what might have been.
When the four outlaws reached the cave, Little John removed the box from his pack. "All right," he told the others. I am going to go put this box back where we first found it the other day. Since I am the only one who actually knows what he is doing, the rest of you should just stay here for the moment."
He walked into the cave, leaving the other three waiting outside. "Such a waste," Robin grumbled again, glowering at John's retreating back.
John returned a few moments later. "Okay, now that that is done, Djaq, I need you to set up the Greek Fire so that we can close off the entrance to the cave. Then, once we have gotten far enough away, Robin, I will need you to shoot several arrows in there to set the black powder on fire."
"What about me?" Marian complained. "Everybody else gets to do something. I want to do something, too."
John closed his eyes a moment, reminding himself that it was the sins making the outlaws behave the way they were.It's not her fault, it's not her fault, he repeated to himself several times before opening his eyes again. "Marian, if Djaq will show you how, then the two of you can arrange the Greek Fire in the cave, all right?"
Marian pursed her lips in annoyance at having to share her task with someone else but nodded in agreement. The two women entered the cave and, at Djaq's direction, spread the explosive out in such a way that Robin would be able to easily ignite it and permanently close the entrance to the cave.
When they had finished, Djaq and Marian joined John and Robin where they had taken shelter behind some nearby boulders. Taking careful aim, Robin sent two flaming arrows into the cave in quick succession. Seconds later, the black powder caught fire and the outlaws ducked behind the boulders as a loud explosion rocked the cave before them.
When the noise finally subsided, they raised their heads to see that the entrance to the cave had, indeed, been completely sealed off by falling rock just as Little John had planned. "There we are," John said with a smile. "Now we can head back. Everything will be fine now thanks to me."
"Are you sure, John?" Marian asked. "Because I don't know that I feel any different to the way I felt five minutes ago."
"Trust me," Little John said confidently. "By the time we get back to camp, everything will be all right again." The other three shrugged at each other before falling into step behind John and following him back to the camp.
Little John, Djaq, Robin, and Marian returned to camp just as Much was finally beginning to stir. "I just had the strangest dream," Much was mumbling. "I was so angry about everything. And everyone was behaving so strangely. And why on earth am I on the floor?"
"That was no dream, mate," Alan responded. "Unless all seven of us were having the same one."
"What's going on?" Much asked, rising to his feet. "Will someone please tell me what happened here?"
"It looks like John saved us from our sins." Robin grinned.
"Sins? What are you talking about? What is he talking about?" Much asked, turning to Marian. Marian took pity on Much and his confusion and began to explain what Little John had figured out, Robin and Alan jumping in every so often with details.
Out of the corner of her eye, Djaq saw Will slip quietly out of the camp as the others discussed the events of the past two days. She knew the young man was in all likelihood absolutely mortified by the way he had behaved while he had been infected. She held Will completely blameless for his actions in the past few days as she recognized that everyone's actions had been out of their own control. But she doubted that would make much difference to the shy, sensitive carpenter.
"There must be a logical explanation," Djaq said, returning her attention to the conversation before her.
"Yes," Much said. "Logically, we were each infected with one of the seven deadly sins."
Djaq gave Much a look of disbelief and Robin jumped in before the two could argue the point. "Whatever it was, we're all indebted to you, John, for figuring it out."
The big man ducked his head. "I got lucky," he said gruffly. "Any of you could have done the same."
"Still, we're all very grateful," Robin said. "Without you, who knows where we'd be now."
"Asleep," Alan volunteered with a grin. "Well, I would, anyway."
"And I think I probably would have turned completely into some horrible green eyed monster." Marian shuddered.
"I don't know," Robin said, taking her hand in his. "I've always thought green has rather suited you."
She made a face at him, reaching out her free hand to swat him in the shoulder. "Careful, Robin," she teased. "I know where you keep your treasure."
Robin grinned. "So do I," he said. "And I also know where it needs to go. What do you say, my love? Shall we go and visit Locksley together?"
"Together," Marian agreed with a smile, pressing a quick kiss to his lips.
"What about the rest of you? Is everyone up for a trip into town for a little emptying of the poor chest?"
"Sounds good to me," Alan said, springing to his feet.
"Me, too," Much said. "In fact, it sounds like such a wonderful idea, I believe it might even deserve some musical accompaniment."
Everyone groaned but Much only smiled good-naturedly as Robin pulled the money from the poor chest and divided it into several smaller bags. "Come on, Much," Alan said with a grin as he picked up a bag for himself and handed another to Much. "There's gotta be a song we both know."
The two men walked out of the camp together, loudly singing a popular tune as they started on their way to Locksley. "I think I may have liked them better when they were infected," Robin said with a smile. "At least then they were quieter." Little John rolled his eyes before hefting another sack onto his shoulder and following after the two men.
"Djaq, what about you?" Robin asked.
"I'm going to go find Will first. We'll catch up," she said, blushing at the knowing look Robin and Marian shared.
"Or not. It's all right," Robin told her. "We'll see you two when we get back."
Still flushed, Djaq smiled her thanks before heading out of camp in the direction opposite to the others, knowing where Will had most likely gone to be alone.
While the others had been discussing the events of the past few days, Will had sought refuge in a clearing by the river near the camp, a place he often came in order to be alone with his thoughts. It was far enough away from the camp so that one would not be disturbed by any conversation at camp and Will found the sound of the slowly flowing river very soothing.
Will was sitting on a log near the river's edge with his chin resting on his hands, his elbows propped up on his knees. He found he simply could not be around the others right now, not after the way he had acted while infected. Shame filled him as he recalled his actions, particularly those actions involving Djaq and Marian. He knew Marian and Robin had most likely already forgiven him and that Alan might tease him a little, but that still left the most important person, the person he cared about most. Djaq.
He was certain he had well and truly destroyed any possibility he might have ever had for a future with the incredible woman. He was by no means an expert when it came to women and really had never known how to go about expressing his feelings to Djaq. However, he had a pretty fair idea that the way he had behaved the last two days was not it.
He dropped his head into his hands. How was he ever even going to face her again after all of the things he'd said and done? He shuddered. He'd be lucky if she let him anywhere near her after all of that. How on earth could he expect her to ever forgive him for what he'd done? He loved her and he had lost her before he ever even had a chance, he thought miserably.
"Will?" a voice called softly.
Will simultaneously turned and sprang to his feet in one fluid motion. When he saw Djaq his face turned nearly purple with embarrassment. "Djaq. Is everything okay? I mean, how do you feel? Are you all right?"
"Well, I do not think I will be able to look at food for a few days, much less eat anything. But other than that, I am fine. How are you?"
"I'll be all right," Will said quietly, unable to meet Djaq's eyes. "I, uh, I'm really sorry about what I did. You know, before. I didn't… I mean, I wasn't… I'm sorry."
Djaq brushed off his apology. "It was not your fault, Will. No one was acting like themselves. It could have been much worse. And it wasn't all so horrible, after all," she continued. "We were very lucky. There was no real harm done."
Will perked up slightly at this. She didn't sound angry. Maybe – did he dare to hope? - she had even enjoyed his attentions a little? "Djaq, I-"
"Still, it is a good thing Little John stopped us when he did," Djaq continued with a smile.
Crestfallen, Will ducked his head. "Yeah, I guess it is," he mumbled, wishing the ground beneath him would swallow him up and put him out of his misery.
"I mean, I know I had certainly imagined sharing our first kiss under different circumstances." Will's head snapped up and he gaped at Djaq, openmouthed. Completely misreading Will's reaction, Djaq hurried to add, "I mean, that is of course-"
"Djaq." Will stepped closer to Djaq and tentatively brought his hand up to cup her cheek. Djaq raised her eyes to meet his and she caught her breath at the sight of her own feelings reflected in the young carpenter's eyes. She nodded almost imperceptibly, leaning toward him.
The kiss was, like many first kisses, a little awkward to start with. But more importantly, the kiss was one of pure feeling, of promise. It communicated long repressed feelings, told the other what neither had yet been able to put into words.
It was perfect.