Cowritten with RixxiSpooks
Morgan sniffed the flower in her hand, enjoying the light fragrance that wafted from it. The gang had been moving furiously for the past week, committing heist after heist. Every time they fled back into the woods, they had passed by a small patch of flowers. Of course, the soldiers weren't about to stop chasing them just so Morgan could pick some flowers, so she came back on her own time. It had been a relatively quiet morning, especially considering the excursions earlier in the week. Morgan heard the sound of someone running, and turned to see a panicked looking woman. The woman spotted her and immediately sought her out, sobbing heavily as she glanced around. She was carrying a large basket in her arms, collapsing, Morgan assumed, under its weight as she neared the young outlaw.
"Please," the woman pleaded, out of breath. "Please, watch over and protect." The woman's thick accent drew attention to the fact that she was a Saracen, which Morgan had overlooked before in her consternation. The woman placed the basket at Morgan's feet, lying out on the ground as soon as the task had been completed. Morgan knelt by the Saracen woman, holding her up.
"Hey, hang in there!" Morgan muttered. "I know a doctor. She can help you!" The Saracen woman shook her head, weakly pointing at the basket.
"Watch over and protect," she gasped again. "Promise." Morgan nodded quickly.
"I promise. Now, please, hang in there," she repeated. The woman took a few more shuddering breaths, and then her eyes grew dim. Morgan sat for a moment, completely dumbfounded. She'd never had anyone die in her arms before. Morgan lowered the woman's body to the ground, whispering a rushed prayer and crossing herself.
She didn't know how to handle the situation. Was she supposed to bury the body? She didn't know any of the Saracen customs concerning funerals. Sure, she and Djaq were best friends, but it wasn't like death and funerals came up in regular conversation. As she contemplated this, the galloping of horses filled the air. Panicking, Morgan's gaze fell to the basket, which she quickly scooped into her arms. She may have been unsure about burying the woman, but she was sure about one thing: she'd made a promise to "watch over and protect" whatever was in the basket.
She briefly considered scrambling up the nearest tree, but the basket was a bit too cumbersome. Instead, she ran off the road, making sure that she was far off enough that she couldn't be heard or seen. She set the basket down as gently as she could. She'd noticed that the Saracen woman had been extremely careful when handling the basket, only allowing herself to really collapse when she had placed it safely on the ground. Whatever it was, it was probably delicate. Just as Morgan got the thought out, she heard a gurgling sound from inside the basket.
"Delicate and alive," Morgan amended out loud. She glanced around to make sure that no one was looking, slowly removing the woven lid from the whicker basket. She stared, completely thunderstruck. Large, shining blue eyes stared back at her. Those eyes were set in the middle of a chubby, little face, adorned with a crown of soft, brown curls.
Morgan quickly shut the basket again, shaking her head, trying to convince herself that she hadn't just become the caretaker of a baby… boy? Girl? Either way, it didn't matter; what mattered was that she had no clue how to take care of it. From inside the basket, the baby started to whimper, working its way up to a proper cry. Morgan removed the top of the basket.
"Now, now, tiny baby, you need to be quiet," she reasoned. "Don't cry, tiny baby. Hush." The baby stared at Morgan for a few minutes before bursting into tears.
"Ah. That's not very quiet, tiny baby," Morgan pointed out, regretting her decision to stop and smell the flowers. She racked her brain, trying to think of the things that people had told her about babies, which honestly wasn't much. Allan had once told her that you were supposed to turn babies upside down to make them quiet, but Morgan wasn't sure that it was sound advice. Deciding that this was beyond her skill, Morgan replaced the top of the basket. What she needed was a mother. Someone in touch with their maternal instincts. Someone nurturing.
"Much!" Morgan called, entering the camp. "Much! I need you!"
"Thank you, Morgan. It's good to know that one is appreciated every once and a while," Much said pointedly, shooting Robin a look. Robin grinned.
"Do I really have to say it?" he asked. Much rolled his eyes. Morgan shook her head.
"Much, I need you now!" she corrected, and Much noticed that she was carrying quite the large basket.
"Is that for dinner?" he asked.
"No!" she answered quickly. "I was going to stop and smell the flowers, you know, that small patch of daisies that we always pass, but we can never stop and smell them because we're running from the Sheriff's men."
"Those aren't daisies, Morgan. They're pansies," Much interrupted.
"It's the same thing," Morgan offered, trying to continue.
"It's hardly the same thing. Daisies are kind of like this," Much noted, drawing in the air with his finger. "And pansies are more like this." He made another drawing in the air. Morgan looked at Robin, making sure she wasn't the only one who didn't notice a difference in the hand motions.
"Sure, okay, that's not really the point," Morgan nodded, trying to appease Much. "The point is: I was stopping and smelling the flowers, when this Saracen woman ran up to me and collapsed!"
"Djaq's collapsed?" Robin asked, prompting Little John to stand, ready to go help her. Morgan shot Robin a frustrated look.
"No! If Djaq had collapsed, I would've said, 'Djaq ran up to me and collapsed!' and I wouldn't very well start the story with the bit about the flowers," she said quickly. "Anyway, this Saracen woman, who was not Djaq, ran up to me and collapsed. And she made me promise to 'watch over and protect' this basket. Well, I couldn't say no to her, and I was going to run and get Djaq, but she died."
"Djaq died?" Robin asked.
"That's news to me," Djaq said from the entrance of the camp, stepping around Morgan as she and Will returned from the hunt, carrying a deer between them. Morgan nodded her head at Djaq.
"Obviously, Djaq did not die. The Saracen woman, who ran up to me and was not Djaq, died," she explained. "And I would've taken care of her, only I didn't know what to do, and the horses were coming, so I took the basket and ran. I would've looked inside first, but there were the horses, and I had made a promise, so I rabbitted off into the woods."
"You left that poor woman's body just lying there?" Much asked, slightly horrified. Morgan wished that Marian was there to tell the story. They never interrupted Marian like this.
"I already said that there were horses coming. Look, the point is, I took the basket. And then I opened it, and well…" Morgan trailed off, setting the basket carefully on the ground and removing the lid. "Tada?" The gang crowded around the basket, trying to see what all the fuss was about.
"What a cute baby," Much noted, grinning as the baby blinked up at him with her large, blue eyes. No one disagreed, but Robin cleared his throat.
"Morgan, what exactly were you planning on doing with this baby?" he asked, grinning down at the child. Morgan mumbled a response under her breath. The Prince of Thieves fixed her with a look, knowing that she was being difficult on purpose. "Beg pardon?"
"Well, I did make a promise to watch over and protect," Morgan reminded. "I was thinking that maybe she could stay here for a while." Robin stared at her as if she'd sprouted an extra head.
"Really?" he asked. "And how long would that while be?" Morgan smiled sweetly, preparing to be innocent and endearing.
"Until we can find her family?" she suggested. "Please?"
"Master, it's not as though we're all inexperienced. We took care of Seth," Much reminded, cuddling with the baby, smiling affectionately.
"I can make a crib for it," Will volunteered.
"I can mix up some herbs that will keep her healthy," Djaq offered. Robin glanced over at Little John, who was also smiling at the child. The Prince of Thieves smirked, and Much knew that he wanted to keep the baby just as much as everyone else did.
"Alright, fine," he consented with a wide grin.
"What's her name?" Little John asked. Morgan squinted down at the child.
"How do you know it's a her?" she asked. Little John gave her a swat to the back of the head.
"It's obvious. Now, what's her name?" he repeated. Morgan rubbed the back of her head, shrugging.
"Your guess is as good as mine. I've been calling it 'tiny baby,'" she muttered.
"Regan," Much nodded, picking the girl out of the basket, gently cradling her. "She looks like a Regan."
"No, I think she's a Mary," Robin argued, tickling at the girl's stomach, eliciting a cute, little giggle.
"We could call her Jane," Will suggested, smiling at the child.
"Hold on, it's my responsibility, I should name it," Morgan pointed out. "We could call it Oliver."
"Morgan, she's not an it. She's a baby girl," Much corrected. "Besides, Oliver is a boy's name."
"Olivia, then." Morgan muttered, earning another swat to the head from Little John.
"Ailith," the woodsman said. The gang exchanged glances, considering the name. The child giggled and clapped her small hands together, causing everyone in the group to coo in unison.
"Ailith," Robin grinned. "Good call, Little John."
"She's so cute," Djaq commented. Much nodded.
"I can't believe you were intimidated, Morgan. She's only a little baby. She can't do any harm."
"Ow! Please, let go, tiny Ailith," Morgan pleaded as the little girl giggled, tugging firmly on Morgan's hair. Morgan tried to pry her little fingers from her raven locks. Having been removed from Morgan's hair, Ailith's fingers wrapped around Morgan's index finger.
"There you go. Much better, tiny Ailith," Morgan smiled, at least until Ailith put the blacksmith's finger in her mouth and bit down. "Ow! Much! Can you please take it?"
"Morgan, she's not an it!" Much corrected, scooping Ailith into his arms, patting her on the back. "There, there, Ailith." The girl wriggled in Much's arm, pointing with her hand, opening and closing her fingers. Much followed the point over to Robin, who was restringing his bow.
"Robin, I think she wants you," Much said, handing the giggling little girl over to Robin.
"Of course she does. It's my natural charm," Robin grinned, sitting Ailith in his lap. Ailith patted the recurved bow that was lying in front of her, gurgling in unintelligible baby talk.
"That, Ailith, is a bow," Robin said in his best teacher voice. "A bow."
"Ababa!" Ailith grinned, pulling the bow closer to her before biting down on the soft wood. Robin laughed, gently removing his weapon from the toddler's mouth. Ailith didn't sit well with his actions, tears welling up in her eyes as she blinked up at Robin, sniffling.
"Alright, I'm sorry," Robin apologized quickly, returning the bow to her grip. She contented herself to gnaw on the smooth weapon, offering an angelic smile to Robin, who smirked.
"Putty in her hands," Djaq smiled, nodding at Robin. Morgan grinned appreciatively at the observation. It wasn't just Robin. All the men had been drawn in by Ailith's big, blue eyes and sweet, little laugh. Such were the charms of a baby girl. Djaq suspected that the boys wouldn't be so charmed when Ailith's nappy needed changing, but she didn't say anything, not wanting to ruin the surprise for them.
"I am sorry, Ailith, but that was revolting," Much commented, sitting by the river as he finished changing the toddler's underwrappings, pinning the clean cloth into place. He turned to the river to clean out the old cloth, singing under his breath. Ailith let out a high-pitched giggle, clapping her hands.
"At least some one enjoys my singing," Much muttered, resuming his song. Ailith rolled onto her stomach, pushing herself into a standing position. She took a few, experimental steps, looking over at Much to see if he was going to stop her. He seemed to be occupied. Ailith was pleased with her sneakiness and continued to walk off, disappearing into the woods.
"There we are! All clean," Much noted, turning back around. "Ailith?" He stood, scanning the surrounding area for the child.
"Oh, dear," he murmured under his breath.
Yay for babies! This is going to be a fun story, I do believe. RixxiSpooks will be writing the next chapter, and it is going t be so full of cute that it will rot your teeth.
Surprise! Morgan's baby-caring skills are terrible! Or, not surprise. Whichever.
Hope you all enjoy! Please review!