Contradiction in Terms

Just a little Will/Djaq introspection for the Robin Hood Christmas fic-a-thon. Consider it my present to you. Enjoy!

It is amazing, Djaq reflects, how quickly he can go from being Will the fierce warrior to being Will the gentle carpenter. How easily his hands switch from holding a sword to holding a penknife. He is truly a contradiction in terms, she thinks to herself, this soft-spoken man who hides his feelings, and yet cannot hide them from her. If she had not known him to be the best of fighters, she would have scoffed at him. It is her time as a soldier, she supposes, that makes her conditioned to think gentleness is weakness. Her friendship with Will Scarlet has taught her better.

The others overlook Will so often. They forget that he is there sometimes because he is quiet, until he comes up with some ingenious plan to save them all from this week's crisis. His plans are well thought through and carefully executed, unlike Robin's, which tend to be only half a plan, conceived on the way to Nottingham Castle. But Djaq knows that he is strong. The death of his father told her as much. It was hard to watch Will go through so much pain. If Djaq could, she would take it for him, instead of his strong shoulders being bowed by it. The others assure Will that the pain will fade in time, but she knows the pain of losing someone she loves, and it does not go away easily.

He does not know that Djaq watches him, but she does. She has been watching him for a very long time. At first, it is only curiosity at his movements, so full of the easy grace that she envies him the possession of. Then, she begins to notice other things: the way his eyes light up when he is thinking of a new idea, the way his fingers gently stroke a piece of wood, the way the edges of his mouth turn up when he is amused but does not want to show it. Sometimes she watches as if to learn him and all his movements by heart.

It is his fingers that chiefly fascinate Djaq. They are slim and elegant, sensitive enough to tell different types of woods just by their touch. He strokes his bald stick gently, looking for knots or imperfections out of habit, and Djaq shivers. She wonders how those skilled fingers would feel held in hers, stroking the side of her face, tangling themselves in her hair.

She loves to watch him whittle, though she would rather die than confess it to him. He does it almost unconsciously, while the others are regaling the gang with stories or jokes. The firelight catches his knife in the dim half light as it moves over the stick, gently shaping it into something. He throws the piece away at the end of the night, without knowing that Djaq will fetch it back when no one is looking. She has a stack of them now, branches stripped of their bark, with words and signs and twisting shapes carved into them. They are beautiful, and somehow remind her of home. Perhaps it is the care put into each one and the intricacy of the patterns that reminds her of the elaborate paintings of scripture on the walls of the Mosque. The elegant, flowing letters praising Allah and his works that are written on huge letters on the walls, and in fiery letters on Djaq's heart. Someday, when she is brave enough, she will show Will Arabic letters, and ask him to carve them for her.

It had taken her a while, but Djaq fancies she can tell his moods by the little talismans he carves. When he is happy, they are free flowing curves and looping circles. Sometimes there are words. She knows enough English letters to be able to read them, for the most part. After they had found the baby in the woods and returned him to his mother, the name 'Seth' was carved on one. Djaq was startled one night to discover her own name in a cursive script, linked with flowers and crescent moons. It is her favorite one, and the pride of her collection.

When Will is upset, there are no words, only shapes. They come thick and fast, angry and harsh. They are close together, knotted in intricate patterns with sharp corners. Beneath the calm exterior of Will's mild face, there is sometimes a raging storm of anger and pain that the others miss. After his father died, the designs betrayed anger and hurt, but slowly they regained their normal loose shapes. She had thought that after his capture and escape from the dungeons with the Fool, and his meeting of Allan, they would be angry once again. But she cannot understand why it seems almost as if they were happy again. There is even a word on one of them. "Brother". She does not understand it, and longs to ask Will what it means. But she knows that if she waits, he will confide in her in time.

They are the last ones around the fire. The rest of the gang has headed to bed, but Djaq does not feel tired. She wants to stay and watch Will, and perhaps talk to him a little. They have talked much together since Allan left, bonding together over the treachery of their friend.

They sit in silence for a few moments after Little John gets up from the fire. Djaq's thoughts return to her home, and everything she misses most about it.

It is Will who speaks first.

"You look like you're deep in thought, Djaq. What are you thinking about?" Will asks, shaking her out of her thoughts of scorching deserts and bright colours, and the smell of spices.

He smiles at her, that secret smile that he reserves for her and her alone. The one that makes her feel warmer than all the deserts in the world. Somehow this carpenter from Locksley knows just the right words to say at the right moments; this common Englishman can make her feel more than any Saracen lord ever could. He is truly a contraction in terms. Temperate and yet fiercely loyal, quiet and yet one look can speak volumes. He is so strong, and yet his touch is so gentle.

Djaq looks up at him, at his face half hidden in the shadows of the night, at his forever busy fingers, now resting, but with his knife close at hand.

"Let me teach you Arabic," she says to him, smiling back.