"Do you remember Locksley?"
"Do you remember the summers at Knighton?"
"Sorry." Marian didn't know what to do. Robin remembered everything after his return from the Holy Land, but he didn't seem to have the slightest inkling of his life beforehand. Despite the fact that she knew that Robin honestly couldn't remember anything, Marian found that she was annoyed with him. The grin on his face suggested that he was joking with her.
"It's not your fault that you got hit around the head. From what Much told me, Morgan left her post," Marian reminded, being as patient as possible. Robin sniggered, shaking his head.
"No, I remember that. It was my fault," he corrected. "I told Morgan to leave her post." Marian stared, so Robin took it as a cue to continue.
"Well," he muttered, slightly pink in the cheeks. "It's been a while since we became engaged. And I wanted to get you a present." Marian let out a groan of frustration, piecing the rest together.
"You can't be serious," she muttered, pinching the bridge of her nose.
"Not being funny, but I'm completely serious," Robin reassured, picking up the quirky phrase from Allan and Morgan. Marian thought it was ironic that Robin was picking up the habits of someone that he'd exiled from his gang, but she thought it best not to mention that to Robin.
"So, you're saying that you sent Morgan to get a present for me, and that's why this whole mess started?" she asked. Robin avoided her gaze and nodded, embarrassed. Marian rolled her eyes and slipped her arms around her betrothed.
"You are an utter fool," she joked. Robin chuckled and returned her embrace. For a moment, they sat there, comfortable in each others' arms. Robin sighed contentedly, resting his chin on Marian's head, aware of the faint scent of lavender in her hair. Marian felt Robin tense up.
"What's wrong?" she asked tentatively.
"You used to wear braids all the time. And your father used to scold you for dirtying your dresses," Robin whispered, his grip on Marian tightening. "We always knew that we would be married, but then…" he trailed off, his mind scrambling for an answer. And then what? "Marian, where did I go?"
Marian had been trying to answer that question ever since Robin had strutted up to her doorstep over a year ago. True, a man called Robin had come back from the Holy Land, but he was so different from the boy that Marian had fallen in love with. This state of amnesia had been the closest that she'd been to the old Robin, the Robin that wasn't haunted by the horrors of Palestine. The Robin that hadn't decided to fight the institution and flee to the forest. The Robin that hadn't left her waiting.
"I don't have that answer," she spoke softly, gently stroking his back with her fingers. She looked up at him, smiling sadly. "There's only one person who was with you the whole time."
Much had been anticipating his talk with Robin. He'd ran through it in his mind a thousand times, carefully picking out the details he would tell first, picking the most poignant stories from their time in the Holy Land. Now that he was sitting across from his dearest friend, he found that all of his careful planning had spilled out of his head, which he attributed to nerves.
"We've never talked about the Holy Land before," he finally blurted out, surprised at the angry edge to his tone. "You like to pretend that we were never even there, even though I try to talk about it all the time."
Robin stared at him, trying to work out why he was so upset. The fact that he honestly didn't know calmed Much down. He decided to change tactics.
"It'll be your birthday soon," he mentioned casually. "We didn't celebrate it last year. Or the year before."
"Why not?" Robin asked curiously.
"Last year, we were too busy feeding the poor and running from the Sheriff. The year before, you were… You were not yourself," Much tried to pick his words carefully, attempting to gently push Robin back into his memories. "A bit feverish, actually." His eyes darted up to meet Robin's, and he scrutinized his friend's gaze, looking for anything remotely related to recognition.
Robin could tell by looking at Much that this was a matter of great importance. He closed his eyes, trying to cling to anything that floated through his mind. He could see a wolf, and he could feel a sharp pain. His hand moved to his side, and he looked to Much.
"There was an attack on the King. They were dressed as Saracens," Much started in a low voice. As he spoke, Robin could see flashes of the battle. Arrows flying through the air, cutting down the attackers. A sharp pain breaking his complete focus. Much's worried eyes as he ran to his side. "One of them stabbed you. I went for help. You saved King Richard's life." Robin slowly opened the vest he was wearing, sliding the material of his undershirt up until he could see the ugly scar on his side.
"It was Gisborne." Much was relieved that Robin was no longer addressing his nemesis by his first name, but he waited for a moment, wondering if the realization had been too much for Robin to handle. "He had a tattoo of a wolf on his arm."
"Is that what it was?" Much asked. The painted pattern on Gisborne's arm hadn't really looked like anything to him. Then again, when he'd seen it, he'd had other things on his mind. "You took a fever. I thought…. I thought that I'd lost you." Robin tore his gaze away from his scar. It was clear that Much was holding back his tears for fear of looking weak in front of his friend. Robin could remember that tone with increasing familiarity.
"Heavenly Father, please, let it be in your great plan to let Robin stay here with me. I know I don't have the place to ask this of you, but I have to, Lord, for I cannot see my life without Robin in it."
"Oh, Much," Robin stated simply. In typical Much fashion, the former manservant stared for a moment before smiling and allowing the tears to leak out of his eyes. Much recounted the rest of the raid at Acre, and Robin say patiently and listened. And for all the horrors they had faced together, for all of the memories from their childhood, it was all that was needed.
"Remarkable work," The sheriff smiled gleefully, rubbing his hands together as Allan and Marian led Robin into the Great Hall. "Where did you find him?" Allan grinned, which told Vaysey that the boy had news of the good variety.
"We found him on the Great North Road. He'd managed to escape the gang," Allan reported. He trusted that he didn't have to tell Vaysey what that meant. The malicious glint in the latter mentioned's eye confirmed this line of thought.
"Robin, do you think you could lead us back to the camp?" The sheriff asked, trying to sound patient. Robin nodded quickly.
"Yes, my lord," he answered tentatively, managing a weak smile as the Sheriff turned to face Guy.
"The horses!" he ordered. "Allan, you make sure that the gallows are ready for when we return!" Allan nodded and watched as the Sheriff practically danced out of the room, followed by a less-than-amused looking Guy. Robin lingered for a moment, trading a subtle smile with Marian before following them. As soon as they were safely gone, Allan called over one of the guards.
"Make sure that there are nooses ready for when the Sheriff returns," he commanded, passing his duty down the line. The guard nodded and scampered off to do what was asked of him.
"That's for believability," Allan explained as he caught sight of Marian's glare. "If the Sheriff notices that there aren't any nooses when he gets back, he'll likely have me hanged."
"He's likely to be in a foul mood," Marian consented. "Remind me never to make you angry, Allan. This plan of yours is ruthless." Allan shrugged, as he and Marian snuck deftly through the corridors. He hoped that her comment was a compliment.
"Not being funny, but it's not like he didn't have it coming," he pointed out, eliciting a soft laugh.
"True," Marian agreed. "Still, I do wonder how you came up with this plan." The question was indirect, but it was clearly there, and Allan felt obliged to explain.
"I actually got the idea from Guy," he admitted, peeking around a corner before moving into a corridor.
"Guy?" Marian questioned. Allan nodded.
"You know how he was pretending to be Robin's friend and all?" Allan didn't wait for an answer before continuing. "Well, I figured that if Guy, who hates Robin with every fiber of his being, can pretend to be friends with him, Robin should have no trouble doing the same."
"So, Robin pretends that he still can't remember anything, and leads Guy and the Sheriff into the woods on a wild goose chase?" Marian asked, making sure that she'd said it correctly. Allan grinned.
"Yes. And while they take the best men with them, running circles in the forest, it leaves us pretty open to relieve them of the considerable amount of gold that they've got stored away," he finished neatly.
"Good," Marian approved. "Now, I have another question." Allan froze, partially because there was a guard coming and partially because he had a fair idea of what Marian was going to ask. She was, after all, one of the most stubborn people he knew.
"Do you want to talk about your brother?"
"No, I'm alright," he muttered good-naturedly, hoping that if he didn't seem affected by it, Marian would let it go. Even if this was not the case, it bought him enough time to steal down the hallway, stopping and glancing down the hall at the guarded room that held the consignment of gold. He eyed the two guards, thankful for the Sheriff's predictable arrogance.
"How do we get in?" Marian asked, annoyed that she hadn't been privy to the entirety of Allan's plan. "If you distract them, I can probably knock them out."
"Relax," Allan replied. "I've got it taken care of." Without another, word, he ducked into the nearest chamber and made his way towards the window. Marian followed, wondering what he could've possibly been thinking when he suddenly jumped, disappearing from view.
"Allan!" she called, keeping her voice low so as not to be heard. She scrambled over to the window, hesitating to look out.
"Yes?" he asked innocently, standing at his full height. He was standing on a ledge just outside of the window, and Marian found that half of her was impressed with the detail of his plan. The other half was ready to strangle him.
"That is not funny, Allan A Dale," she hissed, climbing out of the window and dropping gently onto the ledge, following Allan as he scooted carefully along, counting windows as he went.
"Here we are," he announced with a grin, climbing into the dark room, holding out a hand to help Marian. The sliver of moonlight that cut into the chamber fell conveniently on the chest in the center of the room. Marian watched as Allan pulling several empty bags from under his vest and unwound a coil of rope from around his waist.
They loaded the bags in silence, careful not to alert the guards to their presence. Allan tied the heavy bags to the length of rope and cautiously peeked out of the window.
"Help me," he whispered, using the rope to the lower the bags out of the window. Marian obeyed, knowing that the weight of the load would become more cumbersome as they went.
"I paid a merchant to leave his cart for the night," he explained quietly, nodding down at the waiting buggy. Marian frowned. This was not an Allan plan. An Allan plan, much like a Robin plan, was made up largely on the fly. This plan had far too much attention to detail. She hesitated to say that it was too good to be an Allan plan, because Allan's plans, bizarre though they were, were generally good. This plan was simply too complete.
"Allan, who helped you with this plan?" she asked. Allan ignored the question for the moment, having lowered the last bit of gold into the waiting cart below.
"Come on. We shouldn't stay here," he muttered. Marian rolled her eyes, quite fed up with the trickster's constant evasions. Still, he had a point, so she followed him back across the ledge and waited until they'd made it safely away from the guards before pressing the issue.
"Who helped you with this plan?" she repeated. Allan heaved a sigh, weighing his options. Either he could keep his mouth shut, in which case Marian was likely to badger him at every opportunity, or he could talk now, in which case the matter would be settled. When he thought of it like that, it was an easy choice to make.
"It was Tom's plan," he started. "When he came to Nottingham, he was planning on stealing from the castle."
"The same man that thoughtlessly tried to rob my father?" Marian asked skeptically.
"One and the same," he agreed. "Tom was never good at the short term, but he wasn't an idiot." There was a fondness in Allan's voice that Marian had heard him use when referring to Will, and it occurred to her just how much the gang meant to Allan.
"He was the one that stole the necklace from Lucky George, you know," Allan mentioned, bragging on his little brother. Marian smiled and nodded.
"Robin told me that much," she recalled. "He saved my life, as well as my father's." Allan nodded, the proud smile stopping on his lips as he fought back his grief.
"It hurts," he admitted as they reached the courtyard. "To face them everyday, knowing that they ordered him to death. It hurts more, knowing that Robin thinks that I'm like them."
"He doesn't," Marian said quickly, though she wasn't sure if the statement was true or not. Allan seemed to pick up on this, for he raised an eyebrow at Marian, marking his incredulity.
"Well, he shouldn't," Marian amended. "You're not a bad person, Allan." Feeling that this sounded a bit sappy, she added to her statement.
"Selfish and lazy, but not bad."
"Thanks," Allan muttered sarcastically, moving the contents of the cart so that the bags of gold were safely hidden. With that, he produced a piece of chalk from his pocket and drew a mark on the side of the cart. "That's that. Nothing left to do now but wait."
"Maybe it was a left," Robin mused aloud, walking several feet ahead of the convoy. The Sheriff was doing everything in his power to hide his mounting impatience, but Guy could practically hear the steam escaping from his ears.
"Robin, if you don't remember, that's alright," Guy called, trying to act the best friend.
"No, wait," Robin called over his shoulder. "I remember. We…" As he began the familiar cry, Guy felt his stomach sink. The Sheriff was already turning a horrible shade of what Guy guessed to be puce. "ARE ROBIN HOOD!"
Several voices joined in the proclamation, as the Sheriff and crew found that they were surrounded. In the commotion of the next few minutes, what with arrows flying every which way and Robin ducking into the trees and the Sheriff yelling in his ear, Guy surmised that it was going to be a very long night.
"I must say, this has been quite a week," Much smiled as he unloaded a bag of gold from the marked cart of a slightly bewildered merchant. It was nearly noon on the following day, and word had already reached the outlaws of how the Sheriff had returned to the castle, positively fuming. Guy, in a rather wise move, had faked some manner of illness, instructing Allan to fetch Marian from the castle, giving the Sheriff the appropriate space to seethe. Marian and Allan had promptly informed the gang of the incoming supply of gold before reporting to Locksley.
"Well, I for one am glad that everything is back to normal," Djaq commented.
"That, I agree with," John seconded, clapping a hand on Robin's back. "Welcome back, Robin." Will lifted the last bag of gold from the cart, nodding to the merchant and watching him ride off.
"I think that this is cause for celebration," he suggested. Morgan flung an arm around his shoulder, pulling him into a headlock and ruffling his hair.
"Oh, too right, William!" she concurred loudly, laughing as Will shrugged her off with a grin. "I'm thinking food, ale, and song!"
"Song!" Much agreed.
"No!" Robin said quickly. "No song! Absolutely no song!"
"Food and ale, though, right?" Morgan asked. Robin smirked and shook his head.
"Of course, Mary," he smiled, heading back to camp. As the rest of the gang followed, Morgan paused.
"Mary?" she asked. "Don't tell me you still don't remember me, Robin!"
"I was only joking. I remember you, Marcia," he grinned over his shoulder. The gang sniggered as Morgan figured out the mischief in Robin's smile.
"Oh, very funny, Robin," she called after, jogging to catch up to Much, who was holding up the rear.
"Don't worry. We'll get him back at his birthday party," Much promised.
The end! (Finally.)
Sorry, sorry, and sorry that this took so long! A huge, huge, huge amount of thanks to Gilari, who helped me plow through my writer's block.
So, the reason that this took me so long was that I wanted to get the conversation with Much and Robin just right. …I'm still not sure that it's exactly what I wanted, but I'd like to think that it's miles better than my original draft.
I love writing the friendship with Marian and Allan, and I was also glad to bring up Tom and how his death affected Allan.
As for Allan's plan, it was largely inspired by the steady stream of heist movies that I've been watching as of late.
So, I hope that you enjoyed!
Thanks to Gwenyth Hunter, GlitteringEtiquette, ZebraBlonde, MissWed, DeanParker, Mac's Girl, PetiteDiable, Gilari, KateSutherland, Gewher, spinningisfun, Saffron Marchbanks, DeathlyElegance, ness345, Kates Master, Soapy-Liedown, KeepingAmused, acdecnerd, Capt. Cow, whatsthefracas, unglittering gold, RocMySox, knacky, Nelle07, BeckyScarlett, Leah Day, and freddiebrandis for the reviews!