Chapter Fourteen: Truth that is Spoken
It was as though a great weight had been lifted off his chest, and he slept well for the first time in days. It was a dreamless sleep, dark, solid and comforting; chasing away all the worries he had held. When he did wake, it was slowly, and though it felt like days had gone by, in reality it was only a few short hours.
For a moment he remained where he was, head resting on his arms, watching the fire burn before him. Someone had added more wood while he slept and it burned strong, covering him with warmth. In truth it felt nice; the nip in the air was gone, and there was no need for extra blankets. After a moment his eyes began to wander, checking on the other occupants of the cave.
Collin was still sleeping where he had last seen him, arms crossed over his chest, knees drawn up to his chest as he used the cavern wall to support his weight. Allan and John as well were in the same places, Djaq finally finding a place by them as well. Last but not least was Much, still sound asleep by Robin…who was…not there.
Will sat up quickly, blinking several times and shaking his head, as though to clear the sleepiness from it. Once again he looked, and once again had seen what he saw before. Robin's bedroll was empty, and with everyone else in the cave…who was keeping watch? And even more worrisome, where was Robin?
Pushing himself to his feet Will grabbed his bow he had left on the ground near his head. He had wanted to be prepared in case anything should happen. Robin couldn't have wandered too far, and surely, if Gisborne and his men had arrived, they would all be dead, or captured…unless Robin had bartered himself, that was.
Cursing, Will hurried out of the cave. Maybe there was still some hope…maybe he could catch up with them. Maybe…
He had only reached the entrance of the cave, stepping out into the cool morning air, and at the sound of the voice he turned, bow raised, an arrow notched.
"Alright, easy! It's just me."
"Robin!" Will cursed lightly, lowering his weapon. "I could have killed you."
The other man smiled amusingly, shaking his head. "I don't think so."
He was sitting just outside of the cave, on several boulders that rested together. Above him was another outcropping that kept him sheltered from the rain, but even still he kept his hood on. His legs were folded underneath him, his bow resting his lap, his sword on the ground next to his feet.
"I see Djaq gave you your weapons back," Will pointed out, still trying to quiet his racing heart.
"They did a lot of damage to my bow," he responded, running his fingers over it. "Taken me most of the morning to repair it."
"You should be sleeping."
"And you shouldn't be telling me what to do."
"Robin," Will pleaded, "If you only knew what you looked like."
"I know what I look like," Robin interrupted him, turning to meet his gaze, "because I see it in you, and everyone else. It's a good thing I didn't die; none of you would be able to survive on your own."
"That's not true," Will huffed quietly, climbing up the side of the rock.
"None of you had any provisions, none of you had any plans," Robin commented, reaching a hand out to help him up, "And if I remember right…you and the others were nearly executed in the castle. Doesn't seem like you were fairing very well to me."
"We were there to rescue you," Will reminded him.
"Ah…so tell me. Is it normal for the person being rescued to have to rescue the ones rescuing him?"
Will shrugged, thinking it over. "Djaq would say yes."
Robin laughed softly, shaking his head. "That she would."
"Why are you out here?"
For several long seconds it was quiet, than Robin shrugged. "Keeping watch."
"Obviously," Will answered, "Why are you keeping watch?"
"Couldn't sleep," Robin responded, "I figured I'd let the others rest since I was already awake."
"You can never back down, can you?"
"To what?" Robin asked, perplexed now.
"You always have to be the best at everything, you can never admit to not being able to do something…admit to being weak, or needing help."
Robin shook his head, "That's not true." He met Will's gaze, holding it steady. "Tell me."
"You told me you have to be strong…for everyone else."
"I do," he corrected him. "It isn't a matter of choice."
"What about being strong for yourself?" Will questioned him.
"At the expense of others?" Robin shook his head, "I don't think so."
"And what good would you do dead?"
"You wouldn't understand…"
"Make me understand," Will cut him off. "I may have grown up a child under your eyes but I am not a child anymore."
Robin regarded him with a sad gaze. "You're right; you are no child. But you have not fought in war, and you have not carried the value of lives on your shoulders."
"I have fought in war," Will argued, "I have fought against the Sheriff, against Gisborne, against this tyranny that came forth in your absence. I watched as good people were killed, I watched my mother die…how can you say I don't know the value of life?"
"But it wasn't your action that caused it to happen," Robin pointed out, compassions filling his voice. "When you lead other people, you become responsible for their life."
"It may not have been my action, but my lack of action that caused my mother's death."
"Will," Robin shook his head, "do not think of such things. The choice was your mother's, not your own."
"Then our choices are our own; not yours."
"It is different."
"How?" Will wondered, proving a silent shake from Robin's head. "See, you can't explain it."
There was an uncomfortable silence between them, Will watching Robin's eyes that seemed lost within themselves as they scanned over the woods before them. Feelings of remorse started to stir inside of him, wanting now to take those words back. The last thing Robin needed was to have his faults pointed out to him.
"No," Robin shook his head. "They are your thoughts to speak."
"I care for you Robin; we all do. Lately it seems as though you are a different person, like you don't know if you are coming or going."
"And that fault is my own, I am sorry," he apologized. "I never meant to distance myself."
"It's Marian, isn't it?"
Robin laughed, turning to look at him. "What makes you say that?"
"You miss her."
"She is safer where she is now," Robin told him, turning away.
Will nodded in agreement. "I think he loves her, too."
"Who?" Robin raised an eyebrow at him.
"Please," Robin shook his head.
"I think you know it, too," Will pushed.
"You sound like Marian."
"I think he knows that she loves you instead; that's why he was burning down her house. That's why he wanted to hurt you. Because he was hurting himself."
"We are talking about the same Gisborne, right?"
"Well, he is a human being," Will pointed out.
"Compared to what?"
"All I'm saying is that he could have killed you…but he didn't. Why?"
Robin shook his head. "We're not talking about this."
"I gave you my thoughts; you can at least give me yours."
Robin let out a sigh, shifting his weight to lean back against the wall. A slight grimace crossed his face, but nothing more as he closed his eyes. Will shook his own head, turning away. At times it was relatively unfair; Robin could hold his own quite well, and even in the most trying of times he could refuse to speak what was actually on his mind.
"He did try, you know," Robin finally said, his eyes still closed. "He would have to, if I hadn't won. It's a game…a battle of wits if you will."
"Sounds like a deadly game to me," Will answered, thinking for a moment. "Why not just kill him then? Aside from the fact you don't believe in bloodshed unless necessary. Surely after everything he's done…"
"It's not the first time he's done something to me Will…it wont be the last."
"It could be," Will reminded him. "When I thought you were dead…I was ready to kill the both of them."
"But you didn't," Robin told him.
"I didn't have the time" he pointed out.
"And when you do have the time, you still won't."
Will thought for a moment, and then agreed quietly. "Because there would be others that would pay the price for the Sheriff's death. But surely Gisborne…the Sheriff hardly appreciates him…I doubt he'll even notice if Gisborne is gone."
"It is not that simple Will," Robin responded.
He let out a breath, opening his eyes. "Marian."
"That's not even an answer."
Robin laughed, nodding towards him. "Yes, it is."
"Then I don't understand it."
"Well, maybe one day you will," Robin encouraged him, sitting up as Collin emerged from down below.
The man shook his head, staring up at the pair. "It is true then."
"What?" Robin wondered.
"The rumors I've heard; you never do stop, do you?"
"Please," Robin shook his head.
"Try living with him," Will offered.
Collin shook his head, "I should return to the castle before I am missed. I trust all of you will do well from here on out?"
"Are you sure they won't like, recognize you or something?" Will wondered.
The man laughed, shaking his head sadly. "I've worked in the castle for over a year now, and they can't even remember my name. I'm just another face to them."
Robin nodded, "Thank you for all that you've done my friend. We could always use someone like you out here in the forest."
"I'll keep that in mind," Collin returned. "I believe we shall see each other in the future."
The last part was said by Robin shortly before the man departed. Will watched him leave, wondering where his true loyalty lay. If Will had that choice, he would have remained in the forest; but maybe that was weighed upon his own feelings of the situation he had been in. The choice to reside in the forest alongside Robin had been an easy one for him. There was no telling if Collin had a family, or what dreams he might carry at the moment's time.
"We should get the others up," Robin said quietly. "The longer we stay here the larger the chance it is for us to be found. That and we need food."
"You've made it this far Robin; don't push yourself," Will responded. "The guys, and Djaq, we'll watch out for you until then."
Robin clasped his shoulder, smiling at him. "I know you will. But we can't stay here. I'm thinking it is time to find a permanent place to call home…"
"I might be able to help with that," Will offered, provoking a grin from the other man.
"Yeah? Well, it'll have to be hidden…secret."
"All the better."
Yes there is a sequel planned that will start here shortly, and I hope to see everyone read along!
To Go Beyond
Questions of trust and loyalty arise when there is a difference seen between the group, forcing them apart, and a friend on the inside can make all the difference between a victory and a defeat. With the stakes rising, can Robin pull his gang back together before lives are lost?