Disclaimer: All publicly recognisable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. Original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended. Not beta read, don't shoot (not even with arrows).
A/N: Out in the real world I'm an archery buff, which means I couldn't help myself. Here's a delightfully implausible, aimless, and sweet fic along the lines of "Robin gives Marian an archery lesson". So kill me. I have no idea when this is set.
His Lady's Hands
Marian breathed out, relaxed the muscles in her right arm, and lowered the bow. For a moment she just stood there and then she snuck a sideways glance at Robin, and smiled. He was too busy looking at her fired arrows to notice, so she followed his gaze and looked at them too. Their feathered flights were still quivering slightly in the evening stillness, protruding in a neat, vertical line from the trunk of a gnarled old tree across the other side of the clearing.
'Nice aim,' he congratulated her, as cheerful as if he'd fired the arrows himself or – if truth be told – cheerier. He was nodding to himself as she watched him, and then he turned and smiled at her properly. 'You're a quick learner.'
A smile lit her own face as she shrugged. 'Well, I'm learning from the best. You are Robin Hood, aren't you?'
He raised his eyebrows, smile broadening into a grin, and a playful light in his eyes. 'Truly? Am I? I don't think I remember... the company must have addled my mind.'
Marian laughed. 'Oh, really?' She leant slightly and unstrung the bow like he'd taught her, by placing the main pressure of the bow against her hip, and the lesser against her inner ankle – a bow string left strung will loose its tautness and thus both its accuracy and its strength, he'd said on repeated occasions. With the job done, she rested the wood against her waist and then winced slightly.
Robin caught the expression on her face before she could hide it. 'Everything alright?'
She shrugged, wriggling the fingers on her right hand. 'It's nothing.'
'Nothing? Let me be the judge of that.' And before she could pull her hand away he'd caught it up in his. For a moment, a flash of protest lit her eyes but then she relaxed beneath his touch on hers, and fell back upon the fascinating sport of watching as his eyes traced invisible lines upon her hands... then winced again as his fingers pressed gently against the uppermost creases of the inside of her fingers, the ones that held the arrows in place before firing.
'Tender?' he asked, and the word made her laugh softly.
'I mean,' he added hurried, 'are you – your fingers – tender?'
She laughed a moment longer, then showed mercy on him, and nodded. 'Yes. And it's strange... they hurt almost more now than when I was beginning. And yet I've been practising, what, at least two months now?'
Robin's fingertips traced softly along hers. 'It does that. When you first learn, there's the pain, which goes away. Then a few months later... back again. As though it rises to the surface, or as though you start to use the pressure differently. Still, it won't happen again - your hand gets used to it.' He paused. 'You could wear gloves.'
His touch was getting distracting. She raised her eyebrows. 'Hmm, yes, we tried that, remember? But if I baby my hands by wearing gloves, I'll be barely capable of pulling back the string – let alone stringing the bow in the first place – should I ever be stuck without gloves.'
He raised his thumb and circled her palm with it. 'You'll get rough fingers.'
Marian lifted her face towards him and whispered, 'You of all men should know that I don't care about having a lady's fingers... Does it bother you?' Teasingly added, teasingly asked, to disguise her concern.
His gaze was silent. His fingers closed around her small hand; warm, gentle, protecting.
'You don't need to ask me that,' he answered, ever so softly.
She smiled. 'No, I don't, do I?'
'Come be with me, Marian.'
She pulled her hand from his hold, slowly, almost sadly. 'You know I can't.'
The forest around them rustled. Robin left her side, walking to the tree across the glade and retrieving her arrows. For a moment she thought he was going to avoid her gaze on his return, but as he passed the arrows to her his eyes met hers and a smile crossed his face again. 'It's getting late; you'll be missed.'
'Yes. I should go.'
She took the arrows from his hand, turning to leave, then swung back towards him as his hand grasped her shoulder and pulled her dangerously close. 'Off with you then, you with your unladylike hands.' Said, in the voice that told her he meant the complete opposite.
Just for a moment she hung there, indecisive, in his hold, and beneath the look of his face, bright before her. Then Marian simply smiled – and walked from the glade to where her horse waited.
Robin watched her go. Watched her, and her arrows, and her unladylike hands. And knew that he loved them, for they were his lady's.