Author's Note: Well, I really didn't think I would be adding more to this! It was intended to be a one shot. But then pallis asked in a review if I was planning on writing Allan's thoughts...and the little plot bunnies started hopping in my head and wouldn't go away. So I sat down and this came out; I'm not sure how much I like the last quarter, but oh well. Thought I'd share it! So, enjoy.
The word seared through Allan's brain as he watched the last dregs of his fourth pint of ale swirl around in the bottom of his tankard. Narrowing his eyes in anger and frustration he lifted the tankard to his lips, draining it of its contents, and slammed it down upon the table in front of him.
"Dice?" one of the Trip's regulars asked, leaning forward and resting his hands upon the table.
"No," Allan muttered, staring back down into the depths of his tankard. Once again, there were no answers there – no sudden clarity, no words or images telling him how to make things right.
"Sure?" the man before him asked, trying to entice him by sending a pair of dice clattering across the table.
"I said no!" Allan snarled, lifting his bowed head and turning wild eyes on the gambler.
"Alrigh', alrigh'!" he replied, holding his hands up in supplication and backing off.
Allan returned his gaze to the pewter tankard, glowering at the metal. Traitor.
Desperate to erase that hateful word from his mind Allan reached into his pocket and pulled out the small pouch of silver, trying not to look at the tear where Robin's arrow had pierced the leather. He took out a couple of coins and lifted one hand to signal to the serving girl, then jolted forwards as someone crashed against his back. As he put his hands down to steady himself he caught the pouch, and the coins inside spilled out onto the table.
"You bloody idiot!" Allan snapped, twisting round with a scowl upon his face. The man that had bumped into him had staggered onto his knees, too drunk to stand, his hair wild and unkempt.
"M'sorry," the drunkard slurred, too addled by ale to be able to focus upon Allan's face with his bloodshot eyes.
"Same again?" the serving girl asked, appearing at his elbow.
Allan opened his mouth to say yes, then slowly closed it again as the drunkard grasped hold of his arm and struggled to stand. He could smell the ale upon his breath, and suddenly the stench disgusted him.
"No," he replied shortly, standing up abruptly and sending the man behind him stumbling backwards.
"Wait!" the serving girl called as he began to stride out of the tavern. "Your money." She gestured towards the silver coins glinting upon the table.
Allan stared down at the money, his hand automatically reaching out for it, before he yanked it back to his side. The shining silver taunted him, mocked him. You betrayed the only friends you've ever had for some chunks of metal…they would have died for you…
"Keep it," Allan said quietly, and left the tavern.
Outside he gulped in mouthfuls of fresh air, suddenly feeling hot and stifled. He was startled to find it still light; it felt like he had been sitting in the dark tavern for days, trapped inside his own treacherous mind. He couldn't escape his own thoughts, and he hated it; he was so accustomed to being able to escape reality by weaving a fantastical tale with his clever tongue, but now his imagination was failing him. All he could hear was Robin's accusing voice, all he could see was Djaq's face, so disappointed in him. And that word…
It echoed in his head, resonated in his ears, jumping around as if it were bouncing against the inside of his skull.
Allan began to walk, his speed picking up until he was practically running through the town. As soon as was outside the town walls he broke into a run, feet pounding over the worn and trodden dirt, trying desperately to escape the conscience that had accosted him earlier that day and tormented him ever since.
He barely took notice of where he was going, only paying attention to the pounding of his heart and the blood rushing in his ears, praying for the sound to drown out the nagging voice that goaded him, cursing his stupidity. Only when his lungs were burning and he was gasping to take in air did he stop, bending over with his hands on his knees as he panted heavily.
Finally getting his breathing under control he straightened up and looked around. He was in the forest, the familiar earthy scent assaulting his nostrils.
Of course, he thought to himself with a sigh. His legs, his brain, his heart – every part of him was tuned into the forest, knew it was where he had to go, knew that the tree line meant protection. How many times had he rushed along that very same route, either on flying feet or a stolen horse, with mail-clad guards chasing him? Except this time there were no guards, just that little voice that sounded suspiciously like Robin but occasionally lilted into Djaq, or quietened into Will.
Allan looked up into the canopy, pulling his cloak around himself. The air was already getting chilly, and the sun wasn't even close to the horizon yet. He could have stayed at the Trip, in a small room above the tavern, but the thought of being enclosed by four bare walls sent shivers of horror down his spine. He had been desperate for a warm bed and a roof over his head for so long, but now the prospect filled him with revulsion. He had complained for so long and so often about Sherwood Lodge, as he had jokingly called it all those months ago, but now all he wanted was to be amongst the trees, under the open sky, with the freedom to escape his own mind.
He froze instinctively as he heard a rustle in the leaves, his hand flying to his hip, but his sword was not there. He looked up and managed a pitiful attempt at a laugh as a magpie fluttered into a tree above his head. Jumping at birds, Allan? You'll be screaming at mice next. He smiled – that voice was definitely Djaq's.
His smile faded into a frown as the bird made a strange chirping noise, cocking its head to the side as it looked at Allan. "What d'you want?" he snarled at the bird, which was far too chipper for his current state of mind. "Get away!" He waved his hands at the bird, but it just flew down lower, beady eyes on the silver buckle at Allan's neck.
Allan had a sudden, ridiculous image of the magpie as a kindred spirit, both attracted to all things shiny. The magpie chirped again and fury roared through his mind, humiliation that he shared the bird's pathetic desperation to capture anything that sparkled blinding him as he reached over his shoulder for his bow, a rabid cry ripping from his throat as his fingers grasped at air.
The bird flew away in alarm as Allan's scream tore through the air. He punched wildly at a tree and then aimed a vicious kick at the trunk, his rage numbing the pain that tore at his knuckles as the bark ripped his skin.
Sinking to the ground, suddenly exhausted, Allan forced his mind to clear so he could consider his options. He was such an expert at escaping difficult situations and finding a solution to any pickle, but he could not think of any coherent escape from this quagmire of deceit.
His mind drifted to the gang. They had to give him a second chance, they just had to. Yes, he had been an idiot, but everyone made mistakes. Will had tried to kill the Sheriff and no-one had threatened him with a knife, or thrown him out of the gang.
But even as he tried to justify his behaviour in his head, Allan knew in the hidden, truthful depths of his soul that his behaviour was inexcusable. He'd been so selfish, and no matter how much money he had his life was suddenly worthless without the friendship of the others. He just had to talk to them; he'd even beg if he had to.
It would be pointless talking to Robin again, but maybe if he could get someone else onside they could put in a good word for him.
Much? No, Much had never liked him. Besides, he would lick Robin's boots clean if he asked him to – he certainly wouldn't go against Robin's wishes with regards to a traitor.
John? No again – John had a very simple view of trust and loyalty. To be loyal was everything, and he had betrayed John's trust. He would not forgive him.
Will? Allan's heart jumped with optimism, but quickly sank again. Will had been his best friend; but that meant that he would be the most hurt by the betrayal. Not to mention the fact that Allan had stood by and let him suffer the humiliation of being accused of treachery. Will was the most passionate, committed and loyal human being he knew, and he would never forgive Allan for violating the friendship he so valued.
Djaq? Allan sat up a little straighter, a tiny sliver of hope entering his heart. Djaq's disappointed face had haunted him all day, but he knew that she was the fairest of the outlaws. She had wanted him to confess, had been willing to forgive; she would listen to him, he knew it.
Suddenly finding a purpose Allan jumped to his feet, feeling some of the weight shift from his shoulders. He even managed a tuneless whistle as he set off, following the familiar path to the camp.
He tried not to look as he passed the spot where Robin had punched Will earlier, then froze as he heard a twig crack. There was someone walking towards him and he dropped into a crouch, ducking behind a bush.
Peering out through the leaves he felt his heart constrict as he saw Djaq looking sadder than he had ever seen her. He watched, confused, as she dropped to her knees and began pawing through the leaves that scattered the ground. He saw her slip her delicate fingers into a crevice in a rock and withdraw something small.
His stomach clenched as he recognised it as his tag, his hand automatically reaching up to touch the place where it had always rested against his chest. A pain twinged in the back of his neck, a reminder of the sharp snap of twine against his skin when Robin had ripped the tag from his neck in the Trip.
Allan started to stand, wanting nothing more than to wrap his arms around the small woman who was protectively cradling the remnant of his membership. He became still again, caught in an awkward stoop, as he saw Will emerge from the trees.
"He means nothing, Djaq," Will told her, his voice bitter. The tone was like a dagger to his gut – Will only spoke with that much hatred about the Sheriff and Gisborne, and he wasn't like them. He wasn't.
Allan sank back to the ground, listening intently to the conversation between his two best friends. His heart swelled with pleasure and relief as he heard Djaq defending him. It was more than he deserved, and the fact that the words came from Djaq meant more to him than anything else. A sack of gold seemed like nothing in comparison.
His eyes widened in surprise as Will called her a fool, then got ever wider at the venom in Djaq's voice when she hissed at Will that he was naïve. He had never thought the quiet carpenter would have a bad word to say to the Saracen woman, never believed Djaq to be capable of such fury at her friend. Will disappeared into the trees and Allan remained seated, watching Djaq intently.
He watched as she sat quietly, obviously thinking intently about something, then closed his eyes in pain as she started to cry. His heart ached as she sobbed; brave, strong Djaq, crying over his own stupid behaviour. He wanted nothing more than to smooth the furrow from her crumpled brow and hold her until her tears ceased, and again began to stand up. But, once again, he stopped before he straightened up fully.
Djaq deserved better than him. He was a rogue – he had always fancied himself as a loveable rogue, and his cheeky charms had always seemed to work on the ladies, but it had all been a sham. Deep down inside he was a rogue in the worst sense of the word; a scoundrel, a waste of space. A traitor. And Djaq…Djaq was sarcastic and cynical, she had seen so much horror, but she was still kind and good and pure at heart. Out of everyone she had the most cause to be angry and bitter, but her nature was not twisted; she had taken her experiences and used them to better herself, to develop into a more mature woman.
Allan had never allowed the word love to creep into his mind until today, when he had been thinking of the gang halfway through his third pint, and realised that he did love them. He loved them all. But Djaq was different. He loved her. But love was something he knew nothing about, and he hadn't realised until it was too late.
Yes, he'd said that he liked her that time she was captured, but he hadn't thought much of it. He had said he liked her, whilst Will used the word love, and he almost snorted at the irony. He had never been capable of admitting his true feelings; he'd only risked admitting that he might like her, whilst young, shy Will had stood and declared his love.
Will. He was the right man for Djaq. He was kind, passionate, steadfast and brave; not a weak, pathetic traitor like him. And he loved Djaq, with all his heart; even Allan, who knew nothing of love, could see that. He would protect her, and care for her, as Allan never could. Allan was selfish.
Perhaps with Allan out of the way Will would stop making dopey cow eyes at Djaq, and finally admit that he loved her more than anything in the world. Allan doubted he would ever gather the courage, but at least it would give him a chance. He knew his two best friends could be happy together, if he just let them be.
Allan stayed where he was as the sun sank lower and lower, finally disappearing beneath the horizon. His eyes never left Djaq, committing every inch of her face to memory before she eventually stood, fixing her usual expression of confident capability onto her face and disappearing in the direction of the camp.
He continued to sit still until his muscles cramped and he began to shiver. His only hope of salvation was gone; he had to let her go, he couldn't burden her with his own horrible mess of a life. He couldn't go back to the gang; that was over, he knew that now.
Standing, Allan stretched out his sore muscles and scanned the trees. He would find somewhere sheltered to sleep, then as soon as it was light he would go and retrieve his blood money from the places where he had hidden it. And then…
And then he would go to Locksley, to Gisborne, and plead for a position with him.
Because he was a traitor, and now he had to suffer the consequences.