Title: Fallout (20/?)

Author: Bookishy

Rating: R

Word Count:7800

Summary: Guy and Marian deal with the aftermath of killing the Sheriff. An AU fanfic taking place after the events of episode 2.13.

A/N: So . . . here goes nothing. I may have obsessed over this chapter a little bit, which is why I am currently posting it at 2:30AM just so I will stop obsessing over it and, you know, maybe do some work that is not posting sex scenes on the internet.


The first thing Guy sees when he opens his eyes is Ahmad sitting in the chair across the way, his thin arms wrapped around his legs. He's humming softly to himself, tracing the points of his kneecaps. The candle at the chair's base sputters and casts otherworldly shadows on the walls. Even though the light is feeble, it sends a bolt of pain slicing through his head. Disoriented, he tries to sit up, and Ahmad snaps to attention, grabbing the candle and darting out of the room before Guy can say anything. The slam of the door causes another wave of pain; this time it settles behind his forehead. He falls back on the pillow.

Covering his eyes, Guy tries to piece together the events that brought him here. He remembers Hood arriving, full of pigheaded righteousness; he remembers Marian's inscrutable face; he remembers pressing the sword down, not caring how deeply the blade cut into his flesh as long as it reached the man's neck; he remembers Marian rushing in between, defending him once again. Everything after that, however, is black. It couldn't have been Hood that knocked him out--he was standing on the other side of Marian, face screwed up in hatred. It couldn't have been Allan or the Saracen woman or . . . Allan's friend with the long neck. They were standing to the side. It had to be the other one, Little John, the giant.

Humiliation swarms his chest, followed by anger. Guy lurches into a sitting position, this time ignoring the way his stomach dips in protest. The objects in the room slowly start to take shape, emerging from the darkness like ships in fog. It's night, he realizes belatedly, the candles and the darkness and the indistinct forms around him suddenly making sense. The air has turned cool again, and the brush of it against his skin makes him wonder at what point he lost his jacket. He looks down. And his boots.

Questions swarm his brain. How did he come to be in bed? Where are Hood and his outlaws now? And for that matter, where is Marian? He puts his head in his hands in an effort to focus, to figure out what this means for his plans. If they had just arrived a day later--an hour--he and Marian would have been gone and Hood would have been on the way to becoming a distant memory. But now he is here--here--and Marian is no longer agreeing to go.

Suddenly, Guy is struck by a horrifying thought. He listens for the sound of conversation downstairs, the sound of laughter, even, but the house is quiet. Too quiet. She has left him here to run off with Hood and his gang. She has absconded with half of his clothing and left him here alone once again in the middle of the desert with nothing but a wasteland of a future for company. Staggering across the room, he rips open the door just as a light knock sounds.

Marian is standing on the other side, one hand raised, the other circling a thick candle of deep yellow wax. She takes a startled step backward, nearly tripping over Ahmad, who peeks out from behind her skirts with obvious trepidation.

Relief pours through him, followed by shame at his overreaction, followed by dizziness, followed by nausea. The floor is listing, he is sure of it.

"Where is Hood?" he croaks, bracing his arms against the doorjamb. The rough surface makes his hand sting.

Marian ignores his question, her brow creased in concern. "You do not look well, Guy."

"Where is Hood?" he repeats.

"Next door, still unconscious," she sighs. "Little John knocked him out soon after he did you."

Of all the responses in the world, this one he expected the least. "Unconscious?"

"Yes. He would not listen either. If you sit down, I will explain." Taking advantage of his surprise, she moves forward as though to enter, but he holds his ground, forcing her to stop with only the candle's breadth between them. Marian peers up at him, incredulous. "May I come in?"

"Where are the rest of them?"

Her eyes dart away uncomfortably. "Around."

"Where are my boots?"

"On the chair."

"Who took--"

"I did!" she says impatiently and then asks if he is finished. When he doesn't immediately respond she presses forward again, only to back away after an awkward bump of chests. This time when she studies his face, her expression is questioning.

"I thought that you had left me," he confesses and then regrets it immediately. It was supposed to sound accusatory, not grateful to be wrong.

"I would not do that," she murmurs, and Guy must be hallucinating the flash of hurt that accompanies the words, for she soon throws a nervous glance down the hall. When she next speaks, her voice has returned to a brisk efficiency. "Really, can we continue this inside? I do not think that you should be on your feet."

Placing a hand on his chest, she gives a gentle push that he resists on principle before finally relenting. She brushes by him, crossing the dark room and setting her candle on the small table to the side of the bed. Its light spills over the pillows and turns her into a slim silhouette.

"How do you feel?" she asks, cupping the flame until it has settled.

"Like I was struck in the head by an overgrown peasant," he snaps. He would like to say more, but his head is pounding so hard that he can feel the thrum of blood behind his eyelids. Trying hard to remain steady, he makes his way to the foot of the bed. "That is how I feel," he mutters, sitting down and rubbing his eyes.

Suddenly, she is beside him, slipping her palm beneath his wrists and spanning his brow. He does not know what she is checking for--he was clubbed from behind not taken with a fever--but he is loath to tell her that. Her skin is cool, and for a second the dull pain disappears beneath the pleasure that always comes when she touches him without warning. It strikes him that he should be angrier than he is, asking questions and demanding answers. He will, he tells himself, just as soon as his relief has dissipated and he's gathered his wits.

"I have something that might help," she says, pulling her hand away and looking about the room. "Or Ahmad does. Where is . . ."

She heads to the door and peers into the hallway. After a few muffled words, Ahmad appears, a cup in one hand, a shallow basin balanced on the other. Marian gestures for him to enter, but he stays rooted in place. Every so often his gaze creeps toward Guy. As soon as Marian takes the items from him, he disappears. Marian looks at Guy as though it were his fault the boy is skittish.

"What?" he says.

She sighs. "Nothing. Drink this," she orders, holding the cup forward until he is forced to take it.

"What is it?" he asks, tipping it to the side experimentally. The dark black liquid barely moves.

"Djaq says that it will help your headache."

"Who is Djaq?"

Marian gives him a disbelieving look. "Djaq," she says. "The woman downstairs. The woman who was traded for your freedom a year ago."

He thrusts it back toward her. "No. It smells like poison."

"And what does poison smell like?" she asks.


"Suit yourself," Marian says. She sets it on the table with a hollow thunk, and then turns away to busy herself with the basin, dipping a cloth in the water.

Guy says nothing, keeping his eyes trained on her profile. As always, she is frustratingly self-contained, carrying herself as though she were a goblet on the verge of spilling. If he did not know better, he would think that they were back in her chambers at Nottingham, having one of those opaque conversations that always ended with him feeling as though he were missing some vital clue to existence. She would listen and she would respond, and after he had forgiven her Nightwatchman activities, she would even smile on occasion. But she would never . . . relent. Suddenly, he finds his missing anger.

"You should not talk to the outlaws," he says. He should not have to do this, he thinks. He should not have to break through her shell of indifference again and again and again, not after everything he has done.

Marian's hands still. "They are no longer outlaws."

"They will be so again if they try to interfere with Richard's plans," he warns.

"Then that is a risk they will take," Marian says quickly--too quickly--confirming his suspicions in one fell swoop.

"Let me guess," Guy says. "They will leave at dawn for Jaffa, find Baldrick and his pilgrims, and then stop the treaty from being overturned."

Marian confirms nothing, just squeezes the excess liquid from the cloth and holds it toward him.

"I am right," he says smugly, letting the rag drip into his lap.

"You are right because it is the right thing to do," she says and then tosses the cloth at his chest. "For your forehead, unless you think that the water is poison as well."

Guy catches her wrist before she can turn away. "We are still leaving, Marian," he says. "It is what we agreed on. It is what is best."

"Is it?" she says, looking down at him with a new intensity. "Where will we go?"

Her interest catches him unprepared. "I told you," he hedges. "We will follow the coast until we find somewhere far enough from Richard's influence."

"How will we live?"

"There is money enough in that chest to last us ten years."

"That is not ours," she says, and then sits beside him on the bed. "And even if it were, what would we do if Richard is here for more than ten years? What will we do?"

"I will figure something out!" he yells, loud enough that his head begins to hurt once more. "All you need to do is say that you are keeping your word."

Marian opens her mouth as if to speak, but then closes it again. When she finally finds the words, they are not what he wants to hear.

"You are right that I agreed," she begins calmly. "But that was before--"

"Before what?" he asks. "Before Hood arrived?"

"No," she says pointedly. "Before there were enough people to make going to Jaffa an option."

She hesitates as if deliberating whether or not to continue. "We do not even know if Robin will agree to go," she offers finally.

"Hood will not believe his precious king could be involved in something so ignoble," he sneers, wishing that something would stick to the man, just once. He had been half afraid that Hood would suddenly vow to take Richard down singlehandedly just to spite him.

"Perhaps," Marian says, infuriatingly noncommittal. Guy had studied her reactions downstairs. When he should have been making sure that Hood wasn't going to lunge at him with a sword, he had watched Marian, searching for small betrayals of affection now that he knew it had once existed . . . perhaps still exists. The question slips out before he can stop it.

"Have you been to see him?"


"You know who."

She gives him a long look. "You cannot be serious."

"Given the history," he insists, "I do not think it is an illogical question."

"Given what is in front of your face, I think that it is! For one thing, he's still unconscious. For another, I honestly doubt that I am the person he wants to see. You saw him downstairs."

It is yet another non-answer, one that places all responsibility at Hood's door and leaves her feelings out of it. All of a sudden he stands, abruptly enough that the room wobbles a little.

"Guy, please, you should really . . ."

"Say that you are leaving with me," he orders. "Say that you no longer care for him."

Marian freezes. He's seen the expression on her face before, but he has never before realized it for what it is. She looks . . . trapped. Hunted. Frustrated, he rubs his eyes, and then keeps rubbing, possessed by the vain hope that when he stops, he will open them to find that he is back in Nottingham and this whole thing is just one long terrible nightmare. But when he finally lowers his hand, all he sees is this same dim, forsaken room and Marian, her eyes fixed on his face with confusion.

"You're bleeding," she says.


She stands and crosses to him, raising a hand to tentatively rub at something on his cheek. "You are bleeding," she repeats and then frowns. "But where . . ." She stops to run her eyes over his body, eventually stopping on his hand. Grabbing it, she flips it over and then pulls him toward the light.

The cut is deep, a small, red ravine running across the landscape of his palm. Now that they are both looking at it, the wound starts to throb.

Marian looks up at him in worry. "This is deep."

"It is fine," he says shortly, trying to pull his hand away. He is sick of being assuaged by every little gesture of caring she deigns to show him, not when she avoids the things that matter. But Marian holds on.

"No, it is not. It needs to be cleaned," she insists, studying it more closely. "And possibly stitched. I will get Djaq."

"I do not want her interference!"

"But this is serious. We should really--"

"No, Marian."

"Fine," she snaps. "I will bandage it, and we will hope that your hand does not fall off."

Truth be told, his hand falling off is the least of his problems. "Do not overextend yourself on my account," he says bitterly.

"Would you please just sit?" she asks, and for the first time since the conversation began he hears a shard of emotion break through the reserve.

Reluctantly, he resumes his place on the bed. Marian sits beside him, balancing the basin next to her hip so that it does not spill. The water is tepid, and the cut stings as soon as the cloth touches it.

"When did this happen?" Marian asks as she begins to daub. It only takes a few moments for the red to overtake the white fabric. If anything, this is making it bleed more.

"When I was pushing the sword toward Hood's throat," he says curtly. "I should have cut his head off."

Her hands only pause for a second before she turns to rinse the cloth. "That would solve nothing," she says before resuming her ministrations.

"Wouldn't it?" he says darkly, but Marian refuses to look up. Her hair has fallen forward, and as she squints at the wound, it slips over the side of his hand and brushes his thigh. The candlelight is not helping; the flickering of the flame creates dramatic shadows that twine over her neck and then vee toward her chest. Images from the night before come unbidden; the weight of her in his arms, the feel of her breast as she arched against the same palm she is touching now. It was as if she were a different person. There was a time when he had thought that things would be different once he bedded her, that it would rid him of this uncertainty because it would mean that she was his. But it has only made him less sure of his footing--now when she reverts, she only feels more distant. It is Hood. It is all Hood.

"There," Marian says primly, pressing the cloth against his palm. "It is clean. I do not trust myself to sew it, so once the bleeding has stopped we will wrap it and hope for the best." She glances up with an expression that suggests further chastisement, but she must see something on his face because she sucks in a quick, flustered breath and then looks away.

"I can hold it," Guy says.


"The cloth. I can hold it," he says, taking her wrist and removing her hand before continuing brusquely. "You can leave. I do not need your pity or your half answers."

She looks at him, surprised. "You do not have my pity. And I do not want to leave."

His heart gives a traitorous lurch; he wishes he could tear it out. But when he responds, he manages to keep the doubt in his voice thick. "Really?"

"Yes, really!"

Guy studies her face, seeing all the signs of sincerity but unable to trust them. "Then perhaps you should answer my question and stop playing games," he snaps.

She throws her hands up. "Which question? The one I have answered a thousand times before?"

"Never to satisfaction."

"Because I shouldn't have to!" she explodes. "I have stayed by your side. I have followed you across the desert. I defend you to the point that everyone looks at me like I am a madwoman, and yet you still suspect me."

"I have reason."

"And I have reason not to trust you with my answers, not when you ask your questions like an executioner." When he doesn't immediately respond, she shakes her head. "I am sorry for my deceptions in the past. I am," she insists when he scoffs in disbelief. "But if you will not accept my apology and the truth of my actions, then there is nothing I can do to convince you."

"You could leave with me tomorrow."

Marian stands up so quickly that the basin clatters to the floor, splashing water over their feet. She lets out an impassioned string of curses Guy never even suspected she knew. He can only stare, dumbfounded, as she bends to retrieve it.

"Can I ask you a question?" she says suddenly, looking up with flashing eyes and flushed cheeks. Guy is about to say that no, actually, she can't ask him a question considering that she never answers his, but Marian doesn't wait. "Is leaving tomorrow what you genuinely think we should do, or is it another one of your tests?"

Caught off guard, he can only say, "Tests?"

"Yes," Marian says when she stands. "Tests."

"I do not know what you mean."

"Is this a test of my loyalty?" she asks, the last word dripping with disdain.

"I do not see why it is wrong to expect loyalty from my wife," he says coldly, noticing how his own word makes her shoulders stiffen. The truth is that she was right last night when she said that there were those who would consider them married, especially in light of their former exchanged vows. He has avoided confirming it because he's noticed how the concept makes her retreat, no matter that she seems to have no problem playing the part otherwise. But now, when she turns away to set the basin on the nightstand, he adds, "I do not see why it is wrong to expect loyalty from my wife after all that I have given up."

For a second, a shadow of guilt crosses over her face, but it is gone by the time she speaks. "And what exactly is it that you have given up? Being the lackey of a madman who would not stop until he had leeched every drop of humanity from you? More sins against people who had no way of protecting themselves? Universal revilement?" She shakes her head. "No one else likes you, Guy. If it weren't for me, you would still be downstairs for lack of someone willing to carry you up ten stairs."

"I do not care what they think," he spits, but the idea that she would be embarrassed of him rankles.

"I care!" she yells. "I care that I have a husband who is not feared or hated. I care that I am not treated like a leper any time your name is mentioned."

"Had I assassinated Richard I would have power and position by now," he says. "We would have power and position. And then--"

"Oh, hang power and position! Yes, that's what I said. Hang it. I like you better without them," she says, and then looks slightly affronted by her own outburst before tilting her chin up. "I mean it. I am happier to be married to you now than I ever was in Nottingham."

"Now when I have nothing?" he asks incredulously.

"Yes!" Without a warning, she sits back down beside him, grabbing his hand hard enough that it begins to sting anew. "Because now I see someone who would rather start a new life with nothing than fall into another situation where he is forced to do something that he does not wish to do. And that is admirable."

She stops, her eyes bright as she watches him expression that is part hope, part nervousness, and part excitement. He looks away, suddenly afraid that if he keeps looking at her he will agree to anything. He does not want to be moved by her words.

"If it is so admirable," he says bitterly, "then why do you refuse to join me?"

"Because I do not want to begin a new life while regretting the old. And you were right," she continues when he does not speak. "There were times in Nottingham that I acted without giving thought to the consequences. I believed Robin blindly. I treated you abominably. But I did it because I believed that there was a way to fix things. And I know that there is a way to fix things now, if you will only help us. You are the one who spent time with Baldrick; you are the one who knows the most about what they are planning to do."

"Thwarting Richard is a death sentence, Marian."

"Not necessarily. You more than anyone else should know how much the outlaws are able to accomplish. They can stop it," she insists, pressing in closer. "We can stop it. And then I will follow you anywhere, follow you gladly."

Eagerness is rolling off of her in waves. Turning to look at her, Guy feels the familiar mixture of hope and guilt and fear and hope that only Marian can inspire--guilt because he will never be able to match her enthusiasm or her unshakeable compassion for people who have done nothing to deserve it; fear that one day she will finally come to realize this; and hope that she never does.

"Please," she says when he does not respond. "I have always believed in you. I want us to . . . I want to be . . . I want you and I to . . ." She closes her eyes as though frustrated with her own sudden lack of eloquence. When she opens them again, she simply says, "I do not want us to be on opposite sides any longer. I am tired of fighting."

Her eyes flit over his face, desperately searching out an answer. It would be so easy to say yes and make her face light up. But he has been here before, the moment where he agrees to do as she asks and then everything stays the same. The moment where she dangles a promise in front of him that turns out to be yet another means to one of her ends.

"And what if I say no?" he asks. "What if I am tired of conditions to your affection?"

The light in her eyes dims as she pulls away. Guy feels something dark and bitter crawl its way into his throat. This is the moment of truth, and it is going to kill him. As the silence stretches on, all he can hear is the sputter of the candle and the faint echo of someone laughing outside. What will he do if she says that she is going to Jaffa no matter what? He does not think he has the energy or the clout to fight against her any longer, to force her in directions she does not want to go. Perhaps he will find Baldrick, he thinks, and see if it is still possible to carry out this mission for Richard, but then that option feels distasteful as well. Perhaps he will just sit here forever until he rots.

He is so caught up in his thoughts that at first he does not hear what Marian is saying. He has to ask her to repeat it.

"I said that I will leave with you tomorrow," she says, and while her voice is subdued, it is also steady. "Go wherever you want to go. You deserve that much from me."

There is no way to describe the feeling that breaks over him other than joy. But when he tries to find a corresponding happiness on her face, he is met only with a cool reserve that is marred by the way she swipes surreptitiously at her cheeks.

"And it will be fine," she continues, almost as a reassurance to herself. "Especially if they are able to convince Robin."

The fact that she has transferred her hope to Hood--Hood, who just hours ago was crying downstairs because he couldn't believe his King would be so conniving--pokes a hole in his inflating hope. So does the way she will not meet his eyes.

"Marian," he starts and tries to place a hand on her thigh but she stands and moves away.

"I hope this will at least prove my loyalty once and for all," she says, and while her words contain no bitterness, they also contain no warmth. Guy suddenly remembers sitting at the table with her this morning, her strange and dispassionate distance that rattled him more than anything she had ever said to him in anger.

"You should rest," she says, beginning to walk away. "I imagine we will want to get an early start."

Guy catches the back of her skirt, even while his brain is shouting that he is a fool, he is a fool, he is a fool.

"Please let go," she says, swatting at his hand with something more than annoyance.

"We can go to Jaffa," he says.

She stops mid-swat to look at him in shock. "What?"

"We can see if there is something to be done. But if there is not, then we will leave. I do not want to die for this," he adds gruffly, even though he is fairly certain that is the most likely outcome. At least being dead will save him the trouble of having to figure out where in hell to take them.

"Are you serious?" she finally asks, with so much intensity that Guy wonders if he has once again said the wrong thing. Perhaps he should have acted happier about it, less resigned. The outlaws always seem improportionately pleased with everything they do.

"Yes?" he tries.

"You will go to Jaffa with me?" she asks, breathless. "With the outlaws?"

For a second his resolve wavers; he had forgotten that going to Jaffa with the outlaws would include the outlaws. "I suppose."

"But you said--"

"I changed my mind," he says uncomfortably. "But if Bonchurch does not stay away from me I swear--"

He does not get to finish his warning, for Marian is lunging forward, grabbing his cheeks and kissing him, hard. By the time he has gathered enough wits to kiss back, she is already pulling away.

"Your hand!" she says. "I forgot to bandage it."

"I do not mind," he murmurs, trying to resume the kiss, but she scrambles away to pull a clean cloth from the jumble on the nightstand. Once she is standing in front of him once again, she gently wraps it around his palm, finishing it off with an awkward, tumorous knot on the side. Afterwards, she tucks her hair behind her ear and smiles.

"That will have to do for now. I really wish that you would let Djaq look at it." She pauses as if suddenly struck by a thought. "Djaq! I should tell her. There is so much to do."

She starts to turn away but Guy places both hands on her waist and pulls her between his knees, reluctant to lose this moment to what will surely be the regret of tomorrow. "Stay," he says. "It will keep."

"But if we leave first thing--"

"Stay," he urges, sliding his hands up until his thumbs are brushing the undersides of her breasts. Her breasts which are, coincidentally, level with his eyes.

Marian's breath hitches--she's realized his intentions--and Guy studies her face. He has never gone so far as to initiate their congress, only capitalized on the moments when she has had a point to prove. But now he slides his uninjured hand around to her back, he tugs the top tie of her lacings loose. When she came downstairs this morning wearing the dress from Nottingham, he thought it might be a message to him that they were back to being on opposite divides. Now, however, the idea that he is undressing the Marian that once rejected him again and again makes this a thousand times more arousing . . . and that thousand becomes a million when she doesn't move away.

"Your hand," she blurts when he moves to pull at the second.

"I have two."

"Your head."

"Is feeling better," he says. He has managed to undo half of the lacings--many of which she had helpfully skipped this morning. When his fingers brush against the cool skin of her back, he raises his eyebrows, surprised to find no underlinen in the way.

"The last one tore," she says, slightly defensive.

He pulls loose the second to last tie. "I am not complaining."

Marian doesn't respond, just closes her eyes and swallows. Encouraged, he tries to pull her closer, but she puts a hand on his shoulder to stay him.

"Guy, there are people downstairs. And in the next room."

"Allan was upstairs last night. He could have come down at any time and caught us," he says, getting a small thrill at the way her lips part in surprise. She hadn't thought of that, but he had. It has also not escaped him how glorious it will feel to have her wrapped around him while Hood is in the next room.

"Still," she says, and then acts like she is about to say more until he loosens the last tie and slips his hand in to span the small of her back. This time she lets him draw her closer.

"I can be quiet," he says, remembering how easy it is to dare her into things. "Can you?"

"Of course I can be quiet," she snaps, looking down at him with flushed cheeks. There is surely something wrong with him that her annoyance only makes him want her more.

"Then why not?" he says. "We might as well enjoy our last days."

"I told you. We are not going to die. The outlaws have succeeded time and time--" She stops when he chuckles. "You are frustrating me on purpose," she says, sounding baffled.

"Perhaps," he says, and then drags her into a kiss before she can say anything else. She resists at first--she always does when she is not the one to initiate it--but he is relieved when she relaxes after only a few beats and kisses him back. Tentatively, at first, but then with increasing passion, as though it were a contest. When she presses her body forward, he lets himself fall back on the bed, pulling her on top of him. She makes a small moue against his lips, and then cuts off the kiss.

"Really," she says. "You could barely stand before, we should not--"

He rolls them over abruptly, but the swift movement makes his vision spin. He blinks down at her, trying to get his eyes to focus on the face of the woman beneath him. There is a brief moment where she has two noses.

"Your eyes just crossed, Guy."

"It's fine," he insists, even while he tells himself no more rolling.

She frees a hand from where it is trapped between their bodies and pokes him in the back of the head, smiling smugly when he is unable to stop a startled oath.

"See?" she says.

"To be honest, Marian, bedding a woman doesn't normally involve getting smacked in the back of the head."

She pushes herself up on her elbows. "There will be time for this later. You need to rest."

"I don't think that is what I need," he says, reaching down until he locates the hem of her skirt. He slips his fingers beneath it, finding her calf and sliding his hand upward. By the time he passes her knee she is visibly holding her breath, but when he slides his palm over to the soft skin of her inner thigh, when he can feel the heat of her against his knuckles, she grabs his wrist through the material.

"Rest," she says, her voice a little shaky.

Guy has to bite his tongue to keep from letting out a stream of curses. Tomorrow they will be on the road, most likely surrounded by the group of idiots downstairs, and there will be very little opportunity to have her in a proper bed or even at all. He turns his head to the wall, trying to figure out how to convince her that the real travesty would be to waste one of the small periods of time when he seems to have done something right. His eye falls on the cup of liquid that she brought him. Removing his hand from her skirts, he reaches over to grab it and then empties it in one gulp.

"There. Healed," he says, just as the taste of what he's just downed floods his mouth. It's as though he's made a beverage out of the pond. Marian bursts into laughter, and for a second he can only stare down at her.

"I do not see what is so funny," he finally growls.

"Your face," she says.

"I am glad that I amuse you," he says, straightening up to hide the fact that he is suddenly feeling ridiculous.

"Oh, stop," she says, grabbing the front of his shirt and tugging until he falls back down. She wraps her hand around the back of his neck and kisses him. After a few seconds she pulls away, mouth pursed.

"What now?" he asks.

"That does taste repulsive."

"Right, well, I told you it was poison," he says. He thinks he sees her roll her eyes, but she does not halt his hand when it resumes its mission beneath her skirt. When he reaches her thigh he braces himself on his elbow to watch her face. Her lashes lower, and her breathing becomes jagged. She is not stopping him, not even when he reaches the apex of her legs and slips a finger into her warmth. Marian emits a small gasp as her body tightens around him. The shoulders of her loosened dress are slipping down, revealing a creamy curve of breast. Marian in disarray is always a sight to behold. If he had his way she would never be orderly again.

"I want you too much. I have always wanted you too much," he breathes. When she doesn't immediately respond, he slips another finger inside her. "You want this too. Say that you want this too."

Her fingers grab the material of his shirt as her eyes flutter open. He sees her indecision, has time to wonder if it is for a reason other than his injuries. "I do," she says after a beat passes, "but--"

"Marian, if my head falls off, it will be worth it," he insists, and when she has no further protest, he pulls his shirt over his shoulders, and throws it to the side. The rush of air causes the weak flame of the candle to sputter out, plunging the room into darkness. This is unbelievable.

"Wait here," he says impatiently, but before he can move he hears the rustle of skirts just as Marian's fingers wrap around his wrist.

"Leave it," she says. "Please."

"I want to see you."

"Our eyes will adjust," she says, letting go of his hand to tentatively run her own up and down his chest. She doesn't stop at his navel, and her fingers brush over the place where he strains against his leather--accidentally?--before darting away.

Maybe she is right about the candle.

Falling forward, Guy finds her lips as he attempts to undress her in the dark. By the time he manages to free her from her bodice, he can make out the angles of her features, the spill of dark hair across the sheets and the duskiness of her nipples against the pale wash of her skin. She lifts her hips to help him slide her dress down her legs and then kicks it free. When he braces himself on one arm to fumble with the ties to his trousers and remove them, she scoots to the head of the bed.

Her breathing quickens and sets a brisk rhythm as soon as he hovers above her. After everything, after all of her bravery with him last night in front of the fire, there are still these moments of nervousness. He sees this side of her so rarely that for a second he does nothing.

"Are you going to kiss me or stare at me?" she asks with a shaky laugh

Truth be told, if she were any other woman he would already be close to coming. Once a woman is willing, there's really no point in dragging it out. Until Marian, he would have thought that if you had bedded a woman once, it wouldn't be so much trouble to do it again.

"Which do you prefer?" he asks.

"A kiss!"

"Then I will stare at you."

There's a long pause, and Guy wonders if he's said something wrong. But then Marian asks, "Did you make a jest?"

"It happens occasionally," he says, bending down to give her a kiss that lands mostly on her bottom lip as he tucks an arm behind her head and moves one hand down to cover her breast. He lets his thumb toy with her nipple as he murmurs, "I told you once that you do not know me as well as you think."

"Perhaps not," she says after another long pause and then kisses him again, opening her lips to let him deepen the embrace. His hand slides lower, stopping when his palm spans the gentle swell of her stomach. All of a sudden she tenses.

Guy pulls away, realizing too late that the ridge his fingertips have been tentatively exploring is the scar that he gave her. "I did not know that it was you," he says quickly, trying to remember if he has ever apologized for . . . well, for stabbing her in the stomach.

"What?" she asks, her voice thick with confusion.

"The scar. I did not know that it was you."

He hears her suck in a breath. "It doesn't matter. That is not what. . ." she trails off.


"Never mind," she says, arching her hips so that his palm slips lower, and all of his questions are swallowed by the fact that his hand is once again buried in the heat of her. She moans against his mouth when his fingers begin to explore. "There," she says, reaching between them to grab his wrist. "Stay there."

He does as she asks, crooking his finger and barely believing his luck when she bucks against his palm. When she opens her legs further, he takes his hand away, wanting to keep her eager.

"I said stay there," she breathes.

"Sometimes we don't get everything we want," he growls, kissing her neck.

Her sound of indignant disbelief cuts through the darkness followed by the inhale of a deep breath. And then, before he can make out what she's doing, her soft hand is gliding over the planes of his abdomen and wrapping around his cock.

Guy curses at the sudden throb of lust that courses through his body, and Marian draws her hand back as though burned. He is having trouble swallowing, but he manages to guide her hand back to him and roll to his side. She watches his face as she begins to grip him, first slowly and then with increasing speed. Every so often she stops to run her fingers up the length of him, obviously delighted when she can make him shudder. What she lacks in technique, she makes up for by being Marian, and by the time he realizes that he is studying the dark bow of her lips and wondering what good deed he would have to do to coax her to use them instead, he is close to the end.

Abruptly he rolls them back over, pinning her wrists by her head and shaking off a brief wave of dizziness. Her pulse flutters against his thumbs, and even in the dark he can tell that she is startled.

"Did I do something wrong?" Marian asks.

"No," he says.

She sounds bemused. "Then will you give me my hands back?"

"Do I have to?" he says without thinking, for this has been one of his fantasies for the past three years, to have her spread beneath him, entirely at his mercy. Her bare thighs hug his hips, and all he needs to do is guide himself forward and it will be so. In fact he can already feel her, wet and waiting.

Marian doesn't answer, but when he slides his hands up to her palms, she clutches back. Their fingers interlock, his bandage rough between their hands. He moves his hips forward, testing the waters, and she arches up.

"I want--"

"Yes," she says, and then sucks in a breath when he enters her.

"Are you all right?"

He sees her head move, but she doesn't say anything aloud. Is that a nod?


"I am fine," she whispers. "It is just still . . . unfamiliar."

He does not know what to make of that, but after a few seconds she bumps her hips up and he does not feel as though he needs to.

"Wrap your legs around me," he orders, and she does, but he grabs the back of her thigh with one hand and angles it higher so that he can sink deeper. She is tight and hot around him, and when he begins to thrust downward she closes her eyes and lets her head fall back, exposing the column of her throat. He finds that he loves the way she gasps every time he changes pace, and the way that she digs her nails into his shoulders and tries to draw him closer.

When he is getting close, he works a hand between their bodies and finds the spot that had made her moan before. She shudders as soon as he touches it, and her hand moves to tangle in the curls at his neck. Soon she begins to make noises in the back of her throat, and it isn't long before she tilts up and cries out, her chest heaving. He feels her legs tightening around him, and he moves faster until he is ready to let go, and for a moment there is nothing at all wrong. Nothing in the world.

Things come back to him slowly. His nose is buried in her neck, and her hair creates a fragrant tangle around him. Every time she inhales, her breasts brush his chest, and he is suddenly brought back to the last time they were in this position, when she pushed him away almost immediately. He is tempted to roll away now, to save himself the flinch of her retreat, but instead he pulls back and peers down at her, trying to make out her expression.

"Marian, I--"

"I meant what I said," she interrupts quickly.

"About what?"

"I like you better like this. Now. . . Here."

His first reaction is a quick frustration. Of course she likes him better, now that he is doing what she asks. If she would have only given him a chance in Nottingham, he could have shown her this side while he still had two coins to rub together. And liking is not loving and he does not know what he has left to give. But all he says is, "Do you?"

"Yes," she says. "You are different than I thought. This is . . . different than I thought."

"I like you better here as well," he says, and is perversely pleased when she stiffens a little. She doesn't like it either.

"How am I different?" she asks, and that is when Guy realizes he doesn't have a good answer. She repeats the question.

"You're . . ."


"Nakeder," he says, and even though he didn't mean for it to be funny, she gives a choked laugh. She is about to say something else when there is the sound of a loud clomping on the stairs, followed by a few hissed commands to be quiet and what Guy thinks is the annoying one's voice asking if they think that Robin is awake yet and wondering where Marian is. This last question is followed by a long silence, and the next thing he knows, Marian is pushing at his shoulders and wiggling out from beneath him. He watches her frantically wrap herself in the sheet and lie there, still and terrified. She stays that way, even after the footsteps descend the staircase and the voices fade into a dull hum. The specter of tomorrow has intruded sooner than expected. He is already starting to regret his decision.


"We should sleep," she says, in the clipped tone that always signals the end of a conversation for her.

Guy rolls to his back, studying the cracks on the ceiling and feeling the familiar coldness descend. Suddenly, her hand finds his arm in the blackness. She whispers his name.

"What?" he says darkly.

"Thank you. For going. It is the right thing to do."

Guy says nothing because there is nothing to say--at the moment, he couldn't care less about the right thing to do. And he is fairly certain that she knows it.