Now that the moment came, Much wasn't sure he could do this. He wasn't sure he could see her again after everything that had happened. After how much he had changed.
"Are you alright?" Robin asked. "You look like you might faint." There as a slight smirk in his voice. Much knew Robin well enough to know that he was being laughed at.
"It's all well and good for you, isn't it? You have your girl already," Much said, annoyed. Robin really shouldn't be laughing at him at such a crucial time as this.
"And you think that was easy?" Robin asked. "You know what Marian's like." There was that laughter in his voice again.
"Don't make fun of me, Robin. Not now!" Much said, agitation making him sharp.
Robin looked slightly hurt.
"I'm not making fun of you, Much. I'm just… I came to support you." He placed a comforting hand on Much's shoulder.
Much took a deep breath.
"This is a spectacularly bad idea, you know that, right?" he said, shaking his head. "She's probably forgotten all about me. Beautiful girl like her. Probably happy with some other bloke. I'm an idiot to think she would wait for me. I'm not worth it."
"You are, Much," he said "You're good and honest and brave."
Much couldn't help smiling at his friend's support, such as it was.
Eve's house came into view. Much could see a woman working in the front garden, her blond hair shining in the sunlight. As she straightened up, Much recognized her instantly. He caught his breath. His heart was pounding and there were butterflies in his stomach. She was the most beautiful woman in the whole world. What was he thinking?
Much stopped in his tracks.
"I can't do this," he said, with utter finality. "I can't go up there and speak to her after three years."
Robin didn't sigh, but Much knew he wanted to.
"Why not?" he asked.
"Because. Don't you see her? She's perfect. What would a perfect woman want with me?"
"Well, you are the Earl of Bonchurch," Robin replied.
There. He was laughing again.
"Robin! I am having a crisis here. If all you are going to do is mock, you should have stayed home!" Much exclaimed.
Robin turned serious.
"I'm sorry. You're right. This is serious. If that was Marian over there, I would be just as terrified. A few years ago, that was Marian. But you just have to go up there and present yourself to her; declare your love and ask her to marry you."
"Oh. Is that all?" Much muttered.
"Now. Go get the girl," he said, giving Much a little push.
Much began to walk towards the small cottage, as if on automatic pilot. His feet might have been moving, but all his thoughts were taken up with the woman who was kneeling down among the flowers. Much imprinted into his mind the curve of her neck, the elegant movement of her arms, the flow of her bright hair in its braid down her back. He wanted to memorize everything about her, in case she said no.
What was he doing? Who would want him anyways? After three years, with only a few letters to break the silence between them. Three years of near death experiences and harrowing escapes, and managing to get the king back to England in one piece only to have him leave again. Three years and he was finally Earl of Bonchurch, and ready to claim his bride. But whether she was ready to take him was entirely another matter.
He was getting close now. He was at the gate. He was opening the gate. It creaked, causing her to turn around.
"Much?" she asked, surprised.
"Eve. Hello. It… it's me. I promised to find you again, when the king returned. And… he has. So… here I am," Much said, awkwardly.
She stood there, frozen like one of the Greek statues that Much had seen on his travels.
He took a step closer.
"I've missed you. Very much," he said. "I thought about coming here before now. Millions of times. But it wasn't safe. If the Sheriff knew how you saved me, he would… well… I didn't want anything to happen to you. But I thought about you every day."
"Oh Much," she said softly, tears pooling in her beautiful blue eyes.
It was the tears that undid Much. In two quick strides he was in front of her, and had gathered her into his arms.
"Eve," he whispered her name tenderly.
"I missed you too, Much. I thought maybe you weren't coming. I thought… I thought maybe something had happened to you," she said, her voice muffled by his shirt.
"I'm Earl of Bonchurch now. Just as I was promised. And I've come…" but here Much lost his nerve. He took a deep breath, and began again. "I've come to ask you to be my countess," he said, his voice breaking slightly.
Eve gave a sound that was somewhere between a laugh and a sob. She was crying in earnest now, and didn't answer the question. Much began to get flustered.
"I mean, you don't have to… if you don't want to. I could just go away and…"
"Yes," she cut him off.
"Yes, Much. Yes."
Much laughed delightedly. He felt as if he was floating on air. He brushed a stray hair away from her cheek, and leaned in, kissing her gently.
"I love you," he said.
Eve laughed, and threw her arms around his neck, holding him close.
Over Eve's shoulder, Much saw Robin chuckling. But somehow, it didn't matter any more.
Author's Note: Yeah. I know. I had a fluff explosion. There is no excuse for this deplorable little piece of fluffy fluff. But really, isn't Much/Eve the cutest ship ever?
I looked it up, and the female counterpart to an Earl is indeed a Countess. The English never gave it its own term, but instead stole the one for the European equivalent of an Earl, which is a Count.