I wrote this in one shot, and I wasn't quite sure where I wanted this to go when I started it, and now that I'm done I'm not quite sure where it ended up. During and after "Ducking and Diving" I find myself either yelling at Allan for being a jerk or feeling completely sorry for him. This sort of addresses that.
Despite the unpredictability of their lives, the outlaws of Sherwood forest thrive on routine. At their most familiar activities they can move and interact like a well-designed machine, paths crossing, goods exchanging hands, small signals flashing and unspoken thoughts shared. Many of these they slide into without conscious planning, and there is little that can disrupt those most repeated; stealing, eating, sleeping.
Will stands at the entrance to his hand-made camp and sees their routine has been disrupted.
It is nighttime and the outlaws are preparing for sleep. The construction of the permanent camp has made this process a little easier, but it is still a process; there are weapons and clothes to be removed, blankets to be laid out, warm coals replaced to last through the night. The outlaws move toward their familiar places and familiar poses, and yet nothing is familiar anymore because it is all different.
One of their own is gone.
His absence is almost a physical presence, his empty space full withhis missing. Whether consciously or not, the outlaws move carefully around the place where Allan would normally lie, as though it's his corpse on the ground rather than an invisible memory of his living body.
Will cannot help but do the same as he unbuckles the strap that holds his axe and shrugs out of his outer-tunic, folding it to make a pillow long enough for two. Djaq is at his side suddenly and silently, two blankets held in her capable arms.
"It's a bit early to be going to sleep, isn't it?" Much asks from across the bed of glowing coals sunk in the middle of the camp, sniffing in an attempt to hide the anxiety in his voice. His question isn't really about the hour; neither is Robin's answer.
"We're all tired," their leader says shortly. He drops into his spot at Much's side and rolls over, throwing a blanket over himself and drawing it close, obscuring nearly all but his eyes, tightly closed. Every action is the same as every night, yet it is a calculated sameness that highlights how different everything now is.
Will wishes they could all sleep closer that night, shrink their semi-circle so it becomes a huddle, fill the empty space Allan has left behind with their own bodies. But instead they spread out, Much, Robin, and John, an attempt to negate the space by increasing it. Subtraction by addition, but it doesn't work reversed and five seems so much less than six.
Will takes his place by Djaq's side and is glad to see she doesn't move away. Instead, she turns to him as they shake out their blankets and lay down, touching him with her eyes that search for comfort. This is perhaps harder for her than anyone else. They all loved Allan, and they trusted him, but Djaq also believed in him.
Night falls softly around them, the sounds of the forest seeming wrong because they sound only right. John's snores begin to fill the camp, and are soon accompanied by Robin's even breathing, and Much's murmurs that continue through his sleep. The space on Will's right is deafening in it's silence. He turns his back on it, and finds Djaq has done the same. Uncharacteristically, he moves his body closer to hers, hoping for contact to drive away the emptiness. Djaq curves an arm over her back, and Will wraps her chilled fingers in his own.
"How could he do it?" he asks the quiet night. It is the first time he has spoken aloud of his friend's betrayal; he has so many questions too heavy with answers too real to ask, so he chooses one that can find no answer in the empty silence beside him. Because she knows this, Djaq tries to fill it.
"I think it was too easy, in the end." Though she speaks to the ground her voice trembles a little with hope and heartache and Will tightens his grasp.
"I wish—" he begins, but cannot continue, the words creating their own empty void into which so many things fall. Will wishes Allan hadn't had the opportunity for betrayal. He wishes Allan had told them all when he did. He wishes there'd been something he could have done to help. He wishes Allan were still in the gang, lying beside him in his customary place, cheeky remarks forthcoming even in his sleep.
"I wish I could hate him," Will whispers, and he can't tell if it's a confession or a regret.
"Yes," Djaq says, a response as muddled as his statement. "I think Allan wishes that, too."
Will can hear the pain and remorse in her voice, the guilt and anger and helplessness, and knows only half of it is directed at Allan. He cannot say it isn't her fault because that would mean it's not any of their faults and he can't uphold that even though he wants to. It would be unfair to Allan. To his friend.
So he moves himself closer to Djaq instead, sliding their clasped hands so they come to rest on her stomach, his arm tightly encircling her waist under the blankets where he pretends the others cannot see, but deep down knows they can and do not mind. Her body trembles once, then goes still, curved into Will's hold. Her fingers are gradually warming in his, and he recognizes they will both soon find sleep. Their regrets andlongings have not been laid to rest, but they have been placed in the empty space beside them and will remain there until morning. Will and Djaq wrap arms and twine fingers to keep each other close, and fall asleep each letting the other fill the empty spaces that remain.
"Here's where you sleep," Guy says curtly, and throws open the door with all the ceremony of opening a privy.
Allan peers into the small room, takes in the windowless gray walls and single hay mattress on a bed frame built with the skill and care of a torture rack, and shoots Guy an incredulous look.
"I'm not being funny," he says without thinking, as though he's speaking to a friend. "But this is like a dungeon cell!" He takes another glance at the room. There is a crooked table shoved in a far corner where a rusted candle holder sits and appears to cower from the looming weight of the faceless walls. "It's almost worst than a dungeon cell, mate!"
"If you don't like it," Guy growls, roughly grabbing Allan's arm and thrusting a candle into his hand, "Then you can sleep in the dungeon."
"Well what about the guards?" Allan asks, thinking that even another room like this would be far preferable if shared with the warmth and comfort of other bodies. "Where do they sleep?"
Guy doesn't answer him because he has already walked away, frustration Allan is beginning to understand better than he would ever have liked to in his every step. Left alone, he has no choice but to enter the tiny room while hot wax steadily drips on his fingers and burns the skin. Robin's voice echoes unsettling in his head as he places the candle in the decrepit holder, then lays down on the bed. He doesn't remove any of his clothing or weapons. To do so seems both too defiant and too compliant, though Allan can't quite say of what.
The room is dank and cold. Allan stares at the candle, trying not to notice how the dark emptiness of the room seems almost to swallow the little light. Part of his mind begins to fear it may swallow him too before morning. He starts to shiver and wraps his arms around himself. He's wished for a lot of things over the past few weeks, but more than anything now he wishes for a body beside him, someone else to fill the silence of the room with their breathing, to feel the same cold and to give off heat. Someone to forgive and be forgiven by.
But the room is empty, and Allan huddles tightly on the bed, watching the candle flame flicker like his beliefs, back and forth until it finally goes out. Then Allan squeezes his arms tighter and shuts his eyes in an attempt to change the darkness surrounding him. It looks the same on the insides of his eyelids.
He gives himself up to the emptiness.