After stabling the horse, Marian stood in the doorway of Locksley Manor and watched him, standing in the middle of the hall before the hearth. First he sighed. Then his shoulders folded over and he fell to his knees, overcome with more emotions than a person could possibly feel at once. Overcome so that he laid his bow on the floorboards in front of him and then bent and pressed his lips to the timbers, as he had the rocks of a Dorset beach after so many years away. He was home. At last. Home.
Marian stepped in loudly enough to make her presence known.
"No, wait!" he halted her, clearly uncaring that she could see the tears running down his cheeks. "Wait," he said more softly as he approached.
"Go back outside."
"Do I not live here too, now?"
"Of course you do," he swooped her up into his arms and carried her through the doorframe, "And you shall enter properly, Lady Locksley."
o o o
"Robin?" Marian questioned, hours after clothes had been shed and love had been shared (a few times) and they had settled into the feather mattress, intertwined and refusing to let go. She'd been stroking his naked back with her fingers for hours now. "Robin, how is it that you are not yet asleep? You always fall asleep when I caress your back."
"I cannot sleep indoors," he offered.
"Robin, we just battled Lackland's loyalists for days! I would think that you could sleep standing."
"Well, you battled too."
"So why are you not sleeping?"
"I am not used to sharing your bed."
Robin stifled a chuckle.
"I mean…I did not expect yesterday that I would be Lady Locksley today."
It had all been so rushed. Richard had other rebellions to suppress and was leaving Nottinghamshire, most likely never to return. He was leaving Robin in charge of the county, granting him the castle and surrounding lands for his loyal service. It was then or never, and Robin had made a promise to her once, next to a fresh grave in Sherwood.
And so, she was married in chain maille, for she had been fighting right beside him, refusing to follow his orders to stay out of the battle. And there was not a flower in sight. But the ring, worn around her neck on a chain for so long, was now placed on her finger where it would permanently stay. The King blessed the union and moments later rode with his entourage toward Lincoln to calm the local lords, leaving behind a garrison for Robin to command.
His first act as commander had been to declare the evening off. The soldiers set up camp in the field outside the city walls and Robin ordered four pigs slaughtered for them and three barrels of the finest ale in town. He then ordered a pig and ale for every village, courtesy of Robin Hood. Letting out an exhausted sigh, he'd finally looked to his friends and stared at each one, unable to express what he felt for each of them – wanting to offer them thanks for their loyalty and sacrifice. His eyes spoke for him.
"Go," Much had said, with John and Allan and Djaq and Will concurring, "we will look after the castle." Much knew his life-long companion so well and could read in his body language even that which Marian could not. "Go. Sleep in your own home, in your own bed…with your wife."
It was the first time in a long time that she'd seen him grin as he had in childhood. And he acted a bit as he had then, nearly giddy with excitement as he grabbed her hand and pulled her to the stables. He, of course, saddled only one horse and she obliged, climbing behind him and gripping him tightly as she had when a lass.
"I knew." His voice pulled her from the events of the day.
"You knew what?"
"I knew that you would be Lady Locksley today. Well…not today specifically. But Marian, I have long had every intention of marrying you the moment it was safe to do so." He pulled her close again, "And I certainly had no intention of spending my first night in my own home without you."
"Your home?" she pulled away.
"Our home," he smiled contentedly and pulled her once again against his chest.
They managed to sleep.
o o o
Marian awoke to the feeling of sucking at her breast. "Husband…" she offered foggily, "Husband stop that."
"You weren't asking me to stop last night."
Marian giggled and flushed, as if she'd been a virgin for the event. But last night had been different. It was beautiful, and lush, and everything it should have been, but it was different, somehow. Whereas before they'd had to be careful of the consequences now…well…now those consequences were desired….expected even. She slid from beneath him and looked about the room.
"We have no clothing," she offered, giggling again as she stared at their twin sets of chain maille in piles on the floor.
He stood behind her, pressing his naked body again to hers, and spoke over her shoulder in that voice that nearly drove her mad, "We really don't need clothing, Marian, if we spend the entire day here."
"In the bedroom?"
"Mm," he turned her, and she found him wearing the classic, devilish grin that had always angered her and yet caused her to melt at the same time.
She dipped her chin toward her chest as his lips approached.
"Why, Robin? Why do you want to spend all day in here with me?"
Robin seemed unsure what to make of such a question. Still he spoke, despite his proclivity for saying exactly the wrong thing in moments such as these, "Because you are my wife," he kissed her hair, "and because we have waited our entire lives for this, Marian." He raised her chin with his finger, "And because I love you with every fibre of my soul." He kissed her gently and then returned to his charming smile, "And because we can."
But his charm failed to quench her fears. Marian turned away, "You are sure it has nothing to do with…"
"What, Marian?" He was clearly concerned now.
She sighed, "…with producing an heir."
She found him behind her again, "Is that what this is about?"
She nodded and turned, her body language demonstrating her uncertainty. She did want to bear his children and she didn't want him to think otherwise, but the idea of a life of domestic dullness was abhorrent. It frightened her more than any fight in which she'd ever engaged. "Is this what I fought for?" The uncertainty disappeared. "Is this what I've become? Is this why I struggled to stay independent and learned to fight and be strong and stand on my own feet with my own opinions? Is this why I speak fluent French and write Latin and Greek – so that I might bear Robin of Locksley's children?"
"Do you not wish to bear my children?" Robin's voice was tinged with sadness. "Our children," he corrected himself quietly, refraining from reaching for her.
"Of course I do, but that cannot be all that I am."
"Marian," his voice now sounded as if he believed her to be genuinely mad, "that's ubsurd!"
"You do not wish an heir?"
"Of course I do," he softened his tone, "but not immediately."
"It will happen when it happens."
She was unconvinced. Then her husband did something downright…surprising.
Taking her gently by the hand, he led her to the chair by the fire and pulled her onto his lap. "Marian, being the mother of our children will never be all that you are. You," he smiled and tapped her nose as he had when they were children, "are an amazing woman, wife. Why else do you think I love you?"
Marian looked down, refusing to meet his gaze. She was not accustomed to such words from him.
But the words kept coming, "You risked your life for your people and your King, never complaining, never hedging, never faltering. You fight better than most trained soldiers I know, and you have the kindest heart that I have ever known. The Nightwatchman was here, caring for the people when I could not." He reached up and put his palm to her cheek, forcing her to look at him, "And you have somehow found it in your heart to forgive me my faults and love me." His tone changed, "I've an entire county to look after, now, and a garrison of men to command...and quarrels to settle among the lords...and court to run…and you have a way with politics and people that I do not. Someone will need to look after Locksley and Knighton and I fear that, once again, I shall be largely absent."
As he spoke, his shoulders drifted downward. He'd borne such a burden for so long and she watched with remorse as she saw him supporting a burden once more. An ache developed in the pit of her stomach and she cried as his words washed over her. His voice was nearly pleading.
"I need you by my side, Marian, as you have been through all of it. You are my best friend…my companion…my lover…my confessor…my rock. Yes, you shall be the mother of my children, when we are so blessed, but you will also be my counsel and advisor...and my bookkeeper, for you are far better at figures than I."
Marian smiled through her tears, "That's true, I am."
Robin ran his fingers through her hair, "You are my beautiful, intelligent, brave Lady Locksley," a smile broke through, "and you are completely naked!" He laughed, lifting her to the floor. He grabbed a sheet from the bed and wrapped it about his waist, stepping onto the landing. "You," he called to the young woman setting the table for breakfast, "I'm sorry, what is your name?"
"Katie, have you any spare and clean dresses at home?"
"Would you fetch one, please?" Her confused look indicated that more explanation was needed. "My wife finds herself quite naked, I'm afraid." The girl's eyes grew large. Robin laughed and clarified, "Lady Locksley finds herself in need of a dress, as hers are still in Sherwood."
The young woman giggled as she ran from the Manor.
"I might have to punish you for that one, husband," Marian offered as he returned to the room.
He wrapped his arms about her waist as the sheet fell to the floor, "Say that again."
She rose to her toes and whispered into his ear, grazing the lobe with her lips, "Husband."
Robin moaned in curiosity, "And just how are you planning to punish this husband of yours, wife?"
"In more ways than he ever thought possible," she reached for the parts of him that were so nakedly there for grasping.
Katie's dress was not worn that day.