Dancing Flame

Author: Emmithar

Disclaimer: Robin Hood and all of its characters belong to BBC America.

Summary: S2 spoilers: What if Carter hadn't returned to free Robin and his gang? One Shot

A/N: Just a few notes to clear up (potential) confusion. This takes place in Season Two during the final episode (We are Robin Hood) and is from King Richard's point of view. This does not follow the ending of the episode as originally written. The point of this story is to divulge into King Richard's thoughts and perspective on Robin, and has no real emphases on the series or shows themselves. If you have any questions/comments, feel free to leave a review or message me.

Dancing Flame

"Inform me when he wakes; I wish to be the first to speak with him."

"Of course your Majesty. As you wish."

The flap of the tent fell closed, sealing him inside alone, a single candle burning, its light feebly trying to chase away the darkness. He stood, watching the flame flicker for a moment, lost in a trance, as though it was trying to tell him something. As though it was saying 'though I am weak, I still burn strong'. It was the irony of it that stung the most.

Carefully he moved around the tent, lighting the remaining candles, one by one, till he reached the last, then paused. No, he wouldn't light the last one. There were seven candles burning now; one for each of those he had betrayed, and he would let them continue to burn until he received news, or till the moment they burned out. Quietly he prayed they would not.

It was a symbolism designed to keep him strong, to give him hope. As long as the tiny flames danced, then there was a chance. Of course, he wouldn't resign himself to the other possibility as of yet. There was deep turmoil raging inside of him at the moment, of fear and confusion, overshadowed by guilt. With everything that he had done, why this, why now?

Had war really clouded his judgment? How long had he been away? Slowly he shook his head, answering his own questions. He didn't know. Perhaps it was time to return to England, but no, he couldn't turn away, most certainly after this latest turn in events. They were fighting for peace, and so far war, bloody as ever, was the only thing in sight.

Yet his brother, Prince John, and the Black Knights, the Sheriff and Guy of Gisborne…all of them working together, in a plot to overthrow him, to take his life. King Richard had a gloomy feeling he had only heard the beginning of this dark and treacherous tale.

At the far side of his tent was his bed, far more luxuries than those of his comrades, but no where close to what he had back in England. Sitting down he slowly worked his arm out of the bandage, grimacing at the pain. It had been a close call, and more in likely would have been his life if it had not been for Carter disregarding his orders. The man had shown up as the attack had begun, defending his King to the best of abilities.

Even still, he had been wounded, a deep cut in the flesh of his arm, the blow aimed for his heart and would had hit true had he not turned at the last moment. Carter hadn't been so lucky. Yet his actions had brought forth more warriors, and they were able to overcome the assassin. The Sheriff, Guy of Gisborne, and others involved in the gruesome plot had escaped. The assassin had been killed, an easy death, but death it was none the less.

Treatment came to him first, but he had sent them to Carter instead. The man had received a serious blow, and in Richard's mind, the night of the Saracen attack came flooding back into his mind. Robin of Locksley had been injured in attempt to save his life, and now another good man would fall as well.

Sadly the King shook his head, reclining on his bed. As soon as the realization had hit that he had been deceived, he had sent help back for Robin and his men. How much time had passed since he had left them there? An hour, perhaps two? How long could someone survive in this blistering heat without water? How long and how far had Robin traveled to get to him, to warn him, to try and save his life?

And what had he done in return? Left him out to face his own death. A cold, cruel method of execution. Yet it was a blessing, in an odd and strange feat. If he had seen them through the execution that he had originally planned, then there would be no hope. The thought alone made his stomach turn, to realize how close he had come to killing the very man that had saved his life, and had come to save it once again.

Robin was noble man, filled with knowledge beyond the normal warrior. He was kind and compassionate, even to the smallest of people. It was easy to see he relied a lot on his man servant, even though he never did acknowledge it. His power, strength and accuracy with a bow were deadly, and well known. This along with all his other strengths, the ability to take charge, and risk his own welfare for the good of others was why it was easy to see how he made a good leader.

In some sense, the King almost saw him as a son, and loved him just as much. Perhaps that was why it had hurt him so when he received the news of the betrayal. Yet it was his own folly that he had been blinded and led astray. And the very man he cared about so much had paid for it.

By the time he had arrived back at the camp, Robin and his men had been freed. None of them responsive, having fallen unconscious from the heat. He had his best physicians tending to them all, watching them through the night. If they were strong enough, as these dancing flames were, then they would make it. As well as the girl.

Marian; he had only met the woman a few times in his life, but had heard a great deal from Robin during the war. During the nights, before they turned in, when the quietest and personal of talks were held, the man would briefly mention her, talk about the time he would return home, holding high hopes to marry her.

But when Robin had come, she had not been among them. How she ended up tied amongst the fray was certainly a question worth answering. An answer he wouldn't get unless they pulled through. Another sigh, another bout of silence.

Slowly he eased himself up, still taking care in not aggravating his wound. The flames were still flickering, burning steadily, giving him hope. What would he do if Robin did not make it? Even worse, what if he did, and the others did not? Robin would never forgive him; though the man would claim so, the King knew better. Taking the life of a friend, of a lover, was an unforgivable act, even when done unintentionally.

How much time had passed since Robin was last in the Holy Lands? Time was a lost concept to the King now, as days and nights melted together. But time certainly had come and gone. Robin had been a proud and solid man before the night of that deadly attack. Now there was a difference, and difference he had first missed, but thinking over it now it was more than clear to see.

He had lost weight, and his demeanor had changed. The same compassion still resided there, the same loyalty, and he had taken the punishment without much protest. Robin had always taken punishment quietly, acting as though it could never really harm him. It said a lot about who he truly was as a person; not just a fighter or a Noble. Robin held something that most men never would, and yet his greatest attribute was also his greatest flaw. The need to love, to be loved, and carry others above himself.

"Your Majesty, he has awakened."

There was no need for encouragement. The King was on his feet, thanking the guard as he left his tent. This wasn't the first time he would be in the makeshift hospital, even more so to visit and an injured Robin. This time though, it was his own doing…he was responsible.

There were more candles and torches burning in this tent, the light given off making it seem almost like day. The nip of the cold desert air wasn't as fierce in here as it was in his own tent, given all the extra bodies and burning fires. There were several men tending to Robin, the finest he could offer, but they pulled away as the King approached.

There were deep burns on his face and neck, ones that matched hands as Robin moved to sit up quickly, but Richard held his hand up, shaking his head. "Save your strength Robin."

"You are hurt, your Majesty," Robin whispered, his voice hoarse. He had stayed halfway between sitting up and lying down.

The statement riled him. Here Robin was having nearly died due to an allies' hand, and yet his concern was for his King, the same King who had betrayed him. But then again, that was Robin…why should he be so surprised?

"I owe Carter my life, as well as you."

Robin shook his head, turning away. "I did nothing."

"You spoke of the plot that was against me. Carter would have never gone against my wishes unless you had. Your King would be dead. You were loyal to me Robin, I betrayed you; I am sorry."

"You were deceived," Robin responded quietly, clearing his throat. "The Sheriff, those who work for him, they have a way of accomplishing this quite well."

"There is no excuse; you have always served me well, and at the first question of truth and loyalty I failed you, as well as the others."

Robin sighed heavily, shaking his head, "Your Majesty…"

"No," the King shook his head. "No more. For now you must rest. We will talk later."

If Robin had wanted to say more than the King could not bear it. Sometimes he hated his title, for there were those, such as Robin, who believed the King could do no wrong. It only added to pressure and guilt he already carried. Quietly he spoke to the physician at the door, requesting information on the others, pleased to hear that they too would recover. It was a small victory, but one none the less.

It would take time for the guilt to diminish, for the others to truly forgive him. Robin would find no fault in him, but the others were only simple men, and they would see the situation for what it really was. That their King, whom they had risked their lives for, had simply betrayed him. There was no other way to explain, and no need to do so. He had a feeling he would be facing a lot of questions by the time morning came.

It was no surprise that Robin was up by the time he awoke. Robin had always been one of the first, for a long as he could remember. How well he had slept was a mystery, the fatigue on his face real, but hidden well behind a falsified mask. He was seated outside in the shade, supping quietly as he conversed. There were others with him; the Saracen girl, Marian, and Much, he recognized. Where the others were, how they were doing, he couldn't tell.

"Your Majesty," Robin bowed quickly upon first seeing him; the others following suit though at a slower pace. They all seemed to resemble one another, their faces darkened from the burns, yet their clothes fresh and clean, bowls and plates resting at their feet.

"Please Robin," he waved him off. "I do not deserve such gratitude; I was a fool."

"Only a fool if you refuse to listen a second time," Robin told him firmly, moving to his feet. Another trait he tended to hold well; convincing you that you were wrong.

With a nod he agreed, motioning to him. "My tent."

"The others; I trust that everyone is okay?" he asked quietly once inside.

"In due time," Robin nodded.

"None of the thanks for me, I know."

"That's not true…"

"Have you forgotten that it was I who order your sentencing?" The King asked skeptically, watching him.

"There are traitors among us," Robin argued, "we both knew that. If I had been in your position I would have done the same."

"No," he shook his head with a small smile. "You would not have. You are rational in your thoughts, I am not. It nearly cost you your life. I do not blame you if you cannot give me your loyalty anymore."

"I have always been loyal," Robin said shortly, arms crossed now.

"And a dear friend," he nodded. "Yet trust and loyalty works both ways. You saved my life once, and you returned to do so again. I had no reason to doubt your word; forgive me."

"I already have."

The King nodded. He of course knew that was what the man would say. How it was possible was beyond him, but he valued Robin's services, not only as a fighter, but a friend as well.

"The Sheriff and Guy of Gisborne will not stop in their quest to take over England. Not with the black knights, and Prince John…I am sorry, I speak out of turn."

"No," he shook his head, "speak what you will Robin. I will not doubt your word again."

"We must return to England; my men and I. Your people there are suffering."

"I have not forgotten them Robin. There will be peace when I return…but first I must find it here."

"And the more people that die because of it," Robin shook his head sadly. "You were right; I am not the same Robin you remembered. I left war a changed man; I have seen what death and killing accomplish, and it isn't very much. It is easy to take a life; but it is harder not to."

"Compassion?" he wondered, "Even for your enemies; even for those who see you dead, who would try and kill your King?"

"In return for the safety and lives of the innocent; yes. Out here they would merely be the casualties of a plan that's gone wrong. In England…they are victims. And the people of that town would suffer for it. I would rather give my own life than see them suffer."

"You speak with wise words, Robin of Locksley. Perhaps it is you that should be King and not I."

"Much of what I learned was from you," Robin told him quietly. "If only you would be wise enough to listen to your own words."

"Then I trust you; do what you will, and in my name. But know this; I cannot leave here until peace is found."

There was disappointment in the man's face, but the King couldn't blame him. Slowly Robin nodded. "We look forward to your quick return then."

"Until then, fight for peace back home. For every man there is a purpose which he sets up in his life."

"Let yours be the doing of all good deeds," Robin finished with another nod. "And we will."

"Then it is good to hear; when you have recovered…"

"No," Robin shook his head. "The Sheriff is expecting us to be dead. There is no telling what he will be doing back in Nottingham. The longer we wait, the worse it will get. We will be leaving tonight."

"Very well then," the King nodded. "My men and I will help you prepare."

He would not question Robin on his choice; no, he had done enough of that already. Still he would have preferred for them to remain in the safety of their company until their burns had healed. But was it for their own welfare, or for his own reassurance? The King would never know.

As the sun began to set he watched them leave, the golden rays casting about them. Prepared with enough food and water, as well as warm clothes and bedrolls, the group should return safely to England. But then the real war would begin.

The King had spent the remainder of the afternoon talking with the rest of Robin's men. And women, Djaq, the slave he had rescued from working in the mines, and Marian, the woman he loved. As well as Much, no longer his man servant, but a loyal friend unwilling to leave his master's side even after being freed. There was Will, a simple boy from Locksley, and Allan, who seemed to be on difficult terms with Robin, but still part of the group. Last but not least there was Little John; to why he was called Little was a mystery, the man was pure muscle.

It was clear that Robin was still a leader, having banned together those who believed in similar cause. They were not the finest England had to offer, and certainly would not be the first chosen among the battle lines, but each contributed to the small group in a wondrous way. In talking with most of them he had been able to hear of the things Robin had done in his absences in the Holy Lands.

He had heard of the stories of how he saved peasants from the hangman's noose; of how he had faced the gallows himself to save more. Even more interesting tales of how he saved Prince Malik, and had gone headfirst into a barricaded street believed to be infected with pestilence, and discouraged a plot to create a form of deadly armor.

The tales warmed his heart and convinced him that Robin was very much the same man, if only a little smarter and far more determined. He knew that allowing them to return to England had been the right move; the Gods had been smiling down on them by allowing them to live.

They would both face war, of different manners, in different countries, but they would both be fighting for the same cause. They would both be fighting for peace.

Slowly he turned he left the desert behind, returning to his tent to turn in for the night. Tomorrow would mark a new day, and there would be much that had to be done. As he entered his tent he came to a stop, watching as the seven candles flickered quietly in the night, enticing a smile onto his lips.

"God Speed Robin, may we meet again."

The End