Disclaimer BBC's Robin Hood is not mine and neither is Sir Guy (tragically)
A/N - it's a cliche, but I just can't help it with this pairing...
"Gisbourn!" The Sheriff's irritable shout cut through Guy's wandering thoughts. He screwed his eyes shut and opened them again aware that the shadows couldn't be jumping the way that his straining eyes indicated they were and the echoing of the Sheriff's voice had less to do with the acoustics of the Great Hall than the sawdust that seemed to have taken up residence in his head.
He stepped forward, swaying slightly, noting the Sheriff's impatient huff, "My Lord." His voice sounded scratchy and distant even to himself.
Vaysey scowled and twirled the goblet in his hand, "Sickening for something, Gisbourn?"
Guy shook his head and then wished that he hadn't as the room seemed to tilt violently.
He reached out for the back of the Sheriff's chair to steady himself, feeling a trickle of sweat run like ice down his back.
The Sheriff batted at Guy's hand ineffectually, "Stay away from me."
The hand withdrew, stiffly.
The Sheriff turned in his seat to glower at his Master at Arms, who looked waxen and drawn in the uncertain light of the candles. Gisbourn had done little to please him of late, Vaysey considered, making him stand while he was clearly on the verge of collapse would be an amusing distraction.
He turned back to his plate and began to pick at his meat with a knife. A wager would add to the amusement, he thought, how long could pride hold a man upright?
A glance around the room showed none who'd take up the offer - or appreciate the humour.
A second glance and his disapproval alighted on the Lady Marian. Her fingers were white knuckled on her goblet as she fought, for once, to keep her mouth shut.
The Sheriff sneered, so there was someone who understood his wit.
He raised an eyebrow, waved a hand loosely indicating she should speak.
Marian ignored him, but as he watched her gaze was drawn unstoppably away from contemplating the tapestry on the far wall and drifted, all unwilling, the the ailing figure of his Master at Arms.
It was all that Vaysey could do not to rub his hands together. He'd forced Marian to dine with him on a whim, but it was turning into an inspired decision.
The woman had a bleeding heart, make no mistake, even the dour figure of her detested Fiancé seemed capable of rousing her protective instincts. It was no wonder she couldn't stop opposing his plans when they affected the anonymous poor.
He spat out a bone and decided to hurry Marian along to the inevitable.
He waved a chicken leg, doused in a particularly rich gravy in the direction of Gisburn: who paled even further if it were possible, sweat beading across his forehead.
The scrape of a chair drew his attention back to his forced guest, she had pushed her chair back and was standing, her eyes flitting from him, to Gisbourn, and back.
"Lady Marian?" He said pleasantly, leading back into his chair, awaiting the inevitable - and yet another excuse to punish her.
Marian hesitated, knowing that anything she said was only going to make things worse, but knowing that she couldn't bear to watch any further humiliation meted out by the Sheriff.
Guy watched hazily, detached from the scene even while his mind shouted impotent warnings.
The tableaux held, frozen, until a new figure entered the hall.
The Sheriff stood, his inconsequential game forgotten, he dropped the chicken leg and gestured for a serving girl to bring his meal to the antechamber where he always met his tax collector. He turned back before entering the chamber, and waved a contemptuous dismissal.
As the Sheriff looked away, Guy's shoulders sagged and his knees buckled, the world slowly misting into grey.
He was faintly surprised to find that he never hit the hard stone floor and that his face seemed to be pressed into a rich mane of chestnut hair. He felt a fork of lightning flicker around his body as a slim arm arm looped around his waist and led him, muttering protestations, from the room.
Guy managed to rouse himself enough to carry most of his own weight through the lengthening shadows of the twilight castle, but he could not spurn Marion's help however much his pride made him want to.
Marion knew that Guy kept quarters in the Castle. He maintained they were a convenience that recognised that duty often kept him away from Locksley, but Marian knew he often choose to remain when he could have returned home. Home? Marion doubted if he ever thought of Locksley in those terms, it was a trophy, a symbol of his power, but it seemed to make him uncomfortable more than anything.
As they stumbled through the labyrinthine ways of the castle, Marion noticed that, for a man who was almost out of his head with fever, Guy's grip on her was as gentle and inexorable as the dawn.
Guy was dimly aware of Marion waylaying a serving girl and giving instructions for for medicinal herbs, bedding and water. The memory of the conversation faded as their seemingly never-ending passage through the castle continued.
Arriving at the familiar doorway of his suite, Guy felt the last of his strength draining out of him. Leaning one arm against the door frame, he fumbled for his key.
Gentle fingers prised it away from him and opened the door.
Marion pushed Guy into the room, her eyes sweeping this, his most personal sanctuary. A chamber she had never entered before this moment. She noted that it was austere with little in the way of ornament. She shook her head slightly, whatever face he presented to the world, the pursuit of wealth did not drive Guy. Unlike his master.
The bedchamber lay through the doorway to the left, Marion could see the heavy brocade curtain of the massive bed.
"Strip." She instructed Guy, as she pulled the rich woven covers from the bed and deposited them on a chest in the corner of the room.
She turned back to find her patient making heavy weather of unfastening his snug leather jacket. Marion sighed in frustration, and placing one hand on each shoulder, walked Guy back towards the bed. As the back of his knees hit the edge he collapsed into a sitting position with none of his normal lithe grace and balance.
Marion knelt before him and tugged off his boots before discarding them. She pushed herself upright and placed her palm against Guy's forehead, snatching it back almost immediately, before touching him again, horrified.
"You're on fire, Guy." She said quietly, as she unbuttoned his jacket and slid it from his shoulders. She pulled off the light, sweat soaked vest underneath it, trying her best to retain a sense of medicinal distance and not be distracted by this, her second glimpse, of his taut golden skin.
The fever and the almost narcotic pleasure of feeling Marion's hands on his skin meant that Guy could scarcely think, but for one moment their eyes met and he was shocked to see genuine fear in Marion's gaze. His lifted a hand, which felt as heavy as lead, to stroke her cheek and reassure her, when her gaze dropped to his lap.
Guy looked down stupidly, before comprehension sluggishly dawned.
A half smile played across his lips, and his eyes looked towards the doorway.
Marion stood up and exited, embarrassed, while Guy unloosened the laces of his trousers.
Somewhere in the depths of the box beneath the bed he found a pair of loose linen trousers which he pulled on before sagging back on the bed exhausted.
He called her name and then she was by his side, her cool palm smoothing his hair from his eyes and easing him back on the bed.
His last clear image was of Marion, her features tight with concern, her touch blissfully welcome, watching over him.
Then darkness and delirium overcame him.
Marion paced slowly around the room. Guy was still shifting restlessly in the bed.
Fora night and a day she'd stayed by his bedside, trying to cool his raging skin with cloths soaked in sweet smelling water and trying to soothe him through the worst of his delirium.
The incoherent shouts and pleas she could hardly interpret had given way to a jagged, disrupted dreams, but the fever had not broken and, more than once, he had called her name.
Marion: her name made a dream of paradise and a curse to the depths of hell both.
In the darkest reaches of the night Marion had had ample time to reflect on the depth of the feelings that this man held for her.
Servants had come periodically with herbs and clean water, but none stayed longer than to hand over the items to Marion.
She had left the room once, reluctantly, forced to report to the Sheriff, her hair wild, dark circles under her eyes.
"Well, nurse?" He drawled, grinning evilly, "How goes the battle?"
For once Marion was left without a stinging retort or a sarcastic come back.
"He's very sick, My Lord." She had replied quietly defeated.
The Sheriff had glared at the news, and the lack of sport in goading her, before dismissing her with imprecations that his Lieutenant had better make it through.
Marion dismissed these thoughts and re-entered Guy's bedchamber. His tossing and turning had tangled the sheet around his legs pulling it, and his trousers, low on his waist. Revealing, once again, his warrior's frame.
Marion sat on the edge of the bed forcing her gaze upwards and to the stubble shadowed skin of his face.
She hesitated for a moment, before giving into her desire to touch him.
Perhaps she imagined it, but she felt sure that the shivers that wracked his body eased slightly as she laid her palm against his cheek.
She sighed, it was likely that only her unruly heart was taking solace from their contact.
Gently lifting her fingers free of his face, she caught his right hand in hers and pressed her lips against it.
Slowly exhaustion took her and she toppled forward one arm cradling her head the other still holding his hand tightly.
The stars spun in the heavens, high above the doomed chamber and as dawn stole across the sky, Guy's eyes fluttered open, the fever broken.
He became slowly aware of the roaring ache in every muscle, every sinew in his body.
He also recalled fractured images of days past and of the comfort of the woman he loved by his side.
He took a deep breath and dismissed that wild fancy - his illness had clearly been very serious.
Tentatively, he risked turning his head and the sight that greeted him almost stopped his heart.
Marion, asleep next to him.
Clinging to his hand as if it anchored her through the depths of the night.
Sleep robbed her of none of her beauty.
Guy could only marvel at the miracle that had been wrought and wait patiently for those precious eyes to open and for them to share just one moment when unguarded hearts reached out and touched in the space between sleep and wakefulness.