The sky was gray. The sea was gray, the day gradually darkening, the setting sun barely visible behind the clouds. Allan A Dale stepped onto the deck of the ship, glad to take a deep breath of the fresh sea air after being enveloped in the overripe human smell below. Pulling his cloak tight against the stiff wind, he made his way over to the side, his gait automatically adapting to the rolling of the ship. He was becoming somewhat accustomed to ship life after the past few months and was very thankful to not be suffering from the seasickness of his first trip. Leaning against the outer railing, he stared at the empty horizon, watching the ever changing waves flow past, the wind a constant dull roar in his ears.
After awhile, he began drifting lazily along the deck. He let his hand trail over the weathered wood of the rail until he reached the bow. That's where he found Much. A slumped, despondent figure sitting on a haphazard pile of wooden crates, the former servant didn't see his fellow outlaw. He was busy staring blankly at the gray sea as silent tears fell down his cheeks.
Jaw clenching, Allan grimaced and turned away. He briefly closed his eyes then cast a final glance at Much before heading back below deck. Much didn't even notice he'd ever been there. He stayed lost in his head missing the sunset in front of him.
Much did notice a few minutes later when Allan suddenly reappeared and sat down beside him. Straightening up, Much wiped the tears off his face, then with a scowl, turned towards the former traitor waiting for the expected outpouring of words from Allan's frequently overactive mouth. Instead, Allan took the jug he had brought with him and began pouring ale into one of two mugs.
"What are you doing here?"
Still saying nothing, Allan shrugged and started pouring ale into the other mug.
Much scowled again. "Aren't you going to insult me? Take the opportunity to laugh at poor sad little Much? Tell me how weak and silly I'm being sitting here in the cold crying like a little child?"
Holding out one of the mugs, Allan gave him a humourless smirk. "Are you going to start calling me a filthy traitor and accuse me of plotting against Robin?"
Much hesitated a moment then took the mug. "You know what you did was really stupid. I mean really, really stupid."
Much stared down at the amber liquid. "But I guess you didn't wish us any real harm and you did come through for us in the end for which I suppose I should say thank you."
They both drank.
"You're still an idiot though."
Both of their gazes went back out to the darkening sea as they continued to drink. Sniffing, Much wiped crossly at the tear marks on his face. Allan observed out of the corner of his eyes, but kept his gaze forward.
"You're not weak," he said after a few minutes.
Eyes widening, Much stared at him with confusion and surprise.
"You're not. You're the stable one at the center of our gang, the one we can always count on while the rest of us go crazy."
Much gave him an incredulous look.
"It's true. You hold us together. Heck, you've held Robin together for years. And over the past few weeks..." Allan trailed off.
Much thought of his former master tucked away and brooding in the dark hold of the ship. "Robin has been a bit moody and difficult lately."
Allan snorted. "That's putting it mildly," he said taking another sip of ale.
Much glared at him. "He has every right to act that way. Marian is dead. She was the love of his life. He just needs a little looking after and I'm looking after him."
"You ought to look after yourself once and awhile," replied Allan. "And I'm not being funny, but he wasn't the only one who cared about her."
During the resulting silence, another unwanted tear fell down Much's cheek. "I can't believe she's really gone."
"Neither can I," said Little John as the large man suddenly set himself down on Much's other side surprising them both.
They shifted over to make room for him and Allan handed him the jug of ale.
"She was a good lass and she didn't deserve to die like that," John said taking a swig.
Much and Allan both nodded.
"She wasn't supposed to die at all," said Much. "She was supposed to live, marry Robin, and have a whole bunch of kids."
Allan gave a said smile. "You'd have been their godfather."
"And you two would have been the crazy uncles always getting the kids into trouble: John, by spoiling them to death and you, Allan, by letting them do anything they wanted."
"And we'd have all lived happily ever after," whispered John.
More tears fell down Much's cheeks as he gave up fighting them. "I keep thinking that she'll be there when we arrive back in Sherwood, ready to yell at Robin for spending so much time away and kiss him when she's done," he explained wistfully. "I mean she's come back from the dead before."
"I think we're running a bit low on miracles," John said letting out a deep sigh.
Allan sniffed as tears began forming in his eyes too. "If it wasn't for her, I might not have even…" He shook his head, a tear finally escaping and trailing down his cheek. "She never gave up. She didn't give up on our fight and she didn't give up on me. She was brave and strong, stronger than any of us."
"She was our friend," said Much. "I knew her longer than either of you, back in the old days when she and Robin were courting. She never once looked down on me and always treated me well, like an equal."
"She was one of us," said John in turn. "Part of our family. And she'll be greatly missed." He lifted the bottle of ale up to the horizon where the last of the sunlight was disappearing. "Goodbye, Marion."
"Goodbye, Marion," Allan and Much echoed raising their mugs to the sky.