A/N: My first foray into Robin Hood fanfiction and to writing in the present tense. Not my first foray into writing at midnight because the characters won't stop talking in my head.
This is set at the end of series 2 episode 7, Show Me The Money, and deals with Marian's first night as an outlaw and her grief for her father.
John and Beatrice have gone off to whence they came, now happily married, having been rescued from Will's ingenious trap for the second time. Marian takes care to note how it was triggered so she can avoid being caught again herself. Not that she will most likely be taking this road on horseback as often as she has done before. Before...
"Right then!" Much announces with vigour. "I believe it's time for dinner."
"And what are we eating tonight?" Djaq asks wryly. "Squirrel again?"
"Squirrel?" Marian questions. "Is that even edible?"
"Oh, you'd be surprised," Robin replies. "Much is nothing if not a brilliant chef of unusual things. Is that not right, Much?" he calls ahead as they begin retreating to the camp.
"It's not squirrel!" Much blusters. "And anyway, we've got a couple of Gisbourne's ducks tonight. Well, it is Robin's pond really."
Little John grunts. "Good," he says gruffly.
Will smiles, but doesn't say anything. He doesn't often say much, but when he does, he is listened to. A rare gift, and a valuable one.
Robin still holds Marian's hand and she is grateful. She needs the anchor for a moment, a gentle tug to remind her of this world, not the next. Nevertheless, she knows that tonight she will not sleep well, if at all, and she won't be entirely herself for days, if not weeks. After that, she does not want to think of it.
"Welcome home," he whispers to her as Will pulls down the hidden lever that opens the camp's secret entrance, and she doesn't need to look up to see the smile on his face. He has wanted this for so long and, if truth be told, so has she. There is a certain romance about the idea of living in a living forest, free to do as she will, with the gang. With him, though she'd never admit it to him for fear of his ignorant, arrogant teasing. Of course, she has never been able to leave before, no matter how her nonsensical irrational heart has longed for it. Before...
She has seen the camp briefly, before, though never has she seen how to open it or taken note of much of the design. Now, though, she looks about her with interest and curiosity; this is her home, probably until King Richard returns to England. She sees the chaos of blankets, tools, instruments, weapons, loot lying all over the place, yet she can see that the chaos is organised. Then she looks round at the various beds, makeshift as they are, and tries to connect them to their occupants. It keeps her mind occupied, prevents her from thinking about less than joyful events; it is a trick she learnt over five years ago, to think of the mundane and forget the important.
It is obvious that the largest bed belongs to Little John but she thinks she could have guessed anyway; there are no trinkets or possessions there besides his long staff which he now drops tidily underneath it. John would not keep anything that could be given away. There are two beds close by each other, one much smaller than the other, and it is clear that these belong to Will and Djaq. Carpenters' tools lie scattered between the two, intermixed with the instruments of a physician and shelves fixed to the stone wall hold various herbs and phials of mysterious substances. Perhaps she is being overly analytical, but it seems to her that Djaq's bed does not look as well used as Will's. Then, higher up the slope there are another two, not quite so close together, these much the same size, and she knows that these are the beds of Robin and Much. Much's bed is neatly made, his blanket folded and tucked away whilst Robin's is carelessly thrown aside. Arrows are strewn everywhere, some half-made. Then there is one more, set slightly aside from the rest, whether by design or coincidence she does not know. It must be Allan's bed, but she could not have guessed. There are no personal effects there, not even a blanket; the gang has removed anything that might have identified its occupant.
Much goes out the rear of the area she can see, out to where the kitchen must be. She knows that Much does all of the cooking; he cooked for Robin in the Holy Land and none of the others have much of an ability to cook anything palatable. Moreover, Much likes food and so he likes cooking.
"Let us sort out you, Marian," Djaq says in that exotic way which separates Mary and Ann, as her name would once have been. "You must get some better clothing, no? You cannot live out here in skirts."
"No," Marian agrees.
"You don't mind wearing breeches?" Will asks, sitting on his bed.
"I wear them as the Night Watchman. And I rather think it would be stupid of me to worry about looking like a lady out here," she replies.
"Quite right," Djaq smiles. "Here. We have some spares over here. Come and see if there are any that will fit you."
Marian drops Robin's hand and follows the young Saracen woman over to a chest of clothes. "You have quite a collection," she remarks.
"Some things accumulate," Djaq says, riffling through the chest. "These are winter clothes. People will not need them for months. We will give them out then."
Marian nods and picks up a pair of breeches, holds them against her waist. "These look to be about the right size."
Robin has moved over to join them. "I am sure they will suit you," he says with a twinkle in his eye.
She shoots him back a glance of steel. "And I am sure that it is not your concern whether they should suit me or not."
He holds up his hands in a mock surrender. "Of course not, my lady."
"Oh, do not call me that," she snaps. "I am not a lady any more. What am I to be a lady of? Knighton is gone and here I am consorting and living with outlaws. Do not taunt me with what is lost."
He doesn't reply immediately to that, because he knows that this is not just Marian snapping at him, as she so often does. This order dances around the rawness of her father's death and he will not be the one to make her break down in front of the others.
"Very well, Marian," he says, smiling, emphasising her name and making it a joke. It may be arrogant and infuriating, but it is what she needs to hear at this moment.
She inclines her head to accept his acquiescence and returns to looking through clothes.
Djaq shows her round the camp, takes her to where she herself customarily bathes and washes her clothes. "The boys know not to come here," she tells Marian, who finds herself thinking about her use of the word 'boys'. The atmosphere here is like one she has never encountered, closer to equality than anything she could have dreamed, and yet not quite so because Robin is their leader. Her leader, now. That will take her a while to get used to as she has always done what she likes until now. No, that is not quite true: she has done what she must, but she has never needed to consult anyone about her decisions. Now she must do as Robin tells her, and she does not find the idea an agreeable one. She always felt like his partner, before. Before...
Marian decides to remain in her skirts tonight. She washes the breeches as they have the inevitable odour of being in storage for too long and hangs them on a nearby tree to dry. Djaq leaves her to complete the task alone and she is grateful not to have to concentrate on maintaining a conversation. Djaq sees the risk of hurting the proud young woman with her words; as a master of languages, Djaq understands the damage words can do and uses them sparingly for the moment. Marian thinks that Djaq sees more than the others would give her credit for.
She returns to the camp just as dinner is pronounced ready by Much and accepts a plate of roasted duck meat and a piece of bread which might have been baked over a week ago, but it does not matter. She notes how the outlaws eat quickly and hungrily and reminds herself that she must get used to living so frugally, too. For tonight, though, she doesn't finish what she is given, and Much eagerly volunteers to finish her food, prompting teasing from Robin and a weary sigh from John. She sees how the banter and the conversation is slightly stilted, but cannot bring herself to feel guilty. There is too much bad feeling already weighing down her heart.
"What are we doing tomorrow?" John asks, and not for the first time she wonders what brought him from Scotland to England. She will have time to ask him now that she lives with him.
"Well, there are drop-offs to Clun and Nettlestone to be taken care of," Robin replies lazily. "But other than that, nothing planned."
This is another thing Marian must get used to: the lack of structure. At the castle there is a set time for breakfast, lunch and dinner, an organised schedule that Sir Guy and the Sheriff follow and which dictates Marian's day as she attempts to glean useful information, not to mention a guard on her tail to ensure that she has no degree of free will, even if she has become an expert at losing whatever goon has been set to shadow her.
After Much has finished Marian's dinner, the gang retire to their customary pastimes. Robin fletches arrows, Will whittles away at something as of yet unidentifiable, Djaq watches Will and Much fusses around tidying things up and unwittingly annoying everyone with his inane babble, though Marian suspects that they all love it really; she certainly does. It fills the silences, silences that she would rather not face tonight. She cannot help but feel out of place, an unwelcome intruder into the comfortable life that they have made, even if she knows that Djaq must have felt the same way when she first joined the group. In any case, she sits and smiles at what Much says, and tries to ignore the way everyone is watching her. Everyone except Robin. He knows that she does not want to be watched. It is at times like these that Marian appreciates that while Robin may not be the perfect suitor to the world, he is the perfect suitor to her. Were he less aggravating, more courteous, he would not be Robin. She may hate him at times, but she could never love a man that she could not hate. As he himself likes to say: where would be the fun in that?
Soon, the sun has set and the fire in the kitchen has burnt down to a gentle glow, and it is cold in the forest. This is the gang's cue to retire for the night, yet another thing that seems strange to Marian.
"What time do you get up in the mornings?" she asks the group at large as they prepare to sleep.
"With the sun," Djaq answers, seeing what Marian is asking. "We do not often remain awake at night; it is too cold."
"Apart from when Robin is off visiting your chambers," Much says. Marian is not sure whether this is a complaint or just a comment.
"Yeah, then Much worries himself about Robin so much he can't sleep, and then neither can the rest of us," Will elaborates.
"I do not worry myself about Robin," Much retorts, and no one bothers to correct him. They all know the truth. But Robin claps him on the shoulder as he moves to his bed and Marian makes an effort to smile at him. Even though Robin does not need it, it is nice to know that Much worries for him.
Little John pulls himself to his feet from where he has been sitting. "Goodnight," he says as he climbs into bed.
Everyone else murmurs the same back, and after that, no more is said above a whisper. Evidently to disturb a sleeping John is to invoke his wrath. Much unfolds his blanket and curls up like a child underneath it. Will and Djaq retreat to Will's bed, together. Marian can't help but let her face collapse into a brief, confused frown before Djaq raises her eyebrows at the Englishwoman and murmurs, "What? It is cold. You northerners have such thick blood."
Marian mentally chastises herself for assuming anything different. Of course Djaq would be used to a warmer climate, and though this shelter is magnificent for what it is, it does not provide much in the way of insulation. She is sure that she herself will suffer from the cold; at least the castle had tapestries and beds with thick blankets.
Robin comes over to her then. "You can have Allan's bed," he whispers in her ear, gesturing at the unoccupied bed. "There's a blanket underneath. Or..." he trails off, but she sees his eyes flick to Will and Djaq, now curled around each other.
She shakes her head sharply. Whatever she says about not being a lady, she still has her breeding and she still has her pride. Quickly, she retreats to Allan's – her – bed and retrieves the promised blanket. Curiosity strikes and she wonders why they have not given the spare away, but there are many potential answers to that so she abandons the silent query and settles down to sleep. It is odd to do so still in her day clothes, and a little uncomfortable, but she ignores the discomfort. Harder to ignore are the thoughts that come back like locusts to plague her now that there are no distractions, thoughts of before.
Her father is dead. He had been the one constant in her life; where her mother had died and Robin had left, her father had remained. She cannot remember her mother clearly anymore; her death had taken place so long ago; she cannot remember how she reacted. Yet now she finds herself mourning both her parents together, for she is an orphan now. She has no one to guide her, to cement her status, to take care of her, to be her protector even where she does not need protection and it runs both ways for she has protected her father for so long now; she feels as though she has lost her purpose in life. And beyond the abstract, she has lost him: the man who had read fairytales to her when she was a child, the man who had arranged her betrothal to Robin of Locksley because he knew she would have no other, the man who had taught her to defend herself and in doing so inspired her to become the Night Watchman. He has shaped who she is in a thousand different ways, a thousand little moments, and now he does not exist anymore. It is as though part of her has been obliterated, too.
Logically, she knows she should be thankful that he is now spared the horrors of this world and granted the bounties of the next. Why is she mourning a state which she should envy? She feels wicked for doing so, and immensely selfish, for she is mourning not him but his loss. Is she wrong in doing so? Then there are the fears that still persist: has her father died believing that she was not proud of him? Did he know that those were foolish, wilful words or did he think he had failed her? Worse: is it her fault that he died today? Had she not chastised him so, would he have remained in his cell, imprisoned but alive? And was it truly wicked to be grateful that she has escaped her own captivity as a direct result of his death?
She cries silently for what seems like hours, the tears slipping down her trembling cheeks and dampening her makeshift bed, not hearing John's rumbling snores and the steady breathing of the others. She certainly doesn't notice the stealthy approach of Robin Hood, not until he is kneeling right by her head and she opens her bloodshot eyes.
"What are you doing?" she whispers harshly, her voice hoarse and still shaking.
He smiles softly in the moonlight. "I sleep lighter than the rest," he informs her. "It can come in useful."
"I didn't mean that," she retorts. "What are you doing?"
"Well, you know the answer to that," he reasons.
She does, and another fresh sob tears through her. "How did you cope?" she asks, abandoning her pride for now. She needs help, and she knows it.
"Let me sit beside you?" he asks, for he is still crouched on the ground.
She nods and sits up to give him space. He puts an arm around her and she leans into him.
"Marian, you're freezing!" he says, and pulls her closer. There is a pause and then he begins. "I was not as close to my father as you were to yours. He was always seeking to control me, or at the very least direct me. It wasn't until years after his death that I realised he had succeeded.
"He was a good man, a strong man. He did not believe in gratuitous killing. Of course I fought against that in my boyhood." He laughs once, a hard laugh with no humour. "Part of the reason I was so harsh to you when you told me not to go to war was that you were repeating exactly the same words as he had used before his passing. Most of all, it irked me when you both said there were people who needed me. What about what I needed?" he asks gently, smiling. "I needed to escape, or so I thought. And so I did."
Pressed tight to him as she is, Marian can feel the shudder that rocks him, and she already knows what he is going to say. "When I got to the Holy Land, I realised I was wrong. I could not escape who I was, because... because I needed you." His eyes, which had been focussed on his knees, now moved to meet hers, and she wonders how hard it was for him to admit that. "But I was young and headstrong and foolish, and I didn't want to need you, or anyone. It seemed to me to be a weakness." His eyes flicker shut again. "That mistake cost me five years of bloodshed, the loss of my title and lands, and it cost me you.
"Don't shut me out," he pleads softly. She bristles at that, as he knew she would, but he presses on. "You helped me so much when my father died. My only problem was that I didn't let you help me, and we both know the good that did. So, please?"
She nods, and finds that the tears are slowing. It is invaluable to know that robin is an orphan too, and that he has some idea where she is headed on this mysterious journey called grief.
"Thank you," they both say at exactly the same moment, and they smile at each other.
"For once, we seem to be going in the same direction," Marian observes.
"Let us hope it stays that way," Robin murmurs back.
They sit for a moment in companionable silence, and then he sighs. "You should get some sleep," he says, and she does not miss the reluctance in his voice.
"Don't go," she says, though he has yet to even try to move. He looks questioningly at her. "Djaq's right. It is freezing out here."
He chuckles, but does not answer except to lie down with her. She rests her head on his chest and lays an arm over his waist; he keeps an arm round her shoulders. They fit together as easily now as they did on picnics, six or seven summers ago, when he was the young Master Robin of Locksley and she was the Sheriff's beautiful young daughter. Both of them reflect on how much things have changed and yet still stayed the same as they drift off to sleep.
In the morning, Much will raise his eyebrows, Will will avert his eyes, Little John will think of Alice and Djaq will smile. They complete each other. They need each other.