Fandom: Maid Marian and Her Merry Men

Pairing: Marian/Robin

Disclaimer: Not mine. I'm pretty sure they belong to Tony Robinson and the BBC.

Author's Notes: Written for Dessie for Yuletide 2009

-o-

Spring had finally sprung. It had been lurking around the corner for weeks, hinted at in the occasional beam of sunlight breaking through the clouds, but it had beaten more than one hasty retreat in the face of another flurry of wet, miserable snow. But now it showed up, shamefaced, braced for all those inevitable comments about 'about bleeding time' and 'call this a spring? Should have seen the springs when I was a boy. April showers that would knock your blooming head off, and you'd be thankful for it. First wash since September, it was.'

Of course, spring meant different things to different people, even around Nottingham. In Sherwood Forest, for example, it meant that the first crocuses were beginning to poke their way up through the ground, bashful little things that Little Ron took great pleasure in stomping on.

In Worksop it meant mud. More mud. Not the frozen furrows of the last few weeks, which had people tripping and stumbling, slipping and sliding on the puddles that formed when the temperature rose slightly before freezing again, but Real Mud ™. Wet mud. Wet, cold mud.

The inhabitants of Worksop were understandably happy about this, as happy as... well, pigs in mud. Except perhaps the children, who were going to miss sledding down the hill in the town on homemade sleds hewn from wood or someone's frozen laundry or - on one notable occasion - someone's frozen grandmother, who had nipped outside during one of the fake, sneakily early hints of spring to hang the washing out.

But if spring meant mud, glorious mud, to a man (if not boy) in Worksop, it meant - for Robin of Kensington anyway - another set of ruined boots.

"Really," he huffed at Barrington as the pair of them picked their way down Worksop's main - and only - street. "Someone ought to do something." Barrington rolled his eyes and ignored him, but since Barrington frequently rolled his eyes and ignored him, Robin didn't really pay much attention to that. In fact, he was just about to launch into another complaint about just how hard it was to get every last trace of mud out of suede, when Barrington darted from his side as quickly as, well, one could dart when ankle deep in slippery mud.

"Gladys!" Barrington cried out as Robin followed after him, with considerably less darting and a lot more 'try not to get mud on your trousers as well'. "How you doin'?"

"Barrington! I'm just groovy." The old crone fist-bumped Barrington before smiling rather vacantly in Robin's direction. He smiled back; one must always be cheerful with one's fans, after all. "It's spring. Isn't it grand? All this glorious mud. And about time, if you ask me."

"Yeah. S'nice. You all thawed out, then?" asked Barrington.

"Oh, yes," she said, beaming up at the pair of them. "Still picking twigs out of my unmentionables but kids will be kids and it's not like I didn't do my fair share of sledding when I was a little girl. Of course, the little blighters are off making mudmen now. Ah, those were the days, back when I was just a nipper." The look on her face became dreamy - dreamier than usual, even for Gladys.

"Spring," she said again, and her voice was just as dreamy and not quite there. And then she grinned, elbowing Barrington affectionately in the ribs. He oofed and rubbed at his side - she had bony and pointed little elbows, as Robin knew to his cost. "And you know what they say about spring, eh?"

"That it's... very muddy?" Robin offered. It was a rather intelligent observation, he thought, but Gladys whooped delightedly.

"What a young man's fancy turns to, silly," she said, and now it was his side's turn to feel the elbow.

"Of course," he spluttered, trying not to curl up - those elbows were sharp. He knew the answer to this one. How could he not? "This season's fashion trends. Personally, I'm tending to plaid. Or perhaps paisley. Nothing too loud, of course, but mixing and matching might very well work."

And if anyone could carry it off, it would be him, he thought, smiling a little smugly, but Gladys simply whooped again, sounding very like a swan. Loud, obnoxious and - from the punch she landed on his bicep - perfectly capable of breaking a man's arm.

"No, silly!" she said. "Love."

Love, thought Robin in dismay. Love, when there were things to do, people to see, fashions to set? When did a busy man like him, with all the freedom fighting - and fashion faux pas fighting - have the time for something like love?

"I really don't think, Gladys -" he began but Gladys wasn't listening, and neither was Spring. Because at that exact moment, almost as though it had been planned, his attention was caught by a stray sunbeam, one that burst through the clouds in a way that suggested that angelic music was sure to follow. As this single, brilliant beam of light shone down onto the poor and downtrodden streets of Worksop, it illuminated a radiant creature drifting down the road towards them. The mud could not slow her nor dim her beauty as she walked, clothed in light, towards him.

"Hello, Marian," said Gladys.

"Oh, no," said Robin.

-o0o-

Now this here's the story of Robin Hood
Who stole from the rich and did some good
When out of the mud there strode one day
A pretty little girl, stole his heart away.

-o0o-

It wasn't fair, thought Robin rather resentfully. Why, after all this time, did he have to notice that Marian was a girl, of all things? Girls were all right, he supposed. In a kind of girly way. Soft and pretty and they usually smelt good - well outside of Worksop, anyway. But Marian wasn't girly. She was... bossy and annoying and pretty and had really soft hair and why hadn't he noticed that before?

And why was he noticing that now?

"What do girls like?" he asked Barrington. "I mean, obviously I know what girls like, because girls like...well, they like a... a well dressed man and, of course, I am one. But what do you think that girls like?"

Barrington just looked at him for a long moment, head tilted to the side like Robin was - for once - an interesting problem to solve. "You have had girlfriends before, right?"

"Yes," said Robin, blustering a little. "Loads. Women just love me. And who could blame them?"

"Huh. And boyfriends?"

"What?"

"Never mind." Barrington shook his head, a small smile playing around the corners of his mouth. "Why do you want to know about girls? You're not paying any attention to Gladys muttering about spring and young men's fancies, are you?"

"No. No, of course not."

"Good. Because the only fancies I'm interested in are the ones that come with a really expensive cup of tea." A head nod this time, one that was sage and wise and made Barrington's dreads shake around his head. "And as much as I like Gladys, she's as mad as a March Hare. The one that the other March Hares think is completely barking."

"Yes, well. You know. I just... wondered."

"Right."

"You know. Just idle curiosity."

"Uh huh."

"I thought Marian's hair looked very pretty today, didn't you?"

"I knew it!"

"What?" If the word came out panicked, that was nothing to how he felt when he caught sight of Barrington's grin. It was broad and wide and completely - as the more unsavoury denizens of Worksop would say - mud-eating.

"You fancy Marian."

"I do not! I just... I was pleased to see that she'd finally taken my advice and started to use conditioner, that was all."

"Uh huh. How's the shin?"

"Still bruised. For a girl, she certainly knows how to kick."

"That's our Marian," said Barrington proudly, and something turned over slowly in Robin's chest. He knew that Marian liked Barrington but that didn't mean that she liked him liked him, did she? Perhaps asking Barrington's advice wasn't such a good idea.

"Just... just forget I said anything," he said.

"Already forgotten, mate," said Barrington, and there was a reason he liked Barrington as well. Just not like like, obviously. "But, if you 'like' Marian..."

So much for it being forgotten.

"I don't!"

"But if you did... well. Are you sure you want to go through with this? I mean, if Gladys is as mad as a March Hare, Marian is as mad as a box of enraged hedgehogs; ones that have been poked with a sharp stick. Repeatedly."

"I don't like Marian," retorted Robin hotly. "Not... like that."

"But you've noticed she's a girl."

"Of course I've noticed she's a girl!" This morning, admittedly, but there was no reason to tell Barrington that. "She's just not my type of girl. I mean, have you seen those outfits she puts together? No sense of style, that one." Even if she did make it work most of the time. Well. For Marian, anyway.

"Who has no sense of style?" asked Marian and Robin let out a completely manly gasp of surprise, one that did not - no matter what Marian had said on the subject previously - sound like a startled mouse.

"The Sheriff," said Robin at the same time as Barrington said: "You."

Marian's eyes narrowed dangerously, and she was looking right at Robin, which was completely unfair given that it was Barrington who'd said it was her. And now that Barrington had mentioned it, with her hair all pulled out into twirled little pigtails and plaits, and with that little wrinkled and (adorably) pointed nose as she glared at him over the top of it, she did look a bit like an enraged hedgehog. A cute one, obviously.

Oh. He had it bad.

"So," said Robin, aiming less for 'suave' and more for 'I'm sure I'm not in any imminent danger of pain'. "Spring's here. Got any plans?"

The nose unwrinkled and a look close to bliss spread over Marian's face. That thing in Robin's chest turned over again. "Oh, yes," she breathed and Robin's heart skipped a beat. "You know what spring means, don't you?"

Hope blossomed, bloomed and possibly did other things beginning with 'bl -". "Love?" he asked, hopefully.

"Don't be daft," said Marion, crushing that fragile hope as thoroughly underfoot as Little Ron did to any crocus stupid enough to do something like grow in his vicinity. "It's the end of this tax year and almost the beginning of the next. And you know what that means?"

"That... we should probably start thinking about getting our paperwork together?"

"Oh, honestly, Robin! No! Lots of tax collectors going out and doing their collecting. Lot of tax collectors taking their ill-gotten gains back to Nottingham Castle. Lots of tax collectors travelling through Sherwood Forest on their way back to the office."

"Well, you know what they say. A robust and fair tax system is the cornerstone of any stable civilisation. And those tax collectors do a sterling job in supporting our economy."

"Robust and fair? Have you gone completely loopy, Robin? What's fair about a tax system that gives tax breaks to the rich so that they can do stupid things like build houses for their ducks and make it tax-deductible, and then takes every last single copper penny from the poor to fund them?"

"Ducks need houses, too," Robin protested a little weakly.

"Yes, they do," said Rabies, who had wandered over to join them, probably - knowing Rabies - attracted by the word 'duck'. Or 'houses'. Or possibly 'too'. Who could tell with Rabies? "How else can the poor things keep dry when it rains?"

"Ducks are waterproof, Rabies," said Marian with far more patience than she ever showed to Robin, and he tried not to let whatever weird thing it was that had taken up living in his chest, tossing and turning, react to that.

"Really? I thought that was umbrellas."

"Umbrellas are waterproof, too."

"Huh." Rabies turned this over in his mind, slowly, in a Rabies-like fashion. "So are umbrellas related to ducks?"

"Yeah, Rabies," said Barrington, interrupting whatever explanation Marian was about to launch. "They're second cousins twice removed."

"Ooooh."

"The point is," said Marian, loudly and bossily, "that we have the opportunity to do something about where the tax burden falls in this country."

"By robbing from the rich and giving to the poor?" Robin guessed. She beamed at him, and his heart grew five sizes bigger.

"Exactly! So come along, everyone. We have some tax collectors who are really anxious to talk to us about how many deductions we can make this financial year."

Robin lingered behind for a moment and watched her go, striding purposefully off into the forest, hair shining in the sun, which was still not entirely convinced by this whole 'spring' thing and only sending the odd beam in their direction. In Marian's direction at least.

Barrington slapped him on the shoulder, so hard he rocked on his feet for a moment.

"Serenading," he said. "All the girls like a good sing-a-long. Even Marian."

"Really?"

Barrington shrugged. "It's worth a shot," he said. "And talking of shots, make sure you don't do it when she's holding onto her bow and arrow, yeah? Having holes in the wood doesn't do much for a lute." He slapped Robin's shoulder again. "Or an outlaw, come to that."

-o0o-

Now Robin was a man who didn't have a chance
What the guy really needed was a song and a dance
A nice little number that would win him the day
Just one little problem - Robin can't play

-o0o-

As plans went, this one wasn't shaping up to be a good one. This sort of thing might be easy for Barrington but Robin's artistic talents - although, of course, considerable - lay in an entirely different direction.

Robin frowned and flexed his fingers again. "La la la la..." It didn't sound quite right, but he couldn't quite put his finger on why. Probably because his fingers kept getting tangled up in the string thingies.

He coughed a little self-consciously and tried again.

"La la la la..."

It had a rather unexpected result as something sailed out of the darkness and hit him square in the middle of his noggin.

"Ow ow ow ow!"

The stars were quite pretty from this angle, but he couldn't quite figure out how he could see them through the trees. And there had been trees, hadn't there? He felt his head and there was a lump there, small but growing bigger. When he felt around on the ground, he came up with something else interesting - a boot. A small boot. A small, muddy boot.

"What on earth...?"

Marian's face appeared in his field of vision and there were stars dancing around her head, too.

"Oh. Robin. That was you?"

"You hit me. You hit me with your boot!"

"Sorry," she said, but she didn't really sound it. "I thought you were a cat. What on earth are you doing out here?"

"Lying on the ground!" After a moment's thought he added, rather pathetically, "In pain."

"Well, you sounded like you were in pain. What were you doing?"

"Um..." That was a question that was very difficult to answer when she was standing there, hands on her hips and glaring down at him. In her... was she in her night clothes? "Nothing," he squeaked.

She rolled her eyes at him. "Honestly, Robin. Whatever you're up to you can just stop messing about and go to bed. We have a busy day tomorrow, what with having to see to the equitable distribution of wealth."

"Yes," he said weakly, trying not to stare when she was standing there in her night clothes. Admittedly, they weren't that much different from her day clothes, but it was the principle of the thing, or so he'd heard.

"Good night, Robin," she said rather pointedly, and turned on her heels to stalk off to bed.

"Good night," he called after her, and then let his head fall back onto the ground.

The stars were really very pretty. Strange how he hadn't noticed that before.

-o0o-

Well, it's back to the drawing board Robin must go
But what to try next he just doesn't know
So if his heart is gonna have a chance
He needs some lessons in how to romance

-o0o-

Worksop wasn't the most conducive of places to look for inspiration so it wasn't a surprise that Robin ended up wandering the length of the high street, at a complete loss. Inevitably, he ended up at Snooker's, which was pretty much where everyone in the village ended up eventually.

"Robin!" Snooker greeted him enthusiastically. "Long time no see. How's life?"

"Oh, you know. Mustn't grumble. How's the wife?" And then Robin stopped, caught up in the words he'd just said without even thinking about them. Snooker had a wife.

Snooker had a wife. And that presumably meant that at some point, Snooker had had a girlfriend and before that, Snooker had had to acquire a girlfriend, which meant that...

"Snooker...?"

"Hmm?"

"Your lovely lady..."

"My who?" Snooker's brow furrowed in confusion.

"Your wife."

"Oh, right. Her. What about her?"

"Well..." Robin leaned forward conspiratorially. "Is there anything she, you know, likes?"

Snooker considered this for a moment before offering, thoughtfully, "Mud?"

"No. I meant... you know. When you were..." And Robin then leant in even closer, dropping his voice to a whisper. However, all that meant was that Snooker had to lean in closer, too, which was a little unfortunate because apparently the traditional April showers hadn't been quite strong enough for that spring freshness, at least not in Snooker's case. Robin swallowed, trying not to breathe through his nose. "Courting," he said faintly.

"That's a bit personal, isn't it?"

"Oh, no. No, no, no. I didn't mean... that." Whatever 'that' was. "No, no. I meant... presents, that kind of thing. You know..." He laughed self-consciously. "How you went about winning her heart."

"Ooooh." Snooker's brow furrowed again and Robin could almost see the gears whirring. If Snooker thought about this any harder, his beard would catch fire. "She liked... chocolates."

"Chocolates?"

"Yes. Chocolates. Well, you have to give them chocolates really, don't you? They're traditional."

Yes. Robin supposed they were. He brightened up. 'Traditional' wasn't the word that sprang immediately to mind when thinking of Marian, but surely even she wouldn't object to something sweet.

"And do you know what her favourite chocolates were?" Snooker continued, a nostalgic light gleaming in his eye.

"Mud?"

"Nah. She wasn't much for soft centres. She preferred the hard ones. Well, while she still had her teeth anyway."

"Nuts?"

"Gravel."

If Marian didn't do traditional, she probably wouldn't go for gravel either, but it was an idea and that was more than he'd had before.

"So, Snooker. Any idea where a chap could grab himself a selection of chocolates around here?"

-o0o-

His heart was fluttering nervously when he finally made it back to the camp, box of chocolates clutched in one sweaty hand. It didn't help that Marian was right there, in the centre almost like she was waiting for him, which of course she couldn't have been. Right?

"Robin. Nice of you to join us," she said a little acidly. "What have you got there?"

"Oh, um... Chocolates. They're for..." He panicked. There was simply no other way to describe it. "They're from Snooker."

"Oh." Marian's face brightened up like the sun and Robin's heart did that twisty thing he was getting very tired of. "That was very nice of him. And a mix of centres, too. Hey, boys?" she called, and Robin couldn't help the pang of jealousy that they all got to share. In Marian's smile as much as the chocolates. "Snooker's sent us chocolates."

"Ooooh," said Rabies. "Do they have any hard centres? I like those."

Robin rallied, finding a smile of his own. "Nuts?"

"Nah. Gravel."

"Don't eat too many of them," said Marian bossily. "Or your teeth will fall out," which was a distinct possibility with the gravel ones. "I'll be right back. I'm just going to go and wash my hands."

It seemed to be his lot in life - watching her walk away - and Robin slumped dejectedly. Perhaps he really wasn't cut out for this romance lark. It all seemed so easy when it happened in books, the ones with titles like 'The Sheik's Princess' and 'Bride of War'. Of course, all the heroines in those books did a lot of swooning and he couldn't imagine Marian swooning even once.

"Never mind, mate," said Barrington consolingly as he slapped Robin on the shoulder again. "Long as you don't live to 'woo' the day."

"Woo the what?" said Rabies around a mouthful of gravel. "Kanga woo?"

"Kanga what?" asked Little Ron, helping himself to a soft centre. "Ooh, mud truffle. My favourite."

Barrington rolled his eyes at all of them. "Our man Robin here is in a bit of a pickle."

"Well, I wouldn't say that..." Robin protested. "Less a pickle, really, than, well, maybe a nice side salad. You know. Perfectly acceptable and good for the figure."

This time the eye roll was reserved solely for him.

"Is it the kangaroos?" asked Rabies. "Are they in the trees?"

"What?" Robin wasn't sure why he asked - he probably wouldn't understand the answer, let alone like it.

"Nah," said Little Ron. "That's koalas."

"Is it?" By now Rabies looked thoroughly confused. "I thought koalas lived in holes in the ground and popped up every now and then to look around. You know, on their hind legs, like this." As impressions went, Rabies' was most definitely not a koala.

"That's polecats," explained Little Ron. "Koalas live in trees and drop on your head as you walk past them. Nasty little buggers." He grinned delightedly. "You've got to keep an eye out for them. Well, you lot do anyway."

Barrington sighed. "It's not kangaroos and it's not koalas. Or polecats," he added when Little Ron opened his mouth. Little Ron closed his mouth again, looking rebellious, but that was par for the course with Little Ron. "Robin here, well..." His hand found Robin's shoulder again and shook it gently. "He has a bit of a thing for Marian."

"I do not!" protested Robin. In a whisper, of course, because the last thing he wanted was for Marian to overhear them and come back to see what all the fuss was about.

"Yes, you do," said Barrington. "And we're going to help you."

"We are?" asked Little Ron. "I thought we liked him."

Rabies didn't say much of anything at first, his face still creased in thought. And then he asked, "So what do the koalas have to do with it?"

-o0o-

So Robin's in a pickle, Robin's in a mess
The man hasn't got a clue what to do for the best
But now that Robin Hood has the help of his friends
Who on earth knows how this story will end

-o0o-

"What about old fashioned chivalry?" Barrington offered thoughtfully, stirring the embers of the fire with a big stick he'd found.

"The chival-what?" asked Rabies. Robin opened his mouth to answer but it was Little Ron who beat him to it.

"It means being all gentlemanly and the like. Opening doors, wiping your feet on the mat..."

Robin's mouth stayed open. Who would have thought that Little Ron, of all people, would have even that vague a grasp of the concept? Of course, now that he thought of it...

"There's just one problem," he said. "There aren't any doors in Sherwood Forest. On account of it being a forest, you see. Door material, yes. Actual doors? Not really."

Barrington shrugged, poking at the fire again so that little burning embers spiralled into the night air.

"I'm sure you'll think of something," he said.

-o0o-

"You want me to do what?" Marian asked.

"Well, it's not so much 'want you to' per se, so much as you could if you wanted."

Marian stared at him for a long moment, one that was rife with possibilities, only some of which involved her hurting him. "Let me get this right. You want me - only if I want - " she corrected herself as soon as she saw Robin opening his mouth to do it for her, "to walk over your coat."

"Well... yes."

"Which you are going to put over one of the many, many muddy puddles that exist in Sherwood Forest on account of all of the rain we've been having."

"Well... yes."

"The rain that has turned most of the forest floor into puddles and mud."

"Um... yes?"

"Your velvet jacket."

"Um..."

"Your favourite velvet jacket, in fact. The one you keep telling me is an absolute nightmare to clean and therefore the one you always wear when it's your turn to do the washing up. So that you can't actually do the washing up."

"Um..."

"Robin, have you completely lost what passes for your mind?"

"Well, when you put it like that..."

-o0o-

"What if you just hit her over the head and dragged her off somewhere?" asked Little Ron.

"I can't hit Marian over the head!" Robin protested, shocked to his very core at the suggestion.

"Yeah, you're right. She'd probably hurt you really badly if you tried it."

"Exactly!"

"What about... flowers?"

The suggestion this time came from Rabies, and Robin blinked at him, this time shocked into silence.

"Flowers?" Barrington asked tentatively as he dipped a toe into the waters of Rabies' reality.

"Yeah. Are the koalas attracted to the flowers?" When they all looked blankly at him, Rabies continued. "They must be, mustn't they? How else can they make their honey?"

There was really no answer to that so Robin simply stared at him for a long moment before finally deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, whether that was in love, war or dealing with Rabies. Although...

Flowers. Rabies' rambling aside, that might actually be an idea that had legs.

-o0o-

"What are those?" Marian asked, her nose wrinkling up again. It was slightly less adorable this time.

"Flowers."

"I can see that," Marian huffed. "Why do you have flowers?"

"I... thought they might brighten the place up."

Marian gave him a long, flat look. "Robin. Where do we live?"

"...In a forest?"

"And what are there lots of in a forest?"

"Koalas," muttered Rabies as he wandered past them, staring anxiously up into the branches of the trees that surrounded their little clearing. There was a moment's silence as both Robin and Marian watched him pass before Marian huffed out another one of her trademarked and irritated sighs and turned back towards Robin.

He stared at her, rather wilted crocuses and the odd daffodil clutched forlornly in his outstretched hand.

"Well?" she asked again, raising one eyebrow quizzically.

"... Plants?"

"Exactly. So why on earth would we need more plants to 'brighten the place up'? The place is plenty bright as it is, and dead, decapitated greenery isn't going to add to the general ambience now, is it?"

She huffed again and stalked away, her hair - which was looking a little less brilliant today - bouncing gently in the breeze.

"What am I supposed to do with these?" he called after her, waving the pathetic posy at her retreating back.

"Give them to Little Ron," she retorted. "I think he's running out of things to stomp on."

"What's got into Marian?" asked Rabies. Robin shoved the flowers at him hopelessly, holding them out until Rabies finally grabbed them and stared down at them, thoroughly bemused. "What are the flowers for? And what about the koalas?" Rabies asked.

"Find Little Ron," Robin said. "I'm sure he can stomp on the koalas as well."

-o0o-

"What about jewellery?" suggested Little Ron. "Girls always like something that's a bit shiny."

"Isn't that magpies?" asked Barrington. Little Ron grunted.

"Girls, too."

"But where am I going to get some jewellery?"

"Steal it," said Little Ron. "You're an outlaw, aren't you?"

-o0o-

"Oh, Robin. That's very nice. Thank you!"

Robin beamed.

"See, I knew if you just put some effort into it you'd grasp the whole 'equitable distribution of wealth' concept. We'll distribute it to the peasants immediately. They'll be so pleased. They've been talking about installing one of those spa things in the village. They say that the mud baths are really good for the skin."

Robin wilted like a decapitated daisy. Perhaps it was just his imagination, but it seemed like the sunlight in Sherwood Forest dimmed, just a bit.

As if to mock him, the spring skies opened, and everyone knew that rain was no good for crushed silk.

-o0o-

Now Robin's not the greatest at getting the girl
No matter how he plans it, it always unfurls
His friends are no help, his friends are no use
He's this close to giving up the whole caboose.

-o0o-

"She's completely oblivious," Robin complained. Barrington nodded serenely. "I mean, just completely oblivious! Honestly. What does a man need to do to let the object of his affections see that... well, that she's the object of his affections?"

"Hmm," said Barrington, giving him a strange little sidelong look. "You could always try Little Ron's suggestion, I suppose."

"I already tried the jewellery."

"You could always try Little Ron's other suggestion."

"I am not hitting Marian over the head. Apart from that not being at all chivalrous, I'm pretty sure she'd hit me over the head as well, only harder."

"Hmmm..." said Barrington thoughtfully. His tone was mild but Robin couldn't help but think that Barrington was making fun of him, just a little. He couldn't blame Barrington if he was; he supposed the whole thing was a little pathetic, and Barrington's next words seemed to confirm it. "Might not be such a bad thing if it knocks some sense into you."

"I think I've already had some sense knocked into me." Robin kicked at a tree root, regretting it immediately when he stubbed his toe. He bounced up and down on one foot for a moment, trying to both keep his balance and rub his toe at the same time and probably looking like a big flaily thing of fail. No wonder Marian wanted nothing to do with him. "I don't think this whole romance thing is really me, Barrington. I mean, what do I know about romance? I just... I just let spring go to my head, that's all and now I can see just how mad the whole thing was. Marian's never going to like me, not like that."

"Nah." Barrington's hand settled on his shoulder and squeezed it comfortingly. "Don't be so hard on yourself and don't give up on it yet. After all," he added brightly, "there's always next year."

-o0o-

Now Robin is brave and Robin is strong
And he's wooed Marion for days and weeks long
If she hasn't succumbed don't give into your fear
At the end of the day, there's always next year

-o0o-

"So..." Marian had a slightly manic smile on her face when she cornered him by the fire that afternoon. It was instinct by now for Robin to glance behind him, half-afraid and half-hoping that she was smiling at someone else. Especially when she was smiling like that.

"So?"

"Nice weather we're having."

"Really?" Robin asked, completely confused. Marian didn't really do small talk, especially with him. "It's been raining all day." In fact, it was cloudy and cold, drizzling on and off in what was usually and laughingly referred to as 'April showers'.

"Yes. Yes, it has." Her smile stayed slightly manic and - if Robin was honest with himself - a little desperate around the corners, almost as though she was trying to make polite conversation with him. With Robin. "It is spring, though."

"Yes," he said, horrified to realise that exactly the same sort of smile as Marian was sporting was currently trying to take up residence on his face. "It is at that!"

They laughed at each other nervously for a moment before Marian turned away, back towards the fire. She must be too close, he thought, wondering if he should say something. The heat from it had flushed her cheeks red and, although she could do adorably apple cheeked at times (well, adorably apple cheeked to anyone who hadn't come to their senses), she really didn't suit the beetroot red thing.

"Robin," she said, holding her hands out to the low, flickering flames. Her hair was tamer this afternoon than it normally was, like she'd tried dragging a comb through it more than once this week, and she smelled sweet in the warmth of the fire, not at all like Sherwood Forest or the peasants of Worksop.

"Hmmm?"

"The um..." She laughed and it sounded weird, all brittle and high pitched and not at all like Marian's normal laugh, which might sometimes meander up and down the scales in an unmelodic fashion but was always big and real. "The flowers and... um... the chocolates and necklace and stuff..."

"Oh." Maybe if he faked an injury - something like a spark from the fire landing in his eye, yes that was it! - he'd get out of here before she could say something even more embarrassing.

"Well... I know what..." She laughed again, still nervously, and rubbed her hands together. "Well, what you were doing."

"... Do you?" He was willing to admit that perhaps this time he squeaked like a startled mouse.

"Well, I think I know what you were doing and..."

"It's spring," he said hastily.

"Yes."

"Well, spring. You know spring. Good old spring. Have to celebrate spring."

"Yes." And her laugh this time sound a little more relieved, a little more Marian. Her hair really did look nice today. "Well, I'm glad we had this little chat."

"We should... do it again, sometime."

"Yes. Yes, we should." She stopped and looked at him, just looked at him, the firelight flickering in her hair in the dim, watery afternoon light and casting shadows over her face. And then she did something completely and utterly unexpected, something completely and utterly amazing.

She reached up on tippy toes and kissed him, just a gentle peck on the cheek.

"Thank you," she said and then, blushing furiously, she turned and hurried away.

As Robin watched her go, the sun finally came out.

-o0o-

Ro-o-o-bin. When you go woo-oo-ing
Just keep on with what you're doo-oo-ing
'Cause there'll come a day
When you'll find a way
To win Marian [oh, Marian!]

-o0o-

The End