Authors note: This story was originally posted on livejournal for railise, a most awesome person. And wow, the last time I put a story up here it was for NCIS. Time flies.
Marian woke with the warmth of the sun on her face. Pushing herself to a seated position on the bunk, she moved aside the two blankets which had been covering her; one of which, she noted with a smile, being Robin's. She would have to thank him for that later. Or perhaps scold him. Yes, definitely scold him, she decided. It was not up to him to decide if she required the added warmth of a second blanket at night.
Blinking the fog of sleep from her mind, Marian made her second observation of the day: she was alone in the camp. The empty space beside her was cold, suggesting a lengthy absence by the person who usually occupied it. She found herself wondering where they had all gone, and more importantly, why she had been left behind.
Locating her boots on the ground at her feet, she pulled them on, exiting the camp. It was then that she realised she was not, in fact, alone after all. There they all were, spread across the ground and the rocks in what appeared to be varying stages of relaxation. Will was sitting cross-legged atop a large boulder, whittling away at a small piece of wood. Not an uncommon activity, she had come to learn during her short time living with the outlaws. Sitting near to him, but not so close that it might appear intentional (Marian knew better), was Djaq, who seemed to be perfectly content watching him at his task.
John had taken relaxation one step further, she noted. He was sleeping soundly, propped up against a tree, his snoring loud enough that it might have been irritating were she not already used to it. Much seemed to be engaged in a strange sort of battle of wills with the sleeping man, staring at him as if John was staring back, which made no sense, seeing that he himself was not participating. She found herself wondering just what he was up to, when her eyes took in the absence of the one person she longed to see the most, though she would never admit that out loud for fear of igniting his ever tiresome ego.
"Good morning, Marian." Much's words drew her out of her musings.
"Good morning," she greeted with a friendly smile.
"Did you sleep well? I hope you were warm enough, it was quite chilly last night, and -"
"I was quite warm, thank you, Much." She smiled again, thinking of that second blanket, resisting the persistent urge to ask after its owner. A knowing look that was maddening in its accuracy was the response she got for that smile. Maddening, but really not at all helpful. Not when she wished to find him.
"Robin has gone to the falls," Djaq provided helpfully, though she never once seemed to move her focus from Will's hands.
"I do not need to know of Robin's whereabouts at every moment of the day." There was a suspicious sounding snort from John's direction at this, which did not sound anything at all like snoring.
"Nevertheless," she continued, "now that I do know, perhaps I shall go and see -"
"Oh, no, Marian; you can't do that," Much interjected.
"Why ever not?" she asked with innocent curiosity. Well, what she intended to be perceived as innocent curiosity, anyway.
"Well, because he is, because..." Much did not seem able to come up with the appropriate words.
"Robin is taking a bath, is what Much is trying to say." The first words she heard from Will were quiet and to the point, as he seemed to take some kind of interest in the conversation, setting his wood aside.
"Right," agreed Much. "Master is having a bath, and it would simply not be proper."
"And how long has he been gone?"
"Well, an hour or so, I'd say."
"Surely one does not require such time to take a bath? What if something has happened, whilst you all lounge about in the sun?" She directed her question at Much. "No, that simply won't do. I will go and make sure that he is well," she finished decisively, leaving no room for argument in her tone. It was total nonsense, she knew that. But Robin of Locksley had been playing his fair share of pranks on her since he was a boy, and she figured this as the perfect opportunity to get her revenge.
Without another word, she headed in the direction of the waterfall where Djaq had said he would be, a mischievous smile lighting her features as she thought of what she might do.
Once she reached the path that wound its way down to the bottom of the waterfall and the deep pool at its base, Marian lightened her step. If she wanted her plan to work, she needed to remain undetected, and the ability he seemed to possess at hearing even the most insignificant sounds needed to be taken in to consideration. It was a nuisance, and certainly didn't impress her in the slightest.
There was the possibility that, as so much time had passed, he would be done with his bath and she would not be able to act. However, the weather had been unseasonably warm during the days recently, and she suspected he would be taking full advantage of the cool water for as long as possible. Almost at the bottom of the path, she crouched behind some conveniently-positioned shrubbery and cast her eyes out over the water.
And there he was. Standing under the waterfall with his back to her and his head tipped up toward the spray. She let her eyes pass over him appreciatively, but only briefly. She would not allow herself to indulge such thoughts for any length of time. To avoid the temptation of her eyes straying back, she looked around to see if she could spot his clothes. She shook her head when she saw them strewn in a haphazard pile by the water's edge. He had always relied on others to be neat and tidy for him, and now, it was going to be nearly impossible to get to them and still remain unseen.
Staying low, she moved further down the path, until she could go no further without breaking cover. It was when she took her last step that she realised her error, as her boot snapped a twig in two with a sharp sound that broke the silence around her. Surely he could not have heard that over the noise of the falls? And he could not have seen her; she had been vigilant in staying out of sight. She crouched lower still, feeling her heart pounding in her ears. She chided herself for getting so worked up over the silly game she was playing.
She peered cautiously over the top of the branches, shocked when she saw that he had turned around. She could feel her cheeks warm. She should not be spying. Shame had her turning her eyes away. Curiosity drew them back.
She had seen him without clothes on before, of course. After all, they had grown up together. She remembered, in particular, a day not unlike this one when she was fifteen. Robin and Much had left her behind to go swimming. Naturally, she had followed. The very idea of being left behind by silly boys making her irate. Back then, intrigue had won out over propriety, and she had stared in unashamed fascination at him until he had seen her, and she had blushed so furiously that he said she looked like a tomato. Thankfully, that was the only time she had ever been caught.
Looking at him now, she could not help but note the differences. He was taller, though that was easily seen when he was fully clothed. His shoulders were broader, his muscles more defined. Again though, these were things previously observed. She let her eyes travel lower, feeling herself blush anew when she saw how other parts of him had also grown. A giggle suddenly escaped her at her thoughts, and she clapped a hand over her mouth to try and stifle it. She peered out from her hiding place again; horrified to find that he was looking in her direction. Did he know she was there? That grin would certainly suggest he did. That maddening, intolerably agreeable grin that he seemed to reserve for those occasions when he was particularly proud of himself. Most often at the expense of others.
The grin widened suddenly, and he took a step forward before jumping from the ledge on which he stood, entering the water below with a grace she could not help but envy. How was it that he managed to make everything he did appear so effortless? She shifted into a higher position, not quite so concerned with remaining hidden now. She was sure he knew she was there now, after all.
He had moved closer to the water's edge, but remained where it was deep enough that he was keeping himself afloat by the constant motion of his arms, and no doubt his legs, below the water where she could not see them.
"I wonder," he began in an infuriatingly nonchalant tone, quite obviously meant for her ears, "if there is anyone out there who might assist me in the problem I find myself facing."
Marian toyed briefly with the idea of staying hidden and sneaking away, letting him think he was wrong. Her pride, however, made the decision for her, and she was soon on her feet. She kept her expression neutral as her eyes met his, as if it was perfectly normal to be found crouching behind dense foliage and spying on him as he took a bath.
"Do not tell me," she began as she brushed the dirt from her clothes and moved to the edge of the water, "that at your age, you still require assistance to bathe."
Robin moved closer to the shore so he could stand, the water reaching his waist. "I thought you might help me with those hard-to-reach places, Marian."
Marian made a disgusted sound, barely resisting the urge to tell him to grow up. Robin just grinned cheekily. She could tell he knew she was thinking it. "Or, if not that," he continued, "perhaps you might simply care to join me."
He was just so, so calm about the whole thing, she thought in frustration. How could she beat him at his own game if he would not play by her rules? It was then that she noticed the clothes strewn about at her feet. She caught his eyes on her when she looked down at them, and gave him her own version of the cheeky grin he usually wore.
"Marian..." He started moving towards her. She was quicker, of course, and soon had his clothes, sans boots, in her arms.
"Yes?" She could play the part of innocent ,too.
"Surely you don't mean to take my clothes." He said it with what was obviously his best attempt at confidence, though it came out more like a question.
"No, Robin. But I had thought perhaps that they might join you in my absence." And with that, she threw his clothes straight in to the water.
The look on his face was priceless. She found herself wishing there were others there to see it, too, even though part of her would not share this moment with anyone else for the world. It was moments like this that reminded her of times when they were young; when things had been simple.
"Marian!" He looked at her for a moment, trying to be stern, but then a smile twitched the corner of his mouth, and he laughed. Seeing that she had guessed correctly, and her little stunt had not truly upset him (she would honestly have been surprised if it had), Marian allowed a small smile to cross her face in return. She took a step closer to the water as Robin began retrieving his clothing.
He was close to the shore now, and she determinedly kept her eyes on his face as he entered shallower water. He simply looked at her with an infuriatingly knowing smirk. Just when she realised that "mischievous" was a more accurate description for the look on his face, he reached out and took hold of her wrist, and, quicker than she was able to stop him, had pulled her in to the water.
"Robin!" She squawked in surprise. His clothes floated, forgotten, in the water around them.
"Yes, my love?" His face was close to hers, and his voice had taken on that tone that never failed to make her weak at the knees.
"Why do you insist upon being so -"
"Charming?" He interrupted. "Irresistible? Enticing?"
"Objectionable," she retorted, a smile slowly starting despite the fact that he had just pulled her, fully-clothed, into the water. "Offensive. Repellent." She realised then just how closely she was standing to him, and moved to step back. He noticed, however, and his arms went around her waist to stop her.
"Robin," she warned. He had on far too few clothes for this. No clothes whatsoever, her mind corrected. And she was standing very close.
"Kiss me," he requested in that same tone of voice, ignoring her warning and bringing his mouth closer to hers. She brought her hands up to push against his upper arms in an attempt to move away from his hold.
"Robin, let me go," she said sternly. He immediately released her, reminding her of one of the many reasons why she managed to find him vaguely tolerable. From time to time. Or, at least, that was what she told herself.
"You are a spoilsport, Marian." He said the often repeated words quietly, and her face softened.
"You know that we cannot, Robin. Not now, and certainly not here." No matter how much I would like to. It popped into her head before she could stop it, and she could feel her cheeks begin to flame as she pushed the thought away, choosing not to acknowledge just what, exactly, it meant.
"I only asked for a kiss." His voice bordered on wounded, and she rolled her eyes, leaning forward to press her lips against his. She only meant for it to be a chaste kiss; but before she had time to move away, he had taken her in his arms once again, twisting her around somehow so that she was leaning back, looking up at him as he supported her upper body. As he prolonged the kiss, the grin was clear in his eyes. Proud, as usual. Smug.
As he pulled his mouth away from hers, she once again focussed her efforts on keeping her eyes on his face. Her hands, it seemed, were not so concerned with his state of undress, and she found them sliding over his back, relying on him to hold her up as she marvelled at the feel of so much bare flesh beneath her fingers.
Apparently this exploration sent the wrong message to him, as his mouth moved from hers and all too suddenly he was doing things to her neck which Marian thought should not be allowed to feel so good, for it only served to put her at a disadvantage. How could she be expected to be the sensible one and put an end to this now?
Distracted as she was by the delightful feelings he was causing in her, she failed to notice that he was now endeavouring to rid her of her top. Just as his hand slid high up her side, she pulled away from him as much as she was able. In response, he righted her again so they were standing in their original positions.
"Robin," she said reproachfully.
"Surely the idea is not quite so terrible, Marian." There was that self-assured tone again, with a hint of something more, she noted. He wanted her, and was frustrated not to be able to get what he wanted. The idea sent a thrill of delight through her. She understood then more clearly the power she held over him.
It was something she had used against Guy, plenty of times; used his obvious desire for her to get what she wanted. But she could not do the same to Robin. She loved him too much for that.
The thought shocked her. Did she love him? She looked up at him then, looking back at her with need clear in his eyes. Smug as ever, even as he stood in front of her in not a stitch of clothing.
Yes, she thought with startling clarity. She loved him. It overwhelmed her. She had once thought she might never want to set eyes on him again, after he had hurt her the way he did. But she had, and she did. And she would want to for a very long time.
"Robin..." She said his name then in a way that she hadn't for a long time. Everything she felt was conveyed in that one word, and from the look on his face, he understood perfectly.
Pulling her against himself, he kissed her soundly. This time, she did not try and pull away, but responded with the same feelings that had been conveyed when she said his name. His hands, earlier so supportive and gentle, now had a different intent. As before, it did not take her long to realise he was seeking to rid her of her clothes.
She decided then that it was time for her to show him just how much she wanted this too. Taking his hands in hers, she took a step back, indicating without words that she wished them to leave the water. She could tell by the look on his face that he misinterpreted the action as her putting a stop to what was happening. Before he could question her, however, they had taken the few steps necessary to move them to the water's edge.
Reaching for the front of the corset she wore over her shirt, she sought to remove any lingering doubts he might have of her intentions. Eyes on him, she released the clasps one by one, letting the garment fall to her feet. The gesture must have worked, for in that moment he once more closed the gap between them, hands sliding over her back and coming to rest at the hem of her shirt, taking it in hand and pulling the material up and over her head, the process quickened by her raising her arms to allow it.
She looked up to meet his gaze, and found his eyes on her, darkened with desire.
"Not so terrible after all then," he said cheekily.
"Stop it," she said, though she was grinning as she pulled him close, stealing a kiss of her own.
They walked back to camp hand in hand, clothes still damp. She had fully expected a litany of proud comments from him. Perhaps even some of his ridiculous flirtations. Instead, he seemed content in the silence that had found its way between them.
She felt oddly at peace, more so than she had in a long time. All the worries that usually plagued her seemed smaller, less significant. At this moment anything she attempted, she felt she would achieve. A foolish notion, yes, but she was unwilling to dismiss it.
She felt Robin squeeze her hand, and bringing herself out of her musings she realised they had reached camp. She let her eyes pass over them, still in much the same positions she had left them. Four sets of eyes looked back at her with expressions ranging from curious to amused. Embarrassment at the thought that they knew what she and Robin had been up to had her dropping his hand and stepping away from him. Then she remembered that little smile that she couldn't seem to get off her face. Oh well, she thought. Let them know. Let everyone know.
"She found you then Master," Much said cheerfully from his seated position opposite John.
"Yes," Robin said with a smile he directed at her. "She did."