Under the Weather
Summary: Marian finds an unexpected visitor on a cold, wet winter's night.
Disclaimer: I do not hold any ownership over the BBC's version of Robin Hood.
Author's Note: Thanks to Matriaya for the beta! And remember, good people, reviews are the food of love.
Marian sat in front of the polished glass, running a comb through her hair. It was a ritual, one of her few rituals (besides fighting practice, and going to church on Sundays). Her life was too chaotic and stressful to fall into a day to day pattern.
The winter had been wet and cold, there had even been snow to add to the misery of those too poor to have a fire. The sheriff even seemed to retreat from his usual plotting and deviousness not to do nothing more than lounge in front of the fire.
Marian herself tried to go out as the Nightwatchman, bringing food and fuel for a fire, but she could not get much farther than Knighton or Locksley, leaving far too many people in the cold. Marian was torn between hoping that Robin and his gang would be able to do more for other villages, and praying the fools would try and find shelter from the wind and cold.
Her shutters rattled. Marian ignored it, blaming the wind, and turned to bank the fire in her room. She was tired, and ready for sleep. The shutters rattled again, more insistent this time. Marian watched the shutters with trepidation... hoping that someone was not knocking there. Because there would only be one man in heaven and earth to be foolhardy enough to climb to her window on a night like this. Then she heard the sneeze.
Perhaps the sneeze was meant to arouse her sympathy to his plight. Instead, it infuriated her. She crossed the room in a few steps and, unlocking the shutters, she opened them with a flourish.
"Locksley, what are you doing there?"
"Nothing, just stopped to see how you were fairing." It sounded as if his nose was stuffed. "Not out in this weather."
"No, I am not a fool. You are sick," she noted.
"Nothing serious," he tried to assure her. Marian was no physician, but she was not born yesterday. She had seen sick people before, and Robin looked terrible. He was pale and shivering, he could not breathe through his nose, his eyes were unnaturally bright, and when she reached out her hand to his face; it was hot to the touch.
"No, Marian. My men will worry-" the words were lost as she reached for his scarf and pulled him inside. He landed on her floor with a crash. Her father had to have heard that. Damn it all, Robin was sick. She closed the shutters again.
"Worry about your men later. I'm going to get some broth, and some clean clothes. You are to strip off those wet things and wrap yourself in that blanket," she indicated the down-filled quilt that covered her bed.
He must have been truly sick, for he reached down to take off his boots. Satisfied, Marian added a log to the fire and quit the room, shutting the door behind her.
Her father was in the hall.
"What is going on?" he demanded.
"I have a late night visitor."
"Robin of Locksley."
"Yes, and he is ill. Do not worry. I will tend to him."
Marian had entered the kitchen, and not heard her father say, "That is what I am worried about."
Instead she set some broth to heat on the fire. She went back to the hall and opened a chest where her father kept some old dry clothes. Marian picked out ones she thought would be the most comfortable, and another blanket. This she brought to Robin, before leaving once more and returning with the soup and the bread.
"Not so much," he protested, when she passed the bowl.
"No arguments, Robin. You have hardly eaten all winter. You should not starve so your gang can eat."
"You're one to talk, Nightwatchman."
She glared at him. "I give what Knighton can afford to spare. Now hush and eat. I shall get you some hot water you can wash with, and then you are going to sleep until I am satisfied you are better."
For even though he was in her warming room, eating hot soup and wearing dry clothes, he still looked ill. He'd used up two handkerchiefs already, and was working through a third.
She got him the hot water to wash with, which he did without argument. He then obediently got in to bed. Marian brought the dishes down to the kitchen, intending to wash them the next morning. Steeling her nerves, she made her way once again up the stairs to her chamber. Robin was lying in her bed, under her covers. He looked comfortable there, as he watched her with fever bright eyes.He looks right there said a nasty voice in her head. She silenced it, and banked up the fire.
Robin protested when she pulled up a chair.
"Do not let me deprive you of a bed, Lady Marian."
"It would hardly be proper for me to share a bed with you, Robin."
"Yes, tongues will wag," he said impishly. Perhaps he wasn't so ill after all. "Marian," he pleaded. "I am cold."
She sighed. "No, you are not cold. You are brash."
"Yes, I suppose I am."
"And you are ill."
"All the more reason for you to share this bed with me."
"And how would that help either of us?"
Robin shrugged. "Good for morale?"
She sighed, smiled, and shook her head. Robin's teasing smile faded.
"You have my word, my lady, that I will not try anything... untoward. But I cannot let you sleep on that chair, it looks most uncomfortable, and you will not let me sleep any where but this bed."
Marian sighed. She was rather looking forward to falling asleep on her mattress. She relented. It wasn't as if anyone knew he was there.
"Fine. But I will hold you to your word."
He scooted over to the edge and Marian crawled under the covers. When settled, she leaned over and blew out the remaining candles. The only light now came from the embers in the fire place.
The two lay in uncomfortable silence for a few minutes. Well, silence but for Robin's sniffles.
"Why did you come to visit me? Tell me the truth."
She felt, rather than heard his sigh. It was odd to be this close to him. She hadn't been so close since before he left on his crusade.
"I missed you. I had not seen you since Michaelmas."
She frowned. "Robin..."
"It is the truth, Marian. And the same reason Gisbourne visits you."
"He uses the door."
Robin said sadly, "So did I once." He paused, both of them suddenly uncomfortable. "And I will do again."
Trying to break the awkwardness, she tried teasing, "Even in the old days, you did not always use the door."
He laughed. "No, indeed."
She felt him move, and was not surprised when he took her hand in his calloused one. It felt like the knuckles had cracked with the cold. She would put a salve on it tomorrow...
Marian woke up a few hours later to Robin, tossing and turning, moaning in his sleep about sand and blood. She rolled out of bed, and rushed to bring cool water and a rag. She began to mop his fevered brow, the fever had increased while they slept. When the cold rag touched his face, he tensed and his eyelids fluttered open.
"Much?" he asked feverishly.
"No, it is Marian," she rinsed the rag and reapplied it.
"Impossible..." he managed, and then weakly, "Marian?"
"Yes, Robin, I am here."
She stayed with him through the night, washing his forehead, forcing him to drink a bit of mulled wine, keeping the fire roaring. He kept up a constant stream of babble, half memory, half nightmare. Marian did not know how to keep him unafraid, except to stay there. He kept murmuring her name. He spoke your name, said Much once. The idea left her raw and exposed. If she were ill, who's name would she call?
Finally at dawn, his fever broke and he fell in to a peaceful sleep. Marian, exhausted, banked up the fire again, dumped the water out the window, and curled up next to him.
He meekly stayed in her bed the next day, almost too shaky to reach the door. So Robin stayed another night in her bed, gathering his strength. Edward visited him once, most likely to satisfy himself that Robin was too sick to take advantage of his only daughter.
He was gone the following morning when Marian woke up, the shutters pulled tight behind him. Sherwood waits for no man.