To everyone who believed in me when I could not believe in myself.
Duo leaned against the huge trunk of the watchtower, his arms crossed across his chest in a relaxed attitude he did not feel. The night-soaked forest was quiet, unearthly so, the dark clouds overhead heralding the coming of a storm. Quick, brief, gusts of wind made green leaves dance around him before the breeze went elsewhere, letting everything swirl to the ground below. These were the only sounds he heard, besides the distant rumble of heavy thunder. The camp was quiet tonight, everyone huddled in their makeshift huts and tree houses. Even they knew something was going to happen.
It started almost an hour later when the near-monk had convinced himself that the anticipation he felt in the air was only a residue of the looming tempest. There was a quick flash of soundless lightning and the flare illuminated the stooped silhouettes of two figures making their way slowly towards the camp. Duo tensed as he spotted them, a warning arrow nocked and ready, when his violet eyes perceived who they were.
He fired a single arrow to call Trowa and began a rapid descent from the watchtower, jumping off the rope ladder before the last two rungs. The two newcomers met him at the bottom and he hurried to their side, his expression full or worry and relief.
"Quatre," he called, sparing only a quick glance for the tall, statuesque woman that stood beside him, supporting his weight against her side. Duo immediately went to the clearly wounded minstrel's other side, draping the shorter man's arm around his neck. "Where have you been? What happened? Are you alright? Everyone's been so worried! Who is this girl? Did you escape the Sheriff?" Mindless questions dripped from his tongue, all except for the one he really wanted the answer for. Did you tell them what they wanted to know?
The blonde girl on Quatre's other side gave him a scathing look. "Can't you see he is injured? Leave off of your impertinent questions, boy."
Boy? Duo felt himself bristle but Quatre managed to lift his head slightly, his dull ocean blue eyes dark with pain but still intense with his strength of will.
"It is alright, Dorothy. I owe them much. The least I can do is give them the answers they need."
The blonde girl, Dorothy, sniffed in that infuriating manner that all women had but didn't continue her argument.
"I'm alright, or I will be with your help." Duo smiled and Quatre, God bless him, tried to smile back. "I didn't tell them, Duo."
Duo let out the breath he hadn't been aware of holding and tightened his grip on Quatre as Trowa jogged into view, long bow slung over his shoulder. The outlaw's emerald eyes narrowed upon seeing Dorothy but then softened the next moment for the ragged minstrel.
"Quatre," he said in a tone of voice that Duo could not place. In the next instant though, Trowa was back in control. "Duo, take Quatre and heal him the best you can. There is something in the air— "
He was interrupted by fire in the night.
The watchtowers, one after another, flared like torches and warning arrows whizzed through the air like a musical rain. Harsh, orange light illuminated the stirring camp and cast shadows on Trowa's stricken face.
"No," he breathed, almost a prayer. All along the watchtowers, watchman were yelling, shouting and their words pierced the air and Duo's heart.
"Nottingham has come!"
And one last that made the woman by Quatre's side growl under her breath.
"You led them," Duo said, almost startled. His gaze settled on Quatre and Dorothy. "They followed you."
It was not an accusation, just a statement of fact that neither could deny. The truth was right in front of them. Soldiers on horseback, soldiers on foot poured through the green trees, screaming their loyalty to Nottingham. Duo, on impulse, began to drag Quatre and Dorothy down towards the camp. He needed to get them to somewhere safe, where he could protect them. Trowa, on the other hand, remained standing, blinded by the fact that the outlaw's haven had been discovered and that the one man who might save them was not even there.
Feeling energy begin to fill him, he began the limitless cycle that would claim him for the next few hours.
Nock. Aim. Fire.
Nock. Aim. Fire.
Nock. Aim. Fire.
* * * *
Two shadows circled each other warily as rain began to fall from a full sky. One wished for death, the other for an ending. There was only one witness and he watched with the eyes of neither ally nor enemy. So three. Three stood in the forest glen, words unspoken. Heero did not need them to show his anger.
Without warning, he leapt forward, the sword he had vowed never to use again ringing against his enemies'. The sun burned on his back, making sweat bead on his forehead and roll down his face, the only water in this God-forsaken land. No! It was the moon, and it was rain, only rain. But there was still an infidel before him and he grinned as their blades met.
"I wondered if you would come yourself," the Sheriff of Nottingham growled and their blades broke apart as they continued their dance. "But without Relena to rescue you this time, the dawn will see your death."
"Or yours," Heero replied, the steel in his hand making sparks against the other. Lightning cracked overhead. By the tree line, Treize shifted on his feet. He was ignored by both combatants.
The fight continued as all battles do, the glen filled with the ringing of tempered steel and the hiss of sparks, the roar of lightning. Heero and William took and gave ground in circles, each one waiting for the moment when the other would slip in the drenched grass. The rain was falling harder and thunder was close.
The storm was upon them.
"You do realize that once you're dead, Relena will be mine, and with her the power of the throne," William panted as his sword slashed outward in a deadly arc. Heero jumped backwards but felt the slice of it across his shoulder.
Minor. Keep moving.
"Not for you, never for you," Heero replied, his sword proving his answer. "Even could you kill me, the ruined wife known to have bedded an outlaw? Known to have been kidnapped by a man sentenced to hang? Relena's children will never see the crown." He felt no pang of sadness for that fact as the words left his mouth. Power corrupted and the Sheriff was an excellent example. No, Relena's children would love the forest and the sunlight through leaves, never power.
The Sheriff growled and lunged forward, angry, and instead of dodging, Heero pushed back, pressing William into an unsteady retreat. The older man fumbled and succumbed to inevitable. He went down into the slick grass, falling harshly to one knee, his sword tip digging into the mud. Immediantly, Heero's sword tapped the Sheriff's chin as he glared down at his fallen opponent. His dark twilight eyes were flat, without emotion. He was simply going to carry out the fate he had already decided, nothing more.
In the shadows, the soldier Treize watched with a cool gaze.
And then Relena was there.
She didn't run into the clearing, nothing so bold. One minute the night was empty, the next she had filled it with her presence. She was breathing hard, the honey-colored strands of her hair plastered to her fair skin from the downpour, but her eyes captured him as surely as they ever had and Heero wished suddenly for their small hut in the middle of Sherwood with its two small rooms and the moments of quiet delight it could give to him now, with her there.
Relena must have read his wish in his eyes and she took a step forward. Just one, and her voice cut through the storm straight to him.
He had expected it on some level. He could still remember the kindness she had exhibited towards Wufei after that night at the banquet. She abhorred violence, especially against innocents, but the Sheriff was no innocent and never had been.
"No," she repeated, sensing his mood. Her eyes darted to William for a brief second and he understood.
She was saving him yet again.
His sword lowered, rain pinging of the razor edge. William frowned but Heero's gaze held him within a field of ice.
"For her, I will not kill you," he told the crouching man in a low monotone before raising his eyes to Relena's. "For her, I will not become a murderer."
It was over.
His lover smiled ever so slightly and he stepped back, sheathing his sword. Then, without fear, he walked past the beaten Sheriff, his mind focused only on what was awaiting him. The battle was over. Finally over.
He did not need Relena's gasp to warn him, nor the prickling along his spine. He knew. He just knew. He expected it almost.
What he did not expect was the Sheriff's man, Treize, to leap from the shadows, his own sword impaling itself through his superior's shoulder. William cried out and fell, the sword he would have used to cleave Heero's head in two dropping to the ground. Treize stood absolutely still, barely seeing William as the man writhed on the ground, blood staining his shirt. Instead, the polished soldier met Heero's gaze and then Relena's.
"By order of King Richard the Lionheart, I, Treize Kushranada, Duke of Highbury, hereby claim the King's justice of William de Grey, Sheriff of Nottingham for treason against the Crown."
Relena, coming to Heero's side, breathed out quickly, her fingers tightening on Heero's shirt. Without looking, Heero placed his hand over hers, his eyes never leaving Treize.
"You are the King's?" he asked, hiding his surprise.
Treize nodded once. "I was sent here to bring tidings to the King's brother, John, and to take back news of England. I'm afraid I've found nothing to my liking. Richard sent me as a spy and, as you might know, he loves an intrigue. I only found out just in time and I must say your lucky I did for I would not have been here tonight without proof."
"Proof?" Relena was confused, "What do you mean? What did you find out?"
Treize looked mildly surprised. "I was sure you both knew." He glanced down at the Sheriff who glared up at him, unable to speak, his jaw clenched tight against the pain. "It seemed the Sheriff here has been bribing the King's enemies to unite against him while he is away, including a scheme to put Prince John on the throne. The money was intercepted, interesting enough, by your outlaws." He titled his head at Heero. "Two of them found me this evening as I followed the Sheriff here." He suddenly reached down and unsheathed a dagger bearing the royal crest. "They saw this and knew who I was. They thought to interrogate me, especially the fierce one, but I convinced the woman of my purpose. She showed me the trunk of coins they had and it was enough." He paused, watching both of them carefully. "I must thank you both. The money you stole kept William's plan from gaining full force. I can only apologize that I did not understand this until today."
"So," Relena breathed and Heero knew what she was going to ask. "We are free?"
Treize was silent a moment before reaching down to yank William de Grey to his feet, who moaned and almost went down again. He then began to walk away, pushing the Sheriff before him, stopping only at the edge of the clearing, never looking back.
"I know nothing of Heero Yuy of Huntington nor Relena Darlian of Peacecraft. I have only heard heroic tales of the outlaw called Heero, and his Lady. Nothing more, nothing less."
And then he was gone.
Heero had only a moment's breath before Relena flung her arms around his neck, kissing every part of him she could reach. He closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around her waist, just holding her.
"I love you."
The rain stopped.
* * * *
The camp was destroyed.
But so was Gisbourne and his men. The Sheriff's cousin lay not far away, a short sword through his heart. Wufei had avenged Meiran's death.
Other bodies lay strewn about, some outlaws, most not. The villagers had been able to climb to safety in the trees, creating a hail of arrows as they fired their bows in rapid succession. Their losses were few.
None of the living remain.
Duo and Hilde went on to Nottingham to start new lives, hoping for a semblance of normalcy. Duo kept up with his healing skills and later became the local physician.
Hilde married him.
Quatre went back to being a minstrel, courtesy of a new harp Dorothy presented him with. He traveled far and wide, returning in the end to Nottinghamshire where he died late in life of a sickness of the lungs that even Duo could not treat.
Miraculously, he could sing until the very end.
Dorothy, despoiled as she was, became a spinster but one of great importance. She was appointed advisor to the new Sheriff of Nottingham.
Sheriff Trowa Barton.
After receiving an official pardon from the King via Duke Treize, Trowa returned to society with his sister, Catherine. The first thing he did was convince his father to annul the marriage contract between his sister and the Baron. Gent left empty-handed.
Sally and Wufei traveled with Treize back Israel to serve as mercenaries in the King's army. It is said that Wufei served a key role in returning Richard to England after his capture and imprisonment by Saladin, leader of the Israeli armies, but nothing was confirmed. His and Sally's adventures across the sea remain largely a mystery. They never returned to England.
Lucretzia Darlian gave birth to a healthy, baby girl who swiftly became the center of her father's world. Her name was Isabella Darlian and she later married the son of a prince.
As for Heero and Relena Yuy, their tale has no ending. It is told over the crackle of camp fires and read about in dusty books that grace the shelves of some of the oldest libraries in the world. Their courage and integrity is contained within their children, and their children's children, and in all of the people they touched in their lives. Their story will never end.
But for those of you who need some closure, let me suffice to say that they lived happily ever after.
* * * *
Questions and Answers
Question: Why didn't the freaking Sheriff DIE?
Answer: Did I ever say he was going to? *ducks various sharp objects* I know most of you desired his gruesome demise but that was never how I envisioned the ending. Besides, we all know what would have happened. Heero would have committed murder in front of a very reliable witness, Treize. Relena saved him in many, many ways.
Question: Oh come on, Treize wouldn't have turned him in….would he?
Answer: In this story, he would have had Heero gone through with it. Treize is a moral character, he was there on Richard's behalf, not to save outlaws. He only did so because Heero inadvertently saved the King another war on his return home. Of course, we all know Richard comes back only to leave again, but that's another story entirely.
Question: How did Relena escape Nottingham Castle?
Answer: Milliardo found her. I originally wrote that scene but it got cut due to heartache on my part after my computer crashed and I lost everything. I might but it up on Gold Scribbles in the future along with other cut scenes from my other fics. (berrygold.tripod.com)
Question: Why didn't Milliardo go with Relena to Sherwood in the end?
Answer: She ran away. ^_^ Another scene I wrote. Milli stays behind with his pregnant wife.
Question: Who were the two outlaws that cornered Treize in the forest before the last fight?
Answer: Wufei and Sally. I left enough hints but there you go anyways.
Question: What does the Arabic phrase at the end mean?
Answer: Oh come now, do you really want to know? I myself like a bit of mystery but if you REALLY want to know…..don't look if you want to imagine…..it means "peace be unto you".
Question: Will there be a sequel?
Answer: No, definitely not. I could barely write this last chapter and I have no desire to continue with it. Besides, I think everything relevant has been tied up.
Question: What's next then?
Answer: My next fic is "Autumn Leaving". A GW suspense/supernatural/eerie thing. As of now it's about halfway completed. Expect it to arrive on the net in the near future. For news about my upcoming fics you can also check out Gold Scribbles.
That's it, my friend. I hope you enjoyed and if you have any questions I didn't address here, please email me or leave it in a review. Thanks so much.
All my love,