Hello! Surprised to hear from me here again? :)) Well, here's a little something for all of you, but mostly for me. You probably all remember the authentic child of Vaisey and Elizabeth, Davina Joanna? Then you'd also remember she was left with Vaisey when Elizabeth left for France. How do you think that would've worked out, our formidable Sheriff with a daughter? Here's a little window into Davina's world, prior to her marriage to Oliver FitzRoy and on the day of her father's death. Is she like her mother, or like her father? Or is she something completely and utterly brand new? Take your pick.

~Beta


The afternoon was incerdibly sunny and hot for Nottingham, just as for England, in general. Davina Vaisey almost considered it scorching. She had never liked the sun much, prefering the climate of England in its genuine form-with fog and rain. Then again, the weather was fitting, if not made after her heart.

England did not cry for her father.

No one ever would, except for her.

Nottingham Castle was empty, save for the servants. Not even her father's Master-At-Arms, Sir Allan, was present, having gone to collect the taxes. Always 'collect the taxes'. The only constant of Nottingham-as every other shire in every other land- now that my father is dying. Sheriff Vaisey had been an idiosyncrasy of Nottingham. Adept at winning, ruling, enforcing, manipulating, creating, destroying, punishing, rewarding, killing, staying alive. Until now. One thing led to another, he had taught her a long time ago; in that order. Then he pointed to her all the multiple connections and ties between all of them, having her understand that the order made no difference, but how one chose to thread through the chaos. Always know what is five steps before you, but not before you know what is ten steps behind you. She was his only daughter, his only child. However, that did not mean all his wisdom had been transferred to her. Always remain three steps in front of everyone. Everyone included the closest of family.

Davina was nearing the master bedroom. The skirts of her tight, ornate-with-silver-spirals burgundy dress rich in color flowed behind her together with her curly, blond hair that reached her thighs. Always look your best-you never do know who you might encounter. One of the servants scurried past her towards the kitchens with an express bow and a murmur of greeting. The guards before the doors stood straighter, bowing more deeply. Davina nodded at them and stepped into her father's room through the door they opened for her swiftly. She reminded herself she would need to arrange for their salaries once more, but it was not a problem-only what she had been doing for the past few months. Sir Allan was going to need to be instructed on how to manage certain issues once she went away. It would be him in the need of practice and, as much as he would mockingly protest(in reality meaning every word he said), study.

Large, clean, lavish, well-aired-the room was all it should have been. Davina had run the household smoothly up until this week. This week, which was supposed to be the last for her to spend here. The day after tomorrow, she was to leave for London, to marry Oliver FitzRoy, the bastard son of His Royal Majesty, King John of England. How fitting, again, for her father to die exactly at this time.

„Davina." His voice did not sound much different as he raised his hand weakly, calling out for her, „Davina, it is you, isn't it?" Only more silent. You were most dangerous when most silent.

„Yes, father." She replied, making her way to the bed. A chair was there, ready for her. There were droplets of water on it-the maid must have used it to clean him. He had been in bed for days now, „I am here."

His eyes-the same as her own in all but color-were blank when they passed over her face as she sat down. A faint smirk curved his lips.

„Ah, but I meant-never mind what I meant." She knew better than to question him further-he never said things he did not want to say, she knew, and there had been many, „Davina-my daughter." That placated his expression, „Yes, yes of course. I am not that senile yet."

Sheriff Vaisey had had a tendency to hold monologues for a long time, used to doing so undisturbed. The arch of his eyebrow, the twist of his lips-it all pointed to this being much like one of his official speeches or discussions. Davina was not surprised. She had never expected to see her father in any weakened state significantly different from drowsiness. She was not going to. And I would never want to.

„Or that dead, for that." He chuckled, „Though I may just be, soon enough."

Death must have been something he had planned as throughly as anything else. She gritted her teeth, not finding the fact to have any effect on the situation. Any effect that helped, anyway.

„You very well may." She forced a smile, replying to his comment. Tears began making their way to her eyes, though she fought fiercely to hold them back. He did not want to see her cry unless she was doing so through a controlled action, using it to achieve one thing or another. Unfortunately, it had taken a long time for her to learn to control that particular thing. Starting to cry whenever she wanted was no problem-it was how she had tried to acquire more chocolate desserts from her father when in the 'period where it is decided whether you, my dear, will be a fat cow in the future or not'-nine to thirteen years of age. Of course, it had not succeeded. Not with him.

Stopping to cry when the urge overwhelmed her, that was the issue. She had to reach further back, and stop herself from being overwhelmed. She thought of chocolate and cows-thinking of people, any people, only made it worse.

Another chortle came from the Sheriff, and he shook his head, his eyes on the ceiling. The annoyance in them was the closest to 'mock' annoyance as he ever came.

„Oh, God and Devil, I have sinned, but not enough to be forced to find the same sense of humor in you as I had in your mother."

At this, Davina froze, together with certain bits of her grief in her mind. The ones in her heart were mixed with those from a long time ago, overhwlemed in that instant more than she had wanted them to be and too much for her to remain as fully focused as she had intended on being.

In all the fifteen years of her life, Vaisey had never once mentioned her mother to her. She was five when she began asking questions, only to hear from him that her name had been Lady Elizabeth and that she died of the sickness of the lungs a few months after Davina had been born. When she asked for more, he told her there was no more, and sent her away.

She had heard people talking; noble ladies gossiping. A couple of years later, she and her father had been invited to London by King John. He had a mistress, who looked at her with strange eyes and told her she reminded her of her mother very much. 'Not so much, I would say.' Her father had replied slowly. After that, the King had sent them back-the very following day.

Lady Isabella, Lady of Gisborne at present moment. Her brother had once been Vaisey's Master-At-Arms, which the Sheriff used to explain Isabella's peculiar behavior. When Davina had asked what it had to do with her mother, and where Isabella's brother was, father had told her none of those things mattered. Lady Isabella was sore because her brother had performed his duties badly and had been sent away.

She was ten years old when she asked Sir Allan A'Dale about it all. She had asked him once before, but he had avoided the answers in all possible ways. This time, she had presented him with an eerie blanked with the name 'John' sewn into it she had found in one of the old storage rooms that had not been used in years. Was it the king's, she had wanted to know? Or was there some other John she knew it could have belonged to?

A brother. Y'see, you had a big brother. Only, he was real little when he...died. No, no your mother and he went through the birth just fine. See, he was...he was sick, that's all. Babies sometimes die of sicknesses that you wouldn't even feel. You never came close to dyin', no. You were a strong little girl. Still are.

John Henry. The day after she had told her father, Sir Allan was limping. He smiled at her when she inquired about his injury, murmuring something about falling off his horse.

If she had not been such a stupid, loose-tongued child that time, maybe he would have told her more of her mother. Loose-tongued, and blindly loyal to her father.

Now, Vaisey himself was mentioning her. For the first time since she could have remembered.

I must tread carefully.

She cocked her head, „I believed that sense of humor was to your liking." At the very least, mention of her had prevented her overhwelming emotions. As her father had trained it, her sense of cold ambition tuned in. It waded through the pain and made it number for its own purposes. On its own, her concentration had come back.

Vaisey laughed.

„I did, too. A long, long time ago. She told me she wanted to see a man scream and beg before he died, you know, dearest. That was when she reminded me of you, and because of that I let down my guard. I trusted her more than I ever should have, Davina."

Trusted more than I should have? Davina's eyes would have widened a tad if she had not taken control over her face. So there was a secret; something amiss. None of it had been in her imagination only, as she had begun to fear in the last few years of being served the same silence. And now, finally, he speaks.

Tread carefully.

Three steps ahead.

She swallowed, „Was she unfaithful to you?" It was too simple a question, she knew, and chances of it being answered, even now, were slim at best.

He let out a snort, „Was she? Of coruse she was. She was Prince John's bloody mistress. I wanted her to be unfaithful to me. But she was stupid, Davina. And I was stupid. You have always been the first one to tell me women manipulate with more natural skill than men, ever since I was a boy. Women are lepers. But she was never good at manipulation, she only tried to be. So I overlooked the most obvious."

He was not talking to her. Not to his daughter, Davina Joanna. He was talking to some other Davina, someone she knew nothing of, just as she knew nothing of her mother. Mistress to Prince John. Unfaithful. Prince John was now King John. And she never forgot the way he had never addressed them after the matter with Lady Isabella.

Look ten steps back.

„Did she...displease King John?" She opted for the safest question now, biting the impulsive 'father' off her tongue. He did not know she was his daughter, or he would not have uttered a word of this. That was what her three steps ahead were made of.

Vaisey's grin grew wider. His gaze was still plastered to the roof. Maybe he does not want to look away and see that I am not the Davina he wants me to be.

„My dear, that is a very meek term. Not like you, at all." He rolled his eyes-she nearly thought he was to lose consciousness, but the move was his characterstic one-and paused, „Not like her, either. She was unfaithful to him, too. And not with me-that would have been a grand thing to say." His smirk faded, „No. My wife-and I told you I'd never marry-was screwing Gisborne of all people. Gisborne, can you believe it?"

Gisborne, „Lady Isabella's brother?"She held her breath. Gisborne, the fomer master-at-arms. Gisborne, who had disappeared.

„Yes, yes, he never mentioned her. They hate each other. Hated. He is dead because of her, and his own idiocy." His lips turned down, and his face looked almost sad, „Gisborne, Gisborne. And I told him women were lepers. I had just rid him of one, and there he found a new one." A beat, „My wife, of all the women. My leper. My whore. I told you how I married her, didn't it?"

„No." Never. Whore. Leper. My mother? His lady wife? Davina was a person who had never been aptly affected by the ugly sides of human lives. Her father had taught her that. When it was about a part of her own life, though, she found herself uniquely disturbed.

Another part of her, though, was intrigued. An interesting tale, if perhaps terrible, lied beneath her mother's-therefore, her own-past. Something to learn from. Something to fill a hole in my heart. Davina had never missed a mother. Her father had been perfectly enough for her. What had drilled her whole had been pure curiosity-Vaisey had taught her information was power. She was powerless and unable to fully look back if she did not know of a matter, even if small, connected to her past. This, this was not small. Straightening, she stiffened determinedly.

„Of course not. You were already dead by the time, weren't you?" He grimaced, „Killed by that accursed outlaw. Oh, I wanted to catch him, you see. Make him pay and suffer. She fit into the picture. She fit perfectly-as a bait. To lure Hood into the castle and have me grab hold of him." A snort, „But she had a 'better' plan. She wanted to help. Gave me a speech about infiltration and whatever not. Frankly, it was good. I thought of something far more superb, naturally. See, I hired mercenaries to catch her—and rape her brutally—having her believe it was Hood."

Davina realized she had stopped inhaling air at the moment he mentioned the rape. 'Having her believe it was Hood' only reached her mind when she breathed in again, a few moments later, thoroughly-

-amazed.

Devious. Dastardly. Just like you.

The idea may have been unsettling, at first. Compassion over a dead mother she had never known, though, would never surpass her admiration for her father. It was something she had carried since her very first, unaware thought as an infant. Whatever he told her, it would not change. Davina was shocked, aye, by the revelation, but that was it. If there was anything for her mother in her heart, if there had ever been, save for that hole, it was not strong enough to reach her through it. The shock was even exhilarating, with all the news it brought along.

She went on listening.

„I hadn't counted on the pride a leper might have, though. She refused to speak a word of it. Pretended nothing had happened. Heh..." His laughter was deep, „I had to think of something better. So I told her I'd had an inside man, who had found everything out. Of course, I told her he died. Maybe she would've wanted to kill him, herself, to keep her 'terrible' secret, who knows. At any rate...in order to get her to agree to it all and not spoil things for me, I had to announce our engagement." He raised his hands in the air theatrically, „Ta-dah! I had a wife. How...loathsome."

Davina sought the right words, focusing on finding out more. She would analyze what she had heard later, later, because she had to admit it was confusing, despite all, ; „How long had you been married, exactly?"

A shrug, causing the linens to fall off his bare shoulders an inch; „A few years. Really, we did have some fun. She reminded me of you at times, I told you-she never cried, too. Spoke of the most gruesome details without a hint of being disturbed and without fainting. She hated fainting, but it happened to her nonetheless when she attacked Prince John for wanting to take liberties with her."

„Attacked?" Her brow went up, „I thought you said she was his mistress."

„She was." There was contempt in his voice, „My dear wife was a vixen. Though not a pretty vixen, mind you. But Prince John was a man of strange tastes-liked the boldness in his women." Davina did not know whether boldness or women was spoken with more contempt-knowing her father, it had been the latter, „She attacked him for trying to take what she'd waved in front of his eyes like a rightful whore." He closed his eyes, „That she was, a whore. He declared her mad, of course, and did not have her killed as he had originally intended to-and as he should have."

The smile that twisted his lips was interrupted by a series of rapid, small caughs. Feverishly, Davina rose to get him water from the nearby table, but his fingers circled around her wrist midway, „No." His eyes were dark and fixed on hers, his head having turned to the right, no longer facing the ceiling, „Stay." It was not a command, it was a plea-and he was addressing her this time, fully aware of it. The strength in his grasp was not that of a dying, old man.

She would have listened to him, either way, valuing him more than anything he could have told her now. The beating of her heart at the excitement of uncovering such a shocking history behind her mother-and a personality to be worth being a plaything to her father-could have been, though sadly, pushed aside.

But before she could have sat back down, he jerked her arm again, drawing her closer and stupefying her in an undefined position, bent over the corner of his bed.

„Stay, and I'l tell you all of it."

Davina studied his expression, which was as it had never been before, with one constant-it was impossible to define what he was feeling. Emotions had long since been enemies to his face, not allowed to tread there. One could have noted the intruders, but identifying them by their names bordered with impossible. She wondered if he had ever forgotten their names. No; that would have lost him the advantage. Had it?

Carefully, she nodded, licking the inside of her cheek in the supstitute for the nervous biting of her lip which Vaisey had insisted she disposed of, „You know I will stay..." The hestiation was brief and she chose to gamble, „Father." Chances are he will forget who I am soon enough, I only need to wait. The fact that she, considering the cirumstances, thought of that as positive appalled her. She stored that for later, too.

„You can tell me anything you might wish to." She continued, lowering herself back onto the chair. Her eyes never left their careful study of his face.

What she had said did not appear to confuse him or have him change his mind. On the contrary, his look remained unwavering and he did not release her, merely let his hand slide over to her own palm. For a moment, Davina pondered over why he was not cold like those at their deathbeds were supposed to be. She dared not hope. The physician had explainted to her he had not consumed any food in days. He had become emaciated, and his body was not holding any water. She had wanted the truth. No one could survive longer than a couple of days now, my lady. That was the only part of the physican's speech she had heard-she had not been interested in fake compassion. She knew he was not sorry. No one but her was. They might have pitied her and not her father, but everyone knew she was him, so this was not disuputable. Especially not to her.

„I will tell you the tale of a whore, girl." Her concerns over him refusing to share any further tales began lifting, „And I'll die telling it." He chuckled, clapping his other hand over the one holding hers, „Oh, she'd have loved me dead, dear. As a matter of fact, if I had died then, a lot of her problems would have been solved-and maybe, just maybe she'd be here telling you all this." Then, he scoffed, shaking his head, „Hmph. What is this old fool saying?" Davina squeezed him tighter. You are no fool. I am glad this is you.

But saying it out loud would have meant little and interrupted much.

She let him go on, uninterrupted.

„That woman was too stupid and too bloody obvious to ever be able to survive as long, anywhere. Wherever she is now, she's dead, too, and Gisborne could have never kept her or any woman under control-„ He coughed again, stopping, but Davina's mind was wrapped about the middle of the latest statement.

„Wherever she is?" She repeated as evenly as she could have, shifting on her chair, „Do you mean to say she is not dead?"

The frown on Vaisey's face carried reprimand, „Didn't you just hear me, girl?" He snapped sorely, „She is dead. Wherever she is, she is dead and you would do well to remember that."

He would never tell her where – and she knew it was best not to waste his final moments on attempting to get him to reveal what he did not want. Especially when there were things he did want to share.

It took them an hour.

An hour, during which Davina tested her abilities not to show the emotions tumbling through her heart, stretching them past their very limits.

She learned of Sir Guy of Gisborne, she learned of love, she learned of her half-brother John and of betrayal, of stupidity, forgetfulness, overconfidence, she learned of weakness.

He saved her from her own lunacy, with the help of her own lunacy."

„They slept together."

They committed idiocies to cover for each other, for their faults.."

„She had potential, she did, but she always slipped."

I'd married him to her friend, lady Ines, before they ever touched each other."

„She used her gifts for all the wrong things."

Davina learned of how passing the limits was difficult, but remaining past them was not. She learned it was more difficult to look back and look at the person who had been behind with eyes full of what you had done. Difficult for both-the one that had passed the border, crossed the line, sick of it all and wanting to erase it, wanting something completely different, and the one on the initial side, yearning to get across and not wanting to ever be the person with regrets that would regret fulfilling their own wishes. And both of them being part of you-making it atrocious for you. Lady Elizabeth had looked back. Lady Elizabeth had slipped.

The Prince's favorite, little plaything...though not so little, at all. An elephant on the glass floor."

„Her plan to dispose of me had its fine points...but she had been guided by petty feelings."

Caught by her own servant. It could have worked, had she ceased dallying about with him."

„Their son, killed. Gisborne, arrested. They sent you to me, ready to leave you behind."

Love-a feeling conjured by humans to explain and justify their weakness and their destruction, nothing more. Leprosy."

Leprosy, indeed.

By the end, Davina had learned a lot. But she was her father's daughter-and she did not, for the first time in her life, take his words literally.

The facts were all there, certainly, alongside the mistakes of Elizabeth Vaisey, but the emphasis and the way he made his way through that particular chaos was where she realized they differed. At his death bed, she realized that they were somewhat different, in the sense of her having outdone him.

She would not tell him. As his breathing became more labored and as he croaked out each word that could have been his last, she held his hand and kept the same adoration and reverence in her eyes as they looked upon his.

His, which glinted with emotions, two strangers on his face, „You would be my Davina if your eyes weren't hers." Pride of someone other than himself and regret, „You're our Davina, now."

„No." He was nearly choking, and she could have felt pain rising in her own chest, as well, „I am your Davina. And I always will be."

„Hmh." This was the closest to softness she had ever heard the slightest sign of in his voice, „You're our Davina. My Davina was my sister...my Davina died long before you were born." Then, turning his head at the ceiling again, his gaze becoming unfocused, he laughed a bitter laugh, „Oh, but if it wasn't for the eyes..."

There was no tightening of his grip, there was no jolt, there was no cold. He simply did not blink, focusing on whatever he had intended to say next, focusing, but in vain, the part of him holding it already gone. Then, when he saw it was there no longer, he reached for something else, the second best, and failed to find it once more. He did not blink, his eyes calm in concentration. He sought further and further, in the end reaching for anything at all, good or bad, anything that was there.

Nothing was.

And then he died.

The pride of Nottingham, the famous Sheriff, dead. And to think that not even his own daughter, holding his hand, had felt the passing.

Inconspicuous, as always.

Lady Davina remained seated. She did not cry, for tears were the sorts of enemies that did not return once they were beaten, even when war was in one's favor-and Davina had been taught—

-Davina knew it often was. Now that her father was gone, she knew.

Just as she knew her mother had been a fool, but could have succeeded had she been careful. Just as he knew that love was not leprosy. Love had not destroyed and prevented careful planning, but foolishness and lust had. Davina knew very well her father's perspective had been blinded by his utter despisal of emotions. Her father's perspective had, therefore, been faulty.

Now that he was gone, all his knowledge was hers, but it was not what made her. She knew all he had, and more. The 'more' put her in command.

Yet she did not cry. And she did not let go of his hand.

She did not know how much time had passed, but by the time she slipped her hand out of his unmoving, cold and firm fingers-no different than they had been in life-and walked out to the hallway, she saw the trees outside leaning in the dark. Their whisper was the only sound, save for herself as she stood in front of the open door, recalling Vaisey had always wanted her to close it behind her.

„The Sheriff has left us. Call for the physician." Without waiting for their reception; shock, surprise or joy, she moved along the hallway, leaving the door open.

Her legs were still shaky of all the sitting, the amount of time she had remained motionless, but her step was brisk and determined. And fast. Oh, how very quickly she walked as she made her way up, then right, then left, then right and to the end of the hall, to a place she had been visiting in secret ever since she could have remembered-the one thing about her her father had never, ever known. She did not feel sorry for the trouble she had gotten him into when she had been a child-had she not told her father about him, she would never have earned the closest thing there was to Vaisey's trust.

She knew the way by heart, the way to the Master-At-Arms' quarters in the castle, just as she knew he would be in there right now, having returned in the afternoon. He would not have ever intruded upon her in her father's quarters, especially at a time like that, out of fear her father's looks upon seeing the two of them conversing had given him. Out of fear of being accused of attempting anything with her, though he always smiled when he saw her and asked 'how do you do' and spared at least a few moments of his time on her.

For others, he was a rake, ready to take advantage of anything and anyone.

For her, he was polite; too polite. She had often wished him a pig who would have ravished her and left her, rather than a gentleman who had never touched her or looked at her in a wrong way. And he had done it out of trepitadtion from himself and his own conscience, just as the wrath of Vaisey.

Davina had taken what she could have gotten, though it had taken but days for her to admit to herself she wanted more. His politeness hurt her, when he avoided her or looked away grimly when he saw her coming, despite his like for her. And now, she would not take it anymore. She had been his friend, she had enjoyed their talks and their chuckles, she had enjoyed their little whispers when they stood too close to each other, at times, and she still would enjoy them, if she was to stay here.

The daughter of the Sheriff of Nottingham was her own mistress now-and she would not remain in Nottingham.

Her father had planned it well, her marriage to the King's son, and she was going to go through with it. Only she had planned it better. As Vaisey had manipulated the plans of her treacherous mother, Davina would enhance his own. You were careful, father-you knew better than to give me this knowledge while you were still alive. Never a pawn, with power for himself and himself only. Had it been conscious? But of course it had. Davina would never have thought anything else of him.

Her knock was a mere habit-she had come to return his politeness equally, always understanding him, never hurting him, spending countless days and nights with him on her mind. She was subtle with her defense of him when her father tarnished him with words in front of her. Had been subtle. Had tarnished. When he had a problem, she was supportive in silence or, if possible, out loud, and even when Vaisey had informed her of the fact Allan loved an outlaw, a Saracen, she had not wished ill upon her. Instead, she had prayed for him to cease loving her gently, before he realized the complete impossibility of their love. Their love would not have been so impossible, because Davina wanted him.

Though she would not have taken him, not until now.

When this Djaq, his Saracen, had died in the Sherwood forest fire two years ago, Davina had cried for Allan's pain and for not being able to alleviate it for him, for not being able to be close enough to him to console him as she would have wished to. He had not let her that close-he was too polite for that. And so I cried for him, praying for the part of him that his eyes said had died with her. Davina had been taught to pray from early age, for the sake of propriety, but never had she done it with such fervor as that time. And never had she cried so violently, either.

She only wished she could have held him as he had cried. She also wished she could have been of more help to him when he had started drinking heavily; though that heavy period had lasted for a few months, then ended. Davina liked to think her unmentioned support had played a role, a vast role, but she wished he had let her do more than just talk to her about everyday events and never letting her reach deep into his heart. His heart-had he ever let her do anything more than see it, partially? Politely, inobtrusively, she had done the best she could have. But she wished she had done more.

His hair was still red, with no grey, and his eyes were still blue and haunted as always when he looked at her with the frown she knew better than the back of her own hand. There was not just the spirit of Djaq and his past-he had often been shcoked by her not judging the fact he had run with the outlaws, then betrayed them; and no, Davina had not judged either of those things. This time, there was also concern.

„Hello." Davina did not know if she had ever really heard him address her by name-hello, good day, or good evening, or goodbye. His voice was soft, with that same trace of happiness because of seeing her that had been making her heart squeeze since forever. But concern was there, too, „Is he...is your father all right?"

Nice, as always. Properly nice. Davina's hello was just as his, with inevitable traces of a smile she could not have hidden in his presence. However, she did come to a halt before saying the rest.

„He is..." She looked away, briefly, heaviness removing her beam, „He has died."

He must have known, but his eyes windened, nonetheless. The darkness of his attire made him appear as if in mourning, already, and on his face there was either sadness or condolence, or both. Davina knew it was both.

The shifting of his feet, to avoid the spirit of Vaisey between them, a sigh, and a running of a hand through his hair. No greys. He was twenty-four years her senior.

„I'm sorry."

Those very feet moved, and Davina, as always, hoped for a hug, a touch, or a kiss which was bound not to be. He took her hand in his, and she got her touch-she relished in it. His grip was caring, and her smile was automatically brought back, before she even realized it.

„I know. I believe you." She replied, „So am I."

Allan had never liked or needed anything as much as someone believing him. That someone, Davina had become.

She liked to think the gratitude in his eyes could have somehow turned into love.

„He was all right, the Sheriff." He only half-thought that, but she did not show she knew that, „Harsh...but he knew how to get the job done. All right."The nod and the twitching of his eyes made her know he was saying this for her; whether because he usually knew how to practice obsequiousness or because he really cared for her...Davina opted for the latter. He had been close to her for years, never asking for a single favor of the Sheriff's daughter.

That could have been merely being careful-but no. Davina knew these doubts all to well, having dealt with them for such a long time. He cares. Go away.

Die with my father.

Oh, how she wanted to hate herself for thinking such a thing; for finding an ounce of anything but grief in Vaisey's death. But Allan had rendered her uncapable of even removing her hand from his. Hating herself would have meant hating him. And she could not have done that, so helped her God. And so helped her Vaisey.

What mattered was what she had before herself now, and what she planned to have in the future. Vaisey would have been the first not to have wasted time on weeping. Only he would have found the direction his heart might have wanted, had it been within his chest, and chosen to navigate his chaos applying the opposite of that. You did not only despise emotions, father. You feared them. I do not. Davina would have them as allies, but firm allies, not betraying them the way her mother had.

Patience. Patience and careful thinking was the key.

With all honesty she was capable of, she met Allan's gaze.

„He told me of my mother...and Sir Guy of Gisborne."

He was briefly taken aback with surprise, but soon he collected himself, blinking shortly, „Oh? I...err...I would've told you, but not bein' funny, the Sheriff wouldn't let me—„

„It is all right." Davina stopped him, „I do not mind." Even if she did, she would have told him otherwise, just to keep him from pain of any kind, „You are right. He would not have let you utter a word of it-not before he died."

„Well," He shrugged, slithering his hand out of hers, „I'm sorry, really—„

Davina waved a hand, „It is perfectly fine." Why did you let me go? The warmth of his touch still covered her palm, and she vibrated on the inside, tears nearly flooding her. Patience.

„Well." He shrugged again, „I'm really sorry about everything. Really, I mean. If there's anything at all you need," He halted, his eyes meeting hers, but after a brief hesitation he continued, „Anything you might want to know..."

No. This was not going to be just another one of their chats. Davina knew that, just as she knew the two of them would finally be united as she had always known they should be today. It was their last opportunity, and they would not miss it. She would not miss it. But they would not end up like Guy and Elizabeth. That, never. They would have firmer determination, plans of higher quality-they would be more careful. And they would control the lust(oh, how she wished to be lustful with him) with patience.

She-they would be patient.

Deciding upon that, Davina Joanna Vaisey stood straighter, if that was possible, and cut they endless years of silence between her and Allan A'Dale with her sharp, but gentle voice.

„I love you, Allan A'Dale. I think I always have. I will be marrying Oliver FitzRoy in a week." She remembered something, and hurried before his eyes ceased being overly frozen with shock to be read, „When you first told me of my half-brother John, that is when I think I fell for you. I always wanted to be closer to you. I wanted to help you and be there for you-be anything you need. You do not have to love me, if you don't, naturally, but I want you to be the closest friend I have, I want you to let me get closer to you." It was easy, too easy, and she let more pour out of her. Panic of losing him woke within her, and she thought of everything she could say to ascertain that was not to happen, „Who do you wish me to be, Allan? Tell me. Then I will be that, and this conversation will, I swear, never have occurred."

Not the way she had imagined it, this was, that was for certain. She had had in mind the scene of herself rushing into the room and kissing him, solving everything. Habits and manners and trillions of feelings she could never have thought to describe had interfered.

In the morning, the King might already announce him Sheriff of Nottingham. Davina needed to tell this to the Master-At-Arms of her father. Had she kissed him, she knew he might have walked away without a word, minuscule as that possbility was. He had to know he would never lose her, just as he had to know she would never pressure him into anything.

Well, there. Her silence had been torn to shreds. Now, it was his turn-though one word from him could have undone all she had said. The following morning, she would either be ecstatic or disappointed, but he would have her either way. Lady Vaisey and the Master-At-Arms, Lady FitzRoy and the Sheriff. One of the past, one of the future.

Now, she could have only prayed-now, when they could have been only Davina and Allan, for the first time in their lives. And the only. Guy and Elizabeth had made a mistake there.

If he but names me as a friend, I shall be ecstatic. She knew that, and that was how she knew she loved him.

For the longest time, Allan looked at her with turmoiled eyes. Then, he let out a long, weary sigh and looked away.

Davina kept her heart from sinking and her palms from sweating, but she could not have helped the room spinning about her. However, she remained unmoving, waiting. It was his turn now.

„Look, Davina," Her name. How sweet it sounded when he said it. Her heart made a glorious leap, twitching the corners of her lips once more, „I've...I've known you since you were a baby. You...you don't remember as much about your own life as I do."

All of this could have lead to an admission of love, so she swallowed and kept herself determinedly hopeful. She had said hers, let him say his. Please, God, have him love me. Oh, I've been begging for that since I could have begged.

„I know." She heard herself say, despite all, „You were always there."

„Yeah." He smirked briefly, meeting her eyes, where he could not have read any of the emotions she was experiencing. She would not have him think he had hurt her, if he happened to-for his sake, not for hers, „I mean, I knew your mother...and I'm older than she'd have been, now. Then there's your father, my superior—„

„He was your superior."

„Look, you're beautiful!" Frustration he had been holding back made its way into her voice, but the mixture of feelings on his face was only enriched, in its own right just as by the spreading of his arms, „I won't deny I ever thought that and I still think it." Another run of fingers through his wavy, red locks, „But it never was possible."

Davina eyed him, his lean figure, his mischievous posture, even now, with his shoulders hung.

„You know what I mean?"

„Yes." As always, she understood, „I do."

Then, she made a firm step forward, her chest almost touching his. Her height had come from her mother rather than her father, she had known that before she had found out of her. Still, she had to look up at him, channeling glow into her eyes.

„It never was-now it is. Had you asked sooner, it would have been then, anytime." I wish, though I would not have taken you, but it would pain you to hear that, „ I love you, I adore you and you can have me when you please, as you please, friend, lover, enemy—today. Now."

Allan had tensed, not looking away but visibly at a loss of words and actions. Do it. Say it. Please.

He looked at her in all the ways he ever had, tenderly, with annoyance, with traces of ire, with concern, with care, with affection, with humor. A liftetime could have passed just as easily as they stared at each other, and Davina would not have minded had it been five.

But they only had until morning.

„Say it."

„I need you as a friend." His voice finally filled the emptiness, with heartbreaking sincerity and relief, „I've needed you for all this time. You never judged me, you treated me right, and I've needed you."

She stared at him, still, focusing earnestly on whether every word he said was truthful, not to be forced to analyze them later, alone, torn by doubts. He stared back, looking for God knew what. A friend. She was glad-a friend.

„Always." She replied, „This I swear."

He extended his hand, his fingers dancing in the air. He hesitated, but then they landed on her cheek. Davina commanded herself not to close her eyes, to savor this moment forever and ever.

Then, he rushed forward, his other hand sliding to the small of her back, pulling her close, closer, the closest. He leaned down, and his lips crushed hers, caressing them and pressing them and fulfilling her every silent dream. Was it real? His tongue intertwined with hers. Was it actually happening? It tasted as she had imagined, precisely as she had thought it would. And it was him, him, Allan A'Dale; she sent the message through time to that little girl that had first laid eyes upon the clad-in-black knight. You will have him. Oh, yes.

She had reutrned the kiss instantly, and now she deepened it, her hands on his neck, her heart by his. They kissed and kissed, but never lost their breath, making up for all the years of politeness and propriety and pain.

When they pulled away, it was him who had done it-he had always been the one to initiate their partings, she had never had the heart to. She used the opportunity to say what she had to say, fully aware of the fact she would not be able to move away from him on her own later; ever.

„I will be yours." Her hand caressed his head, as did her other hand, something she had been wanting to do for countless years, „We will have to be patient, very patient, but I will be with you if it is the last thing I do—Allan." To say his name, „I'll marry him, but it won't last any longer than necessary. Then, I'll marry you, or do whatever you want me to do-you can be the widow's friend and lover, as long as you're close."

For a moment, he seemed in a dilemma, freezing and with doubt and discomfort in his eyes. It lasted one, two, three seconds. Then, he nodded and began pulling her towards him again.

„We must find a chaperone tomorrow." Those were the last coherent words she managed to voice, all coherence lost in the hurricane of sensations as they kissed again. Finally.

My chaos. My own chaos. My own, only love.

Davina would not repeat the mistakes of both her parents. Davina was going to play all of her cards right.

The card of cunning...and the card of love.