It's been a decidedly eventual day.
I mean, it's not every day you're swinging by a rope around your neck one minute, and then leaping over speechless guards on your way to freedom the next, is it? And on stolen horses, too. I like this Robin. He does things my way.
It seems like we've been galloping for days through the forest when we finally stop. I don't think Robin was aiming for a particular location- he makes no exclamation of "Oi!" or "We're here!" or anything of that sort. He just reins his horse to a stop, and Will Scarlett follows suite. Not that you could have found any certain place a second time in this forest, anyway. All it is is trees. Miles and miles and miles of trees.
My legs feel shaky as I dismount, and I have to catch myself to stay upright. I walk a few steps forward to hold the bridle while Will swings off and find that I can hardly keep my feet. Robin seems to notice this as well.
"Let's catch our breath a minute before setting up camp, lads."
With a sigh of relief, I sink to the earth and sit with my back resting against a tree, and after a moment I feel Will join me. He's tense as a board and breathing hard-harder than the rest of us-and his eyes are wide and nervous, casting about as though he's searching for the pursuers we left behind miles ago.
"'Ey, mate? You all right?" I ask as my heartbeat finally slows down.
"We...we almost died...I can't believe we're still...still alive..." He looks awfully pale for having just ridden so hard, I muse, and then suddenly realize with alarm that he's beginning to shake slightly.
"Robin!" I try to keep my voice light as I call out to avoid upsetting the poor chap even more. Robin turns from where he and Much are tying up the horses a few feet away. "You wouldn't happen to have any ale in that bag of tricks, would you?" I tilt my head meaningfully toward Will.
Much seems to completely miss this gesture and glowers at me. "You're not serious? We risk our lives to save you and spend hours outrunning guards because of it, and now you have the nerve to ask for a drink? I don't believe this..."
I throw up my hands to interrupt his tirade. "It's not for me, mate." Much follows the direction of my head-tilt this time and his expression changes from disgusted to slightly fearful.
"Here." Robin, who obviously saw my intentions from the start, hands me a flask. "All that was left of our welcome-home party at Locksley manor," he provides as an answer to Much's unspoken question.
"Will, mate, have a bit o' ale, it'll help steady you." He just stares at me for a second, then uncertainly accepts the flask and drinks.
Robin sees that I've got the situation under control and nods toward the ever-thickening trees. "Right, then. The sun's setting faster than I thought, so I'm going to see about catching us some dinner. Allan, you stay here with Will, and have a couple of sips of that yourself. Much, we'll need a cooking fire."
Much is not nearly as pleased with this idea as I am. "But...they...I...almost thrown off...we...surely...Master!"
"Much, my brave friend, we are soldiers and used to the dangers of battle and the tolls near-death takes on one's body, but to them it is a new experience."
Much looks at Robin as though he's going to protest again, then huffs frustratedly and marches off into the forest in search of kindling. Robin shoots us a grin before grabbing his bow and quiver and disappearing into the trees himself.
Now that Will's settled down a bit, I lean back against the tree and allow myself a huge sigh of relief at the ending of this day. It's not often that I don't have to be the one to look after myself, so I'm going to thoroughly enjoy the opportunity when it arises and have a kip. Will mimics my actions and for a long time we sit just like that, eyes closed in our weariness, not saying anything, letting our intense, bone-deep exhaustion catch up with us. I can just feel myself beginning to drift into blessed oblivion when Will speaks.
"I can't believe we're still alive," he says again, but there is no longer that breathless shock in his words.
"Tell me about it, mate," I mumble, not really feeling like I've got the strength to open my eyes just yet.
"Do you think the others made it out of Nottingham? My dad, Lukie, Ben... d'you think they're all right?"
Apparently I'm not going to get a nap after all. I open my eyes to see his grey ones staring worriedly at me-right next to my face. I hadn't heard him move closer to me. At this angle, he looks younger than he did in the dungeon, when he was comforting his brother and the Giddons lad. But maybe it's because he's suddenly run out of people to comfort and ways to distract himself. I force a smile, for his sake.
"Yeah, I'm sure they are. I mean, we made quite a ruckus back there, right? Nobody'd be thinkin' about them runnin' away. We made a far more interesting exit." I grin, genuinely this time, at my own light-hearted comment, hoping that he will return the expression, but all he does is nod slowly, that unsettled look still on his face. Suddenly, he puts his hands to his pockets and begins to pat his legs frantically, as though he's searching for something he's just realized he lost.
"My knife... they took my knife!"
"Well o'course they took your knife! What did you think, they were goin' to leave it for you to kill 'em with when the guards turned their backs?" Was he serious? "What d'you want it for now, anyway?"
He casts me an annoyed look, then glares down at the ground, as if the leaves have conspired against him and stolen his knife.
"I just...wanted to do a bit of whittling, that's all," he mumbles, his cheeks burning as though this is something to be ashamed of.
"What, you makin' a present for your sweetheart?" I jest, trying to lighten him up a bit, but all I get is another glare, more infuriated than annoyed this time.
"It just...helps to take my mind off things, that's all." He swallows and pulls his knees up to his chest, hesitating a moment before wrapping his arms around them and clasping his hands, as though he can think of nothing else to do with them since he has no means by which to whittle. It's like he's hugging himself for comfort, and I realize that my joking approach is only making matters worse.
"Where did you learn to whittle?" I ask in what I hope is a gentler voice.
He turns his head to look at me, searching my eyes with his as though he's looking for a trap, evaluating if whether or not what he chooses to confide in me has the potential to be used against him. I guess I pass the test, because he starts talking again.
"My dad is... well, was, a carpenter."
I raise an eyebrow. "Was?"
"The Sheriff cut off his hand when he stuck up for me and my brother," Will responds, hatred igniting his grey eyes for a moment. I wince sympathetically, having come dangerously close to that fate myself. "He taught me his work before it happened, and what he didn't teach me outright, I learned by watching him, and by practicing." He gets a faraway look to his gaze suddenly, and I can tell he's wondering about the next time he'll see his dad. He refocuses on me after a few seconds, though, and asks, "What about your dad? What's his trade?"
"I haven't got a dad, but when I did, he was a blacksmith," I answer nonchalantly.
He looks a bit confused at the difference in my tone and the content of my words, but says anyway, "I'm sorry."
I almost say that it's all right, I didn't really like my dad much anyway, but I get the feeling that family's pretty important to Will, so instead I act like I appreciate the sentiment. Which I guess I do, when I think about it.
He nods, then once again punctures the uncomfortable silence.
"Did he teach you how to be a blacksmith?"
I almost laugh out loud at that thought. My dad, a teacher? "No, he didn't have much time for me or my brother. Rather go out drinkin' with his mates than show us the ropes."
He finally seems to get the idea that my dad isn't exactly one of my favorite people, and so moves on to other members of my family.
"Have you got any brothers or sisters?" He's obviously still worried about Luke.
"I've got a brother, Tom. Three years my junior." The honest truth is, I don't know where Tom is, and I think he wants it that way. Because if I knew where he was, I'd beat the daylight out of him. Tom knows this. He's not that idiotic.
Will smiles sadly. "So you know how it is to look out for someone, then." I feel like this should be less of a statement and more of a question, but it's posed how it's posed.
"Yeah. Yeah, I guess so."
We lapse into silence again, and I down the last sip of ale to try and forget about what Will's gone and dug up. Not that he meant to. He was only trying to be friendly and was seeking a little reassurance for himself after a tough day. He seems like an all right chap. It's been a while since I've actually looked out for someone other than myself, and Will seems eager to return the favor.
Will sighs softly and I can tell he's drifted off, his head resting on the rough bark, and I find myself smiling.
I think I'll stick around for a while.