Disclaimer: Sadly we do not own anything recognizable. We will return them when we are done borrowing them ;)
Summary: When two members of the gang end up in danger, Robin must learn to trust a recent traitor in order to save them, and himself as well.
Notes: Written with Kegel for the Big Bang Challenge. The story takes place shortly after 2x05 (Ducking and Diving), and could be considered AU. Many thanks to our beta neaptidea :)
This was the kind of weather that made one wish they were inside. And while the storm had set in with frenzy, it did not mean that work could be put off because of it. The old man had been on the roads for the last few weeks now, setting up camp in shelters under trees when he deemed it safe enough, or even buying his way into an inn despite the fact that it cost him nearly half of his earnings gained on the trip itself. Now that he was nearing his home village, he felt a bit of hopeful warmth return, as if something was telling him that things would be alright once he was back inside his familiar house. It would be dry, too.
Ahead, the night sky was lit up by lightning, the storm coming shortly after the skies opened up. The rain was heavy, thick drops falling that quickly soaked the land and anyone below. Most everyone was inside sleeping by now, and the traveler knew that he would most likely be the only one awake, let alone outside in this miserable weather. He could have stayed the night in Sherwood, but the lore of Robin Hood and his men was enough encouragement to keep him moving.
It wasn't that he was afraid of the man. Robin had once been the rightful Lord of the Manor, and as far as he was concerned, Robin was only doing what he felt was necessary. But the old man also knew that anyone who crossed through the forest was fair game, and he wasn't particularly fond of letting go of his fortune, however small it might be. He would be considered rich by some, but he himself considered to be poor enough, what with little money he had.
So it was with relief that he entered the village, the mule pulling the cart up alongside the familiar barn as the man coaxed him to a stop. With a hood pulled over his head to help shelter him from the onslaught of rain, the old man unhitched the animal, leading him around the back to where the pasture was. No doubt the creature was just as happy as he to be on home turf.
It was the smell that first alerted him, the way the mule began to dance nervously near him as they came to a stop. He brushed a worn, old hand against the animal's neck, trying to calm him as he turned in his spot, trying to see what all the commotion was about. In another burst of lightning the skies lit up long enough for the briefest glimpse of the quiet village. And shortly after, it wasn't so quiet anymore.
There were screams, cries of alarms that sent the mule into a near panic. Quickly the old man urged the animal into the pen, allowing it to run free as he locked the gate before turning back to the commotion at hand. Some of the other villagers had heard the cries, had seen the flames, and were already trying to help.
Despite the rain, the fire burned fiercely, feeding eagerly on the thatching of the roof and bringing to the night a foreign glow. He moved over, trying to offer help where he could, but his bones were old with aches and pains, and his muscles lacked the strength to carry water from the lake in pails. Not only that, but his old mind told him that if the rain could not stop this blaze, then a few measly bucketfuls of water would not either.
The frame was already beginning to collapse and panicked worries that there were still people inside began to fill the air. This was even more confirmed as the door burst open and a man fell out onto the muddied ground with heavy coughs. A few men sprang in to help him to his feet, but the newcomer shook them off angrily, turning back to the house.
"My wife, my daughter!" he called out, his voice hardly heard above the crack of thunder. He was about to dash back inside, but others stopped him from doing so. It was far too late to help them; if they were not gone already, then they soon would be, and if the husband ran back in, he would perish just the same.
There were more shouts just then, fingers pointing to which he turned, catching the fleeting glimpse of the figure that ran for the woods. The sky lit up again, allowing a better look, and he could feel his heart skip a beat as he saw the man turn back for one final look before slipping into the woods. That was a face he knew. The man had grown up here, but recently had gone to live in the forest with another. No one had suspected that he would bring any sort of harm. But then it wasn't the first time the old man had been wrong about something.
And with the father's wailing consuming the night, he too felt a heaviness in his heart. For he had once been friends with the Scarlett family, had once considered Dan's boys to be his own. And he could not believe that Will could be responsible for this.
But he had seen what he had seen, and there was no arguing with that.
The rain was falling heavily and although he could not see it in the darkness of the night, it was only the rich canopy of leaves of the trees that were growing up into the sky over Sherwood Forest that protected him from getting soaked as well.
Robin had moved out of the camp, sitting now and listening to the sounds of the rain and the wind rustling trees within the forest, the groaning sounds of thunder that were quickly disappearing into the distance. He had been too restless to sleep any longer, despite the fact that there was still some time till the sun would show its first shine in the morning. It seemed it would be a dismal day at any rate.
His wasn't the only bed empty tonight. There were two others, along with his, both which told the tell-tale signs that someone had been there recently. The first belonged to man named Allan-a-Dale, who had recently thrown his lot in with Gisborne. It was discovered a short time ago that he had been feeding information to their enemy, betraying them all. Robin had banished him, and it hadn't taken long to see the man strutting about the castle, announcing himself as Sir Guy's man. This was beginning to become a bothersome burden, leaving Robin to wonder if he should have taken more serious means with the man.
The other bed that was empty belonged to another man. Will Scarlett was nowhere to be seen. Robin had a feeling that this was not the first night the man had disappeared without telling anyone. It would not be a surprise if it were had recently lost his father, Dan Scarlett, and Robin knew that the man was struggling to come to terms with what had happened, no matter how the man claimed that he was fine. Will still blamed himself for his father's death, and that grief was not easy to overcome.
Robin wasn't too worried. If Will was leaving in the night, then he never was gone for long. He was back in the mornings without any noticeable trace he had been gone. It was only due to his own restlessness that Robin happened to even notice the man's disappearance tonight. The real question on his mind was to where Will had gone. At night, in weather like this… surely there were not too many places a man could go. Not as an outlaw, anyway.
As the morning drew closer the rain lightened, and it was in the shine of the early morning sun that Robin could see a figure making its way through the forest to the camp. There was no alarm as Robin easily recognized him, and he smiled at seeing him return.
The storm had not been kind to him it seemed. Will's tunic was soaked, moisture also still clinging in his hair, tell tale signs of him having wandered outside as the rain shower lay over the forest.
"Where have you been?" Robin greeted him, and the other startled slightly, apparently not having paid attention to the man sitting outside the camp, somewhat obscured by the bushes around them.
"Robin," Will returned, letting out a breath, dropping his arms. The bandage was easy to see, even in the morning light, and Robin found himself moving to his feet, indicating towards the other.
"What happened?" he questioned, stretching muscles that had been cramped for far too long.
"It's nothing," Will said frowning, lifting and looking at his hand as if he had noticed the injury just now. "A small burn, that's all."
"Where have you been?"
Robin took the explanation lightly, and nodded.
"I'd change into something else, if I were you," he suggested, indicating Will's wet clothes. The man nodded, already moving into the camp as Robin followed. Others were already waking, Much stumbled from his bed muttering as he wandered across the small room to started cooking. A warm breakfast, especially on a morning like this, was a welcoming thought.
Robin too, changed into something dry, draping his cloak and damp shirt over a post near the fire. They would all have a busy day before them. Taxes had been collected the day before, and without doubt there would be hungry villagers to feed. Usually this was no burden, but with Allan's betrayal, they found their group skewed.
Before, they had gone in three groups, (splitting up and delivering goods and small satchels of coins to each of the villages. Now that could no longer be done, Robin forbidding any of them to travel alone. Safety came in numbers, and Robin did not want to think of what would happen if any of them were to be caught alone.
He took the plate that was offered, chewing slowly as he sat, eyeing the bags in the corner and tried to decide how things were to be done.
"John, you take Djaq and Will, and bring the supplies to Clun and Nettlestone. Much and I will take some shares to Locksley and the surrounding villages. We'll meet up back at camp tonight, and head to Nottingham together in the morning."
"What if Allan tells them we are coming?"
He met Djaq's gaze with a frown. He had forgotten about Allan. The man Allan knew they would be coming today. For a time Robin had tried to avoid falling into routine, but it could hardly be helped. People could not choose when to go hungry or penniless, not with the sheriff raking his hands through the very blood and sweat of the populace. He chewed the rest of his food, swallowing hastily before washing it down with a drink from his flask.
"We'll deal with that when we get there," he answered, setting the plate down. Allan might know that they were coming, most likely would warn Gisborne and the sheriff as well. But the man would not know how they were coming. They had to be careful, devise a new plan even. Or cause a distraction. It was the start of the plan.
"Well, if there is another storm like there was last night, Allan will be the least of our worries,"? Much remarked from across the camp. "I'm sure I'm not the only one who heard the thunder. You do know that is how forest fires start, right?"
"Much," Robin let out a sigh. "That is not going to happen."
"Remind me about that when we're being roasted alive."
He let out a grin, shaking his head. The storm had been fierce, but those were not common. It would be some time before they saw one again, he believed. Robin moved to his feet, grabbing his jerkin and pulling it over his head.
"The sooner we get going, the quicker we'll be able to return," Robin encouraged them. While the chances of another lightning storm were slim, the sky still did not seem so favorable. And running amuck in foul weather would not do them any favors, he presumed.