And So this is the last chapter. Enjoy!
They left for Locksley in the afternoon. Will had wanted to go earlier, but Robin had reminded him about being patient. They had taken their time in dividing the supplies, storing what they would distribute at the other villages, and taking the rest with them. Food was not the only thing they had managed to find. Robin had come up with some silver; where, Will would never know. But he was happy to see that it was there.
The money would come in good, to help with the rebuilding for those who had lost their homes. Maybe he could even assist them with that part, knowing the craftsmen skill himself. He had a feeling Robin would not like that idea, and so had yet to bring it up. Will knew it would be risky with Gisborne venturing in and out of the village all the time. Still, he wanted to do what he could to help the people of Locksley.
Ahead of him, Robin and Much led the way. Allan was close by, carrying his own share. It was good to see him returned; Will felt as though he owed the man something for what had taken place while at Nottingham. Allan could have hurt him, had the chance to, but had chosen against it. That alone showed there was still some good in him.
He turned as Djaq caught up with him, shouldered with a few more bags. He knew she carried more herbs and bandages than she did food. Once at Locksley, she would see to it that anyone needing assistance, was able to receive it. It made him think of the present once more, the gift he had made for her. Was still making…
"Are you nervous?"
He shook his head, "Why would I be?"
"They did not trust you last time," Djaq answered quietly.
Will felt himself grimace at the memory. "True, but they did not know. Now they do. Why should they still be angry?"
"What if Gisborne still has blamed you for the earlier fires?"
This brought him to a stop, not wanting to believe what she had just said, but he knew it was all too possible. Neither Gisborne nor the sheriff would be too keen on clearing his name just for the sake of what was moral. It would serve them better to keep the villagers afraid and wary of accepting the outlaw's help.
"Keep moving. We still have to reach Locksley before it gets dark," John reminded them as he came by. He had been following them, but did not stop as he walked on by.
Will slowly started walking when he saw Djaq was waiting for him too. He took a breath, shaking off the eerie feeling. "It will be alright. Robin is with us."
"I hope it will be," she agreed quietly, keeping pace with him. Will silently prayed it would be. Robin alone could not stand up to an angry village. Even all of them together could not do so. But they were bringing offerings of food, money and medicine. How could they be angry?
He tried to rationalize, to tell himself that everything would be fine. But the closer they got to Locksley, the worse he began to feel. Robin had come to a stop on the hill that overlooked the village, and soon they were all standing side by side, waiting for the signal that would send them in.
"Well, we came all this way," Allan remarked tiredly. "Are we going to go in, or just stay up here?"
"Will?" Robin called to him, catching his eye. "Are you ready?"
He paused, surprised by the question. He had not voiced his concerns to anyone. If Robin knew he was edgy, or simply guessed he would be, Will couldn't say. But now everyone was waiting for him to answer, and so feebly he nodded. When no one moved, he took the first few steps down the hill.
Locksley seemed barren, empty without all the houses that used to be here before. None of the mess had yet been cleared, charred remains piled up in three different places. The most recent of fires was evident, smoke still billowing up gently from the collapsed pile.
Many of the villagers were outside already, working their gardens or feeding the livestock that remained. Some were attempting to start with the mess, but stopped as they saw the group approaching. Those who were still inside found their way out, but no one made a move, no one said anything. Robin came to a stop in the center of town, setting his supplies down. The others followed suit, slowly backing away, keeping the villagers in their line of sight in case things went ill.
Will felt his heart pounding and his mouth somewhat dry as he caught sight Harold, the man who who had attacked him earlier. It almost felt as though he took a step closer to Robin, as if seeking some sort of protection. But it had been Robin who had stepped up near him, pressing something into his hands. Will clutched the purse tightly, finally breaking his gaze with the man to see what it was he held. The silver. Robin had given him the silver.
He glanced back to where Robin was, the man having taken a step back. He gave a nod, and Will turned back up front, meeting Harold's gaze. The gaze was softer this time, one of shame almost, like that of a child who had been caught doing something wrong. Will swallowed, and moved to step forward, understanding now what it was that Robin was waiting for him to do.
"I am sorry," Harold was the first to speak. "We were wrong about what we thought. I am glad to see you made it out safe enough."
"And we are sorry for what has happened here," Will fumbled with the words. He was not one to speak in front of crowd like this, and it made him all the more nervous. He glanced down at the purse, clutching it tightly, regaining his courage.
"We've brought food, for everyone. We know it will be hard…harder than it normally is. And we've brought this," he held out the purse, waiting for Harold to take it.
"It's for rebuilding for what was lost. The sheriff…I'm sure you've heard…"
"Yes," Harold cut him off, holding the purse in his hand. "You can do no more for that than we can. Thank you."
He nodded in return, tensing as someone laid a hand on his shoulder. Robin had come up from behind, carrying a satchel of food. "We don't have much, but there is enough for everyone," he was pulling the first of the bread out, offering it up to the others that stood nearby.
Will was more than grateful to take a step back, feeling even more relieved as Djaq gave him a small hug. She was smiling, and he returned it, before pulling away to grab another bag of food. He went to those still standing at the side of their houses, beckoning for them to come forward. Behind him, Djaq was pulling out her supplies, offering her own skill. It wasn't long before the spirits were high, and merriment spreading with the good fortune. Soon, it was as though nothing ill between them had taken place. And that was how Will preferred it.
They had given the food out at Locksley, had seen to it that the silver given would be put to good use. Djaq had heard how Will's father was the one who built most of the village. But since then, it was Harold who had taken over constructing and maintaining the village. He had sworn he would see to it that those who had lost their homes would receive new ones.
They had stayed for a time, had met with the villagers and had shared the food before they started to pull back towards the forest. Gisborne was not expected that night, but Robin was wary, and one of the firsts to leave. Djaq stayed a little longer, only because Will did, and followed when the man took his leave.
For a while they walked side by side, not saying anything, the sounds of the forest surrounding them. Will seemed more relaxed now than he did before, and Djaq was just glad that things at Locksley had gone well. She was not sure what they would have done if the villagers there had greeted them with hostility. Even now she had a difficult time in believing that they had captured Will before, and handed him over to Gisborne. Luck was with them that they saw fit to bring Will back to the castle, instead of killing him as they had done to the arsonist.
Will came to a stop when he found her watching him, a questioning expression on his face. Djaq let out a smile, unable to stand it any longer. "Will you tell me now?"
At first he seemed almost to protest, to say that he did not know what she was talking about. But he fumbled in his words, and she knew that he was aware of what she was asking. But would he tell her? Djaq knew he did not have any part in the fires, but not where he had been going. What was so important that he had gotten himself in trouble over?
"I can't tell you," he finally said, casting a disappointment in her. "I have to show you," he held out his hand eagerly, and she felt herself smile as she took it, wondering what he was up to. As soon as she had his hand, he took off at a quick pace, one she was easily able to match, but at the same time it only heightened her curiosity. What was he doing?
They were going away from the main trail now, the one that led to camp, following a different one instead, going further into the forest. Djaq wondered what the others would think, or if they would even care. She had no notion as to where they were going, or how long it would take them to get there. Soon, Will's hurried paced slowed a little, but Djaq didn't know if it was either from fatigue, or due to the path becoming more strenuous .
Still, he held onto her hand, guiding her as they came back to the North Road. He paused, long enough to make sure it was clear, and then crossed, still pulling her along. This way they walked, for many more minutes, and by the time they started to slow, night had fallen completely. He let go of her hand near a tree, and she leaned against it, wondering why they had come all this way.
Will had gone up ahead, but hadn't motioned for her to follow. She was able to see just his silhouette, moving in the darkness as he knelt, fumbling on the ground. Djaq could hear flint, stone striking, and soon the fire could be seen. He tended to it, until it was burning on its own, and he motioned for her to come over.
He was near another tree, one with a hollow base that he was reaching inside of. With a little bit of effort, he pulled something free just as she knelt. Balancing the item on his knees, the man ran his fingers over the box-like shape, studying it quietly. Whatever it was, it had been well protected, wrapped in cloth, and secured with a fine bit of rope to keep it sealed. She had heard of treasures before, but only in stories. And if it was a treasure, why was he hiding it, instead of sharing the fortune with those who needed it more?
"I've been working on this for a while," he told her quietly, still not looking at her. "I had planned…well, hoped really, that it would have been finished before…"
He said nothing, instead looking up at her after a moment. His hand was still resting against the rope that secured it. She held his gaze for a time, and he turned away.
"I…it's something I've made," he stuttered a little, and it caused her to smile.
"You've already told me that," Djaq reminded him. "What is it?"
"It's…well, it's yours. I mean, not something that was yours, I…I made it for you, that's what I meant."
He was blushing now, something she could see even in the night. It was a heartfelt gesture, and Djaq was unsure of how exactly to respond. Of course she felt for Will, had feelings for him. She always had. But never did she suspect that he felt the same, or that anything could happen between them. Will still had not met her gaze, and she had a feeling he was still too embarrassed to try.
"Will you show me?"
"Um…yeah," he responded quickly, but he was slower in doing so. He was careful to untie the bindings, and moved to unfold it, but then paused. "Maybe you should…"
Carefully he held it out to her, moving to sit down against the tree. It was of good weight in her hands, and Djaq set it on the ground to unfold the cloth. Beneath it was a simple wooden box with a lid, one she opened to reveal empty compartments. Her fingers ran over the wood lightly, noting the strength and the workmanship that had gone into it.
"I had wanted to do more," Will explained quickly. "It was supposed to be a surprise, but…it doesn't matter I guess. You don't have to use it, I just thought it might be nice, since you're always making remedies and such, to have someplace to put them all. Keep them together…I know it's ridiculous, I shouldn't have bothered-"
"No," Djaq cut him off before he could go on, the man being so flustered now he had no idea of what he was saying. "It is nice, Will Scarlet. You made this for me?"
"It wasn't anything, really," he confessed. "Just for, well. You've been here for a long time now, for almost a year, I thought it would be nice-"
He had done all of this for her. It was more than any man had ever done for her before. She felt herself smile as she rose to her feet, moving to his side. He looked up at her as she did so, and Djaq leaned forward, catching his lips against hers.
He was surprised, but did not hesitate and returned the kiss. It was short and brief, but wonderful. As she pulled away, a smile formed on her face at his perplexed expression. But then he smiled, the relief in his features evident. Djaq stood, offering a hand to help him up as well. He took it without question, stealing yet another kiss from her. This, she knew, was something she could get used to. How the others would take it, she could not say. She, herself, still did not know how things would turn out.
Djaq moved away, long enough to pick up the box that was still on the ground, wrapping it back up in the cloth to see that it was protected, placing it under one arm.
"We should leave it here," Will suggested, causing her to frown. He had given it to her, and now he wanted to take it away?
"What for? It does me no good here."
"Well, it's not finished yet," he explained, then smiled, "And it would give us a reason to come back…"
Djaq smiled in return, before she passed the box along to him. It would be a shame to take it before it was done. Will set it back in the base of the tree, making sure it was secure before he turned to put out the fire. They would have to return to camp soon, but they still had time before they would be missed. And Djaq was certain they could find something to do to occupy their time here.