(Incidentally I am the same person as TheGhost94, I just changed the username a little bit…) Well here it is, the last chapter! Just an epilogue really, I hope you like it!
The camp in Sherwood Forest was abuzz with the sounds of work and preparation-it was two weeks since Robin and Will had returned to them and Friar Tuck, typically, had deemed it a fitting occasion for a party. Robin was right in the thick of things, laughing, helping, fetching and carrying, Marian close at his side-Will watched him from the shadows and contemplated leaving.
Not permanently, of course. He wasn't going to try that again, and he knew that in any case he would never get far. He could not walk without the makeshift crutch Robin had fashioned for him, the wound in his leg made by Crawford's knife that had become infected still healing. He hated it like poison-he would come limping into some gathering, preceded by the clunking of the crutch, and all those sympathetic, pitying eyes would bore into him, seeing his weakness and making concessions for it. It killed him inside-he was weak, he was vulnerable, and he would have preferred people to treat him exactly the same as before, make him carry out the same tasks as before, and if he failed in them, as of course he would, they should snap at him, rage at him, instead of endlessly excuse him.
He just hated to be the weak one, and right now he wanted out.
Even after his fever had broken and he had begun to recover it had taken almost this long before he had been able to get up on his own two feet. The torture and sickness had taken their toll, leaving him weak and exhausted, causing him great pain whenever he moved. What was worse were the nightmares, when he would relive the horror of the past few weeks over and over again, without the limits of reality-Crawford would tear his body open with his bare hands and lick up the blood, and Will, trapped in the dream, would not even be able to die…
And it was still traumatic just to be touched. At first of course he had not been conscious to feel Azeem's ministering to his injuries, but later, when Azeem had gone to change the bandage around his leg, Will had lost it. Some kind of flashback, a living nightmare that he had fallen into-he had seen Azeem as Crawford and panicked, scrambling and struggling to get away, unable to walk or run, blind in his panic. Azeem had tried to calm him down but it was only when someone had called Robin that Will had been able to look about him with his own two eyes again. Even someone just brushing his shoulder as they passed made his muscles clench as if in preparation for torture-it was horrible, nightmarish, humiliating, but he could not help it. His torturer was everywhere, reaching out mentally and physically, inescapable. Everyone was potentially a threat-every moment he guarded against another flashback of the kind he had suffered with Azeem.
Robin was the only one, somehow, he could trust. Maybe it was because he had been there, in the cave, perhaps helpless but there and thus the only one with any understanding of what Will had actually gone through. Robin was always there now, comforting, supporting, defending, encouraging…and suddenly Will found himself wanting his scorn, his anger, his force. He wanted to be treated as he felt he deserved to be.
But that was just not going to happen.
Now Will stared out through the branches of the trees on a small sandy bank above the camp at the gathering beyond, knowing that he could claim no place there. A cripple, an invalid, useless and broken. Weak. They were building up the fire in the middle of the glade, the craggy pile of twigs and sticks stretching high enough already, though that did not stop the younger children from flinging on extra bundles of kindling, squealing with laughter. Children younger than Wulf. Will found that he did not even know some of them. Woodsmoke blew on the breeze and the sounds of bustle and happiness reached him-that was why he wanted to run. Because he could not go out there now and face them all, face an entire community acknowledging his weakness and failure. He leaned forwards because it hurt, feeling the pressure and pain on the healing stab wound in his chest and glad of it. It helped him feel slightly less empty and hollow inside, slightly less dark and broken. He closed his eyes, his memory scanning back over the cave and Crawford's torture, wondering if he would ever be free of it.
Footsteps crunching across the fallen leaves towards him. Pausing, then continuing, and someone dropped down beside him on the ledge behind the bush. Will did not look up; he could tell from the presence that it was Robin.
"Are you all right?" Robin asked after a while. Will did not respond.
"I'm not coming tonight," Will said abruptly. "Just so you know."
Robin sighed. "Will, it's basically our party. How can you not?"
"Why should I?" Will flashed back. "I just want to be left alone."
Robin made no reply to this, only leaning back beside his brother and staring up at the twilight sky, breathing deeply in relaxation. Will ignored him, hunching over and scowling at the muddy ground. After a very long time, Robin said: "Don't you think, if you let this fear take you over, you're letting him win?"
Will rounded on him in fury. "You think I'm afraid? God you're stupid-afraid. I'm not afraid. He's dead, remember? I've got nothing to be scared of and I'm not as much of a coward as you seem to think, Locksley."
"I know you're no coward," Robin said softly. "You're one of the bravest people I know, Will Scarlett, and just because your courage is different from mine doesn't mean it's not as strong. I was a fool not to recognise that from the start."
Will shrugged, uncharacteristically uneasy at the compliment. "Doesn't matter. I'm not afraid of him."
"It's all right to be scared of something like that," Robin said. "God knows I am. I dream about him, I see him tearing you up before my eyes and I'm paralysed, can't even move in my dream." He shuddered. "I know there was no way we could have foreseen this. But I'm sorry, Will. I'm the one drove you off. I should have understood that you're not a child."
Will looked up at him, realisation and amazement flowering in his heart. He did not understand how he could be in a world where Robin was saying this to him, where Robin was telling him that he, too, the hero of the people, still dreamed about their torture. "I was the one ran away," he muttered. "I was stupid. But-"
"Being scared doesn't make you weak, you know," Robin told him. "Everyone gets scared."
"I am weak, though," Will replied in a low voice, ducking his head so that his unruly hair fell forward into his face. "Can't even walk…"
"You're still recovering, dammit! We didn't even expect you to survive, you'll be walking again in a few days! Will-" And the younger brother looked up, an uncharacteristic openness in his blue eyes, a kind of pleading for the reassurance, the fellowship, the trust and the strength that only an older brother could give, that Will had never even known he missed in his life before. That once he would have died rather than accept he felt. That look made Robin's heart open wide. "Will, you don't understand how close you came to dying. Even Azeem didn't think…it's a miracle you made it and I can't believe you could ever think you're weak after that."
For once in his life, he realised, he had said the right thing. A faint smile lightened Will's drawn face and his eyes seemed to take on an expression almost of hope. Robin grinned, delighted at this subtle change.
"And sure you're not gonna be running around hunting deer in a few days. But someday soon you will, once you're healed properly. And your strength is something you should never doubt, all right? And neither should I." He stood up and stretched out a hand to help his little brother to his feet. "Now let's go and prove it."
Will shook his head. "I don't want to go out there. It's like they all pity me."
"They admire you," Robin told him intently. "And the little children think you're some kind of hero. Can't imagine why."
Will smiled at last and took the proffered hand, picking up his crutch and getting to his feet. Robin sprang down off the little ledge and reached out to help his injured brother, but one look into Will's fiery eyes reminded him, and he stepped back. Will jumped, landing hard on his injured leg but with the aid of the crutch managing to keep his feet, and hiding his wince of pain behind a grin of triumph. That was what he needed to do for himself to prove that he was worth anything at all. Somehow, Robin finally understood that.
And together they strode through the trees back into the glade, towards Marian, and Fanny, and Wulf, and John, and Tuck, and Azeem, and all the people that once not so long ago they had saved and brought together, both of them aware that some day soon the nightmares would pass, and the sunlight would nevermore be tainted by dark memories. Aware that they had been given another chance, and that this time they would not fail.
They were brothers. That was as good a foundation stone as any to build a world on.
Well I did it! I finished it! I was really overwhelmed by the response for this story, and I want to thank all of you who stuck with it till the end and those of you who left me reviews I want you to know that I would never have finished it without your support and encouragement, and I really appreciate you all! Thank you all so much! I really hope you liked it and that the epilogue did not disappoint!
I don't have any other ideas for Robin Hood (Will Scarlett!) stories right now, but since it's such an epic film I bet I'll think of something at some point. Until then!