Disclaimer: Alas, I do not own any of these amazing characters. If I did, Season 2 might have ended like this and Season 3 might have been very unsuitable for family viewing. But they are owned by the BBC/Tiger Aspect, and I am not making any money off them.
Notes: Written for rh_intercomm 2011, the fanfic competition between single character-based RH fan communities on LiveJournal. Posted on the Marian comm, Society of People Who Are Afraid of Maid Marian (a.k.a. maz_heads). A one-shot for now, but there will definitely be more. The title is a reference to the once-famous 1976 Brazilian comedy Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands. While I ship Guy/Marian, I would like to think that both Robin/Marian and Guy/Marian are treated with respect (as well as some tongue-in-cheek irreverence) in this story.
Many thanks to all my wonderful friends in the RH fandom who keep inspiring me to write, and to Amorina/amarra_jade (on LJ)/Insomniac Bard (on the RH Yuku board) for being a test reader on this fic.
"Y' know," Allan said, "I think the Saracens can have four wives or somethin'. Never heard of a woman bein' married to two different blokes, though."
Riding at his side, Marian shot him an irritated look. "This isn't funny, Allan."
He chuckled. "Didn't say it was."
"Stop it!" She wished they'd been walking so she could have kicked some sand at him. "I need to think."
"Not sure how you can think your way outta this one." Allan paused. "'Course, maybe when Robin finds out he'll just kill Giz and that'll solve your problem."
"I said, stop it!" Marian put a hand over her eyes, looking ahead at King Richard's camp through the shimmer of the air. "I don't want anyone killing anyone." She glanced sheepishly at Allan. "Don't mention anything to Robin, all right?"
"Wasn't plannin' to," Allan said placidly. "Not the kinda news I'd want to bring a bloke, anyway. 'I'm not bein' funny, but your wife – '"
A glare from Marian cut him short. "Sorry; not sayin' another word."
She sighed and murmured, more to herself, "This wasn't supposed to happen."
Actually, she wasn't sure anymore what was supposed to happen. Or when it all went wrong. Maybe when she tried to kill Vaisey in an attempt to thwart the plot against the King, and ended up being captured and taken to the Holy Land as a hostage. Or maybe when she offered Guy her hand in marriage if he killed the Sheriff and saved the King's life. It's not as if she'd wanted to marry him, at that point. She was still in mourning for Robin, her presumably-dead betrothed. And she hadn't forgiven Guy for lying to her about his first attempt on the King's life. Or for being involved in yet another regicide plot, or for admitting to Vaisey she was the Nightwatchman, or for letting Vaisey leave her chained in a stable for the night, or … well, there was a long list of things she hadn't forgiven him for. But she had no other options; and so she told herself that maybe she hadn't been entirely wrong to see goodness in him, and that there were worse things than having him for a husband.
"This is your chance … your last chance to be a good man."
Then he had gone upstairs, and she had waited.
There was a crash, and a clatter, and a muffled voice … whose? Marian craned her neck, trying to listen. What if Vaisey killed Guy? The thought hit her like a blast from a furnace followed by a gust of icy wind, and her chains rattled as she paced on unsteady legs.
There was another noise upstairs; and then something big and black rolled down and landed at the bottom of the steps with a heavy thud and a muffled cry of pain. She stopped in her tracks, momentarily paralyzed.
Guy groaned and tried to pick himself up, only to collapse again. After a moment he lifted his head feebly, his face convulsing.
"Marian … I'm sorry…"
Horror and pity twisted at her heart; she tried to run to him but the chains held her back, and she could only watch helplessly as Guy crawled toward her, leaving a trail of blood on the floor.
She looked up with a start to see Vaisey standing on the stairs, nonchalantly wiping the blood off the dagger in his hand. He grinned at her odiously.
"Lady Marian. I thought you might want to see your handiwork."
She shot the Sheriff a hateful look and knelt over Guy. He cried out as she peeled off his jacket and rolled up his shirt. The sight of the ragged, bleeding wound above his waist made her gasp. They were both doomed, of course, but she still couldn't let him just bleed to death on the floor.
"Hold on, Guy," she whispered. "Hold on…"
She rushed to the bed and pulled off the sheet, ripping off a long strip to make a bandage, then grabbed Guy under his arms; good Lord, he was heavy. With her urging, gritting his teeth against the pain, he managed to lift himself up enough to let her roll him on the bed.
"Pity, really, ruining a perfectly fine mattress," the Sheriff remarked, cleaning his fingernails with the tip of the dagger. "Not to mention that pretty dress of yours."
"Shut up," Marian hissed, wrapping the bandage as tightly as she could. Guy's hand clasped on her arm; she could feel its coldness even through the fabric. He looked ashen in the half-murk of the cellar, his eyes blurry as he tried to focus on her.
"I am … so sorry I've disappointed you… again…"
"You haven't," she said, tying up the bandage. "You haven't." It wasn't quite true, but –
"Did you really think I wouldn't be ready for this?" Vaisey jeered behind her. "To be honest, I'm surprised it took you so long; I was getting rather bored. Of course, I was hoping Gisborne wouldn't take the bait, but we don't always get everything we want … right, Gizzy?"
Marian turned to look at the Sheriff, revulsion rising to her gorge.
"Your heart must be the coldest place on earth," she said.
He chuckled again. "Oh, that's good; coming from a little vixen who would use her charms on a lovesick idiot to spy for her real lover, hmm? You and Hood, laughing at poor gullible Gisborne behind his back … sweet, very sweet! I like it."
There was an anguished sound from Guy, and Marian shuddered, feeling a wrench of guilt along with the loathing. "Don't listen to him, Guy." She squeezed his cold fingers, stroking his sweat-drenched face with her other hand. "It isn't true. It isn't." And it wasn't, was it…? Not the laughing-behind-his-back part, at least.
"Well, I've got news for you," Vaisey said. "Robin Hood isn't dead."
She snapped her head up, joy surging through her, only to berate herself: Vaisey was just toying with her, with both of them. Or could it be…? There was that time she thought she had heard Robin's voice outside –
"But he will be soon. A little trick I arranged; to have him put to death by his own beloved King, very clever. So … as a special treat, you can die together." Vaisey pivoted on his heels and headed for the stairs, tossing at her over his shoulder, "Don't go anywhere; I'll be right back."
Marian's mind was working feverishly. If Robin was alive, and the Sheriff was taking her to him … maybe there was hope. Robin was good at getting out of impossible situations.
"Marian," Guy croaked, drawing her attention back to himself and setting her thoughts on a new trail.
"You knew Robin was alive."
Guy nodded dejectedly. So he had lied to her yet again. She sighed.
"You love him," he rasped. "It's true, isn't it… all this time…"
There was such torment in his voice that her exasperation ebbed at once. It was difficult to stay angry with a man when he was lying in agony and probably about to die because of something he had done out of love for you. She shushed him, fingers pressed to his lips, and then leaned forward and kissed him. His mouth had the coppery taste of blood, and he clung to her desperately as if her kiss could heal him or at least prolong his life.
"We will get out of this," she murmured, her forehead pressed to his. "Robin will get us out and I'll come back for you…"
He choked out a weak laugh. "Liar."
"I will if I can. I promise."
"I love you." She did not hear the words so much as she felt them breathed against her cheek. She would have felt too dishonest responding in kind, and instead she dipped for another kiss, holding his face in her hands. It was the least she could give him back.
Then, the Sheriff came in with two Saracen men, and Guy tried to plead with him not to take her away, to Vaisey's gruesome merriment. When Marian's chains were removed, it occurred to her that she could try to fight. But she was out of practice, and there were three of them, and if she escaped now she would never find Robin. She would bide her time.
"Oh, and thank you for the bandaging," Vaisey said as his accomplices bound her hands and pulled her away. "Shame if he bled to death before I'm back from my little date with destiny." He flashed a grin at Guy. "We'll have our reckoning later."
"Just let Marian go, Vaisey," Robin said wearily. "She had nothing to do with this."
Marian sighed in defeat as she looked at the outlaws. Tied to stakes in the desert, left to die … this did not look good. If they hadn't found a way to get out by now –
"Oh, she had everything to do with it." Vaisey strolled toward Allan while his other accomplice, the traitorous crusader, kept a grip on Marian's shoulder. "We thought we had a spy in your camp…" – he punctuated this by slapping Allan across the face with his gloves – "and you had one in ours!"
"You see, there will always be people that work for me," Robin said with quiet intensity as the Sheriff came up to him again. "Because I fight for justice."
"Blah-di-blah-di-blah," Vaisey scoffed. "But this one's special, huh?" He grabbed Marian's chin while she twisted her head in a futile effort to get away from his touch. "You were still hoping, weren't you? That after all this, you'd end up as man and wife back home in sunny Sherwood? So ... here's your bride."
He ripped off her cloak, and Robin flinched at the sight of the blood on her dress. "What have you done to her?" he barked.
"Me? Oh, that's not her blood." The Sheriff smirked. "You see, your beloved talked Gisborne into trying to kill me, and … well, obviously things didn't quite work out, hmm? You can ask her yourself exactly what she did to make sure he was – shall we say, properly motivated. She'll have plenty of time to tell you."
Good grief, now she was going to spend her last moments on earth baking in the sun and bickering with Robin about Guy. While Marian silently cursed her fate, Vaisey nodded to the false crusader, and they dragged her behind Robin's back, freeing her hands only to tie them again before she could even try to fight.
"I'd love to stay," Vaisey chuckled, looking up at the pitiless blue of the sky, "but I don't tan well … and I've got a king to kill. Come along, James."
When the two men and their horses disappeared over a dune, Marian – left facing Much, Little John, and Djaq – braced herself for Robin's jealous pique. Instead, to her surprise, he said glumly, "I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry too," she said, with a twinge of guilt at having underestimated him.
"We fought and we lost."
"At least we will have died trying."
After a moment Robin asked, "And just how hard were you trying?"
"What is that supposed to mean?" she shot back, knowing exactly what it meant.
"How on earth did you persuade Gisborne to turn on the Sheriff? And don't say anything about his conscience, because I won't believe it."
She sighed. "I promised to marry him."
Marian groaned inwardly. In front of her, Much looked dismayed, Djaq pursed her lips in disbelief, and Little John, who had been sagging on the ropes, raised his head and gave a disgusted eye-roll.
"Robin, I thought you were dead! I had to try to save the King, and it was the only way – "
"Oh, I'm sure it was quite a sacrifice," he interrupted caustically.
"Robin," Much began, "I don't think this is the time – "
Ignoring him, Robin pressed on. "I'm sure you were steeling yourself to close your eyes and think of England when he – "
"Grow up!" Marian snapped.
"Would you both shut the hell up!" Allan exploded, out of her range of vision. "We're all tied up here in the bloody desert, bein' put to death by your precious king, and now the rest of us have to listen to your sniping? Shut up!"
"Sorry," Marian said sheepishly.
"Sorry," Robin said behind her. Then he added defensively, "It's not the King's fault, you know! The Sheriff spun him a story."
After a moment Robin said, "Marian?"
"Those things I said… I did not mean that. If I could choose between having you die here with me or live with Gisborne, I'd rather have you live." His voice dropped. "I … I love you. And I'm sorry. About everything."
"I love you too," she said, her heart melting. Oh, Robin. She did love him … and to think that she had almost spent her final moments being annoyed at him. "You know that, don't you?"
"I do," he said. Even without seeing his face, she could tell he was smiling.
And now they were going to die, and… She wanted to make this right, somehow. Maybe there was a way.
"Say the words then, handsome."
"'I, Robin, take you, Marian…'"
"Now is a good time, I think. We've got the best witnesses England has to offer." She smiled at Much, and he nodded with a weak smile of his own.
Robin surprised her again by acquiescing. "I, Robin, take you, Marian, to be my lawful wedded wife. To have and to hold, for better or for worse... for richer or for poorer..."
Much had started bawling, and Robin was getting a little choked up as well.
"In sickness…" she prompted.
"In sickness and in health, to love and to cherish … till death do us part."
"I, Marian, take you, Robin of Locksley…" Unbidden, the thought of Guy came to her – Guy, lying on a blood-soaked mattress in a cellar, dying alone and in pain and thinking of her. Damn it, it would have been much easier right now if she could hate him… Collecting herself, she went on, "To be my lawful wedded husband. I promise to love and to cherish you, for better or for worse, from this day forward... as long as we both shall live."
Much was still sniffling. Marian closed her eyes. She was starting to feel sick from the sun, her hair sticking damply to her forehead and neck, and her arms were getting very sore. But she would be brave.
And then, a voice that did not belong to any of the outlaws said, "You may kiss the bride."
Stunned, she jerked her head toward the voice. Carter; the man who had once been the Sheriff's assassin, and then had seen the truth and joined Robin's fight.
He had horses. And water flasks. And a knife, which he used to slash Robin's and her ropes.
"I thought you'd left us," Robin said.
Then Carter went to cut Much loose, and Marian and Robin spun around and fell into each other's arms, laughing and crying. And alive, very much alive.
They had a king to rescue. Luckily, they caught up with Richard before he'd made it to his meeting with the killer posing as Saladin, and persuaded him to let Robin go in his place. Then, a battle broke out – the King, Carter, and Robin and his men against the Sheriff and his assassins – and spilled out into a deserted town where, in the commotion, Marian had found herself separated from the others. Running down a narrow street, she emerged into a sun-bleached square just in time to see the King fall off his horse face down, an arrow in his back. She raced toward him and knelt by his side.
"Your Majesty – "
"You must hide," he ground out. "It is not safe for a woman – "
"I know how to fight," she said.
Across the square, she saw the Sheriff advancing, sword ready. No sight of Robin or the others. She glanced around for a weapon; Richard did not have his sword, but there was a dagger at his belt. She grabbed it and held it out of sight as she sat on her haunches between the half-conscious King and his would-be murderer.
"Stay away," she said as Vaisey approached, holding up both hands as if to keep him at bay; let him think she was unarmed. Something strange churned inside her, thrumming in her blood; something hot and dark and strong. It was the excitement of the battle, and her resolve to save the King … but it was more than that. Vaisey. She hated this man; hated him, with all the passion with which she cared for everything he would destroy.
"All this time, I've been fighting for England." Her voice was bright and sharp. "You think I'm going to let you kill England?"
He chuckled. "And you're going to stop me? Oh, maybe you could have stopped that idiot Gisborne by batting your pretty eyes at him, but … Gisborne's not here. And I'll be more than happy to kill you first – as an appetizer, hmm?"
The Sheriff raised his sword; this was her chance, and she seized the dagger and lunged and buried it in his belly. Vaisey gasped, eyes bulging, and staggered as the sword dropped into the sand.
"For my father," she said, yanking out the dagger and rising to her feet.
The Sheriff let out a strangled cry and clutched at the wound, red flowing between his fingers.
"And for Guy," she said, driving the blade into his heart.
Then, everyone came running; Robin hugged her and apologized for not getting there sooner, and Djaq rushed to tend to the King. It was over; Marian was relieved to know that the entire gang was all right, and saddened at the news of Carter's death. She gulped water from a flask, letting cold rivulets run down her neck and down the front of her dress, stained with dry and fresh blood.
"Robin," she said, catching her breath. "I have to go back for Guy."
He gave her a heavy look. "You want to give him a decent burial."
"Burial!" She nearly choked on the water. "He's not dead … at least, he wasn't when I left him! There may still be a chance to save him!"
Robin eyed her warily. "But I thought – "
"The Sheriff stabbed him," she said. "I bandaged his wound. Maybe Djaq could – "
"Marian." Robin clamped his hands on her shoulders, peering into her face. "Gisborne is still a traitor. He tried to kill the King before."
She frowned. "What are you saying?"
"Richard has to know the truth. If you save Gisborne's life, chances are it would only be to see him executed later."
"What?" She stared at him in dismay. "Robin, he turned against the Sheriff! He tried to save the King from the Sheriff's plot!"
"Because he was hoping to win you!"
"Does it matter why? The point is…" She shook her head. "I cannot believe you want to do this."
"This isn't a matter of some petty vengeance, Marian! It's justice. I cannot keep the truth from the King. If Richard decides to pardon Gisborne because he switched sides, that's his right. If he doesn't – "
"Robin!" She threw the half-empty flask at him. "For all we know, the King could be dead right now if Guy hadn't switched sides!"
"Sure." A corner of Robin's mouth hitched up in a smirk. "Because Gisborne is such a great fighter, his being with the Sheriff would have made all the difference."
Marian clenched her fists, wanting to scream. Then she turned to see the King sitting up, and had a sudden idea. She marched toward him, ignoring Robin's "Where are you going?"
"Your Majesty," she said with a deep curtsey. Richard looked up, smiling graciously.
"My dear lady! I am forever in your debt. I would have said the same to a man, but such bravery from one of your sex deserves special gratitude."
"I did no more than my duty, Sire." She paused, taking a deep breath. "Your Majesty, if I may be so bold as to ask a favor..."
The King stood up gingerly, leaning on Djaq's arm. "Name it, Lady Marian."
"Marian," Robin said warningly, hovering behind her.
"There is a man, Sir Guy of Gisborne, a former lieutenant to Sheriff Vaisey; he was part of Vaisey's conspiracies, but has sincerely repented of his errors." She said it with such passion that she almost convinced herself it was true. "This very morning, Sir Guy tried to kill the Sheriff in order to thwart his plot against Your Majesty's life. He was himself gravely wounded, and now lies near death in Vaisey's house in Acre. I would humbly request, Sire, that you grant him a pardon for his past offenses, and send a physician to tend to his injuries."
"Your Majesty…" Robin began.
The King furrowed his brow in disapproval. "Really, Robin, where are your manners?" He turned to Marian. "The pardon is granted; it is enough for me that you are willing to vouch for this Sir Guy. As for a medic…" He glanced at Djaq, then turned to Robin. "Your Saracen friend seems capable enough; perhaps she can help the man."
Robin opened his mouth as if to say something, then snapped it shut and nodded. "Yes, Sire. Djaq," he said quietly, "go with Marian. You too, Will. The rest of us will escort His Majesty back to camp and take Carter's body back for burial."
"Can Allan come with us?" Marian blurted out. Somehow, there was a comforting familiarity in having Allan there when she was around Guy.
Robin gave her a small crooked smile and gently squeezed her shoulder. "Allan can go."
While the four of them rode back to Acre, Marian tried to explain why she thought Guy was not such a bad man. Allan gave her some support after his own fashion, but she had the feeling she wasn't getting very far with Will and Djaq; though Will reluctantly admitted that he had been ready to fight under Guy's command when Guy came back to Nottingham to stand against Prince John's men.
"You know that he'll expect to marry you if he lives, won't he?" Will said suddenly. "Didn't you promise to marry him if he killed the Sheriff?"
Marian glanced at him, startled. Somehow, in all the day's events, this rather important matter had slipped her mind.
"I suppose he will."
"Well," Allan chimed in, "he didn't kill the Sheriff, did 'e? You did. You can always tell 'im the deal was 'Kill the Sheriff,' not 'Try to kill the Sheriff, take a knife to the gut, and damn near get us both killed', yeah?"
"I don't think that's going to go over very well," Marian said.
"Hey, it's better than 'I'm already married to Robin Hood,' innit?"
Marian groaned in frustration. Djaq, riding ahead of her, turned and gave her a wry look. "Are you sure you really want Gisborne alive?"
"Of course I do," Marian said crossly.
They found the house easily enough. Vaisey had locked the door, but Will had little trouble getting it open.
When they entered the cellar, its air heavy with the reek of blood and sweat, Marian thought at first that Guy was dead; and, when she dabbed at his face with a wet cloth and he opened his eyes and gasped, Guy thought that he was dead and she was an angel. She quickly explained what had happened, and he closed his eyes again and gave a feeble imitation of a smile.
"You came back for me," he said in a hoarse, barely audible whisper.
His face and hands were no longer cold but too warm; clearly the fever had set in.
Djaq told Allan and Will to bring water and boil it, and went out somewhere to get potions and surgeon's tools, and Marian sat next to Guy and tried to reassure him that he was not going to die.
"That Saracen witch is going to save me?" he huffed skeptically, somehow managing to sound arrogant even while lying wounded and feverish on a total mess of a bed and barely having the strength to lift a hand.
"Djaq is a skilled physician," Marian said impatiently. "She saved my life when – "
She hesitated, and Guy asked, "When what?"
"Um … when you stabbed me," she said awkwardly.
"Oh," he mouthed. After a moment he whispered, "I'm sorry. I didn't know – "
"It's all right," she said with a sigh.
Then, Djaq came back, and it wasn't easy. The potion she gave Guy was meant to lessen the pain, but when she peeled off his bandage he still screamed in agony, an awful, almost animal-like sound that made even Will wince in sympathy. Marian sat by Guy's side and held his hand while Djaq was poking around in his wound and he ground his teeth to keep from screaming again, until, mercifully, he slipped into unconsciousness. After that Marian paced anxiously while Djaq continued her work and Allan and Will looked on. Finally, Djaq set down the tools and wiped her hands on a cloth and turned to Marian with a somber head-shake.
"I have done my best," she said. "I should have been able to save him if I had been here sooner. But the infection…" She shook her head again. "I have cleaned the wound, but I fear it has spread too far already. He will be dead by morning."
Marian looked at her in shock, unsure what she was feeling. She didn't love Guy, of course. But he had been in her life for a long time, and the thought that suddenly he wouldn't be there –
"There is no chance at all?"
"It would be a miracle," Djaq said. "I am sorry, Marian; I know that you cared for him…"
She flinched at the rasp of Guy's voice; she had not realized he was awake. Had he heard – ?
"Guy," she said, bending over him. "How are you feeling?"
"This is the end, isn't it," he murmured.
She grimaced. "Well … Djaq says it's bad. But maybe she can still do something – "
"You can do something for me," he said.
She already knew what it was going to be, of course. Still, she asked, "What?"
"Please, Marian. I want to have this – one good thing in my life before…"
He broke off and closed his eyes, his breathing labored. Marian stood up and looked helplessly at Djaq and Will, who looked shocked, and then at Allan, who shrugged slightly and raised his eyebrows.
She blinked, sudden tears stinging at her eyes. Guy had many faults, had done some terrible things – but he had also had an utterly wretched life, and he could have been a good man and now he was going to die before he even had a chance to –
"Yes," she said.
Her three companions gaped at her as if she's grown a second head. After a moment Djaq came over and pulled her aside.
"Have you lost your mind? You're already – "
"Where's the harm in it?" Marian hissed back. "He's dying; and Robin doesn't need to know."
Djaq was about to say something else, but Marian was already back at the bed. She sat down and took Guy's hands in hers.
"Go on," she said gently.
"I, Guy of Gisborne," he began, "take you, Marian of Knighton, to be my lawful wedded wife … to have and to hold…"
"Think I've heard this one before," Allan muttered. Marian silenced him with a dirty look.
After the vows, Guy said something about a ring. Marian thought he was delirious; but, at his directions, Allan found a ring in an inner pocket of his jacket – the one from their disastrous first wedding, which she had worn when she punched him in the eye. All this time, he had carried it close to his heart in the hope of marrying her with it someday. It was rather sweet, in a slightly mad obsessive way; which, now that she thought of it, described Guy quite well. With shaking hand, he managed to put the ring on her finger, and she leaned down and gave him a tender kiss. Moments later, he started talking about how they mustn't keep the guests waiting; at which point it became clear that he really was delirious, and Djaq gave him a potion that was supposed to help him sleep.
Marian sighed, fidgeting with the ring. "I – I think I should stay here until…" She trailed off.
"Robin will be worried," Djaq said.
They decided that Will would go back to the Crusaders' camp and tell Robin about the situation, leaving out certain details. Will looked uncomfortable, but even he had to see that there was no reason to tell Robin, and it wasn't a lie if he simply didn't mention it; it wasn't as if Robin was going to ask, "By the way, did Marian marry Gisborne?" And so Will went away, and Marian was left with Djaq and Allan – and Guy, who was drifting between sleep and delirium. When he rambled, it was nearly always about her: how much he loved her, how beautiful she was, how she was the only good and pure thing in his life, how sorry he was for all the ways in which he'd hurt her. Marian wept a few times, and stroked his burning face, and wished that somehow things had been different so that he could have been the man she could have loved and they could have been together and … and how could she think those thoughts when she loved Robin?
At last, after nightfall, she went upstairs; by the weak light of a few candles, she washed up and changed into the only presentable dress left in her trunk, the light blue one from Nottingham that she had worn the day Prince John's troops were going to raze the city. Then she tumbled on a bed that she hoped had been Guy's and not the Sheriff's, and fell into an exhausted sleep.
She was awakened by the loud twittering of birds, and at first couldn't remember where she was. Then it all came back and she sat up abruptly, squinting at the sun that flooded the room and pushing her hair out of her face. She wondered uneasily if Guy was –
"Oh, you're up."
Allan stood in the doorway, a strange grin on his face. "I've got good news and bad news."
She frowned, rubbing her stiff neck. "Which one do I want to hear first?"
"Doesn't matter, 'cause they're both the same thing," he said. "Guy's not dead. Matter of fact, he's not even dyin'."
"Oh," Marian said. She was glad, of course. And extremely confused.
"Yeah, Djaq says the fever broke or somethin', an' she's never seen a man so determined to stay alive when he shouldn't be." He chuckled. "That's Giz for ya, always full of surprises."
Apparently, Guy was not only alive but awake; he had demanded warm water to wash up, and clean bed-sheets and underclothes, and had threatened to cuff Allan for his double-crossing in Portsmouth once he had his strength back. And he'd asked after Marian.
"He was in pretty bad shape when we exchanged vows," Marian said dubiously. "Maybe he won't remember."
Allan guffawed. "Want a wager? Not bein' funny, but he'd sooner forget 'is own name."
When they came downstairs, Guy was drinking something and Djaq was standing by his bed. Seeing Marian, she spread her hands in a quick apologetic gesture while Guy wasn't looking. Guy shoved the cup back at her and exclaimed, "Marian!"
"Guy," she said. "You – you seem to be doing much better." She realized that Guy's ring was still on her finger. Damn – even if he had forgotten, it could remind him –
"I'd like to be alone with my wife," Guy said pointedly, looking at Djaq and then at Allan, who stifled a snicker.
When they were alone and she came up to Guy's bed, he said, "You look beautiful."
She nodded, twisting her fingers. "Djaq says you're going to be all right."
"I know," he said. Then, suddenly, he was glaring at her.
"You're disappointed, aren't you." His voice was harsh with bitterness. "You agreed to marry me last night … was it out of pity, to humor a dying man? Well, I'm sorry I couldn't oblige you by – "
"Oh, Guy, stop it." She sat down on the bed, pushing aside the edge of his blanket. "I'm very happy you're alive. It's just that I – " – can't be married to you because I'm already married to Robin. "I need some time to – get used to this."
His face softened, and he reached out to put his palm on top of her left hand, the one with the ring. "Marian … I'm sorry. I'm a fool. I need to get used to this, too; I can't bear the thought of losing you."
"Guy…" she began shakily. Before she could continue, he pulled her down into a kiss that lasted a while, and left her flustered and feeling things that she vaguely knew she should not be feeling as another man's wife.
"You … seem to be recovering quite remarkably," she stammered when they surfaced for air.
"Perhaps because I have something to look forward to," he said huskily. He kissed her again, slowly and deliberately, until her bones seemed to melt – his hands stroking her back and then sliding down, and further down to cup her bottom. It was a moment before she regained enough presence of mind to realize –
"Guy!" she yelped, jerking back.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I will learn patience."
Patience? Mary's blessed heart, at this rate his patience would last him a day or two before he started demanding his marital rights, injuries or no.
Allan popped his head in the doorway to ask if everything was all right.
"Fine," Marian snapped, fixing up her hair.
When Allan was gone, she said, "Guy … I must go back to the King's camp."
He frowned. "Why?"
"I – I must speak to the King and make sure that he grants you a proper pardon."
He nodded, then brought her hand to his mouth and kissed her knuckles. "Thank you."
"Djaq will take care of you while I'm away," she said. "You still need your medicine – "
He pulled her down again and started to nuzzle her neck, whispering hotly, "I need no better medicine than this."
It felt good. Much better than it had any right to feel. She had to leave, now. Before things went any further and there was any serious damage done … to his health, or to her fidelity to Robin. If there was anything left to salvage of the latter.
"Look on the bright side," Allan said. "Everyone's alive. 'cept the Sheriff, which is a good thing, right?"
"That's just it, isn't it? None of us were supposed to be alive," Marian said. The truth was, she wasn't even sure she was ready to be married to Robin – yet. Let alone…
They were quite close to the camp now. She saw Robin waving and running toward them.
In a few moments, he would hold her in his arms and kiss her and everything would be all right … not really. But how she wished she could tell herself that.
Eventually, she'd have to go back to the house in Acre and –
Maybe Allan was right and she should look on the bright side. They had saved the King and England, and defeated the Sheriff. They were alive. And she and Robin were married, just like they'd planned. Of course, being married to Guy at the same time wasn't part of the plan. Even caring for Guy as much as she did wasn't part of the plan, really.
She would think of some way out of this. She would.
Preferably before there was a wedding night.
THE END ... for now?