"Daft buggers!" Little John growled irritably. Robin chuckled. So did Will, if the way Robin's arms vibrated was any indication. Robin hadn't yet let go of his newfound brother in the few minutes he'd known of his existence; instead, he kept his younger sibling's face flush to his neck as he joked with his merry men. Although Will made no move to push Robin away, Robin highly suspected that had more to do with an inability to break Robin's iron grip than with any affection.
As the conversation around the ebbed and flowed. Robin ducked his face into Will's hair once more. It probably appeared odd to the others, but Robin couldn't care less what they thought. He had never held his brother before. He couldn't help wanting to memorize Will's very scent.
Suddenly, Will stiffened in Robin's arms. Instantly, Robin pulled back to take in his brother's grimace. "Will, what is it—damn! Your chest!" Scarlet blood from Will's torn skin dyed Robin's shirt red. "For God's sake!"
"His back, too, Christian," Azeem advised. Horrified, Robin spun Will around to see more blood soaking through the thin linen. "The Sheriff meant business."
"Get off me!' Will jerked himself out of Robin's grasp and put his hands up defensively. "I'm fine!"
One pointed look from Robin sent Azeem off to collect his strange medicines. The same look, directed at Will, only elicited first a dangerous scowl and then a pained grimace. Robin's face softened. "Will, let Azeem tend your wounds."
"I won't be coddled!" Will took another step away from his brother. "You can't make up for eighteen years of abandonment in one day! Don't patronize me, Robin! I'm no child!"
Will might have gone on if Robin hadn't made the strangest sound, almost a growl, in the back of his throat. "Don't patronize you?" he repeated quietly. "Is that what I'm doing?" When Will nodded, Robin's eyes flashed dangerously. "Watch, Will Scarlet. Does this look fine to you?"
In one fluid motion, Robin tore his own shirt off. The entire clearing fell silent when everyone's gaze found the white, rope-like scars covering Robin's torso. Slowly, Robin turned in one full circle so that Will could see the deep marks marring his back as well. By the time he was facing Will again, the younger man's eyes were huge with shock. Will's mouth worked furiously for a moment before he finally choked out, "Who did this to you?"
Robin smiled mirthlessly. "While I was captured in the Holy Land, my jailors thought I knew some vital secret, which they were determined to whip out of me. I developed an infection, and fever set in. I was delirious for a week. Even now, just pulling a shirt over my head leaves my back burning." Sighing, Robin finished, "It's not an experience I would wish on the Sheriff himself, let alone on my own brother."
Will hesitated a moment longer before nodding cautiously. Instantly, Azeem drove the other men away. "I need peace and quiet to work. You stay with your brother, Christian, but everyone else go!"
Though Will stayed upright while the merry men reluctantly wandered away, as soon as they were gone, he staggered to the ground. Instantly, Robin crouched beside him. "Easy brother."
Carefully, Azeem stripped Will's torn shirt away to reveal the red, oozing welts covering Will's chest and back. Robin's face tightened at the sight. "I'll kill the Sheriff for this."
"Don't be stupid, Locksley." Will laughed hoarsely, though he soon regretted the movement that jolted his wounds. "You'll kill the Sheriff for violating Marian, maybe, but you won't kill him for anything he's done to me."
With a grim smile, Robin said, "How about I kill him for what he's done to all of us and be done with it? Truth be told, I'm tired of killing. As soon as I've strung the Sheriff from the nearest tree, I'll have more than my fill of fighting."
Will snorted again. "So what'll you do? Go back to your fancy castle—ah!" Flinching, Will tried to escape the ointment Azeem smeared onto his cuts. Azeem suddenly found himself on the receiving end of two identical glares.
The Muslim mumbled something under his breath about stubborn fools. "Stay still, Christian. Unless you want to forever have holes in your back, you need stitching."
When Will's eyes widened in terror, Robin said, "Let Azeem stitch you up, and you might still be able to help us rescue Wulf and the others tomorrow."
Instantly, Will's fear converted to anger. "You wouldn't stop me! I'm not going to let Wulf rot while he still thinks I'm a traitor—umph!"
With Will's mouth wagging, it was easy for Robin to shove a scrap of cloth between his teeth. "Bite down hard. I've had some of Azeem's stitches before," Robin warned, "and they sting like hell."
Just as Will seemed set to protest again, his teeth clamped down on the cloth. Robin glanced over at his brother's back, but the flash of metal and blood made his stomach turn. It surprised him; after all, how many times had he seen men torn apart on the battlefield? Then Robin glanced back at his brother's face—eyes squeezed tight shut, mouth set in a grimace around the wad of linen—and understood that the blood on Will's back wasn't just any blood. It was blood that knew his own blood.
The tiniest whimper escaped Will's throat. Instinctively, Robin ran a calming hand over his brother's scraggly hair. Unbidden, a tune sprang to his lips. "There was a rich man from Nottingham who tried to cross a river…"
Will's eyes sprang open. As Robin kept singing, Will's nose wrinkled, and a mischievous spark crept into his gaze. Suddenly, Robin could recognize the impish young man who had tripped him in the river.
Finally, Azeem snipped the thread and dropped the needle into his medicine bad. "You can relax now, both of you, and stop your singing."
With a shaky laugh, Will spat out the cloth and struggled to sit up. "Thank you, Azeem. I don't think I could stand Robin's howling any longer."
When Azeem walked away without comment, Robin threw his hands in the air. "I can't sing. Who cares? I can split an arrow at fifty paces. I can beat John at the quarterstaff. What do I need to sing for?"
"The ladies love it." Will shrugged, wincing when the motion tugged at the fresh stitches. "It's good entertainment at parties. Then again…"
"Then again, brother, you can carry a tune. I can't. Is that what you're trying to tell me?" Will's puckish grin answered Robin. Laughing, Robin tousled his brother's hair. "So, have you decided not to hate me any longer?"
Suddenly, Will's gaze turned serious. "I haven't hated you in some time…at least, not to your face. You were right, Robin. I am a coward. I would have turned you in to the Sheriff if I had thought my own neck would be spared. Is that so wrong?" Though Will ducked his head to hide it, Robin still saw his brother's overbright eyes as Will continued hoarsely, "My mother died when I was eight. I lived on my own until Little John found me a year ago and took me in. The only way I survived was by taking care of my own skin!"
"Will! You could have come to Locksley! My father wouldn't have turned a little boy away—"
"Robin, you are so ignorant! It's a wonder you've survived so long being this stupid!" A snarl formed in Robin's throat, but Will quickly cut across him. "I did go to Locksley. I did speak to our father. He turned me away, Robin! He told me that he would not risk angering you by harboring me! So you see, brother," Will finished roughly, "I told you the truth: our father loved you more than me."
Once Will finished speaking, he dropped his fierce gaze. Robin's head buzzed. His father knew Will was struggling to survive and still turned him away? Father would not risk angering you. Though Robin meant to protest, he quickly remembered all his rages against their father before the Crusades.
He gave up his woman for the love of a twelve-year-old boy…and let a little boy starve for the love of a bitter man?
One glance at Will told Robin that his brother was stubbornly fighting tears. At the sight, Robin hated his old self, the one before the Crusades, who had forced his own brother to live a life of destitution. As Will scrubbed his face, Robin carefully wrapped an arm around his bloody shoulders.
"You are the bravest man I've ever met, William Scathlock." When Will's head jerked up in surprise, Robin gripped his shoulder even more tightly. "You raised yourself in poverty, yet you grew up with a sense of right and wrong. I grew in a castle with all the amenities of a lavish life, but my only sense of morality was whether or not something pleased me. You saw that I was a spoiled child when I first came to the forest, and you confronted me! You tried to protect the merry men from my stupidity. You are a good man." Robin shook Will gently. "I am proud to call you brother, Will. I only wish I'd done so before."
"I would never call Robin of Locksley 'brother'," Will growled. "He's a fool who only cares for himself." Robin's face flushed, but Will's voice grew quiet and more zealous. "Robin Hood, though, who takes from the rich and gives to the poor, who thinks nothing of his own safety—Robin Hood I would follow to the death. Robin Hood gives men something to believe in! Robin Hood, him I would be proud to call 'brother'."
Robin's grip on Will's shoulder's tightened exponentially. Around the lump in his throat, Robin rasped, "I won't leave you now that I've found you, brother. We live the good life here in the forest. No politics, no laws but those of God in Heaven and the ones we set for ourselves. If it's Robin Hood you want for a brother, it's Robin Hood you'll get. I promise."
Will's eyes lit up. "You'll always live here with us in the forest and remain Robin Hood?"
Without thinking, Robin dug the blade of his dagger into his palm, then squeezed his hand into a fist. "I swear it on my own blood."
Briefly, the implications of his oath flashed through Robin's mind—no four-poster bed, no grand feasts, no sure way of supporting Marian once they were wed. Then Will gasped, and elation transformed him into the little boy of only a few years past. "By God, Robin!"
"The forest is my home now," Robin finished quietly. "Now we must defend it. Tonight, you'll rest and heal—I'll make sure of that—and tomorrow, we'll free our merry men and all of Nottigham."
"And then, God willing, I'll bring Marian back to Sherwood as my wife, and you'll spend the rest of your life trying to hide from my terrible singing."
"Then you'll spend the rest of your life being dunked in the river, rich boy!" Will crowed.
"God help me," Robin laughed. "First we rescue Wulf and Marian, though. Everything depends on tomorrow."
Instantly, Will's merry expression turned stormy. "The Sheriff won't stand a chance against us."
"No, he won't," Robin murmured darkly. "He's harmed my family for too long. For what he's done to Father, to Marian, to you—the Sheriff of Nottingham will pay. We finish this."
For a terrified minute in the midst of the battle the next day, Robin almost lost his brother. In that breathless second when Will was about to be beheaded, Will's frightened gaze met Robin's in a silent plea for help. In that moment, Robin's blood froze; he knew that if Will died, he would go mad, and perhaps only Marian could save him from darkness.
Luckily for both Will and Robin, Robin's arrow flew true into the center of the hangman's chest. Robin scrambled over to Will and quickly untied him. Though Will still trembled from his scrape with death, he only leaned against his brother for a moment before launching back into the battle with a fierce cry.
Robin lost track of Will again in the rage of battle, but Will cropped up instantly when Robin called, "Would someone catapult me over this wall?" The puckish grin on Will's face, Robin thought wryly, indicated that launching his brother at the stone wall had been a dream of Will's for quite some time. Still, Robin had to get to Marian somehow, and the Sheriff's soldiers weren't exactly going to let him stroll in the front door!
Robin's life flashed before his eyes while he and Azeem sailed toward the unyielding wall of the castle keep. Somehow, they made it over without even scraping the stones and landed in a fortuitous pile of straw on the other side. As he clambered to his feet, Robin faintly heard a yell of, "Fuck me! He cleared it!"
Robin couldn't suppress a grin. "Will."
The Sheriff of Nottingham did pay for his crimes with Robin's dagger in his chest, the same knife Robin had used to swear his oaths to his father and his brother. Robin then nearly lost his head to the Sheriff's mad mother, but Azeem's flawless timing rid the world of her stench as well. Then only Robin stood in the chapel room with Marian quaking in his arms. All his oaths were fulfilled—well, all but one…
Every one of Robin and Marian's kisses felt like heaven, but now Robin thought he might actually be in heaven. Doves flew overhead and flower petals showered from the sky while, with a kiss, Robin and Marian sealed their marriage. Beside Robin, Marian's cousin King Richard clapped politely, while someone in the crowd wolf-whistled. Robin gently broke the kiss in order to send a certain someone a not-so-friendly hand gesture. Will smirk and returned the gesture in kind.
When Robin turned back to Marian, laughing, King Richard gave Robin a curious look. "Who is that man?"
Robin chose to ignore the note of disapproval in the king's voice. "Will!" he called. "Come over here! I want to introduce you to someone!"
Grinning, Will bounded over to Robin. Robin noted with a smile that Will already held a mug of Friar Tuck's finest ale in one hand. "Will, this is King Richard." Once Will bowed politely, Robin flung an arm around Will's shoulders. "King Richard, this is my brother, William Scathlock."
Quickly, understanding flashed through the king's eyes. "Brothers, eh? So you put up with this rapscallion all day, William?" he asked with a wink. "Do you keep him in line?"
"No, sire," Robin cut in. "I struggle to keep him in line! He keeps dunking me in the river."
"Isn't that where rich boys belong?" Will said cheekily. "Besides, Marian told you to take a bath."
"That I did!" Marian laughed and nodded sagaciously to Will. "Thank you! You're such a good brother-in-law."
"Speaking of in-laws…" The kind bent his head toward Marian's and whispered in her ear. Robin caught only fragments of the conversation: "Night…wedding…bed…nephew?"
Instantly, both Robin and Marian flushed a deep shade of red. "Cousin!" Marian shrieked. "Robin and I have only just been married—"
A snort made the three of them jump. Will ducked his head and darted back toward the party. Though Robin grabbed the back of his scarlet tunic, Will wriggled out of his grasp and disappeared into the roaring crowd. "Coward!" Robin called after his brother. "Coward!"
All he got in reply was the faintest of laughs.
King Richard, too, laughed, as Robin shook his fist in the direction of Will's retreating form. "There is much affection between you two," the king said quietly. When Robin looked over at King Richard, the king looked almost envious. "It's something I've never had with my brothers. How do you manage it?"
"I almost lost him." Marian's hand slipped into Robin's, and he twined his fingers with hers, grateful for the steady support. "In my arrogance, I nearly dorve Will away. He could have died because of me."
The king raised one eyebrow. "But?"
"But," Robin admitted quietly, "despite all the times I've wronged him, Will believes there is still some good in me." Robin sighed and squeezed Marian's hand. "He hates Robin of Locksley but loves Robin Hood, so that's who I'll remain. Truth be told, sire, I hate my old self. I've done more good in my few months in this forest than I ever did in the Crusades. Besides, I swore to Will that I would always remain in Sherwood as Robin Hood."
"So you remain." When Robin nodded, the king turned to regard Marian thoughtfully. "What say you of this, cousin? What of your castle?"
Marian's eyes brightened. "This is my castle, Richard! There are many wrongs to be righted in this land, and from Sherwood, Robin, myself, and our merry men can help those who cannot help themselves. We have all we need here!"
Slowly, the king nodded. "Much has changed since in England since I left for Palestince. I must return to London—John is out of control." The king's face hardened; Robin winced at eh idea of holding such hatred for his brother. "Things may be ugly. I'll trust you two to protect the common people, Robin Hood and Marian, King and Queen of Sherwood."
Robin and Marian blushed, unsure of what to say. Before they could respond, a cry came from the revelers: "Long live King Richard!"
"They love you, sire," Robin said with a smile. The king nodded and then held up a hand.
Another voice rose above the crowd. Robin instantly recognized the merry, tuneful voice singing above the roar:
"Long live Richard—ROBIN and Richard! Long live Richard! Down with John! Drink to the Lionheart everyone!"
Once Will finished singing, the king turned to Robin with a twinkle in his eye. "No, Robin Hood. I think they love you more."
King Richard did face trouble in his own court—Prince John caused more of a mess than two Sheriffs. Still, life in the forest went on as happily as it could, and weary travelers always found a resting place in Robin Hood's camp.
Those who made it out of the camp noted John Little's strength and Marian's beauty, but the bards' most loved songs were of Robin Hood himself and his adventures with his brother, the wild and courageous Will Scarlet.
Icey's note: Though I've read tales of Robin Hood since I was a very young child, I only recently watched Prince of Thieves. I fell in love with the film the moment Will cried, "Our father loved you more than me!" Will's confession and Robin's reaction were priceless. What drove me mad is what happened after they discovered they were brothers. BAM! Battle. BAM! Wedding. BAM! The end of the movie. I want more Will and Robin scenes! My solution? Write my own version of events.
Though this fic is meant to be PoT canon, I added details I've soaked up from years of Robin Hood obsession. Will's full name, "William Scathlock," and the song he sings at the wedding both come from Roger Lancelyn Green's The Adventures of Robin Hood. My not-so-wimpy Marian comes from the novel Maid Marian by Elsa Watson. A good book for a twist on the old Robin Hood story is Hood by Stephen Lawhead.