Disclaimer: Not mine. Just the story.
A/N: As with the other two parts of this story, many many thanks to Inhi who may have beta-ed this for me (we're still not sure). As such, this story is dedicated to her as the story that I originally had no intention of writing but was inspired to by her wonderful feedback on the other parts. Hope you enjoyed it even if you did have a long wait!
As said in the summary, this is a prequel to 'It's No Life' but I think they should both work as separate stories in themselves – this sets up the backstory for INL and INL provides closure for this (hopefully!) Wulf is about 10 or 11 in this which I believe according to my other stories, would make Will about 17 (oh the teenage angst!)
Any grammatical mistakes in speech are deliberate.
As always, please read and review!
Wulf glared at the earth before him, poking at it moodily with a stick. It was not fair! His father had finally allowed him to go out with the men without him and he was stuck waiting in the bushes while they did all the hunting. He had hoped that without his father there, he might have been allowed to help a little more but instead he was just waiting for them to finish before he could come out. At least with his Father there, he was allowed to sit by him while he worked – once the creature was down, John had once even let him fire a few arrows himself and he had been pretty good! So why couldn't he help? He had suggested it as they were walking along and everyone had laughed!
"It's too dangerous, Wulf." Will had said, and, seeing Wulf about to protest he added: "When you're older, I promise."
"As if he could hit anything anyway." Much had piped up, giggling. Even Will had snorted derisively and grinned at the comment - the traitor.
Wulf felt the injustice prickling in his eyes – Will was good with a dagger but with a bow and arrow, he couldn't hit a moving target any better than Wulf could. Yet he could go out with the others and hunt while Wulf had to stay put and do nothing. What gave Will the right to order him around? All of the others had doubted him too but Will had been the one to shoo him away.
"You'll get in the way, Wulf." Will had explained irritably. Pushing Wulf to his knees in a patch of undergrowth, he had added conspiratorially "Stay here. You and I will go out later and find something else." Wulf had started to protest that he wanted to hunt, not trap things, but Will continued, suddenly stern: "Stay here, and stay out of sight. I'll come for you when we've got it…Just stay here."
Wulf sighed aggrievedly but nodded his assent. Will looked doubtful but reluctantly left him to his own devices, hurrying away as quietly as he could to join the others. Slumping down in the bushes and glaring after his friend, Wulf had grabbed a stick and set to work on the ground.
From his hiding place, he could just about make out Will and Bull crouching at the very edge of the woods about fifty feet from him, and Much and one of the others – Allen? – taking up positions in the shadows of a wall on the common. He watched as Much suddenly stood to stretch, only to be pulled back down at once by his companion. Surely, it had been hours?
Suddenly Wulf heard a branch snap to one side of him. Glancing over, he saw a young hart making its way towards the edge of the trees. He looked back at the others; they hadn't seen it! Trying to think of a way to get their attention, Wulf searched for something to throw at Will. Finding nothing but twigs and stones that would be too heavy not to be heard by the animal, Wulf looked back. The deer was turning away! Biting his lip, Wulf quietly made his way around to the far side of the woods, trying to keep an eye on both the hart and his friends. A sudden snapping of branches behind it caused the hart to start, eyes widening as it sprang off on to the common and into Will and the others' line of sight. Turning, Wulf's own eyes widened. A gloved hand grabbed him by his hair as he turned to run, another hand pressing down over his mouth before he had time to scream.
The hart seemed to come from nowhere, leaping across the plain in record speed. To his left, Will saw Bull let loose a misaimed arrow causing the creature to change its course. Bounding towards the wall, it stumbled and fell as Allen and Much both reached out to grab its legs, not having had time to reach for their knives. Grinning at each other, Will and Bull stood and began jogging over to the struggling pair, each of whom were holding on to the wildly bucking animal. Bull helped subdue the frantic thrashing around as Will put the creature out of its misery, quickly slitting its throat.
Suddenly, a scream erupted from the edges of the woods. The four men turned at once, their eyes immediately scanning for dangers.
"WILL!" Wulf's terrified yell had them all on their feet, pelting towards where they had left John's son and leaving their prize behind.
As they drew nearer, they could just make out the glint of mail on the very edge of the forest – two men dragging a wildly thrashing Wulf from the safety of the trees. As they approached, one man drew back his hand and struck Wulf to the ground, his resulting cry making Will's blood boil.
With a savage yell, Bull tackled one of the men, both of them falling to the earth with a grunt. The other soldier was ready, drawing his sword and all but throwing Wulf to the side as he levelled with the three remaining men. Will, Much and Allen leapt back as the man brandished his sword wildly at them, swiping and jumping forward. Grinning maliciously at them, the man turned his back to Wulf. Panicking as the man leant over the child once more, Will took the opportunity while the man's back was turned. Will leapt at the man, shoving him away from Wulf and on to the ground, the man's sword falling from his hand as he fell.
"Run, Wulf!" Will heard one of the others yell as he laid into the man before him. He had dropped his knife in his haste to draw the man away from Wulf so instead made do with using his fists. The man struggled and finally managed to knee Will in the groin, knocking him off and reversing their positions.
A sudden wail made all six of the men turn from their fighting. Will's blood ran cold. Sir Guy of Gisbourne sat atop his horse, holding Wulf up by his hair. Two more soldiers leapt from horses and seized Much and Allen, one of them hitting Allen so hard that he hung limply in the man's grasp, conscious but only barely.
"Well, well," The newcomer addressed the frozen men calmly, disinterestedly. "What is this?" The man's voice made Will's skin crawl and he stared transfixed as Gisbourne turned to Wulf, cocking his head to one side as he said, "Your friends are not playing fair, boy. My men are outnumbered."
"We caught them poaching, milord." Will's combatant proclaimed, climbing off of Will and dragging him up by his long hair to face Gisbourne.
"Well, we can't have that," Gisbourne drawled lightly, one side of his mouth quirking up, "can we now?" Wulf whimpered as the grip on his hair tightened.
"This is Lord Locksley's land!" Much protested bravely. Will had almost forgotten he was there. "If we was poaching, we're 'is to deal with, not yours!"
Will had never been so glad to hear his father's name mentioned; in fact, he had never been glad to hear it at all. He stared open-mouthed at Gisbourne, praying that the mention of their Lord would be enough to at least get them taken before him instead of the Sherriff.
Gisbourne considered them all, running his tongue along his teeth and smirking again. "Lord Locksley is at council in Nottingham and will not return for three days. If you wish to be brought before your Lord Locksley, my cousin the Sherriff will be glad to accommodate you, I'm sure." The soldiers around them sniggered evilly.
"We haven't done anything wrong!" Will finally found his voice. The man holding him jerked his head up higher, Will felt tears prickling at his eyes, as the pain grew more intense.
"I beg your pardon?" Gisbourne growled.
"This isn't Locksley's land at all, his land ends at that wall. We killed that deer on common ground!" He hated how his voice shook as he spoke. It was a lie, but this was not Gisbourne's land and as such, he was unlikely to know where the boundary was. Indeed, he looked momentarily unsure, narrowing his eyes slightly. His grip on Wulf slackened and he suddenly let go altogether. Wulf slumped to the floor with a sob and Will felt his blood boil once more. He glared as Gisbourne swung himself off his horse and grabbed Will's chin in one hand, gripping it painfully.
"And who would believe you?" He hissed. Will's stomach dropped. Nobody would believe him over Gisbourne even if all five of them were called before the Lords; if Gisbourne said that they were poaching, then they were poaching. That was how things worked. Nobody cared if there were outlaws starving in the woods, regardless of their crimes. Gisbourne must have noticed the uncertainty in Will's eyes, for he grinned maliciously. "I could have you swinging from the gallows by tomorrow morning, boy." Will swallowed involuntarily. Gisbourne laughed – his breath stank. "But," he continued, turning away from Will at last and striding down the line towards Bull. "Some fun before the hangman gets his! Release them!" Will felt the soldier behind him release his grip and he exchanged frightened looks with his friends.
Gisbourne stalked over to his horse, withdrew from his satchel a crossbow, and began fitting it with a broad-headed arrow. Will felt his eyes widen and he shuddered as he imagined the damage such a weapon could do. Gisbourne meanwhile seemed to have almost lost interest in his captives, holding the bow up and levelling his aim. Swinging to face them again, he fired it into a tree off to the side of the group. It hit with a sickening thud and a splinch of wood, penetrating a good six inches into the trunk. Will flinched. Seeming pleased, Gisbourne turned and remounted his horse. He began to fix another arrow onto the bow. Glancing up at them all, he smirked as if thinking on some private joke.
"Run." He advised softly.
"What?" Will's voice sounded high-pitched and frightened. He thought he must have misheard the other man.
Gisbourne finished fixing his weapon and glared at them all. "Run, damn you!" He snarled.
Barely sparing a glance for each other, the four men sprinted in different directions. Much, being the nearest to Wulf, grabbed the boy's arm as he went.
Will heard the whistle as the arrow whizzed past him, barely an inch from his face. He continued on, plummeting into the safety of the forest, Gisbourne's laughter echoing in his ears.
Already a mile or so away, Wulf and Much leapt over the boundary wall, dropping to the ground after it. Much pushed Wulf into a gap between the wall and an old tree, hiding him from view apart from the side of the wall. Wulf pulled his knees up to allow Much to join him in their hiding place. Both of them were trembling and gasping for breath, their shaking intensifying tenfold when they heard the heavy hoof beats that heralded Gisbourne's impending arrival. Squeezing his eyes shut in fear, Wulf tried to keep from moving. The beats drew nearer until suddenly five horses came leaping over the wall barely ten feet away from them. Both Much and Wulf released whimpers of fear but miraculously, the hoof beats began to fade away; Gisbourne and his men laughing as he ordered them home as if it had all been a game – a way to pass the time.
Much peered around the tree at the soldiers speeding away down the hill. Already almost a mile away. They both let out shaky breaths.
"You all right?" Much asked, eyes wide. Wulf nodded, suddenly aware of blood rolling down his forehead. Much grimaced at him and stood. He didn't look much better than Wulf. Much's eye was swollen and his lip was bleeding but if his own pain was anything to go by, Wulf suspected that he probably looked worse. "Come on. Let's go, in case they come back." Much said nervously, glancing around and holding out a hand.
Wulf allowed himself to be pulled up but caught his hand on a jagged rock in the wall. He felt the skin split open but it was nothing compared with the pain from earlier. The two of them hurried back the way they had come, glancing around for any sign of Will, Allen and Bull.
"Where are the others?" Wulf asked quietly.
"They'll be back at the camp." Much answered quickly, his head constantly swivelling around.
"Do you think Gisbourne –"
"They'll be fine."
Wulf nodded his head and tried not to think about Gisbourne levelling his crossbow at Will, ready to fire.
John felt rather than heard the hunting party return. Usually they were met with shouts and congratulations but today, the men greeted their friends with a deathly silence. He turned, expecting to see them empty-handed and downtrodden. What he actually saw made his heart stop. Wulf, his boy, trailed after Much. His hair was sticking to his forehead, which was red with blood. He was filthy from lying in the dirt and his hand was bloody. His eyes searched the assembled men and he dashed forward with a cry as he spotted his father.
Falling to one knee to catch him, John asked loudly "What the bloody hell happened?" He was staring over Wulf's shoulder at Much, who looked shaken as he approached the pair.
"Are the others back yet?" He asked quietly. John's eyes widened as he realised that Wulf and Much were alone. He shook his head and Wulf gave a tiny sob into his shoulder. Much looked worried, but they all turned as there came a yell in the distance.
Bull came stumbling into the camp supporting Allen, but he grinned as he saw Much and Wulf.
"We all made it back then?" He asked, sounding astonished but pleased. Nobody replied and as Bull peered around the crowd, his face fell. "Where is Will?"
John and Much shrugged. "Why isn't he with you?" John asked.
"We split up." Allen offered sluggishly.
Everyone looked grim. Gathering Wulf up, John carried him over to his bedroll and laid him down. He could hear the urgent questioning begin in the background but focused on his barely conscious son.
"Where is he, Father?" Wulf murmured tearfully.
"Will Scarlett can handle himself. Why isn't he with you?" John asked gruffly. The first time he allowed Wulf to go with the hunting party without him, and this happened! And the one time that he had actually asked Scarlett to keep an eye on his son and he had buggered off!
"Gisbourne came," Wulf said tiredly, trying to stay awake now that events had caught up to him. "Will … ran away. Much stayed with me."
John felt his stomach drop; Wulf had been in serious danger. And Scarlett had run? He knew that Will could be selfish but he never thought that would extend to Wulf. They were friends! Wulf followed Will around like John recalled doing with his older brothers! When he got a hold of Scarlett, he was going to throttle him! Meanwhile, Wulf had succumbed to sleep and was safe now. No thanks to Will bloody Scarlett. Leaving his son to sleep, John re-joined the group.
"…And Scarlett, he goes mad! Leaps on 'im like a…a…well anyway, so we're all fighting Gisbourne's cronies and then suddenly, there he is! Gisbourne his self!" Much was animatedly telling the rest of the men.
"And then two more of his men grabs us up and we can't barely move!" Allen put in groggily, clutching his head.
"Is he back?" John asked Bull quietly. Bull looked up at him and shook his head grimly.
"Thought he'd be back before us," he commented quietly. "Me and Allen going so slow and all."
"What happened?" John asked, stepping away from the crowd with Bull following. "Wulf says Scarlett ran." John couldn't say he trusted Will Scarlett exactly, but that he fled sounded unlikely even to him, enraged as he was.
"Gisbourne's blokes came," Bull supplied, far less enthusiastically than his friends. "We didn't see 'em till they already had him." He nodded towards where Wulf was sleeping.
"Why not?" John asked, struggling to keep his voice down. "Why wasn't he with you?"
"We were hunting, John!" Bull protested. At John's less than appeased face, he continued: "He would've gotten in the way. Will told him to stay put and he didn't."
John felt the anger bubble up inside of him, both at hearing that Will had deserted his son (at least twice by the sounds of it), regardless the reasons and at hearing that Wulf had not obeyed an order that would ordinarily not only have helped the group but also kept him safer. His anger must have shown because Bull looked reluctant to continue, but he did go on.
"We went after 'em. Me and Allen took one – it was a great fight, John. I – " At John's look, he stopped and went back to the main facts of the story. "Er…anyway, so then Gisbourne shows up and grabs up your boy. And he says something about poaching and hanging Will and…" Again, he trailed off as John began to look impatient once more. "Well, look, he takes out a crossbow and tells us to run. What were we supposed to do? We ran off and…John, come on, we were trying to save our own skins!"
John nodded, feeling slightly appeased that Will had not simply run off and left the others out of cowardice. Of course, the fact remained that regardless of whether they had all run or not, John had told Will to look after Wulf, not the others.
It was many hours later when Will stumbled back into the camp. Whilst fleeing Gisbourne and his men, Will had sprinted into the woods on the far side of the meadow – the opposite direction of both his friends and the camp. He had run for several miles, fear and adrenaline coursing through him, making him run faster and unmindful of his surroundings until he found himself on the banks of a river that he had never seen before. Confused, he stopped to catch his breath. Looking around, he realised that he had absolutely no idea where he was or even what direction he had run in. To make things worse, the day was warm but cloudy, making it almost impossible to divine his position from the sun. Relieved that he did at least seem to have lost his would-be capturers, he drank his fill from the running water and collapsed onto the ground to rest. He tried not to think of Wulf and the others - at the thought of Wulf's cries as the soldiers had hit him, Will felt rage and guilt bubble inside him horribly. Burying his face in his hands, he tried to block out the pain now apparent in his head, and the images he was being bombarded with of Wulf and the others being beaten and shot at by Gisbourne and his men.
Waking from a quite unintentional sleep, Will was relieved to see that the sun had at last broken through the clouds and he could finally hazard a guess as to his location. He leapt up and began wandering back the way he had come, hoping that he was correct in his estimations. He was exhausted and aching, and he stumbled several times. Hearing a snap of twigs behind him, he hurled himself to the ground at the foot of a tree, peering out around it, his heart racing. Seeing nothing, he cursed himself – Gisbourne and his men would be long gone by now. Swallowing the lump that formed in his throat, he continued until he emerged into the meadow that they had been hunting in earlier in the day. Sighing with relief as he recognised the area at last, he began searching the ground where they had been fighting, for his knife. Finding it, he pocketed it and glanced around him again before laying eyes on their earlier prize and resolving to tell John where it was so that someone could come and fetch it – there was little point in good food going to waste.
Turning for home once more, he thought back over the day's events and, by the time he was within a mile of their camp, had worked himself into such a state of fury over Wulf's disobedience that he was determined to never speak another word to the boy as long as either one of them lived – if Wulf was alive (Will avoided thinking of the alternative), he was going to be lucky if Will didn't kill him himself.
Any thoughts he had of bodily harm upon Wulf fled Will's mind as he entered the camp and came face to face with the boy's father.
"Where the bloody Hell have you been?"
Startled, Will tried to school his features into blankness – hiding both his surprise and his concern.
"Are the others back?"
John seemed to be having trouble containing himself, he spat his reply out without even a pause in sentences. "Yeah, they're all here. Where'd you run off to?"
Will considered his options; he could continue to ignore John's questioning and possibly end up in another fight, or he could yield and tell John what he clearly already knew – that Will had run off, leaving John's son to fend for himself. Neither option seemed appealing but – perhaps owing to the several blows to the head he had received earlier – Will opted for the former.
"Are they all all right? Are we all back?" Scanning the scattered men in the background, Will could make out Much and Bull sat talking with some other men. He couldn't see Allen or Wulf. Worried, Will continued quickly. "Where's Allen?" Where is Wulf?
John seemed to be growing larger and angrier by the second but he answered anyway. "They're all here. Allen's inside. Wulf is sleeping." Their eyes met as they both silently pointed out that Will had not asked about Wulf. Uncomfortable under John's gaze, Will made to brush past him.
"Wait!" Will was stopped by a large hand descending on his shoulder and forcing him to face John. "You left my boy alone," John growled menacingly. "They could have killed him – my SON –Scarlett!"
"I know, John," Will began quietly. "But – "
"NO!" John's temper overtook him. Having spent the afternoon tending to Wulf's wounds, trying to get a full story from Bull and the others and worrying about how close they had all come to being caught, he had no patience left to give the young man in front of him. Besides, he had also spent the better part of his time reassuring his son that Will would be alright whilst sharing Bull's concerns over Will himself and now the boy could not even be bothered to give him answer when he asked where he had been. "No 'but's, Scarlett! I do not care what happened. I do not care what reason you had for running off! My son was with you and you buggered off to save your own skin!"
Will waited while John berated him, trying not to take notice of the assembling crowd being drawn by John's raised voice and trying not to cower in the face of John's (not entirely unwarranted) anger. Suddenly, he felt rage and indignation building inside of him once more. He was exhausted from the fight and from fleeing, not to mention trying to find his way back, he was bloodied and sore, he was hungry, thirsty and not a little on edge from the morning. All he wanted was to go to his bedroll and sleep and forget about the day completely but now John – who had not even been there! – was raging at him in front of the other men as if it had all been his fault! His eyes burned and swam with exhaustion and at the unfairness of it all; John's roaring was making his head pound and he tried hard to block out the noise. Suddenly, an open-handed blow to the side of his head made his eyes fly open and he stumbled sideways, staring at John in incredulous fury.
"You listen to me when I'm talking to you, Scarlett!" Will blinked back tears of pain and humiliation; suddenly he was acutely aware of their audience. His mind screamed at him that he ought to hit back if he was to retain what little respect he had in the group but his body felt leaden. "You left my boy to – "
Will gave a strangled laugh. "If your boy had done as he was told and stayed where we left him, none of this would have happened!" He found himself screaming back at John almost as loudly as John himself. A voice inside Will's head told him that what he was saying wasn't true but his anger far outweighed anything else. "I told him to stay back! I told him to stay hidden! We would have been fine if he hadn't – oof!" Stars erupted in Will's vision as John's fist collided with his head once more.
"Don't you dare say this was his fault," John growled. "Don't you dare try to weasel your way out of this!" Will stumbled backwards as John shoved him, stepping forwards and raising his voice once more. "Wulf's just a lad, he should've been with the rest of you!"
Will tried in vain to strike back or at least shield himself from John's assault – John was bigger and older than he was and Will was already tired. Deciding avoidance was his best chance of defence, he tried sidestepping John's blows but John followed him almost simultaneously, barely missing a beat. "We couldn't watch him and hunt! There weren't enough of us!" Will looked almost pleadingly at John who stepped back for a moment, both of them breathing heavily. Will flung his arm out towards Much and Bull. "I wasn't the only one there, John!"
"You were the one he'd stick with. You should've been watching him. The others were hunting, you were – "
"I was what? Only there to keep him out of trouble?" Will cried indignantly, glaring at John and then at Bull who had stepped forward from the crowd of other men.
"John," He began timidly, "We all should've been watching Wulf, but … well, he was getting in the way." John, still out of breath and his scowl lessening slightly, seemed to deflate.
"Ha!" Will crowed triumphantly. "You see?" Again, the voice inside Will's head sounded, this time telling him to let it be now – John seemed to have done so. But, like a dog with a bone, he found himself unable to let it be even when John gave him another albeit half-hearted shove. "You see, John? They should've been watching too."
"All right, lad. That's enough." John murmured not quite apologetically and the others turned and made to leave. John may have seen the truth in what Bull and Will had said but he'd be damned if he was going to admit it to the boy.
Trembling with fatigue, Will nodded his acceptance, once more aware of just how many people had witnessed John thrashing him. Suddenly, his rage reignited as John added in a not unkind undertone:
"Just…be more careful with him next time."
Choking an incredulous laugh, Will exclaimed hoarsely "'Be more careful'? You'd ask me to be more careful?" Will stormed after John, this time clearly spoiling for a fight. "Why not tell your boy to be more careful, John? But do not dare tell me to be, because THIS WAS NOT MY FAULT!" Almost involuntarily, Will swung one fist and punched John, who had turned just as Will caught up to him, squarely in the jaw.
John's head snapped backwards and he stumbled slightly, the blow catching him off guard. The camp went silent as the rest of the men and Will waited thunderstruck to see what John would do next. Will's eyes went wide with shock and not a little fear as John bore down upon him.
"John –" Will began in a small voice, rooted to the spot while every instinct in him screamed at him to run. He had no time to say anymore or to follow his instincts as John seized his shirt and shook him once, throwing him to the ground and set upon him once more. This time, Will did not attempt to fight back, only to defend himself against the blows being rained down upon him by the larger man. He cried out once as he suddenly felt the blows change from fists and slaps to the more solid blows of one of John's many staffs. Pride and pain battled inside of Will – being beaten hurt, but he'd be damned if he was going to let the other men around him hear him cry out again or ask for mercy. It did not last long, though it seemed like an eternity to Will, but when John finished both men were left gasping for breath – John from exertion and Will from the effort of staying quiet.
Will closed his eyes against tears threatening to escape as he tentatively uncurled himself from his defensive position and glanced up to see almost every man in the camp standing around him. Some looked almost gleeful – glad to see the arrogant Will Scarlett get his comeuppance he thought darkly – others (and these were admittedly few) looked sympathetic and seemed to glare at John over Will's head. Strangely, it was these that Will found himself angriest at. He had spent his life being scorned by those around him, had learned to harden himself to it since it was seemingly unavoidable but he absolutely refused to be pitied. It made him feel weak, helpless even, and he did not ever want to feel that way again.
Bracing himself against the pain, he uncurled and stood shakily, every inch of him protesting mightily at the movement though it was not as bad as it might have been. Avoiding looking at his audience, and shooting one hateful glance in John's direction, he turned to flee to the river. He froze, coming face to face with Wulf who stood by his and John's makeshift home, rubbing his eyes with his good hand. Will's breath caught in his throat, not only from embarrassment – how much had Wulf seen? – but also from shock and guilt. He took in Wulf's appearance; John had clearly cleaned his son up but Wulf was still left with a bloodied bandage on one hand, and various bruises but what worried Will was the cut on the young boy's hairline, which although it had been cleaned up, was seeping blood.
Wulf looked alarmed at Will's appearance too but disregarded it as only a child can do, offering Will a relieved smile at his being back in camp at last. Swallowing hard, Will fled.
John ushered his young son back into the hut as they watched Will bolt away from the camp. Trying to ignore the guilt building inside of him now that his anger had been appeased, he tried not to think of the young man's appearance either when he first returned to the camp and after John had finished with him. Though he still felt that the thrashing had been somewhat deserved on Will's part, he did feel more than a little guilty at having spared no thought to how injured the boy might have been from his encounter with Gisbourne earlier in the day. And, however much he held Will more responsible for Wulf's safety than he did the other men (for whatever reason), he couldn't deny that both Will and Bull had had a point when they both pointed out that Will was not alone on the hunt with Wulf - the other men ought to have been watching him as well. Despite this, John couldn't help but feel Will's failing in that duty more acutely than that of the others – as, he was certain, Fanny would although she would certainly be appalled at how he had made this disappointment known. The beating had not been overly long nor in fact had it been as hard as it could have been. It had been violent, certainly, and would most likely have put the fear of God into young Scarlett. But as long as it had gone on, John recognised (as he found himself hoping Will would also) that he could in fact have done far more damage than he had done. Scarlett would feel it for several days and bear the marks of it for much longer than that but John had broken no bones and Will was certainly not going to be incapacitated or disfigured by it after a few weeks.
His jaw ached dully and he rubbed at it appraisingly. He could recall every one of the few times any man had struck him off guard, could in fact count the times that Will Scarlett had managed it on one hand. He was furious certainly that the boy had managed it (and in front of many onlookers too!) but he could not deny that there was a certain sense of … not pride exactly but a feeling that he couldn't quite put a name to.
John was startled out of his thoughts by a shout from the lookouts, warning of someone unrecognised approaching the encampment. Alarmed, John stood and went out to see what was happening, closely followed by Wulf. As it turned out, the newcomers were men from a nearby village asking for sanctuary with them since they had been frightened out of their hometown by the Sherriff's men. Smiling grimly at them, John turned to see Wulf edging off in the direction Will had gone in. Seeing his father watching, Wulf froze and looked pleadingly at him. Nodding his permission and watching his son race off to find his friend, John turned and readied himself to welcome yet more innocent(ish) men into their little group of outlaws.
A/N: There you go. Now go read the sequel (It's No Life). Go, I say! ;)