Summary: Guy and Meg's son Rodger, and Robin and Marian's daughter Eleanor, have played together, but more often fought with each other, for as long as they can remember. But what will happen when they start to grow up? As their lives and the lives of their family members change, will they still clash? Or will their feelings for each other change as well? This is a"next generation" AU sequel to my Season 3 re-write, "A Friend Closer Than a Brother", and the follow-up story, "First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Then Comes?", but will include plenty about the familiar and beloved characters from the series.
Characters: Rodger (Guy and Meg's son), Eleanor (Robin and Marian's daughter), Guy of Gisborne, Robin of Locksley, Lady Marian, Lady Meg, some of the old gang (Allan, Little John, Archer), and several OCs.
Author's Note: As in my previous two stories, and in keeping with the playful spirit of the TV show, I take liberties with history, and there will no doubt be anachronisms. It's all in fun, dear readers! This story is mostly fantasy, and is not intended to be an accurate reflection of medieval times, customs, or historical facts. As always, comments and criticisms are welcome. This is a work in progress, so I ask for your patience with updates!
Disclaimer: I do not own BBC, or BBC's "Robin Hood", or any of the characters (except the ones I created). I will receive no profit from the writing and publishing of this work of fiction, only the pleasure of sharing it with fellow fans.
"I dare you, Rodger."
"Shut up, Eleanor!"
"I dare you. What's the matter, Mama's boy, too scared? Mama's little baby, little baby, little cry-baby!"
"I am not! Stop calling me that! And I'm not scared, either!"
"Then how come you won't touch it?"
"'Cause my father said not to."
"Your papa's not here, is he?"
"Doesn't matter. He said not to touch it, and I'm not going to. He promised me a new pony if I'm good. You're just trying to get me in trouble again so I won't get a pony, so shut up!"
"New pony? Huh! You're just scared, is all. You'll never get a new pony, anyway. You'll be riding that fat little pony of yours until your feet drag on the ground."
Rodger of Gisborne looked up at his tormentor with his fists clenched and a deep scowl on his face. Eleanor of Locksley. Eleanor the Brat. They had played together, and fought with each other, for as long as he could remember.
Today she had come barging into his house, uninvited, to boast about her new bow and to tell him she could now dead-center the target from thirty paces. Showoff! Likely it wasn't more than ten. And he had a bow, too. True, it wasn't as nice as hers, but he'd get a new one soon. And it would be a grown-up bow, like the Saracen bow Uncle Robin used, not a baby one. Then he'd practice, ten hours every day, until he was just as good a shot as her. No, better than her, a lot better! That would stop her bragging!
She stepped closer to him. She was a year older than him, and taller by half a head. He hated that.
"I'm older than you," she taunted. "I'm older, and bigger, and a whole lot smarter than a baby like you."
"No, you're not!"
"Yes, I am," she replied with a self-satisfied smile, as she reached out to ruffle his head of thick, dark curls. He hated that more than anything. Mother always played with his curls, too, but that was different. Mother didn't make fun of his curls the way Eleanor did. He struck Eleanor's hand away, but she only laughed.
"You've got little girl curls," she teased. "And long lashes. You're a pretty little girl, and you're a scared Mama's baby."
Why, oh, why had Father told him it was wrong to hit a girl? If she was a boy, well! He would wallop her good, and wipe that smug smile off her face! She deserved it! Mama's baby, indeed! He'd show her he was no baby!
He pulled a chair away from the table and pushed it up close to the fireplace. He hoisted his sturdy body onto the chair, and gripped the mantelpiece. He could just reach it. Father's sword, hanging tantalizingly above his head.
'Don't touch that, ever,' Father had told him. 'You are not to go near it, do you understand me?'
Yes, he understood. But Father didn't always understand. This time was different. Father didn't have Eleanor's mocking face looking up at him, daring him, laughing at him. Some things could not be endured, not when one was fully eight years old—almost grown up, and certainly not a baby. And what harm would touching it do, anyway? None. He'd just touch it once, and Father would never know.
He turned over his shoulder to glance down at Eleanor. Her luminous green eyes shone with gleeful anticipation. He snorted and looked away, up at the sword. It rested against the fireplace chimney on two large hooks. He had seen Father take his sword down to polish it, and he had watched his father and Uncle Robin engage in mock swordfights. He loved to watch them. His father was so strong and quick that Uncle Robin could never beat him. He could beat Father at targets with his bow, but never with his sword. Rodger longed more than anything to learn how to fight like his father, but Father said he was too little.
'Some day, when you're older, I'll teach you, but not now. And you are never to touch this until you're ready.'
Well, he was old enough now. And more than ready. Eleanor had a brand new bow, and her father was teaching her how to shoot. And she was only nine, only a year older than him. And a girl, too. It wasn't fair!
"Go on," she whispered. "I dare you!"
Shoving his father's warning words aside, Rodger reached up and briefly touched the cold metal blade.
"There!" he shouted, his face aglow with triumph as he turned to look down at her. "Take it back, Eleanor! I'm no baby!"
But with practiced ease she snatched his victory from him.
"So? That's nothing. So you touched it. Big deal. Let's see you take it down."
"You know I can't!"
"Too scared, little girl? Afraid of that little toy sword?"
"It's not a toy, stupid!"
She laughed with inexpressible scorn. "You are such a baby."
He bristled at her words. Why did he let her get under his skin like that? It wasn't like she was the only person who ever teased him. And she was just a girl! But she had called him a baby, and worse, she had said that he was afraid.
'Don't ever be afraid to do the right thing, no matter what it costs you,' his father had told him many a time. 'Only cowards give in to fear and do what they know is wrong.'
But this couldn't be the wrong thing to do! Eleanor was calling him a coward! Surely Father would understand that some things were too much to be borne. A man had to defend his name and honour! Father would not want a coward for a son!
He jumped down off the chair.
"What are you doing?" asked Eleanor.
He ignored her and went to the front door, opened it, and looked both ways. Then he peered out of the dining room windows. Good, no one around. He took a deep, shaky breath, and climbed back on the chair. His stubborn face was flushed with humiliation and his dark brows were drawn over his eyes, icy blue and glittering as a winter sky. He'd show her, and no one would be the wiser. He'd take the sword down and put it back up in no time at all, and Father wouldn't know he had disobeyed. He'd keep his honour, and Eleanor would have no reason to taunt him anymore.
But there were obstacles in the way, in the form of two vases perched on the mantle on either side of the sword. Mother's vases, which Father had brought home for her all the way from London as a wedding anniversary gift. Two lovely, delicately painted, and very breakable vases that Mother treasured and always kept filled with flowers in the summer.
She had told him a hundred times never to touch those vases, and he never had. But now he had no choice but to touch them as he moved them to one side very carefully. A few flowers spilled out and onto the mantle. He stuck them back in, then reached up and grasped the hilt of the forbidden sword.
How he longed to hold it in his hands, to lunge and thrust and parry as Father did! But it was heavy, so heavy. How did Father swing that sword so effortlessly? Well, no matter, he would have it down, heavy and awkward though it was, and shut Eleanor's mouth once and for all.
He lifted the sword's hilt, but it was caught on the hook it rested on. He stood on tiptoe, and tried to jostle it loose. Almost there—
He suddenly lost his balance, and the chair tipped backward. Frantically he grabbed for the mantelpiece with one hand, while the other still grasped the sword hilt, but he could not hold on. His flailing hands tipped over Mother's vases. He dropped to the stone hearth along with them, and lay, breathless, among the shards of broken pottery and crushed flowers.
The sword, still attached to the wall by one hook, swung precariously over his head. He scrambled out of the way, just in time, as it came loose and fell, shattering the vases into even smaller pieces as it flipped over the edge of the mantle and landed on the hearth with a loud clatter of metal against stone.
Eleanor rolled on the floor and hugged her sides, helpless with laughter. Rodger sat up slowly among the broken ruins. Mother's beautiful vases, and the flowers from the garden that she cultivated with such care. Tears filled his eyes. He was sore and bruised and shamed, and now in deep trouble. The sword he could put back up, if he were lucky, before anyone saw him, but the vases…. There was no way to wriggle out of that one. They were smashed beyond repair. Mother would be so hurt. And Eleanor, she'd tell on him for sure. It was all her fault! If she hadn't made fun of him—
He wiped the tears hastily from his eyes, and choked back his sobs. Never would Eleanor, that brat, see him cry. Never!
He jumped to his feet, pulled the chair upright, and reached for the sword to put it back up, but the front door of the house opened at that dreadful moment, and in walked Father.
Rodger looked up into his father's face, and wished the earth would swallow him. But it didn't, and his worst fears were soon realized, as Eleanor ran to Father and pointed an accusing finger back at him.
"I didn't do it, Uncle Guy!" she cried. "It was Rodger, he tried to take down your sword!"
His father stood still for a long, silent moment as he took in the scene. Then, wordlessly, he crossed the room. Rodger stood before his father, but couldn't meet his eyes. He felt his father's strong hands clench down painfully on his drooping shoulders.
"Well? What have you to say?"
The deep voice sounded over Rodger's head, sending a chill through him. He didn't answer. What was there to say? That he had disobeyed his father's clear orders because a stupid girl had teased him and called him names? How foolish it all seemed now!
"Did I, or did I not, tell you never to touch that sword? Answer me, boy!"
"Yes, Father," Rodger murmured.
"But you did, and now look what you've done."
He didn't want to look again. He didn't have to look. The evidence was all over the floor.
A knock on the front door broke the tense silence that followed.
The door opened. It was Aunt Marian. At any other time Rodger would have been glad to see her, as he loved his aunt and uncle dearly, even if they were Eleanor's parents.
"Guy," she was saying to Father, "Excuse me, I thought Eleanor might be here. Robin wants her home for her archery lesson—oh!"
Marian took in the mess on the floor, Guy's shamefaced little son, and her daughter, standing to one side with a grin that was part mischief, part feigned innocence.
Just like Robin, she thought. I know that smile all too well. She's her father's child, every inch of her. What has she done this time?
"Guy, I'm sorry—I came at a bad time?"
"Just a bit of trouble with a son who doesn't listen," answered Guy gruffly.
"I hope my daughter wasn't part of the problem," began Marian, as she took Eleanor's hand.
"No," said Guy. "But Rodger and I are going to have a little talk."
A little talk. Rodger knew what that meant. A stern and one-sided lecture from Father, followed by the sharp sting of his thick leather belt. Hot rebellion surged up in his breast. He squirmed about, trying to free himself from his father's iron grip.
"It's not fair!" he cried. "Eleanor, she dared me! She made me do it!"
"Eleanor, is that true?" Marian demanded. "Look at me. Did you tease him?"
"Mama, it was Rodger's idea! I tried to stop him—"
"You're a liar!" Rodger shouted, infuriated by the injustice of her double falsehood. "Father, she's lying!"
But Father's hand tightened inexorably on his arm.
"I don't care who did what," he replied in a tone that brooked no opposition. "The truth is that you disobeyed me."
"Guy," interjected Marian, her heart softening at the sight of the boy's anguished face, "Eleanor probably was teasing him. Don't be too angry with him. I'm sure he didn't mean it."
"No, Marian. My son has to learn that when I tell him not to do something, that's what I mean, and I expect to be obeyed. We're going to have a talk, and then he's going to come down here and clean up every bit of this mess."
He's not one of your guards, he's your son! thought Marian, as she watched Guy lead the struggling child toward the stairs. She sighed and shook her head.
Guy. It's always unquestioning obedience with him. Obedience, duty, loyalty. Some things never change, even with his own flesh and blood.
But it's not my place to interfere. Guy is master in his own house. And Rodger has his mother to comfort him and dry his tears. She would never let Guy go too far with their child, I know. Dear, sweet Meg. Guy loves her so much….
She turned back to Eleanor. She wasn't convinced that the little maid was quite as innocent as she made herself out to be, especially when she heard the barely suppressed giggle that issued from her daughter as she watched Guy hoist the unfortunate Rodger over his broad shoulder and ascend the stairs.
Rodger looked down at Eleanor from the vantage point of his father's height, down at her impudent grin, her obvious delight at the knowledge of his coming punishment, and his face twisted into an expression of fierce rage. He hated her, oh, how he hated her!
"I hate you!" he screamed at her. "You'll pay, Eleanor! You'll be sorry for this!"
In response the little minx bestowed upon her victim her widest and most wicked smile, tossed back her long dark braids, and stuck her tongue out at him.
Marian, who had not seen her daughter's antics, but suspected as much, led Eleanor to the door.
Robin spoils her, that's the problem. She's the apple of his eye, and has been since the day she was born. 'My father never struck me', Robin told me, 'and I'll never spank my daughter, either.' Fine words, which I wholeheartedly agreed to at the time, but sometimes I wonder if a good spanking isn't what she needs.
"Come, time to leave."
"But Mama!" protested Eleanor, who was hoping to linger long enough to hear something of the coming action from upstairs.
"Don't think you've gotten away with anything, young lady! Yes, I know you had something to do with this. You've told more than your share of fibs, and I believe you're telling me one now. No archery lesson today. You are to stay in the house for the rest of the day."
"No! Papa promised I could—"
House arrest for the day, thought Marian. No archery lesson. Still not enough for something as naughty as this. What punishment would suit? She smiled to herself. I have just the thing.
"You are to stay inside, and work on your embroidery for the rest of the day."