The camp was quiet, peaceful almost. Yet there was an edge to the silence that no one was willing to break.
Suddenly, there came a strangled cry of pain, followed by, "WILL SCARLETT, YOU ARE NEVER TO TOUCH ME AGAIN!" yelled Hannah in a voice that echoed throughout the trees.
It had been two years since Hannah's first flight into the sheltering trees of the Greenwood. In that time, Marian had become pregnant, and giving birth to a baby boy whom she and Robin had named "Peter", in honor of Marian's brother who had given his life to ensure that Robin would make it home. Shortly after Marian had given birth to Peter, Azeem had informed Hannah that she was now pregnant too. The entire camp had rejoiced, for no one deserved happiness more than Will and Hannah. The pregnancy had not been difficult, though Hannah's ankles had begun to swell and she had trouble navigating the tree house. Eventually, she and Will had moved into a hut that was on level ground, and there they would stay until the baby came.
"Push, Hannah," Azeem was currently urging her.
"I'm trying," Hannah gasped. "The baby feels . . . stuck."
Will was sitting on the edge of his wife's bed, holding her hand and soothing tendrils of hair away from her sweaty brow. When Azeem had ordered everyone but Marian to leave, Will had refused. He would stay by his wife's side where they would see their baby brought into the world together. He'd made a vow, and Will Scarlett always stood by his word.
Azeem's hands flew to Hannah's side, pinching and pressing. He met Will's eyes across Hannah's swollen belly. Will could read the fear in Azeem's serious expression, and he swore his heart stopped beating.
"What is it?" he whispered, afraid to raise his voice any more.
"You were there when Fanny gave birth, young Christian," said Azeem gently. He never used Robin's nickname for Will unless he needed to remind him of his faith to give him strength. "I will have to operate."
Hannah's eyes darted back and forth between the two men. "What's wrong? Will, what is Azeem talking about?"
Swallowing, Will steeled himself for what he had to say. "Fanny's baby was facing the wrong way too. There's a way to turn it around, but Azeem is going to have to cut you open."
Hannah's already-pale face seemed to lose even more color at this news. "What are the baby's chances? And mine?"
"I could lose you both," whispered Will, which felt better to say that than you could both die.
Raising a shaky hand, Hannah tenderly stroked Will's cheek. "I'm willing to take that chance. Are you?"
"Yes," said Will, nodding once. "If Azeem does nothing, I will surely lose you both. But if he does operate, there's at least a chance that you'll both make it."
"Please, Azeem," Hannah gasped, as another contraction hit her. "Do it, now!"
"Alright, child," he said soothingly. "Be calm. This may hurt a little."
"No kidding," Hannah hissed. "Were these contractions just a warm-up, then?"
"If you want to look at them as such," said Azeem calmly.
Will chuckled at Hannah's attitude and bent down to kiss her cheek. "Just remember that I love you, my Angel," he whispered.
"I know," she gasped as another wave of pain washed over her. "Oh, god!" she cried out.
Azeem worked quickly. It may have been several years since he had saved Fanny and her son, but he still remembered everything he had done before. Even if he hadn't, though, the times he'd seen horses in the same position would have been enough to guarantee success. In a rush of blood and other fluids, the baby slid free from the warmth and safety of Hannah's body. She lay panting and gasping for air as the tremors slowed before coming to a complete halt. Dimly, Hannah was aware of Will gently patting her cheeks, attempting to bring her back to reality.
"Where's our baby?" she asked weakly.
"Here," said Azeem, handing over a tiny bundle wrapped in swaddling cloth. "It's a girl."
Hannah took the precious babe in her arms and looked down in wonder at the perfect creature she and Will had created. A tanned hand carefully raised the cloth to better see the baby's face, and Hannah heard Will's rich laugh in her ear.
"She has your eyes," he whispered.
"And she'll have your hair," Hannah countered.
"And your temper," Will returned.
"She's perfect," they whispered together.
"Will, I'm sorry that I could not give you a son," said Hannah suddenly, eyes downcast, ashamed at having failed her husband.
"Nonsense," said Will. "All that matters is that both you and the baby are alright."
"What should we name her?" asked Hannah. "I was talking to Marian and she suggested "Gwyneth." What do you think?"
"I think that Gwyneth is a beautiful name," said Will, smiling down at his wife and newborn daughter. "For short, we can call her "Gwyn"."
So it was decided. After that, Will took Gwyn outside where everyone waited impatiently, raising her in the air as he introduced her to everyone. Robin and Marian were instantly by his side to take their turn in holding the latest addition to the camp. Then everyone else had to take a turn. Finally, though, Gwyn was returned to the safety of her father's arms, and he ducked inside, handing her back over to Hannah, who instantly attached her baby to her breast.
"Lay with me?" she asked, using one arm to support Gwyn and the other to pat the mattress invitingly.
Will was never one to turn down the opportunity of being close to his wife. He quickly acquiesced, curling protectively around her body as he sought to shelter her. Though the threat of Manchester may have been long gone, he would always fear for his wife's safety. That's what came of being an outlaw once upon a time – constant vigilance had been drilled into him from a young age. But that was all over with now. His daughter would never know the hardships that he and Hannah had grown up with. She would be nothing less than a pampered princess, though she would never become as spoiled as he had once accused Robin of being.
Wishes for his daughter's future in mind, if not yet spoken aloud, Will tightened his arms around Hannah, kissing her cheek softly and reaching over to press his lips to the top of baby Gwyn's head. His wife and daughter – his family – in his arms, there was nowhere Will would rather be.
At long last, all was well.