The Drip was dark when Robin got there and crept up to the window. Nothing but two shadows, distorted by a few candles, dancing on the wall, and two muffled voices. One he knew was the tavern girl, Joan, from the few times he had been inside for a pint himself. The other voice was a man's . . . Robin instantly ruled Djaq out, and felt an unexpected flood of relief. He had not wanted it to be the Sarasin girl. He could not kill a girl, even if she had been a spy. That left John, Will, Allan and . . .
Oh God, thought Robin as the cadence of the second voice suddenly became clearer. The arrow he had been meaning to fire through the window and into the money bag on the table slipped from his fingers and fell with a small clink on the cobbles outside the tavern.
"Much," Robin whispered, closing his eyes and leaning back against the wall. "Much, no." Why had he betrayed him? What could possibly have possessed him? How on earth did he manage to keep it a secret all this time? Tagging along right behind him, playing the part of the faithful manservant when all the time . . . Suddenly angrier than he ever remembered being, Robin opened his eyes, drew his sword, and rushed into the tavern.
Much jumped when he saw him, opened his mouth to say something, but couldn't get anything out before Robin had grabbed him by the collar and pinned him up against the wall, sword blade pressed against the other man's throat. Joan screeched.
"Master . . . you're early . . ." Much attempted to speak in a light tone.
"Shut up!" shouted Robin. Not taking his eyes off Much, he ordered Joan out of the tavern. The girl obeyed, quickly exiting the building and slamming the door shut behind her.
"Master, if you'll just let me explain . . ." The light tone trembled.
"Don't you call me 'master'," Robin spat, pressing the flat of the blade even harder against Much's throat. "You're the spy. You of all people!" Even in his anger, Robin found a burst of wry laughter from somewhere. "I can't believe you pulled it off. I didn't think you were smart enough."
Much's frightened face hardened slightly. "Well, I guess this proves I'm smarter than you think."
"You don't sound sorry," Robin growled.
Much didn't say anything. He just stared. Stared with those damned wounded puppy eyes going red with suppressed tears. Robin gritted his teeth, did everything in his power to make himself unsusceptible. He found his arm lowering the sword of its own accord. Rolling his eyes, he let go of Much's shirt and turned away, dragging a hand down his face.
"You're not going to kill me?" Much asked hesitantly.
"Maybe not," Robin said quietly. He turned around again to face his friend. Much had a hand to his nicked throat. He sighed. "In my heart I never really suspected you. I felt I had to consider you with the others simply to be fair to them. But never, never did I believe it was you." He paused. "In the village. Today. You followed me despite my orders to stay at the camp. You said you were worried about me when really . . ." Robin shook his head. "When really you wanted to find out what I knew. And how I knew it."
"I was worried about you," Much argued. "Master . . . Robin . . . can't you see that is what this whole thing is about?"
"No, Much, I can't see," Robin crossed the distance between them with two strides, and grabbed fistfuls of Much's shirt. "Talk fast, Much. For God's sake, make me see. Because I don't want this to be the way it ends for us. I don't want to have to kill you."
"It doesn't have to be," Much begged. "Please, Robin, don't say that."
"Then start talking."
"Gisborn . . . he said that if I would give him information then you would be safe. He said that way no one had to die. He wouldn't go after you, because he wouldn't need to."
"The King will die."
"That's not important to me," Much blurted. "I don't care about King Richard."
Robin stepped back, bemusement behind his eyes. "What?"
"We can't make a difference," Much argued. "We are not the saviors of England. We're outlaws. In a forest. Hiding in a godforsaken camp like – like animals. The best we can do is save what we've got. And I've got you. And I have to save you, Robin."
"So you lie to me? You betray me to Gisborn? You put the rest of the gang in danger?"
"I never told him anything about us," Much pled. "Never anything about the gang. Or Marian. Just little things. Things that don't matter."
"The King matters," Robin whispered. "Whether or not you choose to see that. He does. And it is my job to put down those who would seek to kill him." He locked eyes with his manservant. "People like you, Much."
Much shook his head. "So the King means more to you than I do, is that it? Well, at least I know where I stand." He groaned. "It's been a living hell lying to you. Don't think for one minute that I enjoyed it."
"You enjoyed the money, no doubt."
"That money," Much spat, getting angry, "went right into the coffers with the rest of it. Well, most of it . . . there was that one time bought some more things for the kitchen . . ."
He fell silent. He and Robin stared at each other for a moment.
"If you're going to kill me, then do it," Much said, spreading his arms and then letting them drop at his sides. "It will probably be safer – you know, for the King – if I'm dead."
Robin bounced on his heels a second, unsure, until suddenly he readied his sword and charged, yelling, at Much. There was a ring of metal and a thunk as it hit its mark – the wooden wall right beside Much's left ear.
Much kept his eyes closed even as he realized he wasn't dead. "I thought you'd do it," he choked, tears leaking out from between his scrunched eyelids. "I thought for a minute you'd actually do it."
Leaving his sword stuck in the wood, Robin stepped back. "I couldn't kill you, Much." He scratched his head. "What do we do now? How am I going to explain this to the rest of the gang."
"Explain what?" Much ventured. "Tell them the truth. They deserve the truth. And I deserve the consequences."
"I can't, though, can I? Not if you're coming back to Sherwood."
"I'm . . . what?" Much blinked. "But I betrayed you."
"What, and you think I don't know that?" Robin sighed. "I have your word you never told him anything about Marian or the gang."
"Never a thing," Much said earnestly.
"Of course it's not as though I can believe what you tell me," Robin said.
"No. I suppose not," Much admitted unhappily. "Robin, I'm sorry."
"Everyone's sorry once they've been caught," Robin said bitterly, and retrieved his sword. "I'll tell them I was wrong, there was no spy."
"But you said . . ."
"I know what I said, Much," Robin raised his voice. "Honestly. Don't make it any harder for me to forgive you than it already is. You realize that if this was anyone else they'd be either dead or halfway to Ireland by now."
Much bit his lips together and nodded.
"One more toe out of line and I promise you, you'll get more than a nick on your neck."
Again, a nod.
"So come on, then. Outside."