Beta: LadyKate (who is awesome and really helped me pin down the voices of these characters).
Summary: Robin failed to get the necklace to Marian in time for her to use it to convince Guy of her innocence in "Brothers in Arms". Picks up at the end of Marian's speech to Guy about truth, and obviously veers off sharply from canon after that.
Warnings: Spoilers through "Brothers in Arms", though I'm also using the backstory given in the S3 episode "Bad Blood".
Disclaimer: Robin Hood isn't mine. If it was, the clothing would have been accurate to the time period.
Author's Note: Okay, so, I was rewatching the series to help me straighten out all the facts the show gives us about the characters so that I wouldn't get anything wrong in "Three Years, Four Winters", but when I got to the episode "Brothers in Arms", an entirely new fic idea seized me. I do plan to continue "Three Years, Four Winters", but now there's this one as well. Enjoy!
Chapter I: Without the Necklace
"And if you really want to know the truth…," said Marian, turning to face Guy, who sat on the corner of her bed, staring at the floor, "…then you should know that I despise the Sheriff." At her words, he looked up slightly, but not enough to meet her eyes, his expression so full of bitterness that it seemed he could not bring himself to do so.
"Before Lord Vaisey came here, I did not know so much vileness and cruelty could exist in one man," she went on, emboldened when Guy showed no sign of interrupting. "It is as if the devil himself has control of Nottingham. He finds amusement in tormenting the people he is supposed to protect. He doesn't care for their well-being or happiness in the slightest, and takes every opportunity to crush their spirits. He would squeeze every last coin or valuable they possess out of them and watch them starve without batting an eye. He is driving this shire to ruin."
Her voice shook now, both with the force of her conviction and with the emotions surging out of control in her breast. Her vision blurred with tears. And still, Guy did not move. "How can you expect any feeling human being to be loyal to such a man? Do you think I am the sort of woman who could look on the suffering in Nottingham with indifference? These were my father's people, and I love them! I have worn a mask in the Sheriff's presence these last five years only because there was never any other choice if I still wanted to be able to help them at all."
She took a moment to attempt to steady her breathing, before finishing in a much calmer, quieter voice: "The Sheriff is the only man against whom I intended to act. I have never had any desire to hurt you, Sir Guy, but you are on his side." She was startled by how hopeless it made her feel to speak those last few words.
"The necklace," said Guy, his tone completely flat. "What really happened?"
Marian was surprised; she'd been expecting him to address what she'd just said. There was no point in lying to him anymore—she was a dead woman anyway. "I was riding through Sherwood when Robin Hood stepped in front of my horse. He told me he recognized the necklace as one he had seen around the neck of a girl from Locksley and demanded to know how I came to be wearing it. I told him you had given it to me. He said you had stolen it from the girl. I could not keep it."
"I did not steal it!" said Guy with an indignant scowl. "It was the price of my consent and blessing for her marriage."
Past caring if she offended him with her bluntness, Marian fixed him with a cold glare. "What need did you have of a peasant girl's necklace, Sir Guy? You have wealth enough, yet that was likely the only treasure she possessed. Why did she have to sacrifice it in order to obtain what you should have offered freely?"
"You presume to question the way I conduct the affairs of my estate?" said Guy, his lip curling and his eyes meeting hers for the first time since she had turned to face him again.
"Yes, I do!" she cried heatedly. "If you cannot show mercy and kindness to the people in your power, then you are no better than the Sheriff! They have done nothing to deserve your contempt!"
"You know nothing of what they have done!" said Guy, suddenly back on his feet and towering over her.
"What, stolen the occasional sack of grain when they were starving?" said Marian scornfully, refusing to let him intimidate her.
"No," said Guy. "I would not expect you to remember. You were only a small child at the time."
"What are you talking about?" asked Marian, feeling an odd sense of foreboding.
"The land that now comprises Locksley," he said. "It was not always a single estate. On the ground where an inn now stands, there once stood Gisborne Manor."
Marian's eyes widened and she let out a gasp. "But if that was your family's land, why is it now part of Locksley?" she said, confused. "Why did you not inherit it?"
Guy turned away with a snort of disgust. "You think these things are simple. That the world is just and people are good. Perhaps you should ask your former betrothed why I was denied my inheritance, since you're clearly still on such good terms with him."
Marian's mind reeled at the implications of what he had said. She wondered what could possibly have happened when she was a child to deprive Guy of his family's lands. Whatever it was, he obviously held Robin responsible in some way. She burned with an odd combination of curiosity and a fear of what she might discover about both men if she pursued it, but Guy had strode to the other side of the room, his arms crossed, clearly not about to answer any questions about his past.
"Something you said earlier," he muttered, more to himself than to her. He pinched the bridge of is nose and closed his eyes. "A mask. You spoke of wearing a mask." His eyes snapped back open. Having already resigned herself to her fate, Marian was not nearly as troubled by the direction in which his thoughts seemed to be heading as she might have been, but it was still unsettling that he was able to make the connection. "Roll back your left sleeve," he ordered.
Slowly, without taking her eyes off him, she drew the material up until the mostly healed scar on her forearm was bared to his view. He stared at what remained of the wound he had inflicted for a long moment. His eyes flashed with anger at first, but that emotion soon died away as his mouth twisted in that same bitter grimace he had worn before.
"All the signs have been right in front of me all along," he said softly, "but I didn't want to believe you could be the Nightwatchman, so I convinced myself the very idea was absurd."
"Absurd, perhaps," said Marian, letting her sleeve drop again, "but true."
Guy raked a hand through his hair in frustration. "Then you have been working with Hood."
Marian snorted contemptuously. "The Nightwatchman is not one of his men. Robin and I may share a hatred of the Sheriff and a desire to end the suffering of the people, but he is a reckless fool. He goads the Sheriff unnecessarily, provoking him into further acts of cruelty than the ones to which he is already prone. I fear that his arrogance will cause him to do more harm than good in the end. In three years as the Nightwatchman, no one has been hanged or had his tongue cut out because of me. It has been but a few short months since Robin returned, and already he cannot make that claim."
"I do not think you can make it either, my lady," said Guy, his expression dark and his voice cold. "Not anymore. Or have you forgotten the innocent man I had tortured and killed yesterday when I believed him the spy?"
His words struck her like a physical blow. She closed her eyes and felt fresh tears slide down her cheeks. "I have not forgotten," she said quietly. "I'm sure I never will."
"So is that all of it, then, or have you another revelation for me?"
"No, Sir Guy," she said. "I have no secrets from you now, though I would make one request: whatever you do to me, leave my father in peace. He has never approved of my actions, but I gave him little choice but to accept them."
There was a long silence during which Guy leaned against the wall, arms folded against his chest, while Marian turned to face the window again, staring at the scenery outside without really seeing it. She felt numb and disoriented. So much for Robin's promise to bring the necklace in time to save her. After a full minute had passed in this manner, Marian began to expect that Guy would leave in order to relay her confessions to the Sheriff. She was on the verge of checking to see if he was still there when he spoke.
"I have no desire to see you executed, Marian."
"Then I suggest you retire to Locksley for the next few days," she said dryly.
A loud bang caused her to jump and whirl around. It seemed that Guy had slammed his gloved fist against the wall, but he already appeared to be winning the struggle to regain his composure, even if he still wouldn't face her. "You misunderstand me," he said. "What if…," he broke off, closing his eyes and swallowing hard. "What if there was a way to prevent it?"
Marian eyed him warily. Was he actually suggesting that he would help her escape punishment? He must be—there was no reason for him to pretend, and with all his agitation, he certainly looked sincere. She decided to test the waters. "And if I would rather die than live in a cage? If I would rather be executed than give up doing what little I have been able to do to help the people?"
Part of her feared that it would be beyond reckless to say what she was thinking now, but she had told only the truth so far, and she couldn't seem to stop, so she plunged on defiantly with her head held high, "If you mean to save my life while forbidding me to live it, you may as well draw your sword and kill me now. I could not bear to do nothing."
Guy rounded on her, and she could see the desperation writ plainly across his face. "Continue helping them, then," he said in a cracked voice. "Do whatever you feel you must."
She stared at him in disbelief. For the first time, she was forced to consider the possibility that Guy's feelings for her were both genuine and powerful, not merely born of a desire to spite his enemy even further than he had when he took Locksley as his own.
Her shock at his words and behavior did not go unnoticed by him, and he was not pleased by it. "What?" he said sharply, a heavy scowl marring his features. "Surprised that I'm not quite the heartless monster you thought I was? After you proved that I barely know you at all, you can't allow that perhaps you know me no better?"
A small, squirming bubble of shame formed in her stomach. "I'm sorry," she said. "You're right." She took a deep, steadying breath. "What is your plan to spare me from the noose?"
Guy looked down, and Marian saw his brow furrow briefly. "Unfortunately, I have already informed Vaisey that it was you who tipped Hood off about the unguarded cart, so I cannot simply tell him I was mistaken. He doesn't trust you anyway; it would not be enough. The only sure way would be to convince him beyond any doubt that you are loyal to him."
"And how would I accomplish that?" Marian asked, though she thought she already knew what his answer would be.
He stepped closer. "Marry me," he said, looking her straight in the eyes.
Marian raised an eyebrow. "How gallant of you to offer a solution that would allow you to get what you want."
"What I want is for you to live," Guy practically snarled. "I offer you the protection of the Gisborne name—the only protection that will spare you from the Sheriff."
Marian regarded him silently for a moment. Whatever his motives were, there was truth in his words. It was her best chance to escape death and ensure that her father was not punished for his connection to her. She could not simply flee Nottinghamshire; doing so would only prove her guilt, and her father was too frail for a long journey and the uncertain living conditions that would follow, assuming they even managed to elude capture when the Sheriff sent his men to hunt them down.
"I will agree to a betrothal only," she said finally. At once, Guy opened his mouth to protest angrily, but she cut across him in a slightly louder voice, "Not five minutes ago, we established that we do not know each other at all. I will not exchange sacred vows with a stranger. A betrothal period must precede a wedding in any case, and the Sheriff needn't know the details of the arrangement, so this should satisfy him on the matter of my loyalty."
Guy glared at her suspiciously. "And will this betrothal actually end in a wedding?" he asked.
"Well, Sir Guy," said Marian, unable to suppress an ironic smirk, "that would depend upon your prowess at courting, would it not?"
I've written the next couple of chapters already, so I plan to post them here soon. In the meantime, feedback is the best thing ever. *wide smile*