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Chapter 9

"Where the hell have you been?"

Delilah rolled her eyes at Robin's shouting – his reaction had been precisely as she'd anticipated.

As soon as he'd seen her and Will his eyes had narrowed and a familiar flush had sprung up beneath the tan on his cheeks. She'd even seen his hand stray to his blade.

"You can't run off like that," he continued, now looking solely at Delilah, who shrugged.

"I can do anything I want to, Robin," she said calmly.

He wasn't listening.

"Anything could have happened! You need to tell me when and where you're going, otherwise I can't protect you."

Delilah sighed. "You aren't my father. And I don't need protecting."

Oblivious, Robin carried on. He paced up and down the clearing, shaking his head as thought after unwanted thought possessed his mind.

"It isn't safe Delilah."

Delilah had had enough of being ignored. She marched over to him, glaring up at her childhood friend.

"Nowhere is safe," she snapped. "Where I come from people drop bombs, and they murder and rape and – and do awful things. And yet here I stand. Robin, I'm not helpless despite what you think."

Robin was taken aback by this speech, but it didn't sway him.

"That doesn't mean you can flirt with danger," he insisted, gripping her slender shoulders. "It – you're so reckless."

Behind them, Will winced. That was the worst thing he could have possibly said.

Ever.

Sure enough, Delilah looked livid.

"Reckless?" she seethed, jerking free of his grip. "Me?! You hypocrite! I wonder that you don't practice what you preach! If you were careful I doubt you'd be living as an outcast in the forest, if you weren't 'reckless' I doubt you'd be fighting for the people at all given current circumstances. And for your information I am not reckless. No more than I'm helpless. I'm actually quite sensible and if you hadn't muddled me up then I wouldn't have run off and -"

"Alright!" Robin said quickly, holding up his hands. "Alright."

Cut off mid-tirade, Delilah was caught off guard. She raised her eyebrows, placing one hand on her hip.

With an effort, Robin managed to look contrite.

"So nothing happened," he said, having calmed down considerably to look at Will without glaring.

Will went to reply but Delilah got there first.

"No," she lied quickly, casting a warning glance at Will. "Nothing."

Robin nodded, exhaling loudly.

"Right."

Delilah looked down quickly so she wouldn't have to meet his relieved gaze. She felt guilty but what else could she have said? But Will...Will was staring at her like he'd never seen her before.

And not in a good way.

"Well, I'm going to find the rest of the gang," Robin said. His tone was much happier than it had been before and he even clapped Will on the back as he strode away, whistling.

Delilah, as she watched him go, felt her breath catch in her throat. She didn't know what to feel anymore, whether the warmth she felt when she thought of Robin meant love or friendship. His kiss had confused her, his embrace had comforted her, his words amused, his actions aggravated and then amazed...

She sighed, pressing one hand to her forehead. It was too confusing.

He was too confusing.

She looked up.

And there was Will.

Confusing thing number 100000000000 in her life. There was definitely something about him that caught and held her...his love of the people perhaps? His ambition? His kindness?

(His eyes?)

(Eyes that were narrowed as he looked at her now.)

(Glared at her, really.)

Delilah cleared her throat nervously, shuffling her feet.

"What is it?" she asked, a slight note of defiance creeping into her tone.

Will's eyes flashed. "You lied."

"Yes," she said simply, looking at him as he crossed his arms.

"I dislike liars."

"Telling a lie once in a while for good reason does not make someone a liar," Delilah replied, shaking her hair back. This somehow was not what she had expected.

Will stepped closer, his jaw set and his expression terse. "The sheriff and his men lie," he said quietly. "Prince John lies. We speak the truth, for England and King Richard."

Before she could reply Will turned and walked quickly away, leaving her alone in the clearing. He had just said the first thing that came to mind that would explain his irrational anger with her. He knew it wasn't fair but...when he saw her with Robin it made him act in a manner that was completely unlike him.

He had never felt jealousy before, but it gripped him now in a steelier hold than he would have thought possible.

But then he hadn't seen her coming.

"Will?"

It was Alan, and judging by his expression Will didn't look too happy. He forced a smile in response, stopping.

"Robin find you?" he asked, simply for something to say that would detract attention from himself.

"Does it look like Robin found me?" Alan replied with a roll of his eyes as he gestured to his solitary state.

Will found himself chuckling even though a second ago that had been the last thing he had felt like doing.

"I suppose not," he said with a more genuine smile.

"I thought he'd be too busy with his new friend," Alan continued, starting to walk back to camp. "Or old friend, really, as the case may be."

Will's smile disappeared and turned upside down.

"No," was his curt reply.

"She's alright, isn't she?" Alan said with a shrewd look at his companion.

Will gave a moody shrug.

"Anyone home?" Alan tried again, pushing Will.

Will pushed back, annoyed.

"You can knock all you want, it's my choice as the home-owner whether or not to answer the door," he said pointedly.

He started to walk again but Alan cut him off.

"Come on Will, it's clear you like her."

Will glared at him and he stepped away.

"It's clear you don't know what you're talking about."

"Don't deny it."

"I'll do what I want."

Alan caught him up, raising his eyebrows suggestively.

"And you want her."

"Alan," Will warned.

"Just saying..."

Will's punch sent him to the floor.

...

"I really don't know what's gotten into Will lately," Much panted as he, Robin and Little John traipsed through the forest.

Robin scowled. He knew. Or he had a good idea, anyway.

A cross between a huff and a snort was his only response and Little John said nothing. He was beginning to get the feeling that Miss Delilah would turn out to be more trouble than she was worth.

Oblivious as ever Much carried on.

"I mean, he's always been a bit surly...that is to say, not...chirpy I suppose." He stopped then for a second, tilting his head as he thought and causing his bandana to fall off.

"Brooding! Would you say brooding?" he continued breathlessly as he scrabbled to pick it up and then ran to catch up with the other two.

The only reply he got was an eye roll from Robin; Little John continued to look straight ahead though his staff struck the ground more heavily with every pace.

Much scratched his head, shrugged and jammed the bandana back in place.

"Well I would say brooding," he soldiered on. "But lately he's become downright -"

"He's fine," Robin snapped.

Much huffed indignantly, tipping his chin as he walked as fast as he could. He got nowhere though, still ending up walking in between Robin and John.

"I was just saying -" he tried again but he cut himself off with a yell as Little John grabbed him by the shirt and lifted him high in the air.

"Put me down!" Much squeaked, his face turning beetroot red.

"Drop it, or I drop you," Little John growled. Much gulped and nodded feverishly, sighing with relief as he was dumped unceremoniously on the ground.

"Well I like that," he muttered, picking himself up and dusting himself down. "A man can't express concern for a friend now, it seems!"

"Much," Robin said impatiently just as they entered the clearing, "he's fi-"

The sight that greeted them cut Robin's re-assurance short. Will and Alan were fighting, Alan with a bloody nose.

"Hey!" Little John yelled, crossing to them in one long stride and pulling the two men apart from each other. Will and Alan let him though they glared at each other for all they were worth, their breathing heavy.

"You were saying, Robin?" said Much with a smug smile that quickly faded when Robin turned to him with a thunderous look.

"Much, shut up. Little John, let them go. You two, what the hell has gotten into you?" Robin barked.

Will and Alan just stared at the ground and neither said a word.

"Well? What were you fighting about?" Robin pressed, frowning.

This time the two exchanged a quick glance before directing their eyes towards the mud once more, but still they said nothing.

Robin looked between them in exasperation until eventually Will spoke up.

"It was nothing," he said gruffly, "just nervous energy going spare."

With a sigh Robin turned away and began to walk back to camp, but before he had gone two paces he looked back.

"We fight shoulder to shoulder in this war," he said with a quiet force, "not tooth and neck."

...

Delilah had waited what seemed like an unthinkably long time for the outlaws to return to camp, but still there was no sign. So there she was, perched on a tree stump in a dress that belonged to the woman who loved the man she'd kissed, with leaves in her hair and an extremely confused state of mind.

Perfect. What a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

If it was Saturday still...

Delilah bit her lip gently. She could never be sure how time was going to go in the real world when she was in the forest. Normally she went back home to find she'd only been gone an hour or two, even if she had stayed the whole day with Robin, but then occasionally she'd be caught out. Like the time when she was 8 and had stayed an hour or so with Robin in the forest and returned home to find it was midnight and her mum was frantic, thinking she'd been kidnapped.

Her mum...

Delilah wasn't a little child any more and so the youthful selfishness had gone. She was now painfully aware of time as it ticked onwards, whereas before she'd been able to forget it altogether.

Indecisively she stood, but her eyes showed mounting certainty and determination as she gathered up her normal clothes and began to change.

Once she was back in her shorts and top she folded Marian's dress and laid it over the stump. Then, carefully, she scratched a note in the dirt.

Robin,

My mum will be worried – I have to go back. I'll come again tommorrow with bread for the villagers.

Delilah.

She stood, looking down at her handiwork. She'd always left messages for Robin this way, ever since they were children. She looked between her note and the spot where he'd stood just before he kissed her.

When did everything become so damn confusing, a small voice in her head asked? When did things with him go from simple to complicated?

When you realized you weren't children anymore.

Delilah took a step back, away from the camp, and then started to run.