Chapter 6

"If you had wanted an outing in the forest all you had to do was ask," he said casually enough, but his tone gave him away.

"And you'd whisk me out of my tower and we'd ride off into the sunset," Marian retorted.

"It's happened before."

Yes, when my father died and I was too distraught to know any better. "Will you shoot an arrow out of the windows again?" she snapped instead. "What do you want?"

Robin cleared his throat awkwardly. "I've been hearing things… In the market."

Marian scoffed. "Of course, in the market," she echoed sarcastically. "Where else would one find useful information? Let me guess, you heard about my bloodied sheets and how I'm going to marry Guy to salvage my reputation, and you thought you'd come save me from the hideous monster? While you're at it, would you mind stopping at a convent for a few months so I can give birth to Guy's illegitimate child in secret?"

"That part's not true then."

"Of course it's not true," she snapped, hurt that he'd thought so little of him.

"But are you marrying Gisborne? Only you looked pretty snug to me…"

"For heaven's sake, Robin!" she cried, sick to the back teeth of his jealousy and accusations. "I don't have to defend myself to you!"

"You're my betrothed – I'm worried about you!"

"You don't have to defend my honour either! I can make my own decisions and I won't have anyone treating me like a child and telling me what I can and cannot do." Robin flinched, but Marian kept going. "For your information, I didn't sleep with Gisborne, and I'm not carrying his child either."

She had to bite back another snappish remark when he visibly relaxed. "Then where have the rumours come from?" he demanded.

"The sheriff found us together and Guy said we were to be married."

"What?!" Robin roared. "How dare he!"

It took a good ten minutes to tell Robin the rest, and by the end of it Marian felt completely drained.

"I'm still gonna kill him," Robin muttered.

Marian rolled her eyes. "Don't be such a fool, Robin. Grow up."

Apparently that was more than enough for Robin to flare up again. "And you!" he turned to her. "How could you let him to this to you?"

"He didn't do anything to me," she protested.

"He made everyone think you had given yourself to him!"

"We made everyone think I had given myself to him!" she corrected furiously. "We had to; there was no other choice-"

"There is ALWAYS another choice!" Robin yelled.

"Then enlighten me!" she yelled back. "What would you have done!?"

"I'd have gotten you out of there!"

"How? Out of the window? We had no rope and no time – would you have had me fling myself off this tower?" Marian knew she was being melodramatic, but that didn't stop her anyway. "Or perhaps you would have preferred I went along with Durham instead."

"Better him that Gisborne," spat Robin.

Marian looked at him icily. "I am going to pretend you did not say that," she said slowly, dangerously, but Robin was too caught up to notice her cold fury.

"Why?! It's true – better him than a murderer and a traitor!"

"Durham's a traitor too," she spat back, "or had you forgotten? Do you think that I should have given myself to him instead of not giving myself to Guy?"

Now it was Robin's turn to scoff. "Don't be ridiculous; my men and I would have saved you before it came to that."

"Like you did with Winchester?"

"You know as well as I that I was right behind you and Gisborne-"

"Or when Guy found out I was the Nightwatchman?" she interrupted. "You wouldn't have even heard about it until far too late, and it's the same again now! You'd still have no idea if it weren't for the rumours in the marketplace and you springing up to save my honour. I can't rely on you to be there when I need you anymore."

Robin looked hurt at that, and Marian did feel sorry for bringing it up, but it was true – had Guy not had a change of heart and let the Nightwatchman 'escape', she would have been hanged long before Robin even heard of her imprisonment. Still, she softened her tone a little.

"And even if you had turned up in time, what then? I turn outlaw for hood, living in the forest with you and being treated like some bird in a silk cage?"

"It wouldn't be like that-"

"It was though," she interrupted sadly. "I thought living in the forest would mean freedom, but I felt more trapped than ever! I'll never be just 'one of the gang' to you, Robin, and it makes us vulnerable – both of us." He looked so forlorn that her heart twinged, but she had to finish her piece. "And for how long?" she asked. "You don't know when the king will return – or even if he will ever return at all. What if he doesn't come back? What if the sheriff and Prince John stay in power? What then? If the king comes back, if we're both still alive to see the day, then we can be together? I can't keep giving my heart up to 'ifs', Robin."

There were tears in her eyes by the end of her heartfelt plea, but she refused to give in to them. She sat quietly, watching Robin for a reaction and trying desperately to decipher his expression.

Eventually he spoke up. "Are you saying you're giving up?" he asked softly. "You're going let people think you're a fallen woman and become the obedient Lady Gisborne?"

Marian exhaled deeply. "I don't know what I'm going to do," she admitted quietly. "But I can't keep doing this, not knowing whether you'll survive the next plot of the sheriff's, or the next ambush of a noble, or even the next night in the forest. I can't keep wondering is this time we say goodbye it'll be our last. These are the lives we have chosen, Robin, always different directions. I'm not saying it's anyone's fault, but England needs you right now, and I can't ask you to give that up for me."

She turned away from Robin so she wouldn't see the pain in his eyes, but she heard it in his voice. "I won't tell you that everything will be alright in the morning," he said softly, "because we're not children and we both know that's not true. But please don't give up hope. I can't promise that the king will return, or that the sheriff will be overthrown, but know this. I will do everything I can, I will give everything I have, for an England where we can be together."

Marian waited until she heard the familiar sound of him climbing out of the window before finally turning around. She crossed the room to watch him leave, struck by an image of him lying inert on the ground, a gaping wound in his chest or an arrow through his heart of a noose around his neck, having given everything he had for that future.

"I know you will," she whispered to the wind, tears finally overwhelming her. "And that's what I'm so scared of."

I don't know what's been happening to me lately, only that I've been writing like the wind to try and get more of this fic done :P I think it's safe to say that I definitely intend to finish it, although how long it will end up being is as much as mystery to be as it is you. Nevertheless, I'm thrilled that people are enjoying it and giving such lovely comments. Here's a very early and much longer chapter as a thank you!

(As a quick note, you probably won't have noticed but I've tweaked the timeline very slightly so this fic now occurs after 2x11, as opposed to after 2x09 - so that I could have Guy already aware of Marian being the Nightwatchman.)