TITLE: "U is for Unfaithful" (5th in the Guy/Marian Acrostic Series)
FANDOM: BBC Robin Hood 2006
PAIRING: Guy/ Marian
AUTHOR: lexie aka lillianschild
SUMMARY: Facing curves of broken path. Always faithful, faithfully.
A/N: This is the fifth one-shot in the series and focuses on "Brothers in Arms" (S01E07) with a passing reference to "Parenthood" (S01E04).
I highly recommend reading the previous ficlets in the series, starting with "S is for Scars".
U is for Unfaithful
Staring down the winding seam
Facing curves of broken path
Always faithful, faithfully
I promise on my faith that I will in the future be faithful to the lord, never cause him harm and will observe my homage to him completely against all persons in good faith and without deceit.
The words of the oath of fealty I swore so long ago still resonate in me. Loyalty's the one thing which sustains me when my faith is at its lowest, when my Lord orders and my hand falters, when she turns down another gift and I cling stubbornly to my mother's childhood advice- if you have wronged somebody, or if they're upset, do not be proud, offer them friendship. If they reject you, offer a second time, and a third until they accept.
"Do you like it?" I ask her as I fasten the clasp and graze her nape with slightly tremulous fingers when all I yearn is for the right to press a soft kiss on the milky white column she covers again with her auburn tresses.
"Yes, I do but..."
"It's simple silver. You have no need of gold or gaudy jewels," I interrupt her, afraid of the words of rejection I have got accustomed to hearing on her lips.
"But really. I cannot accept it."
"Why not? Have I insulted you?" I reply, incapable of hiding how much it hurts me to be denied her acceptance time and time again. "You do not like it. It's too plain, too simple. Take it off," I add gruffly, berating myself for believing a peasant girl's treasure could win Marian's heart when all my carefully chosen gifts have always failed to move her.
"No, I like it. I will treasure it," she stops me as I make a move to unclasp the Celtic chain.
"It is a gift of friendship," I assure her, trying to put her at ease, fearful that my insistent pursuing will drive her away from me forever; eager as I am to have her look at me the way a woman looks at the man she loves, I tell myself I'd rather have her in my life as a friend than not at all.
"And I am very grateful," she says quietly, bestowing a shy smile on me.
"You wanted to see me, sir?"
The voice of my Sergeant suddenly pierces the fragile cocoon which she managed to spin around us when she accepted my present and gifted me with a smile, a gesture that will sustain me through another dreary day.
"Cancel the guard for the consignment from Rotherham," I order my subordinate, remembering my Master's plan to uncover the spy in our midst.
"No guards?" frowns my Sergeant.
"No guards. Guards attract attention. Why would we want to attract attention to a chest full of silver
travelling through Sherwood Forest?" I explain to him, keeping a straight face not to betray the real purpose of such a strategy.
"And tell no one. No one. Not even the guards themselves."
I trust my men in a way I've never been able to rely on Vasey's. And yet, I know the most faithful of men can stumble on occasion and live to regret it.
Unfaithfulness and broken vows sealed the tragic destiny of my lineage when I was but a green boy. It's a fate I once pledged to protect my descendants from, an oath which I've failed to live up to. I've moved Heaven and Earth to discover where Vasey's men have taken my illegitimate son, who should have been now sheltered at Kirklee's, but the lack of clues has stoked the feeling of guilty impotence that haunts me at night when I think I can still hear a baby cry.
Sometimes I wonder if she doesn't know, if it isn't her awareness of my trespass in a moment of desperate loneliness and defeat that has steeled her heart against my advances. Huntingdon knows of Annie and of our baby Seth; he's got the perfect weapon to undermine my dream of a future with Marian and, despite her assurances she's no longer in touch with her former fiancé, I find it difficult to believe my nemesis hasn't used the intelligence I would have no qualms to exploit were I in his shoes.
Faithfulness is the one virtue I've always struggled to maintain for holding onto it helps me believe there's still something in me that burns bright, despite some of my questionable deeds and the vicious onslaught of a world which insists on regarding me as an outcast. Loyalty's the one quality which still identifies me as the knight I thought I'd be one day, when Gisborne was more than an empty shell, and I had the love of a family.
Until she came into my world and reawakened my hope of realising my long-forgotten dream of ever finding what my parents once had, faithfulness used to be the only thing I expected of those around me.
"Marian," I greet her as I climb up the last step which takes me away from the dungeons.
"So you did not like it after all? The necklace," I ask her disappointed to see she's no longer wearing the silver chain I presented her with a few days ago.
"No, I do. It's at home."
"You didn't think to wear it?"
"It is very precious to me. I would not want to lose it," she starts to explain when a scream from the dungeons pierces the air.
"Come away. This is not for your ears," I tell her quietly, taking her away from the inhuman sounds of torture.
"What is it?"
"Do you know the worst crime a man can commit?"
"Betrayal. My sergeant swore loyalty to me and then he stabbed me in the back. He hasn't admitted it yet but he will."
"We set a trap to flush out a spy. An unguarded cart. Someone told Robin Hood."
"But what if it wasn't him?"
Escaping the stifling atmosphere of the castle I ride back to Locksley in the middle of the day.
The village is buzzing with activity and local women of all ages are milling around Lucky George's caravan, trying to strike a good deal with the conman. However, it isn't the scoundrel that catches my eye but the young bride who gave me her only heirloom in exchange for my blessing.
'But what if it wasn't him?'
A flash of silver. It must be a trick of the light.
'My sergeant was the only one that knew. He was the only one I told.'
'Please, Sir Guy, do not do this.'
It cannot be. It cannot be true.
'You understand loyalty?'
'The importance of loyalty?'
'Yes, I do. But... '
'So... he must pay for his crime.'
I give one of my personal guards instructions to bring the young girl to me. I have to see with my own eyes what my heart refuses to acknowledge as the truth, that the only woman I've ever loved has betrayed me.
"Lower your collar. Where did you get this?" I ask the peasant girl, clutching the Celtic chain she's still wearing around her neck.
"My mother gave it to me."
"And I took it from did you get it back?"
"Robin Hood gave it to me," she confesses after some hesitation.
I suddenly find it hard to breathe. The world around becomes a dim blur until all I can feel is my heart slowly breaking and Vasey's mocking voice in my mind. It's always the girl. I told you. Women. Lepers, Gisborne.
"I'll give you a ha'penny for it," suggests Lucky George, stepping forward and eyeing the necklace with a speculative gleam.
"Keep it. It means nothing to me," I tell him in a broken voice, turning around to collect myself as I struggle not to throw up in front of the populace.
I arrive at Knighton Hall in time to partake of some lunch; the Fitwalters have always had one of the best cooks in the county, but today the meal tastes like sawdust in my mouth as I sit across Sir Edward and await Marian's return.
Can you feel the hot metal of the knife twisting in your back, hm, Gizzy? All the time she was smiling at you, but really she was laughing at you, betraying you, despising you, humiliating you. And what do you want to do to her now?
My sergeant died an innocent man. I rewarded his faithfulness by having him tortured to death; while the one person I never thought would betray me has been consorting with the man who took away my birthright and condemned me to a life of subservience and solitude.
"Where 's Marian?" asks her father, breaking the tense silence.
"If you've hurt her... If you've done anything to her..."
"You'll what?" I spit at the fragile man with a look of defiance.
And she comes into the house, bursting though the front door, breathless, her cheeks tainted a rosy hue, and my cracked heart breaks a little more. How can someone so beautiful and generous with those beneath her be so full of deceit and contempt for one who's done nothing to her but lay his heart at her feet?
"Sir Guy. We were not expecting you," she exclaims, visibly taken by surprise.
"I know. Sorry. I just popped in for a little chat. Where have you been?"
"At the hanging," she replies, darting a nervous look at her father. "Can we get you something to drink?"
"I don't think so. Show me your necklace."
"What necklace?" she asks in a tremulous voice.
The beautiful greenish-blue pools, in which I've always dreamt I could one day see myself reflected a newborn man, are now dilated with fear. My hunter instincts recognise a cornered prey both in her demeanour and the palpitating pulse visible in the white column of her neck, which even now makes my treacherous heart quiver with longing.
My repeated demand that she show me the silver chain she promised to treasure sends her into a fit of wounded pride, declaring our friendship to be over. But no sooner do I mention the price she will pay for betraying me than she pleads with me to let her prove herself to me. She swears the necklace's in her possession and offers to fetch it for me. She beseeches me to let her mount the stairs to show me she's never been disloyal, that she's never sold me out to the enemy.
"I thought we were friends," I whisper in as controlled a voice as I can muster.
My mind knows she's wasting my time, that I'm putting off the inevitable and yet my heart refuses to listen. I cling stubbornly to my dream as I see it slip away through my fingers like the sand of the desert which stripped me of my father and made a traitor of me, a traitor of someone who's always set such great store by loyalty; the same loyalty I'm now demanding of the woman I love to distraction.
And I relent in my eagerness for her to prove me wrong. I give her what she wants for I've never been able to deny her anything.
My feet climb the steps to her bedchamber like a man condemned to the scaffold, a prisoner who's not ready to face his executioner, for that's who I am and that's who she is. I've been her captive for three years and she's been my summer for four winters, wielding the power to make my world or destroy it with just one look, one word, one smile.
"The only reason you paid me any attention was to feed information to my enemy," I tell her, feeling the lump in my throat grow larger as I cross her threshold to find her frantically turning her room upside down, no doubt trying to make it look as if her once-betrothed has broken into and snatched away her valuables.
"That's not true," she shakes her head, unshed tears glistening in her eyes.
"Why persist with lies?" I ask her, wondering if the mist in her beautiful blue eyes means she actually did sometime care for me or if it's just a mirage in the desert that's opening in front of my eyes. "You're dead anyway." Just as I am.
And like a mortally wounded animal seeking its final deliverance, I insist she plunge her dagger in my heart one last time.
"Do you still not have the courage to tell me the truth?" I demand, taking a seat suddenly sapped of all energy.
"The truth? The truth is, this country is being choked to death. The truth is, honest people are being forced to lie and cheat and steal," she answers vehemently, her back to me, a chasm I refuse to acknowledge by keeping my face averted.
She's still faithful to her cause and, despite her betrayal to one who's also had to lie and cheat and steal in order to survive, I cannot help but keep loving her.
"And if you really want the truth, then you should know that I... "
"What?" I croak quietly.
And then she turns around, and the reply I get's nothing like the one I've been expecting. For there, in her hand, lies the silver necklace which has brought me to her doorstep, a desperate and broken man.
"It's not possible."
For the second time today I find it difficult to breathe. For the second time in a week innocent blood taints my hands. It doesn't matter she's still alive and breathing just a few inches away from my arms, her noose's being tightened as we speak since my Lord waits for her arrest and I am to blame. I will in the future be faithful to the lord, never cause him harm and will observe my homage to him completely against all persons in good faith. If only I had let my heart rule and come to her first...
"I'm sorry. I was wrong. Marian, I told the Sheriff that you betrayed us," I tell her in dismay.
There's never been any love lost between Vasey and the Lady of my dreams, and my resentful jailer's always begrudged Marian her hold on me. This time her defiance won't be punished with a pair of shears nor will a gift lovingly-picked by a lovesick knight put salve on the wound. Although disloyalty's a crime my Master's guilty of, it's a breach he's incapable of tolerating in others, least of all in one who's become too important to his Master-at-Arms. No miraculously found Celtic chain will appease his thirst for blood and revenge. No word in her favour coming through my lips will save her from a destiny which has already been sealed.
"You must prove your loyalty beyond all doubt."
"How?" she chokes, meeting my eyes with a look of pleading despair.
There's only one path open before us, one I've been hoping to walk with her in due time after winning her heart. My mind knows it's too soon, but I can't lose the one glimmer of light that is left in my life.
"Marry me," I blurt passionately, grabbing her arms with both hands, adding a silent plea to my offer to have her accept me and save two lives with one word. "It's the only way. As Lady Gisborne I could protect you. What do you say?"
Never before has time passed so slowly as this moment while I wait for her reply with quickened breath, assailed by my insecurities, wondering if Huntingdon still lives in her heart, if she'd hesitate were he the one to be asking the question.
And then her answer comes. "I will marry you... I will marry you the day King Richard returns to England." And I finally breathe.
A/N: The extract of poetry at the beginning belongs to "Always Faithful" by Jack Ivey.
The dialogue featuring in this piece was taken almost verbatim from "Brothers in Arms" (S01E07).
Coming next: "Y is for Yearning"