She just keeps falling, and he's never quite there in time to stop her.


Maria found herself at the same cliff, where everything had begun and where it had ended, only two days after breaking the curse. She'd have gone sooner, but both Loveday and Ms. Heliotrope had been adamant about keeping her in bed. Sir Benjamin hadn't been happy about letting her leave that morning, either, but she'd insisted.

Standing by the edge again, looking out over the sea, she let her mind wander. The white horse had returned to the sea after bringing her back, though Wrolf had returned to Moonacre Manor. The Manor, when they'd returned, was polished and gleaming, and her ceiling had been covered in stars. The magic was back, she cold feel it humming in everything around her, and it drew a wistful smile onto her face.

"Maria, would you come back here?" The voice cut through her thoughts, and she turned to see Robin at the top of the staircase directly behind her. "I think you've done enough cliff diving, don't you?"

She let herself smile at his tone, teasing rather than angry, and shrugged her shoulders. "I wasn't going to jump, if that's what you're thinking."

"Well, excuse me for not wanting to take chances," he said, raising one dark eyebrow, "You don't have the best history, you know? I have yet to see you stand on a precipice without falling off of it."

"You've yet to try and stop me." She stifled a laugh at how quickly his eyes snapped up to meet hers, feeling guilty as soon as she saw the confusion in his expression. "I mean, you practically dared me to jump off that wall."

He sighed and looked away. "I didn't think you'd actually do it. Nearly died on the spot when you fell." There was a moment of silence, during which he stared moodily at his boots, before he said, "It doesn't matter. Can you just come away from the edge? Please?" Another pause. "Maria, for the little sanity I have left..."

Unable to contain it any longer, Maria giggled. But she also stepped down from the cliff to the flat stone floor, and saw the relief in his eyes when she did. That didn't keep her from smirking at him, or saying in her sweetest voice, "But Robin, I thought you weren't worried about me."

"You just love to be infuriating, don't you?" he asked, as she walked over to stand next to him. "Is it your goal in life to drive everyone you know mad?"

Maria just shrugged again. "It's mostly just you," she admitted, staring out over the sea to avoid seeing him. "You're so easy to infuriate, and you take it so well. Especially since you don't hate me anymore."

"Yeah, I'm sort of reconsidering that," he said, but Maria could hear his smile in his voice. Not the smirk he always wore when he was mocking her, but a real, genuine smile.

She leaned over, reveling in the new uncertainty it caused, until her lips were just inches from his ear, and whispered, "Liar."

Robin jumped upon realizing how close she actually was, and she just smirked again while he stepped away. "You couldn't hate me if you wanted to, Robin De Noir," she said, her chin high. "You know that as well as I do."

"Why are we talking about me hating you, anyway?" he asked, ignoring her statement intentionally. "You're not the one with scars."

He waved the back of his right hand in front of her face, showing the still healing, slightly swollen scar, but Maria only rolled her eyes at him. "You're the one that attacked me," she pointed out. "And I only had a needle. You pulled a knife on me."

"So did you," he countered, and his eyes sparkled for a moment as he was caught up in the argument. "After you hung me upside down by my ankles. And told me your pet lion would probably attack me."

After sending him an exasperated look, Maria said, "Wrolf was a dog at that point. And it was the only way to make you listen to me."

Robin shrugged, smiling sideways at her. "I can't really argue with that," he said. "But wandering around in the woods, when my father was out to kill you...What if I'd decided not to help you?"

"Well, your father might have killed me," she said, turning back to the sea. "Or the moon might have. It doesn't matter. You did help me, and we saved the valley."

"We did." In the stretch of silence that followed, Robin turned to face Maria, his smile gone. She blushed when he reached out, just barely letting the tips of his fingers brush over her cheek, and found herself biting at her lower lip. "Well, you did," he corrected himself. "I almost can't believe you're really here."

For a few moments, Maria just stood there, with Robin looking down at her, his hand still hovering over her jaw. Then the moment shattered, when a startled flight of birds exploded out of the forest, causing them both to jump.

"I," Maria started to say, looking back up into unreadable eyes, "I should probably be going back. Everyone's been worried about me." Robin nodded, and she added, "I will see you again soon, right?" He nodded again, absently.

She'd taken no more than three steps towards the Manor when he caught her shoulder and pulled her back to him. Keeping the grasp he had on her shoulder, he traced her jawline with his other hand, and pushed a few auburn curls back from her face, staring straight into her eyes the whole time.

"Robin?" she asked, her voice barely a whisper. "Are you alright?"

"I keep waiting for the sea to take you away again," he told her, as his fingers twirled a lock of hair behind her ear. "It's like if I can't see you, I can't be sure you came back at all. Like that part was just a dream."

She just rolled her eyes and said, "I'm not going anywhere."

Robin barely gave her a moment to smile reassuringly before his lips pressed against hers, and they were gone before she really knew what had happened. She blinked a few times to clear her head, before she saw him pulling back. "Maria, I'm..."

"If you say you're sorry, I will dig up the pearls again and curse you," she said, letting herself grin as his eyes widened. She kissed him before he could respond, but when they broke apart the sparks were back in his eyes.

"Well, come on," he said, shaking the slight daze out of his head. "I'll take you home. I wanted to see Loveday again anyway, and you never know what sort of bandits and plunderers you might run into."

Maria flushed even pinker, but took the hand he offered. "That sounds like an excuse."

"And so what if it is?"

He squeezed her hand before pulling her off in the direction of the Manor, and Maria just grinned, not at all worried that she had no response.