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The cold ate at his skin like a disease. It crawled over each hair on his body and planted itself firmly into his mood. Guy of Gisborne had returned to his usual self. He washed his throat with Christmas ale, fresh from the bar of a grubby man, trying to warm himself and make this role more bearable. There were nine more days of the festival yet, and he had already broken up enough drunken brawls for the entire year. He slammed down his empty cup and twitched his head in demand of another drink. Gisborne grabbed the new mug and treaded out of the dingy hole of a tavern. The sun was clicking down below the towers of Nottingham castle as the man in black slowly poisoned his own body with both alcohol and sulk. His liquid companion had put fuzz around the edges, taken away a filter of reality, and left him with a slight buzz of apathy. With another swig he pressed through the festival.
Some of the bards tried to take advantage of his alcohol induced state and charm him with a song; most, though, knew that Guy would not take kindly to being approached. This is why he was a bit shocked as a hand fell upon his shoulder and made its way down to the small of his back. He turned quickly, a little too quickly after four ales, and was surprised to see none other than a petite blonde with a grin.
"Looks like your job is tough," Ruby poked, acknowledging the drink. Guy couldn't help but smile at seeing her; he also couldn't help but turn sour. She had made him a fool the day before.
"Running Nottingham has its benefits," Guy sniffed flatly. His stale remark was made without particularly looking at her. He feigned interest in the hustle and bustle of citizens, but his mind was actually hinged on the next words from her pale pink mouth. She nodded slowly and cleared her throat.
"Well I hope the past few days haven't made you so busy that we can't take a stroll round the festivities."
"I suppose you could walk with me, if you like." The vocals were monotone but his heart was dancing to a rhythmic tune as she wrapped both of her arms around his left bicep and tugged him along toward a pair of jugglers. Her body felt so tender as she leaned her weight against him. Rogue strands of hair paraded freely in the wind as they wound through cobbled streets. "I assume you enjoyed the fair yesterday." Gisborne remarked heavily, hoping to pounce her for leaving him stranded and embarrassed at the castle gate. She laughed freely and looked up into his strong face, focusing her eyes on the shadowing stubble around his clenched mouth.
"Funny story about that," Ruby began, "I tried to start working for this cloth dyer - crazy witch of a woman, right? So I start dipping this fabric into this tote that smelled of death and scraps, and all of a sudden, someone is getting yelled at for spilling pigments, so I drop the cloth – the entire cloth – into this hideous aubergine purple. The old bat starts rambling about this and that as I fish it out… and well, that is how I got fired and colored my arms purple for an entire night." Her child like chortle endured the entirety of the tale. Gisborne began to curse the alcohol he consumed for overriding his anger and replacing it with a smirk.
"So now you plan to move to London and dye fabric for Prince John himself, eh?"
"Oh, don't you know it. My qualifications are stellar!" The couple laughed as the got to a small makeshift arena filled with clowns who were taking in audiences with their artificial dueling. Performers tumbled about with wooden sticks, flailing all over the ground whilst the opponent did foolish victory dances. The Sheriff's right hand man turned his body to the blonde beauty and put a gloved hand on her shoulder blade. The alcohol pumped through his veins and dissolved any realization of his acts of forwardness.
"Come work in the castle," he leapt, "I need a ewerer. Some woman died and spilled water or something and… either way, do it." Ruby burst out at his colloquial invitation.
"I think you need to hire someone to keep you from the drink, my friend." Gisborne stared down at his wooden mug. With one swift chug, the booze swirled down with burning pleasure as he discarded the cup. He placed his now free palm on her temple and looked into her eyes.
"I mean it. Come live with me in the castle. You will have everything you desire brought to your door and the best protection in England." The man in black slid his body forward until he could sense the vibration of her body and soul, their energy bouncing off of each other's flesh, his breath drawing deeper. Ruby slightly averted her stare as he ran his thumb back and forth across her face. There was no doubt this man was attractive, but his quick advances seemed uncomfortably provoked by an underlying urge. Ruby could think of nothing more than her father in the burning moment he laid his head against hers. The daughter of a chaplain, it was an unspoken assumption through her family that all of his descendants would fulfill duties to the church, and only the church, throughout their mortal lives.
She had come to Nottingham to consult her sister on the process of joining the nuns of Kirklee's Abbey; it was her father's dying wish. Her sibling was already in the process of renouncing her common life for the cloth. But here, Ruby found herself torn between the men she held desires to devote herself to – Gisborne and the Son himself. It was not, however, a question of her faith. For the first time, though, she saw an opportunity to demand of herself a self-developed opinion. Did she want to shun off the chances of men like this to symbolically marry Jesus, a man she could never even put her arms around?
"Ewerer, eh? Well… it is, I suppose, a secure job. And I could have worse neighbors than you." She tried to chuckle to relax her nerves, but this only drew a small kiss onto her head from the Sheriff's associate. Her stomach boiled away inside of her with irrational desire as her brain ran rampant with fanciful thoughts, all the while keeping a left hand stroking the cross that dangle from her alabaster neck. "I will have to think on it. Rest assured I shall take it up with his Holiness in the morning."
Gisborne was unsatisfied with such a non-immediate answer. Ale flowed through his brain and demanded nothing less than this petite blond body. He wanted to show her off, be lifted by her company, and enjoy her faithfulness. He had found a woman he wanted even more than the Lady Marian, he was sure of it after only three days. He didn't have to ask a church whether or not he felt it. He kissed her again, this time on the ridge of her cheek, his dark stubble nuzzling her rounded face. Ruby softly placed a hand on his side. Her fingers sensed the thick leather of his jacket; she couldn't discover whether she touched him to make him stop or to hold him closer. Her soft pink lips reiterated the conviction of her innocence.
"I will pray on it, Sir Guy, and send you word of my decision." A soft laugh fell from the man in black.
"Call me Guy." With that he tugged her face to his and forced a kiss upon her mouth. He felt Ruby pull away but followed her, refusing to let their lips separate, taking this moment for himself. The chaplain's daughter struck a cold palm across his face, sending a sting through her chilled and exposed skin. Guy, too, felt this sting from the weather on top of the sharpness of rejection. Eyes gravitated towards them as townsfolk heard the refusal of their feared leader. This iron man of leather and hate had been shot down with a bewildered look, and they ate it up faster than they would a royal feast. Ruby scurried towards a crowd to lose him, but Guy fiercely grabbed her by the fragile wrist. After a moment, he relaxed his grip and took in a deep breath. "I apologize, that was inappropriate." He couldn't match his clear blue eyes to hers.
Ruby said nothing as she slid her delicate hand from his hard glove and continued to whisk into the anonymous crowd. Sir Guy of Gisborne, wearing shame from head to toe, evaded his people and went to solitude inside the stone walls of the castle. Here he would do everything in his power to try and alter the past and erase this burdening mistake. He was afraid to find out what he already knew – that nothing could take it back.