FIN ETE 1193 à HIVER 1193
Marian expected everything about Robin to be predictable when she came to live in the forest.
She was unsurprised that his voice was the loudest, that he made the final decisions, and that his refusal to allow others' ideas to be put before his own was still as frustrating as it always was. She expected that he would leap in without thought, grinning cockily when danger stood before him.
But she discovered that there were more unexpected shades to the man he had become.
They argued daily, of course they did, but Robin now came to find her when she stormed off and more often than ever before there were moments when words briefly spilt from him detailing his love for her. He pressed his lips to her knuckles in a gentlemanly gesture that caused her heart to flutter in a way that Gisborne's close proximity never came close to achieving.
Sometimes Robin kissed her with a fervor that leaved her breathless and her clothing less decent. She did not stop him because she needed it too.
It was this that fully pulled her out of grief. At first, everything was eclipsed by her anger. It was vented in sword drills, knife throwing, and archery, practice, practice, practice, until the raids and the ambushes happened. Throughout it all she heard her father's voice, softened in memory, telling her that practice made things perfect. And they will be.
She never expected her time in Sherwood to be consumed in the heat of fury and brutal actions without thought. That had always been Robin's most frustrating trait, one she had long argued with him about. But now she learnt that she could lose herself in it and felt how Robin did when he planned on killing Gisborne in the forest or almost ended Allan. She wanted justice in a way that drew blood.
It was another revelation, seeing the world as Robin did, and enjoying it.
It changed after Carter leaves for the Holy Land. It was a very lonely and hollow place to be and Robin, with his aggravating words and gentle touches, pulled her out of it. She desired to do the same for him.
But what really surprises Marian, and Robin even more, is how she found a place with the others.
Of course, she first found a connection with Much. They have a history, and he was a piece of home. She found his company soothing, particularly right after her father's death when she felt tender and raw, and needed familiarity. Much chatted quietly about things of little consequence and produced mugs of herbal tea for her. When she was with him, she was able to gain some precious hours sleep and she always woke draped in a blanket and a meal ready beside her.
But there was a sadness in him that was new, a haunted look that appeared in his eyes sometimes. The others didn't see it behind his complaints and fussing, but she did. Sometimes when she helped him gather and prepared the food, Much carelessly revealed details of his life in the Holy Land. Through Much, Marian learnt more of Robin.
When she overheard Much hissing to Robin just before one of his master's spectacularly risky plans that if Robin died then so would Much, she believed him. Because she would die too. She cannot lose him again.
She and Much were bonded by it, they always have been. She cannot imagine that Robin or Much would had survived in the Holy Land without each other. She thanked Much for it one day, for coming home safe and bringing Robin with him, and he went red to the roots of his hair.
The biggest surprise to everyone was how close she became to Little John. John spoke with actions, but his presence was steady and what he did say was wise. She could lean on him. Most of all he was someone who held her when her grief overwhelmed her and said, simply and bluntly, what she needed to hear.
Much was noise and chatter when she needed it, but John was mostly silence and Marian was grateful beyond words for this cool relief. Sometimes, he helped the ache inside of her lessen just a little and she understood this better when he spoke occasionally about Alice and Little Little John.
Marian had talked with Djaq before and the level of comfort and companionship they established during Count Frederick's visit slides into place almost instantly. It was good to have another woman around, an unusual woman, but Marian knew that she was far from the untouchable image of a lady that people expected of her. It was likely entirely too predictable that the closest she had to a female friend in years was one equally as unusual as herself.
She and Djaq could talk of men and their constant stupidity and stubbornness and when Djaq asked about Allan, Marian was as truthful as she could be because Djaq looked at her most vulnerable when discussing her former friend. Djaq lost her family too.
Will was more familiarity. Marian only saw him smile with his eyes around Djaq. One day, after several nights had passed and she was closer to being back to herself, she told him quietly how sorry she was about his father and asked about the carving Much had told her about.
Will was silent still, but he laid aside his whittling and took her to watch the sunrise and Dan Scarlett appeared against the rock face. Tears pricked at Marian's eyes as she remembered the few encounters she had with the kind blacksmith and how brave he was, defying the Sheriff. The memories morphed into her own father. Will pated her shoulder awkwardly, but doesn't said a word.
He knew the grief she felt too well and what she didn't need to hear.
The next morning he gave her a beautiful carved necklace. Inside the medallion, there was her father’s ace. The wood was cool and welcome against her skin and she mouthed her thanks to Will. His answering smile reached his eyes.
Marian knew how Robin felt about Allan's betrayal. She saw his tortured gaze, stayed his hand when cold metal was about to strike and taint everything, not just them but all that Robin could do afterwards. But she did not expect the empty feeling in the camp as though something was missing, nor the depth of melancholy that cloaked both Will and Djaq more sharply than the others without explanation.
She did not expect Allan to show his face again at the camp. But he did.
The first time was after he's helped keep her location a secret from Gisborne and she was alone in the camp again. She was not armed, but she was ready, her posture as taut as a bowstring. She will make sure that he cannot leave the camp if he forced her to.
She did not expect the yearning in his expression when she allowed him to approach (she had nothing to fear, she had at least one knife in her boot and another on her belt and Allan was aware of some of what she was capable of), and how his eyes lighted up at the familiar objects strewn throughout the camp. He always looked so pleased at the castle. Their conversation was terse."What do you want?""I'm not here to cause trouble. I just wanted to see how the gang was, you know.""Still alive, no thanks to you."
Allan looked hurt, a pain in his eyes."I haven't told Gisborne about you, doesn't that count for anything?""Something, but not enough. You've continued to make life difficult for us."
She had not forgotten how he easily gave away Robin's secrets with a smug smile and it must show in her expression. Allan managed to look repentant, but Marian did not relax her guard."I'm trying to stay alive,"
he told her. "If I tell them nothing, they'll get suspicious. Here."
He surprised her again by handing over a bundle of clothing hastily parceled up with a familiar-looking sash. She recognized her Nightwatchman's garb and the edge of the mask poked out. There were several of her gowns as well, useless in the forest but one or two were presents from her father and they caused Marian to smile before she realized just how Allan had gotten his hands on them."You went into my room?""I told Gisborne I was sending you some clothing for when you eventually decide to leave the nuns,"
Allan shruged. "He keeps going into your room and I thought he might see the Nightwatchman stuff and you could use it anyway. Can't exactly help the poor as the Lady Marian, can you?"
Marian was taken aback, willing to overlook his invasion of her privacy, and so thanked him cautiously. Allan came back several times, continuing to help her to evade Gisborne and so she gave him news of the gang. Nothing that the Sheriff could use, she was careful about that, but information that told him of his friends' lives and moods. They were brief conversations but Allan could not completely hide how much they meant to him. Marian did not think these reactions were lies.
She kept Allan's visits a secret from the gang. Perhaps spending time here would make him think twice about betraying any of them further when violent threats would not work any longer. She kept her knives on her at all times.
Life was very different to the one Marian once imagined. Sometimes, it was like living in the once-suppressed memories of long ago. Here she was, hunting in the forest with Much worrying and Robin still aggravating her but making her smile and causing a feeling in the pit of her stomach.
At other times, it was confusion and mess and frustration and too many pieces to make a whole picture. There was so much to do and never enough time to do it in. She understood better why Robin was frustrated and impatient. At least they got results, at least they were doing something
But it was also friendship by firelight, with this most unusual group. It was Djaq with understanding in her eyes and a secretive smile, Little John holding her, Will carving a new clasp for her cloak, Much's steady warm presence, the occasional light she glimpsed in Allan's eyes, and Robin there within her reach. When Robin wrapped his arms around her and whispered that he's not letting her go, Marian could feel the grief inside of her melt a little more. It was more than the life she once imagined, it was what she needed.