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Jealous

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“That is a lot of gift!” Robin said, looking over the beautiful bay gelding Guy had given her that afternoon.  When he looked at her again, the corners of his mouth turned up into a leer. “But, tell me, was it also a lot of pleasure?  And how were you planning on reciprocating?”

Marian looked away, suddenly uncomfortable. Guy had asked nothing in return for any of his other gifts, but then, none had been nearly as extravagant as the horse.

“Perhaps you might find out if you gave me a gift,” she replied lightly before changing the subject.  But his words stayed with her all the way back home, ruining her delight in the new horse.

As it turned out, the “pleasure” was less than she feared.  When she arrived back at Knighton, Guy was gone; called away by the sheriff’s business, her father said.  She frowned in annoyance at the news.  It was no surprise really, and she was undeniably relieved to not have to see him again so soon. But it did not set well with her that a man could be so devoted to both her and the sheriff.

When Guy returned that evening, she feared that he had come for his real reward.  And for a moment, when he was preparing to leave, her fears seemed warranted.

“Marian, will you come outside with me,” he asked, fiddling with the clasps on his gloves.  She shared a worried glance with her father, but nodded.  It was really only the polite thing to do; she was the lady of Knighton, after all.

“Did you . . . like the horse?” he asked softly as soon as they were alone.

She hesitated, not wanting to give him any excuses for unwanted liberties, but he seemed meek enough.  As uncertain of himself as usual.

“I did, Guy,” she said finally, forcing a smile.  “It was the truth,” she told herself.  And how often could she afford to tell him that?

He smiled, exhaling with relief. “Good.  I . . . I’m glad you’re happy with . . . him.”

For a moment, they simply watched each other; Marian waiting for words that did not come.  He seemed to be waiting for something from her, and when his eyes fell to her lips, she knew what.

Resisting the urge to roll her eyes, she stepped towards him.  They were engaged now; she would be expected to kiss him sooner or later. Might as well get it over with.  But when he bent down to his lips to hers, it was much nicer than she had expected.  His lips were softer, their touch gentler.  When he moved in to kiss her again, she made no move to avoid it, and when he kissed her a third time, she reached out unthinkingly to put her hands on his waist.  But she was used to embracing someone a little shorter, and they ended up on his hips instead.

Instantly, Guy up stood straight again, suddenly so agitated that she thought she could hear him panting.

“Guy?” she asked with concern.  “What’s the matter?”

“N-nothing, Marian,” he stammered anxiously.  “I . . . I’m glad you like the horse.  Goodnight.”

She watched him depart, confused.  Why had he left so abruptly? And why was he leading his horse instead of riding him?

Chapter Text

She slept with Robin the night after Guy had announced his engagement to her at Locksley.  He had come to her that night, throwing pebbles at her window after everyone had gone to bed until she opened it, and he climbed in.

“Did you bring my ring?” she asked, trying to keep the mood light. It was usually Robin who joked about taking things from the nobility, Guy in particular.

She, however, failed spectacularly.  “Why?” Robin asked, narrowing his eyes with suspicion.  “Did you like it so very much?”

Marian sighed.  “I had no idea he would make that announcement, Robin.  Please believe me.”

“Well, you didn’t look uncomfortable,” he replied accusingly.

She did her best to explain herself.  Of course she didn’t want to marry Guy; how could she with all the horrible things he had done for the sheriff? She had only agreed because she had to protect her father, but she could never love him. No, she needed a man who would fight for justice, just like she did.  A man like Robin Hood.  As she became more and more agitated, Robin’s features softened, and he took her into his arms, comforting her.  Comfort turned to kissing, and soon she stretched out on her bed, pulling him down with her.

It hurt as much as their first time, before Robin had decided to leave for the Holy Land, but he explained that it was because it had been so long since they had been together. “It will be easier next time, my love,” he promised.

He left before the cock crowed the next morning, Robin was dressing and preparing to leave.  Before he made the descent from her window, he turned to her, frowning.

“Gisborne hasn’t been pressuring you, has he? I mean, since the engagement?”

Marian knit her eyebrows.  “What do you mean?”

“Well, if he forced you into this arrangement; he must see you as his now.” Robin’s lips curled with disgust. “He may well try to force you into . . . something even worse on you.”

She felt the blood rush to her face as understood his meaning. “No,” she replied with a decisive shake of her head.  “Apart from when he was so angry with me about the necklace, he’s been a gentleman.”

Robin scoffed, throwing his head back with derision. “A gentleman? Him? Tell me, Marian, would a gentleman stand by as the sheriff cut out tongues and cut off hands? Would a gentleman steal from the people under his protection? Or father children with kitchen maids and then leave his own child to die?”

Marian shook her head again; it seemed the only acceptable response.

“I don’t know how he lives with himself,” Robin went on.  “I know I could never.”

“No,” Marian agreed with him, but at the same time, she wondered.  Robin had confessed the night before that he had been with several women—“a few” he had said –while in the Holy Land.  They came into the soldier’s camp sometimes, he told her, and all the men partook of their . . . charms. She had tried not to feel jealous; after all, they were no longer engaged at the time.  But how did he know he hadn’t fathered a child with one of those women? And then left them behind?

But she kept silent.  Why ruin things now that they were as close as ever once again?

Chapter Text

While the horse remained Guy’s most extravagant gift, his visits grew more frequent.  Sometimes, he even came without gifts, but it was of little concern to Marian.  The fewer things she had to explain to Robin at their rendezvous, the better.  Besides, Guy gave her more than he realized.

“I apologize for coming to you empty handed again, Marian, but don’t worry.  Soon, I'll be able to bring you a present worthy of you.

“Oh,” she asked, arching an eyebrow.  “How is that?”

“I . . . let’s let it be a surprise, shall we?” he replied.  He glanced away from her, shifting nervously.

“Oh, come on, Guy,” she teased, moving closer to him.  His eyes fell to her chest, but he tore them away quickly, a blush coming up on his cheeks.

Marian smiled to herself.  It served him right when he came calling so late to find her in only her robe and gown.  And she had to admit, she had come to enjoy seeing him discomfited.

“Well,” he replied uneasily, “I suppose I can tell you . . . if you really want to know.

She reached out, gently taking him by a gloved hand.

“I do, Guy,” she purred.

He looked down at their joined hands, his blush darkening.

“The . . . sheriff.  He did a favor for a nobleman from York a little while ago.  A favor he plans to receive payment for tomorrow.  He said that if I can give the coach safe passage through Sherwood, he’ll reward me handsomely.

Marian gave him a broad, genuine smile.  Robin would be so delighted to hear this that he might not even ask how the rest of Guy’s visit had gone.

She dropped her eyes demurely. “You’re too generous to me, Guy.  Truly.”

He reached for her, laying his hand lightly on her shoulder.  “I . . . I enjoy giving you things Marian.  I want to please you.”

With a twinge of guilt, she glanced up at him.  No doubt, that was why he withheld so much of what he did for the sheriff from her: terrible things that Robin was all too happy to tell her about.  But it was clear that he was telling the truth now; he did want to please her.

And from the hunger in his eyes, she could see that he wanted to touch more than her shoulder.

Without thinking, she found herself pressing against him as she rose up on her toes to kiss him.  He gasped with surprise against her mouth, but wrapped his arms around her and held her against him so tight it was hard to breath.  Then, just as quickly, he released her, almost stumbling back in his rush to get away.

“I’m sorry, Marian.  I . . . please forgive me.”

He turned his back before she could answer and made his way off into the night once again.

She told Robin of the coach the next morning, and when Guy came to visit later that week he had nothing to offer her but apologies once again.

Chapter Text

“I understand why you’re angry with me,” Guy said softly.  “But please understand.  I had to protect you.  You will wear the ring, yes?”

It was a question, not an order, and he did seem appropriately chastened, but that wasn’t enough to stop Marian from almost shaking with fury.  She had wanted Lambert out of the dungeon as much as anyone, but she also wanted Robin to see that Guy was not as bad as he thought.  That he wasn’t just the sheriff’s henchman but was also capable of loyalty to his friends. And he had failed her.  And made her look like a fool.  And she would never hear the end of it from Robin.

“Of course,” she said, pressing her lips into a tight smile that made Guy drop his gaze.  “But we will never find ourselves in this position again. Everything is going back in its box.”

* * *

“Guy and I have quarreled, so I’m afraid I won’t be very good at finding out information for the time being.”

Robin stretched out on his back with his hands behind his head, grinning up at her from her bed as she stood by the window.

“How upsetting,” he teased.  “You have my condolences.”

Marian gave him a little half-smile, sitting down on the bed by his feet. “I’m sorry things didn’t go according to plan.  I really believed he would get Lambert out, but he waited too long and then the sheriff . . .”

Marian trailed off, thoughts of Lambert’s pointless death making a lump in her throat.  She hadn’t known him well, but she had liked him.

“If only someone had told you what to expect,” Robin offered, his grin disappearing.

The memory made her frown.  A man was dead, but Robin seemed more interested in the fact that he had been right about Guy, and she had been wrong.

“Well, you didn’t get him out either.”

Robin raised his eyebrows.

“I beg your pardon?”

She looked away, rolling her eyes with vexation.  The last thing she needed was to quarrel with Robin too.

“I just mean . . . you did go and visit him in his cell.”

“His legs were broken, Marian!” Robin cried.  “What was I supposed to do? Carry him?”

She shrugged.  John could have, though, she thought to herself.  No one told you you had to go alone, Robin.

“I’m just sorry he had to die,” she offered wearily.

* * *

Much to her surprise, Guy visited Knighton the next morning, looking even more anxious than usual.

“Marian . . . I . . . you’re well, I trust.”

“Very well,” she replied, her brow furrowing with concern.  “And you?”

He wasn’t looking directly at her, which only increased her anxiety.  “I . . . I wanted to tell you that I spoke to the sheriff about those peasants.  The ones who had been working in the mines before Hood blew them up.”

She thought she should speak, or at least nod, but she seemed to have frozen.  She knew who he meant, but what was he talking about.

“He wanted to send the men to be mercenaries.” He ventured a glance at her. “But I suggested that maybe they could be retrained as field laborers.  How different could it be?”

“And the sheriff will allow this?”

Guy shrugged in response.  “Well . . . he said I could try.”

Marian breathed a sigh of relief.  They were vastly different occupations, but she was certain the miners would prefer that to being forced into a mercenary army.

She smiled up at him.  “I’m glad, Guy.  They’ll appreciate that.”

Now it was his brow that creased.  “I . . . I thought . . . you’d appreciate it,” he muttered.

Marian stared at him until he dropped his gaze again.  Now it made sense.  This had nothing to do with the miners; they had no value to Guy in themselves.  This was about getting back in her good graces.

Guy turned away from her and lifted his foot to the stirrup to mount his horse again, and the movement broke her reverie.

“Guy, wait,” she called, going towards him.  After all, did it really matter why he had chosen to help the miners? Not the them, it wouldn’t.

He lowered his foot and turned to face her.

“Thank you for doing that Guy . . . I . . . I’m sorry I spoke to you as I did when we last met.”

He sighed audibly, and her smile widened.  He had been so anxious.  It was as if he had no idea how she would take his news.

“I’m sorry too, Marian. I mean . . . about Lambert.  If only he hadn’t told Hood . . . but . . .” He trailed off, looking down again. As she walked towards him, she thought she could see his lip twitch.

“He was your friend, Guy,” she observed, taking a final step closer and wrapping her arms around him, laying her head on his chest.

He froze with surprise at first, but she remained where she was.  Eventually, he rested his chin on top her head, lifting a hand to carefully stroke her hair.

Chapter Text

“Well, that was certainly friendly,” Robin sneered.

Marian rolled her eyes, this time making no attempt to hide it.  “Honestly, Robin, it was nothing.  I don’t think I’m the first woman to kiss her betrothed.”

“No, but that was no ordinary kiss, Marian.  If he ever had any doubt of your enthusiasm for him, he certainly won’t now!”

She dropped her chin, embarrassed.  Guy had come to her straight from the sheriff, with such a dour expression on his face that she felt her heart sink.  The sheriff had changed his mind about the miners; it was clear.  But then, Guy had dismounted from his horse, telling her that while the sheriff had not reneged his assent, he was putting the responsibility for training the miners entirely in Guy’s hands, on top of all his other duties.  Marian scowled as he told her.  Of course the sheriff would not give Guy time to do something that would help people; Guy had made a promise, but now the wicked little man he served would make sure he never found time to carry it out. 

She waited for Guy to explain that to her, to tell her that the miners would have to be sent off as mercenaries after all.  But then he had surprised her.

“Can you help me, Marian? Perhaps you could speak to your laborers here about teaching the miners their trade, and then I can bring them to you?”

For a moment, she could only stare at him.  Then she nodded. For all the aid she had given to people less fortunate than herself as the Night Watchman, no one ever asked her to do it. Least of all someone who had no idea of her secret identity.

It was possible that she had overdone things a bit when she kissed him goodbye.  Rather than just tilting her face up as he bent down, she had reached for him, burying her fingers in the hair at the nape of his neck.  When he deepened the kiss, she raised her other hand to his chest. Things had gotten more heated from there.

“But really,” Robin said, suddenly serious. “You have to be more careful, Marian.  What if he tries to take advantage of your . . .  pretending to be attracted to him.  I’m not always so close by; I might not be able to save you if he . . .” Robin stopped, as though his thoughts were too awful to put into words.

She fought back the urge to roll her eyes.  Why did he always assume it was she who needed help? And she was sure he was wrong about Guy.

“Really, Robin, I don’t think we need to worry.  Guy is . . . I mean, Gisborne . . . has never tried to make me do anything I didn’t want to do.”

Robin scoffed, even as he sat down on her bed and began pulling off his boots.  “Except agree to marry him, you mean, or have you forgotten that?”

Marian sighed.  The more she explained, the worse things seemed to get. “I mean since then.  Since I agreed to marry him when the king returns, he’s been . . . we only kiss, Robin.  No more than that.  And that always ends . . . rather quickly.”

For the first time since he entered her bedroom, he looked at her with surprise.  “Always? What happens.”

She looked down at him, suddenly tongue-tied.  Usually, Robin only brought up Guy to goad her. Or tell her about his evil deeds.

“Well, I mean . . . you saw us, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, but I wasn’t that close! I saw him, embrace you, and then he let you go and walked off.  I assumed you had sent him away, but apparently I was wrong.”

She heard the petulance creep back into his voice, and the thought of prolonging this conversation made her nervous.  She spoke quickly.

“No, we were kissing, and he held me against him, and he was . . . sort of breathing hard.  And then he stepped back suddenly and left.” She did not tell Robin what she had felt pressing against her belly as Guy held her; that seemed unnecessary.

Robin narrowed his eyes, watching her.  “Did he . . . make any noise?” he inquired.  “Did he . . . maybe . . . shudder while he was holding you?”

Marian stared at him, baffled.  How did he know?

“Yes.”

A wide grin broke out across Robin’s face.  “Well, well,” he said.  “I’m never sure if you’re stirred by Gisborne or not, but I think we can safely say he’s stirred by you! This is best thing I’ve heard all day!” He threw his head back and laughed.

She knit her brows, bewildered.  “What are you talking about, Robin?” She asked more snappishly than she had intended, and he stopped laughing.  His grin remained, though.

“You made him . . . finish, Marian.  In his pants! And with only a kiss!

Her eyes widened.  His embarrassment and the haste of his departure made sense now.  She felt the blood beginning to rush to her cheeks, partly at the indecency of the thought, but also at the shame of having revealed it to Robin. This wasn’t like the sheriff’s plans; it was personal.  Private.  It was none of Robin’s affair.

He started to chuckle again, interrupting her reverie.

“Why is it so funny, Robin?” she asked, trying to keep her voice even this time.

He stopped laughing with a shrug.  “I don’t know, Marian.  I guess I thought all his dalliances with servants would have given him more . . . you know.  Stamina.  But perhaps poor Annie was the only one.  Maybe he’s led . . . quite a chaste life!”

The grin was back, and this time she took no trouble to hide her annoyance.

“Like me?”

Robin sighed, lying back on the bed.  “You know that’s not what I meant, love. But you’re chaste because you’re virtuous. That’s hardly true of Gisborne. I love that about you. Of all the men in the world, you’ve never been with anyone but me.”

Marian looked down at him, making herself smile.  At least he didn’t want to talk about Guy anymore.  But she had so many questions.  Why was it virtuous for her to be with only Robin, but apparently worthy of ridicule if Guy hadn’t taken more women to bed? Didn’t he despise Guy for what he had done to Annie? Or was it only what he had done to Seth? And surely he didn’t love her only because of her virtue? Surely she had more of value than that.

Chapter Text

Marian knew that Robin would hate her plan to spend an entire week at the castle while her father was away, but it would have been easier if he had just said so.  His sarcasm hurt more than anger would have.

“Well, maybe it’s not such a bad idea, Marian,” he suggested with an ironic glint in his eye.  “Maybe you can use the time to find some valuable information.  At least you’ll have time to work on your project with your betrothed.”

She scowled at him.  No progress had been made yet on the “project.” Both the miners and the field laborers at Knighton had balked at the idea, the first at what she expected was Guy’s imperious tone when he told them about it.  But her servants had been no more cooperative once they knew where the idea had originated.

Robin found the whole situation amusing.

“You know, you really didn’t have to tell them it was Gisborne’s idea,” he reminded her, once again.  “I wouldn’t have.”

This time it was too much. “Of course you wouldn’t,” she snapped.  “You never do!”

Robin’s eyes widened ever so slightly.  She knew she should be ashamed of her outburst, but somehow all she felt was indignation.

“When Clun was under quarantine, and I took a wagon load of bread to the villagers, you insisted on shooting the loaves into the village on arrows so they would thank you for it.”

For a moment, he only stared at her in shock, but then he began to chuckle.  It was a humorless sound.  “Funny, that’s not all I remember.  As I recall, you got the bread to the gates, and got menaced by the guards. I don’t like to think about what could have happened if I hadn’t come along.”

Marian clenched her teeth in anger.  That was how he always saw her; a defenseless woman who needed his protection.  But he hadn’t been around to protect her for five years, and she had learned how to protect herself.

“And that gave you the right to take all the credit for my idea?”

Robin rolled his eyes and huffed.  “Look Marian, I’ll ride to Clun tomorrow and tell them all it was your idea, alright? Will that make you happy?”

“No,” she said tersely.  “What would make me happy would be for you to stop treating me like a petulant child and listen to what I’m saying.  I did not, and will not, take credit for Guy’s compassion.  If he wants to be kinder to people, I’m going to help him.”

Robin narrowed his eyes at her.

“Marian, he’s only doing it to get to closer to you! To make you think better of him.  Why can’t you see that?” he hissed.

“Well,” she fired back, “it’s working!”

Getting up from the bed, he began dressing angrily.  “I can’t talk to you when you’re like this,” he scolded.  “Maybe it’s best we spend a few days apart. Give you a chance to think about your priorities”

He climbed out the window without another word.  Marian sat down heavily on the bed. Leaning forward and cupping her chin in her hands, she struggled to recall a time when she had ever been “like this” before.

Chapter Text

Guy met her when she arrived at the castle, more excited than she recalled having seen him before.  He ordered a guard to bring up her trunk and escorted her to her room, telling her all the while in a hushed tone about the money the sheriff had entrusted to him for transfer.

The idea made her uncomfortable, and her discomfort only grew as the conversation more intimate.

“We should be spending more time together,” he said, drawing closer to her.  “There is another side to me, one I would like for you to get to know.”

She started to reply that she was aware, that she just needed time to herself, when something caught her attention.  The guard who had just come up carrying her trunk was staring at her, an amused smirk playing about his lips.

It was Robin.

Caught off guard, she couldn’t help returning his smile.

“What’s the matter?” Guy asked, turning to look at him too.

Marian felt her heartbeat quicken; the situation would become dangerous quickly if Guy recognized Robin.

“Nothing,” she piped up.  “I am just out of sorts.  Now, if you would just give me some time to rest.”

Guy’s face fell, “Please don’t send me away,” he said softly.

Marian looked at Robin again, seeing how his smirk had widened across his face.  He certainly was not going anywhere.

“Not for long, Guy,” she replied, grateful that she did not sound as anxious as she felt.  “I’ll see you when you return from your errand for the sheriff . . . I just need some time to myself.”

Guy was still frowning, but he gave her a little acquiescent nod and turned, leaving without another word.  He didn’t even look at Robin on his way out. 

Robin followed, but not long after the door closed he opened it again, striding through with a wide mischievous grin.

“What are you doing here?” she asked warily.

Robin looked down at his stolen guard’s uniform.  “Isn’t it obvious?” he asked, “I’m here to rob the sheriff!”

“Of course,” she thought to herself.  But it was the first time in a while that she had had information that would help him.  She supposed she should be thankful for that.

As he advanced towards her, his expression took on a serious cast.  “I . . . wish we hadn’t left things as we did,” he admitted.  “Not when we will be apart for a while.”

She reached her hand out to him with a smile, wondering if he meant to apologize for how he had spoken to her.  How accusing he had been.

He took her hand to his lips, kissing it gently, but when his eyes met hers again, they were dancing with mirth.

We should be spending more time together,” he cooed, imitating Guy’s earnest tone.  “Please don’t send me away.”

Marian sighed inwardly.  It was too much to ask, clearly.  But she told him all he had missed from her conversation with Guy about the money.  It was going to help people, after all.

* * *

That night, she found it impossible to sleep.  She wondered if Guy might come to her room.  Or Robin. She didn’t know who to expect more.  Would Guy stay away out of respect for her modesty? She knew that would not keep the other one out.  The last time she had slept in the castle, he had jumped into her bed in the middle of the night.  At the time, it had been fun, but now the impropriety of it struck her. It was ironic, she thought, given how many times he had come to her bed since then.

Finally, boredom got the best of her.  She dressed and took the candle from the wall. It wasn’t until she stepped out into the darkness of the hallway that she began to grow nervous. This was not her territory, and she had little idea of what danger might befall her.  She knew that the sheriff’s guards had a reputation for violence against people who were weaker than themselves.  She was usually well out of that category, but she knew her long dress would compromise her ability to protect herself if the need arose.  There was more than one reason why the Night Watchman wore a man’s clothing.

It took longer than she liked, but she finally found her way to Guy’s bedroom door. Almost as soon as she knocked, she regretted it.

“That had better be important!” snarled a voice from within before Guy violently jerked the door open.

His mouth fell open in shock when he saw her.  “Marian! I . . . I wasn’t expecting you.”

“So I gathered,” she returned with a frown.  He had dark circles under his eyes, in addition to being startled by her sudden appearance. And he still had on the same clothes he had been wearing when she arrived.

“Aren’t you going to invite me in, Guy?” she inquired, seeing that they were drawing undue attention from the guards outside. Fortunately, she did not recognize any of them this time.

He dropped his head, subdued.  “Of course . . . I’m sorry.  I was not thinking,” he offered apologetically as he stood aside for her.

She smiled up at him as she entered.

“You were out of sorts?”

The corners of his mouth turned up for just a second as he glanced at her.  “I suppose.”

But then, just as quickly, his smile vanished, and he reached for the goblet of wine that was sitting on his table.  As he sat down heavily on a chest pushed up against the wall, she wondered how much he had had to drink already.

“Guy,” she ventured.  “What happened today? Did . . . did something happen with the sheriff’s money?” She hesitated, wincing inwardly at her mistake.  Of course it was that; she was certain of it. But surprise would have been wiser.

Guy sighed deeply, not meeting her gaze, and for a while Marian thought that was the only answer he would give.  But soon, still looking down, he began.  He told her how Hood’s gang had replaced the sacks of coins with sacks of barley, and how furious the sheriff had been.  Marian’s frown deepened as he spoke.  While she was glad Robin was successful, her pride in her contribution rang hollow.  She found herself wanting to give Guy something she never had before.  Comfort.

Almost without thinking, she crossed the floor towards him and placed a hand on his shoulder.  When he looked up at her, she bent down and pressed a kiss to his lips.

“Marian?” he asked in a small, almost frightened voice.  “What are you doing here?”

She smiled again, taking advantage of the chest’s size by sitting down next to him.

“I’m getting to know you.”

Chapter Text

The next morning, she woke up shivering.  As she sat up and looked around, foggily taking in the unfamiliar surroundings, she realized that she was back in the guest room Guy had taken her to when she arrived at the castle the day before.  Looking down, she saw that she was still wearing the same dress.  Apparently, not only had she not changed, but she had been too tired to even get under the covers.

Slowly, the memories of last night came back to her.  She had stayed up late into the night talking to Guy, but nothing else had happened between them.  Well, almost nothing.

* * *

As he told her in more detail about his meeting with the sheriff, how he had threatened him, he seemed smaller somehow, more helpless than Marian had ever seen him.  She supposed that the wine had made him more willing than usual to talk about what happened between himself and Vaisey in private.  She thought of all the times she had helped Robin best him before.  Was this the sheriff’s reaction every time? It was something that had never crossed her mind before, but now she couldn’t help feeling guilty.

“I’m sorry, Guy,” she murmured.

He stopped, looking at her with confusion.  “It’s not your fault, Marian,” he assured her, so earnest that she realized she must have sounded as guilty as she felt.  When had she become so unguarded?”

“I know,” she began hastily, “but . . . I don’t like to see you so upset.”

Guy looked away, as though embarrassed for having said too much.  Her worries forgotten, Marian watched him in silence. It was strange. He wanted to marry her, but he obviously did not expect her to listen to his troubles.   The thought disturbed her; it was such a small thing to expect. Certainly, it seemed small enough to her when she expected it of others

“Guy,” she said, an edge of authority in her voice.

After a moment, he looked up, still timid.

Before she knew what she was doing, she was on her feet again, facing him and bending down once more to kiss him.  Guy gasped, but she herself felt no less surprise.  Usually, it was Robin who kissed her first; what had made her so bold with Guy? But as he relaxed and began to kiss her back, all thoughts of Robin disappeared. Soon, Guy’s hands were on her waist, pulling her closer.  Caught off balance, she dropped one hand to the chest next to him and the other to his thigh as she kissed him again.  He moaned, then froze for a moment before gently pushing her away.

“Marian, I’m sorry . . . I”

“What’s wrong?” she asked, noticing the exasperation in her voice.  Now, with her pulse racing with excitement, the time when she had kissed him only to play a part seemed long past.

“Nothing’s wrong.  I just . . .” he trailed off as her gaze dropped down his body.  She could see clearly enough what was wrong now.

“You’re . . . excited,” she said, taking care to choose the word that might embarrass him least.  But as his cheeks darkened, she realized it was unlikely that any such word existed.

“Just from kissing me?” she asked, fighting the urge to look down again.

He bowed his head, turning away from her. “Marian, please . . .”

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” she insisted, though she was beginning to blush herself.  She was more than a little ashamed of how intrigued she was, but she could not stop herself.  “Does this . . . always happen?”

He made no reply, and in the silence that followed, Robin’s words about him came to her mind.

“Guy . . . what about with other women?”

Suddenly, he looked up, his eyes flashing anger.  “What other women?” he asked in a low, warning voice.

Marian’s back stiffened.  She wasn’t going to be intimidated by him now, not when he had been so vulnerable a moment before. “I . . . know about Annie, Guy.  After that scene in the courtyard, everyone knows.”

She braced herself for fury, but instead the rage in his eyes died and he dropped his head again.

“You must despise me,” he muttered.  Marian considered a moment. She was sure she had after she learned what he had done, but now? No, she decided.  It was a terrible thing to do, but no worse than many other men of privilege had done.  She found herself thinking of Robin and the camp followers.

“I . . . don’t, Guy.

He looked up again, meeting her eyes.  “Truly?” he murmured in disbelief.

She nodded.

He went quiet, and she was just getting up when he spoke again.

“She was the only servant, Marian,” he said, so quietly she could barely hear him.  When she went still, he glanced up at her.  “I hope you believe that.”

She nodded again, struck by the sincerity of his confession.  It made her smile, but it also reminded her of her curiosity.

“Have there been many others?”

His eyes widened, and she couldn’t stop herself from grinning.  “Come now, Guy,” she teased.  “If we’re going to be married . . .”  As she sat down on his bed, facing him, she realized it was the first time she had used that tactic to learn something that was only for herself.

* * *

They had talked late into the night, and Guy had told her about the women he had slept with, mostly in London, and mostly since he began working for Vaisey.  She had wanted to ask more about that, but it seemed a better topic for another time.  She wondered at first if the current sheriff had loathed them as much as he seemed to loathe her, but as Guy described them, she realized they may well have been as ruthless as he was.  They were certainly more experienced than Guy.

She asked questions at intervals, enough to keep him talking, but eventually she found herself nodding off, fighting the urge to lay back on the bed.  But she did not dare; he might take it the wrong way.  Eventually, though, her hands slipped on the mattress, and that caught Guy’s attention.

“Marian? Are you well?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  Only, perhaps a little sleepy.”

“Would . . . would you like to sleep here?” he asked cautiously, his cheeks coloring with embarrassment as soon as the question was out.

She was surprised by how much the idea tempted her, and how much she trusted him.  It was more than surprising, she decided; it was alarming.

“No, I think I had better go back to my own room.”

He sighed with disappointment, but made no attempted to argue with her.  Getting up from the chest, he extended a hand to help her rise.

“Then, at least allow me to escort you back to your room.”

She took his arm with a smile.

As they walked through the halls and down the stairs, she thought of the contrast from when she had first come up.  She had been so anxious then, but now she felt perfectly safe. 

When they reached her door, Guy bade her goodnight and started to turn away, content to leave their farewell at that.  It was she who stopped him with a hand on his arm, then stood on her toes to give him a last kiss.

Chapter Text

The next day at the castle was even more tedious, and she found herself waiting anxiously for Guy’s return.  The sheriff had kept him occupied all day, and she had taken the opportunity to catch up on some of the sleep she had missed the night before.  When she saw him at dinner, Guy somehow seemed more well-rested too; he was missing the look of resentful disappointment she usually saw on his face at the castle. When he caught her eye from across the tale, he actually smiled before Vaisey caught him, and he resumed scowling again. Once the meal was finished, he caught up with her on their way out of the hall.

“Marian, I . . . I was wondering if . . . would you like . . . ?”

“Yes,” she said, fighting back a grin.  How could he still be nervous after how she had behaved last night?  “Assuming that you mean would I like to come to your room again.”

Relieved, Guy have her a lopsided smirk and took her arm.  When they arrived at his bedroom and he opened the door for her, she could see immediately that it was altered. The furs on the bed were different, and there were two chairs placed near each other that had not been present the night before.  Clearly, Guy had expected her to accept his invitation, for all his shyness in making it.

“It’s quite comfortable here now,” she observed as she took her seat.  Looking up at Guy, she saw the faint beginnings of a blush appearing on his cheeks.

“Oh, Guy.  I didn’t mean it like that,” she assured him.  “I just . . . burst in on you last night.  I was comfortable, though.” Far more than I expected to be, she thought to herself.

He sat, though his blush showed no signs of disappearing, and Marian let the point drop.  She supposed it reasonable that it would take him more than one night to get accustomed to being alone with her in such an intimate space.

He startled her by speaking up suddenly.  “I . . . I feel I owe you an apology.  For last night.”

“Indeed?” she asked lightly, this time making no effort to hide her amusement.  “For letting me stay up so late? I’m not a child, Guy.”

“Oh no, not that,” he insisted.  “I just . . . didn’t mean to talk about myself so much.  And some of the things I told you were . . . inappropriate.”

His expression was so serious that she tried to force the smile from her face, but it was not easy.

“Well, your answers were no more inappropriate than my questions.”

Noting his concerned frown, she reached out and lay her hand on his knee. His eyes widened with surprise.

“I was curious, Guy,” she reminded him.  “I wanted to know more about you.”

He smiled at that. “And I want to know more about you, too.  There’s . . . we really have talked so little.  About you.”

Now it was she who was surprised And worried.  There were good reasons she did not talk about herself to Guy.  Yet here was temptation as well.  His interest in her was flattering, however dangerous it might be.

She retrieved her hand, noticing how Guy’s eyes lingered on it, and sat back in her chair.

“Well, then, I suppose you had better asked me a question.”

Guy’s looked down again, his brow furrowing as he sought a question with such effort that Marian’s concern only increased.  What would he ask her?

When he spoke, though, she sighed with relief

“How did you come to be so good with horses?”

* * *

Guy listened with as much interest as she had the night before, asking her questions when she got quiet.  Talk of horses turned into talk of other outdoor pursuits, and more than once she had to stop herself from saying how much she enjoyed wearing trousers, archery . . . acrobatics.  She knew Guy was unlikely to suspect the truth, but she could not shake the feeling that she was being reckless.

Eventually, their conversation had come around to her advocacy for the peasants, and she told Guy the same story that she had told Robin months before.

“She seemed so surprised that I would care anything about her, a peasant, and that’s when I . . .” she trailed off, blanching at the mistake she had avoided.

“Marian?” Guy asked after a moment, his voice low.  “Are you well?

She took a deep breath to regain her composure, and smiled.  “I am.  I was just going to say, that’s when I decided I had to do more, you see? I felt responsible.”

Guy only stared at her for a moment, puzzled.  She could see that he did not understand, that he perhaps even disagreed with her, but he was thinking it through.  He was in no hurry to tell her she was wrong.

“I know you do,” he said finally.  And then, just when she was expecting him to change the subject, he heaved a sigh.

“Those miners are still in their cottages near the old mine,” he told her, dropping his eyes.  “They’re . . . not faring well since they had to be closed.”

Marian felt her heart sink.  By her standards, none of the peasants in Nottinghamshire were “faring well,” but what did it portend if Guy of Gisborne thought they weren’t.

“Has anyone died?” she blurted, worry making her blunt.

Guy flinched as though she had struck him.

“I didn’t ask the sheriff for them so I could kill them, Marian,” he replied dully.

She sighed with frustration. “Guy, I’m sorry.  I’m just tired,” she explained.  “Just . . . please tell me what’s going on.”

He shrugged.  “They have no work, Marian.  So, the sheriff says they should receive nothing: no money, no food.  All they have is the roofs over their heads.  And I can’t just take them to Locksley; there is no room for them.”

Marian thought in silence, her mouth twisting in vexation.  It was a conundrum.  She knew that autumn was fast approaching, and more laborers would be needed for the harvest at Knighton, but there was no housing for them there either.  She only realized how long she had been silent when she heard Guy speak.

“I am trying, Marian,” he muttered.

She looked at him.  He was leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, his long hair falling forward as his head bowed in supplication. She decided to be a little brave.

“Let me talk to them.”

He raised his head, his eyes meeting hers.  “What?”

“Take me to them while I’m here,” she went on.  “I’ll speak to them, and maybe we can figure out a way to help them.”

At first, he only stared at her, the familiar scowl creasing his forehead.  She stood up, preparing to dismiss herself, before he replied.

“Alright, if that’s what you want.”

With a mixture of gratitude and relief, she moved towards him, bending to wrap her arms around his neck and press a kiss to his cheek.

When she stood again, he looked up at her with the same bashful expression he had worn when he invited her up after dinner.

“Will you do something for me?” he asked.

Marian nodded.

“Will you stay here . . . with me?”

She bent down again, this time kissing his lips.

“I will stay.  I am feeling rather tired.”

Chapter Text

She awakened only an hour later, but it was not because of Guy. 

He had treated her with the utmost courtesy, sitting on the other side of the bed with his back to her as they took off their outer clothes.  Once she had climbed under the covers, Guy blew out the candle beside the bed and got in next to her. Marian felt so tense she could hardly breath, but Guy seemed to be no better.  When his fingers brushed against hers on the mattress, he jerked his hand away.  She smiled, reassured.  The danger, she decided, had passed.  For that night, anyway.

She rolled onto her side facing him, propping herself up on an elbow.

“Come now, Guy,” she cooed, “I promise I won’t hurt you.”

He hesitated, but eventually his hand slid past her arm as he tentatively stretched it out, and she lay down again, this time resting her head on his shoulder.

She woke up in his arms, her face pressed against the fabric of his undershirt as their legs entangled.  She was so warm, but she could feel Guy shaking at the sound that had awakened her.  A familiar voice boomed just outside the door.

“GISBORNE!!”

* * *

She did not see Guy again until that afternoon.  He had gotten out bed so quickly he had nearly fallen on the floor, but then he pulled the covers up around her and told her to stay, that his guards would keep her safe. And then he was gone.

“Is everything alright, Guy” she asked as he dismounted from his horse in the courtyard.  “What was so urgent last night?”

To her dismay, he only shrugged.  “Nothing you need to concern yourself about. It was . . . nothing out of the ordinary.”

Her brow furrowed in consternation.  “It’s usual for the sheriff to come to your room and shout at you in the middle of the night? Guy, I thought at first that the castle was on fire, or that we were under attack, or . . .”

She trailed off as she recalled her first thought, the one that had made her break into a cold sweat.  That Robin had come, and that he would find her in Guy’s bed.

Guy only sighed.  As she looked at him, she saw that his refreshed look from the previous night was gone, replaced by haggard, worried expression.

“Are you alright?” she asked softly, reaching to take his gloved hand.

He gave her a sad smile.  “I’m well enough,” he replied, “I’ll tell you more later.  Tonight, perhaps.  But now, the sheriff is waiting.”

Marian forced a smile to her lips.  “Tonight then,” she agreed as pleasantly as she could.  As he climbed the steps, she found herself glowering at his back, though it was not he who was the object of her anger.

* * *

“Guy, why do you work for him?” she asked she climbed into bed next to him that night. She had tried her best to avoid the topic of the sheriff, but once again, curiosity had gotten the better of her.

He heaved a sigh and looked away.  The matter about which the sheriff had awakened him had been nothing but poachers, for whom Guy and his men had spent all day searching without finding them.  It may not have been directly related to Robin, but she would not be surprised if he turned out to have had something to do with it. She wondered if it was that mere possibility that had made the sheriff so angry.

She had been fuming at that all day, not so much the particular incident, but the sense Guy had given her that this was simply the nature of his life at the castle.  He was always at the sheriff’s disposal: all day, every day. No wonder he had craved Locksley with such intensity.

“I had no one,” he answered finally.  “So . . . I chose power.”

Perhaps before she had come to the castle, she would have taken that answer at face value.  Now, she was not so sure.  Was power really what he had, or merely what the sheriff told him he had? He had no real power that she could see.  Not in the castle, anyway.

“So you chose him? Guy . . . he’s mad!” she cried, her vexation with the sheriff taking over.

Guy turned away from her, seeming to sink under her scrutiny as he lay down on his side.

“No,” he answered. “He is single-minded.  He is not . . . distracted.”

Marian looked at him, at a loss for words.  How could she make him understand?

“Guy,” she began, faltering.  “He . . . he’s cruel to you.”

Guy turned turn to look at her, his eyebrows drawn together in confusion.  It was as though the idea had never occurred to him.  No, she thought after a moment.  Of course he knew the sheriff was cruel. Everyone did. But maybe no one had ever acknowledged that he was cruel to him before.

The thought filled her with sympathy.  And guilt.  After all, she wasn’t exactly being kind.  Here she was, about to sleep in his bed next to him, even though she was in love with his enemy.

“I’m sorry, Marian,” Guy murmured, bringing her attention back to him.

Now her brow furrowed.  “For what?”

He sighed again, rolling onto his back.  “I’m sorry I’m not . . . who you want me to be.”

She stared at him until he blushed under her gaze and looked away again.  At first, his words made her tense; how could he know about her and Robin?

But, if he knew that, he would be feeling something other than shame.

And, plainly, he was ashamed.  And it was because he wanted to please her so much, but he couldn’t.  Could he?

Placing her fingers gently under his chin, she lifted his head until their eyes met.  She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came forth.  Instead, she pressed her lips to his, hard, lowering her hand to cup the back of his neck.

Chapter Text

She could feel Guy growing excited even before she slipped her tongue into his mouth.  His breath was coming in hot pants, and when she raised her hand to brace herself against his chest he let out a soft cry of pleasure.  By the time she rolled on top of him, she could feel his erection through the thin fabric of his pants.  She knew that it would not be long until he tried to push her away, and the action followed almost as soon as the idea came to her mind.

“Please,” he gasped.

But she did not relent.

She took the hand he had put on her waist and pressed it against the mattress. She lowered her mouth to kiss the sensitive skin just below his ear and rolled her hips against him. Guy moaned and tensed, digging the fingers of his other hand into her back hard enough to bruise.  She felt him jerk against her again and again, and pulled back only when she felt the warm, wet spot growing at the front of his pants.

“Marian, . . . I’m” he began in a wrecked voice before she silenced him.

“Shhh.  It’s alright, Guy,” she cooed, pressing a kiss to his forehead. She wanted more from him: to keep kissing him, to feel his hands on her skin.

It was fortunate for her that he was so sensitive, or simply starved of any pleasant touch; otherwise, she wasn’t sure she could resist him.

She felt his hand on her waist again, and the tip of his nose brushed against her neck just before he pressed a lazy kiss there.

“What about you?” he asked.

She glanced at him out of the corners of her eyes.  “What about me?”

He nodded sleepily, kissing her again.  “Can I do anything for you?”

As he spoke, he slid his hand to her belly, just over her navel.  It felt so good she could barely fight off the urge to press up against it.

“But Guy,” she began, noting how her voice had thickened.  “You’re . . . you finished.”

When he chuckled, his breath against her neck made her shiver. “I may have . . . spent,” he said, “but we don’t need to be finished, unless that’s what you want.”

Marian considered that for a moment.  It had never occurred to her that a man’s being finished meant anything other than his rolling over and going to sleep.  Regardless of whether he had satisfied her or not.

She turned to Guy and smiled.  Covering his hand with hers, she moved it up until it was cupping her breast through her shift.

“It’s not,” she whispered.

* * *

In Marian’s experience, sex was part of a game.  It was what she gave Robin when he “won.” when he had dismissed all of her suggestions and misunderstood all her replies to his, and she was too tired to argue further. When it was pleasant for her, well.  That was his victory, too.

What she did with Guy was also a game, but one that she was allowed to win.  They played it each night she remained at the castle.

Guy would try to maintain control, but eventually he would unravel under her hands and mouth.  Marian had discovered that he found her fingers on his bare skin, stroking, clutching, or even gently scratching, particularly irresistible.  As the nights progressed, she had taken off his shirt and finally his pants, leaving him naked.  She knew that it was cheating, but he did not seem to mind.

And then, it was her turn. Guy never seemed to feel losing as such.  If he was embarrassed, she could hardly tell in the dark.  And it certainly didn’t feel like he was embarrassed.  It felt like he enjoyed what he did to her almost as much as she did.

On the last night, he surprised her one final time.

“Are you sure that’s what you want to do?” she asked, failing to hide the nervousness in her voice.

Guy nodded with enthusiasm.  “A woman in London taught me, and all of the ones that followed her . . .” Guy trailed off, and she was almost certain that he was blushing now.

“Only if you want to try it, though,” he continued.  “If not, I can always use my fingers again.”

Marian considered for a moment. “It’s not that I don’t trust you,” she insisted.  She had said that several times over the course of the week, and by now she meant it.  It was hard, though, to believe that any man would do what Guy proposed.

It felt too intimate at first, having his face between her thighs, but soon enough she was crying out with pleasure, clutching at his dark hair so hard that when it was over she found a few tiny strands entwined around her fingers.

* * *

She was still smiling the next morning, but it faded as soon as she was awake enough to realize what day it was.  She was going back to Knighton.  And to Robin. 

Guy was still asleep next to her, and she took a moment to study his face. He looked so peaceful asleep, free from stress and anxiety. That was what had taken the most time to get used to, waking up next to someone who was in no rush to leave.  Robin would always leave her early. He said that it was because he did not want to risk her reputation, but she knew that it had as much to do with getting back to the gang and putting plans into motion.

Guy stirred, blinking a few times in the sunlight.  As soon as his eyes focused on her, though, he smiled.

She had to admit, she was going to miss this.

Chapter Text

She had learned so much about him during that week.  On the day before she left, he had taken her to visit the miners, as he promised, though she had to help to concoct a story for the sheriff the night before so that he could have time off.  It had proven more difficult than she expected. Guy kept rejecting her ideas, claiming that they were not cruel enough, or that the sheriff would ask too many questions.

When Guy replied to her last desperate suggestion with “No, I can’t claim that I’m going there to take a hand from each on who failed to pay his taxes because he’ll want to see the hands I took,” she was ready to give up.

“What did your father do when the peasants at Knighton could not pay their taxes?” he asked timidly, noting her exasperation.

Marian considered for a moment.  “Well,” she began hesitantly, certain that Guy would hate the idea.  “Sometimes, if it were truly impossible for them to pay, he would help them.”

Guy raised an eyebrow.  “He would pay for them?”

She nodded, not meeting his gaze.  He was silent for so long that she was about to give up, to admit that she was out of ideas when he finally spoke.

“Then that’s what I’ll do.”

She did not ask where he would get the money, but on the way to the miners’ cottages she had not been able to resist asking once again why he had chosen to work for the sheriff.

It was a longer story than she anticipated. Indeed, it look most of their trip.  On the way, he told her of how he and his sister, Isabella, had been living in poverty in France when Lord Vaisey found them.  He had helped Guy to arrange Isabella’s marriage to an acquaintance of his, Squire Thornton, but she had not wanted to marry him.  When Guy did not relent, she was so angry that she forbade him to come to the wedding.  She was only thirteen years old, but Guy had felt so badly that he accepted her wishes.  It was the last thing he was able to do for her; he had not seen her since.

His story had ended just as they arrived.  Once the miners were assembled, Guy left explanations to her, even going so far as to get back on his horse and watch from a few yards away.  It was a wise strategy, she thought.  The peasants were more likely to be honest if they knew he could not hear them.

But when they began to answer her questions, she wished that he could.  To her surprise, they were aware that he was trying to help them, and grateful that the men had not been forced to leave their families behind. Their concerns were less about learning new skills than, as she expected, having to travel so far to put them into practice.

“We would love to work at Knighton,” one woman had pointed out, “if we could strap our cottages to our backs and bring them with us. But as it is, what can we do?”

It was a difficult question to answer.  Where would the money for new cottages come from? She had already sold most of her valuables, starting with Guy’s gifts, to get money for the poor.  It had also proven the only way to get Robin to stop talking about them.

When they set out to return to the castle, Guy had surprised her with his wish to go to Locksley first.

“There is something I have to get there,” he explained.  “And something I would like you to see.”

It was not until they had stopped in front of the house and Guy helped her to dismount that Marian began to get nervous.  The last time she had been at Locksley, Guy had announced their engagement, and Robin had taken the ring he’d given her.  At the time, she had felt so anxious and vulnerable that it had given her some spiteful pleasure to see Guy humiliated.  But then, it had taken all her powers of persuasion to stop him from going after Robin, alone, to try to get it back.  Why did it mean so much to him?

As she followed him up the stairs to the solar, she could almost hear her heart pounding.  It was laughable, given how they had spent the last few nights, but there was something different about the castle.  His room there felt like it belonged to him, in a way that Locksley never would.  And she feared that Robin would drop down from a beam in the roof at any moment to remind them both of that fact.

Guy went to a table in the corner and opened a small, ornate chest. He reached in and pulled out a handful of coins, gold and silver, and showed them to her before dropping them back in with a loud clinking of metal that let her know the box was almost full.

“This is what I wanted you to see,” he said solemnly.  “That I am a man of lineage.  That I can provide for you.”

Marian studied his face as he spoke. In spite of his words, there was no hint of smugness or arrogance there.  He just seemed anxious for her approval.  She opened her mouth to ask where it had all come from, but before she got the words out, she realized that she already knew.  It was his earnings over the many years he had worked for the sheriff.  She knew that he must have spent some on his men, horses . . . presents for her.  But considering what he had been required to do for it, it seemed too little.

Knowing that he was awaiting a response from her only made her more nervous. “Is . . . is this how you are going to pay the miners’ taxes?” she asked falteringly. 

“Oh, um, yes,” Guy replied, flustered.  That, no doubt, was part of the reason why they had stopped, but he had gotten caught up in the significance the moment held for him.  Marian thought she could see his hands shaking as he retrieved a pouch and began to fill it with handfuls of coins.  She stepped closer to the box and realized how small a portion of its contents he was taking the pay the taxes.  An idea occurred to her.

“Guy,” she began cautiously.  “Have you considered . . . perhaps . . . this could be the solution to the problem?”

His brow furrowed as he glanced at her.  “What problem.”

She dropped her gaze with a sigh. It seemed she would have to be explicit.

“How much of this do you think it would take to build a few cottages for the miners?”

Guy’s eyes widened before he looked away, closing up the pouch hastily.

“A lot more than paying their taxes,” he replied.

Marian narrowed her eyes; she would not be put off so easily.

“This is a temporary solution, Guy,” she pointed out sharply.  “They will still owe taxes next month, and the month after that.  And they will still not have an income until they find work.  You have taken on responsibility for them, and they want to trust you! You just . . . you have to give them a reason to.”

By the end, her tone was softer, pleading.  Guy stepped closer to her, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“I understand what you mean, darling,” he said softly.  “But I have to be responsible for the peasants at Locksley, too.”

She looked up at him.  “Guy, the peasants at Locksley will never trust you.  They will always see you as a usurper.”

His face fell, and for a moment she was sorry for her bluntness. But it was true, and when she saw that he made no attempt to deny it, she went on.

“But you have a chance with these miners.  If you make it possible for them to earn money again, you will have their loyalty.  Robin can only do so much.  He can’t . . .”

She trailed off as Guy’s expression changed, his nostrils flaring and his lips pressing tight together, and she realized her mistake.

“They . . . they told me that Robin Hood has given them food, but that’s all.  He can’t . . . he can’t give them cottages.”

With relief, she saw the wariness disappear from Guy’s face.  He believed her lie.

“I won’t make any promises,” he said.  “But I will think about it.  Come.  We should return to the castle or the sheriff will be angry.”

When they were on their horses again, Marian remained silent.  He did seem to truly want to help the miners, so why this hesitation, especially when he could so easily afford it?  And he had always been generous with her.

“Guy,” she began, finally.  “How . . . how did you and Isabella come to be so poor in France.  I thought you told me once that you were born in England.”

He turned towards her so fast that he pulled the reins by accident, startling his horse.  As he reached down to stroke the animals neck, calming him, she thought she heard him sigh.

“I was hoping you would not ask me that.  That’s a long story too.”

She was about to apologize, to say that it was alright, and there was no need to tell her if he didn’t want to.  But before she could, he had begun.

It was a long story, but not once during the telling of it did he raise his eyes to look at her.  She tried to keep silent in deference to his obvious shame, but curiosity kept getting the best of her.  After all, there were far more players in this story whose names she recognized.  She knew that Robin’s father had died when a manor burned near Locksley, but she had no idea whose manor it was or who had set the fire.

And she had certainly never heard the story about the priest before.

Chapter Text

As soon as she stepped through the front door of Knighton Hall, Marian wrapped her arms around her father, holding him tight.

 “I’ve missed you so much,” she murmured.

“And I you, my dear,” he replied, pressing a kiss to her forehead.

“How is Uncle George? What about all my cousins?” she asked as they took their seats by the fireplace.

Her father had made yearly visits to his older brother in York since her aunt had passed away.  The old man was even more frail than Edward, and every year Marian feared it would be her last chance to see him.  But she had felt it impossible to leave Knighton alone, even for a week, with the sheriff always scheming. They might come back to find the ruins of their home still smoking.

“Everyone is fine,” he said, “you were missed.”

She glanced up, but could see no reproach in the kind eyes. She listened as he recounted all of the weddings, births, and deaths that had taken place in the family since his last visit, and she was just beginning to feel relaxed and at home once again.  Then, her father’s face took on that serious cast that was so well-known to her.

“And how was your time at the castle?” he asked.  “Did you and Sir Guy get along.”

Marian sighed before she could stop herself, and her father’s expression grew graver.

“He was respectful,” she explained.  “And . . . kind, even.  It wasn’t what I expected.  Things are . . . complicated between us now.”

He gave a small nod.  “I saw the two of you, you know.  Before you came in.  I could see that things were . . . different.”

Looking back, Marian knew he was right.  Before, Guy was always in a hurry to go, and she had no wish for him to linger.  But this time, it had been clear that he did not want to leave her. She had assured him, again and again, that they would be together soon, but even when she leaned in to kiss him goodbye she could tell that he did not believe it. And it made her sad.  In truth, she had not wanted him to leave either.

“I’ve been wrong about him,” she admitted, so softly that at first she wasn’t sure her father had heard her. Then he reached for her hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze.

“Well, you know now.  Sometimes, you have to spend time with someone to get to know them.”

She smiled at him.  “That’s true.” But inwardly, her mind was troubled. If only everyone could take her change of heart so well.

* * *

Just as she was drifting off to sleep that night, she heard the first pebble hit the outside of her window.

Rolling onto her back, she rubbed her eyes with a growl of frustration.  She was not ready to see Robin yet, however ready he might be to see her.  As she sat up and combed her fingers through her hair, trying to wake herself up and look presentable, conflicting feelings threatened to overwhelm her.  She knew she should want to see him after they had spent a week apart.  At the very least, she should be grateful that he did not appear at the castle and start trouble.  But at the same time, she felt guilty.  If he asked her about how she spent her time there, as he was certain to do, she would have to lie to him.  And she had never lied to Robin before.

When she opened the window, it was a relief to find him greeting her with a genuine smile.

“I’ve missed you,” he said, taking her into his arms.

“Well,” she replied with a smirk.  “Perhaps I should go away more often if this is the response I come back to.”

He kissed her so boldly that she gasped with surprise.  At first, she tried to ask questions, to find out what Robin had been doing while she was away, but it was clear that talking was not what he had in mind.  And she had to admit, it was easier that way. Before long, she gave herself up to the moment.

When he was inside her, she found herself having to bite her lip to stay quiet.  How long had it been since he had given her so much pleasure? Recently, the tension between them that she tried to relieve with sex had ended up making release nearly impossible for her. Perhaps what she had said to him before about her going away was truer than she had realized.

“Enjoyed that, did you?” he asked with a smug grin as he stretched out next to her once they were finished.

Marian felt the blood rush to her face.  “You know I did,” she mumbled.

She had, but it was over now. A more complicated possibility had presented itself to her.  Perhaps sex with Robin was only better after a week of foreplay with Guy.

Robin drew her attention when he suddenly sat up, pulling his shirt back over his head.

“You’re leaving?” she asked in dismay.  Robin always left early, but he had never so soon before.

“I have to get back to the gang,” he said, looking over his shoulder at her. “Tomorrow the sheriff . . .”

“What is the sheriff doing so early that you have to leave now?” She knew that Robin hated to be cut off, but hurt got the better of her.  “You said you missed me.  What exactly did you miss?”

Robin sighed with exasperation.  Turning to her, he said, “Look, I came to see you, didn’t I? I wanted to see how you were.  But you can’t be my first priority all the time, Marian.”

She narrowed her eyes at him.  “Is that it? You wanted to see how I was?” she asked coldly.  “It doesn’t seem like that was what you wanted.”

“Well, I didn’t hear you complain,” he shot back over his shoulder as he stood and pulled up his pants.

“You will!” she snapped, making him turn around.  “I am not one of your camp followers, Robin.”

He scoffed, rolling his eyes before he turned his head facing forward and sat back down on the bed.

“Come on, Marian.  You know that you mean more to me than those whores. What do you want from me?”

Her nostrils flared with anger at his words as she picked up her nightgown and pulled it over her head, jerking it down angrily.  She knew he thought little enough of those women, but he had never called them that before.  Glaring at his back, she struggled to keep her voice under control.

“I want you to talk to me, for a change.  To answer the questions I put to you,” she said.  And then, before she could stop herself: “Guy talked to me.”

Robin’s shoulders and back tensed before he even turned around.  “Is that so?” he asked in a soft voice, laced with mocking.  “Yes, I’m sure it must have been a great relief to unburden himself.  Especially to such a willing listener.”

Marian knew that tone; it was the one he always used when he was about to start a fight.  Usually, she would now be full of anxiety, looking for a way to change the subject.  But now, somehow, it was different.  She knew she was not going to back down, and the thought frightened her.

“I hope it was,” she began warily.  “I don’t think he has anyone else to talk to.” She paused, trying to calm herself.  Perhaps there was an easier way.

“Robin, listen . . . maybe the difference between you and he is not so huge.”

He turned, quirking an eyebrow, but he said nothing.  Encouraged, she went on.

“After all, isn’t that your thesis? Isn’t that the Robin Hood world view?”

He faced her, drawing his knee up onto the bed.  “Thesis?”

“That one man is much like another.  That the poor are no different than the wealthy and just as deserving.  Why can’t you apply your charitable principles to someone who’s been deprived in a different way? Deprived of love?”

The corners of Robin’s mouth turned up, and for a moment Marian felt hope surge up within her.

Then he stood and turned his back to her.  “Deprived of love,” he scoffed with a shake of his head.  He stopped in front of the window, looking out.

“Indeed.” The mocking tone was back.  “Gisborne has had a very deprived, sad life.”

Marian stood up as well, her hands tightening into fists at her sides.  Before, she would have just taken Robin’s words as resentment over her engagement and Guy’s living at Locksley.  And maybe that was all Robin meant.  But now, she knew the full extent of what he was disregarding.

“Yes indeed, he has,” she said tersely.  “And I’m amazed that I was left to hear about it from him when there is so much that you could have told me.”

Robin turned to look back at her, and this time his brows were drawn with confusion. But before he could speak, she went on.

“I know what happened, Robin.  When Gisborne manor was burned.”

“You mean when he burned it,” he cried with sudden indignation, rounding on her.  “Or didn’t he tell you that?”

Marian was so surprised by the change in him that for a moment she could make no reply. “He did.  But that was an accident, Robin!”

“He killed my father!”

His face contorted with fury, but Marian stood where she was. “I know.  But . . . do you really think he burned his house down, with both of his parents inside, to get to your father, Robin?” she asked, incredulous.

He turned again, shaking his head dramatically.  “You don’t understand . . . my whole life changed on that day.”

“And you think his didn’t? You think being forced out of the village, the only home he had ever known, with his sister to take care of, didn’t change his life?”

She was so angry now that her voice was shaking and her eyes filling with tears.  She had thought Robin so full of compassion, but now she was wondering if she had ever known him well at all.

Robin turned, sitting on the window sill and crossing his arms.  “Well, if it did, he certainly landed on his feet, didn’t he? He’s living in my house and . . .”

“And engaged to your betrothed,” she finished for him.

He looked up at her, but remained silent.

“Tell me about the priest,” she demanded.

Bewildered, Robin narrowed his eyes.  “Priest? What priest?”

Marian watched him, looking for signs of deceit, but found none.  She wondered if he had genuinely forgotten; it had been such a long time.  Her voice was softer when she spoke again.

“You took Guy’s bow and you . . .”

As soon as the word “bow” passed her lips, Robin’s eyes widened in recognition.  “I didn’t shoot the priest! Gisborne’s been lying to you!” he snapped.

Sighing, Marian sat down on the bed.  The momentary pang of sympathy was gone, and now she only felt tired.

“No, he didn’t say that you shot him, but you caused his injury.  And you let Guy take the blame.”

Almost imperceptibly, Robin glanced away, but then his eyes were back on her.  “I was only a child, Marian.  And it was . . .”

“What?” she interjected.  “An accident?”

Robin only looked at her, his mouth twisting in thought as it did when he was working out a plan.

“I made a mistake,” he admitted finally.  “But it was one I learned from. It made me a better man.”

“And you don’t think, with all the mistakes that Guy has made, that he might learn to become a better man?”

Robin pressed his lips into a thin, suspicious line.  “Have you seen any evidence that he has?”

“He’s paid the miners taxes this month,” she replied, hoping the pride in her voice would be lost on Robin.

His expression remained unchanged.  “He told you that?”

“No.  I saw him.  He took it from a chest in the bedroom at Locksley, and there was enough there to . . .”

She trailed off as Robin began to smile, and she realized her mistake.  “A chest in the bedroom, you say?” he asked slyly.

Marian sighed, defeated.  “Robin, he . . . we talked about using it to build cottages.  So the miners can move somewhere close to the fields.”

“Oh, really?” Robin asked, snorting with derision.  “You’re making charitable plans . . . with Gisborne? You must be stirred by him; otherwise, you’d never . . .”

He stopped speaking as she stood up again, suddenly furious.  It had all been a waste of time; nothing she said would make any difference.  He had already made up his mind. She tried to control her voice, but it was impossible.  She was shaking with rage.

“Get out,” she ordered.

His eyes widened slightly.  “Marian . . .”

“Get out of my house,” she snapped.

“Marian, just . . .”

“GET OUT NOW, Robin,” she roared. “I can’t talk to you when you’re like this.”

He stared at her for a moment, weighing his options.  Finally, he stood and turned to open the window. But before he began his climb down, he turned to her with a smirk.

“I’ll see you soon . . . but I might see Gisborne sooner.”

Before she could reply, he was gone.

Chapter Text

Marian was furious.  She knew that it was futile to try to get any sleep after her fight with Robin; her heart was still pounding and her mind racing with anxiety. But what could she do? The feeling of futility was the worst part of all.

That and her anger with herself.  Why hadn’t she been able to see it before? It was as though there were two Robins: the one who stood up for the people and fought for the king in his absence, and the one who claimed to be in love with her.  For them, he was loyal, brave, and generous.  She loved those qualities in him, but how often had she been their recipient?  With her, he was suspicious, condescending, jealous, and entitled.  Guy’s attempts to court her had drawn Robin closer to her, but it now seemed that his reasons had less to do with affection than mistrust and resentment.  He saw her as belonging to him every bit as much as Locksely, and the fact that she actually did have some say in the matter only made him feel threatened.

“I should have known after his reaction to the engagement,” she said to herself. She had been so upset, but Robin had never sought to comfort her; he only criticized her for not resisting hard enough. What would he have done had Guy demanded more than an engagement from her, and Robin had not been there to stop him?

Before, she would have shied away from the thought as too unpleasant, but now that she asked the question, the answer seemed grim.

Of course, now that she knew Guy, she saw how unlikely it was that anything like that would have happened.  While he had proposed to her under circumstances where she felt she had no choice but to accept, everything he had done since had shown her how much he wanted to please her.  At first it had not mattered; the engagement left her so beleaguered that Robin’s presence had been a relief, for all his jibes.  But now . . . it mattered.  She could see so much potential in Guy; that was why it distressed her that Robin, who had known him for so much longer, could not.

And she certainly did not want Robin to steal his money.  Oh, she knew that he would use it to help the poor, but they would be the poor of his choosing. Guy had earned that money at the cost of sleep and peace of mind, not to mention the kindness that he was forced to hide from others.  He deserved the chance to do the right thing with it.

Finally, she drifted off to sleep, and when she awoke late the next morning determined to find a solution.  It was no easy prospect.  If only she could tell Guy that Robin was planning to rob him, he could alert his men, but of course then she would have to explain how she knew.  No, she would have to be present when they arrived.  Robin would not listen to her, but the rest of the gang might.

The real question was what she should wear.  Her instinct told her to dress as the Night Watchman for greater ease of movement, but what if Guy and his men saw her? What if someone heard her address the gang and her cover was blown? At the same time, she was reluctant to ask admittance to Locksley. It would certainly not make things easier for Guy if Robin found that she had gone there to visit him.  He would be enraged, however vindicated he might feel.

She spent the next two nights hiding in the woods near Locksley, in her Night Watchman’s clothes, but it was for nothing.  Robin and his gang never arrived, and the only effect staying out so late had was making her ill.  When she returned home early in the morning after the first night, she had to rush to her chamber pot.  The next, she had not made it that far, emptying her stomach onto the ground as soon as she dismounted outside of the Knighton stables. At that moment, she wondered if she were capable of doing much good if the gang did try to rob Guy.

But her nausea wore off later in the morning, once again, and she decided that that night she would try something different. Once she was sure her father was asleep, she put on her best silks and rode her horse to Locksley, leaving him with the groom at the stable.

She knocked at the door, and a moment later it opened and she saw Guy’s squire standing on the other side.  His eyes widened as he recognized her.

“My lady,” he said, as much a question as a greeting.

“Hello, Geoff.  I’ve come to see your master.”

The boy looked no less confused by this explanation.  She could see his mind filling with questions he dared not ask.  She held back a smile.

“Well? Is he here? Might I come in?”

“Of course,” he replied, standing back to let her pass. “But it may be a few minutes before he is ready to see you.  He is indisposed.”

“Indisposed?” she asked, arching an eyebrow.  That sounded intriguing.

“He’s . . . having a bath,” Geoff said in a low tone, as though he feared being overheard.

Marian smiled openly this time.  “Take me to him, please.”

Geoff’s mouth fell open.  “But . . .”

“Come on,” she urged.  “You know that I spent a week in the castle with him, don’t you? Do you imagine I’m going to see anything that I haven’t before?”

A faint blush crept into the boy’s cheeks, and he dropped his gaze.  “Alright.  But if he gets angry, please tell him that you insisted.”

Marian’s smiled widened.  “Of course.”

When she first saw him, Guy was lying against the back of the tub with his eyes closed, his arms stretched out on the sides, relaxing.  But as soon as he opened his eyes, they went even wider than Geoff’s had, and his blush was darker.

“Marian?” He seemed more shocked than angry, and Geoff seized on the confusion to step out without a further word, but as Marian’s eyes met his, she thought she could see the hint of a smile playing about his lips.

“What are you doing here?” Guy asked in awe, drawing her attention back to him.

“I . . . I just wanted to see how you were,” she answered, taking in the sight before her.  What she had said to Geoff had only been partly true.  She had been in bed with a naked Guy, but that was after they had blown out the candles.  Never before had she actually seen so much of him, and it was impossible to look away.  The blush was spreading down into his long neck now, leaving his broad shoulders and smooth chest pale in contrast.  His chest was rising and falling rapidly, and she could feel her heartbeat quickening too. “I . . . didn’t mean to disturb you,” she finally forced out.

If Guy noticed how stricken she was by him, he gave no signs of it.

“Are you sure there’s nothing the matter? Is your father well?”

Her eyes met his, and she frowned at the concern she saw there.  “Do I need to be in peril to come and visit my betrothed?”

Guy dropped his eyes, embarrassed.  “Of course not.  But . . . you’ve never come to see me before.”

Marian sighed.  There was no denying that.  She took a chair that was sitting near the tub; somehow, she felt too lightheaded to stand.

“Where are your men?” she asked, suddenly remembering the purpose of her visit. If Robin and the gang came, she didn’t like to think of Guy and Geoff facing them alone.  The boy was fifteen at most, and possibly had even less fighting experience than the castle guards.

Guy shrugged.  “I gave them the night off.  Sometimes it feels so crowded with all of them here.”

He ventured a glance at her.  “I’m glad now.  I’ve missed you.”

His voice was so gentle that Marian found it impossible to reproach him.  Of course he should be more careful, but she was here now.  She would not let anyone take him by surprise.  She took the two steps separating her from the tub and leaned down, kissing him.  Guy sighed with pleasure when she buried her fingers in his still damp hair, and Marian felt her skin growing hot. He wanted her so much, but she felt perfectly safe with him.  Whatever she started, she could just as easily stop. 

When she tried to brace her hand on his chest, it slipped on his wet skin, dipping into the water enough to dampen her sleeve.

“Oh no!” she cried as she withdrew it. The sound of a drop of water dripping from her sleeve into the tub below caught her attention and she looked down.  The candlelight was not enough to show her what was beneath the surface of the water, but she knew what she would find if she reached down far enough.  She had never touched Guy there before: not with her hands, anyway. The prospect was irresistible.

“Marian?” he said softly, eyes searching her face.  “What’s wrong?”

She smiled at him as she knelt down by the tub. “Absolutely nothing.”

She kissed him again, drawing a gasp as she dragged her fingers across his chest and over a hard nipple.  Then her hand slipped down slowly, further and further. 

Even before she breached the surface of the water, Guy was panting and grasping at the sides of the tub so hard his knuckles were white.  As soon as she touched him, he bit down on his lip, shutting his eyes tight.  It was to no avail, though.  Soon he was moaning with each stoke of her hand, until at last he slumped against the back of the tub, sated.

“God, Marian,” he murmured, still struggling to catch his breath.  “That was perfect.”

Marian was finding it hard to think herself.  She drew her hand out of the water and dried it on the cloth hanging next to the tub.  The sleeve would stay wet all the way home, reminding her of what she had done, but she could not find it in herself to feel any shame.

After all, it was such a small thing compared with what she had done with Robin, giving herself to him as to a husband.  If she had offered him this as an alternative to sex, how he would have laughed, spurning it as so much less than the “real thing.”

She imagined he’d find it real enough if he knew to whom she had just done it.

And yet it meant so much to Guy: not just the action, but the fact that she had given it of her own volition.  She wondered how long it would have taken him to even ask for her to touch him like that, and the thought made her smile.

“What is it?” he asked, anxious.

She looked at him, reaching up to comb her fingers through his hair again.  He closed his eyes, leaning his head against her hand.

“I was just thinking how sweet you are, when no one else is around.”

Guy smiled without opening his eyes.  “No one appreciates it . . . except for you.”

Marian was glad he was not watching her then; she felt so guilty that she knew there was no hiding it.  She had put him in danger with that very appreciation.

“Guy . . . you know it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are others who could see it, if you would only let them.”

His eyes opened, but they were narrow, scrutinizing her. “You’re talking about the miners,” he observed.  She could tell from his tone that he was weary of the subject, but she did not know if it was because he had thought about it so much himself or because she kept bringing it up.

“We won’t talk about them now,” she assured him.  “But I want to.  Soon.” With that, she stood up and turned away.

“Don’t leave, Marian,” he cried, agitated. She looked back, expecting him to rise and try to stop her, but he remained where he was.  “It’s better that way,” she thought to herself, in spite of her disappointment.  “If I saw any more of him, it would be harder to leave.” Besides, she was feeling flushed already, and given the last two nights, she worried any agitation would bring on further nausea.

“Please,” he said more softly.  “Please stay with me, darling.”

She moved closer to the tub again and knelt, taking his face between her hands.  “I have to, please understand.  I have to think of my father. But we’ll be together again soon.”

She flinched inwardly with guilt at her own words.  She sounded just like Robin, but it was the only excuse she could think of.

It seemed to work; Guy dropped his gaze in resignation. “When?”

Marian with drew her hands, standing up.  “I’ll come back tomorrow night,” she replied, her mind racing.  “I . . . I’ll tell father I’m helping a friend in Nottingham.” Her father would never believe that; he knew she had no friends in Nottingham.  But that he was simply a heavy sleeper, and that Marian had had ample occasions to confirm this, were not things Guy needed to know.

Just before she turned to leave, an idea occurred to her.

“Guy, make sure you do have some of your guards here.  It’s not safe for you to be here alone when there are so many outlaws about.”

Marian had to bite her lip to keep from smiling at the irony, and when Guy began to blush again she wondered how much he understood.

“But, Marian,” he said in a hushed tone.  “Not . . . not when you’re here.” It took a few seconds for her to understand his meaning, and then she did smile.

He’s scandalized, she thought as she leaned down to kiss him goodbye.

“It’s alright,” she promised.  “We’ll just have to be quiet.”

Chapter Text

She was there the next night, as promised, but the lack of a plan made her nervous. She knew what Guy expected, and it was not unreasonable, but that did not mean she was ready.

The sight of some of his guards outside gave her some relief.  At least he had listened to her, but she was beginning to wonder if Robin would actually try to rob him or not.  Perhaps he was only making the threat to hurt her.  She sighed as she dismounted from her horse; how much had changed in so little time.

Before she could reach the door, Guy came rushing through it.  She realized that he must have asked one of his men to look out for her.

“Everyone outside now,” he barked to his men, and three more came out of the house behind him.  For a moment, she felt her cheeks grow hot; they knew why she was here.  What kinds of comments had they made about her already? What would they be saying about her tomorrow?

But as the circled this house, none dared so much as look at her, let alone smile as Geoff had done.  But the boy had an intimacy with Guy that they lacked.  Somehow, she minded him knowing less.  He meant her no harm. 

When she looked back at Guy as he closed the door behind him, she saw once more how true that was of him as well. She couldn’t help but smile at his nervousness. He was as flustered as he had been the night before, even with all his protective layers of leather.

“You did as I asked,” she observed, noting that his eyes widened in surprise. “About the guards,” she clarified.

“Oh . . . that.” He sighed, relieved for some reason that was not clear to her.  What did he think she meant?

“I thought about what you said,” he went on.  “About . . . outlaws, and . . . I don’t want us to be disturbed.”

He kept his distance, but as he watched her she found her anxiety mounting too.  But it was not Guy who was to blame for that.  If they were to be disturbed, the guards could not stop it; she was certain of that.  The most she could hope for was that they would warn them in time.

She smiled at Guy.  He had no idea of the danger they were facing; pleasing her was his only source of worry.

Closing the space between them, she cupped his face in her hands and pulled him down into a kiss.

“Let’s go upstairs, darling,” she murmured into his ear.

He kissed her again, pulling her up against him hard she could barely breathe.

* * *

Her heart had been racing with excitement by the time they got upstairs, but when she began to remove her clothes and watched Guy do the same, her nerves overtook her once again.  The game was over; she had made her choice, but why was it so difficult to go through with it?

Not even Guy’s lips on her neck, his hand cupping her breast through her shift could take her mind off of what she dreaded.

“Love? What’s wrong?” he asked.

It only twisted the knife in deeper.  He was panting with desire and his hair was already damp at the temples.  Against her hip she could feel the hot press of his erection.  A few weeks earlier, he would have finished by now.

“It’s nothing,” she insisted, pushing him down on his back and bending over him, kissing him again for emphasis.  She sat back and reached for the straps on her shift pulling it down to her waist.  When Guy closed his lips around a nipple and sucked, she cried out, the sound seeming to her to reverberate off of the rafters.

“I want to be inside you so badly” he moaned between light kisses until he reached her other breast.  This time, she bit down on her lip.

“Guy?”  It wasn’t until she spoke that she realized she was weeping.  She wanted him, as much as he wanted her, but she couldn’t.

When he reached up to stroke her cheek his thumb stopped a tear.

“Oh, darling, what’s the matter? Please tell me?”

Pulling her shift back up, she lay down again. She tried to speak, but at first all that came out was a sob.  Guy lay down next to her, and when he gently wiped away another tear, and she tried again. “I . . . can’t”

“Shhh,” Guy cooed.  “That’s alright.  We don’t have to.”

“I want to! But I . . .”

“I know.  It’s fine, love.  You don’t need to explain.  You’re just . . . not ready.”

At first, she could only cry harder.  Guy sat back, giving her space and handing her a clean cloth from his bedside table.  She gave only a cursory thought to the purpose he had intended it for; that would hardly help matters. She dabbed at her tears in silence.

“Are . . . are you a virgin?” Guy asked.

There was no anger in his voice, no accusation.  He sounded timid.  Fragile, almost. He was lying on his back again, and she looked down at him, studying his face in the moonlight.

“No.  I’m not.”

There was a flash of disappointment.  A sigh.  “I . . . wasn’t certain,” he said softly.  “I knew that you were betrothed to . . . but I didn’t know if . . .”

“Do you still want me?” she asked, pleased by how even her voice sounded now.  She was master of herself again.

But when her eyes fell on his again, her confidence dissolved.  He looked so hurt.

“Of course I do,” he replied, still quiet, but with no trace of doubt. “It wasn’t your fault.  You didn’t know he would . . .”

He was holding back, to spare her feelings, and the realization sent another tear rolling down her cheek.

“No . . . I didn’t think he would abandon me for a war on the other side of the world.  Or even for the king.”

Guy reached for her hand, and she let him take it.  He looked down at it, rubbing his thumb over her fingers, studying their smallness against his wide palm.

“I’ve never been able to understand that,” he confessed shyly.  “He had Locksley. You loved him.  How could he . . .?

“I don’t know,” she answered, ending the silence.  “I’ve never been able to understand it either.”

She found herself lying next to him, her head pillowed on his shoulder.  She stifled a yawn, her eyelids growing heavy. “It was hard . . . being left like that.  I missed him at first, but sooner or later I realized that he probably wasn’t thinking of me as much as I was of him.  And I began to think of other things.  Knighton.  It’s people.  My responsibility to them.  I wanted to be more than just the sheriff’s daughter.  And then the new sheriff came and I . . .”

It was his warm lips on her forehead that let her know that she was babbling.  “Shhh, darling, get some sleep,” he murmured, sounding half asleep himself.  She nestled against him and spoke no more.

* * *

She didn’t know how much time had passed when she awoke again, warm and contented on her back.  Guy was lying on his side with his back pressed against her, still deep asleep.  It was a calm night, and she gave a moment’s thought to the guards outside, who were probably all asleep too.  She rolled over, wrapping her arm around Guy’s waist and listening to his steady breathing.  It had almost lulled her back to sleep when she heard footsteps on the roof.