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Plague & Fyre

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Coming to the conclusion that he had to kill Gisbourne was easy for Robin Hood. How he was to do it was another. Lady Justice would surely turn a blind eye to the covert slaying of his mortal enemy if she so chose, but how could he? Robin was no fool. As much as he yearned to thrust a blade deep in to the man’s smug guts, he knew, deep inside, he was no killer. He would not be able to live with himself. So, the conclusion was reached: Robin Hood would kill Guy, and then kill himself. He may go to hell with him for it, but that was a small price to pay for this supreme act of revenge for the murder of his beloved, Marian.

Several years had passed since the assault on the Sheriff, and the disbandment of the once Merry Men. King Richard was back on the throne but England was no better off, riddled with plague and fyre, misery made its home in Nottingham. It was the End of Days without a doubt.

Robin had not smiled in god knew how long—a broken hero trundling on through the ceaseless pain until finally, his breath would give out. Fortunately, it seemed like such a fate was not far from claiming him; Robin had developed a cough over the three days and it only served to worsen through the bitter rains and biting winds that were commonplace in Mother England. But to hell with it all, he wouldn’t die by his own hand, then. That was all. He would fine the bastard and cut his throat, then wait until the inevitable. Better make it quick, though; Robin found a spot of blood this time when he coughed, washed away by the icy droplets soaking him.

Trudging through the dead woods, Robin marched against the wind, struggling to see through the hail that blurred his vision.

Keeping tabs on Gisbourne had been easy. It was almost like he wanted him to find him; spending weeks at a time in one place, never hiding his face or using a false name, Robin almost pitied him. Almost. Of course, it was hard to not fall for the man; his fractures made it almost impossible to see the once-reviled tyrant’s right-hand man, but Robin was not fooled by emotion any more. Guy had to die. He was the only reason he was here, now, living in this wretched hell. Killing Guy would give Robin closure, and reason enough to just leap off this mortal coil and in to the void where she waited for him, ever faithfully.

When he finally cornered the disloyal rat, Robin hesitated.

This was no palace, no fortified castle suitable to the man’s inimitable… tastes. This was a ruined woodshed, plagued with wood rot and worm, with windows so black and dirty that they were impossible to see through. The dim light inside provided clue enough for the former outlaw that life still beat inside this decomposing lodging. There was but one entrance, the door, with the windows being too narrow for any human to force their way through, leaving very little choice.

The dark ravine in which this old hut sat was sheltered from the growing storm enough for Robin to approach no longer hindered. He pulled the knife out from his boot, keeping his eyes locked on the cracked door.

Anyone could be inside, waiting in ambush to kill any trespassers.

Robin kicked at the door. Hard. It did not give, but it rattled in defiance.

Again.

A sudden paroxysm in his chest caused the Hood to tumble and break in to a fit of violent coughing, so hard that he doubled over unable to fully remain stalwart in his task. Pain. Pain. He could go on. Just barely, he rose, spitting the blood and wiping the rest from his chin to finally throw his weight against the stubborn door. It gave, and allowed him egress just in time. Something heavy had shifted from behind the door and tumbled with a thud.

Robin’s burst inside, and a pale face turned a shade paler.

Bloodshot and disheveled lay Guy, on the dusty floor, his right wrist bleeding and a bloodied blade it his left.

“No!” spat Robin, lowering his blade and hastening to the man without wasting another second.

“You will not die like this, you coward!” Robin heaved, pulling the unconscious Gisbourne up in to a sit.

Assuming his interruption had halted Guy from completing the shameful deed, Robin glanced around the room. Several empty wine bottles lay scattered on the floor next to a soiled pile of rags where he’d obviously been sleeping. There was a fireplace but no evident embers amongst the ashes. And then there was Gisbourne: filthy, stinking of booze and grime, blind drunk and moments away from death. Despite his better judgment, Robin knew what to do. The old Robin Hood knew what to do, and it wasn’t let a man die in such a dishonorable way. If that meant he would not get his resolution as prearranged, then a postponing was the only option. He would kill him. One day—but only when the man had the ability to defend himself. Never would Robin murder him in such a cowardly fashion.

That was what Gisbourne would do.

Stemming the blood flow was easy; he’d done it a hundred times on the battlefield, aiding comrades mortally wounded by the vicious Saracen. A tourniquet was ripped from his own grubby sleeves until he had no sleeves, instead using them to tightly constrict the flow, and then again to dress the wound after he’d found a few drops of remaining alcohol in a bottle close by Guy’s feet to splash on the wound. He then left the man to wallow, while he himself drowned his sorrows, leaned up against the wall, draining the bottle until he could see the black he only wished would be permanent.

 

The morn was harsh, bringing pain temporary.

Robin was roused by his own virulent coughing, tasting of stale liquor and bringing reminders of the desolation. It was a suitable lot, Robin had not slept purposefully since Marian’s murder, and he wouldn’t sleep again until the end came. Depression was accepted, welcomed, much like the booze he used to make each night shorter.

Apparently, Guy had a similar sentiment.

“You should have killed me,” Robin heard.

Peering across the room, Robin was vaguely reminded of the shed in which he found Gisbourne, coiled in a torrent of his own oblivion-seeking wretchedness. He was in no better shape now: huddled in to a corner, knees up to his chest, holding his bloodied wrist with one hand, seemingly entranced by the darkened stains of crimson spotting the ripped fabric wrapped around him. His tired eyes were ringed with red and he stared, unblinking at the evidence of his own immoral attempt.

“Don’t fret, Gisbourne, there’s time yet,” Robin scoffed.

“Not much, judging by that cough of yours…”

Robin said nothing, though he gritted his teeth and rose to a more painful sit. Still, this man infuriated him, taunted and jeered. After he’d gone to the trouble of saving his sorry hide. He should have expected no less. It’s all they knew. Of all their interactions, none were more prevalent aside from the fighting, than their spirited yet fully intended spiteful remarks. But something was off. Guy did not sound himself. He did not sound like Guy, with his usual dark allure. Suddenly, Robin found himself gazing out from under his furrowed brows at the man.

Guy was staring at him, blankly.

It was understood now that Gisbourne’s lash was not meant as an insult at all, but a state of fact: Robin was dying. It was an uncomfortable truth, one that caused Robin to avert his gaze to avoid the eerie-calm moroseness that was Guy’s expression, and rise to his feet. He ached, how he ached… every inch of his body was on fire: pain in his bones and limbs from the constant travel; rage in his brain for this man who dared speak to him, who dared to exist in his presence at all; a burning in his chest, the hot claw of Death gripping his lungs with each movement and with each breath… Robin was purely exasperated. He couldn’t kill Gisbourne now, even if he wanted to. And he wanted to.

“Any more wine?”

Guy shook his head.

Robin staggered to the still open door, ignoring Guy, unbuckled his belt and took himself in hand, pissing aimlessly. He might have been pissing on his own boots or on to a nun’s—he didn’t care. Nothing mattered any more. Robin could scarcely see the sun through the dark grey clouds, but it brought a sullen reminder: there was nothing to live for. He just hoped he lived long enough to kill Guy before this plague took his life.

Guy watched Robin at the doorway, and felt the cold air on his face.

When Robin returned, and was in the middle of buckling himself back up, he turned to face the despondent Gisbourne, but made no move to approach him, instead simply looking at him. The makeshift bandage was holding, and the bleeding had stopped. Guy could have bled out over night and he wouldn’t have cared. Robin had done what he could, and in that, his conscience was clear. Yet, a part of him regretted his decision; Guy wanted to die. What he had done was not an act of mercy—it never was. Robin wanted Guy alive so he could kill him himself, not to watch this miserable retch end his own life. Now, he was faced with an incomparable dilemma: kill him now, or watch him flounder in murk of gloom. Robin did not want any part in that, to infect himself with this corruption that was Guy, to suffer through not only his own unhappiness but his also. He had no energy left for that. The bleakness of it all was infinite.

“You should have killed me,” Guy repeated, grimly, making eye contact the best he could.

Robin derided, “don’t remind me.”

Robin moved to sit next to him—against every tugging of hate dragging him away—he sat next to this man, this pitiful excuse for a man, who had taken lives without feeling, and murdered his beloved—their beloved—Marian, cheated and spat in the face of Justice, and felt his bare arm brush against his… and was… comforted.

Hate filled his every fiber. Hate for Guy—hate for himself for feeling this way. Robin was disgusted with himself.

After everything, years of hunting, searching, and daydreaming the vicious acts of revenge he’d commit against Gisbourne when he finally got his opportunity, all he could do… was to stop him from killing himself, share in his alcohol, share in his despair, and… sit with him.

Robin laughed.

Frowning, Guy turned his head. The laughter was unexpected. The laughter was weak, bitter, and clouded with something indefinable. Indefinable enough for Guy to quest: “I’m glad you find my existence so amusing, Hood. Care to divulge?”

Robin’s laughter broke in to a series of coughs.

Guy could only stare and blink helplessly as Robin spat and coughed, coughed and spat. It seemed to go on for hours; sometimes spots of blood on Robin’s hand, and sometimes not, but always Robin would be pained, and would be remiss. It horrified him. Guy sat forward with a delayed sense of urgency, and from his own bandage formed, by what appeared to be Hood’s own torn sleeves, a strip of cloth. He leaned over, and pressed it to Robin’s mouth without thinking. His hand stopped on his shoulder.

After a few moments, Robin began to calm, and his coughing ceased long enough for relief. Robin leaned back, let his head roll back to press against the wall behind them. He took with him the strip of cloth, now spotted with blood, and removed himself from Gisbourne’s uncharacteristic affections.

Weakly, Robin revolved his eyes to the man next to him.

Guy was staring. Bottom lip hung slightly open.

“What?”

Every lingering spiteful thought Robin had for Guy had dissipated; Guy was as unhappy as he, and they were as unhappy as each other. They hated each other. Yet, when one was in need, the other unveiled some surprising colors. Robin had been called a hero; guy was the villain. Would a hero ignore a villain in need? Perhaps not. Would a villain support a hero?

“Why?” Guy’s eyes were wide, and wet. He was asking, pleading: “Why didn’t you just let me die, Locksley? It’s what I deserve. How could you… after…”

For once, Robin had to silver-tongued response. He could only stare as this man—this once fearsome and terrible man—broke down in tears. Shattered, completely and utterly broken, no longer the villain he once proclaimed to be. No longer a man, but a shell, sobbing with the same hapless grief and hopelessness that he also suffered. No longer did Robin want to kill him. But he had to, hadn’t he? What was worse: ending a man’s misery, or allowing him to live in this self-contained hell? Not even Robin could make a decision so vile. He was stuck. A part of him wanted Guy to suffer, but then, how much longer? Guy would surely just end his own life before too long. And that was what he hated the most. If Guy was going to die, then Robin would be the one to do it—he deserved to do it, after all. Did that mean he had to watch him like a hawk until then?

“Shut up,” Robin spat, spitefully.

Robin was beset with frustration; he sat up, ignoring his own pain to turn and climb, kneeling half over Guy’s legs to seize the man’s face in his hands, roughly. Guy blinked, unable to make eye contact. Robin shook his head and forced their eyes to lock. Reluctantly, Guy looked.

“Shut up, shut up! You don’t get to cry, you murdering bastard! You don’t get to feel sorry for yourself! Will you just shut up and be a man so I can put a dagger in you without feeling guilty… let me have this, damn you!”

Darkly, Guy replied in a whisper, “Then just do it…”

Releasing Guy, angrily Robin thrust himself back away from the man as if he’d touched fire and crawled backward away until he could go no further. He remained at the opposite side of the room, with scattered bottles in his path and screaming with frustration in to his bloodied palms.

When a quiet resolved, Guy spoke:

“What are you waiting for, Hood?”

Robin did not look up. He knew what he was doing. Trying to get him to kill him like some petulant child refusing to take no for an answer. He wouldn’t. Robin was not going to kill a man already dead inside. It was against his nature. Despite it all. Robin was still Robin Hood inside after all this time. He fucking hated that. The plan was thrown in to ruins, thanks to his better nature. He sickened himself.

“I said shut up, Gisbourne,” sighed Robin, unable to shout any longer.

“You always were a soft touch, Hood… never could put a foot wrong, could you?”

“Just shut… up.”

Guy shut up. Instead, he watched Robin. The former outlaw looked horrible. Pale, clammy, sweat clung to him and soaked his hair, his clothes were torn and he bore an air of defeat—just like him. Limbs were splayed in display of his lack of vitality. This was not a man capable of killing him anymore. Guy was barking up the wrong tree, unfortunately.

They sat like that in silence for a while, with Robin passing out and waking up some minutes later to rise. He no longer suffered the headache that came with the consumption of alcohol and marched with purpose out of the shed, leaving behind the stink of booze and sweat and mildew without so much of a glance at the other man. Air was what he needed, air to clear his head and clear his lungs.

Guy was only vaguely aware of him leaving; opening his eyes in time to see the blurred boots disappeared through the door. He couldn’t have stopped him if he tried.

 

There was a trail outside of the cabin that Robin hadn’t seen when he discovered it the night before, overgrown with roots and typical of the region. The trees were all bare and black in color, further adding mood to misery as he trudged around in circles with his hands in his hair for several minutes before a sound caught his ears.

Water.

Water would be good.

Robin found a small stream, still running with clean water, and filled his cask. Drained it. Refilled it. Drained it again. Refilled again. He had been so thirsty that he hadn’t realized how achingly dry his throat had been. Sure, it made him cough, but thankfully for once, there was no blood. It almost made him relent: he couldn’t be getting better; his sickness was a reason to live, as ironic as that sounded. It reminded him of his mortality. With such limited time on this earth, he had been spurred on to commit to his years-long aspiration to kill Guy of Gisbourne, bringing him close enough to do just that. He could not, however, go through with it, upon seeing what a horrendous sight Gisbourne had become. Suicidal and hopeless. He looked like he hadn’t had a wash in weeks; hair a tangled mess, skin dirty, beard in an ugly tangle… simply put, the man he left alone there in the hut was not the man he set out to kill. Robin could not kill him until he resembled something like the man he so reviled.

When Robin returned to the cabin, he was not surprised.

Guy had not moved from where he’d left him: sitting on the floor with his back to the wall, head hung low and long hair in his eyes…

Robin’s fury carried him this far. He stopped in front of him, and unsheathed his knife.

Craning his neck, Guy caught the sight immediately. From Robin’s boots, fresh with mud, he could tell that the man had been out. From the dull gleam of the dagger in his hand, he could tell that finally Robin had given in to the base desire of vengeance. It actually put a smile on his face, almost blissful. Peace would be granted to him, in this most appropriate hand.

“Not so perfect after all, eh, Locksley? Just do it quick… you good types are prone to change their minds in matters like these.”

Robin’s eyes rolled, but Guy couldn’t see them; he had rolled his head to the side and closed his eyes, to apparently prepare for the end, and had pulled open his collar to reveal his bare throat and collarbone, ripe for slicing in to.

“Get up, you fool,” Robin huffed, leaning down to grab Guy by the arm, tugging him to his feet after some brief struggle. The knife that Robin had been holding had not been sheathed, but instead was brought down to the shirt wrapped around Guy’s wrist.

“Ow, what’re you?” Guy hissed.

“I’ve had enough. Gisbourne, you stink, you’re getting a bath…”

Gisbourne could only blanche in compete and utter shock. Robin moved on to pulling his coat open, button by button, in haste, not wasting any time. Guy fought, pushing his hands against the frantic movement of Hood’s, stopping him.

“A… are you quite sane?”

Robin sighed, and eventually stood back away from him, threading fingers through his own hair and tugging on the locks in annoyance at this, most ludicrous of situations. “Sane enough to know that you’ll feel a lot better after a bath. Look, there’s a bucket in the corner, and a stream outside… I’m going to go outside, and fill this bucket; you are going to get a fire started. Then, you are going to get your clothes off, and I’m going to wash you. Then we can talk, and maybe… work out what the hell we’re going to do… please yourself, but if you haven’t moved from this spot when I get back, I will kill you…”

Robin was already heatedly marching out the door before Guy could shout: “Have you even been listening to me, Robin?”

It was ridiculous! A bath? What in the world was going on?

There was no bath in sight, confusing Guy further. Guy had spotted the stream prior to Robin’s apparent discovery, used by Guy occasionally for water, but he’d only been at the cabin a day and a half, he had no need for water. Drinking himself into oblivion seemed like the most reasonable plan. But for Robin to suggest…

“He’s lost his mind,” uttered Guy in disbelief.

However, Guy was on his feet. A mere pull of his arm and he was up, so there must have been some undeniable power of influence still in the short, sandy-haired outlaw after all. Funny. Here, he’d been hoping for Robin to transform in to a heartless, soulless shell of the man he once was, coming to kill him. Yet, there were remnants—hope. Even if Robin would deny with every ounce of vigor that he could muster that he was doing this out of the goodness of his heart, but to feel ‘less guilty,’ Guy knew the truth.

Robin pitied him, and that… strangely left Guy with a feeling he’d not been able to detach from the melee of senseless emotions for some time.

Hurt.

Robin was in a state of denial as he returned with the first bucket of water. There was a metal trough outside the hut, covered with moss until he cleaned it. Denial because this was so surreal, what he was planning to do… he’d been so close to just leaving and walking away, closer still to spilling Guy’s guts all over the floor, yet he’d lost his nerve to do both of those, instead a bizarre excuse came over him.

Robin was angry, so angry.

“Just kill him, Robin,” he talked to himself, scrubbing the crap from the decades-old trough. “What is wrong with you? You idiot. Just do it. Who is going to know? Get it over with so you can get out of here and die in peace… idiot!”

Yelling, Robin threw his hands in the air, and then to his face. He’d been breathing hard. Face red. None of this was right—None of it. Guy should be the one dying. Instead, he was inside a building, probably not doing anything Robin asked, wasting what could turn out to be a full and satisfying life, while Robin was one foot in the grave. What the hell was the point in any of it? All his life, he’d been a hero, and this is how it ends? With him trying to cheer up a man who deserved none of it—he deserved none of it! It was boundless with injustice. Robin began to sob in to his hands.

He couldn’t even remember what Marian looked like—only what her killer looked like: alive and well, and living in hell.

After he had stopped crying dry tears and dry heaving, Robin bucked up, wiped his snotty nose and returned, grim-set and ready to lay in to the murderer for not even performing a simple request—the least he could do after everything…

Oh.

Guy was on his knees by the old fireplace when he entered, stoking a very pitiful ember in to flames, blowing and funneling… it was all very unexpected. Robin had been sure that Guy would not have, but there he was. Trying. How was one to react to this... this… affront?

“You call that a fire?”

“I’m doing my best!” Guy snarled.

And Robin… smiled.

 

Robin had dragged the heavy metal trough inside, much to Guy’s blatant disgust.

“Hood. You must truly be mad if you think I am getting in that… that pig trough.”

By now, the fire resembled a real fire, however smaller, compared with what no doubt it would have looked like years ago when the cabin was in full operation. Still shameful when compared with Robin’s experiences in the forests and woods, making and breaking camp, staring fires was a regular occurrence. One might have thought that Guy could at least be able to make one. And he did, to a lesser extent, but at this rate it was going to take hours to heat up the water long enough to fill a trough with it and to keep it hot at the same time. Still, Robin instructed Guy to bring the water to a boil. The metal bucket heated very quickly and the water began to bubble, and it was poured in to the elongated container. The steam rose. The water was boiling, but after half a dozen or so water collections, it would have cooled enough to not boil the bathers skin right off his bones.

Guy began to accept the routine, taking the bucket, heating it up, and then dumping the water into the trough. The trough, he figured out, could be moved as close to the fire as possible without it actually touching the flickering flames. He grew accustomed to the fast paced schedule, quickly forgetting his low spirits in order to complete the task quickly, so as to not incur the Hood’s wrath. He saw it. The sneers, the silent hate. Best to avoid all that.

“Alright, get your clothes off,” Robin finally said, when the bath was done.

Scoffing, Guy was about to argue, until the glare he caught from the other man was enough to sear the skin from a dragon. Reluctantly, he shrugged out of his damaged coat, letting the worn black leather slip from his shoulders. Sluggishly, he moved, folding the coat over and placing it on an old milking stool. Next, he worked on his boots.

Evidently inpatient, Robin sighed, “oh, for the love of…” took his hands to his hips and moved to yank off Guy’s belt with an angry urgency. “Do I have to do everything? Have you never undressed before?”

In this, it was clear that Robin cared not for decency or gentlemanly manners; he wanted action, not reaction. By staring wide-eyed, Guy was not doing anyone any favors. Robin was undressing him absolutely no dignity or compassion. The leather trousers were jerked down, boots coming off with them, and Robin flung them aside like sacks of potatoes.

“Easy, you…” Guy grimaced, aware that his cut wrist still suffered a wound that was adept of bleeding, and it did so now with faintly.

Robin stopped, roughness giving way to an oddly remorseful drift towards Guy.

Guy exhaled: “Locksley… I am not a child. I can do this myself, if I must.”

“You must, but I don’t trust you,” he said, bluntly.

Approaching Guy, Robin took hold of his wrist, again making him hiss out in discomfort. He regretted hurting him, he really did. The new gentleness of his thumbs smoothing down against the cut may have hurt, but Robin intended only to check the wound. He lingered, head lowered, thumbs brushing, stroking, until…

“You’ll be fine,” Robin huffed, pushing his hands away and abandoning the too-close contact, and turning his back to squat and stoke the fire. “Now, get undressed, I said!”

Since Guy had endured the contemptible endeavor, he was in no risk of bleeding out now that the tourniquet had prevented the blood from running. A few drops expended were hardly going to kill him. Reluctantly, he began to peel away the encrusted and reeking undershirt. It was marred with dirt. Before too long Guy was unclothed, naked, and at peace with his discomfort.

Robin saw him, out of the corner of his eye. Shifting from foot to foot, uncharacteristically timid in the firelight, his bared skin was grubby from head to toe. Unwelcome sympathy dared to seize Robin’s blackened heart. This man was a shadow of his former self, who was much feared in his prime, now but a shade of the formidable Guy of Gisbourne. Hair was matted and greasy, knotted and unkempt. A scruffy beard painted his face—a portrait of a man without a speck of self-respect. Bruises decorated his skin, shared with scars that marked him as a man once affected greatly with war and strife. Underneath the harshness of the leather, the fierceness of his scowl, lay a man on the brink: his ribs were sharply displayed—a sure sign of malnutrition; the gauntness was a substantiation to his downfall. Robin couldn’t stand to look at him. Not his fine profile, nor his coy features. He may still have his sharp tongue, but it no longer scorched with the same passion it once had. Every insult, seemingly rolled from his tongue, was but a charade—a trick to maintain an image he no longer had the strength to uphold. Guy of Gisbourne’s shell had shattered, leaving behind a man faded and exposed.

Robin averted his gaze to concentrate on keeping the dim fire alive long enough to last.

The trough looked scarce enough to stand in let alone sit in, but Guy disliked incurring the ire of the hood once more by disobeying. Quickly he stepped in to the water, which was hot enough to sting, but not enough to cry out until he sat in it. Suddenly Guy wished Robin hadn’t finished off the last of his booze so he could directly erase all memories of this humiliation.

Kneeling perfectly at one side of the trough, Robin gruffly said, “right,” and with no small indecision, he began to scrub Guy’s arms and shoulders with a rag he’d liberated from some corner of the shack. The muck from his skin was stubborn, so he scrubbed hard—anger spurred his actions.

Nothing was said from Guy, who was forced to sit and endure in silence as Robin brought pain to him with an intent that was far from accidental. It burned. It scorched. It took every nerve in his bruised body every scrap of meditation to keep him from yelping like a stung pup.

Robin made it clear he was not doing this out of kindness. Far from it. An awkward chore—that was all it was. He scraped stubborn dirt from skin with his fingernails when the cloth and hot water wasn’t enough, leaving angry red streaks against the sickly-pale flesh of his arms and torso. Robin scoured his back so hard that Guy was sent splashing back and forth in resistance to the angry force applied against him.

He knew: Robin hated him.

But Guy could no naught but accept it. After all, he was the primary—if not sole—source of the outlaw’s fury. He killed the woman they both loved (although Robin would never accept that Guy’s feelings for Marian went beyond the superficial) and it was a seismic heartache, splitting the very core of Robin Hood, and tearing him apart from within until all that remained was an incessant desire for cruel retribution. Robin would never listen to reason, would never admit that Guy’s actions were of purely misfortune. To him, no accident could or would justify this most heinous crime. And Guy, he too blamed himself, with a punishment all of his own. And Robin, he seemed to be satisfied, begrudgingly. Guy’s masochism was the only thing preventing him from sticking him in the back right now.

“Don’t talk,” growled Robin.

Guy was about to apologize—for what? He couldn’t even begin.

Forceful fingers were a far cry from the unexpected kindness that had been present when Robin had observed his self-inflicted injury, carding through his entangled hair like one pulling weeds from the ground. He tugged loose the knots one after the other, with a dwindling aggression the more wearied he became, eventually coming to lose much of his rage as he washed Guy’s hair.

“Can I talk now?” he asked.

“Go ahead. But if the next words out of your mouth are ‘I’m sorry’—don’t waste your breath.”

Guy hesitated.

Robin stopped. Observed. Started washing his hair again.
“I’m not going to say it—you’d never believe me, anyway.”

“For once, you speak truth… but?” Robin supplied.

“But…” Guy licked his lips. “But when you found me… you could easily have watched me die. Watched my life drain away like Marian’s.”

Robin tugged. Hard.

Guy flinched, continued: “I am not going to pretend I am disappointed that you saved my life. You can finally put an end to me the way I’ve cheated you from all this time—I deserve no less. And yet… here we are. I cannot help but wonder: when are you going to do it? Because I’ve given you opportunity, and you’ve yet to take it.”

Saying nothing, Robin cupped his hands and brought them down to collect water and began pouring over guy’s head. He wasn’t going to answer Guy’s point; He was too angry, too hurt, and too heartbroken. It was a grim combination. He just focused on washing the man, moving on to his legs, which were bent at the knee as the tall man had done his best to squash in to the small space. He was a grown man in an uncomfortable position. Good. This wasn’t about comfort.

“Guy, you don’t need to wonder. I’ll wonder. You keep still…”

Of course, Robin’s second thoughts were not going to be voiced—not today. Guy did not need to be made aware of Robin’s weakening resolve in this most sensitive matter. There was to be no deviation from the cause. Robin may not have had the guts after all to commit murder, but only he must know that. If Guy knew, well, it would leave him in a position he may regret. The frustration caused by Robin’s sheer hatred of his own weakness led to his anger.

Robin smoothed the edge of his blade against Guy's throat.

He recoiled. Closed his eyes.

So this was it?

The sharp edge moved, smoothly over his gruff beard, up to his chin. Then it returned to his throat, and was slowly dragged up in another straight stripe.

Guy swallowed. It occurred to him, only when Robin gently took hold of his chin and tilted his head to face him, that Robin was shaving him.

Robin sliced away the beard skillfully and patiently, turning Guy’s head this way and that way until his skin was perfectly smooth again. He almost looked like his old self. Hair was a little longer, but that could be dealt with later. Guy allowed Robin to shave him, and it amazed him. There had come a shift in him.

Through this, Guy had learned to remain still. And quiet. One stray knick and he could be done for. However, it never came and the earlier assumption that Robin would give up and order Guy to complete the washing himself never emerged, and the annoyed scrubbing gave way to tentative strokes, smoothing down his chest and stomach, then up his thighs. Robin was not quiet. The raggedness in his breathing was rattling and troubling. Meanwhile, Guy willed himself to be calm, and to not react as Robin’s uninhibited fingers brushed over the length of his member to wash his scrotum and genitals. He was not nearly so rough. Funny. One might expect a man bent on seeing one man suffer not to go easy on the most sensitive of areas, but there he was: rolling them in his hands in such a sterile fashion that could only mean he was going through the motions—no emotion involved. However, the fact that he was doing it at all was as unnerving as the threats of death themselves.

The water was black when Robin poured it out.

He had been silent since uttering only two syllables: “Get up.”

Enough was enough. Guy need not see his red face or be aware of how difficult it was for Robin to breathe. He marched outside, leaving Guy to dry and dress in peace—no more of this mental torture.

Anger was once again evident as he emptied the water, all but kicking the metal trough over outside, watching as the dirty water spilled out, wishing it were his own blood…

Well out of sight, around the back of the shack, Robin hugged his knees and buried his face between them, hiding within his shame. No one could see him, but he could see himself. And he was horrified. Why had he done that? There was absolutely no need to take it that far. Hell, the bath itself had been a stretch of reason enough. Rampantly, his heart thudded in his chest like a hundred arrows being fired against a block of wood endlessly. Just as hard, he hit his head back against the wall against which he sat. It hurt—but not enough. Not pain would be enough to rectify this inexcusable blunder. He had touched… touched Guy, in a way even he could not foresee. And the worst part was, the he could not stop himself. He saw it happening, and yet, as his brain screamed at him to stop, his pulse raced and his hands… had moved. Reprehensible.

Outside he remained, until the rainclouds settled in again, black and pendulous, pregnant and menacing.

Yet, the incident was keeping him from going back inside.

Even as the icy cold raindrops pattered against the back of his neck, he was immovable—right up until he wasn’t.

"You're wet," noted Guy, when Robin entered.

He was soaked, and Robin nodded, “You’re perceptive.”

Guy had been sitting in front of the almost-dead fire, stoking it with as much futility as arguing with the Reaper himself. His back had been turned until he heard the creak of the door, and then of the floorboard. Turning his head, he was not surprised to see the Hood back. He had half expected him not to return, but of course, his natural pride would not allow this to be the end of it, and since he wasn’t brandishing a knife, he made the simple observation and then turned his attention away again without fear of instant death. His own clothes were dirty, but dry, so he redressed from the waist down.

For that, Robin was grateful.

Closing the door behind him, Robin moved to sit in front of the fire—right next to Guy, against his better judgment. The fire, however small, was still warm enough to get him dry quicker.

They did not look at each other.

However, once Robin broke in to a series of coughs, Guy peered over.

The coughing continued, making Robin double over.

Guy faced the flames—the heat: “You should get out of those wet clothes… they aren’t helping that cough of yours.”

Robin did not respond, waiting and shivering until his chest decompressed. As much as he reviled the idea, Guy was right. His cough was getting worse, delivering more pain, more hurt. How was running outside in the freezing rain going to help? Minutes after Guy made the suggestion, Robin lethargically started to unlace his vest.

Guy noticed, out of the corner of his eye: Robin really didn’t look well. It was remarkable that the man even had the strength to lift hat metal tub, let alone carry several buckets of water to and from the shed and bathe him. His complexion was white as chalk, and his face was shiny with perspiration. Guy could smell it as Robin sat next to him, a sickly smell, and the smell of death.

Reaching over, he helped the struggling Robin to remove the tight vest from around his shoulders. It was dripping wet.

When Guy tried again to help him remove the torn and saturated shirt, Robin snorted: “I can do it.”

"Let me…” Guy pressed on.

“I said, I can do it!” he protested, this time with fervor.

Red eyed, Robin was on his feet, glaring at Guy, on the brink of tears. He stopped, no longer sure if he was about to hit the other man or continue taking off his clothes. At this point, nothing made sense; his head was a cloudy mess, and his skin was on fire. All he could do was go from red to black, and slam his face in to his hands just to mute the insufferable ringing that was on the verge of splitting open his skull.

“Are you mad? You can’t even stand, just… sit down.”

Luckily, a sick Robin made a pliable Robin, and Guy was able to take hold of Robin’s arm and gently urge him to sit back down on front of the fire—and he let him. There was no arguing. No venom spewing from his corrupted tongue, but just a tired and weary exhalation.

Robin was sitting—almost.

Guy had trouble keeping poor Robin upright; his muddled head twisted his perceptions, until the room could do naught be spin obnoxiously. Guy jerked him by the shoulders, forcing the man to keep his eyes open for just a moment longer, but it was evident he was fighting a losing battle. Robin’s shoulders sagged and he went limp in his grasp, eyes finally closing—mercifully. The only reasonable option was to lay Robin down on the sodden rags and remove the rest of his wet clothes. He felt his forehead. It was burning and sweat-soaked. Guy knew the onset of fever when he saw it, and in spite of everything, every verbal lashing, every fight, every fist, every grain of distrust and grief… Guy resolved to help Robin Hood overcome.

 

Over the rest of the day, Robin’s illness broke in to a full fever, and Guy ordained to become his nursemaid, undressing him, wrapping him up in the makeshift bedding, allowing him to sweat and shiver.

Guy had to admit, it was frightening seeing him like this.

Robin Hood: his mortal enemy. He should be fleeing, leaving him to die, not sitting by his side, plagued with worry and guilt—guilt for his actions, killing Marian, thus unleashing a dreadful chain of events that broke the once heroic man. Turning him in to a shell of himself—a shadow. Forcing him to take a dark path of revenge, forsaking even his own health in order to seek him out. It was all his fault. Why the worry? Even he could not understand that one. It was not as if he liked this man. Granted, in the end, he’d tried to help. He had even fought alongside him against the Sherriff’s men. Too late. Too late, he tried to be a hero. It ended in tears.

Guilt was his primary motivation.

If not for that bastard Vaisey, he and Robin might have remained friends.

He pictured a life away from his life, with happy childhood memories and picturesque fantasies. None of it mattered now, however. Robin was sick—dying—right there in front of him, and he was fucking useless!

Furiously, Guy stood and kicked away the metal bucket he’d had by Robin’s side, half-full of water he’d been mopping on to his brow with a cloth. The water went spilling across the wood floor and Guy went off pulling at his hair.

His hair, clean and dry.

Robin had washed his hair, and had bathed and shaved him.

And it had been… nice.

Apart from the roughness, it had been nice. Robin’s transparent mask of hate hid a core of goodness that not even he could besmirch. For a moment there, it almost felt like Robin had forgotten all the hate he had for him. Or at least, willfully displaced it. There was softness. A softness he’d never felt; soft yet at the same time firm and masculine. Guy did not want Robin to die. He did not want to let that spark wither. Robin should not suffer like this, not when he still had kindness in there somewhere for like likes of a rotten scoundrel like himself.

It wasn’t fair.

“…Not right.”

"Robin?"

Robin stirred. His eyes were half-open, but staring in to nothing.

Hovering over him, Guy smoothed hair out of his eyes and excitedly turned his head left and then right, feeling the rough stubble under his fingers as he worked to help rouse Robin in to consciousness. Gently, he slapped his burning cheeks.

"Robin… Robin…” he pled, anxiously.

“Guy… you look different when you’re nursing the dying…” he coughed.

“Howzat?” Guy breathed, shook his head.

Somehow, Robin found Guy’s fingers, held them in his own, and Guy was utterly alarmed by the weakness of his grip—so frail… like a baby’s.

Robin smiled, delirious: “’snot right… you look different. Not-Guy-like, like… like some kind of angel, but dressed better. You don’t look the same, not-Guy. I like looking at you. I never used to like looking at you—anything about you, as a matter of fact. But now…”

Robin’s fingers lost grip of Guy’s and instead found Guy’s chin, held him steady and held the gaze that burned into his face. Guy let him, leaning over as he let him rub his thumb over his chin, over his lips, stroking back and forth, almost as if prying for entry. Guy might have let him.

Now what?—he wanted to ask.

“You’re diff’rent… you look same but…”

“You shouldn’t talk.” Guy hushed, face suddenly hot.

¬If not for Robin’s damnable charm, Guy might have left his side to seek help, but he could not leave him here alone now, should his fever worsen… he grieved to think about such a thing. But it was indeed his drowsy charisma that kept him spellbound, and firmly locked to him like a moth to a flame. As weak as Robin was, he still had his wiles, more affable than Guy cared to admit, so, he allowed Robin to babble disjointedly, and took comfort from the fact that he was still breathing.

"But I wanna… talk,” he mumbled.

Guy scoffed: “You choose now…” sighed, “go ahead.”

“You di’nt kill Marian, did you? It w’s someone else. Couldn’t h’ve been you… you wouldn’t… you loved her as well. N’t even you could harm someone you truly loved. Unless, you didn’t… you didn’t, oh god, tell me you didn’t…”

Guy couldn’t. His liars tongue felt abnormally heavy in his mouth. The word ‘no’ was poised to strike like a viper, but the taste of his own venom was bitter. No was the word he wanted more than anything to be true, but no matter how much he lied, it wouldn’t bring Marian back, nor make the lies true.

For Robin, even in hallucination, the silence was enough.

“Monster,” he coughed, broken and almost imperceptible.

Head bowed, Guy nodded. He could not disagree with the truth. Overwhelmingly sad, Guy allowed himself to recall Marian’s face the moment of death, and then his own remorse. This was what he lived with every day. The knowledge that he had done this most contemptible act dogged him at every turn, and was slowly killing him inside just as Robin’s illness was killing him. Yet…

Shaken fingers clutched his.

Guy looked up to see that Robin had once again sought his hand. Sought the hand of this ‘monster’, out of pure anguish and fear. There simply was no one else to comfort him in these grim hours. Guy alike confirmed he suffered the same, and took his hands firmly in his own. Held them, stroked him, felt the dim life flickering like a candle’s flame in a gust. He would have laughed if the situation had not been so dire.

Hours passed.

Robin passed in and out of consciousness, waking in fits of coughing and vomiting, and sleeping in discord and strife where there seemed to be no moment not disturbed by tossing and turning.

It was hard to watch, and guy had spent much of the time attending to him; wiping sweat, putting his coat over him to warm him up when he shivered and turned blue, and took off layers to cool him when he got too hot. The work of playing nursemaid was emotionally draining, and by nightfall, he was so exhausted himself, that his eyes simply refused to remain open a second longer—he passed out when it finally seemed that Robin was resting comfortably.

With nightfall came hunger.

Guy hadn’t eaten since the day before and had spent much of the day drinking. But he couldn’t leave, not when Robin was in such a state of flux. The piece of bred he had remaining in his pouch would have to suffice. It was all he had, after all. However, he refused, and tried to get Robin to eat instead. It was more important for Robin to eat something and keep it down than it was for him.

The nauseous Robin refused the offering when Guy gently shook him awake. In fact, he looked positively green at the idea of eating, and had waved off the idea before breaking in to a covered cough.

Lamenting his judgment to bother Robin, Guy sighed: “I’m sorry, Robin, but you have to eat something. Here: at least drink…”

Robin tried, he really did, and even sipped from the cask Guy had brought to his cracked lips. It didn’t help that he only swallowed a drop before choking up the rest as black bile. He hadn’t spoken for a while, either. Muttering in his sleep, and even wheezing to the point where Guy had to attend to him, fearful that he was toiling to breathe. What Guy wouldn’t give to have this infection instead of Robin. He had little to give but his life, and if that were what it took, then he would do it. However, no such magic existed to his knowledge, so all he could do was sit, wait, and pray.

“Robin, I’m sorry,” Guy confessed. “You told me you would never accept my apology, but I have nothing else to give… my words. They are all I have, not even my lies… I am sorry, and you have no reason to believe me… I wish you could believe me. Long and hard have I wanted to say this to you, to at least give you some peace of mind, but your heart has been stained by so much hate, I’m afraid it’s already too late for me to make amends.”

Robin stirred. His eyes cracked but did not fully open to observe the man hovering over him.

“Marian loved you, and always had. I took her away from you. Believe me, I never meant…” Guy stopped, and bit in to his knuckles. “God help me, I have always been jealous, you and her…” Guy resumed. “Never mind. I know that none of that matters now, but it still confounds me how she ever had the stomach to look at me. She was special.”

Tears were held back just enough to keep him from uttering another work. The memories of Marian, and her affections, false and illusionary, he had wanted them to be true, and had fallen for her wiles. Perhaps somewhere inside she had feelings for him as he had for her, but dwelling on such matters only served now to make one regret, and there was far too much of that. Guy could remember her touch, her smell, and briefly allowed himself to drift in to the fantasy—for but a moment.

“Guy,” croaked Robin.

Guy looked down, breaking from the dreamscape realms of a better place, and blinked.

Robin was looking up at him. No longer was he so pale; his cheeks were red, but he was still coated with perspiration, and his eyes were dim—the light in them but a faint glimmer. Still, life existed in this man, and it was a light that still refused to give up. Robin Hood’s legend was a tenacious flame, and even if no longer the blaze it once once, a little stoking and it was restored.

Gisbourne was still, staring and fearful that if he moved or spoke too suddenly, then he would disrupt the little bit of life Robin still had. His hands, he held.

“You’re still here?”

“Yes, Robin,” he said, quickly, squeezing his hands that much tighter.

Robin closed his eyes and swallowed, turned his head away for several seconds as if in thought before turning to look back at him. With some precious remaining vigor, he tugged Guy closer, close enough for their breaths to mingle in the air between their faces.

Frowning, Guy stared unblinking.

“Will you kiss me?”

Guy’s expression didn’t change. He was unsure if he heard the man correctly, since he was so weak, and voice so cracked and hushed. He leaned in closer, and whispered, simply, “What?”

“I never got to say goodbye,” he said, choking on the last word.

"Robin… I don't understand…” Guy shook his head.

“You were there… Guy,” he said, so harshly, it could have been a shout if he had had the energy. “She died by your hand, and you were there—the closest person to her at the… the time… all I want is a kiss. To remember her… to feel like she never left, even for a second… is that too hard for you to understand?”

“No.” Peculiarly, it wasn’t.

So, Robin’s game was imaginary. Guy didn’t mind. It was hardly an impossible request; he might do the same for anyone. But Robin was different. This was no soldier dying on the battlefield. This was a man he’d wronged—dreadfully wronged—and it was his wish, if not his last wish, to be with Marion at this one last time, even if it wasn’t real. Guy would of course abide. It was the least he could do. The weight of responsibility was a heavy burden to carry. He would never tell Robin, but he, too, would be saying goodbye to her.

Eyes closed, Robin felt the soft brush of warm lips against his—so soft that they might have been hers from the heavens, come down to share a final moment before they met again in that great cloud kingdom. Might have been. But they weren’t. Even Robin wasn’t so delirious that he wasn’t aware of the difference. Guy was all he had in these moments to indulge in this stolen resolution, and they lingered together until a swelling of sorrowful joy filled Robin’s broken heart.

And with that one kiss, he said goodbye to her.

 

A day had elapsed since Robin’s fever broke, and relief of reliefs, the time for Robin’s passing came and went, and still, he persevered. Alive, his breathing stilled, and his temperature normalized.

Finally, Guy was able to relax—but he did not. Instead, with much reluctance, Guy left the shack where he had Robin had been holed for three days to the nearest town in search of food. It was only with Robin’s diluted assertion that he was fine, that Guy parted ways with him for the time being—promising to return.

The town was as dismal as he remembered it.

Burnt bodies were being carted to the outskirts and dumped in a ditch when he arrived—A dozen or so. And the smell of smoke and flesh mingled was a smell he was familiar with, and it still turned his stomach.

Paying little attention to the disposal of the carriers of the disease, Guy marched in to town. The streets were cobbled and empty, nary a soul dare to peek out of their windows or blood-smeared doors even in curiosity of the dark stranger as he passed through. Several wanted posters bore his likeness. He ripped them from the walls as he went, no one cared any longer about a wine-thief—a more devastating turn of events had gripped the place in the last few days. So, he did so only to present himself with fewer obstacles as he found the closed market, even as the image of the bearded man no longer quite resembled himself.

An old woman pushing a cart of spoiled vegetables was all that he saw; an eerie sense of doom permeated the ruined arcadian landscape.

Guy would take what he had to, then return to Robin; he did not like to stay in such a place for longer than necessary.

"Be gone, me’sir,” croaked the old crone. “Devil’s fyre has been burning.”

Never even looking in each other’s direction, they went in separate ways; the crone, towards her home, and Guy, in search, though in doubt as to where he would come to the goods he required. It had only been a few days since he was last here, and there was now little here for even a miser to pilfer.

Carrying with him, his leather pouch, Guy entered a tavern run by a gruff old man and his wife, whose eyes remained downcast as guy entered, swept with melancholy.

In one corner sat two men, faces dirty from working hard burning bodies, drinking in silence. Neither moved but an inch at Guy’s arrival.

“Excuse me?” queried Guy.

Receiving no answer from the dejected barkeep, Guy coughed to get his attention as he approached the bar just as he was wiping it down with a dirty old rag. As he did so, the man sighed wearily and looked up at Guy with tired, gloomy eyes.

“Please, I’ve lost my daughters, good sir,” he said. “Forgive me for my demeanor. How may I help you?”

“I’m sorry for your loss, my friend,” consoled Guy, honestly. He patted the man’s shoulder firmly. “But I will be brief…”

Nodding, the man turned his back to Guy in order to fetch the only two remaining bottles left on the rack—Corked wine, and a bottle of port. Neither looked particularly helpful. He frowned.

“Raiders cleaned us out yesterday. Vermin. This is all we have left.”

Sympathetically, Guy nodded, “very well. In that case I will take what you can spare, if you can spare it, but it is food, really, that I was requesting—and information.”

Raising one brow, the barkeep stopped to observe Guy, before leaving to go to an open door behind the bar. There he rummaged for a short while. Meanwhile, the man’s wife went about her business; wiping down tables and timidly pouring small amounts of the precious remaining ale from a tankard back in to the barrel. When the man returned, he had in his hands a small pail. Inside were scraps, really; unspoiled fruit and vegetables, potatoes and leeks.

Guy gratefully accepted what he could—the alcohol as well—paid, and collected his lot.

“And the information?” asked the man.

“What is this disease that plagued your town? I heard rumors of a plague, but I never expected…”

“Yes. Neither did we. The worst of it passed by last eve’ and the bodies of those afflicted have been cremated away from where they could spread disease further... My daughters. Those that are still living are being treated and cared for down by the old clinic.”

“And the raiders you mentioned?”

“Pillagers. Taking advantage of this horror.”

“I see. Well, I apologize for taking up your time. I’ll be on my way now.”

After parting ways with the barkeep and reentering town, Guy contemplated hunting down the rotten criminals who robbed the helpless folk, but seeing the desolation, the sickness, Guy was reminded of Robin, waiting. He’d been gone for almost two hours and a panic had developed, urging him back to the woods to find the trail before anything else presented itself. Before departing, however, Guy bargained for a blanket with some gold and then quickly ambled away before nightfall came to spill its dominion.

Unfortunately, these hard times presented little opportunity, even for those on the wrong side of the law. Famine and disease was rife. War was on every street and death waited around every corner, forever stretching the bony fingers to come and take life to the infinite gloom of Hades. Survival was attained in a number of ways, and the part of Guy that was still the Sheriff’s aide did not blame the villains for taking what they could. Yet, he no longer wished to be associated with that ilk.

As the town descended in to darkness, Guy hurried away before the pitch-black overrun his path.

 

“Is this all?”

Robin shrugged, bit in to an apple anyway. He was sitting up, legs out in front of him and crossed at the ankles. He looked so much better.

Guy found it hard not to smile.

There was still a pale, clammy sheen to his skin, but he ate the apple with fervor, crunching away happily. It indicated that Robin was already on the mend. He would need lots of rest and would definitely need to eat and drink in order to keep up his strength so that he would no longer be susceptible to further development of the disease. It appeared, that the worst part was over.

“I should have known not even a plague could kill you,” said Guy, warmly.

There was a pause.

“Are you sorry about that?” asked Robin, quietly, staring at the half-eaten apple.

Guy looked at him.

It did not sound like a challenge—at least, not in the way he would have expected from Robin of Locksley. It had been a question, genuine in its delivery, but unknown in its motivation. As a response, there came none—not immediately. Guy was careful with his words. He was thinking them through, and observing Robin’s reaction, not wanting any response he made to bring unwanted offense. What else could he say?

“If I didn’t care about you, Robin, do you think I would have sat by your side and held your hand the last two days?”

Robin stared at his own hands. The hair on his knuckles provided a convenient distraction from the uncomfortable silence, and from the nervous fluttering inside his belly. Now it was his turn to think.

“No. I suppose not.”

Good enough.

Guy nodded and worked folding Robin’s dry clothes. After the rain, Robin’s wet clothes had remained drying in front of the fire. The fire had since died, but the clothes were dry. Robin was still not in great health, but the chill of night was coming down and having spent the last hour trying to revive the dead embers, it was time for Robin to get dressed, otherwise he might worsen in the night. Guy had the foresight to bring blankets, which he laid out on the floor side by side so that comfort and warmth would at least be attainable, unlike the previous night. Robin had said nothing when he returned, nor did Guy. He simply tossed the satchel by the floor and went to the fireplace. Robin had woken at the sound and moved in to a sit to rummage through the bag. Guy was surprised by Robin’s apparent recovery, but did not mention it, lest he bring a curse of ill omen against him.

Robin tried to rise, but found his muscles and bones ached in every possible way. He groaned aloud and immediately regretted the decision, staying seated on the blanket, which was kinder to his backside than the splintered wood he’d been laying on, at least. He was grateful to Guy for that, but would not say ‘thank you’—not yet, anyway. He wasn’t ready to affirm friendship with the man. Only yesterday, he wanted him dead, and today, he was in a fragile schism regarding this conclusion.

“Eat what you can, we cannot stay here. Tomorrow, I’ll look for a route around town—you don’t want to go there, now. Trust me. Then… then, we can part ways, if you still wish to end my life. I will not fight you.”

Nodding, Robin accepted the solemn moment that Guy expressed. And he trusted his recommendation. The shack was falling to pieces. It was crawling with insects and wood rot. It was not ideal for a man recovering from sickness. Years in the woods increased Robin’s tolerance for such things, but he could not disagree with Guy’s sentiment—a sentient he never would have thought to come from his lips. Guy wanted to relocate. Together. Robin had to poke fun.

“You keep saying we, Guy,” he squeaked. “Since when have we been a we?”

Guy sighed: “would you rather kill me now, then? Because that’s the only way you’re going to be leaving here alone in your state. I won’t let you.”

Robin blanked. A complete blank. Dizziness threatened to consume him. In fact, in such a state of shock, he was, Robin found it hard—but not impossible—to even speak coherently, and he very nearly failed before the intelligent “huh” finally passed his lips.

Impatiently, Guy threw up his arms and shook his head. “Never mind, Robin. Just know that you are still seriously unwell. You cannot fool me with your wits. I know that you are one bad move away from ending up in a grave. Having already been responsible for so many pointless deaths, I cannot afford to be ignorant with you. You may hate me, Locksley, but—”

“—I do.”

“—But… I do not see your band of Merry Men here to help you, so…”

Robin got it. All he had was Guy. “Bastard.”

“Yes, but until you’re better, you’re stuck with me.”

In the end, it didn’t seem like such a terrible arrangement. Guy was no longer the unbearable devil he once had been. It was such a shame, he thought, that Guy had chosen the path he had—they might have been friends. Brothers. Was it too late? Robin had forsaken all he knew to hunt down this man and take his life. He, of all people knew that no man was incapable of redemption. But it was his own vendetta that kept him from forgiving Guy. For an accident. He knew it had been an accident. Marian died and it was Guy’s fault. That was all that fueled him—kept him alive anymore. His friends, unable to console Robin, had all taken up causes of good, and found families. Meanwhile, Robin allowed this corruption infect him. Even he found his hateful action reprehensible.

“I can’t forgive you,” he said, breaking the silence. “But I can thank you. So… thank you.” He shrugged.

Guy only just made eye contact with Robin before the other man had broken it, looking away, in a clear and confused statement: I like you, but I should be hating you. It was not Guy’s intention to plea for his life or charm Robin in to sparing him. He did not expect or ask for forgiveness. Influencing his decisions any way by act of deception was no longer something he would participate in. Even if it meant he only had a few days left on this earth, then he would make it his mission to atone.

They ate a modest stew of vegetables prepared by Guy, neither being capable of eating much, and Robin eating less than Guy. There had been no conversation over dinner, but there had been eye contact—from Robin.

Guy stole glances at the man when he thought Robin wasn’t looking. But he was. More often that not, he caught Robin in the middle of averting his gaze. Guy was reminded of Robin, when he was caught in the rampant throes of fever, and his unexpected outpouring of emotion, and his need for contact. His hands, his lips… there was warmth to Robin that Guy already had abandoned hope of ever seeing again. It was not lost on him that Robin was calling him by his given name now, on almost every occasion, nor was the fact that he was doing the same in kind. Something had changed; a fissure had been traversed.

After eating a meager helping, Robin rolled silently against the blanket, laid on his side. There was truth in Guy’s words. Continuously, his mind clouded with the dwindling illness still within him, and a pain developed—nothing that wouldn’t be remedied—in the head. A splitting headache. Poor Robin felt awful, but he wasn’t about to let on. Guy had already spent much of the last two days cradled up to him, and he was yet again by his side, adjusting his limbs, checking his temperature, stroking his hair...

“Mother hen, Gisbourne,” murmured Robin in a subtly merry way.

“Hush, Locksley,” said Guy, trying to make the man more comfortable.

Robin’s hair was damp and he busied himself mopping down his face and as he finished, he was startled when Robin’s eyes opened to gaze up at him, completely. And he simply stared. For a moment, Guy considered seeking out Robin’s pulse, just to confirm his heart was still beating, until he breathed. Then smirked. It was as unnerving as it was mesmerizing. Robin was obviously still in a phase where emotions flitted from one to the next, and it didn’t entirely surprise Guy when he finally spoke.

“No bedtime kiss?” he asked, smirk nearly a full Cheshire cat grin.

Guy blinked, and warily declined, “no,” as he brushed it off to continue his careful dabbing of Robin’s warm brow.

Robin seemed genuinely offended by Guy’s polite, yet firm, response. Sitting up on his elbows, the outlaw frowned. “Why not?”

Guy sighed, “I’m not even going to begin…”

“Spoilsport,” chuckled Robin.

A warm quiet followed—an amicable ceasefire—where neither man threw insults, threatened, or spat at. They both smiled, and enjoyed the rare occurrence; they enjoyed each other’s company. Hate was no longer a word in these rare moments, with Robin more than accommodating to his presence, as if they were no longer enemies. However, no moment lasted, and as soon as it passed, Robin would return to hate—a default emotion he returned to out of insecurity; guilty for smiling, for having fun, without Marian, in this man’s presence. How dare he? This time, though, Robin refused to feel guilty for a moment of happiness. He’d been miserable for months—years—and he allowed himself this one moment (so what?), and… it lingered.

Guy had rolled Robin over on to his side and started wiping down his back, which was wet with perspiration. He would not say it, but Robin bore the disagreeable tang of vomit and sweat. Understandable, but still unpleasant for the both of them. It was too late and dark to go off collecting water from the stream, and Robin was still too sick for a bath, so he resorted to washing him with a cloth. It would have to suffice until he was well, and they were in a more suitable habitation.

A sound erupted from Robin’s throat; a quiet, contented sigh.

Guy raised an eyebrow, and just out of a slight intrigue, applied more pressure to the man’s bare shoulders.

“Oh,” groaned Robin. “That’s…”

“Does it feel good?” Better than when you were bathing me?—Guy wanted to ask.

“That’s so good,” breathed Robin.

“Good,” said Guy, quickly doing what he had to before rolling Guy back over and covering him up with the blanket. He stood. “Now, try and get some sleep.”

Robin seemed to accept, going quiet and saying nothing for some time. That was until the candles were extinguished and Guy settled in on the blanket nearby, when he spoke:

“This doesn’t change anything, you know… I made a promise to avenge, and that’s exactly what I’ll do. Just because we’re friends now doesn’t mean I’m not going to kill you one day.”

He had sounded eerily cheerful. Enough to scare Guy. Guy, who was no longer on the path to self-destruction. Guy, who had spent the better part of three days caring for a man who still, after everything, wanted him dead. Guy, who would do anything for Robin Hood because he was consumed with guilt. Guy, who would spend every waking moment in service of the man in order to achieve absolution. Guy was scared, of Robin. Scared of dying. Suddenly, he had felt both further away from the bony hand of Death, and closer than ever.

“I know. Robin.”

“Goodnight.”

 

A couple of hours after awaking, Robin was overcome. No longer was he beset with sickness and misery, nor was he consumed with thoughts of revenge. All illness had dissipated over the course of a few nights. The worst part was, Robin hated that. Day by day he was forgetting, forgetting Marian’s voice, her face, and the way she felt. He didn’t want to forget. Of all the things in the world he could forget: his name, his life, his goals… he pled not to forget her. But nor could he deny his change of heart. If the sickness had killed him, he would have no doubt have gone to the grave without accomplishing his sole purpose: to kill Guy. He was losing his bloodlust, and his will to kill. Guilt was stronger than ever, but in a new form. This time, his guilt came out of regret—regret for what he said.

His strength was almost fully restored, and upon waking, he was not surprised to find Guy had woken before him.

Robin could smell his own sweat, and when he sat up, his body had bonded to the blanket he laid on. He’d sweated out the remainder of the plague. And it had not been a comfortable night—though considerably better than the previous night when the trifecta of sweating, vomiting, and coughing all assaulted him. His coughing had gradually declined to a mere tickling in the throat, with no more blood spots. No vomit arose this night, thankfully. He still ached all over, but that was nothing unusual.

Guy came to him when he saw that he had risen, but Robin had gruffly waved him off.

“Wrong side of the bed, Locksley?” Guy smirked.

“You could say that.”

Guy was in the middle of collecting their things. Their minimal belongings consisted of the clothes on their backs and a few scraps of food saved for later. Guy hadn’t forgotten that he had stored a couple of bottles of alcohol away in his satchel, but for once, for once, he had no urge to drink himself in to a hellish stupor—because of Robin. If he hadn’t been so preoccupied in tasking himself with his care, he might have consumed both bottles. His newly developed affection for the man culminated in a simple ruffle of his messy hair before Robin could again swipe at his hand.

“Are you feeling better?” He asked.

“Better enough to get out of here.”

Guy nodded, “good.”

The outlaw’s early morning gruffness made Robin a prickly companion, but he was still as sharp a shot as anyone in the land. The bow, although a rudimentary construct, was slung over his shoulder and could be knocked and strung before most could unsheathed a sword—even in his current condition. Among his arsenal, was a knife in his boot, another in his belt, and a few arrows. Before they left, Robin could be seen sitting outside, whittling shafts for arrows from snapped tree branches. However, the wood was damp with winter and would make a poor weapon without conditioning and treatment. Still, he held on to them.

Dressed in his usual earthen greens and browns, Robin wasted no time in reclaiming his clothes from the fireplace. They would do little to insulate against the coming harsh cold, but he had survived worse in far less. His jerkin was laced tight against the wind, and his breeches were stuffed into his boots to keep him warm against the elements. Guy had insisted he keep warm, after all.

Outside, however, he shivered.

“Cold?”

“No, I’m shivering because I’m perfectly snug and cozy,” Robin scoffed, as if he really needed to answer such a question.

They had been on the trail out of the woods since sunup.

Robin had noticed that Guy was sidled close to him, often keeping his eyes on Robin in some way; on his feet, to watch his step; on his face, to tell for signs of discomfort.

“You really are a lovely little nursemaid, Gisbourne,” coughed Robin.

A wind howled through the trees and over the hills, casting a ghostly howl all around as the two men huddled up and strolled onwards. The stream was starting to freeze, where they had collected water previously, so it had been wise to leave the forest before their natural resources dwindled.

The black-leathered Guy led the way, sticking close by his companion’s unsteady side, causing Robin much irritation.

“Where are we going?”

“Somewhere with warm beds and warmer ale, hopefully.”

Robin made a small sound of acknowledgement but said nothing further; it sounded like a good idea, though there was no obvious direction in the plan.

They passed by the town, and Robin caught the terrible small of death on the air. Still sensitive, he vomited by the roadside with Guy’s hand rubbing circles on his back. Afterwards he handed him the skin of water and Robin drank, giving him little more than one approving smile.

“Are you alright? We can stop, if you aren’t feeling well.”

“No… no, I’m fine, nursie; the farther away from here, the better.”

Guy nodded and away they went, making an exception to rest whenever Robin had trouble breathing or started to have visible difficulty with the trail.

Snow came a little after noon, or rather, the first flakes fell.

“Shit. We had best hurry, Robin. Else we might lose our way if this snow sticks.”

Robin followed, breathing labored over the hills and on to a rickety bridge, which bore signs towards the nearest inn. He was tired, and he knew that Guy knew, but mercifully, Guy was being very good at trusting Robin to not slip and make a fool of himself. He needed that. He needed to be able to retain his pride, and Guy understood; he was a man, too, and very rarely did men admit they needed help. Resentment would often follow the cardinal sin of helping a man who did not ask for it. But still, Robin was grateful for the signs. Precious little money existed between them, however, so a stop at an inn would likely be a short stay.

“Do you hear that?” Guy asked.

Robin heard it, but only he knew: four wheels—two horses.

Robin grinned, “a carriage!”

Guy had trouble catching up to the excitable outlaw, giving chase for the man who seemed to be miraculously fleet of foot.

By the time the expensive, luxurious carriage came slowly ambling down the road, the unlikely duo were perched behind a short, ancient wall, using it to conceal themselves should the coach’s driver see them before… before what?

“Robin,” panted Guy, eventually.

Robin had been quiet, but he certainly had a keen focus fixated on his face. It was the look of a man with a plan forming—a sudden, spontaneous plan.

“What are we doing?”

“Just… shh…. I’m thinking,” hushed Robin.

Guy scoffed: “don’t hurt yourself.”

Ignoring Guy’s jibe, Robin took a breath and then rose to take a careful peek over the wall where the sounds of the approaching horse-drawn carriage could still be heard rolling down closer and closer towards them. There were two horses. One paint, the other a dark shade of gray. Both looked tired and much too old to be pulling such heavy burdens in to an oncoming snowstorm. Yet, the snow and wind were working in tandem to blow the shards of cold ice like tiny needles. Robin had initially hidden out of habit; there was nothing wrong with being distrustful, especially not when in his experience, the ones with carriages and horses and drivers, had money, and money and he had a tightrope relationship. The horses would be no good in his condition, though he would have much rather preferred to ride than walk, it was unlikely even the two of them could hijack two horses when protected by an unknown number. There was only one driver, who appeared as a dark shadow in the distance, wearing black and a hat symbolic of status. The passengers must indeed have some influence and money. Then, he saw it.

“Yes!” He exulted in a whisper.

With a raised brow, Guy only stared at him.

“Did you see that? The crest on the horse’s bridles?”

Guy shook his head. He did not.

Robin sighed, “Honestly, have you learned nothing licking nobles’ arses? That’s the crest of Lord Blackm—”

“—Blackmane. Yes, I know. So?”

“So? Guy. The man is loaded.”

Incredulously, Guy blinked. “No. We are not—”

“Oh, yes we are,” argued Robin, still smirking like a fool. “Come on, where’s your sense of adventure? Besides, that git Lord Blackmane earns all his coin from brothels and whorehouses—the rest in ‘debt collection’—if anyone is asking to be robbed, its him! Now come on—!”

“Not a chance,” Guy stopped him from jumping over the wall, grabbing him by the sleeve and hurriedly pulling him back down out of sight. The infuriated, yet still weak Robin struggled and kicked, but seemed to quiet at the gloved hand clapping firmly over his mouth, silencing him from making any noise.

And so, reluctantly, Robin gave up and relaxed against Guy.

Yet, Guy did not release Robin until the wealthy coach was well out of sight down the road, being aware of his tricks.

Once the temporary excitement ceased, Robin, dejectedly rose, and after giving the other man the glare of a lifetime, he climbed back over the wall and continued on ahead of Guy, so as to avoid the growing temptation to hurt him for being an unexpected voice of reason. Stomping on in a petulant stride, Robin considered that Guy had only his best interests at heart, and knew that for better he had stopped him from doing something perhaps foolish and even hazardous. He was in no right state to just leap back in head first in to his old ways when he could hardly put one foot in front of the other without becoming painfully weary.

Accepting that, he forgave Guy’s annoying interference before reaching the inn.

“I could have robbed that coach, you know.”

“Sure, you could. Now shut up. And let me do the talking.”

Huddled against the snow, which now fell like heavy rain, battering against their clothes and faces, they marched ahead towards the inn: a two-story building, very old but very sturdy of make, with walls supported by thick joists and decorated with climbing ivy so expansive, that it did not look like a single window had a view without. They were essentially in the middle of nowhere, between the town they’d left behind and the unknown road ahead. The stables outside had only one horse, Robin noted, briefly checking for any kind of load secured to the horse that could be relieved by his quick fingers.

“Will you stop that—now come here,” said Guy, pulling a surprised Robin to him.

“Guy, what’re you—hey!”

“Shh, you’re freezing…”

The back of Guy’s hand came to meet Robin’s cheek—ungloved just for this purpose. Robin still bore an unhealthy glow, despite the red cheeks from the cold. He was still blatantly sick, and not even the excuse of the snow could get them far.

“Well? Let’s get inside then…” Robin tried, but was stopped again by Guy.

“Not so fast. You still look… sick.”

Robin gawked, “because I am. Guy.”

“Not what I meant. Straighten up. One look at you and we’ll be tossed out on the street… if they even have any spare beds. This weather…”

Robin understood. No inn would allow a man recovering from plague in passed their door, let alone to their beds. He took stock, and many deep breaths until he was overcome with dizziness. Guy steadied him.

“Are you alright?”

Robin smiled. Guy’s hands were warm and strong on his upper arms. Briefly, Robin laid his forehead on Guy’s shoulder, and mumbled: “carry me.”

“Not a chance,” chuckled Guy; quietly enjoyed the warmth; Robin’s hair against his jaw then tugged him in to a straight stand and looked him square in the eye. “Fool. How would that look? Stick close behind me. And remember: I’ll do the talking.”

For a moment, Robin argued, but Guy was already pushing upon the solid wood door before he could utter a word of protest.

The Inn’s pub was what they found when they first entered: there was a warm fire roaring away, sending flickering yellows and oranges over the thick stone walls. Several tables and chairs were set up at one side, all crammed in closely in a small area with hardly enough space between them to even pull out a chair. A few candles were lit and there were a few customers dressed warmly and talking amongst themselves. No one seemed to notice when the two men entered, neither particularly dressed for the coming winter storm.

Approaching the pretty dark-skinned woman stood behind a large business desk at the opposite side of the building, next to the stairs, Guy greeted her with a charming smile, which was returned.

“Afternoon, handsome. Are you and your friend here looking for lodgings? We have one room available, so better decide quick before it goes… we get a lot of custom this time of year, we serve the best spiced wine in England! Care for a freebie?”

“Best? I’ve never heard of it, but I would be delighted. And—yes—we would like to acquire a room, preferably now.”

Robin gawked as Guy slotted a roll of coins he’d not even seen, on to the table in front of him. But more so at the bulging pockets of a couple of the pub’s patrons. A few well-dressed men were not quite drunk but would have provided an easy target if Robin had not needed to remain affixed to Guy’s side. His fingers were no longer as nimble as they once were, either, with the plague and all, still working its way out of his system.

The room, being paid for, was waiting, and there was a wink and a smile here and there between Guy and the flirtatious proprietor, but that was all the moment the deal was done.

“I’ll show you to your room,” she had said, ascending the stairs.

The Inn only had four rooms available, with one room already presently in occupation—one in each corner of the upper floor of the building. The hallway was long and peaceful, lit by a number of small candles on pedestals, and at each end of the corridor there was a window, framed by red-wine curtains. There was sparse decoration, in the forms of age-old paintings that needed dusting. Floorboards were bare and creaked upon nearly every step, but everything was generally in good condition.

After being escorted to the door, the woman, who had introduced herself as Deidre, handed Guy the key and politely curtseyed before taking leave and disappearing down the stairs.

Guy had the thick wooden door open after a few twists of the old grey key in the lock, and pushed it open.

Robin followed Guy in to the room and immediately collapsed on the bed, on his back, arms and legs splayed out to take as much space as possible.

Of a decent size, the room would at least offer protection from the harsh elements outside. As with the décor outside in the hall, the room lacked carpets and had only the basic furnishings: one bed, a chest of drawers and a small bedside cabinet. Nothing else—aside from a short stool, which Guy pulled up to sit on beside the bed.

“Good. Get some sleep,” praised Guy, starting to rummage through his bag.

Hands behind his head, Robin scoffed: “don’t tell me to go to sleep. I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Hey, what’re you doing over there?”

Guy came out with a bottle of port, uncorked it and took a swig without a second thought, then looked at the man on the bed.

“It’s cold outside, this will help,” he said, handing Robin the bottle.

Skeptically, Robin took the bottle; looked at it, then at Guy. Wrapping his lips around the bottle, Robin drank, feeling the burning liquor like liquid fire pouring down his throat and settled in his belly, already bringing comforting warmth throughout.

“That did help,” panted Robin, wiping his mouth. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” Guy took the bottle back and set it on the nightstand.

He then stood and started removing his jacket.

Idly, Robin watched him; overcome with a pleasant dizziness and a buzzing in his head and stomach. Guy he brought him here so they could make peace, no doubt. He had to admit: his opinion of Guy had changed dramatically over the last few days. But there still remained several issues that plagued Robin’s addled mind. Issues that he did not quite know how to say, so he remained in quiet for several long moments.

Neither he nor Guy spoke for some time.

When it was obvious Robin had no intention of sleeping, Guy risked: “what are you thinking about?”

Rolling on his side to look at Guy, Robin leaned on one elbow and sighed, letting his eyes drift. “Mostly you.”

“Oh?” Guy’s eyebrow rose, and he sat up straight. “Should I be worried?”

Robin huffed, “not like that—don’t get your knickers in a twist, Gisbourne…”

“Don’t get my what, in a what?”

Back on his back, Robin stared up at the ceiling and let out a slow, contented sigh. Almost dreamily, he started fiddling with his fingers.

“Never mind,” he waved. “I was just… thinking, I suppose. About you. The state you were in when I found you. Have you been drinking like that since… “ Since Marian, he wanted to say—didn’t. He was uncharacteristic in his sensitivity towards Guy. Normally, he would not hesitate to speak her name in his presence; the visible cringe was still there, as Guy’s shoulders tensed, but Robin felt no pleasure from this anymore. For once, he didn’t want to cause harm towards him.

“Since then, yes.”

Guy’s confirmation had been expected; Robin had seen the bottles. It did not take a smart man to understand that Guy was intentionally drinking himself in to the grave to forget all the hardships he’d wrought. It was this self-destructive behavior that had delayed Robin’s initially ironclad intention to murder him. Whatever scrap of sympathy he could muster had apparently been enough to form a tumultuous alliance. Robin wanted to call it friendship, but he wasn’t ready.

“And the… other thing,” Robin grimaced. “You did that because of her, too.”

“I did. If it wasn’t for you…”

“If that isn’t irony,” chuckled Robin. “I go there planning to kill… well, you, really—no point pretending now. And you, lovely little duck that you are… were about to cheat me out of the satisfaction. Someone should really give you a good talking to, Guy of Gisbourne.”

“What?” Guy was paralyzed, staring at Robin Hood. The outlaw was smiling, broadly, almost grinning. It was infectious in its own right and had Guy sniggering along.

“Anyway, it doesn’t matter; if I kill you, it won’t be any time soon, Guy.” Robin almost purred.

Guy couldn’t help but laugh.

Robin had leaned over and took the bottle, having another quick drink before offering the bottle back to Guy, who declined.

“Well, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” said Guy, honestly. “I was selfish… to try… try and end it like that.”

“Marian would not have liked it,” murmured Robin, back on his side, looking at him.

Guy nodded, “no, she would not.”

“…And neither would I.”

Silence.

Guy was unsure exactly where to look, so he settled on Robin’s eyes. They were unfocused but warm, inviting.

“Do you mean that, Robin?”

Robin smirked; nodded cheerfully.

The cheeky expression and the subtle hints of… something. Guy could not understand Robin sometimes. He was not a man afraid to speak his mind—quite the contrary, but the clues that Robin was not entirely confident with this new Guy-tolerant self, were surfacing. It looked like Robin had more to say—much more—but even he had trouble understanding, or at least voicing, the words.

“Well, off to bed then, if it’ll shut you up.” Robin rolled over, facing away from Guy in a sudden shift away from the warmth, and the joviality, to the necessary. Robin had to sleep, as his legs were in much pain from the walking, and his body ached from lack of having a proper night’s rest in a real bed.

Guy smiled warmly and stood. He was just about to lay an ungloved hand on the back of Robin’s head, to stroke his hair fondly, and run his fingers up and down the exposed nape of his neck until he saw himself. He saw what he was about to do and recoiled, almost in horror at this. The smile, he wore, faded, as he stepped away from the bed to snuff out the candle by the bedside.

 

A chill roused Robin a few hours later, when Robin shivered hard enough for the noise of his own teeth chattering to wake him up. He groaned and spread out on his back, stretched long and languidly. The bed was such a comfort compared to the floor of the forests, or the damp-encrusted shack, but he had to concede that it was all still very strange. A mild feeling of guilt washed over him. He shouldn’t be here, resting comfortably, when Marian was…

“Bloody hell,” he moaned, sitting up.

Enough.

No more thinking incessantly about his dead love. She was gone. And the more he thought about her, the more he spoiled her memories with renewed hatred and a passion for revenge. He no longer wanted revenge—Guy had been good to him. If that were reason enough not to kill someone then by god, he would abide.

“Guy?” He sharply looked around, panicked.

The man wasn’t here.

Not by the bedside where he remembered, nor anywhere in the room.

His heart rate started to soar.

Where could he have gone? Would he leave me here, now, knowing that I’m not going to die and fearing me coming after him again?

It was then that Robin was directed to the door handle—turning.

Instinctively, Robin reached for a weapon—his knife—concealed in his boot, only to find that he was not, in fact, wearing them. His socks, too, had been removed. Frantically, he felt about his persons in pure desperation in search of a weapon, but discovered that not only had he been deprived of his boots, but also of his jerkin, and shirt. All that remained was his stained old undergarments.

The key. Being turned in the lock.

Robin’s panic accelerated, and out of the corner of his eye, he spotted them—his boots! By the side of the bed. Without thought, he dove for them to retrieve the sheathed blade before the invader came to kill him. Adrenaline flowing…

Guy was treated to quite the sight when he re-entered the room, carrying a small pile of folded clothes: Robin lay sprawled, staring up at him from the floor, with his legs still hung up on the bed. It looked for a moment that he may have fallen, but the reddened cheeks and flustered expression made it clear—he had fallen.

Scrambling back on to the bed, Robin’s embarrassment turned to annoyance.

“You… undressed me?” He was not at all amused by the assumption.

Guy only sighed: “I had to, Robin. Your clothes stank of sick and would only make you sicker if you continued on in them. Here, I brought you some more from downstairs. The, uh, kindly Deidre lent me some from her husband in exchange for… well, never mind.”

Robin stared at the clothes placed neatly by the bedside, next to his boots.

“I was cold, Guy…”

“Yes, the snow is really coming down,” said Guy, walking passed the bed, ignoring the shivering Robin to go over to the cross-thatched window looking out on the courtyard. The tips of high ferns were already covered with a layer of white, and the grass was a sheet of it. “Rather pretty.”

“For you, maybe,” huffed Robin from the bed.

He had gathered the sheets and pulled them around him like a cocoon to hop off the bed in his bare feet, pattering across the floorboards to join Guy by the window. He looked out, pressing only slightly against the man in order to get a nice view.

“Wow,” he gawked in amazement.

Together they stood, side by side as they admired the white wall falling, cascading in brilliance. But Guy cast his eyes aside from the beauty of nature, to gaze with fond admiration of the natural beauty beside him. Robin was leaning on the windowsill, still enraptured by the snowfall. Enraptured, until, he felt the calm blue eyes of Guy’s gently holding him in rapture.

Humbly, Robin turned his head to hold the gaze with his friend, so steadily, conveying both warmth and curiosity—and but a hint of mischievous amusement. Was he brave or foolish? Guy had not shied or turned away, maintaining a focus only on him that had the outlaw blushing and turning back to the snow scene. He buried his chin in his folded arms.

“My mum loved the snow,” he said.

“Did she?”

“Mm-hm,” he added, and nothing more.

Guy accepted Robin’s dismissal for what it was; he wanted to share a little memory but nothing more. Guy respected that. After all, he had little interest in delving in to Robin’s childhood if he didn’t want to. In fact, the minuscule flake of a memory shared was quite enough for him. It was a comforting sign. One that helped widen Guy’s smile.

A lovely smile, Robin decided.

“It’s bloody freezing!” Robin declared suddenly, before padding off and jumping back on the bed in a great haste.

He wrapped himself up tight in a big ball and squashed himself right back against the wall, looking rather comical in his need to keep warm.

“You could just get dressed, you know,” pointed out Guy.

“Nah, I like letting it all hang out.”

Guy had to laugh along with Robin. “But you can’t if you’re cold.”

“Wouldn’t be cold if you were in here with me,” Robin laughed, but also winked and changed his posture slightly; hands behind his head, keeping his head from making contact with the hard wall.

For but a moment, Guy flinched, unsure of quite how to respond to such an insinuation. The bait had been cast and the hook surely waiting to catch him by the lip and reel it in. No. Guy knew how to angle.

“What, share a bed with an outlaw? What would people think?”

At that, Robin laughed, guiltless and free. “Aw, where’s your sense of adventure, Gisbourne?”

It had been a good long while since Robin had laughed like that. A good long while since he had smiled and not bore the unbearable, stifling agony of grief. Marian would enjoy seeing them like this. Together. Not at each other’s throats, he decided. And that thought, made Robin reach for the bottle of alcohol and plead with Guy to join him in a little drink.

“You really could do with a bath,” sneered Guy in mock disgust.

Robin scoffed and drank another mouthful. He was more than a little tipsy. He’d shed most of the bed-cocoon he’d made for himself and lay sprawled with his legs spread. Guy was alternating between the stool, and sitting on the edge of the bed.

“And you could do with a muzzle…” drawled Guy.

Slurring, Robin muttered: “Mm, and would you like that? You could stuff a sock in my mouth.”

“Please, I want you quiet, not dead.”

And again, they shared a smile. Their eyes met and they were laughing again, to the point they resembled schoolboys sharing a dirty joke. Guy ended up dribbling a little wine, and became conscious of the fact, and covered his mouth with his hand, being more the gentleman than Robin was being.

Apparently, the sickness had left him entirely now as he lolled about on the disheveled bed, kicking the sheets, rolling on his back, and even thwacking Guy occasionally with a pillow when he threw a good-natured insult his way. He was in high spirits, and for perhaps the first time in years, he was happy. Not because he was doing well, he was genuinely aware that he was being a ridiculous wreck right now, but because he was having fun. For once, he was enjoying himself. And it felt good. Even with Guy around it felt good. And maybe because of Guy, it felt good.

“Hey, Guy… of… Gizz-Gizzi-Gisbourne…” he was reclined back, about as close to being unconscious without actually being unconscious.

The giddiness of the two men had subsided over the hours they spent drinking.

Guy was in a better state—only slightly—sat on the floor, with his back rested against the bed, with his head flopped back against it, looking up at the same ceiling Robin was looking it…

Until, he wasn’t.

Robin had taken to letting his fingers toy with Guy’s locks, idly feeling the black tresses curl around his fingers and gently massaging the scalp underneath. It was a drunken gesture—no more. Yet somehow, neither man was drawing attention to it. It was just something that started to happen, unexplainable, inexplicable. For a while, it was lovely. Tender and uplifting, but not even Guy could remain complacent in the comfort for too long. Without disrupting Robin’s seemingly unaware fingers from his head, he turned to look at the man.

“Locksley… it’s late, and I’m tired. No more eye-spy, please…” he groaned, rolling his eyes.

“No. No… I…” Robin was shaking his head. “That’s what I was going to say. Where will you sleep?”

“Where?” Guy frowned at him quizzically. “What do you mean? Right here.”

“What—the floor?” Robin looked at him.

“Yeah… of course,” Guy answered. But he could still see by the frown on Robin’s face that he was not placated by that answer. “Why, you cannot be seriously suggesting that we sleep… together? I know you outlaws got up to some questionable things out there alone in the woods, but why Robin, I had no idea. The scandal. The dishonor.”

Robin waggled his eyebrows and turned to lean over.

He chuckled: "Suit yourself, Mister. Killjoy.”

Guy scoffed and privately missed the feeling of Robin’s fingers in his hair as he rolled over to sleep it off, but the feeling of warmth had not diminished. It was nice to be able to retain some level of their old relationship; slights and gibes were a part of that. Even now, when they were meant only in liking, they made Guy think back.

 

“Really? That’s horrible.”

“Tell me about it, love.”

“And no-one has offered to get your valuables back?”

“Not yet. Truth is, those boys have come at just the right time. What with the country in disarray and the plague sweeping through… simple Innkeepers like me are ripe pickings for their lot.”

Robin nodded.

For the last hour he’d been nursing the same drink, only sipping. The story had begun when Robin had asked why—why would anyone dream of robbing a small inn such as this, when their were only few things worth taking. She said that she wasn’t insulted by that and preceded to tell how the inn itself had not been robbed. Four men rode in to town and stripped her of all her jewelry, including her wedding ring. The spiced wine she had offered was good, but Robin was suddenly not in the mood to drink and enjoy himself when such grave injustices were being committed.

The pub portion of the inn was quiet in the morning, and Robin decided to socialize.

It had been a while.

“So… where abouts did you say they robbed you again?”

“Robin…” Guy appeared at his side.

“Shit,” said Robin, hanging his head dejectedly as the man had given him the most suspicious look ever. “Okay, look: I was just asking, I wasn’t… ugh, never mind… where the hell have you been, anyway?”

Guy sat beside him and took the drink that Robin was clearly not interested in and drank it with great haste. “Asking around about a horse. With any luck I have enough coin to get us back to Nottingham on a horse with more than three legs.”

“Hm. Any luck?”

“Three and a half.”

Robin understood that Nottingham would be the ultimate goal. It had been so long. Robin had been chasing Guy across the country for so long that he forgot he had a home to go back to. No wife. No progeny. He had friends, if they had forgiven him yet. He still had land and property. Sort of. The rest of his cohorts had long-since left the life of an outlaw. How many of them survived the outbreak?

“Anyway… we’re paid up for one more night here, so there’s still time… how’s your head?”

“Hm. Wouldn’t you like to know?” Smirked Robin, drily.

“What? No pain?” Guy sounded mildly fretful.

Robin sneered and waved him off. “Never mind… head’s fine. Yours?”

Guy shrugged, finished off Robin’s drink blatantly.

Declining another handout from the amiable barkeep, Robin got up and made to leave. Guy was aware the man was probably suffering a major hangover, but refused to admit it out of pride, so he tried not to speak too much around him at this mid-morning hour. He did, however, ask: “Where are you off to?”

And Robin replied, simply: “Bath.”

The inn had a furnished bathroom in the basement. Where one might ordinarily house a wine cellar, the large space held a single ceramic tub, with brass feet, right in the center of the open space. It was very dark except for the few candles lit—privacy, Robin supposed as he ambled down the stone steps holding a candle, which he placed in a holder on top of an old wooden crate by the entrance.

A young maiden had just finished filling up the tub, and as Robin approached, she picked up the pail with a start. “I am sorry, mi’lord… I did not hear your approach.”

Shedding the green jerkin, Robin grinned. “It’s alright.”

The young woman was pretty, and shapely, with large breasts heaving under a cream-white dress. Her blonde hair was tied back and her smile was shy and enticing.

Robin could not help but take some satisfaction at the light coloring of her cheeks as she witnessed him undress before her. It was nice to be noticed. Yet, there remained a bitter taste. Thoughts of Marian closed in yet again. If he closed his eyes and kissed her, he could imagine it was she…

A memory:

Feverish and affable, Robin had relented to his loneliness. Guy had been there, and had shown him much attention and friendliness. Weakness. He had been weak. He had vaguely asked Guy to pay him some attention. Just once—so he could say goodbye to her in an abstract sort of closure. Had that worked? Yes and no. Now, he thought less of her. But, he also thought more of him.

It was no good.

As alluring as the young maiden was, he could not picture a woman without seeing her and vicariously feeling remorse. Cursed. That was what he was. Cursed and damned.

For a while she had stood there, pensively perched, looking at Robin until finally, she apologized silently and took her leave hurriedly.

Robin did not fail to notice her embarrassment, or his own. He no longer felt desire for the female form, and vicariously, she too perceived his unwillingness to be in her company for any longer. It had been awkward, and fumbling, leaving Robin ambiguously emasculated.

Irately, he disrobed the rest of the way; tossing his boots off with some skirmish and the rest all joined a chaotic pile by the side of the tub. The bracers were unlaced and the shirt came off soon after, exposing his masculine and lightly hirsute chest. He squeezed out of his tan breeches and bore all to the dark cellar before quickly hopping in to the tub before his extremities caught frostbite.

The water was hot, and he let out a surprised hiss at first contact.

In fact, it took him a while to get used to the heat before he could sit down and submerge himself up to the middle. But by then, he had steeled his nerve. Already, he could feel his tensions slipping. The aches he’d nursed since he fell ill were the worst, and the hot water was helping dramatically.

“Ahh,” he sighed, immodestly.

Robin closed his eyes and leaned all the way back, letting his arms rest along the sides of the tub. Much better. He didn’t understand what took him so long to do this.

Guy chose that moment to enter, almost silently, except that Robin… Robin had hoped he’d make an appearance.

“Plenty of room for two,” called Robin.

“What is it with you and sharing?”

Robin shrugged and opened his eyes finally to the sight of Guy sitting on the edge of the tub, starkly looking down at him with an amused expression on his face.

“At least you’re bathing.”

Guy reached down, and frivolously trailed two fingers in the water by Robin’s hip.

“That’s what I thought. I thought: ‘Hmm, what’s the best way to get Guy to share a bed with me without saying I smell?’ And then it came to me—bath.”

“Funny.” Guy noted.

“Well, don’t say I don’t try.”

Guy smiled, and nonchalantly shrugged off his jacket, then rolled up his sleeves.

“Hey—what’re you—” Robin startled and started to sit up.

“Shh, settle down, Locksley. I won’t be nearly as unkind as you were.”

Robin frowned at that but settled in to the tub again anyway, although with a somewhat suspicious unease. He recalled that he really had been—for lack of a better word—rough, when he had decided to scrub Guy. But he had been angry, and had felt cheated. Now, he had expected the same treatment. However, Guy was pleasingly gentle; hands smoothed over his shoulders and down his arms, spreading soap and rinsing off. He was very methodical, doing what was necessary, and nothing more. Robin was almost disappointed. And he was still coming to terms with that. All he knew was that it was not unpleasant.

“Do you miss her?” Robin asked, out of the blue.

Guy stopped, fingers in Robin’s hair. Only a second later, he continued. “Yes. Every day.”

“Mm—good—me too.” Robin flinched. “I… uh… I mean, it’s good… that she’s not forgotten, you know?”

“Yes, Locksley, I know,” sighed Guy in understanding.

Robin’s hair was wet through and already he smelled better.

After a while, he was clean, but there was no rush. He remained in the bath, and Guy remained at his side. His presence was not so much as required, to Robin, but rather, wanted. This realization was not as ill received as one might expect, in fact, he was more or less at peace. Now, all that remained was the formalities.

“Hey, Guy. How long have we known each other?” asked Robin, as casual as one could be.

Genuinely, Guy was taken aback. He had to stop, in order to think about it some more. “I guess… too long.”

“Now, who’s being funny?” Robin simpered.

“Why do you ask such a silly question?”

Robin shrugged. “Don’t know.”

Guy could tell when Robin was being puerile. He was going somewhere with that inquiry and opted not to ask it, either losing confidence or just eluding interest. It was disheartening, and Guy would not leave it there simply because Robin wanted to. “No. Really. Why do you ask? I want to know.”

Flustered, Robin leaned over Guy for the towel, which he used to start swiftly drying his wet hair and face. “I said: I don’t know, leave it.”

Unpredictably, the look that followed from Robin was one of plea: he really didn’t want to clarify right now and if he did, he was afraid of what he might go on to say.

Begrudgingly Guy accepted this, for he knew from experience that Robin had a fiery temper when pushed. Having no interest in shaking the already unstable foundations of their confusing relationship, he did as he was asked, and did not pry further and gracefully left Robin at that so that he could get dressed in peace while he busied himself in making plans to return to Nottingham, even though he himself, was not too keen on the idea. If Robin wanted to go back there then he would follow, even if it were to be a temporary arrangement. He owed him that much.

Unhappiness remained for Robin when Guy left him there all alone. For some time he simply lay there limply, listening, hoping that he would return, but he did not. That saddened him a lot more than he would have previously wanted to admit, but now… now Robin couldn’t bear it: he wanted guy around. He was terribly lonely. They both were. And the bathwater grew stagnant after a while and Robin began to wrinkle, so finally, he removed himself and quickly began to dry with a renewed determination—determination, to apologize to Guy (of all people!).

Robin looked rather ridiculous when he arrived at the room.

He had apparently not wasted time getting fully dressed, as he had carried his boots in hand and had his jerkin and bracers slung over his shoulder. Approximating a drowned rat, he was still wet when he closed the room door behind him and was still drying his hair and ears with a towel frantically.

Guy was sitting on the edge of the bed, examining what appeared to be a map—pilfered from someone downstairs—and did not so much as spare a glance at the man who had just entered, but it was hard not to notice such an entrance. “It is nice to see you still preserve the standards of decency one would expect from an outlaw, Locksley… did you seriously walk around like that?”

Ignoring that, Robin smiled and approached, tossing down the borrowed clothes to get down on one knee in front of Guy. He took hold of the papers and placed them aside on the bed. “Guy…” he faltered, looked away.

Guy glowered in inquisitiveness, as Robin seemed to have a different look in his eyes.

“Guy,” he repeated, in a whisper, barely noticeable. He placed his hands on either of Guy’s knees, and beamed up at him marvelously.

There was something very peaceful about Robin in these moments, where he spoke softly, and smiled. Guy thought that he was drunk. But as he knew from experience, the inebriated often never wrought on stances not already engraved upon them from the start; rather, the alcohol gave them the bravado to act. The smell of alcohol wasn’t there. Neither was the lack of focus in the eyes, or the slur of motion. No. Robin had not drunk nearly enough to get in to a state. Then, what—

“Give me your hands,” he said to Guy.

“Why?” asked Guy, with no small suspicion lacing his tongue.

Cordially incensed, Robin sighed, “Just… give me your hands. Please.”

“Please!” started Guy. “By all means, since you asked so nicely.”

Robin took Guy’s hands in his. Held them. Stroked them. Brushed his thumbs over and under, and took amorous care in his treatment. He was… kind. Just like the Robin Hood of legend.

Guy was infatuated in to silence. Wide-eyed.

“You are an almighty pain in my arse, Guy of Gisbourne,” he grinned.

Still captivated by the hypnotic allure, Guy said nothing—wasn’t sure if the words would even formulate if he tried. In its place, he merely sat there, and allowed his own fingers to clutch, and grip. Robin’s smile was contagious, and caught Guy in a very sincere way.

He dared: “Good. Now that we’re normal again, care to tell me what you were driving at downstairs?”

“Well, I was just thinking… we’ve known each other. I mean, we’ve been in each other’s lives for so long now, I can’t imagine it without you. Headache aside. Seems like either destiny has a sick sense of humor, or is the worst matchmaker ever.”

With that, Guy stared in disbelief as Robin bowed his head—a parody of knighthood—and brought his lips to Guy’s knuckles. He kissed them softly, and then with mischievous eyes, looked up to meet Guy’s. Utterly, he was speechless to this startling and charming act of undeserved affection. It wasn’t until Robin rose, still holding his hands that he understood: Robin had stretched deep in to himself, and had done the impossible.

He had forgiven Guy.

Robin could not help but be tickled by Guy’s bewilderment; Robin had been wrestling with misdirection for some time. Blaming Guy. Hating Guy. When really, those emotions were just convenient excuses to never let him close, lest his reputation be tarnished. Robin didn’t hate Guy—far from it—the opposite, in fact. Well, about as opposite as one might expect if looking in to it close enough and at a slight angle. All that machismo, the alpha dog games… If not for Marian’s death, Robin might have done this sooner. Or not. He didn’t like to think about it now. If having to choose between pining for a dead woman ‘til the grave and loving a man in the here and now, he was smart enough to cast aside aspersions.

He leaned in close, close enough for breaths to mingle, and foreheads to meet.

“When I go back home, I want you with me,” said Robin.

“Robin…” Guy murmured; swallowed the fear, and canted his friend’s chin so that their lips could meet. And, it was different from the first. For one, Robin didn’t smell like sick. It was encouraging—even more so when Robin’s arms came to enclose around him.

It was wonderful, like letting go and falling in to a safe place—a place where he should have been all along but refused the complacency. Guy had changed a lot, and Robin acknowledged this multiple times. Deep inside, he knew that Guy never really hated him, just resented him and his haughtiness. Robin didn’t mind; it was almost poetic, seeking solace with another he once bore ill feeling for. No one—no one—else could have understood him more than his archenemy and love rival… as sorrowful as that was.

Suddenly, it all slotted in to place for Guy. Robin, in his arms, nestled his face in to his neck and fidgeted happily.

“It’s a sin, you know,” teased Guy in to his hair.

“Like you are one to judge.”

It was meant as a quip, but Guy sighed anyway; he was well aware that he was far from innocent, having committed every sin in the good book. Jealousy, especially for Robin Hood, wanting his lover, wanting his estate—everything that Robin had, Guy wanted, and for the most part, took. Worse, he had committed murder, certainly more than once.

The sinner and the Saint.

“Judge this,” husked Guy, pulled Robin down on top of him.

Robin gripped at Guy’s leather, pulling himself tighter and closer than he ever dared dream, and accepted the lips that came crashing against his in a furious and frenzied mix of craving and hunger, his chest swelling in want.

Guy was claiming his mouth, swiping his tongue against his cracked lips, and when Robin moaned breathlessly, Guy took the opportunity to breach, sliding his tongue inside the hot mouth in slow, sweeping circles as he delved intimately, rubbing tongue against tongue, like the clashing their swords would once have made in the heat of battle—a different heat, and a different battle, now, by way of longing.

When Robin took hold of Guy’s face in his hands and forcibly broke the kiss, Guy gaped anxiously down at him, with a hint of embarrassment flushing his cheeks and causing his breath to stagger. But Robin only grinned cheekily up at the persuasive devil, as his legs came up to wide around his back, locking around and bringing their clad hips colliding together.

Both men moaned—lewd and decadent.

Heat bloomed inside Robin’s breeches, a vivid elation within his loins that could no longer be denied—nor could Guy’s as Robin haphazardly ground his crotch up against his in a typically vulgar approach that meant only one thing.

Before Guy could so much as get his fingers inside Robin’s breeches, however, Robin had deftly used his legs, rolling over and taking Guy with him.

Guy laughed, finding himself swiftly trapped under Robin, hands pinned down above his head. Sarcastically, he twisted under him, feigning defeat. He might easily have reversed the odds in his favor, but a fundamental difference was: he did not want to. Robin’s heat, his smile, his general mischievousness had him wholly enraptured, and keenly anticipating his next move in this seductive and demanding game of chess.

“You look good under me,” growled Robin.

The desperado gradually, playfully bowed his head, offering his mouth to Guy for the taking—pulling back at the last second, causing endless sexual frustration. Robin knew exactly who was in control here, and finally when Guy understood that and remained still, Robin plundered his mouth.

Lips and tongue and teeth: a hot-wet combination that Guy knew precisely how to take advantage of.

Lightning-quick, Guy craftily thrust his hand inside the confines of Robin’s snug breeches.

Robin effectively broke the kiss to cry out in a jolt of utter shock.

Robin was already stiff when Guy took him in hand, and it did not take long to reduce the cocky outlaw in to a whimpering wreck. A few rapid flicks of his wrist and he was coming over his knuckles in a warm, wet gush of seed.

Both humiliating and remarkable at the same time for Robin, he was unquestionably put in his place, laying on top of Guy in a panting mess, still with Guy patting his lessening member. He could scarcely see through the haze of aftershock.

Beaming in ecstasy, Guy held the man closer, breathed in the fresh sweat-scent and spillage in focus, affixing all to his memories.

“Oh... oh, my... Guy... I-I...”

“Hush, love. I know,” comforted Guy, smoothly stroking his hair.

They lay like that for a long time: Guy breathing softly, still caressing, still holding; Robin breathless, placing tentative kisses on Guy's face, neck... fingers.

“Guy?” Robin asked, a while later.

“Hmm,” he acknowledged, eyes closed.

Robin sat up and looked down at the man. He was stunning. He ran his hands up his leather-clad chest.

Guy cracked open one eye.

“Going home with you sounds like a good plan. But I don’t want to leave things here… unfinished.”

Guy didn’t understand—at first.

Then Robin claimed his mouth again, softly, with an intention not solely based in lust, but something… else, more private and withdrawn. Guy kissed him in return until both their lips were red and swollen.

Guy breathed: “what do you mean?”

Shyly, Robin looked away, and then sat up once more and laid his hands on his thighs. “Well, aside from wanting very badly to see what my cock looks like in your mouth… I want to bring some good back to the people here. I want to stop the bandits. Maybe then I can go back with a slightly less muddy conscience.”

“Robin…” Guy rolled his eyes.

“No,” silenced Robin. “Don’t try to talk me out of it. I made up my mind already.”

“No…” Guy said, more pained than cautionary. “You’re heavier than you look.”

Blushing, Robin smirked and disentangled himself from Guy, before pulling him up in to a sit alongside him.

Stillness.

It was in these moments that an understanding was reached. Robin and Guy wanted each other, but Robin would not fully commit to a roll in the hay again until he was fully satisfied. The plague had moved on—nothing to be done about that now. But he could do something real and tangible, in a way only he knew so well. It was not a spur of the moment decision; Robin had been thinking about it since first hearing about it. What despicable bastard would rob people dying from a terrible disease? It was a vile act that he could no longer ignore, now that health had been restored to him, thanks to Guy.

“So, you’re up for it, then?”

“Up for it?” Guy hummed, close to his ear.

“Not like that,” spat Robin, pushing him good-humoredly.

"Sure. I'm already bedding you—might as well be part of your good-deeds crusade, hmm?”

Ignoring Guy’s sarcasm, Guy clasped him by the back of the neck, and pulled him back in, for another kiss.

“That’s what I like to hear! And I am up for it, but you’re going to have to keep your hands to yourself for a while. It’s the gentlemanly thing to do.”

 

Wiping Robin’s spunk from his hand on his coat, Guy walked about the room. Robin had been antsy. A hasty hand and Robin had been brought to climax, but it only served to increase Robin’s spirit and determination. He was highly resolute to do some good before he allowed himself to engage in such activities with Guy again—out of guilt, probably. He couldn’t possibly spend all day in bed with Guy while people in need were around. That was selfish, and that was the opposite of what Robin did so well.

Robin, fully dressed, appeared before Guy in lively, cheerful spirit, grinning like a fool.

"My, don't we look jovial. Almost looks like someone put you in a good mood.”

“Don’t worry, Guy,” murmured Robin, brushing lips against his jaw. “I’ll put you in a better mood once we’re done.

“You’d better, you…” Guy grunted deeply at the feeling of Robin’s palm, roughly grazing over his leather-clad cock, stroking the definable shape surely. He was hardening, and right when he had Robin took his hand away with a mischievous glint.

“Later.”

They wrenched themselves away from each other in a struggle, but managed to keep refrained in finishing the preparation. Robin and Guy had collected their weapons from the room. Knives, daggers, bow and arrows were set about the two men in a matter of minutes, and the room was left as it was, in mild disarray.

Walking downstairs together, Guy kept close to Robin, and simply allowed himself to admire the man: his waywardness, his palpable good looks and eloquent charm… he had always had a sort of jealousy for that, but not now. Pride took hold. Guy was proud of him, and even more proud to stand by this man’s side as for once, not an enemy. There was an unspoken understanding: Robin was in charge, and guy would follow, and trust his instinct.

Robin winked at Guy on their way out.

He was masterful.

The snow had stopped, but had left the surrounding area coated in white, up to their shins. The trees were almost entirely white, excepting the bark, and their wasn’t the sound of wilderness to be heard; not a birdsong, nor wolf howl.

“Bloody hell…” commented Robin, already shivering.

“My sentiments, exactly, Hood.”

Crunching snow, Robin led the way. It was just starting to get dark, in spite of the sun not been seen for hours. Surprisingly spry, he was on his way, making out the path as he went. It was difficult to see, but at least the wind was mild, and the snow was already compact making it less likely to obstruct the view.

They walked on like that for a while, until a fork in the road was met; where the woman had said she encountered the bandits some days previously. They found cover behind some high-up rocks where they could have a significant height advantage to watch the roads. And waited.

Waited.

“Lockley…” sighed Guy.

“Yes, I know. Nobody is out in this weather.”

“Then, why are we out here?”

“Shh!” Robin hushed.

Guy had no idea what this was about. It made no sense. Highwaymen were a menace, no doubt, but would they really strike in the same place twice, and in such conditions, so far away from the first attack? Really, Robin was clutching at straws. Yet, Guy remained vigilant, as he said he would.

Eventually, there came the sound: a slow approaching crunching—too methodical to be footsteps. It could only be the wheels of a carriage, and the hoofs of horses. While this was not unusual on these roads, it was the weather that made a particular journey arduous. If Robin were laying in wait for attack, he would use these environmental challenges to his advantage.

As predicted, it was a horse-drawn coach, making an agonizingly slow expedition through the snow.

Guy's eyes squinted as he head poked up from out of the overhead rocks. “Is that—?”

“Yes! Blackmane,” shined Robin.

“What’s he doing out in these parts again so soon?”

As they watched the carriage, Robin’s fixation on the wealthy transport was consuming, and he did not factor in the fact that this comfortable spot could be a popular bandit spot, instead, he continued to focus on keeping low and watching with intense concentration.

Guy however, was less confident.

“We’re not mugging them…” began Guy, losing patience and rising to his feet in order to finally end this foolish endeavor.

“No, idiot,” spat Robin with a smirk.

Guy’s eyes followed the finger where Robin was pointing.

Down on the roads. Three more horses joined the trail, coming up from behind at some pace, cutting through the freshly cleared path where the carriage was going. The riders were unclear, but dressed in black. They matched the description of the raiders who’d been causing such pain. Three men, three horses, black horses, black riders. Hoods and masks… very obvious. They were coming up to overtake the carriage, but slowing down on the approach.

“Have faith, Guy. I know what I’m doing.”

Guy saw Robin's childish glee. He was back.

Robin Hood was back.

The horses drawing the carriage began to panic at the rampaging beasts coming all-too close, and the driver of the carriage, upon noticing the alarming proximate, forced the horses in to a speed. They were all coming up fast on the vantage point.

Robin, however, did not begin a descent in order to stop or delay the ambush process; he equipped his bow, and as calm as could be, strung an arrow. It was as if he’d never given it up at all, like a well-worn coat; he was at home with his actions and went through the motions.

Guy watched in amazement for but a second before he realized the outlaw’s intentions, and made for the road himself. Flinging arrows was perhaps not going to leave much leeway for Robin, and so Guy took his cue to hurry down the winding path that led to the road before some kind of horrible accident befell the coach.

There was serenity in Robin's action, breathing in, breathing out, he was not at all perturbed by the situation and as soon as this all started to feel familiar, he fired a single arrow, focused on his target: the closest wheel of the coach itself. Narrowly pissing the horses’ legs, the arrow made its mark, jamming its way in to the rapidly spinning wheel, the iron head’s lodged between the wheel and the ground, and offset the carriage’s balance, sending it in to and uncontrollable judder. As soon as that happened, the horses went wild, veering off in either direction.

Two of the horsemen reacted in shock to the surprise attack, and rallied their horses to a cautionary retreat. The third continued his attack, unsheathing a sword, cutting straight at the horse driver’s reigns.

Another arrow, Robin had struck the swordsman’s arm, just above the elbow.

The sword was dropped with a clatter in the snow-sodden ground, and the rider’s horse reared up in panic, and unable to reign in the horse as his arm was in pain, he was sent flying from the back of the horse.

Guy stepped out from the shadows, almost in the path of the out of control coach. Now that it was slowed in speed and hopeless in steering, Guy grabbed the handrail just as it was passing and climbed skillfully up in to the driver’s compartment. The driver attempted to throw. Guy off, but he were no match and ended up being tossed off himself. He landed safely but uncomfortably, in a snowy pillow by the roadside. He strained to control the rampaging horses, grabbing the reigns and tugging hard, at the same time trying to move them to a safe stop.

When a sword came whistling above his head, Guy grabbed the attackers’ arm and tugged the man off his horse with an impressive show of muscle, while still holding strong on to the reigns.

The third horseman fell back upon seeing the surprise double-ambush and assessed the chances. He decided to take advantage of the fight going on, galloping upon one side of the coach where his cohort was struggling on the side of the coach against Guy, and pulled up his curved blade high, preparing to strike down on Guy’s arm.

Robin fired a final arrow just then, heart racing in his chest, hitting the third horseman straight in a scathing hit across his chest. Then, he immediately got to his feet and climbed down the hill face with a worried speed.

Unable to hold on to the coach, the second attacker was toppled under the carriage’s wheels in a sickening crunch and a following shout of pain. He was alive, but broken and bloodied, somewhere up the road as the coach finally managed to come to a stop.

That did it.

From inside the coach, came a stump of a man, dressed in faux regal attire, his pockets bulging and jingling as he fell from the still-moving coach, unable to keep his ground. He was rather diminutive, rosy-cheeked and middle-aged. And his dramatic exit was an obvious escape attempt, the nerves clearly shown on the man’s face. Rattled. Terrified.

“Sleazy Lord Blackmane!” Adorned Robin.

Panicked, the man looked over his shoulder at the approaching voice.

Robin was grinning from ear to ear, bow over his shoulder and a short dagger in his hand. He approached the man and stepped on his cloak, halting his escape, sending his chin smashing in to the ground.

He pled: “Unhindered me, sire!”

“Not so fast, Lord!” Robin chuckled.

It seemed unlikely that Robin was going to make this easy. He was enjoying having a known peddler of the obscene at his mercy, and despite the fact that he was relatively innocent on this occasion; Robin still could not resist putting a little fright in to the poor man.

“The coast isn’t clear yet.”

“You… ruffian!” complained the nobleman.

Meanwhile, Guy wiped sweat from his brow as he had managed to survive the attack and stop the coach from careening in to the trees. He hopped down from the driver’s seat and patted one of the horses on its side just before taking in the sight of Robin—no longer needing his help.

The bandit with the arrow stuck in his arm had removed the arrow and flung himself at Robin Hood and the Lord in a final desperate attempt to correct what went wrong. Robin easily swerved a blow from a sword, without even taking his feet from the ground, until he kicked the man in the back of the knee, forcing him down. Following-through, Robin thrust his elbow in to his face. The nose broke with a crunch, and a streak of blood dashed Robin’s sleeve. Then a kick to the upper chest and he was down, squirming, allowing Robin the space to pick up the man’s sword himself.

When the bandit looked up, he was met with the tip of his own sword at his throat.

“Now, normally, I might just tie you up for the wolves to eat you up, but…”

The other Raider with an arrow trail across his chest had fled, leaving one man writhing in pain on the ground and the other at the rogue’s mercy. The sound of the horse’s hooves galloping rapidly away evidently put an end to this particular partnership of crime.

“I don’t want to kill you, and your friend there might actually die. So, you might want to grab him and get out of here before I change my mind, yeah? And… don’t do this again? Be a good boy, now. Off you go.”

The man made good on Robin’s generous offer, fleeing without a second thought, leaving behind his dignity in the process going over to pick up his crumpled mess of a friend. Together they went off limping back down the road the way they came.

Robin snorted, tossing the sword off in to the bushes.

The good Lord Blackmane was on his knees, in a mockery of prayer.

“Oh, good sire—good, good sire—most heroi—”

“—Save it,” sneered Robin.

Guy had meanwhile managed to collect the two remaining horses, both of which had calmed, and were equipped with a sack each. Black sacks. Upon inspection, he discovered they were loaded with valuables of various ilk: gold goblets, silver candlesticks, rings, jewels, coins… even a few useless trinkets. It appeared as though they must have robbed more than a few houses. In these poor times, there was little of real value, and the amounts that Guy looked upon, they must have run out of things to steal.

He settled the horses and looked on.

Robin was doing just fine—Better than fine, in fact. He felt good. He felt happy. No longer consumed with pain.

Even after massive personal trauma and grief, he somehow retained the vigor of youth and the vitality to cut down men stronger than him. His determination was admirable, and his belief in the right and good was beyond alluring. He had about him, an aura—almost saintly—even with that mischievous smirk of his, he was a man that was deserving of the legend attached to him.

And yet, Guy could no longer feel jealously.

The leathered Guy came from behind Robin, as his shadow, larger than him, his arms surrounded him as he came rest his chin on his shoulder, a wicked smile on his face as his form eclipsed his apparent lover’s.

The Lord was utterly terrified—terrified—and disgusted.

“Now…” Robin smirked down at him.

“Oh, please, please don’t hurt me!” Begged Blackmane. “I’m not worth your time, my estate is worthless and all the money I have is in my pocket—please! Take it! Take everything! Take my coach and horses but leave me with my life—oh, I beg of you, kind sire!”

“A coward? Oh, well this makes things easier,” chirped Robin.

The fallen Lord Blackmane was already emptying his pockets, throwing whatever he could get his greedy hands on, at their feet. The man had lost all semblance of lordly dignity as he stripped himself of his belongings—right down to his underclothes—everything was transferred from him, in exchange for his life at the hands of these two blasphemous criminals.

Guy watched, blankly as Robin moved with exasperation to tug the lump of a man up off the ground, not even making so much of a look at the small fortune splayed out for them. Instead, he dusted off the man. Guy’s heart did swell… but he also had his eyes on that treasure.

“On your feet, you fool—I’m not going to hurt you… Well, could do with a reward, so I guess this will do. Times are hard, after all. Now, be on your way. Who knows what scoundrels are out on these roads taking advantage of the rich and stupid?”

“Oh, kindness! Good sire—”

“—Eternally grateful, yeah, yeah,” sighed, shepherding the man along back to his coach.

Guy laughed, “well, I guess I owe you an apology, Hood.”

“You can offer me something better than an apology,” smirked Robin.

With the coach’s driver resuming his duties, the Lord Blackmane departed with utmost haste, in disgrace and humiliation, leaving behind all of his possessions on the ground, which Guy promptly began to scoop up in to his satchel.

“You solved our horse problem,” noted Robin, impressed by the horses.

The horses were fine, a little sluggish, probably hungry, but otherwise in good health. It solved a problem, alright. No longer would they be footsore and they had transport back to Nottingham, in order for Robin to reclaim his family home.

“Good thing, too. It’s bloody cold out here,” griped Guy, hugging himself.

Robin was smirking as Guy approached. He had been standing by the horses, shushing them from their natural skittishness rather well.

“And did you see what was in the saddlebags?” Guy remarked, usefully.

“Probably every stolen item from the area and then some—we’re giving them back, you and me. You hear? No conveniently forgetting.”

Guy was a little surprised. “Just how are we supposed to do that?”

“How do you think?” Robin did not appear fazed, in fact, he was cheery.

It was a frightening prospect: traveling across a plague-ridden county asking people if they’ve been robbed. It would take a very long time. Guy was in doubts of such a task being accomplished, anyway, but Robin seemed to have more experience at this kind of thing. And he’d be there.

“But all in good time. Right now, we should get back before it gets dark.”

Guy could not argue with his logic.

 

The horses had made the journey back to the inn nicely before it fell dark, and they were saddled up in the stables before the two men made their way back in to the warmth of the inn and out of the cold. Guy took with him the satchel of the Lord’s gold, and Robin took the reclaimed goods. Luckily, they were able to reunite the innkeeper, Deidre with her ring, and a few other trinkets identified.

The rest would have to wait.

After announcing that they had been successful in ridding the area of the raiders, Robin made a big show about being tired after only one drink—unlike him.

“Are you alright?” Guy asked, somewhat concerned—until he caught the secret little gleam, right there in his eyes.

“Well, I could be better,” he replied. “How about you, Gisbourne?”

It was there: a hint of something untoward. Robin’s warm breath ghosted over Guy’s cold cheek as he’d said that, with only the slightest tang of alcohol. The closeness was there, not forgotten from their earlier tryst. Robin was off up the stairs in a cocky saunter that just said everything that he needed to say: he wanted Guy alone, and that was all he wanted.

Guy tried to resist the lure for as long as he could, even finishing a new cup of spiced wine before relenting and giving chase. No-one would suspect, they had no reason to distrust, even as the two men were sharing a single bedded room, it was not uncommon in these hard times. It was their business.

Quiet as a cat, Guy took the stairs, two at a time while miraculously avoiding much of the creaking before he made it to the upper floor, candle in hand. But as calm and skilled as his exterior was, his breath was ragged and excited, for he knew that behind the door was a man, a man he had no business even thinking about, let alone bed. But he did, and he was. Thoughts drifted constantly to his friend (could even think of him as friend?) and his charming wiles; the way his tongue tasted and the little mewling sounds he made when he came undone…

Three knocks on the door, then he entered.

Robin was laid upon the bed, dimly lit by candlelight.

To Guy’s amazement, Robin was naked, completely, and laid spread-eagled, his head supported by a straw pillow, and his hands…

Robin gave Guy the dirtiest smirks as he laid eyes on him: casually pleasuring himself in one hand. He was not fully stiff, but he was evidently aroused enough to maintain it in his absence. His clothes were strewn around the room in disarray, an obvious lack of patience on his front. Robin swiped the head of his swollen cock with the pad of his thumb and collected a single clear bead of fluid, which he in turn, brought to his lips.

Guy was dumbstruck. He swallowed the lump in his throat.

“What the hell did you knock for?” Robin chuckled.

“Why you filthy outlaw,” growled Guy. “Is this what you get up to when There’s no one around to keep you in check.”

“You make it sound like this is easy for me,” huffed Robin. “I know you don’t think too highly of me, Gisbourne, but would you believe me if I told you I’ve never done this before—with a man, I mean.”

Guy locked the door and began his approach. “Not especially.”

“I got bored waiting for your arse to take the hint and decided to take matters in to my own hands,” he said, shuffling slightly to raise one leg, somewhat obscuring his engorged member from the other man.

Guy slipped off his jacket and murmured: “Literally, I see.”

“Well, Guy… if not me, then who?”

It was a dare, if anything. Again, he shifted, and lowered his leg to reveal himself once more. Now, he was fully erect, and slowly treating his member to languid and pleasurable strokes from base to tip, encircling his fingers to encapsulate perfectly.

“You are utterly shameless,” gaped Guy.

Robin was inexplicably irresistible. Anyone might have walked in and seen him… advertising himself in such a lurid and perverse manner. But Guy could not tear his eyes away, already toeing off his boots and shucking his clothes at an easy pace so he got to enjoy the sight a while longer. Never, never did he think such a sight would be enjoyable to him, but it was now, and undeniable. Guy wanted him.

“If you say so—you’re stiff, too. I can see it,” leered Robin, gesturing at the bulge in Guy’s leathers. “Get it out then, so I can see it proper.”

Deliberately, Guy took his time, unclasping his belt. His shirt came off first, over his shoulders and simply tossed aside to join the rest of the piles. A part of him was terrified. Despite what Robin claimed, he likely had more experience than him on this. All men in the woods, alone, talking about women and drinking. It led to things, certainly—open-mindedness if nothing physical. Guy was quietly jealous of that. Jealous again. Because countless other men had come across Robin’s path, and likely befriended him, meanwhile he, who by all rights should have been his friend, instead was his enemy. Time to rectify that grievous error.

When Guy lowered his breeches, his cock sprang out, slapping lightly against his abdomen, already steel.

Robin moaned: “bloody hell… bet you had a line of comely young maidens waiting to be at the end of that.”

Guy’s jaw about dropped, and he flushed. To hear Robin talk this way, in such a husky voice… it was unexpected. He was no woman. No shapely curves. Just lines and muscle. This would be quite different, and for a long while he stood there at the foot of the bed, hesitating. He had hoped to have the upper hand, to retain a level of cognizance so as to not crumple under pressure, but Robin was so brave, so willing, and he was not so.

“Why are you all the way over there? Scared, Guy?”

The husky voice again had Guy twitching.

“Scared? Not lately. You?”

There was a flash of… something.

“Not a bit. Now come here.” Robin slinked forth, somehow making the transition on to his knees and gliding across the bed neatly, looking up at Guy.

That innocent look… Guy groaned.

Robin had reached out and stroked Guy’s firm cock, like a boy stroking a stray animal, curious and playful. His eyes were big and his pupils were dark and dilated. Pure sin. He leaned in, ever closer, as if coming to examine his cock like a doctor might, but with a far more deceptive intent as he breathed. Simply breathed. Allowed his hot breath to caress the smooth rod of flesh, completely aware of what he was doing. Breathed. Stroked. Stroked his hand up and down, marveling the way the skin moved under his touch.

Guy was enraptured by the sight—so close to him—touching him in ways few women ever had, tongue peeking out in concentration, and then flicking out like a snake smelling the air. He was a sight most beautiful.

“Want to tell me how shameless I am again?”

Staring down at Robin in confusion, Guy nearly had a heart attack.

Robin’s boyish eyes were full of mischief as he maintained eye contact with Guy to watch his face as he brushed his cock against his grizzled cheek, like a cat playing with a toy. The gasps from Guy sent shockwaves right through Robin Hood, until he too was heated and quivering. Yet, his composure and curiosity allowed him to slip his tongue from between his lips, to touch the shiny head of Guy’s erection. It was not as disgusting as he thought. It was just skin, like anywhere else on him—just skin. There was no off-putting taste or anything hideously wrong. It wasn’t exactly causing fireworks inside his metaphorical breeches, either, but Guy… Guy was certainly breathing a lot faster. So, Robin continued. From the tongue, he angled his head, and licked. A slow and simple stripe of wet up the vein on the underside of his cock.

“Oh, shit… Robin,” growled Guy, lustfully.

So, he was enjoying it, then? Robin was spurred on. The lick, as inexperienced as it was had brought a very definite reaction. He wanted more. Instead of the sounds of pain and plea from Guy’s lips, Robin made it his dearest wish to wrench forth the sweet sounds of pleasure that only he brought.

Guy had hastily finished disrobing entirely, evening the playing field just as Robin’s lips twistingly circled the purple mushroom. He groaned, and threaded fingers through the man’s hair… quite funny, he thought. Robin looked a little like a monkey, with his lips stretched out in to an ‘o’ like that.

This was easy for Robin. It was not difficult to hold his cock between his lips like that, and so he threw caution to the wind and began moving, his head forward. Back. Keeping him between his lips, using his tongue… he had no fucking idea what he was doing but the common sense was there, and the fire in both his belly and groin was there. Eventually, his actions became less methodical. Robin found the angle uncomfortable, and so, after breaking away from the man’s cock with a wet sucking noise, he breathed: “on the bed.”

And Guy sank to his knees on the bed, feeling the bed strain under both of their weight, and even that got his cock twitching.

Robin came to him, also on his knees, momentarily forgetting his sex organ so that he could look at him. He looked a damn sight better than he had when he’d had him undressed to bathe him. No longer was he so deathly grim, but a warm flush had taken to his skin, giving him a welcoming glow. Robin pressed himself close; arms sliding around hips, hands roaming up and down the expanse of his back while their chests—their stomachs, cocks—met. Skin on skin, Robin leaned close to touch their lips, also, in a deceptively timid arrangement.

The intensity in Robin’s eyes had scared Guy, at first. He was looking at him with such conflict, like he was deciding whether to kill him or kiss him. Kissing came, luckily, and Guy returned the affection greatly.

The kissing was softer than before. There was no rush, no difficulty. Robin and Guy simply met each other’s mouths and angled just right to be able to maintain the connection. Both were testing the waters, so to speak. When Guy took a firm hold of the other man, and tugged his shoulders against him, Robin parted their kiss so he could feather little kisses over his jaw, and ear, while his fingers got to explore his hair, and guide Guy in to the crook of his neck.

Guy kissed him right there, grunting hungrily as his tongue licked and tasted the sweat right from the rogue’s skin, like ambrosia itself.

Robin’s cock was at full-mast by now, and the outlaw could not help but push his hips against Guy, grinding his member up against his in whatever way he could in order to get friction, becoming increasingly eager for more, more. Fraught with him and so delectably needy—greedy, Robin wanted Guy’s cock against his, and wanted to reach him finish at his hands.

All doubts: gone.

All inhibitions: gone.

“Snog me like that and I might just forget my promise to kill you,” murmured Robin, breathless after.

“Lie down,” husked Guy, against his mouth with a smile. “I want to taste you now.”

And Robin did lie down, but lax he refused to be, threading his fingers through Guy’s hair, only to attempt to force Guy down, and down.

Guy, however, only resisted the attempts of force that the impatient Robin exhibited. Instead, he traveled down at his own pace; sucking, kissing and licking his way down, roughly attentive of his nipples, which sent Robin in to a contented whine of both pleasure and discomfort. Guy grasped Robin’s cock in hand and continued to stroke him through his oral exploration of his masculine form. His stomach was hardly chiseled, but Guy did not refrain from enjoyment, trailing a finger up and down, and then using his tongue, dipping in his naval.

“Lovely,” groaned Guy.

Finally, Guy smoothed his way down, and without a further moment of deliberation, took Robin in his mouth. Determined to not be outdone by Robin, Guy did not delay by meagre feasting, instead slotting the leaking head and half the shaft right in to his wet cavern of a mouth.

Robin was near hysterics, thrashing and groaning.

Guy loved it. Finally, he had made the outlaw squirm. Guy was addicted already, addicted to the mildly musky taste of his cock, and began to suck him in earnest; lips tight, cheeks hollow, he bobbed his head up and down, frequently taking most of the man’s length to the back of his throat. Quickly, he grew accustomed, no longer gagging and impressing even himself.

Soon, Robin’s fingers tightened and tugged.

“Guy! It’s… I’m…”

Guy knew it. Wanted it.

Robin’s back arched right off the bed, his toes curled in to the bed and his voice escaped muted as after only a short while of experiencing Guy’s mouth, he was coming heavily on to his tongue.

Guy knew what to do, and he did so without a second thought: calmly swallowing the oddly sweet/sour spillage until Robin seeped no more, before lapping his tongue over the tip to catch any stray droplets and wiping his red lips with the back of his hand.

“Who’s got the silver tongue, now?” Sneered Guy, sitting back on his heels.

Breathless, Robin’s vision was foggy and lust-hazed, but he could just about manage a smile—silly and indulgent. He couldn’t help it. Nor could he deny that Guy’s skill was superior to his own on this one occasion. Robin was tongue-tied and helpless. He idly pulled Guy back down on to him. Kissed him.

“You won’t be saying that in a minute.”

Impassioned, Robin tugged Guy over him, and wasted no time in climbing on top, straddling his hips. Grasping his slippery, still-hard cock, he thrust forward his hips, grinding cock against cock with as much vigor and vim that he could.

Guy sharply gasped at the contact, and automatically took his hands to the small of Robin’s back, holding him against him. He could very easily come like this. But Robin was obviously not done at simple rutting.

Grabbing Guy’s hands out from behind him, he roughly forced them back on to the bed, behind Guy’s head. The wicked smirk that followed told Guy exactly what he should be doing: nothing. Robin wanted to bring Guy to the same state of pleasure that he just had to him. The difference, however, was that Robin wanted to do it better.

Traversing his torso, Robin slid down Guy until he was once again faced with his erection.

“Robin…”

Touching his tongue to his cock, Robin moaned, allowed the taste and scent to corrupt his better sense. Tongue, then lips, and then both combined. It was an easy method that developed his otherwise shaky confidence in this most forbidden act. Soon enough, he was sucking slowly, unfocused; finding the task more difficult the more he pained his neck. Instead, he alternated between sucking, licking, and just nuzzling his cock against his cheek and face, while at the same time working his cock in hand.

“Hood, you… are…”

Robin did not expect to get Guy to come, despite his confident words. Guy was different, more fluid. He slipped in to every face so beautifully; one could be fooled in to thinking Guy had done this before. But Robin was not nearly so elegant. He was trial and error, earning success through pushing himself in to zones he might not have ordinarily have been comfortable in. Robin had not thought of sucking cock before, but he imagined he’d be a master at it, having one his own. But it was a lot more involved than he thought, and had immediately garnered a sympathy and even respect for the nightwalkers and street whores who made the task look so easy—not that he was that acquainted with people of that ill-repute.

Close to the edge, Guy’s chest rose and fell with the exertion; so near to spilling at Robin’s hand, he was trying very hard to retain the little pride he had left and not come screaming. But the cause was lost, as Robin’s stroking, and licking, and nuzzling, was a dangerous combination that not even he had the strength to resist for long. Biting down on his tongue, he came.

Ropes of come spat out thickly against Robin’s cheek, and lips as he tried desperately to overcome the hesitation to swallow. Catching in his hair and stubble, come was dripping off of one side of his face even after Guy’s cock had stopped twitching like spewed embers. Still, Robin nursed the snake, lovingly stroking it until every drop had been squeezed on to his waiting tongue.

Spent, Guy lay there, completely drained and still panting.

“Not bad for a beginner?” Robin asked, looking up at him.

Cupping Robin’s cheek, he brought him close, and their mouths met, and locked. A meeting that lasted for a long, lazy time until the moment Robin settled his weary head on Guy’s chest, content at the feeling of warmth radiating from him. Neither moved for a long time, merely listening to the sounds of their breaths intermingled, and their hearts—so close—beating next to each other.

“Locksley,” said Guy, warmly. “If I know anything about you, it’s that you aren’t just a beginner at anything. Being adversaries all these years taught me not to take you lightly—you always get your way, don’t you?”

“Always,” chimed Robin.

Peace washed over them; contentment shared in the moment lasted and allowed something new to seep in—and to sleep in.

Neither Robin nor Guy was used to this, but it had its effect most undeniable. A bond had formed through grief and strife. They had always had a bond, of sorts, but it had had its obstacles, and there would continue to be obstacles along the winding paths where plagues and fyre waited eternally.

Guy: “Nottingham’ll be interesting…” he chuckled.

Robin sniggered and cuddled himself closer against Guy, inhaled the sweet-sweat scent emanating from him, and for the first time in what felt like eternity for Robin, he allowed—actually allowed—himself to be happy. The guilt wasn’t there any longer. He could only smile. Whenever he thought of Marian, he could smile, and think of the good memories. She wasn’t with them any longer, but there could still be happier times to be had.

“Everywhere is interesting where I go, Guy.”

“Hm.” They went back to the afterglow, basking in the nude embrace. Guy could not remember being so happy. The niggling feeling of not deserving such happiness briefly returned, however, causing his eyes to snap open. “You’re not just biding your time, are you?”

Robin knew what he was talking about. The hate wasn’t there anymore—replaced by something that was confusing, but comforting, and exactly what he needed. No, he decided. Robin was over it. Marian might be even more confused, looking down, but he liked to think she would approve. She would not want them at each other’s throats, living with misery, because of her. Sure, this was probably not what she had in mind, but it was what was happening.

Placing a kiss to Guy’s chest, Robin uttered, “I guess we’ll have to find out.”

For fun: Just to keep him on his toes.

 

Arrow aimed, Robin tightened the grip.

“Robin…”

Winter came and went, and the plague, although still rampant in certain areas, had for the most part, passed on. In the courtyard of Locksley, the post-hell fade drifted, giving perspective on a brighter day. No snow lay on the unkempt grasses, but instead the first bloom of spring showed in sparse patches of color. The trees were mostly still bare, save for a few buds finally emerging.

Robin Hood held steady, peering down the shaft of the arrow.

“Don’t.”

The sky overhead was clear and blue, with only a smattering of white clouds to diminish the sun’s warming rays. For once, no rain, or snow, or even hail to spoil the favorable conditions. It was just about right to. Do this today, and Robin was not about to be convinced otherwise.

Not even Guy of Gisbourne, stood, pleading, with his back to a tree.

“Robin, please.”

“Shh, Guy…” he hushed, steadying his aim, right at the man.

It was a difficult shot, but the time had come to take it. He’d been delaying long enough the inevitable, and had been standing there, some distance away from the man making sure one shot was all he’d need—no need to make this messier than it need to be, after all.

“This isn’t funny.” Yet, Guy’s voice trembled.

“Will you shut up and keep still?”

Guy shut up, and closed his eyes; breathed in slowly in and out… no. He opened his eyes. If he were to die here this day, he would do so as a man: facing up to his death with honor, and stare in to the able eyes of his worthy killer—the man who’d caused him much grief, and showed him much love.

Robin was shaking, but managed to find his familiar niche for the art of archery. It would be easy to miss, and to let Guy flee… but he wouldn’t do that. Guy would stand right where he was, or risk injury as opposed to a clean and quick end. When he let fly the arrow, he followed it with his eyes; speeding it whistled through the air until contact was made.

Thwack.

Contact was made, and wood was split—as was the ripened fruit sitting atop Guy’s head. The arrow had struck true, piercing its way through the apple with great precision, effectively pinning it to the thick tree behind.

“There. Was that so hard?” Said Robin, finally lowering his weapon.

Guy stood back from the tree, the shock only just wearing off. He looked at the apple behind him, stuck through with one of Robin’s arrows.

He breathed a sigh of relief: “You’re lucky you’re a good shot.”

“Told you I could do it,” Robin smirked, cockily. “Nothing to do with luck.”

“I don’t know why you can’t practice by yourself…” he mused, standing there while Robin marched across the grass to apparently assess his success.

“Trust, Guy,” said Robin, picking up the apple, ripping out the arrow and taking a bite of it. “It’s about trust. You do trust me, don’t you?”

Getting Guy to go along with this in the first place had been a challenge. His dubious consent had sent a small thrill through the rogue, who’s first act upon reclaiming Locksley, was to shoot an arrow at Guy. If he wasn’t going to kill him any more, he could at least do this: a symbolic act that was more of a release for Robin than anything else. It was a relief. Was he tempted to inch his shot downwards? The thought had crossed his mind: he could have killed him. But he didn’t. Again and again he surrendered to his better judgment.

The mischievous glint in his eye was there, as was the darkly teasing undertone in his voice that shot right through Guy just like that arrow had that apple. Guy tensed as Robin had him, now, pinned against the tree. He leaned in, and just when Guy closed his eyes and braced himself for another darling kiss, Robin derailed, and went up… licked the single thread of apple juice that seeped in to his hair from the apple in his head and down his forehead. Guy shivered: “of course, I do… I trust you… god knows why.”

Robin sniggered and slung an arm around his shoulders, steering him away from the blossoming courtyard of Locksley, and towards the somewhat neglected estate that had been slept in but a single night.

“You keep that up that attitude and you’ll have to find out why with your trusty hand tonight.”

“Least it’s better than your teeth,” he scoffed—a playful jab at him and his so far amateurish but enthusiastic blowjobs.

Robin laughed. He had to give him that one. “Come on, then. Let’s go inside. Maybe then I’ll get to show you how much I trust you.”

It was a promise, to Guy, and to himself, and yes—even to Marian.

Robin would do his best to love Guy—not hate. And Guy, in turn, would love Robin. After all, someone had to. Neither could do without each other. Taking solace.