Guy looked at Robin: the outlaw seemed more than ready to shoot at him, and somehow he could understand him. Marian was in his bed, chained to him, wearing only a flimsy chemise, and she was touching his chest through the opening of his shirt.
I am dead.
He looked at Robin with a taunting smirk.
“Why should I give you an explanation? Would you listen to it?”
Marian recovered from her surprise only to give him a reproachful look. She was suddenly annoyed at both of them: Robin was there, his face grave and his eyes full of accusations and clearly unwilling to listen to any explanation, and Guy who reacted taunting and provoking him, instead of trying to talk civilly.
“Guy! Are you stupid or just insane?” She asked, giving him a slap on his forearm, then, still fuming, she lifted her wrist to show the chain to Robin. “Look at this, do you think we are having fun?”
“You were sleeping in his bed!”
“What should have I done? Cut my hand, maybe?”
“Better than to let him bed you! Or maybe you should have cut his hand. Or something else.”
Marian jumped out of the bed, dragging Guy after her, and she ran to Robin, hitting him with a punch on his stomach, then she turned to glare at Gisborne.
“If you only dare to laugh, or just even to smirk, you’ll get one too. The sheriff is enough, I won’t deal with you acting like two rabid dogs fighting over a bone.”
Robin stood up, touching his stomach with his hand.
“How can you defend him?! He chained you!”
“He didn’t! It was the sheriff! Haven’t you read the message I sent you through Matilda?!”
Robin glared at Gisborne.
“He could have forced you to write that. Maybe there was a hidden message and you were asking for help. And from what I see, I was right: you need my help.”
Marian pointed a finger to his chest, now really annoyed.
“Listen very well, both of you: I’m not a helpless maiden, I’m not a bone, and certainly not a prize. You can fight against each other until you are beaten to a pulp, but whoever is the winner, he won’t get me. I have a free will, I’m perfectly able to make choices, and certainly I won’t choose an idiot. In this moment I’m not sure if I want to make a choice.” She turned her back to the two men, and she gave a sharp tug at the chain, making Guy to stumble after her. “Come.”
Robin looked at her in disbelief.
“Where are you going?”
“I don’t need help, what I need now is to use the privy. So let me go.”
“With him?!” Robin blurted, in a indignant shock.
Marian turned, with tears of rage in her eyes.
“Do you think I have any alternatives?! Or that I’m having fun at this? What? Do you want to come as well and enjoy the show? Isn’t this humiliating enough?!”
Robin closed his mouth, and looked at Guy, who was keeping mercifully silent. The knight seemed to be intimidated by Marian’s outburst, unwilling to contradict her, and Robin realized that he should better try to please her as well, instead of fighting Guy.
“Actually, I can help,” he said, unsheathing a dagger.
Guy looked at him, worried, but ready to defend himself.
Robin grinned, and he used the tip of the dagger to open the lock of Marian’s manacle.
“Now you don’t need Gisborne.”
The girl gave them a wary look, wondering if she could trust them to remain alone while she went to the privy.
“If when I’m back, you two are fighting, you’ll regret it. Both of you.”
She walked out of the room, and Guy and Robin exchanged a hostile glance.
Guy looked at the dagger, and he wondered if Robin Hood was going to attack him. A part of him wished that he did, so he could have a good excuse to hit him.
He was jealous, he hated Robin because Marian loved him, and still he had preferred to be outlawed and fight for the people than keeping his position as lord of Locksley and taking care of her.
He had everything I could wish for, and he threw it all away.
“Sir Guy, giving up to your rage wouldn’t be wise at all,” the ghost of Sir Edward warned him, floating between him and Robin. “I can understand how strong jealousy can be, but fighting with Robin won’t help Marian. You promised that you would keep her safe.”
Guy looked at him for a moment, then he sighed.
“Very well, what?!” Robin asked, suspicious.
“Hood, show me how you did that.”
“How to open that manacle.”
“Why should I? Don’t you have the key?”
Guy glared at him, but the ghost remembered him to keep calm.
“The sheriff chained us like that because he wanted to punish and humiliate us. If he should see that we opened the chains without his permission, he will surely be angered and he will find another way, a worse way, to punish us. Do you want this for Marian?”
“Of course not, that’s why I’m taking her to the forest with me.”
“And you are so sure that she wants to come...” Guy insinuated.
“Of course she wants to come! She’s one of us!”
“Have you asked her? Have you asked if she really wants to live as an outlaw? In a filthy camp in the forest, always in danger, with no shelter, terrible food, forced to live with a group of stinking outlaws and not even the chance to take a bath! Probably she will come because she loves you, but if that’s what you want for her, probably you don’t love her.”
Robin was taken aback by his word: Gisborne had found out that Marian was in love with him! And yet he didn’t seem to want to take revenge on the girl, and he didn’t even call the guards to arrest him.
Instead he had began berating him on how to treat Marian. Something was amiss, but Robin couldn’t point out what it was.
The worse thing was that Guy’s words were sensible. He wanted to reject them because it was Gisborne who was saying them, but deep inside Robin knew that they sounded right.
“I do love her,” he said defiantly, staring at Guy.
“Well, then prove it.”
“I don’t have to prove anything to you.”
Guy crossed his arms in front of his chest, stubbornly.
“Oh yes, you do. I love her, probably more than you’ll ever will and I will love her forever. I will respect her choices...”
“I have seen very well how you do that: she didn’t want to marry you and you burned her house and arrested her and her father!”
Guy shook his head, sadly.
“I was wrong. I was blinded by anger, but it’s all different now. It doesn’t matter if she will ever love me back, I will always protect her. Maybe I can’t have her, but I can live with it, if I know that she is happy and safe. Can you guarantee this? Can you give her everything she needs? Safety, love, attention?”
“Of course I can!”
“When? Before or after taking care of your poor peasants? Or just when you are not busy risking your neck for a king who doesn’t even care for his people?!”
Robin tightened his grasp on the dagger.
“Don’t even talk about the King, you traitor!”
“I don’t care for the king, I care for Marian! If you really love her, you must choose her over the king, you must choose her over anybody else in the world!”
“Like you choose her over the sheriff? You can say whathever you want, but you let Vaisey to hurt her, you did nothing to stop him! You would never deserve her, she wouldn’t marry you even if you were the last man in England!” Robin retorted, and he got ready to fight, because he was sure that Gisborne was going to attack him. For a moment he saw a flash of blind rage in his eyes, and he was almost scared by Guy’s expression, but then Gisborne just stopped and hung his head in shame.
“I know,” he said, painfully, “that’s why you must be a better man than I could ever be. She just lost her father’s, for God’s sake! She doesn’t need to fight for the good of England, you can’t leave her alone because you have to help the poor. Your men can do it, and many of those peasants doesn’t even deserve or really need your help, by the way.”
“So, what do you suggest, Gisborne? My camp isn’t good enough for her, but being here at the castle, chained to you like a puppy is any better?” Robin asked, with contempt.
“It’s safer, for now. The sheriff will get tired of this soon, and until then you could teach me, or just her, I don’t care, how to open and close these manacles without a key, so we would be chained only when the sheriff could see us. And in the meanwhile you can make arrangements to take her away from Nottingham, in a place where she can live the life she deserves. I can give you my word that she will be as safe with me as if her father would be at her side to watch over her. I swear on my mother’s memory.”
Robin slowly shook his head, an ironic smile on his lips. Gisborne’s behavior, and his words, were strange and worried him, but he couldn’t trust him, not after all his evil deeds.
“Shut up, Gisborne. You have some nerve to swear on the memory of the mother who you killed. It takes a black, ruthless soul to do so, and you can forget that I’ll ever leave Marian in your hands. Do you know, Gisborne? I’ll take her with me now, and you must thank God that I’ll let you live.” Robin grabbed the open manacle dangling from the chain, and he quickly closed it around one of the iron supports for the torches that were embedded in the walls of the room.
Guy couldn’t anticipate Robin’s move, but he reacted after a moment, grabbing the outlaw’s wrist with his free hand.
“You won’t go anywhere, Hood,” he growled, “Now, listen to me.”
Robin lifted his other hand to punch Guy, when suddenly he was no longer alone in his own mind.
He cried, terrified and pained, and he tried to fight that intrusion into his thoughts, but he couldn’t help feeling what Gisborne was feeling, seeing the memories of the knight as if they were his own.
And some were the same memories: the fire, the despair, his voice pleading Guy to do something.
But in Robin’s memories, Guy did nothing, he just stood there, hugging his sister and watching the fire that destroyed their lives.
Now, instead, he could hear Gisborne's voice crying in his mind.
I can’t... I can’t... God, I didn’t want to do it, I swear... I can’t go there, I can’t... Maman… Father…
Robin faltered, and he put his hands on Guy’s shoulders to support himself. Gisborne did the same, in a sort of desperate hug.
The memories were too many, most of them terrible: Guy’s fear when he and his sister had to travel alone, to fend for themselves trying to survive in a world full of dangers, and then a moment of relief when he could arrange a favorable wedding for his sister.
She’s only a child, but she already looks like a woman, it would be dangerous for her to keep living like this… This is a rich man, he will provide for her, she’ll get a good life. And I could earn my lands back...
And then his lonely training to become a knight: the oldest squire of the castle and the less experienced, trained to survive, but inexperencied at interacting with people. Always afraid that he wasn’t good enough.
Until a man came and chose him over all the others: he offered him a job, a home, protection, but, above all, he lifted a burden from his shoulders. Now Guy didn’t have to make difficult choices or to deal with responsibilities too big for him, the noble man who hired him would tell him what to do and he just had to obey his orders, trusting in his wiseness and experience.
For the first time after many years, Guy could allow himself to be just a boy.
He swore his loyalty to the man, he came to love him almost like a father, a strong, stern father who wouldn’t let him down.
It was only later, when his bond with him was too strong, that the man, Vaisey, revealed his true nature, and then it was too late.
Robin wanted to cry. Too much sorrow, the constant fear of being worthless, not good enough, of being alone, the burden of guilt, the effort of forgetting memories too heartbreaking to be recalled, to close them in his heart.
Darkness everywhere, and just a single, flickering star: Marian.
He had always thought that Gisborne wanted to marry her for her beauty and to take her away from him, and maybe in the beginning it had been true, but now he could see how deep was the love that Guy had for her, how he liked everything in her, how he had accepted and forgiven her lies, and how hurt he had been when she rejected him.
And then he knew that Guy hadn’t lied, that he was really ready to sacrifice his own happiness for her.
He would have died for her.
Robin didn’t want to see anything else, he would have preferred to keep thinking that Gisborne was just an enemy, a evil man driven only by greed and ambition, a foe that deserved to be defeated, but he couldn’t stop sharing his thoughts and memories.
He saw himself with the eyes of Guy, he saw flaws that he never imagined he could have, and he was surprised to find out that amidst his hate and jealousy, Gisborne had also some admiration for him, for the courage he had to rebel to the sheriff.
There were disconcerting things, things that he could barely understand. He saw his father in a secret relationship with Guy’s mother, a secret that he had never suspected, and that Guy knew.
And then he saw Sir Edward, the ghost of Sir Edward, talking to Guy, asking him to protect Marian, the terrible cold of his touch, the ghastly fingers leaving marks on his skin.
What was happening now with him, this impossible merging of their minds, already happened to Guy, it wasn’t new for him. With Marian. After a kiss.
A kiss! And she gave him another one!
Robin wanted to hit Guy, but at the same time he couldn’t, he could understand him.
He was him.
At the same time, he knew, Gisborne was in his mind, learning all his feelings, and his more secret and hidden thoughts.
He should have felt violated, but he didn’t. They were even, sharing a whole life in just a few moments.
We can’t be enemies anymore. Not after this.
Then the connection broke suddenly, and Robin was alone in his mind.
He was trembling, still clutching Gisborne’s arms, and leaning his head on his shoulder, trying to catch breath again. Guy was in his same conditions, pale and shocked.
Robin let him go and dropped himself on a chair, feeling to weak to stand. Gisborne couldn’t imitate him, being still chained to the wall, so he just leaned his back on it, closing his eyes with a sigh.
He looked at Guy, trying to decide what to say. Robin had many things to ask him, but he didn’t know how to begin. Surprisingly, it was Guy the first to talk.
“I didn’t want to do it. It was an accident,” ha said in a low voice, and Robin thought that he was referring to what had just happened.
“You’d be crazy to do it on purpose. To see in the hearts of people… It’s painful.”
Guy opened his eyes to look at him.
“It’s true. But I wasn’t talking of this.”
Guy averted his gaze.
“Your father. I didn’t want to kill him, I just wanted him to leave maman in peace. I didn’t want to start the fire, I swear I didn’t. I saw how much you loved him, what I took from you… I am sorry, Hood.”
Robin didn’t expect his words, and he didn’t know what to reply.
“Gisborne, I...” he began, then he stopped with his mouth open, staring at a corner of the room.
Guy followed the direction of his gaze, and then he looked back at him, in awe.
“Can you see him?!”
Robin took a deep breath, staring at the ghost.
“Edward,” he whispered, and the ghost lifted a hand to wave at him.
“It seems you can, now,” Guy said.
“Now?” Robin asked.
“He has been there all the time. Probably you can see him now because you have been in my mind.”
“Marian? Can she...”
Guy shook his head.
“No, she doesn’t know. And I could see her mind, but she couldn’t see mine.”
“You kissed her!” Robin said, indignantly, remembering when their minds merged.
“Actually she kissed me.” Guy replied, with a smirk.
“This isn’t the point, now!” Sir Edward said, stern, and they both turned to him, blushing a little.
“She should know that you are here,” Robin said, looking at Edward.
“Are you volunteering to tell her that you can see the ghost of her dead father? Would you believe that if you couldn’t see him?” Guy objected.
“Shut up, Gisborne, let me think.”
“Could you open this thing while you think?!” Guy snarled, shaking the chain.
Robin glared at him, but he relented, taking the dagger to free him. He was about to pick the lock of the manacle, when Marian came back in the room, followed by Allan.
“What are you doing?!” She cried, enraged, “Are you fighting again?!”
“Told you, it had been foolish to leave those two alone in a room.”