Marian peered out of the window of her room and looked at the torches moving away in the night: they looked small and far, now, like fireflies.
Finally she allowed herself to a sigh of relief: Nottingham was safe, as well as all its inhabitants.
She would never have thought she could be pleased to hear the voice of the sheriff, but his return had saved everyone from certain death and had saved her from having to answer Guy's question.
"Marry me now. And make it the last thing we do."
Marian sighed again, but this time it wasn't out of relief. She hadn't an answer to that question, she couldn't have one.
If she thought of wedding, the face that appeared in her mind was only Robin's one, so the answer to Guy's question couldn't have been a yes, but how could she have said no to a man who had chosen to die by her side? How could she dare to deny the last plea of a dying man?
Yes, definitely the return of the sheriff had been providential, she concluded, but she wasn't able to remove completely the sense of guilt that pricked her conscience.
A soft knock at the door startled her, tearing Marian from her thoughts.
"Come in." She said aloud and she wasn't too surprised to see Guy standing in the doorway.
Gisborne gave her a slight smile, pointing to the fruit basket that he held in his hands.
"With all the excitement today, there has not been much time to eat, you must be hungry. Unfortunately there was not much left in the kitchen."
Marian took an apple and contemplated it, suddenly worried.
"My father ..." She whispered. "I Have to ..."
"I ordered Allan to bring him food." Gisborne interrupted her and Marian smiled, grateful.
That spontaneous smile seemed to surprise Guy and Marian was suddenly aware of how strong was the influence that her slightest gesture had on him.
She remembered every single time she had taken advantage of his feelings for her to manipulate him and help Robin and she was ashamed of her actions.
Marian took a knife and approached the fireplace, turning her back on Guy to hide the redness of her face. She began to peel the apple, pretending to be focused on that work so she wouldn't cut herself.
"Thank you, Guy." She said, throwing a piece of apple skin into the flames and she watched it blackening "For everything."
She heard him taking a few steps around the room, behind her, then a slight creak of wood, accompanied by the rustle of cloth made her realize that he must have sat on the bed.
"I was going to run away." Said Guy and Marian was surprised by the subdued and a bit trembling tone of his voice, the same that he could use in church to confess a terrible and painful sin. "I came out of the gates of Nottingham to save my life and I was ready to leave it all behind."
"But you did not."
"Death scares me, but I would not be able to be alive in a world where you are not there."
Marian held her breath hearing the quiet tone of his voice. Gisborne was not trying to be romantic or to impress her, he had simply expressed a fact, and at that time he was completely true, in a way she would never be able to be.
She did not know how to answer to his words. She brought the apple to her lips and broke off a piece with a bite so she wouldn't be forced to do it.
The siege of Nottingham had made her discover that Guy of Gisborne was not only the black knight at the orders of the sheriff who she could cheat without much remorse.
He loved her sincerely, it was clear. Now that feeling didn't seem a nuisance to bear for convenience anymore, but it made her sad because she wasn't able to return it. It made her feel guilty for not having understood the extent of it before.
Marian was grateful for that undeserved affection and for all the times he had protected her in the name of that love. Perhaps she couldn't fall in love with Guy, but she couldn't pretend anymore that she didn't care at all about him.
She finished chewing the apple and decided she had to say at least this: that he was a friend and that she understood his feelings. And she would never deceive him anymore, she decided, but she could not say that.
"Guy ..." Marian began to say, turning to him, but she stopped immediately seeing that Gisborne was leaning with his shoulder on the cushions of her bed and that he had fell asleep.
She threw the apple core in the fireplace and went near the bed, but Guy didn't move even when she put her hand on his shoulder.
Marian smiled sympathetically.
After a day like that it was normal that Guy was exhausted: she felt exhausted too and she had not even had the responsibility of the entire city on her shoulders.
She brushed a strand of hair from his face with a tender gesture and she was saddened to see the sign of the scar that she had caused when she hit him a moment before leaving him at the altar, humiliating him in front of all the people of Locksley.
A little further down, on the cheekbone, there was another sign, a newer bruise. Marian was sure she didn't see it during the siege, so he had it made after the return of the sheriff and she had no doubt that it was his fault.
Often she had seen him hitting Guy to vent the frustration of some failed plan or because Gisborne couldn't catch Robin Hood or the Nightwatchman.
Marian couldn't understand how Guy could stand the behavior of the sheriff. Once she had asked him and Gisborne had replied that he had no one and that the sheriff was his only way to come to power.
Marian had despised his ambition, at the time, but now she had the impression that the real answer to the question was the first part of the sentence: Guy had no one.
She sighed, sincerely sorry for him and shook him gently to wake him, but Guy merely turned on his side without opening his eyes.
Marian smiled, amused, and gave up waking him. She just took off his gloves and boots and undid the belt with the sword from his waist, which she placed on the floor beside the bed. Then she took the blanket that was on the chair next to the fireplace and used it to cover Guy.
She wondered where she was going to sleep, as Gisborne was occupying her bed. At that time of the night she doubted that the servants would be willing to prepare another room for her, indeed, after the narrow escape she doubted that in the city there was still someone sober enough to be able to work.
She yawned, tired, and decided that if Guy had fallen asleep in her room, there would be nothing wrong if she had taken advantage of his accommodation.
Satisfied to have come to a decision, she was guided by a sudden impulse: she bent over Guy and touched the bruise on the cheekbone with a light kiss.
"Sleep well." Whispered fondly and started to get up, but Guy, still asleep, grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her toward him, causing her to lose her balance.
Marian fell on the bed and Guy held her in his sleep, holding her close.
The girl started to pull away, laughing to herself for that awkward situation, but she turned serious in seeing the pained expression that Guy had while he slept. She wondered what nightmares populated his dreams and she stroked his hair with one hand, instinctively, to reassure him.
Gisborne squeezed harder.
"Do not leave me, Marian." He whispered in his sleep and the girl felt like crying.
She closed her eyes and rested her head on his shoulder, hugging him in turn. She knew that Guy would never hurt her and it felt completely safe to sleep next to him.
She trusted him, she understood all of a sudden.
"I'm here." She said softly as she fell asleep.