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The Nightwatchman

Chapter Text

Robin leaned his back against the trunk of the tree, stretching his legs along the branch on which he had climbed and he relaxed as he waited.
The night was clear and cool and the crescent moon was thin in the sky, perfect for not throwing too much light during a robbery.
The sheriff had just prepared a load of supplies for the soldiers of Prince John and the supplies had been accumulated in one of the barns of Nettlestone, ready to be sent at first light, but, if all went according to Robin's plan, tomorrow Vaisey would have a bitter surprise.
Robin looked at the position of the moon in the sky and he thought it was an hour later than agreed. They still had plenty of time, but he was beginning to think that his new ally would miss the appointment. He had wondered if the other members of the gang would accept him, but perhaps the problem would not exist at all.
“He won't come.” He said to himself softly, but his words were immediately refuted by the sound of footsteps in the underbrush.
Robin smiled to himself and nocked an arrow, not resisting the temptation to scare the newcomer.
He shot it, and the arrow missed the masked man who was advancing in the woods to the place of their appointment just by a few centimeters. The other jumped in surprise, then he took off the mask from his face and he looked up, irritated, looking for Robin in the branches.
“The usual show-off.” Said Guy, annoyed, finding the outlaws and glaring at him.
Robin laughed and he went down easily from the tree, reaching Gisborne.
“You know that I wouldn't hit you. But I was starting to think you weren't coming.”
Guy looked at him, offended.
“I promised to help you, Hood, do you think my word is worth so little?”
Robin smiled apologetically.
“No, I can say a lot of bad things about you, but not that you're not loyal.”
Gisborne nodded, accepting the words of the outlaw.
“Too bad you're not punctual in the same way.” Robin continued, amused. “I was waiting for you at least an hour ago.”
“I had to wait for Marian to withdrew for the night and to make sure she was asleep, and then...”
Guy looked away, a little embarrassed. “... I think I got lost in the forest.”
Robin laughed, then he apologized again.
“ I know, at night it isn't easy to find the way in the forest if you are not used to it. But it's funny anyway.”
Guy gave him a little smiled.
“Aren't we late?”
“We still have time.” Robin said, leading the way to a clearing where two common horses were waiting. Guy would have preferred to use his black stallion, but he would have been too recognizable.
Robin mounted and Gisborne watched as he climbed on horseback, noting the grimace of pain that had crossed his face for a moment.
“Are you really sure you want to do it? Not even a month has passed and you were in a pretty bad shape.”
“I'm fine. I still feel a bit of pain in my ribs and my back, but it's not a problem.”
“For you, it's still a big risk. If the sheriff were to find that you cooperate with us, he would make you pay dearly for it, he's just waiting an opportunity for revenge.”
Guy looked at him.
“Hood, am I mistaken or you're worrying for me?”
“Don't be too surprised, I always take care of my men. If you cooperate with us, it is my duty to make sure that no harm happens to you. However, if you have any doubts you still have time to stop, I won't blame you for it, know this.”
“Hood, I want to do it. I was the one to propose it, it's my idea, I'm not going to pull back.” Guy said vehemently, then he paused, hesitating. “As long as you want me... If my presence is not welcome, I can understand... Robin, you don't want to deal with me, is that so?”
Robin Hood looked at him: he was not used to see Gisborne so insecure and he instinctively gave him a reassuring smile.
“I can not guarantee for the others, but when they see that you're really willing to help they will accept you. I know you mean well, I'd just prefer to avoid to see you ending up hanged. Vaisey can't wait to see you dead.”
“That's why I am wearing the Nightwatchman's costume, right? The sheriff will never discover who I am.”
Robin stared at him with a grin.
“ You just gave me an idea. Put your mask on and when we reach the others, let me do the talking.”
“Aren't you going to tell your friends that the Nightwatchman it's me? They can't be so naive, they have already seen me dressed like this. And they certainly won't mistake me for Marian.”
“Not for Marian, but for Allan. He had been pardoned by the sheriff, right? Even if he wanted to get back in the gang he'd have to hide his identity.”
“Allan isn't loved very much by your friends, either...”
“More than you.”
Guy was silent for a moment, then he nodded.
“I suppose so.”
“You have to demonstrate with facts that you can be a great help to us, and I am sure that then they will begin to trust you.”
“I hope so.” Guy said, in a gloomy tone which suggested that he was expecting the opposite.
Robin stared at him, curious.
“Why do you care so much? You never cared much for peasants, why are you now so eager to help them?”
Guy hesitated to answer, then he decided to be honest.
“I don't look forward to help them. I owe you my life, Hood, and I can do nothing to repay what you did for me. Locksley should belong to you, but the Sheriff would never agree to give your lands back to you. If I got Knighton and the house of Locksley, it was only with blackmail and because he had no use for them. Even so I know that sooner or later I will pay for what I did. I can't oppose him openly otherwise Marian, Allan and Sir Edward would be the first to suffer and I don't want them to suffer for my actions. This is the only way I can help you and I want to do it with all my heart.”
Robin looked at him, impressed by those words.
Guy interrupted him with a grin.
“And it's also a way to repay the sheriff of a small part of what he made me suffer all these years. Oh, believe me, even just this would be enough motivation to do it.”
The other outlaws were making use of Robin's absence to check and prepare the weapons, only slightly concerned for his delay.
Usually Robin always had a good reason not to be on time and often his most interesting plans were born during his delay.
What they didn't expect was to see him coming together with Nightwatchman. A Nightwatchman that certainly was not Marian.
“Allan wants to get back with us. Tonight he will help us to take away the supplies.” Robin began, pointing to his companion.
“Why the mask?” Much asked, puzzled.
“The sheriff has pardoned him. It will be more useful for everyone if he remains a free man, therefore, he can't be seen with us.”
“We might not want him to be back with us.” Little John said, ominously.
“We talked a lot, he really wants to help us.” Robin explained. “I'm willing to give him a chance.”
“Me too.” Will replied. “He deserved it, if only for the punch that he gave the sheriff...”
Much and Djaq also nodded.
“All right.” Little John gave in too. “But he should at least apologize to all of us for having betrayed us for Gisborne.”
“Now there is no time.” Robin intervened. “Come on, we'll talk after we empty the sheriff's storehouse.”
The others obeyed without further questions and they walked into the forest. Only Djaq paused for a moment to look into the eyes of the Nightwatchman and she smiled, amused, before following the other.

Guy looked back, urging the horse: the soldiers were chasing him closely and they had no intention of giving up. Fortunately, going that fast, they had no way to take aim with a bow, but he had to be careful not to let them get too close or they would strike at him with their drawn swords.
He wondered what had become of Robin. The two of them had the task to distract the guards while the others carried off the wagon loaded with supplies, but the outlaw couldn't be seen anywhere.
Judging by the number of soldiers who were chasing him, Guy thought he had done his job well, but now he had to find a way to escape without being captured or killed.
He turned back to look back, worried. They were gaining ground and his horse was not fast enough to outrun them, so he had to find another way to get by.
He noticed some commotion on his left and he headed in that direction, sensing that Robin had to be there. He looked around, locating him in the midst of a group of loose horses galloping along the streets of the village and he realized that Robin had freed them from the stables of Nettlestone.
Guy pushed his horse in the midst of the other horses and he leaned forward in his seat, staying low as much as possible to get confused among the other horses. He heard an arrow hissing next to him, a sign that the archers were able to organize themselves and he hoped that the aim of the guards of Nottingham had not improved since he used to command them.
Robin's horse came alongside his and Guy turned toward the outlaw.
“Any ideas, Hood?”
“Yes, let's not be hit.”
Guy snorted.
“Very funny.”
Robin walked the horse to a wagon that was at the side of the road and he grabbed a roll of rope resting on its platform.
“Follow me.” He said, turning his horse to face his pursuers and he gave Guy one end of the rope.
Gisborne knew what he wanted to do and shook his head in disbelief.
“You are crazy...”
“To succeed the lunatics must be two. Are you in?”
Guy smiled.
“Of course.”
They spurred their horses galloping side by side, and they charged the soldiers who were chasing them, then, shortly before reaching them, they parted, clutching each one end of the rope.
The guards who were ahead of the others were thrown from the saddle because of the impact with the stretched rope and they rolled on the ground, between the hooves of the horses who followed them.
Guy and Robin let go of the rope and they ran away in opposite directions without the soldiers, too busy to appease the frightened horses, could manage to chase them.
Much, and Will gave a bag of flour to Little John and the outlaw deposited it in the secret hideaway while Djaq updated the inventory of the stolen goods.
“The poor will have a lot of food for the winter.” John commented, pleased to see the store that was filled as they unloaded the wagon.
“I hope that Robin and Allan didn't have any problems.” Much said, always worried about his master.
“By now they should be here.” Will said and, as evoked by the words of the young man, Robin's horse emerged from the trees.
“Robin! Are you all right?” Much asked, while Djaq gave Robin a worried look.
“Where's the Nightwatchman?”
“I thought He was already here. I stood behind to take this.” He gave Little John a bag full of coins, removed from one of the coffers of the sheriff, then he turnet to look back at the forest. “I'd better go looking for him, he probably got lost.”
“Allan knows very well the forest, he wouldn't lose the way.” Will commented and Robin smiled, amused.
“Yep, Allan wouldn't lose his way.” He said, and he was about to go back, when Guy arrived into the clearing too. “Are you all right?” Robin asked, noting that he struggled to stay upright in the saddle.
Guy dismounted and he fell to his knees. Robin hurried over, worried.
“Have you been hit?”
Gisborne shook his head weakly. The cracked ribs ached, cutting his breath and making him dizzy, but he hadn't received new wounds.
Djaq approached him and took his pulse, then she helped him to sit with his back against a tree.
“Stay quiet for a while and breathe slowly, soon it will pass. But you shouldn't have made such efforts so soon with the injuries you received and you Robin, you shouldn't have let him to do it.”
“But Allan wasn't injured...” Much said, puzzled, not understanding what was happening.
Djaq glanced at Guy as if to ask his permission and, at his nod, she undid the coat and removed his Nightwatchman mask.
“Gisborne!” Little John growled in recognizing him and Much and Will also gasped in surprise.
Robin looked at them innocently.
“Perhaps you have realized that the Nightwatchman is not Allan... Guy decided to give us a hand.”
“And you trust him?” Much asked, stunned.
Robin Hood looked at Gisborne and he put a hand on his shoulder.
“Yes.” He just said, and Guy looked at him, amazed. Robin nodded with a smile. “Maybe you aren't in very good shape, but we worked well together. As far as I'm concerned, you are welcome among us.”
Djaq looked both with a reproachful look.
“Not for a few weeks, however, or those ribs will never heal.”
Guy nodded meekly. He felt a bit better, but he knew he had exaggerated and that he would need a few days of rest to fully recover.
“If you can ride, I'm taking you to Locksley. Otherwise we can use the cart.”
Robin held out a hand to help him up and Guy took it, letting him help.
“Thank you.” He just said, and he tried to mount his horse without showing how much effort it cost him. He let Robin to take his reins too and to lead the horse through the trees while he just concentrated on the difficult task of staying in the saddle without falling asleep.
He felt exhausted and sore and he knew that the other outlaws would take a while to accept his presence, but he was also pleased with the success of his first venture as the Nightwatchman alongside Robin Hood.
“Hey, Hood?” He called, and Robin saw an amused light in his eyes.
“What's up?”
“When are we going to do it again?”
Robin laughed.
“So much for the gratitude towards me! You like to be the Nightwatchman, admit it.”
Guy smiled.
He thought. But he did not say it aloud.

Chapter Text

Allan knocked on the door and he worried when he didn't receive an answer.
He knocked again, louder, and he finally decided to open it and enter the room.
He approached the bed and looked at Guy: Gisborne was lying on his side, perfectly still, so that Allan felt compelled to check if he was still breathing.
Once he made sure that Guy was still alive, Allan put a hand on his shoulder and shook him, calling him. After a few seconds, Gisborne decided to open his eyes, groaned and looked at Allan.
“What do you want? Something happened?”
“You tell me.” Allan said. “What's the matter?”
Guy stared at him, now fully awake.
“What do you mean?”
Allan shook his head in disbelief.
“And you ask me too? I thought you were dead.”
“Why would I be?”
“Giz, you're usually the first to leave the house, sometimes you rush to work in Knighton as soon as the sun rises, but today you are still in bed. Are you sick?”
Guy looked at the sunlight that was coming through the window.
“Is it very late?”
Allan's eyes widened.
“Giz, I came to bring lunch to you and I didn't find you. I asked the men who were clearing away the rubble at Knighton Hall and they told me that they haven't seen you all morning.”
“Did I sleep so much?”
“You're lucky that Marian is out early this morning because she went to help a sick woman in Clun. If she noticed you were still in bed, I think she would call a doctor. But maybe I should do it myself.”
“No, don't do it!” Guy said, sitting up suddenly, then he leaned forward with a moan of pain caused by that abrupt movement.
“Giz, what happened to you?!” Allan snapped, starting to worry seriously.
“Nothing. Just my wounds. They hurt, but it isn't anything serious, I must have got too tired, yesterday.”
Guy got out of bed and started to put on a shirt, only to find that he could hardly lift his arms without pain.
It must have happened when he and Robin Hood had overwhelmed the soldiers sheriff stretching a rope between their horses: the tug he received as he held the rope made his muscles to ache to the point that in the end Allan had to help him to get dressed.
Guy wondered if Robin Hood had suffered the same consequences.
“Last night you were fine.” Allan objected. “You're hiding something.”
“Who, me?” Gisborne asked, trying to look innocent, but Allan wasn't fooled.
“You. And if I found out, you can't hope to be able to hide it from Marian. Maybe you can try to keep secret what you want to do in Knighton, but if she should see you in these conditions, she will immediately realize that you're not well. And if you don't tell me what happened to you, I will tell myself to Marian and you can't hide it from her.”
Guy looked at him for a moment, then he gave in with an amused smile.
“Can you keep a secret?”
“You should know, Giz, I was your spy in Robin Hood's camp and then I never told you that Marian was the Nightwatchman.” Allan stopped and he looked at Guy. “Well, now what's so funny?”
“Allan, now you won't have to say to Marian that I am the Nightwatchman.”
Guy grinned.
“Last evening, in fact, I was fine, but last night I must have overdone it a bit in my little adventure with Robin and his gang. We emptied a warehouse full of the sheriff's supplies.”
Allan looked at him, stunned.
“You allied with Robin?! Disguising yourself as the Nightwatchman?!”
Guy smiled.
“The last time I didn't do bad, right?”
Allan thought to the risks that Guy took to save his life that time.
“The last time you almost got killed.”
“It was worth it, don't you think?”
“I don't complain, Giz, but you're crazy.”
Allan went to the door and Guy looked at him, puzzled.
“Where are you going?”
“Wait here, I'll be back soon. Meanwhile eat something. In that basket that I left by the door there's the food that I wanted to bring you in Knighton. I won't be long. Meanwhile you could ask Thornton to prepare a hot bath for you, it will ease a little of the pain in your muscles.”

Allan took a piece of meat from the pot resting by the fire and he tasted it, wrinkling his nose tasting the unusual flavor of the meat cooked by Much. Definitely in Locksley he ate better, Allan thought, but he made a compliment to Much, then he looked back at Robin.
“So what brings you here, Allan?”The outlaw asked, raising an eyebrow.
“You can imagine it.”
“Gisborne, I suppose. What does he want?”
“He doesn't want anything, I came here on my own to ask Djaq something to make him feel better after your nocturnal adventures.
She sighed, a bit worried.
“How is he? Do you want me to come to Locksley?”
Allan shook his head.
“Nah, nothing serious, he's just pretty sore. I've seen him in worse shape, but it may be useful to have some medicine to make him feel a bit better and avoid that Marian notices he's hurt.”
Djaq handed him a bag of herbs and a bottle.
“These are used to make the brew that I had already given him for the wounds he has on his back, the ointment instead will be fine for the muscles of the shoulders and arms.”
“How do you know that he's hurting there too?” Allan asked, amazed.
The girl looked up at the sky with a small sigh.
“Because this morning I had to take care of Robin for the same reason. They would have been smarter if they tied the rope to the saddle instead of holding it.”

Guy half closed his eyes while Allan massaged his shoulders.
Djaq's medicines and the hot bath had eased the pain very much, but now he was feeling sleepy again.
“Better?” Allan asked and Guy nodded.
“Yes, thank you.”
“So put your shirt on and try to look healthy, Marian should be back soon.”
“Don't tell her anything.”
Allan gave him a curious look.
“You're going to do it again, right?”
“And you won't tell Marian.”
“Yeah. She would worry unnecessarily.”
Allan looked at him skeptically. Perhaps Gisborne really wanted to avoid that the girl would be worried for him, but the amused light in his eyes revealed that this wasn't the only reason: Marian had kept hidden for years the secret identity of the Nightwatchman and now Guy wanted take a little revenge on her.
“Then I guess you need an accomplice. Someone willing to cover for you every time you decide to sneak out at night to go to risk your neck along with Robin Hood. Someone who knows how to lie better than you. Someone ready to cure your wounds every time you come home in tatters. Right?”
Guy smiled.
“I think you're right. Do you know anyone who could be suitable for this task?”
Allan grinned.
“Yes, I think I know just the right person.”

Chapter Text

Guy lost time to fix a belt of his saddle that didn't need to be regulated, and he hesitated to mount his horse until Marian called him, telling him to hurry up.
He spurred his horse reluctantly, alongside the cart driven by Allan on which the girl and Sir Edward were sitting.
“Hey, Giz, you're not going to the gallows. A fair is an opportunity to have fun, why do you look so morose?”
“I shouldn't come.” Guy replied grimly. “It makes no sense to go where I know I am not liked and the people of Clun would definitely prefer to see me dead.”
“Well, Giz, if you think so then you should shut yourself at home directly and stay there forever.”
“Guy, don't talk like that. In time they will understand that you are no longer the man of the sheriff...” Marian said, sympathetically.
“And in the meantime I should bear their insults as if nothing happened? If only they would limit themselves to blame me it would be different, but I hate it when they treat you with contempt because of me.”
“Sir Guy, this is exactly why you shouldn't isolate yourself. When they get used to seeing you walking around like an ordinary person, they will no longer notice you and they will leave you alone.” Sir Edward said, kindly. “For now, they still consider you an enemy, but the more they will see you behave normally and the sooner they will realize that you are no longer a threat.”
Guy sighed and didn't answer.
The other three seemed too confident, but he wasn't. He saw the hateful looks people gave him every time he passed on horseback through the streets of the villages and the ever-present fear in the eyes of the workers who he had hired to clear the rubble of Knighton Hall. For those people he would never be anything but the black knight, the sheriff's dog.
But Marian and her father were right that it was useless to hide, unless he went away from Nottingham, he would have to live next to these people, so he might as well get used to it and bear their insults: in large part they were more than deserved.
He only hoped that his presence wouldn't ruin the day for Marian and her father. It was only recently that the health of Sir Edward had recovered to the point of allowing him to go out and Guy wanted this fair to be a happy day for the old lord and Marian.
He decided that if the hostility of the people would become too harsh, he would stand aside with an excuse.
When they arrived in Clun, Guy slowed the horse to get away a bit off the wagon, but the murmurs and hostile looks were also directed to Marian and not only to him.
He heard an irreverent comment on the dubious morality of the girl and he was tempted to draw his sword and to force the peasant who had spoken to withdraw the insult, but Allan joined him to take his horse and he shot him a warning look.
“Don't listen, Giz. They are just trying to provoke you. Ignore them, the sheriff told you worse things and you could you stand it, do the same now.”
Guy nodded.
If he went around beating everyone who insulted Marian because of him, he would not stop the rumors, but he would only increase their malignancy. The only thing he could do was to bear them and in the meantime to work to build something good to offer to Marian when he'd finally ask her to marry him.
Then the chatter of the people would have no more reason to exist.
He looked away from the girl who was watching the stalls of the fair with her father and he smiled to see her happy and carefree as she hasn't been for a long time. Marian wore a headscarf to cover her too short hair and a light-colored dress. That attire made her look young and innocent and Guy couldn't understand how people could question her morality.
Those people knew her, Marian had always protected and defended the poor, yet they were all ready to despise her just because they heard she was close to him.
Do they hate me so much? Do they consider me so evil that I contaminate everything I touch?
“Come on, Allan.” He said, looking away from her. “Let's go eat something.”
“Won't you stay with her?”
Guy shook his head.
“It's better I don't. I don't want to ruin her day.”
“You don't have such scruples with me, instead.” Allan said, cheeky.
“For you to be seen in my company is an improvement.” Guy replied with a wry smile.

Marian watched the products displayed on the shelves, stopping occasionally to admire a cloth embroidered in an original way or a particularly pretty trinket. It was so long since she spent a day so carefree and she was only sorry that Guy had decided to stand aside.
She would have liked to see the fair at his side, eating with him the pancakes with honey that were sold by one of the merchants and to be simply with him, without worries, but she knew all too well that for the moment it wasn't possible.
The evil looks and comments of the people would follow them everywhere and they would become even more poignant if they were caught together. Marian knew that Guy was keeping away from her especially for that reason and she sighed, sorry for him.
At last she has seen him going away along with Allan, she consoled herself, so he wouldn't be left alone.
Sir Edward insisted on buying her the cloth she had admired and Marian smiled to her father, genuinely happy to see that his health had improved so much in recent times.
She stopped to look at the goods displayed by a merchant, wondering what Guy might like. She was the one who convinced him to come to the fair and she had felt guilty seeing him so uncomfortable earlier, so she'd like to find something to give him to let him know how important he was for her.
She didn't care anymore of what people said. They said she was Gisborne's lover thinking they hurt her, but she just thought that sooner or later she would become the wife of Guy and that she would be proud of it.
Of course if Guy decided himself to ask for her hand.
By now it had been almost two months since she had confessed how she felt for him, but Gisborne had not done anything to make her his wife.
Perhaps, Marian thought with a mischievous smile, to give Guy a gift could make him reciprocate by giving her a ring...
But what could she give him? Marian wanted to find something significant, but she had not the faintest idea of what Guy might like.
She was examining a series of horse harnesses when the talk of two young peasant girls caught her attention.
“I think the Nightwatchman is more fascinating than Robin Hood!” Said one of the girls and Marian smiled to herself. If only they could have imagined that the Nightwatchman was her, that girls would probably be upset.
“But Robin Hood is an unsurpassed archer!”
“But he doesn't have the charm of mystery. Who knows who is hiding under that mask...”
“He could be horrendous, how could you tell?”
“I don't believe it. I saw him ride a few nights ago, you know? He was tall and proud, and he rode in such a elegant way that he can't possibly be ugly. When I walked past him, he gave me a bag full of coins! Now my mother can get nutritious food and enough medication to get her through the winter!”
She sighed, immediately followed the other and Marian watched, dumbfounded. She did not use the disguise of the Nightwatchman for months now, how could they have seen him only a few nights before? There had to be an impostor, she thought, and she decided that she should pursue the matter.
Once before the sheriff had tried to accuse the Nightwatchman to have poisoned the poor people of Nottingham, she wouldn't allow that to happen again.
She was about to approach the two girls to ask for more information when her father called her.
“Marian, please can you bring me some wine? I feel faint.”
The girl joined him, worried.
“Are you unwell?”
“I'm just tired. I just need to sit and drink something.”
The girl nodded, anxious, and accompanied her father to a bench placed in the shade of a small tree, then she walked away, looking for some wine for him.
Sir Edward watched her go, completely oblivious of the two young peasants and he smiled to himself.
A few nights before, he had struggled to fall asleep, and he looked out of the window of Locksley Manor, illuminated by the full moon. He had noticed some suspicious movement near the stables and he had recognized the Nightwatchman galloping away on a horse.
Worried, Sir Edward went to check into the room of his daughter, but Marian was in bed, asleep.
Sir Guy instead wasn't in his room and Edward understood that the Nightwatchman he had just seen was him, but he had decided to respect his secret.

The waitress at the inn came across the room, slammed rudely the plates and jug of wine on the table and walked away without deigning to look at neither Guy nor Allan. The atmosphere in the room had suddenly frozen when Gisborne had entered the inn and Allan had to struggle to convince the innkeeper to bring them food and drinks.
Guy looked at the food on his plate without deciding to taste it. He felt he would be lucky not to end up poisoned and he had completely lost his appetite.
Allan instead helped himself cheerfully both from his plate and the one of Gisborne.
“Cheer up, Giz, it won't always be like this.” He said, between mouthfuls. “At least taste those, I bought them earlier from a vendor on the street. He was a merchant from York, he doesn't know you, so you can feel comfortable that he has no interest to put poison or to spit in your food.”
Allan put a bundle full of pancakes with honey on the table and Guy finally decided to get one, then pointed at his plate, now in front of Allan.
“Apparently you don't worry too much. Aren't you afraid to eat the food that was meant for me?”
“They wouldn't poison it, it would be too obvious and they wouldn't risk their necks for you. If they are going to kill you is easier to do it stabbing your back or something like that. And if they spat on your plate... Well, in my life I happened to eat the most disgusting things and I survived the same. When you hunger you can not afford to be too picky.”
Guy laughed at Allan's words and he took another pancake, grateful to his friend for having played down the unpleasant situation.
He didn't realize that many of the patrons had turned to look at him, amazed to find that even the terrible Guy of Gisborne was able to laugh.
Later that evening, Guy stared at the ceiling, lying on the bed in his room in Locksley.
That day hasn't been so bad, after all. Marian enjoyed herself at the fair and he, despite having had to endure all kinds of insults and whispered hostile behavior, had managed to stay out of trouble.
He had not threatened anyone, and no one had tried to kill him, so it was already a good result, even though he probably had to thank Allan for it.
The arrow of Robin entered the window, crossed the room with a hiss and stuck itself in the head of the bed. Without getting up, Guy reached out to pull the message tied to the shaft and he read it.
A few minutes later the Nightwatchman was riding along the road to Clun and Robin joined him.
“I see that out of the forest you have a better orientation.” The outlaw teased Guy.
“Very funny.”
“Besides, it would be hard to lose your way to a place where you've been just a few hours ago, right?”
“Are you spying me, Hood?”
“I don't find you so interesting, Gisborne. But you don't go unnoticed, people are not yet accustomed to see you go around quietly, when they see you they still think that you want to harm them in some way. Today everyone knew that you were at the fair in Clun.”
“And of course, you decided to go for deliveries there.”
“Because, for you does it make a difference? They hate you all the same wherever you go.”
Guy snorted and Robin replied with a laugh.
He handed him a bag full of supplies and he took another for himself.
“You start that way, leave something in every house, I will go there.”
Gisborne nodded and went to the first house, knocked on the window without having to dismount and, as soon as someone looked out, he gave him the food and he went to the next house, without waiting for a thank you.
He continued doing so until he run out of food, then he returned to Robin.
It was strange to see that the same people who a few hours earlier deluged him with hate and contempt were now happy and grateful to see the masked man who brought them food, even though it was always him.
A girl had even chased him to throw him a perfumed handkerchief, that Guy had let to drop to the ground without even touching it.
Robin looked at him, ironic.
“Do you despise the gifts of admirers?”
“That was the waitress of the inn.” Guy said, sounding disgusted “And I have my reasons for believing that this morning she spat on my plate.”
Robin looked at him for a moment, trying to keep a straight face, then he laughed.
“And what did you do?”
Guy shrugged with an amused smile.
“I let Allan to eat it.”
“Remind me to never come to lunch with you.” Robin commented, chuckling, then they both spurred their horses and rode away from Clun, disappearing into the night.

Chapter Text

Marian rummaged in the trunk at the foot of her bed, more and more irritated. She had already looked everywhere, scattering clothes and various ornaments around the room, but she couldn't find what she was looking for.
Her father came to the door and he watched the disorder, perplexed.
“Have we been robbed, or did you decide to thoroughly clean your room? You could have asked the servants to do so.”
The girl looked at him nervously.
“There's something I can't find, but I was sure I left it here.”
“Many of your clothes are still at the castle, I'm afraid. When Allan came looking for you after you had been taken away by Barret, he needed an excuse to go to Nottingham and he had to pretend to be there to bring you your things.”
Marian shook her head.
“I don't care for my clothes, Allan is not stupid, he wouldn't take to the castle what I'm looking for.”
“If you tell me what it is, maybe I can help.”
The girl hesitated. She knew her father would disapprove and he'd ask too many questions, but now she had said too much to avoid the question.
“My Nightwatchman costume.”
Sir Edward looked at her sternly.
“Marian, remember that our situation is very precarious. We can not give the sheriff any excuse to pick on us or it will be the end. What would you do with your costume? Unfortunately we are not so rich that we can help the poor as before. I won't ever deny a meal to a hungry man who knocks at our door, but we can no longer afford to distribute food to the poor of the village...”
“I know.” Marian sighed. “But it's not the reason I'm searching my costume. I hear that someone claims to be the Nightwatchman and he goes around helping people. I want to find out who is that man and what intentions he has.”
“That's a good thing, don't you think? Someone was inspired by your actions and he started to help people in your place. You should be happy, Marian.”
“Yes but...”
“In any case you won't find your costume. I did burn it after Barret took you away. If they found out your secret, for you it would be the end. And for all of us as well.”
Marian sighed. She knew that her father was right, but she would miss the very feeling of freedom she felt every time she wore the clothes of the Nightwatchman.
And then she had to find out who was the impostor posing as her. She told herself that she wanted to know because she was concerned about the intentions of that unknown man, but she actually was tremendously curious.
“Marian, don't do anything rash, promise me.”
She nodded reluctantly and father smiled.
“Don't forget about it: if this person has bad intentions, I think that Robin Hood will find out soon, otherwise it's better for the people of Nottingham. Rather, do you think of organizing something for tomorrow?”
Marian looked at him, puzzled.
“Tomorrow is the birthday of Sir Guy, don't you remember?”
She shook her head, with a twinge of guilt. She had been so preoccupied with her curiosity about the Nightwatchman that the date had passed completely from her mind.
“Guy didn't mention it at all. In the past he had always celebrated it by inviting the sheriff and the nobles who supported him, but this year he didn't even hint at wanting to celebrate...”
“I think it's understandable. His life has changed so much in just a few months, I guess that he doesn't want to be even more in the spotlight.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” Marian said, then her father left and she began to put away the clothes that were scattered around the room.
The last words she had exchanged with her father had filled her with sadness, making her think about Guy's past. Once he had told her that he had no one, and only much later Marian had understood how those words were terribly true.
“Now you've got me...” She whispered to herself. “And Allan and my father... You are not alone. Not anymore.”
Perhaps Guy didn't want to celebrate his birthday and she could understand that, but Marian was determined to prove in some way that all of them care about him, she wanted to tell him how much he was loved.
But how?

Allan sat in the shade of a tree and he munched an apple, relaxed and satisfied after lunch. The workers involved in the removal of debris and the reconstruction of Knighton Hall were sitting in the shade to eat too, gathering together in small groups.
Finally, after a couple of months working for Gisborne, they seemed to have relaxed a bit in the presence of the former black knight and they not longer looked at him as if he were the devil himself.
Guy made them to work hard, but he didn't treat them badly and the compensation was adequate, and in the end the men got used to him, though they still tended to stay away from him when possible.
During breaks, Gisborne was always on his own or together with Allan.
Now that the work had taken a good pace, Guy returned rarely to Locksley for lunch and Allan had taken the habit to bring him meals and to eat with him. Sometimes, once they finished eating, he and Gisborne treated themselves to a horse race through the fields or trained in combat.
Apparently Guy was taking quite seriously its commitment as Nightwatchman, Allan thought, watching him as he practiced archery.
“Hey, Giz!” He shouted, tossing the apple core. “Try to hit that!”
Guy shot two arrows in quick succession, but neither managed to hit the core, which fell to the ground soon after.
“Too bad.” Allan commented, getting up to go to look at the tree trunk that Guy had used as a target. “But you still improved your aim a lot. Robin gave you a few lessons?”
Gisborne put the bow away and he reached Allan, rubbing his right flank.
“Yep. It would be better if it didn't still hurt to draw the bow.”
“You'd heal sooner if you'd rest more. With all the work you do at Knighton, the administration of the lands and your nocturnal adventures, I'm surprised that you still have the strength to stand.”
“I have no time to rest, you know. I have to make money from my lands in order to pay taxes to the sheriff, I can not afford a delay or a error in payments, and I want to build this house for Marian before asking her to marry me.”
“Confess that you have fun being the Nightwatchman.”
Guy smiled.
“I have to admit that I'm not sorry to see that people are happy on my arrival, for a change.”
Allan put a hand on his shoulder.
“Sooner or later it will happen even without you having to wear a mask.”
“I think so, unless you tire yourself to death before it happens.” Allan said cheerfully, then he looked at Gisborne, turning serious. “Seriously, Giz, don't overdo or you will get sick.”
Guy stared at him, a bit surprised to see that Allan was really worried about him.
“I'm fine, I assure you. Maybe I'm a little too tired, it is true, but this too has its advantages. It has been so long since I managed to build something instead of destroying it, it gives satisfaction. And then at night I am so exhausted that I sleep deeply, often without even dreaming. Not having nightmares every time I close my eyes it's a relief, believe me.”
Allan nodded sympathetically.
“I can believe it.”
Marian had awakened early that morning, before dawn.
She couldn't think of a gift for Guy, although the day before she had done nothing but think about it, but she remembered a story her father told her when she was little.
As a child, sometimes Marian asked him to talk her of her mother, she had no memories of her, and once Sir Edward had told her that in the most special days his wife loved to cook for him, to prepare with her hands the dishes he preferred, without the help of the cook.
She had thought that she could do the same for Guy, to get up early to cook something good just for him.
She had no idea what his favorite dishes might be, and just to be sure she had chosen refined and elaborated recipes that he would definitely appreciate.
The problem was that she had greatly overestimated her culinary skills.
Since she had started, she had already burned her fingers three times and she was also able to cut herself with a knife, while the results of her efforts were quite different from what she had expected.
For some reason the flour that she had poured in milk remained lumpy, while the cream didn't thicken and Marian had the impression that a few pieces of egg shell had fallen into the bowl when she had thrown in the yolks.
Then a strong burning smell filled the kitchen and Marian found herself watching with despair a pan of pancakes, charred on the outside and completely raw inside.
Hoping to put a remedy to the disaster, the girl had drowned them in honey.
She looked at the dish that she had painstakingly composed and she began to cry: its appearance was horrible and she was tired, sweaty, covered with flour from head to toe and sticky with honey.
She hoped that at least the flavor was good and that Guy would have appreciated her commitment.
She heard footsteps approaching and she tried to settle down a bit, dusting off her dress to remove traces of flour, but she was disappointed to see that the person who was on the door was Allan and not Guy.
The young man looked at her, puzzled.
“What are you doing here?” He asked.
The girl glanced hesitantly at the table and she turned quietly to Allan.
“I wanted to make a surprise to Guy for his birthday. I prepared breakfast for him.”
Allan looked doubtfully at the plate.
“That would be the breakfast?”
Marian nodded, hopefully.
“Taste it and tell me how it is.” She said, filling a plate for Allan.
Allan sat down at the table and he began to eat, but he stopped after the first bite. He swallowed, poured himself a glass of wine and he drank it quickly, then he looked back at Marian.
“Do you want to poison him, by any chance?”
“Is it that bad?” Marian sadly asked.
“Worse.” Allan said, honestly. “And I assure you, in my life I ate everything. If I can give you some advice, make it disappear before Giz wakes up. If he knew you cooked for him he'd insist on eating it all the same, but believe me, you don't hate him so much.”
Guy awoke with a start when Robin's arrow planted a few centimeters above his head.
He pulled it away from the head of the bed to read the message attached to the shaft, amazed because of the unusual time. The other times Robin had called him at night, to contact him shortly after dawn something strange had to be happened.
The message didn't say much, only to reach him immediately on the road to Nottingham and Guy hastened to get ready.
He went down the stairs, looking for Allan and he found him in the kitchen, along with Marian.
The girl looked pretty tired and depressed and Guy wondered what could have saddened her, but the message of Robin seemed rather urgent and he couldn't be delayed. While the girl was turned, Guy took the opportunity to show the arrow he had in his hand to Allan, then he hid it behind his back when Marian turned to look at him.
“Hello Guy. I was going to ask the cook to serve breakfast.” Marian said with a sigh.
Guy shook his head with an apologetic smile.
“Today I don't have time, I'm sorry.”
“There is something wrong?”
“Only a boring question to be solved with one of the farmers. But if I don't do it now, we risk losing a day's work and we can't risk not having the money for the taxes requested by the sheriff. You know that he's just waiting for a mistake to hit me.
He touched her lips with a quick kiss, then he went out the door and Allan hurried after him.
Before leaving, the young man stood in the doorway and he turned to Marian, quietly.
“You'll find something else, but don't cook anymore, it's better.”
Left alone, she sighed, then, out of curiosity, she decided to try a bite of what she had cooked. She paled slightly, swallowed and then she took the plate and she went to empty it in the pigpen, pretending it was for them from the start.
Perhaps she'd better just buy him a gift, she decided.
After all it was a market day in Nottingham, perhaps there she could find something that would please Guy.

Chapter Text

Guy hid in the old barn in ruins and he waited for Allan to join him. The young man gave him the Nightwatchman's costume and swapped Guy's horse with a more anonymous one, then he waited for Gisborne to finish changing his clothes to hide the ones he had just taken off in the saddlebag of the black stallion.
“What does Robin want at this time? It's strange that he calls during the day!”
“It is, but if he did, there must be a good reason.”
“I don't like it, with the sunlight you will need to be much more careful not to be discovered.”
“I know, but I don't have much choice.”
Allan nodded. He knew that Robin wouldn't make Guy to take unnecessary risks without a valid reason, but he still felt uneasy.
“I will take your horse to Robin's camp to hide it and then I'll join you in Nottingham.”
“You shouldn't be seen with the Nightwatchman.”
“I know, Giz. I won't come near to you, but I'll be around to keep an eye on things.”
“Be careful.” Guy said, covering his face with a scarf and the mask.
“You too.”
Gisborne mounted his horse and he went out of the barn first, hurrying to get back on the road to Nottingham. Allan, instead, waited a few minutes, then he took the opposite direction, taking both horses with him.
Robin, lurking behind a grove by the roadside, waited to see the Nightwatchman galloping past him before chasing him and joining him.
“What if instead of me there were the soldiers of the sheriff?” Robin asked. “You are too noticeable.”
“Hood, you were the one who said to reach you on the road to Nottingham. Otherwise I would have chosen secondary and less exposed roads. Anyway now I'm here, what's happening?”
Robin looked at him seriously.
“I wouldn't have called you if the situation was not worrisome. The guards of the sheriff have caught Djaq.”
“Last night we stopped one of the wagons of supplies that were going to the castle. Everything seemed normal, but it was a trap: instead of supplies in the wagon there were soldiers. We were able to defend ourselves, but Will was shot and Djaq stood behind to help him. He managed to escape on horseback, but she was caught.”
“Did they take her in the dungeons?”
“Yes.” Robin said briefly, then he stared at Guy, worried. “Look, Gisborne, I was in doubt whether to call you or not. We will have to enter into the castle to free her, you'd put yourself in a huge danger. If the sheriff were to recognize you, no one could save you from the gallows. Think hard about what you want to do: if you prefer to go back home, the others will never know, I didn't tell them that I would have called you.”
“Stop that, Hood! Entering the castle is a risk for everyone, not just for me. Do you think that if the sheriff should capture you or one of the others, he would be more generous? If we get caught while trying to free her from the dungeons, we will end all hanged, not just me.”
“You are not required to risk you life for a member of my gang.”
“No, I am not, and for some of them I wouldn't. But for Djaq I will. She helped me, she was kind to me without having any reason to do so and for that I will always be grateful. What are you waiting for? Come on!”
Guy spurred his horse and made him gallop towards Nottingham. Robin smiled to himself and followed him.

Marian watched critically at the goods displayed on the shelves, wondering if Guy would enjoy any of them, but she couldn't find a satisfactory answer.
Until he was freed from the influence of Vaisey, the life of Guy had orbited completely around the sheriff and his duties as a black knight, without leaving the slightest space for entertainment or personal interests. Probably Marian had been his only source of distraction in many years.
The girl watched some decorated daggers aligned on one of the tables, but she shook her head. Guy had always at least one with him, but she didn't want to give him a weapon or any other object that could made him to think of his past as a fighter, she wanted to find something that would make him feel at home, that might give him the warmth and the affection he never had.
She was examining some fabrics, trying to assess their quality, when she noticed from the corner of her eye the furtive movement of someone who was hiding in an alley.
An ordinary person would not have noticed, but she had enough experience about it, hours and hours spent to sneak through the corridors of the castle in search of information, to understand when someone was moving suspiciously.
The person who had just turned the corner had definitely something to hide.
Forgetting her promise to her father not to do anything rash, Marian walked away from the market and pulled herself into the alley, following that suspicious man.
When she managed to approach a little more, her heart began to beat faster: the man was wearing a cape and a mask similar to those she had used in the past! She had found the impostor, the man claiming to be the Nightwatchman!

Guy went forward in that narrow, dark alley, hoping it would bring him very close to the walls of the castle as Robin had said. According to the outlaw, at the end of the street there was a point where a grate of waste discharge opened and from there it was possible to climb, enter the castle and follow an underground tunnel to the dungeons.
Every time Robin would unveil the existence of one of those passages, Guy understood more and more why the outlaws were always able to escape each time he thought he was about to catch them.
Guy arrived at the end of the alley and looked around to search for the grate that had been described by Robin, but he stiffened to hear a rustling behind him.
He and Robin had separated as soon as they arrived in the town and the outlaw had gone to check one of the other entrances that he knew and to give instructions to the rest of the gang, but even if he had changed his mind and decided to reach Guy, it couldn't have been him to make the noise Guy had heard because Robin could move in silence, like a cat.
Guy put his hand on the hilt of the sword and he looked around distractedly, trying not to alarm the person who was spying on him. He spotted her while hiding in the shadows and he paled in recognizing the dress he had seen that morning on Marian.
The girl's face was covered by a veil that she usually wore to cover her short hair. Now she had wrapped it around her face to conceal her identity, but Guy recognized her anyway.
He wondered what she was doing there and why she was following him, then he began to worry: the presence of Marian would endanger her and jeopardize the whole rescue mission.
He had to make sure to get her away from there.
He hoped that the girl had the sense to stay hidden and he went back down the alley. He would have to pass very close to her, and he was concerned that Marian might recognize him despite the mask that covered his face.
Guy decided that once he arrived near her, he would start to run away, trying to disappear without a trace in the maze of alleys.
What he didn't expect was that she could try to stop him recklessly: Marian had grabbed the handle of a broom with both hands and she dropped it hard on Guy's back in the exact moment he passed close to her.
A stab of pain clouded his view for a moment and Gisborne rolled to the ground, biting his tongue to keep himself from screaming. The wounds in his back were now almost healed, but they were still pretty sensitive and Marian's stroke had hurt him very badly.
Guy tried to get up to run away, but something hard struck him in the neck.
Did she threw a stone to me?
Another object thrown forcefully struck him in the shoulder and then it rolled in front of him.
Not a stone, an apple!
“Who are you?” The girl said softly, in a threatening tone. “You are not the true Nightwatchman!”
Guy sighed mentally. He would have known that sooner or later Marian would hear about the new Nightwatchman and that she would try to discover his identity, too bad that she chose the worst time to do it.
And then what was she doing in Nottingham all alone?
She didn't understand that for her it was still dangerous to risk getting noticed by the sheriff.
Guy refrained with difficulty from expressing his opinion, remembering just in time that he shouldn't be recognized by her.
Another apple hit Guy in the back and he wondered how she had learned to put so much strength in her throws.
“Speak! I have a whole basket of them!”
“Marian!” Robin's voice made her turn and Gisborne took a sigh of relief. Guy took advantage of the distraction to disappear.
He slipped between two houses and he climbed on the roof of one of them, where he flattened to hide from the sight of Marian. He stood motionless, holding his breath and he hoped that Robin could distract the girl.

Marian stared at Robin in surprise, then she turned back and she stifled a curse realizing that the false Nightwatchman was gone.
“Where did he go?”
“Who?” Robin asked.
“The impostor! The one who claims to be the Nightwatchman!”
“You shouldn't be here, it's dangerous.”
Marian ignored him.
“He was here, I had trapped him!”
“And then what would you have done? He could have reacted and you are unarmed.”
Marian shook her head, stubbornly. She knew that Robin had a point, but she wouldn't yield.
“I must find out who is he.”
“Leave it to me. I promise that I will do everything to catch him. But come on now, let's get out of here, these alleys may be poorly frequented.”
Robin took her back to the market and he let out a sigh of relief to see that Allan had just entered the city on horseback and was looking around. He beckoned to him and the young man hurried to reach them.
“Marian! I didn't think you wanted to come to town, or I'd have gone with you.” He said, glancing a questioning look to Robin while Marian was not looking.
“Can you stay with her?” The outlaw asked. “There are shady characters around and now I can't take her home.”
“I can be alone!” Marian replied, offended. “I don't need bodyguards.”
“I'm sure you can,” Allan said “but Giz would skin me alive if he came to know that I left you alone while the sheriff is around. So I'm sorry, but you must resign yourself to stay with me.”
She sighed, defeated, and she turned to glare at Robin, but the outlaw was already gone.
She slammed his foot on the ground, irritated, then she turned to Allan and looked at him for a few seconds. After a while she decided that it was useless to be in a bad mood and she decided that perhaps that hindrance could be of service.
“Since you're here, help me.” She said to Allan, with a slight smile. “What do you think I could give to Guy as a present?”

Robin hastened back into the alley where he met Marian and he let out a low whistle. Soon after, Guy joined him, jumping down from the low roof of a hut.
Robin looked at him, raising an eyebrow.
“I hope that when we enter the castle you won't be trapped so easily.”
Gisborne scowled.
“What could I do? I couldn't counterattack against Marian. And you know how she can be determined when she wants to do something... How did you manage to convince her to give up capturing the Nightwatchman?”
“I told her I'd do it. And then I entrusted her to Allan.”
“He should be able to keep her off the hook.” Gisborne approved, relieved.
“Are you fine?” Robin asked, then he let out a chuckle. “You seemed quite distressed, before.”
“I suppose I should thank you for distracting her.” Guy said, sounding reluctant. “But why did you come here? Didn't you have to check the other entrance?”
“It was closed, luckily for you. We will both enter from the one nearby.”
“The others?”
“They will create a diversion to distract the guards at the right time. You and I will release Djaq from the dungeons.”
Speaking, they had reached the end of the alley and Robin climbed on the shoulders of Gisborne to get to the grate. He grabbed it with both hands and pulled. For a moment he thought it was locked too, then it gave way and swung open with a creak.
Robin climbed in, then he helped Guy to rise too and they crept together along the tunnel.
The outlaw shook his head with a smile.
“With apples... She knocked you out with apples...”
“Shut up.” Guy growled, elbowing Robin in the ribs as he passed him, but Robin wasn't intimidated at all and he followed him chuckling.
They walked a few meters, then they both returned serious: they had entered the castle, now the hard part was about to begin.

Chapter Text

Allan felt Marian's eyes fixed on him and he looked at the girl, a little uncomfortable.
“So?” Marian asked. “Do you have any ideas?”
“I think that Giz would like anything, if you are the one who gives it to him.”
“But I want to find something special! You spend a lot of time with him, you must have some ideas!”
The only thing Giz really wants is you...
Allan thought, but he didn't express the thought aloud.
“Maybe you should think about a nice moment that you have spent together and you should look for something that makes you to remember it, somehow.”
Marian looked at him, struck by those words and she thought that Allan had a point. It wasn't so important the gift itself, but the meaning that Guy would give to that gift.
But what to choose?
Lost in her thoughts, she took an apple from the basket that she was still holding and she offered it to Allan, then she chose another one for herself and she began to munch it, while she tried to find a peaceful remembrance to share with Guy.

Robin looked out from the trapdoor opening into the dungeons, after he had moved to the side the grate that closed it.
“Do you see anything?” Guy asked from below, trying to stand still so Robin, who had climbed on his shoulders to reach the opening, wouldn't lose his balance.
“The corridor seems empty.”
“At this time the executioner usually goes away to get food, provided that it is always the same man and that his habits have not changed in the last months.”
“Too many "ifs" for my taste.” Robin commented, but he climbed out of the hatch. If they wanted to save Djaq they could not afford to have too many doubts.
He lay on his stomach and he stretched his arms down to help Guy to pull himself up.
They closed the grate again and they walked gingerly down the hallway until they reached the cells.
The dungeons harbored several prisoners, but they couldn't see the saracen girl anywhere.
Robin looked at the men locked up in the cells and he gave a puzzled look at Gisborne.
“Once there weren't so many prisoners...”
“Once I wouldn't arrest all those who'd have deserved it.”
Robin gave him a skeptical look.
“You were having moral scruples?”
Guy shrugged.
“It just wasn't worth it. The prisoners must be fed and the more there are, the more guards are needed to keep them at bay, so to arrest all those who disobey the laws of the sheriff is an unnecessary expense. Most of the time it was cheaper to make them pay a penalty to avoid arrest than dragging them in prison. Obviously if the sheriff was there I could not help but to arrest them.”
Robin preferred not to deepen the discussion, it wasn't the time or the place to discuss that with Gisborne.
“We must find Djaq.” He whispered.
“If she's not here, she could be in the torture room.” Guy said, unable to suppress a shudder of horror. “Or the sheriff could've summoned her for questioning.”
Robin remembered that in the past Vaisey had tried to force Vaisey to create weapons for him using the knowledge of her homeland. On that occasion Gisborne had experienced on his skin the corrosive liquid created by Djaq when the sheriff had used it to erase the tattoo that could prove Guy's guilt in the attempt to kill King Richard.
“Make way.”
Guy took him to the torture room and they both sighed with relief to find that it was empty and there were no traces of fresh blood on the instruments.
“Let's go away.” Guy said. “I never liked this place.”
“I don't believe that anyone can enjoy a place like this...”
“The sheriff does.”
“I'll never understand how you could agree to obey his orders.”
Gisborne avoided looking at him.
“It wasn't so simple, Hood. I didn't have much choice, I've never had it...”
“There is always a choice.”
“Now I know. But it wasn't always like that. The sheriff has always been good at manipulating people and I did not have anyone. Sometimes he could make me believe that I was important to him, he behaved almost like a father, and I just wanted to prove that I deserved his trust. I was young, naive and I had to fight alone against the whole world to survive for too many years. Vaisey offered me the security that I had not known for a long time, he threw me crumbs of fake affection and I was only too eager to believe him. I would do anything just to get his approval and when he started to show his worst side I was already too attached to him to understand fully his true nature or to rebel. Do you know, Hood, perhaps those who called me “the sheriff's dog" weren't so wrong...”
Robin looked at him, amazed when he realized that Guy was showing him his most vulnerable side, then he nodded and he put a hand on his shoulder.
“Now you're free.”
“Yep. But this can't change the past, though.”
Robin had nothing to say in response to those words and he merely gave a friendly squeeze to Guy's shoulder before removing his hand.
“Let's find Djaq, now.”
“I know a way to get to the rooms of the Sheriff unnoticed. There is a hidden passage and it was helpful in organizing secret meetings with the black knights. Some of them don't want to disclose their alliances, so Vaisey meets them in secret. Come on, this way.”

Djaq kept her eyes on one of the bird cages that were hung in the room, ignoring the questions of the sheriff.
She concentrated on the details of the canary hopping between the bars and she watched every nuance of his feathers. She had to look only at that: a cute bird that ruffled its feathers. The rest of the world was shut out: there was no fear, there was no hatred, there was no pain.
Vaisey repeated once again his request, but Djaq chose not to hear the sheriff and he slapped her hard, throwing her to the ground.
From the floor the saracen girl searched for the cage of the canary and she looked back at the animal. She shouldn't fear, she repeated herself, except for the bird, nothing was real.
If she let herself to be distracted, sooner or later she would succumb to fear and torture and then she would die or she'd agree to create hazardous substances to be used as weapons for the sheriff.
She heard the footsteps of Vaisey who approached her and to stay focused became more and more difficult: her heart beat faster and she felt the palms of her hands wet with sweat.
The sheriff leaned on her to hit her again and Djaq closed her eyes, but no one touched her and Vaisey let out a cry of rage. She ventured to look around and she saw that the sheriff had been blocked against the wall by two arrows that had grazed him and that had pierced his clothes, pinning him to the wooden covering of the wall.
Djaq recognized the two-toned fletching used by Robin and the black one of the Nightwatchman and she smiled, quickly getting up from the ground to flee out the door of Vaisey's room.
The two men were waiting in the hallway and Djaq wanted to hug them both to thank them, but they did not have the time: the sheriff was calling loudly for his guards and they already could hear the heavy tread of soldiers approaching quickly on both sides of the corridor.
“Here.” Guy said in a whisper, pointing to a nearby door and they all entered into a small room where various empty trunks were stacked.
“There is no way out of here!” Robin said.
“Quick! Hide in the trunks and wait. Once they are gone you can escape in the direction from which they came.”
Djaq shook her head.
“If there were only the guards it could work, but the sheriff won't be fooled.”
“That's why I said that you should hide. I will draw them away from you.” Guy said, then he put a finger to his lips to tell them to shut up and he moved to go back in the corridor.
Robin stopped him, taking his arm.
“They will capture you.” He said softly.
“No, because then you will distract them. I know you won't let them to get me.” He said, freeing himself from the grasp of Robin and slipping out of the room before the outlaw could stop him.
He ran down the corridor without bothering to be silent and he went towards Vaisey's room, reaching it just at the moment when the sheriff came out, accompanied by a handful of guards.
Guy aimed with the bow at the soldier closest to the sheriff and he hit him in the leg, then he turned and ran.
“It's the Nightwatchman!” Vaisey shouted, increasingly furious. “Capture him at all costs!”
The soldiers set off in pursuit with the sheriff following right behind them.
Vaisey wanted the head of the Nightwatchman, he wanted to unmask him and kill him in the most humiliating way possible. The last time they met, the masked knight had dealt a blow to his pride, throwing him into the mud in front of all the people of Locksley and the sheriff had vowed to take revenge sooner or later.
Now, it seemed that time had arrived.

Robin and Djaq waited for the steps of the soldiers to be far down the hall before they ventured out from their hiding place.
“Are you fine?” Robin asked. “Did the sheriff hurt you?”
“No, he didn't have the time to do it.” The girl said, then he shot him a reproachful look. “You shouldn't have called him. For him it is too great a risk to be here.”
“If I didn't, it would have been an insult to Gisborne. He can fight and he knows the castle, he will manage to survive. And then he wanted really to save you.
Djaq looked at him with an amused smile that made Robin to frown.
“What's up?”
“Nothing.” The girl said innocently. “It is just strange to see how your opinion of him has changed. It's nice to see that you can be friends after all.”
Robin opened his mouth to argue that Gisborne was not his friend, but he stopped.
Was it true?
They certainly were not enemies anymore and Guy had been able to earn his trust, but friends?
Since he joined them as the Nightwatchman, Robin had to admit that he had found Gisborne's presence pleasant and he often liked to tease him, but he had never stopped to think of them as real friends.
Yet, if he thought better about it, they were friends.
Guy now trusted him blindly, in a couple of occasions he arrived to the point of calling him brother and only thanks to the words of Djaq, Robin realized that probably Gisborne had started to consider him as a member of the family they had both lost too soon, a sort of lost brother.
Surprisingly, Robin discovered that he didn't dislike that idea so much.
He smiled at Djaq.
“Let's go to retrieve him and run away from here, before we all end up hanging from gallows.”
Guy felt an arrow passing near him, grazing him, then another, closer, scraped his arm, but he didn't allow himself to cry despite the searing pain.
He couldn't use his voice or he'd risk being recognized by the sheriff.
He walked toward the porch that overlooked the courtyard of the castle, from there he might be able to somehow get out of the gate and mingle among the people of Nottingham.
The outlaws would organize a diversion to help them escape, and Robin wouldn't leave him, Guy was sure of it, so he just had to hold on and not get caught up until his arrival.
He turned a corner, narrowly avoiding another two arrows and he paled in seeing other soldiers who were coming from the other end of the porch.
He drew his bow and he stepped back to be with his back to the window that overlooked the courtyard. It was too high to jump, but Guy climbed on the windowsill to stand over the soldiers and to have a chance to aim better.
He shot two arrows hitting the closer soldiers, but he couldn't resist for long: he was trapped.
The sheriff knew that and he laughed evilly, covering behind the soldiers. He would not have to do anything but wait and the Nightwatchman would end up in his hands.
The archers stretched their bows toward the masked man, ready to hit him, but Vaisey motioned them to wait: he wanted him alive.
“Bring him here.” He ordered.
Guy kept them at a distance by shooting other arrows, but he hadn't many left and he would soon be forced to defend himself with his sword.
He repeated to himself that Robin would come to save him and that he shouldn't doubt.
But please hurry up, brother of mine.

Chapter Text

Guy threw the last arrow and he hit one of the soldiers. Now the others would get closer to capture him, but at least there was one less.
Guy drew his sword and he prepared to defend himself, even though he knew he could not keep them away for a long time.
Robin, now it would be a good time to intervene...
The sheriff motioned to the archers to aim at him and he began to approach, holding the sword in front of him. Gisborne turned to look at the courtyard below him, wondering if he could survive a fall from that height.
Probably not, but even the prospect of dying instantly looked more attractive than what would happen to him if the sheriff managed to capture him and find out his identity.
Now Vaisey was very close and Guy loosened his grip on the edges of the window, preparing to jump, when a volley of arrows passed him without touching him, breaking down many of the soldiers who were aiming at him and blasting the sword from the hands of Vaisey.
The sheriff looked around and his expression went from surprise to fury at seeing his guards slumped to the ground.
Another arrow with a rope attached to its shaft planted itself in the wall next to the window, remaining firmly stuck. Guy looked at it and he immediately knew what he should do: in the past Robin Hood had already escaped capture using a trick like that.
Guy pulled the bowstring from the bow and he passed the weapon above the rope, gripping it with both hands. He was going to use it to slide down the rope, but, just as he was about to jump, Vaisey grabbed him from behind, trying to hold him and drag him away from the window.
Gisborne felt a sudden sharp pain in the neck and he increased his efforts to get free. He finally managed to hit the sheriff in the face with an elbow and Vaisey fell backwards, letting him go, while Guy gripped the bow with all his strength and jumped out the window.
He slid quickly down the rope and he finished his descent landing on Robin and dragging him to the ground with him. They both tumbled to the floor and when they stood up they felt very sore, but Guy realized that if Robin Hood had not intervened to stop his fall, he would have suffered much more harm by hitting the stone floor.
The other outlaws joined them bringing with them several horses stolen from the stables of the castle and Robin, Guy and Djaq scrambled to get on them and to get away from Nottingham.
At the camp, Guy walked away from the others to reach his own horse and retrieve his clothes from his saddlebag.
“You risked too much.” Robin said, approaching him. “If I had arrived only a few seconds later, you'd be dead.”
Guy took off his mask and scarf and hid them in the bottom of the bag.
“I knew you would come in time. You always do, right?”
Robin stared at him and he shook his head.
“You must be a little crazy, Gisborne.
“You're both crazy.” Djaq said, reaching them and she smiled at them both. “But I owe you my life.”
She squeezed them in an affectionate embrace.
“Thank you.” Djaq whispered, kissing them on the cheek and Robin smiled brazenly, while Guy looked away, a little embarrassed.
Djaq broke away from them and she looked at her fingers, a little worried.
“Are you injured? One of you boys is bleeding.”
“Not me.” Robin said immediately, while Guy touched a point at the base of his neck.
“An arrow scratched my arm, but it is nothing, however the sheriff hit me here, just before I jumped.”
“Let me see, unfasten your cloak.” Djaq said and Guy obeyed.
He took off his cloak and he gave it to Robin, then he undid the jacket enough to open it at the neck.
Djaq walked over to examine it and she dipped a handkerchief in water to wipe the blood from the wound.
“It is not deep, it hurts and it will be better to clean it well, but it's nothing serious.”
“Did he use a knife?” Guy asked, worried. “The sheriff may have poisoned the blade, it wouldn't be the first time...”
Djaq shook her head with a smile.
“I doubt it. He didn't use a weapon, these are teeth marks.”
Guy looked at her, stunned.
“He bit me?! Did the sheriff bit me?”
Robin laughed.
“Then you must be careful, Gisborne, he could really have poisoned you.”

Guy yawned and put his horse into a trot as he approached Locksley. It had been a very long day and he was tired and sore, but he and Robin had managed to save Djaq and he was genuinely happy.
For at least a couple of times during the reckless rescue he had seriously feared he had no way out and the thought that he had risked so much still made him cringe, but he had heard the crunch when his elbow hit the sheriff's face and that was enough to reward him for the fear he had suffered.
Guy gingerly touched his neck: the bite was throbbing and it still hurt.
I hope I broke his nose, at least.
He looked around for Allan to give him the horse, he felt so exhausted that he wanted nothing more than to go to bed and sleep until the next day, but the young man wasn't there.
Guy called him a few times, but he didn't arrive and Guy resigned himself to personally take care of the horse.
He dismounted and took the bridle to bring the animal in the stable.
Once, he was surprised to see that Marian was waiting for him, standing next to the box of his horse. The girl looked at him seriously, then she lifted the basket of apples she was holding in her hands to show it to him.
“I was waiting for you, Guy.”
Gisborne paled when he saw the apples, remembering what had happened that morning.
Was it possible that Marian recognized him despite the mask? And now was she going to hit him again?
He saw that she was expecting an answer.
“Why?” He asked, hesitantly, and Marian sighed, disappointed.
“I knew it, you think it's a silly gift...”
“A gift?” Guy asked, more and more confused.
“For your birthday. I thought about it so much, but I couldn't find a suitable gift and I finally thought about these, but clearly I was wrong...”
Guy looked at her, touched and a bit surprised.
“You remembered my birthday? I didn't think about it myself...”
Marian sat on a hay bale, resting the basket beside her.
“It's stupid to give apples as a gift, right?” She sadly asked.
Guy sat down beside her and took one of them from the basket.
“You thought of me, you committed yourself to choose something for me... This is already a beautiful gift, Marian, thanks.” He hugged the girl and he touched her hair with a kiss, then he bit his fruit. “Why did you choose the apples?”
Marian stayed close to him, hugging him tight and she leaned her head on his shoulder.
“They make me think of you. After the siege of Nottingham you have brought me a basket of fruit because you were worried that I might have been hungry. I think it was then that things have started to change, do you know? Before, I had never stopped to think that you could also be kind.”
“My fault, I would say.” Guy said, smiling sweetly.
“But it is not only for that reason that I decided to give you apples.” Marian continued. “I thought of one of the memories that I am more fond of, the one that gave me a bit of light and hope when I was a prisoner of Barret. We were right here, together, and you were eating an apple, after giving another one to your horse, do you remember?”
Guy closed his eyes and he nodded.
“I was so tired and I was shattered... The nightmares wouldn't let me sleep and I was so scared that I could hurt you that I didn't trust myself. But you weren't, you didn't have any fear and you were ready to fight against my own nightmares. You said you'd keep them away, and that I could trust you... And it was true.”
Marian stroked his hair gently, as she had done that time and she smiled.
“You fell asleep next to me and I looked at you sleeping for hours.”
“It was an afternoon so serene, the last beautiful time before a terrible nightmare. When all hope seemed lost, I remembered that day, I imagined that you were still so close to me...”
Guy interrupted her with a kiss and Marian smiled at the taste of the apple on his lips, then Gisborne laid his head on her shoulder and he closed his eyes, as he had done in that sunny afternoon.
“Do you know what?” He whispered sleepily. “I think you've chosen the perfect gift.”
Marian brushed his hair with her lips, happy for those words and she watched him fall asleep, leaning against her.
She watched him fondly, looking at his face and at the pale skin of Guy's neck, then she frowned noticing the dark mark of a bruise, barely hidden under the collar of his jacket.
Was that a bite? And who did it to him?

Chapter Text

Allan was surprised to see that Marian was leaving early from Locksley, driving the wagon and accompanied by two servants. The girl's expression was somber and thoughtful and she barely greeted Allan when she passed near him.
“Where are you going so early?”
“To Nettlestone. The sheriff took away the horse of one of the families because they did not have enough money for taxes and without it they can't bring their goods to the market. If they can't sell them, this winter they will hunger.”
“And you offered to accompany them with your wagon.” Allan smiled. “By the way, where is Giz? Did he like your gift?”
Marian didn't answer him, she snapped the reins and she drove off with the wagon without saying another word.
Allan looked at her, puzzled, then he sighed.
"Giz must have offended her in some way. Probably he didn't appreciate her gift. I'd better go look for him..."
Allan went to the door of Guy's room and he immediately saw that the bed was untouched, so he decided to go and check if Gisborne's horse was in the stable: if he and Marian had a fight, maybe he preferred to get away from Locksley to vent his bad mood.
The young man was surprised to find Gisborne himself in the stable. Guy was lying on his side on the bales of hay next to the box of his horse and he seemed to be asleep. The black stallion craned his nose to sniff his rider and Guy smiled in his sleep, without waking.
Allan looked at him, puzzled. The serene expression of Gisborne was completely at odds with the stormy one of Marian and the young man wondered what had happened between those two.
“Hey, Giz?” He called softly and Guy moved in his sleep, starting to wake up.
“I would say no. But if you mistake me for her, I'm not surprised she's angry."
Guy sat up and looked at him, still half asleep.
“Why should she be angry? Don't be silly, Allan.”
“When I mentioned your name she gave me an icy stare and she left without even answering me. That doesn't look like the attitude of someone who is well-disposed towards you. What did you do? Did you laugh at her apples?”
Guy shook his head, worried.
“No.” He replied, trying to understand why Marian might be mad at him, without finding an answer. He couldn't think of anything that might have offended her, indeed the evening before had been incredibly sweet and serene.
But in fact Marian had left him alone in the barn, and if Allan wasn't exaggerating, hers was the behavior of a person who was angry for some reason.
Maybe she had discovered his secret? If so, why didn't she ask him about his adventures as the Nightwatchman?
“I don't understand, Allan. After giving me the apples we talked for a bit and then I fell asleep. I liked her gift and I thanked her for thinking of me. I don't think I did anything that could irritate her.”
Allan looked at him and he smirked, amused.
“Ah, now I understand.”
Guy stared menacingly at him.
“Then explain it to me.”
“From what I see, you 'spoke' in a rather passionate way. A girl doesn't leave that kind of signs if she isn't very involved by someone and, if you fell asleep while you were 'talking', I am not surprised that she was offended to death.”
Guy looked at him, startled, and he suddenly blushed.
“We didn't do anything like that and you shouldn't even insinuate it! I wouldn't do anything to jeopardize her innocence before marrying her, you should know!”
“And what about that bite that you have on the neck, then?”
Guy touched the wound with one hand.
“But it wasn't Marian who did this to me!”
Allan looked at him seriously.
“Then you're dead, Giz, really.”
“Won't you think that it was a woman?!”
“Who, then?!”
Guy looked down, uncomfortable.
“The sheriff.”
Allan stared at him.
“The sheriff?” He asked, incredulous.
“He tried to stop me when I fled after freeing Djaq, yesterday. I don't know why he did it, but he bit me. On the other hand I think I broke his nose.”
Allan shook his head.
“You'll have to tell me all the details, but you're dead all the same, Giz. You can't explain it to Marian without telling her that you're the Nightwatchman and even if you do it, I doubt she would believe you. Come on, Giz, the sheriff!”
Guy looked at him, sadly.
“So what should I do? I haven't done anything wrong.”
“Pretend that nothing happened and stay away from her for a while. She'll forget about it, sooner or later. Maybe.”
Gisborne kicked angrily a bale of hay.
“Well, she'd better stop it! I haven't done anything and she has no right to accuse me.” He growled, then he looked back at Allan. “And hurry up, today we have to go to Knighton to collect taxes, the next week the sheriff will demand his payment.”
Allan nodded, preferring not to contradict him, and he helped him to saddle the horses.
Gisborne was about to mount when Allan talked to him again.
“Hey, Giz.”
“What do you want?”
“Before going to Knighton maybe you should get that straw out your hair. It looks like you slept in a stable...”

Allan looked from Guy to the person who appeared to be the spokesman of the peasants of Knighton, worried. The man had brought a ridiculous percentage of the crop as a contribution to the payment of the taxes and he kept saying that it was all they had, while Gisborne was furious and he seemed to be about to lash out on the man.
Allan understood very well Guy's reasons, the words of the inhabitants of Knighton were a pure and simple provocation, but Allan also saw that the reaction of his friend was exaggerated, and he knew that the real reason for that was his misunderstanding with Marian.
When he saw that Guy had put one hand on the hilt of the sword, Allan hastened to approach him and he dragged him away.
“Giz, stop it, now!”
He pushed him into a empty shed and he closed the door behind him.
“Out of my way, Allan!” Guy shouted, trying to move him to the side to get out.
“Or else, Gisborne?” Said the voice of Robin, from the corner of the shed. “Did you decide to resume your old habits?”
Guy turned to face him.
“They refuse to pay taxes! Did you see what they brought? It is an insult!”
“This isn't a good reason to terrorize them, Guy.” Robin said, giving him a sympathetic look and Gisborne calmed down a bit .
“I wouldn't have done anything to them.” He said grumpily, with a half sigh.
“They don't know. As far as they are concerned you may also have the intention to kill them or to cut off their hands.”
Guy heavily sat down on a wooden chest, closed his eyes and rested his head against the wall, with a defeated sigh.
“I won't make it.”
Robin put his foot on the chest, next to Guy's knee and leaned forward to look at him.
Guy didn't answer immediately and Allan looked at him, worried.
“Giz? What's going on?”
Gisborne shook his head.
“The payment of this month. I haven't collected even half of the amount requested by the sheriff. I'm doing my best to increase the profits of Knighton, to improve crop yields and to reduce costs, but the farmers won't cooperate and they refuse to pay taxes. They know that I can no longer count on the soldiers of Nottingham to force them to pay...”
“So that's why in the last few days you didn't hire the workers to rebuild Knighton Hall?”
“I couldn't pay them. But it doesn't matter, if I miss a payment I'll lose everything anyway. The sheriff will probably find a way to imprison me in the dungeons.”
“Don't be silly, Gisborne.” Robin was about to hand him a bag full of coins, but Guy glared at him.
“I don't want your charity, Hood.”
“You'd be an idiot to refuse this money because this is not charity or pity. We need your help, without the Nightwatchman we wouldn't have been able to save Djaq. If you should be arrested, you will create problems for all of us, so put aside your foolish pride and use it to pay the sheriff.” Robin smiled, amused. “After all we have stolen this money from him.”
Guy smiled at the last sentence of Robin and he accepted the bag of coins, reluctantly.
“Thank you, but this will not solve the problem. Next month we will be at the same point and I'm not going to depend forever on your help.”
“This is why you have to get accepted by the inhabitants of Knighton. Whether they like it or not, these lands are now yours, they must respect your authority. But it's not shouting at them and threatening them that you will get their respect.”
“How, then?”
“Continue what you are doing. Sooner or later they will see that their Lord treats them rightly and they will forget the past.”
“Giz, they will understand.” Allan intervened. “Look at Cedric, that boy respects you, with time the others will do it too.”
Robin put his hand on Guy's shoulder in a comforting gesture.
“And in the meantime, if you'll need it, we will help you. You are not alone, Guy. Always remember that. We don't leave friends alone. We don't leave brothers alone.”
Guy looked up suddenly, surprised by those words and Robin gave him a cheeky smile and he turned to leave. He stopped at the door and threw a rolled parchment at Guy.
“I almost forgot it, I came here to give this to you.
“What's that?” Allan asked, while Guy unrolled the scroll to read it.
Allan looked at him and shortly after he saw Gisborne looking up from the sheet with an amazed and happy expression on his face.
“An invitation. Djaq and Will decided to get married.”

Chapter Text

Guy helped Sir Edward to get on the wagon and then he took the reins.
Allan, standing next to the horse, looked at him, a bit anxious.
“Maybe I should come with you.”
“It's better you don't.” Guy replied, dryly. “The sheriff has granted you a pardon, but you'd better stay away from him if possible. And the same goes for Marian.”
The girl had not gone out to see them and Gisborne sighed mentally: she must have been still angry with him because of the bite.
He adjusted his jacket, closing it better at neck: that bruise had already given him enough problems, if Vaisey should see it, he'd immediately know the identity of the Nightwatchman and for Guy it would be the end.
Guy made the wagon move, reluctantly.
He had no desire to travel to Nottingham, but his presence and the one of Sir Edward had been requested for the council of nobles, and they both had to pay taxes for that month.
The bag of coins that he got from Robin Hood seemed to weigh as lead and it hurt his pride, but Guy knew he hadn't much choice for the moment and he was grateful to the outlaw for his help, but above all for having called him friend and brother.
“Sir Guy?” Edward called after a while, distracting him from his thoughts. “May I ask what happened between you and Marian? I feel that in the last few days my daughter was behaving coldly towards you.”
Guy glanced at Sir Edward, then back at the road.
“Just a misunderstanding.” He said softly.
“And wouldn't be better if you talk with Marian about it?
“I can't.”
“Because if you do, you will have to tell her that you're the Nightwatchman?”
Guy winced and turned to look at him.
“Do not deny it, Sir Guy, I have seen you with my own eyes.”
“Marian… Does Marian know?”
Sir Edward smiled.
“No, and she doesn't have to find out. If she knew what you do, she'd surely put herself in danger, too. I told her that I had burned her costume, and, when I was able to do it, I protected your secret, but you must be careful. When my daughter wants to find something out, she won't be distracted easily.”
Guy nodded.
“Thank you, Sir Edward.”
“It isn't the only thing that you are hiding, right? There is more, but this time it isn't even clear to me what it is. I don't ask you to reveal your secret, but I'd just like to know if it's something that could cause suffering to Marian.”
“No! Absolutely not!” Guy said immediately. “I wouldn't do anything that could hurt her, I swear. It's something I'm doing for her and that I have to finish before I can ask you for the hand of your daughter.”
The old lord looked at Gisborne, intrigued by his words, but he decided to trust him and he didn't ask for anything else.
They rode on in silence, and, after a few minutes, it was Guy to turn to Sir Edward.
“My lord? Can I count on your discretion?” He asked, a bit hesitant.
Edward stared at him for a moment and he nodded.
“Only if you can assure that my silence won't hurt Marian.”
Guy took a deep breath.
“I'm rebuilding Knighton Hall.” He simply said. “For Marian. Before asking her to marry me I want to give back to her the house that I destroyed.”
Sir Edward stared at him, genuinely surprised. He wouldn't have expected that this was Gisborne's secret and he had not imagined that Guy could still feel guilty for what he had done. In his eyes, Guy had remedied to his gesture bequeathing Locksley to him and Marian, he didn't believe that Gisborne could still feel indebted.
“Then the mysterious lands that you have been granted by the sheriff are nothing else but Knighton?”
“Yes, but I don't want Marian to know it until I've finished.”
Sir Edward nodded with a smile.
“I will keep your secret, Sir Guy. It will not be too difficult: Marian no longer went to Knighton since the day of the fire. I think she doesn't want to go over there and see the ruins of her childhood home. If you can rebuild Knighton Hall, it will be both a surprise and a joy to her.”

Allan spurred his horse to reach Marian and the girl looked at him coldly.
“Shouldn't you be with your master?” The girl asked, coldly.
“Hey, I work for Giz, but I'm not his slave.” Allan pointed out, without being discouraged by Marian's tone “Anyway, now he and your father are in Nottingham and that's not the safest place for me, especially in recent times.”
“What I meant was that you don't have to follow me.”
“You must have an escort, orders of Sir Edward. Why are you mad at me, anyway?”
Marian huffed.
“As if you didn't know.”
“If you don't say it clearly, no, I don't know.”
The girl glared at him: she was certain that Allan knew very well who had left the bite mark on Guy's neck and she was dying to ask him about it, but she didn't want to show her jealousy and then to discuss certain topics with the former outlaw didn't seem appropriate.
“Forget it, in any case it's none of your business.”
“As you wish.” Allan said, peaceful.
He could well imagine the thoughts of the girl, and probably he could have found the right words to calm her without revealing the truth, but he decided against it.
If she was so quick to jump to conclusions and to accuse the people unjustly, she deserved to suffer a little of jealousy.
“Giz would do anything for her, and Marian knows it.” Allan thought, a bit maliciously. “It will not hurt her to understand that she is not the only woman in the world ...”
“So where are we going?” He asked and Marian glared at him, but eventually she decided to answer.
“To Nottingham.”
“But Giz said to stay away from there and your father thinks it's dangerous for us to get near the sheriff.”
“I won't go to the castle, I have some errands to run in town.”
She avoided saying that the merchants who she had to visit were all in the immediate vicinity of the castle.
Although she was still mad at Guy, she couldn't help but be anxious for him and for her father if she thought about the council of nobles.
She knew that the sheriff would do anything to take revenge on Guy and to put them in trouble and she was afraid that Vaisey could find an excuse to arrest them.
She wanted to be present to the council, but her presence would only offer Vaisey another chance to hit Guy and Sir Edward. Yet she wasn't able to stay in Locksley and wait.
She and Allan would carry out their commissions in Nottingham and at least she would know right away if the council had gone well or not.
Marian sighed. The thought that another woman had been able to make a mark on Guy's neck drove her crazy with rage, but to behave coldly with him when their situation with the sheriff was so dangerous made her to feel bad.
If anything happened to Guy, she would not have been able to endure it and, after all the dangers they had faced in the previous months, it seemed almost a crime to waste those precious days of peace in rancor.
Maybe it was foolish to suffer so much for a reason like that. She didn't have a lot of experience, but she wasn't naive and she knew that sometimes men allowed themselves to have unimportant adventures to vent their needs without compromising the honor of their betrothed before marriage.
She didn't like that idea at all, but it was rather widespread and no one would be amazed because of that.
The fact that Guy could have behaved like most of the other men hurt her, but perhaps she was the one who was deluded.
In moments like that, she felt stronger the absence of a mother who could give her some advice.
She felt confused, angry and sad at the same time.
The only sure thing is that I love him.
Marian put her horse into a trot, a little heartened by that last thought.
She loved Guy despite everything, they got over huge obstacles together and suffered painful wounds. It wouldn't be a detail like that to ruin everything.
She did not know if she could forget her suspicions and certainly she wouldn't give up looking for the culprit who left the bite, but she would try to soften her resentment and to behave normally.
She began turning towards Allan with an apologetic smile and the young man returned it promptly, accepting that offer of peace.
“As we go to Nottingham we could take the opportunity to look for something to give to Djaq and Will as a present.”
“Why?” Marian asked, curious.
“A wedding present. They decided to get married.”
“Really? I'm happy for them!” She said with a smile, and she was sincere, but inside she couldn't help but wonder why Guy still had not made his proposal.

Guy held out his arm to Sir Edward to help him down the stairs of the great hall of the castle and he kept his eyes down to not cross the sheriff's one that, he was sure, were pointed at him. They sat together with the other nobles, taking care to stay on the sidelines and hoping to get noticed as little as possible, but Vaisey had no intention to respect that desire.
“Oh, Gizzy!” He exclaimed in mellifluous tone as soon as all the nobles were seated. “We don't see you at the castle very often anymore. What is it, you started to play at being a noble and you think you are too good to honor us with your presence?”
The eyes of the present turned to Gisborne, waiting to see the reaction of the former right-hand man of the sheriff.
“No, my lord.” Guy just said, quietly.
The sheriff looked at him, with a laugh of contempt.
“Or did you found out that to administer a land is too hard for you, Gizzy? Oh no, the peasants are being mean and they don't respect you? I bet that soon you will be pleading with you tail between your legs to have more time to pay taxes. But no, I don't mean to play favorites, not even for you, in fact you'll be the first to pay your fee, what do you say?”
Guy remained impassive.
“As you wish, my lord.” He said flatly and he got up to go to deposit on the table the bag full of coins, then he returned to his seat in silence.
Vaisey looked surprised: he had been assured from his sources that Gisborne's relations with the peasants of Knighton were disastrous and Vaisey didn't expect that he could collect the requested amount.
He threw coins on the table and began to count them carefully, making sure they were authentic, but ha found no irregularities. Vaisey looked at Gisborne, expecting to catch an arrogant or satisfied expression on his face, but Guy just remained in his seat with a humble attitude that the sheriff had never seen on him before.
The sheriff grinned to himself: that month Gisborne had managed to raise the requested sum in some way, perhaps he even had to sell his sword or the horse to get it, but he had no chance of being able to pay the tax the next month.
Vaisey was sure of that, he'd just have to wait and then Gisborne would have been forced to come back crawling at his feet.
The sheriff looked at him one last time, then he turned back to the other nobles, eager to collect even their shares.

Guy was forced to slow down the castle steps to wait for Sir Edward, but he intimately wanted to run, skipping steps two by two just to get away as soon as possible from the presence of Vaisey.
Only as soon as they were out in the open, Guy had the feeling of being able to breathe freely again.
Inside the Great Hall, instead, the air itself had seemed to be heavy and stifling, almost dense.
He took a deep breath and he felt the tension slipping away from his muscles.
Sir Edward just squeezed the arm that Guy offered to him to help him down the stairs and he smiled at Guy when he turned to him.
“You've done well, Sir Guy. The sheriff tried to provoke you, but you were able to ignore it.”
Guy helped him to get on the wagon and then he sat with a sigh.
“I didn't have much choice.”
“I know, but I also know that it costed to you to pretend that you didn't hear his insults and to keep a straight face.”
Gisborne let out an amused smile.
“It wasn't easy to remain serious, but not for the reason you think.”
Marian's father looked at him, curious.
“What do you mean?”
“Have you noticed his nose?”
“It was swollen and reddened, probably it must be broken...” He stopped hearing that Guy had burst out in a laugh and he stared at him, stunned. “You did it?!”
“Let's say the elbow of the Nightwatchman had accidentally bumped on the nose of the sheriff.” Guy said, smugly. “I hope he will hurt for a while.”
Sir Edward chuckled, then he pointed ahead.
“Oh, look, there are Marian and Allan.”
Guy stopped laughing abruptly and he looked nervously at the girl who was riding towards the wagon, followed by Allan. He tried to figure out if Marian was still angry with him, but her expression was impassive. Allan instead was cheerful as usual.
“Hey Giz, they haven't arrested you so I guess that the council of the nobles must have gone well, I would say.” He said, reaching the wagon and turning his horse to ride alongside it. Marian had done the same on the other side.
Gisborne smiled because of Allan's words.
“For this month we are safe.” He confirmed absently, looking at Marian's face.
For the first time in days, the girl didn't look away and Guy thought he saw a spark of warmth in her eyes.
“You will be tired of sitting, those meetings are so boring.” Marian said, turning to him, but glancing significant at Allan. The young man was quick to take the hint.
“I'm tired of riding. Marian dragged me around to run errands all day and I wouldn't mind some rest. Giz, what if I leave the horse to you and I take the wagon back to Locksley?”
Guy did not hesitate to accept and he climbed into the saddle in an instant, bringing the horse next to Marian's one.
This time the girl smiled at him and Guy felt all the tension and the tiredness that he accumulated during the meeting with the sheriff melting away.
“I bet you won't be able to get to Locksley before I do.” The girl challenged him, then she hit the horse's flanks with her heels and she galloped away.
Guy looked at her and for a moment he thought that he was about to break out in tears because of the relief, seeing that she wasn't mad at him anymore. Instead he found himself smiling of joy and he set off in pursuit of the girl, spurring his horse to reach her.
Allan and Sir Edward watched them gallop down the street and they exchanged an amused smile, then the young man snapped the reins and the wagon went slowly home.

Chapter Text

The inhabitants of Knighton stopped their activities for a moment on hearing the sound of the hooves of Gisborne's horse, coming along the road that crossed the village.
Women scurried to bring back the children into the house before following them, closing doors and windows behind them, while men limited themselves to keep an eye on the horse and his rider and clutched more tightly the grip on the handles of their agricultural tools.
After what had happened the previous week with their refusal to pay taxes, everyone expected some retaliation by Gisborne and they were ready to react accordingly, but for the moment it had not yet happened.
Guy of Gisborne appeared stubbornly in Knighton every morning, inspecting the land. He gave orders and instructions that the villagers pretended to listen and to which they did not obey, and then he went to work alone in the reconstruction of Knighton Hall for the rest of the day.
“He's surely plotting something.” A woman whispered to her friend. Both the women were peeking at the passage of the former black knight through a crack of the closed window shutters.
The other one sighed, with a pained look on her face.
“He will surely take revenge for that matter about taxes. Sometimes I don't sleep at night thinking about what he might do to our men. I always pray that at least he won't hurt our children.”
“I pray that he dies.” Said the first one, dismissive. “If he's dead he can't do anything bad to our children or our husbands.”
The friend shuddered.
“You think what they say is true? That he has made a pact with the devil to come back from the dead?”
“I don't know, but I hope he goes to hell soon.”

Guy crossed the village trying to act normally, but he clearly felt the hostile stares and terror that his presence stirred in the inhabitants of Knighton.
According to Robin, they'd eventually get used to him and he would be accepted as their lord, but Guy strongly doubted that. Probably it was already good that none of the farmers had openly tried to attack him and Gisborne suspected that this was due only to the fact that they were afraid of him.
After all, ignoring him completely was a strategy that would have paid off if Robin Hood had not helped him: if Knighton could not produce enough to secure the payment of taxes, the sheriff would take it from him, while for the inhabitants of village things wouldn't change that much, they would simply found themselves working for a new lord.
Gisborne thought that he should unlock the situation somehow, but how?
If Robin Hood were in his place, it would probably be enough for him to make a speech to the inhabitants of Knighton to convince them to follow him without hesitation, but he was not Robin, the hero of the people, he was the monster hated by everyone and he wasn't good at all with words.
Trying to talk to the people of the village would be an embarrassing failure without any utility. Indeed, Guy had the sensation that it could only make things worse.
They would listen to the Nightwatchman.
If they only knew that he was the person who risked his life to bring them food and assistance, they wouldn't look at him with so much disgust, Guy thought bitterly, but he couldn't do anything to change the situation.
He spoke with some of the farmers to give them short and unnecessary orders on the management of Knighton, then he led the horse towards the ruins of Knighton Hall.
He tied the animal in the shade of a tree and he brought him a bucket of water, then he took off his jacket and headed for the spot where once Marian's home stood.
Since he had started working, he had managed to take away the debris of the house, but it were a few days that Guy didn't call any workers to continue the work.
Accepting tax money from Robin was already humiliating enough, but necessary, but he would never ask for help for the reconstruction of Knighton Hall.
That was a damage that he had done and it was only his duty to put a remedy to it, even if he had to put together an entire house by himself, if he could not afford to hire the workers.
Residues of charred wood and most of the debris had already been taken away, and where there was once a house, only a layer of burnt soil and ash was left. They formed a large black spot in contrast with the green of the surrounding lawn.
That dark spot had become a kind of symbol in the eyes of Guy. That was what he had done in the past: he destroyed, stained and contaminated everything with which he came in contact.
He took a shovel and he began to dig, throwing the blackened earth and ashes on the wagon that he used to clear away the debris. Alone, he wouldn't be able to do much, he could probably clear just a few meters of land before evening, but he didn't have much choice, anyway, and that work was less depressing than having to deal with the villagers.
He had worked for only a few minutes when the shovel met something hard, buried in the ground.
Guy found a small wooden box, partially blackened by smoke. The ground around it was burned and Gisborne thought that probably it had been buried under the floor of the house before the fire.
He pulled it off the ground and carried it under the tree where he had tied the horse to open it. He took a knife from the saddle bag and he used it to force the cover, then he set it aside to examine the contents of the box.
There was a small cloth doll looking battered, a few ribbons and simple trinkets that certainly had belonged to a little girl. Guy thought that objects contained in the box reminded him of the little treasures that, at the time of their childhood, had been dear to his sister. Only, on the edge of the skirt of the doll there was a name embroidered in flickering and lopsided letters: Marian.
The image of a little Marian who hid the dearest treasures of her childhood under a floorboard of her home appeared incredibly vivid in his mind and it hit him like a stab to the heart.
He and Isabella had done something like that too, when they were children and even those precious memories were destroyed in the fire, along with the rest of their lives.
And it was always his fault.
A tear stained the dress of the doll and Guy stared at it for a moment before realizing that it had slipped down his face before falling on the toy.
He ran a hand over his face to wipe his eyes and the gesture brought him to think of another painful memory: the flames of the fire, his sister clinging to him, stiff and unable to say a word, and the desperate cries of Robin who begged him to do something, while Guy was unable to do anything but stand and watch the blazing fire, occasionally wiping the tears with the back of the hand with that same gesture.
Instead of fighting back the tears, as he had wanted, Guy covered his face with both his hands, let out a sob and began weeping uncontrollably.
Guy had burned his own future and the one of his sister, as well as Marian's past and now he was afraid that this was the only thing he could do: to burn and ruin things. He was distressed at the thought of not being able to reconstruct anything of what he had destroyed.

“What is he doing?” The little girl asked. She was the only girl in the group of children who were hiding in the bushes. She tried to move her brother's arm to be able to see, but the other kids immediately silenced her.
“Lower your voice, Mary!” Her brother hissed, giving her a pinch on the arm. “Do you want him to find us out?”
The eyes of the sister filled with tears, but she didn't say a word, scared by the last sentence.
The two of them had escaped the surveillance of her mother to go and play in the fields with their friends and for a while they were content to compete in races or shooting with a sling, then someone had thrown a challenge, a test of courage, and the others had been ready to accept it.
They had approached the ruins of Knighton Hall, a place that Mary thought it was scary even when there was no one. The black soil looked like it had been burned by the flames of hell itself. But now that place wasn't deserted: there was the man everyone feared, even their parents seemed to be terrified of him.
Mary had heard all sorts of stories concerning that Guy of Gisborne, most of them terrifying. Some said he was a murderer, a monster capable of every wickedness, others reported that he had returned from the dead to do even more evil, other ones were about how he had dragged into sin an innocent girl like Lady Marian, the woman who once had lived in the burned house.
Spying on a so dangerous man was a big risk for all of them and even the children who were more ready to accept the challenge, now were quite frightened and hesitant. If they were alone, none of them would have had the courage to stay there, but to be the first to escape would have been a terrible humiliation, so they were all peeking, hidden in the bushes.
“So, Jack, what is he doing?” Mary repeated, this time in a whisper.
“Nothing.” Her brother said, a little disappointed. “He's there, he has been sitting under that tree for a while and he didn't move.”
The girl finally managed to find a way to watch and she looked at the man in black. Until then she had only glimpsed at him because when he arrived in the village her mother always closed her and her brother inside their home.
She had expected to see some kind of a vicious monster, but she was a little disappointed to discover that the tremendous Guy of Gisborne that everyone feared was nothing else but a man like any other. She wished she could see the man's face, but Gisborne was leaning forward and holding his head in his hands.
“I think he's crying.” The girl said and her brother gave her a slap.
“Don't be silly, stupid girl! Evil people do not cry!”
Mary let out a yelp of pain and the children were horrified to see that Gisborne must have heard her because he lifted his head up and in a moment he was on his feet, looking in their direction and then he moved toward them.
“Stupid! Look what you did!” One of the other children shouted, giving her a shove that knocked her forward, almost at the foot of Guy of Gisborne, then they all fled in panic.
Mary's brother paused for a moment, he threw a stone with a sling aiming to Gisborne and he saw the man covering his face with one hand, but with the other the black knight had already grabbed the wrist of the girl and he held her close. Jack couldn't do anything to free his sister and the other children were already gone. Terrified, he dropped his sling and ran blindly away.

“What do you think you're doing?!” Guy growled angrily, but when he realized he had captured a little girl who could not be more than seven or eight years old, he calmed down and he let go of her wrist.
Finding out that someone had observed him during his moment of weakness had agitated him and then one of those kids hit him with a stone, wounding him in the temple, but the anger that had driven him to grasp blindly the first of those brats who came near enough, had dissolved immediately when he saw the terrified eyes of the little girl.
“Go back home.” He said flatly, turning away. “This is not a safe place for kids.”
Guy returned to the tree to collect Marian's doll from the ground and he placed it back in its wooden box. He hid it in the bottom of the saddlebag, covering it with a cloth. Currently he couldn't return it to Marian, but one day, if and when he could rebuild Knighton Hall, he would give it back to her.
The horse turned his nose to sniff at him, snorting slightly and Guy fished an apple from his bag to offer it to the animal. He watched him chew and he scratched him briefly on the head, between the ears, then Guy took a deep breath and decided to go back to work.
When he turned around, he jumped slightly in discovering he wasn't alone: the girl had not obeyed and she had remained there, looking at him.
“Didn't I tell you to go away?”
“Please ... Don't kill my brother.” Mary stammered and Guy stared at her, stunned.
“Why should I?”
“Jack has wounded you... But he just wanted to protect me, do not hurt him, please...”
Guy touched his forehead and he looked at his fingers: they were stained with blood. One of those kids hit him with a slingshot, but the rock had barely touched him and Guy had not thought that the wound was so deep that it could bleed.
He looked at the girl, amazed that, despite considering him a murderer who could kill a child in cold blood, she had the courage to be there, trying to defend her brother.
And does Robin really believe that the inhabitants of Knighton will learn to respect me sooner or later?
He gave a resigned sigh.
“I won't do anything to him, but now go back home.”
“For real?”
“For real. I do not kill children.”
Mary smiled.
“I knew it, I was sure of it!”
Guy looked at her, astonished by those words. He knew that he should better send away that child as soon as possible and return to his work, but it was the first time that one of the inhabitants of Knighton addressed a spontaneous smile at him and could not imagine why.
“What were you sure of?”
“That you couldn't be so bad. My brother says that people who are really evil never cry and you were crying before.”
“It's not true!” Guy said, blushing at the thought that those kids had seen his outburst, earlier.
“Yes, it is! Your face is still wet with tears!” Mary looked at him, fearing that she had gone too far, then, realizing that Guy was not going to punish her for those words, she handed him a crumpled handkerchief with a cheeky smile “But if you let my brother be, I won't tell anyone.”
Guy made a sort of amused snort as he took the handkerchief and used it to wipe his eyes and dab the blood that was still dripping from the wound to his head.
“Then I'd say we have a deal, girl.” He said with an amused smile.
“My name is Marian, Sir Guy, like the girl who lived in this house, but everyone calls me Mary.” Said the girl, solemnly and she stared at him, amazed and a little offended, when Guy laughed at her words.
“I should have known.” He said, chuckling, then he smiled apologetically. “You have a beautiful name, my lady.”

Jack ran as he had never done in his life.
The other children had already disappeared, and certainly they wouldn't say anything to their parents. If adults should find out that they had approached Guy of Gisborne, they certainly would gave them so many lashes with their belts that they wouldn't be able to sit for a week.
But Jack could not keep quiet, that murderer had captured Mary and who knows what he would do to her if he didn't raise the alarm.
He saw his father who was hoeing the earth from the garden and he ran to him.
“Help!” He shouted in tears. “Gisborne took Mary! I think he wants to kill her!”

Chapter Text

Guy filled another bucket of water from the well and he washed his face before returning to work.
Mary had been watching his horse for a few minutes, then she finally decided to go home, she said goodbye to Guy and she walked away, disappearing into the bushes.
Gisborne smiled to himself, that child had reminded him of her namesake and, although he would never admit it, he was pleased to hear that she considered him "not so bad".
Maybe meeting that group of kids made him lose time, but at least they managed to dissuade him from his depressing thoughts.
He emptied the bucket of the horse and he filled it with fresh water. He was wondering if he should make the animal to move a little before he returned to shovel the ashes of Knighton Hall, when a stone directed at his head missed him by a few centimeters, hitting the tree behind him.
Guy looked up and saw the inhabitants of Knighton advancing towards him, menacingly. Some were holding their farm tools as if they were weapons, while others were carrying large stones and they seemed ready to throw them at him.
In a moment, Guy pulled the bow from the saddle of the horse and he nocked an arrow, pointing it towards the peasants, but those people didn't stop immediately. They surrounded him without saying anything and Guy knew they wouldn't allow him to escape.
He backed up until he was with his back to the tree, continuing to aim at them with the bow.
“What do you want?” He shouted, trying to hide the anxiety he felt.
That situation reminded him all too well of the ambush in the forest, with a crowd of people ready to slaughter him.
Guy felt the panic gripping his stomach, but he knew he couldn't afford to yield to it.
He reminded himself that those were only peasants and not killers who wanted to kill him. If they had seen him weak, they would attack him, but if he could intimidate them maybe they wouldn't dare.
The first to speak was a boy who until then had been hidden behind his father. Taking courage, he stepped forward and pointed a finger at Guy.
“Where is Mary? What have you done to her?!”
Gisborne looked at him: that boy was the brother of the little girl.
“She's gone away. And I haven't done anything to her.” Guy said, without looking away from him.
A woman came forward with a cry of despair, pointing at something on the ground next to Guy's feet.
“Liar! That's my daughter's handkerchief and it's covered in blood! Murderess! You killed her!” The woman howled, then she slumped to the ground and the crowd roared, furious.
Guy realized that trying to talk to them wouldn't help at all, and he kept pointing the bow at the peasants.
“Stay back! Don't try to come closer!”

Allan turned to look back, hearing the sound of hooves of a galloping horse and he was surprised to see Robin Hood who was following him, trying to reach him.
He slowed his horse to allow Robin to join him and he asked what he wanted from him.
“Hello Allan.” Robin said with a smile. “Are you going to Knighton?”
“Yeah. After what happened the other day, I prefer not to leave Giz alone for too long when he is there.”
“The situation has not improved, eh?”
“No, actually it's getting worse. Before he could at least hire workers to rebuild the house and people were a little more well-disposed towards him because they could earn something.”
“He's working at Knighton Hall alone?”
“When I can I help him, but Giz prefers me to give a hand to Marian and Sir Edward rather than to him.”
Robin considered the idea of providing aid to Gisborne to pay the workers, but he discarded it before even proposing it: he knew that for Guy it had been difficult to force himself to accept the money for the taxes and that he would consider humiliating if Robin offered money to help him with Knighton Hall as well.
Robin had decided to go to Knighton that morning for that very reason. He had a fear he had offended Gisborne by forcing him to take the money for the taxes and he wanted to make sure there were no disagreements between them.
In addition he was concerned about Guy, he had tried to comfort him by telling him that the situation with the inhabitants of Knighton would improve over time, but, to hear Allan, instead it threatened to escalate at any moment.
When they arrived in Knighton, the village streets were deserted and Allan and Robin exchanged a worried look. Just a little girl appeared from the door of a home, hearing their horses and Robin turned to her.
“Where is everybody?”
Mary looked at them and shook his head.
“When I got home there was nobody.” She said with tears in her eyes. “I thought that at least Jack would wait for me. After all, his friends made me get into trouble with Sir Guy...”
Allan had understood nothing of the speech of the child, but he was worried to hear Gisborne's name.
“Let's go to Knighton Hall, immediately.”
Robin nodded and he looked at the little girl. He could not leave her there alone, he thought, and he decided that it would be better to take her with them until they found out where all the others were.”

Guy saw that the arrow he was pointing at the angry mob was shaking and he knew that it was him who shivered in sheer terror. Unless something happened quickly, those people would have lynched him and they wouldn't stop to listen to any explanation or justification: they were convinced that he had killed the girl, and nothing would have convinced them otherwise.
He dared not to move because he knew that a trifle would be enough to trigger the murderous rage of the people and it would be enough that one of those people began to attack to unleash all the others.
He saw one of the farmers who pulled his arm back to throw a stone and Guy realized that he was finished. He could shoot that man down with the arrow, but it would just stain him with another murder, the others would attack him all the same.
The man threw the stone and Guy dropped the bow to shield his face with his arms.
The stone hit him in the shoulder, making him groan of pain, but that was just the beginning, Guy thought with horror. He closed his eyes and he dropped to his knees, curling up against the trunk of the tree to try to repair himself and he hoped that everything would end soon.
He felt another rock hitting him on the leg, but it wasn't followed by any others and Guy ventured to look around only when he heard the voice of Robin Hood.
“Are you all gone mad?!” Robin cried, standing in front of Gisborne with the drawn bow and Guy saw that some arrows were already stuck in the ground, a few centimeters from the feet of the peasants.
“He killed my daughter!” A man shouted, coming forward regardless of the arrow that Robin pointed at him. “Not even you can stop me from giving him what he deserves!”
“Which daughter? Maybe that one?” Robin pointed at Mary, standing next to his horse, a few dozen meters away.
The people Knighton turned en masse to look at the little girl who had been given for lost and Allan took the opportunity to get to Gisborne and to help him up. Guy leaned heavily on him and Allan helped him to limp up to the horse and to get on it, then he mounted behind him, fearing that Guy was so hurt that he could not ride alone.
Mary's mother ran to her daughter and she held her sobbing. Robin let her do it for a while, then he took her by the arm and gently, but firmly forced her to step aside.
“What did you think you were doing?” Robin asked, harshly, and for a while no one dared to answer, until one of the peasants ventured to speak.
“Jack said that Gisborne wanted to kill the child. And when we arrived she was not there, but we found her handkerchief stained with blood... How could we know he didn't hurt her?”
“And how could you be sure he did? And yet you were willing to kill an innocent man without even a fair trial... You should be ashamed!”
“He is not an innocent man, he's Gisborne!” A woman said, spitting on the ground as a sign of contempt.
Robin looked at the little girl.
“Mary, did Guy of Gisborne hurt you?”
“No, he didn't. In fact he was nice. He said he wouldn't kill Jack even though Jack hit him with the slingshot. The blood on the handkerchief is of Sir Guy.”
Robin looked at them sternly.
“Think carefully about what you were going to do. Now let us pass.”
The inhabitants of Knighton stepped aside, dropping their eyes and Robin looked at Allan to tell him to move the horse and bring Gisborne away from there, but Guy grabbed the reins and pulled them.
“No.” He said and Robin turned to face him. Guy's voice was trembling with tension, but his expression was hard. “They have to leave. This is my home, I won't let anyone to throw me out of my lands.”
Robin stared at the crowd.
“Did you hear him, right? Go back to the village.” He ordered and one at a time the peasants obeyed, moving away from Knighton Hall.

Guy moved his hand to wave away from his face what seemed to be a wet rag.
“Feeling better, Giz?”
Gisborne opened his eyes and he found himself staring at the worried face of Allan.
“What happened?”
“You fainted.” Robin said. “If Allan had not been quick to catch you, you'd have fallen from your horse.”
“Are they gone?” Guy asked, trying to get up to look around, but Robin put a hand on his shoulder to stop him.
“Stay down for a few minutes.” He suggested. “And yes, they returned to the village.”
“Do you still believe that they can accept me as their Lord?” Guy asked, wearily, turning to Robin.
“I'm sorry.”
“They wanted to kill me. They would have done it if you had not arrived.” Gisborne shuddered and Allan freshened his face again with the wet handkerchief.
“Let's go back to Locksley, Giz. If you can't ride, I can go get the wagon, it won't take long.”
“Gisborne, you can't think to go back to work, now. They hit you and you have suffered a big shock, you should rest.”
“It's just a couple of bruises. And if it is really necessary, I can rest here. If I went back to Locksley now, Marian would demand explanations and I don't want her to know what happened.”
“Leave me be. Please.”
Guy crossed his arms behind his head and he lay on the grass, staring at the clouds moving through the blue sky, without another word.
Robin and Allan exchanged a worried look, then they followed suit, lying on the grass too. Perhaps Gisborne didn't want to talk, but they wouldn't leave him alone.

Chapter Text

Marian pushed a little the door of Guy's room and she stuck her head inside. She had heard him fidgeting in his sleep as it didn't happen for quite some time and she woke, worried about him.
“No! Leave me alone!” Guy shouted and Marian wanted to run to his bed to wake him, but she forced herself to remain at a distance, not knowing how he might react.
Once Guy had suffered for her rash actions and she did not want to repeat that mistake. She stayed at a safe distance from the bed and she called him aloud, but quietly.
“Guy! Now wake up, it's only a dream!”
Gisborne opened his eyes and looked around and only then Marian approached him and sat on the edge of the bed.
“Do you still have nightmares?” She asked, pushing a lock of hair aside from his face and Guy nodded.
Marian hugged him silently and Guy the buried his face on her shoulder with a sigh.
The girl closed her eyes and held him tighter, moved for the confident abandonment in which Guy let her to comfort him. She knew that he wouldn't let anyone else to see that he was so much vulnerable and that knowledge filled her heart with heat. She slowly stroked his hair, occasionally touching it with a light kiss.
How could I have been so angry with him?
She hurried away the memory of her jealousy of a few days before, deciding that she shouldn't think about that episode.
“It was a long time it didn't happen to you.” She whispered. “You dreamed about the ambush in the forest? It seemed that someone wanted to hurt you...”
Guy nodded even though it wasn't true. He had dreamed of the inhabitants of Knighton who wanted to kill him, but he couldn't tell that to Marian.
She broke away from him to look at his face.
“You're safe here, dreams can't hurt you.”
“Stay.” Guy pleaded with his eyes. “Please, stay here with me tonight.”
Marian said nothing and she took refuge in his arms, laying her head on his chest.
She stayed close to him in silence, listening to his breathing slowing while Guy fell asleep again and she smiled to herself. If people could see her, they would have said that her behavior was a scandal, but Marian knew that the situation could not have been more innocent and that in the arms of Guy she could be quiet: for her that was the safest place in the world.

Robin drew his bow and he was about to shoot an arrow through the bedroom window of Gisborne, when he noticed a movement inside the room and he saw Marian who was looking out.
The outlaw hid behind a sheet spread out to dry and he was bitten by a small pang of jealousy to see that the girl was in Gisborne's bedroom and that she was wearing her nightgown.
He shook his head and dismissed the inconvenient feeling, he had already resigned himself to losing the love of the girl and what happened between her and Guy shouldn't concern him in any way.
And in any case he knew that Gisborne wouldn't take advantage of Marian before marrying her, now he knew him enough to be sure of that.
He put away his bow and arrows, if Marian was already awake and she was with him, Robin certainly couldn't contact Guy in the usual way, so he decided to look for Allan instead.
He searched for the young man's room and he climbed over the windowsill, startling Allan who had his back turned to the window and who was getting dressed.
“What are you doing here?” Allan whispered.
“Djaq gave me something for Gisborne, those stones should have hurt him.”
Allan raised an eyebrow.
“Djaq, eh? Admit that you are the one who was concerned about him. But yes, he has some pretty big bruises, but nothing serious. It's not his physical condition that make me feel anxious.”
“Did he say something when you came back to Locksley, yesterday?”
“Not a word. He remained in dead silence all the way, then, once we were at home, in front of Marian and Sir Edward he acted as if nothing happened. But he was pretending, I am sure, I know that what has happened has hurt him deeply.” Allan sighed. “Wait here, I'm going to tell him that you have come.”
Allan returned a few minutes later, agitated.
“He's not here! Not even his horse! Marian said that when she woke up, Guy was already gone...”

The inhabitants of Knighton froze on hearing the sound of a horse's hooves on the road and they stood there watching Guy of Gisborne who rode through the village like every other morning.
After what had happened the day before they were convinced that he wouldn't show himself anymore or that he would come along with guards and soldiers to set fire to the village, but none of them would have expected to see him arrive alone.
Gisborne passed through the village without hurry, as if he had nothing to fear from its inhabitants.
The only difference with the previous days was that this time the knight did not seem to have any intention of giving orders or advice to the farmers, but he ignored them completely, as if they didn't exist.
A man more brave than the others stepped forward to throw a handful of mud against the black knight, but Guy gave him a look so full of disgust and contempt that the farmer lowered eyes and hands at the same time and he didn't dare to do anything.
Guy passed without giving him a second look and he headed for Knighton Hall.
Once arrived, he dismounted, he tied the animal in the usual place, he placed bow and sword nearby so he could be ready to grab them if anyone tried to approach him, then he picked up the shovel and began to clear the ground.
To go through the village after they had tried to kill him the day before it had been a frightening experience, but Guy was no longer willing to be intimidated. He hated them all and despised them from the bottom of his heart and he would not allow any of them to hinder his work.

“Not even he can be so crazy.” Allan said, spurring his horse to make it go faster.
“I'm not so sure about it.” Robin commented, with a half smile. “Think of his first time as the Nightwatchman.”
“OK, he is, but it makes no sense, why would he want to go back to Knighton alone after what he risked?”
“When Marian left him at the altar, he burned Knighton Hall.”
“Do you think he wants revenge?!” Allan shook his head. “No, Giz wouldn't. Not anymore, he changed and I thought that you had realized, too, now. Look what he's doing to put a remedy to that fire!”
“He wouldn't do it in cool blood. But do you think he is lucid enough to be calm now? You saw how he was upset yesterday.”
Robin struck the horse's flanks with his heels to make him run faster.
He knew from personal experience how could be easy to get carried away by vengeful fury. The year before, when he believed that Marian had died because of a stab from Gisborne, Robin had massacred the soldiers of the sheriff, thirsting for blood and revenge.
Later he was sorry that he had succumbed to that dark rage and now he wanted to prevent Guy doing anything that he might regret bitterly in the future.
“Robin! Robin!” The voice of Much called him and Robin saw his friend coming toward him, riding at breakneck speed. “Robin, You have to come right away, they are killing them!”
Robin paled: was it possible that Gisborne had lost his mind to such a degree? Then he realized that Much had come across the other road junction, the one that came from Clun.
Robin and Allan stopped the horses to talk with Much.
“Who is killing whom?”
“Bandits...” Much gasped. “They're raiding the village and they kill anyone who tries to rebel! Robin, they need your help!”
Robin glanced at Allan, worried, and the other nodded.
“Go ahead, I'll take care of Giz.”

Mary was sitting on the doorstep and she felt her brother's gaze fixed on her, but she turned her head, ignoring him. She was still angry with Jack for what had happened the day before and she was not going to forgive him any time soon.
“Hey, sorry, really.” Jack said, walking over to her, but without sitting down. The night before his father had punished him harshly for having triggered panic and endangering all of them and for a while Jack would have preferred to stand.
Mary continued to ignore him.
“Come on, if you'll forgive me, I'll give you a gift. A new doll!”
“Liar. You would not have the money to buy it and then I don't want anything from you.”
“I can carve it in wood, you know I'm good.”
“Because of you they were going to kill Sir Guy.”
Jack looked at her.
“Why do you care so much? To hear what they say about him, he would have still deserved to die...”
“But have you seen them? They looked all crazy! Even mom and dad, and you too! I looked at you and I couldn't recognize you!” Mary's eyes filled with tears and her voice trembled, close to tears.
Jack sighed and he let out a sob.
“I thought he killed you! You're a pain in the ass, but if someone were to hurt you I would just like to see him dead!” Jack said, then he burst out crying too, like his sister.
For a while, they both sobbed, then Mary looked at him, firmly.
“All right, but if you want me to forgive you, you have to apologize.”
“I told you I am sorry...”
“Not to me, to Sir Guy.”
“Have you become crazy?”
Mary folded her arms stubbornly and Jack sighed, then both children looked up at hearing the noise of the hooves of many horses galloping towards the village.

Guy heard a rustling behind him and in a moment he dropped the shovel to grab the sword.
“Go away!” He shouted, turning quickly. “Don't you dare to come closer!”
He relaxed a little when he saw the little girl's face peeking from the bushes, followed by her brother, but Guy spoke harshly to both of them.
“What happened yesterday wasn't enough? Go back to the village and don't come here anymore!”
Instead of obeying, Mary ran to him, sobbing with terror and she clung to him, while his brother stood where he was, trembling and pale as death.
Guy dropped his sword to prevent the child to be harmed and he tried to pry her from him, but Mary had clung to his jacket with the energy of despair and she continued to sob hysterically.
“What happened?” Guy asked, looking from Mary to her brother, but the girl was too shocked to speak, while Jack stared at him without saying anything, as if he was paralyzed.
Guy noticed that the boy had his face and clothes spattered with blood and he wondered if he was wounded, but Mary, holding on to him, prevented Guy from moving to go and check.
He bent to pick her up and the little girl put her arms around his neck, still crying.
Guy approached her brother.
“What happened?” He repeated more gently, reaching out to touch him on the shoulder.
The boy did not seem to be hurt and even Mary seemed unharmed, but the blood had to come from somewhere.
Jack winced at Guy's touch, but the terror that had paralyzed him seemed to broke and Jack began to cry too.
“They are killing them!”
“Who? Who has been killed?”
“Those men came on horseback...” Jack sobbed. “They attacked the village and they kill people! I didn't know what to do and Mary ran away to come here. I didn't want to run away, but I couldn't leave her alone!”
Guy looked at him.
“You did the right thing. Now listen, it is important, do you know how to ride?”
Jack nodded and Gisborne motioned for him to mount on his horse, then he pulled Mary's arms away from his neck of and he sat the little girl in front of her brother.
“Go over there and take the path that passes through the forest, later it rejoins to the main road. If you can, ask for help, but you shouldn't take risks. If someone were to try to attack you, run away.”
Jack nodded, serious, and Mary tried to calm down enough to be able to speak. She stared at him, terrified and tearful, sniffling.
“What will you do, Sir Guy?” She stammered.
Guy bent and he picked up the sword and the bow from the ground, then he looked back at the two children.
“I am the lord of Knighton.” He said fiercely. “I will defend my lands.”

Chapter Text

“Mary! Jack! Where are you?!”
The woman ran along the village's main street, searching desperately for her children and she didn't notice the two bandits that were pursuing her until one of them grabbed her hair, yanking her back and throwing her to the ground.
She fell with a scream and the man who had captured her took her by the arms and pinned her to the ground, while the other came with a predatory expression on his face.
The woman screamed in terror, expecting the worst, but his assailants fell to the ground one after the other, pierced by two black fletched arrows.
A few meters further, Guy of Gisborne walked toward the center of the village with a bow in his hands and he threw an arrow after the other towards the bandits. Some of them fell to the ground, then the others noticed him and protected themselves with the shields, and they drew their swords to advance towards him.
They moved cautiously: the peasants were easy prey, but the man in black had proved himself dangerous.
Seeing them advance, Guy hung the bow on his back and he drew his sword. He quickly looked around: the inhabitants of Knighton were feeing here and there, terrified, and they tried to hide at the sight of the bandits.
“Yesterday you were good at throwing stones!” Guy shouted. “You offspring of cowards, defend your families!”

Allan was not far from Knighton, when he recognized Guy's horse galloping towards him, but he was seriously worried when he saw that Gisborne wasn't riding him, but two of the children of the village were on the saddle.
He reached them and took the reins of the black stallion. The boy tried to resist and to spur the horse to escape, but the sister reassured him.
“Jack, he is the friend of Sir Guy.”
“Where did you get this horse?” Allan asked and the boy looked at him with tears in his eyes.
“He gave it to us! The bandits attacked Knighton and he told us to flee.”
“Where is Giz... Sir Guy?”
“He said he would defend his lands.”
Allan turned pale, then he handed the reins to the boy.
“A little further on this road there is a farm, ask for refuge there. I have to go help him.”
Allan spurred the horse in a gallop to reach Knighton as soon as possible.
When he arrived he saw at once that the village was in chaos: the bandits continued to plunder the houses, some of the farmers were trying to defend themselves with makeshift weapons and Guy was fighting with two men, trying to counterattack to their blows with his sword.
Allan pointed toward them and caught up with them just as one of the bandits was about to hit Gisborne from behind. Allan speared him with the sword, while Guy killed the other.
“Hey, Giz, are you all right?”
Guy grinned as he climbed on horseback behind him.
“You're late Allan, you risked to miss all the fun.”
“More than anything I risked find you skewered. How could you think to come to Knighton alone after what happened yesterday?!”
“I will not be intimidated by this scum.”
“But you are risking your life to defend them.”
Guy didn't answer him and he shouted to alert one of the men of Knighton of the bandit who was going to attack him from behind and the farmer spun around, planting the pitchfork he was wielding in the stomach of his attacker.
“Allan, there are two more bandits over there.”
The young man spurred the horse, charging at full speed to pass between the bandits.
“To the right!” He shouted and Guy obeyed him, hitting with the sword the man on their right, while Allan killed the one on the left.
They continued to fight until even the last bandits who had not surrendered fell to the ground dead, then Allan stopped his horse in the main square of the village where almost all the inhabitants of Knighton had gathered. Guy dismounted without sheathing his sword.
His grim face was dirty with dust and stained with blood and the peasants stared at him, fearful.
“You do not deserve my help.” Guy said, pointing the blade at them. “You ignore my orders, you don't respect my authority and you have tried to kill me in the most cowardly way possible. I have for you the same contempt that you have given me. But I have defended you and will continue to do so because I am the rightful lord of Knighton and I will always protect my lands and those who live there. Whether you hate me or not, it doesn't matter, without me you'd be dead. Remember it the next time that you want to kill someone.”
Guy sheathed his sword and he was about to return to Knighton Hall, when he noticed a woman who had not listened to his words, but who continued to wander from house to house, crying and looking for someone.
“Mary! Jack!” Sobbed the woman. “Where are my children?!”
Guy came up to her and she gasped, backing terrified when she noticed him.
Gisborne suppressed a sigh: for those people he would always be a monster, a dangerous murderer, although he had saved them.
“Your children are fine.” He said, wearily. “I made sure they fled the village when I realized that Knighton was in danger. Wait here, Allan and I will go to look for them and bring them home.”
He climbed back into the saddle behind Allan and they galloped away from the village before she could answer.
“I know where they are, Giz, I met them when I was coming in Knighton. I told them to wait at a farm not far from here.” Allan said, putting his horse into a trot.
“Were they fine?”
“Frightened, but still in one piece. Are you hurt? You're full of blood...”
“Frightened, but still in one piece.” Gisborne said with a grin. “Most of this blood is not mine.”
“Good. Clun was also under attack, Robin went there.”
“What were you doing with Hood so early in the morning, Allan?”
“What do you think? We worried about a madman who had gone to look for trouble. And who of course found it.”
“It seems to me that I have resolved the trouble this time.” Guy said, without hiding the satisfaction in his voice.
Allan looked up at the sky.
“True, but someday you'll get yourself killed, Giz.”
“I rely on you to avoid it.”
Guy arrived at the farm and he barely had time to dismount before he was reached by Mary.
The little girl ran towards him and she hugged him with such fervor that Guy let out a groan of pain when Mary's head hit him in the stomach.
“Sir Guy, I thought they would kill you! Where is mom? I want mom! And what about our father?” The girl sobbed, barely stopping to catch her breath.
“They're both well.” Gisborne reassured her, bending over her to pick her up and put her on the saddle of his black stallion. “Allan and I have come to take you back home.”
Before mounting the horse, Mary threw her arms around him and kissed him on the cheek regardless of the blood that had soiled his face.
“Oh, I knew it! I knew! Jack, I told you that he would save them!”
“Actually you were whining because you believed that the bandits would kill him...” Her brother commented, making Allan to burst out laughing, while Guy grinned.
“Shut up, Jack!” The girl cried, indignantly. “And remember that you still have to apologize for yesterday!”
The boy blushed.
“I'm sorry, Sir Guy. I was just afraid for my sister...”
Guy looked at both kids and for a moment he thought he saw himself standing beside Isabella when they had more or less their age. He looked away to ward off that memory, sweet and painful at the same time, and he shook his head.
“No need to apologize. But keep protecting her, always.”
As I should have done.
Guy mounted behind the girl, while Allan reached out to Jack to help him into the saddle with him, then the two men put the horses to trot, heading for Knighton.
“Let's go.” Guy said. “Let's go home.”

Chapter Text

“Are you there?” Robin's voice asked from above, and, a moment later, a sack of flour landed in Guy's arms, nearly making him to fall from his horse. He managed to keep himself on the saddle, and he threw the bag on the wagon, then Guy nodded to Much. The outlaw started the wagon, while Guy waited for Robin, holding his horse by the bridle.
A cry of alarm come from inside the building, and the outlaw jumped from the window a moment later, landing on his horse. A soldier came to the same window from which Robin had just jumped, and started to scream.
“They're Robin Hood and the Nightwatchman! Arrest them!”
Guy Robin and galloped away, before the soldiers were able to organize themselves to pursue them.
“When you're about to throw something heavy, you could warn me before you let it go, not while it's already falling,” Guy complained, but Robin smiled innocently.
“Come on, Gisborne, you got it, didn't you?”
“Not thanks to you,” Guy said, “now what? Are we going to deliver the supplies we just stole?”
“Not tonight. Or rather, Little John, Will and Djaq will distribute a part of the supplies in Nettlestone, but you, me and Much have other projects.”
“Oh, we do? And when are you going to tell me what you want me to do?”
Robin grinned.
“Wait and see.”
Guy snorted.
“I hate when you do that.”
“When I do what?”
“The mysterious self-satisfied one.”
“You complain because I still haven't told you what it is. Now shut up, we're almost at the camp.”
Robin dismounted and he waited for Gisborne to follow him, but Guy just removed the Nightwatchman mask, and he stared at him with his arms crossed, not moving.
Robin rolled his eyes in mock resignation.
“Oh, all right, you untrustful spoilsport!” He approached Guy, and whispered a few words in his ear, then he looked at him. “So, what do you say?”
Gisborne smiled, amused.
“I say that it seems an excellent idea to me.”
“So let's get to work, there is much to do.”

Guy returned to Locksley when the sky was already beginning to be tinged with pink. He took the horse to the stable, trying not to make noise, and he silently went inside the house.
Robin, Much and Guy had worked through the night for Robin's mysterious project and now Guy was simply exhausted.
He decided that that morning he would go to Knighton a little later than usual, so he could sleep at least a few hours. He began to open the clasps of his jacket as he climbed the stairs and he had just put his hand on the handle of his room when the door of Marian's room burst open, startling him.
“Oh, you're awake, Guy!” The girl said, briskly, as she approached him to kiss him on the cheek. “So you've remembered!”
Guy looked at her, desperately trying to think of what he should have remembered, and meanwhile Marian began fastening his jacket again, lovingly.
“Do you think we will find something suitable for Djaq? And what might Will like?”
Gisborne suddenly remembered that he had promised the girl to accompany her to the market of Nottingham to choose a gift for the newlyweds.
“I am sure you will choose well,” he said, trying to smile. “Wait, I'll call Allan, tell the cook to prepare the breakfast.”
“Oh, do you think he will want to come, too? Maybe he's still sleeping.”
“I'm sure he will be happy,” Guy said, with an innocent smile, then he headed towards Allan's room.
If he couldn't go to sleep, he certainly wouldn't allow Allan to stay in bed until late.

Allan awoke feeling that somebody was shaking him, and he turned in bed, pulling the sheet over his head, but Guy pulled it off, and opened the shutters to let the light in.
“What do you want, Giz? It is dawn,” he complained with a yawn.
“I know, the sun was rising when I came back home.”
“And why don't you go to sleep, then?”
“Because I promised Marian I would take her to the market of Nottingham this morning.”
“And what do you want from me?”
“You're coming with us.” Guy looked at him, resolute. “You have an important task.”
“Which task?”
Guy sighed.
“You'll have to keep me awake. Marian won't take it well if I fall asleep while she is talking to me.”

Allan sat in the wagon, while Marian sat beside Guy, and she took his hand as he spoke briskly to the two men.
“Do you think Much will cook for the wedding feast?”
“I guess so,” Allan said with a shrug. “I doubt that they can hire a real cook and take him to the camp.”
“I could make a cake...” Marian began.
“No!” Allan interrupted her, quickly, and Guy gave him a startled look, while Marian blushed, remembering the results of her previous attempt to cook.
“There won't be time to cook if you have to prepare for the ceremony,” Allan said, “but you could ask Thornton to cook something.”
“Good idea,” Marian said, accepting Allan's suggestion. Then she looked at Guy, a little worried. “Do you think there will be problems?”
“What kind of problems?”
Marian sighed.
“Between you and Robin, I mean. Aren't you afraid he might be mad at you for what happened? You haven't seen him since that day, I don't know how he took it...”
“I don't think there will be problems, otherwise they wouldn't have invited Giz,” Allan said, absently.
“I think so, too,” Guy said, “Djaq was nice to me, but she wouldn't have asked me to come if Hood didn't agree.”
Gisborne thought he had to be careful how he'd behave during the ceremony and the banquet.
Marian had not the faintest idea that since the day when Robin had saved his life, the two of them had met and had worked side by side very often.
He should also try not to look too at ease at the camp, and take care not to talk too much lest he could say anything about his adventures as the Nightwatchman.
He noticed that Marian had been staring at him in silence for a while without saying anything.
“What's up?”
“Are you well, Guy? You look tired.”
“I didn't sleep well,” he said, and basically it wasn't a lie: he hadn't slept well because he hadn't slept at all.
The girl looked at him, sorry.
“Do you still you have nightmares?” She sighed and she put her arm around him. “Come, lean on my shoulder and rest a while until we arrive.”
Guy leaned against her and closed his eyes.
“Are you sure this is fine? People will gossip if they see us being so close.”
Marian kissed his forehead.
“They would gossip all the same,” she said with another sigh, “now go to sleep, I'll wake you when we get to Nottingham.”

Chapter Text

Guy followed Marian through the market, from a stand to another, careful to stay back a few steps while the girl watched the goods on display. He realized that his presence worried the merchants.
The first time Guy had approached one of the merchants along with Marian, all the other customers had vanished, and the seller had glared at the girl, treating her with icy contempt as if the fault was hers.
Marian had found a cloth vendor who had good quality goods, and for some minutes she stood in front of his desk, carefully examining a cloth after another. Guy leaned back against the outside wall of a house, and he yawned, tired and bored to death.
Allan joined him after a while, and glanced at Marian.
“I have the impression that this will take a long time.”
“I'm afraid so,” Guy said, bleak “From what I understood, after buying the fabrics, we also have to choose dishes and pottery for the house, some jewels for the bride, and carpenter's tools for the groom. And maybe something else I forgot.”
“It will take hours” Allan commented.
“Yeah, but it's still better than having to choose a gift myself.”
“True, too. However I think your presence here is not necessary. I don't want to be funny, but probably Marian might be able to do better trades if the merchants don't see you hanging around, like a wolf ready to bite them at the throat.”
Guy gave him a warning look and Allan smiled as if nothing happened.
“So what do you propose?” Guy asked.
Allan shrugged.
“Anything else looks more fun than this,” he said, pointing to the bundles of cloth spread out on the counter and to Marian who was examining their quality.
Gisborne nodded, and, after a last glance at the girl, he decided to follow Allan.

Marian saw them going away, and for a moment she followed Guy with her eyes and she saw him disappearing amidst the market crowd, then she turned back to the fabrics she wanted to buy.
She felt relieved because she knew that waiting while she was shopping was an unpleasant and tedious task for Guy, but she couldn't help but feel anxious.
Allan probably would insist on going to the tavern, and she knew that those places were often frequented by women of dubious morality. She doubted that Guy would allow those girls to fondle him with her around, but her mind kept returning insistently at the memory of the bite she had seen on his neck.
She was set to forget that episode, but she still didn't entirely succeed, and usually that thought ended up dragging her to extremely unpleasant memories dating back to long before.
At that time there she had not given so much importance to it because she still didn't have any kind of feelings for Guy, but to think back to that episode now made her cringe. Before he began to take an interest in Marian, Guy had had an affair with one of the girls who worked in the kitchens of the castle and the young woman had given birth to a child.
Robin had found a small boy abandoned in the forest and Marian herself had held him in her arms before returning him to the mother.
Much time had passed since then, but Marian didn't like to think about that side of Guy, she had the impression of seeing a part of him that she didn't know at all, and that scared her. The man she was in love was not one of those who took advantage of servants and not one ready to let a child to die in the woods, yet in the past Guy had done both things.
A voice in hers mind hastily also suggested her other horrific acts that Gisborne did on behalf of the sheriff, but, although it was absurd, that part of his past bothered her less.
She was certain that Guy wouldn't repeat his mistakes, and that now he was free from the bad influence of the sheriff, she had no doubts. Jealousy, instead, kept haunting her.
She was sure of his love for her, but Marian knew that often even the happily married men allowed themselves some distraction without giving any importance to those girls. Often the wives were the ones who choose not to notice those unimportant escapades for fear of being betrayed by a real rival.
Marian wondered if all the other girls were tormented by those doubts, and if they felt so insecure when they fell in love with someone. She thought she'd love to have someone who she could talk to, but she hadn't any sisters to give her advice or close friends to share her thoughts.
She looked back at the fabric she wanted to buy for the bride, and she smiled: it wasn't true that she had no one to talk to. Maybe they weren't close friends, but for sure Djaq would listen without laughing at her, and perhaps she could give her useful tips.

“So, Giz, where have you been all night?” Allan asked, handing Guy one of the two mugs of wine that he got from the tavern's maid. Noting Guy's doubtful look, Allan took a sip from it and smiled. “ Don't worry, I watched them carefully and they didn't do anything with your wine. The waitress poured it straight from the pitcher and she gave it to me. If she threw something strange into the wine to spite you, then all the other customers have received the same treatment.”
Gisborne took the mug and he took a cautious sip of wine: the flavor seemed normal. He looked up seeing the innkeeper himself who approached carrying a tray full of food, followed by a waitress with a fruit basket. The man put down the food and the fruit on their table and Allan looked at him, puzzled.
“We have only ordered wine.” Allan said, cautiously, but the man gave them a cheerful smile.
“On the house. It's a long time since I was hoping to see you come into my place, Sir Guy.”
Gisborne stared at him without understanding what he meant and if his words were sarcastic.
“Why?” He asked, hesitantly, wondering if he should expect to be attacked.
The innkeeper motioned to a waitress and he ordered her to bring their best wine, then he turned back to Guy.
“Sir Guy, could you show me your left hand?”
“Do it, please.”
Guy looked at him suspiciously, then turned a questioning look to Allan and the young man shrugged.
“Show it to him, if he wants to see it so much, even though I do not understand why.”
Gisborne took off his leather glove and put his hand on the table, palm down, but the landlord grabbed his wrist to make him turn the hand and he pointed to the scar across the palm.
“With this hand, Sir Guy, a few months ago you stopped the blade of a dagger. A blade that without your intervention would have cut the throat of my wife.”
Guy stared at him, surprised. The innkeeper's wife had to be one of the three hostages who Roger of Barrett had used to get him out into the open.
The man let go of his wrist and Guy closed his hand and hid it under the table, blushing slightly.
“The lady is well, I hope.” Allan interjected casually, noting that Gisborne was speechless. The innkeeper laughed merrily.
“Well? More than well! Neither she nor the child have been hurt, and just last week I became a father for the third time. I only regret that the baby wasn't a male, otherwise we would have given him your name, Sir Guy. But in any case we are your debtors: you risked your life to save my wife, we'll be forever grateful!”
The innkeeper returned to their jobs after thanking Guy again and Allan laughed seeing the puzzled expression of Gisborne when he found out that all the other customers were looking at him.
“Well, Giz, it seems that they don't spit in your wine in every tavern, huh?”
Guy gave a small smile, reaching out to the tray to help himself and he kept his eyes on the food not to show his confusion. He was not used to being greeted with such enthusiasm, or to be thanked so warmly and he felt moved, but he didn't want to show it.
Allan was tempted to tease him a bit and see how much more he could blush, but then he decided against it. For a few minutes he devoted himself to the food to give Guy some time to regain control of his emotions.
“So Giz,” he asked again after a while “how come you came home at dawn? This time you really have risked that Marian would find out.”
“Robin has had an idea for the wedding of Djaq and Will, and we worked on it secretly throughout the night,” Guy said with a smirk, then he motioned to Allan to come closer and he quietly told him all the details of the project and what they still had to do.
“So you're going to get back in the forest again tonight?”
“Yeah and you have to be careful that Marian doesn't notice.”
“Then you should sleep a little. Don't miss this opportunity: the innkeeper will have no problem providing a room and Marian will be engaged for hours with her purchases. When I realize that she is about to end them, I will come to wake you up.”
Guy was forced to agree with him, he felt so tired that he couldn't stay awake that night without first resting for a few hours.
He called the landlord and asked him if he had a spare room and the man rushed to show him the best he had, and he kept repeating that he could never repay him enough for saving his wife.
Guy looked at him and smiled, struck by a sudden idea.
“Actually there is a way to repay me,” he said and the innkeeper immediately replied that he was willing to do anything.
“Could you prepare enough food for a wedding banquet for Saturday morning without telling anyone that I was the one to order it? We'd come to pick it up around dawn.”
He nodded eagerly, glad to have found a way to thank him.
“Well, then you can discuss the details with Allan.” Guy said, shaking his hand, then the innkeeper took his leave and Guy closed the door, turning to look at the room.
He was so exhausted that he could sleep anywhere, but the room seemed to be quite clean and the bed sheets had just been changed.
Guy took off his jacket, laid it on a chair and lay on the bed with a satisfied sigh.
“I'm sorry Much, no roasted squirrels this time.” He said to himself, chuckling, then he closed his eyes and fell asleep.

Marian looked at Allan moving away through the crowd thinking that she had not noticed him. But she had noticed very well that the young man occasionally came to control what she was doing and that he proceeded to spy as her purchases.
At first she thought it was Guy who put him in charge to keep an eye out for her safety, but then she'd wondered why he had not come in person.
Now that she had finished her purchases and she was ready to go back to Locksley, Allan had left in a hurry, furtively.
Marian decided to follow him and find out what he was hiding.
She saw him slip quickly into the inn and the girl went to the window to peer inside, looking annoyed at the girls who frequented that kind of places. She looked for Guy, but she didn't see him.
Instead she saw Allan, standing in a corner, near the stairs leading to the upper floor.
Then someone came down the stairs and Marian restrained a cry of anguish to see that it was Guy.
Gisborne went down the steps quickly, buckling at the same time the clasps of his jacket and his hair was a bit ruffled. He combed it with his fingers as he approached Allan and he gave him a smirk. Allan replied with a look of complicity followed by a laugh.
Marian stepped back from the window and she walked away from the inn, almost running, flushed and with her eyes full of tears.
Why had Guy gone upstairs in the inn, where there were the bedrooms? And why did he come down with the jacket unbuttoned, his hair uncombed and that satisfied expression on his face? She tried to find every possible innocent explanation, but in the end her jealousy only suggested one answer.
She went back to the wagon, where there were all her purchases and she wiped her eyes. Soon Guy and Allan would be back and she didn't want the two men to see that she was upset.
If Guy had asked for explanations, she was afraid that she would do a scene and she didn't want to.
Perhaps it was normal for a man to have that kind of affairs every now and then and Marian was terrified that her jealousy would eventually get her away from Guy.
Once she wouldn't let such a fear to influence her, she'd have followed her instinct and she'd have expressed what she thought, but after the events of the last few months she felt different, more fragile and sometimes she woke up with her heart pounding with the sudden fear of losing the ones she loved.
She took a deep breath and she tried to smile.
She had to talk to Djaq soon, she decided: she really needed the sincere advice of a friend.

Chapter Text

“Hurry up. I'll be waiting on the way for Knighton,” Robin said, while Guy fastened the clasps of his black leather jacket that he had just worn after taking off from the Nightwatchman's costume.
He hid the costume inside a hollow shaft, later Allan would recover it, and he took the horse by the bridle, leading him in the barn, quietly.
“It's not necessary, Hood, I am able to take care of myself, I don't need your protection.”
Robin was about to ask him what would have happened a few days before without his intervention, but he forced himself to remain silent. He suspected that Gisborne wouldn't take well that comment and that the trauma of the attack by the inhabitants of Knighton was still too vivid to joke about it.
“It's not about that. We need to discuss some details for the wedding.”
Guy looked at him, skeptically.
“And couldn't we do it tonight?”
“To talk of the banquet with Much nearby? No, thank you. Go now, or you're going to get caught.”
Guy smirked, amused, then he walked to the door of Locksley Manor and he peered inside: Thornton was already awake, so Guy couldn't go inside using the back door.
Guy climbed on an empty barrel that he put directly under the window of his room some time before and he jumped to cling on the sill with his hands, then he sat up quickly and entered the room before anyone could notice him.
Guy looked out of the window and made a gesture to confirm to Robin that they would meet later, then he went over to the basin to rinse his face and to wake up a little.
The sun had already risen, and Guy wouldn't have time to sleep before having to go out again, but he decided that he could sleep in Knighton, lying in the shade of a tree after he talked to Robin.
He went to the door of his room and opened it, pretending he just got up. He went downstairs to eat something before he had to go out and he was surprised to see Marian already sitting at the table, absently nibbling a piece of bread.
“Good morning.” He greeted her with a smile and, just looking at her, Guy had the impression he felt less tired. “You're up early today.”
Marian winced and looked at him, then her expression softened into a smile too.
“I had a nightmare and I couldn't go back to sleep.”
Marian didn't tell Guy that the nightmare was about him.
She had dreamed to see him going away and that she wasn't able to reach him. She had called him desperately, running after him, but Guy had not heard her and he kept walking without looking back until he disappeared from sight. She was left alone in the midst of a barren landscape, invaded by the fog and she had continued to look for him, calling his name, but Guy had never responded.
She had woken up distressed and she had tiptoed to Guy's room, but when she tried to push the door to see him sleeping, she had found it barred from the inside.
For a moment she had been about to knock, then she'd wondered how she could explain her presence there so late at night and she had lowered her hand. Guy would have thought that she was a fool.
She had gone back to bed, but she had lain awake, thinking about him and how she had seen him coming down from the upper floor of the inn, and she was tormented by doubt and jealousy.
Now that she saw him there in front of her, with that sweet and a bit shy smile that Guy reserved only to her, her fears seemed to be silly and childish. She stood, went up to him and she put her arms around his neck to draw him into a passionate kiss.
She wanted him, she thought, and she was frightened by the intensity of that desire.
Perhaps the women of Nottingham who despised her weren't completely wrong, maybe she wasn't a serious girl and the gossips about her morality were right, but in that moment, if Guy had asked to go further than that kiss, she wouldn't know how to say no.
She didn't want to say no.
When Gisborne parted from her, Marian felt almost disappointed, but she could see in his eyes that Guy had struggled to hold back, that he wanted her too.
Why doesn't he ask me to marry him, then? I would be his, and there would be nothing wrong.
Guy looked at her, almost breathless, wondering the reason for this sudden passion, then he forced himself to break away from her and he smiled ironically, to hide his own agitation.
“It must have been a terrible nightmare,” he said, touching her forehead with a much more chaste kiss. “But I can't say I'm sorry that you had it, if this is your reaction.”
Marian broke free from his arms with a cry of indignation, and she struck him on the shoulder with a slap, but she couldn't suppress an amused chuckle.
“You are terrible!” She scolded, pretending to be stern, but now the atmosphere between them had returned to be playful and relaxed and Marian was relieved and disappointed at the same time.
“And that's why you love me, right?” Guy said lightly, but he could not avoid to throw her a slightly fearful look, as if he was worried that she could deny it.
Marian smiled and stroked his cheek with her hand, surprised as always to feel how his skin could be both soft and rough at the same time beneath her fingers.
A little like him, after all.
“Yes,” she said, looking into his eyes. “I love you, Guy of Gisborne.”

“So much for coming here quickly,” Robin said, popping up from the woods to ride near Guy's horse.
“Why, Hood, did you have something better to do?” Guy grinned and turned to face him.
“Certainly something better than waiting for you to flirt with my ex-girlfriend.”
“Were you spying us, Hood?” Guy snapped, but he was interrupted by Robin's laughter and he blushed when he realized that the outlaw was luring him into a verbal trap and that he had fallen in it.
“Really, Gisborne, sometimes you're so naive.” Robin said, teasing him. “You're smiling since you arrived, it doesn't take a genius to figure out why.”
Guy glared at him, then he kept staring at him, suddenly serious.
“What is it, now?” Robin asked.
“It really doesn't bother you?”
“Marian. I don't know what I would do in your place... I don't think I would be able to look at the person who took away from me the woman I love.”
Guy had spoken without looking at him and Robin shook his head, smiling slightly.
“Yes,” he said “every now and then I happen to think that that time it would have been very easy to miss my aim and hit you too along with Barret. Then Marian would still be my girlfriend...”
Gisborne jerked his head and looked at him, alarmed.
Robin laughed to see his expression and he continued.
“But in that case I would have ended up with an unhappy love and without a brother.”
Guy stared at him.
“Really?” He managed to say after a while, deeply moved, and Robin made a mock exasperated sigh.
“Yes, but now shut up or I'll regret the days when we were trying to kill each other.”
“Then it's better for you to be my friend because I would have definitely succeeded, sooner or later,” Guy said, hiding his emotions with a provocative smile.
“Yes, sure. And maybe you're also convinced that you can get to Knighton before me,” Robin challenged him.
“Of course,” Guy said, studying the open road before him to choose the best path.
Then they both turned to look at each other, exchanged a smile and spurred their horses simultaneously, making them spring forward.

The women of Knighton, bent on the large tubs filled with water that they were using to wash clothes, stopped their work to watch the two riders who were approaching the village at full speed.
“One of the two is Gisborne,” a woman commented, noticing the blacks clothes of the knight. “but who is the other?”
“There are still too far away to figure it out. But what are they doing?”
“A chase? A fight?”
A young girl stood up on her toes and shielded her eyes with one hand to see better.
“I don't think they're fighting, they don't have weapons in their hands. Hey! The other one seems Robin Hood to me!
“Why is Robin Hood with Gisborne? Those two hate each other... Are you sure they are not armed?”
“The other day Robin defended him. I wonder why.”
“Yes, it's Robin Hood,” the girl confirmed now that they were closer “and it seems they are racing...”
The two riders slowed approaching the village and they stopped when they reached the group of women gathered around the tubs of laundry. The women saw clearly that the two men were laughing and they were still panting after the ride.
“Good morning, ladies!” Robin said with a cheeky smile, noting that they were being watched by the astonished villagers. “So, according to you, who won?”
The women threw one awed look at Gisborne, but Guy just shook his head with an amused smile.
“Come on, Hood, they will never admit that I've won because they hate me, but they won't even dare to say the opposite because they fear me, yours is a useless question,” he said, and, despite the bitter words, his tone was cheerful.
The women stared at him in awe as Guy moved his horse.
“But we both know I won,” he said, passing near Robin.

Chapter Text

“What are they doing?!”
Robin watched for a while the men who were clearing the ashes from the ground of Knighton Hall, then he turned to Guy to answer his question.
“I have the impression that your workers are back at work.”
Guy shook his head in disbelief.
“They know very well that I can't pay them. And they still hate me, they don't have any reason to be here.”
One of the men, who seemed to be the foreman, saw Robin and Guy and stopped working to reach them.
“I thought I told you I don't want any of you on my land,” Guy said, grimly and Robin put a hand on his shoulder to calm his anger.
The man pretended he had not heard Gisborne's words and he looked at him, without averting his eyes.
“Sir Guy, we realized that last month there was a mistake in calculating the amount due for the payment of taxes. I wanted to assure you that it won't happen again and to compensate you for the damage suffered, this month we will work to rebuild Knighton Hall without asking for any compensation. I hope it's enough, my lord.”
Gisborne stared at him in surprise, then he nodded curtly.
The man went back to work, visibly relieved and the other workers also seemed to breathe a sigh of relief.
Guy looked at Robin, confused.
“What happened to these people? One day they try to kill me throwing stones and a few days later they offer to work for free...”
Robin raised an eyebrow, amused.
“In the meantime you have saved them from bandits, whether they like it or not they owe you their lives. Not to mention that they could see how dangerous you can be. When they attacked you, you could have chosen to fight and, even if you had no chance to win, many of them would have died with you. Instead you decided not to fight, not to make unnecessary victims. Maybe they hate you, but I think you managed to get a little respect.”
Guy looked at the working men, too surprised to speak, then Robin motioned for him to follow him in the shade of a tree and they both sat down on the grass, leaning against the trunk with their back.
“By the way,” Robin said “those who attacked Clun were part of the same gang. They are all bandits escaped from the dungeons of York a few weeks ago and, since then, they have caused panic in the county. They had split up to attack two villages at the same time to confuse any guards who could arrive to the rescue. If you had not been present, the residents of Knighton would have been in real trouble.
Guy nodded, stifling a yawn.
“What did you want to tell me, Hood? You said you wanted to talk about the wedding.”
“I lied, I wanted to control how the situation in Knighton was, to make sure you didn't risk of being torn to pieces.”
“I told you that I didn't need your protection!” Guy retorted, offended. “I can take care of myself!”
“You're right, I'm sorry,” Robin admitted, with an apologetic smile and Guy expression softened a little.
“Although I have to admit that your intervention was essential the other day...” he admitted with a sigh.
“I will add it to the long list of the reasons you have to be grateful to me,” Robin said, smug.
Guy thought that the list had become rather long indeed and he'd have liked to be able to reciprocate in some way.
That was the main reason that had prompted him to volunteer to work with him as the Nightwatchman, but he still had the impression of not doing enough.
The truth was that he liked to impersonate the Nightwatchman, so it no longer seemed a way to pay the debt he had with Robin. That was something he probably would continue to do even if Robin Hood had decided not to ask for his help anymore.
Wearing that costume made him feel free, better and stronger and it was nice to see that people were glad of his arrival. Guy wouldn't have been able to give up that feeling, even if it meant lying to Marian.
“You too will have a reason for being grateful to me, on Saturday. You and all of Sherwood's squirrels.”
Guy told Robin how he had obtained the food for the banquet and the outlaw smiled, amused.
“I don't know if Much will be happy to be able to rest or offended because we don't appreciate his food.”
“Hood, will the others remember that they must pretend they haven't seen me during these months?”
“I'll mention it to them,” Robin said, rubbing his eyes. Even Robin didn't sleep that night and he was now feeling drowsy.
Guy was lying on the grass and he was staring sleepily at the branches of the tree, moved by the breeze.
“Good,” Guy whispered and Robin noticed that Gisborne was struggling to keep his eyes open. He thought that he could shake him to wake him up and continue their conversation, but he had nothing to say that was so important that it couldn't be postponed. He watched him fall asleep, then he thought that taking a nap after spending a sleepless night was not a bad idea at all and he decided to imitate him. He lay on the grass too and rolled onto his side, closing his eyes with a relaxed sigh.

Marian put the horse into a trot and she turned to look back and make sure no one was following her.
Her father would scold her for being out without being accompanied by any servants. Since Roger of Barrett had kidnapped her, Sir Edward had become more protective than usual toward her.
Marian understood his concern, but now those bandits and Barret had been defeated and, without that threat, she felt able to defend herself.
Usually she liked to please her father and she agreed to be accompanied by Allan or some other servant, but she couldn't go to the camp of Robin Hood with the company of servants from Locksley and she didn't want Allan to knew of her visit because then he would talk about it with Guy.
Marian had two reasons to go to the camp: to confide her doubts to Djaq and listen to her advice and to make sure that the presence of Guy at the wedding wasn't a problem for the outlaws.
In both cases, Marian didn't want Guy to know. That morning she had waited that Allan was distracted in conversation with one of the girls working in the kitchen and she had taken advantage of his distraction to get away from Locksley without being seen.
As soon as she was far enough, she threw the horse into a gallop, smiling when she felt the wind on her face.
When she reached the path leading into the forest, Marian was struck by a strange feeling.
It was a long time she didn't come into the forest, where she once spent a lot of time and all the memories she had of that place were closely related to Robin Hood.
When in the past she walked through Sherwood trees, she did it to meet Robin, to warn him about some evil plan of the sheriff or to inform Robin of the path followed by some wagon he could rob, but now everything was different.
The love that had bound Robin and her had died and she didn't know what was left of that feeling, if it transformed in to something else, or if something had remained at all. She didn't know how she would be received at the camp, if they would consider her a traitor, the woman who had left Robin Hood because she was in love with their enemy.
When she arrived at the hidden entrance of the camp, Marian felt so nervous that she had nausea and, for a moment, she thought of going back without being seen, but when she was about to retrace her steps, she heard a rustle of leaves behind her and found herself face to face with Much, who was returning to the camp with a load of wood in his arms.
“Marian! What are you doing here? Did something bad happen in Locksley?” Much asked, worried, and the girl shook her head.
“No, no, I came to bring a gift to Djaq for her wedding. And then I wanted to talk to Robin.”
Much looked at her, suspiciously.
“Robin is not there. What do you want to tell him? You have already made your choice, right? There's not much else to say.”
Marian looked at him, mortified. Much was always ready to protect Robin, to defend him from anyone who could make him suffer and his not too subtle diffidence had wounded her more than any direct insult she had received from the slanderers women of Nottingham.
The secret door of the camp opened and Djaq looked out from the opening.
“I thought I heard some voices!” The girl said, cordially. “Come on in.”
Much preceded her with a indignant snort, dragging the load of wood with bad grace and Djaq gave a resigned smirk to Marian.
The two girls sat on Djaq's bed, shielded by a curtain and a little far from the beds of the other outlaws. Little John and Will were not in the camp, while Much was sitting by the fire and he was roasting something on the stove, sullenly.
Djaq watched Marian, waiting for her to speak.
“I brought you this,” Marian said, showing her a silver pendant with a stone colored in various shades of red. “I don't know why, but when I saw it at the market, it made me think of you.”
Djaq smiled.
“It's simple, but it brings to mind the warmth of a fire. Saying that it makes you think of me is a nice compliment, thank you. But you're not here to just bring me a gift, am I right?”
Marian shook her head, blushing.
“How do you tell if a man loves you?” She suddenly asked, after remaining silent for a few seconds.
Djaq smiled.
“If you're referring to Gisborne, I wonder how could you have any doubts. Haven't you seen everything he has done for you? That he loves you is obvious, like seeing the sun rising every morning. We all realized he loved you when he came here, asking for help to save you. Robin would have never left you to him if he hasn't been absolutely certain of the feelings that Gisborne had for you.”
Marian sighed.
“I have expressed myself badly. I know that Guy loves me, I have no doubt that he does, I see it in his eyes. But how can I tell if in his life there's only me?”
“Who else should there be?” Djaq asked, without understanding.
“I don't know. But some time ago he had the mark of a bite on his neck and yesterday I saw him coming down from the upper floor of the inn...”
A Djaq wanted to laugh when she thought of who had left the imprint of his teeth on Guy's neck, but Marian looked really distressed and she was sorry she wasn't able to reassure her without betraying the Nightwatchman's secret. She didn't know why Gisborne went in that inn, and she made a mental note to ask him in the future, but Djaq was certain that Marian fears were unfounded.
Probably Guy had met there with Robin to discuss some reckless plan for their nightly missions or something like that.
“His heart is completely yours, never doubt it. Is the rest so important?”
“I'd say it isn't, but I keep thinking about it.”
“Guy would never do anything to hurt you.”
Marian looked at her, struck by the affectionate tone of Djaq's voice.
Guy? Were they in so much confidence that she called him by first name? And what if it had been Djaq to leave that bite mark?
Marian blushed and she scolded herself for that absurd thought: Djaq was going to marry Will and Guy certainly hadn't seen her for months, so Marian shouldn't have those suspicions about her.
“Maybe I'd better go, you'll have a lot to do for the wedding...”
“No, wait. There are many things on which I'd like to ask for your advice. Here at the camp they are not very experienced in women's clothes or things like that...” Djaq blushed a little. “And I want so much to please Will, on Saturday.”
Marian smiled, dispelling the doubts she had a moment before: Djaq was so in love with Will that certainly she'd have no reason to be interested in Guy.

Allan took the road to Knighton, worried.
Marian had gone out without an escort and without saying where she was going to. Sir Edward was anxious about her and he had asked him to look for her. Allan was much less worried than him, he knew that Marian was able to defend herself, but he also knew that he had to tell Guy. If anything happened to the girl, Gisborne would never forgive him for not having warned him immediately.
He expected to find Guy alone and he was amazed to see that the workers were back to work on Knighton Hall. Gisborne was not among them, and Allan looked for him, finding him shortly after.
He approached him with an amused smile: Guy was sleeping in the shade of a tree next to Robin Hood, who was also asleep. Gisborne was turned on his side and he had a hand on his chest, grabbing the ring he wore tied around his neck, while Robin was lying on his back and he held his arms out. Robin's left arm was resting on Gisborne's face, but Guy seemed not to notice and he continued to sleep undisturbed.
Allan squatted among them and woke them, shaking them slightly.
He laughed to see them jump and then turn around to look at him with exactly the same expression, something between concern and irritation.
“Allan, what do you want?” Guy asked, abruptly moving Robin's arm away to be able to get up.
“Surely it's nothing to worry about.” Allan said casually, making both Robin and Guy to worry instantly. “Sir Edward asked me to find Marian and I thought I'd better tell you.”
Guy gave him an anxious look.
“What do you mean “to find Marian”? You don't know where she is?”
“She went out on her own and she didn't say where she was going, that's all. She will probably be already on her way back, I wouldn't worry too much.”
“Why weren't you with her?” Guy asked, accusingly. “You know it's your job to keep an eye on her when I'm not there.”
“Hey, Giz, stop it. If Marian heard you talking like that, she would make it clear that she is not a princess to protect or a bird to keep prisoner in a cage.”
“And knowing her, she would go out alone in the most dangerous place in Nottingham just to prove she is able to take care of herself without assistance.” Robin intervened.
“I'll go looking for her,” Guy said, heading for his horse, but Robin stopped him.
“Where? Are you going to search randomly all around Nottingham?”
“What do you propose, then?”
“First, calm down, we have no reason to think that she is in danger.”
Guy forced himself to nod.
He knew that Robin was right and that probably Marian had just decided to take a ride alone, without other people around.
After all, wasn't him annoyed with Robin Hood only a few hours earlier because he wanted to accompany him to Knighton without it was really necessary?”
Marian was not a helpless girl, she knew how to fight and she was able to defend himself.
Yet he could not help but think of the bandits who had attacked Knighton, the evil people like Roger of Barrett, and all the countless other dangers that could threaten the girl when she was not with him.
“Help me find her, please.” He said, feeling pathetic for the pleading tone of his words.
Robin looked at him and realized that Gisborne was really worried about Marian, probably more than it was normal, but if he thought back to the events of the previous months, he could understand him.
“Let's go to the camp,” Robin proposed calmly. “It's close and we can ask the others to help us looking for her.”

Chapter Text

The three men had almost reached the entrance of the camp, when they heard the sound of two female voices approaching the hidden door.
“It's Marian!” Guy whispered, recognizing her voice, but Allan covered his mouth with one hand and pushed him to the side, dragging him in the shelter of a bush.
Robin gave a quick glance to the point where they had disappeared to make sure they were not visible, then he tried to look nonchalant, as if he returned to the camp as usual, without any particular reason.
The door opened and he found himself face to face with Marian and Djaq.
He watched the girl for a few moments: she was different from what he remembered. She was no longer the Marian of his adolescence, his first love with dark curls and innocent eyes and she wasn't even the most desperate and wounded creature he had seen the last time they had met.
This new Marian seemed to be a mixture of both and something more: her hair, cut by the cruelty of Barret, were a little longer, but they weren't yet long enough to cover her neck and the small scar on her cheekbone made her seem at the same time vulnerable, but also ready to fight.
The blue eyes of the girl no longer were the innocent eyes of a dreamer, their clarity was slightly tarnished by something darker and Robin had a suspicion that that change was similar to what occurred in him when he returned from the Holy Land.
Those eyes knew sorrow, and that new awareness made her look more mature and adult.
She was no longer his Marian, but she was always Marian.
“Robin!” The girl exclaimed, in surprise. “I was looking for you.”

Guy glanced threateningly to Allan and for a moment he considered the idea of biting the hand that the young man was still pressing on his mouth, but Allan seemed to sense his thoughts and hastened to take it off, putting a finger to his lips to tell Guy to remain silent.
Gisborne gave him another glare, and then he returned his attention to Marian.
To see that the girl was fine and that she was in no danger had lifted a weight from his heart, but that feeling of relief didn't last very long, replaced by other questions.
Why was Marian there? And why did she say that she had been looking for Robin?
Guy was tempted to make his way through the thorny bush to ask for explanations, but he forced himself to remain motionless. If Marian had seen him there, he would have to find an excuse for being at the camp, in company of Robin Hood. It would be even more embarrassing to explain how he'd ended up laying on the ground in the midst of a thorny bush, with the weight of Allan pressing him to the ground and preventing him from moving.
He tried to move away Allan's elbow because it was pressing on his back, hurting him, but he stopped when he heard the leaves rustling and he resigned himself to endure a bit of pain.
Now the wounds he had suffered when Barret had tried to kill him could be considered cured, but sometimes they still ached and the skin of his back was still more sensitive to pain. Guy thought it would be like that forever. Certainly the scars would remain for his lifetime.

“What was that?” Marian asked, earing a rustle in the undergrowth, but Robin shrugged nonchalantly.
“The forest is full of wild animals. So why were you looking for me?”
Marian looked at him. With his usual attitude of a mischievous boy, Robin seemed the same as always, but they both knew that everything had changed and that things between them would never be back to normal. She was aware she had hurt him in many ways and she would always feel guilty for that.
Before going into the forest she had prepared a speech in her mind, but now that words she had thought so thoroughly seemed false and empty. Maybe she should just go away.
“So, what did you want to talk to me about?” Robin asked, seeing that she remained silent.
“About Guy...” the girl stammered, without looking at him.
“And what makes you think that I want to talk about Gisborne?”
Marian blushed and turned to look at Djaq, but the Saracen girl had left discreetly to leave them alone.
“Djaq invited him to the wedding...” She said, in a small voice.
“It's her right to do so, she is the bride, after all.”
“And what the others think? What do you think about it?”
Robin looked at her, raising an eyebrow.
“Why? Does it matter?”
Marian looked up at the question. It was the second time in a few hours that somebody asked that question to her, although with different meanings.
“Yes, it does,” she said, firmly.
“I think you've lost the right to worry about what I think,” Robin said and Marian looked at him, suddenly irritated.
She felt guilty towards Robin, but then she had not chosen to fall in love with Guy.
It had just happened and she couldn't help it, it wasn't a voluntary decision like the one that Robin made when he had decided to follow King Richard in the Holy Land.
“It is not for you that I care. Robin Hood is strong, he is loved and he is liked by everyone. You don't need me and we both know it well. Perhaps that has always been the problem between us, there was always something more important than me...”
“So, why are you asking me what I think?”
“For Guy. I'm tired of seeing how he is treated by the people of Nottingham and I'm sure that when I am not with him things are even worse. I can understand the motives of those people, but it hurts all the same and if for him to come to this marriage would mean receiving more hatred and more humiliation, then I will find an excuse and we will both stay at home.”
Robin looked at her and smiled to himself. Here it was the Marian he knew: proud, courageous and ready to defend her ideas at any cost.
“Inviting someone to treat him badly wouldn't be honorable, isn't it? If Gisborne won't do anything stupid, no one will bother him,” Robin said, seriously, then he smiled in the way that he once used when he wanted to tease her. “After all, otherwise you'd fiercely defend him and it would not be fun for us to deal with an angry Marian.”
Marian smiled faintly, a bit relieved to hear that he was joking.
“Thank you, Robin. And I'm sorry, really.”
The outlaw nodded his head.
“Go, now. I bet you haven't told anyone that you were coming here and honestly I'd prefer not to see a panicked Gisborne coming in my forest to search for you because you're gone from Locksley.”
“Oh, I'll be back before they even know that I left,” Marian said, quietly.
Robin pointed the way.

Robin waited for a few minutes, until he was absolutely certain that Marian was gone, then he walked over to the bush where he had seen Allan and Guy disappearing and he brushed the thorny branches away, using his bow so he didn't hurt his fingers.
“Now you can get out,” he said, then he laughed to see them crushed to the ground and caught in the thorns.
Guy got up to his feet, roughly pushing Allan aside and he made his way among the branches of the bush, cursing whenever a thorn scratched his skin. Allan followed him soon after and Guy turned to him as soon as they were both out from the tangle of branches.
“Next time you should better check in to what kind of bush you choose to push me!”
“Well Giz, excuse me if I didn't have the time to choose a plant of your liking. You should thank me that I was pretty fast, or you'd have to give a lot of explanations to Marian right now.”
Guy didn't reply, but just glared at him and he lifted a finger to his mouth to remove with his teeth a thorn that had remained stuck in his hand.
He managed to remove it, sucked a drop of blood out of the small wound, then he stared at Robin, who was watching them, giggling.
“And you should have been nicer to her! What makes you think that I want to talk about Gisborne?! You've lost the right to worry about what I think! Do you realize how much those phrases hurt her?!”
“Instead being left at the altar instead is nice, isn't it? I don't recall that you have reacted so well when it happened to you, or you wouldn't have a house to rebuild,” Robin retorted, a little maliciously and Guy blushed.
“But you are Robin Hood! You ought to be a better person than me!”
“And in fact I haven't burned anything or imprisoned anyone,” Robin said with a smile, to provoke him. “But I'm a human being too and I think I've earned the right to tease her a little. And then think about it, it wouldn't be credible otherwise. Yes, Marian, I will be so happy to see my enemy for which you have left me, I can't wait to see him."
“In fact it would be implausible, Giz,” Allan commented and Guy sighed.
“I know. But I can't stand to see her suffering.”
Robin looked up at the sky, feigning an exasperation that he didn't really feel and reached out to Guy's neck to take away another thorn, making him startle because of the sudden pain.
“Apparently you and Marian both think in the same way. Didn't you hear? She was worried for you.”
Guy nodded, pretending to focus on a thorn that in reality he had already taken off from the palm of his hand a few minutes before. Marian's words had touched him, but he was trying not to show his emotion too much, or he'd give Robin another reason to make fun of him, as if the outlaw didn't find enough reasons on his own.
“See? That's what I meant before,” Robin said, now in a serious tone. “You and Marian are more similar than you'd think.”
“Don't be silly, Hood.”
“It's not so absurd, however. You two always put the person you love in the first place, and no matter whether it is right or not, or what consequences this may have on the rest of the world, in the end you will always follow your heart rather than your head.”
“This is true, Giz, you can't deny it.”
“And it isn't the same for you, Robin?” Guy asked.
“Sometimes I wish it was. But I'm not able to put love in the first place when there are so many people who need me.”
“That's why you're Robin Hood.”
“And that's why Marian wouldn't be happy with me. She's not the kind of person who agrees to come in second place, never forget it.”
Allan laughed.
“I don't think that there could be any danger of it.”
Guy looked at Allan and shook his head disapprovingly, but he couldn't suppress a small smile.
“Come on, let's go back to Knighton.”
“Not to Locksley?”
Gisborne would have wanted to get to Marian and spend the rest of the day with her, but if he went back home so early, it would have seemed strange and the girl would ask too many questions.
“I have a house to rebuild,” Guy said, “I can't make her wait for too long.”

Chapter Text

Guy helped Allan to load the last basket full of food, then he gave him the reins of the wagon as he climbed into the saddle.
Allan went to Sherwood Forest and Guy escorted him on horseback until he saw him take the path that went in the thick of the trees: from then on, Robin Hood's men would take care that the supplies arrive at their destination without problems.
Guy turned his horse and came galloping towards Locksley: the rosy light of dawn began to lighten in a sunny morning.
On the way home, he noticed a bush of yellow roses and he stopped to collect some for Marian.
Maybe she could use them to adorn her hair or her dress, in any case he hoped that she would like them.
He grinned in thinking about what Vaisey would say if he had seen him stopping to pick flowers for a woman. Every time he thought of the way the sheriff used to treat him, Guy always appreciated more the freedom that he had managed to win and he did not regret all the pain he had to endure to conquer it, because in his eyes it was worth it.
Marian was already awake when Guy came home and she accepted the roses with a smile, but Gisborne managed to catch a flash of sadness in her eyes as she took the flowers to arrange them in a vase.
“Have you picked them on the way to Locksley, didn't you? From that bush that grows near the church?”
Guy nodded.
“Do you like them?” He asked, a bit hesitant and Marian kissed him on the cheek.
“They are beautiful, Guy, thank you. Now go, I asked Thornton to prepare a bath for you, we have to hurry or we'll be late.”
The girl looked at him going up the stairs, staring at him until he had disappeared from view, then she looked back at the roses and wiped a tear.
Guy couldn't know, but he had picked the flowers from the same bush from which she had been cutting the roses that she laid on his empty tomb every night, when she had believed him dead.
Marian forced herself to banish that painful memory: now Guy was there with her, alive and well, and the past didn't matter anymore.
She sniffed one of the roses and kissed its petals, then she took the whole vase and she went up the stairs to get back in her room and finish getting dressed. Once ready, she asked the maid to find a way to braid the roses in her hair, although they were still too short to make an elaborate hairstyle.

“Sir Guy?” One of the servants came into the room carrying some folded towels and he waited next to the bathtub.
Guy opened his eyes suddenly, raising his head to look at him. The hot water had relaxed him and he must have fallen asleep for a few minutes.
“Is it late?”
“Not yet, sir, but Lady Marian told me to check that you were awake.”
Guy smiled to himself, amused.
“Tell her I'll join her in a moment.”
The servant came, unfolding a cloth.
“Do you want me to dry you, sir?”
Guy shook his head and reached out to take the towel.
“I can do it myself, you can go.”
“As you wish, Sir Guy.”
Gisborne came out of the tub and wrapped himself in the towel, then he ran a hand through his hair to squeeze out a bit of water and he began to dress.
He chose the same long black leather jacket he had worn the day he had hoped to marry Marian and he couldn't help but wonder how his life would have been if that day if the girl had not run away leaving him at the altar. If that day Marian had married him to protect Sir Edward, would she have learned to love him the same, or would she come to hate a husband who was imposed to her almost by force?
Guy couldn't know and he could only hope that the day when Marian would agree to marry him joyfully could come soon.
It occurred to him that if they had married a year before, maybe they could already have had a child and that thought was able to move and terrorize him at the same time: it seemed unbelievable and unreal.
Until a few months ago, Guy had thought he didn't have a future, that his life would end prematurely and that he would never be free from Vaisey's chains. He still struggled to believe that he was free, and that he had infinite possibilities opening up before him.
He finished dressing and hurried down the stairs to reach Marian, before the girl could accuse him of being late.
Marian was waiting for him outside, next to the horses and she wore a new dress he had never seen, made of cream colored cloth and decorated with black and gold embroidery. He smiled to see that the girl had his roses in her hair and he wondered if the choice of the color of the decorations of her dress had been random or if Marian had deliberately chosen the Gisborne family colors to send him a message.
You'll only have to wait for a while and then I'll offer you my colors for you to wear them as your own. Let me make up for my mistakes and everything I have is yours forever, if only you want to have it.

Marian held her breath for a moment when Gisborne went out the door of Locksley. For a moment she thought they went back in time, to the day of the wedding, when Guy had gone to meet after her wagon arrived at the church. He had worn the same dress that day and, at first glance, Guy looked identical to a year earlier as if for him the time had stopped. But then, looking better at him, Marian began to recognize many subtle changes in him.
The most noticeable were the two scars on his face: the one on his cheekbone, so similar to her own, which she made by hitting him with the ring when she left him at the altar and the straight, thin one on his cheek, left by the arrow of Robin Hood. But the most important change was hidden in Guy's eyes, who now often had a light of hope that had never been there before.
“Shall we go?” She Asked and Guy smiled, mounting his horse.
Here's another change: now he smiles more often.
She climbed into the saddle and they rode side by side, headed to Sherwood Forest.
Marian imagined how they should appear in the eyes of the people they passed along the way: together, without an escort and elegantly dressed, perhaps too much for a ceremony to be held in the forest, riding along a road that winded in the wood.
The gossips would have new material for their chatter to speak ill of them for at least another month, but she didn't mind anymore, they could think whatever they wanted, she didn't care.
“Guy? Where did you and Allan go at dawn?”
Gisborne smiled and he told her about the innkeeper and how he had procured food for the banquet.
At least he could tell that episode without having to hide anything, other than the fact that he had used the room of the inn to recover the sleep he had lost as the Nightwatchman.
“Did the innkeeper really was the husband of the woman you saved?!”
“Yep, and because of this we will avoid eating Much's roasted squirrels.” Guy concluded happily, making her laugh.
Marian looked at him, smiling. That ride in the forest was so pleasant that she wouldn't want it to end. To think about their destination, however, darkened a bit her joy.
“Guy, are you not worried about returning to the outlaw camp?”
“This is another reason to be glad that I saved the innkeeper's wife: having brought the food for the banquet, I hope that Allan and me will be both a little more well-liked.
Marian thought about the dishes that Much used to cook and she agreed with him: surely bringing good and tasty food was a good point in favor of Guy.
From the branch of a tree, Robin watched Guy and Marian approaching on horseback toward the camp entrance, and he smiled to himself, holding the bow and pointing it toward them, then he let loose an arrow, that passed a few centimeters from Gisborne's head before embedding itself in a tree.
Guy raised his head to look at him and Robin laughed at seeing his irritated expression.
“Robin!” Marian scolded him. “What were you thinking?”
“I'm welcoming you in my forest.” The outlaw said, descending nimbly from the tree to get closer to them.
Guy glared at him, but he remained silent, he knew that Robin was making fun of him because he couldn't respond to his provocations without betraying himself.
But the Nightwatchman will take his revenge, do you know that, brother of mine?
The amused gaze of the outlaw met Guy's eyes for a moment and Gisborne knew that Robin couldn't wait for that future banter.
Guy smiled to himself, careful to keep a straight face in front of Marian.
He dismounted and tied the animal to a bush, then he waited while Marian did the same and they both followed Robin to the secret entrance of the camp.
The other outlaws had gathered around the fire with Will while Djaq were nowhere to be seen.
“Hey Giz. Marian,” Allan said, going to meet them with a smile.
The others greeted Marian and limited themselves to recognize the presence of Guy with some wary glances.
Guy sighed to himself, thinking that probably they didn' have to commit too much efforts in treating him as though he had not been working with them in those last months.
After all, he should have have guessed that: Will and Little John had never really accepted him, while Much was definitely jealous of his friendship with Robin, therefore, for none of the three was difficult to treat him coldly.
“Much!” Robin said. “You, Allan and Little John, take Will the place of the ceremony. You two, instead,” he turned to Guy and Marian “come with me to meet the bride.”
The others looked a bit confused. Except for Much, who already knew Robin's plans, the outlaws had thought that the ceremony would take place at the camp. Marian instead looked at Guy, wondering why Robin had asked just to the two of them to go to Djaq.
Why he had chosen her was clear, she was the only other girl besides the bride, but what about Guy?
Maybe Robin didn't trust to leave him with the others and he wanted to keep an eye on him.
In any case, Gisborne hadn't protested. Since he arrived at the camp, he remained quietly on the sidelines, doing his best to go unnoticed.
Marian took his hand and squeezed it just to let him know that she approved of his behavior, and Guy smiled.
The girl felt the impulse to hug him and kiss him, but she didn't: Robin and the others were watching and they certainly would have disapproved.

Djaq turned to hear the approaching footsteps and she smiled at seeing Robin who arrived, followed by Marian and Guy of Gisborne.
“Is it time?” She asked, joyous and impatient, before she even said hello and Robin laughed.
“Almost. Are you ready?”
“ I've been ready for a long time.” Djaq replied, then she walked over to Marian to greet her with a hug.
Guy looked at her: for once, Djaq was dressed in a woman's dress and she had a flower pinned through her short hair, but what really made her different from her usual self was the radiant joy that he could read on her face.
“You look nice,” Guy said, impulsively and Marian looked at him curiously, wondering once again what kind of relationship there was between him and the Saracen girl.
Djaq smiled.
“Hello, Guy. I'm glad to see you've recovered, I think you're much better now.” She said, for the benefit of Marian. Officially she had seen him for the last time when she had cured him after the final confrontation with Barret, and on that occasion Gisborne had been pretty battered.
“Yes, and I still have to thank you for everything you have done for me.”
Djaq looked at him.
“I'm glad to hear you say that, because I have a favor to ask.”
Both Guy, Robin and Marian, looked at her, puzzled.
“Just ask,” Guy said, trying to understand what Djaq could want. Certainly it could not have anything to do with what he, Robin and Much had arranged for the ceremony during the previous nights because all three had worked in secret to surprise her.
“The only family member I have left lives far from here, and there is no one who can give me in marriage to Will. I would like you to do it.”
Deeply amazed, Marian watched the expression of Guy and she realized that he was just as surprised by that request.
Djaq chuckled.
“Yes, you.”
The girl gave a little sigh.
“Neither you nor I have a family anymore, and we both know what it means to be alone. I had a brother once, and I always believed it would be him or my father to give me in marriage, but it's no longer possible, so I ask you to become my brother for a few minutes and take me to Will. You already did it for your sister, didn't you?”
Guy shook his head.
“No. I have not attended her wedding... she didn't want me to be present,” Guy said, in a desolate tone and Djaq smiled sweetly.
“Well, I want it. Will you do that for me?”
“Your friends won't understand it,” Guy said, hesitating.
“Stop it, Gisborne,” Robin intervened, dismissive. “Actually I do not understand it myself, but Djaq is the bride, today she can ask whatever she wants. If she wants you to accompany her to the altar, just do it.”
“Well?” Djaq asked again, staring beseechingly at him, and eventually Guy nodded.
“If you really want this, I'll do it. But I think you could have chosen a better brother than me among your friends.”
“You will do fine,” Djaq said, happy, and Guy kept silent, thinking that Isabella wouldn't agree with her.
At his side, Marian was staring at him, confused. When Djaq withdrew from them to talk with Robin, Marian slightly shook Guy's hand to get his attention and Gisborne looked back at her.
“I didn't know you had a sister,” she whispered and Guy recognized a slight note of accusation in her tone.
“I never talked about her to you.”
“Why not?”
Guy sighed.
“I'm afraid I haven't been a good brother to her.”
“What happened?”
Gisborne shook his head.
“I'll tell you, but not now, please. Let this be a day of joy.”
Marian gave him a curious look, but she did not insist.
Guy looked at Djaq who was laughing merrily at a joke Robin just made. He compared in his mind her joyful look to the despair he had seen in the eyes of Isabella when he saw her for the last time and to the sad and determined look that was in Marian's eyes when she had entered the church to marry him under duress.
This is the look that a bride should have.
Guy regretted he never understood it before.

Chapter Text

Robin led the way, advancing into the forest and the other three followed him.
Djaq and Marian wondered where Robin was leading them, while Guy smiled to himself, imagining Djaq's surprise when they would arrive at the place of the ceremony.
“Where are you taking us, Hood?” He asked, pretending he didn't know where they were going, and Robin looked at him, raising an eyebrow.
“Are you tired already, Gisborne? Or is it the forest that scares you?”
Marian cast a worried glance at the two men, fearing that Robin provocations could cause a reaction in Guy, but Gisborne just limited himself to roll his eyes in exasperation without answering.
Then Robin stopped in front of a row of bushes and he told Marian to keep going.
“Join the others and sit with them,” he told her, then turned to Guy and Djaq. “You two, instead, wait here for a few moments. Give me time to reach the groom and then come forward.”
Guy looked at Marian and Robin disappearing into the bushes, then he turned to Djaq.
“Are you nervous?”
The girl shook her head.
“No, I'm just so happy. And you?”
“I'm not very accustomed to weddings and I have no idea of what I should do.” Gisborne confessed, looking at her. “I don't want to spoil your day...”
Djaq put a hand on his arm.
“You only have to walk next to me until we get in front of Robin, that's all. And relax, you're not the one who is getting married.”
Guy sighed and Djaq smiled at him.
“But it is very likely that you and Marian will be the next ones.”
“I hope so. Sometimes I fear that I will never be able to offer her the life she deserves...”
“Don't be silly. You are trying so hard that you definitely can do it. A few months ago you could barely hope to survive and look at you now.”
Guy looked at her, grateful for those words.
“I think we've waited long enough, do you agree?” He asked, holding out his arm and she smiled, leaning to him. Guy bent towards her to whisper in her ear. “Close your eyes and let me guide you until I tell you that you can open them.”
“Trust me,” Guy whispered. Djaq looked at him, curious, and for a moment Gisborne thought she wouldn't listen. After all, why anyone in their right mind would trust him?
Instead she smiled and closed her eyes, relying on him.
Guy led her carefully through the bushes, pushing the overhanging branches so they didn't get entangled with the girl's dress, he stopped on the edge of the clearing, taking a moment to admire the work that he, Robin and Much had done during those last long nights and he pretended to be surprised by what he saw.
“Now you can watch,” he told Djaq in a whisper, and the girl obeyed.
Djaq looked around wide-eyed: the ground had been covered with white sand and the trees that surrounded the clearing were hidden by panels decorated in Saracen style and by oriental fabrics, while the flames of dozens of lamps and torches placed anywhere around them trembled, giving an enchanted and exotic appearance to the clearing.
“It seems... it seems like we are in my homeland...” Djaq whispered, moved, as she and Gisborne approached Robin Hood and Will. The others were standing around them, waiting.
Robin smiled.
“You are far from your land, so Much and I decided to bring a little piece of it to you.”
Djaq wiped a tear and smiled, bright with joy.
“It is a wonderful gift, thank you!” She said, looking at the two outlaws, but slightly squeezed Guy's arm to thank him too. Certainly he could not say it in front of Marian, but Djaq had understood that he had worked with Robin and Much to surprise her. And judging by the amount of sand that had to be used to cover all the ground of the clearing, it must have been quite a challenging job.
“Shall we to start?” Robin asked, smiling at the bride and groom.
Guy took Djaq's hand that was still resting on his arm and put it in Will's hand.
“Always take care of her,” he said softly, then walked away from the couple and stood beside Marian.
She slid her fingers between his and leaned her face to Guy's shoulder while Robin began to perform the ceremony.

Marian smiled to see the joy on the faces of Djaq and Will when Robin pronounced them man and wife.
The newlyweds exchanged a kiss and Marian imagined to be in Djaq's place, with Guy beside her.
She gave him a look and saw that Gisborne was looking at her too. From the warm look she saw in his eyes, Marian guessed that Guy's thoughts shouldn't be too far away from hers.
But then why didn't he make a move? Why didn't he ask her to be his wife?
Perhaps he was afraid of being rejected again, but Marian thought she had been very clear in showing him how she felt about him.
Or maybe there was some other reason which Guy wouldn't or couldn't tell her. Perhaps the sheriff had imposed some condition or constraint that prevented him from marrying her.
Or maybe Guy simply doesn't want you as a wife anymore.
Marian dismissed that unpleasant thought. It couldn't be, he loved her, she could read it in his eyes, and she shouldn't doubt it.
As if he could sense their thoughts, Guy put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer.

Robin sat in the shadows, beyond the circle lit by torches and watched his friends while they couldn't see him.
Djaq and Will could not have been happier, and their every gesture was imbued with joy and love.
Robin was glad, life in the forest could be tough, and every moment of happiness had to be enjoyed and savored.
Something precious grew up between the two young outlaws and everyone was happy to celebrate their love, even if Robin suspected that much of that happiness was also due to the food and wine from the banquet.
Robin grinned: sometimes Gisborne proved himself resourceful and managed to amaze him. Much also he had to be impressed by the quality and quantity of the food because he had even gone so far to congratulate Guy patting him on the shoulder in an almost friendly gesture.
Gisborne had looked at him, puzzled, and even Much seemed surprised of his own gesture, but it was still a step forward.
After the ceremony, Robin made sure to whisper to Djaq that Gisborne had helped them to work on the decoration of the clearing and the girl had surprised him by telling him that she already knew.
“Did he tell you?”
“No, but you and Much are not the only ones who look tired, you can see that Guy is very tired too. I bet you have worked all night to make this surprise for me. I'm sorry I can't even thank him publicly.”
Robin looked back at the others: Allan seemed to have regained some of the sympathies of the others and he talked happily with the outlaws and with Gisborne and Marian, perfectly at ease with both sides.
Whatever happened, Allan was one of those who always managed to survive, Robin thought, then he looked at Guy and Marian, sitting around the fire too, but more aloof than the others.
Robin had thought that it would hurt him to see them together, at least because of the wounded pride, but he found out that he didn't feel bad, apart from a strange, indefinable mixture of nostalgia and regret.
He had genuinely loved Marian and he would always think of her with affection, but to see the way she looked at Gisborne, definitely put peace in his soul. Things had changed for them, for all of them, and Robin knew that he didn't feel anymore for Marian those feelings that were so evident in Gisborne's eyes whenever his look rested on her.
Robin smiled wryly: maybe it was absurd, but probably he got closer to Guy as much as he instead had moved away from Marian.
Since they began collaborating, Robin had discovered to appreciate his company and he realized that between the gang members, Gisborne was perhaps the one most similar to him: a fighter and not just an outlaw. When Robin explained one of his half plans, Guy was able to give strategic advice or to raise sensible objections, but for some strange reason he was also the first to follow him in the most risky or improvised missions, blindly trusting of his decisions, even those that might seem absurd.
Gisborne trusted him, maybe that was the crucial point that had started their unlikely friendship, the one thing that had pushed Robin to know him better and to appreciate some sides of him that Guy usually didn't show to others.
When Barret had taken Gisborne as a hostage and Robin aimed at him with the bow, just before he shot the arrow, a dark voice in his mind had suggested that it would be better for everyone if Guy died too, but now Robin Hood was genuinely happy he didn't listen to that voice.
Someone called him and Robin stood up, coming out of the shadows and reaching the others by the fire.
Much put a cup of wine in his hand and Robin lifted it towards the newlyweds in a silent toast.

Chapter Text

Guy helped Sir Edward to get off the wagon, and they both made their way to the entrance of the castle.
Gisborne was tense, as he was every time he had to deal with the sheriff. That month he had managed to gather all the necessary sum to pay taxes, but with Vaisey he could never let his guard down.
Sooner or later the sheriff would take revenge on Guy for his blackmail, but Gisborne couldn't know when and how he would do it and maybe that sense of uncertainty was part of the sheriff's vengeance: he would just wait to hold him in anxiety and making him lose his nerve.
“Oh, no.” Guy sighed, seeing the crowd gathered on the steps of the castle and Sir Edward looked at him, worried.
“What's up? What are they doing?”
“The sheriff plans to prosecute someone publicly. I do not envy the poor one who will suffer his judgment.”
Sir Edward looked at the people gathered on the stairs: Vaisey was at the center and was holding a roll of parchment, some guards were placed around him and the nobles, who were to gather in the great room to bring the sheriff payment for the taxes, were lined up on the lower steps.
The sheriff saw Guy and Sir Edward and flashed his jeweled tooth in a fake smile.
“Oh, well, Gizzy deigned to arrive, at last. You used to be more precise, it's Gramps that slows you down?”
“We're on time, my lord,” Guy said, flatly.
“No Gisborne, for I have decided that you are not. Now shut up and take your place before I decide to arrest you for insubordination.”
Guy gave up arguing and he reached the other nobles at the bottom of the stairs.
The sheriff yawned, bored, and started to read the parchment allegations to various prisoners that were taken before him. Most of those poor people ended up in the dungeons or was sentenced to stocks or public flogging and Guy was beginning to feel relieved to see that for the moment no one had been sentenced to the gallows, when he realized that the sheriff's gaze was trained on him.
“You know what, Gisborne? Sometimes I miss the good old days,” Vaisey said, looking at him in a way that made him shiver. “I have an idea, Gizzy. Come here, by my side and read this sentence like you did in the old times.”
Guy hesitated. He knew that Vaisey would find a way to hit him and he expected at least another public humiliation.
“Come on, Gisborne, what are you waiting for? Or should I order Sir Edward to take your place?”
Guy obeyed and took the scroll from the sheriff's hands. He looked surprised at the girl who was dragged in chains before the sheriff, but the look of Vaisey pointed at him convinced him to lower his eyes on the parchment and start reading.
“Meg Bennet, you have been brought before the Sheriff of Nottingham court for disobeying your father, and refusing all the suitors who have been proposed to you...”
“They were idiots!” The girl interrupted him, angrily. “One was a drunken sot, the second looked like a donkey, and the third was a halfwit with the brains of a tree!”
“And you have corrupted the fourth so he fled with the money stolen to your father,” the sheriff intervened.
“He was just a mummy's boy. I'm not going to accept anyone telling me how to live my own life. I don't want to get married, men are so stupid!”
Guy looked at the girl and he would have smiled at seeing so much fighting spirit if he hadn't known that fighting against Vaisey was a lost battle. Surely she would be condemned and Guy was certain that the punishment that awaited her was not at all pleasant.
He looked down and remained silent until the sheriff handed him another parchment.
“Come on, Gisborne, read the sentence too, then I'll let you get back in the flock of noble sheep who you have chosen to belong to.”
Guy stifled a sigh.
“Meg Bennet, you are to be locked up in the dungeons of the castle until the sheriff will find a husband for you.”
“You can't do that!” The girl cried and Vaisey smiled in a disturbing way.
“I can and I will, your father agrees with me, but fear not, I am sure I will get a special price for you.”
“You want to sell her!” Guy exclaimed, unable to stop, and then he regretted his word immediately, when the sheriff turned his attention to him.
“Does it upset you so much, Gizzy? It shouldn't since you've done the same with your sister. Or are you tired of your little leper friend and you'd like to buy her for you? In this case I'm sorry for you, you can't afford to pay the price that I'm going to ask. Then, Gisborne, do you have something to say against my judgment?”
Guy lowered his eyes and shook his head, but couldn't find the voice to answer.
Vaisey looked at him with a satisfied grin and he turned to the guards.
“Take her away,” he said, nodding toward the girl.
Meg tried to rebel, screaming and clawing, but couldn't avoid being dragged to the dungeons.

Sir Edward climbed on the wagon without waiting for Gisborne to help him.
For the rest of the council, Guy had remained silent, keeping his eyes to the ground and Edward knew that the sheriff's words had disturbed him deeply, and yet Edward couldn't ignore one of the phrases uttered by Vaisey.
“Did you really have sold your sister?” Edward asked, without hiding the disapproval in his tone.
Gisborne nodded slightly, without looking at him.
“It wasn't the worst thing I've done in my life, sir.” He said, without even trying to deny.
“It's immoral, you should be ashamed of yourself.”
“It would have been better to let her live in the streets, starving?! Or to wait for the cold of winter to take both of us away? It would have been more acceptable, then?” Guy broke and Sir Edward looked at him, surprised to see that he had tears in his eyes.
“I didn't know...”
“Me neither! I didn't know what to do or how to get out of that situation. When they offered me a good price for her hand in marriage I accepted. It seemed to me that it was the only way to guarantee a decent life to her and to obtain the means to become a knight and try to regain back the lands that once belonged to my family.”
Sir Edward looked at him, not knowing what to say and Guy gave him a wry smile.
“I told you, you have believed to see the good in me when there was none at all, and now that you begin to understand really who I was you are disappointed.”
“I can't deny it: it's not pleasant to think about certain things in your past, but I know you are better than you think. If I saw the good in you, it means that there was some, but this doesn't mean that you don't have bad sides too. I think that what is important is how you want to be from now on.”
“I can't change the past, but I try not to forget it so I can hope to become a better person.”
Sir Edward's expression softened.
“If Marian fell in love with you, it means that you are succeeding.”
“I always have the impression of not doing enough. I should have prevented the sheriff to imprison the girl and instead I just watched and I didn't say anything...”
“And what would you have solved? You'd ended up in the dungeons in a cell next to her.”
“Robin Hood wouldn't be aloof.”
“In fact, he became an outlaw and he lost everything he owned. You're not Robin Hood, Sir Guy. If the sheriff should arrest you, you wouldn't be the only one to lose everything, but the sheriff would hit even Marian, Allan, me and the people of Locksley and Knighton. Not counting those who are dependent on the Nightwatchman to survive. Sometimes to stand aside and watch is the most difficult choice, but also the better one.”
“You are right. I can't do anything,” Guy said, then he smiled “but the Nightwatchman could.”
Sir Edward looked at him for a moment, then he nodded.
“Be careful and remember that you won't risk only your life, but ours as well.”

Much dangled the dead hare before the eyes of Robin Hood, joining him along the path toward the entrance of the camp.
“Today we'll have a terrific lunch,” he said, proud of his prey. “I just have to decide how it's best to prepare it.”
Robin shook his head.
“I don't think so. Look.”
He pointed to the arrow planted in one of the trees near the secret door.
“Someone was here!” Much said, worried. “What if the sheriff had found the camp?”
Robin pulled the arrow from the tree and he showed him the black fletching.
“This is one of Guy's arrows. This morning he and Sir Edward had to attend the council of nobles, if he came looking for us at the camp in broad daylight, something must have happened. I should better go look for him.”
“At Locksley?”
“Knighton. If I go to Locksley I'd risk being seen by Marian, Gisborne wouldn't give me an appointment there.”
“Should I come with you?”
Robin thought about it for a moment, then he shook his head.
“No, you stay here, cook the hare and warn the others: if tonight we will have some challenging mission, a good meal will definitely be helpful to keep our strength up.”
Robin walked back along the path, still holding Guy's arrow.
He was concerned: it had never happened that it was the Nightwatchman the one who contacted Robin Hood and Guy certainly wouldn't have searched for him so urgently for a trifle.
He reached the hidden place where they kept the horses and he took one, then he climbed into the saddle and galloped towards Knighton.

Chapter Text

Much tossed the roasted head of the hare down the stairs that led to the dungeons, making it roll on the steps.
The guard came to look at it, intrigued, and Little John staff hit him in the face, causing him to fall to the ground without having the time to issue a lament.
Robin leaned over to steal the keys from the unconscious man's belt and he waved to the Nightwatchman to follow, while Much and Little John remained on guard on the stairs.
When Guy had told Robin about the girl imprisoned by the sheriff, they had decided to free her from the dungeons and they both agreed not to involve Will and Djaq in that dangerous mission.
Much would follow Robin in any enterprise, while Little John, although he was not trusting Guy, was persuaded by the thought of a young and innocent girl who was likely to be sold to the highest bidder as an animal.
Guy and Robin passed some overcrowded cells until Gisborne pointed to a door. They went to the bars and looked inside: the girl who that morning had rebelled so fiercely to his father and the sheriff was curled up in the corner and she was asleep, her cheeks still wet with tears.
Much's signal caught their attention: someone was coming that way.
Robin put the keys of the cell in the hands of Guy and drew his sword.
“You free her, we will make sure we have a way out.
Guy nodded, searched for the key that opened the cell door, trying to do it as quickly as possible and he opened it, approaching the girl to free her from the chains.
While Guy tried the different keys to find the right one, Meg woke up, wincing in seeing that masked man so close to her. Instinctively she grabbed the first thing she found at hand, in this case the wooden bowl in which they had served her a smelly mess that was supposed to be a soup, and she used it to hit the head of that stranger.
Gisborne drew back with a groan of pain, but when Meg was about to hit him again, he grabbed her wrist and squeezed it to force her to drop the bowl.
The girl started to scream, but Guy let go of her arm and put his hand over her mouth, crushing her against the wall with his own body to immobilize her while he searched the key to free her from the chains.
The girl wriggled and kicked in an attempt to break free, but Gisborne was able to hold her and eventually the key opened the lock and the chains fell to the ground.
“I'm here to free you.” Guy whispered, seeing that the girl showed no signs of calming down. He knew that talking was a risk because someone might recognize his voice so he tried to do it more quietly as possible so that only the girl could hear him.
Meg stopped to look at him for a moment and Guy motioned her to follow him, but the girl, instead of obeying him, reached out with a sudden gesture and she ripped the mask from his face.
“You!” She said, incredulously, recognizing him, then she pulled back her hand and slapped him hard, scratching his face with her nails.
Guy pushed her and went back to crush her against the wall to hold her, took his mask from her hand and put it on again.
“Do you really want to stay here and rot in this cell?! Stop acting like an idiot and follow me.”
“I'm not going anywhere with you! I know who you are and everything you have done!”
Guy let out a groan of exasperation and lifted her, ignoring the protests of the girl.
“Perhaps you didn't understand, but I wasn't offering you a choice.”

Robin turned to look back, wondering why Gisborne was taking so much to reach them. The three of them had neutralized another guard, but every moment that passed increased the risk of getting caught. He was about to go looking for him, when Guy appeared at the bottom of the stairs, dragging a young woman who looked like she didn't want to be saved.
Robin gave an amused look at Guy.
“Shut up and come and help me, kind of a jerk,” Gisborne growled and Robin Hood laughed, but hurried over to try to calm the girl.
“Perhaps his manners are not the best,” Robin said, pointing to Gisborne “but I assure you that we are here to take you away from the dungeons.”
“What do you want from me?!” Meg cried, trying to free herself from Guy's hold. “You men are all alike, and if you are in league with him you can't have good intentions!”
Robin gave an incredulous look to Guy and Gisborne stared at him, shrugging his shoulders in a rather eloquent way.
Meg started to insult them again, but Robin covered her mouth with his hand and then he took off the scarf he had around his neck and used it to gag the girl.
“I'm sorry, but we can't let you draw here all of the castle guards. If you want to keep yelling at us, I'm afraid you'll have to wait until we're out of here.”
Guy looked at her with a grin, then he lifted her again without much regard and he followed Robin up the stairs, reaching Little John and Much.
Gisborne had hoped they could use the passage near the kitchens to be able to leave the castle without being noticed, but when they turned the corner of a corridor, he froze suddenly in seeing Vaisey coming from the opposite end.
The sheriff looked at them for a moment, then began to scream.
“Guards! It's Robin Hood! Get him!”
The four men turned their backs to him and they ran away. Fortunately Meg, seeing the sheriff, had stopped fighting to free herself from Guy's grasp and she had let him bring her without trying to hinder him.
“Robin! Where do we go?” Little John asked in a urgent tone and Robin pointed at the door of one of the rooms that opened down the hall.
“But there we'll be trapped like rats!” Much said and Robin smiled.
“Don't worry, I have a plan.”
They all entered the room and Little John used his staff to block the door, then they followed Robin near the window.
The outlaws showed them a wagon full of straw, parked just below the window.
“I contemplated such a case. We will jump and the straw will cushion the fall.”
Meg meanwhile had managed to remove the gag and she looked at the distance between the window and the wagon, frightened.
“Are you crazy?! Do you want to get yourself killed? I won't jump from there! Never!”
Guy glanced at Robin as if to ask for confirmation, then, without letting go of Meg, went up on the window sill.
“Like I already told you, we're not offering you a choice,” he said to the girl, then he held her tight and jumped, hoping that Robin was right.

Robin was not mistaken.
Guy landed on his back and the weight of Meg crushed him, leaving him breathless, but the straw managed to break his fall, and despite the pain, Gisborne knew at once that he wasn't seriously injured.
A moment later another three thuds made him understand that even Robin, Much and Little John had managed to jump on the wagon.
Shortly after, one of them took the reins and the cart moved.
Guy thought he would have to get up too to help Robin in the case they have to fight, but waves of pain clouded his mind and the weight of the girl oppressed his chest and prevented him from breathing well. He made a feeble attempt to move, but Meg had fainted and he could not free himself.
Gisborne gave up trying, closed his eyes again and slipped into unconsciousness.

Robin entrusted Much with the reins of the wagon. By now they had arrived in Sherwood Forest and the soldiers of the sheriff wouldn't be able to find them.
He moved to the floor of the wagon and saw that Meg had recovered and she was sitting in a corner sullenly, guarded by Little John, while Gisborne was still unconscious.
A bit worried, Robin leaned over him and shook him slightly.
“Hey, wake up, are you fine?”
Guy opened his eyes and put his hand to the side of his face, where he felt the burning scratches left by Meg nails, but Robin stopped him to stop him from removing the mask.
“Oh, let him do it, I already know who he is,” the girl said scornfully.
Guy sat up and gave her an angry look, then he turned to Robin.
“She ripped off my mask, before.”
“Did anybody else see you?”
“No, luckily the cell was dark and isolated from the other ones. But now that little ungrateful brat knows my secret!”
“Ungrateful? Should I be grateful to the man who accused me in front of everyone and condemned me to rot in a cell, waiting to be bought by some idiot suitor?”
“You are right, only an imbecile could decide to pay to buy a wife like you,” Guy said angrily. “The sheriff forced me to read your judgment, I had nothing to do with it.”
“You could refuse, you could defend me. But you men are all the same, you all think I should just get married and to give an heir to my husband!”
“If I had opposed the sheriff, we would be both closed in the dungeons and honestly I don't know if I could stand to spend all my time listening to your stupid complaints.”
“You feel so important, right? The black knight of the sheriff who spreads terror among the people...”
“I don't work for the sheriff anymore!”
“It doesn't matter, people don't change. Not people like you.”
Robin put a hand on Guy's arm to calm him down and he looked at the girl: she was young, but very firm and her combative gaze reminded him a little of Marian when she wanted to do something she thought was right against the advice of those who surrounded her.
“Gisborne risked his life to pull you out of the Sheriff's jail. And we did it too, you shouldn't talk like that.”
The girl glanced at them, uncertain. She knew that the words of Robin Hood were true, but she wouldn't admit it.
“He should have prevented me to end in the dungeons,” she grumbled, not too sure of her words.
“Robin? Now what do we do with her?” Little John asked. “Are we taking her back to her house?”
“No!” Meg cried, worried. “My father would force me to marry some other idiot!”
Robin looked at Gisborne and Guy shook his head.
“I certainly can't take her to Locksley. If the sheriff finds her out, it would be the end.
And Marian would kill me.”
“And we can't even leave her alone in the forest,” Robin said and Much looked at him, worried.
“You don't want to take her to the camp, do you?”
Robin retrieved the scarf he had used to gag the girl and used it to blindfold her.
“I don't see many other options, at least for the moment.”

Guy took off his coat and laid it beside him on the cut trunk that the outlaws used as a seat. He started to take off his mask and winced in pain because the blood had dried, making it stick to the wound.
Djaq sat down next to him and pulled his hand away gently.
“Wait, let me do it.”
The girl helped him to take off the mask, taking care not to hurt him, and she began to clean the scratches with a piece of cloth dipped in a medicinal infusion.
The wound was superficial, but Djaq realized that Gisborne seemed to be suffering more than he should have just for that scratch.
“ Do you have other wounds?”
“No, but I hit my back. It's been a long time since I was wounded, but sometimes it still hurts so bad...”
Djaq smiled sympathetically.
“It is normal, unfortunately. Remove your jacket and let me see.”
Guy obeyed and stood staring into the flames of the fire while Djaq examined him. He knew that Will's eyes were pointed at him and that the young man was watching and he didn't want to give him any reason to be jealous.
What he instead had not noticed was that Meg was watching him from afar.
Despite everything she had told him, Guy of Gisborne intrigued her. Sometimes, in the past, she had seen him ride, with the proud and arrogant air of one who knows he has a certain power and despite everything she had been a little fascinated by his appearance, especially if she compared him to that sort of toad of the sheriff.
Gisborne was gone suddenly and she had heard that he was dead, killed in an ambush, until he reappeared mysteriously in Nottingham a few months earlier.
Meg had heard stories of any kind on him and some of them had managed to keep her awake at night in fear, but when she saw him that morning as he read the sheriff's judgment, he had looked perfectly normal, but he seemed to have lost all the confidence he once had.
It was only a fearful noble like every one of the others, all too similar to the bland suitors that her father wanted to force her to marry even though, she had to admit, he looked a lot better than them.
She had hated him, as he hated all the men. Men only wanted to force her to do things she hated and she didn't trust either him or Robin Hood and his companions.
She had to admit that the camp where they had taken her seemed much more comfortable than the prisons of the castle, but she was still quite suspicious and she kept expecting the worst.
The young Saracen who had welcomed them when they arrived at the camp had surprised her: she was a woman and yet she seemed free to do whatever she wanted and everyone respected her.
Meg watched her while she was talking to Gisborne and she noticed that her words seemed to have relaxed a little the black knight, who had even smiled for brief moments.
When Guy had taken off his jacket, Meg had winced when she saw the red scars that disfigured his back and she could not look away while Djaq smeared some kind of ointment on the scars.
“You must not tell anyone.”
Meg winced at hearing a man's voice so close to her and spun around, meeting the eyes of Robin Hood.
“That he is the Nightwatchman.”
“Well, it was predictable: too coward to fight the sheriff and obviously too coward to save me without hiding his face.” Meg said loudly enough for Guy to hear.
Gisborne looked back at her, then he stood up and walked over to her.
“And you would be the one who rejects suitors saying they have the brain of a vegetable? They would still be smarter than you if you don't understand that if I can't act openly it's certainly not because I'm afraid, but because other people lives depend on me.”
Robin gave a worried look at Gisborne and at the girl: the stubborn look in Meg's eyes presaged a stinging response that surely would irritate Guy even more.
To avoid further fights, Robin said to Meg to go with Djaq who would explain her how they lived in the camp and he took Guy's arm, guiding him toward the horses.
“Come on, hurry up and get changed and then back to Locksley, it's getting late.”
Guy fished out his own clothes from the saddlebag and hid the Nightwatchman costume, then he sighed.
“What can I do, Hood?”
Guy pointed to the scratch on his face.
“This. How do I explain it to Marian?”
Robin shook his head: he didn't have an answer.

Chapter Text

“Allan! Allan, wake up.”
The former outlaw opened his eyes with a groan because Guy was shaking him and sat up on the bed, rubbing his face with his hands.
“What do you want, Giz? It's barely dawn.”
Guy sighed and leaned toward Allan to face him.
“Exactly, it's already dawn and I have yet to find an excuse to explain this.
Gisborne lifted the candle he was holding to light his face and Allan saw the wound on his face: four parallel scratches, clearly caused by human nails.
Allan noticed that Gisborne was clearly agitated and panicked at the thought that Marian could find out his secret.
“Another mission of the Nightwatchman, eh? This time, those who gave you those marks? The sheriff? Or did you say something that annoyed Little John?”
“It was Meg...”
“Meg? A girl?” Allan grinned, looking at him in amazement.
“It's not what you think!” Guy said, blushing and Allan laughed.
“Then you will tell me about it, but if you want to survive to do so, let me dress up and find a solution to your troubles.
“Hurry up.” Guy snarled and Allan grinned.
“Do you know? I think I have an idea.”

Marian woke up hearing strange sounds coming from outside the house. It looked like someone was fighting near the stables and she worried, thinking of an attack by bandits, then she recognized the voices of Guy and Allan and she looked out the window to see what was happening.
He saw Allan hitting Guy in the face and Gisborne immediately responded with a shove and they both rolled to the ground where they continued to fight.
The girl watched them for a moment with her mouth open, then she ran down the stairs to try to stop them.
She walked out the door just in time to see Allan who was trying to get up again and Guy who was dragging him back to the ground.
Marian shouted at them to stop, but the two men seemed not to hear her, so she went back into the house, grabbed one of the buckets full of the water that the kitchen maid had used for washing dishes the night before and she emptied it on the two litigants.
This time Guy and Allan stopped and turned to look at her, panting and soaked.
“What are you doing?! Are you both crazy?”
The two exchanged an angry look.
“He has not the slightest respect!” Guy shouted.
“And I'm sick of being insulted!” Allan replied.
For a moment they seemed about to start fighting again, but Marian came up, staring menacingly at them.
“Get up off the ground and explain to me what happened.” She raised a finger in warning. “One at a time.”
“Hey, I just made a joke and he took it badly,” Allan said.
“It wasn't fun at all and it wasn't just one joke. I warned you to stop.”
“And when did you warn me? Before or after you gave me that punch?”
“Enough!” Marian shouted “Stop it now! Are you grown men or five years old? Do you think it's sensible to get hurt over a trifle? Grow up, both of you!”
Guy and Allan lowered their eyes and Marian looked at them and shook her head: they both were drenched, battered and dirty with earth and straw. Guy had a bloody scratch on his face while Allan was bleeding from a cut on his lip and they both would get various bruises soon. Overall they looked like two little kids who just come out of a fight.
The girl stared at them, crossing her arms and waiting.
“Maybe...” Guy admitted guiltily. “...Maybe I overreacted.”
“And probably I should have quit joking when he told me to do so...”
Marian sighed: knowing them, those sentences were the closest thing to an apology that those two could utter.
She gave them a small smile.
“Go and clean up a little and then come home. Meanwhile, I'll prepare the necessary to medicate those scratches.”
The girl went back in, shaking her head, while Guy and Allan headed toward the well.
As soon as they were certain to be out of sight of Marian, they both made a sigh of relief and they exchanged a satisfied smile.
“It worked.” Guy said, almost in disbelief.
“I told you, no? Make her to get angry over a trifle and she won't notice anything else.”
Allan pulled up a bucket full of water and Guy splashed some of it on his face.
“You saved me, I'm grateful.”
“You are welcome. But you could have hit me a little less hard, my lip hurts like hell.”
“It wouldn't have been credible. Anyway you used your nails to reopen the scratch and make it bleed again, it wasn't any fun either. I'd say we're even.”
“All right, but you have to tell me about this Meg. At least is she nice?”
Guy gave a sort of snort.
“I'll tell you later, when we go to Knighton.”

“So you have risked your life to save her and she thanked you with scratches and insults?”
Allan shook his head and asked no more questions to Guy. Now they were close to Knighton and they couldn't risk being heard by prying ears.
They rode in silence as they entered the village and Gisborne smiled to see the two children who were waiting for them like every morning, sitting on the doorstep of their house.
Mary throw him an apple and Guy caught it.
“Thanks, Mary.”
“Hey, no apples for me?” Allan protested and Jack threw an apple to him, trying to hit him in the head, but Allan was quick enough to dodge it and the fruit rolled to the ground.
Mary made an exasperated sigh, she slapped her brother on the neck and she bent to pick up the apple. She dusted it with her hands and then she stood on tiptoe about to give it to Allan.
“Excuse him, sometimes he's so childish. You should grow up, Jack.”
Guy and Allan exchanged glances, thinking that Marian had told them the same words with a very similar tone only a short while before and they laughed.
“Mary, Jack, come to eat your breakfast!” Their mother called the children, looking out of the door.
She waited until the children were inside and then she waved farewell to Guy and Allan.
She was still scared and wary of the black knight, but she could not ignore the fact that Guy of Gisborne had defended the village and had brought home her children healthy and sound after she had been afraid of losing them forever.
Guy replied with a curt nod and moved his horse. He tried to be polite to her because she was the mother of Mary and Jack, but he couldn't forget that this woman was one of the first to call on his blood and almost had him killed.

When they arrived at Knighton Hall, the workers were already working and Guy smiled to realize that probably within a day or two the land would be freed completely and they could start actual reconstruction.
They dismounted and Allan took a blanket from the saddlebag.
“What are you doing with that?” Guy asked and Allan stretched it out at the foot of a tree.
“Last night you didn't sleep, right? Go on, rest a little.”
Gisborne looked at him, a bit surprised, and he was about to thank him when he noticed that one of the workers was a little aloof than the others and that he had his face covered by the hood of his cloak.
“Rest will have to wait, come.”
They approached the man and Guy pretended to examine the contents of the cart pushed by the false worker.
“Hood, what are you doing here?” He whispered. “The sheriff will send definitely his soldiers to look for you, you should stay hidden, at least for a while.”
Robin looked from Guy to Allan, noting the signs of the fight they had before.
“Hey, what happened to you? It wasn't Marian, right?”
Allan chuckled at the idea.
“No, it's part of my plan to hide that scratch. If she was aware that it had been a girl to make it, Giz would look a lot worse than that, I'm afraid.”
“Stop it, Allan.” Guy scolded him, but he couldn't suppress an amused smile. He turned to Robin. “So why are you here?”
“We need to decide what to do with Meg. We can't let her go, but we can't even keep her at the camp forever.”
“She's driving you crazy, isn't she?” Guy asked and Robin gave him an unhappy look.
“We can't leave her alone because she would flee on her own, but she wouldn't last much hours if she went alone in the forest. And then she knows who you are, I'm not sure we can trust her. But if we have to keep watch on her, we won't have enough time to deliver the food to the poor.”
“What will you do then?” Allan asked.
“We'll stay with her in turn and you two have to do your part too.”
Guy shook his head.
“Forget it. That girl hates me and I don't care to go home with other wounds that I'll have to explain to Marian.”
“You're the one who convinced me to save her from the dungeons, now take your responsibilities.”
“You would have saved her all the same, aren't you the hero of Nottingham?”
“Should I remind you all the reasons you have to be grateful to me?” Robin asked with a cheeky smile and Guy looked at him angrily.
“That's not fair!”
“I'll be waiting at the camp this afternoon then. And don't worry, you can go back to Locksley before sunset.”
Robin pushed the cart loaded with rubble and walked away from Knighton Hall, whistling.
Guy sighed at the thought of still having to deal with Meg Bennet and he returned to the blanket spread under the tree. Seeing that Allan had been kind enough to bring it, he might as well get some sleep, or he wouldn't have enough energy to deal with that stubborn girl.
Allan followed him and sat down on the grass beside him.
“Hey, Giz.”
Gisborne had already closed his eyes, but he opened them to look at his friend.
“What's up?”
“You still didn't say if Meg is cute or not.”
Guy thought about it for a moment.
“Yes. I would say she is.” He said, recalling how pretty and helpless she looked when he saw her sleeping in the dungeon cell, then he smiled thinking of another face. “But not as nice as Marian.”

Chapter Text

“The camp is yours, now,” Robin said, quickly, and Much nodded emphatically to his words.
They both seemed to have a great urgency to start the deliveries, and Guy sighed, glaring at them.
“Thank you very much,” he grumbled, going through the secret door. Allan, instead, seemed happy and curious to know Meg.
The girl was sitting by the fire and she seemed to be in an even worse mood than Guy. She looked at the newcomers with resentment.
“Oh well, not only you keep me imprisoned here, but now leave me alone with the sheriff's dogs!”
Gisborne approached her in a couple of strides, before Allan could stop him.
“Don’t you dare to call me that!” He growled, threatening, looking into her eyes, but Meg did not flinch in the least: she raised her hand and she threw in his face a handful of dirt.
Guy covered his face with his hands, rubbing his eyes with a groan and she took the opportunity to push him back and make him stumble on the log behind him.
She didn’t watch as he fell, but she turned her back and ran away, trying to escape from the camp, but Allan stepped in front of her and grabbed her, holding her tight.
Meg tried to free herself, kicking and scratching, but the young man was able to tie her hands behind her back and he fastened the rope to one of the trees, then he hurried to Gisborne.
“Hey, Giz, are you well? Come, rinse your eyes.” Allan led him up to a bucket full of water, but he kept his eyes on Meg. They had been at the camp only for a little time and Allan was beginning to fear that they at their return the outlaws wouldn’t find alive all three of them.
Guy took off the dirt from his eyes, cursing, then he looked back at Meg, furious.
“Now I understand why your father preferred to have you arrested by the sheriff rather than having to deal with you!”
Meg looked at him defiantly.
“If having to deal with me is such a great weight, then let me go!”
Guy grabbed the knife with a curved blade that he always carried on him, and both Meg and Allan looked at him, seriously concerned, then Guy threw the knife before Allan could stop him.
The knife cut the rope that Allan had used to tie the wrists of Meg and the girl looked at her hands, amazed that she had been released.
She glanced fearfully at Guy and Gisborne pointed at the door of the camp.
“No one holds you captive. If you want it so much, go. I’ll come to attend your wedding with one of the sheriff's allies, or at your funeral, and next time I will think twice before risking my life to save an ungrateful, silly girl.”
Allan looked at him, wondering if he had gone mad and started to protest, but Guy ignored him completely and went to lie down on one of the bunks, covering his face with his arm to shield it from the light.
“What do you want, Allan?” He asked shortly after, feeling a presence near the bunk and, receiving no answer, he moved his arm to watch.
Standing next to him there wasn’t Allan, but the girl.
“Weren’t you eager to go?” He asked, unfriendly, and Meg snorted.
“Like I really could.”
“Who's going to stop you?”
“You know very well that I don’t have a safe place where I can run.”
Guy looked at her, and gave her a small wry smile.
“Then why did you do such a fuss?”
Meg stared at him, pouting.
“I can’t stand being told what to do. In fact, I don’t understand how you can blindly obey that kind of toad of the sheriff.”
“I already told you, I don’t work for him anymore. And if I don’t rebel openly it’s because it would be useless and it would only put at risk not only my life. Other persons would be in danger.”
“But I agree on the definition of toad.” Allan spoke up, with an amused smile. He had kept an eye on Guy and Meg, fearing a clash between them, but now they both seemed to have calmed down.
“Now that we've established that you're not going to go around alone in the forest, can I also count on the fact that today you have already made your daily act of violence against me and therefore you won’t try to kill me in my sleep?” Guy asked, returning to cover his face with his arm.
“Don’t worry Giz, sleep well, I'll stay with Meg.”
Allan smiled at the girl, who gave him a wary look in return.

Robin urged the horse to reach the camp as soon as possible. None of his companions were in a hurry to return there, but he was a bit worried about leaving Guy and Allan alone with the girl and he had promised to Gisborne that he would be back before sunset.
He flicked open the door and he was concerned to hear that the camp was surrounded by dead silence, then he saw Gisborne, lying on his bunk, completely motionless.
He approached him, more and more worried and was relieved to see that the black knight was just asleep. Before waking him, he looked for Allan and Meg and he found them sitting near the fire, in silence.
Allan was too busy chewing the lunch leftovers to speak, while the girl was staring at the fire thoughtfully, unusually quiet.
Robin gave a sigh of relief and then he shook slightly Guy to wake him.
Gisborne opened his eyes with a start and recognized Robin.
“Oh, it’s you.”
“That's how you supervise Meg?”
Guy yawned and shook his head.
“She doesn’t need it, she has no intention of escaping. And still there is Allan with her.”
Robin gave him a surprised look, then he smirked, amused.
“In any case, you're becoming a little too predictable, Gisborne. Lately all you do is sleeping.”
“It’s not so strange considering that I spend most of the nights helping you.”
“By the way, tonight we will have some work to do.”
“Other supplies to be distributed?”
“Unfortunately not. The sheriff has been searching for Meg in the villages. Not finding her, he took the opportunity to arrest anyone who seemed suspicious, and tomorrow morning he will send those men to work in the mines as slaves.”
“Once inside the mines, it will be difficult to get them out, we will have to free them before they are taken there. Is he keeping them in the castle?”
“No, in Clun. He imprisoned them all in a barn near the tavern.”
“So that's where we have to go if we want to free them.”
“It won’t be easy, I'm afraid. There are several armed men guarding them and I have the impression that Vaisey is determined to set a trap for us.”
“Let him try,” Guy said, with a wicked smile. “He never succeeded in stopping Robin Hood and now there is also the Nightwatchman. I just want to see how he can stop us.”
Robin looked at Guy and gave a short nod, but when he spoke again his tone was cautious.
“Now go. They also went to Locksley and to Knighton...”
Gisborne’s expression changed abruptly and Robin Hood saw the worry that clouded his eyes.
“She and Sir Edward are fine, but obviously they were quite agitated. I stopped at Locksley before returning to the camp, but the sheriff was already gone.”
Guy stood up and walked toward the door of the camp.
“Allan, we have to go!” He called and the young man hastened to put down the food and follow him, but he took the time to say goodbye to Meg with a smile.
“Hey, Giz, what happened?” Allan asked hurrying to his horse so Guy wouldn’t leave him behind.
Gisborne explained the situation while they galloped side by side and Allan sighed.
“Are we going back to Locksley?”
Guy wanted with all his heart to say they were, but he forced himself to shake his head.
“We’ll go to Knighton first. Robin went to Locksley before, but I don’t know how the situation in Knighton is. I should have been there.”
“You couldn’t have known.”
“I should have.”
They came to the village at a gallop and Guy was worried seeing no one in the streets, then the door of one of the houses opened, and he saw Mary running toward him, followed soon after by her mother.
The woman grabbed the girl by the arm before she could get close to Guy and Allan, and she pulled her back. Mary burst into tears and buried her face in the skirt of her mother.
“What happened?” Gisborne asked, worried, and the woman gave him a hard look full of despair.
“Where were you? The sheriff took away many of our men, and when he took my husband, Jack came to seek you, but he couldn’t find you, and the soldiers have taken him too.”
“I'll find a way to take them back go home, it's a promise,” Guy said and Allan gave him an uncertain look.
Later, while galloping towards Locksley, Allan looked back at Gisborne.
“How do you think to do that? The sheriff will never let them go, even if you beg him on your knees.”
“We will free them tonight.”
“You and what army?”
“Me and Robin.”
“I’ll come too.”
“No. Just two persons will pass unnoticed more easily. And if anything happens to me, your place is with Marian and Sir Edward, you will need to protect them for me, Allan.”
“Stop it! Don’t talk as if you think you won’t survive! And stop feeling guilty for what happened, you couldn’t do anything to avoid it, anyway.”
“At least I would have had to be there instead of spending the afternoon sleeping”.
“And would have you been able to stand by and watch without reacting? Even Robin and the others couldn’t prevent the sheriff to arrest those men. No, it’s better you weren’t there, Giz.”

Marian kept walking back and forth across the room, looking out of the door every few moments, anguished.
When she saw the horses of Guy and Allan, she ran out, going towards the two men.
Gisborne reined in, dismounted before the animal was completely stopped and hugged the girl.
“Are you well?” He asked eagerly and Marian shook her head, her eyes filled with tears.
“They came this afternoon as if they owned the whole world and they started to chase people from their homes in order to rummage everywhere. I saw them drag a sick woman out of her house, and then, when they found nothing, they took away many men, accusing them of non-existent crimes...”
Guy stroked her cheek softly and avoided reminding her that maybe the sheriff was not the master of the world, but he owned the village of Locksley.
“Did they also search our house?”
Marian gave him a burning look of anger.
“It was the first they began with. The sheriff has personally searched your room, Guy. And when they left the house, it was completely devastated. Thornton and the servants have been working till now to fix it and they have not finished yet...”
Gisborne exchanged a look of relief with Allan: thankfully the costume of the Nightwatchman wasn’t hidden in the house, but inside a hollow tree in the forest.
“Certainly he sought an excuse to arrest me too, but he may not have found anything compromising.”
He broke away from her with a sigh and they began to walk toward the house.
“Where were you, Guy? If you had been here maybe you could have done something to stop them! To prevent them to take away those poor people!”
Gisborne shook his head.
“No. I wouldn’t have done anything.” He said flatly.
“How can you say that?”
“There was nothing I could have done. And I hope you have had enough sense and you didn’t try to fight the sheriff.”
Marian stopped in front of him, to look at him indignantly.
“If I didn’t oppose him, it was only because my father and Thornton have stopped me, but I should have done it, and you should have done it too!”
“It would have been very stupid of us.”
“You'd just have stood there watching?” Marian asked, incredulous.
“Marian, Giz's right, to resist would only have made things worse.” Allan said, trying to calm her down, but Marian moved her angry glare on him.
“And how can you say that since neither of you was here?! You haven’t seen how they treated those poor people! Who knows what they'll do to the prisoners now...”
“They will work in the mines.” Guy said grimly.
“But it's like a death sentence! We must do something to free them!”
Guy banged his fist on the table, startling the other two.
“No! We can do nothing! I can’t do it, Allan can’t do that, and especially you can’t do it!”
“And who can stop me?”
“I, damn it! Take every stupid idea that could come into your mind off your head, or...”
Marian’s slap interrupted him suddenly and Guy stared at the angry girl.
You have no right to tell me what to do,” Marian said, her voice full of contempt.
“But I have that right,” Sir Edward said, entering the room and watching his daughter with a stern look. “And of course I've never taught to behave in this way. Sir Guy is right and forbid you to take any initiative.”
Guy stared at Marian for a moment, hurt by her words, then without another word he turned away and went upstairs. The other three heard him slamming the door of his room with violence and Allan shook his head.
“You have exaggerated, Marian. Giz just wants to protect you, you shouldn’t have told him those things.”
“But how can you ignore what they are going to do to those poor people?”
“I think Sir Guy knows it all too well,” Sir Edward said sadly. “but he also knows what could happen to all of us if he were to openly oppose the sheriff.”

Guy stood with his back to the door of the room and touched his cheek with his hand. It was still burning because of Marian’s slap, but what really hurt him was the contempt he had heard in her voice.
You have no right...
It was true, he had no right to tell her what to do, he wasn’t her husband nor her betrothed for the moment, but he couldn’t allow her to take risks, and he couldn’t tell her that he actually was going do something to liberate the peasants arrested by the sheriff.
With a sigh he barred the door behind him and sat down on the bed, staring into the fire that flickered in the fireplace. He waited for nightfall, and when the shadows of the night invaded the room, he went to the open window. He climbed on the sill and lowered himself silently. He took one last look at the lighted window of the main hall, and he was able to see that Allan, Marian and Sir Edward were sitting at the table, each focusing on their plates to avoid having to talk to the other two.
Guy allowed himself a long moment to look at the face of Marian and he vowed that if he survived he would do anything to win that right, then with a sigh he walked away into the night.

Chapter Text

“You are very silent,” Robin, said placing his horse side to side to the Nightwatchman’s one. “Any problems?”
Guy didn’t answer and Robin repeated his question.
“What?” Guy asked, turning to face him.
“Gisborne, what happened? You're distracted, you weren’t even listening to me.”
Guy was about to say that there was nothing wrong, then he shook his head with a sigh.
“Marian. She thinks I'm a coward because I told her that I could do nothing for the arrested men.”
Robin sensed that there had to be something else that Guy didn’t want to mention, but he chose not to investigate further.
“You're not a coward. And you're doing something.”
“But she will never know, she will continue to believe that I don’t care at all.”
“If this is such a big problem, just tell her you're the Nightwatchman.”
“No! If Marian should know what I'm doing, how could we prevent her from taking risks too? How could I tell her that rebelling against the sheriff would endanger the lives of her father and of all of us, if she knew that I am the first to do so? No. She cannot know.”
“Then you have to accept the fact of not being a hero in her eyes.”
Guy nodded.
“I know, but it hurts.”
“I can imagine, but now forget it. You can’t afford to be distracted, or you'll end up getting both of us killed. Now you are the Nightwatchman and you must focus on freeing the prisoners and getting back home in one piece. The problems of Guy of Gisborne at the moment shouldn’t affect you.”
Robin was right, Guy thought, but he didn’t say it aloud. That night he had to focus only on his mission: first, he had to survive and then he would have ample time to clear things up with Marian in one way or another.
“How many of the sheriff's men are on guard?” He asked.
“I don’t know exactly, at least a dozen around the barn, but I suspect that others are lurking in nearby buildings to take us into a trap.”
“I asked Much and Little John to create a diversion, but we shouldn’t count on it: the sheriff may have instructed the guards not to be distracted.”
“That’s possible too. Do you already know how to act?”
“Don’t worry, I have a plan.”
“No, you don’t.”
Robin laughed.
“True. But we'll get through somehow, trust me.”
“If I didn’t trust you, I wouldn’t be here.”

Marian knocked quietly on the door of Guy's room and she sighed when she realized that she wouldn’t receive any answer.
She was still distressed because of the events of the afternoon, but she realized that she had overreacted and that she had been unfair to Guy.
To think of the slap, and of the angry words she had told him, made her blush with shame. She felt guilty, she had been carried away by her emotions, but she only managed to hurt Guy once again.
How could have she talked with so much contempt to the person she loved? She couldn’t blame him if he didn’t want talk to her now.
She knocked again, a little louder this time.
“Guy? Please, answer me...”
Marian left on a bench the tray she had brought with her, and she sat on the ground, leaning against the door with her back.
It was not the first time that Gisborne closed his door, refusing to speak to her, but whereas in the past he did it to protect her, now he was simply offended and hurt, and he had every reason to be.
Marian would have preferred to hear him shouting at her rather than having to collide against this cold silence.
“I'm sorry,” she said, bursting in tears “I'm so sorry! I should never have talked to you like that... I love you, Guy, I want to spend the rest of my life by your side and if you want to have the right to tell me what to do, you just have to ask and I will answer yes. Please, open this door and tell me that you want it too.”
After saying those words, Marian would have expected a reaction from Guy, at least one small opening to discuss or clarify their feelings, but she received no response.
The girl could not imagine that she had spoken to an empty room, and she thought that this time Guy had to really be angry with her. Perhaps she had managed to ruin everything.
She wept for a while, then she wiped her eyes and stood up, taking a decision.
The fact that Gisborne had not reacted in any way to her supplication, hurt her pride and kindled in her a certain irritation.
She had apologized sincerely, she had confessed her feelings and she told him explicitly that she would marry him, when in fact it should have been him to make his proposal, so why did he continue to ignore her?
Well, she said, if Guy didn’t want to talk to her, and he didn’t consider her worthy of his attention, then she was not bound to obey him.
After all, she was still convinced that someone had to free the men arrested by the sheriff, and if no one had the courage to do it, it was time for the Nightwatchman to came back into action.
She no longer had her costume, but it was not necessary. She returned to her room, she tore a strip of dark fabric from the edge of an old garment, she cut two holes for the eyes in it, and she tied it on her face in place of the mask. Marian put on comfortable clothes, an old cloak with a hood and she slipped out of the house, through the window. She took a horse from the stable, saddled it quietly and then she guided it out of the stables without mounting until she was far enough from the house not to be heard.
She had heard that the arrested men had been brought in Clun and she headed in that direction, spurring her horse into a gallop.
She felt sad, guilty, angry, and hurt, but she couldn’t help but feel a certain euphoria as she rode at full speed into the night, with her makeshift mask on the face: she had missed that feeling, she had missed being the Nightwatchman.

Robin crawled through the boxes of supplies, he reached the window and peered out, following with his eyes the movements of the guards along the road, then he returned to Gisborne.
The two men had entered into the storeroom of the tavern and they hid themselves among barrels and crates of food because from the window of that building it was possible to have a good view of the shed where the men had been imprisoned.
“We can’t enter through the main door, it’s too well guarded... What are you doing?” Robin asked, noting that Guy was rummaging among the shelves lined up along the walls of the storeroom.
“We'll have to wait for the end of their shift, that will be an opportunity to pass unnoticed. And since we still have some time I'm looking for something to eat.”
Robin looked at him, incredulously.
“We're going to risk our lives and you think about food?”
“I'm hungry. I skipped dinner to argue with Marian, and anyway in this tavern they owe me a decent meal. Ah. I found cheese, you want some?”
“You're not quite normal, you know that, right?” Robin said, smiling, but he accepted the food and sat down beside Guy to eat it.
“If I was, I wouldn’t be here, risking everything to save people who hate me, don’t you think?”
Robin smiled and he handed him something that he had just taken from a barrel.
“Here, you have earned one of your stupid apples.”
Guy bit into the fruit, amused.
“Would you have ever imagined this, Hood?”
Gisborne made a vague gesture with his hand.
“All of this. You and I fighting together, we'd never have believed that only a few months ago.”
“I would have called a madman whoever could suggest such a situation. But I must be mad too because I don’t think it’s so absurd, now.”
Guy recovered two empty mugs from one of the shelves, filled them with wine from one of the barrels, and he handed one to Robin Hood.
“A toast to madness then.”
“For once I agree with you. Although, at this point, I don’t know if we should fear more being caught by the sheriff's guards or by the tavern owners.”
Guy grinned.
“They deserve it, the last time I was here, they spit in my food and I don’t even want to know what they may have done with my wine.”
Robin looked at him, shaking his head with amusement, then they both returned serious, hearing a commotion outside the building.
Guy covered his face again with the mask and they both came to the window to look out: three guards were left at the door of the shed, but the others were running down the street.
“Get him!” a soldier shouted “It's the Nightwatchman!”
Guy and Robin exchanged a worried look, thinking they had been spotted, but the soldiers passed under their window without looking up.
Other guards sprang out from nearby buildings, as they had imagined, and Guy gasped when he noticed that all the soldiers were chasing a single person, her face hidden under the hood of a gray cloak.
“Marian!” Guy exclaimed and Robin turned to him, aghast.
“Tuck gave me that cloak, I left it in Locksley. Marian must have taken it... She thought that I wouldn’t do anything to help these men and then she decided to do it herself!”
Guy was about to jump out the window to reach the girl, but Robin stopped him.
“Wait! You can’t go down there blindly, or the guards will kill both of you!”
“Let me go immediately! I have to protect her!”v
“I’m not saying that you don’t have to save her, but calm down and think. Look, she has taken refuge in that stable and she barred the door: we have some time and I have a plan.”
“One of your plans, Hood?”
Robin touched his shoulder in a comforting gesture.
“Usually they work, don’t they?” He said, gently. “Now listen, and trust me.”
Guy nodded weakly and Robin continued.
“I know that stable, on the back of it there are some loose boards, and sometimes the young people of Clun enter from there to take the girls in the stable with them. If you can get to that passage, you can get inside and take Marian away without the soldiers can see you.”
Robin explained how to find the hidden passage and Guy looked at him skeptically.
“The young people of Clun, eh? You know too many details for being just hearsay.”
The outlaw smiled innocently.
“Now go. Don’t let them see you because I won’t be able to come and save you right away.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to free the prisoners, of course.”
“Do you have a plan?”
“I'll find one.”
Guy chuckled.
“Typical of you. Don’t get yourself killed, Hood.”
“Same for you, Gisborne.”
Guy slipped out the back door of the storeroom to get to the stable, passing through the back streets, while Robin took his bow and put it on his shoulder, then he drew his sword and jumped out the window, preparing to confront the three soldiers who were on guard.

Chapter Text

I'm dead. This time I am dead.
Allan spurred his horse, riding to Clun faster than he ever did in his life.
Marian was gone and Allan was absolutely certain that the girl had gone looking for trouble, and equally sure that she would find them.
After a dinner consumed in an awkward silence, Allan had seen her going upstairs despondently.
Noting that she had tears streaming down her cheeks, Allan had decided not to follow her, to allow her to vent her sadness without inconvenient witnesses.
Later, Allan had climbed the stairs and knocked on the door of her room to see how she was feeling, but he had no answer. A bit worried, he tried to turn the handle and the door opened, revealing a deserted room.
Then, Allan’s concern had turned into horror.
If something were to happen to her, Giz will kill me. I just had to keep an eye on her, it wasn’t so hard, was it?

Guy looked around to make sure the alley was deserted and he walked quickly to the back wall of the stable, starting to touch the tables to find the loose ones described by Robin and praying that no one had thought to repair them.
Finally he felt the wall giving way under his hands and he looked at the gap that he had managed to open: it was narrower and lower than he had thought, and he estimated that in order to use it to enter the stable, he would have to lie down on the ground and crawl into the opening.
He wasted no time, the guards could patrol the street at any moment.
Guy threw himself to the ground and entered the passage, crawling on the dirty floor of the stable.
Nice place to take the girls for a date, Robin, congratulations. Wallowing in the muck is so romantic...
He got up off the ground quickly, but he remained hidden in the horse’s box where the passage opened. The animal didn’t seem to notice him and Guy began to look around for Marian.
He moved cautiously, coming out of the box and a moment later he was forced to duck to avoid being hit by a stick heading for his head.
He jumped to the side and he looked back at the girl, allowing himself a brief smile when he saw that she was holding a broom as a weapon and that she was ready to fight.
Now that he had found her, he had to save her, and, as in the case of Meg, Guy had the impression that Marian would not make things easy for him.
She pounced on him, determined to unmask the false Nightwatchman and Guy grabbed a shovel, raising it in front of him to parry the blow with its handle.
Marian’s stick bounced back and the girl spun it to try again to hit her opponent, but again the other Nightwatchman managed to block the blow.
They both jumped back and studied each other, trying to figure out in advance what would be the next move.
Guy looked at Marian, her pride and her grace barely concealed by the scarf that covered her face and by her cloak, and he found himself smiling.
That’s another reason why I love you...
The girl snapped forward in an attempt to hit him in the head and Guy rolled sideways, stretching his leg to try to strike at her ankles with a kick, but Marian was able to avoid him doing a backflip and landing lightly on her feet. Gisborne ran toward her to attack her again, prepared for her reaction and decided to immobilize her and to drag her out of that stable.
If it weren’t for the sheriff's men lurking, Guy would have found that fight rather amusing and he wouldn’t have had such a hurry to finish it, but he knew that he had to, both for Marian and Robin’s sake.

Robin Hood dragged the bodies of the unconscious guards in the barn so they couldn’t be seen by any soldiers on patrol and then he entered the shed.
The men who had been arrested in the villages were chained to each other and they were lying on the ground. Many were asleep, exhausted by fatigue and fear, but others moaned, scared, or prayed in a low voice, looking for courage or hope. Among them there were also children and adolescents, trembling with fear.
Robin approached one of the awake men, and he motioned for him to be quiet.
“I'm here to free you, but I will need your cooperation,” he whispered, and he began fiddling with the point of a knife on the lock of the handcuffs of the man. “If any of you is able to open these chains do it and then help the others.”
“But after that, what will we do? There are armed soldiers out there!”
“They'll kill us all!”
Robin raised his hands to tell them to be quiet.
“Get out of here in groups of two or three at a time and each group must take a different direction. My men and I will distract the soldiers, but you can’t go home, hide in the forest. But now we have to escape.”

Little John and Much saw the horse approaching at a gallop and they stood in the road to intercept him.
“Allan!” Much cried, recognizing the young man. “What are you doing here?”
“Where are Robin and Giz?”
“In the village. Robin will make us a signal when they need a diversion. But shouldn’t you be in Locksley? Gisborne said...”
“Marian has disappeared! I think she's coming here to try to free the prisoners, have you seen her?”
“No, but there is also another road to the village.”
“I have to look for her, or at least warn Giz.”
Little John stopped him by grabbing the reins of his horse.
“I do not trust Gisborne, but Robin does. He counts on him for this mission, if you go to tell him that Marian is gone, he’ll leave Robin alone and he’ll put him in danger.”
Allan looked at him, incredulously.
“Would you leave Marian to her fate? If anything happens, I don’t dare to think about the reaction of Giz.”
“We're going to look for her. The three of us” Little John said and Much approved, nodding.
“All right.” Allan said, dismounting to tie the horse out of the village. “Let's go.”

Guy exchanged more blows with Marian and in the end he managed to knock her broom out of her hand. Gisborne approached her, preparing to immobilize her and to take her out of the stable.
If it were necessary, he was ready to stun her to drag her away from there, but he hoped he wouldn’t be forced to do it, he hated the idea of hitting her, even for a good purpose.
He understood from the look in her eyes that Marian had no intention of giving up and he got ready to attack her with a sigh. But he didn’t have the time to do it, because the doors of the stable gave way under the blows of the sheriff’s soldiers and they suddenly burst open.
With a leap, Gisborne threw himself on Marian and he dragged her to the ground with him, leaping into a pile of straw to hide themselves from the eyes of the soldiers.
He pinned her to the ground with his body to keep her from moving and he motioned for her to remain silent, hoping she wouldn’t rebel, then he stood still and held his breath, hoping that the hiding place offered from the straw was sufficient to keep them out of the view of the sheriff’s guards.
Marian could feel that the false Nightwatchman was very still, trying to breathe as little as possible and she found herself imitating him in spite of herself. Even if she tried, she’d have struggled to breathe normally because the weight of the stranger was heavy on her chest, but the fear of being discovered by soldiers was a further incentive to remain silent.
Marian thought she had been a fool.
When she faced the false Nightwatchman, she had forgotten the men who were hunting her and she had concentrated only on her desire to unmask him, but now she was terrified at the thought that the sheriff's men could capture her.
If they arrested her she wouldn’t be the only one to die, but she would bring a terrible fate even on her father and on Guy, giving the sheriff a pretext to take his revenge.
In that moment she really realized the meaning of the words that Guy had told her earlier, and why Gisborne had lost his control, shouting against her.
She had accused him, saying that he didn’t worry about the prisoners, but only now she understood that Guy had just been aware of the danger from the beginning.
She had acted on impulse and what had she solved? She couldn’t free the men of the villages and she had endangered them all.
She wanted to cry, but she forced herself to fight back the tears. Even though she was afraid, she had to to keep calm and to be ready to take advantage of the slightest opportunity to escape.
She wondered what the impostor’s intentions were: he had fought against her, but when the stable doors had burst open, he had dragged her away from the danger and now he was shielding her with his body.
They were so close that the Marian face was pressed against the chest of the man, and she could feel the beat of his heart, accelerated as hers. She was suddenly all too aware of that forced proximity and she was happy to be in the dark and that she had her face covered, otherwise the blush she felt on her cheeks would have been way too evident.
One of the soldiers who had entered the stable tripped in a bucket and the sudden noise startled both Marian and the false Nightwatchman. Involuntarily she clung to the stranger's coat, shaking with tension.

Robin appeared on the barn door, motioning the prisoners to stay behind him. He used his bow to shoot a flaming arrow up in the sky.
A few streets away, Much noticed the signal and pointed it to Allan and Little John.
“Look, Robin needs us!”
The three men hurried to open stables and corrals, and to make the horses run, hitting them with their hands on the flanks to make them gallop through the streets of the village. Then they also ran to reach the place where Robin was waiting for them.
They saw some soldiers who were trying to stop the runaway horses without noticing the small groups of peasants running out of the barn and disappearing without any trace between the houses.
Allan, Much and Little John reached Robin to help him to save every man.
“Robin, we have a problem.” Allan said, as soon as the last group of prisoners had fled.
“Marian, I guess. She has taken refuge in that stable and Guy went there to try to take her away from there.”
“Then I hope he already succeeded because otherwise we have another problem. Look!”
Allan pointed to the soldiers who were approaching the building with flaming torches in their hands.

Guy waited for the soldiers to enter the stable before he moved. He knew it was only a matter of time before they would find them and he saw that those men were using their swords to stab into the piles of straw and into hay bales to try to find the Nightwatchman.
He motioned to the girl not to move, then he stood quietly and drew his bow.
He shot an arrow and nocked another one, hitting two of soldiers before they could notice his presence.
The others turned and tried to attack him, but Guy hit two more of them and the remaining ones decided it was wiser to retreat for a while and they ran out the door.
Guy motioned for Marian to move toward the back of the stable, but the girl shook her head, so Gisborne grabbed her by an arm and pulled her to her feet, throwing her with a push inside the box where there was the passage. He looked at the stable door to decide whether he would have time to get himself in the horse box to escape along with Marian, but, as soon as he looked away to glance at the girl, an arrow barely missed him, so he turned back to look at the door and he used the bow to keep the soldiers away.
If he tried to escape, they would reach him in a few moments and they would kill him by shooting at his back, so he could only stand to defend the door and hope that Marian had enough sense to get away on her own. He took cover behind a bale of hay and kept targeting the door.
At least, he thought, the soldiers thought that there was only one Nightwatchman in the stable, so, as long as they continued to focus their attention on him, Marian would go unnoticed. Even if they should kill him, no one would continue to look for her and the girl would be safe.
Guy took a deep breath and he wondered why the soldiers weren’t attacking anymore.
Then he saw the smoke.

Chapter Text

Marian got up from the floor and she looked warily at the door of the box in which she had been pushed by the false Nightwatchman: the man was standing in the middle of the barn, only repaired by some hay bales and he was aiming at the soldiers who were trying to enter the building.
She thought that she should look for a way to escape, as long as she had the chance to do it, but she didn’t move and she stared at the impostor. Whoever he was, she had to admit that he had the courage to face the enemies like that, and that he was also quite skilled with the bow, not like Robin of course, but not too far from him.
A disturbing crackle startled her, bringing to her mind the terrible memory of the fire that burned Knighton Hall. Marian looked around and she saw the flames that were burning the wall of the stable in many points. The air began to fill with smoke and the horses pawed the ground in panic.
Marian opened the door of the box and she flattened herself against the fence, to avoid being trampled by the animal on the run, and when she looked back, a wall of fire separated her from the other Nightwatchman.
She looked around in a panic and she screamed when a hand touched her shoulder from behind.
“Quiet, it's me! Come, hurry!”
“Allan!” Marian looked at the young man, in disbelief “How...”
“There is a passage, hurry up before everything begins to collapse.”
The girl glanced at the stable, overrun by flames.
“That man is trapped...” she said, hesitating, but Allan shook his head and squeezed her wrist, pulling her toward the gap in the wall.
“We can do nothing for him, come.”
“But he will die!”
“Robin Hood will help him.”
“He's here?”
“He released the prisoners. Come on, there's no time!”
Allan dragged her and Marian followed him, too upset to resist. She let Allan helping her to lie to the ground and slipping into the narrow opening, while other hands from the outside grabbed her and pulled her through the opening.
Little John helped her to her feet, while Much was pushing aside the boards of the wall so Allan could crawl out more smoothly.
They watched the barn on fire for a few moments, then Allan talked to the two outlaws.
“Take her to Locksley before someone recognizes her.”
“Aren’t you coming?” Marian asked.
“Not with you dressed like this. If someone should see me with the Nightwatchman, they would automatically discover your true identity. I will come using another road. Now hurry up before the soldiers return!”
Much and Little John ran away, dragging Marian between them and, as soon as they were gone, Allan went around the building to reach the entrance of the stable.

Guy watched in horror as the flames surrounded him. The fire started by the soldiers had spread incredibly quickly, fueled by dry straw and hay.
He could hear the horses whinning desperately, terrified. One of them passed him at a gallop and bumped into him, knocking him to the ground. When Guy was able to get up, he realized with horror that the fall had disoriented him and through the smoke he could not see where the door was.
If he had known, he would try to get out at the risk of being hit by the arrows of the soldiers, the very idea of burning to death terrified him.
Pulling back from the flames, he found a bucket full of water and he used it to get soaked, but he knew all too well that it wouldn’t help much, and doing so he would only postpone a little the inevitable.
He curled up to the ground, covering his face with his hands and he closed his eyes, trembling. He was convinced that now he had no chance to save himself, when he heard a voice calling him in the middle of the roaring fire.
“Guy! Where are you?! Answer to me! Gisborne!”
“Hood?” Guy whispered, incredulous, then he cried the outlaw name. “Hood! I'm here! Help me!”
A moment later Robin Hood appeared jumping through the fire, wrapped in a wet blanket, and he held out a hand to Gisborne to help him up from the ground. Guy took refuge under the blanket with him.
“Can you make it?” Robin asked. “We'll have to cross the flames.”
Guy couldn’t answer and he just nodded. He wasn’t sure that he had the courage to brave the fire, but after all he didn’t have much choice, and if he’d hesitate, Robin would die with him.
He closed his eyes and let Robin to guide him through the wall of flames.
“Giz! Robin! This way!”
Allan ran toward them as he saw them appear in the smoke, and he helped them to reach the door and go outside.
The Sheriff's soldiers were no longer in front of the stable: as soon as they realized that they had started a fire that could destroy the entire village, they went away so they couldn’t be accused.
Instead, the people of Clun were hurrying with buckets and shovels to throw water and soil on the flames.
Allan dragged Robin and Guy towards cart loaded with fruit and vegetables, not far from there and helped them to climb on it and lie among the vegetables, then he took the reins and made the horse move, to get away from Clun as soon as possible .

Robin opened his eyes with a start. He hadn’t even realized that he had lost consciousness as soon as Allan helped them to get on the wagon, but it must have happened, because the night air was cool and now they had to be far enough away from Clun that they couldn’t feel the smell of burning wood.
Gisborne was lying next to him and he was still grabbing his hand with such force that his fingers felt numb.
“Guy? Are you hurt?” He asked, softly. Gisborne opened his eyes for a moment and Robin saw that they were full of tears, then Guy closed them again, he shook his head and buried his face against the arm of Robin, and he couldn’t stop shaking.
Allan looked back for a moment to check on them, as he had continued to do every few minutes since they'd come out of Clun, and once again he decided to leave them in peace. They didn’t seem to have suffered serious damage and it was normal that they were both upset after having such a narrow escape from a horrible death.
He drove in silence for a while, then Allan led the wagon along a path that was barely visible and he stopped near the old abandoned barn where sometimes he hid Gisborne’s horse when they exchanged it with the more anonymous one used by the Nightwatchman.
“Hey, Giz. Before returning to Locksley you might want to remove that costume. Wait here, I’ll go to retrieve your clothes from the horse's saddlebags. I won’t be long.”
Guy sat up, looking at him in confusion, as if he had just woken up in the middle of some nightmare, then he nodded.
“Alright, thank you, Allan.” He said quietly, then as soon as Allan had gone, Guy looked back at Robin. “I think that the list of the reasons I have to be grateful to you, just got longer.”
The outlaw smiled weakly.
“I think you’re right.”
“I wouldn’t have been able to go out of that stable on my own...” Guy admitted, then he buried his head in his hands, disconsolately. “What a horrible way to die... If I think about what I did... how they died because of me...”
Guy stopped talking with a shudder, but Robin knew exactly what he was thinking because he couldn’t keep his mind away from the terrible day when they both became orphans.
“You didn’t kill them.”
“I did. I urged my father to come back and then the fire was started because of me. I held this burden since then and I will always do.”
Robin sighed.
“Then it's not only your fault. I gave the alarm, if my father was there it was only because of me.”
Guy looked at him.
“Brothers also in the fault, then?
Robin gave him back a sad smile.
“For the better and for the worse.”

Allan took the Nightwatchman's costume from the hands of Guy and he critically examined it before folding it and hiding it inside a hollow tree.
“I guess I'll have to find time to wash it.” He commented with an amused smile.
“I had to crawl on the ground in a very poorly kept stable, to fight with Marian and to go through a fire, what did you expect?” Guy asked and Allan was glad to see that he seemed to feel a little better.
“Hey, Giz, what will you say to Marian?”
“What do you mean?”
“If I have noticed her absence and I went to look for her, it would seem very strange if you didn't move from Locksley. The way things have gone, you can't simply go back through the window and get out of your room as if nothing had happened.”
“Then I shall enter through the door and I'llsay part of the truth: you warned me, I came to Clun to look for her, but I couldn't find her, then you told me that Hood's men took her to Locksley, so I came back.”
“And this would also explain your agitation. Giz, you look upset.”
“The only problem is the door of my room, it's still locked from the inside...”
Robin smirked, amused.
“I'll take care of it.”

Marian kept her head down, but she looked up to follow the movements of her father who was walking back and forth across the room. Sir Edward was furious and she could remember only a few times when she had seen him so angry. Certainly he had never been so mad at her.
“What you did is unacceptable! At least do you realize how foolish and irresponsible you have been?”
Marian was silent. Normally she wouldn't accept to be scolded like a disobedient child, her pride wouldn't allow it, but in that moment she felt very stupid and very childish and she couldn't blame her father.
“You had been explicitly forbidden to take any kind of initiative...” Sir Edward went on, but his speech was interrupted by the door being opened.
“Guy!” Marian exclaimed, leaping to her feet to run to him. She threw herself into his arms and Guy held her for a moment, before parting from her taking a step back.
Marian looked at him, surprised by the abrupt separation, and she saw that Gisborne looked troubled.
“Guy? Where have you been?” she asked, realizing that he had arrived from the front door and not from the top floor.
“I was in Clun. Looking for you.” Guy said, accusingly and the girl looked down, guiltily.
“I just wanted...”
“What? To free the prisoners? Alone and without a plan? When we all told you that you couldn't do anything?”
“But they would die in the mines...”
“Do you have so little trust in us, Marian? If it were possible to help them in some way, don't you think I would have done it? Do you consider me such a coward?”
Marian sighed.
“I thought...”
“No! I thought you were dead! Do you have the faintest idea of how I felt when I found out that the Nightwatchman was trapped in a burning stable? You could have died, do you realize it?!”
Guy stopped, too agitated to keep talking and it was Allan who continued for him.
“Even Giz could have died. If I had not found you in time to tell him that you were safe, he would come in there to look for you. And if they caught you, the sheriff would hang you and we'd keep you company on the gallows as your accomplices.”
“I'm sorry... I'm so sorry...” Marian whispered, then she burst into tears and she ran upstairs to take refuge in her room.
Guy reached her at the door and he stopped her hugging her from behind and holding her in his arms. He kissed her hair, and for a while he just held her without saying anything, then Marian turned in his arms and her face rested on his chest, still crying.
Guy wiped her tears with his hand, stopping to stroke her cheek.
“Sorry” Marian sobbed and Gisborne touched her lips with a finger.
“No need to apologize, I am not mad at you.” He took a deep breath and Marian noticed that he had tears in his eyes. “I was just afraid to lose you. Please, promise me you won't do anything like that again. Promise. I don't know what I'd do if something bed happened to you...”
Guy held her tighter and Marian raised her face to kiss him.
The terror of that night, the secrets, the anguish and the weight of past memories seemed to vanish from Guy's heart in the moment when his lips touched Marian's one.
Gisborne knew that they would definitely come back, but it didn't matter: he and Marian were alive and they were together, everything else could wait.
It was only later, after they both had retreated into their rooms to try and get some rest after that exhausting night, that Guy realized that Marian had not made any promises.
Gisborne sighed.
Surely that girl would get in trouble again, sooner or later.
But it didn't matter, Guy thought with a smile, he was ready to save her every time.

Chapter Text

Marian stopped her horse and she waited for Guy to join her, then she put the animal into a trot again, and smiled.
“You shouldn’t let me win on purpose. Not so openly, at least.”
Gisborne dusted one sleeve of his jacket with his hand.
“I didn’t let you win, I fell.”
Marian looked at him, worried.
“Are you hurt?”
“Only my pride. The bush that I failed to jump cushioned the fall.”
Marian leaned forward in her seat and reached out to take away a leaf from his hair.
“The only important thing is that you are well.”
“Do not worry, I am unhurt. But I'd better have the horseshoes checked when we get to Nottingham, my stallion never jibbed like that before.”
“Let's stop for a few minutes.” Marian proposed, not entirely convinced by Guy’s words. “Look, we can sit in the shade of that tree and wait for my father and Allan to reach us.”
Gisborne agreed with her idea, and dismounted. He knew perfectly well that he wasn’t hurt in the fall, but he was moved to see that Marian was worried for him, and it wouldn’t be a problem for him to play along to calm her fears.
The girl spread her cloak on the ground and motioned for Guy to sit down, then she knelt beside him and brushed a strand of hair away from his face to make sure he was not injured. She took a handkerchief to wipe some dirt that had stuck to his cheek and she picked some other leafs from Guy’s hair, lingering with her fingers to touch his head, in search of hidden wounds.
“Did you hit your head when you fell?”
“No. But I may have a scratch here.”
Guy pointed to a spot at the side of his mouth and Marian leaned on him to check it.
“I can’t see anything. Does it hurt?” The girl asked, getting nearer to have a better look, and Guy took the opportunity to kiss her, then he smiled innocently.
“Then I must be wrong.”
The girl laughed, shaking her head in mock resignation.
“You're terrible, Guy.”
“Are you saying you dislike it?”
Marian smiled.
“Maybe you really have a scratch there... Let me check better.”

Allan was a bit worried when he saw the horses of Guy and Marian standing at the side of the road, but he was reassured when he saw his friends sitting in the shade of a tree, completely lost in a world of their own.
Gisborne was sitting with his back against the trunk, smiling while he talked, while Marian was crouched on the ground beside him, with her eyes fixed on his face, and concentrated on his words.
Allan thought that it was rare to see an expression so serene on the black knight's face and he was almost sorry to break the spell with his arrival.
Guy and Marian noticed the wagon, and stopped talking. Guy stood up and held out a hand to Marian to help her, then he picked up the cloak, he shook it to clean it, and he put it back on the shoulders of the girl.
“Hey Giz, I thought you were already arrived in Nottingham.”
“Guy fell from his horse.”
Edward looked at him.
“Did you get hurt, Sir Guy?”
“No, but I think I'll have to have the shoes of my horse checked; there must be something wrong with them, otherwise he wouldn’t have thrown me.”
Gisborne mounted and trotted alongside the wagon, following the pace of its horses and Marian followed suit, remaining close to Guy.
People would gossip if they saw them get into town so close to each other, but she did not care, she wouldn’t allow anything to ruin such a peaceful day.
After the discussion of a few weeks ago, there were no other reasons for conflict between them, and Guy seemed to have completely forgotten both the slap and her cruel words, but Marian wondered why he had never mentioned the words that she had spoken through the closed door.
She had virtually asked him to marry her, he shouldn’t ignore her words like that.
She decided to ignore that annoying thought. Guy had already demonstrated his love in many ways, and he continued to do it every day, she just had to trust him.
Once they arrived in the city, Marian waited for her father to come down from the wagon, then she entrusted her horse to Allan. Guy instead led the horse by the bridle after he dismounted. He would seek a blacksmith while Marian and Sir Edward did their shopping at the market.

Guy snorted in exasperation, noticing that the customers of the farrier had fled as soon as he arrived.
The man, clearly irritated, stared at Gisborne with hostility, without loosening his grip on the hammer in his hand.
Guy put the bag of coins in his hand, and smiled crookedly.
“I imagine that now it’s my turn.”
The farrier took the money with a grunt of assent, and Guy told him to check and adjust the horse shoes, then he decided to wait a few meters down the road, away from the fierce gaze of the other. He suspected that if some other customers should run away because of him, the blacksmith would eventually throw the hammer, or something equally painful, at him.
He leaned his back against a fence, and crossed his arms, watching the people who were passing along the road. Most of the people were moving far away from him as soon as they noticed his presence, and Guy began to regret not having waited for Allan.
The presence of his friend could at least dispel that feeling of being isolated from the rest of the world, as if he were a leper.
He noticed a coach that was passing in the street and he wondered if it was some of the sheriff’s guests, going to the castle.
The vehicle was not displaying colors or coat of arms of any noble family, and it was completely anonymous. Even the driver wasn’t wearing any livery, and Guy wondered if that simplicity was intended to hide some new intrigue from Vaisey.
The carriage stopped in front of him and Guy looked up, curiously.
An elderly man opened the door and stared at Gisborne for a few seconds.
“I know who you are.” He said, looking at his face.
Guy gave a wry smile.
“It’s difficult to find someone who doesn’t know me, around here. What do you want from me? Is someone in your family dead because of me, or did I take away your harvest, or your tax money?”
The man raised an eyebrow, puzzled by those words, then he pointed a finger at Guy.
“You are the son of the leper and the French woman.”
Guy looked at him, surprised that anyone could remember his parents after such a long time, but couldn’t remember who the old man was. Perhaps he had already met him when he was a kid, but, if this was the case, time had left its mark on this man because Guy wasn’t able to recognize him.
“They died many years ago.”
“May they rest in peace. But their secret is not dead.”
Guy frowned.
“What do you mean? What are you insinuating?”
“So that's true. You're not aware of it.”
“What? Talk!”
“This is not the right place. Come with me and I’ll tell you everything.”
Guy hesitated, and he cast a wary look to the man. That conversation was taking an unpleasant turn, but he wanted to find out what he had to say about his parents.
He didn’t like the idea of getting into the carriage with him, but in the end he would have nothing to fear: the man was elderly and frail, the coachman just a boy, and Guy was armed and ready to defend himself.
He pulled out his curved dagger and climbed into the carriage, sitting in front of the old man.
“Now tell me what you know about my parents.” He said, in a threatening tone.
The man made a sign to tell the coachman to leave, then he smiled at Guy with a peaceful expression on his face.
“You'll have to wait.”
Gisborne looked at him, ready to put the knife to his throat to force him to talk, then he winced when he felt a sting on his own neck.
He spun around, and saw that the coachman had opened a little window, hidden in the panel behind Guy, and hit him with a sort of dart.
Guy ripped it from his neck and he moved to attack the old man, but he collapsed on the seat before he could reach him.
The dagger slipped from his fingers as he lost consciousness, and the old man picked it up and placed it on the seat beside him, looking at Guy.
When he was sure he was asleep, he leaned toward him and unbuckled his sword belt from his waist, taking possession of that weapon too, then he sat back, leaning his back against the seat, and smiled as the coach pulled away from Nottingham.

Chapter Text

Robin pointed to the cloud of dust in the distance as he spoke to Much.
“Get ready, a wagon is coming.”
They waited, hidden behind a bush by the roadside, until they saw that the carriage was near.
Robin smiled seeing that it wasn’t escorted by armed men, and that it wasn’t the wagon of some peasant.
Much and Robin went out into the open, aiming their bows at the coachman, and the carriage stopped. An elderly man opened the door to see what was happening, and Robin smiled at him.
“Give us a tenth of your money and we’ll let you go. Consider it an offer to help the poor. If you try to resist, we will take it all.”
“Who are you?”
“Robin Hood.”
“I've heard of you, you do good to those who need help. I will give you what you want, but you'll have to come and get it: my legs aren’t strong anymore like they used to be, and the coffer with the money is too heavy for me to be lifted without help.”
Robin approached cautiously, while Much kept pointing the bow at the driver. Robin opened the door and looked inside the carriage: there was no box with the money, but on the seat opposite to the old man, he saw Guy of Gisborne, unconscious and tied.
Robin spun around to warn Much, but his friend had slumped to the ground, motionless. Robin felt a sting on his neck, then his senses dimmed and he fell on the floor of the carriage.
The old man stood up to take his weapons and he threw Robin’s bow and sword out of the carriage door, then, after a moment's thought, he also threw Gisborne’s weapons near the unconscious body of Much. Then he closed the door, and the carriage drove off.
The old man looked at the two men lying asleep in front of him, and he allowed himself a satisfied smile.
“Well, Robin of Locksley, you've saved me a trip.”

Marian waited beside the wagon, annoyed.
She and Edward had finished their purchases and they have been waiting for a while. Guy and Allan should already have returned, but there was no sign of either of them.
Marian sighed, she was almost certain that Allan had dragged Guy at the tavern with him, and that idea made her nervous. She still remembered with anger and sorrow what happened there: she saw Guy coming down from the upper floor of the tavern with his clothes in disorder and tousled hair.
She was almost ready to throw away her pride and her dignity to go look for him in that unseemly place, when she saw Allan coming, breathless.
The young man pulled Gisborne’s horse by the bridle, but Guy was not with him.
“Marian, where is Giz?”
The girl stared at him, worried.
“Wasn’t he with you?”
“I haven’t seen him all day. I looked at the blacksmith's this morning, but he was already gone, so I thought he would have joined me at the tavern for lunch, and I went there, but he didn’t come. I thought that he was you, but, when I saw that his horse was still at the blacksmith, I got concerned. Giz wouldn’t leave him there all day.”
“Do you think something happened to him? Maybe the sheriff arrested him for some reason!” Marian said, anxiously.
“In that case we would have heard about it at the market: people wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to gossip. In any case I know some of the castle guards, I’ll try to ask them, although I doubt he's there.”
They separated to look for Guy, but a few hours later they were forced to return to the wagon without finding him. Gisborne seemed to have vanished, and none of the people who they had asked for information had seemed the least bit interested in his fate. Only a young boy said he had seen Gisborne getting willingly on a mysterious carriage, but Allan didn’t know if they could trust his words.
“What do we do?” Marian asked, so distressed that she was on the verge of tears.
Sir Edward put his hand on her shoulder to comfort her.
“Sir Guy is a strong person, he knows how to defend himself and we know that he that managed to survive even in desperate situations. Don’t worry, he’ll come back with no harm.”
Allan thought that Guy had actually survived those desperate situations Guy, but that he also came out of them quite battered. He didn’t express his thoughts to Marian because he knew that they’d make her worry even more than she already was.
“I'll go talk to Robin Hood. He and his men always know everything and they have contacts everywhere. Robin managed to find the sheriff before Nottingham was destroyed, he will be able to also track Giz. Go back to Locksley, perhaps he’s already arrived home in some way.”
Allan mounted Guy’s horse and Marian took the reins of the wagon. They would make the first part of the road together, and then Allan would divert to Sherwood Forest.
Before they got to the point where their paths would separate, they saw a person who was staggering along the road and they recognized that it was Much.
“Hey, are you alright? You look terrible...” Allan said and Much shook his head, shocked.
“They got him! They have taken Robin!”
“Who? The sheriff's men?”
“No, no! It was a carriage without any insignia. We stopped to rob it, but they hit me with this,” he showed the sharp dart he was holding. “When I woke up the carriage was gone and Robin was gone as well. On the ground there were only his weapons and another sword and a dagger that don’t belong to Robin...”
“What weapons?” Marian asked, interrupting him.
Much took off from his shoulder the bag in which he had put the weapons and he opened it to show them its contents.
Marian dashed forward and picked up a sword, still into his black leather sheath.
“This is Guy’s sword!”
“And that is his dagger.” Allan added, taking the curved blade from the bag.
“Then that kid wasn’t lying,” Sir Edward said. “There really was a carriage.”
“Much, did you see who was on it?”
“The driver was a boy, the passenger was an old man, but I had never seen them before.”
“What do we do now? If they managed to take both Robin and Guy, they must be very dangerous people!” Marian said, disconsolate, and the other three looked at her without finding an answer.

Robin opened his eyes and rubbed his aching temples with a groan. His head throbbed and he felt dizzy. He looked around, alarmed, remembering what had happened.
He was in a room with stone walls, with simple but comfortable furniture, and he was lying on a soft, clean bed, covered with good quality sheets and a light blanket.
Another identical bed was next to his, and Robin saw that Guy was there, sound asleep.
Robin heard the sound of the door opening, and he closed his eyes, pretending to sleep.
A middle-aged woman came into the room and she stood for a moment beside his bed, then she turned her back and walked over to Guy’s bed, sitting on its edge.
Robin opened his eyes a little to see what she was doing, but the woman just looked at Gisborne without saying anything.
After a while she reached out to stroke his hair, pushing the black locks from his forehead with a loving gesture, then she began to sing a lullaby, softly.
Robin could not make out the words of the song, but he had the impression that they were in French.
Guy didn’t move and the woman stood up and tucked his covers, then she turned to look at Robin.
“There was a time when I did it every night,” she said, with a sigh. “Sometimes he cried in his sleep, so I sang for him, to calm him down.”
Robin opened his eyes, the woman was perfectly aware that he was awake, and he looked at her, trying to figure out who she was. She looked familiar, but he could not recognize her.
“Who are you? What do you want from us?”
Robin sat up on the bed and he noticed the long chain tied to his right wrist and attached to a ring in the wall.
The woman gave an affectionate look at Guy.
“I witnessed his birth. I was his wet nurse and yours too, Master Robin.”
Robin looked better at her, but he still couldn’t remember her face.
He raised his shackled wrist.
“If it is true, why this?”
“My father thought it was necessary. We searched him and Miss Isabella for years,” the woman nodded to Guy “but they seemed to have vanished into thin air. When we finally managed to track him down, we heard so many rumors about him, about his work at the orders of the Sheriff of Nottingham... We had to be sure that he’d listen to us and you too, Sir Robin. You are an outlaw, we couldn’t know if you'd listen to us, and how you would react. And what we have to tell you is too important.”
“What’s so important?”
The woman stood up, suddenly afraid she had said too much.
“We'll talk later, when my father will be here and when Sir Guy will be awake too. I left some food on the table, and in those bowls there is a remedy for headache. We will come back later and then we’ll tell you everything.”

Chapter Text

Robin threw the blankets aside and got up. He stood still for a moment to see if he could walk without losing his balance, then he walked the short space that separated him from the bed of Gisborne.
Guy was sound asleep, and he didn't stir even when Robin moved across the room, dragging his chain on the floor. The outlaw placed a hand on Guy's shoulder to shake him awake, but Gisborne merely turned on his side.
“Leave me alone, Allan,” he muttered, before falling asleep again.
Robin sighed, frustrated. Obviously they must have used a greater dose of narcotic on Gisborne than they did on him.
Robin tried to shake Guy again, then he noticed a pitcher and a basin resting on a small table beside the bed, and he grinned when he saw that they were full of water.
He emptied the contents of the basin on Guy and he finally opened his eyes, with a start.
“Hood! Are you insane?” Guy shouted, recognizing him, then he looked around and realized that they were in a strange room and that he had a chain tied to his wrist. “What happened? Where are we?”
Robin gave him one of the neatly folded towels that were stacked next to the pitcher.
“I'm sorry, but I had to wake you up.”
“As if I didn't know that you had fun throwing water at me.” Guy wiped his face and sat up on the bed. He held his head with a groan. “What have they done to me? My head hurts and I feel so drowsy...”
“Try to stay awake. They drugged us and they brought us here, but I don't know why. That woman said that they had to reveal us an important secret.”
“What woman? Even the old man in the carriage talked of a secret...”
“A French woman, she said she has been the nurse of us both.”
“She didn't say her name. Do you remember her? There really was a French nanny?”
Guy nodded, smiling slightly at the memory.
“She nursed both Isabella and me, and she took care of us when our mother couldn't. I remember she had a sweet voice, and, when I couldn't sleep, she sang for me to calm me down. When she sang for me, I fell asleep almost immediately.”
Robin glanced curiously at Gisborne, he rarely heard him talk like that.
“When she came here, she did it. She was watching you while you were sleeping and she sang a song in French.”
“Yep. She said that she had also been my nanny, but I don't remember her.”
“I do. And maybe that was the first time I hated you.”
Robin looked at him, puzzled.
Guy smiled, a little embarrassed.
“When you were born, Isabella was already two years old, she didn’t need to be nursed anymore, but Adeline was still taking care of us. Your mother died a few days after she gave birth to you, and our mother sent Adeline to your home so that she could take care of you. I didn't want her to go away.”
“I have no memories of her.”
“She went away from Nottingham the following year, I believe that her husband had found a better job elsewhere. Since then I had not heard of her… Why did she come back looking for us, now? And why the chains?”
Robin shook his head and walked to the table, looking suspiciously at the food and at the bowls.
“She said that this remedy would ease the headache, but I don't know if we can trust her,” he said, sniffing at the liquid without deciding to try it. Guy came over and he took one of the bowls.
“I don't think it could make me feel any worse, I'm willing to take the risk. And I doubt that they would take the trouble to bring us here and tie us with chains just to poison us to death.”
He drank the remedy, then he took a slice of bread, and he cautiously took a morsel of it.
Guy wasn't hungry at all, and the headache was making him feel rather sick, but, after eating something, he began to feel a little better.
Robin watched him for a few seconds, then he decided to imitate him.
For a while they ate in silence until Robin looked up from the food.
“So, what are we going to do, now?”
Gisborne yanked the chain, and he gave an ironic look at Robin.
“Unless you don't want to chop a hand, there isn't much that we can do, don't you think?”
“Locks can be opened.”
Guy went to the window, and he looked out.
“And then we should learn to fly. Look.”
Robin saw that the house looked out on a high cliff, too steep to be used as an escape route.
“The door is solid and it's barred from the outside, but maybe we could loosen the stones of the wall and open a hole...”
“Hood, I want to know what they are going to tell us. I'm not going to run away before I find out what they do know about my parents.”
“And I want to know what they have to tell me. But I won't stay here and wait like a chained dog. I just need to find something sharp to pick the lock.”
Robin looked around for a suitable object.
“Could this work?” Guy asked, and Robin turned to face him. Gisborne was holding a knife with a short, but very sharp, thin blade.
“Where did you get it?”
Guy shrugged.
“They took the dagger I was holding, and my sword, but they didn't think to search for the other ones.”
“The other ones? How many... No, maybe I don't want to know.”
“When most of the people around me would love see me dead, it's not so strange if I take a few precautions to defend myself.”
Robin grinned.
“Those precautions didn't avoid you to get caught by a frail old man.”
“It seems to me that you are locked up in here as well, aren't you?”
Guy went to the door.
“Wait, I'm almost done,” the outlaw silenced him, focusing on the lock of the chain. The knife slipped two or three times and it scratched his wrist, but eventually Robin managed to open the manacle.
“So what did you want?” Robin asked, turning to look at Gisborne, and he stared at him in surprise when he saw that Guy had already freed himself.
“I wanted to tell you that I had found this.” Guy showed him a key. “Somebody must have slipped it under the door.”
Robin stared at his bleeding wrist.
“Why didn't you say it before?”
“I've tried.”
“What now?”
“Now we wait.” Guy said, as he stretched on Robin's bed, folding his arms behind his head.
“Hey, that's my bed!”
“Now it's mine. You could have thought better before soaking my bed with a whole basin of water.”

Marian stared at the fire, dancing in the fireplace. She sat on the chair by the fire where Guy used to sit, but now he wasn't there, and the fire itself felt cold.
She pulled up her feet and hugged her knees, clutching the blanket she had wrapped around her shoulders.
“You should go to bed,” Allan said, walking over to her and standing behind her chair.
“He could come back and need me...”
“Not tonight. There is no moon and there’s a storm. Even if Giz is just late for some reason, he will wait until tomorrow morning before coming home. Go to sleep and wait until dawn before looking for him.”
Marian shook her head.
“I couldn’t sleep knowing that he might be in danger.” She turned to look at him with eyes full of tears. “Allan, I couldn’t bear to lose him again. I simply couldn’t.”
“Nothing will happen to Giz,” Allan said, hoping to sound more reassuring than he actually felt, “and then Robin Hood is with him, did you hear what Much said, didn’t you?”
“I am worried for Robin too,” Marian sighed.
“I would be more worried for those who have the bad idea to kidnap those two together: they will be lucky to survive,” Allan commented, making her smile. “Tomorrow they’ll both be here, you’ll see.”
Marian looked back at the flames.
“Allan? If you're so calm, why don’t you go to sleep?”
The young man sank into the other chair and shrugged.
“I'm not sleepy.”

Chapter Text

Guy awoke, disturbed by a ray of sun coming through the window, stopping right on his pillow. He noticed that Robin Hood was lying beside him, dangerously close to the edge of the bed. He must have waited until Guy had fallen asleep to take that little space on his bed, so he didn't have to sleep on the sheets he had soaked with the water of the basin.
Guy grinned, then he pushed Robin off the bed, and the outlaw crashed to the floor.
“Hey!” Robin shouted, getting up from the floor.
“I told you: this is my bed, now.”
Robin glared at him, then he looked at the window.
“It's morning already, and still nobody came...”
Guy went to the window to look outside.
“Marian will be worried by now,” he said, with a sigh.
Robin thought of Much: his friend had to be beside himself with worry, and he certainly also had alerted the other members of the gang.
“Not only her.”
“Where do you think we are? I don't recognize this landscape.”
“I have no idea. If we weren't asleep, we could at least get an idea of the distance by calculating the time we spent in the carriage. We may have traveled for hours or just for a few minutes.”
The door opened, and the two men turned to look at the person who was in the doorway: a skinny boy who was staring at them in fear, noticing that they had freed themselves from the chains. The young man closed the door abruptly.
“Grandpa! They're free!”
Shortly after, the door was opened again and this time the young man was accompanied by the elderly man who had lured them into the carriage.
The old man looked at them, not at all impressed.
“I knew it was a useless precaution...” He noticed the key, still stuck in the lock of one of the handcuffs, and he shook his head. “Especially when someone gives the keys to the prisoners...”
“What do you want from us?” Guy asked, threatening, and the boy stepped back, hiding behind his grandfather.
The old man gave a disgusted look to his grandson, then he stared at Guy and Robin, sternly.
“First of all, you have to learn to put aside the hatred you feel for each other.”
Guy and Robin exchanged a puzzled look.
“I think you are a bit late for that,” Robin said, and the man shook his head.
“It's never too late for a peace offering. You are young, you shouldn’t consume your life in bitterness.”
Robin started to speak, but Guy stopped him with a warning look. They couldn’t know whether those people were working for the sheriff, and they had to be cautious not to reveal their alliance without first being sure they could trust them.
“Why are you so interested in that? And why did you take us here?” Guy asked, approaching the door. The boy, still hidden behind the old man, looked at him, even more worried.
“You have not changed, Guy. You always have the same wary look in your eyes.”
Guy stared at the person who had just spoken, pronouncing his name in the French way: it was a middle-aged woman who was standing in the doorway, beside the old man.
She had white hair, but Guy knew exactly that it had once been as blond as ripe wheat. And he also knew that the wrinkles on her face suggested the dimples that once formed in her cheeks when she laughed.
“Adeline!” He exclaimed in disbelief, then he smiled sweetly at her. “So it's true, it’s really you...”
The old man tried to stop his daughter, warning her to be careful, but she didn’t listen. She ran to Gisborne, forgetting all the terrible stories she had heard about him, and she hugged him tight.
Guy hesitated for a moment, then he hugged her back, taking care not to hurt her.
In his memories, Adeline was a tall, strong girl, full of energy, but now she looked small and fragile.
Guy thought that she didn’t change so much, even though more than twenty-five years had passed since he had seen her for the last time. He realized that she wasn’t smaller, but that it was him who had grown taller.
Adeline looked up at him and she reached out to caress his cheek.
“You have become so tall, my little one, but your eyes are always the same, so blue and stormy... I would have recognized you even if I had not known who you were. But now bend a little, let me give you a kiss.”
Guy smiled shyly, and he obeyed, bending enough for her to kiss him on the cheek, then Adeline pulled away from him, and she wiped her eyes with a handkerchief, glancing at Robin.
“You don’t remember me, do you? You were so small when you were born… For a few days your father feared you wouldn’t survive, but look at you now! You have become the famous Robin Hood!”
Adeline looked at both Guy and Robin, and she sighed.
“It's so sad to think that you two became enemies... You were two innocent children, it pains me to think that you hate each other.”
“We don’t!” Guy said, impulsively. “Or at least, not anymore. Lately, many things have changed, and we are no longer enemies. We are allies, now, and, on the rare occasions when he isn’t too annoying, I consider him like a brother.”
Robin rolled his eyes, thinking how Guy had warned him to be careful not more than five minutes before, but he smiled at his words.
Adeline and her father exchanged a meaningful look, and it was the old man who spoke next.
“Almost brothers, huh? You could be closer to the truth than you think.”
“What do you mean?” Guy asked, puzzled.
Adeline put her hand on his arm and she pointed at the door.
“Come downstairs, breakfast is ready. We’ll share a meal, and then we will tell you everything.”

Marian sent her horse into a gallop, and she turned to look at Much, who was riding beside her, just a few meters behind.
“It's here?”
Much pointed to a spot, just a little farther.
“We were hidden behind those bushes. The carriage was going in that direction.”
Marian pulled the reins, imitated by Allan, and by the other members of Robin's gang. She dismounted, ignoring the mud that soiled her clothes, and she looked around in search of clues to follow.
“Do you see anything?” She asked, but the others shook their heads.
“The rain washed away the traces.”
“No!” Marian cried, in frustration. “There must be something we can do! Once Guy has used dogs to try to capture you, let's use them to find him!”
Allan sighed.
“It wouldn’t help. It's been too long since he disappeared, and the storm has definitely washed away any odor they could follow”.
The girl dropped to her knees and she slammed her hand on the wet ground, splashing her face with drops of mud.
“No! No! No! I don’t accept it, I can’t accept it! Guy!”
Djaq hugged her.
“Do not cry, I'm sure we'll find them. And, even if we won’t succeed, you’ll see that Gisborne will find you, as always.”
Allan held out a hand to help her up.
“There is a village ahead. We’ll ask everyone if they have seen the mysterious carriage, it couldn’t pass unnoticed.”
Marian nodded with a sob and she wiped her eyes with a hand, leaving a strip of mud on her cheek, then she mounted again.
She stroked the horse's neck and remembered when Guy had given the animal to her: he had been so proud in having pleased her with his gift! Marian felt like crying again, but she held tears back so she didn’t look weak in front of the others.
She felt weak.
She just wanted to hole up somewhere, and sob like a child until Guy would come to console her, but she knew that it wouldn’t happen if she weren’t able to find him.
A part of her mind was also concerned about Robin, but she wasn’t afraid for him: Robin had many resources; Robin always managed to get by, somehow; Robin always survived.
Had he been there, Guy would have said that he’d always find a way to come back to her, that he would never leave her alone, but Marian remembered all too well the horrible period when she had believed him to be dead, and she knew that she wasn’t strong enough to experience that sorrow again.
She wanted Guy at her side, and she wanted him now.
She struck the horse's flanks with her heels and she took the road to the village, determined not to give up until she had found the man she loved.

Chapter Text

Robin looked around, trying to catch every detail of what he saw.
Besides him and Gisborne, other three persons sat around the table: the old man, Adeline, and the young scared boy who the woman had presented as Thomas, her youngest son.
The house and its furniture were simple, but solid, and of good quality. Robin thought that it was strange that a family of servants could afford a house like that.
Gisborne didn’t seem to have problems or concerns of any kind, but he kept staring at Adeline with an expression that Robin had never seen on his face. He wondered what kind of strong ties Guy had with that woman, and he felt a twinge of envy.
After all, Gisborne had the affection of both his mother and the wet nurse, while Robin had never known his mother, and he didn’t remember Adeline.
He felt the old man's eyes on him, and he looked up to stare at him.
“I bet you have a lot of questions,” the man said. “Just have a little patience and you will have all the answers.”
Guy looked at him too.
“It's not a matter of patience. There are people who must be worried for us, now. You should have given us a way to warn them of our absence, we would have followed you even without being forced.” He gave a little sigh, and shifted his gaze on the woman who had just approached the table with a plate of cakes in hand. “You’d only had to ask, Adeline.”
“My father didn’t trust you. We've heard so many things about you, Guy... terrible stories. People are afraid of you and they hate you, although I can barely believe it...”
“Those stories are true,” Guy said, without looking at her. “Not all of them, but quite a lot. I’m no longer the innocent child you knew, Adeline, I have done many terrible things in my life.”
The woman put the plate on the table and she put her hand on his cheek. Gisborne pulled away slightly from her and Adeline shook her head.
“Look at me, Guy.”
She touched him again, forcing him to look up at her.
“If you really were the monster who they say, you wouldn’t be ashamed of what you did. Maybe you've made mistakes, maybe you followed the wrong path, I can believe it, but I'll never believe that your heart is evil, I'd understand it just looking at your eyes. You've never been able to hide anything from me, you know that, don’t you?”
Guy nodded, trying to hide his emotion behind a small smile.
“You always knew when I disobeyed you.”
Adeline laughed, and she kissed him on the cheek, then she took the plate with the sweets, and she served him some, before passing the tray to the others.
“Eat, now, then you can write a message to your friends, and Thomas will deliver it.”
The boy nodded quickly, clearly scared to death by that knight who his mother instead treated with so much confidence.
Guy looked at Robin.
“I’ll write to Marian to reassure her, and I’ll ask her to tell the outlaws that we are not in danger.”
Adeline smiled.
“Is she your wife?”
“Not yet.”
“I hope that you’ll invite me to the wedding when you get married.”
Guy finished chewing one of Adeline’s pancakes, and nodded.
“If you really want to come to our wedding, it will be better to contact her as soon as possible. She will be really worried by now, and if she were to find out that Robin and I are just sitting here, eating sweets as if nothing had happened, I wouldn’t bet on our survival.”
The woman gave him a puzzled look, and Robin nodded emphatically.
“Marian can be quite impulsive when she cares for someone.”
Adeline looked at Robin, intrigued by his tone: the young man spoke as if he had been very close to that Marian. She decided that it wasn’t the right time to be curious and she looked at her son.
“Thomas, go with Guy to the other room and give him what he needs to write, then saddle your horse and get ready to deliver the message.”
The boy jumped up and he waited for Gisborne to follow him, glancing with terror at the black knight. Guy stood up and started to reach the boy, but, before leaving the room, he walked back to the table, smiled at Adeline, and took some other pancakes.
The woman watched him go, and sat down in front of Robin.
“He always liked them,” she said, with a nostalgic smile “I'm sorry, I didn’t know you long enough to find out your tastes.”
“These are more than good enough for me,” Robin replied, taking another pancake, with a cheeky smile.
“Eat as many as you want, then.”
Robin looked at her, curiously.
“It seems you care very much for Gisborne. More than you care for his sister, or for me. Am I wrong? And yet you nursed all the three of us.”
Adeline stared at him, surprised by the question, then she nodded.
“It's true,” she admitted, with a sigh. “Guy has always been special for me.”
“When Sir Guy was born, Adeline had just given birth to her first child,” her father said, talking for her, because he knew that it was still hard for his daughter to talk about it. “He lived only for a few hours, and she was grief-stricken, she couldn’t accept it. My ancestors have worked for the Lady Ghislaine’s family for generations, so my daughter couldn’t refuse when the lady asked her to nurse her newborn son.
“I didn’t want to do it,” Adeline admitted with a sigh. “I didn’t want to take care of a child who wasn’t the one who I had lost too soon. I even thought about running away, but as soon as they put Guy in my arms so I could nurse him, everything changed. Perhaps it was wrong of me to have such strong feelings for the son of another woman, but that little one was able to fill the heart-wrenching emptiness I felt inside me, and every moment I spent with him tended the wounds of my soul. He wasn’t mine, but I loved him as if he had been. Over the years, I had other children, and I nursed many others, but Guy always kept a special place in my heart.”

Allan looked at Marian, concerned.
The girl had tied Guy’s sword belt to her waist, even if that weapon was clearly too long and heavy for her.
“What are you doing with that?”
“If Guy is in danger, I’m ready to fight to help him. It wouldn’t be the first time.”
The young man couldn’t find the words to answer. He didn’t like that situation at all, and he didn’t know if he should be more worried for Gisborne or for Marian.”
He saw Will running towards them, waving to the other outlaws to make them reach him.
“The inhabitants of that house have seen the coach yesterday, and they know who own it!”
“Who?” Marian asked, immediately.
“It’s a family who lives a couple of hours from here, in a stone house. They call them "the french" and they say that once were just servants of a noble family. No one knows how they could have made such a fortune.”
“Have they also told you the way?”
Will nodded and Marian climbed back into the saddle, inviting him to do the same.
“Let’s go, then.”

Thomas had left the house in a hurry, anxious to get away from the knight, and Guy hoped that the boy had understood his directions to Locksley.
He went back to the room where the others were waiting for him, but he lingered for a while before opening the door.
Being reunited with his old nurse had awakened in him emotions he thought he had forgotten, and the loving ways of Adeline made him feel vulnerable and strangely happy at the same time, as if, for once, he could allow himself to lower his defenses and let somebody else to protect him.
He wondered what was the secret about his parents that was going to be revealed, and he suddenly realized that he was scared. His past was full of pain and fear, and Guy was afraid that discovering something new about it would only rekindle that suffering.
In any case, he wanted to know.
He took a deep breath and opened the door.

Chapter Text

Gisborne came back into the room: the others had left the table, and they were sitting in front of the fireplace.
Adeline motioned him to come closer, and Guy went to sit next to Robin.
The old man looked at them both for a few seconds.
“I bet you're wondering why a family of humble origins like us can live in a house like this.”
Robin nodded, and Guy gave him a startled look: that question hadn’t even crossed his mind.
“Your parents rewarded us for our services. Your mother, Guy, and your father, Robin.”
“Only because she was our nurse? It seems rather strange to me,” Robin objected.
“No, not because she was your nurse. Because she was the nurse of your brother.”
Guy and Robin stared at him.
“We have no brothers.”
“Yes, Guy,” Adeline corrected him. “You share a brother. Did you know that they had an affair?”
Robin looked back at Guy.
“So that's really true?”
“I wouldn’t lie to you. And certainly not on such a thing,” Guy retorted, offended. “But I knew nothing of a child.”
Adeline's father nodded, as if to confirm his words.
“They kept the secret. He was born only a few days before they died, but I found out about their death much later.”
Guy's eyes lit up with understanding.
“I found out that my mother saw my father in secret, even after he was banished from the village, and I faced her. While we were discussing, she felt sick, and she asked me to call for help... I believe I have never run so fast in my life... I understand now, but back then I would never have imagined...”
“The child was born early, but he was strong and healthy. Your parents entrusted him to me so I could bring him to Adeline and she could take care of him. At that time she and her husband had already moved to another village. Then, once they would get married, your parents would have said that they were going on a pilgrimage, and they would take the baby home with them, saying that they had adopted a little orphan...”
“He was a beautiful child,” Adeline said, smiling slightly. “And, in my opinion, he looked like both of his brothers. Your mother had called him Archer, because he was born with a birthmark in the shape of an arrow.”
“Why did we never knew anything about him?” Robin asked. “Why nobody ever told us that we had a brother?”
“We didn’t know anything about the death of your parents for many months. And then there were no traces of Guy and Isabella, while you, Robin, you were just a kid with problems bigger than you. When I returned to Adeline to inform her what I had found out, we decided to wait, to grow Archer as if he were one of our children, and to wait for you, Robin, to become older, hoping that we could track down Guy and Isabella in the meanwhile.”
“When I heard that you were alone in the world, I looked for you, I swear!” Adeline said, sorrowful, turning to Guy. “I sent my father and my husband to search for you, and I was determined to welcome you into our home as if you were my own children, but they came home without success.”
Guy looked at her, almost stunned.
“I don’t know how much I cried, thinking that you were alone, with no one to take care of you. It wouldn’t have been the life to which you were accustomed to, but you’d have had at least our affection.”
Guy sighed.
“My life would have been completely different...”
Adeline touched his hand.
“I'm so sorry, Guy.”
“Where's our brother now?” Robin asked, and Adeline's eyes filled with tears.
“When Archer was three, an outbreak of fever struck the village. Many got sick and died, and also my husband and I were infected. My father took care of the children in order to protect them from the infection, then he too began to feel the first symptoms, so he took them to the orphanage. The monks could take care of them until we were healed, or they could find new families for them in the event that we were unable to recover. We were between life and death for a long time, then the fever broke, and we began to hope to survive. We were weak and without any strength left, and some time passed before we could be able to take care of our children again. But when we went to the orphanage to take them home, Archer was no longer there.”
“Had he been adopted?” Robin asked, and Adeline burst into tears. Guy touched her shoulder to comfort her, and she hugged him, still sobbing, pressing her face against his chest.
Gisborne gave an alarmed glance at Robin, as he tried to comfort the woman, rubbing her back in a rather clumsy way.
Adeline's father looked at his daughter, sadly.
“Yes, a knight had taken Archer with him, but we never managed to find out who he was or where he went. We searched him for all these years, but he seemed to have disappeared.”
“My husband has tried to find him until the day of his death, ten years ago. And in the meantime even our oldest children began to search for him, but now they have their own families to think about, so only Thomas, my father, and I are still searching for him,” Adeline said, moving away from Guy a little to wipe her eyes.
“And is that why you brought us here? Do you want us to find our brother?” Guy asked, gently, but Adeline shook her head.
“No. We have already found him a short time ago: one of my sons who lives far away wrote to me to tell us about him. If we brought you here, it’s to alert you.”
Guy and Robin looked at her.
“About what?”
“From the information we have received, we know that Archer is directed to Nottingham. And that he is dangerous.”

Thomas urged the horse to go faster.
Guy of Gisborne had told him to bring the message to Locksley as quickly as possible, and he didn’t want to risk triggering the ire of that scary knight.
The boy couldn’t understand how his mother could be so comfortable with him after all the stories they had heard about the knight. Gisborne himself had admitted that he had committed many of those reprehensible actions, and Thomas was terrified of what he might do to him or to his family if he got annoyed at them.
Robin Hood, however, was regarded as a hero, and Thomas felt a certain admiration for him, but he still didn’t feel entirely comfortable even with him. After all, he was still an outlaw, and then he and Gisborne were allies now, could he be trusted?
The boy sighed. He knew he wasn’t brave at all, and that his mother and his grandfather certainly had to be disappointed by his cowardice, but he couldn’t help it if the world seemed a scary place to him.
He was the last of his brethren, his other siblings had already found their way in the world, while he, a quiet fourteen years old boy, still didn’t know what to wish for his future.
The idea of becoming a soldier terrified him, but he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life farming the fields that surrounded their house. He longed to have a purpose in life, but he still didn’t know what it could be.
For the moment, as he was the only young, strong man of his family, he was forced to stay to help his mother and his grandfather.
As he rode, he saw from afar a group of riders coming from the opposite direction. He hurried to lead the horse out of the road and he hide with him behind a big rock.
Thomas secretly watched the group of riding people and shuddered: there were two women, both with hair shorter than it was decent. One of them had the dark skin of a foreigner too, while the other had a fierce look and her cheeks were muddy. The rest of the group was formed by men looking wild and dangerous, almost certainly outlaws. They were all armed, even the women, and Thomas was afraid that they were going to attack the house of his family.
He thought he should follow them and make sure they couldn’t hurt his mother and his grandfather, but he also knew that he wouldn’t be able to do anything to defend them, he was just a wimpy kid and he was unarmed.
It was also possible that those knights were just passing through, and following them would be useless, dangerous, and it would delay the delivery of the message entrusted to him by Guy of Gisborne.
Thomas didn’t want to face the wrath of the black knight, so he decided to go to Locksley and to complete his assignment as soon as possible.
He waited until the riders were gone, then he went back on the road, and went on his way.

Marian reined in and looked at the stone house at the top of the slope. The building was not large, but she knew that a family of common servants could not afford a house like that. They had to be criminals who had grown rich with reprehensible actions such as kidnapping people.
She wondered why they had decided to kidnap Robin and Guy, when they could choose more affluent and less dangerous victims, but basically she didn’t care: she just wanted to free the man she loved and she was willing to do anything to achieve that.
“It must be that one,” Allan said, pointing to the house with his chin. “We need a plan to find Giz and Robin. Any ideas?”
Marian touched Guy’s sword that she had fastened to her waist, and Robin’s bow that she was carrying over her shoulder, then she hit the horse's flanks with her heels and she pushed him into a gallop up the slope.
She didn’t have a plan, except that she wanted to free the prisoners at any cost.
Allan and the outlaws looked stunned, then they realized that there was nothing to do but follow her.

“Is our brother dangerous?” Guy asked, amazed.
“He must have taken from your side of the family,” Robin grinned, making a joke to ease the tension.
“Apparently Archer has traveled a lot in his life, and he has become an expert in weapons and other oriental arts,” Adeline explained. “And now he lives by offering their services for a fee.”
“A sort of a mercenary...”
“Exactly. But no one can know who will use his strategic knowledge. Nor if you can trust him.”
“He was such a special child...” Adeline sighed, hearing her father's words. “At times he was sweet and affectionate, he reminded me of you, Guy, while in others he was so lively and daring and he made us despair. He was two years old when he managed to find a way to climb on the roof of the barn, and my husband risked breaking his neck to be able to rescue him before he fell. Sometimes I think that if my hair now is so white, in large part I owe it to Archer.”
“This side of him must come from your side of the family,” Guy said, looking at Robin. “As a child you lost no opportunity to get in trouble, dragging with you anyone who happened to be around.”
Robin knew that Guy was referring to the time when Gisborne had risked being hanged because of him, and he gave him an apologetic smile.
He was about to comment that if Archer had taken the worst of both sides, then they were really in trouble, but he couldn’t begin the sentence because an arrow came through the window, tearing the waxed paper that covered it, and it stuck on the mantelpiece, barely missing the head of the old man.
Guy moved immediately to shield Adeline with his body, while Robin tried to protect the old man, making him to crouch on the ground.
More arrows came from the window and even Guy and Adeline dropped to the floor. Robin heard Gisborne uttering a sort of groan and he looked at him, worried.
“Have you been hit?”
Guy nodded briefly, grabbed the shaft of the arrow protruding from his arm, and he pulled it out with a quick movement. Adeline removed his jacket to check the severity of the wound, then she smiled, relieved.
“It is just a little more than a scratch. Maybe it hurts, but it's nothing serious.”
Guy didn’t answer immediately, he was looking at the arrow in his hand.
He showed it to Robin, saying nothing, and the other winced.
“It's one of my arrows!”
“Your friends have found us, I would say,” Guy commented.
“They wouldn’t blindly attack the house like this.”
Robin and Guy looked at each other for a moment.
“Marian!” They said simultaneously, and Gisborne started to get up and run to the door, but Robin stopped him and pulled him down again.
“Wait! Or do you want to get shot?”
“Marian wouldn’t hurt me.”
“Tell that to your arm. And in any case, before we meet them, we have to find an acceptable version to tell to the others.”
Guy gave him a puzzled look.
“Why not the truth?”
“Think about it, Gisborne. If it were known that you and I share a brother, the sheriff would have a pretext to say that you are a traitor, and people wouldn’t trust me anymore.”
“But people have already seen us together, and you have defended me from the people of Knighton...”
“If they knew about Archer, they would say that I did it for blood ties, not because you've changed your ways. They wouldn’t believe anymore to either of us.”
“But we can trust Marian, and Allan too.”
“And also my friends. But that's not the point, they could be caught and tortured by the Sheriff, you know it can happen. And in that case, everyone breaks, sooner or later. All. Information like this is dangerous for anyone who knows it, not just for you, for me, and for Archer. We must not tell anyone, at least until we know more about our brother.”
“Robin's right, Guy,” Adeline said. “It’s better to keep it a secret, I haven’t even told Thomas.”
Another arrow stuck in the wall and Guy sighed.
“I should better find a way to let her know that we're well. Robin, think about what we are going to tell, you're a lot smarter than me when it comes to lying, I'll confirm whatever you say.”
Adeline smiled.
“I guess I will know your betrothed earlier than I expected...”

The outlaws and Allan stared at Marian, stunned, while the girl used Robin Hood’s bow to shoot arrows through the windows of the house.
They looked at her for a while, too stunned to react, then Allan came up to her to take the bow from her hands.
The girl managed to hurl one last arrow before Allan could manage to take the weapon from her.
“Give it back to me, now!” She yelled.
“To do what? To launch arrows at random? What use will it be?”
“If Guy's in there, they will let him go.”
“If Giz is in there, they could use him as a hostage. They might decide to kill him, seeing that we found them. I know that you want to save him, but we need to think.”
Marian burst into tears.
“I don’t want to think, I want Guy!”
“Knocking would have been enough, Marian,” Gisborne said with a smile, cautiously looking out the doorway.
The girl jerked her head and Allan turned with a start: neither of them had noticed that the door had been opened.
“Guy!” Marian cried, as she ran into his arms, hugging him and bursting into new sobs.
Gisborne held her and touched her hair with a kiss, then he looked up at Allan.
“Come inside without fear, there is no danger. Call Hood’s friends too.”
“Giz, what happened? We've been looking for you everywhere...”
Marian pulled away from him with a cry of horror, noticing the blood on his arm.
“But you're hurt! Did they arm you? Whoever did this, he will have to pay,” she said with ferocity, and Guy leaned over to kiss her on the lips, smiling.
The girl wanted to have an answer from him, but she lost herself into Guy’s kiss, grateful and happy to be able to hug him, after having feared for his life.
When they parted, Guy looked at her with an amused smile.
“Yes, I think this is enough as payment.”
Marian stared at him blankly.
Allan shook his head.
“I told you that shooting arrows at random was not a good idea.”
Marian gasped, understanding Allan’s words.
“It was me?! Did I hurt you?!”
“Using my bow, among the other things. If you don’t mind, I would like to have it back,” Robin said, appearing in the doorway behind Gisborne.
“Hey, are you both all right?” Allan asked, holding out for him his bow and quiver. “But what happened?”
Robin smiled at his companions, who in the meantime had approached, and waved them in.
“Come inside, and I will explain everything.”

Adeline looked at the people who had gathered in the room. The companions of Robin Hood formed a rather heterogeneous group: a big man who looked like a gruff-looking bear, a young and petite Saracen girl holding the hand of a boy with shy eyes, and a young man who wore a decorated shield and who followed every move of Robin Hood with an anxious glance. Next to Guy, instead, there was a young man with blue eyes and a pleasant face, who was wearing black clothes vaguely similar to Gisborne’s ones, and a gracious and clearly upset girl who wouldn’t leave his side not even for a moment.
Marian shook her head in disbelief.
“Are you saying that while we were looking desperately for you, thinking that you were in danger, you were here, quietly talking with your nurse about your childhood?”
“It's not their fault,” Adeline intervened, seeing the furious look of the girl. “I wanted to see them both after so many years, but my father didn’t trust them, and, instead of inviting them to visit me, he preferred drugging them and bringing them here while they were asleep.”
“You must forgive an old man's fears,” her father intervened. “My daughter insisted so much, but I was afraid they might hurt her. I have tied them up and locked them in a room; they couldn’t warn you in any way.”
“You don’t look like prisoners, now,” Marian said.
“In fact, I sent a messenger to Locksley as soon as I could,” Guy said. “Haven’t you met him on the road?”
“We haven’t seen anyone,” Allan said.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Adeline sighed. “Thomas must have hidden when he saw you; that boy is afraid of everything.”
Marian looked at Guy, and Gisborne noticed that her eyes were full of tears.
“I was so scared,” the girl whispered. “I was afraid I'd lost you... And then I almost killed you with my own hands...”
Guy stroked her cheek, genuinely moved. He hadn’t imagined that Marian could worry for him so much, and that she could be ready to attack on her own the house of his alleged kidnappers.
“It's all right, I'm here, and, whatever happens, remember that you will never lose me.”
Marian wiped her eyes.
“I've hurt you...”
“It's nothing, just a tiny scratch, I assure you.”
“By the way,” Adeline intervened, “let me disinfect the wound, Guy. It's just a scratch, but it must be cleaned.”
The woman poured on Guy’s arm the contents of the little bottle she was holding, and Gisborne let out a moan.
Marian looked at him, worried, while Adeline smiled. She finished cleaning the wound, bandaged it, and then touched the dressing with a light kiss.
“Well, does it still hurt?” She asked softly and Guy smiled.
“You did it when I was little, right? I remember that when I fell down and hurt myself, you took care of my scratches and then you gave me a kiss to send the pain away.”
“Well, it works, right?” Adeline looked at him with affection, and Marian was surprised to see Guy’s expression, equally loving.
“Yes,” Guy said, smiling. “It always did.”

Chapter Text

Thomas wanted to run and hide when he saw Guy of Gisborne arriving on his horse, but he forced himself to remain at his place by the door of Locksley Manor.
“I'm sorry...” he stammered, blushing. “I couldn’t find lady Marian, but I delivered your message to Sir Edward...”
Guy dismounted, and helped down the girl who had ridden behind him.
“It doesn’t matter, it seems that Lady Marian decided to find me.” Gisborne said, with an amused smile, and the boy allowed himself a cautious sigh of relief.
“I have to go home, my mother will be waiting for me...”
“Did you have lunch?” Marian asked, and the boy shook his head. The girl smiled at him. “Eat with us, then we will ride back with you, for a part of the way at least.”
Thomas hesitated, torn between the fear he felt for Guy and the appetite that made his stomach grumble, then the smile of Marian induced him to stay.
Allan dismounted and he walked cheerfully to Guy and Marian.
“Did someone say lunch?”
Guy gave him a wry look.
“I wonder how you can you be still hungry after all the food you ate at Adeline’s home.”
“Well, mate, you have enjoyed the pancakes with honey too, didn’t you?”
“If you like them, I could try to make them for you...” Marian offered, looking at Guy.
Gisborne rewarded her with an incredulous and happy look.
“Are you serious? Would you really cook for me?”
Marian smiled, joyful, and kissed him on the cheek, then she took his hand and they entered the house together.
Allan shook his head with a sigh.
“Poor Giz, he doesn’t know how she cooks...”
Thomas looked at him, puzzled. He still hadn’t decided what to think of Sir Guy’s friend. He seemed funny and nice, but he also frightened him a bit, and Thomas didn’t know if he could be dangerous.

Sir Edward sighed in relief when he saw his daughter entering the hall, followed by Guy. The message from Gisborne, carried by that shy boy, had reassured him a little, but seeing with his own eyes that they were both well was definitely better.
“Sir Guy, we were worried!”
“I'm sorry, if I could I would have sent a message immediately.”
“The important thing is that, in the end, nothing bad happened. Now come and sit at the table, the cook has just served our meal.”
They had just started eating, when Thornton entered the room, announcing that there was a messenger from Nottingham for Sir Guy and Sir Edward.
“Let him in,” Marian’s father said, and, shortly after, Cedric entered the room.
Guy smiled at the boy and Cedric gave him a nod.
“Are you a messenger, now?”
“Yes, Sir Guy. I can not and I will not fight, so I try to do any other available job. The sheriff decided to gather the council of nobles this afternoon, your presence and Sir Edward’s is required.”
“Did he say the reason?” Guy asked, worried, and Cedric shook his head.
“No, Sir Guy. He only said that everyone must be present.”
Gisborne nodded.
“We can’t do anything but obey. Sit down and eat with us, after lunch we leave for Nottingham. Thomas, you're coming with us, as soon as we know what the sheriff wants, I’ll take you back to Adeline’s home.”
Cedric thanked him, and sat down next to Allan, while Thomas glanced at Guy, worried at the idea of being alone with him.
“It is not necessary, Sir Guy, I can go home on my own.”
“The forest can be a dangerous place, it is best if Guy accompanies you, at least for the first part,” Marian contradicted him, and the boy nodded with a sigh, not daring to say that Gisborne frightened him far more than any danger that might be lurking in the forest.

Guy threw a worried look at Marian and Allan.
“Perhaps it would be better if you don’t come to Nottingham with us, we don’t know what the sheriff wants, and I'm not going to let you endanger yourselves.”
Marian looked at him, and Guy knew immediately that he could never convince her. In her eyes there was a determination that bordered on ferocity.
You are not going anywhere without me, not now, not after I’ve been so worried about your safety.
Allan shrugged.
“No problems for me, mate. If there will be troubles, I’m used to run away, you know that, right?”
Gisborne surrendered with a sigh.
“All right, but during the council of nobles I want you to stay away from the castle. I am not going to risk that the sheriff can create problems for you.”
Marian smiled, satisfied, and she mounted, riding at the side of Guy's horse. Even Thomas and Cedric were on horseback, while Allan and Sir Edward were traveling on the wagon.
When they arrived to Nottingham, Guy looked at Thomas, who still looked very uncomfortable, and decided to entrust him with his horse. Perhaps, if he gave him his trust with little jobs like that, maybe Adeline’s son would stop considering him a soulless monster.
Guy went on the wagon with Sir Edward, and Allan led the vehicle inside the castle gate. Gisborne would have preferred that Allan would stay with Marian and Thomas, but the young man had chosen to follow him. Cedric had entered the courtyard of the castle, too, curious to find out the sheriff’s plans.
Vaisey had gathered the nobles on the outdoor steps of the courtyard, rather than in the great hall, and his attention turned to Gisborne when he saw him coming.
“Ah, Gizzy, there you are, finally.”
“Were you waiting for me, my lord?” Guy asked, with cold courtesy. Vaisey approached him, put an arm around his neck in a gesture of feigned affection, and got his face close to Gisborne’s one.
“Oh yes, I was curious to see what do you think of my new Master at Arms. Do you think you will like your replacement?”
“I hope for you that you have chosen better than the previous one.”
Vaisey squeezed his arm viciously, managing to put his fingers exactly where Marian had hurt him with the arrow, and Guy winced in pain. That was a special talent of the sheriff: he always managed to hit the places where it hurt the most, and once again he made no exception, although he couldn’t know that Guy’s arm was wounded.
“You'll love him, Gizzy, you'll see. He's young, he reminds me a little how you were once, but he’s much more skilled than you are ever been in your whole life. And I hope he's not a sentimental wimp like you.”
The man who was standing next to Vaisey grinned, amused.
“As long as I get my reward, sheriff, you will discover that whatever feeling I may have, it will belong entirely to you.”
Vaisey let Gisborne go, and he laughed at those words.
“Well, do not disappoint me, Archer, and we will get along very well.”
Guy stared at him, trying not to betray his surprise in hearing that name. The man beside Vaisey was very young, the age could match with the brother he shared with Robin, but he looked like someone who had lived many more experiences than common people, and he looked older than his age.
“Archer? It's a strange name.” Guy commented, indifferently.
“It’s the name that was given to me by my mother, but I don’t know why and I'll never know because she died many years ago, as well as my father.”
The sheriff laughed again.
“Well, well, no family ties, this is how it should be. See, Gisborne? That's what I would have expected from you, not your young girl’s weakness.”
Guy didn’t answer him. He kept his face indifferent in front of the sheriff, but inside he thought that he should warn Robin as soon as possible, and decide with him how to deal with Archer.
A wild neighing broke the tense silence, and Guy watched in horror as his horse came galloping into the courtyard of the castle, with Thomas clinging on the saddle, in danger of falling at every step of the animal.
Guy moved to placate the agitated horse, but he could not save the sheriff from being hit by the animal's flank.
Vaisey tumbled down the stairs and raised himself from the ground, unhurt, but furious. He grabbed Thomas’ ear. In the meantime, the boy had fallen from the saddle, crashing to the ground at Vaisey’s feet. The sheriff called the guards to arrest the terrified boy.
“Whip him! He could have killed me!”
Thomas cried when the guards grabbed his arms, and Guy looked at the sheriff.
“My lord, it’s not necessary, he's just a boy, and he had no bad intentions.”
Vaisey looked at him, fiercely.
“What did I tell you? Here, Gisborne is acting sissy again. ‘Oh, my lord, he's just a boy...’ Well, that ‘just a boy’ almost hurt me, so he must pay for what he did. I want to be generous: ten lashes will be enough. Carry out the sentence immediately!”
Thomas began to cry and his sobs became frantic when one of the soldiers began to drag him to the gallows to tie his hands to the pole of the gallows. A dark spot appeared on the front of his pants and humiliation mingled with terror when Thomas realized that he wet himself because of fear.
Guy shook his head.
“No! You can’t do that!” He said, approaching the sheriff, and Vaisey looked at him, smiling wickedly.
“What, Gisborne? Your tender heart wouldn’t stand the pain?”
“I have entrusted the horse to the boy, without thinking that my stallion doesn’t trust those who he doesn’t know. It's not the boy’s fault if the horse ran away. The lashes are not necessary: you have already humiliated him enough.”
“So it's your fault, Gizzy. In any case, someone has to pay for this affront, but I'll be generous, I'll let you decide: do I have to punish the boy, or are you going to get the ten lashes instead of him?”
Guy become pale when he heard the sheriff's words. He remembered all too well the burning pain of the lashes that Barrett inflicted on his back, and he was terrified at the thought that a whip could strike his skin again: it was still too sensitive and not entirely healed.
He was just about to hang his head and remain silent when his eyes met those of Thomas, filled with terror.
“Let the boy go,” Guy said softly, hoping that the tremor in his voice wasn’t too noticeable, and he approached the scaffold, undoing the clasps of his jacket as he walked. He removed it, and placed it in the hands of Thomas, then he also pulled off his shirt, and leaned on the gallows pole, allowing the guards to tie his hands.
Meanwhile, a crowd had gathered in the courtyard of the castle, attracted by the commotion, and a murmur of surprise went through them when they saw Gisborne’s back, already ravaged by scars.
“Giz, no...” Allan whispered, horrified, then he realized that Cedric, standing next to him, was trembling, upset.
The boy gave a desperate look to Allan.
“I can’t see that again, no...”
Allan remembered that Cedric had been present when Guy had been almost whipped to death, and he felt sorry for the boy.
“Go find Marian, and then get some medicine for his wounds. When it’s over, Giz will need both.” Allan ordered to him, and Cedric nodded, his eyes shining with tears.
Vaisey grinned, turning to the crowd.
“Do you see, gentlemen? This is proof that no one is immune from a just punishment. Archer, do you want to have the honor?”
The young man took the whip and nodded calmly, unperturbed by what he was going to do. He walked near Guy, and he added a red line to his scars with an accurate lash.
Gisborne moaned in pain, but he forced himself not to cry, despite the searing pain that had crossed his back.
Only ten lashes. Nine, now. I can resist.
When Barret had tortured him, Guy couldn’t know how long the pain would last, and the bandits had continued to whip him until he was almost dead, but now he knew exactly how much pain he would be forced to endure, and he tried to make himself strong with that thought.
Archer hit him again.
Eight more.

Marian ran desperately, making her way through the crowd, heedless of the curses of the people who she was pushing sideways to get through.
When she saw Guy tied to the stake, with four bloody marks that crossed his back, she started to run toward him, but Allan grabbed her and held her back.
“Leave me! Let me go now! I can’t allow it!”
“You must! Giz is there of his own accord, if you interfere now, you'll make his sacrifice vain!”
“They are hurting him!”
“They would have done it to the boy!” Allan pointed to Thomas, motionless and trembling, who was still clutching in his hands Guy’s jacket, and Marian burst into tears.
“I can’t stand it! I can’t see him suffer...”
“Do you think it's easy for me? But Giz didn’t have many choices. He can’t afford to openly defy the sheriff, and he wouldn’t forgive himself if he didn’t save that kid.”
They both flinched at hearing the sound of the whip, and Guy uttering a fifth low moan.
What really surprised them were the murmurs of disapproval that were spreading through the crowd.
Just a few months ago, all those people would have been happy to see Guy of Gisborne flogged in public, but now they were impressed by his decision to take the punishment instead of the boy and they could see the scars that marked his back.
“That’s enough!” A woman cried, and many others echoed.
“Free him!” A man's voice shouted, and Allan recognized the innkeeper who owed his wife's life to Gisborne.
“Please don’t hit him again!” Marian sobbed.
“Let him go!”
Archer looked at the man he was whipping, and felt the dissent of the people who crowded the courtyard.
He gestured to the sheriff to get near to him.
“My lord, it might be a good idea to show mercy,” he whispered to Vaisey, and the sheriff looked at him with contempt.
“You have a soft heart too, Archer?”
“For me, it makes no difference, but listen to the people. If we continue like this, they will make a martyr of him. That’s not what you want, right?”
Vaisey looked at him for a moment, then he smirked and walked over to Guy.
“Well, apparently Gisborne is too delicate to bear a few lashes. That’s enough for you, Gizzy?” He asked, bending over him, and Guy nodded weakly.
The sheriff laughed, and made a dismissive gesture to the guards.
“Untie him.”
The soldiers freed his hands, and Guy dropped to his knees, trembling.
“I hope for you that the next time you'll think twice before you contradict me,” Vaisey said, then he turned his back to the people, and he went into the castle, followed by Archer and the guards.
In a moment, Marian was next to Guy and she knelt before him, crying. Gisborne let her hug him, and he leaned wearily against her, hiding his face on the shoulder of the girl, so he wouldn’t show to anyone else that his eyes were full of tears.

Thomas was in a corner, alone, crying in shame and fear, and not daring to approach the others. He stood there, watching, while Lady Marian and Allan helped Guy of Gisborne to get on the wagon.
He would have remained there, motionless, if a young man, a little older than him, had not approached him, laying a hand on his shoulder.
“Sir Guy will need his jacket, you should give it back to him,” Cedric said to Thomas, and the boy realized that he still had Gisborne’s clothes in his hands.
He reached out to hand them over to the young man, but Cedric shook his head.
“You should give them back to him, and I also think that you should thank him.”
Thomas sniffed.
“I was so afraid he could hurt me, and he has saved me...”
“It’s not the first time I’ve seen him doing something like that. Now come on, let's join the others.”
Thomas looked at his wet breeches, and blushed with shame.
Cedric noticed his hesitation, took off his cloak and put it on the boy’s shoulders.
“No one will know, now,” he said, with a sympathetic smile.
“Apart from those who have seen me wetting myself like a scared baby...” Thomas said, grimly.
“In the same situation, it would happen to many of them too, believe me.”
The boy sighed, but he started to follow Cedric.
“I don’t want to be such a coward, but I can’t stop being afraid.”
“I'm not very brave either, do you know? But we don’t need to be heroes, the important thing is to do our best.”

Guy closed his eyes and clutched Marian’s hand, who was sitting on the cart next to him. Guy was lying on his side, resting his head on the legs of the girl and Marian slowly stroked his hair.
“Does it hurt so much?” The girl whispered, and Guy could hear the tears in her voice.
Gisborne tried to smile despite the waves of pain that crossed his back.
“It will pass. It's nothing compared to the other time.”
Marian leaned over to kiss his forehead, thinking about the gesture made by Adeline when she had treated the wound on Guy’s arm.
“Does it really work?”
“Yes, it helps a lot.” This time Guy’s lips spontaneously stretched into a smile. “But you have to keep doing it.”
The girl obeyed, smiling through the tears.
“Sir Guy...”
Gisborne opened his eyes at being called, and he saw Thomas's face looking at him from the edge of the wagon.
“Are you all right, boy?” Guy asked, and Thomas nodded, shyly.
“I've come to bring you this.” He handed Guy’s jacket to Marian. “And to thank you. You saved my life.”
“Don’t exaggerate. I've just saved you from a few lashes.”
Thomas began to cry, and Guy looked at Cedric.
“Can you accompany him back home, and explain to his mother what happened?” Guy asked the young man. “But tell her not to worry and that I'm fine.”
“Yes, Sir Guy,” Cedric said, then he walked over to Marian to give her a small clay pot. “This ointment has helped my hand to heal, maybe it will be good for Sir Guy’s wounds too.”
“Thanks, Cedric.”
The girl smiled at him, making him blush, then Cedric put his hand on Thomas's shoulder and the two boys went off together.

Guy awoke in his bed in his room in Locksley, not remembering well how he got there.
The last thing he remembered was the slow rocking of the wagon and the delicate hand of Marian on his back while the girl tried to give relief to his wounds, spreading an ointment that smelled of herbs over them.
He must have fallen asleep or fainted and his friends had brought him home while he was unconscious.
His back still hurt, but now the pain was less acute and more bearable, and overall he didn’t feel too bad.
He gingerly sat up, and realized that he didn’t feel dizzy or weak.
Suddenly he realized that he wasn’t alone in the room, and saw the figure of Robin Hood hidden in the shadows.
“Finally you're awake.” Robin said softly, approaching him.
“I met Archer.”
“I know, they told me what happened. Are you sure that he is truly our brother?”
“To be sure I should see if he has the birthmark, but it’s possible. This wasn’t certainly the way I was hoping to meet him,” Guy concluded, with a grimace of pain.
Robin picked up the candle.
“Let me see.”
Guy let him to examine his back, and Robin let out a verse of surprise.
“These wounds. Who made them knows how to handle a whip: they are precise, perfectly parallel to each other and not too deep. Archer has made sure to make you feel pain, but without causing too much damage. They should heal quickly, if nothing else.”
“To hear you talk like that, it almost seems that I should thank him...” Guy said, sarcastically.
“Maybe you are right. Indeed, this is exactly what you will do.”
“What? Are you crazy?”
“We need to figure out if he’s really our brother, and where he stands. You are the one who can contact him more easily. The next time you go to Nottingham, approach him, tell him that you understand that he was generous when he flogged you, and thank him for that. Offer him some advice on his work, after all he has taken your place, right? Try to behave in a friendly way with him and to get his confidence, then we'll find out what his intentions are. Do you think you can do it?”
“I think so, but the others will not understand why I want to get close to someone who works for the sheriff.”
“The important thing is that Vaisey doesn’t find out that Archer is our brother, the others will have to accept your behavior.”
A noise outside the door interrupted them, and Robin hurried to vanish, jumping out of the window just a moment before Marian entered the room.
The girl saw that Guy was sitting on the bed, and smiled.
“You're awake! How do you feel?”
Gisborne patted the blanket with his hand to make her sit beside him.
“Come here.”
Marian obeyed, and Guy looked at her: he could never stop being surprised whenever he saw her worried for him.
“Do you feel a lot of pain?”
“The remedy you used before could help,” Guy said, and Marian jumped to her feet.
“I’ll take the ointment immediately!”
Gisborne stopped her, with a smile.
“Not that remedy, the other one.”
Marian looked at him, puzzled, then she realized what he meant and she kissed him gently.
“Better?” She asked, with an amused light in her eyes.
“Much, much better. But it still hurts a little.”
Marian chuckled.
“Then I think we should continue the treatment, don’t you think?”
Guy agreed.
He had a feeling that his injuries would hurt for a very long time.

Chapter Text

“Are you sure you feel well enough to ride?”
Guy got into the saddle and he looked at Allan, smiling slightly.
“The wounds are healing and I have no fever, I can’t afford to neglect my work in Knighton, you know.” He looked quickly over his shoulder to make sure they were far enough from Locksley before turning to his friend and speaking in a low voice. “And if Marian wanted to make breakfast today too, then my survival would be at risk.”
Allan laughed.
“I'm surprised you survived so far.”
Guy looked at him, guiltily.
“I ate her pancakes only the first time. Then I pretended,” he confessed.
Allan laughed again.
“Perhaps love makes us blind, but not completely crazy, then. Don’t feel guilty, Giz, I saw how Marian cooks. Eating once the food she prepared is already a remarkable proof of love.”
Gisborne smiled to himself.
“It's so good that she wants to cook for me... I am grateful for every one of her pancakes, regardless of the outcome.”
They met a man who was leading by the bridle a mule loaded with bundles of wood, and he gave them a nod.
“Good morning, Sir Guy.”
Gisborne waved back, then he turned to look at Allan, amazed.
“That man greeted me. And he was smiling...”
“Do you know, Giz, maybe people are starting to realize that you've changed. After all, have you heard the cries of the crowd the other day, while the sheriff had you whipped, right?”
Guy shook his head.
“No. At that moment my attention was pretty focused on other things. But I suppose they were having fun.”
“You suppose wrong, Giz. They were protesting, asking for you to be released. If the sheriff has halved the number of lashes, he certainly didn’t do it for his good heart, but to prevent people to take your side.”
“Are you serious?”
“Do I look like I’m being funny?”
“Not this time.” Allan said cheerfully. “You're not used to it, uh?”
“Used to what?”
“Not to be hated by everyone.”
Guy smiled.
“Yes. But it's not a bad feeling.”

Robin Hood handed a bag full of food to Mary’s mother, and the woman smiled.
“Are my husband and my son doing well?”
Robin nodded.
The men of the villages, who had been arrested by the sheriff, and who Robin set free, couldn’t go home for fear of being captured again, and were forced to hide in the forest. Meanwhile the outlaws provided for their families.
“They miss you, but they are well. Jack is getting pretty good at archery, when he can go back home, you will often have fresh meat for supper.”
Mary was busy polishing two apples with a clean towel and Djaq looked at her, intrigued by the commitment that the girl was putting in that task.
“What are you doing?”
The girl showed her one of the apples.
“This is for Sir Guy, maybe today he will come. I chose the most beautiful apple for him. Do you know that he chose to be whipped instead of a boy a few days ago?”
Djaq nodded and smiled.
“And the other apple?”
“That’s for Allan. He is always with Sir Guy, he would be sad if I wouldn’t give an apple to him too.”
Mary thought for a moment, then she put on the table the two apples she was holding, and took two more from the basket.
“Here, for you and for Robin Hood.”
Djaq thanked her and tossed one of two fruits to Robin, who caught it, rewarding Mary with a smile.
The little girl went to the window and looked out.
“Do you think that today Sir Guy will come?” She asked to the others.
Her mother shook her head ruefully, wondering yet again why her daughter was so fascinated by the black knight.
“I don’t know,” Robin said. “I saw his wounds and they aren’t serious, but they can be quite painful. It all depends on how he feels.”
Mary leaned a bit out of the window to watch the road better, then she pulled back with a little jump of joy.
“Here they are! They are arriving!” She shouted.
She picked the apples from the table and she ran out, smiling.
“Apparently he’s feeling better.” Djaq said, turning to Robin.
They looked at the door, and waited until Mary had delivered her apples to Guy and Allan, before approaching them.

Allan tied the horses in the shade, and he paused for a moment to observe how the reconstruction of Knighton Hall was going. They finally started actual reconstruction, and, although for the moment there were only a few stones and a few beams laid in their place, they were beginning to see the shape of a house.
It would still take months to be complete, but Allan was happy for Gisborne. Apparently things were starting to improve for Guy, and Allan was sincerely glad to see his friend smile far more often than in the past.
He looked at him: Gisborne was quietly talking with Robin Hood, probably about some new, absurd plan that involved the Nightwatchman, if he had to judge from their secretive attitude.
Allan sighed to himself: Robin could at least have waited until Gisborne’s wounds were completely healed before dragging him in some other adventure where they would be risking their necks.
Meanwhile, Djaq had spread a blanket on the grass and she was preparing a series of vials and bandages, with the clear intention to check and treat the wounds of the lashes on Guy’s back.

Robin glanced at Allan and Djaq, and estimated that they were distant enough from them that they wouldn’t be able to listen to their words.
“So when are you going to Nottingham?”
“In a few days. I’m not in such a hurry to see the sheriff again, do you know?”
Robin grinned.
“I can imagine.”
Guy glared at him.
“It wasn’t funny at all.”
“Don’t make a fuss, you're already much better, I can see it. And I bet that you're making use of those wounds to make Marian to pamper and to take care of you like you are half dead.”
Gisborne blushed slightly.
“In any case, I don’t want to risk being whipped again. And you know very well that Vaisey is always longing to have new opportunities to attack me.”
“Gisborne, you should contact Archer, it’s important.”
Guy sighed.
“I know.”
Actually, it wasn’t the unpredictability of the sheriff’s temper to make him reluctant, but the certainty that Robin’s idea of Guy becoming friendly with their brother to try to know him better, would lead him to tell new lies and have even more secrets.
Guy already felt rather guilty about lying to Marian about Knighton Hall and the Nightwatchman, and he didn’t want having to tell more lies.
He knew that the girl would find strange his behavior and she wouldn’t understand his desire to make friends with the man who had flogged him in front of everyone, following Vaisey’s orders.
Gisborne would have preferred to find another way to get acquainted with that lost brother, but he knew that, at the end, he would follow Robin's plan.
“I'll go to Nottingham on next market day, but I can’t guarantee that I will find the appropriate occasion to talk to Archer, nor that he'll listen to me.”
Robin gave him a friendly pat on the arm.
“Try, if it doesn’t go well, we'll think of what to do.” Robin made a pause. “Guy...”
“Be careful. I want to find a brother, not to lose one.”
Gisborne stared at him, moved by Robin’s words and the outlaw waved him away, faking annoyance to hide his own emotion. “Now go to Djaq, otherwise she'll worry for you until she can check your wounds.”
Guy nodded.
“I won’t let you down, you'll see.”
He reached Djaq, and the girl told him to take off his jacket, then she made him sit on the blanket to check his wounds carefully.
“Robin was right,” she said, beginning to smear one of her remedies on the wounds.
“About what?”
“About your wounds. I have never seen such precision and, believe me, since I was sold among the slaves, I've seen a lot of lashes. The man who hit you has a total control of the whip, and also a light hand. If only he had wanted to do it, he could have hurt you a lot more seriously. Compared to the ones Barrett gave you, these will heal much earlier. In a couple of weeks you’ll just have a few new scars on your back.”
“I guess I won’t notice the difference too much.”
Djaq gave him a sad smile.
“No, not too much, I would say. Are the old wounds still making you suffer a lot?”
“Sometimes I feel pain, but not often, thankfully, and I still have some discomfort, but it doesn’t limit me as it did a few months ago.”
“I'm glad to hear it. I fear that your back will always remain a bit more sensitive than before being hurt, but it will get better and better. Here, I'm done, you can get dressed.”
Guy picked up his jacket from the ground and stood up to wear it.
“Thanks, Djaq. By the way, do you have some remedy for burns and small wounds? In recent times Marian is trying hard to cook for me, and I noticed that every day she has some new cut or burn on her fingers...”
The girl didn’t answer and Guy turned to look at her: Djaq was lying on the ground, unconscious.
In a moment Gisborne was kneeling beside her.
“Hood! Allan! Come here, now!” He shouted and the two men rushed to reach him immediately.
“What happened?!”
Guy shook his head.
“I don’t know! We were talking, and when I turned to look at her, she was on the ground!” Guy said, worried.
“We must take her to the camp...”
“Don’t talk nonsense, Hood! If she’s sick, the camp isn’t the right place for her. Allan! Go to the village now, and get a cart, we’ll take her to Locksley! And you, Hood, take our horses and go to call Will.”
The other two obeyed without question, and it was only later, as he galloped toward the camp, that Robin was surprised to realize how sure of himself Gisborne had been when he had taken command of the situation.
Until then, Robin had been the one who gave the orders, but, earlier, Robin found himself obeying to Guy without even thinking about it, as if it were perfectly natural.
Does it mean that he and I are at the same level, now?
Robin did not know if that could be a good or a bad thing, but for the moment he had no time to think about it: he was genuinely concerned about Djaq, and he had to tell Will.

Marian saw the wagon approaching the house at full speed, and she was frightened seeing that Allan was driving it. Could it be that something bad had happened to Guy? Was he sick because of his wounds?
After all, it was the first time he went out riding after the sheriff had him flogged, maybe it was too early...
When the wagon stopped in front of her, Marian saw that Guy was sitting in the rear of the vehicle, and he didn’t look ill, but his expression was distressed. A moment later Marian noticed that he was holding Djaq in his arms and that the girl was unconscious.
“What happened?!”
Guy gave her a look of terror.
“I don’t know, she was fine, and the next moment she was on the ground, unconscious.”
Marian wondered why Guy was with Djaq, but she pushed away that nagging thought: it wasn’t the time to indulge in suspicion or jealousy.
“Take her to my room,” she ordered, and Gisborne hastened to obey, coming down from the wagon with the girl in his arms.
Djaq was completely abandoned in his arms and Guy was surprised by how tiny and lightweight she was. Usually her personality made her look stronger than she actually was, but now, asleep, she seemed almost like a helpless child.
Guy took her in Marian’s room, trying to be both fast and delicate, and he laid her on the bed, then he hurried to wet a handkerchief in the basin, and used it to dampen her face. Marian went to the bed and took her wrist.
“She doesn’t seem to have a fever, and her heartbeat is strong and steady.”
“But what happened to her, then?”
Marian shook her head.
“I don’t know.”
Guy kept wetting her face, and Djaq’s eyelids trembled. The young woman opened her eyes, and found herself staring at the anguished eyes of Guy and Marian.
“What happened?” She muttered. “Where am I?”
“You passed out, Guy took you to Locksley.”
Djaq sat up on the bed and she smiled at them both, then she suddenly became pale.
“Oh, no, not again...” she moaned. “Give me that bucket, hurry.”
Guy hastened to obey, just in time before Djaq threw up.
Marian and Guy looked at her, more and more worried.
“Did you ate something that made you sick?” Marian asked, as soon as Djaq seemed to feel a bit better.
“Or could it be poison? Have you been poisoned? Who did it?” Guy asked, suspiciously.
Djaq stared at them for a moment, then she laughed heartily, leaving them even more stunned.
“You’re both wrong! No one has poisoned me, Guy, and I didn’t eat anything strange, don’t worry.”
“Then what happened to you?” Guy asked, and Djaq noticed how agitated he was. He must have been really scared because of her sudden swoon, and that thought touched her.
She smiled.
“I'm not ill, in fact it is quite the opposite. This is not how I wanted to tell you, though, I'm sorry I made you worry.” The girl touched her belly with a delicate gesture. “Will and I are expecting a baby. Till now, he was the only one who knew.”
Guy and Marian exchanged a surprised look: neither of them had thought of that possibility.
Marian's mother had died before she could have other children, and Ghislaine had never had any evident symptoms nor when she became pregnant with Isabella, nor with Archer. Indeed, in the latter case, Guy had never noticed his mother's pregnancy.
And when Annie, the kitchens’ girl of Nottingham Castle, had given him a son, Gisborne was never interested in the details of her pregnancy.
Guy tried to push that story away from his thoughts: that was definitely one of the many actions of his past that he couldn’t be proud of, and that, sooner or later, he would have to face. But that was not the right time to do it.
Allan looked at them from the door, with a smile.
“Hey, did I hear that right? Congratulations! It was worth to be scared to death for something like that, don’t you think, Giz?”
Guy nodded solemnly.
“For once I agree with Allan.”

Chapter Text

Guy hit the flanks of the horse with his spurs to make him go faster. Normally he wouldn’t, but now he couldn’t afford to lose even one second, or the sheriff's men would capture the Nightwatchman.
Robin rode a few meters apart from him, and they were both in trouble.
What started as an ordinary mission for Robin's gang and the Nightwatchman, soon revealed itself as a trap, prepared by Archer to catch the enemies of the sheriff.
Guy and Robin had managed to attract the attention of the guards on them, to allow the other members of the gang to run away, but now they were the ones who had to escape from the soldiers.
Gisborne noticed at the last second the ropes stretched between the trees, and he managed to make his horse jump them, but Robin wasn’t so lucky, and his horse stumbled and fell, making Robin to crash to the ground.
Guy turned his horse, held out a hand to Robin to lift him up in the saddle behind him and he began to gallop, with Archer’s men hunting them closely.
“I bet that you now miss the times when I was the one who chased you,” Guy said, urging the horse to go faster.
“I have to admit that you never put so much effort into capturing me.”
“Duck!” Guy shouted, seeing other ropes stretched between the trees, and they both lowered their heads to avoid being unhorsed.
“How could he place traps all over the forest without us noticing?”
“Maybe you let your guard down, Hood, or maybe our brother has more resources than we could imagine.”
Robin turned to look back: the soldiers were close and if he wasn’t wrong about the noises he heard coming from the trees, other guards were hiding there, ready to attack from the sides of the path they were following. Soon they would be able to surround them, and then they wouldn’t have a chance: Robin had to find a way to escape now, or it would be the end for both of them.
He touched Guy's shoulder to get his attention.
“I have an idea, take the path on the right when we come to the crossroads.”
“What do you want to do? There are only marshes there...”
“Trust me. If you don’t have any other ideas.”
Guy took the path on the right.
Robin waited for a bend in the path that could hid them from the sight of the pursuers, then he grabbed Guy firmly by his waist, and pulled him out of the saddle, falling with him in the pond that was near the path.
The horse kept running, too scared and excited to realize he didn’t have anyone on the saddle anymore.
Guy gasped, surprised by Robin’s gesture.
“Are you crazy, Hood?!”
Robin dragged him between the vegetation of the pond.
“Save your breath, Gisborne. Indeed, take a deep breath.”
Robin pushed him under the water, then he also took a breath of air and he dove too, stretching over Guy to block him with his body, and to prevent him from reaching the surface.
Gisborne tried to resist him for a moment, then he seemed to realize that this was their only chance to escape Archer’s men, and he stopped struggling.
He stood still and he clutched at the tufts of aquatic plants that grew on the muddy bottom of the pond, to keep himself from resurfacing, even if he felt like his lungs were about to burst.
Robin stood still in the water, hoping that the night was dark enough to prevent their pursuers to see the shapes of their motionless bodies hiding a few centimeters below the surface of the pond.
Under him, he felt Guy’s body, tense and trembling with suppressed panic.
Stay calm Guy, this is our only chance to survive. Do not give in to fear, or we will both die.
Robin put a hand on his back, trying to convey that message in some way, even if he could not express it with words. Fortunately, Gisborne seemed to have understood somehow, because he then stood motionless, and stopped fidgeting.
He understood, or he had fainted, Robin thought, worried.
Robin waited until he felt his chest burning and his head throbbing from lack of air, and even then he waited for another while.
Only when he couldn’t wait any longer, he decided to raise his head above the water surface. He took a breath, trying not to gasp loudly, and he quickly looked around.
No one was there and the sounds of horse hooves were long gone down the path.
Wasting no time, Robin reached down to grab Gisborne and pull him out of the water, hoping that he didn’t drown in the meantime.
Much to the relief of Robin, Guy took a big breath and he began to cough, and the outlaw took off the mask and the scarf that covered his face to help him to breathe better.
“Are you alright?”
Guy nodded, too out of breath to speak.
Robin helped him up.
“We need to move, before they know they have pursued only our horse.”

Much walked back and forth in the camp, distressed.
“We shouldn’t have let him to distract the guards to make us escape! We had to stay with Robin and help him!”
“If we had done it, we'd all be dead right now, or in the dungeons of the castle. There were too many of them, we had no hope of winning a fight,” Will said.
“But we shouldn’t have left him alone!”
“Robin knows how to handle himself,” Djaq said, trying to calm him down. “And he’s not alone, Gisborne's with him.”
Little John gave a contemptuous snort.
“If we can trust him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he decided to go back with the sheriff, handing Robin to him.”
“Guy wouldn’t do it!” Djaq shouted, and Will scowled. Even though he knew that Djaq’s heart belonged only to him, he still didn’t like the affection that his wife had for the black knight.
“I hope that we won’t regret giving so much trust to someone like him,” he muttered, making Much to worry even more.
Meg had remained in the camp along with Djaq while the others had gone on their mission, and she had quietly reflected on that situation. She still hadn’t been able to get an idea of what kind of person Guy of Gisborne was, and she couldn’t decide who was right between Djaq and the other outlaws.
It was true that he had saved her, taking her away from the dungeons of Nottingham, but it was also true that he continued to submit to the sheriff without having the courage to oppose him openly.
Maybe, if he did, she wouldn’t have been forced to hide in the forest and to remain locked up in the outlaws’ camp. He hadn’t been courteous at all with her, and the few times she had been dealing with him, they had done nothing but quarrel, but Meg had to admit that in those cases it hadn’t been only Gisborne’s fault.
According to Allan and Djaq, Guy of Gisborne was a good man, although in the past he did questionable actions, while the other gang members, apart from Robin, didn’t trust him at all.
Meg wondered why they let him to join them if they believed that he could betray them, but obviously the others respected the will of Robin Hood more than they feared Gisborne.
Meg wondered if Djaq was on his side only because she found him attractive.
She gave a half sigh, recalling the moment when Guy took his jacket off to let the Saracen girl to treat his back, and she chided herself for such thoughts.
But she had to admit that Guy of Gisborne had a certain effect on her.
“We have to go and find Robin!” Much said, dramatically, and he was about to launch into a speech to convince the others to follow him, when his words were interrupted when he saw the secret door of the camp opening.
“No need, Much, we are here,” Robin said cheerfully, though his tone contrasted with his and Guy’s appearance.
The two men were soaked with stagnant, muddy water, scratched from the vegetation of the hidden paths that they had to follow to return to the camp undetected, and they were downright exhausted.
Gisborne dragged himself near the fire, and he dropped himself on one of the logs arranged around it, lacking even the strength to take off his wet clothes.
He stood motionless with his eyes closed, and he didn’t move even when Robin went to sit next to him.
Djaq looked at them, worried.
“Are you alright? What happened to you?”
Robin shrugged, casually.
“We'll have to be careful with Gisborne’s replacement, he’s more skilled than we thought. We had to hide underwater, in a pond, to be able to get away, and we lost our horses.”
Djaq gave them a sympathetic smile.
“Get out of those wet clothes, while I prepare a hot infusion and something to cure those scratches.”
Guy looked at her in alarm.
“We're fine, don’t get tired for us.”
The girl laughed.
“I’m going to have a baby, I'm not sick. I stay in the camp while you risk your lives, and that is more than enough to be safe. But if you are so worried for me, I'll let Meg to go and get some blankets for you.”
The two girls walked away, and Robin looked at Guy.
“Thanks for saving me when my horse fell.”
Gisborne shrugged.
“Delete a voice from the list. And add another for keeping me underwater. I wouldn’t have been able to resist long enough without your help.
“This time it was too close,” Robin said, grimly.
“If you say so, then it means that we are alive by a miracle.”
“You have to get close to him, find out his plans,” Robin whispered. “I know I'm asking a lot, but he's more dangerous than I thought.”
Guy undid his cloak, and dropped it to the ground, then he also took off his jacket and brushed his hair from his forehead with a hand.
“If I had some doubts, after tonight I don’t have them anymore. I will do it. I will understand who is Archer and I’ll try to get him on our side, if that is possible.”
“If it isn’t possible, we’ll have to stop him, no matter what,” Robin said, deadly serious and Guy looked at him, worried.
“Even if he’s our brother?” He whispered, and Robin nodded.
“Yes, Guy. Even if he’s our brother. Otherwise he will destroy us and those we love.”

Meg approached Robin and Guy, and the two men stopped talking, seeing her. The girl looked at them, allowing her eyes to dwell on Gisborne for a moment, then she handed them the dry blankets she had brought.
Robin took it without paying much attention to the girl, lost in his thoughts, but Guy thanked her with a smile, and Meg blushed, hurrying to get away from him before the others could notice her confusion.
When Gisborne had smiled at her, she had the impression that the knight's face transformed completely, and Meg caught a glimpse of his gentler side, hidden behind the dangerous and sarcastic facade that Guy had always shown to her.
She threw another look at Gisborne from far away and she smiled to herself. She couldn’t understand why, but her heart was beating a little faster.

Chapter Text

Allan glanced at Gisborne, worried for him.
Guy had not explained in detail what had happened during the night, but, judging from what Allan could see, he and Robin had been defeated by the new aide of the sheriff in a rather humiliating way.
Gisborne had come home late at night, with his hair still wet, and quite battered. He had thrown himself on the bed without undressing, and he had collapsed into an exhausted sleep almost immediately, stopping in mid-sentence as he answered Allan’s questions.
The young man had taken off Guy’s coat and boots, and Gisborne didn’t wake up, merely complaining in his sleep, then Allan had thrown a blanket on him, and had let him to sleep without disturbing him anymore.
In the morning they had gone to Nottingham to accompany Marian and her father to the market, but Allan didn’t feel comfortable: Guy’s expression was grim and he strangely hadn’t slowed the horse to ride alongside the wagon driven by Marian, but he had gone on without waiting for her.
Allan had followed him.
“Hey, Giz, it’s all right?”
Guy looked at him for a few seconds before answering.
“I'm tired, and I don’t want to talk about it, Allan.”
“What should I say to Marian? I believe she was upset when she saw that you went on without her...”
Gisborne sighed and he briefly glanced back.
“My back hurts, I'm afraid I wouldn’t be good company today.”
“Last night was so terrible?”
“Worse. But I told you, I'm not going to talk about it. Leave me alone, please.”
Guy spurred the horse and left Allan behind.
His wounds were actually hurting a little, but that wasn’t the real reason for his somber mood. He was afraid.
He was terrified at the thought of approaching the man who was probably his brother in order to spy on his moves, and he didn’t know if he was more frightened by the possibility of being discovered by the sheriff, or to find out that Archer wouldn’t be willing to switch to their side.
In that case Robin had been very clear about what they should do, but Guy wasn’t sure he would be able to kill his brother.
But he couldn’t disappoint Robin, either.
If he didn’t support him, Guy would put Robin in danger: to face a formidable opponent like Archer they had to remain united.
If Archer should reveal himself as an enemy, Guy would have to choose to betray one of his brothers, and he didn’t want to do it; he had already abandoned Isabella and he still couldn’t forgive himself.
Anyway, to get closer to Archer, Guy would have to lie, and to live in deceitfulness both with him and with all the people he loved.
Guy wondered if Marian found so difficult to stay with him when she was secretly betrothed to Robin Hood.

Marian looked up, hopeful, when she saw one of the horses coming back to the wagon, but Allan was alone and the girl sighed, disappointed.
She wondered if she had done something wrong.
That morning Guy got up in a bad mood, and at breakfast, he didn’t even pretend to appreciate her pancakes.
Marian knew that her attempts to cook didn’t have at all the flavor and the appearance that they should have, but she continued to try, hoping to improve. So far Guy looked happy with her commitment, even if the girl suspected that he had not the courage to really eat the food she prepared for him.
She didn’t blame him for that, she had also tasted the results of her efforts, but she was glad that Guy was so attentive to her that he didn’t want to hurt her with the hard truth.
A few days earlier she had sent a message to Adeline to ask the precise recipe for the pancakes that Guy loved so much when he was little, and the woman had been kind enough to answer in a simple, but extremely detailed letter.
Marian had followed the instructions carefully, trying not to miss a step, and when she finally tasted the result, she started jumping for joy: perhaps they were not the most delicious pancakes in the world, but compared to her previous attempts, they were at least edible .
She put them on the table, proud and happy, but Guy didn’t even try to taste them, and he only sat at breakfast without touching food, not even looking at it.
The young man moved the horse to ride beside the wagon, and Marian looked at him, sad.
“Is Guy mad at me?”
“Does he have any reason to be?”
Marian shook her head.
“No. I no longer used the Nightwatchman’s costume after the last time, and, apart from that, I can’t think of anything else that could make Guy angry.”
“Hey, I was kidding. Giz is just in a bad mood, that's all. His wounds hurt tonight and he couldn’t sleep well. I know him, Marian, when he’s in this mood it’s better to leave him alone until he calms down.”
Marian nodded, a little relieved, and Allan smiled, but he felt uneasy. What he didn’t tell to Marian was that the last time he had seen Gisborne in that state of mind was when he was still working for Vaisey.

Guy went up the stairs of the castle, ignoring the curious glances of the people: they were all surprised to see him there.
“Sir Guy, are you here to see the sheriff?” One of the guards at the entrance asked.
“No. I came to get the belongings of Lady Marian, provided that they are still here at the castle.”
“Now that I think about it, a few months ago her servants brought in some trunks for Lady Marian, when she was supposed to marry Roger of Barrett,” the guard commented. “I helped to bring one of the crates inside. I'd show you the room where we placed them, but now I can’t leave my place, and in any case to take away something from the castle you will need the permission of the sheriff or Archer, I'm sorry Sir Guy.”
“It doesn’t matter, thanks anyway. Where can I find this Archer?”
The soldier looked at him, genuinely surprised to be thanked by the same man who for years had done nothing but barking orders, without even deigning to look at his guards. He didn’t know what happened exactly to him, but since his return from the dead, Guy of Gisborne had changed. And not for the worse.
“He should be in the great hall with the sheriff now... He's the one who flogged you a few days ago, Sir Guy,” he added, after a slight hesitation.
Guy entered the castle, and he went to the great hall. He had no desire to see the sheriff, but if he wanted to make his excuse credible, he would need his permission to retrieve Marian’s things.
Moreover, if he could really be able to get back her clothes and her jewelry, he would also have a way to apologize to the girl for his rudeness of that morning.
He knew that he hurt her, but he had felt too nervous to eat or to talk.
He took a deep breath and he went down the stairs of the great hall.
The sheriff looked at him, and his eyes lit up with an amused amazement.
“Oh, look. Gizzy. What do we owe the honor of this visit? I could have sworn that after the last time you'd stay away from Nottingham for a while. Tell me, Gisborne, how does it feels to be on the other side of the whip? Does it still burn?”
Guy wanted to tell him that, if he was so curious to know, he would be happy to help him to find out, but he forced himself to swallow those words, worthy of Robin Hood, and he turned to Vaisey, respectfully.
“My Lord, I ask for your permission to take back to Locksley the personal effects of Lady Marian.”
The sheriff studied him, wondering what Gisborne really wanted. If he wanted to retrieve the things of his woman, he could simply have sent a servant.
“Very well, I like to see you beg, Gisborne. Go ahead and take the junk of your lover, I give you my permission.”
Guy shuddered when he heard the sheriff calling Marian like that, but again he forced himself not to react.
“Thank you, my lord.”
The young man stood up from the chair in the shade where he had been seated until then, and he approached the sheriff.
Vaisey looked at him.
“Accompany Gisborne to take back the stuff of his woman, and make sure that he doesn’t take away anything of value,” he said loudly to insult Guy indirectly, then he waved Archer to get closer and spoke to him in a lower tone. “Try to understand what the hell he really wants, and then tell me.”
“Yes, my lord,” Archer said, then he walked over to Guy, and the two men took their leave by the sheriff, leaving the room.

They walked in silence along some corridors, then Guy turned to Archer.
“I confess that I was hoping to talk to you.”
The young man glanced ironically at him, surprised.
“I thought you wouldn’t want to see me, given how things went the last time.”
“I wanted to talk to you exactly for this reason. I guess I should thank you.”
Archer raised an eyebrow in a way that resembled Robin. Guy wondered if he was really their brother, and if, in that case, he had something in common with him too.
“I flogged you and you want to thank me? This strikes me as rather odd.”
“You have seen my back, didn’t you? I have some experience of floggings now, although I would have preferred to do without it, and that's why I am quite certain that you could have hurt me far more than you did, if only you wanted to. So, yes, I have a reason to be grateful to you.”
Archer smiled ironically.
“Good for you.” He stopped in front of a door and opened it with a key. “Here, the items that you want are here. Check that there is everything, and then I’ll call a couple of servants and I’ll order them to take out your trunks. Do you have a wagon?”
“Yes, I left it near the tavern. Indeed, if you have time I'd like to offer you a drink.”
Archer stared at him for a moment, and Guy was afraid he had exaggerated, perhaps he should have been more cautious and less friendly, but then the other man smiled.
“Sure, why not? I bet that you're just curious to know how I fare working at your place.”
Guy grinned.
“I confess. I'm curious to know if the sheriff is in trouble without me.”
“Do you want your job back? Forget it, now it's mine.”
“I don’t, but I could give you some advice. I'd like to know if I was really useless as Vaisey said. Matter of pride, you know?”
Archer stared at him, amused. That was the ideal opportunity to understand the true intentions of Gisborne, as the sheriff ordered. He had only to play along, maybe push him to drink a little, and probably Gisborne would end talking too much.
“Let's go then. After all, you said that you’re going to pay for the wine, didn’t you?”

Chapter Text

Archer took the cup from the hands of the maid, and he put his arm around the girl's waist, making her sit beside him, dropping a coin into her bodice. The young woman laughed and she clung to Archer’s arm, casting malicious glances both to him and to Guy.
“So,” Archer said, turning to Gisborne with an amused look “what have you done to the sheriff to make him hate you so much?”
“Why do you ask?”
“The other day he had no interest in punishing that boy, he wanted to hit you from the beginning. You were his henchman, right? What might have you done to make him dislike you so much?”
Guy grinned.
“Other than serving him for years and saving his life? I just decided that I was tired of working for him.”
“Well, good for me. The pay is good.”
“For your soul? Maybe not enough.”
Archer looked at him and laughed.
“The soul is so insubstantial... I prefer more concrete things,” he said, planting a kiss on the maid's neck. “Hey, do you have a friend for him?”
Guy shook his head.
“I'm not interested, thank you anyway.”
“Then do you have a friend for me?” Archer asked, and the girl burst out in more giggles. Archer looked at Guy. “Apparently you keep giving up things, and I draw advantage from that.”
Guy smiled.
“Like you already said, good for you.”
“So what do you want?” Archer asked, staring into his eyes.
“What do you mean?”
“It seems clear to me that you aren’t interested so much in drinking or having fun at the tavern. If you invited me here, it’s because you want something from me. I'd love to know what do you want.”
Guy stared at him.
“I'm curious. I want to know who you are and why you chose to work for the sheriff.”
“Why? What do you care, if indeed you are no longer interested in working for him? Look, Gisborne, I have nothing against you, at least not yet, but I won’t allow you to get in my way or to take back your job.”
Guy raised his hands in front of him.
“For all I care, you can keep it. But the last person who replaced me was a mad murderer who tried to kill the sheriff. I almost died to defend Nottingham, and I’d like to avoid repeating the experience. So I’m asking you: who are you, Archer?”
“What about you, Guy of Gisborne? In any case, if it makes you feel comfortable, I do not intend to kill the sheriff. It would be stupid of me to do so when he pays me so well.”
“I never heard about you, you're not from around here, are you?”
“I come from many places and from no one in particular. I traveled a lot, in the past. And you? Where's Gisborne?”
“It’s many years that it doesn’t exist anymore.”
Archer smiled.
“Apparently neither of us has any kind of roots.”
“For now.”
Archer shrugged.
“I don’t care for them. Bonds take freedom away.”
“Don’t you have a family?”
“Not that I know. My parents died when I was very young, I have no recollection of them. What about you?”
“My parents are dead too,” Guy said with a small sigh, then he changed the subject. “But tell me about your travels, did you learn interesting things from them?”
“Something, yes. Are you good with the sword? If you want, I could show you a trick or two.”
“I’d like to see what you can do. And, in return, I can reveal to you a few little secrets that might be useful when you have to deal with the sheriff.”
Archer studied his expression. Gisborne seemed to be simply curious, and Archer had the vague feeling that he wanted to be friendly with him, but he didn’t understand why.
“How was the afterlife?”
“There are a lot of rumors about you. Some people say that you died and came back from the dead, for many of them you’re worse than a demon, while for others you're a hero. What is the truth?”
“Both and neither of them, probably.”
Archer pursed his lips, amused.
“I suppose I'll find out, sooner or later.”

Allan went into the tavern, looking around to search for the pretty waitress who he had spotted the last time he had been there. He wondered what story he could use to try to impress her.
Finally he saw her sitting at a table, but he was disappointed to see that she already seemed to be in male company. He opened his eyes in surprise, recognizing the two men who were sitting near the girl.
Allan took a step forward for a better look, convinced that he was mistaken: it wasn’t possible that Gisborne was there, drinking happily in the company of a tavern girl, and of the man who just a few days before had whipped him in front of the whole Nottingham!
The young man shook his head, and he thought that he should get away from there, but in that moment Guy looked up, and saw him. Allan saw a flicker of concern in Gisborne’s eyes, then Guy called Allan and waved to make him approach to the table, smiling as if nothing had happened.
Even that was odd: usually Guy of Gisborne didn’t smile in that superficial way, as if he was amused to be in that place and in that company.
Normally, for him, taverns were just places where he could eat and he wasn’t very interested in visiting them. Usually it was Allan who dragged him in those places, in the hope of attracting the attention of some maid, and Guy merely kept him company with an air of amused tolerance, ordering something to eat or drinking a cup of wine.
“Hey, Giz,” he said, uncertain, approaching the table.
“Sit with us, Allan. He is Archer,” Guy said, cheerfully, and once again the young man noticed a false note in his voice. He glanced at Guy, and he seemed to recognize a silent request in his eyes.
“I know who he is, and the last time we met him, you weren’t in such cordial terms with him...”
Archer laughed.
“Work is work, nothing personal. I guess that the idea may confuse you, but I know that Guy understands what I mean. After all he was in my position not too long ago.”
Gisborne nodded.
“No grudge,” he confirmed.
Allan looked at him, puzzled. The wound of lashes on his back hadn’t healed yet, and Guy was so comfortable talking with his torturer?
It occurred to Allan that in the past Gisborne hadn’t treated him much better when he forced him to betray Robin Hood, but now they were friends.
Allan sat down without saying anything, and, as usual, he reached for Gisborne’s plate, still half full. He took a piece of meat, and he put it in his mouth with brazen air, glancing at Gisborne.
He had been wrong.
The black knight wasn’t as calm as he might seem to anyone who didn’t know him as well as Allan did. In fact Allan had the impression that Gisborne was grateful for his arrival, as if his presence could comfort him.
“So, Allan,” Archer said, with a little disturbing smile “it's good that you came.”
“Guy and I were thinking that it would be fun to compare our skills with the sword. We needed a judge and my friend here doesn’t understand much about fighting.” Archer gave a light squeeze to the maid's leg, who was sitting next to him, and the girl burst out into a giggle. “How about it, Allan, do you want to help?”
Allan’s eyes darted at Guy, and the young man read an assent on his friend’s face.
He shrugged and smiled.
“Well, why not? It could be interesting.”

Marian had left her father with one of their old acquaintances, and she had returned to the market.
She would search for Guy and Allan, and then they would get the wagon and go back to take her father directly at the house of his friend, so Sir Edward could wait for them without getting tired.
She wondered where the two men could be, and if she would found Guy in a better mood than he had been in the morning. She sighed anxiously to both those thoughts: she wasn’t sure if she’d like the answers to those questions.
As she walked towards the market square, she noticed that many people had gathered in the same place, and that others were rushing there, excited.
Marian stopped a kid, grabbing him by the arm, and she asked him what was going on.
“They are fighting! I had never seen anything like that! It's so exciting!”
“Who? Who is fighting?” Marian tightened her grip on the boy's arm, but he didn’t even notice.
“Guy of Gisborne and the new henchman of the sheriff! Now let me go, I must go and see who will win!”
The boy pulled away and disappeared into the crowd, leaving Marian terrified and shocked.
What had happened? Was Guy in trouble with the sheriff again? Or had he decided to take revenge on the man who had flogged him?
With a groan of anguish, she ran toward the place where the crowd had gathered, and she made her way through the crowd up to the front row.
Guy was actually fighting with Archer, and the two men traded blows with their swords, using increasingly daring moves. Marian knew immediately that this wasn’t a real fight, but a sort of challenge to demonstrate their skill in handling swords.
Every blow was deliberately difficult and calculated to the millimeter, a kind of complicated and dangerous dance that eventually would lead one of them to prevail over the other.
Allan was standing on the edge of the crowd, watching them carefully, with an amused expression on his face. It was clear that he was very interested in that duel.
Marian moved through the crowd to get close to the young man and she watched the duel, distressed and fascinated at the same time.
She had already seen Guy fighting when he had defended the sheriff from the guards of Barret, but never like he was doing now. Then, he had fought in the most efficient way possible, trying to survive, with despair and courage, but now he was performing, studying every movement to try to overcome Archer in skill.
And he was having fun.
This was an aspect of Guy that she had never seen before, and she didn’t know whether she was attracted or scared by it. The certain thing was that she couldn’t take her eyes from him, not even if she tried.
She watched in silence, her heart pounding.

Chapter Text

Guy leaped backwards, and he felt the tip Archer’s blade touching his throat. If he hadn’t moved, he would have been killed, but he knew that the other wouldn’t have tried that blow if he wasn’t absolutely certain that Guy was able to avoid it.
He changed the angle of the sword and ran forward, aiming for the only point left uncovered by Archer’s defense, but the young man's blade moved quickly to intercept his sword. Archer took the chance to make Guy unbalance himself forward, then he launched the sword into the air, grabbed it with his other hand, and used it to hit Gisborne on the back with the flat of the blade, making him fall to the ground.
Archer sheathed his sword and held out a hand to Guy to help him up.
“I would say that this time I have won, but you didn’t fight badly.”
Gisborne stood up and nodded: it had been a good fight and Archer’s move that had defeated him was truly original and executed to perfection. In addition, the flat of Archer’s blade had hit him exactly in a place halfway between two of his injuries, where the skin was intact. If it had touched him a few centimeters above or below, now Guy would still be on the ground, writhing in pain.
He wondered if the other man had purposely avoided to hurt him. In that case, Archer had been extremely skilled to remember the exact places where he had wounded him and to aim so to avoid them, even without seeing them as they were covered by clothing.
“I expect another fight, someday.”
Archer smiled.
“Any time, Gisborne. I don’t often find an opponent who can make me sweat. But now I must return to the castle: as you know, the sheriff doesn’t love loafers.”
Archer waved him goodbye, and he pushed through the people gathered to watch. Guy dusted off his clothes with his hands to wipe the dirt of the road, but also to take time before turning to face Marian.
Although the fighting had taken all his attention, Guy was aware of the exact time when the girl had arrived, and her eyes fixed on him had been another incentive to fight at his best. Being defeated in front of her burned a bit, but he could not deny that Archer was more skilled than him with the sword. Guy hoped that at least he had lost in a dignified way.
He turned to look at her, and he met her confused and worried look.
Marian went to meet him.
“Are you all right, Guy? He hit your back...”
Gisborne nodded. The girl's anxious tone made him feel guilty for how he had behaved with her that morning, and for the lies that he would have to tell her in the future.
“He didn’t hurt me and we weren’t really fighting, it was just a sort of training.”
“But why? That man works for the sheriff, he has already hurt you so much...”
“He hit me less hard than he could have done, we can’t deny that. And the fact that he works for the sheriff is one of the reasons why I wanted to understand what kind of person he is.”
“And did you understand that?”
“Not yet. But we have to be careful with him: he is very skilled and dangerous, it wouldn’t be pleasant to face an enemy like that.”
“He works for the sheriff, he is already an enemy.”
Guy gave her a hurt look.
“I worked for the sheriff too. Do you still despise me for that?”
“How can you say such a thing? Of course I don’t despise you, Guy.”
“It isn’t so obvious. What I've done in the past will stain me forever, I guess.”
“Every choice has its consequences, it’s useless to complain. Maybe you will be stained forever, but I chose not to look at those stains. Anyway, we weren’t talking about you, but about Archer.”
“Maybe there isn’t so much difference between us,” Guy retorted harshly, and Marian looked at him without understanding the reason for his reaction.
“Guy...” she began, but she stopped with a sigh, not knowing what to say.
Gisborne approached her and took her in his arms, regretting the way he had spoken to her.
“Forgive me, even if I'm nervous I shouldn’t answer like that.”
Marian rested her face on his chest. She knew that people would gossip, seeing them so close together in public, but she had ceased to care for their words a long time ago.
“You've been weird since this morning, Guy. Did I do something that annoyed you?”
Guy stared at her, puzzled.
“You? You thought I was angry at you?”
Marian sighed again.
“I didn’t know what to think.”
This is where the secrets and the lies lead us. And this is just the beginning.
Gisborne took off a glove, and he touched her cheek with his hand, gently.
“I couldn’t be angry at you even if you’d plant a sword in my heart...”
“Well, Giz, in that case it’s obvious that you couldn’t be mad: you'd be dead.” Allan intervened, and both Guy and Marian gave him an identical irritated look, but the young man wasn’t intimidated at all. “But Marian is right, you have to admit that today you acted strangely.”
“I had to talk to the sheriff and I didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous because of this, you had nothing to do with this, I'm sorry that you have thought it,” Guy said, choosing to tell only a part of the truth.
“You had to talk to the sheriff? Why, Giz?”
Guy approached the wagon and he lifted the sheet that covered the load, revealing some trunks and bags, piled together with the goods that Marian and Sir Edward had bought at the market.
“I needed his permission to take these things away from the castle.”
“What are they?” Marian asked, and Guy smiled.
“Open one of them and look.”
The girl obeyed, curious, and she pulled out a dress from the bag she had opened.
“But this is mine!”
“Now I understand!” Allan said, recognizing the trunks. “These are the things that I brought to the castle when she was Barret’s prisoner, aren’t they?”
“Yep.” Guy confirmed, and the girl looked at him, worried.
“And you went to talk to the sheriff for that? You shouldn’t have done it, Guy! What if he decided to punish you for some other invented reason? They're just clothes, retrieving them wasn’t worth the risk!”
“They are yours, and you needed them. Even if you've never complained about this, I noticed, Marian, that you don’t have many dresses left, and Locksley’s revenues are not enough to afford to buy new ones. You lost your things because of me, for the second time by the way, and, if I could, I’d love to buy you new dresses, even more beautiful than the ones you had. But for the moment I can’t do that, and I'm so sorry for this. Returning at least the old ones seemed the least I could do.”
Marian put her arms around his neck and she kissed him gently.
“Thanks Guy, but you must be careful, you're more important than any dress. Did the sheriff gave you troubles?”
Gisborne bent down to kiss her neck and he smiled at the sweet smell of her skin.
“Nothing too terrible. The usual humiliating words and a few insults. Compared to his usual ways, he had been almost gentle. I suppose he was still satisfied after having me flogged in public the last time.”
Marian passed a hand over his face, tracing Guy’s jaw line with her fingers. Guy's skin was a little rough and Marian felt the desire of rubbing her face against his cheek. She did it on impulse, smiling when his stubble scratched and reddened a little her delicate skin.
Gisborne held her and kissed her again, this time with more passion, completely forgetting that they were still in the market square, until Allan reminded them of his presence clearing his throat.
“Not to be pushy, but perhaps it would be better if you two take a room at the inn...” He said, in a irreverent tone, and Marian jumped back, blushing furiously, while Guy tried to hit him, but Allan dodged him easily, and mounted on horseback, chuckling .
Marian gave a shy glance at Guy and she noticed that he had blushed too, even though he tried to hide the embarrassment behind the irritation with Allan. The girl smiled tenderly, and she wanted to kiss him again, ignoring the critics and malicious eyes of the people, but she knew that if she did, then it would be difficult to curb their passion.
Allan had wanted to joke in his usual provocative way, but Marian thought that if Guy took his suggestion seriously, and asked her to follow him in a room at the inn, she might not be able to resist and she would go with him.
She wanted him, she couldn’t not deny it, and she wondered once again why Guy didn’t ask her to be his wife before the passion could drag them both into sin.
“Maybe I'd better go get my father,” she said, taking the reins of the wagon, and Gisborne nodded, mounting on his horse.
“I will reach Allan and we will wait along the road to Locksley,” he said, in a awkward tone that Marian found adorable, then they both took the reins, taking opposite directions.

Allan heard Guy's horse approaching at a gallop, and, a little afraid, he studied his friend’s expression, worried that he might be still mad at him for his earlier remark, but Gisborne didn’t seem to be angry.
He reached Allan’s horse and rode at his side, but he remained silent, thoughtful.
“Hey, Giz, what did really happen in the tavern?”
Guy looked at him.
“What do you mean?”
“It wasn’t the sheriff, right? Or at least not entirely. What were you doing with Archer? It wasn’t your normal behavior, and you know it.”
“I want to understand who he is and what kind of threat he can be for us. Last night he almost managed to take us in a trap, he’s very skilled.”
“Why do you go to drink with him?”
“I know what I’m doing, Allan.”
“Why are you so nervous, then?”
“I'm not nervous!” Gisborne cried, and Allan gave him a meaningful look.
“Really? And why are you yelling, now?”
“Because you are maddening, that's why,” Guy retorted, then he made a half-sigh. “All right, I'm afraid of what might happen if he should find out who is the Nightwatchman, it isn’t so strange, is it?”
“No, it isn’t, but it's not just that, right? There something else and you don’t want to tell me.”
“I can’t, and we have already talked too much in this regard. You'll have to trust me.”
Allan looked at his face and he realized that Gisborne was not calm how he wanted him to believe.
Something bothered him, and Allan had the impression that he felt guilty for some reason.
In what kind of trouble are you going to end, Giz?
“All right,” Allan said, “but on one condition.”
“What condition?”
“I will trust you and I won’t ask you questions, but you must remember that you can trust me. If you need it, ask me for help.”
Guy watched him for a moment, startled, then he nodded with a smile.
“I'll remember it. Thanks, Allan. Ah...”
“Yes, I know. I won’t say a word about it to Marian, whatever this is all about.”

Guy had almost managed to ignore most of the thoughts that worried him, and he was about to fall asleep when he realized he was no longer alone in his room.
He was immediately awake, and he put his hand under the pillow to grab the knife with a curved blade that he always kept with him.
The intruder came to the bed and, in a moment, Guy sat up and pointed the blade at his throat.
“Hey! Keep calm, Gisborne, it's me,” Robin whispered, gaily.
“Hood! What the hell are you doing here?!”
“Are you always so nervous when you sleep?”
“Only when somebody sneaks stealthily in my bedroom. I could have cut your throat, you idiot.”
“You should thank me, I could have summoned you with an arrow and instead I chose not to disturb you. Anyway, this is my bedroom.”
“Since you're so generous, tell me what you do want and then let me sleep.”
Robin sat on the edge of the bed and stared at Gisborne with a grin.
“I've heard that you've made quite a show at the market, today.”
Guy suddenly blushed, thinking that he was referring to what had happened with Marian.
“None of your business, Hood.”
“I would say it is, because he’s also my brother.”
Guy stared at him for a moment before he realized that he had been talking about the duel with Archer and he blushed even more for the misunderstanding.
“Oh, yes. I spoke to him. And we fought with the sword.”
Robin wondered why Gisborne looked so confused, but he preferred not to investigate further and to focus on the important things.
“Well? Do you think he really is our brother?”
“I can’t say it. He might be, but we will be certain only when we see the birthmark.”.
“Find out then.”
“It’s not so easy. To challenge him to a fight is one thing, but of course I can’t ask him to undress without a reason.”
“Then find one.”
“I'll try,” Guy said, unhappily, and Robin giggled, amused.
“In any case, what do you think of him?”
“He’s skilled. Clever. Dangerous.”
“Why does he work for Vaisey?”
“For money.” Guy said, then looked at Robin. “I don’t like this situation.”
“From what I heard, you had a good fight with him.”
“Yes, I had,and it has been interesting. But I hate all these lies.”
Robin patted him on the shoulder.
“Keep it up, Guy, and try to find out as much as you can. And be careful.”
The outlaw vanished out of the window, and Guy lay back on the bed, staring at the ceiling.
He tried to banish the thought of Archer, otherwise he’d never be able to sleep. He thought back to Marian, the way they had kissed, forgetting the world around them.
Even that was a thought that wouldn’t help him to fall asleep, but it certainly was much more pleasant.
Guy smiled to himself, and he made a mental note to get up a bit earlier the next morning to go to work at Knighton Hall. He had to finish building the house as soon as possible, and then he would ask Marian to marry him.

Chapter Text

The Nightwatchman and Robin Hood drew their bows at the same time, then they released three arrows in rapid succession. The first ones knocked the sword out of the hand of the guards watching the sheriff's storehouse, while the other two nailed the two men to the wall without hurting them, piercing their clothes so that they were blocked.
The two guards started to scream, but before the arrival of reinforcements, Robin’s gang had already stolen much of the supplies and ran away.
“Good job,” Robin said a little later, approaching Guy with a pleasantly surprised expression.
Guy took a bag of flour from the wagon and handed it to Much so he could put it inside the small cave carved into the rock.
The place was one of the caches that Robin had created in various parts of the forest to be able to distribute food more easily to the poor. The outlaws had cleverly camouflaged the entrance so no one could find it accidentally.
“I thought we were going to distribute the food immediately. The sheriff raised taxes again and the people have not much left to survive. At least it is so both in Knighton and in Locksley.
“It would be too risky to do that tonight. Also, the sheriff knows for sure that the poor are hungry and he is certainly expecting us to immediately distribute the supplies that we stole. He could set a trap for us in the villages, and, after the last time, I don’t intend to take the risk. The villagers will have to wait for a while, but we will find a safe way to provide for them.” Robin paused and he looked at Guy, amused. “What's up, Gisborne? Are you beginning to care for villagers? Since when do you care about their welfare?”
“I don’t. I always thought that those people rely too much on your help. But, if my workers don’t have enough to eat, they won’t have the strength to continue working to the rebuilding of Knighton Hall.”
“That house means so much to you?”
“It means everything. When it's finished I'll finally have something really mine, something that I can offer to Marian...”
“Well, it won’t be long now, you won’t have to wait too much.”
Guy smiled.
“No, not too much.”
Robin nodded.
If someone told him six months ago, he would never have believed it, but now he was genuinely happy to know that his former enemy could soon ask the hand of his former girlfriend.
“Good for you.” Robin passed one last bag of food to Little John, and he checked that the entrance to the cache was well camouflaged, then he turned back to Guy. “You have improved a lot with the bow.”
Gisborne gave him a wry smile.
“I guess that taking lessons from Robin Hood helped.”
“I guess so. Now go back to Locksley, for tonight we have nothing else to do.”
“Good. Maybe for once I can get enough sleep tonight.”
Robin grinned.
“Even if you don’t sleep at night, you do so at Knighton. Every time I come over there I find you napping under the shade of some tree.”

The sheriff closed the tax register he was reading, irritated beyond measure. He had checked and rechecked the tax accounts of Knighton and Locksley, but he wasn’t able to find any shortfall or error.
He had done everything possible to put Gisborne in difficulty, suddenly raising or inventing new taxes, but he had failed to make him skip or delay even one payment. In one way or another, Gisborne had always managed to pay the sums Vaisey asked, and the sheriff was disappointed every time.
He just wanted to get back at Guy of Gisborne and sooner or later he’d find a way to make him regret that he took sides against him.
“Archer!” He shouted and the young man appeared immediately, approaching with an indolent attitude.
“Yes, my lord?”
“Sit down, Archer.” The sheriff waited for him to obey, then he leaned forward on the desk to stare at him. “Well, tell me everything, now. What did Gisborne want from you the other day?”
Archer shrugged.
“I'm not sure I understood. He was curious to know who I was, and he asked me why I was working for you.”
“And tell me, what did you think of him?”
“He was rather friendly, I’d say. He insisted to buy me a drink at the tavern, and then he willingly accepted my challenge to fight with the swords. He's pretty good with a blade, though he’s not at my level.”
“Friendly? Curious? Good? Are you sure you have talked with Gisborne, Archer? Do you know who I mean? Tall, dark, dressed in black, and with the scars of various lashes on his back... Are you talking about that Gisborne?”
The young man smiled.
“I’d say yes.”
“I’m asking because the words you used to describe him doesn’t fit at all to the Gisborne I know. Friendly? I believe that the hangman of our dungeons has a more intense social life than Gisborne, and I don’t think I ever saw him curious about something that wasn’t his leper girlfriend. And good? Gisborne? In the years when he worked for me he has done nothing but accumulate a failure after another.”
“He said he saved your life.”
“Another proof of his idiocy. No, Archer, I am sure that Gisborne is plotting something and you have to find out what it is. He wants to be friendly? Well, encourage him. Familiarize with him, go along with these stupid tests of skill, and sooner or later he will be so stupid to let his guard down. He will reveal to you what he really wants from you and you will come to tell it to me.”
“As you wish.”
The sheriff looked at him, with the cruel gaze of a raptor.
“The idea disturbs you, Archer? Will you have scruples of conscience to let him befriend you and then give his head to me on a silver platter?”
The young man returned his gaze calmly.
“Why should I? If there's one thing I've learned as a child is that the friendship doesn’t exist or at least it’s very overrated.”
“Good. Then what about a visit to Knighton, now? I want to see this new, friendly Gisborne.”

Guy helped the workers to place a new wooden beam and he watched as the men nailed it to the other ones.
In recent times, the work went forward quickly and the house had begun to take shape.
Guy estimated that in a couple of months it could be completed, and the very thought made his heart to beat faster.
Was it really possible that his wait was about to end? At the very moment when the last stone would be placed, he would rush to Marian to ask her to marry him, and the only true desire he'd had in many years would come true.
He closed his eyes for a moment, and in his mind he saw Knighton Hall now complete, ready to be inhabited by him and Marian. He imagined the girl's presence giving life to those rooms, filling them with warmth and love, and he also imagined the quick, light steps and the laughter of the children they would have.
That fantasy filled his heart with a joy that he had rarely experienced in his life, and Guy sighed with contentment, then, smiling to himself, he went back to work.
“Sir Guy!”
Gisborne turned to see who was calling his name, and he saw Mary running towards him. The terrified expression on the face of the little girl took off his smile.
“Mary? What happened?!”
The little girl wiped her eyes.
“The sheriff came to the village and he brought the soldiers with him! They're searching into all the houses!”
Guy shuddered. If the sheriff was there, nothing good was going to happen, he was certain of this.
“Stay here,” he ordered the girl. “If you see the soldiers coming, hide in the woods.”
Guy washed his face and arms with the water from the well and he hurried to put on his jacket, then he woke Allan, who was dozing in the shade of a bush.
“Hurry up!” Guy growled. “The sheriff is in Knighton.”
Allan looked at him, worried.
“The sheriff ?! What does he want?”
“We'll find out soon, come on.”
They mounted their horses although the distance they had to go was very short, because for sure Vaisey would be riding his horse and Guy didn’t want the sheriff to look down on him.
He had to look strong if he wanted to protect Knighton, he couldn’t afford weaknesses or missteps.
The sheriff's men were searching the houses under the eyes of the peasants, and Guy saw immediately Vaisey and Archer who were watching the scene from their mounts.
Guy moved his horse to approach them.
“What’s going on?” He asked, using a respectful, but firm tone. “Why are your men ravaging the peasants' houses? What do they seek? Taxes were paid on time, there is no reason to terrorize these people.”
Vaisey gave a cold stare to him, and Guy knew immediately that he had used the wrong words.
“If I ordered my men to frisk these barracks, there is a reason, and certainly you are not the one who can determine whether it is valid or not.”
“Yes, my lord,” Guy said quickly, humbly, knowing that if he didn’t apologize, he would only make things worse. “I didn’t mean to be disrespectful, I'm sorry.”
Vaisey stared at him in disgust.
“You can do better, Gizzy, I can see only too well that your apology is not sincere. But I want to be generous, I will answer to your question. Someone here has been naughty, Gizzy, and you weren’t able to avoid it.”
“What do you mean?”
“I have heard that the people of this disgusting village have received aid and supplies from Robin Hood and the Nightwatchman. And, go figure, in their houses we found goods that were stolen from our storehouses.”
Guy shook his head.
“Those outlaws help anyone who is in trouble, you could say the same about any other village nearby. You also know how is difficult to prevent it.”
“Gizzy, Gizzy, don’t tell me tall tales, now. Archer has asked some questions around and, do you know? He can be very convincing. More than you were in the old days, before you became a wimp. Do you know what we learned from your precious peasants, Gizzy? That they saw you talking to Robin Hood. You. With Hood. Let’s hear, Gisborne, what will you say in your defence?”
Allan saw that Guy had gone pale at the words of the sheriff, and he thought that things were going very badly for him.
Maybe he should get away without being noticed and go to warn Robin, but he didn’t dare to move, afraid that he could draw attention to himself. And then he would only risk making things worse.
Also he didn’t want to leave Gisborne alone in the sheriff's hands. God only knew what they could do to him.
Guy tried to answer to Vaisey, but he couldn’t say a word, speechless because of panic.
“Come on, Gizzy, don’t be shy, speak. I'm listening to you. What do you have to do with Robin Hood?”
Gisborne forced himself to swallow. He knew he couldn’t deny Vaisey’s allegations: if the sheriff had spoken like that, he definitely had some evidence, and lying would only worsen his situation.
“I only allowed him to help some families in need, my lord. They had nothing to eat, and if they became too weak, they could no longer work in the fields.”
“And then you let Hood bring them provisions taken from my storehouses?”
“I didn’t know where he took that food!” Guy lied. In fact, he himself had helped Robin to steal it from the sheriff's deposits, but of course he couldn’t say that.
“As if you didn’t know Hood well enough! You should have guessed where he took it!”
“I don’t have soldiers under my command! How could I stop him?”
“And then closing your eyes was the easiest solution?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Get down from your horse.”
Guy looked at him, alarmed.
“You can’t kill me!”
“Oh yeah, your little blackmail... Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten it. Dismount now.
Guy obeyed him and two guards immediately grabbed him by the arms, while a third soldier took his sword.
Allan looked at Guy, seriously worried, but Gisborne nodded almost imperceptibly to tell him not to intervene.
Vaisey waved at Archer and the young man approached.
“Archer, our Gizzy needs a good lesson, don’t you think?” The sheriff whispered in his ear and Archer nodded. The young man ordered the guards to bring Gisborne to Knighton Hall, and he and the sheriff followed them.
Vaisey made Guy kneel in front of the house under construction, and the two soldiers forced him to stand still pointing their spears at his throat.
Allan wondered if Vaisey would decide to take the risk and kill Gisborne. He was tempted to draw his sword and try to save him, but he knew that there were too many soldiers and that he would end just to make things worse. Feeling a coward, he watched.
The sheriff looked at the house and gave a falsely admiring glance to it.
“It's a good job, Gizzy, you surprised me. I didn’t think you were capable of building something. Well, too bad.”
Vaisey threw a bucket of pitch on a wall of Knighton Hall, then he took a lighted torch and raised it.
“No! Not my home!” Guy shouted, unable to restrain himself, and the sheriff looked at him, his face eerily lit by the flames.
“Yes, Gizzy, your home. And you should thank me for my generosity. I could arrest you, I could get you whipped until there isn’t a single piece of intact skin left, I could make life extremely difficult for your little leper friend, I might decide to execute all the inhabitants of Knighton who have received food from Hood. I could do many other things to make your life like hell, but today I feel good, Gisborne and I will only burn your stupid house. Take it as a warning: the next time it will be much worse.” He turned to Archer. “Make sure he watches until the end.”

Robin Hood followed Allan, pushing the horse into a gallop.
The young man had waited until Vaisey went away, then, when he realized that Archer and the soldiers wouldn’t hurt Gisborne, but they would only force him to witness the burning of his house, he had run off to warn Robin.
It was too late to prevent the disaster, but Allan knew that Guy would need the support of his friends.
Robin was horrified to see the smoking ruins of Knighton Hall, it was almost like going back in time, when the house had been destroyed for the first time. He was concerned not seeing Gisborne, then he spotted him, sitting on a block of wood not too far from the blackened ruins.
Guy was still and, dressed in black against the wood of the burnt house, Robin had not noticed him immediately.
He and Allan walked towards him, and the outlaw was surprised to discover that one of the little girls of the village sat at Guy’s feet with her face streaked with tears, and she held his hand in hers.
Both she and Guy turned when they heard the footsteps of Robin and Allan.
“Giz! Are you alright?!”
“What a silly question, Allan!” The girl yelled, beginning to weep again. “They burned his house, how could he feel good?”
Guy stared at her for a moment, surprised by her words, and tried to smile.
“Nobody was hurt, Mary, everything else can fixed. Now stop crying and go home, your mother will be worried.”
The girl hesitated, then she nodded and released his hand. She leaned over to give him a little kiss on the cheek and ran away, wiping her eyes and her nose with the back of her hand.
Robin followed her with his eyes until she disappeared behind a bend in the road, then he looked back at Guy. Gisborne seemed almost dazed, and, even though he tried to appear calm in front of little Mary, it was obvious that he was upset.
Robin put a hand on his shoulder.
“I'm sorry, Guy. I'm really sorry. I should have been more discreet.”
Gisborne shook his head.
“It's not your fault, I was careless too. And the sheriff was waiting for me to make an error.”
“It's not fair, Giz. It was almost finished...” Allan sighed. “What will you do now?”
Guy stood up and looked away from the burned house, the sight of it broke his heart and made him want to cry: just a few hours ago happiness seemed so close, and now he had to start from scratch.
“What will I do? I'll start over again, what else could I do?” Guy sighed, then he turned to stare at Robin, fiercely. “But you have to put your brain to work and think of everything we can do to steal from the sheriff and to foil his plans. I can’t kill him, but from now on the Nightwatchman won’t miss a single opportunity to hit him. Now come on, Allan, we have to go back to Locksley, it begins to be late.”

Marian knew immediately that something extremely unpleasant happened to Guy that day, although both he and Allan tried to behave normally.
At dinner Gisborne ate practically nothing, and he retired almost immediately, saying he was tired, but she had seen the blank expression of his eyes. For a while she stared at the fire, trying to decide how to behave.
After a while, she decided to go upstairs and she knocked at Guy’s door.
“Can I come in?” She asked timidly, and, receiving no answer, she tried to turn the handle. The door opened and the girl made a hesitant step forward.
Guy was sitting by the fire, sadly staring at the flames.
“Can I come in, Guy?” She repeated, and Gisborne nodded.
The girl walked to him and stood in front of his chair. When Guy stood up too, she embraced him and said nothing.
Guy leaned on her with a sigh and Marian ran her hands through his hair.
“Bad day?”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Marian didn’t make any more questions.
Guy closed his eyes and held her in his arms, clinging to her to get a little comfort.
After a while, she stroked his face tenderly and Gisborne looked at her.
“You didn’t eat anything at dinner.”
“I wasn’t hungry.”
She touched his lips with a light kiss.
“And now? Do you feel a little better?”
Gisborne took a deep breath to smell her scent, and he tried to ward off the despair he felt. He didn’t want to worry the girl and he was immensely grateful for the comfort she gave to him with her mere presence.
“Marian? Would you cook something for me?” He asked, and the girl looked at him, uncertain.
“Are you really sure?”
Guy nodded.
For tonight, just for tonight, take care of me. Console me without asking what ails me, stay with me and help me not to think about what has happened. Lend me a bit of your strength, and tomorrow I will begin to rebuild our home.
“Yes. I love it when you do it.”
Marian took his hand and Guy’s fingers tightened around hers.
“So come on, let's go to the kitchen, then.” She gently told him, and finally Guy managed to smile at her.

Chapter Text

Guy leaned forward over the horse's neck, making him gallop at full speed along the road to Knighton. With each stroke of the hooves on the ground, Guy imagined that Vaisey head was between the hooves and the ground, and that idea gave him a sort of savage satisfaction.
That night he hardly slept, he had closed his eyes for a while just around dawn, sitting in front of the fireplace with Marian. He had propped his head on her shoulder and he fell asleep while she stroked his hair, tenderly.
Marian had been awake with Guy that night, sensing his pain, and she had asked no questions, just staying close to him, with tenderness. She had cooked for him, and Guy found himself smiling at seeing her efforts, even if her results were so uncertain.
He hugged her impulsively, and kissed her, then they laughed together when they find themselves dusty with flour and sticky with honey.
Marian had put the more imperfect pancakes in the world on a plate, and they sat down to eat them before the fireplace of the hall.
“They are a little raw,” Marian sighed, tasting one of them.
“The charred part on the outside makes up perfectly for the raw inside,” Guy joked, taking another pancake.
“I'm sorry... I know I'm not good at cooking... I keep trying, but every time I do something wrong...” Marian said, saddened.
Guy touched her cheek, staring into her eyes.
“You made them for me. You worked so hard to cook for me. Do you know what I see on my plate every time you do it?”
“A shapeless horror?”
Guy smiled and kissed her on the tip of her nose.
“I see your kindness. I see your care. I see a love that I still can’t believe I deserved. I see you, Marian, and it doesn’t matter if what you cook sometimes tastes or looks strange: for me it will always be the best dish in the world just because you made it.”
She embraced him, moved, then she took a dampish pancake between two fingers, and she looked at it, critically.
“Do you know that you're not forced to eat my pancakes just because I made them, right? I don’t want to poison you, for me it’s enough to know that you appreciate the effort.”
Gisborne smiled.
“Sometimes I pretended to eat them, I confess.”
Marian laughed.
“I had understood that, Guy.”
Guy took the pancake from her fingers to eat it.
“But in this case they are edible. They might not be perfect, but I like them. They are sweet and tender. Exactly what I need tonight.”
Like you, Marian. Just like you.
Thinking back to the kiss that followed those words, Guy found himself smiling, even if what happened the day before still pained him deeply.
His house, the house on which he had based so many dreams and so much hope, no longer existed, even before it was completed, destroyed by the cruelty of Vaisey.
But Marian’s company had managed to ease his pain, to give him strength and the energy to start over.
He had her love, and he would never give up. He would fight and overcome any difficulties in order to be happy at her side.
He slowed his pace when the horse was near Knighton, and he entered the village at a trot, followed by the astonished looks of the inhabitants who were not expecting to see him arrive so soon.
An elderly man moved to meet him, and Guy pulled the reins to stop the horse.
“Lord Knighton...”
Gisborne stared at him, surprised to hear him use that title. He was actually the Lord of Knighton, but none of the villagers had ever referred to him that way.
For most of them, Lord Knighton was still Sir Edward.
“Are you all right, Sir Guy?” The old farmer asked.
“Why do you ask?”
“Yesterday there was the rumor that the soldiers of the sheriff had hurt you, sir.”
“They burned Knighton Hall, but they didn’t touch me,” Guy said, and it was difficult for him to say those words, because they made the destruction of his house even more real.
“I'm glad you're unharmed.”
“Why?” Guy asked, impulsively. He couldn’t imagine a reason why the old farmer could be interested in his health.
The man looked at him, surprised by that question.
“Once I’d never have said this, but you aren’t a bad master, Sir Guy. Since Knighton has become yours, you have never been unjust or cruel to us. And you never wanted revenge for what we have done to you, but you have risked your life to protect us from bandits. Yesterday you could have denied to have ever talked to Robin Hood. You could have said that the people who had reported that to the sheriff had lied, and have them punished for this, but you didn’t.”
Gisborne smiled.
“Thank you, although I suppose you are the only one who thinks this way.”
The man smiled back.
“About Knighton Hall… Are you going to rebuild it again?”
“I'm here for this reason.”
“Then perhaps it might be useful for you to know that the grove north of the village is part of your property, and it can provide an excellent timber. If you wish, I can put together a team of men and start preparing the material to start rebuilding as soon as possible.”
Guy looked at him, more and more surprised, then nodded.
“Yes, do it, thanks.”
The man took his leave and Guy went on his way toward Knighton Hall. He had no desire to see the burned ruins of the house, but he couldn’t avoid it.
Perhaps this is the punishment for burning it the first time.
What he was feeling now, he had inflicted to Marian with his own hands. And it must have been even more painful because, along with the house, he burned all the childhood memories of the girl too. And he had done it for revenge, fully aware of the pain that she would feel while seeing all her world burning to ashes.
He passed the curve of the road and he stared in disbelief at the scene in front of him: the workers were already at work, and they had begun to clear away the rubble. In addition to them, many of the villagers had joined them, helping as they could. Men and women worked according to their strengths and capabilities, and also Mary and the other children were working, bringing water to the workers or filling of small containers of ash, that then they emptied on one of the carts.
Guy dismounted and addressed the leader of the workers.
“What’s going on? Why are all these people here?”
“They want to help you, Sir Guy. They saw what happened yesterday and they decided that, if the sheriff has decided to punish you like that, then you must be really changed. What you did in Nottingham, when you decided to be whipped instead of that young boy, had already convinced many of us, and the fire drew you the sympathies of many of those who were still undecided.”
“They want to help me? A few months ago they tried to kill me, and now they want to help me?”
“You have tried to kill Robin Hood for years, yet now you're on his side, no?”
Guy looked at him, alarmed. He had been punished because of an accusation like that one.
“I have nothing to do with Hood!”
“Of course, I must be wrong, forgive me Sir Guy,” the man said, with the air of one who thought the opposite. “By the way, that arrived just now.”
Guy turned his gaze in the direction indicated by the man, and he saw the arrow planted in a tree.
Gisborne grabbed it, pulled it away from the trunk, and casually unrolled the parchment wrapped around the shaft, trying to ignore the amused gaze of the workers’ leader. On the scrolls there were diagrams and drawings, and Guy tried to figure out what they were.
“They look like projects.” the workers’ leader intervened, peering at the sheets. “Projects for your home, I dare say. Will you allow me to examine them?”
Gisborne handed him the scrolls. Robin had written at the beginning of one of them that Will had prepared those drawings to help him rebuild the house, but Guy had not the faintest idea of how to interpret them.
Guy waited while the man examined the scrolls: he seemed very interested, and he occasionally nodded in approval.
“They are projects, Sir Guy, and very interesting too. Whoever this Will is, he knows what he does. If we follow these designs, they will help us to save time, and to get a better result. Will you allow me to use them?”
Guy nodded.
“Then I’ll start immediately to calculate what material we’ll need. We’ll rebuild this house, Sir Guy, and it will be better than before.”
The man walked away with the projects and Guy hid Robin’s arrow in the saddlebag, then he took off his jacket and began working, feeling heartened.
His house had been destroyed, but he wasn’t alone: Marian’s love alleviated any possible sorrow, he now had friends who cared for him, and the people of Knighton had begun to respect him, to the point of being willing to help to rebuild Knighton Hall.
He was back to the starting point and he’d have to wait before he could marry Marian, but it could have been worse. Much worse.
Guy walked to the rubble, he took a shovel, and he began to pile the debris on one of the wagons.
No matter how long it would take, Knighton Hall would be resurrected once again from its ashes.

Chapter Text

The Nightwatchman hesitated. He knew that he had no time and that it would be clever to escape while he could, but the temptation to take revenge on the Sheriff was stronger than common sense.
At that moment Vaisey was engaged in the great hall and his studio was deserted, so Guy pushed the door and quietly entered into the room.
He wanted to hit the sheriff as painfully as possible, as Vaisey had done to him when he had burned Knighton Hall. Guy stole the most valuable items in sight and he knocked open a few chests to give the impression that a thief had rummaged in them, but the goal of his visit was different.
Gisborne opened the doors of all the cages hung in the room, freeing the birds trapped in them, and he hoped that they managed to fly away through the open window. He didn’t free only Vaisey’s trained falcon, knowing that if he did, the bird would only attack the other smaller birds and then he would return to his master.
“What are you doing?!” The whisper of Robin Hood, coming from behind him, startled Guy, and a moment later the outlaw grabbed him by the arm, dragging him out of the room. “Run! They realized that we are in the castle!”
The two men ran down the halls as quickly as they could, chased by the sound of the heavy footsteps of the soldiers, just a few meters behind them. They were able to leave the castle without being caught, passing at the last moment under the gate, which was lowered in an attempt to trap them.
Galloping at his side, Guy showed to Robin the bag of stolen goods, full and heavy.
“The sheriff will have the honor to feed at least a couple of villages, this month,” he said with a smirk, but Robin didn’t seem equally thrilled.
“Entering into Vaisey’s studio was not in the plan, what did you think you were doing?”
“When ever are your plans accurate and precise?”
“I mean it, Guy. You took an unnecessary risk and they could have captured both of us because of you. And what were you doing when I arrived?”
“I freed the sheriff’s birds.”
“What?! Are you crazy, Gisborne?”
“He had me whipped in front of everyone to humiliate me and he burned my house. If he is still alive it’s because otherwise Nottingham would be destroyed,” Guy said in a tone that made Robin shudder.
“I understand, really, but you don’t have to risk so much. When you were gone so suddenly, I believed they had captured you.”
Gisborne sighed.
“Sorry. I know I shouldn’t have done that, but I couldn’t help myself.”
Robin looked at him, sadly.
“They won’t survive out of their cages, do you know it, right?”
“Maybe they will. The sheriff doesn’t purchase birds born in captivity, he prefers to capture the wild ones, he finds it more fun. Anyway, better dead than in his hands, sometimes he doesn’t feed them for days just because he thinks that they sing better when they are starving. Yes, definitely better dead than prisoners of the sheriff.”
Robin knew that Gisborne’s last sentence wasn’t referring only to the birds that he had freed, but also to himself, and he couldn’t rebuke him further for the risk he took.
“It would be better to avoid both alternatives, I would say.”
“And for this reason it’s best that we increase our pace: I must return to Kirklees Abbey before Marian realizes that I disappeared.
“To the abbey?”
“Yes. One of the women of Locksley told us a tearful story about the children of the orphanage near the abbey, and Marian insisted on going to check their situation, although the income of Locksley is barely enough to pay taxes. I imagine that after finding how things really are, she will come to the camp to ask Robin Hood to help those children.”
“Knowing her, she might even decide to intervene personally.”
“No, this time I don’t think she will. I told her that I wouldn’t accompany her unless she promised not to take any rash actions, and for once she did.”
“She really wanted you to be there, then.”
“Yes, although I didn’t understand why. That’s why I have to hurry: when I went away, she was busy with the children, but sooner or later she will search for me.”
“What if she already did?”
“I will say that I was talking to Tuck. Oh, here's Allan with my horse.”
Guy hastened to remove his Nightwatchman costume and changed his clothes, then he gave Robin the bag with items he had stolen from the sheriff, and he mounted on his black stallion, galloping away.
Allan looked at him as he went away, and made a half-sigh as he carefully folded the Nightwatchman costume.
“I wonder where he can find the energies. By day he’s working almost tirelessly to rebuild Knighton Hall, by night, instead of sleeping, he puts just as much effort in being the Nightwatchman, and between one thing and another, he also helps Sir Edward and Marian to take care of Locksley manor. If I didn’t care to bring him lunch, he might end eating only those abominable pancakes that Marian cooks for him. He could forget the other meals, but for those pancakes he always finds the time, although, to be honest, I wonder how he manages to find the courage.”
Robin remembered with a shudder the rare occasions when he had the chance to taste food prepared by the girl, and he found himself to be more appreciative of the squirrels cooked by Much.
“I'm not asking him to intervene as the Nightwatchman, recently.”
“Do you mean that it's Giz who takes the initiative?”
“Yep. He wants to hit the sheriff at any cost: as soon as he sees an opportunity to act he is ready to exploit it.”
“Couldn’t you keep him in check somehow? If Giz continues like this, he will eventually collapse or he’ll commit some mistakes and the sheriff will hang him.”
Robin thought back to what had happened just before, to the unnecessary danger that Gisborne put himself in to free Vaisey’s birds, and he nodded gravely.
“I'll talk to him,” Robin said, but inwardly he thought he would also have to talk to Gisborne about Archer. After the fire of Knighton Hall, Robin didn’t have the courage to ask Guy to continue to get closer to their brother, but he knew that this mission was too important to put it aside. About that, however, he could not talk to Allan.

Tuck was looking out the window of the library, when he heard the sound of the hooves of a horse and he saw Guy of Gisborne arriving at a gallop down the narrow path that passed behind the abbey. He wondered why he was using that road instead of the smoother main street, and he closed the book he was reading, then he got up to meet the black knight.
Gisborne had just finished tying his horse when Tuck had joined him.
“It's a long time that I don’t see you, son,” he said, startling him in surprise.
Guy looked back at the friar and he smiled with the guilty look of a kid caught stealing jam.
“If Marian asks, you and I have talked all morning, in private.”
“Are you asking me to lie?”
“No, Tuck, I will do that. All I ask you, is to not contradict me. Please.”
The monk looked at him.
“To say falsehood is a grave sin.”
“And I will confess it along with all the other ones. But it’s important: this morning I didn’t move from here.”
“Will you confess? This means that now you no longer think that your soul is unworthy of being saved? Have you finally decided to believe that you can be forgiven for your sins?”
“Probably I'll end in hell all the same, I still think that I don’t deserve forgiveness for many of the things I've done,” Guy said, seriously, then a smile creased his lips. “But at least I'm trying to atone for the evil I have committed, I am working to build something instead of bringing destruction. I don’t think that confession can really wash my sins, but to admit them before you and before God could be a starting point, a way to keep always in mind the harm I did, so I won’t repeat it.”
The monk put his hand on his shoulder and smiled.
“Like you said, it's a starting point. Maybe you can’t believe in forgiveness, but if you are truly repentant, the Lord will take this into account. But just tell me one thing, Guy, this lie that you will add to your sins, and you're asking me to indulge, it serves to hide a serious sin?”
“It depends.”
“From what?”
“Do you consider stealing from the sheriff of Nottingham a great sin?”
Tuck looked at him in surprise.
“What did you do with the things you stole?”
Gisborne shrugged.
“I don’t care, I let Robin to decide the best use for them.”
“Robin? Robin Hood? Son, confession aside, I have the impression that you have a lot of things to tell me, don’t you?”
Guy smiled.
“Do you have enough time?”

Chapter Text

Marian smiled when one of the younger children threw his arms around her neck and kissed her on the cheek, but at the same time she wanted to cry. Those children needed everything: more food, warmer clothes, repairs to the roof of the orphanage, medicines, or many of them wouldn’t pass the winter.
She sighed: once, when her father was sheriff, or even when they still had Knighton Hall, it would have been easy for her to bring some help to those orphans, but now she knew she couldn’t afford it.
Her father and Guy spent hours and hours studying the account ledgers of Locksley, trying to reduce all the expenses and increase the profits of the few lands around the house, so they could pay the taxes imposed by the sheriff. And without the belongings that Guy had bequeathed to Sir Edward, Vaisey would already have taken Locksley back.
Now Marian regretted the stunt she had done before the disastrous attempted wedding with Guy, long before: as the Nightwatchman, she had robbed her future husband, taking away most of his possessions.
From that exploit, Marian obtained a bad abdominal injury that had threatened to kill her, and late remorse for what she had done to Guy.
Gisborne had never reproached her for that theft, even after finding out that she was the Nightwatchman, but she realized only now how much she had damaged him. She had been convinced to do well, but she had taken from Guy most of the savings of a lifetime at the sheriff's service, destroying in a few minutes the sacrifices of years of effort.
If now Guy had to spend so much time away from home, it was because he had to make money from the mysterious lands that he had obtained from the sheriff after saving his life. He never spoke of those lands and Marian had imagined them to be sterile and almost totally unproductive, and that Guy was ashamed to the point of not even wanting to show them to her.
However, neither she, nor her father, nor Guy had the financial ability to provide for the needs of the children at the orphanage. Marian decided with a sigh that she should seek the help of Robin Hood.
She would rather avoid it because the thought of contacting Robin made her feel disloyal both with Guy and with Robin. But she had no choice, she couldn’t let those children die of cold and hunger.
For a moment, she entertained the idea of intervening as the Nightwatchman, but she rejected it immediately. She had promised to Guy that she wouldn’t act rashly, and she couldn’t break that promise.
Thinking about Guy, she wondered, where was he?
He had left the orphanage a few hours before, and he had said that he would visit Tuck at the abbey, but, since then, he hadn’t shown up.
Just as she thought of him, she saw him coming down the road with the monk, immersed in a conversation with Tuck.

Tuck turned to Guy of Gisborne, with a vaguely disbelieving smile, as he finished telling him one of the Nightwatchman adventures.
“You can’t say that in the last few months you've lost your time,” the friar said, and Guy nodded enthusiastically.
Tuck was pleased to see that light in the eyes of the other man, although many of the actions of the Nightwatchman weren’t entirely acceptable from the point of view of a religious man, and they just added to the already large bunch of sins that Guy had to confess .
When he met him for the first time, Gisborne was a broken man, destroyed and hopeless, and the friar had feared that he might only be able to heal the wounds of his body and not those of his soul, but now it was different: in his eyes he saw life and the determination to build a better future, starting from a past that had hurt him so much.
Gisborne stopped talking when he saw Marian from afar, but Tuck didn’t regret it. There would be time to talk again later, and the black knight would come back to visit him to confess his sins and to tell him the rest of his recent adventures.
Guy saw Marian's face lighting up in a smile when she saw him, and for a moment he looked at her, enraptured. He still couldn’t believe that she could be so glad to see him, that her smile was directed to him, and it seemed impossible how he could find Marian more beautiful every time his eyes rested on her.
In that moment, laughing and a little disheveled, with a scrawny kid dressed in rags clutching his arms around her neck, she as was beautiful as she could be and Guy had to stop himself from running to her, throw himself at her feet, and beg her to marry him now, without waiting another second.
Thinking about Knighton Hall, burnt for the second time, made his chest to swell with sorrow and hatred toward the sheriff. Guy hastened to repel those thoughts and to bury them deep in his heart: he wouldn’t allow anything to ruin the moments he could spend with Marian.
He touched his chest with his hand, looking under his jacket for the shape of the ring he wore around his neck, tied with a silk ribbon belonged to the girl.
He had to wait.
He would rebuild the house and lay the foundation in order to offer her a future, and only then he would ask Marian to become his wife.
The girl let the child go and she watched him running to play with the other orphans, then she went to meet Gisborne and the friar.
“Hi Guy, hello father.”
Tuck greeted her politely, then he looked at her and at Gisborne for a few seconds, and decided to leave.
“Now I must return to the abbey, but I'm really happy to have met you again. Guy, I count to see you soon, there are still many things that we need to discuss.”
Gisborne nodded and the monk returned to the abbey.
Marian gave a surprised look at Guy.
“Didn’t you spoke with him all the morning?”
“Apparently my soul needs a lot of effort and a lot of words to be saved,” Guy said with a wry smile, and the girl looked at him reproachfully.
Gisborne assumed an innocent expression, and Marian smiled, shaking her head.
“You're terrible, Guy,” she said with an amused sigh, then she looked better at him, a bit worried. “And you're pale, do you feel well?”
Guy nodded.
In recent days he had slept too little and he didn’t allowed himself a moment to rest, ignoring the protests of Allan who was trying to make him slow down a little. Now the weariness of the previous days had fallen on him all at once.
“I haven’t slept much in the last few days, that's all.”
She stroked his cheek and Guy leaned on her hand for a moment, smiling.
“Do you still have nightmares?” Marian sighed. “Wake me up next time that it happens to you, I wish I could do something to help.”
“You are already doing so much for me,” Guy said, looking into her eyes.
She touched his lips with a light kiss, ignoring the evil eyes of a handful of women who were walking to the church.
“Did you already eat?” She asked, taking his hand and Guy shook his head.
“Not yet. You?”
“They had offered me a meal, but it didn’t feel right to accept. Those children have barely enough to feed themselves, I couldn’t eat their food. I wish I could do something to help,” the girl said in a distressed tone.
“Ask Hood for help.”
Marian looked at Guy, amazed that that suggestion came from him.
“Won’t you mind if I ask Robin to help those children?”
Guy shrugged nonchalantly.
“After all, isn’t that what he does all the time? Robin Hood, the hero who steals from the rich to give to the poor... Those kids seem very poor, Hood might as well aid them instead of the usual good for nothing peasants.”
Marian rewarded those words with another kiss.
“I'm so glad that you agreed to come with me today.”
Guy tried to dispel the guilt he felt for making her believe that he was with Tuck whereas he had gone to rob the sheriff, and smiled.
“You still didn’t tell me why you cared so much for this.”
“I'm tired of seeing people who fear you like you're a demon. I want you to stay by my side even when we're in public, I can’t stand when we go to the market and you are forced to stay apart because otherwise the sellers would refuse to serve me, or could be rude. They have no right to behave like that and I will no longer tolerate it. Your place is by my side and if others don’t like it, they might as well get used to it.”
Guy stared at her for a moment, then he pulled her into his arms, hiding his face in her hair, so nobody else could see his emotion.
“And this is the place where I want to be,” he whispered into the girl's ear.
Marian hugged him stronger and Guy closed his eyes.
He thought back to his actions of that morning and he felt guilty towards Marian. To impersonate the Nightwatchman was always a risk, it was true, but since Vaisey had burned Knighton Hall, Guy had been carried away by the desire to take revenge, ignoring all cautions.
Stopping to open the cages of the sheriff’s birds had been a dangerous and unnecessary act that could have killed both Robin and him.
If that had happened, if he had been killed for his stupid recklessness, what would have happened to Marian?
He had to take it easy, he decided. If he continued to act on the wave of emotions, he would only hurt himself and the people around him, beginning with Marian.
She touched his face with a caress.
“It's everything all right, Guy? You're trembling...”
“I couldn’t feel better. Come!”
Guy lifted her into his arms with a sudden movement that made her cry with surprise. A group of women who had gathered to chat turned around, and they began to look at the scene disapprovingly.
“Aren’t you ashamed? So close to the Abbey?” A woman said loudly, and another one elbowed her, afraid.
“Shut up! Don’t you know who is that man? Do you want him to kill you?”
“So is that one the lover of Gisborne? I thought she was prettier...”
“Her hair is too short, she should be ashamed to go around like that!”
“And that scar on her face? Was it him to make it to her?”
“Is it true that he has escaped from hell?” One of the women asked, whispering.
One of the other women looked mischievously at Guy.
“But I can understand why she has yielded to sin with him...”
The others shushed with scandalized murmurs, however, none of them openly contradicted her.
“In any case it’s a scandal!” The oldest decreed, loudly enough to be heard even from Guy and Marian.
Gisborne looked at the group of women, then he looked down at Marian’s face, worried about her.
“Are you really sure that you want to face this? I can wait, stand aside when there are other people around...”
Marian put her hands through Guy’s hair and drew him into a passionate kiss, then she pulled away and stared at him, determined.
“I hope I made myself clear.”
Guy smiled.
“Very. But you can explain it to me again whenever you want.”
He carried her to the horse, passing on purpose near the gossiping women. The group dispersed, frightened to see him getting closer to them, and Guy mounted, lifting Marian on the saddle behind him.
The girl wrapped her arms around his waist and Guy galloped away.
“Where are we going?” Marian asked.
“You'll see it soon.”
Marian asked no more questions and she simply clung to Gisborne. The black stallion was fast, although he had two people on the saddle, and Guy was letting him to run freely, without slowing his pace.
The girl smiled, excited by the speed, and she thought that it had been a long time since she had felt so free.
Guy stopped his horse near the river, rummaged in his saddle bags and smiled.
“I knew it.”
“What?” Marian asked, and Guy put a bundle and a wineskin in her hands, then he lifted her back in his arms.
“That Allan would leave me something to eat. If I could afford it, maybe I should give him a raise...”
Marian smiled and held to Guy’s neck with one arm when Gisborne began walking along the bank of the river, penetrating through the vegetation that grew there, without putting her down.
“Guy, aren’t you tired? You'll hurt yourself carrying me, I can walk by myself.”
“I could carry you like this forever and never be tired.”
Marian tickled his neck with her fingers, chuckling.
“Why are you panting, then?”
Guy smiled in defeat.
“Let’s just rest here for a while.”
Then he laid her at the foot of a tree, kneeling on the ground next to her and Marian looked around.
At that point, the river was slow and the vegetation was lush, giving the place the appearance of an enchanted place. The tree under which they had sat sheltered them from the sun with the shade of its branches, and Marian sighed with joy.
“How did you find this place? It's beautiful!”
“It’s not very far from the castle, but not visible from the road. If you don’t know of its existence, you could pass by for years without ever getting here. I found it by accident a long time ago and I've never told anyone. I used to come here when I'd had enough of the sheriff and wanted to stay alone for a while without being disturbed.”
“And now you've shown it to me...”
“Yes.” Guy took the bundle from her and he began to open it. “Don’t you want to see what Allan left for us? I'm hungry.”
Marian nodded. She was hungry too, but she didn’t care so much to find out what was in the package prepared by Allan, anything would be fine for her.
She looked at Guy and smiled: that moment was perfect and she was happy.

Chapter Text

Robin leaned his back to the trunk of the tree, and waited. Shortly before, he had launched an arrow through Gisborne's window to call him and he was waiting for him at the place they had agreed for their meetings.
As he waited, he checked his arrows and stretched the rope of his bow, then, bored, he aimed at a branch far enough and shot an arrow, hitting the target. A moment later, another arrow embedded itself in the wood, near his one.
Robin turned and he found himself face to face with the Nightwatchman.
“I'm impressed,” Robin said, nodding at the arrows planted in the branch. “Until a short time ago you wouldn’t even hit the tree.”
“I learn quickly.”
“And you've become even silent, I didn’t hear you coming. You can’t say the same about punctuality though, I was starting to think that you wouldn’t come.”
“I was sleeping, I didn’t notice the arrow immediately.”
Robin looked at him, raising an eyebrow, sarcastic.
“Incredible, do you also find the time to sleep, now?”
Guy hung his head, a bit embarrassed.
“I'm sorry, forgive me,” he quietly said, and Robin stared at him, struck by his repentant tone.
“I know I've exaggerated,” Guy continued. “I behaved irresponsibly and I put both of us at risk. I shouldn’t have done it, and it won’t happen again, I promise.”
Robin was speechless for a moment. He had summoned Gisborne to put a brake on his reckless behavior, but it seemed that Guy had subsided on his own before his intervention.
“Why so much common sense all of a sudden?”
“I've decided to leave to you the task of making us to end up in trouble, you're a lot more talented in it than me.”
“You've been a good student in that too,” Robin said, with a grin.
“Seriously, Robin, I do not know what I was thinking. I just wanted to hit the sheriff without worrying about the consequences.”
“And now you don’t want to hit him anymore?”
“Oh yes! But only if we can do it without risking our lives.”
“Well, I agree. But for the moment it’s better to stay calm for a while. From what I've heard, Vaisey is furious. Apparently he doubled the reward on our heads and ordered Archer to discover the identity of the Nightwatchman. For some time, it’s better to limit ourselves to the deliveries. In the last few days we have collected a very abundant booty and we can supply the poor for a long time.”
Guy nodded.
“I could use some sleep, I have to admit that I'm exhausted.”
“Allan will be happy, he was worried.”
“Worried for me?”
“Yep. And I was worried too, to say the truth.”
“It always seems so strange...” Guy said, with an half-smile. “I'm not used to it.”
“You’re not used to what?”
“That somebody cares for me. You have seen that, didn’t you? At my funeral there were only Marian, Allan and Thornton, and they were still three more people than I would have thought.”
Guy spoke casually, but Robin was struck by the solitude that hid behind those words. He put his hand on his shoulder, smiling.
“I think there would be much more people now, but let’s try not to find out too soon, what do you say?”
“I agree, I'm not anxious to find out,” Guy said, giving him a grateful smile. “Oh, about the deliveries, I think that in the coming days Marian will come to ask for your help for the orphanage of Kirklees. Try to be generous with those kids.”
“Guy of Gisborne who cares about orphans? I'd like to see the Sheriff's face if he could hear you speaking like that.”
“I just want Marian to be happy and, as I can’t help her myself, you’ll have to do it!” Guy said abruptly, and Robin laughed.
“Well, I recognize you now. But don’t worry, those kids will have a good winter thanks to your recklessness. We will give them the money that we got for the things that you stole from the sheriff. In the end you will be helping Marian, even if you can’t tell her.”
“One day, when we’ll no longer need the Nightwatchman, I'll tell her everything.”
“And that day Marian will make you regret of being born for all the lies you told her...”
“I'll make sure to tell her who was my accomplice, so at least there will be two of us regretting to be born. Three with Allan, probably.”
Robin shook his head, laughing.
“Now go back to Locksley if you don’t want her to find it out before time.” Robin wondered if he should have talked about Archer, but he decided not to do it for the moment. Gisborne had suffered a very tough blow with the fire of Knighton Hall and, since then, he had exhausted himself trying to take revenge on the sheriff and to rebuild the house as quickly as possible. Even Robin could see that he was paler than usual and that he needed to rest more. “And try to sleep, you look awful.”
“I was doing it, you were the one to wake me up.”
“Then go back to bed. I will call you when we will go to the orphanage, but until then I don’t want to see you wearing that costume.”
“You can count on it. Also because tomorrow I will have to be rested if I want to have some hope of defeating Archer.”
Robin stared at him, astonished.
“Are you going to contact him again?”
“That was the plan, wasn’t it? Tomorrow I will go to Nottingham and I’ll ask him for another challenge.”
“I thought…”
“Did you think that after losing my home I would back off? That I wouldn’t have the strength to approach one of the people who burned it? I promised that I would try to bring our brother on our side and I will.”
“I just thought it would be too painful. I don’t know if I could behave friendly with someone who took me something so important to me.”
Guy looked at him ironically and Robin frowned.
“What are you laughing about, now? What's so funny?”
“What you just said. Robin, you say you couldn’t, but you've already done it. With me.”
“But it's different...”
“Not so much. Archer works for the sheriff, it’s true, but he didn’t order to destroy Knighton Hall. I have been in his position and I know that he can’t refuse to execute certain orders even though they force him to do something that he doesn’t approve of.”
“You can’t tell whether Archer approves them or not. Remember that he could be a cruel and unscrupulous person. Even if he now took your place at the castle, he might be very different from you. And not for the better.”
“I'm aware of it. But I can’t pull back, Archer is still our brother, although he's on a wrong track, he deserves a chance.”
“We don’t even know if he's really our brother.”
“And that's why I'm going to Nottingham tomorrow. I have to find out.”
Robin nodded.
“All right, do it. But be careful.”

Marian tried to push open the door of Guy's room, but found it barred from inside. She tried to gently knock, but she got no answer and she sighed.
She woke up because of a nightmare, she had dreamed the face of the man she had killed to defend Guy, and that dream had left her with a feeling of cold and desolation that wouldn’t get away from her.
She wanted Guy to hold her in his arms to reassure her, she needed to find a safe haven in his hug and let him send away the shadows of the night for her.
She didn’t dare to knock louder for fear of waking her father, but she didn’t feel like going back to bed without first seeing Gisborne. She remembered all the time she had came home entering from the window and she smiled: she would climb up to Guy's window and she’d call him quietly. If he wouldn’t wake up, she would be content to watch him sleeping for a while before going back to bed.
Once she made the decision, she quickly moved: she slipped out of Locksley without making a noise and climbed the front of the house until she reached the window. An old barrel was placed near the outside wall of the house just under the window of Guy’s room, and it made it easier to climb. Marian passed her leg over the window sill and looked inside the room.
Guy was not there.
The door was closed from the inside, but Guy wasn’t there, what did it mean?
More agitated than before, she went down the wall, wondering what to do. Should she call Allan?
Or would it be better to go looking for Gisborne on her own? Or pretending that nothing happened?
She approached the stables to look inside, but Guy's horse wasn’t there.
Where could he have gone in the middle of the night?
She was almost determined to talk to Allan, when she heard the sound of the hooves of a horse just outside the building.
The girl hid in one of the horses' stall and shortly after she saw him enter the stable.
Gisborne left the horse in his stall and then he slipped out of the stable, furtive. Marian waited for him to exit before approaching the door to look out, just in time to see him return to his room from the window, climbing on the barrel, just like she had done a few minutes before.
Why, Guy? Where have you been?
The young woman was disheartened because the only answer she could found was suggested to her by her jealousy.
Her first impulse was to run in the house and stomp at Guy's door to force him to open it and ask for explanations, but she stopped before taking a single step.
What if Guy's answer should confirm her doubts? What would she do then?
She did not know if she could accept the truth, but she certainly could not endure the idea of losing him.
She returned home without making the slightest noise, and she dropped herself on her bed, suffocating her tears in the pillow.
The doubt tortured her, but she didn’t want to know.

Chapter Text

The sun was already high when Guy opened his eyes, but that day he wasn’t in a hurry to go to Knighton Hall. He had already decided to go to Nottingham to contact Archer, for one day the rebuilding of the house would continue without him.
He stretched himself, feeling rested for the first time in many days, and he was forced to admit with himself that Allan's reproaches and concerns were not entirely unfounded.
In recent times he had pushed too close to the limits of his own strength, and, if he hadn’t realized in time that he needed a pause, he would have ended up collapsing.
And he couldn’t afford that.
He got up from the bed, hungry, and wondered if Marian had waited to eat with him.
With a pang of remorse he thought that there was also another good reason to slow down a little.
When he woke up at dawn to go to work at Knighton Hall, the girl got up before him to cook breakfast.
Guy liked that quiet moment with her when the rest of the house was still asleep and the first light of the sun painted everything in golden colors, but he had never stopped to think that waking up so early could be tiring for Marian.
He decided that eating together would be just as nice even if they did it an hour or two later, more rested and without hurry. Perhaps they would not have the silence and the colors of dawn, but Guy was certain that just being with Marian would be enough to make their time together entrancing all the same.
He hurried to dress and he went downstairs, eager to see her, but he was disappointed in finding that the kitchen was deserted and perfectly tidy.
Usually, when Marian tried to cook, she poured pots, containers, and ingredients everywhere and the servants sighed thinking about the time they would need to put everything in order again, and to clean up the disasters made by the girl. Now it was all perfectly clean and it was clear that Marian had not set foot in the kitchen that morning.
Perhaps she had seen that he was still sleeping and she had waited for him so that he wouldn’t find a cold breakfast...
“Good morning, Sir Guy,” Thornton said, standing by the kitchen door. “I’ll tell the cook to prepare breakfast.”
Gisborne looked at the servant.
“Thank you Thornton, but I think I will wait for Lady Marian.”
"You’ll wait for a long time then, Sir Guy. Lady Marian is not at home.”
Guy stared at him, astonished and worried.
“Where is she?”
“She went out very early this morning, while you were still sleeping. It seemed to me that she was sad or troubled and I took the liberty to ask her if everything was alright. She replied that today she would give up cooking and that she would bring the flour and some eggs to the orphans of Kirklees.”
Guy nodded, sympathetically. Evidently, the conditions of those children had to be worse than he thought if Marian had chosen to skip a meal to bring them something, and he was glad that he had told Robin Hood to be generous with the orphanage.
Marian's altruism made him love her even more, yet Guy couldn’t help but feel disappointed for her absence, and, when Thornton asked him what he wanted to eat, he just shook his head and took two apples from the fruit basket.
“No, thank you. These will be fine.”

Marian urged the horse to accelerate his pace, even if she knew that Allan, still sleepy and moody for being thrown off the bed before dawn, would struggle to follow her closely.
She hadn’t slept at all and her mood was even worse than Allan’s.
She'd spent the night alternating between burning jealousy, anger, pain and sadness, without being able to close her eyes.
Why did Guy feel the need to look elsewhere for something she could have offered to him, if he just cared to ask?
Marian couldn’t stand the idea of thinking him in the arms of another woman, and several times during that tormented night she had been about to run in his room, wake him up and shout at him all her suffering and her jealousy.
She never did, though, because she was afraid. She was terrified of what Guy could have told her to justify himself, she was afraid of the sorrow that his words could bring, but above all she had a terrible fear of losing him.
If she thought of a possible betrayal from Guy, she felt that she could be able to hate him. At the same time, she loved him even more, of a crazy, desperate and almost obsessive love.
What would I do if Guy told me that he loves another woman?
Marian could almost see that scene in front of her eyes, as in a nightmare: Guy smiling as he confessed that he would marry a woman who was not her, happy for a new love.
What would I do? What?
Darkness filled her heart with that thought, while anger devoured her soul.
I would be capable of everything.
As in a flash she saw herself striking Guy with a sword, in order to extinguish that smile that made her mad with pain. The same lethal and too simple gesture that she did when she pierced Barret's soldier in Nottingham.
I could kill him. And that would also be my end because I can’t live without him.
That thought startled Marian, and she almost risked falling from her horse. For her, it was like waking up suddenly from a nightmare.
How could she imagine such a scene? It was madness, but if she chose to surrender herself to jealousy, it could become real, she felt it in her heart.
No. He loves me. Guy loves me.
Marian thought of Gisborne's behavior toward her, the gentle gestures he always had for her, how he only showed his most vulnerable side to her, the way he had challenged death to come back to her.
Their souls belonged to each other, and she told herself that she had to focus on this.
What could have happened with a tavern girl wasn’t important, it was just a physical necessity, an unimportant mishap that Guy would forget once he got what he needed and that would disappear once they were able to get married .
It was an unpleasant thought, but she could accept it. Many men did so, continuing to reserve their love only for legitimate wives.
Marian persuaded herself that it had to be so, and she didn’t want to investigate further for fear of finding out more.
Because in that case she would lose her mind.

Archer ordered the soldiers to continue marching and to reach their guard positions on the castle walls, he let them go ahead, and he stopped.
“So, what are you doing here?” He said, without looking at the man behind him.
Guy stepped away from the shadow of the wall where he had been waiting for Archer, and smiled, admired: his half-brother couldn’t have seen him, but somehow he sensed his presence.
“I was waiting for you.”
“You were? Strange, I don’t see any knife planted in my back.”
Guy shrugged.
“Why should I?”
Archer turned to look at him.
“Why? Do you need to ask it?”
“I have nothing against you, not yet at least.”
“And should I believe it? Should I trust the words of a person who had his house burned?”
“You didn’t give the order, and, believe me, I know how it is when you work for the sheriff. I also had to obey to orders that I personally didn’t want to carry out. I have my hands dirty with blood, maybe more than you.”
“Let’s believe that you're telling the truth, so, what do you want from me? You say that we are alike, yet I don’t see your victims waiting in the street to make a friendly chat with you.”
“It's already good when they just ignore me, in fact.”
“Then what are you doing here, Gisborne?”
Guy smiled and he put a hand on the hilt of the sword without pulling it out. Archer instinctively imitated him, preparing to respond to an attack, but Gisborne merely smiled.
“I want a rematch.”
“Our sword fight we had some time ago. You beat me, true, but it was fun. And recently I've been deadly bored, I have to admit it.”
Archer looked at him.
“You fell out with the sheriff to retire to a quieter life and you got bored?” He asked ironically. “Isn’t that what you wanted? Are you repenting now? A clue: I will not give your job back.”
Guy smiled.
“Don’t worry, I don’t want it. And yes, I got what I wanted and I wouldn’t go back, but I'm missing some action.”
“So? Take part in some tournament or find a more passionate woman, even more than one.”
Gisborne shook his head.
“I don’t need it. But I would like a worthy opponent. Like you.”
Archer grinned.
“Who tells me that you are worthy? Last time I beat you, I don’t think you can equal my skills with a sword.”
“I can improve. Sooner or later I will defeat you, and, even if I don’t succeed, I'm sure it will still be useful to learn some new moves.”
“And what if I get bored? You are skilled, it’s true, but I have faced very much better fighters than you.”
“There isn’t only the sword. There will definitely be something where I'm better than you. Don’t tell me that you're scared to find out.”
Archer looked at him, amused.
The sheriff was right, Gisborne had some second end and it might be interesting to find it out.
“Let's hear: what were you thinking about?”
Guy smiled.
“How good are you at riding a horse?”

Chapter Text

Guy pulled off the bags attached to the horse's saddle to lighten him from any unnecessary weight, and entrusted them to one of Nottingham's squires, then he carefully examined the hooves and the reins and he made sure that the saddle was firmly fixed.
He stroked the black stallion neck and smiled, anticipating the excitement of the race.
Meanwhile, Archer had already jumped on a white horse, one of the best specimens of the Sheriff's stables.
“Should I wait for a long time?”
Guy put his foot in the stirrup and mounted too.
“I'm ready.”
The two men lead the horses to the gates of the city and they stood side by side on the threshold of the open gate.
“From here to Kirklees?”
Guy hesitated for a moment, thinking that Marian had gone exactly there, but he nodded.
If he had to approach Archer, sooner or later Marian would find it out, anyway. Certainly she would criticize him, and they would probably argue because he couldn’t reveal the true reasons for his behavior, but when he had accepted the mission, he had anticipated that kind of problems.
“That’s good for me.”
“The first who crosses the gate of the old cemetery wins.”
“The cemetery?”
“You aren’t afraid of ghosts, are you?”
“Not of those who have been resting in the earth for centuries,” Guy replied, thinking of the people he had killed for the sheriff. If he had feared the spirits of the dead, he would be worried by those of his victims, not by the ghosts of strangers who were already dust before he was born.
“Then get ready to leave. Boy!” Archer said, stopping a servant. “Get on the walls above the gate and drop this handkerchief. When it touches the ground we start.”
Guy nodded to him to show that he was ready.
The boy obeyed, hurrying up the stairs that led to the walls, and the people who had gathered to watch parted, making room for the two riders.
Gisborne and Archer got ready to start, studying the road ahead of them to find obstacles or holes in the ground and choose the best route.
The servant leaned forward and dropped the handkerchief.
The piece of cloth barely touched ground when it was trampled by the hooves of the two galloping horses.

Allan watched Marian while the girl helped to distribute the food to the orphan children: the ingredients they had brought, flour and eggs were not plentiful, but they were still able to provide the orphans with a more nutritious meal than they were accustomed to.
Marian was smiling, seeing the joy of the little ones, but there was something wrong in her smile, as though she wasn’t really happy at all.
Later, as they rode back home, Allan approached the girl. That morning he had been struggling to keep her pace, because Marian had pushed her horse into a gallop, so fast so that it was a miracle that the eggs had come to their destination without breaking, but, returning home, the pace of their horses was slow, almost reluctant.
“Giz will be disappointed of not finding your pancakes this morning.”
Allan thought that perhaps for the health of the black knight it would have been a good thing not to be forced to eat those pancakes for at least one morning, but he kept his opinion for himself.
Serves him right.
Marian was about to express that thought aloud, but she forced herself to keep silent.
“Those kids have nothing, they risk to starve, our little sorrows are nothing compared to theirs.”
The girl's words were right and sensible, but Allan felt a trace of frost in her voice, a latent, but unmistakable irritation. He wondered if she and Gisborne had been fighting for some reason, but he hadn’t heard them shouting, and recently, he had seen them getting along so well that they were almost annoying.
“Is everything alright, Marian? Something worries you?”
“Nothing,” the girl said, icily, and Allan thought that that single word contained a huge problem.
If I were Giz, I would worry.
He was already worried: whatever it was, he would have to deal with the bad mood of both of them.

The hooves of his horse seemed to hit the ground at the same pace as the beats of his heart, and Guy slowed down the stallion, allowing Archer to overtake him. He wanted to save the strength of his stallion so that he could push him to the maximum in the last part of the race, and at the same time he wanted Archer to choose which way to take.
They were approaching a crossroads and, to get to Kirklees, they had two alternatives: the long, secure main road, which would force the horses to run a longer stretch, but which would ensure a more homogeneous surface and no big obstacles, or the road that crossed the forest, shorter but much more rough and risky.
Guy could already see the fork in the distance: on the left they would head to the forest, to the right they would continue on the main street.
Archer headed the horse to the left.
Forest, then.
Guy followed him, careful not to get too detached, but leaving Archer the few meters of advantage that would have led him first in any obstacle or danger that might appear on their way.

“Do you hear that, Robin?” Much asked, taking a hand to his ear.
“Hooves. And they seem to be in a hurry. Let's check who it is.”
The two outlaws reached a hill from which they could keep an eye on a long stretch of the road that crossed the forest. Two galloping horses appeared in the distance and Robin recognized Guy's black stallion before he heard Much exclamation.
“It's Gisborne! And who’s the other one? What are they doing?”
Robin waited for them to be closer before saying what he already knew.
“The other looks like Archer, the Sheriff's new Master of Arms.”
“What has Gisborne to do with him?!”
Robin did his best to look surprised.
“A race, apparently.”
“With the enemy? If Gisborne really is on our side as he says, he should fight against that man, not fraternize with him!”
Robin thought of the irresistible irony of the words chosen by her friend. Fraternize. Much could not have chosen a more suitable term even if he knew of their secret.
“We'll ask him for explanations. Meanwhile, let's have a good time.”
Robin took his bow.
“What do you want to do?”
“To add a bit of unexpected to their race.”
Robin shot a first arrow and looked at it, flying a few inches over Guy's head and sticking into a tree.
Officially he and Gisborne were still rivals, if he allowed him and Archer to cross the forest undisturbed, it would look suspicious.
He nocked another arrow and this time he aimed in the direction of Archer.

Guy was brushed by something that passed over his head, and he turned just in time to see the arrow embedding itself in a trunk. Archer also looked at it, surprised.
“It's Hood!” Guy cried out, reaching Archer’s side.
“Weren’t you in good relations with him?! The sheriff has punished you for this!”
They both ducked to avoid another arrow.
“The fact that I allowed him to feed the peasants does not imply that we are in good relationships. I let him do it because it suited me too.”
He lowered his head, as an arrow passed by.
Great idea, Robin. This will diminish the suspicions about our alliance.
“Does it look like a good relationships?!” Guy cried, urging the horse to go faster to pass that dangerous spot as soon as possible.
The animal jumped to overcome a fallen trunk and Guy cried out of pain and surprise as he suddenly felt a sudden blow to his arm, followed by a dull, burning pain.
He looked at the shaft of the arrow that had pierced his skin, astonished.
Aren’t you exaggerating, brother of mine?
“Did they hit you?” Archer asked.
Guy snatched the arrow off with a sharp gesture. It hurt and Guy could feel the blood flowing along his arm, but the wound had to be superficial because it didn’t stop him from holding the reins.
“It's nothing, we can continue.”

Robin lowered the bow with an imprecation. He was aiming high enough not to hit Guy, but he didn’t expect that the horse could jump exactly in that moment.
He paled, seeing the arrow sticking from Gisborne's arm, fearing he had severely injured him, but then Guy had ripped it off and he had continued his race with Archer, so his wound probably wasn’t too serious.
But Robin didn’t throw other arrows, shaken by the thought of what could have happened. It was very rare that he missed a shot, but that mistake could have killed Guy, and that idea clenched his stomach in a painful vice.
It was absurd, if he thought about it well. Just one year before, he would have enjoyed hitting his enemy, and certainly he didn’t lose his sleep for him when they believed him dead, but now he was upset at the thought of just scratching him by mistake.
How did his friendship become so important to him? Yet it had happened, and Guy was becoming more and more the brother who Robin never had.
Robin wondered if it would happen with Archer too, who probably was really their brother.
He looked at the two riders far away, and he wished that it did, for the good of all three of them.
Archer's horse jumped a bush, returning to the main road, and Gisborne followed him just a moment later.
Guy spurred the black stallion, Kirklees was near now, and it was time to do whatever he could to overtake Archer and win the race. He leaned forward on the saddle and urged the horse to go faster.
Archer saw the black horse overtaking him, beginning to detach him, and realized that until that moment Gisborne had held him back to save his strength. He realized that if he wanted to win against Guy, from that moment on, he would have to work hard and make no mistake: he spurred his horse too.

Allan and Marian saw a dust cloud in the distance and they shielded their eyes from the sun with one hand to look better.
“What is it?” The girl asked.
Allan stood up on the stirrups to get a better view.
“Riders. Two of them, it seems to me.”
“They're running fast to lift that much dust... I wonder if something serious happened to make them gallop like that.”
“I have no idea,” Allan said, “but surely they would better stop before they get to the bend that we just passed.”
“Why?” The girl started to ask, then she remembered they had just passed a wagon loaded with lumber that had overturned in the middle of the road. The lumberers had begun to remove the trunks, but certainly they wouldn’t be able to move the obstacle before the riders arrived.
Marian turned back to look at the bend, wondering what they could do, but Allan's scream startled her.
“It's Giz! One of those men is Giz!”
Marian froze. Why was Guy on one of those galloping horses? And who was the other knight?
As soon as they were a little closer, Marian recognized him.
“Archer! The other is the sheriff's henchman! But what are they doing? Is he chasing Guy?!”
Allan shook his head.
“A race. They're racing.”
“But why?”
Yeah, why, Giz?
Allan was worried, when Archer was around, Gisborne behaved strangely, letting himself to get involved in absurd duels or races, and he could not understand the reason. Guy should hate him or at least be frightened by the man who had flogged him and then forced to look at the fire of Knighton Hall, but it was like if he was fascinated in some way and wanted to impress him.
“We have to stop them before they get to the bend. But how?”

Guy smiled. He was flushed because of the excitement of the race, and his wounded arm pulsed painfully, but he was winning and he had the impression that he had never ridden so well and so fast. Each step of the horse was just perfect and increased his advantage. Guy felt in perfect harmony with the animal.
Farther along the road he recognized Allan and Marian riding their horses, and his smile widened.
After that, it was certain that rebukes and arguments would come, but at the moment it didn’t matter, he just wanted Marian to see him ride so gloriously, he wanted her to be present in the moment of his victory, so that, for a moment, he could to appear the best to her eyes and to be admired by her.
As he passed near her, the girl shouted at him, but Guy couldn’t understand her words. He thought that she was encouraging him, and he made the horse to go faster.
Archer followed him a few feet behind.
Allan and Marian watched them go by without slowing down, and trembled at the thought of the overturned wagon hidden by the bend. Panicked, they turned their horses to chase them, fearing that they could only watch the disaster without being able to do anything to prevent it.
Guy realized that Marian's cry was a warning only when he found himself in front of the wagon that was blocking the road.
He knew that he wouldn’t have the time to stop the horse, so he could only hope to succeed in jumping over the obstacle, praying that the stallion didn’t make him fall as he did a few weeks earlier: in that case, at that speed, Guy would be seriously injured or even die .
But he couldn’t hesitate: he chose the right time to jump, and the horse flew over the overturned wagon without touching it, and they landed on the other side, without slowing down.
Guy turned to look back and saw with relief that even Archer had managed to jump without damage, then he went on galloping, passing first through the collapsed columns delimiting the entrance to the old cemetery.
Archer reached him a few seconds later and Guy smiled at him, satisfied.
“Did you see? I told you I could beat you in something.”
The other man smiled too.
“Nice race, congratulations. Next time it's up to me to choose the challenge, though.”
“Of course, you can count on it,” Guy said, then he turned to look at Marian and Allan who had just reached them. “Have you seen? I won!”
“Are you insane?!”
Guy's proud smile faded, hearing Marian’s tone, and he realized that the girl was pale as a ghost and that she had tears in her eyes. Allan was also white as a sheet.
Archer glanced from Guy to the girl, and watched the scene with a ironic smile on his face.
“I think you're in trouble, Gisborne.”
Guy gave a worried glance at the girl.
“You could die, did you realize it?! For what? To play with the Sheriff's new dog?”
Gisborne was staring at her, unable to reply to the girl's words, and he realized that Marian had said that phrase with the purpose of hurting him.
Archer grinned and waved him goodbye as he moved the horse to leave.
“Do you understand why I prefer tavern girls? No bonds, no problems. If you want, next time I'll introduce you to some of them. Well, have fun, see you.”
Guy got off the horse to get closer to the girl and even Marian dismounted, even more furious for Archer's hint at the girls.
“What were you thinking to do?!”
Guy inwardly sighed, it would not have been easy to calm Marian, but he couldn’t tell her the real motives that had pushed him to compete with Archer.
“A race.” He said simply.
“With him? Why with him?!”
“Yes, Giz, why with Archer?”
“Why not? Anyway, I wanted a rematch.”
“Because he works for the sheriff, that's why! You should keep away from him!”
“I'm sorry, Giz, but I agree with Marian. That man is dangerous, we should keep him away, not make friends with him.”
Guy gave a sarcastic smile to them, and shook his head.
“What’s up? You worry if people hate me and then, as soon as I have a friendly relationship with someone, you criticize me?”
“That's not "someone", that's a killer at Sheriff's orders!”
“So that means that we have something in common, right?”
“Of course this is something to be proud of, isn’t it?!” Marian cried, then she mounted and galloped away.
Guy watched her go away without trying to follow her. He probably had answered too aggressively, but that was the only way to avoid giving too many explanations.
I'll make it up to you, I promise.
Allan was standing by his side, but he seemed uncomfortable.
“Giz, what's up with you?”
“It’s not your business with whom I make friends,” he said, in a sharper tone than he intended.
Allan bowed his head.
“We're just worried for you.”
Guy mounted in the saddle, but he let the horse choose the pace. After the race he had to be tired and he didn’t want to strain him.
Allan followed him, dispirited, and Guy felt guilty.
“I know that you care,” he said with a sigh, “but trust me.”
Please, Allan.
The young man looked at him, uncertain, then he nodded.
“Hey, Giz.”
“Marian will make you pay for this, you know it, don’t you?”
This time it was Guy who nodded unhappily.
He had expected it, but seeing her in anger with him was still bad.
Guy looked at him and Allan smiled.
“Nice race, though. And that jump was amazing.”

Chapter Text

Guy got off the horse and entrusted the stallion to one of Locksley's squires. He usually preferred to take care of the horse himself, brushing the stallion was an activity that relaxed him too, but at that moment he felt too tired.
One of the servants met him, holding in his hand the saddlebags that Guy had taken off the horse before starting the race.
“Sir Guy, they just brought these from Nottingham.”
Gisborne nodded.
“All right, leave them in the stable, beside the saddle.”
Guy went into the house, followed by Allan, and he looked around, searching for Marian with his eyes, but he only saw Sir Edward sitting near the fireplace.
"If you are looking for my daughter, she has already retired to her room, but if I were you, Sir Guy, I would not knock at her door right now.”
Guy sighed.
“Was she angry when she came back?”
“She wasn’t in her best mood. I guess you already know the reason, don’t you?”
“I do... Maybe I should talk to her...”
“No, Giz,” Allan said, vehemently, “If you've caused the rage of a woman, first let her calm down for a while, and then implore her forgiveness. Now you’d only worsen things.”
“Are you hurt, Sir Guy?” Marian's father asked, worried.
“What?” Gisborne asked, surprised, before remembering Robin Hood's arrow. The quarrel with Marian had made him forget all the rest.
Allan looked at him.
“Giz, your arm... You're dripping blood on the floor.”
“Oh, yes. It's nothing serious, just little more than a scratch. I think.”
“You think so?” Allan shook his head, and dragged a chair beside the window. “Sit there, in the light, and take off your gloves and your jacket.”
Guy was tempted to tell him to leave him alone. He felt exhausted and he only wanted to lie down and sleep until morning, when he could try to apologize to Marian, but he knew that as small as it could be, that wound had to be cleaned and treated to avoid an infection, so it was better to do it right away.
He dropped into the chair and he began to pull off his glove, noticing only in that moment that his hand was completely wet and sticky with blood.
“Giz, I think it's a bit more than a scratch,” Allan said, approaching Guy to help him pull off his jacket. “It bleeds a lot.”
Guy nodded, looking at his arm with a bit of concern.
During the race he ignored the pain, but now he could see that the wound was rather deep and that he had lost a lot of blood.
He called Thornton and ordered him to bring water, clean cloths, and everything needed to treat wounds, then he leaned against the back of the armchair and closed his eyes, letting Allan handle his wound.
The young man bathed the cloth in the basin and used it to wash the blood from Guy's arm and hand, but when he finished the job he hesitated, looking at the injury left by Robin Hood's arrow.
“Maybe we should call Djaq...”
“No. She and Will will soon have their baby to think about, we can’t continue to involve her every time we have a problem. They can’t grow a son in the camp of the outlaws, they have to make a living elsewhere, and they shouldn’t have nothing more to do with us or with Hood.
“But I can’t treat the wounds!”
“Yes, Sir Guy?”
The servant appeared immediately in the room, and Guy looked at him.
“Are you able to clean an arrow wound?”
“It will hurt, sir.”
“It doesn’t matter, do it.”
“As you wish, Sir Guy.”

Marian stood motionless with her face hidden in the pillow, in the same position since she had thrown herself on the bed a few hours before, when she had returned home, furious.
Only once she was alone, she allowed herself to burst into tears, suffocating the sobs in the pillow so that nobody could hear her.
She couldn’t say if she was angry with Guy for what he secretly did at night, or horrified at the thought of the risks he had taken during that crazy race.
She didn’t understand why that Archer had so much influence on Guy. She thought of the young man's unseemly words about ties and tavern girls, and she wondered if Archer was trying to get Guy away from her for some reason.
Because he works for the sheriff, that's why!
The girl got up from the bed, and wiped her eyes with an angry gesture.
It was probably Vaisey's fault, she said to herself.
That man was the devil, and Marian was certain that he would take every opportunity to hit Guy.
Probably he had ordered Archer to approach Gisborne to manipulate him, but, if so, how could Guy be so blind that he didn’t notice it?
It reminded her of a sentence that Gisborne had told her so long ago: he was working for the sheriff because he had no one.
Marian wondered if Guy was so little used to receive gestures of friendship that he was unable to understand their sincerity.
After all, she had tricked him herself to make him believe that she was his friend when she just wanted to pass informations to Robin Hood, and Guy had never suspected her falsehood. If it hadn’t been Marian herself who confessed, Guy would probably never find out that she was the Nightwatchman.
Was him so easily swayed, then?
What if...
Marian paled, barely daring to give shape to the thought that grew in her mind.
Guy loved her, she was sure of it, she saw it in his gaze and in his gestures, she felt it in his words.
But why did he love her? Was she really the person he was in love with, or had his feelings been born because of Marian's lies, by the mere fact that she was the only woman initially offering him some friendship, even if it was for second means?
And if another woman had offered him her affection, if she was interested in him, what would Guy do?
Between me and another girl in love with him, would he still choose me?
Tormented by those thoughts, she walked back and forth across the room. She stood by the window and looked out, noticing a servant who carried out a basin to empty it.
The girl shuddered, noticing that the water was red with blood. Did anyone get hurt?
He had been hurt somehow during that stupid race with Archer, she thought, and for a moment she was tempted to go downstairs and make sure that he was well, forgetting the reasons why she was angry with him.
She stopped before reaching the door of the room.
She had seen him, didn’t she? After the race, he seemed in good shape, enough to boast for winning.
If he had been the one who lost blood, any wound he had couldn’t be so serious. She didn’t want to let him off the hook yet, she wanted to make him know that it wasn’t acceptable to get familiar with the sheriff's allies.
And with the girls in the tavern.
No. She decided to go back to bed. She wouldn’t give up, and she wouldn’t speak to him for a while, this time.
At least until tomorrow morning.

Guy closed his eyes, and turned to one side, suffocating a groan of pain against the pillow.
Thornton had not lied when he said that the treatment of the wound would be painful, and now his arm pulsed painfully and seemed to burn, as if he had kept it amidst the flames.
Guy cradled it tight against his chest, trying to move it as little as possible, and he hoped he could fall asleep, even though it was still early and the sun had not yet set.
He certainly felt tired, partly because he had rested little in the previous days, partly because of the effort and the excitement of the race, and partly for the pain and the loss of blood.
He sighed. If Marian had not been in anger with him, of course her comfort and her care would relieve the pain he felt, just like only her tender presence had been able to comfort him after the fire of Knighton Hall.
He opened his eyes as he heard a rustle beside the bed, and realized that he must have fallen asleep because the room was now dark, lit only by the small flame of a candle placed on the table.
Thornton or Allan probably entered while he slept, because, next to the candlestick, he could see a tray of food and a pitcher that weren’t there before.
He thought that he should eat something, but he had no appetite, and the only thought of having to get up from the bed seemed to him to be too much trouble to deal with.
The rustle was repeated, and Guy realized that he wasn’t alone in the room.
“Marian?” He called in a low voice, hoping that the girl had decided to forgive him.
“I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I am not her,” Robin said, appearing in the light of the candle.
“Hood!” Guy sat up on the bed trying to ignore the jolt of pain that crossed his arm when he moved. “You shouldn’t be here, they might see you.”
“Are you alright?”
Guy looked at him surprised by that question, then he smiled, amused.
“Are you worried about my health? Now I have to ask you if you feel well.”
“Shut up, Gisborne, I am serious. It wasn’t my intention to hit you.”
“I want to hope it wasn’t!” Guy said, looking at his arm, then he looked back at Robin. “But how could Robin Hood miss the target? Maybe I have to really worry.”
Robin laughed, shaking his head.
“If you have the strength to joke, it means you're not so badly injured.”
“It's just a scratch, but thank you for asking.”
“Do you feel like continuing with what you're doing with Archer?” Robin asked, lowering his voice again, and Guy nodded.
“It is necessary. Even though Marian doesn’t understand why I want to get closer to him.”
“Someday she will.”
They became silent, hearing some steps coming up the stairs and Guy pointed the window to Robin with his arm.
“Now you go,” he whispered.
The outlaw went to the window sill and stopped before going out of the window.
“By the way, who won the race?”
Guy grinned.
“Me. Did you doubt it?”
Robin laughed, and a moment later he disappeared, just before Allan came into the room.
“Did you forget how to knock?” Guy reproached him.
“I thought you were sleeping, Giz.”
“Now I'm awake. What do you want?”
“To see how you felt, but, judging from your mood, I would say I don’t have to worry too much.”
“What did you really want?”
Allan looked at him.
“You didn’t say how you got hit by an arrow during a ride.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“And you're not going to tell,” Allan concluded for him.
“This is another of the things I have to trust you about, right?”
Guy lowered his eyes and nodded.
Allan was surprised to see his expression: in spite of the rude words he had uttered shortly before, Gisborne seemed to be genuinely sorry and uncertain, almost fearful.
Certainly there was something that disturbed him, but he wouldn’t trust him.
“Look, Giz, I trust you, really, but, whatever it is, be careful. Remember that not everyone is willing to trust you.”
“I know. And I know I'm asking you a lot.”
The tone he spoke was unusually quiet, and Allan had the impression that Gisborne felt guilty of his reticence, and that all that secrecy was a burden for him too.
“This is what friends are for, don’t they?” He said, smiling, then changed the subject, deciding to set aside secrets and unanswered questions. “Do you want to eat something, Giz?”
“No, I'm not hungry, I just want to sleep.” Guy let out another sigh. “I'm so tired... But I'm thirsty. Could you…”
Allan filled a cup with the contents of the jug, and handed it to him. Guy sniffed the liquid before drinking, realizing that it was neither water nor wine, then he tasted a cautious sip, recognizing the flavor of herbal infusions that Tuck had given him to alleviate the pain of the wounds on his back.
"There were still herbs in the pantry, and Thornton thought you might need something to relieve pain and rest better,” Allan explained, noticing Guy's hesitation.
“Good idea,” Guy said, returning to lie on his side after emptying the cup. “Let me sleep, now.”
Allan picked up the empty cup and placed it beside the jug. When he turned back to the bed, he realized that Gisborne had already fallen asleep, his wounded arm cradled against his chest to protect it.
Once more the young man wondered what kind of trouble Gisborne was in, which situation could be so delicate that he had to keep the secret even with him, who was aware of almost all the secrets of the black knight.
Allan had the obvious feeling that sooner or later, whatever he was doing, Guy would find himself in huge troubles, and in that case he would need the help of a friend.
But how could he help him without knowing what was happening?
Well, Giz, maybe you can’t or you don’t want to talk to me, but nothing could stop me to do some research on my own. I'll find out what you are hiding, even for your own good.

Chapter Text

“This time I'm challenging you.”
Guy looked at Archer and smiled, anticipating a new race. He liked to confront his alleged brother, to use his skills thoroughly only for the satisfaction of trying to be the best.
“What were you thinking about?”
Archer made a theatrical gesture with his hand, showing something behind him, and his face darkened with demonic shadows.
Guy approached, suddenly fearful, and he realized that they were inside the dungeons of the castle.
In the cell pointed by Archer, chained to the wall, there were Allan, Robin, Marian and Sir Edward.
“What does this mean?” Guy asked, struggling to find the voice.
Archer put his hand on his back and pushed him into the cell, then he put a dagger in his hand.
“This is our new challenge.” He said, with a carefree smile. “Choose two of them and we’ll see who kills them better.”
Guy stepped back.
“You must do it. Who loses is destined to burn.”
Gisborne turned, and he saw a wall of flames moving toward him, pushing him towards the prisoners. He looked at Archer, desperate.
“And what happens to the one who wins?”
Archer laughed, his face twisted with hate, and for a moment he resembled the sheriff.
The devil's face.
With a gesture he pointed to the flames that had now surrounded them on every side.
“Whoever wins, Guy, will burn in hell.”

Marian hesitated for a moment in front of Guy's door, fought between pride and the desire to make peace with him.
What happened to me? Why do I need him so much?
With Robin, she had never felt that way. They had been separated for a long time, even for many days in a row, and even though her thoughts and affection were directed at the outlaw, Marian had never experienced the desperate and possessive necessity she now felt about Guy.
She had been away from him just for a few hours and she already missed his affection, she felt a huge need to spend time together, even without saying or doing anything special.
The thought of Guy going out secretly in the middle of the night pushed her away from his door, and downstairs. She would forgive him for that, she knew, she would accept that humiliating situation because she didn’t want to lose him, but she wasn’t going to make it too easy for him.
She went down to the kitchen and found Allan, who was chewing a piece of bread and trying to jokingly woo one of the servants. When he saw her coming, he stopped doing both, and he smiled at her.
“Hey, are you looking for Giz? This morning we haven’t seen him yet.”
“Strange, it's rather late.”
“Probably he’s still sleeping, yesterday he lost a lot of blood.” Allan said in a casual tone, glancing at her to see her reaction.
Marian winced and her heart began to beat faster.
“Is he wounded?” She asked with a weak voice, trying, unsuccessfully, to look unconcerned.
“Nothing serious. An arrow wound on his arm, somewhat deep, but not too worrying.”
“An arrow wound? How did it happen?”
“I don’t know. He didn’t even want to tell me. You could bring him something to eat and see how it is. Maybe he would tell you...” Allan suggested, hoping that the girl would agree.
Marian nodded, pleased that Allan had suggested that solution that would allow her not to give up her pride entirely.
“Wait in the hall, Lady Marian,” Thornton suggested. “Your father is already eating, so I will bring a plate for you too and in the meantime I will tell the cook to prepare a tray for Sir Guy.”
The girl thanked him, and was about to reach Sir Edward when Guy's scream coming from upstairs made her blood froze in her veins.
Marian was petrified for a moment, she had never heard him crying like that, then she got up and ran upstairs, followed by Allan and Thornton.
Marian pushed the door to Guy's room, slamming it against the wall and she ran to his bed. Guy was awake now, but he was huddled in a corner of the bed, and he shivered convulsively, covering his face with his hands.
Marian looked at him for a moment, then she turned and gestured to Allan and Thornton to leave.
The two men nodded and went out, closing the door behind them.
The girl took off her shoes and she sat down on the bed, pulling her feet up and folding her legs beneath her, making sure not to touch Gisborne. She knew that when he was so upset by nightmares he would avoid any human contact, becoming even more upset if anybody touched him.
“Guy?” She whispered. “Guy, what happened?”
Gisborne raised his face as he heard her voice, and Marian saw that he was flushed and tearful. His gaze was still clouded by the dream, but the girl saw it becoming more focused as he woke up completely.
The girl widened her arms.
“Come here.”
Guy took refuge in the tightness of her arms, hiding his face against her neck, and remained motionless in her hug, sobbing lightly from time to time. Marian realized that he was crying and she wondered what horrible nightmare had upset him so much.
Forgetting all the rancor and every purpose of keeping her pride, the girl stroked his back slowly, brushing his hair from time to time with a light kiss.
“What is it, Guy? What did you dream?”
“Hell wouldn’t be enough if I hurt you...” Guy whispered, his voice broken with weeping, continuing to shudder. “...but it burns. The flames burn so much! It hurts... It hurts so much... Fire devours me, and yet I'm cold...”
Marian looked at him, worried about those meaningless words, and she parted slightly from him to be able to look at his face. She gently pulled his hair off his forehead and kissed him on a temple.
“You’re hot!”
Guy looked at her, trying to get rid of the dream without succeeding completely.
“Do you also feel that, Marian? Am I burning?”
Marian put her hand on his forehead and shook her head.
“You're not burning, there's no fire here. But you have a high fever.”
“I have a fever?” Guy repeated, confused.
The girl caressed his face.
“Lie back, now, and let me look at your wound.”
Guy obeyed and Marian refreshed his face with a wet cloth, then she gingerly took his arm, and rested it in her lap, beginning to unwrap the bandage.
“It’s becoming infected, that’s why you have a fever. I'll tell Allan to call a physician.”
Marian looked at him. Now Guy looked more lucid and completely awake, though he was still agitated by the dream and suffering because of the fever.
“Why not?”
“I've seen how they work. The only thing they can do is to use leeches.”
Marian saw him shudder as he uttered the last word and a smile creased her lips.
She leaned over him and brought her lips closer to his ear.
“Guy of Gisborne, are you afraid of leeches?” She whispered, giggling.
“No! But I've already lost enough blood. And then they are slimy.”
Marian smiled and kissed him on the cheek.
“All right, no leeches,” she conceded, with another laugh. After all, she didn’t trust Nottingham’s physicians either. “A healer then. There is a very good one living in the forest.”
“The one who I arrested and who the sheriff wanted to drown in Locksley's pond?”
“Oh. Djaq, then?”
“She’s pregnant, remember? Let's leave her in peace.”
“Guy, someone has to treat this wound. If it gets worse, you risk to die or to lose your arm.”
“Tuck. Send for Tuck. He will know how to help me, he has already saved my life in the past. And if he can’t, at least he could hear my confession.”
Marian silenced him by kissing his lips with ferocity, a kiss that was almost a bite.
“Don’t even joke about it! Don’t you dare die, Guy of Gisborne! I don’t allow you!”
Guy smiled.
“I thought you were angry at me...”
“Oh, I am, believe me. If you're ill now, it's just because of that stupid race. And if you don’t heal quickly, you'll see how much more upset I can be.”
“Won’t you have mercy on a sick man?”
“I’d have mercy on a sick person, but on one who got hurt in such an idiotic way, I’d have many less scruples of conscience. How did you get hit by an arrow while riding a horse?”
Guy wondered if it would be better to lie or to keep silent, but, unlike Allan, Marian wouldn’t be content with just the request to trust him. And anyway Archer would tell about his version sooner or later, so keeping the secret would be useless. He decided to tell the acceptable version of the facts closer to the truth.
“It was Hood or one of his gang.”
“Robin? That’s nonsense, Robin wouldn’t try to kill you.”
“I think that he wanted to scare Archer, I don’t think he was going to hit us. If my horse did not jump, the arrow would go over my head.”
Marian thought: that was a credible situation, she could well imagine Robin having fun bothering the sheriff's henchman, and probably Guy too for the simple fact that he spent time together with Archer.
In any case Robin had been irresponsible, and Marian decided that, as soon as Guy was better, she would go to Sherwood forest to rebuke the outlaw as well.
Marian soaked the cloth in the basin again, and she squeezed it before laying it on Gisborne's forehead.
“Why didn’t you tell Allan what happened?”
“Because you're right, going through the forest was a stupid idea. We shouldn’t have. I didn’t want to look an idiot in front of him.”
The girl touched the tip of his nose with a finger and she smiled.
“I'm afraid that you've already did it, running that race, with the risk of breaking the bone of your neck.
“Maybe. But did you see how I rode in the last stretch? I didn’t think I could go that fast...”
“Try to do something like that again, and only your speed will let you escape my anger.”
After that threat, Marian got out of the bed and recovered her shoes. She put them on, and she gave a quick glance at Guy: he was suffering and probably the fever was still rising, but the terror she had seen in his eyes when she had entered the room had vanished.
“I would never run away from you, Marian,” Guy said with a drowsy whisper and the girl looked at him, incredulous, amused and moved at the same time.
She bent to kiss him on his forehead and she smiled at him.
“I know. Now rest for a while.”
“Don’t go…”
“I'm going to tell Allan to call Tuck, it will not take long. Then I'll stay with you, I promise.”
Guy nodded and closed his eyes.
“When you are here, nightmares are far away,” he murmured, falling asleep, and Marian sighed, worried for him.
She hurried to report the message to Allan, then she returned to Guy, sat down on the bed, and took his good hand to keep it between hers as they waited for the arrival of the friar.
Gisborne's fingers closed on hers, and Guy smiled in his sleep.
Perhaps, Marian thought, he was dreaming about that silly race that he seemed to be so proud of.
Guy had asked her if she had seen him galloping down the road to Kirklees.
Oh yes, I saw you, Guy. It looked like you were riding the wind.
But she would never tell him.

Chapter Text

Marian went down the stairs carrying the empty jug in her hands to ask Thornton to fill it again.
When Guy had asked her to bring it back to the kitchen, Marian was about to say that she could call a servant and that she would stay with him, but she noticed that Guy seemed to be uncomfortable and embarrassed, and she suddenly realized that taking the jug downstairs was an excuse to get her out of the room because he needed to be alone for a few minutes.
The girl smiled, softened by the unexpected shyness of the black knight, and she hoped that the friar would come soon.
The look of the wound worried her: the skin around it was red, swollen and too hot. If Marian just touched Guy's arm, Gisborne jerked because of the pain.
“Can I ask how Sir Guy is?” Thornton's courteous voice ripped her off her concern, and Marian struggled to smile at him, without really succeeding.
“I think the fever got higher.”
“I'm sorry. I tried to clean the wound better than I could, but I'm not a healer.”
“It's not your fault. Guy should have taken care of it immediately, instead of continuing that stupid race.” Marian said, dryly, then she sighed, looking at the servant. “Thornton, can I ask you a question?”
“If I can, I'll be happy to answer. Ask as you wish, Lady Marian.”
“When Robin was in the Holy Land, you stayed here at Locksley.”
“Yes Miss. I always took care of the house.”
“And Guy lived here to manage the property. How was he at that time?”
“Yours is a strange question. You knew him at that time too.”
“Yes. And to my own eyes he was just the ruthless man who executed every order of the sheriff. But when he was at Locksley, far from the sheriff, how was he, then?”
“When he took possession of the house, we all feared him. We had seen the things he did for the sheriff, we knew that he was capable of killing without hesitation, and we were scared for our lives. But when he was at Locksley, he was different. As a master he has never been unjust or cruel for no reason. Severe yes, but if he punished a servant, the punishment was never undeserved. But more than that, when I was at home, I had the impression that he just wanted to be quiet, far from the things he had to do during the day.”
“Do you think that he realized how wrong was what he was doing for the sheriff?”
Thornton looked at her for a long moment, undecided about how to answer.
“I think so, at least in part.”
“How do you know that?”
“I don’t know if I should talk about it. Maybe you should ask directly to Sir Guy.”
“I'm worried about him, Thornton, and not just for the wound. I'm sure he’s hiding something, something important, and I don’t like that he spends so much time with that Archer.”
“Are you afraid that he can go back to work for the sheriff?”
“I don’t know what to think, at times. Maybe he misses the power he had once.”
Thornton took a decision, seeing the girl's troubled face.
“Even if that was the case, you have the power to save him.”
“Me? How?”
“Long ago, on the day you were to marry him, Sir Guy asked me for advice.”
“He looked nervous, more excited than I had ever seen him before. He said that he had done terrible crimes, but that your pure soul would wash away his sins, that marrying you would save him. If he thought this when you barely knew each other, he'll definitely listen to you now. If you have any fear, talk to him, I think it's the best thing.”
Marian didn’t answer, but she reflected on Thornton's words. She knew that she had hurt Guy leaving him on the altar, but now she knew even better how much he had suffered, how many hopes she had destroyed with that punch.
And yet Guy had come back to her, never giving up until he was able to conquer her heart.
Thornton's words had been able to reassure her a little: the feelings that she and Guy shared would allow them to overcome anything. They had survived Roger of Barret, any danger that Archer could represent, wouldn’t separate them.
She raised his head as she heard the sound of a wagon coming from outside, and she approached the door, smiling with relief when she recognized Allan and Tuck.

Guy leaned on the table with his good arm to resume his balance, then, as soon as he was sure that he wouldn’t fall, he splashed his face with the water of the basin. He had to have a very high fever because he felt faint and dizzy even if he had left the bed just for a few minutes. He felt that his temperature was rising again: he was cold and shaken by shivers, and his wounded arm hurt a lot.
He thought that it would be better to go back to bed before collapsing to the floor, but before that, he took off his neck the silk ribbon with Marian’s ring, and he hid it under the mattress. He didn’t want Marian to see it before the moment he would return it to to her, asking her to marry him. If she saw it, Guy would have to answer too many questions, but he also wanted to keep the ring close to him, in a place where he could touch it by stretching a hand.
He sat heavily on the bed and closed his eyes, hoping that the room would stop spinning.
Someone knocked on the door, and Guy said to come in, without moving or looking at who it was.
He opened her eyes only when a fresh hand touched his forehead, and he found himself looking at Tuck's good face.
“You should have been the one who had to come and meet me, son, not the other way around,” the friar said, then he took his hand off Guy's forehead. “Yes, in fact you're pretty hot, let me see this wound.”
Tuck gently took the arm that Guy still cradled to his chest to protect it, and it moved it to look better at the wound at the light coming through the window. Gisborne let out a groan of pain, immediately echoed by an anguished sob coming from the door.
The friar looked up in that direction, and he saw Marian and Allan standing in the doorway and the two older men, Thornton and Sir Edward, in the corridor behind them.
“You,” he said, pointing to Allan. “Come here to help me. Lady Marian, gentlemen, it's best for you to wait downstairs.”
The girl shook her head and walked into the room, approaching Guy with a protective air.
“I’ll stay.”
Guy looked at her and his heart filled with a warmth that had nothing to do with the fever. He caught her hand and touched it with his lips. Tuck's words had made him realize that the cure for his wound would not be nice, and that it would have been better for both of them that the girl didn’t see it.
“Marian, go.”
“I'm not leaving you alone.”
“There are Tuck and Allan, I'm not alone.”
“Please, Marian.”
Sir Edward entered the room, and he put a hand on his daughter's shoulder.
“Come on, we'll wait downstairs. Sir Guy is in good hands.”
The girl forced herself to give up, she realized that Guy didn’t want her to see him suffer. She touched his lips with a kiss, looking into his eyes, then she followed her father out of the room.
Allan was standing in a corner, looking at them, not knowing how to behave. Tuck pointed at the door.
“Close it. Then come here and help him to get off the shirt.”
The young man hurried to obey.
“Sorry Giz,” Allan said, as he pulled the sleeve away from his wounded arm with the utmost delicacy possible. Guy paled and whined, in pain.
“Wait to apologize,” Tuck said, and the other two looked at him, worried.
“Why?” Allan asked.
“This wound will heal quickly and without too much trouble, but it must be cleaned well. Guy, lie on your bed and don’t move. The friar opened the sack he had brought with him, and he handed a lenght of rope to Allan. “And you, tie him.”
The young man looked at him, bewildered.
“Allan, just do it,” Guy ordered.
“But, Giz...”
“It will be painful, and a lot, I know it very well. If I can barely keep from crying just by touching the skin near the wound, try to imagine how much fun it will be when Tuck starts cleaning it deeply. I hope to lose my senses, but if it doesn’t happen, I won’t be able to remain still, I might try to fight and rebel. I could hurt you and myself, so now tie me as well as you can, then get up on the bed and use your weight to hold me down.”
Seeing that Allan still hesitated, Tuck put his hand on his arm to encourage him.
“It is necessary, son, and it is for his own good. Guy is perfectly aware of it.”
Gisborne did his best to smile.
“I won’t retaliate, I promise. Now hurry up, it's better to do this as soon as possible.”

Marian covered her ears with the hands, shaking her head with despair.
“What are they doing?!” She sobbed. “Why is he screaming like that?!”
Her father hugged her to comfort her, a gesture he had not done for a long time, since Marian was just a little girl. And now, like a little girl, she was crying with her face hidden against her father's shoulder.
“Friar Tuck knows what he is doing, and Sir Guy trusts him. He has already saved his life once, remember? And then his injuries were much more serious.”
Another cry from Guy made her step back from her father with a startle.
“No! No! I have to go to him! Guy!”
Marian ran to the stairs, but this time Thornton stopped her.
“You'd better go outside, miss. Go on a ride away from home, we'll let you know when it's all over.”
“No! I want to stay with Guy! There must be something I can do to relieve his pain! I have to help him somehow!”
“You will. But later, when the friar has taken care of his wound. Then you can comfort Sir Guy and take care of him.”
“But how can I endure to hear him suffer like that?”
Sir Edward led her to a chair and made her sit down, offering her a cup of wine.
“This is a question I asked many years ago, when you were born. Kate shouted so much and I couldn’t do anything to help her, but wait.”
Thornton nodded.
“Every time my wife had a baby, I couldn’t stay home. I went out and wandered around the village until someone came to tell me the child was born. Any father who has loved his wife has asked your same question, sooner or later.”
“And how could you stay sane, waiting?” Marian snorted.
“Wine helps.”
Marian gulped the content of the cup, then she raised her head, listening.
“He’s not crying anymore,” she whispered, trembling.
Her father and Thornton said nothing, and all three waited, without daring to break that sudden silence.
After a time that seemed eternal to Marian, the girl heard the door of Guy's room being opened and closed.
Marian stood up, anxiously, and, shortly after, Allan went down the stairs staggering, green in his face.
The girl rushed to meet him.
“How is he?! Did Tuck end treating him?”
Allan nodded, then he pressed a hand on his mouth, and ran out of the door without answering them.
A laugh coming from the stairs accompanied Allan's stormy exit, and Marian turned to look at Tuck.
“That boy is a bit too emotional,” the friar commented, then he smiled at Marian. “He will be fine, don’t worry, my child: it was painful for him, but it was necessary and in a few days he will be better than before. Tonight the fever could rise again, but tomorrow he will start to improve.”
“Can I go to him?”
“You have to. It was your name that he was calling, didn’t he? I left a jug filled with an infusion against fever on the table and it will also help him to bear the pain, make sure that he drinks it in abundance. But I believe that your presence will be the most effective remedy.”

Marian ran up the stairs as soon as Tuck had finished talking, and she opened the door to Guy's room trying not to make noise. Her heart wanted to slam it open and run to him, but Marian didn’t want to disturb her rest, causing more suffering to him.”
She slipped into the room shyly, looking for him at once with her gaze.
Gisborne was lying on the bed, pale and damp with sweat, but the expression of his face was relaxed, abandoned in sleep, and he didn’t bear the signs of his suffering of earlier. The wounded arm had been carefully wrapped in bandages and leaned on a soft pillow beside Guy.
Marian removed her shoes, and she climbed on the bed beside him, making sure she didn’t touch him for fear of hurting him, but Guy opened his eyes, as if he had felt his presence.
“You're here...” He whispered, smiling softly, and the girl burst in tears, unable to talk.
Guy widened his good arm.
“Come closer.”
Marian hugged him, unable to stop crying, and Guy held her tight, caressing her back and her hair to console her.
He was exhausted because of the pain and the fever, and the wound throbbed with a burning pain that made him want to cry too, but at that moment the only important thing for Guy was to dry the tears of the girl.
“Everything is alright,” he said softly. “You're here with me, and now it's all right.”

Chapter Text

Allan was sitting on the ground, his back leaning against the outside wall of the house and his arms crossed on his stomach.
Thornton approached him and handed the cup he was holding.
“The friar said that this would fix your stomach.”
Allan took it and drank a sip.
“Thank you,” he said, dejectedly.
“The sight of blood can make this effect, there is nothing to be ashamed of.”
“It's not the blood. I've seen worse. When Giz returned to Locksley after we believed he was dead, I treated the wounds on his back. And that was far worse than this.”
“What troubled you, then?”
“Pain, I guess. And the fact that I was the one who had to keep him still while Tuck cured the wound. I had already seen Giz injured or suffering, but never like today, I never heard him cry like that. I was there, almost lying on him to keep him from moving, and I could look into his eyes while he was suffering, I could see all the pain and the fear he felt, without being able to do anything. In fact, I had to hold him, to prevent him from escaping from so much suffering... It almost seemed that I was the one who inflicted so much pain on him, that it was my fault...”
“But it wasn’t!”
“I know. But it felt like that.”
Thornton smiled at him.
“You're a good friend to Sir Guy, Allan. And God only knows how much he he needed one.”

Marian woke up suddenly. She didn’t remember falling asleep but she must have done so, because now it was night, and the room was lit only by the small glow of candles.
She was still close to Guy and she felt his body warm and solid against hers. Too warm, she thought, with anxiety.
She gently moved Gisborne's arm that held her close, and she slipped out of his hug, sitting on the bed. She watched Guy carefully, and touched his forehead with a hand, discovering that the fever went higher again.
Tuck had warned her that it would happen, but Marian couldn’t help but worry.
She got up from his bed, she dipped the cloth she used to freshen Guy's face in the water of the basin, squeezed it, and laid it on the sleeping knight's forehead.
Guy opened his eyes with a start, and Marian caressed his cheek.
“Sorry, I didn’t want to wake you.”
Gisborne didn’t answer, and the girl realized that Guy wasn’t looking at her, but his gaze was lost in the void, as if he was looking at something far away.

So hot... The sun of the desert burned implacably, and Guy crawled through the sand dunes, choked by those strange clothes, by those saracen clothes that made him stumble at every step.
He could feel the blood flowing on his arm, accompanied by drowsiness and pain that weakened him, and threatened to not let him return to his allies.
He had failed.
The sheriff had entrusted him with the most important mission of his life, the one that would finally secure wealth and power for him forever, and he could not finish it.
The king's life had been in his hands for a moment, and he had hesitated. For a moment he hadn’t been able to sink the blade into the sleeping man's heart, and that delay was enough to ruin everything. Robin of Locksley, whom Guy thought he had hit to death, intervened to defend the king, and his blade wounded him on his arm.
Guy had managed to run away before the other soldiers arrived to finish him, but now he had to run into the desert, alone, wounded, and frightened at the thought of being chased.
Several times he had fallen on the hot sand, and he had always risen.
“I am a Gisborne, I can’t die before I have got back what belonged to me by right.”
He hadn’t even realized that he was back to his allies' camp. Burned by the desert sun, Guy dragged himself to the tents, not caring to know if they belonged to enemies or allies.
It didn’t matter, a quick death would at least put out the thirst that devoured him.

“Water...” Guy whispered, and in a moment Marian was at his side with a bowl full the herbal remedy by Tuck.
She helped him to lift up from the pillow as she put the bowl to his lips to make him drink.
“Do you want more of it?” She asked, lovingly, but Guy had slipped back into a troubled sleep.
Marian replaced the wet cloth on Gisborne's forehead with a cooler one, then she decided to go down to order a servant to get colder water from the well.

Guy called the girl softly but she didn’t answer. The bed was empty and cold without her, and Guy's hand clenched on the blanket, as if trying to hold someone, but he was alone, Marian wasn’t next to him.
“Because you're nothing for her.”
The sheriff's voice resounded in the deserted room, but Guy couldn’t see him. The darkness was thicker around him and Marian had taken away all the light.
“No. She loves me.”
“This is what you believe. How can she love a liar and a traitor?”
“I am not!”
“Oh yes, Gisborne. You swore loyalty to me.”
“You are the devil. I don’t want to lose my soul.”
Vaisey laughed.
“And who says you have not lost it already? Do you really think you can atone for what you did?”
“Maybe. But in any case you will not have it.”
“Gizzy, Gizzy, how deluded you are. You are still a liar.”
“See? You're lying now too.”
“This time I have to agree with him, Guy,” Robin Hood said, materializing from the shadows. “The sheriff said the truth, unlike you.”
“Think about it, Gizzy, how many lies have you told her? Do we start from the beginning? Since when you made her believe that the king was returning, to marry her with deceit?”
“You have been the one who suggested that to me!”
“But you have told the lie.”
“You don’t want to tell anyone that I'm your brother,” Archer spoke. “And you also lied to Robin Hood: even if I should be wicked, you have no intention of killing me.”
“And the Nightwatchman? Here's another of your lies,” Robin suggested, shaking his head.
“Marian wonders why you wait so long to marry her,” Allan said. “And you keep hidden from her that her house burned for the second time... Sooner or later she will be tired of waiting, Giz, she will be tired of you.”

Guy woke up with a cry, and Marian hurried back to the room, hearing his voice.
She sat on the bed, and took his hand to calm him.
“Did you have a nightmare, Guy?”
Gisborne looked at her, and Marian realized he had tears in his eyes.
“Do not leave, please don’t leave me!” He begged, and Marian stroked his hair.
“I'm here, Guy. I just went down to the kitchen to instruct the servants, I'm not going anywhere without you.”
Gisborne looked at her.
“I want you to stay with me all my life.”
Marian looked at him, breathless in hearing those words.
“Ask me to marry you, then,” she whispered, excited.
“I can’t.”
“Why not?”
“Because Knighton Hall burned for my fault. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry...”
The girl sighed, disappointed. Tuck had warned her that Guy's thoughts might have been addled by the high fever, that he could mistake dreams for reality. Guy was probably lost in the nightmares of his past.
“It's been so long ago. I've already forgiven you for that. But now keep calm and rest, soon you will feel better.”
Guy closed his eyes, and grabbed the sleeve of Marian's dress as if he were afraid that she could escape. The girl lay down next to him and embraced him, leaning her head on the cushion next to Guy's, close, touching his cheek with her lips.
“I'm here,” she whispered. “Now sleep, I'll watch over you.”

Guy opened his eyes, awakened by the sunlight coming from the open window. Marian was still close to him, deeply asleep, and her light breath caressed his face.
He smiled. The warmth of Marian's body embracing him was enough to make him forget any suffering.
I wish I could wake up like this every morning.
The girl moved into her sleep, and Guy couldn’t resist the temptation to kiss her hair.
Marian was startled, and she woke up suddenly.
“Guy! Have you had another nightmare? I'm sorry, I was asleep!”
Gisborne smiled at her.
“No nightmares. I just hope this is not a dream.”
Marian put a hand on his cheek, staring into his eyes, then she smiled at him, almost astonished.
“You're fresh! You no longer have a fever!”
Guy realized that he hadn’t a headache anymore, and that his thoughts were no longer confused. The injured arm was still sore, but much less than the day before.
“I told you that Tuck would know what to do.”
“Do you feel better?”
Gisborne attracted her closer and put his lips on hers. Marian clung to him, abandoning herself to that kiss so full of emotion. She was happy and relieved to see that Guy was better, but it wasn’t the joy and the relief to make her heart beat so fast.
He is mine.
Guy's hand slipped along her back to tighten his hold.
And I'm his.
Marian planted her nails in the naked skin of his back without even realizing it, as the kiss became deeper and passionate.
The vague concern that Guy could still be too weak crossed her mind for a moment, but Gisborne seemed to want to prove that thought wrong.
This time we will not stop.
She told herself that it was wrong, that they should wait until the wedding, and that she should back away from Guy at that precise moment. Instead, she sank her fingers in his hair to prevent him from moving away from her.
Why should she care? Everyone already thought that she was his lover, her reputation could not be ruined more than that. She wanted him and she wanted him to be only hers.
They stopped kissing for a moment, breathless and they stared into each other’s eyes, happy and almost in disbelief.
“Yes,” she whispered, “I think you're feeling better.”
Guy smiled.
“I love you,” he said softly, looking at her intently, as if he wanted to ask her permission to kiss her again, and to understand if she was really sure of what they were going to do.
The girl just nodded, and put her lips close to those of Guy again.
That kiss would mark their surrender, she knew it. Afterwards they wouldn’t be going back.
That's what I want.
At that moment an arrow entered from the window and embedded itself in the bedhead.

Marian screamed, scared, then she ran to the window to look out, while Guy, after looking at the arrow in horror, hastened to grab the parchment sheet rolled around its shaft, and he slipped it under the pillow before Marian could see it.
The girl came back to the bed and grabbed the arrow, snatching it away from the wood.
“It's one of Robin's!” She shouted. “What did he think he was doing?!”
“Maybe it's another warning to tell me to stay away from Archer,” Guy lied, hoping to sound convincing, but Marian was too furious to notice his lie.
“Wasn’t enough that he hurt you?! No, this time he has exaggerated!”
She snapped the arrow in two, and walked to the door, holding the two fragments in her hand.
“Wait! Where are you going? What do you want to do?!” Gisborne called, worried.
“I'm going to talk to Robin. I'm not going to let him do this. You stay in bed and keep away from the window.”
She left the room slamming the door, and, soon after, Allan made his appearance, worried.
“Giz, what happened? Are you sick?”
“Come in and close the door, quickly.”
“Where did Marian go running like that? If you need to call a healer, I could go...”
“Stop saying nonsense, no healer is needed, I'm fine.”
“Oh, in fact you looked fine to me.”
Guy took Robin's message from under the pillow.
“Hood sent this.”
Allan read it quickly.
“He wants to talk to you tonight, but where's the problem? I will go to meet him and I’ll tell him you have not recovered yet.”
“The problem is that Marian was here when the arrow came.”
Guy omitted to say what they were doing at that time.
“Oh. In fact this can be a problem. What did you say?”
“That it was a warning to stay away from Archer.”
“It makes sense. And in fact you should keep away from him, Giz.”
“Now go, reach Marian and avoid bloodshed.”
Allan nodded.
“Are you worried for her?”
Guy shook his head.
“Actually, I'm worried about Robin's safety.”

Chapter Text

Guy slowed the black stallion to stay alongside Robin's horse. The outlaw had the face covered by the hood of his cloak, and the two men ignored each other, as if they were just two travelers riding along the same road.
“I saw your arrow near the camp entrance,” Robin said without looking at Guy. “Something happened?”
"It's three weeks since you don’t call the Nightwatchman. Yet I know you've taken away the latest supplies headed to Nottingham's kitchens. Without me.”
“You are injured, should I have called you all the same?”
“Three weeks, Hood. There’s barely a scar left of the stupid scratch you left on my arm.”
"It wasn’t so stupid if people could hear your screams of pain from the other side of Locksley.”
Guy snorted, irritated.
“Like it’s such a big village...”
"In any case it wasn’t just a scratch.”
“So? It’s completely healed by now. What is it, don’t you trust me anymore? That’s the reason? Do you think Archer has a bad influence on me? Yet you must know it's part of the plan.”
Robin stared at him.
“Stop it, Gisborne, don’t be stupid. If I didn’t call you, it's just because I was worried about your health. In the end I was the one who hurt you.”
Guy looked at him and smiled sarcastically, pointing his finger at him.
Ah! What?”
“I get it.” Guy said, pleased.
Robin glanced at him.
“Let's hear: what would you have understood?”
“You're afraid of Marian. I don’t know what she told you or what she did when she came to talk to you, but you're just scared of her.”
The outlaw stared at him in surprise for a moment, but he immediately recovered.
“Go figure. Are you sure you didn’t also hit your head during that famous ride? Why should I be afraid of a girl?”
"Why do you think I haven’t even tried to go near Nottingham all this time? The next time I'm dealing with Archer it will be better not having too many witnesses around.”
Robin laughed, and Guy grinned.
“I should better go now, we're almost in sight of Knighton and it's better not to be seen together.”
Gisborne nodded. It would have been far better to avoid attracting the sheriff's suspicions and his resentment.
“Hood, don’t you dare to leave me aside: next time, I want to be there too.”
“You're bored, aren’t you?”
Robin shook his head, laughing, and turned his horse back to the forest, while Guy went to Knighton.
Gisborne had just passed the first houses of the village when the hoofs of a galloping horse made him turn. He pulled the reins, and waited for Allan to reach him.
“Giz, why didn’t you wait for me?”
“When I left you were still sleeping.”
“So? You have never cared if you had to throw me out of my bed.” Allan gave him a suspicious look. "Or do you have any other secret that I shouldn’t come to know about?"
“I was in a hurry, that’s all.”
“Hurry to do what?”
Guy looked at him, puzzled.
“You never asked me all these questions, Allan.”
“And you have never behaved in such a strange way.”
Gisborne didn’t answer right away. He knew that Allan felt hurt and excluded and that he was worried about his behavior toward Archer, but for his own good, he shouldn’t know that secret. But Guy could still tell the truth about everything else.
“I went to the forest to call Robin, I wanted to talk to him,” he said, lowering his voice, so that only Allan could hear him.
"It's time for the Nightwatchman to come back in action, I told him that I want to be part of the next mission.”
“Are you sure, Giz? Maybe you should take it easy for a while.”
Guy frowned.
“You've been hurt, Giz, the reason seems obvious to me.”
“What’s up with you all? Once it had been properly cared for, this wound was little more than a scratch, certainly not the most serious or the first one I ever received.”
“What's up with us?”
“Robin also behaved like an anxious mother hen.”
“Is that really so strange for you?”
“People worrying about your health.”
Guy thought for a moment and concluded that for him it was strange. For years, since his parents had died, no one had ever cared for him. For Vaisey, a disease or wound was just an excuse for not doing his duty or a weakness to be laughed at, and Guy had learned to keep for himself and bear quietly any kind of ailment. He wasn’t used to being surrounded by people who were concerned for him.
"Come on, Allan, when I started being the Nightwatchman I was in a much worse condition than now.”
“And in fact I always thought you were crazy.”
“But I'm fine now, really. And I'm bored.”
“See? You are crazy. And don’t let Marian to hear you saying that.”
Guy grinned.
"You haven’t told me what she said to Robin last time.”
“No, and I will not. I swore to not tell anyone, included you. Especially you. Robin was very specific about this.”
“Ah. Now who is the one who’s having secrets?” Gisborne asked, chuckling.
"I won’t tell you anything, but believe me, if you had seen and heard her, you would run to burn your Nightwatchman costume for fear that she could find out how many lies you have told her.”
Guy laughed.
“But since I didn’t see or heard that, I think I won’t burn anything, and that the Nightwatchman will go back to help Robin.”
Allan laughed, shaking his head with a resigned air.
In fact, he felt relieved: if Gisborne felt the need to risk his neck to feel alive, it was better that he did that following Robin Hood's gang, rather than associating with a sheriff's henchman like Archer.

Guy turned to one side, embracing the pillow, and smiling in his sleep. For once his dreams were not tormented by nightmares, and, indeed, they were quite enjoyable.
He was dreaming about Knighton Hall, finished and finally inhabited. He had brought there some of Locksley's furniture, and he had asked Will to build some other and to decorate them with the coat-of-arms and the colors of his family.
He looked out of the window, and smiled as he saw Marian at the foot of the apple tree, trying to pick up a fruit.
The girl raised her face to look at him and smiled at him, happy. Guy hurried to reach her to help her pick the apples growing on the higher branches.
“You can do very well some of the things I am not able do, ” Marian said, smiling.
“And when we do things together, it’s even better,” Guy whispered, putting the basket of apples to the ground before taking her in his arms and kissing her.
Even after the end of the kiss, Marian didn’t break away from him, but they remained embraced in the shade of the apple tree, contented by just being together.
Guy woke up at the early lights of dawn and found himself smiling, hoping that the dream could, sooner or later, come true.
I have to plant an apple tree at Knighton Hall. Maybe right there.
Once, he would have got up immediately, eager to return to work as soon as possible, but in the last few days he had decided to stay in bed, even though he couldn’t sleep, so he wouldn’t force Marian to get up too early.
He looked at the sky, changing from pink to blue, and he thought about his dream. It would have been wonderful, really wonderful, to find that serenity again and to pass the rest of his life at Marian’s side.
It was more than he thought he deserved, and he felt almost guilty to hope in such a beautiful future.
He hoped that Robin would decide to call him. Since they had talked, another week had passed and Guy was dying to do something good. And, if at the same time he could have the chance to hit the sheriff, it would be even better.
As evoked by his thoughts, Robin's arrow came from the window and hit the wooden headboard of the bed.
Guy sat up with a smile, took the message wrapped around the shaft, and hid the arrow under the bed to prevent Marian from seeing it.
He unrolled the parchment, and he was surprised to find that the writing was not Robin's, but one that he had never seen before.

Robin didn’t have time to write, so he asked me to do it.
There are news, keep ready to act, but wait to wear your costume until Robin tells you.
Bring Allan with you.
Enter the tavern and sit at a table, one of us will give you the instructions of Robin Hood.
Probably I'll be the one coming. In that case don’t look too amazed to see me and don’t attract attention on us: maybe they are not looking for me anymore, but it’s better to avoid any risk.
I'’ll wait for you tonight at Nottingham's tavern, the one near the city gates.
Don’t be late,

Guy read the message again, a bit perplexed. So far, the girl had only been hiding in the outlaws’ camp, but now it looked like she had become a gang member in all respects. Recalling the too fierce attitude of the girl, he hoped that Robin was able to keep her at bay, and prevent her from endangering herself and the other members of the gang.
I just hope she doesn’t scratch me again.
Gisborne got up from the bed, put the flame of a candle at the corner of the message, and he threw it into the fireplace, then he decided that it was late enough, and he got ready to have breakfast with Marian.
He dressed in a hurry, and he smiled hearing the sound of something falling to the ground, followed by a cry of disappointment. He knew that he would find a small disaster in the kitchen and he was curious to find out if this time the breakfast would be edible or not.
Not that it was important, after all.
He closed the door behind him, and walked down the stairs without realizing that Meg's message didn’t burn completely: a fragment of it hadn’t been destroyed by the fire, and it fluttered in a corner of the fireplace, in a point where the flames didn’t arrive.

Chapter Text

Marian leaned with her shoulder on the door jamb, she watched Guy and Allan going away from Locksley at a gallop, and she stared at the black knight until they both disappeared beyond the bend of the road.
She smiled at herself thinking that that morning Guy had seemed to be in a good mood. They had shared some tender and pleasant moments while having breakfast together, even though her attempt to cook had failed miserably.
Eventually, Thornton had brought some slices of fresh bread, cheese and honey, and he had discarded with discretion the inedible and carbonized mess cooked by Marian.
The girl paused to look at Locksley's people’s activity and she thought that she should find something to do.
Once, bringing help to the poor as the Nightwatchman kept her busy, and, even when she was living in the castle, she rarely remained in idleness for too long. There was always something to do, sheriff’s plans to be discovered, informations to pass to the outlaws, and then Guy was trying to spend with her every single moment he could, though, at that time, she didn’t appreciate his constant presence at all.
Now her days were long and she felt useless. She helped her father to manage Locksley's manor and she committed herself to help as well as she could the poorest villagers, but she no longer had the opportunity to bring them food or money like she did in the past.
Even if she could go back to acting as the Nightwatchman, she would have to take enormous risks to steal the money and the supplies to distribute to the needy.
Marian sighed.
In the past, Robin had told her that she should stay home to embroider instead of putting herself in danger, and in recent times she had also considered to actually do it, just to spend her time.
In the last few days she had checked and repaired all her clothes that needed to be fixed, and she considered the idea of mending even her father’s and Gisborne’s clothes. Happy that she had found a useful task, she decided to start with Guy's clothes.
Her father had a quiet life compared to the black knight’s, it was much less likely that the clothes he was wearing would need to be mended or replaced.
The girl entered the room of Gisborne with a slight hesitation. Perhaps she should have asked for his permission before, she thought, but that idea came to her only after Guy had gone away, and she wasn’t doing anything wrong, was she?
Anyways, the servants went to clean up and tidy the room without any problems, and that wasn’t very different from what she was doing, after all.
She looked around for a few seconds. She rarely had the opportunity to be in that room alone, without Guy.
Her mind came back painfully to the time when she had thought he was dead. Then, she sometimes entered the room that had belonged to Robin first, and then to Guy, and she remained silently waiting, hoping to still feel the presence of Gisborne next to her. But it never happened.
At the castle, before Vaisey drove her out, every passageway, every corner, every passage could evoke memories of Guy, but the room at Locksley, where he slept, had been too simple and bare to be able to hold his presence, as if it had never really belonged to him.
Now it was different. Since Guy came back and lived there, every inch of it was talking of him, even though the room was still so simple.
Perhaps it was for this reason that Marian's eyes were attracted to a fragment of parchment that stood in the corner of the fireplace. The fire was almost gone now, and that scrap with burnt edges was far too visible against the soot that blackened the interior of the fireplace.
The girl looked at it, surprised. Why had Guy felt the need to burn that scroll? Usually the parchments were scraped and reused, if someone burned them, it was just to completely destroy their contents.
Her heart began to beat faster.
What if it was a document about Archer or the Sheriff?
She shook her head.
No, Guy hated the sheriff, he didn’t want to have anything to do with him.
But with Archer he did.
She glanced at the fragment, and she didn’t recognize the writing that covered it.
Since he had dealt with the sheriff after saving his life, Guy had been free, but he no longer had the wealth or power he had in the past. Marian feared that he might miss it and that he could be tempted by some proposal from Archer.
No. Guy wouldn’t. He had changed.
And yet...
Marian reached out and picked up the parchment from the fireplace, taking care that she didn’t burn her hand. The fragment was burnt on the edges, but the words that had remained intact were still perfectly legible.

“...tter to avoid any risk.
I'’ll wait for you tonight at Nottingham's tavern, the one near the city gates.
Don’t be late,

Marian read to the end, but her eyes returned immediately to the beginning of the message. She read the message at least four times to make sure that she had understood what was written on it, but her heart refused to believe it.
She had been afraid to find out that Guy had been involved with Archer in something wrong, but that was worse and it confirmed all her fears without any doubt.
Guy betrayed her.
And this Meg didn’t seem to be a tavern girl. She could write and her handwriting was elegant, one from the populace wouldn’t be able to write that message.
Who is this Meg?
Was it just a distraction for Guy, or there was something more? Was that the reason why he hadn’t yet asked for her hand in marriage?
No, Guy. Please no!
A part of Marian felt the impulse to tear that fragment of parchment, to grab the first object that came under her hand and hurl it against the wall, she wanted to shout, to destroy something or to hit Guy, but another part of her was simply petrified.
She couldn’t believe it, she didn’t want to believe it, and she only wished that she could change the past, to have never seen that note, and to continue to be happy in her ignorance.
What should she do now? To keep pretending she didn’t know anything? To face Guy and find out the truth, risking to lose him forever?
If Guy loved another woman, she might have already lost him. But how could he have given his heart to another woman when he behaved so lovingly and passionately towards Marian?
The girl couldn’t understand.
Guy's behavior didn’t make sense and Marian didn’t know how to behave.
First she had to go away from there, she said to herself, she couldn’t allow her father or the servants to see her standing in Guy's room with her face wet with tears.
She clutched the fragment of parchment in her fist and forced herself to move. She walked the few meters that separated her from her room as if she was sleepwalking, and she locked the door behind her.
She had to stay alone and think.
She looked at the message again.
I'’ll wait for you tonight at Nottinham's tavern, the one near the city gates.
Suddenly it was clear what she was supposed to do: that night she would go to the tavern, too, to see who this mysterious Meg was.
Maybe after all she was just a pretty girl who had learned to write for some reason, or maybe Guy wouldn’t show up. Maybe it was just that woman who wanted to meet him while he was not interested and that's why he had burned the message...
I have to know. Or I'll become mad.

Allan sat on a stack of boards and he broke the bread in two, passing half of it to Gisborne before wolfing down his own.
“So, did you say that Meg might be coming?” He asked, still chewing and washing down the food with a sip of wine.
Guy looked at the workers who kept working at the manor. After the fire, the work went on quickly, and even during the time when Guy had been forced to stay in bed to recover from his wound, Allan had made sure there were no slowdowns.
“Do you think it's possible to plant an apple tree there?” He asked, pointing to the place he had seen in his dream.
Allan nodded briefly, not at all concerned with the subject.
“I do not see why not. But what did you say about Meg? Did she really say that I should come too?”
Guy looked away from the house and stared at Allan, perplexed.
"I told you, Robin said that he would send instructions through a gang member, probably Meg. But why do you keep asking me questions about her?” Guy paused and realized that Allan seemed to be embarrassed. “Oh. You like that girl, don’t you?”
“Has there ever been a pretty girl I didn’t like?” Allan said, lightly, but the sudden blush of his face betrayed him, and Guy laughed.
“Careful not to let her scratch you, I don’t want to get into another fake fight with you to hide the traces.”
“Don’t worry, I have no need to hide the marks left by a beautiful woman, indeed...”
“She has already rejected many suitors, what makes you think that she might consider you?”
“Let's go, Giz, don’t you see me?” Allan said, smiling. “How could she resist?”
"Don’t marry before I do, then, or Marian will start doubting my intentions.”
“And who talked about marriage?” Allan whispered.
Guy smiled, then he sighed.
“If only I could tell her how impatient I am to ask her as a wife... I know that she is wondering why I haven’t done it yet, I wish I could dissolve all her doubts.”
Allan smiled at him, then he ate the last piece of bread and stood up, dusting the crumbs from his clothes.
“Let's get back to work then. The sooner this house is finished, the better will be for everyone.”

Chapter Text

The tavern wasn’t the worst one in Nottingham, but it was far from being the best. It was big enough, but the low ceilings and the heavy, smoky air made it look smaller and oppressive.
Guy looked around, glancing, disgusted, at the drunkards, asleep on the tables and on the floor. He and Allan stepped past a man who was snoring heavily on the floor, and they sat at a free table in a dimly lit corner.
“Hood could have chosen a better place,” Guy whispered to Allan, glancing at the host who was approaching, and receiving in return an equally hostile glare.
Allan ordered drinks and food, and the host returned to the counter, not without glaring at Gisborne again.
“You have to admit that the girls are cute, though,” Allan said, looking at the women sitting at the tables or wandering around the room, willing to offer their company in exchange for some coin.
“Another reason for not wanting to be here. If someone were to report to Marian where I am now, it would be a disaster.”
“And who would tell that to her? Not me nor Robin. And if she should come to know it somehow, I'll tell her that I dragged you here with me and that you didn’t do anything wrong.”
Allan had just finished talking, when a girl in a gaudy dress came to their table, and sat down on Guy's knees, throwing her arms around his neck.
“Do you want company, honey?” She asked in a loud voice, then she put her finger on his lips to stop his protest, and she brought her lips to his ear to speak to him in a low tone. “It's me, play along or people will notice us.”.
Guy stared at her, astonished.
“Meg?” He whispered, and the girl laughed.
“Didn’t you recognize me dressed like this?”
Gisborne shook his head, blushing, and Meg smiled at herself noticing his embarrassment.
At first she had not been sure to dress and to wear make up like one of the women who usually attended that kind of ill-famed places, but now she found the whole situation quite fun.
Neither Guy nor Allan had recognized her at first sight, and Meg felt reassured, knowing that she would go unnoticed even in front of any guards.
Well, not really unnoticed, she thought, noticing the hungry looks of the men around her, but no one would ever understand that she was the same girl who fled the sheriff's prisons a few months earlier.
She leaned back on Gisborne and she played with one of the locks that curled on the man's neck.
“You could hold me tighter, you know? If you look so grave, people will know there is something strange.”
The girl took his arm and guided it around her waist, so that Guy's hand was touching her back.
"If you come to sit on my legs, I'm willing to hug you as much as you want,” Allan said, giving her a cheeky smile.
The girl laughed.
“The instructions are for him,” she whispered.
In fact, it would have been enough to sit at the table and drink with the two men, telling Robin's instructions between a laughter and a drink, but Meg couldn’t resist the temptation to tease Gisborne a bit. In the past she had insulted him, she had fought with him, and their relationships had never been friendly, but the truth was that the girl found him attractive.
If her father had proposed a man like him as a husband in the past, perhaps by now she would have been busy taking care of a home and a baby, instead of living as the member of a gang of outlaws.
Meg wasn’t certain which of the two alternatives she would have preferred.
“Then hurry to report them,” Guy said abruptly, and the girl gave him a resentful glance.
It was clear that Gisborne wasn’t attracted by her at all, and that the situation embarrassed him, but why did he have to show it so openly?
Well, worse for him, Meg thought, deciding to embarrass him even more, as a revenge for his disinterest. She tightened her hold on him, and she approached even more, rubbing her body against Guy's while whispering Robin's instructions in his ear, then, before parting from him, she followed a sudden impulse and kissed him on his lips.
Gisborne remained motionless, without reacting to the gesture of the girl.
Meg stared at him for a moment and she blushed suddenly, as her eyes filling with tears.
What was she doing? For years she said that she hated men, she had proclaimed that she wanted to be independent, and now she was acting in such a shameful way just for the blue eyes of a man who didn’t even look at her? She had gone too far, and she was perfectly aware of it.
She slid down from Guy's knees and she sat on the bench between the two men, turning to Allan and pretending to embrace him too. The outlaw held her tight, and the girl leaned her head on his shoulder, hiding her face against his neck.
Allan realized that the girl was crying and he exchanged a disconcerted look with Guy. Meg's behavior was surprising for both of them, but the outlaw was the first to recover.
He poured the wine into two cups and handed one to Gisborne, hissing at him that he should drink.
Guy obeyed, struggling to look like he was enjoying himself. He now had Robin's instructions, and he couldn’t wait to leave that place and situation, but they had to be careful not to create suspicions.

Marian had wrapped herself in the cloak, keeping her face hidden under the hood. She wasn’t wearing the Nightwatchman’s mask, but she had chosen male clothes, hoping to go unnoticed.
That tavern wasn’t a good place for noble girls, if some of the attendants of that room realized that she was a woman, she would have been in a dangerous situation.
She had come early, she had sat in the most hidden table in a dark corner and she had ordered a drink by throwing a coin on the table and gesturing to one of the barrels without speaking, then she waited, her heart beating too fast.
That place frightened her, and for sure it had been rash to come there without escort, but if Guy really betrayed her, Marian couldn’t bear to show her humiliation to one of the servants.
She hoped to have come to that place unnecessarily, to be forced to wait in vain among those drunken men, and to go home disgusted by those drunkards, but with a lighter heart.
Guy, don’t come to the appointment, please.
She had barely the time to formulate that thought, when she had seen Allan entering the tavern, followed by Guy just a moment later.
Marian had been staring at them, making sure that she was well hidden in the shadows.
If Guy was with Allan, maybe the situation wasn’t that bad, anyway, Marian thought. Who would go to the date with a lover taking a friend with him?
A woman in a fancy dress was approaching the two men's table and she sat in Guy's lap, offering him her company.
Marian winced.
Send her away, Guy.
Gisborne had grabbed the woman's waist with his arm and the girl leaned to him, giggling and whispering something to his ear.
Marian had found herself grabbing her cup of wine tight enough that her hand was shaking. She was about to stand up and pull away that woman from Guy's arms, but she forced herself to sit.
Then the girl crawled over Guy and kissed him.
Marian had closed her eyes, unable to watch. When she reopened them, the girl was no longer sitting on Guy's knees, but she was hugging Allan.
Marian stared down at her own hand, upset; she was clutching her curved dagger in her fingers, the one that she used to hide in her hair, when it was longer. She did not recall at all the moment when she had pulled it out of its sheath.
What else could she do unknowingly, if that woman hadn’t separated herself from Guy?
Marian began to tremble.
She wanted to run away from that horrible place and to be free to cry without being seen by anyone, but she couldn’t get up from her seat before Guy and Allan were gone or they would recognize her.
She took the cup of wine and drank a long sip. It had a tremendous flavor, but Marian didn’t care, nothing could be good that night, not even the wine.

Guy faked drinking from his cup of wine, then he spilled it on the floor to empty it. He didn’t have the slightest intention of touching that stuff, especially after seeing the glares of the host. It was clear that his presence was unwelcome in that place, and only God knew what they had done to his wine.
As soon as he thought it was safe to do so, he got up and took Meg for a wrist, giving her a ravenous smile.
He dragged the girl upstairs, and he walked into the room that Robin had reserved for them. He left the door unlocked, and soon afterwards Allan joined them.
Guy bolted the door, and when he turned to look at Meg, every trace of a smile had disappeared from his face.
“What did you think you were doing?” He asked in a harsh tone, but without raising his voice.
“Hey, Giz, she was just acting,” Allan said, realizing that the girl’s eyes were still full of tears.
“Well, she exaggerated.”
“I’m sorry, you are right.” Meg said quietly, wiping her eyes with her hand.
Guy looked at her, her face flushed with tears and streaked with black for the too heavy makeup that had been washed away by her tears.
She made him think of his sister: when they were little, Isabella had tried to ride Guy's pony secretly, and obviously she ended up falling into a muddy puddle. She hadn’t been hurt, but she had ruined one of the clothes she liked most and her mother had strongly scolded her. Isabella had listened to her words crying, red with shame and with tears that left muddy tracks on her face.
At that moment, Meg had little Isabella’s same expression and that memory dissolved Guy's irritation: she was just an innocent little girl who had played with something bigger than her.
“It doesn’t matter,” Guy said, and Allan let out a sigh of relief. “But forget all of this, it doesn’t suit you.”
Guy made a vague gesture toward the girl's dress and Meg blushed again, hanging her head in shame.
Gisborne put a hand on her cheek to make her raise her face and he smiled at her, repeating unconsciously the same gesture he had done so many years before to console his sister.
“You are a good and brave girl, and tonight you have done your job even too well, Robin should be proud to have welcomed you in his gang.”
The girl looked at him.
“Aren’t you angry with me?”
“Why should I? You came to the tavern and you gave me Robin's instructions, as stated. Nothing else happened.”
“Nothing at all.” Allan said, smiling.
She nodded, grateful to the two men, understanding that both of them would keep silent about her inappropriate behavior.
“Now turn around, it's time for the Nightwatchman to come into action. Allan, give me my costume.”
Obedient, Meg turned to the wall and closed her eyes as Guy changed his clothes. At another time, she would have been tempted to peek, but she was still too embarrassed to think about doing so.
“Now you can watch,” Guy said. “Show me the passage you talked about.”
Meg turned and nodded. She moved the table in the middle of the room and climbed on it, pressing her hands on the ceiling until she found a hidden trapdoor.
“Robin said that from here you can access a tunnel that crosses the attic of the tavern. If you follow it all the way, you will come to a window that opens onto the roof of another building. Walking from roof to roof, you will reach the warehouse where the sheriff has hidden all the food he took away from the villages. Robin marked the rooftops with his arrows, so you won’t lose the right path.”
“So I have to go into that warehouse and open the doors from the inside, right?”
“Yes. Robin and the others will be around, ready to neutralize the guards and to take away everything. Ah, I have an important message from Robin, he told me to repeat it word by word.”
Guy grinned.
“Let's hear.”
"Tell to that fool of Gisborne that, after opening the doors, he must go back from where he came without taking any other action. And this is an order."
“Yes, it's definitely a message from Hood,” Guy said with a sarcastic snort.
“He said that you should come back here and come out of this room with me, so no one will suspect you.”
"Actually, I think he just wants to protect me because he still feels guilty about hurting me, but it doesn’t matter, this time I'm going to obey.”
“Now go, Giz. Meg and I will wait for you here.”
Guy climbed on the table, and Meg moved away to allow him to reach the trapdoor. Before he got up, he looked at the girl.
“Is everything alright?”
“I'm quite ashamed, but yes. Thank you, and sorry again.”
Gisborne smiled at her.
“Next time, kiss only somebody you really like.”
The girl watched him disappear into the trapdoor and she closed the panel.
She sighed, thinking of the words he had just told her.
I did it, Guy of Gisborne, I did.

Chapter Text

Marian stood up and she headed to the door of the tavern, as in a dream.
A dream, she said to herself, it must have been a dream. A bad nightmare from which she would awaken to find herself in her usual everyday life, in that same life that until a few hours ago seemed dull to her, but that now was desirable like a oasis in the desert.
Her soul was a desert, her heart nothing but scorching sand.
Guy had taken that girl’s hand and he had brought her upstairs...
At that moment, Marian had felt something breaking inside her.
She had said to herself that girls in the taverns had no importance, that this was something many men did and that wouldn’t compromise a true love. When she saw that woman dressed in such a glamorous fashion, a part of herself had felt relieved: if that girl was the Meg who had sent the message to Guy, then she couldn’t be important to him.
But seeing the man she loved taking the hand of another girl to bring her into the filthy room of a tavern was more than Marian could bear.
Theoretically, she could convince herself that it didn’t matter, but seeing it happen before her eyes was completely different.
She watched the stairs leading upstairs, and for a moment she was tempted to climb them, knock on every door and find Guy to snatch him away from that woman's arms.
And then? What would she do next? What would have been of them?
Marian felt the disgusting taste of the wine that she had drank earlier rising in her throat, and she ran out of the tavern just in time before giving up to nausea.
She leaned against a wall of the alley, trembling as she emptied her stomach, and she thought that perhaps that was the most humiliating moment of her life.

Guy jumped from a roof and landed on the one below, marked by one of Robin's arrows. He cautiously walked to the edge, and looked around in search of the next arrow to reach.
The night breeze made his cloak flutter, and Guy smiled.
At that moment, the whole city was at his feet, no one knew of his presence and he could reach any place in Nottingham by simply jumping from roof to roof without Vaisey's guards noticing him.
He was free, just like that gentle wind that refreshed the night.
Guy had missed that sensation.
He breathed deeply and returned to focus on the mission: he didn’t want to disappoint Robin.
He followed the path traced by Robin, until he reached the narrow window of the warehouse. The opening was just large enough to let a man inside, but Guy managed to get in with some effort.
He silently passed a room with barrels and sacks of supplies, and, with the flat of the sword, he hit the guard, half asleep by the door. The man collapsed to the ground and Guy dragged him aside before tying and gagging him, then he removed the bar and opened the door.
Shortly afterwards, the outlaws slipped into the warehouse and began to empty it.
“Good job.” Robin said, satisfied.
That fool of Gisborne, huh? I'd like a bit more respect, Hood.”
The outlaw laughed.
“Did I say something untrue? Now go back to the tavern and be careful, we’ll take on from here.”
“I could help you to empty the warehouse.”
“No, I don’t want you to take more risks for something that we can do on our own.” Robin lowered his voice so that only Guy could hear him. “Your mission with Archer is much more important, and only you can accomplish it.”
Guy nodded.
“I know. Don’t be caught, then, because I won’t be here to save your neck.”
Robin laughed again, and Guy came back to the roof of the building, determined to go back as fast as possible. Until then, the mission had been a success and he wanted to end it without mistakes.
He jumped on a roof, and the straw thatch broke under his weight, making him slide toward the edge. Guy threw himself forward and widened his arms to try to slow the fall. He managed to stop a few inches before falling over the edge and he stood motionless for a few moments, breathing heavily. He was lying on his belly on a rather damaged roof and he had to be careful about how to move to avoid falling down. He cautiously raised his head to look around, and immediately flattened himself again on the roof, hearing a low sound coming from the alley just beneath him.
It was a kind of sob, the muffled cry of someone.
Guy wondered what he should do: in that place he was too exposed, and if he waited for that person to leave, he would risk being seen by some guard, and in any case he would return to the tavern too late, but, if he tried to move, the person in the alley could hear him and give the alarm.
He had to find out who that person was, and to understand if he would be able to neutralize them before moving from the roof. If it wasn’t an armed guard, Guy could jump off the roof, stun that stranger, and resume the escape without any problems.
He leaned over the edge of the roof to look down, and he almost let out a cry of surprise.
The girl was sitting on the ground in that filthy alley and she was sobbing, holding her face in her hands. Guy couldn’t see her face, but he was sure that it was her.
He stared at her, his heart in turmoil.
Why was Marian there? Was she alone in such a dangerous and ill-frequented area of the town? And why was she crying? Did anyone hurt her?
For a moment he was about to jump down from the roof and to take her in her arms, asking her what happened, then he remembered that he was still dressed in the Nightwatchman’s costume. He couldn’t afford to be recognized by her, but he couldn’t even leave her there.
He raised his head to look at the other roofs, in panic, trying to decide what to do.
The tavern wasn’t far away: he could run there jumping from roof to roof, get rid of his costume and then come back to her as quickly as possible. He should think of some excuses to justify his presence at Nottingham in the middle of the night, but between him and Allan they would surely be able to put together an acceptable story.
That seemed to him the only possible solution, though he hated the idea of leaving her alone for the time it would take to go to the tavern and back. But it was just a matter of minutes, he said to himself, and he would run as fast as possible.
He decided to do it, and he tried to get up and move as fast as he could, when the roof gave way under his weight, making him fall into the alley.

Marian didn’t know how long it had been since she had left the tavern. She had been sick for a long time, tormented by stomach cramps even when she had nothing left to throw up, then she wandered through the alleys of the town, without paying attention to where she was going.
She didn’t care, she couldn’t think of anything, and, in spite of everything, she just wanted Guy to find her and hold her tight in his arms, to tell her that she was wrong, that she hadn’t seen him going with another girl, and that he only wanted her.
But Guy wouldn’t come because he was in the arms of another woman.
Suddenly she didn’t have the strength to keep walking, and she dropped to the ground, sitting in the place where she was and not paying attention to the dirt of the alley. She had leaned her back to the wall of a rickety hovel and she had taken her face in her hands, bursting into a desperate cry.
She had been crying for as long as she had the strength, and now her despair had faded in silent sobs.
I should get up and go back to Locksley...
But how could she? How could she look again at Guy without thinking of what she had seen at the tavern?
Can I forgive him?
She wasn’t sure she could.
Can I lose him?
If she couldn’t accept what he had done, she should send him away from Locksley, refuse to speak to him and never see him again.
The only idea seemed intolerable to her.
But what other alternatives did she have?
She loved him so desperately and at the same time she believed to hate him for that betrayal.
Why, Guy? Why did you hurt me so much?
Marian thought that if Guy had planted a sword in her stomach, it wouldn’t hurt so much.
What should I do?
At that moment a loud noise shattered the silence of the night, and a man fell from the roof, rolling to the ground and stopping at her feet.
Marian stood up, too surprised to shout.
She watched as the man rose from the ground with some effort. In the light of the moon she couldn’t see him well, but the light was enough to let her see that the stranger was wearing a cape with a hood and that he had a scarf and a mask hiding his face.
The false Nightwatchman!
Marian stared at him, and suddenly all the heartbreaking emotions that hurt her so much condensed in a furious rage.
Guy had betrayed her and she knew that she would have to accept it in the end, the sheriff and his henchmen would continue to oppress the population without anyone stopping him, and she wasn’t able to do anything just because she was weak and a woman.
Once, she had been the Nightwatchman, she had tried to help those who needed her, and now that she couldn’t do that anymore, that man had stolen her identity and took all the credit.
Villagers loved him, waited anxiously for his interventions and everyone admired him.
I'm the Nightwatchman! I! Even though I'm just a woman!
Without saying a word, Marian took her curved dagger, held it tight in her hand, and jumped forward to attack the impostor.

Guy moved to the side with a start, and Marian's knife blade almost hit him, brushing his head. He looked at the girl, astonished: if he hadn’t dodged it, that blow could have killed him.
Marian attacked again and Guy saw the furious and desperate expression of her face.
What had happened to her? Why was she crying just a moment ago and now she was trying to kill him?
Did anyone hurt her and she was so upset because of it?
Gisborne avoided another stab, continuing to anxiously look at the girl. He wanted to ask her a thousand questions, try to console her, but as the Nightwatchman he couldn’t speak to her or Marian would find out his identity.
He lowered himself to avoid a blow, and the blade of the dagger embedded itself into the wooden wall behind him. Marian tried to get it out to hit again, but the dagger seemed to be stuck and she couldn’t pull it off.
Guy took advantage of that situation to put his arms around her waist and drag her away, making her give up her hold on the knife. He pushed her against the wall of a house, then he held her tight, hugging her from behind and blocking her arms against her body.
The girl shuddered, trying to kick and to get free, but Guy didn’t let her go, holding her firmly, but being careful not to hurt her.
He wanted to comfort her somehow, but he couldn’t and he just kept holding her tight.
What do I do now?
He should have pushed her away and climbed back on the roof before she could find hid identity, but seeing her so upset, he couldn’t get himself to set her free.
Marian stopped fighting and let out a sob.
“It isn’t right. You only won because you are stronger than me. You're not the real Nightwatchman, you're an impostor! The Nightwatchman wouldn’t treat a person like this just because she is weaker, but you're just making fun of me because I'm a woman. What do you want to do now? Put your hands on me and take advantage of me? Because this is what you men do if only a girl isn’t cautious enough, isn’t it?”
Marian's tone was so bitter and poisonous to frighten Guy.
What had happened to her? Has anyone tried to hurt her? If they had only dared to touch her, Guy would find the men responsible for that and make them regret being born, he thought, furious only at the idea of that possibility.
The surprise of hearing her talking like that had made him loosen his hold on Marian, and the girl noticed, but, instead of getting rid of him and fleeing, she took advantage of it turning to face him and pushing him against the wall.
“But who said it should be only the men the ones who follow their desires? Why do we women just have to suffer in silence? It's not right! It's not right at all!”
The girl grabbed the scarf covering the lower half of Guy’s face and lowered it with a tug, then she put a hand on his neck and pulled him to her, pressing her lips on Guy's and kissing him with fierceness.
Gisborne hugged her, responding to the kiss.
She recognized me.
Guy thought about what he should tell her, how to explain all the lies he had told her, but, before he could open his mouth, Marian started talking again.
“Well, now I did what you men always do,” she said in a defiant tone. “I kissed a stranger, the first one I met on my way! Should I be ashamed of this? You boast about this kind of things, you say you need it, but if a woman does the same, you consider her a whore! But it is not fair! I am tired of waiting, to endure in silence just because I'm not a man. If it's normal for you, let it be normal for us as well!”
The girl burst into tears and she kicked at Guy's ankles. Gisborne didn’t react, too upset because of her words, and he widened his arms to let her go.
Marian ran away, but he didn’t look at her, he turned his back and climbed up on the roofs.
A stranger.
Then Marian didn’t recognize him... And she had kissed him!
Guy ran along one roof and jumped to the next one without even checking the distance between the two houses. He landed a few inches off the edge and he started to run, looking for Robin's arrows that would drive him to the tavern.
I'm tired of waiting ...
Each of the words spoken by the girl was like a stab in his heart. And that kiss, the kiss she had given to another man, was pure poison.
He found the passage leading to the tavern room and he walked in silence until he found the trapdoor. He dropped into the room and ripped away the mask and the cloak, throwing them in a corner as if they were contaminated with something disgusting.
Allan and Meg stared at him, puzzled.
“Hey Giz, are you all right?”
Guy collapsed on his knees and covered his face with his hands, without answering.
No, Allan, there's nothing that's alright.

Chapter Text

Allan helped Meg to mount and handed the reins to her, but he couldn’t help giving a worried look at Gisborne. The black knight had turned his shoulders to them both, and he was checking one of his horse's saddle straps, but Allan had understood that Guy’s saddle was perfectly fine.
“Are you sure you don’t want to be escorted to the camp?” He asked to Meg.
“No need, I know well the way, and I won’t be in any danger.” She lowered her voice. “Try to figure out what happened to him, he made me worry, earlier.”
Allan nodded. He was still worried.
When he returned from his mission, Gisborne had remained still for a long time, kneeling on the floor with his face in his hands, without saying a word. Allan and Meg had initially feared that he had been injured somehow, but from what they could see, he seemed to be fine.
Allan had approached him cautiously and had called him in a low voice, and Guy had winced, as if he had just acknowledged their presence.
“You and Meg must get out of here,” Allan had reminded him, and Guy had nodded absently.
He had changed in his clothes and he went back downstairs holding his arm around the girl's waist, reciting his part, according to Robin's instructions.
Allan had followed them shortly afterwards, and he had reached them in the stables.
Guy's gaze was empty, as if those last minutes of acting had emptied him of all his energies, while Meg hid behind a bale of hay to take off that overwhelming dress and wear more comfortable, dark clothes that would make her go unnoticed while she returned to the camp.
Meg had said goodbye to the two men and she hurried to go away, while Allan had turned to Guy.
“Well, Giz, can we go home, now?”
Gisborne had mounted on his horse without answering him and they went out of the city without talking, then Allan realized that Guy had not taken the road to Locksley.
“Giz? We should go that way...”
Guy shook his head and spurred the horse, making him gallop. Allan looked at him for a moment, then he ran after him.
He knew he wouldn’t be able to reach him, but he was determined not to lose sight of him. It was clear that something had upset Guy, and Allan had no intention of leaving him alone while he was in that state of mind.

Marian got off the horse and she left the animal tied in the stable. She should have removed his saddle and brushed him, but she didn’t have the strength, and she decided that one of the stable boys would do it the next day.
She dragged herself in the house, tired, and she stopped for a moment in front of Guy's door, undecided if she should try to open it or not.
She had to know if he was back or whether he was still with that woman, but then what would she do? If Guy was there, should she pretend that nothing happened or would it be better to shout all her anger?
And with what right?
He had betrayed her, but she wasn’t without fault either.
She had kissed a man who wasn’t Guy, one of whom she knew nothing and that she had no interest in. Her gesture was born of anger and desire for vengeance. At that moment, she had only wanted to hurt Guy, to give him back some of the hurt he had inflicted to her, and she hadn’t imagined that that kiss would have hurt her so much too.
The impostor had responded to her kiss, had held her close to him with the same passion Guy had shown her in the past, and she was upset in realizing that she actually liked that kiss born out of anger, that the fake Nightwatchman had managed to stir something in her, something that she didn’t think she could feel for a person she didn’t love.
She had yelled at him all her anger, kicked him and ran away, with her face wet with tears of shame.
She had said that a woman should have the same right of men to be able to follow her own desires, but then why did she feel like a harlot?
We are both guilty.
Maybe that was where to start, the lowest point from which they could start to try to go back together.
The memory of her guilt would give her the power to forgive Guy's, or at least she hoped so.
She had to believe it, because she couldn’t imagine a future without him.
She reached out to the door, but pulled her hand back.
She would try to pretend that nothing happened, to forget what she had seen with her own eyes, but not that night.
Now she just wanted to cry.

Allan slowed down the horse as he crossed the village of Knighton: at that hour everybody still slept, and the peasants’ houses were wrapped in silence.
He headed for Knighton Hall and sighed with relief in seeing Gisborne’s horse tied to the usual place. Guy wasn’t anywhere to be seen, but he had to be nearby, and Allan was certain that he would find him.
At night the house under construction had a spectral appearance and Allan shuddered, wishing that he had brought a torch or a lantern with him.
“Giz? Where are you, Giz?” He called, trying to push his gaze into the shadows.
He found him by chance, almost tripping over him. Gisborne was sitting on the ground near one of the newly built walls and he turned to look at him when Allan put his hand on his shoulder.
“Then you're here. Why you didn’t answer?”
Gisborne shook his head weakly.
“Go away, Allan.”
“Forget it, Giz.” Allan didn’t remove his hand from Guy's shoulder, rather he squeezed it harder as he slid to the ground beside him.
Gisborne let out a sigh of suffering. He wanted to send Allan away, but he didn’t have the strength.
“Leave me alone. Please.”
“No. If you don’t want to talk, it doesn’t matter, we'll be quiet, but it's useless to ask me to leave because I'm not going to do it. I'm not leaving you, because you're not alone. I’m with you and whatever has happened to you, I will help you to deal with it, whether you want it or not.”
Guy didn’t answer, but he didn’t try to go away or to send Allan away, so the young man came to the conclusion that he had accepted his presence.

Guy closed his eyes, leaning his back to the wall. He felt tired, defeated and desperate, and the memory of what had happened in the alley continued to haunt him. He could still see Marian, angry and desperate, clinging to him to kiss him. To kiss the Nightwatchman. To kiss a stranger.
Why, Marian?
He couldn’t understand the reason for her deeds. Had he waited too much to propose to her and she was tired of waiting? Or maybe she didn’t love him anymore?
If she really loved you. Who could love the sheriff's dog?
Had he been deceived again? Had he exchanged something else for love?
He remembered the moments they had shared since he came back to Locksley after Barret's ambush. That first hug in the stable, all the difficulties and pains they had faced together, the disbelief he had felt when Marian had confessed her feelings for him, and every single instant he had spent with her for the last seven months... Every kiss, those absurd pancakes she prepared at dawn, the basket of apples that Marian had given to him because it remembered a happy moment, the tenderness she had with him when he was sick...
Were those all lies? Illusions?
No. It isn’t possible.
In the past he had been blind to the truth, he had believed every word of Marian even when she just wanted to use him to help Robin Hood. Had this happened again and he just wasn’t able to understand it?
Allan leaned on him, snoring slightly and Guy smiled at him. Earlier, he had tried to send him away, but he had to admit that he was grateful to Allan for not leaving him alone. Even though he had fallen asleep after a few minutes, his presence was comforting.
He shook him gently to wake him.
The young man lifted his head from Gisborne's shoulder.
“Giz? I was awake, I swear.”
“Save your words, you were snoring.”
“Before snoring I was awake,” Allan said, unperturbed.
Guy let out a half smile, then he grew serious again, and he looked at his friend.
"Allan, just for once, can you be completely honest with me? It’s important, my whole life may depend on your answer. I need to hear the truth from your lips because I can’t understand it anymore.”
The young man stared at him, puzzled. Gisborne was mortally serious and Allan was scared.
“Of course, Giz. I wouldn’t let you down on an important thing.”
“Not even to protect me? Swear that you won’t hide anything from me, as painful as it may be.”
“Just ask, I'll tell you the truth.”
Guy looked at him, as if to figure out if he could believe him, then he took a deep breath.
“Do you think Marian really loves me?”
Allan looked at him.
“Are you drunk, Giz?”
“Answer!” Guy yelled, and Allan realized that his was a serious question.
“Of course she loves you, even a blind man could see that.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Giz, are you talking seriously? How can you not be sure?”
Guy leaned back against the wall with his back and closed his eyes.
“I'm not sure of anything.”
Allan grabbed his shoulder and shook him.
“Stop it now!”
Guy looked at him.
“Stop what?”
“Stop talking in riddles, and enough with this self-pity! Tell me what the hell happened to you, and let me help you, or keep all your secrets for yourself and deal with them alone, but snap out of it! I can’t stand to see you like that.”
Allan stood up abruptly and Guy stared at him for a moment, then he also got up to his feet.
“Wait, don’t go.”
“Giz, what happened between you and Marian? Why do you doubt that she loves you?”
“She was in Nottingham.”
“Yes. She was in a alley, and she was crying.”
“What did she do there? And did she see you?!”
"I wanted to get rid of my costume and come back to help her, but the thatching of roof where I was hiding gave way, and I fell in front of her.”
“And then? What happened?”
“She attacked me. I don’t know what happened to her, but she was upset...”
“Giz, she attacked the Nightwatchman, not you. If you doubt about her because of this...”
“I succeeded in immobilizing her, and she kissed me!” Guy cried, and Allan stared at him, perplexed.
“So? You should have expected that sooner or later she’d recognize you. Did she take it so bad?”
“She didn’t recognize me. She kissed the Nightwatchman, not me,” Guy said, his voice broken with hurt.
“Why did she do it? If she loves me, why did she kiss another man?”
“Well, technically she didn’t. Even if she didn’t know it was you, it was you. You can’t be jealous of yourself.”
“Yes, I can! And what if I wasn’t in that alley? If there was another man what would have she done? Would she have thrown herself on the first passerby just to prove that she has the right to behave like all men do?!”
Allan put a hand on his shoulder to calm him, and he reflected on Gisborne's words.
“Did she just say that? ‘Like all men do’?”
“Yes. But why should this be important?”
"The alley where you met her wasn’t far from the tavern, right?"
Guy looked at him, not understanding the meaning of Allan's questions.
“No, not much.”
“Tell me one last thing, Giz. Did her mood resembled yours now? Angered and full of sorrow?”
“Yes, but…”
“Try thinking about it: she said ‘all men’, so she also included you. This morning you were sickly sweet with each other, why should she have to be mad at you too for no reason at all? But if she was near the tavern she might have seen you together with Meg.”
Guy paled.
Allan's words could make sense. If Marian had seen him with another woman, her behavior could be explained, and that angry kiss could be a sort of revenge on him.
“It could be an explanation, don’t you think?” Allan asked.
“It could. But what was she doing at the tavern?”
“She may have noticed that you went out in secret and followed you. I can imagine her very well doing such a thing, you know?”
Guy thought back to what happened with Meg, how she had been close to him and kissed him and how he had taken her hand to bring her upstairs...
“But then, if this is true...”
“You're dead, Giz.” Concluded Allan, guessing his thoughts.

Chapter Text

The black stallion snorted, impatient, and Guy approached him to scratch his muzzle. He should have taken off his saddle and given him something to eat a long time ago, and Guy felt guilty about ignoring him.
He wondered what to do. He had to go back to Locksley sooner or later, but how could he face Marian?
If Allan wasn’t wrong, she thought he had betrayed her, otherwise she was the one who did it.
Whatever the truth was, Guy didn’t have the courage to look at Marian in her eyes and he was terrified of the possibility of losing her.
Allan returned with two buckets of water and put one in front of each horse.
“What can I do?” Guy asked, almost in a plea, and Allan thought that it was rare for Gisborne to look so vulnerable in front of him.
“For now, calm down.”
"How can you tell me to calm down if I don’t know what's happening to Marian?!" Guy snarled, angrily.
“Exactly. You don’t know. The only thing to do is to find out, but until then, it makes no sense to be so upset. Don’t let yourself to be driven by emotions, nothing good happens when you do it.”
“As if it was easy.”
Allan put his hands on his shoulders and forced him to turn, then pointed at Knighton Hall.
“Have a good look at it. Wouldn’t you prefer to have kept your temper in check that day? Now think about it: do you think it’s easier to rebuild this house, or would have it been better not to have burned it at all?”
Guy found nothing to answer and bowed his head with a sigh.
“I say it for your own good, Giz.”
“I know. But…”
"Look, as soon as I go to Locksley, I'll talk to Marian and I’ll try to figure out what happened. We'll find a solution, but until then you don’t have to do anything rash.”
“If there is a solution,” Guy said grimly.
"The only thing for which there is no remedy is death, and in your case I wouldn’t be certain of that, either. In the worst case you'll have to tell her that you're the Nightwatchman.”
"Of course, confessing to her that I lied for months is the best way to regain her confidence in me. Not to mention that for her it would be dangerous to be aware of what I do. And then, if she really kissed the Nightwatchman because she saw me with Meg, it would be humiliating for her to know that I know what she did.”
“Giz, we will think up something, I'm sure. And we will find a way to settle things.”
Gisborne sighed.
“I hope so.”
Allan recovered two blankets from his saddlebags and put one in Guy's hands.
“It's better that now we try to get some sleep.”
“I don’t think I can.”
“Try all the same. Really, Giz, if you don’t get some rest, you will end up collapsing. Even if you can’t sleep, lie down, close your eyes and try not to think about anything.”
Guy decided to follow Allan's advice and wrapped himself in the blanket. He was sure he couldn’t sleep, he felt too distressed, but his friend was right: he was really tired.
He closed his eyes and tried to convince himself that Allan's words were true: they would find a solution and things would settle somehow. He had to believe it.

Guy moved, still asleep, then he turned on a side, and opened his eyes. He had been awoken by the scent of freshly baked bread and Gisborne blinked, confused.
He propped himself up with an elbow to look around, and he realized that he was lying beneath one of the trees of Knighton Hall and that the sun was already high. He suddenly remembered the events of the last night and anguish took hold of his heart again, waking him completely.
He had believed that he couldn’t sleep, but in the end tiredness overwhelmed him, and Guy had slipped into a deep sleep, mercilessly devoid of dreams.
“You finally woke up, Sir Guy!” A cheerful voice behind him exclaimed, and Gisborne turned with a start.
“Oh, Mary...”
The little girl smiled.
“Allan told me to let you sleep, but I started thinking that you were going to sleep all day.”
Guy sat up.
“Where's Allan?”
“He told me that he was going to Locksley, and he asked my mom to prepare something to eat for you.”
The little girl pushed a basket toward him.
Guy was about to say that he wasn’t hungry, but he realized that it would be a lie.
He was hungry.
It seemed absurd and wrong to think about eating or sleeping when he could lose Marian's love, but his body seemed to think differently.
He accepted Mary's offer, thanking her with a nod of his head and he took a piece of bread. He broke it in half and offered a part of it to the little girl.
“Thanks, Sir Guy, but it's for you. I've already eaten.”
“There is enough for both of us. And if I remember how my sister was when she was your age, I guess you won’t mind at all having a second breakfast.” Guy gave her a small smile and gestured toward the basket. “Get anything you want.”
Mary took the bread without hesitation and bite into it. She chewed quickly, then she turned to look at Guy.
“Do you have a sister? What's her name?”
“It sounds like the name of a princess. Is she very beautiful?”
Guy didn’t reply immediately, thinking back to the last time he had seen her, the desperate anger he had seen in her eyes when he had sold her to her future husband. With a shudder he realized that that look was terribly similar to the one he had seen in Marian's eyes, the wounded look of a woman betrayed by someone she loved.
Was it what Isabella had felt? He had been convinced that he had offered her an unrepeatable opportunity, the only chance they had to escape from misery, and he never thought that he might have done wrong.
Mary watched him, waiting for an answer, and Guy put aside those thoughts.
“Yes, I think so.”
The girl laughed.
“Don’t you know if your sister is beautiful or not?”
“I haven’t seen her for a long time.”
“Does she live very far from here?”
Mary picked up an apple from the basket and she began to chew it, pensive.
“Why don’t you go to see her? Dad and Jack still live in the forest, but they come to see us every night. Don’t tell the sheriff, though. I would suffer if my brother didn’t want to see me, he is a fool, but he's always my brother.”
Guy didn’t answer, and the little girl looked at him, a little worried. The knight looked sad and Mary remembered that the first time he met him, she had seen him weeping for some reason.
“Sir Guy?”
Gisborne struggled to smile and returned the empty basket to her.
“I think it's better that I get back to work, now.” He said, pointing at Knighton Hall.
Guy took off his jacket and put it on the ground, above the blanket he had neatly folded, then he reached the men who were already working.
That was the house he was rebuilding for Marian and perhaps all that effort would be wasted if she should decide to leave him, Guy sadly thought, then he put that painful thought aside.
Allan had told him that they would find a solution, and although he suspected that his friend only wanted to comfort him, Guy chose to believe him.
He had no intention of surrendering without fighting, Marian was too important.

Marian ran to the window as she heard the hooves of a horse approaching the house. She only got a short and tormented sleep, and just before dawn she had stopped trying and she had climbed up to Guy's window to see if he had come home, but the room was desolately empty.
She looked out, trying not to be seen, and she wondered how she would have to behave if that approaching rider was Guy.
It was Allan and he was alone.
Where's Guy?
Marian shivered at the thought that something might have happened to him, but in that case Allan wouldn’t have been so calm.
The only explanation was that Guy had stayed with the woman in the tavern, and Marian felt angry just at the idea of it, But her rage was immediately mitigated by the memory of the kiss she had given to the false Nightwatchman.
Why should I feel guilty?
The girl sighed. She felt tremendously confused.
On one side she was furious with Guy. She couldn’t accept his betrayal, and she repeated to herself that what she had done in the alley was just a good revenge, that she only repaid him with his same coin. On the other hand she couldn’t forgive herself for having acted in that shameful way just to retaliate. She never had any desire to kiss that man, she had done it in spite, and she felt miserable about it.
To complicate things there were the absurd feelings that that kiss had caused her. It had been enjoyable, exciting, and she had felt desire for that masked man.
Am I so fickle then?
She moved away from the window, still uncertain on how to behave. Allan had been at the tavern, along with Guy. Somehow she might be able to get information about that woman from him, to see if what had happened was a serious thing or just the adventure of a night...
But how could she do it? She couldn’t go to Allan and ask him. It would have been too humiliating to admit that she had entered that tavern, and then who could guarantee that Allan would tell her the truth?
Anyway, she had to do something or she would continue to be tormented by her doubts.
She went downstairs and found Allan in the kitchen, steadily eating the leftovers of the day before.
“Where's Guy?” The girl asked, even before deciding whether to make that question was a wise move or not.
Allan stared at her: Marian was pale and her eyes were red and surrounded by dark circles, as if she hadn’t slept at all. That hadn’t been an easy night for her either.
“Should I know?” He asked in an indifferent tone, and Marian hesitated for a moment before answering.
“You usually spend a long time together...”
“The same goes for you, I would say,” Allan said with a peaceful smile. “No pancakes today?”
They exchanged a cautious look.
Each of them wanted to get information from the other, but neither Allan nor Marian dared to reveal too much.

Chapter Text

Guy noticed the presence of someone behind him, but he didn’t interrupt what he was doing; he pushed the wooden beam in its place, and then sustained it as two workers fastened it to the other ones. When he was certain that the other workers had finished, Guy turned around.
"It's a lot of time since you last showed up, Gisborne,” Archer said, nodding at him.
Guy noticed the worried looks of the villagers, and decided that it would be better to move away from the house under construction to talk to Archer. He reached him and walked with him to the place where he had tied the horse.
“I was unwell. Hood's arrow hurt me more seriously than I thought in a first moment.”
“Now you look pretty fit, though.”
Guy nodded.
“I'm healed, but I had to make up for the time I lost.”
Archer turned to look at Knighton Hall.
“You really care about this house,” he commented, a little impressed. The last time he had been to Knighton Hall, he had looked at it burning, but now there weren’t traces of the fire anymore and the reconstruction proceeded in full swing.
Guy gave him a distrustful look.
“Yes,” he said, reluctantly. He didn’t want to show Archer how important it was to him.
Perhaps he was his brother, and Guy hoped to be able to bring him to their side, but for now, Archer was still working for the sheriff, and Gisborne wasn’t going to show him the things that he loved and that Vaisey would certainly use to hit him.
Archer gave him an ironic smile.
“Hey, I'm not here to burn it again, you can relax.”
“What do you want then?”
"It seems to me that you and I still have a pending challenge.”
Guy smiled. This time it was Archer who came to look for him, it was a small step forward.
“What do you propose? I'd rather not risk our life this time.”
“How well do you shot with a bow?”
Guy shook his head.
“I’m pretty bad, I'm sorry,” he lied. Since he began collaborating with Robin, his skills had much improved, but he couldn’t allow Archer and the sheriff to find out, otherwise they might suspect that he was the Nightwatchman.
“We’ll try something else, then. Come?” Archer hinted at the horses and Guy hesitated.
He didn’t want to stop working at Knighton Hall, but following Archer would help him not to think about his situation with Marian, and perhaps he would make a few more steps in his mission to take Archer to their side.
He nodded.
“Wait a minute, I have to give some instructions to the workers.”

Allan took a piece of cheese and chewed it, pretending to be focused on the food. He glanced at Marian and realized that the girl was hiding something: she was too nervous and her gaze couldn’t hide her inner torment. Allan was more and more confident that she had seen Meg's performance in the tavern, but before he could think of a way to pull Gisborne out of trouble, he had to be absolutely certain of that.
But he couldn’t ask her directly, or he would end up complicating the situation.
“Allan?” Marian looked at him in the eyes, and the young man looked back at her, a bit uncomfortable.
“What?” He asked, his mouth full.
“If Guy did something wrong, would you tell me?”
Allan glanced at her, surprised. He didn’t expect such a direct approach.
“Why do you ask? Don’t you trust him?”
Marian winced, hearing Allan's words. She had trusted him, and Guy had betrayed that trust, she thought angrily. She was about to say it, but then she remembered every time when Guy had blindly believed her, while Marian had only used him to gather information for Robin Hood.
When he had learned the truth, Gisborne had never reproached her for playing with his feelings and never talked again about those betrayals. Why was it so difficult for her to forgive the adventure of a night?
"I'm worried about the influence that Archer seems to have on him,” she said quickly, seeing that Allan was expecting an answer.
Allan noticed that Marian had avoided answering, but for now he decided not to insist.
“I don’t understand that, either, actually. But Giz is not stupid, there must be a reason for looking for that man's company, I want to trust him.”
Marian envied Allan. She wished that she could blindly believe in Guy as he did, but she couldn’t take away the image of that woman from her mind.
It was absurd: she could accept and forgive everything Guy had done to serve the sheriff, but why couldn’t she forget a simple betrayal?
“You are his friend, Allan, help him to make no mistakes. Loneliness can lead to approaching the wrong people...”
Allan looked at her and guessed from her expression that Marian was no longer talking about Archer.
“Giz is no longer alone like he was in the past. He has more friends than you think,” Allan said in a casual tone, just to tease her.
“Ah. Really?”
Marian didn’t know what to think of Allan's words. Perhaps he was referring to Djaq and Tuck, but then he wouldn’t have said ‘more than you think’. Was he talking about female friendships?
The girl was jealous, and she was about to make more explicit questions, when someone knocked on the door.
Allan and Marian exchanged a perplexed look, and both thought that it could be Guy, but shortly after, Thornton entered the kitchen, followed by two peasant women in tears.
“What happened?” Marian asked, worried.
"From what I could understand, tonight the children of these women didn’t come home. They are looking everywhere, but they can’t find them anywhere.”
“What if the sheriff took them? It wouldn’t be the first time that he arrested children,” Allan speculated, making the two mothers cry even more desperately.
Marian glared at him reproachfully for being so tactless.
“What's up? I didn’t say anything false! It has already happened in the past, with little boys who had seen something they shouldn’t. On that occasion, they must thank Giz if they were not executed right away.”
“Allan!” Marian shushed him, seeing that the two women were more and more upset. “Stop talking and go to Nottingham to find out if they have been arrested, Thornton, gather the servants and have the horses saddled, we will join the search too.”

Archer observed the man riding at his side: Gisborne had followed him voluntarily, but he had the impression that his mind was elsewhere, that he was worried or distracted for some reason.
According to the sheriff, Guy of Gisborne was little more than a dog: useless, stupid, and incapable.
His only praise, according to Vaisey, was blind obedience and his obstinate loyalty, but now that loyal dog had turned against him, and tried to bite the hand that had fed him and kept him chained for years.
In such cases, rabid dogs could only be put down, Vaisey said, but something seemed to have prevented him from doing so, because Guy of Gisborne was still alive.
Archer imagined that the sheriff had a reason not to kill the man he hated, and he hoped to discover that secret.
Vaisey paid Archer and he obeyed him, but the alliances could change quickly, and, if they did, knowledge was always a weapon.
Archer thought that Gisborne was different from what the sheriff thought, but he wasn’t sure he was able to understand him yet.
Guy seemed willing to approach him, he acted in a friendly manner, and at the same time he seemed to hate everything that Archer's work for the sheriff implied.
What do you want from me? An alliance? Or to try to destroy me?
"So, will the construction site keep going even without your presence?"
Guy looked at him, confused, Archer's voice had diverted his attention from his thoughts.
Archer smiled.
“Your house. Did you give instructions to your workers?”
“Oh. Yes, they won’t have any problems.”
“Then let’s think about our next challenge. Any ideas?”
Guy shrugged.
“You decide, it's your turn. For me it's enough that we keep ourselves out of the forest and that we aren’t going to break our necks.”
“And where's the fun then?”
“Last time was enough.”
Archer smiled, amused.
“I got an idea, follow me.”
They rode for a while until they reached the river, then Archer dismounted and tied the horse to a tree, heading toward the bank. Guy imitated him and for a few moments he feared that the other man would find his secret place, the one that some time ago Guy had decided to share with Marian, but Archer instead moved in the opposite direction.
They reached a place where the river narrowed slightly and Archer pointed to the trunk of a fallen tree that crossed it like a bridge.
“What do you say?” Archer asked.
“About what?”
“Our challenge.”
He picked up two straight and robust sticks from the ground and put one in Guy's hand.
“What would it be?”
“Let's get on the trunk and the first one who throws the other in the water wins.”
Guy nodded. That challenge didn’t seem too dangerous: the worse it could happen was to get some bruises and to take a bath in the river.
He took off his jacket, shirt and boots and laid them on a dry boulder.
“Do you plan to lose, Gisborne?”
Guy grinned.
"Even if I should lose, do you think I would allow you to go back to the bank without dragging you in the water with me? And you would do the same. Anyway, neither of us will go home dry, do you think I don’t know it?”
Archer laughed and imitated him, leaving his clothes next to Guy's, then he noticed that Gisborne was staring at the birthmark he had on his chest.
“It's strange, isn’t it? It looks like an arrow head.”
Guy nodded and looked away, hoping to hide his emotion.
He's really our brother, then.
“In fact it's unusual. That's why they called you Archer?”
“I have no idea. Could be. I don’t know anything about my family, but at least they got the name right: look.”
The young man took an arrow, aimed at a far apple tree and hit the stalk of a fruit still on its branches, making it to fall down, then a second arrow hit the apple before it touched the ground.
Guy looked at him, impressed. Although his aim had much improved, he wouldn’t be able to make a shot like that.
“You should challenge Robin Hood, not me.”
“Sooner or later it will happen, and it will be the end for Hood,” Archer said, then he smiled at him. “So, shall we get started?”

Marian unmounted and turned her gaze to her father.
“Are there any news?”
Sir Edward shook his head.
“No. They are looking everywhere, but those children seem to have disappeared. They also dredged the pond, but fortunately they aren’t there.”
“He came back a short while ago too, they didn’t arrest any children in the last few days in Nottingham. Come home and eat something, I've allowed village women to use our kitchens to prepare a meal for the volunteers.”
Marian nodded. She would have preferred to leave immediately, but her horse needed some rest and food too.

Guy avoided Archer's staff and spun his own to try to counterattack. At that moment, he was sorry that Little John had not yet accepted him as Robin's ally, some battle-lessons with his staff would have been useful.
Archer was agile, quick and imaginative, and Guy had risked several times to be thrown into the river. To win, he had to focus on strength, and try to catch him by surprise.
He blocked an attack by Archer and hit him in turn, jumping forward to add his own weight to the force of the stroke. Archer tried to parry, but he was pushed back and fell into the water. Guy, now too unbalanced to be able to straighten himself, crashed on him, pushing him underwater.
They both coughed and shivered because of the the cold water, then they exchanged a look and broke out laughing.
“I think this is a draw,” Archer said.
“No. You fell first.”
“Whoever remains on the trunk wins. You fell in the river too.”
“You did not specify this, so I won.”
Guy grinned and went back to the bank. He was drenched and half frozen, but he wasn’t sorry to have followed Archer.
He had the proof that he was really their lost brother, and then fighting with him had diverted his thoughts from his problems with Marian, at least for a while.
He put his hands in his hair to shake away some water, and he looked around.
That wasn’t a place where he often came, and he had never noticed that the river bank was so close to a rocky wall. He noticed a square opening partially closed by broken boards, and he approached to it, curious.
Archer joined him.
“It must be a disused tunnel of some old mine. I've been here already, but I never noticed it before. There were more bushes in this place, the flood probably washed them away.”
"You'd better come back with some men and close it, it looks dangerous,” Guy said, looking inside the opening.
The tunnel was dark and the ground went uphill.
He felt something sharp under his bare foot, and he bent to pick up a pointed wooden stick with rickety feathers attached on one end.
“What is it?” Archer asked.
“A toy arrow. Village children often play Robin Hood,” Guy said with a sarcastic snort.
“Nice example. Such games should be forbidden.”
Gisborne raised a finger.
“Wait. I heard something.”
They both remained in silence, and shortly thereafter the sound was repeated.
“It sounds like a sort of lament,” Guy said, worried, then he turned to the opening of the tunnel and shouted. “Is anyone there?!”
Weak voices shouted in response, asking for help, and Guy and Archer looked at each other.
“They're kids. They must have been trapped in there.”

Chapter Text

Guy stepped into the tunnel, and Archer stopped him, grabbing his arm.
“What are you doing?”
"I want to understand the shape of this tunnel, and find out how they got trapped.”
“And what will prevent you from getting trapped as well?”
“I just want to get to the top of this uphill stretch.”
Archer let him go and Guy went cautiously into the tunnel. At the top of the slope, the land fell abruptly, almost vertically, and Gisborne almost slipped, even if he was moving with the utmost care.
Archer grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back, helping him to resume his balance.
Guy stared at the dark abyss where he had risked to fall and he breathed deeply.
“Thank you.”
“You are welcome, we still have a open challenge.”
The two men sat down on the floor to look down into the pit. Once, the tunnel probably had a much smaller inclination, but the water of the river had eroded the rock, and the ground collapsed, opening that sort of well.
“Help!” The voice of a child sobbed, from the well. “Get us out of here!”
“How many are you? Are you injured?”
“We are three, but my brother doesn’t wake up.”
Guy and Archer held their breath for a moment.
“What do we do?” Gisborne whispered. “If he is unconscious, he might be hurt.”
Both imagined Vaisey's voice, suggesting them to leave those brats to their fate, and both ignored it.
“We need a torch and a rope, at least,” Archer said, and Guy nodded.
"I should have a rope in my saddle bag, and even a blanket. Go and take them, meanwhile I will talk to the kids and I’ll try to figure out how bad is the situation.”
Archer got up from the ground and walked back along the passage to go outside.
Guy crawled forward a few inches to look at the bottom of the well, though he knew it was useless because of the darkness.
“Sir? Are you still there?” whispered the same voice that had already spoken shortly before. Guy could hear the sobbing of another child coming from the well.
“I'm here. Stay calm, Archer went to look for a rope, we'll get you out of there.”
“Archer is your friend’s name? I'm Tom, my brother is Matt, and my friend is Richard. What is your name, sir?”
“Guy of Gisborne.”
Guy clearly understood that the two children had held their breath in hearing his name.
“Sir Guy, don’t punish us, please.”
“What?” Guy asked, shocked.
“We shouldn’t have come here to play, but we will never do it again. Don’t hurt us, have mercy! We do not want to lose our tongues!”
“Why should I do such a thing?!”
Tom burst into hysterical sobs and the other child answered Guy’s question.
“Our mothers say that if we don’t obey, you will come on your black horse and you’ll cut off our tongues or a hand.”
“But it's not true!” Guy snarled, then he realized that shouting would only frighten those children even more, and he tried to sound reassuring. “The only thing I'm going to do is to get you out of there. Have you slipped for a long distance when you fell?”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you at the bottom of the well?”
“No. There are some wooden boards stuck in the tunnel and they have prevented us from falling down, but if we move we feel them shake...”
Guy worried. He didn’t know how deep was that hole, but if the children should slip further down, it would be harder to retrieve them, if not impossible.
“Don’t move, then.”
Guy felt the sound of steps behind him and, shortly after, the light of a torch lighted up the tunnel.
He turned to look at Archer and the other man placed on the ground the bundle he was carrying under his arm.
Archer put the torch in a crack of the wall and gave to Guy his boots and his clothes.
Gisborne took them and hurried to wear them: the temperature was pleasant outside, but inside the cave it was cold, and he was still wet after diving into the river.
Archer picked up the torch and leaned out to light the well: the kids were ten yards down, resting on a small platform created by some wooden boards. Two were hugging each other, while a third child was lying at their feet, motionless.
Tom and Richard saw the light and let out a joyful cry.
“Don’t move!” Guy ordered, worried about how precarious their situation was. “Now I will come to get you.”
Archer looked at him as if he had gone mad.
“Are you really thinking of going down that hole?”
“We can’t wait too much. They could fall down any moment,” Guy said, lowering his voice to avoid that the children could hear him.
Archer looked at him.
“You're crazy, Gisborne. Brave, but crazy.”
“Maybe.” Guy looked at him with half a smile. "But I have the impression that you will be part of this madness, or am I wrong? Here, take the rope. Secure it somewhere and then help me down.”
Archer watched as Guy tied the rope around his waist.
“Do you trust me? For what you know, I could also let you fall and make the sheriff happy. How do you know you can trust me?”
“I don’t know. But I guess I'll find out soon,” Guy said, getting down into the well.
He knew that giving his trust to Archer was a dangerous move, and he couldn’t be sure that the other man would really support his weight, but the situation of those children was really too precarious, and then it would be a great opportunity to understand if Archer had a conscience or not.
Guy tried not to think of the small detail that if the half-brother was just a cruel mercenary at Vaisey's orders, he would most likely end up trapped in that tunnel, and no one would ever find his body again.
With a shudder he realized that this would be a perfect loophole for the sheriff: no corpse, no evidence of Guy's death, no compromising letter sent to King Richard...
For a moment Gisborne was tempted to go back up the rope and just go to Locksley to call for help.
“Are you alright?”
Archer's voice made Guy raise his face to look at him; the other man looked down at him and his question seemed to contain a vein of sincere concern.
Guy nodded and continued to get down.
He felt the troubled breathing of the children getting closer, and soon after a hand touched his leg, clinging to him with despair.
“Stop! Don’t move!” He ordered the children, while he tried to look around.
The light of Archer's torch barely reached down there, but it was enough to see the precariousness of the wooden platform where the children had taken refuge.
He decided not to put his weight on it and instead he chose to prop himself with his back and legs against the walls of the tunnel.
“Sir Guy, you really came!” Tom whined, sniffling.
Gisborne nodded and took a better look at those little boys: the two who were staring at him weren’t more than nine or ten years old, while the unconscious one seemed to be a few years younger. All three had a familiar air.
“You're from Locksley, aren’t you?” Guy asked, and Tom and Richard exchanged a worried look before nodding. Guy remembered that a few months ago he had surprised a gang of kids who were throwing mud and rocks against his window in Locksley. When he had looked out of the window to threaten them, they had ran away without leaving traces, but the fearful attitude of those two boys made him think that they didn’t have a clear conscience.
Well, if it was mud that they wanted, they certainly were satisfied.
“Sir Guy, why Matt doesn’t wake up? He was weeping when we fell down, then he fell asleep, but I couldn’t wake him up.”
Gisborne glanced worriedly at the child and leaned over him, fearing that he was dead because of the fall. He put his hand on his neck and for a moment he was sure he had touched a corpse because his skin was too cold, then he felt a weak heartbeat under his fingers, and he realized that he was still alive.
But he wouldn’t survive for a long time, if they couldn’t get him out of that well. Guy retracted his hand and found it sticky with blood. Trying to look better at him despite the dim light, he saw a wound on the child's forehead. The bleeding seemed to have stopped, but the child had lost a lot of blood, judging by the stain on the wooden boards.
Guy looked at Tom.
"Now I'll take your brother in my arms and I'll take him out of here, then I'll come back to get you. Try not to move.”
Gisborne didn’t dare to step on the wooden platform, so he continued to prop himself against the walls of the tunnel and he lifted little Matt only by the force of his arms. Luckily the child wasn’t too heavy, but the tension he felt in his arms and in the muscles of his back made him realize that the next day he would surely pay that effort with great pain.
“Archer! Help me to climb up again!” He yelled, and soon afterward he felt the rope pulling him up.
Guy tried not to put all his weight on Archer, but he had to keep the unconscious child with both arms and he couldn’t help himself with his hands. He thought that the next day his half-brother would find himself with an aching back too.
They were halfway, when the rope suddenly broke.
It's the end.
Guy closed his eyes as he fell down. He was certain that his weight would smash the wooden platform and he and the children would fall into the pit. They would be lucky to die instantly.
The impact of his back against the wooden boards took his breath away, but a moment later Guy realized that he was no longer falling: the platform had resisted!

Archer had fallen backwards when the rope broke and he rose immediately, anxiously. He went back to the edge of the well, horrified by the silence that followed Guy's fall.
“Gisborne!” He called, wondering why the possibility that the other had crashed to the bottom of the tunnel would disturb him so much.
He had spent his life avoiding worrying about others and avoiding any attachment, yet he was afraid for the fate of his predecessor and of those three kids he didn’t even know.
The young man looked down, annoyed by the relief he had felt in hearing Gisborne's voice.
“Are you alive?”
Guy felt the platform creaking beneath him and tried to stay motionless. He was lying on those precariously balanced boards, the unconscious child lying over him, with his face resting on his chest, and the other two were huddled at his side, terrified.
“Yes, and I don’t seem to be injured, but you have to look for a stronger rope, now.”
Guy didn’t add that Archer had to hurry up because the platform could suddenly collapse because he wanted to keep the kids from becoming even more scared, but he hoped that Archer would understand the urgency of the situation.
Guy picked up the broken rope that was still tied to his waist and secured it around a protruding rock near his head. If the wooden boards should crash, the rope wouldn’t be enough to support the weight of all four of them, but it was better than nothing.
“It was the only one we had,” Archer said. “I'll have to go and find help.”
“Not in Nottingham!” Guy cried. The sheriff would jump for joy if he should learn that Guy was in that situation. He would probably order Archer to secretly seal the old mine.
“Where, then?”
“Locksley! It's closer and the kids come from there, they will be more willing to help us. Search for Allan!”
“Your servant?”
“My friend. If he isn’t there, talk to Sir Edward or to Marian. They probably won’t trust you, take my horse, so they will know we were together.”
“All right. Try not to fall, in the meantime.”
Archer planted the torch in a crack of the wall so its light would continue to illuminate the well, then he threw the blanket he had just taken from the saddle bag to Gisborne.
Guy heard him going away, and he hoped that he really went to call for help.
He moved cautiously to a sitting position and leaned his back to the wall, pressing his feet against the opposite side to weigh less on the wooden boards. In that position, even if the platform should crack, he might be able to prop into the tunnel walls and hold his position for a while.
He unfolded the blanket and smiled at seeing that Archer had wrapped a goatskin full of water in it.
Guy let Tom and Richard drink first. The children were thirsty after spending the whole night in that well, then Guy tried to give some water to the unconscious child, but Matt was completely unresponsive and Guy began to fear that it was too late for him.
The other two clung to Gisborne, trying to get warm, and Guy set the blanket so that all four of them could be covered.
“Sir Guy? That Archer is the man who works for the sheriff, isn’t he?” Tom asked, trying not to start crying again.
“Yes, he is.”
“Will he really come back? If he works for the sheriff he must be evil, he could leave us here to die.”
“Shut up, idiot!” Richard cried. “Sir Guy also used to work for the sheriff, but he came to help us.”
“But he doesn’t work for him anymore, do you, Sir Guy?”
“Not anymore,” Guy said calmly, trying to sound more reassuring and sure than he really was. “But Archer will come back and soon we'll be out of here.”
Or at least I hope so.

Chapter Text

Marian tried to reassure and encourage the mothers of the missing children, but she didn’t know what to say to relieve their sorrow and their fear.
All the men and even some of the women were participating in the search, but there were no results, and now they were beginning to fear that the children wouldn’t be found alive. Someone had been able to warn Robin Hood, but not even the outlaws had been lucky.
Marian remembered the desperation she had experienced many months earlier when she believed that Guy had been killed. Whenever Allan came home without being able to find the remains of Gisborne, Marian had the impression to go crazy, and the pain for his death was renewed.
She didn’t dare to think what those women were feeling, the terror that they were experiencing not knowing what had happened to their children.
Suddenly Locksley's kitchen seemed too small and overwhelming, the air suffocating, and Marian took advantage of the arrival of another group of women from the village to go outdoors.
She leaned with her back on the outside wall of the house, and she closed her eyes with a sigh. She didn’t like to remember that sad time, and she looked around, hoping to see Guy somewhere.
Whenever she came to rethink of his alleged death, she always felt the need to have him close, to see and touch him, to make sure that he was really there, that he was really alive.
Even now that she was angry at him for his betrayal, she wanted at least to see him, even if just from a distance, and without him knowing about it.
But where was he?
All the able men were looking for the missing children, while Guy hadn’t been seen since the night before. The last time Marian had seen him was when he had taken that girl's hand and brought her to a tavern room.
Marian saw Allan walking toward the stables and she stopped him.
“Where's Guy?”
Allan shook his head to say that he didn’t know, and this time he wasn’t lying.
When he had gone to Nottingham to find out if the children had been arrested, he had also gone to Knighton, but Gisborne was no longer there.
Allan had been worried because he knew that Guy was waiting for his return to get news of Marian, then one of the workers told him that he saw him going away with Archer, and Allan didn’t know if he ought to feel more worried or relieved.
Allan was distrustful of Archer and he didn’t like seeing Gisborne spending too much time with him, but at the same time perhaps their stupid challenges avoided that Guy would worry too much about what had happened with Marian, and distracted him from doing something stupid.
Allan was wondering if he should go looking for him or not, when Marian's exclamation made him look at her. The girl seemed to be indignant and worried at the same time.
“What is he doing with Guy's horse?!”
The girl pointed at the man who was galloping toward Locksley, and Allan was startled in recognizing Archer.
Why was he there on his own, riding Gisborne’s horse? Maybe one of their challenges had gone wrong and now Guy was hurt, or worse?
Archer headed for them, stopping the horse with a pull at the reins. The black stallion reared and pawed, clearly not happy at being ridden by a stranger.
“Allan and Lady Marian, right?” Archer asked, without wasting time for greetings.
Marian nodded affirmatively and she was about to ask what he wanted, but Archer began to talk before the girl could open her mouth.
“Well, Gisborne told me to talk to you.”
Marian looked at him, indignant.
“Guy was with you?!”
Allan felt some relief in hearing those words because they meant that at least Guy was alive and able to speak.
Archer looked around, noticing the confusion surrounding them.
“You're looking for someone, right?”
“Exactly, and Guy should be here to help instead of wasting time with you!” Marian exclaimed, furious, ignoring Allan's worried looks.
“Three children have disappeared,” Archer said, unperturbed by the girl's anger. "And if you care to retrieve them, you’d better gather some men and follow me. Make sure that you also bring strong ropes and call a physician or a healer, one of them is hurt.”
The girl stared at him, astonished, wondering if he was lying, then Allan expressed the same question she wanted to ask.
“But what does Giz have to do with this? Where is he? And why do you have his horse?”
“He told me to take the horse to prove that I'm not lying. The kids fell into the tunnel of an abandoned mine, and Gisborne stayed with them. Indeed, if you don’t want to recover just the corpses of all of them from the bottom of that pit, I suggest you to hurry.”

Guy clutched his blanket, hoping to stop shivering. It was cold and if Archer did not think to throw him the blanket, he and the kids would risk of freezing to death. He wondered how the three boys had been able to withstand a whole night in that chilly pit.
“Did they abandon us, Sir Guy? Will we die here?”
Gisborne shook his head.
“No. It takes time to get to Locksley. It just seems longer to us because we are trapped here, but they will soon arrive.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course.”
Guy closed his eyes. By now the torch left by Archer had burned out and they were again in the dark. Guy could hardly distinguish the silhouettes of the children at his sides. Matt, curled up on his chest and as still as a corpse, breathed weakly, though now his skin was a bit less cold.
Or maybe it seems less cold to me because my hands are frozen.
He touched the neck of the unconscious child, looking for his heartbeat, but he couldn’t hear it.
What if he was already dead? If I only imagined to hear him breathe?
His heart accelerated at that thought, and Guy felt that there was not enough air, that the walls of that tunnel were too narrow to allow him to breathe.
He imagined standing up and clinging to the walls of the tunnel, to climb somehow and get out of there, even at the cost of abandoning the three children.
He couldn’t stay there, he couldn’t. He had to get away at all costs.
He stood motionless, trying to slow his breath, then he moved an arm close to his face, and he bit it, to stop himself from crying, until he tasted blood.
Oddly, the pain managed to calm him. Focusing on the physical pain caused by the bite, helped him to distract his mind from the panic that threatened to suffocate him.
“Sir Guy? I'm scared,” Tom sighed, clinging harder to him.
“Everything is alright,” Guy said, hoping that his voice didn’t shake. “We'll be out of here soon.”
Richard moved and the wooden boards creaked.
“We'll fall!” He shouted, terrified.
“No! Sir Guy won’t let us fall, will you?”
Gisborne leaned against the wall, ready to prop himself.
“If the boards break, cling to me.”
The platform stopped creaking and all three sighed with relief, then they winced when something fell from above.
“It's a rope!” Guy exclaimed. “Archer is back!”
“Gisborne! Are you still there?” Archer asked, looking down, with a torch in his hand.
Guy gave him an ironic smile.
“I didn’t have much choice, don’t you think?”
Marian's voice startled Gisborne. He heard Archer's protest as he was pushed to the side and, a moment after, the girl's face appeared instead of his half-brother’s.
They looked at each other for a long moment, holding their breath, wishing to say a thousand things, but without finding the courage to speak.
“Guy? Are you alright?” Marian asked in the end, her voice choked by emotion.
Gisborne looked at her and the girl read the fear in his eyes.
“I'm fine, and they are too,” Guy said, pointing at Tom and Richard, then he moved the blanket to look at Matt, worried. "But he is hurt and he didn’t wake up, yet.”
Marian let out a cry when he saw the child being so still. She knew those three kids well, and she often had fun watching the children of Locksley playing in the village.
Allan leaned to the floor next to her to look down.
“Take the rope, Giz, so we can get you out of there.”
“I hope this is more strong than the other one.”
Guy grabbed the rope and wondered what to do. He was afraid that it could break again and in that case the board platform wouldn’t stand another fall.
He took the blanket and wrapped it around the unconscious child, then he knotted the corners firmly to form a sort of sack and fastened the rope to it so it couldn’t get untied.
“Lift him! And do it carefully.”
Archer asked Marian to move aside, and he and Allan started pulling the rope, trying to avoid that it could swing.
Eventually, Archer managed to raise the child in his arms and entrusted him to one of the men of the village, ordering him to bring him immediately to the healer they had called, then he threw the rope back to Guy.
Gisborne tied it around Richard's waist, then he stood up and took the child on his shoulders to lift him and reduce the space he would have to hang on the rope.
Allan and Archer pulled him up, while Guy leaned over to make Tom climb on his shoulders, too.
The two men had just rescued Richard and were about to throw the rope down again when the board platform suddenly gave way under the weight of Gisborne.
Guy screamed as he fell down and instinctively widened his arms, trying to stop the fall.
The broken rope he had used to secure himself at a protruding rock stretched and stopped him with a yank that took his breath out of him, and it broke, but it held enough to allow him to prop himself with his arms and legs against the walls of the tunnel. Tom, clinging to his back, screamed with terror.
Marian felt like dying when she heard Guy's cry. She forced herself between Allan and Archer to look down from the edge of the precipice, but for a moment she hadn’t had the courage to look.
Then she heard Guy's voice.
“Throw that rope, now!”
Allan hurried to obey him and Guy felt the rope touching his head.
“Tom!” He said in a loud tone, turning to the terrified child. “Stop crying immediately and do what I tell you.”
Tom seemed to have not heard and he continued sobbing.
“Little brat, obey! Otherwise I'll really cut your tongue!” Guy shouted, and Tom shuddered.
“Now listen to me,” Guy said, in a kinder tone. “Take the rope and slip the loop around your body, under the armpits, then check that it’s firmly tied and cling well to the rope with both hands. When you're ready tell me.”
Tom hesitated before pulling his arms off Guy's neck, then he decided to obey.
“I'm ready, Sir Guy.”
“Is the rope well tied?”
“Yes, Sir Guy.”
“Allan, Archer, get him up!” Guy cried, and after a moment he no longer felt the child's weight on his back.
He raised his face, hoping to be able to see Marian, but from his position he couldn’t see the edge of the well.
I won’t see her again. He thought, and felt a tear slipping along his cheek and then dropping into the abyss.
Soon he would have followed that tear, too, he thought, terrified.
Archer had planted another torch in the wall to illuminate the well, but its light didn’t arrive to the bottom.

Marian waited for Archer to rescue Tom, then she turned to him and Allan.
“Hurry, throw the rope to Guy!” She shouted, then she leaned slightly down. “Guy, take it!”
The rope remained motionless and for a few seconds nobody spoke, then Marian heard Guy's voice.
“I can’t.”
Gisborne spoke softly, but his voice was perfectly clear.
“What does that mean that you can’t? Get that rope, now!”
Guy let out a groan of desperation.
“I'm stuck. If I move, if I just move one hand to take the rope, I'll lose grip on the walls and I’ll fall down.”
Marian shook her head, terrified at the idea of losing him.
“Don’t move then. Allan will take another rope and one of us will come down there to pick you up.”
“I can’t do it! I don’t feel my arms anymore! I'm gonna slip!”
The girl felt the panic in Guy's voice and she snatched the rope from Allan's hands, pulling it quickly.
“Guy of Gisborne, don’t dare to fall or you'll regret it!”

Even in the midst of the terror he felt, Guy found himself smiling at Marian's absurd threat.
He knew he couldn’t last for a long time, a few seconds to the maximum, then he’d lose his grip on the walls of the tunnel and he would fall, without any hope of surviving.
He thought with bitterness that Marian would see him die, thinking she had been betrayed by him, that she hadn’t been loved enough.
No. He could not accept that it could end like that.
“Marian? I love you. I don’t want to die because it would mean being separated from you and I don’t want to lose you...” Guy stopped with a choking sob, then he struggled to recover and closed his eyes, imagining the face of the girl. "But if it happens, I want that these are last words you'll hear from me: I love you. You are the only light in the darkest moments, the star that drives my every step. I love you and I will always do it. Always. I love you...”
Guy uttered the last words with fatigue, exhausted.
There was no more time and he knew, the strength of his muscles was at the limit and soon he would have to surrender.
He tried to repeat those three words one last time, then he lost his grip and began to fall.

Chapter Text

Marian slid the loop of the rope around her body as quickly as she could.
She could hear Guy's voice talking to her from the well, desperate, exhausted, and full of deep, true love that he addressed only to her.
The girl would have wanted to hear those words at another time and in another situation, but even so, every single word touched her heart and prompted her to hurry as much as she could.
She knew that she didn’t have time, and she also knew that what she was about to do was madness, but she had to take the risk all the same because, if Guy should fall, she could as well crash to the bottom of that well too.
She glanced at Allan and Archer and the two young men stared at her, alarmed, realizing her intentions. They also realized they wouldn’t be able to stop her, and then they made a quick nod of assent to confirm that they too would do their part.
Marian prayed that the rope was strong enough, then she jumped into the well.

Guy closed his eyes. He didn’t want to see the ground approaching, he didn’t have the courage to face up death. It would be quick and maybe not too painful, but then? Would hell be waiting for him or nothing at all? Or, as Tuck said, could his soul be saved and God would have pity on him?
He would soon find out, he thought with terror.
He wanted to think of her at the moment of his death.
But death didn’t come.

Marian managed to grab Guy a moment after he had started to fall. She held him tightly and he instinctively clung to her in a desperate embrace, then the rope stretched out suddenly, stopping their fall.
Guy and Marian hit the wall of the well with violence, but neither of them loosened their grip, and they remained embraced to swing in the void.
Marian began to breathe again: it seemed that the rope was strong enough.
"I told you that you shouldn’t dare to fall,” she whispered, and Guy opened his eyes to look at her.
"Marian..." He began, then he stopped, too upset to say more.
The girl touched his cheek with her lips.
“We'll talk later. Now keep holding me and we'll be fine.”
Allan's voice, broken and trembling, came from above.
“Giz! Marian! Are you there?”
Marian raised his face to him.
“We're alright, now get us up there!”
Another rope dropped from the top of the well and the girl helped Gisborne to tie it around his waist, then they started to slowly climb up.
When they arrived near the top of the well, Allan left the rope in the hands of one of the peasants from Locksley and he leaned to help Marian, while Archer did the same for Guy.
Gisborne didn’t have the strength to stand and Archer helped him to sit down. Guy put a hand on his arm and smiled weakly.
“You came back. I knew it.”
Archer looked at him without knowing what to think. He didn’t understand what he had done to deserve Gisborne's trust, and he found himself more relieved than he should have been for the simple fact that Guy wasn’t dead.
He didn’t have much time to reflect on those unexpected feelings because Marian pushed him aside, kneeling down to pull Guy into a convulsive hug and she finally allowed herself to burst into tears.
Archer turned when he felt a touch on his arm and he found himself looking at Allan.
The other man, who just a short time ago didn’t care to conceal the hostility towards him, gave him a funny smile, glancing at Guy and Marian.
“Let's get out of here, they no longer need our help. Let's just leave them alone.”

Guy was trembling in Marian's embrace. This time he had really thought that he would die, that he would fall into that obscure abyss, and if he was alive, it was only thanks to Marian. The girl took a huge risk jumping into the pit like that: if the rope had broken she would have died in a horrible way.
Guy wanted to tell her how grateful he was, how much he loved her and how sorry he was for making her suffer. Hundreds of passionate phrases thronged in his mind without deciding to become words, and when he eventually succeeded in saying something, Guy thought that he was a fool.
“If you hug me like that, you’ll get dirty with mud,” he said, without even knowing why.
Marian looked at him for a moment, puzzled, then she squeezed him tighter.
“Do you think I care? Stupid.”
Guy buried his face into the girl's hair, breathing her scent.
“You shouldn’t have done it. What if the rope broke?”
“If I hadn’t done it, you’d be at the bottom of that well.” Marian shivered. “If I should lose you, I...” she stopped, unable to go on, and she burst into tears again.
Guy held her in his arms, holding her close to his heart.
“I'm here. I'm with you,” he whispered softly to calm her. “And I won’t go anywhere.”
“You could have died.”
Guy brushed her nose with his finger and smiled at her.
“I could, but you saved me again. I told you, you are the light, you are my salvation.”
Marian sobbed, unable to stop crying.
“A moment later and you would have fallen!”
“You wouldn’t have lost me, not even in that case. When I was falling, for a moment I wondered if I was going to hell, but now I know.”
Marian looked at him, her blue eyes full of tears.
"If after my death my soul will go somewhere, it won’t be in some realm beyond the earth.”
“Where then?”
“With you. It will always stay with you because it belongs to you.”
“You shouldn’t joke on certain topics.”
“I am not joking. If I won’t be with you, then I will know that I really deserve hell.”
Marian looked at him: Gisborne's eyes were bright with tears too. He kissed her, desperately hugging her.
“Don’t leave me, never leave me!” Guy begged her, between a kiss and another. “Please, stay with me, even if I don’t deserve it...”
Marian held him tight and caressed his hair.
“I threw myself into a well for you, where do you want me to go?”
Marian's words hit Guy at the heart. That simple sentence expressed in such a clear and sincere way the love that Marian felt for him, that Gisborne felt terribly guilty for everything that he was hiding from her.
All those lies, all those secrets: Archer, the Nightwatchman, his friendship with Robin Hood, the reconstruction of Knighton Hall, and a thousand other things he couldn’t say...
Guy covered his face with his hands and burst into tears.
“Forgive me, please forgive me!” He sobbed.
Marian put her hands on Guy's fingers, looking at him tenderly.
The girl thought that Guy was sorry for having betrayed her,
that he was asking her forgiveness for going to bed with that Meg.
Marian suddenly realized that she didn’t care anymore, not after she risked to see him die.
Guy had asked her forgiveness and she had forgiven him.
She didn’t want to know anything else.
She moved his hands from his face to give him a light kiss, smiling as she stroked his face to wipe his tears.
They kept hugging for a while, silent, taking comfort by simply being close, listening to each other's breath, then Marian looked at Guy.
“Do you think you can walk?”
Gisborne nodded and got up from the floor, giving her a hand to help her. He felt stiff, exhausted and aching, and he knew that the next day he would feel much worse, but he didn’t care: he was alive and Marian was at his side.
The girl put an arm around his waist, perhaps to help him or perhaps to be sustained in turn, but basically because in his arms she felt fine.
“Come,” she said softly. “Let's go home.”

Chapter Text

The walls of the tunnel were so close that they prevented any movement, and they pressed on his chest, blocking his breath, while, above and below him, there was only an endless darkness.
Guy woke up panting and pulled away the blankets that had wrapped around his body during his fitful sleep, giving him the feeling that he was trapped.
He looked around: he wasn’t in the well, but a candle on the table lightened his room at Locksley.
Gisborne turned on his back and sighed, then he stood still, staring at the ceiling as his heart slowed its beats.
He smiled at himself: the nightmare had been distressing, but he was happy to be alive, and at least the danger made Marian forget about anything she could have seen in the tavern. The girl had saved him, showed him how strong were her feelings for him and she had stayed with him until Guy had collapsed on the bed, too exhausted to be able to keep his eyes open. As he fell asleep, he heard Marian arguing with her father about decency of spending the night in the room of a man who wasn’t her husband.
If it had not been for Sir Edward's intervention, Marian would most likely have insisted on watching over him and she wouldn’t be parted from him, not even for a few minutes.
But the girl wasn’t there, so her father probably had succeeded in making her reason.
Guy wanted to have her always at his side, but he had to admit that Sir Edward wasn’t wrong.
Although he didn’t have a single muscle that wasn’t sore, Guy wasn’t injured or in danger and there was no valid reason why Marian should spend the night taking care of him.
Guy noticed the arrow planted in the headboard of the bed and wondered when it had arrived, his sleep had been so deep that he hadn’t heard it coming.
Guy struggled to move, pulled the arrow away from the wood, hid it under the bed, and went back to lie on the bed with a groan. Robin would have to wait, he felt too sore just to think of getting up, of course he didn’t have the strength to ride to the forest.
He closed his eyes and went back into a deep sleep.

Robin Hood leaned on the wall with a shoulder, and looked at Gisborne. Since Robin had entered the window a few minutes earlier, Guy hadn’t moved and he had kept sleeping, totally unaware of the outlaw’s presence.
Robin took an arrow and used it to jab at him until Gisborne opened his eyes.
“Ah, it’s you, Hood. What do you want?”
“You should be careful. You didn’t even notice that I was here. What if I was someone with bad intentions?”
“Why? Do you have good intentions?”
“They could kill you while you sleep and you wouldn’t even wake up.”
“If the dead should wake up, I would worry. And yet being dead could be an improvement for me now,” Guy moaned.
Robin looked at him, with an ironic smile on his face.
“You don’t look in a very good shape, Gisborne.”
Guy snorted.
“If you didn’t tell, I would never have noticed it.”
Robin grinned.
“Being a hero doesn’t improve your mood, I would say.”
Guy sat up and looked at him. He blushed, thinking how he had shown his terror in front of everyone the day before, and hoped that at least it was just Marian who saw him cry.
“A hero? More likely an idiot who risked to end up smashed at the bottom of a well. If it hadn’t been for Marian, I would be there.”
“It's not what people at Locksley say.”
Guy stared at him, curious.
“What do they say?”
“That Sir Guy of Gisborne risked his life to save three children who fell in a pit. By the way, they will be alright. All three of them. The healer said Matt will recover with time.”
Guy gave a trembling sigh.
“I thought he was dead. He was so cold and he didn’t move...”
Robin looked at him, astonished to see him showing his emotions so openly.
“He would have died if you didn’t keep him warm,” Robin said, then he grinned and gave him a pat on his shoulder. “Very well, Gisborne, you're officially a hero!”
Guy winced in pain.
“Be careful, Hood!” He snarled, throwing an angry look at him, and Robin laughed.
“No, definitely saving children in danger isn’t good for your mood. But what were you doing in that place?”
Guy became serious.
“I was with Archer. Robin, I've seen the birthmark! He is really our brother!”
Robin opened his mouth to answer, when the door suddenly opened. The outlaw threw himself to the ground to hide between the wall and the bed, but rose back to his feet when he saw that it was only Allan.
The young man saw Robin Hood kneeling on the floor and closed the door behind him.
"Ah, that’s you, I heard some voices and went to check. What are you doing here?”
Robin pointed to Guy with a nod.
“I wanted to see if he was alright.”
Guy glared at him, and Allan grinned, amused.
“Giz, in this regard, Thornton ordered the servants to prepare a hot bath for us. If you can get out of bed, it will make you feel better.”
Robin looked at him, perplexed.
“A bath for both of you?”
“Marian is light, but Giz isn’t, and together they make a big weight to support, it's already incredible that I still have my arms attached in their place. I bet that even that Archer doesn’t feel so well today.”
Robin looked at Guy.
“Was Archer there too?”
“Didn’t the peasants tell you? If he didn’t go to search for help, we would still be in that hole. And he and Allan pulled us up with the rope.”
“Giz, I still don’t understand how you could trust him so much. After all, he's always a sheriff's man, he could have let you die there.”
“But he didn’t,” Guy said.
Robin didn’t comment, he knew very well why Gisborne had trusted Archer, but he was worried. The fact that it was their brother didn’t imply that he was reliable.
He hoped that Guy was right in judging Archer because otherwise they would find themselves in a difficult and painful situation.
“Come on, hero, hurry to get up before the water gets cold,” he said to Guy, dropping the subject of Archer, and he stretched out a hand to help him. “Among other things, I would say that you really need a bath.”
Gisborne nodded, smiling, a bit embarrassed. The night before he had collapsed on the bed without even having the strength to clean up from the mud and he knew that he was still dirty from head to toe.
“Wait,” he said to Robin, who was already approaching the window to go away, and he handed him the arrows that he had hidden under the bed. “Take these back before Marian finds them.”

Marian went into the kitchen and filled a tray of food, then, holding it in her hands, headed for the stairs, but Sir Edward stopped her.
“Wait, Marian.”
The girl looked at him, unhappy.
“I've been waiting so far and now he's awake, I heard his voice. Let me go, I have to see him.”
"And you will, Sir Guy won’t go anywhere, but wait for him to come to you, don’t be impatient.”
The girl sighed.
“Are you afraid of what people can say? Didn’t you hear them? What can they say about me that they haven’t already said in the past?”
“And if people gossip, do you want to give them a reason to do that? He isn’t your husband, you are not even officially engaged, wait at least until he asks your hand in marriage.”
Marian didn’t answer, and she returned to the kitchen, irritated.
Her father could be right, but he had touched a sore point.
She and Guy loved each other, there was no doubt about it, but he hadn’t yet asked her to marry him, and Marian was beginning to doubt that he would.
She sat at the table, took a piece of bread from the tray she had filled for Guy and began to eat it listlessly.
“You don’t have to worry about Sir Guy, my lady.”
Marian looked up and saw Thornton talking to her. The old servant smiled and reassured her.
“Did you see him this morning? How was he?” She asked.
“Rather sore, but nothing serious, I think he will recover quickly. I prepared a warm bath for him and for Allan, maybe afterwards he will feel well enough to get downstairs to have lunch.”
The girl realized that she would have to wait, and sighed.
“Please tell my father that I'm going to the village, I want to see how those kids are.”

"This is not bad at all, Giz, I could get used to it,” Allan said with a satisfied sigh, stretching a hand to grab a piece of meat from the plate resting beside the bathtub.
Guy looked at him, amused, then he leaned his back on the side of his own tub, and closed his eyes.
“Well, don’t. I doubt that the servants are willing to heat the water for you again, unless you save some other child. When Locksley was mine I think they weren’t happy to do it for me as well.”
"Perhaps because at that time you used to terrorize people at Sheriff's orders?"
“That's why you should stay away from Archer. They're starting to accept you, to trust you, but if they see you going around with the sheriff's man, they'll think that you're back to your former self.”
“Archer saved me, you saw that he did, didn’t you?”
“I can admit that he has shown a minimum of conscience, but he still works for Vaisey. Why do you care for him so much? Why do you have to make friends with him at all costs? He could also be a decent person, but having to deal with him can only cause you problems.”
Guy opened his eyes to look at his friend: Allan was genuinely worried about him, and Gisborne didn’t know what to say to reassure him.
“I understand that those races and challenges may be exciting, that you like to put yourself to test, but why with him? Challenge me if you just enjoy risking the bone of your neck, or Robin if you don’t consider me a worthy adversary, but stay away from Archer, he will lead you to ruin sooner or later!”
“I can’t.”
“Why you can’t? No, don’t tell, I bet it's one of your secrets that I can’t know because you don’t trust me enough. But why should you? I betrayed Robin's gang to work for you, who assures you that I won’t betray you too?”
Guy stared at him, shocked by that outburst, and he shook his head.
“It's not a matter of trust, Allan. I trust you, you know everything about the Nightwatchman.”
“You told me about the Nightwatchman before you met that Archer. Since that man started working for the sheriff you are different, Giz. When it comes to him either you say nothing, or your words are just lies.”
“He’s my brother.”
Allan looked at him, uncertain whether he ought to laugh or to get angry for that mockery, but Gisborne was mortally serious.
“Archer is my brother. And Robin’s too.”
“Giz... Yesterday you banged your head, didn’t you? Or is the water too hot?”
“I'm not crazy. Did you want the truth? Here it is.”
“Your brother and Robin’s too? How is it possible?”
“My mother and his father had a relationship. But neither Robin nor I knew about Archer's existence until a few months ago.”
Allan looked at him, shaking his head.
“Why you didn’t tell me? Why so many mysteries?”
Guy stared at him.
"Because nobody knows, only me, Robin, and Adeline’s family. It is a dangerous secret, I shouldn’t have revealed it to you, and neither to Marian. Not for lack of confidence, but to protect you.”
“Does Archer know?”
“No. And he mustn’t know until we are sure that we can trust him. If we can trust him.”
Gisborne didn’t say anything else, and Allan was silent for a while, then the young man smiled at his friend.
“Do you know, Giz?”
“You and Archer aren’t like each other at all.”

Chapter Text

Guy took the horse out of the stable, leading him by the bridle, and he gave him a slightly worried look. Though three days had passed since his adventure in the well of the abandoned mine, he was still quite sore and he was afraid that riding wouldn’t be pleasant at all.
But in the afternoon he would have to go to Nottingham to pay the taxes to sheriff, so he could as well make a little effort and go and check how the rebuilding of Knighton Hall had proceeded in his absence.
Allan was waiting for him on the road, already on horseback and ready to go.
Gisborne wasn’t sure he had done well to tell him the truth about Archer, and he was afraid that knowing that secret could put him in danger, but he was glad that he was no longer forced to lie to his friend, and that he didn’t have to see suspect in his gaze.
“Giz, are you sure you feel well enough to ride?”
“As I said to Marian just a moment ago, yes, I am. It’s just a trifle and I endured much worse pain. And I can’t afford to look too weak in front of the sheriff, you know.”
Allan grinned.
“I bet Marian wanted to keep you from going out. These days she didn’t lose sight of you, not even for a single moment.”
Guy smiled. Allan wasn’t very far from the truth, but he didn’ mind at all. It was as if the girl was afraid to suddenly see him disappear into thin air, and in the last few days she had kept finding some excuse to stay close to him and to keep an eye on him, reluctantly accepting to leave Guy alone only when it was time to go to sleep. Gisborne suspected that if it hadn’t been for the presence of Sir Edward, Marian wouldn’t leave him alone even at night.
"She let me go only when I promised that I wouldn’t put myself in danger in any way,” Guy said, amused.
"And you will better keep the promise, because she ordered me to keep you out of trouble at any cost, and I have no intention of dealing with her anger if something bad should happen to you.”
Guy chuckled, then he looked around, feeling the eyes of the people of Locksley fixed on him.
“Why do they look at me like that?” He asked Allan in a low voice.
“I think they don’t know what to think of you. You terrified them for years, many people think that you have seduced Marian and that you live in sin with her under the eyes of her father, some of them still believe that you are back from the dead or even from hell. And then, in a blink of an eye, you saved the lives of three of their kids, acting heroically, when even Robin had failed to help them.”
A man approached them, hesitant.
“Sir Guy, if it's not too much bother for you, can I ask you to follow me? My wife would like to talk to you, but she can’t leave the children alone.”
“He's the father of two of the children you saved,” Allan whispered, noticing Guy's astonished look.
Gisborne nodded, and he and Allan followed the man to one of the houses. Guy thought that it was the first time he entered one of Locksley's houses after having been invited, and not using force to execute Vaisey’s orders.
Tom and Matt's mother ran to meet them, and she knelt at Guy's feet, bursting in tears.
"Sir Guy, I will never thank you enough for what you have done! You have returned life to me! You saved my children!”
Guy stared at her, uncomfortable.
“All right. Get up, now...”
Her husband hastened to pull up his wife and he embraced her to try to calm her down, then he turned to Gisborne.
“Forgive my Martha, Sir Guy, she's still very upset for what happened. We are grateful to you for saving our children. If there is anything we can do to thank you, anything, we are at your disposal, my lord.”
Guy accepted those words with an uncompromising gesture and he approached the bed that was near the fireplace, hidden by a curtain. Matt lay there, with the blankets pulled to his chin, while his brother was sitting on the edge of the bed and he was using a knife to shape a toy arrow.
Tom smiled and nodded at Guy, while the youngest child opened his eyes wide when he saw the black knight coming, and he burst in tears, hiding under the blankets.
“Sir Guy! You came to see us!” Tom said happily, then he noticed that Gisborne was looking at Matt with a disconcerted expression and apologized for his brother's behavior. “Don’t worry about him, when we were in the well, he was unconscious all the time, so he doesn’t understand what you did for us. He still believes that if he behaves badly you will cut his tongue, but don’t worry, I will explain him that it isn’t true.”
“Now I have to go,” Guy said. "Don’t go playing into tunnels or other dangerous places, I won’t save you again.”
He turned his back on the children and was about to leave the house, but he stopped at the door and looked at the parents.
“Did you say that you would do anything, if I asked for it?”
The two farmers nodded without hesitation, a bit concerned with the thought of what Gisborne might ask them.
“Anything, Sir Guy.”
“Then avoid using my name to threaten your disobedient children, I do not like it. I have never cut children’s hands or tongues and I have no intention of starting to do so,” he said in a harsh tone, then he came out of the door, and mounted on his horse.
The peasant couple stared at him, without being able to find anything to answer, and Guy looked at them, amused by their confused expressions, then he threw a bag at their feet, that touched the ground with a tinkling sound.
“Share those coins with the other child's family and ensure that they have the necessary meals and care. I didn’t struggle so much to save them just to see them starve,” Guy ordered, then he struck the sides of the horse with his heels and left the village galloping, before the other two could answer him.

Marian tried to concentrate on her needlework, but, between one stitch and another, she stopped to look out of the window. She knew that it was silly of her, but she wouldn’t be quiet until Guy returned.
I have to calm down. He only went out for a few hours, and then why should something happen to him? Allan is with him, he'll make sure he stays safe.
The sound of the hooves of a galloping horse approaching startled her. She put aside needle and thread, and she ran to the window to look out, but the rider who was heading toward the house was neither Guy nor Allan.
The girl hurried downstairs to see who he was, and, when she reached the main hall, she saw that Thornton had already welcomed the stranger.
“Lady Marian, there is a messenger with a letter for you.”
The man nodded.
“I asked for directions to reach Knighton, but they told me that you are living here now.”
The girl made a small sigh, remembering her old house.
“Yes, I do.”
“I have a letter for you from Lady Glasson.”
Marian looked at him, perplexed. She had had no news from the noblewoman for years, since she had written to ask her to welcome Annie and her baby.
The son who that girl had with Guy.
She took the letter. Whatever was written in it, she wanted to be alone when she read it.
“Do you want to stop and eat something before you leave again?”
“Thank you, my lady, but the trip is long, I would like to leave immediately, if you don’t mind.”
The messenger left, and Marian returned to her room to read the letter.
She went down a few minutes later, quickly.
Sir Edward stopped her at the door.
“Where are you going?”
“I have to talk to Robin, it's important,” she said, then she ran out of the house before her father could protest.

The outlaws were gathered around the fire, trying to guess what kind of meat was what Much had put into the skewers they were eating, when the sound of the alarm made everyone stand.
Robin went out the secret door to check who it was, and he came back shortly afterwards, followed by Marian.
The girl seemed agitated and worried, but her mood didn’t stop her from noticing a strange woman sitting beside the fire with the outlaws, while Djaq and Will were not there.
Robin noticed Marian’s surprised look.
“She's Meg. We helped her to escape from the castle’s dungeons some time ago, and she decided to join us.”
Marian winced.
She looked at the girl, unable to figure out whether it was the same woman she had seen in Guy's arms. There was some resemblance, but she couldn’t be sure. The tavern had been dark and full of smoke and the woman she had seen was dressed in a gaudy dress and wore a heavy makeup, while the clothes and the face of the girl who was sitting next to the fire were simple and clean.
Robin diverted her attention from those thoughts, turning to her.
“Why are you here? Did something happen at Locksley?”
“No, not at Locksley.”
She gave to Robin the letter she had just received.
“It's from Lady Glasson. Do you remember Annie?”
“The mother of the baby we found in the forest?”
Marian nodded.
Robin smiled at remembering the newborn who had so complicated the life of the camp.
“Who could ever forget them? Are they fine?”
The girl sighed.
“Seth grows healthy and strong. Annie is dying.”
“Lady Glasson says that last year there was an epidemic of scarlet fever and both Annie and Seth got sick. But the child was completely cured, while the mother has never recovered completely. Now she's getting worse and the physicians think that she won’t live long.”
Robin shook his head, sincerely sorry. When the girl had left with her son, all of them had hoped that they could start a new life full of happiness, but it seemed that she didn’t have much luck.
“It's really sad,” Robin said, then he looked at Marian. "But why are you here, telling it to me? Do you need Djaq's help? She and Will live near Clun now.”
“No, I'm afraid it would be useless. Lady Glasson says she is too old to care for such a young child and none of her servants are willing to take him when Annie dies. Lady Glasson wrote to me to know if Seth has any living relative who could take care of him, otherwise she will look for a new family who can take him.”
“That child has a living relative.”
“I still don’t understand why you're talking to me. Shouldn’t you say that to Gisborne, or you already did, and he doesn’t want anything to do with it?”
Marian sighed.
“Guy doesn’t know that I'm familiar with this whole story. Do you remember? At the time you told it to me, but I wasn’t supposed to know. It would be strange if I told him now, I don’t want past wrongs to be between us.”
“So you're afraid that he could find out all the times that you deceived him in the past.”
Marian blushed and nodded.
“He knows many things, I told him, but not all of them. They belong to the past now, and I would like them to stay there.”
“And what should I do?”
“You know the truth, you can say you've been in touch with Annie, somehow...”
“You want me to talk to Gisborne?"
"I know that I'm asking you a lot, and that you’d prefer not to have anything to do with Guy, but that child is innocent, he has no fault. Please, Robin.”
"And would it be fine with you if Gisborne takes with him the son he had with another woman?"
Marian winced to those words, then she let out a sigh.
“I don’t know, really. But that I like it or not, he is Seth's father. It is right that he knows about it.”
Robin took his bow.
“I will do it,” he relented. “Go home, I'll let you know.”
“Guy is gone to Nottingham.”
Robin raised an eyebrow, with a sarcastic look.
“Do you think that I’m not able to find Gisborne? Go, now.”
Robin accompanied the girl to the door of the camp and looked at her going away, then he went to saddle his horse, worried and saddened.
He didn’t know how Guy would react to those news, but they weren’t certainly going to have a pleasant conversation, and Gisborne would have to face that situation when he was already under pressure because of everything else.
I'm afraid you'll need a lot of strength, my brother. But I will help you.

Chapter Text

Robin covered his face with the hood, mingling with the crowd.
Vaisey had assembled the council of the nobles in the courtyard of the castle to force them to witness the public humiliation of one of them who had failed to collect the amount required for the taxes of that month.
Gisborne was standing with the others, arms crossed with a neutral expression on his face, and Robin knew that he was just waiting for that unpleasant meeting to end, so he could keep away from the sheriff for at least another month.
Allan was nowhere to be seen, but Robin knew he had to be around.
Eventually Vaisey stopped blatering and, having collected the money from the other nobles, he decided to return into the castle.
Robin picked up a pebble from the ground and threw it, hitting Guy on his shoulder.
Gisborne turned with a little start, and he saw him immediately, giving him an anxious glance.
Robin nodded in the direction of the inn, then he disappeared among the people.
A few minutes later, Guy and Allan sat at the darkest table of the tavern, and Robin reached them without revealing his face.
“What do you want? We shouldn’t be seen together,” Guy whispered, then he looked at Robin, suddenly worried. “Has anything happened at Locksley? Marian...”
“No, not at Locksley. And Marian has nothing to do with that.”
“But you aren’t bringing any good news, right?”
“No. I was contacted by Lady Glasson...” Robin began, and Guy interrupted him, perplexed.
“You don’t know her, she is a noblewoman who, a few years ago, offered a home and a work to a girl from Knighton who had to leave Nottingham to protect her son. Your son.”
“She went away to protect him from me, didn’t she?” Guy guessed. “She did the right thing.”
“You can’t blame her, Giz. You have abandoned your son to die in the forest...”
“I didn’t abandon him! Not intentionally at least. It's true that I'm not proud of how I behaved with Annie, but I didn’t know they left him there. I ordered one of my men to take him to Kirklees, and then I didn’t care to check if he really did, but if I had found out what he did, I wouldn’t have left a baby to die in the woods, even if I didn’t intend to acknowledge him. I understood what happened only when I saw that you had found him.”
Robin looked at him, incredulous.
“And you did nothing?”
“Why would I have to? You had found him, you wouldn’t leave him there. And at that moment I had more important things to do. You found an accommodation for him and Annie, right? Surely they are more protected wherever they are now than at the castle, if the sheriff had discovered that I have a son. It was the ideal situation: the baby was safe and he was no longer my problem.”
Robin Hood shook his head with a sigh.
“Gisborne, he's still your problem.”
“Are they going through hard times? Knighton lands don’t produce much, you know, but maybe I can find a way to help them... I know I haven’t treated Annie as she deserved, but sooner or later I'll make up for what I did. I did a lot of bad things I can’t fix, but if she and the child need something I'll find the way to provide for them, I can do that. Annie hates me and probably will not want to have anything to do with me, but there's no need for her to know where the money comes from. Maybe the Nightwatchman could...”
“Guy, stop it!” Robin interrupted. “Be silent for a moment and listen to me.”
Gisborne closed his mouth and stared at him, worried about Robin's terribly serious tone. Even Allan didn’t say anything, waiting.
"If you really want to ask her forgiveness for what you did, you don’t have much time. She’s dying.”
Guy stared at him without speaking, as if he didn’t understand Robin's words, while Allan let out a nervous laughter.
“It isn’t funny, Robin. We all agree that Giz didn’t act in the best way on that occasion, but you shouldn’t be joking about certain things.”
Guy grabbed his arm to stop him.
“You weren’t kidding, were you?” He asked, looking at Robin.
Robin shook his head.
“No, I'm sorry. Annie's health got worse more and more after taking the scarlet fever last year, and now the physicians think she is near the end.”
Guy bowed his head. In his memories, Annie was still the young girl full of life who, for some time, had made his life at the castle more enjoyable, and it seemed impossible that she could die.
He had never loved her, now he knew it, even though he sometimes had believed he did, at that time, especially when her warmth was able to soothe him after a particularly hard day at Vaisey's service. To think that she was dying deeply saddened him.
“ Are you sure?”
“Lady Glasson seemed to be, in her letter.”
“Maybe she was wrong, maybe she exaggerated... If Annie needs care or remedies...”
“I hope so, really, but that's not the point. If Annie dies, Seth will be alone. He has no relatives who can take care of him. Except for one.”
“Should we go looking for this person then? Do you know his name at least?” Allan asked.
“It's me, isn’t it?” Guy asked in a low voice. “I'm the only relative he has.”
“You are his father.”
All three remained silent, then Guy looked at Robin looking for his help.
“What are you going to do, Gisborne?”
"Probably Annie won’t even want me to see her or the child, but I won’t abandon them again. Hood, do you know where they are?”
“Will you come with me?” He asked, and Robin saw the fear in his eyes. In Guy's question there was a hidden plea, his friend was asking for his help.
“Yes, if you wish.”
Guy stood up.
“We'll leave as soon as possible, then. Get ready and come to Locksley as soon as you're ready. I'll have to tell Marian.”

Sir Edward wondered what could make his daughter so nervous.
The girl was agitated and she kept looking at the window, as if waiting for someone. He thought that probably she was still be anxious for Guy of Gisborne, after the risk he had taken to save those children from the well.
Since then, Marian had been too protective of the knight and she was anxious every time he was apart from her for more than a few minutes.
The elderly lord couldn’t imagine the real cause of the girl's anguish.
Marian knew that by now Robin had to have talked to Guy, and she wondered what would be his reaction to the sad news.
Had he been in love with Annie? Would he be sorry to know that she was about to die, or for him it would be a relief to break that bond with the past? And what would he do for the child? Would he take Seth with him? And would she be able to see him raise the son of another woman?
On one hand, she would prefer to hear that Guy didn’t care much about the relationship he had with Annie, but on the other hand she would be deeply disappointed if he was able to abandon a child, his son, in distress without regret.
When she heard the sound of hooves coming closer, she forced himself to sit in her seat, pretending to be focused on the needlework she was doing.
Guy and Allan entered the house, and the latter climbed the stairs quickly, headed to Guy's room, while Gisborne approached her with a serious look.
“Guy! Something happened?” She asked.
Guy nodded.
“Can you come with me? I have to talk about something important, but I don’t want to do it here.”
He held a hand to her, and Marian took it, following him.
If she didn’t know that Robin had told him about Annie, she might have thought that Guy had finally decided to propose, but she knew that it wasn’t so.
They walked in silence for a while, to the hilltop that dominated the village. Guy stopped in the shade of a tree and looked at the few houses, animated by the work of the inhabitants.
"In recent months, Locksley has been my home more than it had ever been since I lived here. It is absurd to say that of a place where most people hate you, but I have been happy here.”
“Why do you talk like you are going to go away?” Marian asked, suddenly worried.
“Because I'll have to do it for a while. And I don’t know if you will want me to come back.”
“Don’t say nonsense, Guy, this is really your home. You will always be welcome here, why shouldn’t I want your return? And where are you going to go?”
Guy leaned his back against the trunk of the tree and crossed his arms in front of his chest, without looking away from the houses.
“I started wooing you three years ago when the sheriff assigned Locksley's lands to me. Before that, I didn’t have much, I wouldn’t dare to hope that I could ever ask for your hand. I didn’t dare to hope for your love, I felt I wasn’t good enough for you...”
Marian looked at him, wondering what he was going to say. A part of her found herself hoping that this was really a marriage proposal, but she told herself that she shouldn’t get false hopes.
“Before starting to woo you, though, I haven’t always been alone.” Guy continued not to look at her, but Marian knew that he was embarrassed by the blushing color of his face. "Sometimes I looked for a girl's company, and, among the servants of the castle, there were some young girls willing to offer it to me.”
Marian also blushed a bit.
“Guy, you shouldn’t tell me about that. I know that certain things happen often, but I don’t think I want to know the details.”
Guy glanced at her, unhappily, and immediately looked back at the ground.
“The fact is, one of them gave me a son,” he said quickly. “It wasn’t planned and it wasn’t wanted, but it happened.”
Marian nodded.
“This is not such an unusual thing,” she said in a neutral tone, turning her gaze away, to hide from him that she had tears in her eyes. “The world is full of illegitimate children.”
"It's been three years since I last saw that woman, but I came to know that she is dying. The child has no one who is willing to take care of him. Except for me.”
Marian searched for Guy's hand and took it.
“I understand. You have to leave. But why do you talk as if you are not coming back?”
Guy passed his other hand over the face, to hide his sorrow.
“Do you want me to come back? Even after what I told you? I would understand if you didn’t want to see me anymore.”
Marian took a few steps to stand in front of him, without letting his hand go, and she put the other on his cheek.
“I might dislike this situation, but it belongs to the past. You told it, it happened before you started wooing me. I understand. But never dare to think of going away.”
She hugged him tight and Guy clung to her, stifling a sob. Marian stroked his hair, sweetly.
“Go. Maybe you didn’t want him, but that child is your son and he needs you. I fear it will be painful and I wouldn’t want to see you suffer, but neither me nor you can do anything to change things. Remember it always: I'm here, waiting for you. Come back to me.”

Chapter Text

When Guy and Marian returned to Locksley, Allan was waiting for them on the door. On the ground next to him, there were two travel bags ready to be loaded on the horses.
“So, Giz, I'm ready. When do we go?”
“You are not coming, Allan.”
“Don’t you want to go alone?”
“I don’t know how long I'll have to stay away, I need you to stay here in my place. You know how to handle my lands and I know that you will protect Locksley, I wouldn’t trust this task to anyone else.”
Allan nodded, impressed by Gisborne's words, but Marian looked at Guy, worried.
“Will you go alone? I'll go with you.”
Guy smiled at her and touched her cheek with a caress.
“I'm afraid it wouldn’t be appropriate. But I will not be alone, Hood will come with me.”
Marian looked at him, astonished.
“He told me about Annie. When he left Nottingham, Hood helped her and they had managed to stay in touch somehow. He knows where she lives now and he has decided to accompany me.”
The girl nodded. Probably Robin had decided to leave with Guy because he didn’t trust him and wanted to make sure that nothing bad could happen to the child. She was a bit worried at the thought of Guy and Robin traveling alone, but she was relieved to know that Gisborne hadn’t to go to accomplish that painful task completely alone.
If nothing else, arguing with Robin Hood would take his mind away from too sad thoughts.
“Look, he's coming,” Guy said, pointing to a horse that was approaching at a gallop. He bent to touch her lips with a light kiss, then he took his travel bag from Allan's hands.
Robin stopped the horse in front of them.
“Are you ready, Gisborne?”
Guy mounted, and Marian gave a grateful glance at Robin, then the two men left Locksley.

Robin Hood observed Guy. They rode for hours, and Gisborne had not yet spoken a single word, completely absorbed in his thoughts.
“Hey,” Robin called him. “Are you alright?”
Guy frowned, as if he had forgotten his presence, and looked at him, shaking his head slightly.
“It seems so absurd...”
“Yeah,” Robin said, serious. “I didn’t think that you were interested in that girl.”
“Annie thought that she loved me. Probably she believed or hoped to be reciprocated and I never did anything to refute it.”
“You deceived her because it was convenient for you.”
“I'm afraid I did,” Guy admitted. “You don’t know how it was to work for Vaisey... You can’t imagine how miserable it is to live to obey any order of a man like him, how cold and empty is the life at the castle...”
“You could leave.”
“And lose everything I had earned so far. Lose every hope of regaining my lands. I would never have done it, not then. But finding Annie's warmth waiting for me after a day of violence and humiliation was pleasant, a comfort, and I didn’t want to give it up. Sometimes I found myself thinking that if she hadn’t been a servant and I hadn’t worked for the sheriff, it wouldn’t have been too difficult to try to return her feelings.”
“Easy for you, don’t you think?”
“I can’t deny it, I have been selfish with Annie. And I also admit that I was comfortable with the fact that she went away with the baby, and that I could avoid the hassle of closing that relationship. But I can’t remain indifferent in knowing that she is dying.”
Robin nodded.
"Maybe..." Guy continued. “Maybe Annie won’t even want to see me, but if I can help her, I'll do it somehow.”
“You can count on me for that, too,” Robin said.
“Thank you. Really, Hood, I'm grateful for what you're doing.”
The outlaw gave him a sad smile.
“Brothers for the better and for the worse, remember?”
Guy smiled him back, but he didn’t say anything, and they continued to ride in silence.
Annie turned her head to look at her son. Seth was sitting on the floor, aligning some pebbles as if they were an army, and he was focused on that game. The baby had ruffled hair and the clothes he was wearing were dirty with dust and dirt, and the woman sighed, heartbroken.
She didn’t have the strength to wash and comb her son, and the other servants who took care of him since she was ill didn’t bother too much.
A tear of anguish slipped over her face. What would have been of Seth once she was dead? Who would take care of him? Who would love him?
“Seth,” she whispered, and the child raised his eyes, obviously reluctant to stop playing. Those blue eyes shaded by thick and dark eyelashes always gave her a pang of emotion, especially when her son's gaze was morose like now.
“Come to Mommy, Seth?” Annie whispered, but the baby shook his head.
“No, later,” he said, going back to his game and Annie sighed. She wanted to get up, hug him and keep him close to her, not letting him go for all the time she still had, but she didn’t even have the strength to lift her head from the pillow.
A woman, one of the other servants, came into the room and looked at her with pity.
“Annie, there are visitors for you.”
“I don’t know anyone, there must be a mistake,” Annie said weakly.
"They are two riders, from what I understand they have traveled all night. I have not seen them, now they are talking to Lady Glasson. She told me to warn you and to take care of Seth while you talk to them.
She bent over to take the baby and Seth rebelled, starting to cry and kick. The woman pulled his arm, and scolded him, then she dragged him out of the room, ignoring Annie's protests.
Annie closed her eyes and burst into tears. Was that the life waiting for her son once she died? A life without love, treated like a stray animal?
She heard the door being opened, and she tried to hold back the tears. She knew that Lady Glasson was already generous enough to keep her and Seth even now that she could no longer work, she couldn’t look ungrateful. Many would have just sent away a sick servant, to beg in the streets, without the slightest pity.
She looked at the person who had come in, and she stared at him in amazement.
“Robin Hood?”
Robin went into the room and Annie realized from his distressed expression how much sick she looked.
“Why are you here? Did you hear that I'm dying and you came to deal with Seth?”
Robin approached the bed and looked at her face.
“You don’t have to worry about Seth,” he said and the girl noticed that he didn’t have the courage to deny her upcoming death. “In one way or another he will be cared for and protected.”
“Will you take him to the forest with you? Look there, on the fireplace, I still have the bow and the arrows you gave him when he was a newborn. You were nice to come. Jane said that there is someone with you, who has accompanied you? Much? Or one of the others in your gang?”
Robin made a sad smile.
“No. The person with whom I came has more rights than me to be here.”
Annie looked at him without understanding.
“Who is it?”
“Your son's father.”
The girl looked at him, her eyes wide open, scared.
“Guy? Guy of Gisborne?! Why did you bring him here? He mustn’t get near Seth! He will hurt him!” She said passionately, then she paled and closed her eyes, panting, touching her chest with one hand to calm the crazy beats of her weak heart.
“No, no, Annie, stay calm,” Robin said, worried. “Guy will not do anything to Seth, he's not the one he used to be, he's changed.”
“I don’t believe it. One who leaves a child to die in the woods can’t change, he has a black soul.”
Robin shook his head.
“Do you trust me?”
“Yes, you saved Seth.”
"Then believe me, so many things have happened in these years and Guy is very different from how you remembered him. I can guarantee for him, now he is my friend, I consider him like a brother, and you know how much I hated him then. At least let him talk to you, listen to what he has to say.”
“Don’t let him take my son.”
“He won’t do anything if you don’t want, I guarantee you. Talk to him, I'll be out here, you won’t be in any danger. Just one word and I'll come right away, but you won’t need to call me, Guy is no longer a threat.”
Annie looked at him, doubtful.
“So, can I let him in?”
The girl sighed and nodded.
Robin smiled at her and he left the room.
Annie was waiting, agitated, and, shortly after, the door opened again.
Guy of Gisborne hesitated on the threshold and closed the door behind him, then he stopped, uncertain.
Annie's first thought was that he had not changed at all. Guy of Gisborne was exactly as she remembered, the attractive knight dressed in black that once had made her lose her mind, the dangerous man who had broken his heart.
She watched him silently as he looked back at her, and Annie found herself thinking that, looking at him better, instead he seemed completely different.
The arrogance he once had, had vanished from his eyes, and Guy seemed far more tired than she had ever seen him in the past, even when he came back to his rooms after a tiring day at the orders of the sheriff. He was disheveled, with dark circles under his reddened eyes, and he had a spatter of mud on his cheek. Annie remembered Jane's words when she said the two travelers rode all night.
Gisborne certainly looked like he did, and at that moment he tremendously resembled Seth when he came home torn, dirty and tired after playing all day, but still quite energetic and stormy to refuse to go to bed quietly.
Annie found herself smiling: even if there was the slightest doubt, no one could have said that Guy of Gisborne wasn’t Seth's father.
Guy was still silent, and he just kept staring at her, as if he was petrified.
In his eyes Annie could see how desperate their conditions were.
She had once been young and pretty, cheerful and lively enough to attract the knight's interest, but the disease had changed her. Now she was too lean, pale and she looked older than her age. Her light hair was streaked with white and her face was hollow, her hands livid and swollen.
Certainly she was no longer beautiful.
“Come here. Get closer so that I can see you well.”
Gisborne winced.
The knight took a step toward her.
“Robin says that you've changed,” Annie said in a low voice. "Once I thought that I saw a good side in you, the side that could be sweet. The liar side who said to have feelings that didn’t exist. Now what side of you are you showing me, Guy of Gisborne? What do you want from me?”
Gisborne dropped to his knees beside the bed, leaning his forehead on the mattress, near the girl's hand, without daring to raise his eyes on her.
“I'm sorry, Annie, forgive me. I'm so sorry.”

Chapter Text

Annie had always compared Guy of Gisborne to the wolf on his coat of arms: he was a proud and ferocious creature, capable of softening in her arms, but always dangerous.
She had never seen that wolf putting aside his pride to ask for forgiveness, never before. And now he was there on his knees beside her bed, apparently humble and repentant.
She thought that she should tell him to leave, that he didn’t deserve her forgiveness.
Instead she put a hand in his hair, stroking her fingers through the thick and soft locks, surprised to notice how similar they were to Seth's.
She felt him wince at her touch.
“Guy, if you want to talk to me, look at me.”
Gisborne raised his face and the girl sighed to meet that gaze that she had never really forgotten.
“What do you want from me, Guy of Gisborne? Have you come to make sure that I really die?”
“No!” Guy said, and Annie clearly saw the flash of pain that crossed his eyes.
“Why, then? Why after all this time?”
“I have been unfair to you, I wish I could make up for it.”
“Can you cure me? Can you make me recover?”
Guy remained silent and Annie sighed.
“Let me die in peace, Guy. Enough with lies.”
“They were not all lies, Annie.”
“Do you want to make me believe that you loved me?
“No. That wasn’t love. I liked to be with you, but then I didn’t even know how to love somebody.”
“And now you know?”
Annie looked at him for a long time and Guy didn’t avoid her gaze even though he was clearly upset. The girl began to think that maybe he was really sincere.
“At least did I mean something for you?”
“You were a bit of warmth, the only one I could have. I took it as if it was my right, but I didn’t deserve it at all.”
The girl absently moved her hand that was still resting on Guy's hair, in a sort of involuntary caress.
“Maybe Robin is right, you're different. Less arrogant, for sure. What made you swallow your pride, Guy of Gisborne?”
For the first time since he had arrived, on Guy’s face appeared that ironic smile that Annie had seen so often in the past.
“Several dozens of lashes, I would say,” Guy said, and the girl looked at him, aghast. Surely that wasn’t the answer she had expected.
Guy got up from the floor to sit on the edge of the bed, and he took her hand, guiding it under his clothes so that Annie could touch his back.
The girl ran her fingers over Guy's skin, a gesture that was once familiar to her, lingering on the scars.
"You were always so tense in the evening..." Annie whispered. “Then I rubbed your back and I was always amazed, wondering how a man could have such smooth skin...”
“Now it isn’t smooth anymore.”
Annie followed the contours of the scars with her fingers.
“No it isn’t. It must have been very painful.”
Guy nodded.
“I almost died. But you know something, Annie? I don’t regret it. It made me open my eyes on many things.”
“Touching death makes this effect. I am discovering it now.”
Guy looked at her, deeply disturbed.
The girl smiled sadly.
“Is that a tear? Really Guy of Gisborne is able to cry? For me?”
Gisborne sat on the bed, leaning on the headboard with his back, and took her in his arms with a sigh.
Annie crouched on his chest, resting her head tiredly on his shoulder.
“I used to like to be in your arms, once. Do you remember? I liked looking at the stars that we could see from the window of your bedroom.”
Guy nodded, smiling between tears.
“Yes, I remember. I wasn’t capable of love, I didn’t allow myself to love, but the time I spent with you was important, and this is not a lie.”
“Really, Guy?”
“You gave me warmth, for a few hours you were a refuge from the cold of my world. When I was with you I could relax, stop being on guard, at least for a while.”
Annie still had her hand on his back and the warmth of Guy's skin warmed her cold fingers, but she could also feel how stiff his muscles were.
“Even now you are tense, but I no longer have the strength to rub your back...” Annie stopped with a sob. “I'm scared, Guy!”
Gisborne held her tight and brushed her hair with a gentle kiss.
“For this time let me be your refuge. Trust me with your fear and we will face it together. I want to protect you, Annie, for all the times I didn’t do it.”
She felt him tremble and she realized that he was afraid too, that he was really sorry for her.
“I tried to forget you, I told myself that I hated you, that you didn’t deserve the love I gave you.”
“It was true. I didn’t deserve it.”
“Yes. But I've never really been able to forget you. Even if I wanted, I couldn’t. Seth looks like you so much... Day after day, every time I looked at him, I felt like I was seeing you. And like a fool, a part of me persisted in hoping you'd be back.”
“I'm here now.”
“Just because I'm dying,” Annie said, looking at Guy, and she caught the exact moment when something in the knight's expression seemed to crumble.
“I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!” Guy sobbed and even Annie burst into tears.
“Come here, hug me!” She begged him in a whisper, and Gisborne held her close.
They wept together, hugging, and Annie found herself stroking Guy's hair to console him.
“Forgive me,” Guy said, unable to stop crying. “I should be the one to give you courage. Sorry.”
The girl wanted to have the strength to hold him tight, but she could barely touch his face with her fingers.
“I don’t mind seeing this weaker side of Guy from Gisborne, you know? You are crying for me. Nobody has ever done it, you're the first, and probably the last one who will ever do it...”
They remained close, in silence, trying to calm down. Annie felt weaker and struggled to breathe well, but she didn’t want Guy to notice.
“Tell me something,” she whispered. “Tell me what you did all this time.”
Gisborne understood that Annie didn’t want to think of her approaching death, that this was the only thing he could do for her: talk to her to keep her thoughts away from the end that was so evident on her face.
He nestled her better in his arms so that she was comfortable, her head resting on his heart, and he smiled, wiping his tears with one hand.
“It's a long story.”
Annie forced herself to lift a hand to touch his cheek with a finger.
“I have nothing else to do.”

Robin glanced at the closed door of Annie's room. He had promised the girl to stay out there, but now he thought it was no longer necessary. Guy had been in the room for hours now, and if there were any problems, Annie would have called or sent Gisborne away.
He sighed, sad. When he had seen Annie's appearance, he had understood that Lady Glasson's letter had not been exaggerated, and that she was indeed dying.
Robin got up, stretching, sore after sitting there for a long time, and he went outside to get away for a few minutes from the oppressive atmosphere of the house.
He saw a woman dragging a wailing child by the hand, and Robin had no doubt that it was Seth because he resembled Guy so much.
He smiled remembering when he had held him, just a newborn, in his arms, and it seemed incredible to see him so much grown up.
The woman hurried past Robin and headed for Annie's room, tugging at the crying child.

Annie smiled. Guy had told her everything that had happened in the last few years, without hiding anything from her. This time she was quite sure she wasn’t mistaken, she felt that he was sincere, but it still seemed unbelievable that Guy of Gisborne, always so dependent on the sheriff's will, now worked alongside Robin Hood as the Nightwatchman.
When Robin told her that Guy had changed, he had not exaggerated.
“With all these adventures, will you also find the time to take care of Seth?” She asked him, gently, and saw a flash of sadness in his eyes for what her words implied.
“It's nice to see that you care for me a little bit. I've wanted it for so long, it's a pity I have to die to get it. No, don’t apologize again, that's alright. Really, Guy.” She touched his face with a caress. “Just make sure that Seth doesn’t have to suffer for my end. Only this, Guy, please. Don’t abandon him, he has only you, now.”
"I didn’t mean to abandon him even then. I have been superficial, but I didn’t know that the soldier to whom I had entrusted him had left Seth in the forest. I didn’t care about him, I didn’t want a child, it's true, but I wouldn’t have left him there to die.”
“Will you take him with you?”
Guy shook his head.
“No, not for the moment. If the sheriff should find out that I have a child, he would be in danger. He would try to use him to take revenge and to threaten me.”
“So will you find him a family? Please Guy, let him be loved. I just want my baby to be happy and I can die in peace.”
“Don’t worry about him. He will have all the love and the care he could wish for, and I swear to you that I will never lose sight of him again. I will make sure that he is well.”
“And you? Will you love him? No, sorry, it's a stupid question. You can’t know it in advance, you can’t decide to feel love, it just happens. It can’t be forced.”
“I'll try, I promise. And in any case I will be present for him. As long as I'm alive, Seth will have a father.”
Annie nodded. She wanted to believe him.
The idea that her child could be left alone in the world was too terrifying not to hope with all her heart that Guy of Gisborne was sincere.
The door opened suddenly and Jane came back, pulling Seth behind her. The child screamed and kicked, and the woman gave him an exasperated look.
“I have to work now, Annie. I’ll leave him here.”
Seth freed himself from Jane's hand and started to run out the door again to play outside, but the woman grabbed him by the arm and scolded him, punishing him with a pinch, and telling him to be good and stay with his mother .
A moment later, Jane found herself with her back against the wall, blocked by the hands of the man dressed in black who had come to see Annie. The knight had moved swiftly, rising from the bed and grabbing her by the shoulders to slam her against the wall and now stared at her ferociously.
“Touch him again and you will not have enough hands left to hurt him,” Guy growled, nodding at his sword, then he let the woman go, pushing her toward the door. “And now get out! Go away!”
Jane ran away and Guy turned back to Annie suddenly: Seth had climbed on the bed and he was whimpering in his mother's arms.
Annie smoothed his hair with her hand, humming a tune and motioned for Guy to come back to her.
She was impressed by the speed with which Gisborne had moved to threaten Jane and, even if it was absurd, that reaction made her feel calmer: she didn’t know if Guy would ever love him, but he would defend Seth from anyone who wanted to hurt him, and that was already much more than Annie could have hoped for, just a few hours before.
Gisborne approached the bed, staring at Seth. The child had stopped crying and had fallen asleep beside Annie, tired after playing all day.
Annie looked at Guy and she smiled at him, wearily. She felt very weak and knew that she would soon fall asleep too, but she didn’t want the black knight to go away.
“Stay with me tonight?” She asked, looking at him.
Guy climbed onto the bed and lay down next to her, welcoming her in his arms.
“I'm not going anywhere.”
Annie set her forehead against his, looking into his eyes.
"You never stayed with me all night. Once I wanted it so much...”
Guy stroked her hair and touched her lips with a kiss.
Annie touched his mouth with a finger.
“You shouldn’t do it. It wouldn’t be fair to the woman you love. Maybe you shouldn’t even be here.”
Gisborne shook his head.
“I owed it to you for a long time. I should have behaved better with you, this is the only thing I can do to make up for it. Marian will understand, even if she were here, it would be her to tell me to stay at your side. That's alright, you don’t have to worry.”
Annie snuggled in his embrace and closed her eyes with a happy sigh. Seth slept quietly clinging to her nightgown and, held tight in Guy's arms, Annie felt safe.
She felt Gisborne's breath slowing as he gave in to sleep too, and she kissed him on the cheek.
“I never thought I'd be so happy to see you again... Thank you for coming to me.”
Guy looked at her sleepily and smiled at her.
“Now I'm here, you don’t have to be afraid.”
“I am not. Not anymore.”
Guy was, but he didn’t say it.
He closed his eyes holding her tight, and they both slid into sleep.

Robin knocked softly on Annie's bedroom door. Gisborne had stayed with her all night and by now the sun was already high in the sky, but the black knight didn’t show up, yet. The night before he must have terrified one of Lady Glasson's servants because the woman had run away in tears, not before telling him that his friend was a madman, but since then there had been no other incidents.
The outlaw pushed the door, receiving no answer, and approached the bed.
Both Guy and the child were sound asleep. Between them, with a serene smile on her face, Annie rested forever.

Chapter Text

Robin Hood sighed and put a hand on Gisborne's shoulder, lightly shaking him and calling him softly so he wouldn’t wake the sleeping child.
Guy opened his eyes and immediately realized that the girl who he was still holding in his arms was too still and too cold. He turned to look at Robin as if to ask him for help, and his friend squeezed his shoulder a little more.
“I'm sorry, Guy.”
Gisborne got out of bed, bending one last time to kiss Annie on her forehead, and he looked at Seth: the child still clutched a flap of his mother's nightgown in one hand and he didn’t seem to have noticed anything.
Guy felt as if he was sinking in some dreadful abyss, grieving for Annie and frightened by the responsibility of taking care of Seth, that was now on his shoulders.
Robin gave him a sympathetic look.
“Look, she's smiling. She died in peace and without suffering.”
Guy nodded, not trusting to answer him aloud. He had the impression that if he did, he would end up humiliating himself by bursting in tears.
"I should better go to warn Lady Glasson.” Robin said, sensing Guy's mood.
Once alone, Gisborne sat on the edge of the bed and took Annie's cold hand in his, in the absurd hope of feeling it again as hot and strong as it was once.
“I'll take care of him,” he whispered, looking at his son. “You can rest in peace, now.”
He stood beside her, in silence, until Seth moved, waking up. The child sat up and rubbed his eyes, casting a puzzled and fearful look at the stranger dressed in black sitting next to his mother, then he pulled Annie's nightgown, demanding.
“Mom! Mom, wake up!”
Guy looked at him, petrified for a moment, then he put a hand on the child’s back, trying to be as kind as he could.
The child stared at him suspiciously.
“Your mother is asleep now. Give her a kiss and let's go outside.”
“I want mom. Wake her up,” the child said, obstinate.
Guy looked at him without knowing what to do. He remembered that when Isabella was small and wanted her mother's attention she was capable of crying for hours, unless she was distracted by something else. He glanced at the door, hoping that Robin would return to the room.
“Are you hungry?” He proposed, hoping that the child was hungry enough to be interested, then he tried to make his offer more attractive. “Do you like pancakes? Would you like to go to see if there are any in the kitchen?”
Seth looked at him, as if he was trying to decide if he could trust him, then he nodded solemnly, planted a quick kiss on his mother's cheek and took Guy's hand.

Robin took leave of the lady of the after the woman had ordered the servants to arrange Annie's funeral. The outlaw had assured her that he and Gisborne would provide all the expenses, and he had asked her to organize a dignified ceremony.
He decided to look for Guy to tell him about the arrangements he had made, and he was about to head for the servants' quarters when he heard his friend's voice coming from the kitchen.
Robin appeared at the door and saw that Guy was in front of the woman who he had terrified the night before, only this time she was looking at him ferociously.
Seth was standing next to his father and looking at the scene sullenly.
“Out of my kitchen. Now.” Jane said, raising a ladle with a menacing air. The other cooks and the kitchen workers, who were working nearby, stared at Guy, as if to intimidate him. One of them began to sharpen a butcher knife with slow, calculated gestures.
Gisborne looked at them, and Robin realized that at that moment Guy was holding back is rage for those words just because Seth was looking at him.
“Come on, it doesn’t cost you anything to prepare some pancakes for the child,” Guy said instead, trying to sound reasonable and persuasive.
“You are not in a position to give orders to me,” the woman hissed. “Now go away, you and that son of the devil, and don’t show up again!”
Robin intervened quickly and put a hand on Guy's arm, before Gisborne could think of pulling out his sword.
“Keep calm! What happened?”
Guy looked at him, angry, frustrated and pained.
“They refuse to prepare something to eat for Seth!”
The child stared at Robin, seriously.
“He said there are pancakes.”
Robin glanced at the cook, but Jane wasn’t moved.
“He could think better, before threatening me, last night. And now get out.”
“She was mistreating Seth!” Guy blurted.
"That little brat doesn’t have the slightest education, a little discipline could only be good for him! Even though now that I see who is his father, I believe there is no hope for him!” The cook shouted, raising the ladle as if she wanted to throw it at them, and Robin hastened to restrain Guy before he could react.
He took Guy’s arm and the child’s hand, and dragged them both out of the kitchen before the situation degenerated further.
Seth looked at them with tears in his eyes.
“And the pancakes?”
Guy looked at Robin and the outlaw got the impression that he too was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Robin looked around for an idea. He took the bow and smiled at the child.
“Look at that tree over there.”
Seth watched the apple tree indicated by Robin, unsure whether to burst into tears or not.
The outlaw took three arrows and shot them in succession, striking three fruits and nailing them to the trunk of the tree.
Seth gaped at him, fascinated, and Robin smiled at him.
“If the cook doesn’t want to make us pancakes, it’s her loss. Apples are better. Come on, run to get them and see if you're strong enough to pull the arrow from the trunk.”
The child ran to the tree laughing and Guy allowed himself a sigh.
“Thank you,” he said in a downcast tone. “I didn’t know what to do... He wanted Annie... He asked me to wake her up...”
Robin put a hand on his shoulder in a gesture of comfort.
“Fortunately he’s too young to understand.”
Guy nodded, looking at the child, who was trying to pull an arrow without being able to detach it from the tree. Annie's death had filled him with more grief than he had imagined, but he should try not to show it to Seth.
“Let's go help him, before he starts crying again,” Robin said, saving Guy from the trouble of replying, and the two men reached the child.

Guy held the reins with one hand and used the other to rub his eyes. He had slept soundly next to Annie, but now he felt exhausted again, after that terrible day.
Lady Glasson had managed to organize a funeral in no time and Annie had been buried in a hurry, but in a dignified manner. The priest who had officiated the ceremony at first had been reluctant because the girl had had a child without being married, but the threatening presence of Guy and the bag of coins in Robin's hand had quickly hushed his conscience.
During the funeral, Seth had stayed with Guy and Robin, not understanding what was happening.
The child had looked at the grave in the ground with interest, but he had not realized that the person locked in the coffin was his mother.
At the end of the funeral, Guy had respectfully approached Lady Glasson and had asked her to plant a bush of yellow roses on the grave. The old lady had been watching the knight dressed in black, wondering if she should allow him to take Annie's child with him.
The resemblance between him and Seth left no doubt that he was the father, but if she hadn’t noticed the sincere pain in Guy's eyes, she wouldn’t have left the child in the hands of a man who looked so dangerous. Instead, the man seemed to be genuinely grieving for the woman who had taken refuge there a few years ago to hide from him, and then Robin Hood, the hero of Nottingham people, guaranteed for him.
She had consented to his request and advised him to take care of the child, before dismissing him.
Then Guy and Robin had gathered together the few belongings that belonged to Annie and Seth, and they had left immediately, before the child could realize the absence of the mother.
Gisborne felt broken.
He still couldn’t fully realize that the young woman was really dead, and he never imagined that collecting and putting away the few objects she owned could be so emotionally devastating.
When he had opened a little casket and had found the few pieces of jewelry he had given her years ago, still carefully kept, even if they had no value, Guy had to snap that container shut and to put it quickly in the bag he was filling, to avoid bursting in tears.
Gisborne looked in the direction of Robin's horse: Seth had not wanted to get on the saddle with him, but he had pretended to get on horseback with the outlaw, still fascinated by his skill with the bow. The child looked around with curiosity, excited by the novelty of those two strangers who had arrived suddenly in his usually so monotonous life.
“It's almost sunset,” Guy said, approaching Robin. “We should look for an inn.”
The outlaw nodded. When they rode to Lady Glasson’s manor, they had galloped all night to get there as fast as they could, but with Seth it was out of question.
“A little further on there should be a village, we will stop there.”
The child turned to look at Robin.
“Mom? Where's mom? I want to go to her.”
The outlaw heard that Guy had held his breath with a kind of sob, and he gave him a worried look, then returned to look at Seth, not knowing what to say.
“Do you think I can hit that rock over there with an arrow?” He said, trying to change the subject, but Seth did not allow himself to be distracted.
“Mom! I want mom!” He howled, bursting into a desperate cry.
When they arrived at the inn, a hour later, Seth was still screaming and kicking and even Robin and Guy seemed to be about to cry. They had not the faintest idea of how to calm down the cry of a child who wanted his mother, and certainly they couldn’t tell him that Annie had died and that he wouldn’t see her again.
Guy dismounted and took his screaming son from Robin's arms, trying to hold him still. Seth grabbed his father’s hair with his hands, pulling it painfully, and kept shouting that he wanted his mother, but he was beginning to get tired and he no longer had the strength to throw a tantrum as he did before. Robin too seemed exhausted: it had been difficult for him to prevent the child from falling off his horse while he was crying.
The two men entrusted the horses to a servant and entered the inn to take a room. The innkeeper was about to send them away because the baby's crying would disturb other customers, but he changed his mind when Robin slipped a bag full of coins into his hand.
Seth continued to cry for a while, then he fell asleep in Guy's arms, whimpering in his sleep and the knight put him to bed, with a sorrowful sigh.
He couldn’t console his son's tears, no one could do it, and he knew all too well how painful was to lose a mother.
Guy carefully tucked Seth’s blanket, then he took off his jacket and boots and threw them on the floor, and dropped himself on the bed next to Seth’s, burying his face into the pillow.
Robin came into the room a moment later and turned to him.
“Shall we get something to eat?” He proposed, but he didn’t get an answer: Guy was already fast asleep.

Robin opened his eyes, awakened by a stifled sob and he worried that Seth had started crying again, but a moment later he realized that the child was sleeping peacefully and that the silent sobs came from Gisborne's bed.
Robin stood still, wondering if he should say something to comfort his friend or not. If Guy choked the tears in his pillow it was because he didn’t want to show his grief openly, but Robin wished he could help him somehow.
It was Guy who resolved his doubt.
“Hood, I know you're awake,” he said, softly.
Robin reached out to touch his shoulder. The room was small and the beds were too close together, and Robin talked in a low tone not to wake Seth.
“Can’t you sleep?”
“Tomorrow he will cry again because he wants his mother... What will I tell him? How can I explain to him that he will never see Annie again, if I can not even really believe it myself?”
“Over time he will get used to it. And at least now he has a father.”
“But I don’t know what to do.” Guy sighed.
“If it can comfort you, neither do I. But I imagine we will learn. Meanwhile, you're worried about him, it's already something. Will you bring him to Locksley?”
“No. To Adeline. I haven’t had time to ask her if she is willing to take care of him, but...”
Robin thought of the affection the woman had shown towards Guy when they had been at her house, and thought that the nurse would be absolutely happy to welcome that miniature Gisborne.
“I'm sure there won’t be any problems,” Robin said. “Let's try to sleep now, I'm afraid that tomorrow will be another busy day.”
Guy nodded and closed his eyes, trying to relax. Robin had already fallen asleep, but he hadn’t moved back the arm he had extended to shake his shoulder, and that touch was comforting.

Robin woke up suddenly when Guy pounced on his bed, shaking him frantically.
“Hood! Wake up! Where's Seth?!”
Robin's eyes widened, looking around: the child was nowhere to be seen.
He hurriedly put on his boots and followed Guy, who had already run out of the room.
He reached him downstairs on the inn and heard him as he asked the innkeeper if he had seen a small child.
“Ah! Then that little pest of a brat is your son!” The innkeeper's wife yelled, furious, returning at that moment into the inn and she pointed at the door behind her back. “He's terrorizing the chickens! Stop him immediately or I'll stop him.”
Guy gave the woman a fierce glare, but he didn’t waste time arguing with her and rushed out of the building, followed immediately by Robin.
The child had stopped chasing the chickens and had ventured into the large pool of mud that was in the courtyard. Sitting on the ground, he enjoyed wallowing in the mud, clapping his hands on the mud to splash it everywhere.
Guy ran up to him and bent over him anxiously, and the child looked at him, terrified. He remembered being scolded or spanked for playing in the mud in the past, and he stared at the black knight with wide eyes, expecting a punishment.
Gisborne understood that he had frightened his son, running toward him like that, and he hastened to reassure him before he started crying.
“What are you doing?” He asked, in the kindest tone he was capable of. “Do you like playing with mud?”
Seth stared at him, worried, but Guy had knelt on the ground next to him, and he didn’t seem to have the slightest intention of beating or punishing him.
He nodded shyly, and Gisborne smiled at him, then bent to whisper something in his ear and pointed at Robin, who was looking at them, a few meters away.
The child looked at him for a moment, as if to make sure he had understood correctly, and when Guy nodded, Seth took a handful of mud and threw it at Robin, bursting into a laughter.
The outlaw jumped, surprised, then he glanced at Gisborne, who was grinning, evidently very pleased with himself, and bent down to pick up a handful of mud too, to return the black knight's favour.

Adeline took a sheet from the laundry basket and spread it out on the wire, in the sun. She noticed some horses approaching along the way, and she hurried back to the house to see who it was.
She was astonished to recognize Guy of Gisborne and Robin Hood, and even more for the conditions they were in: both men were covered in mud from head to toe, and Robin held an equally dirty child in front of him.
“Guy! Robin! I was not expecting your visit... What happened to you?”
Gisborne got off his horse and went to meet her, stopping a few steps away from her.
“I need your help, Adeline.”
She saw the pain and the fear in his eyes and filled the distance between them to hug him.
“And you will have it, my child. You can always count on me, you know.”
Guy leaned against her for a few seconds, then pulled away from her and looked at her, frowning.
“I got your dress dirty, I’m sorry.”
“It's just a bit of dirt, what’s the matter? Come into the house and tell me everything.”
Two boys came out of the house: one was Thomas, Adeline's son, but Gisborne looked at the taller of the two, amazed.
“Cedric? What are you doing here?”
The young man smiled at him.
“Sir Guy! Now I live here.”
Adeline smiled at the boy.
"Some time ago you asked him to take Thomas back home. He needed to work and we needed help, so he stayed to live with us. His presence is really precious, do you know?”
“I'm happy for you, Cedric.”
Adeline looked at the two young men.
“Boys, go to warm up the water for the bath, then get a room ready for Guy and Robin. I would say you need a bath. And you too, child.” The woman looked better at the child who was clinging to Robin's hand, and she turned to look at Guy, amazed.
She hadn’t noticed it immediately because of the mud on his face, but that child was identical to Gisborne when he was the same age.
“He is Seth,” Guy said. “My son.”

Chapter Text

Adeline bent down to pick up Seth and the child, tired by the journey, nestled on her lap, whimpering.
“I want my mom,” he complained, and Adeline glanced at Guy, immediately realizing from his sad look that Seth would never see his mother again.
She cradled him in her arms, stroking his hair encrusted with dry mud, and in the meantime she looked at Robin and Guy, no less filthy, weary and tired than the child.
“What have you done to get yourself so dirty?” She asked, softly. There would be time to get an explanation of the situation once the child was put to bed, but for now she wanted to distract all three of them from their sad thoughts, and to take care of them.
Seth chuckled at that question and he turned to look at Robin and Guy with a pleased expression.
“I won,” he said proudly, then he returned to lean on Adeline's bosom and yawned.
The woman looked at the two men, with a slight smile.
“Did you play in the mud to entertain him?” She asked, but she had the impression that Seth wasn’t the only one who had found a distraction in that childish game.
She approached them, giving a caress on the cheek to both of them. The skin she felt under her fingers was rough and unshaven, but in her heart Guy and Robin were still the children she had nurtured so long ago and she felt that they too needed comfort, like Seth.
“I bet you're hungry. At least wash your hands and then come home,” she said, pointing to the well. “While we wait for Cedric and Thomas to finish preparing the water for the bath, I will cook something for you. Do you want to eat, Seth?”
Suddenly interested, the child raised his face and looked at Guy.
“Pancakes?” He asked, wary.
Guy smiled at him and nodded.
“The best in the world,” he said, giving her a pleading look. “Can you make some, Adeline? I had promised them to him yesterday, but I couldn’t keep my promise.”
The woman looked at him, amused.
“And I bet that you aren’t in the least interested in this request, mh, Guy? Come on, go get yourself cleaned up and join us in the kitchen, I'll show Seth how to make the dough and then you'll have your pancakes. There will be time to talk later.”

Robin took a handful of rose petals to add them to the hot water of the tub and he relaxed, leaning on the side of the tub with his back. He took some water with a wooden container and poured it over his head, washing away the last traces of mud from his hair.
He looked at Gisborne in the tub next to his, and saw that Guy seemed to have fallen asleep because his eyes were closed and he didn’t stir.
He knew that he had been wrong when Guy spoke to him, without opening his eyes.
“Will he be fine here, won’t he?”
“Adeline knows how to take care of a child: Seth won’t lack anything and he will be loved and protected. You had a good idea to bring him here, you couldn’t have chosen a better place,” Robin reassured him.
“Do you think it's my fault?”
“Annie's death.”
Robin stared at him, shocked by those words.
“Why should it be? She died of an illness, how could it be your fault?”
Guy straightened his back and opened his eyes, lowering them to look at a petal floating on the water of the tub.
“Maybe if she stayed in Nottingham, if she hadn’t been forced to flee because of me, she wouldn’t have been infected...”
“This is nonsense, Gisborne. If she stayed in Nottingham, she might have died earlier for some other reason or maybe not, but you can’t know that. If you start to feel guilty for this reason, then you have to blame me and the others in the gang as well because we were the ones who helped her to go away, we who encouraged her to start a new life elsewhere. I can understand that you have some remorse for how you behaved with her, but this has nothing to do with her death. Indeed, perhaps it can be the contrary.”
Guy looked at him, his blue eyes blurred by sadness.
“What do you mean?”
“Going to her, you gave her peace. While you were in her room, I had the opportunity to talk to Lady Glasson's servants and everyone told me that they didn’t know how she could be still alive even if she was so sick. According to one of the maids, Annie clung desperately to life because she felt that, once she died, no one wanted to take care of Seth. She was distressed at the thought of dying and leaving her son alone in the world, and you allowed her to die in peace. Do you remember how peaceful she looked?”
Guy nodded quickly and took some water in his hands to throw it on his face, in a vain attempt to hide his emotion.

Adeline stroked Seth's hair, still slightly damp and the child leaned his cheek on her shoulder, sleepy. Every now and then he whimpered, asking for his mother, but he was too tired to start screaming and fussing as he had done the day before, and then the woman's embrace reassured and comforted him. He was sated and clean and Adeline took care of him just like his mother used to do a long time ago, and he felt safe and secure.
He let her put him to bed without rebelling, and Adeline sat down next to him, stroking his hair and singing a lullaby until he was peacefully asleep.
The woman continued to sing for a while even after seeing that Seth had closed his eyes, because she had noticed a presence behind her. She knew, even without seeing him, that Guy was standing in the doorway of the room, watching them.
Adeline sang the song Gisborne loved most when he was a kid, then, when she finished, she turned to look at him.
Guy was leaning against the doorframe with one shoulder, looking at her with a slight smile in his eyes. His hair was still a little wet after the bath and he wore clean clothes, a pair of breeches and a wide shirt, not made of leather, but still black.
Adeline smiled at him.
"Then it was really you, hidden under all that mud.”
The woman stepped away from the bed after a last caress to Seth, and she went to meet him.
Guy looked at the sleeping child, then he followed Adeline out of the room without making a noise.
“I remember that song. You sang it to me too, when I couldn’t fall asleep.”
Adeline stared at him, amused.
“For whom do you think I was singing it now?”
Gisborne looked at her, surprised, and Adeline took his hand, guiding him to two chairs in front of the fireplace, she sat in front of him without letting go of his hand, then stroked his cheek with her free hand.
“I feel your sadness, my child. Do you want to tell me everything?”

Robin lay down on the bed with a satisfied sigh. In the last days neither he nor Gisborne had eaten or rested enough, and that was the first time he could get to bed sated and without too many worries.
As he had told Guy shortly before, he was certain that with Adeline, Seth would be well looked after, and loved. After Annie’s death, the child couldn’t hope to end up in better hands.
Once again he regretted having been too young when the nurse had taken care of him and having no memories of that period.
Gisborne for sure was with Adeline now, and that was a relief for Robin. Annie's death had upset Guy much more than Robin had imagined, and on the return journey from Lady Glasson's home, Gisborne had seemed to him constantly on the verge of breaking down, and he didn’t know how to help him.
Seth wasn’t the only one who needed comfort, and Robin was glad that Adeline could help his friend too.
He sighed.
In moments like these, he felt alone.
Of course, he was admired and loved by everyone and he had the company of his friends, but sometimes he felt the lack of a family of his own.
Guy would marry Marian and, even if he didn’t know him well yet, he already had a son, while he had none of this.
He didn’t regret breaking his engagement with the girl, he realized that the love they had in the past no longer existed, but sometimes he lacked the feeling of belonging to someone.
As an outlaw, he couldn’t hope to have a normal family, it would be selfish for him to drag a woman into such a dangerous life. Of course, Will and Djaq had managed to start a new life together, but they were not Robin Hood: if they managed to avoid getting attention, no one would go to look for them to arrest them.
But in his case it was different: in order to have a normal life he would have to leave Nottingham, abandon the people who counted on him, and live with that weight on his conscience.
He would have to settle for what he had. Besides, Guy had the chance to have a family, but most people hated him and apart from Robin, Marian and Allan, he couldn’t count on many other friends.
Come to think of it, Gisborne was no less alone than him, and he had been for much longer.
Robin got out of bed. He felt tired, but it was evident that for the moment sleep wouldn’t come.
He put his boots on, and he went to look for Guy to make sure he was fine.
He smiled to himself, ironically: he still struggled to believe that he could worry so much for Gisborne.
Guy had been the first to come up with the idea that they could have been brothers if things had gone differently, and Robin had considered him a fool at that time, but now the idea didn’t seem so absurd anymore.
Even if not by blood, now they were brothers.
Robin found the room where Seth was sleeping and stood in the doorway, watching the sleeping child.
He and Gisborne had suffered greatly from the loss of their parents when they were boys: if things had gone differently the lives of both of them would have been very different and probably better.
Robin decided that this child shouldn’t be affected by his mother's death, and he promised to himself to help Guy to give him a peaceful and as normal as possible life.
He heard Guy's voice in the next room, interrupted only occasionally by Adeline's and he approached the door to look inside without being seen.
Guy and the nurse were seated in front of the fireplace, and Gisborne spoke with a downcast tone, while the woman listened to him, sympathetic, stroking his cheek from time to time with a motherly gesture.
Robin withdrew without interrupting them, and headed for the main hall.
Adeline's father rested in front of the fireplace with a jug of wine in his hand, sipping its contents from time to time, while Thomas and Cedric sat in front of a chessboard and the younger boy was explaining to his friend the rules of the game.
Robin respectfully greeted the old man and approached the two boys, observing the positions of the pieces: both had the chance to win that game.
He turned to the older boy.
“May I ask you a favor, Cedric?”
“Sure!” Said the boy, enthusiastically.
“Tomorrow, first thing in the morning, ride to Locksley and inform Marian and Allan that Gisborne and I are here.”
The boy's gaze lit up with understanding.
“I think Sir Guy would like very much a visit from Lady Marian. I'll leave early and ride fast.”
Robin smiled at him, then took his leave and returned to his room.
He lay down and closed his eyes, a little more serene, and he finally fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Guy woke up with a cry as he felt a weight that suddenly hit his stomach. A moment later he found himself staring at Seth's blue eyes, looking at him with a determined expression.
“She said that today I can play with you.”
The child pointed to Adeline, standing in the doorway, and she smiled at them both. Guy gave a questioning look at her, wondering what her intentions were.
“Guy, you're his father, it's right that you learn to know each other a little before you have to go back to Locksley. Today Seth will stay with you.”
Gisborne moved a lock of hair from his face and looked at her worriedly. Adeline wasn’t entirely wrong, he would soon go home, leaving Seth in her care. If he did not want to be for Seth just a stranger who went to see him every so often, Guy would have to try and establish a relationship with him in some way.
“Don’t let him get close to me while I'm sleeping, though. Sometimes I have nightmares, I could react in a dangerous way.”
Adeline nodded.
“I will remember about it, but today you were as serene as a child, if you were dreaming they had to be beautiful dreams. I was a little sorry for waking you up, but the sun is already high and breakfast will be ready soon, hurry up to get ready, Seth and I will wait for you downstairs. Between your son, Hood and the boys you risk not finding anything to eat if you don’t hurry.”
The woman had spoken pretending to be serious, but Guy smiled at her, amused. He knew very well that Adeline would never leave him without food. Even as a child, in the rare cases when he was sent to bed without dinner for punishment, the nurse always found a way to get him some bread or a piece of cheese that he secretly ate, hidden under the sheets, while Adeline told him a story or sang for him.
Seth got out of bed and ran to take Adeline's hand, clearly worried at the thought of skipping breakfast.
Guy watched them leave and lay down for a few minutes before starting to get ready. He crossed his arms behind his head and stared at a blade of sunlight that came through the window and stretched out on the wall. Adeline was right, the sun was quite high in the sky already, and for once he had slept well and had woken up rested. The sadness for Annie was always present, Guy suspected it would take a while to fade, but he no longer felt terrified and distressed about Seth's fate. Hood had told him that, and he too was convinced of it: with Adeline, the child was in good hands and Guy could be sure of it.

Marian finished giving orders to the servants and she watched them as they moved the furniture to clean the house thoroughly. The women of Locksley had already made every possible laundry in the previous days and rows and rows of clothes were spread out to dry outside the house.
Allan threw a puzzled look at Thornton and the old servant gave him a slight smile.
“The last time I saw so much movement was when Sir Guy was organizing his wedding. He had the house cleaned from top to bottom, to make it cozy for Lady Marian.”
Allan grinned.
“I hope for Giz that this time things will end up better. And I also hope that he hurries to come back before Marian runs out of things to be cleaned, otherwise I don’t know what she will think of to pass the time.”
“Allan!” Marian called him, approaching, and the young man looked at her, worried that she might have heard their speech, but the girl seemed to be unaware of his words and just put in his hands the swords she had just detached from the wall of the hall. “Can you have them sharpened and polished?”
"They've been hanging over the fireplace for years, I doubt anyone will ever think of using them, what's the point?"
“Just do it.” The girl snapped, nervous.
Allan looked at her.
“Maybe you should relax a bit. What’s the hurry?”
“I want Locksley to be tidy when Guy comes back,” Marian said, then she looked at him with a bewildered look. “Allan? He will come back, right?”
“Are you still asking? You should not have the slightest doubt: Giz will always come back to you, whatever may happen to him.”
Marian was about to object that a son was a little more than "whatever" when she saw a horse approaching at a gallop.
Her heart leaped and she wondered if it could be Gisborne, but in that case he would have to be accompanied by Robin Hood. She looked anxiously at the rider, afraid that something might have happened to one of the two men, but as soon as he was closer, Marian was certain that it was neither of them.
She recognized Cedric and she wondered why he came at Locksley. Perhaps he was carrying a message for Guy.
The boy stopped the horse by pulling the reins, and he smiled to see that both Allan and Marian were present.
“I have a message for you from Robin Hood: he and Sir Guy have returned from their trip and are guests at Adeline's house.”
Marian nodded. It made sense: if Guy had taken his son with him, going to the former nurse would be a smart choice. Which must have meant that Annie was dead, she thought sadly.
“Is there a child too?” She asked.
“Yes. He looks a lot like Sir Guy. I didn’t imagine he had a son...”
The girl stared at the young man.
“Our visit would cause too much trouble?” She cautiously asked.
Cedric smiled, amused.
“If so, I wouldn’t be here in Locksley now. In fact, I imagine that it would be good for Sir Guy to see friendly faces. It's none of my business, but he seemed to be rather dejected.”
Marian turned to Allan.
“Have the horses saddled and be ready. I will tell my father and prepare a bag with the necessary for the trip, then we will leave as soon as possible.”

Guy looked at Adeline, asking for help with his eyes, but the woman only smiled sweetly and put a hand on his back to push him out the door. Seth was clinging to the black knight's hand and seemed a little doubtful.
“Come on, go out for a while in the open air and have some fun.” she exhorted them, ignoring Guy's silent request for help. “I'm sure you’ll have some ideas to pass the time.”
She smiled again at Gisborne and went back into the house, closing the door in his face.
Robin looked at her, a little uncertain.
“Guy has no idea how to entertain a child of that age,” he said. “Maybe it's better if I go with them, so if Seth should start crying, I can always distract him with my bow.”
Adeline held him back.
“Precisely for this reason, it’s better if you stay here. If Guy doesn’t know how to deal with Seth, it's time for him to find out. He is adult and intelligent enough to think up of something. But I'm glad you worry about him. When we looked for you I was very distressed, we heard terrible stories about you, about how much hatred there was between you... I was terrified you would end up killing each other.”
“At the time the possibility was real, actually.”
Adeline sighed.
“I don’t know if I could have endured such a thing: seeing two of the children I raised who hurt each other would have broken my heart. It was hard enough to lose Archer, I couldn’t accept the end of either of you.”
“About Archer...” Robin lowered his voice so only Adeline could hear. “Guy is approaching him. For now he has discovered that he is really our brother, but I still don’t know if he can be trusted. According to Guy, he can, but I think it's his heart speaking, more than his head.”
“Sometimes the heart is not wrong.”
“But when it is, it’s a disaster. If Archer were to prove past redemption, I fear that Gisborne would end up being very hurt.”
“I trust you to protect him from this.”

Guy brought the back of his hand to his mouth and he put his lips on the scratch to suck the blood away.
Taking one of the kittens that had been born in the stable to show it to Seth had seemed like a good idea until the mother had arrived. The angry cat attacked him him to protect her kittens.
At least Seth wasn’t scared and for a while he had been content to look at the cats from a distance, but he got bored quickly and he ran out of the barn, forcing Guy to chase him.
He never imagined that a child of that age could be so tireless and able to always find new ways to get into trouble. At least a couple of times Guy had to grab him at the last moment before he slipped between the paws of the horses, risking of being crushed by their hooves, and he had to catch him when, in a moment of distraction, Seth had climbed a ladder and slipped.
Guy reached the child and took his hand to keep him from running away again. Seth didn’t rebel and held Guy’s hand, confident, pulling him towards a puddle and pointing to the mud, hopefully.
Guy shook his head.
“How about finding a quieter game?”
Seth stared at him, disappointed, and stood looking at him, waiting for him to propose something.
Gisborne tried to think quickly about some activities that didn’t involve danger to the child and that at the same time managed to capture his interest. If he were a little older, he could teach him to ride or how to use a wooden sword, but for now both exercises weren’t suitable for Seth. The child's gaze clouded and Guy had learned at his expense that if he didn’t quickly find something to do, Seth would start crying and screaming.
Perhaps he should be harsher with him, but how could he scold a child who had just lost his mother?
He looked around, looking for an idea. Walking, they had arrived in an uncultivated field where many wild flowers had grown, and Guy remembered a moment away in time: Isabella, only a few years older than Seth, sitting in a meadow, intent on weaving garlands with the flowers that he gathered for her.
“How about bringing a bouquet of flowers to Adeline?” He proposed, fervently hoping that the child would accept. If he had seen Guy, Vaisey would have laughed at him for life, but after such a tiring morning, picking flowers seemed a perfectly safe and acceptable activity.

Marian stopped the horse and hurried to dismount, entrusting the reins to young Thomas, who had run to meet her. She was immediately aware of the amused look of Robin Hood, even before turning around and seeing him.
“You have been faster than I thought,” Robin said, grinning. “Once, it took a lot more time for you to prepare to travel. Where are Allan and Cedric?”
The girl blushed slightly. She didn’t want to admit that she had galloped so fast that she left the other two behind.
“Where's Guy?” She asked, without answering him. “And Annie...”
Robin sighed and shook his head.
“She was really very sick, it's a miracle she was still alive when we arrived. But Gisborne managed to ask her forgiveness and she died peacefully.”
Marian nodded gravely.
She felt sad for the young girl who died too early, but above all she kept wondering how Guy had reacted to his death. Had Annie been just an unimportant story for him or had he felt something for that girl? Cedric had said that he seemed rather dejected... And what happened would change things between them?
She noticed that Robin was looking at her with a raised eyebrow.
"If you're looking for Gisborne, he should be somewhere around here, along with the child. You'd better reach them before one of them manages to dispatch the other, and in this case I wouldn’t bet on Gisborne's survival.”
Marian looked at him, perplexed. Sometimes she couldn’t understand what Robin thought of Guy.
They had been enemies for a long time and Robin certainly had to hate him because she had chosen Gisborne, yet they had collaborated to save her, and Robin had saved Guy’s life by killing Roger of Barret, and had agreed to accompany him to Annie as soon as he learned that she was dying. She wondered what had been said in those days spent in close contact, if they ignored each other, or if some kind of truce was made between the two men in the name of a higher good.
Not knowing what to say, she just nodded and went in search of Guy.
He found him soon after, not too far from the house. The black knight was kneeling on the ground in a meadow and gave his back to her, unaware of her presence. A dark-haired child was sitting next to him and both of them seemed to be focused on something that Guy held in his hands.
Marian approached in silence, continuing to look at them. She hadn’t seen Seth since he was a baby, but when the boy turned to look at Guy, he saw Marian out of the corner of his eye and turned to look at her. For a moment they stared into each other's eyes and she thought there was no doubt that the boy was Guy's son, then Seth turned to the black knight.
“Who's that lady?”
“What lady?” Gisborne asked, turning to look and, when he saw Marian, he stared at her, incredulous. “Marian...” He whispered, then he jumped to his feet and ran to meet her, holding her in a hug.
The girl clung to him, amazed as always to find out of how comfortable she felt in his arms, as if that was the only right place for her.
“I missed you so much...” She sighed. She looked up to meet Guy's gaze, discovering the sadness he felt. She had intended to kiss him, but she found himself caressing his cheek and his hair with a tender gesture. “Are you alright?”
Guy leaned his face on her hand, closing his eyes for a moment.
“I don’t know.” He admitted and Marian held him tighter.
Guy gave himself up to that embrace, entrusting his confused feelings to the girl, and for a while they remained close together without saying anything, then Marian felt a tug to her dress and she pulled away from Guy to look at Seth. The child had a flap of her skirt still tight in one hand and a battered bunch of flowers in the other. He looked at Marian for a few seconds, then released her skirt and split the flowers in half, offering a bouquet to the girl.
“The other is for Adeline,” he explained, solemnly, while Marian accepted the gift, thanking him with a smile.
“Are we going to bring it to her?” Guy suggested, holding out his hand, and Seth took it without hesitation.
Gisborne put his free arm around Marian's waist and he drew her to him, holding her by his side as they returned to the house, but after a few steps Seth stopped and looked at his father.
“Do we also bring some to my mom?”
Marian felt Guy's body stiffen at that question, but Gisborne recovered quickly to answer the child's question.
“If you want, tomorrow we'll pick more flowers. Now we have to go home, I think Adeline has already prepared lunch. Are you hungry?”
Seth nodded enthusiastically and Guy and Marian exchanged a relieved glance as they started walking again.
The girl rested her head on Guy's shoulder with a small sigh, happy to have reunited with him.
As long as they stayed together, she felt they could face anything.

Chapter Text

Allan put his horse at a trot, approaching Guy.
“All right, Giz?” He asked, and his friend turned to look at him.
“You. Are you alright?”
“Why shouldn’t I be?”
“Oh, I don’t know, your ex girlfriend died, you found yourself with a young son and you just left the aforementioned son away from you, why shouldn’t you be well? Silly me to worry about you.”
Guy smiled faintly.
“For Seth is better to stay at Adeline's house, at least for now. Careful, Allan, no one should know about him. Nobody.”
“What’s one more secret? I think there are more things concerning you that I have to hide, rather than those that I can talk about freely. You're lucky that I'm good at lying.”
Gisborne shook his head, laughing.
“I wouldn’t brag too much about it, Allan. But tell me, how did things go at Knighton and at Locksley while I was away?”
“There were no problems, the work on the manor went on, soon you'll see it with your own eyes. I started collecting taxes for this month, you will have no problem meeting the sheriff's demands.”
“So, did the peasants put into practice our suggestions to improve the field’s yield?”
“Yes. Finally they are starting to trust you.”
Guy and Allan turned back and they saw Archer galloping to join them, followed by some Nottingham guards.
They stopped the horses to wait for him, looking at him, a little worried, but Archer didn’t seem to have bad intentions towards them.
"You didn’t show around for a while, Gisborne.”
“Why, did you miss me?” Guy replied, jokingly, before the other could ask him any other questions.
Archer grinned.
“Do you want to continue with our challenge? Lately things are too quiet in Nottingham, I'm getting bored.”
“Only if this time we can avoid risking our necks.”
“You said so even last time, and you risked to die crashing on the bottom of a well. I struggled to move my arms for a week that time.”
“Not just you, mate,” Allan interjected.
“I owe my life to both of you,” Guy said.
“Yet the hero is only you, to hear people. It's unfair, don’t you think?”
“What they say doesn’t depend on me,” Gisborne said, shrugging, then he glanced at the soldiers. “Why do you ride with all those guards?”
"The sheriff has ordered me to come to Knighton to check that there are no irregularities with tax collection.”
“Why, does he think I can cheat him?”
“More than anything, I think he just wants to bother you.”
“I have nothing to hide. Come and check, it's not a problem for me.”
Archer smiled.
“Maybe in the meantime we can decide what our next challenge will be.”
“Why not?”
“Hey, Giz, can I participate too?” Allan asked.
“Why not?” Allan asked, imitating his last sentence. “Or are you afraid that I could win?”
The other two burst out laughing, and Allan looked at them, pretending to be offended.
“What’s up, don’t you believe that I can beat you?”
“You can try.” Guy said, smiling. “But didn’t you disapprove our challenges?”
Allan shrugged.
“Apparently there is no way to stop them. If anything should happen to you, Marian would be mad at me anyway, so I might as well have fun too.”
“Let him, Gisborne, it will make everything more fun,” Archer said, looking at Allan with approval.
Guy nodded, then he noticed from the corner of his eye a movement in the bushes that grew along the road, and he saw a man pointing a bow at Archer. Guy acted instinctively and he jumped towards his half-brother, dragging him down from the saddle, at the same time as the mysterious archer let go of the arrow.
Allan saw them fall to the ground and he hurried to dismount to rescue them. The horses pawed, frightened, and they galloped off along the road to Knighton, while Archer's soldiers rushed in pursuit of the attacker.
“Hey, Giz? Are you alright?!” Allan asked, kneeling next to him.
Gisborne got up, looking around for other dangers, then he helped Archer.
“Yes, I'm not hurt,” he told Allan, then he turned to his half-brother. “What about you?”
Archer shook his head.
“I am unscathed, thanks to you.” He pointed to the arrow planted in a tree. "If you hadn’t thrown me off my horse, it would have surely struck me.”
Archer approached the tree and detached the arrow.
“It must have been Hood.”
Guy shook his head.
“That's not one of his arrows. Believe me, I know them very well now. And believe me, if Hood wanted to kill you, you'd have died a long time ago.”
Archer looked at him.
“It almost seems like you're defending him.”
Gisborne shrugged.
“Don’t say nonsense. It's just that I know very well his way of acting. Hood is an outlaw, but he doesn’t kill without a serious reason.”
Archer's soldiers came back dragging a man who was out of his mind with terror.
“It was him, he still had a bow in his hand when we got him.”
Archer looked at the shooter: he was dressed in rags and the bow seemed to be the only thing in good condition in his possession. His gaze was that of a madman, divided in half between anger and terror.
“You tried to kill me.” Archer said.
“Yes! And I would do it again, a thousand times!” The man shouted, then he pointed to Gisborne. “And I should have hit him too! You are dogs! Dogs of the Sheriff!”
“Why?” Archer stared at him impassively.
“You took everything from me! My wife died of hunger because of you! Assassins! You and your unjust taxes! And my son, my child, bled to death after the sheriff cut off his hand for stealing a piece of meat! And he just wanted to feed his mother! Both died because of you! You had to die instead!”
“The three of you, tie him up and take him to Nottingham,” Archer said quietly, addressing three of the soldiers, then he pointed at two of the others. "You, give us your horse and ride with one of your comrades, and you, let Allan ride with you. The others will keep escorting us.”
Archer took the soldier's horse and he mounted, inviting Guy to climb on the saddle behind him, then they set off again for Knighton.
“That man was desperate.” Guy commented.
“He tried to kill me, he will be tried for this.”
Gisborne nodded sullenly.
“And we both know how it will end.”
“He should have expressed his despair in another way, doing so he put the noose around his neck with his own hands. Even if I wanted, I couldn’t do anything about it. On the other hand, I think that for him death can only be a relief, now.”
“I guess so.”
"Maybe the sheriff is right when he talks about you, Gisborne.”
“What do you mean?”
“He expresses himself in more colorful terms, but the concept is that you have become too soft for this job. Even if you wanted to take my place back you wouldn’t be able to do it.”
“If I wanted I could. But I don’t want anymore.” Guy replied, dryly.
“Hey, it wasn’t a criticism, Gisborne. After all, if you were the same of the old times, now I would be lying on the ground with an arrow stuck in my heart, and you would be galloping towards Nottingham to get back your place at the sheriff’s side.”
"Maybe Vaisey didn’t tell you, but it was me who didn’t want to work for him anymore, and not the other way around.”
“It surprises me that he let you go.”
Guy grinned.
“I had my means to convince him. Maybe I became too tender, but Vaisey mustn’t underestimate me.”
Archer held back the horse and brought a hand to the sword, seeing a group of people coming to meet them. Guy put a hand on his shoulder to stop him.
“They come from Knighton, I know them.”
“Sir Guy!” One of the peasants shouted. “Are you alright? We saw your horses arriving alone and we thought that something had happened to you.”
The peasants glanced suspiciously at Archer. They knew that it had been him and the sheriff who had burned Knighton Hall for the second time, and they had heard that in the past he had publicly flogged Guy of Gisborne in place of a young boy. And in any case, Archer was the sheriff's man, his presence was always synonymous with trouble.
Gisborne got off his horse to talk to them.
“We had a hindrance, but it has already been solved,” he said quietly, as if nothing particular had happened. “Are our horses in Knighton?”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“Well, go back to the village, today we will end collecting the taxes for this month. The sheriff's men are here to check that everything is regular.”
The men obeyed and Guy returned to mount on Archer’s horse.
"May I ask you to keep the soldiers at bay while you're at Knighton? We will collect all the required shares, but I wouldn’t want to have any other problems.”
Archer smiled.
“You're lucky that the sheriff is not here, otherwise I would have no choice, you know that, right?”
“I can understand that.”

Marian made her horse gallop for a while, slowing him down as soon as she was in sight of Clun.
She had decided to go to help the poor of the village, bringing them some sacks of seeds that would guarantee a harvest a bit more abundant the next year.
It wasn’t much, but it was always better than nothing, and anyway she needed to engage in something to avoid thinking too much.
She was worried about Guy and she feared he was suffering more than he had revealed to her.
They had returned to Locksley the previous day, and Gisborne had not spoken of either Annie or Seth. He had advised her not to mention the child to anyone, but she had the impression that his request for silence didn’t depend on the need to keep the secret, but on an inner suffering that he didn’t want to show her.
Marian sighed to herself. She wondered how important that girl had been for Guy and if he had loved her.
Certainly he was already very fond of that child, even if he had not even realized it.
The young woman thought back to the moment when she had seen them together for the first time, busy picking flowers together in a meadow, so incredibly similar and undeniably father and son, even if they only had known each other for a few days.
Marian wondered if one day she would give children to Guy too.
How will they look like? Will they resemble Guy as Seth does, or will they also have something of me?
As long as he decided to ask her as a wife, she thought with a sigh.
All her peers were now married and they already had at least two or three children, she was getting too old to be still unmarried.
Meg, the woman she had seen at the tavern with Guy, came to her mind, and again Marian wondered if she was the same Meg who had joined Robin Hood's gang. In both cases, that Meg was anyway younger than she was, and Marian wondered if that was the problem that kept Guy from asking for her hand.
What if Gisborne thought she was too old to give him heirs?
No, it can’t be. Many women have children even at a much older age than mine.
The girl tried to drive away those senseless doubts. She loved Guy and he was ready to challenge the whole world for her, she had to trust in their love.
And if she was really incapable of carrying a baby, there was always Seth. For Guy's sake, she was willing to raise him like a son, and she was sure that it would come easy for her to love him.
As she ruminated on these thoughts, she approached Clun and she was happy to see the village down the road. Soon she would be busy distributing the seeds to the farmers and listening to their problems to see if she could help them in any other way.
She wouldn’t have time to worry about unnecessary and absurd doubts, she thought with relief, urging the horse to reach Clun as soon as possible.

Chapter Text

Archer looked closely at the men who were working on the reconstruction of Knighton Hall: the work proceeded with efficiency and speed, and by now the completion of the house was near.
He looked at Guy.
Gisborne followed every gesture of his men carefully, and Archer knew that he usually joined them to work with his own hands on the reconstruction of the manor. If he hadn’t done it yet that day, it was only because he was present.
“Why do you care so much?”
Guy looked at him.
“What for?”
“For this house. From how you look at it, it seems that it is your whole world.”
Gisborne hesitated for a moment, wondering if it was wise to be honest with him. In the well, Archer had proven to be reliable and he had saved his life, but, in spite of everything, Archer was always the trusted man of Vaisey and he could use the things that Guy loved to hit him.
He is still my brother.
“Because it is.” Guy smiled looking at the house. “When it's complete, I'll finally have something that's really mine, and then I can ask Marian to marry me.”
Archer pretended to shiver, then he smiled, wryly.
“What a horrible prospect. No, marriage isn’t really for me. But if you care about it, good for you.”
“Since I lost mine, I've always wanted to have a family.”
Archer gave him an intrigued look.
"Working for the sheriff doesn’t seem to me the best way to make one. I don’t care, so I have no problem working for him as long as he pays me regularly, but if you had that desire why did you decide to obey him?”
“Because I didn’t have anyone else. For years I was intimately convinced that he was my family, that he somehow cared about me. In the harshest moment of my life, Vaisey had been the only one willing to welcome me in his service, to make me think that I might be worth something. And in fact I was precious to him: he knew that my loyalty to him was absolute and that I would obey his every order without asking questions. I was his faithful dog.”
“To see how he treats you now, you wouldn’t say.”
“Because in the end I opened my eyes. I am no longer just the hand that performs his will. Be careful, Archer, if you ever happen to go against his will, the sheriff wouldn’t be tender at all with you. Don’t trust him.”
“I don’t trust anyone as a general rule. It helps to survive if you have to get by yourself.”
“Isn’t it a bit sad?”
Archer grinned.
“Better sad and alive, than buried with a smile.” Archer paused and pointed at the house. “But if this is what you really want, I wish that your dreams can come true. It seems that it won’t take much time, now.”
Guy smiled at him.
“Thank you. If you promise not to take the sheriff with you, I will invite you to my wedding.”
Archer chuckled.
“If he didn’t even come to your funeral, I don’t really think he's interested in coming to your wedding.”
“Yeah,” Guy said thoughtfully, then he looked at Archer. “How about completing the tax collection? If you really have to check that everything is in order, it's better to do it right away.”
Archer shrugged.
“Why not? Then we will have time to have some fun. Start thinking about how you want to challenge me, in the meantime. Are you sure you don’t want to try the bow?”
“In that case there would be no challenge, I have a terrible aim, ask the sheriff if you don’t believe it.”
“How about fighting with the sword? I could teach you a couple of my favorite tricks.”
Gisborne nodded.
“It's alright for me.”

Allan yawned and considered the idea of taking a nap in the shade of the tree he had leaned his back on, as he watched Gisborne and Archer training with the sword. Archer's soldiers had taken over Knighton's tax money and returned to Nottingham, but the young man had stopped for one of his challenges with Guy.
The two men had fought for a while, but the challenge seemed to have ended in a draw and now they were comparing the fighting techniques they knew, exchanging small tricks.
Allan closed his eyes, but his purpose of sleeping vanished shortly after when someone pulled the sleeve of his shirt.
The young man turned to look at who it was, and he saw the little Mary sitting next to him.
“Allan, why is Sir Guy training with that man? He's bad, he works with the sheriff and he burned Sir Guy's house!”
“Once Giz worked for the sheriff too, remember? Then everyone thought he was bad too.”
“Not me.”
“But everyone else did. And I think Giz is behaving with Archer like you did it with him.”
“So Sir Guy thinks that man is not so bad, even if everyone believes otherwise?”
“More than anything else, he hopes so.”
“Then I hope Sir Guy is right.”

Archer took Guy by surprise with a feint, making the sword fly from his hands, then he burst out laughing in front of his surprised expression.
“Almost no one is able to block this blow, don’t feel too bad. But since you saved my life, I will teach you both how to do it, and how to stop it. Indeed, you would deserve a real reward. Is there anything you want? Gold to complete your home? Do you want me to send my soldiers to work on reconstruction? Or do you prefer a commendation from the sheriff?” He added jokingly.
Guy smiled and shook his head.
“You helped me when I was in the well.”
“It's not the same thing, Guy. I just held up a rope, anyone else could have replaced me. But if you hadn’t seen that archer lurking, I would be dead by now.”
“I don’t want rewards. Maybe one day you will return me the favor. But now show me how that blow is performed.”
Archer shrugged and bent to pick up Guy's sword. He gave it to him, smiling, and set himself in an attack position.
“As you prefer. Then look carefully at what I'm about to do: I'll show you the blow at low speed, so you can try to repeat it, then I'll teach you how to recognize it in time and how to block it to counterattack.”

Robin Hood pulled out the arrows from the quiver to check that they were in order, then he put them back in place one by one, without haste. He had thrown an arrow into Guy's window a while ago, but he couldn’t know when and if Gisborne would have a chance to catch up with him.
He took a knife and began to sharpen a piece of wood, just to pass the time.
“What do you want, Hood?” Guy’s voice asked, so close to his ear to make him wince.
Gisborne laughed at seeing his surprise.
"You didn’t notice my arrival, did you?”
“You became as silent as a shadow,” Robin admitted with a smile. “But you always keep me waiting.”
“I have a pretty busy life, Hood, I can’t always come as soon as you call me.”
“Almost never, to tell the truth, but it doesn’t matter.”
Guy sat down next to him, and he looked at Robin.
“So, tell me everything.”
"I heard there were problems on the way to Knighton today.”
“A man tried to kill Archer.”
“And you saved him.”
“Yes. It was the gesture of a desperate man, they immediately caught him.”
“Yes, I heard that. It is said that they will hang him tomorrow.”
“I think so. Are you going to try to free him? Is that why you're here?”
Robin studied him for a few moments.
“Do you think I should do it?”
Guy gave a short sigh and shook his head.
“No. That man tried to kill Archer by ambushing him. He's crazy and he's dangerous, it's not worth risking your life to save him, partly because I don’t think he wants to be saved.” Gisborne looked at him. "Do you think I'm heartless, don’t you?”
Robin squeezed his arm in a sympathetic gesture.
“No. I think the same.”
“If I could get him to run away, I'm afraid the first thing he’d do would be to try again, and the next time he could harm innocent people while trying. I didn’t call you for this.”
“Why then?”
"I heard that the sheriff collected all the taxes, but he still hasn’t sent the money to Prince John. All the money is still at the castle.”
“And you want to take it away?”
We will take it away.”
“I bet you don’t have a plan yet,” Guy said, with an ironic smile. “What do the others think about it?”
“With ‘we’ I meant you and me. Nobody else. Neither the other members of the gang nor Allan.”
“Why not?”
“You know: Archer. Since he took your place, entering the castle has become increasingly difficult. You and I have the skills to keep up with it, the others do not. I'm not going to put them in danger.”
“When they find out about it, they won’t be happy at all,” Guy commented and Robin nodded.
“I know, but at least they will be alive. They will understand it, and once we have the tax money in our hands, they will be happy to help the poor.”
"They already don’t like me very much, if you start leaving them aside because you think I'm more skilled than them, they'll hate me."
Robin looked at him in the eye.
“You are more experienced than them, it's not just me thinking it. You and me have a kind of training they never had, and don’t forget that you're the one who knows Archer better than us all. If you have doubts, it is another matter. If you don’t want to risk, I wouldn’t blame you for this, I know you have so much more to lose than me.”
“Everything I have, I owe it to you. Everything. You just have to ask me and I will follow you, my brother.”
Robin stared at him, moved by Guy's impassioned words, then he nodded and smiled at him.
“And I wouldn’t ask you if I wasn’t sure we can do it.”
Gisborne made a half-wry smile, then he covered his face with the Nightwatchman mask.
“Then we go. You can explain your ‘non-plan’ while we ride towards the castle.”

Chapter Text

Robin leaned over to look around the corner of the corridor: the way was clear and there were no guards in sight. He nodded to Guy and the Nightwatchman moved to follow him, staying a few steps back to make sure no one could surprise them.
The corridor was long and, at the end, it branched off in two directions: one led to the dungeons, the other to the strong room where the sheriff accumulated his treasures.
Robin paused for a moment to look at the corridor that led to the dungeons, wondering if after all he should save the man who attacked Archer from being hanged. That man was a madman and a potential killer, but he became like that because of the sheriff's cruelties.
Robin forced himself to take the opposite direction. Rescuing him, he wouldn’t do a great favor to the prisoner, Robin feared that only death could give peace to him now, while stealing tax money would allow so many innocents to survive and not starve.
He studied the deserted corridor: so far so good. They had managed to enter the castle without much difficulty and to avoid the guards without problems. Perhaps Archer wasn’t as careful as he and Guy had believed, he thought.
Gisborne followed him closely, quiet and ready to react in case of problems, and Robin thought that in recent times Guy had become a precious element in his gang, even if his companions had not yet fully understood that.
Much was certainly jealous of his recent friendship with Gisborne, while Little John didn’t trust him at all.
Since Will had left the gang to take care of his new family, the Nightwatchman's help had become even more decisive.
Robin Hood took another step forward to approach the door of the vault and examine the lock, when a heavy iron cage fell from above, trapping him. Guy just had the time to jump back to avoid being crushed by one of the sides of the cage.
The two men stood staring at each other from the opposite sides of the bars, then they both tried to move the cage.
Guy drew his sword to try to use it as a lever, but after a few attempts both he and Robin realized that the cage was too heavy for them to move it with just their strength.
They exchanged a worried look: Robin was trapped and soon the soldiers would arrive, attracted by the clang of the trap.
“Go away, hurry!” Robin said urgently and Guy shook his head, terrified.
“I won’t leave you here,” he said, trying to move the cage again with all his strength.
“Stop that! Flee now, before it's too late. Immediately!”
“No. I can do it, I'll free you in a moment and we’ll run away together.”
Robin grabbed his arm.
“You know that it isn’t true. Go away.”
Guy looked at him and Robin saw the despair in his eyes. Gisborne was about to panic and he had to prevent this from happening, or they would both be captured.
“Guy, you have to go away now. I know you don’t want to leave me here and I'm grateful, but you can’t absolutely afford to get caught. If the sheriff were to find out that you’re the Nightwatchman, you wouldn’t just be hanged, but he would take revenge on everyone you care about: Marian, Sir Edward, Allan, the people of Knighton... And don’t forget that Seth has only you, if you die that child will also lose his father.”
Guy nodded, with tears in his eyes, and he squeezed Robin's hand through the bars.
“I will come back to free you, my brother, you can count on it.”
“Only if you can do it without risking your life. Now go.”
They both jumped at the sound of footsteps approaching from the other end of the corridor and Guy fled, running in the opposite direction.
He knew well that part of the castle and he knew that within a few moments he could take a hidden passage of which few knew the existence, one of those wanted by the sheriff to ensure greater secrecy to his intrigues.
Following it, he would arrive at the underground crypts and then he could take another passage that led to the kitchens, from where he could get out of the castle without too much trouble.
Guy recognized the entrance and slipped into it without slowing down, but he was forced to stop abruptly as soon as the tunnel arrived into the crypts: Archer was standing in the middle of the room, waiting for him with his sword unsheathed.
Gisborne glanced at the corridor behind him, wondering whether to go back.
“I wouldn’t do it if I were you,” Archer said. “My men have orders to wall up that passage. If you try to escape that way, I will do the same from this side and the Nightwatchman will die in that tunnel, like a rat in a trap. If you want to escape you will have to fight, but I warn you, not many are able to beat me.”
Without saying a word, Guy drew his sword, preparing to face him.
The two men quietly studied each other for a few moments, then both of them snapped forward simultaneously to attack. Their swords clashed violently, then they parted and returned to cross again.
Gisborne was completely focused on combat: he knew that Archer was extremely skillful and that he could be lethal with a sword. When they had challenged each other with the sword, Guy had never managed to beat him, at best the challenge ended in a draw and indeed, Gisborne had the doubt that his half-brother had not even used all his skills for a friendly duel.
If he wanted to survive he couldn’t afford distractions, he had to resort to all his experience and to fight without making even a mistake.
He avoided an attack and in turn he made a feint to catch the opponent by surprise, but Archer wasn’t fooled and resumed attacking him without giving him a moment's respite.
“Well... You're good, I wouldn’t have said it,” Archer commented, trying to hit him with a sudden thrust, but Gisborne dodged without saying a word, and attacked in turn.
Archer defended himself, then he prepared to surprise his rival with his secret blow, but Guy understood what he was about to do and used the defense technique that Archer had taught him only a few hours earlier.
The young man had not expected the Nightwatchman to know how to respond to that technique and the surprise made him hesitate for the moment that Guy needed to disarm him.
Within seconds, Archer found himself with his back to the wall and the Nightwatchman's sword pointed at his throat.
“If you want to pass you will have to kill me. Do you dare to do it? It's your only chance,” Archer said, defiantly.
Guy knew that if he hesitated, the other could easily overturn the situation, but even in that desperate moment he couldn’t bring himself to thrust the blade into his brother's throat.
Maybe he could stun him, he thought, trying to find another solution, but he was sure that if he loosened the pressure of the sword on his neck even for a moment, Archer would find a way to overpower him.
“You have no choice, you have to kill me. Can’t you do it, Nightwatchman?”
No, I can’t.
Guy pulled back the blade and tried to hit Archer to make him faint, but the other man freed himself with a wriggle and managed to hit Guy with a kick, causing him to drop his sword.
The weapon slid on the floor and they both dived to the ground to take possession of it, but Archer was quicker and in a moment he was pointing it at Guy's heart.
“You're a fool, Nightwatchman, you were wrong not to kill me when you had the chance. Now you can only choose: surrender or die.”
Guy stood still, trying to decide what to do. He knew he had no hope of running away or of overpowering Archer: if he tried his half-brother's sword would pierce his heart in less than a second.
He had only one chance, though very unlikely.
He sighed and put a hand to his face, slowly, to show Archer that he was not about to react. He took off his mask and looked into his brother's eyes.
“This could be a great time to return the favor.”
Archer winced in surprise.
“You! I should have imagined it when you parried my attack! So the sheriff was right, you're a traitor!”
“The sheriff is never right, remember that. Even if you decide to hand me over to him, don’t forget my words: never trust Vaisey.”
“Of course, the words of the Nightwatchman are so remarkable,” Archer said, with contempt.
“Let me go or you will be responsible for the end of both your brothers.”
“I don’t have any brothers.”
“You do indeed. You have two.”
Archer pushed the tip of his sword a little to prick his chest.
“Explain yourself.”
“Why do you think I approached you? You work for Vaisey, I know what kind of orders you have to obey, I know your job, and I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with anything related to the sheriff. But I had to know you, to understand if we really share the same blood.”
Archer stared at him, wondering if Gisborne had become completely crazy.
“And what did you find?”
“You have the arrowhead shaped birthmark, you and I were born from the same mother. You are my brother. But do you ask me what I found? A friend.”
Archer didn’t move.
“I told you, friendship is largely overrated.”
Guy looked at him.
“Really? If you think so, kill me now. I only ask you to have mercy on the people I care about. They have nothing to do with it, everything I've done, I’ve done it alone, without any help.”
Archer hesitated. A few months earlier he wouldn’t have hesitated to kill or capture Gisborne, and then he would have enjoyed the sheriff's reward without remorse, but now something was blocking him.
Guy of Gisborne had called him ‘friend’ and maybe he wasn’t wrong. Archer had always avoided getting attached to people, but he had learned to appreciate Gisborne's company. Their challenges had amused him and they had saved each other's lives. Archer was no longer sure he was capable of killing him in cold blood.
Or maybe he was, but he knew that it would be a crime that would mark him for life. He had often killed in the past under the orders of those who hired him, but he had never felt like a murderer.
Gisborne was still staring at him, awaiting his decision.
“You're completely crazy. Don’t you have your dreams? Don’t you want to marry your woman? You are throwing everything away, for what? To play with Robin Hood? Or is it a revenge against the sheriff?”
“I'm just doing what I think is right. If you must, kill me. If you have a conscience, let me go. Pretend you have never seen me before. But please, whatever you decide, don’t let Vaisey take me alive.”
Archer looked at him. He didn’t know what to think and he wanted to know more about that story of his brothers.
He pushed the sword away from Guy's chest and waited for the other to get up.
“I can’t let you go,” he said and he saw Guy's resigned expression. He smiled at him. "But I can’t do anything about it, if the Night Watchman knocks me out with a punch. Of course I can’t stop him if I’m unconscious.”
Guy looked at him, incredulous.
“Try not to be too delicate, the sheriff will have to see a big bruise to believe it. And then you will have to explain to me everything about this story of the brothers. Is it clear?”
Gisborne nodded.
“Thank you,” he said in a low voice, moved, then he hit him and ran away.

Chapter Text

Allan smiled at Meg, offering a hand to help her enter the old abandoned barn. The girl saw the black stallion of Gisborne tied in a corner and she approached the animal to stroke his nose.
“It's a pity that Guy can’t ride him when he's the Nightwatchman, he's a magnificent animal.”
Like his owner, after all.
The girl did not express that thought aloud, but Allan sensed it in her expression and shook his head.
“No, Meg, don’t fool yourself.”
The young woman looked at him, surprised.
“I know you like Giz, but take him off your head, his heart is already taken. You would end up getting hurt and hurting him too.”
Meg blushed and looked at him angrily.
“Look, I know that very well!”
Allan stared at her, ironically.
“Oh yes? Last time it didn’t look like you did...”
The girl became even more red and she was about to open her mouth to insult him, when Allan returned serious and put a finger on her lips to silence her.
“Wait, I hear the sound of a horse approaching. Let’s be silent.”
They turned off the lantern and hid in a dark corner of the building, waiting.
Meg turned her face to Allan to whisper a few words to him.
“Why do we hide? Only Robin and Guy know this place, right?”
The girl's hair tickled his neck, but Allan did nothing to move it away.
“In theory, yes, but you never know. Better to be cautious if the alternative is to end up dangling from a rope. And by the way, what are you doing here? You shouldn’t take too many risks.”
“Just because I'm a girl?! Robin has accepted me in his gang, I am a real member of it. There isn’t so much difference between me and Much.”
Allan gave her a cheeky look.
“Oh, yes, there is, believe me.”
Meg hit him on the hand with an indignant slap, but she didn’t mind so much Allan's compliment.
"For your information, I'm here to warn Robin that the road south of the forest is guarded.”
“Oh, I thought you were coming for my company...”
“Stop that!”
Their bickering was interrupted by the sound of the horse's hooves, closer and closer.
Both fell silent as the animal galloped into the barn. His rider stopped him by pulling the reins and the animal reared, making him fall from the saddle.
The young man recognized Gisborne's voice and hastened to take the reins of the frightened horse, taking him away from Guy, who was still kneeling on the ground. He tied the animal next to the black stallion, then he immediately returned to his friend.
Meanwhile, Meg was trying to light the lantern again. When she succeeded, she approached too, but she was careful to stay a few feet away from Guy.
“Giz? Are you alright?” Allan asked, seeing that Guy was panting and that he didn’t get up. “Are you hurt?”
Gisborne shook his head.
“They took Robin,” he said with difficulty, and Allan put a hand on his back.
“Wait, don’t speak right now, first recover your breath. For now, answer only with a nod. They captured Robin, but you managed to escape... Did they follow you? No? Good. You have escaped, you aren’t hurt and we won’t see the sheriff's men arriving here, it’s already an excellent result. Stay calm now, we'll surely find a way to free Robin, you'll see.”
“Archer knows I'm the Nightwatchman,” Guy said as soon as he was able to speak again, and Allan paled.
“You must run away, Giz. Immediately. Stay here, I'll go to Locksley to get your stuff.”
“Maybe you're right, it would be a useless risk, let's run away now without wasting time packing, it's better.”
Guy got up from the ground and he started to loosen his cloak and his Nightwatchman jacket. Meg noticed that his hands were shaking.
“No, I'm not going to run away.”
Allan gaped at him for a few seconds before starting to protest.
“But you must do it, Giz! If they were to get you, you would definitely end up hanged!”
“This is certain. But I can’t escape. If they came to arrest me and didn’t find me, they would retaliate on Marian, Sir Edward, and on the people of Locksley and Knighton. They would torture them to know where I am.”
Allan stared at him, shocked.
“So what will you do? Are you going home to wait for death?”
“I'll go back to Locksley. And I'll wait. Maybe Archer won’t tell the sheriff.”
Allan shook his head in disbelief.
Guy looked at Meg and sighed.
“Go back to the camp, please, you must warn the others that Robin has been captured. I don’t know if I can help you, but you have to find a way to free him. Hurry up!”
The girl nodded quickly and ran away.
Allan followed her to the door and watched her walk away into the forest, then he turned back to Guy.
“Giz, you can’t trust Archer...”
“He had caught me. It was him who let me go when he discovered the identity of the Nightwatchman. Perhaps he will keep the secret.”
“Maybe. But maybe he just decided to give you a chance to flee and tomorrow he'll come looking for you to arrest you. You can’t know if he will choose to hide your secret forever or if he just wanted to give you some time.”
“No, I can’t know. Come on, let's go home.”
Guy finished changing his clothes, and he mounted the black stallion, while Allan took the anonymous looking horse used by the Nightwatchman, and they rode slowly toward Locksley.
“How can you do that?” Allan asked after a while.
“Do what?”
“Your life is in the hands of a man you don’t know if you can trust and who has every reason to betray you. Yet you will return home and you will put yourself to bed as if nothing had happened. How can you do it? I'm dying of terror and you're the one who risks the gallows...”
“Do you think I’m not afraid? Allan, I'm terrified.” Guy turned to him and, even in the moonlight, the young man saw that his eyes were bright with tears. “One word from Archer and I will lose everything: Marian, my land, my own life and even dignity because the sheriff will not be content to kill me, but he’ll find a way to do it while humiliating me in the worst possible way. And even if Archer decides that blood ties matter, Robin is always a prisoner and I don’t know how to save him. I'm afraid, Allan, I'm scared! But I can’t do anything except wait and hope.”
“Giz, anyone else in your place would have already arrived in York and would have continued to flee without stopping. You will also be terrified, but this is the bravest fear I have ever seen.”
Guy gave a faint smile at Allan's words, then the latter began to speak, thinking back to Gisborne's last sentence.
“Wait... Did you say ‘blood ties’? Did you tell him your secret?”
“Partly. I promised to tell him everything if he let me go.”
“Then tomorrow he will surely come to Locksley.”
Guy nodded.
“Yeah. But I can’t know what intentions he’ll have. Do you still think I could sleep as if nothing had happened, tonight?”
“Well, Giz, it means that we will wake together, then. I won’t leave you alone, my friend.”

Marian silently descended the stairs, taking care to avoid the creaking steps. Guy had told her not to get up so early just to make breakfast, but that morning she'd got up anyway before dawn because she wanted to have plenty of time to experiment with a new recipe.
When she had reached Guy at Adeline's house, Marian had asked the woman to teach her how to cook Guy's favorite dishes. The lessons had been a disaster, but Adeline had been kind enough to write down detailed instructions for each recipe, and now Marian wanted to train herself to cook at least one of those dishes to perfection, in order to surprise Guy.
She knew that Annie's death and having found Seth and then parted from him soon thereafter had to be painful for Guy, and she wanted to take care of him and cheer him up a little.
She was surprised to see a candlestick lit on the table in the main hall and looked inside the room, standing on the door, intrigued. She immediately saw that Guy and Allan were there.
Allan was sprawled on a chair by the fireplace and snored loudly, while Guy was lying on a bench, but he wasn’t asleep.
His blue eyes were open and staring at the ceiling, but Gisborne must have been lost in thought because he only noticed her when Marian was so close that she could stroke his forehead. He shuddered at her touch and looked at her, but he didn’t move from his position.
The girl stroked his hair, worried: Guy's skin was sweaty, but cold under her fingers.
“What's up? Are you unwell?” Marian whispered, brushing his forehead with a light kiss to feel if he had a fever. “Why are you here and not in bed?”
Gisborne looked at her for a moment without knowing what to say, then he realized that Marian herself had offered him a possible explanation.
“I have a stomach ache,” he said and he thought that it wasn’t even a real lie because he really had cramps because of the anxiety he felt.
“Did you eat something that didn’t agree with you? And yet in the last days I haven’t cooked anything...”
Guy smiled at her words.
“Maybe I just got cold, it's already getting better.”
Marian went away for a moment to take a blanket from one of the chairs arranged around the fireplace, and she immediately returned to him.
“Then you have to keep warm,” she said, slowly stroking his hair. “And if you feel like drinking something, I'll make you a hot infusion that will make you feel better right away.”
The girl noticed Guy's skeptical look and smiled.
“I can do this and I won’t mess up, I assure you. My father used to prepare it when I was a child, and I gave myself a stomach ache by stealing fruits from the trees of Knighton. He often told me that it was my mother who taught him which herbs to use, and he often prepared it to mitigate her nausea when she was waiting for me.” Marian interrupted herself, blushing at the thought that perhaps these were not words that a proper girl should have used talking with a man, but Guy didn’t seem to notice the inconvenience of her words.
He had got up from the bench to follow her into the kitchen and she had looked at him, worried.
“If you're sick maybe you should lie down and keep warm, I'll be right back.”
Guy shook his head.
“I told you, it's getting better. And then there's a fireplace in the kitchen too. Let me come with you, right now Allan isn’t a very good company.”
Marian looked at him: perhaps it depended on his malaise, but at that moment Guy seemed terribly vulnerable and in need of her presence. She stroked his cheek, smiling at him.
“Come, then. You know that I always enjoy being with you.”
Guy pulled her to him and hugged her tightly. The thought of the possibility of losing her forever scared him to death, but if those were really his last hours of life, to spend them together with Marian was a consolation.

Chapter Text

Allan awoke with a start and looked around, afraid. He had dreamed that the guards from Nottingham had arrived at Locksley to arrest Gisborne and that they had dragged him out of the house to hang him from the nearest tree.
He almost panicked when he realized he was alone in the hall, then he heard Guy's voice coming from the kitchen and he followed it, anxious to check if the friend was all right.
He found him sitting by the fireplace near Marian, with the girl gently taking care of him.
“Hey, Giz, are you alright?” Allan asked, and Guy looked at him.
“Yes, the stomach ache eased a lot. You should ask Marian to teach you the recipe for this infusion.”
Allan gave him a puzzled look, then he realized that Guy had just told him the excuse he had given to Marian to explain his agitation.
“Ah. Glad to hear that, Giz. But if I were you I would avoid the pancakes for a few days. I knew that sooner or later you would have poisoned him, Marian.”
The girl glared at him, annoyed, while Guy gave him a smile, followed immediately by a look to warn him not to overdo it.
Marian approached the window and let out an exclamation of surprise.
“Oh, there's a rider approaching. I wonder who he is and what he wants so early in the morning.”
Allan and Guy exchanged an anguished look, then Guy forced himself to get up to look out.
“It's Archer,” he said after a few seconds.
Marian looked at him, surprised.
“What will he want?”
“I don’t know,” Guy lied. “I guess we'll find out soon.”

Archer dismounted to knock on Locksley's door, but he didn’t even have time to touch the door because Allan immediately opened it.
A quick glance at the young man was enough for Archer to realize that Gisborne must have informed him of what had happened, because Allan was frightened and tense even though he tried to hide it under his usual nonchalant attitude.
Archer entered the main hall of Locksley, where Gisborne was waiting for him, pale as a dead man, standing next to Marian. Archer thought that instead the girl had to be in the dark about everything because, even looking at him with a worried and suspicious expression, she was the only one not to be distressed.
“Are you hurt, Sir Archer?” Marian asked, noting the bruise on his face, trying to be kind to him not to create problems for Guy.
Archer glanced quickly at Gisborne before answering the girl with a slightly ironic smile.
“I had a little quarrel with the Nightwatchman, nothing serious, but he managed to escape.”
Marian blushed at hearing that name, then her gaze hardened.
“I hope you can catch him.”
Archer looked at her, slightly amazed. It was clear that she must be unaware of Gisborne's secret, but he still couldn’t understand the grudge hidden in her sentence, it seemed she was angry with the Nightwatchman for some personal reason.
In any case it wasn’t important.
“I apologize for the inconvenient time, but I should talk to Gisborne. In private.” He turned directly to Guy. “Come?”
Guy nodded weakly and moved to follow him, but Marian held him by the arm.
“You're still unwell, you're terribly pale. You should keep warm. You can talk here too, nobody will disturb you.”
“No, don’t worry. I think it will do me good to get some fresh air,” Guy said, trying to look calm, and he bent to kiss her on the cheek. “I will be back soon.”
Allan gave him a desperate look, as if to beg him not to go, and Guy nodded to him almost imperceptibly to tell him not to interfere.
He looked at Marian, thinking that maybe that was the last time he saw her, then he forced himself to avert his eyes from her and follow Archer.
“Are you arresting me?” Guy whispered, as soon as they were out of the door.
“Mount in the saddle and follow me.”
Guy saw that one of the servants had saddled and carried his stallion out of the stable, and now he was tied next to Archer's horse.
He obeyed his brother, wondering what he should expect.
They rode in silence for a long time, entering the forest. Archer led the way and Guy followed him, tormented by doubts and fear.
That part of the forest wasn’t very familiar to Guy and it was certainly far from the outlaw’s camp, but Archer seemed to be sure of the direction he had chosen, and he went on without hesitation.
Guy wondered what his intentions were. Perhaps he was leading him in the thicket of trees to execute him and make sure that his body could never be found, freeing Vaisey from his blackmail.
Gisborne shuddered at the thought of dying like that, simply disappearing, and leaving the people he loved in doubt over his fate.
Unconsciously he had pulled the reins to stop the horse and Archer turned to look at him, no longer hearing the steps of the animal behind him.
Gisborne looked like he was about to faint and Archer thought that Guy must have had a tormented night too.
Archer studied Guy's face, trying to find some traces of resemblance that could confirm or deny the story he had told him a few hours earlier, and once again he wondered what to do.
If Gisborne surely had a hellish night, not even Archer had managed to sleep, tormented by indecision.
He should have immediately notified the sheriff of the identity of the Nightwatchman, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Not before listening to what Guy had to say, at least.
Seeing that the other wasn’t moving, Archer took the reins of Guy's horse, pulling the stallion behind his horse. He noticed that Guy had clung to the saddle knob with both hands not to fall, as if he were about to lose consciousness, and for a moment Archer felt the urge to tell him something to reassure him, but he hastened to dismiss that sudden thought.
He had never been mawkish and he had no intention of starting now: he would listen to Gisborne's explanations and then he’d make a cold-minded decision, without being influenced by emotion.
His was a clear and simple plan in theory, but Archer began to fear that it wouldn’t be so easy to put it into practice.
They arrived in a clearing surrounded by dense trees and finally Archer stopped the horses.
“Get off.” He said to Guy, watching while the other obeyed him. He approached Guy, staring at him. “Are you scared?”
"Yes." Guy admitted.
“Yet you followed me without making the slightest resistance. Why didn’t you run away? You had every opportunity to do it.”
"For the same reason you didn’t take my sword from me. You know I won’t use it. If I rebel, it would be the people I love to suffer the consequences.”
Archer shook his head, not understanding.
“So if I decided to kill you, would you let me do it without reacting? Wouldn’t you fight? Even if I told you that for now I'm the only one who knows your secret? If you could beat me, nobody would know.”
“I will never accept to save myself, if the ones who are dear to me have to pay the price for it. Never.”
“Exactly. This should be another reason to fight me, then. If you win, they will all be safe, if you are defeated they will be spared. Once the Nightwatchman is dead, I wouldn’t retaliate on them.”
Guy searched his gaze.
“You forget something, Archer.”
“If I were to defeat you, you would be dead. I don’t want to hurt the people I care for, and you're one of them. You are my brother, I won’t use my sword on you.”
Archer stared at him, stunned, then he drew his sword and snapped forward, as if to hit him. Guy instinctively raised his arms to protect his face, but he didn’t try to wield his weapon.
Archer stopped the blade a few millimeters from Guy's neck and he shook his head in disbelief.
“You were serious about it, then.”
He sheathed his sword and grabbed Gisborne by the arm, forcing him to sit on the ground.
“What do you want to do?” Guy asked, now convinced that Archer had decided to execute him. "If you decide to kill me, please, bring my body back to Locksley, or at least let Marian and Allan know what happened to me. If the sheriff has ordered you to make me disappear, allow them to bury me in secret or do it yourself, but don’t leave my remains to the animals of the forest, I ask you only this, my brother...”
“Be quiet!” Archer shouted. “Stop saying nonsense or I could decide to really kill you.”
Guy stood still, looking at him without saying anything, trembling, and Archer sighed. He untied a flask from his horse's saddle and he put it in Gisborne's hand, ordering him to drink.
“What's this?”
“Just drink. It is not poisoned, if that's what you fear.”
He took the container from Guy's hands and took a sip to prove he wasn’t lying, then he put it back in his hand.
This time Gisborne obeyed him, then he returned to look at him, questioning him with his eyes.
Archer took his hand and pressed his fingers on his wrist, then he nodded toward the flask.
“Drink some more of it and try to breathe more slowly and deeper.”
"Because if you don’t calm down a little, you'll end up fainting.”
“You aren’t going to kill me, then?”
"It would be the smartest thing to do, the sheriff would generously reward me if I handed you over to him. But apparently I am not able to condemn you to a certain and painful death.”
“Are you serious?”
Archer shrugged resignedly.
“Don’t ask me why, though. Perhaps your madness is contagious. Now drink, come on. It’s spiced wine, made with ingredients that I brought with me from the east, it will make you feel a little better.”
“If you wanted to make me feel better, you could have immediately said that you didn’t intend to execute me.”
“And where would the fun be, then? No, you deserved some good terror for all your lies.”
“I can’t blame you, in fact. In recent times I have done nothing but lie.” Guy said, then he found himself giggling and Archer looked at him.
“What's so funny? Perhaps that wine is too strong for you.”
“I knew it.”
A smile illuminated Guy's face, erasing the traces left by fear and the sleepless night.
“That you too have a conscience.”
“Stop it or you’ll make me change my mind.” Archer threatened him, with a slight smile, then he sat on the grass in front of Guy. “Now it seems to me that you are feeling a little better, or am I wrong? I think it's time to tell me everything.”
Gisborne nodded.
“I promised you. Where do you want me to start from?”
“Is it true that we are brothers?”
"You and I have the same mother.”
“But not the same father.”
“No, not the same father.”
“This night you talked about another brother. You said that if I didn’t let you go I would have been responsible for the end of both my brothers. What did you mean?”
“Exactly what I said. Actually, you also have a half-sister, Isabella, but I haven’t been in contact with her for many years.”
“And who is the other brother?”
“Robin Hood.”
“Liar. You and Hood have been enemies for years, you can’t be brothers.”
“In fact, Robin and I are not. But you and he are.”
Archer looked at him, confused.
“You're delirious, Gisborne.”
"You and I have the same mother, you and Robin the same father. Our parents had a relationship and you were born from their love.”
Archer took the flask from Guy's hands and this time he took a sip of wine.
“So that's why you became the Nightwatchman? Becuase you and Hood are almost relatives?”
“No. That's another story.”
“Start telling it, Gisborne.”
Guy looked at him, worried.
“It's a long story. If you've decided to spare my life, can we go back to Locksley? Allan will believe you took me away to arrest me or kill me.”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Let me warn him, at least.”
Archer stood up and held out his bow, then he released an arrow in the trees.
“Come out!” He shouted. “Or next time I'll aim lower!”
A moment later Allan appeared in the clearing and Archer turned to Guy.
“See? You don’t need to go back to Locksley. He followed you.”
“Are you alright, Giz?”
“Yes, but you shouldn’t have come here.”
“You shouldn’t have either, actually.”
Allan reached Guy and he sat down next to him with a sigh. He wasn’t sure he could trust Archer, but Gisborne now seemed to be much more serene than before.
“Well, now that we're all here, you can start telling me everything,” Archer said, addressing Guy. “And for everything, I mean everything. Just try to lie or to omit anything and you'll find yourself in the dungeons of Nottingham before you even realize it.”
Gisborne nodded.
“I will only tell you the truth. I'm tired of lying.” He said, and he began to speak.

Chapter Text

Archer shook his head in disbelief.
Normally he would have called liar anyone who told him even a small part of the stories he had just heard from Guy of Gisborne's voice, but he was inexplicably convinced that his half-brother was sincere.
What he said was the truth, or Gisborne was completely insane.
To deny the second hypothesis there was Allan, who had integrated or confirmed most of Guy's stories without the slightest hesitation, often interrupting him in the middle of a story.
At that moment, Guy and Allan were arguing precisely for that reason and, after listening to them bickering for a while, Archer decided that he had listened enough.
“All right, that's enough!” He said, interrupting them abruptly and the other two looked at him, perplexed and slightly worried.
Archer sighed as he saw fear reappearing in their eyes, and he tried to reassure them with a smile.
By now he had understood that he wouldn’t have the courage to hand Gisborne to the sheriff, even if keeping the secret on everything he had told him would make him a traitor exactly like Guy.
He didn’t know exactly how he had done that, but Guy of Gisborne had managed to earn his respect and friendship, regardless of blood ties. Even if he hadn’t told him that he was his brother, Archer wouldn’t condemn him to death anyway.
“I think I've heard enough,” he said quietly.
“Will you tell the sheriff?” Guy asked, but his expression leaked the trust he put in Archer.
Guy smiled.
“I knew it.”
“A little while ago you didn’t seem to be so sure.” Archer replied, with a grin.
Gisborne blushed remembering his terror a little earlier.
“All right, I was afraid you would kill me. But I was hoping you wouldn’t, and I'm really glad I wasn’t wrong about you.”
“Also because in that case you’d already be in the dungeons.”
“Not just for that reason. If you were an enemy, I’d have to choose between you and Robin and I couldn’t. I don’t want to betray any of my brothers.”
Archer gave him a curious look.
“You said that Hood isn’t your brother.”
“Yeah, but it's like he is. And this leads to another pending issue...”
“Won’t you think of freeing him?”
“Exactly. And what will you do, Archer? Will you try to stop me or will you help me?”
The two men stared at each other for a few seconds, then Archer shook his head with a half smile.
"You're completely crazy, Gisborne, you know, don’t you?”
“Maybe. But I won’t allow the sheriff to execute Robin. I will save him, at the cost of dying in the attempt.”
"And what will happen to all the dreams you told me about? If you get caught, you’d lose everything: your home, your land, the woman you love. And trust me, the sheriff won’t allow anyone to free Robin Hood. In the best case you’d become an outlaw, in the worst you’d go to keep him company on the gallows, after going through the torture room.”
“Giz, Archer isn’t wrong at all... Vaisey certainly will have increased the guards at the castle, and he won’t let anyone approach.”
A flash of fear passed into Guy's eyes, but it was immediately replaced by stubborn determination.
“If the identity of the Nightwatchman remains secret, I won’t lose anything, unless they capture me. And in any case all my dreams would have already become ashes a long time ago if Robin hadn’t helped me. I wouldn’t abandon him even if I were sure to go to death.”
“Then you have to find the way to be in two places at the same time. Are you so crazy to believe you can do this too?” Archer said, and Guy looked at him, confused by his words.
“What do you mean?”
“When we locked up Hood in the dungeons, the sheriff immediately started giving orders for his execution. It will be coming soon, probably tomorrow, and Vaisey decided that all the nobles will have to be present and witness the death of Hood. All the nobles. Including you.”
“I'll say I'm sick. Marian already thinks that I'm unwell and the servants of Locksley will confirm it.”
Archer raised an eyebrow, skeptical.
“And do you think the sheriff is so naive to believe it? Those who don’t show up will be punished harshly and accused of treason. The sheriff wants the execution of Hood to be an example for everyone and especially for you. Those who oppose him will have no way out, this is the message he wants to convey, and you are already at the top of his blacklist. If you want to hope to survive you will have to be present and well in sight.”
“I'll find a way. Will you help me?”
“I will, Giz,” Allan intervened.
“Depends on what do you mean by help,” Archer replied. “I won’t reveal your secret and I’ll pretend not to see anything you and your friends decide to do, but I'm not going to openly oppose the sheriff, and if they find out your identity, I'll have to do my duty. Between covering a friend's madness and becoming an outlaw in turn there's a big difference, you know? I'm not going to spend the rest of my life as a fugitive.”
Guy nodded.
“Yes, it's true and I don’t ask you to do it. If you can help me without taking risks I'll be grateful, otherwise it doesn’t matter, I'll find a way.”
“Avoid being caught, all right? I made you run away once, maybe I won’t have the chance to do it a second time.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Archer looked at him, shaking his head resignedly.
“I hope you're right or we'll all get in trouble.”
Allan put a hand on Guy's shoulder.
“Whatever we decide to do, it would be better to go back to Locksley and try to get some sleep. You won’t be able to help Robin if you are too tired.”
Archer nodded at his words.
“I have to go back to Nottingham too. I'll try to get you all the information I can about Hood’s execution, but before you go there's one last thing we need to clarify.”

Robin woke up, sore from having slept on the stone floor, and he wondered how long it had been since his capture. He couldn’t tell if it was still night or if the sun had already arisen because the cell in which he had been locked up had no windows, and the only light came from a lighted torch in the corridor, outside the cell door.
He tried to approach the door to understand how solid it was and if he could break the lock, but he was forced to stop before reaching it because he had been chained to the wall and the chains were too short. His wrists were handcuffed to each other, while, from the iron collar they had put on him while he was unconscious, a long chain bounded him to an iron ring fixed in the wall.
Robin tugged at the chain to test its resistance, without finding any weaker link, and he knew that he had no hope of breaking it with his bare hands.
In the dim light, he tried to find something that could help him escape, but the cell was completely bare and there was nothing that could be useful.
With a sigh, Robin thought that he would have to wait for the help of his companions, and he wondered if at least Guy had managed to escape. He certainly hadn’t been brought in the cells next to his, but this wasn’t a guarantee of his escape. Perhaps Gisborne was dead, killed by the sheriff's men, or he could be imprisoned in another part of the castle.
Robin hoped he was free and that he was already thinking of a plan to get him out of there.
For the moment he couldn’t do anything but save his strength and wait.
He looked for a slightly less wet corner on the filthy floor of the cell and he sat down, leaning his back against the wall and hugging his arms around his body to warm himself a little. It was cold, but they hadn’t even given him a blanket.

Archer stretched out his bow and released one arrow after another, breaking all the twigs he had planted on the ground, several feet away from where he stood.
He lowered his bow with a satisfied smile, then he put it in Guy's hands.
“Now it's your turn. I bet that what you said about your poor aim was a lie.”
Gisborne and Allan exchanged a look, then Allan moved to go and fix the targets, while Guy shot a test arrow against the trunk of a not too distant tree.
Allan picked up some walnuts from the ground and he was about to arrange them on a horizontal branch of one of the trees, but he changed his mind at the last moment.
He put one of the nuts on his head and he spread his arms, holding two more nuts on the palms of his hands.
Guy frowned and shook his head, but Allan encouraged him.
"You can do it, Giz, and you know that,” he said, smiling at him without the slightest concern.
Gisborne looked at him as if to ask if he was really sure, but Allan didn’t move, unperturbed, and then Guy nodded.
He took aim and released three arrows in rapid succession.
Archer held his breath, wondering if those two were completely crazy or if they knew what they were doing. He saw the three nuts jumping away, hit by the arrows, without Allan suffering the slightest scratch.
Archer turned to look at Guy, impressed, and he saw that his brother was smiling, pleased.
“Liar,” Archer said. “You said you were a terrible archer.”
“I was. Before Robin Hood’s lessons.”
Allan came, grinning, and he held out a hand to the other two, showing the kernels of the walnuts broken by Guy's arrows.
“Are you hungry by chance?”
Guy chuckled and took one, putting it in his mouth with a satisfied expression.
Allan imitated him a moment later and Archer burst out laughing, striking Guy with a pat on the back.
“Well, try to free Robin Hood without getting killed, Gisborne, because when everything is over I'm going to challenge both of you. And this time I won’t believe any of your excuses.”
“Whenever you want, brother,” Guy said, smiling at him, then he approached his horse and held a hand to Allan to help him get into the saddle behind him. “But now we have to go back to Locksley, we need to rest and then I have to find out how to do something.”
“What?” Archer asked, and Guy grinned.
“Nothing special, I just have to figure out how to be able to be in two places at the same time,” he said lightly, then he spurred the horse and headed home.

Chapter Text

Guy felt Allan moving behind him on the saddle and he turned his head to look at him.
“Where you serious when you were talking about being in two places at the same time?”
“If it's the only way to save Robin, yes.”
“But it's impossible!”
“Has this ever stopped us?”
An amused smile brightened Allan's face.
“Actually no, Giz, you're right. If you have to be in two places at the same time, you will be in two places at the same time. We will find a way.”
“We will free Robin, Allan,” Guy said, in a sure tone, trying to convince himself as well as Allan.
“Or we'll keep him company on the gallows.”
Guy answered him with a sort of ironic snort.
“Yeah. Thanks for the optimism, Allan, I needed it.”
“This is what friends are for, isn’t it? To encourage each other and to get killed together.”
Gisborne smiled.
“You know how to raise people's spirits...”
“Learn to duplicate yourself, then, so we won’t die.”
“I'm working on it. Now hold on tight, as soon as the trees are more sparse I will increase the pace, I want to get to Locksley as soon as possible. We don’t have much time, but you're right, we have to sleep at least for a few hours. If we want to hope to save Robin we won’t be able to afford the slightest failure.”
Guy led his horse out of the forest and waited to feel Allan's arms tightening around his waist, then he spurred on the animal, galloping towards Locksley.

Marian lingered for a few more seconds, pretending to carefully examine a pole of the fence that had loosened, and she looked up the road, hoping to see Guy's horse coming back.
With reluctance, she decided to return to the house, turning occasionally to look back.
She was worried for Guy, by now he had gone away with Archer for a few hours and he still hadn’t returned.
She forced herself to think that she had to trust Guy's judgment and that after all, Archer had helped him to save those children, so he didn’t have to be that bad, even if he worked for the sheriff.
But she couldn’t help but feel anxious about Guy's health.
When he had gone out, he was terribly pale and she was sure she had seen him tremble and now she was afraid they had underestimated that malaise and that in reality Guy was seriously ill.
Allan had joked by telling her that she had managed to poison him with her terrible recipes, but Gisborne still had many enemies, it wasn’t impossible that some of them would want to see him dead. What if they had really poisoned him?”
Marian shuddered. Maybe at that moment Guy was dying, without having anyone close to take care of him and comfort him...
“Allan!” She called, feeling the need to share her fear with someone who could understand her, but the young man didn’t answer.
Marian looked for him everywhere, but Allan seemed to have vanished into thin air, and none of the servants had the faintest idea where he had gone.
The girl sighed, irritated. She had hoped to be reassured by talking to him and she had decided to ask him to go look for Guy.
She decided to check if Allan's horse was in the barn or not, but as soon as she left the house, Marian saw Guy's horse coming at a gallop.
As soon as the animal was closer, the girl realized that Allan was sitting in the saddle behind Gisborne, clinging firmly to him so he wouldn’t fall.
Marian wondered why they were together, then she thought that probably Allan must have been worried about his friend and followed him.
Guy stopped the horse in front of her and he dismounted, leaving the reins to Allan to bring the animal into the stable. Marian hugged him impulsively, incredibly relieved to see that her fears had been groundless.
Guy hugged her, a little surprised but not at all displeased by the warm welcome, then Marian pulled away from him to look at his face. The girl raised a hand to caress his cheek as her eyes watched him closely.
“How are you? Are you still unwell? You look less pale than before...”
Guy was moved to see that his lie had caused her so much concern, and once again he felt guilty for all the times he had lied to her and for all the times that he would have to lie in the future.
He held her in his arms, bent his head to kiss her cheek gently and put his lips to the girl's ear to talk to her between kisses.
“I'm fine now,” he whispered. “I told you, getting some air would help me. Were you worried for me?”
Marian nodded and sighed, trying to hold back the tears. She herself didn’t know if she felt like crying because of the anxiety she had felt or for the joy and relief of being in Guy's arms and seeing that he was feeling better.
“I was afraid they'd poisoned you...”
“If you didn’t do it with your pancakes, I doubt anyone else can,” Allan commented happily, coming out of the stable to head towards the house.
Marian let out an irritated snort, then her eyes met Guy's and they both laughed at the young man's insolence.
Guy looked at her laughing, and for a moment he felt so happy and at peace that he thought that if he died at that moment, perhaps his soul wouldn’t be dragged to hell as he had always feared.
I will remember this moment and if tomorrow I will have to die, I’ll do it thinking of her smile.
He buried his hands in her soft curls and he drew her closer, searching for Marian's lips with his and, when he found them, they both lost themselves in that kiss.
“I love you,” Guy whispered a little later, unable to break away from her. “Never forget it, Marian. I love you.”
The girl replied by kissing him again, and she clung to him with a passion veined with despair.
She wanted him, she wanted to be completely his, as her heart already belonged to him, at the cost of being considered a lost woman.
She didn’t care that her father was in the house, a few feet away from them, she didn’t care that the servants could gossip about her, at that moment, for Marian, only Guy counted and the love she felt for him.
We are one.

Guy could feel Marian’s desire, the passion so evident in her kisses, and, as always, he was surprised to be him to stir those feelings in the girl.
Yet he couldn’t be mistaken: Marian trembled in his arms and every kiss made the flames that enveloped their hearts flare up.
Guy thought that passion would end up consuming him until nothing was left, and he discovered that he didn’t care. For Marian he was willing to burn without any regrets.
The girl clung to him, planting her nails in his back to attract him as close as possible to her and she made his body adhere to Guy’s body, without stopping kissing him.
With her so close, the rest of the world was losing importance and Gisborne was about to sweep her off her feet and take her into the house, into his bedroom and then let the love they felt for each other to drive their actions.
If he closed his eyes he could almost see her: Marian lying on his bed, in his arms, with her dark curls scattered on his pillow and her white skin flushed with passion.
That vision was so vivid in his mind, that Guy could imagine every detail, from the slightest fold of the sheets, to the wood grains of the headboard, including the holes left by the arrows of Robin Hood...
That last detail broke the spell, forcing Guy to return with his feet on the ground.
What am I doing?
Robin was a prisoner of the sheriff and who knew in what conditions he was, and he, instead of thinking about how to save him, was letting himself to be carried away by passion, risking among the other things to compromise the innocence of Marian... Guy felt himself burning again, but this time with shame.
He straightened up abruptly, stepping away from Marian and the girl looked at him, amazed and hurt by that sudden detachment.
“What's up, Guy?”
Gisborne shook his head.
“No. This isn’t right...”
“I don’t care...” She whispered, putting a hand on his cheek to lure him back to her, but Guy took a step back, escaping her touch.
He would have liked nothing else than forgetting the rest of the world and abandon himself in Marian's arms, but he couldn’t. Not now and not like that.
He would save Robin and complete the construction of Knighton Hall, and only after doing both these things, he would allow himself to ask for Marian's hand, not before.
He sighed deeply.
“No, Marian.”
The girl looked at him with her eyes full of tears of shame for having offered herself to him so openly and angry that she had been rejected.
“I want it and you want it too.”
“Not like that. I love you and I respect you...”
“So you're the only one! For everyone else I'm already your lover, your slut! For the rest of the world I'm not better than one of those girls who offer themselves to travelers in taverns! So why not making it true? Who would care?!”
Guy stared at her, baffled by her anger and by those words.
“I care! You're not a tavern girl...”
The slap of Marian, strong, sudden and unexpected, silenced him.
Those are fine, right?!” The girl shouted, a moment before turning her back and running into the house, slamming the door behind her.
Gisborne touched his cheek with his hand and stared at the closed door, in the vain hope that Marian would come back, but when it opened again, it was Allan who appeared perplexedly on the threshold.
“What happened, Giz?”
“Nothing. A misunderstanding,” he said with a sigh, and the friend put a hand on his shoulder,
Allan looked at him, worried. They couldn’t afford a nervous breakdown under any circumstances, but Guy looked sad but calm.
“Giz, maybe we should focus on saving Robin, now. You must rest and be able to think clearly, otherwise none of this will be important anymore, if we end up dangling from the gallows. You mustn’t be distracted by anything, not even by her. Later you'll have plenty of time to fix things, but to do that you have to stay alive.”
Gisborne nodded. He didn’t tell him that Marian had been angry for that reason, because he had chosen to wait, but he agreed with Allan's words.
Marian's anger hurt him, but he could understand her reasons and he hoped he could soon explain why he hadn’t asked her to marry him yet.
All he had to do was to wait a little longer, by now the house he was building was almost complete, and in the meantime he had to stay alive, as Allan had said.
"You're right, but we should better go to Knighton Hall now. The barn was finished a few days ago and we can sleep there without being disturbed. Archer will find me there too.”
Allan remembered the furious look he had seen on Marian's face when she came back into the house, and he agreed that it was better to keep away from Locksley for a while.
They took the horses back and mounted, heading for Knighton, side by side.
“Don’t worry Giz, we'll make it.”
“And otherwise we will be dead, so it won’t matter anymore.”
“Now who's the optimist, uh?”
Guy looked at him, with a half smile.
“Thanks, Allan, really.”
“For what?”
“For staying by my side, for being my friend...”
“Stop it, Giz, these are the things you say when you think you're going to die. I prefer when you insult me, it's more normal.”
Gisborne burst out laughing and he decided in his heart that he couldn’t fail because it wasn’t only his life at stake, but also those of Robin and Allan.
“You're an idiot to follow me, Allan, do you know? A perfect fool. Is this better?”
The young man grinned.
"I didn’t have the slightest doubt about it, Giz.”
But I'm glad you're here.

Chapter Text

Allan finished talking to the chief of the workers of Knighton Hall and he went back into the stable, closing the door behind him. He had instructed the men to continue their work and not to disturb Gisborne's rest unless a messenger from Nottingham or Archer arrived in person.
Allan was worried, he knew how much influence every gesture or word of Marian could have on Guy, and he was afraid that their quarrel could upset his friend to the point of clouding his judgment. Gisborne certainly wouldn’t be able to sleep and he would keep ruminating on the girl's harsh words.
“Just the right moment to make a scene, Marian, congratulations...” Allan said, muttering to himself. “You slap him, but then I'm the one who has to put the pieces back together... Maybe it was a deserved slap, I don’t care, it's your business, but it wasn’t really the right time, definitely not.”
He checked that the horses were comfortably arranged in their stalls and that they had food and water, then he approached the empty stall where he and Guy had piled enough clean straw to make a comfortable bed.
“Hey, Giz...” Allan started, ready to encourage and distract his friend, but he stopped immediately.
Gisborne was curled on his side, deeply asleep, a hand holding tight the ring he wore around his neck.
Allan breathed a sigh of relief at seeing that his sleep was quiet and that for once he wasn’t tormented by nightmares. He thought that probably the emotions of that sleepless night must have exhausted him so much that he collapsed into a deep sleep as soon as he had the chance, without having time to torment himself or to think of the quarrel with Marian, or of the mad and desperate mission that soon awaited them.
“Well, all the better,” Allan said, lying on the straw too, and crossing his arms behind his head. “Rest well, Giz, and recover your strength: I really think we'll need it.”

“I knew it! I knew he wasn’t to be trusted! I told Robin too, but do you think he listened to me?”
Much paced back and forth as he spoke, so agitated he couldn’t sit still.
Meg was squatting in front of the fire, thoughtful, while Little John and Will listened to Much's outburst with a dark expression on their faces.
Djaq wasn’t present, Little John had gone to warn Will of Robin's capture, but they both preferred to say nothing to the young woman not to disturb her. Her pregnancy was now quite advanced and Djaq couldn’t do anything to help Robin, so the members of the gang had preferred to leave her in the dark.
“Actually it seemed to me that he was upset when he came back from the castle...” Meg said, interrupting Much's soliloquy. “I don’t think it was his fault.”
“You say that just because you find him attractive,” Will said, in a poisonous tone. “Strangely it’s always the women who defend him, but if you knew him well as we know him, you would know that Much is right: you can’t trust Guy of Gisborne.”
“You can’t imagine the evil things he did in the past,” Little John said, addressing the girl. “You are too innocent to understand how dark his soul can be.”
“But he helped you! As the Nightwatchman he risked his life by your side!”
“And strangely the only time we weren’t there and that Robin was alone with him, Archer managed to capture him.” Much continued. “And Archer and Gisborne have often been seen together in recent times. How strange, isn’t it?”
“But Allan says...”
“Allan is a traitor,” Little John interrupted her and Meg looked at him, stunned.
“Didn’t you know? Didn’t he tell you? Allan has sold our secrets to Gisborne. Whatever Allan says is just another evidence against Gisborne,” Will said, bitterly.
“Robin trusts him.”
“My master has always been too good. And we saw where this trust led him.”
Meg gave up replying to Much's words and she took a piece of meat from the plate, starting to nibble in silence.
It was true that she didn’t know well Guy of Gisborne and that at first she had been convinced that he was only the cruel sheriff's henchman, but she had to admit that he had saved her from the dungeons and he had always been honest to her. He had been kind to her, even when she had behaved badly with him. And Allan...
Meg couldn’t see Allan as a person capable of malice. Insolent for sure, probably a liar, but not an evil one. Finding out that he had betrayed his friends for money deeply saddened her and made her doubt her ability to judge people.

Guy woke up, but he remained still, without opening his eyes. He had every reason in the world to be anguished: Marian was angry with him, Robin was imprisoned and waiting to be executed, and the plan that Guy was starting to put together to save him would have seemed crazy even to Robin Hood himself, but, for some inexplicable reason, Gisborne felt at peace.
The pile of straw on which he was lying was soft and smelled good.
It brought to his mind a peaceful moment of his childhood, a memory that dated back to the period when his life wasn’t too different from that of other children: his father hadn’t yet left for the crusades, Isabella and Robin were still too young to to be able to participate satisfactorily in his games, but old enough for Guy to have a little fun teasing them when his parents pushed him to spend time in the company of the two younger children.
He had once told Robin and his sister that the first of them to find him would have been rewarded with an apple, and then he hid in a place where neither of them would be able to find him. He had sneaked into the barn and climbed up a rickety ladder, then he dug a kind of nest in the straw and from there he watched the two little children frantically searching for him all around the whole village.
Then he must have fallen asleep because when he opened his eyes the sky was dark and studded with stars, and the flickering lights of many torches illuminated the streets of the village.
Guy watched all those people hurrying back and forth and he wondered what had happened. Only when he had seen his mother, anguished and in tears, and heard his name called, he realized that all those people were looking for him.
Guy smiled at that memory, though at the time his father's punishment had made him shed a lot of tears and made it difficult for him to sit down for a few days.
He thought that if he disappeared now, there would hardly be so many people looking for him, but, unlike a few years ago, someone would.
They wouldn’t be many, it was true, but now Guy knew there were people who cared for him.
It was a good feeling.
“Allan?” He called, without opening his eyes, and smiled as he heard the other man's voice answering immediately.
“Are you awake, Giz?”
“If I called you, it means that I am, right?” Guy answered, sitting up, and finally deciding to look at him.
“It's not for sure. Some speak in their sleep. The sheriff even goes around while he sleeps. If you start giving orders to me even while you’re dreaming, I'll ask you for a raise.”
"To dream of you wouldn’t be a great improvement over my nightmares, I'm afraid.”
Allan laughed.
“What do we do now, Giz?”
Guy stood up and ran his hands through his hair to comb it and remove the straws that had been caught in it.
“Has Archer been here?”
“Not yet.”
“Then let's go to the camp and see what are the intentions of the others, then we'll go back to Locksley and we’ll wait for Archer’s news.”

Meg had followed Much, Will and Little John, when the alarm near the entrance to the camp had begun to ring. The other three had hastened to take their bows and arrows and to get out of the secret door, and the girl had followed them, armed with a dagger.
She heard the voices of Guy and Allan before she even saw them: the two men had left the horses tied to a not too distant tree and they had gone to the camp, not knowing that a few hours before Will had changed the position of the traps and of the hidden ropes that would trigger the alarm.

"We had go to the camp, not letting our position known to the whole forest,” Guy said, addressing Allan in a tone of reproach.
“Hey, the last time this rope wasn’t there. How could I know? You didn’t see it too!”
Gisborne snorted.
“Come on, we have no time to waste.”
He took a step and Allan stopped him by grabbing his arm and pulling him back.
“What's up now?” Guy asked and Allan pointed to a noose hidden under the fallen leaves.
“Do you want so much to hang from a tree? They must have changed the position of the traps, but they could at least have warned us.”
An arrow passed through them, too close to their heads, and planted itself in a tree behind them.
This is a warning,” Will said, stretching the bow again.
Allan looked at him, open-mouthed.
“What does it mean?”
“It means that you are no longer welcome here, traitors!” Much said, showing himself to them. “We are far too generous to allow you to leave after what you have done!”
“What?! Did you go crazy, Much? We didn’t do anything!”
Little John changed his grip on the staff, threatening.
“Disappear from our sight before we change our mind.”
Allan shook his head, stunned and he looked at the girl.
“Meg, at least you believe me, don’t you?”
The young woman remained silent and Allan turned to look at Gisborne.
Guy hadn’t said a word, but he didn’t seem too surprised by the behavior of the outlaws.
“Let's go Allan, it's useless,” he said quietly.
“But why? We need their help!”
“We would need their help if they were willing to give it to us. As long as they are convinced that I was the one who got Robin arrested, we won’t get anything from them.”
Allan's eyes widened.
“Is that what you think? But it isn’t true!”
Guy put a hand on his shoulder.
“Forget it. Let's go back to Locksley.”
“Good, go away and don’t show up you again!” Much shouted, outraged.
Guy tightened his grip on Allan's shoulder and forced him back to the horses. They mounted and slowly rode away from the camp.
After a while Gisborne glanced at Allan, who was unusually silent and he wasn’t surprised to see him dispirited.
“How can they believe we helped to capture Robin?! I wasn’t even there!” The young man said, dejected. “It's not fair, Giz. Didn’t we help them? Haven’t we proved to be on their side?!”
“I expected it,” Guy said, and Allan stared at him, surprised.
“Robin knows I'm sincere, but, apart from Djaq, the others have always tolerated me only because they love him. It doesn’t surprise me that they think so. They don’t know anything about Archer, they can’t imagine he's our brother and that it was Robin who urged me to get close to him. They saw me making friends with the sheriff's henchman, and then Robin was caught just the one time he and I were on a mission together without the others. Meg must have told them that it was Archer who let me go, and maybe they even saw me walking away with him this morning. If you didn’t know everything you would have suspicions too, Allan.”
Allan sighed.
“But how will we do now? I thought they would help us free Robin...”
“I didn’t. If I decided to go to the camp it was just to be sure. My plan doesn’t change.”
“You and me, then?”
“And maybe Archer.”
Allan remained silent for a few seconds.
“What do you think, Giz, will hell be so terrible?”
“Do you plan to go there soon?”
“I think this depends on your plan.” Allan grinned, shrugging. “Well, if it goes wrong, at least we'll be in good company.”
Guy smiled, shaking his head resignedly.

Meg watched them until she was sure they were actually heading for Locksley, then she chose a shortcut and she started running. She didn’t know if Guy of Gisborne and Allan A Dale were traitors or not, but she was willing to find it out.
She would follow them and watch them until she was able to understand what their intentions were, without listening to the prejudices of others. She wanted to see the truth with her own eyes.

Chapter Text

When Guy and Allan returned to Locksley, Marian was seated in the main room with Sir Edward, and she apparently was so focused on a particularly challenging embroidery, that she merely saluted the two men in a cold tone.
Her father gave her a puzzled look, but he didn’t ask questions. Guy glanced sadly at her for a moment, but did nothing to try to talk to her, and he and Allan sat at the table, asking Thornton to bring them a quick meal that they consumed in silence.
The announcement of one of the servants who signaled the arrival of a messenger from Nottingham, accompanied by an escort of soldiers, was a relief for Guy and Allan who expected his arrival, and a cause for concern for the other two.
All four went out to welcome the newcomers, and Guy noticed that Archer himself was at the head of the escort.
The messenger dismounted and announced that the outlaw Robin Hood had been captured and would be put to death tomorrow at noon, and that the presence of all the nobles of the council was required.
Marian winced and paled, but she said nothing to the sheriff's men, while Guy and Sir Edward confirmed their obedience to that order.
Archer had remained on the sidelines with the soldiers while the messenger read his announcement, but when he left, passing in front of Guy, he whispered to look into the saddlebag of his black stallion. Gisborne nodded imperceptibly as the other left without paying any further attention to him.
As soon as the last soldier disappeared in the distance, Marian turned to look at Guy.
“You knew it, didn’t you? Is that why he came here to talk to you this morning?”
Gisborne stared at her for a moment, then nodded.
“And what are you going to do?” Marian asked.
Guy sighed.
“Nothing. I can do nothing.”
Marian looked at him, incredulous.
“But Robin saved your life!”
“It's true. And for this it would be wrong to throw it away in a mission without any hope of success.”
“The castle will be much more guarded than usual, the sheriff won’t take risks, and Archer is extremely efficient. If I tried to free Robin, it would surely end badly, and all of you would end up paying the consequences. At best you’d find yourself banished, stripped of land and titles, at worst the sheriff would accuse you of complicity and you’d end up keeping company to me and Robin on the gallows. Is that what you want, Marian?”
“But there must be a way!”
“If it exists, I can’t find it.”
“So will you let Robin die?”
“What else could I do? I can’t put you in danger. You are more important, Marian.”
“It's not true! Without Robin what will happen to the people of Nottingham?!”
“For me you are more important. I won’t risk your life, not when there is no possibility. Don’t ask me to do it.”
The girl looked at him, in tears, and she started to protest, but Sir Edward shut her up.
“Marian, Sir Guy is right. Trying to save Robin would be useless and disastrous and it would cost the lives of many of us, I'm sure he wouldn’t want it at this price, either.”
“So we'll go there just to watch him die?!”
“If I could avoid it, I would. But our presence is obligatory, so yes, that's what we will do. We will see him die and we’ll pray for his soul. And, Marian, I forbid you to take any initiative to try to free him.”
The girl looked at her father, in shock, then she searched for Guy's and Allan's eyes, but all three looked away.
Marian burst into tears and she ran upstairs, slamming her bedroom door behind her.
Allan, who had remained silent until then, approached Gisborne and put a hand on his shoulder, sympathetic, while Sir Edward looked at the two younger men, thoughtful.
"I'd like to talk to you, Sir Guy, but not here. Do you mind if we walk for a while towards the forest?”
Guy gave a questioning look at Allan, and Sir Edward nodded.
“If there are no secrets among you, he can come too.”
They all went out and walked slowly toward the trees, going up the hill. Guy held out his arm to Sir Edward so the old nobleman wouldn’t risk tripping over uneven ground.
When they were far enough away from the house and the village, Marian's father turned to Guy in a low voice.
“Tell me the truth, Sir Guy, will you try to save Robin Hood?”
“I imagined that. But why did you let Marian believe you won’t?”
"I know I've disappointed her, and if Robin were to die she would never forgive me, but she doesn’t have to know what I'm going to do, or she'd try to help me and she’d put herself in danger. And she doesn’t have to know that I'm the Nightwatchman, so she won’t have to lie if the sheriff decides to question her about it. This in case I succeed.”
“And if you don’t?”
“If they kill me or capture me, you have to take her away from Nottingham at any cost, as soon as possible, and you must prevent her from making rash moves. Make the servants drag her away, drug her if you must, but force her to escape and take refuge in a safe place, where the sheriff can’t find you. If I fall, you too will be in danger.”
“Sir Guy, your death would break her heart...”
“Remember her the reasons she has to go on, tell her that I want her to continue living and to be happy even without me. And tell her about the Nightwatchman, explain to her that this was the reason I lied to her and why I sometimes disappeared from Locksley in the middle of the night. Reassure her of my love, tell Marian that all my thoughts, every breath and every beat of my heart have always belonged only to her, and that I have never wanted anything else.”
“Sir Guy...” Marian's father started, but Gisborne interrupted him.
“Seth! Take her to see Seth. If I were to die, Adeline's house would be a safe haven for you, and in my son Marian could find a reason to live. He resembles me, in Seth there is a part of me and he could be of consolation. I entrust him to Marian, I know she will be able to love him.”
“Giz stop it!” Allan blurted, and Guy was surprised to find him in tears.
“Stop talking like that! As if you were sure that tomorrow you are going to die too!”
Guy smiled at him, a little moved.
“Tomorrow we will save Robin Hood. But Sir Edward must know what to do in the unlikely event of our failure. And on this subject, Allan, if I should fall and you don’t, promise me that you will try to survive to protect Marian.”
“Only if you promise that in the opposite case you’ll give my name to the first child you have,” Allan said seriously, then Guy saw the usual impertinent expression rekindled in his eyes. “But I absolutely refuse to eat her pancakes in your place.”
Sir Edward looked at them, smiling slightly.
“Try to survive, then, both of you. In any case, tomorrow I will make sure that Marian doesn’t take dangerous initiatives and that she doesn’t interfere with anything you intend to do.”
“Get help from Thornton and the other servant if it’s necessary to take her away against her will,” Allan suggested. “Marian can be very determined when she wants.”
“Let's go back to Locksley,” Guy said, looking at his friend. “I have to check Archer's message and then we have to get ready. Tomorrow we won’t be able to afford the slightest mistake.”
“Go then. Hurry up and do not wait for me, I will come back slowly,” Sir Edward said. “May the Lord watch over you.”
Allan and Guy thanked the old lord, then they hurried back to Locksley.

Gisborne entered the stables and approached the black stallion. The horse greeted him puffing, stretching his nose in search of an apple or some other tasty morsel.
Guy had nothing to give him and he just scratched his muzzle for a few seconds before sinking his arm in the saddlebag to look for Archer's message.
He extracted a parcel, accompanied by a rolled parchment.
Allan looked at him curiously as Guy began to read the message.
“What's this? What does it say?” He asked after a while.
“Archer says that there are some ‘secrets of the Orient’ in it, along with instructions for using them, while in the message he describes in every detail the positions of the guards and what is planned for the execution of tomorrow.”
“We'll have to study it well, then.”
Guy smiled.
“Yep, but do you know what this means?” He asked, showing the parchment to his friend.
“That Archer trusts us. If the sheriff were to find out he gave me this document, he would accuse him of treason, and he would condemn him to death for sure. Archer believes we can save Robin, otherwise he wouldn’t compromise himself that much.”
“Or it's a trap,” Allan said, killing the smile on Guy's face with those words.
“Yeah. Or it's a trap,” Guy repeated with a short sigh. “We'll have to think about how to behave in that event, but I want to hope that it isn’t a trap. Now come, we have a lot to do and little time to get ready.”
“Where are we going?”
“To Knighton Hall. There nobody will disturb us. But before leaving, I have to take some things here at Locksley. Meanwhile, prepare the horses. Use the best saddles and reins, we must give the impression of wanting to please the sheriff.”

Chapter Text

Allan closed the last clasp of the black leather jacket, and he looked at himself, doubtfully.
“They will never believe it, Giz.”
Guy watched him: Allan was wearing his spare jacket and black leather pants identical to his.
"They'll have to believe it, or we'll both be hanged."
“You are taller than me and I have light hair...”
Gisborne drew a small cloth bag from the bundle that had been left by Archer, and he held it on the palm of his hand to show it to his friend.
“But we have these. Make sure to throw them in some brazier and they'll make enough smoke to obscure the view. And then they will all be focused on Robin and the Nightwatchman, no one will have any interest in you.”
“I hope so, Giz.”
“If they find you out, just think about running away, alright? Now put on a tunic and cloak, nobody must to see how you are dressed.”
“If the sheriff doesn’t, it will be the heat to kill me,” Allan complained, wearing those layers of additional clothing.
"Believe me, Allan, in hell it would be even hotter. And that's where we'll end if someone were to notice our deception.”
“So you really want to save Robin,” said a female voice behind them.
The two men winced, and Guy turned abruptly, drawing his sword.
He stopped just a moment before attacking, recognizing Meg.
“What are you doing here?!” He blurted. “Never do something like that again!”
The girl checked that the door of the stable was closed behind her before approaching Guy and Allan with a pleased expression.
“I was sure of it.”
“Sure of what?”
“That you two weren’t traitors. The others are convinced of it, but I couldn’t believe it.”
Gisborne sheathed his sword and sat down on a bale of hay, saddened.
“Robin is like a brother to me, I would give my life to save him.”
“And it's probably what you'll do today,” Allan commented with half a sigh, “yours and mine too.”
Meg smiled at them both to encourage them.
“I'm sure you have a good plan. Can I help too?”
A smile lit up Allan's face.
“Would you really do it? For us?”
“For you and for Robin,” the girl confirmed.
“It may be dangerous,” Guy warned her, worried.
“It’s dangerous for you, for Allan, for Robin, why should it be a problem if I take some risks too? I'm part of the gang, I don’t want you to consider me different from the others just because I'm a girl. So, what do you want me to do?”
Guy looked at her for a moment, then he handed her some of the little bags contained in the bundle he was holding, and he gave the others to Allan.
“Well then. You will take care of the ‘secrets of the Orient’ too. Let Allan explain what you need to do and the right time to use them.”
Guy took the last item in Archer's package, an iron key, and he slipped it into the sleeve of his jacket, in the same place where he usually kept one of his curved daggers, then he threw away the cloth that had contained everything.
“Well, it's time,” Guy said. “Allan and I have to reach Sir Edward and Marian, Meg, take one of the horses and go to Nottingham, mingle with the crowd who will come to watch the execution and wait for Allan.”
Meg held out a hand to them.
“For Robin, then.”
Allan immediately put his hand on that of the girl, imitated a moment later by Gisborne.
“For Robin.” They repeated together, before parting their hands and approaching the horses.
Guy got into the saddle.
“Here we go. It begins.”

Vaisey paced back and forth on the highest part of the staircase, observing with satisfaction the faces of the nobles gathered on the lower steps and those of the people who crowded the courtyard, around the platform of the gallows.
Everyone, without any distinction between nobles and beggars, the sheriff thought, had the same unhappy air.
Their discontent put Vaisey in a good mood.
It was clear that they were all anguished for the fate of Robin Hood even if they tried not to show it, and he would punish them by making him dangle from the gallows before their eyes, without they could do anything to avoid it.
“Well, bring the prisoners!” He said cheerfully, and the guards escorted Robin Hood and the man who had made an attempt on Archer's life a few days earlier.
The soldiers secured Robin's chains to the wooden pole of the gallows and the archers on the walls of the castle held him under their aim, while Vaisey approached the other man.
The peasant was beside himself with terror and he seemed not to realize what was happening, screaming disconnected phrases to the soldiers who held him still.
“I was told that this man, even if to see him now it doesn’t seem possible, has attacked my authority by trying to kill my emissary.” Vaisey said, looking at the prisoner in disgust, then he returned to approach the nobles, staring at them one by one before stopping next to Guy.
He put his hands on his shoulders from behind, putting his face so close to Gisborne’s that he almost touched his cheek with his own. Guy remained motionless. “And I was also told that for once in his useless life, Gizzy did something good, saving Archer's life and saving me the trouble of having to look for another helper. Didn’t you, Gizzy? You felt like a hero, didn’t you? Look!”
Vaisey gestured to the soldiers and one of them put the noose around the peasant's neck, while the other kicked off the stool from under his feet, letting him dangle.
The prisoner kicked convulsively, then his movements slowed to a complete stop and he remained permanently immobile.
The sheriff moved in front of Guy, continuing to tighten a hand on his shoulder and stared into his eyes.
“So, Gizzy, what do you think? If it hadn’t been for you, he would have escaped justice.”
Guy could clearly feel the horror of the people around him. Even without looking, he knew that Marian had to be upset and that she was probably squeezing her father's hand hard to stop herself from reacting. He himself was sickened by the man's inglorious death and by the sheriff's expression, but he forced himself to remain impassive.
He moistened his lips with his tongue before he could respond to Vaisey, but when he did, his voice sounded steady and quiet, as if that execution were completely indifferent to him.
“He was a criminal and he received the punishment required by law.”
“Don’t be modest, Gizzy. You deserve a reward for what you did. Come, come with me.”
The sheriff pulled him by the arm, forcing him to climb with him on the platform of the gallows and for a moment Guy was sure that Vaisey would deliver him to the soldiers to be hanged too.
He glared at Archer, fearing that he had been betrayed by him and that this was a trap to execute him, but his stepbrother was merely watching the scene with a neutral expression on his face.
Vaisey released him as soon as they arrived in front of Robin Hood, and Guy stood still, trying to understand the sheriff's intentions. Robin's hands were tied with iron chains and he was bare-chested. He must have been beaten up while he was a prisoner because his skin was marked by various bruises.
“Look at him, Gizzy, look well at him. The infamous Robin Hood, in chains and helpless! For how many years did he manage to make fun of you, eh, Gizzy? How many times have you tried in vain to capture him? How many humiliations have you suffered from him? What do you have to say for yourself to explain all those failures?”
“He was a skillful opponent.”
“Or were you a poor one? Look at Archer, it didn’t take him long to catch Hood.”
Guy didn’t answer and the sheriff smiled at him.
“But don’t be sad, Gizzy, today you'll still have a reward. You see? It's all connected: if you hadn’t saved Archer's life, he wouldn’t have captured Hood. So we can say that it’s also thanks to you and that you deserve a reward. Something that will make you happy, what do you say?”
“It isn’t necessary, my lord. Anyone else would have acted in the same way,” Guy replied. The words of Vaisey made him nervous. It was clear that the sheriff had something in mind and he didn’t know what to expect.
He had counted on taking advantage of the confusion caused by Archer's smoke bombs and pretend to faint because of the smoke, so Allan could replace him while he intervened as the Nightwatchman, but if the sheriff drew all that attention on him, the swap would be much more difficult.
He looked away from Robin and stared into the space. Seeing his friend wounded and humiliated like that risked to crack the mask of indifference that he was forced to show in front of the sheriff.
“No, Gizzy, you deserve a prize, you can’t refuse. Today you will have the chance to take revenge on all the humiliations you suffered, and to prove your loyalty at the same time. Archer, come.”
The young man approached the sheriff and Vaisey took a leather whip from his hands, the same whip that Archer had used to hit Guy a long time ago. The sheriff ran his fingers over the handle of the whip before putting it in Gisborne's hand.
“Hit Hood, Gizzy! Do your worst and show me what you're capable of. Aren’t you happy? You can take revenge on every failure you had to suffer because of him. Now get busy, I want to hear him scream, but don’t kill him, he must hang from the gallows.”
Guy dropped the whip, horrified.
He knew very well how much suffering that tool could cause, and he would no longer be able to use it to inflict pain on someone. Certainly not on Robin.
Vaisey looked at him.
“You became clumsy, Gizzy. Now pick it up.”
Guy didn’t move, petrified. Archer gave him a meaningful look to urge him to obey, taking care not to be seen by the sheriff, but Gisborne couldn’t force himself to touch the whip.
Vaisey stared at him, like a hawk ready to jump on its prey.
Robin burst out laughing.
“What’s up, Gisborne? Are you afraid that I can make you look like an idiot again, even if I'm tied?” He said derisively. “By now you should be used to it, right? You probably wouldn’t be able to hit me even if your life depended on it.”
Guy winced at Robin's words.
Are you saying that I have to do it, brother? That if I don’t hit you, the sheriff will kill both of us?
He knew that he had no choice, that if he didn’t whip Robin Hood, Vaisey would accuse him of treason and he would kill him immediately. And once he was dead, the plan would fail and Robin wouldn’t have any hope either.
To save him he had to hit him, Guy was perfectly aware of it, and yet the very thought of what he was about to do made him want to throw up.
He took a deep breath to ease the nausea, and he bent down to pick up the whip.
He straightened up and tightened his fingers on the leather handle. Absurdly, he found himself thinking that it was fortunate that he was wearing gloves, because otherwise the whip would have slipped off his sweaty hands.
“Come on Gizzy, we don’t have all day. Come on, begin, I want to hear him ask for mercy,” the sheriff said, cheerfully.
Guy raised his arm and he flicked the whip. He wanted to close his eyes, but he forced himself not to do it, and he saw Robin startle as a red line appeared on his bare back.
Gisborne remembered all too well the searing pain caused by that kind of injury and he was about to turn around and run away, at the cost of being killed by archers on the walls.
He didn’t move.
Too many other lives depended on his own, starting with Robin's.
Guy wanted nothing more than to escape, but he couldn’t do it.
Instead, he raised his arm once more, and he hit again.

Chapter Text

Allan realized that he had held his breath only when Meg touched his arm, making him start. He forced himself to look away from the platform of the gallows and to look at the girl.
Meg, unlike him, kept her eyes on the ground and she could not look up.
“You didn’t expect this, did you?” Meg whispered.
“What do we do now?”
"We have to stop it somehow, or Giz will be shattered."
Meg looked at him, in surprise. Robin was the one who was suffering the whipping, but Allan was worried about Gisborne.
“Have you seen the scars on his back? Giz knows exactly how badly each of those lashes hurts. Every blow on the back of Robin also injures him, straight to the heart.”
Meg took one of the smoke bombs.
“Shall we use these, then?”
Allan nodded. It would have been better to wait a little longer and take advantage of a time when people's attention wasn’t on Guy, but they couldn’t allow the flogging to go on for long.
“Be ready.”
The girl nudged him to get his attention and she pointed to a spot in the crowd.
“Look, that's Much! And there are Will and Little John there!”
“They must have something in mind...”
Allan kept an eye on them and realized that, around them, the people, already in a bad mood for the forthcoming execution of Robin Hood, began to roar even more.
“They want to start a riot!”
Allan and Meg saw with horror that a couple of persons had collected stones from the ground and started throwing them toward the gallows.
Almost all of them missed the target, but one hit Guy in the shoulder, making him wince with pain.
Gisborne had raised his arm to whip Robin again and he stopped, but Vaisey sternly ordered him to continue, casting a significant glance in the direction of Marian and Sir Edward.
Allan looked at him as he struck Robin again, amid the screams and insults of an increasingly angry mob, and he realized that if he didn’t act quickly, those people would end up lynching Guy.
Meg put a stone in his hand and Allan stared at her, not understanding.
“Hit him, hurry!”
“According to the plan he had to pretend to faint because of the smoke, right? It wouldn’t work, now he has too many eyes on him, but if you hit him with a stone it would be credible. You just have to make him understand that he has to play along.”
Allan nodded.
“As soon as Giz is on the ground, throw the bags into the braziers, we'll have to take advantage of the commotion.”
“Do you have his mask and his bow?”
“They are hidden under my cloak.”
“Well then, good luck.”
The girl turned away from him and Allan turned his attention back to the gallows. He had to get Gisborne's attention and he had to do it quickly, so that his friend understood what he had to do.
He covered his face with the hood of his cloak, ready to throw the stone, and he called to Guy, shouting at him in a threatening voice.
“Hey, sheriff's dog! Take this!”

Gisborne had the impression that he was in the middle of one of his worst nightmares: a furious mob was about to attack him, the sheriff threatened not too covertly the people he cared for, and he was forced to inflict on Robin Hood a pain that he knew it was excruciating.
He was trapped in a situation without escape and he couldn’t get out of it on his own.
A stone had hit him on the shoulder, making him moan in pain, and for a moment he couldn’t do anything, petrified by terror, then Vaisey had looked at Marian and he had found himself blindly obeying him.
He had struck Robin again, and he had hated himself for each of the red marks that crossed his friend's back, then Allan's voice had reached him through the shouts of the crowd.
The phrase shouted by his friend was nothing but an insult, but Guy recognized it for what it really was: an anchor of salvation, the promise of help that was coming to save him from that situation.
Allan's stone barely touched him, missing his temple by a few millimeters, but Guy screamed, dropped the whip and covered his head and face with his hands, staggering forward as if he had been hit.
Guy bumped into Robin Hood and he took the opportunity to drop the key of the chains into his hand, then he fell to his knees holding his face in his hands.
In a moment Guy slipped his curved dagger out of his sleeve and used it to scratch his forehead deeply enough to make it bleed.
Vaisey joined him, grabbing him by the collar of his jacket to shake him and get him up from the ground.
“Get up, imbecile! Do you think you have finished?” Vaisey shouted, and Guy leaned heavily on him, as if he couldn’t stand on his own. Blood ran down his face from the wound on his forehead and it dripped on Vaisey.
The sheriff pushed him away, disgusted, and Gisborne, falling, clung to one of the banners hanging from the castle wall, dragging it to the ground with him. The heavy cloth fell on him, covering his upper body and Guy stood still, pretending to have fainted.
He didn’t even move when the sheriff hit him with a kick in the back, even if the blow had been so strong that it made his old wounds hurt.

Allan smiled as he saw that Gisborne had understood his intentions and acted accordingly. His friend had also had enough presence of mind to solve one of the problems that had worried Allan more: pulling on that banner, Guy had made sure to find himself with his head covered by the cloth and so, once they made the swap, nobody would notice that Allan had much lighter hair than Guy.
He waited to see the smoke emanating from various points in the yard and in turn he threw more bags into the braziers, then, as panic broke, Allan took advantage of the reduced visibility to run to Guy.
He took off his cloak, the leather mask he had slipped into his belt, his bow and arrows, and handed them over to Gisborne as he pulled off his tunic that hid his black leather clothes.
Guy turned the cloak over and put it on quickly, closing it well and covering his face with the mask, then he grabbed the bow and quiver and ran away, taking advantage of the still thick smoke as Allan crawled in his place, under the fallen banner.
Gisborne found the stairs that led to the walls and he knocked down the guard who watched them, then he ran upstairs. He had to get to the walkway on the walls as soon as possible, before the smoke cleared, otherwise they would understand that he came from the courtyard and the sheriff might have suspects on him.
To make the presence of the Nightwatchman more plausible in the castle, Guy took a roll of rope, tied it to a merlon, and unrolled it out of the walls, mentally thanking Archer for having actually left it at the appointed spot.
He would also have to congratulate Allan on the idea of the reversible cloak: during the night Allan had sewed another cloak of rougher cloth inside his Nightwatchman cloak, so that, wearing it on reverse, it looked like a simple peasant garment. In that way Allan had not had to hide too many objects on him to introduce the Nightwatchman costume into the castle. Guy thought that the idea could be useful on other future occasions, to confuse tracks and disappear in the crowd in case of need.
He hit the archers who guarded the turret, and he took their place, looking down to the courtyard.
By now the smoke had begun to thin out, and Guy could see that Allan had succeeded in taking his place and that he was on the ground, half covered by the banner. He hoped that nobody would pay any attention to him and that they wouldn’t discover the deception, otherwise it would be the end for both of them.
The sheriff screamed and fussed, as Archer stepped forward with his guards through the panicked crowd to try to appease the excitement and find the perpetrators of that smoke curtain. Robin was still standing by the gallows and Guy hoped that the key he had given him really opened his chains, otherwise everything he was doing would be useless.
As long as the lashes he had given him hadn’t hurt him too severely to allow him to escape, Guy thought, tormented by guilt.
How could I?
He knew he had no choice but he couldn’t forgive himself.
Guy looked at the sheriff who was shouting and held out his bow, pointing it at him.
It's his fault! He keeps ruining my life! It's always him!
For a moment it seemed too easy for Guy to hit the sheriff’s heart or his throat, to take revenge for every abuse and to leave him to agonize on the ground, to suffocate in his own blood.
He aimed at Vaisey, determined to kill him, but moved the bow slightly at the last moment and the arrow brushed against the sheriff's neck, planting itself in the fabric of his robe instead and nailing it against the wooden door of the castle. Before Vaisey could have time to scream, four more arrows touched him, immobilizing him even more against the door.
The sheriff ordered Archer and the guards to capture the Nightwatchman and Guy prepared to defend himself. He had plenty of arrows and was determined to keep the soldiers engaged long enough to allow Robin to escape.
First he targeted the other archers on the walls, trying to avoid their shots.
Gisborne had never flung arrows so fast and so accurately, but he was sustained by all the rage and pain that had built up in him while the sheriff had forced him to whip Robin Hood. That storm of feelings that had threatened to devour his soul seemed to have turned into a cold fury that allowed him to hit one target after another without error and without feeling any effort.
Robin moved as soon as Guy had shot down the last archer: he freed himself from the chains and jumped off the platform, letting himself to be surrounded by people, all of them more than determined to hide and protect him.
Little John and Much made their way to him to help him escape, while Will sneaked up to the gate and hit the guard who protected the locking mechanism.
The portcullis was lifted and the tumultuous crowd poured out of the castle, dragging both Robin and the outlaws with them.
The nobles were still gathered on the stairs, protected by a line of soldiers who tried to prevent the fleeing peasants from jostling or overwhelming them. Guy could see that Sir Edward had clung to Marian, both to protect her and to prevent her from intervening in any way, and in his heart he thanked the old lord.
As soon as he saw Robin Hood disappear beyond the gate, Gisborne realized it was time to disappear too. He threw a flurry of arrows at Archer, who was trying to get closer to the walls and he stopped him without hurting him, just as he had done for the sheriff, then he aimed at the soldiers and those men halted, afraid of being hit.
Guy got out of the turret and ran along the walls, towards the main building, until he found what he was looking for: one of the long drapes with Vaisey colors hanging on the facade of the castle.
He put his bow on his back and drew two daggers, holding one in each hand, then he climbed onto the parapet of the walls and jumped, throwing himself at the banner attached to the castle wall. He sank the daggers into the fabric and used them to slow his descent, tearing the fabric down as he went down.
Guy rolled heavily to the ground, right at the feet of Meg, and the girl threw the last smoke bombs into the fire before helping him to get up again, grabbing him by the arm. She took bow and arrows from him, then she joined the fleeing crowd, while Gisborne returned to Allan, hidden by the smoke again.
Meg ran away and hid in a stable just outside the castle, the same where she had left the horse a few hours before. She leaned out the door to peer out, her heart in her throat. She knew that Robin and the other members of the gang had already fled, but she couldn’t know if Gisborne and Allan had succeeded in swapping places again.
If the smoke had thinned out too quickly or if anyone had seen them, they would both die.
She waited for what seemed like an eternity, then Allan slipped into the barn, panting after the run.
Meg threw her arms around him for the relief of seeing him alive after having worried for so long, then she pulled back suddenly and blushed at the impulsive gesture.
“So you missed me!” Allan grinned and Meg punched him on the arm, indignant.
“I was just worried, you fool. It took you so long to get here that I thought they had discovered you!”
“I just lingered to check that Giz had no problems, but the swap went well, no one saw us.”
The girl smiled.
“So now nobody can suspect him.”

Guy closed his eyes and remained motionless, lying on the stones that paved the courtyard of the castle. The fallen banner that covered his head gave him the impression that he couldn’t breathe properly, but it also mercifully dampened the sunlight and the sounds that surrounded him, reducing everything to a confused and muffled murmur.
Now that the moment of action had passed, Guy felt without energy, his heart beating furiously in his chest and his head throbbing because of the wound. The cut he had inflicted on himself was still bleeding: Guy felt the skin of his face wet and sticky and the smell of blood gave him nausea.
He wrapped his arms around his body, with a shiver. He knew he had just saved Robin Hood's life, but he couldn’t rejoice in the perfect success of his plan, the only thing he could think of was the sound of the whip and the excessively red blood running down Robin's pale skin.
Suddenly the banner that covered him was ripped off, and a new twinge of pain crossed his back, followed immediately by another and another.
Guy opened his eyes and rolled sideways to escape the pain and the next kick of the sheriff hit him in the ribs, making him moan.
“Useless being! Incompetent fool! Instead of doing your duty and helping to stop Robin Hood, you are knocked down by a miserable pebble!” Vaisey shouted, emphasizing each sentence with another kick to Guy. “I wonder how I managed to keep you at my service for so long! Disappear from my sight now, pathetic wreckage, go back to bury yourself in your musty little house with your leper friend! Your only presence disgusts me! Archer!”
The sheriff struck Guy one last time and he left him on the ground, then he walked over to his henchman to vent his anger and frustration on him as well.
Guy rolled over on his side with a groan and he didn’t move, stunned with pain, until someone shook him and helped him to get up, almost lifting him off the ground to help him climb into a wagon.
The man who had supported him was one of Locksley's servants, and after helping Guy on the wagon, he took the reins. Sir Edward sat in the front, near the driver, while Marian was in the seat next to Guy's, but she kept her head down, not looking at him.
Gisborne slumped in the seat without saying anything, aching and downcast. He felt shattered for having to hit Robin and he felt even worse if he thought about how his behavior must have looked in Marian's eyes.
He had refused to intervene in Robin's favor and, even worse, he had once again lent himself to be the executioner at the orders of the sheriff. He knew he had saved Robin's life and that was a consolation, but Marian couldn’t imagine that he was the Nightwatchman: in her eyes he had only looked like a dog under the orders of Vaisey, a fool who had been stunned by a stone and who had suffered the abuse of the sheriff without uttering a word. A coward.
He looked up, feeling the girl's eyes on him and sighed.
“I disappointed you,” he said softly.
Marian didn’t deny it.
“I can’t say I'm proud of you today. You whipped him, Guy! Yet you should know how painful it is!”
“Do you think I don’t know?! But I had to protect you!” Guy blurted.
Marian was about to reply that she didn’t need to be protected, not if that was the price to pay, but she stopped, seeing that Guy’s eyes were bright with tears and that he seemed already too distressed.
She took a handkerchief and moistened it with a little water, then she laid the flask beside her on the seat and she turned to Gisborne, starting to gently wipe the blood from his face.
Guy looked at her, amazed at the kind gesture, and the girl gave him a faint smile, continuing to dabble his face with the handkerchief.
“Today you didn’t show your best side, it's true, but at least your intentions were good. I've seen you do worse in the past, much worse, and I still fell in love with you. It won’t be what happened today to change the feelings I have for you.”
“Really.” Marian kissed him on the cheek, tenderly, then she pulled him to her, making him rest his head on her shoulder and she stroked his hair gently, untangling it with her fingers. “Now come here and close your eyes, you got a bad blow on the head, and then the sheriff’s kicks must have hurt you a lot. Rest, Guy, I will take care of you.”
Guy leaned against Marian with a sigh and he gave himself over to her gentle touch, letting it ease the suffering he felt.
The girl continued to caress him gently, bending from time to time to kiss his forehead and disheveled hair, and meanwhile she looked at the dusty road, immersed in the golden light of the sunset.
A smile flickered on her lips: even that unhappy day had finally come to an end.
They were going home.

Chapter Text

Guy held one hand pressed to his chest to calm his heartbeat and he tried to slow his breathing, but he couldn’t calm down. The nightmare had returned again, far too real, and he had woken up with the sound of the whip cracking against the skin of another innocent.
At first, Guy only dreamed of what actually happened, then the nightmares had become more complex and, instead of Robin, shouting under the blows of his whip, he had flogged all the people he loved, one after the other, and each time he had been forced to hit them without mercy.
The arrow that came in through the open window made him startle with surprise, then Guy ripped it away from the headboard, threw it under the bed with the others and he closed his eyes again, hiding his head under the pillow.

Marian took the flour bag, then she closed it and put it away with a sigh. What was the point in rushing to prepare a breakfast that no one would eat?
Marian called the young man who was dozing in a chair by the fire, and Allan looked up at her.
"Are you sure Guy hasn’t suffered any more injuries than the blow to the head and the sheriff's kicks?”
“Physically Giz is fine, apart from a few bruises.”
“Why doesn’t he get up then? It's been three days, and he spent most of his time sleeping. I'm worried about him, Allan.”
“The sheriff has forced him to commit a terrible action and for Giz it must have been even more terrible if we think about what he suffered last year... I think it's normal that he's still upset.”
Marian watched the flames dancing in the fireplace.
"I would like to be with him, but I have the impression that he prefers to be alone. He said he obeyed the sheriff to protect me... Allan, is it my fault? Will the sheriff always have power over him because of me? If so, Guy will eventually hate me.”
“Now you are the second one in this house who doesn’t think rationally. Giz could never hate you, not even if you rip his heart away with your bare hands. If someone has faults, it's just Vaisey, not you two, and you know what? It's time for Giz to get out of his den.”

Guy had just fallen asleep when the sound of the door being slammed open suddenly made him wake up with a start.
“Hey, Giz!” Allan greeted him, closing the door behind him with another thud and approaching the bed.
Gisborne didn’t look at him and he answered without raising his face from the pillow.
“What do you want, Allan? Leave me alone.”
Allan sat down on the edge of the bed and leaned forward to look at him: Guy was lying on his stomach and his face was sunk in the pillow. The only portion of the face still visible was half hidden by tangled strands of hair that covered his eyes.
“You look like anything but in peace, my friend.”
Guy moved and turned on his side to look at him, in a bad mood.
“Go away, I'm tired.”
“Tired after three days spent in bed? Sorry, but it seems unlikely.”
“As I close my eyes, nightmares come to torment me. Do you have any idea how many times I used that damn whip, Allan? Hundreds. Thousands, maybe. And I could never do anything to stop it. Dream after dream, night after night, I am forced to hurt the people I love!”
Allan grabbed him by the arm and pulled him up to make him sit on the bed.
“And don’t you think it's a good reason to get up? What's the point of staying here and wait for the next nightmare?”
“I can’t do it.”
“Don’t say nonsense, Giz. You get up now, try to look like a human being again, and come to eat something.” Allan raised a finger to cut off the protest of his friend in the bud. "And don’t say no, or next time it will be Marian who will come and drag you out of here. Do you really want her to see you in these conditions?”
Guy didn’t answer, but Allan knew that eventually his friend would listen to him, and he squeezed his shoulder in a gesture of encouragement.
“Come on, now get ready, we'll wait for you downstairs.”
Allan went to the door and stood for a moment in the doorway, noting only then the arrows hidden under the bed.
“Sooner or later you'll have to talk to him, do you know?” He said, then he left the room, leaving Guy alone.
Guy shuddered and took a blanket from the bed to put it on his shoulders, but he didn’t return to lie down. Allan was right, if he didn’t decide to leave his room, Marian would tire of waiting and she would come looking for him, and he certainly wasn’t presentable now.
He stood up too quickly and he was forced to lean against the wall to avoid falling, then he approached the mirror to look at himself.
Since they had come back from Nottingham, he had practically not moved from his bed, not even eating, struggling with nightmares and guilt. He was ruffled, dirty and pale, and his long beard did nothing but highlight the dark circles under his eyes. The black shirt he wore was caked with dried blood and damp with sweat, and Guy pulled it out, letting it fall to the ground with the blanket.
He felt weak and sore, and after undressing himself, he realized that most of the pain he felt came from the dark bruises that marked the skin on his back and chest, where the sheriff had kicked him.
Thinking of Vaisey filled him with rage. That man was a devil and he did nothing but ruin his life in every possible way.
If the sheriff could see him now, he would probably enjoy humiliating him, mocking him for his weakness. That thought roused him from the apathy in which he had sunk, and pushed him to rebel against the anguish that oppressed him: Guy decided that Vaisey could torment and hurt him, but he wouldn’t be able to destroy him because he would never allow it.
He imagined using the whip to hit the sheriff and that mental image faded the horror of the nightmares that tormented him every time he closed his eyes.
Gisborne poured the water from the ewer into the basin and he threw some on his face: it was freezing cold and for a moment he thought of calling Thornton and ask for a hot bath, but he immediately changed his mind and continued to wash himself in cold water. It would be quicker, and the cold would clear his mind a bit, pushing away from him the daze of that sleep disturbed by nightmares.
When it came time to take the razor, his hands weren’t shaking anymore and Guy managed to use the sharp blade without getting hurt.
He looked back at himself in the mirror and allowed himself a small smile to see that he had managed to recover what Allan had called "a human look". He was still pale and upset, but at least he had recovered some energy.
He looked for some clean clothes and he put them on, then he approached the door, took a breath and half-opened it. The murmur of the voices of Allan and Marian, and the smell of freshly cooked food came from downstairs.
Guy leaned his head against the door frame and he wiped away the tears of emotion that had filled his eyes. No matter how sad or troubled he could be, those sounds, voices and smells were there for him and they always had the same comforting meaning: home.
Guy of Gisborne felt at home.


Robin shot yet another arrow through the window of Gisborne’s room, with a sigh, and he prepared himself for another useless wait, perfectly aware that even that night Guy wouldn’t come, just like the previous thirteen nights.
He waited a long time, watching the stars and listening to the sounds of the countryside, then he scratched his back distractedly and winced in pain when he touched the bandage.
A sort of stifled sob echoed his moan of pain, and Robin turned around, finding himself face to face with Gisborne.
“Ah, in the end you deigned to come!” He cheerfully scolded him, but Guy didn’t reply to his smile and he remained motionless, staring at the ground.
“I didn’t want to,” he said softly. “I was about to hide this arrow under the bed with the others and pretend I haven’t seen it...”
Robin looked at him, puzzled.
“I shed your blood... How could I look into your eyes after what I did?”
“Actually, you're not looking at me even now.”
Guy sighed and said nothing.
“What made you change your mind? Why did you come tonight?” Robin asked, approaching him.
"Why do you keep looking for me, Hood? I would understand if you don’t want to have anything to do with me anymore...”
Gisborne had spoken without looking up and Robin put both hands on his shoulders. Guy winced at the contact, but he didn’t lift his head.
“I didn’t want to do it, I swear, I didn’t want to! But I didn’t know what to do, I had no choice... I didn’t come here to ask for forgiveness, I can’t forgive myself, but I had to tell you how sorry I am...”
“Guy, look at me. Brother.”
Finally Gisborne decided to look at Robin.
“There is nothing to forgive. Nothing.” Robin said, seriously. "You think of the blood you shed and you feel guilty, but what I see is that you saved my neck, literally, putting your own life at risk. This is what I see, brother, and I'm grateful.”
“Stop it, Gisborne, don’t be tragic. Among other things, you would also be quite a poor executioner, you haven’t put the slightest force in those lashes, Djaq said that it’s possible I won’t get any scars. If you think that what you did to me could be in any way comparable to what Barret did to you, take it off your head right away and stop feeling guilty. And now hurry up, you've rested too long, the Nightwatchman has work to do.”
Guy looked at him for a few seconds, trying to hide his emotion, then he smiled and nodded.
“As you wish, my brother. I'm ready.”


“Guy, really, you should stop it,” Archer said, taking an apple from the basket. He looked at the fruit for a few seconds, then he put it back down, shaking his head. He didn’t understand why his half-brother liked these insignificant fruits so much, but there were also many other things that he didn’t yet understand in Guy of Gisborne.
Guy leaned back against the tree trunk and took a piece of cheese. He chewed it calmly before turning to Archer, smiling at him innocently.
“Why? I haven’t created problems for you anymore, have I? You know, I'm careful to hit when I know you're busy elsewhere, so the sheriff can’t accuse you of letting the Nightwatchman slip past you.”
"It’s not just about me, the guards can be dangerous too, and the sheriff has been furious since you set Robin Hood free. He wants the Nightwatchman's severed head to decorate his bedroom.”
"I don’t want to get you into trouble, but I have every intention of making his life a living hell.”
Archer sighed and shook his head, smiling.
“See that you don’t get yourself killed, alright?”
“I will do my best to avoid it. By the way, how about knowing the rest of the family? Robin wants to meet you.”
Archer nodded.
“Organize a meeting then, and remember that you and I still have a forthcoming challenge with the bow. Among other things, I haven’t yet complimented you for what you did when you freed Robin Hood... It still seems incredible that you managed to knock out all the archers on the walls without killing them.”
"I had nothing against them, those soldiers were merely executing orders, they didn’t deserve to die because of Vaisey.”
Guy took one last piece of bread, then he stood up and looked at Knighton Hall, smiling lightly.
It wouldn’t take long, now, not long at all.
As if he had been summoned by that reflection, the leader of the workers came towards them, warily looking at Archer.
“Well?” Guy asked, and the other smiled.
“One last stone and it’s done, Lord Knighton.”
Gisborne looked at him, incredulous.
He knew that the rebuilding of the manor was almost over, but he hadn’t expected that the workers could finish earlier than expected.
“Robin Hood and his gang helped the workers these days, they sped things up. There is that big man who is worth ten workers…" The man said enthusiastically, then he stopped abruptly, remembering Archer's presence.
“I didn’t hear anything,” Archer said, who had finally decided to take one of the apples and was pretending to be very busy peeling it with his knife.
“Sir Guy, come on. The honor of laying the last stone is up to you.”
The man led him to the house and to the fireplace in the main hall. At the center of the stone shelf was a square hollow and the leader of the workers presented Guy with the carved stone that should be inserted in that hole.
Gisborne looked at it, amazed: in the center of the block of stone was carved a shield that enclosed a wolf's head.
“Do you like it, Sir Guy? It’s the emblem of your family.”
“How did you know?”
“Robin Hood told us.”
“I still didn’t hear that,” Archer said, amused, then he looked at Guy. “What are you waiting for? Weren’t you in a hurry to finish this house?”
Gisborne lifted the stone and placed it in place, then he looked around in disbelief.
“It's finished... Now it's really finished!”
He took out Marian’s ring that he had worn around his neck for all those months and smiled: for the first time in his life, Guy really owned a house and some land, something to offer Marian.
He looked at the chief of the workers.
“Send everyone away, now,” he ordered. "Come tomorrow and you will be rewarded for your work, but now go home, when I come back from Locksley, I want no one here. Not even you, Archer.”
The brother burst out laughing.
“Don’t forget to invite me to the wedding. Go, now.”
Shortly thereafter, Guy of Gisborne was galloping at full speed along the road to Locksley.
Only a year before he had believed that his life would turn to ashes, that his every hope was destined to burn in the flames of a cruel fate, but somehow he had managed to cross that fire and came out of it stronger.
From those ashes a completely new and better life had been born and at that moment, while Guy ran to reach Marian, nothing seemed impossible.
Guy urged the horse to gallop faster.
He was in a hurry: he was impatient to reach the dream he had pursued all his life.