Marian forced herself to come out from behind the house where she'd fallen apart. If she didn't move she wouldn't stop (crying, shaking, and the urge to scream was far too great. What was a life without Robin Hood? Why had she rebuked him and rejected him, made fun of his plea for her to run away with him? If she had only know a few hours ago where they would have been now, she would have gone. She would have found a way to rescue her father afterwards.
She pulled the dress on and made herself walk out, forcing down sobs, denying to let people see her this way. Vasey’s spies were everywhere. She brushed a tree out of the way, watching the wind ripple the sheet hanging on the line before her, until suddenly one side of it blew--no, was pulled back and Robin was looking out.
If it was possible her heart ached more seeing his face, and the impossibility of breathing was made worse when he smiled, and somehow she knew she must have been smiling, but all she could do, all she could think of doing was throwing her arms around him and putting all her weight into it. His built, but still thin body against hers, her fingers threading into his hair, and his laughter, mocking and amused, filling her ears as tears welled in her eyes again. Joy. Joy, this time. Vasey had lied. Vasey had been wrong.
"Who died?" He laughed, only one arm wrapped around her.
Marian culled her hand tight around the back of his neck, not wanting to pull away yet, especially as her voice trembled. "You did. The sheriff said you were dead."
"The sheriff--" He steered her, half detaching her, only to slide an arm around her so they were head back through the laundry lines the way she had originally come. "--is plotting to kill the king, with his friends the Black Knights. They've already divided England between themselves. You can't go back into the castle!"
"We must get word to the King." Marian said, brushing her hair back from her cheeks as they walked. "Nottingham is not safe."
"It's not just Nottingham," Robin said, pulling her before a doorway of another house. "The Black Knights--they're everywhere, taxing the poor of England to pay for an army of mercenaries."
"Well, then we must stop them," Marian said, steel bounding back into her voice, watching him take a few steps, before she turned back the way they'd come. "I must go back to the castle-"
Her hand was grabbed and she was jerked back. "It's too dangerous!"
"Robin!" Marian said, looking back at his face, having another wave of the same relief she'd felt only minutes ago. She shoved it down this time. There were other things she had to focus on now. She had to, she had to or she might do anything but what was necessary. "Having a spy on the inside, when there's a coup being plotted, is useful-"
"No!" He yelled, his face mottling red. "Just listen to me!"
She loved that, even if he was wrong. It was so easy to take all of it and turn it into snapping. "And my father is in there, Robin. I have to go back."
"Marian," he said it softer, hands coming up, then moving closer to her. "I can't protect you in the caste."
Oh, silly, arrogant, well-meaning, boy. She moves forward, raising her hands to slide them against his cheeks. Her throat closing and her eyes still watering. "Two minutes ago, I thought you were dead and I would have given anything for another chance to be with you-"
His hands raised and mimicked hers, warm against her cheeks, warm from fighting and dirty from the pit, still impossibly alive against the odds, and everything she always respected. "Well, then take that chance, and come with me."
Marian threaded her fingers back into his hair, leaning closer to his face, every particle of the ache in her chest wanting, as she said, "But listen."
She leaned in and kissed him, using the words he had used on her
. The softness of his lips, against the roughness of his beard, against her mouth and her fingers. "The little voice saying yes." Her hands fells from his cheeks to the wrists of his hands on the sides of her neck now. "When the king is home. Safe."
Marian turned and walked away, toward the castle quickly, praying he wouldn't call her name and take all the will she had left not to go with him.