jadey36: (guy long hair)
jadey36 ([personal profile] jadey36) wrote in [community profile] bbc_robinhood2014-02-27 11:08 am

A Way Back

Title: A Way Back
Author: [personal profile] jadey36
Rating: pg-13
Characters: Guy, Djaq, mentions others
Summary: Guy has made a promise to Marian, but will he be able to keep it?
Word Count: 3,363
Disclaimer: Robin Hood belongs to Tiger Aspect and the BBC. No copyright infringement intended. All rights reserved.
Author’s Note: Further fic in the Outlaw Guy series.

1 – A Different Life
2 – Fitting In
3 – Falling Apart
4 – Back to Black
5 - A Glimmer of Hope
6 – Trapped
7 – Blood, Wine and Promises




A Way Back

Guy, (no Dear, he notices, but then why should there be)

Plans are in hand. My father and I leave the castle tonight. Robin knows. He will meet you at Dead Man’s Crossing three days hence, at sundown. Come alone and make sure no one follows you. When Robin and his men see you are by yourself, they will show themselves.

Marian.

He stares at the letter, willing the ink to bleed something other than the impersonal Marian onto the parchment; even a Yours preceding it would suffice. But no.

Post scriptum: Burn this after reading.

Guy glances at the horn-covered window. Though it is hard to see through it, greyed as it is by wood-smoke from countless fires in the airless room, he can still make out the blue sky beyond.

If all went well, Marian is long gone. If, as she slipped the letter underneath his door last evening, she had knocked to say goodbye, he had heard no such knock. The jug of wine had done its job; for a short while, he had escaped the pain of knowing that Marian loved Robin Hood and intended to marry him, along with the pain of his stitched leg. He even escaped his nightmares for once.

He had promised Marian he would take her place, become Robin’s spy. He would happily have promised to become a monk and spend the rest of his days in prayer if it meant getting Marian to leave the castle, lessening the chances of the sheriff discovering her treachery and sentencing her to death. He is almost glad that his fever will put paid to such a foolish promise; Guy knows he has neither the wit nor the guile to deceive the sheriff the way Marian has deceived him these past years. His only regret is that he will not be able to keep the proposed rendezvous with Robin. Marian will think he has let her down – yet again.

Trying to still his trembling hands, he returns his attention to the letter. Marian has such neat handwriting. He wonders if Djaq knows how to read and write and suspects she does, and probably in more than one language.

He reads the letter one more time, memorising its contents (even though he knows he has little chance of making it out his bedchamber alive) and then shoves it into the feeble fire burning in the grate. The parchment smoulders, blackens at the edges.

Footsteps echo down the corridor: a servant with his wine and meal.

Dragging the thick blanket from his bed, Guy wraps it around himself and then limps back to the fire. He stabs the smoking parchment with a poker and, at last, it catches light, fiery orange and blue flames obliterating Marian’s carefully inked words. Guy watches, transfixed, until it is nothing but crispy black fragments.

The footsteps pass by his door and fade away. Perhaps they have forgotten about him. He doesn’t care. He is beyond wanting either food or drink. He wishes only to stop shivering, to be warm. His teeth are banging together so hard he fears they might shatter.

He turns towards the bed intending to lie down. This is how they will find him when someone, a guard or servant, eventually unlocks his bedchamber door: face upwards, staring blindly at a canopy of trees that aren’t there.

Eyeing the stained bedsheet, he thinks, let it not be the sheriff.

An image of a nine-year-old Isabella, his sister, comes to mind. With her free hand – the other caught up in her thick wavy hair, curling it around her fingers – she points at his unmade bed. “Two and ten and you still wet the bed, Guy Crispin.” She gives him a spiteful smile. “Mama will not be pleased when I tell her.”

I hope your husband, Thornton, makes you cry, little sister.

Shivering uncontrollably now, Guy lies on the cold wet bed. Staring at the ceiling, he waits for the darkness he knows must surely come soon.

~

“Shush. Do not be alarmed.”

The woman’s voice is familiar: precise English with a hint of foreign shores running through it.

Warm fingers touch his face and gently brush away the sweat-damp hair clinging to his temples.

Despite his weakened state, a vestige of pride kicks in and he bats the woman’s hands away. Grabbing blindly for the blanket, he finds it gone.

“Be still,” she says, her fingers curling around both his wrists, forcing his arms down by his sides. “I am trying to help you.”

“Djaq?” He opens his eyes, watery and stinging with tiredness and the effects of the wine. The room, lit only by a now roaring fire in the grate, is close to darkness. All he can make out is a pale face and short dark hair.

“Yes, it is me, Djaq.”

He thinks this must be a fever-induced nightmare, although the hands still pinning his arms down feel very real. He slashed Djaq open and although Marian assured both Robin and him that Matilda had saved her, he cannot believe that she could possibly be here, in the castle, by his side.

“Did you die?” he asks, his words a croaked whisper. “Am I soon to join you?” A small sobbing laugh escapes his lips. Fool. Djaq is destined for Heaven; he is not.

“No,” she says. “I did not die. Allah must have decided that I am of more use here on this earth; and, judging by the state of you, I think he was right.” She lets go of his wrists. “I need more light.”

Soft footsteps and the swish of a dress hem on the cold stone floor mark her passage to the fire. Moments later, she places two lit candles on the small table by his bed, their fatty animal tang masking some of the more odious smells in the room. Guy inwardly cringes, thinking of the chamberpot under his bed and the contents of the pail sitting by the far wall, in full view.

“I need to get you warm,” she says. “Can you sit?”

He thinks again of the cruel smile on Isabella’s face. Tears leak from the corners of his eyes despite his best efforts to hold them at bay. “Can you leave me for a moment, come back when I have—”

She laughs, softly and without malice. “In the Holy Land, I spent many hours on the battlefields, helping my father tend the sick and the wounded. Do you think I have not seen what happens when a man cannot help himself. Now sit.” She grabs his upper arms and, with surprising strength for so slight a woman, heaves him into a sitting position. “Good,” she says. “Now drink this.” Cupping the back of his head with one hand, she holds a wooden cup to his lips.

He drinks, coughs, the liquid dribbling through the beginnings of a beard.

“More,” she says.

He obliges, even though the bitter-tasting liquid makes him want to retch. He is grateful when she takes the cup away.

“All right?” she asks, stroking his tangled hair with one hand, the other on the middle of his back, keeping him upright.

He nods, fearing that if opens his mouth he’ll lose his insides. She stops stroking, instead running her fingers through his hair, combing out the snarls as she goes. His mother used to do this when he was a boy, before his father took a knife to it one day declaring the long dark curls too girlish for a son of Sir Rodger of Gisborne.

Pushing thoughts of his dead parents aside, Guy concentrates on Djaq’s soothing hand and the small shivers between his shoulder blades, not of cold but of pleasure, as she drags her fingers through his long, dishevelled locks.

Gradually, the nausea lessens.

Sensing his ease, she drapes the thick blanket around his shoulders saying, “I must tend to your leg. I have made a poultice. It is very important that you keep it on for the next two days. Do you understand what I am asking of you?”

“Yes, I understand.”

She touches the edges of Blight’s haphazard stitches, the flushed skin. He jerks, a hiss of pain escaping his lips followed by a string of profane words.

“Apologies,” he mumbles.

“Trust me,” she says. “Many a time I have heard such language from the mouths of sick and wounded men. Even Robin blasphemes when he is in severe pain or terribly angry.”

Djaq presses a warm, moist poultice to his injured thigh. Guy clamps his lips together, suppressing both an agonised moan and further expletives escaping his mouth. After a moment or two, his leg, as his stomach, calms and he is able to speak.

“How did you get in here? Did Marian get away safely?”

“I will wrap a bandage around your leg to hold the poultice in place,” Djaq says. “And I will replace the sheet on your bed so you might sleep in comfort. The drink I gave you will help with the sleeping. After I have done these two things, then I will answer your questions.”

Guy simply nods, too fatigued to argue with her.

Producing a length of bandage, Djaq deftly binds his leg. Then, working the soiled sheet from under him, she replaces it with a coverlet she finds folded up at the end of his bed. She bids him to lie on his back and he does so with a grateful sigh.

Before pulling the blanket back over him, she says, “I can remove your damp undergarments if you wish.”

His already rapid heartbeats quicken at the thought of her caring hands easing his braies past his hips and then down his thighs, revealing his manhood. It is the first time since he met Marian that he’s imagined a woman other than her eyeing his private parts and he wonders whether this is a sign that he is ready to let her go. Sadness at the thought clogs his throat. He has wanted Marian for so long he’s not sure he knows how not to want her.

“I have seen plenty of those as well,” Djaq says, a smile in her voice.

“I am fine,” he says, his voice gruff with the effort of holding back fresh tears. He closes his eyes.

“You are not fine,” she says, pulling the blanket over him, “but you will be if you are prepared to take control of your life.”

He feels the mattress spring up slightly as Djaq comes to her feet. His eyes snap open, fearing she is about to leave without telling him how Marian fared.

For the first time since he found her at his bedside, he properly takes in her clothing. Not the men’s breeches, shirt and jerkin he is used to seeing her in, but a drab brown dress that touches the floor, a wide sash in a lighter shade of brown wound around the waist. As she turns her back to him, he sees that the dress has a generous hood attached to it; doubtless, this helped her escape recognition when she entered the castle.

Crouching, Djaq picks up a basket, placing it on the table beside him. “Bread and meat and a skin of ale,” she says. “For when you wake up. You will not get better by drinking wine and not eating.”

Guy smiles his thanks.

“Now,” she says, “I will answer your questions. I suspect you wish to know more about how Marian is than how I was able to enter your room undetected. Am I right?”

Guy nods and pats the bed, indicating his wish for her to sit.

Djaq shakes her head and he wonders if his earlier unbidden twitch of lust had repulsed her despite her apparent amusement.

“It is not you,” she says, as if reading his thoughts. “This,” she pats her stomach, the place where he cut her, “feels better if I am straight, not bent sitting.”

Guy inwardly berates himself. He has not yet said sorry for cutting her open, for running away as she clung to a wooden post staring in horror at the blood soaking through her shirt, painting red rings around her splayed fingers as she pressed her hand to her slashed stomach.

She kneels by the bed and places a small hand on top of his much larger one. “Do not feel badly. I can see in your eyes that it hurts you to remember what you did to me. Be assured the cut was not deep. Blood loss was the danger, and Robin’s fetching of Matilda ensured that I did not lose more than the body could bear.”

So that’s why Robin took so long to catch up with me.

Guy recalls the time Robin’s friends tried to persuade him to give Guy up in exchange for Djaq, when the sheriff held her captive in the castle. Robin had come close to rejecting their pleas. Clearly, the outlaw regretted showing that uglier side of his nature. This time he had made sure to do everything he could to help Djaq before he took after her attacker.

“Why didn’t Robin send Much to fetch the healer woman?” he asks.

“Because Robin is the fastest runner of all of us.”

Remembering the many times Robin had outrun both him and the sheriff’s men, Guy can see the sense in the outlaw’s decision.

Turning his head to look directly into her kindly brown eyes, he says, “What I did to you was inexcusable and I am truly sorry. You showed me kindness I did not deserve, not after all the crimes I’ve committed against Robin’s people, and I repaid you with violence.”

Djaq curls her fingers around his, says, “Now I will tell you of Marian, though there is little to tell.”

Guy wishes there were a lot to tell; he wishes it would take a day and a night, longer. The last time a woman held his hand she had been yanking him out of a pantry, chiding him for trying to take a sneaky taste of the cake baked for his mother’s birthday. Hildegard her name was, though he can’t remember calling her anything other than Cook. This feels a hundred times better than that.

“With Robin’s help, Marian was able to get her father out of the dungeons and to safety. Friends of Edward met him on the edge of Sherwood and have taken him to their home where he will be cared for.”

“Did Marian go with him?”

“No. She is in the forest.”

Guy turns away from her, stares at the window. In ensuring Marian’s safety, he has made things more unbearable for himself. Marian and Robin are together, while he is stuck here in the castle, with nothing but his miserable thoughts and the vile sheriff for company. He almost wishes Djaq had not come and treated the fever he felt certain would lead to his death.

Djaq squeezes his fingers. “I know it hurts. But Marian’s heart has always belonged to Robin.”

When he does not speak, she continues. “Always you want the big things: the coin, the power, the great house and a wife to grace it. Are you so certain that these things will make you happy when you have them? When you came to the forest you smiled, you laughed. Can you not learn to find pleasure in the little things too?”

Guy realises he has stopped shivering. A short while ago he wanted nothing more than to be warm, and now he is. Could Djaq be right? Is it possible to find joy in the simple things of life and for that to be enough?

He recalls an eight-year-old Robin and he, three summers older but still fond of childish games, making mud pies beside Locksley pond shortly after a heavy thunderstorm had passed over. Robin, intent as ever on besting Guy, had edged nearer and nearer to the pond water in order to scoop up the softer mud so he could make the biggest mud pie. Guy had laughed his head off when Robin had sunk up to his skinny waist. He wants to laugh like that again.

Guy turns back to Djaq. “I made a promise to Marian.”

“To take her place in the castle, become Robin’s spy. I know.”

“I cannot believe she trusts me to keep such a promise.”

“She has always believed you have a better side, as she puts it. Besides, if you betray us, tell the sheriff where our camp is, Marian will suffer the same fate as us now that she is an outlaw too.”

The same fate as you, my angel of mercy.

“I will not betray you. Believe me; I want nothing more than to see the sheriff pay for all the years he’s made me—” Guy clamps his lips together. This kind, smart and compassionate woman makes him want to unburden himself as no time spent in a confessional ever has, but there are some things, he decides, that are better left unsaid.

“What did he make you do? Lie, cheat, steal, kill.” Despite the sudden coldness in her voice, she continues to hold his hand.

“I saw no way out of it. I was...” He falters, not knowing how to end that sentence without revealing how pathetically weak he was when it came to the sheriff.

“Stuck?”

“Yes,” he says, thinking it an odd word but nonetheless an appropriate one.

For some reason, it makes her smile, albeit sadly. “I know someone who was like that once.”

“And did he or she become unstuck?”

“Yes, he did.” Djaq lets go his hand and comes slowly to her feet.

“You still haven’t told me how you got in here, or how you even knew I was sick,” Guy says.

“Will was in Nottingham, with Allan and Much, handing out coin to the poor. They overheard two castle guards talking about you being locked in your room, not eating or sleeping and that the physician, Blight, had visited you and made you howl. When Will told me, I guessed that you might be in trouble. Allan sweet-talked a kitchen girl into finding me these clothes. He is currently outside your door, wearing your guard’s uniform.”

“And where is the guard?”

“Bound and gagged and presently staring at one of Robin’s arrows. Do not worry. He will soon be on a cart headed for York, so I think he will not make trouble for you or for me.”

Guy grins remembering that the guard on duty this morning is the one who stabbed him in the leg.

“Promise me,” she says, “you will get well and meet Robin, seven nights from today, when the moon next wanes. If you do not get well, I will have to sneak into the castle again and next time I might not be so lucky in getting past the sheriff’s guards.”

“I will get well and meet Robin. I promise.”

Djaq smiles. “Good. Now sleep.” Bending gingerly, she lightly kisses him on the cheek. Then, pulling her hood over her head, she turns away and crosses to the door.

She taps three times and pushes up the door latch. Allan, his face partially hidden behind a nose-pieced helmet, opens the door fully and beckons her out into the torch-lit corridor.

“Wait,” she tells him. She hurries back to the bed. “I almost forgot.” Reaching inside her dress, she loops an outlaw tag over her head and presses it into Guy’s hand. “I thought you might like this back.”

“Thank you.” He curls his fingers around the wooden tag, his eyes blinded by a sudden wash of tears, happy ones this time.

“Look after yourself,” she says.

“I will. And Djaq?”

“What is it?”

“Tell Robin mine was the biggest mud pie.”

“Sorry?”

Allan hisses, “Djaq, hurry up.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Guy says, waving her away. “I’ll tell him myself when I see him.”

Djaq slips out the door and Allan locks it behind her.

Warm and drowsy, the outlaw tag hidden under his pillow, Guy closes his eyes.

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