Title: "Handle With Care"
Author: monimala
Fandom: "Robin Hood" (2006 BBC version)
Rating/Classification: SAC, Robin/Marian, Djaq/Will, Guy/Marian.
Disclaimer: Nope, not my characters and I'm not profiting from their use.
Summary: 1000 words, three touches, what never was, what is, and what could be. Spoilers through 1.9, "A Thing or Two About Loyalty."
Note: I thought Will was a blacksmith's son, but all the RH sites say he's a carpenter by trade. Clearly I need to re-watch the pilot!

When Marian weeps over Lambert's death, Robin cradles her against his chest, pressing soothing kisses to her hair and inhaling the rosewater scent of her skin. It is the first time he has held her, *truly* held her, since before he left for the Holy Land, but his body feels no distinction, no awkwardness. She still fits, her head beneath his chin and her curving where he is straight.

She flowed into his embrace without thinking, just as he accepted her without thinking, and he wonders if it is solely Lambert's fate that makes her so weak, so suddenly soft, and catches him equally unawares. "Such a tender heart, my lady," he teases, though his own heart lies just as heavy.

Her fist curls and she deliberately hits his still-healing arm… making him hiss at the sting. "Sh-shut up, Robin," she murmurs, damply. "A man died today."

"We both know men die every day, Marian," he reminds. He tucks an awry strand of her hair behind her ear and then dries her cheek with his knuckles. "Good men, honorable men, men of science like Lambert."

"Then why do you insist upon laughing?" she whispers, just barely turning into his fingertips, as if she --like him-- has long craved this contact.

"Imagine if we both wept?" he poses, lightly. "Who would give solace to whom?"

Marian steps away from him then, her momentary vulnerability all but masked, her damnable guards up once more. This is the girl he so stupidly left, this warrior woman who stands in judgment of him and calls to attention all that he lacks. "That question, Robin, is why you never understood me," she snaps, imperiously, "Why you will never understand what it is to love. Why you only know what it is to *be* loved."

He implores, "Marian, wait!"

"I waited long enough, Robin."

He watches her mount her horse, watches her turn towards Nottingham --away from him-- with a flick of the reins and a click of her tongue.

She still fits, he thinks regretfully. He is the one who has changed shape.

**

Will does not dare touch Djaq. They all jostle and tease and slap shoulders, a band of boisterous men, and though it burns him when Allan slings an arm around her neck, laughing at one of his own stupid jokes, Will never dares be so familiar. His hand always stops just short of her arm, centimeters from her hip, and brushes cobwebs from her cheek from across the clearing.

He was never so struck dumb by girls from the village. Will Scarlett, the carpenter's son. "Aye, keep an eye on that lad. He'll come to a bad end." He was a bit of a legend, smiling at Sarah or tugging Molly's braids or squiring Edith to the May Day festival. His mum always said he'd be married young simply to keep some furious father from coming after him with a pitchfork.

But here he is just Will, just one of Robin's men. She is not just Djaq, and certainly not just one of the men. Sometimes, Will allows himself to say her true name. He whispers "Safiya" and wonders what she would look like with her hair grown long… if she would box his ears for daring to tug on *her* braids.

He asks her once, when the others have gone on hunt and left them to watch the camp, "What does your name mean?"

"Djaq?" Her lips quirk with a smile and, as always, it's her eyes that strike him silent and flushed. They are wise and dark and dangerous and he couldn't possibly comprehend even a pinch of what they have seen. But she takes mercy on him, stoking the fire and laughing softly. "'Safiya' means 'pure' in Arabic."

It's then that Will understands why he's so afraid to tell her what he so foolishly confessed to the others --"I think I love her." She is pure. Too pure for him, for Will Scarlett, the carpenter's son.

He does not dare touch her. He stops just short.

But she has no such fears. "What does *your* name mean, Will?" she asks him, gently brushing cobwebs from his cheek.

**

"Everything is back in its box."

The sharp rejoinder echoes down the corridor long after she's gone. Guy imagines it clanging, like a lid and a lock, and knows exactly what the lady is keeping from him: her trust, her loyalty, and the soft, white skin of her… chastity.

"Everything is back in its box."

He has always been undone by Marian's eyes, by what he sees in them. That blue disdain and unconventional, unseemly, strength is his greatest weakness. He remembers the wide-eyed, manipulation in her gaze and the calculated caress of his shoulder when she asked him to align with her against the sheriff. Her perfect fingers were placed with such utter precision as she pleaded for him to take Lambert away from Nottingham.

She plays him for a fool. Constantly. And he allows it. Constantly. He tells himself that he is testing her, seeing how far she is willing to string him and where her loyalties lie. He tells himself that it is not because he wants her fingers to move first higher and then indecently low.

Marian does not back down, does not bend or break. She does not flinch when he raises his hand and that, in and of it, is what always causes him to drop it back against his side.

This woman will be the end of him. She knows it. The Sheriff knows it; the nobles know it. Even Robin Hood knows it. And, yet, Guy is haunted by the idea that this woman will be the beginning of him, too… that the sheets of their marriage bed will be stained with his renaissance.

"Everything is back in its box."

She may be locked down tight, but she is the key to the man Sir Guy of Gisborne is meant to become.

--end--

April 29, 2007.



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