Marian walked through the stalls of cloth, picking up pieces and putting them down. Too many of them reminded her of gowns once had, their remnants now as burned epitaphs to a life that was gone. The others only clear reminders of the life she had slunk into. The grievous insults and mockery she would have to withstand so long as she stayed in Nottingham Castle.
Perturbed was the mildest of terms for what she was, where mild was far from true.
She took regretful delight in snapping at the guard who followed her through the market square.
When the peddler came up behind her, arm widening a cloak with trinkets galore and head too near to her ear, her first thought had been to deck him. Her fingers had balled into the cloth in her hands until she'd glanced up while he started his spiel--the voice and the presence dissolving the most topical layers of her tension as she realized it was Robin. She shook her head in show to his offer, small smile tugging her lips even as she thought he was being too cavalier being so close to her under guard.
Turning slowly from the cloth, Marian looked to her guard with a more-acted-than-true-annoyance now and beyond him where Robin moved to, nodding himself to Much and Little John also cloaked and hooded.
She idled herself with another bolt next to the red one she'd just set down, listening to the riot the men were starting not thirty feet from her. Her peripheral vision stayed with her guard as Much started shouting and then both men, plus the cabbage seller got into a fight over freshness--a fight her guard, as pillar of Nottingham would be bound to break up. The moment the guard turned, coming from two different sides of the walkway, Marian and Robin both moved to walk down it.
"They have you well guarded."
"Why did I choose this?" Marian hissed, watching his face as his hand at her waist urged her further and faster through the market aisle, leaving the loud ruckus behind him. "I can hardly breathe in there."
"Shh." His hand tightened on her side. "What happened?"
"They're expecting a guest today. A rich German Count, and their making me fawn over him, making me dress up and act--"
"A German? Do you think the Sherriff and Prince John are looking for allies abroad?"
They pulled off from the main market aisle taking a side street, as Marian shook her head. "He's not ally. He's a gambler. The sheriff has set up gambling tables in the castle. He's planning to fill his new strong room with the Count's money."
Robin's smile was wide and amused, as they stopped amid laundry sheets hanging. "You see, another good reason to rob him."
"Robin," Marian said imploringly, edged with both annoyance and concern. "Please do not go down there. It's dangerous."
"You know me. I like a challenge" he said, leaning in toward her. The arrogant smirk of amusement shifting softer, as his hand came to rest at the base of her neck, across it and up through her hair. His voice was little better than a pleading whisper. "You don't have to do this."
"Yes. I do. Without me you wouldn't even know there was a strong room."
Robin laughed, cocky and arrogant covering that slip. "England needs me."
"Yes. England needs me." Marian countered, tartly with half a frown, followed by the barest pause as she studied his face. "England needs us."
"And I need you."He leaned in and kissed her deeply and she reached up, curling her hand around the back of his at her throat.
She did not know how long it would be until she'd see him again. Days, possibly a week, time passed so achingly slow inside the high walls.
Marian tried to cast all of it out for the brief seconds her lips were pressed against his, to taste only the sunshine and the trees and the rich earth of Sherwood and all the was Robin, but at the same time she hoarded each sensation, the pressure of his lips, the feel of his skin beneath her fingertips, the scent of the forest and a well needed bath, things to clutch to once she was alone among the wolves again.
Pulling away, she smiled, small and true and false all at once, giving his hand a light squeeze.
Then she let go, angling her face upward and ignoring the clench of her stomach as she called out, "Guard!"
Robin drew a breath in, surprised and annoyed and amused, as he turned off toward the side and left her there once again.