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[personal profile] daylight_darknight
I've actually been posting chapters of this story at a couple different places at a ridiculously slow rate since May last year, but now it's finally finished!! So I thought it's about time I put it up here too.

Title: The Unwelcome Guest
Characters: Allan, Will, Robin, Djaq, John, Much
Rating: PG-13 for some blood and a bit of violence
Genre: Angst, Hurt/Comfort
Word Count: 15,163
Spoilers: Up to 2x11 after which it diverges into its own universe
Summary: Two former friends find themselves facing each other in battle and the consequences leave the outlaws in a difficult situation.

The Unwelcome Guest
By Daylight


Chapter 1

As he rode through Sherwood, Allan found his eyes constantly flickering back and forth to either side of the wooded road searching for any sign of his old friends. Gisborne had put the former outlaw in charge of a small group of soldiers escorting the latest tax collections to the castle. Six armoured men walked behind him and ahead of a carriage containing the money. Two men rode on the carriage and two inside while six more walked behind it. Allan hoped that for once news of the convoy hadn’t reached Robin through his favourite little castle bird, though he couldn’t recall the last time such a thing had happened. It seemed as if every carriage going through these woods was automatically doomed for an ambush. He should know. He’d been involved in most of them, just usually not on this side.

As it happened, Robin Hood’s gang of outlaws had already been flitting amongst the trees unnoticed for several minutes, gritting their teeth and shaking their heads at the sight of Allan. News of this trip had reached them the day before and they had been counting on a quick in and out, leaving with enough coins to take care of the poor for a long time. Plans had been made, the area had been scouted and traps had been set up. They, however, hadn’t counted on Allan.

He actually missed the first trap. Allan had been busy gazing into the forest having half thought he saw a familiar face. So he passed under the first one unnoticed. Then he saw the ropes of the second ahead of him hanging high in the trees amongst the leaves and branches. He quickly reined in his horse and called for the soldiers to back up and surround the carriage.

Because of this, only half of the soldiers were caught by the nets as they fell and the free ones were quick to help their trapped companions. Unfortunately, it was too late to stop the ambush. The call of attack had already been made. So Robin’s plans were forced to adapt as they usually did from a quick grab of the coins to an all out battle. A wave of arrows flew through the air as the outlaws charged forward. Allan ducked but unfortunately his horse ended up one of the first to fall, an arrow in its side. Allan rolled to his feet spinning and dodging as he found the battle already raging around him. Eventually, he set his place with his back to the carriage and drew his sword preparing to defend himself as the soldiers fell around him. He hadn’t counted on the first person he’d have to defend himself against being Will Scarlett.

The other combatants were too busy to notice the two young men hesitate, that Allan swallowed as he slowly raised his sword and Will’s face grew pale as he gripped his axe. Both of them wanted to say something. Neither of them knew what to say. So their weapons met instead. For the flicker of a moment as sword and axe swept through the air, it almost felt as if they were just practicing like they used to amongst Sherwood’s trees, but then they got caught up in the energy and tension of the battle surrounding them and their movements went from hesitant to fierce and desperate.

Despite their complete focus lying on each other, the two fighters weren’t in a fight all on their own. It was Allan’s eyes widening that clued Will in to the soldier creeping up behind him. Spinning around, Will was able to twist the sword aimed at him out of its owners hands and used his elbow to knock the soldier out. Unfortunately, the flailing limbs of the man as he fell knocked Will off his feet. He landed hard on the ground losing the grip on his axe. Twisting around, he was able locate his weapon again and was reaching for it when he saw Allan standing above him with his sword raised. But instead of attacking Allan hesitated. Will didn’t. Acting on instinct, Will grabbed his axe and swung. The blade sunk deep into the side of Allan’s left leg bringing the former outlaw to the ground.


Chapter 2

Both now lying on the road, Allan and Will stared at each other with expressions of equal shock, before Will recalled that freezing in the midst of a battle was not a good idea. Grabbing his axe which had dislodged from Allan’s leg when he fell, Will got up preparing for another fight, only to find the few soldiers who weren’t dead or unconscious were busy running away. The other outlaws were heading towards him or more precisely the carriage he was standing by.

Sheathing his sword, Robin strolled over and smirked down at Allan who had shifted his position so he now sat with his back propped up against the carriage. “Come on then, Allan. Run away with your little friends.”

Allan rolled his eyes at him. “Don’t you think I would if I could,” he replied as he removed the hand clasped to his calf showing Robin the large gash there.

Robin frowned at the stream of blood slowly seeping from Allan’s leg, but Will couldn’t tell if it was from concern for Allan or annoyance at having to deal with the traitor once more. Looking at his axe, Will saw the blood of his former friend glistening on the blade and suddenly felt a wave of nausea through his throat. He knelt down and hastily wiped the blood off on some leaves.

Much and Little John made their way past Allan and into the carriage shooting looks of tired disgust and anger at the fallen man. They hauled out the chest containing the money and dumped it onto the road.

Throwing open the lid, Robin gave the coins contained within a pleased nod. “Good job, gang.”

Allan’s face contorted with a grimace of pain. Closing his eyes, he leaned his head back against the carriage and let out a long, shaky breath. Djaq took an uncertain step towards him, but stopped and exchanged looks with Will who bit his lip in frustration.

“Time to disappear,” Robin called.

Much and John lifted the chest once more and began making their way towards the trees, but Will was still watching Allan. The man’s face was growing paler as the pool of blood by him got larger.

“We can’t leave him like this,” Will said suddenly.

Allan’s eyes snapped open in surprise.

Rubbing his hands tiredly across his face, Robin gave out an exasperated sigh as if he’d known something like this was coming. “You can wrap up his leg, but that’s it.”

“Wait a minute,” said Much who had stopped when Will made his sudden outburst. He made his way back towards them leaving John in charge of the chest. “Since when do we give aid to our enemies?”

“If we don’t help him, he could die,” replied Will. “I thought we tried not to kill if we could avoid it.”

“He’s not going to die,” Much said gesturing towards Allan. “It’s just a scratch.”

“If the wound is not stitched and bandaged soon, he could bleed to death,” pronounced Djaq.

This left the outlaws momentarily silent.

“But, but…” stuttered Much searching for an argument.

“I agreed you could bandage his wound,” said Robin. “We don’t have time to waste stitching it too.”

“Listen…” began Allan.

Turning with a scowl, Robin levelled a finger at him. “You don’t have any say in this.”

“So you would rather he bled more slowly to death or died of infection,” countered Djaq. “The wound needs cleaning as well.”

“This is not our problem,” announced John setting down the chest. “The Sheriff’s men should be here in a few hours. They can take care of him.”

“Can you guarantee they’ll actually come?” questioned Will. “What if they decide he’s dead already and don’t bother coming? What if the Sheriff is so angry about the gold he lost, he decides to kill him anyway?”

While they argued, Allan used the side of the carriage to painfully pull himself up. He leaned against it keeping his weight off his left leg. “If you just wrap my leg up and help me onto a horse…” he chocked out through clenched teeth.

“No horses,” said Will shaking his head.

Allan glanced at his own steed lying dead on the ground and then at the front of the carriage where the two horses that had pulled it were missing having been cut loose at some point during the fight. His shoulders slumped and he hung his head.

Turning back to the others, Will said, “There’s no way he’s going to be able to make it anywhere on that leg.”

“Fine,” declared Robin raising his arms. “We’ll take him somewhere he can be taken care of.”

“Where?” asked Much.

“Nottingham.”

“So the Sheriff can kill him?” stated Will. “Besides it’ll take us a couple hours from here by foot.”

“Locksley?”

“That will still take too long and Gisborne is there,” Djaq insisted. “Robin, you know it’s dangerous to move a man when he’s injured and that wound needs to be taken care of as soon as possible.”

“And are we really going waste all that time ensuring the safety of this traitor?” added John.

Robin raked his fingers through his hair as if he was going to start pulling it out. “Clun? Nettlestone? Kirklees? There must be somewhere closer.”

“The camp,” said Will.

“Oh, no,” Much protested. “We are not taking him to the camp.”

Djaq raised her eyebrows. “What’s the problem? It’s not as if he doesn’t already know where it is.”

“Yes, but…”

“We can get back to the camp in less that half an hour,” said Will. “There Djaq can take care of his leg and when he’s rested, we can take him somewhere else or at least, get him a horse so he can get himself somewhere else.”

“Why are you so insistent we take care of him?” questioned Much raising his voice again. “Don’t you remember what he did, what he’s been doing?”

“He saved my life.”

Will’s words left the outlaws wide eyed and confused glancing between Will and Allan who still stood pale and shaky against the carriage.

Robin frowned. “What are you talking about?”

“When the Sheriff captured that Fool and me, Allan had the key to our shackles. The Fool picked them off his belt.”

Shaking his head, Much snorted. “That’s ridiculous. Allan’s the best pickpocket in the Shire. Some silly Fool couldn’t just pick his pocket without him…” He trailed off as realization dawned on his face. “Oh.”

“Exactly,” Will said. “Without that key, we wouldn’t have been able to overpower the hangman and get away. Despite everything he’s done, Allan’s never tried to kill us or hurt us, at least, not physically. And the same can’t be said about us. When we were fighting just now, Allan had the opportunity to take me. He had the high ground, but instead, he stopped. But I didn’t. I’m the one who buried my axe in his leg.” Briefly closing his eyes, Will took a deep breath. “This man used to be one of my best friends and I am not going to be the reason he dies.”

Silence followed as what Will had said sank in. It was during this pause that Allan finally decided to pass out.


Chapter 3

With swift movements, Will dashed over to Allan’s side and knelt down. “Allan? Allan,” he called patting the man’s pale face, but though his former comrade was still breathing, there was no response.

Djaq moved equally fast, but her focus was on Allan’s leg. Crouching down, she gently probed the wound with her fingers, before wrapping both hands tightly around the deep gash. She glanced over at her friends and called to Much.

“I need your cloak,” she said.

The only one who had bothered to wear his cloak that day, Much grimaced, but responded to Djaq’s commanding tone and took off his cloak.

“Tear it into strips.”

He opened his mouth as if to say something, but a glance at Allan’s grey features stopped him. Grumbling, he took out a knife and began shredding his cloak into strips which Djaq immediately bound around the wound. Despite this, a dark patch soon appeared through the bandages.

“I need to stitch the wound, but I don’t have my supplies with me,” said Djaq looking over at Will.

The carpenter met her gaze, then with a stony expression, turned to Robin. “We are taking him to the camp.”

Robin nodded. “We take him to the camp.” He glanced over at Little John.

The large man nodded too and made his way over to Allan carefully lifting the wounded man into his arms. For a moment, he gazed down at him with an unreadable expression, before heading in the direction of the camp at a fast, loping pace. Djaq walked beside him while Will and Much went after with the chest of coins. Robin followed behind keeping a careful lookout for any soldiers they may have missed.

When they reached the camp, John set Allan down on one of the bunks and Djaq immediately got to work. She grabbed her supplies and began gently cleaning Allan’s wound pleased to see though it was still bleeding the blood wasn’t escaping as quickly as it had before. Once that was done, she started the careful process of sowing the sides of the deeply sliced skin back together. Her patient remained still and silent during the whole procedure. In the background, the rest of the outlaws tried to go on as usual getting on with their chores as they awkwardly pretended to ignore what was going on in that corner of the camp.

Will, wanting to keep an eye on Allan, sat down as close as he could without being in Djaq’s way. His intention had been to keep himself busy fletching new arrows, but he was having problems focusing and found himself continuously having to redo his work. It didn’t help that his eyes kept drifting from what he was doing to where his former friend was lying.

Much set about grabbing ingredients for supper and throwing them onto the table grumbling to himself as he did so. He slammed them down onto the cutting board one at a time chopping them up with a vicious fury before flinging them into the cooking pot which resounded with a loud clang. Every so often, he cast a furious glance in Allan’s direction before going back to his violent cooking preparations. But a couple of times, Much looked at Allan with a different expression on his face. It was one of confusion mixed with what might have even been concern, but he quickly went back to slicing up the vegetables as if they had wronged him in another life.

John’s chores were already done so he sat down in a corner of the camp and leaned back, his arms crossed across his chest as if he was dozing, but in fact, he was very much awake. He had carefully chosen that position so he could keep an eye on everyone in the camp and he watched them through half-mast eyes.

It was Robin’s job to count the money, but once he was done he began restlessly pacing through the camp, the frown on his face an indication of the thoughts flying beneath it. Finally, after tripping over John’s feet, almost stepping on Will’s arrows, getting glared at by Djaq for looking over her shoulder too long and accidently slamming into Much for the second time, he decided to go out to see Marian.

The camp grew quieter after that. Djaq finished bandaging Allan’s leg and Much set his stew over the fire to cook. No one was in the mood to talk. When supper was finally ready, no one even had the energy to question what meat Much had used that day. Not bothering to wait for Robin to return, they silently picked at their meal.

“Mmwhat..?”

The mumbled question was more of a groan than a word and it caused everyone to immediately turn to its source. Allan was weakly trying to get up, his expression one of dazed confusion, though his face soon crumpled into an expression of pain when he shifted his left leg.

“Careful,” said Djaq moving over to his side. “That wound still needs a long time to heal and you’re weak from the loss of blood.” Putting an arm around his shoulders, she helped him slowly sit up.

He blinked up at her. “Djaq?” Uncertain, he glanced around at the camp and the mixed emotions on the outlaws’ faces. “What…?” he trailed off.

Djaq frowned at him. “You remember what happened?”

“Yeah, but why…?” He swallowed unable to finish the question.

“How do you feel?” asked Will approaching them.

“Like someone tried to chop my leg off,” Allan responded rubbing his face wearily as he grimaced once more in pain.

Will winced and turned away.

“You should eat. You need to regain your strength,” said Djaq waving at Much to bring over a bowl of stew.

The former servant ladled out some stew into a bowl and brought it over to Allan. “Eat up,” he said his face and voice stony. “The sooner your strength’s back. The sooner you can get out of here and out of our hair.”

“Right,” replied Allan quietly. His shoulders slumped as he looked down at his stew. He stirred the clumps of vegetables and meat around for a moment before asking, “Where’s Robin?”

“Out,” said John. “And that’s all you need to know.”

“Alright, I was just wondering.”

It didn’t seem possible, but the meal continued on even quieter than before. Allan ate very little, uncertain whether his lack of appetite was due to the sharp ache in his leg or the cold atmosphere he’d woken up in. The others didn’t speak to him or even look at him. He thought he felt Will’s eyes on him once, but when he glanced over the young carpenter was busy gazing at his food.

When they had finished eating, Much went out to wait for Robin, while Will and John cleaned up and Djaq mixed some herbs for Allan to drink.

“This should help with the pain,” she said as she handed him the potion.

The taste caused him to screw up his face in disgust, but Allan drank the whole thing. “Djaq?” he said as he handed the mug back.

“Yes?” she replied her eyes questioning.

He looked away. “Nothing.”

Djaq’s expression went from curious to cold. “You should try to sleep.”

Allan nodded and lay back down grimacing again as the movement pulled at his stitches. He spent several minutes trying to find a comfortable position as he waited for Djaq’s medicine to dull the pain. But even when it did, he found it hard to relax. Despite feeling drained and weak from the blood loss, sleep eluded him. When he closed his eyes, the familiar smells and sounds of the camp and the forest enveloped him bringing fond memories of better times, but the memories were countered by the awful feeling that everything was wrong. He didn’t belong there anymore. The others had made that clear. He was an unwelcome guest in his own home.


Chapter 4

Robin returned just after darkness had fallen and was handed a reheat bowl of stew. He smiled at Much in thanks as he sat down, but he was more concerned with the sleeping form in the nearby bunk. Allan looked as he always did when he slept. He was lying on his back, one hand on his stomach, his lips slightly parted, dead to the world. Robin could almost believe the man had never left if it wasn’t for the black clothes he still wore.

“How is he?”

Glancing over at Allan, Will shrugged. “He seems okay. He woke up a little over an hour ago and had a little to eat. Djaq’s the one who really knows though.”

Robin turned to the Saracen woman.

“The loss of blood has made him weak, but I believe he will recover fully,” she said.

Thoughtful, Robin nodded. “When can he leave?”

“He’ll be strong enough to leave in a couple of days, but the wound in his leg is very deep, down to the bone. He won’t be able to walk very far on it for a week, maybe two.”

Much’s eyes widened. “We have to put up with him for two weeks?”

“We’ve already done more than he deserves,” John growled. “We can’t waste all our time babysitting a traitor.”

Robin raised his hands. “I have no intention of neglecting our duties.”

“But we can’t have him hanging around here. What if he overhears something and takes it back to Gisborne,” said Much.

“We can’t trust him,” added Little John.

“He’s not going to go back to Gisborne,” Robin pronounced. “Not if he has any sense.”

“But surely the Sheriff and Gisborne must be looking for him,” questioned Djaq.

“Oh, they’re looking for him alright,” replied Robin. “They’re looking for him so they can hang him. They think he helped us steal the money. Gisborne’s furious.”

Much snorted. “Of all the irony.”

“Why would they think that?” asked Will.

“According to Marian, they decided to draw their own conclusions when he didn’t return with the others and they couldn’t find his body next to the carriage.”

“Well, I suppose that solves one problem,” announced Much. “But he still might try to steal the money for the poor or stab us in our sleep. We should at least tie him up and set a guard on him.”

“Much,” Will cried shaking his head in exasperation. “He is not going to stab us in our sleep.”

“Will’s right,” agreed Robin. “Allan may be a traitor, but he’s not a cold blooded killer and you know that.”

Much nodded reluctantly.

“As for the money, well, according to Djaq, he wouldn’t be able to get very far with it. Still, we’ll make sure there’s someone in the camp with him at all times and be careful what we say when he’s awake just in case. And yes, John,” he said answering Little John’s pointed look. “We’ll go on as usual helping the poor. In a couple days, when he’s stronger, we’ll get him a horse or see if we can hitch him a lift on a wagon heading away from Nottingham.”

The outlaws shifted uncomfortably.

“Look, I know none of us want him here,” said Robin. “But since none of us are cold blooded killers either, we are going to have to make do. Alright?”

There were various grunts and nods of agreement before the outlaws dispersed.

As the others left, Will approached Robin. “I just wanted to say I’m sorry about all this.”

Robin put a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry about it. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but bringing Allan here was the right thing to do.”

“Thanks,” replied Will responding to Robin’s smile with a small one of his own. He joined the others as they headed for their bunks hoping for a good night’s rest, but he knew there was little chance of any of them finding peace that night.

A few hours later, a noise woke Will from the restless sleep he’d finally fallen into. It took him a moment to realize it was the sound of the door to the camp creaking opening. Blinking sleepily, he sat up and squinted in the dying firelight. A dark figure was holding tightly to the wall across from him and attempting to awkwardly hop towards the now open entrance.

In a hushed tone, Will said, “You know Djaq will be furious if you tear any of her stitches.”

The sudden voice made Allan lose his balance briefly and he had to spin his arm wildly to regain it. Breathing heavily, he righted himself and turned with a tired look to Will. “I think it’ll go fairly low on the list of things she’s angry with me about.” Going back to his slow escape, Allan tried putting weight on his limp left leg only to find it completely unwilling to support him. He landed on his knees with a dull thud and was forced to stifle a cry of pain.

Shaking his head, Will swung his legs over the side of his bunk but made no move to help him or stop him. “What do you think you’re doing?” he asked instead. “You’re not going to get very far like that.”

“I just thought I’d save you the trouble of throwing me out,” Allan replied through gritted teeth as he used the wall to pull himself up. “After all, none of you want me here. I’ll just get in the way, steal your money or stab you while you’re sleeping.”

Will winced. “I guess you weren’t exactly sleeping then.”

“Not exactly, no.” Hopping once more his useless left leg dragging behind him, Allan finally made it to the doorway.

“Well, then since you heard what the Sheriff will do to you if you show up in Nottingham, where exactly are you going to go?”

Allan stopped and his shoulders slumped. Sitting down on the ground where he’d stood, he rested his head in his hands.

Will came over and sat beside him staring out at the dark forest. “I’m sorry about the leg.”

Looking up, Allan shook his head. “No. Don’t be sorry. It was a battle. You can’t be sorry for following your instinct to defend yourself.”

“You didn’t. You hesitated.”

“Well, that was a mistake, wasn’t it? Look what happened to me,” Allan said with a sarcastic smirk. “But really, don’t worry about it. I’ll live.”

They spent several minutes gazing out at the darkness.

“Remember when that guard almost found the camp,” Allan said suddenly. “He ran right up to the entrance then just stood there looking confused.”

The corner of Will’s mouth twitched as he nodded. “He stood there for ages and we were all holding our breath trying not to make any noise.”

“We were doing a good job too,” said Allan grinning. “Until he farted.”

“I would’ve been fine if you hadn’t looked at me with that expression on your face.”

“Me? You’re the one who started laughing first.”

“I thought my stomach was going to explode if I held it in any longer.”

Allan let out a chuckle. “I swore Robin was going to throttle us right then and there,” he said. “At least, until he started laughing too.”

“We were just lucky the guard didn’t hear us and decided to move on.”

“Yeah,” Allan agreed. Sighing, he rubbed the back of his neck. “You were right, you know.”

“About what?”

“It’s too late for me to come back,” Allan explained. “I don’t belong here anymore.”

Will bristled. “Well, it’s your own fault. If you hadn’t gone to Gisborne and sold us out…”

“What?” Allan exclaimed. “You think I just woke up one day and thought ‘I feel like betraying my friends. I wonder if old Gizzy might be interested in helping me out.’”

“Well, for all I know, you did,” replied Will, his tone harsh. “For all I know, you’ve been working with Gisborne from the beginning.”

“That’s not what happened. Gisborne caught me.”

Forehead furrowed, Will stared at him in confusion. “When?”

“Back when the Sheriff’s sister visited. I was playing tricks down at the Trip and got careless. Suddenly, I look up and there he is. I didn’t have a chance. I pretended I was someone else.” He snorted. “It didn’t help. Guy just decided to throw me to the torturer.”

“You were tortured, but…?” Will’s eyes were wide. “For how long?”

“I don’t know. Forever?” Allan shook his head. “I was hoping you guys would come to my rescue, but instead Giz shows up and tells me Robin had been in and out of the castle and hadn’t even bothered to try and free me.”

“Robin didn’t know. He was busy with…”

“Well, I didn’t know that at the time,” Allan snapped. “Anyway, Guy starts selling me this silver tongued proposal. He said he’d give me money for a little information, that no one would get hurt. I guess I was just stupid enough to believe him. But that was before… I tried to tell him as little as possible, but he wasn’t exactly happy with that. Then things started going belly up and I was stuck. I tried to get out, but Robin caught me and well…”

“But he let you go,” Will insisted. “After he let you go, you could have told us what happened. You didn’t have to keep giving him information. Robin would have understood.”

Allan raised an eyebrow. “You really think so? It’s not like he thinks my life is worth much, at least not compared to the poor and his precious England. He’d probably prefer it if Guy had killed me. ‘Would have saved him the trouble if I’d just died.”

“That’s not true.”

“So he just beat me up and threatened to kill me for fun.”

“Well, maybe if you hadn’t upped your betrayal by becoming Gisborne’s lackey helping him prey on the poor with the Sheriff. You claimed you were sorry for what you had done and then instead of making amends you ran off to the closest person who’d give you money.”

“Where else was I supposed to go? I just wanted…” Allan trailed off and he swayed slightly where he sat.

Will grabbed his arm to steady him. “Are you alright?” He tried to get a good look at his face but it was hard in the faint light.

“I’m sorry,” Allan mumbled his eyes slightly glazed over. “I guess… I’m not feeling… so great.”

Will placed his palm against Allan’s forehead. “You have a fever.”

“That would explain it.”

Turning back to the camp, Will yelled for Djaq.


Chapter 5

Djaq was already there when Will turned around. She knelt down and felt Allan’s forehead. “We need to get him back to bed.”

Nodding, Will took Allan’s arm and began lifting the unsteady man to his feet. He was grateful when Little John suddenly appeared beside him to help. Carefully, they carried Allan to the bunk and lay him down. Allan let out a groan as they were forced to lift his injured leg. Standing back to give Djaq room, Will noticed that everyone was up and none of them appeared to have just woken. Apparently, Allan wasn’t the only one who could fake sleep.

Yawning, Much tiredly rubbed the back of his neck. “What’s wrong with him now?”

Little John lit a torch and held it over Allan so Djaq could get a better look at him. Unwrapping the bandage around Allan’s leg, Djaq frowned when she saw that the skin around the stitched gash was swollen and had turned a deep, glossy red.

“Djaq?” questioned Robin.

“The wound has become infected,” she said wrapping the bandage around it once more. “I’ll need to make a poultice to draw out the infection, but it doesn’t appear to be too bad. He does have a fever, but it’s not too high.”

“I feel rather cold actually,” said Allan gazing at them blearily, his arms wrapped around his torso.

Will grabbed the blanket off his bed and used it to cover the former outlaw. As he did so, Will and Allan’s eyes met. Allan searched Will’s face questioningly but the young carpenter simply turned away.

“Thanks,” Allan muttered his head bowed. He pulled the blanket tighter around him and closed his eyes.

Much sighed. “I guess he’s going to be staying a little longer than planned.”

“Looks like,” Robin murmured gazing at the injured man who appeared to have fallen into a restless sleep.

“That’s just great,” Much griped sarcastically.

Will shook his head at him. “I suppose you’d rather he’d actually left and collapsed somewhere in the forest where he could die quietly without bothering you.”

“You think I want him to die?”

“You never did like him.”

“It doesn’t mean I’m out to kill him. I just don’t think we should be the ones taking care of him,” Much said placing his hands on his hips. “At least, I’m not buying all his excuses.”

“I’m not, but you have to admit …”

“He sold us out! He could have gotten us killed! You can’t just dismiss that.”

“Enough!” cried Robin hands raised. “We are not going to let this tear us apart. We are just going to help him get well then send him on his way and get on with our lives as planned.”

“Did you know?” John suddenly demanded.

“Know what?” asked Robin.

“That Allan had been tortured.”

Robin frowned. “He mentioned it when I confronted him. It still doesn’t excuse what he did.”

“But it does make it a bit easier to understand,” commented Will.

John, meanwhile, was stomping back and forth across the camp, his fists raised, his expression fierce.

“What’s the problem?” Robin asked him.

“A member of our gang, our friend, was captured and tortured for a whole day and none of us even noticed,” he growled. “You don’t think that’s a problem?”

Robin opened his mouth but he had no reply and John stormed out into the night.

“John!” Much called after him. “Where does…?’

But Robin interrupted him putting a hand on his arm. “Let him go.” He let out a sigh. “The rest of us need to get some sleep. It would be good if at least some of us were awake tomorrow. Djaq can take care of Allan.”

“I’ll stay up and help,” announced Will.

Robin gazed at him for a moment then nodded. “Alright,” he said leaving the two of them to deal with the feverish patient as he went back to bed.
Djaq and Will quietly set about preparing the poultice for Allan trying not to disturb the other’s rest. Whether he’d finally succumbed to exhaustion or just didn’t want to face his former friends anymore, Allan remained silent with his eyes closed while they tended to his wound. There was no more talking that night.

In the morning, when Robin woke, he found Will and Djaq asleep once more, Much already making breakfast, and John watching over Allan. The large man appeared to be trying to encourage Allan to eat though his form of encouragement seemed to involve glaring at the ex-outlaw as Allan glumly spooned porridge into his mouth. Stretching, Robin got up and said ‘Good Morning’. Much replied with a rather sullen ‘Morning’ and John with a grunt. Allan just glanced up briefly before going back to his food. It seemed as if no one was having a good morning that day.

Robin went over to help himself to some breakfast. Glancing at the still sleeping pair, he said, “We’ll let them sleep another hour but then we have to get going. We have a lot of work to do today.”

After a quiet, tension filled hour, they roused Will and Djaq and began making plans.

“Alright, so we’ll head over to Mansfield together,” Robin declared. “They’ve been having a good harvest this year. We’ll use the money we got yesterday to buy food there and then we’ll split up. Will and John will do our usual drop-offs. Djaq and Much will go to Nettlestone and I’ll head over to Clun.”

The others nodded in agreement.

“And I’ll just stay behind, lie here and feel miserable,” added Allan from the other side of the camp where he’d been listening in to their huddled conference.

Robin shot him a dark glare causing Allan to look away and bow his head.

Turning back to the others, Robin let out a sigh and ran a hand through his hair. “Someone’s going to have to stay and keep an eye on him.”

They exchanged uncomfortable glances until Will finally spoke up. “I’ll do it,” he said. “After all, it’s my fault he’s here.”

“Alright,” agreed Robin patting him on the back. “We’ll see you later.”

The others quickly gathered their things leaving Will and Allan alone in an awkward silence. Avoiding Allan’s gaze, Will silently went about working on whatever chores he could find.

Allan leaned back and sighed. Still feeling the chills from the fever and the burning pain in his leg, he decided to try and sleep as best he could. He groggily woke up an indeterminate time later feeling no better than before. Looking around, he found Will working on a corner of the camp roof hammering in an extra support. Allan watched him for a while in silence, but Will must have felt the eyes on him, because he soon glanced back. Allan gave him a weak smile, but Will just turned around and went back to work.

“So, what’s been going on while I’ve been gone?” Allan asked. “Anything interesting happen?”

Will gave him another glance eyebrow raised before focusing once more on his work.

Allan groaned. “I’m not asking you to give away the locations of the latest stashes of loot. I just want to know the camp gossip. You know, what was it like with Marion here? Has Much stopped complaining about doing all the cooking? Have you finally told Djaq how you feel about her?”

The hammer in his hands slipped and Will suddenly found himself with a rather sore thumb. “It hasn’t come up,” he said around the thumb in his mouth.

“Well, you’d better hurry up and tell her before it’s too late. Come on, mate. One of us should get the girl and considering she hates me now, it’s definitely not going to be me.”

“Djaq doesn’t hate you,” Will said with a sigh. Giving up on his work, he sat down. “She’s been taking care of your wounds, hasn’t she?”

“Because that’s what she does. She’s a physician. She just doesn’t want my death on her conscience.”

“Trust me. Of all of us, she’s the one who never hated you,” Will insisted. “She’s just… disappointed.”

Allan bowed his head. “I think that’s worse. You know things used to be a lot easier before I met you lot.”

“Well, things are a bit more complicated when you actually care about people.”

“I do care. I do.”

“When you care about people you tell them the truth. You don’t hide things from them or betray them.”

“So are we just going to just continue the argument where we left off last night?”

“If you want to.”

“You know you can be an annoyingly smug git when you want to be.”

Will snorted.

“Listen, I was wondering…” Hesitating, Allan swallowed. “I just need to know… Do you think you could forgive me? You know I am sorry, for everything.”

Will suddenly found himself unable to meet Allan’s eyes. Instead, he stared intently at the wood grain of a nearby post.

“I mean if not now maybe in the future?” Allan asked again hopefully.

Taking a deep breath, Will closed his eyes. “I… I don’t know.” He shook his head. “It’s just… after everything….” The carpenter grabbed his hammer and turning his back on Allan, went back to work. “You should try to get some more sleep,” he said as he began hammering once more.

Focused on his work, Will completely missed the shattered expression on Allan’s face.


Chapter 6

When the rest of the gang returned late that afternoon, they found Allan asleep once more and Will idly carving something.

Much shook his head at the carpenter. “I don’t suppose you thought to get supper ready?”

Looking up, Will gave him a guilty smile. “Sorry.”

“Well, I’m not cooking anything because I’m pooped,” the former servant declared collapsing onto a seat. “If you want to eat something, help yourself to some bread and cheese.” He leaned back and closed his eyes.

The others smiled indulgently as they quietly stepped around him putting away their weapons and helping themselves to food. Unfortunately, Much’s attempt to rest was interrupted by a moan. His eyes snapped open and he glanced over to where the ex-outlaw was lying. Allan moaned again, his head thrashing back and forth. His hands twitched and he began muttering incoherently as he continued to sleep.

“Of all the…” Much cursed and got up heading towards Allan’s bunk.

“Much, just let him sleep,” said Will. “You know he’s needs it.”

“What about my sleep?” demanded Much. “It’s bad enough that he woke us up last night. Now, he won’t even let me doze off for a few minutes. Allan. Allan!” Much called shaking the sleeping man who continued to groan. “Come on. Wake up! We haven’t had a moment of peace since you came here and I for one would…”

He stopped when Allan suddenly shot up crying, “No!”

Much almost fell over as he jumped back.

Allan looked at him his eyes large and wild with a glazed sheen over the blue-green irises. His face was red, glistened with sweat and he was shaking. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” he babbled. “I didn’t mean… I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Tears began silently streaming down his face as he continued to babble his apologies.

The others had dropped everything and rushed over the moment Allan first cried out and now stood there open mouthed.

“It’s okay, Allan,” said Will slowly approaching him and putting a hand on his arm. “You’re alright.”

Allan quietened down, but he continued to shake and gasp for breath, his eyes nervously jumping back and forth across the camp.

Leaning over, Djaq felt his forehead and looked at his eyes. “His fever is much higher than before.”

Allan pulled away from her hand pushing himself as far back as he could on the bunk. “No. No. No one was supposed to get hurt. No one was supposed to… I didn’t mean to… I’m sorry. I’m sorry!” His voice began growing louder and more panicked.

“Calm down, Allan,” said Robin, but his words had the opposite effect.

Suddenly, Allan began to yell and thrash about his movements hampered by the blankets still covering him. Will, John and Djaq all tried to grab a hold of him and keep him still so he wouldn’t hurt himself. Robin and Much were too shocked to move. Eventually, with John gripping Allan in a bear hug from behind and Will holding down his legs, they managed to get him to stop and his body slowly went limp, but the panic remained in his eyes.

Looking up, terror written across his features, Allan met Robin’s eyes and whispered, “Please don’t kill me.”

Robin paled. Turning away, he closed his eyes for a moment, before turning back at Allan. “No one is gong to kill you,” he insisted, quiet and sincere.

But Allan didn’t appear to have heard. He no longer even seemed aware of where he was. Eyes half closed, he lay back muttering and twitching. Djaq took the opportunity to check his wound. She could tell it was bad before she even unwrapped the bandage which was now stretched tightly over Allan’s swollen calf. When she finally removed it, she wrinkled her nose as she was immediately hit by a pungent smell. The skin around the cut was now very dark with thin red lines spreading away from it. She gently placed a hand over the reddened skin feeling the heat radiating from it. The light touch was enough to cause Allan to cry out and try to pull his leg away.

Djaq shook her head. “The infection has gotten much worse.”

“What about the poultice?” demanded Will.

“It’s not working,” she replied. “The infection must be too deep for it to be effective. I am going to have to reopen the wound and wash out the infection.”

“You’re going to cut him open?” Will asked eyes wide. “But he already lost so much blood. Are you sure…?”

“The wound must be completely drained or the infection will kill him.” Djaq turned to Much. “I am going to need our sharpest knife, some rags and lots of water.”

The former servant nodded before dashing off to fetch the needed items.

“John, I’ll need you to stay there while I do this.”

Still sitting behind Allan his arms wrapped around his torso, the big man nodded too, a grim expression on his bearded face. Allan let out another groan and John squeezed his shoulder reassuringly.

“Will, could you keep holding…?” Djaq trailed off as she realized Will wasn’t listening. “Will?” The young man didn’t respond having become completely focused on the infected leg. Touching him lightly on the cheek, Djaq finally drew his gaze away from the wound and towards her. “Will, I need you to go down to the river and fetch some more water. I’m not sure we have enough here.”

“Okay,” Will replied quietly, his eyes and voice unfocused and faraway. He fetched a bucket and with one last glance at Allan, left the camp.

“Good idea,” Robin told Djaq.

The Saracen let out a long breath. “He doesn’t need to see this. Robin, would you mind…?”

Hood knelt down and took Will’s former place holding Allan’s legs.

Taking the knife Much handed her, Djaq carefully examined it before nodding in approval.

Allan, unfortunately, also got a good look at the knife and drew the wrong conclusions. He began to thrash about once more forcing John and Robin to grip tightly. “No. No. Please don’t. I said I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Please…”

“Allan.” Djaq took his face his face in her hands. “Allan. We’re not going to hurt you.”

His struggles momentarily stopping, Allan squinted in confusion at her. “Djaq?”

“That’s right,” she said smiling at him. “I’m trying to help you.”

But he shook his head. “No. Can’t be… Threw me out… I’m not…. No!” And his movements again became violent.”

“Can’t you give him something to put him to sleep?” asked Much desperately.

“Even if we could get him to take something, it would take too long to work,” replied Djaq. “We need to do this now.” She took a hold of the knife once more and glanced at Robin and John. “Ready?”

They nodded steeling themselves as Djaq began to work on the wound. Though she was as gentle as she could be, there was no way she could avoid causing Allan more pain. The former outlaw cried out and tried to twist his leg out of Robin’s grip, but Robin fought back refusing to let go. Djaq worked carefully and meticulously, but was forced to stop several times when Allan’s movements grew too violent.

The cries grew louder and more frequent. Eventually, it became too much for Little John. During one particularly agonizing scream, John drew his fist back and struck Allan on the chin. The screaming stopped and Allan’s body went limp, his head hanging down slackly. The others stared at John, but his gaze was unapologetic as he continued to hold Allan’s unconscious body. His hands now free, Robin aided Djaq as she finished washing out the wound.

******


It usually took twenty minutes to fetch water from the river. Will made it back in ten. But by the time he arrived at the entrance to the camp, the screaming had already started. The sound of Allan’s cries brought Will to a halt. His body froze unable to move any further. He stared transfixed at the open doorway clutching the heavy bucket of water in his hands.

Then came the horrible moment when the screaming suddenly stopped. The wooden bucket fell from his grip. Tipping as it hit the ground, its contents created a tiny river across the forest floor. And still, Will couldn’t bring himself to enter the camp.

Sometime later, Little John emerged carrying an armful of rags stained red and yellow. The sight and smell of them was too much for Will. He dove for the nearest tree vomiting up the contents of his stomach. Soon, he felt a comforting hand on his forehead and another rubbing circles on his back.

“He’s alright,” said Little John as he held him. “He’s going to be alright.”

Leaning against the tree, Will nodded but he couldn’t seem to stop the shaking that continued to go straight through his body.


Chapter 7

When Will finally found the strength to enter the camp, he found his friends scattered about looking like they’d just survived a horrendous battle.

Much was the only one who was up. He was busying himself attempting to clean the camp, but really only randomly moving objects from one place to another. Though completely focused on his work, his face remained distinctively pale.

Robin sat on the ground by Allan’s bunk his arms hanging loosely over his bent knees. His gaze was distant, but he glanced up acknowledging Will with a nod as he passed.

Djaq sat besides Allan bathing his forehead with a cool cloth. She leaned against the wooden post of the bunk as she did giving away her exhaustion.

Allan was gray and much too still.

Will knelt down next to his unconscious friend fixated on the rise and fall of his chest.

“His fever has gone down,” spoke Djaq interrupting his examination of Allan. “But it’s still fairly high. I have removed all the contamination from the wound and now, Allan must fight off the remaining infection himself. If not…” Trailing off, she looked away. She took the damp cloth from Allan’s forehead and handed to Will. “Would you watch him? I shall see if I have any herbs that will help his fight.”

“Yeah, of course,” replied Will taking the cloth from her. He dipped it in the nearby bucket of water and wrung it out before placing it once more on Allan. He wasn’t sure how long he spent trying to cool Allan’s fever and watching intently for any sign of change, but when he felt a hand on his shoulder sometime later, he looked up surprised to find it was now dark. It had been John who stood beside him hand still resting on his shoulder. The others were gathered around the fire. All of them were looking at him with matching expressions of concern.

“What?”

“Robin, was just saying we should set shifts to watch over Allan during the night,” explained John.

“I’ll take the first shift,” Will volunteered.

Robin nodded as if he’d been expecting that response. “Alright. It’ll be you, John, me and then Much.” Djaq opened her mouth to protest, but Robin stopped her with a raised hand. “You need to rest, because if anything happens…”

Bowing her head, she nodded.

Will focused his attention back on Allan, tuning out the sounds of the others talking and settling down into their bunks. Soon, it was quiet. Only the normal noises of the forest and the crackling of the fire could be heard. Will leaned his head back against the side of the bunk, the events of the past few days flashing through his head: His axe hitting Allan’s leg, Allan’s body lying on the road, Allan trying to explain himself, asking for forgiveness, raving, screaming…

Over the next hour, these images continued to play out in his mind refusing to give him peace. They were finally interrupted by the sound of one of the other outlaws getting up. Will looked and was surprised to find Robin standing over him, gazing down at Allan, the firelight playing over the deep lines of his face.

“Is something wrong?”

Robin shook his head. “No. No…” he said rubbing a hand tiredly over his eyes. “I just couldn’t sleep.”

Will nodded, gazing down at the ground. He doubted he’d be able to sleep either. It was one of the reasons he’d volunteered to take the first watch.

Robin frowned. Pulling over a stool, he sat down and leaned forward elbows resting on his knees as he gazed at his young friend. “How are you doing?”

“Me?” Will looked up, eyebrows raised. “I’m fine.”

“Really?”

“I’m not the one who’s injured.”

Robin continued to stare at him. “That’s not what I meant.”

“Alright, I’m not fine,” admitted Will temper flaring. “I just…” He waved his hands in the air.

“You can’t let what happened weigh on you like this. You were on opposite sides of a battle. It’s not…”

“I know that,” Will snapped, his voice harsh but quiet. “But I look at him lying there and I just can’t forget that it was my axe in my hands that caused this.”

“He’s already forgiven you.”

“I know,” Will whispered not feeling any better.

There was a moan from the wounded man. They glanced at him in concern, but Allan’s head merely rolled to the side and he was silent once more.

“Did we do the right thing?” Will asked after a pause.

Robin’s forehead furrowed again. “Bringing Allan here?”

“No.” Will shook his head. “Letting him go in the first place.”

“He betrayed us,” said Robin old anger flashing in his eyes.

“He was tortured and abandoned and gave into temptation. We always knew he had a weakness for gold.”

“Weakness is not an excuse.”

“He made a mistake,” Will insisted. “I’m not sure he even realized the consequences of what he was doing. And once he did, he was sorry, he tried to get out.”

“So he said, but we had no way of knowing if he was telling the truth,” Robin exclaimed rising from his stool and beginning to pace. “He even went straight to Gisborne the moment he left.”

“Because we turned our backs on him. Maybe we should have given him a second chance.”

Robin shook his head. “You agreed with the decision at the time. You’re just having doubts now because you feel guilty.”

“No. It’s not that,” Will said earnestly. “When he was delirious, when he screamed he was sorry, did that sound like lies to you?”

Robin stopped pacing and rubbed both hands over his face. “You really think he deserves a second chance?”

“You gave Carter a second chance. How many men did he kill before you convinced him of the truth?” Will sighed. “Besides we’re all Allan has and after everything we’ve been through, we’re pretty much family. And who deserves a second chance more than family?”

Arms crossed tightly across his chest, Robin gazed down silently at Allan’s still form. “He’s afraid of me,” he whispered.

Will was surprised by the sudden admission. “Well, you did try to kill him.”

Robin shot him a look. “Is that the kind of leader I am? Threaten the members of my gang with death the moment they step out of line?”

“You were afraid for Marion. You tend to go a bit out of your head when it comes to her.”

“Still… I try so hard not to kill. And in one moment of anger….” Robin stared at the heavens. “I’m going for a walk,” he announced and left without looking back.

Once again alone with his dark thoughts, Will turned to check on Allan. The cloth on his forehead was warm so he wetted it in the cool water once more. As he put it back, he was surprised when Allan’s eyes suddenly opened and blinked dazedly at him.

“Allan?”

“Mmm…”

Will placed a hand on his shoulder and shook him lightly. “Allan, do you know who I am?”

“Haven’t been gone that long,” Allan mumbled shifting uncomfortably in the bunk.

“You were pretty out of it earlier,” Will explained. “I don’t think you even knew where you were.”

Eyes finally focusing on Will, Allan frowned. “Really?”

“You were yelling that you were sorry and didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt.”

Allan shrugged looking away. “Probably just some stupid nightmare.”

“You get nightmares?”

“Everyone gets nightmares,” Allan muttered. The expression on his face grew worried as he looked back at Will. “I didn’t say anything else, did I?”

“No,” Will replied after a moment’s hesitation. He made a half-hearted effort to smile. “I think you might have scared Much though.”

Allan snorted. “I’m not being funny, but it doesn’t take much to frighten Much. Branch falling in the woods is enough to make him jump.”

“Allan, there’s something I need to tell you…” Will began but Allan interrupted him.

“Not that Much isn’t brave in battle. He’ll charge in just like the rest of us.”

“Allan, I…”

“Of course, not before complaining ‘bout at least ten different things first.”

Will gritted his teeth. “Could you just listen for a minute!”

“Man will complain about everything down to the state of his socks. Sometimes, I wonder…”

“I forgive you!” Will blurted out cutting Allan off. He looked around nervously hoping he hadn’t woken anyone up. Luckily, the cry didn’t seem to have disturbed anyone from their slumber.

Allan stared at him silently for a moment then turned to look at the wall. “You’re just saying that because I’m dying.”

“I’m not. And you are not dying,” Will insisted.

“Sure feels like I am,” he said his flushed face creased with pain.

“Well, I’m not going to let you.”

Allan finally turned to look back at Will. “Then why…”

“Because though what you did was horrible, I know you truly regret it.” Will took a deep breath. “And because you’re my friend.”

Allan bit his lip. Looking away, he rubbed a hand across his face, but couldn’t quite hide the tears forming in his eyes. On impulse, Will reached down and wrapped his arms around Allan in an awkward hug.

Allan brought up his trembling arms and returned it. “Thank you,” he whispered holding his friend tightly.


Chapter 8

For the next three days, Allan’s fever remained the same. It never hit the dangerous level it had before, but it stayed high.

And Allan grew weaker.

Will didn’t leave the camp anymore and neither did Djaq. He kept watch over his friend. She spent her time preparing herbal teas she hoped would reduce the fever. They took turns coxing them down Allan’s throat. Allan spent most of his time unconscious and even when he was awake he was rarely lucid.

The other outlaws made no comment just adjusted the duties accordingly, but even they seemed to be spending more time at home than usual. Robin and Much usually avoided the sick bed, but John kept a quiet eye on Allan. He liked to check on him each morning and night, before he left the camp and when he returned again.

Afternoon on the third day found the whole gang occupying the camp. They were spread about and keeping to themselves. In one corner, Much was grumbling in frustration over a torn shirt he was trying to mend. In another, Robin was picking unenthusiastically at some food having missed the earlier meal time. At the back, John worked his way through the captured loot sorting it out into parcels to drop off the next day. By Allan’s bunk, Will sat sharpening his axes. He kept glancing over his shoulder every few minutes at Djaq who was busy checking up on her patient. She wore a troubled expression.

“Djaq?” Will finally dared to ask.

Hand resting on Allan’s chest, Djaq closed her eyes and took a deep breath. After a moment, she turned to Will. “There’s something we need to discuss, all of us,” she said directing the last to the whole camp.

Three pairs of eyes looked up, full of apprehension.

“What is it?” asked Robin as they slowly gathered around the fire.

“Allan’s fever is still too high,” explained Djaq standing straight and fighting for a physician’s detachment. “His body won’t be able to take much more.”

Their expressions became shocked and desolate.

“But there has to be something else you can do,” Will pleaded desperately.

“There is…” Djaq hesitated. “I have been putting it off, but I believe it’s time we considered amputation.”

Will’s face went pale and he was forced to sit down. Robin looked to the heavens. John looked to the ground.

“What? Cut off Allan’s leg?” spoke Much his face a mask of incomprehension. “You can’t just cut off his leg. I mean… Allan needs his leg.” He appeared as startled as anyone else by his sudden defence of Allan.

“Much, it’s unlikely he’ll survive if we don’t,” Djaq said softly.

“But…” He looked around for some support but the others looked away, pained and resigned.

There was silence until Will finally raised his head and said, “We have to ask him.”

“He hasn’t been in his right mind recently. I don’t think…” Djaq began.

“It has to be his decision,” Will insisted.

Djaq opened her mouth to protest once more but stopped when she saw the look in Will’s eyes.

“Please, Djaq.”

“Alright,” she said. “I will talk to him.”

The others moved off as much as they could to give Djaq some privacy to talk to Allan. She knelt by his bunk and put a hand on his shoulder giving him a gentle shake.

“Allan. Allan?”

Face creasing with pain, he mumbled lowly, but didn’t wake so Djaq shook him harder.

“Allan!”

He finally opened his eyes and slowly focused on her face. When he saw who had woken him, his lips lifted in a weak attempt at a smile. “Hey, Djaq,” he said, his voice quiet and hoarse.

“Hey,” she replied smiling back though it didn’t reach her eyes. “I’m sorry to wake you but there’s something I need to talk to you about.”

“What’s that,” he slurred tiredly.

“You understand that the infection in your leg hasn’t gotten any better?”

He gave a small nod.

She swallowed. “I believe the only thing we can do now is take the leg.”

Staying silent, Allan stared vacantly at her for a moment before shifting his gaze to the roof above.

“I know this is difficult, but if you want to survive…”

“No,” Allan said simply, still refusing to look at her.

“But Allan…”

“No,” he repeated with as much force as he could manage.

Reaching over, she took his hand. “It might be your only chance.”

“Who you trying to kid, Djaq?” he said turning his head towards her with a cheerless smile. “What sort of chance do I have as a one-legged thief? Not going to be much use in running away from soldiers, is it?”

Djaq waved her hand in frustration. “Aren’t you even going to consider…”

“Consider what? The millions of opportunities out there for ex-thieves and ex-poachers?” Allan closed his eyes his voice dropping to a whisper. “I don’t know what I’m going to do if I survive with two legs let alone one.”

“You are a foolish, stubborn man,” Djaq declared and made to leave, but before she could remove her hand from Allan’s, he grasped it tightly and turned to her with a pleading gaze.

“I know I’ve been more foolish than anything else recently, but do you… do you still think I’m a good man?”

Her face softened. Leaning forward, she kissed his forehead. “You’ve always been a good man, Allan A’Dale,” she said with a smile. “You just need to be reminded every once and awhile.”

His eyes glistened before they closed and he fell asleep once more.

Djaq moved away heading for the fire in need of its warmth. She wrapped her arms around herself and bowed her head. Robin came to stand beside her not bothering to pretend he hadn’t been listening to every word.

“What now?” he asked.

“Now, we wait.”

“Isn’t there anything else we can do?” he demanded hands on his hips.

Shaking her head, Djaq continued to stare into the fire. “We’ve tried everything. Some things are more a matter of the heart and soul than medicine.”

“But if you truly believe that amputating his leg will help…”

“I will not go against Allan’s wishes,” she maintained.

Robin put a hand on her shoulder. “Not even if it might save his life?”

She turned to look at him with sorrowful eyes. “What sort of life can it be if he does not wish to live it?”

Robin’s face fell as he looked away.

“Does he have any chance?” Will asked quietly as he approached them.

Djaq took his hand. “There is always hope.”

“How long until… How long…?”

“If his fever breaks before the night is over, I believe he can recover, but it’s a slim chance. Most likely he will not live to see the dawn.”

Gray gloom settled over the camp. The outlaws performed their chores listlessly for awhile before one by one giving up and settling down to wait. The sun soon set, the hours passing both more quickly and more slowly than should be possible. Much built up the fire to ward off the cold darkness and they all drew closer.

After awhile, Will, who sat as usual next to Allan’s bunk, spoke. “He wanted to come back.”

The others looked up at him questioningly.

“A couple of weeks ago when the Sheriff went missing, Allan asked me if he could come back. After everything, he still wanted to come back.”

“He never wanted to leave in the first place,” said Djaq from where she sat beside him. At some point during the evening, she had leant over and now rested her head against his shoulder.

“Maybe he finally realized that money and a cushy castle aren’t everything,” said Robin thoughtfully.

“Maybe he was sick of working for Gisborne,” muttered Much using a stick to poke the fire. “Can’t imagine he’s very pleasant to work for.”

John snorted in agreement.

“Do you remember that time,” Will began slowly, “Allan insisted we put horse manure in place of the gold we stole?”

Lips twitching, Djaq added, “And then he made us lag behind long enough to hear Gisborne’s screams when he found out.”

“Never knew a man could scream so loud,” remarked John.

Robin smiled. “I think that was one wait that was worth the risk.”

“Do you remember,” said Djaq picking up Will’s thread of conversation, “when Allan hid that live rabbit under Much’s cooking pot?”

Grins appeared on all their faces except for Much’s.

“That wasn’t funny. That rabbit almost scared me to death,” he said. “Might have been worth it if he’d at least let me cook it. Instead, he insisted on naming it and keeping it as a pet.”

Will frowned. “Whatever happened to Jim?”

“Allan set him free somewhere deep in the forest,” said John. “I think he was afraid of someone putting him in a stew when he wasn’t looking.”

They all stared at Much.

“I may have made a few threats,” he confessed reluctantly. He turned to Robin. “But do you remember when you asked Allan for a distraction and he went over and kissed that man’s wife?”

Robin rolled his eyes. “I only wanted a small distraction. I didn’t mean for him to get into a brawl in the middle of the street.”

“You have to admit it did work though,” said Will with a smile.

“Yes,” admitted Robin. “But then we had to go rescue Allan before the man did more than just break his nose.”

“How come we never do distractions like that anymore?” Much asked.

“Because Allan was the one who did them,” commented Djaq, quietly. “He’s always been the best at making things up on the spot.”

“Allan always told the best stories,” said John. “Tells,” he quickly corrected glancing at the unconscious figure on the bunk.

“Not that you can believe any of them,” countered Much. “But I’ve got to admit, I kind of miss those stories.”

Robin gazed into the fire a smile playing on his face. “Do you remember when we were trapped by a dozen guards and Allan ran up behind them screaming ‘The Germans are coming! The Germans are coming!’ launching into a description of an advancing German army so detailed that the commander of the guards immediately took off to stop what he thought was an income invasion.”

John shook his head. “Those guards could have easily recognized him. He could have gotten himself killed.”

“He saved our lives,” said Will in a whisper.

There was a heavy pause before Will began again.

“Do you remember…”

They continued telling tales of Allan throughout the rest of the night as if a barrier had broken and they were finally allowed to talk about a friend they’d long forgotten.

The sky lightened so slowly Will didn’t even notice dawn’s arrival until the call of a bird drew his gaze upward.

The night was over.

He swung his eyes quickly in the direction of Allan trying to remember the last time anyone had checked on him. Sweat glistened on Allan’s forehead in the early light. He was horribly still and from the spot where Will sat, he couldn’t tell if Allan was even breathing, any movement of his chest hidden by all the blankets covering him. Will found he was stuck, unable to bring himself to go over, unable to look away.

Djaq noticed his frozen stare and immediately got up to check on Allan. The conversation fell silent as all eyes followed her watching closely as her hands felt Allan’s forehead and neck.

Much swallowed. “Is he…?”

Will’s own breath stopped as Djaq took a couple minutes to answer, deep in concentration over her patient.

“He’s alive,” she finally said as they all sighed loudly in relief. “And I think his fever has broken.” She patted Allan’s face. “Allan. Allan?”

For an agonizing moment, there was no reaction; then a hand appeared beneath the pile of blankets and weakly tried to swipe at her.

“Lay off,” mumbled Allan, eyes still tightly closed. “I’m trying to sleep.”

Will couldn’t help it. Grin spreading across his face, mouth open wide, he laughed. It echoed long and loud throughout the forest.


Chapter 9

Four days later, Allan was still with them and was steadily growing stronger.

It had gotten to the point where Will and Djaq felt comfortable leaving the camp once more though they always made sure someone stayed behind to watch over Allan. The former outlaw knew this, but was still somewhat surprised to wake up from an afternoon nap to find the camp empty except for Much, who was, as usual, cooking.

Memories of Much’s glare and accusatory tone made Allan wary of addressing him. They hadn’t really had a chance to speak since Allan’s unexpected return to the camp though he’d overheard plenty of Much’s objections concerning it. They hadn’t really spoken since Allan had left either.

Things had been better since Allan’s fever had broken. For some reason that he didn’t understand, his presence at the camp had gone from barely tolerated to accepted. Though he still seemed to spend most of his time sleeping, when he was awake, the outlaws had been almost, if he dared believe it, friendly. He’d even chatted with Will and Djaq like old times. Despite this, he continued to find it hard to meet anyone’s eyes afraid of seeing the old anger and disgust still there.

All in all, Allan would rather go back to sleep and avoid dealing with Much, but unfortunately, he had a rather pressing matter that needed attending to. He pulled off the blankets and being careful not to jostle his injured leg, he sat up.

Hearing the movement, Much turned towards him. “Oh, you’re awake.”

“Yeah,” replied Allan.

There was an awkward silence.

The silence would have continued longer, but Allan’s bladder was sending him urgent messages. He sighed. “I could use a little help,” he said pointing outside.

Blinking, Much stared blankly at him for a moment then sudden realization dawned. “Right.” He wiped his hands on the cloth tucked into his belt and hurried over. Helping Allan to his feet, Much supported him as they headed out into the trees.

On the way back, Much went a bit too fast causing Allan to lose his balance. Trying to save himself from falling, Allan put too much weight on his bad leg. The pain threatened to bring him to his knees. Luckily, Much was able to catch him that time.

“Sorry,” Much mumbled looking sheepish.

Bent over, Allan took a few deep breaths letting the pain die down before he straightened up once more. “In a bit of a hurry, are we?” he commented sardonically.

Much bristled. “I’ve got a pot on the fire.”

“Yeah? Sorry, I took you away from your rat stew,” said Allan as they continued on their way back into the camp.

“It’s not rat,” Much protested.

“Squirrel, then.”

“It’s rabbit.”

“Looks pretty small for a rabbit,” Allan declared as they entered the camp. He wrinkled his nose. “And what are we having it with? Cabbage?”

“Since when are you a culinary expert? Remember how long it took us to recover the last time you tried to cook?” questioned Much eyebrows raised.

“’S not my fault your stomach can’t handle quality.”

Much helped Allan sit down on his bunk. “Quality? You mean the fine way you burnt that food into ash?” Shaking his head, Much headed back to his cooking.

A small smile suddenly appeared on Allan’s face. “I missed this.”

Much frowned. “Missed what?”

“Arguing with you.”

Frozen in the middle of stirring the stew, the former servant stared at him.

“I think I missed your cooking too.” Allan laughed. “I must still be delirious.”

“I…” Much’s mouth opened and closed a few times. “I missed you too.”

It was Allan’s turn to be surprised; then a grin slowly spread across his face.

Reddening, Much looked away and returned to messing with his stew, pointlessly clattering about with the cooking implements. “Place hasn’t been the same without you. It’s been much quieter for one thing.”

Allan’s grin just grew larger.

The moment was broken by the arrival of Will and Djaq.

“Good. You’re awake,” said the young carpenter. “Here.” He tossed over a wooden staff.

When Allan caught it, he realized the staff was in fact a well-crafted crutch. “Thanks,” he told Will.

The outlaw just shrugged in response.

“You couldn’t have brought that ten minutes ago?” Much complained half-heartedly.

The others ignored him.

“Go on,” said Will. “Try it out.”

Allan slowly pulled himself to his feet. With the crutch under his left arm, he tentatively put a little weight on his bad leg and took a step. Succeeding in that, he took another. The crutch was exactly the right height. He wasn’t too surprised. Will had always had a good eye. Looking up, he found the others all watching him intently.

“What? Never seen a man walk before?”

They laughed, relief shinning in their eyes.

“It’s just good to see you on your feet,” explained Djaq.

Allan began hobbling rather unsteadily about the camp.

“Careful,” cried Much as Allan bumped into some shelves knocking things over.

The former thief just smirked and kept going, stumbling about the small enclosure as he adjusted to using the crutch. The outlaws continued to watch with smiles on their faces. Soon, Allan was moving at a fair speed, his natural agility returning.

“I don’t believe it.”

Everyone turned to see Robin and Little John standing in the camp’s entrance. Robin was shaking his head.

“It seems the dead have risen.”

“The dead are dancing,” joked Allan as he tried to twirl around.

Unfortunately, a sudden misstep with the crutch at a bad angle sent him reeling but John reached out with his strong arms and stopped him before he hit the ground.

“So maybe I’m not quite ready for dancing yet,” Allan admitted.

John grinned down at him; then carefully set him upright once more. “You’ve never danced better,” said the big man.

“Very funny.”

“I think that’s enough for now,” announced Djaq placing a hand on Allan’s back and guiding him back to his bunk. “You still need to take it easy.”

Allan opened his mouth to protest but thought better of it. He didn’t want to press things too far still feeling uncertain about his place there and besides, he was actually feeling a bit tired already. The fever had taken so much out of him. It would still be awhile before he was back to full strength.

He sat down on the bunk, propping the crutch beside it. He pulled his legs onto the bed, but stayed sitting up. Djaq threw the blankets over him and he smiled at her. Being stuck in bed was tiresome, but he couldn’t deny that he did enjoy being fussed over by a beautiful woman.

Allan watched as the outlaws bustled about the camp, eating and doing chores, joking and chatting. They talked about the day’s events, ranted about the Sherriff’s latest evils, teased Much. Eventually, discussion turned to the next day and plans for another caper into the castle. Apparently the Sherriff had appropriated a large cash of jewels from some nobleman and now Robin intended to appropriate it himself for the poor.

Without thinking, Allan suddenly spoke up. “The jewels will probably be at the top of the Northeast tower. The Sherriff’s been using it to keep his most precious possessions until he can get a new strong room built.”

There was a sudden silence as all attention was suddenly centered on Allan.

Gisborne’s former right-hand man swallowed.

Robin straightened up and gave him a levelled gaze. “You sure?”

Mouth suddenly dry, Allan just nodded.

“How many guards?”

“Shouldn’t be more than three, one at the door and two inside. The Sherriff’s been trying not to advertise the location.”

After a pause, Robin nodded. “Alright. We’ll head there as soon as we’re inside.”

As the others went back to their plans, Allan’s stomach churned. He knew he should feel hope because Robin had believed him, but he’d felt the doubt and the hesitation as the outlaw leader weighed in on whether or not to trust him. And it had brought it all crashing back on him. He was still the outsider, still the traitor. As he’d joked around with his former friends earlier, it had actually started to feel like it used to be. For a moment, he had forgotten the betrayal and the rejection.

Allan almost wished he hadn’t spoken up, but the urge to help had been too much. Now, he was reminded of the mistrust that would always be there. Who was he kidding; it was not surprising after what he had done. It was what he deserved.

Glancing at the crutch beside his bunk, Allan felt another horrible realization sink in. He was doing much better and since he could now get about by himself, the outlaws would soon be kicking him out. A cold despair washed over him. No longer hearing the others’ voices, he lay down on the bed and pulled his blanket tightly around him. Just as he’d been beginning to feel at home once more, it was all about to be taken away from him again.


Chapter 10

The next day was sunny but cold. Allan sat on his bunk watching Will make arrows as they waited for the rest of the gang to return from their raid on the castle. Looking around the camp, Allan couldn’t help the rush of memories that came to him with every object he saw. Each familiar sight brought recollections of missions they’d won, enemies they’d defeated, good and bad times they’d gone through together. He sighed and rubbed his eyes wishing to cast out the memories so they’d stop plaguing him, stop reminding him of what he’d lost, was losing.

His nerves were on edge. He kept expecting any moment for somebody to suddenly announce that it was time for him to leave. He knew he’d long ago overstayed his welcome. The outlaws had already done much more than their former member ever expected. They’d cared and tended to him when they could have easily left him to die in the middle of the forest. Since his fever had broken, they’d even gotten close to treating him like they used to, like a friend, but he knew they’d never trust him again, not like before, not after everything he’d done. His time with the gang was growing short and he could feel his uncertain future growing closer.

In need of a distraction, he addressed Will. “Need a hand?”

The young carpenter raised his eyebrows. “Are you actually offering to help?”

“What’s so surprising about that?”

“I didn’t think you liked making arrows.”

Allan rolled his eyes. “I don’t, but I’m going stir crazy here. I’ve been stuck on this bunk with nothing to do for over a week.”

“You were asleep most of that time.”

“Yeah, but I’m not asleep now. And there’s only so long I can sit here staring a Much’s cooking pots.” Grabbing his crutch, Allan hobbled over to where Will was working and sat down beside him. “Well?”

“You can fit the feathers,” said Will handing them over along with some twine. “I’ll make the shafts. Don’t want us to go around hitting anymore innocent trees.”

“Hey, those arrows I made were perfectly straight.”

“Straight? I think that was the only time I ever saw Robin miss his mark.”

“So he was a little off.”

“By about three feet.” Will shook his head. “I think it’s best you left all the woodworking to me. You can stick to doing the blagging and pickpocketing.”

“Well, that is what I’m best at,” replied Allan with a grin but it soon fell away when he remembered he wouldn’t actually be around to do the blagging and he felt another twist in his gut.

Will frowned at him. “Are you feeling alright? Maybe you should go back to your bunk and lie down.”

“I’m fine,” Allan insisted. “And I’m definitely not going to lie down. I’ve done enough lying down, I tell you. From now on, no more lying down.”

“That might make sleeping a bit uncomfortable,” Will said smirking at him.

“Very funny.”

They continued to chat as they worked and the pile of finished arrows grew bigger, but it wasn’t long before the others returned bearing large sacks and even larger grins. As the outlaws rid themselves of their weapons and their booty, Will and Allan looked at them expectantly.

“Well?”

With a wide smirk, Robin dropped his load by the waiting pair. “It seems lads that the Sheriff will be spending the night throwing another one of his tantrums.”

“You found the jewels, then?” asked Allan.

Robin nodded towards the sack. “Take a look.”

Untying it, Allan dipped his hand into the bag and brought out a handful of multicoloured gems. They felt cool and smooth as he let them tumble through his fingers.

“Brilliant.”

“They were right where you said they’d be,” said Robin patting Allan on the back.

Allan looked up into Robin’s eyes and seeing genuine gratitude, felt a surge of hope.

“You didn’t have any trouble?” Will asked putting away his tools and the completed arrows.

Still grinning, Robin rubbed the top of his head. “Well, we’ve got a few new bruises, the Sheriff’s going to need to buy a few new doors and I think Much’s now engaged to one of the kitchen maids…”

The former servant gave his master a sour look at that comment.

“…but there was nothing we couldn’t handle.” He turned back to Allan. “Marion said she’s glad to hear you’re doing better.”

“Took the opportunity to do a bit of visiting while you were there, did you?”

“It’s a bit hard to do anything in the castle without her finding out.”

“Yeah, I’d noticed.”

They exchanged grins.

“I wonder what the Sheriff was planning to do with all these jewels anyway,” Much wondered as he dragged the heavy sacks to the back of the camp.

“Make himself a necklace?” Robin commented with a smirk, eyebrows raised innocently.

Little John snorted. “Can you imagine him prancing about with all those jewels hanging off him?”

“They’re much too colourful for him,” countered Will. “They’d clash with his basic black image.”

“What about Gisborne?” questioned Djaq.

“He likes his black too, but I can’t see him being opposed to wearing all that jewellery,” Allan joined in. “You wouldn’t believe the number of times I caught old Giz preening himself in front of a mirror.”

There was an awkward silence and Allan immediately cursed himself. It was only a small reminder, but it was enough to dampen the mood. He looked down avoiding their eyes. It’s not as if he could expect them to just accept or forget the time he’d spent as Gisborne’s man.

Coming to a decision, Allan cleared his throat. “Anyway,” he began barely managing to raise his gaze from the ground. “I was thinking that since I’m pretty much back on my feet, or at least one foot and a crutch, I thought it’s about time I was on my way.”

The outlaws exchanged glances.

Robin studied him carefully. “You’re sure?”

Allan nodded but still wouldn’t meet his eyes. “I’m real grateful and everything, but I know you don’t want me hanging around. So I figured I could head out tomorrow, yeah? I don’t expect you to drop me off anywhere or anything, though I wouldn’t mind a bit of food for the road if that’s no trouble. ”

“But… What will you do? Where will you go?” Will asked softly.

“Same old stuff, I guess: thieving and poaching. It’s not like I’ve got any other skills. I’ll head back down south. I know some good places there. Actually, that’s probably not a good idea. Too many people there know me and I think I owe some of them money. I’ll go up north. I hear York’s nice. I should be able to find some good pickings there. Or maybe Scarborough? I could even go all the way up to Scotland, though I hear it gets pretty cold there in winter.”

“Or you could stay here,” Robin said interrupting Allan’s babbling. “As part of the gang.”

For once, Allan had absolutely nothing to say. He stared up at Robin his mouth agape, his mind shocked into complete blankness.

“Well, there’s a first,” commented Much.

Djaq shushed him. “Allan?” she asked putting a hand on his arm.

“But… but…,” he stuttered, “…after what I did, you said…”

“Well, I’m not always right, am I?” Robin joked.

“That’s for sure,” John muttered, the others nodding in agreement much to Robin’s annoyance.

Allan knew it was a stupid question but he said it anyway. “Why?”

“Because there’s something I think we’ve all realized over the past week. We’re not just a gang of outlaws. We’re not just friends. We’re family,” Robin said momentarily shifting his gaze to Will who smiled back at him. “And family don’t give up on each other. They give second chances.”

“You’re sure? You’re not just being funny?” Allan glanced around at all of them. “I mean all of you really want me to stay?”

“We want you to stay,” Djaq insisted vehemently.

“Stay,” Little John said.

Much nodded and echoed their large friend.

“This is where you belong,” said Will putting a hand on Allan’s shoulder. “Besides you really don’t want to go to Scotland. You hate the cold.”

“Of course, if you’d rather go back to the castle…” suggested Robin.

“No!” Allan shouted and jumped up forgetting about his bad leg and almost falling over. Luckily, several hands reached out and caught him before he landed back on the ground. “I mean… thank you. Thank you! I promise I will never betray you or lie to you ever again.”

“I know,” replied Robin with a smile.

Allan grinned and shook Robin’s hand.

Then he shook Much’s hand.

And hugged Djaq.

And hugged Will.

John beat him to it, hugging him and lifting him right off his feet and into the air while the others laughed.

Once John had set him down, the outlaws gathered around the fire and ate while the latest adventure into the castle was finally told in full. The conversation soon turned to plans for tomorrow. They had sacks full of jewels, poor that needed feeding and many more goods deeds to do. Through it all, Allan sat as close as he could to his friends, his family, the grin never leaving his face.


Epilogue

Deep through the forests of Sherwood, Sir Guy of Gisborne rode his horse warily along a muddy road. He sat straight-backed his gaze sweeping from side to side searching the walls of trees for any shadow, any movement. All his senses were on alert for any sign of those who’d dare try to take the precious cargo of tax money travelling behind him.

He never even saw the log that swung out of the tree and knocked him off his horse.

All he felt was the sudden impact against his shoulder, the vertigo as he slid from the saddle and smack of his body landing face first in a large puddle of mud. He lay there momentarily dazed. Behind him, he could dimly hear cries of confusion and the sounds of struggling, but it wasn’t until he felt the tug on his belt as his money pouch left him that he looked up. Mud caked his face and dripped from his black hair, but between the dirt he made out a sight that made his eyes grow wide.

“Hey, Giz. Long time no see.”

Allan A Dale stood in front of him, a grin on his face as he shook Guy’s recently confiscated money. “Thanks for the contribution.”

Gisborne’s surprise turned to anger. He growled, but mud got into his mouth making him choke.

“You really shouldn’t eat that stuff, Guy. You don’t know where it’s been.”

“Time to go!” came Robin’s shout from the distance.

“See you, Giz,” cried Allan giving the man one last smirk before he disappeared into the forest.

While Gisborne cursed Allan’s name and struggled to extricate himself from the mud, the outlaws dashed and dodged though the trees heading back to their camp. Allan and Will ran side by side exchanging grins.

“Nice shot,” said Will.

“Well, I couldn’t let such a good pile of mud go to waste, could I?” replied Allan.

As they slowed down, Allan began to limp slightly on his bad leg. It seemed the limp along with a dark scar would be permanent reminders of what he’d been through. But Allan didn’t care.

He was home.

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