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Chapter Five:

The first night

  Robin slowly moved over to were Will was standing. "Is everything all right with you and Nasir?" At that, Robin looked around to see how Nasir was reacting to having Will back in camp, only to find that he was no where in sight. How had he not noticed sooner? What had he been thinking? How could he be the leader when he couldn't keep track of everyone in the camp? And what about this dark stranger in their midst? Was he a threat? He has had plenty of opportunity to kill all of them, but he hadn't. All these thoughts were racing through his head. But he couldn't let on to Will that he too had his doubts, after all, he had been the one to invite Nasir to join them.

Will looked back at Robin... he had braced himself for another argument, but something in Robin's voice told him the younger man was concerned... more concerned than being angry about Will and Nasir's fight. Anyway, Will didn't trust Nasir and he'd let everyone know.

Robin placed his hand on Will's shoulder, and looked into his eyes, sensing Will's feelings all he could say was. "It will take a while for us all to become accustom to our new lifestyle. We must all be patient with one another."

"Patient ?" Will echoed.

"Yes, Will," Robin said, trying to steady himself, "patient," he repeated still not taking his eyes off of Will's.

Nasir took his time on the walk back to the camp... he stopped frequently to let himself grow accustomed to the forest's sounds... until he finally reached the edge of the clearing again... and stepped into it... looking around as he did.

"Oh yeah, fine idea," Will finally decided to voice his thoughts, "with the Sheriff's men hunting us ... "

"I can't ask him to leave, Will. He has done nothing wrong, at least not to us."

As he saw Robin and Will talking he stopped... something in their posture and expressions told him to steer clear... instead he walked over to the far side of the camp and sat near the base of a tree.

Robin turned to see Nasir returning.

Marion watched on silently from the other side of the camp. What was going on? The tension between the two men was so great that she could feel it where she was sitting. She wanted desperately to be able to hear what was being said between them.

"That's 'cause we didn't give him the chance to -" Will turned his head and followed Robin's eyes. "Look - is that the way someone I should trust behaves ?"

"He could have killed me at the castle, but he didn't. John saw, so did Marion." Robin looked back to Will. "And I am sure that he could have killed you earlier too without too much difficulty, but he didn't."

The Saracen let his dark eyes take in the band's members... he knew they did not trust him... why should they? In their eyes he was still de Belleme's man... he couldn't explain his reasons for coming to them with words, so he would have to rely on his actions... and until the time came to do that he would keep his distance.

"Kill me ?!" Will scowled, then stepped back.

Nasir withdrew his sharpening stone and one of his daggers... spitting on the stone, he set his blade to it and began to sharpen it even more... not that it really needed it... but it kept him busy and at the moment he needed the distraction. He looked around... what kind of watch system did they have... from what he had seen so far there was no one out to keep a lookout for intruders.

Robin felt that his instincts about allowing Nasir to join had been right. He was not a bad man, just different, an outcast like the rest of them... but how could he explain this to Will?

Will raised a hand, suddenly tired of their argument. "It's your decision, Robin. You're the one who has to live with the outcome. I say, I don't trust him ... "

"Please, Will, if you don't trust him, trust me at least. I know that his joining us is the right thing." At that, Robin turned and surveyed the rest of the camp.

Nasir glanced to the two men again... then let his gaze settle on the woman as she watched from behind them... why was she here? This was no place for a woman... what was it about the young man that made them stay with him... made them willing to fight and even die for him?

The fire was beginning to die down, and Robin went and put another piece of wood on it.

For a moment Will allowed himself to seek out his feelings .. they had escaped from Nottingham Castle and it had been Robin that had kept them together .. reluctantly he nodded. As Robin turned away Will noticed the Saracen had returned, but this time he was able to dominate his reaction.

Why had de Belleme been so intent on having her and him? There was so much he wanted to ask them, but he was unable to... he dropped his eyes to the blade as he increased the pressure with which he drew it across the stone.

Robin looked back at Will, and then over to Nasir, all he could do was hope that they would be able to get along. He trusted each of the men equally, and hoped that they felt the same way towards each other. Robin gave in to the fact that he would not be able to ask Nasir everything that they all wanted to know, at least not tonight. It was getting late, and he was steadily loosing himself to the sleep that he had been deprived of for the past few days.

Will turned and slowly made his way towards Nasir... if there was anything he couldn't be blamed of it was cowardice... some of the things he'd said about Nasir he felt he had to say the man directly.

Nasir raised the blade and slid his thumb across the edge... immediately raising a fine bead of blood on it... he resheathed the dagger then stood... and walked to Robin... there had to be a way to ask him about lookouts without using words. He stopped short as Will approached him again... a hand immediately going to the hilt of a dagger as he coolly assessed him.

Marion sat patiently, as Robin moved slowly and sleepily towards her. But she was equally aware Will moving towards Nasir, and the actions that were taking place between the two. She gently nudged Robin, who was now standing next to her, even though he was already transfixed on the situation. She felt his whole body tense under the slight pressure of her hand. He made to move over to the two men, "I would leave them, Robin. This is between the two of them, and they need to come to an understanding of their own."

"Good," Will stopped in front of Nasir and pointed his hand towards Nasir's hand on the hilt of the dagger, a grim smile on his lips. "You know I don't trust you, but Robin thinks you're worth it. Prove me wrong and I'll be your best friend. Prove me right - and we will continue where we stopped today."

Nasir eyed the man for a moment as he took in his words... they worked both ways... then he tipped his head slightly to acknowledge them. Through it all his hand remained on the dagger... that man had drawn first blood on him once... he would not get a second chance.

Robin didn't move, standing, stiff as a statue not taking his eyes off of Nasir and Will.

Will nodded slightly, experiencing a strange feeling of agreement with Nasir, then walked over to the lean-to.

As the man turned away from him, Nasir let his hand drop from his weapon... he watched as he walked across the clearing, before heading for Robin himself.

John stretched his legs and ran a hand through his beard... he had seen and heard enough for one day... but he was curious what Nasir was up to heading to Robin.

Robin relaxed a bit, and watched Will walk away. Will this never end? Robin thought as he turned to the approaching Nasir. But there was a different look on Nasir's face, not one of conflict, but of concern instead.

As he reached Robin Nasir stopped... how would he get what he wanted to say across to him?

"Is everything all right, Nasir?" Robin asked.

"Salaam," Nasir said softly, then gestured to the ground as he squatted and brushed a smooth place before him. He drew a circle to indicate the camp then a line to mark the road to Sher-wood... now how to ask about lookouts?

Robin followed Nasir to the ground, watching what he was doing intently.

The Saracen looked up at Robin... his brow furrowing then motioned two fingers moving down the road to the forest, before looking up again he pointed to himself and raised a hand to his forehead hoping he would see it as him watching... then he shrugged... would he understand what he was asking?

Robin was slightly puzzled by his actions.

Will returned from the lean-to with an old blanket and a waterskin. He looked around - Tuck was sleeping by what was left of the fire, Much was sleeping, John watched the rest of the group sitting on the ground... he settled himself under a tree and closed his eyes.

Nasir frowned... this was not working... he tried again... the movement to show the figures coming into the woods... he shrugged again and motioned someone watching.

Robin looked to John for help, "Can you figure out what he is trying to say, John?"

Nasir turned to look at the big man as Robin called to him. As he waited to see what he would do he drew 7 lines inside the camp, then brushed one away... moving to draw it into a spot near the road... would this make a difference?

Marion, who had been watching finally voiced what she thought Nasir was trying to ask. "I think that he wants to know if anyone is keeping an eye out for Gisburne."

Nasir looked up at Marion and smiled then nodded as he looked back to Robin.

As they called his name, John stood ready to join them, but then their attention turned back... so he was uncertain what to do.

Robin looked at Marion, then to Nasir and finally saw the connection. This hadn't been something that Robin had thought about.

Nasir motioned to himself again then pointed towards the direction of the road.

John moved slowly towards the little group. He saw Nasir pointing into the forest - he wasn't about to leave, was he?

The Saracen kept his dark eyes on Robin as he waited for his reply. Well, Robin thought, no one else was going to be willing to take the job at that moment. "If you think it is necessary tonight, then you are more than welcome to take first watch."

Nasir nodded and stood... then moved to the shelter for his bow and quiver... when he stepped out again he walked back to them...

"What's that about ?" John asked puzzled when he finally approached them and noticed Nasir with bow and quiver in his hands.

"John, would you be willing to take watch in a couple of hours?" Robin turned to John, a slightly desperate look in his eyes, as he made a slight gesture in the direction of Marion.

Nasir spotted the moon in the sky and motioned it dropping to a midway point in the sky. Would they see he meant for someone to relieve him when it was there?

"A watch? What are you afraid of ?" John smiled, but then realized they were serious. "Sure," he added.

Nasir nodded again then looked at them as if waiting to see if there were anything else before he left.

John turned to Nasir. "Will you wake me when it's time?"

"Thanks," Robin seemed to relax a bit more, and finally made his way back to Marion. He couldn't wait to lay his head down next to hers and hold her in his arms and go to sleep.

Nasir nodded then started towards the trees... he wasn't sure where he would watch from tonight, but with the daylight knew that spots would have to be found. He silently slipped into the trees and disappeared into the darkness.

John turned towards Robin and Marion. "Seems there won't be any shilly-shallying as far as Nasir is concerned. Well, I better go to sleep as well ... " His smile broadened. "Sweet dreams... "

Tuck snorted in his sleep and rolled onto his side, totally oblivious to everything that had happened.

"Good night, John," Robin said as he began to lay down next to Marion.

The nighttime sounds of the forest were suddenly louder now, as the cracking of the fire, and Tucks snoring lulled everyone to sleep.

On the far side of the camp, there were hushed whispers between the newly weds.

Nasir walked almost to the road, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness. When he reached a small bramble bush he stopped... it allowed shelter from the road... until they found somewhere better, it would have to do.

Robin got up, and grabbed the last blanket from the lean to, and made his way around the fire to where John was. He wrapped the blanket around himself and lay down on what now seemed as extremely hard ground.

Nasir looked at the trees nearby... then smiled to himself as he caught sight of one with a fairly decent perch in it... he slung his bow and quiver over his shoulder as he walked to it, eyeing the lowest branch, then jumped for it grabbing the branch as he did.

John rolled over to get a better look at Robin, and was about to open his mouth. "Not a word!" Robin mumbled embarrassingly, before John had a chance to say anything.

With a little effort Nasir scrambled into the tree and settled himself among the branches to watch the road. As he sat in the tree Nasir couldn't help running over the days events in his mind. How could he have known that he would be free of de Belleme... and more than that, how could he have known that he would choose to join those responsible? It was not going to be easy... he had seen that already... they did not trust him... but then they had no reason to... he came with what they saw... nothing more... but he could not even tell them that. He would have to learn their language. The struggle to get his point across tonight had shown him that.

Will rolled to his back... opening his eyes in reflex... looking around the clearing... counting... and stopped at 6 including him. And who else but the Saracen was missing...

Nasir knew they would have questions about him... what he was alone would cause many to hate him... his actions would have to speak for him until his words could... he could only hope they would allow him the time he needed. He stifled a yawn and rubbed his eyes wearily as the night drew on, then looked to see where the moon sat in the sky.

Robin kept his back towards John, and finally drifted off to sleep, his pride hurting, but he would recover, and everything would be taken care of in the morning, he hoped. Well, at least with Marion.

Half in sleep John raised an eyebrow as if expecting more to come from Robin, but obviously there wasn't, so he closed his eyes. He knew he had only a few hours of sleep left before Nasir would come to wake him. And whatever had caused Robin to spend the night at his side instead of Marion's was merely their own business, not his.

It took a while longer for Marion to fall asleep, unaccustomed to her new surroundings, she found it difficult to get comfortable. She could tell that Robin was upset, but she felt awkward sleeping next to him, wife or not, she didn't think it appropriate for them to be sleeping together without discussing it with the others.


Midnight Rendezvouz

  "Skipton! Skipton! Come on, wake up, Skipton!" The young man jerked awake. He had just managed to fall into a light slumber only to be dragged harshly back to reality again. He blinked confusedly at the ladder that was slowly descending into the pit.

"Feet first. That's the only way - " Henry of Skipton quickly stumbled to his feet and climbed up the ladder. Guy of Gisburne was there to meet him at the top.

"It's time," said Gisburne.

"You want to go to Sherwood now? At night?" asked Henry increduously.

"I want to catch them by surprise."

"You'll get us killed."

"With thirty men?" scoffed the knight. "You've no reason to be frightened."

"If you say so."

"I do. Besides, you don't have any choice in the matter," said Gisburne.

Henry opened his mouth to argue, noted the hard look in the knight's eyes, and nodded resignedly.

It wasn't long before Henry found himself riding out of the castle gates beside Guy of Gisburne. He sincerely hoped that he would never return to the castle again, though he had begun to realize that it was better to lose a hand than to find an arrow planted in your chest...

He glanced around quickly for some means of escape, but there were soldiers all around him. His knuckles tightened around the reins. It would be a long ride to Sherwood.


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