My Foolish Boy
By the time that Robin had returned to their castle bedchamber, Marian was sound asleep on the bed, amongst a nest of parchment, manuscript and several empty inkwells.
She had changed into her nightdress, and had clearly been working some more on the court records that she had taken on the task of translating from Latin and French into common English. She had had an idea about making the records available to the general public for inspection – something about accountability. Robin liked the idea in principle – but there were a lot of records, most of which were tedious in the extreme, and all of which needed to be translated. (Not to mention the problem of how to make such records available to the many, many people in the area who were completely unable to read anything, French, English or otherwise).
Still, the project was one that Marian was enjoying. It was the kind of work she liked – meticulous academia – something to absorb her totally. She took it on in the evenings, when most of the women of the court were busy with their embroidery. Her fingers had been turned almost permanently black by the ink, but she was determined not to stop until at least the past ten years had been translated. Between this and taking care of Locksley and Knighton during the day (not to mention keeping that academic eye of hers on the court’s finances), whilst Robin was running the castle and the Sheriff’s court, Marian carried far more power in her husband’s house than was normal. But Robin thought very little of such a thing.
Marian made an exceptional steward of their combined estate, and he knew full well that he would have been unable to successfully run both Locksley and the court without her. She was her father’s daughter, after all. She knew plenty about politics and people.
So he couldn’t really blame her for falling asleep. If anything, her days were harder than his.
“You promised you wouldn’t go to sleep,” he murmured it just close enough to her ear to wake her as he sat down upon the bed.
Marian mumbled something incomprehensible and stirred, blinking muzzily. “…Robin?”
“Good evening, sleeping beauty,” Robin greeted, a little more cheerfully than he felt.
“Mm,” Marian rolled onto her back, pushing her hair out of her eyes, “how long were you gone…?”
“Don’t know,” Robin sighed, suddenly feeling very tired, “but the moon is high in the sky. It’s past midnight.”
“Gracious,” Marian murmured, rubbing her eyes and yawning.
“You promised you wouldn’t go to sleep,” Robin repeated, his tone gently reproachful.
Marian smiled at him drowsily, the expression curiously sultry in the warm glow cast by the fire in the grate, which had burned down to its embers. “Sorry… couldn’t keep my eyes open, I suppose.”
“Mm, well,” Robin picked up one of her translated manuscripts, “this stuff would probably send me to sleep too – ‘The fifth of June in the year of our lord eleven hundred and three; on the matter of Belle versus Kenton on the subject of the quantity of three stolen leaks…’ ”
Marian snorted, “give me that!”
“Honestly, I don’t get it, Marian,” Robin shook his head, “who is ever going to want read this stuff? Not even the Lords like reading it – these records are kept in the castle cellars for a reason!”
“That is not the point,” Marian told him, firmly, “it’s the principle of the thing.”
“I know,” Robin leaned down and kissed her, “and you look lovely, by the way.”
“Mm,” Marian kissed him back, “that compliment wouldn’t happen to come with an agenda, would it, Robin of Locksley?”
“Why, my lady, whatever would give you that idea?” Robin grinned and pressed his lips to her neck.
Marian sighed and shut her eyes for a moment, and then pushed him off, “hang on for a moment – let me get this stuff off the bed.”
“Yes, yes,” Robin sighed and sat back, stretching, “Ah – mother Mary, I’m stiff as a bone.”
Marian quirked an eyebrow at him mischievously, “What? Already?”
Robin laughed, delighted (as ever) by the sudden appearance of the rather coarser side of his wife’s sense of humour, “you shock and appal me, Marian.”
“I’m sure,” Marian dead-panned, gathering up her piles of manuscript and parchment and depositing them into orderly stacks upon the table kept next to the bed for such purposes.
Robin had pulled off his shirt and had gone to the wash stand to splash water onto his face.
“We could probably send for some warm if you want,” Marian suggested, as she retrieved a thin sliver of wood from the mantelpiece and lit it on the embers of the fire.
“I’m okay,” Robin assured her, rubbing the cold liquid into his skin and feeling it liven him a little. “No point waking the kitchen staff at this hour. They probably have to get up soon as it is.”
Marian shielded the taper of wood with one hand until a tiny flame was burning brightly on the end of it, and then carefully began to light the various candles about the room. Their bedchamber gradually filled with a warm, honey-coloured glow, flickering but comfortable, the shadows driven back to the corners. She finished with the ones on either side of their bed and then blew the sputtering wood splint out before it could burn her fingers.
Robin smiled at her across the room as she climbed back onto their bed to wait for him. He always found her at her most attractive when she was slightly dishevelled – sleepy and relaxed, her hair uncombed, her eyes bright with the possibilities of the night.
Although… there was also something greatly tempting about her when she was dressed for court, standing dutifully behind her father’s chair as she had done in the old days, (though old Sir Edward rarely attended court now) her hair meticulously pinned, her clothes neat and prim, her mild expression concealing a mind he knew to be constantly at work. No – she was definitely at her most attractive on those occasions when he couldn’t have her. The sheer number of times that he had had to consciously fight off the urge to hop the Sheriff’s table and snatch her from her feet in order to kiss her then and there with the whole court as their witness were probably uncountable.
But he was the Sheriff now, and while such theatrics were just about forgivable while he had still been the young Lord of Locksley, hot-headed and impulsive – or even that outlawed hero Robin Hood – they were not quite what was expected of a Sheriff (as Marian kept reminding him).
He kicked off his boots and began to hop out of his breaches, aware of Marian’s admiring gaze upon him from the bed.
“You will make me blush, Marian,” he chided, unashamed.
Marian grinned, “I highly doubt that mere watching could make you blush, Robin. I know what makes you blush, and the occasional voyeur isn’t it.”
Robin came back to bed in only his undershorts, “what is, then?” He enquired, innocently.
Marian pushed herself onto her knees and slid to the edge of the bed in order to wrap her arms about him, “oh, I’m sure I could think of something, my dear and foolish boy.”
“Mm, sounds interesting,” Robin kissed her softly.
Marian exhaled, enjoying the feel of Robin’s body pressed to her own. The linen of her nightdress felt perilously thin as the only thing between his skin and hers, and he tasted warm and welcoming. It was a relief, at the end of the day, to be reunited with him. He was sweet and safe and exciting – infuriating, on occasion, but adorable and insatiable also. He could make her laugh, still, after the most horrendous of hours watching her father deteriorate yet again, or the tedium of attempting to negotiate the petty feud that kept erupting between the miller of Locksley and his neighbours. Robin was dependant upon her, and yet increasingly dependable – not as a provider of wealth, so much as a provider of warmth and affection and… happiness.
He was right, though. Being separated for so much of the day, as they were at the moment, was becoming hellish – and a little farcical. Staying in the castle for the moment (which was practical in the winter) meant that they at least got to spend their nights together – but the days were another matter entirely.
Robin, however, had clearly begun to think about other more pressing matters. He had begun to work his slow but insistent way down her neck, and his movements were becoming quite distracting.
“Mm,” he remarked, as he found her collar bone.
“Mm?” Marian was distractedly running her fingers through his hair.
“You’ve got ink on your night dress,” Robin told her, examining three neat splashes of black on the cream coloured linen that covered her ribs.
“Have I?” Marian watched him place a finger over each little stain, and thinking of their laundry-maid, “Penny wont be happy.”
“Ink’s a pain to get out, isn’t it?” Robin gave her a gentle nudge and climbed onto the bed next to her.
“Oh well,” Marian gave him a breezy smile, “the only person who sees me in this nightdress is you and um – well,” she raised her eyebrows, “not like I spend much time actually wearing the garment while you’re about, is it?”
Robin grinned mischievously and pushed her down onto the bed.