|Primary Characters:||Guy, The Sheriff, Prince John, Robin, Marion, Gemma|
|Description:||Gemma is a young woman who lives in present day Nottinghamshire. She loves the tv series Robin of Sherwood. When she loses her job and her life takes a turn for the worse, she decides to cheer herself up by going on an outing to Sherwood forest. From then on, things become confusing, but also quite exciting.
One Saturday night (at least she assumed it was Saturday night – it was easy to lose track of the weeks), she again happened to see Guy and Kate together. He was trying to pull up her skirts, and she was trying to keep his hands away. Apparently, she still had duties to attend to. In the end, he gave up and contented himself with burying his face in between her breasts, that had somehow been worked loose of her bodice. Gemma had to bite her lower lip to keep herself from swearing under her breath. She refused to be caught spying on him like this. She turned and left, making sure she didn’t make any noise.
Upstairs, in her room, she found it hard to go to sleep. It was times like this, that she most missed the comfort of her own home. There was no bedside lamp, no books, no tv, radio or anything else she could use to distract herself. Her MP3 player had long since died, and she hadn’t been able to find a wall outlet to charge it. Not that she was looking for any modern conveniences anymore. She had long since come to terms with the knowledge that wherever she was, she was no longer in the world she knew as her own.
The following morning, she was up early, trying to deny to herself that she was hoping to catch sight of Gisburne. It had been at least a week since they last went for a walk or visited the stable together. Even though everyone else had bought her standing as a boy and the Sheriff’s guest, she was a little wary of being outside the main building without Gisburne as an escort. There was no telling what the other knights would do, or for that matter the outdoor servants. Though she knew that in an emergency, she could take care of herself, she couldn’t risk calling attention to herself.
She walked down the stairs, telling herself that though breakfast wouldn’t be served for at least an hour, she could and would walk around the perimeter of the main building. The weather was fine, and she was fed up with being cooped up inside all day, except for the few times Gisburne still escorted on her walks around the town. Even that was getting a little old. Compared to the Nottingham she was used to, it was crowded, cramped, smelly and filled with distressing sights.
Once she’d even seen a hanged man swinging from a crossbeam. She assumed he had been left there as a warning against breaking the Sheriff’s or rather the King’s laws. Even from a distance, it was clear that birds were clustering around the head of the body, and she could guess in what condition it would be. It was upwind, so she didn’t feel much of the stench that she assumed would be overwhelming up close. Gisburne, she noted, didn’t seem to take much notice of the body. He must have been used to similar sights. That disturbed her, but she contented herself with the knowledge that he neither made the laws or carried out the death sentences, at least under normal conditions.
The Sheriff’s own chamber was at the end of a short corridor, off the main hall. She knew that because she’d often enough seen him emerging from there, on his way to his office or the dining hall. Today, she heard noises coming through the closed door. They were alarming enough to lead her to believe the outlaws might have attacked, but there was no sound of the knights coming to defend their master, so either they were in worse trouble than she had realized, or the noises did not mean what she thought they did. Moments later, the door burst open and Gisburne emerged, looking dishevelled and only partially dressed. His tunic hung over his shoulder and he carried his swordbelt in his right hand.
When he caught sight of her, he froze, a look of such dismay on his face, she all but shrank back. He brushed past her without a word, lengthening his stride to the extent that it was perfectly clear he was trying to leave her behind. She was torn between wanting to give him his privacy at a time like this, and her wish to see him and satisfy herself that he wasn’t too badly injured. The noises from inside the Sheriff’s chamber had been alarming enough to suggest he might be, but judging by what little she’d seen of him, he was more or less fine, physically, if not emotionally.
Hesitantly, she took a few steps in his direction and though she didn’t think it was a good idea, she couldn’t help following. In the passage leading to Gisburne’s own room, she caught up with him. He must have slowed down and was now walking at a normal pace, though he seemed to be limping slightly. By now, he was also dressed again and wearing his swordbelt. Gemma frowned. Suddenly, he whirled around and faced her, a fierce look on his face.
“Are you spying on me? What do you want? Leave me alone.”
He even reached out to shove her back. She reacted instinctively, and blocked his move. His eyes widened in astonishment and he faltered slightly.
“Try to restrain yourself. Beast.”
The image of him and Kate together last night, appeared before her and she found herself reacting more strongly than she’d intended.
He made a face, shaking himself like an outraged puppy, but that didn’t scare her.
“Yes, beast, because you’re acting like one. With women too, I reckon.”
“What’s it to you, boy?”
“You need to learn to be gentle, like with your horses.”
“My horses – that’s different.”
His tone was dismissive and cold, making Gemma feel like a fool. Once again, she’d made the mistake of hoping too much, of trusting the wrong guy. She was beginning to regret ever meeting this rude, moody knight. He belonged in another time and she – was very far away from home. But by now, her temper had flared and she responded to his tone by confronting him, not backing down.
“I certainly hope that doesn’t mean what it sounds like.”
When the meaning of what she’d said hit him, his face was suffused by a deep, brick red and his hand shot out, aiming for her face. Again, she blocked the blow, and this time managed to shove him up against the wall, using his own strength against him. The colour on his face deepened and his breathing picked up. He was torn between anger and excitement, which filled her with growing satisfaction. So he liked that, did he? He struggled to break free of her grip, but she’d used a special hold that made it possible for someone weaker to restrain a stronger opponent and he found himself trapped. To Gemma’s astonishment, his eyes began to fill with tears.
Suddenly, her anger was gone, and she decided to risk everything, to expose herself to him. She let go with one hand, wondering as she did so, if she would have time to carry out her plan, before he slammed her into the wall and left her there. But he didn’t move and she was able to grab his left hand and with a bit of effort managed to get it inside her tunic. Again, he began to struggle to break free, but his efforts seemed strangely half-hearted. A sob escaped his lips, but his eyes remained closed and he let her hand guide his. For a moment, nothing happened, then his eyes sprang open and he stared into hers, as the realization hit him. His eyes widened and his mouth dropped open. She gazed around, suddenly wary of being caught in this compromising situation. If he let out a sound, it might call someone’s attention. Her lips sought out his mouth, but to her distress he pulled away, instead merely pressing his cheek against hers.
She felt him nuzzle her hair, then he pulled back, to once again meet her gaze. The look on his face still conveyed wonder, but also, at least she hoped so, contentment. She decided to dare to release him, and to do what she’d wanted from the start, run her fingers through his hair. He smiled, but didn’t break the silence that didn’t feel oppressive at all, now that her secret was out. She didn’t think she’d made a mistake in trusting him. There was so much she wanted to say, and, she hoped, he too, but rather than risking being caught by servants, they went their separate ways.
On her way back to her room, Gemma’s mind played back the scene in the hallway, sending thrills of pleasure through her body. She was hoping he felt the same way, though he had refused to kiss her. It hit her that coming from the Sheriff’s bed, he might not have wanted to kiss her. That could only mean – The thought cut into her euphoria, but couldn’t dampen her spirits. He wanted her. Didn’t his behaviour tell her that? Looking back, that was the only explanation she could think of. He wanted her and hopefully more than he wanted that Kate person. Even the thought of her didn’t ruin Gemma’s mood too much. From now on, things would be different. She would make sure Gisburne – Guy – didn’t spend any more time with Kate.
If she had expected things to change, she was disappointed. The only change she noticed was that Gisburne was no longer seeing Kate. How Kate reacted to his absence she could only guess. Judging by how busy the Sheriff kept him, perhaps she made nothing of it. Then one day, she woke up to find the whole household in an uproar. At supper that day, the Sheriff announced that he was going away. Gemma was wondering if his outing had anything to do with her, but if it did, he didn’t tell her. Apparently, he was just going to see his brother, Abbot Hugo. For a second, she wondered if he would be taking her, and again speculated on the reasons for his sudden travel plans.
“I will only be gone for four days. Even a damned fool like you, Gisburne, will be able to deal with things here for such a short time.”
“My lord, I will -”
“Yes, I’m sure you will. Just don’t try anything on your own. Do as I’ve told you, and not even you will be able to do much harm.”
The Sheriff focused on the oysters for a while, slurping and sucking, then turned to face Gemma, a hypocritical smile on his moist lips.
“And you my dear boy, what shall we do about you? Gisburne will have to try his best to attend you, won’t he? Just don’t get too merry, Gisburne. When I return I shall make enquiries and if I hear that you haven’t been courteous and mannerly -”
Gemma returned his smile, faking a sincerity she didn’t feel.
“I’m sure I shall be fine.”
The Sheriff cast a poisonous glance at Gisburne, who stared into his goblet. Gemma couldn’t help noticing that his earlobes were burning.
That night, the servants were up until almost dawn packing the Sheriff’s things, then not long after the last preparations were made, the same servants or others – Gemma never left her room – began to run up and down the stairs. She even heard the Sheriff yell Gisburne’s name in a tone that made Gemma want to kick the former’s sorry little arse, but instead, she just put a pillow over her head and tried to go back to sleep.
Later in the day, she breakfasted alone, then had dinner by herself too. Not until later than usual, did she sit down to supper. By then Gisburne was back, tired and disheveled, his hair looking as if it had stuck to his head, after being soaked through with sweat. She tried asking about the outlaws, but he just shook his head, clearly not wanting to discuss those matters with her. Not once, did he speak to her personally. She realized that with servants swarming around them anything they said would be reported back to the Sheriff, and she didn’t even try to start a conversation.
The following morning, she was woken up while it was still almost dark outside, by a knock on her door.
“Gisburne is asking for you.”
In a second, Gemma was wide awake, wondering what was going on. Was she in danger? She hastily washed, brushed her teeth, then ran down the stairs, less than five minutes after she’d heard the knock on the door. In the hall, she stopped and looked around. She couldn’t see anyone, but after a minute or so, Tillie walked in, rubbing her eyes, which looked red.
“Gisburne says to wait for him here.”
“I see. Thank you.”
The girl vanished into the kitchen and a few minutes later, Gisburne walked in, wearing his cloak, as if he was going away.
“There you are. I was wondering if you’d like to go for a ride.”
“Oh, yes, I’d love to. I thought you’d never ask.”
“Good. I’ll let the kitchen know.”
“We’re staying out all day?”
“If you like.”
“You’re an angel.”
A funny look settled on his face.
“No one’s ever told me that before. There are those who would say I’m quite the reverse.”
“Perhaps they don’t know you very well?”
He lowered his gaze.
“Yes, they do.”
“I don’t believe it.”
Clearly uncomfortable by her comment, he shuffled his feet, then turned to leave.
He disappeared in the direction of the kitchen, but returned almost right away. Gemma was wondering how Kate would feel about seeing him leave with the ‘boy’. With the Sheriff away, it wouldn’t be surprising if Kate had expected to find herself invited to stay in Gisburne’s room. Nothing could make Gemma feel more cheerful about the day ahead, but somehow the thought of Kate’s potential reaction added a little to her mood.
Half an hour later, they set out, Gisburne on his black stallion – even Gemma who wasn’t very knowledgable about horses, could tell what it was – and she on a chubby brown mare. Too late, Gisburne remembered to ask her about her riding skills. They were already through the town gate and heading into the countryside. Gemma thought she recognized the road they’d travelled to get into town all those weeks ago.
“How well do you ride?”
“Not very well.”
“I thought so. Belle is slow and steady. She doesn’t scare easily.”
“Where are we going?”
“Not far. I know of a little place, which is pleasant for a day’s outing. With the Sheriff away, I thought you might like -”
“You thought right. I was getting tired of staying indoors all day.”
“I thought you might.”
By now, they had left the last buildings of the town behind and were letting their horses walk fairly slowly, or rather Gisburne was. Gemma just let hers go anyway she pleased. She had a vague idea that you steered the horse with the reins – the word just popped up in her brain. Gisburne, however, effortlessly controlled his spirited horse, in a way she had barely seen anyone do before.
It was a fine, sunny day, but there were some clouds in the sky. Gemma was enjoying the ride, despite the way the horse bumped her behind all the time. She had a feeling she’d be in pain by evening, but she was sure it would be worth it.
After about forty minutes or so, Gisburne turned off the road, onto a track. That too, was fairly wide and smooth but where the road had been dusty, this was muddy and rutted. Gemma wanted to slow down, but clearly Gisburne didn’t consider the track a challenge and she hoped he was right. Another fifteen minutes went by and they arrived in a little grove. It was sheltered, but open enough to afford a partial view over the fields surrounding it. There were no buildings nearby, but there were a few boulders, that looked smooth enough to sit on.
Gisburne elegantly dismounted, then held out his hand to Gemma, who took it, rather self-consciously and jumped off too. She would have been perfectly capable of jumping off on her own, but she saw no reason not to accept his help. Besides, the polite gesture seemed to have been partly an excuse to get hold of her hand. Even now, when she stood firmly on the ground, he didn’t let go of it.
“Well, Jem – how do you like this place?”
“It’s lovely. And – I suppose you’re wondering about me.”
“You could say that, yes. Not that I blame you. You’re certainly safer travelling as a boy.”
“I know. I hadn’t meant to, but I see that it worked out well.”
She sensed that he was curious, but was trying not to begin to interrogate her outright.
“Might I ask if your memory has returned?”
She hesitated. What could she tell him that wouldn’t sound completely insane? He’d think she was lying, if she even tried to explain what had happened to her.
“My father would pay a reward if he could, but he’s too far away. It wouldn’t work.”
“I see. Then I shall have to tell the Sheriff that you still don’t remember, but I have to warn you. He’s not going to settle for that for much longer.”
“I see. I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to return home.”
“Where is your home?”
“It’s hard to explain. Honestly.”
“I see. Don’t be afraid. I don’t mean to give you away to the Sheriff, but I need to tell him something.”
Gemma was surprised to find that either her years of watching the Robin of Sherwood DVD:s had taught her to speak in the appropriate mediaeval way, or she’d picked up enough in the weeks she’d spent in Nottingham.
“Do you have any counsel to offer me?”
“At the moment, we have our hands full with the outlaws, but if we manage to deal with them – I shall try to think of something. But let’s not think of that now.”
“I’m sorry I’m causing you all this trouble.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“You’re very kind to say so.”
“May I ask what your name is? What may I call you?.”
“Gemma. That’s what I was trying to tell you that first day, when you found me in the forest.”
“Gemma? I see. And of course, you may call me Guy – when we are alone together.”
She couldn’t help feeling ridiculously pleased. Guy. His hand was still holding on to hers and now she noticed that they were standing much closer than strictly necessary. It seemed his mind had been working along the same lines. He pulled her into his arms and kissed her lightly on the lips. When he encountered no resistance, he deepened the kiss. She returned it, with as much enthusiasm, wondering as she did so, if she was giving a bad impression, by revealing herself as being experienced. She had no idea how old Guy thought she was. As a boy, she knew they had assumed she was about fifteen or so. His breathing picked up and suddenly Gemma realized that he must have been hoping to have sex with her. She would have agreed, if it wasn’t for one thing especially.
To her relief, he let go almost at once, with an effort.
“It’s not that I don’t want to – but – even the Sheriff would be bound to notice if I suddenly get fat.”
He rubbed his mouth, considering.
“I – didn’t think about that. I’m sorry. I meant no disrespect.”
“It’s fine. You must have – I mean – apparently it’s even a matter of common knowledge among the servants, how I feel about you.”
A wry smile played on his lips as his breathing returned to normal.
“Yes, I had heard about that.”
“I’m sorry. You were upset with me.”
“I didn’t know – I thought -”
“I know. And – I just want to say how sorry I am for those things I said – I didn’t mean to -”
Clearly, he wanted to avoid those topics.
“You’ll have to be patient. I want this as much as you do, but -”
“Patience is not a virtue I have in any greater degree, but you’re right. If the Sheriff knew – I suppose you have noticed that he wants you himself, at least he thinks he does, until such a time when he sees you without clothes.”
“Then I should be safe, shouldn’t I?”
Gemma still couldn’t get all worked up about the Sheriff’s intentions towards her. It was all so ridiculous. But Guy wasn’t smiling. He faced her gravely.
“Until he turned you over to the other knights. And I wouldn’t be able to protect you.”
“I never thought of that. Well, we’ll have to be careful, but – if you like -”
She blushed, but decided to push on anyway. What she was about to say, would most likely expose her as a fallen woman, but she still hadn’t met any man who didn’t like that, at some level, so she decided to take the chance.
“We could – you know – as two men – or rather a man and a boy – if you want?”
Guy studied her, a puzzled expression on his face. As her meaning dawned on him, he too blushed. She considered some more and couldn’t help smiling at her own idea.
“I mean – I’ll be the man and you’ll be the boy.”
The look on his face reflected dismay, but not, she imagined, outrage. He was considering her suggestion.
“Oh, don’t pout so – no, on second thought, do make that pout. You don’t know what it does to me.”
The corners of his mouth began to twitch. It occurred to her that he usually pouted like that in the Sheriff’s presence. Now that he was smiling, she couldn’t help thinking his face was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. The smile transformed his features. She would like to see him look like that every day and found herself wishing she could get him away from the Sheriff, to somewhere safe, where they could be alone together, just the two of them.
“Well, I suppose we could, or we could both be boys. It seems that’s all I can hope for today.”
“Hopefully, you won’t be sorry.”
“Just hold on. I’ll be right back.”
He went to hobble the horses, leaving them to graze on their own. It was so typical of the Guy she had come to know, to consider the horses before himself. She couldn’t help smiling.
“What are you smiling about?”
“Oh? What about me?”
“You’re so – I -”
“I see. In like wise.”
Again, he reached out to pull her into his arms. He kissed her, then let his fingers trail lightly across her face and lips. She mimicked his movements, satisfying her wish to touch him. It was a warm day, so after only a second’s hesitation, she pulled off his tunic. He didn’t make a move to stop her. She leaned her back against a slender tree, then let her hands explore his chest. He was smooth and hairless and his skin was silky and warm to the touch. She pressed her lips against his neck, then slowly trailed down his chest, lingering here and there. His increased breathing told her he had no objections. The growing bulge in his tights confirmed her impression. She began to rub herself up against it, feeling as if she could burst with joy. He was hers, not Kate’s or the Sheriff’s. Only hers. She was the only one who could make him feel this way.
His mouth hungrily devoured hers, and she decided to give him a little lesson in French kissing. After all, as a Norman, that ought to be part of his education. The startled moan gave her an intense thrill. She could see his eyes opening wide in amazement, as her tongue made its way inside his lips. At the same time, she stuck her hand into his tights and began to stroke him. He leaned heavily on her, thrusting into her hand.
“That’s right. Go on. That’s it, my golden boy.”
She immediately realized that she’d made a mistake. For a second, she thought it was over, before he’d climaxed, but after her whispered apology he got back into the rhythm. She felt one of his hands fumbling for her breasts and she swallowed to control herself.
They never even lay down on the grass. When it was over, Guy leaning heavily on her, they were still standing. It took a long time for his breathing to get back to normal. By that time, she too, had cooled off, more or less. They sank down on the boulders, still clinging to each other. She leaned her head on his shoulder, and to her suprise, his fingers occupied themselves with twirling a lock of her hair.
After a while, she straightened out and met his gaze. The look in his eyes was naked and vulnerable and filled with such affection she felt a stab at the pit of her stomach. She couldn’t help reaching out again, to let her fingers trace the outlines of his face.
“Why was ‘golden boy’ so wrong? Does he call you that?”
He appeared to have recovered a bit and answered her readily enough.
“The Sheriff? No. He just calls me fool or ass, as you know.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“It was someone else. Never mind. How were you to know?”
“But I am sorry, about – the Sheriff and – that someone else.”
He looked away, then faced her again, studying her closely.
“Tell me something about yourself. About your home or your family.”
Sensing that he wanted to change the subject, she cast about for something to tell him that wouldn’t sound too far-fetched.
“Let’s see – my father married a dreadful woman. I can’t stand her or their children. Yet, I was on my way to him, to their house, when I – got lost.”
“I’m sorry. My mother – her husband -”
Again, she seemed to have caused him distress, unintentionally.
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”
“No, it’s fine. It’s common knowledge anyway. Her husband went away, and when he didn’t come back – she – married another man – but her husband returned. He – could never stand to see me. I was a constant reminder that – this other man had been able to father a child on my mother, but not he. And he – hated the very sight of me and never let me or my mother forget it.”
“I’m so sorry. Think no more of it, my Guy.”
Again, this reality matched that of the series. Just like she had when watching the DVD:s, she thought his story explained a lot, including why he was at the Sheriff’s mercy. No knight with a family that could protect him would be forced to endure such a treatment. Again, she was filled with anger at the Sheriff, but also at Guy’s mother’s husband for taking out his frustrations on the child.
To her relief, his mood seemed to lift and he smiled at her, looking at ease.
“I’ll try not to. Why do you call me ‘my Guy’ like that?”
“Do you mind?”
“Of course not. As you know, I have been called worse.”
“That dreadful, vile man. Wait, don’t tell me. I know he’s your liege lord, but can’t I hate him anyway?”
“Please do. I hate him too, but – it’s of no avail. He’s still my liege lord, no matter how I feel about him.”
“I know. Well, where I come from Guy isn’t just a name, it also means man or boy. It’s – a sort of wordplay. Named for a man called Guy who – came to a bad end.”
She didn’t think she could explain further about Guy Fawkes without having to go into the Parliament and the rest of it. If she wasn’t mistaken, Parliament wouldn’t be a concept Guy could even be familiar with, though it was something to do with John Lackland. If that John lived in this time. She still didn’t know.
To her surprise, Guy grinned, seemingly amused.
“You don’t say?”
“But my Guy won’t come to a bad end, I won’t let him.”
“And do you think you have the power to keep me safe?”
“I hope so.”
“You certainly have the strength. What you did – when I was about to hit you – how did you do that?”
“It’s a – way of fighting. A sort of art.”
“I see. Very useful. No woman or boy has ever bested me in a fight before.”
“Do you fight many women, my Guy?”
“No, I didn’t mean – some have fought me, but I have never fought back.”
“I’m glad. I don’t approve of men hitting women.”
“There is one of course – I have never hit her with my own hands, but -”
“Are you talking about Kate?”
“Kate? No, why? Oh. Of course not. I meant – one of the outlaws. Lady Wolfshead, as I like to call her. I have tried to bring her to justice, but just like her lover she always manages to escape.”
She decided not to discuss Kate or the outlaws, at the moment. She didn’t want to quarrel with Guy now that she finally had him where she wanted him. They lay together, speaking of light topics, then dined on what the kitchen staff had sent along. For her the meal consisted of bread and fruit. As usual, Guy made no comment about her diet. She noticed that he had much more of an appetite out here, than under the Sheriff’s mocking gaze. No wonder. Gemma too, found it hard to eat in the Sheriff’s presence.
When the shadows began to lengthen in the afternoon, they got back on their horses and returned to Nottingham. Gemma was already missing being alone with Guy, but she knew she had to content herself with what she could get. She couldn’t ask Guy to risk the Sheriff’s wrath for her sake.