Robin Hood was carrying out one of his daily duties: gathering wood for that evening's bonfire. But Robin's mind was far away from the clearing where his body was; his mind was with the image he had seen this morning before setting out to perform his duties: the image of Regina and little John cooking lunch. She looked so at peace, so at ease. Little John was teaching her how to smoke the meat without drying it out. And Regina had laughed at some point of the conversation - she had actually laughed, and the sound had made Robin feel calm in a way he hadn't felt in quite a long time.
He had stared at the chef and his assistant for a while, trying to memorize every single detail from the scene; he knew that moments like these wouldn't last forever. And then, Regina had raised her gaze, her chocolate-coloured eyes had locked with his eyes, and she had offered him a small smile.
The thief smiled at the memory of Regina smiling at him. Whenever she was around him, he needed to fight the urge to wrap her in his arms, to kiss her forehead and maybe her lips. But every time he touched her, his skin burned and his conscience had a fit inside his mind, both reminding him that she was not his. She belonged to someone else, someone who treated her like a possession rather than the most beautiful woman on earth.
A loud snap brought him back to reality, he drew his bow and an arrow and positioned himself to attack.
"It's me, Robin," he heard a familiar voice say; but to his disappointment, it was not a female voice. "Will Scarlet."
"Will," he lowered his bow and stored the arrow with the other ones, "What are you doing here?"
"I'm on morning duty," the young thief said, "And I saw two of the King's men, they are calling for you."
"For me?" Robin asked confused,
Will Scarlet nodded, "I think they came to bargain for the Queen."
Will's statement made Robin's heart shrink. The King had sent his men to recover his wife, to pay for her freedom. That had been the plan all along; but, was he ready to let Regina go? 'Don't let your feelings get into the game, Hood!' he scolded himself, 'We both know what happened last time you risked it all for a woman,'. No, the things should go according to the plan. He needed to ask for the money and after receiving the amount he had asked, he had to give Regina back. Robin told Will to lead him towards the King's men, and thought about the things he would say as they walked.
"Gentlemen," Robin said when he saw the knights.
"Thief," one of them replied, not showing the same respect that Robin had shown towards them, "The King demands his wife back."
"And I recall demanding an amount of money for her return to him." there was a hint of mockery on the thief's voice.
The knight that had remained silent threw a burgundy bag towards Robin, it landed in front of the thief's feet. He leaned to pick up the bag and opened it, it contained around fifty golden coins. The Merry Men could feed five towns for a month with that amount of money. But fifty coins was nothing to a King, moreover if it was to save the wife he loved so much.
"We want more," Robin said closing the bag and throwing it to the same man who had held it in the first place, "Tell the King that hundred coins are the price for the Queen's freedom and save passage through the woods."
"He won't be pleased." the man carrying the bag stated.
"Well, I am not pleased with his proposal," Robin crossed his arms, "Now, you go and tell your beloved King that if he wants to see his wife alive, he'll have hundred gold coins for me before sunday."
"You are playing with fire, Robin Hood," the man who had spoken first said, and turned his horse to start riding back to the castle "The King is a good man, but he won't forgive this easily."
Robin laughed as they rode away. It was not the first time he was on a King's black list, and he was sure as hell it wouldn't be the last time either. He turned around, and started marching to the place where he had left the wood that he had been gathering before he met with Will Scarlet.
"What was that?" the younger thief asked with a curious look.
"What was what?"
"You rejected fifty gold coins!" Will exclaimed, "We could feed the bloody realm with that!"
"She's worth more."
"To him or to you?" it was a simple question, and it was a simple answer. But it was an answer that Robin was not ready to share, specially with one of his fellow merry men.
"Help me with the wood, Scarlet." Robin said, changing topics.
Will smiled at him and followed his leader's order without speaking another word. He knew exactly what was going on inside of Robin's head, after all, he had also found his One and Only. The difference was that his Ana was not married to anyone, specially not to a King. Which made his relationship with her easier than the one Robin and Regina had.
"You know," Will broke the silence once they were walking towards the camp, "I'm sure the men would understand if you explained them."
"If I explained them what, exactly?" Robin asked, really not knowing that was Will referring to.
"That you fancy the Queen and do not wish to return her."
In less than a couple of seconds, Robin had Will trapped between his arms and a tree, holding Will's shirt's collar with both of his fist closed. "Listen to me, Will," he said in a low and dangerous voice tone, "the Queen is not an ordinary woman, she's the King's wife. If word got out that I fancy her, we would all get in trouble. So I suggest you to keep your mouth shut," Robin looked straight into Will's eyes, "Do you understand?" he asked.
Will nodded, but Robin's actions had just confirmed his theory. He hadn't seen so much passion and worry in Robin eyes since the Marion fiasco. "My lips are sealed." he said.
Robin had been like a brother to him, he had taken him in and offered protection to Ana, he had been a fair leader and a true friend. Will would keep his word, he wouldn't tell anyone, but he would try to make Robin understand his feelings towards the Queen. And he knew, that just like him, the other Merry Men wouldn't complain at Robin's change of heart; most of them had seen Robin after Marion broke his heart, the others had heard the stories from the older men, they all respected Robin and believed that he deserved a happy ending.
Plus, he had also noticed the change of the Queen's behaviour. When she was brought to the camp for the first time, she had a sad and angry face and her skin was pale. Her eyes had no life, and it looked like she would crumble any second. But now she was a different woman, she smiled and even laughed from time to time, her skin had tanned a little bit, making her look healthier. And her eyes shined, especially when she looked at Robin.
The Merry Men would definitely understand. They didn't just fight for the poor, the fought for what was right; and Robin and Regina, they were right for each other. Now, he just needed Robin and the Queen to admit to their feelings.