Characters: Robin, Little Little John, Alice, Luke Cooper, Djaq, Will, Much, Little John
Mentions: Allan, Guy, Sheriff Vaizey
Genre: Angst, Missing Scene
Disclaimer: BBC & TA own everything but if it's not nailed down Allan may swipe it...
Notes: For Intercomm. Takes place during 1x11.
Summary: Robin talks to an admirer and helps him see who his real hero should be...
My Father, the Hero
They'd dealt quickly with the few guards at Locksley Manor and didn't expect any more to show up for quite some time but Robin was still anxious and on edge. They were too exposed - they needed to get what they came for and then get back into the forest as quickly as possible. His eyes continually scanned the open areas around the village for signs of trouble.
And then the hairs on the back of Robin's neck stood up and his senses tingled - someone was watching him.
He spun round and his eyes met those of John Little, the younger, staring at him in awe.
Alice Little and Luke, the cooper, were hastily grabbing what they could from their homes. The rest of the gang were helping them gather and carry their belongings; Djaq and Will were helping Alice while Much helped pack Luke's things. Allan had disappeared to "find" a cart from somewhere, promising to meet them on the Great North Road shortly.
Luke had struggled to rise, insisting he should help but he was still too weak from his torture to stand for long so Little John had offered his arm. The cooper looked like he was just using the larger man for support but Little John was practically holding Luke up as they discussed what Luke could take from his workshop. Robin heard Little John reassuring Luke that he could carry nearly all the tools and the only thing he really had to leave behind was his work bench. Luke sat down a short distance away by the fence as Little John started filling a large sack with the cooper's tools.
Robin glanced from young John to his father and back. Little John was patently avoiding Alice completely but his eyes kept darting over to where the boy sat amidst a steadily growing pile of sacks and baskets.
Robin checked the perimeter of the village again and then walked over to young John and crouched down to speak to him. The boy smiled shyly at him but didn't speak.
There was a moment's silence before Robin realised he would have to start the conversation. "Hello."
"Can you really shoot an arrow through another arrow?" young John blurted out. "And hit a sparrow in flight from half a mile away?"
Robin laughed. He'd heard those tales several times now. "I don't know - I've never tried to. I am quite a good shot but maybe not that good."
"Rubbish! He's the best archer in the world!" Much dropped a sack of clothes next to them and jogged off back into the cooperage again.
"I'm going to be an archer too," young John said, with all the certainty of youth. "I can't do things like running or stick fighting but I can loose a bow. Luke's going to make me a proper one and take me hunting. He says being slow is good if you don't want to scare the deer away."
Robin nodded. "And quiet." He glanced around the village again.
"Can I... Can I see your bow?" young John asked, hesitantly.
Robin smiled. "Of course." He held it out and young John took it almost reverentially, as if it were a sacred relic.
"Luke says he can show me how to make these, now you and Will have showed him." Young John turned the bow over in his hands, carefully inspecting it. "You can come and get a new bow from us any time you want one."
Robin frowned. He hadn't yet asked Luke where he planned to go and now he thought of it, perhaps it would be best if he didn't. He wondered if Little John would think the same.
Young John tilted the bow and tried to draw it but the string barely moved. "Hnnngh!"
"Whoa! You'd need to work up to that, John - it needs a lot of pull. Maybe when you're older?" Robin said.
John nodded and reluctantly handed the re-curve bow back to Robin. He called over to where his mother was standing talking to Djaq. "Mother! Have you seen my bow?"
Alice shook her head. "Where did you leave it?"
"By the wood pile."
Alice and Djaq both looked around until they spotted them. Djaq picked up the bow and the bundle of arrows next to it and ran over with them. "Here you go!"
Young John almost snatched them from her grasp as he looked fearfully at the petite woman. She looked puzzled but then smiled understandingly, if a little sadly, before going back over to help Alice.
"That's Djaq," Robin said. "She's one of my gang too. She knows a lot about medicines and helps us all when we get sick or injured. She helped your father when he fell down a mine."
"Oh." Young John looked at Djaq again. "Wat Tanner said you have a evil Saracen wizard that you captured and who has to serve you and he makes you disappear in a big flash of fire when you need to escape."
"Djaq is no wizard - and she's a girl - but she is very clever," Robin grinned. Some of the stories told about him were simply unbelievable but some of those about Djaq were bordering on the ridiculous.
Young John struggled to his feet and picked up his bow. "I've been practising - want to see?"
Robin nodded. "Please."
The boy took careful aim at a cup on the end of Luke's bench about twenty feet away. He stilled himself, let out his breath and loosed the arrow. It nicked the side of the cup as it passed, making it wobble but not topple.
"Well done!" Robin said. The boy clearly had some talent and more importantly, the capacity for focus required to be a good archer. Smooth flight required a still mind. He stood up and handed him another arrow. As John drew his bow again, Robin lifted the boy's elbow slightly. "Don't let your elbow drop until well after you've loosed the arrow," he advised.
John's face became a mask of concentration again and Robin smiled as, for the first time, he clearly saw John the elder in his son's steady gaze. The arrow sailed through the air and hit the cup dead centre, knocking it from the bench.
"Excellent!" Robin patted young John on the shoulder and the boy turned and looked up at him with a huge smile, delighted by his hero's praise. Robin quickly looked round the village again. He caught Little John standing at the corner of the cooperage staring over at them with quiet paternal pride.
"Good shot, son! We'll have you filling our pot with rabbits before the summer's out!"
Robin suddenly wished he'd been looking anywhere else but Little John's face as they both heard Luke's words. Little John put down the sack he was carrying, turned and vanished behind the large building. Robin sighed in sympathy.
"Did you see, Luke? I shot it right off the bench!" young John said, excitedly.
"I certainly did see! You'll be giving Robin a run for his money soon!" Luke winked at Robin as he said this and Robin forced a laugh for the boy's sake - not that he did not find the cooper's remark amusing but his mind was still on Little John. Robin had seen the sudden pain in Little John's face as he heard another man call his offspring 'son' and knew that moment would stay in both their memories for a long time.
Not only that but he himself had been giving young John the sort of lesson it was usually a father's place to give, all the while basking in the child's hero-worship. Robin remembered when he had been young John's age, young Prince Richard had been his figure of adoration. He had craved tales of the teenage general's exploits and loved pretending to be him in games but his true hero had always been his father, as every man should be to his son.
Will came over from the Little's house with a basket of food. "That's everything. We should make tracks - Allan may already be waiting for us."
"You're right, Will." Robin let out a piercing whistle and smiled as Much's head poked out the side window of the cooperage. "Time to go!"
Much nodded and his head vanished again.
The outlaws and Alice quickly gathered up all the baggage. Luke stood up shakily and started to come over.
"Don't worry about that - we can carry everything. Here."
Luke turned to see Little John with the large, heavy sack of tools already slung over his shoulder, holding out his arm again. "Thank you." He took it gratefully.
Robin studied Little John's face carefully but there was absolutely no hint that he'd overheard Luke earlier. "Young master John and I will bring up the rear - to cover our escape," Robin told the others. Young John looked at him in wonder then grinned broadly. Robin winked at him.
Alice looked nervously back at them and, Robin noticed, stole a quick glance at Little John, who was already helping Luke slowly towards the forest. Much and Will had gone to scout ahead and had already vanished.
"He will be fine," Djaq reassured her. They picked up the last few sacks and headed after the men.
"After you, John." Robin gestured to the path and they made their way slowly into the trees.
Once they were sufficiently in cover Robin motioned for John to stop. "We should wait here for a minute - just to check we're not followed." The boy nodded and crouched down in a good spot to look back into the village without being seen himself. Robin smiled at how seriously he was taking this as he too squatted down and made a show of studying the roads leading into Locksley. "We'll wait here for a few minutes then I'll give you a ride on my back so we can catch up to the others," Robin whispered across to him.
"I can walk!" young John said, indignantly.
"Oh, I know that," Robin replied, hastily. "But if I carry you then anyone following us will only see one set of footprints and you'll be able to surprise them or get away to warn the others."
"Oh...clever." Young John nodded at what seemed a perfectly rational explanation - and a good reason to avoid a long tiring walk without losing face.
Robin continued to look around but in truth he was taking the opportunity to study the boy a bit more closely. He knew what he wanted to say to him but couldn't think how to start the conversation. Then it came to him - he stuck his hand into the small pouch at his belt and smiled. He shuffled quietly over to John and held out his hand. "Do you know what these are, John?"
The boy's eyes widened. "Tags! Luke told me all your gang wears them."
"That's right." Robin said. "These tags belong to your father. He gets two because he's so big." Best not to mention Roy, Robin thought. Despite the harsh reality of the past day, young John did not need to be reminded of the true risk of wearing one of these.
"He said he lost them. I don't think Mother believed him... but then you showed up and saved us all!"
"Not just me," said Robin, earnestly. "The whole gang helped. Allan helped me steal the money and distract the guards; Will helped you, your mother, Luke and the other villagers get out of their manacles; Djaq and Much made sure our way out was safe and your father knocked out the Sheriff and then carried Luke all the way here. I could never have done all that on my own, especially not that last thing. Nobody else but your father could do that."
"Really?" Robin now had young John's undivided attention.
"Really. He's the strongest man I've ever met and one of the bravest and most loyal too. When I first became an outlaw, Much, Will, your father and some others had to come to the Castle to rescue me. Your father helped all the others climb over the city walls and then he held a rope for me to slide on all the way down from the battlements."
The boy's jaw dropped open in astonishment.
"I'd never have escaped without him," Robin continued. "I wouldn't even be Robin Hood if it weren't for Little John." I'd still be hiding in the woods or in another county, blissfully unaware the Sheriff was cutting out your mother's tongue...but that's another thing you don't need to hear. We've all changed since then.
Young John suddenly giggled.
"What's so funny?" Robin asked him.
"You called him 'Little John' - that's my name. He's not little!"
"No, he's not," Robin agreed. "We just call him that as a joke. We'll have to call you 'Little Little John'." Robin separated the two tags and held one out, dangling it in front of Little Little John's eyes. "Here. I think your father would want you to have this."
Little Little John reached out for it then hesitated. "He won't mind?"
"I'm sure of it. He's very proud of you and even if he can't be with you, he loves you very much. You should remember that."
"I will," Little Little John vowed as he took the tag and stared at it. "I'll never forget."
"Good. Your father is a good, kind man, John. He's only ever stayed away to keep you safe. You should be proud of him too."
"I am." The sudden fierceness in the boy's voice left Robin in no doubt as to the fact.
Robin scanned the village one last time. He wondered if Little Little John even realised this may be the last time he saw it. Robin knew he had had no such thoughts when leaving for the Holy Land, why should John be any different?
He spotted a few of the villagers peering out of their houses to check if the coast was clear. Out of respect for their former neighbours they would wait to scavenge what they could - but they would still strip both houses bare. Times were hard after all. Robin decided they'd best leave before that started.
"I think we're safe now - we should catch up to the others." Robin stood up. "I'm going to be looking where we're going and trying not to leave too many tracks so it's very important you be my eyes and ears, yes?"
Little Little John nodded seriously, slipped the tag over his head and jumped up awkwardly onto Robin's back.
Robin shuffled the boy's weight to a more comfortable position then set off at light jog towards the Great North Road. Hopefully there to find the others with Allan and a cart waiting to take Luke, Alice and Little Little John to their new lives, far removed from the Sheriff,Gisborne, danger... and Little Little John's new hero - his father...