Devil's Child
by Katta

The men were telling stories around the fire when Robin noticed how Will withdrew further and further from the group, to finally slip off among the trees. He frowned a bit at this. It was the third night in a row that Will had done this, and even during the day, he seemed to avoid company. Robin's company, to be specific, and Robin couldn't figure out the reason. They had worked out their differences a long time ago, after all, and Robin would hate to lose the trust that had been so hard to earn. Although he deserved no better if he let his brother go without as much as asking why, and he'd be damned before he did.

Robin put little Becca in Marion's arms and stood up, but the girl started crying, reaching up her arms to her father. He never could resist those pleading eyes, and so he sat back down, putting his daughter on his lap, and decided to put this off until tomorrow. Will might have been withdrawn, but he wasn't rash enough to run off entirely. He'd be back at work tomorrow, as always.

Forcing himself to relax and enjoy the evening, Robin's eyes met Azeem's, and he knew that the moor had noticed the same thing that he had -- and apparently had drawn some conclusions, too. Good thing somebody did, because personally, he didn't have a clue.


Robin sure didn't intend to stay ignorant, and when Will spent another day in hiding, it was just too much. Being the leader, it wasn't as if he could keep an eye on his little brother constantly, but somewhere around noon it occurred to him that yes, once again, Will was missing. He didn't know whether to damn all the foresters that kept coming to him for advice, or stick to blaming himself, but he did know Will could hide efficiently even on open fields, not to mention in a forest. So the only sensible thing to do was to take it to their self-appointed sage.

"Azeem, have you seen Will?"

"Yes," Azeem replied, without a pause in his sharpening of the arrow points. Robin waited a while for an additional comment, but of course he didn't get one. Far be it from the man to be useful.

"And he would be at...?"

Azeem sighed. "By the waterfall. Robin!"

Because Robin had already moved to leave, with a hasty "Thank you". Now, of course he was forced to stay.

"I think you should give him some time alone."

"I have given him some time alone!" Robin hurried to lower his voice again, seeing how people were beginning to stare in his direction. "I have been giving him time alone from the beginning. Back when he hated me, remember? If we had sorted out or differences from the start, it would have saved everyone a lot of trouble. And as much as I respect his privacy, he's my brother. I don't want to lose him, and if you know what's wrong I strongly suggest you tell me!"

Azeem finally put the arrow points down. "But I do not know. And even if I can guess I certainly will not tell you; if I am mistaken I do not believe Will would ever forgive me." A wry smile came over his face. "He is quite the wrong man to infuriate."

"Thank you for that reminder, Azeem," Robin said, starting down towards the waterfall.

Where he promptly stopped, cursing the Moor for having a point as always.

Will was standing near the edge of the waterfall. The pouring water didn't quite hide the fact that he was crying heaily. To make it all worse, he was also stroking himself. Naturally, after five years in prison and more in the constant presence of men, Robin had seen such actions before. All you had to do was turn your head and pretend not to notice. But Will's obvious shame complicated things, and Robin hesitated just long enough for Will to open his eyes and look straight at him, frozen like a deer when it finds out it's being hunted. Unlike the deer, he didn't move again, and Robin realised he had to either shoot or get out of there.

"So, there you are," he said, taking a few steps forward. "I've been worried about you."

"No need," Will said, finally moving to let the water flow over his hands. His eyes didn't meet Robin's, and his voice was kept dangerously low.

"I care about you, Will." Robin dared to stride into the river. His legs got wet, but the important thing now was to reach out to Will. Putting his hands on his brother's shoulders, he felt how very tense they were. "We're brothers, I..."

"I know that!" Will tore himself loose with a fierceness Robin hadn't expected. "I was the one who told you that, remember? I don't need to be reminded of that like I don't even..." He ended the rant by a shake of his head and a low "Oh, sod it all."

"Well, I'm glad you know that," Robin said softly, trying anything to make Will feel better. He wondered if he'd been better with brotherhood if he hadn't missed out on thirty years of experience. "All I'm saying is that you can confide in me."

Will gave a tearful laugh. "Can I? I don't think so. I could never... you would hate me."

"Why, because you fancy someone?" Robin said, suddenly knowing this must be the answer. "Is it someone from the town? Someone you would consider above you, perhaps..." Unlike Will, Robin had never had to think in that direction. That sent a pang of guilt into his conscience, until a sudden suspicion sent that away. "It isn't Marian, is it?"

"Marian?" Will laughed again, no merrier than the first time. "If it had been Marian... a man is just a man, isn't he? Or most of them are."

"What is it?" Robin took Will's face in his hands, and in a flash of a moment that should never have come to exist, he saw the truth there, as much as in Will's body once again being aroused. Before he could stop himself, he took a step backwards in shock. Will immediately spun around and waded away to get his clothes.

"Did you..."

"Leave me alone." Will stopped in his movements, but didn't turn around. "I would die for you. If you don't leave me right now, I swear I will."

Robin stared at him, still torn between revulsion and pity, and then walked back, water squelching from his shoes, hands shaking in something close to anger. It wasn't until he ran into Azeem at the northern glade that he stopped, finally making sense of the Moor's cryptic comments.

"If you knew about this, why didn't you warn me?"

"But I did not know," Azeem said, still calm. "I made a guess of what was most likely; that was all."

Robin felt ready to heave. "He's my brother!"

"And he knows that matters more," Azeem replied, walking past his leader to his dwelling.


Come sunset, Will was still sitting by the stream. He was watching the waterfall with what seemed to be a hypnotic intensity when in reality he was so little aware of his surrounding that he didn't notice Azeem until the Moor rested a hand on his shoulder. His head jerked up and he stared at Azeem between eyelids swollen with uncried tears.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, in a tone that stated clearly to which other place he would have preferred Azeem to go.

"I figured that right now you needed more sympathy than Robin does," Azeem answered, sitting down next to Will.

Will immediately turned his gaze back to the water. "He hates me."

"I don't think that word fits his sentiment any more than it did yours. It just never crossed his mind that you could..." Azeem searched for words, the English language suddenly seeming very poor.

"I'm a devil's child," Will said quietly. "Like they said when I was little."

Azeem shrugged, the shadow of a smile on his lips. "If that makes it easier for you."

"Easier?" Will's hardened expression cracked, and to hide it he stared at the sky instead of the stream. "When I joined John and the others, it was the first time I felt safe in a crowd. Ever. And then Robin came, and I would have killed to have him... only I couldn't, because he was the leader, not to mention my brother. If I so much as touch him, it's back to the stones and the spitting again. Maybe it already is."

Azeem leaned back against the nearest tree, watching the first stars enter the sky. "You're so very young. Robin has travelled half way around the world, spending most of that time with soldiers and criminals. I doubt there is anything you could do that he hasn't seen before."

"That doesn't change anything." Will's protest was short, but what he didn't say was longer. The punishment from state and church for the criminal activities he yearned for was irrelevant. Not only because he, like all of them, already had more than enough for a death sentence, but because there would be no crime. He could never have his dream fulfilled, when the wish was enough to ban him.

"No," Azeem agreed. "Nothing would change, even if he did not belong to another..." His thoughts strayed at this, and he had to laugh at how little such matters had once meant to him. Will looked at him with a mix of curiosity and anger, and he felt the need to explain that he hadn't been laughing at the youth.

"Did I ever tell you how I fell in love with a merchant's wife?"

"No!" Robin's reaction to this revelation had been amused, but Will was yet young, and marked too hard by the morals of his society: his eyes widened as when a child hears stories of war. "What happened?"

"I was young and self-assured, and I wooed her into loving me. She was the most delightful woman I have ever seen. Her skin was like mahogany." He grinned at the memory. "I know in this country you prefer the women pale as skimmed milk, but I tell you, it is a big mistake. That mahogany hue, I had never then seen its equal... and only once since." The memories of what had followed made him frown involuntarily. "We made love every night until her husband returned. At a very unfortunate time."

Will was now interested enough in the story to put off brooding over his own problems until later. "And then?" he persisted.

"And then I was whipped until I couldn't stand, and thrown into the prison in which I would spend years before Robin found me. The first few months I thought I would die. Not just from pain and hunger, but from being away from her. I loved her deeper than I had anyone before, and most likely ever will. Nothing could ever bring her back to me, and nothing give me relief in my pain." This wasn't as pleasing to the youth's ears, of course, and so he decided to tell the rest. "Everyone there was craving something. One day I saw a man who had been sentenced to death. His skin was a perfect mahogany, just as Jasmina's, and it just so happened that his hunger was directed at me."

It struck Azeem that perhaps this was not a suitable story after all. They may be criminals, but Will was right in assuming that this only made some aspects of their morals more acute. Azeem rose from his position and brushed the dirt from his clothes. "Enough for tonight," he said, like the night shift storyteller would tell the children.

"Azeem?" Will's husky voice held a command that just for a second reminded Azeem of whose blood ran through the man's veins. "Did you yield to him?"

Already half turned away, Azeem gave the slightest sigh. "Oh, yes."

Before he could take another step, hands were on his shirt, hesitant and fumbling, but with clear intent.

Well, why not?


Azeem dreamed of dark eyes, full lips, soft mahogany skin, while a skinny white boy was busy getting his clothes off. They both kept their eyes closed. The fantasy may not be enough, the illusion may be jagged, but reality was impossible, and so they dreamed on.


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