The Birthday Gift
By Virginia Cavazos

Chapter Three

She had to hold back a gasp, as she saw Johnny waving to her from the other side of camp. At least he made it there all right.

"Your execution is just going to have to wait until we take you back to my castle." His lips curving to a slight frown he added, "Perhaps I’ll invite all of the local villagers?"

"Why not make the lords pay to see it?" Robin offered.

"You know that is not a bad idea," Prince John whispered. Robin bit his lip, when was he going to learn to keep his mouth shut?

As Prince John was busy with his thoughts of how he was going to increase his riches from Robin Hoods execution, he heard a screaming from the far side. Glancing over, he saw five of his men swatting themselves.

"Barkley, go see what is troubling those men." Prince John ordered him.

Robin was pushed down, to sit on the ground. He had five of the Princes guards surrounding him. Prince John paced back and forth, stroking his chin in thought.

"Your Highness, we have trouble!" Barkley huffed, as he jogged back to the Prince.

"What now?" Prince John moaned, as his head fell back in frustration. It seemed that trouble was to follow him everywhere.

"The men were attacked by hornets sire, they stung some of the horses. We’ve lost half of our mounts so far."

Prince John whirled around, grabbing Robin by his tunic, he pulled him up. "Is this a trick of your men?"

Robin let out a scoffing chuckle. "Oh yes, I failed to inform you, that I’ve recruited hornets in fighting against you now, Prince John."

Robin was gifted with a third slap against his face, he worked his jaw back and forth from the blow. Prince John was getting good at slapping him! He guessed the old adage was true, practice made perfect.

"Your men won’t be able to take you away from me." Prince shouted out into the forest, thinking he was surrounded by Robin’s men, "If you try to take him, I will have him instantly killed."

Snapping his fingers, one of the guards pulled out a sword, laying it across Robin’s exposed throat.

"Now then, I plan on leaving the forest with Robin Hood in hand." Prince John mounted his steed, as did those whose mounts did not run away. Robin was placed on a horse, his hands still tied behind him, - he was finding it difficult to stay on. The Princes men formed a protective circle around Robin. Those that were stung were having a hard time seeing, they stumbled over rocks and fallen branches, as they tried to follow their Prince out of Sherwood.

As they dissapeared into the forest, Marion followed as close as she could.

She spotted Johnny running along on the other side, he gave her a hand signal to stay where she was. Puzzled she stopped, as she saw the young man gesticulating with his hands, she heard Prince John roar out, a thud was heard to follow soon after.

"Good God!" Prince John screamed out, as his men rushed over to help him up. He was lying on the ground, the saddle he sat upon fell off his mount.

"What more could happen?" He groaned.

His answer was given, as the hornets returned into the attack. Robin’s head spun around, they were surrounded by the angered insects. What confused Robin, was none bothered him. As the men swatted their heads, screaming in pain as they were stung, again, and again. Robin felt his horse being pulled back. Looking down, he spotted Johnny, a large grin on his face. He placed his finger over his lips in a quieting manner.

Jumping up, he held Robin in his arms, as he led them away. Busy protecting themselves from the angered insects. No one noticed that the prisoner was escaping. Prince John was running around in a panic. His arms covering his head, screaming out. "Barkley, help me!"

Barkley spotted a stream nearby. "I’ll save you your Highness!" He shouted out, as he grabbed his Prince, leading him towards the water. He began to throw Prince John into the fast moving stream, not knowing that it was unnecessary, for the hornets stopped their attack, as Robin was led away.

The Prince rose from the water, dripping wet. He sputtered out obscenities that echoed in the forest. Barkley cringed in fear, as he heard of how many ways The Prince was going to kill him.

As he saw Robin’s horse was missing, Prince John screamed loud enough that his castle could hear him, "Robin Hood! I will see your neck at the end of a rope again!"

Johnny drove the horse hard, meeting up with Marion, he helped her on the steed, ridding it back to their camp. They helped Robin down, Marion used her knife to cut his bonds. She fell into his arms, holding him tightly.

"I thought I was going to lose you," She gasped, allowing her tears of fear to finally appear.

Robin gently stroked her head, saying in a soothing manner, "You didn’t Marion, you didn’t."

Stepping back, they both turned to gaze at the young man that saved Robin’s life.

"You saved Robin’s life, for which we shall be eternally grateful," Marion pulled the boy into her embrace, hugging him. Thanking him with a kiss on the cheek, as the young man blushed, she asked him, "How did you save him? I saw you saying a spell, before the hornets appeared."

Johnny did not reply at first, he just stared sadly at them, taking his hat off, a sad grin creased his face.

"I’m not suppose to be here," He began, "But you see, it was my birthday present." He gave as an explanation.

"Your what?" Both replied, with confusion masking their faces.

Johnny grinned so widely a familiar dimple popped out. "My birthday present, from a loving Uncle." Stepping back, Johnny decided it was time for him to tell then exactly who he was, but he had to be quick. For his time was running short.

"You see I have many Uncles," He began, "There’s Uncle Olwyn, and Uncle Tuck, and my favorite…Uncle Little John."

As each name was given, Robin’s and Marion’s eyes grew wider. They began to examine the boys face more carefully, his eyes, they were like looking at Marion, Robin thought. His smile, it was like looking at Robin, Marion thought.

Holding his head up proud, Johnny continued, "My father was a great leader, he fought to end the tyranny of Prince John, his love for my mother was said to be legendary, as well as my mothers love for him."

Quickly swiping his eyes of threatening tears, he declared, "I was named after my fathers closest friend, John Little. My father was suppose to die today, hung by Prince John, I came here to stop that. For you see, I was to be your son."

"What…" Robin began to ask, Johnny quickly cut him off,

"I don’t have much time," Letting out a small laugh he shook his head, "Olwyn is going to be very mad at me."

He pulled out a large necklace that hung on his neck, it was the same that Olwyn wore. "He was my teacher, I learned a lot from him, but as I said, something was missing. I wanted to know my parents. For my seventeenth birthday, Olwyn granted me the wish of meeting you."

Glancing up the tree he chuckled, "I didn’t know I would appear hanging from a tree."

"You are our…" Marion began, "…Son," Johnny finished, with a nod.

"Actually, I would have been," Seeing the confused looks again he explained. "When I appeared, I interrupted something, something that would have been my…" Dropping his head, his face turned beet red as he whispered, "My conception."

Robin and Marion now realized, that what they were about to do yesterday, would have been the beginning of Johnny’s life, but now it was to late. Johnny would never be born.

A sweet, sad smile parted his lips, as he could see by the horror in their faces that they now knew why he had to hurry.

"I have no regrets," He quickly said, already he could feel like he was losing himself, he had to hold on just a little longer.

"I am glad I met you mother and father, this short time we spent together, was for me worth a lifetime."

Robin and Marion ran up to the boy, hugging him tightly between them. "We’re sorry…son," Both Marion and Robin said, Johnny let out a relieved laugh, "You don’t know how long I waited to hear that." He cried, as they held him tightly in their embrace. Holding him tighter, as they felt him fading in their grasp.

Because he interrupted them, Johnny would never be born. As he began to fade, he chuckled, "I want you to give me lots of brothers and sisters, and let them know about their big brother Johnny."

As he said this, Marion and Robin were moved closer, and closer. "I don’t want you to grieve my passing," He quickly said, "I want you to always love each other as deeply as I was told you did. Don’t hesitate to show it, for life is short, and before you realize it. It’s gone, and you’ll never have those years back again."

Robin felt Johnny fading in his embrace, he faintly heard his last words, "Please, don’t be sad about my leaving, but use your memory of me, to love each other, as much as I loved you both! Then I shall live forever!" He laughed out in joy. Robin and Marion moved closer, until they were only holding each other in a tight embrace. Johnny was gone, he dissapeared, sacrificing himself to save his father and mother.

They held their embrace for some time, not wanting to break it, as they finally did, they saw something lying on the ground. Robin quickly picked it up, both shedding tears, as they held it tightly between them.

*** *** ***

It was a happy Robin and Marion that rode into camp that day, most were surprised to see how openly they were showing their affection. Robin helped Marion off of her horse, she fell into his arms, the loving looks they gave each other was read as far away, as across the camp. All were in shock to actually see them walking to Robins tent - with his arm around Marion’s waist! All knew of the pact that was made, to keep their emotions towards each other in check, until King Richard returned. Yet here was Marion- closer to his side then they have ever seen her. They were laughing, and giving each other passionate looks. Little John was standing by Robin’s tent, a large grin plastered on his face. "Well it’s about time." He laughed out as they approached him.

The two turned, looking back at camp, they saw all eyes were on them. With embarrassed smiles on both of them, Robin gave Marion a small peck on the cheek. Hearing cries of encouragement from the other men, Robin raised a lustful eyebrow, with a dimpled half-grin, he pulled Marion in a warm embrace. Bending her backwards, he kissed her full on the lips…openly…in front of the whole camp! As he broke off the kiss, a cheer was heard from the small camp.

They all wondered when Robin and Marion were going to stop holding back what they knew they felt deeply for each other. Releasing Marion, Robin began to walk towards the crowd, his hands raised above his head in triumph. Hissing at Robin to stop, Marion made a lunge for him, her face glowing a deep red, she grabbed him by the arm, dragging him – unwillingly – into the tent. Little John quickly followed, he saw Robin chuckling, as he placed a ratty looking hat on a small table.

"What’s that?" He asked Robin.

The large smile changed every so slightly, to a sad one. Looking up at his closest friend he sighed, "Something that will reminded us, that fighting Prince John may be important." Robin began.

"But there are also other important things in our life," Marion continued.

"Like starting a family." Robin finished, as he placed his arm around Marion’s shoulder, she leaned heavily on him. Her hand pulling him closer.

"You mean…you guys?" Little John stuttered, when he saw both of their eyes glowing in a way that silently answered his unspoken question, Little Johns expressive blue eyes lit up in Joy. He pulled the both of them in a large, bear hug.

"Oh my god, I’m so happy for you!" He cried out.

Placing them back on the ground, he wiped the tears of joy from his eyes. "And it took a hat to change your minds?" He asked, incredulously.

"A hat…among other things." Robin chuckled, patting Little John on the back he declared, "The first boy shall bear your name my friend, and I want you to be his godfather."

Little John blushed a deep red, "I don’t know what to say Robin." The large man wiped a stray tear from his face. His eyes, glowing in pride at the task he was to be given, he quickly added, "And I’ll be the best godfather there ever was! I promise, if anything happens to you, I’ll take care of him - as if he were my own."

Marion and Robin exchanged sad glances as they both said.

"We know Little John." Pulling Marion close to him, they both embraced, staring at the hat, they sighed out, "We know."

The End

Chapter One
 Chapter Two
 Chapter Three

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