Word Count: 1,430
Spoilers: Set after 2x06, "For England"
Summary: The aftermath of "For England." Guy pays Marian a late night visit.
Author's Note: Er. So, there are four essays due tomorrow morning for my Anthropology class and I have not even contemplated writing any of them yet. However, Guy/Marian > everything, the term 'everything' here indeed encompassing schoolwork. I have accepted this universal truth with grace and dignity. Yep. That's right.
How she longed for winter then!-
Scrupulously austere in its order
Of white and black
Ice and rock; each sentiment within border,
And heart's frosty discipline
Exact as a snowflake.
-Sylvia Plath, "Spinster"
At least one thing is certain: there is no hope of sleep tonight.
With an irritated sigh, Marian admits defeat and shoves the bedcovers back in one abrupt movement. She sits up, swinging her legs around so her feet touch the floor. The feel of the cool stone only serves to amplify her peculiar, prickly restlessness. She scans the room for a moment before catching sight of the bag she had packed earlier in the corner. Without pause, she strides over to it, and begins to unpack its contents.
She makes the frustrating discovery that this does not ease her agitation; each item holds some vague haunting, calling back the surreal confusion she’d felt when she’d fumblingly put it there hours earlier. She does not know how the bag found its way back in here after the guards had taken her away. Guy, perhaps.
The notion of him paying careful mind to her things even after he has given her up to become the mistress of his father’s enemy ought to be enough to infuriate her, but she finds she cannot summon the necessary anger. He had insisted upon walking her all the way back to her quarters after they had returned to the castle, his arm firmly locked in hers and his eyes dark with guilt. She had allowed him to do it – there was little point in refusing, after all – and attempted all the while to ignore the misery in his silence. She supposes he must think her to be terribly disappointed in him.
She still recalls all too clearly the incident months ago with Lambert and the ledger – the biting disappointment and anger, and how foolish she’d felt to have thought she could trust him at all. She has been careful ever since not to let herself slip in that respect: even when she was to be his wife, searching for whatever fragments of virtues she might find in him, she had not allowed herself to feel for him.
The truth of it – the part she cannot let herself acknowledge, not fully – is that he loves her. She sparks some form of goodness in him, makes him question all the cold, ruthless principles upon which he’s built his entire life. And she takes this shred of humanity and she uses it against him, again and again.
It isn’t as though she has a choice. There are bigger things at risk, tragedies and injustices far greater. There is no sense in fighting for a man who may not even be able to be saved.
She shakes her head as if to clear it, resolved to ignore her own vexation, and shifts her attention to the collection of dresses he’d brought in to her that morning. They’re pretty, all floral patterns and bright colors; she recalls the dissonant, comical sight of him carrying them in. She had smiled in spite of herself. Now she is struck all at once by the memory of his voice, something he told her long ago – I will keep giving. He no longer seems to set much stock in the notion of buying her heart, not really – he’s learned better – and she feels a strange nostalgia for the way things had been then. She’d never have expected to feel as she does now, practically yearning for pretty, meaningless trinkets; the hollow, clumsy attempts at expressing affection.
Now – now he would die, and not even to possess her; just to keep her safe.
She folds the dress and then unfolds it again, her hands working with swift efficiency that’s nearly violent.
This time, she had not been disappointed at his betrayal of her. When he had approached her in the corridor, his face lined with torment, there had even been an odd relief in it. If he had not failed her, she would have had to endure knowing once and for all what she means to him.
He is not a good man, not by any means, but the possibility of it seems to thrum in her bones tonight.
She laughs to herself, quiet and bitter, and runs her fingers over the material.
There is a sudden, blunt knock at her door.
She does not question for a moment who it could be. She doesn’t pause, either, as she usually would have. Before she quite knows what she’s doing, she has crossed the room and pulled the door open.
Sure enough, Guy stands there; it is clear at once that his rescue of her earlier has done nothing to appease his remorse.
“Marian.” He sounds startled, as though he hadn’t expected her to acquiesce to seeing him so easily.
“Guy,” she answers levelly.
As his eyes graze over her, she is made uncomfortably aware of the flimsiness of her nightdress, all delicate fabric and skin left bare. His gazes still tend to throw her, even after so long. She suspects she will never grow fully used to the desperation of them, laced with something more acute and far-reaching than desire.
“I hope I did not wake you,” he finally says.
“No,” she answers, wrapping her arms around her shoulders.
He takes the hint, looking away. “Good.”
Silence descends quickly. She watches him as he looks uncomfortably around the room, with the disquieting air of an animal that has been caged. She finally opens her mouth to inquire as to whether his visit has a purpose, when—
“I’m sorry,” he says abruptly.
Her heart gives an odd lurch. She curses it.
“There was no lasting harm done,” she replies, careful to keep her tone unaffected and light.
“But there might have been,” he protests, all desperation and sharp angles. It is clear he cannot bear to be let off easily. Not in this circumstance. “Marian, I did not mean to betray your trust. I did not want—” He falters, frustration overcoming him. Unwelcome sympathy darts through her. He looks up, pained.
“I’m sorry,” he says again. This time, his voice is low.
He is like a child more than anything, standing here before her. There is an odd purity to his guilt, an innocence to it that fills her with the instinctive compulsion to pardon him. She feels impossibly tall, regal and inaccessible, even as she is the one to look up – an ancient goddess, a cause for which a man might die. She recalls his fingers gentle against her face, the unselfish brush of his mouth on her cheek.
“I forgive you,” she says.
(She has no choice but to do so, after all. She must remain in his favor; it’s as easy as that.)
He exhales; a shaky, disbelieving sound. One corner of his mouth curls in what does not quite become a smile, and she feels as though she can practically see the weight lifted from his shoulders. He is so weak, in all the ways that matter. She fights against the pity and the warmth.
“You should get some rest,” he says at last, gruffly.
“I will,” she promises.
He reaches out as though to touch her shoulder, then falters at the last moment when he recalls her bare skin. She watches his hand without quite meaning to until he pulls it back.
“Goodnight,” he says.
“Goodnight,” she echoes.
He stays a moment longer, staring down at her. She stares evenly back, and makes sure to keep her countenance expressionless. As far as he can tell, she feels nothing at all; she might as well be made of stone, and yet the reemerging hope in his eyes is unmistakable. She wonders when she learned to do this dance so well.
When he does go, she remains standing still. She does not watch him leave; just listens to the shutting of the door. For a short while, it is not followed by the sound of retreating footsteps. She does not realize she is holding her breath until finally she hears the dull thud of him walking away, and exhales.
Feeling even more sharply awake than before, she heads back to the pile of dresses, intent upon finishing the pointless task she’d taken up before he’d interrupted. His presence threatens to linger, trapped in corners and shadows.
She reaches for the next dress, willing her hands not to tremble. The silk is cool in her palms.