Title: Band of Brigands
Author: Magrat 70
Disclaimer: not mine blah blah
Thank you to Sao21 my beta, you were more than a caterpillar in the Dovecote :-)
RIP Sir Terry Pratchett, my screen name Magrat is named after one of his witches; Alzheimer's is a terrible disease and has robbed the world of another amazing mind, I will miss the excitement that came with the new release of a new Disc World book.
The Night Watchman
Emily growled softly to herself as she once more saw Jennifer slip out of one of the darkened windows. She had seen her rob the evening delivery of food for the Gisborne household. Jennifer was now delivering parcels of food to the tenant farmers who could barely pay the rent and tax that was being levied against them. She would have felt so proud of her lady love, but Jennifer was putting herself in so much danger.
There was a price on The Night Watchman's head, and Rossi had heard some talk amongst a group of bounty hunters that they were going to go to Loxley and deliver this hero of the people's head to the Sheriff; of course they didn't get very far before Emily and her men put an end to any threat they could be.
The only problem was that Jennifer was getting more ambitious; she had robbed the tax collector as he slept in a local whore house before she distributed the money to the poorest in the outlying villages. This went from Gisborne to the Sheriff being pissed off with 'The Night Watchman'. Emily was petrified that Jennifer was going to get herself killed.
She had been following her for weeks, feeling the control of her temper slipping further away. If Gisborne employed decent guards, she would be dead; she certainly hadn't noticed Emily following.
At that second, whilst not paying attention, a dagger missed one of her kidneys and ended up scratching her side as Jennifer turned quickly on her. Emily almost fell with her weight off centered as Jennifer drove at her with a flurry of kicks and punches that Emily only just managed block. She took a hard right to face that was going to leave a bruise in the morning. The blonde tried to sweep her off her feet, but by then Emily had her balance back.
The brunette backed away from Jennifer, pretending to limp until she was deep in the shadow against village walls. Emily caught Jennifer and held the struggling blonde from behind, hard against her body. "Stop struggling Jennifer. I won't hurt you." She could tell the blonde was going to bite her so she had her arm across her throat. A part of Emily broke, having to be so rough with the woman she adored. She could tell the fight was going out of the blonde; it was a fine line between holding someone like this so the lack of oxygen would slow them down, and badly hurting them.
"You have to stop doing this," Emily carried the low growl that she used earlier. "You're going to get yourself killed."
Jennifer had given up struggling for the moment, realizing that there could be an opening when the man relaxed. The fact that he knew her name concerned her; how could he know who she was? She had thought she had felt something for the last couple of weeks; she had judged it to be the usual paranoia she felt when she put on the green leathers, cloak and mask. She tested the man's strength, trying to twist out of his grip, his strength was terrifying, yet he hadn't tried to hurt her. There was something in the voice hidden behind a growl and his scent that was nagging at her subconscious.
"They will bring in much better troops from Nottingham; there's already a price on your head." Emily hissed, "I've already had to take care of some bounty hunters on their way here from Nottingham."
"It's none of your business, and I don't care who they send after me. The villagers are starving; they could barely manage before the new tax rises. Someone has to stand up for them," Jennifer growled back, angry that some unknown man had the cheek to tell her how to live her life. Not that she cared much with Emily killed as a traitor in the Holy Land.
"You're throwing your life away," Emily growled, the frustration of being so close to her love, having her body pressed up against her, was driving Emily crazy; that and Jennifer's stubbornness over her own safety was making her frustrated, and she struggled against wanting to tell the woman she would be broken if anything happened to her.
"What life? My life died in the Holy Land. I will care for my villagers with my last breath. Better to be dead than forced into a marriage with Gisborne." Jennifer was close to tears and couldn't believe it when the man started to search her. His hands touching all over her body until he found the small collapsible crossbow that Adam and Reid had invented for her. "Hey, you can't take that! I need it."
"No, you don't," Emily growled, dropping a purse of gold coins that they had taken off the bounty hunters when they had killed them into Jennifer's pocket. "I think, my lady will find this is more than enough to cover the loss, and my men and I pledge ourselves to the people of Loxley and Nottingham. I will leave more money with you Jennifer at an agreed drop. You are a healer, the people need you in that capacity. I am a killer; you stick to what you're good at, and I will stick to mine." Emily dropped a second purse, which not only held the necklace that Emily had bought for Jennifer, but the result of a robbery of some of the sheriff's rich friends as they rode into traps set for them in the woods. That and the jeweler who had taken advantage of Jennifer's position when he had brought the necklace off her. The fear of her men, and the threat they would be back for his life, had kept him from reporting the theft. "You and your father have come into a small legacy, enough to cover your debts; you don't have to marry Gisborne."
Jennifer's legs almost went from under her in shock and relief. "Why are you doing this for me?"
"I-I promised a friend I would always take care of you, Jennifer," Emily answered softly, the growl gone from her voice. She couldn't help it; the brunette had been trying to control herself, but with Jennifer's body clenched up against her own, she couldn't fight it any longer and kissed the back of Jennifer's neck. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have; I had no right." Emily let go of Jennifer with a small push and was over the wall in moments.
The soft voice left the blonde shivery with shock and those lips on the back of her neck. "Emily?" Jennifer whispered in shock before walking back to her own house deep in thought. She climbed into her own bedroom window to find more flowers left on her pillow. Pink and white roses combined; she knew combined like this meant 'I love you and I always will'. When she opened the second purse and her necklace was in there, she was left with no doubts. These weeks of flowers and small gifts being left in her bedroom that had confused her, had scared her that they were from Will and he would find out she was the Night Watchmen; she should have guessed that he would never be into this level of romance. There was an anger too. How could she be back and not contact her? How could they let her go on thinking that Emily was dead?
Elizabeth's maid opened the door and was surprised to see Lady Jennifer on the doorstep looking furious. The blonde had been looking depressed for weeks. The maid was confused about Jennifer's relationship with Emily as Adam. She had thought it was meant as a camouflage but now believed it to be deeper. "Where's Lady Elizabeth?"
"She is already out my lady, seeing an old friend."
Jennifer dropped her voice. "Adam?"
"He is with Master Reid, I don't know where they disappear to..." Jennifer was already gone.
"Adam, I don't understand why we're working on forest camouflage and the type of weapons that could stop a coach. It isn't like they can help the Night Watchmen," Reid wondered if Adam would just tell him or if he would have to put him on the spot.
"Reid, you know we don't say those words," Adam hissed at his best friend who, while helping him to invent weapons and other things that could help Jennifer, spent most of his time trying to invent a potion that would stop his seizures which they knew would kill him one day. "There are other people on our side against Gisborne and the sheriff. Oh and I need you to forge a legal document that makes it look like Jennifer's father has come in to a legacy."
"JJ hasn't pulled off another big robbery?" Reid asked, using the nickname they used for Jennifer when talking about her exploits.
"No, you know even if she managed to get her hands on that amount of money she would give it away. She would never keep it for her own good," Adam was exasperated, over the last few months JJ could have cleared the debt that the sheriff and Gisborne were using to blackmail Jennifer into marriage.
"Then who, Adam? Who has managed to find enough money to help Jennifer when all but the sheriff's friends are being squeezed for 'the war effort'? Who is helping Jennifer? I know who loved her and would have put her life on the line for her. The thing is, that woman, Jennifer's knight, is dead in the Holy Land, Adam. Tell me the truth. I'm your best friend; I care about Emily like she was my sister."
Adam took a deep breath; it had been a struggle every day to not tell Reid that his sister was alive, that the announcement by Prince John about Emily being a traitor was a lie. "She's back, none of it is true. She is having to hide out in Sherwood Forest like an outlaw. She has a few friends with her, and they have resorted to stealing from the sheriff's friends. She is going to give the money to JJ so she doesn't have to fight anymore."
JJ made sure that no one was following her into the dovecote. She found the brick in the wall that clicked the mechanism that Adam and Reid had made, and a flagstone opened in the floor of the dovecote. She climbed down the ladder into a small empty chamber. Pressing an almost hidden stone in the wall, the flagstone closed; pressing another on the other side of the room, a portion of the wall swung open leading to a small passageway, lit by torches. She stopped when she could hear Adam and Reid's raised voices in their workshop. She heard everything that Adam had to say about his sister.
"Anyone thought to tell JJ that she was back!" The blonde stormed into the room, picking up some of the glass tubing filled with a viscous liquid that Reid used for his alchemy experiments and smashed it against the wall. How long has she been back Adam? For about six weeks someone has been leaving flowers in my room. Has that been Emily?"
Jennifer's shoulders dropped when Adam nodded his head. "Then why didn't she talk to me?" The tears started to flow from the blonde's eyes. "Is there someone else, she doesn't want me..."
"Jennifer, nothing like that, she loves you," Adam sighed, he had told his sister to see Jennifer over and over again. "She isn't the same person, the things she's seen and done, she is deeply ashamed of and... and she is scarred. She didn't want you to see her that way."
"She thinks I am so shallow that I would care about that?" Jennifer's temper was gone, she had had enough of this game with her feelings that Emily was playing with her. To leave flowers that meant so many promises of love but never reveal herself, it was too much, "Tell her to meet me at our place in the woods, she should still remember where that is, tomorrow at noon. If she isn't there, I will marry Gisborne." JJ could see the hurt look on Adam's face, "I know you hate him for all that he did to you and I would be joining with the enemy. I don't care, I want her to explain herself to me, and Adam tell your sister I want my bow back."