A/N: Just gonna be upfront with you all right here, right now. This is a completely self-indulgent, shaky-plotted, silly, daft, mildly-romantic-if-you-squint story with a self-insert OC, because my entire life has gone to absolute shit in the last two years - and by golly if Real Life isn't gonna give me a happy ending, I'm bloody gonna write my own. But if daft and silly mild-romance-if-you-squint is right up your Straße, then please feel free to join in because I have a feeling I've got the story for you right here. Set mid-series 2 because my brain deserves to pretend that gigantic portions of Series 3 never happened, and Allan A Dale deserves his own happy ending just as much if not more than I do (#JusticeForAllan), so if there are any series-based inaccuracies, just go with it. We're all AU down here...
With love to my Soulie Kate for being one of the very few people who have made me ugly-laugh in the last two years, and for her constant encouragement to watch the show in the first place. And always to my Teebs because friends may come and go, but Ammies are forever.
Disclaimer: Robin Hood doesn't belong to me, or anyone else, he's an augmented character steeped in folklore. He belongs to everybody and to nobody all at once. He is Schroedinger's Vigilante. The BBC version belongs to the BBC though, so y'know. If they decide to bring the show back at any point I'm happy to have my licence fee refunded in exchange for this story. God knows it isn't worth more than £154.50.
The Miller's Daughter
"I'm not being funny Giz, but if you want me to do one more thing for you, you're gonna have to let me eat something first! I ain't had nothin' since supper last night and I'm bleedin' famished!"
No ordinary servant would have dared speak so insolently to Guy, but Allan was no ordinary anything. His brain and tongue had a direct, unfiltered link, and he was at his most dangerous of combinations - hungry, tired and grumpy.
Fortunately for Allan, Guy had just about had enough of any human interaction that day. It wasn't even dinner time and already he had fallen foul of the Sheriff's particular sense of humour and complete lack of awareness when it came to personal space. If things had turned out differently, Guy would have had his own lands, be his own man, and wouldn't have to be the Sheriff's glorified lackey. One of these days he would find the courage to break free. Perhaps with Marian, perhaps not, but he knew that the man he worked for was not the man he wanted to be.
"Go to the kitchens, see if there is anything left over. Don't wander too far, I may need you later," he said with a world-weary sigh as he turned and headed toward his private chambers.
Allan's eyebrows raised briefly. That was easier than expected. Guy hadn't even cuffed him for giving cheek. He must be feeling ill or something. Whatever the matter was, he didn't really care. He was hungry and he could definitely smell something delicious happening in the kitchen.
In fact, Allan was torn entirely between two emotions. Firstly, and probably more importantly, he was almost giddy with excitement at the prospect of eating a good meal. Secondly, and despite his professed lack of interest, he was quite concerned about his master. An unhappy master usually meant unhappy servants, and Allan wasn't looking forward to any bad moods that Guy may decide to take out on him. He saw how the Sheriff treated Guy, it was awful. No wonder it upset Guy so much.
His pace had quickened as he neared the kitchen, and he absentmindedly looked over his shoulder in case Guy called after him - and then suddenly, he wasn't walking anywhere. He had fallen onto the floor. Wait. No. He'd fallen onto something softer than the floor. Something that was moving underneath him and... ow! Hitting him!
"Get off me, you great lolloping oaf!" a girl shouted from beneath him. He looked down, a little dazed and confused, but wordlessly obliged her request. He sat on the floor, blinking for a few moments, resting his arms on his knees, and looked around the corridor. Pots and pans were scattered all over the place, and the girl was frantically scrabbling to her feet while picking up the items that had fallen. He couldn't really see what she looked like, she was a mass of brown and white material and black hair - but he knew he'd never seen her in the kitchens before.
"Wait, let me help!" he said, shaking his head quickly and jumping to his feet.
"Don't you think you've done enough damage for one day?" she demanded.
"Come off it, luv, it was an accident!"
"Accident my ar...mpit," she said, censoring herself halfway through her outburst.
"Your armpit? Blimey, you got a right mouth on you, haven't you? Better not get on the wrong side of you!"
There was a moment's pause where neither of them said anything, and then, before either of them could say or do anything else, they were laughing heartily.
"I'm sorry, it was my fault, I was in such a rush and I was carrying too much, I couldn't see where I was going," she said, when they had calmed down. He shook his head and finally took the opportunity to look at her. The girl wasn't really a girl, she was a woman, maybe about his age. She was tall for a woman, not much smaller than he himself was. Her eyes were as dark as his were blue, and they twinkled as she smiled - a warm, generous smile that was almost as big as her face. She looked all plump and warm and cosy. Or she made him feel a bit warm and cosy. Maybe 'beautiful' wasn't the word - maybe even 'pretty' was stretching it a bit - but she had a kind face and he couldn't help but smile back at her. He liked her. He could already tell she was going to make him laugh a lot, and God knows he'd not had too much to laugh about since he'd left the forest. The warm bed, the clean clothes, the clean body, the regular pay, the even more regular meals that didn't involve Much cooking a squirrel and passing it off as chicken for the nine hundredth time - he was grateful every day for that. No, Allan missed the lads. He missed Djaq and her dry, brazen sense of humour and her beautiful face and the way she wasn't afraid of anyone or anything. He missed Will and John and the way they didn't need to say anything because their faces said everything for them. He missed Robin, and being called his friend. He even missed Much, and his dramatic yet strangely endearing foibles. Except for those two weeks he insisted on everyone calling him Lord Much. There again, if he'd been made Lord Bonchurch he wasn't sure he'd have had the strength of character that Much had in sacrificing it all to be with Robin again. Not with Much's cooking. If there was one thing Allan had really missed, really NEEDED since leaving the forest - it was a friend. She had the face of a friend. A friend he'd probably try and kiss when he'd had a bit too much wine.
"No, I wasn't looking where I was going and I was in a rush to get to the kitchen," he said. "I'm Allan," he said. "I'm Sir Guy's man." She blushed bright red and curtsied.
"I'm sorry, sir, I didn't know, I didn't mean to be rude," she said, twisting her fingers around each other nervously and looking firmly at the floor. He looked at the top of her head which was blushing right through the scalp and smiled gently at her.
"Well, it's not every day I fall on top of a pretty girl on my way to the kitchen, so on balance I probably deserved it," he said. He saw the top of her head blush even deeper, which he hadn't thought was possible. "What's your name?"
"I'm Emma, sir. I only started here a week ago, I'm the new cook," she said.
"That's why the food's been getting better around here all of a sudden!"
"Thank you, sir."
"I'm not your 'sir', that's Guy. I'm just Allan. I don't like any of that 'sir' stuff," he said, screwing his face in distaste. "Where are you going with that stuff?"
"It all needs repairing, I was going to send one of the boys to the tinker in the village."
"George?" Allan asked, furrowing his brow disdainfully as he shook his head. "Nah, you give him a saucepan an' he'll send you back a chamber pot, you don't want that! There's a fella in Clun, two villages over, does brilliant work. I'll get one of the boys to come to the kitchens and take whatever you need. Shouldn't be down to you to do the heavy lifting!" he said.
"Because I'm a girl?" she asked, visibly on the defensive. He laughed and shook his head.
"Because you're the cook and you've got a big enough job to do, filling everyone's bellies! Besides, if you leave these boys with nothin' to do, they'll sit around and get fat and then Guy will have to buy them new liveries and he definitely won't be happy about that!"
"That's really kind of you, thank you," Emma said, smiling widely at him. "I wouldn't like Sir Guy to be unhappy - I've heard he's got quite a temper on him!"
"Him? He's a pussycat. He'll probably let you tickle behind his ears when he's curled up by the fire," he said, his eyes twinkling mischievously. She giggled at the very idea. "Here, let me help you take this stuff back to the kitchen and I'll get two lads to come over this afternoon," he said, reaching out and grabbing a couple of the larger saucepans from her. She opened her mouth to protest but he held up his index finger to silence her. "Ah-ah-ah! I insist. It's not every day your boss helps with the chores, make the most of it. Consider it a 'welcome to the team' gift!" he said, shooting her a conspiratorial wink. She beamed at him.
"I like the team more and more all the time!" she said, winking back at him. "What did you want from the kitchens anyway?"
"Food," he said, pronouncing the 'oo' at least four times longer than he needed to for emphasis. "I haven't eaten since last night, me stomach thinks me throat's been cut!" he said, looking very sorry for himself. She furrowed her brow sympathetically at him and immediately tried to make amends with his poor rumbling stomach.
"What's your favourite?"
"My favourite? I eat anything! But - aww, my mum used to make this beef stew and dumplings! God I can taste it now!" he said, a faraway smile on his face as he remembered.
"Did you know my dumplings happen to be legendary in the north west?" she asked, seriously. He looked at her, clamped his lips together briefly, dropped his gaze slightly and then looked back up at her.
"I can see tha-umm. I mean. I'll take your word for it," he said, carefully. She let out a shout of laughter.
"My father was a miller and my mother was a baker so they taught my brother and I to cook from being small. I make the best beef stew and dumplings in Lancashire, and lucky for you, I have some in the oven now that's been cooking all day. Can I tempt you with a bowl?" she asked. He grinned wolfishly at her and nodded eagerly.
"I can always be tempted with legendary dumplings," he told her, unable to stop the throaty chuckle that burst out unexpectedly at the end of his sentence. Her eyebrows shot up in surprise.
"I feel I know you better than maybe I wanted to," she said, her tone lofty but her eyes gleaming with mischief.
"Maybe?" he repeated.
She leaned in a little closer to him and said in a low voice. "You don't know what I can be tempted with, yet."
Allan grinned but said nothing. Perhaps life at Locksley Manor was going to be a lot more fun than he'd ever imagined.