Author's Notes: You've seen my attempts at humor, now; this one is my attempt at angst… or something like it… see, I was thinking this will be an angst-y fic but then something took over me and, well… this is the result. It's a dark fic, not as sweet or as humorous as the others. Read at your own risk. (Don't say I didn't warn you!)
This happens years after everyone had gotten out of the plateau. How? Well, I think that's going to be another story… *evil cackle*
And to all those waiting for Chapter Seven, I will be writing it down sometime during this week, I swear!
Before I forget, HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone! I hope we all will have a prosperous and blessed year coming to us.
Fate Has No Hold
He watched her; like a collector would a prized gem. She danced in the arms of the governor-general, a man who most certainly feels like the luckiest on earth to be able to hold a beauty like her, to be able to hear her laughter, to be able to keep her close. She glided gracefully on the dance floor, her body clothed in the finest silk, her body adorned with the most expensive jewels. And her hair! Dark as it was three years ago, like the night the moon had forgotten to shine; now it burns with a fiery red of the afternoon sun. Good lord, what had she done to herself?
"More wine, sir?" He was asked, the request punctuated with an offering of a tray filled with crystal glasses of chardonnay. He politely declined and then returned his eyes to the woman, the sight of her truly a wonder to behold. The song has ended, and another one has began, and on she danced, but with another proud partner. This time, it was a duke who was given the privilege of holding her, a duke with a grand name and an even grander estate. Who will it be, he wondered, the man with greater power or the man with greater wealth?
"Darling, dance with me, would you?" A woman purred, her bright green eyes darkened with desire. But was there something else in that clear gaze of hers, and her question a request… or more of a plea?
He barely looked at her; she, a woman of high society, a woman considered to be the most beautiful in all of London, was only a pale shadow compared to the woman waltzing on the dance floor. This woman, Katharine by name, pouted prettily at him, but he was too distracted to even nod. She could have removed her olive dress and bared her body for all he cared and she still won't be noticed by him. He raised his rum to his lips, then took a hearty swallow. He shoved the now empty glass to the equally empty woman. "Get me another glass," he said roughly, ignoring her question completely. "This time, make sure that there'd be no ice in it."
She obeyed without question. Only with fear.
The music ended, for the maestros have decided to stop a while to rest. As the ballroom was emptied by its dancers, he saw an opportunity to be able to talk to the woman that had so beautifully graced the festivity with her presence. He quickly spotted her, for the gold in her gown could never be missed, for the silver in her eyes could never be forgotten. He straightened, as if preparing himself to face royalty. Without a second thought he marched straight to her, his stance never faltering, always proud. The crowd, upon noticing his arrival, parted themselves for him until he reached her. She hadn't noticed him for her back was facing him as she was busy talking with the duchess, her companions, and all sorts of men and women drawn to her presence.
"Good evening." He said deeply, using the mellowed voice that all women in Europe would swoon over.
She turned around, her eyes lighting up with recognition, the sides of her mouth quirking up with pleasure, immediately forgetting all the important people gathered around her. "Why, if it isn't Lord John Roxton." She said softly, faintly amused. "How on earth did you find me?"
He gathered one, slim hand and brought it to his lips. "Connections." He said. "Moles. Men I pay – or torture – for information. Does it matter?"
She gave him a wide, charming grin. "Of course." She said. "If I knew how you found me tonight, I may be able to cover my tracks better the next time."
"Then I'll never tell." He returned the smile.
She chuckled. "I never knew you were invited to Duchess Miriam's birthday party," she said as she changed the topic at hand. "She a friend of yours?"
"More of an acquaintance." He replied. "She and Mother used to go to the same boarding school together, back in their early days. She too was invited, but her health had been failing her lately, so she wasn't able to come."
"I'm so sorry," she offered.
"Don't be. She isn't anywhere near death's clutches, anyway." He looked at her, his gaze appreciative. She was as beautiful as always. "What about you? Why are you here?"
"Her son invited me." She answered. "I figured that since I wasn't planning on doing anything tonight, I might as well go."
He was about to say something when he noticed that the faint notes of a song were beginning to play in the background. He bowed before her. "May I have this dance?"
She arched one regal brow at his actions. "Wouldn't Lady Katharine Roxton mind?"
He straightened himself. "Probably as much as Duke Frederick or Governor-General Ruthers would, but who cares?" He retorted.
"Touché." She said as she accepted the hand he offered.
He guided her to the dance floor, his hand firmly placed on the small of her back. She allowed him to hold her close to his body; closer than what was considered appropriate or polite. But in his words, who cares? They have never been those who followed society's dictates and orders, it's every whim and fantasy. They have their own private moment then, and they'll be damned to even remotely think of what others will say.
She lifted one hand and brought it to his shoulder. "You were in Vienna, weren't you?" She asked, her voice lowered to allow the song to guide their every move. "I thought I caught a glimpse of you there."
He leaned in closer to her neck, enjoying the faint scent of lilac on her skin. "Yes I was." He admitted. "I was also in Tokyo and Hanoi."
"And in Berlin?"
"Not to mention Shanghai, Jakarta and Taipei." He breathed deeply, the smell of lavender and peach invading his senses.
She drew back to look at his eyes. "Were you following me?" she asked again, her silver eyes darkening slightly with animosity.
"To the ends of the earth, my dear Marguer—"
"Shh." She placed one finger on his lips, and looked around her. "In this party I am known as Sybelle Ronstadt." She stated quietly, confidentially.
"Sybelle Ronstadt." He repeated, a grin forming on his mouth. "Unusual. It suits you." He touched one strand of hair that had fallen free from her clip's hold. "But this color," He noted, "does not suit you at all."
She rolled her eyes. "Only until tonight." She replied. "I'll be damned if I let myself look like Challenger's long lost daughter."
He chuckled. "The old man's on his way to Manila tonight," he said, answering her unasked question. "He said something about testing his elixir on the poor people there."
"And Veronica and Malone?"
"Married. With three kids."
"How about Finn?"
"She's adjusting to the life in the 1920's. She said she'll manage somehow."
She regarded him with serious eyes. "And you?"
He chuckled again, but this time, the laughter was devoid of mirth. "I don't know," he said. "Three years ago, I should have been married to the one woman I had ever asked to marry me. Now, I'm married to another whose very presence makes me sick." He stared at her. "Tell me, Marguerite, how do you think I am?"
She took in a quick breath, and then lowered her eyes. "Sharpened your claws, I see." She said.
He tightened his hold on her until she almost gasped. "Not only my claws," he drawled, "but my teeth as well."
They stared at each other for what seemed like a millennia, neither one flinching, neither one looking away. It took moments before she realized that they have long since stopped dancing. "I have to go," she said suddenly, fighting to free herself from his grasp.
"Do you think I'll allow you to escape me that easily?" He asked her, his voice rough. "In all the places I have followed you, I have never allowed myself to be this close to you. Do you think now I'll let you go without as much as a kiss?"
Her eyes immediately darkened to black; filled with anger and… desire? "You're already married." She pointed out, breathless from their proximity to one another.
"A fact that I am never proud of." He stated. He tantalized the exposed part of her back with his hand. "How about you, dear, sweet Marguerite? How were you these past months?"
"You mean after I never showed up for our wedding?" She retaliated, fluttering her eyes in complete innocence. "Oh, I've been good. Very good. The money I've amassed from selling all the rocks and stones I've found at the plateau is keeping me on top of things." She smirked at him, her eyes pointing down on their very steady feet. "I thought you said we were going to dance…?"
He obeyed, his hands already moving towards her waist. "Any fools caught on your web lately?"
"Present company excluded?" She chuckled. "No. I've become more… selective since… well, since you."
"Ah. Glad to know you've learned something from the three years we've spent together."
"Believe me, John, I've learned so much."
He twirled her around, then pulled her back into his arms again. "Like what?" he questioned.
She smiled snidely. "Like, oh say, know when someone is killing me with her eyes?" She said. "I must say, John, your wife never looked better with that glare permanently etched on her face."
He looked around and caught the sight of dear Katharine looking at them with venom in her eyes. "Let her suffer," he said, bringing his face closer to hers, their lips barely touching. "God knows I've been through worse living with a woman like her."
"It's your fault," she said blithely, pulling her face far from his. "If you hadn't impregnated her before you left for the plateau then there's a very big chance that things would have been different."
"No, Marguerite. If you weren't so goddamned gullible then you would have known that the child wasn't mine." He said, his voice hard with the anger he felt when he found out what she did.
"The night before our wedding, your wife came to me with your son. The boy looked like you, John." The last words came as a whisper as she fought back the pain she felt when she came face to face with a child that was a miniature version of him.
"The child wasn't mine." He repeated firmly. "He was just taken off the streets for all I know. He isn't mine."
"Well, your mother certainly thought so." She said. "And must I say that she so kindly threatened to disinherit you if we were to marry, if I were to let you leave your son without a father to look after him. What was I to do, let you live a life that you were never used to? Let a child lose his father?" She shook her head. "I know how it feels to have not a father, John. I don't want him to experience that."
"If that was your excuse for leaving, then I must say that your sacrifice had been in vain." He stared at her, his face grim. "He's experiencing it now."
Shock filled her face. "John, you can't—" she began to say. "He's just a—"
"He's his mother's child." He stated simply. "I have my name to give him. That alone is enough. I don't have anything else to offer."
"What are you—" She gazed at him critically. "Who are you? The John Roxton I know doesn't have the heart to do the things you say you do."
"The John Roxton you knew died when you left him at the altar." He replied instantly. "He died when you chose to believe in a lie rather than believe in him."
She fought back tears. "I— I have to go." She said. This time, when she fought for freedom she earned it, as his hands fell limp to his sides, as he watched her go.
But this wasn't over. Far from it.
Before he left with his wife, John Roxton heard Marguerite Krux – Sybelle Ronstadt – say to the duchess that she will be in New York for the next few days.
He'll be there to wait for her.
*sigh* told you it'd be weird. But please review! There's nothing better to start the New Year right than a review from you.