Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters.
It was another peaceful night on the plateau. It was surprisingly cool considering the scorching heat that was pounding down on the explorers earlier that day. After a strenuously long and hot day, everyone was more than happy to take advantage of the surprising change in the weather and decided to go to bed early. Well, almost everyone. If anyone happened to be awake in the Treehouse right now, they would hear the shuffling of feet coming from the room of a certain heiress.
Marguerite was frantically pacing and muttering to herself with the impatient hope that she could shake the unrelenting images flashing through her mind. "Come on, go to sleep Marguerite. You've been awake for hours. You need to rest. What time is it? It's almost 3 o'clock! Go to sleep! You know everyone is going to be up in a couple of hours. I've tried every trick I know of to try and relax and go to sleep. Nothing works! I even tried pacing for a couple of hours so I would be so tired I would have no choice but to sleep. But no! That didn't work either! Why should anything ever be easy for me?! Every time I close my eyes to sleep, I keep seeing it again. It was too close today. Too close. I almost lost him. I almost lost them all..."
Everyone decided to accompany Challenger on one of his plant gathering expeditions and were finally on the way home after three long days. Everyone was engaged in a pleasant conversation and having a good time, even the guarded Marguerite. While the explorers were finally beginning to relax after their grueling journey, an unknown danger was persistently following them; a group of headhunters were stalking their new prey.
Roxton and Veronica picked up on the fact that they were being followed, but by the time they noticed, it was too late. The headhunters had already started their attack and there wasn't enough time to warn everyone. All of the explorers were in a fight for their lives. Veronica was engaged in hand-to-hand combat with two headhunters but managed to get rid of them just in time to help Malone who had just been hit in the head with the end of a battle-ax, but luckily, did not lose consciousness this time. Marguerite, with her various skills of fighting combined with her quick thinking in dangerous situations, was able to outmaneuver her pursuer and used her excellent aim to dispose of her foe. She escaped unscathed and had a perfect view of what happened next.
Challenger was not fairing as well as his fellow companions. He had just shot his headhunter with his rifle when another charged him from behind. Roxton noticed this and quickly killed his own opponent and rushed over to help. Roxton ran toward Challenger and pushed him out of the way only to get hit in his place and quickly lost consciousness. His usually tall, strong body immediately went limp and fell to the ground. Right when the headhunter was about to plunge his knife into Roxton's back, Marguerite shook herself out of her dazed state, quickly regaining her senses, and shot him before Roxton was killed. Once Roxton regained consciousness and a quick exam was made to make sure he was uninjured, everyone gathered their belongings and made their way back to the Treehouse.
The explorers were all a little shaken after the attack, but passed it off as another daily occurrence of life on the lost plateau. But to Marguerite, new feelings for the resident hunter and her other housemates were building, along with confusion.
"I was so worried when I saw John fall to the ground. I quickly thought the worst. I thought I lost him. I wasn't ok until I saw him up and walking about. He wasn't seriously hurt, just a little headache. It's not the first time he was danger, or hurt for that matter, but I still couldn't get over the dread of him being dead. I tried to put myself at ease by joking with him that he took Ned's job of getting knocked unconscious during a fight just so nobody would know how worried I really was. They all thought that I went back to being my sarcastic self. If only they knew how worried I really was when I saw him hit the ground. It's better to let them think that I don't really care. If only they knew how much I did care. How worried I was that I almost lost them all today. I don't think I've ever been more frightened in my life.
"This is what I've always been afraid of. As soon as I get close to somebody they always get hurt. I promised myself that I wasn't going to feel this way again. I care about all of them. They're the family I never had. They almost died today and I don't know what I would do if they did. I'd be alone, all alone.
"What am I talking about? Alone is just fine with me. I've always been by myself. I don't need anyone to care for me. I can take care of myself. I don't need them. They don't care about me. Not one of them asked if I was ok after the fight. I'm on my own, just like I've always been. What will these emotions bring me? Nothing but trouble. Worrying about people who don't care about you is just a waste of time. All of them are asleep right now while I'm pacing madly trying to fall asleep and reliving today's experience. You've let them get too close. You've got to push them away, rebuild those walls. They'll expect it of you. They'll expect you to be bitchy, especially after a day like today. So that's the plan. Tomorrow, go back to being distant. Push them all away.
"God, I'm tired what time is it now? 6 o'clock. They'll be up soon. Better try to get some sleep now before they wake me up. It's best not to let them know I haven't slept a wink all night or they won't let me do anything. They'll think I'm too weak to trust me with anything. Let's see if I can get at least an hour of sleep."
Marguerite ceased her muttering and pacing and got into bed. Once she was finally calm and stopped replaying the day's events in her mind, she drifted into sleep. Instead of facing these feelings with the stubborn courage she was made of, she took the easy way out and rationalized her feelings for the other explorers as a weakness that she would make sure was taken care of.
Two hours later at breakfast, the explorers were up and enjoying another beautiful morning in paradise. They had all noticed the absence of Marguerite.
"I wonder what's keeping Marguerite." Malone asked. "It's not like her to sleep through breakfast, much less miss her morning cup of coffee."
Roxton poured a cup of the magical brew that worked wonders on the heiress' disposition, and made his way to her bedroom. "I'll see if her highness will grace us lowly peasants with her presence for breakfast this morning."
"At least he took a cup of coffee with him. She won't kill him instantly" Malone quipped to Veronica.
"You know he's the only one who can handle her, especially in the morning when she's not at her best. I wonder where he gets the patience."
"It's probably all those years of hunting elusive prey, Veronica. Besides, Roxton doesn't mind, he's obviously in love with her. In his eyes, all the time it takes for him to hunt this certain 'prey' will be worth it in the end."
"I hope so. I don't want to see him get hurt" Veronica replies grimly.
Roxton walked into Marguerite's room and saw her sound asleep. "She looks so peaceful when she's sleeping, so calm. The complete opposite of when she's awake. She is such a mystery, I wonder if I'll figure her out" Roxton let out a sigh. "Oh well,I better wake her up, we've got a long day ahead of us."
Roxton eased himself onto Marguerite's bedside and began to gently nudge her awake. "Marguerite? Marguerite? Rise and shine, Sleeping Beauty! Time to wake up or you'll sleep through breakfast!"
Marguerite stirred and groggily opened her eyes, "Hmm... huh? John? No, I want to sleep. Wait... John?" She quickly shot up and forgot her sleepless night and turned her frustration into anger, which was directed now at Roxton. "Making yourself comfortable on my bed, I see! Just exactly what are you doing in here?!" Marguerite shouted.
Acting on his reflexes that were screaming that he was in danger, Roxton quickly jumped off the bed. He kept the smirk that was plastered on his face and decided to tempt fate. "Well, I came to see if you would like to have this lovely cup of coffee I brought you and to see if I could convince you to get up and join us for breakfast."
"It's too early for anything, much less breakfast" Marguerite muttered.
Roxton got up and started to leave. "Suit yourself, I think I'll go join the others and enjoy this cup of coffee myself. Sleep well."
She looked up at Roxton's retreating form and was going to let him leave but as she smelled the fresh aroma of her favorite brew, she quickly changed her mind. "I'm not so sure about breakfast, however, I will take that cup of coffee."
Roxton's smile grew even larger knowing she played right into his hands. "Sure. And there will be another cup waiting for you at the table when you decide to join us for breakfast. But make sure you hurry up and get ready."
"What's the rush, Roxton?"
"Oh, I forgot to tell you. We have to go hunting for a couple of days, the larder is almost empty." He hoped that between being half-asleep and concentrating on relishing her morning coffee, this tidbit of information could slip into the conversation unnoticed. When he let the cat out of the bag, Marguerite nearly spit out her coffee at him in her outraged protest.
"Hunting?! A couple of days?! I don't think so! You'll just have to find someone else to go traipsing about the jungle with! Take Ned!" Marguerite shouted at what appeared to be the top of her lungs.
"I'm sorry Marguerite, but Ned and Veronica are going to trade at the Zanga Village and so Veronica can visit Assai. And before you ask, Challenger told me on the way back to his lab, that he is working on a new ground-breaking experiment that needs his undivided attention. So that leaves you, my dear. So, no more arguing. Hurry up and get ready."
Marguerite approached Roxton and stopped mere inches from his face with a wicked gleam in her eyes. For a second, Roxton actually feared for his life. "Now you just hold on a second! Don't I get a say in this?! And how come we're going for a couple of days? You know how much I hate camping out in the bloody jungle! There is no way in hell you are getting me to camp out!"
While reaching out and holding her by the shoulders, Roxton tried to pacify the wily heiress. "Calm down Marguerite. It won't be that bad, I promise. It's going to take a couple of days because I want to go hunting a little further west than usual because I don't want to run into those headhunters from yesterday. They seem to be moving closer to the Treehouse lately." Roxton let go of her shoulders and replied with a shrug of the shoulders, "But if you want to stay closeto avoid camping out and run into those headhunters and have a replay of yesterday's events, by all means, let's go."
A quick flash of memories ran through her mind accompanied with the horror from her nightmares from last night made Marguerite quickly change her mind. "Fine! I'll camp out! But I won't like it! You're going to be sorry you got stuck with me!" Marguerite yelled at the top of her lungs.
Roxton replied with one of the biggest grins plastered on his face, "I'm sure that's not possible. How could it be possible for me not enjoy your lovely presence?"
"Flattery will get you nowhere Lord Roxton. Now will you kindly get out of my room so I can get ready?!"
"Your wish is my command." Roxton replied with a bow.
"And don't forget my coffee!"
"I wouldn't dream of it" Roxton replied as he walked out the door leaving Marguerite to get ready.
The nice cool breeze that was present on the plateau last night did not make another appearance this morning. The weather went back to a blistering heat which did not bode well with Roxton's grumbling companion.
"Don't think I am going to let you forget dragging me across this bloody plateau in the middle of a heat wave! You're going to pay for this Roxton!"
Roxton stopped in his tracks and turned abruptly to face the fuming heiress. "Come on Marguerite. It's just as hot for me, but arguing won't make it any cooler and, quite frankly, you are starting to get on my nerves. So, and I mean this in the kindest way, SHUT UP!"
Marguerite was angry before, but with this new comment from the hunter, her temper escalated to new heights. "JUST WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?! I don't give a damn if you're Lord Roxton or the bloody King of England, don't ever presume that you can order me around! I don't take orders from anyone, least of all YOU! In case you have forgotten, I was the one who funded this expedition! In any case, I should be the one giving the orders around here! So here's my first order, I'm hot and I'm tired from walking all over this godforsaken plateau in this heat so I'm taking a rest and don't you even dare try to stop me!" Marguerite quickly made her way over to a fallen log and plopped herself down, glaring at the hunter daring him to challenge her.
"How could I forget with you constantly reminding me?!" His voice was harsh, clearly the weather had taken its toll on Roxton as well. He took a deep breath before approaching the furious woman. "Marguerite, I'm sorry I lost my temper, the heat is bothering me also. I just meant that complaining about it won't help. I'm also sorry for the rigorous pace, especially in this heat, but we are not yet far enough from headhunter territory to take a break. I promise, just a little bit further and we'll take a nice, long break."
After a brief moment of silence that was music to Roxton's ears, Marguerite agreed with reservation. She slowly made her way to her feet and started walking. "It better be a looooooong break if you know what's good for you."
Roxton grumbled just low enough so only he could hear, "Believe me, I know."
As the couple resumed their trek through the jungle, Marguerite's mind slowly went back to yesterday. "Why did he have to go mention headhunters? I had just gotten those images out of my mind."Marguerite casually glanced up at the handsome hunter and wondered how he could be so carefree. "Hard to believe yesterday this man faced death. He's walking around like he doesn't have a care in the world. He's so sure of himself. I wonder if he knows how close he was to dying yesterday. What if I hadn't been keeping my eye on him during yesterday's skirmish? What if I hadn't seen that headhunter and shot him before he drove that knife into his back? He would be dead. There would be no more Lord John Roxton. I keep replaying that image in my mind and all the 'what ifs?' " Marguerite was lost deep in thought and stumbled over a dead branch on the path. "Damn it! Look where you're going! That's the third time you've stumbled, he's going to start wonder what's wrong with you! Pay attention!"
Marguerite was right. Roxton noted how quiet Marguerite had gotten. He glanced at her and saw she was off somewhere else and had stumbled a couple of times. He was worried when she had stopped complaining, especially because he expected that he would never hear the end of her relentless nagging to stop for a break, but also that her mind was off somewhere else. In the jungle, it was dangerous to lose track of one's surroundings. They could never be sure what the plateau would throw at them next and you needed to have your wits about you to handle dangerous situations. "Marguerite? Are you all right? You're awfully quiet. I would have thought you would be complaining about the heat, or the dinosaurs, or even me. Is something on your mind?"
Marguerite looked up and saw the concern written on the man's face but kept silent. "Damn him! Why does he have to be so perceptive? I can't even have an off-day once in a while without him asking me so many questions. How did he get to know me so well? Remember, build up those walls, keep him out! This man is too dangerous, he knows you too well. It will only be a matter of time before something else happens that will cause you additional worry. Remember, emotions make you weak. The farther you push him away, the safer you will be. All you have to do..."
Roxton stopped directly in front of Marguerite and looked her straight in the eyes. "Marguerite? Are you listening to me?"
Marguerite snapped out of her trance and looked at the hunter. "What? -That's right, I haven't answered him yet. Remember, push him out- I'm perfectly fine. Nothing to worry about. It's just too hot to do anything, much less complain." She decided to quickly change the subject to hopefully avoid his incessant questions. "Are we going to stop soon?"
"Just a little bit longer and we'll stop." He looked deep into her ever-changing eyes and asked again, "Are you sure there's nothing bothering you?"
"Roxton, I said I'm fine! Will you drop it already?!" Sometimes, I swear the man can read me like a book! How did he get to know me so well?
Roxton gave up knowing that Marguerite could not be forced into sharing her feelings so he started cutting a path through the forest with Marguerite following lost in thought.
"When did we get so close? When did I start caring about what happens to him? To any of them for that matter? I must be getting soft. A couple of years ago, I would have dropped tail and ran at the best opportunity. But now, I feel I'm duty bound to help them. To care about them. God, why is this happening to me? I'm so confused, all these emotions, I'm not used to this. I have to sit and think about my situation and figure out what to do. What am I going to do? I don't know..."
"Marguerite! Look out!"
"What? What's he shouting about?- Ow! Damn it that hurt! - Why am I on the floor! What's going on? Was that a shot? Hurry get up! John could be in trouble! What's going on?! Headhunters?! Again! As if yesterday wasn't enough! -Ow! What's wrong with my ankle? I must have sprained it on the way down! Perfect! Ignore the pain, Roxton might need help!"
Roxton noticed something was bothering Marguerite and saw she was starting to fall behind. He turned around to see how far behind she actually was when he saw a headhunter approaching her from behind and cried, "Marguerite! Look out!" As he said this, the headhunter had already knocked her down from behind and was about to strike her with his knife when Roxton pulled out his pistol and shot him in the chest before he was could succeed. He barely had time to react before three more made their way out of the tree line and surrounded him. He glanced over at Marguerite and saw that she was getting up and was taking care of another headhunter. "Thank God she's all right!"
The battle was over quickly. Marguerite and Roxton both held their own and dispatched the rest of the headhunters. By now, Marguerite's ankle had become much worse with the physical exertion from the battle. But she wasn't about to let Roxton know she had hurt herself. "He'll probably rub it in my face. He'll say something about not paying attention and start another one of his lectures. Besides, it's my fault anyway. If I was paying attention instead worrying about him and the rest of them, none of this would have happened. I knew caring about people would only get me hurt in the end. Whatever I do, I can't let him know I hurt my ankle. I just hope I can keep walking on it without limping. I'm tired enough from the lack of sleep and the long hike through the jungle. I hope we stop to rest soon."
Roxton quickly made his way over to Marguerite. "Are you all right? Are you hurt?"
As if you care. Nobody cares what happens to me. I can take care of myself, I don't need you. "I'm fine. We better get moving before raptors pick up the scent of blood."
"Yes we should, as long as you're sure you're fine?" Roxton stopped and looked at her again almost positive that she was lying to him. "Are you sure you're ok?"
"Yes, I'm fine. Lead on."
Roxton took one more look at her and took the lead through the jungle. Since he was leading the way and had his back to her, Marguerite felt safe enough to start limping to keep the weight off her ankle. But she quickly had to stop because Roxton sensed something was wrong and dropped back to walk beside her. She quickly had to go back to walking as if nothing was wrong, adding more weight and pain to her injured ankle. But to anyone who would have looked at her face would have seen no sight of pain.
"Damn him! The man is too damn observant for his own good. How does he always know what's bothering me? Why couldn't he just have kept walking ahead? It's not like he really cares what happens to me! He's just doing his job. 'The Great White Hunter,' the self-proclaimed protector of the expedition.
"Damn! Why is this ankle hurting so much?! I should just tell him I'm hurt, I'm sure he cares. What am I talking about! You don't need his pity! It's just a sprain. Stop complaining! You've had much worse. You were bloody Parsifal! You've survived being shot, drugged, poisoned, and much worse. You can handle a silly sprain. Suck it up! Keep walking and keep your mind on anything other than the pain."
With the constant strain on Marguerite's injured ankle, each step she took was agony. But she never once complained or wavered in her stance. Her face was blank of pain and all emotion. Her years as a spy had helped her with this skill. But even long before the war, she never cried or let anyone know of her pain. Marguerite always considered herself a private person and never shared her emotions with anyone, not even when she was injured. She had been robbed of her name and her past, and even a large fortune could be lost in the blink of an eye, but her thoughts and her emotions were her own, her only prized possessions that could never be taken away. It was also safer this way. If all of her emotions were kept locked away behind the closed doors of her heart, she could never be judged or hurt by her emotions. She thought guarding her heart would protect her and keep her strong, but it only made her more vulnerable than she thought.
Roxton glanced over at his quiet companion and knew something was bothering her but couldn't figure out what. She was being unusually quiet and it disturbed him. Right now he would actually welcome her grumbling about the heat or the lack of animals to hunt. He knew if he kept asking her what was wrong it would only push her away. If she didn't want to share, he couldn't force her. Still, Lord John Roxton was not a man known for giving up in the face of a challenge. He started a casual conversation hoping to get Marguerite to open up and share her feelings with him. "Looks like all the animals have decided to go into hiding. Maybe they knew we were coming?" He looked over at Marguerite and saw she hadn't heard him. He stopped walking and lightly grabbed her arm so she would also stop. "Marguerite? Didn't you hear me? Are you feeling all right?"
Marguerite was in much pain by this point. After a couple of hours of walking on her injured ankle, it had swollen to twice its normal size. It was practically bursting out of her boot. Each step sent shooting pains through her entire body. She was intently concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other and trying to ignore her pain. She was totally immersed in it and hadn't even noticed Roxton was talking to her. She realized he had stopped walking and was staring at her. "What's wrong? Do you hear something? More headhunters?"
Roxton shook his head and was slowly growing more concerned. It was not like Marguerite to lose track of her surroundings. "No there's nothing around for miles, including anything to hunt, which is what I was talking about. You didn't hear a word I said. You've been lost in your own little world. Look, Marguerite, I think I've come to know you pretty well during our stay here and I know something is bothering you. It's better to share instead of keeping it bottled deep inside. It's dangerous out here to have things weighing on your mind. Losing your concentration can lead to your death out here. Why don't you tell me what's bothering you?"
This is your chance, push him away! He already knows something is wrong, he is digging too deep and too close. She quickly turned her pain into andunleashed it on the concerned hunter. "You think you know me, do you?! You don't know anything about me, let alone how I FEEL! Just because we're stuck here together doesn't mean you know me! I have a life back home waiting for me and it doesn't include you! So whatever you think is happening here, I can assure you Lord Roxton, you're sadly mistaken!" Marguerite's pain was momentarily forgotten as her emotional pain was outweighing it by greater proportions.
Roxton was hurt by her words but he didn't say anything. Marguerite saw the slight wince on his face and how he shifted his weight and she knew she succeeded. Roxton turned and started walking again. "We should find a place to camp, it'll be dark soon. There is obviously nothing to hunt in this area, so we shouldn't waste time trying."
This time he walked ahead of her so she could start limping again. She saw his determined stride and his stiff back and saw he was not hurt anymore but angry. "What the hell does he have to be angry about?" she thought, "I'm the one who should be angry. He's the one who's sticking his nose where it doesn't belong. Serves him right for thinking he understands me! Hah! The man doesn't care what happens to me! Just looking for another conquest, another trophy for his collection. Well, Marguerite Krux doesn't need anyone! I have always taken care of myself and I always will!"
Marguerite was right, Roxton was angry. But he wasn't angry at her, he was angry with himself. He knew if he pushed too far, she would push back. He should have known better than to try and force Marguerite to open up to him. "You're a bloody idiot! There's obviously something bothering her and you have to corner her like that?! What did you expect she was going to do, stop and tell you her life story? I'm surprised she didn't knock my head off! You deserved every word she said! And it's true, I don't know much about her, but I do know that I care about her. I just don't like seeing her like this. I know something is bothering her and I want to help. After we set up camp, I'll apologize and hopefully she'll forgive me for pestering her."
Several hours later, both of the explorers set up camp without a word to each other. They mindlessly accomplished their tasks since they were lost in thought. By the time Marguerite was finished, her exhaustion caught up with her. She was asleep as soon as her head hit the ground.
Roxton sat down in front of the fire and took first watch, as always. His rage was almost as hot as the fire. "So much for apologizing! The woman didn't let me say one word to her! She made it very clear that she didn't want to talk to me! I think that's the fastest we've ever set camp! I'm tired of trying to get a peek over those walls of hers! If she wants to keep me out, then fine, I'll stay out! I don't want to be stuck on the outside looking in forever."
Marguerite was woken up by Roxton for her turn at watch. The rest that she should have gotten by sleeping was not there. In fact, she felt worse than when she went to sleep. Her ankle was throbbing and her entire body was exhausted. To make matters worse, she woke up with a headache. Her pain, combined with her lack of sleep from the night before, made Marguerite even angrier at her present situation. She sat down in front of the fire and took her turn at watch. As the hours rolled by, which seemed like an eternity to Marguerite, dawn finally came. The explorers packed up their belongings and set out on the hunt again.
After several hours and still no game to hunt, Marguerite had enough. "Look Roxton, it's obvious there's nothing here! I don't know why you brought us here in the first place! I have had enough! I say we should start heading back to the Treehouse. I only agreed to come out into this blasted heat for two days! Your time is up!"
Even though Roxton was still angry over yesterday's argument, he knew she was right. There was nothing around here to hunt. The heat probably drove everything out of the area. He reluctantly agreed to head back. He set a fast pace through the jungle and found a route which would cut their travel time in half. Unfortunately for Marguerite, the path Roxton chose did not happen to be the best for an injured ankle. And to make matters worse, Roxton had set a very fast pace. Marguerite was having a hard enough time walking slowly, now they were practically running. "He's doing this on purpose! He knows I'm mad at him and he can't stand not being able to boss me around into telling him everything and so now he's forcing this fast-paced march on me! If he thinks that I'm going to apologize just so we can slow down, he's crazy! Even with an injured ankle, Marguerite Krux can keep up with the best of them! It'll take more than an arrogant hunter to break my spirit!"
Marguerite picked up her pace and ignored her raging pain. Her determination to never give up and not show weakness in front of Roxton was enough motivation. While she was lost deep in thought, she failed to see the root sticking out in her path and snagged her foot on it. With an involuntary yell, Marguerite fell to the ground. Unfortunately, herinjured ankle took the brunt of the fall.
Roxton heard Marguerite yell and saw her lying on the ground. He ran over to her and helped her to her feet. "Are you all right? Did you hurt yourself?" Roxton asked clearly concerned.
Marguerite saw that he was concerned for her safety, but her anger outweighed her reason. "Just peachy! Don't worry about me, Lord Roxton! I can take care of myself! I don't need you to hold my hand and fawn over me! I just tripped! I'm sorry, but you'll have to play hero for some other damsel in distress!"
Roxton remembered his own anger and lashed back. "Fine! Next time look where you're bloody going and keep your head out of the clouds! You're getting clumsy in your old age Marguerite!" He turned around and started back towards the tree house.
Marguerite started walking again but this time, no matter how much she wanted to, could not keep up with Roxton. Her ankle was hurting much worse than before. She didn't think she could possibly be in anymore pain. Roxton looked back and saw that Marguerite had fallen behind. Even though he was still angry with her, he wasn't heartless. He still cared deeply for the enraged heiress. He slowed his pace and allowed her to catch up to him. As soon as she reached his side, a T-Rex roared. "Sounds like our favorite carnivore."
"Perfect. Could this day get any better? Please tell me that it's not nearby" Marguerite finally spoke without shouting.
Roxton shrugged his shoulders. "I can't tell, there's an echo in this valley. It's best not to risk it." Another roar was heard and the earth started to shake. "I think that answers your question! Let's go!"
Roxton and Marguerite took off running through the jungle trying to put as much distance between them and the thing that wanted to have them for dinner. After running for a half-hour, Marguerite was in so much pain that she didn't care if Roxton thought she was giving in, she had to stop. "Haven't we lost it yet? I don't think I can keep running." And it was true. The fear for her life was enough to keep her going for a while but Marguerite was on the verge of collapsing.
He saw that she was really tired which was out of character for Marguerite. She might grumble and complain during their hikes, but she had always been able to keep up. "Fine, fifteen minutes, no more. That little detour from the T-Rex put us further away from the tree house. I want to get going soon so we can get back before dark."
Marguerite was grateful for the break, even if it was a short one. She sat down on a log and closed her eyes. She was so exhausted that she fell asleep instantly. After what seemed like five seconds to Marguerite, she heard Roxton shouting. "Marguerite! Let's go!"
The harshness of his tone was usually reserved for danger and she was shocked. She jumped up and immediately regretted her actions. She put too much weight on her ankle too fast and she screamed under the strain as she collapsed to the ground.
Roxton saw the pained look that flashed on her face when she fell. He reached her side in a couple of seconds and helped her to her feet. "Are you all right?"
She grit her teeth and stood up. "I'm fine."
"Don't lie to me, Marguerite. I'm not stupid or blind. What's wrong?" He asked more sternly and gave her look that dared her to lie to him again.
Marguerite was just as stubborn as he was when it came to challenges, so she lied again. "Nothing serious, my ankle is just a little sore from when I tripped on that root earlier today."
Roxton grabbed her by the arm and led her to a log. "Sit down. We're not leaving until I make sure you are not seriously hurt."
"Roxton, I told you I'm fine!"
He made her sit down and he lifted her foot up so he could look at it. The mere contact of his fingers on her ankle made her wince. "Fine, huh?"
She slapped his fingers away from her ankle. "I told you, it's nothing. Stop smothering me, I'm fine!"
He picked up her foot again. "I told you, you're not walking on it until I see it." He tried to pull her boot off but Marguerite's ankle was so swollen that he couldn't pull her boot off. "What have you gone and done this time Marguerite?" He pulled out his knife and cut the boot off her foot.
"Roxton! What the hell do you think you're doing! My boots may have been worn down, but they were my only pair! Now what am I going to wear! This isn't London! Boots are not easy to come by out here!"
Roxton was tired of being yelled at when he only had her best interests at heart. "For once in your life will you shut up and let someone help you?!"
Once he got the boot off, he got a good look at her ankle. His jaw dropped at the sight of it. It was so swollen, it was practically the size of a melon. The bruising was horrible, you could hardly tell there was ankle underneath. After closer examination, he received another shock. "Marguerite, there is no way that your ankle could have gotten this bad in a couple of hours. When did this really happen?" Marguerite opened her mouth to answer but Roxton cut her off. "And don't you dare lie to me."
When it came to the safety of his friends, Roxton meant every word. "You're right, I hurt my ankle yesterday in our little skirmish with the headhunters." She held her breath and waited for his inevitable explosion.
"You WHAT?! Why the hell didn't you tell me? You've been hurt this entire time?! Marguerite, you've done some pretty foolish things since we've been stranded here, but I never thought you were stupid! You know how dangerous it is out here! We can't afford to keep things like this from each other! What would have happened if we needed to run away and your ankle was hurt? You could have gotten killed!"
Marguerite grew tired of being lectured to. "We did run! From the T-Rex, remember?! And I did just fine thank you! I held my own and I didn't need your help then! Believe it or not Roxton, but I've survived much worse. It'll take much more than a silly sprain to kill Marguerite Krux."
Roxton looked at Marguerite and started shaking his head in disbelief. "Your 'silly sprain' as you called it, is in fact, a fractured ankle! That's right, Marguerite! Your ankle is broken! I can't believe you have been walking on it for so long! How can you be so stupid! How much pain do you have to be in to ask for help?! Do you have to get yourself killed just to prove you don't need any help?!
Marguerite couldn't believe that her ankle was broken. Realization quickly sunk in as she started thinking over the past couple of hours. "I must have broken it when I fell on the root today. No wonder it hurt so much more after I fell. Well, it can't be that bad, after all I did run on it. He's just making a big fuss over nothing."
Roxton was quickly losing his patience. "Well, what do you have to say for yourself?!"
"I don't have to explain myself to you! So what? Even if it is fractured, I'm still fine! I don't need your help! I can take care of myself, I did long before you came along and will long after you're gone!"
Roxton reached out and gently grabbed her hands. "But don't you see? You don't have to be alone. There are plenty of people around you that do care about you and are willing to share your pain and help you when you need it. I don't know if you know this or not, but I care about you a lot. Too much to see anything bad happen to you. I knew there was something bothering you these past days, but I couldn't figure out what it was. But every time I confronted you, you shut me out. You can keep shutting me out as much as you want Marguerite, but I will never keep trying. Do you hear me, Marguerite? I'm not going to give up on you!"
Whether she liked it or not, Roxton's words made an impact. She wasn't about to admit to him how much she truly cared for him and her inner turmoil over his well-being these past few days, but she had to say something.
Roxton interpreted her silence a different way. As always, Roxton always blamed himself when another person got hurt. He figured that she blamed him for her injury and was angry at him. He was the one who dragged her through headhunter territory and she was hurt because of it. Then he remembered the fast pace he set this morning when he was mad at her and realized that she was hurt the entire time and hadn't say a word. He felt sure that she would never forgive him for that. "Look Marguerite, I'm sorry that you got hurt. It was my fault. I dragged you into this hunting trip and look what happened, you hurt your ankle and I only made it worse. I'm sorry I pushed you so hard today, but believe me, if I knew you were hurt, I never would have done it! I hope you can forgive me."
Marguerite was shocked yet again. It never ceased to amaze her how willing Roxton was to take blame for things that he had no control over. As much as she would love to blame him, she knew the blame for this incident lay entirely with her. "It's not your fault, John. It never was. If I had been paying attention yesterday, I wouldn't have gotten hurt. And to be honest, I don't think my ankle got broken until that fall a couple of hours ago." She let out a long sigh and decided to share a little bit with him. He deserved it after how she treated him when he was only caring about her. "I've always been on my own. I had no one to look out for me, so I learned to do it myself. I learned at a young age how to fend for myself, and I've gotten myself out of plenty of disasters. It has nothing to do with you, Roxton. It's the way I've always been, so don't take it personally when I don't ask for help. Trust is not an easy thing for me to give, John. I do trust you, and I do care about you too. All of you. These feelings are all very new to me and I'm still trying to learn how to deal with them. But there are some things that I am not willing to share. There are some things that I'm not sure I will ever be willing to share, and you're going to have to get used to that."
"I don't expect you to share everything with me, Marguerite. Let's start with something simple ok? How about the next time something like this happens, you tell me instead of hiding it ok? I care too much about you to see you hurt. Especially if there's something I can do to help you." He started to bandage her ankle and when he was done, he got up and gave Marguerite a light kiss on the cheek. He didn't want to overwhelm her when she had been through so much already, but it was enough to show how much he cared about her. "There, all done. Now we should get going, we still have some ground to cover if we want to get back before dark." Roxton gathered up the rest of their things, along with Marguerite, and started back for home.
"Roxton! What do you think you're doing! Put me down! I'm not an invalid, I can still walk!"
He kept walking as if he hadn't heard her, even though she was screaming madly in his ear. "Roxton! I demand you put me down this instant! I can walk, just find me a big branch or something and I'll be fine!"
"Don't be ridiculous, Marguerite. You are not putting any more weight on that ankle until it is completely healed. You have done enough damage to it already. You can yell all you want, but you are not walking another step. Besides, I thought you would enjoy being swept off your feet." He let his grin grow even wider as he heard her wiggling in his arms and mumble something like 'always playing the hero' and 'damsel in distress' before it stopped altogether. Marguerite's exhaustion finally caught up with her. When Roxton looked down, he saw that Marguerite had fallen asleep in his arms. He nestled a kiss on her forehead and whispered, "You've had quite a day, my dear. Rest while you can. I'm sure you'll never let me forget what happened these past few days." He felt Marguerite stir and heard her mumble, "You bet I won't. Don't think I forgot you still owe me a pair of boots." Roxton chuckled and thought, "Leave it to Marguerite to never forget when someone owes her something. I promise I'll pay you back, for everything you deserve and more." He held onto his precious package and made his way home, safe in the knowledge that they had survived another day on the savage plateau and had both walked away and a little bit closer through it all.
A/N: Thank you for reading my fic. I would greatly appreciate reviews, good or bad. I'm still relatively new to this so let me know what you honestly thought. Thanks again!