THE INSOMNIAC ART GALLERY
RETRENCHING

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AUTHOR'S NOTES:
Setting: Between Bloodlust and Out Of Time
Spoilers: Cave of Fear, Salvation, and Bloodlust
Description: Why after Marguerite was so understanding in Bloodlust does Roxton say such cutting things to her in Out of Time.
Thanks: To Ariadne for her wonderful job in betaing the story. Her suggestions were invaluable.

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RETRENCHING
by Rann

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"What were you thinking about when you were a vampire?"

"What were you thinking about when you were a vampire?" Malone's journal was on the table in front of him. The reporter was intent on writing and didn't see the tall hunter stiffen at the question.

Internally cursing Challenger's loquaciousness, the hunter turned away from the table. "It didn't feel like anything in particular." As he raised his eyes they met the grey-green ones of Marguerite as she entered the great room. Now he cursed his own wayward tongue. After his cure he had confided in the beautiful linguist. She knew more of his soul than anyone else. She knew the lie that he just told to the reporter.

"There's got to be more to say than that." What Malone lacked in tact he made up for in persistence.

Roxton waited for Marguerite to take revenge for all his remarks., She had it in her power to pay him back for every maternal instincts crack, for every snide reference to her greed, for each pointed comment about her selfishness.

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"...are you still pretending that anyone is going to want to read your ramblings?"

"Really, Malone, are you still pretending that anyone is going to want to read your ramblings?" Marguerite's eyes were still on Roxton, her expression unreadable. "You really should try to curb your enthusiasm for sensationalism. It makes for such tawdry reading." She paused as Veronica stalked over to the reporter's side, anxious to enter the lists on his behalf. "I should know." The smugness of last remark seemed to indicate that she was still surreptitiously reading his journals. The effect was predictable.

"I told you before you have no right " The reporter was fuming, so angry that he couldn't continue speaking.

"How dare you criticize Malone's writing. It's wonderful." Veronica jumped in the fray.

With a smirk for the trouble she had caused, she slipped away out of sight onto the balcony, the raised voices of the blonde pair following her.

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"She does seem to delight in causing a ruckus...""Apparently..."

Roxton looked after her, forgotten by the reporter in his outrage over Marguerite's comments. Summerlee who had witnessed the episode from the top of the stairs joined him.

"She does seem to delight in causing a ruckus." The white-haired professor commented.

"What would she know about good writing, if it's not about her precious gems she wouldn't read it." Veronica's voice was still louder than normal.

"I don't want her snooping about my things, I'm entitled to my privacy." Malone's anger had him pacing.

"Apparently Mr. Malone has lost the desire to interview you." Summerlee was cleaning his glasses as he spoke. "This disruption was somewhat fortuitous for you."

"Apparently." Roxton's attention was still focused on the balcony though Marguerite was out of sight.

"You might wish to take advantage of his distraction before Ned remembers what he was asking you."

Roxton smiled slightly at the older man perceptiveness. Roxton moved towards the balcony as he saw Malone's agitated strides bringing him closer to that destination as well. "I'd best be there to referee, if Malone's anger overrules his good judgement. We can't have Marguerite tossing him over the railing." The corners of the hunter's mouth lifted almost imperceptibly at the thought.

"If you do care to talk about it, my boy..." Summerlee left the offer dangling.

"As I said there's nothing in particular."

"Nothing that you'll talk to me about anyway." Summerlee said in an undertone to Roxton's back. "But I suspect you've found your confidant."

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The sudden appearance of the hunter caught Marguerite off guard. His soft-footed approach gave no warning.

"Here to lecture me again on easing up on Malone?" The linguist's voice held her normal mocking quality. She looked up at the tall English lord, who stood so close that any incautious movement on either part would bring them into contact.

"Not today."

"Ah, then it must be to prevent Malone from murdering me. Are you sure you want to stop him?"

"Actually, I think Ned's in more danger of being the murderee, and I haven't yet decided if I want to stop you or not." Roxton forced a smile.

Marguerite looked away, reluctant to remind him of the sentiments he confided after being cured of the vampiric infection. She moistened her lips. He needed to hear it, whether she wanted to say it or not. "You know, John, it's not wrong to have wanted to maintain the feeling of being home, of being in tune with everything around you."

Roxton's stance tightened at the softness in her voice. "It's gone, there's nothing more to be said."

"Of course." The blandness of her tone disguised nothing and everything.

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"He'd let her in and didn't know how to get her out...she had become his Achilles heel..."

Roxton was swearing at himself yet again. He'd let her in and didn't know how to get her out. And get her out he must. She had become his Achilles' heel. The power she had to draw him to her was frightening. When he had been infected, he could no longer fight that draw. His need for her even overrode his need for blood. No woman could mean this much to him. He needed his defenses back in place. He had to find a way to deal with this trespasser.

She refused to fall into one of the slots where he normally relegated the women in his life. She wasn't a prim and proper lady, but she did know her way around London society. She wasn't a wanton, although she could play the role with incredible facility. She wasn't husband hunting. She had an incredible instinct for survival. Where that had been honed, he didn't like to consider. He had no label for her. No way to keep her in a tidy compartment in his mind.

He could deal with wanting her. What man wouldn't want the seductive Miss Krux? But he didn't deserve to feel so alive around her. Of all of his companions she was the one who could understand him. It was a danger he hadn't been cognizant of when he earmarked her as a trophy. What was even more dangerous was that she could understand him and not condemn him. How that could be was beyond his comprehension, he certainly condemned himself.

"Did you really have to start the two of them howling for your blood again." The harshness of his voice caused the linguist to lift an eyebrow. "Good, I shocked her." Roxton thought. Maybe if he antagonized her enough she'd keep up that prickly front she frequently wore and not slip in behind his carefully constructed redoubt.

"It does them good to be shaken out of their complacent attitudes every now and then." Her airy tones were designed to infuriate.

"What happens when you need them." The graveled voice was demanding. "Dammit, this was no good." The thought of her being deserted by their comrades was not acceptable.

"I don't need anyone, Lord Roxton." Unsaid was the 'least of all, you', but her voice and attitude conveyed the message.

"That's right you have your gems." His bitterness had Marguerite turning her back to him, closing her eyes for a second and calming her expression.

"Roxton, you bloody fool, make up your mind." The thought was shared between them.

Pushing her out was tearing at his soul. The conflict was playing havoc with his temper. He wanted her out; he wanted her in his arms. There was no answer for the dichotomy in his mind.

Marguerite knew what he started out trying to do, and she had responded in kind. Now he was angry that she had. She turned her head briefly, her mask in place and met his eyes, "That's all I need." Pausing to see if he had a response, she then nodded and brushed past him, back into the now quiet treehouse.

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"I don't suppose you'll want to talk..."

Marguerite's features were solemn as she walked back into great room. Being cast out again hurt a part of her, but another part understood the hunter's motivation and even lauded it. He had done what needed to be done; what she had lacked the courage to do. The gulf between them was back in place. Anything other than the most superficial flirtation was a disaster waiting to happen.

They were better off keeping their distance.

"My dear, such a long face. I don't suppose you'll want to talk either." Arthur Summerlee kept his eyes focused on his pipe.

He was relieved that she had come into the room. He didn't relish his role as chaperone for the two of them. But a man of Lord Roxton's reputation and a woman who was obviously not an innocent was a combination ripe for mischief. Summerlee had no desire to return to London to deal with a scandal as well as Challenger's gloating over his Lost World proof.

He wasn't worried about a pregnancy, a woman like Miss Krux would know how to prevent that from occurring. But his imagination was well able to envision the stories the tabloids would put out speculating on all sorts of extracurricular activities. The stories that would circulate particularly if Malone persisted in chronicling their personal lives. He wanted to be able to say with absolute veracity that expedition was conducted with complete propriety. The thought that he might have condoned such goings on was not acceptable. Not only was his reputation on the line but those of other members of the expedition as well.

But it wasn't only a fear of society looking askance at the whole expedition that had him concerned. He knew the others looked at him as simply a na´ve old man, whose knowledge of the world was contained between the covers of a book. But while he had never been one for grand adventures, well at least until now, he did know people. He was not one to be deceived by facades. He wouldn't like to see Marguerite hurt. Behind the callous exterior their financier wore, he knew there was someone who risked herself to save him from Tribune, who comforted him on his sickbed, and who tried to hide the vulnerability that had been revealed in the Manuins' taboo cave.

"I'll talk, Arthur, but I'm not sure why you want to talk to me."

"No particular reason. I thought you might want to talk about what happened with this infection." Summerlee hadn't been able to glean much from Challenger's description of what happened to Marguerite when Roxton attempted to take advantage of her. "Was it very traumatic when you were, ah, attacked?" Discomfort warred with sympathy in the botanist's voice.

"For me, no. I was fine. I am fine. Nothing I couldn't have handled." Marguerite hoped she kept the right amount of bravado in her tone. There was no way she'd reveal how shaken she'd been by Roxton's descent into madness and her own narrow escape.

You're very good a keeping a confidence." Summerlee's held a note of approbation.

"I guess I'm just not the gossiping type." The dark-haired beauty downplayed the compliment. "Not to worry about me, Arthur." She reached over and patted his arm. In an effort to change the subject she looked about. "Where's everyone else?"

"The others you see, well, hear - are somewhat occupied." Summerlee said with a gentle smile as the voices of Malone and Veronica rose from the lab where they were recounting her villainy to an uninterested Challenger.

Marguerite's lips twitched with appreciation as she heard the reporter recount again her presumptuousness in reading his journals.

"Must you continue to provoke him, Marguerite?"

"I have to keep up my reputation." The linguist's smile was very self-satisfied.

 
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"He had done what he intended...forced the barriers back up..."

Roxton looked out over the jungle floor without seeing anything. He had done what he intended. Forced the barriers back up that had dropped over the past few weeks. He'd have to be vigilant to ensure that they remained up. Looking back he could see how insidious the process had been that had lowered them.

She had realized from the few clues that had been dropped how he agonized over his own responsibility in his brother's death. Her commiseration had been a balm to his soul. When she had to confront her unexplainable linguistic abilities and had let him see her fears over being forgotten, he had drawn closer to her.

Even her attempt to drive him away by with a caustic remark about his brother's death hadn't been enough to sever the growing feeling between them. When she apologized he knew she valued the friendship, the more than friendship growing between them. She trusted him to let him guard her and not betray her uncharacteristic sentiment to the others when she offered flowers at Xiechun-ne's tomb. "Don't think about that, Roxton. Trophies don't have emotions, they don't trust."

She was sensitive enough to see how troubled he was over the vampiric cure. His natural defenses were down at the time from both the loss of his sense of being home and the aftereffects of the belladonna, so that he revealed more of his soul than he had intended. Her complete empathy and the longing in her eyes for that same feeling had caught him off-guard. The desire to pull her into his arms and lose himself in her was overwhelming. The only thing that had stopped him was that she might give in and then he'd never be sure why it happened.

When he finally had her, and come hell or high water he would have her one day, he'd be damned if it would be for pity!


finis

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Author's Notes:

One reason why Marguerite's and Roxton's relationship was so fiery, so contradictory may have been said best by a playwright:

"Sometimes you have to go a long way out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly." -
Edward Albee
"Zoo Story"

reĚdoubt (rţ-dout╣) noun
1. A small, often temporary defensive fortification.
2. A reinforcing earthwork or breastwork within a permanent rampart.
3. A protected place of refuge or defense.

[French redoute, from Italian ridotto, from Medieval Latin reductus, concealed place, from Latin, past participle of red˙cere, to withdraw, lead back. See reduce.]

The American Heritage« Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition copyright ę 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from INSO Corporation. All rights reserved.


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