"In Remembrance of Kings and Queens"

In Remembrance of Kings and Queens

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by Catseye
He could not pinpoint exactly when he became so completely aware of her presence that when she was missing, it felt as if he had lost something of great significance. Hunting had sharpened his senses, made him acutely cognizant of his surroundings. It was what helped him stay alive to this point despite behavior that sometimes bordered on suicidal. But he had never been so conscious, as sensitive to another person as he was to Marguerite. And now, he could feel that she was not here.

Roxton glanced around the room and saw everyone else. Challenger was fiddling with the phonograph. Malone sat at the table, writing in his journal. Veronica and Summerlee were out on the balcony repotting plants. But Marguerite was no where in sight.

For a brief moment, irrational panic nearly overwhelmed him when he realized Marguerite was gone. He flashed to earlier in the day when he heard her cries as she was being attacked by that warrior who's tribe had been holding Veronica and the two professors captive. Fear had propelled him through the jungle as he tried to follow Marguerite's screams and when they stopped, he felt his heart go cold. Relief had flooded into him when he saw she was still alive. The blow he had dealt the warrior was given with a little bit more force than necessary.

Now she was missing again and he couldn't help but feel that same cold fear seep into him. His sharp eyes swept the room once more and then he saw it. Her hat and gun belt were gone.

Relief was replaced with anger as he realized she had probably gone bathing by herself. Again. His face darkening with a scowl, Roxton marched wordlessly over to his own hat and guns. Without saying anything to his friends, he strapped on his weapons, jammed his hat onto his head and picked up his rifle. Wordlessly, he got on the elevator and descended down to the jungle floor.

Summerlee watched the young lord leave the tree house and smiled slightly before turning his attention back to Veronica.

Marguerite was well aware of the rules, but yet she continued to flaunt her total disregard for them. She knew no one, save for Veronica and himself, were allowed out alone. And to do so with only a short period of daylight left was absolutely unforgivable.

When he reached the jungle floor, Roxton took a moment to orient himself, intently studying the various markings on the ground. He quickly picked up Marguerite's trail and began to follow it. Almost immediately he realized she was not headed towards the bathing pond, where he thought she would be going. Instead, she was heading in the opposite direction.

Roxton frowned as he followed Marguerite's trail. There was nothing of note in this direction. At least nothing that she could get to in the short amount of time that remained before night fell except...the tomb.

But why on earth would Marguerite want to go back there? Roxton wondered. She had been disturbed while in the cave, unnerved by the ease of her ability to read the ancient language written on the stone walls. Roxton would have thought that would be the last place she would want to be.

Though still annoyed, Roxton found his curiosity piqued by this unusual behavior. Perhaps it was his preoccupation with these thoughts that made him careless, but it took him a few moments to realize that he had lost Marguerite's trail. He paused to examine the ground more closely, stooping down to get a better look in the dimming light. His back stiffened when he heard the small click from behind him.

"You've already shot between my legs, why am I not surprised you might shoot me in the back?" he rumbled out.

"As tempting as that may be, I'm not in the mood to do that today," Marguerite replied as she holstered her gun and walked past him. He admired the view of her slim backside before she turned on her heel and stared down at him, still crouching at her feet. An eyebrow quirked at the picture he presented. "What are you doing?"

"You know the rules," Roxton replied as he stood to his full height, towering over the petite woman. He always had to be on his toes, at his best around the enigmatic Miss Krux and he needed every advantage he could get, including pure physical bulk. "No one goes out alone."

Marguerite gave him a look that was a mixture of boredom and annoyance and without responding, turned around and continued on her way. He noticed she shifted her left hand around to the front of her body, hiding whatever she was holding.

"What have you got there?" he asked as he trotted after her.

"Really Roxton," Marguerite sighed, shifting whatever she had to her other hand, out of Roxton's sight. "You're becoming quite tiresome."

He tried to look around her, but she shifted her body to hide whatever it was she held. When he slowed, she matched his steps, still blocking his view. This bizarre dance went on for a few moments until he spun on her suddenly and grabbed her other arm. Roxton blinked when he saw the bouquet of exotic flowers she had gathered.

Her nostrils flaring in anger, Marguerite shrugged his hand off and continued her march towards the tomb they had found earlier. He followed her silently; curious about this sentimental gesture from a woman he swore was without an ounce of human emotion.

When they reached the tomb's entrance, she stopped. Marguerite glanced over her shoulder at him. A look of irritation crossed over her beautiful features when she saw him still there. "There's no reason for you to hang about," she snapped out. "I'll be back before nightfall."

"Humor me," he replied as he lit a torch. He brushed past her and entered the cave. He heard Marguerite expel an angry puff of breath and had to smile. He looked around and saw everything was as it was before. "It's all clear. Nothing in here."

"I could have told you that," Marguerite muttered as she pushed past him and walked towards the throne the long deceased king sat on.

Roxton watched silently as Marguerite's steps slowed. She knelt before the king and stared at him, removing her hat in a gesture of respect. Roxton placed one foot on a rock and leaned his rifle against his thigh, patiently watching the woman. The shadows of the cave obscured her features, but he had learned long ago that Marguerite Krux was a master of masks. He doubted she would have shown him whatever was going on in that beautiful head of hers at the moment even if he had been able to see her face.

Just when he was about to say something, he saw her pick up the bouquet of flowers and lay them gently on the king's throne. She glanced up at him then. Roxton caught his breath as he fell into her expressive eyes. For one split moment, Marguerite had laid herself open and vulnerable, and it felt as though he was peering into her soul. In that moment, Roxton felt humbled by the privilege this extremely private woman trusted him with. But all too soon those iron shutters she carried with her fell over Marguerite's eyes and she turned her head away.

Stunned by the moment of openness, Roxton simply stood there, staring blankly at the space Marguerite had been a moment before. It took him a few seconds to realize she had stood and moved towards the entrance of the tomb. It was only Marguerite sharply calling his name that snapped him completely out of his reverie.

Their walk back to the tree house was a silent one. Out of the corner of his eye, Roxton watched his companion. Marguerite seemed to be in a deep study, lost in her thoughts. A slight worried frown hovered around the corners of her mouth. It was an expression he had seen before. By the river as she talked about being forgotten, never remembered. Like he did then, he felt the overwhelming urge to take her into his arms and kiss her temple, reassuring her that everything would be alright.

Roxton gave himself a mental shake. This woman was as hard as the diamonds she sought. She neither needed nor wanted any pity. She was heartless and selfish and a damn pain in the ass. After what she said today about shooting her, like his brother...

"I truly am sorry about what I said," Marguerite's soft voice cut through the righteous fog he was building around him. Roxton looked over at her and stopped when she did.

"Earlier today, about your brother," Marguerite continued as he stood there silently. "It was completely out of line, even for me." He saw her search his face. A small wrinkle appeared between her brows and she stepped closer to him as she saw something in his expression that worried her. "Please John, you of all people should know not to listen to anything that comes out of my mouth." Her hand gently touched his arm. "Never, ever have any doubts about your brother's accident. You had no choice. You must know and believe that."

If he was surprised before, he was dumbfounded now. Marguerite Krux was concerned about how he was feeling? He looked down into her face as she continued to watch him. "I told you to forget about it," he finally said. He saw the shutters start to drop over her features and he realized it was because she was remembering his abrupt brush off of her earlier apologies. "I mean, I understand you said it in a moment of anger. We all say things we regret when we're angry." He looked thoughtfully at her. "Or upset. What did you mean by calling yourself the 'wicked stepsister'?"

Marguerite shrugged, but Roxton was becoming adept at reading Marguerite and he realized he had touched upon an uncomfortable area for her. She spun on her heel and continued on towards the tree house. "It was just something I said," she replied. Her back was ramrod straight, tension pulling her body taut like a wire in a finely tuned piano.

"Uh huh," Roxton wasn't convinced. He fell into step next to her. "I thought that tomb made you feel uncomfortable, why did you go back?"

Marguerite sighed a martyred sigh. "Really Roxton, with all these questions, you're beginning to sound like Malone. The boy is rubbing off on you. You'd better be careful." The walls were being erected at an alarming rate.

He decided to let her off the hook this time. The day had been emotionally trying for them both, but especially for Marguerite. He realized that, especially after Malone had told him that Marguerite's linguistic ability truly frightened her. How did Malone say she described it? As one of her "demons". A curious choice of words. He decided to return them to familiar territory to put her at ease. "Well, there could be worse things rubbing me." He leered at Marguerite. "Or better ones."

Warmth filled her face as she smiled at his suggestive remark. Roxton could almost see the tension her body had been holding in dissipate. They were back on their familiar ground of flirting and teasing, the horrible words spoken earlier in the day behind them. They had survived another day of danger in this place christened by Ned Malone as 'The Lost World'.

The sky became a painted canvas of purples, blues and reds as the sun began to set. They had made it to the electric fence and Roxton gallantly opened the gate for Marguerite. He turned from latching it to see her staring up at the sky, watching for the first stars to appear.

"Sometimes, it's nice to be remembered," he heard her say softly, almost to herself.

An indefinable ache fed by an emotion he had not been able to name yet filled him as he heard the lost, longing sound of her voice. "I promise I'll never forget you, Marguerite," he whispered back.

Their eyes met and a quiet moment of understanding passed between them. They turned towards the elevator and she did not protest when Roxton placed a warm hand gently on her shoulder.

If you enjoyed this story, why not check out more stories by Catseye over on her fantastic website - Catseye's Corner.