Roxton opened his eyes and saw the face of Marguerite Krux lying beside him. For a brief moment, he smiled. Then he remembered. He looked again at her face. All color was gone and the skin had a decidedly bluish tinge to it. His eyes widened as he frantically felt for a pulse that he knew wouldn't be there.
"No!" He said in an anguished voice. Then, a little louder, "NO!" Then, the dam burst and he screamed long and loud - a scream of pain and anguish and guilt and frustration and sadness. He fell on her body and put his head on her chest while his arms surrounded her, trying to infuse the cold shell with some of his life force. Then he cried.
Marguerite, standing at her mother's side, watched this display with wide, frightened eyes. Deep down, she knew Roxton cared for her, but she had no idea that his feelings were so strong.
Roxton put the finishing touches on the litter and carefully put Marguerite's body on it. He gently stroked her hair one last time before covering her with the blanket. Then, after tying the body down, he lifted one end and began dragging his precious cargo through the jungle.
"It's about time!" Challenger exclaimed when he heard the elevator. He walked over to greet Roxton and Marguerite. "What took you so long? We were getting worried." He looked past Roxton getting off the elevator. "Where's Marguerite? Roxton? What happened?"
Roxton looked up into his friend's blue eyes. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Finally, he just pointed down.
Challenger walked over to the railing and looked down to the ground. He saw the blanket-covered body and turned back to Roxton, eyes wide.
"That's not…" He began. Then, as Roxton nodded, he said, "What happened?"
"I swore no one I cared for would ever die for me. Not after my brother. That's exactly what she did! That arrow should have been for me! It should have been me!"
"What should have been you?" Veronica asked as she walked into the room.
Challenger looked over at her. "You were right, yesterday. I should have paid more attention to that hunch of yours."
"Challenger, what are you talking about?"
"No, that can't be right. She can't be…" She looked over at Roxton. He looked like he wanted to die. "She is dead, isn't she?"
Challenger nodded sadly. Ned and Summerlee walked into the room. Veronica ran over and threw herself, sobbing into Ned's arms. He put his arms around her and then looked at the sad faces of his companions.
Marguerite turned away from the heartbreaking scene in front of her.
"I can't watch this! Why are you making me watch this?"
"I want you to see what your death will cause."
"So far, I see a few people who will be fine in a couple of days. They'll cry for a little while - and that's very flattering, actually. But they'll be fine!"
"Are you so certain of that?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Let's go ahead a few weeks, shall we?"
Challenger looked sadly at the form of John Roxton hunched over the table where he had passed out. He walked over and gently pulled the empty bottle from the unconscious man's hand. The sudden movement woke the drunken man. He looked up blearily at his redheaded friend.
"What're you doing?" He slurred.
"You've had enough."
"I'm still alive. I can still feel. I haven't had nearly enough."
"John, you can't go on punishing yourself like this. It wasn't your fault! Marguerite knew what she was doing. She wouldn't want you to do this to yourself."
"Yeah well, she's not here to tell me that, is she?" Roxton said angrily. "It should have been me! The arrow was meant for me! You wanna know the worst part?"
"I loved her! With everything I had! I loved her and I never told her. I've never felt that way about anyone. When I woke up and realized that she had died during the night…I actually felt my heart shatter! I don't even know how she felt about me. We always avoided the subject. We were both afraid of getting hurt, I think. Either way, she's dead and I can't tell her and I'll never hear her say it to me!"
"Roxton, she said it loudly when she took that arrow for you. It's very obvious that she loved you and she wouldn't want to see you destroying yourself like this!"
"What would you know?" Roxton said angrily as he stood up unsteadily. He started walking away from Challenger.
"Where are you going?"
"I told you…I haven't had nearly enough!"
"Roxton…" Challenger said in a warning tone of voice as he stepped into the inebriated man's path.
"Out of my way, Challenger."
"John," Summerlee's voice came from behind him. "I think you've had enough." He said gently, but firmly - as though he were talking to a small boy.
Roxton turned on him to see a very sympathetic old man standing in front of him. Summerlee walked forward and gently put a steadying arm around Roxton's shoulders. He carefully led the staggering nobleman to bed, where he tucked him in for the night.
He walked back out to Challenger. "Poor boy. It's like he's reliving his brother's death all over again…in spades."
"The difference here is, he had at least at one point told his brother he loved him. Marguerite never knew."
Marguerite moved into Roxton's room. She looked down at the sleeping man. "I know now." She said softly.
She turned back to her mother. "I've made my decision. I can't leave him like this. I have to go back."
"Are you certain? It will be painful."
"It can't be half as painful as watching him self destruct because of me. Take me back."
"Very well, my child. Remember your father and I love you. We'll be waiting for you. We'll see you when it really is your time."
The sun rose softly that morning. It was as though it was afraid of waking the injured woman and her loving guardian. It couldn't wake the one and it slowly woke the other.
Roxton opened his eyes and saw the face of Marguerite Krux lying beside him. For a brief moment, he smiled. Then he remembered. He looked again at her face. Her face was flushed and there was a faint sheen of perspiration on her forehead. He looked carefully and saw that she was breathing - barely. With a sigh of relief, he took out his handkerchief and wiped away the sweat on the unconscious woman's face. Then, he leaned down and gently pressed his lips to hers. He opened his eyes in surprise when he felt the slightest amount of return pressure to the kiss. He pulled back to see her blue eyes looking at him.
"Couldn't just leave you like this…" she whispered painfully. "I'll live."
Roxton's eyes slid closed. When he opened them again, Marguerite was unconscious again.
Roxton put the finishing touches on the litter and carefully put Marguerite's body on it. He gently stroked her hair one last time before pulling the blanket up around her shoulders. Then, after carefully tying her body down, he lifted one end and began dragging his precious cargo through the jungle.
Marguerite slept for most of the next week. Every time she woke up though, Lord John Roxton was at her bedside. Sometimes, he was asleep in the chair. She loved those times best because then she could watch him sleep and think about the comfort she found in his arms without him asking her what the goofy grin was for.
One day, after nearly ten days of bed rest, Marguerite was going crazy. She needed to move - or if not move, then something to keep her occupied. She started to sit up and realized with a painful gasp that maybe something to occupy her mind would just do the trick.
Roxton, who had been out of the room answering nature's call, came back in to hear Marguerite gasp in pain. He was immediately at her side, his clear eyes reflecting his concern.
"Are you alright? What's wrong?" he asked anxiously.
"Nothing. I just tried to sit up. I guess I wasn't ready for that yet."
"You want to sit up? At least let me help you."
She braced herself against his shoulders as he gently lifted her up and moved the pillows behind her to elevate her to a reclining position instead of supine. Once again, she was reminded of the comfort and safety to be found in his arms. She leaned her head forward and rested it on one of his shoulders. She felt him start to lower her back down on the pillows and she slid her arms around his neck. She pulled herself up until she was able to kiss him.
He returned the kiss with a gentle passion - careful not to hurt her - a kiss that melted whatever ice remained around her heart. She deepened the kiss, running her tongue over his lips, asking for entrance. Entrance was granted and he gave himself over to the passion. They gradually lost themselves in each other until Roxton forgot himself and accidentally put his hand on her wounded side, causing her to pull away suddenly with a gasp.
"I'm sorry! Are you alright?" He asked with a guilty expression on his face.
She leaned forward, resting her head once again on his shoulder as she collected herself. "I'm fine. I'll be fine. It's okay."
He gently lowered her back down onto the pillows. She looked up at him and saw that he still was feeling badly for hurting her. She sighed.
"It's okay, John." She said quietly. "I know."
He looked up at her, a little apprehensively. "You know what?"
She smiled shyly. "I love you too."
Startled, Roxton looked at her with wide eyes. "You what?" he whispered, scarcely daring to believe what he had just heard.
"You heard me." She said with a glimpse of her normal personality coming out to play.
"I know what I thought I heard." He said incredulously. "I know this is looking a gift horse in the mouth, but what happened to not getting the heart involved?"
"Life's too short." Marguerite said. "When I was lying there bleeding in the jungle, I had the weirdest dream. I was shown exactly how short life can be and what death can bring. Life doesn't last nearly as long as death and we shouldn't take things for granted. I took my feelings for granted and acted like they didn't exist. I can't do that anymore."
"I love you so much!" He said with tears in his eyes. "You don't know how scared I was that I was going to lose you."
"You almost did. That was part of the dream. I was given the choice to cross over or stay here. I almost went."
"What stopped you?"
Roxton was speechless for a full minute. Finally, he blinked and pulled himself together. "Me? What do you mean me?"
"I knew you would blame yourself for my death. I couldn't have you self-destruct over something that wasn't even close to your fault. I was made to watch you suffer over me. I couldn't stand being the cause of that suffering."
Roxton blinked back tears. He leaned down and kissed Marguerite again, losing himself in the taste and feel of the beautiful, passionate, ALIVE woman in front of him. He kissed her, stroking her hair and face gently - carefully avoiding the painful side of the wonderful, tired woman that suddenly yawned into the kiss.
Roxton chuckled as he sat up. "Go to sleep, Marguerite. We can continue this…er…discussion when you're up to it."
Marguerite didn't need to be told twice. She let her eyes close and very soon she was sound asleep. Roxton watched her sleep for a long time before he too felt sleep trying to overtake him. He started to make himself comfortable on the chair and then changed his mind. He carefully lay down on the bed (on Marguerite's good side) and carefully put his arms around the beloved body. He rested his head on hers, gently rubbing his cheek against the softness of her hair. Soon, very soon he too was asleep.
A phantasmal figure watched the couple for a few minutes. "I'll see you in a while, my little girl. You can take your time here. We'll always be here. Sweet dreams."
Marguerite opened her eyes slightly when she heard the voice of her mother. She felt a loving warmth surrounding her. She realized it was Roxton and not her mother. She sighed a little sadly and then snuggled lovingly into his embrace - content with the love she had found on the side of life. She could wait to see her mother again - as long as Roxton was there, she could wait a very long time.
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