Standard Disclaimer: Please see DNash's nifty legalese on the welcome page. It really does say it all. The following is my interpretation: I don't own the characters, I just played with them a bit and put them back. No copyright infringement is intended. It's all for fun, and not for profit.
A soft light filtered through the jungle canopy, revealing the early morning dew glistening on the verdant leaves. As the light grew stronger, the rainforest awoke, the dawn of a new day enticing the myriad inhabitants out of their slumber. Gentle calls echoed through the trees, each bringing forth another sound until the air was filled with vibrant breakfast conversation.
Marguerite Krux slammed her empty mug down, shaking the table. "George, I beg you, isn't there some way you can filter out that damnable noise?" She rubbed her temple, emitting a low groan as the cacophony outside increased.
"Now, Marguerite, it's just the jungle. It's life. It's to be reveled in, embraced." Professor George Challenger patted her shoulder as he passed by, an indulgent smile on his face. "Besides, we hear it every morning. It's nothing new."
"Well, it's new to my headache," she grumbled. Eyes closed, she held her head in her hands.
"Good morning, Marguerite, George! Beautiful day, isn't it?" Ned Malone called out cheerfully as he entered the common area.
Marguerite winced. "Do you mind?" she snapped.
The reporter glanced over at Challenger, who merely raised his eyebrows at the hunched figure of the heiress.
"Ah." Malone turned on his heel and left.
"Ned," Lord John Roxton nodded as he and Malone passed.
Ned paused, angled his head towards the table in warning, and then continued his retreat. Roxton made a quick study of the woman; planting a grin on his face and sparing a wink to Challenger, he strode purposefully over.
The scientist shook his head and chuckled.
Sliding into a seat, Roxton slapped his hand on the worn wood, causing the dark-haired woman to jump. "Good morning, Marguerite! Gorgeous day, don't you think?"
She lifted her head slowly, then turned flashing eyes on him, her gaze steady and narrow. "Challenger, please, do something about all this noise."
"Now, Marguerite," Challenger began.
"Now, Marguerite," Roxton also started.
"If one more of you says 'Now, Marguerite,' to me again, I will give you something to 'Now, Marguerite,' about."
"Good morning! Isn't it a lovely day?" Veronica rested a covered, heavily laden tray on the table, a happy smile lighting her face.
"Oh, god, not you, too," Marguerite groaned as she cradled her head, rubbing the temples again. "What is wrong with you people?"
Malone returned, holding a steaming pot of coffee. Quietly, he poured a fair amount into Marguerite's mug.
Wisps of steam curled upward, lifting the enticing aroma to Marguerite's pain-sensitized nose. Her shoulders relaxed slightly as her mind registered the scent. She gripped the mug and drew it to her, taking a deep breath. Eyes closed, she gingerly lifted the mug to her mouth. She took another deep breath and exhaled, letting the coffee fill her senses.
She took a tentative sip and sighed, then took a longer one, allowing the dark brew to flood her taste buds. Her low moan sparked understanding grins around the table.
Her head still hurt, but that tiny bit of compassion lifted her mood. "Thank you, Ned."
When Malone didn't reply, she opened her eyes in question. It was unusual for the young man to be impolite. What she saw surprised her. Her friends had gathered in front of her, sporting wide smiles. She raised an eyebrow in suspicion.
Startled by the shout, Marguerite jumped, spilling her coffee in the process. Roxton quickly tossed George a towel, and before she could complain, the coffee had been mopped up, and Ned had refilled her cup. She stared at her mug, the spot where the spill had hit the table, and then at her friends. "Wha..."
"It's your day, Marguerite!" Childlike delight played across Veronica's features as she removed the cover on the tray with a flourish. On it were a variety of Marguerite's favorite foods - at least the ones originating on the Plateau. "We're going to spend the day celebrating," she stated matter-of-factly, beaming all the while.
"C'mon, now, dig in." Roxton produced a plate. "None of us gets breakfast until you do."
Roxton leaned in. "Shush, just enjoy it."
She glared at him, then noticed the expectant looks around the table. "Very well." She allowed the moment to sink in, and smiled in earnest as she began to fill up her plate, her aching head all but forgotten. "It is a lovely day, isn't it?"
Laughter chorused through the Treehouse and they all settled down to enjoy their early morning feast.
The jungle quieted down as the evening progressed into night. The air cooled, and the vibrant colors disappeared into shades of black. Nocturnal beasts roamed, but they seldom made their presence known.
Marguerite leaned on the railing of the Treehouse balcony, looking out into the dark. She marveled at the day. One day where all they did was play, and the excuse was her birthday. All chores put on hold. It was laundry day, and even that was put off. She chuckled. They needed it, she reasoned. They'd been through so much, and each day seemed like a life or death struggle. Just this one perfect day.
"Well," she whispered, "almost perfect."
"How's that, Marguerite?" Roxton joined her at the railing, handing her a cup of tea. She smiled her thanks.
"Thank you for today, John."
"You're quite welcome." His delighted grin caused her to sport her own. They stood side-by-side, watching the stars come out, content in the nighttime silence.
She glanced about, then leaned closer and fervently whispered, "It's not my birthday."
"I know," he whispered back, a canny smile on his face. He gazed out at the constellations. "But Marguerite, you don't really know when your birthday is."
She gave him a sidelong glance. "True."
"So, it could be your birthday." Seeing that she was about to argue with him, he hurriedly continued. "The point is, Marguerite, any day could be your birthday. So why not today? It's as good a day as any other. It was beautiful, we had a lot of fun, so why can't it be your birthday?"
His pleading was so genuine, and the logic so thoughtful in a typical Roxton sort of way. And, truly, it had been an exceptional day. She moved over slightly and nudged him, then leaned her head on his shoulder. "Do I get to choose my age as well?"
Roxton laughed, placing his arm across her shoulders and giving her a gentle squeeze. "Happy Birthday, Marguerite."