One Short Day
Disclaimer: Nope, still don't own them (although, I wish I did)…New Line, Over the Hill, and other PTB @ Coote-Hayes own them. I'm just borrowing them, yet again. I'll return them when finished.
"Come on Marguerite, daylight's a-wasting," a familiar masculine voice yelled.
"I'm moving as fast as I can! Why do you feel the need to go hunting today? It's pouring out!" the still sleepy heiress called as she stumbled upstairs, tucking in her shirt.
"We're nearly out of meat. I told you last night I wanted to leave before daylight. It's not my fault that it's raining," Roxton commented as they both grabbed their guns and gun belts.
Marguerite looked at John, "Well it wasn't my idea to stay up all night," she whispered wickedly. Roxton winked at her. Marguerite started laughing when he finally spoke, "Let's move." Outside the Treehouse the pair walked in the pouring rain quietly for a few yards before Marguerite couldn't help muttering under her breath, "This is not how I envisioned spending my birthday."
"Did you say something?" Roxton asked as he looked back.
"No," grumbled a now soaking wet Marguerite.
Meanwhile, back at the Treehouse Challenger, Finn, Veronica and Malone were all busy cleaning and preparing a surprise party for Marguerite.
"Do you think she suspects?" Finn asked as she finished wrapping the gift she and Veronica made together.
"I don't think so, although I did think you were going to slip up and tell her a few times," Veronica said as she started baking a cake. Malone and Challenger were busy hanging up a banner.
"I know, I swear Roxton was going to kill me once," the girl from the future said while setting the table.
"I thought Marguerite was going to kill Roxton when he insisted on going out hunting this morning," Malone joked, remembering the disgruntled expression on the heiress' face.
"Finn, Roxton wanted you to get his present from his room. I think he said it's on his dresser," Challenger reminded the young woman.
The group continued with their party preparations while waiting for the older couple to return.
"Marguerite, watch your step," the rugged lord called back as he leaped over a huge patch of mud near a short cliff.
"What?" the heiress yelled as she tried to keep up and hear over the clap of thunder.
Her right foot hit the edge of the mud patch and slipped out from under her; her left foot followed just as quickly. Before Roxton could reach her, Marguerite fell and started slipping and sliding down the muddy embankment. Her sliding fall finally ended on another path bellow where Roxton stood. Roxton held his breath as he waited for her to move once she stopped sliding. When she didn't move or make a sound, he carefully went after her
"Marguerite!!" he called repeatedly, as he got closer.
When she didn't respond, he knelt next to her and gently shook her, hoping for a response. Marguerite slowly opened her eyes.
"Stop that," she demanded, glaring at him.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm wet, covered in mud, and have a headache from smacking my head after falling off a cliff, why wouldn't I be all right?" Marguerite said sarcastically as she slowly tried to sit up.
Roxton put a hand on her shoulder, "I should check to make sure you didn't hit your head too hard before you try to move any further," he cautioned while gently probing her head with his free hand for any signs of serious injury. This only irritated the heiress more.
"Roxton, there's no need to hover so. I'm fine," Marguerite hissed, after he found a small lump on the back of her head.
The worried hunter asked, "Are you sure you're ready to go on?" offering a hand as the adventuress slowly stood up.
"Go on? You mean hunting? No. I'm going back to the Treehouse. In case you haven't noticed not only am I wet I'm also covered in mud and my trousers are torn," the irritated woman complained as she took his hand and slowly stood up. She stood with her eyes closed for a few seconds as she waited for her head to stop aching before walking. As they made their way back to the Treehouse, Roxton was determined to keep the pace slow so Marguerite could keep up.
Once the couple reached the fence of the Treehouse, Roxton tried to get past Marguerite, he wanted to warn the others of their premature arrival, "Let me get the elevator for you," he gallantly offered as he opened the gate for her.
Marguerite just glared at him as she brushed past him and made her way directly into the lift, hoping the mud on her face would hide the fact that she was near tears. Roxton quickly followed. How could he of all people forget what today is? she wondered as they entered the elevator. Without realizing it, Marguerite moved closer to Roxton and leaned against him as the elevator started its ascent . She closed her eyes to ward off any further pain. The jolting of the elevator reaching its destination didn't even faze her as she slowly followed John out of the elevator. Her headache kept her from seeing the hunter motioning almost frantically for the others to hide any signs of the party.
"I think I'm going to go take a hot shower," Marguerite mumbled as she headed for her bedroom and fresh, dry clothes.
"Need any help?" Veronica offered looking a bit worried at her friend. The brunette was a muddy, miserable-looking mess.
"No, I'll be fine. I'll be in my room after that if anyone needs me. I'm not feeling well," the tired heiress commented as she disappeared downstairs.
"What happened?" Malone asked, waiting until the shower could be heard.
"She slipped on a patch of mud and slid down a small hill," the hunter confessed, a combination of self-blame and worry clouding his features. "She has a small lump on the back of her head."
"You were supposed to keep her occupied for a few hours, not get her hurt," Challenger dryly joked as he pulled out the first aid kit. "I'd better look at her once she's finished."
A while later, Veronica, Finn, Malone and Roxton finished the decorations and dinner preparations. Challenger headed to Marguerite's room to check on her. He found her sitting on the edge of her bed with her back to him.
"Marguerite, Roxton told us you fell. I'd like to examine you, if I may, just to make sure you're all right."
"Go away. I'm tired," the heiress refused quietly.
"Roxton mentioned you hit your head when you fell," Challenger persisted, leaning in the doorway.
"I think I did but it wasn't anything serious. And quite frankly, I really don't want to talk to anyone right now,"
"Are you dizzy? Does your head hurt?"
"Not really and it doesn't hurt much. Honestly, George, I'm fine. I just want to be alone right now," the upset woman said.
"You'll let me know if you start feeling worse, won't you?" Challenger made one more effort.
"Yes, George, I will," Marguerite said as she slowly picked up a book from the stand next to her bed. Once making herself comfortable, the disappointed adventuress opened the book hoping to convince Challenger she was fine.
The red-haired gentleman went back upstairs to fill his companions in on Marguerite's condition. "She seems all right physically, although she's in a strange mood. She didn't complain of dizziness or much of a headache. I do think she's a bit sad. I'd wager that she doesn't have a clue what we've been planning. We should probably let her rest and recover for a couple of hours before disturbing her," he concluded.
"Maybe I should go check on her," the worried lord suggested as he started towards her room.
"Roxton, Challenger said she was all right physically. It might be best to let her cool down a bit before bothering her," Veronica cautioned.
Roxton turned around and noticed that his friends had done a wonderful job decorating the Treehouse. The banner wishing Marguerite a happy birthday was hung over the entryway to her favorite spot on the balcony. The centerpiece on the table was a bouquet of her favorite flowers. Veronica had cooked the heiress's favorite meal as well as the cake. Finn and Malone had made streamers out of some older blankets and they hung from the rafters above the table. Finn had placed all of the gifts they'd made on a little table near the couch.
"Well done, everyone. I hope she likes it."
Finn, ever exuberant, nodded enthusiastically. "I think she will, once she's had a chance to rest." ~*~*~*~*~*~
A couple of hours later, Marguerite slowly closed the book she'd been reading after the aroma from the kitchen caught her attention. Her stomach growled. She sighed as she gingerly swung her legs and feet off the side of the bed, before getting up. Her head ached a little, but not nearly as much as she feared it would. Marguerite walked over to the mirror near her washstand and carefully felt her head in the area she thought her head had hit the rock. She hissed when she found a lump. Careful not to put any pressure on it, she brushed her hair and then decided she was ready to face her living companions.
Just as she reached the doorway of her room
"Marguerite?" Roxton questioned.
"Yes," she replied pulling the curtain aside.
"How are you feeling?" the concerned gentleman inquired.
"My head hurts a little," Marguerite admitted as they started upstairs.
"It's no wonder with that lump on your head," John commented as they continued upstairs.
"You think I don't know that?" the dark haired beauty snapped.
"Sorry," the guilty hunter confessed, trying to keep Marguerite's temper from rising again.
"Well you should be. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have fallen down that cliff," she grumbled without looking at John.
"It's not like I planned that, you know," the hunter quietly explained.
"Why aren't there any lights?" Marguerite wondered as they reached the top of the stairs.
"SURPRISE!!!" Finn yelled, jumping out from her hiding place as Challenger and Malone lighted the lanterns and Veronica lit the candles on the table.
Roxton had to steady Marguerite as Finn's yelling and jumping startled her. She turned to the man next to her, confused.
"You thought we'd forgotten, didn't you?" he smiled.
Marguerite blushed, "Yes."
Kissing her temple, Roxton answered, "Well we didn't, we just wanted to surprise you. I know you're not fond of surprises, but with all that's happened recently, I didn't think you'd mind this one."
Marguerite smiled while the pair walked to the dinner table. Malone pulled out her chair, "My lady," he said as he bowed. Once seated, Malone gently helped move the chair towards the table.
"Why thank you, kind sir," Marguerite grinned, eyes shining.
"Veronica made all your favorites," Finn added as she took the seat right next to Marguerite.
"Finn," Challenger cautioned, "I believe Roxton would like to sit there."
"Oh yeah, right. Sorry, big guy," the youngest member of the group said as she got up and took the chair on the other side of Malone. Challenger and Roxton took their seats as Veronica came out with the last dish.
"Dig in, everyone," she said, setting it near the center of the table.
The family began eating, talking and laughing. When dinner was finished, Challenger and Finn cleared the dishes off the table and Veronica went to fetch the cake. Roxton and Malone turned the flame on the lanterns down as Veronica emerged with the cake lit with candles.
"Make a wish," the others encouraged as Veronica set the cake in front of Marguerite. Marguerite closed her eyes for a few seconds as she thought of a wish. Once it was firmly in place, she opened her eyes and blew the candles out.
"Whadja wish? Whadja wish?" Finn asked as Marguerite started cutting the cake.
"If I tell, it won't come true," the birthday girl said, passing plates laden with generous slices of cake.
"Aw, come on, you can tell us," the younger woman pestered.
"Finn, she doesn't have to tell us if she doesn't want to," Roxton said as they all dug into the cake.
"Time for presents!" Finn nearly yelled once she was finished.
Marguerite closed her eyes because Finn's yelling wasn't helping her headache. Roxton noticed.
"Finn, maybe you should try not yelling for a while, huh?"
Finn looked at Roxton then Marguerite. "Oh yeah, sorry about that, Marguerite."
"It's okay, Finn. I know you mean well," the heiress chuckled.
Finn placed all the presents in front of Marguerite. Marguerite looked at the largest one and smiled, "I wonder what that is?"
"Veronica and I made it for you," Finn said as Marguerite started opening it. Inside was a painting of Marguerite and Roxton. Marguerite looked up at Veronica confused.
"When did you see us like this?" the brunette questioned. The painting reminded Marguerite of the time she and Roxton had barely escaped a gas-filled cave. Roxton had just told her that her newest secret was safe with him. In gratitude, Marguerite had kissed his cheek. His response was a tight, yet gentle hug. It had brought such a smile to her face, to know that she really could trust him with all her secrets and he would still love her. Marguerite didn't think anyone had seen that.
"When you two climbed out of that hole of a cave you two were trapped in," Veronica answered, wondering if she had done something wrong.
"I made the frame," Finn added.
Marguerite pushed her chair back and walked towards the young woman she thought of as a sister. "Thank you, Veronica," she whispered as she gave the jungle woman a hug. Then she turned to her newest friend. "Thank you too, Finn," she said, giving her a hug as well. "I love it," the dark haired woman said, returning to her chair. She then picked up a package that looked suspiciously like a book. "I bet this is from you, Ned," she grinned.
"How'd you guess?" Malone laughed as she opened it. "I know it's not much, but I had noticed that you had used up your own journal."
"You've been reading my journals?" the heiress said in a mock threat.
"No, no, unlike some around here, I don't pry into other people's private thoughts," Malone winked. He'd picked up the talent for book making during his time away from the Treehouse and had given one of the journals he'd made to her.
"Thank you, Ned," Marguerite said as she placed it near the painting and reached for the second to last present.
"That's from me," Challenger told her. He'd used some of her favorite flowers and Veronica's soap base to make a special bar of soap for Marguerite.
"It smells wonderful, George, thank you," the heiress sighed after smelling it. She placed the soap next to her other two gifts and reached for the last one. It was a small box with a rather sloppy bow around it. She turned to Roxton and gave a little laugh. "Still working on your bows I see," she teased as she pulled it off the box.
"Yes, I'll get them right one day," the hunter teased back as he watched her open the box. Inside, nestled in some flower petals, was a small silver heart.
Marguerite looked up at the man she loved. "You made this? How?" She suddenly realized that she hadn't seen him use his spare silver flask in a long time. "Oh, John, you didn't melt down your flask, did you?"
"I wasn't really using it all that much anyway. This is a much better use for it," he responded.
"I - thank you," Marguerite said shakily. "It's beautiful." Marguerite quickly placed the box on the table and got up from her chair. She headed out to the balcony. She didn't want the others to see her tears. She sat down on the bench and stared out at the night.
"Did we do something wrong?" Finn questioned as she got up to go after her dark haired friend.
"I don't think so. I think your plan worked, Roxton," Veronica said, stopping Finn by gently grabbing her arm.
"I think it might have worked too well," he replied as he went after the birthday girl, carrying the small box with him.
When she heard him approach, Marguerite quickly wiped her face, hoping he wouldn't see any tale-tell moisture. "I'll be back inside in a minute. It was a little too warm in there for me," she told him when he joined her.
"You forgot this," he said, handing the box to her.
"I can't believe you melted your spare flask down for me," she quietly marveled, placing the box in her lap.
"Why not? I really wasn't using it and you're more than worth it. What I didn't use in your gift was turned into bullets," Roxton said as he picked up the small heart. Placing it in her hand, Roxton whispered, "I wanted you to know that no matter what, you'll always have my love."
Marguerite looked up, eyes shining in the moonlight.
Eventually the pair rejoined the others and everyone had a drink and toasted the birthday girl, Marguerite raised her glass and tapped it gently for their attention. "I was horrible to all of you today because I thought you'd forgotten my birthday. Before coming to the plateau, I always dreaded my birthday because no one ever remembered or cared. But now, since being here with all of you, I actually look forward to it. But I had no idea you all had planned this night just for me. I don't really deserve it, after the way I treated you all today."
"We're sorry if we hurt you, but it was Roxton's idea to surprise you," Finn confessed.
"FINN!" Veronica, Ned and Challenger shouted.
Roxton and Marguerite laughed.
"Well it was," Finn said pouting.
"Finn, it's all right. I don't mind you telling her. It's been a rough few months for all of us and I figured the best way to help cheer everyone up was to have a party. What better reason to have a party then to celebrate a loved one's birth? I knew I was risking the wrath of Marguerite by planning a surprise for her, but I'm willing to take whatever punishment she comes up with," Roxton declared.
They all laughed at Roxton's little speech.
"Now that the evening's surprises are officially over," Marguerite said, looking at Roxton's Cheshire cat grin, "I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for all of your thoughtful gifts and for not forgetting."
"You're welcome, Marguerite," Veronica, Malone and Finn replied in unison.
"My pleasure Marguerite," Challenger answered.
Then slowly, one by one, the others started coming up with reasons why they needed to call it a night, leaving Roxton and Marguerite alone.
"So, you ready for your punishment?" Marguerite whispered huskily as she leaned closer to Roxton.
"I think so, but please, be gentle with me," Roxton replied before Marguerite captured his mouth in a kiss.