I thought for sure I was destined to be a `one hit wonder'. However, for better or for worse, here is a second fanfiction. The title I respectfully borrow from my single favorite episode of the X-files. Once again I would like to thank Colorado for her constant support. There is no way this story would have been written without her encouragement. I would also like to thank my best friends, Ilana and Martina, for both their creative and technical advice. You guys are the best.

One Breath

With a feeling of frustration Marguerite Krux slowly opened her eyes and immediately knew something was wrong. Despite what had been a very good night's sleep, she still felt tired and out of sorts. She had a bit of a headache and also noticed a slight burning in her throat when she swallowed. Sunlight poured through the window into the small section of the treehouse she called her own, a clear message that it was time to begin yet another day in the middle of nowhere. She seriously considered rolling over and going back to sleep but didn't wish to endure the taunts and sarcasm she just knew she would receive if she dared sleep even later then her usual.

Oh God, I can't be catching a cold. One of the things that Marguerite prided herself on was a strong constitution. She was very seldomly ill, even as a child. A handful of encounters with the nuns at the convent where she had been schooled and the horrid concoctions they had had the audacity to call "medicine" had taught her very quickly to keep her symptoms to herself. Though Marguerite loved attention, especially from the devilishly handsome lord she shared the treehouse with, she resolved to go about the business of the day with no one else the wiser.

Maybe she would have felt differently had she grown up in a real home with real parents; with a mother and father who loved her and would genuinely worry and, perhaps, even coddle her when she was sick. Unfortunately, that hadn't been the case. Years of emotional isolation had hardened her and had taught her from an early age to equate illness with weakness. The one thing she would never, ever do was admit weakness to anyone, especially here where weakness could mean the difference between life and death.

I might as well get up and face the day before they send someone in here to drag me out of bed. A cup of tea might even help my sore throat. Since she regularly enjoyed a cup of tea with breakfast, she knew that nobody would suspect her real motives.

Marguerite slowly rose from her bed, and as her head started to spin just as slowly sat back down. OK, Marguerite, that one was for practice. Now it's time to do it for real. You will not let this stupid bug get the better of you, she repeated over and over again, almost like a mantra, and with that she got up and wrapped herself in her silk robe. A quick glance at her reflection in the mirror had her cringing when she saw the faint circles underneath her eyes. She hoped that no one else would notice.

Marguerite entered the common area and found Ned, Roxton, and Veronica sitting comfortably around the small dining table enjoying the end of their breakfast. Undoubtedly, Challenger was already down in his lab tinkering with whatever new "invention" he was currently inspired by.

"Nice of you to join us, your highness. I hope that your humble servants aren't responsible for getting you out of bed too early," Roxton said with a sly grin.

It was a game they played regularly. Normally Marguerite dove right in, matching him barb for barb. Today she just wasn't in the mood, so she did something completely out of character: She simply stuck her tongue out at him and quietly poured herself a cup of tea, thankful they had left her some hot water.

"That was not particularly dignified, my lady," Roxton joked, feigning a hurt expression.

"I don't think I'm up to dining with the servants today, so I think I'll take my breakfast elsewhere." With that, Marguerite grabbed a piece of fruit and her tea and headed for her favorite chair on the balcony. Ned and Veronica's giggles verified that they all thought she was just continuing her game with Roxton. The truth of the matter was that her throat was hurting even more and she was worried someone would notice her wince when sipping her tea.

It was pleasant on the balcony. The last several days had been unseasonably warm, but it appeared to be finally cooling off a bit, perhaps a promise of chilly nights ahead. With her breakfast eaten and the late morning sun pouring on to the balcony, it didn't take long for Marguerite to doze off again.

Lord John Roxton's comments about lazy heiresses died on his lips as he approached the balcony and saw Marguerite curled up on a chair and sound asleep. Her beauty took his breath away. Her ebony hair surrounded her like black silk. She had a rosiness to her cheeks Roxton attributed to the time spent sleeping in the sun. It was amazing how peaceful she looked when asleep. It was during these rare moments Roxton felt as though he was getting a glimpse of the real Marguerite hidden beneath so many layers of distrust. It was a shame he had to wake her. Nevertheless, duty called and it was her turn to help him with the hunting.

Lord knows I'm going to catch hell for waking her, but it does give me the opportunity to spend the day with her alone. So with a timidity one wouldn't expect from a man who had stared down some of the most dangerous animals on the planet, he gently kissed the forehead of his sleeping beauty.