Five days had gone by since the afternoon Roxton had stumbled into the treehouse holding Marguerite in his arms. Most of those days were a complete blur. Marguerite had been told some of the details. Roxton had carried her back to the treehouse and had barely left her side since. Veronica and Malone had risked their own lives to find the butterfly weed and return it to the treehouse. Challenger had used the plant to make the decoction that had ultimately saved her life. Though Marguerite had become adept over the years at looking out for her own welfare, she was unaccustomed to this response from others. It felt strange to know these four people would risk life and limb to protect her. It felt even stranger to know she would do the same for them in a heartbeat.

She looked over at the bedside chair, where Roxton sat reading aloud from a book of poetry that had belonged to Veronica's parents. Everyone was taking turns keeping her entertained as Challenger felt it would be several more days before she was strong enough to get out of bed for any length of time. She couldn't help but think back to some of the fevered dreams she had had during the worst parts of her illness. She had been so very tired. The thought of just letting herself drift away had been sorely tempting. It was with something akin to frustration that she found she couldn't. It was as if some earthbound force had grabbed on to her and wouldn't let her go. She was fairly certain that earthbound force resided in the man sitting in the chair next to her. --------

Roxton looked up from his book to find Marguerite staring at him. "Has my reading bored you already, my lady?" he asked with a grin.

"No. Not at all," Marguerite replied. "It's just that I want to tell you something. Something important."

Roxton was up in an instant, concerned etched on his face. "What is it? Is something wrong? Does something hurt?"

"No, John," she said soothingly, as she tried to ease his fear and panic. "How can I be anything but fine with four mother hens flocking around when I so much as sneeze?"

"Then what is it?" Roxton asked.

"I've spent most of my life with no one to count on but myself. After a while, you start to think there is nothing life can throw at you that you can't handle. I'm not used to asking for help, John. I'm certainly not used to having people around who are willing to help and want nothing in return. I'm sorry I didn't trust you enough to ask for help when I needed it, and I'm truly sorry to have caused you so much worry."

Roxton moved onto the bed next to her. Brown eyes stared into gray ones as he gently pressed his lips to hers in a feather-light kiss.

A nervous cough from behind him told Roxton that Challenger had arrived for the next shift. He rose from Marguerite's bed, his hand holding hers lightly.

"I worry because I care," he said lovingly. "And I always will."

"She's all yours, George," he said as he handed Challenger to book of poetry and exited the room. He could barely contain his amusement when he heard Marguerite ask Challenger to forego poetry reading in favor of inventing something to get the stains out of her favorite camisole