tagSci-Fi & FantasyBattle of Wills Ch. 05

Battle of Wills Ch. 05


Margeurite made no further obvious attempts at seduction for a week, she merely accompanied Adam throughout his day. She seemed quite relaxed and nonchalant about helping him, whispers and silent cues continued, but he noticed they did not linger or tease. Her advice was good, she only noticeably interrupted a meeting when it was about supplies for the barge and it's accompanying fleet. He'd thought to ask about why the supply master was reporting that a stop was required, but she had more.

"What do you mean supplies are being consumed faster than expected?" She leaned forward, one hand still on the back of his chair, the other pressed against the table.

"Exactly that, it seems that the rations of food and water that we judged are approximately 8% too small." The supply master's fingers flew over the electronic pad in front of him to bring up the reports and charts. Margeurite's eyes narrowed as she scanned the numbers, then she bit her lip. Adam couldn't help feeling the warmth that radiated from her closeness, his eyes surreptitiously skimmed over her torso as he noted the soft scent of perfume wafting from her.

"Well the food ration doesn't seem to be that far off, nor the water, however..." Margeurite's expression dipped into a frown as she tapped the table in a few places to bring up other reports and numbers. "We're not making use of anywhere near our maximum of storage when we bring on supplies, and you've forgotten to account that half the ration of water is meant to be split into oxygen for the people and hydrogen for the engines..." her eyebrows climbed "And the only allotment for bathwater is for the high quarters? No wonder my maids hover around my rooms..." her eyes narrowed and darted toward the supply master, boring into him and making him cringe after a moment before flickering up to the assistants nearby who were already pale. "I think I see what's going on."

"My Lady...I..." the supply master began, squirming in his seat as he spoke before she interrupted.

"Which of you two has actually been in charge of seeing to the supplies?" Margeurite's voice rang out at the two assistants just before Adam's growled.

"She is your Queen, not your Lady." his eyes narrowed at the supply master. Adam hadn't quite accepted her beyond the duties she was there to serve for, but that was no reason to undermine her rank. He barely noticed when one of the assistants stepped forward to answer her question.

"I've been trying my best My Queen...but the scope of it all..." he sighed "it's a bit hard to grasp." Margeurite nodded.

"Yes, it would be for someone whose mentor is being entirely unhelpful." her eyes hardened for an instant but didn't go toward the supply master. "You have done quite well so far." her warm smile put the assistants both at ease as she let her gaze tell both they were not under censure. "You on the other hand..." her tone turned cold as she dropped to the supply master.

"Are no longer employed as supply master." Adam's growl took over the rest of the sentence, Margeurite slid her eyes to him and barely nodded her agreement as she was too far away to give her usual silent cue of a stroke against his shoulder. "You are now his assistant." Adam pointed to the one that had stepped forward. "And you WILL do as he says or you will find yourself unemployed entirely." The man swallowed, clearly thinking of luxuries he was already being cut off from by the change in pay, and the bug eyed as he thought of going without those that even the assistant's pay would allow him. The new supply master on the other hand went bug eyed and stammered.

"Y-your maj-jesty...I" his words seemed to fail him utterly and Margeurite picked up the tablet on the table.

"Come, I will help you set these numbers right, you too" she gestured toward the other assistant as she headed toward the other end of the long table. She summoned a screen from the table's surface as she began educating the two in what their previous master had failed to show them.

Adam dismissed the man, he scrambled from his chair and out the door while the king focused his eyes on his wife, musing at how she seemed to know how everything should work. It was only a short time later that she rose and clapped the two men on the shoulders before returning his gaze, her voice rising to carry to him instead of the murmur it was during the lessons.

"I believe these two together can get the job done now that they know what areas they've been skimping on, I would suggest appointing them both to the position."

"I would like you to be sure of them, clearly you know the supplies better than I." Adam gestured his assent, and frustration at the topic as she sauntered back to his side. Margeurite settled her hand on the corner of the back of his chair again and leaned close to whisper.

"Well of course, it is woman's prerogative to run her home is it not?" the little teasing jab came with a sparkle of eye and wrinkled nose as she referred to an ancient division of tasks. He grunted to cover the chuckle it brought to his throat before she continued "Oh come now, if you can't chuckle at something funny, no wonder you're such a grump." her free hand settled on his shoulder and he shook his head before relenting and letting the mirth bubble up into laughter. The new supply masters decided to take their bows and left when Margeurite joined his laughter and twisted to settle herself across his lap to keep from falling to the floor.

"Hmmph!" Adam grunted as her weight settled on him, between that and the laughter, he was breathless, but circled his arms around her as she leaned into him as she giggled. Eventually when the fit ran it's course he muttered "I suppose we really ought to talk about who would be better at overseeing what..." he sighed, realizing how long he'd been trying to do everything himself. Margeurite smiled and reached a hand up to stroke his cheek, then slide her hand down to his shoulder, he couldn't help the little thrill that coursed through him at the fact that she was teasing him again.

"Yes we should, that is why I am here, to help you with all of this." she gestured at the table in a way that reminded him of when it was stacked with tablets that were physical reminders of the reports that were flowing his way. His shoulders sagged a bit as he thought of it. "Ah ah, no discouraging frowns... there's only one of you, you should know better than to personally investigate everything." she tapped his nose. He growled half heartedly and playfully bit at her finger. She smiled and teased it along his lips, tracing them softly.

"Why are you teasing now? I thought you had stopped." He asked.

"I stopped because you needed to focus on things, and started again because you were getting too serious." Her fingertip danced along his jawline to his ear, then down his neck, tracing along the muscle to the hollow of his throat.

"Stop that." He picked her up and set her on the table in front of him.

"Fine, I just thought you needed a break from the tension." she shifted so that her feet dangled on either side of his knees, her hands on the edge of the table between her own while she leaned forward on them, a smile hovering on her lips as she dropped back into a teasing tone. "I knew you'd have to say stop at some point."

Adam didn't reply as he slid his gaze over her body, her pose was alluring and he could just imagine the way her cleavage looked in that tunic, except for the scarf that was circling her shoulders and clinging to the back of her head. His hand wandered up to unwind it, leaving the tails to drape from the back of her neck down her arms. He sat back, one hand resting on teh arm of his chair, the other supporting his chin as he looked at her wonderingly. She tilted her head and raised an eyebrow curiously, waiting for him to speak.

"What am I going to do with you?" he muttered more to himself than her. She chuckled and shifted her position to lean back on her hands, her feet stroked up the sides of his thighs and he found himself shifting to let them continue to his hips.

"Well if you're asking for a suggestion, I'd say enjoy the benefits of married life." a smile quirked at her lips as his eyes darkened and he sat forward, his hands settling on the table on either side of her hips.

"So far the benefits have been one helpful adviser with a very annoying streak whenever alone." He grumbled, inches from her face and she couldn't resist pressing a kiss to his forehead.

"Perhaps you should do something about that annoying streak then." She shrugged her shoulders as she slid down onto her elbows, looking up at him, her body hinting at what she'd look like sprawling across the table. He stood to tower over her before shifting his hands up along the table's surface.

"Is that another suggestion from the helpful adviser?" he hovered over her, not quite letting his body touch hers.

"No, just common sense from your wife, the adviser would say that it is rather pointless to have a resource around that you do not use." Her legs curled up, brushing over his hips before her feet settled on the edge of the table as she let herself lay down on the cool surface, her hands sliding out to trace along the edges of the table until they were stretched over her head. He couldn't help noting the way it enhanced her body beneath the form fitting tunic.

"Wasn't my choice of resource." he began to push himself away. Her legs flashed up around his hips and her ankles locked together behind his back, her eyes flashed hotly and he wasn't sure whether from anger or desire.

"Then tell me, who is it you would have chosen if you could have anyone you desired?" The brilliant flash in her eyes gone now, replaced by the earnest question. He sighed, closing his eyes and letting his head droop a bit as he leaned against the table.

"There was this girl when I was still a young boy. She was one of the servant's children that was allowed to play with me. I don't know how many scuffles and scrapes we got into back at home." he began and his eyes opened again, but the look was distant, and she knew exactly what he was seeing. "She was better than most of the boys that were around at everything I liked to do, riding, wrestling, fencing with sticks. She wasn't fond of the dresses that she was put into when I managed to convince my mother that I wanted her with me at the various dinners and balls I had to go to. She bore it well for me, we would take food from the buffet table and hide beneath it to eat while pretending there was no one outside of the tent the tablecloth made." he sighed and paused.

"Go on." Margeurite gently urged, her expression hooded but curious.

"What does it matter?" he growled and pushed away from the table with great enough force that it dragged her half off it, her legs tightened to keep her from falling to the floor.

"It does matter, because it is clearly bothering you. Please...it might help you to talk about it." She shifted up onto her elbows again, then her hands as she let loose with her legs, pushing herself back up to sit on the edge of the table, watching him.

"Her name was mAggie, or at least that's what I'd called her ever since we were little, no one ever corrected it so I don't know whether that was her real one or not." He stepped away from his chair and paced around the table as he continued. She barely bothered to twist her head to keep track of his progress around the room. "She was my best friend, I've never had anyone that meant more to me or trusted more besides my family. She got along with all of them wonderfully, engaging, playful, but she also knew that she wasn't quite one of us and was respectful when family matters took precedence." he paused and frowned at the far end of the table. "The last time I saw her, I had arranged for an all night party. My family was away on various business and I was the only one at the palace, of course I was never actually left alone you realize." Margeurite nodded her acknowledgement even though he didn't seem to expect or look for a response. "We were camping in the garden, a bunch of hammocks and tents that we'd set up ourselves, it was a horrible sight for anyone that knew how to not make a mess of a camp...but it was all ours. I remember that the servants muttered about adjusting the sprinkler system so it wouldn't wake us and making sure that I picked a night that we would be able to see well enough and wasn't supposed to rain. I thought it was pointless because of course the weather wouldn't dare ruin our party." He laughed ruefully. "In the end it wasn't anything but a man that ruined it. After we'd gone to sleep he crept into the camp, apparently some sort of assassin. Maggie was the only one that woke up, and that was more by chance because she was thirsty. She saw him skulking about and cried out loud enough that we all woke up. But he was already among us, he threw his blade before the guards managed to get hold of him, it was headed right for my throat. Maggie reacted faster than I thought possible, I was mesmerized by the metal flying for my head...until she blocked the view. Her arms wrapped around my shoulders and she took me out of the hammock to the ground, but not before it caught her. I remember she smiled even as she coughed blood on me and told me that she'd haunt me if I were not as good as she thought I could be. She was picked up and taken to the infirmary then. It was a while before I could try to go see her, by then she was gone."

"She died?" Margeurite asked in a soft voice, looking up at him where he'd reached his chair again.

"No...she was just gone, the doctor said he'd put her in stasis and sent her off to be cared for by someone that might be able to keep her alive." He slumped into his seat and buried his face into a hand.

"And it's her you wish you could have." Margeurite continued, reaching out to stroke a hand over his head as he nodded. "I don't blame you, she clearly loved you even then."

"That night was the first time we kissed...before the attack." Adam murmured, almost too softly to be heard.

"Do you have any leads as to where she went?" she asked.

"Yes, now that I have the resources at my disposal, I traced her from the palace to a medical center where she was stabilized, then she went through a few rehabilitation facilities before it seems she nearly vanishes. All I have is the name of a company that paid for her treatment...and that seems to be nearly impossible to get any answers from."

"Well perhaps in the future you will be able to find her..." Margeurite tilted her head, "Until then, why not let me keep you company?"

"It wouldn't be so bad if you didn't resemble her," he spat with a bit of venom to it, "Mother must have picked you to try and remind me!"

"What do you mean?" Marguerite asked.

"You have the same color of eyes as her. Her hair was lighter though, and she could never have stood letting it grow out this long." he shifted and brushed his hand against a tendril that had escaped the wavy braid running down her back.

"Perhaps I can take her place for a while?" Margeurite slid herself off the table and onto his lap "If she were here, what would you say...and do?" she asked, her earnestness showing in her face. She almost cringed as his hand curled up into the hair at the back of her neck and he glared at her for a long moment before relaxing, giving a little nod.

"Thank you." was all he said before his lips descended on hers in a soft kiss. Margeurite curled her arms around his shoulders as their lips repeated a tentative kiss from well over a decade before. He didn't think to wonder at how her lips matched his in pace as he got lost in a place of imagination, picking up where his memory left off. Adam's hands barely wandered over her body, only finding a place to curl around her waist to hold her against him as their lips and tongues danced for a while before he broke away for a breath and simply held her. Margeurite barely dared to breathe, simply enjoying being held against him for a while until he stirred. His hands went to her arms and sat her up to look at him.

"Yes?" she asked in response to his searching look.

"You don't mind knowing I'm looking for another woman, one that I'll likely never find?" his brows furrowed.

"No...how could I?" she shook her head, causing her disheveled braid to tumble back and forth across her shoulders.

"From jealousy...I don't know." he shrugged and she laughed.

"Why would I be jealous?" Margeurite shrugged "As long as I'm not tossed on the rubbish heap, I would not mind sharing." She tilts her head and grins "Besides, if she's a willing sort, I might not mind sharing your bed with her too." that caused his eyebrows to climb above surprised eyes.

"Well that's..." he began and whistled out through his teeth.

"What?" She straightened up on her own and looked at him curiously "Do you really think I would have agreed to marry you if I did not care about you and want to protect and help you?"

"I'm wondering how you know me so well." his eyes narrowed at her.

"Because I've always been around you, just out of sight, or sometimes in very plain sight, you just didn't see."

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