Notes: 'Bella notte' is, of course, Italian for 'beautiful night'. There are no actual spoilers in this story, just know that it takes place sometime after season one, because Summerlee isn't there. This is my first try at Lost World fanfic, so please Review and let me know what you think!!

Bella Notte by Ijemanja

It was night time in the treehouse, and all was quiet - as would usually be expected at such a late hour. A solitary candle shed a small amount of light over the otherwise dark kitchen where Marguerite stood leaning against the workbench. Having found herself hungry in the middle of the night, she had risen quietly and come in robe and bare feet to search out something to eat.

Now she wiped a stray drop of juice from her chin as she finished a piece of fruit, and then reached for some nuts from a canister. As she pulled out a handful, however, some overflowed and sent a small shower of nuts scattering across the bench and floor.

Swearing under her breath, she crouched down and gathered them up again. She reached up and deposited them on the bench, and was just standing up when something decidedly out of place caught her eye. She stopped in her tracks and looked again. What was it doing there? How could it have gotten there? She moved slowly forward and peered at it thoughtfully.

"Well, what could it hurt if I took a closer look?" she murmured.

There on a low shelf, partially hidden by a basket of root vegetables, was an oddly shaped bundle wrapped in a tea cloth. Wondering why on earth someone would take the trouble to hide something, and then do it so poorly, she reached past the tubers and brought the bundle out. It all became clear, though, as soon as she unwrapped it.

"Ah, Veronica," she said to herself, "You should leave deception to the experts."

It was a batch of sweet bread rolls - one of Veronica's specialties - the kind with dried fruit baked into them. Marguerite realised they must have been made on the sly that afternoon, when nobody was around. These being a particular favourite of everyone in the group, they had a tendency to disappear as soon as they were made. Veronica must have been saving them - perhaps as a surprise for breakfast in the morning.

Well, whatever they were for, Marguerite decided that just one wouldn't be missed. She took a bite while she rewrapped the remaining rolls in the cloth, and chewed appreciatively as she returned the bundle to its hiding place.

She resumed her previous stance, leaning over the bench, while she continued to munch on the unexpected treat. She glanced around the room - darkened, silent, empty of her companions - and couldn't help but reflect on how rather nice it was like this.

It was calm, and peaceful, and pleasantly devoid of any and all company. Late at night here in the treehouse was arguably the best time of any day. She had discovered this upon first coming to live in the cramped treehouse with altogether too many other people for so small a living space. All of them together, in such close quarters, day after day, was enough to drive any reasonable person to distraction.

If this had been Marguerite's treehouse, she was sure she would have kicked them all out ages ago. Veronica had probably considered doing this on more than one occasion. Though most likely more on my account than any of the others, she conceded.

Giving a little shrug - she'd never claimed to be easy to live with - Marguerite finished off the last bite of her roll with relish. She was feeling quite satisfied after her solitary midnight feast, and ready to go to bed. First, though, she tidied away the evidence of her illicit nocturnal activities. That done, she surveyed the scene, ensuring all was as it should be. And it was, except...

There was a faint light coming up the stairs from Challenger's lab. When she'd first noticed it, she hadn't thought anything of it - when he was engrossed in a project, the man could be an incurable night owl. But now she realised she hadn't heard a single sound emanating from down there. She wondered whether he had simply gone to bed and left a light burning by mistake.

Yawning widely into her hand, she went with heavy steps down the stairs. It was only to stop short, however, as she reached the bottom to find Challenger, head down on a page of notes, snoring ever so lightly.

She considered waking him, and urging him to go to bed... But knowing him, he wouldn't go. Whatever new topic he had found to obsess over, he would want to get right back to it. If he was tired enough to fall asleep in such an uncomfortable position, hunched over on a stool, then he obviously needed to rest, she reasoned.

She put out the light, though, before tiptoeing back upstairs in the dark.

This time, she successfully left the kitchen dark and undisturbed. She took the candle with her and was looking forward to gaining her bed when a sudden 'thud' disturbed the peace of the treehouse. It came from Malone's room.

"Oh, what now?" she asked herself.

Tempted as she was to just ignore it, it had been a rather unexpected, abnormal noise for this time of night... She sighed as she went to investigate.

She stopped in the doorway to Malone's room and peered in. Not even awake, she thought, but perhaps not long asleep. He was lying stomach down, his face squished into his pillow, his arm draped off the side of the bed. On the floor below one of his journals was lying haphazardly askew.

She planted one hand on her hip, her mouth twisting sourly as she surveyed the scene. What is it with the men around here? she asked herself, then amended, well, two of them, anyway. And both so preoccupied with their books and work that they can't even go to bed in a decent manner. Rolling her eyes, she left the reporter slumbering on unaware of her derision.

Her irritation was slight, however, and as she passed Veronica's door on the way to her own room, she couldn't help but pause and look in. Since I seem to be making the rounds anyway, she thought wryly.

Veronica at least, curled on her side, hands tucked under her chin, was not to be worried about. By the light of her candle, Marguerite even caught the hint of a smile on the sleeping woman's face. Someone was having pleasant dreams, apparently. Though if anyone deserves to have them, Veronica does. This was Marguerite's next, rather sentimental observation.

"I really must be tired," she mumbled to herself as she shook her head and went on her way.

In the next doorway, again almost involuntarily, she stopped and leaned against the frame. There the great, fearless hunter Lord John Roxton lay sleeping. On his back, one arm resting across his stomach, the other tucked beneath the pillow next to his head.

He had once informed her that he slept 'like a baby'. While she would probably not have used that particular comparison to describe him - even vulnerable and unguarded as he was now, he was not in any way infantile - yet his features relaxed in sleep were more... gentle, perhaps, and carefree, than they were during the waking hours.

He looked appealing, she had to admit, lying there oblivious to her gaze. She took the opportunity to observe him freely - his solid, sculpted chest which the bedclothes only partially covered, muscular arms, hair just a little mussed from sleep... Her eyes then moved over the familiar, handsome features of his face. He did look awfully peaceful and content just now.

She smiled benevolently at the scene, and as she did so, he took a deep breath suddenly and sighed in his sleep. He shifted from his back over onto his side, and just seemed to be settling down again when he stilled and raised his head. He blinked and squinted towards the point of light shed by her candle.

"Who's that? Marguerite?" he asked, his voice confused and sleep-ridden.

So much for the finely honed instincts of the great hunter, she thought to herself and stepped over the threshold into the room.

"You were expecting someone else?"

He let his head fall back on the pillow. "What are you doing up and about so late?"

"Just enjoying the peace and quiet." She shrugged, then confessed, "And I was hungry."

More awake now, he said, "You know, you should spend a little more time at night actually sleeping instead of sitting up late, and then you wouldn't be so difficult to wake up of a morning."

"Well, that sounds very reasonable," she mocked.

"Yes, it does," he said, ignoring her tone, and then lifted the covers. "So why don't you come back to bed?"

She rolled her eyes and blew out the candle. "What do you think I'm doing?"

"Standing there waiting for a written invitation, by the look of you."

She slipped the robe from her shoulders and draped it over a chair.

"Well you looked so peaceful, I didn't want to disturb you."

"That's never put you off before," he pointed out as she climbed in next to him. "You've been disturbing me on a regular basis for a good while now."

"I suppose you mean that in the nicest possible way?"

"More or less," he replied with a smirk. With an arm over her waist he pulled her closer, then sucked in a sharp breath and shrank away. "Your feet are cold!" he protested.

"Oh, don't be such a baby," she scoffed.

She tangled her legs with his, snuggling up against the warmth of his body.

"And how would you like it if I-"

"Just go to sleep, John," she cut him off with a perfunctory word and a quick kiss that landed somewhere between the corner of his mouth and his chin.

He sighed, admitting defeat, and gritted his teeth at the icy toes pressed against his calf. Brushing her loose hair back from her face, he kissed her forehead.

"Is everyone else in bed, at least?" he asked.

There was a slight pause.

"In a manner of speaking," she said finally.

There was a hint of dry humour in her voice that he didn't understand, but he was too tired to bother questioning her further. And for that she was thankful, being far too tired herself to explain.

the end