Disclaimer: I DO NOT own TLW or any of the characters...I'm just playing with them!! No profits are being made off this...if there was I wouldn't be in college, I'd be selling stories!
Rating: PG-13
Setting: AU, after Finn but before HoTS
Authors Note: Forgive any grammar mistakes! This is my 3rd TLW story....so hopefully with more practice I'll get better! Please review, I love reviews!





Finally Home:





"Your kidding right?" Marguerite Krux said as she looked at Lord John Roxton. She looked at the dirty, muddy ground and then back at him.

"No way, Roxton. You're out of your mind if you think that I'm going get that in my hair."

"Marguerite, come on." Roxton whined, "You said you wanted to....I know you do." he said as he crept closer to her. He gave her a sly grin and continued walking to her.

She started backing up slowly knowing what effect he had on her, but by god the ground was so muddy, and they didn't even have a blanket. She felt him get closer to her and she closed her eyes and swore under her breath until she felt him kiss her......


*********

*Almost there* he thought. After months of isolation and solo adventures Ned Malone was almost to the treehouse. He originally left to find his own story, and that he did. On his way home he had begun to reflect on everything that had happened.

The tribe that he had stayed with for a short time, getting their stories with pictures since he did not understand their language. They seemed fascinated by him, catering to him like he was a god. He traveled like that from tribe to tribe. Often there were times when he was alone for days at a time, but it didn't bother him much. After a month at the latest village he decided to move on and see some previously unexplored part of the plateau. There he found exotic plants that even Marguerite would appreciate.

Marguerite..."I wonder if she even missed me." Ned mused to himself. He had often thought, even dreamed about returning home. But only if the time felt right. Now there was a longing to be there. To see his friends again and share his stories. Even though he'd never admit it to Marguerite, he did miss her terribly. He wanted to sit down to a cup of coffee with her and chat.

"Mmm..coffee sure sounds good right now, " he mumbled, "Roxton makes the best coffee." Malone often wondered what Roxton thought about his departure. He'd always friends with the man, but just before he left Ned felt an even closer bond to Roxton. The day they shared their war experiences brought them closer together than either one thought possible.

Malone shook off those unpleasant war memories and moved to happier ones. *I bet right now Challenger is running through the treehouse with something about to explode* he thought as he smiled to himself. He missed the older man, almost like a father to him. He could almost picture him in the lab babbling about some experiment, and the others nodding their heads away to make him happy.

And Veronica...*Where to start* he thought, *She said just friends before I left, but I feel like we should be more* She'd always left him with the impression that she felt a...connection with him. Now he was just confused. "Women" he sighed, as he continued walking down the path that led him home.

********

"Challenger is this really necessary?" Veronica asked. She stood in the center of the eastern clearing holding a bottle of...something he had made earlier, high in the air so that the sunlight would hit it.

"Veronica I explained to you that the rays of the sun must directly hit the liquid so that it can..."

"I know, I know! You've told me a dozen times, my arms are just tired." Veronica said cutting him off before he could go into another lengthy explanation.

"Err..sorry" Challenger said sheepishly. "I just want it to go perfect." After a few moments, "I wonder how Finn is doing." he mused.

Earlier that day Marguerite, who was supposed to milk the goat, told Finn that if she really wanted to be 'initiated' into the make-shift family she had to try her hand at milking the goat. A task NOT taken lightly by any of the treehouse members. On more than one occasion she had been known to humiliate them, even to the point of chewing holes in their clothing!

Finn sensing a challenge immediately volunteered to take on the task and said to them that if anyone could tame the goat she could. They all left her to it, thinking she couldn't get into that much trouble....could she?

Veronica smiled at him, "Challenger I'm sure she's fine...besides Finn's a big girl, she can take care of herself."

********

Malone was only a few yards from the treehouse when he noticed his surroundings. Absolute silence reigned. No screech of birds, no monkey chatter, no dinosaur roars, no trickle of water, not even the gentlest whisper of wind. The only sound was the muffled crunch of his own footsteps. In the lush, vivid jungle, the quiet was anomalous and send an eerie chill racing down his spine. A sudden, loud crack--so intense he could feel it in his bones--reverberated across the plateau. He turned instinctively knowing where the sound had originated. Terror grabbed his stomach as he muttered, "the treehouse", and took off into a dead run.

Malone ran as fast as he could and flew past the electric fence. He stopped abruptly at the site before him. He didn't know what to make of it.

"AHHH, GET IT OFF ME!!!!" the girl said.

Ned broke out into laughter, here was this young girl sitting on a heap of broken wood, of what used to be a chair, with a goat pinning her down. The goat was obviously very happy chewing on her hair and made no effort to even look up at Ned's presence.

"Don't just stand there, HELP ME!" she screamed at him.

He finally regained his senses and walked over nearer to her and the goat. After many attempts of pushing and pulling the goat finally relented and ran back into her make-shift house.

"Thanks, now who the hell are you and what are you doing here?" Finn said holding out her crossbow to Malone.

"Whoa! I save you and now your gonna kill me? What do you mean who am I? Who are you and what are you doing in my home?"

Finn eyed him suspiciously, "Your Malone aren't you?"

"Yes, how do you know my name. Where is Veronica and the others?" Ned watched her put her crossbow down, but then swiftly bring it back up only this time it wasn't pointed at him.

Out from the jungle Roxton and Marguerite emerged. Roxton yelled to Finn, "FINN, you all right?"

"I'm fine, it's just the chair broke!" she answered back.

Ned saw them and started taking in their appearances. Roxton jogged over to them his shirt was hazardly half tucked in, his suspenders weren't pulled over his shoulders, and his hair was very ruffled.

Marguerite looked the same, her blouse wasn't buttoned all the way, her hair was also array, and she was still pulling at her skirt while running up to the others.

"Malone!!!" Marguerite squealed. She ran up to him and almost knocked him down with the force of her hug. *Guess she did miss me* He returned her hug and then looked over her shoulder towards Roxton.

Roxton was grinning like an idiot, "Malone! Good to have you back!" as he good heartily slapped his back. "Where have you been all this time?"

"Oh just about everywhere. I think I've covered this entire plateau, and my boots show it." He looked back over to the girl. "Who's this?"

Marguerite started to say, "That...", but was cut off by the girl herself.

"I'm Finn. Nice to meet ya." She stuck out her hand and Malone done the same.

Marguerite chuckled, "It's a long story Malone, we'll explain her later. Right now we need to find Veronica and Challenger. I know Veronica missed you very much."

Malone's face lit up, "She did? Really?"

Finn piped up, "Yeah all she's done is talk about you and how she couldn't wait until you came home."

*I can't believe it! Maybe she doesn't want us to be just friends* "Well let's go find her. And Challenger," he added.

The four of them went up to the treehouse to leave a note in case Challenger or Veronica returned before they found them. Malone heard Marguerite and Roxton ask Finn how milking the goat went. She told them of her trouble with the chair, but failed to leave out the part about the goat itself. *Well I guess I can understand that*

"Sooo Roxton, Marguerite you two all right?" Ned asked casually.

"Yeah why?" Marguerite frowned at him.

"You guys just look like you've been in a war or something."

Marguerite's face turned crimson and she looked down to 'fix' her boot. Roxton was trying not to smile, and tried to sputter out an explanation. "Well Malone, we were trying to climb this tree to reach these fruits and then..."

Finn burst into his speech, "Oh please! You both weren't more than 300 yards from me, you think I'm deaf!"

It was Roxton's turn to blush. Malone was just about to say something else when they heard the elevator come up.

Marguerite muttered, "Thank God", under her breath then suddenly pushed Malone toward the bedrooms. "Malone go hide and we'll tell Veronica we have a surprise for her, hurry!"

He ran into his old room and waited. He heard Finn yell, "Vee, guess what! We have a surprise!!!" *Loud girl, a little too enthusiastic if you ask me*

*******

Back in the main room Veronica looked about to see Finn absolutely beaming, Roxton and Marguerite were...well...a little too happy. *Wonder what they've been up to* she thought.

"Can I show her, pllleeeeease!!!" Finn whined.

"Oh all right, just stop whining will you!" Marguerite complained. She wanted to get back to her 'chores' sometime today.

"Great! Close your eyes Vee and don't open them until I say!" Finn ran out of the room and went back towards the sleeping quarters.

Veronica closed her eyes and waited. Challenger caught Marguerite and Roxton's attention and gave them a questioning glance.

Roxton just answered him with a, "You'll see George."

Finn came back into the room with Malone and stood him in front of Veronica. "Okay Vee open your eyes!!"

Veronica opened them, and was shocked. "NED!" she yelled and hugged him tightly. "Oh my god, your home!!!"

The others looked at one another and smiled. Challenger waited until Veronica had backed off a little to welcome Malone home.

That night a feast was made and the wine was brought out. All 6 of the explorers sat around the table laughing and eating merrily. Even Finn was enjoying herself, even though she barely knew Malone.

He told them stories of his travels, and the others filled him in on what he had missed over the past few months. As the night traveled on they all started to head off to bed, the table was cleared away and everyone was ready to say their goodnights.

Marguerite walked over to Malone, "Now Ned, you sure your gonna be here in the morning? Because if your not here and there's not a pot of coffee brewing I'm hunting you down, and not even Veronica will be able to save you."

"I'll be here don't worry." He said chuckling. *I forgot how much I've missed them*

"All right Neddy-boy, I'll see you bright and early." Roxton said.

Veronica came back into the main room saying, "Oh Ned I forgot something." She walked over to him and kissed him thoroughly...in front of everyone. When she pulled back she whispered, "Welcome Home". Then she said good-night to the others and went to her room.

Challenger coughed, "Uh hum, yes well Good-night everyone. See you in the morning. Finn, get tucked in, your helping me in the lab tomorrow remember?"

"Uhhhh, Challenger! I wanna stay up longer and talk to Malone, he's got good stories!!"

"Nope, in bed young lady. Tomorrow you'll thank me". Challenger ushered her off to her room, with Finn whining the whole way.

Marguerite whispered something in Roxton's ear which made him smile. He rubbed his hands together and said, "Well Neddy-boy I'm off to bed, see you in the morning"

"Good-night Malone, sleep tight." Marguerite said to him.

He watched the two of them to to their separate rooms and watched how Roxton grinned at Marguerite. He then heard a light whisper of what sounded like "see you soon". *Geez, wonder when that happened* Ned looked around at the place he'd called home for 3 years. The memories he had here, he'd cherish always. As he walked to his room he looked around one last time and thought to himself *I'm finally home*

Just before he went into his room he stopped, and looked back. Mulling over the decision he finally turned and headed toward the room across the hall, in which Veronica was sitting on the bed waiting for him.


THE END