Disclaimer: Still not mine.

Author's Note: So close to the end here. And probably no more really cruel cliffhangers left alone for months. Dedicated to Kelly and the readers and reviewers.

Witness Protection

Chapter Twenty-Two

Keith Mars arrived at the Bombeck house a few minutes before six in the morning. Veronica had texted him on their way back to the house to let him know where she'd be and to remind him where they kept their spare key, in case he got there before anyone woke up. He was amused that she didn't seem to know that he'd been the one to put their spare where it was.

Since there were no lights on and the house was silent, that seemed to be the case. He didn't want to wake anyone up, so he felt along the bottom of the window to the left of the door for the small compartment that held the spare key. Harvey was practically his brother. Letting him keep the key to his house in an obvious fake rock would have been an insult to their friendship.

When he got inside, he discovered that he could have gone without the key. A soft knock would have gotten Mac's attention. She was sitting in front of her laptop at the dining room table, the soft glow providing the only light in the room. He could hear her typing in keys one at a time. He was confused for a moment. If she was supposed to be a computer genius, why was she typing like...well, like him? Then he saw the sling.

Mac looked up from her computer, startled by the sound of his footsteps. Her face relaxed as soon as she recognized him, but he didn't miss the look of fear that crossed it first. "Hey, Sheriff Mars," she said quietly, looking back at her screen.

"Mac, how many years has it been? It's Keith, please. Anyway, shouldn't you be asleep? I hear that's one of the very few activities you're supposed to do after you get shot."

She shook her head. "Can't sleep."

Keith came closer, then took across the table from her. "Nightmares?"

"No, nightmares would require me to get to sleep first. Just...every time I close my eyes, I see that ambulance, and the emergency room..." She trailed off, unable to finish. What she'd experienced in the waiting room, huddled with Veronica and Logan, was not so much sleep, but more like unconsciousness. She hadn't fallen asleep; she had passed out. She looked back to him again. "I'm sorry. You must be dying to see Veronica. She and Logan are up the stairs, to the right, and down at the very end of the hall."

He winced. He'd been trying very hard to delude himself into thinking that they were in separate bedrooms, and that all those hotel rooms they'd stayed in had two beds. "I'm assuming that they can sleep?"

Mac noticed his expression and immediately regretted giving him that mental picture. "Yeah, I think they're asleep."

"Then I won't interrupt." He went to the pantry, hoping that Lulu still favored the local coffee that was, in his opinion, the best coffee in the known universe. He wished they had a website so he could order it online. Sure enough, there were a few bags of differing flavors on the top shelf, right where he remembered them. "I think I'm going to need some world class coffee to get through this day. Want some?"

"Sure. And I'm guessing you want more details about yesterday than Veronica gave you? She told me she didn't exactly elaborate."

He set some hazelnut coffee to brewing, then sat down across from her again to wait. "See, Mac, that's a quality I love for Veronica's friends to have. My life is just so much simpler when you're forthcoming."

Despite how hard the night before had been, Veronica woke up a little after eight that morning. Logan was still out for the count, and she couldn't blame him. She'd slept a little at the hospital, but he hadn't. She let him sleep and went downstairs in her pajamas. She knew no one else in the house would object, so she didn't want to wake Logan up by trying to find an outfit for the day.

She heard her father's voice before she actually saw him. The only thing that kept her from sprinting to him was her strong desire to not fall down the stairs or go sliding across the floor like Tom Cruise in that movie Logan liked. "Well, of course you approve of him, Harvey. He's exactly like you were at that age."

"Head over heels in love with my Lulu and willing to do whatever it took to keep her by my side? Yeah, that sounds about right. Listen, Keith, I know they haven't been here long, but I've seen them fight and make up and function like couples their age can usually only dream of. I know he's had his problems. The lovebirds told us all about it the night they got in. But hell, growing up in that house? Who could blame him for being a bit on the wild side? If we could, we'd adopt the kid. If you try to look at this without the overprotective father perspective..."

Harvey never finished his sentence. Veronica came into the room and headed straight for her dad, wrapping her arms around his neck and trying to hold back the tears. "Dad! How long have you been here? Why didn't you wake me up? I missed you so much!" She lost the battle with her tears and allowed herself to cry into his shirt.

"I got here a couple hours ago, sweetie. And I didn't wake you up because I didn't want to accidentally walk in on you and Logan, and don't think we won't be having a talk about that later. And Veronica, I missed you too. So much." He kissed her forehead and felt his own tears making tracks down his face.

Harvey left the room to give his old friend some privacy for his reunion with his daughter. He knew they wouldn't have long. Visiting time at the hospital started in an hour, and Mac was already upstairs getting ready to leave. To give Keith and Veronica more time, he went to wake Logan up. He knew the boy hadn't gotten a lot of sleep, but he also knew that he would rather see his friend alive and recovering than catch up on his sleep anyway.

Keith and Veronica sat at the table after she'd poured the latest batch of the coffee that had been brewing, and being consumed, almost continuously since he'd arrived. "So, honey, when do you think you'll come home? Do you have any idea what you'll want to do? You know, we're in the house now, and there's more room for you if you want to come live with us."

'Us' was Alicia and Wallace's little brother, Darrell. Wallace had his own apartment and a job in engineering. That was all she knew, since all the technical ways he'd described it went completely over her head. But she was glad her dad and Alicia had worked out their differences. If her dad had to have a girlfriend, she was glad it was Alicia. But the room he was talking about that was available was Wallace's old room, the very same place they used to hide out while their parents got friendly on the couch.

"Dad, I know it's a new and strange thing to hear me saying this, but I can't wait to go home to Neptune. But I think, wherever I end up staying, it's going to be with Logan. I mean, we've been on the run together, and we've stayed in the same place the whole time. Kind of like a mobile version of living together, but staying somewhere without him? It would just seem way too much like moving backwards. And we've done enough of that, way too much of that, actually."

"Veronica, are you....?"

"Sure?" She finished for him, then looked at her ring. "I'm going to marry him, Dad. I know it might seem crazy to you, but...I love him. And he loves me. And we've let everything else complicate that for as long as I can remember."

Keith nodded and took his daughter's hand. "Alright, honey. I get it. I'll try my hardest to like him. Anyway, if Harvey and Lulu love him as much as they say, he can't be all bad, right?"

"Glad to hear it," Logan muttered, stumbling into the room in his flannel pajama pants. He made his way over to the coffee pot and glared at it for being empty. He looked longingly at Veronica's steaming cup, and she smiled and started preparing the next batch.

"Sorry, Dad. He's really not a morning person."

"You're not all that chipper yourself after two hours sleep, Ronnie." He cast a bleary eye at the table, where Keith was trying to decide if he was amused or irritated. "Morning, Keith."

Keith would have preferred 'Mr. Mars,' or, even better, 'Sheriff Mars,' but he had to admit, it was a step up from 'dude.' "Logan," he said evenly. "Glad to see you've kept my daughter more or less intact."

Logan shrugged. "It was a group effort."

Veronica took a bag of bagels off of the top of the fridge and thrust it into Logan's hands. "Eat," she told him. "We've gotta get dressed and get to the hospital to see Dick."

"Yeah, yeah," Logan grumbled. "Best friend shot, barely survived, gotta see him to be sure for myself he's okay. I remember, Veronica. Go get dressed. I'll toast you a bagel. Cinnamon raisin?"

She nodded and bounced up to kiss him on the cheek. "Now, can I safely leave you two alone? Don't think I won't bring Lulu in here to referee."

Keith gave her a smile that was absolutely angelic. "I'll be good, honey."

Veronica squeezed Logan's arm on her way out of the room to make sure that he would do the same. As she left, the coffee machine buzzed, informing them that the next batch was ready. "Coffee?" Logan asked. He popped Veronica's cinnamon raisin bagel and his egg bagel into the large toaster, then poured himself a cup.

Keith raised his mug, still half full. "I think if I have any more after this, I'll start twitching uncontrollably. Wouldn't be pretty." He waited until Logan sat down across from him and took a sip from the scalding hot mug. "You hurt her, I'll kill you," he told the younger man calmly.

Logan choked just a little on his coffee, but managed to swallow it without having any of it fly out of his mouth or nose. He thought getting hot coffee to fly out of his nose had probably been Keith's plan, since it would have been particularly painful on Logan's end, with very little effort put in. But, having subverted that, Logan just nodded and said, "Understood."

Harvey and Lulu wanted to accompany Veronica, Logan, Mac, and Keith to the hospital, but they needed to get to work on repairing their house. True, not much damage had been done, all things considered, but every time Lulu saw it, she shuddered and imagined what it must have been like. Harvey agreed that the sooner they got it fixed, the better it would be for everyone, so they stayed behind, but sent their regards and well wishes to Dick. Lulu also wanted to send flowers, but Logan assured her that was unnecessary.

The car ride was tense. Keith drove, since none of the younger generation had gotten much, if any sleep. Also, he was reluctant to let Veronica out of his sight for any extended period of time. Mac rode in the passenger seat, and was alternating between being almost hyper from the amount of coffee she'd had and nearly falling asleep against the window. Logan and Veronica were in the back, discussing their immediate plans. Keith was trying his hardest to focus on the road and listen to Mac's directions, and not glare at the couple in the back seat. Veronica was leaning into Logan, stretching the seat belt to its absolute limit in order to get across the seat, and he had his arm around her waist. Possibly so the seat belt wouldn't yank her back into her seat. At least they weren't defiling the area. No amount of money would have been able to coax him into the backseat of the yellow monstrosity the couple was currently talking about.

"Okay, so I guess we'll go back to Santa Cruz first? If there's anything left in the apartment I had, I need to see if there's anything I want. I just took the essentials before. And I know you need to get the Beast," Veronica said.

"I love that car," Logan said, not for the first time. "Just be glad it can't hear you. Anyway, you're right. But I don't want to go anywhere until Dick is out of the hospital."

She ran her hand lightly up and down his arm. "Of course. You know we can stay with Harvey and Lulu as long as we want."

"We haven't outstayed our welcome yet? I figured that now that it's safe, they'd be happy to see us off back to Neptune."

"They are happy it's over," Veronica admitted. "But they'll be sad to see us go." She paused, then added reluctantly, "You know, they try to take their kids on vacation every summer. I kinda dropped hints that if they went to San Diego or Neptune, we'd be thrilled to spend some time with them. Is that okay?"

Logan grinned. "Yes. And if they don't go to San Diego or Neptune, and they still want to see us, we can go join them wherever for a little vacation of our own."

"Let's just try to make sure they head somewhere warm then," she said. She hadn't ever really experienced a cold winter until this trip, and she was really looking forward to a place where the temperature rarely dropped below fifty degrees.

"Are you trying to tell me you didn't enjoy snuggling together for warmth?" he teased her.

Keith coughed very loudly from the driver's seat, and Veronica scrambled back to her side of the car as he pulled into a parking space. Mac wasn't sure if it was possible to park aggressively, but it sure seemed like it at that moment.

"No calling you Bobcat, no talk of milky thighs," Logan murmured quietly. Veronica's eyes twitched to her father. His shoulders didn't tense any further, so she trusted Logan had kept his voice low enough so only she could hear, so she sent a small smile his way before getting out of the car. He tried to get out, only to discover his door had had the child-lock activated, so he had to follow out Veronica's side.

He tried to ignore the smirk on Keith's face, which was wiped away as soon as Veronica took his hand.

Mac walked a few paces ahead of them on the way in. She had to wait for them to catch up to her because the woman at the front desk wouldn't give her any information on which room Dick was in, since she wasn't a relative or on his emergency contact list. Logan had no idea how they'd gotten Dick's records from Neptune, but he was the sole contact on the list, so the nurse directed them to room 217 and told them he was in stable and improving condition. Mac set off for the elevators without even a glance to see if the other three were following her.

Keith elected to wait outside Dick's room while Mac, Logan, and Veronica went inside. Dick grinned when he saw them.

"Dude, finally! You know they don't even have cable in here?"

Logan smiled back and bumped his fist against Dick's. "Chill out, man. You can get your Skinemax fix when we get back."

"How are you?" Veronica asked. "I mean, the doctor said you'd be fine, but...you're really okay, right?"

"How am I?" Dick repeated. "Well, I'm touched by your concern, Ronnie. A little tired, not so eager to do any strenuous activity, as the doc called it, and moving too quick hurts like a bitch. But all in all, mostly I'm just bored and looking forward to heading home. But they're keeping me a couple days, no matter how much I beg."

Veronica smiled and squeezed Dick's hand. "I'm glad you're okay."

"Good. Because I'm definitely expecting a big and enthusiastic group hug when I'm up and about, and I wouldn't want you to disappoint."

"You got it."

Logan glanced at Mac, who he'd really expected to have said something before now. Quickly realizing that Mac might want privacy, he said, "Hey, I think we're gonna leave you two alone." To Mac, he added in a stern voice, "Now don't you tire him out!"

"Do I look like I'm capable of tiring anyone out?" she snapped. Admittedly, she looked more like she was ready to fall asleep on her feet.

"Kidding, kidding!" he said as he and Veronica left.

Mac immediately took Dick's hand and looked into his eyes. "No more life-threatening heroics, okay? At least for a while."

He smiled. "Well, I couldn't just let him shoot you, could I?"

"Oh yeah, it was such a picnic for me watching you get shot instead. And those eighty two seconds when you were dead were just so thrilling. Really, we should do this every day."

"We could take it on the road," he agreed. "Be part of a circus act. Two shows a night."

"Not. Funny. I mean it. I just...I really care about you. I can't lose you too."

Neither of them needed to say who the other loss she referred to was. Dick still felt it too. So, instead of dwelling on that, he pulled her a little closer and asked, "So...right before I passed out...do I remember you kissing me?"

She smiled a little. "You remember correctly."

Very slowly and carefully, he sat up. He pulled her hand closer until he could get a grip on her hips and shift her even closer. Finally, he leaned toward her. He tried to communicate his intention to her with his eyes so she could stop him if she wanted to, but instead, she closed her eyes and met his lips softly.

When their kiss ended, Dick took one look at Mac and shifted over a few inches on the bed, giving more room on the side opposite his injury. "Climb up. You look like you could use a few minutes of shut-eye."

She sent him a grateful look and laid down in the space he'd made for her. She rested her head on his chest, being careful to avoid the bandages covering his wound, and was asleep in seconds.