Title: Here With Me
Disclaimers: Not mine, don't sue.
Spoilers: Missing scene fic for True Spirit between the explorers being reunited in the cave and breakfast the next morning.
Author's Notes: Thanks as always to Kate!
Veronica quietly exited her bedroom and made her way up the stairs to the main room. Despite the late hour and the harrowing events of the past few days, she was unable to sleep. Every time she had felt herself beginning to drift off to sleep, the thought of Ned vanishing again jolted her awake once more and left her uneasy.
She headed for the kitchen, deciding her mother's Lavender tea was what she needed to help her rest easy. The others, she knew, had gone to bed long ago. As soon as the five explorers had returned from the cave Marguerite had announced that she was going to bed. Roxton had been concerned, but Marguerite had insisted she was just tired from the seances and otherwise perfectly healthy. Roxton hadn't been convinced, however, and had followed Marguerite to her room. Marguerite had rolled her eyes at the attention, but Veronica could tell the heiress was pleased by Roxton's concern. Neither had emerged from Marguerite's bedroom by the time Veronica, Ned, and Challenger had retired for the night.
From the top of the stairs Veronica surveyed the mess Saros's spirit had left in the treehouse and sighed. It was going to take awhile to get things back in order, but it had all been worth it. Ned had finally been returned to them, and Veronica acknowledged to herself that anything that had happened along the way with Saros had been a small price to pay for the reporter's presence.
"Veronica, are you all right?" A voice called quietly from the kitchen.
Veronica gasped and jumped back a step before realizing it was only Roxton who had spoken. "Oh, Roxton, you scared me," she said as she joined him in the kitchen area. "What are you doing up?"
He nodded to the container before him. "Couldn't sleep. I thought that as long as I was up, I should get to roasting those coffee beans." He smiled. "Wouldn't want to have another day of Marguerite without her coffee, now would you?"
Veronica smiled as well. "I think after everything she did to bring Ned back, she deserves it," she replied. "How is she?"
Roxton shrugged. "She's still a little jumpy, but I guess that's to be expected after one is used as a gateway for a vengeful spirit. She may not admit it, but I know she's just happy she was able to help bring Ned back."
"So am I," Veronica said softly.
Roxton smiled gently. "Are you all right?" he asked her. "Why are you up?"
Veronica sighed. "I couldn't sleep, either," she admitted. "I thought some tea might help me sleep."
"Do you want any company?" Roxton asked her.
Veronica shook her head. "No, but thank you. I'll probably just take it back to my room and hopefully fall asleep."
Roxton nodded. "All right, then, I'm going to try to get some sleep myself. I'll see you in the morning, Veronica. Try to get some sleep."
Veronica picked up the teakettle. "You, too. Goodnight, Roxton." Roxton headed for his room and Veronica was left alone in the kitchen.
When the water had heated Veronica made her tea and walked towards the balcony. On the way she passed Malone's door and hesitated a moment in front of it. "No, you're being silly," she told herself. "Just go out to the balcony." She walked onto the balcony and sat down, but found she was unable to relax. "I'll just go and check on him," she said to herself quietly. She set her teacup down and walked back into the treehouse.
She slipped quietly into Ned's room, breathing a quiet sigh of relief when she saw Ned sound asleep in his bed. *He's fine,* the voice in her head said. *You can go back to bed now.*
"Just a minute," she murmured to herself, sitting down at his desk chair. She smiled as she watched Ned sleep, admiring how sleep washed away even the slightest trace of what he had been through recently and made him look like a little boy.
She wasn't sure how long she had been sitting there watching over Ned when his eyes opened. "Veronica, what's going on?" he asked as he sat up in bed.
"I had to make sure you were still here," she whispered. "I had to make sure you were real."
Ned patted the space on the bed next to him and Veronica crossed the room and sat next to him. "Veronica, I'm real, I promise you," he told her. He reached out a hand to gently stroke her cheek. "Thanks to you, thanks to all of you, I'm back. You never stopped believing, Veronica. You never stopped hoping. That's what I held onto all that time, that's what gave me the strength to try to come back to you." He leaned forward and gently brushed her lips with his own. "I'm only sorry I had to put you all in danger to bring me back."
"It was worth it, Ned," Veronica said earnestly. "And I'd do it all all over again in a second if it meant that in the end you'd be back here with me."
"Thank you," Ned whispered, brushing a wayward strand of hair back from her face.
They moved towards each other once more, their lips meeting in a tender kiss. "I'm so glad you're back," Veronica murmured as they parted.
"I won't leave you again," he promised. Veronica felt tears well in her eyes. "Veronica, what's wrong?" Ned asked, gently wiping away the tears that had spilled over. "Are you all right?"
Veronica nodded, a radiant smile beginning to spread across her face. "Yes," she whispered. "Now, I'm all right. Now everything is all right."
Ned smiled back and pulled the covers back on his bed. Veronica slid under the covers next to him, snuggling up close to his side. In a few moments they were both asleep, their arms wrapped around each other, both determined they'd never let go of each other again.