Author: Bookworm
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Has she been oblivious? How do they navigate through darkness? Missing scenes post S4 ep.4

AN: My attempt at brand new materials after years of hiatus. I'm posting the first of S4 missing scene fics - hopefully my muse isn't too rusty. For now I will post them as standalones but might decide to put them together as a series.

If there are still readers out there, please review and let me know whether I should post more.

Where Demons Hide
[Post S4-04]

He is sleeping now, thank goodness – maybe the engine sound of the jet is soothing. I actually hope it has more to do with me sitting by his side. He used to tell me I had a calming effect on him, and next to me was where he slept best.

When I heard Vaughn say he hasn't been sleeping much, that he was haunted by Lauren's ghost, I was concerned for him. More than concerned – I was indignant. Not at him, but the whole situation.

As he told Keira in that tavern his guilt about killing Lauren, I knew it was more than just an act to draw her in. And I realize I really haven't been there for him enough since we got back together. It is always about my pain, my feelings.

He has not stopped being my protector, both in the field and at home, even all through last year. Now that we are back with each other, he refuses to let me face any turmoil alone. He listened to me and cradled me when I told him about my father murdering my mother. He let me cry on his shoulder and stayed with me at night when I found out about the contract my mother put out on me. He helped me process my predicament when I had to figure out how to be around Nadia with my knowledge about our mother's demise.

I know he still struggles with Lauren's death. And he blames himself for marrying her and hurting me in the process. But I have not asked him to talk about his anger, his hurt and his conflicting feelings with me. The animosity I harboured stopped me from being his refuge in his storm.

I have said to him about needing to work on our relationship – but I left him to do all the work. Mostly. I'm opening up more and am trying to put the past behind us but if I were to be honest, I haven't been able to do that completely. I'm certainly not any less in love with him – so that is not the problem. I'm just too afraid to get hurt like I did last year.

But I should know relationships don't work that way – at least not for Vaughn and me. What I've always held most precious is the way we trust each other, over everyone else. I still trust him with my life, I just don't know if I can fully trust him with my heart.

I have decided after Belarus that logic be damned and we will no longer hide from our love. But I haven't loved enough to put him before my fears. I have been selfish – there's no two ways about it. And speaking of being selfish, part of what bothers me is the fact that Lauren keeps him up at night. I used to be secretly pleased when he told me he couldn't sleep at night when I was on operations. I liked that his world revolved around me. Not Lauren – it should never have been Lauren. The thought of him and Lauren together is still so repulsive it puts a knot in the pit of my stomach. But I will no longer allow Lauren to be the reason he doesn't sleep well.

I didn't think Vaughn had any reasons to feel guilty about killing Lauren since it was clearly self-defence. Then again, I never had to kill the person I was married to for nearly two years. So what I think really shouldn't matter. I need to stop being resentful if I love him as much as I know I do.

When we get home, I will not let Vaughn face his demons alone. If I'm in his life, as he is in mine – then I'm going to be in every part of it, even the ugliest part. He has seen all the ugly parts of my life since the beginning and he has never run from it. Quite the contrary in fact – the uglier things get, the tighter he holds on to me, fearing they will eat me alive if he doesn't. He needs to know I am not going to run from his dark places either. And I am not ever going to lose him to ghosts from our past.

I turn to gently caress his face and plant a soft kiss on his forehead, knowing it's not a minute too soon to start easing his pain. He murmurs "Syd" and I'm smitten to see the relief on his face. I'm still the one who can release him from Lauren's death grip and I'm proud. I reach for his hand and plan to hold on to it the rest of our journey as a symbol of my resolve…

"Did you get any sleep, Syd?" He says without his eyes open and instinctively rubs my hand he is holding with his other hand. He never gets enough of my touch.

"Some… I think we're almost landing. You slept okay? I'm not sure you heard me earlier – maybe you should spend the night when we get home."

He opens his eyes and smiles, "Yeah, I did – I'd love to." I'm touched that my simple gesture can make him so happy.

We arrive in LA just before dawn. The perk of flying across the Atlantic overnight is to not have to report to APO till the next day, which practically gives us a day off.

"What about some breakfast?" Vaughn suggests as we drive away from the airport.

"It's 4 in the morning, Vaughn. No restaurant is open."

He smiles charmingly, grabs my hand and kisses the back of it as we get on the freeway. He parks in front of a Ralphs in Westwood after about 15 minutes and pulls me into the store. We pick up a basketful of baked goods, juice and fruits and head back to the car.

Another 20 minutes of freeway and we are at the Santa Monica Pier.

"Vaughn…" I'm intrigued.

He gets a light jacket from his bag and drapes over my shoulders. "Let's have breakfast and watch the sun rise." He grabs the bag of food we just bought and wraps his arm around me, leading me toward a bench along the pier. Almost the exact same spot where he met me five years ago.

"Syd, I know we've seen some pretty horrific things the last couple days. We can use some nice scenery for a change."

"Best idea I've heard this week!" I lean in to kiss him in encouragement… We're both catching our breath when we break apart as we both need this closeness more than we think.

"Sydney, remember what I said five years ago about not letting your rage, your resentment and your disgust darken you? I'm still amazed how you managed all these years, to remain so kind, so caring and so pure. And I love you every day for how you think, how you work, who you're." He pauses to look straight at me.

"Vaughn, of course I remember, you have no idea how much of what you said had saved me."

"Syd, I have been in some pretty dark places this past year. If it seemed like I was keeping you away, it was because I was afraid to let my own rage, my own resentment and disgust darken what I have with you. I'm sorry, for not telling you what has been troubling me."

How did this happen? Our whole flight back, I thought I was the one going to apologize for being less than stellar in the girlfriend department. I don't deserve Michael Vaughn – no matter what he had done in the last three years.

"Vaughn, stop. You don't have to do this alone. I don't want you to. Whatever you're dealing with is not your burden only. We have each other – so we're going to do this together, okay?" I lift my hand to gently touch his cheek as I continue, "If it were me, would you let me face it by myself? I remember you promised, right at this spot, to be there for me when I'm at my absolute lowest, my most depressed – and you've kept your promise. Vaughn, I'm sorry if I let you down, if I wasn't there enough for you. I want to, I need to, do the same for you. It hurts me more to think that you can't talk to me about everything and anything. I'm always with you, I always will be, never question that. I can handle darkness, as long as you're with me."

"Syd…" He pulls me into a tight embrace and my tears start to flow, knowing we have never grown apart, only more entwined with each other despite everything that happened the past five years.

"The sun is coming up soon. Sydney, you have my word we will work things out. It won't always be darkness." He wipes my tears and kisses me with such passion that melts my core.

Like I said, I don't deserve Michael Vaughn. But I'm not complaining.

"I love you…" is all that I can muster as our lips linger.

"I know… me too. Hungry?"

We sit content in each other's company. When the sun finally comes up above the horizon, we have finished our food and are just soaking in the breath-taking surrounding with orange juice in our hands.

By the time we get back to my place, Nadia is just leaving for APO. We make plans to have dinner with her and Weiss after work. We spend the day running errands, enjoying the seemingly normal routines after several gruesome days on the job.

Dinner is a lot of fun – more so for Eric and Nadia. Vaughn and I keep trading looks, hoping we won't have to do damage control any time soon. Eric, for obvious reasons, wants to hang out longer and suggests we go try the new bakery for dessert and coffee. Vaughn and I are spent and just want to retreat to our cocoon.

"We've been up for over 16 hours since we landed. I think we're done." Vaughn searches my face for concurrence before turning down the invitation.

"We're gonna grab some sleep before heading back to work tomorrow. You guys have fun." I'm quite fine with them going out so Vaughn and I can be by ourselves at my place.

"Boohoo – don't expect us to bring you any éclairs. I think your sister just wants us out of the house." Eric fakes pout to Nadia.

Vaughn seems a bit tired when we settle in my bedroom, thanks to those insomniac nights. A little problem I have every intention to help fix – and I happen to have the best remedy. Taking advantage of Nadia being out, we enjoy a warm relaxing bath together and hours of tender love-making follow.

I stay content by his side as I watch his breathing even out and he falls into peaceful slumber next to me. Maybe it's my competitive nature – but it's nice to know I've won, over Lauren, over his demons. I'm still his calm and him mine…