The taxi skidded to a stop in front of the Montana and Niles didn't even care that the driver nearly crashed into the building. He handed over his credit card, not bothering to look at the amount. At this point he no longer cared what price he had to pay. He was mere feet away from seeing his angel and that was the most important thing.
"Th-thanks!" He shouted as the driver sped away. Mercifully, he'd managed to grab the roses and his belongings before he climbed out of the cab.
The few steps it took to get into the building seemed to take hours and the doorman looked at him in shock. Bernie rushed over to Niles and opened the door.
"Good evening Dr. Crane. You all right?" Bernie's eyes went up and down Niles' ragged body and stopped at the roses before meeting his eyes again.
Niles waved him off. "I'm fine. I just… Please tell me that Daphne's home."
"I think so. I haven't seen her leave or anything. Is something wrong?"
"Just a very harrowing trip that I never want to take again. I'm surprised I lived through it."
"Well, welcome home. And I'm glad you're all right."
Niles patted Bernie on the shoulder, the way a grandfather might pat a grandson, slowly and carefully. "Thank you."
He crossed the slick marble floor careful not to slip in his socks, all the while clutching the roses in his hand. He could feel Bernie watching him and Niles knew that he owed Bernie an explanation. But at that moment all he wanted to do was to get into the elevator. Once he stepped inside, he pushed the button and the elevator made its slow decent upwards. When it opened on his floor, he walked out and literally hugged the wall, paying no mind to his down the hall neighbor, Mrs. Jackson. She was such a nosey body, she was certain to tell everyone in the building about what she had seen. Well good for her! Let her tell the world!
Just a few more steps and he'd be home. But he found that when he reached his door he was too weary to put his key in the lock. Somehow he managed, but he saw his actions in slow motion; The way he inserted the key, turned it to the left and turned the door knob. A gentle press on the door pushed it open and a whoosh of air hit his face. He opened the door wider. In the darkness, he saw a shadow move.
The light came on and he stood in the foyer, watching as she stood and ran to him. "Niles? Is it really you?"
"Yes, it's really me."
"Oh my God!" She threw her arms around him and kissed him until he was dizzy (which, in theory didn't take long at all). He gave into the kisses, feeling as though he was having an out of body experience. He could feel her crying against him and he held her closer. This had to be a dream, but if it was, he didn't ever want to wake up.
Suddenly she drew back and gasped. "Niles, what happened? What-where are your shoes? Are you all right?"
He held out the roses that were now a crumbling mess. Petals fell to the floor like raindrops. "These are for you, my love."
She smiled and took the roses from him. "Oh Niles, they're beautiful… Or at least…."
"They've been through a lot, believe me. And so have I."
"I'll just put them in some water while you get changed. You look exhausted."
"You're not exhausted?"
"I-I am, but…. Leave the roses there, okay? Just put them on the table. I want to hold you."
She began to cry and held him close. "I missed you so much! I was so worried."
"I'm sorry my love. I'm so… you have no idea the hell I've been through and-." He froze, unable to believe that he'd forgotten. He took her hand. "Come on."
"Where are we going?"
"But Niles, the light… and the roses…"
"Just come, please?"
Their hands joined, he led her up the stairs and stopped at David's room. Quietly he opened the door.
"He's been asleep for a while. Waiting for you wore him out. But it took me forever to get him to sleep at first."
Niles reached into the crib and lifted David out. Immediately his son started to cry, but Niles held him close, inhaling the scent of baby lotion and baby powder.
"Niles, didn't you hear me? He was sleeping! Now I'll have to try to get him to sleep all over again! Go change your clothes and I'll rock him, see if he'll settle down."
"No." Niles said firmly. Ignoring Daphne's surprised expression; he carried David into their bedroom and laid him on the bed.
"Niles, what are you doing?"
"Just sit with him for a few minutes. I'll be out shortly."
He smiled wearily and she sat down on the bed, leaning David against her chest. He continued to cry until she adjusted her nightgown and began to nurse him, rocking him back and forth as she sang softly.
Meanwhile, Niles stayed in the hot shower as long as he possibly could, letting the water wash away the horrible memories of the hell he'd just endured. When he got out, he felt like a different person. Minutes later he had changed into his pajamas and robe and padded into the bedroom. Daphne was there waiting for him, smiling from the corner of the bed.
"You look so handsome."
He took in her appearance; the light blue robe and matching gown were exquisite. "You're stunning."
"Niles…Look, I know you've had a long trip, so I'll just put David to bed and then you can tell me all about it."
She frowned. "Why do you keep saying no?"
He took David from her arms and kissed his head, content to listen to his soft breathing. David, meanwhile was sound asleep. "I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but
I just… I don't want to be away from you or David for one second. I missed you both more than you can imagine."
"Oh Niles… I was so worried! When you didn't call, I-."
"I'm sorry. You know I would have called if I could."
"There's nothing to be sorry about. I'm just glad you're home."
He sat down beside her and ran his fingers through her hair. "I'm glad too. You have no idea."
"I hope you don't mind but I called your father. I'm sorry, Niles. I just... I didn't know where you were!" When she burst into tears, he held her close settling David between them.
"Don't cry. It's all right. The fault is mine. I should have taken you and David with me. And from now on, I will, even if the trip is only a few hours. I don't ever want to be apart from you again."
"You must be exhausted."
He smiled. That was definitely an understatement.
"Let me just put David to bed and-."
But when she tried to take him from Niles, he held on. "I know it's… unconventional and not really appropriate, but I want David to sleep with us. Just for a little while."
She smiled. "All right."
They climbed into bed and he nearly sank into the plush mattress. Dorothy was right. There was no place like home. David slept soundly between them and Niles put his arm around his son and his wife, vowing to never be away from them again.
He woke sometime later to find that David was gone. Daphne was still sleeping soundly beside him. Outside the moon cast a silver rod across the floor and stars twinkled on what was a rare cloudless night. He climbed out of bed and pulled on his robe and then tiptoed down the hallway to David's room. Just as he suspected, Daphne had gotten up in the middle of the night and put David back into his crib. It was where he should have been all along but Niles was grateful that she let David stay in their room just for a little while.
After kissing David goodnight, Niles crept down the stairs to get some water, but when he reached kitchen and turned on the light, he froze. There, in a vase by the sink were the roses, such as they were. The vase was filled halfway with water and he could see the stems cut at an angle to allow them to grow. There were barely any petals left, but the sight touched his heart nonetheless. Poor roses. They'd been through so much, and yet here they were, flourishing.
Glass of water in hand, he turned out the light and went into the living room. The remains of the rose petals were still scattered in the foyer, but he bent to pick each one up with the most delicate of moves. He carried them upstairs and after setting the glass of water on the table, he sprinkled the rose petals around Daphne's pillow, where she would find them in the morning. She looked so beautiful, sleeping in the moonlight.
He could hardly wait till the sun rose.
A/N: As noted in the beginning, this story was a collective effort by Pat2Trivia4Me and myself. LeighAnne415 and Kristen3 also contributed chapters. It hadn't been updated for over two years and before posting the remaining four chapters, I did not go back and review the entire story as I usually do, so there there may be a few slight unintentional inconsistencies.