The next morning Veronica decided she needed some time by herself. It was a day off for them, and she hadn’t scheduled any interviews, so she dressed comfortably and after a quick coffee in her room, set off to wander around the city. The previous night had shown her that she wasn’t going to be able to ignore the memories that were bombarding her everywhere she looked, and she preferred to face them alone where no one would see her fight their effect on her.
She walked through Gastown, seeing it as it was twenty years ago, and remembered walking down these streets hand in hand with Jon, window shopping and sneaking kisses. Chinatown was next. There the scenes in her head were of wandering through the Taoist temple and eating Dim Sum, trading bites and feeding each other.
The last – and the hardest to take – area, was Stanley Park. She and Jon had spent many hours there, watching the otters and Beluga whales and penguins play in the Aquarium, riding around in the horse drawn carriages or just sitting on a bench and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere – and each other. Watching one of the carriages pass by, a young couple snuggling in the back, Veronica couldn’t help but smile, and remember one particular ride with Jon. He had been in a really good mood, playful and teasing and joking. He couldn’t keep his hands off of her and very quickly they were both so hot for each other they couldn’t wait to get back to their room. They’d jumped out of the carriage at the Aquarium and ran deep into the nearby woods until they’d found a small, secluded clearing. Jon had laid her down stripped off their clothes and they’d done their best to set fire to the night. She’d spent the next two days picking pine needles out of their clothes and hair.
With a sigh, she sat on a bench and let the memories come. The Blackberry in her pocket buzzed. She pulled it out, checked the display and returned it to her pocket without answering.
“God dammit!” Jon’s frustrated growl echoed in the room as he pushed the button to disconnect the call and tossed his Blackberry onto the table in front of him. A knock at the door had him rising and rushing to answer it. His disappointment in seeing Richie, Tico and David on the other side was obvious when he just grunted and turned back into the room.
“So, I take that you haven’t found her yet.” Richie commented as they followed him.
“No. I’ve been calling her all afternoon, but she won’t answer the damn phone!” Jon raked a hand through his hair.
“Maybe she turned it off.” David offered.
Jon shook his head. “No. Paul and Matt have both talked to her. It’s just me she’s ignoring.”
“And me.” Richie hung up his phone.
“Maybe you should do what she wants and leave her alone.” David suggested.
“I....can’t.” Jon lifted a helpless hand. Thinking for a moment, he picked up his berry again, this time opting to try texting. When there was no reply after a few minutes he set his jaw and grimly sent another...and another....and another.
Veronica sighed in annoyance at the buzz of the berry in her pocket. Pulling it out she glanced down at the message.
[4:56] Where R U?
She shoved it back into her pocket without responding and resumed her study of the nature around her, trying to find the peace and tranquility that used to always come to her in this spot. Her pocket buzzed again....and again....and again. With a growl she yanked it out.
[5:04] Please answer me
[5:05] Need to know U R OK
[5:06] Dammit Ronnie answer
[5:07] Will keep pinging until U answer
[5:08] Can’t avoid me 4 ever
[5:09] Not going to stop
With a sigh, she gave in.
[5:10] Am fine. Now fuck off
Jon let out a relieved breath and chuckled at her answer.
[5:11] Where R U?
She hesitated before telling him.
[5:12] Stanley Park. Want to be alone
“Where is she?” Richie blew out his own relieved breath.
“Stanley Park.” Jon stared out the window for a long minute, then stood and reached for his coat.
“Where are you going?” Tico frowned.
“To get her.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” David spoke up. “She obviously wants to be alone.”
Jon glared at him. “She’s hurting, and I caused it. I need to try to help her.”
“But if you go, she’s likely to take off again....or you’ll both get arrested for causing a public disturbance...or assault and battery.” Richie pointed out.
Jon turned a baleful look on his wingman, but couldn’t disagree. Tico sighed. “I’ll go.” He started for the door and stopped. “Stanley Park covers a lot of ground. It may take me awhile to find her.”
Jon hesitated, then gave in. “She’ll be on a bench about a quarter of a mile from the Aquarium. It faces a large clearing surrounded by trees.” At their look he shrugged. “It’s where we used to go when we needed to get away from Doc and everyone and have a little peace and alone time.”
Tico found her exactly where Jon said he would. The air of sadness surrounding her and the tear tracks on her cheeks broke his heart. “Where’ve you been nina?” He spoke softly, not wanting to scare her. “You’ve had us all worried.”
Her head jerked around at his first word, her eyes widening. “How did you find me?”
“Jon told me. He said that you two used to spend a lot of time here.”
He remembered! Her lips twisted into a slight smile. “It was our escape from Doc and the machine. Our....haven... in the middle of the chaos of our lives.”
“Where’ve you been all day?” He asked again, sitting on the bench beside her.
She shrugged. “Wandering around. Remembering.”
“Happy times?” He knew the answer, he’d been there, but he wanted to hear her say it, wanted her to acknowledge that there was more than pain in that past.
Her smile turned wry. “In those days it felt like I had the world by the tail. My life was going exactly the way I wanted it to.” Her lips quivered and her eyes filled. “Then it all went to shit and I lost....everything.” Her voice was barely above a whisper.
“Come here nina.” He took her in his arms and held her while she cried. “That’s it mija, let it out.”
When she’d gotten herself under control she sat up and blew out a hiccupping breath. “Thanks Teek.”
He gently wiped the tears from her cheeks. “Anytime.” He studied her face in the deepening twilight. “Did you eat today?” She shook her head. “Come on. Let’s get you some food.”
She let him lead her to the parking lot by the Aquarium where a car and driver were waiting and climbed in. When they pulled up in front of a restaurant just down the street from their hotel, she frowned.
Tico noticed. “You don’t have to talk to him, but let him see that you’re okay. He’s been a wreck all day worrying about you.” She nodded.
Inside the restaurant, she took a deep breath and walked to the table where the guys were all sitting. “You can all relax. I’m fine. I just needed some ‘me’ time.” They all gave her the once over, then, assured that she was okay, nodded and resumed their conversation. Jon watched her take a seat between Richie and Tico, noted the shadows in her eyes, but kept silent.
Dinner was accompanied by laughter and ‘remember when’ stories from their time in the city many years ago. They even managed to make Veronica laugh and recall a few stories of her own.
When Tico got up to make a trip to the bathroom, Jon slid over to his chair, lifted a curl off her shoulder and wrapped it around his finger. “You sure you’re okay? Why didn’t you answer my calls this afternoon?”
“Because I didn’t want to talk to you. I told you. I needed some time by myself.” She shifted her head to pull her hair away from his hand.
He frowned. “Ronnie, talk to me. Please!”
It was too much for her to deal with today. “Dammit Jon, stop pushing!”
“How about you try to stop running? I never thought you were a coward Ronnie.”
Amethyst eyes glowed. She surged to her feet. “Fuck you Jon!”
He stood too. “Ok. Your room or mine?”
She snorted. “No thanks. Been there, done that and frankly, it wasn’t worth the pain. It took me awhile, but I finally realized that the fucking I got wasn’t worth the fucking I got!” The flash of pain that crossed his face, rather than giving her satisfaction, made her feel like a bully. Spinning on her heel, she almost ran out the back door.
He watched her flight. “Fuck!” Shrugging into his coat, he picked up hers and followed.