Keith is home but not fully healed when Veronica goes back to New York. She wants to stay for every minute of his rehab, but she's worn and washed the outfits she has in Neptune far too many times. She needs to pack her stuff and get it out to California before she ends up buying a whole new wardrobe.
She hires a nurse despite Keith's insistence that she's only going to be gone three days.
"Are you not going to eat or use the bathroom for three days?" she calls to him as she packs her suitcase. "I'd hate to think you were just faking your inability to move on your own just to get some up close and personal time with me."
"I don't need to manipulate. I am your patriarch. I simply command and my wish is fulfilled."
"You can forward your commands through my secretary," she answers mildly. His voice and manner are the same, but she came so close to losing him again that she has to close her eyes to tamp down the memory. Even when she doesn't think about that, every time she realizes again that she has disappointed him, that she has made her life into exactly the opposite of what he wanted, it weighs on her. She can see it in his eyes, even as she knows he loves her.
He's in a lot of pain the morning her flight leaves, but insists she go get everything done. "They're going to put you on the no-fly for inconsistency if you keep cancelling flights," he admonishes, so finally, weeks after she meant to leave Neptune, Veronica makes the trip back to New York.
She unpacks in a hotel, and the strangest part is how not strange it is, as if years of living in the city were just some sort of extended vacation instead of a life she had been building. She arranges with Piz to be in the apartment during the day, while he's at work. He doesn't sound bitter over the phone, just rueful, and the tears that he was holding back the last time they spoke are gone now.
"I probably should have guessed," he tells her, voice a shrug.
She's clumsy in explaining herself to him. "There was nothing to guess. I thought that life was what I wanted until I realized that it wasn't."
"You might have just realized, but I should have known." He sounds weary with just a touch of bite in his tone. "You're a leopard, Veronica, and all your spots say Neptune and Logan Echolls."
She feels bad for hurting him, but not as bad as when she shows up at their apartment, the one they'd moved into only six months before, and finds that he picked up boxes for her to use. She presses her lips together and breathes in through her nose. Hello, guilt.
She does the apartment in pieces, as if she's surgically removing the details of herself from this city, this life. Already some of the things that were routine are fading, revealing their artifice. "How the hell did I get so many gray jackets?" she asks herself at one point, and starts adding them to the donation pile by the handful.
The last thing she does on the third day is check the mail. Piz had stacked everything addressed to her- bills and ads, mostly- neatly on the counter, but she checks the box one last time before she goes and is glad she did. Because in the midst of Piz's collection of magazines and envelopes, there's something addressed to her.
She checks her watch. The letter has Logan's handwriting. They'd called back and forth between the time he'd left Neptune and the time he had told her they were shipping out, but she hadn't heard from him since, and even their conversations in those first days hadn't been deep or lengthy. She needs to ship all her things and then get the late flight out. She stares at the curves of her name for a moment, holds the paper to her forehead as if the information inside could slide out instantly into her mind, then sighs and tucks it into her bag.
She's never been good at flying, and the weakness in that just rattles her more. She clutches at the arm rest on ascent and tries to think only of a figurative New York shrinking away below them. There were things she liked about the place. There was a fast-paced, no-nonsense feel that fit her more than the laid back California lifestyle ever seemed to. But Neptune was the exception, California's city that never slept, and she smiled a little to herself thinking about digging her teeth back in there.
The cabin is quiet, most passengers giving in to the late hour and at least closing their eyes, by the time they level out. Veronica lets herself relax, checking to see if her seat companion is awake. He seems to be sleeping, propped, mouth open, against the window. She reaches up and turns on her overhead light and tries to tell herself that it is her anxiety over flying that makes her hands shake as she takes out Logan's letter.
I didn't want to start this "Dear Veronica," it begins. Because I thought that would give the wrong impression. So I'll assure you that I don't have any plans to break my promise, and start again.
We're leaving today for parts unknown. Well, unknown to you, which I'm sure must be some specialized torture for you, but trust me on this: don't try to find out.
I'm going to call you in a while and tell you this. I've learned my lesson about silence, and more than anything I want it to work between us this time and that has to start with talking. It's one of the first things you learn here: if you're afraid to talk because you might be wrong, if you refuse to at least bring things up in case you ruin everything, you can endanger the people you're meant to protect.
I wouldn't trade our time together for anything in the world, that's the first thing you need to know. But what was going on then..."drama" is putting it lightly. I was a murder suspect. Someone important to me was dead. It didn't make what happened mean any less to me. I don't think it did for you either, despite your dad and Piz and everything. But if we want to get beyond the one step forward-twelve steps back thing we did in college, we have to talk about it.
Cell service on ships is for shit, and we get limited Skype access. As romantic as I'm sure you'd find a courtship by letters, I'm thinking email is the way to go. Civilian addresses aren't always supposed to be accessed while we're out, but you know me and my way of making friends and influencing people. I'll get anything you send.
So write me long letters, Veronica. I want to know everything. I want to tell you everything.
She wipes at her eyes with the tips of her fingers and is surprised to find them dry. She stares at the way the first two letters of his name are inked more deeply than the rest, as if he had meant to write something else and then stopped himself. She smiles and pulls out her laptop.
You're a hopeless romantic, attempting to woo me with that remarkable penmanship of yours, but next time let's not rely on Piz's desire to ensure my mail's appropriate delivery. It could have easily ended up as an offering to the vengeance gods. Luckily for you, I'm just on my way back from picking up my stuff, so your old-fashioned gesture did not go to waste.
Being in New York was weird. I know everywhere, I have friends and a favorite takeout place and no one tries to take me the long way in a cab, but it doesn't feel like home, not like Neptune did. And somewhere along the way I decided that to be a real lawyer I would have to look like pre-Oz Dorothy. Can't believe Lilly never came to possess my body and force me to buy something in a primary color. Then again, it probably would have been some kind of horrifically expensive lingerie, so we're probably all better off this way.
My dad's recuperating at home. He says to remind you that he can still kick your ass if you get uppity, but I think it's time to face those little realities. I've seen your arms, and if the remote control gets too far away, he needs to use one of those grabber things to get it back. Humor the old guy if you happen to speak, though. He can always use his crutches as weapons.
I know you were doing training maneuvers when you went back to Lemoore, and I know you're aboard the Nimitz, but I imagine there's a lot more to it than sitting around playing poker in a snazzy flight suit. Tell me what you can, or I'm going to stop trusting you and have Mac obtain me some illicit information. You know I don't do well when the loop is over there and I'm all alone over here.
Don't get all Baryshnikov and end up over the side. I'd kind of like to keep you around for a while.
And if you're going to bring me a souvenir, you can't go wrong with cash money.
P.S. Or military technology. You know me. I'm not that picky.
It feels stilted even as she writes it. As much as she wants this, she is afraid. She loves the truth, but she isn't good at telling it. She can target someone's fears with a razor blade smile and a few words, but she doesn't like revealing her own.
She doesn't even have internet at the moment, so she'll look over what she's written and decide tomorrow if she wants to send it. But she's pretty sure she will. Logan now, with his golden wings and easy smile, this Logan wants to know her, and the feeling is mutual.
She closes up her laptop, settles back in her seat. The cabin is silent and still and dark around her, and so she closes her eyes and allows hands and metal and air to carry her back home.