Book 4, Chapter 1

Alan heard the restless chimes of his son's soul jars and felt a chill raise the hairs at the back of his neck. Rabbit either didn't hear them or wasn't old enough to feel the wrongness in their song; or maybe he was ignoring them in favor of the game at hand. Dark brows knit together, expression bordering a little too close to pissed for Alan's liking, Rabbit surveyed the game board on the counter.

"Concede defeat yet?" Alan asked, his chin resting on woven fingers.

Rabbit growled at him. "It's not defeat. You cheated and I'm going to figure out how and then make you eat this stupid game."

"It's only stupid because you've never beat me."

"It's a game of chance. It is a statistical anomaly for you to have won every time we've played it. You're cheating. I know you're cheating and I'm going to work out how and then I'm going to force this thing down your throat."

"Well, there's an overwhelming excuse for me to help you." Alan smiled a little, pushing back from the counter to eye the clock. It was almost closing time. Business generally picked up after dark, but his store remained empty just like most other weeknights. Even Quinn's business had run short of curious kids with creds to spend. Alan had mixed feelings about the success of his son's fortune telling venture; it seemed more people were interested in a one time reading from Quinn than in owning one of his priceless artifacts.

The soul jars chimed again.

"Cold?" Rabbit asked, looking up at Alan through his eyelashes, face still downturned over the game.

"Nah. That sound just weirds me out."

Rabbit arched a brow at him, questioning without words. He didn't hear it. Thousands of years of reincarnation had dulled the immortal senses of even a Shard. In that case, there was no need to explain.

"So," Alan began, rubbing his palms together without answering the unspoken question, "Did I hear you wanted a rematch?"

Rabbit glared for a second then set the game pieces back to their starting positions. "I'm watching you," he warned.

Alan smiled. "That will make it all the more fun."

They were three expletives and one triumphant whoop into the game when Quinn walked past to lock the front door and draw the drapes closed over the windows to keep their treasures hidden from thieves. Alan watched him walk by, observing the agitated way in which his tail twitched and the muscles in his back and shoulders rolled. Quinn didn't bother to pretend to harbor any feelings of human modesty as he walked through the store in nothing but his dark, blue-grey skin. He was shiny; he'd been sweating. His steps were slow and wide, more like a predator prowling for prey than a child looking after his father's things. Alan watched him as Quinn watched him watching. Neither spoke.

"Are you waiting until I blink to go or are you just falling asleep?" Rabbit asked, focused on their game. Naked Quinn going about closing duties was nothing out of the ordinary.

Alan blinked and Quinn turned away, tending to a few items that had been turned the wrong way by patrons earlier in the day. Alan picked a card and moved his piece before returning to his observations. Rabbit followed his gaze, frowning.

"Am I missing something?" he asked, not bothering to whisper in the presence of a creature with hearing as fine as Quinn’s.

"No, you just suck at this game."

Rabbit gave him a look. "I mean with Quinn, smartass. You've watched shoplifters with less interest."

"Da worries too much," Quinn said by way of explanation.

"Worries about what? What's up?"

Alan shrugged. "Probably nothing," he said and turned to Quinn. "And I do not worry too much. I've known you for hundreds of years and sudden changes in behavior aren't exactly following the normal pattern. I may be paranoid, but I'm not an idiot."

"That's debatable."

"Did the giant water balloon just say something?" Alan brushed his friend off, more interested in the way Quinn's tail lashed behind him. "You sure everything's okay, Quinn?"

Quinn nodded his head slightly. "Just dreams."

Rabbit turned in his seat to face the demon, brows cocked slightly. "I thought you didn't--"

"I don't." Quinn's voice was sharp, filed to a point with the agitation his muscles displayed. He paced back across the store towards them and the back room, his posture returning to the more upright stance he'd learned from humans. He was no longer stalking, merely keeping the pace long legs and large feet set for him. His tail, however, disobeyed any command to lay peacefully behind him: it remained conscious enough of its surroundings not to knock into them, but was still unruly in its snaps and sways.

"You seem restless," Alan continued, only mildly aware that it would be better to carry on the conversation in private. Rabbit was pretty much family, and Quinn's response would be the same with or without him.

Quinn's long ears flicked as the ringing of the soul jars renewed. He stood perfectly still, one ear cocked towards the sound with the other bent slightly down. His eyes rolled around to Alan as he paused at the stockroom doorway. "There's something coming. That's all. You just don't sense it."

"But you do?" Alan asked, his skepticism obvious. "That's a first. The only things you can sense that I can't are emotions and I honestly don't envy you your demonic empathy anyway."

"You don't understand them." Quinn gestured with his chin towards the back room where the ringing continued, more insistent with Quinn standing closer by.

"No, but do I hear them. Quinn, I don't sense anything at all from anywhere. But you just seem really off. You need to go...get something out of your system?"

Quinn's ears twitched again like those of a sleeping cat. "No. Wasn't my point, Da. You can't understand them, so you don't know what they're telling me. They can sense it too."

"What are you talking about?" Rabbit asked, looking between the two, perhaps hoping that one of them would be willing to fill him in.

Alan shrugged. "I'd like to know too," he said, before a thought crossed his mind and he made a face in Rabbit's direction. "Wait, you mean the soul jars, don't you? Keep up, ya zombie. Besides, if you can't hear the damn things, what do you care what they are?"

Rabbit glared at him. Alan was becoming increasingly certain that if he didn't end up getting eaten by an unpredictable demon he'd certainly be getting his ass kicked by a pissed off Hindu. Quinn's husky voice was muttering something, though, just beyond Alan's ability to understand. He turned to his son again with the same look of concerned confusion he'd started with.

Quinn noticed his interest but shook his head. "Doesn't matter. Just trust me that I know what I'm talking about."

"Should I be worried?"

Quinn paused. Alan felt the unease in his gut begin to churn, becoming dread. He watched the corners of Quinn's mouth pull back in a silent snarl directed at nothing and no one and caught a glimpse of darkness in his narrowed eyes. Still, he shook his head. Whatever trouble Quinn felt was coming did not require Alan's attention.

"Well...alright. Whatever you say. You wanna order a pizza tonight or eat what's in the fridge?"

"Not hungry," Quinn remarked, pulling back the drapes that lead to the back room.

"Well, daddy is." Alan leaned his elbows on the counter. "Rabbit, hungry? What am I saying? When are you ever hungry?"

"Yes. I'm hungry. Having no sense of taste doesn't mean I don't get hungry. Alan."

"What about not having a stomach?"

"You don't have a brain, but your body seems to know to keep existing. It's kind of the same thing."

Alan rolled his eyes at his friend's remarks. Perhaps he'd teased him a little too much for one night. Whether he had or hadn't wasn't going to change anything; they were a caustic duo no matter what. "Fine. Pizza or fridge?"

"Order me a fucking pizza or I'm going to kick your ass."

"Must be that time of the month," Alan remarked, and moved quickly to get out of reach, side stepping beyond his counter to grab the phone. Rabbit's eyes were deadly and Alan could have sworn he heard the tightening of his leather-gloved fists. This was exactly why they could never be friends: only brothers could get away with such animosity. While he was tempted to order a pizza loaded with meat just to spite him, it was time to show some act of good will. He'd get Rabbit his own small vegetarian pie.

With the phone to his ear, Alan watched Quinn pass through the drapes to the back room. Just before losing sight of him behind the swaying sheet of cloth, Alan caught the thin trickle of blood that slithered down Quinn jaw from his ear. For a moment he thought of putting the phone down and following his son and asking what was wrong again, but pushed the impulse aside. Quinn was right; whatever was wrong was out of Alan's hands. He was a grown demon now, not the hostile little thing Alan had taken in after the Cataclysm. He had to trust that Quinn was right.

He’d been so deep in thought that Alan almost missed the squeaky, pubescent voice talking to him on the other end of the phone. He pulled the receiver away for a second to let Rabbit listen in on the whiny sound, then put it back to his face to get to business. "Right, hi and all that. What's on sale?"

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