The coffee shop was completely full and the line extended almost to the door. Rabbit eyed it from the doorway, and then looked around the establishment for Caine. He found the young man leaning against the wall, head bowed in a doze, his mostly-empty cup dangling precariously from his fingertips. Rabbit wondered how long he’d been waiting, but the fact that he was asleep wasn’t a good indicator, since he dozed off at the slightest provocation.
Deciding that he didn’t need a drink if he was going to have to stand in that line for it, Rabbit moved over to Caine and took the cup from his hand before waking him. The younger man blinked several times then smiled at Rabbit and scrubbed his eyes with his sleeve.
“Sorry. Were you waiting long?”
Rabbit couldn’t help smiling just a little. “I just got here. Done with this?” He held the other’s cup up where he could see it.
Caine took in the watered down tea and nodded. “I guess so.”
He followed Rabbit to the trashcan, looking around the shop. “Guess we’re not going to find a seat here. There’s a park nearby though. We can go there after you’ve gotten a drink.”
“Nah, we can go now. I don’t need an overpriced drink I can barely taste that badly.”
Caine chuckled. “Well, it’s just a couple blocks away. I’ll show you.”
Rabbit let him lead the way, walking with his hands in his pockets and glad that he hadn’t brought his bike. He didn’t like the thought of having to leave it so far out of sight and riding it for just a few blocks was a waste of fuel; besides, he’d have felt obligated to offer Caine a ride home on it when they were done hanging out, and the last thing he needed was for the other man to have a seizure in transit.
The park was on a broad skyway, and they settled onto a bench just off the main path. From there, they could see across a grass field to the playground, and they sat in silence for several moments, listening to people pass by behind them on the path and watching a group of children amass, seemingly without instigation on any of their parts, to play some ball game that was unfamiliar to Rabbit.
After several moments, he turned to see Caine sitting cross-legged on the other end of the bench, with his elbows on his knees and his chin cradled in his hands. H was watching the children with a small smile as they played their impromptu ball game.
“You like kids?” Rabbit asked, studying his companion’s profile.
Caine nodded and turned his head just enough to look at Rabbit out of the corners of his eyes. “Love them. I especially like listening to them. They always have such interesting things to say.”
His smile took on a sad cast that Rabbit couldn’t think of a reason for and he turned back to the kids, who had moved off down the field toward the playground.
“Going to have any?”
“I’d like to have several, but I’d consider even one good fortune.”
Rabbit nodded. “Have you foreseen anything like that? About a family in your future?”
Caine chuckled and sat up straight, interlacing his fingers and raising his hands above his head in a stretch. “I don’t need to. It’ll happen.”
Caine’s good nature wasn’t what Rabbit would have identified as being optimism so much as it was a calm, unwavering conviction. The man was serenity embodied.
“Is that what you save all your money for?”
Caine settled into a more comfortable position on the bench and Rabbit busied himself finding a cigarette and lighting it. They sat in silence for several moments, not so much because they lacked topics of conversation but because Rabbit wasn’t sure he knew Caine well enough to ask most of the questions on his mind.
He waited until his cigarette was half gone, turning the possible topics over in his mind, before settling on one and looking back up at Caine. The young man was rubbing one eye with the heel of his hand, as though he’d just woken up. It wasn’t altogether unlikely.
“Can I ask you a question about your work?” Rabbit ventured finally.
“Oh sure,” Caine said, his tone cheerful. “I don’t mind talking about it at all, as long as you don’t.”
Rabbit smirked a little. “You have seizures pretty often, right? Like, at least once a day.”
Caine nodded. “You want to know how I deal with it happening during an appointment?”
“Yeah.” Rabbit blinked. Apparently it was a common enough occurrence for Caine to have an explanation ready.
“It depends on the client,” Caine said thoughtfully. “Of course, they all know up front with me that it could happen, and if that’s too much for them then we find them someone else. But I’m what Billie would call the lolita type, so a lot of my clients think of me as something to be taken care of, and the possibility of me having a fit just makes me even more loveable to them somehow.” He offered Rabbit an amused smile. “So really, it’s never been much of a problem. They just wait it out when it happens, and generally we can work it into the visit somehow. Plus, they always get a free time extension on their next visit if it interrupts sex, so they’re willing to chance it.”
“Huh.” Rabbit wouldn’t have thought it would be that easy to shake it off if the person he was screwing had a seizure in the process. “Don’t the visions make it...awkward though?”
Caine chuckled. “Yeah, usually. But there are awkward moments in any job.”
Rabbit crushed his cigarette butt on the bench between them and flicked it away. After a moment, he asked, “Did you know that my power can be used by other Shards?”
“You didn’t tell me so.” It wasn’t an accusation as much as it was a question.
Caine gave him another sidelong smile. “If I had, you might have wasted your time trying to figure out how to do it on command. You can’t. The power leaks and gets pulled in by other Shards when they need it.”
Rabbit thought this over in silence, but was interrupted by Caine speaking again.
“There are several things I didn’t tell you at that time, actually. Considering recent events, I should tell you now.” He sighed and rubbed his eye again, looking suddenly weary. “I told you the Shards are ordered and that this has to do with our psychic resonance. But the reason for our ordering is more specific.”
Rabbit rested his elbows on his knees and leaned toward Caine. “What is it?”
“We form a psychic ziggurat--a step pyramid with four tiers, specifically. And each of us, with the exception of me, is part of a pair.”
“A pair? I’m the only one with this power, aren’t I?”
“With your specific power yes. You are a battery that runs on an internal power source. There is a corresponding Shard who could also be considered a battery, but draws power from external sources.”
Caine gave him a tired smile. “That’s right. The Healer and the Prodigy, and the Messenger and the Witness make up the other two corresponding pairs and each pair makes up a tier of our pyramid.”
A mental picture was forming unbidden of the structure to which Caine referred. “With you at the top.” He paused and looked at his companion curiously. “Is this why you study Old World religion? Because of the Shards?”
“Right again.” Caine unfolded his legs gracefully and stood in order to stretch them out. “As I told you, the seven Shards can cause a disaster of Cataclysmic proportions when brought together.”
“You also told me that it was all conjecture,” Rabbit reminded him, beginning to feel uneasy as the fact that he should be dead reoccurred to him.
“I have to correct myself then.” Scuffing his shoes in the dirt, Caine didn’t look at him. “Along with my research, I’ve had visions that lead me to believe that we and the psychic formation we represent are meant to provide the power with which to call down a god and initiate the destruction of the world as we know it.”
“What god?” Rabbit demanded. “How can you know there are even any gods in Solace to be called down, or whatever?”
“Because of the recent death of Dr. Kouhei.”
Stunned, Rabbit fumbled for something to say. “The...the guy who kidnapped Julian? What does he have to do with anything at all?”
“You’ve met his brothers, right?”
“Yeah, I met Yoko through Alan, and Hiroki at the library. I don’t know them that well or anything, though.”
“I think they’re divine in nature.”
“What makes you think--” Rabbit cut himself off. Yoko being a god of some sort made perfect sense; it explained how he had souls to sell and how he would have identified Alan as the one to sell them to. Rabbit scowled and tried again. “But that still doesn’t explain what Tokoyo had to do with anything.”
“Well he doesn’t have anything to do with anything anymore, I guess,” Caine said, a small, grim smile twisting his mouth uncharacteristically.
“If he’s a god, how is it he’s dead?”
Caine turned to look at him. “Everything comes to an end eventually, Rabbit. That includes gods. There is absolutely nothing eternal.”
Rabbit looked at his hands, and rubbed at a new tattoo on his thumb. It made him feel silly to have this concept thrown at him; it was something he’d been taught as a child, before his father died, when he was first learning about his religious heritage. All things were impermanent; all things were illusory. He should have remembered.
When he looked back up, Caine was checking the time on his phone.
“I have to get going,” the other man said with a rueful smile. “I’ve got some paperwork that needs turning in by five and I haven’t finished it yet.”
Caine nodded. “Yes, to process my degree completion and the beginning of my research fellowship. And some things for work.”
Rabbit blinked up at him, and stood as well. “What paperwork does Billie need from you?”
“Exit paperwork,” Caine said, and he smiled at Rabbit’s look of surprise. “I’m done with school, or at least with being a student there. With my research position, I don’t need to have my job at Billie’s.”
“Oh. Well...congratulations, I guess.”
“Thanks.” Caine put his hands in his pockets, his serene affability restored. “When I know more, about the gods, I’ll give you a call.”
Rabbit nodded. “I’d appreciate it.”
Caine gave him another smile and walked off across the field, skirting around the children as he did so. Rabbit watched him leave and turned to the path that led back to the tram station, wishing he had his bike to take him home.