Chapter 5


Rabbit’s insomnia had gotten worse. Since the attacks, he measured his nights in minutes rather than hours, and slept for only a handful at a time. Although he liked to think he did his best work when his insomnia was at it’s worst--theoretical mathematics somehow made much more sense when half-hallucinatory from sleep deprivation—he had been seriously reconsidering his career choices. With so many manual labor jobs opening up, it wouldn’t have been difficult to find mind-numbing, physically demanding work to knock him out each night.

But somehow, he still found himself seated in New Anomalia’s library vaults, surrounded by the dry smell of ancient paper and stale air circulating through the room. He sat back in his seat at the long research table, legs splayed under the table and head back, eyes fixated on a crack in the ceiling tile above his head. Massaging his left hand with his right, he tried to rub away the ache in his fingers: stars were creeping from his knuckles to the tips of his fingers, fast enough that his eyes could pick up their progress is he sat and stared long enough. The tattoos were appearing with greater frequency now, and somehow the power forcing its way to the surface of his skin caused him arthritic pain.

There were no books on the table in front of him. He hadn’t come to work. He’d just come for the quiet. Access to the vaults was restricted anyway, and with most people busy putting their lives back together, he was assured almost complete privacy.

The power grid his apartment was part of had become even more unstable than it had been to begin with. Hours passed without electricity. It wouldn’t have bothered him much—it never had in the past. But then he had woken up from one of his rare and precious naps to find himself in almost total darkness with someone else in his bed with him.

Alan had laughed when he’d fallen out of bed, had ignored his yelled epithets and protests against breaking and entering, and instead of apologizing for the near panic attack he had caused, he only said “It’s raining.”

It’s raining.

It had been raining, when he had left the house later on. But somehow, that wasn’t what Alan had been talking about.

“It’s raining.”

“What the fuck does that have to do with you breaking in and scaring the shit out of me?!”

“Nothing. I just thought you should know. It’s raining.”

Riding his bike to the university in the rain had been hazardous at best, but he didn’t want to brave the tram system, especially not since the Surge’s accident had taken out one of the lines. He had watched the feeds of that incident along with the rest of the city and he had wondered how the Surge, of all people, could manage to engineer a screw up of that magnitude; he hadn’t bothered wondering if it had been an accident. The Surge, while an arrogant, self-righteous vigilante, was not cruel. Rabbit had a feeling he had probably killed more people in his life than Surge had, and the man had been alive much longer than him.

After a life that long, spent doing what he did, how had he managed to screw up so royally? The ceiling tiles of the vault didn’t have any answers, but Rabbit continued to stare as thought they might appear.

The attacks had taken so many lives, that Surge’s mistake had only added insult to injury. Marauding demons were an outside threat, but the Surge was part of Solace’s history; an urban legend, a post-cataclysmic Robin Hood. It was like the city itself had attacked them. It was a betrayal.

What had he been thinking?

“I just thought you should know. It’s raining.”

A beat.

Two.

“So you had to come get in my bed? What happened to your goddamned phone, asshole?”

“You never come over or call anymore. I miss you. I feel like we’ve grown so far apart.”

“That’s because you’re fucking insane. Get out of my apartment!”

“You really shouldn’t avoid things. You’ll just be more overwhelmed if you do.”

Rabbit shuddered. The shift in Alan’s tone, from playful and whining to quiet, husky, almost dangerous had startled him into silence. The necromancer spoke in that voice so rarely that it made all of Rabbit’s nerves stand on end when he heard it.

He shifted in his seat, clenching and unclenching his throbbing hand, chewing on the raw, frayed skin of his lower lip. Fleeing his home to escape from that voice had seemed like his only option at the time, and now he was here in the stale, closed environment of the vaults, and for once, it wasn’t a relief. This wasn’t an escape, it was just a prison; the printed knowledge of a world everyone had almost forgotten was binding him.

When he tried to sleep, equations and figures and laws ran through his mind. Unable to escape the cacophony, he would lay in the dark and stare at nothing as numbers filled his vision. Somehow, at some point, his intelligence had gotten in the way. He wasn’t an intellectual person. He had these capacities only by chance—and he could calculate precisely and within seconds just how seldom savants of his caliber were born.

The numbers in his eyes were hiding something from him. There was something he wasn’t seeing, and he desperately needed to. That was why he avoided Alan. That was why he couldn’t sleep, and why he came to the university just so that he could sit in silence.

He shook his head, heaved himself upright and forced his feet to find the floor beneath him. He needed to smoke, and sooner rather than later.

Heading for the door-—he hadn’t even bothered to take his scarf or jacket off when he’d come in—-he exited the vault in time to see a blond figure in a hideous, paisley sweater vest approaching him. At the dead end of the hallway, there was no way for Rabbit to escape the librarian except to duck back into the vault.

“Nicholas!”

Rabbit could feel his face twitch as Hiroki cheerfully called to him. He sighed, and licked his lips, before raising a hand in neutral acknowledgement.

“I haven’t seen you around here in awhile. Have you been busy?”

“You could say that,” Rabbit said, keeping his voice apathetic enough that he hoped it would deter the other man from trying to continue the conversation.

He proceeded to walk past the blond, his eyes trained on the end of the hallway to indicate that he only desired to leave. Hiroki remained blithely unaware and his smile had an edge to it that made Rabbit wary.

“It’s raining, you know.”

The words stopped Rabbit in his tracks beside the other man, staring toward the exit. It’s raining.

“Things are happening so fast these days!” Hiroki continued. Then he laughed.

Rabbit shuddered. It was like thousands of demonic kittens purring out of key.

“And I bet this isn’t the end.”

It took Rabbit a long time to answer. When he did, his voice sounded hollow inside his head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Hiroki laughed again and kept walking past him. “Maybe not.”

Hiroki’s footsteps disappeared into the vault behind him, but Rabbit stayed where he was. It wasn’t until his phone started to buzz that he jolted back into motion and hurried to the door, fishing in his jacket pocket for the device.

In accordance with the library’s rules, he didn’t answer until he was outside the building. He was surprised the phone kept buzzing for that long as he pushed the accept button.

“Rabbit! Rabbit, it’s Riyad! Hello!”

Rabbit blinked at the Arcadian’s exuberance and huddled near the entrance of the library to stay out of the rain. With one hand, he groped in his pocket for a cigarette and his lighter.

“Riyad? What d’you need?”

“You’re the Metamorph!”

Rabbit dropped his phone, along with his cigarette and lighter. As the device clattered to the pavement, it occurred to him that the only reason he hadn’t had a heart attack in the last few months was that his heart didn’t actually work.

He stared at the phone. How did Riyad know? Even he hadn’t known until Caine had told him, and only Caine and Julian shared the information with him. Scowling, he crouched and retrieved his cigarette and lighter first, lighting up and taking a long drag before picking up the phone and putting it back to his ear.

“—bit? Hey!”

“Did Julian tell you that?”

“Huh?” The bafflement in Riyad’s voice was proof enough that the Healer had kept his word. “No, it was a guy named Caine. He came to see us earlier today, and he told me you’re the Metamorph.”

Rabbit sighed, exhaling smoke that misted against his cheek before drifting into the rain and being washed away. “Yeah. It’s me. What d’you need?”

“Caine said something’s going to happen and the Shards all need to meet. So I guess I’m in charge of throwing that together.” He laughed a little, and the sound warmed Rabbit somewhat after the frost created by Hiroki’s laughter. “We still need to find the Witness and the Impulse, but I don’t know how busy you are, so I wanted to let you know in plenty of time.”

“I’ve got time.” Rabbit switched his phone to his other ear, eyeing the distance from the dry spot he was occupying to his bike under the awning at the other end of the skyway. “Just tell me when you guys are ready.”

“Great! I’ll even make sure there’s food.”

Rabbit couldn’t help a small, wry smile. The Arcadians, he knew, saw food as an important incentive to social interaction, and he’d heard Riyad Shihar was an exceptional cook. It was too bad his appetite failed him.

“Sounds good. I’ll make sure my schedule’s open.” Which wouldn’t be hard, between the SPD’s continued reluctance to give him work and his inability to get any research done.

With a few cheerful words of parting, Riyad hung up and Rabbit took a deep breath before pulling his jacket up over his head and running out into the rain.