Several Months Later...
The Spine awoke from stasis with a soft click and a puff of steam. Gears spun quietly as he rotated his joints with acute precision. He closed his eyes for a moment searching the Wi-Fi for any important messages.
Suddenly his eyes shot open. It was Christmas Day. The Spine had already gotten his shopping done, and the gifts wrapped, but something was very wrong.
The Spine had woken up under his own power. In the last 116 years he had never woken up on his own, not on Christmas.
“Rabbit?” He called out to the empty room, hoping that maybe he was hiding as a joke. “Rabbit?” He called out again, sliding out from underneath the blankets, yet another human comfort he allowed himself.
He stood up carefully, before beginning a methodical search of the room. There wasn’t much space for Rabbit to hide in the small room. The Spine had kept it purposely minimalistic and clean, the closet was empty, and the underside of the bed was barren. This was very wrong.
He extended his search to Rabbit’s room, only to find an untouched bed, and the organized chaos of how Rabbit lived. With one glance he could tell the copper bot was nowhere to be found within the mess.
He methodically searched the manor, trying to find any trace of his brother already knowing he wouldn’t find him, still he checked every room. Even Rabbit’s ‘secret room’ was empty.
The Spine stopped for a moment outside of Peter VI’s room before quietly entering his room. He silently checked for Rabbit, already knowing what the result would be, but still he held a small flicker of hope.
That hope was quickly smothered as he took a few steps towards Peter’s bed after an unsuccessful search. He heaved a heavy sigh, expelling a cloud of Steam from his spine vents.
“Peter..” He said softly, shaking the sleeping inventor
Peter V i grumbled something unintelligibly and rolled over, away from the silver automaton.
“Peter.” he said a little louder and more commandingly. he shook the man with more force, attempting to rouse him from his dosing state.
“Five more minutes Rabbit. ‘M tired.” He whined, pulling the blanket over his head.
“I’m not Rabbit.” The Spine put emphasis on the word Rabbit, allowing his deep voice to register with Peter for a moment.
Peter lowered the blanket, peering at the silver bot standing over his bed. “Spine? What are doing in my room?” He glanced at the alarm clock, still half asleep. He glared up at The Spine, “It’s 8 am. ‘m going back to sleep.”
He tried to pull the blanket back over his head, but The Spine wouldn’t allow it. “I know how early it is Peter. I wouldn’t have woken you if it wasn’t important.”
Peter sat up, stretching some, but still grumpy. He crossed his arms on his chest, still glaring. “Well? What is it?”
Peter’s glare faltered, his eyes widened with concern. “What do you mean Rabbit’s gone? I’m sure he’s somewhere in the manor.”
The Spine shook his head, “I’ve checked everywhere Peter, he’s nowhere in the manor.”
Peter sighed, and rubbed at his temples. “Alright, you get me a coffee, I’ll get my keys. We’re going to go looking for him. He can’t have gotten too far.”
Rabbit knelt down carefully in front of Paige’s grave, keeping a hand behind his back as he looked longingly at the polished tombstone. “Hiya Paige. Merry Ch-Christmas.” He smiled, as though she was alive and well again, sitting in the graveyard before him. “You woulda loved the m-manor right now. It’s s-s-s-so pretty, b-but not as pretty as y-y-y-you.” He paused for a moment.
“I miss ya every day. I still l-l-love you, you know.” He closed his eyes, holding back the dark, oily tears that threatened to fall. “I hope you’re happy....wherever you are. Peter t-t-told me you went to heaven and that it’s real n-nice there. I asked The Spine if robuts go to heaven once, he said he d-didn’t know.” A single tear rolled down his cheek, leaving a dark streak on the copper. “I-I-I don’t care w-where I go as long as it’s with y-y-y-you.”
He took a few breaths, suddenly his face lit up with happiness. “I know we said n-n-n-no presents, but I got you s-s-somethin’ anyway.” He moved his hand out from behind his back, revealing a small rose bush. With his free hand he scooped a small hole in the dirt to plant it in. He placed the bush with the utmost care, shifting the dirt back around the roots and patting it down.
“I-I w-worked with P-p-peter to make this for you when you were still....” he looked around before leaning in close to the grave and whispered, “Living.” As if it were some massive secret that couldn’t risk being overheard. “I’ll still b-b-bring ya flowers, just not so-so-so-so much now that ya got your own.” He examined the rose bush for a second and said, “These are special roses Paige. They’re blue. I w-w-wanted to get ya somethin’ real special for our f-f-first Ch-christmas. I know your favorite color’s blue.”
Rabbit sat back on his heels smiling, before looking down at the ground shifting like a nervous schoolboy and asking, “So, what’d ya get me?” He looked at the grave before jumping up. “You’re hidin’ it aren’t ya? Tryin’ to make it more fun?”
He looked around before seeing a small silver box nestled in the grass behind the head stone. “Aww. Y-you shouldn’t have.” He picked it up, going around the gave and sat down, the rose bush between him and the headstone. He carefully peeled away the wrapping to reveal a small plain white box, just small enough to fit in the palm of his hand. He removed the lid with a tentative smile, and let out a small gasp at the contents.
Peter and The Spine searched the city, checking every ice cream parlor and pet shop they could find. Passing a cemetery, The Spine could see someone placing flowers on a grave, and it suddenly occurred to him exactly where Rabbit could be. It had been so long since he had woken up with Rabbit gone, the most likely explanation had slipped his mind. He was visiting her on Christmas. Rabbit visited her every day but was always home before the sun rose in the sky. He should have guessed that today would be different. “Turn left up ahead.” He said calmly and without explanation. Peter let out a small sigh, willing to try anything to find their lost copper bot.
As they pulled up outside of the graveyard The Spine climbed out of the car, Peter made a move to do the same, but the silver automaton held up a hand telling him to wait. Peter begrudgingly obliged, and watched as The Spine entered the graveyard on his own with slow, careful steps, as though his walk alone could wake those who were so restfully sleeping within.
He watched with a slight melancholy smile played across his lips as he saw Rabbit get up, walking around the grave before spotting the box he had planted there. He knew Rabbit would visit and that he would bring her something special, he only felt it was right to give him something in return. Even if his brother never knew it was him, he didn’t care, anything to make Rabbit smile. He moved to a grave stone beside a tree, attempting to hide himself from the copper bot’s view, but still wanting to watch as Rabbit opened the small white box.
Rabbit gently dipped a finger into the box lifting the delicate golden chain out with care. At the end of the chain hung a small golden locket, inscribed with an ornate ‘P’ with a small clasp on the side. He undid the clasp with nimble copper fingers, being careful not to damage it.
On the left side was a picture of Paige, still young, no older than 2 or 3 years old, sitting on her parent’s laps. The right side was a small drawing with incredible detail, he could tell it was hers as soon as he laid eyes on it. A miniature portrait of himself stared back up at him, a light smile danced on the lips of the portrait, in stark contrast the quivering of his lips as he looked down at it.
Feelings of sadness and loss overwhelmed the automaton, he was nearly knocked backwards by the sudden amount of pain that he felt. He closed it, a tear fell to the ground leaving a dark mark in the dirt. He held it in the palm of his hands for a few more moments, tracing over the ‘P’ with a single finger. He looped the chain around his neck, tucking the locket away inside of his shirt and jacket, not that he cared if his brothers saw it. They could tease him to their hearts content, but he would never fight or protest.
“N-now you’ll al-always be with m-m-me Paige.” He placed a twitching hand over the center of his chest where his blue matter was hidden under layers of clothing. “Right h-h-here.”
He smiled slightly, gazing longingly at the grave, trapped in memories, “I kn-kn-kn-know you’re not h-here anymore sweetie, b-but you’re still with me in my dreams.” He sighed, another tear falling to the ground, spreading the the dark patch on the dirt further. “H-hows about s-s-s-sing for ya? One more t-time, I w-want you to know that when I sing it at concerts, I-I-I-I’ll be thinkin’ of you.” He took a pause before singing.
Didn’t have to look my way,
Your eyes still haunt me to this day
But you did,
yes you did.
You didn’t have to say my name,
ignite my circuits start a flame.
But you did,
yes you did.
Oh turpentine erase me whole.
I don’t a-want to live my life alone.
Well I was a-waitin’ for you all my life.
Set me free
He paused, stopping to fight off the recurring breakdown. He took a deep breath, the tears falling free and dark, dripping from his eye sockets, and down his cheek plates.
The Spine stayed hidden in his vantage point, watching and listening. He had the found the locket as he had packed away her things so many months ago. He hadn’t opened it before tucking it away into his pocket. He watched as Rabbit placed the chain around his neck, tucking the locket away. The Spine felt tears begin to stain his own cheeks as Rabbit began his final serenade to Paige for the final time.
It suddenly became clear to him what happened. Rabbit had found love, real love, one that didn’t fade with death. What he had been searching for for so many years his brother had found by chance in Paige. A love stranger, and sadder than death itself.
He slid his back up against the tree, trying to brace himself, vulnerable and pained by the sudden realization. He was happy for his brother, but he wondered, will I ever find the same thing? He thought he’d felt it in that night with Holly, and with the heart wrenching goodbye, but maybe there was hope for him yet. He could always dream it, and maybe someday it would be real, but for now he just leaned his head down, trying to hide the tears that fell.
“I’m sorry Paige. I-I-I thought I l-loved them, b-but I was wrong. J-Jenny and H-H-Honeybee don’t hold a c-c-candle to you.” His stuttering worsened as he became emotional. He planted a gentle kiss over the place where her name was etched into the stone. “I should never t-t-t-touched that bot. Y-you might still b-b-be here if I-I-I c-called Petr when you t-t-told me t-to.” He placed his head in his hands. “It’s all m-my fault you’re d-d-d-d-dead.” I’m s-sorry.”
he raised his head from his hands, wiping away the oily tears. he stood up and ran a hand across the top of the gravestone. “M-merry Christmas, Paige. I l-love you.”
He walked over to where he knew The Spine was hiding. The Spine didn’t see him approach, his head dipped low, lost in his own thoughts. Rabbit placed a hand on his little brother’s shoulder. “Come on Spine, let’s go home.”
The Spine stood up, wiping away his tears, and together, they walked out of the graveyard.