1. Reborn

Eddie

I stare out the window at the rain and try to keep myself from tearing at my own skin. I feel like I'm burning, but I'm not. At least, not outwardly. On the inside, it's a different story. On the inside, she is alive in me like a fire, catching the rest of me on fire, too, until I am nothing but an empty pyre.

Rylie is gone. Walter is gone. I am gone.

I have no idea where he went. He didn't leave a note and he didn't say good-bye. It wouldn't have hurt me so badly if we hadn't grown so close since she died.

After Rylie…I hadn't been able to summon up my voice. It was like she'd taken my vocal cords, my lungs [MY HEART] when she'd left. I couldn't talk to anyone.

Except Walter.

Maybe it was because they'd been so close. I mean, anyone who wasn't completely brain-dead could see that they were connected. And not just the love thing, either. There was a deeper connection between them. And maybe that was why I found I could only talk to him. Maybe Rylie left him a piece of a lung, a strip of a vocal cord.

But now he's gone. I have no more use for my voice. Jimmy and Damien have stopped calling. They're dealing with this hard, too, but not like me. They loved her, but they were not in love with her.

Mom and Dad are living with Malcom and I for now. I know they're here to watch me, to try and help if they can. But they can't help me.

Now I sit by this window and watch the rain. Hoping maybe, someday, it can extinguish the flames.

Rylie

I don't know where I am. I'm afraid to open my eyes.

I'm soaking wet and naked and I'm wedged between rocks. No, not rocks; they're too smooth to be rocks. Walls? Pavement? I can't tell.

Where was I before? I can't remember. I remember pain…and that it was raining, like it is now…and…and…

My eyes come flying open with a gasp.

Walter!

I scramble up from wherever I am, not caring that I'm naked, not caring that it's cold, just needing to see his face. The last time I saw it, it was filled with anguish. Why? Why did he seem so broken?

I am about to run off to find him when I remember. I gasp again, but this one is soft and understated compared to the first.

I am dead.

Dead.

So why am I still alive?

Eddie

My dad calls me down for dinner, but he shouldn't bother. He should know I don't care anymore. About anything.

At some point, my mom comes upstairs to ask me- no, to beg me- to, please, eat something. I tune her out.

Malcom comes upstairs at some point, too, but he just sits there with me. He doesn't say anything, only glances at me occasionally. I appreciate that.

When I am finally alone again, it's a little past midnight. The rain continues. I feel like it's been raining nonstop since Rylie died, but that may just be my imagination. I can't really remember specific days since her funeral, it's all too muddy.

Not that this is a bad thing. If I remember too clearly, I may not be able to hang on.

When the flash comes, at first I think it's lightning.

But then again, I've never known lightning to leave a blue man in its wake.

I blink when I see him, but that's all. No great celebration, no gasping, no crying out like a normal person. Guess I'm not normal anymore. But that's what happens when you lose your best friend/love of your life.

It occurrs to me, vaguely, that I have never actually seen Dr. Manhattan in person. That this, in theory, should be a huge, exciting moment in my life.

...In theory.

He looks right at me through my window. I stare back. Finally he speaks, but I don't see his lips move so he must be speaking directly to my mind, like Walter once said he could.

Hello, Eddie, he greets me.

I don't reply. Why should I? The most powerful man in the world, and he didn't even bother trying to save Rylie? Or, hell, he could bring her back! Didn't he do that with Walter? Why did he choose to do nothing now? Did he even care?

I understand this must be a troubling time for you, but it's time to get back to work, he continues.

Apparently not.

I feel a spark of anger, but it's just a spark. I don't feel anything more than that these days. A "troubling time"? I repeated in a dead voice. My best friend just died.

Death is not necessarily the end, Manhattan replies, in a voice that is as perfectly empty as mine.

Jeez, why did I have to have something in common with the jolly blue giant? I mean, shit, he wasn't even jolly.

Yeah, tell that to Rylie, I mutter and turn away. I'm done looking at dead things.

Tell her yourself.

It takes me a moment- I don't register things quite as quickly as I used to- but slowly I turn back to him, carefully numb. What are you talking about? I demand.

Rylie. She's dead, yes, but I brought her back, Manhattan answers, as though we're just talking about the weather.

So he had brought her back.

He

Brought

Her

Back.

The explosion of emotion within my chest- emotions so strong and fierce that I have no names for them- nearly tears me apart, and I struggle to keep myself from complete and total destruction.

"You're lying," I say in a trembling voice, forgetting that he can hear me speak in my mind.

He shakes his head. I wouldn't lie.

The tears come then, bursting from my eyes like burning waterfalls, and I feel like my heart might explode but it doesn't.

You will see her again. But you must trust me, Manhattan continues.

"Anything! Anything!" I gasp, slamming into the window and pressing my palms desperately against the pane. All I can think is, She'saliveshe'saliveshe'salive!

He dips his head to me. Come with me.

I rush outside, not caring whether or not I wake the rest of the house. The rain is freezing cold, but it feels blissful against my skin. I stop a few feet from Manhattan, watching him with wide, desperate eyes. "Take me to her!" I insist.

He holds up one hand. "Wait," he commands me. "I have to tell you what I need of you."

I narrow my eyes. So this was going to be a trade, huh? "What you need of me?" I repeat flatly.

"If you want to see her again, there are certain things you need to do first," he tells me calmly.

Part of me burns with resentment at being used, but there is no way I'm passing up the opportunity to see Rylie again. I don't think it would be safe for me to do so anyway.

"Fine. What do you need me to do?"

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Okay, so...Originally I never planned for this to happen. Ever. There was a completely different path this story was supposed to take. But we'll see where this path goes and if we still end up where we're supposed to. Please review!