Touched: The Rocca Cycle – 5

hospitalbed

Doria stood at the edge of the world, peering down into the clouded oblivion, then took the final step. She found herself falling for ages, but when the clouds finally parted the Divine revealed itself to her. Its magnificence and radiance were endless, yet strange to behold. A being of such enormity that no worldly structure was its equal. Its face was a carved wooden mask with eyes glowing brilliant gold and white. Floating disconnected above the mask were grand, symmetrical stag antlers from which light dripped the wrong way and between which burned a crown of flames. Its body was like that of person’s in shape, but it too was in disparate parts. A heart floated at its center, each steady beat like a strike against a booming drum. Its arms were immense bands of woven ivy which began at boulders of crystal and ended in upturned wooden claws. Above one shoulder floated an arching series of blades, each with intricate patterns carved through them, taking the form of an angel’s wing. Its hips and legs were ancient trees which spread out into an infinite root extending below into the clouds. 

The Divine spoke in an unknown tongue — its true voice — yet Doria understood.  Though its words were few, each held such depth and breadth of meaning that they would have taken several thick tomes to explain with mere human words. The Divine posed to Doria a single question wrapped in the entirety of conceivable context. With tears streaming from her eyes and a heavy heart, she accepted for all. 

– The Lacuna Augury

                                                                                                    

“Hello?”

“Dr. Drullinger! We need you here now!”

Sarah sat up and hunched over the side of the bed, holding her head in one hand and her cellphone in the other, trying to piece together meaning from the frantic shouting.

“Did another patient die? Was it Rocca?”

“Yes, it’s Rocca! I mean, no…it’s…he’s not dead, he’s awake!”

Impossible!

The sudden rush of adrenaline made it hard for her to fully form ideas or organize her thoughts, but the thought came again — impossible!

Sarah was out bed and had flicked on the closet light before she even realized what she was doing. She hastily pulled clothes off their racks with one hand, her head still hazy as her eye lids fluttered, trying to adjust to the light.

“What do you mean he ‘woke up’? Be very clear.”

“He awake, he’s talking, he’s asking questions, he even has vitals for God’s sake! It’s nothing short of crazy, but it’s true. A miracle maybe? I don’t know, but, Dr. Drullinger, you need to be here.”

“I’m leaving now.”

She hung up just as Mark spoke from the bed, his words heavy with sleep and his hand covering his eyes to keep out the light.

“Who was that?”

He had to ask her again before she responded. “The Center.”

“It’s 3 AM, can’t they manage without you until morning?”

“Rocca woke up.”

The only sound in the room was the steady pelt of rain against the window and the wind blowing through the trees. Mark lifted himself onto one elbow and peered at her.

“He woke up? Are they sure?”

“That’s what they’re saying.”

“Well shit, then go, go!”

                                                                                                    

Rocca was smiling, staring at nothing as he savored his euphoria, when a disheveled Dr. Drullinger entered. She had on a t-shirt and jeans under her white coat with a messenger bag slung across her chest. Her heavy eyes said she hadn’t been awake long, but she brightened as soon as she saw him despite her obvious fatigue. It had been a long time since Rocca had been able to smile without the weight of crippling burdens in his eyes, but he did so now.

“I was beginning to think no one was going to come back in,” he said.

Standing just inside the room, the doctor’s mouth slowly fell open and she looked him over, but no reply came. As the silence dragged on under that appraising stare Rocca began to feel more than a little self-conscious.

“So…given how many machines I’m hooked up to I should feel pretty bad, right? But I feel fine. …Am I fine?”

Sarah gave her head a quick shake and blinked several times as she straightening her posture, meeting his gaze with excited eyes.

“The fact that you’re conscious and talking are both very promising signs, Mr. Rocca,” she said as she set down her bag, pulled out a computer tablet, and collected an array of diagnostic tools from a nearby countertop before moving beside the bed. She lifted one that he didn’t recognize. “If you wouldn’t mind indulging me for a moment….”

Rocca stopped her, holding up his hands. “Uh, maybe first you could tell me who you are, or where I am, or how about why I’m here?”

“Oh. Yes,” the woman took a step back, looking abashed. “Yes, of course. Forgive me. It’s very late and I had only been asleep a few hours when they called to tell me you were awake.”

She managed another smile. “I’m Dr. Sarah Drullinger. I’m the director here at the Kansas City Center for Advanced Neurological Studies. I don’t usually oversee patients directly, but I’m happy to make this exception. It’s nice to finally meet you, Mr. Rocca.” Sarah held her hand out to him.

A neurological center. In Kansas City. Neither of those answers were expected or comforting. Still, little mattered past the fact that he had returned. He took her hand and shook it. “Likewise, I’m sure.” Something about that had her smiling again.

“You have a very firm handshake.”

“That’s kind of a strange thing to say.”

“I only mean that most in your situation would barely be able to move.”

“So there is something wrong with me.”

Rocca shifted uncomfortably, the motion tugging at the array of wires attached to him from both sides. Seeing them started him wondering what had happened to his body while he had been gone. He’d always assumed he’d traversed body and mind to wherever Final Moments existed. Realizing that his body had remained behind, helpless, was frightening.

“Whatever it is, just tell me,” said Rocca calmly, “I can handle it, but I need to get going as soon as possible and I’d like to know before I do.”

“I understand you’re feeling restless and anxious, but I can answer all of your questions better after I’ve examined you. So may I?”

Sarah was evading the question.

Sarah.

He had thought of her by her name instead of a nickname. But that was right, wasn’t it? She wasn’t the shadowy shell of a Final Moments stranger, someone who would see him as someone else, someone who would soon be dead. She saw him just as he was, and this place wasn’t going to crumble away. He was home.

Rocca nodded to her. Sarah adjusted the bed so that Rocca could sit mostly upright. He leaned back, letting out a long breath and letting his smile return as Sarah got to work.

She ran a device across his forehead, noting the results on tablet, then moved to the array of elaborate machines, peering from one to the next, entering values as she went.

He’d visit his parents first, as soon as Sarah was done. He’d thought he had settled on seeing Rebecca first during all those slow times in the Final Moments where he mused about what he would do when he returned. He was going to tell her he loved her, but even still now that the moment had come for some reason it seemed that it could wait. He didn’t know if Rebecca loved him back, but he knew his parents did. They needed know he was alright.

“What’s the last thing you remember?”Sarah said without turning to look at him, moving to yet another machine, navigating through a number of menus and readouts with practiced skill. Rocca paused, considering the situation before answering.

“I thought you were going to answer my questions,” he said finally, pulling himself back from his ruminations.

“When treating a patient it’s essential to know their history. You can find out when the symptoms began, what they’re allergic to, or if there’s a family history of something similar. We’ve gathered as much information as we can to put together the story of what happened, but there are blank pages at the end. Knowing what happened is every bit as important to this examination as any of the data I’m putting in your chart. We’ll get to your questions, I promise.”

Rocca sighed, but thought back to his life before — it barely felt real. He’d only let himself think of the future to give himself hope. He’d only thought of the past so he’d know what his future should look like.

“It was Spring Break. I was on a beach in Cabo with Erin, a woman I met the week before. I was in love with her, but it turns out she wasn’t who I thought she was.”

For a moment he considered saying more, but then didn’t think Sarah would believe him if he told her that Erin had actually been Her.

 “I’m guessing I passed out and someone found me, but how did I get all the way to Kansas City? And if they went to all the trouble of bringing me back to the States, why here instead of in Seattle? Wait, how long have I been gone?”

Sarah’s expression turned unreadable. She looked down and started digging in her pockets, but just before she had he caught a moment of some emotion. Had it been worry or pity?

“We’ll get to that in just a minute.” She pulled a pen from her pocket and held it out to him. “Hold this for me.”

Apparently he wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to talk about something. He took the pen.

“Hold it up like this.” She held her arm outstretched high over her head. Rocca quickly followed suit and continued to mimic a series of motions she led him trough, including tossing the pen from one hand to the other. On the last toss he dropped the pen over the side of the hospital bed, leaving Dr. Drullinger to retrieve it from the floor.

“Is dropping the pen bad?” he asked.

“No,” she said, laughing lightly, “it’s fine.”

That laugh putting him more at ease.

“Can you move your toes for me?” asked Sarah.

He did, and she entered something into her tablet.

“Now your legs.”

The process repeated.

“Do you have any pain?”

Rocca considered for a moment, moving around a bit, then said no.

“Are you hungry or thirsty?”

“Waffles would be amazing.” He hadn’t even thought the answer before he had said it. He loved waffles. Even though he could manipulate reality in Final Moments, every time he did he risked drawing Her attention to him and the others. It hadn’t been worth that risk, so opportunities to eat them had been scarce. But now he could have them for every meal until he couldn’t ever look at a waffle again. He smiled.

“There’s a late-night breakfast place a couple miles from here I end up at with some unfortunate regularity that makes good waffles,” said Sarah. “Nurse Henson. Could you come in here?”

The Henson woman must have been listening from just outside the door because she stepped into view almost immediately, looking a bit flustered, no doubt from being noticed.”

“Order two number sevens from the Belgian Cafe and have them delivered here.”

“Yes, Dr. Drullinger” said the woman, quickly stepping out of sight.

“Thanks,” said Rocca. “Better service than I expected from a hospital.”

“It’s the least we can do, and we’re just about finished, just a few more measurements.”

Sarah took his temperature and a few vials of blood, calling in another nurse to pass them off to, then sat down in a chair beside the bed, looking spent but excited.

“We’ll want to keep you here under observation for awhile, get that blood work back, and have an MRI done, but right now I’d say you’re in impeccable health. It is truly stunning.”

Rocca wasn’t planning to stay that long, but decided to wait until he got the answers he needed before saying so. “What’s so impressive about me being healthy? Why am I here in the first place?”

Dr. Drullinger adjusted her posture and took on an expression that was both somber and intense. Staring back into her perfect eye contact, he wondered how she had managed to go from disheveled to looking like she was about to give a presentation to a crowded room in a few seconds.

“Many of the things I’m going to tell you will be hard to hear and understand. You’ll need time to process them. You’re in a safe environment here, and we have several highly trained psychiatrists who will be here to help you day or night. Everything will be alright.”

Rocca held his breath, suddenly less eager to hear what she had to say. He let the breath go and nodded. “Go on.”

“You were on a beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, like you remembered, but you weren’t found unconscious, you were found dead.”

Rocca stared at her.

“Dead? Dead how?”

“When the paramedics arrived you were unresponsive, you weren’t breathing, and had no heartbeat. After several attempts to resuscitate you failed, you were declared dead at the scene.”

“I don’t understand. If I was dead why am I waking up in hospital and not in a grave somewhere?”

The very notion shook him. What if he have fought his way back from the other side only to wake up buried alive? He shivered and tried to put the unsettling thought out of his mind, it wasn’t a possibility he wanted to dwell on.

“You have the Cabo coroner to thank for that. He initially signed off on paramedic’s assessment when they brought you in, that is until he was about to begin the autopsy and he noticed you didn’t look like a corpse. You had no change in coloration, your body temperature had remained normal instead of slipping, and several other irregularities convinced him to pull you off the table and have you rushed into the emergency room.”

Rocca imagined the knife hovering above his helpless body, poised to seek out and remove his organs one by one. Terrifying. “So if I wasn’t dead, what was I?”

“You were still missing a heartbeat and weren’t breathing. They tried again to resuscitate you without success. They didn’t know what to make of it. They put you on life-support and notified the embassy. It took awhile for the government to sort out who you were, but once they did you were moved back to Seattle. When you continued to remain in stasis and none of the specialist there could offer any explanation or successful treatment, your parents gave their permission to have you transferred here in the hopes that we might find a way to help you.”

“Why here? Why not the Mayo Clinic or some place like that?”

“Well, this may sound like hubris, but even though we’re quite new we’re considered the leading neurological research center in the world for rare and poorly-understood conditions. I was extremely fortunate in that I was able to secure an immense amount of funding, and that my own accomplishments and skills were enough to entice some of the top doctors and scientists in this field to join me here.”

“Impressive. So what have I got? It’s not brain cancer or something, is it?”

“No, there’s no cancer. We’ve been over your blood, brain, and body chemistry more times than you can imagine. There are no signs of growths, injuries, or any other abnormalities, and from the all the tests we’ve run so far I would say you’re in perfect health, Mr. Rocca.”

“Alright, then what is it?”

“Well, it’s complicated. Your metabolism, cellular functions, and brain waves ceased entirely, yet you remained alive. You displayed no physical deterioration, and now it seems reasonably safe to say that you haven’t experienced any mental deterioration either. The latter is rare but not unheard of, but the former is without precedent. Without regular motion muscle tissue naturally atrophies. Perhaps even more extraordinary still was that your body was able to heal injuries and replenish blood taken for testing.”

“How was I injured?”

“It was nothing major. Just a minor cut suffered during transport, though at the time we were seriously worried. In a healthy body platelets in your blood form a clot in the wound and white blood cells will fight against any infections. Both accumulate as blood flows past the wound, but you had no blood flow. It should have taken the cells a long time to reach your wound if they could have reached it at all, yet your wound healed faster than it would have in a healthy individual. And those questions all came after trying unsuccessfully to figure out how your blood remained oxygenated without flowing or respiration.

“Given the bizarre nature of your symptoms and the inability of any other doctors being able to treat or even diagnosis you, instead of trying to determine what you had we looked at what it wasn’t. After an exhaustive amount of research and testing we determine what it wasn’t was any known condition. We named it, non-necrotic encephalopathic abeyance. Though once the news got ahold of it it became known as just “Rocca’s Syndrome.” We actually have a very good chance of winning  a Nobel Prize if we can begin to explain the cause of your state. That kind of knowledge could unlock the doors of untold advances. Regeneration, permanently sustainable muscle mass, and end to degenerative neurological disorders. For all I know breathing underwater or even eternal life itself could be there.

Sarah chuckled. “I know it must sound crazy, but there really is an incredible amount of potential there.”

“Wait, why was the media interested in me?”

“I don’t think you appreciate just how incredible everything I just told you is. It’s like you were frozen in time. With the questions you raised, the possible explanations for your state, and the potential you offered, you gave just about everyone some reason to be interested in you.”

“But how was there enough time for them find out about all that and for you to do all this research? How long was I out?”

Sarah’s expression moved to one of deep concern as she held her hands in her lap. “I’m afraid it’s been quite awhile, Mr. Rocca. It’s been five years since they recovered you from the beach.”

Five years.

The words repeated over and over again in his head. He should have expected this. Believing that he would return when he had left had obviously been a ridiculous fantasy.  How many thousand of jumps between Final Moments had he made? In a way five years was too short for the impossible number of lifetimes it felt like between the time before and now. Still, five years could have been fifty, or forever. He could have given up and never returned. After all he had endured and sacrificed to return, what was five years? He had made it back, he had escaped Her, and that’s what mattered.

“I told you it was going to be hard to hear, and this is by far the hardest. A lot will have changed since you were last conscious, but we’ll do everything we can to make your recovery here a smooth and easy process.”

Rocca knew that being back was all that mattered, but it was getting hard to breath and the beeping from the heart machine was coming twice as fast. His vision warped and the room suddenly felt too small. His breath was shallow and rapid.

“You’re having a panic attack,” Rocca heard a far off voice say. “It’s frightening, but harmless. Focus on taking deep breaths in and deep breaths out. Stress is causing your body to release adrenaline, which is making you hyperventilate. That reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in your blood which in turn raises the PH, causing a number of strange symptoms like tingling and blurred vision.”

Sarah reached out and held Rocca’s hand. “You’re safe here, Mr. Rocca, and we’re going to take good care of of you”

Rocca nodded slightly, trying to do as she had said and control his breathing. This was so stupid. How many he times had he faced his own death, living in constant fear of being hunted down by Her? Yet here he was panicking over lost time. He needed to pull it together.

“There’s a lot to be thankful for,” said Sarah. “Very few patients survive in a coma as long as you did, and many of those who do often suffer serious and debilitating side-effects, but you’ve experienced none. In fact, because of the stasis qualities of your state you haven’t aged either. You’ll be able to reconnect with your family and friends, and soon enough the lost time will be behind you and you’ll be able to move forward as if nothing ever happened.”

Rocca’s panic began to subside.

“So you named a new disease after me?” asked Rocca. “I’m guessing Lou Gehrig would tell me that’s not the kind of thing you want to happen.”

“Usually not, no,” agreed Sarah. “However, for now you’re in perfect health, and those five years weren’t wasted. I promise you we’ll find a way to use the information you’ve given us to make the world a better place.”

“You said I’m in perfect health, ‘for now’. Do you think it won’t last?”

“Well, as I said, Mr. Rocca, this is the first recorded case and there is still so much we don’t know. I don’t want to needlessly worry you, but we still don’t know the cause of your condition, so to be honest at this point we don’t know whether or not you might relapse back into unconsciousness. We haven’t given it much thought though as we never really expected you to wake up.”

“I won’t relapse.” Rocca’s words were calm but firm.

Sarah’s brow furrowed, her questioning eyes searching his. “How do you know?” The words were eager, but she waited for him to speak, her fingers poised over the small keyboard attached to her tablet in her lap.

“Well….” Rocca looked away, eyes un-focusing.

Erin. Her. He couldn’t remember when she came into the campus coffee shop where he always studied. All he could remember was what it was like to see her for the first time, her red and gold hair flowing around her like a sunburst. It was like a car crash, time stopped and everything burned so bright in his memory that it burned away much of what had come before. Usually feeling like that passed quickly, leaving him rocked but back on his own feet, but it hadn’t ended. It was like a single moment had been drawn out across weeks. He hadn’t felt it when it was happening, but that whole time he was falling.

He had been in love from the moment he saw her, and not one thing about that didn’t make him sick with anger. People don’t fall for each other like that, that’s just infatuation and fairy tails. She was a siren, clouding his mind while calling him to the grave. Or perhaps she was death itself, come to collect. Whatever she was, she wasn’t of this world.

The next clear memory he had had was staring down at himself lying motionless in the sand on a beach in Cabo. She’d told him he couldn’t stay here anymore. He’d told her, “fine, we’re heading back on our flight this evening,” but she had meant in this life. What was it she had said? That he was touched by…something, and that it was too dangerous for him to be in the world any longer.

He had been too paralyzed by fear and confusion to fight Her then, and so he had taken her hand when she offered hers and together they walked, leaving his body behind. Their steps became strides, then spanned miles, then stepped away from the world entirely into something beyond. He hadn’t know how he knew, but he knew then that he had to let go, that if he didn’t, holding on to that treacherous hand would be the last thing he ever did.

She had looked shocked when he let go, like she didn’t know it was possible. Whatever they had been standing on, and everything else around them, ceased to exist when his hand released hers — he began to fall. He fell through a field of stars like the one he had seen beneath him on that ship of clouds as time slowed to a crawl. She’d come after him, but he wouldn’t take her hand this time, and it seemed that she couldn’t take his unless he let her, though she pleaded for him to.

As he fell away from her, so did her glamor. He realized his feelings for her hadn’t been his own. Everything she’d said and done had been to lead him here to steal his soul away. The tears had come first, but then fury and hatred took over. He managed to turn away from her, and reaching out into the starry void he had searched for purchase, and found it. He had blinked then and found himself in the first of those seemingly endless Final Moments. She had never stopped hunting him, but none of those Final Moments had ever ended up being his.

Rocca tore his gaze from the ceiling and turned to Sarah. “I don’t think you’d be able to understand even if I told you, so, I just…“

Rocca head spun toward the window as he lifted himself up so that he was sitting on the bed, simultaneously ripping off sensors and pulling other machines closer. The beep of the heart monitor raced as he searched the stormy darkness beyond.

“What are you doing!?” shouted Sarah.

“Quiet!” he returned.

He had felt something, out there, like the end of a Final Moment or Her, but not. Over and over again he tried to identify the feeling, but he just couldn’t place it. He tried to reach out with his senses like he had so many times before, but nothing happened. That made sense, he was back in the real world, but then what could he be feeling?

Run.

Rocca began tearing off sensors as fast as he could, standing as he did, toppling some of the machines in the process.

“Mr. Rocca! I need you to calm down immediately! You’ll injur yourself!

“I have to go now!” He tore of the last of the sensors and his heart rate registered a flat line, the long, high-pitched wine of the machine matched by a flashing blue light overhead along with an alarm. Moments later a nurse carrying a defibrillator ran into the room trailed by another. They came to a stop as they saw that he wasn’t in cardiac arrest, eyes jerking between him and Sarah while he pulled out his IV.

“Mr. Rocca!” shouted Sarah as a trail of blood flowed down his arm from the hole in his vein. Dr. Drullinger pointed at the first nurse and barked orders. “Stop the bleeding and see if he’s done any damage! Get that alarm and heart monitor off!”

The nurses had both quickly regained their composure and were sternly trying to get him to return to bed, holding up their palms to block his way. Without thought his hands shot between them. His arms slid along theirs in a smooth motion, pressing them apart as he grabbed each of their shoulders tightly, one in each hand. He pulled them toward each other and then apart in almost the same motion, using their initial resistance against him to shove them apart. As they staggered he stepped quickly past them. Which Final Moment’s life had taught him that?

Rocca strode down the hall just short of running, not bothering to look back as Sarah shouted behind him, running to catch up. She got right up in his face, but didn’t quite block his progress.

“You’re in no condition to leave!”

“You said I was in perfect health,” said Rocca without slowing or making eye contact.

“We still have several tests we need to do to be sure!”

“I’ll take the risk. It’s not safe here anymore.” He pressed open the fire stairwell door and took to the steps. Sarah kept pace alongside him.

“This is the safest place you can be right now!”

Rocca kept walking down the steps.

“You’re in a hospital gown. It’s pouring. It’s the middle of the night. You have no money, no ID, no phone, and I suspect you don’t know a single person in town. Where exactly do you think you’re going!?”

Rocca’s certainty wavered and he hesitated, pausing on a step. He felt it again in that moment, and he started again twice as fast.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I have to get away from here now.”

“Why!?”

Rocca pushed open the door at the end of the stairs and walked out into the lobby. It was huge and ornate. A circular wooden desk sat under a vaulted ceiling that opened up into a large octagonal skylight through which he could see heavy rain. He shied away from it as lightning gave him a view of the storm above and headed toward the front door. An aged security guard rose and made as if to speak, then lost the words when he saw Rocca’s face and just stared with quizzical shock. Rocca pressed open the double set of doors as Sarah chased after him, pleading for him to see sense.

The rain was so heavy outside it was almost hard to hear Sarah’s shouts. He moved quickly down the long covered walkway, chilled watery concrete assaulting his bare feet. What was he going to do? He didn’t even know where he was, and didn’t know the city even if he had had some idea of where in it he was. Thunder boomed overhead, loud enough that it shook the ground and rippled the pooling water underfoot.

Rocca reach the end of the walkway and stood just short of the near waterfall of rain that poured off the edge of lip above him, staring out into the dark parking lot. Wind whipped at his gown, forcing him to hold it against his body as he began to shiver. Sarah, clutching her coat around her with one hand, grabbed his shoulder with the other and shook him.

“Look at me! This is crazy! You can’t go out barefoot and naked out into this! It’s freezing. You’re too important to die from exposure because you’re having anxiety attacks. Whatever you’re going through we can help you. Please, let’s just go back inside and talk.”

Rocca and Sarah shielded their eyes as bright lights shone from out of the dark parking lot. Though it was muffled by the storm, Rocca heard a car door open and close, and when his eyes adjusted somewhat to the light he could make out the form of a man in a grey trench coat standing between the car lights holding an umbrella.

It was coming from him. What Rocca had sensed had been this man, but as a small orange glow lit his surly features what he felt faded away. Who was he?

“Jesus Christ,” the man shouted through the rain, “Why didn’t you put some goddamn clothes on!”

Rocca and Sarah stared at him, then Sarah shouted back.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?”

“I’m here for Ms. Monroe here, apparently.”

“Did She send you?” shouted Rocca, holding the hospital gown tighter against his exposed, shivering frame.

“Her?” He nodded at Sarah, exhaling a cloud of vapor that immediately dissipated into the rain. “No. Did they really not have a single pair of pants in the whole goddamn place that you could have tossed on?”

“Not the doctor, Her. You know who I mean.”

“I don’t know shit about it and no one sent me but myself.” A powerful gust of wind turned the rain nearly sideways. “Fuck this! I’m done! If you’re coming get in the car!”

The man turned away from them, opening and closing the car door behind him in a single motion.

Rocca stared after him. How did he know Rocca would be here? Why did he want him to come with him? Where would he take him? Was his interest like Sarah’s, or was he somehow tied to Her?

Rocca turned to look at the center, then back at the waiting car in front of him.

“You’re not seriously going to get into this guy’s car,” Sarah glowered at him, holding herself tightly with both arms as they shivered together.

“I’ve been sleeping here for five years, that’s long enough. I need to keep moving forward.”

“I’m not letting you just walk away. You’re too valuable to me and the rest of the world.”

Rocca stepped out into the rain. Cursing, Sarah followed.