OT: Tales of AU – Catching Moments

on August 13, 2013 in Other Tales, Tales of AU

Okay, Kegan…

You’re eighteen years old.

You’ve never had a girlfriend… never had a boyfriend, if we get right down to it, though you’ve never really been sure if the thoughts you have about boys mean anything, since you’re supposed to think about boys… and now you’ve been at college for all of like negative two days and a girl blatantly makes a pass at you.

Sure, she’s clearly rebounding from a previous relationship and she has issues, but… still…


Still… you’re standing alone in a bathroom, talking to yourself instead of going after her.

At least you aren’t talking out loud.

Okay, that part might have been.

Stop it,” I say, definitely out loud, and then I’m bursting through the door with purpose. The straight view down the hallway to the glass front of the lounge where the meeting with literally everyone else on the floor is breaking up kind of blunts the edge of that purpose, but I recover pretty quickly. No one was paying attention.

I used to have a huge problem with feeling like all eyes were on me, especially the first time I went back to school after my turning, because for a while it was true… and afterwards, I could never hear a whisper or giggle without wondering if it was about me. Of course, giggling and whispering are major parts of the social curriculum at an elementary school, so the choices were either get over it quickly or run away and hide forever.

Though, I never actually got over it… the instinct to simultaneously imagine and fear scrutiny is still there. I just push past it.

Which is what I do now.

Anyway, there’s no sense in just charging after her. It would be real impressive if I went crashing down the stairs after her and ended up falling on my face. I don’t have to worry about breaking my neck, but my pride is as susceptible to injury as anyone else’s.

Also, invulnerability to injury isn’t the same thing as invulnerability to pain. And I wouldn’t admit this out loud while I’m trying to be cool, but pain hurts.

Why am I so sure that Alea’s gone down the stairs and not just retreated to her room? It didn’t really register as significant at the time, but was wearing her cloak when she appeared in the mirror… she’d taken it off before the meeting, which meant she ducked into her room to slip it on, which meant she intended to go out.

Well… that, and it’s hard for me to imagine she wanted me to follow her to her room.


I’ve never even had a girlfriend…

I push that aside. I can sort out how I feel about Alea… and how she feels about me, which is something equally important… later. The thing about following someone you can’t actually see is that the farther ahead you let them get, the less like following it becomes and the more like looking.

I take the guess that she will have gone out the front of the building, if not through the sunken patio off Harlowe’s basement or through the front end of the Nexus. Why? Because it slopes down. Not that I think Alea has an particular affinity for downward paths, it’s just that I don’t think she’s heading anywhere in particular. If she is, I’m pretty much out of luck.

I’m in luck.

The stars are just starting to come out, and she’s stopped in the open lot just across the way from Harlowe to stare at it. It occurs to me that what I’ve been thinking of as the front of the building… what is the front, architecturally speaking… is actually the back, for most purposes. Campus life exits to the rear. The area to the south of Harlowe is part of the university grounds and is clearly meant for development, but it hasn’t been. The grass is mowed, but not as recently or neatly as most of the greens.

“You came,” Alea says before I’m even close to her. She hasn’t even turned around yet.

I wonder if her command of dirty Pax is good enough to understand the double entendre, then I realize there’s no possible reason for the autre-entendre of that word to apply. If she had instead asked me if I wanted to come or if I was coming or something like that, then maybe there could be some implications, but the only reason my brain had even made the connection is because apparently I’m secretly a twelve year old boy who just learned what things mean.

“Yeah,” I say. If it isn’t the smoothest possible response given the situation, I at least have direct firsthand knowledge that it’s also not the least smooth. I could have opened my mouth half a second earlier and let all the words my brain was spilling vomit out. “I did.”

“The first time I saw the dome during the day, I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “I couldn’t believe it was the same one as at night, but I couldn’t believe that something so big could possibly be moved. It was this giant, impossible thing. When it was night again, I stayed up all night to see what the trick was… and there wasn’t any trick. The sky changed, at first slowly at the edge and then all over. I kept going out near the dawn, to try to find the moment when it stopped being night and started being day.”

“Did you?”

“No. I watched until my eyes felt like they would catch fire, but there was none, not that I could see. It was night when I started and at a certain point I would look around and it was certainly day, and had been for some time.”

“I think mostly I’d just say that it’s day when the sun crests the horizon,” I say. “That’s actually called daybreak, even.”

“Daybreak,” Alea repeats. “She did not use the word, but my guide said something similar. I disagreed. The sun’s entrance is dramatic, but the sky retains some night-like elements still and the day-like things that she brings are present before her emergence.”

“What did your guide think of your disagreement?”

“She didn’t have much to say about it, either way,” Alea says. “She was not my superior, merely one lending aid. She is… I’m told the word you would know is gorgon. They’re better with the sun, so those charged with my keeping handed me to her for these excursions. They took it for an enthusiasm to adapt myself to the surface, which they approved of but did not share. Those who are posted just beneath the skin of the world cling to it, for fear of the vastness outside.”

“They say that the underworld is bigger than the overworld,” I say. “Because of layers, you know? If you have a ball inside another ball, the one on the outside is almost always the bigger one, but if you peel the skin off an onion, you’ll have more onion than skin.”

“The underworld is vast, too,” Alea says. “But the outerworld is… all at once. There are no pockets, no… compartments.”

“We should take you to the city sometime,” I say. As long as she didn’t look up, she’d get all the compartmentalization that she wanted.

“When?” she asks.

I didn’t actually mean that as an offer is the worst thing a person could say to that.

After a few seconds that I’m sure weren’t regulation length, I say, “How about tomorrow?”

It would be the weekend, after all. I’m sure something about carriages was mentioned somewhere. I’m almost sure I can figure out where they are and how we get on them before I have to demonstrate this knowledge in front of Alea.

“Could we go at night?” she asks.

“You want to go now?”

“No, tomorrow,” she says. “I am not dressed for an excursion. Tomorrow night… if the city is available then.”

Excellent… now I’m even more sure I’ll figure it out in time.

“I’m sure they’ll keep it open, if I tell them it’s for you,” I say.

“Good,” she says. “Then you can help me find the moment.”

…I’ve never even had a girlfriend.

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19 Responses to “OT: Tales of AU – Catching Moments”

  1. Per popular request, there’s now a “Tales of AU” tag to give a table of contents for this story: https://www.talesofmu.com/story/category/other/tales-of-au

    Current score: 0
    • Luke Licens says:

      Thank you kindly. ^_^

      Current score: 0
    • whataslacker says:

      THANK YOU.

      I am loving Tales of AU.

      I am a huge fan of earlier MU (while I still read every chapter I am not enjoying like I did MU), so AU is filling that void for me. THNX 🙂

      Current score: 0
    • Amy Amethyst says:

      I really like the AU stories. I hope that you continue writing them as the bonus stories for a very long time. (And the main MU story even longer!)

      Current score: 0
  2. Burnsidhe says:

    Loved it.

    It’s nice to know that some things don’t change much from universe to universe; Kegan is just as prone to extended periods of introspection as Mackenzie is.

    Current score: 0
  3. pedestrian says:

    I enjoyed the introspection when Kegan reasoned out what she wanted to do and the correct course of action to achieve a possibility of a new relationship.

    …..Tomorrow night… if the city is available then.”

    …..“I’m sure they’ll keep it open, if I tell them it’s for you,” I say…..

    Alexandra, That is hilarious!

    Current score: 0
    • Lunaroki says:

      I dunno about hilarious. Corny, definitely. With a line like that though Kegan almost qualifies as a smooth talker. Love finding out about alt-Mack’s personality. She is definitely a very interesting character!

      Current score: 0
    • Oni says:

      I personally thought that this was a Chekov’s Gun directed at the wards around the town, which I seem to remember being more strict “after hours”. Having a “Demon” and a “Drow” show up at once might cause a bit of a fuss.

      Current score: 0
      • pedestrian says:

        Yes Oni, I think you have a good point there.
        especially if the Gorgon tags along to keep an ‘eye’ on Alea.

        Would it be an ‘eye’? How many ‘eyes’ would have it approved?

        Would these three together be called, wait for it,
        A Ménagerie a Triage?

        If we could include the Emily Building, would that be
        A Mélange a Quatre Excentrique?

        If we wanted to use mélange, should we keep an ‘eye’ out for worms? Or would usage just be a bad habit?

        Current score: 0
  4. Lunaroki says:

    Really starting to love Kegan. She’s a lot more go-get-em than Mackenzie is. It makes for a refreshing change of pace.

    Typo Report


    Missing the second “L”.

    Okay, that part might have been.

    In the context where this sentence appears it doesn’t manage to form a complete thought. Might have been what?

    but * was wearing her cloak when she appeared in the mirror…

    Needs a “she” before “was wearing”.

    Current score: 0
    • Maahes0 says:

      Might have been out loud. It refers back to the previous sentence.

      Current score: 0
  5. Jane says:

    “….so the choices were either get over it quickly or run away and hide forever.”
    And there’s a significant difference between her and Mack. Mack took the other choice.

    Current score: 0
    • hyrax says:

      I think the significant difference is one was raised by her supportive mother and one was raised by her abusive grandmother. I think that has more to do with why Kegan and Mackenzie made those respective choices.

      Current score: 0
  6. Chris says:

    This exchange is really touching.

    Kegan had better make sure her seconds are back to regulation length before she reports to the bridge.

    Current score: 0
  7. Zathras IX says:

    When it comes to the
    Underworld, Kegan really
    Does know her onions

    Current score: 0
  8. pedestrian says:

    My wife used to tell a joke about men being like onions
    consisting of a thousand layers, each exactly alike,
    and each layer makes the woman peeling him, cry!

    Current score: 0
  9. Arkeus says:

    I am not sure how i feel about Kegan’s “stealing” Dee’s love.

    Current score: 0
    • pedestrian says:

      I do not think that Kegan could be accused of stealing Alea. It seemed to me that Alea was deliberately enticing Kegan.

      As for Alea’s relationship with Dee, I gathered that when Dee’s mother died in AU {not in MU?} there was some sort of power struggle?

      And, as normal, the relatively innocent and bystanders are victimized. I assumed that Alea was exiled as collateral damage to the power struggle for succession.

      Then again Dee may have deliberately sent her female lover away to save her from the chronic dangers of court intrigue.

      Current score: 1