You Can't Go Home Again

Notes: I went on a mild Subreality kick recently. This is the result. More detailed notes follow.

Rating: I don't even think there's any swearing.

Feedback: Always welcome at hutch @

In a way nothing had changed.

Of course Subreality was different. Things never stay still in a world between worlds, where impermanence is the rule rather than the exception. Buildings move on a whim of a Writer's keystroke, roads are renamed, the people come and go. But some things remained the same, landmarks in an unfamiliar landscape. There, she saw, was a building that had been redesigned but still bore the name The Bronze Menagerie in iron-sculpted lettering. There was The Bailiwick, cheek-by-jowl with the Writer's Cafe. Glimmering from far away she could still make out the strong, solid shapes of the Collegium, where Callisto undoubtedly still ruled with an iron fist. Nearer, though still a good distance off, nestled in the trees, rose the many-roofed House of Strange Dimensions. And only a few more steps down the road was the building that had started it all, the dusty, familiar walls and unremarkable front door that led into the Subreality Cafe.

"A hell of a good place next world over," the Writer misquoted, smiling to herself.

Though the street wasn't exactly deserted, the footsteps she heard coming up beside her still stood out in the quiet. She glanced over and was somehow unsurprised to take in the tall, lean figure who approached, stopped next to her, arms loosely folded over his chest.

"Look who's come back," he said, the barest hint of a wry smile touching his mouth.

"As if I could ever really stay away?" Hutch shook back her hair, shorter than she'd ever worn it, and rested her weight on one foot as she regarded her Muse, Tamsin. The little dragon Sable was curled around his shoulders, a bright gold today, her muzzle curved in a draconic smile.

"I should have known I'd see you around," Tamsin commented. He glanced at the Cafe, then back at his errant Writer. "Thought it'd be sooner, though. The way you've been re-reading old round robins and fics, I half expected you to start looking for the boards."

"I know better than to expect they're still around." Hutch shrugged, tucking her hands in her jean pockets. She hadn't been entirely surprised to find that, on stepping through the Reality portal she'd hidden in her closet (a portal for which her cat eternally searched), a lightsaber had attached itself to a belt around her waist. The Knight Errant, more like, she thought. "I'm not really back, anyway. Just revisiting old haunts, remembering my past."

"Not as scary as you thought it was?" Tamsin asked.

Hutch smiled. "Never scary. Well, OK, aside from the dying multiple times in multiple ways, but... no. The only reason I stopped coming around was because my interests had turned elsewhere."

"And so you start talking X-Men with a guildie on World of Warcraft and get inspired to go back and... what?" Tamsin arched an acerbic eyebrow. "Remember old glory?"

"Maybe." She glanced up at him. "Why do you have to be such a bastard all the time?"

"Because you're too nice. Someone had to balance it out."

"I could draw you as a chibi again, you know," she observed. Sable hissed, and Tamsin shook his head, his eyes darkening. "Oh, like I would. Anyway, it's not so much about remembering forgotten glory as just recalling how much this place used to mean to me. How I was so eager for every scrap of attention, how I got so entrenched in it without realizing. The writing was almost secondary to the relationships I built here." Absently, she moved over to a bench sitting outside the Cafe and curled up on it, her feet tucked underneath her. "I had forgotten so much. It's nice to go back and have these touchstones of memory. The War, the fic I wrote with Kielle, getting inspired by Rossi. You and Kodachi," she added with a grin, and had the satisfaction of seeing her Muse look away before he took a seat next to her. "Fallen. Becoming the Knight."

Her fingers strayed to the lightsaber on her hip, and she smiled. "I'm a warrior here. It's not who I am in real life at all, but... it's an aspect of myself that I need to remember I have. All the fighting I do lately is in a video game, and I'm ignoring real challenges, backing down from true fights."

"Hm." Sable crawled down to Tamsin's lap, and he stroked her soft, warm hide with an absent hand. "And you think walking around here will do it?"

"Can't hurt." She leaned back on the bench, glancing at the door of the Cafe. The fictives had changed. Instead of Wolverines and Gambits wandering in and out of the Cafe, there were other characters, younger ones she didn't recognize. "It's only a short visit. I don't know what kind of fic people write these days, what the popular books are, if fandom even exists anymore."

"Of course it does," Tamsin said. "As long as there are comics, there'll be fans, and there'll be writers. Good, bad, indifferent, but the love is always there."

"And Subreality?" Hutch's voice went quiet. "If its creator is gone?"

"You're here, aren't you?" Tamsin reached over to rest a light hand on Hutch's shoulder. "Proof that the creations of her imagination live on, and while they do, she'll never be gone."

Hutch nodded, and after a moment she smiled at him. "Yeah. You're right. It'll carry on."

"Come on," Tamsin said, standing; Sable squawked, suddenly deprived of a lap, and flapped her wings furiously before finding her place on Tamsin's shoulder once more. "Let's go in."

"No." Hutch shook her head, smiling. "It's not Tuesday. Besides, this was enough, just seeing it, knowing it's all still here." She stood, too, smiling, and pulled the portable Reality portal out of her pocket. "Now I know I can come back if I need to."

"Does this mean I'm working for you again?" Tamsin arched a coal-black eyebrow.

Hutch grinned. "Did you ever stop?" Not waiting for an answer, she expanded the portal and stepped through. The Muse rolled his eyes, shook his head as he watched the portal close behind her.

"What do you think?" he asked the little dragon on his shoulder. Sable gave a sleepy cheep and closed her eyes again; Tamsin chuckled in agreement, gave her a scratch behind the ears, and strolled down the street in the direction of the Collegium. Maybe you couldn't go home again, he thought, but you could at least pay visits once in a while.

All Writers mentioned belong to themselves and are used without permission.
Tamsin is my Muse. Sable's his friend.
Subreality is the invention of the Scribe, Kielle. She also came up with the Cafe and the House of Strange Dimensions. The Writer's Cafe is Yasmin's. Farli came up with the Collegium; I think Dex invented the Villains' Bailiwick. The Bronze Menagerie was jointly created by myself and Ana 'Lyssie' Cotton. Kodachi is (or was) the Muse of Maureen.
My lightsaber is a reference to the Subreality War and Fallen.
World of Warcraft is the property of Blizzard, Inc. The X-Men, including Wolverine and Gambit, belong to Marvel Comics (last I checked).

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this page last updated on 9 june 2008