last01standing: (Default)
[personal profile] last01standing
Title: How the Sky Looks Different from the Ground
Rating: PG
Characters: Tobias, Rachel, Aria, and Chapman in this chapter.
Summary: The AU where Tobias isn’t an animorph.
Disclaimer: I am not KA Applegate and plan to make no profit for this endeavor

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How the Sky Looks Different from the Ground

I couldn’t go to the funeral. I had no apparent external connections to Grace O’Neil, but I made my way over to the cemetery anyway under the guise of visiting my dad’s grave marker. I always felt weird when I came here because I never really knew my father. With the fact that he might not even be my real dad I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to think anymore.

“I thought I might find you here.”

The one place I never expected to be bothered was a cemetery. As a matter of fact I was willing to bet there was something wrong with anyone who sought someone out in a cemetery.

Aria appeared over my right shoulder, not saying anything. I didn’t want Aria to be one of those people. “He’s still your dad, you know,” she told me softly. “Even if it wasn’t biological, he was still your dad.”

“You know,” I said, voice completely neutral. She shouldn’t be here. There was something wrong with people who went to cemetaries for social arrangements. “I barely remember the guy. I mean sometimes I like I remember the idea of him more then the actual man. I just wonder what it means if he isn’t my dad. I just means he was some stranger.”

Aria wrapped an arm over my shoulders. I tried not to flinch at the physical contact, but I couldn’t help it. It had been so long since anyone touched me with any sort of affection. I went stiff and after a moment, Aria pulled away.

“Please say I’m not that kid,” I said. “The one who seems like he’d hang out in cemeteries.”

“No,” Aria said. “But it wasn’t a huge stretch to think you might be here.”

I wouldn’t have been here if it wasn’t for Grace’s funeral going on not one hundred yards away. This was me paying my respects to her. I’d made my peace with the man I thought was my father ages ago.

“Do you mind,” I coughed. “Do you mind leaving? I really just want to be alone.”

“Of course,” Aria said. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to...”

“Don’t worry about it.”

“I can stay if you need a ride.”

“I’m fine. Really.”

Aria left me alone and I sat down, back pressed against my dad’s tombstone and listened to the quiet sermon from Grace O’Neil’s funeral drift to my ears. Words about how she was kind and good and didn’t deserve her fate.

They didn’t know her.

They didn’t know how Grace was strong or how she walked out of a nightmare to keep trying. They didn’t know how she could still smile and laugh after everything she’d been through. She hadn’t been a victim at all. It seemed wrong that that was how she would be remembered.

I stayed for two hours after her funeral was over, waited until I was sure I was alone and I said goodbye.

And then I went to the Sharing.


If I didn’t know what this was, I think I would have stayed. The Sharing owned a building stockpiled with video games, pool tables, chips, dip and pizza as well as the largest television I’d ever seen.

Chapman caught up with me when I’d been there not twenty minutes putting a hand on my shoulder. I flinched at the human contact but managed to recover quickly enough and offered a smile. “I can’t tell you how nice it is to see you here,” Chapman said. “I half thought your vice principal being a member had turned you off for good.”

“I don’t have a problem with you, sir,” I said quietly and thought of how many people in this room had beaten me up through the years. The number was approaching eleven.

Chapman laughed and said, “Have they assigned you a senior mentor yet? We try to make sure every new person has a full member of the Sharing that they can talk to.”

“No, sir,” I said. “No one at the moment.”

Chapman waved over a tall lanky guy with dark brown hair and an easy smile. His name was Dave and he was almost definitely slave to a yeerk slug in his brain but was still nicer to me then anyone had been in a long time.

I really liked him. He showed me a few tricks for a video game I liked and offered to show me how to shoot a game of pool.

I said no but God help me, I really wanted to say yes. Dave grinned and patted me on the back and said he’d be back after the meeting of the full members.

Full members.


I needed to get in that meeting. I had an old tape recorder in the pocket of my cargo pants. I needed to get close enough to that meeting to catch something incriminating on tape so I could mail it to the news or the president or someone who would listen.

Grabbing a slice of pepperoni pizza, I started making my way to the back room.

“Tobias!” someone called.

I turned around, smiled and took a bite of the pizza, hoping I looked completely natural. The stringy cheese stretched and fell down, a single thread dangling on my chin. “Rachel,” I said, hurriedly. “What are you doing here, Rachel? I didn’t think you were in the Sharing.”

“I’m here with a friend,” Rachel said. “You remember Melissa, right? Her dad’s one of the key members.” She smiled and touched my shoulder. I tried to control my reaction. “What are you doing here anyway? I thought you didn’t do group activities.”

“Talked into it,” I said. “The way I figure, I do this and maybe Chapman lets me keep flying below the radar.” I shrugged. “It’s not all bad. I mean there’s free pizza.” I held up the remainder of my slice. I may be attempting to infiltrate a yeerk organization all by my lonesome but at least I didn’t have to make myself dinner tonight.

“Me too,” Rachel said. “But I always feel awkward at these big functions. Like I don’t really fit in you know.”

“I couldn’t imagine you ever not fitting in,” I blurted and then I felt the blush creeping up my neck. I actually just said that. This was not good. I needed to abort. Rachel was supposed to be a yeerk. Sure I didn’t know before, but the differences in behavior, showing up at the Sharing. The evidence was nearing irrefutable. I needed to get over this crush or whatever it was before it got me killed.

“Do you want to get out of here?” Rachel asked, shifting her feet nervously. “Grab a soda at the mall or something?”

“Yes,” I answered immediately. “Yeah of course.”

Rachel smiled. It light her whole face up. I thought about Grace, our last conversation echoing in my head:

“It’s a girl then, huh?”

“It’s a yeerk.”

“You can’t know that, Tobias.”

But she was dead now. I wondered how it happened. I wondered if it was her optimism that had finally gotten the better of her. Wondered if it was because she trusted someone she shouldn’t have.

“Let’s go then,” Rachel said, looping and arm through my own.

The mall was a dozen blocks away and the sun had already set. Rachel started moving the long way around, but I caught her by the shoulder and asked, “Hey, why don’t we just cut through the old construction site?”

Something flickered through her face that I didn’t understand and didn’t particularly like. “The construction site,” she repeated. “I thought that was off limits.”

“A spot in the fence is open,” I replied. “Come on, it’s twice as fast as taking the long way.”

“I never expect to hear something like that coming from you,” Rachel teased.

“You don’t know me at all,” I retorted.

“No,” Rachel frowned as I pulled back the fence on the abandoned construction site to let her through. “No, I guess I don’t.”

I grinned at her and slipped through after her.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been here,” Rachel said thoughtfully. “I used to use this shortcut all the time.”

“The aliens scare you off?” I asked. “Because that’s when I started coming by.”

“Why am I not surprised?”

That gave me pause. Before this all happened, I wasn’t one of the space freaks. I was just a dreamer. There was a difference. I floundered, wondering if I should correct her. Debating if she was more or less likely to drag me back to the yeerk pool for infestation if I actually believed in this stuff.

In the end I didn’t say anything.

Rachel for her part seemed content to be silent. She was looking around the old construction site with a fondness tinged with regret. She glanced over at me, and I turned bright red.

We made it to the mall with about an hour until closing time. Rachel glanced over at me and announced she was getting a milkshake. I put my hands in my pocket, praying I actually had the cash to pay for one of my own. By some miracle, I came up with enough to pay for myself but not enough to pay for Rachel’s.

Somehow we ended up in a secluded corner of the food court, just sitting awkwardly across from one another. Across the mall, I see Jake’s friend, Marco looking at us. I wondered what he must think. Rachel was the prettiest girl in our class and I was the punching bag.

“There something wrong, Tobias?” Rachel asked, lowering her head to take a sip from her vanilla milk shake.

“What?” I asked, snapping back into reality.

“I said is there something wrong? You seem really sad about something.”

“My best friend just died,” I said before I could stop myself

“Oh God,” Rachel said. “Tobias, I’m so sorry.”

It wasn’t until her hand touched mine that I snapped out of my trace and saw the need to start lying. “It was back across the country. From where I used to live with my aunt. I just found out tonight but there’s no way I could make it to the funeral...”

“I’m sorry,” Rachel said again, giving my hand a reassuring squeeze.

I shook it off, standing up abruptly. “I need to get out of here. I’m---I’m sorry. I just, I can’t be here right now.”

“Tobias! Where are you going?”

I couldn’t do this right now. I needed to get away, I needed to think. I bumped shoulders with Marco as I left but didn’t even bother turning back.


In case you didn't notice, we're looking at three chapters and an epilogue for this story. Thanks for reading Until next time!
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(no subject)

10/3/09 19:30 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
w00t! Chapter three!

I am really liking this. Spelling mistakes aside you've got a good grasp of the series and you do character interactions beautifully. I really like the way you portray Chapman (the creepiest VP alive) as being a good-natured authority figure. Good times.

I just wish these chapters were longer. Can I convince you to write faster? ^_^

(no subject)

12/3/09 02:02 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I'm glad you're enjoying it!

Can't be convinced to write faster but there is a new chapter up. That's something, right?