The Heart Within
Chapter One: Dreams
Disclaimer: I do not own Princess Tutu. (There. I said it!)
Darkness surrounded her, cold and despondent. The icy air pulled at her breath and brushed against her shoulders, but Ahiru felt only the warmth of his hands holding hers, twirling her, lifting her into the air, embracing her as she drew near. Ahiru could hear his words, their sound echoing in her head distantly, even though he whispered them into her ear. She could hear strains of his words if she tried, but they were so faint that she could barely recall them;
"Don't just blame yourself. Everyone is scared, returning to their true selves…"
As she twirled, she could feel the gentle smile on her face, but her body, her senses, everything seemed distant as the moment went on. His words escaped her ears once more and she strained again to hear them.
"The real you is a duck… The real me…"
His words faded again as she twirled. Her gentle smile remained, but in her head, more clearly than the scene before her or his soft breath against her ear, her voice rang out in protest.
"Why? Why do we have to end the story?"
The words, despite having been spoken in her head, echoed raucously through the empty space, but did not seem to have any effect on either of the two. They continued to dance.
"…even if that is my true form… I want to make the story end…" His words returned and then faded away once more. She twirled again in his arms.
"Let's go back to being our real selves… Let's bring this story to a conclusion."
"Okay." She heard herself say.
"No!" Her voice screamed inside her own head, despite the smile that still remained on her face. She could feel the pendant slip from around her slender neck, falling away from her forever.
"This isn't happening –Quack!"
Ahiru opened her eyes, only to find herself not staring into the eyes of a memory long ago, but at the stitches of the warm woolen blanket that lined her bed. The wicker basket creaked softly as she shifted, still blinking blearily as the last traces of sleep left her mind. Peeking over the rim of the basket, Ahiru saw that Fakir had already awoken and had made his bed. When she listened, she could hear the noises of him making breakfast downstairs and the musical twinkling noise of a cup of tea being poured.
Shaking her head in an effort to dispel the uneasiness that had arisen within her small feathered body, Ahiru looked about Fakir's room from her position on his bedside table. The walls shone a soft white in the early morning sunlight; the windows were open, permitting a gentle spring-scented breeze into the room. The curtains fluttered, making a soft, comforting sound that soothed Ahiru's still rapidly beating heart. Picking herself up, Ahiru hopped out of her basket and onto Fakir's bed, and then onto the wooden floor. The glossy wood stole the warmth from her webbed feet, but Ahiru waddled quickly toward the door, knowing that she could warm herself at the wood stove downstairs.
Ahiru knew that Fakir could hear her hopping down the stairs one by one and would be waiting for her when she emerged into the kitchen, so she molded her face into what she hoped would look like a smile and hopped into sight.
Fakir was preparing what looked like oatmeal, judging from the petite saucepan on the stove. Ahiru couldn't see the contents of the saucepan from her height, but she hopped onto the kitchen table and quacked a friendly greeting to Fakir.
He turned and smiled at her, oatmeal-covered spoon in one hand.
"Good morning, Ahiru." He greeted her and removed two bowls from a nearby cabinet, placing them on the table before Ahiru. Ahiru quacked again and smiled, studying his face ponderingly.
Not much had changed about either of them since their defeat of the monster raven years ago. Fakir had grown even taller since then, but he still wore his dark hair tied back and he still greeted her in the same way that he had the morning after their victory. His eyes, with their hint of dark green, had not lost their intensity; nor had his smile. He was still the same Fakir that Ahiru had known those many years ago.
And of course, Ahiru was still a duck.
On that day, so many years ago, she had accepted her fate and returned that last shard of Mytho's heart to him, thus dedicating the rest of her life to her existence as a duck, and nothing more. But Ahiru would never say that she regretted her decision. Never. Even if her dreams of that promise long ago continued night after night, as they had for the past year, she would sooner leave Fakir and live alone in the forest before she would admit that she was unhappy. After all, she had made a promise to Fakir, to be herself and return to being a duck, and he had in turn promised to stay by her side for the rest of their lives. So Ahiru didn't even have the right to think, for even a moment, that she would have been better off if she had chosen to remain a girl. -Even if she could have been able to talk to Fakir, and been able to laugh with him, to comfort him with more than a sad, empathetic "Quack" when he needed comforting. No; she had made the right choice, deciding to return to her original form as a duck.
It wasn't as if she could return to that moment in the past and change her mind, deny the story of the Prince and the Raven its proper ending. And there was no way she could become a girl again; especially not without breaking her promise to Fakir.
Ahiru returned to the present with a start as Fakir poured oatmeal into her bowl, the scent of cinnamon and sugar wafting through her senses. She moved forward and began to eat with fervor, enjoying the warmth of the steam on her face.
Fakir laughed and joined her at the table, delicately beginning to eat his own oatmeal. "You know, you shouldn't eat all of it at once or you'll get sick."
"Quack!" Ahiru responded, and continued to eat at the same pace. She finished her bowl two seconds later and quacked again defiantly, which made Fakir smile again. Ahiru loved to make Fakir smile. After all, in her current form it seemed to be the only thing she could do.
Fakir finished his own oatmeal shortly after and replaced the spoon in his bowl. Ahiru was still cleaning her bill of the last fragrant traces of oatmeal when Fakir spoke.
"Hey, Ahiru. Did you know that it's been exactly four years since we defeated the raven?" He murmured quietly.
Ahiru paused in her cleaning to look at him. The look on his face sent a peculiar feeling through her when she did; Fakir was smiling, but there was something about his eyes that, for a moment, made her think of sadness. The feeling passed in a moment and Ahiru quacked, nodding her head.
Fakir smiled yet again and stood, gathering the two empty bowls from the table.
That was strange, Ahiru thought as she looked worriedly in the direction of Fakir's turned back. She watched Fakir's movements as he cleaned up the morning's meal and prepared for the activities of the day. She wasn't sure, but Ahiru thought she could see weariness in the lines of his body as he moved about the kitchen, now that she thought to look.
Suddenly, before Ahiru could suppress the idea, the thought rose to the front of her mind as she watched Fakir: I wish I could be human again. Then I could ask him what is bothering him, and how are Rue and Mytho, and a million other things…
Ahiru quickly covered her bill with her wing as if to hush the unbidden thoughts, horrified. How could she even think these thoughts, after all that Fakir had done for her?
Fakir turned and caught sight of Ahiru covering her bill and raised an eyebrow, chuckling slightly. "Ahiru, what are you doing?"
"Nothing-! I was just ah… Warming my bill!" Ahiru squeaked, but the only thing that came out of her mouth was "Qu-ack! Quack, quack, quack, qua -quack, quack! "
The smile slowly faded on Fakir's face and his eyes flickered. "Okay then." He muttered softly.
"I'm going out for a while, Ahiru. Will you be alright here?"
Once more Fakir's eyes flickered, but he nodded. "…Okay. I'll be back soon."
Ahiru's heart clamped painfully when she heard the door shut and she looked about for something to do until Fakir returned. Looking back toward the door, she sighed.
Despite his words, she always feared that one day, he wouldn't come back. Each time he left, she longed to go with him, but she could never seem to convey her message to him. Thus, she found herself shut up in Charon's antique shop, unable to do more than waddle about the house and hope that he would return soon. After all, it wasn't as if she could do more than eat and sleep when he had left the house for that day. And then when Fakir was around, she could only dip her bill in agreement or shake her head to disagree. Without the ability to have a full conversation, Ahiru couldn't help but feel that they were drifting apart as time passed.
She wondered if Fakir ever got tired of talking to a duck every morning, without promise of a full response. Ahiru used to love having him talk to her, but recently he'd been much quieter, as if he too could sense the growing gap in their lives and their friendship.
Another sigh escaped her small, fragile figure. Painstakingly, she flapped her way to the stairway and hopped upstairs, reentering Fakir's bedroom. The room had grown slightly chilly and the sunlight had faded from the window sill, but Ahiru made her way to her basket on Fakir's bedside table and burrowed her way under the blankets. Once she had tucked herself in firmly, she ruffled her feathers and tucked her head under her wing, hoping that her forbidden wish would leave her mind and the aching fade from her chest. But both the wish and the burning ache remained. Closing her eyes, she imagined that she could hear Fakir's steady breathing beside her, his reassuring presence soothing her back into sleep.
She would never admit that she was unhappy. Even if she was.
Fakir struggled to loosen the sudden knot in his throat as he shut the door and proceeded to walk down the paved street. Behind him, the familiar shop sign, Schmied, faded into the distance. Soon, Fakir had left the town and entered the woods at the edge of town. Even when the noises of the town had faded and he was left alone with the rustle of the trees, he continued walking.
It had started happening some time after the defeat of the monster raven. At first he had barely noticed it. In the months after the battle, he and Ahiru could talk for hours about the events of the day. And each time she spoke, he could see her face in his mind, encouraging him, scolding him, laughing with him. As time passed, he had thought that the strange pauses in their 'conversation' were merely natural. However, after the second fire festival following their victory, Ahiru had quacked at him, probably commenting on the dancers at the festival, and he had realized that he could no longer interpret the meaning of her words purely through her tone and body movements. He had spent many nights each month after that lying in his darkened room, while Ahiru slept in her basket nearby, wondering why it seemed as if she no longer made sense when she spoke. –Not that she had ever made any sense when she had been a human girl, but this seemed different…
-And then, today, for the first time, he couldn't understand her at all.
Fakir paused as he reached a clearing in the woods. Just beyond the trees at the edge of the clearing, he could see the pond where he and Ahiru had often gone on lazy afternoons to enjoy the weather and write his story. Making his decision, Fakir turned from his path through the woods and made his way toward the dock that jutted out at the pond's edge. Fakir's steps on the solid, sun-bleached wood echoed in the silence of the clearing.
The water's surface was still and smooth as Fakir peered over the edge of the dock at his reflection. His own expression troubled him; his eyebrows had sunk low in frustrated contemplation, his eyes seeming darker than normal. Allowing his vision to unfocus, Fakir tried to call up Ahiru's face in his mind. He remembered that she had fair skin and her hair had been the color of autumn leaves, and of course her eyes were blue; that part of her had not changed. He took these memories and tried to piece them together, but they simply faded away and were lost in the recesses of his mind. He tried closing his eyes and imagining her next to him, saying something nonsensical but somehow reassuring… -But what had her voice sounded like? He could not remember.
Frustrated, he turned away from the glassy surface of the pool before him and ventured back the way he had come.
I've always wanted to do a fanfic for Princess Tutu; there were so many things that should have happened, all of which never did.
Please Review! -