"Ahiru! Are you up yet, idiot?" Fakir yelled up the stairs in aggravation.

"It's Saturday!" She retorted.

"Well breakfast is ready, so get down here!"

"Okay, okay. Geesh, I'm coming!"

She bounded down the stairs, tripping at the bottom. Fakir caught her as she fell and said in exasperation, "can't you do ANYTHING without injuring yourself?" She stuck her tongue out at him, and pushed past him towards the kitchen.

"In case you didn't notice…I didn't get hurt, so hmph!"

They continued to argue over breakfast, much to Charon's amusement; completely unaware that a simple mistake would soon change their lives for the worst.

XXXXXXXXXXX

Autor stepped out of his door, blinking from the bright sunlight. Shutting the door to his lair behind him, he locked it and walked down the street towards the clock tower at the center of town.

When he finally reached the top, perspiration had broken out on his forehead. He pushed his glasses up while pondering the scene before him. At the school library, he had read about a machine that Drosselmeyer had built to write stories. The parts that lay in front of him looked like such a machine, despite the haphazard fashion they were thrown about.

Smiling a bit in anticipation, he began to organize the parts, figuring out what parts were needed to resurrect the machine. Autor merely wished to add it to his collection, not to actually get it in working shape again. Somewhere distant, watching from his gears, Drosselmeyer smiled malevolently.

"Oh my, Autor. That's dangerous, very dangerous."

XXXXXX

As the sun set, Autor sat back, wiping his sleeve across his forehead. At last! He grinned at his completed work. After much deliberation, the bibliophile had decided to leave it where it was, so he had reconnected everything according to the blue prints he had found and painstakingly copied by hand. He couldn't imagine why it had been taken apart, but now it was back together. He was proud of his work.

Looking out of the window, he was startled to realize how late it was. Brushing his dusty hands on the legs of his pants, he stood and descended the staircase, even as the quill began to slowly scratch across the page, unnoticed by Autor.

XXXXXXX

"At last," Drosselmeyer chuckled to himself, much to Azura's surprise. "I will have my revenge on that boy, Fakir. And the best way to make him suffer…is to make the one he loves suffer." As Azura stared at him, wide-eyed in distress at his intention of hurting Fakir, the manic author threw back his head and laughed, plotting his latest-and greatest-tragedy yet.

"The hyper, joyful girl jumped from her seat at the table, eager to help her adoptive father cook. But as she stood up, a piercing pain struck her heart and she collapsed to the ground, screaming in agony."

XXXXXXX

Fakir leapt from his seat, bolting to Ahiru's side in an instant. The young red-headed girl lay on the ground, arching her back in pain as she clutched at her chest.

"Ahiru? Ahiru!" Fakir stroked her cheek, desperate to bring her out of her pain-induced stupor. "Ahiru? Ahiru, can you hear me?" Her breath was coming in rabid gasps, and her eyes were glazed in torture.

A knock sounded at the door as Fakir and Charon knelt on either side of Ahiru, but when the girl screamed again, Rue burst into the room, even as Mytho had his hand raised to knock again.

"What's the matter?" Rue's crimson eyes were distressed when she heard the screams of her friend, and she dashed to where the younger girl lay immediately. "Ahiru?" She looked up at Fakir and Charon, "what's the matter with her? What's wrong?"

"I don't know!" Fakir said from between clenched teeth. He was as distressed as Rue at Ahiru's sudden collapse.

"I'll go get a doctor!" Mytho called from the doorway, dashing away into the night.

XXXXXXX

Fakir stood up as soon as the doctor came down the staircase. She took one look at his expression and shrugged.

"I don't know what it could be. I tested her for any possible reason I could think of, but nothing fits. My best guess would be that it's stress-induced. I gave her a sedative to let her sleep and rest, and I'll leave some medicine behind for pain."

"Thank you," Charon said. Fakir had already dashed up the stairs to Ahiru's room, Rue closely at his heels, and Mytho bringing up the rear.

Ahiru lay on her bed, her face pinched in discomfort even as she slept. Her red hair was unbraided and sprawled about her the bed.

Fakir gently brushed a strand from her face. His face was drawn with worry. Ahiru wasn't supposed to be ill, she was supposed to be happy, and care-free, and never shut up.

"What have you done to distress her?" Rue accused from the opposite side of the bed. Her eyes were narrowed.

"Nothing!" He snapped. But even as he said it, he was unsure. He always was arguing with her. She had never seemed to care before, but had she finally had enough?

"That's right," sneered Drosselmeyer, "suffer. Wonder if you're the cause. You'll regret ever stopping my beautiful tragedy you little pest."

XXXXXXXX

The next morning, Ahiru's eyes fluttered open. She felt a dull ache in her chest, and winced as it throbbed when she tried to move. She started when she saw Fakir's face, just inches from her own. His head was resting on his crossed arms and he had dark circles under eyes, as though from an all-night vigil.

"You're awake?" Ahiru turned her head tentatively towards Mytho's voice, hesitant so she would not make the pain in her chest any worse. He crossed over to her bed, and she noticed Rue, asleep in a chair that had not previously occupied her small room. "How do you feel?" He queried, genuine concern in his golden eyes.

"Mm," she said, noncommittally. She didn't want to lie, but she didn't want to worry anyone at the same time.

"I take it that means yes, but in an Ahiru-like way because you don't want to worry me." Mytho smiled gently and Ahiru looked at him, surprised that he had read her so easily.

"A little," she admitted.

"Here." He held out a small white pill and a glass of water he had taken from the bedside table. "The doctor left it."

She took it, gratefully, and swallowed, grimacing a bit at the pill's bitter taste. She looked back up at him, "did they stay up all night?" She gestured towards the sleeping Fakir and Rue.

"Yes," Mytho smiled fondly at them, "they didn't want to sleep in case you woke up and needed something. But sleep got the best of them in the end."

Ahiru smiled drowsily; the pain medicine was already taking affect. Mytho noticed her heavy eye lids and chuckled to himself. "Go ahead and sleep. You must be tired."

"Thanks," she murmured as she drifted into the hazy in-between of sleep and consciousness.

XXXXXXXXX

Unaware of the tragedy he had inadvertently set in motion, Autor sat his piano, composing a new piece. It was inspired by Ahiru; a lively tune that jumped from chord to chord as Ahiru jumped from thought to thought. He smiled in spite of himself. Even though he did not know the girl very well, ever since the end of the story, he had secretly admired her strength and courage in that final battle. She had even begun to befriend him, even though he had to insist she stayed out of the library, as she was simply too noisy.

Returning to the piece, he thought fleetingly of the machine, but the thought was gone as soon as it had popped into his mind.

XXXXXXXX

"Now, now," chided Drosselmeyer, "can't have you interfering. Push it out of your thoughts…even though I must say that I'm in your debt for allowing me access once again to this world."

Unnoticed by the man gazing pensively at the start of his new work, a pair of blue eyes watched in concern for the fate of her friends. "Don't hurt Ahiru and Fakir zura. Or Mytho or Rue zura." The little puppet girl whispered.

Domo Arigato everyone! I hope you enjoy my new fanfic! This is just the first chapter, and I'm sorry it's so short, but please come back soon and comment! Thank you! :D