"So it is true!" Pike exclaimed into Ahiru's ear.
"No it isn't!" she protested automatically, "What is?"
Lilie laughed. "She means that you're really a member of the Fakir faction now," she explained.
"Yeah," Pike confirmed, "We saw you staring at him just now."
"St—staring? I wa—I wasn't staring!"
Lilie promptly grabbed her arm and twisted it painfully, drawing squeaks of pain from Ahiru, "Oh, that's so CUTE! She's so determined to hide it, even from herself, it's causing her physical pain!"
"Actually, that's your fault," Pike countered calmly, and Lilie let go in surprise.
Ahiru let them bicker and turned back to her stretching, picking up her train of thought where she had last attended to it.
She had been thinking about a recurring dream. She'd had it every night for the past week and a half. It featured Fakir prominently, which was why she'd been staring at him. She blushed to herself, even though no one was looking.
The dream was simple. It was set on a beach, where the sky was lavender, the sand was orange, the sun was red in eternal sunset, and the water was a light pink, yet still managed to be as clear as glass.
She would generally start off behind an orange sand dune. The first night she had simply smiled and gone dancing down towards the shore and almost collided with Fakir before she saw him. A Fakir without a shirt on. One of them had kissed the other that first night. She thought it was Fakir, but she couldn't really remember, and it had gone on much the same way the next ten nights. She would run towards him, he would catch her and they would kiss, and if she wasn't woken by something – morning usually – they would dance.
But that dance would feel like…like it was kissing, only somehow saying "I love you," at the same time.
"Ahiru! You're spacing out again!" Pike's voice broke through her thoughts.
"Huh? Oh, sorry!"
Fakir felt a blush rising to his cheeks as he watched her, her friends obviously teasing her about something or other. But he couldn't stop himself from watching.
He had been having a dream. Every night for the past week and a half. He had been wavering between telling Autor about it or not. His friend had explained a while earlier that he generally didn't have dreams this deeply based in reality so he didn't "give in to the temptation to write them into reality." But this was so real, and a part of him wanted to keep it all to himself, like it would disappear or be somehow marred if he talked to his friend about it.
It was always the same – set on a beach where the sky was lavender, the sand was orange, and the water was the same color as Princess Tutu's underskirt had been, and just as transparent. The first night he had stood on the shore for a while before he saw Ahiru. Or, to be precise, she nearly ran into him as she came twirling wildly down an orange dune. He had caught her as she fell into him, and had found himself holding an almost-naked girl. He didn't know where his mind had conjured the garment she wore in those dreams from, but he couldn't deny that he enjoyed seeing her in it. She wore a dress not unlike the one she had worn for their recent recital – a simple, thin-strapped, empire-waisted dress with a full circle skirt. Except that one had been solid, fitting, heavier, and a most decided yellow. This was about a size too large for her – just enough so that she straps fell down onto her shoulders, white, and made of a translucent material that swirled in the dreamlike breeze, almost weightless. It was scant cover, and Fakir could see quite clearly that underneath the dress she wore nothing at all.
Their lips had met, that time. He vaguely remembered leaning down to kiss her. It was only a dream, after all – what could be the harm?
And that had been the start of it. Now, every night, she would come careening down the same dune and he would catch her and kiss her, then they would start to dance, if he wasn't woken up by something or other by then.
That time dancing was enough to send him halfway to ecstasy on its own. Though Ahiru stumbled –even in his dreams, she was clumsy – that dance was so overflowing with emotions…
"Mr. Fakir! Kindly pay attention to your exercises." Mr. Cat's harsh voice cut through his thoughts like a knife through hot butter, and he sighed, obediently turning his concentration to his stretching. There was no use in thinking about it anyway, he reasoned. It was only a dream, and it just showed how much he thought of her that it had come to him every night for 11 days.
Dinner was an unusually tense that night, both parties, sitting at opposite ends of the small table and idly picking at their food, were wrapped up in their own thoughts. It was almost a relief to them both to lie down alone in their own beds and fall asleep.
As expected, the dream came. And just as all the nights before, Ahiru threw herself down the hill and Fakir caught her when she came to him, kissing her lips, then her jawline.
"I wish…" Ahiru whispered, clinging tightly to Fakir's form and almost to the point of tears because it was only a dream.
"You wish?" Fakir left off his kisses for a moment, and detached a hand from her waist to tilt her chin up towards his with an index finger. He wondered with some vague amusement what this dream-Ahiru would have to wish.
"Yes, I wish…" she whispered again, and took a breath, "I wish that this were real."
She felt like she had just broken a law of some sort. Fakir looked at her in undisguised surprise, but after a moment smiled slightly at her and trailed his fingers down her jaw. "And what would you do if it was real?" he asked her.
She smiled sadly. "I'd tell you how much I love you, and that I never want to leave you, and then I'd kiss you." She paused and did kiss him, lingering for a moment. Then, lips still inches away from his so he could feel the vapour of her breath, "And then you'd kiss me."
He closed the last few inches of space between them and pressed his lips against hers for a long moment, lingering as he withdrew, keeping as close to her as she had to him.
"Something like that…" she trailed off.
"Qua-!" Ahiru woke with a start at the same rooster that had crowed every morning since she had come to live with Fakir, and promptly, as usual, fell off her bed with a thump.
Fakir turned over restlessly, eyes wide awake even before the usual "Qua-thump" of Ahiru waking up as she clapped her hands to her mouth to stop herself from uttering the duck-like sound and overbalanced, landing smartly on the floor.
She was fine. She always was. Fakir wasn't worried.
No, what had Fakir awake was the dream he had been dreaming when that damned rooster crowed.
Ahiru had wished that the dream were real. Independent of him, she had wished it, and it had surprised him. It was all fitting in, now. Why the dream felt so real, and why he had been having it every night yet it was never exactly the same.
It wasn't his dream at all. He sat up and swung out of bed, determined to talk with Autor before school began.
Ahiru blushed and sat back against her bed on the floor for a minute. That dream had been different. Fakir had seemed surprised when she said that… but she knew him well enough for her imagination to make him seem real, didn't she?
The usual morning rush ensued, with the added hurry of Fakir wanting to get to school early to talk to Autor about something.
In the end, Ahiru was the first one to class, which suited her just fine. She started stretching on her own, and was soon enough joined by her friends. Fakir came in late, though, and she thought she saw him looking at her for a minute before Mr. Cat started class.
But… "Hey, try not to space so much today, huh, Ahiru?" Pike said exasperatedly. Ahiru hid a blush in her knee by doing another stretch, and soon forgot about Fakir's looking at her.
The day was agony. Autor had been unhelpful, only willing to say that it was possible, and without more information he couldn't tell. But Fakir had flatly refused to tell him the details of the dreams. Now he thought they were hers, they seemed even more precious, and even more fragile.
But when could he catch her alone to ask her? And did he want to? Would it be better to keep on having the dreams, with her probably never knowing she had merely been invited into the lucidity of one of his, a courtesy of his gift?
But he had an aching to know if she felt that way really, which was on the brink of overcoming his dread of confronting her about it. If it were real – oh, gods, if only – everything they had done in the dreams would not be mere fancy anymore, but a thing of daylight and substantial.
Yes, he decided before he could change his mind. It was worth it. And he could ask her on the way home. Perhaps he could even suggest they take a detour through the woods behind the school.
In the afternoon, they spent some time silently walking home before Fakir followed through with his plan. Ahiru's eyes were far away, as if she were thinking of something else and not really watching where she put her feet. Not odd for Ahiru, really. Fakir forced the words over his tongue before he could decide to back out of it, "Why don't we take a walk through the woods? We can get to the cabin from the lake side."
"Huh?" Ahiru's eyes came swiftly back into focus, "Oh. Sure."
They changed their course slightly, and Fakir was pleased to see Ahiru smile a bit just at the sight of the trees, and a spring in her step appear.
They had walked all the way to the lake when Fakir stopped her with a gentle hand to her arm. She looked up at him in confusion.
"Ahiru, I wanted to ask you something…" he said, trailing off. How to say it? He didn't want to give away too much of what had gone on in the dreams on the chance that she hadn't been sharing them.
"Have you been dreaming of orange sand dunes?" he finally found himself blurting dumbly.
Ahiru's eyes widened to saucers. "H—how did you know?" she stuttered, her cheeks turning a deep crimson and her heart beating so wildly she thought Fakir could surely hear it.
Fakir breathed again and moved closer to her, eager to live out the dreams, but Ahiru placed a finger on his lips.
For a moment he thought she was going to stop him from kissing her. She looked like she couldn't believe her eyes. Then she blurted before she could stop herself, "Promise to kiss me like you do there."
And he did. And it was better than the dreams could ever have been, just because it was real.