"Fakir, please," she begged, tears streaming down her face. She faced him, standing on the lake, Princess Tutu once more.
Then Fakir shouted the one thing that he could never seem to tell her, not caring that he was crying almost more than she was, "But I love you, Ahiru!" He fell to his knees, sobbing, torn by his love for her and what she asked him to do.
She shook her head sadly, her breathing audible but even. "I'm sorry," she whispered, "I just want to end it all. Please, Fakir, just hold the sword."
Her tears had stopped, and she closed her eyes, positioning her hands in the mime for death, as Fakir made one final plea, "Ahiru, please!" His voice was shaking. Every part of him was breaking, dying. "Please stay with me. I can't do what you want me to."
"Fakir!" she shouted, her voice startling him with its strength. "If you love me," she challenged, "Raise the point of your sword so I can run at it."
Fakir looked down at the sword, lying limp at his feet, a reminder of all his failures. Not only did she not love him, but she wanted him to help her kill herself. He had told himself he would do anything for her if it was in his power, but this… how could he kill her? How? But it was what she wanted…
He forced himself to move, and found himself sitting upright in his bed, a cold sweat covering his body, and breathing hard. She… it had just been a dream. Hadn't it? Could he check?
No, she would wake up if I went into her room, he told himself, and lay back down, attempting to go back to sleep.
Every time he closed his eyes, he saw her death mime, until he could take it no more, and found himself out of bed and in her doorway in a heartbeat, staring in at her.
Her hair was unbound, cascading around her human body. She sat on her left side, so her face was turned toward the door, and him. She may well have been dead, except for the steady rise and fall of the blankets that covered her, keeping her warm.
Fakir found himself at her bedside next, and without thinking, he brushed a bit of hair out of her face, causing her to sigh, but not stir.
He dropped to his knees, his face, staring into hers, peaceful and emotionless.
Did I turn her human again only for her to remember her sorrow? Perhaps the longing I saw in her eyes was simply reflected from mine. Then I have failed her. And in the dream… the one thing she asked me to do for her, I couldn't. Am I so selfish? Am I such a coward?
Tears slid down his cheeks, until he was sobbing quietly, face in his hands, kneeling there by her bed, chanting silently, I'm sorry, Ahiru. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.
"Fakir?" A voice thick and heavy with sleep tried desperately to take in what she was seeing, only to have it dawn on her in one fell swoop.
Oh, God. "Fakir, what is it?" Ahiru had propped herself up on an elbow, and reached with her other hand to touch Fakir when he did not answer.
"Is it Charon? Uzura?" she prompted, before repeating, "What's wrong?"
He looked up at her, tears glistening at the corners of his eyes. "I'm sorry, Ahiru," was all he could manage to say.
She guided him to sit on her bed. "Sorry for what?" she asked confusedly, looking into his face with worry in her eyes.
"I've failed you," he said, "I fooled myself into thinking you wanted to be with me, to be human again, and because of that, I did the one thing I said I wouldn't."
"What do you mean?" Now she was confused. "Of course I wanted to be human again, to… be with you. I…" Ahiru hesitated. Perhaps Fakir didn't love her back. She would only upset him more if he didn't, and she told him now, but… She realized she would never be foolish enough to do it if she was fully awake, but now, in the middle of the night, the words she had always been forbidden to say slipped over her tongue surprisingly easily, "I love you."
Fakir looked at her, his eyes a peculiar mix of wonder and fear, and Ahiru began to doubt that she had been right to say it for a moment, until she felt strong arms around her, and the shaking of a body against hers that she had felt only once before, when she was a duck. But now, she put human arms around Fakir to comfort him, smiling despite herself, so great was her joy to have Fakir holding her. Duck. Ahiru. Whatever and whoever she was, she had his arms around her.
"I had a dream, Ahiru," Fakir's voice was somewhat muffled by her hair, "That you asked me to help you kill yourself, because you couldn't live without Mytho. And no matter how hard I tried, or how many times I told you that I loved you, you kept telling me that all I had to do was raise the point of my sword and close my eyes. And I couldn't. I couldn't do the one thing you wanted me to. God, Ahiru, I love you so much."
He clutched her tighter, and she returned the pressure until she felt that if they held much tighter they would melt together, and never be able to let go. Like Fakir had almost become part of the oak tree, they would be part of one whole. It was a comforting thought.
"But I'm here," she said, "And the one I can't live without is you."
He pulled away from their embrace, then, and for a moment, she was afraid. Of what, she never could quite say. Then his lips pressed against hers in a kiss, unmistakable and glorious, and she wrapped her arms around his neck again
But all good things must come to an end, and so did this kiss, though they relived it in each other's eyes, staring at each other in the dark.
"Ahiru," Fakir finally broke the silence, and she smiled at him sleepily. "Could I stay here, with you?"
She nodded, and Fakir slipped under the blankets with her, sliding onto his left side and not bothering to suppress a guilty smile when she slid down next to him, wriggling closer until her back was perfectly cradled against his chest by the gentle curve of his body relaxed. He dared to put his arm around her, and he could almost see her smile when she put her arm over his.
"Charon will find you here in the morning," she murmured, already half asleep and obviously not really caring.
"He'll have to understand," Fakir replied softly, and kissed her cheek.
"Goodnight, Fakir," she whispered. "…I love you," she added after a moment.
"I love you, too, Ahiru."