A/N: Love confession courtesy of Neil Gaiman's Stardust.
Why was she here? Because she heard her name called. "Ahiru." Too softly to wake Charon downstairs, or Uzura, deep in childlike slumber still in the other bed in Ahiru's room.
Fakir tossed and turned in his bed. It was his voice she had heard. He was sweating, his face was contorted in pain, and Ahiru stood watching.
Why did she care so much? What inside her made her want to hold him and kiss him? It was different than what she'd felt for Mytho. She hadn't known Mytho like she knew Fakir. She knew his weaknesses and his strengths as well as she knew her own voice. She only wished she knew herself that well. What was it she felt for him? He had always been there to protect her, and he had written her human again, but what did that mean except that he wanted to protect her? She was his friend.
But this feeling. She wanted so much more from him than just his occasional smile. She wanted to hear him say he loved her, and always would. She wanted him to kiss her and hold her as much as she wanted to hold him and kiss him now.
Tears fell silently from her cheeks and onto the blanket at the foot of his bed, until she wiped them away. She loved him. That was all there was to it.
Fakir tossed again, breaking her heart with just one grimace of pain. He had called her name. He was asleep. He was having a nightmare. A nightmare that involved her.
She bent down and looked into his face, conflicted.
He was asleep. He wouldn't wake up.
"You know when I said I didn't really know about love?" Ahiru said quietly, "That wasn't true. I know a lot about love. I've seen it, and it made me want to become human in the first place. When I saw the way that humans love... You could search to the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful. I wanted so much to be a part of that. So I know that love is unconditional. I think that's partly how I know now I wasn't really in love with Mytho. I just wanted so much to be in love… But now I also know that love can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing, and... What I'm trying to say is... I think I love you, Fakir. My heart... It feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it's trying to escape because it doesn't belong to me anymore. It belongs to you. And if you wanted it, I'd wish for nothing in exchange - no gifts. No goods. No demonstrations of devotion. Nothing but knowing you loved me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine."
After hesitating for a moment, she gently pressed her lips to his for a heartbeat, and withdrew. "I love you, Fakir," she confessed quietly, the words barely more than a breath.
His eyes remained closed, though his face seemed more peaceful, and after a moment Ahiru sighed and stood, tiptoeing quietly back to her room. Somehow she felt better, and worse at the same time. Yes, this was love. And Ahiru was beginning to wonder if she wanted any part of it if it caused this much pain.
All her doubts and fears carried over to the next day, and she wore a look of worry all through the day to her last class, staring at her leg with a hint of pain crossing her eyes as she stretched.
"Huh?" Ahiru looked up to see Pike staring at her with worry, though Lilie wore the same smile she always did when she thought Ahiru was miserable.
"Are you ok?" Pike asked.
"Of course she's not ok!" interrupted Lilie before Ahiru could even open her mouth to respond, "Something's always going wrong to crush poor little Ahiru's hopes! What is it this time, Ahiru?"
Ahiru's eyes darkened, and she looked down, but said, "Nothing. I'm fine. You guys go on, I'll catch up in a bit."
There was no response, then, and Ahiru waited until she could hear no more of her classmates, and the door had closed one more time. Then she looked up, thinking she was alone.
Instead, she met with Fakir's eyes, standing over her.
"Would you dance with me?" Fakir extended a hand, a vaguely surprised look on his face, as if he couldn't believe himself that he, the star dancer, was asking the worst dancer in the Academy to dance with him.
But Ahiru took his hand and he led her through a mostly-improvised pas de deux, which she followed expertly.
Ahiru had a thousand questions dancing around her mind, but because she was just dancing with Fakir had decided to ignore them. For whatever reason, he was dancing with her. She was content to forget her questions for a while.
Until she heard Fakir whisper in her ear, "Did you really mean what you said last night?"
"What I…" Ahiru stumbled and almost fell for the first time in their dance, but Fakir caught her easily, managing to make it seem a part of the dance. And perhaps it was.
"But…" Ahiru protested, "But you were asleep! You were asleep! You didn't open your eyes!"
Fakir half-smiled and spun her into him, his arms around her, hers on his shoulders.
"And risk you being too embarrassed to keep saying those amazing things to me?" Fakir shook his head a little and chuckled at her wide, provocatively cerulean eyes, "I love you, Ahiru. I was just too much of a coward to say it."
All worry was banished from Ahiru's eyes in an instant, and her smile seemed to Fakir to be the true dawn of the day. He kissed her, lifting her up into his arms and holding her there, her arms wrapped around his neck.
And I would be surprised if they weren't there for quite a while.