This takes place after Theme #3.

Disclaimer: Princess Tutu is Ikuko Itoh's.

- - -

Theme #6: The Space Between Dream and Reality

Something's resting on top of his chest. His first thought is that he fell asleep reading again; the weight on his chest must be the book that he fell asleep with. But no, that's not right. It's the wrong shape for a book, and far too warm. And books don't breathe, or sigh and murmur, "'M awake, Pique…" against his chest, or curl against his side. In fact, he's fairly sure that books can't talk at all. So what can it…


It all comes rushing back: Writing that (horrible, maudlin, thank God she'll never see it) rambling paragraph, putting into words all the things that he'd rather stab himself to death with a quill than say aloud. And then digressing into remembrance of the time when… well, before.

A simple description, that was all. A memorial, even – Ahiru's human form, rest in peace. And he'd made it live again. Without intent, without conscious desire, he'd warped reality to his whim.

He wonders if this is how Drosselmeyer became what he did, letting his words bleed over into reality until the world outside and the people in it were nothing more than toys for the writer's amusement, to be shaped or mangled at whim. Never, he thinks, I'd never do what he – and remembers how good it felt, what a relief it was, when the clawed tangle of regret and guilt and – and –

Idiot. You can't even use the word in your own head

love finally spilled out of his heart and onto the page. Remembers the surge of stunned joy as he looked up to see her worried, wide-eyed, human face. It was only a few moments before reality and its accompanying guilt set in, but for those few moments…

He's being ridiculous. What's done is done

unless you feel like writing it to be otherwise

and whatever his faults, he's no Drosselmeyer. He might

get someone else killed

accidentally cause harm, but not out of any malice or desire to see them suffer. And hasn't he learned by now? Doesn't he know the consequences of a misused story better than anyone else? He didn't cause anyone any harm

this time

and it's idiotic to feel guilt over something that never happened. Unless, of course, there were other consequences that he doesn't know about yet, and he's brought harm to someone again without even intending it –

He'll deal with it in the morning. Whatever it is – if anything else even happened, he's probably worrying over nothing – he can deal with it in the morning.

He pulls her tighter, and waits for the dawn.

- - -

And dreams:

Mama put him to bed early that night, even though he'd told her that he was big enough to help with the watch. She didn't say anything, only got that funny crinkle in her nose that she always got when she was trying not to laugh, and kissed his forehead and said goodnight. Which wasn't fair at all; heroes were always young, all the stories said so, and anyway everyone always said that he was big for his age. But she and Daddy didn't understand that, and always pulled him back inside when he tried to go out and fight the ravens.

But that was okay, because he had a plan. He was going to write a story, and he'd be a hero who wasn't too little for anything. And then the ravens would go away, and he'd be allowed outside again, and everyone would be so proud of him –

And he waited until he heard Mama and Daddy come up the stairs, waited a little longer until he heard the door of their room close, waited even longer after that until he was absolutely positively sure that they wouldn't wake up and tell him he was too little to save everybody, and went downstairs and wrote until he heard cawing outside and ravens, more than he could count, poured in through every window –

- - -

He wakes with a start, tightening his grip on her side; she protests, sleepily, and he loosens his hold. It's really not a comfortable position for either of them, jammed up against the wall like this. But it was the best compromise that either of them could come up with, unwilling as they'd been to lose hold of each other, and unwilling, even in that strange and uneasy intimacy after she'd woken him up, to either share his bed or let the other one rest on the floor.

She looks older now; he didn't expect that. (Idiot. It's been a year now. Of course she's older than she was.) He's had her human form fixed in his mind, static, for over a year, smiling bravely before she turns and runs to meet her fate. Of all his memories of her, it was the sight of her retreating back that he saw most clearly: The brightness of her dress and that ridiculous tuft of hair bobbing off into the distance, forever.

It was the right thing to do, and not a decision that he'd had the right to change in any case; over the past year, he's refused to let himself regret it. Refused to let himself miss the sound of her voice; the way she always ran, full-tilt, as if there was something terribly exciting up ahead and she didn't want to be late to see it; the expressiveness of her face, emotions racing across it at a dizzying pace; the… He's refused to let himself miss her, because there was nothing to miss. It wasn't as if she was dead, after all, or a different person… duck… whatever. She'd still been herself, no matter what species she was. Even if you turn back into a duck, I'll always stay by your side, he'd said, and meant it.

But it's… good… to be holding her like this.

Only a few hours left until the dawn. There's clothing to find, and living arrangements to work out, and God knows how the hell he's going to explain to Charon why there are feathers all over his bed and a girl in his room wearing nothing but one of his shirts… They'll work it out. Somehow. Only a few hours left until the dawn, when reality will intrude and there will be Things To Do and he'll finally learn the price for letting go (if only for a minute) of the part of his mind that listens, always, for the sound of wings.