Both Ears Burning
a Princess Tutu fanfiction by Tripleguess
August 02, 2007
Summary: No matter what you do, someone gets miffed.
She had dropped behind Fakir to tie her shoe when she heard them talking. Hidden voices behind a tall hedge.
Ahiru had never tried to eavesdrop. Then again, with Pique and Lilie, she'd never had to -- they were always shouting news into her ears, like it or not. So it eased the sting a little when she realized that the voices did not belong to her two silly friends.
Still, the words hurt.
"Why on earth does he waste time on her?"
"She's so pathetic. He must feel sorry for her."
"But how long can he keep it up? She can't run on charity forever..."
Her fingers were frozen in a tangle, a stringy monstrosity conjured by her distress. Maybe it isn't me they're --
"Did you see what happened yesterday? When she tripped down the steps and he ripped up his shirt to treat her skinned knees?"
The unseen speakers finished up with a heartfelt chorus. "Ah, poor Fakir!"
Her scabbed knees ached anew. In times gone by, she'd largely been ignored by the other school girls. It'd made her wistful, but she'd had other things on her mind at the time, so it hadn't mattered much.
Well, they weren't ignoring her anymore; jealousy had a bitter sting. She prayed for invisibility and hurried to catch up with Fakir.
He was waiting, one hand on the gate. "There you are. Where'd you get to?"
"I-I-I had to tie my shoe," she stammered, red with shame.
"You call that a knot?" He knelt and patiently undid the damage, tying her laces in a neat bow. "That's better. Come on."
She stole glances at him all the way home until he demanded to know what was up, upon which she flushed all over again and stammered denial. He glared at her over dinner. Charon remarked that the upcoming ballet finals were stressing the poor girl out and for goodness' sake not to make her any more nervous.
Ahiru said nothing, just picked at her food. It was hard to eat with him frowning at her like that.
X X X
She overslept. It wasn't the first time she'd fallen out of Rachael's old bed in her panic at hearing the bells, but Fakir usually banged on the door demanding to know whether she'd broken her neck this time. Today she hurried through dressing uninterrupted.
She grabbed a muffin and the sandwich Charon pressed into her grateful hands, and flew down the road. She spotted Fakir as she burned rubber through the school gate; he was talking to three girls at the fountain. Her heart did a twirling faint worthy of Swan Lake before she registered his expression; a scowl like those worn by angry thunderclouds.
He raised one hand curtly, halting their chatter. Smiles froze, then faded into something like shock as he spoke.
She couldn't hear what he said, but the girls backed away as though he'd just announced a lively interest in cannibalism.
He caught sight of her and his expression smoothed; he shifted and dropped one shoulder in the familiar way that meant, Come on, let's go. She nodded and fell in step automatically, questions burning in her mouth. Only she wasn't sure exactly what they were. Something had happened in the rarified atmosphere about six inches above her head, and she had a feeling that no one would offer her explanations.
She risked a glance over her shoulder; they were talking behind their hands now, darting hostile looks between their fingers.
Fakir yanked her sideways just in time to save her from colliding with an angel sculpture. "Watch where you're going."
He followed her gaze, then tugged her back on course. His chin lifted as his fingers settled around her palm.
She opened her hand so he could let go if he wanted to, but he didn't.
"Keep walking," he ordered.
She cocked her head at him and smiled, her first real smile of the day. "Does this mean I'm not a charity project?"
"Moron." He didn't even honor the question with a glare. "I'm with you because I want to be."
DISCLAIMER: Once again. This story not created, acknowledged or endorsed by the makers of Princess Tutu, to whom all relevant characters and trademarks belong. No infringement is intended. Princess Tutu: Both Ears Burning itself is fan domain and may be freely recopied and archived.