Let The Cat Out Of The Bag

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A short one- shot, inserted into AKT 11 (after Fakir confronts Duck and before Duck goes after Mytho with the duck umbrella.) Author's notes, program notes, and disclaimer at end.

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Today had been worse than usual.

I wish I could get this right, thought Duck. Tutu could do this asleep, with one hand tied behind her back, so to speak. Straighten and lengthen spine... balance... everything else he said... to dance is to fall, but please, not now....

Mr. Cat had been growing more frustrated with each student's attempt. He had been getting worse all day, came the word from the other classes. He was growing less than patient with the beginners; his tail was twitching, as were his ears, and the sarcasm was flowing faster than the marriage proposals, never a good sign. Duck was last in line. It was no surprise by then that she was ordered to stay and mop the practice room floor.

That wasn't what had her thinking as the bucket clonked onto the floor. The glow of the pendant as she had gotten to her feet after she'd fallen in front of Mr. Cat had distracted her from his tirade. How to corner him, alone, as Tutu....

The conclusion was obvious. The building would be practically empty by now, and through the open door came sounds of light footsteps and muttered yowlings. The mop and bucket clattered again noisily as she put them aside, and changed....

"Misch Duck! Can you not even... AAAAHHHHHHH!"

The sound was not particularly one of fright; rather, it indicated extreme interest.

"And who are you, mrrraow? Am I scheeing thingsch?" It was asked quietly, perhaps even reverently. He seemed to have a little difficulty breathing, and his eyes had gone wide and dark.

"Mr. Cat," said his vision, miming her request. "Please. Come, dance with me."

So began the pas de deux. More than once Tutu had to refuse his mimes for love and marriage; but the still the dance went on.... Tutu began to understand something about Duck's teacher, then. Mr. Cat had long ago devoted himself to the art of ballet, and had attained a high degree of proficiency, just as the Prince was doing; a cold way of describing his life's passion.... The great difference between Mytho and Mr. Cat was no longer technical skill. It was that Mr. Cat had a great heart, and poured it entirely into his dance.

Tutu had never yet had such a partner.

Perhaps the reason why Mr. Cat was so distracted by thoughts of marriage was that he had never had a partner with whom to share even his dance, much less his life. Students passed through his paws, becoming some of the finest dancers in the continent. But then they all left Goldkrone, seldom to return and never to ask him for anything more than a moment of speech; and yet after years of teaching, still he taught, and still he danced, alone.

But what had triggered the pendant? Loneliness had already been reclaimed by the Prince.

The Grand Pas de Deux came to an end, and Tutu knew there would never be another such; it was a pity that there had been no audience– Mr. Cat deserved one. A red glow exuded from him as he knelt, hand over heart, and resolved itself into an image of the Prince.

"What feeling are you?"

"I seek perfection. I want everybody to love what they do, to strive for the highest of goals, and I want to help them attain it. I want to give them all I know."

"I see. You are... ambition, perhaps?" Not necessarily just for himself, either. Somehow it was bound up with the desire to teach.

"Yes, that will suffice."

It made sense; there had been the desire for knowledge, and here was a need to use and pass on that knowledge. Mr. Cat had enough of that for himself. He should be a little easier to live with now. "This isn't where you need to be. I'll return you to your proper place." A flash of red light, and then a glowing red crystal was in her hand.

Tutu helped a somnolent Mr. Cat into his office, where he promptly curled up on his largest chair, tail over nose. He ought to awaken by dinner, she thought. She resisted the odd urge to scratch him behind his ears.

Then she returned to the practice room. The bucket and mop were still in the corner; she looked at them in dismay. Time was short, and Duck would never be able to finish the floor before Mr. Cat awoke. I hope it isn't abusing the privilege, Princess Tutu thought as she shut the door and wrung out the mop. She'd make shorter work of it than Duck. Thank goodness the afternoon sun was hitting the windows. No one would see her unless they walked in, and she'd wedged the doors shut with the broom handle and chairs.

Half an hour later it was Duck who opened the door, dumped the dirty water down the broom- closet drain and put her tools away, then dragged herself to the dining hall. She stared at her food for a moment, wondering if she'd have the strength to chew and swallow, knowing she'd feel better when she did. She assured Lillie that she was just tired. Pique had commented, but left Duck alone except for slipping her an extra serving of dessert.

She made them promise to wake her an hour after she got back to her room. They did, and she felt well enough to do her homework. There would be one more thing to do afterward.

Finally she was alone in the lamplight. She was ready to sleep, but this wouldn't take long. No matter what it felt like to her, the transformation was all but instantaneous, and Princess Tutu went to the open window. Across the lawn a light shone in a bay window, and a familiar silhouette was partially obscured by the drapery drifting a bit in the breeze. She hesitated. It was always better if he knew what was coming, but too much could happen to an underclassman's things between now and whenever she saw him next as Tutu. The heart shard itself would agitate her unbearably until it was with Mytho. She sent it to him, a trail of red light sparkling as it arced between the windows.

The figure stood abruptly, catching at the window frame, then sat down again slowly. This one shouldn't hurt him, thought Tutu. She watched for a few moments, wondering at the pull of her own heart that had wanted her to follow the path of the shard. She wanted nothing more than to follow it to her Prince, to be taken into his arms, to speak....

At that point Duck ended it. That way lay oblivion, as Drosselmeyer had warned. If Duck were still a girl in a few years, would she feel like that all the time? Was that how it felt to be in love when one was a little older? Thinking of nothing but one's beloved and one's desire to be with him, in ways she was only beginning to comprehend?

If so, how in the world did anyone ever get anything done?

Yet Tutu was like that. It always lay underneath the surface. Everything she had done so far had been to serve the Prince, to find his heart and return it to him; the more she did, the more she wanted to be in his company, to tell him of her feelings even if she vanished afterward. But Tutu was intelligent, vastly so if Duck compared Tutu to herself. She wished no one ill, ever, and when she found a heart shard her concern was not only for Mytho but also for the host. Nonetheless....

She's real, thought Duck. I ought to know. But somehow Tutu is all she is. There's no more. She's a role, a really good role, but still she ought to feel less like a person. Her feelings are so powerful. She loves Mytho, and cares for everyone else she meets, and she dances. She's really good at figuring out what to do when things get complicated and dangerous. But that's all. I like to sing, and dance, and run, and feed the songbirds. I like to talk with my friends and eat pizza and ice cream. It might be fun to try drawing like the Art students, or cooking, or reading a lot of stories the way Fakir does. There's a lot I'd like to try, now that I can be a girl.

No, I can't. I'm just a duck. If I liked something like that too much it would really hurt to go back to being a duck and not be able to do it. It will hurt as things are now. That's my fault, I suppose. I'm getting too used to being like this.

Why does Tutu have to let her love for Mytho hurt us so much? It's not right. It never goes away, it makes it hard to concentrate on other things. Any other things. I love him, I think... but so does Rue, and so do half the girls in the dorm. I'm glad we're friends. I've seen him smile. I'm helping him. When this all started that would have made me the happiest I could think of being. It still should. That was what I promised when Drosselmeyer gave me back the pendant.

Why aren't I that happy?

I like being a duck, but I like being a girl too. I really like being Princess Tutu when things aren't too scary, but she wears me out so fast. Which am I really?

Movement below caught her eye, a familiar shape walking to the door of the dorm opposite. Fakir. He paused for an instant before passing under the arch of blooming roses, and Duck thought she saw a pale flash. Had he looked up at her? Why? They didn't particularly like each other, and he had refused to work with either her or Tutu.

After a moment Mytho rose, passing out of her view. The other form appeared briefly. Duck was certain this time that he looked at her window before latching their own and drawing the curtains for the night. Of course, she thought. He can see me sitting here in front of the lamp. By now he knows I returned a heart shard.

She blew out the lamp and climbed up into the bed in the loft. There were no answers, no matter how often she asked the questions; but she was too tired for questions to keep her awake.

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Notes: A character study, I suppose. Mr. Cat was really the one character who, to my regret, didn't get to see Tutu as she was before the final battle, and possibly should have. I am sorry I can't describe their dance more fully; I don't have the background. But I'd like to see it.

I also couldn't decide on the best single- word description for the feeling to which I thought Mr. Cat would be most susceptible; but it is a very basic drive, the desire to teach.

This takes place during AKT 11 ("La Sylphide.") I assume a few days between Fakir confronting Duck and the incident with the jewel that are not shown in the anime. Just before the final battle of Season One (which I should not privately refer to as a dance– off, should I?) Duck begins to ask Fakir the same sort of question she asks here, but is interrupted by a murder of crows. The degree to which her feelings are affected by hosting a heart- shard was a question intriguing enough that it was one reason for me to write my longer fic.

Program notes: Whatever the reader feels would serve for an epic performance such as Mr. Cat and Princess Tutu could do. Swan Lake is reserved for Tutu and the Prince, though, a few episodes later. There's the music to the pas de deux in The Nutcracker that might serve, of course.

Disclaimer: Princess Tutu and all related characters and elements are the property, copyright and trademark of HAL– GANSIS/TUTU and Ikukoh Itoh and no ownership or claim on said property, copyright or trademark is made or implied by their use in the work(s) of fan fiction presented here. This fan fiction constitutes a personal comment on the aforesaid properties pursuant to doctrines of fair use and fair comment. This fan fiction is non-commercial, not for sale or profit, and may not be sold or reproduced for commercial purposes.