The Pursuit and Flight of Normalcy
by volta arovet
an unsatisfying Princess Tutu story
Warnings: Spoilers for end of series
Word count: 2350
For prompt: Princess Tutu, Fakir/Autor: scars, kept in close proximity - "Drosselmeyer insisted on this happening before he wrote anything. We'll have to make due, I guess."
The town of Kinkan was suddenly, painfully, unquestionably normal in a way it had never been before, and Fakir didn't know what to do. Before, he could walk the streets and not think twice about the animals that were people, the people that were animals, the puppets who walked without strings, the gates he had no desire to cross.
There were no living puppets, no talking animals, no magic gates, no ghosts, no spells, no stories, and if he wished he could leave the city and walk until he dropped without ever seeing Kinkan again.
Instead, he stayed and watched life go on around him.
"She's a fine duck," Charon said to Fakir—Charon, who was like a father to him but knew nothing about swords with swans or a rain of ravens. "She's growing up nice and strong."
"Yes," Fakir said, as Duck, who was just a duck, sat on his foot and leaned against his leg.
"You should take her to the pond one day," Charon suggested gently. "She might like to make friends with other ducks."
"Maybe," Fakir said, meaning 'no.' Duck's sweet yellow down had been replaced by slick white feathers, the closest she'd ever get to being a swan again, but she looked so much like other ducks he might lose her to the lake.
"What do you think?" Charon asked Duck, patting her side. Duck examined his hand for seeds and, finding none, contributed nothing more to the conversation. "Good duck."
Fakir received a letter from Rue, full of happy, petty news, and a small poster for their current show. Rue was small, dark, and perfect as always, and Mytho was smiling in a way he had never smiled before—happy, loving, and a little selfish. At the right corner of his forehead, almost hidden by hair and shadow, there was a blemish, a tiny imperfection on his skin not quite disguised by makeup.
Fakir looked again and noticed the small laugh lines on Mytho's face and the stain on one of his cuffs, and he carefully folded the poster inside the letter and never looked at them again.
"I'd like you to have this," the girl said after rehearsal, holding out a heart-emblazoned letter with both hands. There was a faint blush across her cheeks, but her dark eyes were bold, staring at him through her shaggy mop of brown hair.
Fakir hesitated. "Miss Anteaterina, I—"
The girl's face crumpled and, without a word, she turned and fled the studio in tears.
A piano bench scraped across the floor. Fakir turned around and saw that the practice room hadn't been completely abandoned.
"That was a cruel thing to call Miss Antonia," Autor said, glaring at Fakir over his glasses.
"I didn't mean—" Fakir said, but Autor had already left.
There was a space between Pique and Lilie, a gap that comforted Fakir until the day it was suddenly, unexpectedly filled.
With Pique on one side and Lilie on the other, the two marched the tiny girl between them down the street. Fakir's heart caught in his throat and before he knew what he was doing, he was blocking their path.
"S-s-senior Fakir!" Pique squeaked. "Wh-wh, what, what—"
"Hello, Miss Pique, Miss Lilie, Miss..." He paused. Last time he had seen this girl, she had been much greener and possessed many more sharp teeth.
"Ah! He knows our names!" Pique whisper-shrieked to Lilie.
"But he forgot Delia's!" Lilie cried and pulled on the little girl's pigtails. "So forgotten! So unloved!"
"'lo. My name's Delia," she said.
Pique and Lilie gasped. "So bold!"
"Hello, Miss Delia," Fakir said, as pleasantly as possible. "What are you three up to?"
"Oh, we're just, you know," Pique said.
"Celebrating getting a new roommate!" Lilie said, giving Delia a squeeze.
"We're going to buy matching things for our room," said Pique. "You know, like a set of pillows, or stuffed animals—"
"Or stainless steel chains to bind us together forever and ever!"
Fakir and Pique didn't even blink at Lilie's outburst.
"So you've never had a third person in your room?" Fakir asked, a little too casually.
"No, never!" said Pique. "Which is kind of weird, since we've always had that third bed."
"So three is much better," said Lilie.
"Yeah, like wise men! Or wishes!"
"Or evil witches!"
"Um," said Delia, breaking into the two girls' patter. "Senior Fakir? Is it true that you raise ducks?" She sheepishly pushed her fingertips together. "You see, my mom's a chef, and she—"
Fakir haunted the old sites, the chapel, the gazebo, the stone for the old tree, Drosselmeyer's grave. They were all peaceful, normal, and Fakir heard nothing but the wind and his own heartbeat echoing in his ears. The bookstore was closed, and no walls held any secret passages.
Fakir was sitting in the practice hall, not paying much attention to the duo performing the demonstration, when the piano faltered and Fakir noticed that the rehearsal pianist—Autor—was staring at a father cat—the former Mr. Cat—with a strange look of shock and amusement.
"Mr. Autor?" the instructor asked, but Fakir was already rising to his feet.
"You!" Fakir shouted, racing across the room.
The brief look of guilt on Autor's face was replaced by an even more suspicious look of perfect innocence. "M-Mr. Fakir?"
"You remember?" Fakir was grabbing him, pulling him away from the piano and making Autor face him. "You remember? Tell me you remember!" He jerked Autor too hard and his glasses skittered across the floor.
"I-I don't—" Autor struggled, and Fakir didn't feel the hands on his shoulders, didn't hear the people yelling at him to let go.
"Autor! Please!" Fakir pleaded, tightening his grip.
Autor winced, met his eyes, oddly vulnerable without his glasses, all honesty and pain. "Not. Now," he hissed, and Fakir was finally aware of the crowd around him.
Fakir backed away. "Sorry. Sorry."
Autor shrugged off the ballerinas' help, but accepted his retrieved glasses. "I'm fine. My icousin/i and I just had a little ifamily/i misunderstanding."
Fakir was thankful that Autor was good at misdirection—the tidbit about their unexpected relation would hopefully overpower, or at least color, what the rumor mill would say about their confrontation.
Fakir was less thankful for Autor's talent when, at the end of the rehearsal, the piano bench was mysteriously absent of its pianist, with only an unlabeled book in his place. Fakir flipped it open and saw neat lines of notes and diagrams with occasional comments in the margins, all written in a familiar mixture of blue-black ink.
Excerpts from Autor's journal:
Entry 1: Rumors of swanlike creature/vision asst. M. Psbl D cnct. Further obs. needed
Entry 8: Unusual activity in dance sct. Report red M –heart or figment?—girl in tutu-xref 12DP? PT? ref. sketches 8a, 8b
Entry 28: F seen w/ sword –psbly L?- i(Knight doomed to failure. Hasn't he read the book? Idiot)/i ref int. trans 28a
Entry 36: R missing 4 days. Coincidence or cnct to Raven?
Entry 47: F discovers D. i(Finally)/i
Entry 51: F failing in research. Has not noticed me.
Entry 54: F continues fail
Entry 55: Considering throwing book F's head
Entry 58: Contact! F training bgns, purification going well but F more fatigued than exp, work on endurance. PT, U v. annoying. mem: buy more parchment, ink
Entry 61: Met w/ BkM. i(I don't get why that ingrate is the chosen one. When Drosselmeyer inevitably reveals himself he will get a piece of my mind about his questionable judgment)/i
Entry 62: strikeHer hair is scented sweet as morning's flowers, her lips
To spy an angel, I have but
R is for/strike
Damn it all!
Entry 68: The whole town is ravens. the rain is cursed. Fakir only hope or Tutu why doesn't he write faster fix it ufix it/u Im writing but theres nothing here I cant do it and striketheres blood on the axe and my hands and I/strike
Entry 69: Progress w/ Chp Valse Op.69 no.2 Fingering is good, prefer fast tempo despite Pf. opinion, interpretation lacking something. Must practice
Entry 72: Rehearsal w/ dance section went well, surprisingly enjoyable. Fakir is an ass.
Entry 75: To whomever has vandalized my journal: your attempts to confuse me are petty and childish, and while your impersonation of my handwriting is admittedly impressive, I clearly would remember if
Entry 76: Fakir. I think, perhaps, this journal was the last piece of Drosselmeyer's power. He may have meant it as a way to have someone else remember his story, or perhaps he simply neglected to remember my part at the end of the story. You may keep the journal, as a remembrance, and please leave me alone. I'll be in the rehearsal room.
It took Fakir half a day of searching the various rehearsal rooms to find Autor—who was, of course, waiting in the same piano hall where they had first met. Autor was playing some waltz, a haunting, flowing melody that turned more and more jarring as he played.
"Is that the piece you were working on?" Fakir asked, placing the journal on the piano's bench.
"Mm. It's not difficult, but there's a trick to it." Autor's shoulders rolled as his left hand bounced up and down while his right flowed smoothly over the keys. "The notes twist in the second section, so you have to play the off notes loudly, deliberately, or else everyone will think you made a mistake."
"I see," said Fakir.
Autor stopped playing. "What do you want, Fakir?"
"Is this Drosselmeyer's tragedy?" Fakir asked. "This," he motioned at himself, at the school, at the world. "Everyone going on without her, and how everything is so..."
"Colorless? Boring? Lacking the passion and mystery of romance and battles and impending tragedy around every corner?" Autor said in an utterly dry tone of voice.
Autor sighed in disgust. "I thought I taught you better. That isn't Drosselmeyer's style; he liked tragedies, not," he waved a hand, "ennui. No, this normal, peaceful life is the happy ending iyou/i wrote." He fixed Fakir with a steady glare. "Live with it."
Fakir sat beside Autor, their shoulders brushing against each other, startlingly warm, and Autor drew back. "I never thought about what happens after a story ends."
Autor snorted. "I don't know, either. iSome people/i didn't get endings because isome people/i were in such a rush to finish the story that they forgot to tie up old plot threads." Autor looked at Fakir, who had the decency to be a little sheepish.
Autor folded his hands primly. "Yes. Well. From what I remember from the time before I regained my memories, I suggest you do what normal people do. Spend time with your friends (provided you have any, of course), pursue your dancing, and if a pretty girl happens to ask you for a date, say 'yes' and for the love of God do inot/i call her an anteater."
Fakir winced. "But. Duck—"
"Is a duck, and you are not." Autor turned back to the piano. "I should have known that he didn't let me remember all this for imy/i sake," he grumbled, glaring at some point past the piano's stand. He started playing again, determinedly not speaking to Fakir anymore.
Fakir left as the music reached a sweet, delicate interlude that turned loud and angry under Autor's hands.
They met at the lake's side, all three of them—Fakir, Autor, and Duck. Autor hung back as Fakir gently placed Duck in the water. "There you go," he said, and she was off with a splash, paddling merrily through the water. Duck, who was simply a duck, swam up to two other ducks, and they drifted happily together.
Fakir could still tell which duck was his.
"She'll come back when she's tired," Fakir said, as Autor stepped up beside him.
"Of course," They watched the lake for a bit. Duck had found a pleasant place to dunk her head. Fakir smiled.
Autor wrinkled his nose against the sun. "Remember: normal life. Find someone else to love. Someone human. You're allowed."
"And don't expect any ogres or fairies or anything to show you the way," Autor said, his chin lifted loftily into the air.
Fakir grit his teeth. "Right."
"And if the first time you kiss there's no fireworks or choirs of angels, that's iperfectly normal/i and a good sign that Drosselmeyer had nothing to do with this," Autor continued.
"And you'll do the same?" Fakir asked suddenly, and for once, Autor was very closed lipped. For the first time, Fakir wondered what it had been like for Autor, wondered if he regretted remembering all that had happened. "Autor?"
Autor looked away, rubbing at a spot on his inner wrist. Fakir saw that it had been rubbed raw. "Yes, well, do as I say, not as I do," Autor said lightly, the tension thick around his eyes. "Some things take time to get over and iI am fully aware of my hypocrisy, thank you./i"
Fakir gave a laugh that was more like a loud exhale, and gave Autor a sidelong look. After a moment's thought, he leaned over and gently, deliberately, kissed him.
It was pleasant, after Autor's initial squawk. They didn't quite fit right together—Autor's lips were too thin and Fakir's nose kept getting in the way and it was altogether the wrong angle to be comfortable—but it was warm and soft and Autor tasted vaguely of violet candies and salt.
After a moment, Fakir drew back, and they were standing side-by-side again, looking out over the water. Their shoulders were pressed together, and this time, Autor didn't draw away.
"Oh," Autor said, pressing a thoughtful hand to his lips. He adjusted his glasses. They were slightly smudged and some hair had fallen into his face; Fakir decided that it looked good on him. "Any fireworks?"
Fakir thought this over. "No."
"Good," Autor said, and kissed him again.
This time was better.