Notes: Thank you to everyone who has reviewed and also to those who preferred to read quietly! This was my first Tutu multi-chapter, and due to the subject matter I was a bit nervous as to how it would be received. But I haven't had any complaints, so hopefully people enjoyed the ride as much as I did. I hope to try expanding this someday. Meanwhile, however, this is a new timeline I'm starting, and Fakir is up next to have a terrible problem. It will have Fakir/Ahiru content and more concerning their friendships with Autor. I hope you'll stick with me for it!

Prompt: #19 – Unison (Together With)

He was still weakened and pale, though he was getting his strength back.

The mysterious woman he had met in the darkness had been right; it had taken a lot of care to get well from the near-fatal wound he had given himself. But against the doctor's predictions he had recovered and now was back home.

It was certainly a relief; he had long ago had enough of medical personnel always barging in on him for one reason or another. He preferred the peace and quiet of the old, familiar walls and rooms where he had grown up.

Today he moved slowly down the stairs to the living room, to the piano that had lain silent during the past weeks. He sank onto the bench, his hands trembling as he ran his fingers over the keys.

For weeks he had feared this, had feared sitting at the piano and being overtaken by his madness once again. He had wondered if, knowing what he had done, he could ever write or even play music anymore. In his darkest moments, fraught with delirium and torment, he had been certain it would become his bane. Over and over he heard his crazed laughter in his mind. He saw himself playing a concerto that had bound the only people aside from his deceased immediate family who had ever really shown interest in him and cared about him. He still felt his panic and horror when he had begun to get hold of himself, fighting to stop himself and the Story without being able to do a thing—until he had committed what he had believed would be a permanent act.

His hand was still scarred from where he had stabbed it with the letter-opener. But it had otherwise healed; it would not impair him, as he had wondered if it would. He could still play music, if he so desired.

His chest was scarred as well.

Rue's and Ahiru's screams were pierced into his very soul. Rue's heartbroken eyes when she had caught his fatally wounded body . . . Ahiru's horror as she had joined the older girl, reaching for her friends and sobbing over Autor's desperate end. . . .

Fakir and Mytho had been upset too, he remembered. Mytho had not wanted harm to come to him, as he had said more than once. And Fakir . . . Fakir had felt so personally betrayed and wounded. Autor had seen it in his eyes and had heard it when Fakir had opened his mouth in anger.

He had not yet returned to school. He had dreaded it, especially wondering what sort of gossip would go around, or worse—if everyone would remember being in his Story as they were starting to remember being in Drosselmeyer's. But more than likely, he supposed, he would go back and nothing would be different at all. He would attend his classes and perhaps resume frequenting the library and then go home. No one would notice or care. He was just the eccentric music student, the "weird Autor" demanding quiet in the library.

Not that he cared what they thought of him. Anyway, he had found friends who would stand by him even after the treacheries he had committed. Most people would have abandoned him after what he had done. He would not have blamed them in the least if they had.

Strange, he had never thought he would bond platonically with anyone at all. He had avoided contact with people in general for years, preferring his books and his music as his companions. His life had changed in so many ways since meeting Fakir and Ahiru.

Without quite consciously realizing it, he had been moving his fingers over the piano keys as he had been lost in thought. He had been composing again, though not a piece that would alter reality. Now he was bringing to life a piece of music that would not change anyone, unless it would change himself to be released of the feelings he had kept inside and not known how to properly express. It was dark, it was remorseful, it was angry and haunting and filled with a pain so tangible it could be felt just in the listening of it.

And though Fakir did not understand why he had chosen to walk a path that would take him past Autor's house, or why he had to stop and listen to the heart-wrenching piece that was being played, he went closer and then to the door, listening until there was silence. For a moment he stood there, quietly taking in what he had heard. Then he raised his hand, knocking on the thick wood.

After a moment Autor arrived at the door and, upon opening it, looked in surprise at the other boy. "I wasn't expecting to see you," he said. "Did Ahiru send you again?"

"No." Fakir shrugged. "I heard you playing. You're not trying to control anyone now," he said, but it was a question despite being said as a statement.

"No, I'm not," Autor said. "It's just a regular piece of music."

"Nothing about it sounded regular," Fakir said.

"I call it Regret," Autor said.

Fakir pondered over that. "Just don't drown in it," he said.

"I won't," Autor said. "I'm going to move forward. That's all I can do now, for myself and for those I've hurt with my carelessness and selfishness."

Fakir hesitated, shifting but remaining where he was. "I'm going to move forward too," he said then. "I'm not going to be consumed by the past."

"Good," Autor said. "That's something all of us need."

Again Fakir hesitated, looking uncomfortable. Autor raised an eyebrow.

"If you want to say something more, go ahead," he said. "I'm certainly not stopping you."

"I'd rather say it inside," Fakir said.

Autor held the door open further as he stepped aside. "Then come in already," he said. "There's a draft in here now."

"It's always cold in here," Fakir retorted, stepping into the stone vestibule.

Autor shut the door and led Fakir into the study. Fakir sank into the chair from which he had written the end of Drosselmeyer's Story, while Autor claimed the wooden bench. Fakir leaned forward, studying the other student with an unreadable expression.

"Those first days in the hospital, you had a high fever," he said. "You kept mumbling things and waking up delirious."

Autor frowned, pushing up his glasses. "And I'm guessing I said all kinds of nonsense," he said.

"I don't know if it was nonsense or not, but it was weird," Fakir said. "There was a lot of stuff about Drosselmeyer and something about Uzura. Then you started talking about falling down somewhere and never hitting the bottom. You wondered if you were just going to keep falling forever."

"And is that what you wanted to ask me about or not?" Autor said, not making any motion to reveal that it was more than just the ramblings of a seriously ill person. It had all happened; he knew it had.

He had met Drosselmeyer, the man he had idolized from his childhood. In the end, instead of feeling angry or outraged by the mad Story-Spinner's attitude towards him, Autor felt horror and sorrow and pity. He could have so easily followed in Drosselmeyer's footsteps and continued toying with people's fates until the part of him that valued life was utterly destroyed. He wondered now whether Drosselmeyer had truly been a genius or if he had just stumbled upon his powers as Autor had done and had gradually came to love the sense of control more and more until it dominated every other part of his personality.

Though Drosselmeyer had been an excellent writer. Autor would never feel otherwise about that. He had reread some of the man's books since returning home and had been amazed anew at the many twists and turns and the tragic characters. But all the time he had been reading, he had felt the sadness that haunted him when he thought of his meeting with Drosselmeyer.

Fakir shrugged. "I think I probably already learned those answers listening to you all that time," he said.

Autor flushed a bit. "So I talked that much," he said.

"It was a lot, yeah." Fakir straightened. "What I wanted to ask you was about the people you saw when you were falling."

Autor stiffened. "What about them?" he asked.

"Look, whatever happened to you then is your own business," Fakir said. "But I heard you say my name once in connection with those people, and I'd like to know why."

"They wanted me to tell you Hello," Autor said. "Actually, it's strange you should bring this up now. Just yesterday I went through the photographs I have of Drosselmeyer's heirs. I knew I'd seen them somewhere before, and on a whim, I looked there." He stood and crossed to the desk, opening a photograph album he had placed on top. As Fakir turned to look, Autor turned the aged pages until he found the one he wanted. "Here," he said, pointing to a picture near the end of the album.

Fakir looked, his face draining of color as he did. "Mom," he whispered. "Dad. . . ."

"My theory was correct," Autor said, unable to keep the triumph out of his voice. But he sobered as Fakir gazed at the picture.

"Why would they come to talk to you?" Fakir said, still not certain he had fully wrapped his mind around this twist. "You never met them. They never knew you."

Autor adjusted his glasses. ". . . They talked to me about sacrificing oneself to save others," he said. "They're the ones who told me I could come back."

Fakir continued staring at the photograph, seeing their smiling faces looking up at him. The picture had been taken shortly after their wedding, he guessed from how old they looked.

"Tell me about them," he said. "Were they happy?"

"Yes, I think so," Autor said. "Happy to be together. But they miss you."

Fakir nodded. I miss them too.

". . . They also said they're proud of you," Autor remembered.

At this, Fakir smiled a bit. He gazed at the picture for another moment before leaning back and looking to the researcher.

"Were you ever planning to tell me this if I hadn't asked?" he said, his voice flat.

"Of course I would have," Autor said. "To test my hypothesis."

"Of course," Fakir nodded, crossing his arms. After a moment he said, "But that wouldn't have been the only reason."

Autor sat down again. "No," he said. "It wouldn't."

They lapsed into an easy silence, the only sound the clock ticking on the shelf.

"So you've created a happy ending for yourselves after all," Drosselmeyer observed. "How is it that you always seem to be able to turn a tragedy completely around? None of my other Story characters ever did such things. And oh, where is that dratted Uzura?" He frowned, looking around at the always-moving gears. "If she's in Kinkan, she should have turned up weeks ago."

He leaned back, rocking in his chair. "Anyway, don't think your problems are over," he said. "With sentient Stories roaming about, anything could happen. I wonder if your Story has anything in mind for you, Fakir?"

And he smirked in the darkness.