Think Back on Yesterday
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! This was largely inspired by a beautiful AMV on YouTube made by PrincessSorica, set to the song Please Remember by LeAnn Rimes. It was also inspired by the prompt Fugue State at Paranormal25 on Livejournal. It is a loose follow-up to Fall From Grace, but that story doesn't have to be read first. Just be aware that this is post-series and Ahiru is human. All else is explained within the fic. Thanks to Kaze for plot help!
The two were moving towards each other on Kinkan Town's main street. Each stretched out a hand, reaching for the other. For some reason it was difficult, as if they were pushing against a fierce current seeking to repel them.
Ahiru strained, her blue eyes wide in pain and fear. "Fakir, what's wrong?" she cried. "Why can't we . . ."
Before he could respond, the invisible barrier swirled in fury, sending them both flying backwards off their feet. They cried out in shock and surprise as they hit the ground in opposite directions.
As they looked up, hoping to see the cause of their misfortune, the wind reformed into a sentient, yet transparent, shape. Green-black hair fell past the spectre's shoulders and was drawn back into a ponytail by an unseen force. Green eyes flashed, a cruel smirk splitting the young, handsome features.
Ahiru gasped. "Fakir, that's . . ."
Fakir's doppelganger drew a sword, one that, oddly enough, bore the quill of a pen carved into the hilt. He turned, raising the weapon against his solid counterpart.
Fakir did not even have the chance to defend himself before the blade fell. Ahiru's scream was the last thing that seared into his mind as the raging pain sent him into eternal darkness.
He started awake, breathing heavily and drenched in cold sweat. He sprang upright in bed, the covers falling back from his shoulders as he did. His heart pounded, but even as it slowed back to normal, something about it pricked him for a moment. Still, he was too alarmed over the dream to pay it much heed.
"What was that?" he gasped, leaning forward and digging his hands into his hair. "I was killed by a ghost of myself?"
He shook his head. It did not make sense.
Slowly he got out of bed, crossing to the window. Kinkan was asleep, just as it should be at two in the morning. There were no buildings or homes where the lights still burned. Several stray autumn leaves rolled across the street below, carried by an approaching winter breeze.
Fakir scarcely noticed. His mind was already drifting back to his bizarre dream. His counterpart had held a sword with a quill pen design as the hilt. What kind of significance could there be in that?
The pen is mightier than the sword.
For the pen to become a sword, did it have something to do with how he had chosen to fight with his writing instead of a blade?
But why had he been killed by it?
Killed by writing. . . .
It could have something to do with Drosselmeyer's fate, which he could imagine the Bookmen were still ready to inflict on him if he stepped out of line according to their definition. But on the other hand . . .
His eyes widened. "Autor," he uttered.
Was his dream the manifestation of stress left over from Autor being possessed by his own Story and being driven to kill himself to end its power and save Fakir and the others?
But if so, why would a crazed Fakir doppelganger have been the murderer and Fakir the victim? He had certainly dreamt of Autor's descent to madness countless times since it had happened. Sometimes he still saw in his mind's eye the other boy laughing maniacally, then growing panicked and plunging the letter-opener into his chest to preserve the lives of his friends. Yet he always saw Autor, never himself.
He stiffened. Could it be a warning about his own Story? If Autor's could come to life, why couldn't his own as well?
This was too much to think about so late, he determined, turning away from the window. In the morning he would talk to Autor, but right now he should lay down and try to go back to sleep.
He shuffled back to the bed and collapsed onto the mattress. Though he had thought he would stay wide awake, he dozed within a matter of minutes.
And subconsciously, he laid a hand over his heart in his sleep.
He gave a start, the knife slipping from his hand and to the wooden table in Charon's kitchen. "What is it?" he said in impatient annoyance.
Ahiru frowned at him. "You haven't heard a word I've said, have you?" she said. She was standing on his side of the table, her hands on her hips.
Fakir grunted. "Of course I have," he said, retrieving the knife to resume buttering a piece of bread.
"What did I say then?" Ahiru persisted.
Fakir's eyebrows knitted. He had hoped, of course in vain, that Ahiru would let the matter drop—or that if he thought hard enough, he could salvage the memory of some of her words. Neither was true. Ahiru was glaring at him, not about to back down. And he had let his mind wander with thoughts of his weird dream before she had even started to speak.
"Okay," he grumbled in resignation. "What did you say?"
Ahiru let out an exasperated, weary sigh. "I said it's been lonely since Mytho and Rue got called back to their kingdom," she said. "And I wondered if they'd be able to get back for Christmas."
"I wouldn't know," Fakir said. "Mytho's parents will want to spend time with them too."
It was strange to think of Mytho as having parents, really. For so long, Charon had been the only parent the once-heartless boy had known. But since Mytho was a prince, there was still a king and a queen. Someday he would take over the full responsibilities of the kingdom, but as of yet he had not.
Once that happened, Fakir supposed, Mytho would not be able to get away to visit. He frowned, turning away from that thought. He had thought visiting would not be possible when Mytho and Rue had departed the first time, at the end of Drosselmeyer's Story. And he had only recently learned otherwise. He wanted to think that he would be able to see Mytho for some time still.
In the present, Ahiru nodded at Fakir's words. "But now that their kingdom is part of Earth, they should be able to visit more," she said, finally going back to her seat and sitting down again.
"Yeah, I guess," said Fakir.
"By the way, Fakir, what were you thinking about?" Ahiru frowned. "You got this really serious look on your face. I mean, not that you don't usually have a really serious look, but . . ."
"It was nothing," Fakir interrupted. "I was just thinking I need to talk to Autor after school today."
Ahiru looked at him in surprise. "You do? Why?"
"There's just some things I want to get clear with him." Fakir took a drink of orange juice.
"He hasn't been back to school very long," Ahiru remarked. "He's caught up with what he missed, but he always seems so tired." She looked at Fakir, worried. "He's probably been getting hardly any sleep and is pushing himself too hard."
Fakir latched onto this as an excuse. "Yeah, probably," he said. "I was going to tell him to slow down and take it easy."
Ahiru gave a firm nod. "He'll work himself into a collapse if he isn't careful!" she said. She smiled. "But I'm glad you're letting me know you're worried about him too, Fakir. You've been getting along a lot better lately with him."
Fakir grunted and shrugged. "I can see he's back to himself," he said. "His darkest side—and his Story—don't have a hold over him any more."
"I think you were always worried about him, but you just didn't say so," Ahiru said. "You have a problem with that a lot, Fakir!"
Fakir chose not to respond. Part of him did not like keeping from Ahiru the real reason he intended to see Autor. But the other part did not want her to worry unnecessarily. Depending on what Autor could tell him, he would relay all or some of the truth back to Ahiru.
As he bit into the bread, a sharp pang shot into his heart. He gasped, letting the slice fall back to his plate and clapping a hand over his chest.
Ahiru leaped to her feet again. "Fakir!" she exclaimed in alarm. "What's wrong?" She ran around the table and to his side, but he was already straightening up and reaching for the bread.
"It's nothing," he said. "I must've been lying down funny and pulled something just now. It's already gone."
Ahiru frowned. "It wasn't nothing or you wouldn't have looked like you were in so much pain!" she said.
Fakir shook his head, as bewildered as she. "If it's something to worry about, we'll know sooner or later," he said. "Right now I'm fine."
Ahiru was not convinced. But she shuffled back to her seat and plopped down. "Well, one thing hasn't changed," she muttered. "You still say you're okay even if you're not."
Fakir chose not to reply to that, either.
Autor was playing the piano in his living room when Fakir arrived at his house that afternoon. He paused, hearing the knock, and then played to the end of the measure before getting up and going to answer the door.
Fakir regarded him with an unimpressed expression. "When someone's at your door, you're not supposed to keep them waiting," he said.
"Impatient as always," Autor said, resting one hand on his hip. "But come in anyway."
Fakir went past him and into the stone entryway. "Autor," he said after a moment, determining to simply plunge in, "what do you think happened to your Story when you ended it?"
Autor stiffened. "What do you mean?" he asked, instantly on his guard as he shut the door. From his body language and the tone of his voice, he wondered if Fakir was angry and was going to bring up the past again. Not that he was not still angry with himself for his lack of control. His eyes gave a slight flicker. He had not fully forgiven himself for falling prey to his darkest desires and his possessive Story. He wondered if he even could.
But Fakir shook his head. "I just want to know what you think happened to it," he said. "Did you kill it along with yourself? Or is it still lurking out there, somewhere?"
"I thought I'd halted its progression for good," Autor said. "I hoped it was gone, but I don't know. What's this about, Fakir?" He walked over to the other boy, his brown eyes searching for some answer to this mystery.
"I had a crazy dream last night," Fakir said. "Basically I was killed by a duplicate of me that used a sword with a quill pen carving in the hilt."
Autor stared at him. "A duplicate of yourself?" he repeated in disbelief.
"Yeah. I know it could just be stupid and not mean anything, but after everything we've been through I have to wonder." Fakir crossed his arms.
Autor frowned. "Sit down," he said, gesturing at the study.
Fakir could tell he was troubled. He went over, taking up the wooden bench. Autor sat across from him in a chair. He leaned forward, looking tense.
"Did this double look and dress exactly like you except for the sword?"
Fakir thought a moment. "He was transparent, like a ghost," he said. "And he was giving off this greenish aura. But other than that, yeah, he was just like me."
Autor trembled. "I've started to remember that my Story first appeared before me as an apparition," he said. "It, or my darker side, blocked the memories later." He looked Fakir in the eyes. "Have you been writing?"
Fakir shook his head. "Not lately," he said. "I haven't tried since . . ." But he trailed off. The last time he had attempted to write had been after Autor's death. In horrified desperation Fakir had struggled to write him back to life, to no avail. It was due to a miracle unrelated to the one Fakir had attempted that Autor had been able to revive.
Autor averted his gaze, determining what Fakir did not say. "Then I don't know," he said. "Maybe the dream means nothing. Maybe it's just your own inner fears being given a voice. But on the other hand . . ."
"It would have to be an old Story doing this, one I already ended," Fakir said. "But if they won't rest even after you've finished them, how are you really supposed to stop them?"
It did not help his confidence to see that Autor honestly looked at a loss himself. The composer sank back into the chair, absently digging in his pocket for a handkerchief. As he found and drew it out, he removed his glasses and began to clean the lenses.
"I don't know," he said at last. "Drosselmeyer knew about the Stories' potential to become sentient, but he never told it to anyone. He became so powerful that it wasn't a concern for him."
Fakir growled. "Surely he must have written his findings somewhere, even just for his own reference," he said.
"It's possible," Autor said. "I've actually tried to look, but I haven't found anything."
"How extensive is your collection?" Fakir asked. "Surely there must be some things of his you don't have."
"Of course," Autor said. "And I've looked high and low for those artifacts in Drosselmeyer's old home. If he preserved his knowledge about the sentient Stories, however, it has to be carefully hidden, either in some compartment or in plain sight." He replaced his glasses and looked to Fakir.
The Story-Spinner shifted, uncomfortable now. ". . . If the dream actually is important, what do you think it means?" he asked. "Am I going to be killed by one of my own Stories?"
"I doubt it's completely literal, in any case," Autor said. "But killing you wouldn't have any effect on Stories that have already ended. I can't think of any reason why a Story of yours would want to end your life." He paused. "Maybe we should start thinking of other interpretations. Instead of killing you, what if that was symbolic for something else?"
Fakir frowned. "Like what?" he said. "The sword came down on me before I had a chance to do anything. It seemed clear-cut to me."
"How did it cut you down?" Autor returned.
Fakir froze as the memories hit him. ". . . It went across my birthmark," he remembered. With a shaking hand he reached up, tracing the path of both the discolored skin and the blade diagonally across his shoulder and his chest.
Autor's eyes narrowed. "Then you were torn in two just as your past self was in Drosselmeyer's Story," he said. "The fate you've always feared."
Fakir gave a weak nod. Absently he moved his hand up, placing it over his heart.
"That wasn't the path of the sword," Autor noted. "What are you doing, Fakir?"
Fakir blinked. "What am I . . ." He looked down at himself. Slowly he took his hand away, staring as it trembled. "My heart was hurting again. . . ."
"Again?" Autor got up, concerned now as he walked to the bench. "It was hurting before?"
Fakir nodded. "This morning," he said. And was it his imagination or had it been bothering him in the nighttime too, when he had awakened from his nightmare? "I think it started up in the night," he added, "right after I woke up. I was too upset at the time to think about it."
"You should see a doctor," Autor said. "Though on second thought, if this has something to do with your dream, a physician wouldn't be any help at all."
Fakir leaned back. "I'm fine now," he said. "But what are you talking about? How would this have anything to do with it? You said yourself it doesn't follow the path of the sword, and that's true. My heart would have already stopped once the sword . . ." He trailed off, not finishing his sentence.
Deep down, he wondered if part of him still feared that fate. It would never happen to him, but still. It was such a horrifying way to die.
For a moment Autor was silent. "I was in physical pain when I resisted the voice of my Story," he said. "I fought it anyway; it could only take complete control of me after I lost consciousness. Yet even when I wasn't aware of it, I was being guided by its desires." The desires I poured into it, he said to himself. I can never forget that I brought it into existence.
Aloud once more he said, "I can't believe you're actually falling victim to such a thing, though. You're stronger than I am, and even at my level it took a long time before my Story became so aggressive."
"And I haven't been writing," Fakir objected. "Anyway, why would a Story of mine want to . . ."
Again he trailed off, though not by choice. His skin drained of all color as his eyes widened in absolute agony. He clutched at his heart with both hands, too much in pain to even scream.
Thoroughly alarmed, Autor bent in front of Fakir and gripped his shoulders. "Fakir, look at me!" he commanded. "Don't give in to it. Whatever it is, don't . . ."
Fakir shuddered violently, looking at Autor with agonized eyes. "I . . . I don't . . ." But he trailed off as the cry tore from his lips. His eyes rolled back into his head and he fell forward, crashing into Autor.
The other boy stumbled back, struggling to support the limp body. "Fakir!" he cried. "Fakir, wake up. Don't fall unconscious!" But he could tell from the utter stillness of Fakir's form that it was too late.
In concern he drew back, carefully easing Fakir onto the wooden bench with his head lowered and his legs slightly raised. He was breathing, but his expression was pained. Autor took his wrist, carefully checking his pulse. It was racing.
He frowned. What should he do? He was more inclined to believe that this did have some connection with Fakir's Stories, but he could be wrong. What if Fakir was ill because of some other, physical problem? Could he have even experienced a heart attack? Or, for all he would know, the Story could have decided to harm Fakir with a heart attack.
A knock on the door startled him from his concerns. He looked up, brushing the stray hair away that had started to slip over his forehead. Stumbling to his feet, he went to the vestibule and opened the door. Ahiru was standing there, rocking impatiently and looking worried. But she tried to put on a cheerful front.
"Autor!" she greeted. "Hi! How are you?"
"I'm alright," Autor said.
"That's good." Ahiru hesitated. "Um, is Fakir here?" she queried. "He said he was going to come over and . . ."
Autor took a deep breath. Unbidden to his mind came the remembrance of the first time a scenario such as this had played out. They had not yet been friends when Ahiru had come asking for Fakir during the time Autor had been training him. She had been the friend of Drosselmeyer's direct heir and he had been the harsh teacher. They had met solely because of their connections to Fakir and he had thought they would continue to only know each other as such.
Sometimes it still struck him as odd that they were friends now. They were certainly an unlikely pair—an arrogant researcher who was insecure deep down and a clumsy girl who had once been a duck. Yet only she had been able to break through his resolve to not try any more to form platonic relationships. It had been after that when he had realized that he considered Fakir a friend as well, but had never acknowledged it even to himself.
And he would not hold the victory in his struggle with his inner darkness if not for them—and Rue and Mytho. For them to remain his friends even after everything he had done against them, he knew he had found the loyalty he had always longed for but had been denied. He would forever remain loyal in turn.
"He's here," he said at last, "but . . ."
"Is something wrong?" Ahiru interrupted. "I knew he was acting weird at breakfast, but he kept saying he was fine." She glowered at the stone inside the doorway. "He always does that."
"He's not fine," Autor said. He held the door open further. "He actually just collapsed on me. I don't know what's wrong."
"What?" Ahiru ran in past him, her eyes wide in shock and alarm. "Fakir! Fakir!" She fell to her knees next to the bench, staring at Fakir's silent form. "Fakir, wake up," she pleaded, helplessness washing over her as he remained motionless.
Autor shut the door and came over next to her. "I don't know if it's a physical problem or if it could be related to something else," he said. "I hadn't had a chance to call the medics yet, but they might not be able to do anything for him either."
Ahiru stiffened, her head snapping up. "What do you mean?" she gasped. "What's this about something else? What's wrong with him?"
"We'll talk about it later," Autor said. "Right now we need to try reviving him."
Ahiru gave a shaking nod. "Should I get some water?" she asked.
"Yes." Autor checked Fakir's vital signs again. His pulse had slowed; by now it was almost normal. Hopefully that was encouraging. Autor was still not certain if getting Fakir to a hospital was what they should be doing right now, but if they could not quickly bring him around Autor would see to it that it was done.
Ahiru scurried away and returned before long with a bowl of water and a clean cloth. Autor took them, dampening the cloth and brushing it over Fakir's face and neck. After a moment the other boy flinched, turning his head to the side.
Ahiru leaned forward, still worried but hopeful as well. "Fakir?" she called. "Are you okay? Can you hear me?"
After a moment there was a grunted reply. "What are you talking about?" Fakir muttered.
Autor frowned. Fakir sounded irritated, and while that was normal for him, there was something about his voice now that seemed different.
Ahiru did not seem to notice. "What do you mean, 'What am I talking about'?" she exclaimed. "You fainted or something!"
"Fainted." Fakir forced his eyes open halfway. But as they focused on Ahiru and then Autor, Autor realized what he had sensed.
The eyes, like Fakir's voice, were blank and devoid of recognition.
"Who are you?" Fakir demanded.
Ahiru stared at him. "That isn't funny!" she cried. "Fakir, I don't want to hear you teasing right now! We're both really worried about you!"
"I'm not teasing." Fakir sat up, pushing his damp bangs away from his eyes. "And why do you keep calling me 'Fakir'?" he said. "That isn't my name."
Ahiru's mouth dropped open. She was about to exclaim something else when Autor gripped her shoulder. She turned to him, ready to cry out in protest. But the warning look in his eyes silenced her.
"What is your name?" Autor asked, turning back to Fakir.
For a long moment Fakir hesitated, looking to him and then to Ahiru again. "Lohengrin," he said at last. "And now that I've told you, I have to leave."