When They Call You
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! Ever since seeing an amazing AMV on YouTube by FishesGoPook, I've wanted to write a Tutu fic using The Call by Regina Spektor as the image song. While writing this, I realized the song would fit this story's plot very well. It will deal a lot with Stories and books and touch a bit on fairytales. Something towards the end of this chapter will likely raise more than a few eyebrows, but never fear; Fakir/Ahiru is the pairing of this fic, if it has a pairing at all. It features a sentient Story as the enemy, and is post-series, but it takes place in a different timeline from my main fics . . . or does it? Many thanks to Northeasternwind, and to everyone who will provide plot help before this is over!
It Started Out as a Feeling
The Bavarian town of Kinkan had, in the past, always been an energetic center of activity. Even when it and all of the residents had been under the spell of Drosselmeyer's Story, life had gone about as usual—at least, as usual as anyone knew it to be. The anthropomorphic animals and other oddities had been perfectly normal to their manipulated minds. Humans and animals alike had attended school, gone to work, married, and raised families.
At the end of Drosselmeyer's Story, all had returned to normal. And, without their memories of taking part in the Story at all, the people still went about their lives as usual—at least, as usual as they remembered.
But now it was different. There was nothing usual in what had been happening to the town over the past weeks, and especially not in what had happened today. Today was eerily overcast and gray, matching the feeling that hung over Kinkan and permeated every street and every building.
A little yellow duck, her feathers streaked with red, stumbled up the street that led to the town square. At each business and home she gave a desperate quack, seeking someone, anyone, to answer her cries. But at each location it was always the same—there was no one to reply her.
Kinkan was a dead town.
The air was still. There was no laughter, no gossip or casual conversation, no sellers or waiters or waitresses trying to help customers decide what to buy or eat.
The pizza shop, when the duck passed it, was vacant. The chairs were still positioned at the tables, some pushed in, some ajar or pulled back, as if people had been there. Yet there was no one. Several plates still bore slices of pizza in varying states of being devoured.
Children were absent from the streets, where they usually played in lieu of sidewalks and yards. Skateboards and sticks and even jumpropes had been left lying in the road and next to homes, their owners never to return and claim them.
A slight sound behind her caused the duck to perk up, the feathers along her back standing on end from her surprise. She whirled, hoping against hope for a person or even an animal.
Instead there was nothing at first. Then a crumpled and torn piece of paper danced into view, set adrift by a faint breeze. The wind only lasted a moment; the forgotten sheet soon sailed to the ground, as lifeless as the rest of the town.
The duck stared at it. The hope she had been fighting to cultivate diminished as she turned away. Up ahead was the square; she could vaguely see that the fountain in front of the church was on, the water spilling into the bowls that had been crafted who knew how long ago. Of course, the church would be abandoned now, as it had been when Drosselmeyer had used the clock tower to operate his oppressive machine, but it was far more unsettling now that the entire town was abandoned.
Where had everyone gone? What had Fakir's out-of-control Story done with them?
The duck waddled forward, pushing herself to go faster despite the pain from her injuries. She had awakened lying on the academy lawn, so far away from where battle had been given to the vicious Story. And her only living friend was nowhere to be found. She had been looking for him ever since she had found herself in this nightmare, to no avail. Had he vanished too? Was she the only one left?
"Quack," she whispered. I wish you were here, Fakir. You always knew what to do. You always made me strong. But now I . . . I don't know what to do at all!
People had been disappearing with increasing volume for weeks. But only now, after the Story had been—she thought—ended, all the rest of the town's population were gone. And there was no way of knowing where they had been taken.
Everything looks so hopeless, she thought to herself as she stumbled ahead. It's not like when we ended Drosselmeyer's Story and everything went back the way it should be. Now it's worse than ever!
But no, she could not give up altogether, especially not when her friend was still missing and could be here somewhere. They had both fought the Story, and if she was here, shouldn't he be also?
As she drew near to the church, she turned her attention to the fountain. Something felt wrong there, moreso than anywhere else in the town. She swallowed hard, pressing forward despite the warning bells going off in her head. Was the Story still there? Would she see it lurking around the back of the fountain, a horrific, cruel mirror of its writer?
Her heart ached at the thought. Wasn't it crushing enough that Fakir was gone, without having to see a merciless doppelganger in his image?
She took a deep breath. No matter what was there, she had to see. She had to know.
But her heart nearly stopped when she carefully, cautiously, walked around the stone sculpture.
"Quack!" she cried out in sheer horror.
It was what she had feared, what she had hoped and prayed and pleaded would not be true. Her only friend and companion for months was laying mostly on his stomach, his hair a mess and his eyes closed. He was completely still.
"Quack!" she wailed. "Quack quack quack!" Wake up! Please!
But there was no reply. The little duck moved closer, tears glistening in her blue eyes. "Quack," she whispered.
He could still be alive, just deeply unconscious. Normally she would never get so near to him, but she had to now. Waddling next to him, she nudged his hand with her head.
"Quack!" she begged again.
Now she drew right up next to his face. He was not breathing; she could not feel any air against her small body. And he did not show any indication of his ever-present bird allergies. That, perhaps more than the lack of breath, said to her that he was gone.
"Quack," she whispered.
This was too much like what she had already experienced. Fakir had been the first casualty of the cruel Story. He had fought valiantly to take it down, and he had—but his life had been the price. She still remembered his weakened, bleeding body sprawled in the street.
She had climbed onto his chest, begging him to hang on, that he had to hang on, while he had gasped and choked his final breaths. She was an idiot, he had said with a shaking smirk. Sometimes hanging on just wasn't possible.
Even though she was a duck and could no longer speak any human language, sometimes he had still understood what her quacks meant.
He had wanted her to promise that she would not spend the rest of her life mourning him; he wanted her to run and play and swim and enjoy life, just as she had before. She had buried her face against his hand, not wanting to make such a promise, not able to bear imagining life without him in it. And before she had been able to even give a sorrowful quack in response, his hand had grown heavy and limp.
She remembered how she had screamed in anguish, how she had struggled out from under his hand and had nudged it repeatedly, trying in vain to get some reaction. Autor had performed artificial respiration and CPR on their dear friend, but it had been no use.
Starting that bleak night, Autor had taken her in and cared for her in spite of his allergies. It had not been like it had been with Fakir, of course; with him she had been able to snuggle close each night or watch over his shoulder as he wrote. With Autor, they had needed to keep their distance from each other. He had never been able to touch her or pick her up, as Fakir had done. But though it had been so different, and they had both been grieving over Fakir, gradually they had started to heal and make a life for themselves together.
Until the Story that had killed Fakir had risen up against the entire town. They had thought Fakir had destroyed it, but they had clearly been wrong, and that had nearly been the world's undoing. As it was, Kinkan had clearly paid the price for stopping it. And Autor in specific had been the lightning rod channeling the power necessary to stop the Story's spread.
She nudged Autor's arm one final time in vain. With a sorrowful moan she struggled to climb onto his back and up by his shoulder. For a long moment she gazed at the boy who had cared for her so faithfully after Fakir's tragic demise. Then, trembling, she leaned forward and pressed her beak against his cheek.
Goodbye, Autor, she said silently. Goodbye.
She did not even know what to do now. She felt so numb in her horror and despair. Maybe later she could try to leave the town and see if other people were still around. After all, surely the whole world hadn't vanished, save her and him only?
Swallowing hard, she closed her eyes. Several tears slipped free, trailing down her feathery face.
But not five minutes passed after the sorrowful kiss when a tingling sensation swept through her body. She gasped, her eyes opening wide as her very being glowed. Then she was tumbling off of Autor's corpse and to the stone ground as she quacked in shocked alarm.
Then it was over. Cautiously she opened an eye. She was sprawled on the ground next to her friend, yet strangely he did not seem as large as he had to her duck eyes. Now she was viewing him almost as if . . . as if . . .
She stared down at herself, shaking. There were no feathers, no wings. Instead there was skin and there were hands, fingers. She was not a duck. She was a human girl! Thankfully clothed—but she barely noticed that fact at the moment.
"How?" she exclaimed. Her voice, which sounded foreign to her after all this time, was loud in the dead town.
She pushed herself up, wincing in pain as she knelt on the cold street. Being turned human had not made her injuries go away. Not that she had really thought it would. She glanced over her shoulder. Blood was showing through the white material of her turtleneck, but the cuts were hopefully not deep. Since they had not really slowed her down very much as a duck, surely they were not serious.
She frowned. She could not even treat them anyway when they were on her back. At least, not very well.
She looked back to Autor. Even though she was human, she could not try to revive him the way he had tried to revive Fakir. She did not know the technique. And besides, he had been here so long like this. How could she possibly bring him back? Autor had struggled to resuscitate Fakir almost immediately after he had died and it had not worked.
"I'm so sorry," she quavered, tears spilling from her eyes as she reached out for his hand. "I couldn't save you, Autor. I couldn't save you any more than we could save Fakir." Her own hand shook as she felt around for a pulse. That was the only thing she did know how to do, yet it really seemed pointless when she knew he was not breathing.
But without warning, Autor's hand twitched under hers. She jumped a mile, staring at it. No, it could not be. He was gone; she was all alone. She had imagined it.
He groaned, drawing her hand away from her. She could only watch in stunned disbelief as he pushed himself onto his back. He lay for a moment, seemingly gathering his strength, before his eyes fluttered open. He blinked several times, confused. "Ahiru?" he rasped. "Has my eyesight degraded this much?"
She snapped to. Maybe it was her eyes that were failing. This could not be real.
"Autor?" she whispered shakily, afraid to accept the miracle. She leaned over him, her heart pounding so fast with anxiety that he surely must be able to hear it.
He stared up at her, his glazed eyes clearing and widening in awe. "You . . . you're human," he breathed. With a shaking hand he reached up, touching her cheek as though to assure himself this was not a hallucination.
Ahiru's own hand flew up and over his. "Autor," she said again. "Autor! Autor!" Joyous tears came to her eyes. She clutched his hand, feeling the warmth and the life. Her mind was spinning. "You're alive!" Letting go of his hand she threw her arms around him, hugging him close to her. "No, your eyes are just fine! Well, I mean, they're not worse. I mean, yes—I'm human!"
Still only semi-conscious, Autor gave a start as she enveloped him in her embrace. "How?" he wondered, echoing Ahiru's own question. "What happened?"
"I don't know," Ahiru exclaimed. "I was looking all over for you and I found you laying here so . . . so still! I tried and tried to wake you up, but you . . . you just couldn't. And I was so upset that I climbed on your shoulder and kissed you goodbye and then I was all glowy and I turned into a girl . . . !" But then she trailed off in mortification, her cheeks burning red.
Autor was stunned. "You did what?" he exclaimed.
Ahiru looked away now. "I'm sorry," she mumbled. "I know I shouldn't have got so close. But I was trying to see if you were alive, and when you weren't I . . ." A tear slipped from her eye.
Autor sat up, gripping Ahiru's upper arms. "No!" he said. "I think I understand. You saved my life, Ahiru. And I wonder if that's what changed you back, as well."
Ahiru started and looked to him in surprise. His brown eyes were gleaming with excitement.
"You . . . you mean when I kissed you I . . ."
"This town is still being controlled by Stories and fairytales," Autor breathed. "Your true love revived me and . . ." Now he was the one to trail off and turn red. When he looked to Ahiru, she was flaming as well.
"Ahiru?" he said cautiously, but then did not know how to continue.
Ahiru bit her lip. She knew what he was trying to ask. "I'm not sure how I feel about you," she said softly. "When I finally realized I'd fallen in love with Fakir, I didn't think I could ever love anyone else like that, and I figured everything was hopeless anyway because I was a duck, and . . ." She stared at the boy who had become her closest friend other than Fakir.
"I think," she said slowly, "any kind of love can be true love, can't it? I mean, it shouldn't have to just be romantic or something. Friends and family have true love too, don't they?"
Autor considered that, then gave a slow nod. "Yes, that's true," he said. "Romantic love is far too overstated."
But they both felt awkward. And as they stared at each other, all alone in this strange new world, they could not help but wonder exactly what it was they did feel for each other. Were the feelings they had thought they carried their true feelings? Or was there something else?
Ahiru hesitated, searching Autor's eyes for the answer. Finding none, and seeing his own confusion, she acted on impulse. She leaned in, touching her lips to his. Stunned, he let her kiss him for a moment, savoring the new experience. Then he drew her closer, returning it. They were both young and unsure, confused by the rush of emotions they were feeling. But then, as if fully realizing what they were doing, they suddenly stiffened and pulled away from each other.
"I'm so sorry!" Ahiru exclaimed. "I don't know why I did that. I . . ."
Autor was still red. He pushed up his glasses with a shaking finger. "It's alright," he said. "Maybe I shouldn't have returned it, but . . ."
Ahiru slowly raised her eyes to meet his. "I . . . it all felt wrong," she stammered. "I don't love you that way. I'm sure I don't."
"Yes," Autor agreed, looking relieved. "When I think of you, there's a much more familial association than anything else. Though I'm not sure why I'm so convinced of that," he muttered, only loud enough for him to hear.
Ahiru managed a weak smile. "Same here," she said.
But then something occurred to her that she had not thought of in the midst of their reunion. Abruptly the tears were back, only now they were not joyous. Her smile disappeared.
Autor looked at her in surprise. "What is it?" he asked.
Her face crumpled. "If Kinkan is still being controlled by Stories and it could have worked, why . . ." Her shoulders shook as a sob choked free. "Why didn't true love save Fakir? Why couldn't we save him?"
Autor's heart twisted. "I don't know," he said, feeling his voice grow husky. He drew the girl into a gentle embrace. She melted into his arms, hugging him close as she buried her face in his shoulder.
Nearby, the wind picked up the same lone piece of paper, sending it cartwheeling and somersaulting past them. Other than the two frightened and confused teenagers, it was the only sign of life.
He was lying on his back, gazing at the sky high above his head. It looked peaceful as always; the bright blue contrasted with the white clouds that were lazily making their way towards the horizon. But something seemed wrong, too—as it always did. There was something fake, contrived, about this world. It was not the afterlife; somehow he was sure of that. On the other hand, he did not know what it was, and that was driving him out of his mind.
He pushed himself upright, gazing into the clouds. She was out there somewhere. He knew that. What he did not know was how to reach her. If he concentrated hard enough, at times he could sense her presence, just vaguely somewhere beyond the sky.
Closing his eyes, he allowed the gentle breeze to wash over him. He reached out with his heart and soul, seeking that of the little duck who had endeared herself to him so deeply.
There, he felt her. Just for a brief moment, but she was there. And she was in pain.
His eyes flew open. He reached up at the sky with his hand, desperate to find her.
"Ahiru!" he cried. "Ahiru!"
But as always, his voice echoed and was not heard by anyone other than himself.
I know it looks weird, but bear with me? I can't guarantee how much I'll update this fic, but the past will be better explained through flashbacks, dreams, and conversations in future chapters.