It's Probably Me
VERY IMPORTANT, PLEASE READ: This is an overhauled version of the chapter one you may have previously read. Please examine it and see if it's any better than the original. My intention was never to craft generic angst for this story, and I am sorry if it was taken as such. While I still don't believe Fakir was out of character judging solely by anime canon, I do feel that he likely was by my timeline. In addition, I was struggling with some other elements of the chapter. It is my hope that this new version, put together with suggestions and help from Lisa, Ladyamberjo, Northeastwind, and Why A Duck will more accurately depict what I wanted to tell.
Other Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! I started writing a very random hurt/comfort blurb the other day, and somehow it mushroomed into me thinking of an intricate backstory for how things had got to that point and what would happen afterwards. It's been a while since I've done much with Fakir and Autor's friendship, so this fic will largely explore that. But there will still be a great deal of Autor and Ahiru squee as well. The title comes from the song by Sting and Eric Clapton, which reminds me a great deal of Fakir and Autor.
Rumors flying around Kinkan were nothing new. It was a small town, prone to gossip. People talked of the latest kinds of pizza being served at the pizza parlor, the new fashions available in the shops, and everything happening in the personal lives of the people who worked at both places and everywhere else.
Even rumors about the nature of Ahiru's relationship with Autor were usual. In spite of Ahiru's general, sweet nature, and her and Autor's insistence that they were friends, some people still wondered if she was in love with him in addition to, or instead of, Fakir.
But it was not usual for the rumors to consist of students swearing that they had seen Autor and Ahiru together in the jewelry shop. And when Lilie produced a photograph that she had taken earlier that very day ("They went off during the lunch hour!" she declared. "How scandalous!"), it sealed the disaster. Within an hour of afternoon classes' end, the picture circulated throughout the campus and found its way to an astonished Fakir.
At first he clenched his teeth and steadfastly tried not to think the worst. There was surely a rational explanation. Ahiru would not betray him like that. And he did not think Autor would, either. They were a team, a family.
But Autor had teased him on the subject once or twice in the past. He had then sobered and said that he did not love Ahiru that way.
He had certainly not been teasing when he had told Fakir his observations about Ahiru. "While it's true that Ahiru certainly doesn't have the grace or the allure of someone such as Rue, she has a unique charm all her own," he had said then. "She is beautiful. You recognize that, Fakir. There's no reason someone else couldn't as well."
Fakir had wondered if Autor was trying to tell him something by saying that. Autor had teased him at that point about now being concerned. Fakir had just let it go; Autor had sounded sincere when he had continued, "No, I'm not trying to tell you something, at least not if we're using 'something' as a codeword for 'I have fallen hopelessly in love with the girl you hope to marry someday.'"
Still . . . could he really be trusted? What if he had really felt that way about Ahiru even while he had teased? Or what if he had found it had happened later even though he had not intended it?
Why would they be in a jewelry store? Jewelry was not something one usually bought for someone who was just a friend.
Fakir slumped down in a chair, staring at the picture. He was letting his imagination run away with him. Autor was trustworthy. Unless Fakir had deceived himself by feeling at ease.
What should he do now? He could ask Autor about it, but that would make it obvious that he was having doubts. And if there was an innocent explanation, Autor might feel betrayed or hurt by the lack of trust. The same thing would go if Fakir asked Ahiru.
He swore under his breath, a hand flying to the bridge of his nose. Either he asked or he tried to put it behind him and decide it was nothing. Once the rumors reached Ahiru and Autor, surely they would try to rectify the mess, at least to him.
"Hmph. You seem to be in a quandary."
He looked up with a start. Autor was standing near him at the table, his arms crossed. Somehow he had entered the student lounge without Fakir even realizing.
Quickly Fakir stuffed the picture into his pocket. "What do you know about it?" he retorted.
Autor frowned. "Not a thing," he said. He uncrossed his arms. "Not only are you in a quandary, but you're in a typical ill mood."
Fakir grunted and stood. "And I'm late," he said abruptly. "See you later."
Autor was left staring after him.
Ahiru was about to enter as Fakir was storming out. She stepped back, blinking in confusion at his stormcloud expression. "Fakir? What's wrong?"
"Nothing," he growled. "Let's go."
Ahiru gaped at him, then pouted. "What's with that attitude?" she said.
Fakir did not offer a reply.
Fakir remained unsociable for the rest of the afternoon and evening, barely saying a word through dinner and taking a long walk before bed. His mood did not improve by morning. Ahiru and Autor were bewildered and confused. Not only that, the whispers among the other students at school that day, which stopped as soon as Ahiru or Autor entered a room, were becoming uncomfortable and annoying.
Autor caught Ahiru before the start of afternoon classes. "Something strange is going on," he said. "Do you have the feeling that we're the last ones to know whatever it is?"
"Yeah!" Ahiru nodded. "Do you think Fakir knows about it?"
"I don't know," Autor frowned. "Haven't those girls told you anything yet?"
"No. . . ." Ahiru flushed, looking down. "I was so late that they didn't have any chance to talk to me and I had to stay and clean. . . ." She looked up again with a start. "But they acted like they had something to tell me! I'm going to make sure I find out what it is!" She clenched a fist in determination.
"And I'm sure they'll tell you," Autor said. "Unlike Fakir."
Ahiru scowled. "I don't know what he's so mad about," she said. "If he knows what's going on, he should tell us!"
Autor looked annoyed. "I intend to confront him about it if he's still pushing us away after school," he said.
"Good!" Ahiru said with a swift nod. "Me too!"
The afternoon bells began to ring. Autor glanced towards the main building with a start.
"I'll see you after classes," he said.
Ahiru hurried to run towards the ballet building. "Okay! Bye, Autor!" She waved over her shoulder, glancing back just briefly before turning her attention to the sidewalk.
Autor observed her flight for a short moment, then hastened to the main building. He was known for being punctual. He was not going to let that reputation change now.
Once again the students were whispering when he opened the classroom door. They looked up seemingly with one accord and then froze, resembling a herd of deer caught in the headlights.
Autor glowered at the lot of them. "Obviously there's something you don't want me to know," he said. "And I'm guessing it has to do with me. I don't appreciate either your hushed voices or your silence."
One of the girls smirked at him as she laced her fingers on one of the desks built for up to three people. "Really, Mr. Autor? You don't know?" she said, her tone mocking. "I thought you knew everything."
Another girl at the same desk nodded. "And after the way you've been carrying on with the wonderful Fakir's girl, don't you think you should have some shame? He's trusted you all this time!"
In a moment Autor was at the desk, slamming his hands upon it. "What have I been doing with Ahiru?" he demanded. He knew about the rumors of course; they were almost always circulating. But from what this girl was saying, it was more serious now than before.
She started at his actions. Under his determined, penetrating gaze, she shrank back in a bit of disconcertion. "Why, taking her to the jewelry store," she said.
The first girl nodded. "It's gone around everywhere by now," she said. "One of Ahiru's friends got a picture of the two of you. Actually, I think the wonderful Fakir has it now."
Autor's eyes widened. "So that's it then," he said, mostly to himself as he straightened. Fakir had the picture and probably wondered what to make of it. But why hadn't he said anything about it?
A confused frown crossed Autor's features as he walked to the desk at which he alone sat. There was no time to think further on the subject; the teacher was coming in. However, he vowed, he would have to speak with Fakir as soon as possible. By now Ahiru likely also knew what was going on and was stunned. He would have to talk with her as well. After all, he had promised to keep quiet about the reason for the shopping trip. He wanted to both keep his word and try to set things right with Fakir.
For good or ill, after school Autor ran into Fakir before he had a chance to find Ahiru. And judging from the surprised and then hard look he received, Fakir was not in any better of a mood than earlier.
Autor adjusted his glasses. "That's a fine greeting," he said.
"I don't have anything to say to you," Fakir said. He moved to the side, trying to walk around Autor and get away.
Autor caught hold of his arm. "Just a minute, Fakir." He narrowed his eyes. "I think I know what this is about. You have a photograph taken by one of Ahiru's 'friends', don't you."
Fakir stiffened. "Yeah," he admitted. He pulled his arm free. "I wondered how long it was going to be before you and Ahiru heard what people have been saying."
"It seems they come up with something new every day," Autor sniffed. "And this is every bit as asinine as all the other stories."
Fakir reached into his jacket and pulled out the snapshot. "You can't deny you were there with her," he said, holding it in front of Autor.
The other boy took it. "No, I can't," he said. "And I won't." He glanced at the picture for a small moment before lowering his hand. "But that doesn't mean there isn't a logical explanation."
"Like what?" Fakir turned to fully face him, his tone and his expression both showing that his patience was nearing an end.
Autor's lip curled. "Something different from what everyone is saying. Unfortunately I'm not at liberty to say what it is. Why don't you ask Ahiru?" he said.
"Because I'm asking you!" Fakir retorted. "Don't you have anything to say about this?"
The late afternoon sunlight reflected off of Autor's glasses, making it impossible to see his eyes.
"No, I don't," he said. "Except that I hope you haven't bought into the rumors."
"I don't know what to think," Fakir said. "I haven't wanted to believe them. I've trusted you and Ahiru to not betray me!"
"Then trust us a little longer," Autor said. "In light of all this, I'm sure Ahiru will explain things to you. Why don't we go look for her?"
"I'm tired of airing our problems in public," Fakir snapped. "Why don't you go home and I'll find you later and bring Ahiru?"
"I'm agreeable to that," Autor said. He stepped away. "I'll be expecting you within an hour."
But no matter how Fakir looked among the departing students, Ahiru could not be found. That was not helping his already-strained nerves. The last couple of days had been torture enough; he did not need another problem added.
At last in frustration he threw up his hands and left the school grounds. Maybe Ahiru had missed them in the confusion and had gone home. Or maybe even to Autor's. Maybe she wanted to talk to him about what was going on, if she had also found out what was being talked about. Fakir decided to try there first.
Why would Ahiru tell Autor not to talk about the reason they had been in the jewelry store? That was weird. Why was it something that Fakir could not have simply been told from the start?
Maybe it was just one of Ahiru's moods and she had felt embarrassed or awkward? But that still prompted the question of why wouldn't she feel comfortable talking with Fakir about it. Why had she gone to Autor instead? Usually she talked to both of them about a problem, unless it involved one or the other of them.
Had he done something that had made Ahiru feel like she couldn't tell him? What could that have been? He deserved to know, so he could try to fix it!
By the time he arrived at Autor's house his bad mood had gone steadily downhill and did not seem about to stop. He rapped sharply on the door, then stepped back to wait for Autor.
In a moment the door was opened. Autor took in the sight, frowning in surprise. "Where's Ahiru?" he asked.
"You don't know?" Fakir retorted. "I thought she'd come here ahead of me."
"She did not." Autor opened the door wider. "Fakir, since she isn't here and if she isn't at school, maybe she's gone home."
"Maybe," Fakir said noncommittally, "but I thought maybe she'd want to talk to you about the rumors, if she's heard about them too. After all, she doesn't want to tell me anything."
"What are you talking about?" Autor retorted.
Fakir stepped closer. "I'm talking about how it was okay for her to let you in on her jewelry store plans but it wasn't okay for her to tell me about them!" he snapped. "I thought she trusted me too."
"That is uncalled-for," Autor told him. "Trust has nothing to do with this."
"Then what does it have to do with?" Fakir shot back.
"I told Ahiru I wouldn't tell!" Autor said. "Fakir, you're being jealous without reason."
"And what makes you so sure?" Fakir retorted. "Or are you really saying this to mock me and you know all too well that there really is a reason?"
"That's preposterous!" Autor retorted. "Listen to yourself. You're not in any state to be having this conversation. What you need is to go home, have a cup of tea . . ."
He did not have a chance to finish his sentence. Fakir's eyes flashed and his nostrils flared as his patience bent and broke. He reached out, snatching Autor's scarf and pulling the other boy towards him.
"Don't tell me what I need!" he snarled. "You don't know me. And I'm sick of how well you seem to know Ahiru while I'm in the dark!"
Autor reached up, clawing at Fakir's wrist. "You're being childish! If you would just calm down and listen . . . !" he cried. He could not help the twinge of fear that crept into his voice.
Fakir had a short temper; everyone knew that. He had even struck Mytho in the past, albeit he had regretted it almost instantly. But what else would he be capable of doing to a comrade in a fit of anger, Autor wondered for a split-moment. He did not want to find out.
"Why did she tell you?" Fakir yelled now, giving Autor a rough shake. "And where is she?"
"Fakir, I don't know where she is!" Autor yelled back. "Let go of me!"
Fakir blinked, as though only now fully realizing what he was doing. But before he could release Autor Ahiru's horrified scream brought them both to attention. The boys looked up with a start. Ahiru was running over to them, her hands wildly waving.
"Fakir, what are you doing?" she wailed. "Let him go!"
Fakir searched her frantic eyes for a brief moment before turning back to Autor. At last he released the cravat, half-shoving Autor backwards as he did.
"Maybe I'm jealous, like you said," he snarled, "but I don't think it's without reason. I'm sick of your attitude. And right now, I'm not crazy about talking to you. I just wonder if you're a fair-weather friend and a traitor. I don't even know that I trust you now." With that he whirled, storming down the street.
Autor coughed, pulling his scarf further away from his neck. "Don't expect me to calmly accept this assault," he retorted, his voice cold and hard. "I've had enough of your immature and barbaric temper tantrums. And if you don't care to trust me, so be it. I'm not feeling very favorable about trusting you now, either."
Fakir paused and turned to look back at him. "That's fine with me," he said.
Ahiru looked back and forth between him and Autor, the shock and indignation in her eyes. "Fakir!" she cried. "Why are you talking to Autor like that? And why were you grabbing him? He didn't do anything wrong!"
"Of course you wouldn't think so," Fakir answered. Before he could even care to stop himself he added, "You probably didn't even get what was going on when he took you to that jewelry shop!"
Ahiru's mouth fell open. "The jewelry shop?" she repeated. "But Fakir, that wasn't . . ."
She trailed off as Autor coughed again. She whirled to face him, alarmed to see he had a hand to his throat. She did not see Fakir turning back and continuing to stalk away.
"Autor, are you hurt?" she wailed.
He started to shake his head but stopped, wincing at the motion. "I'm alright," he said. He sounded slightly pained. "If you don't mind, Ahiru, I'd rather be alone right now." He stepped to the door, moving to shut it.
Ahiru bit her lip. "If you're sure," she said, worried to leave him. "Maybe you need a doctor or something!"
"No!" Autor exclaimed. "I'm fine. He was holding my cravat too snug against my neck, but it wasn't enough to cause any real damage." He sighed. "Ahiru, you'd better tell him the truth. There's no point in having him angry with you as well."
Ahiru clenched her fists. "He shouldn't be mad at all!" she said. "I thought he trusted you!"
"Apparently not," Autor said. His eyes narrowed as he watched Fakir turning the rounded corner of the city wall. "And right now, I'm not in a state to accept any apology he could offer, even if it happened to be sincere." He gripped the edge of the door. "He thinks I betrayed him. By not having more faith in me than this, he has betrayed me."
Ahiru shook her head. "Don't say that!" she pleaded. "You know how Fakir gets when he's mad. He says all kinds of stuff he doesn't really mean! When I tell him the truth, he's going to feel horrible. I know he will!"
"He certainly behaved as though he meant it," Autor said. "But in any case, I meant what I said to him. Please, Ahiru. . . ." He started to close the door. "I'm sorry this happened, but it has. It will only look worse if you stay here now. Your place is with him, though I really don't know what you even see in him."
Ahiru cringed. "Autor, you don't mean that!" she said. "You know you like Fakir!"
"I did, for some reason," Autor said. "Right now, I honestly don't know any more."
Ahiru watched him shut the door the rest of the way. Just before he vanished behind the lessening crack, she was sure she caught a glimpse of the hurt in his eyes. When the key turned and the latch went down, she flinched.
"They each feel like the other did something wrong," she said aloud to the oncoming evening. "And all of this is really my fault." She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to stave off the tears as she ran after Fakir.
"Fakir!" she yelled. "Fakir, wait!"
She never saw the dark forms that slipped through the shadows, following her. Nor did she see the ones ahead that were sneaking after Fakir.