Disclaimer: Princess Tutu is owned by Ikuto Itoh and Hal Film Maker. This fanfiction was made for the purposes of entertainment only, with no attempt for personal gain or profit. I make no claim to the copyright, trademark, or property. This fanfiction is protected under the terms of fair use.
Fairy tales were curious things. Of course, you had the royals in various states of distress, and animals that talked and thought and felt as no regular animals did (and were themselves sometimes distressed royals besides), and magical paraphernalia of assorted shapes and uses, and natural wonders that were wonders mostly because of their absolute impossibility, et cetera, et cetera.
"Do you think maybe I should keep it simple, like with 'Bayer'? We do live in Bavaria after all…"
But perhaps the oddest element of any given story was its cast of characters. Aside from being separated into easily recognizable castes—the royals, the millers' daughters, the woodcutters' children, with the occasional merchant or soldier to excite the imaginative palate—they tended to react to their stories in distinctly inhuman ways.
"Something more storybook-y might be good, too, though. Not that I want to be a character again, but it'd kind of be like…I don't know, doing homage, or whatever it is. Let's see…there's Muller, and Baumhauer—not sure about that one, after you and the Oak Tree—and Steuben or Holtzer, and maybe Grünewald, I mean a lot of stories end up taking place in forests anyway…"
Perhaps that was why they were so seldom named.
Yet, paradoxically, at the core of every story was the absolute necessity to come to terms with one's own identity and the destiny that lay therein. Why else would the few fairy tale names made known be so descriptive? Snow White was called so because of her complexion; Cinderella because of the servile living conditions she was forced to endure; Rapunzel after the leafy bellflower her mother had craved when with child; Briar Rose for a memorable effect of her inevitable curse. And Rumpelstiltskin, whose name was so important it must be hidden away like a handful of rubies (not that it helped him much).
"Is it wrong that I want something that at least sounds kind of nice? I'm not being selfish, right? I don't really know, I never had to think about things like this as a bird…"
Nevertheless, names spoke to the essence of their bearers, were vitally important to the way he or she interacted with the world, and so afforded the individual a sense of absolute identity.
Really, thought Fakir as he turned another page in the large, yellowing tome before him, it was no wonder people claimed that fairies and their kindred never gave up their names easily—who would want to turn over the power that comes with sole possession of concentrated, unequivocal identifier of selfhood to a complete stranger? Though, Ahiru had always been generous towards everyone she met. Maybe a little too generous…
" 'Amsel' sounds kind of nice, doesn't it? 'Ahiru Amsel'…Though I'm a duck, not a blackbird, so maybe that wouldn't be so good either…"
Fakir sighed, resisting the urge to press his thumb and forefinger against the bridge of his nose, as was his wont when frustrated or annoyed at circumstances beyond his understanding.
"What do you want me to say?" He tried to keep the irritated growl out of his voice, and (mostly) succeeded. After far too many hours of research that had yet to bear fruit, however, nerves on both sides were wearing a bit thin, and he wasn't in any condition to feel overly pleased with himself. "It's your choice, not mine. In fact, it's exactly the kind of choice I shouldn't be making for you."
Across the kitchen table, Ahiru's face quickly curled into a petulant little moue at his answer.
"Well, excuse me for actually caring about this enough to want you to be a part of it, Mister Know-It-All," she snapped back. "You know, some of us aren't used to having two whole names that've just been given to us already. Stop being such a jerk about it!"
She gave a haughty little 'hmph' and resolutely turned her gaze back to her own book. They were both getting frustrated, sure, but he could at least pretend to still be invested in this. Well then, see how he liked being given the cold shoulder!
Of course, she realized belatedly, she still wanted his opinion on names, and the silent treatment wasn't really effective if she could only employ it for a few minutes at a time. An unfortunately insurmountable tactical error in what she deemed an otherwise flawless plan.
While Ahiru tried to work out how to both completely ignore the young writer in the opposite chair and still benefit from his superior knowledge of Germanic naming conventions, Fakir merely directed his eyes back to the text in front of him, letting his chin fall into one cupped palm in a rare outward display of listlessness.
She was honestly going to turn this into a quarrel, wasn't she? He knew this was important to her, he really did, but it seemed far too personal a decision for him to intrude on with his ideas and lectures. If Ahiru had been born human he wouldn't have had a say in what her last name was anyway, so why should his preferences hold weight now? It wasn't his name they were talking about, it was hers, and he had no desire to force her to accept a name—almost a role, in its own way—that wasn't wholly her own. Control of that nature had been the purview of the knight he once thought he was, and he was only slowly unlearning the habit.
Ahiru's small exclamation of apparent pleasure alerted Fakir to the possibility that this exercise in tedious futility was possibly drawing to a close. He raised his head, the enthusiasm and curiosity he had felt at the beginning of their enterprise rekindling a bit in spite of himself. "You found something?"
Ahiru nodded cheerfully, her former crossness seemingly having evaporated in the bright light of discovery. "I think so! I was just glancing over more names and stuff, and I kind of stuck on this one since the first name starts with 'Sig,' and I guess I thought about Mytho because of his real name. See?" She fumbled only a bit lifting the book up so that Fakir could see the page she was on, pointing excitedly at what was assuredly as magnificent a name as she could hope for. "I know that Mytho's name is spelled a little different, but it's kind of in the same family, or at least sound like it is. So it's kind of like…not really a sign or anything, but it reminds me of him and Rue and things, so that can't be bad!"
So enraptured was she that, even as she drew the book back to her, she failed to notice the strange expression that had found its way onto Fakir's face. Instead, she chattered on: "I haven't really read the entire section about him yet, but it looks like he was a doctor or something, except that he looked at dreams, I guess. I don't really get it, but it seems like kind of a fun thing for a doctor to do! And so many of the other last names are 'spear' this, or 'shield' that, or something to do with armies and being strong in battle, and I don't want to have a last name like that. But 'Freud' means 'joy,' right? And I wouldn't mind being called 'Ahiru Joy,' it's actually kind of …is fetching the right word? I'm pretty sure I remember hearing someone say it once or twice, and it kind of seemed like it was being used the same way I'm trying to use it. Well, I think that's the word at least, because 'cute' doesn't seem quite right…Fakir, are you okay?"
He wasn't here to lecture her, Fakir reminded himself, his facial muscles caught in a rictus of vague horror, rueful pity, and something else that was scrambling to avoid sliding into exasperation. He didn't agree to help Ahiru choose a surname so that he could control her choice. That was wrong. That wouldn't be treating her with respect. But for her to land on a name with those…connotations…
Fakir hurriedly tamped down on his discomfort. It would probably be for the best if he bent his rule for a few minutes, at least to talk her out of this one. The last thing she needed was for some cruel future mocking to inform her of the literal Freudian overtones of her prospective name.
"Ah…Ahiru," he started slowly, buying time to shore up his customary veneer of cool composure. "That man—Sigmund Freud—was rather famous. A lot of people still know his name, even today."
Ahiru merely stared back at him, excited smile still in place, her eyes shining with the luster of happy expectations.
Fakir felt his resolve wavering precariously in the face of her excitement. She looked so thrilled, and choosing this meant the world to her…
No! This was no time to be a coward. It was one thing to stay out of the way as she chose whichever name pleased her; it was another to stand idly by as she doomed herself to a lifetime of ridicule.
So he neatly sidestepped the point of distress entirely.
"Do you really want to share a last name with someone who's so well-known?" He asked with desperately feigned nonchalance. "Everyone's thoughts would probably just go to him, first. The point of a name is to have a unique identifier." He almost tacked a habitual "moron" onto the end of the sentence, but reigned himself in at the last moment. The situation was still delicate, and it wouldn't do to press his luck.
Ahiru's features rearranged themselves into a more thoughtful, slightly sheepish expression. "Maybe…" she mumbled, one fingernail tugging at the top corner of the page in slight embarrassment. She would prefer to be known just for herself, but all the same the name didn't seem overly unique—
She was suddenly struck as though by a lightning bolt with a crystalline clarity of thought, going stock still for an instant with the abruptness of absolute comprehension.
"But, wait, he's not—what I mean is, it's not like he was the only one to ever have that last name, right?"
Renewed optimism bubbling up in her, Ahiru leaned excitedly towards Fakir over the table. Not only was she close to finally having her own, whole name, she had actually managed to see an all-important detail that Fakir had missed. For all that he called her "idiot" and "moron" regularly, she had gained the intellectual upper hand over him for once. If possible she intended to tease him about it later, but for now it was imperative to make use of the advantage while it was still hers.
"So, there must've been plenty of other people born after he got famous who also had the same last name, and there's probably still a bunch of people who have it as well!"
"That may be so, but—" Fakir wasn't completely sure what kind of argument he had been intending to make, but it didn't matter; Ahiru just kept going.
"And it's not like that many people would up and change their last names just because of one guy." Ahiru's excitement surged through her, propelling her to her feet, only her palms laid flat on the tabletop steadying her effervescent, tiptoed bouncing.
"That must mean that there're plenty of people called 'Freud' still around out there, and adding one more wouldn't really be that big of deal!" She grinned triumphantly at her pronouncement. Surely, even Fakir would have to acknowledge the rationality of her explanation, and then she could finally take on a full name, and be able to fill out forms and prove citizenship and re-enroll at the Academy…
"That—That's not—!" Fakir groped furiously for a reason, any reason, to convince the duck-girl not to appoint herself "Ahiru Freud" for the rest of her life. "Do you even know what he researched?"
Ahiru huffed a little, her gaze turning just a wee bit pitying. "I already told you: dreams." She had to admit, she was a little disappointed in Fakir's lack of enthusiasm. He didn't even look upset at being outwitted by her—odd, but not altogether worrisome—so she couldn't understand why he wasn't being more cooperative. Was it possible he was just…? She didn't really think he'd be so immature, but still. "You're not just teasing me, are you?" she asked, her eyes not quite narrowing in suspicion, but certainly gaining mildly accusing creases at the corners.
"Idiot!" Fakir snapped, finally giving into compulsion and raising a hand to pinch the bridge of his nose; if he applied enough pressure, maybe the pain would illuminate a route out of this debacle. "Of course I'm not. It's just…you shouldn't choose that name, alright? It doesn't matter why, just don't."
So much for not being overly controlling.
"Wha—! Why would you—? You—! H-Hey, don't just decide this for me like your opinion's the only one that matters!" Ahiru's initial shock swiftly gave way to righteous indignation. "Weren't you the one that said you couldn't make this decision for me? What the heck to you think that was?!" On the table her hands curled into small fists, her jubilant bouncing abandoned in favor of a pose of aggravated stiffness. Who died and made that jerk king of the world anyway?
Fakir felt the first ripples of guilt beginning to stir in him, but he ruthlessly shunted the feeling aside, calling upon his still-burning ire for assistance. "Look," he growled, "I said that's it's not important. Just accept what I say, and drop it." The last thing he wanted to do was spend the rest of the day trying to explain Freudian psychology to the clueless little twit. Between the Oedipus complex and penis envy, he wasn't sure he'd survive. "Trust me, you don't want to know," he added, hoping belatedly to placate her.
To no avail, it would seem. Across from him, Ahiru's befuddled expression twisted into a scowl at his words. "Why wouldn't I want to know?" She all but exploded. "You say 'Freud' would be a bad name for me to have, but then you don't tell me why, you just say that it's bad because it's bad, but if a name's supposed to be a…a 'unique identifier' then I have to know why some names are good and others are bad, but I won't know any of that if you don't tell me about it, and you just don't make any sense!" Abruptly, Ahiru deflated, slumping bonelessly back into her chair, her anger having spent itself as intensely and quickly as a roman candle.
Like a pendulum, Fakir's guilt swung back to him full-force. He sighed, dropping his hand. No matter what his intentions, this was really no way to treat her, and he was ashamed of himself for forgetting that.
"Look, I…I'm sorry, Ahiru. I shouldn't have lost my temper like that." Now for the hard part. "That guy did study dreams, but …he—" Feeling a flush beginning to burn its way up his neck and spread towards his ears, Fakir took a moment to steel himself, choosing an especially interesting knot near the center of the wooden table to stare at. "He ended up making some…inappropriate interpretations about what people saw in dreams, and he wrote a number of books about it. So, it's those…those things that he's best known for. I didn't want you to be associated with that."
Ahiru straightened slightly, then ducked her head a bit, tilting it this way and that just over the tabletop, trying to catch his eyes. " 'Inappropriate' how?" she asked, her curiosity renewed.
"Just…inappropriate," Fakir answered stiffly, wishing to put the issue to rest. But he knew from experience that he had to give her more, if he wanted any peace at all. "Those interpretations he made…they—they were usually about…about…" His voice dropped to an embarrassed mumble. "…Mating."
That…was probably the best way he could put it, wasn't it? At least, it was if he wanted to remain within the bounds of propriety (and he very much wanted to.) And as a duck, Ahiru could surely grasp the implications of what he was saying without having to go into human…specificities.
Still, just to drive the point home, Fakir continued, "Freud came up with theories about how m-mating, and the concept of it, affects how humans develop cognitively and interact in society. According to him," and here Fakir couldn't help a hint of wryness seeping into his voice, "it was the underlying cause for practically every facet of a person's character. Do you get why I don't want you to take that name, now?" More composed now, thanks to the calming detour into the familiar territory of academia, he allowed his gaze to meet that of the redhead.
"Oh, um, yeah, I think I get it now," Ahiru answered, the hue of her face a near match for his own. She fidgeted awkwardly with the hem of her shirt. "Just…can you not keep stuff like that from me as we go on, please? N-Not that I'm trying to make you feel guilty or anything so please don't take it that way, I don't want you to feel bad just 'cause—! Um, I mean, I don't want to end up fighting with you even more, so even if another name is connected to more embarrassing stuff…" She trailed off, not wanting to sound like she was being too demanding.
Fakir just sighed, his emotional equilibrium mostly reestablished with the mild pinpricks of irritationhe felt at her self-consciousness. "Idiot," he huffed, though the vague warmth in his voice belied the affection he put into the word. "If I'm doing something to upset you, just tell me to stop. Don't be so timid about what you want." He gathered a few loose sheets of paper they had been using to take notes, tapping them into a neat stack. "Do you want to keep looking for more names, or start sifting through what we have here?"
Ahiru suddenly looked a bit nervous. "You—you mean…choose, right?" Despite her best efforts to keep her voice steady, it broke and squeaked on that last part.
"Yes, that's what I mean." Fakir raised an eyebrow. "I know it's a big step, but we've been talking about it for weeks, and reading up for it since this morning. It can't be that much of a surprise to you."
"Yeah, but…but it's different now!" Ahiru's hands started their fidgeting again, and were soon joined by the skittish bouncing of her knees. "Deciding that a name sounds good isn't the same as attaching it to your own. It feels like…" She twisted her face for a moment, trying to come up with a comparison that would make sense. None came. "…I don't know. I guess I've just been plain 'Ahiru' for so long that I'm not even sure there is a last name that's perfect for me, or that I'd recognize it at all if I saw it." Even as she spoke, she suspected that Fakir would scold her again for her lack of confidence.
"Don't be stupid," he responded, confirming her prediction. "First of all, a girl who was once a duck, who was once both at once plus being a fairy tale princess, isn't 'plain' anything. Secondly, no one's name is ever perfect for them. It's just something that's chosen for them, and not a lot of people get a say in it. I thought you'd be happy about choosing something this important for yourself." Abruptly, a faint smirk tugged at his lips. "Besides, weren't you just testing out names anyway?"
"Wh—What—! Th-That wasn't the same thing at all! It was—hey, don't look at me like that!" Ahiru's blush had returned full-force, and she glared at Fakir's obvious amusement. "I wasn't really choosing a name, I was just…just trying them on. Like you try on new clothing, to see how it looks and feels and stuff!"
"Yeah, yeah." In lieu of doing something so unseemly as actually laughing, Fakir let his smirk widen a fraction before turning back to the papers, deciding to take mercy on her for the time being. He could always tease her more about it later. "So, any preference for names you want to 'try on' next?"
Ahiru just pouted back at him for a moment, not fully convinced he was finished ribbing her. "Would 'Ente' be too obvious?" It was partially a real question, partially a way to demonstrate her uncooperativeness with his attitude.
Fakir felt the smirk trying to reassert itself, but covered it with a strategic throat-clearing. "Much," he replied.
"What about 'Bauer?'" Face and posture relaxing somewhat—at the very least, Fakir was trying to keep things civil—Ahiru's expression turned thoughtful once more. "And don't just tell me that it's 'not your decision,' again. I kind of have to know what my name would sound like to other people."
"That's true." Fakir started leafing though the stack of papers. Didn't they have a shortlist of names somewhere…? "If you want my opinion, then I'd say that it's pretty inoffensive. The question is, is that all you want your name to be? Ah—" He extracted a sheet from near the bottom of the collection. It had a few dozen names scribbled on it, with little consideration for placement or order. "Here," he handed the sheet over to Ahiru. "I think this is what you were using for the names you liked best."
She gave a noncommittal little hum at his query, taking the paper from him. Though her eyes fixed on the haphazardly arranged letters in front of her, she found herself unable to focus on the words.
She did want her own name, one that identified and fit her, she really did. But she also knew what her future held, or at least what she strongly suspected and hoped it held, and what humans usually did with their names in such futures. "I guess I was just thinking that, since I'll be giving it up one day anyway, maybe I'm just overthinking the whole thing," she mumbled.
"Giving what up? Your name? Why on earth would you be giving up your—"
Realization struck Fakir like a strong right-hook. Whatever scraps of embarrassment remained from their earlier squabble reasserted themselves with a vengeance. With what their relationship had become—never mind how much of the process had taken place with her still in feathers—that was certainly a subject they had talked around, the gravity it exerted on the hypotheticals of their lives acknowledged only by its absence in their conversations thus far. This time, a blush erupted on his cheeks immediately, not even having the common decency to start lower and make a polite ascent.
"D-Don't be so stupid! Moron!" He sputtered pathetically, caught completely off guard. "It's not like you have to…to…"
Take my name. Try as he might, that little phrase was bound up with too many thoughts and feelings to squeeze even a syllable of it out of his suddenly closed throat.
"But I thought that's what girls did when…um, y'know…" Ahiru had the sneaking suspicion that her face was currently rivaling her hair in brightness. Did she really just say that? Out loud? She hadn't even meant to, it just tumbled out before she could catch it!
Remembering the paper in her hands, she hurriedly snapped it up like a shield in front of her face. "A-Anyway, it's probably not that not that important, right? And we definitely need to get back to thinking about this!" Maybe if she got them both to focus on the task immediately at hand, they could just forget her little slip of the tongue and continue on as normal. So she hid behind her flimsy barrier, not even bothering to force her eyes to focus on the letters.
But Fakir wasn't about to leave it at that. He had certainly found himself thinking about that at unexpected times, and from the sound of it so had Ahiru. He glared—to his credit, only a little—at the sheet she was holding, hoping his gaze would somehow pass though the barrier and make itself known to her like some kind of parapsychological Rutherford experiment. "If it's something you've been thinking about so much, then it is important."
Ahiru lowered the paper slightly, just enough for her blue eyes to barely peek over it and meet his before quickly dropping to a less hazardous area somewhere over his left shoulder. "I-I guess," she squeaked out hesitantly, "I was just thinking that it'd be nice to have my own name, a-and that I'd need one be able to do anything or go anywhere, but that it'd be…y'know…" Her voice dropped to a timid whisper, "…temporary." She absolutely refused to think about how it sounded almost like she was proposing to him.
"I think…I think maybe I've been thinking about the name like that first pair of toe shoes. Does that make any sense? Um, what I mean is, it's kind of like…well, toe shoes are really pretty when you first get them, and then you have to break them in so they fit you right, and so to me going over all of this name-meaning stuff was kind of like breaking in my name—my full name—like a pair of shoes, so that it doesn't feel weird to have that name attached to me, you see? But I already knew that a lot of girls end up…not throwing their names away, exactly, but…replacing them, just like you replace toe shoes when they get worn out. It's not that a certain pair wasn't special to you for one reason or another, but it's just that you can't really use them anymore. And it always seemed like girls' names, or at least their last names, were something that got worn out more easily like that, and I got the feeling from books and conversations and stuff that a girl or woman—I've heard them called "old maids," is that right?—who still has her first last name after a certain point is kind of like a ballerina who's still trying to dance in a pair of old, worn-out toe shoes, and…um, I guess that's it. Was it weird to think that?"
Ahiru finally managed to lift her eyes enough to look him full in the face again, trying to rationalize that at least she didn't have anything to hide anymore.
Fakir stared back at her for a long moment, his expression unreadable. Then his brows lowered slightly and the corners of his mouth dragged down, and for a second Ahiru worried that it would be the start of another fight. But at the last moment he reigned in his more intense impulses, his expression smoothing into something calmer, though still slightly annoyed. "You really are an idiot," he huffed softly, a blush still clinging to his cheeks and tinting his ears a faint rose.
"No I'm not!" Ahiru snapped on reflex. She immediately blanched, worried now that she would be the one to instigate another altercation.
Surprisingly, Fakir didn't bother to rise to the challenge. "Look," he began, taking a moment organize his thoughts so that he could explain things most clearly to the duck-girl with the least amount of insult. Like her, he was no longer in the mood for another dispute.
"It's true that it's…traditional for a girl to give up her name and take her…her…h-husband's…" His voice, embarrassingly, cracked a bit on that particular word, and he felt his flush deepen once more, but he refused to let it deter him now that he'd come this far. "But that doesn't have to be the case any more. Plenty of women keep their maiden names these days. Or some hyphenate it with their spouse's, or they make it a kind of middle name. There's more than one way to do these things. It's up to you. Don't think that you have to do something a certain way just because other people say that's how it's always been done." He met her eyes with his own earnest gaze, silently coaxing her back to a semblance of self-assurance.
Ahiru, at a loss for words, found herself blushing once more. She allowed her hands, still clutching the paper, to descend bashfully back to the table as she shook her head slightly. "Mm…I—I guess that's right…but, y'know, I didn't mean it like it was a bad thing."
Her voice dropped to a murmur, even as she felt the first flutterings of a giddy smile trembling at her lips. "What I mean is…I definitely wouldn't mind having my name be connected to yours, so the thought of having a name that I'd have to change eventually…well, just knowing I'll be changing it, and that it'll be because of you, because of us being…being that way, well it…it kind of made me happy."
Unable to contain it any longer, Ahiru's face lit up with a wide smile. It wasn't like they had made any plans or anything, she knew that. But the way he talked about it, after the way she talked about it, after the way they hadn't talked about it since she became human again, sounded an awful lot like it was something he wanted just as much as she had realized she did. "In fact, maybe I'll just go with that for my own name!"
"Beg pardon?" Fakir responded absently, having been stunned into a vaguely trance-like state upon the revelation that Ahiru probably definitely wanted to marry him someday.
"I was just saying that I think I'd like a name that's connected to you, somehow," Ahiru chirped merrily back at him, her shyness forgotten as she scanned the list of names in her hands. "I know you're not a knight anymore, but you were for a long time, so 'Ritter' would fit, but there's also 'Schermer' for a regular swordsman."
"But of course you put your sword down to become a writer, so something like 'Schreiber' might actually be better."
"H-Hey, now, wait a minute—!"
"Or maybe 'Silberhaus,' since that name's already connected to 'Stahlbaum,' and it's not like I can go around calling myself 'Ahiru Stahlbaum right of the bat! People might think we're related or something, and that could get awkward…"
"Are you even listening to me?" Fakir shouted, his fists slamming down on the tabletop.
Startled, Ahiru jolted and glanced up, only to see an angry scowl on his face. "Wh-What's the matter?" Her voice quavered, still somewhat taken aback by the sudden change in his temper.
In response, Fakir let his entire torso fall forward, his forehead thumping against his still-curled hands. It was posture taken partly out of exasperation, partly to hide his newly-reddened face. Abstractly, he wondered if he should start telling people that he'd gotten sunburn after spending too much time out at the lake. It certainly felt like his face would never lose its rosy hue, and devising some less embarrassing explanation for such a phenomenon might be in order.
"You." He raised his head slightly, then let it drop to collide once more with his fists.
"Are such." Raise. Drop. Thunk.
"An." Raise. Drop. Thunk.
Thunk, thunk, thunk.
Ahiru could only stare, unused to such odd behavior from the normally reserved young man. She muttered a delayed, "Not an idiot," mostly on instinct, still not quite sure what was wrong with Fakir. She started groping for possible answers, if only to get him to stop from doing…whatever it was he was doing. "Um…did one of those names also have connections to something bad…? O-Or do some of them…have other meanings that I don't know about…?"
"No," Fakir grumbled at the woodgrain. "There's nothing wrong with the names. But…don't you remember what I said earlier about what a name is?"
"Umm…" Ahiru started fidgeting where she sat, suddenly feeling like she was being given pop quiz on a subject she hadn't even known she needed to study for. "That it…is…something I have to choose for myself…?"
"No." Fakir groaned the single syllable again, choosing to ignore how closely it resembled a whine in tone. "I said it's supposed to be a unique identifier. Unique, moron. As in, not affiliated with someone you're not related to. The whole damn point of this is to pick a name that distinguishes you as your own person. Singular and self-contained. Not defined by anyone else. And there you go, trying to choose a name that uses me to define you. If you ask me, it damn well defeats the whole f—the whole darn purpose!"
"O-Oh…" Ahiru sheepishly pressed the tips of her index fingers lightly together. "I…um, I guess I hadn't thought of it like that. I was just…t-trying to find another way to be close to you. Or show that I'm close to you, or that we're going to be even—even closer someday…or something." She reached out one timid finger to prod gently at Fakir's still lowered head, not liking his vexation or awkwardness anymore than he did. "Look, I-I'm sorry, okay. I just started something without thinking about it again, and I know that's something I have to work on. But I promise I won't go jumping head first into any more of this, really! So, d'you think you can…um, get up, please, and keep talking with me about this?"
Fakir's head tipped up, revealing a pair of glaring green eyes. "I'll hold you to that. I don't think I can take much more of this."
Ahiru glared back at him, but the effect was ruined by the fact that her deep "frown" obviously wanted to snap into its opposite configuration. "I promised to keep a closer eye on myself, so I'll do it. Here," she shoved the shortlist in his direction, abruptly dropping her stern expression in favor of her usual bright smile. "I know what you said before about this not being your choice, but I still want you to be a part of the decision, and I'm not taking 'no' for an answer. Why don't you pick out some names that you think are good, and I can decide if they feel right or not. That's fair, isn't it?"
Fakir grunted it what she took to be acquiescence and straightened himself once more, reaching out to take the eagerly offered sheet. His eyes swept across the writing in front of him for a moment or two, unable to settle on a good starting point. Somehow, it didn't feel right to just pick something at random. He honestly wasn't sure how helpful his opinion would be at this point, but that was no excuse not to be thorough.
"…We have 'Vogel' here. It's still a bit obvious, but it's also pretty commonplace. It wouldn't be a shock to hear it."
Ahiru thoughtfully toyed with the tuft at the end of her braid. "Mmmm…That could work, I guess. I mean, I don't hate it or anything, and when I roll that name around in my head with mine it doesn't sound half bad either." She turned a slightly sheepish smile on him before continuing, "But still…you don't mind if we keep looking at some of the others, do you? Y'know, just to be sure."
Fakir just gave a nonchalant shrug. "It's your call. If that's what you want, I'll keep going. Let me just—" He picked up a neglected pen and quickly circled "Vogel," just to be positive he wouldn't forget. Now, what else did they have…?
The pen traced over the names, then stopped, poised above the next contender. "What about 'Vann'? It even refers specifically to a freshwater lake."
"I don't know about that one." Ahiru's face scrunched up in mild dissatisfaction. "I like the meaning, but I don't think 'Ahiru Vann' has a nice ring to it. Or does it? I really don't know how this works, I guess." She gave a self-conscious little laugh.
At that, Fakir stretched out his arm and bopped her lightly on the head with the pen. "Don't be stupid," he admonished. "If you're not comfortable with the way something sounds, I won't force you to accept it as your name. Like I keep saying, it's your decision." With that, he definitively struck a line through "Vann."
Neumann, Glockner, Lenz, Schmeling, and even Hertz all received similar treatments.
Ahiru was trying not to get discouraged, but with every name they rejected she felt her confidence wilting. Why was this so hard? Shouldn't it be easier to find a name that suited her? Did that mean there wasn't a name, anywhere, that would fit her? That there couldn't be, because she wasn't even born human to begin with?
…That there would never be a place for her to fit as she was now?
She felt the back of her throat start to warm uncomfortably, as though she had taken too large a gulp of a particularly strong wine. Her hands grabbed her braid where it had draped over her shoulder and twisted as she tried to retain control of herself, willing away the nascent tears. Alright, so this was turning out to be harder than she thought, but that was no reason to start feeling all sorry for herself and launch into hysterics! Besides, doing so would only worry Fakir, and she didn't want that at all.
But Fakir, ever observant, easily caught onto her distress. "Alright," he put down the pen and paper, giving her his full attention. "What's wrong?" He'd be lying if he said he wasn't just a little bit annoyed by another interruption, but Ahiru was so obviously upset by something that the feeling was easily shunted aside.
Ahiru just shook her head and twisted her braid a tad more vigorously, afraid that if she started speaking it would be like giving any tears she might have permission to come out.
"I know it's something, so you might as well just tell me. If something's upsetting you, then we can't very well continue until it's sorted out anyway." Fakir frowned at her in concern, trying to keep his tone gentle. Noticing the movement of her hands, he reached out his own much larger one to wrap around her forearm.
"Stop that," he commanded, the spectacle of her self-abuse not sitting well with him. "And don't try to tell me that nothing's wrong when that's obviously not true. You've always been the one trying to get people to talk out their problems. How about taking your own advice?" His thumb reached out to stroke her wrist soothingly.
Ahiru stopped twisting her braid, but didn't let go immediately.
"It's like…I can't get anything right," she mumbled, still too worried about the possibility of crying to raise her voice any higher. "Like this is some kind of test or audition or something for…I don't know, maybe how human I am, and I'm failing, and I feel like if I pick the wrong name everyone'll know that it's not right, and that I'm not right, that I'm no good at being a human, and that I shouldn't be a human at all even though it's what I really want and—!" She abruptly cut off, ashamed at her outburst. And right after she had resolved not to make Fakir worry.
The young man in question was silent for several moments, his thumb still circling gently over her wrist. When at last he spoke, his hand squeezed her arm slightly in an effort to comfort her.
"My name is stupid," he said.
"Eh?" In spite of herself, Ahiru's head snapped up at his pronouncement, the threat of weeping momentarily startled out of her. "W-Why would you say that? It never seemed weird to me!"
Fakir allowed the corners of his lips to twitch briefly upwards in a small, rueful smile. "You're not well informed then. For one thing, my given name is more like a job description than an actual name. As for my last name, 'Stahlbaum' is…very German. My first name isn't. And linking them together makes for a combination that isn't exactly harmonious. It's like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle when half the pieces are from a completely different image: you can make the pieces fit if you try hard enough, but the end result won't be a pretty picture." He moved his hand up a bit to take hers, lacing their fingers together. "This doesn't need to be perfect. Few people have names that are perfect for them. What matters is what it means to you." In a rare stroke of boldness, he pulled their joined hands close enough for him to brush a feather-light kiss over the back of her hand.
When he pulled away they were both slightly flushed once more, but his gaze was still sincere.
"Mm. Yeah, I guess, a bit." Ahiru let the butterflies that had taken flight in her stomach at that small kiss flutter their way up past her ribs, her clavicle, her cheekbones, pulling her lips back into a slightly shy smile as they went. "Sorry about that, I don't mean to keep getting so upset about this."
Somewhat annoyed by her return to self-deprecation, Fakir allowed himself a dissatisfied huff though his nose. "Stop apologizing. It's important. You're allowed to have strong feelings about it." He untangled their hands, but only to reach out once more and ruffle her bangs a little with reassuring affection.
"Y-Yeah, you're right. Sor—er, I mean, I'll try to keep that in mind." Ahiru blushed a bit deeper at the gesture, but found herself leaning into it all the same. "I guess that I'm just not liking the way things are sounding," she mused, remembering what Fakir had said about talking things out, as he extracted his hand from her hair and leaned back once more. "It was all fine when we were making lists and stuff just based on the names' meanings, but it's starting to feel like even if they sound good on their own the moment they're attached to my name they just start to sound weird and silly."
Fakir raised an eyebrow at her. "You do realize that you're overthinking this far too much, don't you?"
"Well, yeah, I kind of figured!" Ahiru met his expression with an indignant pout, resisting the urge to stick out her tongue at him. "But knowing that doesn't change how I feel about it…"
"Hmm…" Fakir lifted one hand to his chin in a gesture of contemplation. She was obviously having some kind of block, something that made every choice look like equally ridiculous and embarrassing options, but what? "Aside from compatibility with your first name, what exactly is it you're looking for in a last name?" In hindsight, it seemed like an obvious question, and Fakir berated himself for not starting this endeavor with just such a query. Perhaps this would teach them both a lesson about not getting carried away by their excitement.
Ahiru picked up her braid and began playing with the end again. "I'm not really sure," she answered thoughtfully after a moment. "At least…well, I don't want it to sound angry, or warlike, I know that. For a while I was thinking that it should be connected to something big that happened in my life, or to some characteristic of mine, but like I was saying before that doesn't really seem to be working out so well. I guess…I also—well it might sound kind of silly, but," she lowered her eyes a bit, "I kind of want a last name that's pretty."
Even if she wasn't. She snapped her mouth shut before the last thought could escape, knowing what Fakir's reaction would be. She knew she shouldn't care about the opinions of people who neither knew nor cared for her, of course. But then, she had never been the most self-confident person to begin with, and she couldn't hope to filter out all the whispers of shock and jealousy from Academy students who had seen her, newly human, walking around town with Fakir.
It didn't help matters that when she had been a ballet student she had necessarily spent more time in front of mirrors than perhaps was healthy. She knew very well what she looked like, and that she was no great beauty. Cute, maybe. Charming, even, in a whimsical, vaguely elfin way. But, overall, tending toward the plain with a tinge of the perpetually awkward.
Well, ducks on the whole were seldom praised for their looks.
And Ahiru was aware she had no right to expect anything different—she had experienced more than her fair share of physical blessings as Princess Tutu, and had willingly given them up at the end of the Story. She had no regrets, and no desire to be anything but herself ever again.
But all the same, she couldn't help the wispy sense of longing that settled over her like a veil when, at times, she would see a girl as slender and graceful as a willow walk past, or hear an enchantingly melodious voice drift out a café window. When that happened, the clumsy girl who had once been an only slightly more graceful duck would find herself wishing, if only for a moment, that she had a form, or a voice, or a face, or skin, or eyes, or hair so lovely as that girl's; that she had something beautiful to call her own, and which was more part of her than a mere trinket or bauble.
"I don't know why, but I get the feeling you're being hard on yourself about something. Again. Stop it."
Fakir's statement, colored ever so slightly with exasperation, immediately broke Ahiru out of her ruminations.
"N-No I wasn't!" she hastened to reassure him. "I was just…just trying to think of other names that I'd want that's be like that. Yeah!" She punctuated the assertion with an emphatic nod.
Fakir rolled his eyes a bit. Did she honestly expect him to believe that yarn? Her face had been as easy to read as the open books on the table, and its story hadn't been a happy one. "Don't lie, idiot, you have no talent for it. And—" he cut her off even as she opened he mouth to protest once more, "There's no problem wanting a nice-sounding name. If that's what makes it feel right to you, so be it. Anything specific you had in mind?"
Ahiru found herself suddenly feeling a bit flustered, unprepared to have a ready answer for this newest predicament. "Um…w-well I was kind of hoping maybe you'd know something that would—"
She broke off as she saw his eyebrows lowering in preparation of a glare. He was really sticking to his guns on the whole choosing her own name thing, wasn't he? "Um, never mind, that was silly of me wasn't it?" She gave an embarrassed little titter and reached for the nearest book, hoping to look industrious.
But her hand paused, fingertips resting lightly on the page without pulling the volume towards her. Something about the way the afternoon sun was coming through the window, the way it broke apart in the glass pane and scattered itself across the walls and floor in little starbursts, shot an arrow of remembrance straight through her, lighting up the very tips of her nerve endings.
She'd seen a name before, in one of the books. It had seemed lyrical and wonderful, and so of course not for her. But if it was really okay for her to have a beautiful last name…
"Ahiru?" Fakir's voice was slightly cautious. He wasn't truly worried yet—it didn't seem like she was in any distress—but seeing her so still was odd. Although, he mused, taking in her unfocused eyes and slightly parted lips, she looked to be on the verge of some kind of revelation.
"Fakir!" Her freckled face immediately turned to him, an elated flush spreading across her cheeks in tandem with an excited grin. "I think I remember seeing a name a while ago! I think it was in one of those books there—no, not the brown one, it was kind of reddish, and maybe with silvery writing on it…There, that one!"
Fakir held the book out to her—something about court poetry of a bygone era—and only just stopped himself from yelping in surprise when she practically lunged across the table to snatch it from his hand. He still grumbled a bit at her zealousness as she began rapidly leafing though the pages.
"Where is it? Where is it?" Ahiru muttered to herself as she scanned the lines of type. It'd definitely been this book, she knew that. And the name had been somewhere in the first chunk—the first third maybe—and somewhere around the margins. But were those the top margins or the bottom ones? She had the feeling she'd seen it in a footnote or something rather than in the text itself, so probably near the bottom then.
For a few minutes all was silent, save for the rustling of pages.
Fakir folded his hands in front of his face, elbows propped up on the table. Ahiru was poring over the book with an intensity he had seldom seen from her. In it's own way, it was rather…fascinating. Right then, he determined that no matter what this name turned out to be, he would accept it. It did neither of them any good to keep shooting down ideas, and if a single name could make the normally easy-going duck-girl act like this, then it was surely something special to her.
At last, Ahiru let out a breathy exclamation of delight. "I found it!" she cried. She turned the book towards Fakir, her finger pointing at the bottom of the page. "See, it's right down there, the one that begins with 'M'."
The young writer followed the line of her finger, and at the end of it:
"Hm. 'Morning Star,' huh?" He raised a teasing eyebrow at her, but the effect was softened by the slight, warm upturn of his lips. "You might have better taste than I thought."
Ahiru just beamed back at him, far too happy to acknowledge his attempt at provocation. "So this is really alright, then? There's nothing wrong with this one, is there?" Even as the questions flew from her mouth, her smile never dimmed a single iota.
Fakir shrugged a bit, letting his expression slip into something more outwardly affectionate. "I think so," he answered tentatively, trying to remember anything bad he may have heard connected with that name. Well, there was that one mace-like weapon that had spikes all over it…and the morning star itself did have certain associations…
But his mind kept throwing a single question back at him: what did any of that matter?
He glanced at Ahiru's smiling face, then at "Morgenstern," then back again.
It wasn't surprising that he'd know those associations, but they had far more to do with the name's meaning than the name itself. And besides, how much of it was common knowledge anyway? Probably very little. There was nothing about the name that could be used to hurt or embarrass Ahiru, not unless someone was willing to take the time to research military history and various mythologies, and it was highly unlikely anyone would go so far for a simple mocking.
And most importantly, it made her happy.
That was that.
"No, there's nothing wrong with it," Fakir shook his head slightly and offered Ahiru a full smile to assuage her doubts. "In fact, I think it's a fine name."
"Really?" Ahiru's voice cracked and squeaked with a sudden rush of emotion. "Oh Fakir, thank you!" Unable to hold herself back, she launched herself forward over the tabletop, just far enough to wrap her arms around him in a tight hug. "And I mean for everything! For helping me choose a name, and agreeing to this in the first place, and always being there even when I was just a duck and—and just everything!" Her words came out in one great, jumbled, hot rush of air against the juncture of his neck and shoulder.
"H-Hey, don't just jump at me like that, moron! You'll end up getting us both hurt!" Despite his protests, Fakir wrapped his arms around her slim form in return. "And you don't have to thank me for any of that," he murmured shyly into her bright hair. "I did it because I wanted to."
"In that case, what I want to do is hug you and thank you, and that's what I'm doing, so there!" She gave one last squeeze of her arms before releasing him, untangling herself from his embrace as she scrabbled back to her seat.
She had scarcely lowered herself into the chair once more when she shot right back to her feet. "Oh, wait!" she exclaimed. "This means I can finally do it now!"
"Do what?" Fakir asked from where he was smoothing his shirt and hair back down.
In answer, Ahiru thrust out her right hand. Grinning from ear to hear, she said, "Hello, Fakir Stahlbaum. My name is Ahiru Morgenstern, and it's very nice to finally meet you properly."
Fakir gazed at her for a moment, something a little like awe blooming across his face, then stood up, returning her smile with one of his best. He reached out and took her hand in a grip that was both firm and gentle, and which was full of promise.
"Miss Morgenstern, the pleasure is mine."
Most of the surnames are from the wonderfully informative site .com. If you're interested in what any of them mean, I highly suggest you check out the site, and its sister site ! (The one big exception to this is "Ente," and for that all you need is a German-English dictionary).
Yes, my headcanon surname for Fakir is Stahlbaum. For any who don't know, it's one surname—the other being Silberhaus—of the heroine of "The Nutcracker," depending on which version you're seeing. In the ballet, Drosselmeyer is of course the name of Marie/Clara's godfather, but historically speaking it wasn't at all unusual for a godparent to be directly related to a godchild. Since this means that it's very likely that the Drosselmeyer from the ballet is related to the Stahlbaum/Silberhaus family, I thought it might be a good way to show a blood relationship between Fakir and PT's Drosselmeyer (especially since Fakir seems so shocked to learn they're related, leading me to believe that he has a totally different last name). Of course, I'm not the only one who's thought of this, and I think there are a couple fics on AO3 that also give Fakir's last name as Stahlbaum. And, okay, maybe it's a little silly sounding, but it's thematically solid.
The Morgenstern, or morning star, was a type of medieval mace or club that usually had quite a few spikes on it. It was a fairy nasty weapon, but one whose name isn't terribly well-known (at least, I don't think it is…)
The morning star, Venus, has also been called Lucifer, though I don't believe this is attested to in the Bible, making it more of a legend. Nevertheless, the connotations are obvious. Personally, I prefer to see this as a reference to Drosselmeyer and the role he played in Ahiru's life. Moreover, just given its name, the star is obviously associated with the Roman goddess Venus and, by extension, with Aphrodite. Modern thought likes to associate Venus with swans, but traditionally her attendant animals were doves, and sometimes geese, depending on the source. Geese are the closest thing to ducks I can find in Western mythological traditions, and being associated with the goddess of love is kind of a nice touch, so to my mind it makes just a little bit of convoluted sense.
I also chose Morgenstern as Ahiru's surname for two less convoluted reasons: as a not-so-subtle reference to "The Princess Bride"; and because I just really want the poor dear to have something nice for a change ;.; That being said, I don't expect everyone to agree, it's just my preference is all!