Fakir had understood what it meant when he had told Duck that she needed to go back to being just a duck. He had understood it well enough that every fiber of his being had screamed out in protest against it, even if he knew she needed to be her true self again, he knew it was the right thing. His heart wretched, try to throw itself out of this traitor’s breast, and his eyes yearned to bleed out his agony. But he smiled at her and told her that it would be alright.
Duck didn’t understand what he said had meant, and Fakir didn’t tell her. He wanted her to be happy.
She thought she’d be losing the body of a little red-haired girl, that it meant she would be able to dance with everyone anymore. He knew it meant more than that. What she had forgotten, or maybe had never known in the first place, was the outside of stories ducks couldn’t think and feel and love the way humans could. Duck thought she’d be losing a body, Fakir knew they would be losing the girl.
So as Mytho and Rue flew back into the story in their swan driven carriage, removing the final traces of the story and bringing the town back into reality for good, Fakir felt a tear roll down his face as he bid a silent farewell to the girl he could finally admit he was in love with.
* * *
Fakir was worried. He had... acknowledged that Duck had gone back to being just a duck and understood that meant she would act like a regular duck. But she had been acting decidedly un-duck-like. He hadn’t noticed it right away, as she had done many things that a duck was wont to do. She lived at the pond in town, and spent most of her time gliding across the surface of the water or resting on the banks. She would come to greet him when he came to visit, but then he always brought bread, so it really wasn’t that strange. It wasn’t until the fourth day that he noticed something was wrong.
He had brought a book to read to her with him this time. Not because he was expecting her to understand, but because even a duck can enjoy a bit of company and a soft, friendly voice. He spread out a blanket on the shore and, after feeding her, opened the book and began to read. Duck had settled down on the ground and stared at him as he read aloud. It wasn’t until he had finished that he realized that she had been sitting there the entire time he had been reading, with an expression that spoke of not a duck’s curiosity or confusion, but a girl’s rapt attention to a story. Then, as though satisfied that he was done, she quacked once, rubbed her head up against his leg and returned to the water, leaving Fakir to wonder if she had been thanking him.
Which was a stupid notion. Ducks don’t thank people and they don’t listen to stories. It was a coincidence that his feelings and wishful thinking were trying to convince him meant something more. And that line of logic lasted him a week during which he became increasingly aware of how human Duck was acting. A week until he realized what the truth of the situation was. He was scared. At which point it became immediately clear what he had to do.
It was late evening, but he tore down to the pond anyways, hoping she would still be awake and easy to find. She was, aimlessly drifting across the pond. When she saw him running up she seemed surprised, but delighted. Except that she couldn’t because she’s just a duck, he pleaded.
“Duck I need you to do something for me. If you can understand me I need you to quack twice.” Her head tilted quizzically to the side as she quacked. Which didn’t mean anything, ducks are allowed to quack he assured himself. Then she quaked again.
Fakir felt the tears streaming down his face as he realized the extent of what had happened. If a duck is a duck, he had reasoned with himself during their pas de deux under the lake, she can be happy like that. But if a girl is a duck, she can’t.
Through his tears Fakir saw that Duck had approached him, blue eyes full of concern. He picked her up and cradled her in his arms. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, “I’ll fix it.”
Fakir had told Mytho before the latter left that he would write the rest of the town’s story and he had. It was little work for the most part. Without a spinner actively working the story had no defense. So when it collided with the full force of reality, many of the more ostentatious elements had faded out. Fakir had been left to quietly erase the more subtly fantastical things. He had left as much of everyone’s memories intact as possible. He left what could stay, explained what could be got around, and gently erased what had to go.
And on the third night after the story ended he erased everyone else’s memories of Duck. He knew he didn’t need to, her sudden appearance and departure could have been explained, and he knew he shouldn’t have, but he had done it anyways. He just couldn’t take it, Charon’s too careful questions about when Fakir’s friend might come over again, her friend’s loud pondering about where Duck had gotten to, and even Autor’s silent but curious looks. He couldn’t take pretending she had left or moved, and was still out there somewhere dancing and laughing and being when she was gone, as he had thought at the time.
But whatever else he might or might not have done, he hadn’t read the whole story. It was partially because he felt it was invasion of privacy, but mostly because he it made him feel closer to the story’s writer than he cared to. But the best way to figure out what was wrong was to start at the beginning and go on until he found the problem. So on Sunday morning he took his blanket, his pen and ink, and the story to the pond and did just that.
The first page was very messy and written in a large, untidy scrawl that filled the whole page, despite only having a few lines of content. The ink was a rust brown color that he didn’t care to linger on. After that came pages upon pages of writing that seemed similar to the first page, if one imagined it neat and graceful and small and frighteningly regular. Though in defiance of this regularity, some pages in there was a large black dot, as if the pen had been arrested in that spot for a long time before writing the next scene featuring a duck and a prince. From there the story became more familiar to Fakir, though much of it had taken place while he hadn’t been physically present. Then, as he was reaching the end he found it.
Having given her pendant to the Prince, Princess Tutu turned into a speck of light and vanished. Having given up Princess Tutu and even the body of the little girl, she stood before her prince in the form of a duck.
If she gave up the body of the girl and was in the form of a duck, then that meant the girl was still inside her. And while reality could not accept a talking cat-ballet instructor, apparently a small thinking duck was bearable.
So Fakir took up his pen and flipped to the last page of the story, written in his own tidy script.
And now that the story was finally over the duck, who was so full of hope that she was able to give Drosselmeyer’s final grand tragedy a happy ending, was finally returned to her true self.
A large splash came from the pond where Duck had been swimming a moment ago. Fakir looked up to see a very confused, very wet, very naked, he suddenly realized as he quickly turned away, a blush thundering across his face, red-haired girl.
Duck didn’t seem to notice her state of undress, however, as she flung herself at Fakir, babbling excitedly. “Fakir you did it! You wrote a story for me and now I’m a girl again! How did you-“
She suddenly cut off, as she became acutely aware of her own lack of clothing. Fakir got up off the blanket and handed it to her.
Sufficiently covered, she asked him “But how did you do it?”
“I don’t know exactly, I just wrote that you returned to your true self,” he told her. With that she smiled up at him, and in her smile he saw something warm and wonderful that he couldn’t quite explain yet. And she saw the same unexplained thing in his eyes and slipped her free hand into his. Because now there was time enough for them to figure it out together.