My entry for the 7th Anniversary of Tutu Fic and Art Exchange, done for secondlina. Hope she likes it! (even though I left it to the absolute last minute and probably deserve to be lynched)
I decided to do fanfic, since that's my general forte, though I may post some accompanying fanart for it later when I get a spare moment.
secondlina said she liked Fakir/Ahiru and Raven!Mytho/Normal!Rue, so the latter pairing is the main focus of the story, and the different facets of their relationship, which does include Raven!Mytho.
Title: Ever After and Beyond
Pairing: Prince Siegfried/Rue
Summary: The story ends, and the Prince and his Princess head off into Happily Ever After. However, they get a bit lost on the way there . . .
DISCLAIMER#1: Ok, I drew inspiration from a lot of fairytales for this one, not just German ones, and used quite a lot of
gratuitous mutilation artistic liscence that is not nearly as stylishly executed as the show. (Hans Christian Anderson is no doubt rolling in his grave) To be honest, it was mostly a crackish premise at first, but some more serious themes were then later introduced and so the final product end up being a sort of fairytale xover/crack/romance/angst/fluff remix that just refuses to be labelled. Grr, my fics are all anarchists...anyway, the point is, although each of the stories I used seems randomly put in and canon purists might really hate me (although, is there really a true 'canon' for fairytales? They've been re-done sooo many times...) each were specifically used to demonstrate an important point in the story and I put a lot of work into them regardless. So, tread carefully, take some Suspended Belief, don't take things too seriously and you should (hopefully) enjoy it.
DISCLAIMER #2: Yeah, the real one...I don't own Princess Tutu or any of its characters. Likewise, I don't own any of the other fairytales and stories referenced in this fanfic. However, I sincerely had a great time writing it.
Ever After and Beyond
Once the story had ended, the prince and his princess flew off into the sunrise, to return to the prince’s fairytale kingdom and live happily ever . . .
Rue was the first to notice that something Was Not Right.
When they landed rather abruptly on the ground, the ex-raven’s heart was still stuck on ‘spontaneous wedding bliss’ mode, and as such, it took her a moment to adjust. However, it soon occurred to her that while Siegfried still looked every inch the prince and she was resplendent in a shimmering white gown, their surroundings were anything but royal.
She blinked around the barren wasteland, noticing the distinct lack of palace. Or civilization in general.
Giving Siegfried’s arm a little shake (he had fallen asleep on her shoulder sometime during the journey), she hissed in his ear, “Prince, wake up!”
He came to consciousness with a small mumble. “Five more minutes, Fakir . . .”
She elbowed him sharply in the ribs. “Prince! We’ve stopped.”
Her words penetrated his haze of sleep, and a bright smile lit up his face. Rather than look around, he kept his eyes trained on Rue as he jumped to his feet and offered her a hand. “Princess Rue. Welcome to my story.”
She felt quite bad about having to burst his bubble of sparkly enthusiasm. On the other hand, it was cold here. “Are you sure this is your story?”
He blinked, then glanced around the endless stretch of scorched earth. “Ah . . .”
“Shall I take that as a no?”
Absolute bafflement warred with embarrassment. “I don’t think so . . . perhaps the swans got lost?”
The winged steeds in question ruffled their feathers indignantly. Rue sighed. “Well, if this isn’t your story, then which is it? And more importantly, how do we get out of it?”
Before the prince could form an answer, there was a familiar sinister chuckle. “Well, well, now what do we have here? Two lost characters without an ending to return to?”
Rue’s eyes narrowed. “Drosselmeyer.”
Siegfried’s sword was in hand immediately. “Show yourself, Story Spinner. Why have you brought us to this forsaken place?”
“I suspect he was bored,” Rue said dryly.
The faceless man laughed again. “Amusing as this is, it is not my doing. This is a nowhere space, the moment of blankness that exists before a story is born. Beyond here lie infinite worlds, countless stories. I suspect yours is there somewhere too, though whether or not it is ready to accept you as its prince once again is another matter entirely. After all, you have changed since then.”
“Changed?” The prince’s sword lowered slightly in his confusion. “Do you mean because of the raven’s blood within me?”
“Perhaps, though I suspect that is not the only thing. Also, you seemed to have acquired some extra baggage whilst living in the real world, hmm?”
Fury flashed across the prince’s face. “Do not speak of Rue that way!”
Drosselmeyer’s voice was wickedly humoured as he replied, “My, my, such anger. That is certainly a new expression. I expect your story may be scared that its gentle prince now has such a savage streak.”
The prince recoiled. Rue jumped up to stand beside him. “Enough!” she snapped at the empty air. “We are done playing your games, old man. We fought, and we won. You have no power over us anymore!”
“That is indeed true,” Drosselmeyer said. “However, I believe it is your own power that you should fear. It may return you to your story, but it could also be your downfall. Ah, this should be interesting! What a comfort to know that though my masterpiece had such an unsatisfactory ending, its characters still bring such amusement. Good luck, your highnesses!”
With that, his presence vanished, and they were left with silence once more.
After a long, tense pause, Siegfried sighed and sat down heavily. “I’m sorry, Rue,” he said unhappily. “This wasn’t the ending I wanted to give you.”
She hesitated, then lowered herself to sit beside him. “Never mind, Prince. Drosselmeyer said your story was out there somewhere. I suppose this just means we’ll have to find it ourselves.”
“It may take a long time,” he warned. “Perhaps even years.”
“An extended honeymoon. How lovely.” She smiled at his surprised face, and leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. “I’m not so ready to settle down yet, anyway.”
Prince Siegfried smiled back.
Siegfried named the swans Fakir and Ahiru. She didn’t bother to oppose him on the matter, even though graceful Ahiru clearly resented being compared to a duck and she was fairly certain Fakir was female.
How could she fault him for wanting to remember the only friends he ever really had?
She did, however, make a point of telling Fakir to stop picking on a scraggly little duckling hovering on the edges of the pond. “You’ll regret it when she’s older,” she warned, running a hand fondly down Ahiru’s glossy white feathers. “Trust me, they always grow up to become beautiful and make your life miserable.”
Shifting between stories was, if nothing else, unpredictable. There was no telling where or when they would appear, or which role they would play, if any. Often they would just move passively through the world, observing the actions of others and not becoming involved (Rue found this to be both fascinating and unsettling – it was like walking through the pages of her old storybooks, and happy endings were a rarity in those).
Other times, their presence was anything but inconsequential.
“Rue, look out!” Siegfried tugged her roughly out of the way, just barely avoiding the stream of fire. He then swung his sword at the huge beast, and managed to clip one of it scales. Unfortunately, that was about the extent of any damage they could possibly inflict on it.
Half-crouched on the ground with a dagger in hand, Rue cast her eyes about looking for a way out of this mad situation. Of all the things to wander into . . .
She spied a conveniently placed cave nearby and wasted no time in dragging the prince over to it. The dragon, now occupied with its other victim (a terrified-looking girl strapped to a rock), did not follow. Rue thought this was just fine, but Siegfried disagreed.
“Must we hang around?” she asked. “I’m sure her knight in shining armour or handsome prince will be along any moment now.”
“We cannot take that chance, Rue. What if we are meant to play the part instead?”
“What ‘we’?” she said irritably. To be fair, a good portion of her dress had been burnt to ashes, and it had been a Very Bad Day. “You are the only prince around here that I see.”
“Very well, I will go rescue her,” he said. “Stay hidden, I’ll be back soon.” Then he ducked back outside, and she was left feeling like a horrible person. For a while she leaned sulkily against the cave wall and trying to ignore the echoing roars (he was a prince, he was perfectly capable of managing one measly dragon . . .)
She heaved a huge sigh, used the dagger to cut away the trailing sooty hem of her dress, as much as could still be considered decent, and rushed outside.
Adaptation, she had already deduced, was now the key to survival in any context.
To make up for her damaged wardrobe, Rue insisted on buying a lovely dark red cloak at the next story they arrived at with a marketplace. It was long and warm, with a large hood that protected her from the wind and complimented her eyes. Functional and attractive. Quite perfect.
How was she supposed to know that certain wolves had a fetish for that particular colour?
Regardless of Siegfried’s suggestion that they buy her a nice white one instead (his tone was quite gentle for all that that they were in a tree with a pair of slavering jaws snapping at their feet, weapons lying useless on the ground), Rue insisted on keeping it. It was a nice coat, for goodness’ sake, and white only got dirty.
“Prince,” she asked him one day after another unsuccessful jaunt through a fairytale. “Do you remember what your home looks like?”
“Of course,” he replied. “It is the biggest, most beautiful palace you have ever seen, with gleaming white parapets that can be seen from all corners of the kingdom.”
“And the kingdom?” she prompted.
“Sprawling golden deserts filled with lush, bountiful forests. The gentle roar of the ocean can be heard in the early morning, its waves lapping serenely at the rose-filled meadows . . .” he trailed off, blinking. Glanced sideways at Rue’s unimpressed look. Blushed. “Er . . . well it’s been quite a while since I was last there you see . . .”
“Clearly.” She wrapped her arm around his, rather like she used to when he’d been without self-preservation instincts, and likely to wander off and fall into a ditch without proper guidance. Either that or be snatched away by some other girl. “Never mind, I suppose we’ll find it eventually.”
“Yes,” he smiled. “I am sure I will recognise my home when I see it again.”
Rue squeezed his arm, and tried to put the near-desperate look in his eyes to rest. “Of course you will.”
The castle was enormous. It loomed above the lake like a giant, shimmering spectre, brightly lit as though in anticipation of their arrival.
“Well, this looks promising,” Siegfried remarked as they made their way up to the front doors.
Rue sighed. He’d said the exact same thing about the gingerbread house, and that had not ended well. Typical, how her prince had gladly given those two lost children directions back to town, but when they were lost, he was too stubborn to ask the friendly local wildlife for directions.
Honestly, men were all the same. Though, Fakir was probably much worse – how did Ahiru put up with him?
Their journey up the steps was suddenly interrupted by a girl exiting the doorway in a hurry. She barely spared the two of them a glance, intent on running away as quickly as possible. However, when she stumbled on one of the steps, Siegfried was compelled to intervene.
“Miss, are you alright?” he asked genially, reaching out a hand to steady her.
“No time . . .” she gasped. “Midnight . . . have to go . . .” She took off as soon as she found her feet, leaving them wide-eyed in her wake.
“Um, miss you forgot your . . . shoe?” the prince called after her, but she didn’t look back.
“Hmph. Must be a terrible party.” Rue said. Then she frowned at the glass slipper in Siegfried’s hand. “Exactly how is one supposed to walk in something like that, let alone dance?”
“Or run,” he added, still gazing somewhat bewilderedly in the girl’s direction.
“Not to mention the damage it would cause if it shattered.”
“Blood all over the dance floor,” he agreed, nodding sagely.
They pondered the shoe in silence for another moment, but were soon interrupted by a handsome young man, clearly a prince (though not nearly as handsome as her prince) bursting out onto the staircase. He looked around wildly before settling his gaze on Siegfried and Rue. “Pardon me, good folk, but did you see a lovely young girl go past . . ?”
Siegfried pointed helpfully in the right direction, but the girl was now long gone. Seeing the utter devastation on the prince’s face, he then offered the glass slipper and a kind smile. “She left this behind . . . when you find her, may I recommend getting her some sensible footwear? She’ll probably hurt herself in those.”
In Rue’s opinion, princesses usually got the short end of the stick in stories. All too often their fates involved unrequited love, sacrifice, dismemberment, gratuitous foot abuse and the like, whilst the prince got to ride around on a pretty white horse looking shiny and getting all the benefits.
She was aware, of course, that their story had been a lot more complicated with sacrifices all round, but still. Generically speaking, prince = lucky; princess = unlucky.
So, in the one story she could possibly think of where the princess got to lie in bed and sleep for a long time, it was just typical that she got stuck doing the legwork.
Rue grumbled her way past the thorns, hacking away at the ones that entangled in her hair and dress with the prince’s sword (the coat, however, proved its worth by being thick and mostly impervious to the attack).
The weapon was a lot heavier than it looked when Siegfried wielded it, and she was quite exhausted by the time she reached the dragon. Luckily, it turned out that he was just as fed up with his job as glorified guard dog as she was with the role-reversal, and after a few half-hearted attacks and some long negotiations, they reached a mutual understanding.
When she finally got to the prince, she was ready to simply slap him awake. And yet . . . her anger drained away almost instantly as she saw him lying on the bed.
He looked so peaceful. Younger, even though he hadn’t truly aged a day since the first time she’d met him. He had more to worry about these days, beyond basic physical needs and the lingering urge to protect everyone. Even as they moved from story to story, a new adventure every day, and plenty of people to meet and love and save, the yearning she saw in his eyes – the yearning for his own story, for home – grew deeper each time they failed to find it.
And still, he managed a smile for every individual, no matter how flat or useless or stereotyped, regardless of the role they were born to fulfil. And they smiled back. It was as though he left them with a feeling of something more . . . a better reason to live? A dose of reality? Humanity, even? She didn’t know. But she did know that it was one of the things she loved most about him, a love that she thought couldn’t be any stronger but seemed to expend every day.
How could she have ever thought the prince would be better without a heart?
Rue bent down to press a kiss against his lips, and rejoiced at the adoration in his eyes as they fluttered open.
Being bug-sized was no fun at all. Mostly because of the bugs. But the whole perspective on the world from such a minute angle was truly alarming and, Rue wasn’t afraid to admit, terrifying.
She refused to leave the carriage for a whole day, and for the first time in a long time, Siegfried became quite impatient. He argued that it was fine, he could still protect them, and that the sooner they could find the entrance to the next story, the sooner they would be back to normal.
“They are only insects, Rue,” he said for the tenth time, exasperated.
“Big insects,” she retorted, despite feeling foolish. Ahiru wouldn’t have felt so scared of a few bugs, no matter how large – or at least, not enough to refuse to move. She probably ate bugs come to think of it, which didn’t make Miniature Rue feel any better . . .
“You go look around, I’ll wait here for you,” she said.
“I don’t want to leave you alone.”
“I’ll be fine. Ahiru and Fakir will still be here.”
The argument was weak and they both knew it. Bugs and sparrows were all well and good, but a couple of birds, however temperamental, couldn’t defend someone barely the size of a thumb from any larger threats.
Siegfried sighed. Rue frowned at the ground. For a while they stood locked in a silent standoff, neither willing to concede the argument.
Then, in a much gentler voice, the prince said, “It’s not just the bugs is it?”
She glanced at him “What are you talking about?”
“Being small. Being insignificant. Barely able to control your own immediate surroundings, prey to almost anything that comes along. It’s scary, isn’t it?”
She said nothing. He walked over and placed his hands on her shoulders. “Rue, I understand. You and I both know what it is like to feel trapped like that. We know . . . helplessness.” He crooked one finger under her chin and tilted her head up so their eyes met. “But it won’t last. Once we get out of this story, everything will be right again. Until then, please trust me, Rue. I won’t let anything bad happen.”
She couldn’t think of a single thing to say to that. He took her by the hand and led her across the carriage to where the swans were tethered, waiting. After murmuring a few soothing words to Fakir, the nearest one, he then jumped lightly onto her back.
“What in the world are you doing?” she demanded.
“I think our situation calls for some different seating arrangements,” he replied, holding out his hand to her. Apprehensive but encouraged by his light, almost teasing smile, she allowed him to pull her onto Fakir’s back and settle them both behind her long, curving neck. Even from here, the ground was so far below; she tightened her arms around his waist.
Then the prince spoke another word, there was a strong beat of wings, and with a stomach-jolting surge they were in the air. Wind tugged at her hair, her cloak and the prince was a firm support against the rushing motion.
Rue soon forgot her fear, tilted her head back, and revelled at the feeling of absolute freedom.
Fakir died. It was no one’s fault. They’d simply had the misfortune of flying straight into a raging storm in the next story, and been horribly unprepared for it. The carriage had gone down in the heavy rain and wind, and though it had been a close call for all of them, the swan had taken the brunt of the fall.
They buried her by a misty lake in the ruby haze of dawn (Rue was still sure it was a girl, though had never bothered to find out for sure. Why?). Ahiru, overcome with grief for her companion, whimpered softly and drifted out onto the water. She wouldn’t be accompanying the prince and princess back to their story.
Siegfried was quiet the whole day. Fakir had been his favourite; she wasn’t quite sure why. His sadness seemed to seep into the air, hanging over them like a heavy shroud. Feeling totally inadequate, she stood by his side and held his hand until night fell over the lake once more.
The tight, shadowed look on the prince’s face scared her more than anything had in a long time.
Travel was slower after that. They made their way through stories at a human pace, and consequentially, became more involved with them. Rue had an inexplicably bad feeling about this, and clung to Siegfried’s arm perhaps little harder than necessary most days.
Though to be fair, every one of those twelve princesses had eyed him like a piece of meat, even when each of them already had a boy of their own to dance with. Honestly, Rue was completely justified in protecting him from that band of greedy brats. And hadn’t they ever heard of more than one pair of shoes?
Several weeks of flightless wandering passed, and Rue was convinced they were both lapsing back into old habits. The prince became distant and moody, prone to impatience and irritability even though he still treated people cordially. She found herself needing to be close to him at all times, mostly because she was scared of what might happen if he disappeared for too long.
Drosselmeyer’s last warning rang unspoken between them, a point of endless tension. They still hadn’t found Siegfried’s story, and the idea that their raven blood was preventing them from returning began to spread like an infection, emphasising their doubts and fears. Although most of Rue’s fear was for the prince rather than herself – not so much of him, but how he seemed to be scared of himself. No words were needed; she saw it on the torn, pained look on his face, the way he scratched absently at his wrist occasionally, how his eyes reflected the horror of old trauma.
If the raven’s blood really was preventing him from going home, then she didn’t know what they’d do. She didn’t know how she could live with herself.
They were in another castle. It seemed mysteriously abandoned, and with good reason, as far as Rue was concerned. It was a huge, dreary place, full of dust, shadows and heavy gothic decor. But it was shelter for the time being, and if she felt the urge to glance back over her shoulder whilst walking the corridors now and then, well, it was a silly fear. One she could live with.
Right now, she was living with another fear, one that was much more disturbing than imaginary ghosts. It was scarier than dragons, than wolves, than being tiny and helpless. Scarier than the prospect of wandering the fringes of fantasy forever, belonging nowhere. More terrifying than abandonment.
It was the thought that all those mistakes, the ones she thought she’d atoned for long ago, were now coming back with a vengeance. Every ugly thing – her selfishness, jealousy, insecurity and cruelty – could once again destroy the fragile treasures she’d managed to piece together in the meantime. All that true, unwavering but ultimately fragile love . . . was it all for nothing? At the end of the day, was she really just a useless human girl steeped in raven’s blood, an inferior hybrid incapable of anything pure?
Probably. It didn’t matter anyway. She wasn’t the important one here.
Rue strode purposefully through the dank halls, her shoes clicking loudly on the floor. She forced herself to hold the pace and not slow down even a little, because he would hear her cowardice, and it would only bring him more shame. She must be strong. Even if history was repeating itself, then they would tackle the problem once more, together.
Everything was going to be alright.
She finally came to a halt just outside the door in the farthest wing of the castle. Here she almost, almost faltered, but her hand only shook slightly as she raised it to knock on the door. “Prince? It’s me. I’m coming in.”
No tentative question, no hesitation. Strong, she reminded herself. Be strong.
She wished Ahiru were here.
The door groaned in displeasure as she heaved it open, and inky blackness spilled out. She took a deep breath, let herself in, and closed it behind her. The darkness swallowed her up. She blinked a few times, allowing her eyes time to adjust, before stepping further into the room. He was keeping quiet, but she could hear his laboured breathing somewhere towards the back.
Towering black shapes, old furniture, loomed from the sidelines like the monsters in her silly imaginings. Rue ignored them. She was the only real monster in this room.
“Prince?” she called out. “Siegfried? I think you’ve been sequestering yourself away for long enough. Why don’t you come on out of the darkness, it’s not good for you.”
A beat of silence, Then . . . “Don’t call me that,” he rasped.
She paused. “Call you what? Siegfried?”
“It’s the name of a prince. I am no prince.”
“Of course you are, dummy. You’ve always been a prince, heart or no, brain or no.” Old ways of speaking were too easy to fall back on. “There is no reason for you to do this.”
A shaky laugh. Not manic or bird-like as it once might have been, just plain despairing. “There is every reason, Rue. Perhaps I am a prince, but only one like this; a hideous, evil-hearted beast locked up in this prison of a castle, his only company a beauty girl held captive. That is my true fate, you see? That’s what the stories have been trying to tell us.”
She glared at the barely visible shape in the darkness. “By captive, I assume you are referring to me? Am I not the judge of my own free will?”
“You don’t know any better,” he spat.
Her eyes widened. “I . . . what?”
“Poor, deluded Rue. You’ve been infatuated with me since you were a child, but not the real me – only the perfect image of a prince who hasn’t existed in a long time. I don’t think anyone remembers that person any more, if he ever even existed.”
He gave a hoarse cough that sounded suspiciously raven-like, and went quiet. The silence billowed and swelled between them like a gathering storm, crackling with tension.
Rue was speechless, shaking with fury and hurt. After everything . . . all they’d been through . . . he dared to say something like that? And the worst part was, his mind wasn’t addled with the one-track desires of a raven this time. He was clearly depressed, and probably sick, but these were all his own thoughts, what he truly believed.
Words could not contain what she felt right now – she didn’t know whether to burst into tears, or scream in rage and frustration. So instead she spun around on her heels and stalked towards the window. It was covered in a heavy black drapery, and she felt an almost vicious satisfaction as the fabric twisted in her fists.
He realised a second too late what she was about to do. “No, don’t do that . . !”
She threw the curtains apart, and sunset’s burnished gold light flooded the room.
Rue spun around defiantly to face him, her eyes watering from the sudden burst of brightness. But then she registered exactly what had become of her prince, and gasped.
The room’s walls were lined with mirrors. Most of them were severely damaged, either missing huge shards of glass or decorated with hairline cracks spanning in intricate web-shaped designs. Each were coated in a thin film of grime and dust.
Every single one of them portrayed a hulking black raven in ripped clothing, quaking beneath the sudden invasion of light. But in the centre of the room, at the heart of the illusion, there was no beast. Just a boy lying on the ground, his dirty blonde head bowed under the weight of everything.
“Oh, prince,” she whispered. “What have you done to yourself?”
Siegfried giggled a little hysterically. “Now you see, Rue? This is the truth. This is what I am . . . it’s been inside me all along, only I was too blind to see it until now. These mirrors, they reflect the truth.”
She looked at the many reflections of her face and saw nothing different. Just a plain girl with feathers in her hair, standing over a broken prince. She used to think herself pretty, didn’t she? Strange, how one’s perspective can change.
But the prince, even like this, still seemed so beautiful, inside and out. Regardless of what else changes, that will always be her truth, and she didn’t believe it was possible for her to see anything else. He once saved her life, and continued to save countless lives every day without noticing. Giving everyone their happy ending, just because it’s in his nature. When will he get his happy ending?
Rue sighed deeply, and let the pain of her own failings, her lingering anger, simply drop away. A couple of the feathers in her hair drifted to the ground as she crouched down to the prince’s level.
“That mirror doesn’t show the truth, Prince,” she told him, one hand caressing the side of his face. “It only reflects what you believe.”
He avoided her gaze. She grabbed hold of his wrist and pulled him to his knees. “If you won’t believe in yourself, prince, then believe in what I say. I might be just a stupid, deluded girl, as you put it, but I do know that you are not a beast. A gullible idiot sometimes, true, but the most pure-hearted human I’ve ever met. And yes, you are human. You make mistakes, same as anyone, but people look to you like you’re the only light in the world. That can be hard, I know, but want to help, however I can.
“I hope that one day we’ll find your story again, but even if we don’t, I won’t ever leave your side, no matter what you look like, wherever we end up. Alright?”
As Rue spoke, she ran a hand soothingly through his hair. In the mirror, black feathers peeled away, leaving pale gold beneath. Siegfried’s breath hitched and he started to tremble. Then he looked at her, really looked for the first time in months, and there was something like clarity breaking out in his eyes. He pulled her into a rough, clinging hug, buried his face into her shoulder, and for a long moment they simply stayed like that, at peace.
“Thankyou, Rue,” he said. “Thankyou for being strong when I cannot.”
She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and didn’t say anything.
“I love you.”
This time it was she who stiffened in surprise, but he only drew back and gave her a small smile. “You are also right in saying that I am . . . an idiot sometimes. I’m sorry for that. But I really do love you, and I won’t ever leave your side either.” He paused a moment, and then added, “And you are not stupid or deluded at all.”
She laughed a little at that, though it was still helf-caught in a sob, and allowed him to pull her to her feet. They began to dance under the last rays of sunlight, and it was completely different from any other dance they’d ever shared.
In the broken glass, feathers rained down around them.
They continued to travel. They met many people, each part of a story, each with their own story just waiting to be told, and the prince encourages them to tell it themselves. They get caught up in plenty of danger, and save each other a lot.
He takes an arrow for her. She yells at him for a week straight (though her hands are oh-so-gentle).
She exchanges her wings for a pair of legs and dances with him until her feet bleed (she really, really must have a word to authors about proper foot care for princesses).
He watches her on the shelf, constantly poised en pointe, and his little tin heart glows ruby with love for her (somehow, they manage to save each other from getting burned to a crisp, which is awfully lucky since Rue is made out of paper of all things).
They talk about a writer and a duck and two aptly named swans, and wonder if they’ll ever find their way back to that particular story again. It might be nice to visit, after all.
They sail on a thousand oceans and fly across different skies, always searching for something that could be beyond the next star or hidden behind a willow tree. Every role they fulfil is redefined to shape their uniqueness. The story may change a little along the way, but the prince and princess always leave behind a happy ending.
Their own story eludes them for many years, though they don’t age in a way that can be easily seen. They age in spirit, in mind, and most of all, love. Their love for each other has many shades, not all of them bright, but it only strengthens, never fades.
A man named Drosselmeyer watches from time to time, and his interest is piqued when there is a particularly horrifying villain to face or they become bogged down in their own doubts and darknesses, but he is always disappointed. Thinks maybe he should give up on trying to wish them tragedy, since tragedy only ever seems to bring happiness in twofold for that annoying pair.
His puppet, however, watches frequently in rapture, and excitedly bangs on that infernal drum of hers every time they defeat the monster or just so much as kiss each other.
“Lovey-dovey zura, lovey-dovey zura, lovey-dovey . . .”
One day, on a particularly ordinary morning, Siegfried and Rue step into a story. It is on a lush green plain and there are mountains on the horizon. The ocean is nearby somewhere because Rue can smell salt on the air. She is thinking it is all too lovely to be true and wonders where then the troll is going to pop up, when Siegfried suddenly grabs her hand.
“What is it?” she asks, already poised for danger..
He doesn’t reply for a moment, simply taking in the atmosphere. Then, he inhales deeply, and turns to her with the brightest, surest smile she has ever seen on his face.
“Princess Rue. Welcome home.”