disclaimer: eh, i don't own inkheart, or inkspell, or dustfinger or roxane or cloud dancer...i wish i did, though. does that count for anything?

a/n: i'm sorry it took me so long to update! origially a oneshot, but then this idea flew into my head and a chapter was born. i'm thinking of turning this into a story chronicling dustfinger's attempts at asking out roxane...with a little help from cloud dancer. all set years before inkheart happened, so i'm trying to keep everyone happier. any opinions appreciated--if anything seems ooc, please let me know! and now i'll stop talking

..oh, and happy thanksgiving!


The day was ending earlier and earlier, the sky opting more often towards a muted grey, and the wind, which seemed to have a serrated edge to it, bit like a knife. Everyone readied for the onset of winter. There were a million more myriad changes, taking place everywhere you looked; some were of enormous consequence, and some not as appreciated, but all duly noted nonetheless by Dustfinger.

Still, he looked but did not see. The wind breathed life into fallen leaves, and they skittered accordingly across the ground. Dustfinger walked below the canopy of trees, absently crushing withered foliage beneath his feet, preoccupied with a storm of his own.

Winter was a season that practically begged to be lamented in angsty, poetic verses, right? The bitter wind, the barren sky, etcetera.

He could have sworn her heard her voice, but in hindsight realized it was only the wind; he could have sworn he glimpsed her fleeting reflection in a pool of water, but it was only a trick of the light. See? He was catching on to the whole jilted lover scene pretty well. Well, other than the fact that he hadn't exactly gotten up the nerve to ask her out (so he didn't count as jilted).

She was constantly on his mind, whether in the forefront of his thoughts or lurking in his subconscious. She was witty, defiant, and proud. She was strong, compassionate, and a force to be reckoned with.

Of course, there were also more physical aspects plaguing Dustfinger's mind, if not his conscious; however, being as the author would like to keep the rating down, we won't go there. In short: Dustfinger had a not-so-innocuous crush.

Such was Dustfinger's state of mind one particular blustery morning.

Rolling over on his back to stare at the pale milk sky, Dustfinger yawned. The night before had been a late one; some wealthy noble had decided he wanted entertainment at his daughter's wedding. The fool—he was a noble--had gone looking for the strolling players in the middle of market day. Anyone with a half decent show was out performing, with a full audience to satisfy, earning what coin they could; they weren't going to stop and chat with a man possibly looking to hire an entertainer when there was a definite source of money on hand. And so the idiot had succeeded in hiring the only motley folk free on market days, without wondering why they were the only motley folk free on a market day.

Among others, Sootbird--who couldn't hold a candle to Dustfinger--had gotten the job. Dustfinger, who deserved the money a hell of a lot more than Sootbird--the worst fire eater for miles around--did, hadn't. Well, the noble had said he wanted entertainment.

The fire would barely acknowledge Sootbird, let alone blossom from the ground at a snap of his fingers. And, well...it was just too hard to resist. When Sootbird had crossly demanded last night that the flames leapt and danced for him, they roared around him in a fiery inferno, singing hair and biting faces. When he commanded them to stop, the fire promptly extinguished itself, without even a sputtering spark. Hey, entertainment is entertainment; every time the fire mocked him, Sootbird made the most exquisite face.

Sure Dustfinger egged the fire on a bit, but that was just moral support, really. No one was god enough to make fire do what it didn't want to do; fire was fire, and no amount of fire elves' honey could change that (Sootbird being a prime example).

Honestly, though, it wasn't that Dustfinger just wanted to see Sootbird lose so completely at what he considered his own game. Jokingly, he'd told Roxane his idea, and she'd laughed, and said she wanted to be there just for the look on Sotbird's face.

That's what she said.

Dustfinger had a different opinion, but he wasn't going to say anything. For once something was working...so he went ahead with his plan, even though Cloud Dancer told him not to.

And then he'd gone and screwed it up. Completely. Just...like...always.

Life sucked. Much easier to go back to sleep.

"You up?" Cloud Dancer's voice interrupted his thoughts.

"Nope." Dustfinger gave an impressive yawn. "Not a chance."

"Well, you're literate, that's awake enough for me," Cloud Dancer replied, only half jokingly.

"Compared to what? You? Hate to break the news, but that's not saying much."

"Oh, now you've really done it. What a comeback. Dustfinger, I don't think I'll ever recover from that one."

"Well, I'm sorry, but you deserved that." Cloud Dancer worked hard to hold back laughter.

"Not that I'd ever dare to question your, no doubt, superior intellect. but, Dustfinger, it's called sarcasm."

"Look, Dustfinger is not even remotely awake. I swear. Even if it looks like i am. I'm just sleeptalking. now, you of all people should know what happens when i don't get enough of sleep. if i were you, i wouldn't ask me to attempt anything requiring thought or effort. it could be dangerous." he stopped for breath. "Dustfigner here is going to go back to sleep. he's hibernating, because it's a much more sensible, smart, energy efficient thing to do. end of story."

"...and being intellectual and knowledgeable like he is, Dustfinger does the sensible thing. Wow. Who would've thought? Energy efficient I can grasp, but smart? That's a whole other side I didn't know you possessed." cloud dancer retorted, a bit annoyed. Dustfinger wasn't the type to feel sorry for himself. he didn't even know what had happened. Dustfinger had said something about Roxanne, though...

"Is it because you don't want to see her?" cloud dancer asked. Silence. it had been a shot in the dark, but apparently it'd worked.

"Why, whatever gave you that idea?" Dustfinger asked dismally.

"Oh, guess I'm just a natural intuitive."

"Don't be modest."

"C'mon, will you just stop moping?"

"Can I? Possibly. Will I? No."

"Hey, you want me to talk to her?"

"No."

"Look, I'll just--"

"No."

"Dust--"

"No."

"--finger, shut up. I'm trying to help you here. You know you like her, and so does everyone else, including her. It's what we call painfully obvious."

"And this is your problem because--?"

"Because I made it my problem."

"--since when...?"

"Okay, I don't want to be mean. But I know you're not going to do anything about it, so just let me--" Dustfinger glared daggers at cloud dancer, attempting to kill him with a look. cloud dancer sighed.

"I'll set you up with her. Come on, you know you want me to..."

"Like hell you will."

"So how's about Saturday? A rendezvous with the love of your life, it can't be that bad. I'll make sure everything works out."

"Great. No worries then."

Cloud Dancer worked hard to keep a straight face. It wasn't Dustfinger's fault, really, that he was so hopeless with girls. But oh, this was going to be fun.