Disclaimer: I don't own anything execpt the idea. Beat it through your head now and I won't have to do if for you later.

This is going to be a fanfic mainly based on all my favorite pairings, but I will also try to make it seem like a third installment, but I doubt it'll come out right. Oh well, I'll try! Oh, and it's rated T for a reason, and the rating might go up as the story progresses

Chapter 1

It had been three long years outside the Inkworld, and Elinor had just about enough of her own world. Although Orpheus and Sugar were gone, so were Mo, Resa, and Meggie. They all had left Elinor alone with Darius - although she liked his company - for the Inkworld. The desire to go there was now almost unbearable - Elinor could see now why Dustfinger had decieved them so many times before. Elinor was probably as desperate as he was to go back there. And, try as she might, she couldn't find a reader such as Orpheus or Mo that was willing to help her. And also, the book was missing. It was inside itself. There was no way to get into it from the outside now - not without the book.

Darius was nice company, but his constant kindness was taking a toll on her. He was always jumpy as he usually was, and Elinor found she was beginning to hate him for it.

And that damn dog! It wouldn't leave! No, it was bound here like the words inside a book were bound to its pages. He was unwilling to leave, and no matter what Elinor or Darius tried, it stayed. He was faithfully waiting for Orpheus to 'come out of hiding' and come back to him. "Stupid creature." Elinor mumbled to herself as she sat in her - now least favorite - armchair in her library. She looked down to the dog and just stared at it, trying to get it to go away with her icy stare. But no, the dog seemed to like her more then it did anything else now that Orpheus was gone. Why didn't it understand the fact that its master was never coming back? Dogs were too loyal for their own good.

Elinor found she could no longer stand looking at her books, although Darius had cleaned them all up and put them in their proper spaces. No, she didn't want to even see another book ever again. Inkheart and Orpheus alike had drained all her love of books. Now she wanted to throw them all off the walls, trample them herself, and burn them in her backyard as Capricorn's men had done four years ago. She no longer loathed Capricorn's men for doing it, no. Now she wanted to do it herself. But she refrained for Darius. He always said he had wanted a library like hers, and now he had it. He could burn down the god damn house with everything inside for all she cared. She'd just laugh as she watched it burn, anyway.

Elinor found that everytime she got to thinking, everything else around her was gone. It was just like when she was younger. She'd loose herself in her books, and when she read she found she was also thinking. Thinking about anything at all. But it was always something. Usually it never even pretained to the book she was reading. And when she put the book down, her mind refreshed, she found that she knew everything of what she had just read, despite the fact she was only subconsciously reading it.

No. Elinor told herself. You promised you'd never even think of another book again, remember, Elinor? Elinor scowled and stood. There was nothing to do in this godforsaken house without Mo, Meggie, or even the mute Resa. Elinor wondered how happy they were in the Inkworld, then scowled at the thought. They left me here, she thought angrilly. They could've brought me there anytime they wanted, what with the writer Fenoglio there and Mo or Meggie - or hell, even Orpheus - there to lend their voice. Damn them all for forgetting me. For a moment she stared down at the dog, as if it could answer all her questions, complaints, and problems. But no, the dog just sat there, panting heavilly and looking back up at her. Elinor growled at the dog for the final time before leaving her library.

Elinor wasn't thinking of where she was going, but she found herself looking for Darius. Why are you doing that, Elinor? She asked herself. Darius had always given her a little flutter when they were alone, but that wasn't love. Was it? A little voice asked her. Are you sure you aren't falling head over heels for him? The voice mocked. No, certainly not. Why should I? Even if he's my age. It doesn't matter. Because I'll never love anyone ever again. Why? Because the three she had loved, Mo, Meggie, and Resa, had left her. Just like her Mother and Sister. They had left her long ago, leaving her nothing but her Father's books. No, they hadn't loved her either.

Elinor did in fact find Darius in the kitchen. He was a good cook, and an even better reader, although he still kept his talent to himself like a greedy little child with a lollipop. "Oh, hello Elinor." Darius said softly when he turned around and saw her watching him. "Dinner will be done in about an hour."

Elinor sighed, completely ignoring him, and sat down at the kitchen table, watching him as he fiddled around with the food preperations. Without even realizing what she was doing, she answered him and said, "Darius, do you love me?" She still didn't know what she had said until Darius reacted.

"What?" Darius turned around and faced her, although she could see it on his face perfectly well that he had heard her.

"Do you love me?" She wanted a straight answer, and she still didn't think her question meant anything.

"Well...In a sense." He turned around, blushing, and went back to work.

What was so bad about her question? Had she said something offensive? Elinor thought for a long moment, then smacked her forehead. Good god Elinor, she scolded herself. You've lost it. But even though she knew how she was embarrasing him, something in her urged her to continue the conversation, however embarrasing it was. "What do you mean, 'in a sense'?" Why was she wondering this, anyway? And what inside her forced her to ask the question? Even if he said he was head over heels with her, she wouldn't have wanted his love. She was an alone woman, and didn't need anyone's love. Not anymore.

"I mean," Darius answered, not facing her. Elinor vageuly wondered if his now ruby-red face was only becaue it was hot in the kitchen. "I love you like a Father would a daughter, but not a lover to a lover."

That stung. A Father to a Daughter. She didn't have a Father that had loved her. No, the only thing her Father loved was the books that had been burned...He died with a book in his hands. Thank God that's not goimg to be the same fate for me. Elinor reminded herself. Now that she was over books, she wouldn't die over one. No, she'd probably die in the fire she would make to destroy her books. She would've done that long ago, if it hadn't have been for Darius. He was the only reason her house was still standing and Elinor herself wasn't locked in a padded room with a special jacket...

"What is love?" Elinor heard herself ask, in a philosopher kind of tone.

"Love is what people feel for one another. You've never felt it?" Darius turned to face her now. The more time he spent with her, the stronger and stronger he got. His voice no longer stuttered, and he hadn't cleaned his glasses for a whole hour.

"Well, everyone I've ever loved abandoned me. My Mother and Sister, Mo, Meggie, Resa..." Her voice drifted off to prove her point.

Darius sat down beside her on the table, studying her intensely. He was no longer stick-like a frail, no. He had a little muscle on his bones and his skin was now a little darker. Elinor had gotten him glasses that weren't too big for his face, but fit him just right. They were thin frames, dark grey, but not too old-man styled..."I haven't left you," he commented softly. "and I love you." He looked down to the ground as though he was standing in a King's courtroom.

"Ah, so now we're back to square one." Elinor said with a sigh as she leaned back in her chair. "Do you love me or not?" Elinor's normal commen sense was still clouded by whatever it was that was making her ask these questions, so she wasn't embarrased in the least.

Darius fiddled with his fingers, trying to find an excuse from directly answering the question. She was on the short end of the table, and he was beside her on her right on the longer end. Why was he taking so long to answer a stupid question? And why was he embarrased by it so much? It wasn't like she was a total stranger who had walked up to him and shouted, "I LOVE YOU!!!!" So that everybody heard. She could do that whenever she felt like it when they were shopping, but they hardly ever went together. Had Darius purposely done that so as...?

"Darius, is what I'm asking making you feel embarrased?" Some of her commen sense had begun to return. Darius looked up to her like a chastised child who had been told to look their parents in the eyes. He nodded. "But--"

Darius stopped her by taking her hands in his and looking at her intently as he spoke. "You're a good woman Elinor," Oh no, Elinor thought. Here comes rejection. "and it's not right for people to be leaving you they way they are. That's why I'm still here. Don't you get it? I have no reason to be here, execpt for you. And also, where would I go? I've no family left, just like you. We're two of a kind, and it pays to stick together. Don't you see?"

No, Elinor did not see. She numbly shook her head. Darius leaned in closer to Elinor, and she found herself doing the same. Before she knew what was going on, she had closed her eyes and felt Darius' lips on hers. They were soft, yet strong. Like her Mother...Elinor found relief in them. Those lips that brought things to live had brought something back to life inside her. What was it? Love. Yes, that was it. The thing that she felt with Darius was love and nothing else. And it had taken him to bring it back.

The two of them backed off one another after a moment. Elinor opened her eyes to find that Darius had already gone back to cooking. "Darius..." she began. But Darius would not hear her. He sent her out of the kitchen, so Elinor glumly went back up to her library where she would think.


A/n

And there's my first chapter! Wonderful, isn't it? ;) Next chapter coming soon.