First: this story contains spoilersfor Inkspell. It is set at the end of chapter 71 and continues on slightly into 72, which all of you who have read the books know means another warning.

Second: Although I wrote most of it, I did not actually come up with the idea of this story. That was all DustfingerfangirlXD, who wrote the first four paragraphs and sent them to me (you'll notice the story is seperated there). Below the divider is my work, where I continued on from her stopping point.

Third: This is Dasta, but still conceivably canon. It fits in with the events of the books and is mostly just a study of how Dustfinger's thoughts may have looked at this point if he had been Dasta-inclined himself.

Foruth: Enjoy. Review. Etc.


His body may have been crying for Farid, but his soul was crying for someone else.

Someone with breath like peppermint leaves and a voice like a rasping cat's tongue. Someone whose white button-up shirt accented his perfectly toned chest and muscular arms. Someone whose strong hands had repeatedly pinned Dustfinger against various walls and tables to hold the gleaming blade of a knife to his throat.

Someone who had hated him to the nth degree.

Dustfinger glanced up when he heard the soft sound of Meggie's footsteps. She stood silently before him, her eyes welling with tears as she stared down at Farid's dead body.

-xxx-

He wanted to be angry at her, to hate her for not doing something to protect Farid – but the look in her eyes mirrored what must be in his own, he was sure, and Dustfinger couldn't do anything but turn his head away, slowly rising to his feet. He still held the boy in his arms, the limp frame dangling in all the wrong ways, and Meggie reached out to take his dangling, cooling hand.

They walked back like that, together, and everyone who saw them looked down in sympathy for their grief, not knowing that Dustfinger was grieving for the wrong one, thinking more of the murderer than the body he even now held closer to his chest.

Dustfinger should hate himself for this, but he couldn't. Couldn't even care anymore, not now – now that the two people who meant the most to him in this world or any other were gone. Farid had once been just an irritating tag-along, and Dustfinger liked to pretend that was still the case, or at least that they were no closer than master and apprentice. But everyone knew that was a lie, Dustfinger most of all, and he had lost a son today. Lost a son, his only son, at the hands of a terrible murderer who deserved the cruel death he had received.

A murderer who even now Dustfinger longed for; he had been doing so for near a decade, and it was almost force of habit. Dustfinger dreamed of those strong hands pinning him up against a wall with nothing held in them; imagined that purring voice whispering secret words in his ear, longed to taste that wicked mouth with his own. It didn't matter that Basta was evil, or his enemy, or even the man who murdered his son; Dustfinger had wanted him for so long.

Just wanted. He didn't like to consider it as anything more than that, because this was twisted enough already, by god. Here he was, gently laying down Farid on his own cloak in a remote corner of their mine haven, brushing his hand along the young man's handsome cheek to wipe it clean of soot, into his hair… And yet he was still wishing that Basta had survived, longing to run back to the battlefield and rescue the dead criminal from the fire that even now must be torching his body until nothing remained, none of those features that had so haunted Dustfinger for so long.

For a moment, back there, Dustfinger had been feeling the right emotions. He had felt a brief flash of killing rage, the sort of thing that motivated so many and that he had never been able to even comprehend before. But Silvertongue, or the Bluejay, had taken care of it before he could. And in the end, Dustfinger knew that even the rage he felt at the loss of Farid would not be enough for him. He could never kill Basta.

Dustfinger ignored everyone, sent them all away, but he kept Maggie near. It was only right that Farid have at least one person who was truly thinking only of him in this vigil. Dustfinger's own thoughts were in too much of a whirl, twisting back and forth between the two people he had lost, would never see again, couldn't save.

Until suddenly, a thought reached him, an old tale that probably had never and would never work. But Dustfinger had learned much of the power of words, and he had always trusted himself up to the spirits and elements of this world. He thought that if, perhaps, there was anyone that this would work for, it would be him.

He had no illusions about his skill; Dustfinger was the greatest fire-dancer currently alive, most likely the greatest ever. Roxane had told him the story so many years ago, and at the time they had laughed about that, joking that the White Women too would be enthralled by his skill. Then they had forgotten it in the way they forgot so many things in those young days, laughed and traveled on with the rest of the Strolling Players, lost in their love and youth. And yet the story had stuck with him, perhaps waiting for just this moment, waiting to be needed. Perhaps the White Women had been eagerly planning this day.

And if not, if he was just crazy, it wasn't like there was anything Dustfinger had to lose. So, throat choking up, he sent Meggie out of the room. Pretended to be brave and gave her his last words, his thoughts for a moment concentrated on Roxane, heart clenching.

Oh, Roxane – Dustfinger was not a good man. First a coward, then unfaithful – in his heart at least if not physically – and all this after abandoning her for so many years. She deserved much better than he, always had, but he loved her anyway… Just not enough. Dustfinger's heart didn't seem to care about what was right or what anyone deserved; it stubbornly chose people and clung to them no matter what was possible.

But now, now that stubborn quality would enable him to do this. Dustfinger was not brave and he did not look forward to what the White Women had in store for him, but Farid would live. Farid would live and Roxane would eventually forget him. Telling Meggie to remind her of his promise was his worst act of cowardice yet, shying away from saying goodbye. Dustfinger knew he would never manage to find his way back – Farid was not nearly as skilled as he, not yet. And there was no other way to retrieve someone once the White Women had them.

Dustfinger would have liked these thoughts to be the only ones in his mind as he prepared to summon the White Women. He would have loved to be noble in mind and deed just for once. But it was not to be, and even as he sacrificed himself for Farid, it was no sacrifice. Because Basta was waiting for him, and this had to be the best solution for everyone.

Even if Basta still hated him as he had always done. Dustfinger didn't care, he was too desperate and grief-stricken for that to matter. He would still be with the fire-wielder, still be able to see him as a figure of motion, made up of sharp dark eyes and stealthy panther-muscles under smooth skin – not as a half-melted corpse, already rotting into the ground.

This had to be the right thing. So Dustfinger closed his eyes, and whispered the words to summon the White Women. And as he did so, as he made the deal, he could feel Farid's return, could feel Basta waiting for him, as vicious and alive as ever, and he felt a moment of pure joy.

In his last living moment, Dustfinger scorched Roxane's name into the stone walls with live fire. But it was a gesture more of guilt than of love.