This is my first try at the Inkheart fandom. I think Cornelia Funke is a truly amazing writer (and her translator is awesome too) and this is AU, given that Dustfinger and Resa probably didn't go beyond friendship, except maybe in Dustfinger's thoughts. But their romance has always intrigued me, so...


They are both broken and alone, and maybe that is why they draw together, their agony tasting sweet on each other's lips, their pain shared and given in doubles and halves, and though their thoughts are still filled with honour and loyalty and I'm sorry, Mo, I don't want this, Roxane, but in the end all that matters is the other.

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The first time they meet, he is battered and betrayed and bitter, and she is afraid and abandoned and angry. Their pain permeates the air, the wounded scent of blood and ointment, and they share one cold look before turning away. They find each other curled behind the shed that lies a corner round from the dog pens, drowning in their own misery. He'd tried to salvage one more copy of that book- that accursed book, that is one point they agree on- she'd tried to run, again, foolishly and bravely and desperately, and they both know that retribution is near.

The dim light of the lamp glistens on her fair hair, one bright halo in the damp darkness of the spring night, and he watches her in spite of himself, his lips softly forming the name of one he loves and misses. The dark hair of the beautiful minstrel girl and the gold tresses of the strange woman before him mingle in his imagination, but he stops thinking of that with a swift chide to himself. Her eyes are alight as she looks up, the lantern burning in her face, illuminating her features. And the words written on her forehead.

Hesitantly, he takes in the words- words he cannot fathom, of course, but still...she is from a book. Is it possible?

"You're..." She startles visibly at his voice, rough and low, but settles herself and looks at him questioningly. "You're from a book? Inkheart?" Her face pales, an oval moon. The shadow eats it as she turns away. She nods.

"Who were you, there?" Eagerness begins to show itself in his tone. "Did you know a minstrel woman, beautiful and with two children?" She frowns a little, and shakes her head, raising a hand to her lips.

"You...can't speak? That's what Darius did to you?"

A nod.

He thinks, contemplating the idea as his hand runs unconsciously over the scars on his face. "Could you-"

A strangled gasp cuts him off. She reaches out, wonder in her face, and timidly lets her hand rest a few inches from his face- from the scars. Dustfinger, she mouths. Fire-Dancer? The tales told of him back in the Inkworld! The gossip, the stories, the Motley Folk that sing with equal laughter and sorrow of their lost friend, the one who the fire loved, who could write anything in flames, whose fiery magic was unlike anything seen before...Dustfinger.

She remembers the story of his scars, too. The beautiful girl and the jealous rival...Dustfinger. He was practically a legend, and now he sits before her, dusty and shattered and as hurt as she is.

There is a puzzled twist to his mouth now as he completes his question. "Help me, teach me... the letters?" Her lips part slightly- a habit she simply cannot get rid of- then, doubtfully, she nods. Digging deep into her pocket, she retrieves a broken pencil, and she carefully scrawls a word on her hand, before lifting it for his inspection. Man. He nods, and repeats it. She thinks, then adds another. Song.

Something dark flickers in his eyes, and she lets her hand fall, silent before his grief. Then, tentatively, she writes yet another word and lifts it to the light.

.

They find each other in the darkest places, their hands pressed through bars, around handcuffs. Their passion is tainted by guilt and anger, and the knowledge of how quickly they would abandon each other, should they be offered what they once had.

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One day, when he's reasonably competent with the alphabet and most sounds, she asks him to read the words she bears on her face. He hesitates, sounds them out carefully in his head, spends a strangely long time on them. She assumes it is because he doesn't want to get this wrong.

"A passage about the Shadow," he tells her finally, slowly, as if the words are reluctant to leave his throat. "I do not want to read it aloud." She nods, accepting this, and they go about their work and their love, and they do not speak about it again.

He does not tell her that the name written on her brow is his.

.

"Resa," he says softly, and he tries to forget that he knows another who speaks her name with even more love, and he does not think of the girl he saw, who looks so much like her.

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"...like ashes in the wind."

Resa clings to the bar, shaking. She has never seen that black fury on Mo's face before, and her memories of him are of the gentle, loving man and father who kissed Meggie goodnight and hugged her with such tender passion.

And Meggie.

Oh, Meggie.

The darkness of the cell, the coldness of the stone, the pain of the knife. It all falls away at the sight of her daughter's face- her daughter, who she hasn't seen for ten years. Who has grown up without her. Fathered and mothered by her husband...tears of joy and grief blur her vision, the sweetly sorrowful glimpse of her little girl.

But Meggie is a tall, pale wisp of a girl, smoke in her eyes and gold in her hair, still a girl who cannot bring herself to kill. Her husband, and her daughter.

Ten years. A family.

That night, she watches from under her eyelids and through Mo's forearms as her silently takes the book, and she does not call for him, for did they not know that this day would come?

The tears that dry on her face the next morning are, she tells herself, for the years she has lost, not the years she has gained.

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Two years and a few reads later, he finds her in the darkness of another cell, and he writes her name in fiery letters on the wall, to make up for all the times he wanted to whisper it under his breath. She is unnoticed and he is invisible, and once more they make a pair.

"I told Mo everything," she says, but they look into each other's eyes and they know she didn't.

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They're happy, they really are. He does love Roxane, and she does love Mo, and they both love their children- so much.

But for ten years it was Brianna and Roxane, Meggie and Mo, and they don't fit into that. The family pictures. The pains and joys of growing up. The silent tears, the lone sleepers in beds made for two. There is no going back.

They cannot remake the past, and they cannot change the future, not now.

The fire dances with him, and the bird flies with her. They love in the solace of flames and flight, and maybe this is all for the better. And the memories and the darkness and the salt of blood and tears on another's lips are put aside, because they sleep by someone else at night and their kisses are for another.

Outside the window, at night, the moonlight sometimes sets the swift's wings on fire, but that is all fate will ever grant them.

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It takes more than ten years for dust to settle.


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