Inkheart AU Idea
Imagine Inkheart AU where, when Meggie is still just a toddler, Capricorn comes to take Mo when Dustfinger is stopping by. There’s a fight and Mo ends up dying, and Dustfinger finds enough courage in himself to fend Capricorn off of this tiny, 3-4 year-old who doesn’t understand why her papa won’t blink or answer her. Then he takes Meggie and runs, doesn’t think twice or look back, not until he’s absolutely sure they’re out of the evil man’s clutches.
And then it settles in with Dustfinger that he has a toddler with him, her father had been slain (and Capricorn likely left the body), so people will be looking for Meggie and him, a man who’d be charged with a murder he didn’t commit. For a while, Dustfinger actually entertains the idea of taking her back, leaving her for the authorities of this strange, magic-less world to find. But then he sees she’s curled up with Gwin in the hay of the barn he’s hidden themselves in, her chubby little arms around the horned marten as she sleeps, and he thinks of his own daughters.
Dustfinger doesn’t take her back.
Dustfinger knows that they can never, ever stay in one place too long. He’d already only stayed in one place or another long enough to earn some money to eat and sleep at an inn for a night or two, mainly to eat. Now he can’t really stay even that long. Just enough to get food for them that can be eaten on the go.
But Meggie can’t survive like that very long, too young and feet too tender. So he learns to carry her, arms already strong from heavy lifting he does for extra coins and gaining more muscle with the child bouncing with each jaunty step he takes. And he works on the weak sewing he learned from Roxane and other Motley Folk back in his story, fixing tears and rips in her clothes, on his coat. He practices braiding on his own stringy mess, wanting it right the first time he braids her hair. When her clothes outgrow her or are too dirty and torn (whichever come first), he finds fresh ones for her whatever means necessary.
He nicks books here and there, using what limited spelling he knows to try and teach her to read and write, so when they’re in towns she can find her way to places if they get separated. (Meggie rarely leaves his arms or back or side, clutching his hand like a lifeline.) (Dustfinger learns with Meggie, but he never excels to the height she does, never reads to himself as fast as her, but aloud he can go like the wind.) Math is a subject that Dustfinger hasn’t ever really heard of, not past the basics of addition and subtraction with a dash of multiplication. Either way, he knows she needs this subject with others. In this world it’s required, so he takes little books on math and science and history with pencils for her to use. He explains how he can’t teach her, as much as he’d like to, and she understands.
At some point, Dustfinger begins to hope this child will be like her father (who she calls Papa, not Mo, too young to have called him anything else when he died), that she can talk the words off a page, and talk people into words. It’s a far flung hope, but Dustfinger is not yet ready to admit how much he cares for this girl, how he is willing to give up his story if it means protecting her, raising her unlike he got to with Brianna and Rosanna.
Meggie is a strong willed child, though aware of her limits unlike many others. She understands there are things they can’t and can do in a town. They can’t attract attention unless it’s through his fire-taming or her (weak) singing. But she wants to explore and look around, wants to be able to buy 100 books and have friends. She likes traveling, likes not having a set agenda and doing as she wishes (so long as it’s not dangerous), but friends and a constant supply of books are so enticing. Dustfinger never says she can’t, though it’s clear in her eyes those two things aren’t possible.
Meggie doesn’t completely comprehend this nomadic man, but she knows him better than she did if her father had lived and Dustfinger had never braided her hair when it began to pour rain, never tucked her into the hay with a blanket he took from a clothesline a town back. She knows he likes coffee with lots of cream and two lumps of sugar, but likes scalding tea better, just as she does. Meggie understands that, if not for him, she would be dead as her father or worse, Capricorn’s slave.
His story is one she knows inside and out, the ending tearing out her heart. He took the book from a store a few years back, wrapped heavily at the bottom of his back. It took a lot of cajoling for her to get Dustfinger to allow her to read it. Not ever will he allow her to talk about it, however, not wanting to know why she began sobbing each time she reached the book’s end, and could not look him in the eyes a week each time.
As much as he hated it, Dustfinger could guess what it was.
Then one evening, she is reading to Dustfinger, the story of a boy and a tomb and robbers, and suddenly the rooster in the loft has stopped shuffling and there is a heavy bomp made by the impact of a body on wood. Her book drops at the startle, and Dustfinger is up the ladder much quicker than her, prepared to attack whoever it is if they lose a threat to Meggie, to his da–
He stops the thought, jolting to a stop at the sight of the boy rubbing his head and looking about the barn. Meggie is right behind Dustfinger, still on the ladder and stunned by this strange occurrence.
Dustfinger is torn. He is excited, but he is also devastated. Meggie will never want to read aloud again if it could mean accidentally reading someone in or out of a book of any kind. This also means he could go home, to Roxane and his two daughters, still so young and naive like Meggie.
The boy is named Farid. Meggie offers to try returning him to his world, but he declines. He hated his life there, and prefers the company of a person who would save him and looks just as grungy as he feels. This ruffles her pretty blonde feathers and Dustfinger must separate them. To his dismay, he can already see the attraction.
A few months later, it is near midnight, Farid is practicing his fledgling fire as Meggie reads with a flashlight. Then she closes her book and looks to Dustfinger, and offers to read him back to his family with a glance at the bottom of his backpack.
Dustfinger merely smiles and says he has found the only family he needs.
Meggie cries and Dustfinger, used to his child’s emotions now, wraps an arm around her shoulders to pull her close.
And she plans to read them all into this world he misses so much.
First, she must read Capricorn and his men into a story he would hate, so they no longer have to run.
The Inkheart AU I was hinting at last night, @uruvielnumenesse.