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The Ever Under

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Sometimes, she wakes to find a wolf in her bed.

Midna doesn't know how he does it. She keeps the shadow crystals locked away at all times, but she still opens her eyes to fur and the swish of his tail. To a wolf's whimpers before she can whisper away his nightmares.

Link says nothing in explanation. Just watches her with an impossibly blue gaze as she turns him back and presses a kiss to her cheek afterwards.

She's glad at first. So glad. So relieved. So happy.

She would've done it. She would've left him in his world while she was sealed in hers. She would've given him up, given up the feel of his skin and the sound of his voice. Given up a lifetime spent with the only man she's ever loved. One who loved and protected her when she was little more than an ugly imp.

She would've done it all but for the touch of a hand and eyes too blue to be real.

And then, her fate and his are sealed.

Midna expects him to grow pale as the days turn to weeks turn to months. For his glow to fade and wash away in the perpetual shadows. For his hair to darken and his eyes to dim. If anything though, he seems tanner now. Almost glowing golden in the soft light. Dazzling like the sun she remembers blazing high in the sky.

She expects her people to, if not hate him, fear him. A Light-worlder. A Hylian. Foreigner. Not the same. Different. Dangerous.

They love him. Absolutely. Completely. More than the children of his village. Love him almost as much as she does. Maybe even more.

Even the hardest of them, even the stoniest, warm after meeting him just once. After a few simple words, their frowns are smiles. Their curses are sincere laughter. The lot of them would bundle him up and keep him forever if he'd allow it.

Sometimes, Link doesn't even have to talk. He just gives that self-effacing smile, and they melt from ice to slush in his hands.

Midna doesn't know how he does it. What sort of spell he's cast. What sort of power he has to love everyone and anyone and have them love him back just as fiercely.

He's sunshine and light in a world of shadows. But there's a darkness inside of him that's perhaps too familiar and all the more intoxicating.

There's a wolf in the palace gardens. Romping. Running.

Children chase after him with squeals and shrieks of delight. They catch him with hugs. His teeth give nothing but painless, playful nips, and they nearly cry when they finally have to leave him.

She watches from a balcony as he spars with the captain of the guard afterwards. Link is shorter than him but faster. Stronger, too. It's a friendly fight, but she sees the wild gleam to his eyes all the way up here. His movements are graceful like a snowflake caught in the wind, but he's just as deadly as winter's bite. And his claws and fangs always strike true.

He defeats all the guards. Every last one of them. But she knows they'll be back tomorrow, eager for more.

Midna waits for him inside with only half an ear for her subordinates. Her seneschal all but demands to know when she'll finally make an honest man of Link, but it's hardly a new topic for discussion. She waves him away and is already rising when Link enters, and she gives a naughty smirk when the servant girls all blush as he approaches. They giggle behind their hands as he presses a kiss to her cheek. She's still smirking as she turns whip-fast and catches his mouth.

His lips scorch hers. So warm. Too warm.

Burning.

She waits for it. But it's yet to come.

Midna knows it will one day. She knows. She can't fight it. But she tries. She tries so hard to make him happy here. To make him welcome. Wanted.

He has his own room. He'd have an entire wing if he'd take it. But he always ends up in her bed. He can't sleep without her there. Can't relax enough to rest. And Midna will never admit to her dying day that she can't without him either.

He has closets full of everything from boots to tunics to silk robes. But what use does a wolf have for clothes, and what Link does wear is simple. Clean lines. Almost universally green.

He could have anything he wants. Anything at all. But when she asks, he just smiles and scoots closer until there's no space left between them.

There's banter and teasing. Playful. Easy. But she can't keep the edge from her voice. The sharp slice of fear for what's to come.

His hands have sword-callouses and probably always will. Her own are hardened from channeling magic, and he watches her cast with an intensity that should be frightening. If anything, it just comforts her. Shows that she still has his attention.

He tastes like sunshine, and even as a man, she can smell the undertone of fur. She's still taller than him, but he's catching up. He isn't a boy anymore. Not that he was much of one before.

Late, when it's as close to night as twilight ever gets and the children have long ago gone to sleep, it isn't a wolf in her bed. It's a man. Golden. Glowing. Eyes blue. Only for her.

He isn't so much a goat-herder now. But he is a wild thing. A wolf who isn't tamed and never will be. But gentle, so gentle unless threatened. Touch soft but firm. Leading. Guiding exactly where they both need to go.

He buries his head in her neck then, bites hard enough to draw blood, and breathes her in. Murmurs her name in half-growl and half-prayer.

Afterwards, when he sleeps and thinks she does too, Midna still holds on. Holds tighter and refuses to ever let go.

She's waiting for it. Waiting. And waiting. And anticipating.

Waiting.

For all his smiles to fade. For the gloom to settle in his mind and heart. For him to realize what a mistake he's made. For him to finally understand that there's no going back. That this eternal twilight is all he'll have now.

She'll lose him. As surely as if she'd left him behind, she'll lose him. He won't be Link then. He won't be hers. Just a thing of regrets and memories lost in the shadows.

And she can't stand it. Can't even handle thinking about it. Thinking that she's so happy he's here with her and not there with everyone else. Thinking that this is a dream that will end. That it can't ever last. That something and someone like him can never truly flourish in the twilight. That it'll slowly kill him as thoroughly and completely as if she'd stuck the blade in his heart herself.

And she can't lose him. She can't. She won't. But she will.

And…

And…

"Midna."

She opens her eyes to see him kneeling in front of her. The room is spinning. It's too hot. It's never supposed to be hot here, but now, it is. Her throat hurts like she's been screaming, and her eyes burn.

But his hands are tender on her face, and his thumb rubs over her cheek.

She doesn't want to ever give this up.

"Do you regret it?"

She says it before she can even begin to stop herself, and he knows what she means without explanation. He's never needed any before to understand her perfectly. To see straight through her skin and bones to the soul beneath.

He just looks at her then. His face is soft. So soft. Too soft.

"How can I?"

She stares at him. She wants to scream. She wants to cry. She just wants him to look at her and only her forever.

His eyes are blue, and they know too much. They're both joyful and far too sad.

"What would I've done with myself?" Link asks, and it sounds like a question he's wondered about before. "Gone back to Ordon? Gone back to being an ignorant farm boy that knew nothing of the world? Travelled around Hyrule, fighting all alone, until something finally got in a lucky hit?"

She thinks to say something, but every snappy comeback falls away. It's just him and her. Light on her skin. Shadows in his gaze.

"Colin, Ilia, Rusl… They wouldn't understand. They could never understand. What I saw. What I did," he continues then, and it's almost a whisper between them. "My scars would've frightened them. They weren't there when I got them. They don't know the story behind each one. What they mean. What they cost me." He glances away at the endless twilight above them, but his face is calm, peaceful even when he looks back. "They'd never understand why I look the same but they could barely recognize me. Why I like being a wolf more than a man. Why the sunlight hurt my eyes. Why I waited each day for twilight and breathed easier when it finally was."

Her mouth is dry. All her wit has failed her. The silence isn't deafening, but it should be. And when her voice returns, it's sharper than his sword. Sarcasm even more a shield than the one he used to carry.

"So you're saying what?" she questions almost harshly. "You think I'm worth more than seeing the sun and your old friends and living out a life in your own world?"

"Well… I do actually," he says, and his smile is sincere but with a wicked twist that she recognizes from the mirror. "This isn't a punishment. Being here. Being with you." His fingers are so golden against her pale skin. "It's what I wanted. What I chose. And I'm glad I did. My nightmares aren't about being here; they're about being there. Waking up and not having you beside me."

His smile grows at her flabbergasted expression, but it's not one that anybody from his other life would know. There's too much shadow and fang, too much wolf.

But it's all him.

Of all the people he's helped, of everyone he's saved, Midna still forgets that he saved her also. But she's finally starting to see that maybe she saved him, too. From a life of regrets. From playing pretend and trying to forget what's carved into his memories and mind. From the slow death of a hero no longer wanted or needed.

But she wants and needs him both, and he needs to be needed and loved and understood. And perhaps that's why this really is a happily ever after.

He kisses her then, and it isn't sunshine. Instead, he tastes like the promise of a thousand tomorrows and a thousand more after that. Like golden twilight and blue eyes and the scars on his body and in her soul. Like a wolf who loves an imp and a man who worships his queen.

Midna just laughs.

Sometimes, she wakes to find a wolf in her bed. She strokes his ears for a moment. Softly. Gently. Then, she slides her face and her fingers into his fur and drifts back to sleep.