Summary: An exploration of the origins of Dark Link and his connection to the Twilight Invasion, with a healthy dose of sarcasm and Midna/Link. This closely follows the events of TP. COMPLETE and REVISED as of Jan. 2011; SEQUEL IN PROGRESS: Ad Hoc.

Disclaimer: I don't own them.

He left metal rattles in his wake; between his shield, sheath, and chain mail, she might have gone deaf during his wild galloping across the Field, on far-flung errands that kept him in the saddle for days at a time. Several times a week he called that poor horse and worked her into a frenzy as he raced around the provinces, in pursuit of shadows and mirrors and all sorts of other things. She felt terribly sorry for the animal, but Epona didn't mind. The unwaveringly loyal mare never hesitated to defend her master whenever Midna happened to ask how she was doing, specifically whenever said master was sound asleep and unable to worry Midna to wit's end. When he lay down for the night, she had a few hours of respite, often spending the time just watching him breathe and twitch and roll over. Peaceful actions. Sleepy actions.

A half smile quirked her lips. She hadn't seen him lie down since the poe battle in the Arbiter's Grounds, let alone take a nap. Suspiciously, he hadn't even bothered advancing through any more rooms. She might not have minded so much except for the fact that they had come to a standstill with absolutely nothing getting done. They didn't have unlimited amounts of time to spare sitting around a campfire and singing songs – or, in his case, staring unblinkingly into the flames – and being herself, she had very loudly pointed this out. But when he'd stopped speaking completely and taken to staring for hours at a time, his eyes hazy and unfocused and his face disturbingly pale, that loudness had turned into helpless concern. And now, the third day since setting up camp, he was still staring… only today, it seemed as though his eyelids were finally beginning to droop, and a tiny ray of hope blossomed in her chest.

"Link?" His gaze seemed bright enough, but he neither acknowledged her verbally nor physically. At the very least, he should have hummed, since he knew how much it unsettled her when he didn't make any sound at all. "Link. Link. LINK."

Eyes flicking to her, he seemed confused and surprised, as if he'd forgotten she was even there. In an instant, she flitted to his side, her hand reaching for his forehead, but he sluggishly jerked away. She traced the path his hand swept to the hilt of his sword. His shoulders were slumping again.

Quietly: "Why don't you get some sleep?"

He shook his head.

"I know you're tired. It's been four days, Link; your body can't take much more of this." She hovered over him angrily, her hands on her hips because he wouldn't let her any closer. "You don't have a fever, do you? Did something bite you? Din, but if you need a fairy, I will get you one, one way or an-" Her subtle drifting ended abruptly as she caught sight of neatly wrapped rations she'd tossed at him hours earlier, before she'd gone off to find water. "Why didn't you eat that?" she demanded, exasperated.

"No," he growled, wrapping the rations even tighter in a ratty cheesecloth. "Go away."

Disapproving, she crossed her arms over her chest. "I'm sick of this nonsense! I swear you're losing weight, and that gash is probably infected since you wouldn't let me-"

Suddenly he was leering at her, mocking her words. You think this is deliberate?

"What I mean, is that you didn't react as quickly as you usually do." His head ducked beneath that long hat of his, and she suddenly wanted to tear it from him because her translation of his stare had been entirely too accurate. "Don't you care?" she demanded. "Can't you realise that you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others? In case you haven't noticed, you're no use to Zelda if you're on the verge of exhaustion, and running pell-mell into battles. Just look at-"

Tucking his injured arm against his side, he moved farther away from her, not even bothering to risk a response. Deep inside, Midna felt something break.

"I'm sorry, Link. I know this is unbelievably difficult, and I know you're trying your best to help Zelda... a-and me." His gaze brushed hers, but he quickly abandoned his hope with her next words. "But please think about yourself. Why not just take a break? How about I get you up bright and early tomorrow morning; I can watch the fire, and I can set a barrier so you won't have to worry. Please."

He answered simply with "No," and she returned to her place at the far side of the fire, defeated temporarily but thinking hard, attempting to regroup. She'd be damned if she let him get the best of her now, when he clearly had no idea what was going on. The damn boy looked beyond sickly. They both knew it, Midna acutely so.

"Fine," she huffed. "Be that way, but we're seeing Renado tomorrow. No arguing." Link only nodded vaguely from his slumping position by the tree. When he collapsed at midday two days later, she almost thought wickedly that he deserved it.

"M-Midna... I-I..." His hands had been intertwined with the reins, but she could see them shaking from her perch beside the horse's shoulder; she had taken to hovering beside him in anticipation of a sudden something, whether it was an attack he couldn't handle, or an abrupt loss of consciousness. As his eyes began fluttering unevenly, Midna quickly realised with a thrill of terror that it would be the latter.

"Link, stop!" She grabbed his hands and tugged the horse to a halt, his head rolling over his shoulders and his skin cold and clammy to the touch. In an instant his body had gone slack and begun slipping out of the saddle; she gasped, hurriedly disentangling him from the bridle, and rushed to his other side in an attempt to prevent his fall. But despite her efforts he slid gracefully off the startled animal with a bodily thump and cacophonous clanging, a loud crack quickly following as his trapped ankle twisted in the stirrups. She could see birds circling overhead, the ones that dove and routinely knocked him down if Epona didn't move fast enough. Well, she thought wryly, they've certainly been beaten to it.

Gingerly she warped him to a nearby clearing, heart hammering painfully in her chest whenever she looked at his ashen face. So he had pushed himself to the point of exhaustion, and with a broken ankle for his trouble. A sprinkling of pink sparks meant that only fairy she'd found had done all she could for him. Definitely not a good sign, since his eyes didn't even twitch. Brushing her hand over his scorching forehead, she bit her lip anxiously at the dogged pallor, sensingsomething. She couldn't quite place it, but whatever it was seemed out of place, eerie, and it scared her. Goddesses, but what if he didn't wake up again?

The longer she sat there, cross-legged and nervous, she felt like giving him a good scolding as he laid there motionlessly, just breathing and existing quietly, but her pity held her back; she wasn't entirely sure if it could be attributed to his silence or dilapidated state, but it crept up on her anyway, steering her thoughts in the wrong direction. And that direction kept turning farther and farther south until the fear gnawed at the back of her throat, because his breathing continued to slow, growing steadily shallower until she could barely feel it graze her palm. Whatever out-of-place feeling had scared her earlier, it couldn't hold a candle to the terror she felt now. This couldn't be happening. He couldn't die here.

Her voice came as a whisper, but the sky had already turned to a sanguine dusk. "Link, please. Please don't leave me. Please. Oh goddesses-" They were gone in a blur of twilit pieces.