MoD/N: This isn't the collaboration I had mentioned to Mouse, Element Commander or Byoshi. It's kind of a funny story. Us being close friends, we trade unfinished pieces back and forth all the time. I was looking for inspiration when I came across this half-finished piece of Araceli's. I remembered that I seriously loved this story and reminded her "Hey, this is friggin increidble, why haven't you finished it?"

She asked me if I could finish it for her. I didn't expect this, but I couldn't turn down the idea. Therefore, I did, and she loved it. Now I'm posting it here.

Araceli came up with the idea and the beginning, up until the line "Now Snake Wasn't Sure What To Think," and I wrote the rest south of that. I cleared it with her and we decided to publish it.

Disclaimer: I own nothing, regret nothing and let them forget nothing.

On behalf of both of us, enjoy. :)

What do you do when you burn everything you come across?

You're left with tiny cities made of ashes, with hope sprinkled down to nothing but dust. Most dreams really do turn to dust.

And there's no "dreams come true" shit. You learn that as soon as you step foot into the real world, as soon as mommy and daddy aren't hugging you, kissing you 'round the cheek, making sure you wear your galoshes in the snow. The only question is why they don't prepare you for it sooner. Surely they know how shitty the real world is?

Nothing but tiny cities made of ashes made from all the bridges you burn into dust.

It's an empire you come to rule.

Snake knew this better than anyone, of course; even in moments like these, with some hot girl (he couldn't really remember her name right now) scaling him, he still knew it.

It still haunted him, and he still hated it.

The silence in the dark room was broken by short, panting breaths; after a while, though, Snake couldn't bear it any longer. He was ashamed of himself for making her believe that after so long he loved her. He'd never loved her. He didn't even want her for her pleasures, though a part of his brain said rather quietly that she was pretty good.

After what seemed like years, it had been long enough to call it quits, and now she lay beside him, curled into his chest. He stroked her blond hair easily, rhythmically; it was not a gesture of tenderness but one rather like pacing. It helped him think of just how he was going to say things to her.

He stirred after a bit, stretching his legs. He knew she wasn't asleep, and she looked up at him, a dim smile on her features. He ignored it.

"S…" Really? He'd forgotten her name right now? "Sim, sum, Samus. Samus." There. That was right. Now, just to say everything perfectly, so she wasn't offended, so –

"I don't like you."

A silence. The glint of her green eyes in the darkness as her faint brows furrowed. Indignation. Hurt. Shock.

Then she was staring at him; she'd rolled out of the bed in one movement, and was frowning at him from the end of it. Angry, shocked, and stung.


And instantly he grew furious right back. What? What? What wasn't he making clear? How could she say that? He was making it so damn obvious, it was a wonder it hadn't blinded her like a neon sign.

But then his voice spoke again before he could catch it. "You heard me." The tone was lazy, easy, nonchalant. Arrogant. Better than angry, he supposed, but still the words weren't the right ones. He didn't care if they hurt her or not. But the words weren't right, and that collected in his heart like all the skeletons in his closet.

And then she was yelling, bellowing at him, saying many things he didn't register. He didn't want to; he didn't care.

But then: "You're going to be lonely your entire life, Snake. Forever, you know that?"

When he looked back at her, she was fully clothed, some other items up in her arms, tears up in her eyes.

He found her gaze. "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

But instead of storming out, like he had hoped for, at the popular line, she just sighed.

"I know, Snake. I know. And that's the problem with it all."

Then she swept out the door, her long hair trailing behind her, and that was the last he saw of her.

Looked like he'd burned another bridge after all.

Time didn't flow by like water for Snake, the way most people thought. Most people think 'depressed' people just live in a meaningless current of disconnected events and sharp turns. But he didn't. He lived every day, just like anybody else. Sure, in retrospect, they just blended together, but isn't that the same for everybody? But that was hindsight, and hindsight is always a little different than when you're actually living it.

But Snake wasn't depressed. Depressed was a strong, serious word, and though Snake didn't have any problems with strong and serious, 'depressed' wasn't right. He didn't really have any strong and serious emotions.

He had never been comfortable with his feelings, no matter what they were. Whenever (it was rare, indeed, but it had happened) he encountered one of those moments where you feel almost obligated to lift your hands up and just be thankful, for life, for whatever, whether you were religious or not, he didn't like it. When he had grown close to somebody, he hated when they confessed deep secrets. He hated those moments where things grew philosophical or solemn, like when people start talking about their dream or their passion. He hated it. He didn't think he ever would be comfortable with any of those things.

So depressed is definitely the wrong word, he decided as he walked down the hallway of Duellator's Cras, the boarding house of the Smash tournament he (for some reason or another) found it fit to attend, disturbed by last night's events. It was time she knew, anyway, but as much as he tried to say "unaffected" it wasn't very persuasive.

God, what kind of an agent was he if he couldn't even convince himself?

"Snake! Snake!" a bright voice sliced cleanly into his thoughts as if they were butter. "Heya, Snake, guess what?"

The grim man was soon joined by the jumping Luigi, whom grinned up at him, at least a foot's worth of difference.

"Oh hear, Luigi; pray tell why I owe the pleasure of your company."

The green plumber must have ignored the sarcasm, because he simply smiled wider. "Have you heard? There's going to be a ball!"

The news dimly surprised Snake. The big guys in charge usually didn't throw anything exciting (for the other Smashers anyway) but when they did, they went all out. Great. Another sleepless night. But why would he care?

When he asked Luigi this, the Italian looked sheepish. "Well," he said, twiddling his thumbs, "I saw Samus looking rather glum the other day, hurrying out the front door. When I asked her what was wrong, she said she just needed some air. And, because you two are dating, I thought perhaps taking her would be a great picker-upper!"

Snake say anything, though he felt his stomach twist a little bit; it was the same type of knot he felt as he stared down the barrel of a gun.

Suddenly, uncharacteristically, Luigi's tone turned mischievous. "Besides, bud," he chuckled, nudging his side, earning a scowl, "everyone knows you somehow got the sexiest woman here. Might as well flaunt it!"

Snake raised a thick eyebrow.

"But," Luigi smirked, "I have to admit Zelda's looking pretty tasty recently. I don't know if you've ever seen her with her magic tricks and that sexy dress of hers, but holy damn, I would t—"

Snake had walked away from the monologue as soon as it had turned from his insatiable, green-eyed beauty. He didn't want to make things up with her, because what he'd said had been the truth. He just wanted her out of his head, and Luigi sure wasn't making things any better.

But when the soldier slept that night, it was Samus he dreamed of, holding her close to him while they danced gracefully. It was a silly, unrealistic dream; but then again, aren't all dreams that way? Isn't that the only thing that separates them from reality?

He thrust himself out of the dream, something he did easily. (Post-war dreams tend to keep you up pretty late at night, and eventually you learn to snap yourself out of them.) Simultaneously sweating and shivering, he growled and pushed himself out of bed. He needed to get out of this place, out of this room at the very least.

He slid effortlessly through the halls, fading into the shadows like one himself. It was his job to be invisible, and even here, he hadn't lost his skills. It wasn't really a skill anymore, anyway: it was a personality trait.

And he liked being invisible. There were less people to look at him.

Finally he was out of the front doors. Outside, the various places they were made to fight on were floating around him, totally and abruptly defying the laws of gravity and physics. A few places were built into the surrounding mountains, but most were suspended in thin air. It was ridiculous and incredible at the same time.

A light mist was falling, not enough to soak him, but enough to dampen him. Thunder crackled in the background, but it was behind him, like a ghost in a dreaming state. It had no effect on him, and he started off toward a cliff.

He settled himself on the edge, legs swinging into open air and balmy black skies; across from him was Hyrule Temple held improbably in the air, the storm swirling under it ominously. He loved watching it, knowing it wouldn't affect him. It was probably for show anyway.

He sighed loudly, dropping his head into his hands. How was long was he supposed to be here, anyway? Would he ever actually get out? His life felt like the tornado that was forming underneath the temple parallel to him, swirling downward and downward, with no chance of coming back up when it hit the ground. Soon as it was there, it would burst into ashes. Nothing but ashes.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?"

The voice hit him like a heat wave in the cold gale, and he startled, instantly crouched on the edge of the ravine, hand to his earpiece. His instincts had saved his life before, and he wasn't ignoring them now.

Then a quiet, feminine laugh. "Peace, soldier. I am a friend, far from a foe. I am not a stranger to you, though perhaps you don't believe it yet."

"I only trust myself, thank you."

"Is that your survival or your death, soldier?"

The question intrigued him, but he knew it was some trick. "Does it matter?"

"On the contrary," the voice said warmly, "I think it quite does." It moved around him. "But I can see you're not one to like these types of questions."

Then a silent shift in the darkness beside him. He felt rather than saw her sit beside him, still tensed.

"Relax, soldier. I am not your enemy. Relax, and clear your mind by watching the storm."

The obvious opposition in the statement confused him, but he sat back in his former position, legs over the side of the cliff, but brown eyes turned warily toward the woman.

Her voice, murmuring softly. "Quiet, soldier. Be at peace."

When he finally took to the storm again, he was abruptly shocked to see a pair of bare feet dangling over the rock, adding a whole new element to the surreality of it all. Maybe it was all happening inside his head.

"I've seen you before, you know. You're not quite who you think you are."

Yeah, it was definitely inside his head. "And how can you say that?" he retorted.

A smile was in her voice. "Why do you question what you like hearing?"

"Why do you speak in riddles?" He pulled at the headband around his hair irritatedly.

"A question for a question." A pause. "How about an answer for an answer?"

"I think I deserve more than a few answers. Everything you say is an inquiry."

Her laugh sounded like a river lapping gently, more beautiful and harmonious when it was warm in his ear. "This is true, I agree. A part of me wishes it wasn't, but, alas, 'tis how I am. I am who I am. But you, 'Snake'..." She said the codename like it was a curse, or a burden. "You are so much more. I can't try to tell you."

"Then who are you? And who are you to say that?" He wasn't agitated, just..intensely curious.

"I'm someone who has loved you for a while. I'm someone who wishes you the best. I'm someone who believes you're worth it. I'm someone who waves to you over the horizon, the sun turning me into a shadow, never to be seen. It may all seem crazy, but it's true, and it's real. I'm your friend, Snake."

The words halted him, hit him upside the head. How – who –

He began to turn his head, but something stopped him. Fate, a spell, her hand.

"Don't look at me just yet, Snake. Your eyes will betray you. How I long for you to see me, the real me...but no one ever has. I can't give up myself, my soul, for your simple curiosity."

It was a curious answer, drowning in sorrow. It nearly broke his heart to hear it.

He didn't know what to say, so he merely returned to studying the storm.

A bell-like sigh. "So why are you here, Snake? I have my guesses, my intuition, but a man's own words, especially when fought so hard for, are not to be replaced."

He smirked. "Is it you or me that's fought for my words?"

And he thought he'd thrown her off, but she responded perfectly on beat. "No person can ever say what another thinks."

"I suppose that when you burn every bridge you come across, you're left with nothing but smoke."

"A good answer, one that sounds made to fit my ears." The wind whistles around them, making her melodious voice sound far away and distant. And to his own surprise he hated that. "And what does the storm mean to you?"

He stared at it. "It means nothing. It has no reason or rhythm or rhyme or purpose. It reminds me of my life, in other words." He wanted to punish himself as soon as the angst-riddled words were out, but she didn't seem to care.

"Why did you burn all those bridges?"

He hesitated. This wasn't something he ever thought about, never mind actually finding a reason.

But the words once again just fell out of his mouth, like the rain around them. "Because I knew it was wrong to cross them."

"And why was it wrong?"

Again with the words. "I shouldn't have been near them in the first place. I know I'll end up destroying as soon as they're crossed, they're burnt. I suppose they also served their purpose. No reason to leave them hanging."

The rain was beating against his back now, heavy and cold. But the woman beside him didn't seem to care.

Her voice was wrapped with ribbons of longing and hope and despair, like a braided rope that swirled around his mind and held him in a death-grip. "Will you promise me something?"

A smooth, small hand was suddenly warm in his in all this freezing rain.

"Will you not burn my bridge?"

The answer was out before he could think about it. "Never."

She seemed satisfied, withdrawing her hand. Then he felt her stand, saw her tiny feet retract to the cliff. Then, his gaze was darker than before; he could feel her hands over his eyes. Her touch was soothing, gentle, friendly. Something he hadn't felt in a long time.

"Will you keep your eyes closed?"

"If you want me too."

He heard her breathing softly, felt as she descended closer to him. A wisp of something tickled his nose, then slight pressure was on his forehead. His eyes fell closed of their own accord as her gentle, downy lips were pressed to his skin, and he sighed contentedly.

He had never felt so serene.

Then his eyes snapped open – he had to know who she was. Who was this woman that randomly came to visit him, told him he was worth it?

He grabbed for her wrist – and was but wasn't surprised when he missed it. A quiet giggle, echoed around him, then the patter of tiny feet, like a rabbit, was sprung into the night as she danced away, sure he didn't know her secret.

But there was something she didn't know.

And that was that he'd seen a pair of technicolor eyes, beautiful and wise and haunting. He'd seen a pair of technicolor eyes staring back at him from those tiny cities made of ashes.

Now he wasn't sure what to think.

There was a small, tiny part of Snake that would, against the rest of his being, reject reality altogether. Not just to reject the interactions of those around him (although he dedicated a sizable chunk of his mind to doing that), but to completely deny the world exists and to create his own escape. Suicide was far from a considerable option for him; what a waste it would be to spend years surviving to the next day and then die at your own hand. It was simply that sometimes Snake was, he would admit, sometimes so desperate for an escape from the continuous days that he could swear wouldn't mind losing his sanity.

Now that… she happened, he was uncertain whether or not he had made that commitment. And he was uncertain how he should feel about that. It was a phenomenon of emotions that became such an unintelligible, intense blend that it broke the wave of anesthesia that seemed to envelop him constantly. He could only make out two clearly enough- fear and desire.

It was eating away at any logic that he possessed.

He couldn't move, couldn't possibly leave. Of course, he could if he wanted to, but he couldn't make himself want to. What if he did, and never saw her again? The idea was simply one he refused to accept right now. He wanted to see her again. He needed to see her again. He needed her. Damn it, he needed her. She made everything seem alright, clear. She brought him a bit of life, instead of just a being.

Subconsciously, he could feel himself shaking. He blamed it on the cold, but he knew he was lying to himself. He didn't even dare to distract himself; what if he forgot her? The memory was all he had right now and he refused to let it go. Her poetic words and how they flowed off her tongue and through the air in such a smooth, captivating voice; the sight of her feet dangling above endless chasms below them and the feel of her presence next to his; the feel of her hands on his eyes and her lips between his and the near magical calm and rightness that took over the world itself when it happened, and of course those stunning Technicolor eyes consisted of so many different, contrasting hues and atmospheres and emotions and beings, enough to contain the whole world within them.

She couldn't be real. She was so, so real. And he wanted her so bad it drove him crazy.

It was a good few hours of waiting before he decided to leave. He was soaked to the insides with rain, the only remnant of any proof that he had been there. He felt so, so cold and so, so miserable and somehow so sickeningly happy, even though he felt close to freezing and he was close to sneezing his insides through his nose. Even as disappointed he was that she hadn't come back, he still felt so ridiculously, illogically happy. He felt that lost, familiar feeling of wanting to throw his hands in the air and thank someone for her happening to him.

But he still wasn't sure if he liked that.

Life around Duellator's Cras just seemed vastly unfulfilling all of a sudden. Not that it was fulfilling before, but it wasn't unfulfilling. It straddled the line right before the un. Now, it just seemed meaningless. Winning meant a trophy. Damn the trophy. It meant fans. Damn the fans. It meant fame. Christ's sakes, damn the fame to hell. That was the last thing he wanted.

He had to wonder what he was thinking, signing up for this in the first place.

He stood in the hallway just outside of his room, realizing that he wasn't sure what exactly he wanted to do (go back outside, to the place she was before, and hope that she'd show up again.) He figured that, since he was pretty sure he had a cold now, that he could use some chicken soup or at least a cup of hot tea. He wasn't much of a tea person, but he had become accustomed to it. He knew Mei Ling, and to some extent Otacon, were both fond of it, but he could live with or without it.

He crept down the hallway quietly, since it was midnight and he was sure everyone else was asleep. He found himself counting every door he passed, remembering how she had said she had loved him from afar, that she knew him, that he knew her. She may have lived in this mansion herself. He tried to think over every woman he had met here. Definitely not Samus, that's for sure. He didn't think it was Zelda because it didn't seem like her voice. Certainly not Nana of the Ice Climbers, as she was merely fourteen years old with dreamy-eyed stares towards some of the other teenage boys who took residence here, or even just at the skies in general. Not Peach, as she was easily committed to Mario Segali, Luigi's brother. Lyn, the green-haired assist fighter, was almost logical, but also doubtful- they had barely crossed paths and her eyes weren't anything like hers. He couldn't logically think of another woman in the Cras, even with all the sticker trainers and maintenance assistants and workers around he had never had more than a fleeting glance at any of them and certainly none of them were her.

He tried not to think of it any further. But he hadn't stopped for thirty hours, and he certainly wasn't going to be able to now.

He made himself a cup of tea as soon as he got to the kitchen, not dawdling around. As soon as he was sure he was ready, he took a drink, not leaving the counter.

He found it hard to swallow. The tea tasted fine, but it tasted of memories, memories of Mei Ling and Otacon, the tea that he could often smell around them or was coerced to taste when they gave him a cup. It tasted of the calm before the storm, of old friends, of sweet memories and the smoke around another city of ash stranded by a broken bridge above an empty chasm of black.

He couldn't take another sip. He couldn't stay. Not even bothering to exchange his pajamas for actual clothes or his slippers for his boots, he quietly walked through the hallways, anxiously looking for an exit. When he found a door, he nearly leapt for it, opening it up and running outside, away from the mansion. He didn't fight the urge to head for the cliff that bore her presence before and would forever contain her memory. He nearly fell over himself sitting down on the edge as he did before.

He did nothing but sit there for a couple more hours, trying not to wait, trying not to expect her.

He wished she was here. It was driving him insane.

Eventually, he felt a wave of desperation and, trying to keep his breath calm, called out "Hey…" he didn't even know her name. "…you know who you are… I hope. You were… you were here, I mean… you were here. Are you still here?"

He paused for a few seconds' worth of silence before asking "Were you here before?"

He didn't expect anything except the silence he got in return.

The cold bit at him and he shuddered. "Look, I don't… I don't know where you are… if you're still around. I hope you are… I hope I didn't scare you away." A thought came to him when he uttered the last part, and it opened a pit in his chest that lead into a black hole. "I… I'm sorry. I shouldn't have looked when you asked me not to. I… I should have respected you. So, if that's the reason you haven't been back… I'm sorry. But…"

He shuddered again. He swore to himself it was the cold. "I want you to come back… please, if you can. Please, come back. I… I just need you… I just need to know if you're real…"

Staring into the sky, towards Hyrule Temple, his voice lowered to a whisper, one that was too scared, too nervous, to let anyone else know with a shout. "Are you… real?"

He could only hope.

Suddenly, he heard footsteps behind him. He wanted so bad to turn around, to see her, to know she was real, but he didn't want to violate her trust again. He didn't want to scare her away, to lose her. Not that easily

The voice he heard was not hers, and the footsteps were too uneven to be hers as well. He heard the voice that, female as it was and still familiar, was still not hers, but he knew whose it was.

"I don't think anyone's here," it stated. With an accent that simply sounded royal, he found it safe to turn around to look Princess Zelda of Hyrule looking back at him, dressed in a purple nightgown none too different from her normal dresses. She was a formidable figure all on her own, able to stand tall and courageously without wavering in the slightest despite whom she was facing. Her blue eyes pierced through him, compounding to the nerves he had of being caught shouting at the sky.

"I know…" he replied, scratching the back of his neck and trying not to sound too disappointed. "It's… it's quite complicated."

"I understand," she nodded briskly, standing a foot to his side, the space between them empty yet full of their kinetic energy. Snake nodded back before finding it common courtesy to ask "What brings you out here? I hope I didn't wake you."

"You're a mile away from the Cras," she pointed out. "Don't worry."

Snake just nodded again.


"Pardon?" As soon as the word left his mouth, he knew what she meant. The longing glint in her eyes, her hand on her chest, a bittersweet smile painted on her face, it portrayed emotions that Snake understood now more than ever, even though it wasn't home that he was longing for.

Her eyes didn't leave the temple as she replied "It's a funny thing. I'm glad to be here, as it is, but I'd just as much would rather be there. Not on the replica, of course, but in the true courts themselves. They're rather remarkable."

"I'd imagine," Snake replied, hoping that the conversation would take on the end of the Hylian Courts as opposed to one of homesickness.

"You'd be well off seeing them one day," she noted. "They're worth a visit, at least. Lovely…"

Snake noticed when she dropped her sentence and looked down further into the pit before shuddering herself, her brunette hair swerving into her face. It was a bit unsettling to see such a composed person look so close to toppling, and it didn't go unnoticed by him. He tried to act as if he didn't, though.

"I'll try and see what I can do." He doubted he actually would, and he knew she understood that.

She spoke again, standing tall as usual. "There are some exceptional places in this world, without a doubt. The replicas are good indicators, but they don't even begin to scratch the surface of what's out there. It's magnificent, truly."

Snake was ready to take her word as just another piece of dreamy philosophy he could brush off when a dream of his own hit him with a sharp gasp. It was of him and her, standing above the edge of space, exuberant and fulfilled. Of them lying in the shallow waters of the Fountain of Dreams, soaked to the skin but so warm with each other in their arms. Of them running through the Kongo Jungles together, free and active, hearts racing as they kept time with each other. These were fantasies and dreams that were far, far away from him for most of his life, so scant and so distant but now so powerful and real and possible. He only knew her for a few minutes and he wanted a hundred years and a hundred places more. The ground seemed unstable below him but he forced himself to keep steady in order not to alert the princess next to him.

He closed his eyes, worried that she might inquire what was going on with him, but she was mercifully quiet. It remained quiet between them for the remaining minutes before, in unspoken agreement, they turned around and walked back into the house.

Snake wasn't entirely sure what had happened, and still wasn't sure where he stood. He still wasn't sure if he was sane. When he turned to the hallway that would lead to his room, he whispered "Good night."

"Isn't it all crazy?" she responded disjointedly, barely interrupting him.

He just nodded, walking back to his room and only doing a quick double take as he realized that was the first question she had asked him that entire night.

He wondered what to think of that.

He didn't expect to find himself at the dance that evening, but he figured he could use a distraction from his own mind and thoughts. In a place where the lights were strobe and blinding and the music was so exuberant it was deafening, he figured everything could drown himself out.

Otherwise he wouldn't be caught dead at this; in fact he was astonished that anyone over the age of seventeen could be swept into this over-climactic assault on the senses. He wasn't sure what to wear, so he just put on a black polo and one of the few pairs of jeans he had that bore no stains or holes in them. Playing the part of the wallflower, he reclined against the wall behind the punch, watching everyone else go around. From here she could see Mario and Peach going at it in the center of the room, their moves so risqué he wondered if they had stumbled out of a nearby bedroom. In a twist of charming irony, Nana had found herself a dance partner in a finely tuxedoed Red, the Pokémon trainer, and the two of them were sweetly and awkwardly making their way around the edge of the room in a modest dance. He figured the girl deserved that much. Everyone else was having a good time as well, or at least it looked like they were.

To his left, about six feet down, he saw Zelda standing against the wall just as he was, donned in her usual purple Hylian dress, with an open back, a barely slit leg and a more open, netted bodice just above the breast with intricate design along the chest. He would admit that while she wasn't quite her she was quite attractive, although he wouldn't go for Luigi's choice word of 'tasty.' Zelda wasn't a tasty person; she was elegant and beautiful, not involvedly speaking.

Quietly, he made his way towards her form, arms crossed and a foot behind her pushing against the wall, looking none too caring. There wasn't quite a legible expression across her face except a smirk.

"Not your type of affair?" Snake asked.

"Certainly not the type of dance we usually hold," she responded, eye-pointing at Mario and Peach. Snake had to laugh, the feeling effortless, foreign and quite nice.

"Why aren't you out there?" He asked in an effort for conversation. "I thought I had heard that you and Link were official; at least that's what everyone was saying."

She scoffed. "Let them talk; hear nothing they say."

Snake grinned. "I like that," he admitted. "That's a very good mantra."

Zelda managed a chuckle, which rang like a Christmas bell with her light, chirpy voice. "I try."

Snake nodded, still smiling as he looked at the dance floor again. "Well, if you ever decide to join, I hear Luigi's interested," he informed her with just enough annoyance to portray that it was a bad idea.

"Huh. I'd love to hear how that went down."

"I believe the key word was 'tasty'."

She snorted. "Charming."

"My sentiments exactly," he laughed, feeling some odd level of vindication at her chagrin. He looked at the dancers of all sort again, looking for something he could point out for conversation.

He was surprised when Zelda tapped his shoulder, evidently beating him to it. "Your friend certainly got over me fast," she told him.

"Not surprised," Snake replied, tracing down where she was pointing. "He doesn't seem quite like the staying ki…" His words drifted off as he noticed his dance partner, and it really shouldn't have hurt, considering that Snake was the one who ended it, but it still did hurt to see Samus as the one in his arms. At the very least, he didn't recall telling Luigi that he had ended things with her, so there was that.

Zelda did pay attention this time to Snake's negative energy. "We should leave," she suggested, kindly not prying any further.

"Why did we even bother entering?" He nearly growled. Zelda just shrugged, taking the liberty to take his hand and say "Let's head outside."

"Just a second," he stopped her, still feeling heated. "I need to use the restroom."

"By all means."

He nodded his thanks and ducked into the nearest facility in question. He didn't even bother heading for a latrine, instead walking straight to the sink. He turned on the cold water and tried to process things.

He was certain things were empty for him here. He found that he wasn't angry at Luigi, or at least that wasn't what it was. He just didn't care for him anymore. That small, Luigi-sized spot that he had somewhere within his life just emptied out as if it was never there.

Another bridge burnt into another ash tower.

He splashed some of the water into his face, trying to cool himself down. All he could think of though was how he just didn't care anymore. He wanted to burn the bridge to the Cras down, make it so he could never traverse it again. It would make a metropolis of ash and he would watch it float away like dust in the wind. Just another buoy in an anasthesiac sea.

He'd try not to burn the bridge to Zelda, though. Lord knows he could use a friend, right?

Eventually, he simmered down into neutral, making his way out to the hallway again without bothering to wipe the water off his face, letting it drip off of his beard and onto his boots.

He found that Zelda was waiting for him, the tiniest tease of a smile on her face. Quietly, he was led through a nearby door, her footsteps even yet eager. A thing Snake noticed about Zelda was that she usually said most in her quieter moments than when she vocalized her words, something that was quite different from her.

He nearly stopped in surprise as he realized that he had nearly entirely forgotten about her the entire evening. It was the strangest thing, how he had successfully gotten a complete distraction from his thoughts on her, but now that he noticed the cliff before Hyrule Temple he realized that he certainly wasn't going to fade away anytime soon.

Zelda let his hand go with a slow release before taking a seat over the cliff, her legs dangling over. She tossed her hair dutifully over her shoulder, seemingly displeased as she sorted it out, an expression which was relieved when she was sure it was manageable again. Snake turned his eyes away and started to peer downward again, warding off any aches in his chest and trying not to worry about her and focused back in on Zelda. He noticed that their nuances were different, but similar in their own right, which he traced down to their femininity.

He felt odd, comparing the two together. He loved her, wasn't sure about Zelda. He didn't feel the crazy way he did about Zelda that he did her, but he liked her. Appreciated her, maybe. She certainly was a lot closer to him, a lot more real than the dream of her.

He wanted to let go right there, but he perished the thought vigorously. He promised her that he wouldn't burn that bridge, and he wouldn't burn it even if it killed him. What a frightening thought.

"You're thinking about someone." It wasn't a question. Zelda tapped him on the shoulder, waiting until he (somewhat reluctantly) faced her again. "You're looking for someone, too. The one you were shouting for early this morning when I found you here."

That was all it took, and he told her everything. The way she found him here a couple nights back, the way she spoke, the way she felt next to him, the way she told him she had loved him from afar, the way she closed his eyes and kissed him, how he had already fallen for her beyond all logic and of her remarkable technicolor eyes. She didn't say anything the entire time, just nodded and left him a few minutes' silence when he finished with a heavy sigh.

Eventually, he spoke up again, reaching out next to him. He was surprised to feel her hand under his, but didn't stop it, trying not to make anything of his racing, heated heartbeat. "I just…" he sighed. "I don't know. I spoke to her for a few minutes and now she's become the most important thing in my life. It's ridiculous."

She hesitated, awkwardly sitting on her words, before admitting "That's always been my romantic experience." Still looking at him, she asked, "Snake… isn't it crazy?"

He nodded, unsettled by her question and already jittering again. It was nice and warm out that night.
"But…" she hesitated again, suddenly grabbing his hand tighter. "Is it true? Is it real?"

Suddenly, Snake got it. He found himself turning away from her but not relinquishing his hold on her hand. He took a deep breath, gathering the courage for his next words.

"You have incredible eyes."

Her hand went cold beneath his, releasing its grip. Worried he alarmed her, he could only wait with heavy breath as he watched her react. She wore a look of relief, one of wonder, one of fire, one of anger, one of acceptance, one of happiness and one of love; one for each color of her true eyes.

She pressed a hand to her chest and closed her eyes, mumbling under her breath something he couldn't quite make out but had a feeling was Hylian in nature. Suddenly, something began to shift in her, with a thick sheet of sparks surrounding her being, making it near impossible to see her. It covered her completely, and Snake could only watch in awe for ten agonizingly long seconds before they disappeared, as if they never were there. Immediately, Snake stood to his feet, prepared for anything.
The first thing he saw was her eyes, as filled with color as he remembered them. He couldn't read anything on them, but he didn't care to. Before he could see anything else, he felt her pull him towards her in a swift, surprisingly strong move until his forehead touched hers.

"Certainly not the first time you've seen these, is it?" she hissed, digging her fingernails into his skin. It wasn't Zelda's voice this time, it was hers, and he was so glad to hear it, even if it was rough enough to skin an elephant.

"Look, I'm sorry," his voice cracked. "I shouldn't have, I admit that-"

"Shut up," she cut him off, her voice sharp and infected with something he barely was able to define as passion. Immediately she pulled him into her, taking his lips into hers ferociously to the point where he was almost too surprised to react. Soon enough, he began to do the same, clumsily following along and tasting sweet relief and satisfaction on her lips, which was enough for both of them.

It was nearly a minute before they stopped, out of breath but still inches away from each other. He still could barely see anything except her eyes, and if he looked just low enough, her lips, with a jagged grin spreading them apart to the point where they became thin.

"I'm very glad… to see you came back," she admitted, her voice still hushed and her breath still rushed. And Snake realized, even though he was highly confused, he felt the same.

"So," she continued. "Where to begin?"

"I'd like to see you," he told her, his voice steady and unflinching.

"You would, huh?" she replied, hands finding their way off his arm and, before he could pull apart, found their way into his shirt on his chest. "Are you sure you would like to see my true form, or do you prefer me as Zelda?"

"I want you to be real," he responded, his voice taking on heat.

"I thought I told you I was real," she countered.

"Then show me."

She sighed, her grin taking on a rather crooked form, but turned him away from the cliff before pushing him back. He nearly fell onto the ground but maintained a steady footing and looked up at her, taking a good look.

She was gorgeous; not in the way she was as Zelda, but in her own way. Her body was thin, making her look deceptively tall even though she had to drag him down for a kiss just a moment earlier. Her skin was light and nearly transparent, almost entirely covered by an unusual but beautiful jumpsuit, blue along the chest and arms and white along her stomach and her long legs, as well as matching gloves that displayed her thin, incredibly long fingers. A sewn, gray cap covered lacy, ash blond hair. This time, the ash was nice to see.

He brought his attention back to her face, directly to her eyes. She smiled again, this time portraying some warmth. "Now do you believe me, Snake?"

"I do," was all he said. "I still don't know your true name. Are you Zelda, still?"

"In some ways," she explained "and by my own intents, not quite."

"May I have my turn at receiving answers now?" he asked, settling on the ground near the cliff side. She bristled for a second, but admitted "It's only fair."

Snake gave her a comforting smile. "I won't tell a soul."

"You're the only one who needs to know."

He just nodded again.

She began, without having to wait for a question.

"I wanted… an escape, you see. It's the same as I spoke about being homesick. I wasn't quite unhappy with being myself as Zelda, but… it wasn't enough, it wasn't real enough. It didn't feel genuine anymore. The only thing I could think to do, Snake, was to put my magic to true use.

"Using an ancient spell I once learned, I was able to create a second identity for myself, whom you see here. It was a reckless idea, but I've only had a few of those throughout my life. I believe I owe myself that one.

"With this form, I was able to do things that as a princess I would not be able to do. Roam free and undisturbed, away from the rest of the world. You're the first person that I, in this form, I have ever talked to."

"Why me?" He broke his silence.

She was undeterred by his sudden interruption. "Because I love you," was all she said, without missing a beat.

He knew the answer, but was still surprised. "Why me?"

"There were reasons at first," she told him, looking at his hands. "By now, though, I've forgotten why I love you, in specific terms. I just know that, even though it's crazy, it's true and it's real. I love you, Snake, and I will for as long as you let me.

"So… will you?"

Without a moment's hesitation, he took her face in his hands and, with the ghost of a smile, kissed her once more for a few moments. He stopped, lips still against hers, and replied "Love you too."

She smiled against him.

He smiled back.

Sometimes, he figured, it was good to let a bridge stand tall.

Dreams don't come true. Only real life does.

And it's a bitch, just as they say it is. It can destroy you, but only if you let it. Life may shove you in the ditch, but in the end, you're the one burning those bridges. You're the one who has to stop burning them, and you're the one who has to build the new ones, or else you'll have nowhere to go.

You can't burn them all, because one of them can lead to the place you've been looking for.

MoD/N: What a trip this was to write it. I wrote with no boundaries and regrets, and with a passion I haven't experienced in what feels like ages. I'm incredibly glad to have been able to work on this with Araceli. Truly a kickass writer. ^_^

Thanks for reading!