A/N Hey Sigzix!
I can explain, really. Pap turned down having a prizefic, and Jimbo had a giant prize, so I went for a fourth place prize. Seeing how much I loved your work, it was no problem for me to write something for you. You really did transform and define Meta Knight for me and I wanted to express that in return.
And you seem like a pretty big romantic, and word through the grapevine seems to say that you're looking for a gift to give. So why not oblige?
I hope you and yours enjoy this work! It was a bit tricky, but I think it worked!
I hope the head hopping and sort of interesting writing style doesn't throw you off! It sort of led that way for me, sort of what the story's calling was. ^^
Disclaimer: I own nothing, regret nothing and let them forget nothing.
"Is that you?"
Echoing throughout the dungeon were quick, soft footsteps whose sound betrays the strength of the runner. The sound is cut off by the opening of a cell door, and just like that, the cavalry bursts in like water from a dam.
She smiles at the sight of him. The reunion is awkward, with one of them chained to the wall, the other with a stolen key in hand. Nevertheless, she never thought it'd be one they would be granted.
She didn't know who was more scared out of the two of them.
"Are you alright?" The first words are drawn, the ink tinted with caution, sympathy and unfortunately empathy.
No response, just a smile.
"No need to gawk at me." The one with the key blushes, fidgeting nervously. Slaying the dragon was easy in comparison; why is this so hard?
"You didn't have to do this." Finally, a reply. Quickly adding, "not that I'm complaining."
"So that's what you have to say?" The reply is somewhat hurt. How could she not? How could she stay away?
Nonetheless the chains are gone with only the turn of a key. The rescued and rescuer join hands, neither of them quite certain this moment is happening. Neither could dare to dream of it.
Yet they did. He dreamed of it while chained to the wall, and she dreamed of it every night under the stars in whatever unforgiving land she had to pass through to find him.
When neither of their hands evaporate in the touch, when neither of them disappear into the air around them, they finally allow themselves to be satisfied.
And yet, they notice how each of them are bloody and bruised.
The rescued feels guilty. He was supposed to be her knight. This was to be a fate he never let her face. He had failed, and to make things worse he was on the opposite side of the room she admitted to being shackled to. Memories like these always wracked her with guilt, and he always insisted she not believe her own internal enemy.
Now, even with the battle being over, he is left with his.
"Did he hurt you?"
"No more than he has ever done before." Her reply is flippant, as if trying to deny the weight of the words.
He strokes her knuckles cautiously, feeling the weight of two worlds on his shoulders.
"You could have died."
Silence returns. She finally notices the setting. How could one have possibly managed their sanity in here for so long? So little light. It felt like the state of death itself.
She replies while averting her gaze. "If nothing, to prove that I'm not just trying to 'fill the void'."
He remembers his own words with guilt. His midnight hair falls over him as he sits wearily, so exhausted for one who had spent so much time motionless.
Weakness was a state he hated.
She notices him and leans down next to him. She almost feels guilty for her words, but they were words that needed to be said.
He's sweaty, bloody, and miserable.
She kisses him anyways, on the side of his face, barely avoiding a nasty gash. She felt a need to convince him that every moment was real, and that was okay... and, really, to convince herself of this as well.
He shudders. She fears that he may cry.
He's never cried before her.
Still not feeling like he is truly among the living still, he fumbles around, reaching for her hair. The strands, the familiar softness not lost through her stint as his one-woman-army, were enough to convince him of his miraculous survival.
The princess, ventured to save the knight from the dragon who ruined her once upon a time. Simply incredible.
He was expressionless outside; too exhausted to emote, too used to hiding it. Inside, he beamed with pride and an overwhelming sense of love.
And the amazing thing was, she loved him too. They said she could never love again, yet he could feel her blood, sweat and tears against his skin right now in the shadow of death.
Almost magically, he was alive again.
Blazing through his mind so fast they disappeared were the words he could never secure a hold of to tell her. He never knew what to make of his own thoughts, much less his heart.
He settles with, "Thank you."
"Always for you," she replies in a quiet voice that could still light a fire strong enough to light the room brighter than the stars.
Were they anywhere else, no force on Earth could keep their hands off of each other, damn the blood, bruises, tears and torn clothes. However, the situation found them in this gruesome imprisonment, and even if it were a peaceful meadow his instincts told him that safety was a far cry away.
"How will we get back?" he asks, suddenly all business.
"We'll find a way. He used to always have a way." The conjuring of his memory is always sensitive, even when it is uttered in a matter-of-fact manner. After all, he died doing what she lived through. This she found to be an injustice never quite atoned for.
She hopes she started today.
Funny thing was that the man before was far from her mind. The man she held now was all she could think of.
In retrospect, she realizes the parallels between her journey and the one that always led her savior to her cage door.
That terrifies her more than it makes her proud. She knows how her parallel ended. She can't forget.
She hopes with every ounce in her being, with the few droplets of malicious blood on her body and spilled onto her clothes, that the dragon is truly dead. She hopes Bowser never will return for him.
She just wants to be happy again. She just wants her knight to be safe. To be around to hold, to rest in the comfort of his resilience, to listen to her, to be near her, to keep ignited that passion she had once thought was lost forever. There's so much more to be had between them. She doesn't want to lose another moment.
She hopes he'll believe her when she says that.
She stands up, gingerly pulling him with her. "Let's go, Meta. We won't make it home staying here."
"You're home," he murmurs somewhere within her hair, and certainly not all business.
"I'm flattered," she giggles, her blood temperature rising, "but I hate it here. I know you may be exhausted, but the coast isn't clear. You should know that."
Slowly, he removes himself from her and nods firmly. His eyes are aglow and the very air around him tells her that he's looking at a sight unlike any he's ever seen.
That would be something. Drenched in sweat, skin flushed with heat, blood and scars scattered, and still, he finds her beautiful. Funny how he transformed from one so guarded with his emotions to someone who can't hide them from her, no matter how hard he tries.
Maybe she could read him better than everyone else. Old fashioned romantics like him are one in a million, and something she always longed for.
Always the knight, he is.
She lifts him from the ground, knowing that as tired as she is, she can never match the exhaustion of one who had so long resigned themselves to death, as it was one she knew too well.
"Don't," he protests. "You've done so much."
"It's okay. I understand."
He remembers, with a frown, that she does. He hates that she ever had to. Their love was born out of the tragedy of death, and death always seems to try and finish the job.
They've put up a hell of a fight.
Reluctantly, he lets her take him in her arms.
She honestly feels a million times better carrying his weight than she would walking alone. It reminds her that he's alive, and for that matter, so is she.
They leave the deathly hallows of the dragon's castle and all that he stood for. They try their hardest not to imagine the explicit possibilities of a returning fight. They both fail.
He realizes how close he was to losing her, and realizes that she risked her life because she couldn't stand to lose him.
Shivering again in the burning wastelands, devoid of life, he kisses her just below her neck as she marches forth, the weary carrying the weary.
She smiles, the heat of her blood reaching a fever pitch. He can feel her pulse speed up, and he smiles too.
It is not until she's marched tirelessly towards the return of light in the sky that she asks him. The way she asks him is almost fearful, as if she doesn't want to bring up but can't avoid the question.
"Do you think he'd be proud of me?"
Meta sighs, but not with frustration like before. He's finally assured that he is no longer competing with a dead man. The fact that he never was leaves him with guilt for such misplaced faith and envy.
It turns out that the departed Mario Segali had brought both of them unnecessary guilt and undeserved grief, yet at the same time unwarranted and underestimated courage.
"I think he would," Meta replies confidently, albeit quietly.
She smiles. He can feel it again.
She sits down in the faded grass. It's more life than he's seen in weeks. He falls into it, feeling the chill, fresh air flow across his skin, and finally, he's free, and so is she.
She lies next to him. She would love nothing more than to take him into her arms and kiss him until she ceased to think. But she was so tired, and so was he. She simply breathed next to him, silently rejoicing in the sky that, even whilst being unremarkable, was a miracle to both of them.
It was a return to life.
His breathing was heavy with exhaustion, and soon enough he leaned into her, asleep yet alive.
It was more than she ever dared to dream of.
Peach knew, and wondered if he knew, that even if the princess slew the dragon to save the knight, both of them left the castle that day having been rescued.