A/N I hope I didn't forget anyone. Let me know if I did please!
Also, TRIGGER WARNING for a stupid parent being unsupportive of Sheik's trans identity. It gets a little rough for a moment. If you need someone to talk to, the previous chapter has a list of hotlines you can call in a bunch of countries. You are important and you are not alone, HEART!
STRONGLY SUGGESTED SOUNDTRACK: My Love by Sia
"I don't want to be here."
It was Thursday. Shadow had been in the hospital since Saturday, and had finally been moved out of the ICU. It meant he could have more visitors, which Ganondorf was glad about because that meant others he trusted could watch over Shadow for him. He was so exhausted he could barely think—and he needed to think!
"I want to be with Vio."
Shadow was picking at the plastic buttons on the side of his bed, absentmindedly.
"You can't," Ganondorf said, trying to be gentle. "You're alive. He's dead." That is probably the worst way I could have could put it.
Shadow glared at him. Not in a mean way. It was more determined. "I don't want to die, but I want to be with Vio. I feel like I owe it to him." He went back to picking at the buttons. "I feel like there's no other way to be with him."
"Vio gave his life so you could stand," Ganondorf said, reaching down to grab Shadow's hand. "Do you think he'd want you to die after all he went through to keep you alive?"
Shadow thought about Vio. Sure, he seemed different at the stadium. He'd heard of people getting a moment of clarity before they died, and maybe that's what happened for Vio, but the Vio he knew? "Yes. He's selfish. He'd want me to be with him no matter what." He averted his eyes.
Ganondorf sighed. "I know what you're doing."
"When you love someone, you do everything you can to make them happy, and when they die, like . . . Your mother died . . . Suddenly there's nothing you can do for them anymore, and it feels empty. You feel alone. You think, if only there was one thing, just one thing more I could do for them, just to feel like I'm a part of them again."
Shadow didn't respond immediately, but his face showed Ganondorf had hit a chord. He said, "Did you want to follow Mom?"
"Yes," his father answered softly.
"Why didn't you?"
His father smiled tightly. "You. I had to be alive for you."
Shadow thought about this. Who did he have here?
He wanted to be here for them. He didn't feel guilty for wanting to die to be with Vio, because wanting to be with Vio wasn't a bad thing, maybe dying to do it was, but he did feel more determined to live if he had people who needed him. People who liked having him around.
He didn't feel so desperate anymore.
The door opened—the acute care room was actually a private room, instead of paneled with glass walls, so Shadow didn't actually know who came in until a bouncy blond head dashed through and to his bed. "Shady!"
"Aryll!" he said with a sudden grin. "I was just thinking about you!"
Granny came in right after her. "Now remember what we talked about, Aryll—"
"Aryll knooooooow," she said, sighing loudly. "No big hug."
She looked so disappointed that Shadow laughed. He pushed himself up. "I can have a small hug." He held out his arm to her.
She shrank, just a little, looking worried.
"It's okay, princess."
Her mouth stretched in a tiny smile. She brought up a hand and cautiously, so cautiously he couldn't feel it, patted his chest. "Careful," she said.
"Yes." He wrapped his arm around Aryll and pulled her close, kissing her forehead.
"I almost forgot to tell her," Granny admitted. "I keep forgetting you're the only one she's able to hug. I wasn't sure she'd understand, but . . ."
"Nah, my little princess is the smartest, coolest girl in the whole world! Of COURSE she understands!"
Aryll gave him the biggest grin. She bounced away from him and to the backpack she'd thrown on the couch.
"How are you, dear?" Granny asked.
Shadow's face fell. "I'm missing his funeral."
Granny leaned over and kissed him on the head. "That's why we came to keep you company."
"I haven't heard from Blue or Red at all . . ."
"They need time, dear. They'll talk to you when they're ready, if they're ready."
"What do you mean?"
Granny glanced down before answering. "Losing someone that close can give you very strong, very chaotic emotions. Sometimes, those feelings never really go away. Isn't it true that many donor families remain anonymous?"
"Some of them can't imagine seeing someone who has a part of their lost loved one, even years later. It reminds them too much of what they've lost."
He just wanted to check on them, though, to see if they were okay . . . But Granny was right. It was an unusual circumstance that he knew where his donor heart came from. Most of the time, you didn't know that unless the donor family announced themselves.
That's what he wanted to know. If he hadn't figured it out, would Blue and Red and Green have wanted him to know? Or would it have been better for them to keep it a secret from him? They didn't have that choice now. Maybe they would have chosen to be anonymous. Maybe that's why they were silent.
Aryll bounced back over, breaking him out of his thoughts. She held a slim book out to him.
Shadow recognized it, he remembered reading it as a kid. It was about a group of kids who went around Hyrule capturing and taming every type of magical creature. Aryll stared at him, eyes bright.
"Do you want me to read to you?" Shadow asked.
Aryll nodded eagerly.
"Shadow," Granny whispered, "Are you . . .?"
"I'm good, I can read a book. I'd really like to read her a book. That sounds like the best idea ever." Somebody needed him. He remembered what his dad said. This would take his mind off Vio, and the others. Right?
Aryll jumped up and down excitedly.
Shadow carefully scooted over so Aryll could cuddle next to him. Granny helped by situating pillows around them so Shadow didn't have to use much of his own strength to stay sitting up. He put his arm around Aryll.
Aryll opened the book and held half of it to Shadow, who took it.
"A loooong time ago," Shadow began.
"A woooooong walaalaaaa," Aryll tried to repeat in his exact tone of voice.
He smiled. "In this very same land of Hyrule . . ."
The library conference room was dark. There wasn't anything planned today. Midna walked through the room. Malon had sneaked in here hours ago, to make it look like they weren't about to meet up.
At least, that's what Midna thought her message meant. It was in some kind of poetic code, about libraries and in the dark, and hiding.
"Malon?" she whispered.
A shadow in the corner shifted, and suddenly, there she was. Midna could barely see her in the soft light from the windowed doors. There were no other lights, no windows to the outside. Midna could just see the outline of her hair, framing her head.
"Hello, Twilight," came the gentle reply.
It was her.
Midna breathed a sigh of relief and embraced Malon, laying her head on Malon's shoulder. "I've missed you so much. It's been so hard."
"I missed you, too." Malon's voice was thick.
"They've been watching me like a hawk, I don't know what I'm going to do." She pulled away, then realized she couldn't see Malon anyway, and just embraced her again. "Everybody's waiting to see if I can fix the mirror."
"I thought the Triforce was suppressing your powers again? What do your people think about it?"
"The council's kept the Triforce secret. They don't want a war with Hyrule, or Lorule. They're keeping quiet for now."
"Isn't that dangerous?!"
Midna chuckled evilly. "We're Twili. We work best in the dark. And, Sheik says he'll help me get rid of the Triforce."
"Oh, that's good."
"How are you? Is your dad settling in?"
"Yeah." She could feel Malon smile, hear it in her voice. "Things are a lot better. Ingo can't yell at me anymore or make me work for him."
Midna's chin trembled, her eyes stinging. She tried to hold it in, but it got into her voice. "I guess you don't want to run away together to the Twilight Realm anymore, huh?"
"I wouldn't say that." Malon kissed her on the forehead. "I still wanna see your homeworld, alien. 'N my dad won't mind me being away. You're stuck with me, Twilight Princess."
Midna smiled. "G-good."
They held each other in the dark for as long as they dared, which, luckily, was a long time.
Vaati ran barefoot across the sand, a bundle of messages at his side. He burst into the hut just inside the palm trees. "MESSAGE FOR BELARI!" He handed off the message and received his tip—a very good tip!
Minish were generous.
He didn't let that stop him from working hard, though. He ran out of the hut and to his next destination.
When he'd first gone to Hyrule, it had been on Ezlo's dollar. This time, he'd have to earn his way himself, and he wouldn't make it back into the Academy. It was too expensive, but maybe Hyrule Castle High? Heck, he'd take Castle High as long as he was able to be in the same city as Shadow again. He counted his tip money as he ran, calculating the other tips he'd gotten in his head.
At this rate, he'd make it back to Hyrule in time for the new school year.
He put the money away in his belt pouch, and looked up at the sky with hope. He smiled, feeling happy for the first time in months . . .
I'm coming, Shadow. Wait for me!
Sheik held the phone to his ear.
He'd been calling for two hours now.
With every connection, he pleaded. He asked. He begged.
"This voice mailbox is full. Please try again later."
He lowered the phone, biting his lip.
His phone ringed. He gasped and looked at the screen. It said Dad. He answered it. "Dad?"
"I'm sorry, Dad. I'm sorry. It's my fault. Are you coming home soon?"
"Peanut, I don't know if I can come home right now. Did you need something?"
It took a second for Sheik to get his mouth to work. "Come home. I need you to come home."
"Honey, I'm in a meeting—"
"But you left, you left without saying goodbye—"
"—I can't deal with this—"
"—please, Dad, I'll be good for you, you can call me Zelda, and I'll dress like a girl, I promise I'll be good—"
"—I need to go—"
"—but Daddy, Daddy, please—"
Sheik stared at his phone.
Call ended. Was it me? Did I hang up on accident?
He dialed again.
Link and Nabooru walked hand in hand through the hospital hallways. Link walked gingerly, and Nabooru had a big backpack full of the Get Well cards that had been pouring in from school for him and Shadow.
"Sorry to make you carry that," Link said.
She grinned. "I don't mind! I'm used to carrying whole packs of magazines and papers. This isn't even half as heavy as one of those things."
"Touche." Link remembered helping her deliver one day. Paper that was held close together was heavy.
They reached Shadow's new hospital room and went in.
"Knock knock!" Link announced.
Shadow looked up from the book he was reading to Aryll and grinned. "Heyyyyy!"
They greeted each other and chatted, then Nabooru went over to chat with Granny and Ganondorf, and Link dumped the get well cards in Shadow's lap. Aryll giggled at the falling 'snow,' and Shadow began picking them up.
"Awwwww, everybody misses me."
"Yeah, most of the heartfelt ones are for you, haha," Link admitted. "I guess you're really popular or something."
"Well I AM in a band."
Yeah, and you saved the world. You and Vio. "There's one I really gotta show you, though."
Link sifted through until he found one that was rough around the edges, torn in a spot, and the inside had a bunch of smudges, like whoever had written in it had been in a busy place.
It was a homemade card with a makeshift skateboard drawn on in pen. Big graffiti letters spelled, "Get better, foo'!"
"Oh my gosh!" Shadow cried. "It's from my pals!"
"Yeah, Saria and the Triplets and Skull Kid made it for you."
Shadow gaped at him. "Skull Kid?! No way!" He opened the card. There was a curly message from Saria, three sharp messages from the triplets, and there, in the corner, was a choppy drawing of a skull. "Aw, man . . ." Now he was getting emotional.
"They're really hoping your heart is good enough that you can come back," Link explained. "They really miss skating with you."
"It's been months."
"They still talk about you. Every time I go there."
"Really?! Gosh, well I'd hate to let them down. I won't even know if I'll be able to for, like, even more months."
"They know. I kinda told them what was going on."
Shadow grinned and closed the card. "Thanks, bro."
"You got it."
Ganondorf left the hospital room to think, but he was too tired to think. What he needed was to go home and sleep in his own bed, but from the looks of those two Hylian Police Officers following him, that probably wouldn't be happening any time soon.
So he wandered the halls slowly, one foot in front of the others.
He only had too feet.
Holy sand I'm tired.
"Mr. Dragmire . . . Ganondorf."
He turned and found Mrs. Harkinian standing there, her brown hair half up, half down, her straight nose turned away from him as she hugged herself and glanced shyly at him sideways.
"Grizzelda," Ganondorf said warmly. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
She stepped a little closer. "I've been speaking to the council," she explained in a formal tone. "Due to," She glanced at Shadow's hospital room, "recent events, and the fact that you aided in the destruction of Demise, I've managed to get your trial suspended for six months. In the meantime, you'll be under house arrest, but you'll be able to help your son recover." Her face lost its formality. She looked down. "I'm sorry I couldn't do more."
"Th-that's—" He lunged forward and hugged her fiercely. "That's great! Thank you so much. Thank you so much." He let her go, but kept holding her elbows, looking intently into her eyes. "Thank you, Grizzelda."
She smiled tightly.
He still hadn't let go of her. "How is Sheik?"
She was surprised at the question, but responded, "He's desperately trying to connect with a father that won't speak to him and won't see him for who he truly is." She gave a bitter smile, closing her eyes as she turned her face to him.
Ganondorf could read many things. He could tell she was wishing for something, wishing her husband loved Sheik the way that Ganondorf loved Shadow. It pained her to see someone else's child loved more than her own, that someone else got what her child desperately needed, and there was nothing she could do.
Sheik's father was Johannes, not Ganondorf.
She pulled away from him gently and walked away without saying anything.
Ganondorf watched her go with mixed emotions. Sheik's identity was something he hadn't thought about. Perhaps she was wrong about him. If Shadow were in Sheik's shoes . . . How would he react?
And she didn't know. No one did. He sat down in the nearest chair, his strength slowly seeping out of his legs as he thought what kind of man he was. There was the man the world could see. About to go on trial for cruelty against humanity. Powerful, but cutthroat business man. Grade A father.
But in his mind, he knew he was someone else.
A violent husband.
A violent father.
He'd tried to be the best he could be, but he didn't feel he deserved any accolades.
The people he'd screwed over to get ahead in business.
Even though Krad turned out to be Demise, that Ganondorf hadn't recognized his sentience was telling.
Animal killer. Something his son was appalled by.
He was an angry, violent man, and he didn't regret anything he'd done to save Shadow. Not a single thing. But, he couldn't take Grizzelda's compliments, couldn't take her admiration, her wishes. She hadn't met his darker side, especially—
His mind went back to that time, ages ago, the Goddess party, when Shadow had his first heart attack. He remembered, clearly, taking Shadow's phone out of his pocket and rifling through his photos like a snoop, discovering Sheik and Zelda were the same person, that Johannes' daughter had a secret identity that she hid from the world.
Ganondorf had been the one to out him, and that was one place he felt regret. He'd sent the pictures to the press. The tabloids. Dangerous news outlets, not just the reputable ones. He'd destroyed Sheik's image, without a thought. Without a care. Because he was Hylian, because he was angry, because he wanted revenge on the Royal Family.
He'd ruined his son's best friend's life for his own satisfaction. He regretted it. It was strange to regret. There was no aim, no reasoning besides anger. It hadn't been for his son, it had been for himself, and it had hurt Sheik, and therefore hurt Shadow, and therefore himself. It had hurt everyone. What had he done?
No, he could not accept Grizzelda's admiration. He wouldn't dare.
Demise's words echoed in his head. "You used to serve me."
What kind of man am I?
He decided, he had a long time to figure it out, the rest of his life. In the meantime, he had a lot of catch up to do. He'd been a villain in a previous life. Had he? Or had he been just as confused as he was now?
What sort of man do I want to be?
A few moments later, it was Link's turn to come out and make Ganondorf question his existence.
At first Ganondorf thought he was just going to go use the bathroom, or go get food—knowing Link, it was probably food—but the boy came and stood in front of where he was sitting.
"Yes, Link?" Ganondorf asked calmly.
He had that look in his eye. The determined one. "Hi, sir."
"I had a question."
Link nodded, fiddling with his hoodie zipper. "Aryll's money's running out."
Ganondorf played dumb. "Aryll's money?"
"She had a beneficiary." He looked hard at Ganondorf. "But that money only gets us to summer, and that beneficiary isn't able to pay again next year."
Ganondorf stared into his hands. "How long have you known?"
Ganondorf was the beneficiary.
"When I worked for you that short time, after Shadow's first heart attack?" Link explained. "I found paper in your desk. It was the same paper as the letter from the beneficiary. I figured lots of people use that kind of paper, but . . ." He put his hands in his pockets and shrugged, keeping his shoulders up as he continued, a little bashfully. "You have a weird smell? And it's the same smell as that letter had."
Ganondorf smirked. He knew he shouldn't have done lab work that day, the smell had been all over his hands . . .
"So this summer," Link continued, relaxing his shoulders again, "I'm going to work two jobs. Or more. I don't know how many."
Ganondorf looked him squarely in the eye, impressed. "You're going to pay for your sister's care?" Admittedly, he was a little worried. Link should be focusing on studying and playing with his friends, not working himself to the bone to care for his sister.
Just another consequence of being Ganondorf, he supposed. He had to watch his own brother's children stress and go without.
Link nodded. "But I don't know much about money. I need you to help me."
Needed his help? Oh, my boy, I don't know if you want my advice. He resolved to not tell Link any of the dirtier tricks, but that would take thought. It came second nature to Ganondorf, but he wouldn't use Link like that. "I can help you with that."
Link grinned. "Thanks, Uncle G!" He made it a skip away before turning back, cheeks red. "Do you mind if I call you that?"
Ganondorf's own cheeks were red. "No, I don't mind." Weird ass name, but I don't give a shit! Ravio's kid wants to call me uncle fartface, let him!
Link's face split into a grin again, then he skipped back into Shadow's room excitedly.
For the first time in what seemed forever, Sheik, Link, and Shadow were alone together. They were crowded around and on Shadow's hospital bed, looking at memes and watching videos together.
"Whatcha looking at?" Shadow asked Sheik.
Sheik was smiling at his phone, scrolling through messages. "Oh, Groose keeps sending me Words of Affirmation. It's really sweet, honestly."
"Words of Affirmation?" Shadow repeated.
"Yeah." Sheik held his phone out for him to see. "Like, 'you're the bees knees,' and 'you can do ANYTHING you set your mind to,' that kind of thing. He's been doing it since—" He lost his voice for a moment, thinking of his dad. "Well, you know." He lowered his phone and sank into the bed sadly. Then blushed furiously. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make it about me!"
"Dude," Shadow said from his nest in the pillows. "Please do. I'm so sick of everything being about me."
Link leaned onto the rail from his side of the bed. "We're here for you no matter what, Sheik."
"Thanks, guys," Sheik scratched his head timidly. "Dang, we had a crazy year, huh?"
"You're telling me," Shadow replied, thinking about all the time he had left. Without Vio, and he felt a pang. He decided to focus on his friends. He had to. For Vio. "I have so many plans!"
Link smiled. "Me, too."
"Uh . . ." Sheik scrambled for something, and came up with nothing. "Guess I'd better catch up with that?"
"You better!" Link scolded.
They laughed together.
"We're totally being a band again," Shadow said. "And Sheik? We're playing your favorite Goddess Metal."
Sheik gasped. "Seriously?!"
"Heck yeah! I'm serious."
"I'm gonna take you both sailing on my boat," Link said. "Well . . . That'll be in a couple years, I guess."
"Dude, I can't believe you're building a BOAT!"
Link grinned stupidly. "What else, Shadow? What else are we gonna do?"
They made plans for the coming year, talking and laughing, until Nabooru came in with her school camera. Her latest article was about the three's recovery after saving the world, and they had all obliged to let her take their picture.
"Hi~" they answered in unison.
They all got situated around Shadow, who wasn't able to put his arms around their shoulders like he normally would, because it would pull at the wound in his chest, but he settled for putting it around their waists as Link and Sheik leaned into him.
Nabs put the camera to her face. "Say cheese for the paper!"
A/N That's it! That's the end! There will be a continuation of the story, it will take place six months later and be in an entirely different file, page, what do you call it? Rather than just continuing it here. I want this to kind of stand alone in case people want to end it here and so people aren't daunted by length more than they already are. This is a big story! There will still be a few more updates to this story to fill in those six months, and to direct readers to the new story, just so it's an easier transition between. With that said, the new story (and/or the "afterward" parts of this one) will update about once a month starting in January or February, keep a look out! I've been writing a chapter every week here, but I'd like to focus on other projects as well.
Check out JamieGlen on Wattpad. You can search for it and find it on the profiles on the right. The original version of this story is now titled For Once, Always, and my pen name is Jamie Glen. I've got a couple projects going and planned if you're interested in other stories written by me, including a rewrite of this story in a realistic, Earth world, with new and rewritten scenes (The first two chapters are about the same except for name changes, but after there's a bunch of changes, worth skimming at least if you ask me, BUT I AM THE AUTHOR)
I can't believe I finished this story! It's the first actually complete thing I've ever written.
I'm grateful to all of you for reading, and I really hope it helped you, or at least passed the time away.
Until the next story!