Glimpses of the world seemed to flash in and out. The pain had come back and was stronger than before; that was the only thing that told him he was still alive. Often he heard screaming and shocked himself each time he finally realized it was coming from him.
Voices every so often would fill his head, but they melded together in such a muddled blur that he could make nothing of them. He must have been imagining the slow passage of time for surely he was dying and there was not enough blood in his body to have kept him alive for as long as it had, yet here he was. Somehow he was still alive. Serapis would have to be dead for that to be the case though; otherwise it would not make even the little sense it did.
He had mistaken his death before when Zelda had saved him. That had not been the real thing, although it would have if Serapis had been able to deal more damage. Time passed much too slowly when before it had seemed like a much quicker end, unless his perception of time was completely off.
Either way though, there was no chance for him to make it. Death was inevitable. He had been too badly broken for it not to be and Zelda was surely spent from earlier.
Eventually he became annoyed by the slow movement of time. The pain was not going away and as death escaped him, so did his chance of peace. When his eyes finally snapped open he shut them again, untrusting the brief image he had seen.
"Link?" Impa's familiar voice broke through his thoughts and he slowly opened his eyes again.
Bewilderment filled him at the sight of the older Sheikah woman leaning over the bed he rested on and she pressed a cold rag to his forehead.
"How are you feeling?" she asked him.
"Terrible," he barely croaked out, shocked at the meek sound of his voice.
"But alive," she added smiling.
Pillows propped up his sore back and he stared miserably at the sheet covering his body from chest down, wondering what state his legs were in. "How?" he asked.
"Zelda channeled what energy she could to you. It was just enough to keep you alive. My healing knowledge has helped you recover from there, though I've only been able to do so much…"
The hesitant way she said this concerned him, "How bad is it?"
She winced at his question. "Well, the wound in your side is healing up nicely, but your legs…That creature completely crushed the lower halves of both of them and I did what I could, but I'm not sure if you will be able to walk ever again. To add to the mess, Serapis's teeth got to them in the carry out of the final blow."
Link took this information with an outward calm, but inwardly his mind raced in a total panic at this. To never walk again would be pure torture for someone such as him, let alone anyone else. He breathed as deep as his tired lungs would let him and exhaled with the question, "Is there hope?"
"Well, that depends. Can you feel them now?" she asked.
"Yeah, they hurt," Link replied automatically.
She nodded, "Then there is still hope if the nerves haven't been damaged enough to cause paralysis. Only time will tell, but for now you'll be bed bound, though I have to admit that you've been a bit vocal about the pain."
Link blushed faintly at this comment and asked, "What happened to Serapis? I don't understand…if I was in his mouth, how did Zelda get me out?"
Impa shook her head, "She didn't have to. Whatever you did killed that monstrosity and totally vaporized his body."
Link's mouth dropped to hear this, but then another thought came to him, "And how's…Zelda?"
"She went comatose for a few days, but she eventually came out of it after enough rest. She's perfectly all right now."
"How long has it been?"
"Well…it's been two weeks since you defeated Serapis." She rolled the sheet up to his knees and he saw his legs wrapped tightly in bandages. "I was hoping you'd still be asleep. I was about to take the bandages off of your legs and there'll be plenty of movement…"
"I'll survive no matter how much it hurts," Link assured her, but his body was already filling with dread at the idea of more pain." Just…if you could hurry, I think that would be best."
"Of course," Impa said.
She signaled to a maid standing against the wall Link had not noticed before to come forward, and the girl braced her hands against the bend at the back of his knee as Impa gently eased his right leg up so she could unwrap his current bandages.
The pain burst through him with the press of fingers and when she started peeling away the bandage, he tightly gripped the sheets of his bed in an effort not to scream and embarrass himself further. Impa searched his face carefully as she efficiently, but gently, eased the bandage from his skin. Shock at the sickly purple color of his skin startled him enough to save himself from a few seconds of pain, but it did not last and he was forced to grit his teeth as well.
Ultimately Impa finished that leg and moved to the next after directing the maid to fluff the pillow that had been beneath it. The other leg proved just as excruciating as the first and Link was not able to release his tense grip. When Impa finished, she cautiously rolled the sheet back down over his shins and feet.
"This is going to be a long recovery, huh?" Link asked dejectedly when the pain had ebbed enough for him to regain his tongue.
"Yes, but where there is life there is hope. Have patience, be strong, and you'll be on your feet in no time," Impa said. "Now get some rest and I'll check up on you later."
Impa and the maid exited and Link was surprised to see Zelda enter in their stead. She looked awkward and out of place, but none the worse for wear. He had no idea how to approach her now after what she had done, though he was sure deep down she was still the same girl that had broken his heart so long ago.
Luckily, she was the one who took the first speaking initiative between them. "I'm glad you are ok," was all she said though.
"It's you I have to thank for that…" he said softly, totally unsure of himself.
"It wouldn't have been fair to leave you to die, not after what you'd done."
Link sensed a deeper reason but weariness swept over him and he found himself fading into a restful oblivion. As his eyes closed he thought he had seen Zelda smile at him, but his mind registered it as a dream and peace finally enveloped him.
Several months passed before Link regained the ability to walk. Though it was with the embarrassing use of a cane, at least he would not be an invalid for the rest of his life.
Impa had seemed pleased with his rate of recovery, but every waking step of the way had forced him to endure pure boredom. At least the living Serapis had saved him from that torture, but even in the creature's death, his hold on Link's life prevailed and Impa was certain he would remain with a limp. As it was though, that was definitely better than nothing.
According to Impa, Zelda had overextended the ability of her limited healing magic and could do no more. It would take too much time to depend on her ability anytime soon, so Link had accepted the slow, albeit miserable, healing process.
Restless and ready for action, Link planned to leave as soon as he was able. He felt he needed to get out into the world. Three days spent underground and all his time stuck in recovery had made him sick of being indoors. Sure his caretakers had allowed him passage into the castle's courtyard, but his heart and mind craved the open expanses of all the places outside his current domain. To ride Epona again soon was his ultimate short term goal.
He had to give it another week and a half before Impa had all but guaranteed his release so long as he promised to take extra precautions and care exceptionally well for himself. This meant no training or engaging in combat of any sort, plus he would have to be sure to eat plenty on a regular basis. Here at the castle he had eaten only under threats to extend his stay despite his loss of appetite.
Staggering through the courtyard towards the monument that had been set up in memory of Kitty, Kiani, Nodin, and Fay, Link was surprised when he heard another set of footsteps take residence behind his. He stopped upon reaching the site and turned around to see Zelda approaching him with eyes staring intently at the ground.
"Can I…talk to you for a minute, Link?" she asked him.
Link was even more surprised by this. Throughout the duration of his recovery time they had said very little to each other, so he had no idea what she could be wanting from him now. He nodded in consent though, that she should continue.
She slowly lifted her gaze to meet his and for whatever reason, she seemed nervous. "It's just that I heard you would be leaving soon and Link, I'm sorry about before. I hurt you and it was wrong of me.
Although the before had occurred what felt like forever ago, Link instantly knew to what she was referring. "Well, I forgive you if that is what you are looking for," he replied.
"My father plans to honor you as a hero before you leave, Link...It was meant to be a surprise, but…" she hesitated. "What I really wanted to tell you Link, was that…I love you."
Link moved his mouth to speak, but she hurriedly started talking again and did not give him the chance. "Please, just hear me out before you say anything. I've felt as though a piece of me were missing. Gone are the days of our love, and so it seems you took my happiness with you. If you would take me back, I would do my best to erase the bitter, snobby person I have become…We could try again. My father would deem you worthy as well; you'd never have to fear the coward in me again."
Link was stunned at this outpour of thought from her. It took him another moment to respond, but she waited patiently, watching him in earnest. Finally he said after much consideration of her proposal, "It is much harder to heal a broken heart, Zelda, and it is even harder to reverse change. To go back to our old ways seems impossible at this point. Maybe someday we can be together in such a relationship again, but not now."
She appeared disappointed by his answer, but not completely put out. "Then I will wait for that someday."
"No, Zelda. You must keep living your life, the one you intended after getting rid of me. I was able to let you go only recently, but I did it. Now it's your turn to do the same. Let the future bring what it may, but don't waste your life away waiting for slim possibilities," Link said. "Thank you for sharing your feelings with me. In this way you have allowed us a parting as friends, or so I hope."
Tears rose to her eyes at this and he pulled her into an awkward hug. He then released her and strode on by.
Filled with fresh determination at this, he felt ready to face anything that lay ahead. The Guardians had given him a life to live through the sacrifice of their own, and now Zelda no longer felt like an unsteady burden to bear on his heart.
The future was his to hold.
Welp, that was the end. I hope it wasn't a crummy one, but what do I know? Regardless, I'm excited to have this done because now I have posted the first chapter to my new Zelda fic Identity Crisis, so if anyone's interested, please check it out and that'd make me super happy. Thank you reviewers for all your support and I suppose to readers too…for reading it. : )