"Why are such sad days allowed to be so beautiful?" Malon watched a small flock of birds mingle with the cuckoos outside the window in the fading sunlight. She let out a small sigh and listened to the soft clucks and chirps of the birds. "Why didn't you come?"

"Malon, what's wrong with you girl?"

Malon lifted her head from the windowsill and turned to her father. "Oh, I'm sorry, nothing's wrong daddy. I'm just tired." She began making her way to the stairs on the other side of the room. "I think I just need to go to bed." She stepped up the first step nimbly and stopped. Her legs were unhappy with her. She had spent much of her day in the house sitting in her father's armchair. She was unused to lazy days, to the lack of physical labor. Her muscles were lax and almost cried out to her for movement.

"There's a reason he isn't here. He wouldn't not show up without a darn good reason."

Malon smiled wearily at her father. "I know daddy, I just need to go to bed."

"Should I wake you if he comes?" Talon stood at the foot of the stairs and looked up at his daughter with distress.

"Don't worry about me daddy, If he comes I'll see him at breakfast. I'm going to make your favorite tomorrow, Pancakes and eggs."

"Alright, you get some sleep now, I'll clean up dinner."

Malon kissed the top of her father's balding head. "Good night daddy, thank you for the day off."

"Good night, Happy birthday my girl." Malon forced herself up the stairs and into her room. She closed the door behind herself and leaned her back against it. She tipped her head back and contemplated the dark lantern that hung from the ceiling. Taking up a match, she reached up and lit the lantern and watched her small room come into focus. The glint of glass caught her eye and she reached over to her bedside table and took up a small wooden frame.

There he was, smiling at her again. She was fond of that warm, familiar smile and the man it was attached to. He came around often enough that she could remember his smile, but never attach to it. She stared at the picture for a moment before hurling it against the wall. She glared angrily at the glass as it fell, watching the light glint against the fresh edges. The pieces chimed as they fell on the wooden boards and the photo fluttered down slowly on top of them.

"What's wrong with you Malon?" she whispered to herself. "It's just a stupid birthday. Being a year older makes no difference, even if I am of age now." She knelt down and cleared the glass away from the fallen photo. She picked it up from the floor and tenderly folded back a dog-eared corner. "I just love your smile too much." She sighed and held the photo to her chest. Standing once more she made her way to her wardrobe and stood on her tiptoes. Using one hand, she searched the top till her fingertips connected with cloth. She seized it with her fingertips and pulled it down from the dusty hideaway. She blew the dust off his hat gently and smiled at it. The green cloth was soft and worn, fraying at the seams.

"I cant expect your view of me to change in a night. It's just a day, just like any other. Nothing special. " She looked up to her lantern again. "Why did I even light you if I'm just going to blow you out?" She unhooked the lantern and blew it out with a wavering breath. The light of the newly rising moon illuminated her room as she placed the lantern back. She set the photo back on her nightstand and fell onto her bed. She curled up on the covers and let her dress fall around her like a blanket. She cradled the hat close to her face and let the familiar scent wash over her. "Just a day." She whispered and lay her cheek down on the soft green cloth before falling into a restless sleep.

XxXxX

"I told you daddy, stop worrying about me! I'm fine." Malon shooed her father away with a laugh. Picking up her buckets she followed him out the door and turned on her way to the milking stalls.

"Yer just quiet today is all I'm sayin! Ye don't haf ter go waving pitchforks at me."

"Will you just leave it alone daddy? So what if he didn't show up. You said yourself he'll have a good reason." She swung the empty pails into the stall and edged her way in with one of the lazy heifers. "You don't think I'm acting funny, do you Maybell?" the cow hummed a low tone and swished her tail. "I didn't think so." Malon chuckled and busied herself with the milking.

"Nineteen years old, didn't I tell you to stop getting older on me Red?" Link took one of the buckets from her and they walked back to the storehouse. "You're coming of age … the young men will start beating down your door."

Malon blushed deeply and watched the ground as the walked. "Nobody wants to marry a farm girl. All the boys from the town want a society girl. They don't want to run a farm."

"I think it's a good life." Link commented, a wide smile on his face. "The animals, the work, the air. It's a good life. Those society girls demand so much, there is no pleasing them … no joy in life. I like this life."

"If only more men would think like you … then maybe I would have a chance to marry one day." Link looked at her with a deep expression before emptying his pail into one of the large canteens.

"Don't worry about the future Red, a birthday is just a day like any other. Besides, I'll always be here to take care of you."

Malon shook the memory from her head. "Why did I say that? A chance to marry …' Malon's brow knitted into an angry scowl. "Nobody wants to fall in love with a farm girl."

XxXxX

Talon lumbered away, a curious look on his face. Malon had shooed him away with pitchforks before, but always in a joke. Today she had pushed him away with terrible earnest. Sure, she laughed, but her eyes gave it away; she was troubled.

He looked ahead in time to bump headlong into Epona's side. He pulled himself back from the horse but his smile quickly faded. Link lay, unceremoniously draped over Epona's back, blood dripping from his fingertips. "Golly, my dear boy. I was hopin this wouldn't be your reason." Talon pulled Link onto his shoulder. "MAL! GET YER KIT! I NEED YER HELP!"

Malon rounded the corner of the carefully holding a pail of milk. "Did you drop the pitchfork on your foot again? I swear if OH GODDESS!" Malon dropped her pail and tore into the stables as the fresh milk flowed out and seeped into the soil. She took hold of her medical kit and ran back out to her father who was laying Link carefully in the grass. Malon knelt beside him and tore open his tunic, revealing several sickly gashes across his torso. "Nayru help him … " Malon busied herself with Link's chest as her father clapped his hands on the hero's cheeks.

"Come now, wake up boy. Ye gotta wake up if we're gonna help ya!" A groan escaped links lips and he coughed from deep in his chest.

"Link?" Malon looked to his face hopefully only to see pain twist his face into a grimace.

"Mal … Talon … I couldn't get away …"

"Quiet Link, tell us what did this too you." Malon crooned in her songlike voice. "I have to know what I'm treating."

"Wolfos." Link whispered. Malon cringed and turned her attention quickly back to her kit and began mixing herbs.

"What were ya doin around them things? Are ye crazy?"

Link closed his eyes and let out a choked chuckle. "No, I'm in love." Malon's eyes darted to his face as she washed gauze in an alcohol, deku sap, and mint blend. "I'm sorry Red, sorry I didn't make it."

"No, don't apologize. I'm just glad you're alive." Malon smiled weakly as she pressed the gauze onto the wounds. Link's breath caught in pain but he still smiled.

"My pocket …" Link made to reach into his pocket but Talon moved first, pulling a small blue bundle from his pocket. "White wolfos hair … turns into silver when you heat it …" Link motioned for Talon to give his daughter the parcel. Malon took it and let his father continue Link's treatment. Malon tipped the satchel and out of it, pouring like water, fell a silver necklace. It was made of four tiers, each adorned with small gems in a rainbow of reds and purples. Link smiled at her. "Happy birthday Malon, welcome to your new age."

"It's beautiful …"

"Like the girl I made it for." Malon draped the necklace around her neck and took link's hand. He squeezed it with surprising strength before drifting into a delirious sleep.

"Don't worry Hero, Daddy and I are taking care of you. I'll take care of you for the rest of our lives." She kissed his fevered forehead before helping her father tend his chest.

XxXxX

Link woke suddenly to the afternoon sun and was immediately uncomfortable. His chest was bound tightly with wet bandages and all the gear he was used to sleeping in was gone. He saw his gauntlets and hat laid out on the far table and his cape and tunic hanging in the open wardrobe. He found the Master Sword lying at his feet when Malon's red hair caught his eye. She crept into the room with a basin under one arm and a bag of medicines in the other. She smiled wearily at him and set her supplies on the bedside table before closing the curtains on the glaring sun.

"You haven't been very kind to the hat I made you." She said kindly and took up the tattered green cap. The owl emblem she had stamped on had long since faded away and the gold hemming was worn to bare thread. She walked over and placed it on his head tenderly. "Would you like me to make you a new one?" Link took hold of it and ran his fingers down the seam. Link opened his mouth to speak but Malon shushed him and put the hat back on his head. "Don't worry, I would love to make you a new one. I'll sew on the owl this time so it doesn't rub off."

She smiled wearily and patted his head gently. "Have you been awake long?" Link shook his head. "I didn't think you would be. You've been asleep for almost a full day." She took a hold of the sheet, pulled it down from his chest and began laboring over his bandages. It was only then that Link noticed the absence of her scarf. The yellow bandana she usually wore about her neck was replaced by the bright, delicate silver necklace he had labored so long over. It fell like rain over her chest and the stones winked at him as the sunlight played across them

"You like it …" he whispered in a tired voice.

Malon's lips curled into a small smile. " I love it … hold your breath now." Link did as he was told and Malon spread a pungent salve over the wounds. Link took the stinging pain in stride, his eyes never leaving her face. Malon smoothed the thick paste onto his chest and let the smell clear her nose and open her mind. She patted his chest and he exhaled deeply as she washed her hands in the basin.

Malon wiped her hands with a towel and began wrapping his chest with fresh white bandages. She worked for a long time without a sound until she had finished her bandaging. She reached down and took out a small sponge of red ink and a stamp. Inking it slowly she pressed the stamp down on one of the folds of the bandages, lifting it to reveal a small red owl. The guardian of Hyrule spread its wings wide, protecting it's charge and encouraging his swift recovery.

"The owl will always watch over you, as will we" Malon smiled and put away the stamp.

"Thank you."

"Link …" Malon began in a shy tone. "Do you really think I'm beautiful?"

"You," Link placed a hand on the back of her neck. "Are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen or known." He smiled broadly. "And I've seen goddesses." Malon couldn't help but laugh and Link seized the opportunity. He pushed down on her neck gently and captured her in a sweet kiss. Malon's eyes went wide before she fell into amazement. Link held her fast for a moment, kissing her hungrily as he often dreamed he would, before letting her go and smiling at her with his crystal eyes. Malon beamed back at him for a moment before her gaze averted to her hands, which she busied with her salve bottle.

"Can I confess something to you?" She paused as she set the bottle down next to the basin. "I have always wanted to be nineteen, ever since I was a little girl. I always wanted to have a man come to my door and confess he loved me. I dreamed it many a night and whenever I opened that door, I always found you. When I met you in town all those years ago, I always knew I wanted to fall in love with you." She paused. "I always wanted to be yours."

"Why did you never tell me?"

"Because you are a hero. Heros are not meant to fall in love with farm girls. Heros are meant to live in palaces, to be knights and to live happily ever after with the beautiful princess."

"I was a hero." Link's voice steadied and his strong hand wrapped around her knee. "But not any more. I'm a man who wants to live a normal life. A life in the sunshine with the sun herself at my side." Malon looked to him over her shoulder with weepy eyes. "And it is my hope, my dearest hope that we can make each other's dreams come true."

"But Hyrule loves you, what about the people?"

Link scowled. "There are only two people in this world I want to please, that is you and your father." He smiled at her and patted the open space next to him. "You look exhausted. Please, lie down." Malon obliged, her tired limbs happy to rest as she curled up next to Link, careful not to aggravate his chest as her head fell on his shoulder.

"Link?" Malon's voice was soft behind a yawn as he reached for the blanket at the far end of the bed.

"Yes?" He pulled the soft quilt about her and settled onto his back.

"Does this mean we're getting married?"

Link chuckled as she curled up against him. "Yeah Mal, we're getting married."

"Good, that means you …" she yawned again. "You get to stay."

And Link did stay. He married Malon the next month and took her name. Together they took over the duties of the ranch and let Talon rest in long earned retirement. The ranch prospered, as did the family. Malon gave birth to a boy and a girl, both who grew up with a love for the farm. The family was known far and wide for their fine milk and even more so for their happiness.