On the Nature of Shadow and its Effects on the Histories and Oral Traditions of Hyrule (and Surrounding Territories)
Chapter 1. First, Erroneous, Impressions of a Shadow
"I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see."
Slowly…slowly…a centimeter at a time, Shad moved his face closer to the wall. When he was so close that it was easier to focus on the gold frames of his glasses then the details of the stone, he pursed his lips and blew.
A cloud of dust flew into his face and he squinted his eyes a second too late. He stumbled backward, cursing under his breath. Why did he always forget to close his eyes?
But he blinked the tears away and focused back on the wall. He'd cleaned away decades of dirt and grime. He'd spent hours carefully chipping away, trying to determine what was stone and what was caked dirt. And he'd done a damn good job of it, if he did say so himself.
The carving was legible now, centuries-old writing detailing the story of…something. Damn, damn and blast! This wasn't sky writing! This was Old Hylian. Shad could read it, in that he knew how the symbols were supposed to be pronounced, but he'd never quite mastered the syntax. Or the phrasing. Or the…any of it. It's was a dead language for Din's sake!
Then again, so was the sky language. Until him. And his father.
Shad glared at the wall out of sheer spite, then sighed and started picking up his tools. There was nothing he could do now. The vast network of geeks and losers that kept dead languages and forgotten skills from ever truly dying had always been willing to help him in the past. After all, he was one of them. One of their poster boys, in fact. It was a rare breed of man that would devote his teen years to learning the language and history of a race that most people assumed had never existed in the first place. And looked like mutant cuccos.
Not that Shad would ever admit to agreeing with that statement.
Most men Shad's age were too busy ogling girls and trying to escape their parents' thumbs to learn anything other than the basic skills that would keep them alive. The first had never been a problem for Shad (he gave a bitter laugh at that thought) and the second…well…
Damn, now he was all depressed.
Back to Castle Town, he reminded himself. Talk to Sokra. If the old man couldn't translate Old Hylian he would certainly know someone who could. It would also be a good opportunity to visit with Telma. She'd been in a rut lately. She wasn't alone in that.
It had been three years since the invasion of forces from the Twilight Realm. All the buildings had been repaired. All the lost had been mourned. The country had completely recovered, but those few who had found a purpose in the invasion…found themselves trying to reclaim a life they'd never liked much to begin with.
Not that Shad regretted anything. He called himself "the dream chaser," and he meant it. But the dream wasn't a dream any more. It was real. Solid. He could grasp it in his hand any time he wanted. Link had even offered to go with him, make introductions. He said he'd written to the young Oocca called Junior, and that he and his mother would both welcome him with open…wings.
And yet here Shad was, feet planted firmly on the ground. That ground happened to be in the cavern where Link and Shad had found the Sky Cannon, but it was ground nonetheless. What was the point of continuing to research the history of a people, when he could go visit the people and learn all about their present?
Shad realized he had been squatting on the ground staring at a brush for some time now.
He was going mad.
He jammed the brush into the pouch on his belt and stood up, stretching and popping his back. It was still early afternoon, if the shadows were any indication, and if he left now he could reach Castle Town by-
Something flickered in the corner of his eye.
Shad jerked his head around, staring at the deep shadows at the back of the room. There was nothing there, nothing that shouldn't have been.
Warily, he turned back to the cavern to check for anything forgotten. Sure enough, his book was sitting on a stone a few yards away. "There's always something…" Shad muttered to himself.
That was the book his father had written, containing all the information on the people of the sky, their language, their culture, their technology. Shad had been raised on that book.
Which probably explained a lot about him.
It happened quickly. Shad bent over, picked up the book, stuck it in his belt, and when he turned around there was a man standing in front of him. Not so close that his personal space was invaded, but close enough that there was no way he could have gotten there while Shad's back was turned.
It didn't help that the man had red glowing eyes.
And small fangs, one of which was poking over his lower lip.
And he looked exactly like Link, painted in shades of gray.
"Hullo," the man said with a slight smile.
No…no that wasn't quite right. He didn't look exactly like Link. He looked as though he had used Link as a template, but not an exact guideline. He had glossy black hair and dusky skin, which combined with the slanted cats-eyes gave him an exotic appearance. His clothes looked just like Link's old green outfit, which he hadn't worn in years, but it was all black and gray. The man looked like…
He looked like…
Half a dozen stories and legends flooded into Shad's mind. He stumbled backward, groping behind him for something – anything – that could be used as a weapon. The man, the shadow, frowned slightly and took a step forward.
"Hey now, don't freak out," he said. He sounded like a teenager, even though he looked at least twenty. It seemed like an affront to nature that something that all the stories said was an embodiment of evil should have a voice like Link's metaphorical kid brother.
"Stay back." Shad's hand failed to grasp anything but empty air, so he dug into one of his belt pouches and produced a metal pick. It was too small and too blunt to be threatening, but Ashei had taught him that anything could be deadly if you stabbed it into the right place.
"I just want to talk." The shadow smiled, showing off those sharp white fangs.
Shad laughed, half-hysterically, and switched the direction he was backing up in. The shadow was walking toward him, holding out his hands in what Shad would realize later was supposed to be a pacifying gesture. At the moment though, every memory of the invasion was playing in his mind. The monsters, the screams, the fire, the way he could never quite seem to shake that fear of the dark…
It was happening again, it was all happening again! The darkness, the fear, it was back. And there was no one around, no one to help. No one…
The shadow was walking toward him, and talking. Or at least his mouth was moving. Full dusky lips, somewhat on the feminine side, especially when paired with those dark-lashed eyes, moving around glimpses of red tongue and ivory teeth, probably forming words. There was a pounding in Shad's ears and all he could hear were the sounds of arrows whistling past, swords clashing with swords, cannon fire, screaming, quiet sobbing. His sense of hearing had fled to the past, and if he wasn't careful his mind would too. This wasn't three years ago, this wasn't the invasion. He didn't know what this was, but the shadow wasn't attacking…he was talking.
Still, Shad couldn't make himself focus on the words. Something about "another," and "repayment." He shook his head and took a few more steps back, crying out in surprise when his shoulder blades hit stone.
The shadow was suddenly there, so close Shad could have stabbed him without even trying. But the shock froze him, and the shadow grabbed both his wrists and pressed them up against the wall near his head.
"Now will you listen?" the shadow shouted. Apparently he'd been growing frustrated while Shad had been panicking.
"Let me go!" Shad exclaimed, his voice reaching a most undignified octave.
"Not yet, not until you hear me out." The shadow started talking again, the same stuff as before, but Shad didn't want to hear it. He was being pinned to a wall. A more stereotypical situation he could not imagine.
"Let me go," he said again. "I don't care what you want, I won't do it!"
The shadow looked startled, but loosened his grip. "I'm not going to force you. It's just that you're freaking out and I don't have a lot of time."
"So do it yourself, whatever it is!"
"I'm going to repay you; you've got no reason to refuse!"
"How about because you are pinning me to a wall!" Shad tried to jerk the hand with the pick free, but the shadow pressed him back further, even going so far as to slip a knee in between his legs to keep him off balance.
"All right," the shadow muttered, half to himself. "Since the first impression is shot anyway."
Slowly and deliberately, so that Shad figured out well ahead of time what he was trying to do, the shadow moved closer. He pressed his chest against Shad's, tilting his face and leaning down until Shad could feel his breath.
And then those full lips brushed his own.
Shad realized he was holding his breath. It was all so…surreal. Not ten minutes ago he had been excavating a wall, now he was pressed up against that wall being kissed by another man.
A very good-looking man, a part of Shad's mind reminded him.
That was beside the point! He hadn't even asked Shad's permission before-
But he had moved so slowly, Shad could have turned his head at any time.
That- Well- He was in shock! Yes. This wasn't even a real man anyway, this was a shadow. And he'd copied Link of all people. Shad appreciated Link's looks from a purely aesthetic standpoint, but they were friends! Shad was very careful to never think of his friends in that way.
Not that the shadow looked exactly like Link. There were enough differences in the face and the coloring, that it was really more like kissing Link's brother.
Not that Shad was enjoying this, no sir.
Although the shadow certainly seemed to know what he was doing. Just a little bit of pressure, increasing and decreasing as he slowly moved his lips. Shad felt a flicker of tongue, teasing, then immediately withdrawing.
Bloody hell, when had he closed his eyes?
Ten minutes ago, the world had made sense.
The shadow's hands weren't even holding onto him anymore, just sort of resting on his wrists. His hands had sagged to almost shoulder level, and the pick was in serious danger of being dropped.
Why was the shadow even doing this? He mention something about…buggerall, Shad hadn't been listening. Repayment? Another…something. Someone he needed to find? And Shad… He'd said he needed Shad for...
Okay, seriously, this wasn't fair. Why would a shadow know how to kiss this well?
The tongue was back, probing beyond his lips. Instinctively Shad opened his mouth, even tilting his head for easier access. His thoughts had officially gone to happy-pink-cloud land, and the only thing he was aware of was how very very good it felt to do this. This was the first kiss he'd taken part in where neither of the people involved were either feigning interest or drunk.
So he kissed back, enthusiastically even. He was distantly aware of the pick being gone from his hand, but was quick to replace it with the shadow's shoulder. The shadow's own hands were resting on Shad's waist, high enough to be chaste but low enough that they could easily slip lower. The only part of Shad's brain that was still functioning noted that it would not mind at all if those hands did move down.
And then his tongue found its way into the shadow's mouth, and came in contact with a fang.
The panic came flooding back. He grabbed double handfuls of the shadow's tunic and shoved him back, as hard as he could.
"What-" the shadow began, then shut his mouth as Shad took a swing at him. "Hey!"
Shad dropped down to one knee and scrabbled in the dirt for the little pick. He wound up with a handful of rocks, but chucking them at the shadow bought him more time. Finally his hand closed around the pick, the sharp end.
He sucked in a breath through his teeth, but switched the pick to his other hands and started backing up toward the door, half-crouched.
"You're crazy," the shadow said flatly.
"Don't come any closer." Shad tried to sound menacing and dangerous, but the flat look the shadow was giving him seemed to imply he'd failed.
"Believe me, I don't want to. I mean, they tell you about eccentric geniuses, but come on!"
Shad fought the urge to preen at the word "genius." This! Was! A! Monster! Why did he keep forgetting that?
"I'm leaving," Shad said. "I'm going away and I'm going to get others. So you just tell whoever you're working for-"
"Were you listening to me at all?" the shadow asked. He shook his head. "Never mind, stupid question."
Shad kept backing up. "I don't care. I don't care why you're here, or what you want, but if you come near me again… If you try to hurt me, or my friends, or any bloody person, I will- I'll- You'll regret it!" Of all times to remember he couldn't fight worth a damn. It wasn't as though people hadn't tried to teach him, he just didn't seem to have the proper mindset for it.
The shadow just kept on shaking his head. "I did this exactly wrong, didn't I? I am not going to hurt you, okay? I'm not going to hurt anyone. Not if I can help it anyway."
"Not if we don't fight back, right?" Shad shrieked. Shrieked. Buggerall.
"No! Look, I-" the shadow took a step forward and Shad skittered backward.
The shadow stopped and held his hands up. "Okay. Fine. I'm not moving. You go on ahead."
"Don't follow me…" Shad waved the pick, knowing as he did it how stupid he must look.
"I won't," the shadow said.
Shad glanced behind him, located the entrance, and then bolted like a scared rabbit. And as he scrambled toward the ladder leading up to the town meeting area, he thought he heard the shadow add, "I won't have to."
He practically flew up the ladder.
When Luda came into the room a few minutes later to see what all the fuss was about, she found half the torches extinguished and Shad clinging to the owl statue like a life preserver.
Shad took a breath and tried again. "Where's your father?"
"In the kitchen. What happened?"
"I…I'm not sure." He pried his arms off the statue and stared at it for a bit. When there was no sign of movement he let go and took a few steps back. Watched for a little more.
"Shad?" Luda drew his name out into three syllables. "What happened?"
"I was…" Attacked? Confronted? Molested? Sedu- No, no, no way. Not even going to think that one.
"There's a monster down there," he said instead. "A shadow that's taken the form of a hero, just like in the stories."
Luda's eyes went wide. "A- a monster? But they're supposed to be gone! We're supposed to be safe!"
"I know, I know! Come on," he finally managed to turn away from the statue. "Let's get your father. And some bombs."
It was late when Shad got back to Castle Town. He'd hitched a ride with the daily cart that passed between the Malo Marts, giving noncommittal responses to the driver's questions. It was only natural that people would be curious about why Renado armed himself and staged an attack on his own basement.
Of course, it hadn't been a real attack. There was nothing down there, except a dropped pencil and piles of dust. No sign of a shadow. No sign of anything amiss.
Renado hadn't doubted Shad's story, of course; he wasn't that kind of man. But he'd suggested Shad go home and lay low for a while, and certainly tell Link what happened. It was a good idea. Renado always had good ideas.
Somehow, it just made Shad feel worse.
His brain had completely shut down at some point, and he couldn't think of a single reason for why he'd acted the way he did. Was he that traumatized by the invasion? Was it just the profound wrongness of a monster that looked like a friend?
And that kiss…
No! No no no no. Bad Shad. So what if it was the best kiss he'd had in…ever. It was a monster kissing him, a monster who could very well be working for- He didn't even want to think it. There was precedent, after all. But the idea of all that happening again, after they'd only recently recovered from the last time…
Link could probably handle it. He didn't seem traumatized by anything. He was a fairly straightforward person, so his actions during the invasion hadn't really been heroic in his mind. Bad things were happening, so he should do whatever he could to stop it. And yes, Shad's own thoughts had followed approximately the same pattern at the time, but Link had done so much more. Shad hadn't even taken up a sword! He'd just…looked at statues. Read from a book. What had he really done?
Stormed the castle.
Okay, yes, there was that. He'd charged into a battlefield and fought monsters. But he hadn't been alone, he'd been surrounded by his friends, all of whom were stronger then he was. And he hadn't really been much help then…although he'd held his own.
No one had to look out for him; that was something to be proud of.
Castle Town never slept. There were always shops open, always people in the streets. It was an hour past sunset when the cart rattled up to the city gates and prepared to unload. Shad climbed down from his seat and bid the driver goodbye, then wandered into the city.
He intended to go home. He was sure of that. He was planning in his head what he was going to do when he got there, trying to remember if he had any food in the apartment. But somehow his feet didn't get the message, and before he knew it they were treading the familiar steps down to Telma's Bar.
It was completely normal, of course, for a bar to be open at this hour, though Telma didn't have a set opening and closing time. If asked she said, "When I'm good and ready." There was a crowd inside, the usual suspects for the most part. The postman was off by himself in his favorite corner, and locals were gathered around the tables. The bar itself was empty, which was also typical, since Telma liked to keep it clear for people who needed to talk. Bartenders traditionally offered advice to people trying to drink their problems away, and Telma had turned this into an art form.
Shad took a seat at the end of the bar, carefully placing his book off to the side so there was plenty of space in front of him.
"Hey honey, when did you get back to town?" Telma greeted him, that warm welcoming smile on her face.
"Just now," Shad admitted. "I…I came straight here."
"Uh-oh." Telma recognized the signs. "You okay?"
"I'm not hurt, if that's what you mean." He looked at Telma, his expression more pleading then he meant it to be. "Can you just give me the strongest stuff you've got that doesn't taste like machine oil?"
"Now, honey, you know I don't approve of drinking to forget."
"I don't want to drink so I can forget," Shad said, not realizing it was true until the words passed from his mouth. "I want to drink so I can cry."
Woo man! Can't believe I got that done so fast. Er, anyway.
You're probably wondering what the hell is going on here. And I don't blame you. First of all, well, I don't want to give too much away but you've probably already guessed that this fic will contain some boy-on-boy action…and in fact already does. If you've read my other work (especially my unfinished masterpiece "The Weekly Hyrule News") you will already know how I think. I'm weird. Very very weird. And what's the best way for a fanfiction writer to express weirdness among a group that is already considered weird by civilized humanity?
By creating a crackpairing, of course!
Shad and Dark Link, affectionately nicknamed SHARK by one of my friends (you don't have to spell it in all caps but I think it's funnier that way). I invented this pairing. ME. No one else. Okay, maybe someone in Japan with the tried-and-true "names from a hat" method of pairing, but no one else has put as much thought into it. Mostly it was because of The Weekly Hyrule News. I'm just about wrapping that one up, and the character of Dark in that fic is…promiscuous, to say the least. When Twilight Princess came out and I saw Shad for the first time, I knew I had to write something about him. The boy is freakin' adorable. Cheekbones! Argyle socks! Come on! And I knew if I put him in the WHN-verse there was NO WAY Dark would not want to tap that. And thus the pairing was born…
This fic has two purposes behind it. 1. Justification! I will prove that the SHARK pairing can work just as well in a TP-verse fic as it could in an AU fic! 2. To give me a reason to keep drawing fluffy comics on DeviantArt.
So. If you don't like the pairing, I understand. It is completely nonsensical. But if you take your fanfiction with a grain of salt, please keep an eye out for future chapters. I promise; it gets less weird later. Um, probably.