Disclaimer: These characters are not mine, with the exception of Shane. I own nada, except for Shane. I don't own Hyrule, only Shane.
First and Foremost
CHAPTER ONE: IN PIECES
November 27, 2016— 9 a.m.
The Old Apartment
Zelda stood in the center of the room, one hand pressed to her forehead as she struggled with her mental checklist. What else did she need to bring? Pillow, throw blanket, coffee creamer, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, brush, conditioner, tea cabinet collection, PS3, clothes, shoes, dishes, novelty mugs, deodorant. What else? They were all little things, material possessions, but Zelda wouldn't feel right leaving without them.
She didn't want to leave anything to come back to. That was too much like she was saying, "Be right back, okay?"
After a minute of continuing to stare off into thoughtful space she lifted the duffel bag up off of the freshly made Queen sized bed, slinging it over her shoulder, and picked a time-worn picture frame from the nightstand. In the photo two people were frozen, their faces stretched into happy carefree smiles—and one of them had been herself. Three years ago, when they'd both graduated from college.
Take the picture? Hm.
That boy in the picture, where was he now? Still with his latest girlfriend in some run-down motel? Zelda's mouth curved up into a small smile and she pocketed the frame in her white artisan jacket. No use leaving it to collect dust. To leave the picture behind would only make him feel guilty every time he looked at it anyways. Because it was just so typical Link to do something like that.
And that was the last thing she wanted for her friend. Her best friend, actually.
That was why, after six years, she'd decided it was best for her to leave.
It had all begun in their freshman year with a dire need for company and an upcoming psychology final. There had been just one too many instances where a certain Link Ordon had wound up crashing on her little twin sized bed after one of their brutal all-nighters. Eventually those little instances had become so frequent that they had both simultaneously concluded it was best to just rent a house somewhere. The fact that they both hated their roommates with a fiery passion had helped some too, she admitted.
As had their constant flirtation and instant chemistry.
People speculated about what exactly they were, but it was a friendship first and foremost. They had silently agreed long ago that it would just be too awkward otherwise. And it had never became more than that, despite the sleeping arrangement, the occasional shared kisses, and the steadfast affection. Not for Zelda, anyways. And when the time came, as it unavoidably had, he'd taken his girlfriends out somewhere far away from their little home and had his wicked way with them there.
Well, if Zelda had ever had any guys at all then Link had never noticed. It wasn't unlike Zelda to be that discrete.
And that why this time, there would be absolutely no discrete about Zelda's actions. Link wasn't always the most observant person, but the resounding emptiness in their—no. The emptiness in his home would be impossible to miss. Zelda's absence was something akin to coming home and having all the furniture rearranged.
It was a difficult thing to miss.
Her clothes had been picked up, the closet meticulously emptied. The bathroom neatly pruned of her belongings, her favorite coffee mugs were gone. Her not-so-secret chocolate stash was mysteriously MIA. And all that was left was either sterile, necessary, or Link's… with the exception of the silverware and laundry detergent. The glaring obviousness was intentional.
The night before had certainly not been the first night that Zelda had fallen asleep in their strangely empty bed, devoid of any laughter or warmth. It had happened quite frequently before. But it was certainly the night that jolted her from her comfortable daydreams into the harsh reality of their situation. It had only taken one more cold night for Zelda to firmly and resolutely make up her mind. She had to be the one to leave. He never could've done it, regardless of whether he wanted to or not.
Because he'd always been the more emotional one. And she'd always been the reasonable one. And reason said that this was no way to live the rest of their lives. College had ended. They'd have to end eventually as well. The fair haired young woman paused by the door, a crooked smile curving at her full lips as she fondly touched a hand to the whiteboard hanging from the doorknob.
A little college-dorm touch that the two of them hadn't been able to resist nabbing at Target.
A glance at the writing caused her smile to take a turn for a mere bitterly amused quirk of the lips. The writing was creepily cheerful and Disney, something that Zelda probably never would've written if the situation hadn't required it. Cheerful was good, she'd reasoned, that way he wouldn't think that she was upset or angry at him. Because she wasn't. Not at all. That, and elegant script just wasn't the right way to tell somebody that the dishes needed doing.
She was just leaving, finally, because it was time for her to go.
'Ship my stuff to 1904 Castle Street if you find it, okay? Rent's under your pillow. Take-out's in the fridge, and I left the number for the Chinese take-out on the freezer. Take care, and remember to EAT, would you? -Love, Zelda.
P.S. Empty the dishwasher.'
With a breathy laugh she tapped on the plastic surface in fond approval before swinging the door open and stepping out into the hallway. She paused there, before closing her eyes in a resigned manner. She un-clipped the house-key from the side of her purse and tossed it backwards through the door frame.
Her house key fell to the ground with a resounding 'clang' that was all too loud for the silence, and the door swung shut shortly thereafter. Zelda stared at the shut door, one she'd never enter again, for a moment with some foreign look in her eyes before she shook her head and started down the crappily paved walkway that lead down to the sidewalk.
"Take care of yourself, Link."
November 27, 2016— 4 p.m.
1904 Castle Street
Zelda knew better than to be startled when she felt warm—familiar—arms wrap tightly around her. However, when a warm face was pressed heartbreakingly into her shoulder she was forced to take a deep breath to steady herself. Something caught in her throat but she forced it down, forced herself to remain composed. For what seemed like an eternity there was only silence.
And then she sighed.
"Found me already, did you?" She teased.
Link's voice immediately rose in response, a strained tear-wrenching tone that Zelda fought hard to ignore.
"What did I do? What did I do wrong?" His voice was trembling ever-so-slightly, no longer that of the fearless young man she'd met five years past.
Zelda had almost forgotten how similar they had become in the last five years that they'd lived together. They would never blame each other, no. Wouldn't even dream of it, but neither would hesitate to blame themselves. And for some absurd reason, the fair haired girl almost let loose her tears at the very sound of his voice saying those horrid, accursed, obscene words. That was exactly what she hadn't wanted him to think.
Zelda took a staggered breath to center herself again in some attempt to numb the mindless pain that gripped at her chest. She only prayed that he didn't see her weakness.
"Link, you didn't do anything. You didn't do anything wrong."
"Zelda, you wouldn't just leave like that if I hadn't done something wrong! You would've… you would've said something. Did you forget? Zelda, I know you. You don't just do stuff… like… like that. What did I do?" He paused, and she knew if she turned around his eyes would be bloodshot and red, but his cheeks would be dry. He had always been strong like that. "What did I do? Tell me. Zelda, it won't happen again. Ever. I swear to Farore, just come back. Come home."
She didn't turn.
"No. Just, Goddesses, Zelda come back. Come home."
Zelda's violet eyes never wavered from their vigil upon the dusty wooden floors. She couldn't turn. Wouldn't turn. Because if she did, she knew she'd only fall prey to the magic of his bottomless cobalt eyes. Even as she felt him hold her tighter and the tears welling up behind her eye-lids, she refused to turn. Refused to face him. Refused to answer.
And so they stayed like that for a long time. Him holding her. Him pleading. Begging. Yelling.
She wasn't entirely sure when she'd sent him away. Or what she'd said, or what she'd done exactly.
She was too damn numb to be aware anymore.
November 27, 2016— 11:47 p.m.
Oak's Bar & Grill
"How's the girl?"
"Hm?" Link glanced up from his drink with a blank expression, blinking in a sleep-deprived manner at his long time friend and drinking buddy. "Did you say something?"
"Girl." The raised an eyebrow, amused with his friend's current inebriated state. "What. Is. Up?"
"Ah. Haven't got one." Shane rolled his eyes.
"Right. Forgot about that. Fine, how's the roomie?"
"Haven't got one."
"Dude. Zelda. I'm talkin' about Zelda. You know, great cook, little spazzy, moody, kickass gamer, damn smart, hot as hell?"
Link laughed. And frankly, it creeped the hell outta Shane. It was one of those odd little artificial noises, a hollow sound coupled with a bitter grin. And there was something that Shane couldn't quite place just behind his friend's eyes. And robotically, Link responded. Eerily cheerful, clearly bitter, and completely un-Link.
"Haven't got one."
"You've got to be shittin' me. What happened?"
"No clue. She just… up and left.'
"Seriously. What happened? Boyfriend, fiancée, husband, rabid angry parents, a fight? What?"
"She just left, okay? I haven't got a damn clue. DROP IT."
Optimistic Shane fell silent, for once, and seemed to take note of the gravity of the situation. Link downed the rest of his beer and Shane slumped. Oh, Malon was going to flip shit. Shane sat there, looking blank and brainless. And then suddenly he looked alarmed and shot straight up, fixing his friend with a horrified look.
"DUDE. How are you going to feed yourself? Shit man. How the fuck are you going to survive?"
Link was coherent enough to shoot his drunk friend an annoyed glance.
"If Zelda were here right now, she'd smack you over the head and tell you go fuck yourself." He paused thoughtfully before seeming to remember something. "Fornicate with yourself, actually." He amended.
"But she's not here. DUDE, survival! Survival is key here."
Link took another swig of beer, burying his face into his hands. Zelda wasn't there. Zelda was always there. Because she was just Zelda. And Zelda was just like that. She'd never even dropped any hints that maybe she wasn't happy. She'd smile like always and scold him in that cool and collected voice he'd grown so fond of, but that was it. No hints. No signs. No warnings. No nothing.
"She left a week's worth of take-out in the fridge. And some ice-cream. And crème-brulee. And the delivery number." Link mumbled, looking distracted and distant, as he had from the moment he'd sat down at the bar.
"What, are you serious?"
Link laughed again. "I know. Typical Zelda, right?" Clearly Link wasn't in a very talkative mode. Not that Link had ever been a big talker. But instead, he was just sitting there, looking as sullen as Shane had ever seen him.
"Well… hey. Take care of yourself man. There's other fish in the sea."
The look on Link's face was bittersweet, at best.
"Well, I'm pretty sure people like that are an endangered species."
Shane's lips quirked upwards and he laughed heartily as he clapped his friend on the back. Link was jolted half-way back into reality and smiled sheepishly. Link had fallen prey to his emotions, as always. Just… sans the reasonable Zelda to balance him out.
"It's not the end of the world. You guys are still best friends, right?"
A small thoughtful grin had replaced the previously crest-fallen look on Link's face. Clearly it wasn't something he'd thought of before. But what if that was lost now too? No. He couldn't think like that. Of course they were still best friends. They would always be best friends. Nothing would ever change that. Nothing could ever change that.
Zelda had said so herself.
"And hey, maybe now you can actually get yourself girlfriend right? No more mooning over your blonde haired bombshell. Good luck man, have fun with that."
"Yeah. Thanks, bye Shane. Guess I'll see you around, right?"
"Course dude, sayonara."
January 31, 2011—2 a.m.
The Old Apartment
They had been in bed. He'd been wide awake; she'd been fast asleep. He was watching her.
She was really gorgeous, he mused. Waves of fair golden hair, accented by gleaming platinum in the few strands that had managed to catch more sun exposure than the others. She had delicate features and the sort of bone structure that he would forever identify as that of long lost royalty. Beauty in its purest form. Her lashes were long and naturally dark, lying in elegant contrast with the fairness of her unblemished skin.
Link half frowned, half smiled. It wasn't the first time he'd ever thought that his roommate was the most beautiful creature to ever walk the earth. But it probably wasn't such a great thing to be thinking of, particularly when said roommate was sleeping peacefully away a few inches away from his own body.
Clad only in one his own white button shirts, in which the first two buttons had long since fallen off, revealing to him the barest hint of cleavage.
If she were awake she probably would have been scandalized.
And she probably would've beaten him within an inch of his life. Zelda Harkinian could be prim and proper lady when times called for it, but she wouldn't hesitate to check someone if the situation so required it.
But Link was tough. It was worth it considering the great privilege it was to be able to watch—not stare at—the blonde before him. Particularly when she was busy muttering under her breath about some 'damned Hero' and looking distressed in an adorable manner.
Of course Zelda would never in a hundred years admit to her little habit of sleep-talking.
"I do not. Bugger off, I'm working." she'd say indignantly, and turn her back on him.
But either way, listening to the high and mighty Zelda Harkinian mumble incoherently was a prize that Link would never tire of. It made her seem less far away, more human.
Which wasn't to say that she wasn't human. After all, there was a reason he so enjoyed her company.
Of course, Link and Zelda weren't your typical run-of-the-mill best friends. Their relationship was more of a partner-in-crime thing. They didn't need to talk all the time. In fact most of their bonding was accomplished in comfortable silence. The pair had never needed words to understand each other, it was something that came naturally, almost like they had been born to do it.
They rarely bickered, at least not after they had become good friends, and when they did it was usually only due to a certain time of the month combined with Link's decided inadequacy with kitchen appliances.
But that was just the way they worked. They were both immature, both a bit stubborn and pigheaded, and they were both spazzy fools when it was appropriate, and neither of them had any tolerance for romantic sap.
Which was why Link kept his gushing to an all time low. And she'd never notice if he kept it to a controlled minimum and made sure only to do it when he could write it off as sleep-deprivation.
Or so he hoped.
Zelda's breath caught and for a moment her mumbling ceased, a deep furrow knitting itself onto her forehead. After a moment of tense silence it vanished and she sighed, a dream-induced smile tugging at her lips once more.
A tiny breath of laughter escaped Link and he found his hand hovering a mere hairs breadth away from the skin of Zelda's cheek. For some unknown reason he found himself holding his breath, making gentle care that Zelda would not awake. He brushed a stray hair from the edge of Zelda's lips.
The blonde opened her eyes, sleep heavy on her eyelids as she blearily observed him.
"Are you trying to give me a heart-attack?" she said amusedly after he snatched his hand away. He knew he was blushing because his skin was hot. Great.
"Wha-why would I give you a heart-attack?" He asked, blue eyes blinking sleepily with obvious confusion.
She gave him one of her infamous ice-queen glares.
"It's creepy as hell to wake up with someone stroking your face. What's up, Link? Bad dream?"
"You're cruel." Link feigned being hurt and reached over to pull the smaller blonde up against his chest. "Cold."
She smiled against his shoulder, and shifted closer.
"You're cuddly tonight," Zelda mused as her eyes drifted shut. "You going soft on me?"
So, Link thought he might possibly be in love with her. Not the end of the world. They'd been living together for almost a year after all, it was only natural.
And he was pretty positive she felt the same way. After all, the electric shock that jolted him every time they happened to brush during their daily routines could not have been a one-sided thing.
And he'd caught her watching him more than once. There was just no way. And that kiss on Christmas that she thought he didn't remember.
With another laugh Link reached forward and flicked her nose, reveling in her surprised squeak and recoil, though he was immediately sad for the loss of warmth.
"You're so loud," he teased. "Zel, hush up, Malon needs her beauty sleep."
He laughed when she tried to get him back and wrapped his arms around her slim waist more securely. Eventually Zelda settled down then she was silent, her head tucked just beneath his chin.
Perfect. It was really a wonder that she was still single.
He 'hmed' in response and he felt her shift, noting with some disappointment that she'd propped herself up on her shoulder, putting more distance in between them. His brow furrowed when he noted the concerned frown on her face.
"…you know that we can't, you know, be together, right? I know we've talked before, but…"
He could feel his stomach drop. Something in his chest physically ached, and it crossed his mind for a second that she was purposely pretending not to notice the rejection written all over his face.
He felt Zelda slump tiredly back onto the mattress, losing some of that edge she'd held only a few seconds before. He watched as her hand reached out, brushing distractedly over the curve of his cheek, as if to make sure he was still looking at her.
"It just wouldn't work out, you know? Because you'll leave, or I'll leave and I don't want either of us to get hurt when that day comes. I'd rather keep you as a friend than lose you because of… some misplaced feelings."
She took a deep breath and he shut his eyes so that she wouldn't see him. A smile curved at his lips and he nodded silently as Zelda breathed a sigh of relief and cuddled right up against his chest, fitting as perfectly there as she always had.
"I'm sorry, Link. It's kind of late to be bringing this up, I know but… I can't lose you like that." She paused and mumbled something that Link could've sworn was, "I hate this," but at the moment he wasn't thinking enough to really process it.
Link didn't answer that his feelings already were on the line. Instead he just chuckled, his little secret, and held the girl who he couldn't love close.
"Silly Zelda. Don't even worry about it."
Tomorrow he'd go out and find himself a nice girl. Tonight he would hold Zelda in his arms for as long as he could.
He could feel Zelda relax in his arms with a heavy sigh—for a second he could swear it was a disappointed one, but he quickly brushed the thought from his mind. He tightened his arms around her small body, tucking his head into the cushion of her silky hair.
It was a perfect fit.
Tomorrow he'd go find himself a nice girl.
A/N: Been a while since I last wrote anything, I know. But this story is almost complete so I'll be able to actually finish it off. I'm thinking it's gonna be real short. 3-5 chapters, probably. If you're confused at all right now, you probably should be. Things will get cleared up in the next chapter. I'll probably be updating every month, to every other month. Maybe more if you're lucky and I'm inspired.
Constructive criticism is always welcome.