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 SEVEN: MOVING FORWARD
September 14, 2009
Small Lecture Hall, Hyrule University's College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters
By the time the professor had starting drawing connections between the effect of a mother in child rearing and the Harry Potter series Link had decided that she was full of shit. He rolled his eyes as he went on about the "protective factors" a biological mother could have, using poor Lily Evans as her model.
"You see, if Lily Evans had not loved her son he would not have been protected from Voldemort's powers. Similarly, a child's biological mother provides psychological protection in the early years of the child's life…"
Link sighed and turned to the person sitting next to him. They were diligently recording the professors wisdom, verbatim.
"Is this really happening right now?" He whispered to himself, shaking his head even as he began to write the comparison down.
"I can't believe this is happening," His thoughts were echoed by the student to his left.
"Clearly she doesn't realize that you're not supposed to say his name out loud," Link quipped, rolling his eyes and turning to the girl who had spoken. His pen stopped in its tracks.
With her blonde hair pulled into a haphazard bun on top her head, the girl sitting next to him was the epitome of the sexy librarian. Loose tendrils of spun-gold hair framed her face and a few shorter strands curled over her black-rimmed glasses. Her violet eyes were fastened on the professor even as she shook her head in disdain, chewing absentmindedly on the end of her pencil.
"She's pulling out Harry Potter references and she's only one lecture in," Sexy-librarian-girl mused aloud, sounding equal parts awed and horrified. "I had to wait for four years to get to contemporary literary references in high school."
"Oh no, Lily Evans is not a literary reference," Link found himself responding with mock solemnity, even as he mentally kicked himself for being a dumbass in front of a beautiful stranger. "Clearly, this is a literal reference. You see, our professor has just established that every child with a dead mother is under magical protection; incidentally, children with living mothers only have vague psychological advantages."
His blonde seatmate didn't immediately respond and Link tried not to care. He studiously took down notes, making them as neat as possible in case sexy-librarian looked down at them. After a nervous minute of non-stop note-taking and attentive staring at the teacher, he chanced a glance at the blonde sitting next to him.
Her violet eyes were focused on him, her expression thoughtful. Link grinned reflexively, an embarrassed gesture, and after a moment sexy-librarian's lips quirked into something that resembled a smile.
Link's heart did a quick-step.
"You should do your term paper on that." She responded, her eyes eventually turning back to the professor who had moved on to the next set of slides. "I can see it now, 'Why Dead Moms Are Better'—you would, of course, have to cite both this lecture and the Harry Potter Series."
"Hm, I don't know. That," Link frowned, carefully controlling his expression. "Would be some heavy reading. I don't know if I have that kind of time."
This time he didn't have to wait for a response, her laughter was immediate. It was a quick, short, laugh over in a second but a handful of students turned around with scowling faces.
Sexy-librarian feigned innocence and failed, a guilty blush coloring her cheeks even as she pretended to diligently copy down the lecture slides. Next to her, Link grinned unabashedly and leaned over to scribble a quick note on her tidy legal pad as the professor continued to lecture.
She just called Severus Cerberus.—Link
I was trying to pretend it didn't happen. –Zelda
...She just did it again. —Link
Stop writing on my notes. –Zelda
Link gave her a long-suffering look and then raised his hand.
"Fine. But just so you know, it's your fault that I'm doing this."
The professor ignored it, continuing on with her lecture and Link waved his arm around in the air, looking exasperated. The professor seemed determined to ignore him.
"Um, excuse me!" Link raised his voice, speaking loud enough to talk over both the teacher and the quiet student chatter. "It's actually Severus Snape. Not Cerberus Snake."
The lecture hall fell silent. Zelda dissolved into helpless giggles.
December 20, 2016—11 a.m.
Malon's apartment, the bedroom.
Malon was worried.
She couldn't put her finger on it exactly, but there was something wrong with Zelda. Or, rather, there was something new wrong with Zelda. It had been almost three weeks since Zelda had moved out what Malon secretly referred to as the Love Shack.
Outwardly, Zelda seemed fine. If anything she was more put together than she had previously been, more composed, and more focused. But save for the occasional burst of rare spontaneous energy she was less… Zelda. Her famous temper had gone into hibernation and Malon couldn't remember the last time she'd heard an honest laugh out of her friend.
When she'd asked Sheik a few weeks ago if he knew what was wrong with Zelda, he'd said something about the princess having a handful of bad dreams. She'd told him that that was the biggest load of shit that she had ever heard, begging his pardon.
Still, the reclusive Sheikah hadn't said anything further and Malon had been avoiding him since her uncomfortable encounter with him in the castle entry hall a few days prior. Malon had been trying not to think of her mangled confession or his disturbing revelations. In fact, for the past few days she had been trying not to think of Sheik at all.
It was a difficult task, but she had Zelda's odd behavior to distract her.
Bad dreams might have explained away how tired Zelda had been looking lately, but they didn't explain away everything. Zelda had been appropriately distraught when she'd left Link and moved out, but she had been resolute in her reason for doing so. She believed that she'd done the right thing, and Malon believed it too.
That didn't make it any easier to watch Zelda quietly miss Link and it didn't make her recent behavior any less unusual. Malon understood heartache very well, and while Zelda displayed all of the obvious signs, the redhead couldn't help but feel that there was something else going on underneath it all.
Bad dreams explained how tired Zelda was. It didn't explain the way that Malon had caught her talking to herself when she thought she was alone.
"Come on Mal, you're just being paranoid." The redhead chided herself, shaking her head and rolling up her sleeves. In front of her was a pile of old college pictures that she'd convinced Link to surrender to her.
She'd gotten halfway through the pile, checking and double checking. There was something disturbing that Malon was trying to dispel, a nagging thought that she couldn't quite shake. With every picture she went through, the thought became a little clearer and it took on a troubling shape.
Bad dreams did not explain away the fact that Zelda was changing.
They were little things, like the color of her eyes and the slant of her lips, but Malon had known Zelda long enough to know. The further back in time that Malon looked, the more the changes were noticeable.
Her hands flew through the stack of old photographs, her heart beating a little faster with each one, her skin paling, hands developing a tremble. Finally, her hands landed on an old picture of Zelda from her freshman year in college. It had been the first time that she'd met Link.
With shaky fingers she opened up her cellphone and pulled up the most recent picture, taken one week back.
The two pictures didn't look like the same person. In the time that Zelda had known Link, she had undergone years of subtle physical change. It had been so slow a process that none of them had noticed; only recently in the past handful of weeks had it become more pronounced.
Malon took a deep breath and quietly slid the old pictures into the box that they come from, closing the lid on her fears. Steeling herself and willing her nerves away, she put the box under the bed and rose steadily to her feet.
"It doesn't mean anything, Mal." She told herself, closing her eyes and willing her newfound realization away. "Plenty of people lose their baby fat when they get older."
Most people, however, did not also change their eye color and facial features. Bone structure was also considered by most to be a fairly stable construction. Eyesight was also something that didn't tend to magically improve on its own and Zelda had stopped needing glasses almost a year ago.
There was something wrong with Zelda and Malon didn't know it was. There was a voice in her head that whispered to her that Zelda couldn't know. If Zelda found out, something bad would happen. She trusted it.
Numbly, Malon reached for the phone and did the first thing she always did when she was in trouble. She dialed Sheik's number.
The phone rang three times before he picked up.
"Sheik. It's Malon."
There was a pause on the other line, but she didn't wait for him to carefully mete out his response.
"This isn't about the other night. Listen, something's up with Zelda."
A deep sigh.
"Malon," His voice was patient, almost patronizing. "She hasn't been sleeping well, she's having a hard time with Link gone, but she's adjusting."
"No, Sheik, I said listen to me. I think something's wrong."
This time the pause was longer and there was something in the silence that she knew instinctively to be a mixture of panic, fear, and concern. When Sheik finally spoke, his voice was tightly controlled but she knew him well enough to hear the strain.
December 25, 2016—2 a.m.
The Old Training Grounds, Unknown Location
It had been about a week since Link had first gotten corralled into this madness by Malon. He'd initially met her at Oak's Bar and Grill in hopes of finding out some information about Zelda without looking like a pitiful mess, but he'd somehow wound up here instead. And goddesses help him, something kept bringing him back every night.
He stood in the light of the moon, a sword in his hands, his blood singing with anticipation. His cobalt eyes raked attentively over the gathered shadows, watching and waiting with baited breath.
There! A flicker of movement, barely discernible in the shadow of the moon, and Link surged forward with more speed than he remembered having. His blade met steel and the sparks illuminated his familiar opponent.
They moved into an age old dance, blades singing, feet shifting, bodies nimbly ducking and weaving. Metal met metal relentlessly and the song of the blades kept them in constant controlled motion, lunging backwards and forwards, rolling sideways, driving and pushing and wheeling around each other like wolves called to the hunt.
Link's mind was blessedly clear, unfettered by grief, driven only by instinct and a desire that he couldn't put a name to anymore.
His sword was an extension of himself as he swung it graceful arcs, pushing off attacks that he felt more than saw. This was something he knew, even if his body was unfamiliar with it. His mind drove him intuitively and sometimes he had difficulty keeping up.
There was a flash of movement behind him and even as his mind screamed at him to duck and roll, he lurched forward in a half-abandoned forward strike and his blade went flying into a nearby stack of hay.
"Damn it Impa!" He cursed as he stomped after his fallen weapon. "I thought we agreed that I wasn't ready for shadow doubles."
"And, as we have seen, you aren't." Impa responded, a hint of amusement lacing her usually dry voice.
Link scowled in her direction, the battle song in his blood slowly fading as he sheathed his weapon.
"How am I supposed to improve if you never let me get good at anything?"
"That isn't my concern." Impa shrugged. "You need to be exposed to all manner of attacks before you can fancy yourself good at fending off any."
"It's only been a week." He protested, wincing as he moved to stretch out his sore muscles. For a week straight he had been undergoing this 'training regimen' in the dark hours of the morning. He couldn't remember a single day that he hadn't woken in all kinds of pain.
"And we only have two months until you need to be ready to perform your duties." Her expression was inscrutable. "As you yourself have mentioned, we have a long way to go until you're any good."
Link sighed in exasperation, settling his sore bulk onto one of the many scattered haystacks. In the corner of his eye he could see a couple of barrels and wooden crates hidden rather poorly under a different pile of hay.
He got the sudden urge to smash them.
As if reading his mind, Impa's lips stretched into a wide smile.
"You're a lot like him."
Link looked up at her, eyes curious.
"You keep saying that. Who do I remind you of?"
"No one. He's long gone."
"You… trained him?" Link ventured a guess.
"Something like that." Impa assented.
She brought the subject up with relatively frequency, but she was frustratingly tight lipped about whoever he reminded her of. Then again, Impa wasn't exactly the most talkative person he'd ever met.
"You have good instincts, Link." Somehow, he knew it wasn't a compliment. "We might be able to make something out of you yet in a month's time."
And with that the strange woman disappeared, melting into the shadows without another word. Link looked after her for a couple moments, tracking the shadows, looking for where she had gone. As usual, he found nothing but more questions.
And just like that, his worries began to return.
"How did I get caught up in this?" He asked himself, for the thousandth time.
It had something to do with Zelda. He knew that much. That was how he'd first found his way here—he'd been chasing her memory and Malon had dragged him to this old… honestly, Link didn't know what it was. The place looked like an ancient abandoned farm, with creaky structures and oddly invincible scarecrows that doubled as training dummies.
The first night he'd come looking for answers about Zelda. He'd returned because strangely, when he had a sword in his hands, he stopped thinking of Zelda. The heartache dulled, replaced by a craving for action that he'd never even realized he'd had.
But this was ridiculous. He wasn't a warrior. He wasn't the kind of guy who went around swinging swords like he lived at a Renaissance Faire.
He was just Link. He was college graduate, double-major, respectable office grunt Link.
"What am I doing swinging swords around?" As usual, the night bore no answers for him.
That night when Link dragged himself back to his couch and collapsed in a pile of sore muscles, he didn't think about Zelda. He thought about the nagging voice that chased him insistently into slumber and he thought, strangely, of fairies.
Come on, Link! It's this way, over here.
A/N: The first few chapter of this story have been revised to make it a little more coherent. If you're a first time reader, don't sweat it! You're all up to date. If you're an old follower, it might be worth your time to go back and give the story another run through. On another, I'm back! Four years later, whoops. I won't make you wait so long next time. If you've been waiting all this time, I'm so sorry. I'm also impressed you're still here with me. If this chapter feels a little awkward, it has been four years since I've touched these characterizations and this plot so hopefully it'll get smoother once I get re-adjusted to them.
Whether a first time reader or an old follower, if you've gotten this far please leave me a review and let me know what you think! It takes two seconds, I promise, and there's absolutely no way you can offend me. Reviews warm my heart, good and bad ones.
I'll see you all on the next chapter! Sometime in the next two weeks. I'll put together an organized updating schedule at some point and put it up on my profile for everyone to keep track of.
Love you all,