It is a young Link that decides he hates his reflection. Sitting in front of the gurgling stream, his blood-stained boots unlaced and resting upon the brook's edge, his feet dangling so delicately in the clear water. The sunlight peers through the forest's leaves; staring down upon the golden haired child and his sparkling reflection.
It has been a long time since he's seen that face, and he blinks at the sight of it; the wavering childish lines reflected within the stream. Was that the face he wore when he left this place? This sanctuary that he had so foolishly taken for granted? Was that the face he wore beneath the earth when the world is pounding in his ears? Was that the face he wore through fire and flame, through river and ice, through light and dark?
He can't remember; even though he wore a mirror at his back he never remembered looking in its surface. But he is not his reflection, he is both the man he will be and the child he once was; even sitting at the edge of the small river he knows he is not what he seems. It is only afterwards, when the stars have set and the sun is visible once again; when all has journeyed backwards towards the sunrise. It is only then he has the power to look at himself.
He has always carried his reflection, his false appearance that shows both what he is and what he is not. For he is many things; he is savior, he is child, he is man, he is martyr, he is hero, and he is fairy-boy. But for all things he is outsider, because they can't see his real face either. He is a shifting thing; always passing between one form and the next, a shadow of the past and a hint of the future.
Even the eyes are shifting, as he watches the boy in the water. The child who stares at him, challenging and puzzled, wondering at the accordion playing in his mind and the familiar whisper of the wind in the trees. The blue changes, it is the Spring morning and it is the depth of the ocean. They are both soft and cruel, for they have seen the world come to ruin and they have seen it redeemed. There is hope in the vision of water, but at a price.
Those eyes have seen the highest mountain peak, they have searched the depths of the earth, they have been through wind and fire, and they have seen what no other man has dared. But now, they watch only themselves and puzzle over what they find there.
They sent him back, and he understands, but staring at himself in the cool water he wishes he didn't. He remembers the look on her face, the pity in her own eyes; backwards he must go back before the monsters and the dungeons. He wonders if he has ever been so young before, that no scars appear on his skin, and that there is not a hint of shadows in his eyes.
He removes his feet from the water, pulls the boots onto his feet and leaves his lonely reflection behind. He is tired of searching for the blue in his eyes.
"I have nightmares sometimes," He admits to the silent trees of the forests, they have heard many of his secrets, the ones that escape with the melodies of the ocarina. But the music has been silent, and the dirge takes the form of words.
I'm always afraid it's going to change without my knowing, that one day I'll wake up in a stranger's body, and I won't know why."
The trees don't answer him, but then, even when the ocarina was in his hands he never expected to hear a reply.
"I'm afraid I won't recognize it when I wake up."
It is Saria who takes it upon herself to remove him from his house, by any means necessary. Climbing up the ladder she's surprised to find he's created a door, and that the door is locked. She knocks upon the unpainted wood, waiting for a reply, when none comes she contents herself to talking to the house itself.
"Link, I know you're in there!" She pauses, waiting for a reply but as usual with Link none is forthcoming. Link has always spoken when it suits him; things are always easier said in one syllable answers and sometimes in no answer at all.
She has always known this, but today things are different; the silences have taken on different meanings. Where before there was understanding in the lack of words, now there is only his face and his cold blue eyes.
"You can't hide in there forever you know," It is not meant to be a question, "Is this about Mido?" she asks, accuses, knowing that it's far from Mido and his forest home.
The door remains closed, and through the wood she can hear the faint notes of a half forgotten melody, and even as she stands outside listening to the faltering notes of the musician the door remains closed.
When Saria finds Mido lying on the ground, his face a mask of purple and red she knows she was right. But when she helps him up, when she guides his shaking feet back to his own house she wishes she wasn't.
"Do you want to talk about it?" She asks the wood of the door.
The silence sounds as if it doubts her judgment, as if it mocks her, the silence comes from beyond the doorway. She can't see the silence, the door is just a façade; it is the face in place of the blue eyes she truly wants to see.
She wonders if she should ask again, but then decides that it will do no good. Link never answers the same question twice, he never repeats himself, he merely glances at you as if you were the dumbest thing he had ever met to even think of asking him something so pathetically stupid. She decides instead to change the topic.
"I found Mido, it was awfully nice of you to leave him where you found him. He could barely walk when I came across him, you left him face down in the dirt, and to think he once threatened to beat you within an inch of your life." She tucks the corners of her hair behind her ears, curled into a ball as she waits for a sign of acknowledgment. And she knows that if he were sitting next to her, if they were looking at the stars the way they used to, then he would be nodding at the words.
"He'll never look at you again, but the others won't either. I think you know that though, why else would you have shut yourself away?" It's a rhetorical question, one that she asks herself every night when she leaves his tree, when she returns to the shadows of her own home where there isn't a pair of blue eyes in sight.
She finds him outside one day, a newly carved ocarina in his hands. She watches as he blows through it experimentally, the notes drift down towards her like the blossoms of the trees in the Spring.
But they are not the simple melodies of a novice; the notes bleed and fall together in great cascades of sound. She has never seen him with an ocarina before and yet he is a master, the forest sways to the sound of his music, his melody is the wind in the leaves sifting through the branches like sunlight.
She knows when he made it, and she knows how he came across it, so she does not bother with such easily deflected questions. Instead she dives for the most personal, the one to see through his mask, "I have an ocarina, I could have given it to you."
He nods here, the familiar curt expression of understanding, waiting for her to continue. The notes continue in spite of her, and somewhere in the distance she hears the accordion accompany him in a discordant harmony.
"Why did you make it?" She asks as she watches his fingers move, the breath escape from the holes in the delicate instrument. He looks at her, the melody fading from his lips, and in his blue eyes there is no child but a full grown adult who knows the sorrows of the earth and the dirge of the dying forest.
She is lost within his blue eyes, in the memories and thoughts he has kept so carefully hidden, all for nothing. She never noticed before how dark his eyes could be, how very like the shadows of the deep forest where the light has never breeched.
"I missed the rainfall,"
Then come the days when she loses him altogether, he used to be so easy to find, but now she has to search for him. And some days she's afraid, she's afraid she won't find him and she's afraid he won't come back.
Some days she thinks that she's lost him, lost him in the lies and masks he's made for himself, in the words they have forgotten to say to one another, in the flowing requiem of his ocarina's song. It's getting harder to find him behind the barriers he's created, and some days she stands alone in the forest and knows that she may never see him again.
But he comes back, he comes back with that unfamiliar twinkle in his eye, he ruffles her hair as if she were the child and he had always been her elder. It's then that he smiles, like the crescent moon hanging in the sky.
She knows some things will always be left unsaid, and that she'll never hear a goodbye. But every time he comes back, she finds it's not important anymore.
"It doesn't work, not like the old one." He says to her one day, fingering his ocarina casually. Looking at it with a critical blue eye, as if to find the faults in craftsmanship.
"I think it plays beautifully." And it does, it sounds like the breath of the earth and the song of the stars. She thinks even the gods might stop to listen to his haunting melody, as if all the world were focused upon the breath that passed so delicately from his wooden instrument.
He shrugs, as if to say the sound is irrelevant, but to Saria the sound is everything why else would one carve his soul into wood? The world listens to the beauty of his music and yet all he has an eye for is the flaws.
"Well, what did you expect to happen?" What did he expect locking himself in the dark, carving out his hopes and dreams in the shadows of his doubt? What did he expect to hear when he crawled out of his hole of self-loathing?
She doesn't expect an answer, with Link one never can. Silence is his best response, because it means so very many different things, far more than words could ever say. But to her surprise he answers her, the bitterness in his voice undisguised as he stares up at the sky in anguish.
"I expected it to rain."
She learns about the nightmares when she hears the screaming, this time the door is not locked, perhaps he wants to be found though he is rolled on the floor. Perhaps he wants her to see just how pathetic he can be, his face pale as the moon, his blue eyes diluted in horror. It is the first time she has seen past his illusions of happiness, the first time she has seen the true emotion in his eyes.
He screams when he sees her, a scream that threatens to tear the fabric of her soft (bleeding) heart. She clutches his sweating, struggling, body to her. She listens to him as he cries, screaming all the while, as if he is falling towards his death.
The worst is the realization that he doesn't recognize her. That in his terrified blue eyes there is not a hint of the friendship they shared; that in his darkest nightmares she is nowhere to be found. After a moment or two the screaming dies away and he blinks, a glaze of apathy taking form over his pale features.
She doesn't ask what he's seen all alone in the dark, she doesn't ask what haunts him in the night—she doesn't dare. Because she knows there won't be an answer, only his silent eyes filled with the phantoms of his idle thoughts and dreams. A child can't scream like he can, a child cannot raise the dead with only his voice to aid him.
But the quiet is too empty, so she finds emptier words to fill the space between what she chooses to hear and what remains unknown. "I'm sorry, Link."
(And his own answer can be seen in the ironical raise of his eyebrow, 'whatever for, Saria?')
She teaches him to play, or rather she tries. They sit together on the bridge, their feet dangling above the surface of the water, Hyrule just beyond their reach. She's always wanted to teach him, the others moved too quickly for the ocarina; rushing past it's haunting melodies never stopping to listen to the drift of notes in the high wind.
He sits beside her and watches with a dull amusement as she plays for him the various songs she remembers from long ago, he follows the pattern of notes with ease, and she realizes that he has played this game before.
He humors her, and it is embarrassing for her to admit it. Embarrassing to think that the one gift she could have given him, the one thing she could have taught him, and he had already surpassed her. His was the voice of the gods, the wisdom of the sky, the power of the earth, and the courage of all the life that dwindled upon it. And yet he sits beside her and watches as she teaches him, as she teaches him. The very idea is laughable.
And so after an hour she begins to laugh, he pauses midway through an unfamiliar melody one that reminds her of the desert she has never seen and the spirits that dwell there. The music falters with the sound of her laughter and he places the ocarina at his side.
The laughter dies until all that's left is the wind in the trees, and the sounds of the village far behind them.
"It's not you," She says to his stubborn face, "You sounded wonderful."
"Then why did you laugh?" He asks, using the bitter words this time. The betrayal of their friendship, and she shakes her head in pity because this time it is she who knows the answer.
"Because, I have nothing left to teach you anymore. Because one day you're going to walk out into that field and you'll never come back."
"And because there's nothing I can do to stop you."
"I've seen this moon long ago, years it seems." He says to her, sitting upon the roof of her house, gazing at the stars. It seems he has forsaken sleep, or finds he has no use for it anymore, now that it only spins him dreams of fear.
The ocarina rests at his side as he stares up at the bright-eyed sky, the stars peering down upon the world with a light-hearted curiosity. Saria gazes at the moon, the crescent eye of white burning in the heavens.
"But I'm not supposed to remember that, that's why they sent me back. So I could forget everything, so the world could forget me, so that I could regain the time I've lost." He turns to Saria, and his blue eyes are no longer courageous but pitying, wells of sorrow whose foundations are too deep to name.
"But I've been shifting so often, from one thing to the next, I can't remember what I was in the first place. I can't remember the beginning, the origin, I can't remember my childhood…"
All at once Saria remembers the definition of a martyr, and shudders at the thought.
"Time is a cruel goddess; she doesn't forgive for losing her most precious gift. Why would she give back the time I squandered?"
"And so they lived happily ever after," Saria ended, waiting for a nod of approval or the more common expression of distaste. Link was both her most avid listener and her most grave critic, for only he had the patience to listen to a story's flaws.
"Did he ever have nightmares?" He asked softly, she pauses thinking for a moment and then shrugs.
"I don't think so, he didn't have time to have nightmares."
"But now he has all the time in the world, he must have nightmares." He points out, waiting for the story to shift beneath his critical eye.
She sighs, bending to his whims, "Fine, they live happily ever after but he has nightmares."
"He can't be very happy if he was having nightmares." The critic points out once more, prodding at her finely woven tale with rough fingers. Sometimes she thinks he enjoys destroying her work, and that secretly he's always been a little cynic.
"So fine then, he isn't happy, he pretends." Frustration gives way and her story falls to pieces. "They lived and only she was happy, he pretends but he has nightmares."
He says nothing more, so it is Saria who makes the final decision regarding the ending of her tale.
"That's a pretty crappy ending."
She finds the mirror smashed in her room, and in their shattered pieces she sees a shadow of blue eyes. She holds a piece in front of his face, in front of his stone mask and his cold blue eyes. She does not need to ask, not always, some things are always left unsaid.
She knows he is not Kokiri, but neither is he Hyrule, he is the spirit that rests between. He is the fashioning of the gods, they twisted his bones until they saw him fit to save his people. But in changing his form, in shaping his mind they have made him a being far from the people he is meant to liberate.
(A demon cannot look at his own reflection, for fear the blue eyes will turn him to stone.)
"It was the wrong face, I woke up and it was the wrong face." His hand grips hers, closing gently upon the shard of glass. He shakes his head back and forth, his words a whisper against the silence—against the fate the gods have spelled for him.
But his eyes are a mirror in their own right, the blue of his eye reflecting both the golden and burned fields of Hyrule. And she remembers that blue is the guise of wisdom, and though he is courageous, he has always possessed a wisdom unseen behind his clear blue eyes.
"You were right Saria," He whispers in her ear, the unspoken secret released for all the winds to hear.
"I must leave this place."
When he leaves her she finds the glass is stained with her own crimson blood, the reflection showing the green-haired child with the blue eyes that aren't nearly so deformed as his. The mirror shows only what it sees, it cannot show her his scarred and twisted face.
Once upon a time there was a great hero, and though he possessed neither power nor wisdom his courage was great.
One day when the land had fallen to ruin and the sky began to cave in on itself, the gods called upon the hero of time, sending him through time and space so he might save their dying land.
And so he travelled from land to land, sword and shield at his side, growing in and out of himself as he battled foes beyond all imagining. His path was lit by the fairy gifted to him, and so he shifted as he travelled from one world to the next, never stopping, never stalling.
He saved his people, he saved his gods and his countrymen, but when the deed was done and the ashes of his kingdom at his feet they saw the atrocity they had created. They saw his blue eyes for what they were, and they sent him backwards so they might forget the sight of his face.
Hero of Time they called him, cheering his name from the streets, but he never heard a word of praise.
The betrayed have a curious habit of going deaf.
"Were you ever going to tell me?" He asks, standing in the fields, hands held in a gesture of piece one he is no longer used to.
"Tell you what?"
"The lies, the truth, whichever you prefer."
"The truth then," She decides to stay politically correct, as she balances on the wooden fence watching as he weaves his way through the tall grass.
"That Kokiri is a lie outgrown in time, and that not all appearances are deceiving."
There is a sword strapped to his side and a Hylian shield at his back, he stares at her with those blue eyes that change too swiftly. And though it is night she can see his pallid expression, she can see the sorrow of his eyes.
"You don't have to leave," She says, it is a lie, and they are both so very tired of lying to one another. He smiles at her, one laced with pity and regret, for she knows that he did not purchase such a shield so that it might hang as a mantelpiece above his doorway.
"I lost my face, Saria." He says in explanation, a lie in its own rights. He tries to smile again though the image is fleeting.
"What makes you think you'll find it out there?" She asks, the world outside of Kokiri is vast and she's afraid he won't find his way back again. (She knows he won't find his way back again; after all, what is there for him in the forest of chilAdren?)
He doesn't answer, for he's already told her far too much, far more than he intended. He sighs instead, mind already wandering through the golden fields, past the mountains and the deserts until he has left all the world behind him.
He does not promise to return; for he has been fed too many empty words that he no longer believes in them himself. The truth is bitter and unspoken, and in taking his kind words he has taken her hope, he has taken her will to watch and to wait for his return.
But she knows even as he turns from her, sword at his side shield at his back that she will wait for him as she has always done. The Kokiri have always been waiting, waiting for their savior, for their gods, for their futures, it is little effort to wait again.
Elysium passes through his fingertips, the golden fields drifting beneath his hands; their dreams lost in the rustle of the tall grass. There is a melody on his lips, he whistles it through the air, watching as the notes drift backwards to the home that has abandoned him.
His blue eyes close, seeing the forest far behind him, and the childhood he has left behind.
Author's Note: Another Legend of Zelda one-shot, reviews would be dandy.
Disclaimer: I don't own Ocarina of Time