disclaimer: disclaimed.
dedication: to my best friend.
notes: i keep sneezing everywhere. it's bothersome.
notes2: what is this, i am writing Link/Ilia. like, reciprocated Link/Ilia. whaaat.

title: zombie
summary: My lonely little hero. — Midna/Link/Ilia.

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Speech was overrated.

Link had never liked talking very much. It had never been a problem, because he'd always had someone to fill the silence—Ilia was a warm presence at the fringe of his consciousness and since she spoke enough for the both of them, Link had never felt the need to comment.

Actions spoke louder than words, Link had always thought. And when one was alone as much as link was, words became obsolete. He'd been alone for longer than he could remember. Silence was something you got used to, when you were always alone.

And Link was always, always alone.

So the silence wasn't a bad thing.

It had helped when he'd been saving the world. Because he'd been alone and half-dead, bloodied and bruised with only an imp-girl to keep from actually dying—talking hadn't been high on his list of priorities.

Living, though.

That had been up there.

(Midna probably would have laughed at him. Link's hands clenched convulsively.)

Surviving.

There were times that Link didn't know how he'd managed it. He'd always been clumsy and awkward, and the whole adventure thing had been no different. He'd smashed into walls, jumped off cliffs, fallen down holes, fallen up stairs and generally had not thought anything of his own well-being.

He tried very hard not to remember what Ilia had said about out of your league.

The whole thing had been out of his league—two princesses and one very evil man who just wouldn't stay dead. The temples and the canons and the Ooccoo.

It had all been out of his league from before he'd even started.

And even afterwards, when the cowardice got the best of him (because Ordon was dangerous, in all it's perfection), when he ran—

He ran up and out and away because facing his childhood home was too hard and Link—Din, Link was a coward.

He hated how weak it made him.

Ilia was just a girl.

She shouldn't have been so scary.

(Absolution always was terrifying.)

/ / /

It took him eight years, four months, and fifteen days to go home after that last time. Colin would be—he calculated in his head—eighteen. Link had been younger than that, the first time he'd stabbed a sword through a monster's head and watched it bleed green ooze.

The thought made him just the littlest bit ill.

He had been so young.

Epona seemed to reflect his feelings, moving slower than normal with her head down. Link ran his hand along her neck.

"Beautiful girl," he murmured. "We're almost home."

(It was funny. Ordon was still home. Link had lived away from the small province for the last near-decade of his life. And yet, Ordon was still home. Maybe it always would be.)

Epona nickered her agreement and voluntarily picked up her pace. The trot was rolling and familiar, the saddle warm and forgiving.

Link took a slow, deep breath, and clucked to Epona.

They crossed the bridge into Ordon.

Link exhaled a breath he hadn't realized that he'd been holding.

"Well," he murmured to no one in particular, "I'm back."

/ / /

His house was a mess. The dust was a clear inch thick, which wasn't all that bad, he guessed. He'd been away a long time, and if all that he had to remind himself of it was an inch or two of dust, he would be grateful.

Link mused that he hadn't cleaned anything in just about as long as he'd been gone.

(The Queen had maids for that.)

He figured that it was about time he had something to do with his hands that didn't involved cutting something open.

Cleaning seemed like a good start.

But Link was reluctant to leave the almost-isolation of the house. It was further from the village, and he was—he was still getting his mind around being back. Still… rewiring.

But that wasn't even the right word.

Maybe just adjusting.

Link didn't know.

And there were things that he hadn't done. Things he'd left unfinished—Ilia—people he'd never given a proper goodbye—Ilia—all the thing he'd screwed up—Ilia, it was all Ilia, and Link winced.

Sometimes his cowardice just got the best of him.

Not everyone could be brave all the time.

(He was sure Midna would be laughing at him, if she knew. Triforce of Courage, what?)

Link sucked a deep breath into his lungs, and swung himself down the ladder. The movement was still engrained—maybe not from this place, but from years of monkey-climbing up and down things and sneaking into castles and rushing out of burning buildings.

He hit the ground running and ducked into a roll, tucking up and in.

Link froze on the ground. He looked at the sky with his limbs thrown out at awkward angles.

He was never going to be able to leave any of it behind.

He didn't even know why he was trying.

Link pushed himself off the ground and thought that maybe he was trying because he was sick of sleeping alone, and that running around saving the world was best left to the young.

He was tired of saving the world.

There were other people who could do that.

Link walked into Ordon in bright sunlight and moth-hole-ridden clothes, and wondered if he was ever going to forgive himself.

/ / /

It was two weeks later that he finally stopped avoiding Ilia.

Except that he wasn't avoiding her.

She was avoiding him, and the image of her (all blonde hair and wide green eyes, sixteen and fleeting like a bonfire) had long since faded from his mind. Her voice, too, was lost. Link could barely remember what her smile was like.

He knew that she probably didn't want to talk to him.

Really, he wouldn't have been surprised if they all gave him the cold shoulder. Nine years and just beginning to grow up, he didn't have a leg to stand on.

He wondered if they would talk to him at all.

There would be time for Ilia and broken promises later.

But for now:

Link quietly knocked at the door of a house he'd once considered a second home. A tall blonde man that Link didn't recognize opened the door. For a very long moment, they stared at each other.

And then the man's face broke out into a grin and Link was startled to find himself looking at Colin, nineteen years in the making.

"Come in," he said. "Mam'll be happy to see you."

And Link did.

/ / /

She looked older and more tired and more melancholy, and it was with wary almost mistrust in her eyes that Ilia looked Link over.

Green eyes.

He remembered that.

"So you've come back," she said.

"Yeah."

She was balancing a woven basket against her hip, her feet bare. She looked at him with old eyes and a strange, tremulous smile that might have been bravery but mostly was just sadness.

It had been so long.

Link had no words left.

Except:

"I'm sorry."

Ilia smiled that smile again, and Link thought that she must still be rebuilding. Reconfiguring. Rewiring. The loneliness stung—but he knew, he knew he had had to leave. He could never have stayed, too young to properly understand the consequences of his actions.

(A side effect of saving the world.)

Link missed Midna desperately.

Ilia might have missed him more.

He reached between them, and caught her wrist. He might have twined their fingers together, or it might have been her. He would never know.

Ilia looked at their intertwined hands.

There was silence and mending.

She looked back up and him.

"Would you like to go for a walk?" she asked.

"Sure," he replied.

They wouldn't speak, but they would stand quietly together. Link had stumbled for so long; blind, deaf, and dumb to everything but the need for destruction—for fire because burning was better than knowing that he'd always be alone.

Heroics meant nothing in the face of loneliness.

He just needed a reason to stop.

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fin.
notes3: what is this i don't even
notes4: i'm going to bed. please leave a review. :)