Written for the Certifiably Insane LoZ Pairings Project. I actually barely ship Link/Ilia (maybe just a little), but I try to keep an open mind and hopefully this came out alright. I do, personally, view Ilia as ever so slightly bratty, but I tried to write it in an endearing manner. My only warning to you is that I haven't played Twilight Princess in a while, so this might be slightly incorrect in accordance with the storyline in some aspects. But with any luck, that will not be the case. I am rather proud with how this came out, so perhaps you'll like it as well. Enjoy!
P.S. No, I don't own Legend of Zelda.
Ilia met Link when she was eight and a half years old. He was a wanderer with golden hair and a melancholy smile when he stumbled upon Ordon and Mayor Bo offered him a room for the night. Link was only eight years old. For all of supper, Ilia taunted him: she was half a year older and automatically, twice as smart. And Link silently endured it with his melancholy smile.
Mayor Bo let Link help with the ranch the next day and let him spend the night again. And the night after that. And the night after that. Link was no longer a wanderer.
When Ilia was nine, Link became a playmate. Ilia had forever had imagination filling her veins, so Link was never the same playmate twice. Some days he was a pirate, and Ilia was the elegant mermaid who could afford to laze about and collect a rainbow of seashells. Some days he was a sorcerer, and Ilia was the witch of the superior realm whose magic, naturally, overpowered Link's. And some days, Link was a knight, courageous and fearless, and Ilia was the princess, adorned in flower necklaces and anklets made of acorns, locked away in the tower. Of course she could have escaped if she had wanted to, but it was more princess-like to wait for a knight, and Ilia wanted to do the role properly. Her favorite part was when Link would slay the wooden dragon, its twig limbs snapping like coals in a fire, and lead her to her freedom through the autumn leaves twirling about them like fairydust. Ilia would decide then that if she ever was locked in a tower, Link would be the knight she wanted to be rescued by.
Ilia was ten when Link grew boring. He'd rather go fishing or work the ranch than climb the trees or go swimming in the spring. Mayor Bo told Ilia she was being immature and that Link was simply growing up. Ilia had stomped off and nearly run right into Link. She told him he was stupid and dull and that growing up was a most uninteresting business. Link said nothing, and Ilia went to bed early that night. When she awoke, a simple flower necklace, the stems woven together beautifully, was on her pillow beside her. She forgave Link for growing up before her.
Ilia was twelve when she first saw it happen. Mayor Bo had always told her he'd explain about her mother when she came of age, but Ilia wasn't of age yet, so she didn't know. That's why she saw it happening with Colin's parents instead. Their mouths were on each other, and it looked strange. But it was a different kind of strange. Ilia felt like she shouldn't watch, but she couldn't not. But Rusl pulled away as if there was nothing peculiar about what had just happened, and Uli smiled after him as he left. Ilia asked the other kids about it later. Malo and Talo thought it sounded disgusting. Colin blushed and offered no opinion. Link looked thoroughly uninterested, and Ilia wanted to yell at him to pay attention because this was important. But Beth spoke up before she could do it. Beth looked wistful but simply said her parents did it sometimes too. She thought it was called "kissing." But Ilia knew it wasn't "kissing." When Mayor Bo tucked her in at night, he "kissed" her, and what she had seen happening was completely different. It looked intriguing-maybe magical even. Ilia had always believed in magic.
She later found Link, sitting on a rock. "Try it with me," she told him. Link's cheeks crimsoned, but as always, he made no protests. Link always let Ilia have her way. He leapt down from the rock, and Ilia strode up to him. She tried to cradle his face in her hands like Uli had with Rusl, but she felt like she was doing it wrong. Link met her eyes, petrified and, for the first time, scared. Link had never feared anything for as long as Ilia had known him, and now she felt a terror of her own creeping into her. But she couldn't stop now. She was so close; she had to try it. She leaned in for him and pressed her lips against his, closing her eyes because Uli had. It didn't feel magical. It felt funny. It was all awkward angles and sweaty skin and no magic. Ilia pulled back, her own cheeks flushed. Link stared back at her. "I'm sorry," she said, running off because she didn't know what else to do.
Ilia and Link didn't talk about the "kiss," and none of the other kids ever knew. It was easier to just forget they had tried it. But Ilia did tell Beth once that "kissing" was indeed, very unpleasant.
When Ilia was thirteen and Link was twelve and a half, Link got his first horse. Ilia didn't care how old she was (she never had), she stamped her foot and threw a tantrum that Link had received a horse before her. Ilia had prayed for a horse since she could speak, and it wasn't fair at all. Mayor Bo tried to assuage the disaster, telling her Link needed the horse for his work. But none of it made any sense, and Ilia stormed away to the spring, huffing as she sat down in the sand. There was a soft patter of hooves and the rustle of branches. Link was there with her in the clearing, his beautiful, perfect horse with him. Ilia told him to go away. Link told her she could ride the horse first. Ilia stood, looking at him incredulously. He nodded, giving her permission. She approached the magnificent creature, stroking its mane carefully, tenderly. Link helped her climb onto its back, not that she needed his assistance, but she accepted it to be polite. And then she was cantering around the spring, surrounded by the rushing of the wind and the glow of Link's smile as he watched her fly.
Talo called Ilia a brat when she was fifteen. Ilia was furious. She had a bad temper, even Mayor Bo had told her that, but she was not a brat. Inside, she was still a princess, beautiful and kind. She told Talo to bug off and went to go see Link. His house was in the trees now, ever since he had moved out of Mayor Bo's house. Ilia sometimes wished her house could be nestled in a tree too. Epona came trotting up to her; Link had let Ilia name her. Ilia shouted for Link to come down because she had something important to ask. Link came down, patiently and obediently, letting Ilia fuss about Talo. "I'm not a brat, am I, Link?"
Link shook his head. "Well, what am I then?" Ilia asked.
Link paused, thinking about it a moment. "My best friend," he said with a small smile. Ilia liked his answer and hurried away to correct Talo.
Link was sixteen when the world stopped spinning. Ilia was swept away by goblin-looking men and it was like playing pretend all over again. Except she still wasn't a princess. And she couldn't remember wanting to be one—she couldn't remember anything. Not even her knight named Link. It was her curse. She didn't see him when he entered Telma's bar with a bright smile. She didn't see the way his smile shattered and his eyes darkened sadly when she didn't recognize him. She was too busy worrying about Prince Ralis; she'd always had a tender heart at the core of her being. She didn't have time for strangers clad in green.
When Ilia did remember, she felt guilty. She hated feeling guilty, and Link seemed to always be able to make her feel that way. He'd brought her and Telma safely to Kakariko Village, and even though she'd thanked him, she knew he'd still been hurt that she couldn't remember. "I'm so sorry," she tried to say when she could remember again. He hushed her, letting her know it was alright. His eyes gleamed, the fire of the shaman's house reflecting in them, and she knew he was happy again. He gave her a warm hug and she gave him a promise. She'd be there when he came back. She wanted to go with him, but she knew she'd only get in the way. Like Epona, this adventure was meant for Link and not her. But maybe that wasn't so bad. Maybe she could still be the princess and he could still be the knight. So she went back to Ordon with the other kids to wait to be rescued.
While Link was away, Ilia worried. She didn't like worrying, but Link tormented her in her dreams. Sometimes he died, his clothes scarlet with his own blood and face covered with scars. Sometimes he vanished with a cloud of smoke, and he never came back to Ordon ever. And sometimes, worst of all, he came back and then left, because he didn't want to live a mundane life as a ranch hand when he could be a fantastic hero. Link had been her only best friend, so she thought maybe that was why she worried. But she knew, deep down, there was a different reason; she just couldn't properly identify it. She had a lot of feelings about Link. He was funny, so he could make her laugh. He was a better rider than her, so he could make her mad. He was a good listener, so he could make her feel at ease with herself. But then there was another feeling, and Ilia really didn't know what it was. But it made her feel warm from her head to her toes, her skin tingly and her head light, whenever she felt it. She felt it the most when she thought about the way Link had hugged her.
Link did come back. It was a short time after Ilia's return but still far too long. Ilia ran and hid when he got there. The mysterious, unidentified feeling had overwhelmed her as soon as she saw him, and she didn't know what to do with herself as he got closer and closer and she felt hotter and hotter. She ran to the spring, forever her safe haven. But Link knew it too. He asked her what was wrong, her back to him, his voice an echo against the rocks. She told him she didn't know and to leave her alone. He said he wouldn't. Ilia turned around, aghast. Link had always done as she had said—that was the way things were. She told him to go away. He said he wouldn't, he missed her. Ilia said she missed him too and to go away. He didn't say anything, but he stepped closer to Ilia, a shy, boyish smile on his face. Ilia's heart pounded in her chest like a hammer, and she turned to run away again and escape the barrage of emotion. But Link caught her arm—the touch not rough but gentle. He begged her to stay, his voice quiet but desperate, a plea that split Ilia's heart in two. She couldn't move, couldn't think. He stepped closer again, and their noses bumped. He leaned in instead of her this time, and he kissed her. It wasn't uncomfortable. It wasn't sticky. It was magical. He held her hands in his as Ilia's heart fluttered about her chest, feeling as if it would burst. "I love you," he whispered when they were done, his eyes boring into hers with the soft intensity that Link had always had about him.
Ilia knew a little about love, but not very much. She had figured out that there were different kinds of kissing some time after her first kiss with Link. There were goodnight kisses from Mayor Bo and goodbye kisses between Rusl and Uli. And like kisses, she knew there were different kinds of love. She figured Link must be talking about love like Rusl and Uli, or maybe the love of a knight and his princess. She wasn't sure, but she didn't mind learning. Not when Link was smiling at her like she was some kind of ethereal dream and still holding her hands like he was afraid to let her go—as if she'd slip through his fingers like sand. No, she didn't mind learning at all.