So this is just something I've wanted to do for a long time but I've had troubles getting out how I wanted until now. I have plans to make this into a longer, multi-chapter story, but we'll see what you guys think!
So one of my constant reviewers and I were discussing how there is not enough of this pairing, especially done where Ilia isn't a crazy possessive lunatic, completely mad, or an alcoholic. So we wanted to change that. I mean come on people, Ilia is Link's closest childhood friend who he goes through extreme lengths to save. That wasn't for nothing! I love Ilia, and I hope even if you are one of those people that found her extremely annoying (which I didn't, but this is a common theme with solid ZeLink...ers...), that my interpretation of her can sway you.
Final thing, I did not give up on Us Against The World. It is still in progress, and the gears in my head are still turning for it! I'm kind of a multi-tasker. Currently I am working on... two original stories, editing one, and two fan fictions. WELCOME TO MY LIFE!
It was already late. Too late for others to still be awake, even those that were constantly in a state of worry. He looked out over the small, ransacked village, his knees pulled up tight to his chest, wishing he could have been there sooner.
His horse waited patiently for him by the spring, refreshing and hydrating herself in anticipation. She had a keen sense that her master was restless there, and that they would be leaving soon.
Before the sun rises, he thought to himself, before she wakes.
He felt the urgency to always be on the move, an inkling in the back of his mind that told him to never leave his feet planted for too long. He knew that it wasn't entirely his own desire, but mostly that of the girl hiding in his shadow. His stomach ached with a desire to stop moving, to be at home away from all this mess. And yet he would never abandon the reason he sat upon the inn's rooftop, gazing up at the stars through the haze of smoke.
Home felt far away, finding a way to fix everything gave him something.
Fixing her made him feel closer to home.
But he did fix her. And she was better. But still he didn't feel right like he thought he would.
He heard a door open and close then, a sound too close to him to be the main entrance to the inn. He turned his face towards the small trap door that led to the roof and saw the familiar flash of gold hair as she stepped through. She had a blanket draped over her shoulders though it slipped off one of them. He felt a dire urge to go and cover her back up.
"Hey," is all he said, so quietly he wondered for a moment if she heard him or not.
"Hey," she said back, coming to sit beside him.
"Couldn't sleep?" he asked.
She shook her head, her pale skin glowing beneath the foggy moonlight. "I keep remembering things. There's so much."
"I know," is all he said in reply.
"Link," she said after a long moment of silence, only filled by the wind, and the trickling water in the spring, and the distant call of birds. He turned towards her, awaiting her voice quietly. "I'm glad I remembered you first."
His hand twitched though it went unnoticed by her eyes. He so longed to touch her hair gently. "You've had a long day," he said quietly, "you should get some sleep."
Her face set in determination, just the way it did when they were younger and she disagreed with him. "I don't need it," she said so quietly that her voice broke.
His eyes softened, her's, the gorgeous green color like the depths of the lake at home, searching his face. His heart fluttered as though he was anticipating something though he didn't know what. A thought flickered through his mind, the thought of holding her and falling asleep beside her and not having to leave. He bit his lip, frustrated with himself that he'd allowed his mind to entertain the thought. He needed her to go to sleep because he needed to go and he didn't want to tell her goodbye. She'd told him she would be okay, waiting there when he returned, but the thought of leaving her there unprotected would eat at any rationality in his thoughts.
"When you come back, after everything is set right, will you not look at me like you're afraid?" she asked him.
He furrowed his brow, winding his fingers through his hair, "I... I don't understand..."
"You don't look at me like you did before," she said, observing the pain in the rigid set of his fingers with a subtle ache in her heart.
He shook his head slowly, some sort of hurt filling his lungs and making it hard to breathe. "Will you tell me what they did to you?"
Her soft pink lips turned into a hard line. "They did a lot of things," she barely managed to whisper.
"Like what?" he asked, the desperation in his voice, clear.
She shook her head once, in the dim light he could see the beads of moisture in her eyes, "Link, if I tell you, you'll only blame yourself—"
"Yes, because it's my fault," he said, his voice shaking, "if I hadn't let them take you—"
It was her turn to cut him off with a firm gaze, "It is not your fault."
A pained cry she barely heard bubbled past his lips as he leaned his elbows on his knees, hiding his face in his hands. He hadn't faced it before, but now with her here, not the empty shell of her, but the Ilia he grew up with, he felt the overwhelming guilt of letting her go.
A warm palm touched his arm then, though he refused to let his gaze fall upon her until he'd gained control of himself. When she spoke her voice was a trembling whisper, "When we go back home, when we sit by the spring like we used to, will you kiss me?"
Startled by her question, he glanced up at her if only to gauge her expression.
She bit her lower lip, "Why won't you say what's in your head?"
He didn't give himself a second to respond before he gave in. He leaned towards her quickly and caught her lips in his own, cupping a hand under her chin and reveling in the taste of her lips as he gently kneaded them with his own. She tasted like home. She only hesitated a second before taking in a shuddering breath and kissing him back, trapping his face against hers as her hand wound around the back of his head. His other hand found her bare shoulder, the pad of his thumb caressing the smooth skin there. She pulled back after a few moments, slowly, unsurely, but lingered in his embrace as he pressed his lips to her nose, then to her forehead before she curled herself under his arm, holding onto his knee.
Since that moment in the bar when she had looked right through him, not recognizing who he was and who they were together, he'd wanted to do that. And knowing that he couldn't, tormented him.
And now that he had, he knew.
He knew that he loved her.
His arrival home wasn't how he'd imagined it would be only a few days ago. He did not arrive home to the people of Ordon waiting patiently for him with smiles on their faces, hugging him and thanking him. There wasn't a celebration, there wasn't her, kissing his cheek and holding his hand beneath the table as they ate.
He arrived silently in the dead of night under the tired stars. He tied Epona up outside his home, a home that had sat long undisturbed, and found his bed. His body ached as he lay with eyes too tired to keep open, but that had seen too many things to keep closed.
He wept quietly, his arms bound tightly around his chest, grasping his shoulders in an attempt to hold himself together, wishing things hadn't happened the way they did. He wasn't entirely sure why he was crying, maybe it was the relief of finally being home, maybe it was for the pain in his every muscle combined with how tired he was. But more than anything, he thought it might be because of her. Because he would never see her again. His body burned as he tried to shed the memory of her face, the memory of her face disappearing to the sound of cracking glass.
He sat upright, bending his knees and resting his elbows on them to hold his head in his hands. The back of his neck and his hair were damp, his breath racing in and out too quickly. He didn't try to stop himself this time, because when tomorrow came, he would have to force it away, put on a face for the people he'd missed so much.
He managed to take a deep breath at the thought of her face, the gentle smile giving him some sort of hope. He shed the shirt he was wearing, unable to take the heat any longer before he laid back on his bed, staring up at the ceiling, at the dusty beams of moonlight filtering through the window high up on the wall.
For a moment, he idly wondered if he would ever be able to tell anyone. He wondered if even Ilia would ever know. For now, his lost companion only existed in the minds of himself and of the Princess of Hyrule, not a single other person even knew her name. He tried not to think of her, but every time her image, or the sound of her voice, or even her name managed to flicker in the forefront of his thoughts, a sharp pain shot through his chest. Tears rolled down his temples, tears he didn't wipe away as they sunk into his pillow and then disappeared. He lay silently until sleep touched it's cool fingers over his eyes and the memories of her subsided into a dream.
He dreamed of her for most of the night. Of Midna.
Ilia woke early, her father still dreaming and the village still under the lull of sleep as she walked barefoot up the way to Link's home. She found herself sitting on his porch some days, waiting for any sign of him. Others, she walked quietly to their spot by the spring and sat amongst the tall grass. Sometimes she just laid back and closed her eyes and listened, praying for him to come home.
He didn't come back to see her after she'd recovered her memories, not once. She had told him that she would be alright, that she would be waiting for him when he came back, but he never did.
She stopped, her heart lurching inside her chest when she saw a familiar sight just up ahead of her; Epona.
Epona is back... which means...
She picked up her feet quicker into a jog, petting the soft white hair on Epona's face when she drew near enough and analyzed the knot that bound Epona to her post. Ilia had untied Link's knots so many times she knew them off by heart, the way he would tie her up very specific to him. She climbed the ladder to his front door with shaking hands before pressing her ear to the wood, listening intently for any rustle from the other side, any movement that would indicate that he was home. Finally... home.
But there was nothing.
It's still early, she thought to herself with disappointment, he's probably still sleeping. He's been through so much, he deserves a little rest.
She sat down beside the door, hugging her knees to her chest and waited.
She waited until after noon, and still there was nothing to indicate to her that Link was actually on the other side of the door.
After picking herself up and standing in front of his door for near a half hour, she finally convinced herself to open it, just to twist the knob to see if it would turn.
A breath of a sharp gasp escaped her lips as it twisted freely in her grasp. She swallowed, glancing behind her to see if anyone was watching, embarrassed that she'd been surprised. He hadn't locked his door that day they'd all been taken, and he hadn't locked it when he came back. She wondered why he wasn't worried about the younger children getting into his things. But then she supposed that her and the others were in Kakariko for most of the time.
She peered through the crack she'd opened the door, taking one step inside as she glanced at the items discarded around her; his shield and sword, his hat and tunic and gloves. His boots by the fireplace, his belts draped over the back of a chair. Her breath caught in her throat as she stepped all the way in, closing the door quietly behind her, the anticipation making it hard to breathe or swallow or even move.
She glanced up through the spiraling moats of dust, swirling in the streams of sunlight, and to the loft where he slept, unsure if she could see him there.
With trembling hands, she climbed the ladder to his loft with a measured pace, trying to keep from making any noise in fear of waking him. She bit her lip when she could finally see over the top, finally see the lump beneath his blankets. She crept over to him and knelt by his bedside, relief making the green in her eyes foggy.
He was still asleep, his mouth slightly agape as he breathed in and out slowly. There were dark circles beneath his eyes, a scratch on the edge of his eyebrow. His shirt lay by her knees, his skin vulnerable, something that made Ilia's cheeks grow warm. His hair had grown longer in his time away, it made him look younger, or maybe it was just that he was sleeping.
She leaned over him, refusing to let out a breath as she pressed her lips delicately to his cheek before turning around and climbing back down the ladder. She would tell the others that he was home, but that he was resting.
When her feet touched the bottom floor, Link opened his eyes slowly. He grazed his fingertips along his cheek, the one she'd kissed, longing for her to do it again. He wasn't sure why he hadn't just opened his eyes then, or when she'd opened his door to begin with, but he didn't. He had remained still, feigning sleep like he was afraid to see her.
Because he was afraid to see her. He was afraid to see anyone.
He was afraid of having to tell them the things that happened, of having to revisit them.
He shut his eyes again, pulling his blankets back up close to his chin and trying to escape once more.
She turned her head to find her father at the door of their home, peering down at her with confusion in his eyes as she sat on their porch. "Where have you been today? Nobody's seen you."
"Link's back," are the only words she shared with him.
"What? Where, where is he?" he asked, rushing to sit on the edge next to his daughter.
"Sleeping," she replied quietly, tracing a pattern on her knee with her finger, effectively avoiding his eyes.
"Did you talk to him?" he asked.
"No," she said.
"Did you see him?"
The back of her neck turned hot, "I... well, I went in—to make sure he was alright."
"Oh," he mumbled, "when did he get back?"
"He must have come some time in the night. He looked like he was alright... just tired," she said, hoping to cover all her bases and just drop the subject, "can you tell everyone not to bother him? Especially the kids..."
"Alright... where are you going?" he asked as she stood up as soon as he'd agreed.
"I don't know," she said, wandering up the hill towards the spring. He didn't question her any further.
When she was alone, she took Epona's reins and led her to the spring, stroking her mane and washing her off. She knew that Link must not have had time while he was away to give her the attention she needed, not that she blamed him like she once would have. It was probably for the better now, that he'd taken her jumping and had pushed her. She had probably saved his life on more than one occasion because she was strong. She was strong because of Link.
Ilia smiled to herself, remembering the flustered feeling in her heart when Link found her washing Epona, like she'd done something wrong or he'd be mad. He never was.
But her smile started to tremble, the fond memory turning into something more melancholic. She had hoped that when he came back home that he would be like he once was. But she knew something had changed within him. She knew that something wasn't right. When they were younger she'd notice his eyes fade to a forgotten place, the place that housed the memories of his early childhood and his parents. She felt like she was losing him to that place altogether.
"Please get better," she said for him though he would not hear her raw voice.
He laid in his bed until the sky grew dark, the beams of sunlight changing back to those of the moon. Fatigue weighed every limb, every muscle down until he felt as though he could barely move. He felt too tired to make food, too tired to get dressed, too tired to pull himself up. He found some peace in watching the miniature galaxy above him, the moonlight turning the drifting dust into stars. There was something so monotonous about the way one star would drift out of the stream of light and become a simple piece of dust again, but another would quickly take it's place. The constancy of it soothed his troubled thoughts, relaxed his tense muscles.
Suddenly the stars in the light above him started spinning, flying chaotically and it took him a moment to realize that his door had just opened, and that the draft from outside was interfering with the steady flow of dust particles. The door closed again, and the pandemonium slowed as gentle footsteps invaded the silence. He waited, laying on his back as she climbed the ladder to him, and finding his eyes, awake, open, but as though he was still lost to a dream.
She hesitated only a moment before sitting down on his bed, pulling back the covers enough that she could crawl beneath them and lay by his side. She nestled her nose beneath his jaw, held onto the side of his neck, her touch feather-light. She didn't know what had come over her, losing all sense of propriety, of boundaries, especially since the boy she shared this bed with was only half-clothed. But she needed to be this close to him now, to know that he was still living and breathing. That he was still the Link that kissed her on the rooftop.
Carefully, he laid his hand over her forearm, the one that was draped across his chest and touching his neck. He trailed his hand down to her elbow, then to her upper arm, holding her there.
The dust streams above him slowed back down as he held Ilia close, feeling the constant beat of her heart against his ribs. She didn't speak to him, didn't say a single word, but felt a tear slip from the corner of her eye and over the bridge of her nose, onto his skin. He slowly turned his face towards her, looking at her for the first time since he'd kissed her that night and she turned her big eyes to his. He let go of her arm for just one moment as he smoothed away the glossy trail left from her tear, before tucking her back into the place she was before.
He listened to her breathing, felt her heartbeat, watched the dusty stars above him as she fell into sleep. He didn't follow her, but he held her while she slept, the whole night through. It comforted him to have someone beside him.
He watched as the blue light in his home evaporated and was replaced by warm golden light, casting them gently into morning. He became restless. Letting go of Ilia's arm, he carefully sat up and settled her into his bed. She was so beautiful. He brushed some of her hair off her forehead with the back of his hands, a ghost of a smile passing his lips, a smile that quickly faded.
Along her hairline was a jagged white scar. He'd never noticed it when they were younger, no, he was certain she didn't have it before he'd left.
He remembered asking what they'd done to her, those creatures that had abducted her.
They had hurt her, because he hadn't been there.
He swallowed, quickly averting his eyes from her as he pulled himself up, his legs unsure on the ground as he pulled his shirt over his head.
"Link?" the quiet voice behind him asked.
He turned around, giving her a brief smile in response.
"Where are you going?" she asked, concern pulling her eyebrows together.
He stepped towards her, weaving his fingers through her hair and kissing her forehead, "I'm just going to go ride for a bit." He chose to keep his burning desire to leave his home, the village, to himself.
"Oh... okay," she said, her voice quiet, unsure, "what time is it?"
"Early," he whispered, "I'll be back later. I promise."
"Okay," she murmured, believing in his words.
She followed him as he climbed down the ladder, he lent her his hand when she took her final step down but let go as soon as she touched the floor. They left his home and led Epona to the trail that led to the spring, and eventually the rest of Hyrule, before giving one last gaze to her as he climbed onto Epona's back, the deep blue, like that of a heavy thundercloud, meeting her soft green. She clasped her hands together at her chest as he kicked his heels into the mare's side, escaping the boundaries of the town, escaping the explanations and the inevitable pain that was associated with them.
He wasn't there when Fado, his employer came looking for him. Fado would notice Ilia still standing there, watching him go long after the sound of Epona's hooves had faded, and Ilia would tell him that Link had somewhere to go, something to do.
He rode hard, leaning forward, his neck bent as he pressed her faster if only just to be gone from the forest, leave the trees behind him. He burst through the treeline after some time, spilling out onto the wide plain of Hyrule, the mass of open space engulfing him in quiet. All of the sounds that found his ears were too distant to be heard in detail. Closing his eyes as Epona slowed and then stopped altogether, he felt a detachment from the world, from the things that were happening in it.
All so far away, he thought with relief, lifting his face to the sky, draped in the shadows of a storm recently passed. Drops of rain still hung in the air around him, every now and then a cold bead pricking his lips, his cheeks and forehead. He'd always liked the rain, the way it smelled, the way it sounded as it trickled through the thick foliage outside his home, the way it felt touching his skin.
His eyes opened slightly, the sun burning through the wispy remnants of a cloud, penetrating the moisture in the air and leaving behind a band of color. A short sigh escaped his lips; he felt something that had become foreign to him.
Peace, he felt at peace.
It was nearing twilight when Ilia gave up the hope that he would come back as soon as he'd promised. She questioned what later meant to him in comparison to what it meant to her. She knew he needed his space, needed time, but that didn't ease the longing in her heart for the feel of his skin again. All of the questions meant for him were directed towards her, and she could only answer so many before she had to tell them that she didn't know the answers herself. She watched as the sun hid behind the mountains, the sun spilling pink and red ink into the sky.
She cradled Uli's baby in her arms while her and her husband, Rusl sat by the water, watching Colin fish, Rusl's arm around his wife. Ilia sat on Uli and Rusl's porch, watching them, yearning to have that. She offered to take care of the youngest child so they could spend time with their first son, with Colin. She knew that Colin was still young, still needed the attention of his parents even though he'd done so much growing up in their time away from Ordon.
Her brow quirked as she watched them, their attention being drawn elsewhere suddenly. She followed their gazes, finding a boy walking through the town, his head down.
The bubbly chatter of the people silenced immediately, but none swarmed him like she'd expected, none approached him. They just watched with wide eyes, even the birds falling silent as he made his way towards Ilia, sitting on the porch.
Confusion showed itself clearly in her eyes as he sat down beside her, his gaze falling upon the child in her arms. She glanced from him, down to the baby girl, and back to him. "Do you want to hold her?" she asked him quietly.
He nodded once, a smile turning up the corners of his lips as he held out his hands for her. Ilia smirked, lifting the baby into his arms. "Like this?" Link asked.
"Mhmm, watch her neck," Ilia mumbled.
Link's smile opened as he gazed down at the little girl, his eyes half-lidded, his white teeth showing. He exchanged a glance with Ilia, "She's so tiny."
"Yeah, she is," Ilia said with a soft smile, her eyes on Link and the pure joy in his expression.
"She looks like Colin," he murmured, the dimple in the corner of his lips showing.
Ilia nodded, looking down over his shoulder at the baby, thoroughly enthralled in Link's eyes. She didn't laugh or cry or scream, but just lay in his arms, seemingly mesmerized.
Ilia glanced up then, to find nearly the whole village watching him from their various vantage points. They kept their distance, but watched him affectionately, not one of them speaking, not even to exchange words with one another.
So this is how they would welcome him. Not like the hero she knew he was, not like a celebrity. But like someone they loved, someone who had only been gone for a day. Someone they already knew was a hero for what he'd done for the children alone.
Like someone they didn't need to ask to explain.
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