Chapter 1: Overwhelmed
Link awoke from his terrible dream in the stable of a ranch he had blindly stumbled upon during the night. Epona silently leaned against the opposing wall, sleeping soundly. He wiped the sweat from his brow and tried to ease his breath down to a normal rate. His eyes fumbled around the stable, and then he looked down. He saw that his hand was involuntarily gripping the hilt of his sword so tightly that his knuckles were easily whiter than parchment. He eased his grip, trying to get a hold of himself. The dream had been so real... So very real...
Link sighed, swallowed, and shuffled to his weary feet, his calves aching with such mercilessness that he fell to the floor in his first attempts at standing. As he finally stood on his own two feet, becoming accustomed to the pain, he looked up. By the looks of the sky, visible through a hole in an abandoned rooftop, it was nearly four in the morning. He figured he had better get going before this ranch had awoken. He silently gathered Epona's reigns, waking her with a start, and led her out of the stable.
"Hey! Hey, you!" A gruff deep voice behind Link startled him, but upon turning and seeing a familiar round belly, bald head and trousers, he smiled weakly.
"Talon!" he cried. During these last days, trauma had played an enemy to memory; he hadn't realized that this was Lon-Lon ranch.
"Link! Why, bless my breeches, it's the young fairy lad. Come back to say 'ello, 'ave you?"
"Daddy, who are you--" Malon had come from her home in a thin night-slip.
"Link..." Talon excused himself, walking away with a wide grin spreading across his face. They stood in a shocked, dazed silence for quite a while, until at long last Malon snapped and flung her arms around him, sobbing on his shoulder. He held her at her lower back, feeling as though he might cry as well. He hadn’t seen his good friend, former owner of Epona, in ages it seemed. As she brought her hands to his back, he jolted and groaned in pain, prompting Malon to jump back.
“What is it? Are you hurt?” She asked quickly, concern and terror weaved in her voice.
“I think; I’m not sure. I haven’t really had the chance to look at myself since…” He let it trail off, not wanting to worry Malon so soon, and not feeling all that comfortable to tell her his feelings. His newly founded secret. His failure…
“Come, follow me, Link. I’ll check you underneath the shed in the pasture.”
Link sprawled out underneath the shed with his shirt off. Epona broke from sight as she mingled with the excited horses that she had grown up with. Malon gasped suddenly.
“Link,” she said, pitying him. “What have you been doing? Your back is bruised, horridly. You’re legs are swollen; didn’t you notice it while you walked? Your arm seems to be only half in its socket.” Her eyes scanned to a burn on his chest, red and shining, the edges white and still wet with blood. Dry skin had been burnt and turned black, crinkling with every stinging movement of his breathing chest. “There’s an absolutely grotesque burn on your chest…” Her eyes widening, she suddenly realized.
“You-- You were slaying Volvag--”
“Yes, it’s true.” She was silent, knowing there was little she could do to stop him. She could only heal him so that he could go off and attempt to slay her once more. Perhaps she would do this until she was finished, or until he didn’t come back any longer, lying in a heap on the cavern floor, waiting to be devoured by the she-dragon. She shuddered at the thought and tried to push the tears from her eyes silently.
Malon gave him a red colored potion, told him to drink it slowly to cut the pain, and went to work. She pressed a damp towel to his chest, wet with something other than water, something that stung him profusely on contact. Air hissed as it passed through is clenched teeth, and he involuntarily grabbed her wrist for support. She winced, half in pain, half in fear. He realized what he had done, again without thinking, and let go with a great effort.
“I’m sorry,” he said with difficulty. She nodded. Her eyes seemed to entrance him, the deep shades of violet flickering like a kaleidoscope. Her soft, kind face, full of forgiveness, was the only thing that he was able to focus on, everything around him a blur.
“When I am finished,” Malon said, not looking him in the eyes, working intently on the burn on his chest, “you are welcome to stay in a spare bedroom in our home. You will need to mend; you’re in no condition to ride horses and fight dragons.” She tried to add humor to this, but it came out as a blunt suggestion.
“Thank you, Malon.”
When the sun was blazing, Link had been soaked with creams and bandaged, ready to make himself welcome in the spare bedroom. But as he walked to her home, her arm around his hunched shoulder, limping slowly, all he could think about was Zelda, his princess, locked away in Ganandorf’s grasp.
Chapter 2: Misunderstanding
Link slept soundly all through the day, as suggested by Malon, but awoke with a terror.
At midnight he awoke to a blood-chilling scream, sounding as if it were laughing, coming from Death Mountain. He sat upright in the bed, his sword ready for combat in his hand, but he had to drop it immediately with a clatter to the floor, the pain in his body intense. The scream ceased after another short period of laughing, then echoes, then silence…
So habituated to the life of a hero, with every noise, every tremble of sound, Link was ready for combat. Malon’s feet lightly thudded against the think boards lining the second floor room, and as she reached his bedside he was sitting upright, grasping the hilt of his sword, staring with anger. When the pain settled into his arm again, the sword fell from his weak fingers. Malon, more concerned than frightened, stood over him with a plate of eggs over easy, three slices of honey glazed ham, and fluffy, white bread, steaming heartily in its new air.
With much difficulty, Link managed to cut a piece of ham loose from the slices, but had to quit immediately, the pain in his chest burning. With each movements of his arms or abdomen, his chest would burn, as if it were set afire again, crisping his chest. Malon finally took the fork from him, cut the ham, and fed it to him.
“Tell me-- what happened.” Malon said, feeding him another bite of ham.
“What do you mean?” He asked between chews.
“What happened when you-- fought Volvagia.” Her voice trembled, having uttered the powerful name. “Is she… dead?” Link did not answer her, but only continued eating. Soon, the whole plate was cleaned, and Malon set it aside, handing him a glass of Lon-Lon milk. The look in his eyes told her the answer, but still, she waited for him to answer for himself. He took in the milk with one long gulp, set it aside, and waited.
“N-No.” He cast his face downward in shame. “There I was, face to face with danger, maybe even death--” At this, Malon closed her eyes and tried to fight the image away again, “--And I ran. I ran away from there faster than any other hero might have done; I don’t even feel very much like the ‘Hero of Time’ these sages keep going on about.”
“Link, don’t talk like that. Of course you are; Rauru knows what he’s doing. You’re the chosen one. You’ve just gotten a bit frightened is all.”
“No! You don’t know what it’s like!” Link had lost his temper easily, something he had been prone to do since he was a lad. “Nobody knows what it’s like to be pressured into something into something as monumental as this! Nobody knows what it’s like to be put more faith into than the Lord himself!” He calmed down, his voice but a quivering noise. “Nobody knows what it’s like to be madly in love with someone, and not being able to do anything about it.”
“Oh, Link!” Malon cried, wrapping her arms around him and pressing her lips against his. He made a confused noise against her lips, and pushed her away, forgetting his own strength. She fell backwards over a chair, her thighs showing indecently because of the wind beneath her skirt. Her hair was strung about her face, and she looked into his eyes, shaking.
“What in God’s name are you doing?”
“But I-- I thought--” Link stared at her, and within a few moment’s time, he understood. Malon had mistaken his love of Zelda for a love of her, and she had realized at the same time he did. Her face went bright red, and she ran from the room, tears streaming sown her cheeks.
Chapter 3: Taking Leave
Link knew that his warm welcome from Malon and her father had frozen over, and that he had to leave. He had stayed for 2 nights and 1 day, far too long for his princess to wait for him. He would never be able to forgive himself if something had happened to her while he cowered in fear from Volvagia. He became accustomed to the pain in his chest as he bent this way and that to dress himself in his tunic, his boots, his tights, and his gauntlets, and the pain seemed surreal to him. Malon had shut herself in her bedroom, sobbing into a pillow, when Link came in to say goodbye.
“Malon?” She gasped, turning from him to wipe her eyes, and stared humbly at him. “I’m leaving.”
“What?” She gathered her skirt so that she could stand to her feet. “Is it because of me? Link, I’m sorry that I misunderstood you. I didn’t mean to do what I did, it just happen--” He had walked up to her by now, and put his finger on her lips, bringing silence.
“My Lady is waiting for me. I can’t keep her waiting.”
“But, your wounds,” she said concernedly, “they need to heal. You’re not completely healed yet, Link. You’re in no condition to go off and slay dragons!”
“Malon, I have to leave.”
She frowned and nodded, putting her cheek in her hand, tears dripping from her fingers. He leaned down and kissed her lightly on the lips, as friends would do, and left.
As Link rode away on Epona’s back, he looked back once more to find Malon standing helplessly at the gates, watching him leave. He smiled, positive that she could see it, and rode off to the Death Mountain Crater, where he would meet with Volvagia one last time.
Link swung his Goron Hammer through the air, and as it struck Volvagia swiftly on the head, Malon’s concerned face, forever etched into his mind, smiled.
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