Legend Of Zelda Fan Fiction ❯ The Legend of Link: Lucky Number 13 ❯ Quiet Before The Storm ( Chapter 14 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]

Chapter Fourteen

It's been roughly two hours since I finished my story, and she still hasn't gotten off that Gossip Stone. I can't say that I blame her. It isn't like I got a haircut-this is a whole other entity all together. She's so far away, though. This sucks again. What good is this godliness shit if I can't share it with the woman I love? Right, there's impeding doom on the horizon that I have to be a god to stop-blah, blah, blah.

On a more positive note, I figured out how to conjure up things. Of course, it isn't that amazing now that Nabooru appears to be afraid of me. Still, I've made and eaten about 150 apples in the last couple of hours, and they've all been flawless. All I have to do is think about an apple, and it comes to me exactly as I want it. Check this out. I want a blue apple, with purple meat, and orange seeds. Poof! That's pretty cool, huh? I chuckle, but I notice Nabooru's uncomfortable reaction and sigh, sinking my teeth into the apple with a bitter grunt. No, I'm not hungry. The eating mainly serves as something to do to pass the time while she thinks.

Oh, did I mention I could hear what people are thinking now? No? Then I probably shouldn't have told her, either. That's when everything started going to shit on me. But why shouldn't it? I know I'd be fairly concerned if she told me that she could hear what I was thinking. And considering I barely have control over the ability, I don't blame her. The harder she concentrates, the harder I have to try and ignore her thoughts, almost as if I was trying to block out a person shouting at me from three feet away.

"Hero, may I ask you something?" I'd be fine if she'd just say something to me at all. The silence was killing me.

"Sure," I reply, watching as she scoots off the Gossip Stone and approaches me. I make an attempt to stand, but she places her hands on my shoulders, which keeps my butt against the grass.

"What all can you do?" Nabooru straddles my lap, putting on a brave front, smiling at me. I can feel it in her heartbeat; she's uncomfortable, but, still, she wants to work through it. "And… what's it feel like?"

"Don't know what all I can do, to be honest," I reply, returning the smile and ignoring her extra heartbeats the best I can. "And it feels like I'm connected to something… everything in a sense."

She gives me a quizzical look. "That doesn't sound too appealing."

"It is, though." I send a thought out to my gauntlets, causing them to disappear from my hands. Nabooru jumps some, but allows me to rub my hands over her bare arms. "I feel more connected to you, too."

She smiles at the sentiment in my voice, appearing to take a sort of comfort in this extra closeness I feel to her. I close my eyes to experience her body through touch, continually running my hands up and down her arms until I feel the tension relax. A small laugh escapes me, as I see her through my mind's eye… confusion stamped on her face, wondering what I'm doing. The rush of her blood slows, as does her breathing, causing me to open my eyes. She's attempting to kiss me.

I don't attempt to rush her or make any sudden movements, because I've waited for this moment, too. You'd think she was doing this to prove that I'm still me. If you were in my place, you'd know that's exactly what she's trying to do. Still, if this is what has to be done to get her over the hump, I guess I'll have to endure this oh so torturous "punishment."

"I missed you," she pulls away enough to say, looking me square in the eye, only to rest her ear against my chest. "I was starting to think I'd never hear your heart beat again."

I wrap my arms around her, and smile. "I'm not going anywhere." I kiss her forehead to reassure her in a sense, chuckling as her stomach rumbles loudly in response. "Hungry or is your stomach just happy to see me?"

Nabooru sits back on my legs, and folds her arms in mock defensive posturing, before we both laugh. "I suppose I am a little hungry," she says, "just haven't felt like eating for a while."

Gee, I wonder why…

"Well, you're in luck, my dear lady," I announce in my best voice, ignoring the grimness of days past. "Today, Cook Link is prepared to make any food your little belly desires! Want lamb?" A platter fades into existence, dangling in mid-air, stacked high with lamb chops at my mind's visualization and command. "Cook Link can make lamb. How about barbequed ribs? Dun, dun-ah, duuun! I've got more ribs than five pigs, a donkey, and a cow named Sally!" She applauds a silver platter with a slab of ribs plopping into existence, pre-sauced, of course. "We've got roast! We've got duck! We've got roasted duck! Or maybe steak is your number?" Nabooru laughs like a child, as various cuts of steak rain down around us. "And what's meat without potatoes? We've got mashed, fried, boiled, skinned, scalloped, and baked!" Pots filled with each crop up, some even working to catch some of the wayward steaks.

"Cut it out!" she laughs, covering up from the meaty downpour.

"Which one do you want to start with?" I extend my arm towards the spread like one of the hosts from the castle; I hope that mine tastes as good.

"Hmmm, what's that one again?" she asks, pointing to the wrack of lamb chops nearest to us.

"Ah, the lady has taste," I admonish, summoning the plate into my hand. Hmm, this god thing is becoming second nature, I notice, because I didn't even have to think about that one; it just happened. "You have selected Link's Lamb Chops."

As I hold the plate for her, Nabooru raises that perfect eyebrow and says, "Oh, omnipotent one, we don't have any silverware." She smiles, thumping the tip of my nose. Good, good, the longer she's laughing, the longer she's not dwelling on my freakishness. Other than the sideways glance at my eyes here and there, she appears to be just as happy with me as before, which is all good.

"Oh, ye of little clothing, you have forgotten one thing." I stick my tongue out at her, slightly surprised when she lightly snaps it in between her teeth for a moment. "I am a walking silverware cabinet now." A fork and knife… a gold fork and knife appears in my hands, as I let the plate float between us. Well, at least it was a fork and knife. Now, I just need to figure out how to get the metal right.

"And here I thought you liked my lack of clothing," Nabooru sticks out her bottom lip, pouting in a way that would make my thoughts impure if she were the age the action was most identified with. Still, I'd give three toes and my right hand to see her naked right about now.

"You have no idea how much I love the lack of clothing," I say in a voice filled with a brazen sexual desire that I mustn't force on her. She's comfortable with me, but not that comfortable, so I skewer a piece of meat and hold it out for her. "Now, open up."

Almost three hours of being a god, and I'm already lazy. Conjured up food, and floating plates and platters… what's next-floating the paper to wipe my ass? In the meantime, Nabooru bends to my will, better known as her hunger, and accepts the first chunk… almost.

"You're having fun, aren't you?" she says with a playful quirk.

"I can't help it," I reply, feigning giving her a forkful and pulling it away a moment before she bites down. "You look so cute trying to catch your food."

I hand her the utensils and let her go after her own meals beneath another roar from her stomach. There's no need in making the woman starve anymore than she already has. A makeshift picnic with the woman you love sitting on your lap eating a pot of floating mashed potatoes, can it get any better? Of course, there's always a catch when it comes to my supposed good life. But, like I said before, enough of the gloom and doom for now; I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. Right now, I'll simply arch my knees for her back to rest against while she eats her fill. I'm starting to wonder if she'll ever fill up, watching her eat like this. Look at her pack it down, geez! At least it's all going in her mouth.

"Don't choke," I warn, as she grunts at me and turns her knife and fork to the nearby ribs. I didn't think it was possible to eat a half dozen lamb chops that fast. Show's how much I know. "Eh, are you even chewing anymore?"

Yeah, I think you're right. She can't hear me over the smacking. Ha, I don't know why, but something's sexy about her in this light-none of that "I have to maintain my figure" madness that Zelda used to go through. What do you mean? Come on, I'm as white as boiled sheets, my eyes are the color of snow, and I cause earthquakes when my mood shifts. And you think I'll care if she gains weight? Please. Don't you think that would be a little unfair? "I'm a walking monster that you gave a chance, but you've gained weight, so I'm leaving. Bye." I should smack…

"Hot! Hot!"

Oh, I see she's found the spicy ribs. I probably should've warned her about that.

"Here, drink this." I hand her a goblet of iced milk, which she examines for a moment before realizing where I got it.

"What was that?" She takes a heavy swig of the milk, turning her nose up to the ribs. I guess she isn't as big on peppers as I am. Zelda always said I liked the food too spicy, suppose she was right now.

"Peppers don't grow in the desert, do they?" I ask, as she puts the drink down.

"Not much of anything grows in the desert," Nabooru replies, "and what little we do grow, grows indoors and we prefer not to torture ourselves eating such as that."

The ribs find themselves pushed away beneath a spiteful glance, garnering a little chuckle from me. "You ready for dessert?" I ask with a genuine upbeat to my voice.

"What's on the menu, liquid-fire gelatin?" The sarcasm is noted, but I work my way around the glaring.

I hear her thoughts for but a second, yet they reveal something I've never known. She's never had ice cream. What the fuck? That was one of the first things to come about in the Second Age of Hyrule; the age after the fall of Ganondorf. They've been banished to an extent they know nothing of ice cream? I always wondered why Nabooru only seemed to come around town at night or dusk. I guess I know why now. Well, that's true, too. She could've been there to loot the closed shops, but she was always around the exit, never in the market square. That isn't right. They didn't create the monster, so why should they all have to suffer because of something he did?

Zelda and I are going to have a very long discussion about this.

"Care for some strawberry ice cream?" Until that conversation, I'm going to treat Nabooru to whatever she wants, because no one deserves to be punished for someone else's actions.

"What's that?" she asks, the look on my face emoting that it is something she should know.

I smile it off and say, "Try it." I pull a small bowl from the air, simultaneously adding a few scoops of the creamy pink dessert.

She takes up the spoon dug into the center, cautiously placing it to her lips with but a smidge of the ice cream. "Cold," she squeals, shivering some as she pulls the spoon from her mouth.

"Well, ice is usually cold, Nabooru." She gives me a small punch in the arm before handing me the spoon and opening her mouth. "Oh, so I'm finally trustworthy enough to feed you again?"

"Do I have a reason not to trust you?"

"No," I respond, as the last syllable leaves her mouth.

"Good, then give me my ice cream," she demands by lacing the command with an alluring smile.

Without another word, I feed her the ice cream, listening to the birds singing their songs in the distance. Little by little, the scoops lose shape and size to her appetite. And little by little, I find myself staring at her lips more and more. She's always had the best lips I've ever seen. They're that great mix of size and softness, just perfect for… Woo, let me get my head together. Thinking like this isn't going to get me anywhere. I scrape the spoon against the bottom of the bowl and give her the melted remains, trying futilely to ignore her tongue running over the rim of the spoon.

"Want some more?"

She shakes her head no, once again leaning her face against my chest. The floating dishes disappear with little effort, as I close my eyes and breathe a deep breath of relief and wrap my arms around her. Allowing my mind's eye to drift in this serene moment, I see an overview of Hyrule, as though I was flying among the birds. Another of Nabooru's spare thoughts manages to ease into my mind, bringing my calm reverie to an abrupt end. This thought of hers involves Twinrova. Heh, the witch has demanded double the money from them in my absence. I wish I could… Hey, I bet I can see her from here. With a little imagination, my vision returns to that of a bird's, this time heading west to the Desert Colossus.

My vision pierces the statue's walls, homing in on the witch in a manner I'm not even sure how to describe. It's as if I know where she is without knowing where she is. She's made some cosmetic changes-mainly a lot Iron Knuckle armor suits, mirrors, and paintings of herself, the arrogant twit-but in the chamber where I encountered the Iron Knuckle Nabooru so long ago, I find it has been changed into a bedroom with a large circular bed in the center of the floor. And what's this? There's movement between the sheets. Awe, Twinrova's asleep. Odd how innocent she looks. Oh, well, let's see if I can focus one of those earthquakes that I've been causing. How about one in her ceiling? Yeah, good thinking-a cave in would do her wonders.

Hmm, it isn't working. Maybe I should think about the mechanics of an earthquake. What mechanics are there? Everything just… shakes! My brow wrinkles, as I concentrate on making her ceiling move like the waves of an ocean. It rumbles some, but stops, but then starts again. A little bit more and…ha, it worked! My vision retreats from the fortress towards me, blurring the surrounding areas into a plethora of colors before the vision slams into my body. Damn, that was intense. It was like I put my eyes on a boomerang and threw it out there, saw the world, and then crashed back into myself.

I doubt I killed her, though, but that was a good test. Besides, I have this feeling that I'm not even scratching the surface of my powers yet. So, who's to say Twinrova still couldn't be a challenge? Of course, I could defeat her now, but I don't feel like it. Damn it! There I go thinking about the negative again. I swear, the minute this is all over, I'm taking a vacation. I suppose I'll go to Termina and renovate one of the abandoned Skulltula homes. I'm not the best carpenter in the world, but I can hold my own with a hammer and a saw. I… wait, someone's coming.

"Zelda," I say, which causes Nabooru to groan. The Queen of Hyrule makes her appearance shortly thereafter, accompanied by her personal knights. Wonder what's up with the rope. She looks at me in a modicum of elation, but a very large dose of astonishment. Funny thing is, I haven't even opened my eyes yet. "So, come to pay your last respects to the dead?" The joke goes unnoticed, as Zelda attempts to speak.

"I…I… But I…I thought you were…" My eyes open and her voice seizes in her throat, obviously startled by the lack of color, and perhaps even frightened by it.

"I was," I reply to her unvoiced thought. Nabooru lets out a sorrowful sigh as that dreary fact comes up again. Then again, it's probably hearing Zelda's voice that has her distressed.

"How?" Zelda immediately demands, as her entourage look to want to ask the same thing. "We tried everything! Saria had you pumped with more fairy magic than I ever knew existed, and you still didn't move. Rauru couldn't even bring you back." She still looks at me in wonderment, but continues to avoid my eyes for obvious reasons.

"It's a long story, but in short…" I stop, watching as Nabooru turns toward Zelda.

"In short, he's a god." I was going to say, "In short, I'm alive," but I guess I was planning to bring up a lot of unnecessary questions with answers I don't feel like explaining or at least that's how Nab interpreted it.

"Seriously, how'd you make it back?" Zelda asks, brushing Nabooru's comment off as fallacy. That's not good. That's not good for anybody. She's going to take that as an insult to her credibility. Two-to-one odds say the tightening bundle of muscles in my lap is Nabooru about to explode.

"You idiot," Nabooru shouts, "I just said he was a god!"

Pay me.

Zelda's guards all put their hands on their weapons in preparation to defend their lady's honor. I should step in now before this escalates any further.

"Look, you might as well stand down." My statement is defied, showing that they still remembered the training I instilled in them.

A little back information: After the whole Ganondorf thing was over, the castle needed new guards and someone to train those guards. Seeing as the old guards were dead, I was really the only person left with any fighting skills worth mentioning. So, the new recruits applied, and, under my tutelage, a few became royal knights. After witnessing the last batch of pushover knights that guarded the castle, I made sure these guys were on par with me when it came to protecting Zelda. These who protect her now are the most skilled of all the knights that I trained. Each man you see was trained to be a representation of me. And like me at one particular time, they'll fight whatever, whenever, and whomever it is if Zelda deems it so.

Unfortunately, we're at two different ends of the spectrum now. And the fact she still hasn't told them to back off is really starting to annoy me.

"Well, are you going to call them off?"

She's caught up in her stare down with Nabooru, so of course she doesn't answer me.

"Link, you know as well as I do you can't beat all of them."

Wow! Did I issue a challenge? I could have sworn I asked a simple question.

"He can too!"

Damn, now I'm accepting challenges that I didn't even make. Well, you know me-I'm never one to pass up a challenge, even if it is a challenge that was made to embarrass me in front of the new girlfriend. I don't appreciate this at all, but I can't have Nabooru's faith in me breeched behind some petty bullshit.

"I trust you all still remember the rules," I muse, not bothering to get to my feet yet.

10-against-1 odds aren't that bad, not now anyway. Nabooru rises to her feet and stands belligerently beside Zelda, preparing to watch me beat my former pupils into the ground.

"Yes, sir," they all say in one unified voice.

"Tell me the rules then," I ask, unsheathing my sword, but remaining seated all the same.

"Rule number one: There are no fair fights," they all say.

Under their words, my sword glows, and then divides into two thin blades and grows a couple of feet. Those blades then braid together in the middle, forming the sign of infinity but with a more lethal point and edge. The way I see it, if I look like the Fierce Deity, I might as well brandish the sword, too.

They look between themselves, slightly confused by the sudden change in the Great Fairy Sword. "Rule number two: If it bleeds, you can kill it," the knights assert, as I follow a hunch and slide an exposed piece of my arm down the blade, leaving a bloodless trail. I look up at them, smirking as they, again, look at each other.

"Lastly, rule number three: Know today could be my last." They forgot one, but it's understandable. You can't exactly pick the fights worth fighting when you're fighting at someone else's command. I allow them to draw their weapons, but I continue to sit on my ass, as though unaffected by any of this.

"Oh, is this some mystical godliness?" Zelda asks, sarcasm flowing from her words in Nabooru's direction. I picture an energy ball in mind, expanding it, shaping it into a wave wide enough to hit them all simultaneously. The familiar tug at my fingertips appears when the image is ready to be released, but I hold it back. Let's test and see if I can summon it from somewhere else. "Well, Link?" I catch a reflection of my eyes in the blade, as I look towards Zelda. Inspiration has struck. With a thought, the feeling in my fingers shifts to my left eye.

"Ready?" I ask, laughing a bit darkly as the knights all nod. A light twinkles deep within my eye, before a wave of crimson energy suddenly appears, and smashes into the knights' chests. They fly into the air, their arms flailing, and none of them even saw where the attack came from. Nah, they're not dead; they're just unconscious. My sword changes back into the Great Fairy Sword, as I slide it into the sheath on my back. "Looks like I win."

"Hey! That wasn't fair!" Zelda shouts, looking between her scattered forces and me. The look on her face is priceless. And the look on Nabooru's face is so ridiculously proud and mocking that I can't help laughing.

"Hey, she told you." I look at Zelda, laughing harder as she fumes, but there's another lesson to be learned here, which abruptly cuts off my laugh. "You could've told them to get back, but you decided to play this little game. Whether you know it or not, they take protecting you very seriously. This little act of trifle could prove to make them do otherwise, though." The guilt and understanding on her face is prize enough for me. I survey the damage, recalling a time when this would've been me laying there in the dirt at her whim. "Heh, I could defeat most of them when I was Hylian. Even Rampart, the best among them, could only tie me then. And here he lays, slightly singed for his effort. Whether you believe I am a god is entirely up to you. But, for future references, I'd appreciate it if you didn't make them attack a superior enemy just to prove a stupid point! It's enough stress to live your life for someone else without that someone sending you in to fight a potential juggernaut."

Sorry, I couldn't hide the anger in my voice. It was too much like looking in a mirror, a mirror with a reflection I didn't want to see again. How could I be that pathetic for that long?

"You weren't pathetic. You were in love."

Wow, this is great. Now, they can just beam in and out of my head at will. Wonder if I can talk back to them with my brain? Hmm, might as well give it a shot. It's better than standing here talking into the breeze.

"Call it what you will," I think out to Nayru, taking her disembodied laugh as a sign that she can hear me. "The fact of the matter, Auntie Nayru, is this: You won't be weaving anymore insanity-based love spells on me."

She makes a noise between a growl and moan, before she laughs at me. "Really, so, if I said I'd show up and snap Nabooru's neck you'd…"

"I'll rip your damn heart… funny." Heh, another point has been made at my expense.

"So, I guess this is one you can blame on me." With another lighthearted laugh, the love goddess's presence leaves my mind my own.

"Hero, is something wrong?" Nabooru asks, her voice awakening me from my wistful stare at the fallen guard.

"I'm fine," I reply, grunting as I get to my feet, which is done more out of habit than actual pain. Man, I forgot what it felt like to stand up without having a back ache or knee cramps. "You ready to go home?" I ask.

Nabooru looks at Zelda's guilt ridden form with a poorly hidden smile, before trotting over to me. "Yep, let's go." She loops her arm with mine out of petty spite, but I don't much mind. Zelda gives us a little wave, as we begin to walk down the steps. I just realized something. Despite my growth, I still feel it in my boot. The Ocarina of Time, I mean.

I stop Nabooru, turning back to Zelda, who's taken a seat on one of the Gossip Stones herself.

"Zelda, catch," I shout at her. She looks up in time to catch the ocarina, which is the last physical connection between us. "I told you I'd give it back."

16 years late, but my promise is kept.

"And like I told you the last time, Link, you can keep it." She tosses it back to me, but, in line with another one of my thoughts, the ocarina stops in mid flight.

"I don't need it anymore," I tell her, commanding it to float back into her empty hands. This time, with no objections, she holds onto the ocarina and smiles knowingly, as the underlying meaning is comprehended.

"I don't suppose there's any chance of you working the godly mojo on this stone, is there?"

"Use the Song of Time," is all I say, continuing on my way with Nabooru. "You'll be surprised how useful it can be."

As we leave, I hear the notes of the familiar song dancing through the air. I think it's a befitting end to an era, and the beginning of a hopefully brighter future. Moving through town, I can't help noticing that no one seems freaked out by my being alive again. This is Hyrule, on second thought, land of the Goron, Zora and Kokiri. Should one resurrected person really warrant that much attention?

"I didn't let her announce your death," Nabooru says with an eerie precision, peering up at me from the corner of her eye. "And since you never began to breakdown…"

"I understand," I interject, sensing the trepidation in her voice. We arrive at the gate, only to find our transportation isn't going to be able to support the both of us. I could easily fit on the horse alone, but there's no way the both of us can. "I'll walk."

Without necessarily thinking about it, I pick Nabooru up by her waist and allow her to straddle the horse's back. She gives me one of those looks, the kind of look that asks one of those questions. I shrug in lieu of both, letting the obvious change speak for itself. Honestly, how can a physical change-well, another physical change-not occur? The horse neighs some, as I pick up the reins and tug it along. This should take a while, but the journey shouldn't be that bad since the weather's so nice.

What do you mean? I can't exactly call it weird. Am I supposed to be conflicted about this or something? I haven't had, or even needed, a parent in the last 26 years. By that grace, I can't really say it'll hurt me to kill one. No, I'm not against the idea of knowing him, but, at the same time, I can't let that influence me on the battlefield. Oh, no! It's daddy! I can't kill daddy! Pfft, not happening. Attack me and I attack you, that's how it works. Besides, I'm on the brink of something big with Nabooru, I just know it. And I'm not losing that to anyone, family or not.

"What are you thinking?" she asks, stirring me from my brooding.

"I'm thinking about you, actually." Well, it's the truth in a way. But more than the incident with my father, I'm worried about this vehement hate towards Zelda. I'm not saying they should be the best of friends by any means. However, is it too much to ask for some sort of civility? I can't get drug into fights every time they cross paths, because that would make for a really awkward situation at the vegetable stands. "Why are you so obsessed with Zelda?" I probably should've asked this back when we were first intimate; unfortunately, my thinking process was a bit… cluttered. "You can tell me or I can always dig the answer out of you." You know I'd never do that. It was just a bluff, obviously. "Don't worry, I was just kidding," I add in light of her weird silence. Still, she says nothing. I decide not to push the subject any further; she'll tell me when she's ready, I hope.

Nine hours later…

Three o'clock in the morning, and she still hasn't said anything. I would say something, but I know she'd use whatever it was to avoid my question. What? How do I know what time it is? Triforce Standard Time, duh… Seriously, though, I'm still tinkering with the sight ability. What's really a trip is that I could've sworn I knew what time it was before I "looked" at the clock in Kakariko. I guess it isn't that hard to believe that I could actually be keeping track of time on a secondary level, but it, like everything else that's happened, will take some adjusting.

Finally, we've reached the brownstone into the valley. I can't help wondering, though, how much longer this stalemate of silence will last. I don't know when my patience returned to its child-like state, but this is almost driving me insane for some reason. What is it that she's not saying? Okay, that's a stupid question. If I knew what she wasn't saying, it wouldn't be unsaid. So, by that, I guess what I want to know is why won't Nabooru tell me what it is that's so difficult about the damn question!

"Hold on for a second," I tell her. Nabooru stops the horse, as I recall my appearance. "You probably should warn them about me." I had to say something, even if it was just a cop out. Nabooru nods silently, but continues with the horse up the plank bridge.

I've been taking this moment of silence to think about something else, besides the whole silence issue. For the last few years now, while dear old dad's been locked up in that mask, I've fought in some way. Whether it be the stuff involving Majora's Mask, or Ganondorf, or the stuff with the knights and Zelda-I haven't spent more than a week or two, minus the whole dying thing the other day, in the last decade without a sword in my hand. And what has he done? Nothing. He's sat around in a mask collecting dust and termites.

Couple all of this with what I've learned in the past few hours with my powers, and I feel confident that I could use this rust in his skills to defeat him. Duh, of course I know he's probably preparing as we speak. But he has to know that the longer he delays attacking me the stronger I'll be when he does. If I was in his place, I'd risk the early attack to try and psyche my opponent into believing I was more prepared than I actually was.

Besides, if they put him in the mask when I was originally born in the very first timeline that would mean he'd be working with about 70 years worth of rust. The math is like this, the way I see it: Four 7-year naps comes to 28 years, but we have to subtract the last 7-year nap, because I lost it when I decided to go back and live the normal life for the quest, and that brings it to 21 years. Now, there are my four stints as a 10-year-old, which means he'd lived those 10 years four times inside the mask, bringing his rustiness to 40 years, which comes to 61 years overall. Add the last 16 years of the final timeline, and your answer is… well, 77 years of total shelf time. And you know what means, right? No… well, we both knew I was old, but that's not the point. It means, for once, I have the advantage. No more venturing across country to get a stupid glove or big shield. No, no, no. This time, I hold all of the cards.

That's a load off my mind, I tell you what.

And what's taking Nabooru so long? It's been at least 20 minutes since I sent her ahead. They're probably panicking. Shit, maybe I can sneak… yeah, that was a stupid idea. No one will notice the 7-foot monster tiptoeing into their fortress. Yeah, that'll happen. Maybe I can walk in and explain myself once the whistle blowing starts? No, I see what you're saying. Ganondorf flashbacks are probably going to grip most of Hyrule anyway when the word about me hits the grapevine, so I might as well get the speech together.

"Look, I know this is weird. But just because I'm tall, the ground moves when I get upset, my hair is white, and I have no discernable irises doesn't mean I'm evil." How's that sound? Perhaps you're right-that does seem a little lengthy a statement for people who'll probably be running and screaming for their lives. "Hi, I'm still the same old Link." That won't work, either. Gah, fuck it! I'll just go take my causing of mass hysteria one step at a time. Nevertheless, it should be interesting to see how all of the Gerudo take this.

As I walk up the plank, I can't help feeling a little uneasy about this-like maybe Nabooru was dropping a hint that we should maybe part ways for a moment. It was probably that whole burst of energy from the glowing eye bit with Zelda's guards. Couldn't just use the sword and shed a little blood, no. I had to make with the lights popping out of strange orifices. Wonder if I could shoot one of those out of my… ugh! I think I just crossed the line between demented and curiosity. Sure, I've always been a little off, but…

"Oh, no," I mutter to myself, noticing the 23 woman standing shoulder to shoulder on the land on the far side of the bridge. This must be where the group ousting happens. Shrugging some, I clasp my hands behind my back, as I continue to approach them. The innocence of my action is lost once I realize that I'm giving off a sort of… glow. Great, now I've got to figure out where this light is coming from before their hearts beat any faster and explode. "I know this looks weird…"

"Your eyes are glowing," Varia interjects inauspiciously.

Well, there's one mystery solved, but another revealed. How do I turn them off? Nabooru emerges through the crowd and joins me on the bridge, wearing a devious little smirk. Oh, so she isn't an emotionless jellyfish after all, eh? She stands on her tiptoes up to get closer to my face. Taking the hint, I stoop and she kisses me with a surprising ferocity. Ever get the feeling you're being toyed with? No? Then you'd be at no fault if you missed this "petting the rabid dog to show that it isn't, in fact, rabid" bit she's putting on.

Nabooru eases back from me, making an odd bow at the waist to me. "Welcome home, my king."

I think my jaw just hit my toes. She didn't say king, I know. "This is a joke…" As I peer into the group behind her, I find they've all genuflected to one knee, heads bowed ever so slightly in much the same way as Nabooru. "I can't be a king." The assertion causes a few heads to raise, some hopeful… one glowering directly in front of me. "How many of you seriously would want me as a king?" Naturally, before one mouth can open, Nabooru's scornful gaze is lambasted upon her women. I grab her around the waist and toss her over my shoulder, much to her struggling delight. "Oh, no you don't! Quit kicking!"

"Fine," she huffs, bottom nuzzled in close to my cheek, as she fumes facing away from the crowd.

"Show of hands now, who wants a king?" Interesting, that's 12 in favor of a king, and 11 against one. "Why do you want a king?" The question seems to baffle them, but one woman steps forward.

"I guess it could be something new," she says, shrugging indifferently. "You seem nice enough, and no one would mess with us if the Hero of Time was king, which would be a nice plus."

Varia snorts, but turns it into a snide little cough when Nabooru begins to shuffle some. "Give me a break," the woman sighs, running a hand through her ruffled hair. "I can appreciate you manning up to the challenge, and dying and everything. But, I don't think we should all just become wide-eyed nitwits because there's some new man around. We don't need your protection…"

"Cut the bullshit, Varia!" my apparent proponent shouts, amazing me at the conviction in her voice. "All we do is sleep, eat and wait to get picked off by Twinrova and her… things. I'm not saying we should run and hide behind him every time someone snaps a shoe strap, I'm just saying…"

"What are you saying?" Varia asks in lieu of the awkward pause. Poor woman, she's drawn a complete blank. With that blank look of hopelessness, the guard's fire is snuffed out, and Varia's sneer is turned in my direction once more.

"We can't do this alone," Nabooru says from over my shoulder, letting out one long breath. "I can't do this alone, not anymore." I lower her feet to the bridge, not surprised when I find no tears or sorrow on her face, but more of a foregone conclusion.

"Nabooru, you've done a fine job," Varia attempts to say in consolation, but is merely waved off.

"I know," Nabooru says, turning back to the crowd and walking over to stand in front of them. "How long can it last, though? Every year she thins our numbers, some enslaved in those suits of armor, others… I'd rather not think about. We can't even take a moment to rest or even fall in love without worrying about meeting the next deadline." She pats her ruffled second-in-command on the shoulder, which seems to placate the hostility. "There are better things to do with our lives."

"And you really think his being king will make any difference?" Varia's question causes Nabooru to turn around and look at me, a look of chilling confidence shining in her eyes brighter than the glow that once came from my own.

"If I didn't believe he could, I wouldn't have brought you all out here." Their conversation seems to end there, but Nabooru continues to stare at me. What can I say? Seriously, what do I say now? I'm at a total loss. "Will you help me here? Putting aside all of the rights of succession, Twinrova, and thinking of it as Ganondorf's former throne, will you help me here as our king, the King of the Gerudo?"

I should feel indebted to accept her offer after hearing a woman of such pride admit that she needs me in front of her entire kingdom. But, for some reason, I don't feel that I owe her anything of the sort. I honestly want to help her in whatever way I can, at any time that I can, and in any place that I can. And if she feels that my being king could be a sort of support, I have no problem accepting the title and all of the responsibilities, bastardized legacies, and so on that come with it.

"I won't make any promises," I begin, smirking as the tension begins to lessen in Nabooru's face, as she senses what I'm about to say. "But, if you all want to give me a shot at redeeming what it is to be the King of the Gerudo, I'll take it and do the best that I can. Just don't call me any of those goofy royal names, and I'll be fine." Taking the mostly welcoming smiles into account, I walk the rest of the way across the bridge to join the group, pausing only when they step back in one startled wave. Nabooru eagerly hops up into my arms and kisses me with nil a care as to what the others think, though, which makes everything okay in my world. This is the kiss I missed, the sincere one. There's no testing the waters or showing off for the group's morale, just a kiss between lovers.

What's that? I'm glad you agree. I wanted to be alone now anyhow, so I'll catch you later then.

Author's Notes: It's been a while, but here's an update. I had to change quite a bit in this chapter, as the original was painfully rushed. Hopefully, it was a change for the better.