Whumptober 2021- The Darkness I Know
On A Need to Know Basis
recovery | scars | aftermath
Fic Summary: After the world as she knew it was destroyed by the corruption of Malice, Zelda allies herself with her saviors from captivity: a disgruntled former governor, an alert paramedic, a cocky pilot, an excessively overt optimist, and a blind strategist. While the corrupted, malice-filled Yiga Clan looks for revenge on them, Zelda has to learn how important it is to find family in others... and how much more dangerous the stakes become if she fails to protect them.
*Note: It doesn’t look like this will finish on time! Oops! It’ll still be finished, but it may be in November! I’m going to try to do a few shorter chapters, like the next two where I don’t love the prompt, but I still don’t think I’ll catch up on time! Anyway, enjoy this long, fluffy, well-deserved rest chapter!*
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Zelda moaned as she rolled over, letting out a pained noise before her body gave out and she fell onto her back again, immobile and in pain.
“Stop, stop! You’re sore!”
She opened her eyes to see Mipha sitting beside her, holding her hands out to stop Zelda from getting up. When Zelda laid back, she realized her head was on a pillow, and she was under a warn blanket.
“Where are we?”
“An abandoned home. We had to get you somewhere.”
“He’s alright. Still some bruising, but he’s up and about.”
Still some bruising. Her mind was working a little slower, but she still picked up on that. “How long has it been?”
“Only a few days.”
Sitting up straight, Zelda hissed in pain, but it was a pain that she was easily able to ignore. “Days?”
“Your arm was terribly infected. You had a horrible fever that only broke yesterday. You’ve barely been taking in liquids. Link did well getting the Malice out, but he didn’t do a perfect job. There was still quite a bit, and much of it was already inside your system. He and his knife also did some damage, but the damage saved your life. So yes, you’ve been in and out of consciousness for days.”
Again, Zelda moaned, but she slid her legs off the bed and clutched her arm. “I need to get up.”
“You need to rest.”
Mipha held a hand out, a pretense of stopping Zelda, but Zelda ignored it and stood anyway, wobbly and shakily unable to hold her footing as her burning limbs ached with a stiffness that usually came after intense exercise for her.
She stumbled into the doorframe, holding herself up with difficulty. “It’s my arm. Why can’t I walk?”
Mipha was hovering immediately behind her, ready to catch her. “Malice spreads. Your infection spread. The body doesn’t always just section itself off. People have had heart attacks from toe infections. It’s just how it works.”
Zelda made an annoyed sound, forced to accept that explanation. “Well, where’s Link? I need to thank him for all he did.”
Mipha hummed innocently, attempting to look disinterested, making Zelda turn. When Mipha looked back, she shrugged. “He and Revali are out getting a few things.”
“They’re fine. Urbosa went with them, but I believe she’s staying a bit further back to keep an eye out.” Mipha grabbed Zelda’s good arm and lightly tugged her backwards. “Now, please, get back into bed. You need rest still.”
Zelda obliged, but only because she was struggling to keep standing. When she was back nder the blankets, Mipha brought her a cup of soup. But when Zelda’s eyes grew heavy far too quickly, she shot Mipha a dirty look, and the girl’s smug expression said that she’d won, even as Zelda drifted into a peaceful rest.
She opened her eyes again to the sound of heavy steps and loud banging. Managing to turn her head through her haze, she saw her door swing open. It didn’t surprise her to find herself smiling when she realized it was Link walking in. He had a long staff in his hand, and a bunch of flowers in another. He held the staff out, as he had before losing his, and made her way toward Zelda’s bed, feeling around for her end table before dropping the flowers there.
She took a moment to just watch him. He moved well. There was no clear sign of a new injury, but she did see bruises all along his jaw that were older, likely from his beating. When she’d met him, she didn’t think it would be possible to feel so strongly for a stranger, but her heart hurt for him as she remembered every second of her straining against the chains, a knife in her hand ready to go, just watching as Link was assaulted relentlessly. And when he’d been brought back in, barely breathing, barely moving, she’d been able to do nothing again; all she’d done was stroke his hair in an attempt to let him know she was there.
“Link,” she said, unable to keep herself quiet any longer.
His lips twitched up and he set the staff down so he could kneel by the bed, his hand skimming the blankets, looking for something. “Zelda?”
She grabbed his hand and squeezed it before bringing it up to rest on her cheek. “Yeah. I’m up.”
Thumb immediately running along her skin, Link let out a heavy breath. “Thank the Goddess. You’ve barely moved in days. I thought… that I did something.”
“Mipha said that what you did absolutely saved me. I wanted to thank you.”
Link nodded, his expression softening. “You don’t need to.”
Zelda gave his hand a little pull, and he cocked his head. She did it again, a little harder, and he sat on the bed with her. “Link.” She pulled again, and he chuckled before running his hand along the mattress behind her just before rolling himself over, letting out a relaxed moan of perfect contentment when his head hit the pillow beside her.
She rolled to face him, wincing slightly when she ended up on her arm, but otherwise scooting closer to Link, letting his arm drape across her almost instinctually.
“Did you mean it?” she asked absently. She heard him make a confused noise, so she sighed and shrugged. “Was that a last-act kind of kiss, back at the Yiga’s?” She let out another deep breath. “I mean, I know that’s not a priority right now, but I don’t want to walk on eggshells around it. If that’s all it was, that’s totally fine.”
“No. I meant it. I just…” he rested his chin against her, “I don’t want to burden you. I’ve been alone—in a personal sense—for, Goddess, years now. Most of it’s been fine, but there have been times where it’s sucked.”
“Are you telling me you’re clingy? Because you’re literally clinging to me right now and I’m fine with that.”
He chuckled and nuzzled his face closer to her. “I don’t want to ruin what we’ve got. That’s all.”
“You don’t want to ruin our casually flirtatious friendship because you’ve been single for years? Link, that’s silly. I’ve been single for years too. It’s the apocalypse. I’m not out on a dating app every weekend.” She sighed and grabbed her arm, running her hand over the healing wound. “We’re probably going to die soon. I might, anyway, if not all of us, since the Yiga seem intent on coming for us all. Mipha said the Malice is still in me, and I can feel it. There’s this… this burn. It’s not anywhere specific, but it still hurts. And I would prefer to spend the end with someone I care about.”
Link sat up, vaguely looking in her direction. “You’re not going to die. The Yiga all have Malice in them, and they’re alive.”
“I didn’t do whatever ritual they wanted me to. I don’t know if it’s enough.” She chuckled darkly. “You know, when the Malice first came and I hid in my car, I thought I was going to die. But after that, I haven’t had too many moments where I really believed it for a prolonged time. Maybe while I was crushed under a moblin claw, yeah, I felt it. But afterwards, I was fine. Now? Now I don’t see a future. Dorian took that from me.”
“He didn’t. You’re not dead. I let my parents die from the Malice. I’m not going to let you die too, so get over it.”
“How are you doing?” Zelda asked suddenly, remembering just how fast everything has moved. “We barely had time to process Kakariko.”
“I did the day we got here. Do you know that crying with a cracked rib hurts more than you’d think?” He laughed, like it was the only thing he could do anymore, all other reactions taken from him by overuse.
Zelda smiled sadly for him, running a hand through his messy hair. “I’m sorry.”
“I’ll manage. We stay alive, and then we grieve. We’ll keep each other alive. All of us.”
Sitting up, Zelda ran her hand down his neck, her thumb tracing a long red line that had been hidden by his hair, and disappeared below his shirt. “What happened? This is recent.”
Link shuddered before chuckling. “Revali took me out.”
“On a date?”
That got him to laugh genuinely, his chest rumbling, and the bed shaking. “Oh, yes. Of course. No, he took me outside, helped me find a new suitable staff replacement for now. He got you something too. There were a few keese that we disturbed, that’s all.”
“He got me a present?”
“Are you lying? Not you?”
“I may have mentioned something, but it was all him from there. He does like you, you know.”
Zelda glanced at the door, her eyes brushing over the long, sturdy branch that Link had rested against the wall before turning back to him. “Does he like me more than you?”
Link sucked his lips in and shook his head as red started creeping up his neck. “Really?”
She pushed her hair back and fought a laugh back. “I’ll admit, I wish you could see when I wink at you. That’s got to be the one thing I really relied on in the past to bring someone to their knees.” Her sarcasm oozed through her words, and she thought of just how bad of a flirt she truly was, especially when she was still in school. She’d always been too forward, or too timid. There had never been a middle ground.
“What?” he laughed. “I’m lying in your bed. How much further you want me to go? Besides, I can’t wink. I don’t have that talent.”
“Everyone can wink.”
“No. Not everyone. I’m not double jointed either.”
“No way; show me!”
“Aren’t you supposed to be recovering?”
She ran her hand through his hair again, more deliberately this time. He clearly felt that shift, his eyes closing and a content hum rumbling from him. “Feeling safe for the first time in a long time is recovering.”
“Is fine. Not all scars are external, Link.”
He blinked hard, and Zelda watched him curiously as he did it again. “Are you okay?”
Zelda giggled, watching him blink a third time. “No, you’re not.”
“Because I can’t!”
“You can! Here, let me help! Can I touch near your eye?”
He nodded, and her fingers touched his cheek; he flinched, despite being warned. “Sorry,” he muttered.
She traced her finger teasingly around his eye before halfheartedly holding it open. “Blink!”
He forced his eyes closed, despite her efforts. She adjusted and tried again, though they both failed again, chuckling together. A third time, they still couldn’t do it.
There were no lines on his face, no scrunched up worry marks between his eyes, no tenseness in his muscles. He was pliable under her, scooting his legs so she could get closer, leaning into her touch when she got distracted.
Her fingers brushed his lips, and they parted automatically. Pliable.
She brought her lips to his, hovering a moment. There was no way he didn’t feel her breath on his face, and her hand slid along his neck to remind him that she wanted this. Him. And when he didn’t pull away or offer any sign of hesitation, she closed the gap, feeling a warmth spread through her almost immediately.
Link didn’t flinch this time; he knew exactly what was coming, and he welcomed it eagerly. He was clumsy, but it had nothing to do with his sight. She could feel his hands shake with nerves beneath her arm where he was just barely moving, frozen by her touch.
She tapped his arm, lifting it a bit, and he took the hint, letting it run through her hair, the other pulling her onto him and locking her in place. This was more him, she knew. He was tactile, feeling her skin every chance he could as a different way of seeing her. He listened, hearing things that she was used to tuning out, so she fought to hold back that little piece of her that was embarrassed, and let herself breathe out a contented sigh. It was worth it when she felt his tongue playfully against her lips, and she parted them, same as he’d done for her earlier.
It was odd, she thought, to have a natural conversation like this without a single word. But there was a give and take, a question and a response. Her last boyfriend had been sloppy with his kisses, and at the time, she’d enjoyed the haphazardness of it all, the break from her structured and carefully planned academic life. But that was gone, and she had changed. She enjoyed having a partner who gave up control and took it back when it was offered. Someone who thought of her as much as she thought of him.
Sure, it was the apocalypse, and yeah, maybe they were moving faster than she normally would, but there was something about him. She trusted him as though they’d been together for years, and there was a draw that she couldn’t explain.
In the past, she’d found people to share her bed, but with Link in it, it felt like it had never been empty in the first place.
She could feel his smile in their kiss, especially when it slowed to its lazy pace that she indulged in maybe a bit more than she thought she would. His hand ran up and down her arm, and she lowered herself onto him a bit more, like he were a giant pillow, closing the remainder of the gap between them. He broke their kiss and trailed a new path down her neck, stopping with every kiss to brush his nose over her skin, or for his fingers to wander off their path, finding more of her.
“Well, well! And here I thought you were resting,” Urbosa said, laughing from the doorway.
Zelda and Link shot apart so hard and fast that Link’s head banged the wall, and Zelda nearly fell off the bed.
“It’s been a while for you, Link, but one tends to lock the door for privacy.”
“Yeah,” he muttered, “Thanks Urbosa.”
“Anytime, loves. Normally, I wouldn’t have even announced myself and let you have at it, but Revali found a pack of Malice-possessed monsters coming this way, so you’ll probably want to get up. Or not. Maybe that’s how you want to go out.”
“Shut up,” Link mumbled, rolling over Zelda so he could grab his staff. It felt good to use his staff to move freely again rather than relying on others.
“I’ll see you outside, love birds.”
Urbosa patted the doorframe and headed out, leaving Link and Zelda alone again.
“Goddess,” Zelda muttered, putting her face in her cold hands, trying to cool down. “That was awkward.”
“Better now than later,” Link mused, fixing his shirt and hair.
He smirked and faced her. “Well, you gave me a hickey, so I figured…”
“Oh stop!” Zelda laughed, giving him a light push as she stood. He laughed along with her, but she wrapped her arms around his waist and pressed a quick kiss by his ear before whispering, “We have to save some things for later.”
Link let out a low whistle. “Imagine if we’d done that before the Yiga? We could have passed the time so much more efficiently.”
“With my bleeding arm covered in Malice, and your bruises, I think we’d have been a bit masochistic. But yeah, that might have worked in our favor.”
“You into that?”
She laughed and rolled her eyes, pushing him towards the door. “Why do I even like you?”
“I’ve been asking myself that question for weeks,” he joked before feeling her hand in his, soft and encouraging.
“Link, thank you again. For everything. You got me through this.”
His fingers traced her bandage. “I just wish I’d been able to do something when it mattered most.”
“Neither of us could do anything. It’s not your fault.”
He smiled sadly and nodded, letting her leave the room first, listening to her staggered footsteps on the floorboards. Closing his eyes, he let out a breath, and shook his head, clearing his thoughts. Because for everything she could say, he still felt like it was his fault. Like he should have done more. Like she was his eyes and he was her hands. He hadn’t acted when she needed him to. And now she was tainted with Malice that might kill her the same way it had taken everyone else from him.