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Only Half
by Pradaloz


"Take it," he says.


She looks up from the pool of red resting in his shadowed hand, searching his eyes to divine his intent. It is only the second time he has come to her, and so she is still unsure of whether or not to trust him. "Where did you get this?" It seems the safest question. If he is anything like his other self, asking "Why?" will make him run.


But then again, he is nothing like his other self. And so it is that he answers both the spoken and unspoken questions. "I was in the Market this morning and saw it sitting at a jeweler's booth." He shrugs. "It made me think of you."


He thinks of her? She is surprised by this comment, even more so by the casual manner in which is delivered. It is more proof that he is something more than a mere creature. Proof that he truly is a man...or at least part of one. His eyes gleam in the pale moonlight of the castle garden, and she notes the presence of something lurking just behind them, some unspoken thought. It, as with his motives for presenting her with this token, and as with everything else about him, is a mystery to her. Perhaps that is why she is so attracted to him.


She voices none of her thoughts, however. If he is to be a mystery to her, then she must remain an enigma to him. Instead, she studies the necklace resting in his outstretched palm, intertwined strands of brilliant rubies. The gems are blood red, a color thick with life and violence. "You stole it, then?"


His grin is a brilliant white flash against his dark skin. "Don't worry, Princess. No one saw me. I'm a shadow, remember?"


*How could I forget?* she wonders, reaching out a slender finger to caress the icy surface of the gems. Rubies are symbols of passion and devotion. She wonders if he knows how well the stone reflects his own feelings for her.


Should she tell him? No, he would scoff at such a suggestion. Arching a golden brow, she meets his shadowed eyes. "I have been told that violet suits me better than red."


He laughs a sly mocking laugh. "Amethysts, then, next time." Lifting the necklace by its ends, he motions for her to turn so that he can fasten it around her neck. "The gem of the Goddesses. But that is how he sees you."


Drawing the wealth of gold that is her hair over her shoulder, she asks, "As a goddess? Not even I flatter myself as such." But she knows that the shadow speaks the truth. She has seen the worship in dark blue eyes.


"Untouchable." There is more than a hint of fiendish glee in his voice as he offers up the adjectives his other self prescribes to the slight woman before him. "Unknowable. Brilliant. Powerful. Omniscient." They share a laugh at the preposterousness of this last one.


"And how do you see me?" she asks lightly, a hint of amusement remaining in her voice.


He does not answer. For a moment, his hand lingers on the back of her neck, fingers skimming softly over her skin. With the slightest motion, he could snap her neck. This thought occurs to her and with it the realization that she is defenseless against him. She could never hope to best him in a test of physical strength, and because she does not know the nature of his connection to his reflection, she would not dare fight him with sorcery. Any attempt to set him on fire with magical energy could end up accidentally incinerating his other self. For all her power, her concern for his lighter half renders her powerless.


And yet here she is, back turned and neck bared to him.


How odd that she is unafraid.


Cool shadows whisper across her skin as he fastens the clasp of the necklace, then releases her golden hair, allowing it to cascade back into place. "Done," he says, stepping back so she can turn to face him once again.


"Well?" she challenges.


He smiles.




The light of the midday sun bathed the garden in golden brilliance, flashing off of the surrounding walls and windows to blind the Hero of Time as he entered the princess' private sanctuary. He blinked against the momentary assault and trotted down the stone stairs onto the grass. When he could see again, Link glanced around for his quarry. A flutter of white robes at the edge of his vision informed him that she was, as usual, sitting on her bench under the arbor.


He did not quite understand why, but Zelda seemed to prefer the shade to the sun.


A few strides later, Link paused and, for the hundredth time in the past two days, reconsidered. This would not be hard, he told himself firmly. He would say the words and life would continue on with no noticeable alterations. Well, he reflected ruefully, one major alteration for him. But even it would not affect the bond between the two of them. After all, what could possibly stand in defiance of both destiny and the Triforce's power? Certainly nothing that he had ever experienced.


So. Onward.


Sucking in a steadying breath, he marched forward. He called out the princess' name as he drew closer, and her bright head jerked up at the sound. Catching sight of him, she waved and pushed herself up from the bench.


"You're certainly looking well this morning," she said without preamble as he reached her.


Link grinned. "Actually, it's the afternoon, and you know full well that I always look good." The princess gave a very unregal snort at that, prompting the hero to add, "As do you, of course."


Winking a sly blue eye, Zelda gestured to her dress. "What, in this old thing? It's just something I found in the back of my closet."


Interpreting this as a cue to cater to her vanity, the hero made a show of looking his princess over. He hadn't lied, of course; Zelda did look quite lovely in a loose white dress bound at her slender waist by a violet belt. As usual, the only physical symbol of her rank was the thin golden band she wore almost carelessly on her forehead. The entire assemblage was typical of her-elegant in its simplicity. But today the image was marred by an atypical extravagance. Coiled around her neck was a strand of rubies that throbbed in the sunlight like blood pulsing from a fresh wound.


"You like it?" she asked when she noticed the direction of his gaze. She raised a hand to touch the necklace, her eyes glittering in the same manner as the gems. "It was a gift."


From who? he wanted to ask. Many people gave Zelda gifts, as if they could buy her favor with pretty stones and fancy words. Usually, she either found a graceful way to return the tokens, or she set them aside as too gaudy for her taste. It was unusual that she should wear one, even more unusual that she should wear one as blatantly as this, naked as it was against her flesh.


But the princess knew him, knew him better than he knew himself, and so he did not have to ask. "A friend gave it to me," she said, a mysterious smile playing across her smooth lips. Sudden laughter made her clear blue eyes dance. "A very persistent friend."


Given the reason for his visit, the jealousy that flared up within him was absurd. But the words were out before he could stop them. "A suitor?"

At this, the smile took full form, blending with the exotic slant of her eyes to turn her lovely face feline with sly satisfaction. It is when she looks like this that he remembered why he finds her so frightening...and so magnificent. "Not completely."


As always with her, it was a response heavy with layers of meaning that she would never reveal.




It is night and the moon is dying, waning away into the cold black sky. She is in her garden again, strolling down the oyster shell paths, seeking shadows to accompany those within her.


Three men died today.


Three men who aided Ganondorf's overthrow of her father, who helped the evil king maintain his hold upon her kingdom, are finally rotting, headless, in their graves. Her decision, their blood. In the most literal sense, she was not the one who killed them. But by her will and her word, those three men are dead. She feels no regret.


A few of her subjects understand the necessity of the executions; many more simply approve of them. Though it does not please her to do so, she is willing to settle for the latter. He, of course, could offer neither. The same darkness that pools within her was removed from him years ago by a man bent on creating a warrior made of shadows. Human frailty and human evil are not a part of him. They comprise an entirely separate being.


"They were traitors."


She turns, finding the source of the dry whisper in the shadows of the arbor.


"They deserved to die."


"Funny," she murmurs as he slips into the tenuous moonlight. "I never would have thought you would argue for justice."


He shrugs. It is a fluid, catlike motion and as black as everything else about him. "Then say that the stupidity that let them be caught was reason enough for them to be executed. Is that unjust enough for you?"


Her lips twitch, a stealthy smile of her own struggling to appear. She will not let it. "Not quite, but it will do."


"And what else may I do for you, Princess?"


Since he is, naturally, as tall as his reflection, she must tilt her head back to look into his dark face. "That depends on what you can do," she replies, raising a hand to brush a strand of pale hair out of her eyes.

He reaches out, encasing her white wrist in his black hand, and pulls her towards him. The impropriety almost makes her gasp in outrage.


"I can do many things," he breathes, drawling out each word in a lewd fashion.


Fire writhes within his crimson eyes, and, suddenly, she knows.


He wants her.


Of course, she chides herself. You should have expected that. They are bound by destinyƖshe and both halves of him. This half cannot feel love, but he can feel the imprisoning fingers of fate holding them together. The other one, the bright one, would never look at her like this. It would be anathema to him to look upon an exalted being such as her with something so vulgar as lust. But this one, this dark one, he can. He is. Perhaps he, too, fears being bound to her against his will, but he will not let destiny dominate him without a fight. He will seek to dominate it-by dominating her-first.


"Well?" he demands in a hoarse voice, gripping her wrist so tightly that she can feel the walls of her veins fracture. There will be bruises tomorrow, proof of his existence written on her flesh.


She will not let the fire in those eyes touch her. She must not. "You say you want to do something for me, and then you come here and suggest indecent things? Am I supposed to thank you for that?"


"Then by all means, allow me to make full amends," he breathes. Their faces are so close that she can feel the words against her skin, hot and intense. Calculated to elicit a frightening sort of desire.


Is he toying with her?


It is only with an effort that her eyes fill with scorn, that her voice drips with mockery. "How can anything full be made by only half a man?"


He steps back with a hiss, dropping her arm. She uses this as her chance to leave, sweeping away with a swirl of skirts painted ivory by the moonlight. As she enters the keep, she can sense him still standing there, unable to leave until the cold stone castle has taken her from his sight.


Perhaps she is toying with him.




The distance left her clear blue eyes as Zelda's gaze returned to him. "But surely you aren't here to ask me about jewelry, are you, Link?"




"Then what?" Slanted eyes regarded him with the same impassive watchfulness that had witnessed the beheading of three traitors days ago. The spectacle had disgusted him, but it had not affected her. Or so it had appeared at the time. If she had been repulsed, or upset, or even regretful, she had not let on. She never would, not to him. Wasn't that why he was here?


The reminder pushed his next words out of him. "I'm getting married."


"You are?" She cocked her head, studying him. Almost absently, she reached up again to caress the rubies at her throat. There was a moment of silence between them in which even the birdsong seemed muted. "It's right for you," the princess said at last, as if she had always known.


"I-well, you see, Malon is-"


"The girl from the ranch?" she asked, trying to place the name.


Link nodded a little too enthusiastically. "Yes. She's very nice, and I think that she and I would get along well-well, that is, we do get along well so I figured-" Catching sight of the grin on her face, he stopped and sighed. "I'm babbling."




Shrugging, he shot her a sheepish smile. "You always make me do that. Babble incoherently, that is. I mean-"




He made an aggravated sound. "See?" Another breath of silence ensued, during which Link studied the top of one of his boots until he couldn't suppress the question any longer. "So...this is good with you? This whole marriage thing?"


"You hardly need my permission, Link, but just for the record: I'm glad," Zelda responded honestly, stepping forward to clasp his hand with both of her own.


Had he expected more? Link realized with a sudden pang that he had not. Oh, he had hoped...but he had always known that it never would have worked, that there was some need inside of her that he could never understand, much less satisfy. And how could he live with a woman whom he could never completely understand? How could she live with him?


Her grip on his hand tightened suddenly, and her eyes narrowed. "You will, of course, be willing to lend a hand should Hyrule need its Hero of Time." she prompted.


Startled, Link blinked. It had never occurred to him not to be. "Of course."


She wasn't through with him yet. "And you will be able to fulfill your duties as a Knight of the Realm?"


"Of course..." he trailed off, blue eyes wide with surprise. "Nothing's going to change about that, Princess. I'll still be here during the day to serve you."


Zelda nodded thoughtfully, then her face grew softer. "Then I have all I need." And with that, she released his hand, gave him another reassuring smile, and turned to head back into her castle. The Hero of Time remained where he was, never letting his eyes leave her retreating form.




It is night again-when is it not? she asks herself wryly-and there is no moon. She lies on her bed, bathed in stained sheets and shadows, smiling. Her body is sore, her limbs are heavy, and there is the taste of blood in her mouth. Darkness has held her in its embrace, and now she floats on its strange afterglow.


Silk slides against her skin as she rises, cool stone meets her feet as she crosses to the open glass doors on the other side of her room. She stands in the doorframe, facing the garden, letting the night wind caress her naked form. As she looks into the moonless sky, she considers the creature in her bed. Where does he go, during the day? What does he do while the sun's light touches the world? Who sees him? Does he even exist?


The questions intrigue her but only as intellectual curiosities. She cares not what the answers are. He is here when she wants him here and gone when she has no need for him. Another takes his place then. And because of that, she reflects as she hears soft footfalls approach her from behind, she has all she needs.


She can feel his hot breath stir her hair for a few moments before he speaks. "You look pensive, Princess."


"I was just thinking," she murmurs, still gazing into the night.


His teeth graze the back of her neck. "Were you?"


She turns and meets the crimson eyes he raises to study her bemused expression. "I realized," she says softly, "that two halves really do make a whole."


Dark chiseled features twist into an angry sneer. "Is that all I am, then? Only half?"




Silence rules, dark and dense, and then is lit by the rage that flames to life in his eyes. "Mock me at your peril, Princess," he hisses, advancing upon her. He grabs her elbow in a vice-like grip. "Your life depends upon my good will." With that threat, he wrenches her arm around and throws her away from him, sending her stumbling back into the heart of the darkness.


Quickly regaining her balance, she smiles. "You won't kill me."


His glare becomes white hot, hand clenching for the hilt of a sword he is not wearing, and it is there, in the fiery eyes: the need for her death. The need for blood, her blood, hot and thick, a longing, a lust for blood, blood lust, lust...


The sensation sears the air between his gaze and hers, and she welcomes the invasion as her body begins to tremble with desire. "You can't kill me," she whispers, not knowing if her words are a challenge or merely the truth.


Dark hands seize her shoulders and shove her back onto the bed. Blackness presses its full form on top of her, trapping her between itself and the sheets. Shadowed lips and fingers rake across her white body, seeking to devour her alive as she gasps out encouragement. It is her desire to which she submits, not his, and in the face of its assault, she lets her head fall back and laughs in triumph.


*Mine. The whole of you.*




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