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TLoSaI Ξ “The Meaning of Twilight”

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Vol. I – A Mysterious Arrival

Somewhere, in the vast regions of space, the bounty hunter, Samus Aran, was all alone.

Samus exhaled slowly as her navigational display lit up to tell her that she was finally out of Federation space, cueing up the autopilot and letting her hands fall from the controls. It never ceased to amaze her how much of a challenge this could be. As someone who had been travelling amongst the stars for her entire adult life, Samus knew full well just how much space there was, out here in space. And given the massive volume of the Galactic Federation and the positively minuscule size of her small, single-occupancy craft, one would think it would be a damn sight easier getting out from under their watch.

But they had eyes on her, the same as they had all the hunters they employed—no doubt enabled by the many Aurora Units developed and scattered across the galaxy, one of which she had just laid waste to on their dime. Samus had her own reasons to be suspicious of powerful, unknowable AI—they gave themselves bugs, for heaven's sake—but even after the fatal betrayal of the Chozo by Mother Brain, it seemed that the Federation's mood wasn't so much “How awful!” as “We want one too!”

And not just one—thousands.

Thousands, and aside from the one she had just personally deäctivated, all still perfectly operational, because even though the Space Pirates had already demonstrated their ability to hijack them, information was power, and power was at a premium, what with the unending, intergalactic war and all. How dare they think of terminating the Aurora program, especially now, after all of the hired muscle they'd rigged up with toxic biomaterial had turned, and brought them to their knees, with Samus (also hired muscle, also nearly succumbing to the same mutagen herself) left as the only person in the entire galaxy with the requisite equipment, experience, and carefully controlled infection necessary to take them down? Now, more than ever, they needed to place their fate in the hands of unstable, potentially dangerous supercomputers if they were going to win this war!

That—albeït in somewhat different wording—had been the response she had received to her mission report—and it had been the final straw. Slowly, but surely, she had made plans for her escape. She'd visited spaceports and stocked up on supplies. And now she had done it—she was Gone.

Gone—and just a little bit drunk, too. It didn't take much to get Samus tipsy, a fact that had earned her no end of ridicule back at the Academy—she had a fast metabolism but low tolerances, a side-effect of her Chozo genetic engineering. Alcohol hadn't exactly been a thing on Zebes, after all—and when her adopted family had named her “Protector of the Galaxy,” she was pretty sure that running from the cops on half a glass of cider probably wasn't what they'd had in mind.

There was a lot going on these days that the Chozo hadn't designed.

Samus normally didn't approve of alcohol—she was straightedge to a fault, actually, despite the culture that had surrounded the legend of the Galaxy's Greatest Bounty Hunter—she didn't approve of fans, either, for the record. But light alcohol consumption, combined with adequate hydration, had actually been shown to help with damage control from her Phazon infection, and now that she was cured… well, no better time than the present for breaking the rules and partaking in the final remaining bottle she had lying around.

A woman in her late twenties, breaking the rules by drinking a bottle of light alcohol which she had purchased with legal tender a few months before. Yes, that was Samus Aran, all right.

But she was breaking the rules, in a much bigger way; leaving Federation space without a permit to do so was grounds for a charge of treason—they could accuse her of conspiring with any number of anti-Federation organizations once they noticed she was gone. “Famed Bounty Hunter Goes AWOL”—she could imagine the tabloids now.

But they would need her yet again. What with the Aurora Units, those damned military scientists (still injecting soldiers with dangerous and untested biomaterial, for all she knew), the Space Pirates, and the continued existence of the creatures known as Metroids, it was only a matter of time. They all knew it—and if it meant doing a suicide mission to regain her good standing when she got back… well, she'd probably be the one going on that mission, anyway. It was worth it getting away while she had the opportunity now.

Time and opportunity: These were concepts which weighed heavily on Samus's mind.

It wasn't—well, Samus knew full well the risks of her occupation. Her blood parents had been taken from her at the age of three; her Chozo father had given his life protecting them all when she was sixteen years old. She had since lost countless friends and lovers and comrades to the battlefield and to the Galactic Federation's jailyards, and she knew, sooner or later, she would be joining them—it wasn't her mortality which frightened her.

But her entire being felt sore; exhaustion had crystalized into a sharp anchor in her chest, perpetually dragging her down; her skin was cold and clammy and hard; these days, her reflection didn't look like the woman she knew at all. It wasn't just the sickness, and it wasn't just the booze—she was 28, and hadn't had a moment to herself since her teens.

Samus dimmed the mirror before its image had a chance to shatter her wholeness any farther. They might never let her fly off on her own again. But at least she wouldn't be spending her short life living in regret.

A part of her missed the old days, the old days when she was young, the young days when she could fly unnoticed to cities across the galaxy, admiring the skylines from little cafés along her route. She had thought she was learning the ways of the universe. She had been so young—young and naïve.

She'd thought it would always be that way; that “bounty hunting” would just be that, that with a paycheck, lovers in half the galaxy's cities, always a couch and a friend to collapse on. Her girlfriend broke up with her when she found out Samus was working with the Federation Police again. The illusion didn't last long.

Maybe she would find another planet to call home. Maybe, despite the sheer cosmic improbability, she would find another planet, with the right atmosphere and food she could eat and ingredients for her lab and she could just live there forever on her own. Maybe there would be other inhabitants too, and she could learn their language and their culture, and carve a life for herself as the Woman Who Fell From The Sky. She wondered if they would ever miss her, back in the Galactic Federation, if she just disappeared. She wondered if she would ever have anywhere else she could go.

Eventually, though, the water ran cold. Samus towelled herself off on her way out of the bathroom, groaning silently at the ache in her joints, leaving the damp cloth strewn on the floor beside her chair. She didn't even bother getting dressed, curling up with a large pillow in her pilot's chair, with a massive bowl of popcorn and cartoons recorded from streams before her departure. (Technically, this too was illegal. But it wasn't her fault that she couldn't catch the 20:00 because she was off on some godforsaken planet trying to save the galaxy! How was that for Space Piracy—Samus allowed herself a brief smile at just how absurd her whole situation was.)

But before she lost herself completely to the land of sappy, two-dimensional romantic dramas, Samus configured alarms on her ship's sensors to notify her of any habitable planets or strange anomalies. Maybe, if she was unimaginably lucky, she would stumble across some nice beaches before she had to turn around and head home.

☙ ⁂ ❧

Meanwhile, in the rural province of Ordona, just south of Hyrule, life was noisier than ever, and that was a good sign.

Ilia closed the door behind her, her chest stinging a little from laughter. She walked over to the window, giggling and waving back at the children who excitedly gave their goodbyes. Children were a regular occurrence at Ilia's house—Beth, self-declared Big Sister to Ordon Village and all-purpose caretaker when parents weren't around, was a close friend, and would often stop by, her small troupe of young ones trailing behind her like ducklings. Although, they weren't so small now, she supposed. Ilia remembered when that responsibility had fallen to her; Colin, especially, always standing in her shadow. But now he was up at the castle, and it was her little sister Linkle who was constantly bringing up the tail. (She was absolutely adorable, by the way—Ordon's shining light.)

It had been five, almost six years since the end of the Twilight War which had consumed the kingdom, since the children—herself included—had been abducted by dark forces, trapped against their will as the world around them slowly drained of light—and it was heartwarming to say the least to see them all laughing and joking together now. They had, all of them, been changed by the war—save maybe Linkle, who had spent the duration in her mother's womb. Reaching a place of normalcy afterwards had been a long, slow, and often painful struggle.

In the distance, Ilia saw Luda sneak a quick peck onto Beth's cheek before they disappeared around the corner and out of sight. There were good things which had come out of it all, even so. She came to appreciate that more every day.

But there were things missing as well. Living here, as she did, the disappearance of her childhood friend was a pain which had never fully left her. This was their house—Link, her teen crush, the whole village's hero, the one who had, at the young age of sixteen, not even a real adult, seemingly singlehandedly rescued each and every one of them, ridden up to Hyrule Castle, and dealt the finishing blow to the tyrant who had masterminded the whole invasion. They had gotten help from the Princess Zelda for that last bit, somehow—Ilia wouldn't have believed it if it hadn't been the village's own swordsman, Rusl, who had informed them of the news. Link, working alongside Princess Zelda… Noöne really knew what to make of that.

After the war, Link had seemed much the same—but also different. Looking back, Ilia wondered if the only reason they had been able to act so normally was because they knew it would soon be over. “I need to return my sword”, they had declared to the village, once they had all made it through the winter. “And seek answers. It may be some time before I return, so… don't bother holding on to all my stuff, okay?”

“It's no problem, Link,” Ilia had responded resolutely. She had only recently reconnected with her former self after the traumas of the war, and her emotions in those days were turbulent and frequently carried her away. She was incredibly, very, oh-so-much in love. “I'll take care of your old treehouse, and all your stuff. It'll be sitting here waiting for you whenever you decide to return.” As will I, came the unspoken words.

Link had just smiled at her. “Okay,” they said, simply. “I'd like that. Consider them yours.”

It was the last anyone had seen of their hero.

Ilia smiled, thinking back on her childish fantasies—that one day Link might return; that the two of them might live together under the same roof, first as friends, and then as lovers; that, here in the woods and away from the prying eyes of the villagers, she might pull her hero on top of her, run her fingers up inside of that green tunic and feel those muscles which had become so strong…

She was blushing, now, into the twilight, even though she was older and knew better than to expect such things. Here in the quiet, late hours, when the children had all gone away and the world grew dim around her, Ilia relied on such things to keep the sadness at bay. She didn't deny herself the pleasures of a twentysomething young woman living alone on the edge of civilization, especially not here in the bed of the one person she had ever truly loved. If Link took issue with that—well, they could ride their beautiful horse right back here and make it known.

Even that would be enough, she told herself—just seeing them again, after all this time. She exhaled softly into the night.

Darkness had finished its descent by the time Ilia washed her hands in the bucket of springwater set aside for freshening up. Momentary reprieves aside, her night wasn't over yet; there was a town meeting that she was obligated, as the mayor's daughter, to attend. It was harvest season—which meant little time for such discussions in the mornings or during the day; in the evenings, additionally, parents wanted time to spend with their families—and none could begrudge them that, considering. So it was that town business, when it came up, was relegated to “after the kids are asleep”—in other words: late at night.

Ilia tugged her dress on over her head and glanced momentarily in the mirror, trying and mostly failing to do something about the cowlick that had developed itself in her hair. She could swear that she hadn't had nice hair since the day she'd moved in here—cursed by the spirits of longing to an eternity of embarrassing coiffure. Sighing, she admitted defeat and made her way out the door.

The nighttime air was brisk, indicative of the season. The time was fast approaching for the village's annual gifts to the Crown. Ordona was technically an independent nation from Hyrule proper; its people—save Link, now departed—weren't ethnic Hylians, and like all the other tribes of the world, had been granted limited autonomy and self-governance in exchange for their second-rate status in Hyruleän affairs. Nevertheless, as they were effectively a protectorate, tributes such as the annual harvest season gifts had historically helped keep negotiations smooth and the troops far away.

Of course, that was the situation before the war, when the fall of Hyrule under the Twilight Army had left Ordona entirely vulnerable, and only through the efforts of their own—and not just Link, mind you, but also Rusl, Malo, Ilia herself—had peace been restored.

“If they're not doing anything for us, I don't see why we should do anything for them,” Jaggle stated plainly, his face illuminated by firelight. “The Guard is incompetent, we're sitting ducks, and it's not like Zelda has been doing much—”

And it was true. Ever since the war had ended, Princess Zelda had barely even been seen. Some said she was in mourning for those who had been lost. But there was another, more insidious rumour: Zelda had been held hostage in the Castle during the invasion, and some said that she had actually begun to sympathize with her captors. Whatever the situation was, her coronation—which had been imminent prior to the war; just a few weeks out—had been postponed indefinitely, and the sole surviving member of the Hyruleän Royal Family seemed a far cry from being able to lead.

“It's time we faced the facts,” Jaggle continued. “Hyrule is a kingdom in decline. The time has come for Ordona to go its own way.”

“Now, now, Jaggle,” Rusl said, raising his hands gently in a placating gesture. “Let's not jump without a Cucco.” Rusl had been one of the members of the Resistance which had restored the Crown to power, and his son, Colin, was currently at the castle training for the Royal Guard. Consequently, he was Loyalist as they come.

“Rusl is right; the Castle might not be doing much for us, but what about Kakariko?” Ilia's father, the mayor Bo, spoke up. Kakariko Village was, by now, essentially Ordon's sister city—it had been utterly devastated by the war, and the two communities had been working hand-in-hand during reconstruction. “She's half Ordonian at this point, at least. Surely you're not suggesting we go to war with our own people?”

“I never said anything about a war,” Jaggle said, backing down, if only for a second. “Gods know, we don't need another war right now. But I don't see why we should be obligated to send a gift.”

“If we don't send a gift, it will only hurt our chances with diplomacy later,” Rusl countered. “I propose we take the opposite tactic: Send them something which asserts our strength as Ordonians! Remind the Castle that we have value, after all!”

“If saving their asses didn't already remind them of that,” Jaggle scoffed. “I'm not sure a gift is going to cut it.”

“We can make our decisions regarding the gift at another time,” Ilia cut in. She was already getting tired of being there; half the time it seemed like the village men just showed up to argue. It was the other reason she wished that Link was still present. “Right now we need to be making plans for the harvest. Father?”

“Ah, yes,” Bo said, a little sheepish. He was the mayor, but his strengths lay in agriculture, not community management. Ilia taking charge in these sorts of situations was par for the course, and it embarrassed him a little every time. “About the harvest…”

There was much to say, and the meeting would run late into the night.

☙ ⁂ ❧

It had been a couple of days, and Samus had been lounging around in her blue Chozo jumpsuit, wistfully flipping through old photos, when the alarms had rang. Somewhere between exhausted and excited, Samus pulled up the readings on her display.

Not that it was ever really a surprise to her anymore, but what she saw was something she had never expected to see.

It was a wormhole, and an incredibly stable wormhole at that. In her last mission, The Levianthans from Phaaze had used such wormholes to travel the galaxy spreading their toxic sludge, but those tunnels tended to be ephemeral, preventing passage back to Phaaze once they had closed. This one, given its rate of decay, might stay open for centuries, and perhaps already had. And, well, they weren't anywhere near Phaaze.

Still, Samus had an uneasy feeling about this. She brought up her star charts and analysed their location. Granted, wormholes were wonky, and she was out in uncharted space, but given the angle of entry…

All she could say was that she couldn't rule anything out. Phaaze, this wormhole, and her best guess at its destination lined up a little too neatly for it not to be worth investigation. And, she was Samus Aran. Flying through uncharted wormholes was all a part of her job.

Granted, she was currently on the run from her employer. But, well…

Samus's hopes that this whole thing might just be a coincidence quickly faded when she got to the other side.

She was on the outskirts of a solar system, and within that solar system, there was one particularly notable planet. The right distance from the sun; water, oxygen, and carbon in the atmosphere; visible greenstuff on its surface… Phazon or no, a wormhole leading to a habitable planet brimming with vegetation was no small thing.

Samus made a note in her ship's logs to investigate whether wormholes expanded with the rest of the universe.

Dropping into orbit and sending her sensors about their various tasks, Samus allowed herself a brief moment to marvel at just how Earth-like this planet was. Not that it did much for her, personally—despite her outward appearance, her body was actually much better-suited to the planet of Zebes, thanks to the genetic-engineering work of the Chozo—but the Galactic Federation, who was constantly looking to expand its human colonies, would certainly consider this one a catch. The solar day even clocked in around… well, 23 hours, give or take. A little fast. But definitely workable, especially given the odds.

Then, she looked at her first sensor report, and her illusions of this planet resembling anything like Earth faded like dust among the stars.

When she was younger, Samus had been given an extensive education by her Chozo guardians, in a diverse set of topics deemed fitting for a would-be galactic protector. By the time she had departed from their care, at the age of sixteen, she had meaningful backgrounds in such things as linguistics, political theory, rhetorical studies, martial arts, ethnography, music, and comparative religion—and to this day, she would sometimes make an effort to stay up on these fields when she wasn't busy fighting to save the galaxy. Nonetheless, the breadth of this educational programme meant that certain other specialized topics—such as “measuring quantum behaviours to gain insight into the nature of surrounding spacetime”—she had somewhat needed to pick up on-the-fly.

That said, her ship's processors seemed fairly conclusively convinced that the nature of this surrounding spacetime was, well, unlike anything anyone had ever seen before. Samus had assumed that she'd seen the upper bounds of mind-boggling physics anomalies when she had arrived on Aether, a pair of planets which, through some amazing feat of mumbo-jumbo, had manage to occupy the exact same position in spacetime. But, if Aether had been two planets, what she saw before her now was more like, five.

Not for the first time, Samus found herself envying those old, excitable human scientists who could look at something like this and say, “What a fascinating discovery! I think I will spend my entire life just studying this one planet, with nary a care for anyone or anything else in the universe,” and not: “Well, fuck, how many people are going to be threatened by this, this time.”

Greater than one, evidently, as her ship started picking up on structures that bore signs of intelligent, organized social life. Samus flipped through the images that her onboard computer had produced for her: Okay, these were probably bridges; yes, that looked like agriculture; sure, that was likely a settlement… and was that a fucking castle?

Whatever it was, she was going in for a closer look. She still didn't know if this planet had been targeted for Phazon corruption, but if a Leviathan had produced the wormhole that brought her here, detecting it should be a straightforward task once she got close.

Samus let her ship descend, entering the planet's atmosphere. It was nighttime, which meant she could hopefully scope out the area without drawing too much notice, maybe even make a landing and look around. Her scanners weren't indicating much in the way of electronic activity on the surface—but it didn't seem to be nonexistent, so she toggled her radio and began scanning frequencies, just in case. Static, more static…

…And then all of the lights suddenly went out.

“What the hell?” Samus cursed, quickly climbing out of her pilot's chair and moving to check on her ship's circuits, trying not to think about the fact that she was now hurtling towards an uncharted planet out of control. If ever there was a bad time for a Total System Failure, this was it.

She tried summoning her Power Suit, knowing its scan visor would help her to figure out what the heck was going on. …She tried again. When nothing happened, well.

She was well and truly screwed.

The Chozo Power Suit was an instrument which, by intentional design, required sustained focus to operate. In the case of a critical failure, or the incapacitation of its wearer, the last thing that one wanted was to be trapped in a heavy, possibly immobile suit of armor. Rather, in these situations, the suit would dissolve, stored as energy inside of its wearer's body, until such a time as it could be brought back into operation. (The self-repairing Zero Suit jumpsuit, which Samus wore underneath, offered some degree of protection in the meantime.)

But Samus wasn't incapacitated, she was able to apply the necessary focus in her sleep (and had before—sometimes accidentally), and her armor hadn't sustained any damage to speak of. Instead, it felt like her mental connection to the Power Suit had simply disappeared… She tore gently at her sleeve, watching the fabric rip easily. Self-replicating functionality was a no-go, too.

But, right. She was supposed to be avoiding a crash.

Samus's gunship was a model of her own design. Custom-built for her at the shipyeard of Aliehs III, it tastefully merged the best of Federation and Chozo designs and capabilities. And, because Samus was paranoid and liked doing things right, this naturally included a manual override system—even if most people considered it outdated, and the entire bloody Federation laughed at her when they heard about it.

Still, it was one thing to have a manual override system, and another thing entirely to be able to use it to make a safe landing, hurtling at unknown speeds an unknown distance above an unknown planet, in the dead of night, with no power or anything but analog measurements and controls.

She was aiming for the lake. Samus remembered the bridges, she remembered there was a large body of water coming up, and assuming she got her angles right and didn't smack into the side of something on her way down, it was probably her best shot at a safe landing. The ship probably wouldn't survive. At this point, she wasn't really worrying about the ship.

Her name was Samus Aran, she was the galaxy's greatest bounty hunter, and she knew how to fly a damn plane. She was aiming for the lake.

She hit the trees.

☙ ⁂ ❧

Ilia held the lantern high as she and Rusl treaded their way into Faron Woods. Her arm was already showing signs of fatigue—silently, she cursed the lean and slender build of a young woman who spends the bulk of her time managing diplomatic relations for her father and not out working in the fields. Her mind wandered back to Ashei, the young warrior who had passed through Kakariko Village on her journey southward after the war. What she would give to be built like that, Ilia thought. And then she would be the one carrying the sword.

Ilia glanced up at Rusl, keeping pace beside her; his face was gravely serious, his hand tense over the hilt of the blade. When they had heard the crash coming from the forest, it had taken him no time at all to volunteer to go investigate. She knew what he was thinking, because they all were—remembering the monsters that fell from  the sky back during the war. Rusl hadn't been able to stop them then, and Ilia knew that he felt guilty about all of the suffering that they had faced as a result. It was why she couldn't afford to let her lantern-arm droop now.

There had been a time when “monsters in the forest” had been nothing more than an old folk tale, designed to keep young children from straying too far and getting lost. But six years ago, they had turned out to be all-too-real. When the Twilight War had ended, the forest had returned to normal—but it would be a long time before anyone trusted the trees again.

The lantern sputtered and flickered in her hand, and Ilia silently reached into her satchel for oil. Before long, it was bright and steady, guiding their way. Neither she nor Rusl had spoken a word since crossing the treeline. As they walked, the gentle sound of raindrops grew against the canopy leaves, and Ilia felt a drop make its way through the foliage and graze her cheek. She quietly reached up and brushed it away.

A soft glow appeared in the distance, and, at first, the pair warily slowed. As they drew close, however, it became clear from the size and shape that the blaze which produced it wasn't contained. Rusl cursed under his breath and ran forward, Ilia jogging to keep up behind him. Stories of dragons and danger flitted unbidden to the front of her mind.

The canopy above them had been decimated by the crash, and rainwater poured in on the flames, thankfully helping to keep them down. There were no dragons in sight, and the object before them didn't appear mobile at all—despite the fact that it had somehow dropped itself into the middle of a dense wood. As it clearly wasn't living, Ilia figured it had to be a transport of some kind. It was big, almost house-sized—Ilia felt her eyes drawn upwards, wondering what manner of creature might possibly have left it behind.

If it was intended as a transport, that meant that there might be something inside—and indeed, Ilia noticed a hatch hanging loose on one end. She took her lantern to it as Rusl kept an eye on the flames. The interior looked… vaguely reminiscent of a room—but it appeared to be leaning on its side, whether by intent or accident Ilia didn't know. There was a soft rustling sound, followed by a moan, from somewhere within.

“I think there might be someone in here!” Ilia shouted, wasting no time climbing inside.

The room wasn't as big as it had seemed on the outside, and it didn't take Ilia much time at all to discover the source of the noise: a woman, lying on her back, sprawled across the floor. She appeared to be out cold by the time Ilia reached her—but breathing steadily, very much alive.

The woman was incredibly tall and well-built—muscular—with long hair tied into a ponytail, and a sizeäble bruise across her face on one side. She was clothed entirely in what seemed to be a stretchy blue undergarment—no skin was visible, but very little was left to the imagination regarding her physical assets. Ilia mentally scolded herself for blushing in such a situation, and busily looked around for—well, anything to cover her up from Rusl's eyes. Amazingly enough, there was a towel laying nearby.

Rusl appeared at the room's entrance, peering inside. “The rain seems to be taking care of the worst of the flames,” he said. “I think it will be alright.”

“There's a woman in here, and she seems hurt, but she's definitely still alive. I think she fainted,” Ilia replied. “We can take her back to my place—it's closest—be warned, though, she's not exactly modest right now.”

And so Ilia was once again cursing her spindly arms, holding the woman by her legs as they carried her through the night. They stopped only once—just before crossing the bridge back into Ordon, taking a breather and giving Ilia the chance to top off the lantern for the last time.

“I don't suppose you noticed her ears,” Rusl asked softly, as the two of them continued on their way.

Ilia hadn't thought to look. Pointed ears meant Hylian—ethnically Hyrulèän, the goddesses' chosen race, the magic-weilders. Ilia had assumed—a muscular blonde woman, descended from the stars.

But she had been wrong. “They're Ordonian,” Rusl said.

Chapter Text

Samus awoke to a piercing headache, and a good half of her face feeling like fire. She winced, letting the memory of her escape from Federation space and her crash on an uncharted planet slowly filter back. She would have been amazed that she'd survived—not only survived, but somehow went herself into an, all things considered, decently comfortable bed—were her survival something still capable of surprising her anymore. She'd been through worse. She would just keep on surviving until she didn't, she figured, and then she wouldn't.

Samus groaned and propped herself up on her elbows, looking around to make an appraisal of her surroundings. And then she did experience surprise, or rather, shock, freezing like a statue at what she saw. Or, more to the point—who.

“It's a fucking human,” Samus said, too stricken to even care about the fact that she had just spoken those words out loud. The fucking human in question lifted their eyes up from their desk and looked to her at the noise.

It was a fucking human—by the looks of it, a young twentysomething girl; her hair cropped short into a cute pixie; a soft, slightly bookish look about her; lanky, but in the way that would once keep Samus up at night, the kind that she wouldn't have minded climbing all over her, all bony limbs and delicate flesh, back when girls climbing on top of her still seemed like it might one day be a possibility, rather than yet another way to invite state surveillance into innocent and unsuspecting women's lives.

Of course, that had to be why this girl was here—clearly, Samus had not been so skillful at evading the Galactic Federation as she had thought. She sighed—ah, well. Freedom had been appropriately trashy and mediocre while it had lasted.

The mysterious woman smiled at her—a big, earnest smile, like gosh madam, put that thing away—and then spoke, in a light, singsongy sort of voice. Her words gave Samus pause, and not because of what they were saying: They weren't in any language she recognized—and certainly not GF Common.

As a matter of fact, now that she was sitting up and blood was flowing properly to all parts of her brain, nothing about the room she was in resembled what she had come to expect from the Galactic Federation—there were no cameras, for starters, nor, for that matter, any sign of electronics at all.

That suggested she was still on the surface. In that case, if the Federation Police really had been the ones to discover her, there should be an armed guard in the room, at least—and rank or station visible on her caretaker's uniform, not that she could really refer to the girl's outfit as such. Samus looked around again, for any manner of institutional presence. The room wasn't big; nothing materialized. Still, the presence of humans necessitated the Galactic Federation be around somewhere—unless…

…There was a human settlement that wasn't under Galactic Federation control?

It was way too damn early in the morning for the universe to yet again be contradicting itself, and given her splitting headache and overall soreness, Samus was very much not in the mood. She needed her damn coffee. Actually, she needed to pee.

“I, uh, didn't understand anything you just said,” Samus responded, finally. “Is there a bathroom nearby?”

The way that the girl didn't laugh when Samus pantomimed using the toilet, but just smiled, found papers, and indicated directions with her hands, indicated to Samus that this probably wasn't her first time communicating with someone through a language barrier. She nodded her thanks, then set off to relieve herself promptly. Doing so, she noticed for the first time that this was rather obviously not her nightgown she was wearing—meaning that she must have been undressed at some point during the night.

It was okay, though, because bathrooms were good places for having panic attacks, too.

When Samus returned, it was to the smell of breakfast, and it did great wonders to help her mood. She'd taken heed of the sun's positioning overhead on her trip to the outhouse—it was past noon. But the woman had spared no expense in making her a meal—eggs, cheese, bacon, a corn tortilla, a cup of tea. Lack of coffee aside, it was an envigourating meal, and Samus consumed it happily and with thanks. Introductions took place alongside: Samus had indicated herself and said her name, and the woman had done the same—“Ilia,” she had replied. She chatted idly as they ate, and even though Samus couldn't understand a word of what she was saying, she didn't mind. Ilia had a great voice, and her words were frequently accompanied by small sung tunes and hand gestures, which were fascinating even if Samus had no clue what they meant.

A knock came on the door, interrupting their meal, a man's voice carrying through from the other side. Samus bristled, Ilia flashing her a worried look as she set her utensil aside. The girl rose quietly, excusing herself, and met her visitor outside.

☙ ⁂ ❧

Ilia closed the door quietly behind her, turning to face Rusl, who was standing on the platform outside. “Hey,” she said, straightening her shirt, brushing off a few crumbs. “What's up?”

“I just wanted to check up on… well, you know,” Rusl gestured, replying, a hint of concern in his voice. “Is she up? Doing alright?”

“Yeah, woke up just a minute ago,” Ilia said, glancing back at the door without thinking. She smiled. “We were having breakfast,” she said, the tone in her voice making it clear that she knew full well it was after noon. “I don't think she's ready for visitors right now, though, so I'm afraid I can't offer you inside.”

“That's fine, that's fine, I'm just glad she's alright,” Rusl said, relieved. “I don't suppose… she has told you where she comes from? An Ordonian woman falling from the sky is… Well, some in the village are claiming she was sent by the gods…” Rusl chuckled. “To deliver us from Hyrule, no less,” he added—and Ilia knew he was speaking of Jaggle.

“Her name is Samus,” Ilia told him, “and that's all I've been able to get out of her. She doesn't speak a word of Hylian.”

“Oh?” Rusl scratched his chin thoughtfully. “A woman from the sky, speaking in a strange language we can't understand…” He winked at her. “You know, I think I might be familiar with an expert in that.”

Ilia giggled, immediately catching his drift. “Right,” she said, nodding. “Shad.”

Shad was a young, attractive scholar who Ilia had become acquainted with during the wartime. At that time, he had been researching a mysterious people that he referred to as Sky Beïngs, who had supposedly built entire cities floating above the clouds. He'd come to Kakariko over the course of his investigations, which was how Ilia knew him, and had been a member of the Resistance, which was where Rusl had made his acquaintance.

Word had it that Shad was now working directly under the employ of Princess Zelda, in Castle Town. Neither of them had made contact with him in years.

“I suppose it has been a while since I've made the trip to the castle,” Rusl said. Since the war's end, he had hardly left the village, not wanting to travel far from his daughter, Linkle. He sighed. “I suppose I could set out within the week.”

“Oh, no, Rusl, we need you here,” Ilia replied quickly. “Sorry—I know you'd get the chance to see Colin, but… Well, you were at the meeting last night, you know how things are right now.”

“And if things really are falling from the sky,” Rusl nodded, “Ordon Village will need her swordsman.” He gave Ilia a grim smile. “Alright, I'll stay. But then, who will make the trip? Talo? He's the right age, but… not what I'd call… responsible.”

“I was hoping Beth would, actually,” Ilia said with a smile. “You know how she's always wanted to go. And she could take Luda, too, and maybe stop by Kakariko.” None of the adults knew that the girls were a couple yet (although, if anyone was to have suspicions, it would probably have been Rusl)—but their friendship was obvious, and the idea of one travelling without the other was unthinkable.

“Beth and Luda, hmm…” Rusl looked thoughtful. “I'll have a word with her parents. If they consent, I'll send her by.”

“Thanks Rusl,” Ilia grinned. “It's a big help. Oh, and if you're talking to Sera anyway… let her know to start looking for more fabrics. Samus is…” she winked, “not exactly my size.”

Rusl laughed. “Alright, will do. I'll let you get back to your meal, now; sorry for keeping you.”

“It's fine, it's fine,” Ilia said, waving away the apology. “I'm glad you stopped by.”

Ilia returned indoors to see Samus climbing down from the window—evidently, her curiosity had gotten the better of her, and she had looked to see who was outside. Ilia hummed her a happy tune. “☺♪ Just Rusl, stopping by to see how things were,” she said lightly, moving to clean up the dishes from their meal. “He helped carry you back here, you know. He's a friend.”

Ilia glanced to the towering woman. She was a mess: Her long, blonde hair was all in tangles from her sleep; her nightgown—that is, Ilia's nightgown which she had given her—was too short in the legs, too narrow in the shoulders, and too tight in the—well, chest. And, most noticeäble of all, there was a large, swollen bruise discolouring one side of her face. Ilia had considered showing her around town, but she really didn't look ready for anything of the sort at the moment.

“You probably want to get washed up, huh,” Ilia said, thoughtfully. She rummaged through her drawers for clothes that (a) were clean, and (b) might have a chance of fitting, and tucked them under her arm alongside a towel and a bar of soap. “Well, come on.”

Ilia was correct in assuming that the Ordon Spring—just a short walk through the woods from her house—would be entirely vacant at this hour in the afternoon, and she led Samus there calmly. It was a warm day, the late summer sun shining down on them happily, a fact for which she was thankful, as it meant the water would be reasonably warm. She sang a soft celebration to the daylight, bringing them to the spring, and then around. “☼♪ It's a nice day, isn't it?” she chatted. “You can't bathe in the spring itself, obviously, that would be… ⚠♪ sacrilegious. Plus the soap would settle in the water and it would get all scuzzy.” Ilia stuck out her tongue. She strode up beside a small stream leading away from the pool, and plopped the clothes down brusquely. “But this will do fine. Clothes,” she said. She pointed to the stream. “Stream.” She handed Samus the bar of soap. “Wash.” She hoped that got the point across.

Samus nodded, taking the soap and standing there somewhat awkwardly. “I'll… go stand watch,” Ilia said, walking to the spring's entrance and leaning up against the gate.

She got the sense that Samus was someone who liked her privacy.

☙ ⁂ ❧

The clothes were hardly a perfect fit.

They weren't bad, Samus presumed, all things considered—the tanktop gave her shoulders plenty of room to breathe; the capris, although they were basically shorts on her, fit at the waist, even if they were a little tight in the thighs. Samus took her time glancing at her reflection in the surface of the spring, admiring how ridiculous she looked—the hem of her shirt barely reaching her waistline, pants that cut off right at her knees, her legs completely unshaven—not that it seemed to matter here; Ilia's were likewise—and these boots, worn, leather things, which clearly weren't her caretaker's because they weren't even close to the girl's size.

A breeze blew by, and Samus shivered, even though it wasn't cold. She wasn't used to exposing this much skin; she wished she had a jacket to cover up, or her Zero Suit, or heck, her armor

No luck on that front again, though. She'd been trying all day.

Ilia was patiently waiting at the gate, staring off into the forest, her back turned. It was pretty clear, at this point—since she had left to use the facilities, really—that Samus wasn't under any supervision, and if she wanted to run away, there wasn't anyone who was going to stop her. It wasn't even running away at that point, she supposed, just…

Leaving.

Samus leaned up against the gate beside her partner. As much as she had been craving it before, the thought of disappearing now, of not beïng seen… terrified her. She looked at Ilia's face, soft and glowing in the afternoon sunlight. Was it just that she now knew that there were other people watching? But—she had known that before, hadn't she?

Perhaps she had forgotten. Perhaps she still felt betrayed.

“Hey,” Samus said, quietly.

For a moment, it had slipped her mind that Ilia didn't speak the same language. Her smile, at least, needed no translation. Samus smiled back, then braced herself. There were still some answers she needed to find.

“Ilia…” Samus started, unsure how she was going to get the question across. She traced her hands along her body, along her arms, down her chest. “My outfit that I was wearing before…”

Ilia stared as Samus's hands traced her curves, then blinked and blushed beet-red when she understood what she was asking. At least, Samus hoped she understood. She looked pretty bashful.

Ilia led them back to the house, talking all the while, not that Samus could really understand. After depositing towel, soap, and nightgown, she pulled out a box, lifting the lid for Samus to see inside. It was, indeed, her Zero Suit—cut into pieces, because of course it was, that was the only way to get it off without power—but neatly, along the seams, so that the fabric might still be good for something later. Underneath, she noticed with a chuckle, was a towel that must have come along from her ship. Samus sighed, rubbing a fragment of cloth gently between her fingertips, fondly remembering its feel before placing it back into the box.

Alright, next question. She gestured towards Ilia. “You?”

Ilia nodded. She looked uncertain, but not in a way that suggested she was lying.

“Not…” Samus gestured back at the door, towards where Ilia had met with the strange man from before.

Ilia smiled, rolling her eyes and firmly signaling “no” with a shake of her head. She pointed to herself. “Ilia,” she said.

Samus sighed loudly. Well, that was a relief. “I need to…” She signed walking with her hands, and then her ship falling from the sky, and crashing into the land. “Get back to my ship.”

Ilia nodded, filling a light pack with supplies, presumably for the trip. She tilted her head slightly, and they were out the door again.

It wasn't long before Ilia held out her hand, invitingly, as they walked together, quiet for once, into the woods. Samus paused in her tracks, looking at her, hesitating. She had been touched plenty of times in the past several years—by Federation scientists and medical staff, invariably young, white men in their 20s or 30s, with faces that smiled but never at you, undressing her and running tests and performing experiments on her body, often while she was unconscious, only to find out about it after the fact. Samus understood why they were interested—she was a homo sapiens–Chozo hybrid, the only one of her kind, enough of a human woman to spike their—intellectual—libido but not enough to make them feel bad about it afterwards, in their eyes. Yes, she'd been touched innumerable times in recent years—but never once had she been given a choice.

Ilia smiled invitingly, and Samus cautiously, gingerly took her hand. It was soft and warm, far moreso than she had expected. They walked a short distance like that, hand-in-hand.

A few dozen steps later, Samus gently took her hand back. For once, Ilia didn't say a word.

☙ ⁂ ❧

The path back to the crash site was long, but much easier now that it was daylight and they were taking things slow. They spent it mostly in silence, snacking on pumpkin seeds and deku nuts as they walked, Ilia startling a little when babas rose out of the ground to meet them, Samus barely heeding them any mind, having seen much more dangerous foliage in her travels across the galaxy. Ilia had brought along a walking-stick, and Samus could now see why: It only took a few thwacks to decapitate the creature, and one more to crack open and harvest seeds from the resulting bulb. Babas couldn't be farmed, so every grown traveller with a taste for the nut carried a small seed-pouch along with them while travelling; when she got home, Ilia would salt the seeds and spread them out to dry. They had a certain spice—Samus was almost certain contained caffeine.

Samus had never been to Earth, but, fanged flora aside, walking there amongst the trees, it finally sunk in just how Earth-like this planet really was, with the tall, woody trunks and wide, green canopy and birds and insects and occasional patches of clear blue sky. From what she'd heard, actual Earth typically wasn't so wonderful. This was like something from a fairytale—but the old, animated kind, the kind whose copyrights had expired a century ago and which were freely accessible online.

And Ilia was, well… it was the longest she'd spent in the continuous company of another person of her own free will. And here they were, walking together through a mystical wilderness, lightyears away from the Galactic Federation or anybody who could do her harm. Samus realized that she could pursue a life here—she could hold hands, date women, fuck, and nobody would ever care, and nobody need ever know.

It would have been a lie to say it wasn't tempting.

The pair came to a clearing—the crash site. Samus sighed, examining the wreckage before her. Definitely not flyable. Still, all things considered, it could have been a lot worse. Well—she could have died. She found the open hatch on the side of her ship, and stepped inside.

Ilia followed her through. Samus was clearly familiar with the room—she moved with a purpose, checking on things, grabbing a bag, and filling it with belongings—clothes, mostly, which made Ilia breathe a sigh of relief for her own wardrobe. Samus tugged on a black jacket of durable cloth Ilia had never seen before, collar popped daringly, glancing back at her. Gods. It wasn't like anything they had in Ordona, or Hyrule for that matter. Ilia felt herself blushing. Samus paid her no mind, pulling out a large, metal case from a closet, extracting some manner of cylindrical mechanism from it.

Ilia felt a small squeak escape her lips as Samus sat herself down, pulled up the leg of her trousers, and stabbed the cylinder into her thigh.

There were two injections. The first was an immune booster—always a smart idea when arriving on a foreign planet, especially one inhabited by humans, even though Samus's physiology was unique enough that she doubted she was in much danger of catching any of their diseases. The second was estradiol—always a smart idea in general. Samus took all her medication this way, when possible—because it could be easily facilitated by her Power Suit's life support functionality. In situations like this, however, she had the necessary equipment to manage things herself.

Samus looked up at Ilia, smiling lightly at her in an attempt to ease the stricken look on her face. It worked—she nodded and smiled back.

And with that, Samus had everything she needed for an extended stay on an alien planet. As they departed the ship, Ilia chivalrously offered to take one of the bags; Samus obliged, then giggled as she watched the girl's slender arms strain under the weight. None of this would last her forever, and she knew that. Eventually, she would probably have to try to find some way back home. But if humans were here, then interstellar technology must have been at one point, and in the meantime…

Maybe this would all work out. Maybe things would finally be okay.

Chapter Text

Night had fallen, and with it, the rain had returned. Samus sat on the small platform outside Ilia's front door, wrapped in a quilt, listening to the soft drizzle that fell all around her, protected from the downpour by the overhanging roof above. Ilia was inside, passed out on her bed, wearing nothing but an oversized white singlet, clearly not her own—because evidently the nightgown she had given Samus was the only one she owned. Idly, Samus wondered who had been the previous owner of all these clothes.

It had already been almost evening by the time the two of them had returned from the ship, and Ilia had fixed them a quick—but delicious—dinner before spending the evening trying to teach Samus how to speak in her language. It was cute, in a way—Samus didn't quite know how to process all of the attention she was receiving from this girl; she hadn't been this cared for in… a long time. She was used to being on the giving end of atruïstic behaviour, but… never the receiving, not like this.

It made her think back to the last time she'd had a roommate—eight years ago.

Joey shoved open the door to their cramped, urban studio apartment, and hardly had it closed again before she started stripping. “Ugh,” she said, like she did every day after work. “Get me out of these clothes.”

Samus glanced up from her laptop, cracking a smile at her girlfriend before turning back to her work. “Sorry, babe,” she replied. “I'm a bit busy at the moment. You'll have to take care of that one on your own.”

“It was a figure of speech, you dork,” Joey said, wrapping a robe around her already naked body. She folded up her work uniform and set it on the counter near the door.

“Mm. How was work?” Joey worked retail at a horribly mismanaged parts store on the outskirts of one of the less-reputable districts in the city. The question was largely just an opportunity for her to vent—it never went well.

“Ugh, how do you think?” Joey poured herself a tall glass of water and guzzled it down. “It was a fucking disaster, as usual.” She rinsed the glass and set it on the rack to dry. “Isn't it wicked how you can have this totally awful day at work, just absolutely hate it, and still be left with less energy for resistance than you had before? Like, I wanna burn the place to the ground. Instead I'm,” she yawned, “probably going to take a nap.”

“I take it we're ordering in for dinner, then?” Samus was already browsing restaurants on her mobile.

Joey flopped face-first onto their bed. “If you think you're getting me to wear pants for the rest of the night, you're sadly mistaken.” She rolled onto her side to get a look at her roommate. “How about you?” she asked. “Busy day translating the news?”

“I take it you haven't had a chance to check up on it?” Samus asked. Joey scoffed and shook her head. “Well, it's all a mess—the usual, diplomatic bullshit, war stuff. Lotta things relevant to a lot of people, so I've been busy.” Samus activated Submit on the article she was working on and distractedly tabbed the targeting across her screen. “I think I need to take a break, actually, I'm starting to get a headache.”

“Oh, please tell me you've eaten something today,” Joey pleaded, giving her a look.

“Yes, darling.” Samus closed her laptop quietly and rose to go join her partner on the mattress. “I've eaten.” She gave Joey a quick peck on the lips.

They lay there on the bed together for a moment, each staring into the other's eyes. The clock on the wall ticked down the seconds before Joey finally groaned and turned away. “Ugh,” she said. “Stop that.”

“Stop what?”

“Looking so goddamn beautiful, you're gonna make me dysphoric.”

Samus rolled her eyes. “Oookkay,” she said. “Rollll over.”

Joey furrowed her brow at her. “Excuse me?”

“If you're gonna be a cranky trans at me, then roll the fuck over. I'm giving you a backrub.” Samus pushed gently on Joey's shoulder, and she yielded willingly, giving Samus access to her back.

“Yessssss backrubbbbss… ahhh…” she moaned as Samus pressed her thumbs into Joey's back. “Did you order food?”

“Y'know, I was about to, before you went and seduced me with your cozy bathrobe,” Samus replied. She pressed her knuckles gently against her partner's knots, slowly kneading them out. “Now my hands are busy, so I guess you'll have to.”

“Ugh, fuck, that feels good,” Joey replied, melting into the blankets. “Maybe I'll just lie here.”

“Joey.” Samus dug her fingers into a particularly tight knot, eliciting a slight yelp from her partner. “Food. I'm hungry.”

“Fine, fine.” Joey pulled out her mobile and hastily made an order. “Who's the cranky trans now?” she mumbled.

“I can stop, if you like,” Samus replied.

“Nonono it's fine it's fine,” Joey conceded quickly, tossing her device aside and sinking back into the sheets. “It'll be twenty to thirty minutes. Food's coming.”

They stayed in that position for another ten, Samus seated on her lover's butt, Joey's robe pulled down past her arms and shoulders, bare back exposed. Samus's hands moved deftly across her skin, and Joey's body gradually but visibly relaxed under her gentle but firm touch.

Finally, Samus stopped, sliding off of her partner and cozyïng up comfortably instead against her side. She idly let one hand trace up and down Joey's spine.

Joey sighed, turning her head and looking Samus's way. “Thanks,” she said, softly.

Samus just kissed her cheek in response—and was surprised to find it was damp. “Omigod,” she said, a hint of concern in her voice. “Are you crying??”

Joey smiled. “I just. Really love you,” she said.

“You're a sap,” Samus told her.

“You're in love with a sap,” Joey replied. She shifted so that she was on her side, facing Samus more properly, her robe still down around her waist, and her bare chest exposed. “God,” she said, exhaling deeply. “It's amazing how much easier it is to feel okay with your body when it's not a tense bundle of raw nerves, huh?” She gave Samus a quick peck on the lips. “Sorry about earlier.”

“No need to apologize,” Samus replied, waving off the apology. “Trust me, I get it. You know, people used to treat me like a man at work too.”

Joey scoffed at this, but Samus's face was completely serious. Joey looked at her incredulously. “Wait, seriously?” she said. “Hon, I've seen your military photos, you looked like a vanilla-ass teenage girl.”

Samus laughed. “Right,” she said. “But, you underestimate the power of cis people.”

Joey stared into her eyes, and they were distant. She knew that Samus didn't particularly enjoy talking about her military days—and for good reason, she presumed. Samus was even more of a pacifist than she was.

Joey nodded sagely. “Never underestimate the power of cis people,” she replied, hugging her partner close.

There was a knock on the door. Their food had arrived.

☙ ⁂ ❧

A creak came from Ilia's house, jolting Samus out of her memory. She turned to see her roommate stepping out from the doorway, rubbing her eyes.

“No sleep?” Ilia asked. Her voice was soft and sleepy, but full of care and concern.

Samus felt a small bit of pride at her ability to parse the sentence from that evening's practice—neverminding the fact that it was all of two words—which quickly transformed into frustration when she realized she had no idea how to phrase an affirmation of a negative question. “Y-yes?” she ventured.

Ilia giggled, sitting down beside her. “No,” she corrected.

…And, of course she had guessed wrong. “No,” Samus amended, sighing. It wasn't surprising—her current location was at least six hours offset from the day/night cycle she had been running on her ship—not to mention the fact that the days themselves were slightly shorter here, too. Samus was more surprised that Ilia, who had been sleeping so soundly earlier, was up and about now, too. She watched the younger woman take a seat beside her, shivering slightly in the cool night air. Ilia was still wearing nothing but that ridiculous oversized tunic, barely covering everything it needed to.

Samus squeezed her eyes shut, exhaling into the dark. She missed her ex; she missed the feel of another human being beside her; it was the middle of the night and it was cold and it was raining and there was a cute as fuck girl shivering right next to her and here she was bundled up in a quilt…

Fuck, what else was she supposed to do? She draped it over Ilia's shoulders, sharing it between the both of them. They were scooted such that their shoulders were touching, bare arm against bare arm, and Samus felt her breath catch in her throat and her heart pounding so loudly she was sure Ilia could hear. She almost pulled away right then. She almost let Ilia have the blanket and resigned herself to the cold.

Ilia's fingers brushed the back of her neck softly, gently, up and down. “Okay?” she asked quietly.

Samus felt her whole body exhale. It was… it was actually incredibly calming—she couldn't bring herself to tell Ilia to stop, she wanted her to keep going. She nodded gently. “Okay,” she said, barely even registering how choked-up she sounded when she said it. She wasn't sure if she was crying or not.

“Shhh…” Ilia said, gently tracing her fingers up and down. Samus felt herself leaning into her, and the next thing she knew, her head was in the girl's lap, resting on her bare thighs, Ilia's hand calmly putting her at ease. She tugged gently at Samus's ponytail, asking again: “Okay?”

Samus nodded, and her hair was set free, Ilia slowly combing it out with her fingers. Samus was definitely crying now, she could feel her eyes stinging with it, knew Ilia could feel the wetness against her skin. She could feel all her years of isolation unwinding through each gentle touch. It was like having a panic attack, but the pain and fear was overpowered by a pervading sense of comfort and calm. She knew they were still there, ready to spring upon her if Ilia should stop.

But Ilia didn't. The wind picked up—blowing east, away from the pair, such that they were sheltered by the house—but it could nevertheless be heard whistling through the trees. Ilia shivered slightly and wrapped the quilt tighter around them.

And the next thing she knew, Samus was being woken blearily and escorted to her bed. Ilia tucked her in snugly, giving her a loving pat on the head before departing for her own.

Fuck, Samus thought, as she closed her eyes and felt sleep claim her. The space above her bed felt cavernous, as though multiple infinities lay there in wait for the new day. She resigned herself to them quietly.

What was happening to her now? She had no idea. But somehow, it didn't bother her like it usually would.

Why was she so comfortable in not knowing?

☙ ⁂ ❧

Morning came early, and with a loud knock on the door. Ilia opened her eyes and groaned. She was normally an early riser, but she hadn't exactly had the most restful sleep the night before. “Coming,” she called, making her way to the door.

Glancing to her new roommate, the early hour didn't appear to be doing Samus any favours either—she was alert, but looked a tired mess, her hair a wild nest. Ilia giggled, and tossed a comb her way. Apparently, the treehouse's curse of bad hair extended to guests as well. Ilia patted down her own, turning the handle to greet their visitor.

It was Beth—which, in retrospect, Ilia supposed she ought to have expected. “Hey, Beth,” she said, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.

“Spirits' sake, Ilia, put some pants on!” Beth replied. Her tone was jovial—it wasn't like she hadn't caught Ilia in positions far more compromising.

Ilia gazed down sleepily at her bare legs. “Sorry,” she said. “Late night.” She held the door open, and Beth let herself inside.

“Oh yeah?” Beth asked. “I'll bet, all alone out here with an exotic Woman from the Sky.” She had evidently been informed of Samus's presence—and if she knew, it was likely the whole village did too.

“Oh, gods, Beth, not like that.” Ilia closed the door with a groan. “Our relationship is perfectly chaste.”

“Yeah, tell that to your naked ass,” Beth replied, spinning a slow circle and examining the room. She spotted Samus, still tugging the comb through her hair and looking incredibly awkward about it. “So this is her then?” she asked, giving Samus a once-over. “Helllllooo.”

Ilia rolled her eyes, elbowing Beth in the side. “Wave, silly, so that she knows you're saying hi.”

Beth giggled and waved. Samus gave her a tight half-smile and waved back. Ilia managed introductions between the two.

“Beth, this is Samus,” she said. “Samus, Beth.”

“You sure you're not gonna need, like, a chaperone out here in the woods with you, right?” Beth said, side-eyeing Ilia. “This woman is seriously good-looking.”

“You're such a teenager, Beth,” Ilia chided her, rolling her eyes. Although, she couldn't deny that Samus was attractive. “I'm just taking care of her while she gets back on her feet. It's not like she has anywhere else to stay, you know.”

Beth glanced at Ilia, bleary and barely-clothed, her short hair poking up at odd angles, and at Samus, straightening the last of her tangles with Ilia's comb, looking as though she was running on about five hours of sleep. “Yeahhh, still not buying it,” she said.

Ilia pouted pointedly. “‘Buying it’ or not,” she replied. “I didn't call you out here to comment on the sexual attractiveness of my charge.”

“Okay, okay, to business, then.” Beth gave an exaggerated sigh. “I'm just saying, I wouldn't blame you…”

“Beth!” Ilia put on her business face and, true to form, her friend sobered up. Ilia assumed that Rusl had already given her the rough details of her quest, but didn't know entirely what she had been told. “I need you to get Shad,” she began.

“That nerdy boy with the magic words who helped… you-know-who, during the war?” Beth was feigning incredulity, but her voice had lost all tones of levity, and her volume was barely a whisper, as was always the case whenever they discussed the Twilight Crisis.

“So… you remember him, then?” Ilia asked.

“Of course I do,” Beth said. “How could I forget.”

There was a long moment of silence. Samus, wrapped in her quilt, not understanding the flow of the conversation, sat on her bed looking from one girl to the other.

Ilia sighed. “Well, in terms of learning who Samus is or where she comes from, right now his magic words are our best shot.” She glanced to Samus as she said this, and Beth followed her gaze. “Rusl says he's somewhere in Castle Town; find Colin, he might be able to help. And— I'm sure I don't need to tell you this, but feel free to bring Luda along, as well.”

“Oh, if you thought for a second I'd miss the opportunity to spend my eighteenth birthday alone with my girlfriend, far from any form of parental supervision, you'd've had another thing coming.” Beth winked at her, and they were back to lighthearted fun. It was something Ilia actually really admired about her—the way in which she could give moments of seriousness their measure, but not a second more.

She rolled her eyes in response. “Ah yes, a tent in the middle of an open field, surrounded by dirt and rocks and bugs and grass. How incredibly romantic.”

Beth scoffed. “Oh, don't you start with me, pony girl,” she said. “I know you're into that.”

And yeah, Ilia was.

She changed the subject. “It's harvest season,” Ilia said. “Are you staying for the festival?”

“Leave right after, probably. My parents will need my help around the shop, getting things going.” Beth's parents owned the only mercantile in the village, and she was frequently roped into helping out during times of high traffic—despite her frequent protesting of the fact.

“Well,” Ilia advised. “There's no rush, but be sure to pack blankets. It gets pretty cold this time of year.”

“Yes, mom,” Beth replied, sticking out her tongue. When they were younger, Ilia's sternness and motherly instincts would always get on her nerves, and they'd had a number of explosive arguments as a result. Now, though, it was all in fun. The girls looked out for each other, and had ever since the war, each appreciating the other's care. “Okay,” Beth said, “I'd better go home and tell Luda what's up. Don't get too wild while I'm gone travelling Hyrule, out here. I expect to see this house still standing when I get back.”

Ilia snorted, opening the door. “Beth…” she admonished. Beth just smiled, curtsyïng slightly as she left the house. Ilia rolled her eyes in response. “Take care,” she called after her.

Beth gave a high-pitched hmmm! and skipped her way towards town.

☙ ⁂ ❧

A bell chimed as Beth pulled the door open to her home. “Morning, Mom,” she said rotely as she stepped around the shop counter and toward their private quarters. Her mother, Sera, looked up from the cat she was doting on and smiled brightly.

“Good morning, Beth,” she said cheerily. “Where were you off to this early in the morning?”

Beth yawned in response. “Just chatting with Ilia,” she said.

“Is this about your trip to the castle?” Rusl had come by the previous day to ask their consent for the journey. Sera hadn't appreciated that it meant Beth would be away for her birthday, but they'd agreed to celebrate instead during the coming festival, before Beth was said to depart.

“Mmm,” Beth replied, not wanting to draw the conversation out any further. “Gonna go talk to Luda now, bye.”

Luda was Beth's girlfriend, but to her parents, and the rest of the adults in the village, they were just roommates. Although ethnically Ordonian, her original home was Kakariko, where her father, Renado, was a shaman, and where the Ordon children had found themselves taken over the course of the war. The two had grown close, then, and kept up written correspondence; at the same time, Luda had found herself growing interested in the traditional customs and folktales of her people, many of which had been lost since the Hyrulèän occupation many years ago. A learned man himself, Renado approved of his daughter's interest in the past—and consented to her relocation to Ordon Village in the interest of furthering this course of study.

Of course, he had no idea what focus area his daughter was particularly searching for.

“Did you know that Ilia was named after a lesbian?” Luda was bent over a book in their shared bedroom, barely glancing up when she noticed Beth walking in.

“Kiss first,” Beth replied, plopping herself down on the bed. “Then stories. Otherwise, gods know I'll never get one.”

Luda groaned in mock protest, then turned away from her desk to plant a kiss on her girlfriend's lips. “It says here,” she continued. “that before she became a nun, the Ilia of old went out into the woods and had, uh, intimate relations with the wolf-spirit who lived there.”

“Ew,” Beth wrinkled her nose. She approved of her girlfriend's mission to uncover the lost sexual history of Ordona, but there was some weird stuff in there. “She had sex with a wolf?”

“Well, it was more like she had sex with a person who later turned out to also be a wolf… There was some shapeshifting involved… This is Not That Weird, okay.” Luda returned her partner's odd look, rolling her eyes. Shapeshifting happened all the time in Ordonian folktales; it was completely normal. “But here's the thing—in Ordonian folktales, animal spirits are exclusively female. They're always depicted as girls.”

“…So, Ilia had lesbian sex with a werewolf,” Beth concluded. She thought about her friend, currently living on the edge of the woods with a strange woman whose past was unknown. Honestly, it wouldn't surprise her at all.

“Yes! And apparently…” Luda flipped through the pages of the text, blushing a little. “…They were involved for quite some time. The retelling here does… not leave much to the imagination.”

Beth bit her lip. She'd have to remember to ask Luda to let her read that story later. “…So, what happened?” she asked.

“Some men were out hunting, and, well. They mistook Ilia's lover for a regular wolf, and shot and killed her with their bow.”

“Oh,” Beth said. There were rarely happy endings in stories involving animal spirits, but still. “Ouch.”

“Yeah. And then Ilia became a nun.” Luda closed the book firmly, giving a light, contented sigh. “Anyway. Speaking of. How's our Ilia doing?”

“No lesbianism yet, but the day is young,” Beth replied, with a slight wink. “Are you feeling up for an adventure?”

“With you? Always.” Luda smiled back. “What's up?”

“Do you remember that pretentious scholar boy who crashed your dad's place back when we first met? Kinda cute, glasses?”

“I'm not gonna lie,” Luda replied. “Noticing boys has never been my forte. But I think I… maybe? remember someone like that, yes.”

Beth rolled her eyes. “Okay, well, apparently he's in Castle Town now and Ilia needs him. But, she obviously can't leave with a mysterious woman living here under her care. You up for a trip?”

Luda considered the question. “Is this going to be like a there-and-back-again sort of thing or are we actually going to have some time—”

“Ilia said there was no rush,” Beth said, cutting in.

“No rush, as in we're finally doing that shopping trip you've always wanted?” Luda asked.

“I think we could probably spare some time for shopping,” Beth replied.

“No rush, as in there will be time for that library trip I've always wanted, too?”

“Yes, dork,” Beth said, with a teasing sigh. “We can make a trip to the library, too.”

“No rush, as in you're going to dress up nice and finally take me on a date?”

Beth grinned. “I'd love to,” she said.

“Okay,” Luda grinned back. “Then, I'd be happy to visit Hyrule Castle Town with you.”

Vol. I END

Chapter Text

Volume II – That Which Has Occurred

Princess Zelda gazed out her window, forlorn, from the room which was once her prison, which in many ways still was, out over Castle Town and all its walls, buildings, and people, decorated and decorating, all in preparation for the festival to come in just a handful of days. It was to be the sixth anniversary of the end of the Twilight War.

It was hardly a time for celebration, Zelda thought. Six years on and the kingdom was still in tatters, her people dependent on a dying monarchy—or, now, increasingly, oligarchy, unwilling as she was to take up the throne. Zelda had seen with her own eyes the suffering which that throne could bring to her people, and she had familiarized herself well with the reports of loss of life and sustenance that had been required to return it to her hands. It was an ill-begotten power: to wield it was to strengthen it; to strengthen it was to further the oppression of Hyrule and its people.

She hadn't always thought thusly, of course—six years ago and they had all been preparing for a different sort of celebration, her coronation. She had been just a young girl, then, only eighteen, unwittingly stepping into the role which had been prepared for her since long before she was born. The provinces and outlying territories had all prepared gifts in recognition of her new reign, and these were arriving daily; she was doing her best to project strength and solemnity for her people as they prepared for the difficult winter to come.

Then came the invasion, and all her talk of strength was proven a sham. Zelda hadn't wanted to risk the lives of her people for something so symbolic as a throne—but they had done so anyway, without need for her guidance or support. The two of them: Link, and Midna—and the small, ragtag Resistance, an underground network of queer folks who had seen her as their greatest hope for a more normal life. Zelda smiled grimly, turning away from the festivities outside. She wondered what they must think of her now. She wondered if they were all still alive.

She exhaled slowly. Zelda's chest was a perpetual dull ache these days, and her memory failing; with the change in seasons, she knew these things would only become more severe. She recognized them as the signs of depression: “It's only natural, after such a traumatic incident,” the local physician had told her, five years ago, when she had described to him her symptoms. Dr. Borville was a racist, stodgy old man, and under ordinary circumstances he might easily have given a different pronouncement—but one does not simply accuse the crown princess to Hyrule of hysteria.

Not that she didn't still hear the whispers—“What that princess really needs is a good fucking,” remarked one particularly bold noble, and in her own court no less—but he was well-connected, and there was little she could do. These days, she rarely bothered with attending, anyway—it wasn't as though anyone there cared for her views.

And for all it mattered, she had the finest dildo in all of Hyrule sitting on her nightstand. But it was hardly an effective treatment, and it now sat dusty from disuse.

Zelda turned it over in her hands. She wasn't a virgin, but she was unmarried and not courting, and at 24 that was enough to get people whispering about the Royal Family's coming obsolescence—an outcome which, quite frankly, served the interests of all involved. For Zelda's part, she didn't want children, abhorred the very idea of a Royal Family, and was intimately familiar with the dangers that childbirth could bring—her own mother having passed away shortly after she was born. And as far as the nobles were concerned—Zelda knew full well that the only reason there hadn't been a contest for power yet was because they were all hoping that, if they played their cards right, then, come the end of her short, miserable life, one of their sons might see the throne. They were all pigs, and Zelda kept right on living just to spite them.

Spite… Zelda pondered the word, her thumb tracing idly across the glans's smooth surface on the exaggerated phallic sculpture—goddesses, this thing was obscene, why was she holding it—it seemed like her life was running on nothing but spite these days. It reminded her, with a smile, of Midna, the banished Twilight Princess, whose efforts had saved the Hyrulèän kingdom—if it could be called that—in the process of restoring her own. The two women weren't so different as either had originally assumed. Both were bitter, young maidens with far too much of the world on their shoulders and more pain and trauma in their past few years than the rest of their linèäges had experienced in several lifetimes. It was why Zelda wished to speak with her again—not that it was possible, anymore. Well—she was working on a solution.

It had been the transgressions of Midna's ancestors that had led to their initial banishment to the Twilight Realm, but it was the faults of Zelda's own that had led to the final separation of the two peoples. Final, unequivocal separation: That had been Midna's parting wish—and Zelda had not been given the option of refusing her. They were both, she presumed, simply trying to make sense of the consequences of their forefathers' actions—she didn't begrudge Midna her decision. Nevertheless, and even as she did so in every other facet of her life, Zelda refused to resign herself to helplessness over this.

This was why, even now, six years after the event, she had the scholar Shad and his elderly assistant under her employ, researching everything they could about the Twilight Realm—even as Hyrule around them crumbled into disrepair. None of the nobles understood her obsession, but, as it was no barrier to their ambitions, they let it slide with no objections, aside from perhaps the occasional jeer.

Zelda knew that this wasn't what Midna would have wanted. But Midna was the only person in any realm who might have an inkling of what Zelda was going through, and Zelda knew she couldn't keep facing this alone. She needed her friend back. What other choice did she have?

☙ ⁂ ❧

In the coming days, Samus would find herself slowly beïng introduced to the rest of the meagre village, the outskirts of on which she was currently staying. The mysterious man who had visited that first morning was named Rusl; he seemed remarkably good-natured and had evidently had played a role in her rescue. He had a wife, Uli, and a young daughter, Linkle, and the whole three of them seemed to always walk around with a smile for the world. The girl who had made her surprise morning visit, Beth, had a mother and father who ran the local commerce—Sera and Hanch—and a friend her age living with them named Luda—they were possibly a couple? Ilia's father, Bo, seemed to hold a position of some authority, and there was one other family which ran the mill—Jaggle and Pergie, and their two sons, Talo and Malo.

Names were about all she had on any of them, though, as she still couldn't speak any of their language. She and Ilia had begun to develop a workable system of signs, combined with simple words, to get her through day-to-day tasks, but this was useless for actually holding a conversation. So Samus still found herself largely relegated to her own mind, without a mission or impending conflict or anything but the most mundane of tasks to distract her.

Her thoughts travelled where they always did: to a previous life.

The setting was Liberty City, a bustling metropolis on the planet Jasdam, home to the Galactic Peace Alliance and any number of intergalactic organizations—and, Samus was hoping, a place that she would soon be able to call home. She was just eighteen years old, still adjusting to civilian life after walking away from the Federation Police, disagreeing as she did with their handling of the situation on Zebes (and with the Lusitania, and on Daiban, and Jamoru, and…) The work she had done in her two years of service had helped people; Samus genuinely believed that… but the Galactic Federation had a way of rigging the game so that they always benefited more.

The streets Samus walked down were grimy, and the buildings were in disrepair—she was far from the shining centre of town. Such was to be expected: Liberty had a reputation to maintain, and there was little seen more distasteful in a jewel of a city than a drinking establishment with a clientele predisposed to… perverse sexual behaviour. Or whatever they were calling it now.

Her name was Samus Aran, and she was looking for a gay bar.

The place was nearly impossible to track down, even with the help of her mobile. Its sign was nothing more than a printed piece of letter-paper duct-taped to the door; the windows were tinted and dark; nevertheless, the sounds of people and drinks could be heard coming from inside. A pair of middle-aged folks smoked in silence just outside, giving Samus a strange look as she pushed open the door.

The interior was dark, but clean, and bustling; the evening crowd commiserating, making introductions, checking each other out. Samus awkwardly strode herself over to the bar counter and tried to look as though she belonged.

It was a spectacular failure of an attempt. “Aren't you… a little young to be in here?” the bartender asked her, eyebrow raised, as she took herself a seat.

Samus started. Was she? Drinks flowed freely for Federation Police officers, even in civilian bars; the legal drinking age for humans had never been information which it had been relevant for her to know. And even if they hadn't, on technicality, she wasn't even human; with a flash of her civilian ID, she told the bartender so.

They just looked at the small laminated card and laughed, a large, bellowing sound, filling the room. “Chozo? If you're going to try impersonating another species, at least do a little research first.” They passed the card back, still chuckling. “The Chozo are large, ancient birds; they never venture this far from downtown, and they don't even drink alcohol. Now, get out of my bar.”

Samus sighed. She didn't come this far just to be turned away at the proverbial door. If she was to leave now, she knew she wouldn't have the guts to try again. But, there was another option.

She pulled out her military ID. “I'm fairly certain,” she said, trying to be discreet, “you have no reason not to serve a veteran of the Federation Police.”

The bartender took the card from her hand, frowning as he read it over.

GALACTIC FEDERATION POLICE FORCE
Name: Aran, Samus Rodney Virginia
Nationality: Zebesian Chozo
        K-2L (formerly, jus soli)
Species: Human-Chozo
Sex: M (Human)
        N/A (Chozo)
Height: 1.9m
Weight: 90kg
Year of Recruitment: 20X1
Year of Discharge: 20X3
Discharge Type: General

“The weather sure is something today, huh?” they said, loudly, in an apparent non-sequitur, handing the card back to her. The room fell eerily silent. “What can I get for you, officer?”

Samus scoffed, taking offense at the manner of address. “Oh, shove it,” she said. “I'm not—”

Then she paused, realization dawning on her as she glanced around, the entire bar now looking her way. “Oh, fucking—” She closed her eyes and turned back to the table, trying to forget their looks of fear. “Jesus christ,” she said, her quiet voice clearly audible in the silence. “This isn't a raid.”

“Well, forgive us if we're not convinced.” She was in her early twenties, sitting to Samus's right, with short, spiked blonde hair and a tattered bomber jacket, “SHE/HER” patch screaming loudly from the left shoulder. “Y'all pigs have already been in twice this month, threatening things.”

The bartender, not wanting a fight, held up a hand. “Joey…” they cautioned.

“Can it, Tom,” Joey replied, curtly. “I'm sick and tired of these cops walking in like they own the place and sticking their nose where it don't belong. If she wants to take me in for it then, well, at least I'll be in good company.”

“I'm not taking anyone in!” Samus said, shooting the bartender a bitter glare. She couldn't blame them, not really; they were just looking out for their customers—but it sure did make things much more difficult for her, everyone knowing her past employer. “I'm not even a cop, anymore.”

Joey, for one, certainly wasn't interested in cutting her any slack. “Oh, beating up the poor and the helpless got to be too much for you, did it?” she asked.

“Yes!” Samus shouted back. Nevermind that Samus only ever served as recon for the Space Pirate problem; now wasn't the time to argue details. “Yes, it did! Do you have a problem with that?” Joey scowled. The room scowled. And Samus knew that if she didn't prove herself in this moment, it wouldn't matter if the bartender let her stay, or whether she had the courage to return.

She had no choice but to shoot back. “And speaking of beating people up—what are you doing?” she exclaimed. “Like, I was sixteen, okay? I was a sixteen-year-old trans girl with no parents and alone in the universe and the weight of the whole fucking galaxy on my shoulders and no money and nothing other than a Power Suit to my name.” It was true that her Chozo guardians had access to large amounts of resources, but these were all tied up in existing projects: The Chozo didn't raise money without first deciding how they were going to use it, and giving Samus an allowance was never one of their concerns. “Do you even know what Human-Chozo means?! It means my body Can't. Fucking. Produce. Its own hormones! What the fuck was I supposed to do, huh? Keep running back to Zebes every month?”

Samus had not had the luxury of friends during her time in the Federation Police—not human ones, anyway; not ones who would understand the messiness of homo sapiens biology or culture or why having a bulge in the crotch of her jumpsuit was Definitely Not Okay. She had never had anyone to talk these things over with; she had never had the opportunity to vent or ask for advice. She had had to make every one of these decisions silently, and on her own. “I just wanted money for surgery; how the fuck was I supposed to know that the Galactic Federation was hugely fucked up on the inside? I was just doing what I was told!”

Samus took a deep breath, and turned back to the counter. She could feel her eyes burning slightly. But she hadn't cried when handing her resignation to Adam, and she wasn't about to start crying now. “Anyway, I left,” she finished, drained from her outburst. “I served my two years, then I got the fuck out of there. I just wanted a drink, okay?”

The room was dead silent. Even Joey seemed slightly in shock. Eventually, the bartender coughed. “You, uh,” they said, sounding somewhat humbled. “Never did tell me what you wanted.”

“I don't know, a cola or something,” Samus replied, hardly able to bring herself to care. Something sweet and fizzy and caffeinated would be nice. “You carry cola?”

At her side, Joey laughed. She covered her mouth, at least, perhaps apologetically. “You came all this way for a soft drink?” she asked. “You went through all this trouble—walked all this way out of town—for a cola? You could've picked that up at any fast food joint.”

“Like there aren't other places I could've gone for a beer, too,” Samus said, sharply. “Maybe there's a reason why I'm here. I didn't just tell my whole life story for laughs.”

Joey sighed and closed her eyes. “Yeah, sorry…” she said. “Hey Tom, put this girl's… pop on my tab, alright?” The bartender mumbled something, nodding as he poured the drink.

“Look,” Joey said, looking Samus in the eyes. “I feel like we got off on the wrong foot. Like, I don't trust cops as a rule, but… a teenage trans girl, I'm willing to give a second chance. Okay? Just don't ever fucking do something like that again.” She held out her hand. “Name's Joey. She/her; fellow trans.”

Samus took it, wondering what she might be getting herself into this time. She was actually… scared, because this was a woman who had the power to pass judgment on her life. “Samus,” she said. “Likewise.”

Her drink arrived, and she stared into the dark liquid, bubbling. “Hey,” Joey said. “That was pretty brave, standing up to me like that.”

Samus gave her a quick smile. “Thanks,” she replied. Joey had a kind face, when she wasn't totally blowing you off; Samus could feel herself blushing a little from the whiplash. This was why she had come here: to meet other queer and trans folks in the city, to maybe for once in her life not be totally alone. She knew they would be critical of her past decisions. But she also knew they were the only ones who might ever understand her life.

Samus and Joey would talk late into the night.

☙ ⁂ ❧

“Do you ever feel as though your body is not your own?”

It had been a rare moment of vulnerability from the Twilight imp who had made Zelda's quarters her home. At that time, Zelda knew her only as Midna, knew only that she'd been cursed by the leader of the Twilight Army and sought his downfall, knew that she resented the people of Hyrule for their easy life but wasn't above using them to achieve her means. That she was in fact the Twilight Princess, overthrown and banished by Zant the Usurper prior to his declaration of war, and seeking a way to restore both her glory and dignity and that of her people, would only become clear in time.

“Yes,” Zelda replied. “All the time.”

In just a few short months, the Demon King Ganondorf would take control over her unconscious body, utilizing it to launch a deadly assault against Midna's chosen hero. Even though Zelda had no clear memory of the event, there was a part of her which was horrified and repulsed by this fact. And yet there was another part of her, fiendish and hidden, which wished that Ganondorf had never returned it to her.

It had seemed nobody could keep their bodies straight, in those days. Zelda remembered meeting Link for the first time, transformed as they were into a shadow wolf by the veil of Twilight. She remembered watching that veil lift, for the first time since her castle had fallen, only for Link to appear on her doorstep, a dying Midna on their back. She remembered Midna's request that she show Link the Mirror of Twilight, her realization that the imp had come to them a leader from another world, that, even so, she had done more for Hyrule in those few months than Zelda had in her entire lifetime.

“That's the thing I don't understand about you Hyrulèän princesses,” Midna said, stretching as she gazed out the window upon the Twilight-covered land. “You have everything handed to you, and yet no power to get what you really want.”

“What I want,” Zelda replied sadly, “is to no longer be a princess.” Her presence, and the blessing of the goddesses she carried, was the only thing keeping the castle from falling completely into darkness, but it left her with idle times full of nothing but sorrow and regret. She had tried reading, or writing, or embroidery, but always found herself feeling drained and unable to continue just a few moments in. Now she was reclining on her bedsheets. “But not like this.”

It wasn't until their final showdown with the man who had masterminded it all that Zelda would see either of their true forms—Link or Midna. To be honest, she didn't know what to make of the hero at first. They were tall, skilled, and determined, but Zelda couldn't entirely tell whether they were fighting for Hyrule, or for their impish companion—she was envious of the way the two of them worked together, so in sync. While she had been stuck in her castle, Link and Midna had slowly put the world back together, and forged a bond stronger than steel between them while doing it.

Link had bested Ganon in the castle; with Zelda, they had ridden across Hyrule field against him; without her, they had defeated him in single combat. And then, just like that, the battle had been won. Midna's curse was lifted, and she was smiling at them in her own body at last, eyes glinting in the twilight—the normal, natural, Hyrulèän twilight… and she was giggling, running to Link and wrapping him up in a big, affectionate hug, lifting him off his feat—no easy task—saying, over and over, “We did it, we did it”… and then she was jogging up to Zelda, taking her face in her hands, and planting the biggest, most passionate and confident and graceful kiss on her lips, and Zelda felt her heart lifting and the shattered remnants of her world falling away.

Midna looked deep into Zelda's eyes, her smile contagious. “We did it,” she said.

Logically, Zelda knew that it was the adrenaline from battle affecting her sensibilities. In all her years as Princess of Hyrule, it was an offer she would only make that one day. Nevertheless, she found herself with no regrets making it, nor any regrets with what came after. She kissed Midna back deeply, longingly, then caught her breath.

“I do not know what of my bedchambers still remains in my castle,” she said, grinning for the first time in what felt like years, “but you are both invited. As naked as you please.”

The occasional noise aside, none of them would be seen or heard from for several days.

☙ ⁂ ❧

The coffee shop was the perfect balance of nice, lowkey, and inexpensive. Samus had just sat down with her cocoa and cinnamon roll when she noticed her date walking in the door. She waved her over.

“Posh,” Joey said, teasingly, looking around.

“Oh, hush,” Samus said, not taking the bait. “Let me take your order. After all, you did cover me at the bar.”

It took only a few minutes before they were both seated with their drinks. “So, I suppose this is more your speed, huh?” Joey asked, settling into her chair. There was indie folkpop playing over the speakers, and a fake fireplace was crackling from its place in the wall. “Bougie, but I guess it's kind of quaint.”

“Well, when you don't drink,” Samus replied, “it's not like you have a whole lot of options. I didn't think ‘sodas at a fast-food joint’ would make a very appealing first date.”

“Hmm, but what about milkshakes and fries?” Joey said ponderously, nodding as though this was the best idea in the world.

Samus just winced. “Unfortunately, I'm lactose-intolerant, so…”

Joey laughed. “I mean,” she said, grinning. “So am I. But what's a first date without a little indigestion, anyway?”

Samus didn't know what to say to that. She took a long sip of her drink. Now would be a great time to return to her original point. “Anyway,” she said, “I don't think my hot chocolate was any more expensive than your beer last night, so…”

Joey snorted. “Oh my god,” she said, grabbing a handful of napkin to clean up the coffee now dripping down her face. “You would order hot chocolate at a coffee shop.”

“Okay, but consider:” Samus said, smiling. “Coffee tastes bad.”

“Eh,” Joey rolled her eyes. She was three years older than Samus, and not afraid to use that fact to win an argument. “Give it a few years. You'll be needing your damn coffee like the rest of us.” She moved her mug under Samus's face to smell, and Samus wrinkled her nose. “Mm… delicious…” Joey brought the mug back to her lips and took a long, loud, slurp.

Samus took a dainty sip of her own beverage. “So…” she said, ungracefully shifting the topic of conversation. “You're off work today?”

“Yeah, god bless.” Joey let out a long sigh. “And you? What are you up to these days?”

“Oh, uh,” Samus gave a nervous sort of laugh. “I only just got into town a few days ago, so I'm still looking.”

“Damn, fresh off the boat huh?” Joey waved her hand around. “Well, welcome to Liberty. It's not all it's propped up to be, but we get around.” She took another loud sip. “Got any leads?”

In all honesty? Samus had been so busy finding housing and getting settled that she hadn't had time to even begin looking. But she couldn't exactly just… say that. “Oh I'm—” how to make yourself look calmly in control without seeming arrogant to a slightly older trans woman you only just met and are now getting coffee with “—I have some language fluencies, so I was hoping to find work as a translator somewhere in town.”

“No shit? That's rad.” Joey seemed genuinely impressed. “I've always wanted to learn another language. But, not a lot of opportunities for that, here.”

“I'm sure they have classes…?” Jasdam was an incredibly multicultural planet—it would have surprised Samus if they didn't have ample resources allocated for language acquisition. As a matter of fact, she knew that the Jasdam Academy was renowned for its linguistics programs.

“Oh, yeah, but they're all hella expensive.” Joey scoffed a little at the idea. “Targeted at rich diplomats and the like, y'know? Liberty has universities, but it doesn't really have, like, a community college for ordinary folks like you or me. At least not one you can actually get into, lol.”

With her credentials, Samus was pretty sure she could get into any university in Jasdam without too much in the way of trouble, but she understood Joey's meaning. “Well…” Samus said. Was this too forward? “If you ever want to try, and need a study partner, or something, let me know.”

Joey smiled at her—a soft, genuïne sort of smile. “Thanks,” she said.

“So, um.” Fuck, a conversational lull. “What do you do in your spare time.” Samus wasn't exactly the best at idle talking.

Joey laughed. “What spare time lol,” she said. “Go to work, go to the bar, organize, protest, try to stay alive. You know what they say: 8 hours labour in the system, 8 hours labour against the system, 8 hours rest for the next day.”

“I don't think that's quite what they say,” Samus said. Although, in all honesty, she was lucky herself if she got 8 hours of rest in a night. “You should have the opportunity to grab a coffee with a cute girl from time to time,” she continued, sipping her cup of cocoa pointedly.

Joey laughed again. “Amazingly,” she said. “I don't get that many offers.”

Samus took a big bite of her cinnamon roll, crumbs and frosting sticking awkwardly to her upper lip. Not that many offers, huh? Well, maybe she could do something about that.

Chapter Text

The caller-ID read Galactic Federation HQ. Samus knew better than to sleep on a call like that. She held the mobile to her ear. “This is Aran,” she said.

“Samus,” came the voice on the other end, pleasantly calm. Her blood went cold—she recognized it immediately. Her former Commanding Officer, Adam Malkovich. “I was hoping I would be able to reach you,” he said.

“What do you want, Adam?” Samus sighed. If Adam was calling her, there was no way it was good news. Thankfully, he was never one to waste time with pleasantries.

“A few months ago, a Federation research vessel was captured by Space Pirates. You may have heard—it made the news.” Samus couldn't recall; Space Pirates capturing Federation vessels was hardly spectacular in these days. “The cargo, which we are to presume they secured, is not something I can disclose over an unprotected line. But suffice to say that it is a matter of some concern.”

“Sounds like a problem,” Samus said curtly. “I don't see what this has to do with me, though.”

“We think time is running out before the Space Pirates launch a full-scale attack on the Federation. I'm sure I don't need to describe for you what that would mean.” He didn't. As a young girl, Samus had lost both of her parents to a Space Pirate attack—along with the entire rest of her home planet. She had been only three. “We've tried attacking them at scale, but, frankly, we can't get close enough to do any damage to the real threat—”

“—Mother Brain.” The AI had been built by the Chozo, and after her adoption, Samus had grown up under its watchful care. Only—it had betrayed them, siding with the Space Pirates—and giving them the tactical ability to grow into the formidable threat that they were today.

“The only remaining option,” Adam continued, “is a ‘silver bullet’ operation: Send a landing party down to Zebes, and take out Mother Brain directly. This should lower their defenses and enable our fleets to attack.”

“Adam, you can't—” Samus's breath hitched in her throat. Zebes was an incredibly hostile environment, even without the Space Pirate presence there. The mission was suicide. “No Federation soldier could ever survive on Zebes long enough to get to Mother Brain—much less defeat her, with all the Space Pirates there…”

The line at the other end was silent for a moment, and Samus almost thought Adam had hung up. She had a… history of disagreeing with his decisions. But, finally, he spoke.

“So,” Adam said. “You understand why I have called.”

And, as though it had been waiting for his command, realization hit her. The mobile nearly fell clean out of her hands—she managed to catch it before it hit the floor. “A-Adam!” She was at a loss for words. She couldn't even begin to say.

“Samus.” Adam's voice was its usual cool, collected self, taunting her with its reasonableness as she felt her emotions slipping out of control. “You grew up on Zebes. You have genetic modifications to help you thrive in its environment. You've successfully infiltrated the Space Pirate stronghold before. You have personal experience with Chozo technology, and—most importantly—Mother Brain.”

“I quit,” Samus said. “I left. Never again. I was discharged, you can't just call on me—”

“I'm asking you,” Adam told her. “Don't be irrational. You know what the universe needs right now, and what you can do.”

“I'm sorry, I can't—”

“Are you or are you not the Protector of the Galaxy?” Adam asked, his voice biting. That had been her childhood title—the Chozo were a dying species, and deeply concerned by the direction the galaxy might take after their eventual departure from the mortal realm. As one of their children—the only one who hadn't betrayed them—their legacy was hers to uphold. Not that she had made much progress on that front. It turned out there was only so much a queer woman could accomplish on her own in this universe—even if she was superhuman and trained to the hilt. “Daughter of the Chozo—do you have any desire to avenge them at all? Your parents?”

“You are out of line,” Samus spat.

“How many more families are you going to let this war claim, then?” Samus closed her eyes. Adam always did this—he knew all of her buttons. He would present the most bulletproof of arguments about why his way was the most logical, or righteous, or ethical; he would wear you down with it until you relented, acting like it was for your own good, or the good of the world—when in fact he was just using you. Samus couldn't argue with him because she didn't have the information, she didn't know what other options were out there—she didn't doubt for a second that Adam had a backup plain in case she would fail. She could only say yes… or say no.

“I'm sorry, Adam,” Samus said, with finality. “You will have to look elsewhere.”

But Adam Malkovich didn't take no for an answer. “Okay,” he said, not meaning it for a second. “But Samus, I think you should know… the Galactic Federation is aware of your… extracurricular activities, and those of your… partner.”

Samus felt her face go numb. “You wouldn't dare.”

“Come now, Lady, you know I've always been on your side.” In a manner of speaking—Adam saw her as an asset, and knew she'd be more likely to shut up and focus on the mission if she got her way with the little things that “didn't matter”—like her gender, or attraction to other women. But he wasn't her friend. “I've been able to convince the Police Force to overlook your sodomy record on account of your years of service and coöperation. But, supposing that coöperation suddenly ceased without explanation…”

God fucking dammit. Samus glanced at the clock. Joey would be home an hour, give or take. She took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly. “I'm not reënlisting,” Samus said. That was a line on which she wouldn't budge. “If I take this job, it's freelance. And since you're basically sending me on a suïcide mission, I expect top-tier compensation and full coverage for any medical expenses.”

“Acceptable,” Adam said. Then he continued as though this conclusion had been foregone from the start. “Chairman-elect Keaton's election ceremony will be taking place in just a few days at the GF building in Daiban—as I'm sure you're aware. You will be debriefed after. We have already arranged for your flight off of Jasdam; be at the airport in four hours. I'm sure I don't need to tell you to pack light.”

Fucking hell. She was really doing this. “For the record,” Samus said into her mobile. “I hate you.”

The voice at the other end chuckled. “Good to hear from you, too.”

The line went dead.

Samus just stood there like that, for a while, and the mobile finally did fall from her hands. It was as though the past two years—her life, her relationship, everything she had worked for in Liberty City—had all been a dream, and she had just now woken up. She just… she had just agreed to go into combat with the Space Pirates, with Mother Brain, back on Zebes, her childhood home…

Fuck, what was she going to tell Joey?

Samus didn't have time for this. She needed to pack. She pulled out a suitcase from their shared closet, and began slowly lining it with clothes and essentials, trying not to grow frustrated every time she reached up to wipe away tears, because she knew that would only make her cry more.

She was a complete and utter mess by the time Joey got home.

“Samus…” she said, seeing her girlfriend there, forcing the lid of her suitcase closed, eyes red with tears. “Omigod, what happened? What's going on?”

“The—the Galactic Federation called,” Samus sputtered. “I've… been recruited for a mission.”

“The… what? Samus, you're not serious?” Not that anything about the present situation looked like a joke.

“They needed somebody who knows Zebes, and I was raised there, so…”

“Yes, but, Samus!” Joey ran her fingers through her hair. Her girlfriend was clearly in distress, about to make one of the worst decisions in her entire life, and she didn't know what to do. “Samus, this is the Galactic Federation. You promised you'd never—”

“The Space Pirates killed my parents, Joey, they're going to hurt others, I have to do something…” Samus was repeating back Adam's arguments to her, but they rang hollow in even her own ears.

“Oh, don't talk like you're the only person here who has lost someone!” Joey shouted. She couldn't believe this. “Samus, what about Lana? Mega? Miguel? Jeff? Klaus? Lily? What about Mark Wikan? Sabrina Dudley? Sam Brogna? Rikiyo Harris? Jessica Behr?”

“Joey—” Samus pleaded.

“—Don't you dare fucking interrupt me, Samus, not now. Sarah Griffin? Timothy Ivey? Ken Pearson? Minako Pacini? Nate Trahan? Kent Deckard? Brian Gordon? Claire Campbell? Mary Cheng? Troy Chauviere?” Joey rehearsed these names daily in her evening prayers. These were just the ones from the past year. “Those weren't the Space Pirates, Samus!”

“I know, Joey, I— They wanted to bring you in—!”

“And so now you're throwing your weight in with them? Gee, thanks, Samus, that makes me feel all better!” Joey was crying now, too. Work had been awful, and to come home to this…

“I'm just trying to keep you safe!” Samus yelled.

“I don't need the protection of a cop!” Joey screamed back, and those words stung more than anything else.

Samus could hardly see through the blur of emotions plaguïng her vision, but somehow she made it to the door. “I have to do this, Joey,” she said. “I'm sorry.”

“If you walk out that door,” Joey replied. “I won't be here when you get back.”

If I get back,” Samus amended, looking her partner in the eyes. They had spent the past two years together. A longing silence fell between them. Samus found it nearly impossible to turn away.

But she did. “Goodbye, Joey,” she said, walking with her suitcase out the door.

It was the last time she would see her alive.

☙ ⁂ ❧

Morning light filtered in through the window, stirring Zelda awake. Of the senses, scent was the first to return to her. “It smells like sex,” she groggily mumbled, opening her eyes.

Midna was there beside her, already awake, smiling. Zelda felt her heart filling her chest at the sight. “Considering where your nose has been,” Midna said, kissing the guilty protuberance sweetly. “I would expect just about everything smells like sex for you now.”

“Mm,” Zelda said, cozying up to Midna's side, nuzzling her gently. “I wasn't complaining,” she said.

Midna laughed. She planted gentle kisses on her partner's bedhead. “Link is sneaking about, trying to rustle us up some breakfast,” she said.

Zelda hoped they had bothered putting on clothes first. She realized she was famished. “Good puppy,” she said, smiling. She nibbled lightly at Midna's collarbone. “'M hungry.”

“Mhmmm,” Midna replied, running her fingers through Zelda's hair.

The morning was soft, and quiet, and still. Zelda felt so safe and comfortable lying there—not wanting to move, even though she wasn't tired at all. “I wish every morning could be like this,” she said, softly.

Midna sighed sadly. “Zelda… I need to get back to my people. You need to be there for yours.”

Zelda groaned, even as she knew it to be true. She flopped onto her back. “I don't want to think about it now,” she said. “After breakfast.”

“Okay,” Midna said. “After breakfast, then.”

Still, the illusion had been broken. Zelda pouted, turning her head to face her partner. “A kiss to help me take my mind off of things?”

Midna rolled her eyes, climbing on top of her and planting her lips against hers, gently, then passionately. Zelda wrapped her legs around her partner, letting her hands explore the muscles of Midna's back and ass. “I love you,” she said breathlessly, when Midna finally broke away, sucking gently on the skin of her neck.

By the time Link returned with food, Midna's head was deep under the covers, and Zelda was shrieking with delight.

It was decided over eggs that the time of their vacation was nearly up: Midna needed to reëstablish her claim to the Twilight throne, Link needed to ensure everything went smoothly back home in Ordona, and Zelda had the entire kingdom of Hyrule to rebuild. However, none was particularly eager to say goodbye. Consequently, although it was hardly necessary, Link and Zelda pledged to escort Midna to the Twilight Mirror in the Gerudo Desert, the gateway between their realms, to see her off. There, in the sandy wasteland, would be the location of their final goodbyes.

But first—baths, and goddesses if they didn't need theirs. As guests, Midna and Link had first claim to the hot water; Midna accepted this graciously, while Link, on account of Zelda beïng the princess, refused.

Zelda stretched as Link made their way past her into the bathroom, towel wrapped around her hair. She felt refreshed, limber, and sore all at the same time, in a way she had never experienced before. It felt empowering—like she could take on the world.

She left the towel hanging on a hook and stepped back into the bedroom. As expected, Midna was there, running a comb through her lengthy hair. She glanced at Zelda, taking in the soft, clean glow of her skin, still damp in places, flushed slightly from the bath's heat; her damp hair, falling down in waves behind her; the light smirk on her lips as she cocked her hip, arms crossed before her.

“Can I help you?” Zelda asked.

It would be another day before they were all sufficiently clean and dressed to depart.

☙ ⁂ ❧

Gerudo Desert was, despite the lateness of the year, warm, dry, and sandy. As a northern desert forming from the rain shadow of the Snowpeak range, this was not typical—snow would not be unheard of at this time—but it had been an exceptionally mild autumn, and the sky was clear and the sun glowing. About a four, Zelda supposed—warm enough that her cloak was now tied around her waist, and her skin lightly sweating from the exertion.

The fact that they were trudging through sand certainly didn't help things, either.

To her right, Link was walking along diligently. Zelda felt sorry for them—they were in full garb, and the wool and mail was undoubtedly uncomfortable. But they had insisted that they were used to it by now, and wanted to be prepared in case the desert gave them any trouble—Zelda couldn't argue with that, although she hated her own helplessness in the situation. Of the three of them, she was undoubtedly the least capable in a pinch.

Ahead of them, Midna strode purposefully. She didn't seem bothered by the light or the heat at all, clothed as she was in literal shadows. Still, Zelda could see a faint glisten of sweat on her skin. But, whereäs Zelda's sweat made her feel unclean and exhausted, Midna's… just made her look all the more powerful.

They reached the Arbiter's Grounds with little difficulty. The sight of the structure sent a chill down Zelda's spine. This had once been a sacred place for the Gerudo people—but during their war with Hyrule many years ago, her ancestors had retrofitted it into a place of torture and imprisonment. It was here that the Mirror of Twilight was kept, the final bridge between her and Midna's world, and here that, so many years ago, the Sages had banished Ganondorf to the other side, setting the stage for the war they had just endured.

Zelda felt a small amount of trepidation as she crossed the threshold into the dimly‐lit interior. Why were they here? She hadn't bothered questioning before. Midna had implied—Zelda had a sneaking suspicion, anyway—that it had only been her transformation into an imp which had rendered her dependent on the Mirror for traversing the gap between the two worlds—Zant hadn't seemed to need it, after all, Usurper King though he was. Had her powers not fully returned? Or was it just that she wished to show Zelda that which she and Link had already seen, the countless horrors inflicted on the Gerudo by her people, and on their own hallowed ground?

It was an eye‐opening experience, whether that was the intention or not.

The complex was falling apart—much more than Zelda would have expected, as though the very weight of death and isolation was bearing down upon the structure and slowly turning it into dust. More likely, it was the product of a rushed construction and weak stone. Zelda imagined a sandstorm, slowly weathering away the outer structure, dissipating to leave the originary Gerudo temple standing there in all its glory—but she knew such was not the way of things. If any Gerudo architecture remained, buried deep within the grounds, it was as fated to death as the remainder of the place.

Link led them to the very centre of the grounds, and up a long stair, and there, at the top, with open sky above them, stood the Mirror. With goodbyes upon them, Zelda found herself at a loss for what to say. The past few days had been such a reprieve… the past months such a nightmare.

“Well, I guess this is farewell, huh?” Midna asked. She was playing light of the situation, but it wasn't fooling anyone. “Light and shadow can't mix, as we all know.”

The remark was offhand, and far from sincere, but it cut just the same. Zelda felt herself instinctively bracing to defend their union. It was true that the worst of light and shadow had led to this war… but it had been the best of them which had brought it to its conclusion. “Shadow and light are two sides of the same coin…” Zelda told her. “One cannot exist without the other.”

This was an equally bullshit statement, and Zelda knew it the moment the words left her mouth. But what was she trying to say? That—

She looked deep into Midna's eyes. Where would she be now, if the Twilight Princess hadn't come to her? “I know now the reason the goddesses left the Mirror of Twilight in this world… They left it because it was their design that we should meet.” Zelda couldn't imagine a life without her. I love you, Midna. “Yes… That is what I believe.”

“Zelda…” Midna replied. “Your words are kind, and your heart is true.” That's sweet, but…

But it wasn't enough. Midna hadn't just brought them here to leave, she had done so to say goodbye. The Mirror—the only connection to the world of Twilight—shattered at its princess's behest. And with it, Zelda felt her world crumbling into dust.

☙ ⁂ ❧

CY//TRANS

issue 020X6.1

Not My Saviour

by Joey Apronika

By now, the news has surely reached all of us: The galaxy has a new saviour, and she is a trans woman. Samus Aran, bounty hunter, appearing from the shadows and rising to galactic celebrity overnight for her infiltration of Zebes and her dispatching of Mother Brain—only to come out to the public a month later on live vids to a flabbergasted audience. We have watched, with perhaps some small amount of glee, as the Federation has attempted to dismiss or cover up the fact—“she's an exceptional medical case,” they say; “she's not really human.” And we have begun to wonder: What does this mean for us now?

Some are optimistic: “Samus is a queer icon,” claims one commentator. “Samus Aran may well turn out not only to be the saviour of the galaxy, but of the gay and trans liberation movement as well,” writes another. It is the narrative we have all been sold: In this Federation which praises strength above all else, there are no greater heroes than those who risk their lives for our military. Surely, then, rights will be soon to follow—or will they?

History has a different story to tell.

Two decades ago, as the Space Pirate threat was escalating, the Galactic Federation opened recruitment for the native inhabitants of Jamoru to serve in a military capacity and help defend their homeland. Their efforts were successful, and the Pirates were repelled. In recognition of their efforts, Jamoruvians successfully lobbied for full membership into the Galactic Federation, including, hypothetically, equal and fair treatment under the law.

But even after two decades, this symbolic victory has yet to result in better conditions for Jamoruvians on the ground. They are just as routinely discriminated against when searching for employment or housing; they are still stopped and searched with just as much frequency; their home planet remains a land under occupation with little-to-no autonomy or control.

With Samus Aran's military successes and the growing Space Pirate threat, the Galactic Federation may well present gays and trans folks with the same opportunity. And there is little doubt that living and dying in service to the Galactic Federation will gain us recognition and acknowledgement in their eyes. But better conditions are unlikely to result. The Federation may no longer be able to deny that we exist—but we are still discriminated against, abused, imprisoned, and murdered as ever before, and no amount of fighting on distant planets will change this situation at home. Indeed, now that we are “out in the open,” it could well be that these fights have only just begun.

And so I ask our gay and trans communities to stand against the temptations of homonationalism and the glorified military persona. Our salvation will not be won by our oppressors, and nor will it be won by those fighting in their name to further their cause. It will be won by those of us here, on our home planets, choosing the daily path of resistance, holding our communities together, and refusing to follow the scripted narrative that the Federation has set before us. Mori Saab. Serena Vonda. Georgia McHenry. These are the women who I consider to be my trans saviours.

Samus Aran… I can do without.

Samus ran her fingers along the familiar newsprint, holding the page at length to protect it from her tears. She remembered how angry she had felt when she'd first read it—well, time had a way of cooling even the hottest of embers. Now, she was left with nothing more than empty longing—a space which could never be filled.

“I miss you,” she softly said.

Gently, she closed the scrapbook and placed it with her other belongings from the ship. She sat there, blankly for a second, kneeling beside her bed in the empty room. And then the sadness hit her full-force, and she curled up there, hugging her pillow, crying her eyes out.

Minutes passed, and Ilia returned from the village. Samus tried her hardest to sober up, quickly wiping her tears away and acting like nothing was wrong.

But, of course, Ilia could tell that it was.