Preface: What if Link sought a therapeutic massage? With the varied and strenuous activities of his heroing, what effects would his therapist find in his muscles?

Granted that Zelda is a fantasy world, there are probably some definite anachronisms in this fic. I used modern knowledge of kinesiology and massage techniques to write this, and used what I hoped was a believable guess about the physiological effects of instantaneous magical healing. I do seek plausibility when I write.

And if anyone came here thinking so see some slash, you're going to be disappointed. This is not that kind of massage. I must also apologize if it's excessively wordy and confusing to a layperson. Blame the narrator; he's a professional and he knows his stuff.

Dedication: To JH. I couldn't ask for a warmer, more brilliant mentor.

My office is on a street in Castle Town not far from the tradesmen's district. I like it there, it's quiet, my sign is visible on the thoroughfare to help pull folks in, and I'm close to the working people who can benefit greatly from seeing me regularly. Three years ago I did a trade with a carpenter: I gave him a series of massages over several weeks, and he put up the wood paneling in my office. I asked him not to get anything too fine, but he planed and varnished the planks beautifully. He's still one of my best clients, and I recommend him to anyone in need of woodwork, particularly decorative. I've also hung a few small beige rugs on the walls, woven with subtle patterns, and soft, brown rugs are laid out carefully on the floors. I have a stove for the winter. Opaque but light-colored curtains are on the back windows, and when I pull back the drapes my clients' privacy is ensured while natural light is still allowed in.

It has an overall warm, comfortable, simple, and relaxing look and feel, and I'm rather fond of how it turned out. It's two rooms with a curtain hung in the connecting door, with a back porch that opens onto a small courtyard I share with other nearby buildings. In the front stands my desk and the chest I keep money and client paperwork in, the stove, a couple of chairs for waiting, and my washbasin. A few anatomical pictures of the human body hang on the wall, one showing the muscles, another the skeleton, and the third the body's meridian system. Through the curtain is the massage room, which contains my massage table, a chair, an end table I've appropriated and coat-hooks for clients to place their clothes on, and the closet that holds my linens, oils, and other supplies. A shelf is on the wall the head of the table faces, but it holds only a large, river-worn stone and my hourglass. I keep it as uncluttered as I can. The back door is there, but I keep it locked all the time. I live in the apartment above, reaching it by an exterior flight of stairs in the alley.

My linen closet rivals that of a small hostel. I change the sheets on my table for each client, and if I see twenty clients a week the way I like to, that makes for a lot of laundry. Since I work with my hands plenty as it is and don't need to strain them with scrubbing and even more wringing, I have other clients I do a trade with once a week: the wash-ladies whose laundry is a couple of streets away. They take turns coming to see me to receive a massage and pick up the week's round of sheets, plus my personal laundry. It's a mutually beneficial arrangement, since they need the massage, and I need clean sheets regularly.

Today, with the tolling of the hour's bell, one of them has just left: Amille, mother of four, whose husband is a cook at an inn near the city's west gate. By now she's probably turning the corner, pushing the wheelbarrow containing my bundle. She was my first client of the day, and I'm in the second room, changing over my table. Tomorrow, probably after my last appointment, I'll walk over to the laundry and pick up the clean linens. I have a moment to prepare the cupboard for the fresh load, shifting stacks of sheets to the front and one side, ensuring that I use the older ones first and all of them get evenly used. Perhaps it's an excessive compulsion, but I feel better doing it.

The weather's nice, the sun is shining in through my front windows, but my office isn't too warm. My next client should be here before too long. I schedule them with a little space of time between each appointment, to let me change sheets, do general upkeep, and have a snack if I need.

This is a new client, the first one I've had for a while, and I want to do well on this one. Business has been a bit slow lately. I'll be able to make my rent for this next month, but it won't be comfortable. I need things to pick up.

The first appointment is important. My intention is to make a good impression and do good work. I'll encourage him to rebook with me and offer a discount if he can bring me some referrals.

I'm also curious about this one. He didn't schedule with me himself; it was someone in the livery of the castle, actually, who also paid in advance. I'm not sure what to think about this, my best guess is that he's a noble who booked with me through his valet. It's not often I get a member of the upper class on my table; somehow I seem to bring in more people who work for a living, and not just because of my location. Another mystery is how he came to know of me, especially if I don't have nobles in my regular clientele. Still, everyone needs massage, every client deserves good work, and I don't pry. I just want this one to go well.

The bell on my front door tinkles—he must be here, a bit early, too. Here we go.

"Hello!" I call up. I close my closet doors, give my collar a tweak, place a smile on my face, and walk briskly for the front room, footfalls quiet on my rugs. I push aside the curtain and come forward to greet my client.

He doesn't much look like a noble. He's of average height, a few inches shorter than me, but is built strongly, broad-chested and -shouldered. I see great definition to the muscles of his arms. His leather boots are made for traveling, riding, and heavy use, and are well-worn. So too is the belt circling his waist and the bracers on his forearms. Under his green tunic he seems to wear a close-fitting, long-sleeved white shirt and off-white trousers; they're visible at his knees, his elbows, and upper sternum. He wears a conical hat matching his tunic with a long tail that falls down between his shoulderblades. Slightly-shaggy, dark-blond hair escapes its confines at his long, pointed ears and reaches his arched brows at the front. His eyes are a deep blue, watchful and alert, but pleasant.

I introduce myself and offer my hand, which he shakes—no, this doesn't seem to be a noble at all; he doesn't crush my hand but there's much strength in his grip, and unusual calluses. They may be from regularly holding a tool of some kind. "Welcome," I say, and release his hand. "Would you be Link?"

He nods, meeting my eye steadily. "That's right."

"Good to meet you. I'll be your massage therapist today."

"I know I'm a little early," he says, and glances around my office again.

"Actually, that's great," I tell him. "There's some things to go over on the first visit, and if you're on time, we get them out of the way without cutting into the bodywork. Have a seat if you like." I move to my desk and pick up my writing board and pencil. "I'll ask you some questions and I may do an assessment to figure out the work you'll benefit from today, most of the visit will actually be receiving that work, and we'll check in afterward. How are you doing today, Link?" I ask.

"I'm all right," he replies. He remains standing, and so do I. He doesn't mention stress or tension or pain directly, but few clients do on their first visit.

"Have you ever received massage before?" is my next query, to which he replies no.

Now come the open-ended questions, but I want to preface them. "I want you to know, Link, that anything we talk about today will be held in a strict confidence. The only time I might discuss information you give me would be with a doctor if I want to check on how massage might affect a condition, since the last thing I want to do is make things worse. But I only do that with my clients' approval and even then I don't usually use names. My office is a safe space. So you can tell me anything about your health and it won't be shared. Any contagious diseases are important to know about, to protect me and my other clients. But, I want to say I can find things to do to work around almost any condition if necessary. Okay?" It was a mouthful, and something I say by rote, but important.

He nods, processing the information, and replies, "Okay."

"Great," I say, glad to have that out of the way. "So what can you tell me about your body and your health today? If you're suffering any illnesses, if you feel tense or sore anywhere, or any injuries—sprains, pulled muscles, broken bones, bruises, cuts, however big or small…?"

Something seems amusing to him. "No illnesses," he declares. "Nothing… feels tense, really. But I do have some injuries."

"Tell me about it. How long ago did they happen?" Multiple injuries? What do I have on my hands now, I wonder?

"Well, there was a wound here," he says, touching his left upper arm. "But it's healed now, wasn't too serious."

"Do you mind if I feel it?" I ask, looking at the spot, and he indicates his approval. I walk to his side and place my fingers next to it, then palpate gently, allowing him to get used to my touch. The skin feels smooth, but I know I've found the wound when I detect a slightly raised band across the outside of his arm. I feel it gently, and it seems to be from a cut a little less than three inches long. My fingers shift the skin aside, and the way the band follows deep to the surface, it seems to be an adhesion in the fascia. I feel no scar actually on his skin. He doesn't look uncomfortable as I palpate, either. This sort of thing isn't unfamiliar to my hands. I've felt it on former soldiers. "Was this healed by magic?"

He gives me a somewhat surprised look. "Yeah, it was."

"You said some injuries," I prompt him, letting my hand fall back and making a note on his paper, scribing the wound on the diagram of the body and labeling it.

"Well… There was bite here," Link tells me, reaching behind his neck to touch his right shoulder line with the opposite hand. "I was pierced here," he turns his hip slightly to indicate the side of his left hamstring, "I twisted this ankle," he flexes it, "and I got some bruising on my side here." He rubs his left flank and ribs. I've paused in my jotting to stare for a moment. He cracks a grin. "You should see the other guys. They went up in smoke."

I'm reassured by this. I don't like to pry, and I mean it when I pledge my confidence, but I was beginning to wonder if he was a thug or other unsavory. "You mean you got these injuries from monsters?" Link nods. "Are you an adventurer, then?"

Again he nods. "You could say that. I am, yes."

That must explain the calluses I'd noticed when I shook his hand. To my knowledge I've never massaged a survivor of a monster attack. Injuries from work accidents are more likely to come under my hands once they're past the acute stage. I resume my note-taking and go to feel the shoulder he's said was bitten. My hand feels multiple small lumps of bound-up connective tissue below the surface; the jaw seemed to have been filled with evenly-sized sharp teeth. Next I palpate his leg, and from the wide and circular scar I feel, I guess it was a spear that gave it to him. I imagine that it bled something fierce. His ankle I skip since it's encased in his boot, and though I know I won't feel much when I touch the site of his bruises, I do so anyway to show I was listening to him.

"Well," I say, glancing over the findings I've already made notes on. "Anything else?"

"Nothing recent or serious," he replies.

"What about older ones?" I ask, and he pauses, then numerates other past injuries to his arms and shoulders, chest, back, and legs. These are the larger ones he tells me about, I can tell, because I still catch more minor injuries when I palpate, some of which seem to have healed naturally. He assures me that there's nothing open on his body now. The humanoid diagram on my board is starting to look a mess. It amazes me that a young man like this has endured so much trauma.

"Well, thank you for letting me know about those," I say. "I think it's a good guess that you get plenty of exercise." I regard the diagram for a moment more, then look up at him. He's grinning wryly at my guess. "I'm starting to get an idea what would be good bodywork for you, Link. With all these injuries healed by magic, I'm guessing that your muscles have lost some flexibility, making it harder for you to move. What I'd like to do next is assess your posture and your movement, and use that to decide where I'll work today to give you the most benefit. Does that sound okay to you?"

He brow furrows and his mouth shifts slightly to one side. "Well… I don't know, I move fine. I move great, really. And my injuries are healed. I mean, you're the professional and all, but…"

I could give in, and just stick to a relaxing full-body for him, but I think he needs this more. My need to keep the customer happy is being outweighed by my desire to do good work that people can really benefit from. Disagreeing with him is also at odds with my need for business to pick up. I just have to help him see it, and if he agrees, hope he feels the benefit afterward. Now I'm really glad he arrived early.

"Can I explain to you why I think that way?" I ask.

He nods slowly. "All right… Go ahead."

"Thank you. Magical healing is a great thing," I begin, "as I'm sure you know. It closes wounds and does some mending on breaks in no time, and it often leaves no scarring on the skin, which you've probably noticed, too. And you can't beat the pain relief. One of its drawbacks in my experience, though, is that it can heal too quickly." At this, he looks perplexed.

I walk to the picture on my wall of the muscles. "Your whole body is filled with connective tissue. One very important place you find it is in your muscles." I trace my finger along the areas of white on the diagram's abdomen and lower back. "You see it in meat when you eat it. It's the gristle, it's a membrane, and it separates it into the little fibers that make up the grain. It keeps things organized, held together, and connected. If your muscles get injured or just stressed a lot of the time, it can fix itself. But often, there's a loss of flexibility and function." On a blank spot on his form, I draw a few parallel lines, signifying the tissue, then draw several lines across the grain in somewhat random directions in a patch, and show it to him. "Look very closely, and it might look like this. That's what makes a scar. It heals, but it can't stretch as well as it used to. Sometimes it gets better with time and massage, and might even return completely to normal."

"And magical healing does this even worse?" he asks, coming to understand.

"A lot of the time, unfortunately, yes. The mending happens so quickly that there's no chance for the tissue to stretch. A serious wound healed with magic feels very distinctive. There may be no scar on the surface, but underneath it can be very gummed up and stuck. We get used to these sorts of things in our bodies and don't even notice it. This is what may be going on in your body, and I think we'll see for sure if I assess you."

He was relenting, I could see it, and I had no intention of disappointing him. "All right," Link said finally. "Let's go with that, then."

"Great," I reply graciously. "Right this way, and we'll get you assessed."

I lead him through the curtain into the massage room, the sight of which he takes in, too. My board and form I set on the table and turn to him again.

"Would you mind taking off your boots?" I ask. "They'd get in the way of seeing your ankles and knees properly."

He sits on the floor and tugs them off. "What about my bracers and my tunic?"

"If you're comfortable with all that, that would be great," I reply. As he slips his hands free of the gauntlets, undoes his belt, and pulls the green overgarment over his head, I continue my prefacing. "First I'll have a look at your posture, and then we'll go through some quick movement exercises to see how everything is balanced right now. That'll help me decide where I want to work today. You can set everything on the table there," I indicate the end table, where he places his shed garments.

I want to move quickly now; our buffer of time is eaten away. Not counting the intake time he's booked for an hour-and-a-half, but I want to give him as much of that for massage as I can.

"Okay, Link. What I'd like you to do is just walk in place for a little bit, and take a deep breath," I say, leading him in the movement. "Then when you feel ready, come to rest with your feet about shoulder-width apart, your hands at your sides, and pick a spot on the wall, and just focus on that. I'll move around you and have a look at what's going on today with your posture."

He comes to a stop and stares as I ask him to, and I begin to check his body in what it perceives as its neutral state. I'm well-practiced at this exercise, and quickly take stock and make notes, moving to take multiple views. I compare his knees, look at his hands and elbows in relation to each other and his body, the position of his shoulderblades, the carriage of his head, the planting of his feet, and more… And I see a lot.

To begin with there's flexion in his knees; he keeps them slightly-bent, the left a little more than the right. His right foot also turns out more, the source of which is often lateral rotation all the way up at the hip. From the position of that knee, and the way the greater trocanters of his upper legs feel when I palpate with his permission, my guess seems to be right. Both shoulders are also elevated, and rotated medially—a slight, protective or ready-for-danger hunch. I see other issues, and make notes quickly. Everyone has something, even someone who gets massage regularly, and I'm not aware of all my own postural deviations. It happens, it's natural, I see it in my work and can't help seeing it when I'm out.

"All right, thanks, Link. Next is the movements. I'll show you the action I want you to do, then observe you doing it. And if anything feels painful when you do it, then stop and let me know."

This part will be challenging, especially since I want to check the ranges of motion for each joint in a short amount of time. Normally I would see each movement for each joint a couple of times and talk with the client about it, but I want to get this over with quickly. Furthermore, it's difficult to get a tough-guy to admit that anything hurts, especially mild discomfort like a limited range of motion. So I'll have to look carefully and quickly, judge well, and lead him at least into communicating freely with me.

I show him the movements for each joint, and as he does them, I ask him questions: How did that feel? Did you feel any tension, or pulling, or a sensation of tightness or pain? I listen for clicking and popping. I watch for choppiness in the movement, and one limb or direction able to go farther than the other. I'm in danger of him getting bored; it's only understandable with all the ways the body moves in all its joints. But he seems to go through it with patience, and he admits to honest pain after a couple of joints and my palpation of specific spots that are tight. Especially limited ranges of motion I find are flexion and extension of his left knee, extension of his right elbow, abduction of his right scapulothoracic joint, and horizontal abduction of his right glenohumeral joint (both are in his shoulder girdle, but the structure is actually two joints or junctions very close to one another). I suspect that depression of his right shoulder is also a big one, but that movement is difficult to assess.

Now the question is, where do I begin? I see something limited in virtually every joint, and my charts are shortly a jumble of scribbling. I'm out of time. The knee limits and shoulder protraction seem the worst, both from what my eyes tell me and the definite pain he reports. I also have a feeling that these will be helpful in his line of work. That spear-wound is probably contributing, but the shoulder I'm guessing may be slightly more from repetitive use than the bite… So I pick those, and it's time to move quickly.

I speak a little briskly. "Okay, Link, from what you tell me, and from what I see, I know what I want to work on today. I want to work with your left knee, and help your right shoulder move more freely in general." I cross to my table and pull back the top sheet slightly, then lift the face-cradle from the floor beneath it and put it in place. "I'm going to step out of the room and give you the chance to get undressed and get on the table, face-down under the sheet, with your face in the cradle here."

"Completely undressed?" he asks, checking me slightly as I'm about to start for the curtain. I should've known better than to go try to rush off, anyway. This is a familiar question from new clients, and my answer is well-practiced.

"As much as you're comfortable with," I assure him. "For the work I want to do today, completely would be best. But I'll have you professionally draped with the sheet at all times and only expose the body part that I'm working on." He nods, and I duck through the curtain, pulling it closed behind me. I could have done that less brisk, but time's a-wasting.

I wash my hands and force myself to slow down a little with a deep breath. He'll need a minute to get on the table anyway. With this style of work, I sometimes have a problem with getting impatient, especially with clients like Link who have so many adhesions and tight muscles I can address. There's an impossible desire to do more, to 'fix' whatever tension and pain I lay my hands on. Sadly, one massage is not enough to undo years of dysfunction built up in a client, not even with the finest bodyworker in the world. It's upkeep, and when received regularly with some people, it changes their lives and health forever. Sometimes I wish we knew a way to combine magic and massage into a universal healing. But we don't, and I don't know how to use magic.

Yes, I have my rent hanging over my head, and yes, I want to do good work, but I must respect the limits of my profession. So I tell myself: I'm not a doctor, I'm not a healer. What I do is help my client heal himself. He is giving me the gift and honor of laying on my table for our time today. My limits are this hour, and the two chosen areas of his body. I will not rush, and compromise my work and the honor he's afforded me.

Done beating myself up, I take another slow, deep breath, and let it out. I haven't heard my client moving for a few seconds, and I call, "Link? All set?"

"Yeah," is his response, somewhat muffled by the face-cradle, as is typical. I give my hands a shake, and walk through the curtain back into the massage room.

My client is on the table, face-down in the cradle, covered by the sheet up to his mid-back. His blond hair turns out to be quite unruly under the hat.

"All right," I say. "Are you comfortable?" He responds affirmative. "The pillow should be about under your ankles." I check the bolster at his feet, and find it to be high, so I pinch it through the sheet and slide it down. That done, I straighten and even out the drape, bringing it up and folding so that he's covered up to his shoulders. "Let me know if you get cold, and I'll put a blanket on you. And please, let me know at any time if anything is uncomfortable or painful for you. All right?" He nods into the cradle. Momentarily I duck over to my closet to retrieve a second pillow and set it under the table. Then I go to the shelf, turn over my hourglass, and walk to the foot of the table, where I ground in.

I take another deep breath, allowing my abdomen drop, and let it out. This is where I am, with this client. This is my office, this is my space, this is my work, and it will have my respect and attention. This, here, now, is where I am. My eyes close, and I listen with my body. I raise my hands and lay them on his feet, palms against his heels, lightly, then settling onto them.

Another breath, and I am ready.

I compress his leg lightly through the sheet, moving around the corner of the table and up to the back of his thigh. Being touched can be jarring, especially for someone who's never received massage before, and I allow him to get used to it through the sheet.

"One other thing, Link: we're going to be doing some fairly deep work today, so to see how you're receiving the pressure, we'll use a pain scale from one to ten. One is just a very light touch, and ten is so much pressure that it makes you want to jump off the table and punch me in the head." I see his back move with his chuckle. It may be a lame joke, but I use it all the time, and 'jump off the table' is the important phrase. "We want to work between a five and a seven, a sort of 'hurts good' range. So just let me know when we get there." I'm compressing his hamstrings with soft fists, the slight motion coming from my whole body, and by now I think he's acclimated to my touch.

I drop down to the hanging edge of the top sheet and bring it up. With a couple of well-practiced movements his leg is undraped from the hamstring down, the sheet covering his glutes and hips in a manner not unlike a diaper. The tuck is difficult to describe and takes practice to do well, but feels and is very secure. I can work on his whole leg, and nothing is exposed.

I lay my hands on the back of his thigh. There, I feel the healed wound, though the skin is unscarred, a slightly raised knot of an adhesion that sits under the surface. My hands wring the leg gently, twisting in opposite directions less than an inch, warming the tissue with motion and encouraged circulation of blood. I do other presses, twists, and compressions. It may feel slightly pinchy, but I avoid doing the warming hard enough to cause real pain. You may have memories of an older brother twisting the skin on your forearms to torture you—it's much like that, but done gently, it warms up the fascia for deep work the body couldn't accept otherwise. Cold muscle doesn't stretch as well. Link warms easily; I see the redness in the skin and feel the increased heat in short order, but I stay at it for a bit, trying to ensure that the warming reaches deep in the muscle. My fingertips focus on the large adhesion and I begin to sink in.

I have large, strong, and sensitive hands that constantly give off heat. They serve me well in my business, and I'm grateful for them. The muscles of my forearms are the ones that primarily work my hands and wrists, and they're well-exercised, but I could injure the numerous small joints involved in my grip by trying to make them compete with a larger group of muscles. My forearms are simply not as big as Link's hams. It's true for any tradesman: for a bigger job, use a bigger tool, or use your smaller one smarter. In massage this may mean using a soft fist, a forearm, an elbow, or even a knee. I have been up on the table with both knees firmly in clients' glutes on more than one occasion, well within their tolerance and doing some helpful work.

In this case, I have a technique that lets me still use my hands. I arch my fingers together and support them along the back with my other hand. Minding my wrists, I allow my body weight to transfer through my hands and into my client's muscle. Slowly I sink in; too quickly and he'll reflexively tighten it to protect himself, or even spasm and push me right out. But I'm practiced at this; I'm sensitive to Link's body accepting the pressure. Every client accepts pressure differently, even day-to-day, and I've gotten skilled at feeling for myself when I'm at a good depth, but I still check in with him:

"How's the pressure there, Link? Give me a number."

"Five," he replies. My client probably has a high tolerance for pain, and his muscles are large, but this is balanced by how tight this ham is. My fingers are blanched from the force they exert, and I'm capable of more. I ask if he'd like more or less pressure, but he says that it's fine as it is.

So I begin the friction. Moving from my legs, using my whole body, keeping my hand supported, I begin to make a very slow circle in the knot. I let it roll and melt under my hands, stretching it out, breaking up the jumbled fibers, slowly. Without oil and at this pressure, this would hurt if done too quickly. Gradually I feel it softening under my fingers through motion and warmth.

I move on my next approach, shifting myself so I'm facing at a direct right angle to his leg. My elbow settles onto the back of his thigh, and as I sink in again, I check in with Link on the pressure again. It hits a six. I'm actually relaxed and exerting myself very little with this approach, and I roll across the fibers of his hamstrings.

Each stroke takes some time, I set again higher, then lower, and lower towards his knee, until I've covered the whole upper leg with cross-fiber. Then I turn again, paralleling his leg, facing towards the head of the table. My near elbow sinks in above the back of his knee and my pressure travels the direction of the grain. I still move slowly and intentfully, allowing his muscle to dictate to me the speed it wants as I feel it release (I'm also trying to keep from pulling his body hair, a risk in work without oil such as this). Gradually the stroke reaches the height of his leg, where I feel the ischium of his pelvis under my elbow. I let up slowly, and palpate the thigh. To me it feels softer, and the deep scar seems flattened out a bit.

My eyes go to my hourglass up on the shelf—time to move on. I undo the tuck at his waist and smoothly re-drape the leg. Next is the shoulder, which I want him on his side and then on his back for.

I direct Link in the process of getting flipped. I retrieve the pillow under his ankles, then pinning one side of the sheet against the table's edge with my hip, I make a small tent out of the far side, keeping him still covered as he rolls onto his side and slides down from the face cradle, then budges back to the table's edge until he's scooted his back against the side of my hip (if he's close to the table's edge I won't strain my own back reaching for an extended period of time while I work on him).

Once he's there I give him a moment to adjust, rubbing his face and eyes from the change in lighting he's experiencing, while I remove the cradle from the table and slip its cushion off its frame. I hand him one pillow folded in two and ask him to place it down between his knees. I give him the second one I call a 'huggy' pillow to hold to his chest. Most men (myself included) don't feel as modest about their chests as women do for obvious reasons, but I was taught to keep the area draped for all clients. Besides that, the huggy is comforting. Next I put the face cradle cushion under his head. Link is in a fetal position on his side, spine straight, and I fold back the drape on his right shoulder so I can continue my work.

His shoulder bears the faint lines of scars from minor cuts and scratches. I still feel the adhesions from the magically healed wounds, besides the very normal tension in the trapezius area. Link also feels tender around his scapula, particular on its medial border towards his spine. I warm, and he responds quickly here, too. His rhomboid area feels very ropey and I spend time doing cross-fiber on it, then longitudinal release in the direction of its fibers. This feels very needed, and I add point work, seeking small knots and holding deep pressure on them with a supported thumb for several seconds, feeling them soften a little. I move up to his trapezius area, the site of the bite he suffered, and use friction on its multiple small adhesions, then more point work in this muscle.

Time is starting to run out, but I don't let myself rush. I have two more things I want to do with him in sidelying, then turn him supine to finish. My right hand cups the front of his shoulder around his deltoid and the left sets on his scapula. I push and pull gently, mobilizing the shoulderblade in all directions, then getting it to move in a small circle. I feel it releasing a little as I stretch, but I relinquish this move and circle the table to his front for one more stretch.

I ask Link to roll forward slightly, and take his top arm. My own laces through it so his elbow is hooked over my forearm and my fingers find purchase around the medial edge of his shoulderblade. The heel of my other hand goes into its lateral border, under his arm (the setup looks more tangled and complex than it actually is). I sit back slightly, stretching his shoulder girdle away from his body, and I hear him let out a breath and watch his face slacken a little. I know how he feels. My hands rotate the scapula a little bit in opposite directions, I rock it, mobilize it more, and then release. It's time for the finale.

I re-drape, the pillows and face-cradle cushion are removed, and I have Link roll onto his back. His shoulder should still be warm from the work earlier, and I reach across from the opposite side of the table. My fingers sink into his trapezius under him, aided by his own body weight. I check with him on the pressure, deepen a little more at his request, and sit back, letting the muscle's fibers slowly drag under my hand. I call this 'trap raking,' and it's one of my favorite moves for the way it feels and the benefit it can be for shoulder and upper back tension. I repeat it several times, digging another hand under, sinking in, and settling back.

A pinch of sand is all that remains in the glass. It's time to come to a close. I give his shoulder a little jostle, then release, slowly bringing my hands away. I return to the foot of the table, where I kneel, rub my hands together briskly to bring more warmth to them, and lay them on his feet.

I take a couple of breaths with my eyes closed. In my mind I thank him for being on my table. With my next two breaths, I imagine returning to him the energy he's given me, and taking my own back. My touch lightens, I listen to my own body and how it feels after doing my work, then remove my hands completely. I'm grounded out.

I get to my feet and come to the head of the table, where I kneel again, resting my forearm on the corner. "All right, Link, that's all the time we have for today." He stirs, yawns, stretches, and turns his face towards me. "How do you feel?"

"I feel really good," he says with a slight daze in his voice. "That was intense, but it felt good."

"Good," I reply, gratified. "I'm going to step out of the room and let you get off the table and get dressed. I'll be back in a minute with some water for you to drink, and we'll re-assess the parts I worked on."

I pass through the curtain, wash my hands, pour him a cup, then sit at my desk for a few seconds and write notes about what I felt, saw, and did on his chart—tension reduced, mostly. I'll get more specific once he's reassessed, and it sounds like he's dressed.

"All set, Link?" I call again, and he says he is.

He's fully awake now, back in tunic, hat, boots, and bracers, and I hand him the water, which he drains at a draft.

I take him through a brief reassessment of his knees and shoulders. The postural issues for the body parts I worked on are greatly reduced, and his knee's extension is much more fluid and feels less tense to him. The improvement in his shoulder is more felt than seen (it doesn't move a great deal to begin with), but he says it feels great.

"Now my other knee and shoulder feel tense," he says wryly.

"That's common," I tell him. "Well, I see a lot of improvement in these areas. Thanks for coming in today."

"Thank you," he replies.

Moment of truth: rebooking. "I'd really like to set up a time to have you in again next week, so we can continue the work we started today. I can try to even out the areas of your body we didn't get to, and I'd love to help you with the scar tissue you still have. We can increase your ranges of motion in these other joints and help your body get back in balance."

Think of how good you feel now, I say to him in my head. Imagine that improvement everywhere we found something limited.

He's rolling his shoulders, expression inscrutable, looking down towards his knee. I'm holding my breath, I realize. Stay grounded. You know you're skilled, you know you're worth it.

Then he raises his eyes to me and nods. "All right. I think I'd like that."

"Great." I smile warmly. He's a regular client now. "Does this time next week work for you?"

Link thinks for a moment, then nods again. "Yes, it does."

"Excellent." I walk him into the front room, setting my charts on my desk and accepting the empty cup back from him. "Drink plenty of water today. You might feel a little sore in the next couple of days. Stretching is a good idea, but if you turn bruised or the soreness lasts longer than that, come tell me and we'll know not to work quite so deep next time.

"You're paid up in advance," I continue. "If you want to put money down now for next week that'd be fine, but if you want to wait that's fine too."

"Next week sounds good," he says, and I nod. I'll also take that opportunity to talk to him about buying a series, and about referrals.

"I'll see you next week, then, Link." I shake his hand again at the door and smile. "Thanks again for coming in."

"See you next week," he replies, and exits my office.

That went well, I think to myself as I finish up and file away his charts, then go into the back to change over the table. My next client is coming in the afternoon, and it's time for a break. I'll head to the plaza, get myself some lunch, and enjoy the nice day.

Afterword: Afterword: Today I graduated from National Holistic Institute College of Massage Therapy, with a Letter of Honors. I maintained a 4.0 GPA all throughout the ten-month program and an attendance rate of 99.7. Soon I'll seek the National Certification Exam, and begin my practice. I'd like to thank my mentor, the other teachers, and the staff for all your knowledge, help, and support for these past ten months. It's been a great experience, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

AN: Review if you liked it! I'd also like to encourage everyone to check out my in-progress story, Four Swords: Divide and Conquer. It's coming along pretty well. But now that I've graduated and won't be riding transit for about four hours total every weekday, when am I going to find writing time?! Oh, wait… Thanks again for reading! Please review!