"Master Sheik, your presence is requested in the tea room at your earliest convenience."
Sheik looked up from his meditative pose on the floor, a little miffed at the interruption. The servant bowed and quickly left the small room, his job finished, at which point Sheik let out a loud groan of frustration.
He'd just managed to clear his mind of the recurring images of a certain prince, which had taken a lot longer than it should have. Just when he'd thought he'd gotten Atiya's stupid, brilliant smile out, it zoomed back in with even greater force, twice as clear and radiant. It was the same smile he'd worn upon being informed that Sheik would temporarily be reassigned to the Gerudo prince's guard retinue for the duration of his and Ganondorf's visit to Hyrule, along with a member of Princess Zelda's own Royal Guards. In the interest of harmonious cooperation, ostensibly.
A load of shit concocted in Atiya's head, no doubt, but Zelda had been all for it. Impa hadn't been quite as keen, understandably, but her protests had been shut down with claims of how much good it would do for Hyrulian-Gerudo relations.
Zelda had no idea that she and Atiya were very likely talking about different relations entirely (and Sheik had no intention of letting her find out).
Impa had relented eventually, but Sheik had a feeling she was keeping an eye on things from a distance. It was folly to think she didn't have one or two spies among the servants of their current lodging.
However, in all of this, Atiya hadn't taken into the account the usual temperature of the relationship between Sheikah and the average Hylian: Ice cold.
Sheik and the Hylian guardsman had, so far, in the first six days of their assignment, only spoken twice. The first time, they had to agree upon a schedule. Neither of them could be on duty at the same time, lest they make the prince's Gerudo bodyguards nervous and accidentally start something. The second time had been when Atiya had asked the two of them if something was wrong; why they were so tense around each other.
It had been tempting to do a little character assassination, but Sheik couldn't bear to let Atiya down, not when he was looking at him with the air of a wounded puppy, worried that his plan wasn't going so well. Evidently, the guardsman wasn't immune to that look either, and so the two had shared a Conversation, during which they spoke only of things the other could not argue with.
"I see you are currently in the vertical position. It is quite useful for getting a good view of the room."
"Indeed—that is not to say that the horizontal position does not have its benefits. Like, say, for sleeping."
It had been the longest five minutes of Sheik's life, and he'd felt a strong urge to sock the guardsman in the mouth afterwards. The guardsman had been of a similar disposition, and they'd settled it in the training yard later that night (in Sheik's favour, naturally), but at the time they were both willing to set their mutual dislike aside, if only so they could bask in the radiant smile of the prince.
That same smile that wouldn't leave his mind's eye, no matter what. It was always there, no matter what Sheik was doing at the time. Eating, sleeping, sparring, speaking to the prince...really, the time he spent with Atiya was especially unfair because he was suddenly assaulted by that smile both in his mind and in the real world! And he wasn't sure if Atiya was even aware of what he was doing to his temporary bodyguard, acting as he did.
The most frustrating part of it all was that he never got what he truly wanted—Atiya, alone, so they could talk. Atiya was accompanied by his Gerudo guards at all times, all of them so suspicious of Sheik and the guardsman (which was fair enough, he supposed), and he had a feeling this wasn't quite what the prince had had in mind when he made the request of Zelda.
So, there he was, stuck in a bodyguard position to the person he'd met, fought with, slept with, kidnapped, released, and then confessed to (all in the span of forty-eight hours, no less) six months earlier, and not a single opportunity to...reconnect, as it were.
If he was hoping for a repeat of certain events...well, he was only so strong.
At least Ganondorf wasn't added to the mix. He spent most of his time in meetings and conversation with the various lords and ladies whose lands they were visiting, discussing trade and other diplomatic matters. Sheik wasn't sure if he could take being in the same room as the Gerudo king and his little brother at the same time, for different reasons. Every time the king looked at him, Sheik could swear he was being studied, analysed, judged...and he had no idea if he was found wanting or not. Being the subject of that intense, golden gaze was a harrowing experience.
Not a single word had been exchanged between them so far. Sheik wasn't sure if he should feel relieved or panicked about that.
Atiya had no apparent interest in the diplomatic talks, preferring to roam the extensive grounds of their hosts, speaking to commoners and employees, being a general nuisance in their kitchens (he had something of an interest in cooking, it seemed), and generally just exploring. It was all new to him, after all. He kept complaining about the temperature, however, claiming it was far too cold, forcing him to wrap himself up in those thick robes of his. Blue was a lovely colour on him, no doubt, but they did not do a good job of showing off his physique...
...Goddesses, it seemed a different head was doing all the thinking today.
He took a moment to stretch, getting all the kinks out of his muscles. His knee still ached sometimes from an old injury he'd received a few years before during training. It was a miracle he could still walk and run, the doctor claimed, so he did a couple of one-legged squats, just to warm that joint up. Wouldn't do to limp in front of Atiya, after all. Afterwards, he reached for his sword and tied it to his belt, the handle resting at his hip.
Passing a mirror, he failed to resist the urge to take one last look at himself, making sure he was properly presentable. He'd looked a right mess in the desert, probably, so he tried to at least appear to have it all together outwardly.
The tea room was located on the second floor of the mansion, with a magnificent view of the extensive gardens. The interior decorations were all garish—gold and marble and deep red satin on dark wood—all at the height of fashion about five decades ago.
As he approached the door, he was surprised to see a pair of the Gerudo Honour Guards standing outside the room, still wearing full plate. That was unusual—Atiya's guards had quickly shed their heavy armours after the tour commenced, reverting to lightweight leather or scale armour that was far more practical than intimidating.
Both guards watched him carefully as he approached them, dipping his head slightly in respect.
"My presence was requested in the tea room?" he said.
It was the guardsman's shift at the moment, which was why the request was odd in the first place, but this really was starting to stink. Were they planning to attack him, or something? Lull him into a false sense of security before making their move? Gerudo had more reasons than most to hate Sheikah, so it wouldn't surprise him if some of Atiya's people were unable to let go of old grudges.
Goddesses, he hoped they weren't about to ruin a peace they'd worked so hard for just for the sake of revenge.
The guards exchanged a look, their helmets preventing Sheik from reading their faces. Their body languages were tense, resolute...but not threatening, not prepared to attack. Defend, certainly, but not attack.
"Go on in," a guard said, her voice reverberating within her helmet. "He's expecting you."
...Atiya was usually the one who found Sheik, rather than wait for the Sheikah.
Sheik suddenly had a very bad feeling about this.
He gestured to the sword in his belt. "Should I disarm?" he asked.
Another look was shared by the guards, then both shook their heads.
"You'd have no time to use it," the first one said, nodding to the door.
Oh, no, no, no...please don't be...
The door swung open, and Sheik nearly turned on his heels and ran in the opposite direction when, instead of Atiya, he found King Ganondorf inside the tea room, sitting at a table and gingerly sipping at a cup that looked several sizes too small. Honestly, the whole room seemed a little too small for the male Gerudo, who looked so much bigger than he had before. How much of it was projecting, Sheik had no idea, but he knew exactly how much of a chance he'd have if he was going up against Ganondorf in a fight: none whatsoever.
Unfortunately, his upbringing, training, and basic etiquette prevented him from just running away, so he steeled himself, drew a deep breath, and stepped inside the tea room. The doors closing behind reminded him of the sound of Sheikah tombs being sealed.
He waited for a moment, suddenly unsure if he should announce himself or wait until he was acknowledged. With Zelda, it was enough to simply state he was there. Atiya always knew he was there and never needed a cue. He had no idea how Ganondorf preferred it...or whether a mistake here would mean a swift death and war with the Gerudo once more.
Probably not—the Gerudo king seemed remarkably patient and tolerant of mistakes made in his presence. The sheer amount of faux pas the Hylian nobles had made during their visits were staggering, but Ganondorf had smiled good-naturedly despite it all...but that was all in panic. What was Ganondorf—or Gan, as Atiya called him—like in private, behind closed doors?
Well, I'm about to find out, aren't I?
"How long are you planning to stand there, Master Sheik? You look decidedly uncomfortable," the deep baritone of the Gerudo king spoke after a few minutes of awkward silence, golden orbs observing him closely through half-lidded eyes. He gestured to the only other chair at the small, round table, which was laden with a tea set and several small trays of pastries and fruit. "Please, join me."
"My apologies, Your Majesty," Sheik said, dipping into a bow. "I was unsure of the protocol." He stepped forward and, spotting the King's personal weapon—a simple steel scimitar, unadorned and undecorated—leaning against his chair, untied his own sword from his belt and leaned it against his chair in the same way.
It was bad form to bring weapons to the table, regardless of the meeting's purpose.
"You have manners," Ganondorf drawled. "Good boy." He set the comparatively tiny cup on its saucer, and waited until Sheik was properly seated before picking up the teapot, which was covered in a floral design—lilacs, possibly?—and pouring a cup for Sheik as well.
This left Sheik with a dilemma. His mask was in the way, making it impossible to drink the tea. Removing it was a possibility, but it was quite against protocol for a Sheikah to reveal their face while on duty (barring emergencies), and Sheik wasn't fond of showing his face to people in general. Something about it just made him uncomfortable...and doing it in front of Ganondorf was even worse.
"Would you please remove your mask?" Ganondorf asked suddenly, seeing the conflict in him. "It is going to make it very difficult to enjoy the tea...and I would like to see the face of the man they have chosen to protect my little brother. Surely that is not too big of a request?"
Phrased like that, Sheik found no reason not to remove his mask, so he nodded slowly.
"My apologies," he repeated, flushing a little when he realised his only words to Ganondorf so far had been...well, apologies. He reached up and pulled his mask down, revealing his face. "The need to conceal our faces is quite ingrained in us," he offered.
"Of this, I am aware," Ganondorf said, that horrible, calculating gaze now firmly set on Sheik's unprotected visage, slowly watching and memorising every inch of it. "I can count the number of Sheikah faces I have seen on one hand—and that includes yours. Please, have some tea. It is quite good...for Hylian standards."
Sheik did as he was told, every nerve in his body screaming at him to get the hell out of the room, to run away as fast as he possibly could with his tail tucked between his legs, because the giant on the other side of the table was going to destroy him! He barely tasted the tea—he'd never cared for the stuff. It was...tea. Brown, bitter, and with an aftertaste he'd be suffering for hours afterwards.
Realising it was time to actually say something other than muttered apologies and fetishising his face, Sheik cleared his throat, not quite able to meet the king's eyes with his own, his gaze ending up on Ganondorf's enormous shoulder.
"Your Majesty, I thank you for the invitation," he said. "However, I feel I should ask if there is a purpose to this meeting?"
Ganondorf helped himself to a tiny cake (which looked even tinier in his hand) and took his time enjoying it, smiling a little, before looking at Sheik again, the smile dropping.
"I would simply like to get to know you a little better, Master Sheik," he said. "We will be spending a lot of time together on this tour, and there is a certain...unease in the atmosphere between us, particularly between you and my guards. It is only to be expected, of course, given our troubled past, but the first step to healing such fractures is to get to know the individuals we once considered enemies. So...tell me about yourself."
Sheik fought the urge to gape at the king. He'd been called in here for this? Surely some other Sheikah—an important one, like, say, Impa—would be a far better choice for a conversation like this?!
"That is," Ganondorf continued, "something I haven't already heard from Atiya."
The king's face twitched minutely after saying that, and Sheik felt like he'd just been caught committing some great crime. Which, in all honestly, he probably had. He didn't know the minute details of the Gerudo criminal system, but he highly doubted just any old commoner or enemy could kidnap and have sex with the tribe's crown prince and get away with it, regardless of which order in which those things happened.
Okay, calm down, he thought, keeping his face calm and unreadable like stone. He doesn't know every single detail, surely? Atiya only told him the essentials...right?
"Yes," Ganondorf hummed. "I suppose you could say your cover has been blown—Atiya was never a good liar, which comes in handy for, say, the times he returns home long overdue, with a pack carrying your people's signature stitching." The bastard looked amused as he leaned back in his seat, studying Sheik closely for any sort of reaction. "It did not take long for him to crack."
"I suppose it would be too much to hope that he said he found the pack abandoned in the desert and met no people of any interest whatsoever?" Sheik's mouth spoke, to his horror.
He always knew it would get him killed one day, but he'd hoped for that day to come just a little later...while not drinking awful tea from a cup decorated with lilacs. It just wasn't the warrior's death he'd hoped for.
Ganondorf's eyes narrowed for a moment, before the corner of his mouth lifted in a terrifying smile, a deep chuckle reverberating in the large man's chest before reaching Sheik's ears.
"He said you were an amusing one," the king said. "Big-mouthed, but amusing."
This was like swimming in an ocean filled with sharks—and no Zora to assist. Sheik wondered if his chances of survival would rise if he took off and threw himself out the window and into the gardens below. Probably not. The king was in a good position to simply cleave him in half with his scimitar as Sheik passed him by.
"I have to say, I was quite angry when I discovered that my little brother had not only encountered Sheikah deep in our territory during a ceasefire, but been captured and nearly delivered across the border," the king said. The smile was gone now. Sheik wasn't sure if he preferred it that way or not.
"I can explain—"Sheik tried, but the king cut him off with a glare.
"Indeed, I was very close to breaking the ceasefire and launching an all-out invasion of Hyrule," Ganondorf said, picking up his cup and studying its floral patterns with the air of a predator. "It very likely would have led to the destruction of my people, but a good portion of Hyrule would have been burned before we were stopped. Such is the love I have for my little brother, Master Sheik. There is nothing I would not do to avenge him, or punish those who have even looked upon him without the respect he deserves."
This is like torture, Sheik thought, hand straying towards his sword. How long will this go on before he attacks?
"Luckily for us all, Atiya is a...persuasive individual, and managed to talk me down from making such a mistake, reminding me that, in the end, you also released him...albeit uncomfortably close to the border. Was it guilt, I wonder, that made you commit treason against your own people, against your princess, for his sake?"
No, Sheik thought. And I didn't do it alone.
"They showed him kindness, and repented for their previous actions, Atiya told me," the king said. "All in the interest of keeping the fragile peace we were working towards. A worthy goal, I agreed, and so I let the matter go...and I shall not let it tarnish our future relationship with Hyrule...or the Sheikah." He fixed Sheik with his terrifying stare again. "Even though I could do quite a bit of damage with Mistress Impa's nephew in my hands."
Swallowing heavily, Sheik steeled himself, aware he couldn't just sit here and take it—his people's pride was at stake. He just had to limit the damage to himself, rather than Hyrule as a whole.
"You'd spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulder, Your Grace, if you were to do anything to me," he said, surprised at how steady his voice was in the face of the Gerudo king. "Sheikah do not forget, and we do not forgive. And I would certainly not make it easy for you in the first place."
Ganondorf held his gaze for a long moment before chuckling again. "At least you have some backbone, boy," he said, nodding. "That is good. I would not have my brother protected by a spineless coward without a good head on his shoulders. I must admit, I am impressed by your desire to protect peace over gaining personal glory. Frankly, with Atiya in your possession, you could have dictated whatever terms to us, and we'd be forced to accept them, leaving my people in a far worse position than ever."
"It wouldn't have been right," Sheik said, fairly sure he was about to pass out from how quickly this conversation swerved from side to side, and the king's capricious behaviour. Was it all a test? "Peace should benefit both sides."
"An admirable attitude," the king said with approval. "Utter twaddle, of course, but I appreciate your ability to tell a good lie—makes me feel a little better about Atiya falling into Sheikah hands. I swear, the boy has shortened my lifespan by decades with how much he makes me worry."
"I will not allow any harm to come to him, Your Grace," Sheik said, truly meaning it. Atiya would not get hurt. "Of that, I can assure you."
Once more the king held his gaze, clearly searching for any falsehood in his eyes...and finding none, as he nodded. "I believe you, Master Sheik. I feel confident in leaving my brother's safety to you. A bond has formed between you—I saw as much when Atiya told me the story, to what lengths you were willing to go. I believe he is in good hands."
Was this...approval? The emphasis on the last word was quite strange, but it was basically a nice thing to say, right?
Sheik wasn't sure how to react. Cheer? Scream and run away? Kneel and kiss the man's hand? Feeling awkward, he settled with bowing his head.
"I appreciate your trust in me and my abilities, Your Grace," he said.
"As you should," Ganondorf said. "I do not give it easily." He leaned forwards, letting his hand dance over the handle of his scimitar. The atmosphere in the room grew freezing, as his grin twisted into something ugly and monstrous—the visage of the demon he became on the battlefield.
"Of course, I also feel obligated to inform you of this: if you ever hurt him in any way, be it physically, emotionally, psychologically...I will take your head and send it to your aunt, diplomacy be damned. Is that understood?"
"O-Of course, Your Grace," Sheik said, bowing again and again, several times in quick succession. "I would not dream of—"
The door opened with such force it slammed into the wall with a loud bang, revealing a fuming Gerudo prince, his shoulders rising and falling. Atiya quickly took in the room, his gaze lingering on Sheik for a moment before turning into a full glare upon finding Ganondorf.
"Gan," he growled. "What is the meaning of this?"
From a distance, the king looked quite unconcerned, but Sheik could see a brief flash of fear in his eyes before it was glossed over, giving Atiya a calm smile.
"I am simply getting to know your bodyguard, al'akhu al'asghar," the king replied, his voice oddly stilted.
"Don't you little brother me, Gan! You already know who he is, and I know you're just trying to intimidate him!" Atiya stomped over to stand directly in front of his brother, as if shielding Sheik from him. "I told you not to do this!"
"If you think I will leave the matter of your safety to the same man who captured you without ensuring he will not turn on you again—"Ganondorf began, but Atiya crossing his arms in a deliberate fashion shut him up.
"He never turned on me in the first place," Atiya practically hissed. "My capture was a result of my own stupidity, and the rest of Sheik's team showing up. He was going to let me go before they appeared—and fought against it the entire time!"
He pointed at Sheik, still sitting helplessly with a teacup in his hand, looking between the two of them with wide eyes and a heart that had either stopped, or was beating so fast the individual beats couldn't be distinguished.
Am I dead? Sheik wondered. Is this my personal hell?
"How are we supposed to build bridges when you won't trust the very person who ensured my release and saved the peace process?" Atiya challenged. "He is the one person you can trust in these lands!"
Well...technically, it was Kafei and Paya who organised the release, I was just the catalyst, Sheik thought, but wisely kept it to himself. He doubted the brothers were interested in technicalities right now.
They seemed to be at a standstill, glaring at each other for a long, long, long moment before Ganondorf looked away, breathing through his nose.
"I have already given him my approval, Iya," he said demurely. "I was about to offer him some more tea."
"As you damn well should," Atiya said, nodding and turning to Sheik, all smiles again.
Sheik fought the urge to shrink back. Atiya was fucking terrifying when he wanted to be.
"Another cup, Sheik?" the prince asked sweetly.
"He does not appear fond of it," Ganondorf supplied helpfully, giving Sheik an evil look over Atiya's shoulder. "Perhaps something else would be preferable?"
"Good idea!" Atiya said brightly, grabbing Sheik's arm and dragging him out his chair, making him stumble. "I'm sure we can find something more palatable in the kitchens! Come along, Sheik!"
Sheik could do little but let himself be pulled along by the force of nature that was Atiya when he was annoyed, barely able to grab his sword on the way to the door.
"And you two!" Atiya said, pointing at the Gerudo guards that were always with him, "you can stay here and make sure my brother does his paperwork! He's already behind on it!"
"Iya, I—"Ganondorf began.
The doors slammed shut, leaving Sheik and Atiya alone in the corridor, which was conspicuously empty. Even the armoured Honour Guards were gone. Had Atiya sent them away? Or had they just fled when they saw the prince approaching with an annoyed expression? Sheik certainly would have, in their position.
Atiya pulled Sheik along the winding corridors of the manor until they reached a door, which the prince opened and unceremoniously shoved Sheik through, following close on his heels and closing it behind them.
It was dark, but with his superior night vision Sheik could see that the room was small and...lined with shelves? Candles, sheets, and other supplies occupied said shelves.
A linen closet?
"This isn't the kitche—mph!"
That was all he managed to say until he was pushed back against the nearest shelf, Atiya's lips descending on his with hungry abandon, tongue almost immediately begging for entrance...which Sheik was far too weak to deny, groaning when the prince immediately began exploring his mouth, teeth nipping at his lips every now and then. The heat immediately blossomed in the pit of his stomach, travelling through him and to the tips of his fingers and toes.
Only once when oxygen became a problem did Atiya disengage the kiss, giving Sheik's already swelling bottom lip and apologetic lick.
"Finally," Atiya said quietly, his sigh washing hot over Sheik's face. "I've been wanting to do that since I saw you at the ceremony, and these past few days have been torture, with you so close..." He leaned down until his forehead was resting against Sheik's, their breaths intermingling. "I missed you so much..."
Sheik flushed, but found himself grinning like a maniac. So, he wasn't the only one. "I missed you too," he confessed, reaching out to pull the prince closer. "Haven't been able to get you out of my head..."
Atiya laughed, the sound causing butterflies to flutter in Sheik's stomach. "Glad to know it was mutual...I was so worried I'd just imagined it all..."
"Not at all," Sheik assured him, placing a chaste kiss on the prince's lips. "Your brother's terrifying, by the way," he said seriously.
Atiya giggled (Goddesses, even that was adorable!). "Gan's a big pushover once you figure out his weaknesses," he said. "He's a bit of a sadist, though. He didn't...say or do anything inappropriate, did he?"
"Just asked a few questions," Sheik said. "How much does he know? About...you know...us, I mean?"
"Nothing," Atiya said, his hand finding Sheik's uncovered cheek, caressing it gently. "All I told him was that we'd taken shelter together, and tried to part the next day. I said nothing of what happened in the meantime."
"Oh...that's good," Sheik said, immeasurable relief filling him. For a moment, he'd been worried the king had found out about just how badly Sheik had corrupted his little brother. He could easily have imagined a scimitar in his immediate future if Ganondorf learned the truth.
"I wouldn't let anything happen even if he did," Atiya assured him, kissing Sheik again, his other hand roaming, slowly travelling south until he could squeeze Sheik's buttock...which made the Sheikah utter a very undignified squeak. "So cute," Atiya said happily.
I'll show you cute, Sheik thought, about to reverse their positions so Atiya was the one against the wall, but was interrupted by someone knocking gently on the door.
"I hate to interrupt," Ganondorf's voice spoke through the barrier, his tone somewhere between amused and murderous, "but Lord Rinir has just asked us to have an early supper with him and his daughter. Please make yourselves presentable and join us in the dining room."
"Y-Yes, Gan," Atiya said, his voice strangled. Sheik's heart had exploded at some point.
"Oh, and do keep the bite marks to a minimum in the future, please," the king added, before his footsteps faded away.
"He knows," Sheik hissed, sagging against Atiya, whose hold on him tightened.
"I'm going to kill him," Atiya swore. "I knew that grin of his meant nothing good!"
"Is this the point where I kill myself before he can get his hands on me?" Sheik asked miserably, wishing the prince was a better liar. Evidently, nothing got past Ganondorf when Atiya was involved.
"Absolutely not," Atiya said firmly, pulling Sheik as close as he possibly could...to the point of smothering him. "He'll have to go through me first."
"I suppose we should go," Sheik said, aware he'd never be able to face the Gerudo king again...or the other guards. If Ganondorf knew, it was likely the entire Honour Guard did as well. He made for the door, but Atiya kept him in place.
"Not yet," Atiya said, pulling Sheik's mask even further down, exposing his neck.
"What are you—ah!"
Atiya's warm breath washed over his neck before his wet tongue lapped the junction of skin where Sheik's neck met his shoulder...and then he bit down—just hard enough to leave a mark without breaking the skin. Then the tongue was there again, licking it in apology for the pain.
Sheik wasn't complaining—it was a good kind of pain.
"He did say a minimum," Atiya explained, grinning. "He didn't say none."
Sheik couldn't help but grin, already leaning forward to nuzzle against Atiya's neck. "I suppose we don't have a choice, then," he whispered.
What was pissing off a king, really, compared to having a prince to himself in a closet?