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Lost in Silence

Chapter Text

It always starts the same; there is nothing. No light, no sound, no thought. Only a world within him filled with a vast, seemingly inescapable void. There is no feeling. It was just… being. Existing. Wandering in the endless depths of his nebulous subconscious for Goddess knows how long. For what seems like forever, there is still nothing... Until an incredible burst of blinding gold lights him up from within.

And suddenly, there is everything. Thoughts flood into this mind as he tries to comprehend a million of them all at once; emotions, memories, fights, lives. It’s too much, and he can’t think properly. It’s too much. He can’t breathe. Too much, too much, too much! A distorted voice calls to him, a beacon of serenity in the overwhelming chaos. He can’t place it, he can’t understand. Where is it coming from? Is it even real? Is any of this real? As if hearing his confusion, a dim, pulsing golden light gives way to the gift of sight. His burning eyes pried open to see better, only to burn at the sight of a bright blue haze illuminating the surrounding darkness. Unable to process what he was seeing he closes them again, hoping to save himself from the pain of whatever is stinging his eyes.

Please…” The voice pleads, the emotion in it pure, raw, and unsettling, striking him with a cold unlike anything else he has ever felt. It sounded strange, as if they had sunk too deep in a sea of evil, left drowning and unable to breathe, incapable of swimming up to survive as they’re being pulled down, down, down to the crushing depths below. “... Link.”

Did they mean him?

Open your eyes, Link.”

He’d already done that. In fact, it was the only part of his body that was working. Even if he could move, what could he do? The rest of him feels overwhelmingly heavy and weak, like jelly to the touch. All he could do was stare into the muted blue around him and allow his racing mind to catch up.

It started in his toes, the numbness that plagued disappearing in favor of returning actual feeling into his body. He wiggled his fingers and toes once all his motor functions seemed to have returned, a small smile gracing him at this new feat, only to drop to confusion as the blue surrounding him…moves? Blinking rapidly at this revelation is his third error in judgement.

Realizing his lungs worked was his fourth, and what a mistake that had been. The panic that follows is his final fifth. Gasping for air causes the water to suck down his throat and settle in his chest. His body failed and jerked, the distress shocking him fully awake.

Thank you,” Was the last thing he heard before the water level dropped below his eyes, mouth, and eventually ears, bringing his previous muted scenery into its true bright reality.

But he had no time to take in all that. He was suffocating.

And thrice damn it if that would be how he died.

With desperation clinging to his soul he attempts to sit himself up, his heart pounding like gongs in his ears as his arms shake and falter when he tries to lift them up. No success. He tries again only to fail once more, the rapid thrump, thrump of his heart doing nothing to ease his terror. Another attempt to roll himself over results in another failure; his body is way too drained and weak from suspension to let him live. Who designed this? Who put him here?

Finally, within a split moment, he realizes, his left side seemed to have more strength than his right. It was little, but all the same, he could throw his left arm and leg over his body and use the momentum to pull himself onto his side, using his new position to expel as much water as possible.

After emptying his lungs—and then his stomach from the strenuous work—he attempts to take in his surroundings. Panting, he lets the musty air fill his abused lungs and clear his befuddled mind. The room glowed in both deep and bright blue that seemed to pulse with his frantic breaths, yet calmed him all the same. Clutching the side of the pedestal to ease his shaking, he took a moment to admire the intricate swirling designs carved in the stone. Someone had put a lot of time into designing his place, but… why? Glancing to the retracting pane of glass above he concluded that he had been in some sort of a tank. He wasn’t some kind of… fish person. He didn’t need the water to live, so why torture him like this? Thinking back on what little he does remember, he supposes opening his eyes underwater wasn’t the brightest of ideas. He, however, gave himself benefit of the doubt that he simply hadn’t known.

The last thing he could remember was…

Wait a minu—

“So you’re the legendary hero?”

Link would have jumped had he not felt as boneless as he still did. His eyelids were heavy and fatigue weighed heavily on his soul, tormenting him as the water had to his lungs. He tried to turn and find the source of the voice, but it was a fruitless task.

“I’m amazed,” They said. Link would have rolled his eyes if he could at their surprised tone. The deep but soft masculine voice was borderline androgynous in their rather emotionless speech, “... That you didn’t pass out while you were still in there. Again.”

His eyebrows furrowed and finally, with a grunt, he swung his left limbs back over and let himself topple right back onto his back, head causing a rough thwap! on the bottom of the pedestal. Grimacing at the pain that blossomed from his skull, he searched around what he could see for the owner of the voice; however, he swore on the Goddesses above he still couldn’t see them.

“Who—” His voice died out immediately as his throat constricted painfully, leaving him a scowling, coughing, and even more helpless mess. An amused chuckle came from somewhere to his right.

“Your hair’s atrociously long, too.” A pause passed before they sighed and added, “...And covered in vomit.”

He shifted uneasily, only to realize he was, in fact, covered in long hair. Really long, like… he could feel it by his feet. He planted his left foot on the floor of the box, knee pointed up, but that was about it. He was done. He had no more strength left for today. Time to take another nap.

A hum enveloped the room, stringing together notes varying in pitch, volume, and length to create a melody. It was one he immediately recognized, but… had no idea where from.

And Goddesses, their singing was to die for.

It continued for a minute in which he remained still, trying to hear as much of it as possible. Eventually, they stopped, voice fading out, and he hears shuffling. “Aren’t you going to stand?” The other person teases. Goddesses, their voice is really nice. Link swallows, momentarily grimacing at the horrid burn that etched its way down his throat.

“Can’t,” He croaked. “... S-sorry.”

A thick moment of silence lingers before he hears movement again, cloth rustling and shoes clicking on what he assumed was more stone floor. The sounds were coming from behind him—well, above his head, sort of—and he tried to tip his head back only to become more nauseous than he hadn’t realized he already was.

“Rest, Hero,” The other person said, “You’ve been asleep for a century, and your body is not in the condition it once was.” He saw motion out of the corner of his eye and, despite every urge and instinct, he did not turn towards it. He waited patiently until the person had returned, a bottle held delicately in a tanned hand. Their other hand made its way under his head, supporting his frame as they carefully made him to sit up and drink what he could of the brown liquid.

“Thank you,” He said once they pulled it away, eyeing the liquid before pausing. He felt the effects almost immediately; some of his energy had returned to him and his nausea was also completely gone. He felt rejuvenated.

“It’s a temporary work,” The mysterious person said as they quickly walked away, “Potion mixtures don’t last nearly as long as pure potions, but it was necessary. The health potion settles your stomach, and the stamina potion mixed in gives you energy.” They corked and stuffed the bottle into a bag before shouldering their bag and returning with another cloak in hand. He can tell they’re looking at him, studying him; Link need not see their full face to know that. A quick (and hopefully unseen) glance down reveals their uncovered clothes are a deep brown and red.

“I suggest we move to my campsite quickly,” They say, “Before the potion wears off and gives you time to think about the emptiness of your stomach.”

Before he could think about it or anything else, the mysterious stranger hauled him up onto his feet and placed him on their left side, his right arm tight around their shoulders for support. A cloak was around him before he knew it, and they were off, approaching a strange-looking pedestal.

“This is a Sheikah Slate,” They said, “One of the few heirlooms of my family to remain in Hyrule after all this time. It once belonged to the one closest to you. Take it.”

He blinked, wondering if that insinuated that they were related, before reaching down to touch the pedestal. His fingertips had just barely grazed it before a high pitched, melodic ping rang through the room, the pedestal’s blue lighting pulsing once. After a moment of pause, the surface of the pedestal moved, twisting and turning, until finally a small rectangle presented itself and turned around to reveal an eye symbol. He remained stock still as he watched, a little dumbfounded before realizing this was the slate the person beside him had been speaking of, and he took it firmly by the handle so as not to drop it.

Picking it up caused an even stranger-looking door to his right to open, rectangular panels moving up towards the ceiling. When the other person moved again—quickly, no less—he took a moment to allow his feet to get used to the feeling of a freezing floor and to walking once more. His legs still felt like jelly, but with most his weight supported by his rescuer, it wasn’t as hard to move as he’d originally feared.

The movements from his new acquaintance were quick and fleeting; one moment they were in the doorway and the next, slowing down so they could go down a ramp. Once at the top they quickly continued down the hall to yet another pedestal.

“Touch it with the slate,” His rescuer urged, though their voice still sounded soft and gentle. He glanced at the tablet in his hand and lifted it, again just barely hovering over the pedestal before a deep rumbling echoed through the hall of the cavern.

“You will see some strange things once we pass the threshold of this door,” His acquaintance said, “But there is no time for questions right now. You must wait until we make it back to my campsite and you have eaten and taken true rest.” They moved in front of the door and, before he could affirm anything the other had told him, their left arm and shoulder were now snug under his ass, his feet several feet off the ground as he was lifted—with one arm--by the stranger beside him. He felt a tiny tug on his scalp, gaping as he turned around when he realized that, even an entire foot or two higher up, the end of his hair was brushing the ground.

“Welcome to Hyrule, Link,” The stranger breathed, just before dashing down the hall of carved out earth. Even in his current state Link could tell that each step was a cool, calculated measure belonging to someone of immense skill.

He—Link, he supposed—thought it was strange when he saw the first red ash pass by. Ash wasn’t red… was it?

But as the stranger sprinted up a well-made wooden ramp and to the outside world… Link realized this was not a normal world, and definitely not one he would have remembered, even if he could remember anything.

No. This was the world of a monster.

Before they even exited the mouth of the cave, the air was thick with a red aura, the colored ash sprinkled throughout as it fluttered around them. It was worse once they passed the mouth of the cave, but Link could barely take in his surroundings before he realized his companion was running directly toward a cliff straight ahead from the cave.

And unfortunately for him, his throat was still raw and burning, so the only thing he could do was cling to the other as they jumped off, sending them to ground too far down to survive a fall from.

What Link felt he should have done in those few moments of terrifying free fall was continue drowning in that box, to die without having to chalk it up to his foolish trusting of a stranger. He also wished maybe he hadn’t taken that potion so it would have forced them to take a simpler route rather than literally jumping and plunging to their death.

But all those thoughts freeze when his companion, in the last few seconds, jerks them both up into the air with a paraglider they hooked their right arm through.

Link stares up at the glider in amazement through the wild strands of hair covering his face, watching as its skilled craftsmanship shone true, neither creaking nor ripping against the rough treatment it had to endure. Link slowly unwound his arms from around his companion’s neck, self-consciously pressing his hair down to try to stop it from flying behind him like a flag tethered to a pole.

Why was it so long, anyway? Had it kept growing for however long he’d been sleeping?

It helped distract him from the graceful landing and from the way his companion had to fix the hood over their head before folding up the glider. Link bundled up his hair, holding it tight to his chest as his partner rolled their shoulders with him still on top of them and cracked their neck with no trouble.

How strong were they?

His partner turned right and walked along the edge of the ground before the sheer rock wall took over. The bandaged fingers of their right hand grazed the rough wall beside them, fingers of their left wrapped firmly around Link’s left thigh to keep him steady. Link turned his gaze toward the forest they were next to, eyes flitting between the trees to see if he could catch any sign of movement. The ash was still drifting through the sky, but… it didn’t appear to be hot or piling up on the ground like snow. It just… was. As if it always belonged here, the world accustomed to its seemingly invasive presence, yet ignored it all the same. In fact, the ground was a bright shade of green, tinged red only from the light of the bruising sky rather than the ash that fell on it. It was like the ash was a hallucination.

“Where--”

Link quieted as they hushed him, hugging the bundle of hair closer to himself—hard enough, even, to begin wringing out a ton of water he hadn’t realized was there, the freezing liquid cascading against his bare skin.

“Sorry,” He apologized to his companion, stopping his squeezing immediately. They shrugged, the action bouncing Link up and down on their shoulders before responding.

“I thought it was from somewhere else, anyway. Not to worry.”

It took Link a moment to get it, and even less time for it to put him off. He pouted as his companion hummed a chuckle, glancing toward him but still not removing their hood. He considered squeezing the rest of his hair out, just to be spiteful, but considering they were carrying him perilously, without wavering, and considering he was already feeling the fatigue return…

Maybe being petty wasn’t the best course of action right now. Survive first, pettiness later.

Although, surviving… is that what they were doing? There wasn’t a lot Link knew about this world he had been, literally, thrown into at all. But even he knew the lack of life around him was concerning. While they had been sailing through the air and trekking through the forest, not once had he seen another creature. Not another living soul that resembled them, not even any wildlife. His partner didn’t seem at all perturbed by the lack of everything, but something deep within Link cautioned him that this wasn’t normal. Looking ahead, Link spots where he believes his partner has been taking them; a tiny cave, much smaller than the one they’d just been and considerably well hidden into the rock walls. Link noted its use as a great defensive vantage point, considering its rather hidden position and angling. There was even already a pile of wood and… a rock in there.

His upper body rocked back and forth as his mind wavered, the events of the day catching up to him all at once, fatigue not only plaguing his mind but also his weakened body. He tries to fight it, but his companion must have sensed this as they stop and let him down, still supporting the exhausted Hylian as they do. Link only got the chance to curl his toes in the grass once before his partner scoops him up bridal-style, effortlessly yet again. He feels like normally he would protest such an act, but his muddled brain didn’t care.

“Thank you,” he croaked, keeping his word to keep quiet until they finally made it to the campsite. His companion offers a soft sound in response, kneeling and carefully lying Link on the cloak he wore so it blocked most of his body from the ground.

“Tomorrow is a healing and question day,” They explain, “And the day after, we train. A Hero cannot battle unprepared.”

Link slowly nodded in tired understanding, shivering while a hard yawn overtook him. His eyes felt heavy from the moment they set him down, threatening to close completely. He vaguely saw the shape of his companion as they pulled off their own cloak and lay it over him and settled something under his head as a pillow before moving to, presumably, make a fire.

“Can I ask--”

“One,” They cut him off quickly, and their tone this time is hard to figure out. “Choose thoughtfully; I won’t answer anything else until tomorrow.”

Link blinked in confusion, but he already knew his question. He reached up to rub the tiredness from his eyes as best as he could, attempting to clear his vision.

“What’s your name?” He asked. His companion stopped for a minute, unmoving, before they turned around. Link stared for a moment as he finally saw his rescuer proper; deep ruby red eyes pierced his soul and short golden blonde hair curtained those same gems, the soft tufts framing naturally tan skin that he could tell hadn’t seen the sun in a long time.

They stared at him for another few moments before turning around, fingers brushing on the muffler over their mouth, over the left jaw. It took a while before they answered, and when they did, all Link could do before falling asleep was thank them.

“My name is Sheik.”

Chapter Text

Consciousness does not come easy for Link the second time around. While he isn’t choking on magical, life-sustaining water, his heavy mind continues to drag him back into the depths of dreamless slumber. Its sweet song is far more inviting than the deafening silence of the waking world he quite literally was thrown into. He’d been in silence for so long, that… it was only fitting it would steal him away again. As he shakes the numbing sleep off of his brain, he becomes all too aware of the brightness of the world around him, making him squint and blink a few times until his sight has adjusted. It is only when his eyes are no longer straining that Link realizes two fundamental truths at the same time; his body is absolutely aching throughout every fiber of his body and bones in a way that should not human; and his friend—Goddess dammit, he forgot their name already—hadn’t, in fact, abandoned him in the dead of night like he secretly feared.

So that was nice.

“Are you feeling better, Hero?” They ask, not even bothering to look over yet. Doing another mental assessment Link determines that there are more parts of him that aren’t working than parts that are. Grunting, he thinks fuck it and attempts to move, quickly giving up when the weight of his own limbs is too much for him to bear. His mind drolly adds, Still an improvement from yesterday.

“Hmm… yes,” He decides, thanking them only to mouth a curse at his faltering voice yet again. His companion finally turns to him, not appearing to judge as Link feared, but seeming almost concerned as they made their way to the bundled up Hero.

Their movements were too fluid to be real, more akin to the movements of water than a human. But he knew firsthand that while it could serve as a gentle and calming presence, water could kill someone in the blink of an eye if it so pleased.

Failing to suppress the shudder the memory brought him, he tucks it in the back of his mind, hopefully for forever. He exchanged it for something else he hadn’t forgotten, leaving him thankful when he’s able to pull it out from that same abyss of nearly nothing.

“S-Sheik, right?” He croaks out in embarrassment to his own tone. Seems like his voice didn’t want to cooperate at all. It’s only when they nod that Link grins like an idiot, pleased at the first success of his memory since he’d awoken. He watched as Sheik turned around and picked up a bundle of clothes, holding them up for him to see.

“I retrieved these from the Shrine of Resurrection,” Sheik told him, “They likely don’t fit, but they will be temporary. Since you still haven’t gained back any strength, I will help you dress.” They paused before pinning him with an intense stare and adding, “And I am male. If that makes you uncomfortable then you may struggle on your own.”

Link just nodded—what else could he do? He couldn’t speak and, either way, he had a feeling that Sheik had already seen him nearly naked—potentially even completely without him knowing, so there was no point to being uncomfortable.

Why would he feel uncomfortable, anyway?

Despite his state, he tries his best to help by guiding his feet through their proper holes. He attempted to shimmy them up his legs and hips, but ultimately, Sheik does most of the work. He leaves the shirt to lie in the cave's dirt and wastes no time in pulling Link to a sitting position, offering a gentle hand of support on his back as he does so. Despite the slow and careful movement, it still ends up leaving Link’s head spinning and stomach yet again threatening to spill what little he had consumed.

“What do you want to do about your hair?” Sheik asked, sitting back on his haunches in front of him. Link glanced at it, still a bundled up mess next to him, wrinkling his nose at just how bad the ends were tangled. It would take days to fix that travesty. Opening his mouth only to close it once he recalls his lack of speech, he grabs a handful and pretends to cut it with scissor motions from his fingers, eyes on Sheik. Sheik’s muffler moves subtly as if he’s smiling (or maybe calling him stupid), and he pulls out a kunai from a holster on his thigh.

“I don’t have scissors, so this will need to suffice,” He offers almost apologetically. Link nods again, attempting to grab hold of all his hair in one arm to assist. His other arm braces on his thigh to combat how loudly his back and neck crack in a complaint from such a shift in weight.

Feeling Sheik grab all his hair at once, he shudders at the tender touch of fingers grazing the sides of his neck and frames of his shoulders, attentively not missing a single strand in their wake. Finding himself momentarily lost in that touch he does not notice as they thrust something into his face. Blinking, Link drops his hair to take the kunai Sheik holds out to him, eyebrows drawing together in confusion at the sudden action. Did he expect him to do it? As he attempts to turn his head to look back at the man, his answer comes in the form of an alarming gasp tearing from his already strained vocal cords, making his throat burn. The chilling shock of cold liquid racing down his back is enough to send his heart racing in pure panic.

“I need it wet to cut it,” Sheik explained quickly like he’d noticed Link’s panic even through his shock. His fingers loop through the locks to spread the water, “... and to wash out the vomit.”

Oh, Goddesses, he’d forgotten about that.

He’d been so focused on trying to will his heart rate back to normal, he had failed to remember that he had, in fact, vomited all over himself. Pressing his lips together at the memory, he tries to will away the flush of embarrassment on his skin. This proves to be a large enough distraction as he doesn’t even notice when the kunai slips from his hand until he’s grasping at air. Knowing what’s coming next he grips tight at his knees, body steeling up as a razor-sharp blade slices through a good chunk of his hair. Instantly, a small amount of the ache in his neck diminishes, his body practically singing in praise to the relief.

It takes a couple more slices before Sheik finished, the hair now brushing the top of Link’s shoulders. A hum of what sounds like disapproval leaves Link on edge, biting down on his lip as he expects another slice, only to feel the tension leave him when he hears the kunai slip back into its holster. Sheik takes a moment to mess with Link’s hair a bit before sighing and bundling it all up again.

“It’s uneven,” Sheik muttered, “But I kept it at a medium length to hide it.” Link wants to nod to show his understanding, but his hair being tugged and tightened on his head leaves him unable to. When Sheik finally lets go, it surprises Link when he doesn’t feel it fall onto his skin again. Reaching back he touches his new ponytail, fingers brushing against a cloth that acted as a hair tie. It felt… nice. Refreshing, even.

Sheik stands up and dusts the mass of stray hairs off of his legs before grabbing the bundle of cut hair by the middle of the bunch, moving away and holding it up for Link to see. It is literally as long as he was tall, maybe even longer, had it not gotten so tangled from his sleep.

“We’ll use this as kindling,” Sheik said, “And see if the smell attracts or pushes away the wildlife and monsters. Hopefully, it’ll push them away.”

Link nodded in half-understanding, watching his partner rest the pile of hair on the floor before crossing back over and grabbing the cloak, tossing Link his shirt. Before Link could say or do anything, Sheik uses the cloak to brush off Link’s back, sending any excess hair flying away. Nodding in approval to his own work this time, Sheik grabs about three strands of hair and yanks them off, leaving Link to flinch and hiss at the sting. Not that Sheik pays any mind to that.

As predicted, the pants and shirt are too small, both articles of clothing almost comically clinging to Link’s frame. A couple inches between the hem of Link’s pants and his shoes expose part of his ankle, and several more inches of his arm were exposed than he felt he was used to. The only upside it seems is that now he isn’t practically naked to the world, despite how tattered the clothes were; he didn’t feel as vulnerable, either.

“There is a more well-equipped campsite nearby,” Sheik explains to him as he stands, pulling his cloak back on. Fastening it on tight he glances at Link over his shoulder, hand hovering over his kunai, “I will go scout and clear the area. I will be back soon.”

Link nodded in understanding and, before he knew it, Sheik was gone.

He was alone.

Link shuffled in unease, both from his stiff body finally loosening and from the anxiety of being left unattended in an unfamiliar place. Looking around his current place of sanctuary quickly grew dull, and he decided that doing light exercise would not only speed up time while he waited but also benefit his weak state. Taking a moment for a deep inhale, he then forced himself to raise his arms and set to stretching them, grimacing as his bones cracked and popped in protest. The strain caused a pleasant burn to settle within him as he went, small groans of relief escaping from him when he wasn’t paying attention. He felt like he should be at least a little more ashamed at how weak he was, given the fact that Sheik kept referring to him as Hero. What kind of hero was he? After all, apparently he had decided to take a hundred year long nap; that didn’t seem very heroic to him.

Regardless as to whether or not he is who Sheik may have mistaken him for, one thing is apparent; he must become stronger. From what he’s seen, this ashen world wasn’t made for people like him in his current state. The weak would not survive.

Link’s stretching session is interrupted by the sound of charred wood being snuffed out by a well-worn boot. He opened his eyes just in time to see Sheik grab the pile of hair off the floor and offer a hand for Link to take. Sheik guides him to his feet and he wraps his arm around Sheik’s neck for support. Wordlessly, the taller blonde helps Link out of the cave and through the forest.

It isn’t until they’re deeper into the forest when Link heard the first signs of life, so subtle that he didn’t even notice it unfolding around him. A chirp of a cricket here, the song of a lone bird there, each slowly creeping in until it was a soft, steady ambiance, almost stuck on repeat. It’s only when the slow-moving presence of the two men startles a lone lizard into skittering away does Link finally take notice of the change.

From then on it was like waking up for the second time; like his ears have just popped, releasing all the water trapped within keeping him deaf to the surrounding beauty. He catches himself tearing up, overtaken by the serenity of life moving on in the untainted forest that was seemingly oblivious to the chaos of the world outside of these trees. Something intangible aches deep within him, desperate to escape within each tear that falls. Desperate for… for something, begging Link for an entity he doesn’t understand. Overwhelmed, Link blinks away the tears that had yet to fall and swiftly brings an arm up to wipe the evidence of emotion off his face. Filling his lungs to chase away the heavy feeling within, Link lifts his head on the exhale. What in Hylia’s name was that?

Sheik leads him down an empty and very slightly worn pathway, ever mindful of Link’s weakened state, and they continue walking until a structure comes into view.

An incomplete and possibly collapsed structure, but a structure no less.

Beyond an archway, a pot was settled over an already burning pile of wood to the right, nearby a tree that Sheik was leading him towards. To the left a fallen tree lies, serving as a resting place for weapons—mostly bows and arrows, along with some swords and a shield.

Sheik catches him eyeing the weapons and nudges him, tugging him up so Link wouldn’t drag his feet as much. It took the brunette only a moment to regain his forgotten footing, eyes returning to the ground so he could watch where he was walking.

“Those will be the weapons you train with, once you have enough strength to hold them,” Sheik said, tossing the pile of hair beside the fire. He took the time to steady Link with his now free hand as they traverse the last few paces in silence. Link does the best he could to ease Sheik’s strain to set him down by bracing himself, unfortunately proving to be fruitless as his arms still wobbled uselessly. Sheik doesn’t seem to care—and if he did, he made no sign.

Link hopes he doesn’t mind.

“And keep this in mind,” Sheik flipped off his hood and shifted his weight to his left leg, crossing his arms as his ember-filled eyes pinned Link with an intense stare. His golden eyebrows drew together hard as he firmly said, “A sword wields no strength unless the hand that holds it has courage.”

Link stared at him in slight awe, the same ache from before building inside him again, and he nodded to show he understood. However, that didn’t seem to be the reaction Sheik wanted. The blonde stared for several moments longer before exhaling slowly and slamming his eyes shut, reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose and run that same hand through his hair. What stared down at Link next was a much more vulnerable looking expression.

“I’ll remember that,” Link said, trying his best to ignore the pinching in his throat, and to see what he could do to reassure Sheik, “Thank you.”

Sheik just nodded, eyes finally moving away. He reached down to gingerly ruffle Link’s hair instead, turning and walking away as he yanked his hood back over his head. He didn’t even leave; instead, he climbed halfway up the archway to grab his bag settled on top, which Link assumed he brought during his first trip over, and then he pulled out food from the bag while walking back.

Sheik sat with his back to Link, using one of his kunai to cut vegetables and drop them into the pot that apparently was full of water.

“What are you making?” He asked quietly. Sheik turned, probably to look at him from under the lip of the hood, and then returned to his vegetable cutting.

“Stew,” He says, “But you won’t be having any solids for now.”

Link nodded and Sheik turned back around, continuing to cut the food with his extra sharp kunai. Link shifted uncomfortably, glancing down at his useless body and frowning. He needed to build up strength, didn’t he? He could hardly even walk. Well… he couldn’t walk.

“Can I help?” Link asks. Sheik faces him again, and this time Link can just barely see the red of his right eye, lit up from the surrounding daylight.

“How would you help?” Sheik asks. Link shrugs.

“I-I mean… I dunno. I was hoping you would know.” He’s able to stare Sheik in the eye for just a few more seconds before his gaze drops, “It’s not fair to let you do all this stuff for me without returning the favor.”

Sheik snorted before turning around, muttering something under his breath about an almighty hero before going silent. His shoulders move with what appears to be a sigh before he continues to cut up carrots.

“This isn’t entirely for you, you know. In addition, there is a heavy weight on your shoulders that, once you prepare for it, you will not be able nor allowed to remove. There are many tasks to complete, roads to tread upon, and sleepless nights that lie in wait. It’s the least I can do to welcome you back into this unforgiving world.” He paused a few moments before pulling out another kunai and tossing it onto the ground next to Link’s hand, missing it by mere centimeters, “So you decide if you’d like to help. Whether or not you do won’t matter.”

Link stared at the back of Sheik’s hood for several moments, shifting at the foreboding words but not allowing them to stop him. He picked up the kunai and set it in his lap, reaching toward the backpack. Sheik pulled it out of his reach and picked through it to get out the food, handing Link some red peppers and mushrooms.

“I appreciate your help,” Sheik said, and before Link could comprehend his words or say anything in return, he continued, “The mushrooms should be the easiest. Remove all the seeds from inside the peppers when you cut it open.”

Link nodded, picking up the kunai and setting his food haul in his lap, deciding to work on the mushrooms first. They were easy, at Sheik had said. He cut them into quarters, then cut those quarters in half, piling them closer to his knees in his lap. There was a good amount, so it had him occupied enough to not notice when Sheik finally turned and faced him, hood pushed off his head. It was when Sheik was turning around to place the last of the mushrooms in the pot and when Link went to cut his first pepper when it happened.

Really, Link should’ve been smarter about it. Who uses their palm as a cutting board? Didn’t he know not to point the blade at himself?

All he could think before a deep and violent rumble shook the ground was how sharp this blade really was… and how eerily familiar it felt on his skin.

“Thrice fucking dammit,” He cursed, hissing as he dropped the blade and pepper in favor of shaking off his hand, which only seemed to make it bleed more. “Shit!”

It was then he noticed the shaking of the earth, which was making even the heavy-looking pot clatter and its water splash. Sheik, meanwhile, looked absolutely terrified, like he was a child who’d been caught breaking something. His hands were shaking as he tugged his hood back over and unwrapped his arm, moving it toward his face, and in the next second Link heard cloth tearing. Moments later, Link’s hand was being carefully bundled, though Sheik’s movements were even more jerky and shaky than the earth… fearful, even.

They both jumped at the sound of an explosion from what sounded like far away, and within moments, soot, ash, and lava filled the sky in one direction through the trees. Link’s eyes widened as he stiffened, trying to get up.

“Don’t move,” Sheik hissed. In just those two words, Link could hear every tremor and breakage in Sheik’s voice. He tried to relax, glancing over fearfully again, only to stop when Sheik said, “It’s hundreds of miles away. Death Mountain is nowhere near us.” After tying off the white fabric that was slowly turning red, the blonde stood and reached into his hood, backing up and just barely saving himself from tripping around the pot.

“I’ll be right back,” Sheik said, “I-I need to get something to heal you, I—” He glanced around, shoulders heaving, and looked at Link long enough to say, “Yell if you need me,” Before disappearing. Link could hear his rushed and uneven footsteps elsewhere, but they faded away rather quickly, likely from the distance.

The earth was still shaking, and Link’s hand still stinging, but the volcano was no longer erupting. It was like it had never meant to erupt and had been forced to; that’s the feeling he got from the sudden calm after the storm. He glanced at his hand and quickly pressed down on it with a hiss through clenched teeth, noting that he needed to keep the pressure on it.

And when he wondered why he would think such a thing, he remembered.

*~*~*~*~*~

It was a nicer day than the one Link was experiencing, that was for sure; red flakes didn’t fill the air, and the sky was entirely blue, dotted with fluffy white clouds. Link was sitting on a stack of… tightly wrapped yellow sticks? A hay bale! He commended himself for remembering by deciding to look around, pausing at what he saw.

To his left loomed a gigantic building, easily a thousand times his height, with pointed roofs atop each tower. He was in the corner of a fairly large courtyard, filled with suits of armor moving as they attacked people made of hay.

Right. A training yard.

He subconsciously lifted a cup in his hands to his lips, gulping it down in one and wiping the back of his sleeve along his sweaty forehead. It was then that Link noticed his own state; he was hot, nearly burning, his skin and clothes moist with his sweat. His body ached, but it definitely still felt like he could keep going.

In fact… he felt like he could do anything.

… but maybe not, because he was a mere mortal. Getting cocky would certainly get himself killed.

While watching the people--soldiers--fight the dummies to practice, he felt eyes on him. Glancing around gave him nothing to go on, but he was still suspicious of the feeling he had—the subconscious he was being watched

He heard it before he saw it. He launched himself forward off the hay bales and rolled into a crouch on the ground, whipping his eyes around behind him as the soldiers closest to him quieted, watching with him. Some watched in utter confusion; others, in alarm. He watched in dejection.

Directly where his arm would have been was a knife—a kunai, specifically, held by a woman with long, fluffy blonde hair, paired with green eyes and pale skin. A different expression masked what Link knew was a pout while she stood, shoulder and hip cocking to the side as she settled her weight on one leg, attempting a boisterous laugh that was laced with nerves.

“Just checking your reflexes,” She said nervously, “You’re not doing anything anyway, are yo—AH!”

Link had also seen that before it happened. By the time she distributed her weight the wrong way and slipped off the hay bale, he was already underneath her, catching her effortlessly in his arms. The kunai bounced off his shoulder, nicking his skin, before falling a few feet behind him.

“Put me down!” She shouted, angry now. She hit his chest a couple times before she was finally back on the ground, stumbling away and smoothing out her clothes. Any of the guards that were still watching turned away, ignoring them.

Even though she was, in fact, the Princess of Hyrule.

Link’s current conscious kept that little tidbit of information to himself while the princess angrily walked around Link, snatching up the kunai from off the ground. She came back around him and glared at him for a few moments, coming in within a few feet of him and swinging the kunai yet again.

It barely grazed his nose, not even a pinprick of pain coming from it. That was all it had done after all; grazed it. The princess didn’t bother to hide her disappointment this time, grunting in annoyance as she slipped the kunai into a holster that clearly wasn’t often there and crossed her arms, turning away.

All the while, Link didn’t react. The only thing he felt was dejection, but he dared not allow it to show.

“You need to work on your aim, Princess Zelda,” Another voice said. Link didn’t even bother turning; he felt he wasn’t allowed to. This voice was definitely male, that much he could tell; there was no mistaking it.

“I know that perfectly well,” Zelda huffed, turning away and wrinkling her nose. Link decided he didn’t like her accent. A sigh came from Link’s left, then footsteps came around behind him. He remained stock still, even when he felt hands settle over his shoulders—probably to keep him still. He wouldn’t turn around, anyway.

“Although, perhaps it’s just him,” They continue, voice lowering into a different tone. It sounded dangerous, suggestive, and impressed among many other things all at once, and it was hard to decipher which it may be. Maybe it was all of them; maybe it was none.

He paused and sucked in a breath as something suddenly pressed over his eyes (cloth, he thought), soft fingers skimming over his cheekbones and ears and tying the ends of the cloth before the hands settled themselves back on his shoulders. A head pressed against the side of his, lips skimming the shell of his ear.

“Let’s test out your reflexes then, hm?” They ask, before pushing him forward. He barely stumbles before quickly ducking, hearing something slice through the air above him. He rolls to the right as it comes down and stands, grabbing the princess by the bicep and tugging her out of the way just as the person slices where she had been standing, just moments prior. She gasped when he did and stumbled when he pushed her out of harm’s way just again, while Link bent backward and felt fingertips brush over his nose.

Oh, He thought, now less cautious and more amused, No knives. This is how we’re playing now, hm? That’s good.

He rolled to the left, only to stop himself short and hop up with his elbows and swing his leg out, tripping the other person up. He sent his legs back behind him onto the ground and rolled as the person stomped, reaching out to grab their leg and just barely missing. He kicked his feet up and behind him to give himself momentum to stand, tripping on a few before regaining his footing and sprinting back over to where Zelda was.

With his right hand, he yet again pulled her behind him; and with his left, he threw his hand up to block an attack from a blade.

Silence has captured the entire training field, despite Link’s hammering heartbeat and his rough breathing through his nose, out his mouth. The other person chuckles and hums, grabbing his wrist with a ginger grip and prying the blade from his palm with only a tug. His hand burns, both in the wound and the hot liquid travelling quickly down his hand, but he pays it no mind.

“Admirable,” The voice says, “And good reflexes, to boot.” They pat his shoulder in a somewhat condescending manner as they pass by before brushing their shoulders together. It’s not rough, but not gentle either; it’s better than the one he received last time. “But not good enough.”

An intense pang of disappointment rings through his entire body, centered in the core of his chest and thrumming out his fingertips, palms, and eyes. He busies himself with pressing his hands together, attempting to staunch the deep wound. The physical pain doesn’t register; only the emotional.

“Keep trying,” They say this time, their voice much more gentle than before. “... I look forward to sparring with you again.”

He nodded numbly, waiting until he no longer felt the other person’s presence behind him before taking a deep breath. When taking off the blindfold, he pressed it discreetly against his eyes to dry off the tears, turning around so he wouldn’t have to suffer from the gaze of a couple hundred soldiers from all different points of ranking.

Only to be caught in the fiery gaze of Princess Zelda herself, who looks less than pleased that he, her supposed personal bodyguard and head knight, hadn’t yet gained the approval of her most trusted and skilled protector and advisor.

He idly used the blindfold to wrap up his hand while she told him off, trying to avoid her burning, hateful gaze. It was enough time for him to mostly calm his raging emotions and eventually return her gaze to show respect.

But he couldn’t help what he felt. He couldn’t escape the feelings that waged on their continuous war deep beneath his skin, deep within the heart that everyone—including himself—had torn apart again and again and again.

He didn’t have the will to search for the protector’s face this time. In fact, he practically forgot about looking entirely. It wasn’t until he and Zelda had returned to a group of four people when he remembered; only because Zelda prattled on and on about his failure as the head Champion, chosen by the sword that seals the darkness.

What a load of korok seeds, He thought, I still can’t protect her right. His eyes slid to the sky—really, the vaulted ceiling—and he repeated the question that still burned the tip of his tongue.

Mentally, he asked the Goddesses, What in Hyrule is wrong with me?

Chapter Text

When he came to his senses once more, the earth was still shaking, but not quite as violently. Link glanced around before looking down at his right hand and peeling back the cloth just the slightest amount, brushing his thumb over a scar that ran from beside his forefinger to the bottom right of his palm, almost perfectly diagonal. This new one was horizontal across his palm, the tip of the knife having just barely missed the pad of his thumb. He clenched his hand into a fist, snapping his head up at the sound of hurried footsteps.

Sheik had his kunai in his hands, prepared to throw them, but only when he saw Link was safe did his arms lower. He fervently glanced around before relaxing and pulling a bottle out from his bag, tugging out the cork as he unceremoniously hobbled towards Link.

“This…” Sheik shivered as he collapsed onto his knees beside Link then took a deep breath through his nose and released it quickly, clearly stressed. He took the time to adjust the left side of his muffler before gently grabbing Link’s hand and working on pulling off the loose, blood-soaked wrapping around it. “This is the same water you rested in for the last century,” Sheik informed him, raising the bottle in a gesture to indicate what he was speaking of, “It shouldn't take much to heal your hand.”

Link glanced between Sheik and the bottle, which was filled up to the very brim with water. The cork was soaked, as were Sheik’s gloves and sleeves. His hair was a bit disheveled as well, muffler dark in small circles from being dampened.

It was only then that Link realized how incredibly overblown the situation was.

“It's just a scratch,” Link said, looking down at his hand. He was still bleeding a bit, but it was nothing to stress over. He looked back up at Sheik, frowning at first at the worry etched into his features. Sheik averted his gaze and grabbed Link’s hand to try and heal it anyway.

The sharp pain that coursed through his palm was only enough to make him flinch, the Earth seeming to react as well by starting up its violent quakes once more. Sheik jumped hard enough to make a sizable portion of Link’s “sacred” hundred year old bath water splash out the bottle. The panic that marred his features was not something Link would soon forget as he watched Sheik scramble and began to apologize profusely, caught half between hurrying his ministrations and stopping them altogether so as not to mess anything else up.

“Hey, hey,” Link tried to assure him, using his right arm to sit up better. He reached out and, with the backs of the fingers on his hand, he gingerly brushed what he could of Sheik’s bare cheek, just above the muffler. Sheik froze immediately, eyes locked on to the brunette, and he looked like he was ready to recoil from any more intimate of a touch, so Link tapped his nose instead of what he had been originally planning, giving him a soft smile.

“I'm okay,” He said, “Promise. I can tough it out.”

Sheik remained silent for several moments, unmoving, looking stunned for a reason Link wasn't sure of. The swaying Earth beneath their feet came to her senses before Sheik did, taking her time and slowly coming to a stop, seemingly pacified for now. That, whatever it may have been, seemed to make Sheik’s decision for him; he nodded and pushed the cork back into the bottle, slipping it back into his backpack.

“I'll finish cutting,” He said, voice too soft to assure the other that things were actually okay. However, Link didn't dare argue.

Sheik deftly finished cutting the peppers that weren't covered in blood, offhandedly chucking the two halves of the bloodied one into the fire. Meanwhile, Link struggled to rewrap his hand and, when he was done, idly reached back to touch his hair.

What in the world was he supposed to do? Sitting here made him antsy, and he knew it wasn't only because he literally couldn't move.

But it was definitely a large--huge--part of it.

“Today is question day,” Sheik reminded him, voice now level and back to normal. Link perked up immediately.

“Oh, yeah!” He said, “So I can ask you anything?”

“It will depend.” A rumble went through the earth and, after Sheik’s initial tense, he relaxed and shrugged in a seemingly hopeless manner, his tone saying this is pointless as he added, “... Ask away.”

“Cool, cool,” Link thrummed his fingers on his thighs, sight returning to the sky as he debated what to ask. Luckily, it wasn't too hard, seeing as all the questions he had before had remained unanswered and blatantly ignored. “Well, uh, first off, where are we?”

“We are in the middle of Hyrule, in a place known as The Great Plateau.”

“Hyrule?”

Sheik momentarily turned to give him an expression that said all on its own, what do you mean? But instead of explaining his expression, he answered his question instead while he curtly turned back to the food he was cutting, “The kingdom you hail from.”

“The kingdom I hail fro--? Oh, the… right.” Link bobbed his head in a nod, despite Sheik not looking, and he asks his next question, “Second, why does the ground shake so goddamn much?”

Sheik’s shoulders scrunch more toward his body, discomfort almost as evident as Link’s lack of memory. He brushes his thumb over where his lips, looking off into the trees. After a few moments, he shakes his head and looks back down at the food. “...I don’t know if I’m comfortable telling you that.”

The ground rumbles again.

“Okay. That’s fine.” Link waits until the earth stops rumbling before he asks instead, “Is it natural, or…? If, uh… if that makes you any more comfortable.”

“No.” Sheik glances up, pauses, then says, “As in no, they’re not natural.”

“Oh, okay.” With his two biggest questions down--with one only halfway down--Link sets on to the next. “So… this ‘Princess Zelda’. Who is she?”

This time, Sheik didn't spare him the question his face spelled, “So you remember the princess of your kingdom but not what that kingdom means to you?”

Link raises his hands in defense, “I just woke up, man. I don't know.”

Sheik groaned and looked toward the sky, but there was no hidden animosity on his face. His expression was peculiar, really; it was like he'd recognized something and was both frustrated and elated at it.

If only he could see the entirety of Sheik’s face.

Sheik looked back over at Link, expression more gentle and full of understanding. He nudged Link’s knee with one of his knuckles, as his hand still had a pepper in it, and then he returned to the food.

“I understand you just woke up,” Sheik said after several moments of silence, “Memory loss can be fickle, but… I knew it would happen.” His cutting faltered for all but three seconds, then he shivered again and tossed the peppers into the water, wiping off his hands and kunai on his pants. “I'll do my best to fill you in, and I apologize for the outburst.”

Link snorted, “That was barely an outburst.”

“Still.” Sheik hummed and grabbed a wooden spoon from beside him--how Link hadn't noticed that before was beyond him, but it probably had something to do with the size of Sheik’s thighs--and after Sheik gave the contents of the pot a quick stir, he set the spoon in his lap and turned to face Link, arms crossed. “Any other questions?”

“Oh, right. Uh… so why was I in that not at all terrifying box of death?”

Sheik’s eyes crinkled a bit, “The Shrine, you mean? Well, you see…” Then his expression evened out and he turned to poke at the fire with his gloved hands again, not even flinching. “As I already told you, you've been asleep for one hundred years. Hyrule has been plagued since its very beginning by an evil by the name of Ganon, also known in his Gerudo form as Ganondorf. He has the ability to be revived, resurrected, or reincarnated; throughout the existence of our kingdom, he has always been the same person, simply in different forms. You, meanwhile, are reborn time and time again not as the same person, but as different people with the same spirit of the Hero, reborn when Hyrule needs you most. On the other hand, Princess Zelda is a completely different person in each lifetime, gifted with the same affinity for wisdom as all her ancestors before her, with the direct royal blood of the goddess Hylia running through her veins.

“Many incarnations of you ago, there was a Hero called the Hero of Time. In his battle against Ganon, he failed to defeat him, and died as a result. Ganon took the triforce, an object created by the three goddesses who created the land, that grants its holder any desires they ask to come to fruition. With it, Ganon created a dark age of Hyrule, ridden with terror and despair, and shed himself of his Gerudo form, Ganondorf, to take on his more powerful form of Ganon. However, even at his most powerful, he was defeated time and time again by the spiritually-linked heroes before you, revived by his followers only to die by your sword each and every time. You wielded a sword that only the hand guided by the spirit of the Hero could pull from its pedestal; a blade of evil’s bane crafted by the Goddess Hylian herself.

“More than 10,000 years ago, Ganon, finally tired of being resurrected over and over again, decided to rid himself of any last bit of his humanity in favor of becoming extremely powerful and nearly unstoppable; this new form was called Calamity Ganon. Yet, once again, he was stopped.” He glanced around before shaking his head and turning to face Link, moving his cloak to reveal a red emblem of an eye with a falling tear on his clothing. “This is the mark of the Sheikah, a race that has grown alongside Hyrule and its people, who have sworn their lives to protect the royal family of Hyrule, where the holder of the Triforce of Wisdom will be born. This is my family.” He gave Link a couple more seconds to take in the emblem before letting his cloak fall back over it, turning to stare at the fire.

“10,000 years ago, my family made technological advancements never before seen and upgraded Hyrule to an advanced civilization. We built gigantic machines called the Divine Beasts, each with their own pilot, as well as smaller, mostly ground-ridden iterations of similar machines called Guardians. These machines were built solely to support the land of Hyrule and her people in the fight against Calamity Ganon in his new threatening form. They, along with the Hero before you and the Princess beside him, valiantly fought and defeated Ganon with the guardians and pilots of the divine beasts. Once Ganon was defeated, the beasts and guardians were buried, remembered only in a prophecy that would come to fruition little more than one hundred years ago;” He took a deep breath, eyes narrowing as if he were trying to remember, and then he recited it; “‘The signs of a resurrection of Calamity Ganon are clear, and the power to oppose it lies dormant beneath the ground’.”

“So… did you dig them back up?”

Sheik nodded, “We dug them up and found them each a pilot from their respective regions, resulting in a pilot from every race. The Hylian race, however, was different, with no known divine beast to its name and instead, they got you.” Sheik looked up at Link, “You managed to pull the Master Sword from its pedestal. You were the wielder of the sword that seals the darkness, of the blade of evil’s bane.” He crossed his arms and hummed out a sigh, “Each of the pilots of the divine beasts were called Champions. There was you, the Hylian Champion Link; Zora Champion Mipha; Goron Champion Daruk; Rito Champion Revali; and Gerudo Champion Urbosa--who, by the way, was a total badass.” A slight rumble ran through the ground, little more than a tremor at most. Link ignored it; surprisingly, Sheik did as well.

Link’s lips twitched into a smile, “Urbosa? Sounds like a cool name.”

“Mmhm. The others all were extremely talented as well, but… there's a lot of respect to be had for the Gerudo. Their culture and fighting technique can't be rivaled by any other. If every race taught each other their fighting techniques, the Gerudo surely would rise to the top before the others.”

“You sure do seem to like them.”

“I grew up near Gerudo Town until I was about eight. They taught me a lot of their fighting techniques, despite my being male, and for that I am very grateful.” At Link’s inquisitive stare he adds, “The Gerudo are a race made entirely of women, and male Gerudo are born only once a century. Men are not allowed into Gerudo town. Gerudo genetics are much stronger than those of Hylians and Humans, so those who want to continue their lineage simply choose a man to help them do so. Then they choose to either come back to Gerudo Town or remain with the man they chose in Hyrule.”

“Where do they live?”

“To the west, in Gerudo Desert.”

“Gerudo… desert?” He combed his brain for the meaning for the word, disappointed that he could recognise it but didn't know what it was. His eyebrows furrowed and his hands rubbed together anxiously, eyes shyly coming back up to Sheik. The other man stared for a while before the corners of his eyes crinkled in a hidden smile.

“You don't know what a desert is, do you?”

“I… no. I-I mean, I recognize the word, but I don't know what… what it means.”

“That's alright.” Sheik looks away long enough to adjust the fire again, keeping the now boiling pot at a relatively constant temperature, and hums as he looks back at Link. He cocks his head and shrugs. “Maybe I should surprise you with it.”

Link pouted, “At least tell me what it's made of.”

“Hm… alright. Sand, sandstone. There are a couple oases as well.”

“...”

“You don't know what any of those are either, do you.”

“...No.”

Sheik barked out a long, hearty laugh, holding onto his knees to keep him righted as he leaned back a bit. He opened his eyes to the purple sky, gleaming red among the bright green trees that comprised his background. Link wished he could see his face, see the smile that graced his lips that formed the laugh that… that sounded…

… spookily familiar, now that he really listened to it.

He chose to stay quiet about it, fearful that it would only make his companion shut off more. He was happy with the way they were interacting now. He was happy Sheik was finally opening up, even if it was just barely. The look in his eyes when he spoke about this supposed Urbosa made Link happy.

“We’ll encounter the desert at some point in our journey, I promise you,” Sheik assured him. He produced a couple bowls from somewhere out of Link’s sight yet again, spooning the stew into one and simply dipping the other bowl in, hot liquid filling it up to the brim. He handed this bowl to Link and grabbed a kunai, stabbing his food and eating it off the tip of his knife. Link raised an eyebrow at Sheik’s slightly barbaric way of eating, though he supposed he couldn’t complain. What else was there to eat it with? Something less dangerous to stab it with would be cool, like… a way to grab food in a small utensil. Like the big wooden spoon, but sma--

Oh, yeah. Right. Forks and knives and spoons existed. He decided to try and stuff down that particular embarrassment by lifting the bowl up and trying to drink it, flinching hard enough at the temperature to nearly spill it.

“You’ll get used to it as you gain back your old strength and muscle memory,” Sheik told him, “Your tolerances, too. My family told me you were quite the eater.”

Link’s gaze immediately snapped up, eager to hear more about himself--as selfish as it sounded--but Sheik didn’t seem to mind humoring him.

“Many of my family members would accompany members of the royal family, in order to protect them. Since you were the Hylian champion and, in a way, Princess Zelda’s personal bodyguard, you were a common attendant to Hyrule Castle’s royal feasts. They say the way you ate was nearly demonic--in a well meaning way, of course.”

“I mean, one thing’s for sure… I’m starving.”

“I’m sure you are. You’ve been asleep for one hundred years without more than a cup of sustenance.”

Link set his bowl in his lap and pressed his warmed fingers to his cheeks, appreciating the heat. When he looked at Sheik, the other blonde shook his head immediately.

“Don’t do it.”

Link chuckled, choosing--just this once--to bide by his words. Next time, Sheik wouldn’t be so lucky, and would have to suffer under the comforting warmth of his soft fingers.

Oh, the absolute horror.

“So I’ve eaten during my time in the box of torture?”

“Once, yes.”

“How? Did someone, like, spoon feed me while I was unconscious?”

Sheik frowned and turned away, looking uncomfortable. “No. You woke up on your own, but were unable to stay conscious for longer than an hour.”

“When was that?”

“A few years ago. Three, I believe… it was during my lifetime, so it couldn’t have been long.”

“What happened?”

Sheik went deathly silent, gaze in his lap, and all of Link’s hopes of bettering their ten-foot-pole relationship went out the window--or, in this case, back into the Shrine of Resurrection. Link wisely chose to remain silent, though his fidgeting slowly grew, and he paused as Sheik looked up at him after a long couple minutes of thick tension.

“You’ll find out one day, when I choose to tell you.” He says, his voice soft and quiet. Realization struck Link over just how young Sheik looked just then, and slightly in how he acted. Sheik was like… a child waiting for something good to happen, only to be disappointed every time--only to expect to be disappointed every time. Link readied himself for the rumble he thought would come whenever Sheik said such cryptic things--but it never came.

Sheik pulled his hood back up, far over his face, and turned away completely. Words didn’t need to be passed between them for him to know their discussion was over, for now. He lifted his stew--well, his soup--and blew on the top, fixing his attention on it instead.

Sheik would tell him when he was ready, he believed. For now, he needed to get stronger.

He wanted to fix whatever demon realm Hyrule had become during his long slumber.

Chapter Text

By the next morning, Link felt a little more physically invigorated and renewed, thanks to eating as well as a bubbly green liquid Sheik had insisted on him drinking upon waking up. He couldn’t stand without leaning on something sturdy quite yet, but he was able to step on his own, able to support most of his own weight. They had walked some circles through and around the camp and some trees, and now ventured under an arch-like growth of roots, where he tripped on a big pile of leaves and brought them both tumbling down.

“I didn’t know you could trip over leaves,” Sheik said drolly, pushing himself up onto his knees first. He helped Link sit up and turned to the pile of leaves as Link leaned toward it, the boy grinning at the assortment of crunchy red and orange colored leaves. “Odd... It’s not even autumn yet.”

“Autumn?”

“Uh…” Sheik seemed flabbergasted at first, muttering a muffled how do you not know the seasons under his breath then opening his mouth to explain. However, he caught wind of Link’s evil little smirk and narrowed his eyes at him, “You little asshole.”

“Heh,” Link snickered before looking back at the pile, gathering a large handful of leaves and throwing them up into the air above their heads, giggling as they scattered like excited children under a sprinkling rain. He continued to throw up handful after handful, ignoring Sheik’s plead for him to stop so pieces wouldn’t get in their clothes (Sheik eventually gave up and threw his hood back on), and kept going until he caught wind of a giant rock. He switched to simply pushing at the leaves then, getting them off the peculiar rock.

Which was just... a rock.

“Why’s there a random, conveniently buried rock?” Link asked. Sheik shrugged. “Hm. Maybe it’s hiding something… maybe it’s hiding treasure!”

“If it was hiding treasure, you would kn--”

But it was too late. Link immediately shifted so he could firmly plant his feet on the side of the rock, using all his muscle strength to move it. He does so in a swift but jerky movement, his legs protesting against the strain they’d endured. He ignores the pain completely as he flinches from shock at a loud pop and a couple sparkles, a short tune playing in the air before a little creature appeared in another few sparkles.

“Ya-ha-ha!” It said, “You found me!”

The creature and Link both do a double take when they see each other, and the creature exclaims, “Huh? You’re not Hestu! …but you can see me? That's weird.”

Link glanced at Sheik in shock and awe, looking back at the little creature with wide eyes. “Uh… no! I’m not. I’m Link. Uh… what are you? Ow!”

Sheik had kicked his arm, lightly, but hard enough to leave a small bruise later, hissing, “Don’t be rude!”

“It’s okay!” The creature pipes up, “I’m a Korok! We Koroks are the Great Deku Tree’s children. Anyway,” The Korok produced a small seed-like object and handed it off to Link, who cupped it in his hands. Sheik was glad his hood was up to hide the massive shit-eating grin he was now wearing. “This is a Korok seed, mister. If you run into Hestu, please give this to him! Many of my friends are around Hyrule, too, if you want to meet them. There are lots of us! Just check those suspicious places.”

“How many?” Link asked, pulling out his Sheikah slate and testing his ability to put the seed into its magical inventory. He’d practiced the majority of the day before, in the silence of his and Sheik’s time together. Luckily, he’d managed to make it work with an apple, one too many attempts later.

“Hmm… A lot, but I dunno how many.”

Link just smiled at the little creature, “I’ll be sure to tell them all you said hi.”

“Thanks, mister!”

Link offered them another grin and a wave before turning to Sheik. The blonde helped him stand and, as he realized how tired Link was from his exertion, he pulled out another green potion from his bag, walking a couple feet away from the korok before speaking.

“Here,” He says, “Drink a third of it.” He supported Link as the man used both hands to open the bottle and close it after drinking it, handing it back over. “I’m determined to keep you walking all day,” Sheik continues as he slips the bottle back into his bag, “Hopefully we can take very minimal breaks, but… that’s dependant on you”

Link wraps his left arm back around Sheik’s neck for support, his other hand ready to swing for balance or to catch himself, whichever came first. “Is there a specific destination, or are we just walking to walk?”

“Walking to walk.” Sheik proves his point by starting their leisurely pace back up, slow at first to give Link a moment to remember to step and then faster as he gets used to it. His right arm is secure around Link’s waist, a comforting, safe presence. With Sheik’s strength and support, he knew they wouldn't fall, especially now that they knew to avoid walking through seemingly harmless piles of leaves.

Sheik had to duck his head a bit on the way out from under the roots (and Link did the same out of caution--probably for the same reason as Sheik, but he couldn't quite tell), his free hand coming up to flick his hood back off. His keen red eyes surveyed their surroundings whilst Link’s blue eyes surveyed him, in the way the orange sun shone across his golden-spun hair and the purple sky gave a tint to his ruby red orbs. His skin was already taking on a pinkish gold tone from the sun, a sign that reinstated Link’s suspicions that he hadn't been in direct sunlight for a long time.

He tripped a little bit and whipped his gaze to the forest floor, waving his arm around to right himself while Sheik stopped and tightened his grip, adjusting his stance. His cheeks burned from having almost been caught, but Sheik didn't seem to notice.

“We’d have to stop anyway,” Sheik says, and Link nearly smiles as he realizes that the other man thinks his embarrassment is from his trip-up. Not at all. “There are bokoblins ahead.”

Link looked up, “Bokoblins?”

Sheik pointed them out while simultaneously lowering Link to the ground onto his ass, making the man scowl at his uselessness. His attention, however, was quickly captured by the two red, gangly, human-like… what was the word? Pigs! They looked like horned pigs, with arms wrapped in dirtied white binding similar to the thing on Sheik’s head and bodies bare save for a patterned cloth covering their nether regions, a skull-adorned necklace around their neck.

“Hold this,” He hears Sheik say, just moments before Sheik’s cloak is dropped on his head, covering his sight. He blinks at first before hurriedly pulling off the cloak, eyes wide to take in Sheik fighting… only to be crudely rejected by the bodies of the two bokoblins poofing into nonexistence, Sheik inches away from their remains.

“I wanted to see!” Link exclaims with a pout. Sheik raises an eyebrow as he sheathed his kunai on his thighs and stood up straight again, glancing at the ground around his feet before sauntering back over.

“Did you now?” Sheik asks amusedly. Link crosses his arms at the blonde’s hidden expression and nods. Sheik snorts. “You look like a petulant child.” He adds something under his breath before turning to his left, Link’s right, and pointing at a large building. “Alright, then. Make it there without any breaks, and I'll let you see next time.”

“Fine, fine.” Link held onto the cloak as Sheik closed the distance between them, glancing over what he couldn't see before. Sheik’s clothes were grey, ruby red, and blood red, the colors arranged in sections. His family’s insignia was on a tattered, dirtied white shirt that was on the front of his torso, held on with short sleeves and a wrap around the midsection. Link wonders how he gets it all off, seeing as most of it looks to be a one-piece outfit.

He hands Sheik’s cloak over wordlessly, taking in his physique before it's hidden away once more. He was right about Sheik being strong, but he was also surprisingly lean.

Lithe, The back of his brain supplied, … a nice body type.

Link clasped Sheik’s hand firmly when it was offered and used it to pull himself to his feet, wobbling until they were back in their supportive stances. Sheik helped him walk over to the remains of the monsters and helped him to his knees so he could store them all. It was still taking some work, but he managed to get all the (nasty) pieces into the slate’s inventory.

Why do I now have bokoblin guts in my inventory? He wondered as they stood back up. He wrinkled his nose at the idea that, if bokoblin guts existed, surely other, worse things did as well.

“Alright,” He sighs, turning his gaze to his feet, “Just gotta walk, right?”

“Mhm.” Sheik shifts as he fixes their hold on each other, turning his head both ways to crack his neck. Link makes a face at him and he shrugs before starting their movement once more, allowing Link to set the pace. His steps were slow and unsure at first, but as they continued across the relatively smooth ground, he grew more confident. His pace slowed as they approached the hill, then slowed almost to a stop as they reached the broken walkway, his eyes slipping around to take in the new scenery.

“No breaks,” Sheik reminded him. Link upped his pace with a start, watching his feet as they continued over new terrain. It wasn't like there would be a consequence for not taking any breaks--not really--but it would greatly benefit him to use as much stamina as he had now into rebuilding his muscle.

So, Sheik was torturing him for his own good.

The walk was relatively short, especially as they came across yet another bokoblin, this one blue and hanging out in the ruins of other buildings that sat in front of the big building. There was a ledge that Sheik set Link down upon, throwing his cloak over Link again to keep his eyes off. Link was prepared this time and he managed to untangle himself from the cloak and yank it down quicker than before, but even then it was too much wasted time. He righted the cloak and held it out, his arm faltering when Sheik didn't grab it right away. He refrained from pouting about how Sheik said he could see if they didn’t take a break; he probably forgot.

“I'm going to go clear our path,” He says, eyes wandering off toward the stairs. One hand sets atop his cocked hip, the other limp by his side, “Goddesses knows the place is crawling with them…” He gave the area one more survey before turning and grabbing the cloak from Link, pulling it on and then forming a fist with his one hand and setting it against his covered mouth, the other hand going atop it. He used his hands to make a high pitched sound, which was so abruptly contrasting to the quiet environment that Link jumped. Sheik ignored it. “Can you whistle like this?”

Link was taken aback at first, but he didn't dare not try. Sheik pulled his hands apart to show him how exactly he'd put them together, instructing him step by step until Link finally raised his hands to his mouth and created his first hand whistle.

“First try! Nice.” Sheik praised him, setting his hands back on his hips. “Impressive.”

“Why?”

“Just… not many people can do it first try, myself included. Now… try changing pitch by moving the fingers of your top hand. Then make a tune, or… a call. Something.”

Link grimaced at the difficulty it sounded like it would be, only to be pleasantly surprised when he found it rather easy. Remembering Sheik’s next instruction, he brainstormed for a moment before doing three short high pitched whistles, then a long, lower-pitched whistle leading into a long, high pitched one. Sheik let out an impressed hum.

“Show-off,” He says, turning around. He sends a wave without looking behind him, “I’ll be back soon. Make that whistle if you're in any danger, alright?”

“Mhm.”

Sheik went up the nearby stairs at a leisurely walk, then up another staircase to the left, taking two at a time and going forward rather than right. Link took his time alone to look around at what little he could see, starting first at the tiny pond behind him, manned by a single tree. His gaze swept left over the horizon, taking in the distant mountains, one viciously foreboding mountain that was blocked by a nearby tree and, finally, a faraway structure.

It didn't take him long to realize it must be the castle from his memory because, despite the overwhelming distance and the clear changes it had gone through, those pointed tower roofs were still visible from afar. They were hard to see, as some sort of blackish red fog was swirling around the castle, emitting an endless stream of something bright red into the air. It was concentrated at first, but eventually spread out enough to where the purple sky was fully visible.

Moving his sight more to the left, he saw something rather… peculiar. Something--he couldn't discern what--was moving through the sky, its body completely still yet managing to slowly, almost lazily move through the sky. It lingered for a few seconds longer before disappearing behind a closer mountain.

His gaze moved past the trees he'd been looking at the past day and moved on instead to beside the building where, in the distance, he saw mountains with edges softened by a white cover, so bright it hurt his eyes, even from so far away. He blinked away the pain and continued the last few feet of his own survey, only to stop as he caught sight of something that, for some reason, chilled him to the bone.

Just beyond the ledge of the perpendicular pathway past the stairs was a black and brown object, riddled with green moss. Its design was intricate and very obviously man-made, with swirls that formed circles and waves adorning its surface. Near the middle of what he could see was a perfect circle that, something in the back of his mind was saying, was looking right at him.

But even that wasn't the most alarming part. The most alarming part was that he couldn't breathe. He couldn't think, he couldn't move, his eyes glued to the object that he was sure wasn't even facing him--

And yet, despite everything that told him he was safe, he didn't feel safe. He was terrified, chilled to the bone, his hands numb and his head light as he raised his arms.

Quickly, he recreated his whistle, shaking, and no more than half a second later did Sheik appear in front of him, back to him, his body in a stance prepared for fighting. Sheik seemed to realize there wasn't any real danger just as Link finally sucked in a relieved gasp of air.

“Sh-Sh-Sheik,” He called, his voice flickering and wavering between trying to be strong and so utterly falling apart. He reached out for the other man just as he turned around, hands encapturing his--but he didn't realize it. Not at first. “P-please, I,” He looked toward the object again and his body rocked with an intense shiver of fear, his other hand reaching up as well.

“Don't look at it,” Sheik says, his voice cool, calm, and collected, but still easily conveying his concern. He gathers Link up in his arms and turns his head away from the object, one hand holding Link’s head to his chest while the other rested on his shoulder. Link gasps in another few strangled breaths.

“I-I don’t--” Images flashed before his eyes, none of them comprehensible, and he shook his head violently before clutching the back of Sheik’s cloak so hard his fingers ached, his eyes welling up with tears that he buried in the fabric of Sheik’s clothing. “Sheik--”

“Relax,” Sheik says softly, “Take a deep breath.”

“I c-c-can’t do it, I-I-I can't! I can't b-breathe--”

“You can. I believe in you, Link. You can do a lot of things, you just need to try.

That knocked some sense into him. He turned his head to press his ear against Sheik’s chest, using the steady pulse of his heartbeat to measure his own breathing. His eyes clenched shut as he let the deep thrum of his companion’s heart fill his ears, his own shaking breaths slowly soothing out to an even pace as his heart’s rhythm latched on and synced with Sheik’s. The steady circles Sheik was rubbing into his back helped him relax more than it did calm him down, but it was appreciated just as much.

It took a few minutes, but eventually he was calmed, his eyes moist but no longer overflowing. His hands were now only loosely holding onto Sheik’s cloak, eyes closed to keep them from burning from the residue of his hot tears. Sheik gently pat his back before pulling away, using a clean part of his cloak to dry up Link’s face. Link opened his eyes and made eye contact with him on accident, but almost immediately he found himself unable to pull away. They stared at each other for a while before Sheik stood and offered a hand.

“Only a little farther,” He says, “Come.”

While what Sheik said was true, it was the stairs that got to Link. His legs burned and threatened to falter under his weight, but he would not give up. He also dared not lift his eyes from the ground again, lest he see another of those objects that had done whatever that was to him. He'd never felt so afraid--but he couldn't really say that.

Finally, they arrived to an arched doorway and stopped. Link stared at the ground for a moment before blinking in confusion, eyes coming up to meet Sheik’s. The blonde patted his waist.

“Here is where you must walk alone,” He says, “Goddess Hylia will guide you in your time of weakness.”

Link didn't quite understand, but nodded nonetheless. He set a hand on the wall for support, prepared for his knees to buckle the moment Sheik let go--only to realize he had a bit more strength and that the pain in his legs was gone. He turned and looked forward, his eyes falling upon a statue of a woman who he could only assume was Hylia.

He let go of the wall and, with a glance at his feet, he took a step. Then two. He moved his eyes to the ground to make sure he was alright, stepping carefully across the grass and faded chunks of floor that had fallen prey to the forces of nature.

Along with, he realizes with an unfortunate glance to his left, other things.

But strangely, his mind is wiped clear of that in this moment. His only concern is getting over to his goddess… and he's not even all that concerned. He felt like a hand was guiding him, leading his body in the right direction and his feet to the safest spots.

Finally, he reached a set of stairs. With a glance behind him he saw that Sheik was still in the doorway at the front of the building, arms crossed as he leaned against it.

Link gulped and, with a breath to sate his nerves, he began to ascend, his hand hovering over the banister, occasionally pressing against it for balance.

With every step he took, the strength from before that he felt so deeply within himself seemed to fade away, as if she was siphoning it back from his very soul. Baiting him... Testing him. Was he worthy of her patience and grace, or was he truly the fraud he believed himself to be? She’d been waiting so long for him to return, right? How could he possibly not disappoint her when he can't even get up the damn stairs?

It was as if his heavy thoughts literally began to weigh him down, his feet brushing harder and harder against the stones with each step, aching to just stay there. His hand gripped the banister like a lifeline, thighs protesting more and more with every step he took. Just a few more… steps…

He didn't dare break until he was at the top. Even then, he didn't stop until he had collapsed in front of her statue, once Sheik had appeared, kneeling at his side, hand hovering above his shoulder. Link’s hands were trembling as they pressed together in prayer, his body unstable as he once again expelled the fruits of his hidden stress.

Tears streamed down his cheeks onto the stone below and, with a watery gaze pointed at the goddess, he asked the same question that he had exactly one hundred and two years before; “What in Hyrule is wrong with me?”

Chapter Text

Neither of them had mentioned a word of Link’s little breakdown in front of their goddess, but aside from looking bothered by something, Sheik didn't seem to mind. He was still calling Link Hero, but the brunette noticed that he was very reserved about it and, now that he thought about it, he'd always been. He didn't--he never--seemed to have wanted to call him that. Link wondered if it was because Sheik had lost his faith in him.

Or maybe he never even had faith in him to begin with.

On the way back to their camp, they'd stopped occasionally for Link to pick up bokoblin parts and swing by one of the decrepit, smaller buildings by the large building, which Sheik mentioned was called the Temple of Time. Inside a chest, Link had found a pair of pants and, after Sheik helped him pull them on, he decided he much preferred these pants to the other ones. He did decide to keep the old ones, however, and was delighted to find he could put it into his slate’s inventory.

Within a week (with the help of what Sheik called stamina potions to keep him going), Link was up and walking on his own. He was able to do light activities such as walking up and down steps, pulling himself onto anything at chest level, and even climbing trees when the branches were low enough. That took the most of his energy, and he more often than not slept soundly through the night. He had begun collecting more consumable things he found as well--some herbs, apples, tree nuts, eggs, acorns, and even a strange, orange stone that Sheik called amber. He was happy to find that the slate was also capable of identifying items and allowing him to write his own logs in the slate, but he wasn't really able to do so. He could recognize few of the letters; a and i seemed the easiest, and he could spell his and Sheik’s names without looking at it, as if his hands knew what to do without needing his eyes. Sheik took it upon himself to reintroduce the brunette to the alphabet of their language, his smaller hands deft and neat in their handwriting.

“Will I ever need this?” Link asked during one teaching session. When too long a silence passed and he looked up at Sheik to prompt him for an answer, he smiled sheepishly at the intense glare on the blonde’s face. “Sorry, sorry, just--I like to learn. I think it’s important, too, I just… was wondering when I’d need to write while battling the forces of evil.”

“Well,” Sheik says, “You may not need to write it for a long time, but it will be necessary, once Ganondorf is defeated.”

If Ganon is defeated, Link thought miserably.

“Even if you don’t write it, it’s good to be able to read it,” Sheik continues, deftly rewriting g, which Link considered one of the hardest since he could never seem to differ it from d. The bottom line of g was thicker and less curved than d. “Plus, writing helps your hand and arm further develop muscles you wouldn’t otherwise spend much time on. Fine motor skills might be the most important skills you need to have.”

That made sense, he supposed.

Link blinked as Sheik suddenly thrust the tree pulp paper and Sheikah pen at him, raising an eyebrow as he looked back up at the blonde.

“I want you to write the entirety of the alphabet, as small and legible as you can, until it fills that paper.” He pat Link’s shoulder and added, “Good luck.”

Link didn’t argue at first, but the longer he wrote and the longer his brain fuddled together each letter until he accidentally skipped one (resulting in a smack to the back of his head until he remembered the letter (which was g to no surprise)), the more he hated it. His hand ached, and his fingers were cramping. And it wasn’t a small paper, either! Plus, the pen had a small tip, so he could write really small and still have it be legible, so he had to write even more and--

“Focus,” Sheik growled midway through Link completely butchering his n. Link grumbled in response but, secretly, was grateful; his next letter was o, which he considered his worst. Carefully, he made sure his three strokes were coming from their correct direction; the thickness was dependent on where he started and how much pressure he put, and for some reason, it was extremely important for it to be perfect, and he put the pen on the paper where he wanted it and--

He knew he messed up even before Sheik smacked the back of his head again, and with a screamed groan he dropped the pen and rubbed at his face in frustration, collapsing backward into the ground. Sheik chuckled, but it didn't hold any malice or even joy it often did.

This time it sounded… sad.

“Sit up,” Sheik said, gentler than he ever had before. Link nearly didn't hear him; the softness in his voice, the tentative sound, was so unlike him. It was, again, like he was a child hoping for something good, begging for it… only to be ruthlessly denied.

Link wanted it gone.

He sat up and pouted at Sheik, who used one gloved, wine red hand to tuck the cloak more snugly around himself (he must be cold) and used the other to hand Link back the pen. Once it was snug in his fingers, Sheik leaned over and grabbed his hand with the barest of touches, practically not there.

“The pressure is important, of course, but there are certain tricks to get the desired effect,” Sheik says, moving their hands over to an empty space on the paper. “For changing from thick to thin quickly and easily, you do a bit of a flourish.” He demonstrates by pressing down and moving the pen for a moment, then flicking it up so the end of the line was thinner and even faded a bit. He does it again and again until Link's hold on the pen is more firm, his confidence returned. Sheik releases his hand and Link experimentally tries to do the same thing.

It's a little longer than he would've liked, but it worked!

“Good,” Sheik praises. His level, professional tone is back now, back to normal, and yet Link still feels like something is missing. How could he tell, though, when his entire day felt like something was missing? Was this how he would live his life, knowing he remembered nothing, or was there something actually missing? Would he ever be able to tell again?

“What's wrong?” Sheik asks, having started to tell him to get back to work only to quickly stop himself. He knew the look of horror on Link’s face when he saw it; the brunette tried to hide it, but one couldn’t exactly hide themselves from a Sheikah.

Link jumped, but his eyes didn’t swivel around to focus on Sheik’s as they usually would. They point down instead, at the paper settled atop the flat screen of his Sheikah slate, at his hands that are riddled with scars. The trenches settled into his skin are from a war he no longer remembers.

“I just want to be able to remember things,” Link says quietly, “I… I hate feeling like this. Like I’m utterly useless. I mean, if I could remember how to write, we wouldn’t be wasting this time here teaching me to write, would we?”

Sheik wants to say, judging by the papers he’d seen written in the 100-year-past Hero of Hyrule’s handwriting, that he would have needed teaching anyway, but he keeps that to himself. One day he’ll show him the scrolls settled in the bottom of his backpack.

“And I can’t remember anything about… about my home. My kingdom.” Link drops the pen and hugs himself, practically wilting, and he says, “I hate feeling like I’m looking at the world from a completely different person’s set of eyes. I’m not supposed to feel like this, am I?”

Link finally looks up at him then, eyes painfully empty, painfully innocent, and he asks, “Even if I still had all my memories, I think I, reborn as the Hero of Hyrule--reborn, right?” Sheik nods. “I... would still feel like I didn’t belong... Because every time I wake up, Hyrule is different, and I am always to blame. Will I always feel like I’m missing something in my reality? Will I forever feel like I don’t deserve to have a normal life?”

Sheik swallowed thickly and enveloped Link in a hug before he could see his expression shift, not wanting the last Hylian in Hyrule to see the last of the Sheikah in Hyrule cry. With shaking hands he grabbed his backpack from behind Link, hand pushing aside the other brown cloak and grabbing a thick black one instead. This one is longer and heavier, but softer; He unfolds it and whisks it around Link’s shoulders, lifting his head up long enough to button it up under Link’s chin then set his head back down on his shoulder, hugging him tight.

“You don’t need to think about all that,” Sheik said, voice thick. He swallows, trying to will away his emotions, but it never works. It’s his one greatest weakness. “...One day, I think things will be right again. Hopefully sooner, but you should expect it to be later, and…” His arms tighten with his throat, a swallow forcing the lodge to move. He shuts his eyes and half buries his face into Link’s neck, one hand threading into his tangled and unfortunately oily golden brown hair, the other wrapping around his waist. He just holds him for a minute, grateful beyond belief when Link relaxes and even leans in to his hold. Sheik swallows again, determined not to let Link realize his face is covered with tears, and wonders why Hylia would pick a man--a boy--to protect her kingdom, when that same boy didn’t even shed tears for himself when realizing the extent of his torture.

“...And I don’t know how much this means to you, but I will never, ever leave you.” Ignoring the rumble that went through the earth, he added, “Even should Ganondorf, Hylia, or someone else in the world take your sense of normal, I swear on my Sheikah bloodline that I will never leave you. If I am your only sense of normalcy in this lifetime of yours, then it would be my absolute honor to assist you every step of the way, and never leave your side.” He paused before bracing himself, pulling away so Link could see the tears on his cheeks and pushing aside his bangs to reveal the mark of the Sheikah over his left eye, which appeared only when his own tears shed.

“Like the tear that drips from the eye of the Sheikah, I will go to any lengths to achieve that goal,” He cups Link’s face with his left hand, closing his eyes as he presses their foreheads together, and his statement comes to a close as he whispers, “...To fulfill that promise.”

Link’s arms finally came up and wrapped back around him, hands linked behind Sheik’s back as he moves his head to stuff his face into the blonde’s cloaked shoulder. Sheik brushed his thumb through Link’s hair, rubbing at his scalp as he cradled Link in his arms and silently cursed he goddesses above.

It wasn’t fair. None of this was. Why did they do this to him? Why did they have to pit him against odds like these and make him doubt his capabilities when all he did was fight for them?

Sheik closed his eyes and took a deep breath to calm himself. No… this was not any of the goddesses’ faults, nor was it Link’s. The goddesses had blessed them with the world they created for them, and gifted them one to protect it.

But that still didn’t change the fact that their guardian was still merely a child, barely an adult. And with no memories to boot, either.

Sheik had never lost faith that the Hero of Hyrule would prevail. And as he held him, held a hero on the verge of losing himself in his arms, he knew he wouldn’t dare lose faith now.

*~*~*~*~*~

By a month, Link was running and sprinting, but his stamina was horrible, as Sheik seemed to have expected.

Stamina comes with practice and insistence, He'd said, As well as taking good care of yourself.

The last part was mentioned because Link almost couldn't breathe from how hard he'd pushed himself the same day. He took that last peace of wisdom gladly.

After a month and a half, he was able to lift Sheik about six inches off the ground, and Link found he was surprisingly heavy--though that was probably because of his own strength. He didn’t look heavy. Either way, with that milestone, Sheik deemed him ready to start learning to use weapons.

And while Link was elated, he was also disappointed by his lack of recent memories.

“There are four basics forms of fighting,” Sheik says, “Far combat, near combat, close combat, and hand-to-hand.” He finishes laying out an array of weapons that range from thin to thick and long to short, all in three different groups. His hand lingered over the kunai he'd placed in a group of smaller items until he turned back to Link, retracting his hand. He crosses his arms, “We’re going to work on hand-to-hand combat first.”

“Which weapons are those?”

Sheik released a breathless snort, “None.” At Link’s quizzical look he made a fist and--it all came rushing back to him.

“Oh,” He breathes. His hand forms a fist on its on and he remembers the feeling of something solid against it, the feeling of his knuckles hitting something. A cracking sound is made in his head; his knuckles suddenly ache.

Sheik nodded and let his hand fall to his side, waiting for Link’s expression to signal he’d returned to reality and his eyes to refocus before speaking.

“I need your verbal consent for this,” He says, “Especially in training, you will be hurt, and seeing as I'm the only person around, it will be me hurting you. I need your consent.”

For some reason, that rubbed Link the wrong way. He didn't think… he didn't think consent was necessary, for this kind of thing, when he had looked forward to this for so long, when he knew he would get hurt and had clearly already accepted it. But even so, Sheik’s eyes held pleading and insistence, and something else deep within their ruby depths. Something that tugged at his mind, a remember this sort of thing… but try as he might, he could not.

Yet another thing was missing, and he couldn’t figure out what.

“Okay,” He says, and the shakiness in his voice seems to unnerve Sheik even more.

“I need you 100% serious and sure in your decision” Sheik says, voice quieter than usual. He looks away, seemingly unable to look him in the eyes any longer, and the last words he says haunts Link more than anything else; “... for the both of us.”

Barely a moment passes before Link stands up, the past strain of every muscle in his body a mere memory. He doesn't waver in the action and his posture is nearly perfect, something Sheik had stressed in their time together. He could no longer count his bones and, despite his insecurity about it, Sheik claimed that the thin layer of fat around his muscles was alright. His skin had regained color, evident in the hand he held out, his unreplaced shirt still much too short for his arm.

He looked up an inch or two into Sheik’s eyes and gave him a smile before letting his face relax into a more serious expression, thinking his words over while Sheik firmly took his hand. He gave himself one more second to revel in the feeling that shot through his arm before speaking.

“I fully and willingly consent to being taught hand-to-hand combat by Sheik of the Sheikah,” He says, then adds as an afterthought, “...And decide that being hurt in any way, shape, or form is my own fault, and should be acknowledged as a learning curve. Sheik is not to be blamed for anything that happens to me.”

Sheik’s eyes slam shut as a low, continuous rumbling noise in the earth that Link had never noticed ceased, leaving them in a world so silent his ears rang. Sheik’s head hung, his hand tightened, and slowly, the hesitant sounds of the forest sprang back to life.

Sheik swallowed hard enough for Link to hear and cleared his throat, tilting his head up just enough to where Link could just barely see his tear-filled eye, the other covered by his bangs. Link reaches up with his free hand and tucks Sheik’s bangs behind his ear, mindful not to touch his skin, sight lingering on the mark over his eye before centering back on his face.

“Thank you,” He says, so quiet Link can barely hear the words… but the raw, painful emotion in them doesn't escape his ears one bit. Link gives his hand a little squeeze he hopes is comforting, then rubs his thumb over Sheik’s exposed fingers.

“I'm glad to help,” He says, his own voice quiet, a soft lull to each syllable and enunciation. Sheik looks back to the ground, his hand and body relaxing, and Link wonders what in the world could have him so afraid, to make him show his vulnerability in the form of a single tear dropping from his eyes.

The moment is over as quickly as it started, as Sheik pulls his hand away and turns around. Link has to admit, if he hadn't known he was crying, he wouldn't have noticed that the action Sheik took to adjust the thing on his head--what he called a turban--was also wiping away his tears. Sheik moves to the weapons pile and pulls off all the weapons on his body, placing them delicately in a pile by his backpack.

“Alright,” Sheik says, voice very slightly shaky. He takes a deep breath as he turns around, any sign of his past emotions gone, and he sighs it out, “Let us begin.”

Chapter Text

Link grunted as he was yet again knocked onto his ass, his head dropping onto the ground as he groaned in frustration. He would have thought Sheik was enjoying himself if the blonde hadn’t been urging him to take a break, reminding him they could stop whenever he needed.
But to Link that wasn’t even an option. He just… he wanted to make progress today. He needed to be the hero he apparently once was.

Sulking in his recurring defeat, he ignored the dirt clinging to his forehead and thrust his hand into Sheik’s awaiting one. Despite his many face plants and failures, Sheik always appeared at his side with a hand outstretched, waiting to pull him back up for another round. The gesture had easily slipped into a natural reaction between the two as if it had always transpired between them. This knockdown was no exception, and as Sheik pulled him back to his feet, Link cannot escape the miffed expression that had become a common face for the day. Sheik quickly let him go, humming and crossing his arms while Link stumbles back into his fighting stance. Sheik stares him down and waits until he is relaxed before speaking.

“Considering I haven’t taught you anything proper yet, your strategy is surprisingly impressive.” He says, “We’ve just been uselessly fighting so far.”

A pang of irritation shot through Link, “Didn’t you say you would teach—” Sheik cuts him off with a wave of his hand.

“I will. I needed to see your current form.” Sheik’s gaze bore into him and, unable to hold it any longer, he looked away, shame eating at his heart. “It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.”

“And just how bad did you think it would be?” He muttered.

“I figured I’d have knocked your ass onto the ground immediately and break your arm first thing.”

Link cracked a smile, tilting his head up to the sky. “No faith in me, huh?”

Sheik shrugged, “That’s what happened when you first went into training.”

Blinking the sun from his eyes he wiped the dirt from his sweat-slicked forehead and crossed his arms, trying to call the memories to come back to him… but only silence answered. Sheik chuckled lowly, earning his gaze immediately, and ruffled his hair as he walked by, “At least that’s what they told me.”

Link watched him go, suspicious, and gasped as his gut instincts were right. He ducked just in time for Sheik’s foot to miss his head, moving his crossed arms up to block Sheik’s punch—which nearly just knocked his arms into his own face—and attempted to roll toward his side. He got about halfway before flopping on the ground, not strong enough to keep his momentum up, and rolled onto his stomach just as Sheik stomped where he once was.

He debated on grabbing his foot, but… that would be too predictable. He feigned doing it and, while Sheik was stepping out of the way, his foot was already on its way behind his leg, tripping him up. Sheik gasped and stumbled and, while he was trying to find his footing, Link jumped up and rushed him, trying to shove him back.

Only for Sheik to duck out of the way, his fumbling clearly faked, and let Link’s momentum make him face-plant into the ground. Again.

Link huffed out a long groan, rolling onto his back and staring at the sky. The endless blue brought him none of the comforts he had sought earlier. Sheik’s hand was already in his view and he narrowed his eyes at it, then at Sheik, who seemed to give him a sympathetic look from what little was visible of his face.

“I’ll admit,” His eyes crinkled in an invisible smile as Link grabbed his hand, “You caught me by surpri—”

Link yanked hard on his hand so that Sheik crashed onto the ground right next to him, although it was more graceful than the brunette’s, and his eyes widened in surprise before laughs erupted from them both. Sheik rolled onto his back with the arm that Link had grabbed thrown over his stomach, still entangled in Link’s fingers. He sighs and looks at Link, the edges of his eyes crinkled in a bigger hidden smile.

“You sneaky little demon,” Sheik says, but there’s a softness to his voice Link hasn’t heard before. Link grins devilishly and squeezes the hand he holds, choosing to say nothing and push himself up with his free hand. He readjusts their fingers and pulls Sheik up instead, ignoring the slight tremor he feels in the ground under his feet when Sheik’s footing is too close to his and they end up chest to chest. Sheik’s eyes avert and he lets go, stepping away; suddenly Link can breathe.

“All right,” He states, back to business, “Show me your stance.”

Link spreads his legs and bends them a little at the knees, his hands forming fists and holding up in front of him. Sheik goes to cross his arms but, this time, his right elbow uses his left arm as support while his right hand raises to his face. He looks Link up and down while he takes a walk around him.

“Your upper body needs to be more open,” He says, “You’re too closed off. If an enemy came from the side, you’d have no preparation. Your legs are looking good, however.”

Link hesitates, then lowers his arms just a tad and moves them out. Sheik stops dead in his tracks in front of Link, raising an eyebrow at him, and Link hesitantly moves his arms out more. Sheik continues to stare at him until they’re almost parallel with the rest of his body, although at slightly tighter angles.

“Unfurl your hands most of the way,” Sheik says. Link does as he’s told, relieved as Sheik finally begins his walk-around again, joined with a little explanation. “The state of your hands will allow you to be ready to grab things or form a fist quicker than you usually would.” He comes back around and makes eye contact with Link before he stops moving again. “The state of your torso will also be open to grab or push things more easily.”

“What’s wrong with the last one?”

“If someone comes at you from the side or from behind you, you won’t be able to do anything to them. Your focus will be in front of you, in the small angle your arms are in, as opposed to the larger angle your arms are in now. You can do the same thing in both, but you could do many more things, in a quicker way, in this form than the last. This form allows more widespread concentration.”

“Ah… I understand.”

Sheik shows him many other positions and what they can do, then a few attacking positions.

“Your strength is a very important thing to have. The stronger you are, the harder it will be for your opponent to overpower you,” Sheik says, “... However, strength is second to skill and strategy. Brain always rules over brawn.”

“Brawn?”

“Your strength.”

Link mentally slapped himself. What an obvious answer.

“Now, there are also several things you can do that don’t require an enormous amount of strength,” Sheik continues, “For humans and most species, our extremities and limbs are our most vulnerable places. Humans and Hylians have five senses; name them.”

Link blinked and hummed, “... Um.”

“You can taste.”

“Oh! Uh. Taste, hear, see…” He looks around and breathes in, “Smell. And…” He takes too long to answer, and Sheik eventually does it for him.

“It’s all right, I usually forget one myself. We can touch.”

“Oh, right.”

“Mhm. So we taste, see, hear, touch, and…” Sheik pauses, his face quickly turning red, “Uh, smell. What did I tell you?”

Link grinned and chuckled. Cute, he thought.

Sheik clears his throat and seems to regain his composure, “Most animals have all five of the same senses. Some have more, some have less. Most species in Hyrule just have just these five, with some senses more or less keen than others.”

“What kind of monster species are out there?”

Sheik seemed surprised that he was changing the subject from combat to monsters, but he didn’t argue, “There are Keese, Chuchu, Bokoblins, Moblins, Lizalfos… Pebblits, and Wizzrobes. There is also the Hinox, Talus, Molduga, and the Mighty Lynel.”

“Why are lynels the only ones getting the, uh… the little description?”

“They are the most fearsome of them all. They are highly skilled, highly intelligent, and stronger than any other. They are also gigantic.”

“Sounds, uh… fun.”

“Mhm.” Sheik glances off into the distance and says, “... There is a Stone Talus and a White Lynel nearby.”

“They come in different colors?”

“They all come in different forms. The monster with the fewest forms is the Molduga; it has two forms. In Hyrule, there are five Moldugas. Four are regular Moldugas, and one is a King Molduga. They all live in Gerudo Desert.”

“Hm. Cool.”

Sheik nods, “You’ll probably meet every single one of these monsters on your quest, and maybe each of their subtypes.”

Link nods in understanding. He still doesn’t quite understand what to do for his “quest”, but… he was sure Sheik was waiting for a more appropriate time to tell him.

Sheik taught him many things in the next two weeks; besides his offensive and defensive maneuvers, Sheik worked on teaching him survival skills. They worked on climbing first, something Link found easy even with the smoothest of rocks, and before long he could scale the cliff right outside the Shrine of Resurrection with ease. It was the first thing he was faster than Sheik at—not that it was a race, rather that he was more efficient at it. It brought him a strange sense of pride as he lied on his stomach with his head over the edge, taking his turn to cheer the other on.

They also worked on swimming. Sheik had found a small pond for them to work in, located east of their campsite. It had put Link on edge and at first, he’d refused to put more than his feet in; it took several days before Sheik shed his cloak and bindings and got into the water, coaxing Link in. He wouldn’t take off his muffler, still, and the thought that Sheik wasn’t any nervous with something that could restrict breathing finally allowed Link to edge in. Luckily for him, Sheik had found a rather nice pond for him to practice getting used to the water; it only reached up to his waist, and a fallen tree lay near the middle for Link to grab should he need it.

“Come to think of it,” Sheik said, his eyebrows coming together in a scowl. He was currently crouched in the water, the liquid lapping at his chin. His turban was still on, and goddess damn it Link wanted to take it off and see the rest of his gorgeous hair. “Neither of us have bathed once since you woke.”

“Oh, yeah,” Link said, then closed his mouth after opening it. He wasn’t sure what to say.

Sheik glances at him, “We will need to.”

“Mhm.”

At Sheik’s expectant look, he glances around tentatively. What was he supposed to do? Did he rub water on himself? Was there something special he needed to do? He wasn’t… he wasn’t that dirty, was he?

A light-hearted laugh filled his ears and, with heated cheeks, he turns back around. Sheik is standing up, water pouring from his clothes like a waterfall while he stands, and he waves Link’s concerns away as he gets out, “Come. Time for a new skill.”

What they end up doing, alongside everything else, is make soap. After each time they use the fire, Sheik gathers up the ashes and puts them in an empty bottle; the next time they use the fire, he boils them for half an hour and skims off whatever is on top, once the ashes have all sunk. There are a few more steps before it becomes a hard little bar of lye soap, and they take turns washing themselves off. Sheik, however, specifically tells him he is not to see him; a tremor goes through the ground, and paired alongside his narrowed ruby orbs, Link knows he’s serious.

Although it only makes him want to see what he’s covered up even more.

Another few weeks pass; Sheik claims it’s been two-and-a-half months. Time doesn’t mean much to Link, but he continuously feels a heavier and heavier sense of dread each time he looks at the castle. They’ve worked on longer ranged weapons, like bows and spears, and Sheik has allowed Link to hold a sword, feel the weight in his hand. He has to try several; some are much too heavy for him to lift, and the rest require two hands at this stage of his lack of strength. Sheik tells him that the swords he lifts with both hands are often held with one and that the swords he cannot lift are held with two hands.

Either way, the weight of a sword in his hand… it feels nice. It feels right. Grabbing the hilt with one hand gives him a feeling of… he isn’t sure what, but he feels like he’s done something like this before.

“Hey, Sheik?” He speaks up, his left hand still wrapped around the hilt of the sword. Sheik looked up from the simmering food, something Link had volunteered to attend to but, well… he’d gotten preoccupied.

“Yes, Hero?” Sheik asks. Link glances up just long enough to see the shine of his ruby red eyes.

“Is there a word for… for feeling like you’ve done something before?”

“Hm…” Sheik eyes Link’s hand, “Do you mean you’ve felt this exact moment play out before, or you… you feel like something is familiar?”

“It feels familiar. Like…” He tugs the sword into his lap, minding the blade by his legs, and drags the back of his fingers down the flat of his blade. “... I dunno.”

“Maybe nostalgia is the word you’re thinking of, although it’s not quite the same meaning.”

“What’s nostalgia?”

“When you long for something that used to happen in your past.”

“I think that’s it.” Link mouthed the word, feeling it on his tongue, and he used both hands to plant the sword in the ground and use it to stand up. He stood, holding it parallel to his body with both hands holding the hilt. “Why is it I feel more sure about this than anything else I’ve done since I’ve woken up? Like this is right where I’m supposed to be?”

“Maybe because you are.” Sheik looked away for just a moment so he could push the food around; tonight’s dinner was fish. “You look more like a proper knight now.”

“Do I?” Link glances down at himself, shifting his feet into a better stance and then looking up at Sheik. The blonde nods.

“You do. All you need are the clothes.”

Link wonders how he’d look in a clunky suit of armor. Ridiculous, probably.

Another week passes, Sheik has decided he’s good enough with a bow to practice on a real target. Link is nervous as he trails behind Sheik, back toward the Temple of Time. But, instead of going straight toward the stairs they go left.

“I know there is a pair of Chuchus around here,” Sheik mutters, his footing silent and careful on the remains of the walkway as they pass what Sheik claims to have been a fountain in the past, “They nearly got the jump on me a few weeks before you woke up.”

“Chuchus?”

Two giant blue blobs popped out of the ground, somehow not having noticed them, and Sheik pushes Link back, whispering, “Those.”

“Oh yeah… those.”

Sheik pulls him towards what looks like a toppled wall blocking most of the walkway, crouching behind it with him. Link has already pulled out an arrow from the quiver around his waist and has notched it onto the string, waiting for Sheik’s instructions as the other had told him to do. Once he has a nod in confirmation, he draws the arrow back, his newly gained muscles making this a smooth process, the string brushing his cheek. His right hand rested under the arrowhead and directed the bow toward his target.

He waited patiently as Sheik adjusted parts of his stance, unmoving even when his target moved, and he re-aimed once Sheik finished adjusting his limbs. He glanced off to check where the other Chuchu was, finding their eyes slightly creepy before releasing the arrow.

It took another arrow to kill the Chuchu and another two to kill the other one, but it surprised Link how easy he found shooting at moving objects. Only one of his arrows went off-target, but he was quick and efficient in re-drawing his bow and he made up for it in less than a second. Once both Chuchus are dead he scans the area and stands, jogging over to the new materials and his one recoverable arrow.

“Good,” Sheik praises him as he picks up the blue glob. It takes a single tap of his slate now for them to disappear in a couple of blue sparkles of light. “Target your enemies’ weak spots to take them down quicker. You could have done it with an arrow each.”

“Was it their eyes?”

“It was. It is for most monsters, especially Keese.”

“Which are…?”

“Literally eyes with bat wings. They’re weird.”

“Ew.”

“Mhm.”

Over the next few weeks, Sheik continues to teach him more and more skills. Soon enough, Link can do pretty much anything. He’s taken over making the meals, both as thanks to Sheik’s earlier work and for practice, and he’s learned to make a fire with and without a flint—though flint is preferable.

He also realizes something else; neither of them knows how safe or dangerous the place is. They can’t both sleep, right? Sheik seemed far too paranoid about something like that.

So he tests it out. Sheik bids him goodnight one night, both lying down on opposite sides of the fire (although Sheik places himself noticeably farther away), and Link pretends to go to sleep. He waits a reasonable amount of time before deepening and evening his breathing out, his eyes open while he stares at Sheik’s back.

For a while, nothing happens. Sheik is still breathing in the same even tempo as he is, and it takes Link a while to realize Sheik truly is asleep. However, just after he closes his eyes and tries to go to sleep, he hears Sheik shuffling around. He opens his eyes again, just halfway this time, and watches through the dying flames as Sheik makes jerky movements, his body curling up into a fetal position. Silence passed for a few moments before Sheik releases a long, soft groan, filled with fear and laced with sorrow.

His breathing becomes erratic rather quickly; enough so it makes Link fear for him, for his health and whatever could be going on. He thinks about sitting up, but that might wake up Sheik or, if he was awake (doing Goddesses knows what that was), alert him to Link’s consciousness. So Link just lie there, watching him, wondering what in Hyrule was going on.

As if sensing his unease, two things happened; first, Sheik sat up with a strangled gasp, his hands flying up to the left side of his face, and he collapsed back onto his side when he lost his balance. Directly after, the earth shook so violently that Link grunted as the shaking launched him into the air about two inches and he hit the ground with a thud, no longer desperate to hide his being awake. A horrible noise filled the air, so close and so loud that it hurt his ears and nearly covered the loud gasp Sheik made.

“What was that?” He gasped, and luckily, his pre-existing fatigue helped him give the impression he had just woken.

Sheik scrambled up to his feet and looked at the ground where he’d been sitting, walking away swiftly. Link got on his knees and looked, taking pause.

A giant crack had formed in the ground right where Sheik had been, threatening to swallow him up. Link looked up at the blonde who was pacing back and forth, arms tight around himself as he muttered things under his breath. They were too quiet for Link to comprehend but loud enough for him to hear his voice.

Link stood up quietly and made his way over, pausing when Sheik stopped walking and talking aloud but continuing on his way. It was almost too dark to see; the fire had nearly died, and it cast a gentle, dim orange glow on Sheik’s back. Link glanced around to make sure there weren’t any monsters before setting a hand on Sheik’s shoulder.

He was fully expecting the jump and the knife to his throat, so he continued looking at Sheik with an imploring expression. Breathing hard, Sheik’s shaking hands released the kunai, letting it fall uselessly to the ground between them, his hands twitching and raising to his chest as he curled in on himself.

“I’m sorry,” He said, “I-I-I’m sorry, I… didn’t realize it was you, I—”

Link pressed his finger over where he guessed Sheik’s lips were, continuing his stare into Sheik’s eyes.

Just before he could give Sheik a hug, however, the blonde turned and moved away.

“You need your rest,” He said, voice sounding hollow, “Go.” Sheik glances at him when he doesn’t move and, after a while, turns away completely, “You’ll train with swords soon.”

Link hesitated at first before complying, lying back next to the warmth of the fire and watching his friend from afar.

That night before he fell asleep, he watched Sheik sit farther away than he ever had, keeping watch. He watched Sheik as he sat on his log, motionless as the wind whipped roughly against his body.

That night, he fell asleep wondering what kind of secrets Sheik was still hiding, what caused the pain and fear lingering behind his eyes.

Chapter Text

It took a couple more weeks before it happened, but Link could finally wield swords with one arm. With that milestone began his training of what Sheik called near combat, which didn’t even sound like a type of combat, but according to Sheik, it was. It mostly comprised non-ranged weapons he could swing around and hit people with and hopefully throw once he got more strength. This was his third combat type; his fourth and final would be close combat, which he knew Sheik had saved for last because it was his specialty.
Sheik looked unnatural with a sword. Uncomfortable, even, as he showed Link different swings. Despite his clear lack of ability with them, Link got the point rather easily; jump slashes were difficult while spin attacks were easy. With time, the familiarity of the motions slowly awakened something in his body, and he slipped into a natural rhythm. He practiced long and hard each day, enough to dislocate his arm once (which caused a rumble to cast through the land and knock down a tree), and Sheik forced him to rest once he (painfully) set his shoulder back into place, hands and voice shaking the whole time. About a week later, Link was watching the clouds while breakfast cooked, and he rolled onto his side to face the blonde. His and Sheik’s eyes met immediately.

“So what exactly is this... quest thing?” He asks. Sheik raises an eyebrow and looks back at the food, pushing it around.

“You haven’t even proven you’re ready for it.”

“I mean… I wasn’t ready to wake up, either, so I hardly believe that’s why we haven’t started.”

Sheik let a little snort come out through his nose, and Link took the awkward feeling of the silence and threw it out of reach by taking in his friend’s features.

His eyes, ruby red, glowed like the embers that floated through the sky, mysterious and unsettling all at once. His skin had darkened during their time out in the wilderness together, and Link realized that the sliver under his eyes had always been darker than the rest. Although he never seemed tired, Link knew he was; he had to have been. The only rest he got was the hour or two every night and the occasional catnap Link found him in. Once, he’d fallen asleep in the middle of the pond that Link was learning to swim in! It wasn’t deep enough for Link to worry, but thrice damn it if he admitted he’d constantly hovered within five feet of him for the next hour, checking his breathing points as often as he could. Sheik had woken up and apologized, both for worrying him and not keeping a better eye on him.

Link figured he could watch out for himself. Sheik didn’t need to… what was that word again?

He didn’t need to babysit him. Not anymore at least. He knew how to cook and set up a camp. Now that he’d trained, he knew how to protect himself. And yet, Sheik still hovered over him like an overprotective mother. Link had been training so hard—what other things could be out there that he wasn’t prepared for?

Anyway, Sheik was… he wasn’t sure what the right word was, but he was definitely otherworldly. He had a warm glow around him—red from the ash, orange from the fire, yellow from the sun, and magenta from the sky—and Link wanted so badly for that glow to revert, to envelope Sheik’s soul and warm him, comfort him, from the inside out.

He felt Sheik could use comfort. From what? Still no idea. But he’d do it.

“Why are you still staring at me?” Sheik asks, not looking away from the food. Link blinked, then sat up and brushed away the dirt on the side of his head.

“Are you ever gonna take off that turban?” He asks. Sheik raised an eyebrow.

“Why?”

“Cuz I wanna see your hair.”

“That’s…” A stagnant pause passes, then Sheik moves the food a little harder than usual, “... not a valid reason for me to remove it.”

Link shrugs, “Just letting you know.” And he lies back down, staring at the clouds and trying to make out shapes. He feels Sheik’s eyes on him for a good while, but he pays him no mind. Sheik wasn’t ready, and that was fine with him. And if he wanted to stare at him all day that was fine with him, too.

But the longer Sheik stared, the more Link doubted himself as he replayed his words. Shit. It sounded like he was trying to guilt trip him to take it off, didn’t it? He quickly re-evaluated his statement and then scrambled to sit up.

“I know you’re not comfortable, I… felt like asking,” He explains, “If you end up never taking it off, that’s fine with me. You’re already wasting your free time to teach me all this stuff when you could have let me struggle on my own.” He looks up at Sheik and, before the blonde can retaliate, he continues with, “Not to say I don’t appreciate your help. If it wasn’t for you, I’d probably still smell like shit despite washing and I’d have hair that was too long for me to function in. Like, are you kidding me? I didn’t know how to make soap. I barely knew how to fight.” He shrugs, “If it wasn’t for you, I don’t think I would’ve made it out of that shrine… or ever woken up at all.”

Sheik is silent for a while, eyebrows drawn as they stare at each other. His gaze moves back toward the food and, in a swift movement, it’s out of the pot, settled on a rock Link had cleaned and cleaned until he was sure there was no more dirt on it. It was specifically for their food which, today, was what Sheik called an omelette.

Link couldn’t make them correctly for the love of Hylia.

“It’s not wasting my time if I want to do it,” Sheik says, so quiet and casual that Link nearly misses it. Sheik won’t meet his eyes. “My parents were the ones to watch you before me. My… Grandfather was the one to watch you before them.  Sheikah have long lives, and… I may be young, but I know importance and potential when I see it.” He glances at Link, not even reaching his nose, and says, “... You’re an important person, you know. My parents died protecting you.”

Wait, what? “Sheik I’m… I’m so sorry.”

“It’s fine, I… they didn’t allow me to get too close to them. They knew the time would come, as did I, and as I do now.” He stuffs his hands into his lap, not having anything else to do with them, and the silence continues for as long as it takes Sheik to stop fidgeting—which is fairly long. He reaches up to brush away his bangs and sighs, “... Hyrule is a place known to many as a safe haven. Despite the resurgence of Ganon every couple hundred or thousands of years, its people—Hylia’s people, even those without her faith—have been blessed by the Goddess herself of her divine protection, love, and respect.” He then looks up, staring deep into Link’s eyes, and stays there for a long while. Link knows he’s about to say something else; his statement seems unfinished.

However, Sheik stands and beckons for him to follow, already walking toward the archway. Link scrambles up and follows, doubling back for their omelettes only to leave them when he realizes Sheik has no intention of eating. He jogs after the mysterious man to make his acquaintance, eyes on his posture, his gait, his destination, and he follows him in silence. It hits him all at once, suddenly with no warning, at just how little he really knows about Sheik, the man who woke him from his century-long slumber and quite literally raised him how to live and be a Hylian again. Sheik has given him everything, and in return? Link has repaid him with nothing.

Some Hero I turned out to be.

They pass by what looks like either a giant log or fell tree, past a random yellow flower, and follow what seems like an old pathway before Sheik stops at what appears to be the entrance to a small valley of boulders. He points to a pile of three boulders that are bigger, lighter-colored, and more separated from the rest, and looks at Link.

“Go defeat it,” He says, before crossing his arms. Link glances between Sheik and the boulder, thinking him slightly crazy, but he shrugged instead before summoning a boko club and a bow with two taps to his slate. Despite his doubts, Link takes caution, glancing around… until finally, nothing happens.

Sighing, he takes a normal pace and goes to the boulders, climbing on. He has enough time to look around and at Sheik before the ground shakes, and he ignores it at first, thinking it the usual ground rumbling.

Wrong.

Suddenly, the boulder lifts from the ground, causing him to lose his balance and skid off a couple feet, landing on his back. After thanking every piece of ash in the air he hadn’t returned his weapons to their holsters, he scrambled to his feet and cursed under his breath as he realized what his dumb self had done.

“What is that!?” Link screams, backpedaling as it rises to its full height and then sprinting away as the lumbering assembly of rocks follows him. He glances up to find Sheik doubling over and quickly changes his direction to the left so as not to lead the boulders to him, only to grunt and fall on his ass as he walked right into a beehive. He swiped at the bees, accidentally knocking down the hive, and yelps as he sees a boulder arm—hand?—launch at him, just before he jumps out of the way.

Sheik’s loud laughing has him pouting, and he runs toward the boulders long enough to collect the honey-filled hive with just a tap to their essence before sprinting back off again. He hides behind a tree and peeks around it, sucking in a breath as it threw another boulder arm at him.

“They call this majestic creature the Talus,” Sheik calls out in reply, smug and safe from his spot on the sidelines “This is its most basic form, the Stone Talus. They camouflage as rock formations, as you’ve found out, and are impenetrable to any arrow or weapon.” Link heard Sheik’s snicker as he said that just as he was readying an arrow, and Link huffed as he put the bow back onto his back.

“But everything has a weak spot,” He says to himself. He peaks around again and watches as the Talus slams itself into the ground—which was kind of weird—only to come back up with a new arm.

Right. This asshole had an endless, easily renewable, and powerful weapon.

Link sprints to the next tree, a much bigger one, and edges around it to get a better look.  It throws its right arm and, just before he ducks, it lands against the tree with a satisfying thud and turns into a sprinkle of rocks, much more harmless. The creature stays where it is, perhaps not realizing it can move to better attack him, and he uses that to his advantage to first send a none-too-kind finger Sheik’s way, and then analyze the creature.

As Sheik had said, all he could see at first were rocks, rocks, and more rocks. But as he looked closer, watched it as it launched its other arm then slammed its body into the ground for a new one, he noticed a strange… well, not really a rock, but… well, a jagged black formation on top that sparkled in the sunlight. He pulled out his bow and shot an experimental arrow at it, grinning small at first when it hits its mark then widening when he sees Sheik nod behind it, a shower of sparks blasting from where he’d hit.

That’s it! He mentally cheered, ducking when it threw another boulder. He didn’t want to risk getting hit by one of those nasty-looking things. The last thing he needs is to get a concussion and relearn everything again. He waited for it to throw another boulder, then jumped off the little mini cliff, rolled to his feet, and ran over to grab hold of it when it slammed its side into the ground.

The feeling of getting lifted into the air rather than launched off was odd, but not entirely unwelcome. The moment the Talus had stopped moving, he stood, then tripped when it slammed its other side into the ground. He grabbed on just in time, then yanked himself back up to the top and to his feet.

He balanced on his way over to the black rock and attacked it fervently. A glance out the corner of his eye over at Sheik told him he was doing this right, and he kept attacking and attacking, until suddenly, the Talus shook and, with no other warning, launched him off.

He didn’t realize he was in the air until he landed on the ground on the other side of the valley, his exposed forearm burning from its hard scrape on the ground and side aching when his elbow slammed into his waist. He looked up in his still ringing mind and quickly got to his feet, tripping up the steep hill behind another tree. The boulder crashing against the resilient tree at his back was like thunder directly next to his ears, echoing throughout the forest.

He’d made this thing mad.

And that only made him grin in glee as he realized how to defeat it.

Using his distance to his advantage, he pulled out his bow and arrow and aimed from behind the tree, shooting 3 miserable arrows before his vision righted itself so he could correctly adjust his angle, allowing his next arrows to strike the black mass perfectly. Something orange fell off, but he ignored his immediate curiosity to see what it was. He instead continued to fire, taking cover each time it threw an arm. It seemed fairly easy; it was slow and, literally and figuratively, dense, so his element of speed and tactic was more powerful than the Talus’.

Sheik was right. Brains are better than brawn

Then he took a large rock to the face, eating his own words and falling backwards, staring at the magenta sky. His vision was reeling and nausea settled deep in his stomach, something warm travelling down his face.

strength is good too, though.

With a grunt and a groan, he rolls over behind the tree onto his stomach, blinking as a large boulder flew over where he’d just been and crashing into the ground. With his palms set firmly on the ground, he pushed himself up to his knees, shutting his eyes for a minute to try to get rid of his nausea. When they opened he saw another body kneeling in front of him, hands reaching to gingerly tilt his head up under his chin. He allowed them to, his world of green, grey, and purple shifting into red, crimson, and gold.

“... ou okay?” He hears Sheik ask. He nods and glances behind him to check on the Talus, just as a boulder whizzes by. He huffs and stands, wobbling almost immediately. Sheik catches him by the forearms, already standing.

When did he stand?

“You need to stay down,” Sheik tells him, already pushing him back to the ground. Link resists and shakes his head, wiping his arm across his sweaty face and choosing to ignore the deep red that streaked across both sides of his arm.

“I’ll be fine,” He assures, “... If I get knocked out, then you can come get me. I wanna kick this asshole in his rock hard balls.”

Sheik rolls his eyes and hands him a quarter bottle of red potion. He shakes his head.

“Lemme try without it.”

Sheik raised his hands in defense, “Don’t say I didn’t tell you.”

Link sends him a lopsided grin before turning around, edging around the tree to watch his opponent. His head was much clearer after getting a moment of reprieve despite how quick it was, but it was still a little foggy. He felt pressure on his bicep but didn’t realize at first until he felt a squeeze.

“Come up behind him,” Sheik advised, “His movements are too slow, and you can climb from behind without being hit. Once he shakes, jump off. I find they are among the easiest to fool, but they pack quite the punch.”

“Good idea,” Link says. Sheik just hums in response.

The Talus still has one arm, so he quickly formulates a plan. His eyes flit from one part to the other, analyzing and taking everything in, and then he bends his knees and gets ready.

The moment it throws its remaining arm, he sprints around the other side of the tree and down the hill. He gives the Talus about ten feet of space as he runs a wide arc around it, and while it’s still standing, he leaps onto its back and grabs what he can.

The Talus slams into the ground on the right, then on the left, and Link just barely keeps holding on as he climbs. The world is spinning, his heart is pounding, his hands slipping… The experience is extremely jarring, especially the feeling of his brain rattling around from the sheer force, but he works through it and continues to climb. Once he gets to the top, he quickly pulls out his Boko Club, eyeing the large crack on its side before launching another set of attacks on the black rock.

It happened before he realized. After three or four sets of slashes, he felt the Talus shake, and he readied himself to jump off. There was no way was he going to get thrown off again. He put in one more set of slashes but, in a burst of blue light, his weapon shattered. He gripped at empty air and blinked owlishly, then yelped as he felt the Talus fall forward instead, slamming into the ground. He tripped off and rolled, tipping his head in thought for less than half a moment before sprinting back up onto the top and tapping his Slate for a new club. The talus stood back up, as did he, and he began his ritual of attacking it again, jumping off before it could launch him.

He repeated that a couple more times, cycling through a couple more weapons until eventually, he decided he needed a quick break, wobbling legs guiding him back over to the tree Sheik stood against, wheezing and breathing hard. Sweat was rolling down his body, his muscles quivering and his head now pounding, but he barely felt that in the heat of battle.

Now that he had a break, he could feel all of it; torn muscles, dry blood caked on almost the entirety of the right side of his face and scalp, the searing pain on his fingertips from climbing rocky terrain so quickly and so much, the exposed skin on his forearm from his fall, burning. He ached.

He had pushed himself today, that was for sure.

“If you want a break--”

“No,” Link rasped out. He wiped sweat from his brow right before a boulder flew past, “I’ve almost got him.”

“How many more weapons do you have?”

Link felt a deafening pang of fear go through his body and he quickly yanked the Slate out of its holster, his shaky hands pressing on the screen. When he saw what he had he growled and swore so loud and horribly, it made Sheik take a step back. Link shoved the slate back on his hip, dragging his hands down his face with a groan before reaching behind him. He pulled out his bow and checked his arrow count, more than pleased to find he had a good arrow supply, and another check to his Slate said he was okay on bows, too.

He waited for the second boulder to fly by before coming out from behind the tree, deftly letting arrows fly from his bow and into the mass of black rocks. More and more colorful rocks were falling—some red, some blue, a few yellow—and he realized that the number of falling rocks signaled the creature’s health. He went through four bows before finally deciding it was time, sprinting back down the hill with his second to last boko club materializing in his hand as the Talus slammed itself down to get its other arm back.

He ducked down through the space between its body and arm, turning tightly and jumping onto its back. His fingers protested with sharp stinging that shot up and down his wrist and forearm, but he ignored it, the bloody fingerprints left behind, and the slick feeling on his weapon’s hilts. His entire body protesting, he hit the black rocks hard and fast, jumping off automatically at the last second and jumping back on before it could turn around.

Begging under his breath, he hit and hit and hit, cursing under his breath at every attack the talus resisted falling to. His teeth captured his tongue and bottom lip so hard he nearly bled, then did bleed when he slipped off the Talus and hit his chin on his bicep when he fell on the ground. A taste he distinctly remembered but couldn’t describe filled his mouth, assaulting his taste buds and threatening to travel down his throat. He opened his mouth to unsink his teeth from his bottom lip and stood, gathering up everything in his mouth and spitting it on the ground beside his feet. It was disgusting, he knew, but he needed it gone.

Just as he reached full height, his legs gave out from beneath him and he slammed back into a kneeling position, forcing him to yank out his bow and barrage it with arrows to make up for lost distance from falling. The Talus’ stubby little legs slammed onto the ground as it turned around, still looking unaffected.

“Motherfucker,” He seethed, “You motherfucker! You giant asshole

Fingers stung with each arrow they grabbed and fired, but he ignored them. He ignored everything as well as he could, which ended up ruining him as his last bow shattered in his hands.

“Dammit,” He whispered, “Dammit, dammit, thrice goddess fucking damnit!”

He stumbled onto his feet and dodged to the side as a boulder came flying at him, landing right next to the nearly destroyed weapon he’d so carelessly tossed aside. He hurried over to pick it up, his heart racing as he heard the boulder crash where he’d just been, a couple small rocks flying out over and around him.

He planted his right foot on the ground in front of him and his left knee beneath him, left arm reeling back with his weapon. He was still terrible at this he knew, but…

It’s almost dead.

That was enough for him to take aim, adjusting around the shaking of his hands and arms and the jerks his body made as his heart beat blood hard through his veins. One side of the Talus went into the ground, and then the other.

He was not throwing away his last shot.

Not figuratively, anyway.

He threw his club as hard as he could, falling forward the moment it was out of his hands and summoning a shield—useless, he knew—but just in case.

When he heard and saw his weapon shattering into a million specks of blue and a moment of silence passed, he knew he’d failed. His head bent and he uselessly held his shield, trying to protect himself, flinching as the talus’ giant body fell to the ground.

He waited for it to stand up, then wrenched his eyes open as he heard a poof, then twinkling and things falling onto the ground. A look over his shield revealed all the colorful rocks on the ground where the talus had been, and Sheik’s feet hurrying across the clearing.

The Talus was dead.

With a groan of complete and utter relief, Link’s eyes fluttered shut and his body released its hold on his position, falling forward to the ground.

But instead of feeling his face meeting the hard ground, he felt Sheik catch him and pull him close, ever careful and ever mindful.

“I’ve got you,” Sheik says in his dimming consciousness, “You’ll be okay. I’m right here.”

Link hummed, unmoving, and felt fingers thread through the mostly clean side of his hair, careful and ginger. His body quickly and slowly grew numb as his mind exited consciousness, the stinging grip on his shield a mere memory. He flinched as Sheik spoke, finally finishing his statement from before.

“I want more than anything to return Hyrule to its once peaceful state, and… Hylia choosing you, of all people, to do such a thing, is not the only reason this is not at all a waste of my time, Link. You are Hyrule’s Champion. Our Champion.”

Arms tightened around him, pulling him up, and he feels something bury into his shoulder. He slips his arms around Sheik’s waist, just trying to get something, someone to hold on to as he slipped back into the cold, unforgiving darkness of unconsciousness.

I don’t want to go back to the Shrine, he tries to say, but his lips barely move, his voice doesn’t sound. The arms get tighter to accompany his loss of feeling as he’s finally pushed over the edge, his body falling limp, just in time to hear the last bit of what Sheik had to say.

My Champion.”

Chapter Text

The first thing Link realized when he woke up, with dread… was that he was in water. His body lay submerged up to the back of his jaw, the water lapping at the backs of his ears. Panic immediately set through his blood and he flinched at the force of his fear, a sharp inhale pushing past his lips. The lack of water filling his lungs relieved him only slightly, but it was enough to assure him that he was not back in the shrine of resurrection.
His eyes flipped open and he nearly regretted it. If the sky was any brighter he would have, but the deep purple was easy on his eyes.

Plus, Sheik was in the way of the sun.

“Sheik,” He mumbled, getting the blonde’s attention. He tried to move and stopped immediately when Sheik set a hand on his shoulder with a shake of his head. No words needed to pass his lips for Link to know and accept that he needed rest. He licked his dry lips before rasping out, “Where are we?”

“In our bathing pond,” Sheik explains. Link winces as he realizes how sensitive his hearing is after that fight, causing Sheik to lower his voice considerably, “I must find us another one.”

“Why? We’ve washed literal bird shit off our heads, remember?”

Sheik hummed a chuckle at the memory, “I remember.” He took a handful of water in his palm and used it to scrub at the right side of Link’s scalp, which… wow, that felt good. Fatigue consumed his mind almost immediately and he struggled to keep his eyes open, burning fingers twitching under the soothingly cold water.

“How long have I been out?” He asks, trying to keep occupied. Sheik tips his head and pauses in his work, resuming a few moments later.

“About half a day; it’s evening now. I’m surprised you’re awake… I expected you to wake up in at least two days.”

“Hm… not too bad…”

“Mhm.” Sheik gets another handful of water and continues to scrub, then dumps a few handfuls on his hair before smoothing it out. “The cut is just above your temple. It looks painful, but you should be alright. I recommend giving your fingers a couple days to heal and a day or two for you to relax.” His wet gloves dabbed at where Link could tell the cut was, touch gentle. “You did well.”

“Thanks,” Link breathed, his eyes fluttering shut then widening as he tried again to force himself to stay awake. “... And thanks for patching me up, you… you didn’t need to do that.”

“It’s all right,” Sheik says, “I wanted to. I sent you in blindly, and… for your first blind Talus, you did well. I have tips but you need your rest. And no, I will not tell you now. I will wait until you’re fully coherent so I won’t have to repeat myself seven times.”

Link grinned devilishly, “Damn. And here I was, thinking…” He yawned long and hard, then sighed through his nose as his eyes closed, “... here I was, hoping you’d forgotten.”

“Well, Hero, my memory isn’t as bad as yours.”

That made Link’s eyes and mouth snap open in mock betrayal, “Excuse me?”

That made Sheik chuckle and pick Link up enough so he could slip out from underneath him—apparently, he now realized, Sheik’s legs had become his pillow—and Sheik came around his side, feet sloshing through the water. He hoisted Link up into the air as if he weighed nothing.

“You heard me,” He said, waiting for Link to wrap an arm his around his shoulders before beginning the trek back to the campsite. Despite his words, Link can hear it in his voice; the kind edge, joking manner, and relief all at the same time. Link sets his head down against Sheik’s shoulder, finding it too heavy now that his fatigue was coming back, and grinned when Sheik suddenly tripped a little.

“Yeah, well, my balance is better than yours, Mr. Ninja.”

Sheik chuckles under his breath, “You wish it was.”

Link’s lips lifted into a smile, his eyes closing as he hummed rather than thinking of anything else to say. Despite his best efforts, his injuries had turned from their old spiking, burning pain to a low, dull, warm pounding that furthered his exhaustion. He could barely feel Sheik walking, but he knew it was happening, knew he was restlessly slipping in and out of consciousness.

He woke up when he felt his feet hit the ground—not flat, no, but in a way that made him realize Sheik was laying him down. He wrapped his arms around the blonde’s neck to help, but he knew it wasn’t working. Sheik’s grip remained and even increased in its firm hold on the side of his chest, eliciting an ache he hissed quietly at. My ribs must be bruised, he thought to himself. He remembered this pain all too well from his first attempted Bokoblin fight with a wry, weary chuckle, his eyes opening. He watched as Sheik pulled a long roll of white binding out of his bag, numbly holding up his arm. He could see the red along the bottom of his forearm, exposed flesh waiting to become a scab from when the Talus had launched him off and sent him skidding across the ground. He turned his eyes up to Sheik instead while he wrapped it up, not wanting to see it.

And that was when he paused, snapping awake.

He hadn’t noticed before, but Sheik’s turban was off. What once was a neatly wrapped head was replaced with slightly flyaway strands of gold, his hair fluffy and thick and ever so slightly curled at the ends. A glance to his neck showed it was at about chin length all the way around, hanging ever so slightly like a curtain from the angle he was leaning at.

“Stop staring, it’s rude,” Sheik said, his eyebrows drawn as his eyes lifted away in reservation. He finished wrapping Link’s arm and moved on to Link’s head. “I took it off as a reward, but I didn’t say you could stare.”

Link blinked and looked up at him, just barely hiding a smile as he feigned ignorance, “Hm?”

Sheik must have either thought he was too fatigued to understand what he was doing or saying because he sighed and cocked his head at Link, his eyes unusually soft—or maybe that was just Link’s barely-there consciousness perceiving them that way. His head was foggy, and he struggled to keep his eyes open, especially since Sheik’s hair was so bright against the darkening violet sky.

Ever daring (and perhaps extra courageous from being half lucid), he lifted his right hand towards Sheik’s head, stopping when Sheik flinched and cringed away. He moved his hand farther away from the blonde’s face, wondering what was the problem, then switched hands because he was left-handed, anyway, and his right arm was the one that had gotten injured. Sheik seemed a little more relaxed with this arm, shifting about an inch back into his original position, and Link threaded his hand into Sheik’s hair. He started just over his right ear, moving it back and down and rubbing his thumb over the shell of Sheik’s ear, over the strands of hair hanging over his skin.

By the Goddesses, it was the softest thing he’d ever felt. He felt it was appropriate, since gold was a soft metal for weapons and armor—and he didn’t know how he knew, though that was beside the point—but he thought it fit that what looked like literal gold spun into threads was just as soft as, if not softer than, its metallic counterpart.

His fingers moved so the hair curled around them and ever so slightly tightened his grip, and he felt himself grow distant like he’d lost consciousness but was still there. His eyes moved from Sheik’s hair to his face, his vision darkening, and he saw and felt Sheik lower his head just before it became too blurry for him to see.

A hand gripped his wrist tightly, something soft brushing over his knuckles—Sheik’s bangs, probably--and with that, Link was out like a light.

*~*~*~*~*~

There were things about Sheik that took him longer time than he felt was normal to notice, like his hesitancy to call Link “Hero”; and there were other things that Link noticed immediately, often without a second glance needed.

Sheik was extremely shy, especially about his appearance, and not nearly as headstrong as he tried to appear. Link wondered if it was because of what he supposed was a life lived in mostly solitude thanks to his parents’ death, which never failed to make Link’s heart ache in guilt, no matter how many times Sheik assured him it wasn’t his fault. He also wondered if it was just him making Sheik shy about it; for example, his affection for Sheik’s hair, which differed totally from what he thought it would be, had been loudly and fervently expressed ever since Sheik had taken off his turban.

Sometimes, when Link got too overbearing, he would put it back on, only taking it off with the promise that Link wouldn’t keep staring and trying to play with it. And Link held true to those promises… for as long as he could stand doing so, anyway.

It also reminded Link of his own hair, which he hadn’t seen since he hadn’t been able to walk. When questioned, Sheik had produced a sealed bag from within his other bag.

I tested it out while you were unconscious,” He’d said, “And it drove everything away like I thought—not to mention it smelled horrible—so I'm saving it for an emergency for the journey ahead of us, instead.”

Link still didn’t know what that was all about, and it had been almost five months since he’d woken, according to Sheik. It had now been about a week since he defeated the Talus.

Time passed by quick. He supposed that would make sense, for someone who woke up apparently a—what, a hundred and... sixteen?—A pretty young guy who slept for a full century. That racked up a ton of depressing thoughts and hopes for the future.

Was everyone he knew dead? They’d have to be, right? Nobody—few people, Sheik said—lived to be as old as him without a magical nap aside from the Zora race. Why was he asleep, anyway? Wasn’t he born whenever Hyrule needed him?

So why had he gone to sleep when Hyrule needed him most?

That was what he planned on asking Sheik today as he trekked back with more foraged food in his slate. Sheik was taking one of his steadily more common cat naps, so he respectfully sat on the log across the bare pathway from him, watching him. Sheik’s back was to him, his hair wavy in the back as opposed to its usual straightness outside the turban, despite the unforgiving wilderness.

He really did have nice hair.

In the meantime, Link thought of some questions to ask Sheik. He knew they were nearing their time to leave, as Sheik had looked toward the ominous castle more and more these days and had prepared by sharpening his weapons. Link figured he needed to know about this quest he would undertake, lest he go into it oblivious and die right off the bat.

Which Sheik had even warned him not to do, so maybe… maybe Sheik would even be proud by him trying to prepare.

At that thought, he jumped as Sheik suddenly sucks in a sharper breath than usual and tenses up on the ground, his right hand flying to a kunai on his right thigh—the most recently sharpened one, Link realized—and hovering there. Link waited patiently and silently, watching him remain tense for another minute before he relaxed on the ground and slowly rolled onto his back, sighing.

Link gave him a minute of respectful silence before clearing his throat quietly and licking his lips, opening his mouth to speak.

Except he couldn’t decide what to say. Sheik didn’t move, but he knew the blonde knew he was there, had known since he became conscious, and was a little glad when Sheik didn’t look at him.

His mouth closed for a moment, his hands clenching and unclenching. Some other things had been weighing on his mind as of late, and before he could wuss out, he opened his mouth and asked.

“When did your parents die?” He asks, voice soft. Sheik looks at him slowly, eyebrows drawn in confusion, then looked away for a moment as if he needed to remember.

He was young, Link thought immediately, heart sinking. Sheik wouldn’t need to think about it, otherwise.

“When I was… eight,” Sheik says after a while. Link shifted uneasily.

“And… how old are you now?”

The air went silent, but not still; Sheik was just thinking again, and the birds were still tweeting, animals still chittering from deeper within the forest. He tensed for just a moment as Sheik sat up, his fingers fiddling with the cloak he still always wore.

“I’m twenty,” Sheik finally says, almost in a whisper. Link does the math quickly; that meant his parents died at least twelve years ago—maybe thirteen—and if Link had woken up three years prior and no one else was on the plateau…

… that meant Sheik had been entirely alone for at least nine years, had maybe a few minutes of respite, and then another three spent alone again.

Link’s throat felt tight now, and his gaze lowered to the floor. What kind of hero was he, practically killed by such a simple beast, unable to protect his kingdom, and requiring such aid that caused children to become abandoned because their parents were trying to carry out some kind of sick duty? What kind of person had he been before his slumber? What kind of people were the Goddesses for bestowing upon their people such an incompetent hero to save them all?

The next thing he felt was Sheik’s hands on his shoulders, firm and gentle all at once, and he realized he’d been shaking. With a few deep breaths he had mostly calmed, but the shake remained in his hands. Sheik knelt in front of him and encased both of his hands in his own, and for a couple moments, Link focused on the size of Sheik’s hands. They were smaller than his own, bandaged fingers slender and long, and warm at first contact but shifting quickly into an unsettling cold.

“It wasn’t your fault,” Sheik murmurs, as if he’s consoling a child. When once that would have been slightly offending, Link feels he needs that kind of reassurance right now. “You… you had no choice in sleeping. You did your best, and we appreciate that more than you could know.” He waits until Link’s eyes are on him before he squeezes, then stands, pulling Link along with him. He leads Link around the log and through the forest, toward the Temple of Time.

“There were many people who died that day, yes,” Sheik began. Link’s heart immediately sank. “... But absolutely no one was ready. Calamity Ganon had taken over the Divine Beasts and killed their pilots mercilessly and painfully. He had also taken over the Guardians and our other mechanical means to fight.” He glanced behind him at Link, “You were doing your job, protecting the Princess. You both tried as hard as you were able, and… they put you to sleep for a century in order to heal. The Princess has locked Ganon within the castle for the same century, and Hyrule became what it is now.” They exited the forest and, once they reached the pathway, walked to the left, past where the Chuchus had been.

“Hyrule is… different,” Sheik continues, “... But not entirely caked in blood, as it once was. Zelda continues to hold Ganon in check, but is weakened by the day.”

That didn’t grip him well, but he refrained from speaking.

“She waits for us, for you, to come to her aid, but she is an ever learning, patient woman. She knows her Knight must and wants to do his best, and she is patient for you, just as you must be with yourself. Of course, doesn’t mean we can lollygag…” They continue walking to a mass of boulders with something sticking out, pointy and intricate, and Sheik let go of his hand and grabbed a kunai, aiming at the Bokoblin who guarded it.

“... but it doesn’t mean you need to worry about people waiting for you, about the lives you haven’t or failed to save.” He looked at Link and slowed his walking, eyes full of sincerity, and he finishes with, “... Because I believe you will one day return Hyrule to its peace, and Hylia’s people will be thankful. Enough time has passed that the cost matters little.”

At the grunt of the Bokoblin noticing them, Link pulls out his Boko Club, one of his replenished many, and charges in after Sheik chucks his kunai at it and hits it right between the eyes. It tripped and got up just before Link reached it, wobbling with its eyes crossed. He attacked it relentlessly, cycling through a couple clubs just because they sucked, and when he finally defeated it with only a cracked club this time, he grinned to himself and tapped everything it dropped, transporting it instantly to his Slate’s magical inventory without even touching the device. He picked up Sheik’s kunai last, wiping the blade off on his still-too-small shirt and handing it back, following the blonde to the structure with a small grin. He felt better already.

It was actually a nice-looking spot for a camp, basically a little cave with easily defendable openings, and Link was about to ask why they didn’t take it over when he noticed there was a pedestal meant for his slate. He took it off his hip as they approached, hopping onto what looked like a floor first and holding his hand out to Sheik. Either he didn’t take it or he didn’t notice it (his head was down, checking where he was stepping), but Link didn’t mind the lack of warmth in his hand—not really, anyway. He turned around and moved to the pedestal, leaning side to side to inspect it for anything extra before placing it where it went. The slate moved until it lied flat and flipped over, and then the raised circular surface turned so the lines matched back up and, with a gentle sound of (he assumed) stone on stone, it pushed itself back into the pedestal.

Sheik cleared his throat and, when Link turned around, Sheik was closer—almost too close. Sheik’s hand pressed against his chest, fingers splaying, and pushed him closer to the pedestal as the earth shook beneath their feet.

“Need to watch for falling rocks,” Sheik said, edging in front of him. He looked, from what little Link could see, excited and nervous all at once, his hip and hand pressing against the pedestal.

And then both of their knees buckled as the structure they were standing on shook violently and shoved up into the air, causing them both to lose their balance and the cave-like rock formation to split apart and shoot out to the surrounding ground. For Link, falling was almost too easy; Sheik, on the other hand, stumbled wildly for a moment before the force of the rising structure pushed him to the ground. Before he could hit the floor, Link had grabbed him and hugged him close, grunting when Sheik’s head smashed into his chest, dangerously close to his chin, as the structure continued to move up.

“More like need to watch for falling Sheiks,” Link joked. Sheik punched him as well as he could but didn’t move from his spot. Link, meanwhile, was tense, glancing around uneasily; what in Hylia’s name was going on?

At a point, the rising was no longer fast or forceful enough for it to push them to the floor, and Sheik sidled one hand between the right side of Link’s chest and his arm and the other hand by his shoulder, pushing himself up. Link waited patiently, mostly because his hair had caught under Sheik’s hand, and once Sheik had his hands off the ground he sat up and scooted back so he could properly see him—only to stumble to his feet in awe.

The tower had risen high into the sky, allowing him to see… maybe not everything, but definitely a lot. To his right in the distance was a large mountain—no, two that looked like they used to be one, split apart in the middle. The volcano he’d seen before was a bit to the left, looking dangerous but not currently threatening

As he looked back at the mountain, he noticed with glee that other things just like the one he was on were rising, shining the same bright orange as they rose from the ground. The tower slammed to a stop so hard that it made him rise in the air a few inches for a moment, but he hardly noticed as he stumbled over to the pillar and grabbed on, his eyes travelling the expanse of the land. Rolling hills and smaller mountains separated him and the big, split mountain and an assortment of collapsed buildings with destroyed flags. Link tried not to think about them too much and moved on to his right, finding a giant bridge, two more tall orange things and, within walking distance on the plateau, a smaller orange building, encased within a destroyed structure.

He moved on to his right, spotting the Temple of Time and its background of white mountains easily. His eyes went to the immediate left where flat, orange-brown mountains sat, a stark contrast to the white mountains, green hills, and dark purple sky. On the plateau in the same direction, Link saw movement within the trees, but he was too excited; he moved on quickly, looking at the horizon overtop the forest he and Sheik had made their home in. There lay similar mountains to the ones he’d just seem, but these had white fluff on the top of them (which, a glance over confirmed that a few parts of the other mountains had this same fluff), clouds settled at their tips.

He moved more to the right and found more tan colored mountains, and a strange, curved building partially hidden behind a smaller mountain. Moving more to the right, he saw three more orange structures and another orange building on the plateau—which, how he hadn’t noticed it before, he did not understand. It was visible from their bathing pond! He wanted to smack himself for that, but some motion in the skies distracted him.

Between the tan mountains and the furthest two orange sticks with the angular mountain they adorned was something flying through the sky, not shifting any of its body parts but still moving. It moved in a circle, the longer he watched, and a memory tugged at him until he remembered. It was the thing he’d seen while waiting for Sheik at the Temple of Time, so long ago! As soon as he finished looking around, he would ask Sheik what it was immediately. His eyes raked over the landscape, finding a large lake with a small forest he felt a strange tug toward, but before he could dwell on it too long he noticed it. His eyes dragged up and, where his joyful smile had once been, now lied a serious, stern expression. He moved to a small, circular ledge and stepped on it, ignoring Sheik’s fearful gasp as he grabbed the back of Link’s shirt, and looked toward the castle.

Surrounding it was… it was hard to describe what it was, being a man of few words (usually) and with little vocabulary after his hundred-year sleep, but what it looked like to him was a fog, of sorts, but menacing, filled with… with fear, evil, malice. Magenta streams flitted about, looking something akin to fire, but—

He remembered so suddenly that he had to take a step back, into Sheik’s waiting arms. That’s where those strange embers were coming from! The ones that had floated through the air ever since he had woken, ever menacing and ever-present. Even now they floated about, so much more like a dream than a reality that Link had gotten so used to them, he never noticed them anymore.

“There lies Calamity Ganon,” Sheik says, stirring him from his thoughts. He doesn’t need pointing to know Sheik means Hyrule Castle; he engulfs the wrist of Sheik’s pointing hand in his, just holding it, feeling the weight in his hands and using it to ground himself as he looks at the signs of the presence of what had caused his birth.

What had destroyed his kingdom.

And, more importantly, what had killed Sheik’s parents.

All of a sudden, a soft golden light emanated from the castle, weak and flickering but there. Sheik sets his chin on Link’s shoulder.

“That is Princess Zelda… saying hello,” Sheik says. Link smiles weakly, but pain and guilt ebbs through his body the longer he stares. “... She is too weak to extend her voice to you, so she does through me.” Link sends him a curious glance but doesn’t ask him to evaluate. Sheik’s grip tightens before he pulls away, “She says not to mourn for her, and that you could not have changed what happened… no matter what.”

There was an edge to his voice that Link became wary of, knowing there was something Sheik was keeping from him, but he relented and let go of Sheik’s arms and hand. He felt the presence—the warmth behind him move to his right side and his eyes followed, attaching to ruby red orbs that gazed over an unfamiliar Hyrule, to thick strands of gold hair fluttering in the breeze, to what was visible of his skin that had become more tan since they’d met, slowly edging into a warm bronze under the sun’s rays of heat and light. Link watched him for a while, taking in the careful expressions he allowed to show on his face, and then froze as Sheik turned to him and said,

“She also says she might be dying.”

Chapter Text

They’d made their camp atop what Sheik called a tower in a dull, slow, and quiet manner. Link was perhaps the quietest he’d been the entire time they’d been there, which he knew concerned Sheik, but…

How Link himself felt right now didn’t matter. Link was fine—physically, at least. Mentally? He wasn’t so sure.

But what terrified him was that he didn’t know if he could say the same for Zelda.

“Dear Goddesses,” He huffed yet again, rubbing his face with both hands. The tower had three exit holes, one open and the other two filled with rocks and boulders. Link had made one of the rock fillings his seat, looking toward the castle over the pedestal. He felt a comfort in the Slate’s weight against his hip and the rocks digging into his back, but they did nothing to mask the unease that settled deep in Link at the sight of the fire-like bog that remained, taunting, threatening—beckoning him to charge in and fight and suffer the same fate he had 100 years ago.

“You need sleep,” Sheik’s voice cut into his thoughts. Link had ignored him every other time but this time, he knew he couldn’t. Intense fatigue laced Sheik’s voice and when Link looked over, his eyes were fluttering rapidly as he tried to stay awake, still concerned all the while.

“You need it more,” Link said, looking away, “I could use a night without it.”

Sheik dejectedly sighed but had given up on arguing, shifting so he was curled up on the floor in front of the pedestal. He tugged his cloak over him like a blanket for warmth and his bag emptied into the slate’s inventory (adding a bunch of fruits, nuts, and vegetables) then re-organized for a proper pillow.

Silence gripped the air as the sun dipped below the top of the fluff-topped brownish red mountains, at the edge of Link’s gaze, and he stared and thought for a long while. He dragged up what he could remember of his mini “history lessons” with Sheik, pondering over the people Hylia had created, wondering if they were all right. The Gerudo he knows the most about—a predominantly women-based race that known for their strong warriors and exotic beauty—that birthed a male only once every one hundred years. How did that even work? What determined who births the male? What were the odds of doing such a thing? Was he as devastatingly gorgeous as the rest of them? Did he even fit into their society? Link had too many complicated questions needing even more complicated answers for Sheik, seeing as he had ignored all of these when he had asked him. Sounded fishy to him… and speaking of fish, what did the Zora look like, being humanoid fish? He couldn’t even imagine a humanoid fish—how did it stand? With its fins? He shook his head, dismissing the thought. They were probably ridiculous to see and not too pleasing to look at.

And what of Link’s own people? What were they like? What had they gone through during the Calamity and all that had followed? How many had survived? Hylia Above, how many had hoped and prayed for him--Link, The Chosen Hero--to save them while they perished from his many failures?

Did they, in his absence, even know he existed? Or had they erased him from their narratives, leaving the legend of their Hero in the dust they thought he had become?

Link was unsure about everything. Who he used to be, what he had once stood for… even what he had died for. But, to him, one thing is abundantly clear; this world needs a Hero, and Sheik believes that Hero is Link. With support like that behind him, who was Link to deny that maybe he might be right? Sheik was always right.

The moon was only about three hours in the sky when Link finally shook himself out of his endless questions and soul searching; finally turning his attention to Sheik. He was shivering despite the warmth his muffler and cloak brought him, and Link wondered if it was the lack of a turban that had caused this, letting heat escape through his head. He carefully slid down the rock and tiptoed over to the blonde, kneeling down and reaching over to brush his bangs out of the right side of his soft face. Sheik shivered in response, then shook more violently, his eyebrows scrunching more than they had been.

Nightmares again, Link thought grimly. They’d only seemed to increase as of late, and Link wished Sheik would just tell him why. Did he not think him capable of helping?

Link knew he could find a way if… if he looked hard enough. Dumbly, he glanced around the top of the tower, shaking his head in response to his own stupidity. He watched Sheik for another few moments, witnessing him jerk and make a soft, hummed whine of protest through his nose. When his heart immediately tore into pieces at the sound of his distress, Link lied down behind him and wrapped his arms around Sheik’s torso, pulling him close so they rested chest to back, the bend in their knees matching up and settling within each other.

A few more jerks and whimpers made Link fear his idea hadn’t worked, but soon enough, Sheik’s breathing evened back out as he relaxed, unaware of the situation. Link closed his eyes and settled his face in the space between Sheik’s shoulder blades, snuggled up as close as he could be to give Sheik space yet still receive warmth, and finally allowed himself to drift off to sleep.

*~*~*~*~*~

When Sheik woke up and felt pressure around his waist, he feared for the worst, looking down to check for a knife pointed to his skin or a glowing white metal glove. But what he saw instead were arms with sleeves too short, skin pale and riddled with goosebumps from the chill. He also expected the moon to be high in the sky—no, he expected it to be lower, the sun still disappearing beyond the horizon—but a glance around the roof of the tower revealed that it was morning.

And he was warm like he was back in Gerudo Desert surrounded by his friends—his sisters and mothers, they’d insisted he call them—disguised as a vai back in Gerudo town, dancing with the people he loved.

With the person he loved.

He forced the memory out of his head and shifted away as much as he could, only to freeze when he realized just how close they were. He carefully shifted his hips forward, away from Link’s, and rolled his eyes at the grumble through the ground, huffing.

“Shut up, old man,” He mutters under his breath, “He’s the one who spooned my ass.”

The ground rumbled, more violently this time, and Sheik was quick to ignore the fear that went through his body. He found little comfort in the knowledge that he couldn’t hurt him here, especially not with Link so close by, and desperately tried to ignore the memory lingering in the back of his mind, the left side of his face burning in phantom pain.

He unwraps and unveils his left arm from the cloak, using it to grab and lift Link’s right arm off and into the space behind his ass he’d just made. Trying to ignore how fingers brushed over his clothed skin when the arm dropped, he flipped to his left, onto his stomach, and brought his right arm out of the cloak to push himself up onto his haunches with a sigh. A glance at Link made him first wish to leave him alone, let him continue sleeping in his peaceful (albeit cold) sleep… but a glance to the plateau reminded him they still had work that Link was probably eager to do.

He crawled over and hesitated, watching Link sleep peacefully for another few seconds before grabbing his shoulder and shaking it, pushing away his guilt by reasoning it with he slept for an entire century, he can’t possibly be tired.

But as always, the Goddesses loved to prove him wrong at every opportunity. Link didn’t stir at first, so he switched to ruffling his hair to wake him. Finally, Link’s arms and legs curled like he was pulling Sheik closer, but when he realized Sheik wasn’t there, his eyes slowly opened and blinked tiredly at the blonde.

Sheik immediately mouthed apologies under his muffler, but he chose not to say them aloud. Link’s hands reached up to rub at his eyes and he rolled onto his back with a quiet groan, feet pointing out as he stretched. After he stretched his arm, then twisted to crack his back, his body sagged into the stone beneath him. Then he huffed and reached up to his hair, carefully taking out his makeshift hair tie and mussing up his hair by their roots, cringing now and then. Then he let his head settle back down on the floor.

“Remind me not to sleep with my ponytail in,” He mumbled, “... and to sleep somewhere more comfortable. Ugh.”

Sheik smiled weakly beneath his muffler, not realizing just how stiff he was himself until then. He stood and stretched, moving to his bag just as Link opened his eyes back up and rummaging through it. He grabbed one of their bars of soap and tossed it to Link, snorting as Link missed catching it entirely and it slid across the floor. Sheik closed his bag up while Link retrieved the soap, slinging his backpack over his back. He pointed toward their bathing pond.

“I will go bathe first,” He says, “Take your time in climbing down and coming over. Stick to the direct path, since it should be relatively clear… and if not, you know how to defend yourself, and how to call for me.”

Link nodded, then looked around as Sheik walked past him and to one of the circular ledges, facing the Temple of Time. “How do I get down?”

“Figure it out.” Sheik pats his arm and then turns around to give him a sarcastic thumbs up, adding a, “Don’t die.” before jumping off and pulling out the paraglider. He ignores Link’s complaints as he glided toward the bathing pond, especially once they became lost from the distance and height. He came to the ground rather gracefully, considering he’d pulled out the glider rather early, and looked up at the top of the tower. He heard Link’s voice but not his words, and returned the finger Link had flashed at him, smiling under his muffler.

He really was different from… how Sheik thought he’d be.

With that thought souring his mood he turned around and made his way to the pond, ignoring the ache in his leg that his kunai had pressed in during his slumber and reassuring himself that the pond would help.

He felt a shake under his feet and sighed. “The Hero will not survive well if he doesn’t try things alone, your Highness.” He looks up as he approaches the pond, his sight directed at the shadow of a tree, and catches the wispy eyes of the late King of Hyrule as he appears.

His cheek burns a searing pain as he glances down at the King’s hands. He can’t hurt you like this.

“Yet you still abandon him, regardless,” The King says, his voice gruff and deep with his age, refusing to stare death in the face and just fade away. Sheik wished it did as he moved toward the far side of the fallen log, his hands shaking as he removed his bindings.

“I didn’t abandon him,” He says, but his voice betrays him. He no longer looks into the eyes of the King but rather at his own feet, fingers mindlessly removing his scarf, his clothes, his muffler. He grabs another bar of soap from his bag and washes his face first, submerged under the water so he didn’t have to speak to him and so he could cover it back up again before Link reached him.

“You’re too close to him,” The King spits when he emerges. Sheik dries off his face, ignoring his left jaw and the left end of his lips, and pulls his muffler back on as quickly as possible. He glances around to make Link hadn’t arrived.

“I’m not,” He says, and silences when the King’s potent anger makes the ground split underneath his leg.

Please go away, He pleads, Please, Goddesses, make him go away. I beg you, Hylia. And in a prayer he’d sworn years ago he would never allow to cross his mind, that he swore he’d never admit, he added, Please… I’m scared.

The King crosses his arms and, as if the Goddesses had half heard him, the air thins of its anger and King Hyrule appears to calm down. Sheik swallowed before trying again, this time in more of a joking manner.

“Besides,” He says, and when he meets the King’s eyes, he can’t fully meet them, but he forces himself to anyway with a fake, wry smile, “It’s not my fault for getting too close when you’re the one telling me to stay by his side all day, every day.”

He waits for the entire plateau to open wide and engulf him whole, but the King… chuckles? The King chuckles and sighs, uncrossing his arms.

“I suppose you’re right,” He says, and Sheik feels relief flood through his veins, just like his fear had. “He will be here soon… I will take my leave.”

Sheik nodded, relieved to be back to business, relieved for him to go. “I’m hoping to have him start on the shrines today.”

“That would be wise.” The King turns and slowly disappears, looking in what Sheik assumed was the direction of Link, and the blonde quickly set to finish washing himself. He stopped for several moments once the King added something else, and his grip on the soap relaxed so he was no longer putting indents into it. After a solid minute of remaining still, he resumed.

Sheik finished washing and redressing before Link arrived. Link told him about what happened—he remembered that he could fall quite a distance without getting hurt and had jumped down the stair-like ledges—and Sheik congratulated him on his discovery. He moved to the other side of the tree to give Link some privacy as he bathed, refusing to take a nap where he had stood, and stood up on his own once Link finished, pretending not to notice the hand offered to help him up.

You’re too close.

Sheik moved and pointed toward the closest shrine, which could be seen from the pond. It hadn’t glowed before but now it did, lit orange like the setting sun when the sky was once blue instead of purple.

“That is a Shrine,” He says, “And no, those are not for sleeping in.”

“Oh, good.” Link shivered, “Never again.”

Sheik raised an eyebrow but ignored it, beckoning for Link to follow as he walked. “There are four on the plateau, all within viewing distance of the tower. Your slate now has a map, if you didn’t notice, and a couple other tricks you can use—but not many.”

“Wait, a map?” Link yanks the slate off his hip and opens it, cursing, “Damn, I should’ve paid attention to it when I put it in the pedestal.”

Sheik shrugs, “It’s still important to look over your surroundings and your kingdom in person.”

Link hums in response, then skips up to Sheik’s side and walks with him. Sheik remembers the King’s words and sends the Goddesses—Farore in particular—another prayer he doesn’t deserve to make.

“So… what does it do?” Link asks. He hops over a rock while Sheik shrugs.

“I know not. Only a certain person can open it, and that person is you.”

Link doesn’t reply, looking up toward and around the shrine with calculating eyes. He pouted when his eyes focused on a camp of bokoblins in the nearby man-made stream, atop rafts carried by Octoroks—an enemy Link had yet to meet, luckily for him. They wouldn’t be close enough to attack, but it was good he’d noticed.

“Can you come with me?” Link asked.

“I—what? No. I don’t think so, at least.” Sheik frowned to himself, reaching up and adjusting his muffler. Link was watching him like a hawk now; fortunately, his returned death glare seemed to do the trick. Link crossed his arms and pouted like a child. “Why would you need me, anyway? I’m sure it’s easy enough.”

“Oh, sure, Mr. Everything’s-Easy-For-Me.”

Sheik rolled his eyes, “I mean… some things are. I’ve been awake here at least... forty times longer than you have.”

“Don’t rub it in! I just woke up.”

“I literally just said th—Goddesses, you’re insufferable.”

Link shot him a grin before skipping to the shrine, waving Sheik off when the blonde tried to protest and pull him back to his side. Sheik rolled his eyes, adjusting his muffler once more before crossing his arms and coming to a stop at the end of the shrine. He watched Link as he pulled the slate off his hip and hesitatingly lowered it to the pedestal, snickering when Link suddenly dropped into a crouch as the shrine turned blue and the ground shook from the doors opening.

Link cast Sheik a look over his shoulder, worrying at his bottom lip, and Sheik sighed before shooing him off toward the inside. He was curious to see if he could go inside, but he knew he couldn’t.

Especially not after… well.

“I’ll be nearby,” Sheik says, “Just call for me.”

After several long moments, Link gave him a tentative nod, glancing between the blonde and the shrine before finally releasing a long sigh. He settled the slate back on his hip, rolled his shoulders, then strode into the shrine.

Silence. Then a ping.

“You looked ridiculous,” Sheik called out, fingers hooking into his muffler. Stone slid on stone.

“What?”

“Nevermind!”

There was no response aside from the low hum of the shrine as it guided Link to his trial (maybe the faint voice of his protesting whines… or was that the wind?), submerging Sheik back into a silence that soon filled with the sounds of nature, as if nothing had happened.

Sheik sighed. He remembered this all too well—this kind of noise, these sounds. The world was never at ease anymore.

He levelled his gaze back on the castle, watching as it spewed out its embers from the top of the tallest spire and sent them all over Hyrule, painting the sky with an overlay of red to turn it purple. It wasn’t so bad, now; despite the glow of the embers, they never reflected onto anything else until it was that night, when the monsters of Hyrule reigned at their peak and walking felt more like swimming through oil and mud.

He was glad it was more rare now, which had spared him hours of consolation in the event Link was even conscious for it. The last time it had happened was, coincidentally, the same night the Champion had woken.

Did Ganon know, or had it been a coincidence?

A golden aura wrapped around his soul, entwining with his blood and freeing his mind from the mess it had become, even if just for a moment. On one hand, he was grateful for the distraction; on the other, however, he knew what doing this meant.

“Go,” He says. His voice feels like steel, but sounds entirely opposite; clearly he couldn’t keep a lid on himself. “Reserve your strength. I’ll be fine.”

The aura prodded at his feelings and he raised a hand to hover over his button, giving a wisp of light a halfhearted glare. It—she—immediately backed away; so did his hand.

He didn’t have to tell her again. Zelda’s aura slipped from his body after uttering a soft but meaningful goodbye for now, returning to the castle quicker than he would’ve liked.

Sighing, he tapped the button to expel the rest of her aura so it could go back to her and offer her strength. In the meantime, he walked over to a spot beside the shrine and sat down, leaning against the stone behind him. His eyes met the sky once more, then he reached up and fingered the edge of his muffler.

He didn’t take it off.

Chapter Text

Seeing that this shrine did not have a box filled with water was very comforting to Link.  He knew Sheik already said there wouldn’t be, and it wasn’t like he didn’t trust him, it was just… he didn’t take that memory well.

He had a few seconds to survey the fairly empty room; there was a pedestal to the side and a large, dark square section on the floor that shone in the light.  As the platform got lower, he realized it wasn’t part of the floor, but rather placed onto the floor.  He threw his arms out to balance himself when the platform hit the ground and, when the bright blue wall around him faded most of the way, he stepped out.  It was only a couple steps in before he froze at the sound of a voice reverberating throughout the shrine, seemingly within his mind.

To you who sets foot in this shrine…” The voice said, “...  I am Oman Au.  In the name of the Goddess Hylia, I offer this shrine.

When the voice disappeared, he deemed it all right to move.  He walked over to the pedestal and pulled his slate out, sticking it in and watching as, a few moments later, the large rock above it lit up blue.  At the bottom gathered a droplet of glowing blue liquid of some sort, sliding down and condensing until finally, it made a droplet large enough to separate from the rock from its weight and land on the screen of the slate.

When the slate first changed screens, he wondered if the liquid had messed it up somehow and he reached toward it with a pout.  However, he paused when he noticed a red symbol appearing within one of several boxes on the screen, a title overhead and a description below.

Neither of which he could read.

The pedestal moved to hand his slate back out and he took it, messing around with it. The moment his finger settled on the red symbol, everything was covered in straight red lines that followed his point of view, ever perpendicular to his body, lighting up the giant square like a Christmas tree.

… Whatever that was.  Link shook the thought out of his head, intending to ask Sheik later, and looked toward the square, jumping when the closer half turned yellow.

“Uh,” He glanced between his slate and the rectangle several times, wondering what to do, and with a shrug, he raised the slate so its screen faced the rectangle.

The slate suddenly pushed his hands away and onto a semi-circle shaped item with long sides.  The item hovered off the ground, lit up with continuously moving yellow lines and somehow attached to the mysterious item in his hands with what looked like colorful ropes.

And then he realized that the objects of light didn’t even exist, aside from the Sheikah Slate under his chin that seemed to create this strange work of light.

So… magic?

He took an experimental step to the side and grinned as the rectangle followed his movements, and he kept going to get it out of the way of what appeared to be a hole in the floor.  Once he saw a ladder, he stood still for a while, then tried to stop what he was doing with a thought, as he did with the random items he collected.

It worked splendidly!… Almost too well.  The Sheikah Slate fell with a clatter to the floor, long gone when his hands emptily clapped together in his attempt to catch it.  He nearly pouted, but knowing how to turn that thing off was enough to keep the smile on his face. He picked it up and put it back on his hip, walking over to the ladder and pausing as he wondered how to get down.  Eventually, he gave up and jumped, far too lazy to dance to get onto the ladder.

The first thing he noticed was the water.  Luckily it wasn’t touching him but, rather, it was in a canal beside him.  It looked deep—too deep to stand in, which he considered too deep without Sheik around.  The second thing he noticed was that the room was actually a hall, allowing him to turn on his heel and jog off toward the other end.

Which apparently just contained a staircase.

He shrugged and took the stairs two at a time, only to come into another, bigger room.  Part of the wall in front of him looked fake, composed of several grey squares and one black square.  Experimentally, he pulled out his slate and activated, uh… he called it Red U.

At the thought alone, his slate emitted the same red light from before that curled and twirled around the edges of the device, and his eyes returned to the square of squares.  The black square was lit up in red, switching to yellow when he locked onto it and then knocking over part of the wall once he grabbed and moved it and himself, then stepped back to pull the square back, narrowly missing the staircase.

He cleared a path for himself, although it was slightly haphazard (one of what were apparently cubes was just barely settled on top of another), but he turned off Red U and tried to catch the slate again.

He failed.  But that was fine.

With a grunt he leaned down and swiped it up, settling it back onto his waist as he walked to the blocks.  They were tightly knit, almost too tight, forcing him to squeeze through an uncomfortably long fit between two of the cubes.  He hopped out the moment he was able and continued to walk, glaring at the canals in the floor that housed water.  It was only high enough to reach his chest if he were to jump in, but he wasn’t planning on that, so—

The sound of something metal hitting the floor several times startled Link so badly that he jumped, his hand flying to the Boko club on his back as he turned.  A strange, four-legged object—a monster, maybe?—was walking toward him, its head dome-shaped with a single circle for an eye. They both stopped barely a foot away, staring at each other, and just when he wondered whether it was friend or foe, it made a noise and blasted him into oblivion.

It should have knocked him unconscious, is what should’ve happened; his body slammed into a wall, his right arm burning intensely where he had foolishly forgotten to equip his shield.  He was almost glad to fall into the water below, though the freezing liquid traveling through his nose started a panic he had not felt since he had awoken. Flailing about he used what strength he had at that moment to stand and hurry to duck against the side of the walkway he’d been on, just barely blocking him from his attacker’s next laser shot. Taking advantage of this cover he dared to glance down at his arm, sighing as he glared at his new wound.

The arm that had been healing, that he’d spend the last month waiting and itching to get the bandages off of, was injured once again.  His elbow and forearm were burning, the top few layers of his skin blackened and smelling like burnt flesh.  He huffed in irritation before bending over and settling his wound in the water, trying to lessen the heat, and debated pulling up his sleeve so the last several inches of the cloth wouldn’t attach to his skin. One agonizing attempt of that forced him to leave it alone.

Great.  Now he had an enemy he hated more than the Talus.

Link summoned a shield into his hand this time, ignoring the pain as he stood and walked around the structure.  He found a ladder rather quickly—two, actually—and scrambled up one as best as he could with his cooking arm, trying to put more distance between him and the enemy.

However, things were not on his side that day.  The moment he was over the ladder, it had already spotted him with a few beeps and was on its way. When he tried walking toward it, it backtracked faster than he could run.  But this time he spotted it loading up its laser, which comprised a few blue rings of light pulsing around its single eye, and threw his shield up just in time.

It shattered immediately, not that he expected anything else, and he stood there for a couple moments trying to figure out what to do.  He didn’t want to keep pulling out shields; that would be a waste! And he doubted he could take another hit without submitting to unconsciousness for a good while, and—with a glance behind him—with unconsciousness came drowning.

So with a glance to his right as its laser reloaded, he decided the safest place for would be back in the other room.

His sprint over to the blocks wasn’t easy; the enemy fired on him quickly, and his duck was nearly in vain.  He felt a weight off his head when it fired, and when he reached back to touch his hair, he found that the laser had singed the ends.  He quickly pat it out as he reached the cubes, squeezing through the gap he’d unintentionally made and bursting back out into the other room as quickly as he could.

Panting, he set the hand of his good arm on his bent knees and held the other arm to his chest, trying not to let the burning affect him.  The pain was attacking his mind in waves, almost debilitating—actually debilitating, once he realized he was on his knees with his forehead pressed to the floor.  Sucking in a long breath through his teeth he forced his eyes open and his body to his feet, wobbling as he walked toward the stairs going down.  They were more than he’d realized, probably twice as many as he thought, and he realized with a dry thought it was because he’d gone up two at a time before.

He kept his hand on the wall as he made his way down, humming through his exhale.  Luckily his legs hadn’t taken the hit, but he was soaking wet from his fall into the waist-deep water, so walking down the steps was undesirable.

Not to mention, he hadn’t gone up any stairs outside of their occasional visit to the Temple of Time, so he was still unsure about using them.

Fortunately, he made it down the steps, his boot-clad feet feeling remaining stable.  He knew if they hadn’t been on, his wet skin would have slipped on whatever in Hyrule these steps were made of and cracked his skull open.  Probably died. He let his left hand sink into his hair to scrub at his scalp, trying to calm himself as he moved and sat at the edge of the walkway, beside the quick-moving water.  He eyed it warily, flitting through the deepest areas before he finally shrugged. Clenching his fist, he bit back a cry of pain and used his left arm to move onto his stomach, perpendicular to the canal so he could slip his right arm in without trouble.

And by the Goddesses, he hated to admit that it felt good. The cool, smooth liquid was gentle on his injury, despite its slightly terrifying speed, and eased the searing pain in his arm into a dull throb within the first minute—but only when he kept it below the water.  He sighed and set his head down on its side, staring at the walls and the surface of the water as he wracked his brain for ideas, now that he had time to think.

So it had a laser beam.  He knew he probably shouldn’t deplete all his shields—though he figured they were relatively easy to find, especially since they hadn’t encountered many enemies outside the forest and even there he’d found a nice amount—but he should keep what he could, just in case.

That led to the problem of defeating it.  He still wasn’t sure if normal weapons could hurt it, and his guess was that they likely could not unless he made a decent dent in it.  He also would have to figure out how it moved; if it approached when he stood still and fled when he moved toward it, that would mean he would have to stay still if he wanted it to come close enough to hit, which didn’t bode well with his guts.

Maybe he could corner it?

And maybe… maybe he could hit it with the giant metal box? Judging by the fact that metal slabs had specifically covered his path in, they were probably heavier than he could lift.  That or they were just hard to grab. Either way, if he threw it around hard enough, it was sure to pack a punch.

He reached back with his good arm and grabbed his slate, lifting his head up enough to look at it.  He only had four shields now, and five weapons, two of which were broadswords he’d snagged from Bokoblins at some point.  It hadn’t been very hard; they barely knew how to turn it correctly, so despite their powerful swings, they always ended up hitting him with the flat of their sword rather than the edge.

He shook his head and rubbed at his eyes, sighing through his nose when he realized how tired he was, now that he wasn’t operating on adrenaline and diverting his attention from his searing arm.  Coupled with the few hours of restful sleep he got last night… he was exhausted. It was early in the day, too, which made him scowl.  Why was he so tired so early? Was it because he sucked at this, or because of his injuries?

Then again, him sucking at this caused him to get injuries, so… he supposed it was both.

Sighing, he placed his forehead on the cool floor and closed his eyes, allowing the chill to help him further calm down.  He needed to think.

So… the tight squeeze between blocks would only hinder him if he tried to use them as a shield.  It would take way too long for him to get in and out from between them. Briefly, he wondered if he could climb them; they didn’t seem very tall, and even if they were hard to climb, he could jump back down with ease.  He doubted they would break, especially since all he got was a nasty burn. If it hadn’t broken his arm, he doubted it would break a giant block that was made of dense stone.

So, climbing was his first idea.  Climb the stone… then what? He’d have to check his arrow and bow count.  They were probably low, so they should be more of a last resort. Although since they caused less damage than his weapons, maybe he should use them first…

He shook his head again and sighed.  This was harder than he thought.

Goddesses, he wished Sheik were here.  Sheik would know what to do. Sheik would also save him if he almost died—probably.

And he realized then that, if he didn’t defeat this thing, he could die.

If he didn’t defeat a lot of things, he could die.  The Chuchu could probably drown him in its gelatin, and as goofy as he liked to think the Bokoblins looked, they could pack a punch if they wanted to.

And he’d only met the second weakest kind of Bokoblins.

He allowed his arm to rest another few seconds in the water before pushing himself up to sit on his heels, turning his damaged arm around in the bright light to see how bad it was.  It wasn’t… too bad.  It was definitely manageable, but holding a shield would likely be absolute demise, especially now that he had nothing to pad his arm with.  The bandages had likely burnt upon contact; it was a miracle they hadn’t burned into his skin.

... No, wait, they had.  Thrice damn it.

He gritted his teeth as he reluctantly summoned a shield for his arm, hooking the slate back onto his belt before standing, moving back to the stairs.  He went around the wet puddles he’d made, not too keen on slipping on them, and back up to the next floor, looking around the room for anything he could use and—holy Hylia, was that another metal box? A giddy feeling settled in his bones immediately and a wide grin slipped onto his lips as he practically skipped to it.

Practice went by until he could activate Red U and then deactivate it without dropping it, which took… more fumbling and timing.  But if he pressed his hands together before deactivating it, he could grab the slate in time.

Usually.

With that new knowledge in his head, he reactivated Red U, grabbed the box with it, and moved back toward the other room, wishing every step of the way that he had something to protect his marred skin from the heavy metal of the shield.

He lifted the box up high above his head as he got closer to the other boxes, setting it atop a stack that didn’t look like it was about to fall over.  His placement wasn’t perfect—it made the tower lean just the slightest bit—but it was good enough for now. He then turned towards one box that made up the wall for his mini passageway, with about half its top surface empty.  He put away his sword and shield for the moment, praying to all four goddesses he knew of at the moment that the thing wouldn’t attack him, and he took a single deep breath for luck and jumped.

It was much smoother than Link had expected, textured in a way that made it look gritty but was smooth mounds instead.  They were too small for him to stand on, making gripping impossible, but he could definitely reach the top if he tried.

He let his hands slide down over the smooth stone while his feet did the same, releasing him back to the floor with little incident aside from a stumble.  Directly after his stumble, he readied his stance, taking a moment to memorize it, and he sprinted back over.

It was by sheer will, strength, and the power of some well-made boot soles he made it up to the top, his torso bent as his legs flailed in the air, trying to find purchase.  He stayed low and near the middle, bringing up his left knee and calf instead to rest on the surface and pull his lower half up, and he hummed as he lie there, frowning to himself. This definitely wouldn’t work as an escape plan; he really didn’t want a laser to hit and go through his asshole.  He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling, crossing his arms as he tried to think of a better alternative.  He made several plans in his mind, each more outlandish than the last, and sighed as he activates Red U and rolled onto his knees, shifting into a kneeling position.

Welp, here went nothing.

He grabbed the first box he had used, moving it in front of him while he stood and pointing the U down.  He scowled to find that he had just barely missed the enemy and quickly moved the box to the right, clipping its back leg as it came closer.  It was then he realized, as it stared at him, that he would have to move if he wanted to hit the damn thing with the box, and—

And then he tilted the object of light in his hands and it came closer to him, just barely blocking him from the next blast from the creature.  He yelped in surprise and quickly stopped turning it, frozen, and then he regained his composure and lifted it up, grinning at the creature before releasing Red U, allowing the box to fall on top in a satisfying CLANK!

The force of it sent the little dipshit flying off to the side, so he quickly picked up the slate—which he had purposefully let fall onto the floor (or so he said)—and reactivated Red U, picked up the box, tilted it the other way so it moved out, and slammed it into the thing.  It skidded along the floor again, this time hitting the side of a cube, and he rammed the metal box into it again, squishing it between the two.

He pressed the metal cube against the thing as hard as he could, then deactivated Red U, successfully catching the slate this time.  He slipped it into its holster and pulled out his bow, loading an arrow and aiming right where it would sail into its eye, given the defective curve of this particular bow and the lack of wind—and also accounting for in case he sucked.

Luckily, all his math—mostly on the last part, he supposed—paid off, and the arrow sailed true into its target, emitting a flash of blue light.  Unfortunately, he found that he did not get his arrow back and that it wasn’t a perfect aim like he had hoped—but who cared, if it hit the thing? He loaded another arrow and fixed his aim, launching another arrow, then a few more.

One arrow hit its stupid dome-shaped head and another hit one of its flailing legs, but otherwise, his aim got better and better until finally, it hit the middle of the eye.  He couldn’t tell if it did any extra damage, as just the eye, in general, seemed to be its weak spot, but it felt good to finally fucking hit something for once.

However, his celebration was short-lived; the next thing he knew, the shithead had escaped from its pathetically built imprisonment, rings forming around its eye as he loaded its laser.  He yelped and threw himself down, covering his head as the laser shot into the air above him. It had been so close he’d felt the heat travel over his back, which only added to the fire in his veins as he stood back up.

“All right, asshole,” Link yelled at it, but it was too stupid to understand.  He loaded another arrow and leveled it at its eye, which stared straight back at him with horrifying accuracy, unblinking.  “It’s time for your laser to go up your own butthole.”

He fired again, becoming more and more antsy every passing, unsuccessful moment, and he ducked down again when the rings reappeared, his reaction timing much better this time.  His eyes traveled down to his bow, which had blue shards floating out of the cracking wood.  It would last for one more arrow—two or three if he was lucky—and this was his last one. He barely even remembered switching through them, thanks to their horrible endurance and construction.

But then he reached back to load another arrow, his face falling flat as he realized he didn’t fuckin have any.

Well, that ruined that plan.  At least he had a nearly dead bow in case of emergency.

With a sigh, he put it back into his slate’s inventory, then activated Red U and, on his knees while leaning down as much as possible so the dipshit didn’t see him, he grabbed the box and made it come closer.  He then sidled onto one foot, standing up the slightest bit to see where it was and—

Oh, good.  Right where he left it, less than five feet away.

Grumbling something under his breath about clingy assholes, he ducked back down and brought the metal box closer, finding with a scowl it also looked worse for wear.  At least he had another behind him if it broke—he didn’t know how it would break, but there was probably a good chance of it if his weapons just broke into a flurry of sparkles—and he also had a good supply of weapons; he’d have to remember to stock up better before going in these stupid, stupid shrines again.

Why did he trust Sheik, again? Link didn’t know.  He had no idea.  He’d be sure to tell him that once he came out—if he came out.

Knowing Sheik, his eyes would just crinkle at the edges in his hidden smile, and he’d either make some cryptic comment like I never said I was trustworthy or smack Link in the back of the head and call him stupid.  Probably both.

He sighed.  He missed Sheik right now.

He raised the box high in the air before standing, his eyes quickly finding and following the circle on the ground from what seemed like a guiding pillar of light that Red U had offered him, stemming from the bottom of the box.  He put it above the creature and waited, letting the box settle so he wouldn’t send it flying, and the moment the creature was loading another laser he released Red U and ducked, capturing the slate between his arms and chest.

Another clank resounded with a horrible screeching sound that followed, so loud he had to cover his ears and shiver from the feeling it gave him.  A laser in the other direction along with hundreds of bright blue sparkles revealed that he had hit it before it fired, changing its direction, and that the box had broken.

At least I have another one, he reminded himself with a glance over his shoulder.  He crawled over to the edge of the cube, pulling out his weapon just in case the creature was right there, and—

It wasn’t.  It wasn’t anywhere, actually, and didn’t leave any parts behind, so… what in demise had happened?

And then he saw some bright light come from the canal.  He scowled and jumped off, hurrying over and placing a hand on the wall to brace himself as he leaned over just in time to see the creature explode in a muted noise, half concealed underwater.  A spray of water hit him in the face, momentarily rendering him into a state of fear before he wiped it off.

Only to realize he’d have to go back in to get those Goddess-damned parts.

“Oh, fuck you,” He snarled to no Goddess in particular before jumping into the water.

*~*~*~*~*~

By the time he opened the metallic doors and kept them open without them slamming closed, he was done.

First, he’d nearly drowned because he took a breath at the wrong time; second, all he got from that stupid thing were weird parts with twists in them, which looked useless; third, his arm was bleeding from his shield and, now he was no longer high on adrenaline, it hurt; and fourth, he’d rigged up a whole system to get some stupid chest by placing a metal slab on top of a box, but when he realized he couldn’t reach it, he realized he could use Red U on the chest.

So, with a new traveler’s bow in his inventory and some new and likely useless materials, he moved onwards through the metal doors, eyes on the structure in front of him.  The Sheikah symbol was very redundant here, imprinted on what looked like the wall to a terraced roof, the forehead of… something, and the wall of a blue box the surrounded it.  He recognized the blue wall as what had surrounded him on his way down here, which led him to believe it was meant to protect whatever was inside it.  He took care in his shaky footing up the stairs, glancing down at his injured arm before standing in front of the symbol, peering inside.

The something was definitely a person, that was for sure, but… he wasn’t even sure if they were alive or not.  Though he knew, firsthand, that if something didn’t have muscles, it could not sit up like that so perfectly, and with no trouble. He would know.

Was it a statue?

He leaned in more, trying to get a better look, his nose brushing against the wall, and he immediately jumped back with a gasp when the wall made a weird ringing noise, what sounded like a droplet echoing throughout the shrine.  He put his fists up, backing up, and yelped as he nearly tripped down the stairs, eyes wide as a high-pitched tone rang out before the walls shattered into a million pieces that flew out everywhere, better revealing the creature that had been inside it.  Initially, Link tried to dodge the bright pieces, but he realized quickly that they were harmless and probably from the same source of magic as Red U.

Suddenly, he heard the same voice as before emanating through the shrine and his head and… he knew it was this statue right here, but still, it didn’t move.

You have proven to possess the resolve of a true hero,” It said, “I am Oman Au, the creator of this trial.” Link cautiously pushed himself into a better standing position and shuffled forward, tilting his head discreetly so he could see if there was an actual person it was coming from.  Regardless of his actions, the voice continued; “I am a humble monk, blessed with the sight of Goddess Hylia and dedicated to helping those who seek to defeat Ganon.  With your arrival, my duty is now fulfilled.” Link bristled and straightened, frowning.  Was it like… a ghost?

Wait, what was a—

In the name of Hylia,” The monk—who he now verified to be this petrified person, their hands in a triangle—continued, either oblivious to or completely ignoring his mental state, “Allow me to bestow this gift upon you.  Please accept this spirit orb.”

After a moment of deafening silence, the—wow, the stomach of the monk lit up and produced a purple orb with an emblem he… he recognized.  He tried to get a closer look, but his eyes kept getting unfocused and—wait, was it coming towards him? He shot up in surprise, staring, and then he realized that the monk was giving it to him so he should look at that emblem and—

It was too late.  The orb sunk into his chest, a couple strings of bright white light wrapping around his body before it was gone, and he pressed a hand to his chest.

Link felt refreshed, his body temperature back to normal, his arm no longer bleeding nor burning at the roots of his muscles.  He clenched his right hand into a tight fist and turned his hand, grimacing when he noticed that, though his burn had turned into a nasty-looking scar, the blisters were still there, although lessened and only on the top layer of skin rather than several.

He straightened his stance and looked up at the monk, pausing a moment before bowing low to the ground in thanks.

May the Goddess smile upon you,” The monk says, a tone of finality in its voice.  After a couple moments of pause, as if to say goodbye one last time, the monk’s body ebbed off into thousands of particles of green light, tinkling as they faded into nothing.

Once they disappeared, he turned around, only to find his vision doing the same.  This time, however, he felt a comfort enshrouding him in the darkness, caressing his mind as if to say all is as it should be.

He had no doubt that this was the last of what remained of the monk’s power.

When he came to once more, he was back on the pedestal, light streaming into his eyes as he popped over what appears to be the floor of the shrine—from the outside, at least.  He shielded his eyes from the brightness of daylight until the pedestal came to a stop, giving him enough time to adjust to the light before he stepped out.

Sheik was nowhere to be found, and it occurred then to Link that the sun was a lot farther down in the sky than he expected it to be.  Like, a lot.  He frowned at that, wondering how long he was out as he stepped down onto grass again  Really, he couldn’t have been in there for longer than an hour… right?

He scanned the horizon, swallowing back the hot, heavy lump in his throat.  If Sheik was planning to leave, then… he would’ve told him, right?

No. He said he’d be nearby… should he call out? Would it attract monsters? Was Sheik okay?

He looked to the left, walking over to the collapsed wall that made up the outside of the Great Plateau, blocking any unwanted visitors. He looked out over the land he must have once called home, one couldn’t even begin to recognize, except for—no, that seemed like it was missing something, too…

Pushing that aside to focus on later,  Link desperately searched for any tree branches randomly shaking, for a figure sprinting across the field. Any small sign of the one person he had left in this world to guide him. Hylia above, without Sheik, the plains before him were unrecognizable.

He had nothing to guide him. No one he could help... no one to help him.

His chest tightened as each passing second spent scanning the land before him only brings more questions and confusion. His heart was trying to break out of the confines of his body from how fast it raced in his chest.

He couldn’t breathe. He felt like he was drowning again only this time there was no one to save him.

Swallowing hard, he turned around and hopped off the set of stones he’d chosen to stand on, moving back toward the shrine at a sluggish pace.  If Sheik wasn’t here… how would he know what to do? He couldn’t get down from here unless he climbed, and even then, he didn’t know what to do.  Did he just walk up and defeat Ganondorf? How would he even prepare?

And, most concerning of all, who would help him when he went insane on his journey?

He kicked a rock in frustration.  If it wasn’t Sheik, well… he doubted anyone else would put up with him.

Only Sheik would suffice.

And it was then, as he rounded around the shrine from behind and nearly tripped, too busy panicking to notice any of his surroundings, that he realized Sheik had been here all along, just sleeping on his left side, arms acting as a pillow as he curled up on the ground.  Link released a sigh of relief that quelled not only his erratic nerves but also the deep, lonely ache in his chest, and he carefully settled himself beside the blonde, sitting down and leaning against the side of the Shrine.  He took watch, waiting patiently for his friend to wake up, glancing down at him several times before finally succumbing to his urges and idly carding his fingers through soft, slightly messy bunches of golden hair. Aside from a brief flinch, Sheik was unresponsive. It relieved link that not only was Sheik still here, but he had lain so that Link could touch him without making him antsy and paranoid.

… He hoped it wasn’t an accident.

More so, he hoped that Sheik would tell him what in Hylia’s name was going on with him.

Chapter Text

Link was proud of himself for not falling asleep in the next hour.

He was exhausted, there was no doubt about that—he wasn’t sure if he’d ever gone so long without sleeping—and his right, still-blistered arm itched to high demise. The incessant urge to scratch and tear at the aching skin was a hard one to resist, one he gave into in secret now and then.

So Link tried not to irritate his poor skin anymore than it already was. His arm was a light pink when Sheik finally stirred, head in Link’s lap from when Link had carefully lifted it to give him a pillow. Sheik’s free arm reached up to rub at his eyes, then scratch at his head, and finally it and his other arm snaked around Link’s thigh and squeezed.

Link froze up, his face immediately lighting up in flame, and he glanced around for help only to realize nobody else was on the plateau. He looked back down at Sheik, who was cuddling his leg like there was no tomorrow and—oh, Goddesses, it was so cute. Did Sheik even realize how cute he was?

He carefully, cautiously settled his hand on Sheik’s hair, pausing when Sheik shifted and then gingerly threading his fingers through his soft locks. Sheik sighed through his nose in a hum, the hold on his legs loosening a tad.

Link’s heart jumped into his throat when Sheik suddenly inhaled sharply, the grip on his legs changing to keep him in place rather than for his previously sought out comfort. When the blonde made no other move, Link got nervous. He swallowed hard, leaned forward, and frowned when he saw that Sheik’s eyes were half open, unfocused.

“Link?” Sheik groaned, gaze flicking to watch him out of the corner of his eyes. Link hummed in response, his hand stilling for a moment in Sheik’s slightly unruly mane of golden hair. He was unsure if the fear in his friend’s voice was real or not. “... Where are we?”

“On the Great Plateau,” Link calmly answered, stroking his fingers in his hair like he was trying to sooth a cornered animal. The silence between them was now uneasy and awkward, making Link retract his fingers, afraid any more movement would startle his normally composed companion.

Sheik shook his head and dragged a tired hand over his eyes—whether he was trying to will away the urge to sleep or the demons that plagued him, Link feared he would never know—and using Link’s leg and the ground as leverage, he tentatively sat up, hand remaining on Link’s leg even as he settled, perhaps to ground him. A familiar presence among an environment he had no recollection of, if the way his eyes flicked forlornly across the landscape gave Link any clues. He was in another world at the moment, so lost in the present. Link rested his own hand atop of his, unable to ignore how Sheik tensed and gripped his leg in return.

“This isn’t Gerudo?” Sheik whispered, sounding both a question and a statement yet neither at the same time. His voice was so small, so despondent. Unlike anything Link had heard from him before, but the heartache it caused him was all too familiar.

“No, Sheik,” He murmured, “This is the Great Plateau. We’re still by the first shrine. Do you… do you remember?”

Sheik’s eyebrows scrunched together in confusion, his eyes skimming the horizon until they finally rested on Link’s. Searching. There was something swirling beneath the glassy surface, something troubled and unsure. Still searching… for what? Was it something Link could offer? He settled for a small smile, one he hoped was comforting.

“Talk to me,” He encouraged, moving his right hand from Sheik’s shoulder to his muffler. He pinched the top and pulled it back up from where it had slid under his nose, hushing Sheik when he protested and inched away. His eyes caught sight of mottled looking skin on Sheik’s left cheek, but he ignored it and pushed the image out of his mind. Sheik needed help; not for him to invade his privacy. “What’s wrong?”

Sheik’s eyes had grown wide when Link grabbed the muffler, but when he realized he hadn’t been trying to pull it off, he relaxed. His eyes moved down to the ground to his apple and blood red boots, gloved hand twitching on Link’s lap before he covered his face with both, his eyes screwed tightly shut. Link’s hand settled back on his shoulder, squeezing gently, and he gave Sheik a moment to collect himself.

“You…” Sheik spoke up not long after, pulling his hands from his face with his eyes now open, still looking just as confused. “I-I remember… you woke up.”

“Yes, I did.”

“Three years ago.”

“Mhm.”

“And I… you spoke to me. You…” He looked back up at Link, who was staring at him intently and patiently, and his still-glassy eyes filled with what looked like… tears? He looked so torn. “You’re not the same person, Link.”

Link was silent, tongue tied, and he sighed out slowly as Sheik wiped his eyes with the backs of his gloves. He moved his hand so he could hold it out, palm up, and Sheik grabbed it with no hesitation, his grip tight—an unexpected but not unwelcome surprise. Link squeezed and, after a moment, Sheik gave a light squeeze back, eyes down on their hands. “What do you mean?”

Sheik didn’t reply, his eyes slamming shut as they stressed the squeeze his hand gave Link’s. He sucked in a long breath through his nose, holding it for several seconds before releasing it all. He opened his eyes just as a new flurry of red embers fluttered through the air, making his eyes even appear even more red.

“You…” Sheik swallowed then stopped, looking up and staring at the purple sky for a long time. Clarity slowly returned to his eyes as he watched the red embers fall just as they had the day he had awoken Link from the Shrine. So much had changed since then.

Sheik shook his head and stood, pulling Link up to his feet. He turned to the little pond beside them and knelt, angled so Link couldn’t see him and, after pulling his muffler down, splashed himself in the face with water, scrubbing at his skin.

“What did you get in there?” Sheik asked as he dried off his face, back to normal. Link resisted the urge to sigh at his failed attempt to get Sheik to open up, pulling out the slate. He activated Red U, grabbed a strange, brightly lit object under the water, and lifted it out as quick as he could, releasing a giant splash.

Sheik yelped and jumped back, covering the left side of his face with his left hand as he scrambled to his feet, staring at the item hovering in the air. He glanced between it and Link as the brunette set it down with a snarky laugh right in front of him. The sunlight revealed the object to be a chest with a drastically different design to the one in the Shrine. Sheik let out a huff and yanked his muffler up before he fully turned to Link, his eyes narrowing accusingly.

“What was that?!” He demanded. Link snickered and came closer, deactivating Red U and expertly catch—wait, nevermind—fumbling the Sheikah Slate and accidentally throwing it up into the air. Sheik caught it with no trouble, practically snatching it out of the air, holding it in both hands to look at the screen.

“Ah,” Sheik said after a moment, “I haven’t seen one of these in a long time. I can’t believe that I had forgotten everything they’re capable of. They call this a rune; it’s an ability you can unlock in the Slate to help you. The one you used is Magnesis, if I remember correctly. It allows you to pick up and freely move metallic items, no matter the size or weight.” He handed Link back his slate and added, “As you seemed to have discovered on your own.”

Link nodded, attaching it back to his belt and approaching the chest he’d pulled out. It didn’t look too hard to open, especially considering the only chests he’d encountered so far were ones at Bokoblin camps and the one in the Shrine. Either way, he wanted to leave soon.

“Ready to go?” He asked. At Sheik’s nod, he knelt and grabbed the top of the chest, flipping it open.

*~*~*~*~*~

After opening the grey chest (and then a fancy looking purple one as well, much to his delight) and receiving five bomb arrows and a piece of amber, the pair made their way back over to the tower so Link could try to scout out more shrines and dress his arm. On the way, they had slowed their pace so Link could tell him what happened in the Shrine; Sheik listened with rapt attention, very interested. Link wouldn’t admit how long he took to realize why.

“The Sheikah built it, didn’t they?” He asked, glancing at a fish zooming away in a pond near the tower before leveling his gaze on Sheik. “I mean, you’re named after them. You’re bound to know, right?”

Sheik snorted. “First off, they’re named after me. Second,” He gave Link a droll stare as he parted his cloak, revealing yet again the Sheikah symbol underneath, “If you didn’t see this a thousand times in there, I think you lost more than your memories.” Link raised his hands up in defense while Sheik just hummed, letting his cloak close while glancing up at the tower. “To answer your question, yes. The Sheikah built them alongside the Guardians and Divine Beasts, with the purpose of aiding the Hero in his journey on a more personal level than the others.”

Link huffed, “Didn’t feel like they were helping me.”

“Why not?”

“Some little dipshit thing attacked me with lasers!”

Sheik choked on a laugh and stumbled, just barely able to catch himself before he could smack into the ground. Link offered him a hand to help him stand, face burning, but Sheik didn’t seem to notice (as usual) and pushed himself back up to his feet.

“It was likely a Guardian Scout,” He said, glancing Link up and down, “And, judging by the fact you don’t appear to have any blade wounds--”

“I’m not that stupid,” Link grumbled.

“—I’d say it was Mark One,” Sheik finished, cutting Link a look that said, you are that stupid and you know it, that, for some reason, made him feel warm inside.

Until he said, “They are the easiest to beat. A Sheikah child could probably beat one.”

“What?! No!”

Sheik snickered and shook his head, “I’m kidding. They are, however, the easiest of the guardians to defeat.”

“Oh, great.”

Sheik chuckled, “You’ll get used to it.”

When they finally reached the tower, Link had to pause for a moment to marvel at just how tall it was. Sure, it probably wasn’t the tallest thing on the plateau—nevermind the rest of Hyrule—but it was definitely up there. He allowed it to impress him for all of two seconds before realizing that now he couldn’t just step onto the platform and let it rise; he had to climb it.

With a defeated sigh, Link glanced at Sheik and offered a grin that revealed much of his fake enthusiasm before moving toward the first step-ledge and taking hold of the wall. He had barely began when he heard a poof sound and, lo-and-behold, Sheik had disappeared.

It took about three deathly silent minutes for Link to even start, shaking as he debated every single possibility of where Sheik was, if he had left him for good this time. When his head finally peeked up through the opening, he had to use every single ounce of his strength to pull himself back down a tad, trying to calm down from his panic and fear, to reassure himself after he saw Sheik sitting by a newly lit fire and rummaging through his bag. Well, at least he hadn’t left him.

With one last exhale to expel the last of his emotions, Link heaved himself back up, arms shaking as he swung his leg over the edge and pulled himself onto the floor. If Sheik had noticed his lengthened absence, he said nothing; instead, he beckoned him over with an apple, medical supplies held in his other hand.

“You must be hungry,” He said.

“Starving,” Link huffed. He grunted as he rolled to his stomach and shoved himself to his feet long enough for his legs to carry him over to his blonde companion, releasing him none-too-kindly back onto the floor. Sheik absentmindedly tugged his backpack out of the way, patting Link on the head in what seemed a playfully condescending manner before placing the apple on the ground beside him.

“Let me see your arm,” Sheik said as he unfurled his cloth and arranged tools neatly atop it. Link pushed himself into a sitting position and picked up the apple with his left hand, holding his right arm out so Sheik could see the blisters. The blonde gingerly took hold of his arm and leaned in, moving from side to side so he could assess the damage. After a minute he released a low hum as if in thought.

“I think the skin healed underneath,” Link offered before biting into his apple. Sheik nodded and looked down at his tools beside him.

“That’s what it looks like,” He said. He searched a moment before picking up a thin, pointy object with his left hand, holding it up to show to Link. “This is a needle. Since we don’t have to worry about the blister protecting the skin underneath, we can just pop it.”

“Pop it?”

“Mhm.”

“What do you mean, pop—OW!”

He jumped and hissed as Sheik dove right into his work, pin pricking two holes into one of the four blisters before Link tried to pull away. Sheik held on tight as iron.

“If you move you will hurt yourself,” He warned.

“And you’re hurting me!”

“It’ll hurt less if I poke you as opposed to you accidentally ripping a needle out of your skin, so if you would please—”

“Let me do it!”

Sheik sighed in rueful resignation before releasing his arm and holding out the needle, narrowing his eyes to near slits. Link stuck his tongue out at him and placed his apple down before taking the needle and turning to his arm.

This was… well, it was jarring. He’d never self-inflicted a wound—and it wasn’t like he wanted to—but he knew that if he wanted to hold a shield without screaming in pain every few seconds, he had to do this. He swallowed hard, continuing to stare at his arm, and then he looked up at Sheik helplessly.

Sheik’s expression softened and, after a few moments of them staring at each other, he grabbed Link’s arm in the same ginger hold as before, refusing to relinquish eye contact.

“You need to poke each bubble once,” He said, “And it’s up to you whether we drain them afterward.”

“Drain them?”

“Whether we empty them out.”

“Oh.” Link’s stomach lurched hard. He didn’t like the sound of that one bit. He shook his head, unable to trust himself to open his mouth, and Sheik gave his wrist a soft, comforting squeeze.

“Then we won’t,” He assured. Link nodded while Sheik put away the unneeded tools with his free hand, tucking them neatly and carefully into his pack, and then he draped the cloth over his leg and looked back up at Link. “Go on. I’m right here.” He squeezed again as if to prove that he was indeed still there, sitting right in front of him, and added, “You’re in control, now. It will hurt, but it shouldn’t be more than a pinch. A hard pinch, probably, but—” He squeezed again, “I believe in you. You can do it.”

Link nodded slowly, his eyes drifting back down to his arm. The one Sheik had stabbed was slowly leaking down his arm, hot and sticky, and Link took a few shallow breaths to calm down and reason with himself. He’d nearly drowned back there, and this was what worried him? It would just be a pinch, right? Sheik said so.

This was, almost literally, nothing compared to drowning along in a Shrine buried beneath the ground.

“Take your time,” Sheik told him in a soothing voice. Link glanced at him, worrying at his lip.

“I don’t know why this is so hard to do,” He said weakly, “I-I mean… I almost drow—” Even the word made him choke on what little air he was taking in. How pitiful was that? “... I almost died back there. This should be easy, right?”

Sheik let out a dry laugh that sounded more like a grunt, his free hand tapping the underside of Link’s chin to get him to look up. His eyes were as intense as the fog floating around Hyrule Castle, not nearly as menacing or haunting but equally intimidating. Link swallowed hard, unable to look away.

“It should never have to be easy for anyone to hurt themselves,” He said and… wow, the contrast of his soft tone to his hard expression was odd, but comforting all the same. Link could feel himself relax already. “Hurting yourself should never be something you want to do, nor should it be something you need to be ready for.”

Link frowned and said the first thing that came to mind, “But in a time of war—”

“Don’t you fucking dare finish that sentence,” Sheik hissed. Gone was his soft voice, replaced instead with a hollow tone full of dark, sorrowful emotion. Link tried to recall when the last time he cursed was and where all of this hidden emotion was coming from. “Don’t you pin me with that in a time of war we must be prepared to sacrifice goddamn bullshit, Link. You should never want to hurt yourself. Never. Not even—not even the Goddesses are worth hurting yourself for. Do you understand?” His voice broke halfway through the last sentence, but he still watched Link like a hawk with his deep, ruby red eyes, pleading with them like he was asking for help to plug a wound. A wound dug so deep inside of himself it must be so easy to hide, save for now and then.

“Okay,” Link said. His voice also cracked—from his dry throat instead—so he nodded as he swallowed, clearing his throat before saying, “I understand.”

“I hope you do,” Sheik sighed, his voice softening to something… weak and hollow. “I… Hyrule can’t lose you, Link. Princess Zelda cannot lose you. You’re our only hope.” He looked like he wanted to say something else but whatever it was he refrained, opting instead to loosen his now tight grip into a much gentler one.

Link knew immediately that what he next said wasn’t what he had originally been planning on, but he also knew that it was just as genuine and heartfelt as the rest of it; “You can’t lose yourself, either. You don’t deserve that. Not again.”

After a pause, Link lowered his gaze back to his arm. Another deep breath solidified his nerves, and a moment later he lowered the needle to his blisters.

Chapter Text

It hadn’t been as painful as he thought it would be. Perhaps the initial pain had been the shock, or—as Sheik said—from him tugging his arm away so harshly, but the moment he had poked the last blister, Sheik wrapped his arm in a cloth and had him eat an apple.

Which was probably a good thing, too. He felt faint from all that. The sweetness of the apple had been a nice distraction, and looking around and marking on his slate what looked like the three other shrines he had seen before also seemed to help. A glance at his map assured him they were all on the plateau and, with that, he sat back down.

After he finished and rinsed his hands off with a handful of their water, Sheik had undressed, rinsed off, and properly re-dressed Link’s arm appropriately before announcing he wanted Link to finish another shrine before nightfall. Link groaned, opening his mouth to protest, and Sheik held up his hands in defense.

One shrine,” He insisted, “You can take the day off tomorrow, and sleep in a proper bed tonight.”

Now that piqued his interest. “A bed?”

“Mmhm. A real one.”

“On the Plateau??”

“Yup.”

Link immediately shot him an incredulous and accusatory stare, causing Sheik to roll his eyes and wave him off in dismissal, “You’ll see why we didn’t go to it before, I promise. You won’t like it, either.”

Link narrowed his eyes. “I want to ask what you mean, but at this point? I think I’m just afraid.”

Sheik chuckled, “You should be.”

Link huffed at that.

No less than an hour later, Sheik decided Link had gotten enough rest. He packed his bag while Link sat on the boulders atop the tower one last time, staring at Hyrule Castle with an intensity so deep that Sheik was reminded just why this man in front of him was their chosen Hero.

“You said you hear the Princess’ voice?” Link asked. Sheik paused, casting a glance over his shoulder before he bent down to pick up a stray pen that had fallen from his bag and rolled away at some point.

“I do,” He replied. The same golden warmth from before filled his head, shoulders, and chest, her strong grace hovering over his shadowed presence. Despite their distance—both physical and spiritual—he could feel every crack and waver in her aura. The warmth of Zelda was accompanied by the age old anger that the Goddesses had chosen a mere children to defend the land from a millennia-old monster, filling his heart, lungs, and blood until all he could feel was rage. Then, with a gentle prod from the Princess, he released it all in a long breath, returning him to a numb state.

“How do you do that?” Link asked. Sheik shrugged.

“I don’t. She does. And,” He tied off his pack before tugging it over his shoulders, “It’s more often silent, and… more accurately, she feeds ideas and emotions into my head.”

“How often does she speak to you?”

“Now? Rarely. She doesn’t…” He felt bad for saying this in front of her, but… it was true. “She doesn’t have the strength for more than that, now.”

The aura pulsed hard, enough to make him stagger a little in his next step, but after she finished trying to prove herself to him, she was weaker than before. Sheik sighed, wishing (for not the first time) that he wasn’t in Link’s presence so he could properly speak to her. Unfortunately—on one hand—he was.

“Go rest,” He whispered quietly enough for the muffler to block the sound, facing away from Link and away from the castle, too. He felt her presence ebb away, hesitant at first, but after a few more tense moments she released entirely. He resumed walking again once he realized he’d stopped, then paused again when he noticed Link staring.

“Was she talking to you just now?” Link asked. Sheik stared back for a moment before looking away, nodding.

“Yes,” He said, “Sort of. She didn’t like my little comment.”

Link chuckled but said nothing otherwise; instead, he gave the castle one last look before hopping off the rocks and walking over to the single opening, patting the surface of the pedestal as he walked by.

“Ready to go?” He asked Sheik. The blonde gave him a droll stare, opening his mouth to speak, and sighed when Link just gave him a shit-eating grin and hopped down, shouting “race ya!” Sheik smirked to himself as he tightened the straps of his pack under his cloak, turning around and walking over to the edge of the tower. He barely needed to brace himself before he jumped off and let his body plummet for a few moments. At the last second he pulled out the paraglider, drifting harmlessly to the ground, and then he turned around to watch Link expertly hop down each ledge like they were stairs, unaware that Sheik was already on the ground.

Goddesses, he wished Link could see the smirk on his face when the brunette’s expression morphed from glee to shocked horror. He also wished the slate was working properly so he could’ve gotten a picture.

But, alas, if they could fix the slate then he’d be counting his blessings and praying his thanks to Hylia for every one.

The duo set off again, this time toward some toppled and now unidentifiable architecture. Sheik turned to Link at the halfway point, slowing his gait. Link followed suit.

“Do you remember that thing at the Temple of Time?” Sheik asked, “Well… the things, but I don’t think you noticed any other than the one.”

“What thing?”

“The thing that gave you the panic attack.”

Oh. That thing. Link’s displeasure was most notable in the wrinkling of his nose, “Well, there are more where we’re going, and I’m afraid to say at least one is probably active.”

A pang of dread hit Link’s body so hard that he tripped over nothing and would have fallen on his face had it not been for his balance and (mostly) Sheik’s hands grabbing his shoulder and belt loops, hoisting him back to his feet. He swallowed hard enough to hurt his throat, wide eyes moving back over to the structure.

“More?” He asked in a small voice. Sheik nodded and moved in front of Link to grab his shoulders in both hands, holding his gaze steady.

“You don’t have to defeat any of them,” Sheik tried to reassure, “Just run by as quick as you can, all right? Your concern is the just the shrine. I… I’ll help you, all right?”

Link looked up at him with eyes that plead. “You’ll help me?”

“Of course.”

“In the shrine?”

Sheik smiled sadly, unbeknownst to Link aside from his eyebrows showing such, “I cannot enter the shrine. Only you have that capability.” Link frowned, his gaze slipping down to the ground, and Sheik felt his panic rise as he realized Link was about to shut down.

His teeth captured his bottom lip, a thousand different scenarios running through his head. I shouldn’t have brought him here yet, He finally thought with dread, I shouldn’t have even thought of bringing him here. He gave Link’s shoulders a gentle squeeze. “I’m sorry. Do you want to skip it for now?”

“No,” Link said immediately, “I… I mean I’d love to, yeah, but…” He looked up into Sheik’s eyes for a solid three seconds before turning his head to his left and settling his gaze on Hyrule, expression shifting into a mournful one. “I need to do it.”

“Not if you’re not ready. They can spare a moment—”

“They spared a moment for me once before and look where I put them,” Link suddenly hissed, pinning Sheik with a glare as intense as a blue Sheikah flame, “Look what I did to my… to my people.” His voice broke with a horrible crack, thick from his throat clogging up all the way from the base of his stomach, but as always he refused to let that get him down. “I have to try.”

“It wasn’t your fault—”

“You can’t say for sure! I don’t know what happened!” Link growled, this time yanking out of Sheik’s grip entirely. Sheik retracted his hands inside his cloak, squeezing his fingers together nervously in time with the painful pounding of his chest, and Link crossed his arms as he stepped back, half defensive and half offensive.

And it was all directed at Sheik, along with his now narrowed eyes.

“But you do,” He says, in a whisper that then turned into a hard, offended tone, “And you won’t tell me. Why not, Sheik? How can I trust you if you won’t even tell me about myself? Why don’t you trust me?”

“What? I do trust you—”

“If you did, you’d have told me by now why you keep having nightmares. You’d tell me, right?”

“What?” He knows? “... What nightmares?”

Link scoffed and threw his hands up in the air momentarily, summoning a boko club and a shield into his hands when he brought them back down. He no longer looked Sheik in the eye, turning instead to his destination, “Whatever. You don’t have to tell me. You don’t have to tell me anything, I guess.”

“Link, it’s not like that—”

“I don’t care what it is!” Link snarled, turning back to Sheik with the angriest look he’d seen from him the whole time he’d been awake. “I don’t care if it’s you, I don’t care if it’s the Princess, I… I barely care if it’s the damn Goddesses telling you not to, Sheik, and I don’t care why you don’t want me knowing. But I want to know. I need to know. I’m supposed to be defending—” He cast another long glance out at Hyrule, swinging the Boko Club a little to release some anger. “I’m supposed to be rescuing my kingdom. You said can’t lose myself, right? How can I lose myself if I don’t know who I am? What am I supposed to do if I can’t remember why I was doing it in the first place?!”

It stunned Sheik into silence, forced him to swallow hard the longer the following silence continued between them. Until it swallowed up all of the air between them and forced him to breathe. His gaze dropped to the ground, and he feebly offered, “I… I don’t know.”

“Well, you need to figure it out,” Link spat, “If I can’t trust you in front of me, I can’t trust you behind me, either.”

A moment later, the sound of grass crunching reached Sheik’s ears. He looked up, chest aching, his arms itching to encircle his body—but he knew he didn’t deserve comfort. Not after this.

“Where are you going?” He asked weakly.

“Away from you,” Link replied, not bothering to turn around, “And to do this stupid Shrine.”

Sheik said nothing, watching him leave.

Letting him leave.

Again.

Sheik bit back his emotions and threw down his smoke bomb, flattening his hand over his cloak’s button to focus power into it, and he landed with a stumble on the other side of the structure. He tugged on his hood and speed-walked over to it, one hand gripping the amethyst button of his cloak while the other slipped his hood on. He took a deep breath and held it, and with a single graze of his finger along the unlit part of the wall, he slipped into the relative safety of the Shadow Realm.

If any lingering traces of Zelda’s aura remained, the Shadow Realm pushed it off his body and hopefully sent it back to her. Sheik shivered at the lack of warmth—or, well, anything—in the shadow before steeling himself and moving to travel on the growing shadow that early dusk offered. He let the intense shadow under the walls pull him underneath them and, with a push, he’d resurfaced on the other side of the wall, passing by a decayed guardian undetected. He moved to the wall by an archway, slinking along the growing darkness until he was at the edge of what blocked the light, and he stopped when he was just within reach of the archway, the sunlight blocking him from moving any further.

So he did the next best thing; he pushed his head toward the invisible wall of the shadow, released a finger from his button, and allowed his head to slip out of the shadow, the rest of his body encased in the other realm. He expelled the breath he had taken and took another one to settle his aching chest before peeking around the edge of the archway, his eyes flicking from the arch on his left to the arch opposite him, watching Link as he walked to the structure, head down as he nervously gripped his Boko Club, probably trying not to look at the two decayed Guardians Sheik knew he’d passed by.

As Link drew closer to the other archway, Sheik moved his head out of the sunlight, took a deep breath, and settled his finger back on his button, pulling him back into the realm of nothing before Link could see him. He slipped back under the wall and moved toward the other archway on his left, resurfacing on the inside wall beside it where he could still see the other entry around broken down pillars.

He didn’t have to wait long for Link to show up, looking positively lost and scared even with his eyes down, and for a moment Sheik considered slipping out of the shadow to join him and make him feel better. However, since Link lost his memory and therefore had to re-develop habits, Sheik had learned them and now found every action predictable and legible.

And Link’s actions told him he wanted to be alone for now.

… Maybe.

Because Link had immediately halted to a stop once he was inside the archway and lifted his eyes, frozen as he realized how many Guardian skeletons were in there—and it occurred to Sheik then that Link didn’t know what they were—and Link began to shake, still inside the archway. Link glanced behind him, his grip tightening hard enough to make the wood of the Boko Club audibly creak, and Sheik’s chest tightened as he frowned. His fingers tightened on his button. Should he come out?

No. If he came out, Link would think Sheik thought him incapable of doing the shrine on his own, and he—no, Link needed to learn independence. It didn’t matter what Sheik wanted to do.

Stay calm, Sheik tried to encourage Link in his thoughts, but as his own eyes slipped across the Guardian-infested grounds, he wasn’t so sure Link could. Take a breath. If you’re lucky, they’ll all be inactive, but let’s not—

Link took a step forward, every single part of both their bodies locking up as a horrifying creak split through the air. The guardian in the dead center of the square of space turned its body parts to release itself from the overgrown vines and began to glow magenta, detecting his presence. The section with the eye turned to face Link and pulsed a bright blue as it activated, and the sound of its internal gong being hit signified that it had locked onto him.

When the red aiming beam locked onto Link with rapid beeps, the brunette’s face darkened in horrified recognition, his mouth opening halfway but nothing more than a strangled choke coming out. Sheik glanced between him and the guardian, hesitating, then tensing up.

Why wasn’t he moving?

He… he had to move!

Sheik only hesitated a moment longer before he ejected himself from the shadow realm, staggering over the uneven ground as he inhaled sharply. His vision spotted black for only a moment, forced away only by his will and determination.

“Move, Link!” He shouted with the breath he was still holding, sucking in air greedily after that.

But Link didn’t notice, and the longer he went without moving, the longer each beep of the Guardian became and the closer its aim got to Link’s neck of all places, and—

By the Goddesses, I can’t let this happen again.

Sheik slammed his hand on the button on his chest, landing with a thud next to Link. That finally snapped the brunette out of whatever mental block he was in as he jumped, whipping around to face Sheik, but before he could say anything, Sheik shoved him out of the way by the shoulder, turning him around.

Just as the Guardian fired.

Luckily for Link, he caught himself in time before he could slam to the ground, and he quickly turned around, eyes widening at the fire encasing the grass before looking up at Sheik, who was pressed against the inner wall of the arch. Link had no time to see if Sheik was hurt before the blonde sprinted off, back toward the Guardian, and Link released a horrified gasp as he hurried back to try to help, narrowly avoiding the raging fire licking at his feet. He skidded to a stop inside the archway, hand against the wall while the fire died out behind him, unable to figure out what to do aside from watching. Even the thought of approaching that… thing terrified him.

Sheik was already heavily engaged with the beast—the machine, Link vaguely remembered Sheik had once said—his hands deftly releasing endless amounts of his beloved kunai with a deadly accuracy Link doubted he could ever rival. His feet were light and practiced as he fought in a dance for a battle of death, like he’d done this a thousand times before. He probably had. Alone. How many times had he gone up against these machines alone?

And Link… wasn’t sure if he’d ever seen anything more amazing.

Despite the cloak’s length, it didn’t seem to hinder Sheik’s mobility at all, even when it got caught under his feet when he landed on the ground in a crouch. The purple button on his cloak shimmered in the dying sunlight, yet it also seemed to darken as if to counteract an endless abyss of mystery and… shadow. He didn’t know why that word came to his mind, but it seemed to fit.

Sheik’s form was beautiful as he fought, twisting to avoid lasers and throwing kunai with such strength that, even though they never broke the eye, they cut into the machine’s protective shell, piercing it so that the kunai buried themselves to the hilt. He never seemed to run out, and every time Link looked back at the machine, the kunai that had just been embedded in it were gone, like they’d never existed—or that Sheik had somehow gotten them without approaching it.

Finally, after what seemed like forever (Link had the idea of pulling out his bow and firing, but he wouldn’t dare test his aim while Sheik was on the field) Sheik slammed his fist into the button on his cloak and disappeared in a plume of smoke, only to reappear directly above the Guardian, all five of his kunai clutched between his hands. He landed on the top on his knees with no protest or complaint, and just as the Guardian re-aimed at Link after losing its enemy, Sheik used his momentum from falling to thrust the kunai into its eye as hard as he could, an audible shatter of glass reaching Link from where he stood twenty or more feet away.

But Sheik didn’t stop there. He tugged them out and raised them high in the air, quickly bringing them back down, and he did it again and again and again and again, each strike harder and filled with more anger (or desperation) than the last, to where Link noticed that the button of his cloak was now glowing despite what remained of the sunlight—possibly because of the disappearing sunlight, but that didn’t explain why it continued to get brighter and brighter, and neither did it explain why Sheik’s body was now enshrouded in a purple aura of smoke.

Suddenly, Sheik raised both hands as high up as he could go and, with a short cry from the effort it made, slammed his hands down so hard that several things happened at once; the fog around his body dissipated with a force that sent Link stumbling back into charred grass, Sheik’s button flashed a bright purple before darkening once more, and the eye finally shattered and its glass shot out of the eye so fast that Link saw a spatter of blood immediately fall to the ground from Sheik’s hand, which had been directly in its path.

Silence so deafening it made his ears ring filled the air then, and a moment later he heard Sheik release a shuddering exhale and let go of his knives. Slumping back onto his haunches as smoke that glowed magenta encircled the machine, similar to the monsters they’d killed.

Sheik looked at Link then, nearly expressionless as he took slow, even breaths, a visible sheen of sweat on his face, and Link stared back. His hair glowed more gold than ever under the sunset, windblown and messy from his fighting, shoved out of his face so he could see.

All Link could think of then were how much like blood Sheik’s eyes looked like before the Guardian turned to smoke.

Sheik was definitely better put-together than Link gave him credit for. All he’d seen was the kunai fall to the ground and Sheik directly after, spurring him immediately into a run, but he slowed when he saw the knives clatter atop each other without a Sheik in sight. Instead, he found Sheik by hearing him grunt as he pushed himself to his feet, off to Link’s right, and Link hurried over to him as quick as his quivering legs would take him.

“Are you okay?” He asked, grabbing Sheik’s hands and inspecting the damage. Blood was seeping out, albeit slowly, but it still scared him, “Goddesses, Sheik, I—You didn’t need to do that, you could’ve gotten hurt—”

“I’m fine,” Sheik said. There was no animosity in it, but no reassurance either, and… it took Link a moment to realize there hadn’t really been any emotion. Link looked up at him and, after a few seconds, Sheik relented and wiped off his forehead with the back of his arm, wincing, “Alright, I… I’m fine physically. I hate fighting those things.”

“I can see why,” Link muttered in distaste.

“No,” Sheik said slowly, “It…” His eyes grew distant and Link saw his jaw shift under the mask, saw the slightest outline of his mouth sucking in as he likely bit his lip. He lightly nudged the blonde, bringing him back to the present, and Sheik sighed, “I just… hate what they mean. I don’t… I can’t… I’m sorry.” His tone sounded genuinely apologetic, making Link frown even harder, and he quickly continued with, “I’ll… explain later, alright? Go do the shrine. If you climb over the wall… path should be clear. We’ll go get that bed first thing once you come out.”

Link reluctantly nodded. Sheik was obviously having trouble speaking, but he decided not to push him on it; he didn’t want Sheik stressing out. “Alright. Get rest while I‘m in there. Please.” Sheik just hummed in response. “Promise?”

“Promise,” Sheik breathed. Link felt uneasy about that, but he didn’t argue; instead he led him by the wrist back over to the pile of kunai and what he now recognized as Guardian parts, picking up the knives and handing them carefully to Sheik. The blonde wiped off and slipped each kunai into their respective holsters on his thighs as if on auto-pilot, thanking Link quietly and then shuffling over to sit on the other side of the half-standing archway beside them, sinking down onto the grass with a tired sigh.

Link collected the materials with just a touch, then walked over to Sheik and knelt down beside him, reaching toward his hand. Unfortunately, that was when Sheik opened his eyes, and he swatted Link’s hand away before he could do anything.

“I got it,” He said, “Go on. The more time you take, the more into night we’ll go, and the less we’ll get to sleep.”

“Sheik,” Link warned with a bit of a whine. After a few moments of glaring bullets at each other, Sheik relented with a sigh. He pressed a concealed button on his wrist, which split the armored sleeve and glove and retracted them within each other, allowing Sheik to access his bleeding hand. With his other, he tapped his button and his backpack fell out of the air out of nowhere, about five feet away. Link spun wildly, eyes wide, but wisely decided not to ask. He grabbed it once Sheik groaned in pain from trying to remove a piece of glass, setting it down next to the blonde, and Sheik thanked him before shooing him away with his bloody hand, pulling out bandages and his box of tools from his backpack.

“I’ll be fine,” He tried to reassure, failing yet again. Link narrowed his eyes, realized it most definitely didn’t make Sheik feel threatened in the slightest, and reached over to pat his head before standing and moving toward the wall. He knew there would be no convincing him, so… there was no point to sticking around like a hovering bee.

Sheik watched Link through his bangs as he climbed, peeked over the edge, and tugged himself on top of the wall, balancing his way over to a purple chest and kicking it open. He proudly extracted a red shirt, showing it to Sheik before making it disappear. He then clambered off onto the other side, the orange glow between the rubble shifting to blue as he activated the shrine. Sheik finished cleaning and wrapping up his hand by the time he heard the pedestal move down so Link could enter the shrine.

Sheik released a shuddering breath then, pushing himself to his feet with a wobble and undoing his cloak, carelessly letting it fall to the ground. He looked down disdainfully at his waist, blinking hard against the sudden onslaught of nausea and tugging his muffler down so he could properly breathe.

He then glanced up at the blue light, swallowed, tugged off his scarf, and unzipped his clothes so he could treat the worst of the damage.

Which under no circumstances was Link allowed to see.

Chapter Text

Compared to the first shrine, this one had been laughably easy, and with a good reward to boot—that reward being the slate’s new bomb tool and some amber. The two-handed weapon he found… he kept, but doubted he would use it.

Link stretched as he exited from the shrine, nearly nighttime, and sighed as he walked out to the edge of the shrine’s external platform. There hadn’t been a single enemy and, despite having trouble with the puzzle (and also after realizing it could launch him through the air on his own accord, which was awesome), it had gone by pretty quickly. He eyed the rubble filling up the archway in front of him then grinned, pulling out a cubic remote bomb and placing it down next to it. He then walked a couple feet away, slate in hand, but didn’t yet activate it.

“Hey, Sheik?” He called out. If Sheik was still awake, he’d be amazed.

“What?”

Well, holy Hylia.

“I’m about to blow up this wall,” Link warned, “So, uh… move if you need to.”

“Hold on.” The sound of shuffling ensued for about twenty seconds, and when Sheik offered a, “Go ahead,” It was considerably more muffled than before. Assuming that meant he had moved away, Link pointed his slate screen at the bomb. Aside from the way his skin crawled at the loud noise—for what reason he didn’t know—he thought it was fun.

He exited from the area and moved over to Sheik, who was up and moving better than before, and he planted himself at Sheik’s side as they walked straight down and out of the structure. Sheik rubbed at his eyes, wincing before trading hands to do the job. Link eyed his hand, which had the glove and arm guards back on.

“How can I know if you treated it?” Link asked. Sheik shot him a look out the corner of his eye and Link held his hands up in defense, snickering, then turning serious, “... When we get there, I want to see.”

Sheik just sighed, not responding, and he led Link up the hill, stopping as he crouched and pointing.

“There is a Lynel over there,” Sheik said, “Specifically, a white-haired lynel.”

Link ignored Sheik’s subject change and asked, “You want me to defeat it?” His Boko Club re-materialized in his hands and Sheik shook his head fervently, grabbing the brunette’s wrist so he wouldn’t run off.

“No,” He says, “You lack the strength, the protection, and the resources needed to defeat it. If you tried right now, you would die a long, painful death as it completely and mercilessly pulverized every single part of your body.” Needless to say, Link hung the club over his back instead, keeping it within reach should he end up needing it. “I also have absolutely no wish whatsoever to interact with it; not today and probably not for a while. Hopefully never.”

“Are they that bad?”

“The Red Lynels are. White lynels? Worse.” He then shrugged, “That is, until you’ve gotten used to killing them.”

“Are you?”

“I used to be.”

Link tipped his head, tempted to ask what he meant, but as the last ray of sun on the ground slipped out of sight, he realized they should make their way to wherever it was Sheik wanted to go so they could sleep through the night.

Then get a break! That sounded like heaven, despite only having been doing this for a day and yet he already wanted a damn break.

“So,” Sheik says, “There’s a much simpler way to do this, but I figured it would be the perfect time to test out your stealth and problem-solving abilities.”

“Wh—Didn’t you just say—”

“Do you not know me well enough to realize I enjoy torturing you in training every chance I get?”

Link pouted, “Asshat.”

“Yes, that is indeed my official title.”

“Sheik the Asshat Sheikah?”

“Mhm.”

Link smiled, “I knew you didn’t constantly have a stick up your ass.”

“Now whoever said that?” Sheik shoved him up the rest of the hill and, thanks to the incline, Link caught himself before he could fall and flatten his face on the ground. The blonde came up beside him, cloak bunched up and tented in a way that indicated he had his hands on his hips, and he sighed before pointing. “You see those trees?”

“Mhm.”

“That’s where the Lynel is. He’s huge, so you can’t miss him, once you find him. And he will not miss you if you’re not out of sight, unless he’s already spotted you. Lynels’ strong suit are their keen eyes and intelligence. If you were to disguise as one, they would see you for what you are fairly quickly.”

“Wait, I could disguise—”

“If you made one, yes. But we’re not wasting several nights doing that—not right now.” Sheik pressed him forward with a hand to his elbow, hovering like a shadow, and Link glanced up at him before finding a good pace and walking, gripping the side of his belt nervously.

“Your job,” Sheik continued, “Is to pass by it undetected—or, at least, unharmed. I will warn you now; even if you get out of the range of its blade, it will fire arrows at you. Likely shock arrows.”

“What’s… shock?”

“You don’t want to know, trust me.” Sheik pat his arm before flipping his hood over his head and crouching just a little, which was effective enough to render his footsteps almost silent. They probably would have been silent if there hadn’t been grass to signify his weight being pushed down onto it. “What you’ll want to do is use the trees to block the Lynel’s line of sight, if it sees you. It will most likely approach, too, so just move around the tree to keep it from seeing you again.”

“Okay… where am I going?”

“At a point, you’ll see a boulder, and—depending on your angle—a house.”

“A what?”

“A boulder?”

“No, the other thing.”

“A…” Sheik glanced at him, expression hidden by the shadow from his cowl, and he shook his head and turned away after a few moments, “A house. It’s a structure built out of wood. Don’t worry about the house; once you get past the boulder, I’ll lead you there. The house is our safe spot. The lynel cannot attack us there…” He shifted, “... Hopefully.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ll see.”

What Link expected was definitely not what he got. Out of nowhere, a horribly loud roar filled the air, louder than the Guardian and enough to make the earth shake. Link stumbled and instinctively grabbed Sheik by the shoulder for balance (and, not like he would tell him, for hope of protection), his eyes wide as they scanned the dark horizon and then swiveled back over to Sheik for answers. The blonde hummed and brought a hand out to tap a finger against the button of his cloak, shaking his head.

“It hasn’t seen us,” He said, “It’s just laying claim to its territory.”

“Yeah, like that’s any better.” Sheik snorted. “It’s not a giant dog or some shit, is it? Am I gonna step in Lynel pee?”

Sheik’s snort turned into cackles and his hands sunk past the edge of his hood for him to bury his face into, stumbling just the tiniest bit. Link couldn’t help but smile as well and, as they continued to walk, he picked out what he could of Sheik’s figure underneath the cloak.

He really was a lot smaller than he appeared. Sure, Sheik had a couple inches on him, and—from what he remembered—he definitely wasn’t skinny, but he was still small, compared to his own size. There wasn’t really anyone else he could compare him to aside from himself. Besides, Sheik had been the first living thing he saw, and from the Box of Death, he had looked huge.

If he tried and if he worked just a little harder, Link knew he could easily overpower Sheik from sheer strength alone. But, just like Sheik himself had said, brains ranked much higher than brawn, and until Link learned how to properly use his skills, Sheik would remain undefeated.

Finally, Sheik released a loud sigh. A hand slipped out from his cloak and settled on Link’s shoulder, pulling him along.

“Anyway,” Sheik returned them to the mission at hand with a single word, ignoring Link’s cry of protest, and he returned each hand inside his cloak. “Your job is to sneak past the lynel undetected to a house in which we’ll rendezvous at.”

“All right.”

“…”

“What?”

“You’re not going to ask me what rendezvous means?”

“I mean, I have no idea what it means, but you said before that I had to go to the house—which, remember, I also don’t know what that is, either—so I’m assuming it means something like meeting up or whatever, since you said we were gonna meet there, so… yeah.”

“Well, you’re right. I’m surprised you were able to figure it out.”

“Why?”

“Because you have such a thick skull.”

Link frowned, reaching up and touching his head. “A thick skull? What does that have to do with anything?”

Sheik shook his head and sighed, offering no explanation before he walked a little faster. “I will go ahead,” He said, “I’ll be able to see your every move. If you end up caught, I’ll give you… ten seconds before I come to help you. Stay within the forest so you can work on your stealth. If you try to leave it, I’ll be there to stop you.”

“What all can you do besides teleporting?”

“If you hurry, maybe I’ll tell you.”

Link pouted, bitterly thinking to himself he’s going to forget again before sighing and crossing his arms. Sheik glanced over his shoulder at him, sending a curt wave before disappearing in a plume of smoke.

Link swallowed back the tight ball of fear lodged in his throat, trying to mentally remind himself that Sheik came back every time. He’d be back. No, he’d be waiting.

Just beyond the forest was a house, and in that house was Sheik and a bed—and hopefully a fire, or some food. That would be nice.

That would be really nice.

He breathed in deeply through his nose and reached back to tap his Boko Club and shield, releasing them back into the slate’s inventory. He shifted into a slight crouch to quell the indications of his presence and place his feet more carefully, glancing around to try to find the beast. Despite being unable to see it, he could tell that it was nearby.

He’d barely reached the trees when he finally saw it, a lot closer than he would’ve liked. The moonless sky made it a lot harder to see, so the fact that he recognized the mass of white hair for what it was against cliff side background was surprising; if he hadn’t noticed the slight shade difference, he would have missed it.

It was, as Sheik said, huge, rivaling even the Talus, but it didn’t terrify him nearly as much as the Guardian had. He shivered as he remembered the absolute dread he’d felt upon seeing it, faint flashes of muddled memory slipping back into his head.

The only thing that had run through his head was the word Guardian. On one hand, he felt relieved to remember such an important piece of information; on the other hand, it terrified him ten times more than his relief.

It was hard to see the more intricate parts of the Lynel, due to the dim light, but the discolorations made it easier to shape out. The body was striped, doing a rather good job of blending into the trees, and it was held up by four big, muscled legs that, though big, were put to shame by Sheik’s.

Wait, what?

Link shook the thought out of his head quickly, face burning, and he hurried over to a tree to peek around, trying to focus. He needed to stay out of this thing’s sight; figuring out what it looked like wasn’t important. He’d do that when there was light.

He searched what appeared to be the head for a minute, looking for eyes, and when he decided it was probably looking away, he moved to the next tree. He moved down three or four trees before freezing as the Lynel finally moved, its footfalls heavy as they shook the earth in time with its confident strut. He watched it leave, carefully picking his way across two more trees and waving a couple red flakes out of the way in slight irritation. He still wasn’t sure how real they were, given they seemed to just pass through everything they touched or dissipate before they could touch anything, but they were still annoying whenever they got in his eyesight.

After a couple more trees, he pressed himself against the rough surface while he peeked around to watch the Lynel and took slow, deep breaths. It was facing the general direction of the Shrine he’d just come from, sniffing the air, and he hoped to the Goddesses above it didn’t have a good sense of smell, too. He watched it, waiting for it to turn, and when he decided it was safe, he inched out from behind the tree.

However, he saw the lynel turn out of the corner of his eye and quickly scrambled back to the tree, heart jumping and slowly pounding louder and louder the longer it stared directly where he was. Had it seen him? Should he move? Should he run?

The silence was terribly, uncomfortably long. He wasn’t sure if it had seen him or not, but if it really was how Sheik said it would be… he’d rather be gone. He’d rather have taken the long way.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, the Lynel turned and walked away, looking to the direction of Link’s left—coincidentally, where he had to go. Link released the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding and slid down the tree to calm his racing heart.

He was still okay, right? He patted himself down and pinched his arm, grimacing at the pain but reassured that he was still alive. Hopefully, he still would be once this was all over.

Link looked around the tree and through the forest, trying to look between the trees for a sign of Sheik. He found nothing—he didn’t know why he would have, not even at the middle of the woods, but he supposed it was worth a shot—so he did the next best thing and looked around to analyze his surroundings as much as he could in the growing darkness.

It occurred to him then that if he didn’t hurry, he would have no idea where to go. It was already dark enough he couldn’t see much through the forest, which meant he had to rely on the direction he was facing and the location of the Lynel to figure out where he’d come from and where he needed to go. He breathed in slowly through his nose and held it, listening to the surrounding earth. When it gave him no tips, he released his breath slowly, allowing his body to relax.

He needed to wait until the Lynel was looking away and maybe, just possibly, book it. That or just keep picking his way across the forest as he had been, looking for any signs of life—for any signs of Sheik.

As long as he could find Sheik, he could find his way.

He turned so he could watch the lynel, waiting for a moment of opportunity. Once it was facing away—once it was farther away, really—he could go faster than normal. As long as he didn’t trip, all would be fine. He could run fast, if need be.

Well, he could climb fast. Running? He wasn’t so sure.

As the Lynel came to a stop facing the same direction Link was, he moved toward the next tree, glancing down at his feet now and then to watch his footing. There were a lot of roots, but not nearly as much as in the forest where he and Sheik had first made camp; he had grown accustomed to them and now found them easy to navigate, but there was always the off chance he would miss a step.

Luckily, that didn’t happen. He stopped by a fairly thick tree once he reached what he felt safe with while he and the Lynel were facing the same way, setting a hand against the side of the tree to watch. He was a little closer now, and—yeah, that was definitely a puddle of Lynel pee—he could hear the breathing of the creature from here. It surprised him how quiet it was; at this distance, he could practically hear a Bokoblin’s heartbeat. Yet this creature, which was at least ten times its size and mass, was much quieter than the pig-faced monster.

He understood now why Sheik described it as mighty.

His heart skipped a beat when the Lynel suddenly turned the opposite direction than he was and, with a snort, it began to walk again. He crouched, heart pounding as he watched, bouncing on the balls of his feet, and once he had gathered his nerve, he ran.

Only for his feet to immediately slam onto a twig that snapped so loudly, he could hear every single creature in the forest scamper away.

Including, a glance to his right told him, the Lynel itself.

“Ah, fuck,” He cursed, tearing his eyes away and sprinting off through the trees in what he believed was the direction of the boulder—house—whatever it was—nearly tripping when he heard a loud, ferocious growl split through the silent air of the night. He let out a short scream, hands flying up to his head when he heard something crashing behind him.

Thrice dammit.

His feet pounded against the ground faster than they had since he’d woken, faster than the first time he’d run and felt the exhilarating rush of freedom flood through his veins and envelop him in its sweet, wonderful feeling. He felt that again now as he barely jumped over a root then stumbled from a deep rumble in the earth he knew came from the Lynel, his nose greedily sucking in breaths while his mouth pushed them in for more, more, more.

It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough.

He looked behind him again, gasping at the much closer view of the beast than he liked and begging his body to go fast enough to escape those terrifying yellow eyes. He turned around just in time to dodge a tree he’d been running toward, half-running and half-jumping at this point to try to lengthen his strides.

This isn’t enough.

His hands raised to his mouth while he took in a large breath to whistle, but then he found it. He was running in the slightly wrong direction and he really should’ve checked from the beginning but he found the building—just the back before it disappeared behind an outcropping of rock.

The very same one that Sheik stood upon now.

He turned as fast as he could and, just as he suspected, his feet skidded across the ground and he slammed into the dirt as a result, one hand already grabbing at a nearby root while the other went to cradle the side of his head that hit the ground. He yanked himself to his knees and just barely got to his feet, ignoring the heat he felt blooming from the side of his head and the burning in his skin. He pulled his hand away and ducked around the other side of the tree, sprinting across the face of the rocks. He looked up for Sheik, faltering when he couldn’t find him, and yelped when he was yanked forward by a hand in his shirt.

“Come on,” Sheik hissed, ruby red eyes dulled to blood red as they glanced over Link’s shoulder, “Hurry!”

“You just—woah!”

Sheik was off like an arrow, dragging Link along towards a building that Link felt was vaguely familiar until he found purchase on the ground again, their feet pounding in unison. Sheik let go once Link had found his pace, breathing hard in the now silent atmosphere.

It was… deathly silent.

Link slowed down. “Is it not following us anymore?” He asked, slowing to a stop, his hand reaching up to brush against his skin. He looked away just as Sheik skidded to his own stop and whipped around, eyes wide.

The Lynel was pointing a bow straight up into the air and, just as he looked at its arrows—five, he thought?—its fingers released and a stream of green light shot up into the sky. He looked up, his stomach sinking, and cursed as he realized way too late that they had made a perfect arc over his head.

“God dammit, Link, when will you learn to--”

Link turned to run and crashed into Sheik, the blonde holding them tight, and they stared at each other for a couple moments before Sheik shoved him away for the second time that day.

The last thing that Link saw before he hit the ground was bright green light branching out in the air, crackling and making the hair on his neck stand at attention, before they landed in the ground and engulfed Sheik.

Chapter Text

While his head slamming into the ground—again—wasn’t exactly the most fun of experiences, it wasn’t the first time, and would not be the last.

The green light had lit up the entire area, illuminating every detail and giving shadows to things he hadn’t seen before. It was beautiful, but the odd feeling that slipped through his legs reminded him it was also dangerous.

Especially since Sheik was screaming. Link was sitting up before he knew it, vision blacking out from the movement but forcibly regained as he pressed his fist on the ground behind him to keep him sitting up.

And he didn’t know if he was glad or terrified to have been able to watch what happened.

Sheik was screaming, that was for sure, but he held most of it back while his body shook in violent tremors, the green light making crackling noises between Sheik and the arrows on the ground. Link pulled his feet away from them and shoved himself to his feet, wavering with his balance and the strange feeling in his legs, and he turned around briefly to check what the Lynel was doing.

The sight of it nocking another set of arrows and aiming up into the sky was enough to spur him on, forcing him to move before he could second guess anything again. He hurried over to Sheik, debating how to get to him past the heat he could feel from just a few feet away, and then gasped when the lights finally cut out with a snap.

He was almost positive Sheik was no longer conscious—and if he was, it was a good thing Link caught him without more than a fumble, or else he might have gotten hurt worse. Link shivered when he touched Sheik’s buzzing, burning skin, feeling the residual crackle through the blood in his hands and arm. He bit his lip and, with one last glance behind him, picked Sheik up bridal-style and walked as fast as he could to the house.

The sound of the bowstring drawing back was like a mark of demise, spurring him on faster. He jostled Sheik in his arms, nearly losing his balance but finding it at the last moment, holding Sheik close to his body as he made his way to the house. Once he had a proper hold on Sheik he tried to sprint, making it only a few steps before it turned into a light run and, quickly after, a light jog. Several times he tried to speed up, to no avail; even though the side of the house was finally nearby, he couldn’t calm down, his mind spinning into overdrive as he contemplated how to get inside quickly and wondered if it could even protect them and--

The sound of the bowstring snapping yanked him back into the present, his body filling with pure adrenaline running off ultimate fear. He clutched Sheik tighter to his chest and sped up, sticking close to the house as he waited for it to hit him, felt the heat at his back and then

The relief he felt when the arrows hit the ground behind him instead was like nothing else, a dry laugh escaping his lips as he glanced back one last time at the lynel. Its action of nocking another arrow didn’t scare him anymore, hands tight on Sheik’s unconscious body to support him when needed, and he knew he’d be inside soon.

But when the Lynel aimed straight at him this time instead of up into the air, the dread and panic and fear returned tenfold, his eyes swiveling back to the front immediately.

He wasn’t sure how he did it; his legs, body, and mind were aching from such a long day, and he felt so close to death he was sure he would be if Sheik didn’t exist, if Sheik hadn’t been there to help him every step of the way.

But he couldn’t abandon him. He wouldn’t.

Link ran as fast as he could, his arms lifting and holding Sheik so tight to his chest he would have been weightless had he not been so exhausted. Link kept his eyes on the corner of the house, racing against time itself, and glanced up at the sky one last time, eyes squeezing shut as the bowstring pulled.

Please Hylia, don’t let me mess this up.

The moment he opened his eyes and saw the corner of the house pass by him in a blur of color, he skidded into a turn and threw himself into the ground onto his back just as the arrows whizzed by. His hold was tight enough on Sheik to keep him from moving most of the way, but his head lolled onto Link’s shoulder, face half buried in Link’s neck as he turned, eyes caught onto the streaks of bright green.

All five of the arrows landed in a tree long past the house, embedding themselves with the sound of splintering wood and a roaring crackle in the air. He allowed himself two mere seconds to stare before rolling and carefully depositing Sheik on the ground, shoving himself back onto his feet by his fingertips on the ground.

He had no idea if the Lynel was coming over here, but if it was, he would not risk being caught.

Link bent down and scooped Sheik into his arms, heart sinking at the way his head dropped back so his neck craned, fluffy blonde hair falling through the air like a waterfall. He was definitely unconscious, that was for sure; Link hoped not for long, and that he was okay. Just because he was breathing didn’t mean he was all right.

There was a weird light hanging above an elevated piece of wood that just barely lit the one-room house. It was by this light he made his way over to a surface that looked comfortable, and once he verified that it was sturdy with his knee he set Sheik down, watching him for a few moments.

Aside from Sheik’s shuddering breathing he was deathly silent. Link took that as the best shot he would get and went back to the doorway, hand setting on the wall.

For a while, Link just stood there, listening to the world around them. It was still much more silent than normal; hopefully the Lynel wasn’t lingering nearby or had approached.

The moment he heard footfalls starting and fading off into the distance, he relaxed, arms wrapping around himself as he pressed the uninjured side of his forehead against the door frame, eyes fluttering shut. The silence, though somewhat jarring, allowed him to recollect himself, but also allowed the pain to seep in and reveal itself. His legs shook and ached, the left side of his head and face were hot, the left side of his body stung from hitting the ground, his right forearm felt sticky underneath the bandages, and…

He felt exhausted.

At the sound of shuffling, Link turned around and opened his eyes, relief filling his body as he noticed Sheik moving around. The jerky motions were a stark contrast to his usual grace, but it was something, and if that was the most he would get then he could live with that. Link made his way back over slowly, keeping his steps loud to alert Sheik of his presence. He stopped by the elevated flat piece of wood, formed a fist, and when Sheik stopped moving, he knocked on it.

That seemed to catch his attention. Sheik gasped and went to sit up, then groaned and fell back onto the surface Link put him on, arms shakily encircling his stomach. The light from above flickered in his eyes as he turned to look at Link with a dazed, confused expression that quickly morphed into one of relief.

“You got us inside?” Sheik asked softly, grunting as he tried to roll into his side. Link nodded and made his way over, setting one hand on the blonde’s shoulder to still him.

“Yeah,” He said. He laughed dryly. “Barely. Can I help you?”

“I’m fi—”

“No, you’re not. Let me help.”

Sheik sighed, his head falling back onto the squishy surface with a soft thump. After a minute he relented, left hand coming up to grip Link’s hand, causing Link to narrow his eyes. He could feel him shaking, his grip faltering at every movement until finally, his fingers twitched and his hand slid down onto his stomach.

Had he really thought he could do this all on his own?

“Yes,” Sheik said, “I… yeah. I need help. Please.”

Link gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze before removing his hand, moving over to Sheik’s bottom half. He apologized before grabbing Sheik by his thigh and waist, turning him over.

The blonde’s low hiss didn’t go unnoticed at all; Link turned to look at him, confused, and Sheik waved him off after taking a deep breath.

“I’m fine,” He said, “Just feeling the… effects from the damn electricity.”

“The what?”

“You remember the green light?” Link nodded, “That’s what I told you about before. Shock arrows, electricity, lightning. Not fun at all, trust me.”

Link hummed out a sigh. “I can tell. Sorry if I hurt you.”

“It’s all right,” Sheik sighed, “Nothing I haven’t felt before.”

Link frowned as he finished rolling Sheik onto his side, doing it as carefully as he could. “Just because you’re used to it doesn’t mean I want to do it more to you. Isn’t the goal not to get more hurt than we already are?”

“Well, yes, but—”

“Then shut up.”

Sheik did as asked (as told, really), using what little strength he had left to help Link move his feet. He made no other noises of pain or protest, and Link really hoped that meant whatever injuries he had weren’t as bad as he imagined.

Instead of continuing to worry though, he did something else, instead.

“Why was there purple smoke around you today?” He asked, glancing up at Sheik after helping him adjust the angle of his leg. A long pause ensued, the blonde’s body still but not frozen. Link worked on pulling off his backpack straps instead to pass the time. Several long moments passed.

“Magic,” Sheik answered. One of his hands trailed up to the button on his cloak while Link still had yet to turn, fingers brushing over the amethyst stone. Shadow answered him, spreading from his fingertips to the core of his body, and he released it before it could drag him in under Link’s watchful eyes.

“You can use magic?”

“I can, yes. But not very much. I’m still training.”

Link’s blue eyes, muted by the darkness of the house, were on him in half a second, wide in wonder. “Could you show me?”

Sheik hesitated. Would that be a good idea? After all, Link couldn’t use it, and… Sheik didn’t want to tempt him with something he couldn’t use, nor did he want to reveal too much of his family’s secrets. Plus, if everything from the day meant what he thought it meant, using magic would just make everything worse.

Not like that mattered.

“I…” He stopped himself and released a rough sigh, running a hand through his hair. “I don’t know, Link. Maybe. And I’m not,” He reached up and grabbed Link’s arm when the boy tried to walk away, hoping his pleads were clear in whatever Link could see of him. “I’m not trying to keep every single secret away from you, okay? I just…” He squeezed Link’s arm before he let go, slipping it underneath his cloak and pressing it to his aching chest. He whispered, “… I need guidance, too.”

Link said nothing at first, staring at the light. Thousands of thoughts were running through his head at once, causing him to wonder many things. After what seemed like forever he sighed and turned back to Sheik, gathering his torso in his arms and lifting him.

“I know,” Link said, his hands working on pulling off Sheik’s backpack. Once it was out from underneath him, Link set him back down, right hand reaching up to smooth Sheik’s hair away from his face. “I’m not mad.” He pulled off the slate from his waist and opened Sheik’s bag, slipping it in and then setting it back down next to his hands. “We should sleep.”

“We?” Sheik asked. Link nodded and turned around, moving over to the light and standing on his toes. After much exploration he finally grabbed a knob on the side and twisted it, causing it to dim then turn off, his hand waving around to fan the smell away.

“Of course,” He said as he turned around, “Got a hot date?” He found the purple of Sheik’s button in the darkness and used it to guide him in the right direction, hand out to feel for his surroundings. In the moonlight that shone beside Sheik, he could see that the bag was gone.

“What? I—No.” He scoffed. “And you’re about to touch my thigh.” Link quickly retracted his hand with an apology and stopped, moving his foot out to try to find the object. “The bed is empty underneath. Just—agh, all right.

A moment later, purple light fills the room brighter than the candle had, flickering the slightest bit. The source of it was a small purple fire that lie in Sheik’s outstretched and still shaking hand, casting an otherworldly sheen over his red eyes.

It glowed just as brightly as his button.

“Is that where it’s coming from?” Link asked, moving closer to Sheik’s feet and crawling up into the surface. Even without lying on it he knew it would be more comfortable than any forest floor he could acquaint himself with; his knee sunk into it a little, as did Sheik’s body. He put his hands down on the surface as well and crawled up the bed, lying down behind his companion and propping himself up with his elbow.

“Partly, yes.” Sheik watched him with keen eyes, tensing a little and, after too long a silence, relaxing. He reached back with his fiery hand. “I can make the fire with my own magic, but the… button makes it special. Touch it.”

“Touch fire?”

“If you don’t touch it, I’ll shove it in your face.”

“All right, fine.” Link reached up cautiously, fingers twitching, and he gave Sheik a wary glance before finally just shoving his hand into the fire.

He expected it to burn; he really did! He’d accidentally burnt his hair off frequently, usually on his arms and legs, so when this fire cooled his skin rather than heated it up, he felt confused and surprised. He glanced at Sheik before turning his hand over in the fire, letting it envelop his skin in its eerily chilly touch.

“Why’s it cold?” He asked.

“Because of the magic that comes from the button,” Sheik said. Before Link could ask, Sheik pulled away his fire hand and raised his other hand to his mouth as he turned. The fire quickly hovered above his hand instead of enveloping it, the base of it white while most of the rest of it shone blue. The ends flickered orange and yellow, licking at the air, and Link leaned away as intense heat filled their small space. It immediately threw his chilled body into an inferno; he wondered how Sheik wasn’t bothered by it.

“Sorry,” Sheik said, his hand lowering back onto the button on his cloak. With just a touch the purple fire was back, the heat in the air slowly dissipating after a few moments. “I have to be touching the button to keep on the other magic, and… I needed to yawn.”

“So the fire itself is your own magic?”

“Mhm.”

“Wow.” Link looked at Sheik for a minute, quiet, then he reached up and gently grabbed his hand, ridding it of its shaking. “That was really hot fire. Is blue fire real?”

“It is, yes.”

“Woah… is it hotter than orange fire?”

“Indeed, it is.”

“Huh… cool.”

Sheik hummed and stared at him, something unreadable in his eyes, then he squeezed Link’s hand and tugged, as if to pull it away. Link reluctantly released it, reaching back to take out his ponytail while Sheik waved his hand to quench the fire. The button pulsed purple light once more before the room slipped into darkness, and Sheik sighed.

“All right, so… this is a bed.” Sheik patted the surface they were on to clarify, then tossed something back at Link into his chest. “That’s my other cloak. Somewhere by your head is a pillow for you to use.”

“Ooh, a pillow?” Link sat up and reached up by his head, feeling around until finally, his hand settled on an extra squishy item. He grabbed it and put it behind his head, lying down with a yawn. “Thank you.”

“Mhm.”

Link rolled onto his side to face Sheik, frowned, and asked, “Do you have your own pillow?”

“There’s only one. It’s yours.”

“That’s not gonna slide. Come here.”

Before Sheik could even think of protesting, Link tugged the blond close enough to where Sheik could use half the pillow, the back of his head nearly touching Link’s nose. Sheik sighed.

“The pillow’s for you, Link. I don’t--”

“Shhhh.” Link grabbed the cloak Sheik had given him and shook it out, flicking it over both of them—but mostly himself, since Sheik had his own. His arms itched to hug him but he chose not to, closing his eyes and setting his forehead against the back of Sheik’s neck instead. “Go to sleep.”

“Link—”

“Sleep now, conscious later.” Link hesitated before adding, “… Thank you for showing me your magic, but you need sleep. If you sleep, I won’t be a giant pain in the ass tomorrow.”

Sheik snorted and shook his head, not responding but closing his eyes all the same. It hit him then how exhausted he truly was; the electricity had long since exited his body, but he still felt the phantom pains and tremors snaking their way through his muscles. The injury on his side was uncomfortably warm, but no longer hurt as much as it did only a couple hours before. He’d need to treat it tomorrow, and… he’d need to redress a good amount of Link’s wounds. Wait—hadn’t he been bleeding at some point?

Link’s soft snores distracted him from his thoughts, forcing him to relax as he thought about the situation. If he had been bleeding, Sheik could not do anything about it in this state. Even using fire, one of his easiest forms of magic, was taking a toll on him physically and mentally, leaving him much more drained than his strongest abilities did even at his most energized. It was not wise to dress his wounds under the light he needed both hands for—under the light he could no longer use one hand for.

Sighing, Sheik tugged on his own cloak for it to cover him up more, trying to settle down. Sleep would be the best choice—and if he woke up early, maybe he could better treat his burn before Link woke up and found out about it. And he could make food, while he was at it…

Sheik shook his head, reaching up to wipe away the tears that rose from yet another yawn. He needed to sleep. The faster he slept, the earlier he woke.

He pulled the muffler down until it was below his nose, offering him a better way to breathe, and after he measured his inhales and exhales to better relax, he settled into the deep throes of sleep alongside the Champion of Hyrule.

Chapter Text

Light flooding in through his closed eyelids was not the way Link imagined waking up, but it was much better than being trampled by a Lynel like he’d been dreaming of all night.

He took a deep breath through his nose, pulling his arm out from wherever he wrapped it around to stretch, then rubbed his eyes before opening them. What he saw and what he then realized made him pause.

In front of him lie Sheik, wrapped up tight in his brown cloak as his body slowly rose and fell with each breath. Underneath him was Link’s right arm, which he quickly discovered to be numb when he squeezed his hand and carefully wriggled it free from underneath him. Link sat up, stilling when the thing—the bed, he reminded himself—creaked underneath his moving weight, his eyes settling on the blonde in the meantime.

Sheik didn’t stir, his golden locks curling over his cheek and slightly fanning out across the pillow he seemed to have gotten more of as the night went by. His skin glistened with sweat in the light, hair in more bunches than strands and settled close to his head. At first, Link wondered if he was hot; however, a closer look revealed that Sheik was clutching his cloak close to his chest and shivering.

Link swallowed before pushing off the extra cloak Sheik had pulled out, his fingers brushing against the soft, silky inside before pressing onto the bed as he crawled off as carefully and quietly as he could. When he turned around to get a proper look, Sheik’s eyebrows were drawn tight together, his shuddering breath barely audible, and his body was curled up much more than Link remembered positioning him in.

The brunette grabbed the other cloak and pulled it off the bed, shaking it out, and then he took a few steps back toward the bed and gingerly lay the cloak back over Sheik as a second blanket. He didn’t get much reaction aside from Sheik relaxing a little, but he figured that was as good as he’d get. Lowering his hand to Sheik’s face, he brushed some of his sweaty hair away from his nose and eyes with the finger pad of his thumb, staring for just a moment longer. His eyes traveled down a little, the edges of his lips tugging into a smile before he straightened and turned around.

Sheik had an adorable nose.

The house was… a lot cosier than he expected but, then again, he’d been sleeping on literal dirt and rock the last few months. He still did not understand what some things were, like the surface under the hanging lantern, but off to the side he noticed a mushroom and a pepper like one Sheik had brought at some point.

Link flinched at sudden pressure on the right side of his waist, turning to look and then snorting when he realized it was his own hand. Upon realizing the Sheikah slate wasn’t there—and neither was Sheik’s bag, he noted—he pouted and realized he wouldn’t be able to access all the food he had. He wanted eggs, dammit!

He picked up the mushroom and pepper as he walked by, careful not to send them to the slate, then backtracked and picked up an apple he saw off to the side. He looked down at his haul, pursed his lips, and then sighed.

What in the world could he make with this? He needed something better. Sheik didn’t seem to be in the best of conditions, and it would really suck if he went all out on something and his companion wasn’t able to handle eating it. He sighed as he walked out the doorway, glancing around before making his way to a nearby pot, depositing the food inside it so he wouldn’t have to hold them.

If Sheik was sick… then soup would probably be best. Soup or at least something easy for him to consume.

He could probably just cook the pepper and the mushroom together and hope to Hylia that not all the liquid evaporated, but he had little faith that would happen, and he didn’t want to burn Sheik’s mouth in greeting.

Although… Sheik liked spicy stuff, and if he was as cold as Link thought, maybe it would be beneficial. Maybe he could cook the mushrooms and peppers together, and… since the mushrooms were squishy and easy to chew, then the heat of the pepper would just transfer over! And the apple…

... Well, he could just squeeze the shit out of the apple and hope it worked.

Grinning to himself, Link sat down between the pot and a log, taking the ingredients out and settling them in his lap. Now all he needed was to--

God dammit, I don’t have any fucking flint! Link groaned and dragged his right hand over his face in frustration, leaning back onto the log as his eyes rolled up to the sky, wondering what in Hyrule he could do. There was no way he was going back to that goddess-forsaken forest while he was defenseless or, even worse, while Sheik was asleep, not to mention he had a Lynel in the way. He had a sinking sensation there was more to Sheik’s job than just protecting him, but he would wait for Sheik to tell him when he wanted to.

Goddesses… there were a lot of things Link was waiting for him to reveal. He didn’t know if that was good or bad—at least for Sheik.

For him? He wasn’t sure of that, either.

Sighing, he stuffed his hands in his lap and tried to think of a solution. There was no way he was leaving the area to find a stupid rock that was hard to find in the first place, but the only place he could get flint from otherwise was his slate, unless there was some nearby.

And he… didn’t want to get up.

With a sigh, he deposited the food back into the pot and closed his eyes to concentrate, holding one of his hands out in the air. He very much doubted he could get the flint from his slate from... wherever it was that easily, so he’d need to focus on making it happen—that is, if it was in an entirely different realm like he was guessing. How else could his bag just disappear like that?

Link had a sinking suspicion it had something to do with Sheik’s weird cloak button.

Idly, he wiggled his fingers and cocked his head enough for his neck to crack, then switched directions and cracked it on the other side. With a deep breath, he focused on the surrounding sounds, listening to the trees and the grass as they rustled in the barely present breeze. As he exhaled, he took them each into account, carefully picking their most calming aspects, and when he inhaled, he pulled them in with the air he took into his lungs, allowing his environment to wrap around his body, around his soul.

The moment he heard footsteps, he opened his eyes and turned.

When he saw Sheik hunched in the doorway, everything turned to black.

*~*~*~*~*~

“The Hylian Champion, hm?”

How he hadn’t had the shit scared out of him, Link had no idea; all he knew was that everything was still dark, the barest of lights from both sides of the wall behind him casting a dim glow over his surroundings. To his sides were walls made of layered stone blocks; the left wall had a lit torch halfway up, and the right wall had a square painting he could barely see. Beyond them both was darkness, but he somehow knew it in his gut it was a hallway. Whatever that was.

Within that darkness, he could faintly see the cloth of two feet that were much smaller than his, the toes pointed toward each other rather than straight. Somehow, he knew those feet; his grip tightened on the sword he had pressed into the red carpet beneath him, and then his eyes moved over to the painting. He needed something else to look at.

“I must say,” The person with children’s feet but a man’s voice continued, “You really don’t strike me as the Champion type.”

Link said nothing. He knew that.

The man sighed, then tapped the toes of his feet against the floor a couple times, a couple cracks following to indicate he’d cracked some joints. Link stiffened, prepared for a punch at any moment now, his left hand tighter on his sword than his right.

Except it never came.

“How are you doing?” The voice asked instead, throwing him off enough to look up in the general direction of their head. He couldn’t see them, but their feet shifting more out of the light told him he landed the direction perfectly.

How was… he doing? Well… he didn’t know. He couldn’t know. Was he supposed to know? He glanced behind him, maybe trying to find the true person to receive the question, but all that met him were the torches and the big double doors that led to Hyrule’s Highness, herself.

“I’ll take that as horribly,” The other said, “And that she hasn’t been treating you well, either.” The ache in his chest answered him even in the real world, enough to make everything flicker back to the image of a bright blue sky encasing his entire vision.

Well, all of it except for golden blonde hair, tan skin, and ruby red eyes.

“It’s not your fault,” The man said, “Don’t take it too close to heart. She just…” He paused for a long while, inhaled slowly, and exhaled in a long, loud sigh. “It’s not your fault, kid.”

Yes, it is.

Link would’ve jumped if he could at the sound of his voice in his head, the soft and hesitant stone reverberating down to the bone of his skull. It was higher pitched than it was now, and less scratchy, with more of a… youthful sound? However, he had listened to Sheik enough to recognize the pain and the stress.

He knew that sound.

Thrice dammit, he felt it, too.

If it’s not my fault, He—Past him, thought, Then whose could it possibly be?

“Anyway,” The man said, “I need to see her.”

Of course you do, He thought. It sounded bitter and… sad.

Everything went black again and, after a moment, Link realized he’d closed his eyes. He kept them closed without a fight, listening intently to the world around him until he could pick out the sound of soft steps on the carpet floor. He took a single step away from the door, shifting on his aching feet, then stiffened at the feeling of a hand on his shoulder.

The hand pulled him until he was leaning with his head around shoulder level, his hands gripping his sword harder for better support. After a moment, he felt something brush against the shell of his ear, a shiver shooting from his spine.

“I believe you can do great things, Hylian,” The man said, squeezing his shoulder before brushing his hand across Link’s collarbone until he could grab the other side of Link’s neck. His hand sunk into the hair on the back of his head, turning it with ghostly tugs, and then his other hand pressed against Link’s eyes to keep them closed. Once the man turned Link’s head to face him completely, he tilted Link’s head down and pressed their foreheads together, warm breath the only respite to the numbing chill that had filled Link’s body—his heart—ever since… well, forever, it seemed.

“But you need to prove it,” He said. Link’s body doused itself back into the waters of Hebra Falls itself, sinking through his skin and into every fiber of his muscles. “Once you do, you’ll be more deserving of the title of Champion.” The hand in his hair squeezes gently, fingernails dragging carefully along his scalp, and then the man released his hold on him and untangled his fingers from Link’s ponytail, patting his right cheek gingerly instead.

“You can do it, kid,” He said, “Have faith in yourself. Let go.”

Link didn’t realize he’d left until he heard the doors close beside him. From then on, the only warmth he feels comes from the torches he put back behind him, burning his skin where the phantom pressure on his neck, scalp, eyelids, and cheek lie.

There was a trail of lava on his cheek.

It met the back of his glove.

Chapter Text

“Link?”

Link’s eyes opened immediately, squinting hard against the too-bright sky until they focused on the form of Sheik above him. The Sheikah definitely looked worse for wear; despite the warm temperatures, he shivered like a leaf in a heavy wind, his cloak wrapped tightly around himself with one hand while the other rubbed at his arm, trying to warm up. His face seemed much paler than usual, though not as pale as it had been when they first met. Rather… right now it had a sickly pallor.

He shouldn’t be out of bed.

“Did you just…” Sheik laughed shakily, shivering before tightening his cloak. The corners of his eyes wrinkled like he was trying to smile, but it disappeared quickly, appearing to be too much effort to keep up. “... take a nap out here, or something? It… it’s cold, Link.”

Link stared for a second, blinking as he tried to remember what had happened. Instead, he pushed himself up to his feet, shaking his head to dismiss the thoughts in favor of something much more important.

“I, uh…” Link stared at the ingredients in the pot, glanced at Sheik, then turned fully to his companion with what he hoped was a firm look on his face. “I just need one thing from you, and then I want you to go straight to bed.”

“What?” Sheik’s eyebrows scrunched together in confusion, “What do you mean? Why?”

“You’re sick,” Link deadpanned. Sheik scoffed and rolled his eyes, loosening the hold on his cloak as he opened his mouth to retaliate. However, a stern frown and a hand pressing against his forehead quickly stopped Sheik from vocalizing one of his many ‘well-thought out’ excuses. Any of those excuses would have been useless; the faint sheen of sweat clinging to the backs of Link’s fingers when he pulled his hand away was all the proof the Hylian needed, along with the heat of his skin rivalling that of a spicy pepper. Sheik had suggested he try one, once… never again. “Don’t even try to convince me otherwise, Sheik. You feel like fire.”

Sheik huffed and tugged both arms back into his cloak, turning away. “I’m fine.”

Always the stubborn one, hm? “You’re not.”

“I’m fine, Link, I—” He tried to push himself back up to his feet, but he only got halfway up before he faltered and tumbled back over, scowling at his own weakness. A foolish man indeed.

“You don’t look fine to me,” Link said with finality, reaching out and pulling Sheik up to his own unsteady feet. It didn’t escape him how the still-empty pot suddenly became the most interesting thing for Sheik to want to look at, eyebrows scrunched together in defiance. Link sighed and softened his voice as he set a hand on Sheik’s shoulder, turning him to lead him back over to the house. “I’m gonna make food. I want you to rest.”

“But—”

“No ifs, ands, or buts, mister.” Link glanced behind him, “I don’t want to hear it. I just slept for a full century; you can afford to have your own rest for a bit.”

Sheik groaned in what sounded like irritation, “You should listen to yourself.”

“The difference between you and me is that I was supposed to protect an entire kingdom from a force of evil. You were just supposed to… watch me while I slept.” Link pulled him to the bed and pushed him down to sit, releasing his hand so he could grab the other cloak and whisk it around Sheik’s body as much as he can, ignoring whatever Sheik muttered right then—not like he could hear it, anyway. Rubies come up to meet sapphires, both unblinking. Link hesitated a few moments before leaning forward and wrapping him in a hug.

Sheik stiffened immediately, which Link expected. He squeezed gently, pressed his face into Sheik’s shoulder, and waited until Sheik had returned his hug—albeit stiffly—before speaking.

“I failed to protect this kingdom all those years ago, Sheik. I am on the path of redemption. The least I can do to mend the damage I have done to you is protect you… even if it is from your own dumbass self.” Sheik grew more tense, but after several long moments, relaxed and adjusted his hold on Link, pulling him closer and nestling his face into Link’s shoulder. Link used one hand to clear off the space on the bed next to Sheik—meaning, he pushed Sheik’s cloaks closer to him, more to warm him up than anything—then settled beside him, pulling him close. Sheik was surprisingly receptive to it, allowing himself to be wrapped in Link’s arm—even snuggling into his chest a bit!

Maybe there were some perks to Sheik being sick, and only half lucid… though it was a selfish thought, for sure.

Link was very careful to not set his head on Sheik’s, choosing instead to set his hand on Sheik’s shoulder and leave it there. Several glorious minutes passed by—neither moving nor speaking, with only the sounds of the natural world to accompany them—and Link tried not to use those several minutes focusing on the way Sheik’s hair smelled, or how gold and shimmery it looked even without the glow of the sun. He tried not to think about how his chest constantly felt like it was getting squeezed, or how warm Sheik felt beside him.

He tried not to sigh. He really did… and yet to his regret he sighed anyway, only for Sheik to flinch—causing Link to realize the entirety of his weight was pressed into Link’s side, and that it was just a tad more bright out—and reach up to rub at his eyes, hand pressing into the bed between them to push himself back up a little.

Tired, then. He didn’t want to move, but Sheik needed to rest. He needed to rest comfortably… which meant Link couldn’t stay with him. Not right now. He leaned down a bit toward Sheik’s head, paused, then pulled his head away and cleared his throat, giving the blonde a dashing smile when tired ruby orbs found his. “Now hand me my slate and I’ll get out of your hair.”

That moment of sincerity over, Sheik rolled his eyes and sat up proper, only to push Link off him with enough force to send him to the floor. It seemed that, even while sick, Sheik was still annoyingly stronger. Another goal then, I suppose, Link thought, laughing all the while.

“Hand me my backpack,” Sheik grunted, lying down and tugging the cloaks where he wanted them. He looked angry, but Link could tell from his tone that he wasn’t truly mad. Grumpy, maybe.

He hoped a smile was underneath that damn mask.

Link stood up and grabbed the backpack, hesitating before handing it over to Sheik. The blonde dropped it on the bed in front of him and began to undo the latches in a fashion that could be mistaken as lazy if Link didn’t know he was exhausted. The Sheikah slate immediately fell out, as did a couple other things, but Sheik pushed them back in much too quickly for him to see. Instead of dwelling on it as he usually did, Link took the slate and settled it on the hook on his belt, settling for then reaching down to thumb away stray hairs that were threatening to fall in front of Sheik’s sunset-red eyes.

“What do you want to eat?” Link asked softly. Sheik shivered as he shrugged, shaking his head as he finished latching his backpack, movements jerky but slow.

“Whatever is fine with me,” He said dismissively. Link pouted and, after a moment, he sighed, briefly pointing to something behind Link. “There should be… a book with a recipe in here. If you need help,” He yawned, long and hard, and finished with, “Let me know before I fall asleep.”

Link smiled to himself before turning around, surveying the room for a book. After a couple moments he found it; it sat open upon the other side of the flat piece of wood that the candle hung over, looking miraculously fresh despite how… long it must have been there.

It was strange.

He patted the structure as he waded around it, passing a glance back at Sheik before stepping over to a tree trunk in the middle of the damn house. “What is this thing called?”

Sheik opened his eyes blearily, staring at the scene for several long moments before humming and pushing himself up. Link, having been already trying to sit, immediately flailed his arms around instead to pull himself back to his feet, trying to get back over to his companion to help. However, Sheik scooted more onto the bed rather than off it, leaning against the large logs that made up the walls behind him and glancing outside through the space between them.

“A table,” Sheik finally supplied. “Usually people eat on them.”

“Straight off the wood?”

“No. They use plates and such.” Sheik’s eyes fluttered closed again, and he sighed through his nose, sagging against the wall. After a moment he released a sudden groan, beckoning for Link to go back over, “Bring the book over here. I just realized you can’t read for shit.”

Link pouted, picking up the book and heading back over. “I mean… I think I’m pretty good at letter-guessing.”

Sheik chuckled curtly, “Yeah… shut up.”

Link smirked before hopping up onto the bed, scooting over to Sheik and plopping onto his ass right beside the blonde. He held the book close to his chest, watching Sheik as he tiredly peeled his eyes back open, then handed it over once Sheik pushed his hands out of the cloak. Sheik took the book and set it in his lap, his eyes skimming over the letters and words. Link peeked over Sheik’s shoulder, attempting to read, but even if he could piece together the letters, he could never decipher them into actual words, let alone what they could mean.

Sheik, however, appeared bothered when he looked back up. It was almost as if he had reached the same revelation… maybe. Sheik could read, so maybe not.

“What’s wrong?” Link asked. Sheik turned his head as if intending to look at him, but his eyes never moved from the page. Link looked back down at the paper to try to find what he was looking at, but Sheik flipped the page before he could, exhaling through his nose.

“Nothing,” He muttered, “Maybe, once you can read—and a considerable amount of time has passed—then we—you—can come back here, and… you can take all the time you want to read it.”

What about you?

“Here it is,” Sheik finally said, interrupting Link’s thoughts as he brushed his hand over a section of words with big dots beside them. He showed it to Link, shifting his thigh to hold the book up, and then he settled his hand over the page so that his finger pointed down to the letters. “Tell me each letter in this word.”

Link gave him an uneasy glance before leaning in close enough for his cheek to rest on Sheik’s shoulder. To no surprise—well, little surprise—Sheik shifted away; however, he only managed a little of movement, so Link could still feel the head radiating off him. It was close enough, he supposed.

The first letter was easy, much to Link’s joy. “H!”

“Good.” Sheik moved his finger over to the next letter, sagging a little further against the wall.

Hmm. “Y?”

“Yep.” He moved to the next one.

“... is that, uh…” Link tipped his head, squinting a little, his lips pursing. He couldn’t decide. “... F?”

“It’s an R, but that’s all right. They have the same letter, but usually people differentiate it by the middle line, remember? R goes through the line and F starts from the line.”

“Oh, yeah.” He knew that. Of course he knew that. Sheik, however, moved on, and he followed close behind, “U. L.” L was probably the easiest, seeing as it was in his name, and the last letter, E, was also easy, but was a little hard to differentiate from W.

“You remember the difference people make?” Sheik asked, nudging him with his elbow.

Link nodded. “The line connects to the middle for E and to the corner for W.”

“Good.” Sheik’s hand raised, twitched, then moved to his own face and moved away hair that hadn’t even been in the way. “Now spell it out again.”

“Oh. Uh…” Link looked at the letters again, “H, Y, R, U, L, E.”

“Do you know what that spells?”

Link struggled to respond, racking his brain for possible words. How could he, though, if he barely knew what the letters were supposed to sound like? Eichwhyareyouellee? He had no idea.

“It’s okay if you don’t.”

“... I don’t.”

“That’s fine. That,” Sheik pointed to the word, dragging his finger over the page beneath it, “Spells Hyrule.”

It took every bit of self control for Link to hold back the onslaught of raw emotion that rushed him like a tidal wave after the initial shock, his throat constricting tightly and everything blurring in his vision. While it was still a strange new thing to experience, Link was not unfamiliar to the feeling of crying, mostly because it happened almost instantly whenever he took a moment to really look at—or even think about—the kingdom he’d been destined to save. The hollow feeling within him was one he, soon after leaving the Shrine of Resurrection, recognized as the manifestation of the abandonment he had tainted his land with. Swirling, agitated guilt unlike anything else always accompanied the numb emptiness he felt when gazing out at his land. Especially when he was closer to the edge of the plateau, his remorse only amplified by the ever present sight of fallen and charred structures people had once called their homes. The remnants of wood and stone structures alike collapsed in on each other was a constant reminder of the gravity of the losses that had occurred over 100 years ago, all monuments to his failure. All contained in memories just out of his reach.

If the beasts destroyed their homes like they were nothing… the people within them must have fared just the same. If the beasts were more catastrophic than the guilt that constantly wracked his own mind… well, he didn’t know what to think of that.

He supposed he’d have to wait until he found whoever had survived in any remaining villages, right? There had to be some. Even if there weren’t any villages, there had to still be some people left.

Hopefully not the bad kind.

Link didn’t realize he’d completely broken down until he felt something cold flickering on his face, hot streams turning to cold trails. He snapped out of his unseeing gaze in an instant, watching the purple flame Sheik had produced with an awe it seemed only his companion could coax out of him—so quickly, too. He really was amazing.

“It’s okay,” Sheik said, voice gentle, and… understanding. He allowed Link another few moments to watch before making the flame smaller and then removing the other hand from his cloak button, allowing the fire to shift from hues of brilliant purple to a soothing yet equally fierce blue. The heat enveloped the air so quickly and so heavily that Link felt his tears evaporate within half a moment, his now much more dry eyes beginning to sting instead. Link shifted his gaze back up so it caught Sheik’s, sapphire locking immediately with ruby as they constantly seemed to do. Sheik stared back for several long moments before he tore his gaze away as well; soon after he allowed the fire to slip into nonexistence with a crackle and a whoosh. His gloved hand lay in wait however, unmoving, and Link finally took hold of his predestined courage and grabbed it.

Sheik’s hand was uncomfortably warm, but it was calming and eased Link’s mind with a gentleness he hadn’t been able to find since waking up. He let his hand rest in Sheik’s, absorbing its heat, and then he closed his eyes and slowly dragged his hand across his face, allowing the warmth to seep into his bones and calm his body and mind. A weird sound like a whine came from Sheik, but Link wasn’t ready to open his eyes and face him. How could he? The monuments of his failures, all the loss and death, were locked in the man's knowledge beside him, just like the meanings of the words in the book in his lap.

“It’s okay to—” Sheik paused, took a breath, and continued, “It’s okay for you to mourn over your people, for the kingdom you can’t remember. That’s… actually a very good trait to have.” His voice was shaky, “... You were lucky, yes, to be spared from some of the worst horrors of Calamity Ganon’s resurgence, but do not allow that to change your view of yourself and what you deserve. Use that luck and the courage and abilities the Goddesses have given you to rescue, aid, and rebuild the land and the futures of those you haven’t lost.” He turned to Link then, something vulnerable deep in those eyes that burned like the setting sun, something unreadable and indescribable set in his gaze. No matter how many letters, words, or expressions he learned in the entire Hylian language, he was sure there would be no way to capture the way Sheik was looking at him right now. He doubted, even if one day he could read it, that he could explain it in any other language, either.

No. Sheik was an entire language on his own.

One he was desperate to be fluent in.

“You are a very different man than the one my ancestors, the records, and the prophecy combined claim you to be,” Sheik murmured, sounding tired—woeful, even. “It is not your fault that your home now lies half buried. It is not your fault, no matter what you tell yourself. If you learn one thing from me in our time together, I beg you to let it be this; It is not your fault.”

And he said it so surely, too, that if Link was just a little more foolish than he was, he might have believed him.

He set his hand on Link’s shoulder then, shaky as it was, and said, “Embrace your own mistakes and those of surrounding people. Acknowledge the reasons they made them. Learn from them as you always have.” He squeezed, eyes flickering across Link’s face, and then he let his hand drop back into his lap—which was just an indicator of how exhausted he must still be.

What he said next had Link holding back his tears again, the phantom heat staining itself back along his skin, much more comforting than he remembered it to be.

“It was these traits that truly made you a Champion of Hyrule, Link.”

*~*~*~*~*~

Three hours later, they had finished reading the recipe, Link had learned more words, Sheik had—finally, thank the Goddesses—gone to sleep (or so he desperately hoped)—and Link had cooked the food. It was something the book titled ‘spicy meat and seafood fry’, proven when his nostrils had flared a few several times when he leaned in a bit too close. So he knew Sheik could likely handle it—but, just in case, he’d also made a much more tame soup with some mushrooms and some things that Sheik had called milk and salt.

Apparently, milk was your favorite drink,” Sheik had said, eyeing the bottle he’d somehow pulled from the top of his backpack warily before handing it over. Grabbing it from him had been much easier than ever, reminding Link relentlessly that Sheik was weak and tired, his usually strong grip nonexistent. As much as Link i>hated doing so, he’d hushed the blonde from telling him tidbits about his old life and had ushered him into sleep, instead. Hopefully Sheik would indulge him later… even though it was probably only thanks to him being half awake.

Well, he’d tried. Sheik didn’t seem exactly keen on him being around once he finally went to sleep, despite it having happened before (twice now, actually); nonetheless, he’d left Sheik alone, eyeing the two foreign items in his hands.

The milk was frozen solid, and the salt was so cold it burned his skin.

Luckily, he hadn’t had to hold them for too long, and the milk didn’t take long to thaw. He’d also been handed a couple bowls by the Sheikah, two of which were set down on the ground to his right alongside the bottle of residual soup. Two of the other bowls—Sheik, too tired to count, had given him the entire set of five—were on his left side, one filled and one empty, while he filled the one in his hand with the food he’d finally finished making.

Luckily, it smelled good. He hoped Sheik could stomach it, unlike Link had when he’d first woken.

He shivered. Many, many times had he vomited after eating, unable to handle the weight of food. That first stew had been a miracle. The feeling of Sheik’s hand on his back, rubbing circles to coax him into relaxing, was still stained into his memory.

It was fading, though. It was fading fast.

And he didn’t know if that was a good thing or not, that he cared so much about it.

He huffed out a sigh, glancing toward the house before leaning back against the log and setting the bowl down. The fire was warming his legs, almost uncomfortably so, but he remained; he didn’t want to disturb Sheik’s slumber just yet.

Hell, maybe he should’ve waited to cook. Now all he had was his thoughts.

His hands rubbed at his face in frustration, fingers slipping through the actual hair tie Sheik had given him at some point and tugging it out, freeing his now shoulder-blade-length, slightly uneven hair from its near constant, tight confinement. Letting his hair out actually hurt more than putting it up; his scalp ached at the roots of the hair pulled too tight or brushed back in a new direction. He grimaced with a pout as he sunk both hands into the roots, scratching at his head to find some relief.

Except it reminded him immediately of the man in his memories. His hands immediately eased their way out of his tangled hair, brushing together behind him to get rid of any strays before settling on his lap. He stared at the sky, nearly unseeing, and sighed.

He wondered if he should tell Sheik about those two memories. Part of him feared that they were horrible memories, but the other, bigger part of him feared that they were just dreams his mind was conjuring up. He didn’t understand why he felt it would be worse as a dream than as a memory, but…

Maybe he really was that desperate for the knowledge of his past.

Although… and he hated to say it, really. Why should he tell Sheik about them when Sheik told him nothing else?

That thought dampened his mood.

He was outside for at least another half hour before finally, regretfully, pushing himself to his feet, pressing his hands to his heated pants and then rubbing them on his face. It helped the muscles of his face relax, smoothing them from scrunched concentration to a much more neutral appearance.

With that, he tied his hair again, then picked up the two bowls of soup and went back to the house.

Peeking around the door frame, he determined rather quickly that Sheik was awake but out of it. His eyes were fluttering open and closed, hands squeezing each other and occasionally rubbing at his eyes, either trying to go back to sleep or wake back up.

Either way, Link would have to interrupt him. Sheik had told him to wake him up when he finished the food.

“Food’s ready,” He announced, making his way inside. Sheik jumped—if you could call the movement in the bed a jump—and stared almost unseeingly, eyes barely following Link as he moved to set the bowls on the table. Link glanced up at him before leaving again, hurrying to grab the last three bowls and send the extra bottle of soup to his slate.

By the time he got back, Sheik was already trying to push himself into a sitting position, stopping now and then as his strength wavered. Link quickly put the bowls down, set the empty bowl aside, and then hurried over to Sheik and set his hands on the man’s shoulders.

“I’m fine,” Sheik insisted, attempting to swat away Link’s hands. However, neither his strength nor his will were up to par, leaving him sighing as he finally gripped Link’s biceps instead and allowed the brunette to manhandle him into a sitting position. “... sorry.”

“What for?”

“I feel pathetic.”

“You’re not pathetic.” Link assured. He crouched a little and slipped an arm around Sheik’s waist, tucked his shoulder beneath Sheik’s armpit, and stood, holding most of Sheik’s weight on his own. Sheik’s hand grabbed his shoulder and squeezed, the other gripping tightly to the blanket of the bed. “What’s wrong?”

Sheik took a moment to respond, his eyes screwed tightly shut while he wobbled on his feet, head hanging. He took a deep breath through his nose, held it, then released it long and slow, lifting his head. “... 'm fine.”

“Tell me what’s wrong.”

“I’m fine, Link, I--”

Oh, Hylia above. Why was he doing this? Why couldn’t Sheik just talk to him?

Please, Sheik.”

Link had tried to keep the emotion out of his voice, he really did; but he felt the constriction in his throat muffle his words and a moment later, Sheik turned to look at him, eyes unfocused and halfway shut from the bright light of early afternoon. They stared at each other for a long time, wavering from standing for so long, and it wasn’t until Link’s arm shifted to wrap around Sheik’s waist to stabilize him that the blonde finally snapped out of it, other hand releasing the bed and rubbing at his face.

“I’m… just really nauseous,” He said quietly. Link knew that wasn’t all there was to it, but Sheik’s voice was weak and his body shook like a leaf, so he left it alone… for now. Sheik at least seemed truthful about it. Link guided him over to the table and directed him to the one seat—the tree trunk, apparently—which was luckily not too close to the food. He didn’t want Sheik getting overwhelmed by the smell.

Goddesses knew he remembered having a weak stomach when he first woke up.

“I made some mushroom soup and seafood fry,” Link told him, “Let me know when you want to eat, and what you want.”

“I can eat now,” Sheik mumbled.

“Any preference?”

“Of course not.”

There was something beneath that, too… but once again, he left it alone. Later. Instead, he grabbed one of each of the foods, sliding both bowls over to Sheik until it was close enough for him to grab. Link grabbed his own bowls, shifted towards the bed, then stopped and moved towards the door instead.

“Where are you going?” Sheik asked, his voice sounding dreadfully small. Link swallowed back the pain in his chest as he turned to him and gestured toward his own face. Sheik responded only with a quizzical look.

“I assume you want to take that off, to eat.” Link explained. Sheik stared blankly at him for a moment before looking down at his food, his fingers raising and tracing over the edge of his muffler. His hand stilled then, the tip of his thumb just barely touching his uncovered nose, his expression growing dark as his eyes unfocused once more.

“Yeah,” Sheik finally said, his voice striking through the silence. “I… I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Link said, “It’s okay.”

“But I…” He trailed off, staring blankly at his food, and then he hung his head and stuck his fingers through his thick, wavy, beautiful blonde locks that curled against the backs of his hands and hung around his equally beautiful face like curtains, hiding it from peering eyes as he always seemed to want to do. Link held his breath, glancing at the ray of sun that had been slowly creeping up Sheik’s arm, glinting over the ends of a chunk of his hair, trying his hardest not to say a word about just how beautiful he was.

It was distracting him. Now wasn’t the time for that.

Realizing the silence had extended too long, Link made his way back over and set his bowls down, glancing out behind him to check on the pot. He’d have to arm himself before going back out there, just in case… though this seemed like a peaceful spot, shielded from the Lynel by the house.

… that didn’t comfort him any.

“You what?” Link asked in the softest voice he could muster, kneeling down again so he could fold his arms on the edge of the table and set his chin upon them, trying to get an angle to watch Sheik from. He hoped maybe Sheik would be more comfortable looking down rather than up.

Sheik peeked at him out of the corner of his eye, ruby shining through the waterfall of gold, and then his eyes shifted back over to the bed. Link followed his gaze, found his backpack, and while usually he would immediately get up to grab it, he didn’t move this time.

Somehow, he could tell Sheik didn’t want it. More specifically, he didn’t want Link to grab it.

“I do trust you, Link,” Sheik blurted. The sound of his voice—small, defeated, pained—immediately tore Link’s chest open, his gaze moving back over to the blonde. Link then realized that, in the two seconds he’d looked away, Sheik had moved into a position that looked more like he was cowering than anything else. His hands were gripping each other atop his head so tightly his gloves creaked, positioned as if asking for forgiveness. He’d lowered his head until his forehead was touching the table, shoulders slightly shaking under his cloak. Link desperately wished he could try to comfort Sheik in return for his last several months of supported trial and error, but he suspected that Sheik would just push him away—even when telling Link that he trusted him. “I understand why you think I wouldn’t, but… I place a lot more trust in you than you may think.” He looked up at Link, eyes glassy, and hurriedly turned away after barely a moment, rubbing his eyes into the sleeve of his suit. “There are many things I wish to tell you, but… you may not be ready yet, and I’m sorry. And before you get angry again, think about it,” He gestured out to the door and said, “You literally haven’t set foot on the rest of what we call Hyrule, haven’t even seen the worst of it, yet you already ache at its destruction. You haven’t met a single person of any other race, and yet you still blame yourself for their losses and their pains. You can’t just--”

“I’ve met you, Sheik. You’re just as much of a person as anyone else.”

What followed was the most deafening silence he had ever heard from the blonde, Sheik’s eyes locked onto his like the aim of a Lynel’s bow. Several long, quiet minutes passed, the only sound the rustling of the trees from the sparse forest behind the house. It was so quiet that Link could even hear the distant roar of the Lynel as it made its territory known once more, sending a shudder up his spine and forcing his heart to beat even harder as adrenaline kicked in alongside his nerves. The stillness of the world around them that followed was too much, the land itself seeming to hold its breath as it listened into their exchange, desperate to know answers. The rustling of trees ceased, the wind becoming scarce as the tension grew, no bird daring to voice their song.

The only song in the air was the defining sonnet of reticence between them; one that continued to crescendo until it became overpowering and abundantly clear that it was too late for soothing words. That they were truly lost in silence.

Finally, Sheik dropped his gaze into his lap, eyes flicking back and forth across his legs. Then, he looked away completely, turning so that Link couldn’t even see his face. Perhaps to hide his own shame and weakness.

“I… am no one, Link,” Sheik choked out in a whisper Link had to strain to hear, holding his breath so he couldn’t miss a single word, “Trust me, I…” He took a breath, “I am not… important.”

“What do you--”

“Not anymore, I’m not.” His arms raised as if to wrap around himself, and then they returned quickly to his lap, fingers twitching back into fists. “Not to anyone. Nor should I be.”

And just when Link finally thought of something possibly comforting to say in response, Sheik said, “I’m the only true murderer here.”