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life and death and love and birth

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     Sky was the first to go.

 

     It had been months since their merry band passed through his Hyrule, traveling across landscapes that soon became so blended together they were neither one kingdom or another.

 

     It may have been the bright sky, no longer punctuated with dark clouds, or the distinct lack of monsters that were willing to ambush them, but when they crossed the threshold from nowhere-in-particular into Sky’s world, something felt irreversible and final.

 

     In the end, everyone gets a happy ending.

 

     Sky finds peace in the arms of his beloved, his wide smile growing wider and brighter than it had been in weeks.

 

     Time allows them to have a happy reunion, allows them to take a breath, to relax a little, before pulling Sky aside.

 

        “You’re staying here,” he said, “Your quest is over now. You have the chance of a home, the chance of a family. You might not get another one if you come.”

 

     Instead of protesting, as Time expected, Sky just nodded, looking back at his smiling Zelda who was excitedly talking to Warriors, his eyes gaining a distant look, the same look Time always had when he was around Malon.

 

         “I think, for now, I’m done with fighting if I can help it.”

 

     They shared a smile, and walked back into the group.

 

     A few days later, refilled on rest and supplies, a group of heroes walked away from New Skyloft.

 

     True to his word, Sky stayed behind.

 


 

     When they walked out of Sky’s Hyrule, they were hit with a vision.

     While they had all been subject to their share of nightmares, of vision and illusions, this was different.

 

     Sky kneeling down in front of Zelda, ear against her protruding stomach.

 

     Sky pacing as screams ring through the house, rushing into a room at is steamy and bloody and wet and holding a wrinkled newborn while his wife rests.

 

     Sky picking up a toddler while a baby and older children play in the background.

 

     Children getting older, his hair getting greyer

 

     Sitting with Zelda on a porch, hair white, looking down at a prosperous town and prosperous people while their grandchildren play in the yard in front of them

 

     An old man with smiling eyes surrounded by his loved ones when he passes away

 

     It only lasted for a moment, but that moment seemed to last for a lifetime. 

 

     They were in Four’s Hyrule now, bright colors and tall grass bordering the dirt path on their way to the castle. Next to him, Wind could see Four smile at the grass and watched as he walked closer to the edge and let his fingers brush over the tops. is eyes flicked around and he seemed to be almost searching for something.

 

     While Four seemed glad to be back in his lands, there was a feeling of finality that lay over the group.

 

     Wind knew that they wouldn’t be questing forever, he knew that eventually they would all part, but he didn’t think it would be so soon.

 

     They walked for hours before stopping for a rest. The sun was high in the sky, and the heat had them all longing for shade. While they sat on some rocks in a wide field, Wild materialized a few items from his slate, including his Gerudo outfit, shoving some shoulder armor and plated pants towards Warriors, who begrudgingly walked away from the group to go put them on.

 

     Then Wild took a circlet, with blue stones set into it, and motioned towards Time. Obediently, he got up and came towards Wild.



         “Head down, old man.”

 

     Time smiled and leaned his head down a little


     Muttering under his breath about height differences, Wild stood up on his rock, and gently put the circlet around Time’s head, pulling his bangs through the band of metal and then leaning back to check his work. Satisfied, he nodded, patted Time’s cheek, and then stepped back.

 

     Time sighed in relief, and when he stood back up, Wind could see that he looked more refreshed than before, the gem on his head clearly working to make him cooler.

 

     Warriors came back into the gathering, holding his armor in his arms, wearing a golden cauldron on his left shoulder and puffy green pants with matching golden greaves. Wild took his armor and tunic and made them disappear into his slate, and stuck it in his bag, replacing it with a waterskin, passing it around the group.

 

     The water was still deliciously cold, and it was the most refreshing sip Wind had had in ages. He closed his eyes and let the feeling wash over him.

 

     It lasted for about five seconds before a big head forced its way into his lap, and his ears were filled with the sound of panting.

 

        “Ew, Twi, you have dog breath,” Wind groaned.

 

     The wolf snorted and then rose on its haunches, putting its front legs on Wind’s shoulders and licking his face. Wind giggles as a long tongue slithered across his cheek, attempting to shove the giant wolf off of him. He can hear the others laughing at them, and when Twi finally gets off, Wind hugs the water skin to his chest and glares at him.

 

        “No water for you.”

 

     Twi whined, and it’s the most pathetic sound he’s ever heard.

 

         “Ugh, fine”

 

     Twilight’s form became an inky black for a moment and then a man in chainmail, a green tunic, and a fur coat stood before him. He snatched the skin out of Wind's hand and took a few sips of water, splashing a little on his face before handing the it back to Wild

 

     Four stood next to Hyrule, a smirk decorating his face. While he had taken a drink from the skin of water, he seemed to be doing well in the heat.

 

     Of course he was, it was his Hyrule, after all.

 

        “There’s a town about two miles ahead,” Four said, “We can rest there for the night before we make the journey to the castle.”

 

     There were some groans throughout the group, but they all eventually stood up to be on their way.

 

 

 

 

     The inn wasn’t pleasant.

 

     When they had rolled into town, it had been a bustle of activity. It was the solstice in Four’s Hyrule, and Wind didn’t miss his wince at a reminder of how long they had been gone. It had taken months to finally defeat the Shadow, and Wind had grown a little. He thought of his sister, wondered if she would be taller than him when he came back.

 

     They booked four rooms, and while the bed is lumpy and food greasy, Wind can only savor these last moments with Four.

 

     He’s lucky, Four’s sharing a room with him, and he gets more moments to spend.

 

     They spend the night laughing at stupid jokes and telling whatever stories they haven’t told each other. At one point Twi knocks on the door and tells them to be quiet, and they just burst into a fit of giggles.

 

     Their laughter dies down and they sit in companionable silence for a while.

 

         “I’m going to miss you,” Wind says.

 

     And he can see Four’s heart break a little bit, but he keeps it together and gives him a shaky smile.

 

        “This isn’t the end, you’ll see me again.”

 

     And Wind wants to believe him.

 

 

 

     They go to bed, and in the morning there is a carriage waiting for them, sent to them by Four’s Zelda. Wind is tired and knows that everyone else is too. The carriage is a small mercy.

 

     Time rode behind them on Epona, his new accessory keeping him from feeling the heat. If Wind knew how to ride a horse, he would have volunteered to go in his place, because seven people crammed in a relatively small space was unsurprisingly hot and uncomfortable.

 

     Eventually, they pull up the castle, and they are greeted by this Hyrule’s Zelda. She looks like Tetra, but where Tetra is rough and wild, this Zelda is poised and graceful.

 

     Four rushes forward and embraces her. While Wind knows they aren’t in love like Sky and his Zelda are, or, more accurately, were, it is clear at this moment that their friendship is deep.

 

     It’s not quite midday. The carriage ride saved quite a bit of time.

    

     Four stepped away from the embrace and turned towards the group. Zelda, ever hospitable, invited them inside.

 

     They made their way into a padded lounge room, with cushions and chairs everywhere. Wind was all too happy to collapse on a couch near Warriors, who in turn was all too happy to stretch his arms over Wind’s shoulders.

 

       “The room is yours for the night,” Zelda said, her voice traveling across the room, “Dinner will be in six hours. I’ll leave you be.”

 

     And then she left, leaving Wind able to collapse against Warriors in pure exhaustion.

 

 

 

     They ate dinner. The food was a tad too rich for Wind’s taste, and there wasn’t any fish, but it was better than Hyrule’s cooking and could give Wild’s a good fight.

 

     He went to bed tired and dreaming of running out of time.

 

     In the morning, he did.

 

 

 

     Four asked them to gather after breakfast.

 

         “Hey guys,” he said, and Wind gulped, a lump growing in his throat.

 

 

     Luckily for him, Time spoke before he had a chance.

    

         “So I guess this is goodbye.”

 

     And jeez, wasn’t that unfair? His voice didn’t even waver. Jerk.

 

     Four looked down sheepishly and nodded, and the lump in Wind’s throat threatened to overtake him.

 

     One by one, Four said his goodbyes. The hole that was there when Sky left seemed to get even bigger.

 

     When Four got to Wind, they embraced, and it was the longest hug Wind had ever received. Before pulling away, Four gave Wind an extra squeeze, and then put his hand on Wind’s cheek.

 

          “Hey kid,” Four said, “If you keep dehydrating yourself you won’t grow taller, and then one day I’ll tower over you.”

 

     Wind hadn’t even known he was crying.

 

     They left later that day, leaving Four waving goodbye on the castle tower.

 

     They didn’t stop until they could see Lon Lon Ranch far in the distance.

 


 

     This time, Time was expecting it.

 

     Four while on an adventure, finding a small town in the countryside where no one knows his name.

 

     Four, traveling his Hyrule and always coming back. The people greet him as he walks by, he’s a neighbor, family, a friend.

 

     Four, older and tired from adventures, coming back to the town and buying an old building that’s in shambles.

 

     Four splitting up to divide the work, all parts of him working together to fix up the building. Neighbors come in to check on his progress and occasionally offer help.

 

     Four, united again, standing outside to look at the sign to his new blacksmith shop.

 

     Grey streaks in his hair now as Red hammers on a ring while the other take care of other tasks in the shop. 

 

     Four, taking on an apprentice and training them, his sword watching from its place on the wall

 

     His apprentice taking over the shop, while Four stays and creates.

 

     He’s old now, with a cane, and takes the sword down from the wall.

 

     His hand pushes the blade into a stone.

 

     An even older version of him traveling to the palace, Zelda’s daughter, middle aged with a child of her own, welcoming him.

 

     The moon is high when the door in the courtyard appears. A little mouse opens it, and suddenly Four is as small as he is. Ezlo grabs his hand and together they walk through, never to be seen again.

 

     He could hear Wind sniffle from behind him, and he dared not to acknowledge it, lest he also get emotional. They had two losses to their group already. He could grieve later.

 

     They could rest when they got to Lon Lon, he could rest when he saw Malon.

 

     The group was silent as they passed familiar trees. The worlds, which had previously been blending together, now had boundaries, clearly separated. The temperature was more moderate now, typical for his Hyrule.  He wondered if they could even go back to Four’s land. He didn’t even want to try.

 

     While Lon Lon had seemed so close at the edge of Four’s Hyrule, the land seemed to be stretching in front of them. Time felt as if he was walking home from his own Castle Town.

 

     The land seemed to be fixing itself.

 

     Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Warriors sidle up beside him. He slowed, and eyed him, waiting for him to speak.

 

     Warriors, Time notes, seemed to be tired.

 

          “We should take a rest,” he says, and waits for Time to consider it for a moment before saying, “The others are getting tired. It doesn’t have to be long, just ten minutes or so, and maybe we can get Wind situated on a horse.”

 

     He was met with silence.

 

     Warriors gulped, and then continued on, “Time, I know you want to see Malo-“

 

          “Okay,” Time said, voice gravelly and weak, “We can rest.”

 

     Warriors gave him a look, and goddess, maybe he was letting this whole business with Sky and Four get to him for more than he thought. He silently vowed to himself that he wouldn’t leave the others, that he would help these boys get safely home, that they wouldn’t have to spend their lives traveling. He’d find his way back to Malon eventually. He always did.

 

     Time slowed to a stop, and nodded to Warriors, who clapped his hands and announced that they were taking a ten minute break. The others seemed to collectively groan in relief, Wind collapsing on the ground in a show of dramatics.

 

     There was a quiet that lay heavy over the group for about five minutes, before Legend took a breath.

 

          “I wonder who that little rat man was.”

 

     The tension in the group seemed to release a little as Time chuckled a little sadly.

 

          “I mean, I wasn’t expecting him to go peacefully like that,” Legend said, smirking, “That little fucker seemed more the type to kick death in the shins rather than settle down.”

 

     Distantly, Time wondered whether he’d get a happy ending like that.

 

          “I didn’t know it was possible to settle down like Sky,” Wild said, snapping Time out of his musings, “Maybe that’s the life I’ll have when I get back.”

 

     If all this goes well ,Time thought, I’ll make sure you do, kid.

 

     Warriors grinned and nudged Wild’s side. “Hey,” he said, his voice taking on a mischievous tone, “Maybe you and Zelda can settle down, have lots of blonde babies-“

 

     Wild abruptly stood, his cheeks growing scarlet. “Zelda and I would never-“

 

          “Oh that’s right!” Warriors teased, “The handsome shark caught your eye. What was his name? Sido-”

 

     Time didn’t know how Wild could’ve gotten any redder, but as he clapped a hand over Warriors’ mouth, his cheeks could have been easily mistaken for the apples he seemed to find all over his Hyrule.

 

     As he looked around, Time could see the others snickering at Wild’s torment. He smiled as well, and allowed himself to chuckle, catching Wild sending a betrayed look to both him and Twilight, before accepting his fate and collapsing to the ground, hands covering his face.

 

     After another ten minutes where the remains of their group sat in quiet companionship, Time slapped his thighs and stood.

 

          “Time to go,” he said, and god, did he really sound that tired all the time? He was turning into Talon.

 

     The group groaned but obediently got up, and as Warriors was getting Wind situated on Epona, he caught him giving him a grateful smile. He gave a small one in return, and then led the group the rest of the way to Lon Lon Ranch.

 

     It was almost dusk when they stumbled onto the property, but Malon greeted him all the same.

 

     Luckily for the boys, Talon had already head off to bed, but Time was not fool enough to think that they would be spared in the morning.

 

     While they all dragged their weary bodies off to the side room, too tired to even eat, he sat on his couch and tried to relax, Malon next to him.

 

          “You stink,” she whispered in his ear, and he choked out a laugh. She squeezed his hand.

 

          “I noticed that there’s only six of you this time,” she said, and Time felt a wave of grief wash over him.

 

          “They’re home now,” he replied quietly, “I’ll talk to you about it tomorrow, it’s quite a story.”

 

     Malon smiled, and Time felt something blossom in his chest. Hylia, he had missed her.

 

          “Okay,” she said, and it felt like a promise.

 

          “Okay,” he said, and held her hand, making a promise of his own.

 

 

 

     They went to bed, and Time could only lay awake staring at the ceiling.

 

 

     He woke in the morning, dread filling his stomach, wondering how he was supposed to say goodbye to his wife.

 

 

     There is risk involved in taking journeys.

 

     Time wasn’t an idiot. For the first time, he knew there was a chance he might not come back from this one.

 

 

     The morning passed in a bustle of breakfast and chores. He never got a chance to speak to Malon about Sky or Four, but he knew that it would come in the evening. He figured it would be good to get the boys to talk about it too.

 

     Talon, surprisingly, didn’t hate his companions. In the beginning he was silent, his presence looming over the breakfast table, before Malon hit his shoulder and told him to “Stop scaring them! One’s your descendant, you know!” Talon, to his credit, looked sheepish for a split second before bursting out into boisterous laughter after seeing Twilight turn pale and choke. Warriors rolled his eyes and hit him on the back, only stopping when Twilight could breathe again. Talon had looked at Time with an almost proud look, and then grinned, and Time didn’t have time to stop him before-

 

          “You two need to spend some time making me grandchildren.”

 

     Malon punched his shoulder, her cheeks bright, but Time, cheeks red, wanted nothing more than to sleep for seven more years.

 

     He could hear Legend snickering and sent a glare his way. He just smirked, the jackass.

 

     But now he was plowing, Warriors beside him, and they took a break at the top of the hill, watching Wild attempt to wrestle the cuccos.

 

          “So, you’re planning to leave, huh.”

 

     Time looked at Warriors, his eyebrows raising in surprise.

 

     Warriors snorted. “Don’t give me that look,” he said, “I can see the look in your eyes. You look sad whenever you look at Malon. Are you really gonna leave her, after all you’ve put her through?”

 

     Time shook his head. “It’s important for you boys to get hom-“

 

          “We can do that without you, Time,” Warriors face softened. “It’s important for you to be able to have a home, too.”

 

          “It’s selfish.”

 

          “It’s not. What you have here is a life you’ve fought and sacrificed for, and I don’t believe for a second that you want to leave Malon behind. If you leave, you won’t come back.”

 

          “You don’t know that.”

 

          “Do you really want to risk it?”

 

     No. Time thought, I don’t.

 

     But instead, he said: “I have a duty to-“

 

     Warriors stood, and then kneeled down in front of him, grasping his hands.

 

          “Link,” he said, and Time felt his stomach go cold, “I release you from your duty as a soldier for Hylia.” He squeezed Time’s hands, and softly said, “You deserve to have a good life.”

 

     And Time is about to protest, but he is reminded of something like this, a memory, long faded, of a field and fights and a blonde man, holding his hand before leading him home.

 

     His eye filled with unshed tears, and he squeezed Warriors’ hands back.

 

     A promise.

 

 

     He talks to Malon and the rest later that evening, after Talon has gone to bed. They’re in the living room, gathered in a circle, with Time and Malon sitting on the couch. Wild is leaning against Twi, eyelids getting lower after a good meal, and Twi has his arm around him, ready to adjust a sleeping body if necessary. Legend is sitting next to Hyrule, touching knees, and Wind is asleep, leaning against Warriors’ shoulder.

 

     They’ve come so far to where they started.

 

     Time is sad that he won’t be there to see them grow more.

 

     He takes Malon’s hand, and squeezes it.

 

          “I won’t be with you much longer,” he says, and he catches Warriors’ eye, who gives him a reassuring smile, and he continues, “I know you all know what happened to Sky and Four, and that’s going to happen to me, too.”

 

     He turns and looks into Malon’s eyes, and she looks confused and a little bit scared.

 

          “I’m going to stay here,” he says, and it’s as much to her as it is to the rest, “And I’m going to live a happy life.”

 

     Malon looks almost hopeful, and Time wants to apologize for being the reason behind that look in her eyes.

 

     Maybe he’ll have a chance to, now.

 

 

 

     He squeezes her hand.

 

     She squeezes it back.

 

 

 

          “But that means, he says, turning away for a second, “That you’ll need a new leader.” He can see Twi stiffen almost in dread, “And I think the answer is obvious.”

 

          “Twilight, of course....and Warriors.”

 

     Both of their eyes go wide, and Time almost laughs at how stupid they look.

 

          “I have full faith that both of you will do an excellent job,” He says, and he’s pretty sure he’s never believed anything so fervently before.

 

     They leave two days later.

 

     Time can only watch as they all say goodbye to Malon, and then Twi comes up to him.

 

          “You’ve been a good mentor,” he says, and extends his hand, “I’m happy I was able to know you in this life.”

 

     Time almost tackles him in an embrace.

 

          “Kid,” he says, and while his heart is heavy it also feels as if it is bursting with light, “I am so proud of you.”

 

     Twilight buried his face in Time’s shoulder, and they both pretend they’re not crying.

 

     He hugs everyone else that day, too.

 

          Legend groaned, but eventually submitted, while Hyrule’s embrace was gentle and sweet. Wind’s was tight and made Time weirdly think of little children with red hair who would soon do the same. Wild cried a little, but he fit perfectly underneath Time’s chin, and was easy to embrace. He could see Malon and Twi a few feet away, and could almost feel her sadness and pride as she kissed his cheek. He let Wild go, and watched as he approached Malon, who was all who happy to embrace him. If he cried even harder well, Time wasn’t going to tell anyone.

 

     And then there was one.

 

     Time held his hand out to Warriors, a small gesture, but he hoped that Warriors knew it was filled with the highest respect.

 

     Warriors grabbed his arm and pulled him into a hug.

 

          “No need for formalities, old man,” he said once he released it, laughing, “It’s been an honor to know you.”

 

          “It’s been an honor knowing you, too,” Time replied, eyes a little teary. “Hey Warriors?”

 

          “Yeah?”

 

          “Thank you.”

 

 

-to be continued-