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Time to breathe

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Even though he’d only been with the other eight incarnations for a few days, one thing was clear. Wild was always the first one awake.

Usually it was still dark, with the beginnings of the sun’s rays only just starting to peak over the horizon when Wild would roll out of bed, greet the person on watch with a wave and smile, scan the surroundings with serious blue eyes and then settle himself by the cookpot to start breakfast.

The smell of his delicious cooking would gradually wake the others who would each rise and move their way over to sit in a loose circle around the fire. There they would clutch mugs of warm, honeyed milk and wake slowly as they watched Wild prepare their meal.

After weeks of trying to cook for themselves, with inconsistent results, the other eight appreciated Wild’s culinary skills and it didn't take long for this to become the new routine. Though Wild still didn’t speak much, his capable, confident, presence at the cookpot gave the whole camp a homey sense that they hadn’t even realised was missing.

Before the Champion joined them, mealtimes had been a source of frustration and disappointment. More often than not, the meal didn’t turn out as intended, meaning that after long days of walking and fighting, when all they wanted was a warm meal, the group would be greeted with dubious food.

Wild, however, seemed to have an endless repertoire of recipes and he had yet to make a meal that was anything less than comforting, warm and delicious.

The newest member of the team seemed to enjoy cooking and understood the impact good food was having on the morale of the group. When someone offered to give him a break from cooking duty for the day, Wild would simply smile and shake his head gently, more than happy to take the responsibility.

Since he began travelling with them only a few days ago, Wild had been up before the sun and at the cookpot every morning. Without fail.

Which is why it was so unsettling when one morning, the sun rose before Wild did.

Already used to the new routine, Twilight woke slowly trying to pinpoint what felt different about this morning. He closed his eyes again, happy to just listen to the sounds of the camp as he figured out this morning’s conundrum. Until he realised that the normal, comforting sounds of stirring and chopping, the delicious smells, were absent this morning.

Confused, he frowned and sat up and looked through the gap in the branches of the forest clearing they were camping in at the position of the sun thinking that maybe he’d simply woken earlier than normal.

He hadn’t.

Now even more confused, he shot a look to where Wild had curled up, surprisingly early, the night before. The mound of blankets didn’t seem to have moved. Twilight didn't know Wild very well yet, but he knew enough to understand this behaviour was very unusual.

Twilight stood slowly, concern bubbling in his chest.

He looked over the camp, Sky, who had been on watch, and Time were already awake. They seemed to be in the middle of a serious conversation.

With another frown in the direction of their newest addition, he quietly made his way across to join them, trying not to awaken the others. Without Wild in his usual spot by the cookpot, the camp seemed cold and lonely.

Twilight sat next to Sky and flicked his eyes towards the sleeping Wild.

‘What’s going on?’ He asked, voice quiet.

Time shook his head, face serious. ‘We’re not sure.’

‘He hasn’t moved since I took over watch from Wind four hours ago.’ Sky said with an anxious twist of his hands.

Twilight’s eyes widened in concern. They all knew that Wild suffered from bad dreams, insomnia and a general restlessness that came with living in a dangerous environment all alone.

In the time since they’d know him, he had not slept for more than four hours each night and never all in one block. Something, which, when questioned subtly by Four, seemed to be completely normal for the blonde.

Two days ago, they had transported into Time’s Hyrule from Wild’s and the attitude of the group had changed, brightened.

It was safe here.

They were travelling to Time’s ranch to meet his wife and in the two days since they had been there, they had so far not come across any monsters. Not even a chuchu. Something which had seemed to utterly bewilder Wild, who was used to being constantly vigilant.

Twilight ran a hand over his face with a sigh. A second later he stood. ‘I’m going to check on him.’ He said quietly. ‘This isn’t normal.’

‘Be careful, Pup.’ Time warned.

Twilight nodded towards the other two and slowly made his way over to Wild, who, as usual had set up his bed roll further out than the others, still subconsciously keeping his distance.

‘Wild?’ He said softly as he approached.

Nothing.

‘Wild?’ he tried a little louder.

Legend and Hyrule began to stir behind him, and Twilight heard Sky greet them and begin to fill them in when they questioned what was going on.

Cautiously, Twilight moved closer. Aware that Wild tended to sleep with at least one weapon on his person.

He finally saw Wild’s face, the other’s eyes were closed and his mouth was just barely open. He was still fast asleep.

He looked absolutely exhausted.

With a twist of his stomach, Twilight was again reminded just how recently Wild had vanquished Ganon and released Zelda.

He heard the murmur of voices behind him and knew that the others were waking, but his eyes were only on Wild.

He moved forwards, his concern now outweighing his caution, and kneeled next to the younger man.

He placed a careful hand on the sleeping Wild’s shoulder.

Nothing.

Gripping a little tighter Twilight lightly shook him. ‘Wild.’ He said quietly.

With a sudden gasp, Wild’s eyes flew open and he tensed, reaching clumsily for the knife under his bed roll. Twilight gently but firmly grabbed his hand, stopping his movement.

‘Wild… it’s me! It’s me.’ He said quietly.

Startled blue eyes stared up at him as Wild sucked in several deep breaths, eyes glazed but the obvious alarm in them had Twilight’s heart twisting in compassion.

‘Tw’lght? He slurred. He was obviously still very much asleep.

‘Yeah.’ The older answered gently. ‘You ok?’

A slow, uncoordinated, nod.

‘We were worried. We noticed you weren’t up yet.’

‘M’sory.’ He stretched and stood, looking at the position of the sun in bewilderment.

‘I… slept in...’ He stated, sounding flabbergasted.

‘You did.’ Twilight agreed with a small smile.

‘Huh…’ Wild said, still bemused. He blinked and seemed to wake up all at once. ‘Breakfast!’ he gasped, throwing on his boots and stumbling to the cooking fire.

‘Morning.’ He mumbled at the others, swiftly grabbing ingredients out of the slate.

They echoed his greetings, relieved that he had apparently just slept in a little later than normal, and he began cooking in earnest.

He stifled a yawn, hands busy with the kitchen knife as he chopped endura carrots for the stew he was making.

He wiped the back of his wrist over his eyes in an attempt to dislodge the gritty feeling. He was exhausted.

He swept the carrots into the cooking pot and added a generous helping of butter and a grating of rock salt.

He shook his head slightly to try and clear his foggy mind, subtly he placed a chunk of endura carrot into his mouth, the small jolt of energy he received from crunching into the vegetable only serving to remind his body just how tired it was.

It was his first mission away from his home and he couldn’t shake the feeling of paranoia he was experiencing. Both from travelling with such a large group after being alone for so long, and a deep feeling of wrongness that seemed to reach down into his bones. He knew on some level that this Hyrule was safer than his, but he was still on edge, unable to allow himself to relax.

His body knew this wasn’t his home. The vibrations were wrong. The frequency of the place. It left a strange high-pitched ringing in his ears, a strange pressure that seemed to be worse at night.

‘How’s it coming?’

Wild started slightly and turned to see Four sitting next to him, looking curiously into the bubbling liquid of the pot. Twilight was standing right behind him, arms crossed, but watchful eyes on the younger man.

Wild nodded, strange black pinpricks of light now infesting his vision.

The endura carrot had worn off leaving him even more tired than before. Keeping his head down, he reached for a stamella shroom, chopping it deftly and adding it to the pot, next pulling several staminoka bass from his slate.

‘It smells really good, what are you making?’ Four asked curiously, his expression open and honest, apparently relieved that Wild seemed to be functioning as normal.

Wild cleared his throat. Tried to suppress the shaking in his hands. He looked down at the strange mishmash of ingredients before him.

What was he making?

He knew that he’d started out with some specific dish in mind, but whatever it was he wasn’t sure now. He’d been mindlessly reaching for foods he knew would give him the most energy with no thought as to how they would go together.

He looked up, uncertain, and saw Four frown in sudden concern. Could see Twilight unfold his arms and step forwards.

He swayed.

‘Stew?’ he guessed.

‘A-are you alright?’ Four asked suddenly, leaning forwards to look at Wild more closely.

He nodded but could see the blackness in his vision begin to expand.

He really wasn’t.

‘M-ok.’ He slurred. He reached down to grab the ladle he’d left next to his bag and felt a strange rush of blood in his head that left him dizzy and reeling. He felt himself slide off the log he’d been seated on and onto the forest floor.

‘Wild!’

Two pairs of footsteps came running towards him, but the newest member of the group found he didn’t even have the energy to turn his head. He could hear vague shouts and more people running.

Someone grabbed his shoulders and gently turned him over, he felt a cool  bottle being pressed to his lips. He took a small mouthful and swallowed. Instantly the pain and aches in his body disappeared, the lack of discomfort only doubling his exhaustion.

He groaned, trying with all of his might to open his eyes. The muddled yelling and chaos that surrounded him became a dull roar and he could feel his mind swirling.

‘m-fine.’ He slurred, trying to soothe the worry he could feel coming from the formless voices. ‘…I…’

With a low sigh he faded out.

O o O o O

‘What happened?’ Time asked, alert eye on the unconscious young man that Warriors was holding, potion bottle handed that had been thrust into his hand by Hyrule still mostly full.

‘He just… collapsed.’ Sky breathed with a small, nervous, flutter of his hands.

‘Wild…’ Warriors said, softly. “Wild?’

Wild gave a groan and his eyelids twitched. Silence fell in the clearing and Twilight leaned forwards, into his line of sight.

The scarred teen looked terrible, he was pale with dark circles under his eyes and his normally intense blue stare was muddied. The blue appearing much darker than normal and making him look younger than ever.

His long blond hair had come partially untied when Warriors had turned him over, and was falling over his face.

Twilight suddenly noticed the hectic spots of colour on his cheeks. He frowned, reaching out to place a hand on the other’s forehead.

Exhausted blue eyes fluttered towards him.

Twilight gave a sigh of sudden understanding.

Oh... Oh.

‘How about you just lay back down and have another nap? We’ve decided we’re going to stay here today.’

Wild, as expected, opened his mouth to argue. Pushed himself forwards as if he was going to stand, but Twilight put a steady hand on his shoulder. 

‘It’s ok.’ He said, very gently. ‘Just… go back to sleep. We’re in no hurry, we have nothing we need to do, Warriors hurt his ankle so we’re going to stay here so he can rest it.’

Concerned, dull blue eyes swung to the confused looking Warriors who blinked in sudden understanding and gave a fake wince.

‘Yeah. Tripped on a tree root.’

Wide blue eyes stared at him, dazed but astonished. ‘So, we’re just staying here… all day?’ he whispered.

Twilight nodded, sad smile on his lips.

He helped Wild stand and led him slowly back to his bedroll.

‘All day.’ He confirmed, reaching down to pull the blankets over the scarred hero.

Wild was deeply asleep before Twilight had even stood back up and he sighed again, this time in defeat.

He made his way over to where the others were waiting, next to the still empty cooking pot. They were all looking concerned.

‘How is he?’ Sky asked quietly when Twilight was in earshot of his whisper.

‘He’s burning up.’

Hyrule made a noise of discomfort in his throat and stood abruptly, already on his way to his bag of potions, when Twilight raised a hand to stop him.

‘It’s ok… h-he’s just…’

Time sighed and Legend frowned in understanding, eyes on the huddle of blankets on the outskirts of their camp.

Exhausted? Overwhelmed?’

Twilight nodded. ‘Yeah.’ He breathed. ‘he hadn’t said anything, but I think he hasn't had a chance to stop at all… he only defeated his Ganon days ago and then we turned up.’

He paused and ran a hand down his face. ‘I don't know about you guys, but I needed months before I could even face the world after my adventure. It took a long time to get myself back to normal.’

Slowly Hyrule sat back down, eyes distant.

Silence filled the clearing for a long moment.

They all understood.

Wild had just spent almost two years constantly moving, constantly on-edge and trying to survive in a harsh world that was enormous and doing whatever it could to try and defeat him.

He had, of his own admission, spent two years surviving on four inconsistent, often interrupted, snatches of sleep a night. Always needing to keep one eye open, sleeping in trees and bushes when he couldn’t get to an inn or a stable, just in case he was ambushed in the night.

To be transported from a place like that to a place where he was safe, for the first time he could remember. To a place where he had already gone two days without needing to fight for his survival. Removed from the constant danger, his body had finally decided to force him to stay down.

To rest. To heal. To stop.

This must be why Hylia had brought them here, to the safest and most stable of all of the Hyrules. To give Wild some time to breathe.

Warriors nodded thoughtfully, biting his lip. Blue eyes on Wild.

‘Why do you think he didn’t tell us?’

Legend gave a hum and let his arms drop away from trying to detangle his hair.

‘I think…’ Legend swallowed and hesitated. He shot a glance at Wild and then another at Warriors, feeling strangely disarmed, but as if he needed to explain on Wild’s behalf.

The violence of Wild’s Hyrule… finding out that they had been in a Hyrule that had had a living Ganon only days before they’d arrived had been jarring. Had brought memories back for all of them.

‘I don’t think he knew.’ He admitted finally.

Twilight made a noise of confusion. He leaned forwards, forearms resting on knees. ‘What do you mean?’

‘I don’t think he remembers what it feels like to not be injured or exhausted right now. He’s been pushing himself for years… always being sick, injured, to some extent, he’s… he’s fucking used to it.’

Flickers of memory began to invade the veteran’s mind.

Breathing deeply while taking shelter from the incessant rain, wondering when he had been hit to cause the broken ribs that were making his chest hurt. Stumbling into a village for someone to tell him that it wasn’t his ribs, that it was his lungs that were hurting. That he was sick.

Walking and walking and walking until his legs finally, unexpectedly, gave out.

Shivering in extreme cold, almost passing out in extreme heat. Just trying to get done what he could before his body gave out again.

Legend ran a hand down his face, aware that the others were watching him closely. ‘Yeah… I… I don’t think he even fucking realised...’

The others nodded slowly, brows furrowed and eyes distant.

Time sighed, looking tired himself now.

‘Let’s give him today.’ He decided. ‘Tomorrow, we’ll figure out a way to get him to the Ranch so he can have a real rest.’ He looked around at the drawn and pale faces around him. ‘I think we could all use one after being in his Hyrule.’

Wind laughed without humour. ‘ It would just be nice to have some rain without lightning trying to kill us.’

‘Have you noticed how fast he moves? Keeping up with him is hard because he has had to move so quickly.’ Sky said quietly, he shot his eyes at the sleeping form, despite their talking, Wild had not moved. He was getting increasingly concerned.

Legend stood, arms on his hips and head tilted to one side. Considering.

‘Well, with our new gourmet chef out of commission, I’m going to make us some breakfast. You won't die if you have to eat my boiled eggs and raw fruit for one day.’ He looked over at the traveller. ‘You want to put some of your potion in some water for Wild? Get his fever down a bit?’

Surprised at the suggestion from the normally mercurial man. Hyrule nodded with a small smile and moved wordlessly to his bag, rummaging through for a potion.

Time stood, clapping a steadying hand on his worried protégé’s shoulder. ‘Well, settle in boys. Looks like we have a day off.’

O o O o O

The next morning, Twilight woke to find the camp site again cold and lifeless. He sighed and sat up slowly, looking around, Wild must still be sick.

Four was on watch and Twilight stood, quietly making his way over, stretching as he did.

‘Anything?’ He asked quietly.

Four shook his head, twisting to look up at his friend. ‘Not even a red bokoblin.’ He confirmed, one knee up to his chest and his arms wrapped around, head resting on his knee.

Twilight nodded, just as he’d expected. With a sigh, the young man sat next to the teen.

‘Wild?’

‘Not even a twitch.’

Twilight bit his lip, he could hear the concern in Four’s voice even as he tried to hide it behind a flippant answer. They were all worried. Although he’d only been with them briefly, they all knew from their battles in Wild’s Hyrule how hard it was to keep the young man down. To stop him from moving.

He was always doing something.

Exploring something.

Climbing something.

For the past two years, constant movement had meant survival for the young man.

‘Do you know when we’re supposed to be breaking down camp?’ Twilight asked.

‘As soon as the others are up and we’ve had a chance to get some more potions in him.’ Time’s voice, smooth and calm as always came from behind and Twilight twisted his head to see him entering the clearing with a string of fish. He raised a wry, amused eyebrow and Time smirked back.

‘What?’ The eldest grinned. ‘With Wild out of commission, someone needs to look after breakfast.’ He shrugged with one shoulder. ‘I only know how to make salt-grilled fish.’

Four let out a huff of laughter and Twilight grinned. ‘Well, if the smell of your awful cooking doesn’t wake them up, old man, nothing will.’

Time snorted quietly and knelt next to the fire. They watched him clean the fish, rub them with salt and set them to grill on sticks over the fire. The others gradually awoke and moved from their bed rolls to the fire until everyone but Wild was awake and mechanically chomping on their fish skewers.

No one even mentioned that the outside was burned, but the insides nearly raw.

Once done, they packed up their camp quietly, doing their best to give Wild a few more minutes of sleep. Now very concerned that the newest addition had still not woken on his own.

With a nod from Time, Hyrule went to the sleeping young man, placed a hand on his forehead and took his pulse. Then frowned and helped him to sit up and drink a red potion, quietly soothing him as he did.

Once the small bottle was drained, Hyrule and Legend helped Wild to stand, supporting him while Wind and Sky packed up the bed roll.

The others exchanged sympathetic glances. Wild looked even worse than yesterday. He was on his feet, but didn’t seem to be entirely aware of where he was and was swaying with half-lidded eyes.

He took a step and his leg buckled, with a startled breath he grasped onto the nearest solid object, which just so happened to be Legend’s arm. The other Hero caught him and straightened him back up again and Wild nodded slowly at whatever Legend was saying to him, breathing deeply.

If it hadn’t been for the constant reassurances of the others, Twilight felt that they would have been dealing with a panicked Wild. And after seeing what the young man was capable of when he felt cornered. That was something they wanted to avoid if at all possible.

He looked at Time who was watching with a frown, hands crossed across his chest. They exchanged glances and Time subtly nodded.

Twilight moved closer to Wild catching the attention of the others.

‘He’s really bad, Twi.’ Hyrule breathed gesturing over his shoulder to where Legend supported the blonde teen, a rare look of concern on his snarky face as he attempted to help Wild find his balance.

‘His fever is even worse and the potions aren’t really working.’

The concern was echoed in the faces of the others, silence for once reigning through the camp as they watched, not sure how to help.

‘Wild.’ Twilight said gently.

Bleary blue eyes looked up and the older man grimaced at how sick the other looked. Hyrule was right. Wild was much worse. It seemed he was having trouble focusing his eyes, let alone walking the three hours to Time’s ranch, even with most of his weight supported as it was by Legend.

Without another thought, Twilight turned his back on Wild and kneeled on the ground.

‘Put him on my back.’ He mumbled. ‘I’ll just carry him.’

He felt the sudden weight of Wild being helped onto his back, the younger letting out a small groan of discomfort when Twilight stood with Wild’s arms draped around his shoulders. He could feel the unnatural heat radiating from the younger man and felt concern bubble in his stomach, no wonder even Legend was looking worried. Wild’s fever was so high, even despite the potion Hyrule had given him. He took an odd, hitched breath and then a long sigh, arms loosening around the elder’s neck.

‘Does he look ok?’ He asked Sky who was next to him.

A concerned Sky cleared his throat. ‘I… I think he just passed out.’

Hyrule drew a sharp breath and stepped forwards, reaching for Wild’s wrist, counting the beats again.

‘We need to get him to the ranch. We can’t treat him out here.’

‘Alright.’ Time said calmly, eye on Twilight while the others focused on Wild. ‘Time to go.’

O o O o O

Despite Wild’s extra weight, the trip went surprisingly quickly and before they knew it the group was cresting the hill to Time’s ranch. The eldest of their group made a heartfelt noise that, although wordless, they all understood. Home.

A curvy red-haired woman was in the fields surrounding the ranch, feeding the animals and Time sped up, leaving the others a few steps behind. They watched him run the last few steps towards the woman and heard her laugh with delight and throw her arms around his neck, he picked her up and spun her around, her red hair trailing behind her.

Time placed her back on the ground and continued to speak to her as the others trailed in.

‘Boys!’ she laughed, delighted to see them. ‘It’s been so long!’

‘It’s nice to see you again, Miss Malon.’ Sky smiled gently.

She turned with a grin that slid off her face when she realised what or who Twilight was carrying.

‘Oh!’ She gasped, hands flying to cover her mouth. ‘Who’s this? Is he alright?’

She reached forwards and placed a gentle hand on Wild’s forehead, wedged as it was, next to Twilight’s shoulder. Worry and determination at the high heat made her frown, and she spun around to the farmhouse.

‘Bring him inside!’ She commanded, walking briskly through the door.

Twilight followed wordlessly, Wild, who had remained unconscious for the entire journey still slung over his back, Time followed close behind with a quiet request that the others remain outside and use the food that Malon had left to finish feeding the Cucoos.

‘What happened?’ Malon asked, washing her hands as Twilight gently lowered the feverish Wild onto the bed. Time crossed his arms and leaned against the door post. Content in the healing abilities of his wife but there if she needed.

Time and Twilight exchanged glances.

‘We’re not really sure.’ Time began. ‘This is Wild. He’s been with us for a few days. He only defeated his Hyrule’s Ganon just over a week ago.’

A blonde eyebrow lowered over an expressive, stormy blue eye. ‘We thought that he might just be exhausted from the battle. And from… finally stopping. His Hyrule is a volatile place, we found him and Hylia brought us here, we’ve been making our way here ever since. But, he just seems to be getting worse.’

Malon nodded grimly and wrung out a cloth she’d soaked in water, sweeping back Wild’s fringe and placing it on his burning forehead. The Hero gave a slight, subconscious, whimper deep in his chest and Malon stroked his hair back from his face a few more times to try and comfort him.

She was quiet for a long moment. ‘These scars…’ she began sadly. ‘They’re so old, and he’s so young.’

Twilight sighed, concern making his stomach clench. They had all noticed Wild’s scars, it would have been impossible not to. But they didn’t know how he’d gotten them. It was hard to believe that he had survived an injury that was able to scar so much of his body so deeply. As Malon had observed, for the scars to be so healed meant that Wild must have received them many years ago which didn’t entirely make sense considering his young age.

Time sighed deeply, guilt and regret audible.

After a moment of silence Malon shook herself and reached into her bag of supplies. She started grinding some hyrule herbs together with rock salt and amaranth in an enormous mortar and pestle.

Her eyes were still on the still, Hero of Wild’s face, and she was biting her lower lip as her hands worked, obviously thinking through what could have him in this state.

She looked up at her husband.

‘I know you’re going to think this is obvious, but I know how you get sometimes.’ She crushed a handful of dried blue nightshade and added it to her mortar. ‘Have you checked him for injuries.’

A deep silence filled the room and Malon slowly looked up to see the horrified eyes of both Twilight and Time.

Link!’ she exclaimed, in a shout-whisper, appalled and already reaching for Wild’s tunic. She began to pull it up gently, hushing the young man whose shivering increased at the cold air that was brushing his bare skin.

‘He seemed fine until yesterday.’ Time answered a little too quickly. ‘We’ve been with him for days, we would have known if he had an injury that could cause this.’

Malon gave a deep, resigned sigh and moved to the side so her husband and his protégé could see what she had.

Wild had a short, but very deep cut on his right side just above his hip, it was surrounded by bruises and was very obviously infected. Time sucked in a breath and Twilight gave a low exclamation.

Twilight took a step closer to get a better look and noticed that the bruises on his side seemed to match up with metal inlay he had noticed on one of Wild’s strongest shields. A defensive wound then, but what could hit so hard that it was able to get through the shield and still cause so much damage.

Time and Twilight looked at each other in sudden understanding, coming to the same conclusion at the same time.

‘Calamity Ganon.’

Malon didn’t seem to hear them, or perhaps to her it didn't matter what could have caused this injury, only that it needed to be treated. She finished grinding and poured some of the powder she had made into Wild’s mouth followed by a small amount of water. He swallowed reflexively and she smiled gently.

‘Good boy.’ She breathed, pushing his hair out of his eyes once again.

She sat back and rubbed her hands together as she thought. Eyes on the wound.

Finally, she reached for a jar of courser bee honey and some dried amaranth. She mixed some crushed amaranth into the honey and began to slather the wound with it, frowning in concern when Wild was so far gone he didn't so much as twitch despite the pain he must have been in.

She sat back with a grimace and again looked up at her husband, noticing his guilty face.

‘Don’t.’ she said quietly, as if reading his mind. ‘You don't even know this boy yet. You couldn’t have known how he is injured. You also couldn’t expect him to let you know.’ She fixed a determined eye on Time and then moved it to Twilight. ‘None of you could have.’

‘Now.’ She said quietly. ‘I think that we all know our friend here is both sick and exhausted from his trials. Aside from letting him rest, and regularly dosing him with medicine, there’s not much we can do.’ She paused, eyes softening. ‘In any case, he deserves to rest for as long as he needs.’

She stood and put her hands on her hips, wry grin pinning her husband and Twilight. ‘If he’s anything like the rest of you, he’ll be up in no time stealing food from my kitchen.’

Twilight smiled gently. ‘Actually, he’s already become our unofficial cook. You should try his cream of mushroom soup.’

Time nodded with an almost uncharacteristic enthusiasm and Malon gasped in delight, pressing her hands together in a silent clap so she didn’t disturb Wild.

‘Finally! We’ll have to make use of that skill! With the way you all eat, I’m amazed only one in nine of you can throw a meal together. I don’t envy him, cooking for nine of you every day!’

Still smiling, she led Twilight from the room and Time stepped closer to Wild, not yet feeling ready to leave the young man alone.

He smiled sadly and ran his hand over Wild’s forehead and through his hair, feeling that the young man’s temperature had already fallen slightly.

Clearly both Malon’s prediction and her medicine had been on-point. Wild would be up and about in no time at all.

‘You just take your time, Cub.’ Time said softly, hand still on Wild’s forehead. ‘The Three know you’ve had enough to deal with, you deserve to rest now. Just take all the time you need. We’ll be here when you wake up.’

With that said, Time settled back in the chair and allowed himself to slouch slightly, putting his feet up on the wooden frame next to Wild’s mattress, not disturbing the sleeping man, but close enough to feel if he moved.

He gave a long sigh, tired himself after the stress of the last few days and allowed his head to tilt forwards onto his chest. A short nap now that he was home, now he knew Wild would be ok, would probably do him the world of good as well