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An Unfair Trade

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Daybreak filled the mouth of the canyon with a riot of color and sound as animals and humans alike awoke to a new day. Sunlight filtered indirectly down to the canyon floor, bouncing off its walls and lighting up the haze blown by the rising wind. As the darkness receded from the landscape, the occupants of the stable began to go about their daily routines.

Link stealthily extricated himself from the suffocating grasp of his bedmate and stretched by the side of the bed. He’d slept soundly the entire night, a feat not often managed in such circumstances, and which he chalked up to the soporific effects of their nightcap. Crouching low, he pulled his bundle of belts and bags out from beneath the bed and began rummaging around for an appropriate outfit to wear for the day’s travel. It wasn’t necessary to wear specialized clothing to combat the heat of the canyon, which would become more temperate the farther away from the desert they went. Simple traveler’s garb would do, and the clothes had the added effect of helping him blend in with the others on the road. He might be a hero, but he didn’t need to advertise it. He’d had his fill of adoration in Gerudo Town, and no matter his disguise, Bozai would be sure to have something to say about his exploits. They had two days of travel left before they parted, and only so many acceptable topics of conversation to go through. Link couldn’t say he was looking forward to being the subject of Bozai’s uninterrupted attention, but the prospect no longer filled him with dread like it did the day before, and that was such a surprising change of heart he grew still as he squatted on the floor, mulling it over for far too long. 

A broken snore rumbled above Link’s head, and with his clothing grasped in his fists, the young hero stood to watch as Bozai rolled over in his sleep. He took advantage of his companion's unconscious state to set his gaze on Bozai’s peaceful face while he changed his clothes. The slumbering man’s smooth brow was partially obscured by wayward strands of hair, and his full, rosy lips were parted in slackened repose. He looked quite different without his glasses, younger somehow, and oddly innocent. Link wondered with a brief pang of guilt how hard he was going to take it when they had to say goodbye to each other. The more time they spent with each other, the more difficult it was going to be to separate. It couldn’t be helped, really, it was just the way of things in a chaotic world. Attachments were so easy to make when lives were on the line.

With his last belt buckled in place over his chest, Link turned away from his companion, parted the curtains just enough to let himself through, and made his way to the cook pot in the stableyard. He’d let Bozai sleep in until breakfast, if he didn’t wake before then. Ironshroom omelets, he thought with an accompanying grumble in his stomach. To keep our bodies strong for a day on horseback.

 


 

By the time the last inhabitant of the stable —a Rushroom-addicted old man who slept in a pile of hay— had finally risen, Link and Bozai had finished breakfast and were ready to leave. As Bozai made small talk with the stable’s manager, Link looked around for any traveling merchants with known stocks of arrows. Not wanting to make eye contact with Beedle —of whom he had divested all his items the night prior, after refusing to hand over his precious energetic rhino beetle in return for a low-level fairy elixir— Link was relieved when he saw a stablehand walking in their direction with a pair of saddled, bridled, and freshly brushed horses.

Link strode over to his horse, an apple appearing in his hand to feed his noble steed. “Hey there, Spot. Who’s a good boy?” he said softly, holding up the apple in one hand as he grabbed the reins from the woman who had brought him over. “Are you ready to go on an adventure? I bet you’re glad to get out of that stuffy stable, huh, boy?” He glanced at the woman, who was now tugging along a stout pony over to Bozai. He raised his voice and called out, “Sorry. Didn’t mean to insult your workplace!”

“Oh, don’t worry about it!” the stablehand replied. “Your little one there was champing at the bit when I got him ready. He’s meant for the open air, that’s for sure. Not like this little lady. Come on, sweetie!” She clicked her tongue encouragingly, but the pony shook her head, mane flying and tack jangling, in an obvious refusal to pick up her pace.

Link was confused by the Hyrulean Stabling Association’s employees’ consistent quirk of calling horses of all sizes ‘little one’. Spot hadn’t been little since the day he was born, and even though he hadn’t owned him then, Link imagined he had been one of the largest foals in the herd. The knight in Link recognized the war horse in Spot’s ancestry, and he had made it his mission for a day and a half to catch him when he had seen him running swiftly over the grassy hills at the foot of Satori Mountain. 

The large black horse with the white spot between its eyes ate the apple with zeal, and pushed his nose demandingly into the palm of Link’s hand, searching for seconds. “Later,” Link laughed, scratching the horse’s broad cheek. “If you eat all your snacks now, there won’t be anything left to tempt you with at the end of the day.” He led Spot over to the side of the road, where the gravel and sand had been beaten to dust against the harder rock floor of the canyon, to join Bozai, who was double-checking the contents of his saddle bags. “Ready to hit the road?”

“Yeah, um, let me just…” Bozai fiddled with the overstuffed bag’s strap, struggling to reach its clasp. Leaning against the bag with his full weight, he managed to cinch it shut, but the motion was too much for the pony, who stepped sideways and caused Bozai to stumble. He caught himself against the animal’s leg before he fell, which irritated the pony further. She reached back, teeth bared, but closed on air. Link had yanked Bozai out of the way just in time.

“Nice reflexes!” complimented Bozai, slightly breathlessly. “I hope you’re not getting tired of saving me, hero!”

With a silent sigh, Link replied, “That’s what I’m here for, apparently. I’m your personal bodyguard until the road forks and we go our separate ways.” Link waved his hand at the white-and-brown dappled mare. “Is that your horse, or did you rent it from the stable?”

Red in the face and flustered, Bozai said, “This is Cherie, and she’s mine. It’s just been awhile since the last time I’ve ridden her. I’m afraid she doesn’t recognize me anymore. And look at how chubby she’s gotten! I don’t think they exercise them enough here.” He frowned and tightened the reins, which had been looped loosely around the saddle horn. “A nice long ride up the canyon ought to get her back into the swing of things. She’s feisty, but she’ll come around. She kind of reminds me of you, actually!” He looked back at Link, who had already mounted his horse, and rushed to follow suit. Putting his foot in the stirrup, he heaved his other leg over the back of the saddle and settled in. “Our adventure continues!”

They rode through the canyon in quiet appreciation of the landscape for a full hour before Link noticed Bozai’s newest unusual behavior. His companion would turn to him, his eyebrows high in an inquisitive face, before either frowning and looking away or working his mouth open and shut several times without speaking. Link wasn’t sure why he wasn’t talking, but he didn’t want to disturb the peace by asking him what the matter was. He was pretty sure he had been acting normally at the stable, but amidst the bustle of the morning’s activity, there had been too much to do and too many people around to really notice a change in the other man’s temperament.

Five more minutes passed, and Bozai repeated the same puzzling action thrice before Link’s curiosity won out over his enjoyment of the recent silence. “Spit it out,” he commanded. “You’ve been holding something in all morning, and you look positively constipated.” He couldn’t believe he was encouraging the blabbermouth to talk more, but this was on the milder end of things he was allowing Bozai to get away with.

Now that they were away from the stable and its small knot of humanity ready to overhear an attempt at a private conversation, Bozai opened up. “I couldn’t help but notice that your clothes make you look rather, um, masculine,” he began apologetically. “Now, I don’t want to tell you what to do, but—”

“And yet, you keep doing it,” Link interrupted.

Bozai kept talking, undeterred by Link’s objection. “I just think you’d look better in something more suited to your inner beauty. Brighter colors, perhaps? Flowing silks?”

Link never shouted when he was angry. His voice grew quiet and he hissed through his clenched jaw, “What, and I should smile more, ‘cause my face looks better that way? Should I wear makeup so I don’t look so tired? Should I wear high heels so my legs look longer, even though it's harder to move around in them?” 

“The Gerudo wear high heels in the sand,” Bozai managed to interject with an air of misplaced authority, and Link stopped speaking with a huff.

“The Gerudo’s standards are impossible to meet. You have to have visible abs and wear flawless makeup at all times.” Link’s hands tightened on his reins. “Stop comparing me to a race of eight-foot-tall, desert-dwelling, warrior women. If you wanted one of them, you should have stayed in the desert and tried harder!” He glared at Bozai just in time to see the hurt flash across his face, and he sighed, half in apology and half in irritation. “You don’t seem to be bothered by my naked body,” he pointed out.

Bozai’s ears turned a brilliant shade of red, and he replied, “You look like… you when you’re nude.” He was silent for a while, contemplation written in his scrunched-up eyebrows and wrinkled nose. “It’s hard to explain, but I’m not really thinking about what you look like, other than absolutely gorgeous, when I’ve got you in my arms… or in my mouth. Mostly I’m thinking about how to please you.” A wide, knowing smile erased the embarrassment from his face as he finished speaking.

Grudgingly pleased by Bozai’s admission, Link said, “So take that sentiment and apply it to my clothed state as well. I look like me no matter what I’m wearing, all right?” Giving his companion a curt nod that signaled the end of the conversation, he shifted his focus to their surroundings and brought out his bow. 

They had ridden deep into the canyon by this time, far away from the only permanent human settlements and crossing into enemy territory. Link kept his bow ready by his side with an arrow nocked, never letting his watchful gaze rest as he scanned the towering canyon walls. The rough landscape had eroded into arches, caves, and smaller formations, and was encrusted all over with remnants of abandoned scaffolding, all of which served as excellent hiding places for groups of Bokoblins to drop boulders from on unsuspecting travelers.

“How does your horse know where to go if you’re not holding the reins?” asked Bozai as their horses picked their way single file through a patch of scattered rocks. Cherie stopped to sniff at a solitary flowering shrub, and Bozai was, once again, struggling to control his willful pony.

Link looked down at his horse’s attentively pricked ears. “Oh, I trained Spot to take guidance from my legs, mostly. The bridle is mainly there ‘cause it looks good, and for the stable employees to lead him around.”

Bozai gave a disgruntled sigh as he got his horse in motion again, then grumbled as he tried to guide her away from following a dead end into the side of the canyon. “I wish I had learned that sort of thing when I was a lad. They say the best horses in the country come from Upland Lindor, and the best horsemen, too, but I grew up on the wrong side of the canyon and had to make do.” His tone changed abruptly as he caught up to Link and the horses walked head-to-head. His eyes raked over the hero perched loftily on his beast and watched the way the small Hylian rolled his hips with his horse’s gait as he said, “You could teach me, I bet. Ride me, and guide me with your thighs tonight, so I can learn from a master.”

Just when Link thought he was getting used to Bozai’s blunt manner of speaking, he managed to say something that was so over-the-top it caught him by surprise. He lost the next few minutes to his imagination, Bozai’s words blooming into such vivid scenarios they left him fighting a heated blush and a swelling in his trousers that made the stifling climate that much more uncomfortable to experience. Link squeezed his legs together as he tried to retrain his concentration onto a more appropriate topic, which made Spot break into a canter. Jostled out of his daze, his daydreams dissolved into the dust-laden wind as his attention crystallized on a potential threat from above. In an instant, he raised his bow and shot at a Bokoblin waiting high up in a wooden contraption. Bullseye— its dying scream echoed faintly as it toppled over and fell out of sight of the two travelers. At least his distractible nature hadn’t caused them any harm.

Link chose to remain quiet and let Bozai fill the silence as they continued their journey through the twisting canyon. When he wasn’t pleading or whining, his voice wasn’t half-bad, Link had come to realize. It was the mostly inane subject matter and the fact that it never seemed to stop that really bothered him, but in a day or so it wouldn’t be his problem to tolerate anymore, and he allowed his companion’s words to drift into one ear and out the other. Every time the windblown dust blurred his vision or the sharp bend of the high, narrow canyon walls cut off his line of sight he tensed, preparing for the inevitable landslide of boulders or a camouflaged Lizalfos jumping out at them from the dry grass. At his side, Bozai remained unmoved, languid and unchangeably verbal in the presence of the Champion.

“I’m the middle child of three boys,” Bozai said without preamble as they rode past a short lamppost that marked the entrance of a ramp that ascended to a network of rickety scaffolding and platforms built onto the side of the canyon. Link held his breath, expecting that the time had come to offer up some tidbit about his own family, but Bozai wasn’t finished yet. “My older brother moved to West Necluda when he got married, to be closer to his wife’s family, much to my parents’ dismay. My little brother is the baby of the family— he’s eleven years younger than me, and when he got married, my father knocked down the walls between his and my bedrooms and turned it into a suite for the newlyweds! Of course, that meant I had nowhere to live anymore, so that’s when I turned to adventuring.”

After a few moments went by without a response, the expectant look Bozai threw Link’s way had been tempered by resigned hopelessness, and it told the knight everything he needed to know about his inability to supply conversational content. Fortunately, he had been thinking of ways to deflect his fellow traveler’s interest, and he cleared his throat, hoping the dry air wouldn’t make his voice crack.

“I have an idea to help pass the time,” Link offered, changing the subject. “It’s a game we can play from horseback. I’ll ask you questions, and you try to get them right.”

Bozai brightened. “Okay, sounds simple enough. Can we begin?”

It was Link’s turn to flash a wolfish smile. “Wait, there’s a catch. If you get the answer wrong, you have to take off a piece of your clothing. And if you get it right—”

“It’s your turn to strip!” Bozai finished with glee. “Why didn’t you say anything earlier? Talking about my family is as low as I get— even I don’t like listening to myself when the topic turns to my brothers! Bring on the questions, my soon-to-be-nude beauty!”

Link sat up straighter in the saddle to project his voice. “First question: What attributes do the eight Gerudo Heroines symbolize?”

Bozai looked at the hero like he had just crawled out of a puddle of Malice. “You haven’t been listening to a single word I’ve said, have you?”

“What do you mean?” Behind his carefully cultivated neutral demeanor, Link’s mind raced and his stomach clenched. He prided himself on managing to keep up his facade of involvement during the past few days, and it wasn’t a good look for him if his traveling companion knew the depths of his disinterest. His wonder at how much he’d hurt Bozai’s feelings was quickly eclipsed by his shock over his concern for the other man. The tumult of emotions raging in his chest wasn’t strong enough to motivate him to apologize, however, and he pressed his lips together, waiting for Bozai’s rebuke.

“I told you about the Heroines after we passed that archaeological excavation three lamp posts ago,” the scholar scoffed, then rattled off in succession, “Their powers are skill, spirit, endurance, knowledge, flight, motion, and gentleness.”

Slumping in his saddle with relief over the pompous way Bozai flaunted his knowledge, Link said, “Okay, that was seven, but what about the eighth? I’m not taking anything off until you get the whole question right.”

“That’s not fair!” Bozai cried, voice edging into a whine. “You didn’t tell me the rules before we began! You’re wearing plenty of garb— you can afford to take off a few things, or pop open seven buckles on that chest plate of yours. And besides, how do you even know the Eighth Heroine had an associated power? Was it carved into a part of her statue that I didn’t see?”

“Make a guess,” Link said, fingers hovering over the strap that attached his shoulder pad to the rest of his protective top layer of clothing.

Bozai’s face scrunched up in thought and he began to complain, “This is impossible. What if the word or phrase associated with her had no direct translation? Do I automatically fail? I’ve only been studying the ancient Gerudo language for a year! Most of what was recorded was written in verse, thick with metaphors…” He took off his glasses and wiped the sweat off the bridge of his nose. “You should have laid down the ground rules before we started. I shouldn’t be penalized so harshly for not knowing one part out of an eight-part question!”

“You know this is just a game, right?” Link tried to keep his tone light, but he could feel his ears redden with rising anger. He had meant for the game to be a light-hearted distraction from their surroundings, but maybe it had been a mistake to engage the volatile man in such a pastime.

“Yes, it's a game, but there are still rules to follow. Some order remains in this world and I am at a disadvantage —I will never get to see a glimpse of your glorious body— if you insist on withholding information to stack the deck against me!”

“Do you want to play the game or not?” Link had gotten what he wanted —an alternative to banal conversation— in the worst possible way. Now they were sniping at each other over something he had neglected to say, and something familiar about the accusation stirred uncomfortably behind the veil of his obscured memory. Before he could muster enough humility to admit his mistake, he heard the very word he had been waiting for pass through Bozai’s pursed lips.

“Might.”

“That’s it! You got it right!” He began unbuckling his quilted leather chestpiece, grateful to all the deities and Heroines from antiquity to present day for whatever stroke of genius Bozai had in guessing the attribute correctly. Storing his discarded piece of armor in his pack, Link said, “For the next rounds, how about it’s one piece of clothing removed per answer. So if a question has multiple parts, each part counts separately. That way the game will go faster, too.”

Success had changed Bozai’s temperament from sulking to elated, and he agreed to Link’s clarification with shining eyes and the return of his smarmy grin. “Ask me another one. I’m ready!”

“Alright.” Link thought about his next question for a few moments while he calculated how far they had traveled along the road. It was close to midday, and they had been riding steadily without a break. By his estimation, they were no more than an hour away from the end of the canyon and a natural place to stop for a meal. “Here’s something easier to make up for the last one’s… technical difficulties.” He paused long enough to make Bozai squirm impatiently in his saddle. “What were the names of the Champions?”

“Pshh,” Bozai scoffed with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Too easy. Everyone knows that! Gerudo Champion, Urbosa. Goron Champion, Daruk. Rito Champion, Revali. Zora Champion, Mipha. And the Hylian Champion, Link.” His grin curled higher up his face as he waggled his fingers in the hero’s direction. “That’s five correct answers, so I want to see five fewer items of clothing on that hot bod of yours!”

Link flinched before he was able to catch himself, and he passed his reaction off into lifting an arm to remove his bracer. The phrase ‘hot bod’ hardly made an impression on him, so intent was he on trying not to react to the way his own name sounded coming from Bozai’s unknowing lips. He didn’t know, did he? It wasn’t exactly common knowledge that the traveler solving everyone’s problems was the resurrected knight and Champion who had failed to defeat the Calamity a century ago. Many people, including the chieftain of the Rito, had come to their own conclusions and named him a descendent of the original Champion, a rumor he had felt no need to dispute. If Bozai had any idea that he was Hylia’s chosen hero, he certainly would have mentioned it by now.

Not counting the belts he refused to remove that held his equipment close to his body, Link was down to his innermost undershirt of the many layers he wore. The next question, if answered correctly, would render him topless. “This one should be good for a scholar such as yourself. Are you ready for it?” Link had spent quite a bit of time sifting through the ruins of towns and outposts he had passed or camped out in during his travels, and on one memorable occasion, he had found a book on Hyrule’s ancient legends. “What are the parts of the Triforce associated with?”

Bozai answered him with a blank stare. “Triforce? Is that a Gerudo term? My research must have been incomplete… I’ve never heard of it,” he said with an uncertain slump of his shoulders.

“No, it comes from an old Hylian legend. If you’re interested, I can tell you about it later,” Link offered, and held up three fingers. As Bozai peeled off two vests and a glove, Link recited, “Power, wisdom, and courage.”

A noise from above diverted Link’s attention once again, and he dispatched a trio of Bokoblins waiting on a walkway that spanned the canyon before they could drop their payload of rocks upon their heads. Shuddering as he watched the monsters’ bodies puff into clouds of smoke, Bozai said, “This is a pretty fun game, but I do hope it won’t take all day to get naked.” He took a drink of water from his canteen. “I’m a patient man, but something about you makes me wish we were sharing a saddle so I could hold you in my arms as we ride.”

Link wondered if it was possible to sprain his eyeballs from rolling them so often. “Speaking of arms, I’ve got another question. How many arms does an Octorok have?”

Bozai smiled. “Another easy one. I think you want to get rid of your clothes just as much as I want you to! An Octorok has eight arms.” He leaned back in his saddle and arched his eyebrow expectantly.

Link smiled back. “Wrong. It has zero. It has eight tentacles."

“Oh, come on!” Bozai exploded. “That’s the same thing! I’m not going to argue with you over semantics— I got the answer right!”

“Okay, fine,” said Link, on the verge of giggles. He knew now when to stop pushing his companion, and it was true, he was rather eager to shed more clothing. “I’ll take my undershirt off.” Releasing Spot’s reins to grab the hem of his shirt, he pulled it off carefully and exposed not his skin, but his secret final layer— the bright pink lace lingerie top Bozai had given him a few days ago.

“You— you’ve been wearing that under your clothes all day, and you didn’t tell me?” Bozai choked out, eyes wide and mouth agape. “What else have you got on?”

“You’ll find out soon enough,” Link teased, and pointed ahead to a large natural bridge stretching across the widening canyon. “We can stop to rest and eat on the other side of that bit of rock over there, and if we have the time, I’ll show you what’s beneath my trousers.”

 


 

Lunch was hastily eaten. Bozai declared himself finished after eating only half his meal, too distracted by his companion’s state of undress and the promise to come to taste what he was chewing, but he waited the only way he could, pacing and taking gulps of water as Link methodically made his way through all of his own food and the rest of Bozai’s for good measure. “I need to see you, all of you,” he confessed as he hauled the petite hero up to his feet and kissed him hungrily with water-cooled lips.

Managing to get out an “Okay, yes, but wait,” in between kisses, Link untangled himself from Bozai’s convulsive grasp and scanned their surroundings. “Let’s get off the road some before I expose myself to whoever comes riding by.” He spied an alcove formed by an eroded crack in the side of the canyon and hustled them into it, far enough to keep them hidden from the road and whatever other travelers it might carry.

Bozai was on Link in a flash, kissing him like he hadn’t just been devouring his lips moments before, while his strong hands were kept busy unbuckling the myriad of belts the hero had remaining around his waist and hips. Once the belts were taken care of, he stripped Link of his trousers, leaving them in a pile around his ankles, and discovered the sad state the matching panties had been reduced to after half a day’s time in the saddle. Bozai looked at the crumpled lace in dismay, fingering a hole worn through the side where the seam of Link’s trousers had rubbed through the delicate fabric. “Those didn’t last as long as I hoped they would,” he said with a sigh. He added more fingers into the hole and with a sudden parting of his hands, tore the underwear clean through. “Now I can say I ripped them off you in a fit of passion!”

Link leaned back and felt the warm grit of the sandstone dig into the backs of his forearms as he braced himself against the wall of the canyon. There was enough left of his outfit, damp with sweat, wrinkled, and ripped though it was, to tantalize his audience, and he watched with heavy-lidded eyes as Bozai took him in from tensed thigh to dust-streaked throat. After a moment of crackling tension, Bozai’s hands replaced his nearly tangible gaze, one aiming low to land square on Link’s crotch, and the other alighting slightly higher on his hip. Palming Link’s growing erection through the slackened fabric, he opined, “You look gorgeous, darling, even with ruined lingerie.” He lowered his head so they were nose to nose, stopping short of resuming their kiss, while the hand on his hip traveled upwards in a lazy, wandering trail. Brushing the ruffles of Link’s top aside to feel the faintly scarred skin beneath, he moved his fingers in teasing circles. The pressure of Bozai’s fondling and the friction of the lace rubbing against his skin were doing amazing things to Link, and he moaned over the whispering wind that blew sand around their feet. After a few more forceful caresses he grew louder, and soon his needy cries echoed in the empty space of the canyon above their heads.

“You’re being awfully loud for someone who said they wanted to hide!” Bozai said playfully, then squeezed Link again to see if he would get the same reaction from him.

Link’s limbs felt heavy and his mind sluggish, lulled and readied by Bozai’s laser-guided attentions. He couldn’t stop the heated groan that rose from his chest to answer the hands clinging determinedly to his most sensitive spots.

“I could do anything to you right now,” Bozai purred, grip firm in the Champion’s hair and on his cock, “but I can wait for a better time.” His lips pressed hard against Link’s, then he bit his lower lip gently before pulling away. “I want you spread out on something softer than the dirt.”

Taking an enormous, steadying breath, Link said, “I prefer the grass, too!” He gave a little laugh, wondering how he had any brain cells left to make a joke after the treatment he’d been given. How could he be so pliable, so easily led on? It was probably the heat and the belly full of food affecting his senses. He’d reacted similarly in the desert when Bozai had cornered him behind the bazaar, and the dry, windswept, rocky terrain they were currently traveling through was still hot, plenty hot enough to addle his brain. Nothing a little water couldn’t fix.

Stumbling a little in the pile of fabric, leather, and gear that surrounded him, Link pulled his feet from his boots and changed his underwear. Keeping his hands far from his erection and giving himself as little stimulation as possible while he continued to dress, he wondered how long it was going to take for him to calm down this time. How Bozai could stand teasing himself time after time was beyond the hero’s understanding. The older man was so free with his affection, he was starting to take it for granted, and now that he’d taken it away, Link was left unexpectedly wanting, a sensation he wasn’t used to experiencing.

Bozai picked up the wad of lace from between two rocks where Link had discarded it and jammed it hastily in his pocket.

“I didn’t know you were a panty-sniffer,” Link remarked as they made their way back to their horses. 

Bozai halted, shoulders rising in defense as he stuttered, “I—I’m not! Those were incredibly expensive, and I just thought… maybe they can be repaired!” The mortified blush shining from his face told a different story, but Link chose not to voice his doubts. He was still fighting his raging erection and was hoping to make it subside by the time he got back in the saddle. Even speaking humorously about that blasted article of clothing made his heart race, and he turned his thoughts for what felt like the hundredth time that day to matters of greater importance— chief among them the gauntlet of monsters they were about to run through at the end of the canyon.

 


 

On the far side of the archway, the walls of the canyon fell away, receding gradually into mesas and low broken cliffs. Two baobab trees commanded the expanded perspective, pointing along the trail to a shrine gleaming blue in cool contrast to the harsh sun shining on the valley’s raised right-hand side. Bozai had begun musing aloud about the ancient Sheikah, a subject rich with varied interpretations, and Link listened with more attention than he had given earlier in the day. 

As Bozai halted in the shade of the second enormous tree, his pony blew what sounded to Link like a relieved breath. In the near distance the canyon, and its road through it, twisted sharply to the left before narrowing to a small portal. To the right of the natural check-point was the familiar sight of a skull-shaped hut ringed with crudely made lookout towers. The tiny forms of Bokoblins on duty could be seen atop the towers from where the travelers rested.

“What are we going to do about them?" Bozai whispered, pointing at the monsters with a hand that was only barely trembling.

“We’ll be fine if we stick to the road. Bokos have such terrible eyesight, they’d only see us if we came knocking at their door.” Link turned to his companion and gave him a reassuring smile, one that he’d used most recently on a Goron he’d convinced to be shot repeatedly out of a cannon. “I’ll ride on the right, you get on the left, and you’ll see, it’s totally safe.” He spurred Spot to a trot, guiding him to cover the smaller mare, and added, “Just keep quiet until we get through the passage.” They crossed the distance as quietly as they could, the soft creak of leather and dull clack of horseshoes on rock the only sounds they made for the next several minutes.

Before exiting from the short tunnel made in the rock, Link stopped to make an announcement. From their sheltered vantage point they could see an enormous structure, bristling with monsters, jutting into the sky to their immediate left. An abandoned lookout tower sagged next to the road in the middle distance. Beyond that, two Bokoblins on horseback patrolled the valley floor, swinging heavy spears and hollering to each other with high-pitched shrieks. Casually taking a drink of water, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and gestured at the scene in front of them. “We’re going to have to kill all those monsters ahead of us.”

Bozai muttered something under his breath, then spoke up after clearing his throat. “What, you mean we can’t sneak past like we did with the ones in the giant skull?”

Link shook his head and stowed his canteen. “No, some of them are on horseback.” He pointed up in the sky and squinted. “You see the one up there? On the landing? It’s got a horn, and it will blow that to alert all its rotten, bloodthirsty friends as soon as it spies something moving.” He looked at Bozai, who had mirrored his squinting gaze with a pinched look of nervous apprehension. “How confident are you in your ability to fight Bokos? They aren’t as bad as Lizalfos, I think.”

Bozai paled, considering Link’s request. “Well, one or two is manageable, I guess…” he said, twisting Cherie’s reins in his hands.

“I’ve got plenty of weapons. You can use one of my spears, so you don’t have to get close to them,” Link said with an encouraging nod of his head.

The older Hylian looked from the towering contraption of wood and metal, to the creatures goading their aggrieved horses in widening circles on the dusty earth below, then over to his heroic companion, who was brandishing two spears with a manic gleam in his eyes. “I think it would be more prudent if I stayed here and let you dispose of the fiends,” he concluded.

“Are you sure? It might be fun to fight together!”

“I’m sure. And I have a better idea,” he said, reaching over to take a spear. “I’ll leave Cherie here, hobbled so she won’t get in the way, and I’ll climb this cliff and go hunting. I heard some wolves howling when we were on the other side.” He studied the spear’s grip, turning it over in his hands as he spoke. “They have high quality meat, perfect for the supper I want to cook for us tonight. It shouldn’t be too difficult to take down a wolf or two with the aid of this fine weapon...”

Link shifted impatiently in his saddle while Spot pawed at the ground, sensing the change in his rider’s demeanor. “Good luck with that,” he said, following the Bokos on horseback with his eyes as he readied his spear and double-checked the placement of the bow on his back. “Time to clear the way!” Without waiting for an answer, he leaned forward over Spot’s neck, yelled “Hyaaa!”, and galloped into the wide open space of the valley.

Adrenaline coursing through his veins, Link twirled his spear over his head as he bore down on his enemies, who, noticing the approaching challenger, turned their horses to face him with twin snarls on their piglike faces. Since the men couldn’t ride past unnoticed, the Champion was looking for the fastest way to dispatch the monsters and get on with their journey. The opposite of sneaking through the valley was making a spectacle of himself, and he was determined to become a smashing success, mostly by smashing the creatures’ heads in before they could defend themselves.

He didn’t have any special tricks up his sleeve to use against the Bokoblins speeding his way. As long as he kept them at spear’s length, he’d be victorious. His deep, deep stash of superior weaponry helped bolster his confidence, since he knew he’d be breaking at least a handful of spears and possibly a sword or two in the fight.

He began by circling around the two mounted monsters once they drew near, keeping their attention focused on a constantly moving target. Link took careful aim with his spear and jabbed it home whenever he saw an opening. Snarling in pain and frustration, his opponents swung their wooden spears through the air and thrusted them with unnerving precision at him and his horse. He dodged their attacks easily, ducking low in his saddle and swerving away from their telegraphed motions.

Using the foes’ eagerness against them, he led the skirmish back and forth across the valley floor, sprinting away whenever he sensed the Bokos tightening their formation. A few well-timed bombs rattled his pursuers with percussive force and kept them from following too closely.

It was a battle of attrition, but one that the Champion gladly fought. The Bokoblins were tough, but their brute strength was no match for his skill and stamina. He wore them down, bit by bit and blow by blow. He threw his damaged weapons at the monsters, hoping the impact of their splintered remains was more painful, or at the very least, more aggravating than a mere whack upon their bodies would be.

By the end of the confrontation, the monsters’ horses were wide-eyed with fear, coats gleaming with sweat, pushed to their limit and unable to keep up with the knight and his war horse. The nearest to Link reared in fright as he circled around to land his final blows, then crashed into the animal behind it, momentarily tangling them together in a painful, distracted heap, which made it refreshingly simple for the young hero to lean over in his saddle and thrust his spear through the Bokoblins for the last time.

It was almost an afterthought when he sent volley after volley of bomb arrows into the upper storeys of the monsters’ defensive outpost, annihilating the solitary watchman from the safety of his saddle. With their warning system dismantled, the rest of the creatures would mind their own business, and the Hylians were finally free to traverse the rest of the valley road in peace.

Link dismounted next to the bridge that marked the end of the canyon and which led to a series of islands that spanned the head of the Regencia River. He rummaged around in his bag, extracting an armful of apples, and stood by Spot’s head. Hero and beast alike were able to wait patiently by eating their fill of apples as Bozai crossed the canyon floor and met up with them.

“Do you mind if I rearrange my packs and stow this meat more securely?” He swung his leg over the saddle and slumped his way off his horse as Link nodded his assent through a final mouthful of apple. “I didn’t see much, since I was so busy with the wolves, but I heard the explosions! Bomb arrows, right?” He mimed an exaggerated explosion, complete with flailing limbs and an uncomfortably accurate rendition of a Boko’s dying squeal, and Link choked with laughter as he tried to swallow his snack. Tying down his saddlebags with a confident swagger, Bozai continued, “Game is pretty scarce in this area, and I wasn’t sure I’d have the opportunity to hunt at all before we reached the stable tonight. Like I said before, wolves have surprisingly high quality meat, and once you study their pack dynamics, they’re easy enough to kill.” Link watched him strike an arresting pose, one hand on the saddle, the other on his hip, and his head thrown back at an angle, and debated the merits of eating another apple. “Study the beasts from afar! Separate one from the pack. Learn the rhythm of its attacks, and voila!” Bozai’s eyes sparkled behind his glasses.

“If you can do that, you could have joined me in the Boko fight,” said Link, quietly impressed with his companion’s display of practical knowledge.

Bozai shook his head, the light disappearing from his eyes. “Monsters are less predictable than wolves. I’m no hero.” 

Link shrugged. “Well, you’ve survived this long. That ought to count for something.” He looked up to the sky and pursed his lips. “We should get going if we want to eat before nightfall.” Gesturing to the bridge behind him, he added, “It’s hard to see from here, but there’s a Hinox on the island up ahead.”  Bozai stared open-mouthed into the distance, a growing look of horror overwhelming his features. Cutting him off before his hysteria built up to an unmanageable level, the young hero said, “I have a new way of getting rid of giant enemies,” and he held his hand up, fingers pressed together as if to snap them. Bozai gave him a puzzled look, and Link shook his head in reply. “It’s easier to demonstrate rather than explain, but I can’t show you until the Hinox is in range. So let’s go.”

They didn’t make it far before Link, who was in the lead, guided Spot sideways to block the way. The enormous lump of the Hinox was now visible beyond the span of the wooden bridge, and Link asked Bozai if his horse spooked easily. “How does she do during thunderstorms?”

Bozai hemmed and hawed before answering. “I’d have to say she’s a bit high-strung,” he confessed. “Fine for a horse, but bad for an adventurer.”

“That’s alright,” Link said. “You can stay back here with both our horses. I need to sneak up on this big guy and I don’t want you to get hurt.” Eyes twinkling with mischief, he dismounted and removed his extra weapons, stowing all but a broadsword in his bottomless bag. “Keep your eyes on me. This should look very impressive!”

“Easiest thing in the world, my beauty!” Bozai answered at once. Link pressed a quieting finger to his lips before turning and tiptoeing toward the immobile hill of flesh sleeping in the center of the small island. He grew tiny against the side of the monster, and Bozai watched in silent fascination as he drew his weapon.

A ball of lightning bloomed to violent life around the slumbering giant, and Bozai’s astonished cry was lost in the accompanying crack of thunder. The horses startled, jerking their heads away from the flashing aftershocks, but the man left behind held a firm grip on both pairs of reins and kept them in check. An enraged, pained groan came from the monster, but before it could rise to defend itself, it was bathed in the electric green light of another attack, and it seized, dying slowly, then finally turned black and dissolved into the air.

Link whistled for his horse once the spectacle was over and swooped into the saddle when Spot drew near. He waved for Bozai to follow and trotted off along the path, not wanting to waste any time by stopping to talk about what he had just done. Bozai had to content himself by shouting his praises from behind as he urged Cherie to move faster. The wind, which had swiftly scattered the Hinox’s ashes off the island, now snatched the words from his mouth, stretching and muffling them before they reached their intended recipient.

The rest of the afternoon passed in a haze of undulating hills. Past the river, greenery took over the landscape in a soothing vista as far as the eye could see. The travelers’ progress was broken several times by solitary Moblins and small groups of Chuchus popping up by the side of the road. These momentary diversions were indicative of a larger phenomenon as they drew closer to Hyrule’s heartland— monsters ran rampant, Malice spread without check, and the ruins of abandoned settlements clustered thickly along their path. The resurrected Champion’s country had been sick for a long time, and he was ready to rip the infection out by the root.

Link knew they were getting close to the stable when they turned onto a crossroads and encountered a merchant leading a donkey up the hill they were about to scale. Though eager to rest for the night, Link was having mixed feelings about their choice of lodgings. The stables that ringed central Hyrule were popular with travelers of all kinds, and the two men were sure to join a sizable crowd at the Outskirt Stable. Judging from their lunchtime distraction and the flirtatious looks Bozai kept throwing his way, Link was expecting a repeat of last night’s activity, but he wasn’t keen to turn it into a public display of affection. He hoped he could persuade his companion to take their fun away from the building, despite his preference for staying indoors.

They arrived at the Outskirt Stable with an hour or two of daylight to spare, plenty of time to fix a meal and wind down before exhaustion claimed them for the night. Winding their way through broken-down wagons, a filled-in well, and piles of rocks mixed with rusty equipment to check in at the building’s front desk, Bozai made sleeping arrangements while Link brought the horses over to be boarded. 

The hero, carrying bags of food and clothing, met his partner by the communal cook pot. He set the bags down and began rifling through them, ignoring Bozai’s hesitant protest while he looked for something with which to keep his hands occupied. Sitting idle never felt right to him, and even though his path to Hyrule Castle had been long and winding, he hadn’t wasted any —okay, much— of that time loafing around. He had helped a lot of people during his journey, and he was going to help Bozai cook supper tonight.

Bozai stopped Link in his tracks, making a surprisingly solid wall between the small Hylian and the cook pot. Plucking the leaf-wrapped package of wolf meat from Link’s hands, he said, “I’m sure you’re used to doing everything for yourself, but you don’t have to anymore— I mean tonight. Sit and make yourself comfortable! Did you forget that I wanted to make us dinner?”

Link shook his head and asked, “Are you sure you don’t need any help?” as he was herded over to a discarded wooden crate. Bozai put his hand on his shoulder and stared deeply into his eyes, and it took the distracted young man several seconds before he realized Bozai was trying to push him down and make him sit.

“Yes, I’m sure!” Bozai replied. “We’re both independent traveler types, it’s true, but that means I can do everything you can do! I know how to start a fire, or cook a meal, and I can pitch a tent— in more ways than one,” he added in an undertone while winking at Link. “Sit and watch! You don’t even have to keep me entertained. I’ll show you what I learned from my time in Gerudo Town. I took a cooking class, and we made a delicious soup!”

“Oh,” said Link, a glimmer of recognition shining in his eyes. “I know about that class. I was too short to see over the counter, though, so I couldn’t read the cookbook they used.”

Bozai frowned sympathetically and patted his shoulder. “If we had taken the class together, I would have lifted you up, my petite princess. I’d have let you use me like a step stool, you know!” he said before stepping over to the bag of food.

“Don’t call me that!” Link protested.

“What, petite?”

“No,” Link said with a twinge of guilt, “princess.”

Bozai bit his lip, as if to rebuke himself. “Sorry about that! Force of habit, I guess.” He shuffled his feet where he stood, and pointed at the packet of meat in his hand. “I suppose I should start cooking now, if we want to eat before nightfall.”

Though he did not express it through a change of posture, Link began to relax as he sat quietly on the crate, watching Bozai cook and listening to him talk about the class he had taken. Link had noticed a gradual change in his companion’s demeanor over the last day. The farther away they traveled from the desert, the more reasonable Bozai became— he hadn’t once tried to cajole him into changing his mind about his final destination, nor had he complained about their lack of formal romantic relationship. No longer burdened by the temptation and repeated disappointment of all those Gerudo ladies gathered together in one convenient yet inaccessible place, Bozai had lost his desperate edge, mellowing enough to become a much more pleasant person to be around. The only person riling him up like a combat-crazed Lynel was consistently returning his interest, and he transformed under the positive attention. His blustery exuberance was not so irritatingly over the top anymore, and Link thanked Hylia for his newly relaxed attitude.

The two men ate outside, sharing space on the crate after Link’s exploratory glance inside the stable revealed no empty tables for them to sit at. Bozai sipped from his bowl of creamy heart soup while Link balanced a plate of steak on his lap and cut through its crust of salt, exposing its perfectly cooked interior. The adventurer had a very high opinion of his own cooking skills, but one taste of Bozai’s supper had him doubting his abilities. He decided to voice his appreciation for the gourmet meal, bestowing the highest praise he’d remembered giving since tasting a stuffed pumpkin cooked by Kakariko Village’s youngest chef.

Responding to the compliment with a ruddy blush that rivaled the colors of the fading sunset, Bozai tucked his hair behind his ear and tripped over his words as he began to describe his cooking philosophy. “I’m glad you like it, but I have to tell you a secret that will ruin the image you have of me as a suave, skilled, gourmet chef.” He didn’t wait for Link to protest, but barreled on, “I can cook about three things really well, but most of what I try to cook comes out barely edible. That’s why I keep a journal on all the places I’ve found that serve food. It’s easier that way!” He shrugged his shoulders sheepishly. “I can pull out all the stops and cook my signature dish that’s more suited to a feast, which isn’t really worth it unless I’m trying to impress a date, and those opportunities have been few and far between. So I usually eat what others cook for me, or I resort to eating raw fruit and half-burned chickaloo nuts for days on end. But you,” he said, beaming down at the young man still fishing chunks of vegetables from his soup, “are definitely worth it.”

“Thanks again,” said Link, waving a tiny, heart-shaped radish in Bozai’s direction before popping it in his mouth. “So delicious.”

The Champion did not feel like sitting by the fire under the watchful gazes of the other patrons of the stable was a particularly relaxing idea, and his whispered suggestion to Bozai for the two of them to take a short walk to a scenic location after they cleaned up was enthusiastically agreed upon. Link’s single concession to decency was to give himself a brief but thorough wipedown in the stable’s washroom. He might eat like a pig, but he didn’t have to smell like one.

Link led Bozai back through the open yard of the stable, crossing paths with a harried-looking mother trying with little success to usher her children to bed. On the far side of the road, a tree-covered hill rose high enough to block the fading horizon. They climbed the short distance to its top, Bozai puffing alongside good-naturedly. “My age must be catching up to me!” he joked. “I wasn’t meant for this quick ascent!” Link smiled to himself. They had found one type of terrain where the jogging fiend’s training didn’t transfer.

The tree line ended just before the top of the hill, and the two men walked through knee-high grass, disturbing fireflies with every step. Link stopped to take in the view next to a wide, weathered stump, which had a pinwheel jammed into it at a careless angle and twirled with a faint musical jangle in the light breeze. The castle lay in the distance before them, fuming angrily in a haze of Malice. Red beams from the Divine Beasts’ guiding lasers were trained on it from the four corners of the continent, and it appeared as though they were pinning down the Calamity from the outside while Princess Zelda worked from within to hold still its beating heart.

Behind the hero, Bozai gasped in shock. He hadn’t seen any of this before, Link recalled. He had been in the Gerudo Highlands when the earth heaved and the Calamity reawakened.

“That’s where you’re going.” It was neither a question nor a statement, but a little of both, and Link nodded solemnly in response. Bozai moved closer behind him, wrapping his arms around his chest. “I don’t want you to go, but I know you have to. You’re the only one who can stop that… thing, aren’t you?” Fear and repulsion weighed down his words, and Link felt him grimace, like it would leave a bad taste in his mouth if he called it by name. Never the Calamity, always that thing.

Link nodded again and rested against the sturdy form of the taller man. A tiny knot of tension in his stomach eased as he felt Bozai’s reassuring bulk against his back.

Bozai continued, “We have one more day together. I’m going to ignore the pain in my legs and ass— by the way,” he shifted, reaching back to knead at his behind, “running and riding a horse use completely different muscle groups, I can’t believe I forgot— and I’m going to continue giving you the treatment you deserve.” He lowered his head, nuzzling the edge of Link’s ear, and whispered, “Starting by removing all your clothes and giving you a massage from head to toe to head.”

“Wait, head to toe to… head?” Link broke away from Bozai’s embrace and turned to face him. “How many heads are we talking about here?” he asked, setting his companion up for the joke he knew had to be coming.

“Both, of course!” They burst into unrestrained laughter, and after they had both quieted, Bozai said, “I’m so sorry if this is inappropriate—” he gestured at the seething evil on display down in the lowlands, “—and I understand if you just want to turn in and rest up for tomorrow, but I really want to…” Catching Link’s hands in his own, he gave him an imploring look.

Link marveled at Bozai’s growing sense of self-awareness for a moment before responding. “This is just the kind of distraction I was hoping for. It’s perfect, really. I need all of your attention on me, and mine on you.” He grinned widely in the fading evening light. “I don’t want to look at or think about that thing over there for the rest of the night.”

Bozai’s smile was a bright flash of teeth against the darkness of his face. Swooping in for an emphatic kiss, he declared, “Oh, I’m so relieved!”

Link tugged at the front of Bozai’s vest, wishing he didn’t have to constantly redirect the other man’s attentions. “Great. But first, I have a few ideas. Let’s get off the top of the hill and I’ll show you what I’m talking about.”

Back under the protective cover of the trees, Link flipped through the inventory on his Slate, searching among his vast array of elixirs for what he wanted. Bozai had left his rucksack back at the stable, but Link was in a giving mood and happy to share what he had. Dipping his hand into the bag at his hip, he retrieved a healing elixir and offered it to the man stamping the grass down in a circle in front of him. “Here. You’re the one who needs the massage, but this is almost as good!” As Bozai sipped his medicine, Link returned to his Slate to make another selection.

“Your continuing generosity is one of your noblest attributes.” Bozai gushed, pocketing the empty bottle, then asked, “What’s that one for?” after wiping his mouth with the back of his gloved hand.

“Stealth potion,” Link answered, and Bozai's eyebrows lifted in interest. Sound carried far in the quiet night, and with the number of children and other innocent bystanders present down at the stable’s inn, it was only prudent to muffle their exuberance. This wasn’t anonymous like their encounter outside the walls of Gerudo Town had been. Tonight, a dozen people had watched him and Bozai walk past the communal fire pit into the dark of the woods, a dozen people to whom he had no interest in giving a titillating exhibition. And if they were curious, there was nothing stopping any of them from sneaking up the hill and watching from behind a tree, like he imagined the Koroks did.

“This changes your plans,” Link said apologetically. “We’ll have to make it quick.” He uncorked the bottle and gave it a sniff. “If the note I wrote in the Slate is right, we have about ten minutes before the silencing effects wear off.” He passed it over to his companion, who chugged his half without complaint. Downing the rest of the bottle, Link smiled, nearly invisible under the cover of the thicket, and said in a thick, increasingly muffled voice that filled his mouth like Chuchu jelly, “Now we can be as loud as we want.” 

Before Bozai could make a move, Link went straight to the point, stepping close to his companion after stowing his empty bottle. Remembering Bozai’s bold treatment of him earlier in the day, he decided to pay him back in kind, and fondled him playfully over his trousers with one hand as he loosened his belt and parted his many layers of clothing to get at the waistband below. He could feel the taller man’s breath grow faster under his exploring fingers, but heard no sound, neither moans of excitement nor words of encouragement, as he searched beneath fabric for the organ waiting for his touch. 

Presently, he found Bozai’s cock, satisfyingly hot and stiff beneath his fingers. Wrapping his hand around it, he eased it from his trousers and gave it a few preliminary pumps. The confident maneuver spurred Bozai to action, and he brought his hands to rest on either side of Link’s face, drawing him in for a kiss.

Link had only begun to get into a steady rhythm, interspersing his strokes with a teasing flick of his thumb to the underside of his partner’s head, when Bozai froze, tongue retreating from Link’s mouth, hips jerking forward into Link’s fist, and fingers twisting into Link’s hair. All was still for several heartbeats, then warm liquid poured over Link’s hand as Bozai relaxed, releasing a long, drawn out breath.

The older man’s quick climax took Link by surprise, but he wasn’t so crass as to bring attention to it. Maybe Bozai had done it on purpose, or maybe he had finally reached his limit after bringing himself to and retreating from the edge of release all day. In any case, Link was now the center of attention, a situation he was eager to take advantage of.

Bozai took a cloth from his pocket and tenderly wiped the mess off Link’s hand. Robbed of the opportunity to speak, he returned his hands to Link’s shoulders and guided him down onto the grass. The hero was still wearing his traveling garb, which meant that Bozai had his work cut out for him, but in the interest of saving time, Link helped his companion loosen, unbuckle, and remove everything that was in the way. Finally unburdened of his clothing, he luxuriated in the gentle caress of the evening breeze before the more forceful caresses of Bozai’s eager hands took over. 

Running his bare hands from knee to thigh, he spread the small Hylian’s legs apart and hunkered down between them. Link closed his eyes in anticipation. There wasn’t much to see anyway, although he did enjoy the flickering light of the fireflies as they danced amongst the leaves in the surrounding bushes. An electric thrill ran up his leg when Bozai’s stubbly cheek brushed against the delicate skin of his inner thigh, and he waited, breathing shallowly, for what would come next.

Soft lips replaced scratchy hair as Bozai kissed his way up Link’s leg, and his anticipation grew into an ache to be touched. Relief swept over him when he felt Bozai’s mouth close around the head of his cock and his hand gently grasp the base of his shaft. His other hand rested on his hip, rubbing back and forth in a distracting counterpoint to the rhythm of the main event.

It came as no surprise to Link when those inquisitive fingers shifted around, working their way under his bottom. Bozai had a fixation with his backside, an interest he was all too happy to oblige now that he knew how good it felt to be penetrated.

In the absence of hearing and enjoying the sounds Bozai normally made with his mouth full, Link concentrated instead on his other senses. He could feel warm, slippery saliva running down his skin; the exquisitely combined pressure of lips, mouth, and hand as his companion gave a dedicated performance to his entire shaft; and the occasional tease of a tongue around the rim of his crown, all set to the vaguely musical background noise of nocturnal creatures going about their business.

What surprised the hero, however, was the removal of the finger he was hoping to feel pressing into his entrance, followed by the more profound loss of the intoxicating warmth of Bozai’s mouth. Link opened his eyes, confusion seeping through the cracks of his hunger. He forgot himself in his impatience, words clogging his throat as he asked what was wrong, and only remembered the elixir they had taken when he received artificial silence as his answer. He blinked sluggishly and watched his partner for clues as to what could be important enough to interrupt him.

Link’s imagination filled in the blanks as Bozai, cloaked in darkness, leaned back and rummaged around in his pockets. A moment later his hand emerged, holding a small glass jar. He swiped his finger around its interior, collecting the dregs from the nearly empty container. When he removed his finger, holding it up for inspection, it glistened with a layer of thickened liquid. Bozai’s mouth moved silently, barely visible as a glimmer of teeth, but his voice appeared in Link’s head nearly as clearly as if he spoke aloud. This will be perfect to lubricate your delicate posterior with, my dazzling jewel. There was no escaping it, he thought with an equally soundless chuckle, they had spent too much time together and now he could predict the next awkward phrase to come out of the besotted man’s mouth.

Bozai returned to his place between Link’s legs, wrapped his lips securely around his aching cock, and placed his slicked-up finger against the puckered skin of his anus. The methodical, unhurried technique he employed drove the small Hylian wild, frustrating him that he couldn’t express himself verbally, trying instead to communicate his pleasure through small movements of his own body. Threading his fingers through Bozai’s hair, he pressed his hand to the back of his head in a gentle request to be swallowed more deeply.

Teasing Link internally with a well-positioned finger, Bozai added more pressure to the sensitive spot until he could hold still no longer, squirming against the intense sensations that had stripped him of rational thought and were about to send him over the edge. Arching his hips into the air with his arm braced against the ground, he thrusted his pelvis into Bozai’s face, holding him in place by a fistful of hair as he lost himself to the radiant pulse of his orgasm. The night sky bloomed white behind his eyelids while bolts of pleasure raced through his body.

As his climax ebbed, he relaxed, boneless and buzzing with satisfaction back into the grass, and released Bozai from his frenzied grip. The clangor of his heartbeat subsided, and he watched the fireflies, seemingly undisturbed by the commotion below, weave glowing patterns in the air above his head.

“It feels better when I use my fingers and my mouth, doesn’t it?”

Link didn’t know if he heard Bozai’s query or he had only imagined it, but he answered anyway with an affirmative grunt and a nod, and hoped the indistinct response accurately portrayed his appreciation. The noise of his grunt was clearly audible to his sensitive ears, and he startled when he heard it. They had finished just in time, then.

Bozai eased himself to his feet, fastening his trousers and readjusting his vests. His hand rose to his head to massage the area of scalp under the hair Link had been pulling, then noticed him staring and flashed him a reassuring smile. “It doesn’t hurt, darling. But I have noticed,” he heaved a plaintive sigh, “the only time you cling to me is when you’re deep in the throes of passion!” 

Link didn’t have an answer for that, but it did sound like something he would do. It was all too easy to let instinct take over when he got heated, especially since he didn’t have many memories of his past to guide him. He stood, and after a moment of wondering whether or not he should apologize, he decided to get dressed instead.

A faint worry nagged at Link that once the effects of the sneaky elixir had worn off, Bozai’s words would flow like an unstoppered keg, but the older man surprised him once again by remaining relatively quiet on their journey back to the stable. They stumbled down the hill; it was difficult to see where their feet landed in the moonless night, and Bozai lost his footing on a slick patch of grass when they had nearly reached flat ground. Faster than the eye could see, Link’s arm shot out and grabbed Bozai by the elbow, stopping him from falling. After checking to make sure he was able to stand on his own, he slid his steadying hand down his arm to intertwine their fingers, and tugged the speechless Hylian toward the horse-headed canvas tent looming in the distance.

As they passed through the stable's common yard, Link heard a sullen voice rise above the murmur of the small crowd that had remained around the fire circle. "So-called Hero... definitely not my type..." He had passed the gathering by the time he overheard the disappointed dismissal, but he knew without looking that there was a young woman sitting by the fire he had spoken to before whose opinion of heroes had probably been irrevocably tainted by his wayward wandering.

Despite the young lady’s opinion, it seemed trivial now to Link if he was seen in the intimate company of another man, and he was having a hard time remembering why he thought it was important to maintain a pretense of separation in the first place. His number one priority at the moment was to outrun his sudden fatigue and get to bed before it felled him where he stood, and with that thought in mind he allowed himself to be guided into the inn and over to an unoccupied soft bed, which had its drapes invitingly pulled back as if to say, “Welcome, exhausted hero. It’s time to sleep.” He collapsed onto the plush mattress, toeing off his boots without rising from his place, almost too tired to get under the covers, and definitely too tired to change his clothes.

Bozai nudged the drowsy young man until he rolled to the far side of the bed, but he rolled right back once he felt his companion settle into place beside him. Link flung his arm over the immobile form of the man who didn’t take up as much space in the narrow bed as he used to think he did, mumbled “one more day”, and surrendered to the pull of unconsciousness before he heard Bozai’s reply.

“One more day… I can’t imagine another day without you in my life. Let’s make it count, my love, my Champion.”