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An Unfair Trade

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Link glided to a stop in front of the Sand-Seal Rally award platform and let go of his rented sand seal's leash. Both the seal and the Hylian were exhausted from the race they had just run. The last few hours had been filled by non-stop action, and Link was grateful for the cool breeze that rattled the palmettos sprouting from under the corners of the platform and dried the sweat soaking his hairline. Sensing its freedom, the seal immediately flopped over with a grunt and buried its fins in the sand. Link released his feet from the straps on his shield, an old hunk of metal he had found in a cave that was probably ready to be sold for scrap now that he'd used it to surf up and down sand dunes all day. He stood and straightened the elaborate golden headdress perched on his head. The Thunder Helm was his reward for running himself ragged over the past few days helping out the citizens of Gerudo Town. The Chief had made it clear that her precious heirloom was only his to borrow, and while it was probably not the most decorous way to do so, he felt he’d earned the right to wear it in whatever situation he chose. Its highest honor in his possession thus far had been to reflect the sun and Electric Lizalfos shocks as he wove through the flags on the sand-seal race course.

Shabonne, the woman in charge of the race track, thrust her pocket watch at Link as he walked over to the shade of a few tall palm trees in which she stood. Her companion, Tali, a strapping young woman with a hairstyle of gorgeously voluminous, tight red curls, shifted silently on the balls of her feet to watch his approach.

"You shaved thirty-six seconds off your best time yet!" The old Gerudo crowed. "I can't believe how fast you are, and with a rented seal, no less!"

Tali, the previous Sand-Seal Rally champion, nodded in agreement, or perhaps she was acknowledging the loss of her old record. It was hard to read her face in the light of the setting sun.

Link wasn’t about to argue with a professional about the merits of sand seal breeding, especially when he’d taken up the racing hobby only a few weeks ago. The seal he had chosen from the rental stall had adapted quickly to his style of commands, and the two of them had flown through the course like old partners. He would be sad to return it to its owner at the end of the day.

The two ladies agreed that there was nothing better to celebrate a new record being made than a round or two at the Noble Canteen, the most popular bar in Gerudo Town.

"Come on, Champion! Change your clothes behind the shrine over there and follow us!" said the elder.

Link looked down at his outfit. He'd forgotten that he was wearing his voe clothes, which, while excellent to wear in the desert heat, made it abundantly clear that he was a man. His identity was probably the worst kept secret in all the desert, but rules were rules, and the guards would not let him past the gates unless he was disguised as a woman. So he dutifully changed and trotted after his two giant companions. As their little procession wended their way through the city, they attracted plenty of attention, and by the time they arrived at the bar, their number had increased by about a dozen. Link was at the back of the pack by then, but he didn't mind. He was just glad to be caught up in the camaraderie.

The crowd at the bar was thick, and Link waited patiently for his party to put in their orders first. When it was his turn, he stepped up and asked Furosa, the sole bartender, in his politest voice for a Noble Pursuit.

"Sorry, miss," came the curt reply. "We don't serve minors here. Why don't you go to the day care down the road."

Link tried out a charming smile before he remembered that his veil obscured his face. "I see that you're put off by my youthful looks. I assure  you, I'm over one hundred years old!"

"I don't think so, sweetie. Come back in a few years." She reached for some empty bottles left on the counter top, unwilling to spend any more time on a fruitless exchange of words.

Frustrated, Link looked over across the room to Shabonne and Tali, who were chatting with a group of assorted hangers-on. They would be no help in confirming his age, and he realized as he failed to grab their attention, they seemed to have forgotten about him entirely. Turning back to Furosa, he said, "The last time I was here, I was served alcohol!"

"Not from me you weren't!" She glared as she dried a bottle with a brilliant white rag. Technically, she was correct, as the last time he had a beverage here he was nineteen, not 119, and Furosa hadn’t even been born yet. He knew that was a futile argument to have, as previous experience had shown that hardly anyone believed his true age.

Sighing, about ready to concede, he asked, "How about a glass of milk, then?"

Furosa puffed up with irritation as she hissed, "Milk? You can't be serious! We don't sell anything as childish as milk here! This is your last warning. Get going before I throw you out!"

Link was just about to ask her if she would also deny a drink to the Chief of the Gerudo, who was several years younger than his apparent age, if she happened to walk into the bar; when a tall Hylian vai with dark hair and glasses stepped up to the counter next to him, and in a strained falsetto, ordered two Noble Pursuits.

The bartender squinted at her new customer and relented, but not before warning, "That better not be for the little miss there!"

Link interjected, ”No, I'll be having a hydromelon agua fresca, please." He knew that was on the menu; he remembered someone ordering it the day he came to inform Furosa of her best customer's whereabouts.

While he waited for Furosa to fix his drink, Link looked over at the lady next to him and realized with a shock that it was Bozai! The jogging enthusiast who had given Link both pairs of his boots was dressed in the same style of clothing that the hero himself was wearing, though each item of the other man’s wardrobe was a hodgepodge of different colors. Instead of a scarf adorning his head, a slim jeweled headband held his hair back from his face, and as he turned to greet his old acquaintance, Link noticed how Bozai’s glasses magnified the effect of the mascara and eyeshadow applied to his large, dark eyes.

Bozai greeted Link with a raised eyebrow and said, ”Well, my darling little adventurer! We meet again!”

“Hi," returned Link and gave him a half-hearted wave of acknowledgement. A rising surge of panic propelled his thoughts: Should I make a run for the bathroom and climb out a window? Or stay and explain why I left him in the middle of the night?

Bozai nodded his head at the trio of drinks the bartender had slammed on the counter. He made sure that Furosa was distracted by more customers at the other end of the bar before he asked, "Care to grab a quiet corner, catch up on old times, and join me in a drink? First round's on me!"

The friendliness of his request startled Link, but after a moment or two, Bozai’s confident attitude and the prospect of a free drink won him over, and he graciously accepted the offer.

 


 

Whispers followed them to a booth in the back of the bar.

“That's the vai who found Barta...twice!"

"...she killed a Molduga just to get its guts for my cousin's husband. He's recovering from sandfly fever..."

"Didn't you hear? That's the little vai who tamed Naboris!"

Bozai stumbled when he heard the last one. I went down on the Champion?

He'd heard the news when the Chief went out into the desert south of town, and then, the very next day when the great dust cloud settled back into the sand and the horizon cleared for the first time in months, he had been just as jubilant as the other citizens to see the change. Word spread quickly about a courageous foreign vai who aided the Gerudo in victory, but he hadn't put two and two together…

Of course it was her. Anyone who would selflessly climb a snowy mountain to find evidence of a long-lost legend would also be the kind of person who wrangles giant, terrifying, electric-sandstorm-creating beasts and wins! A spring formed in his step when he realized his brush with fame. And I caught her attention! Me! Ol' Bozai's seen her naked!

They sat down at a table close to a group of couches occupied by a lively, non-sand seal-related party. Bozai slid one of the cocktail-filled mugs across the table to his companion.

"I advise you to take it slow. They mix them here for eight-foot-tall women,” Bozai raised his hand above his head, "and we are," he lowered it to rest atop his headband, "much smaller. No offense, of course! I think you're the perfect size," he finished, a blush creeping out from beneath his veil.

Link raised the mug to his lips and took a taste. A fruity aroma with a cooling finish issued from the deep purple liquid. Supremely refreshing, he thought as he smacked his lips, and very strong.

"Hang on, I'm going to ask for some straws. This veil is a pain to drink around,” Bozai complained, and left to hunt down the utensils.

By the time the other Hylian came back with a handful of straws clutched in his hand, Link had decided on a topic of conversation that would answer the new question burning in his gut. "So, why are you still here? I thought you said you were going to leave town after the last time we met?"

"Well," the awkward older man began, and sipped his drink through pursed lips. “No doubt you recall that you left me barefoot. In the desert." He spoke slowly in clipped tones, punctuating his sentences with sips of his drink. "The guards here in town had no mercy for me, so I made my way to Kara Kara Bazaar. Took me two days, traveling only during the night. I asked around, and found a merchant selling second-hand clothing. She sold me some shoes, and these too." He gestured at his feminine outfit. "She told me they suited me, but I don't know about that. I think it was just a sales tactic. An effective one, but still, ehhh..." He shifted in his chair and picked at the beaded collar of his blouse.

Since the newly disguised man seemed to be inviting commentary about the effectiveness of his wardrobe, Link turned his eye to sartorial critique. The strategic padding in Bozai’s emerald green halter top added a suggestion of breasts to his wide-shouldered frame, an addition that the Champion hadn’t bothered to utilize for his own outfit. He had not taken the time to look as they were walking to their seats, but he was willing to bet that Bozai’s hips were similarly enhanced as well. The tall Hylian sat primly in his seat, hardly speaking, brushing a lock of hair that had escaped from his headband away from his nose, and was rather obviously staring at the other patrons of the bar. It was kind of strange to see Bozai so out of his element. All of their previous interactions had been marked by his bluster and bravado. Sure, he was plenty awkward too, but that awkwardness was tempered by his oversized sense of self-importance and the pure force of his will.

"I like your makeup," Link said, sidestepping the implied question of whether he was acceptably female or not. "Especially your eyebrows. Bold shapes really work on you."

"You do? Thanks!” Soaking in the compliment, Bozai added, "I asked the concierge at my hotel, and she told me about this place-"

"You asked the what now?" Link interrupted. "Where are you staying?"

"Oh, at the Royal Palm Suites,” Bozai answered with an air of studied nonchalance that was clearly meant to signify something important. The resurrected knight combed his spotty memory for a recollection of the hotel’s name. Had he walked past it before? Seen the sign and changed his mind? It did sound familiar…

“Ah, right. I've heard of that place.” He drummed his fingers on the table. “Sort of tucked away in a corner of the city? Gems inset onto the front doors, and a really, really, really tall doorwoman waiting nearby?”

“That’s the one!” Bozai confirmed with a pleased look in his eye.

Link continued, “Never stayed there though, even when I had a bunch of rupees to blow. I usually stay at the Hotel Oasis when I want a roof over my head."

"You can sleep there? I thought it was just a massage parlor."

"Yeah, they have a spa in the front, and lodging in the rear." Link snorted, unable to stop his mind from heading straight to the gutter. Perhaps the bartender was right to refuse him a drink, if this was the height and sophistication of his sense of humor.

"But anyway, getting back to my story—" Bozai plunged back into his narrative, finally beginning to loosen up, "it was to my benefit that I was left unshod! As you can see, it ended up bringing us back together! Once I realized my advantage in these special clothes, I thought, ah ha! Here's my chance to see what Gerudo life is all about!"

Link put down his drink and chided in mock outrage, ”So you infiltrated the city and now you're spying on them?"

"What? No!" Bozai raised his hands as if to deflect the accusation, bracelets jangling with his sudden motion. Sheepishly he amended, "I'm researching. I was getting less than nowhere outside the gates, so I just thought..."

Link wasn't surprised to hear him admit that his tactics were ineffective at attracting positive attention. A little self-awareness would go a long way in that man's case. Personally, he thought Bozai had looked like a turbo moron running in circles through the sand outside Gerudo City, but his tact prevented him from actually telling that to the self-professed scholar.

"But so far," Bozai went on, "my research has been in vain. I've been learning so much, so I thought I'd start flirting a little with my new information in mind, but it's not working. I don't know what I'm doing wrong!" The lonely fool started detailing all the tidbits of info he had picked up, from the daily schedules of the most attractive Gerudo women to all the different words for sweat he had overheard. Then he launched into an explanation of the various methods of flirting he had been trying out.

Blah blah blah. This was the man Link remembered. The one who wouldn't shut up. He allowed his mind to wander, making vague noises of interest and nodding his head when he sensed a lull in the monologue. Bozai was right about one thing, however: the veil was a pain to drink around. He rolled up the offending flap of fabric and tucked it up behind its tie, leaving his mouth and one side of his jaw exposed. The Champion of Hyrule spent some time chasing his straw around his mug with his tongue. When he caught Bozai looking at him (slack-jawed behind his veil no doubt) he grabbed the straw between two fingers, gave the end of it a little flicking lick, then curled his tongue around it to slurp up the melted remains of his drink with exaggerated gusto. The lascivious maneuver just toed the line of public propriety, and predictably, it worked to stop the other man from talking.

Link asked, “Are you flirting inside the town or outside?” with the hope that he would receive a one or two word answer in return.

“Mainly in town. Why?”

“Inside the walls, the Gerudo probably think you're giving them compliments, just being friendly and all. Outside the walls, well, I don't have any advice for you there.”

“Um.” Bozai took his time to digest this new piece of information.

Link continued, ”How many ladies here do you think go for...other women?"

Bozai cocked his head. "Why would you say that?"

Link picked up his hydromelon juice, swallowed an extra large gulp, and rolled his eyes. Never mind about his previous conclusion about the desperate single’s new-found sense of awareness, the guy was terminally clueless. That much was clear.

"Because you're dressed like a woman, in a town restricted to women, and you look enough like a woman for the other women to consider you one as well?"

Bozai looked like he had been run over by a sand seal.

"And what do you think will happen when you do manage to get a date? Will she be happy surprised or angry surprised to find out that you're actually, you know..." Link didn't say the last word out loud. Even if no one was actively listening to their conversation, why chance it?

Bozai sank to the surface of the table, cradling his head in his arms. “I’m an idiot! Why did I never realize…”

“Hey there, it happens to the best of us,” Link said gently, trying to keep the laughter out of his voice. “Maybe you’ll remember for your next try tomorrow.”

Bozai made quite a pitiful sight as he thumped his forehead repeatedly against the table. He finally lifted his head, glasses and headband askew, and said with a pleading look in his eyes, “But it worked on you! I asked you out for drinks and you accepted!”

“We know each other already. And I was already in the bar…”

"But… but that's what you did to me!" Bozai said with the smuggest look he'd ever seen a pair of eyebrows make.

The blond Hylian protested, "That was completely different!" Though the only difference he could name at the moment was the choice of venue for their ‘date’. "I thought you knew! You seemed to be completely fine with it at the time!" It didn't make him feel any better to shift the blame to the other man, but this came as quite a shock to the young hero, and he didn’t know what else to say.

“I told you that night,” the love-addled man reminded him, “that you gave me a surprise. But I overcame it, and I had a good time. So no harm done, really.”

 


 

The wooing wanderer talked at length about everything and nothing while the resurrected Champion listened as best he could. They were occasionally interrupted by appreciative ladies stopping by to congratulate Link on taming the Beast, or thanking him for some kindness he had recently performed. Bozai did not miss the way the hero’s eyes turned down at each compliment, or the way his voice reduced to a whisper when he spoke a few words in response.

So modest, he thought to himself. She’s gorgeous and humble. I’ve never seen this side of her before. What an attractive combination!

“What's your plan then, once you leave Gerudo Town?" Link asked his drinking companion, who was gazing disconnectedly at a pair of women playing checkers at the next table. Whatever direction Bozai said he was going, Link would make sure to go anywhere else. It was fine to run into the man once or twice, but he had no intention of making this a regular thing, or striking up a friendship with him.

Bozai drained the last of his Noble Pursuit and sighed. "I have a few ideas, but my most pressing concern is, well, I'm starting to run low on funding. I'm originally from the Tabantha Hill Country. My father gave me money to, and I quote, 'Make something of yourself, boy. There's plenty of opportunities out there for a tenacious young man, but you have to go out and grab them first!'" He sighed again and slumped in his seat. “I’ve been making a living dealing in rare and useful boots, with the eventual goal of opening up a shop in Tabantha Village. It got burned down by a roving gang of Moblins about ten years ago, but it's close to both the prime hunting snowfields and the Hebra Mountains, so I think if it got cleaned up and rebuilt it would be pretty popular.” He stopped and perked up in his chair. “Am I boring you?”

“No, not at all!” the traveler answered. “I love stories of renewal and rebuilding. It gives me hope for the future, to see people continuing their lives in the face of Ganon’s destruction. it might sound cheesy, but it’s the truth.” He shrugged one shoulder and twiddled with his straw again, this time using only his fingers.

Bozai’s voice softened as he said, “That sounds lovely, actually. And it’s just how I imagine your mind working. Underneath your insatiable need for boots and all that sass, you’ve got a big soft heart, don’t you!”

Oh crap. He’d let something personal slip. Damn those Gerudo and their delicious alcoholic elixirs.

“So anyway,” Bozai continued, unperturbed by the return of Link’s stony silence, “I had some money, and a pair of snow boots. I decided to come out to the desert and see what's happening in footwear, but I discovered that the only cobbler who made sand boots died years ago without passing on her information. What a tragedy, am I right? Any way, I got a little sidetracked with the women here. Gorgeous beauties, every one, and all of them completely uninterested in poor ol’ Bozai! Of course, the history and the forgotten lore of the area sucked me in, too. Now I'll be going back with some supplies, but no boots, nothing to base prototypes on but my own memories. I was hoping to travel back with a girlfriend, or even a wife, but..." Link picked up his agua fresca at just the right time to miss the possessive look that Bozai shot at him.

"So does that mean you've given up on women?"

Bozai shook his head vehemently. "I still like women... a lot." He looked around appreciatively at the customers in the bar, then leaned forward and added in a failed whisper that carried powerfully across the table, "But I think I like sucking dicks too."

"Preach it, sister!" shouted an inebriated Gerudo who happened to be walking past their table, and she slapped Bozai's shoulder with a force that knocked him halfway off his chair.

He picked himself back up and winced, rubbing his shoulder and continuing to say, ”As long as it's attached to a pretty girl like you. That clothes seller offered me a 'special discount', but I turned her down… she wasn't my type."

Link giggled, a knowing smile curled unseen beneath his veil. All too soon, he found himself staring at the empty bottom of his mug. He looked over to his other drink and remembered that it had been empty for a long time.

"Are you ready for another round?" he asked. "I can't order them, but I’ll foot the bill for whatever you get!”

“I’d be happy to get us some more drinks! Are you up for another Noble Pursuit? Or something to eat as well? I think they serve snacks here, if you’re willing to wait a little longer.” Bozai smiled down at Link as he stood to return to the bar.

“Oh, no need for snacks, I brought my own!” Link declared, and dug out a handful of roasted nuts from the pouch at his waist. He picked a piece of lint off the largest acorn and dumped them on the table. “I’ve got enough to share… if you come back soon.” He popped a few nuts into his mouth and grinned as he chewed.

Bozai looked from the bar, to Link, who was doing an admirable impression of a squirrel stuffing its face with nuts, then back again to the bar, and coughed. “It’s pretty busy in here, actually. I think everyone’s still working off their taming-of-Naboris excitement. Don’t feel like you have to save any of those on my account. I’ll be back as soon as I can!”

A warm feeling of well-being suffused through Link's body and mind as he sat waiting for Bozai to come back with their drinks. It was easy to forget his cares and worries. The ever-present gnawing of his duty was mercifully dulled by the sweet liquid fire he had been imbibing.

"I can't believe we've only been talking about me all evening! I do apologize for my rudeness. We didn’t get a chance to spend much time talking together before, did we? Whoosh! Total whirlwind! And now here I am, dominating the conversation like an oaf. I’m so sorry! What has brought you back into town?" Bozai asked as he returned with fresh drinks.

Eyes sparkling with the memories of the day, the Champion replied, ”Oh you know, I thought I'd take a small break from my usual heroic antics and do some sand seal racing. I’ve been breaking and setting records all day, actually!”

Bozai made a face, disgust apparent through his disguise. "Ugh, sand seals. Not my favorite, honestly. They're loud, hard to steer, and so smelly!” He paused to point across the room at something behind Link. “Speaking of broken records, I think you may have broken some hearts along with them!”

Following Bozai’s gesture, Link twisted around to see a familiar pile of bright red curls splayed across a table halfway across the room. A pair of shoulders could just be seen shaking behind the hair, and Link could also make out a hand grasping a large belt buckle decorated with a stylized sand seal. The unmistakable sound of brokenhearted sobbing drifted through the buzz of the establishment.

"Oh no, that's Tali! She was so happy for me when we were racing earlier! In a sort of stoic way." Link pushed his chair back to rise from his seat. "I'm going to go over there and see what I can do to help."

Bozai reached across the table and grabbed his hand before he could fully stand. "I think you're liable to do more harm than good... besides, she's got some friends with her, she'll be fine."

Link shot him a glance that said, I can't believe you just gave me some good advice! and sank back down into his chair.

"I told you I've been learning about women!” the scholar said triumphantly.

Link tried to steer the conversation back to the previous topic, but the fresh infusion of Noble Pursuit into his system was letting his tongue run too fast for his mind to catch up to. The result was slightly confusing to his companion, who was dealing with his own heightened level of intoxication.

“You know, it’s too bad you feel that way about them. I mean sand seals, not women!” Link added hastily when he caught the baffled look Bozai threw at him. “I could have given you a ride around the dunes east of here.”

“That’s sweet of you, but I would have to turn you down, for several reasons. Only one of which is my distaste for sand seals. I am planning on leaving here early tomorrow morning. I have a long and lonesome journey to embark on, and— 

The adventurer interrupted, “If you’re leaving town, maybe you could find someone on the road. Save them from a monster. That usually works for me!"

Bozai was silent for awhile. ”Hmm, I suppose that is one way of going about it. But fighting monsters... that's so extreme! I'd prefer to stay away from the monsters, myself. It's so dangerous out there these days, even for seasoned adventurers!”

The matter of fact remark hit Link like a blow from a Lizalfos’ tail.

Thank you for reminding me that it's all my fault.

It was his sworn duty to rid the world of the scourge of Ganon and its Malice, and he'd been upholding that duty almost tirelessly for months now. Forcing himself to stay active kept his feelings of hopelessness at bay, up until he collapsed from exhaustion. Interacting with Bozai was turning out to be one of his rare indulgences, along with practicing the varied forms of shield surfing that could be found across the land. It was quieter times like these when anxiety crept back in, whispering from the dark crevices of his mind, and squeezing an electric grip on his heart. As much as he knew he needed the occasional break from his endless valor, even to remind himself of what he was fighting for, he seldom followed his own advice. Vah Naboris had been the last Divine Beast he had needed to tame, but the accomplishment he felt dulled in comparison to the despair that welled up in his soul whenever the moon rose red and raw to undo all of his hard work.

Link broke through his dark thoughts and ended the silence to ask, “Well, what about a horse stable?”

“Excuse me?” Bozai had the grace to look politely puzzled.

Link was finding it even harder to organize his thoughts after consuming just one and a half Noble Pursuits. “The women there. At the Hyrulean Stabling System. Not just any girls, but the ones who work there. Lifting hay all day, mucking out stables. Wrangling horses. Makes a woman strong, you know, well, that work would make anyone strong, but..." He gestured a little wildly with his hands to make his point. "That's the way you like them, right? And it’s not sand seals, horses smell completely different.” A grin plastered itself across the knight’s face. The tips of his ears were practically twitching with glee. This was a solid lead. Bozai would have to give the idea a chance.

"Yeah, I suppose that's an idea," Bozai muttered, looking dejectedly down at the table.

What was his problem? Link thought with considerable frustration. For someone who was a self-confessed connoisseur of femininity, he sure wasn’t excited about actually putting himself on the market, and he certainly wouldn’t attract anyone moping about like that.

Looking nervous like he hadn’t been since the beginning of the evening, Bozai dipped under the table to retrieve something from his backpack. "I guess this is a good a time as any to give this to you." He took a deep breath, and held out a package in his hands. "I've been hoping against hope to see you again, and I believe the Eight Heroines brought us together on my last night in Gerudo Town. Please accept this with my love!"

Link took the present and began to unwrap it with a mix of curiosity and dread. The wrapping paper felt thick and smooth under his prying fingers, and it had probably been a bright white before its extended stay in Bozai's backpack. Beneath the paper was a wide flat box, similarly unadorned.

It doesn't weigh enough to be something like a knife or a bundle of arrows, Link mused. So what can it be? He lifted the lid and gasped. A confection of bright pink lace, liberally festooned with golden bows and dripping with matching ribbons, bloomed from the wrappings. He raised the slip of fabric to eye level to more closely examine its structure and came up bereft of an explanation. Is it a dress? Or maybe a night gown? Holy Hylia, is this underwear? He thought about shaking it out to see it in all its frilly glory, but remembered that they were in the middle of a public establishment. He looked to Bozai for guidance instead.

"I know it's not boots, but... do you like it?" The would-be suitor pushed his glasses up with a ringed finger and leaned forward, anticipating a favorable answer.

“I-I-I don't have the words for it, really. What a thoughtful gift!" It was true that a lot of thought went into it. A lot of misguided thought, effort, and rupees had gone to waste as well. The lingerie was certainly stylish, just not his style, and not something he was willing to wear, even to humor the gift giver.

However… here was an unambiguous sign, if he wanted to follow it. Bozai was desperate, he could see the hungry look in the man’s eyes as he stared across the table. If he wasn’t going to take any of the hints Link had lobbed at him all night that their relationship was dead in the water, then the Champion was just going to make sure he got his, and damn the consequences. The small blond vai leaned forward and crooked his finger, gesturing for Bozai to come closer.

"I can see you undressing me with your eyes over there,” he whispered, moving close enough for the first time all night to smell the other man’s darkly floral perfume. “How would you like to undress me with your hands... in your hotel room?"

Chapter Text

A quiet melody filtered through the lobby of the Royal Palm Suites as Bozai walked Link to his room. Gerudo culture was not known for its understated or restrained decorating style, and the hotel was a prime example of their 'if you've got it, flaunt it' philosophy. The young hero slowed down, his slippers shuffling quietly along the dense pile of an ornately knotted rug as he craned his neck to stare at the luxury on display. 

Despite the lateness of the hour, light blazed from multiple lamps and chandeliers to glitter and shine upon the jeweled and gilded decorations installed all over the interior of the building. He shifted his focus from the quartet of musicians perched discreetly on a balcony, across the intricately carved and painted panels inset into the adobe walls and ceiling, then over to the impressive displays of floral arrangements grouped amidst the furniture on the floor. There was no time to stop and look for koroks, however, as Bozai was tugging at Link’s elbow to guide him over to a barely visible hallway tucked off to one side of the lobby. The entrance was marked by a pair of sconces cast in the form of stylized palm fronds.

“Methinks the lady has been captivated!” Bozai said with a purr, grabbing the distracted adventurer’s hand and enfolding it with his own. “I assure you, my room looks the same, and you can admire that at your leisure.”

"By Hylia, Bozai, how much is this place a night?" Link asked with awe in his voice as he wormed his hand free to cross the hallway. A small golden statue placed in a niche had caught his attention, and he raised his hand in preparation to poke at it.

Glasses flashing as he shook his head in annoyance, Bozai recaptured Link’s hand and placed a lingering kiss on the back of it. He replied testily, "Enough that I need to go home tomorrow, if I counted my rupees correctly. Let's go so we can make the most of this last night!"

Followed closely by the Champion, the taller man stumbled into his hotel room. It was small by Gerudo standards, but spacious enough in the Hylians’ eyes. High ceilings gave an air of expansiveness to their surroundings, and, like the lobby, it was richly decorated with plush rugs, dazzling tapestries, and solidly built wooden furniture. Bozai kicked off his shoes, aiming them across the room, and removed his veil, headband, and glasses all at once with excessive force.

"You're drunk!" Link said, amused by Bozai's sloppy enthusiasm.

"It's not the alcohol, I swear!" he said as he wrestled with his armbands. "I'm just not used to these clothes, or the extra accessories. I dressed up ‘specially for the bar, and I didn't realize that it would be so complicated!”

"Here, hold still then, I'll help you." Link went for the jewelry first, unclasping the chain that circled Bozai's waist and noting the dark line of prickly stubble trailing from his navel to his waistband. "You went all out, didn't you?" he asked, sliding the backs of his fingers up his stomach.

"I shaved everywhere! Well, everywhere visible, anyway. I'm starting to think it was the biggest mistake of my life, I'm so fucking itchy! Excuse my language, I don't mean to be so coarse," Bozai added, balancing on one leg to scratch his shin. Peering at him with a gaze both curious and lust-filled, he continued to shed pieces of clothing with Link's help. "How do you manage it?"

"Look closer," Link said once the eager man was completely nude, inviting his gaze by stepping over to a colorfully upholstered ottoman. He hiked up his leg and rested his still-slippered foot upon the cushion. "What color is my hair?"

Bozai moved to kneel at Link's side, inspecting his leg with both his eyes and his hands. "Golden," he breathed. "Are you sure you aren't Hylia's emissary on earth?"

A knot twisted in Link's stomach. This was the worst time to be reminded of Zelda. He breathed deeply, bit his lip under the cover of his veil, and pointed out, "It's also practically invisible in most light. I never thought about shaving it." His line of thought broke off as the other man scooped him into a tight embrace and tore off his head coverings. "Oh. I guess conversation time is over." His voice was quickly muffled by Bozai's hungry lips upon his own.

The door to the room was firmly closed; Link had made sure of it after he passed through. But after sharing a few heated kisses, he broke away from Bozai, tilting his head to listen to the strains of lobby music seeping through the walls. It added favorably to the atmosphere, but Link couldn't help but wonder why he could still hear the quartet.

"What's wrong, my darling? Is something the matter?" Bozai asked, running his thumb along the soft line of Link’s jaw, then nibbling his way down the side of his neck.

"Do you hear that music? Is that from the lobby?"

Bozai stopped to listen as well, then answered, "Mmm, I think it is. It's nice, really adds to the ambiance, don't you think?" He went right back to where he left off, snaking his arms around Link's chest to unbutton the closures on his top.

Well, if he doesn’t care about music coming into the room, then I won’t care about any other sounds coming out of the room, Link decided. It’s not like I’ll ever be back here anyway .

They resumed making out, sharing deep, frantic kisses that left them both gasping for air. Bozai pushed Link backwards, his erection pressing insistently against the hero's lower abdomen as he guided him toward the bed. Link was letting the other man take control and set the pace, and he found that he was fine with this turn of events. After all, a night of adventure with an enthusiastic partner was what he wanted. Bozai checked all the boxes. He was fulfilling the resurrected knight’s need to be touched, and he knew from previous experience that he was more than satisfactory in bed. They would have fun in the moment, but he would try his best to make sure this would never happen again. The love struck fool was inclined to take whatever he did or said as a sign that he returned his affections, so he would have to remember to disengage firmly yet tactfully at the end of the night. Or morning. Whenever they parted.

Already he could sense a change in Bozai's attitude from their last time together. The man was driven, aggressive in a way that was turning out to be as attractive as his previous obedience had been during their first encounter. It was unremarkable then, when Link found himself first pushed against the bed, then splayed across an impressive amount of decorative pillows. Bozai began attempting to remove his sirwal, but was overly distracted by the tent being pitched in the silk. He kept stopping to palm Link through the fabric, as if checking to see what was beneath was real and attached to the rest of him.

"No surprises this time!" the reclining hero piped up.

Bozai looked up from where he was untying a persistent knot in his sash. "I know exactly what I'm getting into now," he agreed. Nose wrinkling, he withdrew his face from his midriff. "Except for that smell. Um. I don't mind a bit of sweat, considering we're in the desert and all, but, oh geez, you smell like sand seal." He retreated farther, sitting up and fanning under his nose. "Why is that so strong?" he muttered.

"Sorry about that," Link said with a laugh. "Um, what should I do—"

"Hey, how about I wipe you down?" Bozai crossed the room to the vanity. "I couldn't afford an en suite, so this will have to do in lieu of an actual bath or shower. Which reminds me, the bathroom is down the hall if you need it later.” 

He dampened a cloth from the pitcher placed there, then squinting a little to make his selection, added a drop or two of liquid from a small bottle clustered among many similar others in a golden tray. While Bozai was studiously preparing the cleansing cloth, Link studied the body on display. He made a much better man than a woman, he concluded. Before, in the desert, the jogging enthusiast had not removed all of his clothing, and he wasn't paying much attention then anyway. But what he saw now interested him. 

He started at Bozai’s feet and worked his way up. Slim ankles made way to shapely calves, the defined form of the muscle easy to see as he shifted around in front of the furniture. His eyes roamed higher to rest on lean yet muscular thighs. Suddenly he wanted those legs squeezing him, straddling his waist while he ran his hands up and down their length. Yes, the 35-year-old was an impressive physical specimen; jogging incessantly through the sand was good for something after all. Link couldn't really understand why he hadn't managed to snag himself a girl yet, surely someone was willing to look past his personality…

Bozai turned back toward the bed, a cloth in each hand. "Ok, my sparkling jewel! Get ready for a weenie cleaning! I'll have you smelling like the goddess you are in a jiffy!"

Oh, damn. There it was. Link immediately felt his ardor flagging, the blood in his body beginning to redirect itself to more useful regions. Bozai had to prove his theory right, didn't he? Forget about it, he thought. Close your ears, set your face and get a blowjob. Link shimmied out of his sirwal to allow the cloth full access. The first wet swipe sent a chill running across his hot skin, and he tensed in anticipation of it traveling lower. Following the cloth, Bozai trailed a finger across his stomach, tracing the faded line of an old scar.

“You certainly have led a life of danger and adventure, haven’t you?” he remarked. “Let me protect you, and you won’t add any new injuries to your collection.”

The hero scoffed and almost replied with a sassy rejoinder, but thought better of it and remained silent for the duration of his cleaning.

Bozai was efficient and thorough as he rubbed the cleansing blend of oils into his skin, and soon enough, he tossed the soiled cloth aside to climb back onto the wide bed. "How's that for concierge service?" he asked.

Link's brain kicked back into gear with a start. "Truly, it rivals the spa package at the Hotel Oasis," he deadpanned.

Bozai laid down and grabbed the hero by the hips to roll him roughly on top of him. The noise Link made was most undignified for someone qualified to wield the Master Sword, but it seemed to encourage the man he was laying on. Strong hands gripped him harder and shifted him to a more comfortable position. "Oh, so you like a little manhandling, do you?" Bozai smirked, as if he had made a witty quip.

Sometimes I like to be in charge," Link replied, settling himself with a roll of his hips that made the other man breathe in sharply. "Other times, I don't. Tonight I wish to submit to your attentions. I'm being intentionally helpless, and don't you forget it.”

"Yes, ma'am." Bozai's hands dragged through the knight’s tousled hair and pulled him down to meet in a kiss. He was taking his dominant role seriously now. His hands and mouth were all over the hero, tasting, exploring, and drawing out pleasure with his every touch, leaving Link breathless and aching for more. The older man rolled them over across the bed and pressed him into the mattress. Stretched out beneath Bozai, Link sighed with pleasure as his nipples began to be lavished with attention.

"I remember how much you liked this last time," Bozai murmured into Link's chest, his hand applying gentle pressure to one stiffening bud, his tongue flicking at the other. "So sensitive." He looked up from his place to gauge Link's reaction and a dopey sort of half smile spread over his face. The irrepressible romantic seemed to have a set number of facial expressions when it came to certain matters: Either a smirk or a look of slavish devotion plastered itself across his face whenever he looked at his love interest, and it irritated the Champion to no end to see it.

Link pushed the man's face aside so it would stop distracting him, then when Bozai resumed his oral explorations, he continued pushing his head down the length of his body, hoping he would take the hint without having to ask, or worse, beg for it. Unfortunately for the impatient hero, Bozai separated from him, leaning back on his side to catch his breath.

"What's the matter? You don't need to take a break yet, do you? I thought long-distance runners had lots of stamina," Link teased, shifting around to face his partner.

Bozai's hand laid warmly on the dip where Link's leg met his torso, and he used his thumb to trace circles around the hip bone while he explained what was on his mind. "I want you to wear your present."

"The way you say it makes it sound like a present for you, not for me,” Link countered.

"There's something in it for you too," Bozai whispered, voice deepening as he slid his hand up and down the hero’s leg.

“Oh really? What’s that?" Link cocked his head and fluttered his eyelashes.

"Remember earlier, when I said I liked sucking... " The smitten suitor trailed off into an inaudible mumble, as if his liquid courage had chosen that exact moment to wear off.

"I do recall, yes."

"Do you also recall that I said I liked pretty girls?"

"Should I be offended? Am I no longer welcome in your bed? Am I not beautiful enough for you anymore?" Link got up onto one elbow, jabbing the flustered man in the shoulder with each question, but being careful to keep a playful tone in his voice.

"No, no, that came out wrong!" Bozai shook his head, dark hair obscuring his face. "What I mean is, I want to see your form elevated, so to say, decorated.” He stammered as he continued, ”If you were dressed up in lace and ribbon as I su- go down on you, I’d just, I’d really… that would be nice.” He was harder than ever now, and twitched excitedly against Link's thigh.

The Champion pretended to mull it over, hemming and hawing theatrically and rubbing his chin as if deep in thought. In actuality, he was thinking about the outfit, but only about how his would-be suitor had managed to pick something that was completely opposite to his preferences. If he was going to wear lingerie —and he wasn't sure about that, vai clothes were one thing, but this was something else altogether— he would prefer something silky, smooth satin in a muted green perhaps, and embroidered subtly with a geometric pattern. Not lace, not such a garish shade of pink, and absolutely no ruffles.

Link looked at Bozai, who was waiting with a pinched look on his face that he took for barely suppressed patience. “Ok, you’ve convinced me. I will wear it. Wait a moment while I get dressed," he said, then he rolled off the bed.

There was a changing screen in the corner, twice as tall as the average Hylian and constructed of delicately carved dark wood panels, its style more reminiscent of the one the Champion saw during a quick memory retrieval run through Hyrule Castle than the ones in the Hotel Oasis. Unable to stop himself from analyzing his environment, he focused on the screen. He wondered whether it was stable enough to climb; if he could stasis it and send it flying into a row of bokoblins; if it broke down into a manageable pile of firewood. He ignored the thoughts flashing in the back of his mind, took the box that held his present, and stepped behind the screen. Removing the clothing from its wrappings, he reexamined it. As he lifted the fabric, it came apart in his hands, and he gasped in shock.

“It’s stunning, isn’t it?” Bozai’s voice floated over the panels as if he were narrating the hero’s actions. "I told the saleswoman that I was buying something for my girlfriend,” he giggled. "I said that you were really petite, and she suggested this, among other two-piece ensembles. All the straps are adjustable, so it should fit. Unfortunately, if it doesn't, there are no returns on worn merchandise."

Link released a relieved breath. Two pieces to wear. Thank Hylia, it was like this before I got my hands on it. I haven't accidentally ripped these clothes apart before I could even try them on.

Once he identified the top and bottom pieces and where the straps went, it was relatively simple to put on the outfit. The whole getup was composed of lace with a sheer backing that left little to the imagination. As he tugged the top over his chest, Link imagined that Bozai must have asked for one in the smallest cup size, as the triangles of fabric clung tight to, and barely covered his pectorals. Straps made of golden-colored satin ribbon stretched over his shoulders, and matching bows burst from the straps’ connection to the tops of the cups. A sweeping ruffle that covered without concealing his torso cascaded from the chest band to rest around his hips, emphasizing their feminine appearance. 

If the top fit remarkably well, the bottoms were another story. They were cut low under the hips and high over the back side, leaving most of his cheeks bare, framed alluringly by the edge of the lace. The garment was admittedly excellent at showing off the curves of his lower body, however uncomfortable it felt on. More ribbon bows clustered on the sides of the panties, and the curious Hylian pressed his hands against them in a futile attempt to flatten them down.

Their style wasn't the main issue. He knew for a fact that he looked good in whatever he wore. Mismatched pieces of armor cobbled together from the spoils of shrines, the century old remains of clothing placed with him in the Chamber of Resurrection, and the old standby of simply running around in his underwear all garnered him his fair share of stares, comments, and the occasional wolf whistle. And then… Link suppressed a shudder as he recalled the time he wore Kilton's boko mask into a camp full of the piggish red and blue skinned monsters. He'd badly misread the enthusiasm in the odd salesman's voice when he described the advantages the mask would confer. Once he had realized his mistake, he had subsequently tossed the mask into the smoldering remains of the bokoblins’ camp after slaughtering the lot of them, and vowed to never visit the traveling nighttime shop again.

There was a narrow mirror in the corner behind the screen with him, and he checked his reflection, twisting this way and that, to see the effect. No, nothing wrong with the way he looked in these, he thought. Preferences aside, the clothing was not the problem. The problem was his anatomy. As the panties were made for a woman, there simply wasn't enough room in the front to contain his assets, hard or soft. He tried his best to tuck everything in, moving one bit up and to the side, scooping other parts to the front... Testing the bounds of the fabric, he walked in place. If he took small steps, everything should stay put. He minced around the screen to show Bozai.

"Before you say anything, watch this," Link announced, and he twirled, just fast enough to lift the ruffles away from his body, and slow enough for his solitary audience member to get a good look.

It took a few seconds for Bozai to find his voice. He stared at the dolled up knight in front of him as if he were a particularly succulent salmon, and Bozai was a starving Lizalfos. 

Link watched as the enthralled man licked his lips and braced his hands on his knees, leaning forward to exclaim hoarsely, "By the Three, you are exquisite! You're even more beautiful than I imagined! I wish I had one of those devices, like one of those things you showed me pictures of the statue on, so I would not have to rely solely on my memory." A commanding tone crept into his voice. "Please, turn around for me again."

Link complied, this time raising his hands above his head, which stretched the lean lines of his torso and allowed the fabric to lift even farther away from his sides as he spun. When he came to a stop and faced the bed again, he found that his extremely enthusiastic companion had crossed the room to kneel at his feet. He noticed he had found a new way to strike the man silent, as Bozai raised his hands without commentary to hover over the Champion's body. He looked like he had opened a box of chocolates and couldn't decide which piece to pick first. Finally, he parted the chest ruffles to each side of Link’s stomach and slowly eased the panties’ waistband down past his hips and off his rear.

With his hot breaths puffing against equally hot skin, Bozai took a moment to admire the erection jutting out above the wadded up lace. The moment stretched and the tension between the two men rose as they both focused on how the organ in the spotlight bounced faintly along with Link's heartbeat. Seconds before Link was about to run out of patience and grab a few handfuls of Bozai’s hair to thrust himself into the man’s face, Bozai opened his mouth of his own accord and brought his lips to rest against the leaking tip of Link’s cock. Slowly, he brought more and more of the hero’s length into his mouth while massaging the underside with his tongue. Once he could fit no more in, he sped up his tempo and began sucking in earnest as Link moaned in unabashed pleasure above him.

Bozai was much more confident this time around, sure in his rhythm and relentless in his pace. Link heartily approved of the change in his companion’s technique, and tried to tell him, but all that came out of his mouth were unintelligible groans and half-formed sentences. One of Bozai’s hands worked around the hero’s legs, removing his underwear completely before sliding back up to grab his ass, kneading a cheek with a similar rhythm to the hand that was wrapped around the base of his shaft. Whenever Link looked at the man kneeling before him, he was met by wide eyes staring back with such an earnest and satisfied expression that he couldn’t help but smile and stroke his smooth hair in return. He never stopped his performance, gripping his lips tightly around the throbbing organ, and took it in stride when Link came with a ragged cry, doubling over the dark haired man. Bozai disentangled himself from the Champion’s grasping hands and groped around for something on the floor. He asked, half laughing, "Have you been eating a lot of durian recently?" after wiping his mouth with the towel he had found.

Link staggered to the bed, flopping down amongst the pillows and sighing deeply. Bozai went in the opposite direction, making a beeline for the water pitcher and pouring himself a tall glass of the refreshing liquid. Drinking it quickly, he offered the same to the recuperating youth.

“Oh yes please. Thanks,” Link said as he accepted the glass of water.

“You're very welcome. Anything for you, my love,” the foolish man replied.

Link sputtered as he swallowed the last of his water. "Um, about that-" he began, but was interrupted by Bozai’s return to the bed, nudging him gently in a silent reminder to scoot over and give him some space.

After a short period of rest in which, much to Link’s relief, no lovey-dovey statements were uttered or anything approaching conversation was exchanged at all, Link climbed back on his date for the night with renewed interest and began kissing him teasingly. Keeping some space between their bodies, he reached down and skimmed his hand over the muscular planes of Bozai’s chest and stomach to end at the heavy heat of his arousal. It twitched against his hand, and the overjoyed man squeezed Link's thighs in affirmation. Link began stroking him slowly, curious at the strange yet familiar feel of someone else’s cock in his fist. It was a little thicker than his own, but not noticeably longer, and its owner seemed rather pleased with the attention he was giving it so far.

Bozai spoke up. ”Faster," he said, so Link picked up the pace. "Harder," he growled, and the swordsman obeyed, but only slightly increased his grip.

"I don't want to hurt you,” Link said, eyebrows raised in concern.

"Oh my darling, you won't. I'll let you know if it's too much or uncomfortable for me,” he said assuringly. After a few minutes of increasingly aggressive tugging and encouraging grunts, Bozai gently removed Link's hand and brought it to his face, then he kissed his palm and placed it on his shoulder. "That wasn't bad, but... I want to concentrate on you,” he said diplomatically.

"You’ve been concentrating on me all night,” Link countered. “Wouldn't you like a turn now? If my hand doesn't do it for you, maybe my mouth will." He licked his lips and kept them slightly parted, the invitation waiting on his tongue.

"I could never refuse a request from you," Bozai said, swallowing thickly, his gaze flicking between Link's kiss-swollen lips and his smoldering eyes. He reached down to rub the pad of his thumb across the hero’s pouting lower lip, and blurted out, "These gorgeous lips of yours— I can't wait to feel them wrapped around me!" When Link licked the digit in return, he groaned and scrambled back into the headboard.

Bozai rearranged himself on the bed, piling a stack of pillows behind his shoulders to recline against. His elevated position ensured that he could see the entirety of what was about to transpire. Meanwhile, Link contemplated his options as he lowered himself into place between the other man’s deliciously sculptural legs. His competitive side told him to see how fast he could make Bozai come— the Champion did love a time challenge. On the other hand, he could take the opposite tack and take his time, drawing out the pleasure into something nearly torturous. Of course, he could also simply try being obedient for once, and follow through with the promise he made earlier in the night to take directions from his companion. It was second nature for the hero to follow orders, both before and after his resurrection, and that comforting feeling of traveling a pre-set path called to him, and prompted him to speak.

“What would you like me to do? You can tell me, or guide me. Just let me know what feels good.” He kept his voice low and resonant, and was rewarded by Bozai threading his fingers through his hair to guide him firmly to his place. Perhaps Link’s sense of smell was deadened somewhat, or maybe the runner had bathed before his big night out, as all the swordsman could smell as he took a preparatory breath in was a neutral sweaty odor mixed with some faint remnants of floral perfume.

"You may now begin, O goddess of pleasure,” came the request from the head of the bed, so Link introduced him to the soft, wet heat of his mouth. It was only a few minutes later that he was directed to lower hanging fruits. He took each one separately and gently in his mouth, sucking and licking the way he liked it, but remembered to stay attentive for any words or movements that signified the man’s displeasure. The Champion found that if he listened for action words, he could tune out the extraneous pet names that constantly tumbled from the other man’s lips, and his concentration would not be broken by his internal groaning reaction to them.

Link looked up occasionally from his task, raising his eyes each time to find that Bozai was staring at him in reverential desire. "You are so... entrancing, my golden flower. I could watch you do this for hours.” Link fervently hoped it would not take hours for him to come. There was a soreness in his jaw already that he would not admit to and he slackened his mouth, letting saliva drip out to aid his hand’s lubrication as he moved it back and forth in tandem to his head.

As time went on, Bozai became more mumbly, his words coming out jumbled and clipped, if they were verbalized at all. An unreasonable feeling of satisfaction washed over the hero when he realized that he had managed to reduce his chatty companion to relative silence for the third time that night. He would have to remember what he was doing so he could recreate the conditions for the next time… No, there would be no next time, he reminded himself. He was simply returning the favor. But that wasn't the truth, was it? He was not doing all this because he was being polite. He dressed up in a ridiculous outfit and put a dick in his mouth because he liked it. The spirit of adventure had enticed him, and then everything about the experience, from the way the hot flesh fit and felt in his mouth, to Bozai’s pleased reactions, excited him.

Moments ago, the sharp taste of pre-come had coated Link's tongue. Now, the sensation of incremental swelling filled his mouth, and he increased his efforts to hasten Bozai's climax. The hand on his head, which had previously been directing him with a light touch, started insistently tapping, then progressed to tugging on his hair before Link finally understood that he wanted him to stop. He popped off with a faint slurp and asked, "What's wrong? It felt like you were enjoying that.”

The overwhelmed man laid still on the bed, eyes screwed shut and breathing hard through his mouth. One of his hands remained tangled in the Champion's hair, while the other held tightly to a pillow. "Yeah, no, yeah, that... that felt really good," Bozai said, somewhat incoherently. "It's just that... it's been awhile since anyone's... and if I come now, that's it for me. I don't want to yet... having too much fun," he panted.

“Fine with me,” Link shrugged. “I'm ready for another round, if you’re in a giving mood.”

“Come up here then,” said Link's tireless lover as he sat up to lift the diminutive hero into place to rest next to him on the mounds of pillows. Link wondered what Bozai had in mind if he wasn't ready to finish. Another blowjob sounded great, but if the other man wasn’t up for that much jaw exercise, what would they do instead? Perhaps he would like to cover Link’s smaller body with his own and grind him into the bed until they both orgasmed.

Should I ask for that? the Champion wondered. On the other hand, I’d be content to lie here and have this overenthusiastic man continue to explore my body. Might take less effort, too.

Laziness won out as Bozai kissed up and down Link’s upper half, his tongue lingering over the edges of his ears and the ridges of his collarbones. When Bozai turned his attentions to Link’s chest and ran his fingers across his lace-covered nipples, Link gasped in excitation at the new feeling, as he had forgotten that he was still partially dressed in lingerie, and he arched his back to offer himself up for more exploration. The older man had a way of zeroing in on the spots that felt the best and he exploited that knowledge, licking through the fabric and rubbing with his fingers until the hero’s nipples were stiff— and once again, he was clamoring for more action.

Link had remained soft while attending to the other man's needs, but he found himself rapidly expanding to his full length once the attention was back on him. The hand that was not occupied up top slowly made its way down the Champion’s stomach. Bozai’s strong hand started stroking his shaft and thumbing his head, then moved to caress his testicles briefly before reaching back even farther, rubbing the stretch of skin that was neither here nor there. Finally, his fingertip rested against a shockingly sensitive place, and he began lightly yet decisively circling against the delicate skin.

"Hey." Link pressed a palm to the other man's chest. "I've never done this before," he admitted as he scooted his behind away from the probing fingers.

"Oh..." Astonished delight lit up Bozai's face as he realized he would be teaching the intrepid adventurer something new. "Do you want to? We can take it slow. Really slow. I've actually been practicing on myself, you— our encounter got me thinking, and when I first came into town I sort of stumbled across this hidden shop, it's perfect. Here, I'll show you—" Bozai got off the bed and crossed the room to return to the vanity to rummage through a drawer. Squinting with a slightly unfocused, myopic gaze, he eventually produced a moderately sized wooden box painted with a muted design. Link raised himself on an elbow to watch as Bozai placed the box on the bedside table and opened it, removing a slim, highly polished, cylindrical object with a flared base, and a small glass jar of yellow liquid that seemed to glow in the room's dim light.

Bozai raised the object in his hand and rotated it around, presenting it for inspection. ”This one's mine, I won't use it on you, but it's meant to stimulate an area in the same manner as a finger or a..." He gestured at his groin, where he was maintaining an impressive erection. "And this," he said, lifting the bottle, "is an oil made from Electric Chuchu jelly. The same stuff you teased me with that night is much more effective and longer lasting when refined."

Link grinned. ”Seems like I really awakened something within you, huh?"

"I guess you could say that. I just— I, I really want to please you in the way you deserve!” Bozai said, and his eyes lit up with that look of slavish devotion again.

Link didn't want adoration. He may have been Farore's chosen, but he didn't deserve to be worshiped in his own right. He was working on fixing the mistakes of a century past, what he should have done the first time with Zelda and the other Champions by his side, and if he could accomplish that, then he’d welcome some veneration. What he wanted now was a distraction from the looming dual specters of his failure and his fate, a release from someone other than himself and his own hand. He wasn’t looking for a relationship either, especially with someone who required so much of his time and attention. Pushing aside his thoughts, he reiterated his new mantra, Pleasure, not connection, and focused on the man who was looking back at him expectantly.

The eager teacher replaced the object in its box and brought the little bottle over to the bed. Climbing back onto the mattress and making a space for himself between Link's knees, he asked, "What do you think? Want to try?"

In response, the swordsman spread his legs for easier access. "Let's do it! But, um, fingers only, please."

"Gladly, my sparkling jewel." Bozai uncorked the bottle and dribbled a generous amount of liquid into his hand. "Oops! That might be too much. Or maybe not..." He placed the bottle aside, slicked up both hands, and lowered them, dripping, onto Link's skin. "You should feel a slight tingle now, and a sense of relaxation where the oil touches.” His hands slid into place, one to the front and one to the rear. He raised an eyebrow and continued to direct his partner. "It's very important to relax."

Link bristled from his prone position and pointed out, "I'm trying, but it's pretty much impossible to relax when I'm being ordered to do it!"

Immediately contrite, Bozai slumped his shoulders, dropped his eyebrow, and apologized. "I'm sorry, my dear. I'll stop bossing you around. I want you to be comfortable—" he halted as an expression of remembering something important crossed his face. "Can you lift your hips and slide a pillow under your beautiful bottom? I would do it for you, but—" he wiggled his oily fingers and shrugged. Link complied, but as soon as he placed the tufted cushion under his hips, Bozai tutted and crawled off the bed. He retrieved a towel from the pile on the dresser.

“I nearly forgot— we can’t be damaging the hotel’s property. I absolutely can’t afford any special cleaning fees! Be a dear and lift your bum again. Then we can begin.” His smile seemed to split his face in two as he carefully tucked the towel underneath the adventurer. After greasing up his hands again and returning them to their positions on his companion’s body, Bozai asked, “How does it feel so far?” He started moving his hands, watching intently for Link’s reaction.

The Chu oil had an odd texture, halfway between oil and jelly, melting on contact with body heat but remaining on the surface of the Champion’s skin, and so thick and slippery, he could only feel the fingers running over his skin by the trail of tingling they left in their wake. Bozai’s inquisitive finger began circling again, slowly increasing the pressure against Link’s skin while decreasing the diameter of the swirl. His other hand continued to slowly stroke his length, making Link's head spin with the opposing sensations. His breathing grew shaky, and he breathed out, and out, and out completely, emptying both his lungs and his mind to concentrate on fully relaxing. As the knight brought his attention back to the man sitting between his legs, he realized that he had been so caught up in his new experience that he had forgotten to answer his question. Bozai was still watching him with his head tilted to the side as he awaited Link’s reply. “That feels amazing,” the Champion confessed. “I never thought that area would be so sensitive.”

Bozai merely grinned in response and pushed the tip of his finger past his ring of contracted muscle, eliciting a soft gasp from the agitated hero.

The addition of the Chu oil was definitely enhancing what Link was feeling, augmenting the pleasure one thick finger was giving him. Bozai wasn’t kidding when he said he’d take it slow, but it felt so good, he almost didn’t care what speed he went, and he would have been more than happy to have his companion limit himself to just playing around his rim. He was amazed at all the different sensations, each one pleasurable in its own distinct way, emanating from such a simple input. Warmth and tingling followed the finger as it opened a space inside him, and he was surprised at how good it felt to be eased open, especially when it was done so tenderly. When the finger reached farther still and made little searching motions, he expressed his approval with a series of breathy cries.

Bozai gave a pleased little hum as his finger slipped further inside, and he began to slide it in and out without removing it entirely. Slow, achingly slow, feeling the extra width of his knuckles as they bumped into and stretched his entrance, Link almost wanted to bear down on the intrusion, but he caught himself in time as he realized that that was not the right thing to do. So he decided to rock his hips instead, as the motion, any motion, was preferable to holding still.

Over the background of distant music piping in from the lobby, and Link's various whimpers and exclamations, came Bozai's assertive voice. "Ooh, you want this, don't you? Yeah you do, you want it so bad. Don't worry baby, I'm going to give it to you," he grunted.

Link looked down at Bozai, who was mesmerized by the disappearance and appearance of his own finger. The smirk on his face faded in and out as he worked his hands into the hero's flesh. The Champion rolled his eyes and settled his gaze on the ceiling, where the flickering lamp light painted pictures on its exposed wooden beams. Link tried once again to ignore everything his companion said except for the important phrases, and Bozai's speech faded to a pleasant murmur.

Tired of holding his knees apart, Link hooked a leg over Bozai's back and moaned with the additional opening and stretching his new position afforded. He remembered belatedly that the hotel room’s walls were thinner than their opulence suggested, and holding back another, louder noise, he felt around the head of the bed for a pillow to hold over his face.

Bozai pulled the pillow off of Link and gently admonished, "No, no, no, don't do that, my sweet. I want to hear every adorable sound that passes your gorgeous lips."

In that case, he would give his companion something to listen to as well as trying his hardest to drown out the inane excuse for dirty talk produced by the awkward man, and the Champion let out a sound that matched the shudder coursing through his limbs.

Meeting only a slight resistance, another of Bozai's nimble fingers made its way inside the hero, and he apologetically removed the hand attending to Link's erection to reach for more of the electric oil. Instead of replacing it after lubing up his fingers again, Bozai started pumping himself erratically with his free hand. Link was about to protest at the loss of stimulation, but as his companion's fingers penetrated him deeply, searching and curling forward, a jolt of electric pleasure pulsed through him. “Oh holy Hylia, that feels—!” Link yelped. Now his hips thrusting in time felt instinctual and necessary to counter the rhythm Bozai was pressing into him.

"I knew you would like it," Bozai crooned. "Such a good girl."

"I'm...I'm not..." The words died in Link's throat. He couldn't bring himself to say it. He wasn't a girl, but he wasn't going to correct the misinformed fool, not when he was doing that... The exhilarated Champion let out a moan instead, and held onto a pillow to brace himself. Goddesses above, it was hard to think at all when he was being pleasured like this. Clearly, Bozai was happy to think of him as a woman, and to tell him otherwise now would be a poorly-timed disaster, though he would have to tell him the truth sooner rather than later. Link was really getting tired of being put into a box by the other man, and it showed that he really didn't know very much about him at all. Not like the swordsman told him anything to base an opinion on, but still. Bozai never asked, only assumed.

"Yes you are," the clueless man continued. "You don't have to be so modest. You're so good, you're amazing, and you’re all mine!"

No, Link wanted to say. Yes, they were together, but only for the night. He never promised anything more, and a part of him wanted to sit up and shake the older man’s shoulders as he screamed in denial to his face. The hero wanted this, but not from this delusional man. Link had always had a hard time refusing someone's request for help, and he thought somehow this was related. He could wipe the grin off Bozai's face with just a few carefully chosen words, but Link stifled himself. He wasn't about to sabotage the best night he'd had since waking up from his coma, and he sank his awareness back into his body.

Hands grasping more pillows, toes curling into the sheets, Link could hardly move but for the involuntary squirming of his body. The Champion’s legs began shaking, and pressure built inside his core, threatening to engulf him in a wave of release. If only he could get a little more attention placed on a sorely neglected area… "Please," Link panted, his voice cracking with effort. "Please... touch me." He had been reduced to begging. How embarrassing.

Bozai rejected his request with a curt shake of his head. "I'm not going to touch anywhere but inside of you," he said, curling his fingers into his sensitive place again. "See that? Feel that?" Link looked down to see the tendons standing out in Bozai’s wrist and forearm, and as he milked a trickle of clear fluid from the compliant hero, the instructor continued, "I want you focused on that sensation, and keeping my hand— and your hands— off is the best way to do that. You have heroic amounts of recovery and a Champion's stamina. I think you can handle this."

Link sighed, chastened for the moment. The fingers working deeper into him and massaging that one euphoric spot did feel really, really good. Amazing even. He silently agreed that it was well within his abilities to handle this limited method of stimulation, and he focused on continuing to relax. An electric buzz spread across his skin from the places where Bozai had first touched him, and that combined with each plunging stroke of his fingers to wind up the tension and ecstasy pulsing within him to unbearable levels.

“I think two fingers will do for now. You're so small, I mean delicate, and I don’t want to push you too far so soon. It took me quite awhile to work up to this point, and despite what I just said about your abilities, I want to take things slow.” Continuing his steady internal rhythm, Bozai droned on, indifferent to the sounds emerging deep from the Champion's throat, heedless of the way the hero’s eyes rolled back into his head, and unconcerned at the other, more subtle, signs of Link’s impending orgasm.

How can he keep talking at a time like this? was Link's last thought before the waves of pleasure from deep inside crashed through him and obliterated his remaining rationality. He exploded into a thousand pieces of white hot relief all over the bed. As he seized and twitched, shuddering to stillness, he managed to request one thing of his partner. "Stay. Keep your hand...right there.” But after a few moments, Bozai’s fingers retreated and Link sighed with the loss.

Floating in bliss, Link heard the distinctive noise of skin slapping against oily skin. He opened his eyes to the view of Bozai kneeling over him, a blank and unfocused look in his eyes, masturbating with the rapid and efficient strokes of someone used to doing it for himself.  Before he could say or do anything, Bozai screwed his eyes shut and came with no more warning than exhaling an open-mouthed grunt, splattering his seed all over Link's stomach. “Don’t… don't move," he panted. "I want... to remember... this... This is what I need to sear into my retinas. And now I can clean you again, you dirty girl. We've made quite a mess." He blinked rapidly, unable to focus on any one part of the striking scene before him.

The hero wondered with some irritation at how long he was expected to lie like this, with their mingled fluids congealing on his abdomen. He shifted impatiently on the bed and thought about getting himself a towel.

Once Bozai kept his eyes open, he caught Link staring at him in disbelief. The love-struck man smiled. “You’ve found a new way to endear yourself to me, and I give you my heart in return."

They locked eyes, and Link realized in a moment of post-coital clarity that he had made a dreadful mistake. "I can't accept that." Oh no. He should have known it wouldn't be worth it. He had made a calculation, but he failed to take the severity of the other man’s attachment into account. He should have been paying attention to the signs. That look of slavish devotion. The pet names. The fact that he was planning to take him with him on his travels. The gift. He should have nipped it in the bud, he'd had so many opportunities, but he was too selfish to think that the situation would become untenable. Now Link was the turbo moron. Everything he had agreed to played right into Bozai's fantasies, and he had failed to do anything to fortify his own position, all in the name of his own pleasure.

"Well, I suppose that's a conversation for the morning, isn't it?" Bozai asked in a more reasonable tone than Link had expected of him. He heaved himself off the bed and walked around the room to alternately turn the lights off and to gather the towels left on the floor, then he soaked the cloths with water from the pitcher and passed one to the swordsman. "Take this towel in its place." He yawned as he wiped the remnants of oil and bodily fluids off himself, then turned to Link and helped him clean the residue off his skin. "It's much too late tonight to have a conversation anyway."

"I agree," the hero confirmed, and he sat up, wadding up the soiled towel in his hands and lobbing it across the room with a force that made the other man flinch. He pushed the surrounding pillows aside to peel back the bed covers, and slipped between the sheets. As he rolled around, settling into the mattress' softest spot, Link exclaimed, "This bed is so big, I'll never know there's another person in here with me!"

"Yeah, it's vast," Bozai said wistfully when he realized he had been abandoned for the luxurious comfort of a free night’s sleep in an upscale hotel’s bed. "Does that mean there won't be any snuggling tonight?"

"Don't be silly, there's plenty of pillows to cuddle with!" Link joked, and pushed more cushions into a defensive stack, delineating his side of the bed from Bozai's. The defeated man sighed as he extinguished the last remaining lamp, and he laid down with his back to the Champion.

Hey, if Bozai yielded to this so easily, tomorrow's conversation will be a breeze, Link thought with a return to his characteristic optimism. He fell asleep before the rattle of Bozai's snores could cut through the absorbent layer of pillows placed around his head.

















Chapter Text

Link crept around the darkened hotel room early the next morning, gathering his things to the background music of Bozai's soft snoring. Sleeping on an incline had suited the older man well, for Link had not been woken once by the racket he knew he was capable of. Since the window in the room was covered by several layers of extremely thick curtains, and the sunlight had not awoken him, he could only assume it was morning. Instead, the Champion had been propelled into consciousness by his regular routine and the return of the stabbing, panicked pain in his chest that signified his failure.

Another day you haven’t fought Ganon.

As soon as his heart rate stabilized, he had gotten out of bed without disturbing its other occupant, and he made it all the way to the dark lump of his trousers thinking he had succeeded in not waking Bozai. Then he heard the sheets shifting, and a muzzy voice called out from amidst the pillows.

"Come back to bed, darling. It's not time to check out yet."

“Ehhh,” Link mumbled noncommittally, trying to buy some time before their inevitable confrontation. He continued picking up pieces of his outfit, easily telling them apart from Bozai's by their vibrant color, visible even in the dim light of the room. Link had his clothing dyed a deep purple and green ages ago, and it never failed to cheer him up when he saw their dazzling hues.

"We can order breakfast if you like. I can have it sent to the room— you won't even have to get dressed. It will make it that much easier to indulge in a post-meal romp." The voice from the depths of the bed was getting stronger. Apparently, one part of Bozai had awoken earlier than the rest of him.

"I thought we could talk first." Best to get it over with, thought Link, even if he wasn't exactly sure what he was going to say. He was used to being a hero, not a heartbreaker, and he had a feeling this was going to be awkward.

Bozai was sitting up now, blearily following along with the Champion’s clean-up quest. "You sure you don't want to wait until after we eat? I always find it easier to think on a full stomach." He sent a hopeful smile to the corner of the room where Link had crouched to search on the floor for a stray armband. He was stalling, the hero realized. Maybe this wasn't going to go as smoothly as he thought. Link paused his search to address his sleepy companion. Bozai’s eyes were ringed by the smeared remnants of last night’s makeup, and his hair stood out from his head in bent clumps. Link tried not to let the man’s disheveled appearance color his perception of him. Most people didn’t wake up pretty.

"Well, actually, no. I don’t want to wait. I've got a lot to do, you know… and I don't have a lot of time to spend on, uh..." Ugh, he sounded so insincere. How could he get the words to come out the right way?

Bozai had been listening to him stumble through his excuses with an expression that started out rapt until he heard the word "no", and ran through a gamut of puzzled, disbelieving, and disappointed before finally settling on outraged. Link took a deep breath in an attempt to explain again, but Bozai cut him off before he could start. "You used me, didn't you? You never cared about anything other than yourself. First it was the boots, then it was sex. That's all I am to you, isn't it? An easy mark to exploit?" He was becoming hysterical, his voice rising higher in pitch and volume, but as Link clutched his silks to his chest and struggled for something to reply with that was truthful yet wouldn't upset him further, Bozai suddenly deflated and sighed. "I should have known it was too good to be true. The first time was an experience beyond my wildest dreams, and this time? What a lucky accident that we crossed paths again! I would do anything— Anything! To have you travel with me. Even for one day. Please consider it,” he pleaded, close to tears.

Link rose and walked across the carpet to face the sad man in the bed and said, "You're leaving today, and I'm leaving today too. Can't we just leave it at that? One last night of fun before destiny takes us away to complete our separate fates."

“You’re always leaving. Leaving me.” Bozai scowled, gripping the bedcovers in his fists. “What harm will it do to stay for a few more hours?”

Link decided to appeal to the coward’s sense of self-preservation. “The harm will be to the entire country of Hyrule, if not the world,” he said firmly.

"Yeah, sure. You're little Miss Champion, how could I forget after I watched the entire bar fawn over you last night." Bozai was silent for a while, studying the serious expression on Link's face, and considered his next words carefully. "It's true, isn't it? You're going to go to the castle and fight that… thing, aren't you?"

"Yes." Glad that he had managed to get his point across, Link changed his focus back to clothing retrieval. ”But before I can do that, I need all my clothes.” He was thrilled that Bozai had come to an understanding so quickly. He was not in the mood for an endless debate on the state of their non-existent relationship, and quite frankly, he was beyond ready to get on the road. He began looking around at the floor again. It was hard to see with the weak light filtering through the heavy curtains. "I'm still missing..."

A sing-song voice cut the air. “Are you looking for this?" Bozai held up Link’s blouse. "You need it to leave, unless you don’t mind being dragged from the hotel in your current state of undress." His smirk was back in full force. "The guards won't bother to take your belongings with you either, and it will take me a few hours to prepare for the start of my journey."

He threw the halter top over his shoulder and ticked off each point on his fingers as he listed them. “Taking a shower, getting dressed and looking fit for being out in public, eating breakfast, checking out of the hotel, gathering supplies around town. All of that takes time, time that you will spend naked and defenseless in the burning heat of the harsh desert outside the city's walls."

Holding me hostage? Did that moron really think that was going to work? Link seethed internally at the jeering words, but he was careful not to let his emotions show.

Bozai kept speaking, unable to see the subtle changes play across the hero’s face as he contemplated what he had heard. He hadn’t thought to put his glasses on yet, but if he had, he might have chosen to shut his mouth instead of prattling on. ”It would hurt me deeply to resort to such tactics, but if I felt my life was threatened by a voe in disguise, well, I might just have to scream for help at the top of my lungs!"

Link remembered that Bozai had said he was tenacious, but the method he had chosen to deploy went beyond mere stubbornness and crossed over into insanity. It was not a ploy destined to work on the Hero of Hyrule. The steel was showing in his eyes as he stepped closer to the bed, and despite his short stature, he loomed over the man who just threatened to sic the City Guard on him. An intimidating edge sharpened his voice as he said, "Gimme. My. Shirt."

Bozai quailed with no further argument under the merciless glare of the swordsman. "Just joking around, he heh. Sorry about that, I guess it's too early in the morning for humor. Here you go!"  Handing over the silken article of clothing like a surrender flag, he continued to wheedle and beg the solo adventurer into joining him.

All bark and no bite, Link thought with satisfaction. He knew Bozai was a wimp, but he didn’t expect him to give up like that immediately.

Backpedaling from his previous assertion, Bozai said, “I can't push you into doing something you don't want, but everyone needs to eat.” He clapped his hands together decisively. “So, breakfast. I think that’s a reasonable start for your morning.” He then gestured towards Link with his clasped hands in a supplicating manner. "My treat? To apologize for my crass behavior. This might be the last time we see each other, and I'd like to leave it on a high note."

Link ran his hand through his hair, feeling the way sweat and sand stuck together to coarsen its texture, and sighed. The prospect of a shower and breakfast danced tantalizingly in his mind, but the threat Bozai made, impotent though it was, left him less than enthused to spend any more time in his company. His stomach growled, and the man in the bed cocked his head with a satisfied smirk when he heard the outburst. How would Link know that Bozai wouldn't try to pull another stunt on him later on? How could he trust him to play fair?

"I'll tell you what's going to happen," Link began, choosing to ignore his stomach’s complaint in favor of pulling on his sirwal. "I'm going to the bathroom. You're going to order breakfast and have it delivered to the room. While we eat, I will decide whether or not I will accompany you, and for how long." He continued to put on his clothes. "Give me your best arguments, and be prepared for disappointment." He secured his veil over his face and tied it over the back of his headscarf. "I'll see you back here in a bit."

 


 

The musical sound of splashing water reflected off the tiled walls of the shared bathroom at the end of the hallway. The washing area was divided into a few individual cubicles, each of which contained ample room for a bench, a shelf with a variety of cleansing products in gold bottles that matched the ones in Bozai's room, and a soaking tub. Farthest from the door, a clever configuration of canals ran along the top of the wall and let out an endless stream of warm water at the right height for Gerudo and Hylian alike to wash under. Enclosing each stall like festive wrapping paper were colored glass walls with matching doors.

I could stay here for hours, Link thought as he stood under the powerful flow of the miniature waterfall, thoroughly enjoying the pressure of the deluge as it pounded the knots out of his shoulders. The water will keep flowing; there’s no way to turn it off. Maybe Bozai will get fed up with how long it’s taking me and he’ll leave without me. Problem solved, easy as pie. His stomach rumbled hollowly at the mention of food, and he turned his thoughts back to his shower.

He turned away from the open space of the room, dunking his head under the warm water, and groped along the wall for the niche that held the soap. The row of golden bottles back on the shelf were labeled in Gerudo script, which gave him a headache when he tried to decipher it. Unlike its companions, the small cake of soap with a tiny palm tree incised on its face stated its purpose clearly, and therefore, it was the only bath product that he had brought into the shower with him.

A plaintive, oddly high-pitched query echoed around the room, and Link froze, hand curled around his prize. "Yoo hoo! Ms. Boots, are you in here? It's me, your lady friend! "

Link didn't know whether to laugh or groan at Bozai's attempt at subterfuge. In the fifteen minutes that had passed since leaving the hotel room, he had gained the necessary space to put his companion’s actions into perspective, and he found that his enthusiasm was, if not infectious, then reasonably tolerable. He grabbed the soap and brought it to his nose, breathing in the refreshing scent of desert flowers before yodeling out his wordless affirmation. The clack of shoes walking down the aisle toward his stall followed shortly after his shout faded away.

"I couldn't wait until breakfast to persuade you," Bozai said in his usual timbre as loud as he dared over the rush of the water. "Can I join you? Help you scrub your back, maybe?" His tone was innocent, but as Link looked over his shoulder at the man interrupting his alone time, he couldn't miss the avaricious look in his eyes and the rising bulge pushing against his loose trousers.

"What about breakfast? Don't you have to be in the room to accept the food?"

Bozai dismissed Link's question with a wave of his hand. "Oh, we have some time. The lady at the front desk said the food will be ready in half an hour."

Thirty minutes to breakfast? We’ll have to fill the time... somehow. If food motivated the hero more than he would like to admit, the prospect of getting frisky tempted him with unexpected force as well. The morning's schedule fell into place with ease as he thought about preparing to leave the city. A lap around the central market, focusing on the arrow shop, might be all that he needed. "In that case, hop on in."

Bozai shucked his clothes off with inhuman speed after carefully placing his glasses on the shelf next to the jars and bottles, then wove his way through the room without taking his eyes off the soaked swordsman. "Have you washed your hair?"

Link shook his head, keeping his eyes closed as water streamed down his face. A few moments later, strong fingers worked their way into his hair, massaging something sudsy and fragrant into it with firm circling motions. Link leaned his head back and gave himself over to being cleansed. Bozai scrubbed the grit from his scalp with his fingernails, coaxing out a pleased groan as well. Their exchange could almost have been platonic, and Link was indirectly reminded of his infrequent forays to the barbershop, though he was certain that a barber wouldn't try to whisper sweet nothings into his ears, or lick the water off them.

"Hand me the soap, please." Link was still gripping the small cake as if it were a precious object. He handed it up behind himself, and Bozai plucked it from his fingers to lather up his hands before sliding them around Link’s chest.

“Wait, before you start on the rest of me, I need to rinse my hair,” Link protested. The shampoo was dripping down his face and into his eyes, making them sting painfully. Bozai seemed to show a varying amount of attention to the task and the person in front of him, and Link wondered if Bozai had ever washed another person before. It was also possible, however, that the nude, wet Champion was more distracting than he considered himself to be.

Once Link was soap-free, he stepped back toward Bozai, who was shifting his weight from foot to foot in an odd dance of suppressed eagerness to continue. His foam-filled hands and partial tumescence completed the picture of his desire. "Usually, I'd use a washcloth on your skin, but I suppose my bare hands will have to do," Bozai said, beginning to run his hands down the firm slope of Link’s shoulders. He used a confident touch over his companion’s body and did not hesitate to voice the opinion he had on each bit of anatomy he was currently cleaning. “Your arms are so strong,” he cooed as he lifted each one in turn. “And what a tiny waist you’ve got. I can almost fit my hands around it!” The extreme physical proximity of the two men, combined with Bozai’s effusive compliments, made their shower much more intimate than Link was expecting, and once again, he found himself tuning out Bozai’s commentary in order to give himself some mental space. “Your hips are wonderfully wide,” Bozai continued, squatting as he soaped his way down Link’s body. “Have I ever told you that your legs are like two stately pillars?” Despite the slightly uncomfortable amount of verbal attention he was getting, Link enjoyed the physical aspects of his cleansing very much. Bozai’s hands were slippery and sensual, applying the right amount of pressure over every inch of his body.

After a thorough once over with the soap from Link’s ears to his toes, Bozai switched from giving compliments to asking questions. Admitting that he was curious about the scars that decorated Link's body, he asked how he got a particularly nasty one on his back.

Link balked at responding. First of all, he didn’t even remember, because it had happened before the Calamity. Secondly, answering would require telling him something personal about himself, and he didn’t want Bozai to know about his past. Better to have him think he was simply a traveler with a heroic streak, rather than the actual Hero of Hyrule. “I’ve always been reckless. Can’t really remember how I got that one.” Link hoped that his vague answer would put Bozai off his topic, but he continued to press him for details.

“Oooh, this one is long, it must have really hurt, yeah? And this scar here, it's a different color than the ones around it. Why do you think that is? How about this one?” he asked, tracing his fingers along a series of puckered scars furrowed into Link’s outer thigh. “These look like claw marks!”

“Yeah, maybe,” Link sighed, and stepped back under the water to rinse off the remnants of soap from his skin. “Are you done? I feel clean now.”

“Oh, could you stay with me while I shave? The mirrors are all the way on the other side of the bathroom, so you can tell me if I miss a spot.”

Link shrugged, still immersed in the water’s flow. “Sure, go for it.”

“Great, thanks!” Bozai went back to the shelf and busied himself for a few minutes, then came back for Link's approval. “All smooth?” he asked, bringing Link's hand up to his cheek to rub it against his skin.

“Like the rind of a ripe hydromelon,” Link remarked, stroking his strong jawline. “You didn't need me or a mirror to help you, did you? I bet you’ve been shaving by touch for years.”

“You caught me!” Bozai said with a touch too much indulgent enthusiasm. “But I do want you to make sure I'm not scraping your skin with my stubble.”

“That's thoughtful of you,” Link replied, pleased that he was considering his comfort this time.

“You're welcome,” Bozai said, and stepped close enough to rest his hands on Link's shoulders. “What do you say we see how close my shave is?”

“Oh. What did you have in mind?” Link asked, tipping his head up in anticipation of receiving a kiss.

Bozai bypassed Link's lips to speak quietly in his ear. Voice low and thrillingly rough, he said, "Turn around and bend over."

The command flipped a switch somewhere deep within the hero's brain, and he immediately complied, turning to brace his arms against the cold wall and spreading his legs slightly in a more comfortable stance. Bozai kept his hands on Link's body as he moved, starting at his shoulders and following the path of his spine as he bent down, to rest firmly on his hips.

“There’s not enough time to prepare you for what I’d really like to do with you, but since you’re so clean...” Bozai trailed off as he kneeled on the wet floor and slid his hands to the rise of Link's rear end, pressing his thumbs close to his exposed entrance. “Can I go down on you… from behind?”

“What?” The euphemism left Link confused, and it wasn’t the first time that he wished that the awkward man would be more direct and just say what was on his mind. The positions they had assumed, however, led him to believe that there was only one thing Bozai was asking for. “Sure, you can eat my ass,” Link said bluntly, hiding a smile against the side of his arm. Last night he had several fingers in there; what harm would it do to have a tongue rediscover the area?

Link felt Bozai’s shaven face press against his skin, then a few tentative licks started and stopped almost before he knew what was happening.

“Could you scoot over so you aren’t under the waterfall?” Bozai spluttered. “The water is running down your back and going up my nose,” he coughed, turning his head. “I can’t breathe.”

“Sorry, I didn’t realize.” Link shuffled over a few steps and resumed his position against a drier portion of the wall, ready to begin again without drowning his companion.

It took only a few delicate, exploratory touches around his most sensitive area before Link decided that he narrowly preferred a tongue to the thick fingers that had investigated him previously. It was a hard decision to make. The fingers had been coated with slippery, tingly goo that had augmented every pleasurable sensation. That oil had not been able to make up for the fact that Bozai's fingers were rough, his skin hardened by his outdoor lifestyle. His tongue, on the other hand, was velvety soft and dexterous. It supplied its own heat and moisture, and changed shape and firmness to fit itself perfectly against his curves and hollows. Oh, that tongue! If it spent as much time teasing and caressing him as it did forming stupid things to say, he’d let Bozai come along with him all the way to the castle. Zelda would understand. Link would explain the whole situation. He would have to explain what took him so long to get there anyway, he might as well make it a good story.

Every time Link thought he was finally fed up with Bozai and was ready to ditch him for more pressing priorities, the crafty man pulled an unforeseen talent out of his metaphorical ass and made Link defer his decision for just a little while longer. The sensual, massaging nature of the shower had primed Link, and the incredible feeling of Bozai’s tongue probing and bringing pleasure to an area he hardly gave much thought to excited him fully, and all the thoughts of his future travels retreated to the back of his mind.

Link found himself reaching between his legs, taking his erection in hand and wondering vaguely if anything would come out when he came. Another side effect of memory loss was his inability to remember what his orgasmic frequency had been like before his resurrection, and he hadn’t tested his limits since waking up from the Slumber of Restoration. Thanks to his answered prayers at the goddess statues scattered around the country, Link’s stamina was at maximum capacity, but his capacity was a separate issue from the speed of its replenishment.

Bozai hadn’t let Link touch himself last night, but he thought he could get away with it this time. He wasn’t likely to orgasm solely from external stimulation, no matter how good it felt, and he stroked himself in time to the forceful licks being pressed into his skin.

The rhythm broke as Link heard Bozai speak again. “My knees are killing me, my bathing beauty.” Bozai pulled away, easing himself gingerly to the floor, then returning his hands to fondle rhythmically at Link’s flesh. “I can’t keep kneeling any longer.”

Link stayed propped up against the wall, too far gone by Bozai’s attentive tongue and his own efforts to stand upright. “That’s fine, I’m almost… there…” He curled into himself as his release pulsed through him. Link heard Bozai's hiss of appreciation as his muscles tightened with the effort of his orgasm. Not his best, certainly not mind-blowing, but still worth it. He sagged against the wall, staring without focusing at the water flowing across the floor to fill the tub. A few deep breaths later, the pleasure draining from his limbs, he stood upright and looked over at his companion, who returned his gaze with a satisfied look of his own.

Despite his obvious erection, Bozai wasn't touching himself. Link gestured questioningly at it, but Bozai shook his head and stepped towards the towel rack. “I'm waiting.” The tone of his words sent a shiver of anticipation down Link's spine. Waiting? For what? Bozai sure did know what to say to keep his interest. Link was leaning more and more toward traveling with him, just to find out what he meant.

They dried off with sumptuously thick towels and hastily threw on their clothes. Link's empty stomach was complaining in earnest, and he was looking forward to eating what Bozai had ordered for breakfast.

Not five minutes after their return to the hotel room, a knock sounded at the door, which Bozai answered.  He swung open the door, revealing an immaculately dressed and accessorized Gerudo balancing an immense tray of food on one muscled arm.

"Sarqso!” the Hylian cried. “Please put it on the ottoman." There wasn't any other furniture that could accommodate the width of the tray, and the lady dutifully crossed the room to place the food down. Link didn't see Bozai slip the employee a handful of rupees from his nearly empty wallet, as his attention was focused entirely on the wondrous spread of food uncovered before him.

Bozai announced unnecessarily, “Breakfast is served! I hope you like what I ordered, I asked for their most popular dishes. The fritters are my favorite, you should try those first.” They kneeled on pillows around the tray and dug in.

Bozai had ordered enough food to feed himself three times over, and he pointed to each dish as he described its contents. “Steak and fried eggs— the meat is bear’s, which they hunt in the Gerudo Highlands.” Next to that was a rice dish studded with dried fruit, followed by the safflina fritters. Sausage and more eggs, scrambled this time, rounded out their meal. To drink, Bozai had ordered hot tea, redolent with spices and presweetened, perfectly balanced to cut the richness of the food. Link took a little bit from each serving dish, and more on his second round, then he scraped the plates clean after Bozai finished eating.

"You can expect more of this if you travel with me,” said Bozai as he wiped his mouth daintily with a napkin. “I know the best places to stop and eat along the road. Restaurants in out of the way locales. You won’t have to survive on trail rations and leftovers from the stable’s communal cook pot, I promise you that. I’ve recorded most of what I've discovered in a journal, along with some maps, if you want to start planning our route."

Appealing to his stomach, what a low blow. Link had to admit he was intrigued, even only to discover if he was bluffing.

"Okay. So." Link reluctantly removed the garnish he was chewing from his mouth to set it down on his plate and unhooked the Sheikah Slate from its place on his hip. He turned it on and flipped to the map function, zooming in on the portion of desert between Gerudo Town and the stable at the mouth of Gerudo Canyon. Turning the screen to face Bozai, Link pointed at the most important landmarks. "Here's where we are, and here's the end of the desert. If we walk, we'll have to rest at Kara Kara Bazaar. If we take sand seals—" he stopped to judge Bozai's reaction, and was rewarded with a displeased scowl, "—we can make it all the way to the stable by midday, and switch over to horses."

Coming to an agreement took less time than Link thought, and it was a compromise that the hero was not completely prepared for. Link's defenses had been destroyed by the one-two combination of orgasms and food on demand, and he quickly accepted Bozai’s place next to him on the journey through Hyrule. Link was reluctant to agree to any more than one day at a time, and was firm in explaining that not only were they not a couple, but he would not be entertaining any ideas of entering into a relationship with him, either. Bozai looked disappointed when he heard the Champion’s ultimatum, but he was resolute. He wanted Link to stay with him for as long as possible, and promised him, in a voice quivering with emotion, to earn his place by the end of each day.

“Don't you ever get lonely on the road?” Bozai asked with a disbelieving air.

Prompted by the remark, flashbacks whizzed through Link's mind.

Crossing the Great Plateau in every direction with a hollow heart, he searches for signs of life but finds only centuries-old ruins, monster encampments, and enigmatic, dismissive, conversational scraps from the solitary old man.

“Requesting my assistance, again?” Revali's sneering comment follows Link in the updraft as he ascends on the Rito spirit’s Gale, needling him in death as he did in life.

Brow furrowed, Link opened his mouth to respond with something ambiguous yet positive, for Bozai had stumbled onto another of Link’s sensitive subjects. Memories kept coming back to him as he hesitated.

Mipha's soothing touch quells the pain wracking his body. She heals his mortal wounds and snatches him from the jaws of death time and time again, leaving him with gentle words that brighten his darkest moments.

The crowd of children that inevitably dog his footsteps whenever he visits Hateno Town stare, transfixed, at the fire rod in his hands. He swings it over their heads, making a series of fireballs go shooting down the road, and the children clap and shout in amazement.

“No,” Link replied with all sincerity. “No, I don’t.”

Bozai huffed, not ready to end their negotiations. “If you’re not going to be my girlfriend, then I have some demands for you—”

“I don't think you’re in a position to be demanding anything!”

Bozai picked up the lone sausage on his plate, and with deliberate slowness, opened his mouth, extended his tongue, and began to fellate it while maintaining eye contact with the suddenly flustered Champion.

Link sighed, defeated. “Look, there's not enough time to argue the particulars. Let's get ready and we'll talk more on the road, or when we stop for the day.” Bozai grinned and bit the sausage in half.

They put on their makeup, taking turns in front of the vanity mirror. When Bozai let loose with a string of highly creative swear words after poking himself in the eye while trying to apply his eyeliner, Link offered his help, and the process was much quicker for his assistance. Bozai attempted to apologize for his crude language, telling Link that his words were unbecoming for a lady such as she to hear him say, but Link shushed him and reminded him to keep his face still so he could put his makeup on smoothly. With Bozai’s face cradled in his hands, Link had the sudden urge to kiss his impatient lips, but he reminded himself with a shake of his head that this was no time for distractions.

While Bozai made a circuit of the room, picking up his accumulated junk and packing it away in his backpack, Link made sure he had everything he came to the hotel with, even the lingerie. He didn’t want to take it with him, but every time he attempted to stuff it under a pillow or jam it in a drawer, Bozai was right there, looking at him with what could only be described as an expectant smirk. He gave up on ditching the outfit and folded the pieces into tiny rectangles to stow them along with the rest of his clothing.

Walking back through the majesty of the hotel was an experience that echoed their arrival on the previous night. In the brighter light of daytime, details that had been hidden by the more tasteful evening illumination came out with a scintillating brilliance that made Link flinch when he stepped into the open space of the lobby. He stopped, stunned all over again at the sumptuous display that rivaled the decor in the royal palace, and forced Bozai to make his way around him as he went to the front desk to check out. A new group of musicians were playing a lively, though muted, tune, and the music combined with the furnishings to muffle the sound of Bozai's conversation with the woman behind the desk. As his companion droned on, Link stifled his urge to climb the walls and leave through the window. The promise of a new adventure tugged at his spirit, and he was ready and eager to leave Gerudo Town behind. After what seemed like an eternity, Bozai finished his business and walked over to Link.

“Everything's settled! Now all that's left for me to do is get in touch with a shipping caravan!” the pleased man offered his arm for Link to take, and when the swordsman declined, he walked through the lobby with a determined air, continuing to talk as if he was certain that his companion was following closely behind. Luckily for him, Link was. “What's on your list of errands?” Bozai asked as they stepped into the bright desert sunlight that was hardly softened by the awning stretched across the entrance.

“Oh, you know, this and that,” Link said with a shrug of his shoulders. “Let's meet in an hour at the gate where the road out of town begins, okay?” And without waiting for a reply, he took off for the town’s central square, where the shopping district was located.

 


 

Link arrived early to the meeting spot. His errands didn't take him very long, mostly because he was the only customer shopping at each stall he visited, and he wasn’t in a talkative mood. After cleaning out the arrow vendor’s entire inventory, then splurging on an entirely unnecessary pair of opal earrings that caught his eye as he walked past the jewelry store, he made his way to a pair of communal cooking pots and brewed up a few extra elixirs to round out his emergency stash. Link had a feeling that his fellow traveler was not completely prepared for what lay ahead, and listening to Bozai’s repeated claims of insufficient funds made him doubly certain that he was going to skimp on some essential travel items, so, preferring food to elixirs, he cooked up a few dozen rice balls stuffed with a wide variety of active ingredients.

Link looked up at the unbroken blue bowl of sky enclosing the desert. Straight above his head, the sky was a deep and vibrant cerulean, and as he lowered his gaze to the mountains at the eastern horizon, the atmosphere thickened and the color leached from the sky, leaving only a hazy indefinite hue to contrast the dark cliffs and broken mesas that signaled the desert’s border. He could both feel and see the heat rolling off the dunes that flanked the beginning of the road out of town, and he turned to face the city gate, the searing sands at his back. He didn’t want Bozai sneaking behind him.

After a few minutes, Bozai came strolling up, conspicuous in his garishly colored vai clothes and a big backpack. He gave the diminutive hero a once-over and lingered at his feet. "Oh, hey, those are my— I mean your sand boots. They're really useful, aren't they?"

Link nodded.

"Yeah, I'd never have made it through the desert without them," Bozai said wistfully. “And to think, those are the only pair left in existence! Boy, I sure wish I had a pair of my own. Regular shoes don’t cut it for me anymore,” he continued, his voice edging up into a whine.

"Do you want to wear them?” Link asked, taking the hint. “I can drink a speed elixir to keep up with you."

“You would do that?” Bozai swooned with admiration, gratefully accepting the boots with overflowing thanks. He sat down in the middle of the road, swapping his footwear carefully so as not to get any sand in his boots. Link made a mental note to stop by Tarrey Town sometime after their journey ended to buy a new pair of sand boots from Granté.

They began their trip through the desert at a brisk trot. Although it was still midmorning, the full heat of the sun blazed across the ground and reflected off every surface, drawing all their resources into minimizing excessive movement and action. Even though the usually chatty Bozai set the pace, they moved too swiftly to keep up a conversation. The road was hard to follow as it wove around sand dunes and rock outcroppings, and it was obscured in places by drifts of windblown sand. Link fell behind Bozai, outpaced by the jogger's longer legs and superior footwear. He lost sight of him completely after rounding an extremely large boulder. Hadn't he reminded the fool to keep within each other’s eyesight at all times? The desert was lousy with monsters, day and night. By day, dangerous creatures rested in the shade, or hid under the sand, waiting with eternal patience for their next unsuspecting victim…

A warbling, panicked cry floated through the air from the direction of a nearby circle of rocks. Link swung off the road, which had dwindled to a faint suggestion as it skirted the hills of sand, to follow the sound of Bozai's yelling. As he drew nearer to the ring of boulders, he scanned them for any sign of his companion.

Tattered flags hung from poles jammed into the sand in the gaps between the rocks, and the remains of a wooden platform listed to the side at the far end of the ring, where the rocky ground broke through the sand to rise into a low hill. An abandoned defensive outpost. When Vah Naboris began to act up, the Gerudo were forced to abandon all their outlying forts, and apparently it was too soon for them to be put back into service.

Shit. The place was probably a pit of monsters, and Bozai had walked straight into it...

The effects of the swift elixir were wearing off, and Link redoubled his efforts at running through the sand. His silks were soaked through with sweat, but he barely noticed as he unsheathed his scimitar and readied his shield.

The earth sloped down toward the center of the primitive fort, and Bozai stood his ground at its lowest point, shouting and flailing wildly with a small dagger as a ring of Lizalfos hissed and thrust their spears into the air around him.

Link whistled as he ran, the sharp noise piercing the air and redirecting the monsters' attention onto him.

"Bozai! Run! Get behind those rocks!" Link shouted with the last of his breath, quickly recovering enough energy to knock the closest Lizalfos out of the air as it sprung itself toward him.

The sand slowed foes and hero alike. The Lizalfos compensated by jumping to and fro, but when Link switched his weapon from scimitar to spear, they didn't stand a chance against his greater reach. If Link wasn't so flustered by Bozai's unexpected incompetence, he would have taken a second to gulp down another swift elixir. In the end, it wasn't necessary. Conserving his energy, he let the monsters approach him instead, and stabbed at the closest ones while making sure none of them crept behind him. They fell back in twos and threes, but rushed forward again and again, only to be impaled upon Link's spear point. It was a long, slow conflict of repeated motions, motions that were second nature to the battle-hardened swordsman, and even when his overworked spear buckled and its recurved tip broke off in the belly of a particularly fierce Lizalfos, Link did not panic. He threw the broken spear at the swiveling eye of the nearest foe, and when it dropped its own weapon in shock, he grabbed it off the ground and used it to finish his deadly work.

Link paced around the empty fort, stopping occasionally to gather the body parts left behind, and whistled again. Bozai's head popped up from behind a boulder like a flustered octorok, and once he saw that the coast was clear, he scrambled out of his hiding spot, visibly shaking and panting as he walked over to the triumphant swordsman.

“I'm so sorry!” Bozai wailed. “I saw those flags, and I thought I could rest there for a few minutes and wait while you caught up to me. It didn't even cross my mind that there would be monsters here. When I came through before, this place was full of Gerudo soldiers. I’ve never seen so many Lizalfos in one place before— that was terrifying! I mean, I’ve fought monsters before, of course, anyone who’s been on the road for a few hours will have crossed paths with a bokoblin or two, but all those scaly bastards, all at once?” The recollection of his recent experience overwhelmed him and he snapped his mouth shut, shivering slightly. He was still gripping his dagger. Link gestured toward the blade, and when Bozai looked at it, surprised to see it in his hand, Link helped him pry his stiff fingers off the handle.

“You saved my life. I don't know if I can ever thank you enough!” He stowed the dagger and lunged at Link, scooping him up into a rib-cracking hug. Their sweaty abdomens stuck together, and Bozai kissed Link with grateful enthusiasm through both their veils.

Link pushed the ardent man away and said, “Save your gratitude for the end of the day. I'm sure you can think of a sufficient reward for my heroism by then.”

There was just enough shade cast by the dilapidated lookout platform for both men to rest under while they ate a snack of chillshroom-stuffed rice balls. Once Link was sure that Bozai had recovered from his ambush, he stood and pointed to the road with a rice-flecked hand. “That tall lump of rock over there is the Bazaar. We’re less than an hour away, so let’s get going. Remember to stay on the road, and make sure you can see me!”

Bozai had removed his veil in order to eat, and Link watched as a smile split his face in a way that he probably thought was charming, but in practice was closer to a leer. “It would be easier to stay with you if we held hands!” he suggested as he snatched Link’s hand and squeezed it. The smile fled from his face as he felt the sticky remains of a rice ball squish against his skin. He dropped Link’s hand and started walking away, wiping the rice off with a muttered complaint. “...She eats like a barbarian… lucky she’s so cute…”

 


 

Palm trees lined the shore of the oasis and broke the intense heat of the day into fringed shards of light and shade that danced over the merchants’ tents of Kara Kara Bazaar. Ignoring the man dutifully dogging his footsteps, Link made his way straight to the combination inn and arrow shop, which was built into the rock tower they had been using as a navigational aid. The few hours’ trek through the desert, combined with his fight against the Lizalfos, all on a foundation of too little sleep the night before, left Link yawning as he stepped into the oasis’ only permanent building. He was willing to shell out for two rooms if it meant he could get a nap in before lunch, but the lady behind the counter dashed his hopes by announcing, “Check-in time is at sunset. You’ve missed the morning hourly rate by a few hours. No exceptions.”

What were they going to do to rest? It seemed unfair to leave potential customers outdoors during the hottest part of the day, even if the tree cover and cool breeze blowing off the spring lowered the temperature somewhat. There was no way Bozai would let Link nap outside, not when he was bored and had nothing else to do, but the normally clingy man surprised Link by being nowhere in sight, once the Champion finished his business with the proprietor of the inn and finally thought to look for him. Link took his time to look around at the other side of the tiny room and bought all five arrows on display. He left to return outside, and wandered around the bazaar aimlessly, making small talk with the merchants and the tourists.

Link found himself at the back side of the inn, where the deep shade and refreshing breeze made a tempting place to loiter. He took out his Sheikah Slate and started idly flipping through the pages of inventory, stopping to look wistfully at the tiny icon of the Master Sword. It was safely stowed in the magical depths of his bag, put there yesterday before he began his sand seal races. It gave him great comfort to have it strapped to his back, but while he was in the desert he felt committed to his Gerudo aesthetic, and he wasn’t looking forward to the barrage of questions he would no doubt have to field if Bozai saw it on him.

The crunch of footsteps in the sand alerted Link to someone's approach. Bozai appeared, dressed in his customary outfit of skintight trousers, turtleneck, and vest. Turning the corner with an inquisitive look on his face, he broke into a wide grin as he caught sight of the Hylian leaning against the wall. “Hey, there you are, my bright desert bloom! Did you miss me?”

Can't miss you if you never go away, Link thought. He replaced the Slate on his belt and prepared for a new onslaught of lameness.

“I feel more comfortable now that I've changed back into my old clothing. These fit me so much better than those tricky vai clothes did,” said Bozai as he patted his vest affectionately. “I actually just sold my vai outfit to one of the guys in the caravan that's trying to get into Gerudo Town. He was so grateful he gave me this in addition to my asking price!” With a dramatic heave of his shoulders, he took off his backpack and produced a small bottle from one of its pockets. “It’s wine made from palm fruit and honey. I guess it’s a specialty from Lurelin Village? We can share it after dinner tonight, if you like,” he concluded, and slipped it back into his backpack. Bozai’s eyes shone behind his glasses as he fixed his gaze on Link, who had not moved from his position against the wall. “How about an appetizer before we get back on the road? Since you’re looking like such a tempting snack over there. I can’t wait to taste what’s under your wrapper.”

That dopey line should not have had such a positive effect on him, but as Bozai moved within striking range, Link invited his embrace instead of ducking out of the way. He must be getting used to Bozai’s dubious charms, or maybe he was beginning to associate terrible pick up lines with orgasms. Either way, it was a habit he would need to break himself of before long.

Bozai used the fingers of one hand to brush Link's veil aside as his other hand slipped around his midriff to press against the bare skin of his lower back. He kissed the hero deeply, then drew back, saying, “Just as I thought. Sweeter than voltfruit.” Before he could get another quip in, Link grabbed Bozai by the ears and dragged him back in for another kiss.

Why did he have to be so skilled and so awkward at the same time? Link wondered. It was like eating a delicious, fluffy omelet and biting into a piece of eggshell halfway through. He'd have to be more skillful at eating around the shell, if he wanted to get any pleasure at all out of their arrangement. Link parted his lips and met Bozai’s insatiable tongue with his own. Heat that had nothing to do with the climate flushed across his chest, and he moaned, grabbing fistfuls of silky dark hair as he melted under a rain of spirited kisses. This is getting ridiculous. This isn’t what I had in mind when I said I wanted to rest for a while! Link thought as Bozai’s arms tightened around him.

Bozai’s hands slid down Link’s back with sure intention, using enough force in his touch to press the smaller Hylian closer against his body. His hands found their target, clutching generous handfuls of taut flesh while beginning to rock his hips against Link’s. Link whimpered high in his throat, a soft sound of submission, and it encouraged Bozai to redouble his efforts. Caught between embarrassment and desire, Link clung to the taller man’s shoulders and lost himself in the whirlwind of emotion that his actions were invoking. What is he doing to me? It’s just a little making out, no need to fall apart over a few kisses… Link raised himself on tiptoes, straining to have as much skin contact as was physically possible.

His crisis ended when a drop of sweat, and then another, landed on his cheek. He leaned back to see where it had come from and watched as rivulets of moisture ran down Bozai’s reddened face and neck, soaking the collar of his turtleneck. A flash of disgust made Link push him away, but he left his hands on Bozai’s chest in a show of concern, thankful for the multiple layers of clothing that prevented him from feeling more of his soaking wet skin.

“You’re going to get heat exhaustion if you don’t eat or drink something with cooling properties soon,” Link warned, and gestured toward the oversized backpack lying behind Bozai in the sand. “Did you bring any elixirs? You should know better by now.”

Bozai wiped a hand across his forehead, looking from Link to his backpack with an unfocused gaze. “Must have snuck up on me,” he mumbled, stumbling over to his backpack and kneeling in the sand. “I do have some nice, icy potions in here somewhere…” He extracted a small bottle and popped its cork, downing the liquid inside in one long swallow. He shivered from head to toe, then looked back at his companion with a refreshed air about him. “Now that my hunger has been temporarily satisfied, why don’t we resume our travels?” he asked, standing up to brush sand from his trousers. “If I remember correctly, it’s only a few hours to the mouth of the canyon.”

The reminder of their plan wiped the remnants of lust from Link’s brain, and he latched onto Bozai’s words. “Great idea. The faster we get there, the better.” He started to walk, following the path around the rock tower that led back to the main road, and Bozai snatched up his backpack, scrambling to keep up with his fellow adventurer.

 


 

It was, conceivably, within the normal bounds of suppertime when Link and Bozai arrived at the Gerudo Canyon Stable. It was that odd time of day when late afternoon diverged from early evening only by difference of opinion. While the sun’s rays never reached to the depth of the canyon floor, the uppermost reaches of the high sandstone walls were still illuminated, casting the stable and its occupants in a reflected haze of yellow-orange light. A thick, occluding shade filled the hollows in the cliff sides, and while the heat here was not as fierce as that of the desert they had just left, it was still very uncomfortable, as well as inescapable, because it radiated from every available surface. Despite the oppressive, oven-like atmosphere, there were plenty of people milling about the stable grounds. Many were merchants, plying rare items to make into elixirs for the desert trek. Others were fellow travelers, starting or ending their journey to and from Gerudo Town. In the background, stable employees worked, or waited for more work to come to them.

Stopping by a pile of crates at the edge of the stable yard, Link addressed Bozai. “I know it’s not dark yet, but I think we should stop here for the night. Over there—” he gestured across the valley, where the remains of abandoned excavations could be seen peeking out from behind a small rock shelf, “—are some ore deposits. If you’re running low on funds, we can smash some rocks for a bit and get gems to cash in with a trader. We didn’t have lunch, so maybe you’re in the mood for an early supper. I can always eat! Whether or not you pay for lodgings, I’ll make food for both of us.”

Bozai squinted uphill at the immense stone blocks carved from the sides of the canyon’s far wall and said, “I suppose it couldn’t hurt to add some padding to the old wallet. For emergencies. Or a special treat that catches my lady’s eye. Lead the way!”

Over at the excavation site, Link spotted two sledgehammers laying in the dirt by a dust-covered fire ring, and scooped them up. Handing one to Bozai, he pointed at a likely outcropping of sparkling, dark stone and asked, “Have you ever mined for gemstones before? Even if you don’t have the strength of a Goron, you should be able to break open a good number of rocks around here. We can turn it into a race, keeps it interesting…” He heaved the hammer onto his shoulder and grinned.

Bozai returned the grin and accepted his offer. “I haven’t been able to deny you yet! Let’s do it!”

 


 

Stable dogs gathered around the cook pot as soon as Link began taking the ingredients for supper out of his bag. Attuned to the increased flurry of activity, they waited patiently with open mouths, bright eyes, and perked ears for stray morsels of food. Their diligence was rewarded by the silent flinging of meat scraps through the air, one for each dog. The clinking of rupees accompanied Link’s movements as Bozai counted out his freshly augmented life savings on a bench near the fire ring.

“Fifty, fifty-five… eight hundred and sixty rupees! Yes, I think that will last me a few nights on the road! I still can’t believe that I got a diamond out of that ugly chunk of ore!”

Link turned away from chopping carrots to speak to the gloating man behind him. “Yeah, you’re lucky, but keep it down, alright? You don’t want to get mugged!”

“Mugged?” Bozai blinked owlishly at Link and frowned in surprise at his request. “What do you mean, mugged? We’re not in some lawless no-man’s-land— this stable is civilized! Don’t you know these people? Can’t you vouch for their character? Besides, I’ve got my own personal hero here to protect me!” he simpered.

“I’m not going to save you from your own stupidity,” Link said as he waved his knife in the air to emphasize his point. He had to admit, he was impressed that Bozai had managed to float through life so cluelessly and manage to survive for so long. Maybe he had something in common with the Smotherwing Butterfly, a creature that was delicate in appearance, but was well adapted to its unique ecological niche. Link didn’t especially want to witness when his luck ran out, so he reiterated his warning. “Keep your wallet on you when you go to sleep tonight. Anyway,” he continued, “dinner’s ready in ten minutes.”

Despite Link’s words of wisdom, Bozai continued to brag and chat all night long with anyone who had the misfortune to sit near him. A man named Sesami —who Link did know, but could not say for sure what kind of man he was—  was the only person to engage him in conversation, and soon became a fixture at his side. Once the sun went down and the temperature dropped, Bozai unearthed the palm wine from his backpack and passed it around, and Link listened to the two adventurers trade stories of their thwarted exploits for hours. 

 


 

Behind the curtain that ringed their bed and gave a semblance of privacy from the rest of the stable’s inn, the two men dressed for bed. Link changed into his favorite sleepwear, a soft, threadbare shirt and a pair of old, patched trousers, the bottoms of both of which had frayed away to leave the lower halves of his limbs bare. They weren’t fit to be worn in public, which made them perfect for pajamas. Similar to the first time they shared sleeping arrangements, Bozai removed all his clothes, save for his underwear, and climbed into bed after placing his glasses in his shoe for safekeeping.

“I’m glad I had enough rupees to splurge on a soft bed, although I did think it was going to be wider than the standard accommodation,” Bozai complained. “They have to know there’s a market for people traveling in groups who want to share a bed! Ah well, at least we’re well acquainted with each other. Sleeping together for the second night in a row. How romantic!” He gave a happy sigh.

Link turned from his place on the floor, where he was neatening his small pile of belongings in preparation to shove it all beneath the bed, to look at Bozai, who had propped himself up on one elbow and was prodding the mattress with one curious finger. He asked, ‘Are you sure you want to share? You paid for the bed, after all, and I’m more than happy to set up on the floor elsewhere to give you enough space.” Link wasn’t entirely sure he wanted to spend the night as Bozai’s personal pillow, and a tiny voice in the back of his mind reminded him to keep his tone civil if he wanted to change the other man’s mind.

Bozai pouted and began fiddling with a corner of the sheet. “What, and leave you to the predations of Beedle? I think not!”

Link snorted, but Bozai pressed on. “I’ve been watching him look at you all night. I want you on this side of the curtain, my sweet.”

“He wants my beetles, not my body,” Link insisted.

Bozai smiled affectionately. “So naive, even with all your world-traveling experience!” he said, and he patted the empty space next to him. “Come to bed. You’ve had a long day, and it’s just the first of many we’ll be spending together on this adventure!”

Link couldn’t deny that he was ready to turn in for the night, and he slid under the covers on his side of the bed without further comment. True to the innkeeper’s word, the mattress they laid on was soft and yielding, but there was barely enough room for them to fit side by side on the narrow bed. Link had retained the soldier’s habit of falling asleep easily in the most improbable and uncomfortable circumstances, and he was half unconscious when a shifting under the sheets and a pronounced thump shook the bed hard enough to distract him from his descent into sleep. Bozai was squirming, struggling to remove his last remaining article of clothing. He was doing a decent job of staying in one place, but the close quarters they shared meant that he was still disturbing the peace. Link rolled onto his side, facing the curtain and giving Bozai a few more inches of precious real estate. Bozai followed his lead, turning in the same direction, and slung his arm over Link’s chest, making the hero a grumpy little spoon.

As Bozai snuggled closer, Link felt a warm, stiff object rub against his backside. Through Link’s pajama bottoms, Bozai’s erection nestled into the cleft of his buttocks. “Please,” whined Bozai, whispering directly into Link’s ear. Gone was the assertive, confident tone he had taken in the past, which had so excited Link before. Replacing it was need and submission… but at least he asked politely. His fingers scrabbled blindly around the waistband of Link’s trousers, searching for a way to loosen them and sneak his hand inside. “I’ve been waiting all day for this. For you in my arms again.”

Link sighed, a sound that managed to convey both his annoyance and his arousal. “It’s not that I don’t want to,” he began, shifting slightly to put his hand over Bozai’s and tilting his head so he could be heard, “it’s just that you picked the wrong place and the wrong time for this sort of thing.”

“Wrong? How could this—” Bozai simultaneously pushed his hips forward and squeezed Link’s crotch, “—be wrong?” His voice crept higher, pleading quietly. “Please? It feels right to me.”

Link whispered back, “I’m tired. Like you said, it’s been a long day. There are people a stone’s throw away on either side of us, and this bed is too narrow. Someone’s going to fall on the floor if either one of us moves even the slightest bit.”

“Then don’t move,” Bozai replied. “Well, turn around first, then stay still. I’ll do all the work. There’s nothing like a good orgasm to send you off to sleep. Remember what you’ve done for me, my courageous hero.”

With utmost care and deliberateness, Link turned to face his companion. He tucked one arm beneath his pillow and rested his other hand on Bozai’s upper arm, and waited for Bozai to finish searching for whatever he had lost under the covers. Bozai lifted his head to stick a wadded mass of fabric under his pillow, then settled back into place. The muffled clinking of rupees followed his movement, then all was silent and still for the space of a few heartbeats.

Strong hands gripped Link firmly around the waist and pushed him down the length of the bed, positioning him into convenient alignment with Bozai’s groin. The hands slid to the front of his waistband again, and this time there was no hesitation in Bozai’s movements as he untied Link’s trouser laces and pulled them down just enough to expose the necessary area. Bozai curled his fingers around Link’s length, and used long, slow strokes to bring him to rigidity.

Skin met equally hot skin as Bozai brought them together, wrapping his fist around them both and squeezing lightly. Excitement rose in Link’s chest. He almost couldn’t believe that Bozai’s need had overridden his sense of propriety, but he supposed it was a natural progression from their antics in the bathroom that morning. It was the perfect introduction to public sex— the many layers of blankets they laid under muffled their noise, the narrow bed constrained their movement, and the heavy curtain that hid them from sight gave them enough of a sense of security to act on their desire, but not enough to let them forget where they were. Best of all, from Link’s perspective, the company they shared ensured their silence— no embarrassing commentary from Bozai meant that the mood would not be ruined.

It was too dark in their seclusion to see what Bozai was doing, but that was hardly a concern to the young man being pleasured more thoroughly than he imagined one hand was able to. Link rolled his hips into Bozai’s fist, straining his muscles and clenching his jaw with the effort to stay still and silent. He didn’t dare try to kiss the lips that, judging by the warm breaths on his face, were so close to his own, since he knew the wet, sloppy sounds would carry through the air to alert their fellow boarders.

Link couldn’t stop the tiny, breathy gasps that escaped his slightly parted lips. He buried his head in his pillow, but quickly discovered that he couldn’t breathe, so he turned back to face Bozai, pressed his forehead against the sturdy chest that rose and fell before him, and stuffed his knuckles into his mouth.

“I want us to come together,” Bozai whispered, and Link thought back to the previous night, when he watched Bozai flog himself to completion. He didn’t know if he could handle such harsh treatment, and he made a small sound of uncertainty as he removed his fingers from his mouth.

“Get on top,” Link said in the smallest voice he could manage, and he used his legs and feet to push his pajama bottoms the rest of the way off. He made a space for Bozai to rest between his legs and was pleased when the other man took his direction without delay. Link wrapped his legs around Bozai’s hips and crossed his ankles at the base of Bozai’s spine, locking him in place.

It was a real struggle now to stay silent, even with the occasional cough, snore, and other assorted noises that served as a constant reminder of the other occupants of the stable. Their change in position gave Bozai more space to move, freeing him from worrying that he or Link was going to fall off the bed, and he increased the vigor of his thrusts, all without a single creak from the solidly built bed frame. The conditions were just right to produce the familiar buildup of Link’s impending orgasm. A layer of sweat coated his skin, which tempered the friction of their bodies moving together, and he tensed under the surrounding bulk of the man rutting against him.

The pressure was too much to hold back, and Link gladly surrendered to the overwhelming rush of pleasure. He dug his fingers into Bozai’s back and bit into the flexed muscle on the top of Bozai’s shoulder, smothering the involuntary moan that came with his release. Bozai, meanwhile, had his hands buried in Link’s hair, and breathed a single, satisfied grunt into Link’s ear as he twitched through his own climax.

Breathing heavily, Bozai held his position while Link relaxed, releasing him from his full-body grip and lowering his arms and legs to the surface of the bed. Bozai shifted his weight onto one elbow and reached under his pillow. Lifting himself off Link and leaning back, he swabbed the mess of fluids that had pooled in between their abdomens off them both with the pair of underwear he had tucked away. Tossing the soiled piece of clothing aside, he laid back down on the bed, taking care to stay on his own side, and refrained from touching his bedmate as he drew the covers higher.

“I know how much you value your space while you sleep, so I’ll leave you alone for the rest of the night. Sweet dreams, my darling,” whispered Bozai as he settled into the soft mattress.

Link rolled onto his side, sleepy brain whirring in disbelief from his companion’s show of generosity. He tucked his hands beneath his pillow, hesitating for a moment, then shifted his leg back, hooking his foot around Bozai’s ankle. In that way, they slept through the night.

Chapter Text

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.”