It is a beautiful, not-quite morning.
Not-quite morning because the sun had yet to fully awaken, had yet to drag itself, bleary yet bright, over the sheer cliffs in the distance to harold the dawning of a new day.
Beautiful because… well, it objectively is.
Wild’s Hyrule was just like that. Or, at least, Four had always thought so.
Ever since stepping through the dark, swirling portal that had first led them to the Champion’s Hyrule several cycles ago, Four had been in quiet awe of the fallen kingdom. And journeying through the land these last few days had only cemented that feeling in place inside the smithy.
The small hero couldn’t help but stare in dread tinged wonder as he watched the hulking forms of Guardians stalk the rolling plains that stretched before the dilapidated ruins of Hyrule Castle, as inviting as they were treacherous. Couldn’t help but feel miniscule while walking through the cleaved center of the Dueling Peaks, eyes tracing the jagged rock walls and wondering what could have torn them asunder. Couldn't help but have the air punched from his lungs as he set eyes on the roaring vista of waterfalls that fed into Lake Floria.
And yet, for how awe inspiring the landscape of the champion’s kingdom was, part of Four could also admit that there was something to be said about the softer side of Wild’s Hyrule too.
Perhaps it was a bias, an unconscious preference for the quiet of his own home, but the smithy loved the peaceful beauty of where the group of heroes had found themselves for the night: Hateno Village.
He loved the quiet of the little hamlet before dawn, the way the roofs of the houses were painted in strokes of pink and orange as the sun finally made its appearance for the day. Loved the way smoke was only just beginning to billow from chimneys once again as the townsfolk began their morning routines. Loved the way the windmill ticked a quiet rhythm in the distance, a metronome to accompany the crowing of cuccos.
Four loved how the town persisted, soft and yet vibrant, full of life, in a world so untamed, so scarred by malice.
There truly was a quiet beauty to a world moving forward, thriving from between the bones of a fallen kingdom.
Part of Four wishes he could sit and enjoy it, the quiet serenity of the dawn. Wishes he could just relax and watch the sky run through its morning gauntlet of colors as the small but bustling town of Hateno slowly came alive below.
Another part of him wishes that part would get its head out of its own ass because we’re kinda in the middle of something here, IF YOU HADN'T NOTICED!
The thought slams into Four like an errant wave of icy water, rocketing his attention back into the present moment just in time for a collision to rattle up his arm, the sharp clack of wood sword against wood sword ringing uncomfortably close in the small hero’s ear.
The force of the blow sends the small hero stumbling, and though he is caught a little off guard– 25% off guard? Oh, shut up! – the smithy uses that shock, that uniting surprise, to ground himself in the moment and focus .
Because, oh right. He’s fighting– has been fighting for a while; his heart is pounding, his throat is burning, his muscles are aching from how long he’s been at this. How long they’ve been at this, because of course, it takes two to tango. Or smack each other around with wooden practice swords. Same thing.
His sparring partner, Hyrule, is thankfully allowing him a quick reprieve after that last attack, the traveling hero taking the moment to catch his own breath as he sends the smithy a concerned, inquisitive look. The other must have noticed Four’s lack of focus, lack of self awareness.
The traveler opens his mouth, obviously intent on voicing his concerns, intent on asking Four if he needs a break, intent on giving Four another round of “ We should stop soon” or “Someone’s going to notice we’re gone…” or “ Are you sure you’re okay?”
Four waves the other off before the traveler can even get started down that road.
Because he’s fine.
Four takes another moment to ease himself back into a ready position and then raises his blade, nodding to the traveling hero
Hyrule mirrors him, if only with more hesitation.
Another nod from both sides.
And then together, they clash.
Their blades meet with a satisfying
between them, opponents locking eyes for only the briefest of moments before they shove themselves away.
And then they are running through the beginning motions of a spar once more, practicing their technique before getting into the real fight. Their movements are in sync, the rehearsed steps Warriors had all but instilled in their bones allowing them to flow easily from one move to the next. It is a well choreographed and very predictable dance, one Four could do with his eyes closed if he so chose.
Step forward, slice, blocked, step back, defend. Repeat. Repeat from a different angle. Repeat but with more strength behind his arm. Repeat but fix the arm position. Repeat but faster.
Repeat repeat repeat repeat repeat ad nauseum.
A final swing of Four’s sword, a final parry of the traveler's own and Hyrule takes a few steps back, shooting Four a meaningful look and another nod. Four returns the gesture.
The signal that their practice time is over. Time for the real fight to begin.
It starts slow, the two heroes circling one another in the limited space of Wild’s front yard, steps light and eyes locked, waiting for the other to make the first move.
Careful step after careful step after careful step, Four steels himself further, tension lighting up his entire body, pulling every muscle fiber taut like a bowstring ready to snap. And he can feel that same tension creep into his mind, his soul, all the parts of himself coiled tight against one another, springs locked into place.
As one, they try to focus.
Focus on not freezing up. Focus on being synchronized. Focus on being one.
Focus. Focus. Focus. Focus. Foc–!
Hyrule’s patience snaps, the Traveler’s face suddenly flashing with stony intent as, with a swift motion, he squares his shoulders and lunges .
And Four… Four can practically feel as the tension that had been holding the parts of himself together becomes too much. Something inside releases with a snap, the springs of his mind flying away in opposite directions.
Shit– Block it No Get back To the left Block Dodge WaitNoSidestepfuckSHIT–!
On fumbling feet, Four leaps back, the traveler’s practice blade whistling so close to the smithy’s legs he can feel the displaced air. Barely a breath to try to steady himself, to move his feet into a defensiveoffensive stance before Four is forced to bring his wooden sword up to block Hyrule’s second strike as the taller hero seamlessly transitions from a leg swipe to a swing at the smithy’s stomach.
Four parries the blow with a twitching flick of his wrist, but only just, deflecting the blade to the left and then quickly diving to the right, rolling to avoid Hyrule’s forward momentum.
And even that feels wrong, his body and mind going through the singularly disorienting experience of his muscle memory simultaneously working as it should and yet no wrong wrong wrong.
With an off balance hop, the smithy pulls himself back to his feet and manages to land a light smack into Hyrule’s retreating back, causing the other hero to stumble slightly. However, before Four can feel any sense of accomplishment in landing one hit whoopty freaking do , the traveling hero recovers, instantly turning on his heel and retaliating with a swing at Four’s chest.
Four catches the attack with his sword, the blades sliding against one another then locking in place as the crossguards connect.
And suddenly, their fight is a battle of strength. A shove for a shove. A push for a push. Through it all, their swords remain steady in the middle, a fixed point in space as the two heroes grapple, hoping to knock the other off balance.
And for a second, just a second, thoughts of technique and strategy and body placement and discomfort all evaporate like dew in the harsh light of day. Buzzing thoughts, right wrong left right up down, they quiet.
No. They synchronize, specifics lost as they blend together into the simple, all encompassing desire to win .
And for that second, Four’s stance is as immovable as stone, his strength like that of a tidal wave, his technique precise, air tight, his eyes ablaze with a hunger to succeed as he just lets himself feel.
But then, that second ends.
The equilibrium, both inside Four’s chest and mind and between the blades, is shattered as Hyrule gives a mighty shove. The locked swords shift, moving from between the two heroes’ bodies to over Four’s planted legs and then over the smithy’s chest as the splinters of his thoughts ricochet around and around and around.
We need to duck out from under him! A flare of panic, pulling Four’s stomach, begging him to dodge and roll away.
No, we’re not running! Just fucking push harder! Spat back angrily. Four’s feet itch to steady themselves, to create a firmer base to push back against Hyrule with.
Hook his front leg and use his own weight against him. Stone cold. An idea that weighs down his attention.
Angle the sword a bit more to the left… A wind quick reminder that he desperately wants to follow.
These thoughts, these instincts, whirl around in Four’s brain quicker than he can follow. They spin and spin and spin, like water and dirt and oil shaken in a bottle; all of it swirling together but never quite mixing correctly. Not like they had a moment before.
Each one is too distinct. Too disparate even within the unified body.
It makes Four feel… disconnected. Not quite separated but not quite whole. Not quite them but not quite him.
It makes him feel like his skin has been turned to stone, unfeeling, and yet over sensitive to the lightest breeze. It feels like fire and ice are waging a war in his veins until the two snuff each other out, leaving him hollow.
He feels like everything inside cancels out in the worst way possible. Not balanced. Nonexistent.
So honestly, it shouldn't surprise him that it all goes to shit.
Because in the next second, Four’s entire world tilts as the pressure against his sword suddenly disappears.
The tension he had forced into his blade to ward off the attack sends him stumbling forward, and with a gasp, Four falls past Hyrule on unbalanced feet. A sting of pain erupts over the smithy’s shoulders as he trips, the traveler’s weapon returning with vengeance as it slaps across his back.
The smithy just manages to catch himself before he falls completely, digging his feet into the dirt to steady his balance. Anger, frustration, determination, it swirls together into a squall in his chest and with a hissed out breath, Four surges over his planted feet, whips around like a wave, brandishing his sword in the air, ready to take back the fight...
Only to catch Hyrule’s wooden practice blade in the stomach, the blunt weapon slamming directly beneath his ribs, snuffing out the gathering storm of emotion with a clap of pain.
A choked-off, pained wheeze erupts from between the smithy’s lips as he stumbles backward, winded by the blow. Almost instinctively, his body folds in half, his back bowing and his hands flying up to cradle the pained area protectively. He hangs his head, struggling to pull breath into his body with paralyzed lungs.
“Four!” Hyrule gasps, worry painting the other’s voice as he rushes to the smithy’s side. His hands are almost immediately on Four’s shoulders, trying to help him stand up straight. “Hylia, I’m so sorry! I didn't mean to hit you that hard! I didn't hit you in the–” he motions vaguely, and frantically, at Four’s head, “–did I?”
If Four had more air in his body, he would sigh.
Instead, he shakes his head and focuses on making his lungs work again. He forces himself to breathe the small amount of air trapped in his chest out before finally, finally, taking the much needed breath of air back in.
And again and again, and again. And again, until slowly but surely, his chest stops spasming and his heart begins to calm from the rappid stutter step rhythm of battle.
Now, if only his mind could do the same…
Goddess, DAMN IT! Why do we keep losing? A scalding geyser erupting under pressure.
We’ve been at this for weeks and still nothing. Wavering like the wind. Hell, it feels like we’re even worse than before!
Could it be the concussion? We should be fully healed but with our… condition maybe…? A sinkhole of uncertainty where there is usually solid ground.
What are we doing wrong? A flickering question that stops the others cold. Why can't we get it right?
And then, as one:
What is wrong with us?
The question echoes in the back of Four’s mind, turning his skull into a drum. Over and over and over again, it slams out its incessant rhythm against his brain, painful, familiar, and terrible.
It is a question he–they–he has asked himself many times.
It is a question that resurfaces time and time again when he least expects it. It is a question that never quite leaves him, like a song stuck in his head just waiting for the repeat bars to send its horrible melody back on loop. It is a question etched into every facet of his being, carved out in four equally angry, confused, distraught, and discouraged voices.
A quartet, if you will.
It leaves him feeling too hot and too cold, too empty and too full. Too everything and yet, at the same time, too much like absolutely nothing.
It makes Four feel lost.
Because he has no answer to the question. And at this point, he's starting to worry that he never will.
Careful to hide the confusion and irritation and pain from his keen eyed companion–Hyrule is far too observant for his own good. Four can’t have the traveling hero thinking it's his fault that the smithy is upset just because Four still isn’t good enough – Four keeps up several more rounds of focused, even breathing.
After a few more seconds spent steadying himself, the small hero finally straightens, ignoring the slight sting in his stomach as he takes in the worried expression on his friend’s face.
“I’m okay, ‘Rule,” Four assures the other, making sure his voice remains pain free as he flashes the traveler what he hopes is a believable smile. “My head’s fine, I promise.”
Oh, that's rich. Words bubbling with disdain. Our head hasn't been fine in years.
Hylia, shut up But but...Why would you say that You know I’m right Can’t we just not think about it for two seconds Guys Its been two seconds moron You know what I meant Guys Oh do I Please Apparently we dont know ourself as well as we fucking think we do–
We are we are we are we are–?
What is wrong with us?
Irritation– at the spiraling thoughts, at himself for thinking them, at that damned question ringing through his brain– Irritation, strong and inescapable like the tide rises within Four and before he can stop himself, words full of spite begin to drip from between his lips.
“And honestly,” he finds himself spitting at Hyrule, eyes no doubt flashing cobalt as the words slip past his lips as frozen daggers, “You don't have to stop the fight every time you get a hit in. I’m not made of fucking glass.”
Four regrets the words as soon as they leave his mouth.
Because the relief that had slowly begun to blossom on Hyrule’s face withers and dies as quickly as it had appeared.
Idiot Why would you say that Shit I didn't mean for it to come out like that He's just trying to help I just meant… I just… We…
The question rings again, an encore.
What is wrong with us?
And Four watches, stomach filled with icy saltwater, as a sour expression grows over Hyrule’s features. It is a look of half lidded eyes, a single eyebrow raised, a mouth pulled into an unimpressed line. It is a look stolen straight from Legend’s repertoire of expressions that scream ‘Are you really that stupid?’
But it is also a look that does nothing to hide the increasingly concerned glint in Hyrule’s hazel eyes.
The traveling hero steps closer to Four until he is standing directly in front of the smaller hero. Then, he leans even closer, peering closely into the smithy’s eyes.
“Rapid shifts in mood are symptomatic of a worsening concussion,” the traveler mutters matter of factly, staring unflinchingly into Four’s wide eyes as he examines the smithy’s pupil’s, no doubt searching for irregular dilation. “So I don't think you’re the best judge of whether you are or aren't fine right now, Four.”
Before Four can reply, can cover or appologise for his own idiotic self, the other hero holds up a finger in front of the smithy’s nose, shifting it to the right and then the left. Four dutifully follows the digit with his eyes, making sure not to move his neck as he does so.
He, unfortunately, already knows the drill.
“Or do I need to remind you why we’re out here before the Hylia damned sun is even up?” Hyrule asks with a huff, shifting to look into Four’s left eye.
Four scrunches up his nose at the question, careful not to move away from his friend’s inspection even as he winces.
Because, no. He does not need to be reminded. He remembers all too clearly the disappointment written on Time and Twilight’s faces last time they had caught him slipping away to practice his sword skills.
“It's only been two weeks, little one,” Time had gently reminded the smithy as he escorted the younger hero back to camp, having found Four tiptoeing off to train.
“There will be plenty of time to fight later, I promise,” Time had continued with a wane smile. “Until then, your health is more important.”
The Old Man then gave him a stern look, a don't do this again or there will be consequences before ultimately letting him go with little more than a soft ruffle of his hair, the oldest careful not to disturb the scab that still sat like a ridge on the back of Four’s head.
Which just seemed to add insult to injury when Twilight caught Four doing the same thing about a week later, the older practically frog marching the small hero back to Time and the others, lecturing Four the whole way there.
“I know that even before we got to my Hyrule, you were eager to practice, but this is taking it too far, Smithy.” Twilight had said, voice a mix of aggravation and worry as he kneaded at his brow bone. “ It's only been three weeks, for Hylia’s sake. I mean, are you trying to make yourself worse?! ”
Four had flinched at that, images of clasped hands, crisp white infirmary sheets, and sunsets flashing behind his eyes.
The farmhand let out a massive sigh, softening slightly.
“ Look , I know you wouldn't be doing this if it weren’t important to you…” he said, giving Four a meaningful look.
And then and there, Four had almost broken. Had almost screamed that it was . It was so important to him.
It was important because every time he stumbled, every time his mind flew to pieces, every time his body turned to stone because he wasn’t good enough , he could see another friend getting hurt or killed.
He could see a beautiful white sailcloth drip dyed crimson with blood. Just like before.
Because of him and his...everything.
Four wanted to tell Twilight that it was a matter of life and death and that nothing, not even a stupid, inconsiquential head injury, would stop him from protecting his new friends.
But instead, the smithy had shut his mouth, welded it closed, and averted his eyes.
Because Four still couldn't do it. Couldn't tell Twilight– tell any of them– the truth.
Four just couldn't handle the fallout of them knowing.
He couldn’t handle the pointed, hushed whispers. The unmoving, evaluative stares. The saccharine sweet empty words. He couldn’t handle that coming from the other heroes. Not when he had just started to… to trust them. To feel like himself, every facet of himself, while in their company.
When he had finally started to feel less alone.
So he was forced to watch, guilt, frustration, and dread bubbling like lava in his stomach as Twilight’s meaningful look shifted, the pelt wearing hero’s face hardening into something stony.
“ I expected better from you, Four, ” the farmhand had finished in a low tone.
Well, that had nearly shattered Four’s resolve.
Hyrule clicks his tongue, pulling Four back into the present as the other hero finishes with his quick check up.
“You’re all clear,” the traveler says with a little sigh, some of the concerned tension in his shoulder bleeding away as he takes a step out of Four’s space.
“But,” he continues before the small hero can relax, the taller sending Four an imploring, slightly pained look. “If you're going to insist on training when you know you shouldn’t, the least you can do is let me make sure you’re doing it safely. And if that means we stop to make sure you’re not making your concussion worse, then we stop, alright?”
“Alright,” Four agrees after a second, giving the other an earnest nod. And then, with as much sincerity, as much honest warmth as he can inject into his voice, his eyes “And I’m sorry, ‘Rule. It wasn't fair of me to snap at you.”
“No. It wasn't,” Hyrule agrees, not nastily but not forgiving either. A sigh and a softening of hazel eyes. “But I understand.” And then, with a sly grin. “Must be pretty frustrating to lose to me over and over again, huh?”
And against all odds, against the wall of guilt and lingering frustration, a laugh punches its way up from Four’s chest.
“Hey!” the smithy gasps, mock indignation utterly failing to cover the giggly nature of his voice. He gives Hyrule a playful shove in the back.
“I'm just saying!” the traveler replies with a snort, giving Four a light push in revenge. “You’re a sore loser, Smithy. It's fine, I get it. Legend’s the exact same way!”
“Wow, comparing me to the veteran?” Four sniffs, keeping his voice haughty even as laughs threaten to ruin the facade. “A low blow even for you, Traveler.”
“Aw, c’mon, he's not that bad!”
And then, giving Four a quick once over with a faux thoughtful expression: “And actually, I think a little splash of pink here,” the traveler flicks at a strand of Four’s hair, “could really bring your whole outfit together. Very ‘I can't decide what my favorite color is’ chic.”
“Oh, shut up!” Four hisses with nonexistent venom.
And then suddenly, an image, a memory from another time, another world, the rafters of a bar lit up in shades of glittering rose, flashes behind the smithy's eyes. And a sly grin to match Hyrule’s pulls at the corners of Four’s lips.
“Besides,” the little hero says, words conversational but tone full of spite tinged, gleeful meaning. He flaps his hands behind his head, a pantomime of wings. “If either of us is going to look good in pink, it’s you. ”
The humor melts off Hyrule’s face, replaced with confusion.
And then that confusion quickly rearranges itself into shock and then sour realization.
“You know,” Hyrule says, a little bit of faux irritation dripping into his words, “you really play up the whole serious schtick in front of the others, but under all that ‘maturity,’ you're just as much of a little shit as Wind and Wild. Emphasis on little. ”
Aw shit So he did see us then A secret for a secret We’re even
“I have no idea what you mean,” Four replies, forcing a completely blank mask over his face.
Hyrule’s mouth twitches, trying not to smile. Four takes it as a victory, letting the blank facade break, a shit eating grin overtaking his features as he sends the traveling hero a sly wink.
“I hate you,” Hyrule hisses fondly, giving Four a shove on the shoulder, which the smithy quickly returns. They go back and forth like that for a second, laughs bouncing between them as they take turns pushing and taunting and goading one another on.
And as more laughs bubble up from between his lips, Four feels something inside of him settle a little bit.
Not completely. There is still a burning worry there. A coal of fear that the others will continue to look at him with disapproval as he tries his best to protect them from something they don't even know could very easily get them killed.
But right then, as Hyrule laughs and gives him another little push, Four is comforted by the fact that at least one of the others will continue to support him, even if Hyrule doesn't exactly approve of what he's doing.
Because Hyrule is his friend.
Now, if only Four could kick the stupid trustworthy prick in the shin–
A sharp whistle pierces the air, halting the two boys in their tracks.
Something–not really fear or dread but more akin to the feeling of ahhhh shit– freezes Four mid-kick. His target seems to be caught by the feeling as well, the traveler stuck in the middle of a light hearted shove to the smithy’s side.
The two lock eyes, and Four can see his own indescribable ahhhh shit emotion reflected right back at him from Hyrule’s shocked face.
Slowly but surely, the two teens turn to look at the source of the intrusion.
Only to find themselves stared down by a very irritated pair of steely blue eyes.
Breakfast is an incredibly awkward affair.
Or at least, it is for Four and Hyrule.
After pinning them down with his strongest Disappointed Older Brother Look to date, Twilight had practically herded the two teens back to the cottage, the older circling around behind the younger heroes and urging them on with a hand placed in the center of their backs.
An executioner leading them to the gallows.
The farmhand only lets up his steady but forceful guiding to open the door, which he then strides through without giving them so much as a second glance or a single word. Twilight doesn't have to bother with dragging them inside. They already know they’ve been caught. No sense in losing even more face than they already have.
Four’s eyes meet Hyrule’s.
A look of resigned anxiety passes between them.
A breath in. A breath out.
And Four pushes open the rapidly closing door, following Twilight inside with Hyrule close behind.
The inside of the cottage is much like when Four had left it that morning. Same sturdy walls covered in weapons and photographs of locations all across Wild’s Hyrule. Same hardwood floor in need of a sweeping.
There are only a few differences. Mainly, that the interior of the room is much brighter now, what with it being day and all. Well, that, and the candles on the– chandelier? Does that thing count as a chandelier? Shut up Not important– On the hanging structure have been lit, helping to illuminate the main room.
The sleeping rolls have also been cleared from the floor.
When they had left, before the sun had even considered rising and when the air inside was thick and warm with sleep, it had been an absolute nightmare for Four to sneak his way through the convoluted obstacle course of displaced belongings, sprawled limbs, and softly breathing bodies that had been the other heroes.
He had been mostly successful; only catching the attention of Hyrule– who was already awake for some reason and who had sent the small hero death glares from within his sleeping bag throughout Four’s entire acrobatic production– and Legend, who hardly ever slept at all and who was in the kitchen, quietly making himself some tea.
The former had threatened to rat Four out to Time before ultimately giving into a well placed Red Look™, deciding to come along to supervise instead. The latter had let them go with little more than a roll of his eyes and a “Don’t get caught, morons” before pointedly looking away as the younger heroes disappeared out the door.
Now, however, most of the bedding has been bundled away into very full looking travel packs that litter the floor.
Only two pads lay untouched, unpacked: one meticulously made– blankets neatly tucking a small pillow in place where a small body should be– and the other thrown open, as if it’s guest had angrily thrown themselves from their sheets at full tilt.
Which, Four figures, isn't actually all that far from the truth.
However, perhaps the biggest difference to the interior of the cottage is that the small table that had been moved to make room for the sleeping heroes is back in place in the center of the room.
Back in place and absolutely full of amazing looking food. Back in place and surrounded by six heroes who have all stopped eating to stare at them.
Four’s skin prickles under their collective gaze. He can practically feel their eyes boring into him. And Goddesses, it makes Four wish the ground would reach up and swallow him whole.
They hate us Chin up Remember who we’re doing this for They’ll thank us later Idiot If we do this right they'll never even know there was a problem
Four gives himself a little nod, squares his shoulders, lifts his head high, and weathers the stares with a blank face as he strides over and takes a seat at the table.
Because he’s right. Even if they don't understand, even if they think he's hurting himself for the hell of it, he knows he’s right.
Because he’s doing it for them.
He’s doing it to make sure Time makes it back home to that quaint little ranch and his impossibly happy life. To make sure Sky gets to see his Sun again. To make sure Hyrule and Legend can continue on their travels. So Wind can rejoin his pirates with more tall tales to tell. So Warriors returns to his world, a hero a second time over. So Wild can have happy memories that are his and his alone.
“Sorry we’re late,” the smithy says cooly, grabbing a plate and placing a wildberry crepe onto it. “I hope we didn't keep you waiting long.”
That earns Four narrowed eyes from Twilight, Warriors, and Sky of all people, a sigh from Time, a somewhat appraising look from Legend, and conflicted expressions from Wind and Wild. It also successfully pulls attention away from Hyrule as the traveler sinks guiltily into the chair on Four’s left, which the smithy takes as a win.
An awkward pause, the air thick with unspoken words as Four feels the stares increase in intensity, searching.
Four, in turn, flicks his eyes from one hero to another, taking in their expressions. Most of them, Four would place into the category of Angrily Disappointed. Especially Twilight; the other staring pointed at Four, head tilted, eyes wide, lips pursed.
Waiting. Waiting for an apology, an explanation.
Four offers neither, staring right back at the older with a single brow raised. And then, he takes his fork, cuts an absolutely massive piece of crepe, shovels the bite of fluffy, creme filled pancake into his mouth, and chews slowly, methodically, never once breaking eye contact with the elder. After a moment, he swallows.
“Hey, Wild?” the smithy asks, finally pulling his eyes away from the farmhand to glance at the surprised looking champion, his words far too casual sounding for the battle of wills going on, “There wouldn't happen to be any more berries, would there? I’d absolutely love to have a couple more.”
Four doesn't have to tear his eyes from the now cautiously amused Wild to know what Twilight thinks of the question.
No. The older does a good enough job conveying his anger with a loud exhale and a very conspicuous screech of wood chair legs against the floor boards as he pushes himself up and away from the breakfast table, his own crepe all but forgotten.
It doesn’t fill Four with the sense of victory he had hoped it would.
In fact, as Time's look of disappointment deepens, as Wind and Wild break out into muffled, unsure laughs, as Warriors’ eyes narrow further and as Sky’s face fills with even more concern, Four feels that singular mouthful of crepe drop into his stomach, solid and heavy as a stone.
Heavy. So heavy it causes the smithy’s head to bow, his back to hunch as he pins his eyes to his breakfast and doesn’t dare look up. Not even as Wild drops a few delicious looking fuchsia berries onto his plate and most certainly not when the others eventually go back to their own food, quiet conversation and the dull thunking sound of spoons against wooden plates filling the air once more.
We shouldn't have done that No shit moron I just wanted We just wanted Why He's been insufferable Why In our business Why Why whywhywhywhy–?
Like a terrible echo, a question to a question:
What is wrong with us?
Mechanically Four takes another bite of his crepe even though he has no appetite for it, each mouthful only adding another stone of guilt to his stomach, making him feel sicker and sicker, overfull and heavy.
Which is a shame. Four thinks the confection might have tasted delicious if he were in a better mood. But right now, Four can't help but think that the cream is cloyingly sweet on his tongue, that the berries are too mushy against the roof of his mouth, that the thin pancake is too soggy for him to actually enjoy.
Next to him, Four can see that Hyrule seems to be having a similar problem; the traveler pushes a single wildberry around and around on his plate, too busy painting his whipped cream fuchsia to take a bite.
He tried to talk us out of it I hate seeing him look so guilty for something that wasn't even his Hylia damned fault He was just trying to help Our fault We should apologize.
Four nods slightly at the final thought, mind made up.
Trying to be as subtle as possible so as not to draw the attention of the others, the smithy nudges an elbow into his friend’s side. Downcast hazel eyes flick away from the food and up to Four’s face.
He offers Hyrule a crooked, not quite grin. A half quirk of his lips.
‘Sorry,’ he mouths.
And Four knows that that single word isn't really enough. Knows that it doesn’t encapsulate how guilty he actually feels. Knows it doesn't really say all that the smithy wants to apologize for. Knows that the word rings hollow due to the fact that Four will probably be out training again as soon as he could slip out from under Time and Twilight’s watchful eyes.
One sorry really isn't enough for all of that.
But then again, Hyrule always was too nice.
Because Hyrule merely shrugs his shoulders, sending an answering half smile of his own. And then, before the smithy can react, the traveler leans further into Four’s space and spears a wildberry from the small hero’s plate with his fork, plopping it in his own mouth. He grins triumphantly at Four, smile more true than before.
It’s not exactly an ‘apology accepted’ for dragging the well intentioned hero into trouble, but as Hyrule snatches another berry from the smithy’s plate, Four takes it to mean “no hard feelings.”
Which, he figures, is the best he can hope for.
Thankfully, breakfast doesn't last much longer, and when all the plates have been cleared and cleaned and put away, Time more or less, sets them loose on their tasks for the day.
They had only arrived in Wild’s Hyrule a few days before; the portal spitting them out smack dab in the middle of Hyrule Field.
It had taken them three days to trek from there to the village. Three days of sprinting over hills and ducking behind trees to avoid the laser focus of the Guardians. Three days of being constantly accosted by Wild’s brand of particularly persistent monsters. Three days of Four being shoved behind one hero or another as they took care of whatever new threat was being thrown at them, never allowed to raise a blade for himself aside from defense.
Needless to say, all of them were grateful for the daylong break they were taking in Hateno. It gave them at least a little bit of time to relax before they were set to head out towards the Akkala Highlands chasing after rumors of an infected Hinox.
Though, even on their day off, they still had things to do, people to save, errands to run.
No rest for the eternally reincarnating soul of Hylia’s Chosen Hero and all that.
Case in point: Time and Twilight, were spending their day how they spent just about every other day: making plans to deal with monsters.
While passing through town the night before, they had apparently caught word of a black bokoblin that had been haunting the hills below the village, antagonising tired travelers just before they could reach the safe haven of the town.
The two were going to head out to track it down and size it up so they could take it down as a group tomorrow when they headed out.
Sky, Warriors, and Wind, meanwhile, had decided to spend their day off touring the town, as well as gathering information.
The three heroes almost always volunteered for this kind of job these days and frankly Four thinks it's pretty easy to see why. They were not only the most personable of the heroes, but also the best at gathering information in a way that didn't come off as intimidating.
Sky was a veritable walking paragon of trustworthiness; noble, kind, and with a smile that could rival the sun. He could spend the day chatting with a lizalfos if the damn monster would give him the time of day. Not to mention the fact that Sky seemed to have an eerie memory for people and faces, able to recall the smallest of facts about so and so’s life even days after a single conversation.
Warriors, meanwhile, could charm a Stone Talus into showing its ore deposit if the mood struck him. He had the kind of easy confidence that drew people in and a wit about him that kept them there. The captain had a way with words, able to slip pertinent questions into conversation without them seeming forced or suspicious.
And Wind was the glue that held their little group together. The little sailor played off of Sky’s kindness, Warriors’ charm, using his own natural curiosity and mischievous ways to ‘innocently’ get a lay of the land, pulling attention to himself when needed and fading into the background when not.
The three would no doubt be spending the day seeing sights, trying local cuisine, and stopping every person they came across for a ‘quick’ hour long conversation regarding anything and everything; from favorite foods to childhood dreams to most recent monster sightings.
Legend and Hyrule were apparently taking advantage of the dye shop in town for… some reason.
Neither would let drop what they were actually doing there. Even when Four pressed Hyrule for details, the traveling hero would only smile and press a finger to his lips with a wink.
Wild would be spending the day going on a supply run, easily able to carry all they would need for the coming days and battles in his slate.
Which just left Four.
And though Time hadn’t said anything to the exact effect, Four got the distinct feeling he was grounded for the day due to the fact that the Old Man had skipped over him when asking the others for their plans.
Which, for the record, the smithy was fine with. He had no interest in talking with any of the locals, sure that they would remind him too much of the people of his own Hyrule Town. He also had no need to spend his day camped out in some bushes watching a single enemy go about its last hours. By the same token, Wild’s errands seemed too boring for him to bother with and the small hero didn't think Legend or Hyrule would let him come along with them even if he wanted to, due to their little project being so hush hush.
That wasn't even touching on the fact that Four didn’t want to give the others the chance to lecture him or, Goddess forbid, question him about his recent behavior. He doesnt think he could take lying straight to their faces.
So yes, he was fine with spending the day inside alone, tending to the group's weapons while avoiding anyone and everyone.
Really, Four was fine with it. It would be just like old times.
The first group out the door are the tourists, Warriors hastily promising to have them back in time for dinner before jogging after the quickly disappearing forms of Sky and Wind. Next are Legend and Hyrule, both saddled with the veteran hero’s largest bags as they headed out toward the dye shop.
Which just left Time, Twilight, and Wild.
“We should be done by mid afternoon,” Twilight says, ostensibly addressing Wild.
Four is resolutely not looking at the older hero, instead busying his hands with one of Warriors’ knives that the Captain had asked the small hero to inspect.
“You think you’ll be back by then?”
“Nah,” Wild replies flippantly. “I’ve got quite a few stops to make. Should be home in time to make dinner though. Any requests?”
Four tunes out the rest of the conversation, instead setting his brain on the task at hand and letting it whir away as he runs an evaluative finger along the wooden grip of the knife.
Quite old It might be a hand me down Family heirloom? We shouldn't mess with it too much Just a sharpening? We should do something about the grip as well A varnish to protect the wood Perhaps–
A hand lands squarely on Four’s shoulder, drawing his eyes from the knife and up to the face of his interruptor.
“We’ll have a talk when I get back,” he says. And though his face and voice are calm, Four knows that this is not a request. It's an order.
So the small hero nods, agreeing easily enough.
Because, really, what else can he do?
Time gives him a nod in return, single eye softening slightly as he flashes Four a look that has the smithy’s stomach clenching painfully, icy hot guilt clashing within. And then, with a final squeeze to the small hero's shoulder, the Old Man turns and walks back to where his protege is waiting by the door.
Some part of Four, some vindictive little shadow, wishes that Twilight looked at least a little smug about the fact that he was going to be chewed out by the oldest hero later.
But Twilight doesn't. Instead, the farmhand's steely gray eyes hold nothing but concern as they linger on him.
It feels like salt in the wound.
At the door, Time and Twilight exchange a look, something passing silently between them.
And then, without another word, the two are out the door and gone.
Without much else to do other than stew in his own thoughts, Four goes back to his work.
He pulls out his tools– a couple of whetstones of different grits, his polishing cloth, a wrench, and a hammer for pounding out small dents in shields– and sets about the task of gathering up all the weapons and tools that the others have left to be checked over.
To put it briefly, there are a lot.
Lots of knives to sharpen, shields that need maintenance, and more unusual items– massive iron ball and chains, iron boots, and mechanical spinners– that all needed to be inspected and cleaned in order to be up to Four’s standard..
Before he knows it, the smithy is all but surrounded by weapons, a circle of silvery objects, cold and lifeless, that protect him from the outside world.
And one by one, he pulls them into his lap, fixes what he can without his forge, and then moves on. It's not the most riveting of jobs– Get it? Rivets? Goddesses, give me strength– but it keeps his hands and mind busy.
So busy that he forgets that the champion is even still in the house until the other speaks up.
“So, uhh,” the other starts, jolting Four out of his reverie mid bolt adjustment on Wind’s shield.
Four’s eyes flick up to Wild’s face, surprised to see the other looking hesitant, the scarred teen’s hands crossed over his chest, his head tilted to the side, eyes not quite looking the smithy in the face as he speaks.
“I think I'll be headed out pretty soon. And I was wondering if, uh, I could grab you anything? To cheer you up?”
Four blinks at that, his eyebrows furrowing in surprised confusion.
“Look,” Wild says, shifting his weight back and forth on his feet, fidgeting as he finally brings his eyes up to look at the smithy. “I don't really get what's going on with you, and frankly, I don't agree with what you keep doing. You were really hurt and the fact that you don’t seem to realize or care about that is super concerning.”
Four drops his head back to Wind’s shield with a guilty and frustrated sigh.
This was the exact interaction he was trying to avoid.
“But,” the champion continues, voice a little lighter, “I know that it sucks to be on the wrong side of Twi’s more- ehhh -” he pauses for a second, face screwing up as he looks for an appropriate adjective, “ protective side.”
“ Protective,” Four scoffs dryly, tightening another bolt with more force than is strictly necessary. “I think the word you’re looking for is suffocating.”
“Okay, yeah. Maybe that too,” Wild replies, a small wry grin pulling at his face.
“Anyway, so is there anything I can grab that might cheer you up? Maybe I could make your favorite food for dinner or something? I noticed you didn't really eat anything at breakfast.”
The proposition sets Four’s mind spinning.
Monster cake monster cake monster cake I did quite enjoy his Hearty Mushroom soup Monster cake No no no we're getting Gourmet Meat Skewers and so help me Din you guys are going to like it Monster cake But his Seafood Paella…
Four shakes his head, dispelling the warring thoughts before they can spiral even further. He shoots a sheepish smile Wild’s way.
“I don't really have a favorite food,” the smithy says. Then with a little wave, as if to ease the champion’s worries with the gesture: “And besides I’m fine, Wild, really. But thanks for the–”
“Okay no no no, wait, back up,” the champion cuts in before Four can finish the sentiment, the older teen’s voice somehow both frantic and confused, like his entire world view is being questioned. “What do you mean you don’t have a favorite food?! Everyone has a favorite food!”
“Uhhh?” Four says, because really, this was not the way he thought this conversation was going to go. “I mean, I guess I’m just saying that nothing really comes to mind...”
But Wild shakes his head vigorously, not listening to the smithy anymore. The champion presses the palms of his hands into his eyes, clearly trying to work through this earth shattering revelation that Four has laid at his feet.
He stands there for a moment, just contemplating life itself before abruptly throwing his hands away from his face in a gesture of complete and utter bafflement.
“Okay, wait, no,” Wild says, hands coming back up to fram the side of his face, like he can physically focus his attention by turning his hands into blinders. “This is about cheering you up. But,” and here, the scarred hero, points a finger accusingly into Four’s chest. “I’m not letting this slide. We’re coming back to this conversation later.”
“So food is a no go,” Wild continues, seemingly on a roll now, “What about hobbies? Maybe we could do something fun to get your spirits up. What kinda stuff do you like to do in your free time?”
And if Four had no answer before, he sure as Hylia doesn't have one now.
Because what free time? Everyday back home, he woke up early to warm up the forge, spent all day in the heat of the flames shaping metal just so , and then shut down the forge late at night to make dinner and go to sleep. Day in and day out he filled commissions for weapons and tools, answered any and all calls to action if monsters ever became an issue, all while maintaining a successful, renowned business.
If Zelda was free, he would go and see her. But for as much as he cherished those days, they were few and far between. They were also usually a whole day kind of affair, i.e. not exactly free time. Same with visiting the Minish.
And sure, Red liked baking even though he made a mess every time he did it. And Vio liked writing in his spare time, formulating stories of his own after reading those written by so many others. And Green liked going for walks, taking in the beauty of their little kingdom like they had never been able to while focused on their journeys. And Blue liked swimming, liked the way the water cooled his head and allowed him to just relax and focus on breathing.
Four liked to do all those things too.
Oh no For the love of Are we really so out of sync that we cannot answer such a simple question Oh no We cant even agree on a fucking hobby Calm down Maybe we’re just overthinking this Calm down Calm down calmcalmdowncalmdowncalmdown...
And then, like a bolt of ice to the center of his chest: Can't agree in a fight. Can’t agree on food. Can't agree on hobbies. What the fuck do we agree on?
Well, they apparently agree on one thing. On one question that refuses to go away. That echoes and echoes and echoes and echoes, hitting another repeat bar and ringing once again through Four’s head.
What is wrong with us?
“Four?” Wild’s concerned voice breaks through the cacophony of that singular question. “Four, are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Four replies out of instinct, voice monotone, thumb playing at the metal edge of Wind’s shield. Something to ground him, lest he be torn back into the torrent of his thoughts. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
The smithy shakes his head, a pantomime of clearing his mind– if only – and plasters a smile on his face as he looks at the champion more fully.
“Sorry,” the smithy says, and by the four elements , he hopes his smile isn't cracking, even as that question rebounds against the back of his skull. “Just got lost in my own thoughts for a moment.”
“Anyway, like I was saying, Wild,” the smithy continues, forcing his smile to widen, “I’m fine. Really. You don't have to worry about me.” He gives the other a little shoo’ing motion toward the door.
“Have fun with your supply run. I’ll see you later.”
But Wild doesnt turn to leave. Doesn't even budge an inch.
No. Wild just looks at him. Really really looks at him, the champion’s eyes narrowed, face skeptical. Four practically feels as his smile begins to flag, as his little gesture peters off into nothing under the other heroes intense inspection.
“What?” Four repeats, out loud this time.
“Nope,” the champion says again, popping the ‘P’ as he gives the smithy a big mischievous grin.
Without further elaboration, the champion jogs toward the kitchen, leaving Four to watch in utter bafflement as the other hero opens one of the drawers, pulls out a pad of paper and a pencil, and scribbles something on it. Once done, the champion slaps the note onto the kitchen table and jogs back to Four, smile somehow even bigger as he offers the smithy a hand up.
“Get up. Grab your bag.”
“What?” Four repeats with a bit more emphasis this time, because, no really, what?
“Listen, Four,” Wild begins, and while his smile loses some of its mischievous edge, it loses none of its warmth, “We’ve all noticed that you’ve been distant since… well, since Twilight’s Hyrule. And while I dont know whats going on and–”
The champion's smile dims a little, “and I know I wouldn't be one of the ones you would go to –uh– to talk about something that's bothering you, I want to help.”
“Wild–” Four starts, wanting to assure the other that he’s fine, wanting to say that he hasn’t been distant what are you talking about?, but the other waves him off before he can get a word in edgewise.
“Now get up,” the champion orders, some of the excitement returning to his voice. “I said I was going to cheer you up and I meant it. That note says I need help with getting the supplies.”
A big grin. “So, you're running errands with me, Smithy. And by Hylia, you're going to have fun doing it.”
And despite the guilt at making his friend worry, the frustration still sitting like a stone of cold fire in Four’s stomach, despite himself, the smithy finds a real smile pulling at the edges of his lips.
...You know, maybe he has a point. Maybe… Maybe we need this. A change in the wind.
At the very least it would perhaps get our mind off of our… other shortcomings. If only for a while.
A little break never hurt anyone! Comforting and warm, gaining perhaps the slightest glimmer of hope.
And Time didn't actually tell us we couldn’t leave. Besides, we’re already in trouble. What’s the Old Man gonna do about it? Glare at us twice as hard? He’s only got one eye. Brash but with a subtle undercurrent of excitement.
The small smile on Four’s face grows.
He takes Wild’s hand.
Teleporting via Sheikah Slate is nothing like traveling through the dark portals.
Traveling through the portals makes Four feel like he's falling off a cliff while standing up. His body remains stable as it walks through the shadowy tear in time in space, but his guts, his brain, his sense of equilibrium, all of it feels like it's being sent down a series of rapids, everything inside jumping, twisting, diving, and flying around until it crashes against the rocks of whatever reality they’ve landed themselves in.
It often takes Four a few seconds to get a hold of himself and his body after stepping through the rifts, a few precious seconds where he is them and they are absolutely scrambled.
He's gotten better about it as of late– he hasn't collapsed in months– but the smithy chalks that up to practice rather than the portals actually being any easier on his body, his mind.
Teleporting through the Sheikah Slate feels nothing like that though.
Teleporting through the Sheikah Slate reminds Four of swimming.
It feels like when one dives headfirst into a deep, dark lake. It turns his body numb, a blanket of coolness overtaking his skin as he begins to glow that now familiar ethereal blue of Wild’s Sheikah Technology. And then, as that glowing aquamarine grows grows grows to cover his eyes, his vision, a pressure begins building in Four’s head, like he's diving deeper deeper deeper.
Deeper deeper deeper deeper than he should, the water pushing down on deadened skin, the pressure building farther, crushing his ribs, crumpling his lungs, he can’t breathe, his head, his skull is creaking, more and more and more pressure, he’s going to implode–!
But then his ears pop and Four stumbles as feeling returns to his body, only steadied by Wild’s hand holding his arm. A blink of eyes to clear the remaining blue from his vision and the smithy finds himself standing at the entrance to a shrine that overlooks a massive yawning canyon, familiar wooden structures visible out of the corner of his eye.
Four remembers the town only vaguely. He remembers a cold night breeze nipping at him through Sky’s feather-soft sailcloth. Remembers a warm meal pushed into his sleep clumsy hands. And he remembers waking up before the sun rose, the sights of the town passing his bleary eyes as they headed out toward their next location.
Experiencing the village in the glory of the light of day, however, makes Four wish he could go back in time and shake himself awake, if only so he could have more memories of the place.
Because Rito Village, he finds, is absolutely breathtaking.
First and foremost, the town is a technical marvel. A veritable forest of support beams allow the village to circle and grow vertically along the weathered rock formation it is tethered to. And grow the village does, extending halfway up the uniquely shaped formation. Just peeking over the side of one of the railings gives Four a heart pounding view of the massive canyon that awaits below.
The village is also so alive with sound, with music. A cool breeze pushes through the open air homes, whistling against the sheer stones of the rock face they are perched on. The wooden planks squeak and sing as the Rito go about their day, their own chirping, whistling voices only adding to the harmony of the birdsong, turning the very air into a symphony of life.
Four wishes he could soak it all in. Could sit and listen to the town, feel the frosty mountain air prickle at his skin while the scent of pine and woodsmoke fills his lungs.
But apparently, Wild has a schedule to keep.
Almost as soon as Four has his bearings, the champion is off, leading the smithy down through the village. Everyone, Rito and Hylain alike, greets Wild with a wave, a shout, a grin. It is a little jarring for the small hero.
It is so very different from his own home. So very different to how the townsfolk of Hyrule Town treat him.
Soon enough they arrive at the Slippery Falcon– … interesting name What in the everloving hell does it mean???– and Wild strikes up a conversation with the Rito woman running the store.
After a few minutes of friendly chatter between the two, Wild beckons the smithy over and the two begin to stuff Wild’s Slate with truely an inordinate amount of wheat, cane sugar, and butter.
“My best customer,” the rito woman– Misa if Four caught her name correctly– says with a grin and wink, like she's letting Four in on a secret.
Four nods in response, eyes flicking between her and where Wild is single mindedly flashing stick after stick of goat butter out of existence and into his slate.
“Oh, I have no doubt,” he replies dryly.
The woman erupts into a fit of twittering laughter, causing a hesitant smile to pull at Four’s lips in response.
It's only once they’ve cleared the shop of at least half its stalk that Wild seems satisfied. With a flick of his slate, the champion fishes out the appropriate amount of rupees and hands them to Misa before leading the way back out into the vertical village.
They walk back up the stairs, Four having to take them two at a time to keep up with the champion.
Up, up, up the circle they go until they come to the topmost stratum of the town and come to a stop in front of another open air house.
Inside, a Rito man with stark white and black feathers and a stern expression sits in the center of the room, carefully stringing a wooden bow.
“Teba!” Wild greets with little preamble, striding easily into the threshold of the home. “How are you?”
The Rito man, apparently named Teba, doesn't so much as glance up from his bow, instead focusing entirely on the task at hand. Err– feather.
“I am well, Link” he responds, still not looking up, with a voice that is friendly and polite. “As are Saki and Tulin. And yourself?”
“I’m good!” Wild replies brightly. “Busy, but good. You know how it is. Lands to explore, monsters to kill, people to save, food to eat.”
Teba shakes his head slightly, though Four catches the fond eyeroll and slight uptick of the man’s beak.
“Sounds like you alright.”
The man flicks a feather against his drawstring. A satisfying twang sounds through the room.
Apparently pleased with what he hears, Teba lays the bow in his lap, finally looking up at Wild. And, based on the way the man cranes his white feathered head to look behind Wild, finally catching sight of Four too.
“And who might this be?”
“This is my–” and Wild has to stifle a laugh that's practically begging to be released, stepping to the side so the Rito can more clearly see the smithy. “This is my little brother, Four. He's actually the reason I came to see you.”
“Is he now?” the rito says, looking Four over with an evaluative eye.
The champion nods and nudges the smithy's side with an elbow, really playing up the proud older brother bit. Four, for his part, sends him a glare, both for the nudge and the ‘little’ brother slight.
Wild merely grins wider at him, clearly enjoying himself.
“Yep!” Wild continues, now directing his grin Teba’s way. “See, the kid is a whiz when it comes to Hylian weaponry but knows absolutely nothing about Rito weapons. He practically begged me to bring him here to learn a bit about how Rito bows are made.”
Wild leans down and catches Four in a light headlock, angling the smithy’s head toward Teba, all while grinding a fist lightly into the struggling teen’s hair.
“And really, how could I say no to this face?” Wild asks with what Four can only assume is a shit eating grin.
Ugh, watch the hair!
Awww, he sees us as his little brother!
Why do we always have to play the kid?
Let's turn the tables, shall we?
A slam of his heel into Wild’s toes and a well placed elbow thrown into the older’s stomach is Four’s ticket to freedom, the smaller stepping neatly out of the champion’s hold as the taller hero doubles over. Wild curses lightly behind him, more for show than anything else But Four ignores him all the same in favor of sending a small bow to the amused looking Rito warrior seated before them.
“I’m sorry for my older brother’s presumptuous behavior. We really don’t mean to impose.”
“Unfortunately,” Four continues, sending a patronising look over his shoulder to an increasingly incredulous looking Wild, “I’m afraid common decency tends to skip the older children in our family.”
Four thinks he sees Wild flipping him off out of the corner of his eye. He pretends not to see it, turning back to his conversation with Teba. Though, he cannot help the small smirk pulling at his features at the irritated huff behind him.
Oh well. You win some, you lose some.
“It is no trouble at all.” Teba replies with an easy grin, clearly entertained by their ‘sibling antics.’ “It is good to see that Link has someone to reign him in.”
Wild grumbles at that but both Four and Teba continue to ignore him. The grown ups are talking, after all.
“And I would be happy to teach you about Rito weapons, if you are actually interested, that is.”
Which is how Four finds himself spending the morning learning wood carving techniques from a bird man.
Teba is an incredibly patient and incredibly thorough teacher. He starts their lesson with a brief history of Rito weaponry, explaining the importance of keeping their bows, swords, and shields as light as possible.
It is utterly fascinating. Four had always considered wooden blades to be inferior to metal ones, but taking into account the need for lightweight gear so as to not hinder the warrior’s ability to fly, the smithy couldn't help but concede their utility and necessity in the case of the Rito.
Wild ducks out halfway through the history lesson for some reason or another but Four barely acknowledges his absence. He’s too far gone, the excitement of new knowledge, new skills, new techniques he could implement into his work leaving the smithy’s mind a whirlwind of ideas, his heart light with simple enjoyment.
The Rito man shows Four all of his carving tools and explains their utility; shows the smithy how to make shallow, even cuts, instructs him in when to carve with or against the grain, describes what to do if he digs too deep into the wood. Eventually, Teba even hands the small hero a bough to practice his new knowledge on.
It goes well for a few minutes, the small hero carefully tracing the motions that Teba had shown him.
But Four’s hands, for as practiced as they are in the art of smithing, are shaky with the whittling tools. They feel too big in his hands, their weight unfamiliar and uncomfortable against his fingers, pressing against all the wrong calluses.
Careful… careful... Hylia at this rate we won't be done till the next Picori festival We’re just practicing it doesnt need to be perfect Well what if we carve No Remember what Teba said Ughhh c’mon already Just Not like that fucking what are you doinghurryupguyssto –
A twitch. A single twitch is all it takes and his hand slips. A flash of pain and a line, thin and deep and red, opens up on Four’s thumb, crimson almost immediately beading over the edges of the cut.
With a hiss, more of shock than hurt, Four sticks the finger in his mouth, the taste of blood settling over his tongue like a horrible, iron blanket. Like failure.
Teba makes a sound of sympathy as the smithy continues to nurse his wound with a sour face.
“Happens to the best of us,” the rito man says, reassuringly. “I can’t tell you how many feathers I’ve lost to my own tools. Here,” he moves to adjust Four’s grip on the carving gouge, “like this.”
After that, they continue their work mostly in silence, Teba occasionally looking up from his own bow to give Four pointers every now and again.
But Four’s mind is long gone from the task, the giddy excitement of a new skill to practice, new information to put to good use, has left him. It has left him like the wind abandons the sails of a ship, leaving the smithy stranded in a sea of his own discontented thoughts.
Stranded alone with that question as it slams into him over and over, a wave threatening to capsize him.
What is wrong with us?
Eventually, Wild returns to pick him up. Four isn't exactly sure what the champion was off doing, but his hair is now plaited in a very messy braid, a rainbow of fluffy down feathers woven in among the blonde strands. The champion is also smiling, clearly in good spirits.
Better spirits than Four is in, anyway.
It must show on his face too, because Wild’s smile wilts a little as he gazes down at the smithy from the entrance to the house.
“Time to go, squirt,” Wild says, his brows raised, grinning hopefully, leaning into the joke.
Four, however, doesn't rise to the bait. Does not scowl or glare or deny. He doesn't feel like fighting that fight right now. Not with his mind already too occupied by his own swirling thoughts.
He can denigrate himself just fine, thanks. No outside source to call him a child necessary.
So instead, he merely nods to the long haired hero, pushes himself to his feet, and joins the other at the entrance of the house.
Wild’s expression falters even further.
“Uh, thank you, Teba,” the champion says, words addressing the Rito but eyes locked worriedly on Four. “Kid can be quite the handful.”
The champion ruffles the top of Four’s hair, now looking for any kind of reaction, no doubt.
Four does nothing to stop him, barely even feels the other’ hand on his head, as his head is filled with the noise of four voices arguing.
“Somehow, I have a hard time believing that, Link. And besides, it was a pleasure,” Teba replies. He inclines his head in the small hero’s direction. “Please feel free to visit any time, Four. I would be happy to continue this lesson.”
Four nods politely, forces a smile, and with another round of ‘thank you’s, the heroes head out back toward the shrine.
They walk in silence for a moment, the squeaks of the wooden planks the only sound exchanged between them.
“So,” Wild says eventually, his eyes flicking down to the silent little hero, “I’m guessing that wasn't as fun as I was hoping.”
No. Painted in shades of grass, ice, a sky at dusk.
He’s trying to help. It’s not his fault that we… Just as frustrated as the others, but tinged with a scolding heat. The least we could do is smile for him.
Four finds himself wincing at the thought, the frustration from before mixing now with guilt, leaving him with a too full feeling in his stomach, acidic emotion bubbling at his chest and searing his throat.
But he smiles anyway, lips peeled back, eyes no doubt catching fire in the sun as he digs a nail into the new cut on his thumb until the pain lights up along his palm, grounding grounding grounding grounding, a reminder.
“No, no, it was fascinating,” Four assures, grin a little sheepish and words as bright as he can make them. “Sorry, I just got a bit caught up in thinking about all the new ways I could implement what I learned into fashioning more effective handles for knives.”
Wild gives him a dubious look. Four dials back the smile a little, shooting instead for earnest.
“Really,” the small hero says, a bit softer, “I had a great time, Wild. Thank you.”
Something in Wild seems to settle at that, the older flashing the smaller hero a smile in return.
And Four has to force the added guilt of lying to his friend down as he makes his own grin widen in return.
After all, he rationalizes, he's not really lying. He was at one point thinking about new handles. And he did have fun. Was having fun.
Was having fun until he messed it all up. Until he–they–he ruined it by being…
What is wrong with us?
Their next three stops prove to be an exercise in how many times that singular question can reassert itself into Four’s mind, blasting on repeat over and over and over and over again.
It's infuriating. It’s infuriating for so many different reasons.
It’s infuriating because this is supposed to be fun. Because this is supposed to be easy.
It should be easy to pick up a couple of new wood carving techniques from a Rito Warrior. It should be simple to grab pointers from a Gerudo master jeweler at the Kara Kara Bazaar. It should be a cakewalk to learn a little bit from the stonesmith in Goron City. Hell, Four’s made a million Zora fishing hooks, it should not be hard to make just a few more.
And yet, it's infuriating that he can do none of these things without messing up, without his brain tripping over itself, forcing him to make mistakes.
Infuriating how each little mistake is so very apparent on his hands, unable to be forgotten: A stinging cut on his thumb from the wood gouge, a searing burn on his index finger from the soldering tools, an aching bruise on his knuckles from a dropped hammer, a stab of pain in his palm from where he’d poked himself with a hook.
Each one, each little stab of pain, is a weight that pulls at Four’s attention, dragging at his mind whenever he starts to feel like maybe this is going okay . Dragging him down down down into the depths of his own brain, a whirlpool of his thoughts that throws him around the bend and causes him to make another stupid fucking mistake.
The cycle of it, the predictability, is infuriating too.
And yet he cannot seem to escape. Which just makes it all the more maddening.
But perhaps most infuriating of all, more so than the injuries and the inescapable cycle and even that damned question slamming around in his skull , is how much Four can tell his current downward spiral is affecting Wild.
Because Four can tolerate being sick of our own shit dont say it like that. Can tolerate the way the frustration and anger and guilt mix together until he feels a constant nausea eating away at his stomach, his throat, his lungs.
Four can tolerate that.
But it kills Four to see how much Wild wants this to work. How much the other hero wants to be able to just help even though he has no idea what’s actually wrong with Four.
Four can see it in the sheer pride and joy that Wild has in his Hyrule, the confidence that he has in every place and every person to help the smithy feel better.
He can see it when Wild brings him to the desert, the amount of happiness the champion finds within the dunes and with the warrior women who dwell within them. Can see it when Wild practically shimmers with excitement to introduce Four to Isha, to oversee as the jeweler shows Four how to place amber within a bracelet just so .
He can see it when Wild teleports them to Goron City, the way the champion laughs at Four’s scowl at the taste of the fire-proof elixir. Can see it when he chats and laughs with the stonesmith, beckoning Four over to meet Rohan with ember bright eyes.
He can see it when they finally make it to the Zora’s Domain, the way Wild practically sprints through the shallow water that lays in front of the shrine in order to greet several friends waiting for him in the courtyard. The way Dento greets Wild with more than a little exasperation before full heartedly diving into his lecture on shaping traditional Zora fish hooks for Four.
Four can see how much Wild hopes and believes that this will help the smithy in the little glances that the champion sends Four , a hopeful little glint lighting up his face whenever the little hero begins to lighten up. Begins to enjoy himself.
And Four can see how much Wild cares in the way the champion wilts each time he catches sight of the smaller blonde’s increasingly dejected attitude at having inevitably messed everything up again.
It makes Four feel sick to see how now, as the pressure of sheikah teleportation leaves his eardrums popping as they reach their final stop, how different Wild is from when they began. Or hell, even from the beginning of their last stop.
There is no running, no boisterous voice announcing their arrival to the world, not even the happy little skip-stutter step Wild has a tendency to do when he’s impatiently waiting for someone to catch up with him.
There is none of that.
Rather, Wild steps from the platform with a measured gait, turns, and offers Four a small, tired smile.
“Last stop,” the long haired hero says, his voice soft and breathy, as though the champion is sighing through the words.
“And don't worry, this is more of a social call than anything else. I–uhh–” his shoulders slump, his smile droops, “I don't have anything planned, so we should be in and out pretty quick.”
The champion tries for a bigger smile. It comes out looking so forced it's almost painful for the smithy to look at.
“Can’t leave the others alone in my house without dinner, you know? Goddess only knows what they’d do.”
And with that, the other turns and begins leading the way down a hoof-beaten dirt road. Four follows, his own steps just as heavy, just as exhausted as Wild’s own, his mind already running through the familiar motions of kicking itself.
Because it’s infuriating to know that his own stupid bullshit is infecting the champion, sweeping the other hero down into his abyss.
It's all so infuriating. Beyond infuriating.
Four kicks at a stone at his feet.
Of fucking corse.
A breath in. A breath out.
Trying to find the shoreline, some steady ground to keep his thoughts from acting as a rip current.
A breath in. A breath out.
Four continues walking.
It’s infuriating, because theoretically, Four knows he should have some patience with himself. Some piece of mind.
Because he–they– he had had years, two years to be exact, to perfect simple, everyday tasks.
Had two years to make sure he could walk without stumbling even with four disparate trains of thought pushing his feet in different directions. Had two years to make sure his uncertain hands could hold utensils so he didn't end up spilling food all over himself at every meal.
Had two years to straighten out the mess that was his speech until he no longer tripped on every syllable, no longer mumbled unintelligible gibberish. Two years to become proficient and confident enough with the hammer and tongs and all of the precise adjustments and practices that went into becoming a master smith.
It had been two years of one step forward, four steps back, but Four had done it. He had gotten through those two years, forged himself in the flames of his own failures, tempered himself in the blood and tears of his mistakes, and had come out stronger on the other end. Sharper.
So he knows he shouldn't fault himself for stumbling and twitching and messing up in these new, entirely unpracticed situations. Knows he shouldn't denigrate himself or belittle the little moments of happiness he's managed to weasel out of today.
And yet… yet it still eats at him. Every little slip up, every trip and stumble and new little injury gnaws away at his heart, breaking him apart bit by bit, making his chest feel hollow.
He doesn't hate what the Four Sword did. He doesn't. He doesn't.
Four pushes a hand through his hair, a hollow motion of self comfort as he continues to walk.
Sometimes...he just wishes it could be easier.
“We’re almost there,” Wild says over his shoulder, his soft voice somehow breaking through the heavy fog of the small hero’s thoughts. “Should be just around this bend.”
“And Four,” the other continues, turning to face the smithy more fully, and goddesses , the little hero can all but see the guilt radiating off of Wild in waves; brows furrowed and normally bright blue eyes downcast, “I just wanted to say… I just thought...”
A little self-deprecating laugh. “I guess I don’t know what I thought.”
Another laugh, more bitter, sandpaper, as the champion runs fingers through his long hair, pulling at the tangles. He brings his other hand up, staring unseeingly at the puckered scars that paint his palm.
“I guess it was pretty stupid of me to– I mean, what do I know ? I’m not Twilight. I can't–”
“Wild,” Four cuts the hero off, both with his words and with a hand, reaching out and gently laying a palm on the other’s elbow.
The smithy leaves his hand there for a second, and when the other doesn't pull away, takes it as a sign to continue, gently pulling the champion's elbow, lowering his scarred palm from in front of aquamarine eyes.
And then Four looks up into the other’s face and tries to smile.
Four tries to smile like nothing's wrong. Like there isn't an ever widening pit in his stomach. Like there isn't a whirlpool of ever darkening thoughts sweeping through his mind. Like there is no forest fire of emotion ravaging his veins, his heart.
Like there isn't a question pounding and pounding and pounding and pounding away at him.
Four tries to smile because nothing, not a stupid, inconsiquential head injury, or his own fractured attitude or one goddess forsaken question will stop him from protecting his new friends.
Not even from himself.
“Wild, I had a great time today,” Four says, because he did. He did. “I really, really did. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate what you’ve done for me. Truly. I’m just…”
Not good enough Not happy enough Not smart enough Not strong enough Not…not...notnotnonotnotnot–
What is wrong with us?
Four can feel his smile growing thin, wane.
“ I’m just tired.”
A beat passes between them, the two heroes staring one another down in the middle of the road.
And then something in Wild’s expression changes. The uncertainty, the self doubt, the fatigue, it shifts. It does not leave; merely changes form. Wild’s face goes from tired, from unsure, to determined; brows pulled low, jaw locked, eyes dead set on the smithy.
Another moment of searching, of aquamarine eyes flicking across Four’s face, and Wild gives a little nod to himself, coming to some form of internal agreement.
With a sure movement, Wild turns, gestures with his head for Four to follow, and then strolls right off the beaten path, headed toward the cliffside facing the ocean.
“Quick detour,” the champion says over his shoulder by way of explanation.
It does little to quell the confusion and worry and anxiety slowly rising within the small hero as he dutifully follows.
They walk that way for a while until Wild apparently finds a spot he likes; an area with long, springy looking grass right beside the cliff. A light sea breeze pushes and pulls at the stalks of green, creating a tide of its own that mirrors the crash of waves below.
It's nice. It’s peaceful. The air smells of salt and the wind just barely brushes his skin, cooling his head, easing the pouding in his skull, if only a little.
“Okay,” Wild says, nodding his head toward the ground, hands on his hips. “Lay down.”
“What?” Four asks, confusion slowly gaining ground over his other mess of emotions. “Why?”
A roll of eyes but with a little smile, one Four hasn’t seen since they left Zora’s Domain.
“Just do it.”
So, with a furrowed brow to convey his confusion, the smithy does as his fellow hero requested. Slowly, Four lowers himself to the ground before laying down fully, the stalks of green cradling his spine and limbs as orange and pink sky comes into view above him.
Wild’s head pops into Four’s line of sight, his long blonde air falling around his face as he peers down at the smithy, hands still on his hips and a mischievous grin pulling at his face.
“Pretty nice, right?” the champion asks.
Four nods, running absent fingers along the cool grass.
And despite the confusion of whatever the hell is going on, despite the marrow deep exhaustion, and the constant pounding of fears, guilts, worries, frustrations, that question in his skull, Four has to admit, it's not a bad place to rest.
Not a bad place to gaze at the pink and orange streaked sky as more and more clouds are caught in the dying rays of the sun. Not a bad place to relax as the grass cushions his body from the hard ground. Not a bad place to just be as a light sea breeze causes the tall stalks around him to dance.
Four shuffles his body, getting into a more comfortable position, and tucks his pack behind his head, relaxing a bit more fully into the blanket of grass beneath him.
“Okay, Wild, so what is it you wanted to–”
And Wild drops out of Four’s line of sight as a cannonball of weight slams into his ribs, pushing the breath from his lungs in a wheezing choke.
“What the hell , Wil–”
“Calm down,” the scarred teen huffs from his position now completely draped across Four’s stomach, having just back-flopped over onto the unsuspecting smithy “Just… just focus on your breathing for a sec.”
“Oh, and I suppose elbow dropping my lungs out of my body helps with that?!” Four asks testily, hysterical frustration and anger winning out over the guilt and anxiety for the moment.
“How am I even supposed to breathe with you on top of me? You're not exactly–," another wheeze as Wild's weight shifts onto Four's diaphragm, "You're not exactly the lightest person on the planet."
But Wild merely shush es him, settling in more comfortably against Four’s stomach despite the small hero’s futile squirming.
Which leaves Four to do as the Champion had so helpfully suggested: breathe.
It’s difficult at first. Wild’s weight makes each inhale a bit of a struggle, and each exhale a bit too violent, a bit too involuntary. Four’s more than just aware of his breaths; he’s self conscious of them. He is hyper aware of how each intake of air causes his chest to expand, causes Wild’s head to shift against him.
And the champion’s weight, his warmth, his own rhythm of breathing, somehow all of it makes Four’s own breath that much more visceral. That much more real.
He’s not sure he likes it, not sure how much he enjoys being forced to sit and take meticulous account of himself
He can feel exhaustion gnawing at his bones, dissolving his marrow.
His head hurts.
His hands hurt.
And that doesn't stop. Doesn't go away.
But as Four lays against the cushion of fresh grass, as the well loved leather of his bag cradles his head, as the sea breeze leaves fine mist on his skin, and as he breathes… as he breathes in the slow, even rhythm that Wild is setting, as he feels the weight and warmth against him, grounding him, pulling him out of his mind and back into his body… Four feels a little less horrible.
They lay like that for a while, just existing in each other's orbit as the sky grows pinker and pinker above them.
Eventually, however, Wild breaks the silence.
“You know Twilight and I knew each other before this all started, right.”
It's not really a question. More a statement of what Wild believes to be Four’s knowledge. The smithy nods anyway, confirming what the other already knows to be true.
“He wasn’t there all the time,” Wild continues, “And when he was, he was only ever in his wolf form, but he helped me through a lot.”
Four feels the other breathe out a laugh, the weight on his stomach shifting with the other’s chuckle. “I’m honestly not sure how well I would have done on my own. Poor Wolfie had more than his far share of scrapes and bruises from pulling me out of the stupid situations I got myself into.”
“He was there for me when I would eat shit shield surfing down a hill. He was there when I got struck by lightning for the first time.” Another laugh that Four can feel in his stomach. “And the second time.”
A brief pause and Four can feel how Wild is readying himself for what he has to say next. Can feel it in the way tension begins to light up the other’s neck, his shoulders as his breaths fall out of the synch they had established.
“And Twilight was there when I would go through my… slumps. When I was feeling down, when I wasn't acting like myself, when–” Wild cuts himself off.
The salty air of the ocean sweeps over them, adding the distant crash of waves and the soft sound of grass swaying in the wind to the silence that falls around them. Four reaches out, places his hand on Wilds open palm. Together, they stare at the same sky.
“When I would get trapped in the margins of someone else's memories… When the world kept reminding me of the 100 years worth of death I caused, Wolfy–Twilight– would always drag me off to do something fun.”
Wild pauses for a moment, clears his throat, and when he resumes, his voice is notably lighter. Less full of dark, unhappy experiences.
“It could be finding a mountain I hadn't paraglided off yet, or showing me a view I didn't have a picture of. Once, I let him nose through my slate and pick out five ingredients that I had to use to make a meal.” Another laugh, more happy this time, full of warm reminiscence. “Goddesses, that was awful. Bright-eyed Crab, Mighty Banana, Goat Butter, Hydromelon, and Molduga Guts.”
The final additions startles a choked off gag from Four’s mouth, the smithy envisioning the spongy, green innards of that desert monstrosity "tastefully" served alongside the other, more normal food. Wild merely laughs, having no doubt heard and felt Four’s wince.
“Hey, don’t knock it till you try it! Twi at least took two bites before running to the river to wash his mouth out.” A snort. “Not that it helped him very much. I mean honestly, how was I supposed to know that molduga guts stain teeth green? S’not like I’d had them before.”
Four pointedly says nothing.
“Okay yeah, you're right. That's a lie. I just wanted to see his reaction."
“Some days though,” Wild continues after a moment, his voice more sober, losing the spark of simple joy it had earlier. “Some days even that wouldn't work. Some days, that just made it hurt worse. I mean, who was I to be allowed to- to have fun, to be free, when Zelda was still trapped? Still fighting for her life?”
“I don't know how he knew,” a wet laugh. A silver lining despite the rain. “Secret canine senses or something I guess, but Twi always seemed to know when I was spiraling. And every time, without fail, he would fucking tackle me to the ground and lay on top of me until I calmed down. A big, stupid, fluffy weighted blanket that smelled like dog that wouldn't move until I talked about what was wrong.”
Behind Four’s eyes, the day plays back in reverse. Each activity, each hopeful glance Wild sent his way, each look of sadness when Four retreated further into himself, even the position Four now finds himself in; everything slots into a new place in his brain, recontextualized.
Because sure, Four knew that the other was trying to cheer him up, but now he knows that Wild was trying to cheer him up in the only way he knew how.
In the way Twilight had taught him.
“And I know I’m not him,” Wild interrupts softly. “I know I’m not Twi or Hyrule or Sky or, hell, even Legend. I know that we don't see eye to eye all the time.”
Wild nudges him in the ribs, trying to lighten the mood. “I know I piss you off with how I treat my stuff and you piss me off with your weird ‘making good choices’ thing.”
“But,” he continues, “I thought, maybe, if we did something you liked, if I could just take your mind off whatever it is that's eating you for a little bit, maybe you would start feeling better. Maybe you wouldn't be so distant anymore.”
Wild gives a little chuckle. It's not really a happy laugh, but it's not unhappy either. It just sort of is. A way to fill the air.
“You don't have to talk if you don't want to,” the champion says after a moment. “Just say the word and we can get up, head to Tarry Town and pretend this never happened. But I think talking, even if it's just to some destructive amnesiac you're being forced to travel with… I think… I think it helps. Helps to let it out.”
With his piece said, they lapse into silence once more, both teens staring as the sky grows darker as the sun is swallowed by the mountain side. Four can feel Wild as the long haired blonde settles in more comfortably across his stomach, clearly ready for the long haul if necessary.
Part of Four wants to just call it there. To tense up, steel himself, and tell Wild that nothing’s wrong. Tell the other that he's fine, that he appreciates the thought, but he can handle this himself.
Another part knows that they can't do that. Knows that if they let this sit, if they let this fester any longer, that someone was going to get hurt.
Maybe it would be him. Maybe it would be one of them.
A one in nine chance.
It’s not a chance Four is willing to take.
So despite the anxiety solidifying in his stomach like ice, despite the fear breathing down his neck, waiting for the chance to sink its teeth into him, he starts talking.
“Have you ever felt like everything you did, every little mistake you made, was an omen of something worse to come?” Four asks softly, screwing his eyes shut, carving each word into his brain, perfecting them, before letting them drop from between his lips, “Like every time you failed, it was a sign that the world was going to come down around your head and when it did, you would have no one to blame but yourself?”
A sigh and Four uses the hand not currently placed on Wild’s own to swipe through his hair.
First a light pass through the strands, and then a second time, tangling his fingers with the ends and pulling. Lightly, not hard enough to hurt. Just something to release some pressure. Something he has control over feeling, rather than the all encompassing doubt and guilt and frustration and anger that has been brewing within him all day.
“Theoretically, I know it’s not logical or fair to think that way. I know it's counterproductive to ignore the progress and single out the mistakes, to blow them so out of proportion that they're the only thing I see. I know it's not the way I should go about thinking about things. About myself. I know that.”
And Four laughs. He tangles his fingers a little tighter in his locks, pulls at his hair a little harder, and lets the stupid little laugh slither from between grimacing lips, venomous as a Rope.
“But I can't stop myself. I can't stop myself, any part of myself, from zeroing in on every little slip up, every little fumble. I’m literally tripping over myself to point out my own flaws. It’s like I enjoy ripping myself to shreds.”
Another laugh, heavier this time, with another dose of sick humor.
“Wouldn't be the first time.”
Too close Why would you say it like that A fucking pun are you serious You know I didnt mean Shut up I’m not talking to you Oh for the love of Guys Not again Make it stop I’m trying Stop Stop Stop Stop Calm down Stop Calm down stop calmdownstop–
Four feel’s warmth encapsulate their hand, not the one tied up in strands of gold, but the one placed on top of Wild’s. Feels as the champion tightens his fingers, giving the smithy’s hand a squeeze, pulling them back into their body.
Out of their mind, out of the dark, and back into the present.
Four takes a deep breath, letting it fill their lungs, fill their stomach. Feels as the champion’s weight shifts with their breath, feels how the other’s body helps them to stay grounded within their own, grounded in what they are doing– the warmth and the weight making them feel real.
Four lets the breath out slow, lets it whistle between their teeth, feeling as Wild’s head settles back in place. Tension bleeds out of their body. They feel themselves sink into the grass more fully, exhaustion–from waking up so early, from practicing day after day after day with no result, from being so frustrated all the time– exhaustion pulls at them, dragging them down with a strength four times that of gravity.
But still, they... he gives the hand a squeeze back.
A thank you.
“I’m tired,” Four says quietly. “Tired of fighting myself. Tired of agonizing over everything I do, searching for the reason that I’m not as good as I think I should be. Tired of ruminating on things I should be able to do. Things I used to be able to do without a second thought.
Not good enough Not happy enough Not smart enough Not strong enough…
Another laugh, broken and sad, a mirror shattered on the ground, useless.
“I’m just so tired. ”
“But I can’t stop,” Four continues, words soft but full of conviction, full of everything he is.
“I can’t stop trying. Can’t stop working until I’m past this. Until I’m better– No– until I’m perfect . I can't. I can’t because…”
Because your lives are on the line. A decisive wind.
Because we should be able to do this. A stubborn wave.
Because this means we’re more separated than we thought. A stone-cold truth.
Because… A flickering flame.
“Because I’m scared,” Four whispers.
“I’m scared that even though I’ve accepted who I am, accepted and–and even like some of the things about myself I know I can't change, I’m scared that the answer to “What’s wrong with me?” is… everything.”
The weight pressing down on Four’s stomach flies away. Hands, warm and gentle, grab at the smithy’s shoulders, pulling him up, before folding around his shoulder blades, pulling him in.
Pulling him into warmth. Into safety.
Into Wild’s chest.
The small hero can feel his name, his secret, vibrate in the champion’s chest as the other says it with such emotion. Such concern. Can feel as the other pulls him closer, as the other’s warmth shields him from the misty sea air, as a bright blue tunic pressed to his cheek becomes wetter with tears he hadn't even known he was shedding.
A light weight sits on the top of Four’s head. Wild’s chin, no doubt, as the taller hero pulls Four even closer, tucking him into his arms.
“Four, I– I, fuck,’ the chapion’s voice breaks , faltering under the weight of so much emotion.
“Four,” Wild starts again, voice a little stronger, a little more full of steel. “I know that I’m not great at this. I’m not great at emotions or – or the serious stuff.”
“But if you take anything away from today, please, please,” and the champion's arms tighten, bringing the small hero closer to his chest, to his heart.
“Please, let it be that there is nothing wrong with you, Four.”
It’s like being turned to stone.
It’s like being caught in the eye of a storm
It’s like being frozen solid.
It’s like being thrown into lava.
It's like all of those things at once and yet none of them at the same time.
And Four feels himself break.
That’s not right.
Four does not break.
He unifies , every thought, every desire, every disparate instinct, they all slam together with an explosion, a singularity . Fire and Water do not fight, do not smother each other to death. Stone and Wind make no advances, standing on even footing.
Everything comes to a standstill inside.
And it feels…
It feels like flying.
Four sags bonelessly into Wild’s grip, his limp arms wrapping around the other’s back, fisting in the Champion’s tunic and squeezing as a sob, full of everything, rings freely into the air.
A hand, warm and comforting and familiar, traces a path, back and forth, up and down over his spine as hot tears track their way down his face, catching at the already wet aquamarine tunic in front of him.
“I can’t say that I know everything you’re going through,” Wild continues, speaking for the sake of speaking. Speaking to fill the air with reassurance. “I can’t say I have all the answers. I can’t know exactly how you feel because that’s yours . Your experiences. Your emotions.”
“But, I know what it's like to– to feel caught up in the mistakes you've made. To feel trapped by your own mind. And I’m sorry. I’m so sorry you feel that way because it sucks. Goddesses, it sucks so fucking much and I’m sorry.”
And of course. Of course Wild understands what it feels like to be constantly reminded of what he perceives to be his own shortcomings. Knows what it's like to be locked in his own body. Trapped in the margins of his own thoughts, his memories, screaming at himself because his body won't move. Can’t move.
“ How?” Four asks, the single word shattering in his mouth, the edges catching at his throat, cutting, slicing, making each swallow thick and painful and tasting of salt. “How do you deal with it?”
“I don't,” Wild replies softly, honestly. “At least, not alone.”
Wild loosens his hold a little, his hands coming back to Four’s shoulders as he leans back, looking the small hero directly in the eyes. Warm, honest aquamarine meets a tumultuous sea of greyish hazle.
“I had Twilight. And Zelda. And the friends I made along my last journey.” A smile, watery and warm and full. “And the ones I've made on this one”
Wild glances down at his shirt, rolling his eyes fondly.
“Including a snotty little smithy with a shin kick that could put Ganon to shame.”
Four feels a hiccuping, hysterical giggle bubble up from between his lips.
“All of you,” Wild continues, his words hard with steely conviction, but warm, caring, the light of a forge, the light in the dark. “All of you help me to stay present. Stay in the moment instead of spiraling– into my mind, into the past. You keep me here.”
“You’re not alone, Four,” Wild says, staring into the small hero’s eyes as they whirl, prismatic hurricanes.
“You’re not alone. We’ll keep you here. We will. I promise.”
Four nods, no words left.
And for the first time in a long time, he feels something like relief.
By the time they’re back on the path toward Tarry Town, the sky has lost its saturation, turning from a salmon pink to a dusky gray as the sun sets amongst the teeth of the mountains.
Four’s face still feels puffy and hot and raw from crying– the small hero took WIld’s playful nudging about looking like a cherry with about as much grace as Legend (which was to say, none)– but he feels… better.
Not perfect. Not by a long shot. He still feels guilty, heavy and dark, and anxious, jittery and twitchy, but they have been dulled, their claws filed down so they can no longer rend and tear at his insides.
He feels, well, not exactly happy, but more at peace. The storm of too much make it stop calmed into a manageable swirl of emotions; still tense but relieved, still concerned but with reassurance
Four still has a headache, but it is no longer due to a cacophony of voices desperately calling out a single question that pounds and pounds and pounds. It’s mere dehydration. Something that can be easily fixed.
As they walk, Four feels exhausted, both physically and mentally, but also lighter than he’s felt in weeks.
“Okay,” Wild says, drawing Four’s attention up and over to the other hero. “It’s been a long day for both of us, you especially. Tarry Town is just around the corner. Well get in, say hi to some friends, grab a shit ton of arrows, and then get out. Sound good?”
A brighter smile, more like the ones Wild had been sporting for most of the day as the champion flips around for a second, walking backward to give Four a wink, “And then, I think I’m feeling some Monster Cake later. Wanna help me bake it when we get back?”
Four nods with a smile–part of him perking up at the mention of the sweet while the rest of him dreads the headache that will no doubt form when they give in to that part’s desire– and quickened his pace until he matches Wild stride for stride, craning his neck to look over the crest of the hill for this ‘Tarry Town’.
And there, just around the side of the hill, a tiny village comes into view...
It looks… well it looks like something out of a child’s drawing; little building block houses painted in inviting reds and blues and greens all stacked up together, forming a neat little circular town that glows in the rapidly falling night, sitting on a perfectly circular plateau above a crystal clear lake.
It’s almost laughable how idyllic it looks.
But Wild doesn't so much as bat an eyelash as he leads the way across a perfect– Seriously this cannot be natural It's like the goddess herself ordained that there was supposed to be a village here– a perfect spit of land that connects the island plateau to the world outside.
In fact, if anything, the champion speeds up as they grow closer to the village, intrigued by the hustle and bustle kicked up by the small town.
And Four can see why.
From the open gateway to the village, the smithy can see a flurry of motion. People– all kinds of people; Hylian, Rito, Goron, Gerudo– move about the center of the town. Some carry paper lanterns ready to be lit and strung up onto the ropes that have been suspended between the building block houses. Others totter between tables with platters full of steaming food. Some even balance instruments and music stands on their arms, a little stage in front a small goddess statue quickly filling with musicians setting up.
As they draw closer, as they pass under the threshold of the gate and into town proper, Four can't help but be awed by the sheer amount of light and sound and movement coming from inside the little hamlet.
Wild’s head whips toward one of the green square buildings as a man dressed in hot pink pants and a tiger-skin collared work shirt pulls himself from a small group of people, immediately brushing nonexistent dust from his clothes with a carefully uninterested look. “Fancy seeing you here, kid.”
“Bolson!” Wild exclaims, jogging over to the older man.
They clasp hands, a friendly shake.
“It’s great to see you. I thought you’d still be out in Hateno.” Wild says grinning. And then, with a furrowed brow but an excited smile, using both hands to gesture to the festivities, “What’s the occasion?”
The man, Bolson, sighs, something like an exasperated glare causing the man’s eyes to narrow at the champion.
“I swear,” the older man says, rolling his eyes and crossing his arms over his chest, theatrics that Four has seen Warriors run through a million times over, “I built you a mailbox for a reason, Link. The least you could do is use it.”
“Now, now, Bolson,” a new voice cuts in, smooth despite having to nearly shout to be heard over the din of people, “No need to bully him. We should just simply give thanks that he is here at all.”
A Gerudo woman tows herself and a man with a mushroom shaped haircut from the crowd of villagers with an amount of grace Four wouldn’t think possible, her long legs carrying her smoothly toward the three of them with the bowl cut man in toe.
“Sav'saaba, Link,” the woman says, warm smile accentuated by stylish, pale green lipstick. She lifts the hand connecting her to the man with mushroom hair, tilting her head toward him with a soft grin, “We’re so happy you could make it.”
Wild smiles even wider. “Glad to be here, Rhodson. But really, what is all this?"
The woman gives a laugh, pulling the mushroom haired man closer to her side. The couple– because that's obviously what they are, Blushy googly eyes and all Ugh barf in my mouth I think it's sweet... – glance at each other adoringly before turning happy eyes on Wild.
“It's been exactly one year since Hudson broke soil here,” Rhodson says, nudging an affectionate elbow into the mushroom headed man’s shoulder, making his otherwise blank face break out into a proud blush. “So the town decided to mark the occasion with a celebration. We’re calling it Founder’s Day.”
“So it's pretty good luck you found your way here tonight of all nights,” Bolson cuts in, with a roll of his eyes, a curated glance at his nails “Considering you were supposed to be one of the guests of honor.”
“Oh.” Wild says. And then brighter. “ Oh!”
Rhodson gives a fond shake of her head. “Did you truly happen to arrive here tonight without any prior knowledge of the festival?”
“Uhhh, yeah,” Wild replies, smiling sheepishly as he puts one hand on his hip while using the other to scrub self consciously at the back of his neck. “I was just hoping to stock up on arrows from Fyson and pop in for a hello with…”
The champion trails off, throwing Four a look over his shoulder. It is not an older siblings ‘be cool around my friends ’ look, but more like a ‘oh crap, I said this would be quick and it is, in fact, not being very quick’ look.
And though Four is still tired, the smithy grins up at the other and steps forward to stand at Wild’s side.
Because Wild had given Four something few other’s ever had: Peace of mind.
Now Four can begin to try to pay him back for that.
“He wanted to introduce you all to me,” Four says, directing his grin to the very surprised group of people Wild had been speaking to, “I’m one of Link’s siblings. My name is Four.”
He gives them a little bow. “It’s a pleasure to meet you all.”
A beat of astonished silence only broken by the sound of movement all around them.
And then an explosion of words:
“Oh Link, you never told us–”
“Is this why you wanted that old house–”
“One of Link’s siblings?!”
Wild smiles sheepishly.
The three adults share a look and then break into a collective shaking of heads with varying levels of exasperation and fondness.
“You really are something, Link,” Bolson says with another massive, performative sigh.
Rhodson gives the man a light swat on the shoulder which Bolson takes like a champ. And by ‘like a champ’ Four means with a melodramatic gasp followed by immediately rubbing at the sore spot.
“I believe what Bolson means to say,” the Gerudo woman continues, pointedly ignoring the carpenter’s performance, “is that we would be honored to meet more of your family, Link. In fact, why not bring them to the festival? We would love it if they could help us celebrate.”
That causes the champion to back peddle a little, wide aquamarine eyes flashing concerindly down to Four.
“Oh, I don't know about that… I mean, unfortunately we were kinda in a hurry and–”
“We’d love to stay for the party.”
Wild’s head whips away from the others and down to look at Four, astonishment written all over his face.
“I said we’d love to stay.”
And Four smiles widely at the adults, taking hold of the back of the champion's tunic and hauling him back a couple of feet, acting to all the world like the mischievous younger sibling. “Sorry, excuse us for a second while I talk some sense into my older brother.”
Once they’re a good enough distance away, Wild spins around with a look of concern
“Are you sure Four? I mean we still have to get back to the others. And I know your not feeling–”
“I’m feeling fine, Wild” Four cuts the other off, letting the mischievous smile soften into something more genuine. Something that shows how tired he is, but that also shows his eagerness. His desire to pay the other back for all his help.
“Really, I am. And besides, you deserve this,” Four gives the taller hero a proud punch on the shoulder. “I mean, you helped to found a town for Hylia’s sake. That is more than worthy of a celebration.”
“But the others…”
“We'll go get them. This is Akkala, right?” Four asks, spreading out his arms to indicate the town as a whole. “The same Akkala where the infected Hinox is supposed to be? The same Akkala that you said would take approximately three days to reach from Hateno?”
Wild nods slowly at first and then faster, getting the idea.
“Then this works out perfectly,” Four says with a decisive nod. “Staying here for the night guarantees much less time spent on foot, not only keeping us more well rested for what will no doubt be a difficult fight, but also ensures that there are fewer opportunities for unlucky travelers to cross the infected Hinox’s path.”
Four grins. “And if that just so happens to coincide with a festival in your honor? Well, that's just good luck.”
Wild still looks a little unconvinced, his lips pursed, his eyes narrowed, clearly jumping through some mental calculations of his own.
“But they hate teleporting,” Wild settles on eventually. “I wouldn't want to inconvenience them for something so small.”
Four scoffs, once again raising his hands to gesture to the town.
The town full of happy people. The town that is hustling and bustling to finish preparations, filled to the brim with a myriad delicious smells, the tones of instruments tuning, the muffled din of so many different voices speaking at once.
“Small?” Four asks in disbelief, shaking his head. “I know a thing or two about small, Wild, and this isn't it.”
He pokes a finger into the champion’s chest, right above his heart. “You helped build this. You. And I'd bet my anvil a hundred times over that the others would be willing to live through a couple of seconds worth of discomfort in order to recognise that too.”
“Well, most of them would,” Four amends. “I can’t speak for Legend. He might sooner wear pants before he’d admit that you’d done something he hasn’t .”
That startles a snort out of Wild.
“Hylia, he actually might.” His face turns considering. “Either that, or he has founded a town and just hasn't brought it up yet.”
Four nods, agreeing sagely. “With the Veteran, you can never know for sure.”
“Okay, okay,” Wild interrupts before they can stray father off topic.
“So, what's the plan?”
By the time Wild returns to Tarry Town with seven heroes in tow, the festival is already in full swing.
Four really didn't have as much of a part in setting things up as he had hoped.
Rhdoson had the entire planning of the party under control. From the food to the decorations to the musicians to even the people slowly trickling in through the gate, Rhodson had it all scheduled to a T, ready with a smile and hors d'oeuvre for those ready to relax and a job for anyone willing to help put the finishing touches on the festival.
When he asked to help, Four himself was quickly guided over to a station where an elderly Hylian couple was instructing a few other children from the village in making paper lanterns. It was a little bit humiliating, sitting on a tiny stool between babbling toddlers as they scribbled on and slathered paint all over their creations, but Four also has to admit, it was a little fun too.
Four’s attempts are not even close to the best of the bunch, which is embarrassing in itself. His cuts are either too long or too short and several of his folds are off center, resulting in some laughably lopsided lanterns.
But he finds an odd pride in them nonetheless. Not a single stutter of hands, not a moment of hesitation caused them to look the way they do. It's a pure and simple lack of talent.
They’re ugly little things.
Four loves them. He makes six. Decorates the first five separately: red, blue, green, purple, and grey.
The last one he puts it all together, each side of the lantern dominated by a color; green wind juggling multicolored leaves, an ocean with brightly colored shells in its depths, a fire with rainbow sparks, purple stone with hidden gemstones, a night sky of prismatic stars.
Four is just hanging up that final lantern with the help of the Goron, Grayson, when Wild strides back into town with a pep in his step and the others following behind.
The Goron lets the little hero down from his shoulders with a No problem, Little Brother in response to Four’s word of thanks, allowing the smithy to jog up to greet them. Apparently, he’s not the only one who is eager to see them, as about half the town joins him near the gates to the town to welcome Wild and the rest of his ‘family’ to the party.
The introductions are a bit awkward, as they usually are with their odd nicknames, weird mish-mash of personalities, and general lack of knowledge about one another’s worlds, but after the pleasantries are out of the way, the party really kicks into high gear.
The band, a cobbled together group consisting of a Goron on drums, a young Gerudo on some kind of large stringed instrument that she plays with quick plucks of her fingernails and swift flicks of a wooden hammer, a Pufferfish Zora on a silvery horn, and a very talented Rito man with a accordion, leaps into song, filling the already bustling town with music.
Four isn't exactly sure their instruments really mesh all that well; the horn and drums sometimes overpower the other two, the accordion’s airy notes somewhat contradicting the quick rhythm plucked and beaten out of the string instrument. But they sound good, for what little practice they’ve had together.
Their music is organic, sparking and bright and happy. A messy jig that is more about its high energy than musical composition.
They clearly know what they're doing. Know what kind of music best accompanies a celebration such as this, even if their styles don't necessarily match up.
Their jaunty music pulls several people into the vacated center of town. Like moths to a flame, they crowd the stage before exploding into motion, becoming a swirling whirlpool of twists and whirls and stomping feet and clapping hands that circles the stage like a moon caught in a planet’s orbit.
Among the first out there are Wind and Sky, the younger dragging the older into the mass of people by the hands. Four thinks he catches them every two minutes or so as they come whirling around the circle, hands still joined as they swing around and around and around to the beat, visible due to the bright flash of the chosen hero’s sailcloth in motion, identifiable from Wind’s elated whoops.
Those who don't wish to be swept away by the tide of dancers migrate to the small, fence enclosed porches of the building block houses where tables of food and drink have been set up.
On Four’s first trip to one of the tables to grab himself some food, he finds Warriors and Legend camping out near the punch bowls, the two whispering and laughing to each other in between bouts of Warriors flirting with just about anyone that dares approach for a drink.
Based on the ones that Four manages to catch, the Captain's pickup lines are absolutely dreadful– less like actual pickup lines and more like cheesy jokes and puns that have people rolling their eyes more often than not as Legend tries and fails to contain his snorts from beside the other hero. He also seemingly has an endless supply of them, each one impossibly tailor made to fit every person he tries them on.
When Four himself steps up to grab a cup of what looks to be frozen Wildberry juice, the scarf wearing hero is already breathless with laughter, apparently gearing up for what he believes to be the joke of the century.
“Hey, hey, Four,” the Captain gasps out in between poorly hushed laughs. “We should go out some time. I'm really trying to–” he snorts. “I’m really trying to appreciate the little things in life, you know?”
Okay, say goodbye to you shins asshole.
Wow, even I didn’t think that was all that funny. And that's saying something.
The short jokes are becoming rather stale.
Hey, guys! What about this as a thank you?
A scene plays out behind Four’s eyes.
He nods to himself, fighting down a grin.
“Sounds great, War,” Four replies conversationally, laddling himself a cup full of juice. “Though you might want to wear something a bit more casual for our get together.”
That cuts Warriors’ laughs short, a look of confusion settling over his handsome features. Behind him, Legend takes a sip of his own drink, raising an eyebrow at the smithy.
“Well, you see,” Four starts, moseying closer to the other hero, “For as low to the ground as I clearly am…”
He gives the other a big smile.
And upends his newly filled cup of bright magenta Wildberry juice directly onto Warriors’ boots.
“I’m incredibly clumsy,” Four finishes icily, letting his grin turn vicious at the corners.
And with that, Four turns and makes his escape, using his height, or more accurately, his lack there of, to duck between partygoers, ignoring the yell of anger–courtesy of Warriors– and ensuing spitake–courtesy of Legend– which results in another shout, this time of disgust as the veteran sprays the captain with a mouthful of juice.
Aside from dodging Warriors for the rest of the night, for the most part, Four just meanders from house to house, enjoying the food and music and company.
Peripherally, he sees Hyrule having an absolute ball with Wild, the two bouncing from table to person to table to person, enjoying fish skewers and rice balls and honeyed fruit as they laugh and joke with the townsfolk and other partygoers.
It’s nice to see the traveling hero look so relaxed amongst a group of people, Wild no doubt helping in that department as he introduces the brunette to his friends.
Four guesses that Hyrule is enjoying his anonymity as much as Four himself is. It’s odd but also liberating to walk through a town full of people without feeling eyes trained on his every move. Hyrule no doubt feels the same.
Time and Twilight, meanwhile, seem content to exist on the sideline of the festival, chatting personably with a few folks who appear to be wearing the stable uniforms.
Four is still dreading the conversation that the oldest had promised, still worried that he might let slip more than he intends. But the all encompassing fear is gone. No longer does Four dread sitting in silence as the older fires question after question at his defenses, unable to say anything as guilt and frustration eat him alive.
After their heart to heart, Wild had promised to help Four explain himself. To help the small hero explain his desire, his need to train, the fear of what might happen if he doesn't.
And though the smithy knows it won’t lessen all of the guilt still gnawing at him or even lighten whatever punishment Time will see fit to enact for endangering himself, just knowing that the champion would be there, that the other was there to support and help him…
Well, it made the thought of that conversation a bit more bearable.
So bearable, infact, that as the night wears on, Four finds himself thinking about it less and less, his mind instead occupied by the increasingly lively partygoers.
And never ones to be left behind, Four finds his fellow heroes more than rising to the challenge.
Before he knows it, Wind and Legend have somehow climbed their way onto the stage with the musicians, the veteran reaching into his pack and pulling out a full size cello Veteran really?! while Wind brandishes his Wind Waker, begging the rest of the band to let him conduct them.
Apparently, they’re either used to these sort of antics (they do know Wild after all) or they’re just really really nice people, because they relent without any fight.
They pause only a moment for Legend to tune up, and then with a swish of Wind’s batton, they’re off to the races once more.
And race they do, Wind setting a blazing fast tempo as he dances to a rhythm that is all his own, under his complete control. The other musicians seem to feed off the kid’s energy, invigorated after an already long set, energy igniting back into their bodies like a crack of electricity.
And for the first time all night, Four feels like the music really clicks .
Maybe it’s Legend’s apparent talent on the cello, his bow skills quick and precise as he fingers out an intricate run, adding a body, a soul, to the song that had been missing from the quartet previously.
Or maybe it’s Wind’s guidance, the teen pushing and pulling the musicians into and out of the spotlight, balancing the sounds perfectly as he keeps time, practically carving the music from the air itself with his hands.
Maybe it's a mix of the two or neither.
All Four can say for sure is that the music sounds amazing.
And he’s not the only one who notices.
A surge of people join the makeshift dance floor and in a matter of seconds, most of the porches lay dormant as what was a whirlpool of bodies becomes a hurricane. Around and around and around they go, stomps and claps adding to the rhythm as raised voices and whistles harmonize with the melody, until it's more than just a song, more than just a dance, but a movement.
A turn of the wheel and Four catches sight of Warriors swimming through the storm with the grace he would expect of the Captain, his scarf wrapped around part of his arm, accentuating his flowing movements with dramatic flashes of cobalt.
A turn of the wheel and Sky and Hyrule whirl into frame together. Neither of them have near the grace of War, and both move with the awkward hesitancy of self consciousness, but twin grins split their faces as they’re pulled away by the crowd, stomping in time with the beat and laughing at one another’s uncoordinated dancing.
Another turn of the wheel and Four watches as Wild erupts from the crowd, making a beeline for where Time and Twilight stand against the fences, tapping their feet and bobbing their heads to the rhythm. The champion latches onto Twilight like a Re-Dead, yanking at his arm, no doubt begging the older hero to join in.
Twilight, meanwhile, just shakes his head good naturedly, prying the champion off his shoulder like the younger is nothing more than an unruly child.
And then the farmhand does the unthinkable.
He makes eye contact with Four, smirks, and whispers something in the champion’s ear that has bright aquamarine eyes locking onto the smithy with almost deadly intent.
“Wild, no!” Four hisses, scrambling from his position sitting poised on the top of a fence.
Wild, yes!” the champion replies, catching the small hero by the arm hauling him into the fray.
Four only manages to throw a glare Twilight’s way– which is returned with a grin, a shrug, and a smug little wave- before he is lost to the dance.
And if Four thought the energy was contagious before, well now it's practically palpable: closer to the music, Four can feel every note as if the song is resonating in his chest, his heart, his blood. The air is a live wire of energy and Wild pulls him farther into it, never letting go of his hands for a second.
The other hero must sense his nervousness, his awkwardness, because he doesn't let go of the smithy even when they join the tide, instead spinning the two around and around like Wind and Sky were doing earlier as the flow of people and the rhythm drags them around the circle of town.
It’s childish, probably looks it too, but as they swing around and around and around, as the plucked notes of the dulcimer match up with their steps, as the tones of Legend’s cello spin just as fast as they do, as the accordion sings in time with their breaths, Four finds that he doesn't care.
Doesn't care if he looks like a child, doesn't care if he looks like an idiot. He trips, his foot catching at a loose stone, but he doesn't care because Wild is there, holding him up, using the momentum of the stumble to spin them even faster.
And as the music swells even higher, as Four’s feet pound into the earth with the slam of the drums, as he raises his voice to the wind to accompany the accordion, as the blast of the trumpet makes his heart swell like the tide, as the dulcimer plucks the string of a happy fire inside, as he dances, awkward and uncoordinated but surrounded by light and friends, Four is free of the question that has haunted him for so long.