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Alone Together

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They land just outside of this version of Hyrule’s Castle Town.

Goddesses, Link wishes that this whole transporting around different realities thing came with less bruises on his backside.

Lin–no–Hyrule, he reminds himself for the umpeenth time, was still getting used to the idea of a version of his beloved kingdom that wasn't in complete ruins, one that even had something like a Castle Town, let alone other versions of it altogether. 

When the other two, the Old Man and the Pretty Boy, had shown up on his front door–entrance to his cave, whatever– and told him about their own chosen kingdoms, the adventurer almost hadn’t believed them.

Thriving towns with lots of happy, happy people? Caves and forests that weren’t absolutely overflowing with monsters that wanted nothing more than to bleed him dry? A royal family that actually did something? 

Unrealistic. Wistful thinking. Freaking impossible.

But, as Hyrule continues to blink the white spots out of his eyes, the cobblestone wall before doesn't get any more crumbled looking and the sound of happy people spilling from the gate doesnt turn to screams. 

Guess the other two’s stories hadn't been quite as exaggerated as he had previously thought.

Hyrules gawking at and internal musings about the walls of the town are cut short when a hand is thrust down into his line of sight. He follows the hand up to the Old Man’s smiling face. 

Well, he isn't smiling exactly , but his lips are somewhat pulled upward into what one could call a friendly if not wry look. Whatever. The traveling hero will take whatever kindness he can get.

He takes the hand and is easily hosited to his feet.

“So,” Hyrule says, glancing around at the dirt path behind them before settling his eyes back onto the walls of the town. “Now we find this place’s hero?”

The Old Man nods down at him as the Pretty Boy comes to stand to the left of the taller man. Not for the first time, Hyrule bemoans his short stature. Curse his lack of access to proper nutrients while growing up. Judging from the sizes of the other two, he could have at least been 5”8. If only he had some freaking milk, like, even once. 

Despite his internal digression, the Old Man –Time, the older had asked Hyrule to call him Time– begins to walk toward a man in gleaming armor guarding the entrance to the town with the Pretty Boy in toe.

The guard tenses up at the sight of their approach and honestly, Hyrule doesn’t blame him.

Having been born into a world out to kill him, Hyrule had acquired a pretty good eye for dangerous things and people. Or at least, he liked to think so, due to the fact that he was still alive. That had to count for something. 

Time, even if not the tallest person he had ever met, looms. When Hyrule had first set eyes on the man, some part of his brain– the hunted part, the part that always reminded him not to take food from strangers or to find all the exits of a room before doing anything else or to always have enough magic for a spell just in case that part of his brain had told him to run and fast.

Meanwhile, Warriors, the aforementioned Pretty Boy who strides confidently behind Time, is no less intimidating. Though more approachable looking, Hyrule can see the grace in the way he moves. His gait is not only full of self assuredness but also a sort of innate self awareness. His feet are always placed in the perfect spot to easily shift into a defensive position. His eyes dart from one thing to the next, assessing the environment, for traps or ambushes or escape routes. 

Hyrule sympathizes with the need to see everything, but for some reason, the shorter hero thinks Warriors’ shifty eyes are probably more for tactical reasons and less for ‘I need to leave, like, yesterday’ reasons.  But hey, maybe that's just him jumping to conclusions.

In short, if what they had told him was true, they undoubtedly cut the figure of “Spirit of the Legendary Hero of Courage” to a T. 

As the two older heroes begin asking for directions, Hyrule takes another second to Look at them. 

All creatures have some kind of energy around them. A life force, a soul, something. For most, it's a small baseline of boring ole’ run of the mill life. Those with magic have a more vibrant and telling aura about them. Even monsters, with their weird not-really-life, have an energy to them, as dirty and impure as it was. 

These two though...

They both radiate a correctness, a light, a something that simultaneously settles Hyrule and puts him on edge. They are powerful, but they only use this hard fought gift against those who deserve it. 

Hyrule closes his eyes, willing the magical sparks of his Vision to fade away into the mundane sight he makes due with on a day to day basis. 

After a moment, Time thanks the guard and Hyrule hurries after the two older heroes as they walk farther into the town.

 

...

 

As they step down several stones stairs, Hyrule finds himself craning his neck in order to see everything. 

If he had thought the town was loud from outside the walls, boy was he kidding himself. 

All around them, people go about their days. Children –a whole pack of them!– fly by in blurs of laughter and taunts on their way to a school house with a scowling woman waiting out front. Several men and women bustle past one another, woven baskets and bags filled with fresh produce clutched protectively to their sides or held aloft above their heads as they walk to their locations. White, feathery birds– Cuccos if Times derisive snort is anything to go by– flutter in between people’s legs as they walk.

The smaller hero is sure that he can hear Time laughing at him good naturedly as he turns small circles to see everything, but honestly, he couldn't give less of a Bit’s slimey ass right about now. There are so many things to hear and see and smell that Hyrule can already feel his neck beginning to ache from him throwing his head back and forth to try to take everything in.

Though he is dazzled by the sights and people around him, Hyrule can't help but feel a little relieved that there aren't as many people as he had expected. This is already more people than he thinks he's ever seen in his entire life. 

Hyrule rushes forward to stand at the top of another flight of steps leading down into the center of town and the market place held within. Just before he can begin descending, however, a firm hand lands on his shoulder, stopping him in his tracks.

The traveler turns to find Warriors behind him. He smiles at Hyrule and then gestures down to a small fountain to the right of the stairs.

The three of them step quickly down the flight of stairs and make their way to the small fountain in order to clear out of the way of the foot traffic. As they move slightly away from the main street, Hyrule notices that the din of the town quiets a little. This is a better place to talk.

“Okay,” Warriors begins, taking care to look both of them in the eye as he speaks. “The guard knew about the hero Link but was unsure where he lived. I think we should split up and ask around to see if anyone knows anything.”

Next to him, Hyrule can see Time nodding his head. He, however, feels his shoulders inch up toward his ears.

On the one hand, there were so many new people and things! On the other, there were so many new people and things. Too many of both. Throw him at an unmapped mountainside anyday. He could navigate the slopes with ease. This however, was some uncharted territory he wasn't exactly excited to explore alone.

He opened his mouth to voice as such when Warriors continued.

“Old man, you take the stalls on the left. We’ll take the ones on the right,” he said, nudging Hyrule in the shoulder lightly with his elbow.

“Right,” Time agrees easily. “Meet back here when you get something,” he added over his shoulder as he turns away and re-enters the flow of people like a fish returning to water,. In a second, he is swallowed up and gone.

“Thanks,” Hyrule says as he and the Captain join the mob as well. Arms and elbows brush up against his side as they swim through the lines of people haggling for better prices. His eyes remain locked on the bright blue scarf fluttering behind Warriors like his life depends on it.

  “No problem, kid. Wouldn't want you to get lost, right?” the older replies, throwing a sly wink over his shoulder.

“Yeah,” Hyrule agrees, laughing lightly at a joke Warriors isn't even aware he is making. “Lost.”

After a few minutes, they finally manage to make it to a relatively open vendor. Unlike the other merchants in the square, he does not seem to be selling fresh produce or baked goods or homemade trinkets. Rather, sitting before the portly man with the weird haircut is a shield, what appears to be a potion, and some rupees. 

“Gambling game,” Warriors mutters to him as they watch a youngster run past, a pout on their lips and an empty wallet in hand as they approach the table. They join the small line of mostly teens and kids trying their luck and quickly make it to the front. Not many people are winning.

As the last kid in front of them leaves, this time with a blue rupee in hand to reimburse the ten she had spent on the game, the man turns to them. He spares a short glance to Warriors and then focuses his winning performer smile fully on Hyrule.

“Step right up, right up, son! Try your luck and you,” he jabs a finger at Hyrule’s chest, “could win a shield and follow in the footsteps of our hero!” 

Warriors leans into the man’s eyeline, cutting off intrusion into Hyrule’s personal space and pulling the enthusiastic man’s attention away from the younger man.

“That’s actually why we’re here. We’re looking for the Hero. Do you know where we could find him?”

The man sits back on his heels, salesman grin falling from his face as he gives the two of them a once over. He must not like what he finds, as he sighs and deflates before their very eyes.

“Shoulda known,” the man says. “Traveling types like you are always lookin for more gear.”

“What do you mean?” Hyrule asks.

“The Hero, Link.” the man clarifies. “Best damn blacksmith in the kingdom. Every kid and traveler with a couple spare rupees are looking for something made by him.”

“Yes!” Warriors exclaims. “Of course, exactly. Yep. That's exactly why we’re looking for him. Got it in one.”

Hyrule turns to the older man with widened eyes and raised eyebrows. Warriors responds with a shrug of his shoulders and a sheepish smile. 

Farore help them.

“So where can we find him?” Hyrule asks, exasperation at Warriors’ antics dripping into his voice. 

The man straightens up at this. He points one finger out past the two of them. Hyrule follows where he's pointing and sees another arced gate to the city with another guard standing in wait. 

“Just take the south exit and follow the dirt path. Building should be on your left. Can’t miss it. It's got a big sign on it. ‘Four Element Forge’ or something like that.”

Warriors and Hyrule turn to one another, matching smiles on their faces.

“Thanks so much!” Hyrule says as he and the captain turn to leave, Warriors’ head on a swivel to find Time.

“Wait!” the man yells, stopping the two in their tracks.

He leans toward them, over the desk with his ‘merchandise’ and looks around for a second, as if to make sure no one’s watching. He beckons the two of them back over, his voice now softer as he speaks.

“I mean, the kid is great and all– saved the day twice for Hylia’s sake– but If you’re going out that way,” he continues, only looking a little bit guilty about what he’s saying. “I really should warn you. That hero kid is a couple eggs short of a cuccoo nest, if you know what I mean.”

“No,” A voice from just behind the other two heros cuts in, making Hyrule almost jump out of his own skin. “I don’t know what you mean. Elaborate.”

The two whirl around to face a Time who is doing what Hyrule thinks he might do even better than wield that massive sword he has strapped to his back; giving a neutral yet ultimately disapproving look to the man behind them.

“W-well I– I just,” and here Hyrule can see the man deflate further, eyes cast to the stones beneath his desk, as if he could find the answer growing from between the cobblestones. He takes a deep breath and then looks at the group of heroes straight on.

“Look, I’ll level with you. I’m just trying to warn you not to get your hopes up. The kid is great at what he does; can kill some monsters real good and makes the finest blades you’ve ever seen but…” he sighs again, words seeming to fail him for the moment before he starts again.

“He...kid’s just a bit off. Nice!” he interjects, hands now flying around his face in a placating manner while speaks, “But off. Goes silent in the middle of a conversation. Talks to himself. Changes opinions at the drop of a hat. That kinda thing. Now he barely come in to town at all except to see the princess.” 

The man smacks a large hand behind his neck and rubs, a nervous habit. “I just don't want you all going down there expecting something and seeing, well, seeing that.”

It is silent between the four of them for a moment. 

Then, a facsimile of a smile pulls its way onto Times face like an ill fitting mask. It’s too lopsided with eyes too sharp to be anything less than a grimace at best and a death threat at worst. Hyrule takes a step to the side to get out of the way of the and he thinks he sees Warriors mirror him on the other side.

“Thanks for the directions,” Time says, voice somehow coming out friendly even with the words hissed between his teeth. “Have a nice day.”

Then, with his spine held straight, Time walks away, Warriors throwing the man a dirty look over his shoulder as he strides behind the older man. Hyrule throws a wave and a muttered, “Sorry,” at the stricken vender as he hurries to catch up with the other two.

Having to almost jog a little to keep up with the taller heros’ pace, they quickly exit town and begin making there way down the path the vendor had laid out of them. They walk in silence, the soft crunching of their boots against the dirt the only sound between them.

“So,” Warriors begins, finally breaking the fragile and fraught quite hanging over them. “How much of that did you hear?”

“Enough.” A sigh. “Too much,” the oldest settles on, his pace finally flagging a bit. He wipes a hand down his face.

“That’s not how you should talk about a hero who risked his life to save them. Twice apparently,” Warriors says, shaking his head.

“That’s not how you should talk about anyone,” Hyrule amends, drawing up beside the two of them at last.

At his words, the oldest looks down at him and smiles.

Silence reigns over the small group once again, only broken up when a small wooden looking creature– Deku scrub if Time is to be believed– takes one look at them and disappears into a hole underground as they make a slight left turn. 

Just as a chimney sputtering dark smoke appears over a hill, Hyrule feels something bubble up in his chest, begging to be let out.

“Kid,” he says, the word bursting from his lips almost too loud in the quiet around them.

“Huh?” Warrior asks.

“Kid. That guy kept calling the hero from around here kid. I was just wondering how old he would be now.”

Time’s eyes turn flinty, focused on the path in front of them. Warriors looks between the both of them, an odd expression on his face.

“It could be a relative term,” Warriors says, a hopeful lit to his words as he looks between Hyrule and Time. “You know, like how the Old Man would probably call me kid even though I’m clearly not one.”

“‘Clearly not one’ may be a bit strong of an assessment on your part,” Time says with a light chuckle, making Hyrule giggle under his breath as Warriors face screws up into an extremely mature looking pout.

Point proven.

After the laughter subsides, Hyrule risks a glance up at Time’s face. Though still serious, a bit of tension has left the crease between his eyebrows. The traveler slows his pace a step and flashes Warriors a thumbs up, which is received with a wink and a smile.

The draw along the left side of the house, a soft ting, ting, ting, ting beating out a steady rhythm matched by their steps as they reach the front of the house.

“Well,” Warriors says, as finally arrive at the foot of a small ramp up to the cabin. “He was right when he said we wouldn't miss it.”

The building is compact but tall. Two stores, Hyrule’s mind supplies. While part of the back of the building had been brick, easily seen while they were approaching, the front is wooden and inviting, with a door attractively painted green to match the sills around the windows.

A perfectly cosy looking home.

Or at least it would be, if not for what Warriors was probably referring to. AKA, the massive, wooden, multi-colored letters jutting off of the second floor proclaiming, “Four Elements Forge” for all within a mile radius to see.

“At least we know we’re the right place,” Time says, beginning to step up the small ramp.

“Wait, wait, wait!” Hyrule exclaims as he scurries up the ramp, stopping Time who already has his hand raised to open the door. “What exactly is our plan of action here?”

Warriors and Time exchange a look.

“We’ll tell him the truth and if he’s the hero we know him to be, he will come with us,” Time says, like it's the easiest thing in the world and then opens the door.

“It’s what we did with you,” Warriors reminds, catching the door as it shuts and following Time inside.

Hyrule huffs out a breath. By Farore, that is all they did with him. He must be a bigger sucker than he thought.

With that exasperated image in mind, Hyrule follows the other two inside…

And immediately stops in his tracks. 

The room Hyrule finds himself in is decorated wall to wall with weapons. Beneath him, his feet turn him in circles while his eyes scan over the walls to try to take in everything.

On the wall to the left of the door sit massive double edged swords, thicker at their tip than at the base. Wider than he is, the young hero thinks as he approaches the weapons. 

His reflection watches him from the mirror shine of the wide blade and Hyrule can't help but imagine what it would feel like to catch one of these things in the side. Then he immediately stops thinking about that because Holy Hylia he would lose enough blood to revive five Ganons and maybe then some.

Some of the swords, if Hyrule could even call them that, are capped with stone, obviously made so the bearer could either cleave their enemies in half or smash them into nothing more than dust. Fun options.

Hyrule runs a hand down the side of one of the blades, feeling the edges of the odd, foot-print like symbol etched into the gleaming metal with idle finger tips.

Beside the weapons, are a variety of digging tools, including pickaxes and shovels and odd looking gloves with claws on the ends of them.

Too big for Hylian hands, the traveling hero thinks as he compares the gloves to his own palms. Much too wide.

A glint of white light pulls his attention away from the massive weapons, and lures him, like a fish on a hook, toward the right half of the shop.

Hanging from pegs hammered into the wall sit the most beautiful lances and spears Hyrule has ever seen. They stand out against the warmth of the room, the light reflecting off of them too white and pure and clean for the rest of the house.

As Hyrule draws closer, he can see opals and sapphires embedded into the metal, pure bubbles of jewelry rising seamlessly from the blades. 

The shapes of the spear heads vary widely between the group.  Some are shaped into forked points to mimic the form of a whale tail with still others are honed into the terrifying triplicate peaks of a trident. 

Beside and beneath the lances sit a few daggers shaped from metal that looks like rippling water. 

Hyrule picks one of them up and holds it up to a nearby lantern. Like the big swords on the left, there is a symbol etched into the metal just above the handle of the blade. However, instead of the triangles and diamond, the symbol carved here is that of three crescent moons sitting back to back to back.

The brunette gingerly places the dagger back on the shelf with the knives and a few intricate but effective looking fish hooks before turning back to the rest of the shop.

Warriors seems to be in a state of pure elation, eyes wide and sparkling in the orange light of the room making him look possessed as he goes from display to display admiring the craftsmanship of the weapons. Hyrule can see an impressed raise to Time’s eyebrows as he eyes the weapons displayed behind the desk.

The older man catches Hyrule’s eyes and thumbs at the swords. “Kid must be quite the world traveler,” He says, eyes flashing back to the wicked looking curved blades decorated in shades of green, yellow, and red.

“What kind of people were these made for?” Hyrule asks.

Time turns to look at him more fully, an appraising look in his single eye.

“Well,” he begins, words stilted. He gestures to the scimitars that sit behind the desk. “These were most likely crafted for the Gerudo.”

Hyrule feels his nose scrunch up in confusion.

“Those ones,” Time continues, disregarding the traveling hero’s apparent befuddlement in favor of giving a meaningful look to the weapons Hyrule had examined first, “are for the Gorons. And those are for the Zora,” he finishes, pointing to the beautiful lances. 

Hyrule does a double take between the gorgeous weapons and Time.

Those are for the Zora?” Hyrule asks, incredulous that those green, slimy, scaled walking nightmares would use such elegant looking weapons.

“Odd,” Warriors pipes up from where he is struggling to place a Goron sword back on the shelf he had taken it from. “There doesn't seem to be anything here for the Rito.”

Hyrule looks back to Time expectantly. The older hero, however, is more preoccupied with the hand he has placed over his eyes and is slowly dragging down over his face with an audible exhale. 

“What?” Warriors asks at the pointed silence.

“Our worlds might be more different than we had previously thought.”

“Oh,” Hyrule mutters, some sass dripping into his words, “the fact that I didn't believe you when you told me you had real towns didn't clue you in to that?”

Time sends him a somewhat withered look that Hyrule returns with a sheepish smile. 

Opps. Whatever. Even playing field now, Old Man.  

Warriors opens his mouth to say something, but is interrupted the resurgence of the TING TING TING TING they had heard from outside. The sound is exponentially louder than before and seems to be reverberating from behind the door that stands on the other side of the service counter that divides the room.

“We’ll deal with it later,” Time decides. Hyrule and Warriors nod in agreement. Too much to unpack without even touching on the fact that they had no idea how many other heroes they were supposed to collect. 

Together they approach the counter. It is mostly empty besides a lantern and a small bell that Time picks up and rings four times.

The sharp TINGing noise pauses. The sound of shuffling and hushed words breaks out behind the closed door. However, before long, that too quiets and a voice calls out, “Come on back!” as the hammering resumes its brutal and loud rhythm.

Without further ado, the three of them pass through a small swinging door built into the counter and then push open the door leading to the back room.

As Hyrule passes the threshold into this new room, his face is hit with a wave of heat, almost making him recoil. The air feels thicker here, permeated with a thin amount of smoke and a lot of steam that has the young hero’s eyes watering.

Time lets out a soft curse under his breath, and as Hyrule blinks tears from his eyes, he can see why.

Hanging from the ceiling of the room are several thin chains with small, metal handles attached to the end of them. They sit fairly low to the ground; Hyrule can feel one brushing the top of his head. Time must have walked face first into one.

And as he lays eyes on the new hero, Hyrule immediately understands why they're so low to the ground.

The boy hammering away at the anvil is absolutely tiny. 

He wears a thick looking apron and heat resistant gloves as he pounds away at what Hyrule can now see is a jagged looking knife, and though Hyrule knows these pieces of protective clothing are supposed to ensure the safety of the kid’s skin, the new hero almost seems to be drowning in them, with the arpon almost dragging on the ground as the boy steps away from the anvil. 

The new hero does not even look at them as he crouches down to be eye-level with the anvil, the white hot dagger reflected in his black-eyed goggles. He apparently doesn't like what he sees, because his lips pull down into a frown as he stands and resumes hammering the dagger. He turns the weapon this way and that, tracing the curves in the metal with his hammer, mouth opening and closing as he mutters to himself. 

Without looking up from where he is hammering with his right hand, his left hand shoots out and clutches one of the handles dangling above his work stantion. The boy doesn’t even pause his work to pull the handle.

Once released, a resounding clunk echoes through the room and to the left of the anvil, a small trough connected to a pipe begins to fill with water.

The boy pulls two more handles and Hyrule watches as the fire in the brick forge falls slightly, no longer the tall flame it had been when they entered. Simultaneously, the large, circular grinding stone in the corner spins to a stop.

With two more decisive swings of his hammer, the boy seems satisfied. Using a pair of tongs, he gently paces the dagger into the water beside him, and then turns his back on the hissing weapon to finally address them.

With a gloved hand, the boy shoves his goggles up into flaxen hair, safely pulled away from his face in a small ponytail at the back of his head. 

His eyes are large, circular and childlike. In the dull fire light of the room, they glint with an odd hazle-y, blue-ish color that Hyrule can't really identify as the boy pulls the gloves off his hands and offers one to Time. A small smile cuts across his face, weary but polite.

“Hi. Welcome to Four Element Forge. I’m Link.”

He offers his hand to Warriors for a shake next and then Hyrule. His hands are warm and covered in smooth calluses, a testament to how long he has worked at this craft. Or how long he’s worked with swords, Hyrule thinks idly as they finish the hand shake.

The smaller boy gives them a once over. “If you’re here for custom weapons, you’ve come at just the right time. I just finished my last commission,” he says, throwing a hand behind him toward the water trough.

“Not exactly,” Time replies. “We were actually hoping to talk.”

“Oh,” the boy replies, face falling into a somewhat blank expression. A beat of silence. “Oh okay. Not a problem.” He glances out the one window in the room, taking in the orange light of sunset. 

“Looks like its just about time for me to shut down the forge for the night anyway. If you don't mind waiting for a bit, you can go through that door there while I get everything situated.”

Time nods. “Thank you for the hospitality.”

The Old Man and the Capitan quickly file through the door the smallest hero had indicated with Hyrule trailing behind a little bit to watch the other boy for a moment.

The smaller hero glances up from where he is fishing the dagger from the water. Now cool, Hyrule can more clearly see the details of the weapon. Though not yet sharpened to perfection, the curves of the blade nonetheless look graceful. The dagger looks to be lightweight, thin and precise with a small pommel likewise meant for small hands. Looking at it more, Hyrule can see a thin ridge runs along the length of the blade, like the middle vein of a leaf.

It isn’t in the style of any of the weapons in the other room.

“Its beautiful,” Hyrule says.

The smaller boy looks down at the blade, eyes softening as he fingers the edge. Weather he is checking the blade for imperfections or lost in a memory, Hyrule isn't sure. When he looks back up, a smile graced his lips. His eyes look brighter than before, even in the quickly dimming room. 

“Thank you.”

Hyrule nods, suddenly self-conscious at the show of emotion from the other boy. He gives the new hero a small wave and retreats into the next room. As the door swings shut behind him, Hyrule can swear he hears the other boy chuckle good naturedly at his fleeing form.

 

...

 

They don’t have to wait long for the small hero to return.

After only about half an hour filled with Hyrule throwing questions at the two older heroes about their respective worlds– he doesn't want to be caught off guard and out of the loop again, he's gotta be prepared for anything– the door to the forge opens again.

The small hero has ditched the oversized apron and plain white tunic for something more colorful. The tunic he wears now is… well, its something .

The tunic looks cobbled together, like the boy had taken four different tunics, red, green, blue, and purple, couldn't decide which one to wear, and then had the genius idea that he could wear all of them at once if he just sewed them all together. 

“Sorry for the wait,” he says, quickly moving toward the cabinets of the small kitchen the other Links have situated themselves in. He pulls a rod with a large, spherical, red gem off of his belt. He waves it toward the brick fireplace, instantly lighting a cozy looking fire. Over the flames, the boy places a kettle.

“So,” the boy says, pulling out a chair at the kitchen table Hyrule and the others are sitting at, “what is it you wanted to speak to me about?”

“We’ll cut right to the chase,” Warriors replies. “My name’s Link. His name is Link,” a point at the Old Man, “and his name is Link,” an elbow in Hyrule’s side.

“What my companion here is trying to say,” Time cuts in, “is that we are all heroes in our own time and Hyrule. We share the Chosen Hero’s spirit. In our adventures, we fought Ganon, or other villains like him, in order to restore peace to Hyrule.”

Time pauses here, as though expecting the small heroes to interject. The boy, however, remains silent, a carefully neutral expression on his face. 

Harder to read than the others, Hyrule thinks.

“Something,” Time continues, “Is bringing us together. It started with him,” he gestures to Warriors, “waking up in my time. Then, we were transported to his Hyrule,” the oldest hero says, waving a hand in Hyrule’s direction.

“We think something big is coming. Something that requires all of the heroes bearing the spirit of the Chosen Hero to work together.”

“Which is why you came and found me,” the boy says. It isn't a question, said more with an exhale of breath. Disbelief. Weariness.

“Exactly,” Warriors says. “We’re going to need all the help we can get for…” he scrambles for words, one hand turning circles beside his face, “whatever it is we have to fight.”

It is silent for a moment.

“So,” the new hero says, “What you’re trying to tell me is that you are all reincarnations of a hero chosen by the goddess who are being flung throughout time and space finding different versions of yourself– including myself– in order to do something but even you aren't sure what exactly it is you’re trying to do yet?”

“Yes,” Time says, without even a drop of doubt. 

Hyrule knows that the other man is blessed with the Triforce of Courage, but he doesn't know how the Old Man can say stuff like that with such confidence. 

The boy folds his hands together and leans his elbows on the table, resting the tip of his nose against his clasped knuckles. His eyes flash back and forth, left right left right, like he’s reading something incredibly quickly in the grains of wood that make up the table. He blinks, and then leans back in his chair before turning to Hyrule.

“What do you think of all this?”

“I think it sounds bad when you say it like that ,” Hyrule responds honestly. “But I know it has to be true. The way they talk about their versions of Hyrule… No one from my time would be able to think up dreams that sweet. That perfect.”

Hyrule thinks he sees both Time and Warriors tense at his words. Theoretically, he knows it wasn't all sunshine and 2nd potions in their worlds, but truthfully, it had been the thing to convince him that there were other Hyrules out there. The way their eyes had lit up when talking about cities and castles and barracks and people was too bright, too hopeful, too foreign for his world.

The boy nods his head once, accepting Hyrule’s answer.

Warriors opens his mouth to add something but the newest Link holds up his hand, stopping him. “Give me a second.”

The boy closes his eyes. His shoulders rise and fall in slow, controlled breaths

The kitchen falls silent. 

Slowly, the hiss of the kettle over the fire builds to a crescendo, it's scream breaking the fragile quiet of the room. 

The smallest hero jolts in his chair, as if just hearing the noise for the first time despite its long build up. He stands and almost mechanically gathers four mugs onto the counter. He pulls the kettle from the hanger above the fire, flipping the lid from over its spout to stop the incessant squealing. 

From a small ceramic pot, he pulls four small sachets and drops them into the mugs before filling each with steaming water.

He is in the middle of filling one almost up to the brim with milk when he seems to realise what he's doing.

“Uhhh,” he says, eyes refocusing on them. “Does anyone like milk or honey in their tea?”

Time and Warriors both nod and in response. The boy brings over a bottle of milk and a small pot with a weird looking wooden wand to the table along with the steaming mugs.

Warriors instantly reaches for the honey, drizzling a little bit of it on to of the floral drink set in front of them before tasting it delicately. Goddesses, he even holds his pinky out even though he's holding a mug. Hyrule almost snorts some of his tea up his nose.

Time, meanwhile, carefully examines the bottle of milk. He smiles at the blue, hand painted label and liberally pours the milk into his mug.

The smallest hero returns to the table, sipping his tea as he does. He makes an odd face at the drink, as though he can't decide whether or not he likes it, even though he made and poured it himself.

“Okay,” he says, eyes peering at them from over the lip of the mug as he takes another drink. “Let’s say I want to believe you. What are our next steps?”

Hyrule feels something inside him relax. Okay. Easier than he thought this was going to be. 

Time sets his mug down. “We shifted worlds relatively quickly after meeting Hyrule.”

The boy’s eyes squint at the nickname but he doesn't comment.

“Based on that,” Time continues, “I would say we have less than a day left in this Hyrule before we are taken to another.”

“You might want to gather any weapons or tools that you would like to bring with you tonight, just in case the shift happens while we’re sleeping” Warriors advises.

The boy nods. “Speaking of sleeping, it is getting late. Am I correct in assuming you will need a place to stay for the night?”

“We wouldn’t want to impose…” Warriors says.

“Nonsense. I…” the boy laughs lightly, as though remembering an old joke, “I live alone.”

“We would greatly appreciate it, thank you,” Time says. 

The boy nods and stands from the table, probably going to start setting up a room for them to spend the night in, Hyrule assumes, when Warriors calls out, “Wait! There’s one more thing we have to settle.”

The small hero turns, a single eyebrow raised.

Warriors smiles, a bit of a shit eating grin turning his charming features into those more fitting a teen hooligan than the captain of the royal guard. 

“You have to choose a nickname!” He exclaims, spreading his arms wide, indicating the two other Links sitting next to him. “We can't just keep calling you Link. Wouldn't really be fair to us. Or any of the others we meet.”

“We weren’t all that creative,” Time says, a wry smile of his own pulling at his lips. “We just went with our hero title.”

“Hence the name Hyrule,” the boy says nodding to the brunette in question.

“Yeah, that probably wasn't the best choice but,” and Hyrule shrugs, “It kinda stuck.”

A smile spreads across the new hero’s face. 

“I’ve had a few nicknames in my time. A few hero titles too.”

The smallest hero pulls the door leading to the forge open. Even though he had shut down the kiln for the night, the short hero still stands illuminated by the glowing room behind him. 

He smiles at them, his eyes brilliant yet still indescribable in shade.

“You can call me Four.”

 

Chapter Text

One second, Four is standing beside the others in one of the vibrant forest regions of Sky’s Hyrule. And in the next second, he is not.

The ground falls out from underneath Four’s feet, and yet, he doesn't fall. Gravity is not working properly. He does not fall, and yet he does not stand nor float nor fly either.

Some part of him would be more interested in this if not for the fact that he felt like death this is terrible Holy Hylia we promised we wouldn't throw up again.

He is being pulled and pushed and squeezed and battered, a sword pulled from the flames and beaten into the correct position. But there is no correct position. Not yet. Instead, the force continues to slam and push and prod, throwing him in all directions and yet ultimately gaining nothing from the effort. A net zero. 

A dizziness pulses in his skull, making his eyes go half lidded at the pain, but something inside forces his eyes to stay open because we closed them last time we need to see what is happening, No we don’t No we don’t No we don’t

Curiosity over this, unfortunately, repeated occurrence wins out, and his eyes remain stubbornly open, despite the increased dizziness it brings.

The green of the forest has melted away into a miasma of purple and blacks, fractals of light and other colors blooming and withering faster than Four can make sense of them. He thinks he sees flashes of locations; a beach, an island, lava, ice, stone, castles.

His eyes slam shut. 

Different worlds Who cares Where are we When will this stop?

His brain tells him that he is turning circles and flying through summersaults, but his body remains still, the movement and momentum somehow separate from his skin and bones. His stomach is in his feet and in his throat at the same time and his heart has somehow become his entire body, raw and pounding.

He isn't screaming, but somehow there is no more air in his lungs. He can feel himself choking and coughing but there is no sound and he just needs to breathe in–really it's not that hard– but he can't do it .

Just breath! In for four! Haha, real funny. Shut up. Guys!

There is something solid beneath their feet. Ground. They hadn't even realized. Their eyes are still sealed shut as their knees give out beneath them.

“Everyone okay?” Older voice. Male. Time.

Can’t focus on that, focus on us. Shut up! We need to listen Where are we Concentrate

Their body curls up. 

Different minds begin to sort through their sensations. 

There are too many sensations.

They can feel gravel beneath their body, small rocks poking uncomfortably at their ribs. There is dirt on their face, thick, dusty, and flakey. Wherever they have landed, it smells like grass and moss and wet stones. It is cold here. The air is stagnant, dead.

Sounds echo around them. A cave? Stone on stone. Cloth on cloth. Groans of other voices. And a faint, but incessant whirring.

Focus, focus on what we share

“Everyone sound off.”

They throw hands over their ears. Voices. Voices to the right and left. Older younger higher lower. Inside voices, outside voices. Too many voices for them. Need less voices. 

That’s it! What do we all need? 

Quite! 

We need to be we need to be we need to be…

we are...

“Four? Did you say something?”

Right.

Four forces his body to relax. His spine releases its rigid curve. Tight muscles unlock. The smallest hero lets himself sink into the dirt on the floor for a moment, reveling in the singularity of the experience. Even as more rocks poke into his ribs. And more dirt gets on his face.

Ow. Gross. Okay, enough of that. 

“Four?”

“Sorry, sorry,” Four says, closing his eyes and shaking his head for a second, a pantomime of clearing his thoughts. Oh, if only. What a joke.

He looks up to see concern flash in Hyrule’s hazel eyes. The shorter boy offers a lopsided smile to his brunette friend, hoping to dispel any concern as he takes the traveling hero’s proffered hand up.

Once standing, he swipes his hands firmly down first the front and then the back of his tunic. Dust sputters off him in small clouds. “I guess I’m still not used to this whole, ‘falling through time and space’ thing.”

“Oh, you’re preaching to the choir,” Hyrule says with a sympathetic shake of his head. “At least you landed on your feet before falling over this time. I went face first into that moss pile over. I think I swallowed some on accident.” The other boy opens his mouth and bares his teeth at Four. “Do I have anymore stuck in my teeth?”

Four dons a serious expression, his lip quivering with the effort to keep a straight face as Hyrule pokes a tongue over his canines, checking for any offending foliage. 

“Oh, no more than usual, I suppose, “ Four says, somehow able to keep his voice calm and conversational despite the laughter threatening to bubble up from his lungs.

“Hey!” Hyrule says, words coming out an octave higher with mock indignation as he gives Four’s shoulder a push. The two go back and forth pushing for a second, laughs bouncing between the two of them.

A warmth, like entering the heat of the forge on a cold winter’s day, spreads from Four’s chest to his face, spurring on his giggles. Oh . A part of him– warm and glowing red like the hearth–that part of him had missed this kind of easy friendship.

They eventually pull themselves together long enough for Four to actually check out their surroundings.

Well, at least they won't have to wonder who’s Hyrule they’re in for very long. 

Glowing aquamarine in the center of the room stands one of Wild’s shrines, it’s luminescence painting the entire area in a flickering blue, like the sun shining down through a layer of ocean water. 

They seem to be in a very tall room of sorts. In front of him, near the moss pile Hyrule had fallen into, is part of a wall meant to separate their room from others. The topmost part  of it has crumbled away from the ceiling, leaving massive stones laying in fallen heaps on the ground and exposing more rooms beyond the one they seem to be occupying.

Four vagley notes that all the others seem to have recovered much faster than him. He wonders how long he had been curled on the floor mumbling to himself. He hopes, for his sake, it wasn't long.

Near the only way in or out of the room– a lone, stone arch way– Time, Wild, Warriors, and Twilight stand, heads bowed low in quiet discussion. Wild is shaking his head emphatically as Warriors peaks his head around one side of the archway. 

Several beams of red light flash onto the hero’s face and body before Wild and Twilight grab the scarfed hero’s shoulders and forcefully pull him back. The four resume speaking, Wild pulling out his Sheikah Slate and pointing at it as he explains something.

To the left of them, Legend and Wind sit together talking. Or, if Four is going to be more accurate, Legend is going through his bag, filing through its contents while Wind chats away at him, either unaffected or in spite of Legend’s glares and lack of response.

Hyrule seems to follow Four’s eyes and sighs at the sight of his predecessor’s hands becoming more rough a he sorts through his belongings, a sure sign of the pink haired hero’s quickly thinning patience.

“I’ll go over and save him,” Hyrule says, already stepping toward the duo.

“A true hero of courage,” Four calls to the brunet’s retreating back, which is met with a blank look that has Four snorting. 

He knows Hyrule will be fine. Legend has a soft spot for the kid, even if he tries desperately to hide it behind heaps of sass and emotionally stunted, backhanded compliments.

Like someone else I know … Drifts through his open mind, cool as the stones around him.

Watch it.  Fires back another, a rolling wave cascading onto a beach.

Get a room . Commanding, but with a fondness softening the edges of the words. 

His thoughts swirl to a stop. Quite again. For now.

Four belatedly realizes that he had been mouthing along to the words and forces himself to stop. The smithy takes what he hopes is a casual glance around. No one seems to have been paying attention to him. 

Good.

He heaves a sigh.  It was difficult to break the habit of talking to himself. When he was alone, he would either separate–letting the parts of himself become the individuals they sometimes craved to be– or let the words of the others flow freely from his lips, a running commentary that both comforted and amused him.

Having to keep all of, well, him to himself was a full time job. However, it was one that Four would gladly bear if it granted him the companionship he hadn't even known he was missing.

The short hero turns away from the newly formed group, resuming his examination of what he is beginning to think is a temple– and not one with a stupid amount of needless traps and puzzles and with a giant monster at the end of it– but an actual place of worship. 

Four runs a hand down one of the nearest pillars. It is craggly, the gritty nature only broken up by soft, spongy patches of moss. 

Though most of Wild’s Hyrule is demolished ruins, there is something about this place that makes the short hero think this temple is older than the other structural remains they had found. 

Parts of it seem reinforced with bricks where the stones have fallen away, an attempt to restore what had been lost. Not only moss but vines and roots cling to every surface and burst out from between stone. If he squints real hard at the ceiling, Four can see cracks in the rock where water has leaked through, small stalactites naturally honing themselves into stone daggers above their heads. 

It’s the kind of natural reclamation that takes more than a hundred years. Maybe more than a thousand. 

Much older, his mind lands on as he idly brushes his fingertips across the carved stone. An ancient temple, crumbling long before the land it sat in ever felt a touch of The Calamity as Wild called it. 

Old. Older than the decay around it. A fossil: hard stone, weather beaten and hidden yet undeniably present. 

Four can’t help but feel awed. 

Looking up a bit higher than he can reach, the smith can see some kind of image carved into the stone of the pillar he is touching. He thinks he can make out large, circular looking eyes and a sharp, downward V shaped mouth. A beak, perhaps? 

He turns around, finding the exact hero he was looking for.

“Hey, Sky, can you…” he trails off as the chosen hero does not turn at his words. “Sky,” he tries again. Yet, the man remains static, back to the small hero and deaf to his voice. 

The smithy steps over a fallen rock to stand next to the taller hero, peering up at his face. The normally relaxed Link is staring forward and up, eyes wide and eyebrows furrowed. Like he’s seen a ghost.

“What are you…” Four begins, following Sky’s eyes. 

And then he sees it. 

Or rather, her.

“Oh,” he says. 

How in the Four Elements did they miss that?

If he didn't know any better –or have Sky standing right next to him for scale– Four might have thought he had accidentally stumbled onto a portal. 

But he does have Sky standing next to him and he does know better; there are no portals in Wild’s Hyrule as far as he knows. He’s checked every time they have landed here to no avail.

Regardless, even without being the size of a minish, she is massive.

Standing silent and stalwart in the back of the temple towers the largest statue of the goddess Hylia Four has ever seen. She looms over the back room, the crown of her head almost touching the ceiling. A sort of indentation has been carved out in the wall behind her, a semi-circle of terraced stone creating a halo around her head. 

Though clearly touched by time like the rest of the temple, her face remains free of significant erosion; her eyes clearly downturned in thought while her lips pull upward in a gentle smile. 

The blue, flickering glow from the shrine catches in the folds of her dress and the ridges of her feathered wings, giving the appearance of movement despite the rigidity of the stone.

Words flood over the banks of his consciousness unbidden. 

She’s beautiful Incredible craftsmanship How did they even get her in here The temple was built around it.

The last comment sticks in Four’s mind. 

Looking at the statue again, he can’t help but agree. There are no drag marks on her sides that he can observe. Obviously he cannot see her back from here, but moving such a large piece of stone would create a significant change in its shape. If she was dragged here on her back, it would flatten out that part of the statue, but he can see no change in her curvature. She looks perfectly cylindrical.

It’s like she just dropped out of the sky or something

Four turns to Sky intent on asking the older hero what he knows about it, seeing as he seems to have some sort of connection to it based on his reaction, but is interrupted by a sharp whistle from the front of the room.

Sky jolts next to him, coming out of his revere. The two turn to see Wild beckoning them over.

The two heroes stride over, joining the group already gathered near the entrance to the shrine. Four slides into the semicircle next to Hyrule while Sky merely stands behind Wind, able to see over the boy’s head easily.

“Anyone up for a rousing game of ‘Good News, Bad News?’” Legend whispers none to quietly from the other side of Hyrule. The traveling hero shushes him, but Four can see a slight upturn to his lips. 

Four could say a lot of things about the veteran hero, but at least the older man helps Hyrule to come out of his shell every once in a while.

Although, Four muses, he may be a bad influence on the traveling hero. They don't need two pessimistic little shits not wearing pants in this group. One is enough.

“So we have good news and bad news,” Warriors says. Four hears Legend snort and watches as Hyrule’s shoulders fight to remain still under his stifled laughs. 

See. Bad influence.

“Good news is that we know where we are,” Warriors continues, though he eyes Hyrule then narrows his eyes at Legend as he speaks. Without even having to look, Four is sure that Lgened is shooting the Captain a smug grin. Typical

“Bad news is that there is almost no way of getting out of here safely,” Warriors finishes.

“So, where are we exactly?” Wind pipes up, head tilted to the left and eyebrows furrowed. “Like, yeah, we’re in Wild’s Hyrule, but what makes here so dangerous?”

Warriors looks back at Wild in question and then waves the long haired hero forward as he steps backward to rejoin the semi-circle of heroes. Wild takes his place, pulling his Sheikah Slate from his belt as he does so. He taps on it for a second before flipping it around for the rest of them to see.

“We are here,” he says, finger tip indicating a small yellow arrow on the screen. The five heroes not already in the know lean in to get a better look. Four can see that their arrow seems to be next to a darker, jagged seam cut into brown of the map. A ravine.

“This place doesn't really have a name,” Wild continues, looking a little sheepish at the lack of concrete information, “but I call it The Forgotten Temple. It is a historical excavation site dug into the side of this canyon. We found it 100 years ago while we were searching for the Divine Beasts.”

Clear blue eyes cloud over for a second. Twilight places a hand on the younger hero’s shoulder. 

“Anyway,” Wild shakes his head, long hair flying behind him, dispeling whatever images had entered the young hero’s mind. “We are in the back room of the temple. So, the only way out is through the front.”

“I’m going to go out on a limb here and say there is a reason we can't just do that,” Legend says, voice flat with wearied humor.

Wild nods grimly, lips pressed into a thin line. “There are about thirty Decayed Guardians in the next few rooms. And all of the rest of the passageways between rooms have been destroyed so the only way to get out is using a paraglider.”

“Do I even want to know how you got back here to activate the shrine in the first place?” Legend asks, one hand rubbing at his left temple.

Wild’s face absolutely lights up. “Well I took this pot lid an–”

Twilight uses his hold on the younger hero’s shoulder to pull him out of the middle of the group. “Not now, Cub,” he says, shaking his head, exasperation coloring his words. Four gets a feeling Twilight knows the story already and hates the idea of reliving it now or –even worse– Wild giving a demonstration of what happened. 

“No, no, let him speak!” Wind calls, bouncing on the balls of his feet, eyes wide as he stares at Wild. “You used a pot lid to do what?”

Time steps forward, silencing the group with a single well placed glare before they have a chance to devolve any further. Part of Four greatly respects the man’s ability to bring together and command a group as rowdy as this one. 

But then, another part of him hates being told what to do on principle, so, eh, it evens out. 

“We’ve decided that the best course of action is to use Wild’s Sheikah Slate to teleport to Rito Village,” the Old Man says.

The room erupts into groans of disapproval that Four can’t help but agree with. He had once watched Wild use the slate, the ragged teen disappearing into ribbons of dissolving icy-blue light. Just the thought of disassembling one place and reassembling somewhere else makes him feel queasy.

Well, that sounds a little familiar. Maybe if we think about it that way, it's won't be so bad!  Blossoms into his brain, warm and hopeful.

You know for damn sure that's not what it's gonna be like. A hiss.

It doesn't hurt to be optimistic. Harsh wind, a reprimand.

“Maybe we should all shut up and listen to what he has to say before arguing about it.” Stone cold and pointed, like an icicle inches from falling.

Wait...

The groans stop. Several heads turn to Four with wide eyes. The ice from his unintentional words drips down, over his ribs and into his stomach.

Oh shit we just said that out loud Dammit It’s not that bad I’m… sorry I didn't mean…

Time recovers the fastest from the very out of character outburst from the smallest hero and inclines his head slightly to Four. “Thank you.”

“As I was saying,” Time continues, and as the other heroes turn their attention back to their leader Four feels himself unwind. Lucky break. “Rito Village is the closest settlement to this location. Once we all regroup there, we can begin to ask around for information on monster attacks in the area.”

“I can carry up to two people with me when I teleport,” Wild says, picking up where Time left off. He quickly turns around for a second, the tapping and chirping of his Slate the only sound for a moment, before he turns back to the rest of the group, a handful of what appears to be wheat stalks in the teen’s hand. He grins as he holds out the grain. “We’ll pull wheat to see who goes when. Longest first, shortest last.”

They go around the circle, starting from Wild’s left and working their way around. Four doesn't really pay attention to the other’s or how long their stalks are– in fact he pointedly ignored Warriors and Legend’s absolutely asinine comparison of lengths, the children that they are– instead only tuning back in long enough to grab his own.

He pinches the top of the stalk, pulling it from WIld’s hand and...

It’s tiny, only an inch of stem beneath the spike containing the grain, a pitiful looking leaf hanging from the cut off end.

Legend, drawn from his squabble with the scarfed hero for the moment, laughs derisively in Four’s direction. 

“Aww,” he says, words dripping with false sugar. “It suits you!”

Hyrule elbows the legendary hero in the side, sending Four an apologetic look. Four simply rolls his eyes in response, not dignifying the comment with a response. 

Well, at least not externally.

One of these days, I’m gonna punch that smug prick so hard, the pink comes out of his hair!

Those in pot filled homes should not throw stones.

Right?! He’s barely taller than us!

Aw, come on guys, you know he's just joking. It’s his way of showing affection!

My foot is about to show that pantless dick’s shins some affection!

Four lets the dialogue play out in his head, taking care to school his face into a neutral mask even as some of the funnier comments threaten to make him laugh aloud. Soon the rest of the heroes take their turns, cementing the order.

First to leave would be Time and Wind, followed by Warriors and Legend– and wasn’t that great, their stalks were actually the same length– then Hyrule and Twilight, and last would be Four and Sky.

The first three gather together, Wind linking arms with Wild while Time sets a hand on the Champion’s shoulders.

“See you soon!” Wild says, and with a soft chime, the three disappear into flowing blue ribbons of light.

The six remaining Links glance around, unsure what to do with themselves in the interim between trips. The soft whirring from the Decayed Guardians the next room dominates the area for a moment.

A cough. 

“So,” Legend says, going through his bag again. He pulls out a small, square paper envelope with a pair of purple bunny ears painted on the side. “Anyone wanna play cards?”





Sky immediately and graciously bows out of the card game, citing the need to take a nap for his absence. 

As the others begin debating what game to play, Four watches as the chosen hero walks away, the brunette already pulling on the edges of his beloved sailcloth, wrapping himself up even before he sits. The man treads slowly, almost reverently, up the altar, before sitting down and leaning back against the statue, head thrown back against the stone in preparation for sleep.

He seems sad. 

However, before he can do anything else, the others settle on BS, a game that appears to transcend the bounds of Time and Space because apparently everyone loves lying to their loved ones, and Four is quickly pulled in. 

The game only lasts five rounds– five rounds of Warriors accusing Legend of cheating, Legend not actually cheating because it’s freaking BS, Hyrule’s terrible poker face, Twilight’s incredible poker face, and Four counting cards because he plays to win. Five very entertaining and loud rounds of BS before Wild returns to pick up the next batch of heroes. 

And then there were four. Well, three if you didn't count the sleeping Sky. 

With their game taken away, Twilight, Hyrule, and Four sit themselves on the edge of the shrine and start to chat. Their conversation roams from their home town– or equivalent home area, cave thing for Hyrule– to their favorite activities to do in their down time to their favorite foods.

Twilight is just wrapping up a fascinating tale of the best soup he ever had while in the company of some yetis when the soft whoosh of Wild’s returning form cuts him off. 

“Looks like that’s our queue,” Twilight says, offering a hand up to Hyrule, which the other hero takes. 

The two quickly approach Wild, but the teen waves them away for a second, instead striding up to Four with a question in his eyes.

“Hey,” he starts, eyes flicking away from Four’s face for a second before flashing back again. A nervous tick. “Some of the others are getting a bit antsy for dinner. Is it okay if I cook something up really quick and then come grab you two?”

Four raises a hand in a placating motion and offers Wild a small smile.

“That sounds fine to me. I know how some of them can get when hungry. All things considered, this is a pretty interesting place to be stuck in. Besides,” and here the shorter hero throws a thumb over one shoulder toward the statue, “I don't really have the heart to wake him up just yet.”

A relieved smile flits onto Wilds face. “Okay, cool.”

“You sure you’re okay with waiting that long by yourself?” Hyrule asks, earnest concern in his words. “I can stay and you can go if you want. I’m used to the quiet.”

Four shakes his head, a wry grin on his face. “No, no, it’s fine. I’m good at keeping myself entertained.”

Hardy hardy har. 

Oh come on, that was a good one! 

“Well, if you're sure…” Hyrule trails off. Four nods one more time and sends the group off with a wave. Hyrule waves back, until he too dissolves into nothing but streams of light evaporating into the night air.

As the light from the transportation fades, Four takes in a deep breath, holds it and then lets it hiss from between his teeth. He relaxes his mind and tension he didn't know he was holding bleeds from his shoulders.

And then there were five.

“Now what do we do?” his voice asks, a slight grumble to the words. 

“I say we get a better look at that statue,” he replies to the open air.

“Seconded.” “Me too!” spills from his lips and Four nods. Good. They’re all in agreement.

He meanders around the shrine, running a hand over the gnarled stone, the smoothness of the glowing glass. 

It truly is a marvel, he thinks. Last time they were here, Wild had showed them the almost mystical qualities to the Sheikah weaponry that the Champion used during his travels. Apparently, the way to make such weapons had been all but lost to the Sheikah people during their period of persecution.

However, Wild had told Four that one researcher was able to find and repair an ancient Sheika blacksmith automaton capable of recreating the weapons. So far, none of their travels to Wild’s Hyrule had ever spat them out close enough to the research facility for Four to warrant a visit, but he held out hope that they would be able to go at some point.

The small hero comes to a stop in front of the altar, head tipped back to stare up at the statue.

“It really is beautiful,” he breaths. “I wonder how old it is?”

“Ancient. Older than the concept of Hyrule itself.”

Four feels something inside him tense up once more. His head reels as he pulls himself  together, dizziness blooming behind his eyes. His sight fills with black and white spots, the back of his skull pounding and heavy.

Despite his clouded vision, the smithy’s gaze flashes toward the voice and finds Sky. He is evidently not asleep, and based on the exhausted look on the older man’s face, he never was. 

He is leaned back against the statue, head lolling back as he stares unseeing at the stone that looms over him. His sailcloth is pulled over his shoulders like a shield, with the corners of the fabric held in clenched fists crossed over his chest.

“What?” Four asks, confusion and pain melting together into a disoriented tone.

“It’s from my time” Sky reiterates. “It was from Skyloft.”

Four nods his head slowly, letting the information sink in. 

Sky had told their group about his home among the clouds; an idyllic floating society above the world that had been ravaged by the war between the goddess and a demon known as Demise. From Sky’s description, the place seemed wonderful; a location that Four would love to visit if given the chance.

A small, fond smile pulled at Sky’s lips.

“It used to be sort of the centerpiece of the city. Everything happened there.”

“It must have been magnificent,” Four assures the older man, unsure what else to say.

Silence stretches out between them, thick and awkward. 

Four is at a bit of a loss. The shorter hero had never seen Sky look like this. The man was usually bright and sunny, offering kind words or constructive ideas to any interaction he was a part of. He had an easy smile and was even easier to talk to, regardless of what the topic of conversation was.

Sure, the brunette often had his head in the clouds – you’re still not funny– but never had Four seen him so out of it.

The chosen hero looks… lost. His face seems to be unable to settle on an expression, turning from nostalgic, to worried, to down right sad and then right back again. If Four wasn't the way he was, he would probably be impressed with how many emotions Sky was jumping through so quickly.

“Had you ever heard of Loftwings before I told you about them?” Sky asks, eyes suddenly locked onto Four. There is something in the look, something intense. Something desperate.

Four shakes his head.

Sky sighs and leans his head back against the statue once more. His eyes trace the stone above him in small circles and figure eights, tracking something that Four can’t see. 

This isn’t going well.  Forms in Four’s mind, concern dripping from the thought.

Really? What gave it away? Snappish, but with an undercurrent of emotion.  

What a helpful addition. Truly, where would we be without your input? Sarcastic but frustrated. No answers.

You guys are terrible at this. Fond. 

Four gently lowers himself next to the sitting hero, setting his back against the statue and stretching his legs out in front of him. He brushes his shoulder against Sky’s own and when the other doesn't pull away, leans fully into his side. 

It isn't exactly comfortable–the stone is harsh against his spine– but at least it’s warm.

“What are they like?” Four asks, staring up at the ceiling, trying to imagine the images that must be dancing before Sky’s eyes. “The Loftwings, I mean.”

“They are…” a prolonged beat as Sky finds the words he is looking for, “a blessing. At least, that’s what we were told since we were children. It was said that the goddess Hylia created the Loftwings to protect us, to make our lives in the sky easier. Happier.”

Four nods his head against Sky’s shoulder so the older hero knows he is listening.

“Everyone had one. Every few years on a special day called Meeting Day, the kids who had come of age would gather under the statue– this statue– to greet their partner. Their other half.”

A chuckle pushes its way past Sky’s lips.

“I was late for my Meeting Day. I overslept on accident.”

“You oversleeping? I never would have guessed,” Four snickers, nudging Sky lightly, eliciting another laugh from the older hero.

“Not much has changed I guess,” Sky admits. “Zelda though, Zelda was so mad at me. Told me I wasn't taking my life seriously enough. It was brutal.”

“I think she was mad because it was her Meeting Day too,” he continues. “She wanted everything to go perfectly.”

“But it was a complete mess,” he says, nostalgia apparent in his words. “There were actually three of us having our Meeting Day that year. Me, Zelda, and another guy. He didn't even wait for the ceremony to finish before he was whistling for his bird. Dumb thing nearly knocked Headmaster Gaepora off the statue.”

Four watches as Sky shakes his head in fondness at the memory and wonders if the other boy and Sky eventually became friends, even with their rocky start. He imagines they did. Who could hate someone like Sky, afterall?

The older hero sobers a bit then, smile falling from his face.

“And then it was our turn to go. We whistled at the exact same time. Zelda wanted us to take our first flight together. We had been talking about it for years.”

He sighs. “Her Loftwing landed before we were even finished whistling.”

“And yours?” Four asks before he can stop himself, a pit in his stomach already telling him where this story was going.

Sky smiles ruefully, glancing down at Four’s face before returning his gaze to the ceiling.

“I whistled over and over again, but nothing happened. Eventually, they went through with the rest of the ceremony without me.” A breath in. A breath out. “I had to watch Zelda fly for the first time with my feet stuck firmly on the ground.”

The older hero sighs. “I don't blame them. No one knew what to do with me. No one had ever failed to call a Loftwing before.”

Four stares at Sky’s face, watching as his expression grows more grim, his frown and the furrow between his eyebrows growing more pronounced.

“I kept trying for hours. By Noon, most people had left. Better things to do, I guess,” he laughs without humor. “By sunset, Zelda was forced to go home by her father. But I stayed there. I stayed beneath the statue, whistling and whistling and whistling all night.”

“I must have fallen asleep at some point because when I woke up,” Sky says, finally regaining some light, “there he was. I thought it was the sunrise playing a trick on me, but he was actually there. A real Crimson Loftwing.”

A smile, warm as the sun. “He was mine and I was his.”

And then suddenly, the sun is gone. This is it, Four thinks as whirlwind of dark, heavy emotion blots out the sky that is the older heroes eyes. The storm that had been brewing since the other hero had laid eyes on the stone edifice.  

“But they’re all gone now.” Sky says, voice empty.  He gently pushes Four away from his side and then turns to more fully look at the smaller hero. The smith is suddenly hit with how cold it is here without Sky’s warmth.

The brunette stares intently at Four, cornflower blue eyes locked onto whatever muddled, chaotic shade has overtaken his own. Four is trapped under the other’s intent gaze, a leaf in a tornado, unable to escape.

Clouds of pain and uncertainty darken the normally bright blue of the chosen hero’s eyes. Something lurks behind those clouds, Four thinks, like the presence of lightning unknown until the moment it strikes the ground.

Then, thunderous understanding rings through Four’s bones, rattling through his body, shaking him down to the fault lines of his mind.

Swarming in Sky’s eyes is a need to be seen. A need to be heard. A need to be recognised.

“They’re gone and no one’s ever heard of them. Or the Mogmas or Levias or Ghirahim or Skyloft or Demise,” he continues, words picking up speed as he does. There is something frantic about the list. A desire to have it all down, catalogued and out in the open air for all to hear. An auditory library of things lost to time.

“My whole life: everything I was, am, or will be is dust by the time you come along.”

The chosen hero suddenly deflates, leaving behind a lost looking Sky. He falls back against the statue.

Above them, the goddess does not move. Her eyes remain gentle, and her smile stays set in unmoving stone.  

“Is it selfish of me to be afraid of being forgotten? Like I was never there to begin with?” Sky asks. “Is it selfish to wonder if this is it? If this is all I leave behind?” he question, voice going softer and softer. 

“Just a sword, a statue, and a curse?”

“No.”

Sky sits up at the tone of Four’s voice. Four pushes himself to his feet, fists clenched at his sides and for the first time in a long time, he feels tall as he stares down at Sky’s bewildered face

“No, I don't think it's selfish,” Four says, and he means it. By Hylia he means it, his chest brimming with some thing hot and cold and too much and too little. 

Some part of him wants to punch Sky for thinking this way. Another part wants to hug him. All of him wants Sky to understand, to know that he is not alone.  

“What could be scarier,” Four whispers, “than the idea of not existing?”

 

 

(he sees four boys: in forest green, ocean blue, flame red, and dusk purple. each one holds a sword above a single pedestal, ready to plunge the blade back in. back where it belongs. but something holds them back, each one barley gripping the pommel as their hands shake. 

is this it? everything I did? it was all for this? where will I go? where will they go? where where where where?

am I going to die?

but they need to do it. Vaati had already taken so much from them. they couldn't leave him free. he needs to be sealed. 

this is the only way.

together, they drive their blades into the ground and disappear in a flash of light.  

a single boy emerges, tunic green but eyes a rainbow of color. 

they hold themselves. 

no, he holds himself. 

no, they hold themselves. four times the amount of tears drip down one face and they smile and scream and laugh and sob)

 

 

“It’s not selfish to want to know that you exist somewhere, anywhere, when you're gone,” Four insists, conviction and strength in his words. The pulsing glow of the shrine illuminates his eyes in flashes of multicolored, unnatural fire.

“So no,” Four continues, “I don't think it's selfish. But I also think it's not something you have to worry about.”

The smallest hero reaches a hand down to Sky. The other glances back and forth between Four’s face and the offered hand before tentatively taking it. The smith, strong despite his size, pulls and the Chosen hero follows, stumbling to his feet.

“Look around!” Four says, letting go of Sky’s hand to splay his arms wide. The smith steps away from the alter, spinning on a heel as he does, wide arms indicating everything around them. 

“Here we are, goddesses know when, in a kingdom you helped to create. A kingdom that survives through demon kings, and wind mages, and floods, and calamities. It survives.”

Four throws a gestures over Sky’s shoulder, indicating the green and purple pommel peeking out from behind his back. “You left a sword that has protected so many of us. A beautiful sword that cuts through darkness like a torch in the night.”

The smallest hero places a hand on his chest, feeling the familiar stitching marking the border between his blue and green tunic beneath his calloused palm.

“And most of all, you left us the spirit that unites us together. Without it, I never would have met any of you. I never would have found so many new friends.” Four leaves the ‘New brothers’ unsaid.

“Nothing is ever forgotten,” Four says as he points at the pillar he was examining earlier. 

Circular eyes. V-shaped beak. Splayed feathers. Not just a bird, but a Loftwing, flying eternal in stone. 

“Maybe just lost for a bit, but not forgotten. Never.”

Four turns back to the other hero. He can see a smile on Sky’s face, the silver lining finally emerging despite the rain that threatens to fall from the older’s eyes.

“And if it means anything,” Four continues as he comes to next to Sky once more, placing a hand on his elbow, “I know of at least eight people who won’t be forgetting you anytime soon.”

Sky nods, taking a second to rub his face– physically wiping away emotions that had been plaguing his mind– before turning his smile back to the smithy.

With one hand he takes the edge of his sail cloth and drapes it across Four’s opposite shoulder and then guides the two of them to be sitting back against the statue once more, now bundled together rather than apart. 

Four is grateful for the warmth. He hadn't even noticed until that second that his breath was clouding around his face or that the trembling of his hands might have been from cold rather than sheer emotional force.  

“You always seem to know just what to say,” Sky says as he pulls Four more effectively into his side. “Anyone ever tell you that you’re great at giving advice?”

Two ‘Yes’s and two ‘No’s collide in his skull. 

Four merly smiles.

“I like to think I bring new perspectives to conversations,” he says

Hylia, it would be quicker if you just killed me.

You’re no fun.

“Because no one else has your vantage point on the problem?” Sky asks, cheekily.

Aaaand we’re back to short jokes.

Oh, it’s on, Bird Boy!

Wait, speaking of birds...

“I will let the joke slide just this once if you answer a question I meant to ask earlier. You mentioned specifically that your Loftwing was a Crimson Loftwing. Is that significant in some way?” Four asks.

Without looking up, Four can feel Sky nod from the way his shoulder gently shifts. “That’s because no one had seen a Crimson Loftwing for many, many years.  They were assumed to have gone extinct.”

“So the fact that yours was Crimson would have been very important,” Four cataloges. And then, “What’s his name?”

Its goes silent for a moment. 

“Well, uhhhh,” Sky says, floundering for a moment. 

His voice drops into a defeated tone. “You have to understand, I was pretty young at the time. Children have their Meeting Day when they turn 8 and–”

“Sky,” Four cuts off the brunette’s rambling, a grin slowly growing on his face. “What did you name your Loftwing?”

The brunette pulls his half of the sailcloth closer, muffling his already mumbled words.

“Hmm? What was that?” Four asks, voice going high at the end of the question, ready to tease the first holder of the Spirit of the Hero into oblivion.

“I named him Apple,” Sky says, the voice of man repentant of his crimes.

It’s like an explosion goes off in Four’s head; all four different parts of him howling with laughter.

“You–” Four cuts himself off to take a breath in, steadying his voice, “You named the last known member of an endangered species Apple?!”

“I was eight!” Sky hisses.

Four absolutely cackles. 

“Oh come on,” Sky groans, “Like you never gave something a stupid name when you were younger?”

And that shuts up Four. Kind of.

He does have us there.

Oh fuck off, Violet.

I didn’t come up with names, Red did!

Four lets his mind turns into a battlefield but ignores it, instead relaying another question about the intricacies of riding Loftwings to Sky, who readily answers.

Pressed up against the other’s side, Four can feel the older hero's voice reverberate around him. He can feel the steady rise and fall of Sky’s chest and the heat radiating off him beneath the makeshift blanket.

Back in his time, Sky is long gone, lost to the ages. But here and now they sit together and wait, the ever shifting blue pulse of the shrine in front of them and the immovable stone of the goddess behind them.

 

 

The soft hiss and crackle of Sheika teleportation erupts in the silence of the room, the blue flecks coalescing into one frantic looking blonde teenager. 

“Four, Sky! I’m so sorry, there was this whole thing with Wind and a weird pear that one of the Rito children ate and–”

“Shush!”

“What? Is something wro– Oh.”

Sky watches as the younger hero turns the corner of the shrine, catching sight of the pair of them. 

They must make quite the sight if Wild’s hand twitching toward his Sheikah Slate is any indication. 

Curled against his side, Four breaths deeply and evenly, mumbling every so often in his sleep. The smithy had grown quite a little while ago as his questions slowly petered off into silence.

“Sorry,” Wild whispered as he joins them on the altar. Sky isn't sure whether he is apologizing about his tardiness or almost waking up Four. 

“It’s fine,” he assures, turning his head down to look at the small hero while trying to move his body as little as possible.

“Sometimes I forget how young he is. He always seems so,” and here Wild cuts off his whisper to smooth his face out into a flat, unimpressed look.

Sky nods forcing down his chuckles at the look.

“Don’t let him hear you say that.”

They sit in the quiet of the temple for a moment just looking at the small teen.

“We should wake him,” Wild decides. “He’ll want dinner when we get to the village.”

But Sky shakes his head. “We’ll wake him up when we get there. I don't have the heart to do it just yet.”

Slowly, Sky bundles Four more fully in the white cloth and then shifts the teen onto his back and stands. He gives Wild a thumbs up which the long haired teen returns with a shrug and a look that says ‘Your funeral, not mine’ before turning to step off the alter.

And as Wild turns around, Sky catches a glimpse of the shield strapped to the teen’s back. On the blue background, a crimson bird soars, cradling the triforce between outstretched wings.

A smile quirks at the corner of his lips.

Never forgotten, huh? 

Well, wouldn't you know.

Chapter Text

Four usually enjoys the rain.

Most would probably assume he wouldn't. Rain meant high humidity, which often meant having to crank his fires even higher in order to fight off the cursed moisture that affects the melting point of metals. Rain also meant less people wandering the dirt roads beyond Hyrule Town, ergo, less people coming in to buy or commission weapons. 

Some might also assume he hated rain due to his– uhhhm– reduced stature and its apparent susceptibility to the cold. 

But the people who assumed that would be wrong.  Every single part of Four finds joy in the rain.

Part of him loves it for its practicality; the way he can easily open a window in the forge to let out the hot air, making it easier to breath. A breath of fresh air to cool his lungs from the smoldering heat.

Another loves it on principle, an excuse to get out of the forge and spruce up around the house while they have less people bursting in and messing everything up holy Hylia why are customers the worst? why can't they put shit back? it's all organized by species! they KNOW this sword doesnt go here! why the FUCK would they put it here???

A third likes its soft presence, a gentle staccato heard peripherally as he reads. The way it patters unobtrusively yet universally throughout the house as they go about their separate work. Something unifying even while apart.

The last loves the results; warm, creamy tea by the fire with the others maybe followed by a run through the puddles outside if he’s good enough at guilt tripping them with puppy dog eyes.

All of him loves its smell and the cool, refreshing feeling it leaves in the air, battling away the overly warm winds common to his Hyrule. 

So yes, Four usually enjoys the rain.

But not right now.

Right now it sucks.

It is absolutely pouring and has been since they had set off from their cave that morning.

They’re in Hyrule’s Hyrule– Goddesses, that sounds stupid C’mon thats not nice– headed toward what the traveling hero had called a nearby town.

A nearby town that is apparently more than a three hour walk away.

To be fair, he did say ‘relatively nearby.’  Stated plainly. Flat but at least diplomatic. 

A fat lot of good that does us now. Sniped back, pissed for the sake of being pissed at this point.

Four sighs, making sure not to let his annoyance pull his face into a scowl. He knows it's no use getting angry at anyone. It was either walk through the rain, or stay in the cave until the inclement weather let up. 

One entailed a cold but ultimately painless three hour walk. The other, being in an enclosed space with 8 other versions of himself for an unknown period of time.

He knows which one he would choose any day. No one needs a bored Wind and Wild with access to unlimited bombs. Or Warriors and Legend forced to share close quarters with no end in sight. Or Twilight and Time animatedly discussing farming techniques for hours with no escape. 

Not even the Triforce of Courage would make him brave enough to face that.

Doesn't mean I have to like it… Agitated but calmer, the ocean’s surface settling after a storm.

Now if only this storm would let up.

Four swipes a hand across his face for what feels like the millionth time that day, brushing away the droplets of water threatening to drip into his eyes from the ridge of his eyebrows. Pin pricks of not-quite-pain flare across his cheeks as more freezing rain whips against his already cold skin. 

There is a dull ache in his head courtesy of the ponytail he has pulled his hair into. It sits at the back of his head, soggy and drooping, pulling at his scalp. However, the smithy makes no move to remove it from its tie. He had gotten tired of tucking away the sopping wet curtains of hair at around the one hour mark of their walk.

He’ll take the slight headache over wet hair perpetually in his eyes and mouth, thank you very much. 

He, unfortunately, can't do anything about his tunic. The patchwork cloth hangs sodden and heavy from his frame, slapping against his forearms and thighs as he trudges behind the others. His boots are likewise sopping wet, water squishing up between his toes with each step. It feels like he's walking barefoot through a freezing swamp. Uncomfortable and vaguely disgusting.

To put it shortly– Oh, fuck off– he’s having a terrible time.

But at least he’s not alone in that department.

From his vantage point near the back, Four can see Hyrule as he leads the group, normally fluffy brunette hair slicked back and stuck to his skull as he treads onward determinedly. Even from behind, Four can tell that his arms are crossed tightly over his chest. Whether it’s from concern, habit, or to ward off the cold, he can’t tell.

Legend and Sky walk behind the traveling hero, almost shoulder to shoulder with one another as they plod onwards. An unusual pair to be sure. Well, at least it would be, if Sky hadn’t divulged to Four earlier that morning that he was taking it upon himself to keep Legend in line for the day. The already snappish Link could blow his gasket at the drop of a hat on a good day, let alone their current circumstances.

But even Legend would think twice about losing his cool with Sky, and the chosen hero knew it. Not enough people give Sky credit for his machinations, the short hero muses as he watches Sky throw a disarming smile and an unheard comment to the pink haired hero, who looks like he's grinding his teeth to stumps with the effort of keeping his snark in check.

Weaponized kindness is not something to be underestimated. Four should know; part of him wields it just as effectively against the others– a hot knife through butter.

Come on guys, I’m not that bad. The words themselves indignant, but undercut with a warm tinge of self-satisfaction.

Easy for you to say. You’ve never been on the receiving end of one of your disappointed faces. Breezes back, flashes of the exact face blinking into existence behind Four’s eyes. Warm amber eyes clouded over and brows furrowed. Freckled cheeks drawn in and lips pouted. 

Four feels himself shutter and not from the cold. Yeesh, just the thought of it makes him feel bad.

I just don't like hearing him cry is all. Words grumbled. 

Oh, you don’t have to convince us. Tone that of pointed indifference. A verbal nudge in the ribs.

For once in your life, shut up! Voice rising quickly like the tide. More embarrassed than actually annoyed. 

Softy. Comes the definitive response, three different tones shaping the thought.

Four shakes his head, a slight smile finding its way onto his face despite the circumstances. Sometimes it paid to have four distinctive thought processes running at once, if only to derive enjoyment from three of them ripping the fourth to shreds.

A wet slapping noise draws Four’s attention away from the teasing massacre currently occupying his mind. 

Next to him, Four can see Warriors trudging with a weary expression on his face. His normally majestic scarf hangs heavily from his neck, sopping wet. With each step, the cloth smacks into the back of his legs, the source of the noise that had alerted the smithy.

Warriors seems to have had enough of it, because he takes ahold of the part of the scarf wrapped around his neck and swings the cloth around to secure it more tightly against his throat. In his annoyance, Four can see that the older hero has used more force than he had probably intended. 

Oh no It’s his own fault There’s no time to warn him This is gonna be good.

Four watches with mounting– excitement? apprehension?–  anticipation as the water logged cloth sweeps around and around Warriors’ neck before the end of the fabric reaches the Captain’s unsuspecting face, slapping him with a resounding wet clap. 

The older hero freezes in shock, the sodden scarf remaining stuck in place for a moment before slowly sloughing off his face, leaving an absolutely shocked and sputtering expression in its wake.

The Pretty Boy glances around to make sure no one saw that and catches Four’s gaze locked on him. Blue eyes widen into a pleading look. 

Four lets the corners of his lips raise minutely. 

Oh yes. He did, in fact, see that. 

The captain lets out a quiet groan and speeds up his steps, head ducking lower as the tips of his ears turn a faint pink. 

Four forces down the laughter threatening to escape his lips. Better to let the Captain stew in embarrassment for the moment and bring it up later, when he’s not expecting it. Preferably with Legend present.

Karma for all the ‘kiddo’ jabs and short jokes.

What goes around, comes around.

Like a wet scarf? Four’s left eye twitches, a wink almost slipping from his brain into real life.

I hate that I’m associated with you.

You aren’t just associated with me. You are m– Shit!

Though his toes are numb from the cold, Four can feel as his left foot slips too far forward, gliding across the rain slicked grass like it’s ice. His right foot sweeps forward automatically, trying to stabilize him, but only succeeding in sliding forward as well.

A jolt of sick anticipation wells up in his stomach.

So much for having dirt on Warriors. 

But before gravity has its way with him , a warm hand reaches out and pushes between his shoulder blades. After a moment, Four’s boots finally find purchase back on the ground, stabilizing the short hero before he falls flat on his ass and slides down the small hill they are on. 

“Careful,” Time says as he steps past the now steadied smith, words flat with an odd mix of weariness, irony, and humor. “It’s slippery.”

Before Four can thank the older hero for the save, there is a shout of “wait!” and two blue blurs of movement rush past Four’s other side, close enough for him to feel the splatter of water and displaced air brush against him as they do. 

A trail of boisterous laughter follows behind the blurs. As the two descend down the hill, the shapes resolve themselves into Wild and Wind, one standing upright on a shield while the other rides sitting down on his like a sled.

“Yeah, Four!” Wind’s voice shouts, giggly and growing fainter as he speeds away. “It’s slippery!”

Wind and Wild’s laughs mingle and fade as they reach the foot of the hill, both boys splashing into more runoff waiting for them at the bottom. Sky and Legend, standing too close, jump back a shade too late and end up with water sprayed up onto their pants. 

Well, pants and bare legs respectively.

Thats what he gets for not fucking wearing pants.

Four watches as the pink haired hero lets out a hiss, furiously (and futilely) wiping at his legs while Sky simply leans down and helps Wind up from the puddle with a fondly exasperated shake of his head.

With a roll of his eyes and a grumble, Legend steps up to Wild with a hand outstretched to ostensibly help him up as well. But, as the scarred teen reaches out to take it, Legend’s face scrunches, a smile with too many teeth splitting his face and he stomps down, throwing water into the younger hero’s face.

For a second, the smithy thinks Wild will lash out with a splash in retaliation, but the scarred teen simply wipes a hand down his face and then grins up at Legend.  

Quick as a whip, Wild grabs the veteran hero’s hand with two of his own and yanks.

Legend lets out a squawk and goes face first into the water.

Wild scrambles out of the puddle and out of the danger zone of Legend’s flailing arms, laughing as he does. Wind greets him with a high five while Sky watches on with a small smile. 

Hyrule steps forward to help his predecessor out while trying to quell the smile on his lips as he does. No need to piss off the pink haired hero more.

As Four watches this all unfold, Twilight finally comes to stand next to him. The man sighs and Four glances at him as they begin to trudge down the hill together. The farmhand’s shoulders slump under the weight of his sodden pelt. He looks exhausted. And he smells like wet dog.

His face is tired but as he looks at the others– Warriors, Wind, and Wild laughing, Legend glaring from over Hyrule’s shoulder, Sky and Time looking on, not offering to help in the slightest– as he looks at them, something about the elder seems to soften and  the bags under his eyes seem to lighten, if only a little.

“I swear,” he says, voice airy with an exhale as he shakes his head. “Those kids are going to kill me.”

“Ah, youth,” Four agrees with a sage nod.

Twilight glances down, giving Four a dry look despite the wet hair hanging in front of his eyes. 

“Don’t push it.” 





It only takes a few moments for Four and Twilight to reach where the rest of the group waits for them. 

Now that Four is paying more attention to his surroundings instead of keeping his head bowed against the rain, he can see that they are walking down into a small valley between two hill ranges. 

What Four had thought was just a large puddle that Wind and Wild (and Legend) had fallen into is actually a small stream that cuts in and out around the mounds of dirt. It babbles lightly, slightly swollen with the newly added run off from the surrounding hills.

Twilight clears it in a single stride.

Show off.

Four follows, but needs a small hop to avoid the water.

Hyrule smiles as they finally draw near.

“We’re close now!” the traveling hero says. He points over the crest of the hill they stand at the foot of. “It’s just at the bottom of that hill.”

“Finally,” Legend spits, futilely wringing out his hat. He slaps the wet cloth over the back of his head with a scowl directed at Wild. The teen smiles back.

Time nods in approval. “Good. That should give us enough time to find a place to stay and gather supplies.” A single eye flicks back to Hyrule. “You said there was a hotel of some kind?”

“Yeah,” An emphatic nod from Hyrule. “There’s an abandoned house at the edge of town. The shopkeeper rents it out to travelers. There should be enough room for all of us.”

“Then let’s get a move on,” Time says, getting a nod from in response.

With the thought of a warm and dry place to stay so close, the group sets off up the hill in brighter spirits. Hyrule in particular, Four notes, strides forward with quickened steps, taking up the lead once again as he practically jogs up the hill.

Before long, they crest the hill top, giving the group the chance to finally see the town that had necessitated four hours of walking in misery.

Thats it What did you expect So small Well you heard how he talked about his Hyrule 

… Town was probably too generous a word for it.

Sitting down in a nest of hills at the base of a mountain in the distance, sits fifteen or twenty buildings. They are divided by a thin river, a single arched bridge stitching the two sides of the village back together.

Surrounding the hamlet is a short and crumbling wall, mossy and coming apart at the seams. More for show than actual protection. A semblance of control, a dream of safety.

Running beside the river are small plots of land, measured out and carved into neat rows. Farms. Important for survival, but apparently not worth building houses next to. Better to stay behind the shattered cobblestone than out in the open. Safety in numbers. Not worth dying over a potato.

It’s quiet, no movement of people running to get into shelter from the rain. No children jumping in puddles or parents calling them back in from the cold. 

No. 

Rather, only a few lanterns are lit at all. Everything else is dark and silent.

Hyrule steps forward, a sheepish, self-deprecating smile on his face. His eyes are downcast. Embarrassed. He sweeps a hand out to the buildings, ducking low as if trying to sink out of their eye line.

“Welcome to Saria Town,” he says. His eyes flick up for a moment before returning to the ground. His painted smile drips a little in the rain. “I know it’s not much… but it’s safe.”

Next to him, out of the corner of his eye, Four can see Time tense, though at what, he can not say. Then the Old Man steps forward.  “It looks perfect.”

Hyrule’s head snaps up, hazel eyes wide first in shock, before he relaxes into a grin. Time gives him a nod.

“Lead the way.”

The traveling hero nods, stepping down the hill, head held a little higher as he does. Time follows closely with Legend, Warriors, and Sky not far behind.

Four is about to join them when a voice from behind stops him.

“Don’t,” Twilight groans. Four turns back in confusion, only to see that the exasperated word wasn't directed at him but rather, the two blondes just behind him.

Four glances at the two boys, and instantly sees why. 

The two are gazing intently down the hill, sizing it up. They apparently like what they see because the two grin widely at each other. The blue clad heroes hold out their shields to one another, tapping them together in a mock ‘shield high-five’.

“Race you there?” Wind asks, eyes fire bright and face pulled into a grin of challenge

“You even need to ask, Sailor?” Wild replies cockily, already tossing his shield to the ground.

“On the count of three…” Wind says. Wild steps one foot on his shield– not his Hylian shield, Four notes with some relief, but rather a long, steel gray one– and braces the other behind him, ready to throw himself forward. 

“One,” Wild says. Wind places his hands on his shield, ready to jump.

“Two.” They tense.

“Don’t,” Twilight interrupts again swiping wet hair from his face as he gives them a hard look. “Someone could get–”

“THREE!” 

Wild pushes off. Wind vaults forward. The two fly , twin whoops echoing through the quiet air as they descend. For a second, the two boys are lost in the joy of the moment, voices caught in that youthful inbetween of yell and laughter.

And then that second ends.

The two sober, all business.  Wild leans forward on his shield, tucking his arms in to become more aerodynamic. Wind catches on to the others plot and quickly mirrors the older hero, hunkering down and shifting his weight forward to match Wild.  

They’re neck and neck.

And then–

“Shit!”

The harsh crack of snapping leather echoes clear and brutal through the air. Wild’s front foot slides forward on the wet metal, no longer anchored down by the arm strap. The scarred teen throws his weight backward, trying to keep himself from falling forward while simultaneously  slowing down his now out of control descent.

The metal wobbles precariously beneath Wild’s feet and then jerks sharply to the left, throwing it’s rider. With a cut off shout, he slams into the side of an helpless Wind, knocking the other boy from his shield as well. Tangled together, the two careen down the water slicked hill at a break-neck pace, headed straight for…

“Look out!” Bursts its way past Four’s lips without him even knowing.

Sky and Warriors jolt out of the way, their reaction times impeccable as always. Legend and Time reach out to grab the person in front of them…

Too late.

The two blondes slam into Hyrule’s unsuspecting back, the traveling hero only able to get out a shocked gasp before his legs are swiped out from beneath him and the three tumble in a mass of limbs, wet tunics, and pained shouts the rest of the way down the hill.

Four doesn't even need to consult his disparate thought processes. They’re already in agreement.

His feet carry him down the hill almost at a dead sprint, only the barest of thoughts spared to worry about slipping himself.

Vaguely, he can hear Twilight’s steps pounding behind him. In front of him, he can see the others sprint downward as well, Warrior’s feet even sliding beneath him before he rights himself and continues.

By the time Four slides to a stop, the others are already helping the three groaning boys.

Warriors sits up a groaning Wind. At just a glance, Four can see that the teen looks scratched, bruised, and grass stained but overall fine. Sky hands the boy a red potion that the sailor sips at, unwilling to drink more than he needs.

Wild looks much the same, though, the smithy notes that the champion is clutching at a rapidly purpling ankle. He looks more embarrassed than hurt though, his other hand rubbing at the back of his neck as Twilight chews him out and Time examines his leg.

Hyrule though…

As Legend helps the traveling hero up, Four’s eyes are immediately drawn to the thin scarlet line streaming from the brunette’s temple, the blood mixing and thinning with the rain, snaking across his cheek before dripping down his chin. A cruel mirror of the rain.

“Is he okay?” Four asks as he kneels down, unable to help himself. He reaches a hand out, the need to help and comfort slightly overwhelming, but with no clear outlet, his arm simply hovers without use.

Legend shoots Four a poisonous look that screams ‘What a dumb fucking question’ but otherwise ignores him in favor of brushing a few strands of Hyrule’s hair back so he can examine the wound closer.

Hyrule’s eyes flutter open at the gentle touch. 

“M’ fine, I’m fine,” he says dizzily, swatting weakly at Legend’s prodding hand.  

The veteran hero huffs out a breath, taking Hyrule’s hand and carefully pulling it out of the way as he leans in for a closer look. “Stop moving. I think you hit your head on a rock. You’re bleeding.”

Hyrule’s eyes snap open, the haziness in his hazel depths igniting with a fever bright glow. Now that his eyes are wide open, Four can see that the teen’s pupils are dilated, one a pinprick while the other gapes wide, a dark hole in a green field. 

Well that can’t be good Concussion maybe even a severe one We have to help him He needs a potion now 

Four takes ahold of Hyrule’s shoulder to steady the other teen and then turns to dig through his satchel for a potion.

Hyrule, apparently, has other plans.

The traveling hero jerks up and away, throwing Four’s hand off him and almost headbutting Legend in his haste to sit up more fully. He slams a hand up to his forehead, swiping directly over the wound. Pain doesn't even register on his rapidly paling face. He pulls his hand back and inspects it, mismatched pupils tracing the blood that drips from the tips of his fingers.

He stares at the red for a moment. 

And then Hyrule collapses in on himself. 

Both arms reach other the top of his head, wrists crossing over the back of his skull. His hands run between wet curls once gently before gripping and pulling. Knees snap upward, allowing Hyrule to curl up fully, hiding himself from their gazes.

“No, no, no no no no nonononono!” he whispers, voice and shoulders shaking.

Four’s heart breaks .

“Calm down,” Legend cuts in, voice hard as stone but eyes as soft as the dark clouds hanging over them. His hand hovers over Hyrule’s back, like he’s afraid that a single touch would shatter the boy to pieces.  “It’s just a scratch,” he insists.

“No!” the traveler cries, arms dropping from their position above his head. Instead of clutching desperately at his hair, Hyrule’s hands fist into the fabric of his wet undershirt sleeves, using them to frantically scrub at the skin of his face. 

With one more vicious wipe, Hyrule pulls his sleeves from his face. 

Four sighs sadly at the sight.

Rather than cleaning his skin, the frantic hero has only succeeded in spreading the diluted blood all over his face. The only part of his face that could be considered ‘cleaner’ would be the tear tracks slowly drawing clear lines beneath his eyes.

The injured teen seems satisfied for a moment. But then he looks down at his now bloodied sleeves. With another distressed noise, he tucks his arms under his armpits and throws his head back against his knees, once again curling back up.

Four feels his heart pulled in so many directions. He feels warm, hot, too hot  concern churn his stomach. Cool, cold, too cold anger shoves icicles into his lungs. Wind and Wild’s fault. Rain’s fault. His fault. No where to put the anger and so it grows, piercing. The need for action whistles in his mind, a whirlwind of frantic thoughts. A mountain of unfamiliar uncertainty lodges in his heart, dividing it further.

He wants to pull Hyrule into him and crush him with a hug but knows it will only frighten the boy more. He wants to clean the other’s face and hand him a potion and punch his shoulder for freaking him out and laugh about something stupid and not be here right now in the rain with a desperately injured friend feeling so fucking usless We have to do something Please Please Please We have to help!

No, what we need to do is calm down.

 calmdowncalmdown Calm down Calm down, Calm down. 

Calm down.

Beside him, Four can hear Legend curse under his breath and begin to shuffle through his bag, though what exactly he is looking for, the smithy isn't sure. His hands become more and more hurried as he searches, fingers flicking through his pockets aggressively. 

“Calm down.”

Legend’s eyes flick up, hands stilling as he seems to see Four for the first time since this whole debacle started.

“What?” he hisses, keeping his voice low so as not to cause Hyrule more distress with his angry tone. 

“Calm down,” Four says simply. “I know you want to help him. So do I. But right now he’s scared and confused. Getting upset will only make things worse.”

The veteran hero glares at Four, and Four stares right back, not challenging but not exactly sympathetic either. He knows what he’s talking about, even if it pisses off the pink haired hero. Right now, there is no room for negative emotion. Only action.

They hold eye contact for only a moment more before Legend looks away, deflating.The veteran takes a deep breath. In… out. Something, the fight, goes out of him, leaving Legend looking to all the world like a tired young man, soaked to the bone, cold, and worried.

“Hey ‘Rule,” Legend begins, voice low as he inches closer to the curled up boy. Four follows his lead,  slowly shuffling his way to the injured teen’s other side. Hyrule doesn't react. A good sign. 

Or a really really bad sign. 

Legend carefully places his arm around the traveling hero’s shoulders. “Hyrule, can I see your head? I need to-”

But the teen shakes his head and tenses up further, looking more akin to a Goron getting ready to roll. 

“The Eyes…” Hyrule’s voice whispers from between clasped arms. 

Suddenly, Hyrule throws his head up and away from his knees, eyes large and faraway. His eyes flick left right left right, somewhere or some when else. He reaches out a hand to no one but the rain. Then, slowly, far too slowly to be natural, he turns too bright eyes first to Legend and then Four.

“The Eyes of Ganon are everywhere.”

Somehow, the rain gets colder.  

“It’s okay,” Legend says, voice the most comforting Four thinks he’s ever heard it. The pink haired man places an open bottle of red potion into the other’s outstretched hand and then helps the injured teen to curl his fingers around the glass. Legend guides Hyrule’s hand up until the bottle reaches his lips, all the while, blank hazel eyes stare forward, unshifting. 

Hyrule drinks from the bottle reflexively. 

Four feels the other boy’s muscles uncoil little by little as his throat bobs to swallow. Wide eyes blink once, twice, three times and then finally refocus, dizziness replaced with slightly pained confusion. 

The cut on his forehead scabs over and before he can stop himself, Four reaches up and brushes the blood from the side of Hyrule’s face with his own sleeve.

“Better?” Legend asks.

“Yeah. Better,” Hyrule replies. And then, with a wince, “Sorry.”

“Don’t,” Legend cuts him off. “Not your fault.”

“Still,” Hyrule says. His eyebrows furrow, confusion easily written on his face. “I… I don't know what came over me.”

“You were injured and confused,” Four says diplomatically, giving his friend a reassuring pat on the shoulder. Part of him still wants to hug the other hero. He valiantly holds himself back. But only just. “It could have happened to any of us.”

“But it was more than that! I felt… It felt like…” Hyrule sighs, shaking his head and then stops, closing his eyes at the surge of pain that comes with the movement. “I guess it doesn't matter anymore.”

The traveling hero gingerly runs a finger along the edge of his scab, displeasure pulling at his lips.

“Do we have any bandages? Or something to cover this up?”

“Sorry, we just used the last of them to wrap Wild's ankle.”

The three heroes start and look up, surprised to see Twilight approaching them. As he walks closer, Four notices that the others are looking at them as well, and though concerned, none of them make any moves to get closer. 

Good. The last thing Hyrule needs right now is a crowd.

Four had honestly forgotten that they had an audience. Albeit a captive audience but an audience all the same. 

Judging by the slightly embarrassed tint to Legend’s face, so did he.

“It doesn't look like it's bleeding anymore,” Twilight continues, leaning down to get a better look at the now mostly closed wound. “You should be fine without anything, I think.”

“I know. I just don’t like going into town injured is all.”

That seems counterintuitive.  Drops like a stone in water in the back of his mind, stirring up a few responses.

Maybe he just doesn't like freaking out the locals.  Suggests one.

Based on this place, they’ve probably seen worse.  Mutters a second.

Oh hey, guys, I think I’ve got something! Says the last brightly.

An image flashes in Four’s mind. He nods.

Four reaches back and pulls at one of the loose ends of his makeshift hair tie. Sopping wet curtains of hair fall back around his face, the headband that he usually wears now sitting limp in his hand. 

He takes both ends of the green ribbon and pulls it taut. Then he turns and lays it flat against Hyrule’s forehead. Leaning forward a bit more, he ties it gently but securely around the other’s head, mindful of the pain the other must be in.  

When he sits back on his heels to examine his work, he realises that the others had fallen silent. Legend and Twilight stare at him while Hyrule sits, a small, shell shocked expression on his face.  Four’s eyes jump back and forth between the three. Eventually he settles on a shrug and a neutral face. 

“What? He needs it more than me.”

While sweet, I do believe that is wildly unsanitary.

Oh no! I’m sorry!

Don't worry about it! We all agreed.

A spike of annoyance. 

Well, most of us agreed and the fourth didn't put up a fight.  We’re not that far out of town anyway. We can get him clean bandages there.

Way to ruin the moment, asshole.

Despite the conversation in his head, outside it remains quiet. After another beat, Hyrule slowly runs a finger across the wet cloth now ties to his forehead.

When he brings his hand back to eye level, his fingertips come back wet but clean. No blood.

A small smile lights up Hyrule’s face, some color finally returning to his face. 

“Thank you.”







After making sure everyone is okay, the group of heroes finally, finally makes it into town.

As they stumble through the gates, Four muses that if anyone were outside to witness them, they would be getting quite a few looks. Because… Well...

We look like shit.

Leading the group is Time, probably looking the least worn for wear when compared to the rest of them. However, Four notes that even the Old Man didnt get out of their absolutely joy filled trek unscathed. 

As he strides further into town, head on a swivel for the store Hyrule had described to him, the Hero of Time walks with an odd gait, shifting his hips slightly to the left as he steps forward. Water must have penetrated the underlayer of his armor Four thinks with a wince. Poor Old Man must be chafing like there is no tomorrow under there.

Behind Time stumbles the procession of the wounded. 

Or something like that.

Wind and Warriors walk together, the older hero keeping an eye on the younger as they enter the heart of the seemingly deserted town. The sailor keeps tugging on his makeshift sling: Warriors’ scarf looped twice around the young boy’s neck cradling his arm. Though not broken, Warriors had not accepted anything less than making sure it was wrapped and immoble, something that had Wind groaning and whining about being babied. 

Twilight and Wild shuffle behind them, the champion’s left arm thrown over Twilight’s shoulders so the farmhand can help keep weight off the younger boy’s ankle. Though no longer swelling after a potion, the joint was still sore. Wild had assured them that after a good meal and some sleep he’d be fine, but Twilight insisted on helping him walk until they found a place to rest.

(“So you can't trip and drown yourself in the river,” Twilight had said derisively as he helped the teen stand up earlier. Said teen stuck his tongue out in response, but Four could see the affectionate smile tugging at the champion’s lips.)

Bringing up the rear is the triad of Sky, Legend, and Hyrule. The latter is not supported between the other two, but both older heroes damn near frog march the poor kid between them, each with a guiding hand on his upper arm. 

The still slightly dazed teen walks slowly. He is wearing one of Wild’s hoods– the teen had felt so sorry about the whole incident, he jumped at the chance to make the traveling hero more comfortable, even if only for a moment– making it difficult to tell where exactly he was looking, but he turned his head slowly, searching.

“There!” he said, pointing to a building on the left.

Four follows his arm. The building in question is one of the few with a lantern out front. On a whole, the place looks worn down, like too stiff of a breeze would knock it down. It has a small overhang, probably for shade in the summer. From the rafters of the awning, hangs an old wooden sign suspended on rusted chains. A simple bottle design is painted on the molding planks in what was probably white paint at some point, but now looks chipped and faded into a shade Four would call ‘dirty snow.’

Light streams from the singular window out front, advertising warmth within. 

“Do all of the houses have these?” Time asks, finger pointed up at the overhang. Hyrule nods in response.

“Okay.” The Old Man falls silent for just a moment. “Okay, here’s the plan. Hyrule, I want you to lead everyone to the house we will be staying in for the night. We don't want to alarm anyone with our wounded and I’m assuming there won't be enough room in the storefront for everyone.” He directs his last statement to Hyrule, who nods.

“Four, Wind,” Four feels his head tilt to the side at the mention of his name and thinks he sees the sailor do the same on the other side. “You’ll be with me. Everyone else, try to stay warm under the awning if at all possible.”

“Why do the brats get to go inside?” Legend asks sourly, causing Four’s metaphorical hackles to rise. Wind opens his mouth to spit something probably filled with expletives, at the other hero, but Time beats him to it.

“What kind of father would I be if I left my poor, injured sons outside in the rain?” He says, with what Four would call a mischievous smile on his face. If his bad eye wasn’t perpetually closed, Four would assume the Old Man would be winking at them too. 

Maybe he is winking and we just can’t see it. 

How does that work?

Aww, he called us his son!

Wait a minute…

“Now hold on,” Four says, drowned out by six distinct laughs.

“I did NOT agree to be used as a prop!” Wind hisses above the din in agreement with Four’s sentiment, eyebrows pulled low and a glower plastered over his face. Yeesh, Four forgot how expressive Wind’s face was. Kid looks pissed.

Time raises his hands in surrender, his smile turning from mischief to frank in a second. 

"Look, these people are scared. It’s a harsh world out there. If you were a shopkeep in a small town and nine heavily armed people entered demanding a place to stay, wouldn't that frighten you a little?” He doesn't wait for a response before continuing. “A father with his sons and a small band of injured travelers is a much easier story to swallow.”

“If you want to play the father, why don’t you take Twilight then?” Four asks, his voice somehow coming out both huffy and genuinely questioning. “You two at least look like you have a little bit of family resemblance.”

Time and Twilight share a look.

The oldest hero throws a hand behind his head, rubbing at his neck. Eyebrows up, smile sheepish. “Bringing in a soaking wet, pissed off farmhand wont make for quite as sympathetic a image.”

“You’re a manipulative bastard, you know that, right?” Legend says flatly.

“What? What do you mean?” Wind asks.

“He wants to bring the two of you in because you,” he points at Four, “look like a drowned rat. And you,” he turns to Wind, “look like a drowned rat with a broken arm.”

"Why don’t I break your arm? Then we’ll match!” Wind spits, marching over to Legend, who sports an unimpressed look on his face. Warriors grabs the back of the smaller hero’s sling, holding him back.

Four blows out a breath from between his lips, pinching at the bridge of his nose. 

They, unfortunately, have a point.

You would be okay with lying.

If it’s to help everyone else, then yes, I am.

It’s demeaning!

It’s useful.

Four pinches harder. His head pounds.

Guys. Stop.

Please!

A blessed moment of internal silence. 

Four can vaguely hear Wind telling Warriors to let him go. Wild eggs the younger boy on while Twilight threatens to drop the teen if he continues. Legend merely huffs, probably daring the kid to make good on his words. Time sternly tells them to keep it down, probably thinking of the townsfolk or Hyrule’s delicate head.

They ignores it all.

They take stock of how they feel. Angry. Loved. Embarrassed. Annoyed. Regretful. Tired. Hungry. Cold. Bruises on their knee, grass stains on their leggings. A friend’s blood on their sleeve. A splitting headache, but thankfully not a Splitting headache. 

They’re not in a good place. Fighting will only make it worse. 

Fine… I see your point… 

Four’s hand pulls at the leather strap securing his sword to his back, pulling it over his head and off his shoulder. He wraps the worn leather around and around the sword, making sure the strap doesn't come loose and then he holds the blade out to a now silent and very confused looking Wild.

“Uhhhhh,” the champions says, “What are you doing?”

“If we are going to pretend to be normal kids, I figured we probably shouldn’t be armed.” 

Four holds out the sword more insistently. Wild takes it gingerly, like it will bite him if he handles it too roughly. Or like it’ll break if he looks at it wrong. With his track record, that could actually be an issue.

“If you break it, I’ll break you,” Four hears pour out of his mouth with a hiss, and he wonders if his eyes are flashing cobalt at the moment. 

Based on the way Wild’s eyes widen, Four guesses they are. Whatever. If it keeps the champion’s mitts off his sword, it's worth the weirdness. He knows the other teen can’t actually break the Four Sword– he’s too good a smith to make the magic sword that defined his era anything less than perfect– but he sure as hell doesn't want the teen touching it more than necessary either.

What a nightmare that would be.

Wind huffs, seeming to calm a bit. Warriors lets the teen go and the sailor strides up next to Four, roughly unstrapping his own sword and shoving it at Wild as well. It disappears with Four’s own, into the slate.

There is something about seeing his sword disappear, the ever present option suddenly taken away, that makes Four’s skin feel too tight. It’s like when you never realise you’re thirsty until suddenly you're out and about with nothing to drink. He feels itchy and too small. He wants to scratch at his head. No, the seams of his brain.

He stays his hand.

Legend rolls his eyes and turns away from the group, apparently done with the scene they’re making. He places a gentle hand back on Hyrule’s shoulder. The pressure seems to jolt the other hero, who until that moment had been spacing out. 

“Lead the way. The sooner we can get everyone out of the rain the better.”

Hyrule nods. Sky takes up his old position at the traveler’s other side, and together the three start heading toward the bridge. 

Wild throws his arm back over Twilights shoulder.

“I’ll take care of your stuff,” he says sincerely and then the two turn to follow the others at a slightly slower pace. 

“Watch out for them?” Time asks Warriors as the other man turns to leave.

“Will do!” The captain shoots back with a smile and a salute then he’s gone, around the corner and out of sight.

With the others taken care of, Time turns back to look at them. Four keeps his face as stony as possible. Next to him, Wind scowls, tapping one foot on the ground repeatedly, a soft splat splat splat in the mud. 

Time moves past them until he stands just in front of the door before he throws a look over his shoulder and beckons them forward. 

“Oh, he so owes us,” Wind mutters as he and Four come to stand at the oldest hero’s side. Four nods in agreement.

“I’ll do most of the talking,” Time says. He glances down at Four. “You’re much too mature sounding for your own good.”

Before Four can ask what, exactly, that’s supposed to mean, Time has moved on to Wind. “And you keep your hands–hmm– hand to yourself. I know you have sticky fingers, little pirate.”

With that, the man pushes the door open and walks in.

“Don’t throw out your back opening the door, Dad,” Wind grumbles, sarcasm dripping from the final word.

“You’ll have to speak up, dear brother of mine. You know our father’s hearing is going.” Four mutters back. 

They share a sour look for a moment, before small smiles break over their faces. Then quickly, before the door closes, they follow Time inside.

Inside, it is warm. While Four isn't exactly thrilled with the part he is playing, the warmth of the room is definitely an upside to the deal. Inside, it is also cramped. Like Time had predicted, the front room is small, with little room between the door and the counter, very much unlike his own shop.

Behind the counter, a woman’s humming is suddenly cut short at the sound of the door opening and closing. A head of mousy brown hair perks up and glances over the desk. There is a soft gasp and a smack as she drops what she was doing behind the desk and straightens up with wide and curious, amber eyes.

Interesting color.

Please, like we’re one to talk.

“Hello!” She greets cheerfully, though Four thinks he sees her eyeing Time’s sword. Huh. Though he misses it like a phantom limb, maybe it was for the best he left the Four Sword with Wild.

“I haven’t seen you all around here before. What can I do you for?”

Time smiles, charming but not too charming. Less flirty, more the rustic hospitality of a rancher. A real man of the people and all that nonsense. 

“We’re just passing through. My sons and I were traveling with a group of merchants when we got caught in the storm. We ran into some problems,” Time says, gesturing to Wind and his slinged arm, “and now we’re just hoping to find somewhere to get us out of the rain.”

The woman gasps, a hand coming up to cup around her mouth. 

“Oh you poor dears!” The woman exclaims. She leans over the desk–practically falling over it– to get a better look at Wind, who leans backward in response. “What happened?”

“I, uhhhhh, slipped and fell down a hill,” Wind says, taking a small step back. 

The woman’s head snaps toward Four next, and suddenly, the smithy understands the other’s reaction. Her amber eyes are intense, burning with something unidentifiable. Maternal instinct? Maybe? Four wouldn’t know. Never really knew his mother.

“And what about you, dear?”

Four’s eyebrows furrow. He didn't think he looked all that bad. Definitely not visibly injured like the others. He glances down at himself to make sure nothing is out of place and– oh. The blood on his sleeve. Hyrule’s blood. Right. 

“I cut myself on a bush,” Four says.

“Hmmm, you have a couple of clumsy boys then,” the shopkeep says, eyes still locked on Four.

Okay, she’s freaky, right? Oh yeah Maybe she’s just bad at first impressions I wouldn't say we’re the best judge of normal anyway

Time laughs. Four thinks the Old Man is trying to sound agreeable, but it sounds more nervous. No. That’s not quite right. Uneasy. Ready to be done with the interaction and back with the others.

“They get it from me, unfortunately,” he says, making an aborted motion toward his face, his eye.

There is a beat of silence.

“So,” Time continues, “A place to stay…?”

The woman blinks, finally tearing her gaze from Four and leaning back onto her side of the counter. A kind smile slides its way back onto her face, like it’s her default expression.

“Yes. Yes of course. Just a moment.” She turns away, shifting through a drawer on the back counter. While she’s not looking, Wind shoots Four a look, face scrunched in question and good hand drawing small circles next to the side of his head. 

Four shrugs in response.

Time smacks both of them on the back of their heads as the woman turns back around.

“Here we are,” the woman holds out a key, old and rusty. Time reaches into his wallet but the shopkeep shakes her head. “No, no. This one’s on the house. For your troubles.”

“We couldn’t possibly-”

“It’s no trouble at all,” She insists. “Old place could use some life in it after so long.”

“Well, if you’re sure…” Time says uncertainly. “Can I at least buy a few of those in thanks?” he asks gesturing to the shelf of red potions.

The woman smiles. “Seems fair to me.”

Time finally pulls out some rupees, exchanging them for five bottles filled with scarlet, viscous liquid and the key. 

With their business seemingly concluded, Wind and Four turn to see themselves out, but Time grabs them, holding them in place. 

Four restrains a groan. Though he had enjoyed the warmth when they had first entered, now it felt heavy and oppressive in a way that even the heat of the forge never did. There was something about this place that made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end and his head feel fuzzy. Like he was being watched; watched by something other than the shopkeeper’s piercing amber gaze. 

He wants to leave. Now.

“One more question if you wouldn’t mind,” the Old Man starts to Four’s chagrin. “While we plan to stay a few days to rest, we will be heading out at some point. We heard that there were increased monster sightings.”

The shopkeeper's head tilts at this, as though this is news to her. 

“We were wondering if there was anyone we could talk to who might have some more information. Locations of sightings and the like so we can avoid those areas.”

She brings a hand to her chin and her eyes angle up and to the left in thought. 

“Hmmm, well, you could go ask old Norman. He runs the bar in town. Gets lots of travelers through there. He might have heard of something.”

A smile suddenly stretches her lips. “Though he doesn't often talk for free. He might loosen up if you have a few drinks with him.”

Time nods at the information, sending her a smile in return.

“Thank you for all the help.”

The woman waves him off. 

“My pleasure.”

They turn to leave and Four feels some tension leave his shoulders as Time grabs the doorknob and turns it, opening the door wide. Cold air rushes in and the smithy feels like he can breathe again.

“And kid.”

Both Four and Wind tense, look at each other and then turn. Her eyes are pinned firmly on the shortest hero’s sleeve; right over the dark stain of slowly blackening crimson. That odd, default smile still on her lips.

“Bandage that up soon, deary.”

Four nods his head rapidly and then quickly walks out the door to follow Time with Wind hot on his heels. 

Though out of the room, Four still feels eyes on his back. He doesn't dare look around. Instead the smithy walks faster until he draws side by side with the older hero. Wind soon catches up, walking on Time’s other side.  

As soon as they are far enough from the shop, Wind opens his mouth.

“Soooo, she was freaky right?” Time shoots him a look. “Nice, but like, in a freaky kinda way?”

Four nods, wordlessly. 

“She was kind to us. That’s all that matters,” Time says sternly. “Now, let's find the others and get inside.”





Thankfully, it is not difficult to find the others. It is, afterall, a very small town. 

After a quick debate over who gets the old, musty beds and who gets the floor– all of the injured heroes get beds and sips of Red Potion along with their dinner of Hearty Mushroom and Pumpkin Stew– the heroes quickly turn in for the night, tired from their long day.

By the time Four wakes up, light is streaming through the windows. Huh. It must have stopped raining sometime during the night. Based on the color of the rays, it’s past sunrise. Way past sunrise if their warm, yellow glow is anything to go by. 

The smithy sits up from his bed roll, blanket pooling around his waist as he looks around. 

Beside him, Sky sleeps peacefully, under his blanket but with limbs sprawled out. His mouth is open and he snores softly, deep, even breaths murmuring through the air.

In the small kitchen, Time, Legend, Twilight, and Warriors sit at the table, mugs of something warm and steaming in their hands as they talk. Their conversation doesn’t appear to be serious or even really a conversation at all. One hero will contribute something every so often, but as Four watches them, more often than not, the older heroes seem content to lapse in companionable silence.

Four disentangles himself from Sky. He's glad he doesn have to worry about waking the elder– the chosen hero sleeps like the dead– so he separates himself quickly and then pads quietly over to the kitchen.

“You let us sleep in,” he says in lieu of a greeting, taking the final seat at the table. Legend pours him a mug of the drink, which he discovers to be tea, and passes it into Four’s hands. Four takes a sip.

Ah perfect Too bitter Needs some milk Maybe a little honey

He breathes in the steam, letting it fill his lungs with herbal smelling air as warmth seeps into his stomach. 

“The only thing on the schedule for today is going down to the bar and that won’t open until sometime after noon,” Time replies. “Besides, I thought everyone could use a rest after yesterday.”

“Hear hear,” Warriors agrees with a raised mug. Everyone takes a sip.

After that, the group falls back into a relaxed silence that Four has no trouble maintaining. Instead he sits and sips his tea, drinking in the rare moment of peace he finds himself experiencing.

Eventually, slowly but surely, the other trickle in: first Wild, then Hyrule, and then ending with a yawning Wind who trips over and wakes the still sleeping Sky.

After a quick breakfast, Time sets them loose for a bit of leisure time.

Warriors quickly demands a rematch in BS from Legend, who acquiesces with an easy, confident grin. The two rope in Twilight and Wind and sit around the now empty kitchen table with Legend quickly distributing cards. Looking at the makeup of the group, Four would say that Warriors has approximately a 5% chance of winning. Maybe 6% if he’s lucky. 

Time and Wild take opposite corners of the living room, with the Old Man sitting down to polish his armor while the champion taps away at his slate, reorganizing his inventory.

(Wild had told him the night before that taking his and Wind’s swords had made the older hero realise how unorganized everything was. Pumpkins with shields, fish with monster parts…. Four really hadn't been listening, too preoccupied with the familiar, comforting weight being returned to his back)

Sky leans against the back wall whittling… something. Four wasn't sure what it was yet but based on what he saw of the chosen hero’s talent with a carving knife, he was sure it would be great by the end.

Four curls up next to the fire, book in hand to read.He opens the book and leafs through the pages to his desired chapter, settling in. After a few moments and a few pages, a green ribbon flutters and settles itself inside the crease of the book. His headband. The smithy looks up just in time to catch Hyrule as the other hero sits next to him, needle, thread and a tunic in hand to do some mending.

"You kept tucking your hair behind your ear," he says in lieu of an explanation. "You need it more than me."

"Besides," the traveler continues, with a smile. "Now it doesn't have my blood on it anymore!"

Four smiles back, tying the cloth around his forehead, his hair finally tamed once more.

"Thank you."

"No problem."

The small hero leans back over his book. Hyrule holds the needle up to his eye, trying to thread it. 

They sit together, chatting every so often but mostly just sitting in each other's company, warmed by the fire.

It's nice. The room is quiet but full of murmuring, laughter from the card table, and the rhythmic sound of scrubbing. 

To Four, it seems all too soon that Time calls them back around the table to discuss their plan.

And their plan, unfortunately, is complete bullshit.

“This is complete bullshit!” Wind hisses, voicing Four’s thoughts perfectly. Well, at least one of his thoughts.

“Wind,” Time says, voice that of a tired man who already knows his patience is going to be tried at least twelve more times over the course of this conversation. “You’re thirteen. They’re not going to let you into the bar anyway.”

“That just means I can’t be caught!  I can still go on the mission!” he replies vehemently, pounding a fist on the table.

Time rubs at a spot between his eyebrows, just underneath the blue tattoo on his forehead. “First of all, what you are describing is breaking and entering. Secondly, this isn't a mission. We’re just going to get some information.”

“Oh, and I suppose you need four people to gather information?” Wild cuts in, face just as sour as Wind’s.

“Well, we sure as Hylia don't need nine,” Warriors replies in a similar state of exasperation as Time.

“Look, the four of us,” and here Time gestures to himself, Warriors, Twilight, and Sky, “Are the only ones who can get in without any questions asked.”

Wild and Legend let even heavier glowers darken their faces.

“We want to draw as little attention to ourselves as possible,” Time continues, ignoring the dirty looks being thrown his way. “Coming in with a big group or trying to argue with anyone will not help our case.”

“If it makes you feel better, I don't plan on drinking anything,” Sky puts in with a genuine expression of concern. Twilight slaps a hand to his tattoo, shaking his head.

“That’s not the point!” Wind huffs. 

Time and Warriors share a look, which is then passed over to Twilight. The farmhand just shakes his head and the other two sigh.

“You were fine with splitting up before,” Warriors tries. “If this was just a run to the shop you wouldn’t fight so hard to come. What’s going on?”

“I’m tired of being treated like a kid. You all laughed at me and Four earlier!” The sailor says, chest puffed out. Four isn't sure if he should feel touched or offended that the younger hero feels the need to stick up for him. Whatever. He’ll figure it out later.

“And! And...” Wind looks lost for a second, like the air just went out of his sails. “I… Something just feels off. I don’t know.”

“I feel it too,” Four puts in, remembering the feeling of eyes on his back and prickling at his neck. Watching. Waiting. “I would feel better if we accompanied you as well.”

“And how do you suppose you do that?” Time asks, not exactly unkindly but with little sympathy in his words.

Well, the smallest hero can think of a way he could sneak in unnoticed. He had felt the presence of a portal near the center of town when they walked in. The others…

Silence reigns over the kitchen for a moment.

“Then that’s settled then,” Time says with finality. No room for argument. 

Wind slumps a little, eyes going to the floor. 

Without anything more to say, Time and Twilight head toward the door. As he passes by the sailor, Warriors gives the teen a soft punch on the shoulder and a quick smile.

“We’ll be back soon.”

“I’ll tell you all about it when we get back,” Sky reassures.

And then, with a swing of the door, they’re gone.

It is quiet for a moment, Wind staring at the now closed door. 

Then he turns to face them, the disappointment dropping off his face like water off the back of a Zora. All business.

“So we’re going after them, right?” He asks.

Four feels a slow smile grow on his face and sees it mirrored by the others. Legend nods approvingly.

“Took the words right out of my mouth, kid.”





They wait a few minutes inside the house to let the others reach their destination before they sneak out. Hyrule, still feeling sensitive to the light– though Four also senses that the teen is probably feeling a small flare for the dramatic– leads them with Wild’s hood pulled over his head.

Once they cross the bridge into the other side of town where the bar is, the traveling hero pulls them behind one of the houses where there is a large break in the cobblestone wall protecting the town. 

One by one, they slip through the crack. It leads them to a small, thin walkway in the space between the edge of a cliff leading up to Death mountain and the cobblestone. They have to sidle, backs against the crumbling stone, to move at all. It’s a little slowgoing, and more than a little uncomfortable, but it lets them move through town unseen.

Eventually, they come to another break and they shove their way through, coming out behind two buildings.

“How did you even know about this way?” Legend asks with a gasp as he squeezes through the gap in the stone.

“Oh you know,” Hyrule says, his smile peeking out from the shade of Wild’s hood, “When you get lost easily, sometimes you gotta find your own way.”

Legend shakes his head and rolls his eyes at the younger’s antics but doesn't comment. 

The highest compliment he can give.  Dry like the desert and so correct that Four almost nods at the comment.

“Okay, what exactly is the plan here?” Wild asks.

“Wow. I never thought I’d see the day you actually think before you act,” Legend replies with a single raised eyebrow.

Aaaaand he’s back.

Before Wild can grumble out a response, Legend continues. “I’m assuming the plan is sneak in, keep an eye out, and then get out in time to beat them back to the house.”

“Now,” Legend says, sweeping a critical eye over all of them. “How are you all getting in?”

“What about you?” Four asks, picking up on Legend’s odd word choice.

“Me?” he says in response, a cocky smirk on his face. “Well, I’ve got this.”

The veteran hero places his left hand on the wall of the building. Suddenly the golden bracelet on his wrist flares to life, the purple eye engraved on the band flashing brightly. Swirls of green and yellow magic twine around Legend’s body, gently shifting his red tunic. On the wall, green lines draw themselves into what looks like a painting frame.

The vines of magic tighten themselves around Legend pulling him closer, closer, into the wall and in a flash of light, Legend is gone. 

Behind where he was standing, on the wall, sits a bold lined, chalk-like drawing of the hero. 

The drawing’s oval shaped eyes snap open and a single line cuts across the bottom half of its face, curling up at its edges. A smile.

In a flash of purple, Legend exits the wall. He leans back against it, smug grin still in place as he observes their shocked expressions. 

“So back to my question: how are you all getting in?”

Four’s eyes glance around their small group. Hyrule seems to be looking away, hood pointed downward toward the ground. Wild pulls out his slate and holds it up in front of his eyes, head sweeping back and forth, up and down as he searches for something. Wind meanwhile, scans around, eyes squinted.

The sailor’s eyes widen at the same time Wild makes a small noise of excitement.

“There!” They exclaim, both pointing at a spot higher up on the wall.

Sure enough, when Four follows their hands, he can see a metal grate cover what looks to be a small air vent. He has a few built into the back of his own house to help release steam and smoke from the forge without it entering the rest of the home, but can't help wondering what exactly its utility is here.

The two teens share a quick high five and then Wild begins swiping away at the screen. In the blink of an eye, the champion’s sky blue tunic and tan pants are replaced with navy blue leggings and a tight and lightly armored shirt with a red eye in the middle. A slim, white scarf wraps itself around the teens neck, leading up to his face which is partially covered with another piece of navy blue fabric clinging over the champion’s nose and mouth.

Wind, meanwhile, rummages around inside his Spoils Bag for a moment– with an alarming amount of dangerous sounding clanging, Four notices with some worry– before pulling out a grappling hook.

Using one hand to hold onto the slack and the other to spin the metal end, Wind winds up and with a final definitive swing, releases the hook end, launching it upward toward the roof. The hook skitters across the wooden shingles of the roof, a few of the more rotten tiles coming loose before the metal catches and holds.

Wind tests it a few times, pulling on the rope hard before he is satisfied. 

“Okay,” Legend says as Wild finishes pulling the metal grate from the wall with his Magnesis Rune. “Three down. Two to go.”

Four glances at Hyrule who stares right back at him, as though waiting for the smithy to make the next move. Though the hood is obscuring part of his face, Four swears the other looks… nervous. 

Maybe we aren’t the only one with something to hide. 

Either way, this isn’t going to work. 

Hey! We’re losing time here people! 

You might be onto something there...

Four sighs. “Look, we’re already losing time. You three go in, Hyrule and I will figure it out.”

Legend looks like he wants to argue but with a flash of hazel from underneath a hood, he drops it. 

“Fine. If we need to leave, I’ll give this signal,” The veteran says as he holds up two fingers and then flicks them downward twice. 

“And if we have to fight?” Wind asks, face serious once more.

“You’ll know that signal when you see it,” Legend says. 

With a final nod, the pink haired hero sinks into the wall, becoming a drawing once more. Large, circular eyes, flick over the group one more time before he’s off, walking along the wall until he disappears through a crack between the backdoor and its frame. 

Using the rope, the two blond teens quickly make their way up to the vent. Wind delves inside first, crawling easily through the opening in the wall. Wild follows closely behind, throwing a hand out to give a wave to Four and Hyrule before he too disappears from sight.

“So, I’m going to just, uh,” Hyrule starts once everyone is out of sight, pointing to the left of the building. 

Four cuts him off. “No need to explain. I’ll meet you in there.”

Hyrule flashes him a thankful smile and then jogs around the corner of the building and away from Four’s eyeline.

“Oh yeah,” Four’s voice says to no one in particular as he turns around the opposite corner of the bar. “Definitely hiding something.”

“Pot meet kettle,” His voice replies in the darkness of the alley way. 






Four isn't sure whether he should feel grateful or concerned about the fact that the bar seems to have a rat problem.

On the one hand, he muses as he pulls himself up onto a ledge containing a few decorative pots, it had made it very easy to get into the building; simply enter the rat hole and follow the tunnel to an opening out into the main room. 

On the other hand, his friends are patrons of said establishment. And even though Four knows rats are relatively hygienic– And cute!– he can't help but shutter as he watches Warriors eat a piece of  bread.

Regardless, it had been very easy to enter the bar once he was the size of a minish. 

Easy to enter, easy to find his friends. 

From his vantage point on a relatively high shelf situated near the front of the room, Four can see almost the entire layout of the bar. 

Quietly playing cards near the door are two older men, regulars Four would guess by their relaxed nature and easy smiles. Near the left corner in a small alcove sits an ancient looking woman, slumped over and nursing a half-full bottle of something red. 

The people that Four is actually interested in, however, seem to have split themselves up. To cover more metaphorical ground or to appear less intimidating, Four would assume.

Sky and Warriors have taken a small table for themselves, a loaf of bread and some butter between them. There is a half full tankard in Warriors’ hand and a completely full one in Sky’s, with the former jeering on the latter to drink. The chosen hero gives a sheepish smile and takes a sip, foam sticking to his upper lip causing Warriors to break out in laughter.

Though jovial and loud, Four can see that the captain’s eyes are clear and bright. Not buzzed, then, simply acting. Making himself seem like an easy target. Someone to underestimate. Smart.

Twilight and Time, meanwhile, sit at the bar talking. Four can see that they too seem to have drinks in their hands, but neither man appears to have had any yet. Polite purchases then.

From his position on the front wall, Four can also make out the exit of the vent that Wind and Wild were using. Though dark, the smithy thinks he might see some movement behind the grate, but other than that, the two don't give themselves away.

Legend is being similarly sneaky. 

While Four had been too late to see the other move into position, after quite a bit of searching, he can just make out a singular outlined eye peeking from behind a stack of crates in the other corner of the bar. 

Figures. Four should have known that Legend would be good at this sort of thing. 

A soft scuffling sound in the rafters draw’s Four’s eyes upward. At first, the smithy wonders if perhaps there were some Minish up there that he had somehow missed on his first pass through the building. But then, a ball of pink light flashes from between the wooden support beams, moving frantically up, down, and around the rafters.

A Fairy huh How did one get lost in here Oh poor thing must be so confused

Eventually, however, the fairy seems to settle down, the pink light landing on one of the beams and simply resting there.

Four leaves it be. 

Besides, he has more important things to worry about instead of a wayward magical entity. Notably, Hyrule’s absence.

He should be here by now, right? Crashes into his brain like an errant wave. 

Maybe he’s already here and we just can't see him? Flares back, the statement tilting upward into a concerned question by the end

He is the most magically adept. Who knows what he has up his sleeve. A steady breeze. Comforting.

“What? Not good enough for you?” A gruff voice breaks through Four’s  mind, bringing him back to the present.

He follows the voice until his eyes land back at the bar. There, the bartender is eyeing Time and Twilight, top lip pulled up in a distasteful snarl. The man is middle aged, pot-bellied and balding, with a thin semi-circle of salt and pepper hair at the crown of his head. Bushy brows are aimed downward as he levels a purposeful look to their still filled cups. 

Twilight takes a big sip and then nods his head approvingly. Time merely smiles at the man. 

“Sorry, we got a bit caught up in our conversation.”

The bartender grunts in response, and then turns to begin organising the multicolored bottles lined against the back wall. Twilight shoots Time a look and shrugs. The older hero sighs and nods.

Then, the two heroes clink their cups together and throw their heads back while chugging, both polishing off their drinks in a matter of seconds. Twilight's nose wrinkles at the taste and Time’s good eye twitches minutely.

Four winces in sympathy. His grandfather had let him steal sips of beer before. He knows what it tastes like. 

Seriously. The things they do to protect Hyrule.

Time knocks lightly but politely on the bar. The man turns back, with first a surprised and then a considering look on his face as he sees the now empty cups. 

“Another round, please,” Time says. 

“And one here too, if you would!” Warriors calls out, slapping Sky on the back for a job well done. Two empty cups sit at their small table. 

The bartender nods, his lips minutely twitching upward as he sets about gathering their cups and refilling them. As the man passes out from behind the bar to grab the mugs from the other two’s table, Time sends the captain a look, which is returned with a wink.

Four settles in against one of the pots, the cool ceramic sinking through his tunic and cooling his back. 

This is gonna get interesting.





And interesting it was. After the second round of drinks, Sky taps out. Well, he taps out in so much as he slumps over the table, face down and breathing deeply. 

After his drinking buddy conks out, Warriors moves to the bar, taking the stool on Twilight’s other side, sandwiching the farmhand in the middle of the two oldest heroes. 

It is after the three finish their third round that the bartender seems to warm up to them. Well, at least Four thinks the bartender has warmed up to them. He had gone from outright glaring at the heroes to only offering the occasional huff of irritation combined with polite if stilted conversation. 

It’s progress. Kind of.

“So, you four are from out of town then?” he asks, nodding toward the sleeping Sky to indicate him in the group as well.

Time nods, taking another sip from his cup. “My sons and I were traveling the roads when we came across their merchant group.” He says as he shoves an elbow lightly into Twilight’s side, causing the foaming head of the younger man’s drink to spill over onto the pelted hero’s fingers. 

Twilight simply glares at the old man, but the action leaves Four staring at the group intently. Only three drinks in and already losing spatial awareness…?

“We thought it would be safer to travel together, what with all the monster sightings,” Warriors picks up, sending a quick look to Time. 

“Wise,” the man says with a nod. Then his face darkens and he all but slams the cup he had been cleaning back onto the bar. “Especially now that that damn brat of a hero up and vanished,” he says with a hiss, eye bright and lips pulled back in distaste. “Fucking coward.”

Four feels his blood go cold at the comment. Anger rises in him, an unstoppable tide of emotion roiling in his chest and begging to slam upward and out of his throat with a nasty comment. He beats down the instinct, pressing himself more fully against the pot behind him. Grounding.

Time’s face goes hard and cold. Twilight’s hand tightens minutely on the handle of his cup. The jovial light leaves Warriors eyes for a moment, before the captain plasters an understanding smile back on his face.

Above him, Four notices that the scuffling from the fairy has resumed but the smithy doesn't pay it any mind. Instead, the small Link takes another quick glance around the bar. Same men in front. Same lady in the alcove. Same Sky dozing peacefully at the table. Still no sign of Hyrule. 

Maybe it’s better that way.

“He probably has a lot to do, taking care of the other villages and such. I’m sure he’s trying his best,” Warriors grits out with a smile, trying to strike the delicate balance between defending their friend and trying not to appear too contradictory to the man they were trying to get information out of.

The man just rolls his eyes and grunts back. 

“Anyway,” Time cuts in, obviously trying to get the conversation back on track , “Have you heard much about these monster sightings? We wanted to make sure to avoid anywhere too dangerous on our way out.”

“Leaving so soon?” The bartender asks.

“Unfortunately yes. My sons and I were hoping to get home as soon as possible.”

“And we were hoping to be headed to our destination tomorrow, providing the weather holds,” Twilight says.

Four watches as a smile pulls at the bartender’s lips. It looks more like a grimace and Four wonders if the man even knows how to express any form of emotion other than irritation.

“Well then,” he says, gathering up the heroes’ cups. He turns to the back wall and pulls out the small barrel he had been using to fill their drinks and pours, filling the cups back up to the brim.

“We really shouldn’t–” Time tries to get out, but the man ignores him, instead sliding the glasses back in front of the three. Then, he quickly turns back to the bottles on the back wall and selects one for himself, pouring the red liquid into a cup and holding it out.

“To safe travels,” he announces.

“To safe travels,” the three heroes chorus back, with less enthusiasm, holding up their own glasses.

And then the four drink.

And as they drink, Four watches as the bartender’s eyes remain locked on the heroes, watching to see them finish their drinks. 

Four feels his blood go as cold as the pot behind him. 

Shit.

Time and Twilight almost throw the cups from their lips, disgusted expressions on their faces as they do.

Warriors, having stood up to take the biggest swig of the three, slams his glass down and coughs. As he tries to get a handle on his breathing his knees begin to shake. The captain sits back heavily onto his stool, a dizzy expression pulling at his handsome features.

“That one…” Warriors starts before his tongue seems to get tied. His eyebrows furrow and he blinks his eyes a few times, trying to clear them. “That one tasted different,” he finishes, sounding like he was speaking through numb lips.

“Oh it would,” the bartender admits easily, turning his back on the heroes to push the barrel back into place. “A higher dosage will do that to a drink.”

Time and Twilight slam themselves away from the bar, mirroring each other as they clumsily pull their swords from their scabbards. Warriors trips over his stool as he follows them, but instead of pulling out his own weapon, stumbles toward a table. His old table.

“S-Sky!” he slurs urgently, shoving at the chosen heroes shoulder. “Wake up!” 

Sky’s face doesn't even twitch. His breathing remains deep and even. Unnaturally so. 

In the front of the bar, the two men playing cards have stopped their game, once relaxed smiles going sharp and wide. They stand, cards forgotten as they slowly approach the heroes, hands turning to claws as they close in. 

The woman from the alcove straightens and for the first time Four can clearly see her face. Her nose is large and flat against her face, nostrils flared. Her eyes are wide apart and yellow, without pupils. Where her mouth should be is instead a muzzle, full of sharp teeth and dripping the red substance she had been drinking earlier.

Blood. One part of his mind supplies helpfully.

Her once hylian looking ears grow and grow and grow until they are massive, pointing upward and ridged on the inside. She stands on thin, spindly limbs and two wings pull themselves from her back, the membrane between the– fingers? They appear to be keese people so technically wouldn’t those be fingers? But they're on her back? I don't think that's important right now!– the membrane between the ridges of her wings are thin and clearly veined in the firelight of the bar.

The man behind the bar turns back to the heroes, having undergone a similar transformation, a gleeful smile showing off fangs.

Warriors, unable to rouse Sky, instead pulls the young man from the stool and drags his body to Twilight and Time’s side. That accomplished, the captain tries to pull himself to his feet, but his knees fail him, leaving him slumped on the floor with his back against the bar and an unconscious Sky next to him. He grabs the Master Sword from Sky’s back and holds it in front of himself defensively.

Time and Twilight flank themselves on either side of the incapacitated heroes, though Four notes with mounting horror that they are not uneffected by the drink either. Twilight keeps shaking his head,trying to clear his vision and Time’s grip on his sword looks weak, like the blade is too heavy for his arm. 

We have to get in there! A tsunami of anger and fear sending his heart jumping from his chest to his brain to his stomach to his ribs.

We need a plan first! Blisters back, a whirlwind of thoughts tearing at Four’s brain as he tries to run through options. He needs a portal. Now.

He focuses on the old magic he knows so well, letting the bubbling feeling of its energy settle in his chest. It crackles under his ribs, a fire sparking at fresh wood, filling him with warmth. Slowly, the sparks pull inward, filling his lungs with popping energy. He breathes out, the sparks flying up and out and leading him forward. And… there!

Down in the alcove the old keese-woman had been occupying, a lone blue and white pot sits, tipped on its side. 

Go Go Go Go Gogogogogogogo!

Wait! Screeches a third, a bolt of lightning splitting a tree, the thought spreading through his mind like a forest fire. The others! What about the signal?

Four’s eyes flash down toward the corner Legend was occupying.

The hero turned drawing has pulled himself out from behind the boxes, now his entire head and one arm visible. His hand moves frantically, palm facing out. He cycles through four positions over and over and over again, hand shaking slightly back and forth, as though making sure he catches only the attention of those who might be looking at him.

He holds up three fingers. Then he curls his hand into a fist, thumb resting outside the fist against the pointer finger. His pinky then sticks out, the thumb coming to rest over his other three fingers. Finally, his hand clenches back into a fist, thumb tucked under the pointer finger, it’s tip sticking out from the knuckles of his hand. 

W-A-I-T  

Screw that! We need to help them now! 

No, Legend  is right. If we jump in now, we could compromise the situation. Make them angrier. More likely to fight. If they think they have the upper hand, they may let something slip. 

And if we wait for the signal, at least we know one other person is jumping in with us. A more coordinated assault.

Four’s hand twitches over the pommel of the Four Sword, a finger tracing the gem there. He draws the blade but just holds it at the ready. A compromise.

“What did you put in our drinks?” demands Time as he levels the Biggoron sword at the bartender. The man? Keese? laughs with a squeaky voice, the sound grating on Four’s ears.

“Just something to help you relax,” he says, amber eyes alight with satisfaction. “It seemed to have worked just fine on your friend there, but you three needed a larger dose. I’m honestly impressed.”

Using two clawed fingers, he pushes the sword away from his face, grin widening as Time’s grip on the pommel falters.

“Stop playing with your food and cut to the chase,” hisses a new voice impatiently. 

Across from him, the grate over Wind and Wild’s hiding place rattles. Four clamps a hand over his mouth to stop himself from shouting out. 

I knew it Just as I suspected Well shit But she seemed so nice!

And low and behold, the woman from the shop emerges from the back room, nose flat and flared, massive ears back in anger and amber eyes lacking pupils.

“You.” Time says, words coming from between gritted teeth. He brings his other hand up, now using both arms to hold up the sword. Beside him, Twilight’s blinks are getting longer and slower as he faces down the three monsters approaching them from the back. 

The Master Sword clatters to the ground as Warriors slumps over completely, practically laying on top of Sky.

The shopkeep narrows her eyes at Time.

“Where is the hero?” She demands, flexing a hand to display her claws.

“I don't know what you mean.” Time replies coldy.

The woman hisses, air slicing between her fangs. “Don’t bother lying! That kid of yours had his blood on his sleeve. I could smell it!”

Our fault...

Without pausing, the woman fishes around in the pocket of her dress for a second before she pulls out another key, the bronze flashing in the dim light of the bar.

“I went to the house,” Four’s stomach drops to his feet. “Your brats weren't there. Are they in on it? Where are you hiding him?”

Time’s eyes widen at her words, the drugs probably muddling his head enough to make it difficult for the man to try to hide any of his feelings.

She tilts her head at his expression and then sneers at him.

“You thought they were still there,” she says voice disbelieving and flat. A sardonic laugh pushes it’s way past thin lips. “Man, you must be a real shit father if you can’t keep track of two injured kids.”

The shopkeep stalks forward, closer to Time. Meanwhile, the bartender loops around the otherside, closing in on the old man’s blind side. The three others staring down Twilight move forward, snarling. 

Despite everything telling him to watch his friends, Four keeps his eyes glued to Legend.

Wait. C’mon, c’mon! Stay calm! Ughhh!

“They smell like him,” The bartender says conversationally. “And not just that they’ve been around him. Something about them smells… familiar.”

“If we can’t find the brat, maybe we could just use their blood instead,” Pipes up one of the card playing men as he eyes Twilight, not daring to step any closer with a blade still held pointed at his chest.

“No!” the shopkeeper spits, amber eyes ablaze and lips pulled into a snarl. “It has to be him! For the power he stole from our master! For stealing this world from us!  A drop of blood for every monster he ever killed.”

Wait for it…

“I want to see the light leave his fucking eyes as the world comes down around him.”

An eruption of purple and an arm pulling itself from the wall sets several things in motion at once. 

A sharp slam echos through the room as a metal grate strikes stone. The skittering from above resolves into a heavy clunk as something heavier drops from the rafters. Four takes a running leap and dives off the shelf, Roc’s cape billowing behind him as he slices through the air, a tiny arrow aimed straight toward the pot.

He slams into the back of the ceramic, and the bubbling, popping, geyser of magic erupts inside him. It jumps from his chest, condensing into blue runes that jump and jive and dance around his head, circling circling circling. The energy still in his chest breathes in, breathes out, and then expands, pushing at his bones, pushing at his skin. Four feels the magic push past his physical boundaries, and the smithy throws himself out of the pot as he grows.

Four brandishes the Four Sword in front of him.

 Across from him, Legend stands in the fading purple light of his own magic, flame rod in one hand and a shield in the other. He looks angry. Angrier than Four thinks he’s ever seen the veteran hero look, canines bared in the cruelest smile the smithy has ever witnessed.

Wind stands triumphant in front of the unconscious Warriors and Sky, Phantom Sword held out in challenge for anyone to get near. 

Wild, meanwhile, kneels on the bar, strightbacked as he aims his bow at the three monsters who had been approaching Twilight. Three electrical arrows sit knocked against the champion’s string, barely restrained by his knuckles. 

And behind those surprised monsters, stands Hyrule. 

For the barest of seconds, hazel eyes cloud over with regret. Guilt. But then that second ends. A pink, golden glow seems to blossom in Hyrule’s eyes, a beautiful dahlia growing in his pupils. The smell of ozone fills the air. Sparks of electricity hiss and sputter between the brunets fingers, dancing to an unseen beat.

The traveling hero extends his hand to the shopkeeper.

“You want me? Come and get me.”

And then everything explodes.

The shopkeeper lets out a scream of fury, her wings flapping thunderously to propel her toward Hyrule. Four lunges forward, slashing into the keese person closest to him; the old woman. She lets out a hiss as the blade bites into her shoulder and then a scream as her body seizes up. Her wings twitch and convulse unnaturally, arcs of greenish, yellow energy crawling over her skin.

Wild must have released his barrage, Four thinks, if the two matching screams are anything to go by.

Time dives forward, stabbing one of the card players while Twilight takes a large step forward, letting the momentum of the movement throw him into a spin attack, his sword scoring deep lacerations into the monsters’ stomachs.

Almost makes this too easy. Part of him thinks viciously as Four takes the moment of vulnerability to drive the Four Sword through the hag’s chest. Her scream cuts off as the pain causes her lungs to freeze in their tracks. A claw rakes across the smithy’s arm but he ignores it, pressing the blade in deeper.

She coughs, and blood– her own or perhaps others– splatters into Four’s face and hair. The glow behind her yellow eyes fades and then in a plume of noxious black smoke, she is gone.

A blast of heated air pushes into Four’s face, almost causing him to close his eyes against the warmth. In front of him, a tower of swirling flame erupts from the wooden floor, engulfing the bartender. His screams rise, too high to be human as the smell of burnt hair and skin clogs the air. The light of the flames dances in Legend’s eyes as the screeches slowly fade away, no sympathy in poisonous blue eyes.

Seeing the last two monsters staggered from Twilight’s hit and frozen with fear from Legend’s display, Four rolls to the floor behind them, dragging his sword across the back of their knees as he moves past. 

One falls forward with a cry, soon silenced as Wind slashes into his neck with the Phantom Sword.  The other falls backward, another arrow sticking from his eye courtesy of Wild. 

Legend strides through their fading smoke, fire rod glowing and held at the ready to help Hyrule.

The traveling hero thrusts his shield forward, blocking a wide arching slash from the woman’s claws. The nails hit the metal with a clang. She changes tactics, gripping the sides of the sheild with both hands, pulling Hyrule closer to her gnashing teeth. 

While she goes for the face, Hyrule aims low, slashing into her legs with his sword. With a cry, she lets go of the shield and turns quickly, slamming one of her wings into the unsuspecting hero, knocking him back a few steps.

Legend takes advantage of the brief moment of separation, swinging his fire rod in a downward arc. A wall of fire flares between the two combatants, separating the snarling woman from the panting hero.

By the time the flames die down, Hyrule is flanked by both Legend and Four, weapons and shields raised. To the side, Wild raises his bow once more and Wind readies a boomerang.

“Last words?” Legend asks.

The woman doesn't even look at the veteran, amber eyes locked on Hyrule. Her eyes trace a single bead of blood that rolls from the teens bottom lip where the skin has split from the force of her wing attack.

“We’ll never stop, hero,” she says, spitting the last word with all the venom in the world. “You will never know a moment of peace! Not until that cowardly little heart of yours beats its last.”

Her face suddenly lights up with glee, eyes flicking between Hyrule and Legend and then back to all the others, landing on each one of them in turn.

“They don’t know, do they?” She asks, voice squeaky with her giggles, fear mingling with the laughs, making them sound desperate and breathy. Her amber eyes sweep over them. “If you knew what power lies in his blood, you’d be tripping over yourselves to kill him too.” 

A sharp, bark of laughter cuts through the air. Legend steps more fully in front of the woman, shoving the fire rod in her face as he cuts off her line of sight from Hyrule. 

“Okay, listen here you overgrown piece of guano, ‘cause I’m feeling generous. I’m not gonna repeat myself,” he says. 

“Ever heard of the Hero of Legend?” Her flat nose scrunches and her ears flick in confusion. At her tentative nod, the veteran hero pulls at one end of his tunic, as he gives a small mocking curtsey. “A pleasure, I’m sure,” he says with a nasty smile.

"So if you’ve heard of me, then you know what I did?” he asks, staring at her intently.

“You supposedly killed Ganon,” she says, eyes wide. Legend clicks his tongue and shakes his head.

“Partially right.”

The spherical red orb on the end of the fire rod glows brighter and Four sees the air around it grow shimmery, heat radiating off it as Legend holds it closer to the keese woman. She shrinks away from it, her back hitting the wall.

“See, I’ve killed Ganon three times.” He presses the fire rod closer, the outer edge of the orb now licked with small flames. Blue eyes are locked with amber, an ocean pulling the sun into its depths at the end of the day, drowning it. “I’ve traveled through time, fixing the past to change the future. I’ve changed the seasons with the flick of a wand. I’ve walked through the cracks of the universe and came out fine on the other end.”

“I’ve woken sleeping gods,” he grits out. Legend finally seems to come back to himself pulls and himself back away from the monstrous woman. Four watches as she relaxes minutely as the hero steps away, standing at Hyrule’s side once more.

“I’ve seen enough power. Not interested.” With a small circle of the rod, embers erupt around the woman, a tight circle of small fires pinning her in place. She lets out a sharp gasp as the flames slink in closer and grow like terrifying bright poppies.

“I don’t know where you all go when you die but tell your friends this: if I find even a hair out of place on his head, he won't be the one who has to worry about being hunted, got it?”

Before she can get out a response, the fires converge, twining together first into a cage and then a singular pillar. It flares up up up toward the ceiling, the heat so great that Four finds himself stumbling backward from it, wishing he had his protective gear and goggles on.

And then, just as fast as it had flashed upward, the fire extinguishes itself, only a blackened spot on the ground and a swirl of purple smoke a sign that it had ever existed.

“Good.”

SIlence reigns over the now empty bar, all eyes locked on Legend.

Holy shit.   Rises like a bubble to the surface of Four’s mind.

“Holy shit,” says Wind. Four nods at the sentiment. Because really, there isn’t anything else to say.






Getting everyone back to the house is a production.

Wind, using his power bracelets, bridal carries the unconscious Warriors the whole way back, a smug smile on the sailor’s face as the captain’s scarf drags behind him in the mud. Legend takes up a similar job, but instead carries the still snoring Sky slumped over on his back in a very awkward looking piggyback ride.

Wild supports a dizzy looking Twilight, in an ironic reversion of the day before. Time, whose legs seem to have failed him completely, is hunched over Hyrule and Four’s own shoulders as the two younger heroes all but drag the older man through the streets of Saria Town.

Once again, Four has to thank the goddesses for making sure not too many citizens witness their procession. Not for the first time since they’ve arrived here, the smithy is glad that this isnt his Hyrule. He won't have to be the one to explain this.

Thankfully, they’re able to get back to the house without incident.

“They’ll be fine,” Hyrule says with a weary smile as he and Legend leave the room they had designated as the infirmary. Four lets a breath of air out through his lips. Beside him, Wild and Wind visibly relax as well.

“They’ll just have some pretty nasty hangovers tomorrow,” Legend puts in, with an exasperated roll of his eyes. 

“So, you’re saying I can’t scream ‘Told you so’ as soon as they wake up?” Wind asks, head tilted and face innocent. Kid is vicious.

Legend shrugs his shoulders. “It would be a real dick move. But we deserve payback so, go nuts, kid.”

“On the topic of what just happened,” Hyrule cuts in, eyes cast down to the floor, “I wanted to apologize to everyone.” 

The traveling hero clutches at his chest, hand fisted in his green tunic. 

“I told you all it was safe here. And I-I was wrong about that,” the teen’s voice catches in his throat. He swallows thickly a few times and then finally raises his head, looking at each of them in turn with sorrowful hazel eyes. “I’m so, so sorry.”

Wild shakes his head vigorously. “There was no way you could have known this was going to happen.” Hyrule opens his mouth to argue, but the champion barrels forward, voice powerful. “It’s never your fault that people want to kill you for being you. That's not something you can control and definitely not something to apologise about,” he says. Empathy burns in the champion’s eyes, and for a second, Four wonders if Wild is reciting someone else’s words. 

Words that he has heard himself a million times and internalized. Words that are etched into his brain.

Hyrule looks like he wants to argue further, but Legend places a hand on the younger hero’s shoulder, capturing his attention. He shakes his head once, eyes intent. The traveling hero slumps under the other’s gaze.

“Thanks,” he manages, a weak smile pointed at them

WIld brightens. “No problem. Now,” he says, changing the subject and trying to lighten the mood.  “Dinner.”

Wind immediately perks up. “Soup! Soup! Soup!” He chants, following behind Wild as the older heads toward the kitchen.

“We had soup last night.”

“Not seafood soup! That’ll make everyone better in no time!”

Their voices fade as they turn out of the hallway and into the living room.

Hyrule and Legend make no move to follow them. Neither does Four.

The tentative smile that had fallen onto Hyrule’s face crumbles, leaving him somber. Resigned. There are bags under his eyes, Four notes suddenly with a hint of worry. He wonders how much magic the other hero had just used to make sure their friends were stable. He wonders how tired the other must be.

“I’m assuming you want answers,” Hyrule says, looking more exhausted and sad with each word. “What she said about me–”

“I don't care about that,” Four says, causing Hyrule’s head to pop up and eyes widen in slight surprise. “It wasn’t her secret to tell.”

All of the events from the past two days: The injuries, the anger, fear, regret, all of it adds fuel to the fire burning through Four’s chest and searing into his brain. The fire that tells him to comfort and protect.

We can hug him now, right? The fire asks, bright and hopeful and maybe just a little bit desperate for physical affection.

Yes. Comes a reply, easy as a summer breeze.

Ughhh do we have to? Ever the rain cloud on a sunny day.

Don’t play coy. Says the last. 

Four’s arms slowly encircle Hyrule’s middle, allowing the other time to pull away if he wanted to. When he doesn't, the smithy leans into the embrace and squeezes. The traveling hero doesn't respond at first, muscle tensed and breath caught in his throat. However, slowly but surely, warm arms fold themselves around Four’s back and Hyrule’s chin comes to rest on the top of the smithy’s head.

“What information you choose to share with us is yours to decide,” Four says against the other’s chest, the words almost sounding too formal for the situation at hand, but heartfelt nonetheless. “I won’t think any less of you if you want to keep this to yourself.”

Four feels Hyrule nod, the older’s chin leaving the top of his head for only the barest of moments.

They stand like this for a moment. Eventually, Hyrule’s grip on him lessens, indicating to Four that he should let go. Part of him doesn't want to. Hell, actually, all of him doesn't want to. He does anyway.

Legend lets out an awkward cough, that almost has Four rolling his eyes as he and Hyrule fully pull apart.

Really, the vetreran hero had the emotional range of a Deku Scrub. No, less than that. A Leever.

“Maybe a smaller secret would be easier to start with?” Legend suggests, with a raised eyebrow and and a smile. “Namely, how the holy Hylia both of you got into the bar? Both of you seemed to appear out of thin air when I gave the signal.”

Four and Hyrule look at each other and then back at Legend. 

“Trade secret.” Four says with a smile as he walks past the older hero and into the living room. Behind him, Hyrule lets out a sharp snort of laughter while Legend makes a mock offended noise at being brushed off so easily.

There was a sound from the rafters and then Hyrule appeared, right?

Hmmmm

Four lets a laugh bubble up from his throat.

Yes. A smaller secret indeed.

Chapter Text

They are sitting. 

Are they? 

No I can’t feel anything Yes Shut up you don't get a say Where are we

They feel...disconnected. They are floating, up, up, up and away from their body. The world around them is hazy, undefined, untouchable, unreachable. It isn't bright or dark and they can only vaguely see things as they pass before their eyes. Blurs of color that don’t make sense, moving both too fast and too slow. They don't feel hot or cold. Actually, they feel both. No. Yes. Maybe? 

They are weightless. 



They are together. 



They are apart.



They are nothing.





No. 

No, wait.

They are something

Weight returns to them all at once, almost knocking them over. They are sitting. They are sitting on the ground and breathing. They are sitting on the ground and breathing and breathing and breathing and breathing and they are breathing too fast, aren't they?

Their eyes are open, but suddenly, everything snaps into starling focus, like a gossamer fabric has been pulled out from over their eyes. The world and all of its colors and sights and sounds and feelings slam into them, assaulting their senses, everything magnified, multiplied by four and then shattered together in a nauseating kaleidoscope of too much make it stop.

The sun is blinding, its light a forge-hot sword pulled from the flames and plunged into their eyes in order to temper. The birds screech from the tree tops, their harmonies a cacophonous din that pierces their eardrums. Their skin–Hylia– feeling prickles over their skin, something crawling, dripping, scraping over every part of their body. Their skin is tight, biting into their muscles, crushing their bones, too tight too tight too tight out out out let me OUT!

Air wheezes past their lips. There is a weight at the bottom of their lungs and though their chest heaves, they can’t get enough air. Every breath is a labor, a full body motion, only for the air to slash into their throat and drop blood into the bottom of their lungs, weighing them down further. They are choking, drowning on their own breaths.

Their head is too heavy, full of stones, and too light, flying away on the breeze. 

It hurts It hurts I said shut up Focus on something else What if the others see We need to calm down Don’t tell me what to do

Hands, their hands?– 2? 8?– move, brushing over the soft grass beneath them, a mechanical motion. No thought needed. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and...fourth? Palms brush over the blades of grass, some sliding easily against their calluses while others push back only to be crushed, pushed into line by the force of their hand.

Calmdowncalmdowncalmdowncalmdown, calm down, calm down, Calm down.

What do we share?

What do we share?

We are–

We are Fou– NO!

No, No, NO, NO! GET OUT OF MY HEAD!

A knife, hot, jagged, and brutal, slices into their brain. 

Their face is wet. 

They are crying.

Their? His? Their arms wrap around themselves, left hand coming up to grip at their shoulder while the other reaches around, clutching at the back of their tunic. They squeeze, tensing their muscles as tight as they can in order to hold themselves together no let me out Let Me Out!!!

They are shaking. They are shaking everywhere. Outside, their hands are twitching, caught between letting go and holding on tighter. Their head shakes slightly, hair swishing against their cheeks as their neck strains at the movement. Their lungs shake as they breathe or at least, try to breathe.

Inside, is an earthquake, the fault lines of their brain, their heart, their soul pulling apart at the seams.

Inside, it is also loud. It is too, too loud. The voices outside have long since faded, the shouts for potions and bandages and I need clean water, he needs stitches now! move move move, Four get out of the way! are gone.

All that's left now are the echoes from before, shouts of pain and cries of frustration bouncing around in their brain and their own thoughts screaming back in frenzied response.

Our fault.   Our fau– Your fault! YOUR fault! My fault... Coward! Take responsibility oh that’s rich coming from you quiet quiet shut up stop please fighting it get out hurts please please

“Four?”

A hand lands on their shoulder, a boulder of weight that digs into their already overly sensitive skin. Even dampened by their tunic, it feels like their shoulder is being pulled from its socket, their collarbone shattering.

A sound of distress slips past their lips.

weak it hurts pathetic stop calm down we deserve this

“Four,” the voice tries again. The hand’s grip on his shoulder tightens. 

It should be comforting. It should be grounding.

But right now, it feels like a claymore biting into the tendons of their arm, determined to cut down to the bone. Right now, it is salt in a wound, ground into the cut with too rough fingers. Right now, they know they don't deserve it. They don't deserve the comfort. Right now, it makes their heart clench, the muscle beating from between a tightened fist. 

Right now, it’s just too much.

Even though their legs are numb from sitting too long, they jolt to their feet and wrench their shoulder from the other’s grasp . Knives. So many knives, all the knives they have ever forged, dig into their legs, much greater than any ‘pins and needles’ sensation they have ever felt, but they ignore it. They ignore it and quickly turn their back on whoever was trying to get their attention.

They have no clue what their face looks like right now, but they know it is not good. Not normal. Tears drip from both eyes, but one eyebrow arcs downward in anger while the other one lifts up in fear. Their mouth is caught between a snarl and a sob.

“Four, he’s going to be okay. You can go see him now, if you want,” the voice says lowly, a comforting softness to the words. Lower voice. Tinge of accent and a faint rumble to the sentence. Twilight.

  can’t see us like this your fault hurts please my fault stop leave leave leave leave run

“Firewood,” Tumbles clumsily out of their mouth, the common word somehow unfamiliar on their tongue. 

“What?” Confusion. Concern.

“We will get firewood,” they say, trying to speak more clearly.  More normally. They are not Four. But they can sound like him, if they try.

“But Wind already–”

They do not look back, even as they feel a hand reach out to catch them. Instead, they stumble away quickly, stepping out of the clearing and away from camp. Their legs work to take them away from there. Away from everything.

“Let him go,” another voice cuts in as they mechanically stride further away into the woods, into the shade. “He just needs some time alone.”

Legs moving, first stumbling, then walking, jogging, running; a sad, angry, resigned laugh rings out in the quiet of the forest, only to be swallowed up by the trunks and leaves of the endless trees.

Time alone.

If only...







They do not know how long they walk.

They walk and walk and walk and walk but they have no mind for where they are going. Their eyes are unseeing in the sea of brown and green, brain moving faster than their legs.

Branches swipe at their face, cutting into tear stained cheeks. Vines threaten to trip them with each step. Stones slam into their toes and bruise the soles of their feet. But they continue walking, farther and farther away.

“Running away like the cowards you are?” drips from their mouth like poison, lips pulled into a sneer.

“It’s not about that and you know it!” they hiss back. “We can't let them see us!”

“Afraid of them, afraid of moblins, what aren’t we afraid of? Or should I say, what aren't you afraid of?”

Their feet stop moving. Hands reach up, holding them together, clawing at any piece of uncovered skin to tear them apart. Everything aches. Their feet hurt. Their legs hurt. Their arms hurt.Their heart…

Their head is an anvil, a white hot knife searing at their nerves while a steady, forceful hammer chips away at their skull.

Make it stop make it stop you know how to make it stop Blue please just pull the sword we need to pull ourselves together I’m not talking to you

Hands reach up and fist themselves in either side of their hair and pull, ripping at the strands of straight gold. It is painful, but it is a pain they can control. Something they can do rather than sit back and experience.

It doesn't help. Sweet Farore, it doesn't help. It only succeeds in making them feel like the edges of their brain are being wrenched apart, the stitching of their mind holding on despite it all and shredding what it should be uniting.

They fall to their knees, shaking uncontrollably now. Their eyes fall shut as more tears spill down their face, hoping that something, anything will make it all go away. But none of the pain ebbs. Instead, it compounds, as the world around them once more falls away from their awareness. 

There is nothing else in the darkness to focus on but the hurt. The aching pain in their body, the tearing of their mind, the sinking of their heart into dark, dark depths. 

“Stop fighting!” they sob, voice jumping, twirling from one emotion, one octave to the next as they speak. “Please! You’re being unreasonable. Guys! Please, it hurts! Shut up! Get out of MY head!!!!”

They grab blindly at their back, hand gripping at the ribbons on the Four Sword. They yank it free from its scabbard, and from their kneeling position, raise it skyward.

A bright white penetrates their eyelids, painting their world in light. 

Scissors, clean and cool like a soothing balm, cut away at the tightened threads of their mind. The pieces that were forced together, fall away, their jagged edges no longer cutting into one another.

The tension that they were holding, that they are always holding, seeps out of their body and they can breathe. Thank Hylia, they can finally breathe. 

The pounding in their skull abates, the pressure that was building up inside of them released like steam from between their ears.  Something in them pulls apart. It stretches, tugging at unseen, unused muscles and they stretch

It hurts. It hurts but it feels good too. 

Something inside them relaxes–well and truly relaxes– for the first time since they had met the other heroes.

They relax and stretch and stretch and stretch and then they stretch farther...

They snap, the fault lines of “them” crumbling into dust. 

And they are no longer a they.

They exist no more.





He is kneeling.

He is kneeling on the ground. He is kneeling on the ground and breathing. He is kneeling on the ground and breathing and breathing and breathing and there is no pain. 

Well, no physical pain anyway.

His brain feels hollowed out, almost too empty compared to the bursting fullness it was before. And yet, it is no quieter. His skull is now a drum, the hollowness allowing his own thoughts to echo back louder and louder, a deafening percussive force.

There are no other voices. No other thoughts to dilute his own. No filter his thoughts must pass through. They are raw, too loud. Undeniable.

They killed him. Oh Nayru, They killed him!. They killed him–no! He killed him. Him. His fault his fault his fault his fault Oh Sky! Oh Sky, Sky, Sky, Sky please please he’s sorry so sorry sorry sorry SKY!

His chest–his heart–hurts, an icepick repeatedly slamming between his ribs, piercing past his lungs and freezing his arteries. Shame bubbles up from his stomach, boiling his blood. Back and forth, too fast. Hot cold hot cold hot cold hot cold.

He pulls his knees out from under him, sitting back on his butt. He hugs his legs closer to himself, burying his face in his knees. Tears slip past his tightly clenched eyes, digging lines down his burning face. He opens his mouth and sobs.

His fault his fault hisfaulthisfaulthisfaulthisfau–!

“Red!”

Arms encircle his shoulders, a warm body colliding with his side.

“Red. Red!” The voice says, words soft but urgent as they are muttered into his hair. “You have to breathe, Red!”

Oh. The throbbing behind his eyes is from more than his tears. The pressure in his ribs is from more than the pain in his chest. 

A stuttering breath knocks into him, sending him into a coughing fit. A hand rubs up and down his back, soothing. He coughs and scrubs at his face before trying again, this time feeling as air expands his lungs, pushes out his ribs and fills his belly. He holds it and then pushes the air out from between his lips, and lets everything in him relax. Or, at least, he tries to.

Okay. Okay. Okay, okay, okay.

Focus on what he feels.

The warmth of one of the others beside him. The sound of more reassurances being whispered by his hair. Comforting. Controlled. Present. Green. 

He hears a breeze move gently through the forest, a whisper accompanying the songs of the birds. The wind tickles his skin, and ruffles his hair. He can smell the forest, the scent of clean air through freshly watered greenery. The scent of wet dirt and moss.

He lets the feelings, the singularity of it all, ground him.

He is him. 

He is One. One of Four.

He is Red.

Red lifts up his head and opens his eyes.

As predicted, sitting next to him is Green, a weary and drooping smile playing at his lips. A shadow infects normally clear viridian eyes, something haunted in his gaze. Guilt. Shame. Red would know. He is feeling the same burning ice in his blood.

Across the clearing from them, a blue clad figure lays face down in the dirt, muffled groaning sounding from his prone form. Next to him, Vio lays curled up on his side, his back to them, unmoving except for slowly steadying breaths causing his chest to rise and fall rhythmically.

Unfortunately, their more– hummm–uncontrolled separations sometimes throw them into weird positions like this. It seems this time, Blue has pulled the short straw. Vio had once said that it was the result of their volatile emotions wreaking havoc on the separation process. Red wasn't sure how much he believed the other about that, but volatile is definitely the word he would describe that separation. 

In fact, based on the way that Blue and Vio appear to have been thrown halfway across the clearing, a good eight feet away from himself and Green, Red might even call what they just did an explosion rather than a separation.

As Red’s breaths grow more even, Green gradually relinquishes his hold on his brother’s shoulders and leans slightly away from Red’s side, giving the other more room to breathe and collect himself.  Red sends the green wearing hero a watery smile which is quickly returned with a slightly strained one of Green’s own. 

Tension bleeds out of both of them as the imminent panic attack evaporates into the warm breeze. Viridian eyes flick upward toward the canopy of the trees, staring at blue sky peeking out from between the overhanging branches

“Well, that sucked,”Green says succinctly, the same sad smile still in place as his eyes trace a slowly moving cloud. 

Red nods at his words, shifting himself into a slightly more comfortable sitting position. He notices the wet spots on his knees, grimacing at the green marks lining his leggings where he had been kneeling. 

“At least no one will notice the grass stains on your tunic,” Red supplies, though his voice still sounds wet. Sad. Even with the relief of being apart– the pain and confusion and guilt and anger separated– the normally cheerful teen cannot quite bring himself to make the joke land.

Regardless, green irises shift, giving Red a joking side-eye. It is half hearted and it doesn't quite measure up to the pure dryness Legend or Vio can infuse into their eyes, but it works, startling the beginnings of a laugh out of Red’s chest.

With a more genuine smile, Green returns his eyes to the clouds as he slumps his weight back onto his arms, stretching out in the dappled sunlight.

“At least now we can talk about it face to face like civilized–”

A growl sounds over the rest of Green’s comment. Across the clearing, Blue stumbles to his feet, eyebrows furrowed and scowl on his face as cerulean eyes scan for a target. Red watches as he zeroes in on Vio, who is too busy picking himself off the ground to notice the other teen stomping toward him. 

Or actually, knowing Vio, Red guesses that the purple clad hero is ignoring Blue just to spite him. And unfortunately, Red thinks ruefully as the fuming teen grabs a fistfull of Vio’s tunic and hauls their taciturn part to his feet, Blue is falling for it hook-line-and-sinker.

Red scrambles up, mirrored by Green, as Blue pulls back a fist. He holds it menacingly behind himself as anger bright sapphire clashes with steely lavender. An ocean’s powerful wave meeting an unyielding shoreline.

Blue’s face shifts from agitation to a rage, lips peeled back showing teeth. He winds up farther, but before he can land his punch, Green latches onto his arm, pulling him back. Red throws himself between the two, wrenching Blue’s finger’s from Vio’s tunic and then pushing a hand into both teen’s chests, separating them farther.

Blue snarls in Green’s hold, chest heaving in anger. “Oh, so now you’re willing to step up and fight? When it means nothing?” 

He slams his elbow into Green’s stomach and the  other teen lets out a grunt, releasing the angry smith. Blue squares his shoulders but doesn't approach, merely leveling a sneer in Red and Vio’s direction.

“I guess we always were a self-serving bunch, huh?” he says derisively.

“Blue,” Green starts, recovering his breath enough to place a hand on the seething part’s shoulder. “It was an accident. You know we didn’t mean–”

Blue whirls on their leader with a snarl, now advancing toward Green. 

“Didn’t mean to what?” he bites out, eyes flashing dangerously. “Didn't mean to almost get him killed?” 

Unbidden, images flash behind Red’s eyes. 

 

(Two moblins. Not ones from his world, but massive and hulking, pink skinned and bulbous. Their eyes too deep set, too round and luminous for their faces. Spears that could skewer him eight times over gripped in their hands. 

A hero in pale green and white stands bravely at his back, sword that can banish the darkness held aloft, gathering energy.

Movement. Jumps. Dashes. Whirlwinds of blades. Anything he needs to do in order to distract them. Just a little longer. Just a little longer. Just a little… longer!

A voice, Sky’s voice, telling him to ‘Duck!’

A whirl of flying, holy light and two snorting screams and the moblins fall.

He turns, compliment ready on his tongue as he looks toward the chosen hero. 

The words die in his throat.

A sword, old, rusty, and pilfered is raised behind Sky’s back, ready to plunge downward. Ready to kill.

Jump now now now Shield Wait  NO We have to warn him Sword up Now Move move move move Say Something C’mon SKY Do Something SKY ANYTHING DO ANYTHING YOU USELESS–!

The only thing they can do as the sword comes down is scream.

A pure white cloth, slowly drenched in deep crimson red.)



The grief, the guilt that had been held at bay by the relief of separating rushes back full force, the levee of emotion broken.

Red’s vision turns blurry around the edges. His heart turns to lead, cold and heavy as it sinks out of his chest and into his boots. His stomach slowly fills with dripping ice, feeling too full and too cold. It makes him feel like he's going to be sick. 

The air in his throat stumbles, and he chokes on the inhale. His face feels hot even as the tears bubble over, dragging wet lines over his cheeks.

Oh Nayru, they killed Sky.

Blue must hear his muffled sob because he turns back, face red. Righteous. Furious. 

“Oh, no,” he says, the words a growl as he stabs an accusing finger harshly into Red’s chest, knocking the slightly smaller teen back a step. “You do not get to cry about this. You might as well have stabbed him yourself with what use you were!”

“Blue!” Green shouts, voice going high with surprised anger. “That’s unfair and you know it! You are just as–”

“Unfair? Unfair?!” Blue howls, his anger having turned from a wave into an unstoppable tsunami of emotion. “I’ll tell you what’s unfair: Watching Sky get fucking stabbed because you three can’t shut up long enough to listen to me!”

“You!” He says, glaring at Green, who is trying and failing to stop the tirade.“You think you can boss everyone around and yet, the one time we need you to take charge- to do literally anything- you freeze up!”

Green’s mouth snaps shut with a click. A shadow falls over forest colored eyes as they dart downward to the grass, his arms coming up to cross over his chest. 

“You!” Blue continues, wheeling around to set flashing cerulean eyes on Red’s tear stained face. “You got so scared, we couldn’t even think over your pathetic whimpering! Din be damned, maybe if we get you enough red potions and fairies, you’ll finally heal from whatever accident occured when we first split and you’ll finally fucking grow a spine of your own!”

Red feels sick. Hylia, he feels so sick, his stomach simultaneously icy and filled with heat. Blue’s right. It’s his fault. All his fault.

More tears spill down his face as a sob rips itself free from his throat. He tries to breathe in but the air catches once, twice, three times, another hiccuping cry slipping past his lips even as he tries to stifle it. 

Oh Hylia, Blue’s right. If he were stronger! If he were braver-!

“And you,” the blue clad hero takes up his position staring down Vio once more, now unhindered by Green and Red trying to seperate them. “Well,” he says, voice suddenly going breezy, dismissive. “You’re just too good for this, aren’t you? It wouldn’t hurt you to feel a shred of guilt, you heartless bastard.”

Vio narrows his eyes, but otherwise does not react to the other smith's words.

“Do not presume to know how I feel,” he replies evenly. Deadly calm, his voice a blade of smooth obsidian. 

“I don’t just ‘ presume to know ’” Blue spits, voice going high, nasally, and mocking as he echoes Vio’s words back at him. “As much as I hate to admit it, I am you , you unfeeling little weasel! Instead of worrying about Sky, all you could think about was making sure we didn’t separate in front of the others! Like he wasn’t even bleeding out in front of us!”

Blue slaps a hand to his forehead, pushing back the blue ribbon that keeps his hair out of his eyes. 

“I mean, I know I ragged on Red for being afraid, but at least he feels something! You don’t feel anything! Not guilt or regret or anger or sadness. It’s all about utility for you. What’s useful, what’s necessary, what’s logical. You’re heartless! It’s like you’re not even Hylian!” 

An arrow of concern flies through Red’s grief hazed mind. They should stop him. They need to stop him before he does something they’ll regret. 

Amber eyes flick over to Green, but the other smithy looks just as lost as Red feels, eyes downcast and searching the dirt. Red opens his mouth, to try to interject, to maybe get Blue’s attention back on himself but nothing comes from his lips, the words lost in his quickly constricting throat.

“What if it were me?” Blue asks, hand once again coming to fist in Vio’s tunic. He pulls the purple hero to his toes, bringing them almost nose to nose as Blue bites out his harsh words. “Or better yet,” he continues, “Green or Red? If they were bleeding out right in front of you, would you shed a tear? Would you morn? Would you even fucking notice?”

Vio’s mouth thins into a line and his already narrowed eyes harden. Red watches with mounting horror as the lack of response seems to only add fuel to Blue’s fire, spurring him on as he leans even more into the purple clad hero’s space. Blue bares his teeth, words quiet, hissed daggers as he goes for the kill.

“I bet you felt nothing when you betrayed him. When the mirror shattered. When he d–”

Red barely registers a flash of purple surging forward. 

A resounding crack sounds throughout the small clearing. 

Blue’s head snaps to the side, bright red blossoming over one cheek. A single shaking hand comes up to cradle the rapidly bruising spot, as the other drops the purple cloth of Vio’s tunic.  His head slowly turns back to face their normally calm part with wide eyes.

In front of the shell shocked hero, Vio’s shoulders heave as he breathes, one fist clenched at his side while the other remains hovering in the air, a threat for more. If his eyes were cold before, they aren’t anymore; the stoney nature of his irises having erupted into bubbling pools of purple magma.

“How dare you?” he says, voice hard with rage and disbelief as he heaves out another lungful of air. “You’ve seen my memories. You know exactly how I felt.”

The purple clad hero turns his back to them, his shoulders still shaking. Red watches as his fists unclench, hands suddenly reaching back and pulling at his purple hood. He yanks it roughly over his head, further hiding himself from view. 

“I know you’re stupid,” he says, words low, and muffled. Thick. “But don't for one second mistake your anger toward yourself for an anger towards us, you self-righteous prick.”

And with that, Vio strides away, the shadow of the woods quickly swallowing him up.

It is silent for a moment.

Tears still drip from Red’s chin, even as he brings his hands up to cup around his mouth to muffle himself. Blue’s hand remains cradled to his cheek, face stormy, running through several emotions at once. Green’s eyes are locked on the dirt, searching for something.

“You shouldn’t have said that,” Green says eventually.

Blue grunts in response, hand finally falling away from his face to grab at the hilt of his sword. He pulls it from the scabbard and shoulders past Red and Green, blade in hand as he heads in the opposite direction of Vio. 

“Where are you going?” Red manages to squeak out, his throat still feeling tight and thick. 

Blue barely pauses long enough to grit, “We said we were getting firewood, right?” before he too disappears back under the canopy of leaves. Gone, and with him, the tension in the air of the clearing suddenly abates.

Red lets his head fall to his chest, his eyes squeezed shut tight but not tight enough to stop more tears from running down his face. They run their course, following the trails of the others, slipping from his chin onto the front of his tunic.

His thoughts jump from one failure to the next. Even though they are gone- their thoughts finally separate from his own- he can still hear the others in his head. Blue’s angry, spiteful voice reminding him of his cowardice. Green’s disapproving tone at how selfish he is being. Vio’s cutting remarks regarding how utterly useless tears were.

Hylia, he really is pathetic, isn’t he?

Pathetic. Weak. Cowardly. He can hardly call himself a her–

A hand lands on his shoulder, drawing him from his quickly spiraling thoughts.

Using the back of his sleeve, Red wipes at his face and then turns. Green offers him a weak smile. Its lopsided and his eyebrows are too furrowed for Red to actually believe that it is anything but forced, but he appreciates the effort nonetheless.

The other releases him and then spreads his arms wide, an invitation. 

Weak , his mind whispers traitorously. 

Maybe , he thinks back. But right now, he needs this.

He steps into Green’s awaiting arms, wrapping his own around the other's back. The green clad hero mirrors him, his own arms clasping around Red’s shoulders as they hold each other. Red squeezes the other tighter, setting his chin on Green’s shoulder. Based on the weight that settles on his own shoulder, Green follows his lead.

Encased in warmth, cared for, Red takes the moment to just breathe and feel someone he cares about breathe with him. 

He takes stock of himself. He is not injured. His legs and feet ache and his head hurts a little from crying, but he is unharmed, intact. He feels sad, obviously. Guilt claws at him, his heart caught in its clenching fist and his stomach rolling to escape its clutches.

Sky got hurt. He got hurt really really badly because of him. Them. Him. 

Sky got hurt because they froze up. Because they weren't good enough. Because they weren't whole enough. Because they weren’t normal enough.

Pathetic! Weak! Cowardly!

Freak!

Red takes a deep breath in and then lets it out, sinking deeper into his brother’s arms.

Being the way they are isn't something they can change.

They can’t just wave a wand or place a sword in a pedestal and be the way they were before. They can’t change the way they are, just like he can’t change what happened to Sky now that it is over. He can cry and rage against it but that won’t change anything. 

Even if they had warned him, Sky could have still gotten hurt. Even if they had raised their shield, that didn’t guarantee everything would have been okay. Even if they had taken the blow themselves, where would they be left then? Would the monster have merely dispatched him and then hurt Sky anyway?

There were so many what ifs. So many things out of his control. So many possibilities. So many unknowns.

Okay then , he thinks. Focus on what he does know.

What he knows for sure is that right now, at that moment, both he and Green are safe. Green’s breaths are clear and even. He is alive and warm in Red’s arms.

Vio and Blue are safe too, if a little upset. They’re nearby; Red can check on them if he wants to. The other Links are safe; they had at least somehow staved off spiraling until they had made it somewhere secure.

Even Sky was safe, if Twilight’s earlier words were anything to go by. Safe and not dying. Safe and not dead.

Sky could hate them– and they would deserve his hatred– but at least he was alive and safe.

They are all safe. 

Red takes a deeper breath in, some of the thickness in his throat finally clearing away.

It is okay to cry , he tells himself as the tears slowly start to abate. It is okay to feel sad. It is okay to feel guilty. Something bad happened and he was partly to blame for it. What he was feeling was natural, a given. He can’t change what happened. He can’t change what they did or didn't do. 

What matters now is what he does with the sadness and guilt. What he does with himself.

“So,” Red says, voice still wet but no longer the choking gasp it was before. “Come here often?”

He feels Green’s shoulder jump under his chin, the other’s chest shifting with soft laughs.

“It’s nice to see you again too, Red,” he says warmly.

The red wearing smith feels a smile pull at his face. He knows exactly what Green means. Sure, they literally share a body and mind most of the time, but that was different. That was when they were Four, when they were whole and mixed and together.

It was nice to see each other with their own eyes, if only for a little while. 

Slowly, very very slowly, Green lets up on his hold, but doesn’t completely let go, letting Red control the embrace. Red feels his smile grow. What a gentleman.

Red gives his other part one last squeeze before he releases completely and steps back. 

Green offers him another not-quite-happy smile.

“He really knows just what to say to get under our skin, huh?” he says, the upturn of his lips turning self-deprecating as his brows dip. His eyes refuse to meet Red’s own. The shadow from before still darkens his face. Uncertainty. Guilt.

“Well,” Red replies, returning Green’s smile with a more genuine one of his own, “He is you. If he didn’t know what ticked you off, I would probably be concerned.”

Apparently, that’s not the right thing to say. Green’s expression wilts further, his arms coming up to cross over his chest once more. His eyes flash back to the dirt beneath their feet. Lost in thought. Bad thoughts, if Red had to guess. Not good.

“Hey, hey,” Red calls to him, waving his hands a little to get the others attention. Forest green eyes finally flick upward, landing on Red’s face. Better. “What happened wasn’t your fault. We all are to blame, no matter what Blue says.”

“I-I know that,” the green smithy replies. “He was just mad and taking it out on us.” And then with a sigh. “But he’s also right.”

Red frowns at that.

“I mean,” Green clarifies, “We were scared and disorganized and that got someone hurt. Sure, we can’t put all the blame on just one of us–we all froze up–but that’s exactly the problem. We all froze up. What if this happens again?”

He runs a hand through his hair, his green headband shifting slightly out of place at the movement. “ Hylia knows this wasn’t our last fight- not by a long shot. We got lucky that Sky was just hurt and not killed.”

He swipes a hand down his face.

“Next time we might not get even that lucky,” he says quietly.

Red nods his head at the other teen’s words, worry creeping up into his chest and pulling at his face. 

“RIght now, we’re a liability in combat,” Green continues. “And if it gets bad enough…”

“You’re thinking about telling them,” Red says, already knowing where Green’s thoughts were leading him. A side effect of sharing a brain, he supposes. 

“I know how we all feel about them knowing,” Green says with a wince and Red feels a stone slam into his belly as he remembers what it's like back home. 

When they had first come back together everything was… difficult. Before they truly became synchronized–truly together – even things as simple as walking and eating had been hard, their movements stumbling and halting. However, even when they got their act together enough to be him rather than them , some things still took time.

Talking was a special kind of hell, too many words and thoughts spilling from his lips until he was just speaking jibberish. Too many nouns, verbs that didn't match up, random adjectives that didn't make sense in context. It used to bring him to red, flustered, frustrated tears, clumsy attempts at speech slowly solidifying into jumbled up curses and insults.

He couldn’t even tell himself how stupid and useless he was without stumbling over his own tongue. 

Zelda had been a goddess sent. She was understanding, green eyes filled with patience rather than frustration as the waterfall of words slowly condensed into an intelligible river. She theoretically knew what he was going through. She had been there when they tried to put the sword back. She had seen the four become one but not quite. 

His grandfather had been confused at first, but supported him nonetheless. Though gruff, he was accommodating,  helping him to eat and walk and, when he was ready for it, get back in the groove of smithing despite his fumbling fingers.

The shine of pride in the old geezer’s eyes when they had pulled their first dagger since their second adventure from the cooling trough had been one of the happiest moments of their lives. 

It was an ugly little thing, impurities in the metal making it look marred and even by their own admission, they could tell that the blade listed to the right of the hilt. 

The old man used it in the kitchen. His favorite knife to peel potatoes he said, humor and affection in his voice. 

The townspeople however … had been less than sympathetic. 

Even now, Red could see distrustful eyes giving him a once over. He can see parents pulling their children away from the central square as he walks to the castle. He hears their derisive, speculative whispers in his ears. Remembers the stilted and polite conversations he would have if he talked with them, words nice enough, but their eyes searching his face for a stumble, a trip in his expression or voice.

He couldn't blame them. They wanted a shining hero. Dashing, eloquent. Heroic. Someone who fought with ferocity of the ocean, the agility of the wind, the strength of a mountain, and with a heart of blazing flame. They wanted the hero that was so good, it was fabled that he had the strength of four men.

What they got was a kid who twitched and mumbled to himself and couldn't even order fresh produce without interrupting his words with odd gaps of silence or changing his mind five times.

He got better over time, the words straightening out in his mind like cloth beneath a warmed iron. They became more insync. More in touch with each other's emotions and thoughts until they were seamlessly him, body moving as one well oiled machine even if his mind could sometimes devolve into a somewhat scattered democracy. 

But the townsfolk never stopped looking for the slip ups. The signs that something– that he– was wrong.

He bore it for a while. He wanted them to like him. Eventually however, their eyes became just too heavy on his shoulders. Their whispers too piercing for his ears. Their sweet words too fake for him to stomach. 

After a while, he decided that going into town that often just wasnt worth it.

And then when Zelda became more and more busy with her duties, his visits became even less frequent. 

And then when his grandfather passed, he stopped going altogether.

Other than stocking up on food once a month and seeing Zelda if she was free for a few moments, he never entered Hyrule Town. 

He had better things to do than be stared at like a festival attraction. 

Besides, if they wanted him, they knew exactly where to find him. At least when they came to see him at the forge, he appeared competent. His weapons and tools were sought after the kingdom over for their strength and beauty. People stared at his weapons rather than at him, marveling at the craftsmanship. When he was at the forge, at least they admired his work, if not him. In the forge, he was useful. 

He was wanted. 

And honestly, he couldn't complain. If he ever found himself craving contact, the need to speak to someone that wasn’t himself, he would visit Zelda. Failing that, he would close up shop and simply shrink to visit the Minish in the woods. The little race delighted in seeing their hero. Or heroes, if the mood struck them 

They swarmed to him when he entered their villages, craning their necks to get a glimpse of him, hanging off his tunic and his every word as he made his way to speak with Ezlo. They looked at him with implicit trust, maybe even adoration. 

He was loved. Loved as the hero, flaws and quirks simply proof of his heroism.

He was loved, but untouchable. 

Would they love him if he wasn’t the hero, he would ask himself. Would they accept him?

‘Yes’ Ezlo has assured him many a time when Four would confide his fears in the elder. 

They weren’t sure they believed him. They would catch sight of that stupid, ugly, little knife in a drawer and remind themselves that grandfathers are notorious for trying to spare their grandchildren’s feelings after all. 

Green’s grim nod at his expression breaks Red from his less than happy reminiscence.

“If we can’t figure this out, then yes, I think we have to tell them.  We can’t be the reason someone dies,” the green wearing smithy says. The “not again” ringing, even when unspoken.

Red doesn’t say anything but nods grimly. 

It is silent in the clearing, the shadows of the trees shifting in the wind. 

With another big sigh, Green reaches up and adjusts his headband, tying it more firmly against his forehead. He closes his eyes tightly for a moment and then opens them. The concern is buried for the moment, replaced by determination.

“But that’s all just a hypothetical,” he says, tone noticeably lighter, less dire. “We might be able to figure something out. Right now, I believe we have some brothers to find and talk some sense into.”

Red nods. As much as he likes having some time alone and separated, parting on such bad terms left him feeling nervous. He wanted his boys back within eyeline where he could watch them, thank you very much. 

“They would be lost without us, Green,” Red agrees sagely. “Not to mention they might have an idea to figure out, well,” And here, Red thrusts an arm out and gestures between the two of them, “This.”

The two share a tired smile and nod.

“So,” Green says, “Which one do you want to talk to?”







Trees. More trees. Bush. More trees. Twigs. A brook, babbling away. Another bush. Trees. That brook again. Boulder. Is that a different brook? No. Damn it. 

Green sighs, kneeling down next to the small ribbon of water cutting its way between the trees as he dips a hand into the cold, clear stream. Pins press into his skin, the water more frigid than he had been anticipating but he ignores it, cupping both hands into the brook and bringing the water up to his face.

He splashes it over his cheeks, cooling the heated skin of his face. A shiver winds its way up his spine, but Green welcomes the chill as he scrubs the water into his eyes, wiping away any remnants of the tears he refused to let Red see. 

When he checks his reflection in the water moments later, he can see that his face is still red and splotchy in some places, the skin around his eyes noticeably puffy.  He lets out a humorless laugh, silently mirrored by the face below him.

Hylia, they were such ugly criers.

Done futilely trying to hide the evidence of his breakdown, Green stretches himself back to his feet and continues walking, now strolling down the side of the brook as he keeps his eyes open for a flash of lilac.

While he didn’t want to be the one to try to have a heart to heart with Blue– honestly it's like trying to have an emotionally open conversation with a fluffed up, brooding cucco– he had to admit that his quest to find Vio wasn't fairing much better. He had been walking in circles for the better half of two hours. 

Unfortunately, if Vio didn't want to be found, he usually wasn't. It didn't help that they usually shared a mind and therefore, the purple wearing hero could probably predict where they would look for him.

Stupid clever bastard.

Green pushes his headband further up into his hair and quickly wipes away the sweat forming at his temples. It is much hotter now than when he had started, the trees thinner here next to the stream than back in the dense forest. The sun is higher in the sky as well, heat digging into his dark green tunic and staying. 

With a final glance around, Green retreats into the shadow of a nearby tree. He sighs as the warmth slowly leaches from his shoulders and back. 

He needs a game plan. He’s hot. He’s tired. He cried today. He’s ready to be done with this mess. If he wants to find Vio, he’ll have to fight fire with fire. 

If he was Vio–and he is–where would he hide to avoid his emotions? 

Somewhere obvious, he thinks. Somewhere that no-one would think to look for him because it would be too obvious, too stupid for the intelligent smithy. Or would he expect that and hide somewhere more clever, knowing that they know him? Or, knowing that they know the way he thinks, he would … ? Or…?

Green drags a hand down his face with a sigh. 

Okay, that was dumb.

Maybe being straightforward is the best approach.

“Hey, Vio?” he says, feeling somewhat silly to be talking to the open air, but just emotionally and physically drained enough to not care. “If you’re around here, it would be really cool if you could let me know.”

His response is the continued swishing sound from brook and the chirps of a few birds.

And then–

“And miss you circling around this brook for the fourth time?” Green whips around and looks up. Behind him, in a tree a little farther down the path Vio sits cross legged in a cradle of branches, obscured but not truly hidden. He can just make out cool lavender eyes locked on him, unimpressed. “Not a chance.”

“Okay, yeah, laugh it up,” Green replies, striding up to the trunk of Vio’s tree and peering up through the branches. “At least I’m not sulking in a tree.” 

Purple eyes dart away, lost in the shadow of the leaves.

“I am not sulking,” Vio says, sulkily. 

Green simply stares up into the tree, not gracing the other’s words with a response. 

Silence reigns over them for a moment.

Green tilts his head to the side and squints his eyes, trying to catch a glimpse of Vio’s face through the dense foliage. The purple wearing hero stares resolutely away. 

“Are we really going to have this conversation like this?” Green asks.

No response. Typical.

Sighing, Green sets his back against the trunk of the tree and stretches his legs out in front of him. The bark isn't comfortable against his back, per say, and a knoble digs in between his shoulder blades as he leans against the tree, but at least he can rest his aching legs for a moment. And in the shade no less.

They sit in stilted silence, the wind gently shifting the branches of the tree. The wood creaks slightly, leaves rustling against one another but trapped in their connection to the tree. The brook continues to babble softly.

“He shouldn’t have said that,” Green says eventually. 

Above him, the branches creak again as Vio shifts, but Green doesn't dare lookup. An audible breath in and a slow breath out.

“No,” The other agrees. “He should not have.”

The quiet seeps back in. Green doesn't try to break it. He knows Vio just needs some time. Unlike Blue, Vio was mature and emotionally cognizant enough to know when it was better to talk about his feelings rather than bury them away. He just needed a patient ear willing to listen to him rationalize and work through his thoughts. Green was more than willing to be that ear. Listening to his more stoic part work through his feelings was enlightening to Green too. It helped him sort through his own conflicted emotions.

With a sudden flash of clarity, Green wonders if Red planned it out this way. Planned to have Green listen to Vio as the other worked through his feelings, thus assuaging Green’s own fears. 

Green shook his head silently, a wry grin falling into place on his lips. They really did not give Red enough credit sometimes.

Stupid emotionally intelligent bastard. 

“I-” the boy in the tree says after a while, catching Green’s attention once more. His words are halting, like he’s not sure how to string them together correctly. “I did… I do feel bad. About it, I mean.”

Green doesn't ask what ‘it’ is. He doesn't need to. Instead, he hums an acknowledgement, not daring to interrupt the other with words, lest Vio pull back into himself. 

“He’s an amazing sword fighter, an asset to our group… and–” Vio cuts himself off with a frustrated hiss. Then after a moment, a bark of angry laughter snaps its way through the branches. 

An asset to our group ,” Vio says, the words ground out from between teeth.  He pauses for a moment and Green worries that the other boy is shutting down, Blue’s words returning with a vengeance.

Green is about to say something to get Vio back on track when the other boy beats him to it. 

“He’s our friend,” the teen in the tree says, his voice stronger, with more conviction. “He’s our friend and we… I care what happens to him. What happened to him.”

“It hurt to see him like that,” Vio continues, his voice shifting minutely. If one didn't know Vio, one might say it was unnoticeable. But not to him. Not to Green. He knew Vio too well. “It hurt to know that it was our–my– fault.”

“But we couldn’t just shut down there. We were still in danger. If we had fallen apart… it would be anyone’s guess as to the result.”

“Is that selfish?” Vio asks, suddenly. “To prioritise our wellbeing– our secret– over feeling guilty for the pain we caused?”

Green leans his head back against the trunk of the tree, its bark biting into his skull through his hair. He closes his eyes, contemplating the question.

“Maybe,” he settles on. He knows it's not an answer Vio will like, but unfortunately, it's the best he can do. “If we had fallen apart in that state, who knows what would have happened. It could have helped or it could have hurt. There are too many variables to know for sure.”

“But for the record,” he says, opening his eyes once more, tracing the branches with his gaze. “I’m glad we didn't separate in front of them. I’m glad they didn't have to meet us like that.”

“Likewise.”

They lapse into silence once more. It is more peaceful than before. Not as stilted. More relaxed. 

And then–

“I’m not apologizing for punching him.”

A laugh slams its way up from Green’s lungs, startling him enough to have his back arching away from the tree trunk as he chokes on a breathy chuckle.

“Apologize?” he manages to get out once his lungs stop seizing. “You’re lucky I don't climb up that tree and try to kiss you for doing that. Fucker had it coming.”

“Such language,” Vio tisks sarcastically. “Red would be disappointed.”

Before Green can think up a witty retort, more creaks issue from the branches above his head, as Vio shifts. A few twigs snap, some leaves falling down into Green’s face as a blur of purple drops from the tree, resolving itself into Vio as he lands relatively gracefully on his feet. The purple clad teen offers Green a hand up with a slight upturn of his lips. 

And if Vio’s face is a little puffy and red around the eyes, Green doesn't mention it.

“Y’know, I think some of his dramatics may have rubbed off on you,” Green says as he is pulled to his feet. 

“I suppose you’re right,” Vio says, a bigger, truer smile finally finding its way onto his face. “Sitting in a tree and watching the incompetent hero struggle is more his style.”

Green doesnt voice a complaint at the ‘incompetent’ description, but does give Vio a good elbow in the side as he walks past, intent on leading the way back to the clearing. 

As Vio’s chuckling and light footsteps follow behind him, Green can only hope that Red is just as successful as he had been.

They do, afterall, need to get back to the others. Preferably sooner than later.

They have a friend to check on.





Finding Blue is the easy part. 

All Red has to do is follow the path of carnage. Snapped branches here, a torn up bush there, a couple of hack marks in a trunk that way and… there. 

In a dense grove of birch trees, Blue stands, sword pointed downward as he leans on the hilt, using his weight to split a small log down the middle into easier to manage chunks. Beside him, several bundles of wood already sit, neatly packaged in thin twine and ready to take back to camp.

Red steps into the group of trees, eyeing their clean, white, papery bark. Thousands of grayish black eyes stare back, the scars of the trees stirring up bad thoughts, bad memories. 

A light wind brushes through the branches, sending the eyes swaying. Red cringes slightly.

The hissing crack sound of cleaving wood draws Red back into the moment. Blue’s body slowly lowers as his sword splits down the grain of the wood, sliding through the log like a hot knife through butter. Or like when scissors hit that perfect angle and glide through paper. 

The blue wearing hero kicks one of the halves away from himself with a frustrated mutter and then sets to work hacking away at the other, processing it down further.

Red takes a small step closer to the other smithy. “Think you have enough wood?” he asks tentatively.

Bright cruelan eyes glance at him from over Blue’s shoulder and then immediately flash away just as quickly.

“No. Fuck off.”

“Blue–”

The blue smithy slams his sword down into the block of wood he had been hacking away at. The blade embeds itself deeply, the sword standing from the log on it’s own as Blue whirls around. His brows are pulled low over bright eyes, nose scrunched and nostrils flared as he sneers at Red.

Besides the purpling mark on his cheek, his face is a splotchy crimson. 

Not good. 

“I said,” he snarls, taking a step toward Red menacingly, “Fuck OFF!”

Then, without waiting for a response, he turns and yanks his sword free of the wood, raising it up and slamming it back down into the log. Red’s body inadvertently curls away from the deafening sound of the log being lopped in half.

“Go run back to Green,” Blue finishes in a low voice. 

“No.”

Red watches as Blue freezes, sword held aloft behind him, raised for another blow but frozen, locked in place. Slowly, oh so slowly, he turns slightly widened eyes staring at Red.

And Red… Red forces himself to uncurl under Blue’s gaze. He breathes in, letting the air fill him. The fire within–the warming need to help, protect, mend, heal – that fire heats the air in his lungs, buoying him up. He straightens his spine and squares his shoulders. He lets the amber of his eyes meet the icy wave of Blue’s own, but he doesn't look away. Fire and water meet, but the fire does not shy away. Not this time.

He sent Green to Vio for a reason. He chose to talk to Blue for a reason. He is the one who has to do this. Him.

The shock slowly drains away as an oddly patronizing look of appraisal paints itself over Blue’s face; one eyebrow raised in disbelief as azure eyes give Red a once over. The smaller teen meets his gaze head on, narrowing his eyes as Blue continues to stare at him. 

A poisonous smile crawls its way onto Blue’s face.

“Oh, the little invertebrate finally grew a backbone, huh?” he asks, voice condescending, sickly sweet. 

Red sees Blue’s hand on his sword tighten. One foot slides forward, the other moving back as the other teen settles his weight evenly between the two, knees bending slightly into a ready position, braced to spring forward. An offensive stance.

“Prove it then,” Blue says, leveling his blade at Red’s chest. “Fight me.”

“No,” Red says again, voice firmer.

Cracks form in the challenging smirk of Blue’s lips, anger seeping out.

“No?” Blue hisses incredulously. “What are you? Scared? Still the little coward who has to hide behind the others? Who has to have Green and fucking Vio fight your battles for you?” He laughs without humor. “Pathetic.”

Something in Red wants to shrink away, to roll over and apologize and make things better that way. Something else wants him to pull out his sword, to prove himself. He ignores both of them.

“I am not pathetic,” Red says, his voice shaking but not broken. 

Blue jabs his sword forward, pointing it more insistently toward Red’s chest.  His face is redder, mouth snarling but Red can faintly see that the edges of his eyes are wet.

“Then prove it! Grab your sword and fight me, coward!” Blue shouts, lightly pressing the tip of his sword to Red’s chest.

Something in Red snaps.

“I said no!” 

His left hand finds the hilt of his sword, calluses easily gliding into their practiced position around the silk covered grip. With a shout, Red  yanks it free of its scabbard and before Blue can blink, slams the flat end of his sword against Blue’s own, slapping the blade away from his chest. Then, using the momentum of the metal to help him turn, Red lets his back come to face Blue as he raises his arm and throws his sword to the ground.

Blue watches as the sword slides across the grass and dirt, a dull ringing sounding from the blade as it bounces once and then lies silent on the ground. Wide eyes turn to stare at Red like he's lost his mind. Maybe he has.

“I’m not going to fight you, Blue,” Red says, tone not angry but not soft either. There is an energy to his voice that almost makes Red check to make sure embers are not tumbling from his lips along with the words.

“I'm not going to yell at you or scream at you. I’m not going to tell you that you were wrong or that you’re stupid,” he continues, walking toward the shell shocked hero.

He stops when he is only an arm length away. Blue brings his sword up as if by instinct, protecting himself. Red places his hand on the blade, gently pushing it down and away from himself. For a second, the sword remains firm, the bite of metal cutting into Red’s palm before slowly, the tip lowers as Blue’s grip slackens.

 “I’m not going to punish you for what happened. I won't punish you for what you said or what you did or what you didn't do. I refuse.” 

“I’m not going to give you what you want, Blue,” Red says, staring into storm dark eyes.

And Blue crumples. 

His shoulders slump inward, hunching in on himself. His neck angles down, curtains of blonde hair obscuring the sides of his face. Azure eyes dart away, the anger completely absent from their depths as they look anywhere but Red’s face. His grip on his sword waxes and wanes until he comes to a decision and sheathes the blade on his back. With the weight of the sword gone, Red notes that it appears as though the blue smithy isn't sure what to do with his hands. The other teen eventually settles on crossing his arms over his chest and as his posture worsens, Red thinks it makes Blue look smaller. Younger.

Blue’s face grows more red as his eyebrows furrows and his lip wobbles. He brings an arm up, using the forearm of his undershirt to scrub at his face. Even once done, he leaves it there, covering his eyes as he tips back, spine curving backward. 

On anyone else, the pose would look stupid; head tilted back toward the sky, arm over face as he arcs back. It almost looks like he's swooning. But on Blue, it just makes Red feel sad. The other is trying to force his tears away, make sure they never leave his eyes or fall because if they leave no trace, they never existed, right?

“He almost fucking died because of us. He trusted us to watch his back and we failed. Din, we failed so badly,” Blue says, voice slightly muffled by his arm.

“I was too weak to protect him. Weak. Pathetic. Cowardly.”

Red simply sets a hand on the other’s shoulder in silent support. Trying anything else–hugging, arguing against the self deprecating words– would only result in Blue spiraling again. A spiraling Blue was an angry Blue. A Blue so angry at himself, he would lash out at anything and everything in an attempt to get them to fight back, to hurt him, recompense for his mistakes.

Red wouldn't give it to him. He would only give his support, his love. Undeniable proof that Blue wasn’t hated for his mistakes but heard and understood.

They stand like that for a while, Blue’s hushed but wracking breaths slowly evening out.

His arm falls away from his face and when he finally lowers his head, Red can see that the other teen looks exhausted. Red offers him a gentle smile that Blue doesn't even attempt to return.

Instead, the blue smithy steps away from Red’s comforting hand and leans down, picking up the other’s discarded sword.

He inspects it, running a finger over the red jewel set in the pommel. 

“Do you ever regret making this thing?” Blue asks softly.

Red doesn’t even have to think. 

“Never.”
Blue nods absently at the answer, eyes still locked on the blade. He turns it this way and that as though inspecting the craftsmanship, but Red is unsure why . They made it and they had made sure it was perfect.

“Sometimes, I think I miss how easy everything used to be,” Blue replies eventually. 

And then with an odd smile that is mirrored back to him in the reflection of the glinting metal he adds, “Ehh, but where's the fun in that?” 

Then, slowly and deliberately, he takes the edge of his tunic and wipes the dirt from the sword. 

Red gapes at him. 

Blue hates when they get their tunic dirty. He was always the one to organise their weapons and belongings, lecturing Red about his carelessness, Vio about his tendency for clutter, and Green’s general obliviousness. He was the one who mostly took care of the house, always ranting about customers mucking up their shop.

And yet here he was, dirting his own shirt to clean Red’s blade. 

Blue’s eyes finally flick back up to Red’s face. He scowls at the surprised look, shoving the weapon into the smaller teen’s arms with a huff.

It’s not an apology for what he said. But it’s close. 

Without another word, Blue turns and hefts two piles of wood into his arms and starts walking back the way Red had entered. 

“What are you waiting for, an engraved invitation?” 

Red smiles at the words. He sheathes his sword on his back and grabs a bundle of wood for himself before he scurries after Blue back into the shadows of the forest.






Thankfully it doesn't take them long to make it to the clearing, despite their slightly heavier load.

By the time they break through the line of trees, Red can see Green and Vio already back, standing on the other side of the grassy area under the shade of the branches and talking quietly.

He barely lets Blue set down his load of wood before pressing both hands into the other’s back and pushing him across the clearing.

Blue lets out a series of ‘Hey!’s and ‘Fucking stop!’s but other than that, doesn’t put up much of a fight as he is marched over to Green and Vio. Red gives the other one more shove until he is standing directly in front of the purple wearing smithy before he scampers over to Green’s side to watch the fireworks.

The two stare at each other for a moment, Blue looking grumpily embarrassed and guilty while Vio shoots the other a dry look, one eyebrow raised in an expression that screams ‘unimpressed.’  

“I’m sorry I was an asshole.”

“Apology accepted.”

Silence. 

Red turns his eyes to Vio, letting their amber depth widen into what he would describe as an expectant puppy dog face. “Aaaaand?”

“I’m sorry I enjoyed punching you.”

Green snickers at the others words, but with a swift glare from Red, straightens up and throws his elbow into Vio’s side. 

“I’m sorry I punched you,” Vio repeats, words breathy as he says them with an exaggerated sigh, like a teenager being scolded by a parent.

Red nods his head at the group, eyes closed and hands on his hips.

“Now hug,” he says decisively, the judge handing down their verdict.

Blue groans loudly, his “Do we have to?” almost drowning out Vio’s flat “You’re joking.”

Red lets his eyes open, amber glare settling on Vio first and then Blue. He purses his lips, and crosses his arms over his chest, fashioning himself into the perfect vision of well meaning disappointment.

Both of the other teens cringe slightly at The Look.

Time may be notorious for this kind of expression, but that was just because none of the others had met Red yet. He had perfected it.

Blue whips his head back and groans again before begrudgingly throwing his arms wide open. With an audible sigh, Vio steps into the other’s arms, wrapping his own around Blue’s back. They hold for just a moment, before stepping back away from one another, equally displeased expressions on their faces.

Both of them give Red a look that says ‘Are you happy now?’ which Red returns with a gleaming smile.

“Okay okay, break up the love fest,” Green says with a faint smile on his face as he steps forward and captures their attention. 

Red notices that the other looks visibly lighter than when he left, like weight has been pulled off his shoulders. Though the darkness of concern still edges at the other’s eyes, it is no longer infectious, all consuming.

A smile tugs at Red’s lips. It worked then.

“So while we were waiting, Vio and I discussed what happened,”  Green continues. “How did you guys feel when we froze up?”

“Terrible,” Red says, confusion welling up in his chest. They had just gone over this, right?  “Scared.”

“Yeah, you mean other than absolute garbage?” Blue grumbles in agreement, brows furrowed with frustration.

Green shakes his head with a slight grimace.

“Sorry, that was bad wording. What did you feel physically ? What did it remind you of?”

That has Red pausing. What did he feel then? When he had seen the sword poised above Sky’s spine, ready to plunge downward, he felt… trapped. Numb, like he had no way of moving even if he wanted to. His muscles had tensed, so ready for action, so ready to do something that they had locked up. 

He felt like his body wouldn't listen to him. Like the body was trying to listen to all of them but couldn't find a compromise, and so it just did nothing. It felt like…

“It felt like before,” Red says, the realization electrifying his mind at just how similar that feeling was. “It felt like when we first came back together.”

Vio and Green nodded at his words.

“Exactly,” Vio said. “Usually in the middle of battle, we have the support of the others. We have enough time to adjust our strategies to their movements and the movements of our enemies. While none of the fights so far have been easy, per say, they were not as chaotic as they could have been.”

“However,” he continues, hand coming up to cradle his chin as purple eyes flick back and forth, reading words that Red cannot see in the air between them. “Today we were separated from the others, which resulted in a moblin being able to sneak up on Sky while we attempted to distract the other monsters. As a result, the shock of what was happening caused us to temporarily de-synchronize to the point that we couldn't operate.”

“Yeah, yeah we know. In case you forgot, we were there,” Blue says, annoyance and frustration beginning to make his words come out more gruff. “We freaked out and Sky almost got killed because of it. What exactly are you trying to get at?”

“What he’s saying,” Green cuts in, “is that maybe the reason we froze up is because we're not used to fighting as one person.”

Blue opens his mouth. Then closes it. Open. Closed.

And as much as Red agrees with Blue’s flabbergasted sentiment, he can't help but see Green and Vio’s point. They’re last adventure had been all about fighting as a unit, a team that could watch each other’s backs and trusted one another to do so. 

During their time apart, each of them had developed a different style of fighting. Blue’s full bodied attacks freed up Red to dance in and out of the way of enemies, landing many smaller hits. Green’s precision and discipline with his blade paired well with Vio’s more–ermm– underhanded but clever tactics, allowing the two to take down monsters much bigger than either could fight on their own.

As a group they were a deadly force, filling in each other’s weaknesses with skills of their own while simultaneously highlighting each other's best qualities.

They had become a cohesive group of  individuals during their quest and then when it was all over, they had been shoved back into one body to figure everything out.

Sure, they had gotten a handle on walking and eating and talking and smithing, but they never went out of their way to practice fighting as one person. 

If the mood struck them, sometimes they would spar with one another, Green and Blue particularly enthusiastic to keep their skills sharp. But Red guesses that’s exactly the problem. They kept their own skills sharp. Skills that were wildly different from one another. 

“Oh,” Red says at the exact same time Blue hisses out, “Shit.”

“Yeah,” Green replies. “Shit is right.”

“But,” Vio breaks in, a slight glimmer to his eyes and a barely noticeable upturn to his lips, “That also means we have a way of making sure this never occurs again. We simply need to spar more, until nothing can make us come undone while in the middle of battle.”

A grin splits Blue’s face and he pounds his left fist into his open right palm.

“Oh hell yeah,” He says, the spark of competition igniting his eyes,  lighting up his face. “Time to show everyone who's boss starting with that pink haired rat bastard!”

Green nudges into Blue’s side, face similarly bright with the thought of demonstrating their skills for the others to see. 

“You think we could take on Twilight?”

“Wolfboy won't know what hit him,” Blue replies, chest pushed out with bravado.

“Oh?” Green says in that tell-tale tone of his, voice high and full of repressed laughter. “Will he run away with his tail between his legs?”

Their leader wiggles his eyebrows at them, shit eating grin in place.

Red giggles. Blue groans. Vio remains silent, though his half lidded eyes and shaking head say all that needs to be said.

As the laughing (and groaning) subsides, Red takes a moment to study the others. They all look tired, exhaustion evident on their faces by the darkening bags under their eyes and the slumped nature of their shoulders. If they feel anything like he does– which he knows for a fact they do–their legs still ache from walking so far and their heads pulse lightly from all the crying they did.

The setting sun casts an orange glow around his other parts as they look amongst themselves, expressions fond and determined hope glittering in four different colored eyes.

It’s time to go back. 

“Are we all on the same page?” Green asks, reaching back to pull out his sword. He holds it up, the pommel aligned with his face. The light from the sun catches the green gem there, lighting up Green’s face with his namesake color.

They nod, three swords with different gems in their handels being held up in response. 

Red flame, Blue ocean, Green gale, Violet stone.

In a practiced motion, the four tap their blades together, a harmonious ting echoing from the contact point as the world goes white.

“See you guys later,” Red says.

And then he is gone, lost to the white.






With a snap, he comes into existence, fire and water clashing, swirled together by wind and encased in stone.

His heart, brain, soul, settle into place within him, cramped but comfortable. Everything within sifts into place, like someone relocating a shoulder but without the pain. 

It feels like a lot. It also feels right.

He takes a moment to take stock of himself.

His legs ache. The skin of his face feels chapped, like he has rubbed it raw. His head hurts. Dehydrated, he thinks idly. He is slightly sweaty and feels altogether tired and gross. 

Also his cheek stings a little.

He breathes in.

They are him and he is multiple.

Multiple but one.

He is Four.

Four opens his eyes and lets air slip from between his lips as he settles into himself.

The clearing is painted in shades of orange, the setting sun setting the tops of the trees alight. The wind, once welcome in the heat of the day, has turned nippy, catching at Four’s tunic and sending a chill onto his skin. 

They others are probably worried, whispers the warmth in his mind.

Time to go back, his brain responds, all four parts of himself once again in synch.

Four nods his head. He grabs a bundle of wood from the ground and steps out of the clearing, the shadows of the trees welcoming him into their shade as he sets off toward camp.

He has a friend to apologize to.



Chapter Text

His heart is pounding. 

He can feel his pulse all throughout his body, slamming away in his wrists, pulsing in his throat. 

The poor muscle in his chest beats at a rabbit’s pace, its frantic thud thud thud crashing rhythmically into his ribs. Blood roars in his ears, blocking out anything and everything else except for the staccato feedback of his own arteries.

His body feels alive , hair standing on end, fingers shaking as they minutely clench and unclench, his eyes wide, taking in every detail.

The thrill of the hunt.  

Yet, despite the coiling of his muscles and the racing of his heart, Twilight’s breaths are slow and controlled. Each lungful is carefully measured, in through the nose and out through the mouth. 

Silent. He needs to be silent, lest his quarry detect him.

He takes an excruciatingly slow step forward, his knee almost creaking with the effort of remaining still. Slowly, ever so slowly, he places his foot on the ground before gradually leaning weight onto it. 

The dry grass crunches quietly beneath his boot. His prey doesn't seem to notice. Perfect.

Keeping his eyes on the target, Twilight lowers himself into position–one leg braced behind, the other in front– ready to pounce. 

His hands feel clammy, but he doesn't dare move to wipe the perspiration away on his tunic or pants. 

Gray-blue eyes flick back and forth between booted feet and the prize, calculations running through the farmhand’s head. Distance, power, but not too much power , reaction time; all of it needs to be accounted for. 

He’s only got one shot at this. 

A controlled breath. Another. And another. 

The wind shifts directions, making the speed of Twilight’s heart ratchet up even faster. 

It’s now or never. 

So, heart singing, thoughts racing, and blood turning icy in his stomach, the Hero of Twilight lunges forward.

He lands hard on his elbows and stomach, his leather arm guards clacking unhappily against the ground as his full weight bears down on the light armor. The air in his lungs wheezes out from between his lips at the force of the fall and he can feel mud seeping into the stomach of his tunic. Painful tingles race up one of his arms; he must have hit his funny bone.

But he doesn't let any of that phase him, a triumphant grin spreading over his face

Extended out in front of his head, his arms lay outstretched in the mud. A faint glowing light seeps from between his lightly clasped fingers. A slight tingling sensation tickles against his palm as a too small body scuttles around, confirming his catch.

Gotcha!

“Are you done making a fool of yourself over there?” calls a flat voice. Mocking. Legend.

Twilight ignores him, the joy of having finally caught the sparkling bug too warm in his chest for someone to rain on that easily. 

Carefully, using his elbows, Twilight slowly levers himself onto his knees and then leans back onto his feet, bug still held safely within softly cupped hands. He turns back to the others, a grin on his face.

A little ways back, Wild and Wind erupt into whoops of success at Twilight’s catch. 

Wind had been the one to spot the little insect, and though Twilight had insisted that the two of them stay back while he caught it–even with the Sheikah Armor on and Wind’s supposed stealth experience, the two together were incapable of sneaking up on a deaf bat–they were very excited about the positive result.

Past the two celebrating blondes, resting in the shade of a large, oak tree, Legend and Warriors look on in unimpressed silence and mild interest respectively. 

Behind them, Sky is leaned up against the side of the oak, head thrown back against the bark  in the throes of a much needed midday nap. Next to the Chosen Hero, Time is in a similar state, legs stretched out, arms crossed, and chin to chest, breathing slowly.

He had said he was just going to ‘rest his eyes’ but Twilight knew that was old man speak for taking a quick five minute nap. Rusl always said the same thing after a good hunt, settling down on the couch one second, and out like a light the next.

Typical. 

Beside the two napping heroes, Four and Hyrule sit together, the former with his nose in a book while the latter sits straight spined, eyes closed. Meditating, Hyrule had called it.

“Wild,” Twilight calls, striding back toward the shade of the tree, toward the other heroes.  “Can you grab the cloth covered bottle from my bag?”

The teen nods, quickly scurrying to the leather satchel, rustling through it for a moment, before making a soft sound of success as he pulls the glass bottle out of its confines. Container in hand, the scarred hero hurries back over, unscrewing the metal clasp as he walks and removing the hole punched cloth top as he holds the bottle under Twilight’s still cupped hands.

Out of the corner of his eye, Twilight sees Wind edge closer to the two of them, peering into the bottle as the older hero carefully opens up his fingers, allowing his prize to drop into the leaf filled glass. Then, as soon as he’s sure the creature is safely within, the farmhand pulls the cloth back over the lid and screws the metal band back into place.

He takes the bottle from Wild’s hand, careful not to jostle it too much, and holds it in a single palm, letting the two teens look into the container without any obstructions. 

Within, a golden grasshopper sits, using one extremely long leg to swipe at its antennae, a faint orange-ish pink glow emanating from it’s tiny body.

“Cool!” Wind breathes, big round eyes glinting in the soft light.

“What kinda potion are you gonna brew with it?” Wild asks, face just as awed as the sailor’s

Both Twilight and Wind turn toward the champion, eyebrows furrowed in confusion and–at least in Twilight’s case– a mighty helping of genuine concern. 

“What?” the farmhand sputters.

“C’mon, don’t hold out on me,” Wild says, his smile growing. “That looks like a pretty rare bug. I bet you could brew something really powerful with it!” He peers back into the side of the bottle, giving the grasshopper a considering look. “A Hearty elixir maybe based on the glow? Or an Energizing one ‘cause it's a grasshopper?”

Twilight pulls the jar close to his chest, away from Wild’s line of sight. 

“I’m not using it in a potion!” he replies, voice going a little high with indignation.

“Then why did you catch it?” Warriors asks, butting into their conversation with all the grace of an Ordonian goat. Which is to say, none.

“Don’t squash our Twilight’s dreams of being an etymologist, Warriors,” Legend cuts in before Twilight can justify himself. “So what if he wants to look at bugs when he grows up all big and strong? It's his passion,” he says, voice scolding but words snarky and playful. 

Twilight rolls his eyes.

“I believe the word you’re looking for, Legend, is entomologist,” Four interjects without looking up from his book. “Entomology is the study of bugs. Etymology is the study of the history and development of words.”

“I’m assuming you study the latter,then,” Legend replies with a huff.

Four doesn’t respond, though he does turn another page in his book probably more loudly than is strictly necessary. Next to him, one of Hyrule’s closed eyes twitches, a smile pulling at his face, concentration broken.

“I caught it,” Twilight starts, forcing the conversation back on track, “because a friend of mine in Castle Town runs an insect conservation project. Golden bugs like these are becoming more and more rare throughout Hyrule, so I’ve been catching male and female pairs for her to take care of and breed.”

Wind makes a face at that.

“While I’m not great at telling the difference,” Twilight continues, regardless of the younger’s reaction, “I’m pretty sure this one is a female. Hopefully I can get her to my friend before we switch again.”

“Good,” Warriors says with a sage nod, “It’s not polite to keep a lady waiting. Especially one with such a powerful parasol.” 

Twilight feels his face screw up in confusion, staring at the scarf wearing hero for a second. How Warriors knew Agatha was female, let alone carried a parasol everywhere she went was beyond him. 

Warriors was just... like that sometimes. 

The captain just seemed to know about some of their worlds, the knowledge rolling of the Pretty Boy’s tongue like it was no big whoop to have intimate knowledge off vastly different locations and time periods.

What made it even weirder was the type of information the soldier knew. Not big historical events or even exaggerated, folktale accounts. No. What Warriors knew of their worlds was often extremely niche, utterly unimportant little details. Stuff he couldn't just read in a history textbook. 

It was mind boggling. 

Twilight stares at the other a moment longer, and when Warriors doesn't elaborate or explain– in fact he gives Twilight a shit eating grin that tells the pelt wearing hero that the captain knows exactly what he's doing– lets the line of thought drop with a sigh. 

A problem better left for another day.

A loud, long inhale sends all of the heroes’ eyes back toward the trunk of the oak tree.

Apparently, their conversation had been loud enough to rouse Time, whose chin rises from his chest as he blinks the last of the post nap sand from his eye.

As the Old Man stands and stretches, Twilight stows the jar back inside his bag, careful to put the glass container in the most secure part of his leather satchel before turning to his mentor.

With a nod and a significant look from their leader, the others begin to pack up their gear. 

Their rest is over.

“You said the town was close?” Time asks, stepping closer to Twilight, an attempt to give themselves the air of privacy despite the fact that Twilight knows the others are listening in,  if their perked ears are any indication.

“We’re not far from Kakariko now,” Twilight replies with a nod. “Just a little further south. The  canyon should be coming into view soon.”

“Good. And you think this shamin…” Time pauses, the name obviously escaping him.

“Renado,” Twilight prompts with a quirk of his lips. “Memory going already, Old Man?”

Time waves him away, a glare without heat lighting up one eye.

“You think Renado may have some information for us?”

“If not him, then the Resistance might have something.”

 The older hero wrinkles his nose at the name of the group. 

“I'll explain later,” Twilight assures. “They’re harmless, but they do have a good network of information. If something is happening in this Hyrule, they’ll know about it.”

“Then we should get moving,” Time says with a decisive nod. And then, with a faint quirk to his lips, “But first, we need to decide who’s going to wake up The Beast.”

Six pairs of interested ears suddenly lower, no longer so intent on the conversation anymore. 

The sound of packing gets louder.

Twilight can’t help himself. He laughs.








Hyrule ends up drawing the short stick this time, rousing the very groggy Sky with minimal injury, much to everyone else’s awe and envy. Apparently, damn near everyone had a soft spot for the traveling hero, including the infamously grouchy ‘Post Nap Sky.’

With that debacle taken care of, the group gets back on the road, making their way over the rolling green hills of East Hyrule Field. 

It's a beautiful day Twilight notes with a growing lightness in his chest. 

The sky is a bright, cornflower blue interspaced with fluffy, white clouds. The sun hangs high above their heads providing ample warmth while a faint breeze rolls over the hills, keeping the group of heroes from overheating. 

The air is fresh and clean, smelling of grass and dirt, with the faintest promise of a storm despite the perfect weather.

Perhaps only Twilight can pick up on the last bit, but he doesn't mind the extra information. It’s saved his ass more than once.

Though, it wasn't always such an accessible tool in his wheelhouse, so to speak.

When he first transformed back into a Hylian after his involuntary stint as a wolf, the world was… off. Off center, off kilter, just plain off.

The Faron Woods, a place he had been traveling to, exploring, playing in all his life, was transformed into a foreign sensory deathtrap. The smell of greenery and dirt and warm water was so cloying, the farmhand could have sworn he was drowning in swamp sludge. Around him, birds were chattering, the wind was blowing, seemingly shifting through every single leaf in the forest as the deku babas snapped their jaws in sickening ragtime, a deafening cacophony.

It was...overwhelming. Maybe even more so than the massive, translucent light spirit in the shape of a monkey telling he was the hero of destiny.

Overtime, Twilight got a handle on his senses until they simply edged at his consciousness, hints of something that was more than his hylian senses could ever detect before, but definitely duller than the sharp accuracy he could achieve as a canine

Now, most of the time these little snippets of his wolf senses were helpful, like when they allowed him to see better than the others at night, providing better security.

Other times, they were annoying, like when Warriors had found some shitty cologne at a market and wore it for three days straight before Twilight could stealthily steal the bottle and throw it down the nearest ravine.

Speaking of ravines...

“Wild, Four, look how deep this canyon is!” Hyrule says, scurrying close to the edge of the cliff, gazing down into its depths with a look that borders on childlike wonder.

Wild jogs up next to the other teen and leans precariously over the lip of the canyon. He lets out an appreciative whistle at the sight, grinning as the sound echoes back seconds later

With a quick hand, Wild swipes his Sheikah Slate from his belt and with a click, a glowing blue bomb materializes in his other hand. “Let's see how long it takes this thing to hit the ground!” he says with a grin.

Please back away from the edge,” Four huffs before Twilight can get the chance to do so, the smithy standing with his hands on his hips at least five feet back from where the others are. “You don't know how stable that ground is.”

Twilight feels his lips tick upward at smaller teen’s words.

At least one of their younger members has some common sense. 

Hyrule has the decency to look a little sheepish as he takes a step away from the canyon. Wild, meanwhile, gives Four a flat look, obviously displeased that, for once, someone other than Twilight is raining on his parade.

“C’mon Smithy, where’s your sense of adventure?” he says with a roll of his eyes. “Aren’t we supposed to do stuff like this? Hero of Courage and all that?”

Four’s right eye twitches minutely, the blue sky reflected in its depths.

“I don't need the Triforce of Wisdom to know that what you’re doing is unnecessarily reckless. We’re the Hero of Courage, not the Hero of Dying Stupid Deaths.”

Wild rolls his eyes, but thankfully steps away from the edge as well, spherical bomb flashing back into non-existence as he does. 

“Buzzkill,” the champion mutters as he stalks grumpily over to Twilight’s side.

As soon as he’s in range, the pelt wearing hero throws an arm around his neck, dragging him into a headlock, successfully pulling Wild even farther away from the canyon. Twilight hauls the struggling teen forward, back on the path toward Kakariko.

“Why don’t I tell you guys about that canyon as we walk?” Twilight offers placatingly once he's done grinding a fist into the top of the champion’s head.

Hyrule nods emphatically at the offer, big hazel eyes bright with curiosity. Wild, meanwhile, places his hands on Twilight’s back and heaves, wrenching his head from the rancher’s grip. Free once more, the champion mirrors the traveling hero’s look of eagerness, eyes bright, hair completely mussed. 

Twilight laughs at their excited faces and continues to walk forward, forcing the boys to catch up if they want to hear his tales. 

They do have a schedule to keep, after all. 

Wild quickly falls into step on the Ordonian’s left while Hyrule slots into place on his right as they head toward the canyon that will lead them to Kakariko. Four takes up a position on Hyrule’s other side, not as entranced as the other two, but eager enough for information to include himself as well.

Once he's got all eyes on him, Twilight launches into a brief lecture of the formation of the canyon, starting with an old folktale before reciting Rusl’s old words about sandstone and tributary rivers to Lake Hylia.

As the sentences flow from his mouth on auto pilot– an explanation given to him years ago that he repeated for the kids, for Iliya, for her– Twilight feels himself smile.

Wild drinks in Twilight’s words like he’s dying of thirst. The champion had been so excited when the Ordonian had announced that they were in his Hyrule, eyes immediately flashing every which direction to catch anything and everything.

“You’ve seen all of my home,” Wild had said, an excited smile in place. “Now I get to see all of yours!”

Hyrule looks equally happy at the knowledge. Twilight doesn't know as much about the brunette teen as he does about Wild, but one thing the pelt wearing hero can say for certain is that their senses of adventure were the same. 

From what Twilight had heard of Legend’s scoldings sessions with the traveling hero whenever the younger would get lost, the teen always wanted to see what was just over the crest of the next hill. Wild was much the same, climbing to insane heights, spotting something in the distance, and then running–or gliding– headfirst into it, regardless of whatever task or job he had been working toward before. 

It was an admirable trait, their curiosity. They had a thirst for knowledge, for the unknown, for adventure. It was endearing, if not extremely annoying for those trying to keep track of the teens.

“There’s actually an attraction that runs in the river down there,” Twilight continues, his words suddenly catching back up to him.

“What kind of attraction?” Hyrule asks, brows furrowed and head tilted, like he can’t even fathom the concept.

Twilight elbows Wild lightly, a soft laugh jumping from his lips. 

“One that I’m sure our Champion here would love,” he replies. “It’s called Iza’s Rapid Ride. The goal is to use bomb arrows to destroy as many targets as possible while steering a canoe down a series of rapids.”

“That sounds awesome,” Wild and– to Twilight’s extreme surprise– Four say at the same time.  All three of them turn to their smallest companion, faces colored with varying shades of disbelief. 

Four, in turn, looks just as surprised at what slipped out of his mouth as they do. His eyes blink rapidly in confusion, the light catching them differently every other second until Twilight isn’t even sure what color the younger's eyes actually are. 

The smithy’s head gives a slight shake and then angles downward, his jaw clenching and unclenching, chewing on unspoken words.

“If not extremely dangerous,” Four adds finally, looking uncomfortable as he stares at his shuffling feet.

Wild accepts the other’s words easily enough, quickly moving on to detailing what his strategy for such an attraction would be to Hyrule.

For his part, the traveling hero lets his eyes linger on Four a second longer before he is drawn into Wild’s crazy plan of using his slate to freeze the boat in time in the river so I can hit all the targets, Wild that's cheating, He didn’t say I couldn't , I mean yeah but I don't think...

Twilight though… Twilight eyes the smallest hero as they continue their trek.

The boy is silent once again, gaze locked on his feet as his hair hangs down around his face, a golden curtain blocking out the rest of the world.

To Twilight, it is a painfully familiar sight. 

Colin does the same thing whenever he feels he has said something the other kids wont like.

Sometimes, it surprises Twilight how much of Colin he could see in Four. 

Maybe it was just the hair and the big round eyes, but the Ordonian hero couldn’t help but draw parallels between the two.

Like the timid boy, Four often went with the flow of the other heroes, tagging along behind their more outgoing and outspoken party members, a mirror of Colin’s relationship with the other Ordonian children.

That wasn't to say Four was a pushover; the teen was confident in himself and his abilities, the little hero’s skill with a blade unquestionable and his discipline with the hammer and tongs a marvel. He was more than willing to speak his mind or outright call out dumb ideas if he saw them– case in point, earlier – but more often than not, the smithy was a passive figure in their menagerie of big personalities. Never the one to initiate conversation.

However, while he was never the one to start a dialogue, Four was always open and willing to listen to anyone and everyone who talked to him, just like Colin. He was attentive, seemingly going through each word someone said with a fine toothed comb, teasing out the implications of every syllable, just like Colin

Hylia, he was even the same size as Colin now that the boy had gone through a bit of a growth spurt. Slap a green headband on the Ordonian boy, and from behind, you might even be able to mistake one for the other. 

Not to mention–

The resonant blast of a horn yanks Twilight from his thoughts and back into his body abruptly.

The sound echoes across the field, low and growling and Twilight’s feet freeze underneath him as his head whips back and forth. The farmhand can feel the three teens next to him sending him quizzical looks as his search becomes more and more frantic, but he ignores them, anxiety pumping through his veins, clawing at his intestines.

That noise. The horn. It’s so familiar, but his memory is foggy in his mind. Smokey and full of shadow, no definite shapes or colors. 

And yet, that blaring noise pierces through the impenetrable fuzz, the only part of the recollection that is clear to him.

He remembers…

He remembers...

He remembers darkness. He remembers fear. Fear and water. Water on his face, water up his nose and water in his lungs. He remembers a pain in his head and that damned sound echoing in his ears, making his skull feel like it was shattering slowly. 

He remembers… he remembers...

“In coming!” shouts a voice from behind them.

The half formed memory fades back into shadow as Twilight whirls around toward the others, his sword already in hand. The three teens beside the farmhand mirror him, falling into battle stances of their own.

Black bodies drop from the sky, the sound of birdlike screeches wrenching through the air and drowning out the last echoes of the horn as seven pairs of leathery wings flap in deafening unison. Twilight barely manages to bring his blade up fast enough to block a pair of claws from scoring across his face.

“Kargarocs!” he shouts, heaving his sword from the screaming beast’s grasp, dealing a slash to its legs. 

The winged monster lets out a squawk of protest as it flaps its wings, desperate to pull itself out of range of Twilight’s sword.

With three powerful wing beats, the Kargaroc successfully launches itself into the air. It wheels for a moment, simply circling him like a vulture would, before it folds its wings in and dives, talons outstretched 

“Oh no you don’t!” Wild hisses next to Twilight, bow out and an ice arrow knocked in the string. With a twang, the arrow flies, singing through the air for a moment before it strikes home; freezing the left wing of the Kargaroc.

The beast lets out a scream of pain as it spirals to the ground, thrown off course by the weight of the ice. It slams into the dirt with a sickening crunch, its voice dying out as it erupts into black and orange smoke.

Another screech from Twilight’s left has his head whipping to the side in time to catch another Kargaroc swooping toward Wild’s back with talons outstretched.

An odd whiffling sound passes by Twilight’s ear and suddenly a blur of yellow whips toward the beast, cracking into the head of the bird-like creature, sending it wide of Wild by at least a few feet. 

Having hit it’s target, the shape– a boomerang, Twilight notes– arcs back around, flying behind the pelt wearing hero’s head and landing with a smack in Four’s outstretched hand.

“Go help the others,” the teen grits, readying another throw as Hyrule slides into an offensive stance, knees bent, silver blade steady. “We’ve got this one.”

Twilight nods, watching only a moment longer as Four lets the boomerang fly once more. The Kargaroc, having risen back into the air,  swerves to avoid it, diving to dodge the whirling wooden weapon. Miraculously, the boomerang follows the bird, forcing the beast lower and lower and lower, straight into the honed point of Hyrule’s sword.

It lets out a screech as the traveling hero’s blade slashes into the soft skin below its wattle.

Right , Twilight thinks, catching Wild’s eyes as they both turn and run toward where the others are. Those two definitely don't need help.

The rest of the heroes, however, do. 

In a mass of black wings and talons, five of the flying menaces mob the others, a chaotic flurry of beaks, claws, and swords, all packed together in too small a space for any true combat to break out.

As he runs to their aid, Twilight isn't sure exactly how he's going to attack without accidentally hitting one of the others until...

Suddenly, there is a flash of cobalt fabric and one of the beasts pulls away from the rest, a distinctive scarf caught in its claws. 

With two big wingbeats and a yank, Warriors is fished from the mayhem of black bodies, his clear blue eyes fire bright and wild as he claws at the keepsake that is quickly tightening into a vice around his throat.

With another harsh pull, the Kargaroc drags Warriors to his knees a good five feet away from the others and then releases the fabric, diving toward the now prone hero. 

Twilight lunges forward, claws punching into his shield rather than through Warriors’ chest. Leathery wings batter the sides of the Ordonian’s head as the Kargaroc struggles against him, desperate for its talons to find their target.

With a grunt of effort, the farmhand manages to shove the squawking monster away, giving Warriors the precious seconds it takes to ready himself.

A woosh of air blasts past their heads, and the creature is back for more, this time swooping low, attempting to stab at their exposed heads with it’s cruelly curved beak.

Warriors fends off the first pass with a wide swipe of his blade, keeping the flying menace from coming within striking distance. Twilight batters away the second attempt, slamming his shield into the beast’s head as it dives.

With an enraged warble, the Kargaroc folds its wings and shoots out its scaled legs, claws clinging to the sides of Twilights shield. It lets out a scream that rings in the farmhand’s ears, too loud, too sharp, and too close as the monster rears back and snaps at him.

A flash of freezing cold air bites at Twilight’s neck, and suddenly, the beak in front of him is encased in ice.

Wild again.

With its head trapped and far heavier than the rest of its body, the Kargoroc drops, releasing the shield, and plummets beak-first into the ground, its wings and feet scrabbling feebly at the ice. 

Warriors doesn’t let it struggle for long, plunging his sword into its spine.

“You should really tuck that away during battle,” Twilight says breathlessly, glancing at the scarf trailing behind Warriors as the other stands, pulling his blade from the plume of smoke

“I’m honestly surprised the first thing to go for it was a fucking overgrown bird,” Warriors replies with an huff, adjusting the aformentioned cloth to fit more snugly around his neck.

The crack of a whip snaps through the air, jolting both heroes back into their ready positions.

In the next instant, a body slams into the ground next to Twilight. 

Another Kargaroc, this one flailing wildly as it crys bloody murder. A red whip wrapped around the winged beast’s throat making it’s voice come out garbled and pained.

It’s fight halts long enough for beedy, yellow eyes to lock onto the farmhand and suddenly, the creature’s struggles redouble as it fights against it’s bindings, a blood lust that needs to be satisfied gleaming in its gaze.

Before it can pull itself free, a body with a bright blue tunic suddenly throws itself between Twilight and the Kargoroc. 

The figure resolves itself into Wind, hefting a hammer that is way too big for the small teen’s hands over one shoulder. With a full bodied motion, the sailor swings the mallet down with enough force to create small shockwaves that jolt up Twilight's legs as he smashes the monster’s skull in.

“Nice one, Sky!” Wind yells as he hoists the mallet back into his arms, eyes already searching for his next target.

The Chosen Hero nods in silent acknowledgment, cracking his whip to free it of the slowly disintegrating body of the Kargaroc. He quickly zeroes in on a target and with another swing of the whip, Sky manages to snare the wing of a second monster.

Monster hooked, the Skyloftian leans back and then pulls with the full strength of both arms, yanking the struggling body to the ground. 

Twilight and Warriors both step forward, ready to put the beast out of its misery, but before either can deal the mortal blow, another burst of freezing wind has both heroes stopping short. 

Above the struggling Kargaroc, a block of ice condenses from thin air. It grows and grows and grows until a massive, translucent boulder hovers weightless in the air, misting in the noonday sun. It floats for a moment longer before it suddenly plummets to the ground, gravity catching up to it and crushing the beast below its mass. 

Behind the now stationary mound of ice, Legend slowly lowers a staff with an angularly cut sapphire on its tip back down to his side. He winks at them, a smug smile pulling at his lips as he stares down Twilight and Warrior’s shocked faces.

“Fucking magic,” Warriors mutters under his breath. Twilight can't help but agree. He was never a fan of the stuff himself.

Twin screeches echo through the air before they are suddenly, and without remorse, cut off. 

Turning, Twilight catches the tail end of two puffs of smoke dissipating in the air, Time giving Wild an approving nod as the champion happily flushes at the gesture.

“Sound off!” Time calls as he cranes his neck to spot all of their members.

A chorus of ‘ fine’ s, ‘ here’ s, and a particularly snarky ‘ present’ respond to his call. No one yells for help or screams for medical attention and slowly, Twilight feels the tension of the battle leave him, his breaths becoming longer and slower as the adrenaline in his veins slowly sputters to a stop.

They group back up, a few sporting minor bruises or a couple of niks here and there, but otherwise, no worse for wear. Hyrule and Legend quickly begin distributing bandages to those with cuts while Wild pulls herbs from his slate. Something to help the pain later, Twilight remembers vaguely.

As the others get themselves patched up, Time strides toward where Twilight and Warriors stand. The Old Man holds out the Biggorn sword for them to inspect. 

Orangish-red blood drips down the blade in thick rivets.

“Not infected,” Time says succinctly as he pulls out an old cloth to clean his blade. “Do they usually fight in groups as large as that?”

Twilight shakes his head, confusion bubbling in him. 

“The largest group I’ve dealt with before is three.”

Time hums at his words. With a final swipe of the cloth, the sword is freed of the viscera that had been coating it and the older hero sheathes the blade at his side.

“Not infected and yet still acting strangely,” Warriors sumerizes, with a shake of his head. 

Both heroes turn to Twilight, questions burning in their eyes.

Unfortunately, the Ordonian hero has none to give. 

Except…

“Did you guys hear that horn before they attacked?” Twilight asks, a phantom echo of the sound bouncing around in his skull once more.

Warriors face screws up in confusion, eyes squinted, brows furrowed, and mouth turned down in a befuddled frown. Time, however, straightens.

“What did you hear, Pup?” he asks, single eye flickering over Twilight’s face.

“I...I’m not sure yet,” Twilight admits, a mixture of frustration and shame making his stomach feel full and heavy. Something scratches in the back of his skull. Fear or a warning maybe, but Twilight can’t say for sure. It itches and itches and itches.

The pelt wearing hero kicks a boot into the dirt, his mouth pulling to one side. “I know I’ve heard it before. I just... can’t place it.”

The shadowy memory from before surfaces behind his eyes once more and the itching in his brain multiplies ten fold. 

The darkness. The fear. The water. That blasted sound.

But he can’t remember.

A warm hand grips his shoulder and when Twilight looks back up, Time is sending him a look dripping in concern, eye soft as it gazes imploringly at him. 

“I can’t place it,” Twilight says again, feeling helpless. “But I know whatever it is, it isn't good.”





 




They enter Kakariko with little fanfare, the good mood from earlier all but dried up after the Kargaroc attack.

Though, Twilight does have to admit, just smelling the dry, dusty air of the village brightens him up a bit, despite the anxiety that still runs rampant through his heart and the itch in the back of his scalp that refuses to abate.

There are more people in Kakariko now than there were when he had first seen the town. 

Before, when the skies were a perpetual dreary gray and when the sparks of twilight floated upward through the air like inverse snow, the village had been a literal ghost town, only the spirits of the few survivors left huddled together behind boarded windows and barred doors. 

In the years after he had completed his journey, though, Kakariko had flourished. Where once there were empty, dilapidated buildings, now there were homes, freshly painted and open to the streets. 

Where there were once quiet, lifeless streets, now there are voices, people , going about their day in the canyon town. Instead of three adults and a handful of scared children, Kakariko is now home to multitudes, families even.

Case in point, Shad and Auru. Though they still met up at Telma’s bar most of the time, the two members of The Resistance now lived in Kakariko permanently, taking up residence in two of the renovated homes. 

The Gorons also visited more frequently, their nighttime stalls featuring gems and other Death Mountain goods. Their wears were becoming more popular as word about them spread to the general public.

With the arrival of the Gorons, came trade and cultural exchange. Soon, the old hamlet had become a bit of a tourist destination, an easy way to experience the medicinal and luxurious hot springs of Death Mountain without– well– actually going up Death Mountain.

To accommodate the influx of people, the Malo Mart had expanded as well, the small shop growing to include an extra two rooms and more merchandise than ever before. Barnes Bombs enjoyed a similar increase in customers, though definitely not as extensively as the now chain of shops that Malo ran.

To put it simply, Kakariko was finally a village again.

And thankfully, one with a large and accommodating enough hotel, the Elde Inn, to fit all of them comfortably.

They go three to a room:Twilight with Time and Wild, Warriors with Wind and Sky, and Four with Legend and Hyrule.

After settling into their designated spaces and, in some cases, fighting over beds, they all come together in Time’s room to discuss the game plan for the rest of the evening. 

“Time and I will be going to speak to one of my friendsto get information on any strange occurrences,” Twilight starts once everyone is quiet and paying attention, partially in part due to a well placed glare from the Old Man.

“And I think Warriors mentioned wanting to go to the shop to restock?” Twilight continues, sending a questioning glance to the aforementioned Captain. The scarf wearing hero nods in confirmation. 

“So, if anyone has any specific requests or would like to go with him to carry supplies, that would be appreciated,” Twilight finishes.

Surprisingly, Legend raises a hand. 

“Hyrule and I have been keeping an eye on our medicine stores and there's a couple of things we could probably use,” the pink haired hero says by way of explanation. “Besides,” he continues, serious expression melting away as he smiles charmingly at Warriors, “I don't trust him with my money.”

Warriors adopts a dramatically affronted look, hand to chest and everything as he gasps in shock.

“Sounds good,” Twilight says, agreeing easily enough, despite the dramatic interruption. Warriors turns his open mouthed expression on Twilight, giving him a look that said ‘ how dare you not defend my honor?’

Twilight returns Warriors dramatic expression with half lidded eyes, a raised eyebrow, and a faint shrug that hopefully conveyed the sentiment ‘ can’t defend what isn’t there’.

Time steps forward, breaking up the unspoken smackdown by giving both heroes a very tired face. 

“And you five?” the Old Man asks, looking at the youngest members of their group plus Sky. “Was there something you wanted to do before we meet up for dinner later tonight?”

The five look between themselves, no one willing to speak first, lest they get shot down.

A part of Twilight– the part that itches itches itches at the back of his skull–hopes beyond hope that all of them decide to just stay in the hotel rooms for the rest of the evening.

A much bigger part of him knows that that's never going to happen. 

“I wanted to check out the spring at the back of town?” Hyrule says eventually, his voice going high at the end, like it was a question rather than a statement of intent. “It feels like… there’s something special about it.”

Time nods at his words but Twilight feels that scratching, that incessant itch, increase with a vengeance, digging at the back of his head at the teen’s suggestion. 

One could say a lot of things about Hyrule, but the traveling hero was definitely observant, especially in things having to do with magic. It figured that Hyrule could detect the spiritual nature of the spring. 

It should be one of the safest places in town.

So why does Twilight’s scalp crawl and his guts quake at the idea of any of them going near it?

“I’ll go with you, ‘Rule,” Sky pipes up with an easy smile, jolting Twilight from his revere and unknowingly adding insult to injury. “And then afterwards, maybe we could visit the hot springs upstairs?”

Hyrule nods eagerly and Sky’s smile grows. “Perfect!”

“Wild and I wanna go to the bomb shop!” Wind cuts in with a big grin.

Twilight feels a frown pull at his face, a more concrete concern finding its place in his stomach like a pile of stones.  

“Sounds interesting. I’ll tag along as well,” Four interjects and Twilight can’t tell if that soothes his anxieties or ratchets them up further. Obviously, Four had shown interest in bombs earlier that morning, something Twilight couldn't remember him doing before.

The kid was a wild card, someone Twilight couldn't predict.  At least he could count Wild's more-erm-pyromaniac persuasions to be consistant in their destructive nature. The pelt wearing hero had no idea what to expect of Four, apparently.

And with Wind egging them on? It was a recipe for disaster. Twilight doesn't need a foggy memory, an itch in his brain, or a sinking feeling in his gut to tell him that much.

Wild, however, let’s his discontent at the smithy’s addition be known immediately with a groan.

“We don’t need a babysitter,” Wild says with a huff, eyeing the shorter hero. 

“No one said anything about a babysitter,” Four replies evenly. “The shops I’m interested in aren't open until night, correct?” he asks, directing the question toward Twilight.

The farmhand nods. 

Four had been particularly keen on seeing the stalls that were open after dark, excited to see what the Gorons would display that evening at their stands. The smithy was practically giddy to examine and pick apart the innovations a forge heated with lava could produce. 

“I’d like something to do in the meantime,” Four continues after Twilight's answer. “And besides,” and here his face remains entirely neutral except for the faintest flicker of a smile and a flash of fire in his eyes, “I like bombs.”

No one really knows what to say to that, so the argument is dropped.

With their plans settled, everyone begins to head out, with Sky and Hyurle leading the charge out the door, talking amicably about the medicinal pros and cons of hot springs. Warriors is quick to follow them, eager to get out to the shops as soon as possible.

As Legend turns to follow the scarf wearing hero, Twilight catches him by the arm.

“Hey,” the Ordonian starts once he’s got the younger’s attention, “If there’s a baby-faced kid working the shop, don’t let him gouge you. The kid’s notorious for hiking up prices for tourists.”

Legend raises an eyebrow but nods at Twilight’s words, acknowledging.

“I’ve haggled with Ravio before,” the pink haired hero says with a little bit of a grimace. “I think we’ll be fine.”

Memories of the aforementioned merchant’s salesman smile, smooth words, and flair for theatrics blink into existence in Twilight’s mind. 

“Fair enough,” he admits, releasing the veteran hero’s arm.

Once freed, Legend turns and strides through the doorway, walking towards an impatient looking Warriors who waits with a hand on his hip and a foot tapping on the ground. Legend holds a hand out to the older hero, making grabby motions as he flashes Warriors an expectant look. The two stare at each other for a moment, some kind of silent standoff. 

With a sigh, Warriors relents, dropping the wallet full of their pooled spending money in the veteran’s open hand. 

And then the two are off. Which just leaves…

“We’ll be back in time for dinner!” Wind assures as he scurries out the door, Wild hot on his heels.

“Don’t blow up the town!” Twilight shouts at their retreating backs.

“No promises!” Wild yells back over his shoulder as he and the younger blonde disappear around the bannister and down the stairs. 

Four follows them at a more sedate pace, waving away Twilight’s slightly concerned look as he follows their resident trouble makers out of the hotel. 

And… they're gone.

Twilight stares at the stairway for a moment longer. There's something… uncomfortable about watching them disappear one by one out of the hotel, out of his line of sight. 

Anxiety drips coldy down his ribs like ice water and settles in his gut and Twilight finds his hand scratching at the back of his scalp idly, trying to assuage the tingling itch that irritates his brain.

A hand lands in the pelted fur sitting on Twilight’s shoulder as Time comes to stand next to him.

“They’ll be fine,” the older assures.

For a moment, Twilight wonders how Time knew what he was thinking, before he lets the thought roll off his back. He’s far past asking Time why he knows anything. The Old Man just knows.

“Besides, how much harm could they do in an afternoon?” his mentor finishes with a smile.

Twilight turns to the other, giving him the driest look the farmhand can muster.

Time lets out an unbecoming snort, hand that was once on the farmhand’s shoulder releasing so Time can give him a fond clap on the back.

“Joking!” the Old Man says, voice warm with laughter. “I’m joking!” 

The armor wearing hero takes a second longer to compose himself before staring down at Twilight with a knowing look. “I swear, you’re worse than I am sometimes,” he laughs, with a slight shake of his head.

Twilight winces at that slightly. 

He knows he can be a bit… overprotective of the others. But he can’t really stop himself from worrying about them. Whenever any of them got hurt, Twilight felt their wounds like they were his own. When Wild would wake from night terrors, shaking and unable to breathe, Twilight felt breathless with him. When Wind’s frustration at how the others treated him bubbled over into warm tears, Twilight felt his own eyes start to water.

He couldn't help how much he wanted to protect them all. 

It ran in his veins, pounded in his bones, howled in his heart.

An instinct , he thinks ruefully.

It was the same mindset Twilight had held for most of his life, ground into his very being from hours of entertaining and watching and protecting the kids of the village. It’s what drove him, trapped in wolf form and in an unknown land, to protect Wild from any and all harm.

It made Twilight want to hide Wind and Hyrule and Sky away from the world, to drag Legend into the confines of safety kicking and screaming. It made him want to take all of the daggers meant for Warriors back, to make sure Time made it back home safe to Malon.

It’s probably what made him see Colin in Four. 

It was definitely what made Twilight sure he would use every moment he still had breath in his lungs making sure Wild was happy.

Twilight can’t describe it, the force that wraps his heart in a vice at the thought of any of the others in pain. He can’t describe the growling anger at the presence that forced them to dance in time with its plans.

He wishes he could describe it, pin it down and understand it’s source, but he can't. 

He also wishes it wasn’t so active due to the fact that they were in danger all the Hylia damned time.

Twilight blows a sigh through his teeth, pushing a hand through his bangs.

“I’m happy I got to meet them,” Twilight says eventually, still staring at the stairs. With effort, he  manages to wrench his gaze away from the steps, turning to look into Time’s too observant eye. With another exhale, Twilight feels something in him deflate, energy suddenly sapped from his very marrow. 

His shield arm aches. He wants to sit down. He wants to visit the hot springs or curl up in the warmth of his bed. 

He doesn't want to deal with this anymore.

But he will. For them.

“I’m happy I met them, but sometimes I hate that they’re here,” Twilight mutters, letting all the sadness and bitterness that came with failing to protect the others over and over and over again turn his words to daggers. “I hate that they got dragged into this.”

“You make it sound as though this is your fault,” Time says, words gentle but voice pointed, striking straight to the core of Twilight’s thoughts, his feelings. “You make it sound as though you're not a victim here as well.”

The farmhand’s mouth opens but his voice is dead in his throat. He has nothing to say, no response. 

“I would tell you not to hold this burden on your shoulders, but I know you will refuse to put it down,” a little laugh, not happy but not angry either. Resigned. “Just one more thing you inherited from me that I wish you hadn't.”

Half of Twilight’s mouth lifts into a sad, partial smile, the same expression pulling onto Time’s face. 

Two faces that look too similar to be anything but related, having seen too much of the world. 

“The best we can do for now is try to figure out what is going on here,” Time continues, voice stronger, more confident. A pillar that Twilight can lean on if he needs. “The sooner we can do that, the sooner they and this Hyrule will be safe from whatever would wish to do them harm.”

Twilight nods silently at his words.

Right. They have a plan. A plan he can focus on and work towards, steeping himself in preparation rather than peeking around corners for every what if scenario.

The farmhand takes a deep breath in, allows it to fill his lungs, before he breathes out. He stowes the uncertainty, buries the fear. He allows the anxiety to stay. It isn’t like Twilight can banish it if he tried– and oh, how he's tried – so instead he lets it settle in his gut, familiar if not comfortable. 

It will keep him on his toes, if anything.

With another gulp of air, Twilight straightens his spine and squares his shoulders and then leads the way out of the hotel and toward Renado’s house.







It is not a far walk to the shaman's place of residence.

From their hotel, it's just a quick walk down the central dirt path of the town. 

As they approach the building, Twilight can see Hyrule and Sky a little farther back as they stand in the water of the nearby spring. Both have abandoned their boots, their pants pushed up past their knees to protect the cloth from the warm water as the two heroes wade deeper. 

The Skyloftian looks up and flashes them a contented, close mouthed smile and a little wave. Hyrule, meanwhile, seems entranced by the water, eyes locked on the crystalline surface as he searches for something. 

As though summoned by his intense gaze, a fairy appears, seemingly materializing from the water itself.  Hyrule lets out an amazed laugh as the little pink sprite flutters upward and circles his head once, before stopping right in front of his nose.

Sky laughs delightedly at the sight. Behind him, the farmhand hears Time huff out a content sigh.

They look relaxed in their joy. Happy. Warm.

Twilight isn’t sure why, but it sets his teeth on edge, that anxious tension in his guts roiling as phantom bugs carve lines in the back of his skull.

He's forgetting something. Something really important.

Whatever it is, it makes Twilight want to force them out of the spring right now . It makes him want them to run back to the hotel and lock themselves inside. 

In a flash of rose, more faires blink into existence to follow their sister, a whole swarm of them circling around the two heroes, sparkles of strawberry magic swirling them in a mini blizzard.

Their voices rise in surprised joy as Twilight turns from the sight and sets his knuckles against the old wood of Renado’s door. He knocks with three quick whaps of his fist.

Almost as soon as his hand leaves the wood, the door creaks open, a heart shaped face looking up at him shyly through a short curtain of black hair. Dark, round eyes almost immediately light up in recognition and the door is thrown open as the girl behind it dives at him for a hug.

“Link!” she exclaims, her happy voice muffled as she gives him a squeeze around the middle.

“Luda!” Twilight replies a little breathlessly as she squeezes harder. “It’s been a while.”

“Too long,” she says into his chest, tone fond.

She’d gone through a bit of a growth spurt since he had last seen her, Twilight realizes as he gives the young shamin-in-training a light hug in return.  Her head reaches his mid chest now when it used to be at his navel. As she steps back to give him a once over–checking for injuries no doubt, Renado taught her well– Twilight wonders if she’ll surpass him in height one day.

If she takes after her father, as Twilight suspects she does, she most certainly will.

Done with her inspection and having seen nothing in need of her immediate attention, Luda steps back through the threshold of the door, holding it open for the two heroes to enter. 

“Come in, come in! Dad will be so relieved to see you. Shad and Auru too.”

As they pass through the doorway, Twilight notes how the teenager’s eyes linger on Time, curiosity sparkling in those observant, dark gray eyes of hers.

Entering the room is like walking nose first into a brick wall made out of pure jasmine, pine, and cinnamon. Well, at least it is for Twilight anyway.

It is… potent to say the least, but a familiar potency, one he has gotten used to after spending hours in this very room, comforting Talo and Beth, talking to Colin and Iliya.

As his eyes adjust to the change in lighting, Twilight sees that the house is almost just as he remembers from his quest. The wooden torches are lit and in place on the walls, casting the room in an inviting orange glow. The old, worn, hand woven carpets frame the stone statue of the Light Spirit Eldin that looms in the center of the room. Lovingly painted pots litter the cracked dirt floor, organized from largest to smallest against the rounded walls.

The only large difference between this room and the room he remembers from his adventure is the addition of another door at the back, an expansion to the house Renado had built with the help of the Gorons. 

A clinic for the expanding town.

Luda shuts the door quietly behind them and then turns, hands on hips and face expectant. She leans forward a little, letting her eyes rest on Twilight’s face. After a moment of silence, both of her eyebrows lift and her eyes widen, as she sends the farmhand an even more pointed look.

“So?” She says imploringly. “Where have you been? What have you been up to?” Her eyes flash back to Time for a moment before landing back on Twilight once more. “Rusl said some group of strangers showed up in Ordon and spirited you away on another adventure or...?”

Twilight opens his mouth to explain and then shuts it once more. He turns to Time, but the older man is no help, simply giving the Ordonian a shrug.

What Rusl had told her… wasn't technically wrong. Twilight had just happened to be back in the village helping Fado with those damned goats when five warriors had stepped onto the ranch. 

Two of them appeared to be Twilight’s age, one with a flowing blue scarf and the other with the Master Sword of all things strapped to his back. Two of the others looked to be younger, the anxious brunette appearing to be a teenager while the one with the multicolored tunic made Twilight fear these men were traveling with children.

The last one, however, had been the one who had caused the normally sure seated rancher to almost fall from Epona’s saddle. 

The armor was different, but undeniably similar. It was missing the overgrown moss, the vines that choked the arm guards and crossed the chest. Without the foliage  and the rust that Twilight was accustomed to, the metal shined in the sun, sending flashes of silver and gold into the air. 

He was missing his helmet, Twilight had thought idly.

He was also already missing his eye.

After that, it had not taken much–if any– convincing on the other heroes’ parts to get him to join. He was already on board. 

“Well?” she says, cocking one hip. Her stance has the body language of Telma written all over it.

“W-well,” Twilight starts, “I’ve been traveling with some people from far off lands.” The farm hand spares a look at Time, who, instead of helping, is smiling faintly as Twilight flounders on his own. 

Thanks a lot.

 “We’ve been traveling around a lot, helping out wherever we can. I guess we just sort of… ended up here? Now?” Hylia, he is bad at lying. 

Stretching the truth, a phantom, high pitched and giggly voice whispers in his ear. He ignores it.

“This is my… one of my new friends,” Twilight says, the words sounding wooden and forced to his own ears as he gestures to the Old Man.

“You may call me Time,” his mentor cuts in, holding out a hand. “Nice to meet you.”

Luda takes it and gives it a firm, polite shake, her father’s propriety shining through despite her reservations.

“Luda,” she introduces in return. 

The young shamin gives Twilight another questioning look but ultimately drops it, her shoulders drooping slightly as she strides past the two heroes towards the back room. 

“I’m assuming you’re here for my father. I’ll go grab him for you,” Luda says over her shoulder. “He’s in the back with a patient.”

She disappears into the other room and Twilight can just hear her raise the call of “Daaaad!” as the wood swings shut behind her, muffling her voice once again.

It is silent for a moment.

Time turns to him, mouth open to speak, but his words are drowned out as the sound of stone grinding on stone assaults the air.

The statue of Eldin in the center of the room is moving, gliding across the ground, the owl–Moth? Eagle? Twilight was never sure what Eldin was supposed to be. None of those things have lips– slowly shifting to the left, revealing the secret passage below. 

As soon as the stone is out of the way, a head pops from the newly revealed hole in the ground. A head with slightly mussed auburn hair and with askew, round spectacles sitting precariously at the end of a familiar nose.

“Ah!” Shad exclaims, hefting himself up the final rungs of the ladder and into the room proper. The scholar adjusts his glasses and then smiles warmly, holding his hand out in a friendly greeting. “I thought I heard your voice. It is nice to see you again, Link.”

Twilight takes his outstretched palm with his own, giving the hand a short, strong shake. “Likewise, Shad. It’s nice to be back.”

“And not a moment too soon,” comes a calm, deep voice from the back of the room.

Renado sweeps into the room, looking serene as always despite the very tell-tale red that stains the ends of his long sleeves.

“We didn’t mean to pull you away from a patient,” Time says quickly, apparently having seen the blood as well.

The shamin waves the older man’s worries away. The tassels on his sleeves sway with the motion.

“He is in stable condition now. Luda can observe him while I am away.”

“She’s graduated from assistant then, has she?” Twilight asks.

“Yes,” Renado replies, the normally neutral expression on his face cracking slightly with pride. “She is coming along very nicely.”

The slight uptick to his lips falls and the carefully blank expression falls back into place on his face. 

“However,” the older shamin continues, “the reason for her getting so much hands on experience is worrisome to say the least.”

“So there have been attacks?” Time asks, cutting right to the chase.

Renado eyes Time for a moment, an open weariness to his usually relaxed dark gaze.

Twilight takes a small step forward, drawing Renado’s eyes back to him. “Please,” he says, allowing the unfettered concern that had been howling in his chest all day to bleed into his words. “What's been going on?”

The shaman's eyes study him for a moment before he nods almost imperceptibly.

“As your friend said,” the man starts, voice still calm, “there have been more attacks as of late. The monsters are getting increasingly aggressive.” The shamin brings a hand to his chin, a cloud shadowing his eyes with worry. “Kargarocs have been encountered in increasingly large numbers. The Bombskits are growing less skittish. Stalhound packs spring to new heights every night.”

“But that’s not the worst of it,” Shad cuts in. “While there are more monsters, they’re easy enough to dispatch with a group of skilled hunters or warriors.”

The scholar and the shamin share a pointed look, an unsaid question rigning silently in the air between them.

“The problem,” Shad continues, choosing his words carefully. His eyes flicker over Twilight’s face, waiting for a reaction, “lays in what is controlling the monsters.”

“Controlling them?” Time presses.

Shad nods grimly.

“The Bulbins.”

And suddenly, the itching in Twilight’s scalp stops. The tight grip anxiety has on his stomach releases in shock.

The foggy memory clears and slots itself into place behind Twilight’s eyes.




A warm evening. A warm spring. A warm smile. Warm green eyes.

He had felt so warm, so protected, so safe, not a care in the world. The only thing on his mind was excitement for his journey the next day. 

It would have been his first time going past Faron Woods. The first time he would see Hyrule Field. The first time going to Castle Town. His first chance to explore the world.

He had been excited but content, happy to be with his friends, Iliya smiling in front of him and Colin laughing by his side.

He had been so happy.

 

...

 

And then the tremors had started. Distant at first, but growing with each passing second until it was an earthquake, the water rippling and crashing in miniature waves around his legs as he fought for balance.

The rumbling grew and grew, rhythmic and deafening until with a terrible crescendo, a Bullbo had crashed through the wooden gate protecting the spirit spring, two Bulblins armed on its back.

Colin had gasped, stumbling back. Iliya had screamed, turning to run.

And he… he was frozen.

The beast had charged forward, crashing into his side and shoving him out of the way. One of it’s riders readied a bow, and with a twang, put an end to Iliya’s escape… and her screams.

He had wanted to run to her. He had wanted to grab her and Colin and flee into the secret passage, to safety.

He never got the chance, a club slamming into the back of his head, making the world explode with pain and darkness as he fell first to his knees, and then into the water.

Darkness. He could not move, could not swim up from the depths of his mind. He had felt water around him, water up his nose, water in his lungs but he had been unable to cough or even choke.

He had been drowning in that darkness when he had heard it. 

That sound. A deep rumbling, resonant blast of an ivory horn, the notes diving low before flinging themselves higher in the air.

The call to the Twilight Realm. The all clear.



“Pup?”

Twilight drags himself from the memory, Time’s concerned face slowly swirling into clarity before his eyes as the images fade back into his brain.

“But that makes no sense,” Twilight mutters in bemusement, shaking his head to dislodge the final pieces of the memory from his vision.

“Why?” Time asks. “What are Bulblins?”

Both Shad and Renado’s heads whip around to face the armored hero, twin expressions of shock and confusion on their faces.

“He’s not from here,” Twilight throws at them by way of explanation, too deep in his own thoughts to come up with a more detailed or believable lie.

“Bulblins are…” Twilight pauses, unsure where to start. 

Thankfully, Shad takes pity on him, stepping forward to provide a better explanation than Twilight ever could.

“Bulblins,”the man starts, adjusting his glasses slightly as he speaks to Time, “are a race that is related to Bokoblins, though how closely related, no one knows for sure.”

The scholar pinches his chin between his thumb and forefinger, a thoughtful expression dropping onto his face.

“What sets them apart from Bokoblins, other than the green skin, is their intelligence. They can build complex structures. They have their own language and have been known to speak rudimentary Hylian. They even have a hierarchical society, with a chief or king.”

“Their hierarchy is based on strength,” Twilight cuts in, having finally found his words. “Strongest at the top, weakest at the bottom. You can probably guess why they would side with Ganondorf.”

Time nods. 

“But,” Twilight continues, “I defeated the King of the Bulblins in single combat. After that, they abandoned Ganondorf and fled back to the Gerudo Desert. They haven't been seen in Hyrule proper for years now.”

“Well, very apparently, they are back,” Renado replies, lips down turned. “Travelers and merchants have reportedly been attacked while traversing the kingdom. There have been sightings of Bulblin raiding parties as close to the village as Eastern Hyrule Field.” 

A heavy hand lands on Twilight’s shoulder. He glances up at Time, and the two share a look. Question. Response. Not a word spoken.

“We’ll head out first thing tomorrow morning,” Twilight says,voice strong, decisive as he  wrenches his gaze away from his mentor to look at the other men in the room. 

Shad adjusts his spectacles again, eyes wide, matching the circular frames. Renado, as unflappable as ever, tilts his head ever so slightly to the left.

“May I ask who is included in this ‘we?’” the shamin asks, eyes once again flitting to look at Time before they lock on Twilight once more. “I will not send good people to their deaths.”

“The group I’m traveling with is more than capable of handling this,” Twilight replies firmly. “I would trust each and every one of them with my life.”

Twilight doesn't even have to look to know that Time is smiling behind him. Or at least, sporting that soft eyed look he gets sometimes, half of his mouth pulled up, brows high.

The shamin raises his head slightly, aprasing. 

Slowly he inclines his head. Graceful as ever.

“Then we shall leave it in your capable hands, Link.”




 




As they exit the shamin’s house, Twilight sees that Hyrule and Sky are gone from the Spirit Spring.

The farmhand catches himself as he lets a sigh of relief breeze past his lips at seeing the warm waters calm and empty. He now understands why it had made him so sick to see them happy there. Happy and content and warm.

With a frown, Twilight turns away from the water, feet slowly carrying him through the town, following in Time’s dusty footsteps.

They continue to the hotel in relative silence. 

If Twilight were to guess, he would assume Time’s mind was already occupied with thoughts of the coming battle. Formations, pairs, weapons, all of it whirling through the old man’s mind at a breakneck pace.

Twilight, on the other hand, feels mired in memories, each one dragging through his mind and pulling at his eyes, forcing him to look, to see.

Before he knows it, they are back in their shared room, Time making adjustments to his armor in the corner while Twilight stands in the center of the room, lost.

The weight of the Shadow Crystal suddenly increases tenfold, the leather cord of the necklace biting into the back of his neck. Twilight idly brings a hand up, fingers hovering over the warm, warped obsidian stone.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Time asks and Twilight’s head snaps up. 

The Old Man doesnt look up from his work, a ploy to look as unobtrusive, as unjudging as possible. 

The rancher feels his hand drop back to his side. 

“Talk about what?” 

Twilight knows he's being obtuse. 

He also knows he doesn't want to talk about it.

Time merely shrugs his shoulders, thankfully taking the hint and the air around them is once again silent, save for the faint scrubbing sound of a cloth on metal.

Soon enough boots stomping up the stairs and the sound of arguing breaks the awkward air in the room, signalling the arrival of Legend and Warriors back into the hotel. 

“I’m simply saying that the purple one looked nice!” Warriors says, voice high and defensive as he stomps up the final step, head turned back to address Legend.

“And I’m simply saying,” Legend replies in an irritated, huffy voice, clearly struggling a bit more under the weight of his laden arms than Warriors, “That purple is not your color.” 

“Oh, I’m about to make purple your color,” Warriors grumbles back as he enters Twilight and Time’s room and sets down his load of bags. Time spares them a glance, before rolling his eye and going back to his armor.

Legend deposits his load on the ground as well and then fixes Warriors with a look, one hip cocked and one eyebrow raised.

“Wanna say that again, Pretty Boy?”

Without responding, Warriors sits down and begins pulling bottles full of a pearlescent, red and rippling, mesmerizing blue liquid onto the ground. Legend mirrors him, grabbing bandages of all sizes from his own bags organizing them by size as he goes.

“I could snap you like a twig,” Warriors comments as if he's talking about the weather, peering at some materials for fletching arrows.

“Oh, I’d love to see you try,” Legend responds just as flippantly as he adds another red potion to Warriors growing line of bottles.

Twilight rolls his eyes.

He will never understand their friendship.

Wild, Wind, and Four are the next to get back, the sound of feet quickly ascending the wooden stairs the only warning Twilight gets before two pairs of hands grab at his shoulders and yank him down to be face level with their youngest member.

“You have fish that are bombs in your Hyrule?! My Hyrule is a fucking ocean and we dont have bomb fish!!”

“Language.” Two voices call out, and Wind flips off the air, pointing his finger to indicate the room at large.

“Twilight,” and here, Wild’s voice sounds pained, like the farmhand has wronged him in the most irreparable way possible. His face is scrunched up, eyes closed, brows down and mouth in a wince. “Twilight, how did you fail to mention that you live in a world with exploding bugs?!” 

Two pairs of very expectant blue eyes look up at him, like both young heroes are actually trying to get an explanation out of him.

Twilight looks up for help and catches the eye of Four who stands in the doorway. Half of the teen’s mouth lifts into a wry grin, both eyebrows up and then he turns, leaving Twilight to his fate.

“Well?”

“Uhhhhh,” he replies, very intelligently. “It never came up?”

By the look on both teen’s faces, that is not the right answer.

After an unfortunately thorough chewing out by the blondes, who manage to extract a promise from Twilight to test out the bombs at a later date, Hyrule and Sky finally descend the stairs from the upper levels, apparently done with the hot springs.

Both are positively glowing, their faces smiling and cheeks still flushed from the heat.

Soon enough, dinner is served in the lobby, a type of spiced cucco served with a yogurt sauce with flatbread. The heroes descend on the food, their table picked clean in an almost embarrassingly quick amount of time. It’s good, though Twilight muses that WIld could probably improve the recipe in at least 12 different ways.

After the meal, Time briefs everyone on their task for the next morning and then turns them loose to make their preparations. 

Before Twilight knows it, sunset orange light bleeds into their room from the window and Four once again stands in the doorway of Twilight, Time, and Wild’s room. Sky and Legend stand behind the smaller teen staring hopefully at Twilight from over the smithy’s head. 

Well, Sky looks hopeful. Legend looks impatiently expectant.

“We were wondering if you would like to come with us to the Goron stands,” the small hero says,  eyes flicking over his shoulder to include the other two in the statement. “We figured you would know some of the sellers.”

On his bed, Wild perkes up and stows his slate back on his belt, obviously interested in the proposition.

Twilight feels the younger’s eyes on his back but ignores the puppy dog stare being thrown his way. Besides, it's entirely unnecessary. Now that Twilight knew what was causing his metaphorical (and not so metaphorical) hackles to rise, he sure as Hylia wasn't going to let these idiots out of his sight. 

Which is how Twilight finds himself trailing behind Sky, Legend, and Wild as they make their way through the dusty streets of Kakariko once more, the last light of day bleeding red against their backs, sending their shadows crawling along in front of them.

The sight of the extended shades shifts something in Twilight. The Shadow Crystal feels a bit heavier, a bit warmer against his chest. Next to him, Twilight thinks he sees Four wave his hand subtly at his own shadow, the dark reflection mirroring the movement. 

Soon enough, the lanterns from the pop-up stands come into view and Wild takes off, dragging Sky through the throng of shoppers and toward the first stall. Legend follows at a slower pace, picking his way through the tourists with a bit more grace than the champion

The Skyloftian is apparently looking for something to get his Zelda as an anniversary present and had enlisted the help of Legend to pick through the prospects. The pink haired hero was apparently very particular about his jewelry, magic or not, and had a keen eye for quality and cut.

Wild was there to look for a new pair of earrings for himself, excited to add to his own inventory of shiny things like the magpie he was. 

From what Twilight can see over the crowd, Wild holds up a pair of extremely gaudy looking hoops–they’re absolutely massive, thick, and over bedazzled. They look like they could knock out the wearer if they moved their head wrong–and Legend makes a dismissive hiss, as though the metal has personally offended him. Wild grins at his disapproval and turns to the vendor Goron, asking about the price. 

Sky laughs as Legend seethes.

Beside him Four seems like he’s just about to dive into the fray of people toward a stand selling knives when a voice has both him and Twilight turning.

“More friends of yours?” Luda asks as she pulls herself from the crowd and comes to stand at Twilight’s side, looking at the squabbling boys.

Wild somehow finds an even uglier pair and holds them up to his ears. Legend looks like he's going to chomp the other’s head off. Sky, standing between the two, is too busy looking at a necklace to be any the wiser.

“Unfortunately,” Four mutters for Twilight.

The shaman in training startles, seemingly seeing Four on Twilight’s other side for the first time.

“Oh, hello!” She says and Twilight winces as she bends down to address the smaller like one would a child. Four’s right eye twitches, cobalt and cold. “My name is Luda. What’s your name?”

“Four,” the smithy says, standing up straighter and injecting as much icy politeness into his voice as possible. He holds out his hand. “A pleasure.”

Luda blinks at the tone and overly rigid behavior and then straightens up, taking the smithy’s hand and giving it a quick shake.

She sends a questioning look Twilight’s way.

“First Time and now Four. Your friends have some pretty interesting names, Link.”

“They’re nicknames, actually,” Four corrects, jumping back in before Twilight has to fumble his way through another stretched truth . “We’re all from pretty far away, so some of our names are difficult to pronounce outside of our native languages,” he says, the lie slipping smoothly from the teens lips like a polished river stone. 

It sounds believable even to Twilight.

Luda's face lights up at his words, a proud and challenging glint to her dark eyes.

“I think I’ll be the judge of that,” she says with a smile and a wink. “I’m pretty fluent in Goron- if I do say so myself- and I’ve been working on my Zora and ancient Sheika recently.”

Four’s eyes alight in response, a competitive grin of his own pulling at his face and a mischievous fire in his eyes.

“Cochi-ichoa-ichia ichiri,” pops from the boy’s mouth, each syllable bubbling from his lips, the sounds quick and chittery, like a bird or a squirrel as he places a hand on his stomach– where the seams of his tunic come together–  and bends slightly at the waist in a small bow.

Twilight stares wide eyed at the teen and next to him, the farmhand swears Luda’s eyes damn near pop out of her head.

“What the hell was that?” Twilight sputters.

Four simply grins smugly and shrugs his shoulders before turning away to walk toward the stalls. Luda lets out a shocked  little laugh and then jogs forward, throwing a wave back at Twilight before catching up with Four, questions flying from her mouth as soon as she can think of them.

They are swallowed by the crowd of shoppers.

And so Twilight is left to his own devices. 

Not really there to buy anything himself, Twilight merely peruses the stalls slowly, saying hello to Gor Liggs and his son, Carrig as he browses. As he passes in front of one of the many jewelry stands, Ota, the young Goron, excitedly asks when Twilight would head back to the summit for more wrestling matches. Apparently Darbus was looking for a good match and hadn't found one among his brothers yet.

Not wanting to disappoint the kid, Twilight quickly gives him a humble non answer, a ‘as soon as I’ve got the time’ and then he moves along. 

At the next vendor, Twilight finds Legend and Wild, the pink haired hero nodding his head appreciatively as the scarred boy tucks a couple of strands of long hair behind his ear, modeling another pair of earrings.

Twilight gives a whistle and nods his head. He has to hand it to Legend. The guy really does have an eye for this stuff.

The piece that Wild wears is elegant but not overly showy. The part that actually sits in the teen’s ear– the stud, a voice that sounds suspiciously like Iliya’s reminds– is a simple ball of silver. However, thin lines of ivy seem to grow from the ball, drawing icy swirls of vines and leaves from the teen’s lobe to the outer parts of his ear.

“Looks nice, Cub,” Twilight says, earning a glittering smile from the champion.

“Much nicer than those monstrosities from earlier,” Legend agrees, his face screwing up as if he were chewing on a lemon at even the thought of the horrendous hoops.

Wild sticks his tongue out at the comment and then quickly pulls his slate from his belt to pay for the earrings. Then, they set out to find Sky among the crowd of tourists. 

The chosen hero is easy enough to spot, his distinctive white sailcloth-cape distinguishable even in the fading light of the sunset.

However, apparently, while he is easy to spot, he is very difficult to please. At least when it comes to getting a gift for his girlfriend.

By the time the three of them make their way back toward where the Skyloftian is examining bracelets, the young man has worked himself into a tizzy, clutching multiple pieces of jewelry in both hands, looking back and forth and back and forth.

It takes a while, but Legend is eventually able to talk the chosen hero down, and helps Sky to select a simple metal charm–a stylized sun with thin rays of light radiating off it–to go along with the pink, red, blue and purple beads Sky had been carefully whittling and dying over the last few weeks. 

With their main task done, the group of four simply browses through the stands as they wait for Four to get his fill of questions.

From where Twilight can see, Four and Luda are still chatting away six stalls down, the teen examining a large looking, metal hammer with interest. He points at some part of it, first talking to the girl next to him and then shifting to ask something of the vendor. 

The two listen with rapt attention as the Goron responds and then Luda points to another part of the hammer– the side of the hammer’s face– her head shifting to the right as she clarifies. Both Four and the vendor nod at her, the small smithy smiling brightly as he adds something else that has Luda nodding right back.

The two continue to chat with the Goron, eyes equally bright, soaking in the knowledge. 

Twilight smiles at the sight. 

Next to him, Wild holds up a garish gold necklace, odd metal spikes hanging from a central, gold plated eye. Legend scowls at it and Sky merely laughs, pretending to take interest, if only to rile the veteran hero up further.

In front of him, Twilight watches as the sun finally, finally takes its rest, sinking below the cliffs of the canyon in one last swipe of a red and orange paintbrush. As the laughs and jeers around him increase, Wild now pushing a diadem into Legend’s hair, the navy blue of dusk finally settles like a blanket above them, heralding the night.

All is calm. 

That should have been his first hint.

The second at least had the courtesy of being more obvious. 

A faint tinkling starts from the table next to them, dragging Twilight’s attention away from the skyline. 

Two rings clink together. Three rings clink together. All the rings clink together.

The farmhand’s whole world narrows down to the table, the sound of Wild’s laughing, Legend’s snarls, Sky’s weak attempts to play neutral all falling away as he stares as the silver and gold pieces shift against one another on the table.

Twilight watches as the rings shift and then jump in time, moving on their own. 

No… not moving on their own!–

What started as an imperceptible tremble under his toes grows, the ground beneath his feet  rumbling and quaking, forcing the farmhand to brace his legs beneath himself to stay standing.

The earrings, necklaces, bracelets, tools, swords, everything begins to clink together. Then they do more than clink, jumping in chaotic waves, clanging so loudly it rings in Twilight’s ears, a picaxe to the brain.

The sound of a horn, no five, no seven, blasts from the end of the canyon in a hellish chorus, the low notes sending the earthquake up into Twilight's stomach, setting off an avalanche of ice into his blood. The anxiety in his guts cracks open like a fissure, fear spilling out.

Beside him, Sky loses his footing, falling forward. Twilight doesn't even let him touch the ground, razor sharp instincts allowing him to catch the young man’s sailcloth turned cape and haul the chosen hero behind himself. 

With a strong step forward, Twilight throws his arms open, shielding the three other heroes behind himself just as the wave of Bulbos turn the corner, screaming into the village.

Around them, cries– Hylian, Goron– rise into the air as the beasts charge.

Everything is chaos. Bulbos squeal and grunt and shout in time with cries of fear as the beasts careen into the crowd and through the stalls. Broken wood, precious jewels, fire; it all flies through the air as bodies shove into Twilight from all sides, the crowd moving as one, dragging them downstream.

Behind him, Twilight feels hands grab into his tunic, into his pelt like a lifeline. He reaches back, catching what feels like Sky’s sailcloth between his fingers and holds on with all the strength and desperation he can manage.

A snap and an errant shard of wood comes careening from the darkness, slamming into the side of Twilight’s head, but he hardly notices. He’s too preoccupied with keeping his hands on his boys as he's pulled forward by the current of people, making sure they aren’t pulled away by the flood or Hylia forbid, fall to the ground to be trampled.

Oh Hylia Twilight thinks, the ice in his veins turning sharp and pointed, stabbing into his lungs as fear takes his breath away.

Where's Luda?! Where’s Four?!

Twilight lifts his head, trying for a better vantage point, but is given an elbow to the eye and a shove from the side for his troubles, sending him reeling but not down. Hylia, he can not go down and drag the others down with him.

More screams rise into the air as a lantern smashes into a stall setting the whole thing ablaze, scattering embers and hot oil like pollen from a poppy.

Immediately the crowd moves, shifts, dives away from the danger, a school of fish moving on instinct in the dark. 

Twilight is powerless to stop it, dragged to the left of the street by the horde. Someone falls next to the pelt wearing hero, landing bodily into his side, wrenching his left arm back. The cloth connecting him to his brothers threatens to be pulled from his hand but Twilight holds on all the harder, digging his nails into the fabric.

Another shove and out of the side of his eye, Twilight catches how the light of the fire glints in shades of oil spill orange and green off the side of oxidized and rumbled sheet metal in the shape of a tall building. 

Barnes Bombs.

Somewhere he recognises. Somewhere the crowd is swimming away from in their haste to make it to the hotels. 

A shoreline in a storm.

Twilight locks his knees against the onslaught of people and feels a body slam into his back. The sailcloth goes slack in his hand. Sky, most likely then. 

Looping the fabric around his wrist for security, Twilight ducks his head and begins to ram his way to the sides of the crowd, earning him errant punches and elbows and kicks from all directions but he keeps moving. By Hylia, he keeps moving. Keeps moving forward. 

With a final push, Twilight breeches the mass of bodies and throws himself flush against the side of Barnes’ shop, the metal uncomfortable against his back as he all but drags Sky and the others to his side.

At a glance, they seem to be battered and rattled but overall fine. Sky seems the least injured, though his wide, aquamarine eyes catch in the fire, big  and frantic and overwhelmed. Behind him, Legend sports a few rips to his tunic and a rapidly purpling chin, his own eyes flashing back and forth over the crowd, searching. Blood gushes from WIid’s nose and drips off his jaw though the teen hardly acknowledges it as he catches sight of Twilight, face contorted in concern.

Twilight doesn't feel his own cuts and bruises, the nick on his forehead from the wooden plank or ache in his arm or the pain in his ribs. His blood is too warm with adrenaline to feel any pain, too cold with fear to care if he did.

They all lock eyes and in the next moment,  they draw their weapons, Twilight and Sky going for their swords while Wild pulls a massive, stone bludgeon from his slate. Legend’s hands wrap around the Ice Rod he had been using earlier, ready to drop tons of ice on their adversaries.

And yet, as soon as they ready themselves, the sound of pounding hooves and shattering wood and screams the new, earth shattering normal, it all flies away, the ground slowly coming to a halt beneath Twilight’s feet.

In a flash, the riders are gone, dark shadows moving away like ghosts into the night, leaving only swirling dust clouds and destruction behind them as proof of their existence. 

In a matter of seconds, the street is clear of most people, only glittering metal, ravaged stalls, and the injured left in the dusty road.

Immediately, Twilight’s eyes are scanning the dirt, looking for a small childlike figure amongst the rubble. He searches for that distinctive quadripartite tunic, those locks of golden hair in the lantern light. Anything. 

Every passing second that the farmhand sees neither hide nor hair of the small smithy, his heart ratchets up three notches in his chest, his breaths coming out ragged and panting.

Twilight doesn't know what he dreads more in that moment:the boy staying missing, or finding him.

The sound of creaking wood sends Twilight’s head whipping up from his frantic search.

Across the street, a pile of debris shifts, revealing the yellowed, rocky skin of a hunched up Goron slowly uncurling.

The sentient rock straightens, coming to his feet first and then slowly uncurling the rest of the way, wood and dust falling away from his back as he uncrosses his arms from around where he had been curled.

And as he stands up, Twilight watches with fascination as two figures are slowly revealed to the firelight, both with similar bob haircuts but in opposite colors; one sable, one golden. Slowly, the two disoriented figures stand from their huddled position,  looking dazed and rattled but none the worse for wear.

Four and Luda. Safe.

Twilight must make some kind of choked off cough, because suddenly both teens are looking at him. Something like pained relief slams over Four's face and the teen stumbles forward over the shattered planks of wood toward the farmhand, Luda following close behind.

Something in Twilight settles at the sight of of the two, safe and s–

Thunder. 

Pure, deep, rolling thunder shatters the delicate calm, ripping apart the second long reprieve

The thunder rises, the note going from a grumbling, vibration of the air to a triumphant war call, rattling through Twilight’s body, that sick sense of deja vu clawing at the back of his brain as his eyes are all but forced from the teens back toward the entrance of the village. 

There, standing in the pale light of the rising moon in front of the steaming water of the Spirit Spring, is Lord Bullbo, his distinctive gray hair, massive tusks, and glowing red eyes visible even from the other side of town.

Astride the hulking beast’s back is a green skinned figure, too large to be a regular Bulblin but too small to be the King, large, painted horns hooked and dangerous, gleaming red eyes flashing in the firelight.

The too large Bulblin’s glowing eyes lock onto Twilight and then flash to the teens, a snaggle-toothed sneer pulling at his lips as the man?–monster catches sight of the would-be reunion. 

And then the Bulblin flicks the reins and Lord Bullbo rears back with an ear splitting squeal, legs heaving the gargantuan body as fast a runaway carriage down the dirt street.

Twilight’s body is moving before the farmhand even registers it, sprinting forward, arms outstretched. Beside him, Sky, and Wild match him step for step. Legend does one better, the wings on his boots fluttering up a storm as the pink haired hero sprints like the winds, pulling in front of the farmhand, reaching forward

Across from the heroes, the Goron dives, making a grab for the teens, trying to pull them from harm's way once more.

Above them, the Bulblin looms, two pairs of blood moon eyes locked onto the youths caught in the middle of it all.

And Four and Luda…

Well, they run.

They run, dust kicked up in swirls by their feet.

They run, twin expressions of fear blowing their eyes wide.

They run, Luda pulling ahead, her longer strides allowing her to cover more distance.

They run, but as the shadow of the charging beast descends over them, faster than the Goron can dive, faster than Legend can sprint, Twilight knows with a flash of clarity that neither of them is going to make it in time.

Twilight knows they’re not going to make it, and he can see the moment that Four knows it too. 

Can see it in the way the smithy’s eyes harden into flinty, multicolored gems. Can see it as he plants his feet, presses both hands into Luda’s back and with a full body movement, shoves her forward into Legend’s arms.

Twilight watches as, alone, the tiny hero turns to meet his fate head on.

And then, in the next second, Twilight can no longer see Four, the teen ripped away by the fabric of his hood, up into the arms of the Prince Bulblin in a flash of silvery boar hide and a snorting laugh. 

In the matter of milliseconds, the gray beast has made it to the end of the canyon, the end of the town and the bastard Bulblin pulls on the warthog’s reigns, pulling the spitting bullbo until the creature rears back on its back hooves, screaming in fury.

The Prince Bulblin raises his prize and...

And Hylia, for the splitest of seconds, Twilight sees Colin in the monster’s hands.

He sees Colin, sweet, intelligent, brave Colin, unconscious in the arms of King Bulblin, held aloft in the noonday sun, a war trophy to spur Twilight into action. To spur Twilight to fight.

But then that moment ends. 

It is night once more, the moon glinting off Lord Bullbo and illuminating the not-King Bulbin as he struggles to contain his captive even as he raises the teen skyward.

Because Four is not Colin.

Because unlike Colin–brave despite himself but still a child at heart– Four does not faint in the arms of the Bulblin.

No.

Four hisses and spits like a feral fox, punching, kicking, clawing at every piece of green skin he can reach. The smithy rages in the Bulblin’s grip, thrashing wildly, nearly sending the rider from his saddle as he swings precariously in the monster’s hold.

Twilight dares to hope the Bulblin will lose his grip.

He doesn't.

Instead, he adjusts his grasp in the green fabric of the hood while his other hand releases its hold on the reins long enough to grab a massive wooden club from the back of the saddle. The Bulblin raises it above his head, looks straight at Twilight, and then, with a vengeful, poison filled smile, brings it down savagely.

Once, twice, three times.

Only then does Four still, finally going limp like Colin did.

And only then does the not-King Bulblin lift the smithy with a scream of triumph, the moon and the fires illuminating both monster and hero in the glow of destruction, red eyes bright in brutal glee as the green of Four’s headband turns black, drenched in blood.

A twang sounds from behind Twilight, an arrow sailing through the air only to glance off the side of the not-King’s armor harmlessly. The Bulblin smiles cruelly as squealing, terrible chuckles rip up from his throat at the failed attempt to save their friend. 

Then, with a jolt of the reins, the Bulblin crashes away into the night with Four tucked under his arm like a sack of potatoes.

For a second, it is quiet, the only sound breaking the silence the crackling of the fires quickly consuming the destroyed stands.

In the next moment,Twilight begins furiously turning out his pockets,desperate to feel the smooth wood of that two belled flute, where is it, where the hell did he

“Twi,” Wild says, voice urgent and rough with worry, as he, Sky, Legend, and the shaking Luda jog over to the farmhand’s side, matching expressions of concern and frightened anger on their faces.  “Twi, what are you doing? We have to–

There!

Twilight yanks Iliya’s Charm free from his back pocket, quickly presses the mouthpiece to his lips and blasts three descending notes twice.

Almost immediately, there is an answering whinney and the distant but quickly approaching gallop of hooves. In less than a minute, Epona stands by his side, muscles twitching and hooves pawing restlessly at the dirt, in tune with her master’s clawing anxiety, his need to run, his need to run now.

With sure movements, Twilight swings himself onto her back, heels ready to tap Epona into movement, hands already at the reigns ready to snap–

“Twi.”

Twilight’s legs freeze in place, his hands hovering, holding the worn leather of the reins in a death grip.

He wrenches his eyes from the dirt path in front of him, looking down.

Twilight looks at them and Wild stares back with imploring eyes, hand on Epona’s side as blood drips from his nose. His face is hard as stone, determined. Beside the champion, Legend glares up at Twilight, daring the other hero to tell them to leave. The veteran’s electric blue eyes are bright with fire, inside and out, guilt, concern, and anger taking turns pulling at his face. Behind the two, Sky nods his head as he sets his jaw, ready for anything.

Twilight looks at them, and even though anxiety and fear and a howling, clawing anger boil in his guts, he feel totally and utterly proud and totally and utterly stupid.

Because of course they want to help. Of course they need to help.

And of course he’s not alone. Not anymore.

He doesn't have to try to save Colin Four on his own. He doesn't have to be a one man army riding out into the sunset headless of his own safety.

Because, no matter how much it pains him to see them hurt, or how much it kills him that they’re in danger, he can’t protect them from everything. What literally just happened proved that without a shadow of a doubt.

He can’t protect them. Can't lock them away under his watchful eyes forever. Can’t force them to abandon who they are just to satisfy his own conscience. 

He can’t protect them from the darkness.

But he can help them fight it. 

And by Hylia, they can help him fight it too.

So, these thoughts singing in Twilight’s head, the pelt wearing hero scoots forward in the saddle and offers a hand down to his fellow heroes.

Legend immediately steps forward to take it, but pauses.

“Got an extra bow in that thing?” Legend asks gruffly, flicking steely eyes at Wild.

The champion nods, and with a click, a wooden bow with metal reinforcements glows into life. The veteran hero takes it and the proffered quiver full of arrows and then grabs Twilight’s hand, seating himself snuggly against the farmhand’s back.

In a flash of ethereal light, more ribbons of effervescent aqua condense from nothing, weaving together, forming… something.

It looks like a Guardian, segmented and criss crossed with veins of orange and aqua light. However, instead of the vase shaped, octopus designs of those Sheika monstrosities, this machine is sleek, two wheeled and fashioned in the style of a horse, saddle and equine head and all.

It is big enough for only one rider.

Wild quickly mounts up on the device like it's the most natural thing in the world, feet sliding into the metal stirrups and hands going straight for the handlebars that stick from the neck of the mechanical horse. He gives the nobs there a twist with his wrists until the device gives a kick, a grumbled humming sounding from the thing.

With a final click of his slate, a vicious looking, serrated triplicate boomerang materializes in the champion’s hand, steel glinting dangerously in the moonlight..

With a soft cough, Sky steps forward until he stands next to Epona’s side gazing up at Twilight. He unsheathes the Master Sword, glances over the sacred blade for only a second, before he offers the purple and green pommel to Twilight.

“We’ll switch,” he says, nodding to Twilight’s Ordonian sword. “She wants to go with you.”

Twilight takes the blade, his callouses sliding against the smooth pommel, the grip fitting perfectly in his hand like it was made for him. He supposes he knows now that it was but that doesn't tarnish the feeling holding the sword gives to him.

He slides it into the sheath on his back, nodding his head in thanks to the Skyloftian.

Sky nods in reply, takingTwilight’s sword. It is an uneven trade, but one the chosen hero seems happy enough to make.

“I’ll get the others,” Sky says, serious.  “We’ll be there soon.”

With that, the chosen hero takes off down the street toward the Elde Inn, his thick, labored breaths showing no sign of slowing the Skyloftian down.

Which just leaves...

“Bring him back,” Luda says, eyes big as she stares up at Twilight. Her voice, however, is steady and hard. An order. “Bring him back just like Colin.”

Twilight nods, a silent oath. 

The girl accepts it, stepping back from Epona’s side with a final pet to the horse’s twitching flank before she too turns away and runs back toward her house, no doubt to get her father to help the injured.

Everything settled, Twilight sets his eyes on the moonlit, dirt road ahead of them. Legend shifts behind him, readying his bow. Beside Epona, Wild revs his machine, the wheels spinning, sending up clouds of dust.

“Let go get our smithy back,” Twilight says, voice all fangs.

Then, with a snap of the reigns, Epona bursts into motion, her powerful legs galloping them further into the canyon, further into the dark.



Chapter Text

Pounding.

The pounding of hooves on tightly packed dirt and stones. The pounding as the weight of two bodies jostle in a leather saddle, as the muscles of the horse below coil and release, slingshotting them forward through the dark. 

The pounding of blood in his ears. The pounding of his heart in his chest. 

Pounding.

They are pounding through the canyon, the oranges and blues of Wild’s divine device casting lights and dancing shadows against the walls of the rock face as they ride. As they race to find their friend

Behind him, Twilight feels as Legend adjusts his hold on his pelt, the other’s breath heavy and fast against his neck, anger and anticipation making the veteran twitchy in his seat. Below, Wild’s face is set in steel, the lights of his machine illuminating his features in licks of blue and orange fire.

Twilight doesn't need a mirror to know what his own face looks like. He knows he must look absolutely incensed, his eyes flashing like a beast’s in the dark, lips peeled back in a snarl. 

He finds he doesn't care. Doesn't care if he is letting the wolf a little too close to the surface. Doesn't care if his eyes are glinting unnaturally in the light of the moon. Doesn't care that his teeth itch in his mouth, begging to sink into something and rend

He. Doesn't. Care. 

There is hell to pay for messing with his family. And he intends to collect.

With a flick of his wrists and a growling encouragement, Epona somehow picks up her pace from the dead sprint she was racing through before, her hooves now flying over the dirt as they finally burst from the canyon like Keese out of hell.

In front of them lay the expanse of East Hyrule field, illuminated in the light of the full moon. 

High visibility tonight, Twilight notes distantly as the rolling hills, ponds, and small, crumbling sections of cobblestone wall come into view, shining with little icecaps of moonlit highlights.

Good, he thinks vindictively. It makes finding their prey all the easier. 

Though, as the farmhand pulls on Epona’s reins, her pounding hooves and the humming whir of Wild’s machine slowing to a stop before they can enter the field proper, he hesitates to call the raiding party prey at all. 

They are, after all, waiting for the heroes to arrive. 

Though it had taken mere minutes for them to mount up and race out in pursuit of the marauders, it had apparently given the Bulblins ample time to prepare themselves.

Enough time to add another Bullbo with two riders to their raiding party, the archer already prepped, fire arrow lit and pointed at the heroes. Enough time for the lot of them to organize themselves for battle, arranged with their leader in the middle, flanked by four minions on each side. Enough time for their bastard of a leader to don a helm eerily reminiscent of King Bulblin’s, its roughly-hewn metal gleaming like a star in the night.

“Shit, Smithy…” Legend breathes against Twilight’s neck, voice a whisper but words heavy. They are full of wrath and dripping with a sort of guilty, yet boiling anger. The veteran’s eyes are no doubt drawn up up up, cemented to the spectacle their enemy has made of their friend, their brother, just like Twilight’s own.

Because those few minutes of preparation, of damned inaction on Twilight's part, had given the bastard enough time to string the smithy up to a massive pike sticking up from the end of his saddle.

Because there, hanging ten feet above their enemies and the beasts they ride, is Four.

A war trophy, limp and broken.

It makes Twilight feel sick, his head reeling, his stomach flipping, his heart dropping. He can taste bile in his mouth, acidic and so terribly, terribly familiar. 

Familiar, like the sight of a blond head flopped forward, unmoving against a chest restrained by coil after coil of rope. Familiar like the streak of red ribbon tied to the top of the pike, waving tauntingly in the wind.  

It is all so, so terribly familiar. So familiar that Twilight can feel the sun on his back even in the dead of night. Can see King Bulblin in the saddle, even when he is not there. Can feel the same growling, howling anger he had then.

However, the worst parts of the tableau, the parts that slam the farmhand back into the present moment– night, full moon overhead, Legend straining against his back, Wild growling under his breath–are the things that are different, stark in contrast to his memories.

Because unlike so many years ago, it is night right now. 

It is night and Four looks so horribly pale, the moonlight turning his already ashen face practically translucent. And the teen’s ghostly complexion only serves to highlight the next horrible difference: the blood.

Colin did not fight back against his captor, the Ordonian boy falling limp after his act of bravery. No violence was necessary to make him the perfect hostage.

Four was not the perfect hostage.

The testament to that slowly cascades down from the smithy’s hairline in thick, scarlet lines. Half of the smithy’s face is painted with the gruesome crimson, several drops of red slicing lower, over Four’s cheeks and down his jaw, dripping onto his restraints.

The only thing staunching the rivulets of blood is the boy’s headband. Though not in a way that is of any help, Twilight thinks as anger once again takes hold of him, burning a frantic blaze through his blood.

Because the strip of green ribbon is no longer tied against Four’s forehead. Instead, his signature accessory has been dragged down lower, knotted tight over the boy’s eyes, further blinding the already unconscious teen. 

It’s unnecessary.

It’s cruel. 

It makes Twilight want to fly from his saddle, claws extended, teeth bared.

With a horribly conspicuous cough, the leader of the Bulblins drags Twilight’s attention back down from the sight of their friend. He smiles when he sees the pelt wearing hero's eyes on him, grin all vitriol and yellowed teeth. The bastard flips up the visor of his helmet, pupiless red eyes coming back into view, bright with sick vindication as he takes in the outraged expressions on their faces.

Twilight glares back into their depths with as much hatred as he can muster, steel-gray stabbing into red, a sword versus fire. 

The leader leans back in his saddle and laughs at the expression, his squealing snorts soon joined by his flunkies, a round of pig-like laughs erupting into the night. 

“Thank you for following,” the beastly man says, once his cruel laughs have subsided, the words oddly shaped and spat out of the hismouth. Like they don't quite fit right on his tongue. “This makes things much easier.”

“If you wanted a fight,” Twilight replies, words all teeth, fangs, a growl, “all you had to do was ask. You didn't need to attack the town. You didn’t need to drag anyone else into this.”

Green lips peel back into an even broader grin as the Bulblin’s brow ridges raise in amusement. With a swift movement, the leader leans back farther in his seat and delivers a kick to the wooden pole on the end of his saddle, sending Four’s head flopping limply, more blood dropping down, decorating the ropes in rubies.

And to Twilight’s absolute horror, Four’s head lifts from his chest.

His head lifts and though his eyes are shrouded, Twilight can see the pained confusion easily on the boy’s face. Can see how his brows are pulled low, almost brushing the blood blackened fabric of his headband turned blindfold. Can see how the smithy’s mouth opens and closes but no words escape, like he doesn't quite know how to get his vocal cords to work. Can see how his head shifts slowly back and forth, left and right, searching endlessly in the dark.

And with a sickening jolt, Twilight realises that for the first time, Four is easy to read. 

He is easy to read and Twilight can see clear as day that the smithy is hurt and confused and scared. 

“W-where…?” tumbles weak and slurred from the teen’s lips. “I- we –ed-Vi-?...W–are?”

“Four!” Twilight shouts, the nickname bursting unbidden from his throat as he strains forward in his saddle. He needs to tell the kid that he’s not alone in the dark. That the farmhand, that someone is there.

“-our?” The smithy mumbles in confusion. And then, with a little bit more clarity than before, as he angles his blind eyes in the direction of the farmhand’s voice, “Twi?”

Before Twilight can respond that yes, he’s here! He’s here! The Bulblin slams another kick into the pike, the blow jolting through Four’s body, rattling the teen’s head back and forth quickly. Too quickly for someone with as devastating a head injury as the small hero has clearly sustained.

With a startled groan of pain and twisted grimace, the teen falls limp in his restraints once more, chin coming back to rest on his chest.

For a second, Twilight feels almost numb, the concern for his friend, his little brother , so all consuming he can feel nothing else as he stares at the now unmoving teen.

And in the next moment, the concern that was bubbling up from within the farmhand’s chest flares into rage, hot like lava, filling his stomach and lungs and veins with heat. Again, the pelted hero becomes acutely aware of the teeth in his mouth and how they tingle with the need to sink into something and rip .

Preferably, that something being the bastard’s throat.

The leader of the Bulblins has the audacity to smile at Twilight’s rage, spreading his arms wide, as though his point has been proven

“I needed assurance that you would come,” he says, voice airy with sick glee. “And I needed you at your most angry, your most powerful,” the Bulblin replies with a shrug and an unrepentant sneer. “I think this will do nicely.”

He sends another kick into the pike and Twilight almost snarls as Four lets out a soft groan of distress in his unconsciousness. Behind him, he feels Legend’s muscles tighten, a cord ready to snap. Below, Wild’s fingers twitch on his boomerang.

“I want to defeat you when you are at your best.” The Bulblin says. And then, he directs his eyes purposefully over Twilight’s shoulder and then down toward Wild, smile sharpening into a dagger. “That you brought allies will make this all the more sweet.”

“But why?” Twilight asks, the words erupting from him, anger and confusion and protective instinct searing at the back of his throat. “Why are you doing this? I thought we had an agreement with King Bul–”

“King Bulblin is dead!” The leader howls, jolting forward, lungs heaving in rage as that damned smile is finally whipped from his face. Scarlet eyes glare balefully at Twilight, glowing with hate in the night.

“King Bulblin is dead,” the Bulblin repeats, slowly composing himself once more. 

“Long live King Bulblin,” he finishes, slamming a gauntleted fist into the armor of his chest.

At the monstrous man’s gesture, the Bulblins flanking him immediately raise their arms and their voices, warbling screeches flying up into the night air. 

And as their calls caterwaul higher and higher, an odd mixture of a war call and scream of triumph Twilight realises that the armor… the armor that the leader is wearing is familiar. 

He's seen that armor before. Many times before. He has seen that armor in his memories; seen it at the height of day, white with noonday sun. He's seen it at sunset, burning orange with the dying sky. He's seen it at night, in the dark of an enclosed room, a trap. 

The armor this bastard wears looks different on his smaller body, the panels not quite pulled taught, not as filled out, but it is undoubtedly the same armor. 

This Bulblin, this Prince Bulblin, is wearing the King’s armor.

“I don't understand,” Twilight replies, having to shout over the caterwauls. “What happened to the old King Bulblin?”

The leader– Prince Bulblin– turns his head cocking it to one side in mock thought. After a moment, he bares his crooked, yellowing teeth in the facsimile of a grin.

“A shade came to the desert,” he says simply. 

The words send off alarm bells in Twilight's head. Legend shifts in the saddle. Wild’s twitching fingers halt in shock.

“It is not common to find darkness in the heat of the sun and yet,” the Bulblin continues, his grin growing as he takes in the unsettled nature of the heroes before him. “It persisted.”

“It was strong,” Prince Bulblin says with a definitive nod. “It was strong, and it offered some of its power to King Bulblin.”

His sneer goes from mocking to venomous in seconds.

“King Bulblin refused.”

The Prince slams his fist into his chest again, the metal clunking heavily under the weight of the blow.

“We have one law. We answer to the strongest under the light of the sun, the most powerful under the shade of the moon. King Bulblin broke this law.”

“He was weak,” the leader spits, no remorse in the venom of his words. “The shade disposed of him. Gave me power. Gave us power.”

Suddenly, Prince Bulblin whips around and pulls something from a side saddlebag. 

A knife, Twilight realizes as the short blade glints in the moonlight.

At the sight of the weapon, Twilight tenses in his seat, hand flying to the hilt of the Master Sword. Beside him, Legend leans to the left, tilting just far enough in the saddle to give himself a clean shot from around Twilight’s body. Wild, meanwhile, raises his arm, poised to let his boomerang fly. 

Across from the heroes, eight archers draw into ready position, flame arrows only restrained when the Prince lifts a hand to still them.

Everything is silent for a moment, only the sound of a faint breeze heard as the two groups stare each other down. 

The quiet is broken as the Prince lets out a chuckle.

At their leader’s signal, the archers let their bodies lose their tension, though Twilight notes that none of them move to set their bows aside, arrows still primed. Ready to shoot at a moment’s notice.

With slow, deliberate, almost performative motions, Prince Bulblin brings the knife up and lays it against the hand he had been using to direct his lackies. And then slowly, reverently, he drags it across the skin of his palm. 

Black ichor bubbles to the surface along the line of the cut, a void that even the light of the moon cannot brighten.

“King Bulblin is dead,” he says again, placing his bleeding hand on the chest plate of his armor. When he pulls his palm away from the metal, a black handprint stands out in stark relief against the gleaming metal.

“Long live King Bulblin!” his companions screech, once again descending into rancorous cheers.

“Can we please just kill him and get Four back already?” Wild whispers angrily, voice almost lost amongst the ruckus. 

Part of Twilight– the part that wants to run ahead, to shred and rip and tear apart anything that stands between him and Four– begs to agree. Another part– one that can see how outnumbered they are, that can see the amount of bows trained on them, a part that sounds suspiciously like the Old Man, damn him – knows they need to stall. 

They need information. 

They need a plan.

Most importantly, they need backup if they’re going to rescue Four safely.

“Got anything for those arrows?” Twilight hisses over his shoulder, keeping his eyes locked on the mob before them.

“You even need to ask?” the veteran whispers back, words sassy but voice deadly serious. “Buy me a minute.”

Twilight nods as subtly as possible and nudges his heel lightly into Epona’s side. In response, she carefully maneuvers to the right. Her movements are jerky and meandering, akin to a horse spooked by the noise of their enemies, drifting out of position as her inexperienced rider fails to notice. 

But she is not meandering aimlessly. And Twilight is not an inexperienced rider. 

No. They are in sync.

But Prince Bulblin doesnt know this.

Next to him, Wild follows his lead, no words needing to be exchanged between the two as the scarred teen angles the head of his machine in the same direction Epona moves. Behind him, Legend hunkers down more fully into Twilight’s spine, playing the scared companion while he subtly rummages through his bottomless pack.

“Did the shade put you up to this?” Twilight calls to their adversaries as their screams fade back into nothing, bringing red eyes back on him. 

“No,” Prince Bulblin replies, too full of himself and his tirade to notice the movements of the heroes. “The shade is gone. I do this for none but myself.”

With practiced motions, the Prince seats himself more properly in his saddle, one hand coming back to the reins while the other takes hold of his weapon. 

It’s the same club he used to bludgeon Four. 

Blood, red and crusty, still paints the side of the wood and bone. 

“King Bulblin was too weak for the shade,” he snorts derisively, raising his club to the moon. Around him, his fellow Bulblins raise their bows. 

Twilight shifts in his saddle, raising himself slightly in the seat, ready to push Epona into a sprint. Legend presses in closer to his back, a weapon– not his bow but some kind of rod Twilight has never seen before– peaking from where the Veteran has it hidden in his tunic. Wild tenses on his bike one hand on the handle bars, arm poised to throw his weapon.

“He was too weak to kill you,” Prince Bulblin says simply. And then, with a smile, eyes wide and bottomless: “I will prove I am stronger than he ever was.”

Prince Bulblin lets his club fall and the field explodes into motion.

A rain of arrows, flaming and otherwise, sings through the air. Epona bursts into motion at the snap of leather reins, sprinting to the right of the firing squad. Wild’s machine growls to life, the front wheel coming off the ground as the device kicks into motion, the curved metal of his weapon glinting in the moonlight as it flies.

And as all this happens, a cacophony of noise and movement, illuminated in shades of white and grey, Legend jolts up in the saddle, one hand caught in Twilight’s pelt for balance as he raises a twin headed, dual propeller rod toward the onslaught and–

Twilight is damn near slammed into Epona’s neck, Legend’s weight adding to the problem as the pink haired hero is flattened against the farmhand’s spine by the force of the wind.

Behind them, the howl of the cyclone drowns out everything, the gale screaming across the field, blasting into their enemies as Twilight and Wild ride forward, away from the imminent danger with the wind at their backs.

Another beat and the wind finally lets up, the heavy chop chop chop of the propellers dying to a whisper as Legend eases off of Twilight’s back and slumps back into the saddle with a disbelieving little laugh.

Next to them,Twilight sees Wild look over his shoulder out of the corner of his eyes, catching the way the champion's face splits into a vicious grin as the teen lets out a whoop of victory.

Twilight risks a look back as well and, despite himself, feels a laugh punch up from his lungs at the sight laying behind them. 

Because where there was once a line of enemies, organized, positioned perfectly, and poised to kill, there is now total and absolute chaos.

A massive dust cloud kicked up by the gale force winds swirls and eddies in shades of black, brown, and grey as pained and confused shouts break through the air. 

Bullbos dart in and out of the mini dust storm, their riders desperately hanging from their saddles, trying to claw themselves back into their seats. Some are successful, pulling their squealing beasts into submission with massive yanks of the reigns. Others are less fortunate, bucked completely, disappearing back into the dust, or in some cases, under sharp, pounding hooves.

Dragging his eyes from the sight of their disorganized enemies, Twilight guides Epona into a turn, hopping over one of the short, shattered cobblestone walls before wheeling back around toward the now lawless riders. He urges Epona faster.

Disorganized and distracted. The perfect time to strike-

Thunder. 

The sound of that terrible, familiar, damned rolling thunder has Twilight pulling up short, sending  his brain, his eyes back to sunsets and warmth and water, water in his nose water in his lungs dark dark dark. He drags Epona to a whinnying stop, Wild slowing to a halt next to him as that low, resonant note breaks through the night, deep and all encompassing. 

So all encompassing that the confused screams and shouts and squeals are consumed by it, cut off, drowned out by the sheer power of the horn. 

Behind the veil of brown, the shadows of bodies, massive, hulking and small, wirey, all stop moving. 

And then the dust, quite literally, settles. 

The dust settles, and despite the apparent chaos of earlier, only a few Bulblins have been reduced to smoke. The dust settles, and Twilight can see the remaining marauders scrambling to their mounts, readying clubs and bows as they swing themselves into their saddles.

The dust settles, revealing an unscathed Prince Bulblin, ivory horn pressed to his lips, eyes burning red and hateful.

“Fuck,” Legend says, voice flat, an odd mix of awed distress and resignation.

In the next second, Prince Bulblin slams the reins down on Lord Bullbo’s back and the beast kicks into motion, rearing back on its hind legs. The movement sends Four’s swinging in the air, a pendulum in the night sky that Twilight can't help but wince at, thinking of the boy's head injury. 

And then the beast dives forward pounding toward them at a break-neck pace, a silver arrow in the night. A massive silver arrow with gleaming white tusks and with seven slightly smaller brown arrows racing after it. 

So yeah , Twilight thinks distantly as he urges Epona into a run, the pounding of hooves behind them grumbling louder and louder even as she sprints, fuck just about sums it up

A flash of aqua and tangerine and Wild wheels up next to Epona’s coiling and releasing muscles, the sleek machine humming away as it keeps time with the horse.

“What now?!” Wild shouts over the roar of rushing air and the slam of hooves.

“We need to split up the mob!” Twilight shouts back, leaning against his girl’s neck and practically willing her to speed up. “If they surround us we’re sitting ducks!”

“Oh yeah?” Legend snorts meanly, shuffling  through his bag to pull out his bow again. “And how exactly do you plan on getting them to do that? If you forgot, they kinda want to skin you alive.

“If it's any consolation, they want to skin you alive by association,” Twilight bites back, painfully aware that the sound of their pursuers is getting even closer, if the snorts and war cries are any indication.

Behind him, Legend shifts around in the saddle, no doubt lining up a shot. His entire body is tense along Twilight’s back as he pulls the string of his bow taut.

“Gee thanks, what a comforting thou–”

Legend cuts himself off with a shout of pain right as something–an arrow– wizzes past Twilight’s ear.

“Shit, Vet, are you alright?” Twilight shouts, desperately wanting to turn, to check, to comfort. Instead, he keeps his eyes glued on the field in front of them, pulling Epona into quick back and forth motions, serpentine, to make sure the pink haired hero isn't hit again.

“I’m fine,” the other grits out from between clenched teeth. “They got my calf. Nothing I can’t handle.”

Another heartbeat, and more arrows sing past them, some missing by miles, others by inches at best.

Legend answers their shots with his own, a quick flurry of twang twang twang thrumming in quick succession. Although, based on the lack of screams, Twilight guesses that the same zig-zag that is keeping them from getting hit again is also impeding the Veterans aim.

Beside them, Wild glides back and forth on his machine, dodging volleys of arrows like he was born to do so. With the flick of the wrist, his machine swings right once more and with his open hand the Champion reaches for his slate and…

“No bombs, Cub!” Twilight all but screams, starling the teen beside him. Scarred fingers fly from the slate slam and back up to the handle bars, steadying the device as wide blue eyes flash to the farmhand questioningly.

“We can’t risk the big one going down!” Twilight shouts by way of explanation. 

Even without tearing his eyes from the field in front of them, the farmhand can see the moment  the realization dawns on Wild.

Because yes, while they want to get rid of Prince Bulblin and his lackeys, there is another obstacle in their way.

That obstacle being a small teen whose entire body is being jolted by the motions of the chase, the back and forth slamming probably worsening his already terrible condition.

Because if Lord Bullbo were to fall wrong… Four would be the one to pay for it. Probably with his life. 

“Fuck,” Legend hisses again, the curse somehow coming out more vehiment this time. 

“Then what should we–!”

Another scream of pain, this one yanked from Wild’s throat. 

Twilight’s head whips to the side at the harrowing sound, catching the moment the teen is thrown forward in his seat. Beneath the champion, his machine swerves dangerously as his weight slams into the handle bars. An arrow blossoms from his shoulder like a sick imitation of a flower and almost immediately, blood begins to stain the bright blue of Wild’s tunic black.

And for the briefest of seconds, as Wild swerves, face pulled in a grimace, as Legend stifiles another hiss of pain, Twilight wishes he had left both of them behind. Wishes he hadn't had his second of indecision. Wishes he hadn't caved. 

Wishes desperately that he could take their injuries for himself.

And then Wild rights himself and steadies his machine, snarl still on his face but eyes fire bright with determination. Behind them, there is a slam, a squealing scream, and against his spine, Twilight feels as Legend lets out a vindictive, poison filled laugh.

A quick zig-zag of blue and orange, sunset and ocean, and Wild pulls in tight to Epona’s side, the metal of his divine device almost touching her heaving flanks. 

And the teen looks up at him, grimace turning to a too wide smile, too many teeth to be anything nice.

“I’ve got an idea,” Wild hisses from between his bared canines.

A statement. An intention. Something he can do, but not enough time to explain exactly what that something is.

A warning.

No.

An extended hand, the invitation to jump.

But only if Twilight takes it.

And though the farmhand still wishes they hadn't gotten hurt, wishes that he had taken both arrows for himself, he feels something inside him settle. Dripping concern and clawing guilt hardens into steely resolve.

Because they chose to come with him. Because they knew what they were getting into. 

Because they are heroes just like him. 

And so, Twilight nods

No need for Wild to explain. The teen can handle himself and Twilight trusts him to know what to do.

The vicious smile slashing across the younger’s face becomes more genuine for a second, less vitriol and more exhilaration.

And then with a whooping, wrathful, excited war cry, Wild grabs the handlebars of his machine and yanks, peeling away from Twilight’s side. In seconds, he is nothing but a meteorite of blue and orange fire speeding off into the night.

“They let him go,” Legend reports, losing another arrow. And then, grimly: “They’re gaining on us.”

Twilight could have guessed that by the sound of the Bullbos’ heavy breathing and the slamming of hooves practically upon them, but gives a grunt of acknowledgement anyway.

With experienced hands, the pelt wearing hero leads Epona through a feint to the left, and then a sharp dodge to the right. 

He feels a sneer pull at his lips as the sound of warbling curses and the noise of hooves scrambling to catch in dirt grows fainter as they pull away once more.

These beasts may be faster than his trusty steed, he thinks vindictively. But they were dim witted and had the turning capability of Fyrus. Which was to say, practically none.

The moment of reprieve, however, is short lived. As soon as Twilight pulls Epona into a straight-away, the cacophony of grunts and hooves pounding on hard packed dirt is back.

With a glance over his shoulder Twilight can see how rabid the pack behind them is becoming. 

Prince Bulbin’s eyes are twin blood moons in the dark, full of malice and hatred and dripping of a sick eagerness. Beneath him, Lord Bullbo is a heaving mass of grey and silver, metal armored body clunking heavily with every lurch forward. The beast's snout is open, panting and dribbling slobber everywhere, tusks jutted forward, ready to peirce, to gore.

Behind the leader, the posse is in a similar frenzied state, voices whooping, clubs swinging, reigns whipping to get their mounts to move faster.

All eyes, the red and yellow pinpricks of color flashing in the night, are locked on Twilight, Legend, and Epona. Like the world has narrowed to just the chase, the hunt, the prey, the kill.

Which is why none of the Bulblins see the equine machine painted in shades of ethereal aquamarine and burning, sunset orange racing toward them until it is too late.

No. They don't see Wild until the teen has launched himself into the air, until he is flying above their heads, his ride fading into nothing but streams of light on the ground behind him. They do not see him until the champion levels three ice arrows at them, the projectiles barely restrained by his knuckles as they sit knocked in his bowstring. 

“Eat shit, you ugly, overgrown cabbages!”

And then the arrows are no longer restrained at all, the three white tipped projectiles twanging through the night air and finding their targets: the front hooves of the three Bullbos directly behind Prince Bulblin.

With a crash, most of  the pack becomes a tangled swarm of limbs, hooves, brown hide, green skin, and squeals of pain, leaving only the Prince and two other riders unscathed as they continue to race unimpeded after Epona

Wild, meanwhile, whips out his paraglider to cushion his fall, lands with a roll, and immediately summons his device again with a swift click of his slate. 

Then with a: “Come get some, fuckers!” The Champion kicks his machine into gear and streaks off toward the entrance of the canyon. The Bulblins who are somehow still alive quickly give chase, the orders of their new King all but forgotten. 

And for a second, even with his own pursuers galloping closer, Twilight can’t help but focus on Wild. On his Cub. 

Because even though Twilight knows the champion can handle himself, as he watches four shadows race after Wild baying for blood, the farm hand can’t help but wonder if the teen has bitten off more than he can chew.

Because Wild, for all his showmanship, for all his goading, for all his success, is still injured after all. 

But then, a distant war cry sounds through the night. 

A distant war cry sounds and five shadows burst from the canyon, racing forward to meet Wild. And not for the first time that night, Twilight thanks his night vision. Because despite the darkness and the distance, the farmhand can see that the figure leading the shadows is clothed in light green and white. 

They’re here, he thinks numbly. The others are finally here. 

All at once, a breath Twilight didn't know he was holding leaves him. A feeling, a swooping sort of calm–no– determination replaces the bubbling concern. 

He focuses his eyes back onto the field before him, feels Epona’s muscles heaving and feels like he can breathe again. He can breathe again and he can focus on getting Four back.

Wild would be fine. It was one of his other little brothers he had to worry about now.  

“How many we got left?” Twilight yells over his shoulder.

“Three!” Legend shouts back. “The King plus a couple of stragglers.”

Twilight risks another glance back, confirming what Legend reported.

The pelt wearing hero doesnt think Prince Bulblin could look more rabid if he tried. The beastly man's entire face is split into a nasty snarl as he screams snorting wordless curses into the wind. Above his head, he swings his bone and wood club in little circles, ready to bludgeon as soon as he gets close enough.

And he's getting close enough. A handful more seconds and Lord Bullbo’s nose will be level with the right side of Epona’s hindquarters.

Twilight whips back forward, eyes scanning the field in front of him, analyzing

Slight hill on the right. A few lingering puddles at his two o’clock. On his left, the bridge, Eldin Bridge, is rapidly approaching from the dark. Dead ahead, a few of those destroyed walls stand out bright as bones in the moonlight.

Another glance back. The Prince is even closer, but now vering to the right. Avoiding the wall. Not an experienced enough rider.

Twilight snaps his head forward once more. 

He runs some lightning quick calculations. Runs them past his years of experience.

Outlook: not great. 

But if Twilight has learned anything tonight, it's to trust the ones he loves. To trust himself.

So Twilight leans forward and presses his forehead to Epona’s neck. He can feel the way her neck jolts back and forth as she continues to lunge through the field. Her skin radiates heat, smells of hay and sweat. He can hear her heavy breathing, sharp breaths punching in and out. 

“Just a little longer, girl,” he says as he straightens. “One more trick and you’ll be done.”

He thinks he sees her ears flick, though with how hard she's running, it's hard to tell. 

And yet somehow, the pelt wearing hero knows she heard him. 

“You’re gonna want to hold on for this!” Twilight shouts,only waiting long enough to feel Legend wrap his arms around his middle before the farmhand leans forward and urges Epona faster with his heels.

And Twilight locks his eyes forward and rides

They reach the first of the partially crumbled walls as fast as the wind, hooves pounding on the ground one moment and weightless in the next as Epona leaps over it. 

It feels like they’re flying. It feels like being shot through the air from a cannon, up up up into the sky. It feels like they hang in the air for eternity together when, in reality, Twilight knows it must be only a fraction of a second.

And then that second ends. Gravity catches up with them and sends them hurtling back towards the ground. 

Epona’s hooves connect with the dirt hard, the weight of two extra bodies slamming down adding increased poundage to the collision. Twilight uses that extra weight, that extra oomph , and throws his body to the left, almost sitting perpendicular to the ground in the saddle.

For a split millisecond, he can see dirt and grass rushing past his nose in a blur. Can feel Legend’s nails dig into his sternum in shock and fear. 

And then he can feel the moment the weight of their jump evens out, his stomach jumping from his feet back up into position in his belly, and with that second of weightlessness, Twilight pulls hard on the reins and drags Epona into the sharpest turn they’ve ever attempted. 

And by Hylia, Epona turns like she’s spinning on a dime, her head down low, and then flying back up as she snaps her entire body through the turn.

Their inertia slams into them as Epona’s hooves drag through the dirt, slowing enough to dive around the left side of the debilitated wall; The weight of it throwing Twilight and a now screaming Legend forward and too far to the left in the saddle.

Twilight uses that weight, the moment of slowness, and hooks his ankle around the stirrup on the right side, clenches his legs and core, and heaves both himself and the pink haired hero until they’re sitting right side up in the leather seat once more. 

Sitting right side up and, due to their fancy riding and sharp turn, now riding right behind the trio of riders that had been tailing them.

“If you do that again, I will throw up on you ,” Legend hisses in the farmhand’s ear, hands still fisted in Twilight's tunic like his life depends on it.

Something about the veteran’s words, the exhilaration of the pulling off the maneuver, and the dumbfounded, angry faces of the Bulblins now in front of them causes Twilight to bark a laugh despite the circumstances.

“After we take down these assholes, maybe?” Twilight offers, taking the reins in one hand as he raises the other to once again unsheathe the Master Sword from his back.

“Yeah, yeah,” is Legend’s witty response as he finally loosens his grip enough to pull out his bow and knock an arrow in the string. 

A couple of heartbeats later, and Epona pulls up beside the lackie’s Bullbo on the far right. Twilight dispatches the Bulblin with a swift stab through the chest, black blood hissing off the divine blade. On the far left, the other Bulblin slumps in his saddle, an arrow in his throat bubbling inky ichor.

With their riders dead, the Bullbos veer off to the side, disappearing into the night.

Leaving just the Lord and the Prince.

The Prince who snarls and screams at the sight of his dead posse. The Prince who then turns gnashing teeth and shining eyes on them, hatred and malice radiating off of him in heaving waves. 

The Prince whose face suddenly seems to regain some icy composure. The Prince who squares his shoulders forward and with a snap of  leather reins, orders Lord Bullbo to go faster even as he yanks the leather to the left.

To the left. Toward the bridge, just like Twilight always knew he would.

“Shit, is the bastard making a break for it?” Legend hisses as their target clatters onto the cobblestone of the structure, hooves and metal armor making a ruckus as they move 

“Not running away,” Twilight replies, not even needing to guide Epona to follow. She already knows what must happen. Has done it enough times to know.

Soon enough, the dull thump thump thump of her gait turns to ringing clacks as she too slams her hooves down against the white, carved rock of the Bridge of Eldin.

Twilight pulls Epona to a stop and behind him, the farmhand can feel as Legend cranes his neck to see what's going on.

At the other end of the bridge, the Prince heaves his own mount around to face them, the silver haired beast pawing at the rock  

“Not running away,” Twilight reiterates, resolutely. Grimly. “He’s led us to the final arena.”

Legend’s head whips from their quarry to the slim stretch of bridge– barely wide enough for the two mounts– in front of them, down to the yawning void beneath the cobblestone.

Twilight tightens his grip on the Master Sword, the leather of his gloves creaking against the pommel. Across the way, The Prince hefts up his club, ready to strike. 

“No fucking way,” the veteran breathes, putting it all together. 

“Don't worry,” Twilight reassures as he holds the reins at the ready, prepared to charge the moment his opponent makes the first move. “I’ve done this before.”

“Done this bef–?” Legend cuts himself off with hiss and a groan. “By the Wind Fish, Wild gets it from you,” he finishes, resigned.

Twilight ignores the comment, eyes locked on the Prince. The Prince stares back. A stand off. 

“Aim for him, not the beast,” Twilight says, words coming out quiet, as though speaking too loudly will shatter the moment. Will shatter the moment and send them into the fight. “If the Bullbo falls…” 

He doesn't finish the thought, eyes trailing up from his enemy.

Up to Four. 

If possible, there is more blood on the kid’s face now than there was before. Nearly his entire face is now covered in crimson, the red cascading over his forehead, onto his blindfold, and down to his chin. 

And yet despite the blood, despite the massive head injury at the source of the scarlet, and despite the rough motions of the ride they had just run through, Twilight can also distinctly see that the boy’s head is up. His head is lifted from his chest. In fact, it is thrown back as Four thrashes in his binding, feet kicking, shoulders shaking, back arching.

Twilight can also see that Four’s mouth is opening, closing, opening, closing in time with his struggles. Is he talking to himself? Is he asking for Twilight, the others, anyone in the dark? Bargaining with the Prince below him? Mumbling nonsense?

Twilight can’t tell. Even with his advanced hearing abilities, he cannot catch a scrape of the smithy’s voice.

No. He cannot hear the teen’s words.

But he can see their effect.

He can see the way the Prince snarls, the anger from his ‘perfect plan’ going awry rising up through the monstrous being like a wave. Can see when he leans back and delivers three harsh smashes of his feet to the pole, taking out all his rage on the hero he has at his disposal. Can see the way Four’s face contorts in pain. 

But the smithy doesn't slump in his bindings. Not this time.

Four grimaces and grits his teeth and he keeps his bleeding head held high, up to the moon. He keeps his head held high and continues to thrash against the ropes,  still fighting despite it all. Still fighting. 

They need to get him down, Twilight thinks. They need to get him medical attention. They need to help him. They need to help him now. 

So Twilight doesn't wait for The Prince to make the first move. 

The farmhand nudges Epona forward and she takes off down the straight-away of the bridge at a thundering sprint. 

Across from them, The Prince lets out a giddy sounding war cry and mirrors them, Lord Bullbo’s metal armor gleaming white in the moonlight as it streaks closer and closer and closer…

Twilight raises the Master Sword to the sky. Legend tenses behind him, body nearly as taut as his bow string. Prince Bulblin heaves up his bone club.

Closer, closer, closer, closer closer, closercloserclosercloserclosercl–!

They meet in the middle of the bridge, two arrows flying, one holy blade swinging down, a club of bone and blood thrown in a wide arc.

One arrow, two, clang harmlessly off of the front of Prince Bulbin’s armor– 

Twilight's hand is wracked with discomfort.

Jolts of vibrating pain rocket up Twilight’s sword wielding arm, jerking up his shoulder and causing his muscles to involuntarily seize. 

He must have hit the armor with too much force he thinks distantly.

And then he doesnt think at all. Only feels.

Feels an explosion of agony surge up his body, a bolt of lightning starting from his leg, crackling across every nerve ending of his foot, ankle, knee, thigh, hip, until it reaches his body. Like lightning arcing across the sky, the pain spreads in searing bolts, the echoes of thunderous pain causing him to curl up against Epona’s neck, forcing the air out of his lungs in a scream. 

Broken. Broken. Something is shattered. Broken. 

And every jolt of Epona’s hooves against the stone as she runs, every shift of the saddle, every movement of anything sends a terrible, pounding agony up from his leg, aftershocks shifting his diaphragm up, making it impossible to get enough air in his lungs.

“Twi! Twi! Damn it, Twilight! Answer me!” Legend shouts, momentarily pulling the farmhand from his pain through sheer force of angered and panicked voice alone. 

Back in the present moment, Twilight can feel it  in his injury when Epona slows. The end of the bridge, he muses. Then, with careful, light steps, he feels as she spins around, facing the middle of the bridge once more, prepared for the next pass.

Good Girl, Twilight thinks distantly, forcing himself up from his folded over position, straightening his spine despite the searing agony shooting from his leg. Behind him, the veteran shifts in the saddle, eliciting another groan of pain from the pelt wearing hero’s lips as the younger leans over to examine Twilight’s leg.

“Shit,” Legend hisses. 

And though the other’s voice is flat, Twilight can’t help but think well that can’t be a good sign. 

Because Legend has seen everything. Getting a reaction as devoid of emotion as possible, as purposefully not telling as possible, is telling in its own way. And what it is telling Twilight is that things are decidedly not good.

Not that he couldn't have told you that himself. He is the one with the probably shattered left leg, afterall. 

But he can’t focus on that. Can’t focus on the way the other hero begins to shuffle through his bag, hands fast, too fast for his seemingly blase response. Can’t focus on the way Twilight can feel whatever is left of his bones click and shift under his skin, biting into muscle. 

Can’t let the pain or panic consume him. 

Because in front of them, Prince Bulblin wheels around, a triumphant sneer on his lips. Below the monster, Lord Bullbo paws the ground and shakes his tusks, ready for another go.

“Legend,” Twilight grits out, interrupting the other midway through a muttered curse, a second run through of his bag.

With a bit of effort, the pelt wearing hero turns in the saddle enough to catch the other's eyes over his shoulder. Electric blue meets steely gray, the sky against an oncoming storm.

He looks Legend in the eye and though the other's face is straight, a mask of control, a shield of blankness, Twilight can see the faintest spark of energy–panic– in the way the other's eyes flicker. The way his eyes dart back to his bag, not done searching, not done trying to find some other solution. 

Twilight sees desperation in the others eyes if not in his face and Twilight paints a smile, strained and shaking, over his own lips.

“I’m fine,” Twilight says, lying through gritted teeth, through his ugly facsimile of a smile “We’ll be fine.”

Stretched truth , that giggly, familiar, nostalgic voice whispers in his ear. And despite the pain the voice brings, a nebulous ache in his chest rather than the raw, pounding agony of his leg, Twilight can't help it when his false smile turns a little more genuine.

A stretched truth , he agrees.

Because he is not lying if it will be true eventually.

And it will be true. They will be fine. They will be fine, even if he has to drag himself and his brothers from the jaws of Hylia herself. 

He has spit in the faces of those who would call themselves gods before. He has no qualms with doing it again.

“We can do this,” Twilight says firmly, no room for argument. 

Then the man with the soul of a wolf feels his gritted grin turn vicious, lips pulling up wider.  Hungry, the flash of fangs before the kill.

“Now focus and shoot the motherfucker in the head.” 

Legend’s eyes widen, the mask of control slipping out of place for the briefest of seconds, letting shock shine through.

And then Legend has no need for the mask. Life comes back to his face, the flickering, uncertain light in his eyes shifting to lightning, decisive, powerful, unshaken. His eyebrows pull lower, anrgy. His mouth sets in a hard line, his jaw locked. 

Legend nods his head at Twilight’s words, entire face set in steely, unforgiving stone. No longer a mask, purposefully controlled and emotionless, but strong, expressive, and unflinching.

Another war cry sends both heroes’ eyes forward and just like that, the moment is broken. Epona slams back into motion and the night is racing past the two once more.

Arm raising the Master Sword despite the pain. Body held tense, ready to release arrows. 

A terrible smile ready for more spilt blood. More shattered bodies getting closer and closer.

Closer, closer, closer, closer closer, closercloserclosercloserclosercl–!

Two arrows fly by Twilight’s ear in quick succession. Neither strike Prince Bulblin in the helm, but they serve their purpose: one lodges in between two chinks of armor on the beast’s left side, the other clanging against a shoulder plate. The impacts, one no doubt painful, the other merely disorienting, allow both Twilight and Legend to lean out of the way of a blind swing.

Seeing the opening as if in slow motion, Twilight plunges the Master Sword into the meat of the bastard’s arm.

The speed of their mounts rips them away from one another, dragging the sword of evil's bane up up up as they move past, cleaving skin and armor alike until it finally pulls free with a sickening sound.

In seconds, Epona delivers them to the end of the bridge once more and then swings around, ready for another go.

At the other end, Twilight feels a burning, wrathful giddiness in seeing that the victorious smirk has been ripped from the Prince’s face, replaced with a grimace of pain. Pain and a need to deal that pain back twelve fold. 

Twilight is also glad to see that he had cleaved more than just skin with the last attack. Pieces of hewn armor on the bastard’s left side have been shorn, exposing green skin and a river of inky black where the Master Sword had connected. 

It figures that the armor would be easier to shred now than ever before.

It had been made for the King, the leather and cobbled together metal pulled taut over the monstrous man’s massive body. 

It was not made for small, insignificant usurper Princes playing at being a leader. 

A furious scream and they’re off to the races again.

Closer, closer, closer, closer close–!

An arrow fires off, flies true, and sinks into Prince Bulblin’s exposed side with a thunk. He screams curling forward in the saddle to protect the injury, to further protect his exposed side. 

A second arrow sings from behind Twilight and slams intself directly between the Prince’s eyes, throwing the monster’s head back as his helm rattles at the force.

The green skinned beast hangs limp in his saddle for a moment.

And that moment is all Twilight needs to plunge the Master Sword into his exposed stomach, letting the Epona’s speed shove the blade all the way through, letting her pounding steps away drag the sword out through the Prince’s body, cutting clean through skin and muscle.

They reach the other end of the bridge, and as Epona turns, Twilight hopes against hope that the Prince is down. 

He is not. Bleeding profusely, black blood pouring from his mouth and side, The Prince still sits in his saddle, defiant. He sits, and though his arm is a veritable waterfall of ink, he still hauls his club up. He still glares at them with an undying hatred. Still snarls and bares his crooked yellow teeth, as though he wants to taste blood other than his own on his tongue.

“Bastard wants a fight to the death,” Legend mutters, readying two more arrows. 

Another flurry of movement draws Twilight’s eyes back up. 

Four is still struggling. His mouth is still opening closing opening closing. Blood still runs down his face. But in his thrashing, his blindfold has come loose. Twilight cannot see the teens eyes, but he can tell they are free. Wide and free. 

“If that's what he wants,” Twilight replies grimly, bringing his eyes back down. Back to the only thing standing in their way from saving their brother, “then that's what we’ll give him. Let's get our smithy back.”

They move as one, Epona and Lord Bullbo springing forward toward one another, brown and silver blurs on a collision course in the center of the bridge. Getting closer and closer...

Closer, closer, closer, closer close–!

Before Legend can loose an arrow, before Twilight can deliver a mortal blow, before they can even begin to reach their enemy, the Prince’s grim expression, his dead set determination, his vicious snarl, all of it, melts off of his face.

It melts off his face, only to be replaced with a smile. A sneer of yellow teeth, joyful, terrifying.

The Prince smiles, and drops his club into the darkness below.

And then with a full body motion, he yanks Lord Bullbo’s head to the left.

Left left left left too far left.  A shout is ripped from Twilight's throat as he watches the beast struggle against its master, small, sharp hooves dragging dragging dragging against the cobblestone. Its massive head lashes back and forth at the incessant pulling, tusks flashing dangerous white, trying to reach around and skewer its rider. 

It's a refusal. A refusal to die.

But they’re going too fast. Too much momentum.

They’re going to fall.

They’re going to fall off the bridge, master and beast together in one screaming mass, into the yawning void beneath them, with Four still tied to the saddle.

 

...

 

But both Twilight and the Prince had miscalculated.

They had miscalculated Lord Bullbo’s desperation to live. The silver haired beast locks his front legs, the edges of his hooves catching on some unseen groove, slowing him down enough to avoid the plummet.

The Prince had also miscalculated how far away Epona was, the horse gliding to a stop mere inches from him, sword and arrows trained on his shocked face.

But perhaps most of all, the miscalculation that cost Prince Bulblin his vengeance, his shitty, desperate  last ditch effort to hurt the Hero of Twilight by any means necessary, was one he had made almost half an hour ago. 

Because Prince Bulbin had underestimated the teen he had tied to his saddle. Had figured the kid would never be able to reach the dagger strapped to his belt with his arms tied down.

Colin never would have been able to.

But Four is not Colin. 

So when several distinct snaps cut through the night, when a small body falls through the air with a knife pointed downward ready to kill, Prince Bulblin has no one to blame but himself.

Twilight wonders if Prince Bulblin has the chance to regret it, or if the blade plunging through his helm, into his skull kills him before he has the chance to. 

With a kick, a leap off of green shoulders, Four sends the limpPrince out of his saddle, off of Lord Bullbo’s back and down into the endless dark below with the knife still lodged in his head.

The smithy lands less than gracefully, a roll turned sprawling of limbs.

Almost immediately, he sits up, head swinging and swaying, like he can’t keep it steady. Like he's lost all sense of what steady is.  

He looks up at Twilight with his swaying head, his blood covered face, and his free eyes… his free eyes that were twitching, flicking every which way, blinking too fast. His eyes that swirled and swirled and swirled with color, disorienting and too bright as the rainbow of shades whirl at breakneck speeds in the moonlight

“Fuck,” Four mumbles, the word coming out garbled and slurred, the ‘f’ too long, like his jaw is stuck in place. 

“Th’was m-our favorite knife.”

And then the smithy’s eyes roll back in his head and he collapses back against the cobblestone.









It takes three days for Four to wake up.

The first night of those three days is a blur to Twilight.

He remembers cradling Four to his chest as he rode frantically through the dark. He remembers making it to the village, remembers seeing the broken remains of the stalls still sputtering clouds of smoke. He remembers bursting into Renado’s house, yelling for help. He remembers someone–Luda? Legend?–telling him to let the smithy go. He remembers fighting them for a second, they were trying to take Four from him .  But then he remembers coming back to himself, allowing the shamins to rush the teen into the clinic.

Twilight sort of remembers collapsing, the screaming in his leg finally taking its toll. Sort of remembers shouts and then arms dragging him– dammit, work with me country boy!– pulling him into the clinic as well.

He thinks he remembers being laid on a bed. He thinks he remembers clawing at white sheets as someone put  pressure on his leg. Pressure followed by the terrible feeling of something clawing, crawling, shifting beneath his skin. He thinks he remembers screaming. 

He doesn't remember blacking out. But then again, no one ever remembers the lack of consciousness. 

What he does remember is waking up the next morning, leg immobilized, body tucked into a neat infirmary bed, and several pairs of eyes staring at him in relief.

The same relief Twilight felt when he jolted up and looked around, searching, searching, searching until his eyes  finally landed on Four.

Four, who was tucked into the bed next to his own. Four whose small stature almost appeared to be swallowed up by the white sheets of his cot. Four whose head was wrapped in a clean bandage, a stand in for his headband. Four who’s eyes were closed, but whose breaths were gentle and rhythmic, whose face had regained some color.  

Four, who was safe.

The rest of that whole first day was characterized by that same rush of relief, everyone sort of riding on the high of not losing anyone. Riding on the high of everyone coming back in mostly one piece.

After settling back into his bed after seeing the smithy, Twilight soon learned that, other than himself and Four, no-one else had needed to take up residence in the infirmary, the others only sustaining a few bruises; a couple of nicks here and there. Even Wild and Legend’s arrow wounds were deemed a-okay, a  careful procedure to remove the projectiles and a red potion later, and both young men were right as rain.

Twilight’s leg meanwhile, had needed a bit more attention. 

Apparently, having most of the bones of your leg shattered by a massive club moving at breakneck speeds and then continuing to ride a horse after said shattering incident was not the best of ideas. 

Not that Twilight had much choice in the matter. They had needed to save Four. 

Unfortunately, necessity does not grant invincibility. Nor mercy. 

It had taken quite a bit of Hyrule’s magic and several hours to knit Twilight’s bones back together. Lots of sugar sweet, gladiolus colored magic channeled very precisely to carefully pick fragments of bone from his muscles, from his skin, and realign them into their correct configurations. 

A blue potion dripped into Twilight’s unconscious mouth had sealed Hyrule’s tedious work together, smoothing over marred skin, sealing shredded muscle tissue, mending bones

“You are lucky to have such a talented and well trained healer, my friend,” Renado had told him after he woke up, the shaman's dark eyes flicking over to where the traveling hero sat at Four’s bedside. “An injury like this could have easily taken your ability to walk.”

“Oh it was nothing, really,” Hyrule had responded, eyes trained on Four’s limp hand, an embarrassed but pleased smile pulling at his face. “I had to do something pretty similar a couple of times on my own adventures. This really wasn't anything special.”

Which was just about the most worrying answer Hyrule could have given. Behind his eyes Twilight saw too big ears, amber eyes, heard screeching laughs, and tasted that horribly numbing bitterness in his mouth. 

Sometimes, the farmhand really wondered how Hyrule was still so bright despite the harrowing nature of his world.

Unfortunately, despite the amount of magic Hyrule had funneled into his leg, Twilight was still consigned to bed rest for the next few days.

Which left the farmhand front and center as the generally relieved feelings of Day One slipped into the building worry of DayTwo of Four’s continued unconsciousness. 

Even though none of the others were ordered to stay in the clinic, at least two of them were in the infirmary at every hour of the day. 

In the morning, it was Wild and Time.

For the duration of the early hours, the champion sat at Twilight’ side, flicking through the photos on his Slate, showing them to the farmhand and regalling the older hero with tales of each pictured place, every story more ridiculous than the last.

Yet, despite the smile, despite the little self-deprecating chuckles, Twilight caught the way Wild’s eyes wandered to the small figure in the bed only a few feet to the right.

Time, on the other hand, was much less subtle about his worry.

The Old Man sat rigidly next to the smithy, clad in his full armor with his sword sheathed but ready in his lap as he stared at the gentle rise and fall of Four’s chest.

He was no doubt feeling guilty for letting them go off to the shops alone. Feeling guilty for not anticipating the attack, for not being there to protect them.  And so he sat in the clinic, body tense and eye remorseful, as he stood watch. Making sure it would not happen again.

In the afternoon, it was Legend, Warriors, and Wind.

Wind fulfilled the role Wild had in the morning: that of story teller. And yet, even in taking up the mantle of Twilight Distracter, the sailor’s stories were totally different from Wild’s own. Where the champion had funny anecdotes, little stories of him doing this or that dumb thing on the way from one place to another, Wind had epics. 

Wind had stories of ancient yet lazy dragons, of whirlpools and mountainous octorocks. Stories of Phantom Ships and a cowardly second mate with a heart of gold. Each tale was accompanied by voices, hand motions, sound effects, the whole nine yards. 

But for how different his storytelling style was from Wild’s, just like the champion, the sailor couldn't quite keep his eyes from straying to the silent smithy.

Warriors and Legend, meanwhile, occupied their time in the infirmary in the same way they occupied their time anywhere: bantering. 

From their position near the front of the room, they circled through their usual affair of topics: making fun of each other’s clothes, voices, item choice, everything they could think of to belittle. 

Yet Twilight could tell it was subdued.Their jabs weren’t quite as barbed, weren't quite as sharp. It was as if both heroes were worried that they would hit too close to home, worried they would puncture each other with their words when they both already felt too full of holes.

Twilight also couldn't help but notice that all three had their swords with them. Whether Time had urged them to do so or if it was of their own volition, the pelt wearing hero couldn't tell. 

Finally, at night it was Sky and Hyrule. 

Neither of them had even tried to hide their concern. No. As soon as they had entered, both heroes had sat on either side of Four’s bed, Sky taking up wood carving silently on the right while Hyrule took up residence on the left, holding onto the smithy’s limp hand. 

For a long time, the only sound in the clinic was the rhythmic shck shck shck shck of Sky peeling away layers of wood. 

Eventually, however, it was overtaken by the sound of mumbling.

At a glance, Twilight could see that the sound was coming from Hyrule, the boy's mouth moving slightly, one hand holding Four’s while the other was raised and glowing chrysanthemum pink beside the smithy’s head. 

The soft sounds of the traveling hero’s voice continued for a few minutes, but eventually they and the pink light faded back into nothing. Slowly, Hyrule drew back into himself an exhausted look painted over his face as he stared at Four, eyes searching

“I don't understand,” Hyrule said, voice quiet. He took Four’s hand back between both of his own, rubbing a thumb over the smaller teen’s knuckles. “There's nothing left to heal. So why? Why won't he wake up?”

Twilight had no answer for him.

By the third day, everyone is in the clinic starting at dawn, concern, guilt, and anxiety making the air heavy as they shuffle in to begin their vigil. 

And it only gets worse as the day drags on, the air getting thicker and thicker with emotion until it is almost unbreathable. 

Beside Twilight, Wild looks through his album but never turns it around to show. Time sits at the foot of Four’s bed, more rigidly than ever, sword at the ready. Wind has positioned himself next to the oldest hero, more silent and still than Twilight could ever remember seeing the normally energetic sailor. Hyruel and Sky have reclaimed their spots on their side of Four’s bed, two guardians, unmoving and vigilant.

Warriors and Legend’s banter, meanwhile, has taken a drastic turn for the worse. Where the day before their words had been too soft, now they are honed to razor points. The two circle each other with their words, mouths in sneers, eyes looking for weak points to dig their nails into. 

Time looks one step from physically separating the two when Renado sweeps into the room, his quiet grace and poise a focal point in a room filled with ansy heroes.

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you all to step outside for a few minutes,” the shaman says, looking not at all apologetic despite his words, face instead completely calm as he stares down eight pairs of eyes. “It would be best if I could complete my examination without distractions.”

For a second Time looks like he wants to disagree but thankfully, the shaman's calm yet insistant aura wins out.

“Let’s go boys,” the Old Man says, his armor clinking slightly as he stands. “Lets let the man work.”

Slowly, one by one, the heroes file out of the infirmary, some striding away through the door quickly, a need to get away from the suffocating atmosphere. A few others send fleeting glances back as they leave, as though the minute they turn away will be the minute Four awakens. As though if they take their eyes off him, they will miss it. 

Soon enough, all of the other heroes have left.

All except for the Hero of Legend. 

Legend stands at the door, hand outreached to take the handle but frozen for some reason. 

Before Renado or Twilight can ask, the young man whirls around, an indescribable expression on his face. It is a face of pursed lips and low eyebrows, the pink haired hero’s jaw working, chewing on unspoken words.

“Would you mind if I tried something?” he says eventually, eyes flashing from Renado to Four meaningfully. 

After a moment of consideration, the shaman inclines his head.

Legend silently nods his thanks and takes a step more fully back into the room. Then, with practiced movements,  he slides his satchel forward and begins to rummage through it. 

For a second, Twilight hopes that Legend will search through his endless bag of infinite possibilities and pull out some never before seen potion. A golden elixir made from the tears of a mermaid mixed with the feather of a fish. Some sort of cure-all  that they can drip down Four’s throat to make him magically awaken. 

What the veteran instead pulls from his bag is a simple, tan ocarina. 

Then, with halting fingers, Legend closes his eyes, brings the instrument up to his lips, and plays.

The song starts off somber. Three ascending notes sounding clear yet tentative in the silence of the room. The notes repeat, this time dipping lower, into ocean waves, before returning back to where it started. Those three notes, those same three notes–no–different notes, going higher, a seagull soaring up on a sea breeze.

Legend plays his song, beautiful and somber and sad but also hopeful, gaining strength with each note that rings through the room. 

Legend plays his song with his eyes closed, and Twilight wonders what the veteran hero sees behind his eyelids.

Legend plays his song, and Twilight can hear the magic in it. Can hear a wave rolling in, rolling out, lulling him to sleep yet forcing him awake. Legend plays his song and Twilight knows there can be magic in a melody. The farmhand wonders what this one’s intended effect is. 

The song ends almost too soon, the last note left hanging in the air, trembling yet strong. Resonant. 

It only fades when Legend runs out of air.

The pink haired hero’s eyes remain sealed shut a moment longer before he seems to come back to himself, snapping out of his dream, turning his eyes on Four.

For a second silence reigns over the clinic, as all three men watch the smithy. 

Four doesn't so much as twitch, his breath as slow and steady as ever.

In the next moment, Legend stowes the ocarina back in his bag, and quickly turns back to the door.

“I’m sorry,” he says, head shaking, voice thick with… something. ”I’m sorry, that was a stupid idea. I don't know why I thought… I’ll just…” 

And then Legend is gone, the door swinging shut behind him. 

After a moment and a somewhat heavy sigh, Renado goes about his examination, the room quiet once more. 

However, soon enough, the shaman straightens and begins to sweep back out of  the door.

“Renado,” Twilight says, getting the other’s attention right before he walks through the threshold. The older man turns and looks at him, a single eyebrow raised. 

And Twilight thinks of the others. Of Wild and Wind’s silence. Of Time’s suffocating, guilty rigidity. Of Sky and Hyrule’s desperation. Of Warrior’s anger. Of Legends resignation. 

Of his own...

He thinks of the others and though the pelt wearing hero knows it all comes from a place of compassion, of love, he also thinks that they need a break from seeing the smithy like this. They need a break from the teen’s unchanging, sleeping face.

They need a break from the sadness and pain and each other , if only for a little while. 

“Don’t you think,” Twilight says choosing his words carefully, “That maybe it would be better for Four if it were a bit quieter in here?”

“Hmmm.” the man hums. And then, with the faintest of smiles: “I shall let your friends know my prescription, then. Call for me if anything changes.”

A flutter of robes, and he is gone, leaving the two bed ridden heroes alone in silence for the first time in three days.

“Looks like it's just you and me now, Smithy” Twilight says, pushing his arms under himself in order to sit up a bit more fully, minding his leg. With careful movements, the farm hand shoves a pillow behind himself and then lowers slowly onto it, at least a bit more vertical before.

Comfortable again, Twilight sets his eyes to the unmoving face next to him, settling in for his own watch.

“Had enough beauty rest yet, Four?” 






….





The silence of the afternoon must lull Twilight to sleep at some point because suddenly, the farmhand finds himself slamming awake, a gasp followed by a  groan shattering the silence.

But not his own gasp and groan. 

No. They come from beside him. They come from the smithy who is now sitting up in his bed, the palms of his hands pressed into his eyes, shutting out the brilliant orange light of sunset filtering into the room from the nearby window. 

“Four!” Twilight gasps, nearly falling out of his bed in his haste to move closer to the small hero. The teen makes a groan at his voice, shifting one hand to lay over both his eyes while the other comes up and covers one of his ears.

“Shit,” Twilight says more quietly. “Sorry, sorry. I’ll just go get Renado and…”

Twilight leans around the other side of the bed, intent on grabbing the crutch the shaman had left for him, but is stopped by movement out of the corner of his eye.

It’s Four, using the hand that was covering his ear to make a ‘cut it out’ motion: hand raised but palm down, shaking back and forth.

“You don't want the healer to come in?” Twilight asks, reiterating but making sure to keep his voice quiet.

A thumbs up.

And then a single raised finger. A ‘give me a moment.’

So reluctantly, Twilight sits back against his pillows and does just that. He gives Four a moment. 

Slowly, Four brings his other hand back up to its twin, pressing both palms back into his eye sockets once more. For a second, the smithy just sits there, hunched over, elbows flexing as he rhythmically increases and decreases the pressure on his hands, pushing at his eyes, kneading at his skull. 

Eventually, one hand shifts to cover both eyes again  while the other reaches down and begins to absently rub at the sheets below, no doubt feeling the starchy texture of the clinic’s blankets. Soon enough, the hand leaves the sheets, running up Four’s other arm, pressing against  his skin, before finishing it’s journey up to his golden hair.

Twilight almost reaches out to stop the hand, afraid that it will tangle with the corn-yellow locks and rip but it doesn't. Instead the hand merely pets the hair in gentle motions, never pressing down or grabbing. Just… feeling.

After one more pass through the strands of gold, the hand slumps, dropping down to grip at Four’s shoulder and collarbone– a mini self hug– and Twilight watches as the Smithy just breathes. Slow, deep, deliberate breaths that force the teen’s chest to fill and empty.

One more big breath in and Four straightens, places both hands palm down on the sheets, turns toward Twilight, and opens his eyes.

They are no longer the whirl of color they were those three long days ago and yet… Twilight can tell there is something still off about them. Something… unsettled. They are murky, a cup of water an artist would use to clean their brush. Mixed but still swirling. Still moving.

“Are… how are you feeling?” Twilight asks tentatively.

The dull swirl of color shifts, blue bubbling to the surface, a whirlpool.

“Like someone bashed our skull open with a club, how do you think we’re feeling?!” the smithy hisses, mouth pulled in a snarl, voice rough.

And then almost immediately, Four’s eyes fly shut once more as he curls into himself, groaning. His hands are back up to his face in seconds, now pressing at his brow ridge, massaging. 

As the other takes another moment to steady himself, to control his breaths, Twilight finally pulls his crutch closer, setting it against the side of the bed as he swings one leg, then the other over the side of the cot.

This isn’t the first time he has had to stand up in these few days. Renado and Luda insisted that he stretch the mended muscles lest they atrophy, but his leg is still tender when he moves it. It still twinges even when he leverages most of his weight on the crutch tucked under his shoulder. 

WIth careful, shuffling steps, Twilight walks to the night stand between their beds and fills one of the cups there with some water from the waiting carafe. Then, careful not to spill the water, Twilight seats himself on the end of Four’s bed.

The other must feel the shift of sheet, the added weight causing the mattress to slump, because with a final breath Four straightens once more, eyes flicking open to look at Twilight, 

Twilight offers the glass. Four grabs it instantly, taking a couple of big swallows before he seems to think better of it, switching to sips.

“Thank you,” he says after finishing the drink. He does not move to put the glass down, instead cradling the cup between both hands, worrying the lip with a thumb.

“And sorry. We… I’m not feeling especially great at the moment.” Four makes a vague motion toward his head. And then with a grimace, “I am, unfortunately, rather susceptible to head injuries.”

Twilight nods sympathetically, mind flashing back to green eyes, warmth, pain pain pain dark, water. The back of his head throbs with the phantom hurt.

“Yeah, I get that,” the farmhand says, rubbing absently at the back of his skull. “Do you have a history of concussions?”

Four snorts.

“Yeah,” he says, with a self-deprecating grin. “Something like that.”

Twilight finds a sigh pushed past his lips, something like irritation, relief, and fond exasperation mixing together in his gut 

Fondness and relief that Four is feeling well enough to joke. Irritated and exasperated that the joke is about his own health. A joking non answer. An obfuscation.

A way to avoid the fact that there is something that caused him to remain unconscious for so long.

And Four knows what this something is. Is comfortable enough to joke about it. 

“Four, if it’s medically relevant–”

“It’s not,” Four interrupts before Twilight can even finish the thought, the smaller hero’s eyes flashing from the glass in his hand back up to Twilight’s face. “I promise, it's not.”

They stare each other down, grey blue vs murky paint water. 

“Look,” Twilight says when it becomes clear that Four isnt going to fall victim to his Concerned Older Brother Look, “None of this was your fault. You saved Luda and unfortunately paid the price for it. I know you didn't ask for any of this. You didn’t ask to get hurt in the way you did.”

“But please,” the farmhand continues, leaning forward, letting all the fear and concern and uncertainty of the last few days show on his face, exhausted and sad, “Please tell me what's going on. You can’t just brush this off like it's nothing, Four. You can’t just sweep this under a rug and forget about it.”

“We were all so afraid for you, Smithy. Do you know how long you’ve been out?” Twilight doesn't wait for a response. “You’ve been asleep for almost three days, Four. Everyone’s been worried sick. Time’s hardly slept. Sky and Hyrule damn near refused to leave your side. Legend tried to play you a song on his ocarina, for Hylia’s sake.”

Twilight reaches forward and pulls one of Four’s hands from the glass that still sits in his lap. He takes the smaller boy’s hand and squeezes it, rubbing his thumb over the smaller, calloused fingers. 

“Four,” the pelt wearing hero says, voice a little pleading and shit his eyes are wet. 

He keeps his gaze locked on their hands. 

“Four, I thought I was too late. I thought I had left you up there too long. I–” his words catch in his throat and Twilight has to swallow a few times to get his voice to sound past the weight of all the grief and fear that had built up inside him these last few days. It's all coming to the surface now, the flood gates open, leaving him feeling overwhelmed and too full and too empty at once

“I thought you were never going to wake up,” Twilight says. “I thought I was going to lose you too.”

And finally, finally, Twilight manages to drag his eyes from their hands, looking up to Four’s face.

“So please. Tell me what's going on.”

And for the second time in almost as many days, Twilight finds that Four is easy to read.

Four’s eyes are wide with shock and whirling with color once more, cartwheeling over and over and over through red, blue, green, and purple. His brows are pulled low, pain and guilt of all things written in the ridges of his face. The smithy’s mouth can’t seem to decide if it wants to frown or remain as neutral as possible, his lips twitching minutely. 

Yes, Four is easy to read and Twilight can see that he looks shocked and sad and a little scared

“I-” the smithy starts. He closes his mouth. Openes it. Closes it again

“I’m sorry that I scared you like that,” Four says eventually, eyes falling down to stare at their hands, like Twilight’s own were a few minutes earlier. His jaw is working, his throat shifting, like he's going through the motions of speaking, but continually stopping himself at the last minute. Keeping his words inside.

The smithy gives a minute shake of the head and his entire face winces in pain and shit this was probably too emotionally taxing a conversation to have with Four when he's just woken up from a three day long coma after a very serious concussion. 

A very serious concussion that the teen is clearly still suffering from.

The pain on his face is reflected in the smithy’s words, each one coming out halting and a little bit muffled, his tongue not quite forming the words right

“I’m sorry that… that you felt like it was your fault,” he mumbles, and oh Hylia his whole head is shaking now, one eye shut with pain, the other staring wetly at Twilight, a warm amber breaking through the swirl. His mouth is caught between a snarl and a sob, showing teeth and yet ready to cry.

“It wasn’t–” he mumbles insistently, ripping his hand out of Twilight's own. It joins its brother in wrapping around Four’s shoulders as he slumps into himself, entire body deflating into the pillows behind him 

“It wasn’t– wasn’t your fault,” Four repeats, his words now jumping around in tone and cadence, slurred and not slurred. “It was–Our fault! our Fault! Our faul–”

Before the other can get much further,Twilight shifts his position on the bed and leans back to be sitting beside the panicking smithy. Then, with gentle hands, he pulls the other into his side, careful not to put any pressure on Four’s head as he runs soothing lines down the smaller heroes' back. 

This seems to stun the small hero for a moment, his entire body going rigid, not even his lungs working.

And then Four unfreezes, leans his entire body into Twilight’s, and sags , boneless against the other hero's side  as he chokes on words and breaths alike.

It takes several minutes for whatever just happened to run its course, the words slowing to a hault, the breaths becoming more even. And through it all, Twilight rubs a hand down the teens spine in slow controlled motions, a rhythm the kid could follow, could depend on. 

Eventually, Four shifts, not exactly leaning away, but instead adjusting his position so his side was pressed against Twilight’s while the rest of him leaned against the pillows. He looks out the slated shade window, shadows catching at his face. 

“I’m sorry,” Four says, voice quiet, “I shouldn't have freaked out like that.”

Before Twilight can interrupt, and can apologize for getting the smithy started down that path, the teen turns his head and gives Twilight a little glare, a challenge to interrupt. 

“I’m sorry,” he says a little bit stronger, glare shifting to a soft, meaningful look as he holds Twilight’s eyes. “I’m sorry you got hurt saving me. I’m sorry I made you guys worry like that.”

The smithy takes a breath.

“And I’m sorry Twilight but I…” Four’s eyes flicker for a second, reading something in the air. He gives himself a small nod, like he’s come to some sort of agreement and looks away from the window, the orange glow of the sunset catching in his irises, a burning flame. 

“I need a bit more time before I can tell you about this,” he says. And then with a sad smile. “I just...can’t risk it yet. I just got used to not feeling alone all the time.”

He gives a weak little laugh and his eyes fall to look at where his palms lay relaxed in his lap. He flexes them, runs fingertips over his calluses and then threads his fingers together, giving his own hand a squeeze. 

“Alone,” he mutters with that wry grin of his. It is not a happy grin.

Four looks back up from his hands and turns that not happy grin on Twilight. And miraculously, it turns a little more genuine. A little more lopsided and real.

“I- I can’t risk losing you guys too.”

And Twilight, despite the need to know why this had happened, despite the concern in his gut bubbling over the fear of it happening again… When he looks into Four’s warm, sad, hopeful eyes, he understands.

Obviously he has his own secrets he would rather keep to himself. Four already knows one of them, just like Twilight knows one of Four’s own. 

But just because some people know his secret doesn't mean Twilight doesn't worry about how others will react to learning the truth.

He still hasn't worked up the courage to tell Rusl about The Wolf, even though he knows the other would still welcome him with open arms. Even though he knows the older man’s eyes would not lose any of their fondness. 

And yet even  though he knows it is an irrational fear, he cannot dispel the image of normally warm green eyes pierced with hatred, a burning torch held to his smoking fur as the sword he was supposed to deliver to Castle Town bites through his spine.

Four’s fear is irrational too.

 Nothing Four could tell Twilight would make him think differently about the smithy. The teen was his little brother now, whether he wanted to be or not. He wasn't going to give the farmhand the slip that easily. 

Twilight resists the urge to give Four a fond noogie, if only because the kid still has a head injury.

So instead, he wraps an arm around the boy's shoulder and pulls him closer.

He’s here. Even when Four feels alone, when he feels like he's drowning in unsaid words,  Twilight will be here.

And for his part, Four seems to accept this, leaning back in and settling, part of his back pressed to Twilight’s chest.

They lapse into silence, just sitting and enjoying one another’s company as they look out the window and watch the day die.

“Have you ever noticed,” Four says eventually, thin strips of orange light illuminating the smithy’s face as he gazes out the shaded window, “that it's only when one turns their back to the sun that their shadow gets to lead?”

Twilight angles his head down questioningly, but Four does not look up. There is a slight tension to his face despite his relaxed position and for some reason, Twilight gets a feeling that this is some kind of compromise.

If Four cannot tell Twilight his secret, at least he can tell him this.

“Sunrise and sunset,” Four continues, “ dawn and–well,” and here his eyes slant towards the farmhand, a small smile on his face. 

Twilight returns it. This is a joke that he has grown weary of when coming from the others. But here and now, the Ordonian hero will allow it. If only because Four is still injured. 

Soon enough, though, the teen’s eyes drift back to the window, smile slowly fading from his face as he gazes out into the orange light of a dying day. 

“Dawn and twilight. Those are the only times–the border between night and day– that the sun is low enough to walk directly away from,” Four continues. 

“How do you think your shadow feels then?” Four asks quietly. “To walk and have you follow behind?”

And behind Twilight’s eyes, he sees orange. Orange like the light slowly filtering into the room. Orange like the sunset. Orange like her hair. He sees a flashing, fanged smirk, sharp and clever. An ember eye, bright with mischief. He sees black and white and glowing blue. 

Light and dark can never mix. But… Never forget there’s another world bound to this one.”

He sees her. And the tear dripping from her eyes as she says goodbye.

No. Not goodbye. Not exactly.

Link… See you later.

“I think,” Twilight says, eventually, a small smile on his face even as something bittersweet and undeniably sad sits on his tongue. “Your shadow would feel seen.”

Four’s eyes turn back on him, bright and indescribable in colors. He smiles as bright as the sun.

“I think so too.”

They lapse into a comfortable quiet.

And together, they watch as twilight falls across the land, as shadows elongate and dance, free once more. 

Words, familial and warm–Rusl’s– come to Twilight's mind. And he smiles.

“Hey, Four. Tell me, do you ever feel a strange sadness as dusk falls?”

Chapter Text

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 clack 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–!

Move.

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.”

...shit. 

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.

And that…

Well, that had nearly shattered Four’s resolve.

Nearly.

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. 

Twilight. 

Busted...




...



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. 

Time. 

“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!”

Uh oh…

“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. 

But… 

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.

And then–

“Nope.”

...What?

“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.

Rito Village.

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…

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.

No.

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. 

He misses. 

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.

But sometimes… 

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?

A sigh.

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.”

Oh. Oh. 

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. 

“Wild–”

“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–

Warmth.

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. 

“I’m just…” 

Not good enough Not happy enough Not smart enough Not strong enough…

Not 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.

“Four.”

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.

 

...

 

No.

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.

“Link.” 

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.

“Uhh, Surprise?”

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. 

“What?”

“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.

“What? Why?’

“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. 

No.

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. 

No. 

Infectious. 

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. 

He’s free.