The word rang hollow, no matter how many times he repeated it. Despite all that work to be able to get there... it didn’t really mean anything. He was out of touch, disconnected from his old life and fundamentally changed in his new. Over and over, tossed to and fro by the whims of Ganon, the Triforce, the sea... it didn’t even matter who it was anymore, it didn’t really change anything. The room was cold, lifeless, barren when he returned. Heralded by congratulatory banquets and celebratory feasts only to return to a quiet hearth, a sullen forge. He’d gotten quite used to it, and he’d claim it didn’t bother him much. It’d been long enough, he didn’t have the time to mourn anymore, too caught up in the big wide world of evil to defeat, lands to save. It had been better for a while, with him there. Someone to watch over it - even if he hadn’t wanted him to initially. Someone to come home to, a smoldering fire and a quiet camaraderie when words were just too much. But then that too came to an end, and he left, back to his own world and his own time. And so the headstone lay empty, a space frozen in time, waiting. Mourning him, in its own, strange way. He had sworn he’d return and stay put this time, but... then all of this. And he really couldn’t, could he. Caught up in a tangle of time and stories and space and fictions. He’d make his way back eventually. But at this point... he wasn’t quite sure he wanted to.
This seemed a lot better, anyhow.
It seemed rather pointless to him. With the world as bleak as it was, sometimes it was better to just... keep moving. There was nothing stopping him from doing it, other than the monsters and the people and the fear , but they would come either way. So he ignored it, that peculiar knot of emotion caught in his chest that called up memories, tinged with sadness and longing, of a town, a house, a face. He ignored it, and kept moving. He found it, sometimes, in the faces of the people he met, he saved. Like when this whole thing started, with the old woman... After the brief, paralyzing moment of fear that whoever could defeat the last attacker could only be worse and they, if they were one of the ones who had heard of him, Link, were grateful. Or they had heard of him, the Hero, Ganon-Slayer , and tried to kill him. But sometimes he found it, that small spark of compassion and companionship, when they knew him for him and not his deeds, and that? Well, that was nice. It was even nicer now, now that he knew they weren’t going to forget about him by the next town and likely never see him again. That little knot unfurled a bit, and maybe, just maybe, he understood the appeal.
He missed it. It ached in his bones and in his heart, that longing sparked by the faintest breeze coming of the water and the quietest of seabird calls. He couldn’t escape it, those quiet, deadly reminders that threw him back all those months ago to a time without a care or a worry. He missed them. He always would, no matter how many goodbyes he said or letters he sent, no matter how cheery he made himself sound when he relived those awful, terrible moments of fear. Worries he hid about whether they were well and whether she was safe. No matter how many visits he would make, they were a part of his soul, and he was nothing without them. At least, he knew he’d get to stay eventually. For all the adventuring and questing and treasure hunting and disappearing off the face of the planet for months, they’d always be there for him, with open arms and ready ears, wondering eyes and a kind smile. A good soup and an enthusiastic scribble. And that? that was enough for him.
It was hard, knowing exactly what he felt. A part rang true, nostalgic for the days before all this chaos, the days of market trips and festivals, holidays and casual conversation. No weird looks and concerning memories, no odd requests and awkward conversations. They were unavoidable though, he’d changed and the world had stayed the same, and they struggled to reconcile. It was understandably difficult - he didn’t blame them, but it still cut deep every time one flinched and another spooked, gave him weird looks and quietly judged the research he did. He’d long ago learned not to formally check out any books regarding the issue of... him. He was rather convinced that they didn’t believe him in fact. That he’d changed, had been a Hero too. And well, he could deal with that. But it was still frustrating to know that the very people who raised him distrusted him, a part of him he couldn’t control but didn’t need to. He could prove it to them. They were both important to him, the people who raised him and the person he...
Well. He’d make it work. Somehow.
His entire life, he'd been defined by it. The boy not from here, not like everyone else. He didn't belong, no matter where he went. But it still defined him, shaped him. The boy without a fairy grew into Fairy Boy grew into the fact that he couldn't go back, he was stuck. Without a place that could be considered that , and it stuck with him, a small part of his conscious mourned it to this day. They were gone, those worlds were gone, and he couldn't go back, no matter how hard he tried or how long he searched. But then... it changed. He found, no, he made a new one for himself, with her and all the infinite possibilities the future provided. And he was worried some, sure. Anyone would be, when dealing with something as important as this. A line of the Hero... Well. He was glad he had something to look forward to. A warm hearth and a cheeky grin. A family and a future, for the boy stuck in the past.
He was failing. They were waiting for him, and he was failing them, those crowds of children and lines of refugees, fleeing a war that never seemed to end because he wasn't able to stop it. No matter how grand their castles or valiant their warriors, the attacks just began anew, another slew of traitors and mindless monsters. Untrained soldiers and too few leaders. And here he was, by far the most and least lucky of his comrades. He'd seen the tragedies of worlds destroyed, kingdoms collapsed. He'd seen them flourish, all signs of attacks brushed off, debri swept away, fortifications fixed and nations rebuilding. He wasn't a special case, they'd all seen the terror of a future without any hope and raised up their arms against it, time and time again. They were all pulled away from important missions for this, from the mundanity of having the chance to be a child to the deific role of building a nation. But he, he was failing his people, and as long as he was away, there was nothing he could do about it. He hoped they were done soon. It had been fun, sure but... he hoped he made it in time.
It kept him going. Without that little spark of joy that lit up his heart every time they came across even the tiniest of details, the barest of remnants of a world in the sky, he'd have been discouraged a long time ago. They were few and far between, sure, but those tiny reminders of a time lost to the ages, the insignia that twinkled on the shields and glinted in the valiant light of day, of good triumphing. They were his lifeblood, the end he kept in sight no matter how many life or death battles, tense evenings and falling outs. The knowledge he, and his family and his home, would be the ones to make all of this possible helped him bridge that gap each day. Stop that fight and disarm that enemy. Knowing that they were there for him and all the wondrous things that they would be able to do... He would never regret this. Not in a thousand years. But he couldn't wait to tell them all what he'd learned.
He was... torn. He loved them, and he wouldn't be where he was now without their kindness. But it was hard sometimes, with the memories of their fear. Nevertheless, they were the most important thing to him. They'd raised him and now he got to do the same for the next generation, their village a haven from the chaos of the world, the bustling towns and intricacies of politics, and it was nice to know that they were there for him. And he knew they hadn't meant it. It wasn't important anyway. Sure, he'd kept the secret for the same reason this time but... no, this was different. It wasn't, a small part of him cried, but he ignored it. It didn't matter if they were afraid, and he couldn't change it anyway. He was content with it. They'd make it work. And he relished in every chance he got to show them off, proof that they did get the chance to be happy and find community. He knew it made more than one person's eyes shine. So no matter what, he was grateful. He was lucky. He was happy.
He was excited, truly. It seemed strange to them, he was sure, that he was so attached to a simple house in a simple town when he seemed to be fundamentally against all that but... It gave him hope. He'd always had to rely on others on his travels, the care of overworked stable hands and long departed travelers. And he'd loved that, getting to trade his food and his stories for tall tales of their own, their own valiant quests for the minutiae that made life worth living. He'd found it in them, in the people he met time and time again, and he was grateful. He wouldn't have made it through without the people and the animals and the pots, so carelessly left but carefully placed. They were there for him. And he wanted to be there for people too. So he was happy. To get the chance to offer that back. To be a part of their community, and give people the same opportunities they'd given him all those months ago: a place to stay and a warm hearth. A chance to relax and a break from the chaos of the world. The world was thriving and growing and interacting for the first time in what felt like ages, and he got the chance to be a part of it. And if the first person he got to share it with was her, who had been so confined from it for so long?
Well. Then all the better.