Fixing Vah Ruta ended up being a straightforward business, with Link’s role (as far as Sidon can tell) primarily that of fetching parts from the Akkala Ancient Tech Lab’s graveyard of Guardian scraps. But the repairs are done, now, and King Dorephan and Princess — no, it should be Queen now, shouldn't it? — Zelda are trading pleasantries. Queen and Champion have been in the Domain for the better part of a week, but both Link and Sidon have been occupied for most of it, and as soon as they’re done with the official business, Sidon fully intends to steal Link away for at least an afternoon swim before they leave again.
“I believe the best way to maintain Vah Ruta will be to appoint a new pilot,” Zelda says. Sidon doesn’t know if anyone else notices the way Link, standing his customary two steps or so behind the Queen’s shoulder, goes very still.
“I have put some thought into it,” she says, and King Dorephan laughs.
“I’m sure you have!” He chortles, and seems pleased and unsurprised when she turns, directing her attention to the King’s left hand. She smiles at Sidon, and he inclines his head with due respect in return. He has a feeling he knows where this is going.
The single syllable rings off the arches of the throne room, cutting Zelda off before she can finish her sentence and drawing all eyes to Link.
Link, who looks as shocked as any of them, one gloved hand flying to cover his mouth. Wide blue eyes flick to meet Sidon’s, then away; to the King, to Queen Zelda, and then finally back to Sidon for a split second before Link turns on his heel and flees, leaping a railing and freefalling a moment before his paraglider snaps open and carries him in the general direction of the East Reservoir Lake.
The rest of their gathered party trade glances that communicate any number of things — surprise, concern. Queen Zelda, in particular, seems at a loss for words.
Sidon looks toward the Reservoir, but Link has already passed out of sight of the throne room.
“Oh, go on,” King Dorephan chuckles again, giving him a tap on the shoulder that, due to his father’s large size, knocks him forward a few inches. The King is seemingly over his own surprise and back to his usual equanimity. “Go after him.”
Sometimes, it’s inconvenient that his father knows his heart so well. Just now, though, it’s a blessing.
“Thank you, father,” Sidon says, and offers Queen Zelda a quick bow. “Please excuse me.”
The Queen has been slightly slower to recover from the shock of Link’s outburst and sudden departure, and only manages a bewildered, “Yes, of course—” as Sidon darts off after the Champion.
He finds Link in the pavilion, wedged between the far side of the bed and the low wall that encircles the space, his arms curled around his knees and his face buried in them. His whole frame is shaking, and Sidon can hear his breaths— harsh, fast, wet. There isn’t much space, but Sidon makes himself fit into it, his back against the side of the bedframe, less than a handspan from pressing against Link’s side.
Sidon’s first overture is tentative, just the flat of his palm against Link’s curved shoulders, and he nearly pulls it back when Link flinches and makes a noise like a sob. But then Link is falling against him, still curled up but now curled into Sidon’s side, hiding in the space that’s been made for him. Sidon pulls him in closer, petting his back, his bicep, as Link pulls in breath after horrible, rattling breath. Sidon can taste salt in the air.
“It’s all right,” Sidon murmurs as he tries to gentle the tension out of the small Hylian frame. “Take as long as you need.”
It takes a long time.
Link scrubs at his face with the sleeves of his tunic, leaving pink friction burns in place of tear tracks as the last hiccuping sobs wring their way out of him.
“Are you feeling better?” Sidon asks, his hand stalling its hypnotic movement up and down Link’s spine for just a moment.
Sorry, he signs, hands shaky. He feels drained, and more than a little embarrassed.
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Sidon assures him, his voice firm. “Though I would like to know what happened to cause you such distress.”
It’s unintentionally cruel, making him think about it.
“If I’m not mistaken, I believe Queen Zelda planned to ask if I would take the mantle of Champion and pilot of Vah Ruta,” Sidon continues. “Do you not think me fit for the role?”
Link has no control over the way his head snaps up at that, meeting Sidon’s curious gaze. He doesn’t know what he looks like, but Sidon seems surprised.
“I would not be offended, I promise!” he says, seeming to have mistaken Link’s shock for something else entirely. “You have far more experience of the Divine Beasts than any of us, I should think. If you don’t think I’m suited for it, I will trust your judgment—”
“I can’t—” Link’s voice breaks on only the second word, and he hates himself for it. He takes a deep breath. Those aren’t the right words, anyway.
Selfish, a little voice inside chides, and he knows. He knows that. He swallows down the words.
You’re perfect, he signs, then bites his lip as he feels his cheeks, already hot from crying, grow even hotter. He can’t look at Sidon’s face and get through this, so he doesn’t. You’ll make an amazing Champion.
He will. Sidon is proud and strong and beautiful, and he and Vah Ruta will be beautiful together, and all Link can see when he closes his eyes is Mipha, trapped and screaming and dead, dead, dead—
“I don’t believe you would lie,” Sidon says carefully. “But I can’t believe you left so quickly because you felt I was qualified. Something is clearly troubling you, my friend, and I fear I could not call myself your friend if I did not do everything in my power to ease your burden.”
Link shakes his head.
It doesn’t matter, he signs, I’m being selfish. He tries his voice again, this time with more success. “You should do what you want.”
Sidon is quiet for a long moment, though his hand continues its slow path up and down Link’s spine, and he lets Link stay where he is.
“You don’t want me to be a Champion,” he says after a while, contemplatively. It’s not a question, so Link fights down his instinctive urge to answer. He doesn’t know what he would say anyway. Argue the point? There’s nothing to argue. “You don’t want me to pilot Vah Ruta. And you think you’re... being selfish?”
It’s still not a question, really. Sidon’s tone is measured and even, but Link feels a sudden chill flow through him. Not as bitter cold as the ice that washed through his veins when Zelda turned to Sidon, used that voice and Link could tell what she was going to say, knew that Sidon would say yes because he’s Sidon, he’s brave and noble and would do anything for his people— not that same cold, but something similar. He trembles, and he knows Sidon feels it, because the prince’s arm tightens around him.
He’s said too much, bared a little too much of his heart, and Sidon is anything but stupid.
“When I was young,” Sidon says, his tone far lighter than Link expected, and the words nothing he expected either, “Before the Calamity, I mean. I don’t remember very much, but I remember how much I wanted to be like Mipha.”
Link swallows hard, hiding his face in his knees once again.
“I think I imagined that one day, she would ascend to the throne, and I would take her place at Ruta’s helm. Of course, that was not the future we were given. This is the future we were given,” he says, squeezing Link just a little.
“I admit, it would be a great honor to be named a Champion. But Link, my dearest,” he pauses, and Link looks up at him, the elided friend hanging gossamer in the air between them. “I would take up the duty of a Champion not for the honor of it, but because I would offer my help to you, in any way I can, until my fins fail me.”
Link can’t breathe; his ribs are iron bands around his chest, everything tight and hot and too much. He knows his eyes are watery and red, but he manages to look up at Sidon anyway, even as he grabs the arm that’s been wrapped around him and takes Sidon’s hand tightly between his own.
“I want you safe,” he rasps, forcing his voice to work because he has to, he has to.
Sidon’s eyes are soft, and he turns, shifts in the small space here to face Link more directly, and Link allows himself to be moved, practically into Sidon’s lap as the Prince’s free hand comes up to cup his cheek, his large palm practically engulfing Link’s head.
“You know I can’t promise that,” Sidon says softly, even as he bows his head until his crest rests gently against Link’s forehead. “If my people are in danger, I must defend them.
“But,” he continues, “If it will give you peace, my dearest one, I will not pilot Vah Ruta.”
Something dark and sharp and brittle inside him crumbles to dust, the pit of dread in his stomach vanishing. Link’s chest loosens all at once; he sucks down air like he’s breaking the surface after being underwater too long. Sidon’s hands on him chase away the last of the chill, and his golden eyes glow in the late afternoon sunlight, and Link isn’t stupid, either.
Link throws his leg over Sidon’s thigh and takes his face in his hands and kisses him on the mouth, again and again and again.