Disclaimer: I do not claim ownership over The Legend of Zelda, nor any of its characters. Herein my only property is the story for this tale and the effort that went into writing it.
Warning: This story features a Male!Sheik as well as Link having feelings towards Sheik.
Big thanks to my friend Red who was my beta for this piece, without her help this story would never have become anything close to what you see below.
I painted art to go with this as well, please check it out, the link to my devart account is in my profile.
I Will Be The Water To Your Thirst
"Are you sure it's worth it?"
Vast plains of sand and stone for as far as the eye could see. Not a single shelter or road between the beginning and the end, only the sun and stars to guide his path. A burning wind hits his face, a warning that should he take this road only violent heat and barren lands would he find.
He pulled his new scarf over the lower half of his face, sapphire eyes watching the tiny whirls of sand dancing about the wastes. He didn't look out into the beyond with any sense of dread, nor did he gaze with any sense of duty. He knew what most men would find out there, the endless nothing.
But he also knew that he was not most men.
This journey, for once, was of his own volition. He was in effect walking away from his obligations purely because he wanted for himself. Desired what waited for him at the other end of the desert. It was purely selfish, with him having everything to gain, and the Kingdom at his back everything to lose.
She stood up from the immense cherry wood desk, hands folded in front of her, nervous fingers plucking at one another. Her eyes tell of tangled strings in uneven measure of fear and hate and love and grief, everything knotted together in her mind. The pain, he knows, has built it self swiftly over the last year.
He knows she loathes herself for feeling it, the jealousy, but she can't help it. He understands. Just as he knows he can't help her with it either. So when he began recognizing her love for him shifting to envious hate, he allowed it, because it was all he could do to help.
She has every right to hate him after all. Because he doesn't love her like the Hero always should.
And he has every right to hate her too, he tells himself. Because she wasn't able to give him back seven years.
Because nothing ever went like the legends promised them.
He stands there, unwavering, waiting for her to pick up the thread of understanding from the mess in her head. Perhaps the distance will help her, he hopes. She deserves some peace after all, and maybe if she can find it, happiness. He hopes they both can.
Zelda let out a choked sigh, Link able to see the tears at the corners of her eyes shining bright in the sunlight lazing in from the window at her back. It's painful to watch the last vestige of hope she had for him, for them, shatter. But it must be done. The moment he learned of her secret his heart had turned to steal, and he knew he could be breaking hers.
In the past he would have taken back his words, would have sought to do right by her and make something between them even if there was nothing to be made. He would have tried, because sacrificing himself was what he was good at, because everyone else's joy should have mattered before his own.
Should have… but too much had happened between then and now.
Link wasn't quite the martyr he once was.
Trembling, the Princess nodded once in defeat, eyes downcast at the scattering of papers upon her desk, several maps showing the borders to Hyrule and the Kingdoms beyond. It was difficult to not walk over to her and embrace her, to whisper apologies and sweet nothings in her ears; this had been the girl he left home to help, the woman he ended up saving, he was her Hero. But she had kept this from him when she knew how he felt, and the pain of the lie left him bitter towards her own suffering.
She pressed her lips tightly together as she pointed toward the maps, delicate finger sliding across the Gerudos territory and out beyond the drawn border, into the uncharted. To the west then, past the desert and the wilds, beyond Hyrule. He would leave as soon as he said a his goodbyes, no need to drag out this reunion any longer. Besides, it had already been three years, the hero had waited long enough.
With a nod toward the Princess, Link took toward the door and walked swiftly out, never looking back as her choked sobs chased him down cold stone halls.
So he should have felt guilty, and he did. But his want, his thirst to meet him again, was so much stronger.
He took his first step toward the end of the world.
He left Epona behind.
The horse wasn't fit for the sands. Link hadn't the faintest idea how far he was exactly going nor how long it would take, the unfinished maps leaving him only with Zeldas word and his own experience to plan out this journey. And carrying enough water for himself and the mare wouldn't end well for either of them should this drag out, so it had been with a heavy heart he made his parting with her as well.
"It would be best to travel at night." Talon stacked another crate in the cart, Link doing the same with a sack of wheat, Malon hitching the horses upfront. "It's too hot during the day to move so much, you'll want to bed down then. And the cold at night is much easier to deal with. Be sure to bundle up." Link nodded and grabbed a cage filled with several cuckoos, carefully placing it at the very back of the wagon, mindful of their beaks trying to snip at his fingers through the bars.
Once they finished loading up Talon let out a weary sigh, pulling out a worn rag from his pocket to wipe down his brow. He was watching his daughter up ahead as she added the second horse to the lead, Link turning and watching too as Epona was tethered alongside the other mare. Mousy nose and a slathering of freckles, Malon was forever wearing hand me down dresses, patched up with all the colors of the rainbow. The girl was strong, not only able to take care of the ranch on the day-to-day but also able to command the attention of the cuckoos and the respect of all the horses. Malon, with her long fiery hair and azure eyes, so full of hope.
Link knew Talon had designs on Link maybe coming back here when the war had been over, him taking over the ranch, marrying Malon. He wouldn't deny that he had almost entertained the idea once upon a time, when he had been a small boy and first stayed a this ranch. But that was before he jumped through time. Before a lot of things happened.
A large hand was at his shoulder suddenly, drawing Links attention back to the rancher, seeing the acceptance in his eyes.
"Trust your instincts boy. You've been given them in spades by the Goddesses, so don't ignore them." Meaty fingers gave a squeeze, almost a little rougher than necessary, but Link didn't show his discomfort. "Never forget why you're doing this, whatever your reason may be. As long as you don't lose sight of what you have to gain, you'll always find your way."
"Oi! Fairy boy!" The hero turned toward the ranch girl at her voice, Malon smiling up at him as usual, skirts twisting back and forth at her ankles. "Come say goodbye to Epona before we go!"
He could have had a life here. It would have been a chance to be content, to stay and make peace with what he had. To accept the path the Goddesses laid before him…
But he never really wanted what they had to offer him. He was always best at making his own way.
Link walked past the girl who could have been his wife, never looking back.
He approached the front of the cart, Epona nickering at him as she stomped her hoof, the mare unused to being chained so. With a smile he raised his hand to her nose, letting her huff in his scent one last time before giving her a scratch. Epona had been a lodestone for him for a long time, something constant when the world had been turned on its back.
When the rains wouldn't let up for days and she shared a tree with him, keeping him company in the chill. When he called for her out of loneliness she would always answer, never mad when he left her abruptly to do his work, always happy to hear her tune. When she rode with him into battle in the fields, her gait steadfast in the face of the monsters. When she brought him to the lake and in her joy ran him right out into the water to throw him from her back, laughing at him playfully.
He stepped forward to hug her neck, eyes squeezing shut as he felt her set her head on his shoulder, her teeth nipping playfully at his ear. Perhaps they would meet again. Perhaps he would be able to play her song for her once more, ride across the fields through the sun and the rain and the snow. Perhaps he could watch her give birth and help her raise her foal. Perhaps…
…but, perhaps not.
And… he was okay with that.
Because though he lost seven years to his cruel fate, Link had grown up much in his short time as an adult. He knew he couldn't have everything, knew that perfect happily ever after endings stopped short at the fairy tales.
Malon placed her warm hand on his back, voice drifting over him, reminding him of the fairy he had lost long ago.
"It'll be alright Link. Sometimes… you just have to take a leap of faith."
He felt the tears wetting his scarf before he realized he had cried, gauntlet covered hand coming up to wipe away the trails on his skin before they could dry in the sun, Link snorting back the rest with a shaky breath.
He trudged over the crest of the dune, kicking at a collections of rocks before beginning to walk down the other side, the moon rising at his back casting a heavy purple shadow before him. The chill bit at his toes and ears, numbing his skin and making the little breezes that came and went that much more annoying.
Since he had learned of the secret from Zelda, Link had been so sure that it was either here or there, no in between. But if he could cross this desert once then surely he could do it again. He was strong and he had done a great many feats most would consider impossible in his short time, certainly he could accomplish this.
So Link decided he would be coming back to Hyrule one day, and that he wouldn't be alone.
At times the sun was insufferable.
Link had sprawled himself out in the shadow given to him by a few tall rocks, the Hylian trying desperately to chase but only a few hours of sleep. He had avoided most of the sun through his nightly travels and the clothes he wore, the scarf doing wonders to save his face from being sunburn, even so it still felt like his skin was fried. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth and every time he tried to draw up any saliva to get it unstuck it he felt like the muscle was trying to roll backwards down his throat and kill him instead.
Maybe a drink of water was just what he needed. Perhaps then he could find some rest for the time he had left before the sun set and his traveling began again.
Link didn't even sit up or look over as he reached for his pack, reaching inside in a tired haze, the tips of his fingers grazing the smooth shell of his water skin—
"What are you doing."
The smooth voice, muffled by the water lapsing at his ears, drifted over and around him instead. Link cared little about the scolding he was sure to get, his skin felt like worn leather and he was too busy soaking up the water of the oasis to care. Besides, he had been left to travel the desert alone; a day spent imprisoned at the fortress, a night spent chasing after ghosts across the sands.
Link swore to himself that he would never willingly cross the desert again.
"I told you, water means life. To not have any means death out here. You should have used yours more sparingly."
At the worried inflection in the others voice blue eyes opened, catching sight of his guide standing on some rocks at the shore, just an arms reach away, gazing down at him in concern.
It wasn't fair. Link had to run through the sands to get here, practically dehydrating himself in the process, when only moments ago his guide had simply warped nearby with song and magick, looking none the worse for his travels.
But he could never stay mad at the other warrior, he was just doing his duty, same as Link. The hero understood that between the temples when he left it was always because he had other things that needed doing. Really Link was grateful that the other warrior made it his business to actually go through the trials with him at all, because none of that was even mentioned in the stories. They were both in this mess, but at least they were both in it together.
"…Are you alright Hero?"
Feeling far too worn to answer properly Link allowed a lazy smile to slip through, all the while watching his guide standing in the dappled light of the tree hanging over the water, the colors of the desert fitting the others dark countenance all to well.
After a moment the Sheikahs visible eye crinkled, Link knowing his smile was returned beneath that mask, wishing for the hundredth time that he could see that too.
—and then his hand pulled back as if slapped, Link rolling onto his side away from it, sighing as he closed his eyes and tried to will sleep to come.
The silence got to him most.
Link was never one for chatter, his words reserved for only what need be said and little more. Everything else he conveyed with his actions, which suited him just fine.
He missed the sounds that accompanied life though. Link wished he could hear the bustle of the market again, or the animals rising with the morning on the ranch. Voices, laughter, life. Something… anything to sooth the silence suffocating him.
Walking slowly up the steep incline of the drift the hero reached into his tunic to pull out an egg shaped instrument, fingers dancing over the freshly carved wood, blue eyes admiring the gift.
Saria's feet swung from the stone ledge leading into the Forest Temple, Link standing below and leaning against the lone tree in the clearing. It was past dusk and the pyre-flies were at their peak season, taking up so much space Link was afraid if he breathed through his mouth he might swallow one.
In his hands was her gift to him, still warm from her hands when she'd tossed it down at him moments before. The pads of his fingers keep passing over the wood grain, a small smile alighting his lips as he swiftly began to memorize its feel. It was lighter in feel than Zelda's ceramic one, and it was less delicate as well carved from the Great Deku Trees own husk. Colorful paint had been banded around the mouth piece, a stripe of pale green and a stripe of pink. He studied every scratch tiny hands had put into the wood, whorls and designs meant to never be seen, only felt.
"It's hard sometimes." Her voice brought him out of his appreciation for her present, blue eyes alighting back to the small girl above, s loon calling out in the forest nearby. She was staring up at the heavens, watching as the river of stars began to flow, cutting through the sky. "Being asked to leave everything behind isn't easy."
Like her choice to become Sage. His choice to follow the road of a hero. They left so much behind, comfort and home, walking down perilous paths, everything they ever did hinged on faith.
To run away was always an option, sure, but Link had never seen Saria run from anything.
He liked to think at times that he got his courage from her rather than the Goddesses.
Emerald eyes slowly came down to him, her legs ceasing their movements, the crickets in the forest all around them beginning to answer the call of the night.
"But, for that slim hope that you're going to make everything so much better… I'd say it's worth it." She smiled at him, a childish grin which he couldn't help but return. "Wouldn't you?"
Link thought back on his life before, living among the Kokiri as one of them. But he wasn't, not really, and had he stayed, had he never answered the call of the Goddesses, he always wondered how it would have all played out. Would he have been cast out by the Deku Tree or welcomed to stay? Would the magic have kept him a child forever, same as the others, or would he have grown old and faded away, never knowing why? Would Hyrule have found another to take up the mantle of Hero? Would they have made the same choices as him? Made every narrow escape he had? Or would they have fallen? Would Ganon's darkness have come to rein?
Would Sheik have ever found time for him between duty and home? Would he have still helped Link when he was hurt? Teach him how to fight?
Would they have ever even met?
In the end, despite his bitterness at years lost, the scars marring his skin, at friends lost to the call of the Sage, Link knew he didn't regret any of it. Offered the choice again, with all the knowledge at his disposal, he would willingly follow down the same path.
He'd lost so much but he had gained so much more. He knew, without a doubt, that he would never trade his memories for another life.
Saria drew him from his musings again with a gentle sigh, green eyes once again caught up in the stars above, her voice barely a whisper, words flowing under the life of the forest.
"Don't give up, Link."
Though the desert all around was dull his mind was filled with green growing things, children's laughter echoing off trees and toad's croaks echoing from under fallen trees. He could taste the river moss in his nose, and for a moment, when he closed his eyes, it was no longer sand underfoot but fallen leaves and loam.
He raised the small instrument to his mouth, taking a slow breath before he began to play on his new ocarina, a song to remind him of a friends smile and a home from long ago.
He should have expected it when they attacked, after all, the Hero of Time had a penchant for getting into trouble.
There must have been a dozen foxes, the group having snuck up upon him under the cover of darkness. By the time he realized their intent toward him as prey Link was already surrounded.
They were bigger than the ones from his forests back home, nearly the size of wolves, and their silver fur allowed them to easily slip in and out of his view in the darkness. The troupe was giving tiny barks back and forth to each other, setting him on edge. Their razor-sharp incisors shined in the moon lite as they paced back and forth, pairs of glowing yellow eyes never leaving him.
Link slowly grabbed his hook-shot with one hand and drew his sword in the other, the smooth clack of it leaving its sheath silencing the group. He had left his shield behind, he thought it was too cumbersome for his trek across the wastes, though now he was feeling that it might have been worth the burden.
At his back the first mutt made a move, Link just catching the movement in his peripheral. Halfway through the air he caught it with his hook-shot, the beast yelping as the metal claws dug into its side, clamping down through skin and bone with a gravelly crunch. Link released the mechanism and dropped the canine to the ground before retracting the chain back.
Two more foxes pounced from his front, warriors reflexes having his sword swinging out in a perfect horizontal arch, catching the leg of one, tearing the paw partially off as it tossed the mutt to the side. The other one landed at his feet and went to bite at his ankle, only to be met with toughened leather and a swift kick in the neck from its intended meal.
All at once sharp pain lanced through his left arm and making him drop his blade, eyes wide as he brought the appendage up to see the source, meeting with a smaller fox trying to gnaw through his arm guard at the wrist. Link dropped his hook-shot from his right hand and grabbed at the scruff of the foxes neck, ignoring its shriek as he ripped it off his arm and tossed it violently to the ground.
Deciding to end what was left of the ones who hadn't already fled Link reached into his tunic and palmed a small diamond cut stone, the warrior calling to the flames he could feel rolling beneath the gems surface. Before another fox could attack Link cast Din's Fire, pushing the blazing heat out and around until the screams of his attackers being incinerated were no more.
Sapphire eyes opened, the Hylian taking notice of only a few charred bodies nearby. The rest vanished. They had run.
Link berated himself for not using that sooner, much as he enjoyed a good fight. Even though they were simple enough to defeat he hadn't come with any sort of healing measures, leaving him not only with an injury to his arm but a gash to his pride.
Link sighed as he picked up and put away his hook-shot, reaching down to pick up his sword with his wounded arm only to drop it with a hiss. His wrist throbbed warning pains at him, Link holding it up shakily in front of his face, squinting at it in the meager starlight. There were several tears to the hardened leather, and a single snagged tooth embedded in the gauntlet where a dripping of blood was oozing through.
As the hero fell down to the sands to take a moments rest, his fingers already tingling from the pain. With his good hand Link slid the glove off, hissing as it pulled the skin around the wound, smearing the blood across his hand. He threw the leather to the sand, glaring at the teeth marks and rips across his wrist, inspecting the damage as best he could. It wasn't a bad injury, he'd certainly had worse, but it impaired his ability to hold his sword, and he lacked any potion to take care of it properly.
Being as careful as possible Link tipped the mouth of his water skin over his wrist, sneering at the pulsing ache as he tried his best to clean it. After he rinsed it fresh blood began to bead up at the deepest gashes, rolling down his limp hand and dripping to the ground, soaked up into the sand. Reaching back into his bag his good hand skimmed over a soft bundle of loose bandages, fingers closing carefully around them.
"You need to be more careful."
Sheik was examining the large gash on his calf from just above his boot, poking and prodding it this way and that as Link took a bite of his apple, proud of himself for being quiet under the other's poking and prodding. In his defense he had been really careful exploring Death Mountain, honestly, but those Keese came from nowhere! If he had seen them beforehand, he obviously would have taken them out from a safe distance; their shrieks made him twitchy.
Not that Sheik listened to him anyways. The moment Link had even tried to explain himself red eyes had rolled, no pity from the Sheikah was sparred his way.
Maybe if the Sheikah actually helped him in these damn dungeons for once, instead of standing back and watching Link do all the work…
The sound of cloth tearing startled him from his thoughts, blue eyes looking down in shock as he watched the warrior removing a length of wrappings from his own arm.
"It would seem I am out of potion. And so are you." Crimson eyes looked at him pointedly, Link swallowing heavily at the bite of apple he had chewed. Sheik looked back down at the green clad warriors leg with a scowl, grabbing at it carefully to raise it from the ground, resting the booted foot in his lap. "So we'll have to make do."
Link watched, enraptured, as Sheik began to carefully attend to his wound. Water down here was sort of precious, but the warrior spared a little to try to clean everything up, mumbling under his mask of the possibility of infection. Sapphire eyes trailed from the other's work up his newly exposed arm, tan skin revealed nearly up to his elbow.
Ever since they had entered the volcano they had received generous coatings of soot and ash, the black and gray having slowly covered most of their skin and clothes until they both looked muted and washed out. But now there was suddenly color back in his world, the slim arm moving in methodical work, captivating him. Smooth and clean Sheiks skin reminded him of earth, of the worn down under stones the streams flow, and in the roughness of the place he found himself in, Link was struck by the sudden want to reach out and touch…
He realized he had been caught staring until Sheiks movements froze and his blue eyes rose up to meet red, the sudden embarrassment bringing a rich flush to his cheeks. Sheik didn't comment on it, thankfully, instead standing and moving a few steps away, giving them both a bit of space.
Links hand went down to the others work, fingers skimming over his newly acquired bandage. A bit of blood had began to seep through, though from how secure the wraps felt Link was positive the bleeding would stop reasonably soon. He smiled, Sheik always was a perfectionist after all, Link wondering if the wound would even leave a scar.
No one else had taken care of him since he was little, since before the leap through time. As an adult it was simply expected of him to fend for himself, even if he didn't know how. But Sheik… Sheik never questioned when Link needed help.
No one else was there to guide him, explaining why it had to be him, understanding Links frustration at the weight placed upon his shoulders, never brushing off his whining as pathetic or unreasonable.
No one else taught him the songs, or was patient and understanding when the music or the puzles didn't come to him right away.
No one else was understanding, no one else could have understood.
No one else but Sheik.
Link smiled as he finished wrapping the bandages around his wrist, even though his job wasn't nearly as neat as his guides had been.
Putting the gauntlet into his bag and sword back in its sheath Link stood, glaring back out at the desert wastes before continuing on.
He forgot how bad the desert storms could be.
The long scarf he bought from the market was wrapped firmly around his face and over his head, holding his hat down so he didn't lose it to the gales. Every lose bit of cloth on him borne back and forth in the winds, sharply whipping at him and stinging his skin.
The last time he dealt with this kind of weather he had been chasing a ghost, running with the Lens of Truth practically plastered to his face, stumbling over stones in his haste to get out of the tempest and to the temple. Though this time around, without flagpoles or a destination, Link felt like it was indefinitely worse.
At least one thing was the same, someone was waiting for him at the end.
He was too busy being annoyed by the second stubbed toe that he nearly missed the shifting sands underfoot, only jumping back at the last second as a leevers maw burst through where his foot had just been.
Link was not in the mood for their hunt and quickly grabbed his hook-shot, pulling the foul monster from the ground and kicking it out into the storm, almost instantly loosing sight of it in the sands.
Three more appeared in its place, all doing their synchronized dance toward him, the Hylian smirking to himself as he repeated the same fate upon the next two, the last one meeting with its end under the heel of his boot, giving a satisfying squelch. They were easier to deal with than the foxes, he'd met with enough of these at the Spirit Temple and the Fortress to be able to take them down in his sleep.
Sneering in triumph as no more approached Link put away his weapon, turning back the way he had been walking…
…or, no, not this way…
He turned back toward the pile of twitching leever, looking out into the sands for any sign of the one he kicked. If he could just see where it was he would know which way to go.
Except he hadn't just kicked the one, in his frustration he'd kicked two.
Link bit down the anxiety bubbling in his chest to walk out a few paces, trying to find his footprints in the sand, knowing the winds would have already swallowed them up.
…Well, okay… no, this was okay. Yeah. He would just wait here for the storm to pass, then he would know which way to go because he could figure see the bodies, right?
Dread seized his heart as he watched a languid leever grab at the half dead one he'd smashed, slowly pulling it below the surface to eat, leaving no trace of it having been there.
Staring at the spot, fixated, trying to will the beast to come back, Link could feel himself beginning to panic.
He didn't even know how long he'd been traveling for, but he knew he had hit the point of no return days ago. Even if he pointed himself back toward Hyrule some how he would never make it to the Gerudo's Fortress before he succumbed to the thirst.
Link was breathing too much too fast, his mask having slipped down in his panic and some sand getting in his mouth, scraping at his throat. The Hylian bent over hacking, hands braced on his knees and tears springing to his eyes. He nearly emptied his stomach of what little contents it held but managed to hold it back, his mind still clear enough to tell him that wasting so much of himself at this time was the last thing he needed to be doing.
Once he caught his breath Link grabbed at his water skin, taking a tiny sip, just enough to wet his mouth.
The winds picked up around him, tossing the loose ends of his clothes about, even the edge of the bandage on his wrist flapping like a flag. He tried to calm his mind, he knew there was some other way he could track his movements, but his head was bogged down with too much adrenalin for him to grab a solid thought out from the mess. A detached part of himself knew he was making himself hysterical.
Signs of more leevers appeared nearby, obviously drawn to him, thinking him vulnerable in the storm. He could stay and keep fighting, but that would only serve to wear him down, and who knew how long this storm would last?
"Trust your instincts boy. You've been given them in spades by the Goddesses, so don't ignore 'em."
No, he had to keep moving. Feeling himself sober up Link turned around, glaring out at the wall of sand, listening calmly as his heart slowed back down to a regular cadence.
"Sometimes… you just have to take a leap of faith."
Link pulled the fabric back up to cover his face and took a slow breath before walking further into the storm.
When the storm passed Link realized that the stars overhead were where they had been since his journey began, shining at his mischievously. He was going the right way.
So he was happy… for a moment anyways.
He was on his last water skin. He only had a few sips left, and that was only if he spread it thin. In desperation Link tried casting Naryu's Love, trying to reach out at the shield of water to gather some for himself, only to find his hands always came away dry. Magick, it seemed, could not be used as sustenance.
If Sheik were here, he'd know what to do.
"I told you, water means life. To not have any means death out here. You should have used yours more sparingly."
Link thanked the fact that last night the desert had shifted from waves of sand to dry cracked earth, though the horizon was equally devoid of life as ever. At least now it was all fairly flat instead of rolling hills constantly shifting, the change had to be good right? It meant he was getting somewhere other than desert, even if dry lands were no better, but at least he had that going for him he supposed.
It had been a long time since he left civilization, and a long time since he had last seen a bed. Link realized all at once how sore his body was. He hadn't stopped walking for what must have been a fortnight, only ever breaking to either fight off predators or catch snatches of sleep beneath the blistering sun. His limbs felt burdensome, his backpack and weapons weighing on his mind more than they ever had before.
Link tilted his head to the sea of stars above, dried eyes watching millions of lights twinkle, the Hylian trying to map out all the constellations Sheik had taught him, the knowledge slipping from his fingers.
If he didn't reach his destination soon then he was good as dead.
Miles away from home. Goodbyes having been said. No one would be looking for him. No one knew to be waiting for him.
He was alone.
He knew had he been more hydrated tears would have sprung at the corners of his eyes, instead the pressure building behind his cheeks, a lump pushing his throat closed, not helping his situation in the slightest.
Link had never felt so lost. Out in the wastes there was no guidance, no prophecy, no one asking for help. And how could Link even know he would be there anymore? It had been three years, he might be gone far away for all Link knew.
Or maybe he had run out of water, same as Link was soon to do. Maybe Link would find his bones, bleached in the sun, picked clean by the vultures, shreds of blue and white cloth clinging sadly to the remains. Maybe the hero would die next to his guide, their bodies forgotten, his feelings unknown. Maybe…
"Don't give up, Link."
Choking back his fears he looked up at the moon cast horizon again, legs shaking as he dragged himself forward once again.
The next day the water ran out.
For all his effort the dry lands, flat and barren as far as his eyes could see, had yielding nothing to him. No clouds. No water. No enemies. No friends. Nothing.
Link wondered if he had already died and that this was hell.
He couldn't imagine a fate worse than this after all. He knew the thirst would soon claim his life, the dryness scraping its claws at his throat. The fleeting headaches that had plagued him for the trip were suddenly constant, a thick tempo on the back of his neck, making it unpleasant to hold up his head. His muscles were a constant ache and his skin felt thick and inflamed beneath the cover of clothes, leaving him feeling feverish and delirious.
Link didn't allow himself to stop though, he knew his only hope of salvation was to keep moving, no matter how desperately he wanted to stop. So he trudged along, waiting for an end.
When dawn came Link fell to his knees.
The hero was more than ready to curl up and sleep as he always did in the suns waking hours, body already shutting down. If he just closed his eyes, if he just allowed sleep to claim him, it was so close...
"What are you doing?"
He gasped, murky blue eyes bolting open, the Hylian startled to find he didn't recall ever shutting them. He was sitting on his ankles, the sun rising at his back, warming his muscles through his clothes.
"I told you, water means life. To not have any means death out here."
Link wanted to scream and cry and curse and run away. But he couldn't because there wasn't enough of him left to do any of these things, so instead he sat, gazing blearily out into the cruel world.
He used to be a hero. The one who would defy all logic and odds to overcome and succeed. With his unshakable courage he would always win, he never knew the taste of defeat.
Now… the thirst was all he knew.
The thirst was all he was.
"It's hard sometimes… but for the slim hope—"
Trembling, his fingers undid the buckle cinching his tunic, the baldric holding his sword and hook-shot falling off his shoulder and hips with a heavy thud to the dirt around him, the impact barely kicking up any of the milky white dust coating the ground. Next he slowly rotated his arms back, sliding the straps of his pack off his arms behind him, the sudden loss of weight making his head spin and drawing a groan from his throat.
"Are you sure it's worth it?"
He wouldn't know unless he tried. It was what he wanted to say to Zelda that day, but the words never came. Now they echoed around his head, taunting him.
A pathetic whine reaching out into the void, his voice, cracking with disuse, the rising sun the only witness to his courage now. His limbs felt only marginally better with the loss of the weight, but it was something.
"So we'll have to make do."
His lips cracked and bleed as a cynical smirk tugged at the corners, dull sapphire eyes casting out into the oblivion before him.
With a sense of finality Link took his last steps toward the end of the world.
Never forget why you're doing this…
…what ever your reason may be.
As long as you don't lose sight of what you have to gain,
you'll always find your way.
The sun was absolute.
There was no avoiding it, no hiding from it. It would always find him, and with every second he could feel it stripping away his life, skin peeling away from bones, its sharp light carving him out until he found himself too hollow to hold together any longer, leaving him exposed. He was undone.
Every breath he pulled in dried out his insides a little more, blood sluggish in his veins. He felt so lethargic, his feet never leaving the ground anymore, tips of his boots dragging him along, his monotonous march.
Until Link forgot why he was even trying anymore.
His legs buckled beneath him, knees losing their shaky hold, the world tipping over itself as he fell forward, finding nothing to bear him up any longer.
What are you doing?
His head snapped as he was suddenly seized, the painful throb that had become him reverberating through his body in a slow throb. Cool hands felt over his face, his neck, driving back the pain, Link shivering bitterly at their touch.
And then cold liquid at his lips, dribbling past his chin and neck, droplets sliding down his chest, escaping him.
"You have to drink! Drink it you bastard!" Fear. A voice, he knew, had always been so much calmed in the past. If only Link didn't mess up and get hurt so often, maybe he wouldn't have anything to be afraid of.
Don't give up...
Finally a few dribbles of water hit his tongue and like the snap of a bow Links hands shot forward, numb fingers grabbing greedily at the gourd pressed to his mouth, trying desperately to tilt it back so more of the glorious water could tame his thirst.
"Link, slow down, you'll drown yourself!"
He didn't care, he wanted to drown, needed the water to fill the hollow places etched by the sun, but the others hands were stronger, only allowing him the cold liquid in tiny controlled sips.
He tried to gasp for air mid sip, causing him to cough up a heavy portion of water all over himself and his savior. But blessedly chilled hands were forgiving, patting gently at his back and rubbing soothing circles. They pulled off his scarf and hat, fingers running gently pushing back his sweat soaked bangs.
"It's alright. I've got you… just breathe."
He did. He fought back the want to sob and the need to drink and took deep breaths, one at a time, until he remembered again why he was here.
Link split open his eyes.
Red. The most brilliant shade of it he had ever seen. Staring down at him, holding him steady in their familiar gaze, Link drinking the crimson in.
Never had he seen a more beautiful sight.
Are you alright, Hero?
Sheiks eyes crinkled as he smiled down at Link, the hero's head resting in his lap, the backs of thin fingers brushing along his cheek and jaw. The Sheikah looked so scared, and Link knew it was his fault, it always was. He vowed to take that fear away, to never let it pain the other again.
…even if it meant crossing the desert.
I'd say it's worth it…
Lazily, Link smiled back.
I came to you one rainless August night.
You taught me how to live without the rain.
You are thirst and thirst is all I know.
You are sand, wind, sun, and burning sky,
The hottest blue. You blow a breeze and brand
Your breath into my mouth. You reach—then bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
You wrap your name tight around my ribs
And keep me warm. I was born for you.
Above, below, by you, by you surrounded.
I wake to you at dawn. Never break your
Knot. Reach, rise, blow,
I am bread
I will be the water for your thirst.
The poem at the end, 'To The Desert' is by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. I've had this idea in my head for a very long time, and after several revisions, and a beta read by my friend Red, I'm pleased to say that it's finally done.
Thank you for reading.