Link eased himself back against the nearest tree, turning his head to spit while he slid down to the ground. He grimaced, bearded face twisting in discomfort as he knee crackled in protest. He finally came to rest on the ground and stretched out with a weary sigh. Winter in the Lost Woods were a trying time on recruits half his age, much less knights in their twilight years. Not that he was old, by any means – thirty two years alive, but he was considered a relic for the Hylian guard. Few lived past twenty five, and none of them were of sound health.

Link himself was proof of that. Thirty two, and bearing more scars than the Royal infirmary had recorded on any other Knight before him. He was no longer capable of using a bow. His fingers ached to pull the string, and his vision had blurred ever so slightly. It was years since he hit the bullseye.

Impa had once told him, many moons ago, to watch out for glory, for in its shadow stalked jealousy. The years had been especially hard on him. There were expectations heaped atop of him, but being blessed with a blade often meant he was alive to deliver the bad news of those who weren't. It was a heavy, thankless burden.

Zelda married, but as the court demanded, she married to Royalty. Some far away Prince who helped unite their lands, or some such. Link remembered the wedding day due to three gifts. From Impa, a short, curved Sheikah blade, to be strapped to his back for fast defence. It was appropriate – at the time his shield was growing heavy for his arm.

The second, a bottle of fine wine. A gift from the recruits, with the hope he would pass it on to the blessed couple. And from Zelda, a fine sword, shaped and polished to mimic the Master Sword. He had to bite his tongue from calling it a cheap mockery.

He adored Impa's blade, and valued the wine himself. The sword stayed within his scabbard, with the excuse that it couldn't grow dirty if it wasn't used.

He was bitter. He was grizzled, with scratches and lines, and a choppy, uneven beard growing from his jaw. At least there was wine to keep the cold from his knee, and Impa's blade that he could still draw relatively fast. Zelda – the Queen's blade was surely tarnished by now from being unpolished for so long.

But again, there was wine. And ale when wine ran out. And the Lost Woods allowed him peace to swear and spit with the ghosts. They didn't judge, and if they did, he could blame it on the alcohol and the Guard, along with most of his worries.

"Here's to those that wish us well," he chortled to the cold air, raising a flask. "And all the rest can go to Hell." He tore off the cork and drank, until the wind didn't bother him, the ground didn't hurt him and the bitterness of his life began to fade.

He didn't notice the sound of frozen grass crunching nearby. Maybe his hearing was beginning to wane, too.

Over the course of the years, Link had awoken often to unfamiliar surroundings, but the darkened room was somewhere between a dungeon and a living quarters. All stone and quiet but still somehow comfortable. It took too much effort to even remember the woods from the night before, and his head was pounding heavily all the same.

His equipment was nearby – his fingers able to reach out and stroke the curved handle of the short sword that usually sat on his lower back. There was that at least-

"You're awake."

Link's fingers tightened on the handle, reflex pushing him to sit back and draw the blade out, pushing through the rolling pain he felt while he peered out through creased eyes. There was a sigh, some breathy noise, before a figure stepped into his vision.

"You've gotten scruffier," she said. For a long, awkward moment, Link was sure it was Cia. The woman who caused so much trouble so long ago, with her piercing eyes and petite features. But she was not Cia. Not really. She was too soft in the face, too welcoming. Her hair was longer than the sorceress' cropped style, and a bright sky blue in shade. And this woman wasn't quiet as... voluptuous as he remembered Cia to be, either. No – it had to be...

"Lana," he breathed, before immediately choking on air. His blade came down and he muffled himself with his fist, while she took a step towards him and grimaced. The young witch had grown up over the years. Grown taller and fuller, with an air of maturity. But there was still that innocent charm she had so long ago when she was a spry youth.

"I can't believe that's you, Link," she said, and he quelled his coughs long enough to glare at her. Despite all his rough edges, he just didn't like to be pitied, and he had the feeling she was feeling sorry for him now.

"You know how it is," he said roughly, his voice low to accompany his hangover. "The life of a Knight is not all it's made to be." But she shook her head sadly, and Link couldn't help but notice just how much she had grown. Her hair spilled down to her shoulders now, while her ornate jewellery was absent from her arms.

"I don't know how it is," she said quietly. "I wasn't keeping an eye on you, you know."

Link relaxed back, finally realising it was a cot that he was languishing on. That did surprise him. He always wondered in the back of his mind if she watched him, silently growing more and more disappointed in his decline over the years.

"Probably for the best," he agreed, scrubbing his face with his hand and pulling his scrappy facial hair down. But what surprised him more so was the way she shook her head, smiling a soft smile, as though he were some incorrigible hellion.

"Come on," she said. "I'll draw you a bath. You could use it," she added cheekily, before leaving him to prepare.

Link couldn't remember the last time he had a bath. There was hygiene to consider, of course – bathing left you sitting in dirty water. But he almost cursed when he eased himself into the copper basin, feeling warm water come up to his chest while steam rose from the surface. Aching scars and a crackling knee seemed to ebb away under the water.

It was the most relaxed he had felt sober for a long time.

"Facial hair suits you," a voice sang behind him, and he jerked forward at the sudden noise. He whirled, eyes wide with fright as Lana giggled behind him. "Though maybe you've got a bit too much for my liking," she said with her nose wrinkling, and Link was caught between wanting to know why she was there and wanting privacy.

Lana didn't give him the option of sorting out his confusion, spinning her finger in a no-nonsense fashion.

"Turn around," she commanded. "You're very lucky – I'm going to wash your back for you, and you can tell me how you've been."

He didn't feel lucky. Not immediately. Sullenly, he turned his back on her, careful to cover himself under water while he stared ahead. There wasn't much to say, he told her. He had no interest in complaining, and there was the danger that if he did start, he wouldn't be able to stop.

"Things have been rough on you," she mused quietly, while her fingers traced along a bright scar that crossed his shoulder. The one that began giving him trouble with his shield arm, from what he could feel.
"I'm a Knight," he said simply, pushing aside the sensation of her gentle fingers on his back. "It's to be expected."

She said nothing for a while, focusing on rubbing soap over his broad back while he closed his eyes and relaxed against her. The steam had evaporated his headache, and truth be told, it felt good to feel the dust washed off his skin, or her fingers in his scalp. She commented on how tangled his hair had become, and he actually said sorry for the inconvenience.

"What happened to you, Link?" He opened his eyes and she was there, kneeling down at the side of the basin with a worried look on her face. He frowned, but he was too tired to feel any resentment towards her. Pitied or not, Lana was his friend, and a beautiful young woman who showed him kindness. Both were few and far between.

"When they write the stories, we all get happy endings," he said with a hint of mirth. "They never bother with what happens next." Deep down, a part of him wanted to smack himself. He was beginning to grow morose, and he knew once people started to feel sorry for themselves, it wasn't easy to come back from it. But Lana only shook her head, blue locks framing her face while she seemed to wither just a little.

"Not all of us get our happy endings," she said, before reaching out a wet hand and placing it on his cheek, just above the start of his scruffy beard. "They just leave us out of the tale." Link looked at her, really looked at her. And all at once, he knew her. She was Lana, who once loved him, and who still did. This beautiful, wonderful young woman held him in her heart. At he had spent too many years feeling bitter and cranky at the world to spare her a thought.

She dodged an arrow, he thought.

"There are worse things," he said, reaching up to take her hand away from his face, before growing lost in just how soft and smooth her palm was. Thirty two, and his fingers were as rough as granite. It would be so easy to lose himself in just how soft and gentle she was, especially when her thumb came down to brush the back of his hand.

"I'd disagree," she said quietly, squeezing.

It would be so easy, he thought. So easy to cradle this sweet, gorgeous creature in his arms and kiss her. To taste gentle lips and feel a woman's curves for the first time in so many years. To lose himself in her welcoming touch.

He pulled her hand away, looking down and crushing the thoughts before his arousal began to show. This was Lana, and she deserved better. He said nothing, but heard her sigh and slowly pull her hand away.

"You should stay until the wind dies down," she said, drying her arm on a towel before rising and brushing her dress down. "And Link? It's not up to you to decide who I do and don't deserve." Lana turned and left the room, blue hair seeming to close her off as he looked on after her. He remembered, too late, that she was still a powerful sorceress who knew more than she let on.

Hours later he awoke in the cot, early for the first time in months. He ran his fingers through his uneven whiskers, mind buzzing with what to do. Officially, he was on leave from the Hylian guard. Told to take time to himself, but advised to stay clear of the local tavern. The Lost Woods seemed like a good idea at the time, really. Nothing but solitude and spirits to swear and drink with.

And now he was gazing up at Lana's roof, mulling over the day before and unsure where she was. He hadn't explored the home – he felt too much like an intruder in her life after so long. And still, she treated him with more kindness than most had in so long.

'Probably because she still loves me,' he thought. That kept sleep at bay easily. She loved him. He didn't know how to treat that. He was only good at stabbing and slicing, and his skills with those were beginning to grow dull. It wouldn't be much longer before he would be too slow to block that next close strike, and someone else would be carrying him home.

He didn't much care for that idea. The great Hero, scruffy and alone, falling to a glancing blow and buried under some fancy stone. With Queen Zelda saying some expected words, maybe.

And then his mind came back to Lana, the sweetheart sorceress who would mourn him all on her own. He didn't care much for that idea, either. The witch's words kept playing over and over in his mind, about what choices he did and didn't have. Link rubbed his cheek again, a ragged nail getting caught in his whiskers and making him curse aloud.

"You've become quite talkative," came a voice from the door, and he was just grateful he didn't jump from Lana's intrusion.
"For all the wrong reasons," he said, pushing himself up and smiling ruefully. If little else it brought a similar smile to her face, her features lighting up just a little, and Link found he enjoyed the sight.

"I'm about to have apple pie," she said, tilting her head and biting her lip. "Would you like some?"
He had to stop and wonder when he last had anything with apples in it that wasn't just cider with ale.
"Sure," he said quietly, and her smile came back brighter. He couldn't deny that he liked it.

"Lana?" he called to her as she began to leave, and she gave him a questioning look. "Can I borrow a blade? Something sharp. And some water." She gave him a puzzled look, enough for him to really wonder if she couldn't just read his mind whenever she wanted, and he gave her a crooked smile.
"I promise I'll be careful with it."

Weeks went by, and Impa folded her arms across her chest. She wasn't impressed – not in the least, though she couldn't say she was very surprised either.

"What is the meaning of this?" she asked coolly, nodding towards the blade on her desk. The sword that Queen Zelda had gifted Link so many years ago lay across the wood, polished to a fine shine. Perhaps for the first time since it was forged. She looked up from the blade to the nervous Captain, who wilted just a little under her scrutiny.

"Beg pardon, Ma'am," he said. "But he left it in the Guard's room. Said he was done."
"Done?" Impa was sure there was a twitch in her forehead. Of all the irresponsible things Link had done over the years, this was both the worst... and perhaps the most relieving.
"Yes, Ma'am. Said he was going to 'bow out' before he took an arrow to the throat."

She sighed, folding her hands and tapping her thumbs together. Zelda wouldn't be happy about this, but Impa expected it would be preferable to hearing he had died in battle. And she had prepared that speech long ago.

"Anything else?" she asked, before picking the sword up and depositing it on the shelf behind her.
"Just one thing," the Captain replied. "... he shaved." That got her attention. He hadn't been clean shaven since Zelda married.
"He what?"
"Not all over, just a bit here and there," he continued, tapping his cheeks and chin. "And a bit around here – it's all short and even. Gotta say, it looks good-"
"Leave immediately."

Lana's eyes closed, sighing contently as Link's lips gently slid over hers. They were rougher, with his trimmed facial hair tickling her chin, but she was happy to tilt her head to the side and deepen it. When her tongue shyly slipped out to brush his, he made a noise that was just encouraging and she pressed her naked body closer to him.

Idly, she wondered how Cia would have reacted if she were still the dominant one. If she would be more active and assertive. But Link surely had some mind reading skills of his own, and his rough fingers pulled through her hair before cradling the back of her head.

"You're doing fine," he whispered, and her heart skipped a beat from the encouragement. Her heels dug into the mattress of the cot behind him, adjusting herself on his lap and delighting in the way he groaned. She'd remember that, rocking her hips and easing his hard length out of her folds before sinking back down onto him. This time his head fell onto her shoulder, and she beamed to herself. He would always be beautiful to her. Scars along his body and a sharper face only made him more handsome.

Even if she existed for many, many years, she was as delicate and young to him as he was broad and tough to her. She had always desired Link as he was – a handsome, brave youth. But if she was honest with herself, she thought he had aged rather well. Distinguished and wiser, with a rough-around-the-edges quality he always lacked.

Link the Hero was a noble boy, hesitant to do anything inappropriate. Link the Knight was a cursing, older man, who wasn't afraid to reach down and squeeze her backside while still letting her set the pace of their love making. Lana found that she preferred him more this way, delighting in the way he would lean down to kiss her full breasts before brushing his teeth along her nipple.

"How am I doing?" she asked playfully, fingers curling into the muscles of his shoulders and giving him a warm, sultry smile. She felt him bristle and twitch inside her, and she couldn't help but feel a little naughty for it, too.
"You know how you're doing," he ground out, holding her hips before bucking up and making her squeak. Even that turned into an erotic moan.
"Tell me anyway," she whispered, pressing her breasts to his chest and tightening her legs around his waist. Link chuckled, a deep rumbling in his chest that shot through her nipples.

"You just like hearing me talk dirty," he whispered, and Lana nodded. Who could blame her, really?
"Do it for me?" she asked playfully, moaning when he kissed the tip of her ear and thrust deeper inside her.
"You're a good little sorceress," he whispered throatily. "And you're going to sit here until you've been properly rewarded."
"That's not dirty," Lana whined, tightening her legs all the same. Link just laughed again, a hand palming her ass while the other tilted her chin up to kiss her.

"You couldn't handle the real dirty talk," he whispered, grinding himself between her slippery thighs. He could already feel her starting to tense up, knowing she'll reach her peak soon.
"Then I'll just stay here until I can," she said stubbornly, fingers clawing down his chest while she leaned against him. "And stop holding back – I know you're as close as I am."

"Can you really read my mind?" he asked, kissing her neck.
"I know your dick keeps twitching inside me," she moaned, tilting her head and pressing against his mouth.
"Such language," he mumbled, breaking from her throat. "And you want me to talk dirty to you?" Lana's hips rose and came down hard, leaving them both close to their climaxes.
"I like it when you do it," she hummed, licking her dry lips.
"Then stop talking and cum for me, love," he growled into her ear.

Lana's orgasm came crashing down, clenching and clawing at Link enough to pull him over the edge with her.

When she got her breath back, she shyly confessed that she had never been so excited than when he called her love at the end. He promised to do it more often.