Disclaimer: I don't own Zelda. I'm just borrowing.
Summary: I was watching my younger brother beat the Fire Temple when this scene just spontaneously popped into my head and demanded to be written. The Muses don't like me, so when they decide to be nice and hand me an idea, I run with it. I can't say that this little vignette has a point, but it was fun to write. I hope you enjoy.
This is the slightly revised version; I made a few changes to the original on the good advice of reviewers. Big thank you to all wonderful people who click the review button!!
by Startide Risen
The torch crackled in the corner, and Princess Zelda, once again made unrecognizable by scarlet irises and the close-fitting attire of the Sheikah, sat with her knees pulled to her chest in a corner of Darunia's room, only a few inches away from the entrance to the Fire Temple. In later days she would vaguely recall that she had been burning up underneath the cowl that wound about her head and obscured the lower portion of her face, but at the time she didn't even notice the sweat that rolled down her nose and into the suffocating fabric. She didn't notice anything at all, really, now that she had grown tired of trying to interest herself in the Goron's strange decorating style and gone into absorption mode. Her entire concentration was focused on the doorway just to her left. Minutes passed like days as she sat in her silent vigil, rarely even twitching. The largest movement she made in over an hour was to absentmindedly scratch at the back of her right hand.
Suddenly, blue light glared into the room, sending Zelda to her feet with extraordinary speed. The next instant she felt light-headed—probably due to the fact that her blood was abruptly able to start circulating freely again and had immediately rushed to her head. Shaking herself to get rid of the spots that suddenly danced in front of her eyes, she peered around the edge of the entryway cautiously as the glaring light dimmed to a more tolerable glow.
In the roiling heat just inside the entrance, a column of light shone down onto a pedestal marked with the emblem of the Fire Medallion. Floating down within the column to land lightly on his feet as though he did this every day was Link, the Hero of Time, the army of one. She caught her breath at the sight of him, the way she always did. It never stopped being a relief to see him alive.
Zelda watched as the pool of light around the Hero's feet receded and sank into nothingness, uncertain whether she should approach him. Link simply stood on the pedestal where Darunia must have sent him, swaying slightly as his knees threatened to give out. Navi flew out from under his hat, yammering anxiously at him—something about "sit down… put your head between your knees… deep breaths." Zelda ignored the little fairy, instead taking in the numerous deep cuts and third-degree burns that had left dark bloodstains on Link's red tunic. It looked like the Fire Temple had been no better than the Forest Temple. Probably worse. But he was wearing the same look of lightheaded triumph she had seen on him after the last temple, with his eyes closed and his head tilted back and the shadow of a grin playing at his lips. Uh-oh. She knew what came immediately after that look.
She darted to Link's side as he collapsed and managed to catch him around the chest just before his knees hit the hard stone of the pedestal. He opened his eyes long enough to identify her before letting them fall closed again. Well, at least he hadn't actually passed out this time…
"Oh, thank Farore! Sheik!" Navi piped, dipping in the air with relief.
"'Lo, Sheik," Link murmured, trying unsuccessfully to support some of his own weight; his legs stubbornly refused further punishment for belonging to him. Zelda blinked; it was always jarring to hear him call her Sheik. She had long since grown used to it from the mouths of others, but she was always unduly surprised when he said it.
"Hello, Hero," she replied, remembering to drop her tone a whole two octaves to her "Sheik voice." With a complicated motion that nearly pulled a muscle in her back, she slung his left arm over her shoulders and struggled valiantly to straighten. Goddesses, he's heavy! Or maybe it's the damn sword and shield… Finally she managed to get him to his feet, though he still sagged heavily against her. Oh, curses, the edge of the shield is digging into my ribs.
"You can call me Link, you know," he muttered for the thousandth time as she half led, half carried him out of the blistering heat of the Temple.
"No, I can't," came the terse reply as she hauled him into the relative cool of Darunia's room. Navi trailed behind them, bobbing worriedly over their shoulders.
"I can't imagine why not," Link murmured. "Or is it a disgusting swearword in the Sheikan language?" he mused almost to himself, opening his eyes hazily and looking up at Zelda. She paused in dragging him along to glare at him with Sheik's disconcerting crimson eyes. The look she was giving him had never failed to humble the average salesman trying to cheat her or shame the average farmgirl trying to flirt with "that mysterious Sheikah boy." (In the latter case, the stare was accompanied by a furious blush.)
Link wasn't fazed.
"I can just picture it… 'Link you…' 'Link off, you linking piece of link…'" he went on in a drowsy whisper, closing his eyes again. Navi giggled behind him. "Get the link out of here, you linking idiot… Oh, link it, the linking thing…"
Somehow Zelda was not surprised to find that the Sheikan Death Glare had no effect whatsoever on Link.
"If it isn't, it ought to be," she replied before hauling him over to Darunia's mockery of a bed. Din damn it, Gorons have no concept of the word "soft." Despite this, she sat him down on the edge of the slab of stone and started to wrestle his shield off him. Navi flew into one of the empty jars that rested on the nearby table and announced her intention to have a nap and added that someone had better soundproof her jar in case Link snored.
"I don't snore, Navi," Link told her in a tired voice that suggested it was an old argument. Or maybe he just couldn't muster the energy to be indignant.
"How would you know?" she fired back, her piping soprano echoing from the jar.
"Because I'm just smart like that," he murmured, but plucked his hat from his head and wadded it in the neck of the jar nevertheless. Zelda just smiled and continued untying weaponry from his belt. For a long moment she worked in silence.
"Seriously, Sheik," Link addressed her with his eyes closed again. "Why do you refuse to call me by name?"
She sighed. You ask me that every time you see me, boy. And I swear there's a reason. A good reason. A good month ago, when Link had arrived in the Temple of Time after his seven years' sleep, Zelda had watched him from the shadows in her guise as Sheik and tried to force herself to call his name, step into the light, and offer what little information she had. But she couldn't. She couldn't use his name when she was hiding behind a shadow and a false identity. So she made a private bargain with herself. The day she would call him Link would be the day he called her Zelda.
But he couldn't know that.
"How do you know you were wrong about it being a Sheikan expletive?" she shrugged, setting his bow and quiver aside. She unbuckled his sword's baldric and started to lift it over his head. "Besides, 'Hero' just—OH, SWEET NAYRU! Agh!" Zelda cursed eloquently in every tongue she knew while shaking her hand frantically in an effort to be rid of the fire that had erupted in her fingers when she had touched the hilt of the Master Sword. This was hardly something Link could keep his eyes shut through.
"What? Sheik, what?" he demanded, making a feeble effort to leap to his feet and achieving a sort of bounce on the edge of the slab.
"I—touched—the—bloody—sword!" she gritted out, flapping her hand around madly. She sucked in a breath through her teeth and with an effort held her arm steady. Link sagged wearily again when he saw that there was no invading army of Stalfos to be fought off—just a minor mishap with a sword only he could wield. He watched his friend with a tired sort of empathy as she held both arms rigid and took deep breaths while the pain faded. "Ouch," she concluded.
"You know, Sheik," said Link. "You scream an awful lot like a girl."
"Link off, you linking piece of link," she said nastily, picking up the baldric delicately in two fingers and keeping it at arm's length as she set it on the table with the rest of his equipment. That done, she fished in her pack for a salve to rub onto his burns. "Which one's your worst burn?" she asked, advancing on him with a tin of ointment.
"Probably this one," he said, delicately tapping a ghastly welt on his forearm that shone with blood. "Volvagia's handiwork…"
"Hold still, then. This stuff stings." She dabbed a finger in the clear salve and spread it gently over the burn. He didn't flinch. "Any other bad ones?" she asked.
"No," he replied.
She put the salve away and turned to look straight at him, folded her arms, and in her best impression of Impa said, "Now go to sleep, Hero. It's been a long three days."
"Three days? That how long I was in there?"
"Yes. Now shut up and sleep." She pushed him down onto the Gorons' idea of a bed, pulled his boots off, and started tugging his gauntlets off. She had removed the left one when something caught her eye. She turned his hand over and saw that it was raw with burns and blisters. "Goddesses! I thought you said you didn't have any other bad burns." He just shrugged. "How could you even hold a sword?"
"You get used to it," he replied, once again without bothering to open his eyes. Zelda could only shake her head.
"You're not getting away with that," she told him. Bloody stubborn, aren't you? "I won't have Navi yelling at me because I didn't notice that your hands had been singed." And she retrieved the salve from her pack again and saw to his burns, wrapping both palms in clean linen.
"You're good at this," he murmured vaguely when she was done.
"Of course I am," she said glibly, turning away and making for the door. "Now I'd best get out of here and let you sleep."
"Sheik?" She stopped immediately and looked over her shoulder at him. His eyes were still closed; he couldn't tell whether he'd gotten her attention or not.
"Hmm?" she prompted.
Her cowl hid her smile, though he wouldn't have seen anyway. "Of course, Hero."
"I have a name. It's Link."
"I know. Good night." She smothered the torches.