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It's really soon since the last chapter was updated, but you know what, it's written, it's the final one, why not?
Here's the final chapter to the ExTrA of this story, and I hope you enjoyed it. :D
If She'd Lived - Part 5 of 5
A year and four months, ish.
Navi was watching Lin sticking in poles into the dirt for beans with people she'd never met before, when she noticed that Sheik was watching her child as well, a frown furrowing his brow. Sheik hadn't noticed the fairy, as they were on opposing walkways that bracketed an inner vegetable plot, Navi in the sunlight and Sheik in the shadows, sentinels of one unsuspecting Hylian girl.
Curious and slightly nervous, Navi drifted towards the Sheikah and greeted him hello.
He blinked at her, and frowned deeper. "Where's your son?"
"Taking a break," Navi shrugged, which wasn't lying, "And you said yourself that he needed to be on his own, sometimes."
He grunted, and returned to staring at Lin.
Navi pretended to notice his staring just now, and exaggeratedly looked from one to the other, and teased. "Oh, do I sense some unrequited feelings?"
Sheik snorted, rolling his eyes. "If it were that simple."
"What do you mean?"
He eyed her suspiciously, before relenting with an answer. "I call her Garden Girl and I don't know who she is."
"…I think you're picking up Link's habit of not elaborating enough. How does not knowing who she is matter?"
"Because I know everyone here. Sort of." Sheik sighed, still eyeing Lin, "Keeping track of people who look after the grounds from the outside is a bit of a nuisance, but usually they're recorded in a roster, or they're a regular, so I can figure out who they are. This one's neither."
"So, she's, new?"
"Quite the opposite. Long story short, she's a sneak. She literally sneaks in every so often to do odd jobs on the grounds, so she doesn't get paid, she doesn't leave a name on the roster, and she's been getting away with this for months."
"That's…" Navi didn't know whether to be impressed or appalled with her. She was meant to be civil liaisoning, which meant she was meant to be sanctioned, which meant she was supposed to be avoiding this kind of suspicion. Farore. "So, she could be a threat? Does, Zelda know?"
"That," he said almost brightly, pointing a finger at her, "Is the worst part. She won't tell me who she is. So, yes, Zelda knows. Apparently, that girl over there is meant to be a civil liaison, which I have no idea what that means. Also under strict orders to leave her alone."
Well, as nice as it was to know that Zelda was doing her utmost best to look after Lin(k), it was clearly wreaking havoc between Sheik and the Princess. "That sounds, frustrating."
"Thank you! Just, has Zelda lost her mind? She's letting people into her inner circle left right and centre. It's sort of not really my job to keep her safe, and yet here I am worried for her, and there she is, doing what seems to be her best to thwart me."
Navi wondered who else Sheik was talking about, since they'd seen practically nobody else around Zelda, but then it clicked. "You mean just Link and her and, I guess myself as well. Which is just three people."
Sheik was moodily quiet, and Navi sighed. "Which I suppose is three too many for you?"
He growled, hunching his shoulders as he glared at Lin, barely looking at the fairy. "Look, I understand that Hero... Link, is a good guy. That doesn't concern me any more. But I have issue with people who hide their identity. It's nothing against him personally, I just," and his shoulders drooped, and his sigh was ragged. "I don't like it."
Navi fluttered closer, and settled on the bannister by his hand. Lin was helping with the planting now, popping seeds into neighbouring rows of soil, taking instruction from a middle-aged man. "Won't you tell me why?"
"Maybe I will if you tell me why he fears being touched of all things." Sheik grumbled, and a flash of ire raced through the fairy.
Fine. She drifted up and caught his attention, and braced herself for some exhaustion.
"He didn't grow up with it. Fairies like me, of the Kokiri Forest, often look like this."
She concentrated, and an image of a girl misted into being. White-haired with night-bright eyes, the girl in the green shapeless dress scowled up at the Sheikah, the blue fairy's glow diminishing exponentially. The girl talked with Navi's voice, raising a half transparent hand. "We're not solid. We're just, there. So he was never held, never hugged, never touched. Saria tried, all of them tried, but there was only so much they could do. So when the first real touch he felt was, well, hostile... it was inevitable, really."
Sheik blinked at her, and shuddered. "Goddesses, that is cruel."
"I know." And the fairy went back to being a fairy, the illusion of the girl disappearing. "So? What's your problem?"
The young man huffed with amusement, conceding defeat. "A man my parents trusted hurt me as a child. He was always disguised with magic. Under this," he waved at his fringe, smirking, "Is a fantastically ugly scar that I have to hide to have a decent conversation with a stranger. So I resent people who hide their face when they should have nothing to hide, and they remind me of the man that did this to me. Which, I admit, is pathetic reasoning compared to Hero, but it's how I am."
Navi shuddered just imagining it. "It's not pathetic, and it was no less cruel. Being betrayed like that must have been awful."
Sheik shrugged. "It's been over a decade. And thank you for the insight. I hadn't… your son makes more sense, now."
The fairy snorted, rolling non-existent eyes. "I've been looking after him for years and he still doesn't make any sense."
The Sheikah's lip twitched up briefly in a smile. "I see."
"You could ask him, you know. Just, ask why he hides his face. See if he shows it to you." she suggested, as she watched Lin shake hands with the kind man and walked out with him, listening to whatever he was saying with rapt attention. The fairy swelled with pride for the girl, thinking of the sheer amount of progress she'd made this past year, "I can't tell you his secret, because it's not mine to tell, but you can always ask."
Sheik scoffed, watching Lin leave as well. "You'll be telling me to ask her next."
Navi would have grinned, if she could. "Why not? Your orders are not to bother her, right?"
"Goddesses, don't tempt me."
A year and six months, or something like.
Filling in reports was possibly the worst thing to fritter away one's time, yet here he was, doing exactly that. Which was infuriating since he had a feeling Garden Girl was out there, right now, looking after the Castle Grounds somewhere.
Sometimes he could strangle his best friend, never mind that it would equate to regicide.
First Hero, and now this. Oh, there's such a thing as a Civil Liaison? A person who bridges the people with royalty, to make sure everything was fine? Messengers should be enough for that, but no, no, there's a specific job just for letting the higher ups know that things were/weren't alright with the common man.
This would have been more convincing if the last Civil Liaison position hadn't been erased close to four generations ago.
Sighing he escaped his desk and went out for a walk.
Zelda must enjoy making his life difficult, seriously. She knew he had a problem (well, had had, he supposed, now) with letting Hero get close to her, and she just decides to compound it by letting this mysterious girl close as well, and refuses to share her name with him on top of it.
She had the Triforce of Wisdom, so maybe that made her the most excellent judges of character in the history of character judges, but Sheik was not one of them and she knew he hated people hiding their identities. So why protect them both?
...Why protect them both?
Sheik found himself slowing his frustrated march, the new angle to the issue that had been plaguing him for months (months!) giving him a new course of inquiry.
The Hero he could understand, now knowing from Navi about his touching issues, at least. The disguise around the Hero he could almost forgive; he had proved himself time and again that he was harmless towards Zelda, excellent in a fight, and reliable when faced with enemies. He was still a social buffoon, with the most outlandish issues (didn't eat creatures bigger than a pig, previously mentioned fear of being touched, mute unless prompted to speak, and could barely function without his mother close by) but Sheik had to admit to himself that Hero had grown on him. Like a cute weed.
But Garden Girl? Why protect her identity? Because that was what she was doing, Sheik realised, palming his scar in exasperation for not thinking of it sooner. Not hiding her identity, like a crime, or an embarrassment, but protecting it. Zelda cared about this girl, enough to shield her from himself.
Immediately he went looking for the Princess, waited impatiently till whoever she was dealing with left, and cut the figurative line.
"Has she got something to do with that other time?"
She rolled her eyes. She was probably bemoaning his unusual tenacity. "No comment."
She usually reacted with amusement of some kind when he was outlandishly wrong, so he took it as a step forward and left just as quickly.
He reviewed the questions he'd already made of Zelda, adding it to the now rather extensive list. Garden Girl was:
Not a blackmailer (Zelda had whapped him over the head for that), not a charity case, not a foreign lady escaping some unwanted marriage or something, not Zelda's secret lover (she had laughed herself breathless with that), not a spy, not a criminal, or a hostage, or ward, not a secret cousin from an extramarital tryst (she looked mildly interested by that, but had shrugged it off), not a ghost (he'd been particularly desperate when he asked this), not a woodland sprite or nymph pretending to be a Hylian (he'd been drunk at the time of enquiry), not a random girl, but someone who had to do with the other timestream, the Lost Seven Years.
Finally he was getting somewhere.
So, she had something to do with the other timestream, which meant he might actually remember her. If she was important enough to Zelda that the Princess would hire Garden Girl even if one didn't remember/know how she had helped the other…
Sheik sighed into his hands. This was going to make his head hurt.
Why not talk to her?
The young man let Navi's voice echo in his head, and seriously considered it. Then dismissed it. Confront a girl who'd done nothing wrong except be helpful in an unconventional way? Yes, marvelous. As if he wanted her to think he was some stalker. Which he was, at this point. He could go all out on the creep-factor and just, talk to her, but…
But he was so close to working it out on his own, he could feel it. Besides, he'd narrowed it down significantly, now that he knew that it had to do with the other time. So. He just had to remember some time back then when they needed a lot of help and a blond girl around Zelda's age had helped out exponentially.
Which was virtually never. Or all the time, depending on how one looked at it since they'd always needed a hand somewhere, somehow, and there had always been plenty of blond girls willing to be a false Zelda to keep her safe. So was it one of them?
No, this one had to be special, one of a kind…
Sheik blinked, remembering the initial epiphany that had brought him here. Zelda was protecting Garden Girl's identity, just like Hero's. So, did this girl have something to do with Hero? Perhaps Hero had been the one who had been helped by this girl, nursed him back to health when he'd been particularly badly injured? That made more sense, since this civil liaison business had happened some time after Hero had become a more permanent fixture in their lives, and yes, if he'd mentioned this debt to Zelda she would have happily appointed Garden Girl to this non-existent job in gratitude, and Navi would have been happy because Hero had another person to acclimatize to.
Could this be it? It still didn't really tell him who the hell she was but Sheik was sure this was a real lead, so he rushed back to Zelda.
"Does she have something to do with Hero?"
"No comment, Tharlaigh,"
"Did she look after him when he was injured, or something? She saved his life in the other time, didn't she."
Sheik frowned. Zelda was smiling which usually meant he was following a false lead. "Seriously?"
"No comment," she practically sung.
Sheik swore, spinning round. "It must have something to do with Hero."
He looked back just to check. No smile. So that was something.
"...Is she his sister?"
"Oh come on, Tharlaigh,"
"Is she the sister that he doesn't know exists?"
"What is this, a melodrama? No! Comment!"
"You were about to just finish with a no. So sister is out. But it still has something to do with…"
Hero, who was always disguised. And, not just the face, the whole body, why hadn't he taken real note of that before? Both blond, both blue-eyed, both close to Zelda, and had he ever seen them in the same space, before? No, never, and actually Garden Girl was often around when Hero either supposedly left or before he supposedly arrived, brushing past, two ships in the night, except perhaps holy shit could this be it?
"Hero. And that girl. Are they… are they the same person?"
Zelda froze, and took a deep breath. "No comment."
He'd known her since they were kids. He knew practically all of her tells.
Roast the Triad on the Mad God's spit, this was it.
"...I see," Sheik whispered, backing off. "I'll just, go, then. Still have a report to fill out."
So he left, reeling, not sure what he was meant to do now. He hadn't expected two mysteries to be solved at once, though he had to remind himself that he wasn't sure, it was still only a theory until either Zelda confirmed it or he confronted either of the Hylians in question.
The Hero of Time, a woman? That… actually wasn't so outlandish. Why wouldn't the Goddesses choose one of their own gender as a champion? But there was the more physical part of Heroing that was… more unbelievable as a woman. Case in point: Goron Hammer. Most men would break their backs just trying to lift it, and the Hero of Time was meant to have slung that around like a stick.
Then again, magic. Sometimes magic and a Blessing from on High was all you needed.
So, the Hero of Time was Garden Girl, and vice versa. Probably.
Sheik swore, rubbing his scar, then frowned.
What about Navi? Well, they'd been practicing being apart, so was it so hard to imagine the fairy being away from Hero while the disguise was gone, to make sure nobody figured out his real identity? It separated the girl from the Hero, made the connection harder to make. Also, Navi's conjuring of the child-illusion, if that was the kind of magic that fairies were adept at, it would explain why the disguise around Hero was so good; Navi helped maintain it. It would still need an anchor, of course…
Was it the green tunic? Or that stupid hat?
Sheik sighed. There really was only one way to be sure.
But he would finish his report, first.
If home was where the heart was, then Navi was home and I'd never been away from home overnight before.
She must have done some stuff while we were practicing me being on my own, because she was tired, needed to go back to the Kokiri Forest for a whole day and night tired. I could have gone with her, to make sure she was fine, but she had made me promise I'd stay, for more practice at independence.
My spine felt hollow with her absence.
It would be fine in the morning, I was sure. I was getting better at being on my own, talking to strangers, shaking hands. I might practice hugging soon, since Darunia seemed to love those. If Zelda didn't mind being my practice partner, and if I could get over the sheer embarrassment of asking for hugging lessons. Besides, another reason that this night was going to be fine, Zelda was letting me sleep on her floor, which was less lonely than the room that was slowly becoming like mine, and it felt infinitely safer, too.
Someone knocked on the door. "Zelda? It's me."
I scrambled for my bag of stuff, frantically wearing the Hat. Zelda checked that the disguise was back on, that I was Link, before I skidded back to my bedroll and lay in it.
"Come in," she said, wrapping a shawl over her shoulders.
Sheik came in, cowled and covered with his curtain of fringe, and he blinked at me.
"Um, Zelda?" he called into her antechamber, where she was still making herself decent, "Why is there a giant caterpillar taking residence on your floor?"
I glared at him before curling up, burying my face in my pillow. I hoped he would leave soon, because wearing the Hat all the time was tiring, especially without Navi to help with the energy load.
"Navi's staying at the Kokiri Forest overnight," Zelda explained, "So he's keeping me company."
I wondered just how much of a baby he thought I was, not being able to handle a night on my own without Navi, but Zelda had assured me that this wasn't normal, this practically crippling awfulness in my gut that came each time Navi was away, that it was totally understandable and fair that it left me shaking.
Sheik sighed, after I'm assuming was a staring contest. "He can't spend the night here. You know this."
I lurched up onto my elbows. What did he just say?
"Zelda," he continued, even as her face paled and eyes darkened like they always did when she was really, really mad, "I understand your concern, but Hero is male. It's too risky having him spend the night, even on the floor, on this end of the room. Your reputation is at stake."
Her mouth became a slash of teeth. "My reputation can go-"
"Do things to itself I'm sure it will find delightful," Sheik interrupted smoothly, making her blush for some reason, "And I'm not implying anything will happen, but please. Come to my room instead," this he said at me, and seriously did things have to get worse? "If you need company, I have some letters that will take me the rest of the night to pen. You can take my bed, I'll be at my desk, and everybody wins."
I bit back my groan, wishing he wasn't Zelda's friend because I could've done some nasty things to him gladly for this. "You don't even like me."
"I like you fine. I wouldn't offer my room if that wasn't the case."
"Because that's the rules." Sheik snapped, "I know that sucks. With you being who you are, and Zelda being who she is, most times the rules don't apply. In fact rules often die in a ditch when it comes to us and I've taken advantage of that many times, and so have you, probably. But sometimes rules apply two-fold. This is one of them, and I'm sorry. You think I haven't been in your position before?"
Oh, please, Mister Distant And Aloof That Sometimes Snarks Like A Nice Person And Pretends To Be My Friend? I rolled my eyes.
"When I first remembered about the other time I had nightmares for weeks." Sheik explained, and Zelda looked down at the floor. "I got imprisoned once for being found in her room crying in her bed, and damp dungeons aren't quite as comforting, let me tell you."
I looked at her, she at me, and she nodded. It, this was the truth? "Point being, this happened years ago, so after getting caught a few times I got away with being dismissed from the castle for maybe a year. Less than. But now, when both of you are practically at the doorstep of marriageable age? The consequences for both of you will be steep. I'm sorry. Just, come to my room. Unless there's something about me that makes you uncomfortable."
"...Fine," I sighed, standing up and getting my things, the hollow feeling in the back of my neck reminding me of that time I walked into the Dodongo Caverns, shaped like a jaw big enough to eat me whole. "I'll go to your room."
Sheik groggily woke from his desk, back aching from sleeping there.
He sighed as he eyed Hero still sleeping upright on the floor, nestled in the corner of the room. The blanket was slipping over his shoulders, though the propped up sword was still admirably supporting his head. Now that the blanket was slipping Sheik saw the other, smaller, unsheathed knife in his other hand. Or her hand, possibly.
So much for feeling comfortable.
The Sheikah sighed, standing and stretching, probably popping every link along his spine, groaning as his body protested. He probably could have let it go. Let the Hero stay the night in Zelda's room, without his disguise he would have probably been fine, a servant girl sleeping in the Princess's room because of nightmares. Zelda would have allowed that.
Except it still would've caused issue, or scandal, and put Hero at risk more than Zelda, and considering his sheer dislike of being touched it would have been an absolute nightmare if a frogmarch to the dungeons had gotten involved. Better not to risk it at all, even if it resulted in two very tired and grumpy youths.
Well. Did the term youth apply to ladies?
Sheik went about fixing the blanket over Link, and a piece of sky slipped into his room through the window.
"Hey, there you two are."
Sheik pressed a finger to his lips as Link shifted, snorting in his sleep.
"Oh," Navi cooed softly, fluttering round his temple, "He's not having any nightmares. What a relief."
Sheik rolled his eyes. "I'm amazed he managed to sleep at all in this position."
"Well, he does it all the time, and a boy has to sleep if he wants to stay strong."
"A boy, yes," he drawled, "Of course."
Navi's wings trembled, and her tone was suspicious. "Of course."
Sheik motioned for her to follow him, and they rounded his desk, he whispering with his arms crossed. "You know my reasons for not trusting your son. Tell me why he doesn't trust me."
She laughed. "Basically the same reasons. Sheik can't be your real name, and you hide your face all the time."
"Well that's ironic," he sighed, smirking, "And a touch hypocritical."
"And you have been keeping your distance."
"It's been a mutual distance, and you know it," he pointed out, to which she seemed to shrug. He blew at his fringe, and groaned. "Fine, fine. This stalemate had to break some time anyway."
"What do you mean?"
"I usually spare people from looking at my face, is what I mean. Wake your child, Navi," he added, heading back to crouch in front of the Hero, "For all I know he'll attack me in his sleep."
"Eh, true," Navi shrugged, which was not comforting in the slightest.
He was probably rising anyway; his head had lolled forward, and his expression was tight with nerves. Sheik settled in front of him as the fairy touched his nose.
"Morning sweetness," said Navi, and immediately the Hero's expression eased with what could only be relief, shoulders loosening even in sleep, the grip on his weapon unwinding. He sloped to the side, sprawling on the floor as he moaned, pulling the blanket over his head.
"Come back later."
Sheik held back a snort.
"Sweetness," Navi repeated, much to the Sheikah's amusement, "Wake up."
Hero whined. "Still tired."
"You do know where you are, don't you?"
"Where…?" and he pulled the blanket down from his face, eyes bleary with sleep, and finally he saw Sheik.
Hero froze. And then he blushed like someone set his face on fire as he scrambled back, one hand clutching his hat.
Ah, so it was the hat that maintained the disguise. Interesting.
"Navi! You can't, you can't call me that in front of people, that's, that's," and he buried his face in his hands and made a sound that was half-screech and half wail, but all soul-crushing embarrassment. "Come on!"
He couldn't help it. Sheik chuckled, earning a piercing glare from one blue-eyed Hylian. "I hate you."
"Mothers," he shrugged, grinning cheekily, "Embarrassing their kids in front of friends since time immemorial. Maybe you'll get me back if you ever meet mine."
The blush and hate was still there, but it was tempered with incredulity, now. "...You have a mom?"
"Duh, how else would I be here," he drawled, and Link grumbled about how that wasn't what he'd meant. Sheik chuckled some more, filing this moment to later share with Zelda.
"Right, anyway," he continued, regaining the Hero's attention, "Confession time."
Hero's expression twisted into 'goddesses that sounds so boring and why do we have to do this now?'
"And we're doing this now because there's no time like the present and you're kinda hilarious half asleep. Anyway… I like you, Hero." Sheik sat down and crossed his legs where he'd crouched, and Hero groggily sat up too, his lip curled in a moody pout. "I even respect you, considering what you've been through. But I've known from the moment we met that you have been hiding your face from me, which is why I haven't been very… trusting."
His pout was gone, and replaced with cagey suspicion. "…The whole time?"
"Yup. The whole time. I have a talent for seeing through magic, you see," Sheik continued, shrugging, "So I know the nature of a spell, see through illusions, that kind of thing. But I've never known who you were underneath, I just… knew that you were hiding your face."
"So do you."
"At least you can see that I am," he countered, and Hero shut his trap. "Point being, we're both adults, and I like to think that we've gotten to the stage that it's a little ridiculous that we keep going, so. I propose the following: I show you my face, if you show me yours."
Hero's eyes flicked towards Navi, who seemed to nod, and he nodded back. "… And your name."
"Your name too, of course."
Hero nodded. "Who first?"
Sheik smirked and waved at him. "Guest's honour."
The Hylian scowled. "Host's duty."
"Listen to your elder."
"Age before beauty."
Ladies first had been at the tip of his tongue, but he managed to bite down on it, barely. "Rank first."
"Lead by example."
"Oh for Deku Tree's sake, you go first," Navi said at Link, who flinched, but obeyed. As he took off the hat the illusion fell apart like sand under water, and there she was, the girl that had been driving him up the wall.
Of course she had to be pretty, didn't she. Not conventionally so, she looked a little too boyish with her long forehead and strong jaw, the almost imperceptible scar under her ear that slunk into her hairline. Her brow was furrowed with an oddly endearing touch of determination, and Sheik couldn't help but sigh.
"This is so unfair," he muttered as he pulled down his cowl and combed his fingers into his fringe, pulling it all the way back from his face. Navi gasped audibly.
Hero didn't flinch, which was unusual. Scars often induced looks of horror, or vicariously imagined pain, or worst of all, pity, and doubly so across a face. But she didn't flinch, barely winced, instead… marvelled, at the scar.
"What did that to you?"
"Who." he corrected, "And not someone I enjoy discussing."
She nodded, looking at the rest of him, he looking at her in turn. She really, actually didn't look much different than before. Just more obviously feminine, with a voice that matched her physique, fuller lips, wider eyes. "So… your name?"
He smiled. "You first, Hero."
"It's still Link. Well," she conceded, "Lin, to make it easier to tell. So, Lin Knightly."
"Lin Night-? Oh." the choice of the term clicked, and Sheik laughed. "Really?"
"I thought I was being smart," she grumbled, blushing again. "So who're you, Sheik?"
"Tharlaigh Hasheik," he snickered, extending a hand, "Sheik is my nickname and alias in one. Nice to meet you, Lin Knightly."
And she smiled and rolled her eyes and placed her hand in his, shaking it shyly. "About time."
Yes, it really was. Taking nearly two years just to meet someone who would become one of the most important people in his life, was decidedly the worst.
And the weirdest.
So this part is done.
And Sheik's train of thought concerning Lin(k)'s identity traveled down the same route even without Navi, but it took 3 and a bit years as opposed to 1 and a half because he was (as mentioned in previous chapters) making sure Link wasn't, like, multiple people pretending to be one person on top of the usual suspicions, and Lin didn't start liaising till she was maybe one and a half years into living with Zelda, and even then Sheik took notice only after about six months. Everything took so much longer without Navi because Lin was, essentially, a nervous wreck.
But she got better, as you all know.
Anyway, yeah. That's it. That should be it.
Thank you for all the support, and thank you for the reviews, and thank you for reading.
Good afternoon, good evening, and good night!