A/N: Every time I think I can write, real life smacks me in the face. Without. Fail.
Also, I pinkie promise—cross my heart and hope to die, eat a thousand needles if I lie—that I will explain everything that happened on Dragon Roost. Be patient with my inner drama mama llama, please?
Kid-Link lurked in the only way that one could lurk on a boat no wider than five feet: by receding into his own self, closing the shutters and locking the door behind him. He was there, somewhere, in some form or another, but Link could not see him. There was little Link could do, stifled by Kid-Link's vacant aura, and watched in a rare display of passive silence as that same pale aura drained the life out of not only the boy himself, but Link, the boat, and even the wind around them.
"You're not exactly charming today either, wolf-boy," Midna remarked.
"I know," he agreed.
"Not much in a mood to fight, are you?"
"He had all the food," Link replied, somewhat subdued and not really caring that he was proving Midna's point.
"Him," said Link, like there was only one "him" in the whole world. Because there kind of was.
"Oh," said Midna, sounding amused. "Well, we could always eat the kid." She paused, then tilted her head. "Ah, right. Can't."
"At least one of us is having fun," muttered Link. Midna merely laughed that infuriating giggle of hers, and then she was gone. Link rolled his eyes. Old habits died hard, and it was obviously an old habit to rub salt in every wound she could find. It was not yet Link's old habit to return the favor.
Either way, she was not helping the fact that they were on a tiny little triangle island with only a boat, a boy who both was and wasn't there, and an ugly statue for company. They were lacking food that wasn't a month old, fresh water, and any means to buy either one because they'd left the only person who wasn't broke on the last island.
When Link handed over the half-empty bottle of soup he'd had lying somewhere between his Clawshots and the Dominion Rod, he tried his best not to make it look like an apology. But from the way Kid-Link shook his head and leaned against the ugly statue, eyes unmoving from the invisible line between the blue sky and the blue sea, it didn't seem to have worked.
Even though Emit was back on Dragon Roost, he was still present. As they sailed in silence and Dragon Roost fell back into the sky, it was like there were three people in the cockpit instead of two. Link would check the rudder and catch a glimpse of two people across from him and look up, alarmed, to see only Reoh leaning against the mast; Link would adjust the mainsheet and see blonde hair from around the sail and do a doubletake, expecting Emit's face to study him from the other side.
Or maybe it wasn't that Emit was here, but that Link was still back there.
"Reoh," the King of Red Lions began. "As you can see, I am but a boat."
Link paused, then nodded, moving closer to listen properly.
"As such, I'm limited to the water. The affairs that occur on land are, sadly, beyond my power."
Link nodded again.
"So I must ask you," the King of Red Lions said, "what exactly happened on that island?"
Link hesitated, then gave an apologetic shrug. "Some affairs that occur on land are beyond my power, too."
In the safety of Dragon Roost Cavern, where none of the Ritos had bothered to think Link might hide, he came to a room littered with broken pots and dead Bokoblins. He remembered this room: it was one of those rooms that didn't reopen until all the enemies were dead, as if the very grounds and doors were hellbent on killing intruders. That was usually how dungeons were, anyhow; never-ending stories of ways to die. He decided that some form of civility would be better than nothing, so after somewhat clearing the debris, sinking the corpses in the lava in the main cavern, and adjusting to the thick smell of decay that had bled into the humid air, he seated himself at the abandoned table, Navi seated herself on the opposite side, and he calmly and methodically informed her of the situation.
"Horrible," she whispered after he was done. "Just horrible."
"Do you think we can fix it?"
"The misunderstanding," said Link. "Clearly, the Ritos are misinformed. Do you think we can fix it?"
"I don't know," was her answer, and she shook herself out to splay her wings flat across the table, her light shifting as she made herself comfortable. "I don't know how heavy the evidence is, but I know the weight of the crime, and sometimes that in itself is enough to get anybody convicted."
He nodded and began, "Then—" but instead she interrupted so shrilly, so shakily, that Link felt something in his own chest seize: "I don't think it's unintentional, Link."
He leaned over the table, although he wasn't sure if the concern was for himself or for her. "What? Why?"
There was an unimpressed silence.
"You don't trust anybody's gut but your own," she said, clearly miffed.
"I should hope not. It's a very personal thing."
There was a small puff of air, like a cross between a tiny sigh and a pout. "When you asked if I thought we could fix it, you weren't even asking for advice, were you?"
"I was," he said, and then he paused and added, "No, not really."
"We don't know how it happened," Navi pointed out. "To change something, you have to understand it. We don't even know where to begin, and the risks are enormous."
"We used to take risks every day," he replied. (Inwardly, he winced—"we used to"?)
"Don't tell me you can't see the difference between that and this."
He could see the difference perfectly fine. That was a clear-cut battle of good versus evil. This was him versus a misconception, and if he so much as pulled out a sword, civilians who had nothing to do with this would be injured. Running a hand through his dirty hair, Link looked down at the wooden table and admitted, "It just feels wrong to leave a place in chaos like this."
"I'm your guardian fairy," Navi said firmly. "I'm going to do my job as best as I can."
Link wasn't entirely sure if he could believe that, so he just looked away and gave a noncommittal nod, not really to agree but to acknowledge the statement. "So you don't think we can fix it," he said.
"That's…" She trailed away, and her wings seemed to shrink into herself. "No, I… I don't. I'm sorry, Link."
"No, that's fine. I'm going to try anyway," Link said firmly. "It's just rude to leave as the situation stands."
"Link!" she exclaimed, almost angrily, but his expression didn't change, and her flared wings quivered before returning to rest on the tabletop. "…Fine," she sighed. "I can't stop you, can I?"
"No, not really," he replied with a wry smile.
"Well, I can at least make sure you're not going to do something stupid." Her glow brightened sharply, almost like a fairy version of a smile. "Do you have a plan?"
The sun fell and pulled the temperatures down with it, so Link handed over the ratty old blanket he'd gotten from Telma all those months ago to Kid-Link. He took it with a mumbled "thank you", and an "aren't you going to be cold, Reoh?" and then a "well, if you say so." He curled himself up in the blanket, head bent over a book, fingers thumbing the thick, jagged pages with mindless ease from far too much practice.
Link didn't read much. He was a damn sight better at it than Emit-Link (goddessdamn, and Link realized at that moment how much he never wanted to hear that name again), but the fact remained that for most of his life, he'd been convinced that he would live out the rest of his days as a rancher, wrangling goats during his afternoon shift and whenever Fado couldn't do his own job properly, taking Epona for a ride whenever he pleased and let no one to tell him otherwise. The most he was expected to write was his own name.
So he'd certainly heard that some people in Hyrule read books for fun, not for study or research or to figure out where the hell you were on the dungeon map, but the concept was still somewhat novel to him. Why anybody would spend their time poring over a book made sense in only the most distant way, having never seen anybody actually do it in Ordon. But if it was Kid-Link, then Link was curious, and he figured curiosity couldn't kill the cat in this particular scenario, so he leaned over the kid's shoulder.
"That's rude," said Kid-Link, and shifted away. Link blinked and straightened. "I mean," the kid added, "that's what Uncle Sturgeon says. He said not to do that."
He kept his eyes down at the book, as if Link wasn't even there, but when he turned the page Link saw the edge of the paper quiver under his touch. Link looked down at the sandy grass, but all he said was: "Oh. Sorry."
Kid-Link nodded. His eyes stopped moving back and forth across the page for a split second, and then they started again and he was gone back behind those shutters and locked doors.
"Well," said Link, scratching the back of his head and squinting at the dark creeping towards the sun in the watery horizon. "Isn't, er, isn't it hard to see in this light?"
"Sort of," replied Kid-Link, and turned the page again.
"Is it good?"
"The book. Is it good?"
"I don't really know."
Link licked his dry lips. "If you don't know, then why are you reading it?"
"What's it about?"
"I can't tell yet."
"Story hasn't moved."
"And you're hooked already?"
Link frowned. "Is it that important?"
"Yes," replied Kid-Link immediately, and he glanced up just long enough to convey the genuine shine in his wide eyes. "Oh, yes."
Link waited, then a waited little longer, and finally squared his jaw. One minute later, his lantern planted itself by Kid-Link's foot. He looked up, distantly surprised in the same way he seemed distant about everything. "Oil's hard to come by in the middle of the ocean, and we're going to get up early tomorrow," said Link. "Don't take too long."
Kid-Link smiled and nodded, and sometime later, he turned the page and found he'd reached the chapter marker. Softly, he closed the book and handed the lantern back to Link. "Thanks, Reoh," he said, still distant. Wrinkling his nose at the moldy smell, he wrapped the blanket around himself, letting his eyes slide shut. Link sat some distance away and watched as his breaths deepened with sleep, then pulled out a deck of cards and began to deal.
Navi suggested to at least wait for two days to let the situation cool, and Link agreed easily to the logic. But only one day after they'd first found refuge in Dragon Roost Cavern, the situation came to them.
Link miraculously heard them coming over the boiling lava and constant shifting and groaning of the rocks, probably because he'd been listening for them constantly, and it made Navi wonder how paranoid he had to be to hear their footsteps in this rackety mountain. They watched the Ritos together from an upper balcony as the group made their way across the suspension bridges, and Navi picked out faces from the three-man squad: one was the girl who had been with the prince when they'd found him in the dungeon; the second Link had never seen before, but wore the uniform of the Rito police force; and the third was a face Navi had seen with surprising frequency—the postman from Outset.
Their intention became clear once they reached the fallen stairs to Valoo's perch on the very top of the mountain, and the two elder Ritos helped the youngest of the trio as they took flight over the gap. Both Navi and Link knew that he wouldn't be able to follow them up the broken stairs, so Navi offered first: "I could follow them," she said, "and listen to what they're saying."
"Don't get caught," he warned.
"Same to you," Navi replied. "They might just fly down the mountain, but if they go back the same way they came, Queen Gohma's room might be a good hiding place."
"They might want to investigate that room while they're at it," Link pointed out. "It is the room with the monster that had been torturing their deity, after all."
"Then the balcony with the grappling hook branch?"
Link thought it over, then nodded. "That would work. I'll wait there. Come back," he added, somewhat forcefully.
"Of course," she promised, recognizing the words for what they were.
So he went to hide, and she zipped up the mountain face and found herself a nice perch on the courtyard gate, where she settled herself snugly. The girl—Medli, Navi vaguely remembered her name being—was already standing in front of Valoo with her arms outstretched and her head bent respectfully, and the dragon in turn lowered his head once in acknowledgement.
"O great Valoo," Medli began, like she was reciting lines from a script, "we, the Rito, seek your guidance in these troubled times."
Valoo nodded again, blinking lazily.
Medli hesitated now, and when she spoke again, her words were uncertain. "There is… a person. His name is Emit." She stopped again, eyes darting back and forth nervously.
"How fluent did she say she was in the old language?" the policeman whispered to the postman. The postman glanced at the flustered Medli, then Valoo, and gave a slight head tilt. What a head tilt meant, Navi had no idea, but for the sake of the mortified girl, she hoped it wasn't anything bad.
"He is… an enemy. And there is a fairy, who could aid the prince. Er… the prince is…" Quickly backtracking, the girl looked down, and Navi spotted a flush of shame creeping up her cheeks. "I apologize, great Valoo. Forgive me my inability. The word…"
So that's what it was, Navi realized. She didn't know the translation for the word "injured." Valoo, from what they understood from previous experience, didn't speak the same language as the residents of the Great Sea—but for some reason, Navi and Link, as well as Midna and the other Link, understood both languages as if they were the same. It was convenient and yet, somehow, rude that somebody—or something—had taken the liberty of smoothing the problem out for them without their consent. Or perhaps that was just Navi being ungrateful.
"Broken," said Medli, having found a word to use as a suitable translation. "He is broken. Here." She gestured to her legs, right below her knees. "To find the person and the fairy, we… humbly ask for your guidance," she finished, the last, most fluent part of her sentence sounding again like a scripted line. At the very least, her professional bow added a note of legitimacy, and the policeman behind her nodded somewhat more approvingly.
Valoo didn't react for a long moment, then slowly tilted his head to one side. "There is nobody, let alone an enemy, on this island with that name," he replied evenly. "And no fairy on this island can help your young prince's situation."
Medli stared blankly at the dragon, then ducked her head in shame.
"There are no people named Emit on this island," the dragon repeated, pronouncing each syllable slowly and clearly, and waited until Medli nodded to signal that she had understood. "There are no fairies that can help your prince on this island."
Her face twisted in confusion, and she turned back to the other two Ritos, but they gave her a blank look, unable to even comprehend her bewilderment. "I… I must have translated that wrong," she mumbled.
"What did he say?" asked the postman softly.
"'There is no person of the name Emit on the island'," she said. "And…"
She didn't complete her sentence, instead opting to twist her fingers together, then face Valoo again with renewed determination and another bow. "There is a fairy on the island," she said. "The fairy is named Navi."
Said fairy shrank back behind the gate and shivered, feeling suddenly that she was much, much too close to Medli for comfort.
"Navi will not heal your prince," said Valoo.
After a moment's pause to work out the sentence, Medli asked softly, "Why, Great Valoo?"
Under his deep, furrowed eyebrows, there seemed to be a tinge of humor in Valoo's eye. "Healing will cost a guardian fairy her life."
Which was exactly what Navi had been trying to tell them the whole time. She sighed, settling herself more comfortably on the gate post, and smiled even as she rolled her eyes. It was frustrating to tell the truth and have nobody believe you—frustrating to the point of insulting for no nameable reason, as she could hardly expect the Ritos to know that she would never lie about something as grave as this.
"'A guard fairy will heal at cost of her life'," Medli translated to herself in a mumble, and once again turned around. "I don't understand," she said uncertainly. "What is a 'guard fairy'?"
The policeman shrugged, but the postman stiffened, and Medli turned as he put a hand on her shoulder. "Is that what he called it? A guard fairy?" said the postman.
"Medli," said the postman, "perhaps we should return to the Chieftain."
"Why? Is it important?"
"Very," replied the postman.
When the Ritos disappeared back to their hall and Navi returned to Link, she was smiling. The opportunity to resolve the misunderstanding that Link had been so set on clearing had finally presented itself.
Of course, that probably wasn't what Link was returning her smile for.
"I don't know what it was," Basht told his brother, scratching the back of his head. "It was just this, this white light and horrible noise, and then I was on the floor—well, almost on the floor, anyway."
Bisht put his hand on his forehead and sighed. "They're not gonna like that answer…"
His brother shifted uncomfortably on the hospital bed. "I figured as much. But, eh, what can you do? Emit already escaped."
"I guess," said Bisht. He glanced at the medic on the other side of the hospital wing, fluttering around the curtains surrounding the young prince, and lowered his voice. "But we don't know how he got off the island. And if we don't know how he got off, chances are that he didn't."
"Link left on a boat," replied Basht.
"From what I heard, the higher-ups are saying Link didn't go with him."
"How do they know?"
Bisht shrugged. "That's just what they're saying. I don't know all the details. But they've got some ironclad reason to believe Link has nothing to do with Emit, even though they came to Dragon Roost together."
"And Reoh? What about him?"
The question gave Bisht pause, and he rubbed his beak before answering. "…You know, they didn't mention him at all. It's like… he dropped off the face of the sea, or something."
"Strange," said Basht as he sank deeper into his pillow. "What if we asked Skett and Akoot?"
"They're always busy."
"Because they are," said Bisht with a shrug. "Guarding the Chieftain and whatnot. It's their job. Besides," he interrupted, "they weren't there. You're the one who saw that flash."
"…Fair point," agreed Basht.
"Are you sure you don't know what it was?"
Basht lifted his head, and there was something of suspicion and hurt that didn't belong in his red eyes. "Bisht…"
"It's not that I doubt your testimony," he said quickly. "But any clues at all would be better than none."
Basht nodded, maybe a little sheepish, but maybe not completely satisfied with his assurance, either. Or maybe that was Bisht's paranoia. "It was just a flash. A white light and loud noise, and then—"
"—you were on the floor," completed Bisht.
Basht paused. "…'Almost'?"
"That's what you said, right?" If Bisht had spectacles, he'd be looking over them at Basht. "You said, 'well, almost, anyway.'"
"Ah, that." Basht nodded. "Emit caught me before I hit the floor."
Bisht nodded. "Oh."
The door swung open, and the medic bustled in with a clipboard and a postman in tow. They discussed something about bills for a family on Windfall, something else about sorting mail and how ridiculously inefficient the current system was, and some other something else about how the scales in the medic room needed replacing and that it was completely unfair that the postmen had proper scales for their letters while people were dying due to improperly measured doses. The postman left with a laugh, then left the medic alone to fuss what seemed like a checklist of the young prince's conditions. The door swung open once more, and the medic left the room with a resounding thud of the door.
"Wait," Bisht blurted out, "he what?"
"And apologized," said Basht.
"Maybe we should go find the Ritos a fairy," mused Link aloud.
Navi folded her wings on her left side, then on her right. "I… suppose that would help the situation."
"The problem with that," said Link as he stood from his seat to pace, "is that there are no fairies on the island."
"Usually there's islands in dungeons, right?"
"We looked in the dungeon. There's nothing."
"…Peculiar," murmured Navi.
"Why do you think that is?"
"They died out?"
"Perhaps. There aren't any Zoras or Gorons, although it's too early to say they don't exist at all. They might have just relocated… but if they didn't and really did go extinct" (and Navi could hear the frustration and fear in the word) "then it wouldn't be a stretch to say the fairies followed suit," said Link, half to himself, and half to Navi. He scratched the side of his cheek, leaving a long streak of black soot from the underside of his chipped, shorn nails, and Navi noted that she really needed to find a body of water that wasn't scalding hot from the volcano for Link to take a bath in. His hair was a nasty, sticky mess, his clothes were unraveling on his very limbs from heat, and he had more streaks of soot on him than there were scars. Which said something. Watching him pace in the red half-light of the Bokoblin's dining room, Navi didn't blame the Ritos for thinking him a criminal; despite his measured steps, he completely looked the part.
Navi refolded her wings on the right side, sighed, and shifted them back to the left side. "Well… didn't the pirates mention a fairy spring?"
"…Um. I think?" was all Navi could say.
"In that case, if there are fairy springs, why aren't the Ritos using fairies to heal the prince?"
"There could be millions of reasons," said Navi. "But—"
"—we won't know until we go out and see for ourselves," said Link. "But to do that—"
"—we need to get off the island."
It sounded like a plan to Navi, but Link shook his head and resumed pacing, the rhythm of his methodical pace jumping one step too fast. His foot hit a shattered piece of pottery and sent it skittering across the bloody rock floor, and if it was by accident or exasperated contemplation, Navi couldn't tell. "If they know that we leave, that'll take the search outside the island, and that will mean that we're essentially fugitives in the whole ocean. If they think they have us contained to this one island, then it'll be easier to travel outside. But before that, it's worth thinking if we should be leaving at all; running would be seen as admitting our own guilt."
"And what could we do here?"
"The dragon was a start, wasn't he?"
"That's true. Do you think it might be resolved by their deity first?" Navi asked, but without waiting for an answer, plowed right on ahead: "Going off the island would ruin Valoo's vouch for us, but the longer we stay on the island, the longer we run the risk of getting caught."
"Then," said Link, "what do you think I should do?"
"Would you do what I said?"
"It depends on if it was what I was going to do anyway," said Link, a little dryly, because they both knew it wasn't entirely true.
So she brightened—both figuratively and literally. She drew herself up to her full four-inch height, then a little higher as she buzzed into the air at Link's eye level. Her wings centered and balanced (none of this left and right business), she cleared her throat and with all the conviction her tiny frame could hold, she said, "You should talk to the Ritos and convince them of your innocence with Valoo's help—after you have a healing fairy to back you up. I can talk to the dragon to coordinate and ask about the location of fairy springs, then sneak off the island."
"And that's what you think is the best course of action?"
She dipped once in the air, like a nod of her whole body. "Sometimes," she said, "it has to get worse before it gets better."
They arrived at the island with the air of a funeral procession. Link was sure he was supposed to be saying something to Kid-Link, something to boost his spirits or at least make him crack a smile, but every time he looked at him and his open eyelids and closed eyes, he just shut his mouth and turned away.
It was quite ridiculous, really. By the time the next island's shadow had completely emerged from the horizon, Link was more exasperated with himself than anything else.
"It may appear that this is but a great tree rising far above the ocean's surface, but Forest Haven is a sacred place," said the boat, the line of his wooden mouth stern and flat. "Inside, you must speak with the Great Deku Tree, the spirit of the earth, and receive from him the sacred gem known as Farore's Pearl."
"Alright," said Kid-Link. He wrapped the end of the rope around itself and tossed it in with the folded sail, then put one foot on the edge of the boat to jump into the shallow water. On a whim, Link held out a hand. He saw the way Kid-Link considered the hand, and considered the hand even after he took it and let Link help him down, and considered the hand especially when the water wasn't shallow at all and came up to his waist. But all he said was, "Thanks, Reoh."
Link turned away. "Welcome."
"Reoh, you especially should listen well," interrupted the boat. "I fear that Ganon's vile hand may have already reached this most sacred of sanctuaries. Go with caution, Link; and Reoh, I ask that you not only do the same, but see to Link's safety."
"Of course," Link answered. That, at least, he didn't hesitate about.
The boat, evidently satisfied, nodded. "Then good luck, both of you."
Kid-Link gestured with his head for Link to follow him as he trudged inland, and Link wondered when Kid-Link had become the leader of this little expedition. But somehow he was, because Link waited for him—for the kid, an eleven-year-old child masquerading as an adult—to survey the winding rock faces, jagged and yet coated with a carpet of grass that soaked into the edges. The kid's gaze traveled up the clean, clear stream that trickled down through the crisscross of haphazard paths, and when he began to climb through the tall, reedy grass, Link was only a step behind.
"Reoh," he asked abruptly, "have you ever been here before?"
The glance that Link shot him was open enough for Kid-Link to see the confusion and, perhaps, resigned surprise. "Why do you ask?"
"Because when he said Great Deku Tree, you did something funny."
"What did I do?"
"I'm not really sure myself," said Kid-Link. "But it reminded me of—"
Then Link planted one hand on his chest and shoved him backwards, and in one frozen snapshot Link had after the fact he could have sworn he saw the Deku Baba's teeth inches from the kid's nose. Only now did shock manage to register on his face, Link realized. That's how far he'd let his guard down, and they were only three minutes off the boat.
"Watch out," he said, and shifted his hand to the kid's back to help him catch his balance. "There's Deku Babas in the grass. They'll pop out of their buds when you get close."
Kid-Link swallowed hard, his thin throat pulsing. "…Thanks, Reoh."
"Maybe just watch where you're going next time. There's no conversation topic important enough to get distracted and die over, is there?"
"But I didn't die," Kid-Link pointed out.
"Because I'm here."
"Yeah," agreed Kid-Link, easily enough that Link knew he had no problem with that.
"You know, if I wasn't here, you'd be in that thing's mouth right now?"
"But you are here," said Kid-Link, and with that he veered into the tall grass around the Deku Baba, not looking once at the Deku Baba or his sword. Link pushed the hair out of his eyes and trotted after him, not sure if to smile and pat him on the head for his straightforward logic, or to smack his own forehead for a child's logic that was so straight it was bent. "So, you have been here before?"
"Because you knew what that was," Kid-Link said. "Unless they have Deku Babas where you come from?"
"We… do." Link chose his words with care, and only absentmindedly pointed to another Deku Baba bud and steered the kid away. "They're not an uncommon monster. They're in a lot of woodland areas…" He paused and turned, realizing how terribly close he was to the edge of an island, and how high above the ocean they were now. He looked down over the edge and saw the waves splash into the hollow of the island's side; he looked up and saw the endless horizon, barely able to differentiate between blue ocean and blue sky. "If this could be called a woodland area."
"What's a woodland area?"
"A huge piece of land," said Link, still staring at the ocean and suddenly feeling overwhelmed at how vast and empty it was, "filled with trees and plants and… stuff. I dunno. Just lots of trees, so many trees until it sort of blends into this huge tree—I mean, metaphorically, not literally—and becomes a living thing from the sheer amount of life." He paused. "And no salt air."
"Like the top of Outset?"
"Except bigger. Much, much bigger. And I said no salt." Link shot the kid a smirk.
It wasn't returned. "Oh. I wouldn't know what it would be like to not have salt in the air. I guess Dragon Roost Cavern did smell different."
He almost grit his teeth, he really did. He pictured his hands on the kid's collar, shaking him awake;
Patience. Wait for him. He needs time, and it's your job now to match his pace.
"You know, I lived in a woodland area."
The child's eyes widened just enough—just enough. "What was it like?"
"Simple. It wasn't the most elaborate life, but it was simple. It's the people," said Link firmly, "that matter, anyway." He shrugged and began walking again. "But, eh. I can't go back, anyway."
But Kid-Link didn't move, and remained there until Link stopped and drifted back to him, like some sort of bizarre leash. "You already came with me to the top of the mountain, right?"
Link's brow furrowed.
"Doesn't that count as guiding me through an adventure?" asked Kid-Link. "You don't have to see it through to my sister's rescue, if going back home means that much to you."
Link's eyebrows lifted, then he looked away and gave a little snort. "Yeah, I guess that's true. But"—and he crossed his arms in a half-hearted attempt to look sour—"I'll see this one through to the end."
"Is that a promise?"
"…Sure." He gave a shrug, as if to say, "Why not?"
Kid-Link laughed out loud, teeth showing in his grin, and Link's foot skidded and almost tripped on the hillside. "You're being awfully open today."
"Usually, you don't say stuff like that if you want the other party to continue." He smiled back, with fondness that belied the fact that he was equipping the kid with tools that would be used against him. "It's better for info-gathering."
Kid-Link's smile stretched, but the teeth disappeared when he scratched his head in embarrassment. "Ah, well, I'll remember that next time?"
They continued the rest of the way in somewhat comfortable silence—or at least, Link felt more comfortable. He'd seen, if but for a moment, Kid-Link again. Even though Kid-Link was somehow not all there, what was there was Link's to protect.
It was a conviction that carried him even when Midna, still silent in his shadow, wouldn't stop laughing.
A/N: Next chapter my inner ham comes out. But until I can get it to move its lazy butt, I'll be writing drabbles for every single island of the Great Sea. Because I clearly do not have a Zelda oneshot, a Zelda multichapter with 45 Links, and a Geass billionchapter to be writing. So, then—thank you, dear readers, for reading this chapter, and again, thank you. (*shot for reference*)
Reviews are appreciated~