The Temple of Time is refreshingly dark after the blinding light of the Sacred Realm. A little light trickles in through a high-set window, caked with the dust of ages, and the light through the Door of Time is muted.
He takes a wobbly step, untested body like a newborn foal, all uncertainty and too-long legs. This is not his body, not him, and panic begins to bubble in the pit of his stomach. How can he fight if he can barely walk?
The voice behind him is like a balm.
"I've been waiting for you, Hero of Time."
He whirls around and nearly falls over. There's an older boy – no, a young man his age, he's not a child any more – standing, waiting for him. His face is covered, but the sudden glimpse of red eyes is almost reassuring.
The Master Sword is at hand, but it remains loose in his grip. Some instinct, some silent voice in his head, assures him that the young man is a friend. Someone to rely on, and be relied on. Someone to raise his sword only to defend.
Link can trust him.
"Who are you?" he asks uncertainly, and starts at how much deeper his own voice is.
The young man doesn't answer right away, and instead tells him his destiny. It's a heavy burden for one boy-turned-man, and even the staunchest warrior would blanch at the future being outlined for him. All things considered, Link is taking it reasonably well.
But then the corners of the young man's red eyes crease in a sudden smile. "I am Sheik," he says, "Survivor of the Sheikah."
Link takes another wobbly step towards him, and tentatively smiles back.
His feet are surer, hands nimble, body less foreign by the time he's reached the Lost Woods. Only once has he had to fling himself bodily into a pool of water to avoid a spear (a moblin, Navi whispers to him, a helpful voice pinpointing hidden dangers).
The giant moblin's blows are dodged, the steps leading to the meadow reached safely. It bellows inefficiently at him, but he's too high up to be reached now. Breathless and grinning at the adrenaline rush, he ascends and steps out in to the grass.
Saria's meadow. He stares at the bare stump thoughtfully, exultant mood fading as deep melancholy descends on him. Where has his best (only) friend gone?
A soft thump of booted feet on grass, and Link whirls around, sword in hand.
Somehow, Sheik knows exactly what to say.
But there are songs to be taught. The golden lyre in Sheik's bandaged fingers is plucked with practiced ease, the ocarina in Link's hands following the notes, stumbling only rarely, the instruments combining into something grander than the simple melody would otherwise demand.
"Link," Sheik tells him when the notes fade in to silence, "I'll see you again."
Blinking spots out of his eyes, Link misses him already.
He's waiting for him in the Temple of Time, a panacea to soothe the ache of losing his oldest (but not only) friend. Link listens to the explanation of time and travel only half-heartedly – not only does it still sting after losing Saria, but he can't seem to quite stop himself from staring at the Sheikah.
Sheik teaches him the Prelude. He doesn't notice it at first – too focused on the notes, the music they're making – but he realises it soon enough. Even as he plays, he stands bathed in light – both from the ethereal light produced by the notes they play, and slanting light from the old window above. But Sheik remains in the shadows, never letting the light illuminate his features, never catching red eyes.
When Sheik disappears, Link has more questions than he has received answers.
He's amused more than anything, watching Sheik in the volcano's crater. There's a fine sheen of sweat on the dark skin, and the sight makes Link smile – it's proof that Sheik is human, that he is, at least somewhat, on his level.
(For a while, he had wondered if Sheik was even mortal, that if he was to lay a hand on him, it would pass through like mist.)
And those feelings he gets whenever he sees the Sheikah, the look in the red eyes – a true friendship? Or something entirely new?
The notes they play now are passionate, Sheik's clever fingers flying over the strings, a song as fiery as the volcano around them. And when he makes his farewells, Link steps forward to stop him.
But he's too late, and Link is left alone on the bridge.
Chilled to the bone, the warmth that spreads through Link at the sight of the Sheikah takes him by surprise.
It shouldn't, really.
But it's only when Sheik mentions young love does he understand. It's only then that his sudden disappearance aches so powerfully.
He's battered and exhausted, but the sight of Sheik is like an immediate relief. Ignoring his fatigue, Link races to his side, unable to stop a smile from crossing his face, watching the lake be restored.
This is the closest he's ever been to him.
The goddesses must be smiling down on him indeed, because he spins around the instant Sheik starts to step back. With reflexes born of battling Hyrule's worst, he grabs the Sheikah's wrist before he can disappear again, and Sheik's crimson eyes widen in surprise, illuminated by the sun.
He's never actually touched him before.
"Sheik," he murmurs, and is surprised to hear his voice crack. With one hand, gaze locked on Sheik's, he tugs the mask down.
Sheik's lips part soundlessly, a helpless, exposed look in his eyes. "Hero," he whispers, then corrects himself: "Link..."
Link kisses him before he can say another word.
He ignores the fire, ignores the rain, ignores the shadow thing from the well. None of them matter – not when Sheik is hurt.
And then the beast is upon him, too, and he awakens to gentle fingers against his face and concerned red eyes peering in to his.
Link laughs, helplessly, because it's the only thing he can do, and kisses Sheik's bruised mouth, because it's the only thing he wants to do.
And later, it's a different sort of song altogether. His hands coax gasps from Sheik's lips like musical notes, playing him like an ocarina. He kisses the shadow of a bruise and the catch of breath in the Sheikah's throat is like a melody.
For a while, he just stands there, letting the sand scour his skin. One hand is outstretched, the cowl he had tried to catch slipping through his fingers like sand.
The Requiem, Link decides, is an appropriate name. He stares at the empty spot where Sheik disappeared and feels like a part of him has died.
It isn't Sheik. He knows it immediately and can't say how – something in his (her) stance, in the lack of warmth, familiarity, of his (her) words.
Zelda steps towards him and he steps back, her image swimming before him.
She calls his name uncertainly, and Link can't bring himself to look at her.