Bound By Blood

Disclaimer: I do not own The Legend of Zelda or any of its characters. If I did, Sheik would be his own person rather than Zelda in disguise, he'd be in more of the games, and the Sheikah would be more prominent characters.

Warnings: First and foremost, Sheik is separate from Zelda and is a boy. Second, this is a yaoi fanfiction. Third, I based a lot of my plotline on the Ocarina of Time game and the non-canonical manga, mostly because I loved the idea of Sheik acting as a double agent of sorts and that became an integral part of my story. Fourth, there is implied, non-graphical rape (will give proper warning in the chapter it takes place in). Finally, since we never actually see Sheik's face and know next to nothing about the Sheikah, I took some liberties with his appearance and Sheikah culture.

Now that the story warnings out of the way, I'd like to issue review warnings. I DO NOT want reviews that inform me that Sheik is really Zelda in disguise or that he has bright blond hair and tan skin rather than platinum blond and pale skin. I know that. I've played the game, too. I'm not stupid, so don't harass me about it. I DO NOT want reviews bashing homosexuality, yelling at me for spoiling the manga/game, or complaining about the briefly mentioned, hardly-even-detailed rape. I have given you all fair, clear warning of what is in this story in bold, idiot-proof letters above. If you don't like it, then press the little back button on your Internet browser and go elsewhere. Do not read this story just to bash the elements present in it and waste my time.

Now, for those of you who I haven't scared away and are serious about reading my fanfiction, this was inspired by the wonderful stories Aceilux by Wyna Hiros and Judgment Days by Aubuyn and by their incredible depictions of Sheik. I can only hope my story can hold its own beside their masterpieces. And now, onto the story.

Chapter 1: Desert Rescue

He's late….

My bandaged fingers danced idly over the taut strings of my lyre, its golden body glinting brightly in the blazing Gerudo sun. The desert temperature was scorching, heat waves rising from the yellow sand like writhing sidewinders. The blue, skintight battlesuit I wore only worsened it, trapping the heat under layers of cloth and flexible, dragon-scale armor. A fine sheen of sweat encased my entire body like the slime coating Morpha's watery tentacles, for not even the thin sliver of shadows I hid myself in offered any reprieve from the heat.

However, my mind was far from the stifling heat and the sweat dampening my cowl and wrappings. Anxiety was clawing at my stomach, inching closer to near-panic the more my thoughts revolved around a certain green-clad hero. While I attempted to remain calm – forcing myself to breathe deeply and slowly – my instincts told me something was awry.

After Link and I had parted after liberating the Shadow Temple, I had surreptitiously followed him on his week long journey from Kakariko to the Gerudo Valley. When Link and Epona had safely cleared the broken bridge and I had quietly warped to the Desert Colossus to await Link, the moon had still been in the sky. However, before I knew it, the moon had completed her journey across the night sky and sank into the west as the sun yawned on the eastern horizon. The sun's waking had brought blinding light and burning heat with it, chasing me from my perch atop the arch in front of the Temple into the safety of the shadows high atop the carving of the Sand Goddess. The sun was now at its zenith in the bleached-out sky and still, there were no signs of Link or his little firefly fairy.

By the Three, what is taking him so long? I wondered agitatedly, retreating further back into the menial shade, clinging to the shadows as a child would hug her doll protectively to her chest. Surely the trials of the Haunted Wasteland have not bested him. He can easily cross the River of Sand with his Longshot and he possesses the Lens of Truth, so he should have no conflicts in following the Phantom Guide. After the trials we survived in the Shadow Temple, he knows better than to fall for the Haunted Wasteland's illusions and visions. Even if he does, he has the Lens of Truth to cut through them….

Despite the assurances I made for myself, the tight knot in my gut did not loosen. I kicked a loose piece of sandstone free from the Sand Goddess's shoulder, hoping to relieve the tightly bound tension in my chest. The chunk tumbled the sand below, but I was still as anxious as before. So I reverted back to reassuring myself, my eyes locating the hazy brown cloud that perpetually hung over the Haunted Wasteland.

Yes, the winds are strong and the sand is blinding, but I detect no abnormality about them. There is no sandstorm worsening the Wasteland's usual conditions. I confirmed that when the song's magic carried me directly over the Wasteland, so Link should be able to see the flags. There are no quicksand traps around his route, so long as he did not stray from the path, and the Gerudo-

My body stiffened, freezing over harder than the ice encasing Zora's Domain, and in a low voice, I cursed, "Bleeding shadows…." Almost as soon as the thought entered my head, Zelda's blood bond nearly threw me from the Sand Goddess, my limbs abruptly charged with a force more powerful than any adrenaline rush, my body screaming at me to run, to find Link, to protect Link. It was all I could do to keep my body from flinging itself from the Desert Colossus. Then I knew.

I resisted the magnetic, supernatural pull of the blood bond long enough to tuck my lyre into the back of my chest wrappings. Then I surrendered to its insistent tug and leapt from my perch, falling with controlled grace to the sand below. The leaden ache in my limbs and head cleared immediately as I obeyed.

Fueled both by the blood bond's consistent tug on my body – like a leaf caught in a river's current – and my own desire to keep Link safe, I sprinted across the sandy landscape the second my feet were reacquainted with the ground. My legs propelled me past the sandstone walls and oasis of the Desert Colossus, away from the clear skies and Spirit Temple, and out into the battering winds and whipping sand of the Haunted Wasteland. As I ran, mindless of the searing heat and the sting of flying sand, Zelda's voice – garbled and warped by the blood bond – echoed repeatedly in my head like a bad melody, in tune with the bond's drag on my limbs: Protect LinkProtect LinkSheikThe choice to aid him directly or indirectly lies with youMy only order is to protect Linkfrom the Gerudo….

Why did I not think of those accursed harpies? I shouted in my head, berating myself as I ran unaided through the Wasteland, wind and sand buffeting the exposed portion of my face. Unlike the other races, I had no need of the Phantom Guide to maneuver through the raging sands of the desert. Sheikah Warriors never become lost. Our sense of direction is too keen and our memories damn near photographic. With Nabooru under Koume and Kotake's mind control and the whole of the Gerudo population loyal to her and Ganondorf, they are more a threat to Link than the desert! By the Goddesses, I might as well have sent him gagged and bound to the King of Evil himself! I should have followed him! I knew he wouldn't listen to my request to tread swiftly and carefully through the Fortress!

Because there was only one thing the blood bond's sudden activation could mean: I failed to obey Zelda's order; Link had been captured.

An hour later, the stone monument materialized out of the yellow-brown haze of stinging sand and wind, the Phantom Guide hovering patiently by the shrine, clearly visible to my Sheikah eyes. The sight spurred me on, my legs burning as my speed increased. I was nearing the Gerudo Fortress. Following the path markers, their flags whipping in the brutal, sandy gale, I spirited to the long, roiling quicksand pit that was the River of Sand. Effortlessly, I vaulted over the immense pit, landing lightly on the other side. Such a jump would be impossible for any other race but the Sheikah. I charged onward, the wind and sand slowly abating, clearing, until I at last broke free of the Haunted Wasteland and emerged back into the sunlight and intense heat. My journey through the desert was complete, and the great wooden gate separating the Haunted Wasteland from the Gerudo Fortress loomed before me. It was closed shut.

Cursing, I darted into the nearest patch of meager shadows I could find and seized a handful of darkness, dragging it around me, cloaking myself from the watchtower guard. Digging my heels into the sand to brace myself against the bond's impatient, fierce pull on my limbs, I rooted myself to the ground, watching and waiting until the tower guard turned her back. The moment I saw her begin to retreat towards the opposite end of the tower, I reacted. Propelled by my legs and the blood bond, I sprang up onto the wooden beams, scaling the sides like a Walltuala. The sun burned away the shadows I had used to conceal myself, but I ignored both it and the ache in my limbs as I climbed. Even without Zelda's order sending the blood bond into a frenzy, my single-minded craze to protect Link overwhelmed all else. He was my only concern.

I hung at the edge of the tower long enough to assure the Gerudo woman still had her back turned to me before I flung myself over the lip to strike her smartly across the back of the neck. Instantly, she started to fall forward, but I caught her before she could tumble to the hard earth below. Lowering her carefully onto the tower floor, I checked her pulse to assure my blow hadn't inadvertently killed her. After I felt the reassuring throb of her heartbeat against my fingers, I hurriedly slid down the ladder and hugged the shadows cast by the canyon walls to slip past the guards. Once inside the cool gloom of the clay fortress, I slowed my frantic run to a stealthy, swift creep, eyes and ears strained for any hint of the Gerudo thieves. Relying on the deep shadows, crates and rafters of the Fortress, I furtively maneuvered my way through the maze-like structure, as silent and invisible as the darkness I hailed from. To keep from alerting the Gerudo to my presence, I knocked out the guards only when absolutely necessary as I darted from room to room, checking each and every cell for Link.

Just when I began to despair he was not in the Fortress, that a far worse fate had befallen Hyrule's hero, I found him. Had I not spotted his bloodstained tunic and weapons lying discarded on the floor, I might not have thought to kick aside the coyote skin rug concealing the trapdoor. Promptly, I knelt and threw open the wooden hatch. Blazing sunlight flooded the dingy stone cell below. The blood bond yanked violently at me. My breath caught in my throat.

As I expected, Link was there, but what caught me off guard was his state. The blonde Hylian was on his knees, his arms shackled to the wall behind him. He had been stripped down to his leggings, blood, dirt and bruises marring his perfectly muscled chest. Even from this distance, I could see the angry, scarlet whip marks crisscrossing his back and chest.

A cold ball of ice settled in the pit of my stomach, churning in nausea as realization and shame swept over me. Stifling the urge to be sick – from both the blood bond's unrelenting efforts to secure my obedience and my disgust at myself for failing to uphold my vow – I swore in a fluent stream under my breath. Quickly, I bundled Link's weapons in his green tunic, slung his bow and quiver over my shoulder, tucked the Master Sword under my arm, and leapt down into the cell.

The fall was short and the inside of the cell smelled like wet clay, sweat and blood. Depositing my load on the dirt floor, I crossed the short distance to Link, squatting down to peer into his face. Up chose, the damage was even worse: burns, bruises, stab wounds and whip marks, some still oozing blood, others crusted with grime. The Gerudo had tortured him. Only the sight of his steadily rising and falling chest allowed me to swallow the bile and infuriated growl rising in my throat. He was alive; unconscious, but alive.

Relaxing slightly, I immediately extracted a throwing needle from my arm bindings and moved behind him to pick the lock of his manacles. The desperate tug of the blood bond was beginning to abate, the nagging pain in my head and body receding as I fulfilled Zelda's command. Suddenly, the Hylian shifted, raising his dust-coated, golden head. Brows furrowed, he craned his neck around, sleepy, half-lidded eyes squinting at me in confusion. He blinked several times before understanding lifted the clouds fogging his sky blue eyes. "Sheik?"

"Why is it, Hero, I always seem to drag you out of the most dire of situations?" I demanded hotly, my eyes narrowing as I wiggled the needle in the lock. The tumblers caught and the iron cuff sprang open, falling from his wrist with a clang. I proceeded to the second. "How in the name of the Three Goddess do you plan on saving Hyrule when you cannot save yourself?"

"I was working on an escape plan," he responded indignantly, though his parched, cracked lips were stretching into a smile. Somehow, even with his voice dry and raspy from lack of water, he managed to sound cheerful.

I snorted disbelievingly, averting my eyes from the lock long enough to shoot him a glare. "Yes, I can see how much progress you made. Surely remaining chained to this wall was all part of your brilliant plan," I responded wryly, freeing his other wrist.

With an exhausted sigh, Link slumped heavily against my shoulder, his hot breath tickling my ear. The dead weight would have knocked over a lesser man. Forcefully shoving away my body's heated reaction to the half-naked Hylian pressed against me, I peered into Link's tired face and inquired, "Your wounds are grievous, my friend. Have you a fairy with you?"

Shaking his golden head, he cracked open one blue eye and offered me a wane, but friendly smile. Hoarsely, he responded, "Other than, Navi, no. Besides, at the moment, fatigue is more my enemy than pain. There should be red potion in my weapons belt."

"Can you sit upright?" I asked as I eased myself away from the heat of his body, holding him up with my hands instead. With immense restraint, I kept my eyes trained on his face rather than drifting down toward the tantalizing sight of his naked chest. He nodded weakly and I released him, but hovered by his side a moment longer, assuring he would not keel over. When I deemed him steady enough to support himself, I rummaged through his clothes and weapons until at last I procured a glass bottle filled with the scarlet potion. Uncorking it, I inquired as I handed the bottle to Link, "Speaking of fairies and Navi, where is your little fae friend?"

Before the hero could swallow his mouthful of potion to respond, a muffled, but noticeably high voice suddenly cut in, "In here! Behind you!" Glancing over my shoulder, I saw Navi trapped inside a corked bottle, the light encasing her hummingbird body flaring with annoyance as she pounded on the glass with her tiny fists.

Smiling around the lip of the bottle, Link drained the last bit of potion, his face twisting into a disgusted grimace before he uttered a laugh. "Personally, I think it's an improvement." With a mischievous wink in my direction, he waggled his eyebrows and questioned, "Any objections to leaving her in there for a little while longer?"

The fairy screeched indignantly, shouting shrilly, "I beg your pardon? Why… why you ungrateful little-!"

"I will free you in a moment, Navi," I interrupted curtly, cutting her tirade off. "Allow me to tend to your master first. His condition is no laughing matter and we only have a limited amount of time before the Gerudo realize I am here. We need to be out of here and halfway to the Desert Colossus before that time, but we cannot do that if Link is still wounded."

Navi clammed up immediately, crossing her needle-thin arms over her chest and turning her head away as if in huffy annoyance. However, I could see the how my words struck her underneath the façade of impatience.

The uncharacteristic silence directly following my logic unsettled me. Under normal circumstances, Link would have shrugged off such a statement concerning his health or stubbornly insist he was fine. The lack of any such denial compelled me to look from the trapped fairy to her Hylian partner, fearing he might have blacked out at last from his wounds. However, my worry was for naught. Link was still sitting upright, clutching the now empty potion bottle in his hand and gazing at me with cloudy blue eyes, brows slightly pinched in the center and a frown tugging at the corners of his mouth.

"What is it, Hero?" I inquired apprehensively, resisting the urge to reach out and touch him. "Do your wounds ail you? You are unusually quiet."

Shaking his head as he grabbed his stained tunic, he asserted slowly, "No. The pain is nothing I cannot handle. It's just… the comment you made…. It was strange…"

I frowned. "What comment?" I asked curiously as Link gingerly tugged his tunic over his head, the taut muscles of his chest and stomach flexing under the blood and dirt as he moved. I quickly averted my eyes and picked up the bottle Navi was trapped in, careful not to jostle the fairy too much.

"You referred to me as Navi's master," Link explained carefully, watching me intently as he tentatively fastened his weapons belt around his hips, wincing slightly. "I am not her master. She willingly follows me… whether I want her to or not."

Navi's offended shrieks fell upon deaf ears as I frowned behind my cowl, my fingers stilling on the bottle's cork. Freedom. Willingness. Both were unfamiliar concepts to me. I could no longer recall what it was like to answer to no one but myself, to choose when to act and when to remain idle, to lack an imprisoning curse of ancient blood magic which bent my will to my masters', forcing me to obey no matter how much I detested it. I knew no other life outside my own: a life of servitude.

Tugging on the cork, I freed the screeching Navi, ignoring her agitated flight around Link's head as I spoke over her, "My apologies, Hero. I often forget not everyone answers to a master."

This shocked both Navi and Link into silence, halting the annoyed barbs they flung at each other and freezing both in place – Navi hovering in front of the warrior's face, Link with the flat of his palm suspended over the fairy, as if he was about to swat her away. Lowering his hand slowly, eyes fixed on me, he opened his mouth to speak but I held up a finger to stop him, my body tensing. The distant sound of female voices barking orders and shouting oaths tickled my ears, set against the wooden clank of glaives, the metallic chime of scimitars, and the soft, but insistent pad of slippered feet against hard-packed dirt.

"Our time has expired." I announced sharply, standing abruptly and thrusting a hand out to Link. "It seems the Gerudo have been made aware of my intrusion. They are amassing their forces. It will not be long before they arrive here, and it would not do well for either of us if I were to be discovered here."

Cursing under his breath, Link accepted my hand and allowed me to haul him to his feet. His face twisted in pain as he stretched his wounds the wrong way. The potion may have replenished his energy and stamina, but his injuries still needed tending. "How are we to leave unnoticed if the guards are on high alert?" Link demanded roughly as I draped his arm over my shoulder, supporting his weight.

"By using the same songs I teach you," I responded simply, stamping down the surge of lust rising in my chest at his touch and proximity while I extracted my lyre from the back of my wrappings. "Once I start playing, do not let go. This will only work if we are touching."

Obediently, Link slung his other arm over my chest and clung tightly to me, the heat of his body seeping through my battlesuit. All strength and feeling seemed to drain away from my limbs, leaving me curiously weak and numb. My heart leapt in my chest and my blood roared, scattering my thoughts and throwing them into the wind. For the life of me, I could not recall the notes to the Requiem of Spirit. The circle of Link's arms, embracing me like a lover, was all that penetrated my awareness.

"Sheik!" a shrill, female voice yelled, snapping me back to reality. Navi was gripping the bridge of my nose with her miniscule hands, her tiny, violet eyes wide. This close, I distinctly saw the shape of her naked body past the natural blue glow shrouding her. "Sheik, hurry! The Gerudo are getting closer!"

Alerted by Navi's warning and escalating pound of fast approaching footsteps, I wrenched myself from the haze Link's touch had induced and shook my head ferociously, dislodging the fairy from my nose. The notes to the Requiem of Spirit returned to my memory and my bandaged fingers reacted, quickly dancing over the lyre's strings, plucking out the melodic tune. Navi dove into the safety of Link's cap seconds before the song's magic activated, harmlessly dissolving our bodies into a shimmering mist of russet bronze. The feel of Link's arms around me disappeared as we were reduced to little more than bodiless spirits, trapped in the magical stream of a teleportation spell. The ground fell away as the river of magic carried us through the cell window to the canyon outside, moments before a rope ladder dropped into the now empty chamber. The Gerudos' frustrated screams followed us as we soared safely away from the Fortress and into the battering sun, winds and sand of the Haunted Wasteland.

As the clay fortress shrank into the distance, swallowed up by the opaque brown-gold cloud of dust and sand, at last I felt the last lingering effects of the blood bond pass into obscurity. I had remedied my error and thus fulfilled Zelda's order. Link was free, the Gerudo were far behind us and all that remained of our quest was to the purge the Spirit Temple, awaken the final Sage… and defeat Ganondorf. Much of the tension and anxiety lifted from my mind, but not all of it. Link was still wounded and only after I saw him hearty and hale again would I be able to find peace… or at least, return to the level of concern and fear I had grown accustomed to in the past seven years. For me, true relaxation would be achieved only when Ganondorf was dead and gone.

Finally, the endless expanse of the Wasteland below was broken by the towering stone structure of the Desert Colossus and it little oasis. Around us, I felt the magic of the transportation spell slowing, waning as we neared our target. The sandy earth rose up below us and the glittering bronze mist began to dissipate, allowing our bodies to reform until, at last, we were whole again, standing on the loose sand. A moment later, Link's arms slid away from me, his fingers accidentally brushing against my chest. Even through the tabard, chest wrappings and battlesuit, his touch sent chills and a thrill of desire through me.

"I have had a number of narrow escapes before, but that was by far the closest," Link commented cheerfully, his blue eyes sparkling with child-like innocence. However, I detected a dark undercurrent hidden behind the turquoise irises. The war was taking its toll on him, stripping him of his purity just as it had stripped him of his childhood. The sight reinforced my hardened determination to protect him from Ganondorf and the darker horrors of the war.

The Hylian warrior's smile faded under my intense scrutiny, his fair eyebrows knitting in the center. "Sheik?" he questioned hesitantly, reaching out for me. "Are you well?"

Suddenly, Link's extended hand spasmed and pain flashed across his face, warping his handsome features. With a grunt, Link doubled over, eyes squeezed shut and clutching his shoulder in agony. Reacting, I caught him before he hit the sand, careful not to touch his back and its half-healed lashes. Gently peeling his fingers away from his wounded shoulder, I saw fresh blood staining the forest green sleeve of his tunic. I shoved the fabric away from his arm, revealing the reopened stab wound in his shoulder.

"Your wounds need tending," I told him urgently, peering worriedly into Link's twisted, twitching face, wincing ever-so-slightly as his grip tightened around my bicep, pressing on an old bruise. Wrenching my gaze away from the blonde, my gaze landed on a hole in a section of the Colossus walls, framed by two palm trees and clogged by a rockslide. I was about to look away when I did a double take, my eyes narrowing as a memory crept forth from the deep recesses of my mind.

When the Zelda and I were nine and ten respectively, the King brought us to the Gerudo Fortress as a way of introducing his daughter to the thieves and establishing an early relationship with them, a trip he'd already made with her brothers when they were nine. The rebellious, tomboy princess managed to behave herself for most of the trip, but during our tour of the Desert Colossus and the Spirit Temple, Zelda snuck away, and I, her Guardian, being bound to her, had little choice but to follow. Her love of adventure led us into a cavern nested between those very same palm trees… inside of which was a Great Fairy.


I allowed myself a small, indulgent smile behind my cowl before turning my attention back to Link. "Can you walk?" I asked urgently, peering into his face.

"Aye," Link grunted roughly, taking a hesitant step towards the Sand Goddess carving… and his knees buckled under him. For the second time that day, I caught him.

"Or not," I contradicted dryly, pressing a bandaged hand to his chest. Draping his uninjured arm over my shoulders and supporting his weight gingerly with an arm around his waist, I redirected him toward the Great Fairy's Fountain. "Besides, you were going the wrong way."

Link frowned, arching an eyebrow at me. "I was under the distinct impression our destination was the Spirit Temple."

"It is, Hero," I assured him, helping him shuffle through the sand. "But there is a lady friend of mine I would like to introduce you to first."

The warrior shot me a sharp, almost hurt look, his blue eyes icing over. "Who?" he demanded gruffly, scowling. His defensive, jealous tone caught me off guard and I met his gaze curiously. The envy in his voice… I could not understand it, but decided not to read too much into it. It probably meant nothing.

Link is destined for greatness. He will marry Zelda and become King. He will never love a shadow, I reminded myself. It was this mantra I chanted in my head whenever I needed reminding that my love for Link would always be unrequited. He was light and I was shadow. He was free to do as he pleased and I was destined to remain bound to the light, dutifully following it wherever it would go. It has always been so and how it always would be.

"A Great Fairy," I finally responded, watching for the hero's reaction out of the corner of my eye.

The tension in his face softened and small smile played around his lips. "Oh," he murmured sheepishly, looking away, chagrined. My eyes widened marginally when color flooded Link's honey-toned cheeks. The desert heat must be affecting him.

To distract myself from my dangerous thoughts, I redirected the conversation. "You never did tell me what act of idiocy landed you in a cell at the Gerudo Fortress. What was it this time?"

Casting an embarrassed, sideways glance at me, Link explained, "Well, it seems the Kakariko carpenters had tired of working for their boss, Mutoh, and decided they wanted to join the Gerudos' ranks instead. However, they overlooked the Gerudos' hatred of the men and predictably, they locked the carpenters up."

"And predictably, you had to be heroic and rescued the carpenters, only to be captured yourself," I summarized dryly, fond exasperation coloring my voice.

Link grinned. "You know me too well, my friend."

There was a kind of tinkling, bell-like laugh originating from the crown of Link's hair. A moment later, Navi poked her head out from the Hylian's green cap and pointed out smartly, "Link, Sheik's friendship with you has little to do with anticipating your blind heroism. Even a half-wit could see your thickheaded stubbornness and recklessness!"

I let out a bark of laughter as Link shook his head violently, snarling, "Shut it!" at the fairy as she flew away, giggling. Had his arm been uninjured, I was sure he would have squashed her in his palm. But when his annoyed grumbles evaporated at a pained wince, I was yanked violently back to reality, my expression darkening. In a quiet voice, I asked gravely, "What questions did the Gerudo ask when they tortured you?"

The amusement faded from Link's eyes and the hidden pain and fear I detected earlier darkened the celestial blue of his eyes, like thunderstorm clouds rolling over a summer sky. Overhead, Navi's erratic, meandering flight stilled, her musical, chime-like laughter dying away. For a time, I was unsure if he would respond. But then, staring straight ahead, eyes glazed and unseeing, he answered hollowly, "They questioned me mostly about Zelda: where she was hiding, if I had contact with her, who her spies were." At that, I stiffened but made no comment as he continued, "Occasionally, they'd ask me other things, like if there was any truth to the rumors of an emerging rebel army, if I was receiving aid in my quest and the identities of the awakened Sages. But mostly, they wanted my meager knowledge of Zelda."

Upon my silence and tense, rigid posture, Link stopped dead in the midst of our sandy trek, forcing me to halt as well. A sunny smile graced his chafed, cut lips, chasing his haunted expression and memories back into the depths heavenly eyes, like golden sunlight piercing black storm clouds. However, I knew it would be back. Even a warrior as strong as he could not entirely banish such a level of fear and pain so easily. It would linger under the surface, ready to spring an attack when he was alone and vulnerable.

"Fear not, Sheik," Link assured bracingly, drawing me from my musings. "Those Gerudo bitches failed to extract more than colorful curses from me. I revealed nothing of Zelda or of the Sages or of your guidance or of any inkling of information that could be useful to them."

Nodding, I gently urged him closer to the Great Fairy's Fountain, murmuring gratefully, "Thank the Three for small mercies. You truly are Farore's chosen one, Hero. A lesser man would have begged for mercy under the Gerudos' brutality."

Link seemed to ponder this, his aquamarine eyes following Navi's twisting flight around our bodies. After a stretch of silence, he spoke pensively, "I think you would have fared even better than I, had you been in my place. Since you are so well versed in stealth and silence, I believe you would not have even gratified the Gerudo with a single sound."

Involuntarily, I flinched. Startled by my sharp, violent reaction, Link stared at me in alarm. "Sheik...?" he began hesitantly, only to break off when I swiftly dipped my hand into the bomb bag hanging from his baldric. Palming an apple-sized explosive, I instructed in a short, clipped tone, "Stay here. Sit or lean against something if your knees fail you. Navi, please try to keep him from acting foolishly."

Before either could respond, I walked briskly towards the Fountain's blocked entrance, desperate to put distance between us lest I gave more of myself away. Behind me, the blonde whispered anxiously to Navi, "Was it something I said?"

Eyes sliding closed momentarily, I thought grimly, Yes, Link. I can withstand torture without uttering a sound. I have had a great deal of practice in perfecting the art of silence in the past five years. Flicking the bomb's ignition hammer, a spark glinted, then flared brightly as the wick caught fire. Taking aim, I lobbed the bomb expertly at the rockslide clogging the Fountain's opening. There was deafening explosion of fire, smoke and rock fragments, followed closely by a reverberating shockwave of heat, wind and sand. With a choked cough, I twisted my head away, squeezing my eyes shut and pressing my cowl closer to my face. The smell of gunpowder and smoke was heavy in the hot, dry air. Only after the wind and grains of sand generated by the blast subsided did I open my eyes… and met a pair of very clear, very close crystal blue irises.

Blinking in surprise, I recoiled away from Link, more out of alarm than a desire to distance myself from him. After recovering from my initial shock of being snuck up on, I regained my composure and glared angrily at him. There was a broken palm frond wedged under his arm like a crutch and Navi was pulling back on the end of one long ear with all her might, butterfly wings fluttering frantically as she shouted at him to listen to me and stay where he was.

"Hero, I thought I told you to stay put," I snarled irately, stepping forward to throw his arm over my shoulders and lead him to the now open entrance of the Fairy's Fountain.

"I am sorry, Sheik," Navi apologized morosely, surrendering the losing battle of tug-'o'-war on Link's ear to hover in front of me, delicate hands clasped before her, amethyst eyes apologetic. "I tried to keep him there, but he refused to listen to me."

"It is quite alright, Navi," I said kindly, relying on my eyes to project my hidden smile to the fairy. "I should have anticipated his stubborn refusal to listen to single accursed word that leaves my mouth." Here, I punctuated my statement with an irate glower at the man beside me.

Grinning mischievously at me as we passed into the cool shade of the cavern, Link offered me a half-shrug and drawled lazily, "Sheik, after all the times I pursued you when you fled and all our time spent together, have you not learned you are incapable of keep me away from you?"

Startled, I found myself staring wide-eyed into Link's serene, smiling face. I am reading too far into his words, I decided firmly, tearing my gaze from his as the shimmering, wavering walls of the fountain slowly materialized before us.

"You say strange things, Hero," I muttered under my breath, centering the Hylian carefully on the Fountain's pedestal and backing down the steps, gazing intently at his back. Link glanced at me over his shoulder before raising the Ocarina of Time to his lips, the sweet, soothing melody of Zelda's Lullaby echoing off the walls. The last, wavering notes of the song were drowned out by the Great Fairy's keening, reverberating laugh as she exploded out of the Fountain's waters, crystalline drops raining from her from like shards of diamond. Standing with my arms crossed over my chest, I gazed evenly at the fairy as she presented him with a crystal containing a spell of protection, the embodiment of Nayru's power. Most men would have fallen to their knees in breathless awe at her beauty: the luminous violet eyes; the flowing fuchsia hair; the smooth, ethereally glowing white skin; the vines and leaves shrouding her naked body, the thigh-high, brown leather boots. But over this man – over me – her beauty held no sway. For me, Link – even covered in grime, gore and blood – was the loveliest creature present.

The fountain walls glistened with healing, golden light and Link stretched and twisted his body experimentally, painlessly. A wide grin split his handsome face and a relieved sigh whispered from my lips. Link was healed, safe at last. My anxiety had reduced down to its normal, consistent level.

After the Great Fairy submerged back into the rippling waters of her fountain, her warbling laugh still bouncing off the walls, I called out to Link as he approached, twisting at the waist and spinning his arms like the Kakariko windmill. "How do you feel, Hero?"

"Like a new man," he responded cheerfully, striding past me. I followed him out into the Gerudo sun, my eyes tracking the erratic flight of his excitable fairy. While we strode through the sands, only half-listening to Navi's insistent chatter, a shadow abruptly crossed Link's face. In a voice clearly stating wounded pride, the warrior groused to himself, "I still cannot believe I was ambushed, captured and tortured by a bunch of women…. It's bloody humiliating…."

Despite myself, I snorted and advised sagely, "Do not underestimate the fairer sex, Hero. Keep in mind, the Gerudo are the mothers and sisters of Ganondorf. They are fierce warriors and merciless thieves and are not to be taken lightly."

For a long moment, Link stared at me searchingly, almost as if he was examining me. When he at last averted his gaze, I thought I heard him murmur, "The fairer sex indeed…."

Shaking off the fantastical illusion of my desires, I cursed the harsh desert wind and heat for causing such tempting delusions. Had I not been a Sheikah, I would have claimed the imaginary sounds of Link's voice were a trick of the impish spirits and misleading mirages of the Haunted Wasteland. However, since such my Sheikah eyes pierced such falsities, I had only the searing, dizzying heat and dehydration to blame.


Snapping out of my daze, I found myself staring into Link's questioning eyes. Suddenly aware he must have been talking to me whilst I was wrapped in my thoughts, I apologized, "Pardon my lapse of attention, Hero. Were you saying something?"

"I asked if you had any objections to me dipping into the oasis for a quick swim," Link repeated patiently, gesturing to the clear pool. "I have not bathed since liberating the Shadow Temple, and Navi has been complaining that my hair and cap are beginning to stink."

"You would complain as well if you were me!" Navi argued petulantly, flitting in front of Link with an angry puff of glittering fairy dust. "You are not the one who has to sleep there!"

The Hylian batted her away with a wave of his gauntleted hand without even looking at her. Grinning wryly at me, he added, "Besides, I fear if I fail to wash my clothes soon they will peel themselves from my body and run away screaming."

Chuckling softly, I shoved him lightly in the direction of the oasis, encouraging, "Well, go on then, you smelly Hylian. You need not my authorization to bathe. I may be your guide, but I am also your friend, not a master whom you need permission from."

For the second time that day, a meditative frown touched the blonde's lips and he held my gaze with unwavering, probing intensity. The calculating scrutiny unsettled me. Whenever Link tried to strip away the layers of cloth and mystery I shrouded myself with, trouble generally followed.

Fortunately, the warrior's expression cleared back into the child-like buoyancy I loved so much and a moment later, challenged, "Hey, Sheik. What say you and I have a race to see who can reach the oasis first?"

I raised an eyebrow. "A race? In this heat?"

Link's grin widened. "What's the matter, Sheik? Afraid I will beat you?"

"Not even remotely, Hero," I snorted amusedly, shaking my head at him. "You may have the advantage of height and strength over me, but I can assure you, in the speed and agility department, I am superior to you."

"Oh?" he questioned daringly with a lofty arch a slender brow, pausing in his stride. "Care to test your theory, O great and mighty Shadow Warrior?"

Behind my cowl, I smirked, my eyes narrowing as the competitive spirit seized me. "You're on, Long Ear," I agreed, holding up a bandaged finger. "On three. One…" Out stances stiffened, eyes trained on the glittering waters and shaded palms of the oasis. "Two…" Muscles tensed jerkily, bunching together under fabric. "Three!"

We took off with a shower of gritty sand and an indignant fairy yelling something about male hormones in the distance. For the first several yards, Link was able to keep pace with me, but the father we progressed, the more he fell behind. While his legs were indeed strong, mine were built more for speed and balance. Furthermore, my narrower frame, light-weight weapons, and my skintight, streamlined battlesuit worked to my advantage. Before long, I had far outstripped the Hylian and by the time I arrived at the oasis, he was little bigger than Navi.

Laughing gaily, I perched myself delicately upon a jutting stone under the shade of a palm, flicking my sweat-drenched bangs from my eyes. Patiently, I waited, watching Link's green-clad figure grow steadily larger until he at last skidded to a stop in front of me, bent double with his hands on his knees, panting heavily.

When Link lifted his shining, sweaty face, I teased smugly, "Care to revoke your previous statement, Hero?"

"Damn are you fast," Link gasped out admiringly, grinning toothily and straightened up with a groan. "Mark my words, though. I will beat you one day, Sheik."

"I shall believe that when I see it," I retorted humorously, balancing my elbow on a crooked knee and resting my clothed chin against the heel of my hand. "You have a long way to go before you can best me."

"Aye, I do," Link agreed humbly, his wide, toughened fingers fumbling with the buckle of his baldric and belt. The sheath of the Master Sword and his weapons belt hit the sand with a muted thud, his green tunic falling slack around his waist. Shading his eyes with one hand, the Hylian squinted up at the bleached sky, cursing softly, "Farore's Wind, it is hot."

"Deserts usually… are…" My words dried up alongside all the saliva in my mouth as Link tugged his tunic and white undershirt up over his head, tossing them into the clear waters of the oasis. His sun-kissed skin practically glowed in the blazing desert light, sweat glistening off his chiseled arm, chest and stomach muscles. Plopping down onto the sand, Link began stripping his boots from his long legs and I found myself unable to look away, hiding my mesmerized awe behind a mask of cool indifference.

Thankfully, Navi diverted the Hylian's attention from my stare by zipping agitatedly around him, shrieking, "Link you fool! Do not just start undressing in front of Sheik! That's rude!"

Innocently, Link blinked and frowned in confusion. "Why? He knew I was planning to bathe. Besides, we are both men. We share the same anatomy, so what is indecent about it? There is nothing about my body he has not seen on his."

Navi squeaked in embarrassment, clapping her hands over her mouth while I all but stabbed myself with a throwing needle to battle the sudden, white-hot surge of arousal at the image Link's words conjured. Ignoring his fairy, Link turned toward me and I tore my eyes away from his naked chest before he noticed my stare. Meeting his concerned gaze, the hero asked, "Do you mind, Sheik? Am I making you uncomfortable?"

In answer, I shook my head, not trusting my voice. In any case, my throat was too dry to allow for coherent speech.

Triumphantly, Link turned back to Navi. "See? He cares not."

"But I do!" she protested hotly. "I may be small, but I am still a lady and it is improper to be naked before a female!"

"Then hide in the palm fronds and close your eyes if it bothers you so," he suggested impatiently, gesturing to a tree with one hand and shaking sand from his boot with the other.

"Ohh!" Navi huffed in frustration, her butterfly wings fluttering like a bird ruffling its feathers in irritation. With an angry burst of fairy dust, she flew up to the top of a palm and vanished behind the broad, waxy leaves. Shaking his head in amused disgust, the Hylian tore off his other boot and stood up.

Soon after, I decided – once I was allowed to sleep when my duties were completed – to offer a prayer of thanks up to my ancestors for enabling me with the steadfast self-control of the Sheikah. Without it, I would have fallen backwards from my perch when Link's leggings joined the tunic and undershirt in the water.

Quickly averting my eyes from the unbroken expanse of his skin, I instead gazed at the magnificent view of the Desert Colossus towering in the distance and focused on slowing the erratic pace of my breathing. Only when I heard the telltale splash of water did I allow myself to relax and lower my eyes to the oasis pool. Link reemerged from the water with a shower of crystalline beads and a relieved sigh. It was then I realized a wet Link was as dangerously tempting to me as a dry, naked Link. Watching the clear droplets drip from his water-darkened gold hair to run down his shoulders and chest in streaming rivulets had my throat dryer than the Haunted Wasteland surrounding us. Fortunately, the rippling waters and glaring reflection of the sun were my saving grace. They shielded Link's lower half from my eyes, allowing me to maintain my sanity and composure.

Or so I thought….

"Sheik, why don't you join me?" Link invited merrily, swimming over to my chosen roost, a beautiful smile on his face.

Reacting automatically, I extracted the rag and vial of cleaning oil I kept hidden in my wrappings and laid them delicately across my lap. As I unsheathed the dagger at my hip, I said politely, formally, "I appreciate the offer, Hero, but I am afraid I must decline."

Frowning, Link watched me drench the rag with a little of the oil and rub the frayed cloth over the blade. "Why not? You must be burning up inside that outfit of yours."

"I am," I admitted truthfully, concentrating intently on the razor-edged metal in my hands.

"Then join me," he implored encouragingly, playfully splashing me with a little water. The feel of the cool, refreshing liquid on my face was almost enough to undo me in my longing to escape the heat. "You have no need to be shy around me."

"Modesty and insecurity are not what hold me back, Hero," I explained calmly, holding the knife up into the sunlight, examining it critically and trying my damnedest to keep my eyes from wandering over to Link. "I keep myself concealed because it is a code of the Sheikah. As I am an unmarried youth above the age of ten, the Sheikah law requires me to cover my face, hair and body to all save family members. Furthermore, as a Warrior, I am also required to wear my battlesuit at all times. Perhaps now you will understand why I must turn down your request."

"Oh…" Link murmured disappointedly. The dejected tone of his voice was strong enough to draw my attention away from my task. His downcast expression startled me.

"Why do you look so saddened, my friend?" I queried softly, watching him intently.

Raising his celestial blue eyes, Link's lips quirked faintly, sadly and he confessed, "Well… I was excited, for I assumed I would finally see your face. It's just… other than Navi, you are the only true, consistent friend I have had throughout this war. Yet, despite all we have shared together, I still know next to nothing about you, including what you look like. The color of your eyes and the shade of your hair is all I am privy to. I was hoping to learn more of you, even if it was as small piece as the knowledge of your face."

For a long moment, I stared at Link in awe, my heart stumbling in my chest. Finally, in a hesitant, halting voice, I asked, "Does… not knowing what I look like… affect your friendship with me…?"

"No!" Link exclaimed in an urgent gasp, one dripping hand shooting out of the water to clasp mine. Shaking his head, he repeated, gentler this time, less frantic, "No, Sheik. Never. I value your friendship more than anyone else's and it cannot be tarnished by a silly, petty thing as never seeing your face. Blame my prying on the natural curiosity twelve years of living with the Kokiri imbued me with."

Laughing softly, relief evident in my voice, I squeezed Link's hand amiably. "Think nothing of it, Hero," I insisted as our hands separated, not caring about the dampness of my finger wrappings. "You are not the only one who has expressed curiosity of my appearance." Though you are the only one whose inquisitiveness means the most to me….

Before either of us could comment further, Navi's aggravated voice sounded from the trees, "Link, are you done bathing yet?"

"Not yet, Navi," he called up to the annoyed fairy, and in a quieter voice, said to me, "I suppose that is my cue to speed up."

When I nodded in agreement, Link winked at me and dove underwater, swimming to the center of the pool. I allowed myself to watch the shadow of his submerged form under the water's surface for a moment longer before turning to the safe preoccupation of polishing my weapons. While I proceeded to painstakingly polish each throwing needle in my possession, Link swished his garments through the water, scrubbing at the stains in attempt to salvage his clothing. A peaceful silence stretched between us, yet neither felt the need to break it. Quiet was scarce in a time of war, when bloodcurdling screams, the clang of swords and the roar of monsters were as common as a nightingale's song. By unspoken consent, Link and I remained silent, enjoying the fleeting peace before we were required to plunge back into the death and horrors of the war.

Time passed slowly, marked only by the sun's progress across the sky and the lengthening shadows. Wordlessly, Link flung his sopping tunic, undershirt and leggings at me, and in complete synchrony with his chain of though, caught them and spread all three articles of clothing out on a flat stone in the sun so they could dry. Out of needles, I progressed to meticulously shining each metal link in my chain whip; in the water, Link was scooping up handfuls of gritty sand from the pool's bottom and using it to scrub the blood, gore and filth clinging to his skin. By the time he emerged shining and dripping from the oasis, every last weapon I kept hidden on my person gleamed with star-like brilliance. I kept my eyes averted from his pink-tinged, now-clean skin as he moved past me to stand in the sun, occupying myself with returning my arsenal to their proper places. The muted sound of sand against flesh warned me of Link's return, lending me time turn aside before temptation to sneak a peek could overcome me. Only after I heard the soft rustle of leggings being drawn over taut thigh muscles did I allow myself to turn around.

I could keep my sanity with a shirtless, bootless Link. A naked Link, however, was tempting fate and my level of self-control.

"Sheik." The sound of my name drew my attention to the Hero where he sat on a rock, pulling on his boots. "Earlier, you made a comment about me being Navi's master and forgetting that not everyone answers to one. Then, you again commented on my freedom to do as I please without asking your permission, for I am not your servant. It is not the first time I have heard you speak this way, but nevertheless, I find it odd. I have wanted to ask this for a long time, so, if I may…" He braced his elbows on his knees and stared at me with curious thoughtfulness, "what is it with you and your obsession with masters?"

I smiled gravely and although he could not see my expression behind the cowl, the alarm coloring his blue eyes indicated he sensed the cloud of dark humor radiating from me.

"Call it an affliction of my race, if you will," I responded bitterly and stood stiffly. "Sheikah Warriors are never free agents."

Link paused in the midst of pulling on his tunic, his eyes boring into mine. Yanking the green garb over his head, Link started hesitantly toward me and I, realizing my thoughtless slip of the tongue, backed away. Hurt flashed through Link's eyes like lightning breaching darkened sky, but he stilled his advance and I made no move to reduce the space between us, no matter how much I longed to do so.

"Sheik, what are you saying?" he asked, bewilderment and pain filling his voice. "That you are a slave?"

My teeth snapped together audibly. For such a reckless, sometimes dense youth, occasionally, he was far too perceptive for his own good… or mine.

Realizing we were in dangerous waters, I slipped back into my role as the Hero of Time's faithful shadow guide and produced my lyre from its wrappings. Link's face fell noticeably at the instrument's appearance, well aware I was steering the conversation back into charted territory. I had used this tactic on him many times before. Whenever he tried to further our friendship, to unwrap my secrets and unmask me, I retreated back into the shadows of Zelda's orders.

"Past, present, future," I recited with practiced ease, my eyes locking with Link's cerulean ones. "The Master Sword is a ship with which you can sail upstream and downstream through time's river. The port for that ship is the Temple of Time. To restore the Desert Colossus and enter the Spirit Temple, you must travel back through time's flows. Listen to the Requiem of Spirit. This melody will lead a child back to the desert."

After I strummed the haunting melody on my lyre, Link dutifully mimicked the notes on his ocarina, committing the song to memory. Before I could reach for a concealed Deku nut, strong fingers locked around my wrist, holding me in place. Startled, I glanced up to see Link's face inches away from mine. It was the closest I'd ever been to him, so close I could count the flecks of darker blue in his eyes, close enough to kiss. Instincts reeling, I recoiled from him, my heart pounding in my chest.

"Sheik, aren't you coming with me?" Link asked, eyes pleading and lonely.

"Not this time, Hero," I responded regretfully, my heart heavy in my chest. "You must help yourself through this temple. I have elsewhere I must be, other duties to perform."

The melancholy expression in Link's eyes tore at my heart. "Sheik… please do not run away from me again…" the Hylian pleaded in a whisper.

Pain stabbed at my chest as I dipped my fingers into the pouch at my hip, apologizing wistfully, "I'm sorry, Hero." Yanking my magic to me, I threw down a Deku nut, using its distracting burst of light and smoke to hide me while I teleported to the top of a palm tree, only ten feet above where Link stood now. I waited until Link had crossed the distance between the oasis to the Desert Colossus, watching him disappear into the temple's depths before jumping to the earth below. With a heavy heart and a sigh dancing around my lips, I left Link and the Wasteland behind.

My masters were waiting for me.

A/N: Whoo. First fanfiction written in two years, first yaoi fanfiction. Have to say, whenever I post a new story for a new category, I'm always a little nervous is people will like it or not, especially for a pairing with as little love as Link and Sheik, so I hope all my readers enjoyed the beginning of this story. For those of you who want to know how long this will be, I'm planning on five chapters, this one included, so there are four more to come. Now, for a few ending author's notes to tie it up and explain some of my additions to the story:

Sheik's magic: I cannot take credit for Sheik's magic act of physically pulling shadows over himself. I borrowed that idea from Seanan McGuire's book, Rosemary and Rue, so the credit goes to her and her alone. The way the faeries of her book use shadows to create illusions and disguised for themselves reminded me of the Sheikah, so I thought I'd incorporate that into the fiction.
Size of bombs: I decided to make them more realistically-sized, since I'm sure they're only as big as Link's head in the game so the players can see it.
Size of Hyrule: Since a country as big as Hyrule cannot possibly traversed in a matter of minutes, I lengthened the journey from Kakariko to the Gerudo Valley from four minutes to a week and the trek across the Haunted Wasteland from two minutes to an hour... with Sheik's fast, long legs at least =P.
Sheik's weapons: I borrowed them from Super Smash Bros, although I have absolutely no idea if it's possible to hide that many weapons and a lyre on such a slender, tightly-clad young man. lol.

Anyway, I think that's all for now. Please, if you enjoyed this story, let me know. Also, if you find any spelling mistakes or grammar errors I missed during editing, please let me know and I'll fix it as soon as possible. Thank you. =)